« PrejšnjaNaprej »
one can determine in what the change, effected by regeneration, consists. They do not show the enquirer, whether every awakened and convinced sinner, who afterwards has lively gratitude and joy, is regenerated; or whether a gracious change of heart implies joys of a peculiar kind: Neither, if the renewed have joys peculiar to themselves, do the teachers, now referred to, describe that peculiarity; nor do they tell from what motives the joys, that are evidence of regeneration, arise. They represent the whole man, his understanding, and his sensitive faculties, as renewed, no less than his heart and affections. According to them generally, this change is effected by light. As to this indeed they are not perfectly agreed. Some of them hold, that the change is produced, by the bare light and motives exhibited in the gospel. Others pretend, that a man is persuaded to become a christian, as he is persuaded to become a friend to republican government. Yet others there are, who hold that regeneration is caused, by a supernatural and divine light immediately communicated. Their representation of this seems to imply, and their readers understand it as implying, an immediate and new revelation. But according to Mr. Edwards, and those who adopt his views of the subject, regeneration consists in the communication of a new spiritual sense or taste. In other words, a new heart is given. This communication is made, this work is accomplished, by the Spirit of God. It is their opinion, that the intellect, and the sensitive faculties, are not the immediate subject of any change in regeneration. They believe, however, that, in consequence of the change which the renewed heart experiences, and of its reconciliation to God, light breaks in upon the understanding. The subject of regeneration sees, therefore, the glory of God's character, and the glory of all divine truth. This may be an illustration. A man becomes cordially reconciled to his neighbour, against whom he had previously felt a strong enmity. He now sees the real excellencies of his neighbour's character, to which he was blinded before by enmity and prejudice. These new views of his neighbour, and these different feelings towards him, are the consequence of the change: its evidence, but not the change itself. At the same time, Mr. Edwards and others believe that, in saving experience, the sensitive faculties are brought under due regulation by the new heart or holy temper. None of the awakenings, fears, and convictions, which precede the new heart, are, according to this scheme, any part of Regeneration; though they are, in some sense, a preparation for it, as all doctrinal knowledge is. The sinner, before regeneration, is allowed to be totally dead to the exercises and duties of the spiritual life. He is nevertheless accounted a moral agent. He is therefore entirely blameable in his impenitence, his unbelief, and his alienation from God. He is therefore, with perfect propriety, exhorted to repent, to become reconciled to God in Christ, and to arise from his spiritual
death, that "Christ may give him light."-According to this system, regeneration is produced, neither by moral suasion, i.e. by the arguments and motives of the Gospel, nor by any supernatural, spiritual light; but by the immediate agency of the Holy Spirit. Yet the light and knowledge of the Gospel are, by Divine constitution, usually necessary to regeneration, as the blowing of the ram's horns was necessary to the falling of the walls of Jerico; and the moving of the stone, from the mouth of the sepulchre, was necessary to the raising of Lazarus."
THUS it appears, that Mr. Edwards taught us in his writings, in a manner so clear, that mankind have hitherto been satisfied with the instruction, Why God created this material and spiritual Universe ;— What is the nature of that Government which he exercises over Minds, and how it is consistent with their perfect freedom ;—What is the Nature of that Virtue, which they must possess, if they are to secure his approbation;-What is the Nature, the Source, the Extent, and the Evidences of that Depravity, which characterizes Man, as a fallen being;-What is the Series of Events, by which his Redemption is accomplished;-What are the Qualifications for that Church, to which the redeemed belong;-What are the Grounds, on which they are justified;-What are the Nature and Evidences of that Religion, which is imparted to them by the Spirit of grace; -What are the Nature and Effects of that Revival of religion, which accompanies an effusion of his divine influences on a people; -And what are the Inducements to United and Extraordinary Prayer, that such effusions may be abundantly enjoyed by the Church of God.*-By what is thus said, we do not intend, that all his reasonings are solid, or all his opinions sound and scriptural; but we know of no writer, since the days of the Apostles, who has better comprehended the WORD OF GOD; who has more fully unfolded the nature and design of the revelation of his mind, which it contains; who has more ably explained and defended the great doctrines, which it teaches, who has more clearly illustrated the religion which it requires; who has done more for the purification and enlargement of that church which it establishes; or who, in consequence of his unfoldings of divine truth, will find, when the work of every man is weighed in the balances of eternity, a larger number to be, his hope, and joy, and crown of rejoicing in that day."-And when we remember, in addition to all this, that we can probably select no individual, of all who have lived in that long period, who has manifested a more ardent or elevated piety towards God, a warmer or more expanded benevolence towards Man, or greater
*For a Catalogue of the works of Mr. Edwards, published previous to the edition, see Appendix L.
