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LETTER TO HIS ELDEST SON—RETURN OF GREATER PART OF THE MOHAWKS—LETTER TO COMMISSIONERS—MISSION OF MR HAWLEY TO ONOHQUAUGA—REMAINDER OF MOHAWKS DIRECTED TO RETURN—“FREEDOM OF THE WILL”—LETTER TO MR. ERSKINE—PROPOSAL OF SOCIETY IN LONDON—LETTER TO MR. GILLESPIE—DESIGN AND CHARACTER OF THE “FREEDOM OF THE WILL”—LETTERS FROM MR. HOLLIS—SURRENDER OF MOHAWK SCHOOL TO MR. EDWARDS—ENTIRE DEFEAT OF ENEMIES OF MISSION—RETURN OF REMAINING MOHAWKS.
early in the ensuing spring, the eldest son of Mr. Edwards, then a lad of fourteen, went to New York, and thence to New Jersey; and on his way was much exposed to the small-pox. On his return to New York, he was seized with a violent fever His father hearing this, and not knowing whether it an ordinary fever, or the small-pox, addressed to him the following letter; which, like all his letters to his children, indicates that his chief anxiety was for their salvation.
“To Master Timothy Edwards, at New York.
Stockbridge, April, 1753
my dear child,
Before you will receive this letter, the matter will doubtless be determined, as to your having the small-pox. You will either be sick with that distemper, or will be past danger of having it, from any infection taken in your voyage. But whether you are sick or well, like to die or clvii like to live, I hope you are earnestly seeking your salvation. I am sure there is a great deal of reason it should be so, considering the warnings you have had in word and in providence. That which you met with, in your passage from New York to Newark, which was the occasion of your fever, was indeed a remarkable warning, a dispensation full of instruction, and a very loud call of God to you, to make haste, and not to delay in the great business of religion. If you now have that distemper, which you have been threatened with, you are separated from your earthly friends, as none of them can come to see you; and if you should die of it, you have already taken a final and everlasting leave of them while you are yet alive, so as not to have the comfort of their presence and immediate care, and never to see them again in the land of the living. And if you have escaped that distemper, it is by a remarkable providence that you are preserved. And your having been so exposed to it, must certainly be a loud call of God, not to trust in earthly friends or any thing here below. Young persons are very apt to trust in parents and friends when they think of being on a death-bed. But this providence remarkably teaches you the need of a better Friend, and a better Parent, than earthly parents are; one who is every where present, and all sufficient, that cannot be kept off by infectious distempers, who is able to save from death, or to make happy in death, to save from eternal misery, and to bestow eternal life. It is indeed comfortable, when one is in great pain, and languishing under sore sickness, to have the presence, and kind care, of near and dear earthly friends; but this is a very small thing, in comparison of what it is, to have the presence of a heavenly Father, and a compassionate and almighty Redeemer. In God’s favour is life, and his loving-kindness is better than life. Whether you are in sickness or health, you infinitely need this. But you must know, however great need you stand in of it, you do not deserve it: neither is God the more obliged to bestow it upon you, for your standing in need of it, your earnest desiring of it, your crying to him constantly for it from fear of misery, and taking much pains. Till you have savingly believed in Christ, all your desires, and pains, and prayers lay God under no obligation; and, if they were ten thousand times as great as they are, you must still know, that you would be in the hands of a sovereign God, who hath mercy on whom he will have mercy. Indeed, God often hears the poor miserable cries of sinful vile creatures, who have no manner of true regard to Him in their hearts; for he is a God of infinite mercy, and he delights to show mercy for his Son’s sake, who is worthy, though you are unworthy, who came to save the sinful and the miserable, yea, some of the chief of sinners. Therefore, there is your only hope, and in him must be your refuge, who invites you to come to him, and says, ‘Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.’ Whatever your circumstances are, it is your duty not to despair, but to hope in infinite mercy, through a Redeemer. For God makes it your duty to pray to him for mercy; which would not be your duty, if it was allowable for you to despair. We are expressly commanded to call upon God in the day of trouble, and when we are afflicted, then to pray. But, if I hear that you have escaped,—either that you have not been sick, or are restored,—though I shall rejoice, and have great cause of thankfulness, yet I shall be concerned for you. If your escape should be followed with carelessness and security, and forgetting the remarkable warning you have had, and God’s great mercy in your deliverance, it would in some respects be more awful than sore sickness It would be very provoking to God, and would probably issue in an increasing hardness of heart; and, it may be, divine vengeance may soon overtake you. I have known various instances of persons being remarkably warned, in providence, by being brought into very dangerous circumstances, and escaping, and afterwards death has soon followed in another way. I earnestly desire, that God would make you wise to salvation, and that he would be merciful and gracious to you in every respect, according as he knows your circumstances require. And this is the daily prayer of
Your affectionate and tender father,
“P.S. Your mother and all the family send their love to you, as being tenderly concerned for you.”
