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SICKNESS OF MR. EDWARDS—“GODS LAST END IN CREATION”—“NATURE OF VIRTUE”—MR. EDWARDS SECOND SON RESIDES AT ONOHQUAUGA—DANGERS OF THE WAR—LETTER TO MR. ERSKINE—LETTER TO COL. WILLIAMS—LORD KAIMES—LETTER TO MR. ERSKINE—LETTER TO MR. M’CULLOCH—LETTER OF DR. BELLAMY—“TREATISE ON ORIGINAL SIN”—LETTER TO HIS FATHER—LETTER TO MR. ERSKINE.
In July, 1754, Mr. Edwards had a most severe attack of the ague and fever, which lasted until January. It wholly disqualified him from writing even to his correspondents, and greatly enfeebled his constitution. In the course of the spring following, he began the preparation of two other treatises, which were entitled, “A Dissertation concerning the End for which God created the World;” and “A Dissertation concerning the Nature of True Virtue.” These two subjects are fundamental in a system of theology. On the first, many writers had hazarded occasional remarks; yet it has rarely occupied the space even of a chapter or a section in theological systems; and I know not whether any writer before Mr. Edwards had made it the subject of a formal and separate treatise. From the purest principles of reason, as well as from the fountain of revealed truth, he demonstrates that the chief and ultimate end of the Supreme Being, in the works of creation and providence, was the manifestation of his own glory, in the highest happiness of his creatures. The treatise was left by the author, as at first written, without being prepared for the press; yet it exhibits the subject in a manner so clear and convincing, that it has been the manual of theologians from the time of its publication to the present.
The nature of virtue has been a frequent subject of discussion among ethical writers of almost every class, heathen, infidel, and Christian. Aristotle, and other ancient moralists, supposed virtue to consist in avoiding extremes, and in following the mean in everything. Others of the ancients defined virtue to be living according to nature. Balguy and Doddridge represent it as consisting in acting agreeably to the moral fitness of things. Wollaston places it in regard to truth. Hutcheson defines it to be ” a quality apprehended in some actions which produces approbation and love towards the actor, from those who receive no benefit from the action. Many writers, clxiv ancient and modern, have placed virtue in imitation of God; and many others in obedience to the will of God. Waterland, Rutherforth, and (John) Brown, have placed it in a wise regard to our own interest. Bishop Butler says, that “a due concern about our own interest or happiness, and a reasonable endeavour to promote it, is virtue;” and that “benevolence, singly considered, is in no sort the whole of virtue.” Hume, who appears to have read several of the works or Edwards, and to have made use of them in accommodation to his own views, includes in his description of virtue, whatever is agreeable and useful to ourselves and others. Adam Smith refers it to the principal of sympathy. Paley, who read Edwards with care, defines virtue to be ”The doing good to mankind in Obedience to the will of God, and for the sake of everlasting happiness.“ Cumberland, in his Laws of Nature, justly regards it as consisting in the love of God, and of our fellow-creatures, and explains himself thus, “The foundation of all natural law is the greatest benevolence of every rational agent towards all.
Mr. Edwards represents virtue as founded in happiness; and as being love to the greatest happiness, or love to the happiness of universal being. He describes it, as leading its possessor to desire, and to promote, as far as in him lies, the happiness of all beings, and a greater degree of happiness in preference to a less. His account of the subject is in exact accordance with the decision of reason. Happiness is the end, for which intelligent beings were made, the perfection of their existence; and therefore virtue, or moral excellence, must be love to that happiness. It is also in exact accordance with the Scriptures. The sum of our duty is unquestionably virtue. But Moses sums up our duty in two commands, ”Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart“ and ”Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself:” in other words, Thou shalt love the happiness of universal being.
When the Scriptures had so plainly pointed out the nature of virtue, as consisting in love; and its foundation, as being happiness; it is not a little remarkable, that so many acute writers, with the Scriptures in their hands, should have formed views either so obscure, or so erroneous, of these subjects; and, perhaps not less remarkable, that Mr. Edwards should have been able to discover its true nature, and its real foundation, at a very early age, as clearly as he did in after-life. That this was the case, no one will want evidence, who reads the various articles under the head of Excellency, particularly the last, in the Notes on the Mind 6161 See appendix IV. In several of the articles under the head of Excellency, the reader will find, if I may mistake not, as striking specimens of powerful metaphysical reasoning, as any to be found in the essay on the Freedom of the Will. .
These two treatises were first published together in a pamphlet, in Boston, in 1788, without alteration from the rough draught of the author. He designed them both for publication, but never prepared either of them for the press. Though conceived and expressed with great perspicuity, they treat of subjects, which demand close thought in the reader, as well as the writer; and, on this account, have often been imperfectly comprehended, even by divines. But wherever they have been read and understood, they have to such a degree formed and regulated the views of theologians, with regard to the subjects of which they treat, that other treatises are consulted, rather as objects of curiosity, or history, than as guides of opinions and principles 6262 Bishop Butler has left a “Dissertation on the Nature of Virtue,” which the curious reader will do well to examine in connexion with Mr. Edwards’s “Dissertation on the Nature of True Virtue:” if he wishes to compare the powers of these twp distinguished men, when endeavouring to grasp the same subject. .
In February, or early in March, this year, Mr. Edwards sent his second son, Jonathan, 6363 Afterwards the Rev. Jonathan Edwards, D. D. President of Union College, Schenectady. He was familiarly acquainted with the Housatonnuck and the Iroquois; in early life, more so than with the English. then a lad of nine years of age, to Onohquauga, to reside with Mr. Hawley, that he might learn more perfectly the language of the Iroquois. He continued there about a twelvemonth; when, in consequence of the war with France, the danger of attack from the Indians became so imminent, that Mr. Hawley returned with him to his father’s house.