purity, or disinterestedness, or integrity of character-one, who gave the concentrated strength of all his powers, more absolutely, to the one end of glorifying God in the salvation of Man;-and then reflect, that at the age of fifty-four, in the highest vigour of all his faculties, in the fulness of his usefulness, when he was just entering on the most important station of his life, he yielded to the stroke of death; we look towards his grave, in mute astonishment, unable to penetrate those clouds and darkness, which hover around it. One of his weeping friends* thus explained this most surprizing dispensation:" He was pouring in a flood of light upon mankind, which their eyes, as yet, were too feeble to bear."If this was not the reason; we can only say-" Even so, Father! for so it seemed good in thy sight."
A Farewell Sermon, preached at the first Precinct in Northampton, after the people's public rejection of their minister, and renouncing their relation to him as Pastor of the Church there, on June 22, 1750; Occasioned by difference of sentiments, concerning the requisite Qualifications of members of the Church, in complete standing ; By JONATHAN EDWARDS, A. M.
Acts xx. 18. Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you, at all seasons.
And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you: but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house.
Ver. 26, 27. Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men; for I have not shunned to declare unto you all the Counsel of God.
Gal. iv. 15, 16. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? For I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Am I therefore be
come your enemy, because I tell you the truth.
Boston: Printed and Sold by S. Kneeland, over against the Prison in Queen-Street. 1751.
It is not unlikely, that some of the readers of the following Sermon may be inquisitive, concerning the circumstances of the difference between me and the people of Northampton, that issued in that separation between me and them, which occasioned the preaching of this Farewell Sermon. There is. by no means, room here for a full account of that matter. But yet it seems to be proper, and even necessary, here, to correct some gross misrepresentations, which have been abundantly, and, it is to be feared, by some affectedly and industriously, made, of that difference: such as, That I insisted on persons being assured of their being in a state of salvation, in order to my admitting them into the Church; that I required a particular relation of the method and order of a person's inward experience, and of the time and
manner of his conversion, as the test of his fitness for Christian communion; yea, that I have undertaken to set up a pure church, and to. make an exact and certain distinction between saints and hypocrites, by a pretended infallible discerning the state of men's souls; that in these things I had fallen in with those wild people, who have lately appeared in New England, called Separatists; and that I myself was become a grand Separatist; that I arrogated all the power of judging of the Qualifications of candidates for Communion, wholly to myself, and insisted on acting by my sole authority, in the admission of members into the Church, etc.
In opposition to these slanderous representations, I shall, at present, only give my reader an account of some things, which I laid before the Council, that separated between me and my people, in order to their having a just and full account of my principles, relating to the affair in controversy.
Long before the sitting of the Council, my people had sent to the Rev. Mr. Clark of Salem Village, desiring him to write in opposition to my principles. Which gave me occasion to write to Mr. Clark, that he might have true information what my principles were. And in the time of the sitting of the Council, I did, for their information, make a public declaration of my principles, before them and the Church, in the meeting house, of the same import with that in my letter to Mr. Clark, and very much in the same words. And then, afterwards, sent in to the Council, in writing, an extract of that letter, containing the information I had given to Mr. Clark, in the very words of my letter to him, that the Council might read and consider it at their leisure, and have a more certain and more satisfactory knowledge what my principles were. The extract which I sent in to them, was in the following words:
"I am often, and I do not know but pretty generally, in the country, represented as of a new and odd opinion, with respect to the terms of Christian communion, and as being for introducing a peculiar way of my own. Whereas, I do not perceive that I differ at all from the scheme of Dr. Watts, in his book, entitled, The rational foundation of a Christian Church, and the terms of Christian Communion; which he says, is the common sentiment and practice of all reformed churches. I had not seen this book of Dr. Watts', when I published what I have written on the subject; but yet, I think my sentiments, as I have expressed them, are as exactly agreeable to what he lays down, as if I had been his pupil. Nor do I at all go beyond what Dr. Doddridge plainly shows to be his sentiments, in his Rise and Progress of Religion, and his Sermons on Regeneration, and his Paraphrase and Notes on the New Testament. Nor indeed, Sir, when I consider the sentiments you have expressed in your letters to Major Pomroy and Mr. Billing, can I perceive, but that they come exactly to the same thing which I maintain. You suppose, the Sacraments are not converting ordinances: but that, as seals of the Covenant, they presuppose conversion, especially in the adult; and that it is visible saintship, or in other words, a credible profession of faith and repentance, a solemn consent to the Gospel covenant, joined with a