Trent and Wells, eds. Colonial Prose and Poetry. 1901.
Vol. III. The Growth of the National Spirit: 17101775
JONATHAN EDWARDS, by common consent the greatest of American divines, and one of the great theologians and metaphysicians of the world, was born of good New England stock at East Windsor, Connecticut, October 5, 1702. A wonderfully precocious child, he wrote a paper at the age of ten to disprove the materiality of the soul. He entered Yale when only twelve years old, and graduated in due course, pursuing studies in the natural sciences and metaphysics that were in advance of his years, and indeed of his country. During this period all his doubts as to the reconciliation of Gods absolute sovereignty with the damnation of a large part of the human race suddenly vanished, and he was filled instead with a kind of God-intoxication which remained with him through life. He studied theology, preached in New York in 1722, became a tutor in Yale the next year, and in 1726 accepted an invitation to become the colleague of his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, the distinguished pastor of the church at Northampton, Massachusetts. The next year he married Sarah Pierrepont, whom he had previously described in the exquisite fragment given among our selections. His married life was most happy, and for half a generation his ministerial career was all that even he could have desired. He communed with nature as a poet, he preached eloquent sermons which in that time of religious revival deeply affected many souls, he developed the contributions he was later to make to metaphysics and the Calvinistic theology. His success as a moving preacher probably culminated in the famous sermon preached at Enfield, Connecticut, July 8, 1741, passages from which will be found in our extracts. Three years later his relations with his parishioners became strained, through his well-meaning but rather ill-advised efforts to prevent the young people of his congregation from reading fiction which was probably much less demoralizing than he imagined it to be. Shortly after, he undertook to enforce the old Congregational rule restricting admission to the church to persons professing religious convictions. As a result of this serious friction, he was forced to resign his charge in the summer of 1750. Posterity has, of course, sided with him, but it seems clear that his parishioners were not without a case. His friends, especially in Scotland, stood by him, however, and parishes were offered him, but he preferred to become a simple missionary to the Indians at Stockbridge. Here he preached and labored upon some of his great metaphysical and theological works until in 1757 he was called to succeed his son-in-law, President Burr of Princeton. He was installed early in 1758, but was not permitted to serve more than a few weeks, for, having been inoculated against the small-pox, he was taken with the disease and died on March 22.
Edwardss fame as a great thinker has steadily increased since his death. Competent judges are inclined to doubt whether America has ever produced a man gifted with more sheer intellectual force. Certainly no other American has taken in the eyes of foreigners such rank as a metaphysician and theologian. Yet the man was as great in his private character as in his character of thinker. Under other circumstances he might have developed into a great poet, and even as it is, many wonderfully poetical passages are to be found in his writings. No complete edition of these is to be obtained, but there are three, in eight, ten, and four volumes respectively, and there is an admirable short biography by the Rev. A. V. G. Allen, which furnishes the general reader with the needed criticism of a theology which is naturally somewhat antiquated. Edwardss most important works, which, when all deductions have been made, remain a fount of inspiration to those who truly think, are as follows: Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God (1736), Treatise concerning the Religious Affections (1746), On the Freedom of the Will (1754), Treatise on Original Sin (1758), History of Redemption (1774). To these should be added his numerous sermons, his Thoughts concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England (1742), his Life of David Brainerd, and finally his valuable juvenile notes on scientific subjects, and his various personal memoranda.
47. Resolved, to endeavor to my utmost to deny whatever is not most agreeable to a good, and universally sweet and benevolent, quiet, peaceable, contented, easy, compassionate, generous, humble, meek, modest, submissive, obliging, diligent and industrious, charitable, even, patient, moderate, forgiving, serene temper; and to do at all times what such a temper would lead me to. Examine strictly every week, whether I have done so.
52. I frequently hear persons in old age say how they would live, if they were to live their lives over again: Resolved, that I will live just so as I can think I shall wish I had done, supposing I live to old age.
SATURDAY, March 2 (1723) O, how much pleasanter is humility than pride! O, that God would fill me with exceeding great humility, and that he would evermore keep me from all pride! The pleasures of humility are really the most refined, inward, and exquisite delights in the world. How hateful is a proud man! How hateful is a worm that lifts up itself with pride! What a foolish, silly, miserable, blind, deceived, poor worm am I, when pride works!
Wednesday, March 6, near sunset. Felt the doctrines of election, free grace, and of one not being able to do anything without the grace of God, and that holiness is entirely, throughout, the work of Gods spirit, with more pleasure than before.
Thursday, May 2. I think it a very good way to examine dreams every morning when I awake; what are the nature, circumstances, principles, and ends of my imaginary actions and passions in them, to discern what are my chief inclinations, etc.
The Poetry of Spirituality. [From the Personal Narrative found among his Mss.]
FROM about that time, I began to have a new kind of apprehensions and ideas of Christ, and the work of redemption, and the glorious way of salvation by him. An inward, sweet sense of these things, at times, came into my heart; and my soul was led away in pleasant views and contemplations of them. And my mind was greatly engaged to spend my time in reading and meditating on Christ, on the beauty and excellency of his person, and the lovely way of salvation by free grace in him. I found no books so delightful to me, as those that treated of these subjects. Those words Cant. ii. 1. used to be abundantly with me, I am the Rose of Sharon, and the Lily of the valleys. The words seemed to me sweetly to represent the loveliness and beauty of Jesus Christ. The whole book of Canticles used to be pleasant to me, and I used to be much in reading it, about that time; and found, from time to time, an inward sweetness, that would carry me away, in my contemplations. This I know not how to express otherwise than by a calm, sweet abstraction of soul from all the concerns of this world; and sometimes a kind of vision, or fixed ideas and imaginations, of being alone in the mountains, or some solitary wilderness, far from all mankind, sweetly conversing with Christ, and wrapt and swallowed up in God. The sense I had of divine things would often of a sudden kindle up, as it were, a sweet burning in my heart; an ardor of soul, that I know not how to express.