The war of 1754 was most disastrous to the colonies; and the frontier settlements of New England, of which Stockbridge was one, were exposed to unceasing anxiety and alarm, from their constant liability to attack from the French savages. In the autumn, several of the inhabitants of Stockbridge were killed by these marauders; in consequence of which it became a garrisoned town; and every family had quartered upon it its own quota of the soldiers, necessary for the defence of the place. The state of things, in this respect, may be learned from the following letter of Mr. Edwards, to the officer who had the command of the troops in that part of the county.
“Stockbridge, Feb. 26, 1755.
We have not lodgings and provisions, so as to board and lodge more than four soldiers; and being in a low state as to my health, and not able to go much abroad, and upon that and other accounts, under much greater disadvantages than others to get provisions, it is far this reason, and not because I have a disposition to make difficulty, that I told the soldiers of this province, who had hitherto been provided for here, that we could not board them any longer. I have often been told that you had intimated, that you have other business for them in a short time. Captain Hosmer has sent three of his men to lodge at my house, whom I am willing to entertain, as I choose to board such as are likely to be continued for our defence in times of danger. Stebbins has manifested to us a desire to continue here. Him, therefore, I am willing to entertain, with your consent. Requesting your candid construction of that, which is not intended in any inconsistence with my having all proper honour and respect, I am
Your humble servant,
The subsequent letter to Mr. Erskine will show, still more fully, the state of alarm and terror then existing at Stockbridge.
“Stockbridge, April 15, 1755.
rev. and dear sir,
The last year, in the spring, I received, without a letter, a packet containing the following books: Casaubon on Enthusiasm; Warburton’s Principles of Natural and Revealed Religion; Merrick on Christ the True Vine; Campbell’s Apostles no Enthusiasts; Discourse on the Prevailing Evils of the Present Time; Remarks on Apostles no Enthusiasts; Moncrieff’s Review and Examination of some Principles in Campbell’s Apostles no clxv Enthusiasts; Gilbert on the Guilt and Pardon of Sin; Hervey on the Cross of Christ; An Account of the Orphan School, &c. at Edinburgh; Memorial Concerning the Surgeon’s Hospital; Gairdner’s Account of the Old People’s Hospital; State of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge; Abridgment of the Rules of said Society; Regulations of the Town’s Hospital at Glasgow; and Annals of the Persecution of the Protestants in France.
In the beginning of last December, I received another packet without a letter; the wrapper superscribed with your hand. In this were the following pamphlets: A Sermon by a Lay Elder, before the Commission; A Letter to a Gentleman at Edinburgh; Resolutions of the General Assembly, of May 22d, 1736; Rutherford’s Power of Faith and Prayer; Inquiry into the Method of Settling Parishes; The Nature of the Covenant and Constitution of the Church of Scotland; Essay on Gospel and Legal Preaching; Necessity of Zeal for the Truth; A Vindication of the Protestant Doctrine of Justification, against the Charge of Antinomianism. The last week I received a letter from you, dated 11th July, 1754; which was found at Mr. Prince’s by one that went to Boston from hence, and had lain there Mr. Prince could not tell how long. In this letter you make mention of these last-mentioned pamphlets, received last December. I now return you my hearty thanks for this letter, and these generous presents. I should have written to you long ago, had I not been prevented by the longest and most tedious sickness that ever I had in my life: It being followed with fits of ague which came upon me about the middle of last July, and were for a long time very severe, and exceedingly wasted my flesh and strength, so that I became like a skeleton. I had several intermissions of the fits by the use of the Peruvian bark; but they never wholly left me till the middle of last January. In the mean time, I several times attempted to write letters to some of my friends about affairs of importance, but found that I could bear but little of such writing. Once, in attempting to write a letter to Mr. Burr, a fit of the ague came upon me while I was writing, so that I was obliged to lay by my pen. When my fits left me they left me in a poor weak state, so that I feared whether I was not going into a dropsy. Nevertheless, I have of late gradually gained strength.
I lately received a letter from Mr. M’Laurin, dated Aug. 13, 1754; which Mr. Prince sent me, with a letter from himself, wherein he informed me that a captain of a ship from Glasgow, then lately arrived, brought an account of Mr. M’Laurin’s death; that he died very suddenly, with an apoplexy, a little before he left Glasgow. Since I received that letter, I sent to Mr. Prince, desiring to know more of the certainty of the account. This is an affecting piece of news. It is an instance of death which I have much cause to lament. He has long shown himself to be a very worthy, kind, and obliging friend and correspondent of mine. And doubtless, the church of Scotland has much cause to lament his death. There is reason to think that he was one of them that stood in the gap to make up the hedge in these evil times. He was a wise, steady, and most faithful friend of gospel truth and vital piety, in these days of great corruption. I wish that I may take warning by it, as well as by my own late sickness, to prepare for my own departure hence.
I have nothing very comfortable to write respecting my own success in this place. The business of the Indian mission, since I have been here, has been attended with strange embarrassments, such as I never could have expected, or so much as once dreamed of; of such a nature, and coming from such a quarter, that I take no delight in being very particular and explicit upon it. But, beside what I especially refer to, some things have lately happened that have occasioned great disturbance among the Indians, and have tended to alienate them from the English. As particularly, the killing of one of them in the woods, by a couple of travellers, white men, who met him, and contended with him. And though the men were apprehended and imprisoned; yet on their trial they escaped the sentence of death: one of them only receiving a lighter punishment, as guilty of manslaughter: by which these Indians, and also the Indians of some other tribes, were greatly displeased, and disaffected towards the English. Since the last fall, some Indians from Canada, doubtless instigated by the French, broke in upon us, on the sabbath, between meetings, and fell upon an English family, and killed three of them; and about an hour after killed another man, coming into the town from some distant houses; which occasioned a great alarm in the town, and in the country. Multitudes came from various parts, for our defence, that night, and the next day; and many of these conducted very foolishly towards our Indians on this occasion, suspecting them to be guilty of doing the mischief, charging them with it, and threatening to kill them, and the like. After this, a reward being offered by some private gentlemen, to some that came this way as soldiers, if they would bring them the scalp of a Canada Indian; two men were so extremely foolish and wicked, that they, in the night, dug up one of our Indians, that had then lately died, out of his grave, to take off his scalp; that, by pretending that to be a scalp of a Canada Indian, whom they had met and killed in the woods, they might get the promised reward. When this was discovered, the men were punished. But this did not hinder, but that such an act greatly increased the jealousy and disaffection or the Indians, towards the English. Added to these things, we have many white people, that will, at all times, without any restraint, give them ardent spirits, which is a constant temptation to their most predominant lust.
