« PreviousContinue »
better if he had never accustomed himself to use his
notes at all. It appeared to him that preaching wholly without notes, agreeable to the cuftom in moft Proteftant countries, and what feems evidently to have been the manner of the apoftles and primitive minifters of the gofpel, was by far the moft natural way, and had the greatest tendency, on the whole, to anfwer the end of preaching; and fuppofed that none who had talents equal to the work of the miniftry, was incapable of fpeaking memoriter, if he took fuitable pains for this attainment from his youth. He would have the young preacher write all his fermons, or at least most of them, out at large; and inftead of reading them to his hearers, take pains to commit them to memory. Which, though it would require a great deal of labour at firft, yet would foon become eafier by use, and help him to fpeak more correctly and freely, and be of great fervice to him all his days..
His prayers were indeed extempore. He was the fartheft from any appearance of a form, as to his words and manner of expreflion, of almoft any man. He was quite fingular and inimitable in this, by any who have not a fpirit of real and undiffembled devotion; yet he always expreffed himself with decency and propriety. He appeared to have much of the grace and fpirit of prayer; to pray with the fpirit and with the undertanding and he performed this part of duty much to the acceptance and edification of thofe who joined with him. He was not wont, in ordinary cafes, to be long in his prayers; an error which he obferved was often hurtful to public and focial-prayer, as it tends rather to damp than promote true devotion.
He kept himself quite free from worldly cares. He gave himself wholly to the work of the miniftry, and entangled not himfelf with the affairs of this life. He left the particular overfight and direction of the temporal concerns of his family, almoft entirely to Mrs. Elwards; who was better able than most of her fex to take the whole care of them on her hands. He was lefs
lefs acquainted with moft of his temporal affairs than many of his neighbours; and feldom knew when and by whom his forage for winter was gathered in, or how many milk kine he had; whence his table was furnifhed, &c.
He did not make it his custom to vifit his people in their own houses, unless he was fent for by the fick, or he heard that they were under fome fpecial affliction. Inftead of vifiting from house to house, he used to preach frequently at private meetings in particular neighbourhoods; and often call the young people and children to his own house, when he used to pray with them, and treat with them in a manner fuited to their years and circnmftances; and he catechifed the children in public every Sabbath in the fummer. And he used fometimes to propofe queftions to particular young perfons in writing, for them to answer after a proper time given to them to prepare. In putting out thefe queftions, he endeavoured to fuit them to the age, genius and abilities of those to whom they were given. His. queftions were generally fuch as required but a short answer; and yet could not be answered without a particular knowledge of fome hiftorical part of the fcripture, and therefore led, and even obliged perfons to ftudy the Bible.
He did not negle&t visiting his people from house to house, because he did not look upon it, in ordinary cafes, to be one part of the work of the gofpel-minifter; but he fuppofed that minifters fhould, with refpect to this, confult their own talents and circumstances, and vifit more or less according to the degrees in which they could hope hereby to promote the great ends of the gofpel-miniftry. He obferved, that fome minifters had a talent at entertaining and profiting by occafional vifits among their people. They have words at will, and a knack at introducing profitable, religious difcourfe, in a free, natural, and, as it were, undefigned way. He fuppofed fuch had a call to spend a great deal of their time in vifiting their people; but he looked on his
talents to be quite otherwife. He was not able to enter into a free converfation with every perfon he met with, and in an easy manner turn it to what topic he pleased, without the help of others, and, as it may be, against their inclination. He therefore found that his vifits of this kind must be in a great degree unprofitable. And as he was fettled in a great town, it would take up a great part of his time to vifit from house to house, which he thought he could spend in his study to much. more valuable purpofes, and fo as much better to promote the great ends of his miniftry.. For it appeared to him, that he could do the greatest good to fouls, and moft promote the intereft of Chrift by preaching and writing, and converfing with perfons under religious impreffions in his ftudy; where he encouraged all fuch to repair; where they might be fure, in ordinary cafes, to find him; and to be allowed eafy accefs to him; and where they were treated with all defirable tendernefs, kindness, and familiarity. In times, therefore, of the out-pouring of God's fpirit, and the revival of religion among his people, his study was thronged with perfons to lay open their fpiritual concerns to him, and feek his advice and direction: whom he received and converfed with, with great freedom and pleasure, and had the best opportunity to deal in the most particular manner with each one.