At length the event, so long predicted by Mr. Edwards, actually took place. The Mohawks, who had manifested exemplary patience under the vexatious and embarrassments to which they had been subjected by the whites, were at last wearied out; and, in the month of April, the greater part of them relinquished their lands and settlements at Stockbridge, and returned finally to their own country. After a brief allusion to this fact, in a letter to the commissioners, Mr. Edwards communicated to them a variety of interesting intelligence relative to the Iroquois, and to the mission proposed to be established among them
“To the Commissioners in Boston.
Stockbridge, April 12, 1753.
The last Tuesday, about two-thirds of the Mohawks, young and old, went away from Stockbridge, and are never likely to return again. They have long manifested a great uneasiness at the management of affairs here, and at the conduct of those persons on whom their affairs have almost wholly fallen; and have shown themselves very much grieved, that others, who used to be concerned, have been excluded. They have, once and again, represented the grounds of their uneasiness to the provincial agent, but without redress. They have been dissatisfied with his answers, and there has appeared in them a growing dislike of the family, who have lately left their own house, and taken up their constant abode among them, in the female boarding-school.
The correspondents, in New York and New Jersey, of the Society in Scotland for propagating Christian Knowledge, have determined, if Providence favours, to settle a mission among the Six Nations. To that end, they have chosen Mr. Gordon, a pious young gentleman, who has lately been a tutor at New Jersey college, to come to Stockbridge, and remain here with Mr. Hawley, to learn the Mohawk language with him, in order to his being fitted for the business. Mr. Gordon is expected here to prosecute this design in the beginning of May.
In addition to this, Mr. Brainerd, the pastor of the Indian congregation at Bethel in New Jersey, who is supported by the correspondents, having met with much trouble from the enemies of religion in those parts; and his Indians being greatly disturbed, with regard to the clviii possession and improvement of their lands; the correspondents have of late had a disposition, that he, with his school-master and whole congregation, should remove, if a door might be opened, and take up a new settlement, somewhere in the country of the Six Nations. Mr. Hawley has seen Mr. Brainerd, and conversed with him on the subject, this spring. He manifests an inclination to such a removal, and says his Indians will be ready for it. If such a thing as this could be brought to pass, it would probably tend greatly to the introduction of the gospel, and the promotion of the interests of religion, among the Six Nations; as his congregation are, I suppose, the most virtuous and religious collection of Indians in America, and some of them have now been long established in religion and virtue.
According to the best information I can get, of the country of the Six Nations, the most convenient place, to be chosen as the chief seat of missionary operations, is the country about Onohquauga, near the head of the Susquehannah river.
I apprehend, from some things of which Mr. Woodbridge informed me, that the commissioners have had very wrong information concerning the Onohquauga Indians, as though they were a very despicable company, a kind of renegadoes, scarcely to be reckoned as of the Six Nations, living out of the country of those nations. There are, indeed, some here, who have sometimes spoken very contemptuously of them; which seems to have been, not from any manner of ground in fact, or so much as any colour of reason, but merely because these Indians appeared peculiarly attached to Mr. Ashley and his wife, and under their influence. But there are other persons in Stockbridge, who have had as much opportunity to know what is the true state of these people, as they. The Onohquauga Indians, who have been here, are properly, not only of the Six Nations, but of the five nations, who are the original united tribes of the Iroquois. All, but one or two of them, are of the nation of the Oneiutas; and they appear not to be looked upon as contemptible, by the rest of the Five Nations, from what was once openly said of them, at a public council, by the sachems of the Conneenchees, or proper Mohawks, who advised us to treat the Onohquaugas with peculiar care and kindness, as excelling their own tribe in religion and virtue; giving at the same time many instances of their virtue. We have found the testimony which they gave of them to be true. They appear to be far the best disposed Indians with which we have had any connexion. They would be inclined to the utmost, to assist, encourage, and strengthen, the hands of missionaries and instructors, should any be sent among them, and to do all they could to forward their success, among themselves, and the other Indians round about.
