hope which he had cherished of his own piety, while he has the best reason to regard it as a false hope, will find almost of course, that that hope is soon succeeded by one which will endure the strictest scrutiny. It is also said, that many persons cannot understand this Treatise; and the answer is, that he, who is too young to understand it in its substance, is too young to make a profession of religion; and that he, whose mind is too feeble to receive it substantially, when communicated by a kind and faithful pastor, cannot understandingly make such a profession. Pre-eminently is this Treatise necessary to every congregation, during a Revival of religion. It was especially designed by its author, to be used on every such occasion; and the minister, who then uses it as he ought, will find it like a fan in his hand, winnowing the chaff from the wheat. And until ministers, laying aside the miserable vanity which leads them, in the mere number of those, whom they denominate their "spiritual children," to find an occasion of boasting, and of course to swell that number as much as they can, shall be willing thus faithfully and honestly to make a separation among their enquirers; every revival of religion will open a great and effectual door, through which the enemies, as well as the friends of religion, will gain an admission into the house of God. And when they are thus admitted, and the ardour of animal feeling has once subsided, the minister will generally find, not only that he has wounded Christ in the house of his friends, but that he has destroyed his own peace, and that of his church, and prepared the way for his own speedy separation from his people.

To prevent this miserable system of deception, on the part of ministers and churches, as well as of candidates for a profession of religion, Mr. Edwards wrote the Treatise in question. As at first prepared, it was a series of sermons, which he preached from his own desk, from the text still prefixed to it, 1 Peter i. 8, "Whom having not seen ye love: in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice, with joy unspeakable and full of glory." It was thus written and preached, probably, in the years 1742, and 1743. Being afterwards thrown into the form of a Treatise by the author, it was published early in 1746. In its style, it is the least correct of any of the works of Mr. Edwards, published in his life time; but, as a work exhibiting genuine christianity, in distinction from all its counterfeits, it possesses such singular excellence, that, were the books on earth destined to a destruction so nearly universal, that only one beside the Bible could be saved; the church of Christ, if aiming to preserve the volume of the greatest value to man, that which would best unfold to a bereaved posterity, the real nature of true religion, would unquestionably select for preservation, the Treatise on the Affections.

This Treatise was immediately republished in England and Scotland, and was cordially welcomed by all the friends of evan

gelical religion in those countries, as well as in America. Its appearance in Scotland gave rise to an interesting correspondence, between Mr. Edwards and the Rev. Thomas Gillespie of Carnock near Edinburg; which was commenced by the latter gentleman with the following letter.


Letter from Mr. Gillespie.

"Carnock, Nov. 24, 1746.

"I have ever honoured you for your work's sake, and what the great Shepherd made you the instrument of, from the time you published the then very extraordinary account of the Revival of Religion at Northampton, I think in the year 1735. The two performances you published on the subject of the late glorious work in New England, well adapted to that in Scotland, gave me great satisfaction, especially the last of them, for peculiar reasons. This much I think myself bound to say. I have many a time, for some years, designed to claim humbly the privilege of correspondence with you. What has made me defer doing it so long, when some of my brethren and good acquaintances have been favoured with it, for a considerable time, it is needless now to mention. I shall only say, I have blamed myself for neglect in that matter. I do now earnestly desire a room in your prayers and friendship, and a letter from you sometimes, when you have occasion to write to Scotland; and I shall wish to be as regular as I can, in making a return. With your permission, I propose to trouble you now and then with the proposal of doubts and difficulties that I meet with, and am exercised by; as for other reasons, so because some solutions in the two mentioned performances were peculiarly agreeable to me, and I find from these discourses, that wherein I have differed in some things from many others, my sentiments have harmonized with Mr. Edwards. This especially was the case in some things contained in your "Thoughts concerning the Revival of Religion in New England." All the apology I make for using such freedom, though altogether unacquainted, is that you will find from my short attestation in Mr. Robe's Narrative, I am no enemy to you, or to the work you have been engaged in, and which you have defended in a way I could not but much approve of. Also my friend and countryman, the Rev. Mr. Robert Abercrombie, will inform you about me, if you have occasion to see him or hear from him.

