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heaven, as a world of love, where love shall be the saints' eternal food, where they shall dwell in the light of love, and where the very air and breath will be nothing but love; with intense love to the people of God, as to those who will soon wear his perfect image; with earnest desires that others might love God better than herself, and attain to higher degrees of holiness; with a delight in conversing on the most spiritual and heavenly things in religion, often engaging in such conversation, with a degree of feeling too intense to be long endured; and with a lively sense of the importance of charity to the poor, as well as of the need which ministers have of the influences of the Holy Spirit, and earnest longings and wrestlings with God for them in prayer. She had also, according to Mr. Edwards, the greatest, fullest, longest continued, and most constant Assurance of the favour of God, and of a title to future glory, that he ever saw any appearance of, in any person ;-enjoying, especially near the time in which he made this statement, to use her own expression, THE RICHES OF Full ASSURANCE; as well as an uninterrupted, entire resignation to God, with respect to health or sickness, ease or pain, life or death, and an entire resignation of the lives of her nearest earthly friends. These things were attended with a constant, sweet peace and serenity of soul, without a cloud to interrupt it, a continual rejoicing in all the works of nature and providence, a wonderful access to God by prayer, sensibly conversing with him, as much as if Christ were here on earth; frequent, plain, sensible and immediate, answers of prayer, all tears wiped away, all former troubles and sorrows of life forgotten, excepting sorrow for sin, doing every thing for God and his glory, doing it as the service of love, with a continual, uninterrupted cheerfulness, peace and joy. “O how good,” she once observed, “ is it to work for God in the day time, and at night to lie down under his smiles.” Instead of slighting the means of grace in consequence of these discoveries, she was never more sensible of her need of instruction; instead of regarding herself as free from sin, she was led by her clearer sight of the Divine holiness, to perceive more fully the sinfulness of her own heart; instead of neglecting the business of life, she performed it with greater alacrity, as a part of the service of God-declaring that, when thus done, it was as delightful as prayer itself. At the same time, she discovered an extreme anxiety to avoid every sin, and to discharge every moral obligation, was most exemplary in the performance of every social and relative duty, exhibited great inoffensiveness of life and conversation, great meekness, gentleness and benevolence of spirit, and avoided, with remarkable conscientiousness, all those things, which she regarded as failings in her own character.
To those, who, after reading this statement of facts, still regard the preceding narrative as the offspring of enthusiam, we shall draw our reply from Mr. Edwards himself: “Now if such things
are enthusiasm, and the offspring of a distempered brain; let my brain be possessed evermore of that happy distemper! If this be distraction; I pray God that the world of mankind may all be seized with this benign, meek, beneficent, beatific, glorious distraction ! What notion have they of true religion, who reject what has here been described? What shall we find to correspond with these expressions of Scripture, The peace of God, that passeth all understanding : Rejoicing with joy unspeakable, and full of glory : God's shining into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ : With open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of God, and being changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord : Being called out of darkness into marvellous light : and having the day-star arise in our hearts : What, let me ask, if these things that have been mentioned do not correspond with these expressions; what else can we find that does correspond with them ?”
Mr. Edwards adds, that he had witnessed many instances, in Northampton and elsewhere, of other persons, which were in general, of the same kind with these, though not so high in degree, in any instance; and, in many of them, not so pure and unmixed, or so well regulated. In some individuals, who discovered very intense religious affections, there was obviously a great mixture of nature with grace, and in some a sad degenerating of religious affections ; yet, in most instances, they were uniform in their character, and obviously the result of fervent piety,
That such full and clear discoveries of the Divine excellency and glory, as those recited in the preceding narrative, are uncommon, is unhappily too true : still they are far from being singular ; for accounts of a similar nature may be found in the private diaries of men of distinguished piety, in almost every age of the church.* They are not however probably more uncommon, than are great attainments in piety; and, when enjoyed by those, who have made such attainments, ought, in no respect, to be regarded as surprising. There is certainly in God, a goodness and a glory, infinitely surpassing the comprehension of the highest created beings. This goodness and glory, which constitutes the Divine beauty and loveliness, God is able to reveal to the mind of every intelligent creature, as far as his faculties extend. If the mind, to which this revelation is made, has a supreme relish for holiness; the discovery of this spiritual beauty of the Divine mind, will communicate to it an enjoyment, which is pure and heavenly in its nature ; and the degree of this enjoyment, in every case, will be proportioned to the measure of the faculties, and to the fulness of the discovery. This is obviously true in the heavenly world. God there reveals his glorynot in all its infinite brightness: this, he cannot do to a created intelligence : he reveals it—in as strong an effulgence as the minds of saints and angels can endure. Were a revelation, equally clear and full, to be made to one of us here on earth, it would cbviously overwhelm and destroy the life of the body; for John, even when he beheld the glorified body of Christ, fell at his feet as dead. In proportion as an individual is possessed of holiness, so much more near does he come to God, and so much more clear and distinct is his perception of his true character. “ If a man love me,” says Christ, “ he will keep my words; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” Such discoveries of the Divine beauty and glory, are therefore the promised reward, as well as the natural consequence, of distinguished holiness; and a well authenticated narrative, of the manner in which they were made, in a given instance, even if they were unusual in degree, instead of exciting our distrust or surprise, should lead us, with a noble emulation, to press forward towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,
* As examples of this nature, the reader is referred to the writings of Fla: vel L. Baxter, and Brainerd, and of Mr. Edwards himself.