Though I have but little success, and many discouragements, here at Stockbridge, yet Mr. Hawley, now a missionary among the Six Nations, who went from New England to Onohquauga, a place more than 200 miles distant from hence, has, of late, had much encouragement. Religion seems to be a growing, spreading thing, among the savages in that part of America, by his means. And there is a hopeful prospect, of way being made for another missionary in those parts, which may have happy consequences, unless the Six Nations should go over to the French; which there is the greatest reason to expect, unless the English should exert themselves, vigorously and successfully, against the French, in America, this year. They seem to be waiting to see whether this will be so or no, in order to determine, whether they will entirely desert the English, and cleave to the French. And if the Six Nations should forsake the English, it may be expected, that the Stockbridge Indians, and almost all the nations of Indians in North America, will follow them. It seems to be the most critical season, with the British dominions in America, that ever was seen, since the first settlement of these colonies; and all, probably, will depend on the clxvi warlike transactions of the present year. What will be done I cannot tell. We are all in commotion, from one end of British America to the other; and various expeditions are projected, and preparing for; one to Ohio, another to the French Forts in Nova Scotia, another to Crown Point. But these affairs are not free from embarrassments: great difficulties arise, in our present most important affairs, through the dispirited state of the several governments. It is hard for them to agree upon means and measures. And we have no reason to think that the French are behind us in their activity and preparations. A dark cloud seems to hang over us: we need the prayers of all our friends, and all friends to the protestant interest. Stockbridge is a place much exposed; and what will become of us, in the struggles that are coming on, God only knows. I have heard that Messrs. Tennent and Davies are arrived in America, having had good success in the errand they went upon. Mr. Bellamy is not likely to go to New York, principally by reason of the opposition of some of the congregation, and also of some of the neighbouring ministers. I have heard, they have lately unanimously agreed to apply themselves to Mr. M’Gregor, of New Londonderry, alias Nutfield, in New England, to be their minister; who is a gentleman that, I think, if they can obtain him, will be likely to suit them, and competent to fill the place. And I have heard, that there has been some difference in his own congregation, that has lately made his situation there uneasy. If so, he will be more likely to consent to the motion from New York.
My wife joins with me in respectful and affectionate salutations to you and Mrs. Erskine.
I am, dear Sir, your affectionate and obliged brother,
“P.S. In a journey I went to Northampton, the last April, I carried the foregoing letter, with others for Scotland, so far, seeking an opportunity to send them from thence to Boston; and there I met another letter from Mr. Prince, with a joyful contradiction of his former account of Mr. M’Laurin’s death; which occasioned my bringing my packet home again. Nevertheless, after I had broken open and perused this letter, I thought best to send it along, enclosed in a wrapper to Mr. M’Laurin; who, I hope, is yet living, and will convey it to you.
Stockbridge, June 2, 1755.“
In the beginning of September, the danger became so imminent, that Mr. Edwards, at the request of the people of the town, addressed the following urgent letter to the colonel of the county.
“To Col. Israel Williams.
Stockbridge, Sept. 5, 1755.
Yesterday the English inhabitants of the town sent away a letter, directed to you, to be conveyed to Hatfield, respecting the state of the town, stating that it was left very greatly exposed, by the drawing off of all the Connecticut soldiers; that Governor Shirley, by his urgency, had persuaded away almost all the Indian inhabitants fit for war, who objected much against going, on that account, that the departure of so many would leave the town, and their wives and children too, defenceless; that the governor removed their objection, by promising that a sufficient number of English soldiers should be maintained here, during their absence, for the defence of the town; and also, that we had just now information sent in writing, from Mr. Vanschaak, that two large parties of Indians are lately gone out of Crown Point, against our frontiers; and so entreating that soldiers may be speedily sent. But being informed to-day, that you are gone from Hatfield, and not knowing whether you will seasonably receive the aforementioned letter, I now, at the desire of the people, give you this brief information of what was therein written; earnestly desiring, that we may not be left so easy and open a prey to our enemies, who, we have reason to think, have the means of learning our situation, and are certainly preparing to attack some of the most defenceless of the frontier villages. We hope that the troops may be forwarded immediately; for, having no adequate means of repelling an attack, we have no security for a single day.
I am respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
In 1751, an anonymous work was published in Edinburgh, entitled “Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion,” 6464 The subjects treated in this volume were, Attachments to objects of Distress. Law of Nature. Law of Necessity. Belief. Personal Identity. Authority of our Senses. Idea of Power, Knowledge of Future Events. Dread of Supernatural Powers in the Dark. Our Knowledge of the Deity. of which Henry Home, 6565 Soon after created a lord of session, with the title of Lord Kaimes. Esq. soon avowed himself the author. These essays, though written by a member of the church of Scotland, were regarded as decidedly sceptical in their tendency, and brought the author into some difficulties with the particular church with which he was connected. This led to a public discussion of the character of the work at large—particularly of the Essay on Liberty and Necessity. When this discussion was commencing, the Essay on the Freedom of the Will arrived in Scotland. It was extensively read by men of speculative minds; and, though presenting a view of the subject wholly new, gave great satisfaction to men of all classes. Lord Kaimes and his friends, having read the work of Mr. Edwards, endeavoured to show that the view of liberty and necessity, in the Freedom of the Will, was substantially the same with that given by his lordship. Mr. Erskine apprized Mr. Edwards of this fact. In the following letter, the latter barely alludes to the work of Lord Kaimes, as a work of corrupt tendency. In a subsequent letter to his friends, written in the summer of the following year, and now appended to the Treatise on the Freedom of the Will, 6666 See vol. I. pp. 89-98. Lord Kaimes had a much higher reputation, as a writer, fifty years ago than at present. The perusal of his Essay on Liberty and Necessity, and of the remarks upon it, in the letter of Mr. Edwards, here referred to, will inevitably lead to the conviction, that, as a metaphysician, he was neither accurate nor profound. he examines the views of liberty and necessity by his lordship, shows their entire discordance with his own views, as exhibited in the Freedom of the Will, and exposes their inconsistency, not only with reason but with each other. This letter, from a sense of justice to its author, was immediately published, in the form of a pamphlet, by Mr. Erskine, and produced a universal conviction, that Lord Kaimes had wholly misunderstood the view taken of liberty and necessity by Mr. Edwards; and that his own views of it were at war, alike with reason and revelation. clxvii Indeed, his lordship himself appears to have been of the same opinion; for, in a subsequent edition, the Essay on Liberty and Necessity is said to have been much changed, as to present essentially different views of those important subjects.
