A Psalm of David. Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.
~ Psalm 37:1-3
Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.
~ Proverbs 23:17
Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
~ James 4:5-6
Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.
~ 1 Peter 3:16
For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.
~ 1 Peter 2:19
Letter to Joseph Hawley, by Jonathan Edwards.
Stockbridge Nov. 18. 1754.
I now, as soon as I am able, set my self about answering your Letter of Aug. 11.1 tho’ I am still so weak that I can write but with a trembling Hand, as you may easily perceive. I was taken ill about the middle of July, and my Fits have now left me a little more than a Fortnight : but have been greatly reduced by so long continued an Illness, and gain strength very Slowly and cannot be so particular in my Answer to your Letter as I might be if I had more strength. I rejoyce in the good Temper & disposition of mind which seems to be manifested in your Letter ; and hope that however I whatever I may have suffered, and however greatly I may think my Self injured in that Affair which is the subject of your Letter, wherein you was so much of a Leader, I have a disposition, in my Consideration of the Affair, and what I shall write upon it, to treat you with true Candour and Christian Charity. Nevertheless, I confess that the thing you desire of me is disagreeable to me, viz. very particularly giving my Judgment concerning your Conduct in that Affair ; and it is with no small Reluctance that I go about answering such a Request, upon two Accounts ; 1. As it obliges me renewedly to revolve in my mind, and particularly to look over that most disagreeable and dreadful scene, the Particulars of which I have long since very much dismiss’d from my mind, as having no Pleasure in the Thoughts of them.
& 2dly as ’tis gi (& will be looked upon by you, however serious & Conscientious you may be in your desires & Endeavours to know the Truth) a giving a Judgment in my own Case, a Case wherein I was concerned to a very high degree ; and therefore will be much more likely to a giving of it in vain. Notwithstanding seeing you desire it, & seem to desire it in so Christian a manner, I will give you Judgment plainly, such as it is, and as impartially as I am able, leaving the Consequence with God.
You know very well that I looked on my self, in the Time of the Affair, as very greatly injured by the People in general, in the general Condu Pro Conduct managemt & Progress of it from the Beginning to the End. That this was then my Judgmt was plain enough to be seen ; and I suppose no man in the Town was insensible of it. And the main Things wherein I looked on my self injured, and what I supposed to be the Aggravation of the Injury was also manifest. as particularly that the Chh & Precinct had all Imaginable Reason to think that in my receiving that Opinion which was the subject of the Controversy, and in the steps I took upon it, the declaration I made of it &c. I acted altogether wi Conscientiously, & from Tenderness of spirit, and because I greatly feared to offend God ; without, yea to the highest degree all against all Influence of Worldly Interest, and all private and sinister views. I think it was hardly possible for the Affair to be attended with Circumstances exhibiting greater Evidence of this. I think if my People therefore, when the Affair was first divulged, had been acted by a Christian or indeed by Humanity (tho’ they might have been very sorry & full of Concern about the Affair) would, especially considering how long I had been their Pastor, (and)2 they had alwaiess from the Beginning, & from so long Experience, acknowledged me to be their faithful Pastor, & most of them esteemed marginal (me) to be in the chief Instrument in the Hand of God of the eternal (JE om.) salvation of their souls ; I say especially consideri they would have treated me, if influenced by Xti Christianity or humanity, with the utmost Tenderness, Calmness & moderation, not to say Honour & Reverence ; and would have thought themselves obliged to have gone far in the Exercise of Patience. But instead of this, the Town and Chh were at once put into a o the greatest Flame : The Town was soon filld with talk of dismissing me & expelling me, and Contrivances how to do it speedily & effectually. and a most Jealous Eye, from that day forward, was kept upon least I should do that slyly & craftily that should tend to hinder such a design. and almost every step that I took in the affair, was by their suspicious Eyes, looked upon in such a view ; & therefore every thing served to renew and heighten the flame of their Indignation. Even when I addressed my self to em in the Language of Moderation and Intreaty, it was interpreted as a design to flatter the People, especially the more ignorant, to work upon their Affections, and so to gain em & a Party, & prevent the a Vote for my dismission, or at least to prevent the Peoples being united in any such vote. And there was no way that I could turn my self, nothing that I could do or say but it would have some such uncharitable Construction put upon it —-
As I began the Affair in the Fear of God, after much & long continued Prayer to Him, so I was very careful in the whole Progress of it, in every step to Act uprightly and to avoid every unrighteous & underhanded Measure : nor had I ever once formed a design forever to establish my self at Northampton, & impose my self on the People, as whether we should remain to differing in our Opinion in the Point in Controversy, or not ; nor did I ever take one step with any such view. The things I aimed at were these two.
