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Tennent, written probably in the autumn of 1741, explains his own views on this subject.*
“REV. AND DEAR SIR,
“I rejoice to hear that my poor labours have been of any service to any in New England. All glory be to the great and glorious God, when out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, he is pleased sometimes to ordain praise. I rejoice to hear of the progress of God's work among you, this last summer, and that there are any appearances of its continuance : Blessed be God, dear Brother! As to the subject you mention, of laymen being sent out to exhort and to teach, supposing them to be real converts, I cannot but think, if it be encouraged and continued, it will be of dreadful consequence to the church's peace and soundness in the faith. I will not gainsay but that private persons may be of service to the church of God by private, humble, fraternal reproof, and exhortations; and no doubt it is their duty to be faithful in these things. But in the mean time if christian prudence and humility do not attend their essays, they are like to be prejudicial to the church's real well-being. But for ignorant young converts to take upon them authoritatively to instruct and exhort publicly, tends to introduce the greatest errors and the grossest anarchy and confusion. The ministers of Christ should be apt to teach and able to convince gainsayers, and it is dangerous to the pure church of God, when those are novices, whose lips should preserve knowledge. It is base presumption, whatever zeal be pretended to, notwithstanding, for any persons to take this honour to themselves, unless they be called of God as Aaron. I know most young zealots are apt, through ignorance, inconsideration and pride of heart, to undertake what they have no proper qualifications for: and, through their imprudences and enthusiasm, the church of God suffers. I think all that fear God, should rise
up and crush the enthusiastic creature in the egg. Dear Brother, the times we live in are dangerous. The Churches in America and elsewhere are in great hazard of enthusiasm : we have need to think of the maxim, principiis obsta.
May Zion's King protect his Church ! I add no more, but love, and beg a remembrance in your prayers.
“ GILBERT TENNENT,"
In the September following, Mr. Edwards attended the public commencement at New Haven, and on the 10th of that month preached his celebrated Sermon entitled, “Distinguishing Marks
* The superscription and date are gone from the MS, but having Mr. Edward's hand-writing on the back, I suppose the letter to have been written to him. VOL. I.
of a work of the Spirit of God," which, in consequence of a gene
а ral request from the clergy, and other gentlemen attending the commencement, was published soon after, at Boston, accompanied with a Preface from the Rev. Mr. Cooper; and in Scotland the ensuing year, with a Preface from the Rev. Mr. Willison. This Sermon, by exhibiting the distinguishing marks between an imaginary, and a real, work of the Spirit of God, and by applying those marks to the work of grace then begun, and rapidly spreading throughout the Northern and Middle Colonies, became an unanswerable defence, not only of that, but of all genuine Revivals of religion. It was indeed the object of immediate and reiterated attacks from the press; but, being built on the fondation of the Apostles and the Prophets, it stands sure, while those attacks, and their authors are forgotten. It exhibits the scriptural evidences of a genuine Revival of religion, in much the same manner, as his subsequent Treatise on Religious Affections, does those of a genuine Conversion. Mr. Cooper thus introduces it to the christians of New England:
“If any are disposed to receive conviction, have a mind open to light, and are really willing to know of the present Work, whether it be of God; it is with great satisfaction and pleasure I can recommend to them the following sheets, in which they will find the
distinguishing marks” of such a Work, as they are to be found in the Holy Scriptures, applied to the uncommon operation that has been on the minds of many in this land. Here the matter is tried by the infallible touchstone of the Holy Scriptures, and is weighed in the balance of the Sanctuary with great judgment and impartiality.
“A performance of this kind is seasonable and necessary; and I desire heartily to bless God, who inclined this, his servant, to undertake it, and has greatly assisted him in it. The Reverend Author is known to be “a scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven;" the place where he has been called to exercise his ministry, has been famous for experimental religion; and he has had opportunities to observe this work in many places where it has powerfully appeared, and to converse with numbers that have been the subjects of it. These things qualify him for this undertaking, above most. His arguments in favour of the Work, are strongly drawn from Scripture, Reason and Experience: And I shall believe every candid, judicious reader will
say, he writes very free from an enthusiastic or a party spirit. The use of human learning is asserted; a methodical way of preaching, the fruit of study as well as prayer, is recommended; and the exercise of charity, in judging others, pressed and urged: And those things, which are esteemed the blemishes, and are like to be the hindrances, of the work, are with great faithfulness cautioned and warned against.—Many, I believe, will be thankful for this publication. Those, who have already entertained favourable thoughts of this work, will be confirmed by it; and the doubting may be convinced and satisfied. But if there be any, after all, who cannot see the signatures of a divine hand on the work, it is to be hoped they will be prevailed on to spare their censures, and stop their oppositions, lest “ haply they should be found to fight against God.”—I will only add my prayer, That the worthy Author of this discourse, may long be continued a burning and a shining light, in the golden candlestick where Christ has placed him, and from thence diffuse his light throughout these Provinces! That the Divine Spirit, whose cause is here espoused, would accompany this, and the other valuable publications of his servant, with his powerful influences; that they may promote the Redeemer's interests, serve the ends of vital religion, and so add to the Author's present joy and future crown !"
