Edwards, John

, an eminent English divine and voluminous writer, the son of the preceding Thomas Edwards, was born at Hertford, February 26, 1637. His father, as we have already noticed, died in 1647, and by his wife, who was an heiress of a very considerable fortune, he left one daughter and four sons, the second of whom was John, the subject of the present narrative. After having received his grammatical education at Merchanttaylors’ school, in London, he was removed in 1653 to the university of Cambridge, and was admitted of St. John’s college, then under the government of Dr. Anthony Tuckney, a presbyterian divine of acknowledged character and learning, and particularly distinguished for the wise and exact discipline of his college. Mr. Edwards, soon after his admission, was chosen scholar of the house, and was quickly taken notice of for his exercises, both in his tutor’s chamber, and in his college-hall. Towards the close of his undergraduateship, the senior proctor being then of the college, he was appointed one of the moderators for the year. Whe: he was middle bachelor, he was elected a fellow of his college, for which he was principally indebted to the exertions of Dr. Tuckney in his behalf. During the time of his senior bachelorship he was again chosen moderator in the schools, and his performances were long remembered with esteem and praise. In 1661 he was admitted to the degree of M. A.; and soon after sir Robert Carr presented him to Dr. Sanderson, bishop cf Lincoln, who conferred upon him the order of deacon. That learned prelate engaged him, at the same time, to preach a sermon at the next ordination, when with the other candidates, he was ordained priest. In 1664, he undertook the duty of Trinity-church, in Cambridge, and | went through the whole both parts of the day. In his preaching, without affecting eloquence, he studied to be plain, intelligible, and practical; and his church was much frequented by the gown, and by persons of considerable standing in the university. Dr. Sparrow, master of Queen’s, Dr. Beaumont, master of Peterhouse, and Dr. Pearson, master of Trinity-college, were often heard to applaud his pulpit performances. In 1665, during the time of the plague, he quitted his residence in the college, and dwelt all that year, and part of the next, in the town, that he might devote himself entirely to the edification and comfort of the parishioners of Trinity church, in that season of calamity. A little after this, sir Edward Atkins offered him a good living near Cirencester, in Gloucestershire, but he chose to continue in his station at Cambridge. In 1668 he was admitted to the degree of B. D. About the same time, through the interest of sir Robert Carr with sir Thomas Harvey, Mr. Edwards was unanimously chosen lecturer at St. Edmund’s Bury, with a salary of loo/, a year. This office he discharged with great reputation and acceptance, notwithstanding which, after a period of twelve months, he resigned it, and returned to his college, where, however, his situation was uneasy to him. He had not been upon the best terms with Dr. Peter Gunning, the former master of St. John’s, and being still more dissatisfied with Dr. Francis Turner, Gunning’s successor, who had somehow offended him, he determined to resign his fellowship. On quitting his college, he was presented by the fellows with a testimonial of his worthy and laudable behaviour among them. From St. John’s he removed to Trinity-hall, where he entered himself as a fellow-commoner, and performed the regular exercises in the civil Jaw. Being willing to be employed in the offices of jits clerical function, he accepted of the invitation of the parishioners of St. Sepulchre, in Cambridge, to be their minister; and his sermons there were as much attended by persons of consequence in the university as they had formerly been at Trinity church. In 1676 Mr. Edwards married Mrs. Lane, the widow of Mr. Lane, who had been ati alderman, a justice of peace, and an eminent attomey in the town. “This gentlewoman,” says his biographer, “was an extraordinary person, of unusual accomplishments and singular graces but had the unhappiness (as some others of that sex) to be misrepresented to the world. She | being naturally of a high and generous spirit, and not framed to low observances and vulgar compliances, incurred thereby the imputation of pride and superciliousness among vulgar minds. But those who were no strangers to good breeding, and knew how to make distinction of persons, admired the agreeableness of her conversation, and saw those excellent and worthy things in her deportment which they could find but in very few of her sex. She understood herself and her duty, and all the rules of civil and religious behaviour.

