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acknowledged as its first scholar, in the distribution of its honours, He had not been distinguished for his attainments in Latin, Greek, or Hebrew literature only, but still more in those studies which require the application of stronger powers—in Mathematics and Logic, in Natural and Mental Philosophy, and the higher principles of Theology. In these, he had not simply proved himself capable of comprehending the discoveries of others, but had ventured out, where there was no path nor guide, into new and unexplored regions of the spiritual* world, with a success, which might well have prompted him to bold and fearless enterprize. As officers of the College, the peculiar difficulties in which they were placed, had given him, and his associates, an opportunity to acquire uncommon reputation, not only as instructors and governors of youths, but as men of unshaken firmness, and unwavering integrity. His mind was now rich in its attainments; its views were already, for the period in which he lived, singularly expanded and comprehensive; and its powers were under thorough discipline, and yielded an exact and persevering obedience. His habits of study were completely formed, and were of the most severe and unbending character.
Theology had been, for years, his favorite study. For it, he had deliberately relinquished, not only the varied pursuits of Natural Science, but in a measure, also, those investigations into the nature and operations of Mind, by which, at an earlier period, his whole attention had been engrossed. He had already discovered, that much of what he found in Systems and Commentaries, was a mere mass of rubbish; and that many of the great principles, which constitute the foundation of the science, were yet to be established. He had studied Theology, not chiefly in Systems or Commentaries, but in the Bible, and in the character and mutual relations of God and his creatures, from which all its principles are derived ; and had already entered on a series of investigations, which, if ultimately found correct, would effectuate most important changes in the opinions of the christian world.
The ministry had long been the profession of his choice, and was doubtless the only profession, which he had ever thought of pursuing. Few persons, probably, enter the sacred office, with more just views of its elevation and importance. His work, he appears to have regarded, simply as the work of salvation :-the same work, on which HE, whose commission he bore, came down to this lower world :-and to the accomplishment of it, the surrendry of himself appears to have been deliberate and entire. His reception as a preacher, had certainly been flattering. Repeated, and urgent proposals had been made to him for settlement; and,
*I use spiritual here, in its original and most appropriate sensc, as opposed to malerial.
as far as he was known, he was obviously regarded, as a young man of uncommon promise.
Northampton, the place of his settlement, is in its natural situation, uncommonly pleasant, was then the shire town of a county, embracing nearly one half of the area of the colony, and embodied within its limits, more than the ordinary share of refinement and polish. The church was large, and, with the congregation, was united. Both were united in him, and earnestly desirous that he should become their minister. From his childhood, he had familiarly known both the place, and the people. His parents were the familiar friends of many of the inhabitants; and they, with his connexions in the place, regarded his settlement there as a most pleasing event.
He was also the individual, whom probably, of all others, his grandfather desired, for his colleague and successor.
That venerable man, then in his 84th year, had been the minister of Northampton, 55 years; and by his piety, his great energy of character,
; and his knowledge of mankind, had early acquired, and maintained through a long life, a singular degree of weight among the clergy and churches of New-England. Though a close student, and an able and faithful preacher, he was in character a man of business, and of action; and, in all the important ecclesiastical bodies of Massachusetts, he had for many years an influence, which usually was not contested, and almost always was paramount. In Northampton, he had been a faithful and successful minister. Under his preaching, the place had repeatedly witnessed revivals of religion : particularly in 1679, 1683, 1690, 1712, and 1718. Those in 1683, 1690, and 1712, were distinguished for their extent, and for the accessions made to the number of communicants. While the existing members of the church, with scarcely an exception, regarded him as their spiritual father, all the acting inhabitants of the town, had grown up under his ministry, and had been accustomed, from infancy, to pay a respect to his person and character, and a deference to his opinions, such as children pay to those of a loved and venerated parent.
One circumstance, relating to the actual condition of the church at Northampton, deserves to be mentioned here, as it had an ultimate bearing on some of the most important events recorded in these pages. That church, like the other early churches of NewEngland, according to its original platform, admitted none to the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, except those, who, after due examination, were regarded, in the judgment of christian charity, as regenerate persons. Such was the uniform practice of the church, from the time of its formation, during the life of Mr. Mather, and for upwards of thirty years after the settlement of Mr. Stoddard. How early Mr. Stoddard changed his own views on this subject, cannot probably be ascertained; but he attempted, in 1704, and,
though not without opposition, yet with ultimate success, to introduce a corresponding change in the practice of the Church. Thongh no vote was then taken to alter the rules of admission, yet the point of practice was yielded. The Sacrament, from that time, was viewed as a converting ordinance, and those, who were not regarded, either by themselves or others, as possessed of piety, were encouraged to unite themselves to the Church.
The attention to religion, in 1718, was neither extensive, nor of long continuance, and appears not to have terminated happily. During the nine years, which intervened between that event and the settlement of Mr.'Edwards, Mr. Stoddard witnessed “a far more degenerate time among his people, particularly among the young, than ever before,” in which the means of salvation were attended with little or no visible efficacy. The young became addicted to habits of dissipation and licentiousness; family government too generally failed; the Sabbath was extensively profaned; and the decorum of the sanctuary was not unfrequently disturbed. There had also long prevailed in the town, a spirit of contention between two parties, into which they had for many years been divided, which kept alive a mutual jealousy, and prepared them to oppose one another, in all public affairs.
Such were the circumstances, in which Mr. Edwards entered on his ministry at Northampton.
