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In the next place, he says, "there are many things that make it probable that this work will commence in America." The substance of these is, that it is signified that it shall begin in some very remote parts of the world, with which there can be no connection except by navigation, as instanced by the passage, "Surely the isles shall wait for me, and the ships of Tarshish first, to bring my sons from far." By "the isles," he thinks that nothing else can be intended but America, because, although Europe is indeed often called by that appellation in the prophecies of gospel times, yet the gospel there had its triumph in the ages next after Christ; besides," the ships of Tarshish," thus understood, did not then "wait for God first," but the good work began in Jerusalem. Moreover, the two continents of the world are, as it were, two worlds, the one old, the other new. America being but newly discovered, may be considered as the new world, "as it were now but newly created," and "is probably now discovered, that the new and most glorious state of God's Church on earth might commence there; that God might begin in it a new world in a spiritual respect, when he created the new heavens and new earth." Again, God had already put that honor on the old world, that Christ was born there literally, and there made the purchase of redemption. "So, as Providence observes a kind of equal distribution of things, it is not unlikely that the great spiritual birth of Christ, and the most glorious application of redemption, is to begin in this." In fine: as the other continent had slain Christ, and had so often shed the blood of the saints, God had probably taken from it the honor of building the glorious temple, and bestowed it upon the new; and as the Gentiles, who first received the true religion from the Jews, in turn imparted to the Jews the benefits of the evangelical dispensation, so, to keep up the equality before spoken of, there may be an analogy in God's dealings with respect to the two continents, America, having first received the gospel from Europe, is to communicate the blessings of its most glorious state to the mother country in return; and there are many things in the Bible, like the going back of the shadow on the dial of Hezekiah, and the flowing of the waters of the sanctuary from the west to the east, in Ezekiel's vision, "which undoubtedly represent the Holy Spirit, in the progress of his saving influences, in the latter ages of the world." "And if we may suppose that this glorious work of God shall commence in
any part of America, I think, if we consider the circumstances of the settlement of New England, it must needs appear the most likely, of all American colonies, to be the place whence this work shall principally take its rise. And, if these things be so, it gives us more abundant reason to hope that what is now seen in America, and especially in New England, may prove the dawn of that glorious day; and the very uncommon and wonderful circumstances and events of this work, seem to me strongly to argue that God intends it as the beginning or forerunner of something vastly great."
To one who has not bestowed such intense and particular study upon the prophecies, or compared them with each other and with the course of subsequent events so thoroughly, and with the same spirit as Edwards, many of these grounds may seem fanciful and far-fetched, and even, perhaps, as deep students of the work of God, and as lively Christians as himself, may give a different interpretation of them. It may be said, that "his wish was father to his thought;" and undoubtedly it did do much in shaping and giving direction to it. His heart was like a burning glass, to catch the rays which fell upon his mind, and direct them with intensity upon one point, a point which shone and burned in his imagination, and which was the goal of his aims and labors. And though his mind was profoundly philosophical and critical, beyond any the world ever saw beside, what wonder that it should forego some minute atoms of positive proof, and postpone some part of its prerogative of analytical demonstration, in favor of the lovely image which dwelt and ruled in the centre of his being! Edwards felt, that it was the highest glory of his mind to be subservient to the promotion of the kingdom of God; and it would have been a far less wound to him to find that the fervor of his spirit had drawn his mind a little beyond the just poise of its logical balance, in its contemplations upon that kingdom, than that it had kept a station so coldly and rigidly intellectual as not to be softened and drawn heavenward at all.
More to the purpose is the last paragraph above quoted; and as it is often said that the true reason is the one told last, it is most probable that the thought contained in this, is really the one that chiefly presented this view to his mind. His eye affected his heart. What he knew of the wonderful dealings of God in bring ing over hither the band which landed on Plymouth rock, and
then what his own eyes had seen and his ears heard of the glory of God in his own day and his own region, encouraged the hope, that the day of Millennial glory was then and there about to commence; and thus the various passages and views of Scripture he has given, might easily come in to fill out the proof, and give it the authority of the word of God.
The mere circumstance that New England was wonderfully blessed with revivals in the days of Edwards, would not of itself seem to warrant the whole of this view drawn by him in respect to the commencement of the Millennium. For there were blessed revivals, also, in Scotland; new and great things were going on in England, under the leadings of Whitefield and the Wesleys; a vaster work had been done a couple of centuries before, in the era and event of the Reformation; and as powerful and wide spread revivals of religion have taken place since his day. So that neither the interpretations of prophecy he gives, nor the abundant outpouring of the Spirit of God in his times, nor both of these together, will suffice to convince even every pious mind, that his conclusion, however desirable, is correct.
