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was drawn more closely to God, from his past experience of the fickleness of men; and thereby his mind became more composed, more enlightened, and more elevated. Here he was led to investigate subjects of radical importance in morals and theology, and to trace them to their first principles. And here he published his masterpiece of inquiry and close reasoning, his Treatise on the Will, which completely established his character as an adept in metaphysical science, and a profound divine. The celebrity he obtained by this work, and very deservedly obtained, had, doubtless, no small influence on the trustees of New Jersey College, among other considerations, in looking to Mr. Edwards to become their President, on the death of Mr. Burr, his son-in-law.
The Rev. Aaron Burr, President of New Jersey College, died on the 24th of Sept. 1757; and, at the next meeting of the trustees, Mr. Ędwards was chosen his successor; the news of which was quite unexpected, and not a little surprising to him. He looked on himself in many respects so unqualified for that business, that he wondered that gentlemen of so good judgment, and so well acquainted with him, as he knew some of the trustees were, should think of him for that place. He had many objections in his own mind against undertaking the business, both from his unfitness, and his particular circumstances; yet could not certainly determine that it was not his duty to accept it. The following extract of a letter which he wrote to the trustees, will give the reader a view of his sentiments and exercises on this occasion, as well as of the great designs he was deeply engaged in, and zealously prosecuting. Die INTILIST
Stockbridge, 19th October, 1757. Rev. and Hon. Gentlemen-1 was not a little surprised on receiving the unexpected notice of your having made choice of me to succeed the late President Burr, as the head of Nassau Hall. I am much in doubt whether I am called to undertake the business, which you have done me the unmerited honor to choose me for. If some regard may be had for my outward comfort, I might mention the many inconveniences and great detriment which may be sustained by my removing with my numerous family, so far from all the estate I have in the world (without any prospect of disposing of it, under present circumstances, but with great loss), now when we have scarcely got over the trouble and damage sustained by our removal from Northampton, and have just begun to have our affairs in a comfortable situation for a subsistence in this place; and the expense I must immediately be at to put myself into circumstances tolerably comporting with the needful support of the honor of the office I am invited to, which will not well consist with my ability.
But this is not my main objection: the chief difficulties in my mind, in the way of accepting this important and arduous office, are these two: First, my own defects, unfitting me for such an undertaking, many of which are generally known; besides other, which my own heart is conscious of. I have a constitution, in many respects peculiarly unhappy, attended with flaccid solids; vapid, sizy and scarce fluids, and a low tide of spirits; often occasioning a kind of childish weakness and contempti. bleness of speech, presence, and demeanor; with a disagreeable dulness and stiffness, much unfitting me for conversation, but more especially for the government of a college. This makes me shrink at the thoughts of taking upon me, in the decline of life, such a new and great business, attended with such a multiplicity of cares, and requiring such a degree of activity, alertness, and spirit of government; especially as succeeding one so remarkably well qualified in these respects, giving occasion to every one to remark the wide difference. I am also deficient in some parts of learning, particularly in algebra, and the higher parts of mathematics, and in the Greek classics; my Greek learning having been chiefly in the New Testament. The other thing is this ; that my engaging in this business will not well consist with those views, and that course of employ in my study, which have long engaged and swallowed up my mind, and been the chief entertainment and delight of my life.
And here, honored sirs, (emboldened, by the testimony I have now received of your unmerited esteem, to rely on your candor,) I will with freedom open myself to you.
