EDWARDS MORGAN, A. M. The following biographical sketch of this truly eminent man, and distinguished promoter of the Baptist cause in America, was drawn by Dr. William Rogers of Philadelphia,
in a sermon preached at his funeral, and by him communicated to Dr. Rippon of London, who published it in the twelfth number of his Annual Register, from which it is now extracted. The sermon, which for some cause was not printed, was preached in the first Baptist Church in Philadelphia, February 22, 1794, on 2 Corinthians vi. 8. By honor or dishonor; by evil report and good report; as deceivers and yet true. The Doctor, after a general and pertinent illustration of his text, thus proceeds: "My highly esteemed friend and father, the Rev. Mr. Morgan Edwards, requested, as you have already been informed, that these words should be preached from, as soon as convenient after his decease. I presume he found them descriptive of what he met with in the course of his ministry.
"Honor, Mr. Edwards certainly had, both in Europe and America. The college and academy of Philadelphia, at a very early period, honored him as a man of learning, and a popular preacher, with a diploma, constituting him Master of Arts; this was followed by a degree ad eundem in the year 1769, from the college of Rhode Island, being the first commencement in that institution. In this seminary he held a Fellowship, and filled it with reputation, till he voluntarily resigned it in 1789; age and distance having rendered him incapable of attending the meetings of the Corporation any longer."
He also met with dishonor; but he complained not much of this, as it was occasioned by his strong attachment to the Royal Family of Great Britain, in the beginning of the American war, which fixed upon him the name of Tory: this I should have omitted mentioning, had not the deceased enjoined it upon me. For any person to be so marked out in those days, was enough to bring on political opposition and destruction of property; all of which took place with respect to Mr. Edwards, though he never harbored the thought of doing the least injury to the United States, by abetting the cause of our enemies."
A good report our brother also had. The numerous letters brought with him across the Atlantic, from the Rev. Dr. John Gill and others, reported handsome things of him; and so did, in return, the letters that went from America to the then parent country. "Evil reports also fell to his share; but most of these were false reports, and therefore he gave credit for them as a species of persecution. And even the title of deceiver did not escape him. Often has he been told that he was an Arminian, though he professed to be a Calvinist; that he was a Universalist in disguise, &c. Yet he was true to his principles. These may be seen in our confession of faith, agreeing with that re-published by the Baptist churches assembled at London, in the year 1689. He seldom meddled with the five polemical points; but when he did, he always avoided abusive language. The charge of Universalism brought against him was not altogether groundless; for though he was not a Universalist himself, he professed a great regard for many who were, and he would sometimes take their part against violent opposers, in order to inculcate moderation.
"Mr. Edwards was born in Trevethin
parish, Monmouthshire, in the principality of Wales, on May 9th, 1722, old style; and had his grammar learning in the same parish, at a village called Trosnat; afterwards he was placed in the Baptist seminary at Bristol, in Old England, at the time the president's chair was filled by the Rev. Mr. Foskett. He entered on the ministry in the sixteenth year of his age. After he had finished his academical studies, he went to Boston in Lincolnshire, where he continued seven years, preaching the gospel to a small congregation in that town. From Boston, he removed to Cork, in Ireland, where he was ordained, June 1, 1757, and resided nine years. From Cork, he returned to Great Britain, and preached about twelve months at Rye, in Sussex. While at Rye, the Rev. Dr. Gill, and other London ministers, in pursuance of letters they received from this church, (Philadelphia,) urged him to pay you a visit. He complied, took his passage for America, arrived here May 23, 1761, and shortly afterwards became your pastor. He had the oversight of this church for many years; voluntarily resigned his office, when he found the cause, so near and dear to his heart, sinking under his hands; but continued preaching to the people, till they obtained another minister, the person who now addresses you, in the procuring of whom he was not inactive.
"After this, Mr. Edwards purchased a plantation in Newark, New-Castle county, state of Delaware, and moved thither with his family in the year 1772; he continued preaching the word of life and salvation in a number of vacant churches, till the American war. He then desisted, and remained silent, till after the termination of our revolutionary troubles, and a consequent reconciliation with this church. He then occasionally read lectures in divinity in this city and other parts of Pennsylvania, also in New Jersey, Delaware and New England; but for very particular and affecting reasons could never be prevailed upon to resume the sacred character of a minister.
"Our worthy friend departed this life, at Pencader, New-Castle county, Delaware state, on Wednesday, the 28th of January, 1795, in the seventy-third year of his age; and was buried agreeably to his own desire, in the aisle of this meeting-house, with his first wife and their children; her maiden name was Mary Nunn, originally of Cork, in Ireland, by whom he had several children, all of whom are dead, excepting two sons, William and Joshua; the first, if alive, is a military officer in the British service; the other is now present with us, paying this last public tribute of filial affection to the memory of a fond and pious parent. Mr. Edwards' second wife was a Mrs. Singleton, of the state of Delaware, who is also dead, by whom he had no issue.
