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APPENDIX, NO. II.
PARTICULARS AS TO THE LIFE AND DEATH OF MR. RICHARD EDWARDS, THE GRANDFATHER OF JONATHAN EDWARDS.
A closely written manuscript of ninety-six pages, foolscap 8vo, by the Rev. Timothy Edwards, of East Windsor, and eldest son of Richard Edwards, Esquire, is still preserved, headed, “Some things written for my own use and comfort, concerning the life and death of my very dear and honoured father, Mr. Richard Edwards, late of Hartford, who died April 20, 1718, on the sabbath, in the forenoon, being the ninth day of his sickness, and the 71st year of his age, he being then very near seventy-one years old, having been born in May, 1647.”
The following brief abstract of this account will not be uninteresting to those who respect the memory of departed piety and worth; especially as it is an accurate moral picture of the man who moulded the character of the father and instructor of President Edwards. As far as is consistent with brevity, the language of the original is exactly preserved.
“He was naturally of a strong healthy constitution, well formed and comely, and of uncommon vigour, activity, and nimbleness of body—characteristics, for which he was distinguished until the close of life. He had a clear voice and ready utterance, and expressed himself not only with ease and propriety, but with uncommon energy and effect. He was naturally cheerful, sprightly, and sweet tempered, of a ready wit, had a mind well stored with knowledge, particularly the knowledge of history and theology, and in conversation was uncommonly pleasant and entertaining. He was sober and considerate, a man of great courage, resolution, and perseverance; had a clear and strong understanding, a sound judgment, and a quick, sharp insight into men and things, and was capable of almost any kind of business. He was in the full sense of the phrase a man of business, distinguished for his wisdom and forecast; had uncommon prudence and discretion in the management of his own affairs, and was extensively consulted in matters of weight and difficulty by others.
Though natively quick and warm when provoked or affronted, he had acquired the self-government, which became him as a man and a Christian; though firm and inflexible in the discharge of his duty, he was yet easy to be entreated. He was candid and charitable in his estimate of the conduct of others, kind and affectionate in his feelings, liberal and generous in the use of his property, obliging in his disposition, willing to devote his time and services to the good of his fellow-men, readily forgiving injuries on the slightest acknowledgment, but yielding nothing to pride and haughtiness of spirit. He was uniformly courteous, affable, and easy of access; free and familiar with his children and servants, and with the poorest and humblest of his neighbours; and at the same time tenderhearted and compassionate, easily melting into tears, while witnessing either examples of kindness and generosity, or scenes of affliction and sorrow, and doing what lay in his power to relieve the wants and distresses of others. He had a manly, ingenuous spirit, was accustomed to deal very faithfully and thoroughly with his fellow-men about their faults and miscarriages, and did not fear, on any proper occasion, to tell any man plainly what he saw amiss in his conduct.
He was a sincere and faithful friend, never disappointing those who trusted in him; and it was no difficult thing for any honest man, however humble his circumstances, in a just cause, especially if he was oppressed and unable to defend himself, to secure his friendship. Such confidence, says the writer, have I in my father’s faithfulness, that, under God, I could venture my estate, my good name, and even my life, in the hands of such a friend. In all his dealings with his fellow-men he was eminently just and upright. Though his business was very extensive, and continued through a long life, and though I had the best opportunity of knowing his concerns, I never knew him attempt to wrong any individual, or to do any thing which discovered the least shadow of deceit or dishonesty. On the contrary, he abhorred all base underhand management, scorned all that was little, unfair, and unworthy, and in freedom from dissimulation, hypocrisy, and any design to do wrong, was among those who excel.
“In all the relations of life his character was truly estimable. He was hospitable and courteous to strangers, and charitable to the poor, and was ever ready to sympathize with the afflicted, to plead the cause of the widow and the fatherless, and to help those who wanted both friends and money to help themselves. He was an affectionate, tender, careful husband, one of the best of fathers to his children, a just and kind master, esteemed and beloved by his neighbours, a good and punctual paymaster, and of a credit always unimpeached. He was not only faithful in managing the concerns of others; but equitable, in his demands for services rendered, often indeed rendering them for nothing; just and moderate in his profits, gentle and accommodating towards his debtors, often bearing with them, year after year, if they were poor and honest. He was also merciful to his beast.
He had an excellent spirit of government—having wisdom to govern not only himself, but others—so that he was both feared and loved, by his children, and servants, and all who were under his control. I cannot say that he discovered no infirmities, but they were much outweighed by his virtues.