Not long after I first began to experience these things, I gave an account to my father of some things that had passed in my mind. I was pretty much affected by the discourse we had together; and when the discourse was ended, I walked abroad alone, in a solitary place in my fathers 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 know 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 sweetness. The appearance of everything was altered: there seemed to be, as it were, a calm, sweet cast or appearance of divine glory in almost everything. Gods excellency, his wisdom, his purity and love, seemed to appear in everything; in the sun, moon, and stars; in the clouds and blue sky; in the grass, flowers, 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 anything, among all the works of nature, was so sweet to me as thunder and lightning; 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 Gods thunder, which oftentimes was exceedingly entertaining, leading me to sweet contemplations of my great and glorious God. While thus engaged, it always seemed natural for me to sing, or chant forth my meditations; or to speak my thoughts in soliloquies with a singing voice.
The heaven I desired was a heaven of holiness; to be with God, and to spend my eternity in divine love, and holy communion with Christ. My mind was very much taken up with contemplations on heaven, and the enjoyments there; and on living there in perfect holiness, humility and love; and it used at that time to appear a great part of the happiness of heaven that there the saints could express their love to Christ. It appeared to me a great clog and burden, that what I felt within, I could not express as I desired. The inward ardor of my soul seemed to be hindered and pent up, and could not freely flame out as it would. I used often to think how in heaven this principle should freely and fully vent and express itself. Heaven appeared exceedingly delightful, as a world of love; and that all happiness consisted in living in pure, humble, heavenly, divine love.
I remember the thoughts I used then to have of holiness; and said sometimes to myself, I do certainly know that I love holiness, such as the gospel prescribes. It appeared to me, that there was nothing in it but what was ravishingly lovely; the highest beauty and amiablenessa divine beauty; far purer than anything here upon earth; and that everything else was like mire and defilement in comparison of it.
Holiness, as I then wrote down some of my contemplations on it, appeared to me to be of a sweet, pleasant, charming, serene, calm nature; which brought an inexpressible purity, brightness, peacefulness and ravishment to the soul. In other words, that it made the soul like a field or garden of God, with all manner of pleasant flowers; enjoying a sweet calm, and the gently vivifying beams of the sun. The soul of a true Christian, as I then wrote my meditations, appeared like such a little white flower as we see in the spring of the year; low and humble on the ground, opening its bosom to receive the pleasant beams of the suns glory; rejoicing, as it were, in a calm rapture; diffusing around a sweet fragrancy; standing peacefully and lovingly, in the midst of other flowers round about; all in like manner opening their bosoms, to drink in the light of the sun. There was no part of creature-holiness that I had so great a sense of its loveliness, as humility, brokenness of heart and poverty of spirit; and there was nothing that I so earnestly longed for. My heart panted after thisto lie low before God, as in the dust; that I might be nothing, and that God might be ALL; that I might become as a little child.
Once, as I rode out into the country for my health, in 1737, having alighted from my horse in a retired place, as my manner commonly has been, to walk for divine contemplation and prayer, I had a view that for me was extraordinary, of the glory of the Son of God, as Mediator between God and man, and his wonderful, great, full, pure and sweet grace and love, and meek and gentle condescension. This grace that appeared so calm and sweet, appeared also great above the heavens. The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent, with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conceptionwhich continued, as near as I can judge, about an hour; which kept me the greater part of the time in a flood of tears, and weeping aloud. I felt an ardency of soul to be, what I know not otherwise how to express, emptied and annihilated; to lie in the dust, and to be full of Christ alone; to love him with a holy and pure love; to trust in him, to live upon him; to serve and follow him; and to be perfectly sanctified and made pure, with a divine and heavenly purity. I have, several other times, had views very much of the same nature, and which have had the same effects.
Sarah Pierrepont, Afterward His Wife. [Written on a Blank Leaf, in 1723.]
THEY say there is a young lady in New Haven who is beloved of that Great Being, who made and rules the world, and that there are certain seasons in which this Great Being, in some way or other invisible, comes to her and fills her mind with exceeding sweet delight, and that she hardly cares for anything, except to meditate on himthat she expects after a while to be received up where he is, to be raised up out of the world and caught up into heaven; being assured that he loves her too well to let her remain at a distance from him always. There she is to dwell with him, and to be ravished with his love and delight forever. Therefore, if you present all the world before her, with the richest of its treasures, she disregards and cares not for it, and is unmindful of any pain or affliction. She has a strange sweetness in her mind and singular purity in her affections; is most just and conscientious in all her conduct; and you could not persuade her to do anything wrong or sinful, if you would give her all the world, lest she should offend this Great Being. She is of a wonderful sweetness, calmness and universal benevolence of mind; especially after this great God has manifested himself to her mind. She will sometimes go about from place to place, singing sweetly; and seems to be always full of joy and pleasure; and no one knows for what. She loves to be alone, walking in the fields and groves, and seems to have some one invisible always conversing with her.
A Four-Year-Old Convert. [From Narrative of Surprising Conversions. 1736.]
I NOW proceed to the other instance that I would give an account of, which is of the little child forementioned. Her name is Phebe Bartlet, daughter of William Bartlet. I shall give the account as I took it from the mouths of her parents, whose veracity none that know them doubt of.
She was born in March, in the year 1731. About the latter end of April, or beginning of May, 1735, she was greatly affected by the talk of her brother, who had been hopefully converted a little before, at about eleven years of age, and then seriously talked to her about the great things of religion. Her parents did not know of it at that time, and were not wont, in the counsels they gave to their children, particularly to direct themselves to her, by reason of her being so young, and, as they supposed, not capable of understanding; but, after her brother had talked to her, they observed her very earnestly to listen to the advice they gave to the other children, and she was observed very constantly to retire, several times in a day, as was concluded, for secret prayer, and grew more and more engaged in religion, and was more frequently in her closet, till at last she was wont to visit it five or six times in a day, and was so engaged in it, that nothing would, at any time, divert her from her stated closet exercises. Her mother often observed and watched her, when such things occurred, as she thought most likely to divert her, either by putting it out of her thoughts, or otherwise engaging her inclinations, but never could observe her to fail. She mentioned some very remarkable instances.
