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1748. The third daughter was Mrs. Burr. The youngest daughter, Elizabeth, died soon after her parents.
The Trustees of the College erected a marble monument, over the grave of Mr. Edwards, which has the following inscription:
Collegii Novæ Cæsariæ Præsidis.
A. D. MDCCIII, s. V.
Collegio Yalensi educatus;
Defunctus in hoc Vico xxi Martii sequentis, 8. N.
Ætatis LV, heu nimis brevis!
Hic jacet mortalis pars.
Vir Corpore procero, sed gracili,
Secundus Nemini Mortalium.
Ut vix alter æqualis; Disputator candidus ;
Ast aliis æquus et benignus.
At, co recepto, gaudet
* See Appendix K.
Concluding Remarks. The writer of the preceding pages regrets, at least as sincerely as any of his readers, that the collection of facts, which they contain, is not more full and complete; yet, in consequence of the long interval, which has elapsed since the death of President Edwards, they are all, which, after much time, and labour and travel, he has been able to discover. Such as they are, they constitute, with his writings, the body of materials, from which we are to form our estimate of his character, as an intelligent and moral being.
In reviewing them, it is delightful to remember, in the outset, that, so far as the human eye could judge, the individuals of both the families from which he derived his descent, were, as far back as we can trace them, distinguished for their piety. Each married pair, in both lines, with that care and conscientiousness, which so generally marked the Pilgrims of New England, and their Puritan ancestors, trained
their children in the fear of God; and continued, through life, to supplicate daily the Divine favour, on them and their descendents, in all succeeding generations. Their prayers, ascending separately and successively indeed, were yet embodied in their influence, and from Him, who showeth mercy to thousands of generations of them that love him, and keep his commandments," called down concentrated blessings on their common offspring. So full, so rich, were these blessings, as bestowed on the subject of this memoir, that, perhaps, no one example on record furnishes a stronger encouragement to parents, to wrestle with God for the holiness and the salvation of their posterity.
It was owing to the moral influence thus exerted, and to the Divine favour thus secured, that, when we review the childhood and youth of Mr. Edwards, we find them not only passing with out a stain upon his memory, but marked by a purity and excel lence, rarely witnessed at so early a period of life. The religious impressions, made upon his mind in childhood, were certainly frequent, deep, and of long continuance, and had a powerful effect upon his ultimate character; yet the estimate, formed of their real nature by different persons, will probably be different. His own estimate of them was, unquestionably, that they were not the result of real religion.
The circumstances, which led him to this conclusion, were these
two :—First, That, after he had cherished the hope of his own conversion, for a considerable period, and had experienced a high degree of joy, in what he regarded as communion with God, he lost imperceptibly this spirituality of mind, relinquished for a season the “constant performance” of the practice of secret prayer, and cherished many affections of a worldly and sinful character: Secondly, That, when he recovered from this state of declension, his views of divine truth, particularly those connected with the Sovereignty of God, were in many respects new, and far more clear and delightful, than any which he had previously formed.
Without calling in question the fact, that a given individual has, on some accounts, decidedly sụperior advantages for judging of his own christian character, than others enjoy ; and without presuming to decide on the correctness of the estimate, thus formed by Mr. Edwards; it may not be improper to state various circumstances, which lead me to suspect, that it may perhaps have been erroneous: 1. The declension, of which he complains, appears to have been chiefly, or wholly, a declension in the state of the affections. 2. Those impressions began, when he was seven or eight years of age, and were so powerful and lasting, as to render religion the great object of attention, for a number of years. As made on the mind of such a child, they were very remarkable, even if we suppose them to have resulted in piety. 3. The season of his declension commenced soon after his admission to college, when he was twelve years of age. That a truly pious child, in consequence
, of leaving his early religious connections and associations, and especially the altar and the incense of the parental sanctuary, of removing to a new place of residence, of entering on a new course of life, of forming new acquaintances and attachments, of feeling the strong attractions of study, and the powerful incentives of ambition, and of being exposed to the new and untried temptations of a public seminary ; should, for a season, so far decline from his previous spirituality, as to lose all hope of his own conversion, is so far from being a surprizing event, that, in ordinary cases, it is perhaps to be expected. Piety, at its commencement in the mind, is usually feeble ; and especially is it so, in the mind of a child. How often are similar declensions witnessed, even at a later age. Yet the subject of such backsliding, though, during its continuance, he may well renounce the hope of his conversion, does not usually regard the period of his recovery, as the commencement of his christian life.-4. He had not, at this period, made a public profession of religion; and, of course, was not restrained from such declension by his own covenant, by communion with christians, or by the consciousness, that, as a visible christian, his faults were subjected to the inspection and the censure of the surrounding world. 5. Though charitable in judging others, he was at least equally severe in judging himself. 6. He appears, at a very early period, to have Vol. I.