“To the Rev. John Erskine, Minister of the Gospel, at Culross, Scotland.
Stockbridge, Dec. 11, 1755
rev. and dear sir,
I last wrote to you July 24th, 1755. Since that I received a letter from you, dated June 23, 1755, together with the Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion,* from Mr. Hogg, and the Analysis of the Moral and Religious Sentiments of Sopho, from yourself. I thank you for your letter and present, and shall write a letter of thanks to Mr. Hogg, for his present by your hand, added to former instances of his generosity. I had before read that book of Essays, having borrowed Mr. Bellamy’s, and also that book of Mr. David Hume’s, which you speak of. I am glad of an opportunity to read such corrupt books, especially when written by men of considerable genius; that I may have an idea of the notions that prevail in our nation. You say that some people say, that Lord Kaimes’s being made a Lord of Session would have been prevented, if Chancellor Hardwick and Archbishop Herring had seasonably seen his book. I should be glad to know who this Chancellor Hardwick is, and what is his character. By your mentioning him in such a manner, I am ready to suppose he may be, in some respects, of good character; and it is a matter of thankfulness, if a man of good character, and a friend to religion, be Lord Chancellor.
As to our warlike concerns, I have not heretofore been very particular in writing about them, in my letters to Scotland, supposing it highly probable that you would have earlier accounts from Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, than any I can send you, living at so great a distance from any of the sea-ports. Nevertheless, seeing you propose my sending you some account of the present posture of affairs, I would say, that it appears to me that notwithstanding some remarkable favours of Heaven, of which we are very unworthy, it has in the general been a year of great frowns of Providence on British America. Notwithstanding our success at Nova Scotia, and in having the better in the battle near Lake George, and taking the French general prisoner; yet, considering the advantages the enemy hath obtained against us, by General Braddock’s defeat, especially in gaining over and confirming the Indians on their side, and disheartening and weakening our friends, and what we have suffered from our enemies, and how greatly we are weakened and almost sunk with our vast expenses, especially in New England, and the blood as well as money we have expended; I say, considering these things, and how little we have gained by our loss and trouble, our case is no better, but far worse than it was in the beginning of the year. At least, I think it certain, that we have attained no advantage, in any wise, to balance our trouble and expense of blood and treasure. The expedition to the eastward has been remarkably successful; but the other three expeditions, that against the French forts on the Ohio, that against Niagara, and that against Crown Point, have all been unsuccessful, as to their main designs. And though the army under General Johnson had a kind of victory over the French, and took the Baron Dieskau, their general, prisoner; yet we suffered very greatly in the battle, and the taking of the French general probably, was the saving of his army. For, by telling a lie to our army, viz. that the French were in constant expectation of being greatly enforced by a large body, that marched another way, and had appointed to meet them near that place, our army was prevented from pursuing the enemy, after they had repelled them; which, if they had done, the French might have been under great advantages to have cut them off, and prevented the return of almost all of them to Crown Point, which could be no otherwise than through the water in their batteaux. Our army never proceeded any farther than the place of their engagement; but, having built a fort there, near Lake George, alias Lake St. Sacrament, after they had built another near Hudson’s river, about fourteen miles on this side, and left garrisons, has lately returned. As also has the army under General Shirley, (who went with designs against Niagara,) after having built some vessels of force in the lake Ontario, and strengthened the fortifications at Oswego, and sent for the remains of General Braddock’s army to Albany, there to go into winter quarters. The governors of the several provinces, in the latter part of the last month, had a meeting to confer together, concerning our warlike affairs, and to agree on a plan of operations to be recommended to the government at home for the next year. But I have heard nothing of their determinations. The Indians have not done much mischief on the frontiers of New England, since our army have been about us; but have been dreadful in their ravages, on the back settlements of Virginia and Pennsylvania.
It is apparent that the ministry at home miss it very much, in sending over British forces to fight with Indians in America, and in sending over British officers, to have the command of our American forces. Let them send us arms, ammunition, money, and shipping; and let New England men manage the business in their own way, who alone understand it. To appoint British officers over them, is nothing but a hindrance and discouragement to them. Let them be well supplied, and supported, and defended by sea, and then let them go forth under their own officers and manage in their own way, as they did in the expedition against Cape Breton. All the provinces in America seem to be fully sensible, that New England men are the only men to be employed against Canada; as I had opportunity abundantly to observe, in my late journey to New York, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. However, we ought to remember that neither New England men, nor any other, are any thing unless God be with us; and when we have done all, at finding fault with men and instruments employed, we cannot expect prosperity, unless the accursed thing be removed from our camp.
God has lately frowned on my family, in taking away a faithful servant, who was a great help to us; and one of my children has been under threatening infirmities, but is somewhat better. I desire your prayers for us all.
My wife joins with me in affectionate and respectful salutations to you and Mrs. Erskine.
I am, Rev, and dear Sir.
Your obliged brother,
and affectionate friend,
jonathan edwards. ”
clxviii The effect of the war on the Indian mission will be seen from the following letter to Mr. M’Culloch.