There seems to be no room for a missionary, in the country of the Conneenchees. The Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts, have long since taken them under their care, and pretended to support a mission among them. A mission from the commissioners in Boston would not be borne by them, nor by the Dutch, who are always among them. And as to the country of the Quinqua*s, and the original seat of the Oneiutas, they seem not to be convenient places for settling a mission, on two accounts. They are on the road to Oswego, where the Dutch are incessantly passing and repassing with their rum; with which they are continually making them drunk, and would be, in many other respects, a continual hindrance and affliction to a missionary; for they are exceedingly opposed to the New England people having any thing to do with the Iroquois. The nation of the Quinquas, also, are mostly in the French interest, as well as many of the Oneiutas; so that a missionary would there be afflicted, and perhaps in danger, by the French. And it is very evident, that the country of the Onondagas, is no country for our missionaries to attempt to establish a mission in. It would be like establishing a mission in Canada; for that nation have entirely gone over to the French interest. They are on the road of the French, as they go up a trading to Mississippi, and their distant settlements, and the nations on the great lakes; and the French have of late built a fort in their country, and have in effect annexed it to Canada. And the country of the Senecas will not be much more convenient for the purpose, both by reason of its very good distance, and also because most of the nation are firmly united to the French, who constantly maintain their missionaries among them.
Onohquauga is within the territory of the Five Nations, and not so far from the other settlements, but that it may be convenient for making excursions to the several tribes; as convenient perhaps as any place that can be found. It is, I suppose, as near to the heart of the country as any place, unless Oneiuta and Quinquah. They are also much out of the way of the French, and considerably out of the way of the Dutch, are in a pleasant fruitful country, surrounded by many settlements of Indians on every side, and where the way is open by an easy passage down the river, which runs through one of the most pleasant and fruitful parts of America, for four or five hundred miles, exceedingly well peopled on both sides, and on its several branches, by Indians. Onohquauga is the road, by which several of the nations pass, as they go to war with the southern nations. And there will be this advantage, which missionaries will have, that the Onohquauga Indians are fast friends to the English; and though some of the Dutch have tried much to disaffect them to the English, their attempts have been in vain. They are very desirous of instruction, and to have the gospel established in their country.
There are several towns of the Onohquaugas; and several missionaries might probably find sufficient employment in those parts. If Mr. Brainerd should settle somewhere in that country, with his Christian Indians, and one or two more missionaries, not at a great distance, they might be under advantage to assist one another; as they will greatly need one another’s company and assistance, in so difficult a work, in such a strange distant land. They might be under advantage to consult one another, and to act in concert, and to help one another, in any case of peculiar difficulty. Many English people would be found to go from New England, and settle there; and the greatest difficulty would be, that there would be danger of too many English settlers, and of such as are not fit for the place.
But, in order to accomplish this; especially in order to such a body of new Indians coming from the Jerseys, and settling in the country of the Six Nations; the consent of those nations, or at least of several of them, must be obtained. The method which Mr. Woodbridge, Mr. Hawley, and I, have thought of, which we submit to the clix wisdom of the commissioners, is this,—that Mr. Woodbridge, and Mr. Ashley and his wife, should go, as speedily as possible, into the country of the Conneenchees;—they being the first tribe in honour, though not in numbers;—and there spend some weeks, perhaps a month, among them, to get acquainted with them, and endeavour to gain their approbation of a mission, for settling the gospel in the country of the Six Nations.—Mr. Hawley, in the mean time, to keep Mr. Woodbridge’s school. Then, that Mr. Hawley and Mr. Gordon should join them there, and go with them from thence to Onohquauga, and when they have acquainted themselves well with the people, and the state of the country, and find things agreeable, and see a hopeful prospect, then for Mr. Woodbridge to return, and leave Mr. Hawley and Mr. Gordon there, and forthwith send word to Mr. Brainerd, and propose to him to come up, with some of his chief Indians, to see the country. And if, on the observations they make, and the acquaintance they get with the people and country, they think there is an encouraging prospect, then to endeavour to gain a conference with some of the chiefs of the Five Nations, at an appointed time, to know whether they will consent to their coming to settle in their territories. All this will occupy some considerable time; so that, if they can obtain their consent, Mr. Brainerd must return home: and he and his chief Indians must come again to the treaty, at the time and place appointed.
You will easily perceive, Gentlemen, that these things will require time, and that, in order to carry these various measures into effect this year, there will be need of expedition, which may show the reason why we think it necessary, that Mr. Hawley should come to Boston; for, if these things are to be done this year, we had need speedily to know the minds of the commissioners, and therefore that the case would not allow of waiting for, and depending on, uncertain accidental opportunities, of sending to them, and hearing from them. It is also proper, that the commissioners should have opportunity to agree with Mr. Hawley, concerning the reward of his services.
Mr. Brainerd told Mr. Hawley, that, if he removed with his Indians, he should choose to do it speedily; and that, the longer it was delayed, the more difficult it would he, by reason of his building, and the Indians increasing their buildings and improvements at Bethel. Probably, if the removal cannot be brought about the next year, it never will be. And if his Indians remove the next year, it will be necessary that they remove as early as the spring, in order to plant there that year. And if so much needs to be done this summer, it is as much as it will be possible to find time for.