Extent of the Revival of 1740, '41, '42.-Auspicious opening.
-Opposed by its enemies; and injured by its friends. “ Thoughts on the Revival in New England.”—Attestations of numerous ministers.—Causes of its decline.--Influence of Mr. Whitefield, Mr. Tennent, and others. Influence of Mr. Edwards Publications in Scotland.—Great Revival of Religion there.—His correspondents in that country.—Letter to Mr M'Culloch.—Answer to Do.—Letter from Mr. Robe.
The reader can scarcely need to be informed, that the Revival of religion, of which we have been speaking, was not confined to Northampton. It began there, and at Boston, and at many other places, in 1740, and in that, and the three following years, prevailed, to a greater or less degree, in more than one hundred and fifty congregations in New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania ; as well as in a considerable number more, in Maryland and Virginia, in 1744. At its commencement, it appears to have been, to an unusual degree, a silent, powerful and glorious, work of the Spirit of God—the simple effect of Truth applied to the conscience, and accompanied by his converting grace.
So auspicious indeed was the opening of this memorable work of God, and so rapid its progress, that the promised reign of Christ on the Earth was believed, by many, to be actually begun. Had it continued of this unmixed character, so extensive was its prevalence, and so powerful its operation, it would seem that in no great length of time, it would have ervaded this western world. As is usual in such cases, it was opposed by the enemies of vital religion, and with a violence proportioned to its prevalence and power. But its worst enemies were found among its most zealous friends : and Mr, Edwards appears to have been early aware, that the measures too generally resorted to, by many of them, to extend its influence over the whole country, as well as throughout every town and village where it was actually begun, were only adapted to introduce confusion and disorder, as far as they prevailed. To check these commencing evils, if possible, and to bear his own testimony to the Work as a genuine work of the Holy Spirit, he prepared and published his “ Thoughts on the Revival of Religion in New England, in 1740.” In this Treatise, after presenting evidence most clear and convincing that the attention to religion, of which he speaks, was a glorious work of God, and showing the obligations which all. were under, to acknowledge and promote it, as well as the danger of the contrary conduct: he points out various particulars in which its friends had been injuriously blamed, then exhibits the errors and mistakes into which they had actually fallen, and concludes by showing positively, what ought to be done to promote it.
This work, which was published in 1742, excited a very deep interest in the American churches, and was immediately republished in Scotland. The author, from his uncommon acquaintance with the Scriptures, the soundness of his theological views, his intuitive discernment of the operations of the mind, his knowledge of the human heart both before and after its renovation by the Spirit of God, his familiarity with revivals of religion, his freedom from enthusiasm, and his utter aversion to extravagance and disorder, was admirably qualified to execute it in the happiest manner : and, from the time of its first publication, it has been, to a very wide extent, the common Text-book of evangelical divines, on the subject of which it treats. If the reader will examine the various accounts of revivals of religion, he will find that no one of them, anterior to this, furnishes an explanation of the subject, in accordance with the acknowledged principles of mental philosophy.
In 1743, about one hundred and sixty ministers published their attestations to this work, as in their own view a genuine work of the Spirit of God, and as having been extraordinary and remarkable, on account of the numbers who discovered a deep anxiety for their salvation; on account of its rapid progress from place to place; and on account of the power with which it was carried on. Yet, while they bear witness to the great numbers who appeared to have become real christians, to the extensive reformation of morals which it occasioned, and to a greater prevalence of religion than they had before witnessed; many of them also regret the extravagancies and irregularities, which in some places had been permitted to accompany it. Among these, they particularly point out—a disposition to make secret impulses on the mind, a rule of duty-laymen invading the ministerial office, and under a pretence of exhorting, setting up preaching-ministers invading each other's provinces-indiscreet young men rushing into particular places, and preaching on all occasions-unscriptural separations of churches, and of ministers from their churches—a rash judging of the religious state of others—and a controversial, uncharitable and censorious, spirit.
There can be no doubt, that both parts of this statement are true. Although this most extensive work of grace opened on New England, in 1740 and 1741, in a manner eminently auspicious; yet in the two following years, it assumed, in various places, a somewhat different aspect, and was unhappily marked with irregularity and disorder. This was doubtless owing, in some degree, to the fact, that many ministers of wisdom and sound discretior.