1. that the People b should be brought to a Calm Temper before Extremes were Proceeded &
2. that they should, in such a Temper, hear what I had to say for my self, & my Opinion. —-
But Nothing Could be done : The People most manifestly continued in a Constant flame of high Resentment, & vehement opposition, for more than two years together ; & this spirit, instead of subsiding, grew higher & higher, ’till they had obtaind their End in my Expulsion. nor indeed did it cease then, but still their they maintain’d their Jealousy of me, as if I was secretly doing the Part of an Enemy to ’em, so long as I had a being in the Town; yea ’till they saw the Town well cleared of all my Family. so deep were their Prejudices, that their Heat & was maintained, till that nothing would quiet ’em till they could see the Town clear of Root & Branch Name and Remnant . If it I could mention many things that were said & done in a publick manner, in Meetings of the Precinct, Chh & their Committees, from time to time, from the Beginning, fully to justify & support what I have said ti & supposed till my dismission. (besides the continual Talk in all parts of the Town, in private Houses, & occasional Companies) But I think this can’t be expected ; as it would be writing a History that would take up no less than a quire of Paper. I would only observe that I was from (time)3 to time reprehended by one that commonly was chosen (moderatour) of Precinct & Chh-Meetings, & Chairman of their Comttees,4 in a very marginal dogmatical & magisterial M manner, at n for making so much mischief, putting the Chh to so much Trouble. and once he told me he did it as by the desire & vote of the whole Committee ; which was very large, consisting of all the Chief men of the Town. I was often Charged with acting only from sinister views, from stiffness of spirit, & from Pride, & an arbitrary & Tyrannical spirit, and a design, & foolish Expectation of forcing all to Comply with my Opinion. The above mention’d Person Chiefly improved by the Town & Chh, & set at their Head in these affairs, once said expressly, in a Chh meeting in the meeting House, “That it was apparent that I regarded my own temporal Interest more than the good of the Good of the Chh; that the Chh. had Reason to think I designedly laid a snare to ensnare the Chh; & that they had best by all means to beware and see to it that they were not ensnared.” & said much more to the same Purpose. And he was never frowned upon but smill smiled upon by the Chh; continuing in such a way of Treatment of me, still was made much and set foremost in the managemt of the Affair. —-
There were multitudes of Precinct and Churches meetings, many meetings of Committees, & Conferences with me about this affair. I am perswaded there was not one meeting, of but that this unreasonable violent spirit was apparent, and as governing & prevalent. It seemed from the very Beginning to govern in all Proceedings, and almost every step that was taken. The people were so far from seeking any Composition, that it was often declared in the meetings that If retain my Opinion I should be retain tho’ I should be convinced that continuing in it, I might go on in Mr. stoddards way, they Committee would by no means have me for their minister; & their Committee declared against any Endeavours to bring me to this before the last Council. yea they seemd to have a dread of my Consenting to this. It being thus, I think the whole of the Affair Management of the Affair was exceeding provoking and abominable to God ; as most contrary to ought to be in all publick affairs, especially affairs of Religion and the worship of Christian societies ; & so contrary to the Treatment due to me from that People ; and especially in an affair so circumstanced, wherein they had such glaring Evidences of my acting only from Tenderness of Conscience, & with Regard to the Account I had to give to my great Master, and wherein I so carefully avoided every Thing irritating, & never offered the People any Provocation, unless yielding and Condescending, as I did to them (in Things which I supposed they insisted on meerly from Humour and Prejudice) was a Provocation in many Instances for Peace sake was a Provocation; an affair wherein I with great Constancy so maintain’d a diligent watch over my own spirit ; and an affair wherein I sought Peace and pursued it, and strove to my utmost to avoid Occasions of strife, and to treat every one in a Christian manner.
Such an affair being so managed, I think no one should have put their hand to it, unless it were to check and restrain, and if possible to bring the People to an exceeding different Temper & manner of Conduct, and convince & shew ’em how far they were out of the way of their duty and till this could be done, I think not a step should have been taken by any means, to promote and forward their designs. Instead of this, I am perswaded a Judicious Christian, in a right temper of mind, & being a by stander, would have beheld the Scene with Horrour. especially considering the dreadful work that was making with the Credit. & Interest of Religion, by such a Town & Church as that of such a Profession and Fame.
