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as to engage you the more to attend to and weigh the reasons he gives.
"The objections, that these persons may have had against ordinarily attending your meeting, may be very trivial; but yet I suppose that, through infirmity, the case may be so with truly honest christians, that trivial things may have great weight in their consciences, so as to have fast hold of them, until they are better enlightened: As in the former times of the country, it was with respect to the controversy between Presbyterians and Congregationalists. It was, as I have heard in those days, real matter of question with some, whether a Presbyterian, living and dying such, could be saved. Some Presbyterians, that have lived with us, have desired baptism for their children, who yet lived in neglect of the ordinances of the Lord Jesus Christ, because of a difference in some trivial circumstances of the administration, from the method of the church of Scotland. This matter being discoursed of, it was thought by Col. Stoddard in particular, that their neglect ought to be borne with, and they ought to be looked upon as christians, and their children received to baptism; because, however trivial the foundation of their scruples were, yet through ignorance they might be honest and conscientious in them.
"As to the church covenant, that these persons have entered into, wherein they have obliged themselves ordinarily to join in the worship of that church; I suppose none interpret the promises of a church covenant in such a sense, as to exclude all reserves of liberty, in case of an alteration of the judgment, in the affairs of conscience and religion, in one respect or another. As if a person, after incorporating with a Congregational church, should become a conscientious Episcopalian, or Anabaptist, or should, by any change of judgment, come to think the means or manner of worship unlawful; and so in other respects that might be mentioned.
"And if it be so that these persons, in some of their conversation and behaviour, have manifested a contentious, froward spirit, at the time of their withdrawing from your church; I confess this gives greater ground of suspicion of the sincerity of their plea of conscience; yet, as to this, I humbly conceive allowances must be made. It must be considered, that it is possible that persons, in an affair of this nature, may, in the thing itself, be conscientious, and yet, in the course of the management of it, may be guilty of very corrupt mixtures of passion and every evil disposition; as indeed is commonly the case with men, in long controversies of whatever nature, and even with conscientious men. And therefore, it appears to me, that if persons in such a case are not obstinate, in what is amiss in them in this respect, and don't attempt to justify their frowardness and unchristian speeches, they notwithstanding may deserve credit, when they profess themselves conscientious in the affair in general.
"Thus, dear Sir, I have freely communicated to you some of my thoughts, with regard to some of the concerns of this difficult day, which prove a trouble to you; not however with any aim at directing your conduct, but merely to comply with the request to which I have alluded. I am fully sensible, that I am not the Pastor of the second church of Hartford; and I only desire you would impartially consider the reasons I have offered. Begging of Christ, our common Lord, that he would direct you in your theory and practice, to that which will be acceptable in his sight,
"I remain, Rev. Sir,
"Your friend and brother,
IN May, 1743, Mr. Edwards went, as he often did, to Boston, to attend the convention of the clergy, which is held the day after the General Election. He was on horseback, and had his eldest daughter on a pillion behind him. At Brookfield, they fell in company with the Rev. Mr. Clap, Rector of Yale College, his wife and son-in-law, also on horseback, with several others, all travelling in the same direction; and Mr. Edwards, joining the company, rode side by side with Mr. Clap, during a considerable part of the journey. At the Commencement of Harvard College in the following year, 1744, Mr. Clap stated, before a large number of gentlemen, both at Boston and Cambridge, that, while riding through Leicester, in May of the year preceding, he was informed by Mr. Edwards, that Mr. Whitefield told him, "that he had the design of turning out of their places the greater part of the clergy of New-England, and of supplying their pulpits with ministers from England, Scotland and Ireland." This statement surprized those who heard it; yet, coming from such a source, it was believed, and extensively circulated. Mr. Edwards heard of it with astonishment, and without hesitation denied that he had said so. Mr. Clap, hearing of this denial, addressed a letter to Mr. Edwards, dated Oct. 12, 1744, in which he stated anew the alleged conversation, in the same terms; but before the latter received it, he had forwarded a letter to Mr. Clap, dated Oct. 18, 1744, showing him his mistake, and calling on him to correct it. On Oct. 29th, he wrote a reply to Mr. Clap's letter of the 12th; and receiving another, dated Oct. 28th, before he sent it, he replied to that also in the Postscript, under date of Nov. 3d. Mr. Clap, finding that Mr. Edwards' contradiction of his statement was believed; and having heard, though incorrectly, that Mr. Edwards was about to publish such a contradiction; incautiously published a letter to his friend in Boston, in which he not only re-asserted his former statement, but declared that Mr. Edwards, in his private correspondence with him on the subject, had made a declaration, equally full and strong, to the same point. Mr. Edwards published a reply, in a letter to his friend in Boston, dated Feb. 4, 1745; in which he gave his VOL. I.
