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During the whole of his ministry, he was regarded by his people with great respect and affection: no symptoms of dissatisfaction having been manifested by them for sixty-three years. In the summer of 1752, on account of his increasing infirmities he proposed to them the settlement of a colleague; and they actually settled one, the Rev. Joseph Perry, June 11th, 1755; but continued his salary until his death, which took place Jan. 27, 1758, when he was eighty-nine years of age.
Mrs. Edwards survived him twelve years: her fourth daughter, Mary, residing with her and watching over the infirmities of age. From a lady in East Windsor far advanced in life, I learned the following facts. Mrs. Edwards was always fond of books, and discovered a very extensive acquaintance with them in her conversation; particularly with the best theological writers. After the death of her husband, her family being small, a large portion of her time was devoted to reading. A table always stood in the middle of her parlor, on which lay a large quarto bible, and treatises on doctrinal and experimental religion. In the afternoon, at a stated hour, such of the ladies of the neighbourhood, as found it convenient, went customarily to her house, accompanied not unfrequently by their children. Her daughter regularly read a chapter of the Bible, and then a passage from some religious author; but was often stopped by the comments and remarks of her mother, who always closed the interview with prayer. On these occasions, it was a favorite point with the neighbouring females, even with those who were young, to be present; all of them regularly attending when they were able, and many of them, among whom was my informant, dating their first permanent attention to religion from the impressions here made. In this way she was regarded with a respect bordering on veneration, and was often spoken of by Mr. Perry, as one of his most efficient auxiliaries. She died Jan. 19, 1770, n the 99th year of her age, retaining her mental faculties until the close of her life. Her daughter Mary, "spent many years of her early life at Northampton with Mr. and Mrs. Stoddard; and returning thence to her father's house, she was the nurse and attendant, and I may almost say, support of her aged parents. She was a woman of most amiable disposition, fine understanding, and uncommon attainments, had read much and appeared to have made the best improvement of the knowledge that she obtained." She survived her mother, six years.
* From the letter of an excellent lady in Middletown, in whose family she resided several years.
His Birth and Education.-Earliest Productions of his Pen.
JONATHAN EDWARDS, the subject of the present memoir, was the fifth child of Timothy and Esther Edwards. He was born in the east parish of Windsor, now East-Windsor, on the banks of the Connecticut, on the 5th day of October, 1703.
Owing to the intellectual and moral culture of his parents, his education may be regarded as having been begun in infancy, and as having been, in all respects, of the best and happiest character. The government of their family, at once strict and affectionate, formed him to early habits of obedience and sobriety, and saved him from those "evil communications," which too often lead to follies and excesses in childhood and youth. The refinement of manners and of character, which he witnessed in them and in their friends, prepared his own mind from his earliest years, to withdraw from every thing low and grovelling, and to find a high enjoyment in all the varieties of intellectual and moral beauty. Their own minds, enlightened by knowledge, taught his from the first, to open and expand by an acquaintance with all the objects of contemplation within its reach. Their faithful religious instructions rendered him, when a child, familiarly conversant with God and with Christ, with his own character and duties, with the way of salvation and with the nature of that eternal life, which, begun on earth, is perfected in heaven. In their example of consistent and devoted piety, he saw them walking daily before him, in the only path which conducts to that world of life. While their prayers, commencing with his existence, and offered up with deep humility and prevailing faith, secured for him, at an early period of life, the peculiar blessing of God.
In the progress of childhood, in consequence of the faithful instructions and prayers of his parents, he was in several instances the subject of strong religious impressions. This was particularly true, some years before he went to college, during a powerful revival of religion in his father's congregation. He, and two other lads of his own age, who had the same feelings with himself, erected a booth, in a very retired spot in a swamp, for an oratory, and resorted to it regularly for
social prayer. This continued for a long period; but the impressions ultimately disappeared, and in his own view, were followed by no permanent effects of a salutary nature.*
He commenced the study of the Latin, when six years of age, under the care of his father, and occasionally that of his elder sisters. No account is preserved of his progress in his studies, at that early period, but his high standing as a scholar, on his admission to college as well as afterwards, and his thorough knowledge of the Latin, Greek and Hebrew, prove at once, his own diligence as a student at this time, and the accuracy and fidelity of his parent's instructions.
