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trines of revelation; and that this therefore was the only effectual method to convince, or filence and fhame the oppofers of them. All will be able to fatisfy themfelves of the truth of this, by reading his Treatife on Juftification, and his two laft books on the Freedom of the Will, and Original Sin.

In this view of things, he thought it of importance, that minifters fhould be very critical in examining candidates for the ministry, with respect to their principles as well as their religious difpofitions and morals. And on this account he met with confiderable difficulty and oppofition in fome inftances. His opinion was, that an erroneous or unfaithful minister was likely to do more hurt than good to the church of Chrift; and therefore he could not have any hand in introducing a man into the miniftry, unless he appeared found in the faith, and manifefted to a judgment of charity, a difpofitions to be faithful.


His DISMISSION from Northampton, with the Oc CASION and CIRCUMSTANCES of it.

years; and there was

R EDWARDS was very happy in the esteem and the greatest profpect of his living and dying fo. He was the laft minifter almoft in New-England that would have been pitched upon to be oppofed and renounced by his people. But by what has come to pafs, with refpect to this, we have an instructive leffon on the inftability of all human affairs, and the unreasonableness of trufting in man.

In the year 1744, Mr Edwards was informed, that fome of the young perfons in town, who were members of the church, had books in keeping, which they improved to promote lafcivious and obfcene difcourfe among the young people. And, upon inquiring, a number


number of perfons were found to teftify, that they had heard one and another from time to time talk obfcenely; as what they were led to by reading a book or books, which they had among them. Upon which Mr Edwards thought the brethren of the church - ought to look into the matter. And in order to introduce it, he preached a fermon from Heb. xii. 15, 16. "Looking diligently, left any man fail of the grace


of God, left any root of bitterness fpringing up "trouble you, and thereby many be defiled: left there "be any fornicator, or profane perfon as Efau," &c. After fermon, he defired the brethren of the church to ftay, and told them what information he had got; and propofed whether they thought proper to take any mea fures to examine into the matter. They, with one confent, and much zeal, manifested it to be their opinion, that it ought to be inquired into. And proceeded to choose a number of men to affift their paftor in examining into the affair. Upon which Mr Edwards appointed the time for their meeting at his houfe; and then read a catalogue of the names of young perfons, whom he defired to come to his houfe at the fame time. Some were the accused, and fome witnesses; but it was not then declared of which number any particular perfon was.

When the names were published, it appeared, that there were but few of the confiderable families in town to which none of the perfons named did belong, or were nearly related. Whether this was the occafion of the alteration or not, before the day appointed came, a great number of heads of families altered their minds, (yea many condemned what they had done, before they got home to their own houfes,) and declared, they did not think proper to proceed as they had done; that their children should not be called to an account in fuch a way for fuch things, &c. &c.; and the town was fuddenly all on a blaze. This ftrengthened the hands of the accufed, and fome refufed to appear, and others that did appear, behaved unmannerly, and with


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a great degree of infolence and contempt of the author. ity of the church. And little or nothing could be done further in the affair.

This was the occafion of weakening Mr Edwards's hands in the work of the ministry, efpecially among the young people; with whom, by this means, he greatly loft his influence! This feemed in a great measure to put an end to Mr. Edward's ufefulness at Northampton, and doubtless laid a foundation, and will help to account for the surprising events which will by and by be related. To be fure he had no great vifible fuccefs after this; but the influences of God's Spirit were greatly withheld, and fecurity and carnality much increafed among them. That great and fingular degree of visible religion and good order which had been found among them foon began gradually to decay, and the youth have fince been more wanton and diffolute.

