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Mr. Edwards' own Narrativs.-History of his own Opinions as to the point in Controversy.-Consequences of declaring them. -Proposal to preach rejected by Committee.-Proposal to publish-First movement of the Precinct, Oct. 16.-First meeting of the Church, Oct. 22.-Meeting and Votes of Do. Nov. 20.Reply of Mr. Edwards.-Meeting of Precinct, Dec. 7.—Meeting of Church, Dec. 11.-Letter of Mr. Edwards.-Preparatory Council agreed on, Dec. 12.
HAVING given this very brief sketch of the events, which led to the separation of Mr. Edwards and his people, and chiefly in the words of Dr. Hopkins, who was intimately acquainted with all the facts; I shall now present to the reader a more enlarged account of these events, as detailed in the private Journal, kept by Mr. Edwards, during this interesting period of his life.
"I have had difficulties in my mind, for many years past, with regard to the admission of members into the Church, who made no pretence to real godliness. These gradually increased, and at length to such a degree, that I found I could not with an easy conscience, be active in admitting any more members in our former manner, without better satisfaction. In consequence of this, I determined more closely to apply myself to an enquiry into the matter, and search the Scriptures, and read, and examine such books as were written to defend the admission of persons to the sacraments, without a profession of saving faith. And by reading and study, I found myself more strengthened in my reasons to the contrary. On which I came to this determination, that if any person should offer to come into the church without a profession of godliness, I must decline being active in his admission; which, I was sensible, would occasion much uneasiness and public noise and excitement. However I came to this resolution, that I would still continue a diligent search, improving the opportunity which Divine Providence should give me to that end, until somebody should offer to come into the church, from time to time weighing the matter, VOL. I.
with renewed consideration and enquiry. But withal I judged, that it would not be best wholly to conceal my difficulties until then, lest some inconveniences should arise; and particularly I thought of this, that if some person should offer to come into the church, whom my principles would oblige me to reject, and should give no intimation of these my principles until then, it might be suspected that I rejected the person from personal prejudice, and that my alleging scruples of conscience was only to cloak my ill-will. Hence I took some opportunities, some years ago, freely and openly to express my opinion before several of our people; which occasioned it to be talked of among many in this town, and in other parts of the land. I also designedly gave some intimations of my notions of Visible Christians, in my work on RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS; but was aware, that when I came to be necessitated to act upon my principles, and on this foot decline admitting any who should offer themselves to be received to the communion, this would occasion a more general noise and tumult; and therefore I determined, if I lived to have such occasion, that I would in the first, go and freely and fully declare the matter to Col. STODDARD. But it was so ordered, that no person offered to join the church for several years, and not till after the Col's. death.*
"But some time the last of December, (1748,) a young man, who was about to be married,† came and offered to come into the church. I told him my opinion. He told me that he hoped he could make such a profession as that I insisted on, and would take the matter into consideration. After some conversation, it was agreed, that I should draw up a profession of religion, which he might see, when he should come again. Accordingly I did so; and when he came again I showed him the profession I had drawn, but told him I should not insist upon a profession in those words. He might draw one himself in his own words; and, if the more essential things of true religion were contained in it, I should be content. He desired time for farther consideration, and accordingly I let him have the profession I had drawn to consider of. He afterwards came again, and returned the' profession I had drawn, and manifested that at present he declined coming into the church in this way, inasmuch as though he hoped he could make a profession of godliness, he did not think that he was obliged to make it in order to admission into the church. The report of this soon made great uneasiness in the town.
"Some time in February, 1749, I declared the matter fully to
*Col. Stoddard died June 19, 1743.
+ In places where the lax method of admission to the church has prevailed in New England, it has been the usual practice, for persons about to be married, to unite themselves to the church, for the baptism of their children.
the Committee of the church, and proposed it to them whether they were willing that I should deliver the reasons of my opinion from the pulpit. This was strenuously opposed by several; one or two spoke in favour of my preaching on the subject; but the prevailing voice seemed to be zealously against it. Yet the necessity of the church being in some way informed of the reasons of my opinion, seemed to be allowed by all; and therefore those, who opposed my preaching, proposed my printing my reasons, and doing it with all speed. And although there was no note taken, this seemed to be the general conclusion, that they must be informed of my reasons from the press. Accordingly I applied myself, with all diligence, to prepare something for the press.
"After this, a young woman* came to my house, to join with the church, having heard of my opinion; the town by this time being full of talk of it, and noise about it. I mentioned to her my opinion concerning the qualifications of communicants. She told me she had heard of it, but hoped she could make such a profession as I required. Then, upon enquiry, she gave me a hopeful account of her religious experience, and the operations of Divine grace upon her mind; and manifested herself ready publicly to make a profession of religion, agreeably to what she had now professed in private. I then desired her to prepare for examination with respect to her doctrinal knowledge, and to come to me again, and I would draw up a profession, agreeably to what she had expressed to me, against she came again. I accordingly did so. After some time she came again, and I read to her what I had drawn up. She declared herself ready to own that profession, but said that she was afraid, by what she had heard, that there would be a tumult, if she came into the church in that way, and she did not desire to be the occasion of a tumult by coming into the church. I asked her if she would be willing, publicly to make such a profession, if the Committee of the Church would consent to it. She said she. would.