“Stockbridge, April 10, 1756.
rev. and dear sir,
I thank you for your favour of August, 1755, with Mr. Imries’s letter, which came to hand in the latter part of the last month. It recommends a man, especially a minister of the gospel, to me, to see in him evidences of a disposition to be searching into the prophecies of Scripture, relating to the future advancement of Christ’s kingdom on earth. It looks as though he was a man, who felt concern for Christ’s kingdom and interests in the world; as though he were one of those, who took pleasure in the stones, and favoured the dust of Zion. But it has proved by events, that many divines, who have been of this character, have been over-forward to fix the times and the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. However, I will not positively charge Mr. Imries with this, before I see what he has to offer, in proof of those things which he has advanced. I think that neither I nor any other person, that knows no more than what is contained in his letter, of the reasons that he builds his opinions upon, have any opportunity to judge of those opinions. And therefore I should think it a pity that his private letter to Mr. Hogg was published to the world, before his reasons were prepared for the press. This letter has been reprinted in Boston; but coming abroad, with so little mention of the grounds of his opinion, it gives occasion to the profane to reproach and ridicule it, and its author.
With respect to Mr. Hawley, and Mr. Brainerd, and their Indians, concerning which you desire to be informed; the correspondents have altered their determination, from time to time, with respect to Mr. Brainerd and his Indians. They seemed inclined at first to their removal to Wawwoming, alias Wyoming, and then to Onohquauga, and then to Wyoming again; and finally, about a twelve-month ago, they wholly dismissed him from employ as a missionary to the Indians, and pastor to the Indian church at Bethel. I cannot say I am fully satisfied with their conduct in doing this so hastily; nor do I pretend to know so much, concerning the reasons of their conduct, as to have sufficient grounds positively to condemn their proceedings. However, the congregation is not wholly left as sheep without a shepherd, and are in part committed to the care of Mr. William Tennent, who lives not far off, and is a faithful, zealous minister, who visits them, and preaches to them, once a week; but I think not often upon the sabbath. The last fall, I was in New Jersey and Philadelphia, and was present at a meeting of the correspondents; when Mr. Tennent gave an agreeable account of the then present state of these Indians, with respect to religion, and also of their being in better circumstances, as to their lands, than they had been. Mr. Brainerd was then at Newark with his family, where he had been preaching, as a probationer for settlement, ever since Mr. Burr’s dismission from that place, on account of his business as president of the college. But whether Mr. Brainerd is settled, or like to settle there, I have not heard. At the forementioned meeting of the correspondents, I used some arguments, to induce them to re-establish Mr. Brainerd, in his former employ with his Indians, and to send them to Onohquauga. But I soon found it would be fruitless to urge the matter. What was chiefly insisted on, as an insuperable obstacle to Mr. Brainerd’s going, with his family, so far into the wilderness, was Mrs. Brainerd’s very infirm state. Whether there was indeed any sufficient objection to such a removal, at that time, or no; Divine Providence has, since that, so ordered the state and consequences of the war, subsisting here in America, that insuperable obstacles are laid in the way of their removal, either to Onohquauga, Wawwoming, or any other parts of America, that way. The French, by their indefatigable endeavours with the nation of the Delawares, so called, from their ancient seat about Delaware river, though now chiefly residing on the Susquehannah and its branches, have stirred them up to make war on the English; and dreadful have been the ravages and desolations, which they have made of late, on the back parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They are the principal nation inhabiting the parts about Susquehannah river, on which both Wyoming and Onohquauga stand. The latter indeed is above the bounds of their country, but yet not very far from them; and the Delaware Indians are frequently there, as they go to and fro; on which account there is great danger, that Mr. Hawley’s mission and ministry there will be entirely broken up. Mr. Hawley came from there about two months ago, with one of my sons, about ten years old; who had been there with him near a twelvemonth, to learn the Mohawk language. He has since been to Boston, to consult the commissioners for Indian affairs, that have employed him, and returned: and yesterday went from my house, to meet some of his Indians, at an appointed time and place in the Mohawk country; to determine with them, whether it will be safe for him to return to abide with them. If not, yet will he be under the pay of the commissioners till next fall, and the issue be seen of the two expeditions now in prosecution, one against Crown Point, the other against the French forts at Frontenac and Niagara, near Lake Ontario; which may possibly make a great alteration, as to the state of the war with the Indians. If Mr. Hawley determines not to return to Onohquauga this spring, he will probably go as chaplain to the Indians, in General Shirley’s army, in the expedition to Lake Ontario.
You speak of the vast superiority of the numbers of the English, in America, to those of the French; and that some therefore think, the settlements of the former are in no great danger from the latter. Though it be true, that the French are twenty times less than we are in number, yet it may be a question, whether other things, in which they exceed us, when all jointly considered, will not more than counterbalance all our excess of numbers. They vastly exceed us in subtilty and intrigue, in vigilance and activity, in speed and secrecy; in acquaintance with the continent of North America, in all parts west of the British settlements, for many hundred leagues, the rivers, lakes, and mountains, the avenues and passes; and also in the influence they have among the various tribes and nations of Indians, and in their constant skill and indefatigable diligence in managing them, to alienate them from the English, attach them firmly to themselves, and employ them as their tools. Beside the vast advantage they have, in time of war, in having all united under the absolute command of one man, the governor of Canada; while we are divided into a great many distinct governments, independent of one another, and, in some respects, of clashing interests: interests which unspeakably clog and embarrass our affairs, and make us, though a great, clxix yet an unwieldy, unmanageable body, and an easy prey to our vigilant, secret, subtle, swift and active, though comparatively small, enemy.
As to a description of the situation of those parts you mention, I can give you no better than you have, in many that abound in Great Britain. With respect to the situation of Stockbridge, it is not in the province of New York, as you have been informed, but in the utmost border of the province of Massachusetts, on the west, next to the province of New York; about 40 miles west of Connecticut river, about 25 miles east of Hudson’s river, and about 35 miles south east from Albany: a place exposed in this time of war. Four persons were killed here, in the beginning of September, 1754, by Canada Indians; which occasioned a great alarm to us, and to a great part of New England. Since then we have had many alarms; but God has preserved us.
