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as one discontented expression, nor the least appearance of murmuring through the whole! And never did any person expire with more perfect freedom from pain; not so much as one distortion; but in the most proper sense of the words, he really fell asleep.”
CHAPTER VI. HIS PUBLICATIONS, MANUSCRIPTS, AND GENIUS AS A WRITER. MR. EDWARDS was greatly esteemed, and indeed celebrated, as an author, both in America and Europe. His publications naturally raise in the reader of judgment and moral taste a high opinion of his greatness and piety. His books met with a good reception in Scotland especially, and procured for him great esteem and applause. A gentleman of note there has the following words concerning Mr. Edwards, in a letter to one of his correspondents in America: “I looked on him as incomparably the greatest divine and [moral*] philosopher, in Britain or her colonies; and rejoiced that one so eminently qualified for teaching divinity was chosen president of New Jersey College." And in another letter, the same gentleman says: “Ever since I was acquainted with Mr. Edwards's writings, I have looked upon him as the greatest divine this age has produced.” And a reverend gentleman from Holland observed : “That Mr. Edwards's writings, especially on the Freedom of the Will, were held in great esteem there; and that the professors of the celebrated academy presented their compliments to President Edwards." This gentleman further observes, that “ Several members of the Classes of Amsterdam gave their thanks, by him, to pious Mr. Edwards, for his just observations on Mr. Brainerd's Life; which book was translated in Holland, and was highly approved by the University of Utrecht.”
As these Memoirs are introductory to a complete edition of Mr. Ed. wards's Works, a professed enumeration of all his publications must be needless. Yet, as it is not desirable, on many accounts, to observe a chronological order in their arrangement, a view of those works which were published by himself, and the chief of his posthumous publications, according to the order of time, may be acceptable to many. For this, the reader is referred to the note below.t
Viewing Mr. Edwards as a writer of sermons, we cannot give him the epithet eloquent, in the common acceptation of the term. We see in
This must have been the writer's meaning. † 1731. A Sermon preached at Boston, on 1 Cor. 1754. On the Freedom of the Will. i. 29, 30.
1758. On Original Sin. 1734. Do. at Northampton, on Matt. xvi. 17.
N.B. This last was in the press when 1736. A Narrative of the work of God, &c.
the author died. All his other works 1738. Five Discourses at Northampton.
were collected from his papers after 1741. A Sermon preached at Enfield.
his decease; the principal of which 1741. Do. at New Haven, on 1 John iv. 1.
were published in the following or1741. Do, at Hatfield. 1742. Thoughts on the Revival.
1765. Eighteen Sermons, with his Life pre1746, Religious Affections.
fixed. 1747. On Prayer for a Revival.
1774. The History of Redemption. 1749. Ordination Sermon.
1788. On the Nature of Virtue. 1749. Life of the Rev. David Brainerd.
1788. God's Last End in the Creation. 1749. On Qualifications for Communion. 1788. Thirty-three Sermons. 1752. A Reply to S. Williams's Answer. 1789. Twenty Sermons. 1752. A Sermon preached at Newark, on 1793. Miscellaneous Observations.
James ii. 19.
1796. Miscellaneous Remarks.
him nothing of the great masters of eloquence, except good sense, con. clusive reasoning, and the power of moying the passions. Oratorical pomp, a cryptic method, luxurious descriptions presented to the imagination, and a rich variety of rhetorical figures, enter not into his plan. But his thoughts are well digested, and his reasoning conclusive, he produces considerations which not only force the assent, but also touch the conscience; he urges divine authority, by quoting and explaining Scripture, in a form calculated to rouse the soul. He moves the passions, not by little artifices, like the professed rhetorician, but by saying what is much to the purpose, in a plain, serious, and interesting way; and thus making reason, conscience, fear, and love, to be decidedly in his favor. And thus the passions are moved in the most profitable manner; the more generous ones take the lead, and they are ever directed in the way of practical utility.
From what has been said, it is easy to conjecture, that close discussions were peculiarly suited to Mr. Edwards's talents. And as a further evidence to show which way his genius had its prevailing bent, it is observable, that his style improves in proportion to the abstruseness of his subject. Hence, generally speaking, the productions, especially those published by himself, which enter into close, profound, metaphysical distinctions, seem to have as much perspicuity as the nature of the case will admit. To be convinced of the propriety of this remark, the reader need only consult the Treatise on the Will; a work justly thought by able judges to be one of the greatest efforts of the human intellect. Here the author shows such force and strength of mind, such judgment, penetration, and accuracy of thought, as justly entitles him to the character of one of the greatest geniuses of his age. We may add, that this treatise goes further, perhaps, towards settling the main points in controversy between Calvinists and Arminians, than any thing that had been written. Herein he has abundantly demonstrated the chief principles on which Arminians build their whole scheme, to be false and most absurd. Whenever, therefore, this book comes to be generally attended to, it will doubtless prove fatal to Arminian and Pelagian principles.