My method of study, from my first beginning the work of the ministry, has been very much by writing; applying myself in this way, to improve every important hint; pursuing the clue to my utmost, when any thing in reading, meditation, or conversation, has been suggested to my mind, that seemed to promise light, in any weighty point; thus penning what appeared to me my best thoughts, on innumerable subjects for my own benefit. The longer I prosecuted my studies in this method, the more habitual it became, and the more pleasant and profitable I found it. The further I travelled in this way, the more and wider the field opened, which has occasioned my laying out many things in my mind to do in this manner, if God should spare my life, which my heart hath been much upon : particularly many things against most of the prevailing errors of the present day, which I cannot with any patience see maintained (to the utter subverting of the gospel of Christ) with so high a hand, and so long continued a triumph, with so little control, when it appears so evident to me, that there is truly no foundation for any of this glorying and insult. I have already published something on one of the main points in dispute between the Arminians and Calvinists; and have it in view, God willing (as I have already signified to the public), in like manner to consider all the other controverted points, and have done much towards a preparation for it. But besides these, I have had on my mind and heart (which I long ago began, not with any view to publication) a great work, which I call a History of the Work of Redemption, a body of divinity in an entire new method, being thrown into the form of a history; considering the affair of Christian theology, as the whole of it, in each part, stands in reference to the great work of redemption by Jesus Christ; which I suppose to be of all others the grand design of God, and the summum and ultimum of all the divine operations and decrees; particularly considering all parts of the grand scheme in their historical order. The order of their existence, or their being brought forth to view, in the course of divine dispensations, or the wonderful series of successive acts and events; beginning from eternity and descending from thence to the great work and successive dispensations of the infinitely wise God in time, considering the chief events coming to pass in the church of God, and revolutions in the world of mankind, affecting the state of the church and the affairs of redemption, which we have account of in history or prophecy; till at last we come to the general resurrection, last judgment, and consummation of all things; when it shall be said, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Concluding my work,
three worlds, hearty. This history things, which shall
with the consideration of that perfect state of things, which shall be finally settled, to last for eternity. This history will be carried on with regard to all three worlds, heaven, earth, and hell; considering the connected successive events and alterations in each, so far as the Scriptures give any light; introducing all parts of divinity in that order which is most scriptural and most natural; a method which appears to me the most beautiful and entertaining, wherein every divine doctrine will appear to greatest advantage, in the brighest light, in the most striking manner, showing the admirable contexture and harmony of the whole.
I have also, for my own profit and entertainment, done much towards another great work, which I call the Harmony of the Old and New Testament, in three parts. The first considering the prophecies of the Messiah, his redemption and kingdom; the evidences of their references to the Messiah, &c., comparing them all one with another, demonstrating their agreement, true scope, and sense; also considering all the various particulars wherein these prophecies have their exact fulfilment; showing the universal, precise, and admirable correspondence between predictions and events. The second part, considering the types of the Old Testament, showing the evidence of their being intended as representations of the great things of the gospel of Christ; and the agreement of the type with the antitype. The third and great part, considering the harmony of the Old and New Testament, as to doctrine and precept. In the course of this work, I find there will be occasion for an explanation of a very great part of the holy Scripture; which may, in such a view, be explained in a method, which to me seems the most entertaining and profitable, best tending to lead the mind to a view of the true spirit, design, life and soul of the Scriptures, as well as their proper use and improvement. I have also many other things in hand, in some of which I have made great progress, which I will not trouble you with an account of. Some of these things, if divine Providence favor, I should be willing to attempt a publication of. So far as I myself am able to judge of what talents I have for benefiting my fellow-creatures by word, I think I can write better than I can speak.
My heart is so much in these studies, that I cannot feel willing to put myself into an incapacity to pursue them any more in the future part of my life to such a degree as I must, if I undertake to go through the same course of employ, in the office of a president, that Mr. Burr did, instructing in all the languages, and taking the whole care of the instruction of one of the classes in all parts of learning, besides his other labors. If I should see light to determine me to accept the place offered me, I should be willing to take upon me the work of a president, so far as it consists in the general inspection of the whole society; and to be subservient to the school, as to their order and methods of study and instruction, assisting myself in immediate instruction in the arts and sciences (as discretion should direct and occasion serve, and the state of things require), especially the senior class : and added to all, should be willing to do the whole work of a professor of divinity, in public and private lectures, proposing questions to be answered, and some to be discussed in writing and free conversation, in meetings of graduates and others, appointed in proper seasons for these ends. It would be now out of my way, to spend time in a constant teaching of the languages, unless it be the Hebrew tongue; which I should be willing to improve myself in, by instructing others.
. I am ipou and the affaire trusten. And have bask
On the whole, I am much at a loss, with respect to the way of duty in this important affair: I am in doubt, whether, if I should engage in it, I should not do what both you and I would be sorry for afterwards. Nevertheless, I think the greatness of the affair, and the regard due to so worthy and venerable a body, as that of the trustees of Nassau Hall, requires my taking the matter into serious consideration. And unless you should appear to be discouraged by the things which I have now represented, as to any further expectation from me, I shall proceed to ask advice, of such as I esteem most wise, friendly and faithful: if after the mind of the commissioners in Boston is known, it appears that they consent to leave me at liberty, with respect to the business they have employed me in here."
