Imágenes de páginas

not certain that any part was wholly free), it was every where interlarded with unchristian bitterness, sarcastical and unmannerly insinuations. It contained divers direct, grievous and criminal charges and allegations against Mr. Edwards, which I have since good reason to suppose, were all founded on jealous and uncharitable mistakes, and so were really gross slanders; also many heavy and reproachful charges upon divers of Mr. Edwards's adherents, and some severe censures of them all indiscriminately; all of which, if not wholly false and groundless, yet were altogether unnecessary, and therefore highly criminal. Indeed I am fully convinced, that the whole of that composure, excepting the small part thereof above-mentioned, was totally unchristian, a scandalous, abusive, injurious libel, against Mr. Edwards and his particular friends, especially the former, and highly provoking and detestable in the sight of God; for which I am heartily sorry and ashamed; and pray I may remember it with deep abasement and penitence, all my days. Nor do I now think that the church's conduct in refusing to appear, and attend before that council to support the charges and allegations in the said remonstrance against Mr. Edwards and the said brethren, which they deranded, was ever vindicated by all the subtle answers that were given to the said demand ; nor do I think that our conduct in that instance was capable of a defence. For it appears to me, that by making such charges against them before the said council, we necessarily so far gave that council jurisdiction; and I own, with sorrow and regret, that I zealously endeavored that the church should perseveringly refuse to appear before the said council for the purpose aforesaid; which I humbly pray God to forgive.

Another part of my conduct, sir, of which I have long repented, and for which I hereby declare my hearty sorrow, was my obstinate opposi. tion to the last council's having any conference with the church; which the said council earnestly and repeatedly moved for, and which the church, as you know, finally denied. I think it discovered a great deal of pride and vain sufficiency in the church, and showed them to be very opinionative, especially the chief sticklers, one of whom I was, and think it was running a most presumptuous risk, and acting the part of proud scorners, for us to refuse hearing, and candidly and seriously considering what that council could say or oppose to us; among whom there were divers, justly in great reputation for grace and wisdom.

In these instances, sir, of my conduct, and in others (to which you were not privy) in the course of that most melancholy contention with Mr. Edwards, I now see that I was very much influenced by vast pride, selfsufficiency, ambition, and vanity. I appear to myself vile, and doubtless much more so to others who are more impartial; and do in the review thereof, abhor myself, and repent sorely: and if my own heart condemns me, it behooves me solemnly to remember, that God is greater and knoweth all things. I hereby own, sir, that such treatment of Mr. Edwards, wherein I was so deeply concerned and active, was particularly and very aggravatedly sinful and ungrateful in me, because I was not only under the common obligations of each individual of the society to him, as to a most able, diligent and faithful pastor ; but I had also received many instances of his tenderness, goodness, and generosity to me, as a young kinsman, whom he was disposed to treat in a most friendly manner.

Indeed, sir, I must own, that by my conduct in consulting and acting against Mr. Edwards within the time of our most unhappy disputes with him, and especially in and about that abominable "remonstrance,” I have so far symbolized with Balaam, Ahitophel, and Judas, that I am confounded and filled with terror oftentimes when I attend to the most painful similitude. And I freely confess, that on account of my conduct above-mentioned I have the greatest reason to tremble at those most sol. emn and awful words of our Saviour, Matt. xviii. 6, “Whoso shall offend one of these,” &c., and those in Luke, x. 16, “He that despiseth you,” &c.; and I am most sorely sensible that nothing but that infinite grace and mercy which saved some of the betrayers and murderers of our blessed Lord, and the persecutors of his martyrs, can pardon me; in which alone I hope for pardon, for the sake of Christ, whose blood, blessed be God, cleanseth from all sin. On the whole, sir, I am convinced, that I have the greatest reason to say as David, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness, according to the multiiude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions; wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin ; for I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities; create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me; cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me : restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free Spirit.” Psalm li. 1-3, 9–12.