The following is the testimony of the Rev. Mr. Willison, to the churches of Scotland. “The ensuing Treatise, by the Rev. Mr. Edwards, of Northampton, in New England, concerning the work and operation of the Holy Spirit on men's consciences, is, in my humble opinion, a most excellent, solid, judicious and scriptural, performance ; which, I hope through the Divine blessing, will prove most useful to the Church, for discerning a true and real work of the Spirit of God, and for guarding against delusions and mistakes. It is certainly a great mercy to the church, that this subject hath been undertaken and handled by such an experienced, well furnished scribe, that hath been long acquainted with the Spirit of God's dealings with the souls of men, in his own congregation, and the country where he lives. And seeing the extraordinary work there at present, though several thousand miles distant from Scotland, is of the same kind with that at Cambuslang and other places about, and meets with the same opposition; the Author doth, with great judgment, answer the common objections which are made against the work, both here and there, so that scarce any thing further needs. be added. He warns people very warmly, against opposing or reproaching the work of the Holy Spirit
. He being the Third Person of the glorious Trinity, and God equal with the Father and the Son, and the great applier of the redemption purchased for us ; it becomes all men highly to hononr him and his work, and to look upon it as highly dangerous to speak a word against him, according to Matt. xii. 32.—I shall add no more but my fervent prayers to God, to bless both the Author and his discourse, and that he would pour out his Spirit yet more abundantly, both on America and all the British dominions; and that he would hasten the glory of the latter days, when the Jews shall be brought in with the fulness of the Gentiles, and that all the kingdoms of
the world may become the kingdoms of the Lord and of his Christ, that he may reign forever and ever! Amen and Amen.”
It was during this visit to New-Haven, that Mr. Hopkins,* then about to receive the degree of A. B. at Yale College, first saw Mr. Edwards. He soon after became his pupil, and continued his intimate friend through life, and was ultimately his biographer. The impression made on his mind, may be gathered from the following account of the subject, in the Memoirs of his own life. “When I heard Mr. Tennent,” [the Rev. Gilbert Tennent, who had preached often at New-Haven in the preceding March,] “ I thought he was the greatest and best man, and the best preacher, that I had ever seen or heard. His words were to me, 6 like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” And I thought that, when I should leave the College, as I was then in my last year, I would go and live
, with him, wherever I should find him. But just before the Commencement in September, when I was to take my degree, on the seventeenth day of which month I was twenty years old, Mr. Edwards, of Northampton, came to New-Haven, and preached. He then preached the Sermon on The Trial of the Spirits, which was afterwards printed. I had before read his Sermons on Justification, etc., and his Narrative of Remarkable Conversions at Northampton, which took place about seven years before this. Though I then did not obtain any personal acquaintance with him, any farther than by hearing him preach: yet I conceived such an esteem of him, and was so pleased with his preaching, that I altered my former determination with respect to Mr. Tennent, and concluded go
and live with Mr. Edwards, as soon as I should have opportunity, though he lived about eighty miles from my father's house."
* Afterwards the Rev. Samuel Hopkins, D. D. of Newport, author of the System of Divinity.
Temporary Abatement of Religious Attention.—Letter to Mr.
Bellamy.—Missionary Tour.–Success at Liecester.-Mr. Hopkins becomes a member of his family.--Mr. Buell's successful labours at Northampton.--Mr. Edwards's Narrative of the Revival at Northampton, in 1740, '41, '42.-Covenant entered into by the Church.
For about three months, or from November to January, there was an obvious abatement in the attention to Religion at Northampton; and although there were instances of conversion from time to time through the winter, yet they were less frequent than before. Mr. Edwards alludes to this fact, in the following letter to Mr. Bellamy, of Bethlem.
Northampton, Jan. 21, 1742. " REV. AND DEAR SIR,
“I received yours of Jan. 11, for which I thank you. Religion, in this and the neighbouring towns, has now of late been on the decaying hand. I desire your prayers, that God would quicken and revive us again; and particularly, that he would greatly humble, and pardon, and quicken me, and fill me with his own fulness; and, if it may consist with his will, improve me as an instrument to revive his work. There has been, the year past, the most wonderful work among children here, by far, that ever was. God has seemed almost wholly to take a new generation, that are come on since the late great work, seven years ago.-Neither earth nor hell can hinder his work, that is going on in the country. Christ gloriously triumphs at this day. You have probably before now, heard of the great and wonderful things that have lately been wrought at Portsmouth, the chief town in New-Hampshire. There are also appearing great things at Ipswich and Newbury, the two largest towns in this province, except Boston, and several other towns beyond Boston, and some towns nearer. By what I can understand, the work of God is greater at this day in the land, than it has been at any time. O what cause have we, with exulting hearts, to agree to give glory to him, who thus rides forth in the chariot of his salvation, conquering and to conquer; and earnestly to pray, that now the Sun of Righteousness would come forth like a bridegroom, rejoicing as a giant, to run his race from one end of the heavens to the other, that nothing may be hid from the light and heat thereof.