She once, of her own accord, spake of her unsuccessfulness, in that she could not find God, or to that purpose. But on Thursday, the last day of July, about the middle of the day, the child being in the closet, where it used to retire, its mother heard it speaking aloud, which was unusual, and never had been observed before; and her voice seemed to be as of one exceeding importunate and engaged, but her mother could distinctly hear only these words (spoken in her childish manner, but seemed to be spoken with extraordinary earnestness, and out of distress of soul), Pray bessed Lord give me salvation! I pray, beg pardon all my sins! When the child had done prayer, she came out of the closet, and came and sat down by her mother, and cried out aloud. Her mother very earnestly asked her several times, what the matter was, before she would make any answer, but she continued exceedingly crying, and writhing her body to and fro, like one in anguish of spirit. Her mother then asked her whether she was afraid that God would not give her salvation. She then answered, Yes, I am afraid I shall go to hell! Her mother then endeavored to quiet her, and told her she would not have her cryshe must be a good girl, and pray every day, and she hoped God would give her salvation. But this did not quiet her at allbut she continued thus earnestly crying and taking on for some time, till at length she suddenly ceased crying and began to smile, and presently said with a smiling countenance, Mother, the kingdom of heaven is come to me! Her mother was surprised at the sudden alteration, and at the speech, and knew not what to make of it, but at first said nothing to her. The child presently spake again, and said, There is another come to me, and there is anotherthere is three; and being asked what she meant, she answered, One is, thy will be done, and there is anotherenjoy him forever; by which it seems that when the child said, There is three come to me, she meant three passages of her catechism that came to her mind.
After the child had said this, she retired again into her closet; and her mother went over to her brothers, who was next neighbor; and when she came back, the child, being come out of the closet, meets her mother with this cheerful speech, I can find God now! Referring to what she had before complained of, that she could not find God. Then the child spoke again, and said, I love God! Her mother asked her how well she loved God, whether she loved God better than her father and mother, she said, Yes. Then she asked whether she loved God better than her little sister Rachel, she answered, Yes, better than anything! Then her eldest sister, referring to her saying she could find God now, asked her where she could find God; she answered, In heaven. Why, said she, have you been in heaven? No, said the child. By this it seems not to have been any imagination of anything seen with bodily eyes that she called God, when she said I can find God now. Her mother asked her whether she was afraid of going to hell, and that had made her cry. She answered, Yes, I was; but now I shall not. Her mother asked whether she thought that God had given her salvation; she answered, Yes. Her mother asked her when; she answered, To-day. She appeared all that afternoon exceeding cheerful and joyful. One of the neighbors asked her how she felt herself! She answered, I feel better than I did. The neighbor asked her what made her feel better; she answered, God makes me. That evening as she lay abed, she called one of her little cousins to her, that was present in the room, as having something to say to him; and when he came, she told him that heaven was better than earth. The next day being Friday, her mother, asking her her catechism, asked her what God made her for; she answered, To serve him; and added, Everybody should serve God, and get an interest in Christ.
The same day the elder children, when they came home from school, seemed much affected with the extraordinary change that seemed to be made in Phebe; and her sister Abigail standing by, her mother took occasion to counsel her, now to improve her time, to prepare for another world; on which Phebe burst out in tears, and cried out Poor Nabby! Her mother told her, she would not have her cry, she hoped that God would give Nabby salvation; but that did not quiet her, but she continued earnestly crying for some time; and when she had in a measure ceased, her sister Eunice being by her, she burst out again, and cried Poor Eunice! and cried exceedingly; and when she had almost done, she went into another room, and there looked upon her sister Naomi, and burst out again, crying Poor Amy! Her mother was greatly affected at such a behavior in the child, and knew not what to say to her. One of the neighbors coming in a little after, asked her what she had cried for. She seemed, at first, backward to tell the reason: her mother told her she might tell that person, for he had given her an apple; upon which she said, she cried because she was afraid they would go to hell.
At night a certain minister, that was occasionally in the town, was at the house, and talked considerable with her of the things of religion; and after he was gone, she sat leaning on the table, with tears running out of her eyes; and being asked what made her cry, she said it was thinking about God. The next day being Saturday, she seemed great part of the day to be in a very affectionate frame, had four turns of crying, and seemed to endeavor to curb herself, and hide her tears, and was very backward to talk of the occasion of it. On the Sabbath day she was asked whether she believed in God; she answered Yes; and being told that Christ was the Son of God, she made ready answer, and said, I know it.
From this time there has appeared a very remarkable abiding change in the child, she has been very strict upon the Sabbath, and seems to long for the Sabbath day before it comes, and will often in the week time be inquiring how long it is to the Sabbath day, and must have the days particularly counted over that are between, before she will be contented. And she seems to love Gods houseis very eager to go thither. Her mother once asked her why she had such a mind to go? Whether it was not to see fine folks? She said no, it was to hear Mr. Edwards preach. When she is in the place of worship, she is very far from spending her time there as children at her age usually do, but appears with an attention that is very extraordinary for such a child. She also appears very desirous at all opportunities, to go to private religious meetings, and is very still and attentive at home, in prayer time, and has appeared affected in time of family prayer. She seems to delight much in hearing religious conversation. When I once was there with some others that were strangers, and talked to her something of religion, she seemed more than ordinarily attentive; and when we were gone, she looked out very wistly after us, and saidI wish they would come again! Her mother asked her why: says she, I love to hear them talk!
She seems to have very much of the fear of God before her eyes, and an extraordinary dread of sin against him; of which her mother mentioned the following remarkable instance. Some time in August, the last year, she went with some bigger children, to get some plums in a neighbors lot; knowing nothing of any harm in what she did; but when she brought some of the plums into the house, her mother mildly reproved her, and told her that she must not get plums without leave, because it was sin; God had commanded her not to steal. The child seemed greatly surprised, and burst out into tears, and cried out, I will not have these plums! And turning to her sister Eunice, very earnestly said to herWhy did you ask me to go to that plum tree? I should not have gone if you had not asked me. The other children did not seem to be much affected or concerned; but there was no pacifying Phebe. Her mother told her she might go and ask leave, and then it would not be sin for her to eat them, and sent one of the children to that end; and when she returned, her mother told her that the owner had given leave, now she might eat them, and it would not be stealing. This stilled her a little while, but presently she broke out into an exceeding fit of crying: her mother asked her what made her cry again? Why she cried now, since they had asked leave? what it was that troubled her now? And asked her several times very earnestly, before she made any answer: but at last, said it was becauseBECAUSE IT WAS SIN. She continued a considerable time crying; and said she would not go again if Eunice asked her a hundred times; and she retained her aversion to that fruit for a considerable time, under the remembrance of her former sin.
