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ON IMPORTANT THEOLOGICAL SUBJECTS.
ORIGINAL AND COLLECTED.
PRESIDENT EDWARDS has left many manuscript volumes of observations, on almost all subjects in divinity, which either occurred to him from his own meditation, or from the books be read. He wrote these volumes, not with any design they should ever be published in their present form, but that he might retain thoughts which appeared to him worth preserving, both for his own improvement, and for the instruction and edification of others. The judicious author of the life of this great and good man, gave his opinion, that, from these manuscripts, a number of volumes might be published, which, though more imperfect than if the author had prepared them for public view, would afford much new light and entertainment to the church of Christ. The high and well-merited reputation, not only of the books prepared for the press of the President, but of the sermons published since his death, have occasioned many solicitations to his son, Dr.
Edwards, of Newbaven, to collect and print such part of those manuscripts as might be generally useful. In compliance with these requests, he has not grudged the labour of transcribing this volume of miscellanies, which, if it prove acceptable, will be followed by more, as the Doctor’s health and leisure permit.
Many important and original thoughts occur, on, The evidences of revealed religion-Moral and religious knowledge only from revelation-Christ and his apostles taught not that the last judgment was near-Jesus’s prophecies, a proof that he was the Christ, and that he was God-Propriety of the general judgment-Reasonableness of some particular doctrines-Miracles of Jesus not opposed by counterfeit miracles-Miracles of Jesus superior to those under the Old Testament-Much instruction concisely conveyed by scripture metaphors-Excellencies of scripture history- The Propriety of gradual improvement in understanding the Scriptures-The Propriety of room being left for discovering truth by Scripture consequences-The necessity of divine revelation vindicated-Jesus proved the Christ, from his destroying heathen idolatry according to scripture prophecy-Propagation of Mahometanism not parallel to that of Christianity-State of the Jewish nation, an evidence o revealed religion-Observations on Christ’s miracles. — Equally striking and judicious are many of the reflections on the mysteries of revelation-On the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ-Many therefore, who relish solid reasoning on religious subjects, though not adorned with the beauties of eloquence, will deem themselves much indebted to Dr. Edwards for gathering these fragments, that nothing might be lost.
Some, who have purchased and read Archbishop Tillotson’s sermons, Stapferi Theologia Polemica, Bennet’s Inspiration of the Scriptures, Grotius de Veritate Religionis Christianse, Sir Isaac Newton’s Chronology, Religion of Jesus Delineated, Deism Revealed, and Jones on the Canon, may possibly wish that the large quotations from them had been omitted.
But Dr. Edwards was advised to publish them, as they may prove an antidote to the deistical notions spreading in some parts of America, where these books are in few hands. These passages may lead some to read these books, who otherwise would not have known them. The President’s originality of genius, and attachment to Calvinist principles, did not hinder his seeking and finding instruction in their writings, whose system of theology was very opposite to his. It were well, if in this he was imitated by all who possess distinguished talents, and who boast of liberality of sentiment. JOHN ERSKINE.
Edin. Sept. 30, 1793.
ADVERTISEMENT TO THIS EDITION.
THE judiciousness of the “advice” given to Dr. Edwards, and with which he complied, may be justly questioned, respecting the “large quotations” referred to by Dr. Erskine, as they greatly swelled the publication, and thereby impeded the circulation of the President’s original and very valuable thoughts. However, in the present edition of his works, it would be extremely improper to insert “long quotations” out of Tillotson, Jones on the Canon, etc. indiscriminately, and without abridgment; not only because these authors are so common in England, compared with America, but also because it will be more satisfactory to the biblical student to consult the originals themselves, and to see the arguments in their proper connexion. This equally applies to the series of “Observations,” and to that of the subsequent “Remarks.” The latter of these were before cast into distinct chapters, and the former are now reduced to their proper heads, by which they acquire a more interesting aspect, and from the circumstance of an easy connexion, an additional persuasive force.
It is certain that many of the original “ Observations,” and of the “Remarks on important Theological Controversies,” were inserted in the author’s common-place book prior to the composition of some of his elaborate publications on the same subjects, when his thoughts appear in a more mature state, and in a more connected form. Of course, where the subjects coincided, he would avail himself of the substance of ‘such adversaria’ in those treatises. On these grounds, independent of other considerations — and especially from a due regard to the author’s reputation, which is deservedly high — It is obviously necessary, that a selection more choice and scrupulous be now made. And it may be confidently asserted that these two series, as they now stand, form a very valuable heart of the author’s work.