From the manuscripts which have fallen into my hands, I conclude that his father's family were fond of the use of the pen, and that he and his sisters were very early encouraged by their parents to make attempts, not only in letter writing, but in other species of composition. This course, though rarely pursued with children, is eminently advantageous; and in the case before us, was obviously followed by the best results. While it increased the mutual affection of the brother and the sisters, it also served to strengthen their minds, and to impart exactness both of thought and expression The earliest effort of his pen, which I have met with, appears to have been written on the following occasion. Some one in the vicinity, probably an older boy than himself, had advanced the opinion, either in writing or in conversation, that the soul was material, and remained with the body till the resurrection; and had endeavored to convince him of its correctness. Struck with the absurdity of the notion, he sat down and wrote the following reply; which, as a specimen both of wit and reasoning in a child, may fairly claim to be preserved. It is without date, and without pointing, or any division into sentences; and has every appearance of having been written by a boy just after he had learned to write.†
"I am informed that you have advanced a notion, that the soul is material, and attends the body till the resurrection; as I am a professed lover of novelty, you must imagine I am very much entertained by this discovery; (which however old in some parts of the world, is new to us ;) but suffer my curiosity a little further. I would know the manner of the kingdom, before I swear allegiance. 1st. I would know whether this material soul keeps with [the body] in the coffin; and, if so, whether it might not be convenient to build a repository
* His own account of this subject will be found on a subsequent page. From the hand, the spelling, and the want of separation into sentences, I cannot doubt that it was written at least one year and probably two, earlier than the letter which follows.
for it; in order to which, I would know what shape it is of, whether round, triangular or four square; or whether it is a number of long fine strings reaching from the head to the foot, and whether it does not live a very discontented life. I am afraid when the coffin gives way, the earth will fall in and crush it; but if it should choose to live above ground, and hover about the grave, how big it is ;-whether it covers all the body, or is assigned to the head, or breast, or how. If it covers all the body, what it does when another body is laid upon it: whether the first gives way; and, if so, where is the place of retreat. But suppose that souls are not so big but that ten or a dozen of them may be about one body; whether they will not quarrel for the highest place; and, as I insist much upon my honor and property, I would know whether I must quit my dear head, if a superior soul comes in the way; but above all I am concerned to know what they do, where a burying place has been filled twenty, thirty, or an hundred times. If they are a top of one another, the uppermost will be so far off, that it can take no care of the body. I strongly suspect they must march off every time there comes a new set. I hope there is some other place provided for them but dust. The undergoing so much hardship, and being deprived of the body at last will make them ill tempered. I leave it with your physical genius to determine, whether some medicinal applications might not be proper in such cases, and subscribe your proselyte, when I can have solution of these matters."
The following letter to one of his sisters, written at twelve years of age is the earliest dated effort of his pen which I have discovered.
"To Miss Mary Edwards, at Hadley,
"Windsor, May 10, 1716.
"Through the wonderful goodness and mercy of God, there has been in this place a very remarkable outpouring of the Spirit of God. It still continues, but I think I have reason to think is in some measure diminished; yet I hope not much. Three have joined the church since you last heard, five now stand propounded for admission; and I think above thirty persons come commonly a Mondays to converse with father about the condition of their souls. It is a time of general health here. Abigail, Hannah and Lucy have had the chicken pox, and are recovered. Jerusha is almost well. Except her, the whole family is well.
Sister, I am glad to hear of your welfare so often as I d
I should be glad to hear from you by letter, and therein how it is with you as to your crookedness.
"Your loving brother,
He was educated, until he entered college, at home, and under his father's personal instruction; while his older sisters were daily pursuing their respective branches of study in his immediate presence. Their father, having been distinguished as a scholar, was able to give them, and as we have seen, actually gave them, a superior education. In all their various pursuits, the mind of their brother, as it opened, would of course be more and more interested; and thus at length he would easily and insensibly acquire a mass of information far beyond his years. The course of his education may in this way have been less systematic, indeed, and less conformed to rule, than that ordinarily given in the school. At the same time it was more safe; forming him to softer manners, gentler feelings and purer affections. In his circumstances, also, it was obviously more comprehensive and universal; and, while it brought him acquainted with many things which are not usually communicated until a later period, it also served to unfold the original traits of his mind, and to give it that expansion, which is the result of information alone.
One characteristic, of which he has not generally been suspected, but which he possessed in an unusual degree, was a fondness, minutely and critically to investigate the works of nature. This propensity was not only discovered in youth and manhood, but was fully developed in childhood, and at that early period was encouraged and cherished by the fostering hand of parental care. This will be obvious from the two subsequent productions of his pen, which were written on the following occasion. His father had some correspondent of distinction, to whom in the course of his letters, he had given an account, of an interesting natural curiosity. This gentleman, who probably resided in England,* in the postscript of his reply expressed a desire, that he would favor him with any other information that he might possess of a similar kind. The son had not long before been busily engaged in observing, with deep interest and with a philosophic eye, the wonderful movements and singular skill of that species of Spider which inhabits the forest; and having written down his own
* No trace of the name or residence of the correspondent is preserved in the papers; but from the care taken by the son to inform him that the sea lay on the east of New-England, ho probably did not reside in this, but in the mother country.