She, at some times, appears greatly affected and delighted with texts of Scripture that come to her mind. Particularly, about the beginning of November, the last year, that text came to her mind, Rev. iii. 20, Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in, and sup with him and he with me. She spoke of it to those of the family, with a great appearance of joy, a smiling countenance, and elevation of voice, and afterwards she went into another room, where her mother overheard her talking very earnestly to the children about it, and particularly heard her say to them, three or four times over, with an air of exceeding joy and admirationWhy it is to SUP WITH GOD. At some time about the middle of the winter, very late in the night, when all were in bed, her mother perceived that she was awake, and heard her as though she was weeping. She called to her, and asked her what was the matter. She answered with a low voice, so that her mother could not hear what she said; but perceived her to lie awake, and to continue in the same frame for a considerable time. The next morning she asked her whether she did not cry the last night: the child answered Yes, I did cry a little, for I was thinking about God and Christ, and they loved me. Her mother asked her, whether to think of God and Christs loving her made her cry: she answered Yes, it does sometimes.
She has often manifested a great concern for the good of other souls, and has been wont many times, affectionately to counsel the other children. Once about the latter end of September, the last year, when she and some other of the children were in a room by themselves a husking Indian corn, the child, after a while came out and sat by the fire. Her mother took notice that she appeared with a more than ordinary serious and pensive countenance, but at last she broke silence, and said, I have been talking to Nabby and Eunice. Her mother asked her what she had said to them. Why, said she, I told them they must pray, and prepare to die, that they had but a little while to live in this world, and they must be always ready. When Nabby came out, her mother asked her whether she had said that to them. Yes, said she, she said that and a great deal more. At other times the child took her opportunities to talk to the other children about the great concern of their souls; sometimes so as much to affect them, and set them into tears. She was once exceeding importunate with her mother to go with her sister Naomi to pray: her mother endeavored to put her off, but she pulled her by the sleeve, and seemed as if she would by no means be denied. At last her mother told her, that Amy must go and pray herself; But, said the child, she will not go, and persisted earnestly to beg of her mother to go with her.
She has discovered an uncommon degree of a spirit of charity, particularly on the following occasion: a poor man that lives in the woods, had lately lost a cow that the family much depended on, and being at the house, he was relating his misfortune, and telling of the straits and difficulties they were reduced to by it. She took much notice of it, and it wrought exceedingly on her compassions; and after she had attentively heard him a while, she went away to her father, who was in the shop, and entreated him to give that man a cow; and told him that the poor man had no cow! That the hunters or something else had killed his cow! and entreated him to give him one of theirs. Her father told her that they could not spare one. Then she entreated him to let him and his family come and live at his house; and had much talk of the same nature, whereby she manifested bowels of compassion to the poor.
She has manifested great love to her minister; particularly when I returned from my long journey for my health last fall, when she heard of it she appeared very joyful at the news, and told the children of it with an elevated voice, as the most joyful tidings, repeating it over and over, Mr. Edwards is come home! Mr. Edwards is come home! She still continues very constant in secret prayer, so far as can be observed (for she seems to have no desire that others should observe her when she retires, but seems to be a child of a reserved temper), and every night before she goes to bed will say her catechism, and will by no means miss of it; she never forgot it but once, and then after she was abed, thought of it, and cried out in tears, I have not said my catechism! And would not be quieted till her mother asked her the catechism as she lay in bed. She sometimes appears to be in doubt about the condition of her soul, and when asked whether she thinks that she is prepared for death, speaks something doubtfully about it; at other times seems to have no doubt, but when asked, replies, Yes, without hesitation.
The Natural and the Spiritual Spring. [From Thoughts on the Revival of Religion in New England.]
A GREAT deal of noise and tumult, confusion and uproar, and darkness mixed with light, and evil with good, is always to be expected in the beginning of something very extraordinary and very glorious in the state of things in human society or the church of God: as after nature has long been shut up in a cold dead state in time of winter, when the sun returns in the spring, there is, together with the increase of the light and heat of the sun, very unpleasant and tempestuous weather before all is settled calm and serene, and all nature rejoices in its bloom and beauty. It is in the new creation as it was in the old, the Spirit of God first moved upon the face of the waters, which was an occasion of great uproar and tumult, and things were gradually brought to a settled state, until at length all stood forth in beautiful peaceful order, when the heavens and the earth were finished, and God saw every thing that he had made, and behold it was very good. When God is about to bring to pass something great and glorious in the world, nature is in a ferment and struggle, and the world, as it were, in travail. As when God was about to introduce the Messiah into the world, and that new and glorious dispensation that he set up, he shook the heavens and the earth and shook all nations. There is nothing that the church of God is in Scripture more frequently represented by than the tree, the vine, corn, &c. which gradually bring forth their fruit, and are first green before they are ripe. A great revival of religion is expressly compared to this gradual production of vegetation, Isaiah, 61:11; As the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations. The church is in a special manner compared to a palm-tree. Cant. 7:7, 8; Exod. 15:27; 1 Kings, 6:29; Psalm 92:12. Of which tree this peculiar thing is observed, that the fruit of it, though it be very sweet and good when it is ripe, yet before it has had time to ripen has a mixture of poison.
Reasons for Believing that the Great Work of God for the Worlds Conversion may begin in America. [From the Same.]