Though we project the measures mentioned above, we are sensible they will be attended with much uncertainty. Man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps. Many are the desires of men’s hearts, but the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand. Unthought of difficulties may arise, to confound all our projects; as unforeseen difficulties have dashed all the pleasing hopes we entertained, and the fair prospects we had, concerning the affairs of the Mohawks at Stockbridge, the year before last. And I would humbly propose it for consideration, whether it will not be necessary, to leave these affairs, in some measure at discretion, to be determined as the complicated, uncertain, changing state of things shall require; to save the trouble and expense of frequently going or sending to Boston, for new instructions; and to prevent the disadvantages, under which our affairs may be laid, through the lengthy, uncertain way of sending for and receiving new orders, by occasional opportunities.
There will be a necessity of Mrs. Ashley’s going as an interpreter, and of her husband going with her. He will be qualified to instruct the Indians in their husbandry: having been well instructed in it himself. I believe he will not be very difficult as to his wages, though probably he expects to know what they will be.
I have the honour to be,
Your obliged and obedient servant,
During the month of April, Mr. Hawley received a letter from the commissioners, directing him to go to Onohquauga, for the purpose of commencing a new mission at that place. He left Stockbridge May 22d, in company with Mr. Woodbridge, and Mr. and Mrs. Ashley, travelling through the wilderness, and on the 4th or June arrived at the place of their destination. The Indians received the intelligence of their proposed mission with strong expressions of satisfaction. Mr. Woodbridge returned soon after to Stockbridge. Mr. Hawley appears to have remained, with his interpreter; and his labours, as a missionary, were attended with considerable success.
In the course of the summer, not long after the return of the larger part of the Mohawks, from Stockbridge to their own country, a general council of the nation was held, at their principal settlement on the Mohawk; in which, after due examination of the facts, it was decided, that the rest of the Mohawks at Stockbridge, should return early in the spring, as soon as the hunting season was over. Instructions, to this effect, were immediately transmitted, from the chief sachem of the tribe, to the residue of the little colony, and made known to the people of Stockbridge.
About this time, the agent of Mr. Hollis, discouraged, doubtless, by the state of things, as far as it was known, and probably auguring no very favourable result to himself, or his friends, from the application to Mr. Hollis, quitted Stockbridge, and went back to Newington; leaving the few boys, whom, by offering to board and clothe them gratuitously, he had persuaded to live with him, in the hands of the resident trustee.
This unhappy controversy, now drawing to its close, which, during its continuance, had threatened to subvert the whole Indian mission, and to destroy the prosperity of the village, and the temporal welfare of Mr. Edwards and his family, must have occupied so much of his attention, that when our readers remember, that he preached two discourses a week to the whites, as well as one, by an interpreter, to the Housatonnucks, and one to the Mohawks; and also catechised the children of the whites, the Housatonnucks, and the Mohawks; they will be ready to believe, that he found no time for any additional labours. And when they also recollect, that, on the 23d of November, 1752, he says, in his letter to Mr. Erskine,—“I began, the last August, to write a little on the Arminian controversy, but was soon broken off: and such have been my extraordinary avocations and hindrances, that I have not had time to set pen to paper, about this matter, since. But I hope God, in his providence, will favour me with opportunity to prosecute the deign, and I desire your prayers that God would assist me in it;”—and that this proposed clx work, on the Arminian controversy, was none other, than the treatise on the freedom of the will; they will conclude, of course, that the execution of it must have been deferred to some happier period, when, amid the leisure and tranquillity of retirement, he could give his uninterrupted attention, and his individual strength, to its accomplishment. What then will be their surprise, when they find him opening his next letter to Mr. Erskine, under the date of April 14th, 1753, with the following annunciation.—“After many hindrances, delays, and interruptions, Divine Providence has so far favoured me, and smiled on my design of writing on the Arminian controversy, that I have almost finished the first draught of what I first intended; and am now sending the proposals for subscription, to Boston, to be printed.” Let it be remembered, that the Essay on the Freedom of the Will, which, in the opinion of Dugald Stewart, raises its author to the same rank as a metaphysician with Locke and Leibnitz, was written within the space of four months and a half; and those, not months of leisure, but demanding the additional duties of a parish, and of two distinct Indian missions; and presenting, also, all the cares, perplexities, and embarrassments of a furious controversy, the design of which was to deprive the author, and his family, of their daily bread. So far as I am aware, no similar example, of power and rapidity united, is to be found on the annals of mental effort 5656 Sir Henry Moncrieff Wellwood, who had the MS. Letters of Mr. Edwards to Dr. Erskine in possession, while writing his Life of the latter, observes, “It was not, however, till the month of July, 1752, that he [Mr. Edwards] appears to have resumed his studies, on the subject of Free Will; for, on the 7th of that month, he writes Dr. Erskine, that he hoped soon to be at leisure, to resume his design.” He then adds, “Whatever opinion may be held, with regard to Mr. Edwards argument, it must appear astonishing to those, who are capable of appreciating the difficulty of his subject, that, in nine months from the date of his letter (on the 14th of April, 1753) he could write Dr. Erskine, that he had almost finished the first draught of what he originally intended.” The passage, in Mr. Edwards’s letter of Nov. 23, 1752, announcing, that he began to write in August, but was soon broke off; and had not, from that time, been able to put pen to paper, about the matter: and that he hoped, that God, in his providence, would favour him with an opportunity to prosecute the design; obviously escaped Sir Henry’s notice. If he regarded it as astonishing, that Mr. Edwards should have been able to write the work in nine months: what would have been his view of the subject, if, after first reading the details of the Stockbridge controversy, he had then discovered, that it was not written, not in nine months, but in four and a half. .”