two letters of Oct. 18, and Oct. 29, with the Postscript of Nov. 3; from which it appears that, instead of admitting the truth of Mr. Clap's statement, he had most explicitly and solemnly denied it; and, in order to show how Mr. Clap might have been led into the mistake, acknowledged that he himself supposed that Mr. Whitefield was formerly of the opinion, that unconverted ministers ought not to be continued in the ministry; and that he himself supposed that Mr. Whitefield endeavoured to propagate this opinion, and a practice agreeable to it; and that all he had ever stated to any one was, his own opinion merely, and not any declared design of Mr. Whitefield. He also admitted, that Mr. Whitefield told him he intended to bring over a number of young men, to be ordained by the Messrs. Tennents, in New-Jersey. He then asks, whether this is the same thing as Mr. Clap asserted, and suggests a variety of arguments, which seem absolutely conclusive, that he could never have made such a statement.
Mr. Clap, in reply to this, in a letter to Mr. Edwards, dated April 1, 1745, enters seriously upon the task of showing that Mr. Edwards' assertion-" that Mr. Whitefield told him, that he intended to bring over a number of young men, to be ordained by the Messrs. Tennents, in New-Jersey"-connected with the assertion -that Mr. Edwards himself supposed, that Mr. Whitefield was formerly of the opinion, that unconverted ministers ought not to be continued in the ministry, and that Mr. Edwards himself supposed that Mr. Whitefield endeavoured to propagate this opinion, and a practice agreeable to it :-was equivalent to Mr. Edwards' saying, that Mr. Whitefield told him, "that he had the design of turning out of their places the greater part of the clergy of New-England, and of supplying their places with ministers from England, Scotland and Ireland."
Mr. Edwards, in a letter to Mr. Clap, of May 20, 1745, after exposing in a few words, the desperate absurdity of this attempt, enters on the discussion of the question-Whether he ever made such a statement to Mr. Clap?-with as much calmness as he afterwards exhibited, in examining the question of a self-determining power; and with such logical precision of argument, that probably no one of his readers ever had a doubt left upon his mind, with regard to it :-no, not even his antagonist himself; for he never thought proper to attempt a reply; and in the public protest of the Faculty of Yale College, against Mr. Whitefield, he and his associates in office say, in alluding to this very conversation, "You told the Rev. Mr. Edwards of Northampton, that you intended to bring over a number of young men from England, to be ordained by the Tennents." Those, who have an opportunity of reading these communications, will find, in those of Mr. Edwards, an example of a personal controversy, conducted throughout, and to a very uncommon degree, in the spirit of the gentleman and the christian.
