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ment, and the land should not enjoy her sabbaths, was seventy years, Jer. xxv, 11, 12; and these seventy years are dated in 2 Chron. xxxvi. 20, 21, from Zedekiah's captivity; and yet from that
сарtivity to Cyrus's decree was but about fifty-two years, though it was indeed about seventy years before the temple was finished, So the proper time of the oppression of Antiochus Epiphanes, wherein both the Sanctuary and the Host should be trodden under foot by him, was two thousand and three hundred days, Dan. vii. , 13, 14, and yet God gave Israel a degree of deliverance by the Maccabees, and they were holpen with a little help, and the Host ceased to be trodden under foot before that time was expired. Dan. xi. 32, 34.
“« But in these things; dear Sir, I am by no means dogmatical; I do but humbly offer my thoughts on what you suggested in your letter, submitting them to your censure. 'Tis pity that we should expect such a terrible devastation of the Church, before her last and most glorious deliverance, if there be no such thing to be expected. It may be a temptation to some of the people of God, the less earnestly to wish and pray for the near approach of the Church's glorious day, and the less to rejoice in the signs of its approach.
“ But, let us go on what scheme we will, it is most apparent from the Scriptures, that there are mighty strugglings to be expected, between the Church of God and her Enemies, before her great victory; and there may be many lesser strugglings before that last, and greatest, and universal conflict. Experience seems to show that the Church of God, according to God's method of dealing with her, needs a great deal gradually to prepare her for that prosperity and glory that he has promised her on earth : as the growth of the earth, after winter, needs gradually to be prepared for the summer heat: I have known instances, wherein by the heat's coming on suddenly in the spring, without intermissions of cold to check the growth, the branches many of them, by a too hasty growth, have afterwards died. And perhaps God may bring on a spiritual spring as he does the natural, with now and then a pleasant sunshiny season, and then an interruption by clouds and stormy winds, till at length, by the sun more and more approaching, and the light increasing, the strength of the winter is broken. We are extremely apt to get out of the right way. A very great increase of comfort that is sudden, without time and experience, in many instances has appeared to wound the soul, in some respects, though it seems to profit it in others. Sometimes, at the same time that the soul seems wonderfully delivered from those lusts, that are more carnal and earthly, there is an insensible increase of those that are more spiritual; as God told the children of Israel, that he would put out the former inhabitants of the land of Canaan, by little and little, and would not consume them at once, least the beasts of the field should increase upon them.-We need much experience, to teach us the innumerable ways that we are liable to err, and to show us the evil and pernicious consequences of those errors. If it should please God, before many years, to grant another great Revival of religion in New England, we should perhaps be much upon our guard against such errors as we have run into, and which have undone us this time, but yet might run insensibly into other errors that now we think not of.
"You enquire of me, Rev. Sir, whether I reject all those for counterfeits that speak of visions and trances. I am far from doing of it: I am, and always have been, in that matter, of the same opinion that Mr. Robe expresses, in some of those pamphlets Mr. McLaurin sent me, that persons are neither to be rejected, nor approved on such a foundation. I have expressed the same thing in my discourse on the Marks of a work of the true Spirit, and have not changed my mind.
“I am afraid, Dear Sir, that I have been too bold with you, in being so lengthy and tedious, and have been too impertinent and forward to express my opinion upon this and that; but I consider myself as writing to a candid, christian friend and brother, with whom I may be free and bold, and from whom I may promise myself excuse and forgiveness. Dear Brother, asking your earnest prayers for me and for New England, I am your affectionate brother, and engaged friend and servant,
- JONATHAN EDWARDS."
The opinion here expressed by Mr. Edwards, was not the result of a slight and cursory examination of the subject in discussion. He had a considerable time before examined, at great length, the prophecies of Daniel and John, with regard to this very point; and, as we shall soon have occasion to remark, had been convinced that the opinion, then commonly received, that the severest trials of the Church were yet future, was erroneous.
The Rev. Samuel Buell, whom I have already mentioned, as having preached at Northampton, during the absence of Mr. Edwards, in January 1742, with uncommon fervour and success, continued his labours, as an evangelist among the churches, upwards of four years; and at length accepted of an invitation from the people of East Hampton, a village in the S. E. corner of Long Island, to become their minister. At his request, Mr. Edwards went to East Hampton, and there preached his Installation Sermon, on the 19th of September, 1746, from Isaiah, lxii. 4, 5.
Mistakes extensively prevalent at this time, as to the nature and evidences of True Godliness,“ Treatise on Religious Affections.
-Design and Character of the Work.-Republished abroad.Letter from Mr. Gillespie concerning it.-Letter from Mr. Edwards to Mr. M Culloch.—Reply to Mr. Gillespie.- Proposal made in Scotland, for United Extraordinary Prayer.- Efforts of Mr. Edwards to promote it.-Letter to Mr. M Culloch.“ Humble Attempt to promote Extraordinary Prayer."