He was a skilful guide to fouls under fpiritual diffieulties; and was therefore fought unto, not only by his own people, but by many who lived fcores of miles off. He became fuch an able guide, partly by his own experimental acquaintance with divine things, and unwearied ftudy of God's word, and partly by his having fo much concern with fouls under fpiritual troubles; for he had not been fettled in the work of the ministry many years before the Spirit of God was wonderfully poured out on his people, by which a great concern about their fouls became almoft univerfal, and a great number were hopefully the fubjects of faving converfion. This was principally in the year 1734; a par
ticular account of which has been wrote by him, intitled, A Faithful Narrative of the furprising Work of God in the converfion of many Hundred of Souls in Northampton, which has been printed in England, Germany, and America; to which the reader must be referred.
And there was another remarkable time of the out
pouring of God's Spirit in the year 1740 and 1741, in which Northampton partook largely; though not exclufive of moft parts of the land. Mr. Edwards in this time had to deal not only with his own people, but with multitudes of others. The hearing that the fame things were at Northampton fome years before, and the fame Mr Edwards had for knowledge, piety, and a great acquaintance with experimental religion, naturally led both minifters and people, in almost all parts of New-England, to look to him for direction and affiftance, in this extraordinary time. Being in this time earnestly folicited by the minifters and people of many places, to come and preach among them, he went to many; though he was not able to gratify all who defired him; and his preaching was attended. with great fuccefs..
And as many of the minifters and people in NewEngland had been unacquainted with fuch things as thenappeared, they were greatly expofed to run wild, as it were, and actually did, by the fubtle temptations of the devil, taking advantage of the ignorance and wick. edness of men's hearts, go into great extremes, both as oppofers and friends to the work of God. Mr Edwards was greatly helpful by his direction and affiftance against the two oppofite extremes, both in conversation, preaching, and writing. His publications on this occafion were especially of great and extenfive fervice. Of which it may be proper to give fome account here.
The first is a fermon preached at New-Haven, Sept. 10. 1741, on the diftinguishing Marks of the Spirit of God, &c.
In the year 1742, he publifhed a book of five parts, intitled, Some Thoughts concerning the prefent Re vival of Religion in New England, and the Way in which it ought to be acknowledged and promoted, &c..
In the year 1746, he published a Treatife on Religious Affections. All which might be justly confidered by the church of Chrift as a voice behind them faying "This is the way, walk therein." Efpecially the last mentioned book, which has been efteemed by many, the beft that has been wrote on that fubject; fetting the diftinction between true and falfe religion in the most clear and striking light.
To the fame purpose, is the Life of the Rev. Mr DAVID BRAINERD, with Reflections and Obfervations thereon publifhed by Mr Edwards in the year 1749.
Mr Edwards was what by fome is called a rigid Calvinift. Those doctrines of Calvinism, which have been moft objected againft, and given the greatest offence, appeared to him as fcriptural, reasonable, and important as any; and he thought, that to give them up, was in effect to give up all. And therefore he looked upon those who called themselves Calvinifts, that were for palliating the matter, by, as it were, trimming off the knots of Calvinifm, that they might conform it more to the taste of those who are most difpofed to ob ject against it, were really giving up and betraying the cause they pretended to espouse; and were paving the way, not only to Arminianifm, but to Déifm. For if thefe doctrines, in the whole length and breadth of them, were relinquifhed, he did not fee where a man could fet his foot down, with confiftency and fafety, fhort of Deifm, or even Atheism itself, or rather univerfal Scepticifm.
He judged that nothing was wanting, but to have thefe doctrines properly ftated, and judicioufly and well defended, in order to their appearing moft agreeable to reafon and common sense, as well as the doc.