IT is not unlikely that this work of Gods Spirit which is so extraordinary and wonderful, is the dawning, or at least a prelude of that glorious work of God so often foretold in Scripture, which in the progress and issue of it shall renew the world of mankind. If we consider how long since the things foretold as what should precede this great event have been accomplished; and how long this event has been expected by the church of God, and thought to be nigh by the most eminent men of God in the church; and withal consider what the state of things now is, and has for a considerable time been, in the church of God and the world of mankind, we cannot reasonably think otherwise than that the beginning of this great work of God must be near.
And there are many things that make it probable that this work will begin in America. It is signified that it shall begin in some very remote part of the world, that the rest of the world have no communication with but by navigation, in Isa. 60:9; Surely the Isles will wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring my sons from far. It is exceeding manifest that this chapter is a prophecy of the prosperity of the church in its most glorious state on earth in the latter days; and I cannot think that any thing else can be here intended but America, by the isles that are afar off, from whence the first born sons of that glorious day shall be brought. Indeed by the Isles, in prophecies of gospel times, is very often meant Europe: it is so in prophecies of that great spreading of the Gospel that should be soon after Christs time, because it was far separated from that part of the world where the church of God had until then been by the sea. But this prophecy cannot have respect to the conversion of Europe in the time of that great work of God in the primitive ages of the christian church; for it was not fulfilled then: the isles and ships of Tarshish, thus understood, did not wait for God first; that glorious work did not begin in Europe, but in Jerusalem, and had for a considerable time been very wonderfully carried on in Asia before it reached Europe. And as it is not that work of God that is chiefly intended in this chapter, but that more glorious work that should be in the latter ages of the christian church, therefore some other part of the world is here intended by the Isles, that should be, as Europe then was, far separated from that part of the world where the church had before been by the sea, and with which it can have no communication but by the ships of Tarshish. What is chiefly intended is not the British Isles, nor any isles near the other continent; for they are spoken of as at a great distance from that part of the world where the church had till then been. This prophecy therefore seems plainly to point out America as the first fruits of that glorious day.
God has made as it were two worlds here below, the old and the new (according to the names they are now called by,) two great habitable continents, far separated one from the other. The latter is but newly discovered; it was formerly wholly unknown from age to age, and is as it were now but newly created; it has been, until of late, wholly the possession of Satan, the church of God having never been in it, as it has been in the other continent from the beginning of the world. This new world is probably now discovered, that the new and most glorious state of Gods church on earth might commence there; that God might in it begin a new world in a spiritual respect, when he creates the new heavens and new earth.
God has already put that honor upon the other continent, that Christ was born there literally, and there made the purchase of redemption: so, as Providence observes a kind of equal distribution of things, it is not unlikely that the great spiritual birth of Christ and the most glorious application of redemption is to begin in this: as the elder sister brought forth Judah, of whom came Christ, and so she was the mother of Christ; but the younger sister, after long barrenness, brought forth Joseph and Benjamin, the beloved childrenJoseph, that had the most glorious apparel, the coat of many colors, who was separated from his brethren, and was exalted to such glory out of a dark dungeon, and fed and saved the world when ready to perish with famine, and was as a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches ran over the wall, and was blessed with all manner of blessings and precious things of heaven and earth, through the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush; and was, as by the horns of a unicorn, to push the people together to the ends of the earth, i.e. conquer the world. See Gen. 49:22, &c. and Deut. 33:13, &c. and Benjamin, whose mess was five times so great as that of any of his brethren, and to whom Joseph, the type of Christ, gave wealth and raiment far beyond all the rest. Gen. 45:22.
The other continent hath slain Christ, and has from age to age shed the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus, and has often been as it were deluged with the churchs blood: God has therefore probably reserved the honor of building the glorious temple to the daughter that has not shed so much blood, when those times of the peace, and prosperity, and glory of the church shall commence, that were typified by the reign of Solomon.
The Gentiles first received the true religion from the Jews: Gods church of ancient times had been among them, and Christ was of them: but that there might be a kind of equality in the dispensations of Providence, God has so ordered it, that when the Jews come to be admitted to the benefits of the evangelical dispensation, and to receive their highest privileges of all, they should receive the Gospel from the Gentiles. Though Christ was of them, yet they have been guilty of crucifying him; it is therefore the will of God that that people should not have the honor of communicating the blessings of the kingdom of God in its most glorious state to the Gentiles, but, on the contrary, they shall receive the Gospel in the beginning of that glorious day from the Gentiles. In some analogy to this I apprehend Gods dealings will be with the two continents. America has received the true religion of the old continent; the church of ancient times has been there, and Christ is from thence; but that there may be an equality, and inasmuch as that continent has crucified Christ, they shall not have the honor of communicating religion in its most glorious state to us, but we to them.
The old continent has been the source and original of mankind in several respects. The first parents of mankind dwelt there; and there dwelt Noah and his sons; and there the second Adam was born, and was crucified and rose again: and it is probable that, in some measure to balance these things, the most glorious renovation of the world shall originate from the new continent, and the church of God in that respect be from hence. And so it is probable that that will come to pass in spirituals that has in temporals, with respect to America; that whereas, till of late, the world was supplied with its silver and gold and earthly treasures from the old continent and now is supplied chiefly from the new, so the course of things in spiritual respects will be in like manner turned.
And it is worthy to be noted that America was discovered about the time of the Reformation, or but little before: which Reformation was the first thing that God did towards the glorious renovation of the world, after it had sunk into the depths of darkness and ruin under the great antichristian apostacy. So that as soon as this new world is (as it were) created and stands forth in view, God presently goes about doing some great thing to make way for the introduction of the churchs latter day glory, that is to have its first seat in, and is to take its rise from that new world.
It is agreeable to Gods manner of working, when he accomplishes any glorious work in the world, to introduce a new and more excellent state of his church, to begin his work where his church had not been till then, and where was no foundation already laid, that the power of God might be the more conspicuous; that the work might appear to be entirely Gods, and be more manifestly a creation out of nothing; agreeably to Hos. 1:10, And it shall come to pass that in the place where it was said unto them, ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, ye are the sons of the living God. When God is about to turn the earth into a paradise, he does not begin his work where there is some good growth already, but in a wilderness, where nothing grows and nothing is to be seen but dry sand and barren rocks; that the light may shine out of darkness and the world be replenished from emptiness, and the earth watered by springs from a droughty desert; agreeably to many prophecies of Scripture, as Isa. 32:15, Until the Spirit be poured from on high and the wilderness become a fruitful field; and chap. 41:18, I will open rivers in high places and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water and the dry land springs of water: I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle and oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together; and chap. 43:20, I will give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen. Many other parallel Scriptures might be mentioned.