"I longed to see somewhat about impressions respecting facts and future events, etc. whether by Scripture-texts or otherwise, made on the minds of good people, and supposed to be from the Lord; for I have had too good occasion to know the hurtful, yea,

pernicious tendency of this principle, as commonly managed, upon many persons in manifold instances and various respects. It has indeed surprised me much, that wise, holy and learned divines, as well as others, have supposed this a spiritual experience, an answer of prayers, an evidence of being highly favoured by the Lord, etc. and I was exceeding glad, that the Lord had directed you to give so seasonable a caveat against what I am assured you had the best reason to term, "A handle in the hand of the devil, etc." I was only sorry your then design had not permitted you to say more on that point. It merits a volume; and the proper full discussion of it would be one of the most seasonable and effectual services done the church of Christ, and interest of vital religion through the world, that I know of. I rejoice to find there is a good deal more on that subject interspersed in your "Treatise of Religious Affections," which I have got, but could not as yet regularly peruse. I humbly think the Lord calls you, dear Sir, to consider every part of that point in the most critical manner, and to represent fully the consequences resulting from the several principles in that matter, which good people, as well as others, have been so fond of. And as (if I do not mistake) Providence has already put that in your hand as a part of your generation-work, so it will give me, as well as others, vast satisfaction to find more said on the subject by you, if you do not find what is in the mentioned treatises sufficient, as to which I can form no judgment, because, for myself, I have not as yet considered it. If any other author has treated that subject, I do not remember to have met with it, and I believe hell has been no less delighted than surprised, that a regular attack has not been made on them on that side before now. I doubt not they dread the consequences of such assault with exquisite horror. The neglect or oversight, if not the mistakes of so many learned authors, who have insisted on doctrines that bear similitude or relation to this matter, while it was passed over, I humbly think should teach us humility, and some other useful lessons I need not name to Mr. Edwards.

"I hope, dear Sir, it will not offend you, that I humbly offer some remarks, with all due deference, upon what I have observed in looking into your "Treatise on Religious Affections:" and, upon farther perusal, shall frankly represent what I may find difficulty about, if any such passage should cast up; expecting you will be so good as to set me right, if I shall mistake or not perceive your meaning.


"Pages 78, 79, there are several passages I do not well understand. Page 78, line 6, ad finem, you say, "That they should confidently believe and trust, while they yet remain without spiritual light or sight, is an antiscriptural and absurd doctrine you are refuting." But this doctrine, as it is understood by many, is,

[blocks in formation]