“Stockbridge, April 14, 1753.
rev. and dear sir,
After many hinderances, delays, and interruptions, Divine Providence has so far favoured me, and smiled on my design of writing on the Arminian controversy, that I have almost finished the first draught of what I first intended and am now sending the proposals for subscription to Boston to be printed; with a letter of Mr. Foxcroft, to send thirty of those proposals to Mr. M’Laurin, with a letter to him; in which I have desired him to deliver half of them to you, as you have manifested yourself ready to use endeavours to get subscriptions in Scotland. The printing will be delayed to wait for subscriptions from thence. I therefore request that you endeavour to promote and expedite the affair.
Stockbridge affairs, relating to the Indians, are, in many respects, under a very dark cloud. The affair of the Iroquois, or Six Nations, here is almost at an end, as I have given a more particular account to Mr. M’Laurin. The commissioners in Boston, I believe, are discouraged about it, and have thoughts of sending and settling a missionary in their own country. The correspondents of the Society in Scotland, have also determined to send a missionary there, and have chosen Mr. Gordon a tutor of the college at Newark, for that end. Mr. Gordon is expected here at the beginning of May, to live at my house with Mr. Hawley, in order to learn the Iroquois language with him. It is probable that he and Mr. Hawley will go up, and spend the summer, in the Iroquois country.
The correspondents have also a disposition, that Mr. Brainerd should remove, with the whole congregation of Indians, to settle somewhere in the country of the Six Nations; and he himself and his Indians, are ready for it. ‘Tis probable that something will be done to prepare the way for it; and at least to see, whether the way can be prepared, or any door opened for it, this summer. Some of these Indians have a great desire, that the gospel should be introduced and settled in their country.
Some of the Stockbridge Indians have of late been under considerable awakenings,—two or three elderly men, that used to be vicious persons. My family is now in usual health. My daughter Burr, in New Jersey has been very ill all the winter past. We last heard from her about five weeks ago; when it was hoped there was some amendment.
My wife joins with me, in respectful and affectionate salutations to you and Mrs. Erskine. Desiring a remembrance in your prayers,
I am, dear Sir,
Your affectionate brother,
and obliged friend and servant,
The representations of the nephew of the opponent of Mr. Woodbridge, and those of the commissioners of Boston, to the Society in London, the former hostile, and the latter friendly, to Mr. Edwards and his associates, were sent forward, and arrived at their place of destination, in due season. That gentleman had entertained an overweening estimate of his own influence with the board of directors of the Society in London. They gave full credit to the statements of their own commissioners, and sustained them in upholding their missionaries and instructers. Perceiving, however, that an unhappy controversy subsisted at Stockbridge, relative to the mission, and knowing that their commissioners at Boston were 150 miles distant; they endeavoured to devise a plan, by which the existing evils might be remedied. Mr. Edwards, in his letter to Mr. Mauduit, one of their number, had observed, “What renders it the more necessary, that things here should he under the immediate care of trustees on the spot, is, the misunderstanding and jealousy here subsisting, between some of the chief of the present English inhabitants of the town, which is one of our greatest calamities. Things, on this account, do much need careful inspection; and therefore, the gentlemen intrusted ought to be such, as are perfectly impartial, and no way interested in, or related to, these contending parties.” The plan suggested by the directors was this, That eleven persons,—two in New York, two in Albany, one in Wethersfield, two in Hartford, one in Windsor, one in Suffield, one in Hadley, and one in Stockbridge,—should be a board of consultation, to advise their agents at Stockbridge, and to act, by correspondence, with the commissioners; and they counted upon the preceding extract, as what had confirmed them in the measure 5757 The directors, knowing the characters of the respective individuals residing in these places, whom they designated; and perceiving, from an inspection of the map, that Stockbridge was nearly central to most of the places mentioned; appear to have supposed, that they might all meet there, without inconvenience. . At the request of the Hon. Mr. Bromfield, clxi one of the commissioners, Mr. Edwards, in a letter, dated Oct. 19, 1753, expressed his own views of the plan, and pointed out its inconvenience, if not utter impracticability. The commissioners having expressed similar views to the directors; the plan was relinquished. This was the result of the application to the Society in London 5858 On this account only, is the plan worthy of being mentioned here. .