Another part of his foundation, however, does seem to be more substantial; and to be, perhaps, the one upon which the fabric, if built at all, is destined to stand, and that is "the circumstances of the settlement of New England," together with the consequences which the kind providence of God has caused to flow from that event. Not but what this distant western world may be the region meant by God as "the isles;" not but what he may, in the inscrutable workings of his designs, go upon the principle of a counter-balancing equality, according to laws known to himself. These things, being yet secret, belong to God. But the best means we have of estimating this matter, are the events which actually occur in the revolutions of affairs. And if God has, to our satisfaction, shewn us that he will bring a season of universal peace, prosperity, and holiness, upon the earth, then we are warranted to look at the events which take place with a view to this season, and inquire how far they are fitted to introduce it, and how nearly they fulfil the prophecies that went before in reference to it.
Upon this latter ground one has gone, who is a "Christian Philosopher" equally with Edwards; and, with another century's experience, and led by no blind partiality for his own land
but in the face of any such partiality, he has come to the same conclusion. Sitting in a land of which every Scotsman is proud, as being one of the foremost in intellectual and religious privileges, and thence looking abroad to see where the light might fall the strongest upon his spiritual sight, the eye of Thomas Dick has caught and rested upon the very region in which Edwards lived, and of which he had such high hopes. This region the illustrious philosopher scans with nice and critical eyes; comparing it by rigid tests of facts and statistics with the most enlightened of other lands, not omitting his own; and with a love that seeks to bless the world, and makes it in prospect bright with future glory, he places New England as by far the nearest to that glory, and as the foremost and most likely agent of its full prevalence in the world. And this opinion he founds upon the manner of the settlement and subsequent history of New England, agreeably to the last argument of Edwards. His opinion, and the exhortation he draws from it, are so remarkable, that they are worthy to be transcribed in his own words, but we have not room. After speaking of the Christian effort and liberality which will be necessary, in order to introduce the Millennium, he goes on to say: "The inhabitants of New England, I am confident, will be among the first to set such a noble example to every other nation."* This confidence he derives from a view of the rapidity and greatness of the results to which they have already arrived, compared with the smallness of their beginning. That from about one hundred men, landing on Plymouth rock in the dead of winter, and of those, nearly one-half swept off by a mortal sickness in the course of three or four months, should have sprung up and spread abroad in the lapse of a couple of centuries such an array of cities, colleges, and temples of religion, and that civil and religious liberty, the education of the young, and mental and moral improvement, should be established on a more solid basis, and promoted to a greater extent than in any other nation upon the face of the earth, seems to him, as it may well seem to any one, to argue that the descendants of those Pilgrims are nearer the Millennium, and may more easily be instrumental in its introduction, than any other nation under heaven. And well does he call upon them to fulfil the expectations they have excited, and go on in the vanguard of
* Mental Illumination and Moral Improvement of Mankind, Chap. 12.
improvement until the whole earth shall be filled with the knowl edge of the glory of God.
To the question where the Millennium will commence, we thus see that the people of New England, and their kindred, are already judged to be nearest to it. It follows, of course, that if they continue in their present relative state of advancement, they will be the honored instruments of its introduction. What a noble and inspiring thought is this! And what an animating encouragement to put forth the highest efforts for this consummation is found in the present vantage ground of the descendants of the Puritans!
We will conclude by indicating how the millennium, at the hands of the people of New England, may be properly hastened onwards. And that is by pressing along in the course in which they have begun to be led by Providence. From Plymouth rock roll on streams of emigration and influence, through every part of our land, and especially directly west. The emigrants and institutions of New England, follow the track of the sun toward the western ocean, and spread out from this track northward and southward. The influence of New England is commanding enough in the section which lies in the track of its emigration, and even by emigration itself, is rapidly coming to have the command in other sections of our country. Her great central light at home, too, found in the blaze of her intellectual and moral light, and of her enlightened and far spreading enterprise, shines to the remotest corners of our own and of other lands. Now, let all these be sanctified, or at least, let the friends of religion labor with the same ardor and enterprise with others, and the work will rapidly advance to its consummation. Providence has put it in the hands of New England to control the whole country. In addition to this glory, it has given her the power to control it for good. And through this country it has given her the power to control the world. Let those who go abroad as emigrants, carry with them the pure and stern principles of our fathers; let those who remain at home spread abroad those principles by the methods God puts at their disposal; and all this with the ardor of those who originally founded our institutions; and it is not too much to say, that the work which yet remains to the descendants of the Pilgrims in order to the world's evangelization, is not greater in comparison, than that which has already followed from the efforts of the Pilgrims themselves. Providence placed it before them to cross a wild ocean,