I desire your prayers that we may still be preserved, and that God would be with me and my family, and people, and bless us in all respects. My wife and family join with me, in their respects to you and yours.
I am, dear Sir,
Your affectionate brother and servant,
In consequence of the ill success attending the British arms, during the campaign of 1756, the danger of the frontiers became extreme, and the friends of Mr. Edwards were, for a time, exceedingly anxious for his personal safety. Mr. Bellamy, at this period, sent him the following kind invitation, to look to Bethlem, as the place of retreat, for himself and his family.
“Bethlem, May 31, 1756
I am in pain, fearing our army against Crown Point will be defeated. God only knows how it will be. Your own discretion will make you sufficiently speedy, to secure yourself and family. We stand as ready to receive you, and any of your family, to all the comforts our house affords, as if you were our children. I am greatly interested in your safety.—I am concerned for Mr. Hawley. I fear he will be too venturesome, and fling away his life for nothing.—I wish, if you know how to get one along, you would send him a letter.—Our youngest child still remains somewhat unwell. The Indian boys grow more and more easy and content, but they love play too well—are very ignorant—and very stupid, as to the things of religion—and in arithmetic, when I would teach them any thing that is a little difficult, they are soon discouraged, and don’t love to try. So I take them off, and put them to writing again—designing, by little and little, to get them along. They will not endure hardship, and bend their minds to business, like English boys. It seems they were never taught their catechism. Shall I teach it? I have got three Bibles; but have not yet given them to the boys, they are so ignorant. I expect you will give me any instructions you think proper; and remain, Rev. Sir,
It is probable that Mr. Edwards began his Treatise on Original Sin about this period, and that he devoted the leisure hours of the summer, autumn, and winter, to the preparation of that work. The date of the author’s preface, May 26, 1757, shows the time when it was finished for the press.
The views of Mr. Edwards, in this treatise, are these: that there is a tendency in human nature, prevailing and effectual, to that sin, which implies the utter ruin of all; that this tendency originates in the sin of Adam, of which the whole race are imputed the partakers; and that this tendency consists, in their being left of God, at their original, in the possession of merely human appetites and passions, in themselves “innocent,” and without the influx of those superior principles, which come from divine influences. The only guilt, attributed by him to mankind, before they come to the exercise of moral agency themselves, is that of participating in the apostasy of Adam, in consequence of the original constitution of God, which made him and his race ”one.“
He supposes this tendency to sin, pertaining to men, at their original, to constitute the subject of it a sinner, only, because he regards him as a participator in that sin, by which Adam apostatized, with his whole race. This tendency he calls “sinful,” “corrupt,” “odious,” &c., because it is a tendency “to that moral evil, by which the subject of it becomes odious in the sight of God.” (Part 1. Chap. II. Sect. III.) He supposes that infants, who have this tendency in their nature, are, as yet, “sinners, only by the one act or offence of Adam”; and, that “they have not renewed the act of sin themselves.” (Part I. Chap. IV.) He utterly denies any positive agency of God, in producing sin; and resolves the tendency to sin, into the “innocent principles” of human nature; (which God might create, without sin;) and the withholding of that positive influence, from which spring superior and divine principles:—which act of withholding, is not infusing, or positively creating, any thing. These “innocent principles”—such as hunger and thirst, love and hatred, desire and fear, joy and sorrow, and self-love, as distinguished from selfishness,—which are necessary to the nature of man, and belong to him, whether holy or sinful, are not, in his view, sin. They barely constitute the ground of certainty, that the being, who has them, will sin, as soon as he is capable of sinning, if that positive influence, from which spring superior and divine principles, is withheld; and, in this relation, they are spoken of, under the general designation, “a tendency,” “a propensity,” &c. to sin.
The views of Imputation, contained in this work, are such, as had been long and extensively entertained; yet some of them, certainly, are not generally received, at present. With this exception, the Treatise on Original Sin is regarded as the standard work, on the subject of which it treats; and is doubtless the ablest defence of the doctrine of human depravity, and of the doctrine that that depravity is the consequence of the sin of Adam, which has hitherto appeared.
The father of Mr. Edwards, as the reader may remember, on account of the increasing infirmities of age, had requested his people to settle a colleague in the ministry in 1752, but continued to preach to them regularly until the summer of 1755, when he was in his eighty-seventh year. The following letter, probably the last ever written to him by his son, shows the gradual decline of his health and strength, during the two following years. clxx
“To the Rev Timothy Edwards, East Windsor.
Stockbridge, March 24, 1757.
I take this opportunity just to inform you, that, through the goodness of God, we are all in a comfortable state of health, and that we have heard, not long since, of the welfare of our children in New Jersey and Northampton. I intend, God willing, to be at Windsor some time near the beginning of June; proposing then to go a journey to Boston. I intended to have gone sooner; but I foresee such hindrances, as will probably prevent my going till that time. We rejoice much to hear, by Mr. Andrewson, of your being so well as to be able to baptize a child at your own house the sabbath before last. We all unite in duty to you and my honoured mother, and in respectful and affectionate salutations to sisters and cousins; and in a request of a constant remembrance in your prayers.
