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would just observe that we cannot be arises, in the first place, from the expected to give extracts from the vol- strength and conclusiveness of his umes before us, to illustrate or con- reasoning. He has given to metafirm the opinions we have advanced. physical investigations, as much of To do this, would require that we demonstration as they seem capable should present the whole of his works of receiving. The great source of to our readers, instead of simply re- error in reasoning on moral and metviewing them.
aphysical subjects, is the unsettled The most excellent, if not the most and variable signification of terms, striking trait in the character of Ed- which insensibly changes as the wriwards as a controversialist, is his integ- ter advances, and gives the form of rity. He is a perfectly fair disputant. demonstration to conclusions which Those who have been most opposed are erroneous and even absurd. This to his conclusions, and have most difficulty was fully pointed out by powerfully felt the force of his argu- Locke and others, but no writer has ments, have not dared to call them been able more completely to avoid sophistical. The fact is, he had such a it than President Edwards. Having confidence in the truth of his positions, clearly fixed in his mind, and limited and in his ability to defend them by fair by definitions, the meaning of the means, that he would have despised principal terms in the beginning of sophistry even if it could have occur- a dispute, he steadily keeps it in bis red to him. But he would not have mind, and with wonderful quickness consented to use it, had he felt a want detects the first and least deviation of sound arguments. His principles from it in the reasonings of others. would not have permitted him. His A second cause of the unansweraain in all investigations was the dis- ble character of his reasonings, is that covery of truth, and he followed the he usually follows several distinct train of reasoning prepared to adopt trains of argument, which all termithe legitimate result, whether agreea- nate in the same conclusion. Each ble or repugnant to his previous opin- of them is satisfactory-one will make ions.
a deeper impression on one mind, and Another characteristic
of his rea- another on another; but the union of soning powers, is originality or inven- them all, coinmencing at different tion in discovering new media of points but arriving at the same conproof, and new methods of discover- clusion, cannot fail to impress every ing truth. In this kind of originality mind that is aware of the unity there he was peculiarly distinguished. His is in truth, and of the inconceivable son of the same name, has been thought . variance there is between all truth by some even to excel his father, in and error. connecting the premises of an argu- A third cause of the unanswerable ment with the conclusion, in a man- character of iis reasonings is, that he ner approaching to demonstration; has himself anticipated and effectual but he is universally acknowledged to ly answered, not only all the objecbe inferior in the original and inven- tions which had actually been made tive genius which so peculiarly distin- to his conclusions, but all that it guished the father.
seemed possible to make. These he But that quality in his controversial places in the fairest, strongest lights, writings which has most universally views them under every shape which established the character of Edwards, they can assume in the hands of an is the unanswerable nature of his argu- evasive antagonist, and shews that in ments. He seems to have so entire- every possible form they are inconly exhausted a subject, as to leave no clusive. These several qualities of room for addition or reply.
his reasoning, never appear in greater The impossibility of answering perfection than when he attacks the his writings on controversial subjects, opinions of his adversaries.
ming these as premises, he with great completely, that a practice, which was ingenuity shews that they lead to ack- once almost universal, now scarcely powledged absurdity. He demon- finds among the ministers of the de strates that his opponents are incon- nomination to which he belonged, a sistent with themselves, as well as single advocate. with truth, and common sense, and His essay on the will, needs only is hardly satisfied with shewing their be mentioned, to suggest its effect incorrectness, until he has exposed to any person acquainted with relitheir error to contempt and ridicule. gious controversy. It is a standing
It is often said, that the writings of monument of the triumph of truth, Edwards, are diffuse and tedious. and of the shame, defeat and disThis, in a qualified sense, must be ad- grace of her opposers. Frango me mitted, and yet it is owing to the same frangentes, may be inscribed upot causes which render him unanswer- it, upon any work of merely huable. We who have been convinced, man effort. It is indeed a rock in the and have had our doubts all removed sea of contest, which breaks the by his reasonings, requite him with billows, that endeavour in vain to our complaints, that he says more shake it. than is necessary to shew us the truth. The same cannot be said of the But let us go back to the time when treatise on original sin, though perevery inch of ground was disputed on haps not less conclusive in its reasouthese topics, when a general obscuri- ings. The subject did not admit of ty hung over them, let us mark how the same kind of argument, and it by his writings doubts and darkness was, moreover, principally an alwere dissipated, and opposition si- tempt to overthrow the
hypothesis of lenced, and we shall cease to regret a particular author. That he comthe existence of those qualities which pletely succeeded in this attempt, cansecured so signal a victory, and which not be doubted by any one who exam. have rendered his works a strong ines the controversy. If indeed report hold of arguments, to which the enqui. be true, it was virtually confessed, in rer may repair for satisfaction, and a melancholy manner by Taylor him. the young combatant for weapons of self. He had indiscreetly boasted, tried temper, with which to defend in his great work, that it never would the truth. In this Achillean armor be answered. The answer was so he may go fearless to the conflict, complete, that it admitted of no apolconfident that no instrument of error ogy.
