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It has long been desired by the friends of Mr. EDWARDS, that a number of his manuscripts should be published; but the disadvantage under which all posthumous publications must necessarily appear, and the difficulty of getting any considerable work printed in this infant country hitherto, have proved sufficient obstacles to the execution of such a proposal. The first of these obstacles made me doubt for a considerable time after these manuscripts came into my hands, whether I could consistently with that regard which I owe to the honour of so worthy a parent, suffer any of them to appear in the world. However, being diffident of my own sentiments, and doubtful whether I were not over-jealous in this matter, I determined to submit to the opinion of gentlemen, who are friends both to the character of Mr. EDWARDS and to the cause of truth. The consequence was, that they gave their advice for publishing them.
The other obstacle was removed by a gentleman in the Church of Scotland, who was formerly a correspondent of Mr. EDWARDS. He engaged a bookseller to undertake the work, and also signified his desire that these following discourses in particular might be made public.
Mr. EDWARDS had planned a body of divinity, in a new method, and in the form of a history; in which he was first to shew how the most remarkable events in all ages from the fall to the present times, recorded in sacred and profane history, were adapted to promote the work of redemption; and then to trace, by the light of scriptureprophecy, how the same work should be yet further carried on even to the end of the world. His heart was so much set on executing this plan, that he was considerably averse to accept the presidentship of Prince-town college, lest the duties of that office should put it out of his power.
The outlines of that work are now offered to the public, as contained in a series of sermons, preached at Northampton in 1739,* without any view to publication. On that account, the reader cannot reasonably expect all that from them, which he might justly have expected, had they been written with such a view, and prepared by the author's own hand for the press.
*This is necessary to be remembered by the reader, in order to understand some chronological observations in the following work.
As to elegance of composition, which is now esteemed so essential to all publications, it is well known that the author did not make that his chief study. However, his other writings, though destitute of the ornaments of fine language, have it seems solid merit, which has procured both to themselves and to him a considerable reputation in the world, and with many, a high esteem. It is hoped that the reader will find in these discourses many traces of plain good sense, sound reasoning, and thorough knowledge of the sacred oracles, and real unfeigned piety and that, as the plan is new, and many of the sentiments uncommon, they may afford entertainment and improvement to the ingenious, the inquisitive, and the pious reader; may confirm their faith in God's government of the world, in our holy Christian religion in general, and in many of its peculiar doctrines; may assist in studying with greater pleasure and advantage the historical and prophetical books of scripture; and may excite to a conversation becoming the gospel.
That this volume may produce these happy effects in all who shall peruse it, is the hearty desire and prayer of
The reader's most humble servant,
Newhaven, Feb. 25, 1773.
THEY who have a relish for the study of the scriptures, and have access to peruse the following sheets, will, I am persuaded, deem themselves indebted to the Rev. Mr. EDWARDS of Newhaven, for consenting to publish them. Though the acute philosopher and deep divine appears in them, yet they are in the general better calculated for the instruction and improvement of ordinary Christians, than those of President Edwards's writings, where the abstruse nature of the subject, or the subtle objections of opposers of the truth, led him to more abstract and metaphysical reasonings. The manuscript being intrusted to my care, I have not presumed to make any change in the sentiments or composition. I have, however, taken the liberty to reduce it from the form of sermons, which it originally bore, to that of a continued treatise; and I have so altered and diversified the marks of the several divisions and subdivisions, that each class of heads might be easily distinguished.
Edinburgh, April 29, 1774.