Jonathan Edwards didn’t, actually, preach the Protestant work ethic

RosieNathan Schneider at Lapham's Quarterly:

It is taken as true to the point of cliché that American culture rests on the strenuous embrace of the “spirit of capitalism,” which Max Weber famously attributed to Edwards’ own Calvinist tradition. We work ourselves to death for the wealth that demonstrates our being chosen for the better part of the afterlife. But Lowell’s testimony of Edwards attests to where capitalism and Calvinism might part ways.

Edwards came theologically to his reluctance about Princeton. His writing and preaching—although best known for fire and brimstone—repeatedly celebrate well-used leisure as a way to glimpse the kingdom of God. He expected that, with technological progress, people would experience such glimpses with increasing frequency. “There will be so many contrivances and inventions to facilitate and expedite their necessary secular business,” he wrote concerning the Christians of the future, “that they will have more time for more noble exercise.” He found a foretaste of this in the piety of his wife, Sarah Pierpont. According to Lowell:

So filled with delight in the Great Being,
she hardly cared for anything—
walking the fields, sweetly singing,
conversing with someone invisible.

more here.