The General Assembly of the church of Scotland, for the year 1753, having refused, by a very small majority, to restore Mr. Gillespie to the ministry in the kirk, and to his parish of Carnock;—an act of plain justice, which he would not ask them to render him,—Mr. Edwards addressed to him the following letter; a part of which must have been sweet and consoling to the feelings of suffering piety.
“Stockbridge, October 18, 1753
rev. and dear sir,
The last November I wrote you a letter, and desired Mr. Foxcroft to put up with it, for you, one of my Answers to Mr. Williams. After that, in the latter part of the winter, I received a letter from you, dated June 15th, 1752, with Milton on Hirelings; and duplicates of a Letter from a Gentleman in Town, &c.; and Answers to the Reasons of Dissent, &c. I now return you my hearty thanks for these things. Since that, I have received letters from Mr. M’Laurin and Mr. Erskine, with various pamphlets and prints relative to your extraordinary affair I think, dear Sir, although your sufferings are like to continue, the General Assembly having refused to restore you to your former station and employments in the church of Scotland; yet they are attended with many manifestations of the goodness, and fatherly kindness, and favour of the great Governor of the world, in the many alleviations and supporting circumstances of your persecutions; in that so many of God’s ministers and people have appeared to be so much concerned for you; and have so zealously, and yet so properly, exerted themselves in your behalf; and have so many ways given their testimony to the goodness of the cause in which you suffer, and the unrighteousness of the hardships which you have been subjected to; and that even so great a part of the General Assembly, themselves, have, in effect, given this testimony for you, there being but a very small majority, but what openly appeared for the taking off of the censure of the former Assembly, without any recantation on your part, or so much as an application from you, desiring them so to do. You have some peculiar reasons to rejoice in your sufferings, and to glorify God on account of them. They having been so greatly taken notice of by so many of the people of God, and there being so much written concerning them, tends to render them, with their circumstances, and particularly the patience and meekness with which you have suffered, so much the more extensively and durably to the glory of the name of your blessed lord, for whom you suffer. God is rewarding—you for laying a foundation, in what has been said and done and written concerning your sufferings, for glory to his own name, and honour to you, in his church, in future generations. Your name will doubtless be mentioned hereafter with peculiar respect, on the account of these sufferings, in ecclesiastical history; as they are now the occasion of a peculiar notice, which saints and angels in heaven take of you, and of their praises to God on your account; and will be the occasion of a peculiar reward, which God will bestow upon you, when you shall be united to their assembly.
As to my own circumstances, I still meet with trouble, and expect no other, as long as I live in this world. Some men of influence have much opposed my continuing a missionary at Stockbridge, and have taken occasion abundantly to reproach me, and endeavour my removal. But I desire to bless God, he seems in some respects to set me out of their reach. He raises me up friends, who are exerting themselves to counteract the designs of my opposers; particularly the commissioners for Indian affairs in Boston; with whom innumerable artifices have been used, to disaffect them towards me; but altogether in vain. Governor Belcher, also, has seen cause much to exert himself, in my behalf, on occasion of the opposition made to me. My people, both English and Indians, stedfastly adhere to me; excepting the family with whom the opposition began, and those related to them; which family greatly opposed me while at Northampton. Most numerous, continued, and indefatigable endeavours have been used, to undermine me, by attempting to alienate my people from me; innumerable mean artifices have been used with one another, with young and old, men and women, Indians and English: but hitherto they have been greatly disappointed. But yet they are not weary.
As we, dear Sir, have great reason to sympathize, one with another, with peculiar tenderness; our circumstances being in many respects similar; so I hope I shall partake of the benefit of your fervent prayers for me. Let us then endeavour to help one another, though at a great distance, in travelling through this wide wilderness; that we may have the more joyful meeting in the land of rest, when we have finished our weary pilgrimage.
I am, dear Sir,
Your most affectionate brother,
“P. S. My wife joins in most affectionate regards to you and yours.”