In the existence and constant presence of God, he appeared not only to believe, but to delight. The fear of God seemed habitually before his eyes, so that probably nothing would have tempted him to do that, which he really thought would offend him. Twice every day he worshipped God in his house, by reading the Scriptures and prayer. Other religious books were read in their season ccxii in the family, and that to an extent rarely surpassed. His conversation with, and his letters to, his children, were full of religious instruction. He laid great stress on the promises of God to the righteous, and his threatenings to the wicked; fully expecting and looking for the accomplishment of both. He habitually and attentively observed the dispensations of Providence; ever acknowledging with thankfulness his goodness to him and his; and regarding every affliction as an immediate chastisement from God, so that he heard the voice of the rod, and him that appointed it. Rarely does any Christian express so solemn and heart-affecting a sense of the great and awful dispensations of Providence, towards individuals, or towards the world at large.
He hated vice and wickedness, whenever he saw it, and abhorred to justify or make light of sin, whether committed by strangers, or by his own near relatives; always discovering in this respect a just, conscientious, impartial spirit, and appearing to frown upon it even more in his children than in others.
In prayer he seemed to draw very near to God with peculiar solemnity and reverence, with exalted views of his greatness and goodness, and with a supreme regard to his glory. He appeared to cherish an admiring sense of the wisdom, the power, and the goodness of God, in contemplating the works of creation and providence, and the riches of his grace as unfolded in the work of redemption. The truth of God he studied and understood, as well as loved and obeyed.
Few men administered christian admonition and reproof with so much faithfulness, discretion, and solemnity, or with so much success; and few received it with more humility, meekness, and self-application. His feelings of religious subjects were at once strong and tender; often discovering themselves at public worship, in family prayer, and in religious reading and conversation.
He took peculiar care, that his family sanctified the sabbath, and appeared himself conscientiously to keep it holy. On the morning of every sacramental sabbath, he regularly spent a long time alone, in religious retirement. He was abundant in his religious instructions and admonitions to his family, on every proper occasion, and regularly on every sabbath afternoon in enforcing the sermons of the day, and the instructions of the book which was then read. From my own observation of other religious families, with which I have been familiarly acquainted, I have reason to believe that few children, even of christian parents, have been as much counselled and instructed. He loved and honoured the faithful ministers of Christ, for their work’s sake; and was a sincere and hearty friend to his own minister; actively and zealously exciting others to help and befriend him, and resolutely and successfully opposing and bearing down those who arrayed themselves against him.
In his religion he was far from being ostentatious, and the applause of men he regarded as nothing, in comparison with that testimony of a good conscience, which would enable him to appeal to the heart-searching God, for the sincerity and uprightness of his conduct. He appeared to love the real disciples of Christ, for their piety; disregarding the distinctions of sect and party, and receiving all his brethren who were received by Christ.
Though possessed of property, he realized, in an unusual degree, the vanity of worldly good, and placed but a slight dependence upon riches, honours, or pleasures as the means of permanent happiness. Surely, says his son, this world was not my father’s god; his chief good was something better and nobler, than this present world can afford. He appeared habitually sensible of the frailty of his nature, and of the nearness of his own death, often conversing on death and the judgment, in a truly devout and edifying manner, and frequently observing, near the close of life, “I carry my life in my hand every day; I am daily looking and waiting until my change come.” Few Christians, indeed, seem more conversant with their own death, more careful to prepare for it, or more ready to meet it.
In the government of God he seemed habitually to rejoice. His sense of the evil of sin was peculiarly deep; he was patient and submissive under sufferings, was willing to suffer for Christ’s sake, and was free from the fear of death. He appeared to be truly humbled under a sense of his own sins, to mourn over sin, and to wage a constant warfare against it, to love the way of salvation revealed in the gospel, to cherish a sacred regard to the glory of God and the interests of religion, and to entertain exalted views of the character and glory of Christ. Though he never, says his son, gave me an account of his conversion at large; yet on various occasions, in conversation, he has alluded to the great change then wrought in his views and affections, with regard to temporal and spiritual objects, particularly to worldly good, the warfare with sin, the hope of reconciliation to God, and a title to eternal life. He appeared eminently to trust in God, to cherish a deep sense of his dependence, and to lead a life of faith. Though I have now been in the ministry, he adds, nearly four and twenty years, and, during that period, have often had much private conversation with many of the truly pious, I do not remember that I have met with any, who seemed more truly to lead such a life, than my dear father; and to such a life he habitually advised and directed his children, both in his conversation and in his letters. Writing to me on an important subject, he says—“I leave you in this, and all your affairs, to the direction and guidance of the Fountain of wisdom and goodness, who, I doubt not, will guide you into the best and safest course, if you trust in him, and by faith commit your ways to him. Make the glory of God your main end, and depend on him by a lively faith in his promise; for He is faithful who hath promised, that they who wait on him shall not want any good thing—that is, any that is really good for them”—In a letter addressed to me when I was with the army at Albany, 102102 In August, 1711 then on an expedition to Canada, he thus writes—“I have nothing new to write to you, but merely to revive what I have said formerly, that, since God, in his allwise providence, has called you to this present service, you put your whole trust in him, to carry you through it, who never fails any who put their trust in him. You may expect to meet with difficulties, but still God is all-sufficient—the same God in all places, and in all conditions,—therefore commit yourself wholly to his merciful providence, who is a faithful God to all his people, in all their ways. So I leave you to the blessing, guidance, and keeping of a gracious and faithful God and Father.”—I have cause to say, “Blessed be God, that once I had a father, thus disposed to counsel his children!”