"Several of Mr. Edwards' pieces have appeared in print, viz: 1. A Farewell Discourse, delivered at the Baptist meeting-house in Rye, February 8, 1761, on Acts xx. 25, 26. 'And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more; wherefore, I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men.' This passed
through two editions, 8vo. 2. A Sermon preached in the college of Philadelphia, at the ordination of the Rev. Samuel Jones, (now D.D.) with a narrative of the manner in which the ordination was conducted, 8vo. 3. The Customs of Primitive Churches, or a set of Propositions relative to the Name, Materials, Constitution, Powers, Officers, Ordinances, &c., of a church; to which are added, their proofs from scripture, and historical narratives of the manner in which most of them have been reduced to practice. 4to. This book was intended for the Philadelphia association, in hopes they would have improved upon the plan, so that their joint productions might have introduced a full and unexceptionable treatise of church discipline. 4. A New-Year's Gift; a sermon preached in this house, January 1, 1770, from these words, 'This year thou shalt die;' which passed through four editions. What gave rise to this discourse will probably be recollected for many years to come. 5. Materials towards a History of the Baptists in Pennsylvania, both British and German, distinguished into First-day, Keithian, Seventh-day, Tunker, and Rogerene Baptists, 12mo. 1792. The motto of both volumes is, Lo! a people that dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations. 6. A Treatise on the Millennium. 7. A Treatise on the New Heaven and New Earth: this was re-printed in London. 8. Res Sacra, a Translation from the Latin. The subject of this piece is an enumeration of all the acts of public worship, which the New Testament styles offerings and sacrifices; among which, giving money for religious uses is one; and therefore, according to Mr. Edwards' opinion, is to be done in the places of public worship, and with equal devotion.
"Besides what he gave to his intimate friends as tokens of personal regard, he has left behind him forty-two volumes of sermons, twelve sermons to a volume, all written in large print hand; also about a dozen volumes in quarto, on special subjects, in some of which he was respondent, and therefore they may not contain his own real sentiments. These, with many other things, unite to show that he was no idler.
"He used to recommend it to ministers to write their sermons at large, but not to read them in the pulpit; if he did, he advised the preacher to write a large fair hand, and make himself so much master of his subject, that a glance might take in a whole page. Being a good classic, and a man of refinement, he was vexed with such discourses from the pulpit as deserved no attention, and much more to hear barbarisms; because, as he used to say, 'They were arguments either of vanity or indolence, or both; for an American, with an English grammar in his hand, a learned friend at his elbow, and close application for six months, might make himself master of his mother tongue.'
"The Baptist churches are much indebted to Mr. Edwards. They will long remember the time and talents he devoted to their best interests both in Europe and America. Very far was he from a selfish person. When the arrears of his salary, as pastor of this church, amounted to upwards of three hundred and seventy-two pounds, [p. 215]
and he was put in possession of a house by the church, till the principal and interest should be paid, he resigned the house, and relinquished a great part of the debt, lest the church should be distressed.
"The college of Rhode Island is also greatly beholden to him for his vigorous exertions at home and abroad, in raising money for that institution, and for his particular activity in procuring its charter. This he deemed the greatest service he ever did for the Baptist name. As one of its first sons, I cheerfully make this public testimony of his laudable and well timed zeal. In the first volume of his Materials, he proposed a plan for uniting all the Baptists on the continent in one body politic, by having the association of Philadelphia (the centre) incorporated by charter, by taking one delegate out of each association into the corporation; but finding this impracticable at that time, he visited the churches from New-Hampshire to Georgia, gathering materials towards the history of the whole. Permit me to add, that this plan of union, as yet, has not succeeded.
Mr. Edwards was the moving cause of having the minutes of the Philadelphia association printed, which he could not bring to bear for some years; and therefore, at his own expense, he printed tables, exhibiting the original and annual state of the associating churches.
There was nothing uncommon in Mr. Edwards' person; but he possessed an original genius. By his travels in England, Ireland, and America, commixing with all sorts of people, and by close application to reading, he had obtained a remarkable ease of behavior in company, and was furnished with something pleasant or informing to say on all occasions. His Greek Testament was his favorite companion, of which he was complete master; his Hebrew Bible next, but he was not so well versed in the Hebrew as in the Greek language; however, he knew so much of both as authorized him to say, as often as he did, that the Greek and Hebrew are the two eyes of a minister, and the translations are but commentaries; because they vary in sense as commentators do. He preferred the ancient British version to any he had read; observing that the idioms of the Welsh fitted those of the Hebrew and Greek, like hand and glove.
"Our aged and respectable friend is gone the way of all the earth; but he lived to a good old age and with the utmost composure closed his eyes on all the things of time. Though he has gone, this is not gone with him; it remains with us, that the Baptist interest was ever uppermost with him, and that he labored more to promote it than to promote his own; and this he did, because he believed it to be interest of Christ above any in Christendom.
His becoming a, Baptist was the effect of previous examination and conviction, having been brought up in the Episcopal church, for which church he retained a particular regard during his whole life." Baptist Library.
[From Thomas Wilson Haynes, editor, Haynes' Baptist Cyclopaedia: Or, Dictionary of Baptist Biography, 1848, pp. 211-215. Document from Google Books On-line. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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