Soon after Mr. Edwards’s marriage, his friend sir Robert Carr, generously offered him the presentation of two considerable benefices then vacant in Norfolk, which he as generously declined, being willing that those livings should be bestowed upon some other person or persons who needed them. About the same time he accepted a preferment less valuable, that of St. Peter’s church in Colchester, merely from the prospect of extensive usefulness. Thither he accordingly removed with his family, and was highly acceptable to his parishioners, but quitted the place at the end of three years, and removed to Cambridgeshire. To this he was induced by the unkind usage which (as he thought) he met with from the clergy of the town, by the sickly habit of his wife, and by an apoplectic and convulsive fit with which he was himself visited. Upon his removal into the county of Cambridge, being afflicted with bodily pains and weaknesses, and especially the gout, which prevented him from appearing in public, he employed himself in presenting a succession of publications to the world. About 1697, he removed with his family to Cambridge, for the convenience of the university library. Our author had often been solicited by his friends to take his degree of D. D. but he did not comply with their motion till 1699. Upon this occasion he had not the opportunity of keeping an act, there being none, on account of the illness of the divinity professor, to moderate and determine. He only preached an English sermon at the commencement, and a Concio ad Clerum; besides which he made a determination in Latin, in the schools, on a theological question. In 1701, Dr. Edwards lost his lady, and, after a decent time, married again, a niece of alderman Lane, who had been brought up several years under Mrs. Edwards before her marriage to the doctor. | It is remarkable, that, notwithstanding his numerous; publications, he was never possessed of a library; some bibles, lexicons, dictionaries, and other works of a similar nature and constant use, excepted. The university and college libraries furnished him with all the classic authors, and Greek and Latin fathers, and indeed with whatever related to ancient learning. These he either perused in the places where they were kept, or had them brought to his chamber; and his method was, from the early part of his life, to make adversaria and collections out of the books which he read, and all along to frame notes, observations, inferences, and reflections, from and on them, and to reduce them to the particular heads and subjects on which he designed to treat. He never had a commonplace book. With regard to modern authors, his practice was to procure the loan of them from the booksellers, at the price of sixpence for an 8vo, a shilling for a 4to, and two shillings for a folio. By this good husbandry, he was forced to read the works which he borrowed within the time prefixed; whereas, otherwise he might perhaps never have perused them thoroughly. Dr. Edwards continued in his course of diligent study and repeated publications till near the period of his decease, April 16, 1716, in the seventy-ninth year of his age.

Catharine, his second wife, who is said to have been adorned with every Christian grace and virtue, survived her husband nearly thirty-nine years. She died on the 14th of January, 1744-5, aged eighty-one.

Of Dr. Edwards’s piety, a high, and we doubt not, a just character is given by his biographer: the only thing which his brethren objected to him, was his great zeal for the Calvinistic doctrines, and his maintaining a close connection between Arminianism and Popery. That he was a man of extensive learning cannot be denied; and by his admirers he was said to have been the Paul, the Augustine, the Brad ward ine, the Calvin, and one of the most valuable writers of his age.

Besides several single sermons, Mr. Edwards published 1. “An enquiry into four remarkable texts of the New Testament,1692, 8vo. 2. “A farther enquiry into several remarkable texts of the Old and New Testament,1692, 8vo. 3. “Of the truth and authority of Scripture,1693. 4. “Of the Style of Scripture,1694. 5. “Of the excellency and perfection of Scripture,1695. & | Thoughts concerning the causes and occasions of Atheism,1695. 7. “A Demonstration of the Existence and Providence of God,1696. 8. “Socinianism unmasked; or the unreasonableness of the opinion concerning one article of faith only.” 9. “A brief Vindication of the fundamental Articles of the Christian faith;” and a discourse, entitled “The Socinian Creed,1696 and 1697: These three pieces, together with some part of the treatise concerning “The causes and occasions of Atheism,” were occasioned by Mr. Locke’s publication of “The Reasonableness of Christianity, as delivered in the Scriptures,” and by the writings of some professed Socinians. Mr. Edwards was the first person that encountered what he apprehended to be Mr. Locke’s dangerous notions of the “One sole Article of Faith.” This he did, in the beginning of the dispute, in a manner very respectful to Mr. Locke’s person and parts. But Mr. Locke, in his two Vindications of his doctrine, having treated our author with severity, he assumed, in his replies, an air of mirth and pleasantness, and chastised his antagonist with some smartness, and his attack upon Mr. Locke was approved and applauded by a number of learned men, both at home and abroad. He published also, 10. “Remarks on Mr. Whiston’s Theory of the Earth,1697. 11. “Twelve Sermons on special occasions and subjects,1698, 8vo. 12. “A Survey of the different dispensations of Religion, from the beginning of the world to the consummation of all things,” in two volumes, 1699. 13. “Exercitations, critical, philosophical, historical, theological, on several important places in the Old and New Testament,” in two parts, 1702, 8vo. 14. “The Preacher,” the first part, 1705; the second part, 1706. 15. “Veritas redux, or evangelical truths restored,1707. 16. “Treatise of Faith and Justification,1708. 17. “The Preacher,” the third part, 1709. 18. “Remarks on the archbishop of Dublin’s sermon,1710. 19. “An Answer to Dr. Whitby, concerning the Arminian doctrines,1711. 20. “Observations and reflections on Mr. Winston’s Primitive Christianity,1712. 21. “Animadversions on Dr. Clarke’s Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity,1712, with a Supplement, 1713. 22. “Theologia Reformata, or the substance and body of the Christian religion,1713, 2 vols. folio. A third volume, in folio, was published in 1726, ten years after our author’s decease. 23. “Remains,1713, 8vo. The | writings which Dr. Edwards left behind him in manuscript/ were nearly as many as those which have already been named. By some of his contemporaries he was censured for appearing too frequently from the press, while others said, that those who were just estimators of things cleared him of the imputation of writing too often, when they observed, that what he continually published exceeded rather than fell short of his former performances. 1


Biog. Brit.