His chagrin, his disappointcan have power to reach bim. ment, his unceasing efforts to find
The three great controversial works, some hold or subterfuge to proare, On qualifications for commun- long the controversy, was said to have jon; On the freedom of the will; shortened his days. Whether it was and on original sin. We had flatter- literally true, that 'bis grasp was ed ourselves that we should be able death,' we cannot say, but at least, it either to give a concise view of the was death to controversy. arguments in each, or at least to ex- But we wish to fix the attention of tract some particular argument, to our readers upon the moral character confirm the remarks we have ventur- of our author's controversial writings, ed to make on his character as a con- as that in which he can be more extroversialist. But his reasonings can- tensively imitated, than in the exernot be condensed, or extracted, with- tion of mental power exhibited in in the limits of this article, without them. By their moral character, we serious injury. It is sufficient to re- mean, the christian spirit in which fer to the effects of each of the pub- they are written, the fairness with lications. The first has been instru- which he proposes the real point in mental of changing the opinion and dispute, the candour with which be practice of the clergy in this State, so examines the arguments of liis oppo
uents, the force with which he states Sumbly conceive, a distinction ought to be their objections, and even suggests
made between opposing and exposing a others, which perhaps had escaped and reproaching persons. He is a weak
cause, or the arguments used to defend it, them, the scrupulous avoidance of all writer indeed, who undertakes to confute personality in his controversies, and an opinion, but dares not expose the nakof course, of all abuse and unjust in- edness and absurdity of it, nor the weak
ness nor inconsistence of the methods tasinuation, by which he gives them no
ken and arguments used by any to mainopportunity of evading the point in tain it, for fear he should be guilty of speakdispute, but compels them to meeting evil of those things, and be charged him in the open field of contro- with reproaching them. If an antagonist versy, and to grapple with the plainers too much occasion of suspicion to
is angry at this, be thereby gives his readarguments by which he would estab- wards himself
, as chargeable with weaklish the truth. In order justly to es- ness, or bitterness. timate the degree in which Edwards I therefore now give notice, that I have
taken full liberty in this respect : only is distinguished, for these qualities, it endeavouring to avoid pointed and exagis necessary to consider that the great- gerating expressions. if to set forth what er part of his writings is controver- 1 suppose to be the true absurdity of Mr. sial, that he selected for controversy
Williams's scheme, or any part of it, that it those truths which unavoidably awa
may be viewed justly in all its nakedness;
withal observing the weakness of tbe deken the most bitter opposition in the fence he bas made, not fearing to shew human heart, and maintained them in wherein it is weak, and how the badness a manner wholly unanswerable, and of his cause obliges him to be inconsistent
with himself, inconsistent with his own yet at this day no judicious dispu- professed principles in religion, and things tapt would dare to attack them in his conceded and asserted by him in the book manner of reasoning, or to shift the especially under consideration; and decontroversy from the arguments to claring particularly wherein I think his the author. If he should, his efforts question, or being impertinent and beside
arguments fail, whether it be in begging the would rebound upon himself.