From the facts already recited, it will be obvious to the reader, that few clergymen, even in the course of a long ministry, have as full an opportunity of learning, from their own observation, the true nature of a Revival of religion, and the differences between imaginary and saving Conversion, as Mr. Edwards had now enjoyed. He had early discovered, that there was a radical difficulty attending not only every revival of religion, but, in a greater or less degree also, every instance of supposed conversion a difficulty arising from erroneous conceptions, so generally entertained, respecting the question, What is the nature of True Religion ? or, What are the distinguishing marks of that Holiness, which is acceptable in the sight of God ?—Perceiving, at an early period of his christian life, that no other subject was equally important to man, that no other was more frequently or variously illustrated by the Scriptural writers, and yet, that on no other had professing christians been less agreed; his attention, as he himself informs us, had been particularly directed to it, from his first commencement of the study of Theology, and he was led to examine it with all the diligence, and care, and exactness of search and enquiry, of which his mind was capable. In addition to this, he had not only witnessed, in two successive instances, a solemn and universal attention to religion, among the young as well as among grown persons in his own congregation, and in both, almost all of the latter, as well as very many of the former, gathered into the church ; but he had been the spiritual counsellor and guide of multitudes in other congregations, where he had occasionally laboured, as well as of great numbers who visited him for this purpose, at Northampton. These advantages of observation, it may casily be believed, were not lost on a mind like his.
This subject, at the time of which we are speaking, had become, also, a subject of warm and extended controversy. The advo
cates of revivals of religion, had too generally been accustomed to attach to the mere circumstances of conversion-to the time, place, manner and means, in and by which it was supposed to be effected—an importance, no where given them in the Scriptures; as well as to conclude, that all affections which were high in degree, and accompanied with great apparent zeal and ardour, were of course gracious in their nature; while their opposers insisted, that true religion did not consist at all in the affections, but wholly in the external conduct. The latter class attributed the uncommon Attention to religion, which they could not deny had existed for four years in New-England, to artificial excitement merely ; while the former saw nothing in it, or in the measures taken to promote it, to condemn, but every thing to approve. Mr. Edwards, in his views of the subject, differed materially from both classes. As he knew from his own experience, that sin and the saving grace of God might dwell in the same heart; so he had learned, both from observation and testimony, that much false religion might prevail during a powerful revival of true religion, and that at such a time, multitudes of hypocrites might spring up among real christians. Thus it was in the revival of religion in the time of Josiah, in that which attended the preaching of John the Baptist, in those which occurred under the preaching of Christ, in the remarkable outpouring of the Spirit in the
days of the Apostles, and in that which existed in the time of the Reformation. He clearly saw, that it was this mixture of counterfeit religion with true, which in all ages had given the devil his chief advantage against the kingdom of Christ. “By this,” observes Mr. Edwards, “ he hurt the cause of christianity, in and after the apostolic age, much more, than by all the persecutions of both Jews and Heathens. By this he prevailed against the Reformation, to put a stop to its progress, more than by all the bloody persecutions of the church of Rome. By this he prevailed against the revivals of religion, that have occurred since the Reformation. By this he prevailed against New-England, to quench the love of her espousals, about a hundred years ago. And I think I have had opportunity enough to see plainly, that by this the devil has prevailed against the late great revival of religion in New-England, so happy and promising in its beginning. I have seen the devil prevail in this way, against two great revivings of religion in this country. By perverting us from the simplicity that is in Christ, he hath suddenly prevailed to deprive us of that fair prospect we had a little while ago, of a kind of paradisaic state of the Church of God in New-England.”
These evils, it was obvious, must exist in the church, until their cause was removed, and men had learned to distinguish accurately between true and false religion. To contribute his own best endeavours for the accomplishment of this end, Mr. Edwards prepared and published his “ TREATISE ON Religious AFFECTIONS."
The great design of this Treatise is, to show, In what True Religion consists, and what are its Distinguishing Marks and Evidences; and thus to enable every man, who will be honest and faithful with himself, to decide whether he is, or is not, a real christian. Similar attempts had been made, by many earlier writers; but it may, I believe, safely be asserted, that no one of their efforts, taken as a whole, and viewed as an investigation of the entire subject, would now be regarded as in any high degree important or valuable. The subject itself is one of the most difficult
, which Theology presents; and demands for its full investigation, not only ardent piety, and a most intimate acquaintance with the Scriptures, but an exact and metaphysical inspection of the faculties and operations of the human mind; which unfortunately few, very few, writers on experimental religion, have hitherto discovered. The work of Mr. Edwards is at once a scriptural, and a philosophical, view of the subject; -as truly scientific in its arrangement, and logical in its deductions, as any work on the Exact sciences. That it is also a thorough and complete view of it, we have this decisive evidence—that no work of the kind, of any value, has appeared since, for which the author has not been indebted, substantially, to the Treatise on the Affections; or which has not been that very Treatise, in part, or in whole, diluted to the capacity of weaker understandings. The trial, to which the mind of the honest, attentive and prayerful, reader of its pages is subjected, is the very trial of the Final Day. He, who can endure the trial of the Treatise on the Affections, will stand unhurt amidst a dissolving universe ; and he who cannot, will assuredly perish in its ruins. It ought to be the Vade mecum, not only of every clergyman, and every christian, but of every man, who has sobriety of thought enough to realize, that he has any interest in a coming Eternity. Every minister should take effectual care, that it is well dispersed among the people of his own charge, and that none of them is admitted to a profession of religion, until, after a thorough study of this Treatise, he can satisfy both himself, and his spiritual guide, not only that he does not rely upon the mere negative signs of holiness, but that he finds within himself those distinguishing marks and evidences of its positive existence, which the Divine Author of holiness has pronounced sure and unerring: It is indeed said, that anxious enquirers will often be discouraged by this course-particularly by a perusal of the Second Part of the Treatise—from making a profession of religion, and led to renounce the hope of their own conversion; and the answer is, that he, who, on finding himself discouraged from a profession of religion, by the Second Part, is not encouraged to make it by a perusal of the Third Part, should of course, unless his views are perverted by disease or melancholy, consider the call to repent and believe the Gospel, as still addressed immediately to himself ; and that he, who, on the perusal of this Treatise, is led to renounce the