I am, honoured Sir,
Your dutiful son,
Not long after Mr. Edwards had forwarded to Mr. Erskine his vindication of himself, 6767 See Vol. 1. pp. 89-98 against the charge of having advanced, in the Freedom of the Will, the same views of liberty and necessity, with those exhibited by Lord Kaimes; he received from his friend a pamphlet, entitled “Objections to the Essays on the Principles of Morality and Natural Religion examined;” in which the opinion was directly advanced, that, if it were really true, (as Mr. Edwards had insisted and demonstrated in the Freedom of the Will,) that there is no liberty of contingence, nor self-determining power in the will, as opposed to moral necessity, or the certain connexion between motives and volitions; yet it was best for mankind, that the truth, in this respect, should not be known, because, in that case, they would not regard either themselves, or others, as deserving of praise or blame for their conduct. In the following letter, Mr. Edwards exposes the folly and absurdity of this opinion; and explains, in a remarkably clear and convincing manner, the practical bearing of the great principles advanced in the Freedom of the Will, on the subject of salvation. This letter might well have been published at the time, and circulated through the church at large. And we recommend it to the frequent and prayerful perusal both of those ministers, who cannot clearly comprehend the distinction between physical and moral inability, and of those who do not perceive the importance of explaining and enforcing this distinction from the pulpit; as exhibiting the consequences of representing impenitent sinners, to be possessed of any other inability to repent and believe, than mere unwillingness, in a manner too awful to be resisted, by a conscientious mind.
“To Mr. Erskine.
Stockbridge, August 3, 1757.
rev. and dear sir,
In June last, I received a letter from you, dated January 22, 1757, with ‘Mr. Anderson’s Complaint verified,’ and ‘Objections to the Essays 6868 Essays on the principles of Morality and Natural Religion, by Lord Kaimes examined.’ For these things, I now return my hearty thanks.
The conduct of the vindicator of the ‘Essays,’ from objections made against them, seems to be very odd. Many things are produced from Calvin, and several Calvinistic writers, to defend what is not objected against. His book is almost wholly taken up about that which is nothing to the purpose; perhaps only to amuse and blind the common people. According to your proposal, I have drawn up something, stating the difference between my hypothesis, and that of the Essays; which I have sent to you, to be printed in Scotland, if it be thought best; or to be disposed of as you think proper. Essays on the principles of Morality and Natural Religion, by Lord Kaimes 6969 See the letter in Vol.1. pp. 8. I have written it in a letter to you; and if it be published, it may be as ‘A letter from me to a minister in Scotland.’ Lord Kaimes’s notion of God’s deceiving mankind, by a kind of invincible or natural instinct or feeling, leading them to suppose, that they have a liberty of contingence and self-determination of will, in order to make them believe themselves and others worthy to be blamed or praised for what they do, is a strange notion indeed; and it is hard for me to conjecture, what his views could be, in publishing such things to the world.
However, by what I have heard, some others seem to be so far of the same mind, that they think, that if it be really true, that there is no self-determining power in the will, as opposed to any such moral necessity, as I speak of, consisting in a certain connexion between motives and volitions, it is of a mischievous tendency to say any thing of it; and that it is best that the truth in this matter should not be known by any means. I cannot but be of an extremely different mind. On the contrary, I think that the notion of liberty, consisting in a contingent self-determination of the will, as necessary to the morality of men’s dispositions and actions, is almost inconceivably pernicious; and that the contrary truth is one of the most important truths of moral philosophy, that ever was discussed, and most necessary to be known; and that for want of it, those schemes of morality and religion, which are a kind of infidel schemes, entirely diverse from the virtue and religion of the Bible, and wholly inconsistent with, and subversive of, the main things belonging to the gospel scheme, have so vastly and so long prevailed, and have stood in such strength. And I think, whoever imagines that he, or any body else, shall ever see the doctrines of grace effectually maintained against these adversaries, till the truth in this matter be settled, imagines a vain thing. For, allow these adversaries what they maintain in this point, and I think they have strict demonstration against us. And not only have these errors a most pernicious influence, in the public religious controversies that are maintained in the world; but such sort of notions have a more fatal influence many ways, on the minds of all ranks, in all transactions between God and their souls. The longer I live, and the more I have to do with the souls of men, in the work of the ministry, the more I see of this. Notions of this sort are one of the main hinderances of the success of the preaching of the word, and other means of grace, in the conversion of sinners. This especially appears, when the minds of sinners are affected with some concern for their souls, and they are stirred up to seek their salvation. Nothing is more necessary for men, in such circumstances, than thorough conviction and humiliation; than that their consciences should be properly convinced of their real guilt and sinfulness in the sight of God, and clxxi their deserving of his wrath. But who is there, that has had experience of the work of a minister, in dealing with souls in such circumstances, that does not find that the thing, that mainly prevents this, is men’s excusing themselves with their own inability, and the moral necessity of those things, wherein their exceeding guilt and sinfulness in the sight of God most fundamentally and mainly consist: such as, living from day to day without one spark of true love to the God of infinite glory, and the fountain of all good; their having greater complacency in the little vile things of this world, than in him; their living in a rejection of Christ, with all his glorious benefits and dying love; and after all the exhibition of his glory and grace, having their hearts still as cold as a stone towards him; and their living in such ingratitude, for that infinite mercy of his laying down his life for sinners They, it may be, think of some instances of lewd behaviour, lying, dishonesty, intemperance, profaneness, &c. But the grand principles of iniquity, constantly abiding and reigning, from whence all proceeds, are all overlooked. Conscience does not condemn them for those things, because they cannot love God of themselves, they cannot believe of themselves, and the like. They rather lay the blame of these things, and their other reigning wicked dispositions of heart, to God, and secretly charge him with all the blame. These things are very much for want of being thoroughly instructed in that great and important truth, that a bad will, or an evil disposition of heart, itself, is wickedness. It is wickedness, in its very being, nature, and essence, and not merely the occasion of it, or the determining influence, that it was at first owing to. Some, it may be, will say, ‘they own it is their fault that they have so bad a heart, that they have no love to God, no true faith in Christ, no gratitude to him, because they have been careless and slothful in times past, and have not used means to obtain a better heart, as they should have done.’ And it may be, they are taught, ‘that they are to blame for their wickedness of heart, because they, as it were, brought it on themselves, in Adam, by the sin which he voluntarily committed, which sin is justly charged to their account;’ which perhaps they do not deny. But how far are these things from being a proper conviction of their wickedness, in their enmity to God and Christ. To be convinced of the sin of something that, long ago, was the occasion of their enmity to God; and to be convinced of the wickedness of the enmity itself; are quite two things. And if sinners, under some awakening, find the exercise of corruption of heart, as it appears in a great many ways; in their meditations, prayers, and other religious duties, and on occasion of their fears of hell, &c. &c.; still, this notion of their inability to help it, excusing them, will keep them from proper conviction of sin herein. Fears of hell tend to convince men of the hardness of their hearts. But then, when they find how hard their hearts are, and how far from a proper sensibility and affection in things of religion; they are kept from properly condemning themselves for it, from the moral necessity, or inability, which attends it. For the very notion of hardness of heart implies moral inability. The harder the heart is, the more dead is it in sin, and the more unable to exert good affections and acts. Thus the strength of sin is made the excuse for sin. And thus I have known many under fears of hell, justifying, or excusing, themselves, at least implicitly, in horrid workings of enmity against God, in blasphemous thoughts, &c.
