Nathaniel Culverwell is considered one of the principal scholars of the seventeenth century. This collection of sermons he delivered in 1645-46, examines the relationship between reason and faith, and forms one of the first attempts in English Protestantism to stress the role of reason in ethics and to develop a doctrine of natural law. Culverwell represents a crucial intersection in the discussion of reason and faith. While providing a link between the Calvinist dependence on faith and grace and the Enlightenment dependence on reason and humanism, Culverwell's Discourse is a picture of the world on the brink of the Enlightenment. The seventeenth century was an era that included the Puritan migration from England to America and the English Civil War. During this period, an understanding of the divine, and the interrelationship between reason and revelation, was often a matter of violent debate. An Elegant and Learned Discourse of the Light of Nature spans several centuries, during which the very nature of knowledge as a product of reason, not the means of revelation, gained ascendancy in Western civilization.
This discourse was crucial to the development of a theoretical grounding for individual challenges to established authorities, both political and ecclesiastical, and thus to the development of modern theories of liberty and responsibility.
Nathaniel Culverwell; Edited by Greene and MacCallum