At this time, Mr. Stoddard, though so much advanced in years, had a good degree of strength, both of body and mind; and, for a considerable period after the settlement of his grandson, he was able to officiate in the desk, the half of every Sabbath. Almost immediately after that event, he was permitted to witness a work of divine grace, among some of his people ; in the course of which, about twenty were believed to be savingly converted. This was to him, a most pleasing circumstance, as well as most useful to his colleague; who observes, “I have reason to bless God, for the great advantage I had by it." No doubt it was intended, to prepare him for more important and interesting scenes. The attention to religion, though at no time very extensive, continued for about two years, and was followed by several years of general inattention and indifference.
Immediately after his settlement, Mr. Edwards commenced the practice of preparing two discourses weekly; one of which was preached as a Lecture, on an evening in the week. This he continued, for several years. Though he regarded preaching the Gospel, as the great duty of a minister, and would on no account offer to God, or deliver to his people, that, which was not the fruit of toil and labour; yet he resolved, from the commencement of his ministry, not to devote the time of each week, exclusively to the preparation of his sermons, but to spend a large portion of it, in the study of the Bible, and in the investigation of the more diffi
cult and important Subjects of Theology. His mode of study with the pen, has been described, and was now vigourously pursued, in the continuation of his “Miscellanies," and his “Notes on the Scriptures," as well as of a work, entitled, “ The Types of the Messiah in the Old Testament,” which he appears to have commenced, while a candidate for the ministry. With an infirm constitution, and health ordinarily feeble, it was obviously impossible, however, to carry this Resolution into practice, without the most strict attention to diet, exercise and method; but in all these points, his habits had long been formed, and persevered in, with a direct reference to the best improvement of time, and the greatest efficiency of his intellectual powers. In eating and drinking, he was unusually abstemious, and constantly watchful. He carefully observed the effects of the different sorts of food, and selected those, which best suited his constitution, and rendered him most fit for mental labour. Having also ascertained the quantity of food, which, while it sustained his bodily strength, left his mind most sprightly and active, he most scrupulously and exactly confined himself to the prescribed limits; regarding it as a shame and a sin, to waste his time, and his mental strength, by animal indulgence. In this respect, he lived by rule, and constantly practised great selfdenial; as he did also, with regard to the time passed in sleep. He accustomed himself to rise at four, or between four and five in the morning, and, in winter, spent several of those hours in study, which are commonly wasted in slumber. In the evening, he usually allowed himself a season of relaxation, in the midst of his family.
His most usual diversion in summer, was riding on horseback, and walking; and in his solitary rides and walks, he appears to have decided, before leaving home, on what subjects to meditate. He would commonly, unless diverted by company, ride two or three miles after dinner, to some lonely grove, where he would dismount and walk awhile. At such times, he generally carried his pen and ink with him, to note any thought that might be suggested, and which promised some light on any important subject. In winter, he was accustomed, almost daily, to take his axe, and cut wood moderately, for the space of half an hour, or more. In solitary rides of considerable length, he adopted a kind of artificial memory. Having pursued a given subject of thought, to its proper results, he would pin a small piece of paper on a given spot in his coat, and charge his mind to associate the subject and the piece of paper. He would then repeat the same process with a second subject of thought, fastening the token in a different place, and then a third, and a fourth, as the time might permit. From a ride of several days, he would usually bring home a considerable number of these remembrancers; and, on going to his study, would take them off, one by one, in regular order, and write down the train of thought, of which each was intended to remind him.
“He did not,” observes Dr. Hopkins, “ make it his custom, to visit his people in their own houses, unless he was sent for by the sick; or he heard that they were under some special affliction. Instead of visiting from house to house, he used to preach frequently at private meetings, in particular neighbourhoods; and often call the yonng people and children to his own house, when he used to pray with them, and treat with them in a manner suited to their year's and circumstances; and he catechised the children in public, every
Sabbath in the forenoon. And he used, sometimes, to propose questions to particular young persons, in writing, for them to answer, after a proper time given to them to prepare. In putting out these questions, he endeavoured to suit them to the age, genius and ability of those, to whom they were given. His questions were generally such, as required but a short answer ; and yet, could not be answered, without a particular knowledge of some historical part of the Scriptures; and therefore led, and even obliged, persons to study the Bible.
“He did not neglect visiting his people from house to house, because he did not look upon it, in ordinary cases, to be one important part of the work of a Gospel minister ; but, because he supposed that ministers should, with respect to this, consult their own talents and circumstances, and visit more or less, according to the degree, in which they could hope thereby, to promote the great ends of the ministry. He observed, that some had a talent for entertaining and profiting, by occasional visits among their people. They have words at command, and a facility at introducing profitable religious discourse, in a manner free, natural and familiar, and apparently without design or contrivance. He supposed, that such had a call
, to spend a great deal of their time, in visiting their people; but he looked on his own talents, to be quite otherwise. He was not able to enter into a free conversation with every person he met, and, in an easy manner, turn it to whatever topic he pleased, without the help of others, and it may be, against their inclinations. He therefore found, that his visits of this kind, must be, in a great degree, unprofitable. And as he was settled in a large parish, it would have taken up a great part of his time, to visit from house to house, which he thought he could spend, in his study, to much more valuable purposes, and so better promote the great ends of his ministry. For it appeared to him, that he could do the greatest good to the souls of men, and most promote the cause of Christ, by preaching and writing, and conversing with persons under religious impressions, in his study; whither he encouraged all such to repair ; where they might be sure, in ordinary cases, to find him, and to be allowed easy access to him; and where they were treated with all desirable tenderness, kindness and familiarity."
Owing to his constant watchfulness, and self-denial in food and