It is of great importance, that they that are seeking their salvation, should be brought off from all dependence on their own righteousness; but these notions above all things prevent it. They justify themselves in the sincerity of their endeavours. They say to themselves, that they do what they can; they take great pains; and though there be great imperfection in what they do, and many evil workings of heart arise, yet these they cannot help: here moral necessity, or inability, comes in as an excuse. Things of this kind have visibly been the main hinderance of the true humiliation and conversion of sinners, in the times of awakening that have been in this land, every where, in all parts, as I have had opportunity to observe, in very many places. When the gospel is preached, and its offers and invitations and motives most powerfully urged, and some hearts stand out, here is their strong hold, their sheet-anchor. Were it not for this, they would either comply, or their hearts would condemn them for their horrid guilt in not complying. And if the law of God be preached in its strictness and spirituality, yet conscience is not properly convinced by it. They justify themselves with their inability; and the design and end of the law, as a school-master to fit them for Christ, is defeated. Thus both the law and the gospel are prevented from having their proper effect.
The doctrine of a self-determining will, as the ground of all moral good and evil, tends to prevent any proper exercises of faith in God and Christ, in the affair of our salvation, as it tends to prevent all dependence upon them. For, instead of this, it teaches a kind of absolute independence on all those things, that are of chief importance in this affair; our righteousness depending originally on our own acts, as self-determined. Thus our own holiness is from ourselves, as its determining cause, and its original and highest source. And as for imputed righteousness, that should have any merit at all in it, to be sure there can be no such thing. For self-determination is necessary to praise and merit. But what is imputed from another is not from our self-determination or action. And truly, in this scheme, man is not dependent on God; but God is rather dependent on man in this affair: for he only operates consequentially in acts, in which he depends on what he sees we determine and do first.
The nature of true faith implies a disposition to give all the glory of our salvation to God and Christ. But this notion is inconsistent with it, for it in effect gives the glory wholly to man. For that is the very doctrine that is taught, that the merit and praise is his, whose is the original and effectual determination of the praiseworthy deed. So that, on the whole, I think it must be a miracle, if ever men are converted that have imbibed such notions as these, and are under their influence in their religious concerns.
Yea, these notions tend effectually to prevent men’s ever seeking after conversion, with any earnestness. It is manifest that men never will be in earnest in this matter, till their consciences are awakened, and they are made sensible of God’s anger, and their danger of suffering the terrible effects of it. But that stupidity, which is opposed to this awakening, is upheld chiefly by these two things: their insensibility of their guilt, in what is past and present; and their flattering themselves, as to what is future. These notions of liberty of indifference, contingence, and self-determination, as essential to guilt or merit, tend to preclude all sense of any great guilt for past or present wickedness. As has been observed already, all wickedness clxxii of heart is excused, as what, in itself considered, brings no guilt. And all that the conscience has to recur to, to find any guilt, is the first wrong determination of the will, in some bad conduct, before that wickedness of heart existed, that was the occasion of introducing or confirming it. Which determination arose contingently from a state of indifference. And how small a matter does this at once bring men’s guilt to, when all the main things, wherein their wickedness consists, are passed over. And indeed the more these principles are pursued, the more and more must guilt vanish, till at last it comes to nothing, as may easily be shown.
And with respect to self-flattery and presumption, as to what is future, nothing can possibly be conceived more directly tending to it, than a notion of liberty, at all times possessed, consisting in a power to determine one’s own will to good or evil; which implies a power men have, at all times, to determine them to repent and turn to God. And what can more effectually encourage the sinner, in present delays and neglects, and imbolden him to go on in sin, in a presumption of having his own salvation at all times at his command? And this notion of self-determination and self-dependence, tends to prevent, or enervate, all prayer to God for converting grace; for why should men earnestly cry to God for his grace, to determine their hearts to that which they must be determined to of themselves. And indeed it destroys the very notion of conversion itself. There can properly be no such thing, or any thing akin to what the Scripture speaks of conversion, renovation of the heart, regeneration, &c. if growing good, by a number of self-determined acts, are all that is required, or to be expected.
Excuse me, Sir, for troubling you with so much on this head. I speak from the fulness of my heart. What I have long seen of the dreadful consequences of these prevalent notions every where, and what I am convinced will still be their consequences so long as they continue to prevail, fills me with concern. I therefore wish that the affair were more thoroughly looked into, and searched to the very bottom.
I have reserved a copy of this letter, and also of my other to you, dated July 25, intending to send them to Mr. Burr, to be by him conveyed, by the way of New York or Philadelphia. Looking on these letters as of special importance, I send duplicates, lest one copy should fail. The packet, in which I enclose this, I cover to Mr. Gillies, and send to Boston, to the care of Mr. Hyslop, to be conveyed to Mr. Gillies. But yet have desired him, if he has a more direct opportunity, to convey the packet to Edinburgh, by the way of London, then to put a wrapper over the whole, inscribed to you; and to write to you, desiring you to break open the packet, and take out the letters which belong to you.
You will see, Sir, something of our sorrowful state, on this side of the water, by my letter to Mr. M’Culloch. O, Sir, pray for us; and pray in particular, for
Your affectionate and obliged
Friend and brother,
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