The proposals for publishing the Essay on the Freedom of the Will, were issued in Massachusetts, in 1753; but in consequence of the kind offer of Mr. Erskine and Mr. M’Laurin, to circulate the papers, and procure subscribers for it in Scotland, the printing was postponed until the success of their efforts was known. What that success was, probably cannot now be ascertained. The work was published early in the year 1754, under the title of “A careful and strict Inquiry into the modern prevailing Notions of that Freedom of the Will, which is supposed to be essential to Moral Agency, Virtue and Vice, Reward and Punishment, Praise and Blame.” This work is justly considered as the most laboured and important of the metaphysical investigations undertaken by the author. The subject, as will be obvious from the preceding title, lies at the very foundation of all religion and of all morality. That it was also a subject of no ordinary difficulty, appears generally to have been felt, and in effect acknowledged; for until the time of Mr. Edwards, it had never been thoroughly investigated either by philosophers or theologians, though it was constantly recurring in their reasonings on the great principles connected with the clxii moral government of God, and the character of man. Calvin, in his chapter on the Slavery of the Will, may be taken as an example of the most that had been done to settle the opinions of the orthodox, and refute their opposers on this subject before this period. His defect, and that of his followers, until the time of Mr. Edwards, is seen in this one thing; that they insisted on the great fact, merely that the will of man was not in a state of indifference, but so strongly fixed in its choice as to require supernatural grace for conversion, overlooking in a great measure the nature of moral agency, and what is essential to its nature. Their opposers, on the contrary, were constantly affirming, that freedom of will was necessary to moral agency, and carried their views to the extent that the will determined itself, and could not be enslaved. In this state of ethical and theological science, Mr. Edwards set himself to the task of examining the great subject of moral agency, as connected with the human will; and by the precision of his definitions and statements, the cogency of his reasonings, the fulness of his illustrations, the thorough handling of all objections, and the application of his views to many scriptural truths, he placed the grand points of his subject in a light so overwhelmingly convincing, as to leave little room for any doubt or dispute afterwards.
In this treatise it is contended, that the power of choosing, or willing, does itself constitute freedom of agency; and that particular acts of will are determined, i.e. are rendered certain, or become such as they are, rather than otherwise, by some sufficient cause or reason, in perfect consistency with their being acts of will, or in perfect consistency with that power of willing which constitutes freedom of agency. On the ground that the power of willing pertains to man, the author asserts a natural ability, which is the just occasion of precept, invitation, &c. or of the will of God being addressed to him, and on the ground that his acts of will are rendered certain, by a sufficient cause, the author asserts a moral inability. The principal point contended for, and which is most essential to the defence of the Calvinistic scheme of faith, in distinction from the Arminian, is the latter one, that the acts of the will are rendered certain by some other cause than the mere power of willing. What the particular cause or causes may be, is not particularly considered, but this question is dismissed with a few brief remarks. The fact, that there is and must be, some such cause, is the great subject argued, and most powerfully demonstrated. This cause he asserts is the foundation of necessity, in the sense merely of certainty of action, and does not therefore destroy natural ability or the power of choice, nor imply that man acts otherwise than electively, or by choice; so that it is a necessity consistent with accountability, demerit, or the contrary and so with rewards and punishments. He asserts that all such terms as must, cannot, impossible, tenable, irresistible, unavoidable, invincible, &c. when applied here, are not applied in their proper signification, and are either used nonsensically, and with perfect insignificance, or in a sense quite diverse from their proper and original meaning, and their use in common speech; and that such a necessity as attends the acts of men’s wills, is more properly called certainty than necessity.
Rightly to understand this controversy, it must be observed, that he and his opponents, alike, considered sin to consist in acts of will. Had this not been the case, it would have been idle for Mr. Edwards to have confined himself, in his whole treatise, to acts of choice, and the manner in which they are determined, i.e. rendered certain. He must, in that case, have agitated the previous question, respecting acts of choice themselves; and have asserted and maintained, that something else of specifically a different nature, enters into moral character, and forms the ground of praise and blame, or retribution. But the question which he considered to be at issue, is this: Does the mind will, in any given manner, without a motive, cause or ground, which renders the given choice, rather than a different choice, certain. Whitby, the writer whom he especially has in view, in his remarks on the freedom of man, asserts, that man, by his own activity alone, decides the choice. Mr. Edwards acknowledges that man chooses; but asserts, in opposition to the opinion of Whitby, and those who side with him, that there must be some other ground or cause, beside the mere activity of man, or his power of choosing, which occasions his choosing in one manner, rather than another. He asserts, that “doubtless common sense requires men’s being the authors of their own acts of will, in order to their being esteemed worthy of praise or dispraise, on account of them.” The very act of volition itself, is, doubtless, a determination; i.e. it is the mind’s drawing up a conclusion, or coming to a choice, between two things or more, proposed to it. But determining among external objects of choice, is not the same as determining the act of choice itself, among various possible acts of choice. The question is, What influences, directs, or determines, the mind or will, to such a conclusion or choice as it does form? Or what is the cause, ground, or reason, why it concludes thus, and not otherwise? This is the question, on his own statement.
