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JONATHAN EDWARDS, 1703—1758.
Ox 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 raro 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 tho 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
pasture, for contemplation. And as I was walking there, and looking 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, my sense of divine things gradually increased, and became more and more lively, and had more of that inward sweet
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 views and elevated affections with which he was blessed before he was seventeen years of age; and before he was nineteen he was licensed 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, ho 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 picty, 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 aro 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.