"Now I perceived so great a ferment in the town, that I was satisfied it was not best to preach upon the subject, for the present; and supposed it probable there would be no opportunity to be heard, with any tolerable degree of calmness or attention, before what I was writing on the subject was published. I therefore prosecuted my writing with the utmost possible diligence.
"About the middle of April, I called the Committee together and informed them, that as they seemed to wish, at their last meeting, that I should print the reasons of my opinion, so I had laboured much upon the matter, and had almost prepared something for the press. And as they chose that I should print, so I now chose it
also; since I had laboured so far in it, and might probably say to this purpose, as I am informed I did, "that the frame of people's minds was now such, that they would be likely to hear in a great ferment, if I should now preach on the subject." But told them withal, "that the people ought not to proceed to vote for a separation, until they were informed of my reasons in some way or other." To this, one of them replied, "No, that would be unreasonable;" and nobody said any thing to the contrary; but all seemed to acquiesce in what I proposed, and in waiting for my reasons from the press.
"I then mentioned to them the case of the young woman aforesaid, who desired to come into the church, and read to them the profession of religion she had manifested herself ready to make, and asked them whether they were willing, that she should make such a profession publicly, rather than be kept out; the case being as it was, that I could not in conscience be active in admitting persons, without a public profession of godliness. One or two spoke for it, but others objected against it, saying that for the church to consent to this, was giving up the case, or to that purpose. I told them that I thought that the church would nevertheless have the same advantage to insist on my receiving those, who could not make such a profession, and that I was then willing to become engaged, never to make use of it as a precedent; and for their farther security, I offered them a written promise, in the following words :
"I, the subscriber, do hereby signify and declare, to such as it may concern, that if my people will wait, until the book I am preparing relative to the admission of members into the church, is published, I will resign the ministry over this church, if the church desires it, after they have had opportunity pretty generally to read my said book, and after they have first asked advice of a Council mutually chosen, and followed their advice, with regard to the regular steps to be taken previous to their vote: The following things also being provided, viz. That none of the brethren be admitted to vote in this affair, but such as have either read my said book, or have heard from the pulpit what I have to say in defence of the doctrine, which is the subject of it; that the Society will engage that I shall be freed from all rates; and that a regular Council do approve my thus resigning my pastoral office over this church.
"Northampton, April 13, 1749."
"But still, when the affair of the admission came to be put to vote, there were but three out of fifteen who voted for it.
"Soon after, I sent my book to the printer, urging him very much not to delay the printing. Accordingly, the impression was
very speedily begun, even before the printing of the proposals for subscription. From time to time, I renewedly urged the printer to hasten the impression, and also wrote to Mr. Foxcroft to do h's utmost to forward it; who accordingly did so, as he informed me.
"Some time in the latter part of July, the people grew very uneasy, supposing that the printing was needlessly delayed; and therefore, they of themselves called a meeting of the members of the church, or at least of many of them, to determine whether to wait any longer for my book. And, as I was informed, after some discourse on the matter, they determined that Col. Dwight,* who was going the next week to Boston, should make enquiry whether the book was likely to be speedily finished, and send word.
"Col. Dwight, when he returned from Boston, about the middle of August, brought a number of the books with him, and about twenty of them were dispersed in the town. After this, there seemed to be less noise in the town, until some time in October.
"On the Sabbath, Oct. 15th, I stayed the Church, and proposed our setting apart a day for fasting and prayer; and put the matter to vote, in the following words-"That a day be set apart for solemn fasting and prayer, to pray to God that he would have mercy on this church, under its present dark and sorrowful circumstances; that he would forgive the sins of both minister and people; that he would make us to be of a right spirit, and enlighten us all, that we may know what the mind and will of God is; that that which is agreeable to his will, and that alone, may be established; and that God would restore peace and prosperity to the church."-This was voted by a general concurrence. Then I proposed that the services of the day should be carried on by some of the neighbouring ministers, as supposing that their services would be more acceptable, and less liable to suspicion, than mine. I particularly proposed Mr. Woodbridge of Hatfield, Mr. Williams of Hadley, and Mr. Judd of West-Hampton; they being nearest.
"There being now several persons in the town, who privately made a credible profession of godliness, who were not in the church, and hitherto had been kept out of it,the committee of the church having disallowed of their admission in the way of making such a profession publicly, as aforesaid, therefore I now made a proposal to the church, in the following words :-"That those ministers, who shall be called to assist at the fast, be sought to for advice, with respect to the admission of such persons, as are able and willing to make a credible profession of true godliness; not that either minister or people should be bound by their advice, to any thing contrary to their consciences; but to see if they cannot find out some way, in which these persons may be admitted, consistent with a good conscience in both the pastor and church,
*The grand-father of President Dwight.