We have no other way to conceive of anything which other persons act or suffer, but by recalling and exciting the ideas of what we ourselves are conscious we have found in our own minds; and by … substituting ourselves in their place. Jonathan Edwards, The Nature of True Virtue (1758) During the nineteenth century, the origins of the Anglo-American Protestant missionary spirit were often attributed to the writings of Jonathan Edwards. Composed between 1730 and 1758, his main works discussed the nature of subjective moral discernment. They depicted humans as imprisoned by their sensory perceptions, each objectively disconnected from the other. Without acknowledging this isolating predicament, individuals were prevented from achieving the salvation of grace, and its communal connection. In The Nature of True Virtue (written 1755-8, though not published until 1765), Edwards described conversion as a harmony ‘between individual being and Being in general’. Humans perceived the suffering of others only by ‘recalling and exciting the ideas of what we ourselves are conscious’. The lack of sympathy between unregenerate beings inevitably resulted in warfare and violence. What could be done to prevent common affliction resulting in communal disorder in areas untouched by New Testament theology? If depravity was universal, how could individuals and nations justify intervention in the lives of others, to reduce their miserable lot? By the nineteenth century, Anglo-American missionaries responded to these questions. They outlined the common need for ‘regeneration’: oppressor was to achieve ‘true’ sympathy with the oppressed, persecuted with persecutor.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Title of host publication||Humanitarian Intervention|
|Subtitle of host publication||A History|
|Publisher||Cambridge University Press|
|Number of pages||18|
|State||Published - Jan 1 2011|