In all affairs of weight and difficulty, he appeared, in an unusual degree, to commit himself to God, to wait on him for direction and for help, to leave the event in his hands, and then to be at peace. He has sometimes told me, says his son, that when his mind has been much agitated in consequence of some great trouble and perplexity, in which he could see no means of help or relief, so that he could get no rest for a great part of a night, it has been his customary course, to cast it entirely on God, and leave it in his hands; and then, said he, I can at once go to sleep.
God was his great refuge in times of trouble, and I have good reason to believe that the declaration in Deut. xxxiii. 27. The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath thee are the everlasting arms—might be applied to him with truth. In the time of health he trusted in God, and strongly relied on his providential care and goodness, to provide for himself and his family. This was peculiarly observable in seasons of affliction and distress. In sickness he stayed himself on God, and looked to the Lord Jesus Christ, to carry him safely through, however it might issue. In the very dreadful mortality in 1711, when great numbers of the inhabitants dies, he was dangerously sick of the distemper; and when the crisis was passed, he gave us the following account of his reflections, during the first night of his sickness: “When I was first taken ill, I concluded that I had the prevailing fever; and was strongly impressed with the belief that I should die of it. During the former part of the night, I felt considerable anxiety respecting it, but in the latter part of it, the ccxiii disquiet of my mind passed away, and I was willing to leave myself with God. I found myself not so much concerned about the issue of my sickness; but thought I was satisfied that it should be as he pleased.”(This, during his whole sickness, gave him inward peace and rest in God, and comfortably freed him from the terrors of death.
The language of his last will, written near the close of life, strongly exhibits the good man, who trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is:(“I, Richard Edwards of Hartford, being weak in body, yet, through God’s goodness, my understanding and memory remaining good, being sensible of my own mortality, and not knowing how suddenly the Lord may put a period to this short life, do therefore make this my last will and testament. And first, I commit my soul into the bosom of my most merciful God and Father, and ever blessed Redeemer, Jesus Christ, hoping for eternal life and salvation through the merits, mediation, and intercession of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; and my body to the earth, to be buried, nothing doubting but that it shall be raised again, and re-united to my soul, by the mighty power of God, at the last day, and so rest in hopes of a glorious resurrection, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The piety and evangelical excellence, which had characterized his life, were even more conspicuous in his last sickness, and at his death.—Towards one whom he regarded as having greatly injured him, he expressed feelings of kindness and good will; and while he declared, that in the review of his conduct towards him, he had peace of conscience, that he could safely die upon what he had done in it, and that under the approach of death, he felt no trouble lying upon his mind, with reference to it, yet he declared he could truly say, he heartily wished him the best good. He took great care that no wrong should be done through mistake, with respect to what had been due, or was still due, to him from others. To one of his neighbours who came and, whispering in his ear, asked his forgiveness, he readily and promptly replied, “I forgive you, I forgive you;” and this so kindly and heartily, that the man was melted into tears. He repeatedly charged his children, on no consideration to take advantage of the law against any, who had mortgaged their lands or estates to him, and whose mortgages were out and their debts unpaid.
When his children came around his bed, weeping at the apprehension of his approaching death, and their incalculable loss, he said to them, “This time I have long expected, this scene I have looked for, and now it is come.” As some of us who lived at a distance came into his sick chamber for the first time, he said, “I can but look upon you, my children, I can’t speak to you; I have a great deal to say, but I can’t say it; God now denies me that liberty.” When I first saw him, (April 16th,) he expressed a hope, that he should meet me with joy, at the right hand of Christ in the great day. Something being said to him, with reference to death, he replied, “Death, indeed, is terrible to nature, but I hope God will strengthen me, and carry me through it, and help me to submit to his will; I lie at the feet of God.”—While he was praying to God by himself, he was overheard to say, “Lord, I come to thee with my naked soul; I desire to bow under thy chastizing hand, and hope it is a good chastisement.” As we sat weeping by his bed-side, April 16th, he said to us,—“Come, children, moderate your grief, for such things must be, and the will of God is best. I freely submit myself to the will of God, whether in life or death, to do with me as he pleases.” He said to me on the 17th,—“Though I seem to be better to-day, yet I am of the opinion that this sickness will be my last; and I am very willing that the will of God should be done, I am not at all anxious about it: I rely on the Lord Jesus Christ; I have chosen him for my Saviour and mighty Redeemer.” On my observing, “This must be a great support, Sir, to your mind;”—he replied, “it is so.” As I was sitting by him on the 17th, I heard him say,—“O my poor, frail, mortal body, methinks, sometimes I should be glad to slip away from thee!” In the midst of most severe pain, he expressed himself very desirous, that God would enable him to bear his afflicting hand, and quietly submit to his will, even to the end; and that he might not at any time, by impatience, be left to sin against him, and for this he desired our prayers, that God would, in this respect, strengthen him more and more; and in a very humble manner, when he had scarce strength to speak, he thus, in a short ejaculation, prayed to God, “O Lord, increase thy grace, and strengthen thy servant’s faith!” During his whole sickness, he appeared to be almost always praying to God; far more than is commonly witnessed on the death-bed of the Christian.