that christians ought firmly to believe and trust in Christ without light or sight, and though they are in a dark, dead frame, and for the present having no spiritual experiences and discoveries. Had you said they could not, or would not believe or trust without spiritual light or sight, this is what could not be doubted: but I humbly apprehend, the position will not hold as you have laid it, whether it is applied to a sinner or a saint, as I suppose you understand it; for though the sinner never will believe on the Lord Jesus, till he has received a saving manifestation of his glory by the work of the Spirit, yet every sinner, we know, is indispensably bound, at all seasons, by the divine authority, to believe instantly on the Lord Jesus. The command of the Lord, 1 John iii. 23, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, no less binds the sinner to immediate performance, than the command not to kill, to keep the Sabbath day, or any other duty, as to the present performance of which, in way of duty, all agree, the sinner is bound. I suppose none of us think we are authorised, or will adventure to preach, that the sinner, should delay to attempt to believe in the Saviour, till he finds light from heaven shining into his mind, or has got a saving sight or discovery of the Lord Jesus, though it is certain he cannot believe, nor will do it eventually, till favoured with such light or sight; because we should, in that event, put in a qualification where the apostle Paul and Silas did put none; such is their exhortation to the jailor, Acts xvi. 31. Also, as it may be the last call the sinner is to receive, in the dispensation of the word, we are bound to require him instantly to believe, whatever he does, or does not feel in himself. If you did intend not the sinner, but the saint, in the before mentioned positions, as I am apt to think your scope plainly intimates, still I apprehend these your assertions are not tenable; for I humbly suppose the Christian is bound to trust the divine faithfulness plighted in the promise for needful blessings, be his case with respect to light or darkness, sight, etc. what it will; and that no situation the saint can be in, looses him from obligation to glorify the Lord on all occasions, by trusting in him and expecting the fulfilment of his word suiting his case. Also I would imagine in Is. 1. 10, the saint is required to believe, in the precise circumstances mentioned in your assertion above mentioned. Pardon my freedom. You do indeed say, "It is truly the duty of those who are thus in darkness to come out of darkness into light and believe," page 78, line 5; but how to reconcile that with the mentioned assertion that immediately follows, or with 1s. I. 10, or other Scriptures, or said assertions, and the other, of which before, I amr indeed at a loss. Sometimes I think it is not believing the promise, or trusting the Lord, and trusting in him, you mean in the positions I have cited; but the belief of the goodness of one's state that he is a saint. If that was what you intended, I heartily wish you had said so much in the book; but as this is not ordinarily

what is meant by believing in Scripture, I must suppose it was not the idea affixed to your words; and an expression of yours seems to make it evident. Had you plainly stated the distinction, betwixt the impossibility of one's actually believing, and its yet being his duty to believe, in the circumstances you mentioned; danger of mistake and a handle for cavil had been cut off.

"Page 78, line 20, etc., you say, "To press and urge them to believe, without any spiritual light or sight, tends greatly to help forward the delusions of the prince of darkness." Had you said, to press them to believe that the Lord was their God, when going on a course of sin, or when sinning presumptuously, was of such tendency, which probably was in part what you designed, it would in my humble apprehension, have been much more safe, for the reasons given. Also, as it is ordinarily and justly observed, that they who are most humbled think they are least so, when under a saving work of the Spirit, perhaps in like manner, spiritual light and sight may, in some instances, be mistaken or not duly apprehended; in which case, the person, upon admitting and proceeding upon your suppositions, may perhaps be apt to give way to unbelief, and to say, If I am not to be urged by the Lord's servants to believe in my present circumstances, it would surely be presumptuous in me, to entertain thoughts of attempting it. Or, it may be, he shall think he has not that degree of spiritual light or sight, that is absolutely necessary in order to his believing, and thus the evil heart of unbelief shall make him depart from the living God, and neglect to set to his seal that he is true, perhaps from the apprehension that it is his duty to remain as he is, or at least in the persuasion it would be in vain to essay to believe, till matters be otherwise with him. If I have deduced consequences from your words and manner of reasoning, which you think they do not justly bear, I will be glad to be rectified by you, dear Sir, and would be satisfied to know from you, how the practice you remark upon in the fore-mentioned passage, tends to help forward the delusions of Satan. I am apt to believe the grounds upon which you proceed, in the whole paragraph I have mentioned, is, that you have with you, real Antinomians, who teach things about faith and believing, subversive of new obedience and gospel holiness, and inconsistent with the Scripture doctrines concerning them. But as we have few, if any such at all, (I believe I might say more,) in this country, and at the same time have numbers who would have the most accurate and judicious evangelical preachers to insist a great deal more upon doing, and less upon believing, Mark x. 17-23, for what reasons you will perceive, I am afraid your words will be misrepresented by them, and a sense put upon your expressions, which you were far from intending. I expect a mighty clamour by the Seceders, if the book shall fall into their hands. All I shall say about what is expressed by you, page 78, line 32, etc. is, that I have frequently

« ElőzőTovább »