And I humbly apprehend that it greatly concerns the church of Northampton most seriously to examine, whether the many hard speeches, spoken by many particular members against their former pastor, some of which the church really countenanced (and especially those spoken by the church as a body, in that most vile "remonstrance '), are not so odious and ungodly, as to be utterly incapable of defence : whether the said church were not guilty of a great sin in being so willing and disposed, for so slight a cause, to part with so faithful and godly a minister as Mr. Edwards was; and whether ever God will hold us guiltless till we cry to him for Christ's sake to pardon and save us from that judgment which such ungodly deeds deserve. And I most heartily wish and pray that the town and church of Northampton would seriously and carefully examine whether they have not abundant cause to judge that they are now lying under great guilt in the sight of God; and whether those of us who were concerned in that most awful contention with Mr. Edwards, can ever more reasonably expect God's favor and blessing, till our eyes are opened, and we become thoroughly convinced that we have greatly provoked the Most High, and have been injurious to one of the best of men; and until we shall be thoroughly convinced that we have dreadfully persecuted Christ, by persecuting and vexing that just man and servant of Christ; until we shall be humble as in the dust on account of it, and till we openly, in full terms, and without balking the matter, confess the same before the world, and most humbly and earnestly seek forgiveness of God, and do what we can to honor the memory of Mr. Edwards, and clear it of all the aspirations which we unjustly cast upon him; since God has been pleased to put it beyond our power to ask his forgiveness. Such terms I am persuaded the great and righteous God will hold us to, and that it will be in vain for us to hope to escape with impunity in any other way. This I am convinced of with regard to myself, and this way I most solemnly propose to take myself (if God in his mercy shall give me opportunity), that by so making free confession to God and man of my sin and guilt, and publicly taking shame to myself, I may give glory to the God of Israel, and do what in me lies, to clear the memory of that venerable man from the wrongs and injuries I was so active in bringing on his reputation and character; and I thank God that he has been pleased to spare my life to this time, and am sorry that I have delayed the affair so long.

Although I made the substance of almost all the foregoing reflections in writing, but not exactly in the same manner, to Mr. Edwards and the brethren who adhered to him, in Mr. Edwards's life, and before he removed from Stockbridge, and I have reason to believe that he, from his great çandor and charity, heartily forgave me and prayed for me: yet because that was not generally known, I look on myself obliged to take further steps; for while I kept silence, my bones waxed old, &c. For all these my great sins therefore, in the first place, I humbly and most earnestly ask forgiveness of God; in the next place, of the relatives and near friends of Mr. Edwards.--I also ask the forgiveness of all those who were called Mr. Edwards's adherents; and of'all the members of the ecclesiastical councils above-mentioned ; and lastly, of all Christian people, who have had any knowledge of these matters.

I have no desire, sir, that you should make any secret of this letter : but that you would communicate the same to whom you shall judge proper : and I purpose, if God shall give me opportunity, to procure it to be published in some one of the public newspapers; for I cannot devise any other way of making known my sentiments of the foregoing matters to all who ought to be acquainted therewith, and therefore I think I ought to do it, whatever remarks I may foresee will be made thereon. Probably when it comes out, some of my acquaintance will pronounce me quite overrun with vapors; others will be furnished with matter for mirth and pleasantry; others will cursorily pass it over, as relating to matters quite stale : but some, I am persuaded, will rejoice to see me brought to a sense of my sin and duty; and I myself shall be conscious that I have done something of what the nature of the case admits, toward undoing what is, and long has been, to my greatest remorse and trouble that it was ever done.

Sir, I desire that none would entertain a thought from my having spoken respectfully of Mr. Edwards, that I am disaffected to our present pastor ; for the very reverse is true; and I have a reverend esteem, real value, and hearty affection for him, and bless God, that he has, notwithstanding all our unworthiness, given us one to succeed Mr. Edwards, who, as I have reason to hope, is truly faithful. .

I conclude this long letter, by heartily desiring your prayers, that my repentance of my sins above-mentioned may be unfeigned and genuine, and such as God in infinite mercy, for Christ's sake, will accept ; and I beg leave to subscribe myself, Sir, your real, though very unworthy friend, and obedient servant,




SECTION 1. His Mission to the Indians at Stockbridge. If we regard Mr. Edwards's deep acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures, and the influence of divine truth on his own heart; if we consider, also, his long experience in the work of the ministry, with his disposition to observe the operations of human minds and passions, and to improve such knowledge to the most profitable purposes, we may safely say, that there were but few men, if any, better qualified to conduct a mission among the Indians. But, on the other hand, it may be questioned, whether his recluse turn, his natural reserve, his contemplative habits, and the strong propensity of his mind closely to investigate abstractedly every difficult subject that presented itself, were not unfavorable traits for such a situation, however beneficial it might be for his own improvement. Mr. Edwards was qualified to shine in some departments of the seats of learning, and was afterwards called to preside over one; but when he was delegated to instruct savage Indians, there was occasion to suspect there was not a perfect suitableness in the appointment. On this, however, different persons may form different opinions; and it is our business now to give some account of this appointment.

