see truth and reality, and farther than ever was seen before, yet we may not be able more than just to touch it, and to have a few-obscure glances. We may not have strength of mind, sufficient to conceive clearly of the manner of it. We see farther, indeed, but 'tis but very obscurely and indistinctly. We had better stop a degree or two short of this, and abstract no farther, than we can conceive of the thing distinctly, and explain it clearly; otherwise, we shall be apt to run into error, and confound our minds."

"PERSON. Well might Mr. Locke say, that identity of person consisted in identity of consciousness; for he might have said, that identity of spirit too, consisted in the same consciousness. A mind, or spirit, is nothing else but consciousness, and what is included in it. The same consciousness is to all intents and purposes, the very same spirit or substance, as much as the same particle of matter can be the same as itself, at different times."

"BEING. It seems strange sometimes to me, that there should be Being from all eternity, and I am ready to say, What need was there, that any thing should be? I should then ask myself, Whether it seems strange, that there should be either Something, or Nothing? If so, 'tis not strange that there should BE; for that necessity of there being something, or nothing, implies it."

"SPACE. The real and necessary existence of Space, and its infinity even beyond the Universe, depends upon a like reasoning, as the existence of Spirits; and so the supposition of the necessity of the existence of a successive Duration, before the creation of the Universe-even the impossibility of removing the idea out of the mind. If it be asked, Whether or no, if there be limits of the creation, it be not possible, that an intelligent being should be removed beyond the limits; and then, Whether or no there would not be distance, between that intelligent being and the limits of the Universe, in the same manner and as properly, as there is between intelligent beings and the parts of the Universe within its limits?-I answer, I cannot tell, what the law of nature, or the constitution of God, would be in this case.

"Coroll. There is, therefore, no difficulty in answering such questions as these, What cause was there, why the Universe was placed in such a part of space; and why created at such a time. For, if there be no space beyond the Universe, it was impossible, that the Universe should be created in another place; and, if there was no time before the Creation, it was impossible, that it should be created at another time."

TRUTH. After all that has been said and done, the only

He soon discovered this mistake.

adequate definition of truth is, The agreement of our ideas with existence. To explain what this existence is, is another thing. In abstract ideas, it is nothing but the ideas themselves: so their truth is their consistency with themselves. In things that are supposed to be without us, 'tis the determination, and fixed mode, of God's exciting ideas in us. So that truth, in these things, is an agreement of our ideas with that series in God. 'Tis Existence; and that is all that we can say. 'Tis impossible, that we should explain and resolve a perfectly abstract, and mere, idea of existence; only we always find this, by running of it up, that God and Real Existence are the same.

"Coroll. Hence we learn how properly it may be said that God is, and that There is none else, and how proper are these names of the Deity, JEHOVAH, and I AM THAT I AM.

[ocr errors]

"CONSCIOUSNESS, is the mind's perceiving what is in itself, its ideas, actions, passions, and every thing that is there perceivable. It is a sort of feeling within itself. The mind feels when it thinks, so it feels when it desires, feels when it loves, feels itself hate, &c."

"LOGICK. One reason, why at first, before I knew other logick,* I used to be mightily pleased with the study of the old logick, was, because it was very pleasant to see my thoughts, that before lay in my mind jumbled without any distinction, ranged into order, and distributed into classes and subdivisions, that I could tell where they all belonged, and run them up to their general heads. For this logick consisted much in distributions, and definitions; and their maxims gave occasion, to observe new and strange dependencies of ideas, and a seeming agreement of multitudes of them in the same thing, that I never observed before."

"WORDS. We are used to apply the same words a hundred different ways; and ideas being so much tied and associated with the words, they lead us into a thousand real mistakes; for where we find that the words may be connected, the ideas being by custom tied with them, we think that the ideas may be connected likewise, and applied every where, and in every way, as the words."

"SENSATION. SELF-EVIDENCE. Things that we know by immediate sensation, we know intuitively, and they are pro-. perly self-evident truths: As, grass is green; the sun shines; honey is sweet. When we say, that grass is green, all that we can be supposed to mean by it, is-that in a constant course,

*Logic, until a comparatively late period, was a study of the second year in Yale College. What system of logic was studied at that time, I do not know; but Mr. Edwards appears previously to have looked into some treatise of the schoolmen.

when we see grass, the idea of green is excited with it; and this we know self-evidently."