the question, or arguing in effect against One of his antagonists, however, himself ; also observing wherein Mr. Willwhile he was living in attempting an
iams has made misrepresentations of words answer to his first controversial public reproacbing him, and injurious treatment
or things; I say, if to do these things be cation, attacked the author in person, or him, then I have injured him. But I and misrepresented his opinions, his think I should be foolish, if I were afraid
to do tbal (and to do it as thoroughly as I arguments, and his motives, and added abuse of a nature still more per- ting, if I write at all in opposition to his
can) which must be the design of my wrisonal. We cannot regret the event, tenets, and to the defence he makes of as it afforded our author an opportu
them. any of at once stating and exempli- order to make it appear in the worst col
Indeed if I misrepresent what he says, in fying, under trying circumstances, the ors; altering his words to another sense, rules which he prescribed to him to make them appear more ridiculous; or sell in all his controversial publica. adding other words, to heighten the suptions. As we do not recollect to
posed absurdity, and give me greater ad
vantage to esclaim; if I set myself to ag. have seen the principles of christian gravate matters, and strain tbem beyond controversy more correctly stated, bounds, making mighty things of mere triwe extract the whole passage.
fles; or if I use exclamations and invec
tives, instead of arguments; then Mr. Since I have been so repeatedly char. Williams might have just cause to comed by Mr. Williams, with indecent and plain and the reader would bave just reainjurious treatment of Mr. Stoddard, son for disgust. But whether I have done (whom doubtless I ought to treat with so or not, must be judged by the reader; mech respect) I may expect from what of whom I desire nothing more than the appears of Mr. Williams's disposition this most impartial and exact consideration of way, to be charged with ill treatment of the merits of the cause, and examination him too. I desire iberefore that it may be of the force and weight of every argument. justly considered by the reader, what is I desire, that no bitter reproachful inand wbat is not, injurious or unhandsome vectives, no vebement exclamations, no treatment of an autbor in a controversy supercilious assuming words and phrases And bere I would crase leave to say, that may be taken for reasoning on either side.
If the reader thinks he finds any such in a union of excellencies is seen in any what I have written, I am willing be person, it never fails to impress us should set them aside as nothing worth ; carefully distinguishing between them with the real greatness of his characand the strength of the argument. I de. ter. He must possess unusual pow. sire not
, that ihe cause should be judged ers, or make an unusual application of by the skill which either Mr. Williams
of them, who arrives to that eminor I do manifest, in flinging one at another.
If in places where the argument pinches ence, in different pursuits, which few most, and there is the greatest appearance
are able to attain, by applying of strong reason, in Mr. Williams's book, all their talents and efforts to a I do (as some other disputants) instead of
single object. Such a man, stands entering thoroughly into the matter, begin to Rounce and fing, and go about to divert at the head of the first class of bis and drown the reader's attention to the species, and this honour, to a degree, argument, by the noise of big words, or certainly belongs to Edwards. Ma. let ihe reader take it (as justly he inay) for ny have, like him, been distinguished a shrewd sign of a consciousness of the
for the extent and accuracy of their reweakness of my cause in that particular, ligious knowledge, many also, though or at least of a distrust of my own ability not like him, have been distinguished to defend myselt well in the reader's ap. prehension, and to come off with a good among the ranks of controversial wrigrace any other way.--Vol.I. pp. 339–340. ters, and able defenders of the faith
once delivered to the saints; many To these rules he most conscien- also have been eminently powerin! riously adhered in all his controver- and successful preachers of the gossial writings. He has indeed been pel-and many, faithful, and useful charged with sometimes treating an pastors over the flock of Christ-but adversary with needless severity, but jew like him, have united all these it is to be remembered that he felt characters in the same person. His himself justified in exposing the fal- character as a theologian, and a conlacy of his opponents' arguments, the troversialist, we have already considimpertinence of his objections, the ered, his character as a laborious and absurdity of his conclusions and the faithful minister of Christ, and espe. inconsistency of his whole system. cially as a powerful and successful To accomplish this to the utmost, we preacher, may be seen in the history may well suppose that in the exertions of his life, and of the time in which of his gigantic pen, he ofteu handled his he lived.' His extensive reputation weaker antagonist with a severity not was formed, by his preaching and his absolutely necessary, and of which pastoral labours. Most of his labourperhaps he was not wholly conscious. ed productions were published after It must be remembered also that he
his death, and the others but just bewas anxious not only to prostrate er- fore; but long ere this, his fame as a ror, but to give it a death stroke, that preacher and minister of Christ exit might never rise again, and the tended over New-England, and was proof of his good intentions, in all ca- known in Great Britain. Whitefield ses, is, that he never aimed a blow at made a journey to visit him, when he his antagonist in bis character as a first came into this country; he was osman, but solely as a supporter and ten invited to great distances to preach, promulgator of error. Could the and these occasional sermons, somesame abilities, and the same spirit be times produced a wonderful effect. often united in the defence of truth, Men are now living, who heard bim it might be safely predicted, that the in their youth, and who still distinctly time would soon cone, when contro remember the powerful impressions versy would not be necessary in the left on their minds, by his preaching, christian world.
