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0N no foundation more enduring could the structure of a work upon American Literature be reared, than on the illustrious name of Jonathan Edwards,-an ornament and glory not to his country only, but to his race. Of a piety as deep, as pure, as fervent, and as constant as it has ever been allowed to mortals to possess; of a singleness of purpose, which never forsook him, to make the very best of life that life is capable of; and of an intellect which, by the rare union of clearness, acuteness, and strength, has never been surpassed if ever equalled, the elder Edwards has attained a renown in both hemispheres which can never die.
He was born at East Windsor, Connecticut, on the 5th of October, 1703. His parents were the Rev. Timothy Edwards, for sixty-four years the pastor of the Congregational Church at East Windsor, and Esther Stoddard, daughter of the Rev. Solomon Stoddard, who was for more than half a century pastor of the church of Northampton, Massachusetts. He commenced the study of Latin under his father's instruction at six years of age, and entered Yale College a few days before he was thirteen. As a signal proof of his early strength of mind, it may be mentioned that in his sophomore year he read Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding with such interest and delight as to declare that in the perusal of it he enjoyed a far higher pleasure “than the most greedy miser finds when gathering up handfuls of silver and gold from some newly-discovered treasure.” That such a youth should acquit himself most honorably in his college course was to be expected, not in his studies only, but in his whole deportment and bearing. During his last year in college, very deep religious impressions took possession of his whole being. His own account of the event is in the following language, expressive of
HIS RELIGIOUS FEELINGS.
Not long after I first began to experience new apprehensions
and ideas of Christ, and the work of redemption, and the glorious
way of salvation by him, I gave an account to my father of some
things that had passed in my mind. I was pretty much affected
by the discourse which we had together; and, when the discourse
was ended, I walked abroad alone in a solitary place in my father's
asture, for contemplation. And as I was walking there, and ooking upon the sky and clouds, there came into my mind so sweet a sense of the glorious majesty and grace of God, as I knew not how to express. I seemed to see them both in a sweet conjunction; majesty and meekness joined together. It was a sweet, and gentle, and holy majesty; and also a majestic meekness; an awful sweetness; a high, and great, and holy gentleness. After. this, may sense of divine things gradually increased, and became more and more lively, and had more of that inward sweetness. The appearance of every thing was altered. There seemed to be, as it were, a calm, sweet cast, or appearance of divine glory in almost every thing. God's excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in every thing; in the sun, moon, and stars; in the clouds and sky; in the grass, flowers, and trees; in the water and all nature; which used greatly to fix my mind. I often used to sit and view the moon for a long time; and, in the day, spent much time in viewing the clouds and sky, to behold the sweet glory of God in these things; in the mean time, singing forth, with a low voice, my contemplations of the Creator and Redeemer. And scarce any thing, among all the works of nature, was so sweet to me as thunder and lightning; although formerly nothing had been so terrible to me. Before, I used to be uncommonly terrified with thunder, and to be struck with terror when I saw a thunder-storm rising; but now, on the contrary, it rejoiced me. I felt God, if I may so speak, at the first appearance of a thunder-storm, and used to take the opportunity, at such times, to fix myself in order to view the clouds, and see the lightnings play, and hear the majestic and awful voice of God's thunder, which oftentimes was exceedingly entertaining, leading me to sweet contemplations of my great and glorious God.
Such were the decisive religious vicws and elevated affections with which he was blessed before he was seventeen years of age; and before he was nineteen he was lice wed to preach the gospel, and was invited to supply, for a short time, the pulpit of a small Congregational church in New York. In the spring of 1723, he returned to East Windsor. Before this time he had formed for the government of his own heart and life his celebrated “Resolutions,” seventy in number, which evince a firmness of religious principle, a depth of piety, a decision of character, an acquaintance with the human heart, and a comprehensiveness of views in regard to Christian duty, rare even in the most mature minds. The following are a few of these :
1. Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence.
2. Resolved, To do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good of mankind in general. 3. Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can. 4. Resolved, To live with all my might while I do live. 5. Resolved, Never to do any thing which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life. 6. Resolved, To be endeavoring to find out fit objects of charity and liberality. 7. Resolved, Never to do any thing out of revenge. 8. Resolved, Never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings. 9. Resolved, Never to speak evil of any one so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account, except for some real good. 10. Resolved, That I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die. 11. Resolved, To live so at all times as I think it best, in my most devout frames, and when I have the clearest notion of the things of the gospel and another world. 12. Resolved, To maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking. 13. Resolved, Never to do any thing which, if I should see in another, I should account a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him. 14. Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same. 15. Resolved, Never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession, which I cannot hope God will accept. 16. Resolved, Never to say any thing at all against anybody, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of Christian honor, and of love to mankind; agreeable to the lowest humility and sense of my own faults and failings; and agreeable to the Golden Rule; often when I have said anything against any one, to bring it to, and try it strictly by, the test of this resolution. 17. Resolved, In narrations, never to speak any thing but the pure and simple verity. 18. Resolved, Never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call to it. 19. Reso/red, To inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent; what sin I have committed; and wherein I have denied myself. Also at the end of every week, ruonth, and year.
20. Resolved, Never to do any thing of which I so much question the lawfulness, as that I intend at the same time to consider and examine afterwards whether it be lawful or not, unless I as much question the lawfulness of the omission. 21. Resolved, To inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could with respect to eating and drinking. 22. Resolved, Never to allow the least measure of fretting or uneasiness at my father or mother. Resolved, to suffer no effects of it, so much as in the least alteration of speech, or motion of my eye; and to be especially careful of it with respect to any of our family. 23. On the supposition that there never was to be but one individual in the world at any one time who was properly a complete Christian, in all respects of a right stamp, having Christianity always shining in its true lustre, and appearing excellent and lovely, from whatever part, and under whatever character viewed;—Resolved, to act just as I would do if I strove with all my might to be that one, who should live in my time.
In June, 1724, Mr. Edwards was elected tutor in Yale College, in which office he continued two years. He then accepted a call to settle in Northampton as a colleague to his grandfather, Rev. Solomon Stoddard. It is said that, when in ordinary health, he would spend thirteen hours every day in his study. This was too much for his constitution, which was naturally delicate, and doubtless shortened his life many years. In 1727 he was married to Miss Sarah Pierrepont, daughter of Rev. James Pierrepont, pastor of a church in New Haven. The union proved a most happy one in every respect. By her wisdom, energy, and economy she relieved her husband from the interruptions of domestic care, and thus he was left at liberty to pursue his studies without remission.
Soon after his ordination, Mr. Edwards was permitted to witness some gratifying fruit of his labors in the conversion of a number of his people. In 1729, the venerable Mr. Stoddard dying, the whole care of the congregation devolved on the youthful pastor; and so faithful and laborious were his ministrations that, in 1734 and 1735, the town was favored with a “revival so extensive and powerful as to constitute a memorable era in the history of that church.” In the year 1739 he commenced a series of discourses in his own pulpit, which afterwards formed the basis of his celebrated work, The History of the Work of Redemption, which was not, however, published till after his decease. In the spring of 1740 a second extensive and powerful revival of religion commenced in Northampton, which was aided by the labors of the celebrated Rev. George Whitefield, and an account of which Mr. Edwards published in 1742, under the title of Thoughts concerning the Present Revival in New England. It was immediately republished in Scotland, and brought the author into correspondence with some of the most distinguished divines of that country.
In 1743 Mr. Edwards finished a series of sermons upon the distinguishing marks and evidences of true religion, which were published in 1746, under the