I observed before, that when God is about to do some great work for his church, his manner is to begin at the lower end; so when he is about to renew the whole habitable earth, it is probable that he will begin in this utmost, meanest, youngest and weakest part of it, where the church of God has been planted last of all; and so the first shall be last, and the last first; and that will be fulfilled in an eminent manner in Isa. 24:16, From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the righteous.
There are several things that seem to me to argue that when the Sun of Righteousness, the Sun of the new heavens and new earth, comes to rise, and comes forth as the bridegroom of his church, rejoicing as a strong man to run his race, having his going forth from the end of heaven, and his circuit to the end of it, that nothing may be hid from the light and heat of it,1 the sun shall rise in the west, contrary to the course of this world, or the course of things in the old heavens and earth. The course of Gods Providence shall in that day be so wonderfully altered in many respects, that God will as it were change the course of nature in answer to the prayers of his church; as God changed the course of nature and caused the sun to go from the west to the east when Hezekiah was healed, and God promised to do such great things for his church, to deliver it out of the hand of the king of Assyria, by that mighty slaughter by the angel; which is often used by the prophet Isaiah as a type of the glorious deliverance of the church from her enemies in the latter days: the resurrection of Hezekiah, the king and captain of the church (as he is called, 2 Kings, 20:5), as it were from the dead, is given as an earnest of the churchs resurrection and salvation, Isa. 38:6, and is a type of the resurrection of Christ. At the same time there is a resurrection of the sun, or coming back and rising again from the west, whither it had gone down, which is also a type of the Sun of Righteousness. The sun was brought back ten degrees, which probably brought it to the meridian. The Sun of Righteousness has long been going down from east to west; and probably when the time comes of the churchs deliverance from her enemies, so often typified by the Assyrians, the light will rise in the west, until it shines through the world like the sun in its meridian brightness.
The same seems also to be represented by the course of the waters of the sanctuary, Ezek. 47, which was from west to east; which waters undoubtedly represent the Holy Spirit, in the progress of his saving influences, in the latter ages of the world: for it is manifest that the whole of those last chapters of Ezekiel are concerning the glorious state of the church that shall then be.
And if we may suppose that this glorious work of God shall begin in any part of America, I think if we consider the circumstances of the settlement of New England, it must needs appear the most likely of all the American colonies to be the place whence this work shall principally take its rise.
And if these things are so, it gives more abundant reason to hope that what is now seen in America, and especially in New England, may prove the dawn of that glorious day; and the very uncommon and wonderful circumstances and events of this work seem to me strongly to argue that God intends it as the beginning or forerunner of something vastly great.
I have thus long insisted on this point, because if these things are so, it greatly manifests how much it behooves us to encourage and promote this work, and how dangerous it will be to forbear to do so.
Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. [From a Sermon preached at Enfield, Conn., July 8, 1741.]
THE USE may be of awakening to unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ. That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hells wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor anything to take hold of. There is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.
You are probably not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of hell, but do not see the hand of God in it; but look at other things, as the good state of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it.
Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and, if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spiders web would have to stop a falling rock. Were it not that so is the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption, not willingly; the sun does not willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth does not willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon; the air does not willingly serve you for breath to maintain the flame of life in your vitals, while you spend your life in the service of Gods enemies. Gods creatures are good, and were made for men to serve God with, and do not willingly subserve to any other purpose, and groan when they are abused to purposes so directly contrary to their nature and end. And the world would spew you out, were it not for the sovereign hand of him who hath subjected it in hope. There are the black clouds of Gods wrath now hanging directly over your heads, full of the dreadful storm and big with thunder; and were it not for the restraining hand of God, it would immediately burst forth upon you. The sovereign pleasure of God, for the present, stays his rough wind; otherwise it would come with fury, and your destruction would come like a whirlwind, and you would be like the chaff of the summer threshing floor.
The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course when once it is let loose. It is true that judgment against your evil work has not been executed hitherto; the floods of Gods vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the meantime is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are continually rising and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped and press hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw his hand from the floodgate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and, if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.
The bow of Gods wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood.
Thus are all you that never passed under a great change of heart by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls; all that were never born again, and made new creatures, and raised from being dead in sin to a state of new, and before altogether unexperienced, light and life (however you may have reformed your life in many things, and may have had religious affections, and may keep up a form of religion in your families and closets, and in the houses of God, and may be strict in it), you are thus in the hands of an angry God; it is nothing but his mere pleasure that keeps you from being this moment swallowed up in everlasting destruction.
However unconvinced you may now be of the truth of what you hear, by-and-by you will be fully convinced of it. Those that are gone from being in the like circumstances with you, see that it was so with them: for destruction came suddenly upon most of them; when they expected nothing of it, and while they were saying, Peace and safety: now they see that those things that they depended on for peace and safety were nothing but thin air and empty shadows.
The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, over the fire, abhors you and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times so abominable in his eyes, as the most hateful and venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince: and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment: it is ascribed to nothing else that you did not go to hell last night; that you were suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep; and there is no other reason to be given why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that Gods hand has held you up: there is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship: yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.
O sinner! consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell: you hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment .
How awful are those words, Isaiah lxiii. 3, which are the words of the great God: I will tread them in my anger, and trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. It is perhaps impossible to conceive of words that carry in them greater manifestations of these three things, viz., contempt and hatred, and fierceness of indignation. If you cry to God to pity you, he will be so far from pitying you in your doleful case, or showing you the least regard or favor, that instead of that he will only tread you under foot: and though he will know that you cannot bear the weight of omnipotence treading upon you, yet he will not regard that, but he will crush you under his feet without mercy; he will crush out your blood, and make it fly, and it shall be sprinkled on his garments, so as to stain all his raiment. He will not only hate you, but he will have you in the utmost contempt; no place shall be thought fit for you but under his feet, to be trodden down as the mire in the streets.
