Page images

out of my hands ; but for peace' sake, and to prevent occasion of strife.” This was answered in the negative. He then proposed that it should be left to a few of the neighboring ministers, whether it was not, all things considered, reasonable that he should be heard in this matter from the pulpit, before the affair should be brought to an issue. But this also passed in the negative.

However, having had the advice of the ministers and mesşengers of the neighboring churches, who met at Northampton to advise them under their difficulties, he proceeded to appoint a lecture in order to preach on the subject, proposing to do so weekly till he had finished what he had to say. On Monday there was a society meeting, in which a vote was passed to choose a committee to go to Mr. Edwards, and desire him not to preach lectures on the subject in controversy, according to his declaration and appointment: Accordingly, a committee of three men, chosen for this purpose, waited on him. However, Mr. Edwards thought proper to proceed according to his proposal, and consequently preached a number of sermons, till he had finished what he had to say on the subject. These lectures were very thinly attended by his own people ; but great numbers of strangers from the neighboring towns attended them, so many as to make above half the congregation. This was in February and March 1750.

The calling of a decisive council to determine the matter of difference was now more particularly attended to on both sides. Mr. Edwards had before this insisted, from time to time, that they were by no means ripe for such a procedure; as they had not yet given him a fair hearing, whereby perhaps the need of such a council would be superseded. He obseryed, “ That it was exceedingly unbecoming to manage religious affairs of the greatest importance, in a ferment and tumult, which ought to be managed, with great solemnity, deep humiliation, submission to the awful frowns of heaven, humble dependence on God, with fervent prayer and supplication to him: That therefore for them to go about such an affair as they did, would be greatly to the dishonor of God and religion ; a way in which a people cannot expect a blessing."

[ocr errors]

Thus having, without effect, used all means to bring them to a calm and charitable temper, he consented that a decisive council should be called without any further delay.

· But a difficulty attended the choice of a council, which was for some time insuperable. It was agreed, that the council should be mutually chosen, one half by the pastor, and the other half by the church : But the people insisted upon it, that he should be confined in his choice to the county. Mr. Edwards thought this an unreasonable restraint, as it was known that the ministers and churches in that county were almost universally against him in the controversy. He indeed did not suppose that the business of the proposed council would be to determine whether his opinion was right or not; but whether any possible way could be devised for an accommodation between pastor and people, and to use their wisdom and endeavor in order to effect it. And if they found this impracticable, they must determine, whether what ought in justice to be done had already actually been attempted, so that there was nothing further to be demanded by either of the parties concerned, before a separation should take place. And if he was dismissed by them, it would be their business to set forth to the world in what manner and for what cause he was dismissed : All which were matters of great importance to him, and required upright and impartial judges. Now considering the great prejudice a difference in religious opinions is apt to beget, and the close connexion of the point in which most of the ministers and churches in the county differed from him, with the matter to be decided, he did not think they could be reasonably looked upon so impartial judges, as that the matter ought to be wholly left to them. Besides he thought the case, being so new and extraordinary, required the ablest judges in the land. For these reasons, and some others which he offered, he insisted upon liberty to go out of the county, for those members of the proposed council in which he was to have a choice. The people strenuously and obstinately opposing him in this, at length agreed to leave the matter to a council, consisting of the ministers and messen, gers of the five neighboring churches ; who, after they had

met twice upon it, and had the case largely debated before them, were equally divided, and therefore left the matter undetermined.

However, they were all agreed, that Mr. Edwards ought to have liberty to go out of the county for some of the council. And at the next church meeting, (the 26th of March) Mr. Edwards offered to join with them in calling a council, if they would consent that he should chuse two of the churches out of the county, in case the council consisted of but ten churches. The church however refused to comply with this at one meeting after another repeatedly ; and proceeded to call a church meeting and choose a moderator, in order to act without their pastor. But, to pass by many particulars, at length, at a meeting of the church, convened by their pastor, May 3d, they voted their consent to his proposal of going out of the county for two of the churches that should be applied to. And then they proceeded to make choice of the ten ministers and churches, of which the council should consist. Accordingly the churches were applied to, and the council was convened on the 19th of June. After they had made some fruit. Jess attempts for a composition between the pastor and church, they passed a resolution by a majority of one voice* only, to the following purpose : “ That it is expedient that the pastoral relation between Mr. Edwards and his church be immediately dissolved, if the people still persist in desiring it.” And it Leing publicly put to the people, whether they still insisted on Mr. Edwards's dismission from the pastoral office over them? A great majority, (above two hundred against twenty) voted for his dismission ; and he was accordingly dismissed, June 22, 1750.