Though the work now mentioned afforded the fairest opportunity for metaphysical investigation, yel the same penetrating turn, the same accuracy of discrimination, and the same closeness of reasoning, distinguish many of his other productions. Among these we might mention, particularly, his book on Original Sin, his Discourse on Justification, his Dissertation on the Nature of true Virtue, and that concerning the End for which God created the World. If the advocates of selfish virtue, and of universal restoration, will do themselves the justice to examine these Dissertations with candor and closeness, they may see cause to be of the author's mind. His other discourses are excellent, including much divin. ity, and tending above most that are published to awaken the conscience of the sinner, as well as to instruct and quicken the Christian. The sermon (preached at Enfield, 8th July, 1741,) entitled “Sinners in the hands of an angry God," was attended with remarkable impressions on many of the hearers. In his treatise, entitled “ An humble attempt to promote explicit agreement, and visible union of God's people in extraordinary prayer for the revival of religion," he shows great acquaintance with Scripture, and a remarkable attention to the prophetic part of it.
Mr. Edwards left a great number of volumes in manuscript, which he
wrote in a miscellaneous way on almost all subjects in divinity. This he did, not with any design that they should ever be published in that form, but for the satisfaction and improvement of his own mind, and that he might retain the thoughts, which appeared to him worth preserving, Some idea of the progress he had made, and the materials he had collected in this way, he gives in his letter to the trustees of the College, when assigning his reasons against accepting the presidentship. He had written much on the prophecies concerning the Messiah, on justification, the divinity of Christ, and the eternity of hell torments. He wrote much on the Bible, in the same way; penning his thoughts on particular passages, as they occurred to him in reading or meditation.
As the method he took to have his miscellaneous writings in good order, so as to be able with ease to turn to any particular subject, is perhaps as good as any, if not the best that has been proposed to the public; • some account of it is here given, for the use of young students who have not yet adopted any method, and are disposed to improve their minds by writing. He numbered all his miscellaneous writings. The first thing he wrote, is No. 1, the second, No. 2, and so on. And when he had occasion to write on any particular subject, he first set down the number, and then wrote the subject in large characters, that it might not escape his eye, when he should have occasion to turn to it. For instance, if he was going to write on the happiness of angels, and his last No. was 148, he would begin thus—149. Angels, their happiness. When he wrote what he designed, he would turn to his alphabetical table, and under the letter A, he would write, Angels, their happiness, if this was not there already, and then set down the number 149, close at the right hand of it. And if he had occasion to write any new thoughts on the same subject, if the number of his miscellanies were increased, so that his last number was 261, he would set the number 262, and then the subject as before. And when he had done writing for that time, he turned to his table, to the word angels; and at the right hand of the number 149, set down 262. By this means he had no occasion to leave any chasms, but began his next subject where he left off his last. The number of his miscellaneous writings ranged in this manner, amounts to above 1400. And yet by a table contained in a sheet or two of paper, any thing he wrote can be turned to at pleasure.
A just picture of this eminent servant of God, is given in the following expressive lines, taken from The Triumph of Infidelity, an ingenious, satirical poem, ascribed to Dr. Dwight, President of Yale College.
" But, my chief bane, my apostolic foe,
. The reader will consider this proposition as poetically strong, but not as literally accurate,
Beneath his standard, lo! what numbers rise,
The inscription upon the stone which is over the grave of Mr. Ed. wards in Princeton, composed originally by President Finley, has been very obligingly sent on by a particular friend, and is here gratefully insert. d as the close of these Memoirs.
Reverendi admodum viri,
A.D. MDCCIII. S. v.
Collegio Yalensi educatus,
Et munus Barbaros instituendi accepit,
Ætatis LV. heu nimis brevis
His jacit mortalis Pars.
Vir, Corpore procero, sed gracili,
Secundus nemini Mortalium.
Ut vix alter æqualis; disputator candidus.
Fidei Christianæ Propugnator invictus,
Et, Deo favente, Successu
Ast aliis æquus et benignus,
At, eo recepto, gaudet