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His being chosen President of Newjersey College.
WHILE at Stockbridge, Mr. Edwards appears to have given full scope to his propensities and genius, stimulated by his ardent love of truth, and under the control of a correct judgment. While at Northampton his avocations were unavoidably numerous, and scarcely compatible with a profound attention to subjects he might be disposed to investigate ; but at Stockbridge he found himself more at liberty in that respect. After having been so long in the ministry elsewhere, his pulpit preparations would require less time than before.... His studies were less interrupted by company and calls..... Former anxieties were now removed ; his mind was drawn more closely to God, from his past experience of the fickleDess of men ; and thereby his mind became more composed, more enlightened, and more elevated. Here he was led to investigate subjects of radical importance in morals and theol. ogy, and to trace them to their first principles. And here he published his master piece of inquiry and close reasoning, his Treatise on the Will, which completely established his character as an adept in metaphysical science, and a profound divine. The celebrity he obtained by this work, and very deservedly obtained, had, doubtless, no small influence on the trustees of Newjersey College, among other considerations, in looking to Mr. Edwards to become their President, on the death of Mr. Burr, his son in law.
The Rev. Aaron Burr, President of Newjersey college, died on the 24th of Sept. 1757 ; and, at the next meeting of the trustees, Mr. Edwards was chosen his successor ; the news of which was quite unexpected, and not a little surprising to him. He looked on himself in many respects so unqualified for that business, that he wondered that gentlemen of so good judgment, and so well acquainted with him, as he knew some of the trustees were, should think of him for that place. He
had many objections in his own mind against undertaking the business, both from his unfitness, and his particular circumstances ; yet could not certainly determine that it was not his duty to accept it. The following extract of a letter which he wrote to the trustees, will give the reader a view of his senti. ments and exercises on this occasion, as well as of the great designs he was deeply engaged in, and zealously prosecuting.
Stockbridge, 19th October, 1757. REV. AND Hon. GENTLEMEN,
“ I WAS not a little surprised on receiving the unexpected notice of your having made choice of me to succeed the late President Burr, as the head of Nassau Hall. I am much in doubt whether I am called to undertake the business, which you have done me the unmerited honor to choose me for. If some regard may be had to my outward comfort, I might mention the many inconveniencies and great detriment which may be sustained, by my removing with my numerous family, so far from all the estate I have in the world (without any prospect of disposing of it, under present circumstances, but with great loss) now when we have scarcely got over the trouble and damage sustained by our removal from Northampton, and have just begun to have our affairs in a comfortable situation for a subsistence in this place ; and the expense I must immediately be at to put myself into circumstances tolerably comporting with the needful support of the honor of the office I am invited to; which will not well consist with my ability.
But this is not my main objection : The chief difficulties in my mind, in the way of accepting this important and arduous office, are these two : First my own defects, unfitting me for such an undertaking, many of which are generally known; besides other, which my own heart is conscious of. I have a constitution, in many respects peculiarly unhappy, attended with flaccid solids ; vapid, sizy and scarce fluids, and a low
; tide of spirits ; often occasioning a kind of childish weakness and contemptibleness of speech, presence, and demeanor ; with a disagreeable dulness and stiffness, much unfitting me
for conversation, but more especially for the government of a college. This makes me shrink at the thoughts of taking upon me, in the decline of life, such a new and great business, attended with such a multiplicity of cares, and requiring such a degree of activity, alertness, and spirit of government ; especially as succeeding one so remarkably well qualified in these respects, giving occasion to every one to remark the wide difference. I am also deficient in some parts of learning, particularly in algebra, and the higher parts of mathematics, and in the Greek classics ; my Greek learning having been chiefly in the New Testament. The other thing is this; that my engaging in this business will not well consist with those views, and that course of employ in my study, which have long engaged and swallowed up my mind, and been the chief entertainment and delight of my life.
And here, honored Sirs, (emboldened, by the testimony I have now received of your unmerited esteem, to rely on your capdor) I will with freedom open myself to you.