"INSPIRATION. The evidence of immediate inspiration, that the prophets had, when they were immediately inspired by the Spirit of God with any truth, is an absolute sort of certainty; and the knowledge is in a sense intuitive, much in the same manner, as faith and spiritual knowledge of the truth of religion. Such bright ideas are raised, and such a clear view of a perfect agreement with the excellencies of the Divine Nature, that its known to be a communication from Him. All the Deity appears in the thing, and in every thing pertaining to it. The Prophet has so divine a sense, such a divine disposition, such a divine pleasure, and sees so divine an excellency, and so divine a power, in what is revealed, that he sees as immediately that God is there, as we perceive one another's presence, when we are talking together face to face. And our features, our voice and our shapes, are not so clear manifestations of us, as those spiritual resemblances of God, that are in the inspiration, are manifestations of him. But yet there are doubtless various degrees in inspiration."*

These selections not only evince uncommon clearness of perception, and strength of discrimination, in the mind of Edwards, at that early age; but also prove that, even then, it had begun to be, in no mean degree, what it was afterwards, in a singular degree, CREATIVE. He seems, almost from the first, never to have studied the works of others as is usually done, in order to receive their thoughts as of course true, and to treasure them in the memory; but to have examined them for himself, with great care, and, where he found them correct, to have used them immediately, in the discovery and demonstration of other truths.

These extracts, selected rather for their briefness than for their superiority, will probably lead the reader to peruse the whole work, as contained in the Appendix. It is there arranged somewhat according to the order of the subjects; yet the number prefixed to each separate article, will show its place in the manuscript of the author. In the series of articles, under the heads EXISTENCE, SPACE, and SUBSTANCE, the reader will find a perfectly original and very ingenious examination of the question, Whether material existence is actual, or merely ideal. It appears to have been written, at various

*The reader will find the whole of this collection of Notes or Comments in Appendix H. As an exhibition of the character, and conduct, of the mind of a student at college, it may be of essential and permanent advantage to every student, who will follow his example.

times between 1717 and 1720, in as many distinct articles, yet each has a bearing on what precedes. This is the identical question, investigated, with so much ingenuity, by Berkley, in his Principles of Human Knowledge. Both writers take the same side of the question, and insist that matter is merely ideal; and each wrote independently of the other. Mr. Edwards appears to have been led to this investigation, at this time, by reading the Essay of Locke. In comparing the two, it should be remembered, that the Treatise of Berkley was written at mature age, and is a regularly digested and finished work, duly prepared by the author for publication; while that of Edwards was written in very early youth, and consists of detached fragments of thought, set down only to be remembered, and perhaps never looked at afterwards. Making these allowances, it will probably be thought, that the latter evinces a depth of thought, and strength of demonstration, in no respect inferior to those exhibited in the former.

It is also a singular fact that, at this very early period, he should have fixed upon the definition of a CAUSE, which is substantially the same, with that given by Brown, near a century afterwards. The definition of Edwards is as follows: "A CAUSE is that, after or upon the existence of which, or the existence of it after such a manner, the existence of another thing follows." That of Brown is thus expressed : "A CAUSE is that, which immediately precedes any change; and which, existing at any time, in similar circumstances, has been always, and will be always, immediately followed by a similar change." Both definitions are founded on the supposition, that priority in the sequence observed, and invariableness of antecedence in the past and future sequences supposed, are the elements, and the only elements, combined in the notion of a cause."

[ocr errors]

No one, probably, will rise from a perusal of this early effort, without feeling a deep regret, that the author did not devote an adequate portion of time to the completion of a plan, so well conceived, of what must have proved an able and profound Treatise on Mental Philosophy. In his Treatise on the WILL, we have indeed one great division of this very work. From the unrivalled success of his researches in the investi gation of that faculty, it appears deeply to be lamented, that he should not have found leisure, for a similar Essay on the HuMAN UNDERSTANDING.


Early Productions continued.-Notes on Natural Science.

THE little collection of papers, which I have denominated NOTES ON NATURAL SCIENCE, Consists of eight sheets of foolscap, several of them detached, and containing, each, a series of notes and observations, entirely independent of the others. His class pursued their mathematical and philosophical studies, during their two last years; and many of the articles in this collection, as is plain from the hand-writing, were obviously written at this time; others during his tutorship, and a few at a still later period. A few specimens will be exhibited here, to show the general plan and character of the work, as far as it was developed in his own mind.

On the second page of the cover are the following rules to direct him in writing the work.

"1. Try not only to silence, but to gain.

"2. To give but few prefatorial admonitions about the style and method. It doth an author much hurt to show his concern in these things.

"3. What is prefatorial, not to write in a distinct preface or introduction, but in the body of the work: then I shall be sure to have it read by every one.

"4. Let much modesty be seen in the style.

"5. Not to insert any disputable thing, or that will be likely to be disputed by learned men; for I may depend upon it they will receive nothing but what is undeniable from me; that is, in things exceedingly beside the ordinary way of thinking.

"6." (In short hand.)

"7. When I would prove any thing, to take special care that the matter be so stated, that it shall be seen most clearly and distinctly, by every one, just how much I would prove; and to extricate all questions from the least confusion or ambiguity of words, so that the ideas shall be left naked.

8. In the course of reasoning, not to pretend any thing to be more certain, than every one will plainly see it is, by such expressions as, "It is certain,"-"It is undeniable," &c.

9. To be very moderate in the use of terms of art. Let VOL. I.


« ElőzőTovább »