In the latter part of February, 1754, a letter was received from Mr. Hollis, by Mr. Edwards, containing his explicit directions as to the school, for which he had expended so much money, to so little purpose. By this letter, Mr. Hollis withdrew the care of the school, and the expenditure of his benefactions, from the hands of those who had had the charge of them, and placed them in the hands of Mr. Edwards 5959 Many benevolent men, on being surprized of such a wanton and shameful perversion of the funds, appropriated by themselves to a given charity, would, at once, have wholly discontinued their benefactions; but the benevolence of Mr. Hollis, like a living and copious fountain, could neither be dried up, nor obstructed. . On the 25th, Mr. Edwards enclosed a copy of this letter, in a note to the provincial agent, requesting, from him, an account of the existing state of the school, and of the furniture and books belonging to it. On the 27th, he went to the school, to examine into its actual condition, and found in it six Indian boys. The following day, he mentioned this fact, in a second note to the agent, and informed him, that, as the Mohawks had long had the resolution to leave Stockbridge, early in the spring, he had appointed a conference with them, on the 1st of March, to learn whether they still persisted in that resolution; to the end, that, if they did so, he might suspend any further expense upon them, on Mr. Hollis’s account. At this conference, which was held with all the Mohawks, men, women, and children, in the presence of many of the people of the town, they informed him, that they had all agreed in the autumn, that they would return, in the spring, to their own country; and that this agreement was owing to the determination of the council of their nation, the sachems of the Conneenchees, and could not be altered, unless by a new determination of their sachems. clxiii Of this he gave the agent due notice the day following, as well as of his purpose to expend none of Mr. Hollis’s money upon them, so long as they persisted in that resolution.
As the general court had interested themselves in the affairs of Mr. Hollis, and had waited to know his mind concerning them, that they might order their own measures accordingly; Mr. Edwards, in a letter to the secretary of the province, dated March 8th, enclosed an extract from the letter of Mr. Hollis, and informed him of the actual state of the school, of the determination of the council of the Mohawks, and the consequent resolution of the little colony to return to their own country, and of the notice he had given the agent, that he should withhold any subsequent expense of Mr. Hollis’s money upon them. He likewise informed him, that some of the Mohawks had, since the conference, brought their children to him, and earnestly requested that they might be instructed; offering to take the charge of their maintenance themselves; and that he had consented to receive them 6060 These children of the Mohawks, and the children of the Onohquaugas, constituted, from this time, the male Iroquois boarding-school at Stockbridge. How long it was continued I have not been able to ascertain; but suppose it was removed to Onohquauga, soon after the establishment of the mission of Mr. Hawley at that place. . He also asks the advice of the secretary, whether he might still occupy the schoolhouse, which had been built on the lands of the Indians, at the expense of the province, for the benefit of Mr. Hollis’s school.
The individuals opposed to Mr. Edwards and Mr. Woodbridge, thus found every plan, which they had formed of connecting themselves with the Stockbridge mission, defeated, and their last hope extinguished. In 1750, the prospects of the mission, in consequence of the arrival of the two detachments of the Mohawks and Onohquaugas, which seemed to be mere harbingers of still larger colonies of their countrymen, were uncommonly bright and promising. And could the benevolent intentions of Mr. Hollis, of the Society in London, and of the provincial legislature, in behalf of the Iroquois, have been carried forward to their full completion, with no obstructions thrown in their way, by greedy avarice or unhallowed ambition; it is difficult to conceive of the amount of good which might have been accomplished. A large and flourishing colony of the Iroquois would soon have been established at Stockbridge, drawn thither for the education of their children, and brought directly within the reach of the means of salvation. What would have been the ultimate effect of such a colony on their countrymen at home, and on the more remote Indian tribes, can only be conjectured. By the steadfast resolution of those persons to oppose these plans of benevolence, unless the management of the funds by which they were to be accomplished could be placed in their own hands, this whole system of beneficence towards the Iroquois, which would only have enlarged with the opportunity of exerting it, was frustrated finally and for ever. We will not cherish the belief, that the disappointed individuals found any thing in this melancholy result, to console them under the shame and mortification of their own defeat; although they thus effectually prevented the benevolent efforts of their opponents, by driving the intended objects of them beyond their reach. A short time after the letter of Mr. Hollis was received, the individual, in whose hands the Mohawk school had been left by the former teacher, removed with his family to his former place of residence; leaving behind him only one of his associates at Stockbridge.
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