Date of Award
Program or Major
Doctor of Philosophy
The diary of Joseph Moody, the subject of this dissertation, hidden behind a coded Latin text for 240 years, reveals the intensity with which some New England Puritans pursued the preparationist-predestinarian discipline propounded by Thomas Shepard and others among New England's founding fathers. Such was the "preacher's gift" of Samuel Moody to his son Joseph, in the preparationist tradition of Shepard, that the son became convinced that God had passed him by and that he was irretrievably lost and damned forever. The diary is young Moody's record of his futile quest for signs of his election and salvation.
Deeply troubled by an abstract sense of sin and lostness, Moody sought alternatives to the preparationist-predestinarian scheme he had inherited from Shepard and his father. He read what was available to him of the writings of Puritans of old and New England, finding that there were indeed alternatives to the system in which he had been nurtured. He read also the writings of certain Arminians as well as the works of Stoddard in New England and of Baxter in old England, men who had tried in different ways to modify the severity of the preparationist-predestinarian system.
Moody seems to have moved toward a tolerant, more open theological position as he pursued a career in public life and then in the ministry, but in his early thirties he experienced a mid-life crisis of faith that resulted in mental and physical collapse after the death of his wife.
Eventually he recovered, assisted to some extent at least by his reading of Jonathan Edward's Religious Affections. His relationship to Edwards reflects the way in which the preparationist system had been modified by the mid-seventeenth-century. The issues of preparatonist-predestinarian theology were by-passed by multitudes of New Englanders at the expense of theological acuity during the revivalism of the Great Awakening. Growth in Christian graces and attention to the prerogatives of divine sovereignty gave way to preoccupation with a mancentered personal religious experience. But not so for Moody, who maintained a modified version of preparationist-predestinarian belief and practice till his dying hour. Moody's experience calls for a reappraisal of established interpretations of New England preparationism and for a recognition that conversion and salvation meant, in New England after the Great Awakening, something quite different from what it had meant to the New England preparationists.
WILBUR, RAYMOND BERNARD, "DIARY OF THE DAMNED: A STUDY IN THEOCENTRIC ANXIETY IN PRE-AWAKENING NEW ENGLAND" (1981). Doctoral Dissertations. 2322.