He solemnly exhorted and charged his son John, to carry on the worship of God in his family, after his death. To one of his daughters, he said, as she stood weeping over him, “I must say to you, as Mr. Whiting said to his daughter Sybil, Through wet and dry, through thick and thin, keep steady for that port.” On the 18th, as his good friend Mr. Austin, and myself, sat by him, and we observed him troubled with hiccoughs, one of us remarked that the hiccoughs were very distressing, and he replied, “God must take his own way, and use his own means, and I desire to submit to his holy will, and hope I can do it freely.” He expressed to me his conviction, that it was better for him to depart and be with Christ, than to continue with his family;. On my reminding him, that he had many friends, he replied,—“I know that I have many friends, but there is one Friend that is better than all;” and when one of us spoke of making his bed easy; he replied,—“The favour of Jesus Christ will make my bed easy; the bosom of Jesus Christ is the best resting-place, for a man in my condition.”—To one of my sisters he said, “Weep for yourself, my child, as I have wept for myself, I have laid hold of the rock of ages, I hope my anchor is within the veil;”—and to another, as she observed him in very great pain—“The passage may prove rough, but the shore is safe, and the bottom will hear me.” In reply to a remark of mine, he said,—“I trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and have ventured my soul upon for eternity, and I desire to do so more and more.” On the night of the 18th, when his distemper was most violent, he expressed his full conviction, that he had chosen God for his portion, and that he would grant him a favourable issue.
He expressed high and honourable thoughts of God, in the midst of his greatest distress. On Wednesday, observing his uncommon patience and resignation under extreme suffering, I was led to remark, that to submit quietly and patiently to the will of God, when sorely afflicted by him, was one of the hardest lessons a Christian had to learn. His reply was striking and affecting:—“Alas! there is no room nor cause to complain of God, for he is infinitely good, yea goodness itself, and the fountain of it; I should be very ungrateful indeed, if I should complain of him who has been so good to me all my days.”
On Saturday, the 19th of April, and the last day but one of his life, when he lay rattling in his throat, much oppressed for want of breath, and in great pain, so that he seemed to me to be in the very pangs of death, he expressed some fear that he might lie long in that condition, and so endure great pain and misery before he died, and therefore seemed to desire that God would mercifully shorten the time of his sufferings, by taking him quickly out of the world. Mrs. Talcot said to him, “But you are willing to wait God’s time:”—to which he replied,—“O yes, O yes.” At a time when he appeared to be fast sinking, Major Talcot informed him, that he was ready to think death was upon him, he was so very low; and I added,—“I hope that God will never leave you nor forsake you:”—with great readiness, and with an air of much inward satisfaction, he replied,—“I don’t fear it, I don’t fear it!”—When he was hardly able to speak, he told me, in answer to a question, that—his hope of eternal life, through the infinite mercy of God in Jesus Christ, was still firm; that he trusted all would be well with him in a short time, and that then he should think of his present afflictions and sufferings with pleasure!—In the former part of the night, he told us that he was comforted with the hope of going to heaven. On my asking him if he did not wish to recover, he replied:—“To recover! No; I am better as I am, I have no desire to go back, I have left myself with God!”—In the latter part of the night, having lain down for a little sleep, I was called up, as he appeared to be ccxiv dying. I asked him if his hope of salvation continued. He said—“Yes.”—I asked him whether he still had good thoughts of God, and he replied—“Yes, Yes!”—In the morning of the sabbath, a few hours before his death, I went to him, and told him, I would make one more prayer with him, if he thought he could attend; he was only able to say—“Yes”—and at the same time nodded his head; and, when it was concluded, gave me the same sign, that he had been able to understand and unite with me. In the prayer, I spoke of him as dying; and expressing my hope to him afterwards, that he was going to keep sabbath with saints and angels in heaven, and inquiring whether he had that hope to sustain him, he gave me the customary sign that such was the fact.
In this manner he lived and died, glorifying God both in his life and in his death, and leaving behind him that good name, which is better than precious ointment.”
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