The Indian mission at Stockbridge, a town in the western part of Massachusetts Bay, fifty miles from Northampton, being vacant by the death of the Rev. Mr. Sergeant, the honored and reverend commissioners for Indian affairs in Boston, who have the care and direction of it, applied to Mr. Edwards as the most suitable person they could think of to be intrusted with that mission. At the same time he was invited by the inhabitants of Stockbridge; and being advised by the council above-mentioned to accept of the invitation, he repaired to Stockbridge, and was introduced and fixed as a missionary to the Indians there, by an ecclesiastical council called for that purpose, August 8th, 1751.

When Mr. Edwards first engaged in the mission, there was a hopeful prospect of its being extensively serviceable, under his care and influence; not only to that tribe of Indians which was settled at Stockbridge, but among the Six Nations, some of whom were coming to Stockbridge to settle, bringing their own, and as many of their neighbors' children as they could get, to be educated and instructed there. For this end, a house for a boarding school, which was projected by Mr. Sergeant, was erected on a tract of land appropriated to that use by the Indians at Stockbridge ; where the Indian children, male and female, were to be educated, by being clothed and fed, and instructed by proper persons in useful learning. The boys were to be taught husbandry or mechanic trades, and the girls all sorts of women's work. For the encouragement of this design, some generous subscriptions were made both in England and America. The general court of the province of Massachusetts Bay did much to promote the affair, and provided lands for the Mohawks who should incline to come. And the generous Mr. Hollis, to encourage the scheme, ordered twentyfour Indian children to be educated on are same footing, wholly at his cost. Also the Society in London, for propagating the gospel among the Indians in and about New England, directed their commissioners in Boston to do something considerable towards this design. But partly by reason of some unhappy differences that took place among those who had the chief management of this affair at Stockbridge, of which a particular account would not be proper in this place; and partly by the war breaking out between England and France, which is generally very fatal to such affairs among Indians, this hopeful prospect came to nothing.

Mr. Edwards's labors were attended with no remarkable visible success while at Stockbridge; though he performed the business of his mission to the good aeceptance of the inhabitants in general, both English and Indians, and of the commissioners, who supported him honorably, and confided very much in his judgment and wisdom, in all matters relating to the mission. However, Stockbridge proved to Mr. Edwards a more quiet, and, on many accounts, a much more comfortable situation than he was in before. It being so much in one corner of the country, his time was not so much taken up with company, as it was at Northampton, though many of his friends, from almost all parts of the land, often made him pleasant and profitable visits. And he had not so much concern and trouble with other churches as he was obliged to have when at Northampton, by being frequently sought to for advice, and called to assist in ecclesiastical councils. Here therefore he followed his beloved study more closely, and to better purpose than ever. In these six years he doubtless made swifter advances in knowledge than ever before, and added more to his manuscripts than in any equal space of time. And this was probably as useful a part of his life as any. For in this time he wrote the two last books that have been published by him* (of which a more particular account will be given hereafter), by which he has doubtless greatly served the church of Christ, and will be a blessing to many thousands yet unborn.

Thus, after his uprightness and faithfulness had been sufficiently tried at Northampton, his Divine Master provided for him a quiet retreat, which was rendered the more sweet by the preceding storm; and where he had a better opportunity to pursue and finish some important work which God had for him to do: so that when in his own judgment, as well as that of others, his usefulness seemed to be cut off, he found greater opportunities of service than ever.

SECTION II. His being chosen President of New Jersey College. While at Stockbridge, Mr. Edwards appears to have given full scope to his propensities and genius, stimulated by his ardent love of truth, and under the control of a correct judgment. While at Northampton his avocations were unavoidably numerous, and scarcely compatible with a profound attention to subjects he might be disposed to investigate ; but at Stockbridge he found himself more at liberty in that respect. After having been so long in the ministry elsewhere, his pulpit preparations would require less time than before.—His studies were less interrupted by company and calls.-Former anxieties were now removed ; his mind

* His Treatise on "The Will," and on "Original Sin."

« AnteriorContinuar »