In this suspense he determined to ask the advice of a number of gentlemen in the ministry, on whose judgment and friendship he could rely, and to act accordingly ;-who, upon his and his people's desire, met at Stockbridge, January 4, 1758; and having heard "Mr. Edwards's representation of the matter, and what his people had to say by way of objection against his removal, determined it was his duty to accept of the invitation to the presidency of the college. When they published their judgment and advice to Mr. Edwards and his people, he appeared uncommonly moved and affected with it, and fell into tears on the occasion, which was very unusual for him in the presence of others : and soon after said to the gentlemen, who had given their advice, that it was matter of wonder to him, that they could so easily, as they appeared to do, get over the objections he had made against his removal.-But as he thought
it his duty to be directed by their advice, he should now endeavor · cheerfully to undertake it, believing he was in the way of his duty.
Accordingly, having had, by the application of the trustees of the college, the consent of the commissioners to resign their mission; he girded up his loins, and set off from Stockbridge for Princeton in January. He left his family at Stockbridge, not to be removed till spring. He had two daughters at Princeton, Mrs. Burr, the widow of the late President Burr, and his oldest daughter that was unmarried. His arrival at Princeton was to the great satisfaction and joy of the college.
The corporation met as soon as could be with convenience, after his arrival at the college, when he was by them fixed in the president's chair. Whlle at Princeton, before his sickness, he preached in the college hall, Sabbath after Sabbath, to the great acceptance of the hearers; but did nothing as president, unless it was to give out some questions in divinity to the senior class, to be answered before him; each one having opportunity to study and write what he thought proper upon them. When they came together to answer them, they found so much entertainment and profit by it, especially by the light and instruction Mr. Edwards communicated in what he said upon the questions, when they had delivered what they had to say, that they spoke of it with the greatest satisfaction and wonder.
During this time Mr. Edwards seemed to enjoy an uncommon degree of the presence of God. He told his daughters he once had great exercise, concern and fear, relative to his engaging in that business; but since it now appeared, so far as he could see, that he was called of God to that place and work, he did cheerfully devote himself to it, leaving himself and the event with God, to order what seemed to him good.
The small-pox had now become very common in the country, and was then at Princeton, and likely to spread. And as Mr. Edwards had never had it, and inoculation was then practised with great success in those parts, he proposed to be inoculated, if the physician should advise to it, and the corporation should give their consent. Accordingly by the advice of the physician, and the consent of the corporation, he was inoculated February 13th. He had it favorably, and it was thought all danger was over; but a secondary fever set in, and by reason of a number of pustules in his throat, the obstruction was such, that the medicines necessary to check the fever, could not be administered. It therefore raged till it put an end to his life on the 22d of March, 1758, in the 55th year of his age.
After he was sensible that he could not survive that sickness, a little before his death he called his daughter to him, who attended him in his sickness, and addressed her in a few words, which were immediately taken down in writing, as near as could be recollected, and are as follows:-“Dear Lucy, it seems to me to be the will of God that I must shortly leave you ; therefore, give my kindest love to my dear wife, and tell her, that the uncommon union which has so long subsisted between us, has been of such a nature, as I trust is spiritual, and therefore will continue forever: and I hope she will be supported under so great a trial, and submit cheerfully to the will of God. And as to my children, you are now like to be left fatherless, which I hope will be an inducement to you all to seek a father who will never fail you. And as to my funeral, I would have it to be like Mr. Burr's; and any additional sum of money that might be expected to be laid out that way, I would have it disposed of to charitable uses.”*
He said but very little in his sickness; but was an admirable instance of patience and resignation to the last. Just at the close of life, as some persons who stood by, expecting he would breathe his last in a few minutes, were lamenting his death, not only as a great frown on the college, but as having a dark aspect on the interest of religion in general; to their surprise, not imagining that he heard, or ever would speak another word, he said, “Trust in God, and ye need not fear.” These were his last words. What could have been more suitable to the occasion! And what need of more! In these is as much matter of instruction and support, as if he had written a volume. This is the only consolation to his bereaved friends, who are sensible of the loss they and the church of Christ have sustained in his death; God is all sufficient, and still has the care of his church.
He appeared to have the uninterrupted use of his reason to the last, and died with as much calmness and composure, to all appearance, as that with which one goes to sleep. The physician who inoculated and constantly attended him in his sickness, has the following words in his letter to Mrs. Edwards, on this occasion: “Never did any mortal man more fully and clearly evidence the sincerity of all his professions, by one continued, universal, calm, cheerful resignation, and patient submission to the divine will, through every stage of his disease, than he. Not so much
President Burr ordered, on his death-bed, that his funeral should not be attended with pomp and cost. He ordered that nothing should be expended but what was agreeable to the dictates of Christian decency; and that the sum which must be expended at a modish funeral, above the necessary cost of a decent one, should be given to the poor, out of his estate.