A few weeks ago in a Sunday message about the contingency of life and living life with gratitude I made reference to Jonathan Edwards' most famous sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. I don't share Edward's view that we sinners are in essence being dangled by God above the fiery furnace and at any moment God could justly let us drop. I do, however, think that when we ponder the contingency of life it feels something like being thusly dangled.
In any case a post by Rod Dreher about beauty (and how the aim of artistic expression with regards to beauty as a value or goal has changed over time) got me to thinking about Edwards again.
Beauty was everywhere we look in Edwards' worldview. God was beautiful, love was beautiful, nature was beautiful, the virtuous life was beautiful. Beauty was, for Edwards, both an ontological reality and the ultimate goal of the spiritual life.
What I really liked about Edwards' take on beauty was the way the creation was a spilling-out or overflowing of God's beauty into the world so that the divine beauty was reflected everywhere. God's beauty was the animating force in the universe.
While Edwards could preach hell-fire and brimstone, fear was not what motivated him and he hoped it was not what motivated others to live virtuously. It was the beauty of God that drew us to Him (as he would have said it), a beauty that was always all around us if we have eyes to see.
This was Edwards at his most sublime.