Thus it will be with you that are in an unconverted state, if you continue in it; the infinite might, and majesty, and terribleness, of the Omnipotent God shall be magnified upon you in the ineffable strength of your torments: you shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and, when you shall be in this state of suffering, the glorious inhabitants of heaven shall go forth and look on the awful spectacle, that they may see what the wrath and fierceness of the Almighty is; and when they have seen it, they will fall down and adore that great power and majesty. And it shall come to pass, that from one moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.
It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity: there will be no end to this exquisite, horrible misery: when you look forward you shall see a long forever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all; you will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions and millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this Almighty merciless vengeance; and then, when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh, who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it gives but a very feeble, faint representation of it; it is inexpressible and inconceivable: for who knows the power of Gods anger?
How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in danger of this great wrath and infinite misery! But this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation that has not been born again, however moral and strict, sober and religious, they may otherwise be. Oh, that you would consider it, whether you be young or old! There is reason to think that there are many in this congregation, now hearing this discourse, that will actually be the subjects of this very misery to all eternity. We know not who they are, or in what seats they sit, or what thoughts they now have. It may be they are now at ease, and hear all these things without much disturbance, and are now flattering themselves that they are not the persons; promising themselves that they shall escape. If we knew that there was one person, and but one, in the whole congregation, that was to be the subject of this misery, what an awful thing it would be to think of! If we knew who it was, what an awful sight would it be to see such a person! How might all the rest of the congregation lift up a lamentable and bitter cry over him! But alas! Instead of one, how many is it likely will remember this discourse in hell! And it would be a wonder, if some that are now present should not be in hell in a very short time, before this year is out. And it would be no wonder if some persons, that now sit here in some seats of this meeting-house in health, and quiet and secure, should be there before to-morrow morning.
The Sight of Hell Torments Will Exalt the Happiness of the Saints. [From Sermon XI. The Eternity of Hell Torments.]
THE SIGHT of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. It will not only make them more sensible of the greatness and freeness of the grace of God in their happiness; but it will really make their happiness the greater, as it will make them more sensible of their own happiness; it will give them a more lively relish of it; it will make them prize it more. When they see others, who were of the same nature, and born under the same circumstances, plunged in such misery, and they so distinguished, O it will make them sensible how happy they are. A sense of the opposite misery, in all cases, greatly increases the relish of any joy or pleasure.
The sight of the wonderful power, the great and dreadful majesty, and awful justice and holiness of God, manifested in the eternal punishment of ungodly men, will make them prize his favor and love vastly the more; and they will be so much the more happy in the enjoyment of it.
From the Farewell Sermon. [Preached at Northampton, June 22, 1750.]
MY parting with you is in some respects in a peculiar manner a melancholy parting; inasmuch as I leave you in most melancholy circumstances; because I leave you in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity, having the wrath of God abiding on you, and remaining under condemnation to everlasting misery and destruction. Seeing I must leave you, it would have been a comfortable and happy circumstance of our parting, if I had left you in Christ, safe and blessed in that sure refuge and glorious rest of the saints. But it is otherwise. I leave you far off, aliens and strangers, wretched subjects and captives of sin and Satan, and prisoners of vindictive justice; without Christ, and without God in the world.
Your consciences bear me witness, that while I had opportunity, I have not ceased to warn you, and set before you your danger. I have studied to represent the misery and necessity of your circumstances in the clearest manner possible. I have tried all ways that I could think of tending to awaken your consciences, and make you sensible of the necessity of your improving your time, and being speedy in flying from the wrath to come, and thorough in the use of means for your escape and safety. I have diligently endeavored to find out and use the most powerful motives to persuade you to take care for your own welfare and salvation. I have not only endeavored to awaken you, that you might be moved with fear, but I have used my utmost endeavors to win you: I have sought out acceptable words, that if possible I might prevail upon you to forsake sin, and turn to God, and accept of Christ as your Saviour and Lord. I have spent my strength very much in these things. But yet, with regard to you whom I am now speaking to, I have not been successful; but have this day reason to complain in those words, Jer. 6:29: The bellows are burnt, the lead is consumed of the fire, the founder melteth in vain, for the wicked are not plucked away. It is to be feared that all my labors, as to many of you, have served no other purpose but to harden you; and that the word which I have preached, instead of being a savor of life unto life, has been a savor of death unto death. Though I shall not have any account to give for the future of such as have openly and resolutely renounced my ministry, as of a betrustment committed to me: yet remember you must give account for yourselves, of your care of your own souls, and your improvement of all means past and future, through your whole lives. God only knows what will become of your poor perishing souls, what means you may hereafter enjoy, or what disadvantages and temptations you may be under. May God in his mercy grant, that however all past means have been unsuccessful, you may have future means which may have a new effect; and that the word of God, as it shall be hereafter dispensed to you, may prove as the fire and the hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces. However, let me now at parting exhort and beseech you not wholly to forget the warnings you have had while under my ministry. When you and I shall meet at the day of judgment, then you will remember them: the sight of me, your former minister, on that occasion, will soon revive them to your memory: and that in a very affecting manner. O do not let that be the first time that they are so revived.
You and I are now parting one from another as to this world; let us labor that we may not be parted after our meeting at the last day. If I have been your faithful pastor (which will that day appear whether I have or no) then I shall be acquitted, and shall ascend with Christ. O do your part that in such a case, it may not be so, that you should be forced eternally to part from me, and all that have been faithful in Christ Jesus. This is a sorrowful parting that now is between you and me, but that would be a more sorrowful parting to you than this. This you may perhaps bear without being much affected with it, if you are not glad of it; but such a parting in that day will most deeply, sensibly, and dreadfully affect you.