This occurred at a period of great excitement, when many ministers had been removed, and many churches rent asunder; and when the minds of men were of course prepared beforehand to believe every thing, that favoured their own side of the question. Mr. Clap was, in this case, obviously mistaken: still he was truly a man of respectability and worth. He had a powerful mind, rich in invention, and stored with knowledge, was profoundly versed in Mathematics, Physics and Astronomy, as well as the principles of Law, and proved an able instructer and governor of the institution, over which he presided. He was elected by a Board of Trustees, exclusively Arminian in sentiment, and all his associates in office held the same tenets. At the same time, though he entered warmly into the controversy relative to Mr. Whitefield, from a full conviction that it was his design to occasion the separation of churches, and to procure, as far as possible, the ejectment of all whom he regarded as unconverted ministers; and was doubtless happy in supposing himself able to prove that such was his avowed design, on the testimony of one of his warmest friends; yet he was far from taking the low ground of orthodoxy assumed by many on the same side, but always adhered to the doctrines of grace, and ultimately became their champion. Sometime after this, he showed his magnanimity, by introducing the Essay on the Freedom of the Will, as a classic in the college.
In August, 1744, Mr. Edwards preached the Sermon entitled "The True Excellency of a Gospel Minister," at the ordination of Mr. Robert Abercrombie, to the ministry of the Gospel, at Pelham. This gentleman was from Scotland, having been made known to Mr. Edwards by his correspondents in that country; and through his kind offices was introduced to the people at Pelham. The Sermon was immediately published.
The reader will probably recollect, that Mr. M'Culloch, in his Letter of August 13, 1743, had expressed the opinion, that the Church of God, previous to her ultimate extension and triumph, was destined to meet with "more extensive and formidable trials," than she had ever before experienced. Mr. Edwards, from a minute investigation of the Scriptural Prophecies, having been convinced that this, which was at that time the commonly received opinion of the church, was erroneous; expresses his dissent from it in the following answer.
"Northampton, March 5, 1744.
"To the Rev. Mr. M'Culloch.
"REV. AND DEAR SIR,
"I return you thanks for your most obliging, entertaining and instructive, Letter, dated Aug. 13, 1743, which I received about
the latter end of October; my answering which has been unhappily delayed, by reason of my distance from Boston, and not being able to find any opportunity to send thither, till the ship was gone that brought your letter; which I much regretted. My delaying to answer has been far from arising from any indifference with respect to this correspondence, by which I am sensible I am highly honoured and privileged.
""Tis probable that you have been informed, by other correspondents, before now, what the present state of things in New England is: it is indeed, on many accounts, very melancholy: there is a vast alteration within these two years; for about so long I think it is, since the Spirit of God began to withdraw, and this great work has been on the decline. Great numbers in the land, about two years ago, were raised to an exceedingly great height, in joy and elevation of mind; and through want of watchfulness, and sensibleness of the danger and temptation that there is in such circumstances, many were greatly exposed, and the devil taking the advantage, multitudes were soon, and to themselves insensibly, led far away from God and their duty; God was provoked that he was not sanctified in this height of advancement, as he ought to have been, he saw our spiritual pride and self-confidence, and the polluted flames that arose of intemperate, unhallowed zeal; and he soon, in a great measure, withdrew from us; and the consequence has been, that the Enemy has come in like a flood, in various respects, until the deluge has overwhelmed the whole land. There had, from the beginning, been a great mixture, especially in some places, of false experiences, and false Religion with true; but from about this time, the mixture became much greater, many were led away with sad delusions; and this opened the door for the Enemy to come in like a flood in another respect, it gave great advantages to these enemies and opposers of this work, furnished them with weapons and gave them new courage, and has laid the friends of the work under such disadvantage, that nothing that they could do would avail any thing to withstand their violence. And now it is come to that, that the work is put to a stop every where, and it is a day of the Enemy's triumph: but I believe also a day of God's People's Humiliation, which will be better to them in the end than their elevations and raptures. The time has been amongst us when the sower went forth to sow, and we have seen the spring, wherein the seed sprang up in different sorts of ground, appearing then fair and flourishing; but this spring is past, and we now see the summer, wherein the sun is up with a burning heat, that tries the sorts of ground; and now appears the difference, the seed in stony ground, where there was only a thin layer of earth on a rock, withers away, the moisture being dried out; and the hidden seeds and roots of thorns, in unsubdued ground, now springs up and chokes the seed of the word. Many high professors are fallen, some into