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“38. To bring in, if there happens a good place for it, that it is equally probable in itself, that all or the greatest part of the Universe was created, at the time of the Mosaic Creation, as that all, or the greatest part of the Universe was created at once, at any other time."
From the whole collection* it is obvious, that at this early age he had conceived the design of writing a large work, which was to be a complete Treatise on Natural Philosophy and Natural History, including Chemistry and Geology, as far as they were then known, on a plan entirely his own. The Philosophical part of the work, instead of taking for granted what had hitherto been received, was to rest on certain fundamental principles, which he proceeded to establish. The Historical, was to be the result, as far as possible, of his own observations.
The Philosophical reader, on perusing the 13th article of the first series of “THINGS TO BE CONSIDERED,” will regard it as a singular fact, that a Youth at college, more than a century ago, from observing several unaccountable phenomena, attending the refraction and reflexion of light, should have foretold, that the discovery of these would let us into a New World of Philosophy; that he should have been led to suggest,(as in 57 of 2d series, that there is in the atmosphere some other ethereal matter, considerably rarer than atmospheric air; that he should (as in No. 71) have discovered water to be a compressible fluid,-a fact not communicated to the world until the year 1763; that he should have observed the fact, and attempted to account for it, (No. 77,) that water in freezing loses its specific gravity; and that he should have expressed doubts of the existence of frigorific particles. In his attempt to explain the phenomena of Thunder and Lightning, the reader will also perceive that, without any knowledge of the electric fluid, and long before the invention of the Leyden jar, f he rejected the then prevalent theory on the subject, and was led to conclude that Lightning was an almost infinitely fine, combustible, fluid matter, that floats in the air, ard that takes fire by a sudden and mighty fermentation, that is some way promoted by the cool, and moisture, and perhaps attraction, of the clouds : a nearer approximation to the theory of Franklin, than the human mind had ever reached. His Theory of Atoms will be read with deep interest, as will his demonstration that the Fixed Stars are Suns, (No. 77,) his explanation of the Channels of rivers and their branches, (No. 45,) of the different Refrangibility of the rays of light, (No. 46,) of the growth of Trees, (No. 48,) of the Process of Evaporation, (No. 57,) of the Lever, (No. 65,) his observations on Sound, (No. 66,) on Elasticity, (No. 70,) on the tendency of winds from the coast to bring rain, (No. 75,) and on the cause of Colours, (No. 81.)
* Sce Appendix, 1.
+ The Leyden jar was invented in 1745.
Every part of the work will be found to evince a mind, wholly original and inventive in its observations, and discoveries, in all the kingdoms of Nature; and will lead to the conviction that, had his life been devoted to these pursuits, in a country where he could at once have availed himself of the discoveries of others, and, the necessary instruments, he would have met with no ordinary success, in extending the bounds of human knowledge, in the most important and interesting fields of Physical Science. But higher objects of contemplation, and investigations of a more elevated nature, now demanded his attention; and, in devoting to these his whole intellectual and moral strength, he found a pleasure, which he would not have derived from the proudest triumphs of Philosophical discovery.
Early Religious Productions.—“Miscellanies.”—“Notes on the
Scriptures.”—Early Religious Impressions.— His Personal
We have already had occasion to intimate, that, although while a member of College, Edwards paid a most assiduous and successful attention to his assigned duties; and particularly, as we have just seen, to the study of Mental, and of Physical, Philosophy; yet he still found time for pursuits of a more elevated and spiritual character. His whole education from early infancy, and the counsels of his parents, as well as his own feelings, prompted him to these pursuits. To read the Bible daily, and to read it, in connexion with other religious books, diligently and attentively on the Sabbath, was made in the earlier days of New England, the regular and habitual duty of every child ; and his father's family, though not inattentive to the due cultivation of mind and manners, had lost none of the strictness or conscientiousness, which characterized the Pilgrims. The books, which he found in his father's library, the conversation of clergymen often resorting to the house, the custom of the times, as well as the more immediate influence of parental instruction and example, naturally prompted a mind, like his, to the early contemplation, and investigation, of many of the principles and truths of Theology. He had also witnessed in his father's congregation, before his admission to College, several extensive Revivals of Religion; and in two of them, the impressions made on his own mind had been unusually deep and solemn. The Name, familiarly given by the plain people of this country to these events,—"A Religious Attention,” and “A General Attention to Religion,”-indicates their nature; and those personally acquainted with them need not to be informed, that during their progress, the great truths of Religion, as taught in the Scriptures, and as explained in the writings of Theologians, become the objects of general and intense interest, and of close practical study; or that the knowledge, acquired by a whole people at such a time, in a conparatively little period, often exceeds the acquisitions of many previous years. With all these things in view, it is not surprizing therefore, that, to these two kinds of reading, he devoted himself early, with great diligence and with great success.