Mr Stoddard, Mr Edwards's grandfather and predeceffor in the work of the miniftry, was of the opinion, that unconverted perfons had a right in the fight of God, or confidered as fuch, to the facrament of the Lord's 'fupper; that therefore it was their duty to come to that ordinance, though they knew they had no true goodnefs, or gofpel-holinels. He maintained, that vifible Chriftianity does not confift in a profeffion or appearance of that wherein true holiness or real Christianity confifts: that, therefore, the profeffion which perfons make in order to be received as vifible members of Christ's church, ought not to be fuch as to exprefs or imply a real compliance with, or confent to the terms of the covenant of grace, or a hearty embracing the gofpel. So that they who really reject Jefus Chrift, and diflike the gofpel-way of falvation in their hearts, and know that this is true of themselves, may make the profeffion without lying and hypocrify. Accordingly, he endeavoured to form a fhort profeffion for perfons to make in order to be admitted into the church, and come to the facrament, anfwerable to this principle; and it took place and was practifed in Northampton; and per


fors were admitted into the church, and to the facrament, not under the notion of their being true faints, or that they had any real goodness.

Mr Stoddard's appearing to maintain this principle made a great noife in the country; and he was oppofed as introducing fomething contrary to the principles and practice of almost all the churches in New-England. And the matter was publicly controverted between him and Dr Increase Mather of Boston. However, through Mr Stoddard's great influence and afcendance over the people at Northampton, it was introduced there, though not without oppofition. And his principles, by degrees fpread very much among minifters and people in that county, and in other parts of New-England; though no church, except Northampton, publicly and profeffedly acted upon this principle, by altering the profeffion that those made who were admitted to the facrament, to fuit it to fuch a notion; but required of all who joined to the church, a profeffion of that wherein true Chriftanity, or real godlinefs confifts. And of late years his opinion, that perfons who have no real good. nefs but are in a Chriftless state, and know themselves to be fo, may make a Chriftian profeffion, and come to the facrament without lying and hypocrify; and that they have a right, and it is their duty lo to do, has greatly fpread in the country.

Mr Edwards had some hesitation about this matter when he first fettled at Northampton, and afterwards; but did not receive fuch a degree of conviction, that the admitting of perfons into the church, who made no pretence to real godlinefs was wrong, as to prevent his practising upon it with a good confcience, for fome years. But at length his doubts about the matter greatly increased, which put him upon examining it more thoroughly than he had ever before done, by fearching the fcripture, and reading and examining fuch books as were written to defend the admiffion of perfons to sacraments, without a profeffion of faving faith. And the refult was a full conviction that it was wrong, and



that he could not practise upon it with a good confcience. He was fully convinced, that to be a vifible Chriftian was to put on the vifibility or appearance of a real Christian; that the profeffion of Chriftianity was a profeffion of that, wherein real Chriftianity confifls; was therefore a profeffion of true refpect of Chrift, and a hearty embracing the gospel, &c. That therefore no perfon who rejected Chrift in his heart, could make fuch a profeffion confiftent with truth. And therefore, as the ordinance of the Lord's fupper was inflituted for none but vifible profeffing Chriftians, none but those who are real Chriftians have a real right in the fight of God to come to that ordinance: and that none ought to be admitted thereto, who do not make a profeffion of real Chriftianity, and fo cannot be received in a judgment of charity as true friends, to Jefus Chrift, or real faints.*

When Mr Edwards's fentiments were known in the fpring of the year 1744, it gave great offence, and the town was put into a great ferment; and before he was heard in his own defence, or it was known by many what his principles were, the general cry was to have him difmiffed, as what alone would fatisfy them. This was evident from the whole tenor of their conduct, as they neglected and oppofed the moft proper means of calmly confidering, and fo understanding the matter in difpute, and perfifted in a refusal to attend to what Mr Edwards had to fay in defence of his principles. And, from beginning to end, oppofed the measures which had the best tendency to compromife and heal the dif ficulty; and with much zeal purfued thofe which were calculated to make a feperation certain and fpeedy.

Mr Edwards thought of preaching on the fubje&t, that they might know what were his fentiments, and what

*They who have a defire more fully to understand this controverly, and know if it is juftly reprefented here, may do it by reading what Mr Edwards wrote on this occafion, in order to explain and vindicate his principles; together with the Rev. Mr Williams's anfwer, and Mr Edwards's reply to him. And if they pleafe, they may confult what D: Mather and Mr Stoddard before wrote on this fubject.

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