and even particularly describe his apIt rarely happens to the same man pearance in the pulpit, the still, up moto be greatly distinguished in differ- ved solemnity of his manner, the ent pursuits. When, however, such weight of his seutimeuts, first fixing the attention, and then overwhelm- red in it, its importance, its design, ing the feelings of his audience. In use, &c. his own congregation, the visible ef- The most striking peculiarity, in fects of his preaching and ministerial this part of his sermons is its descriplabours, were such as had then never tive character. He places the truth, been parallelled in New-England. His on which he is discoursing, directly whole congregation was at different before the mind, as a fact, and paints times under the strongest religious it to the imagination of his hearers. impressions, and great numbers were The doctrines of the Bible in his added to his church.
hands, are not abstract propositions, The general structure of his ser- but interesting realities, distinctly apmous, in all his printed discourses at prehended by the author's faith, and least, is unusually uniform. On the expressed with so much minuteness, manner in which each part is execu- simplicity, and earnestness, as can ted, we hazard a few remarks. In scarcely fail to make his hearers feel the introduction, which invariably the same conviction of them which exconsists of an explanation of the pas- ists in his own mind. The doctrine sage, selected as a text, he manifests of the future punishment of the wickunusual ability. To catch distinctly ed, for instance, which, in different and completely the views of the sa- views of it, is a frequent subject of cred penman in any particular pas- his discourses, is not once proved by a sage, and to exhibit them so as to pro- long course of argumentation, but is duce entire conviction in the hearer, assumed, as the simple declaration is at once a difficult and important of the text, and perhaps of a few separt of a preacher's business. We lect, parallel passages, and is theo decan safely say, that we never read scribed as a fact which every impenithe discourses of an author who ac- tent sinner will one day know. He complished this delicate task more seems always to suppose that it will sucessfully than President Edwards. be effected by means of fire, literally The language of his explanations is applied to the body after the resurnot remarkably clear, and never ele- rection, and when described in his full, gant, but the justness of his thoughts, distinct, and vivid manner, it is a pichis simple and unbiassed love of truth, ture which almost shocks while it the sagacity to discover it and the overwhelms the imagination. In a comprehensive grasp of mind, which similar manner, the doctrine of the seizes at once the whole train of an depravity of man, is exhibited in a author's meaning, will astonish any description of the actual wickedness one acquainted with the difficulty of of life, and corruption of heart, as the undertaking, and with the imper- they exist among men. So the virfect and even careless manner in tues and graces of the real christian, which it is executed by too many are sketched as a picture of his own preachers.
emotions and exercises, corrected by The doctrine which is immediately the descriptions of God's word. The deduced from the explanation of the labored proof of the different doctrines text, is followed by that which is some of the gospel, the comparison of a times termed the body of the sermon. vast number of distinct passages This however does not consist, in our from the scriptures, by which they author's discourses, as in those of are established, together with their some others, in an elaborate proof mutual connection and dependence, from revelation and reason of the as seen by reason, which so strongly truth stated in the doctrine, but of characterize some of his productions, several parts, such as an explanation wholly disappear in these discourses. of the doctrine or a description if we The result of such a mental process may so express it of the fact decla- is what he here presents to his hear
Vol. 3.-No. VI. 39