And therefore sir, I think you made your self greatly guilty in the sight of God, in the Part you acted in this Affair ; becoming, especially (towards the latter)5 Part of it, very much their Leader it ; & much from your own Forwardness, putting your self forward as it were, as tho’ fond marginal of intermeddling & Helping. which was the less becoming, considering your Youth, and considering your Relation to me. Your Forwardness especially appeared on this Occasion, that after you was chosen as one of a committee to plead their Cause before a Council, you came to me, and desired me to stay the Chh. on Purpose that you might have Opportunity which was accordingly done, and (-) you did excuse your self, and was excused. but yet when the matter came to be pleaded before the Council, you, th (I think very inconsistently) thrust your self and pleaded the Cause with much Earnestness Notwithstanding. ‘Tis manifest that what you did in the affair from Time to Time, not only helped the People to gain their End in dismissing me, but much encouraged and promoted the spirit with which it was done ; your Confident, magisterial, vehement matter had a natural & direct Tendency to it.
As to your Remonstrance to the last Council,6 it not only contained things that were uncharitable and censorious, by which Facts were misinterpreted and overstrain’d, but it was full of direct, bold slanders asserted in strong Terms, & delivered in very severe opprobrious Language, meerly on suspicion & surmise. As particularly therein if I mistake not was asserted that I had said after my dismission, that “I was de jure & de facto still the Pastor of that Church”; which not was a false Charge. Again I was Charged with “having a desire to be settled over a few of the Members of the Church to the destruction of the Whole ; & that I set out on a (-) Journey with a certain Gentleman7 to procure a Council to instal me at Northampton, & that I contrived to do it at such a Time, because I knew the Church was at that Time about to send for a Candidate &c. which is a complicated manifold slander that I might prevent their success therein; and that I was ready to settle in that Place, and for the sake of it had refused an Invitation that I had neglected this Opportunity for the sake of settling over an handful, That I had a great Inclination to continue at Northampton as a Minister, at the Expence of the Peace and Prosperity of the greater Part of the Town, yea that I was greatly engaged for it.(“) Th Here is a Heap of direct slanders, positively asserted, all Contrary to the Truth of Fact. I had not refused the Invitation to St—ge, nor or neglected that opportunity. I had no Inclination or desire to settle over these few at Northampton, but a very great Opposition in my mind to it, abundantly manifested in what I continually said to them on occasion of their great & Constant urgency.
It was much more agreeable to my Inclination to settle at St—ge, and tho’ I complied to the Calling of a Council to advise in the Affair, it was on these Terms, that it should not be s thought hard that I should fully & strongly lay before ’em all my Objections against it. My discourse with particular ministers applied to in their own Houses, was chiefly in Opposition to Col. d.-t ; & so was my discourse before the Council when met. I earnestly argued before them against their advising me to settle there, with hopes that what I said would prevail against & very much with that conclusion ; and what I said against it was the thing that did prevail against it, & that only.
I complied to the calling of the Council & with a view to these two things
1. To quiet the minds of those, who in so trying a Time had appeared my steadfast friends ; that they might not alwaies think (exce)eding hardly of me. & 2. The Countrey having b been fill’d with gross misrepresentations of the Affair of my dismission, & the marginal Grounds of it, to the great wounding of my Character at a distance, I was willing mi some ministers of chief Note should come from different Parts of the Countrey, & be upon the spot, & see the true state of Things with their own Eyes. It was very contrary to Truth that I contrived to set out at that particular Time, because just then the Church were about to apply to a Candidate &c- that I might prevent their success ; For I knew not of any such Thing : I had then no Notice of that design of or determination of the Church.
Nor that was that true that is suggested, that the procuring a Council was the Thing that Occasion’d our setting out on that Journey. Each of us had other Business, & should have gone had no such Thing as a Council been projected ; & therefore we went far beyond all Parts where any of those ministers dwelt, & spent much more Time there than with any of them. As to my seeking to disappoint & Ruin the Town & destroy it’s Peace &c. I did in all this affair take one step with any view at all to a disappointment of the Town & Church in any of their Measures for the settling another Minister. — I might mention other things in the Remonstrance but I am weary. These things, being so, I cannot think the Chh’s Reflections do in any wise answer their Faults in this Paper, & the Injuries therein done to me. In their Reflections they all grant that they used too strong Terms, & Language too harsh, that in some Things they were too censorious, & had not sufficient Grounds to go so far in their Charges, that they should not have expressed themselves thus & thus ; but had better have used other specified Terms, which yet would have been for the hurt of my Reputation . I confess dear Sir, I have no Imagination that such sort of Reflections and Retractations as these, will be accepted in the sight of God as sufficient, & all that is proper in such a Case; and that it will be found that they that think so, do greatly deceive themselves. The Church in their Remonstrance seemed to Contrive for the mo strongest, most severe & opprobrious kind of Terms, to blacken my Character, & wound my Reputation in the most public manner Possible. In their Reflections on themselves a contrary Course is taken. there, instead of aggravating their own Fault (which is the manner of true Penitents) They most manifestly contrive for the softest, mildest Terms, to touch their own Faults in the most gentle manner possible, by the softest Language.