The dissenting part of the council entered their protest against this proceeding, judging that it was too much in a

* One of the churches which Mr. Edwards chose did not see fit to join the council. However, the minister of that church being at Northampton, was desired by Mr. Edwards and the church to sit in council and act, which he did. But there being no messenger from the church, the council was not full, and there was a disparity ; by which means there was one vote more for an immediate dismaission, than against it,

hurry, considering the past conduct and present temper of the people. And some of that part of the council who were for the separation, expressed themselves surprised at the uncommon zeal manifested by the people in their voting for a dismission ; which evidenced to them, and all observing spectators, that they were far from a temper of mind becoming such a solemn and awful transaction, considered in all its circumstances.

Being thus dismissed, he preached his farewell sermon on the 1st of July, from 2 Cor. i. 14. The doctrine he observed from the words was this,“ Ministers and the people that have been under their care, must meet one another before Christ's tribunal, at the day of judgment." It it was a remarkably sol. emn and affecting discourse, and was published at the desire of some of the hearers. After Mr. Edwards was dismissed from Northampton, he preached there occasionally, when they had no other preacher to supply the pulpit ; till at length a great uneasiness was manifested by many of the people, at his preaching there at all. Upon which the committee for supplying the pulpit, called the town together, to know their minds with respect to that matter ; when they voted that it was not agreeable to their minds that he should preach among them. Accordingly, while Mr. Edwards was in the town, and they had no other minister to preach to them, they carried on public worship among themselves.

Every one must be sensible that this was a great trial to Mr. Edwards. He had been nearly twentyfour years among that people ; and his labors had been, to all appearance, from time to time greatly blessed among them: And a great number looked on him as their spiritual father, who had been the happy instrument of turning them from darkness to light, and plucking them as brands out of the burning. And they had from time to time professed that they looked upon it as one of their greatest privileges to have such a minister, and manifested their great love and esteem of him, to such a degree, that, (as St. Paul says of the Galatians) " if it had been possible, they would have plucked out their own eyes, and given them to him.” And they had a great inter

est in his affection : He had borne them on his heart, and carried them in his bosom for many years ; exercising a tender concern and love for them : For their good he was always writing, contriving, laboring ; for them he had poured out ten thousand fervent prayers ; in their good he had rejoiced as one that findeth great spoil ; and they were dear to him above any other people under heaven. Now to have this preofile turn against him, and thrust him out from among them, stopping their ears, and running upon him with furious zeal, not allowing him to defend himself by giving him a fair hearing ; and even refusing so much as to hear him preach ; many of them surmising and publicly speaking many ill things as to his ends and designs ! Surely this must come very near to him, and try his spirit. The words of the psalmist seem applicable to this case, “ It was not an enemy that reproached me, then I could have borne it ; neither was it he that hated me, that did magnify himself against me, then I would have hid myself from him. But it was guide and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company."

Let us therefore, now behold the man !.... The calm sedateness of his mind ; his meekness and humility in great and violent opposition, and injurious treatment; his resolution and steady conduct through all this dark and terrible storm, were truly wonderful, and cannot be set in so beautiful and affecting a light by any description, as they appeared in to his friends, who were eye witnesses.

Mr. Edwards had a numerous and chargeable family, and little or no income, exclusive of his salary; and, considering how far he was advanced in years ; the general disposition of people, who want a minister, to prefer a young man who has never been settled, to one who has been dismissed from his people ; and what misrepresentations were made of his principles through the country, it looked to him not at all probable that he should ever have opportunity to be settled again in the work of the ministry, if he was dismissed from Northampton : And he was not inclined or able to take any other course, or go into any other business to get a living :

« PreviousContinue »