formed views of the purity of the christian character-of the degree of freedom from sin, and of the degree of actual holiness, requisite to justify the 'hope of conversion—altogether more elevated in their nature, than the truth will warrant. 7. That his views of divine truth-particularly of the Sovereignty of God-should have opened, after the age of twelve, with so much greater clearness and beauty, as to appear wholly new, was to have been expected from the nature of the case. 8. At a subsequent period, when his mind was incessantly occupied by the unusual perplexities of his tutorship, he complained of a similar declension. 9. The purity, strength and comprehensiveness, of his piety, as exhibited immediately after his public profession of christianity, was so much superior to what is frequently witnessed, in christians of an advanced standing, as almost to force upon us the conviction that it commenced,—not a few months before, at the time of his supposed conversion, but—at a much earlier period of life. Rare indeed is the fact, that holiness is not, at its commencement in the soul, “ as a grain of mustard-seed, which is the least of all seeds;" and though in the rapidity of its growth, it differs widely in different soils, yet time is indispensably necessary, before its fruits can cover the full-grown plant, like the clusters on the vine.-These considerations, and particularly the last, have led me to believe, that the early religious impressions of Mr. Edwards are to be regarded, as having been the result of a gracious operation of the Spirit of God, upon his heart.
Under this happy influence, exerted in childhood, his character was formed. It prompted him then to study the Scriptures, to love prayer, to sanctify the sabbath, and to pay an unusual attention to the duties of religion. It inspired him with reverence towards God, and made him afraid to sin. It rendered him conscientious in the performance of every relative duty, in manifesting love and gratitude, honour and obedience, towards his parents, kindness and courteousness towards his sisters, and the other companions of his childhood, respect and deference to his superiors, and good will to all around him. It led him also, at a very early period, to overcome that aversion to mental labour, which is so natural to man, and to devote himself with exemplary assiduity to the great duty, daily assigned him, of storing his mind with useful knowledge. Some of our readers, we are aware, may perhaps regard the recollections of his earlier years, as of little importance ; but those, who cherish common sympathies, with the whole body of evangelical christians, in the deep interest which they feel in his character and efforts, and who reflect, that the foundation of that character and of those efforts was then laid, will require of us no apology for thus exhibiting the comparative innocence and purity, the docility and amiableness, the tenderness of conscience, the exemplary industry, and the ar
dent thirst for knowledge, which characterized this vernal season of his life.
The developement of mental superiority, in the childhood and youth of Mr. Edwards, was certainly uncommon, if not singular. Boys of the age of eleven and twelve, even when receiving every aid from their parents and instructors, and when feeling the influence of all the motives, which they can present, are usually unwil.. ling, in any branch of natural science, to examine, so as thoroughly to comprehend, the discoveries and investigations of others. Still more unwilling are they to make this examination, when no such aid is furnished, and no such inducements are presented. But rare indeed is the instance, in which the attention of such a boy has been so far arrested, by any of the interesting phenomena, in either of the kingdoms of nature, that he has been led, without prompting, and without aid, to pursue a series of exact observations and discoveries, as to the facts themselves; to search out their causes; and, as the result of the whole, to draw up and present a lucid, systematic and well digested, report of his investigations.-The examination of the character and habits of the Wood-spider, made of his own accord by Edwards, at the age specified, and pursued through a long series of observations and deductions, evinces a power of attention, and an accuracy of conclusion, which would have qualified him at that time, if possessed of the proper instruments and specimens, for almost any investigations of Natural History. The Report of it, also, if we except the childishness of some of its phraseology, which, indeed, only adds to its interest, is as well arranged and luminous, as the well-written papers, which
, we now find in the Journals of Science. Perhaps it may be questioned, whether higher evidence of a mature and manly mind, in so young a child, has hitherto been presented to the world.
After the lapse of a little more than a year, just as he attained the age of fourteen, we find him entering on pursuits of a still higher character. Few boys of that age have sufficient strength of intellect, to comprehend the Essay on the Human UNDERSTANDING. Of those who have, but a small proportion can be persuaded to read it; and a much smaller, still, are found to read it voluntarily, and of choice. We find Edwards, however, at this period of life, not only entering on this work, of his own accord, and with deep interest, but at once relinquishing every other pursuit
, that he may devote himself wholly to the philosophy of the mind; and, to use his own language, “ enjoying a far higher pleasure in the perusal of its pages, than the most greedy miser finds, when gathering up handfuls of silver and gold, from some newly discovered treasure.” Nor is this all. While reading the work of Locke, he presents himself before us, not as a pupil
, nor simply as a critic; but in the higher character of an investigator, exploring for himself the universe of minds, and making new and interesting discoveries. For