On the whole sir (as you have asked my Opinion) I think that That Town & Church lies under great Guilt in the sight of God. And they never more can reasonably expect God’s Favour & Blessing ’till they have their Eyes opened to be convinced of their Great Provocation of the most high, & Injuriousness to man, and have a have their Temper greatly altered, ’till they are deeply humbled; and till they openly & in full Terms confess themselves in the manner in which (they) are guilty indeed (and what my Opinion of that is, I have in some measure declared) and openly humble, & take shame to marginal themselves before the world, and particularly confess their Faults & seek forgiveness where they have been peculiarly injurious. Such Terms, I am perswaded, the righteous God will hold that People to ; & that it will forever be in vain for to think to go free and escape with impunity in any other way. Palliating & extenuating matters, and dawbing themselves over with untempered Mortar, & sewing Figleaves will be in vain before the him whose pure & Omniscient Eye is as a Consuming Fire —– It has often been observed what a Curse Persons have lived for their Ill Treatment of their natural Parents ; but especially may this be expected to follow such abuses offered by a People to one which in their own Esteem is their spiritual Father. Expositours & divines often observe, that abuse of God’s Messengers has commonly been the last sin of an offending, backsliding People, which has fill’d up the Measure of their sin, & put an End to God’s Patience with them, & brought on their Ruin. And ’tis also commonly observed that the Heads & Leaders of a People such a People have who have been remarkeably distinguished in the Fruits of God’s Vengeance in such Cases. And as you sir, distinguished your self as a Head and Leader to that People in these affairs, as espe at least the Chief of them ; so I think the Guilt that lies on you in the sight of God is distinguishing, and that you may expect to be distinguished by God’s Frowns, unless there be true Repentance, and properly expresd & manifested, with a Endeavours to be a Leader t of the People in the Affair of Repentance, as in their Transgression. You One think thing which I think aggravated your Fault, was that you your self thought me in the Right in that Opinion wherein I differed from my People. That is The thing As to the Nature & Essence of true Religion, my People & I in general were agreed. The Thing wherein we differed was, that suppo both a supposing that our Common opinion of the nature of true Godliness to be right, a Profession of it, or of those Things wherein we supposed the Essence of it consisted, was necessary to Chh. Communion. In this you agreed with me & not with the People. so that in Effect you own’d my Cause (in the Thing which was the main Foundation of Controversy) to be good.
& yet, in the manner before observed, set your self at their Head in their violent opposition to me. —— you say that in all your disputes, you ever had a full Perswasion of my sincerity and true sanctity. If so, then doubtless what X Christ said to his disciples takes hold of you. He that receiveth you receiveth me, & he that despiseth you despiseth me, & He that despiseth (me) despiseth Him that sent me. And Take heed ye despise not one of these little ones. — He that offendeth one of them it were better for Him that a milstone were hanged about marginal his neck & he drowned in the depths of the sea.
Thus sir, I have done the Thing you requested of me. I wish you may accept it in as Christian a manner as you asked it. You may possibly think that the plain way in which I have given my Judgmt shews that I am far from being impartial , & that I shew a disposition to aggravate & enhanse Things, & set ’em forth in the blackest Colours ; and I that I plainly manifest ill will to you. All that I shall say to this is, that if you think so, I think you are mistaken. And having performed the disagreeable Task you desired of me, I must leave you to judge for your self concerning what I say. I have spoken my Judgment with as great a degree of Impartiality as I am master of, And that which is my steady & constant Judgmt of this aw ful affair ; And I doubt not will be my Judgment as long as I live. —- One thing I must desire of you, & that is, that If you dislike what I have written, you would not expect that I should carry on any Paper or Letter Controversy with you on the subject. I have had enough of this Controversy, and desire to have done with it. I have spent enough of the precious Time ofmy Life in it heretofore. I desire and pray that God may enable you to view things truly, & as he views them ; and so to act in the Affair as shall be best for you, & most for your Peace living & dying with respectful salutations to your spouse, I am Sir, your Kinsman & Friend, that sincerely wishes your truest & greatest welfare & happiness, in this World & the World to Come,
1. Not extant.
2. MS damage.
3. MS damage at beginning and end of line.
4. I.e. Seth Pomeroy.
5. MS damage.
6. The MS of the “Remonstrance” is not extant. “Reflections on the Remonstrance sent to Mr. Clark and Mr. Edwards” (BRBL, f. 1351) cites a document sent by the First Church of Northampton to Peter Clark, to be communicated to the Counci of May 1751, considering the settlement of JE over a second church in Northampton, as the “Remonstrance.”
7. Probably Col. Timothy Dwight, who was the leader in trying to form a second church in Northampton under JE.