Perhaps no person ever lived, who so habitually and carefully committed his thoughts, on almost every subject, to writing, as the elder President Edwards. His ordinary studies were pursued, pen in hand, and with his note-books before him; and he not only often stopped, in his daily rides, by the way-side, but frequently rose even at midnight, to commit to paper any important thought that had occurred to him.
As the result of this habit, his manuscripts are probably more* thoroughly the record of the intellectual life of their author, than those of any other individual who has a name in either the theological or literary world. These manuscripts are also very numerous. The seventeenth century was an age of voluminous authorship. The works of Bishop Hall amount to ten volumes octavo; Lightfoot’s to thirteen; Jeremy Taylor’s, to fifteen; Dr. Goodwin’s, to twenty; Owen’s, to twenty-eight; while Baxter’s would extend to some sixty volumes, or from thirty to forty thousand closely-printed octavo pages. The manuscripts of Edwards, if all published, would be more voluminous than the works of any of these writers, if possibly the last be excepted. And these manuscripts have been carefully preserved and kept together; and about three years since were committed to the editor of this work, as sole permanent trustee, by all the then surviving grandchildren of their author.
Included in these manuscripts are various papers, of great interest and value, that have never been given to the public, among which are the Lectures contained in this volume. These Lectures were first preached by Mr. Edwards in 1738, in a series of sermons to the people of his charge in Northampton, and were apparently designed by himself for publication; for they were written out in full, and soon after they were completed he began his discourses on the ” History of Redemption,” which, it is known, he intended should be published. After his death they were selected for publication by Dr. Hopkins and Dr. Bellamy; and by the latter were in part copied out and prepared for the press, when for some reason he was interrupted in their preparation, so that now, for the first time, they are given to the public.
The subject of these Lectures is eminently practical and important. Love is the first outgoing of the renewed soul to God; “We love him because he first loved us.” It is the sure evidence of a saving work of grace in the soul; “The fruit of the Spirit, is love.” It lies at the very foundation of Christian character; we are “rooted and grounded in love.” It is the path in which all the true children of God are found; they “walk in love:” the bond of their mutual union; their hearts are “knit together in love:” their protection in the spiritual warfare; they are to put on “the breast-plate of love :” the fulness and completeness of their Christian character; they are “made perfect in love:” the spirit through which they may fulfill all the divine acquirements ; for ” love is the fulfilling of law:” that by which they may become like their Father in heaven, and fitted for his presence; for “God is love” and Heaven is a world of Love.
As to the character of the Lectures, it is sufficient in a word to say, that they are marked throughout, by that strong and clear thought, those broad and comprehensive views of truth, that thorough knowledge of human nature, and that accurate and familiar acquaintance with the Scriptures, which characterize the works of their distinguished author. It is believed they will at once take rank with his well-known works on the “Will,” the “Affections,” and “Redemption,” and be deemed as valuable in their practical bearings, as the first is in its metaphysical, the second in its experimental, or the third in its historical. Of these Lectures, as of all his works, it may be said, as Johnson said to Boswell when asked by the latter, “What works of Baxter’s he should read?” “Read all, for they are all excellent.”