Conversion narratives were one of the earliest forms of public expression for American women writers, sanctioned--and indeed welcomed--for their personal, first-hand testimonies about seasons of religious grace. Two eighteenth-century women, Sarah Pierpont Edwards and Sarah Prince Gill, wrote conversion narratives of remarkable craft and insight. These pieces, collected for the first time in The Silent and Soft Communion, represent two generations of Calvinist evangelism, addressing the social implications of spiritual regeneration and presenting full, fascinating accounts of Calvinist religious life.Sarah Pierpont Edwards is best known as the wife of Jonathan Edwards, one of the most renowned theologians in eighteenth-century New England. Asked by her husband to "draw up an exact statement" of her rebirth in Christ, she complied, creating in 1742 a work that was of considerable interest to both her husband's constituency and now to modern scholars. A rich and revealing document, her narrative expresses her immense joy in the presence of God and the intimacy of her relationship with God. Both a private and public statement, her testimony is remarkable for its position on the social imperative of spiritual regeneration and speaks to the social and political issues facing her Northampton community.The companion conversion narrative by Sarah Prince Gill, never before published, offers the perspective of the next generation of Calvinist women, whose religious orientation was inflected by Enlightenment values. Gill, an educated Bostonian and close friend of the Edwards family, documents in her 1742 narrative the dramatic story of her struggle for spiritual enlightenment. A private document, Gill's journal offers a striking contrast to Edwards's more public writings.Featuring scholarly annotations and an extensive introductory essay, The Silent and Soft Communion is an invaluable historical and theological resource.
Sue Lane McCulley is instructor of English at Wharton County Junior College in Wharton, Texas. Dorothy Z. Baker is associate professor of English at the University of Houston. She is the editor of Poetics in the Poem: Critical Essays on American Self-Reflexive Poetry and author of Mythic Masks in Self-Reflexive Poetry.
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