HAVING briefly mentioned these important articles of advice, nothing remains, but that I now take my leave of you, and bid you all farewell; wishing and praying for your best prosperity. I would now commend your immortal souls to Him, who formerly committed them to me, expecting the day, when I must meet you before Him, who is the Judge of quick and dead. I desire that I may never forget this people, who have been so long my special charge, and that I may never cease fervently to pray for your prosperity. May God bless you with a faithful pastor, one that is well acquainted with his mind and will, thoroughly warning sinners, wisely and skillfully searching professors, and conducting you in the way to eternal blessedness. May you have truly a burning and shining light set up in this candlestick; and may you, not only for a season, but during his whole life, and that a long life, be willing to rejoice in his light.
And let me be remembered in the prayers of all Gods people that are of a calm spirit, and are peaceable and faithful in Israel, of whatever opinion they may be with respect to terms of church communion.
The Meaning of Liberty. [From Freedom of the Will. 1754.]
THE PLAIN and obvious meaning of the words Freedom and Liberty, in common speech, is power, opportunity, or advantage that any one has, to do as he pleases. Or, in other words, his being free from hindrance or impediment in the way of doing, or conducting in any respect, as he wills. (I say not only doing, but conducting; because a voluntary forbearing to do, sitting still, keeping silence, etc., are instances of persons conduct, about which Liberty is exercised; though they are not so properly called doing). And the contrary to Liberty, whatever name we call that by, is a persons being hindered or unable to conduct as he will, or being necessitated to do otherwise.
If this which I have mentioned be the meaning of the word Liberty, in the ordinary use of language; as I trust that none that has ever learned to talk, and is unprejudiced, will deny: then it will follow that in propriety of speech neither Liberty, nor its contrary, can properly be ascribed to any being or thing, but that which has such a faculty, power or property, as is called will. For that which is possessed of no such thing as will, cannot have any power or opportunity of doing according to its will, nor be necessitated to act contrary to its will, nor be restrained from acting agreeably to it. And therefore to talk of Liberty, or the contrary, as belonging to the very will itself, is not to speak good sense; if we judge of sense, and nonsense, by the original and proper signification of words. For the will itself is not an agent that has a will: the power of choosing itself, has not a power of choosing. That which has the power of volition or choice is the man or the soul, and not the power of volition itself. And he that has the Liberty of doing according to his will, is the agent or doer who is possessed of the will; and not the will which he is possessed of. We say with propriety, that a bird let loose has power and Liberty to fly; but not that the birds power of flying has a power and Liberty of flying. To be free is the property of an agent, who is possessed of powers and faculties, as much as to be cunning, valiant, bountiful, or zealous. But these qualities are the properties of men or persons and not the properties of properties.
There are two things that are contrary to this which is called Liberty in common speech. One is constraint; the same is otherwise called force, compulsion, and coaction; which is a persons being necessitated to do a thing contrary to his will. The other is restraint; which is his being hindered, and not having power to do according to his will. But that which has no will, cannot be the subject of these things. I need say the less on this head, Mr. Locke having set the same thing forth, with so great clearness, in his Essay on the Human Understanding.
But one thing more I would observe concerning what is vulgarly called Liberty; namely, that power and opportunity for one to do and conduct as he will, or according to his choice, is all that is meant by it; without taking into the meaning of the word anything of the cause or original of that choice; or at all considering how the person came to have such a volition; whether it was caused by some external motive or internal habitual bias; whether it was determined by some internal antecedent volition, or whether it happened without a cause; whether it was necessarily connected with something foregoing, or not connected. Let the person come by his volition or choice how he will, yet, if he is able, and there is nothing in the way to hinder his pursuing and executing his will, the man is fully and perfectly free, according to the primary and common notion of freedom.
The Insufficiency of Human Wisdom. [From The Work of Redemption. Part II. Section 1. Pub. 1793.]
GOD in his providence now seems to be acting over again the same part which he did a little time before Christ came. The age wherein Christ came into the world, was an age wherein learning greatly prevailed, and was at a greater height than ever it had been before; and yet wickedness never prevailed more than then. God was pleased to suffer human learning to come to such a height before he sent forth the gospel into the world, that the world might see the insufficiency of all their own wisdom for the obtaining the knowledge of God, without the gospel of Christ, and the teachings of his Spirit: and when, after that, in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe. And when the gospel came to prevail first without the help of mans wisdom, then God was pleased to make use of learning as a handmaid. So now learning is at a great height at this day in the world, far beyond what it was in the age when Christ appeared: and now the world, by their learning and wisdom, do not know God; and they seem to wander in darkness, are miserably deluded, stumble and fall in matters of religion, as in midnight darkness. Trusting to their learning, they grope in the day-time as at night. Learned men are exceedingly divided in their opinions concerning the matters of religion, run into all manner of corrupt opinions, pernicious and foolish errors. They scorn to submit their reason to divine revelation, to believe anything that is above their comprehension; and so, being wise in their own eyes, they become fools, and even vain in their imaginations, and turn the truth of God into a lie, and their foolish hearts are darkened. See Rom. 1:21.
But yet, when God has sufficiently shown men the insufficiency of human wisdom and learning for the purposes of religion, and when the appointed time comes for that glorious outpouring of the Spirit of God, when he will himself, by his own immediate influence enlighten mens minds; then may we hope that God will make use of the great increase of learning as a handmaid to religion, as a means of the glorious advancement of the kingdom of his Son. Then shall human learning be subservient to the understanding of the Scriptures, and to a clear explanation and a glorious defence of the doctrines of Christianity. And there is no doubt to be made of it, that God in his providence has of late given the world the art of printing, and such a great increase of learning, to prepare for what he designs to accomplish for his church in the approaching days of its prosperity. And thus the wealth of the wicked is laid up for the just, agreeable to Prov. 13:22.
Note 1. It is evident that the Holy Spirit in these expressions, Psalm 19:4, 5, 6, has respect to something else besides the natural sun; and that an eye is had to the Sun of Righteousness, that by his light converts the soul, makes wise the simple, enlightens the eyes, and rejoices the heart; and by his preached Gospel enlightens and warms the world of mankind. Such is the Psalmists own application in verse 7, and the apostles application of verse 4, in Rom. 10:13. [back]