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Old Brick

Charles Chauncy of Boston, 1705-1787

Author:

Edward M. Griffin

Old Brick

Charles Chauncy is remembered today as the chief antagonist of Jonathan Edwards during the Great Awakening of the 1740s, yet his contemporaries knew him as a powerful, influential figure in his own right. During his 60-year tenure as pastor of Boston’s First Church (the “Old Brick”) Chauncy involved himself in most of the important issues of the century. Not only did he aggressively oppose the emotional revivalism of the Great Awakening, but he was also a bold pamphleteer and preacher in support of the American Revolution. Old Brick, the first full-scale biography of Charles Chauncy, makes it possible to consider Chauncy a figure worthy of study and to take a fresh look at eighteenth-century New England in light of the tradition Chauncy represents.

Charles Chauncy is remembered today as the chief antagonist of Jonathan Edwards during the Great Awakening of the 1740s, yet his contemporaries knew him as a powerful, influential figure in his own right. During his 60-year tenure as pastor of Boston’s First Church (the “Old Brick”) Chauncy involved himself in most of the important issues of the century. Not only did he aggressively oppose the emotional revivalism of the Great Awakening, but he was also a bold pamphleteer and preacher in support of the American Revolution. Old Brick, the first full-scale biography of Charles Chauncy, makes it possible to consider Chauncy a figure worthy of study and to take a fresh look at eighteenth-century New England in light of the tradition Chauncy represents.

Charles Chauncy was a powerful and influential figure in his own time, but in historical accounts he has always been overshadowed by his contemporaries Benjamin Franklin and Jonathan Edwards. When he is remembered today, it is usually as Edwards’s chief antagonist during the Great Awakening of the 1740s. Yet Chauncy’s fellow New Englanders knew that there was more to the man than that.

In the course of his 60-year tenure as a pastor of Boston’s First Church (the “Old Brick”), Chauncy involved himself in most of the important intellectual, religious, and political issues of the century. Not only did he aggressively oppose the emotional revivalism of the Great Awakening, but he was also a bold pamphleteer and preacher in support of the American Revolution. In theology Chauncy became, as an old man, the leading advocate probably having scandalized his own forebears, but he insisted that he was true to his Protestant tradition and never abandoned his reliance on Scripture and Puritan discipline in favor of rationalist secularism.

Old Brick, the first full-scale biography of Charles Chauncy, attempts to recover not only Chauncy the spokesman for the ideas of a great many colonial Americans, but also the complex man who struggled with himself and with the events of his time to arrive at those positions. The portrait of Chauncy that emerges is fuller, more comprehensive, and more balanced than the stereotypes and partial portraits that have thus far represented him in history. This biography now makes it possible to consider Chauncy a figure worthy of study in his own right and to take a fresh look at eighteenth-century New England in light of the tradition Chauncy represents.

Old Brick

Edward M. Griffin is a professor of English at the University of Minnesota.

About This Book