Two of his early “ Resolutions" relate to this subject:
“Resolved, When I think of any Theorem in Divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder.”
“Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.”
On the 8th of June, 1723, he also proposes, whenever he finds himself in a dull listless frame, to read over his own Remarks and Reflections of a Religious nature, in order to quicken him in his duty.
These Resolutions plainly evince what must have been, for a considerable period, the habit of his mind, with regard to both subjects; and the manner, in which he speaks of his “Remarks and Reflexions” on the subject of Religion, indicates that, at that time, they were considerably numerous.
They were so in fact. The first manuscript of his “ Miscellanies” is in folio, and consists of forty-four sheets of foolscap, written separately, and stitched together like the leaves of a folio book that is bound. When he began the work, he had obviously no suspicion of the size to which it was to grow, nor had he formed his ultimate plan of arrangement.
He headed his first article, “Of holiness;" and having finished it, and drawn a line of separation across the page, he commenced the second, “Of Christ's mediation and satisfaction.” The same is done with the third and fourth. The fifth he writes, without a line of separation, in larger letters, “Spiritual Happiness.” After that, the subject of each new article is printed, or written, in larger letters. His first article was written on the second page of a loose sheet of paper; and having written over the second, third, and fourth pages, he went back to the first. He began to number his articles by the letters of the Alphabet, a, b, c; and having gone through, he commenced with a double Alphabet, aa, bb, cc; when this was finished, finding his work enlarge, he took the regular numbers, 1, 2, 3, &c. and this plan, both as to subjects and numbers, is afterwards continued. · The beginning of the work is written in a remarkably small* round hand, nearly the same with that in which his earliest productions are written. This extends through about the first 150 articles, and is soon after perceptibly changed, into a hand somewhat more formed and flowing. These appear, obviously, to have been written during the last years of his College life, and the two years of his residence at College, as Bachelor of Arts. Large Extracts from this work will be found in the ensuing volumes, and a num
* The first five sheets contain from 105 to 115 lines on a page ; each line av. eraging 30 words. As his hand changed, he gradually diminished the number uf lines on a page to about 60.
ber of them from the earlier articles. Such are the Miscellaneous Observations, and the Miscellaneous Remarks, in the Seventh volume, and the Miscellanies in the Ninth. In these, will be found many of his most original and most profound thoughts, and discussions, on theological subjects.
His regular and diligent study of the Sacred Scriptures, led him early to discover, that they opened before him an almost boundless field of investigation and enquiry. Some passages, he found to be incorrectly rendered; many were very obscure, and difficult of explanation; in many, there were apparent inconsistencies and contradictions; many had been long employed, as proofs of doctrines and principles, to which they had no possible reference; the words and phrases, as well as the sentiments and narratives, of one part, he saw illustrated, and interpreted those of another. The Old Testament in its language, history, doctrines and worship, in its allusions to manners and customs, in its prophecies, types and images, he perceived to be introductory and explanatory of the New; while the New, by presenting the full completion of the whole plan and design of their common Author, unfolded the real drift and bearing of every part of the Old. Regarding the sacred volume with the highest veneration, he appears to have resolved, while a member of college, that he would, as far as possible, possess himself, in every part of it which he read, of the true meaning of its Author. With this view he commenced his NoTES ON THE SCRIPTURES; obviously making it his standing rule, To study every passage which he read, which presented the least difficulty to his own mind, or which he had known to be regarded as diftieult by others, until such difficulty was satisfactorily removed. The result of his investigations, he regularly, and at the time, committed to writing: at first, in separate half sheets, folded in 4to; but having found the inconvenience of this, in his other juvenile writings, he soon formed small pamphlets of sheets, which were ultimately made into volumes. A few of the articles, to the number of about 50, appear to have been written while he was in college; the rest, while preparing for the ministry, and during his subsequent life. That he had no suspicion when he began, of the size to which the work would grow, is obvious; and whether he afterwards formed the design of publishing it, as an Illustration of the more difficult and obscure passages of the Bible, perhaps cannot be determined with certainty. A few of the articles of an historical or mythological nature, are marked as quotations from the writings of others,* and are omitted in the present edition of his works. The reader, after perusing the work, will be satisfied that they are
* With the exceptions of the articles here referred to, the reader will find, in the Ninth volume, the whole series of the “ Notes on the Scriptures,” arranger in scriptural order, with the original numbers of each article retained: VOLL