My method of study, from my first beginning the work of the ministry, has been very much by writing ; applying myself in this way, to improve every important hint ; pursuing the clue to my utmost, when any thing in reading, meditation, or conversation, has been suggesed to my mind, that seemed to promise light, in any weighty point ; thus penning what appeared to me my best thoughts, on innumerable subjects for my own benefit. The longer I prosecuted my studies in this method, the more habitual it became, and the more pleasant and profitable I found it. The further I travelled in this way, the more and wider the field opened, which has occasioned my laying out many things in my mind to do in this manner, if God should spare my life, which my heart hath been much upon: Particularly many things against most of the prevailing errors of the present day, which I cannot with any patience see maintained (to the utter subverting of the gospel of Christ) with so high a hand, and so long continued a triumph, with so little control, when it appears so evident to me, that there is truly no foundation for any of this glorying and insult. I have already published something on one of the main
points in dispute between the Arminians and Calvinists; and have it in view, God willing (as I have already signified to the public) in like manner to consider all the other controverled points, and have done much towards a preparation for it. But besides these, I have had on my mind and heart (which I long ago began, not with any view to publication) a great work, which I call a History of the Work of Redemption, a body of divinity in an entire new method, being thrown into the form of a history ; considering the affair of Christian theology, as the whole of it, in each part, stands in reference to the great work of redemption by Jesus Christ ; which I suppose to be of all others the grand design of God, and the summum and ultimum of all the divine operations and decrees ; particularly considering all parts of the grand scheme in their histor ical order. The order of their existence, or their being brought forth to view, in the course of divine dispensations, or the wonderful series of successive acts and events ; beginning from eternity and descending from thence to the great work and successive dispensations of the infinitely wise God in time, considering the chief events coming to pass in the church of God, and revolutions in the world of mankind, affecting the state of the church and the affair of redemption, which we have account of in history or prophecy ; till at last we come to the general resurrection, last judgment, and consummation of all things ; when it shall be said, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, Concluding my work, with the consideration of that perfect state of things, which shall be finally settled, to last for eternity. This history will be carried on with regard to all three worlds, heaven, earth and hell ; considering the connected successive events and alterations in each, so far as the scriptures give any light ; introducing all parts of divinity in that order which is most scriptural and most natural; a method which appears to me the most beautiful and entertaining, wherein every divine doctrine will appear to greatest advantage, in the brightest light, in the most striking manner, shewing the admirable contexture and harmony of the whole.
I have also for my own profit and entertainment, done much towards another great work which I call the Harmony of the Old and New Testament in three parts. The first considering the prophecies of the Messiah, his redemption and kingdom ; the evidences of their references to the Mess
ah, &c. compar ing them all one with another, demonstrating their agreement, true scope, and sense ; also considering all the various particulars wherein these prophecies have their exact fulfilment; shewing the universal, precise, and admirable corres: pondence between predictions and events. The second part : Considering the types of the Old Testament, shewing the evidence of their being intended as representations of the great things of the gospel of Christ; and the agreement of the type with the antitype. The third and great part, considering the harmony of the Old and New Testament, as to doctrine and precept. In the course of this work, I find there will be occasion for an explanation of a very great part of the holy scripture ;' which may, in such a view, be explained in a method, which to me seems the most entertaining and profitable, best tending to lead the mind to a view of the true spirit, design, life and soul of the scriptures, as well as their proper use and improvement. I have also many other things in hand, in some of which I have made great progress, which I will not trouble you with an account of. Some of these things, if divine providence favor, I should be willing to attempt a publication cf. So far as I myself am able to judge of what talents I have, for benefiting my fellow creatures by word, I think I can write better than I can speak.
My heart is so much in these studies, that I cannot feel willing to put myself into an incapacity to pursue them any more in the future part of my life, to such a degree as I must, if I undertake to go through the same course of employ, in the office of a president, that Mr. Burr did, instructing in all the languages, and taking the whole care of the instruction of one of the classes in all parts of learning, besides his other la. bors. If I should see light to determine me to accept the place offered me, I should be willing to take upon me the work of a president, so far as it consists in the general inspec VOL. I.