Was Jonathan Edwards a Presbyterian?
The following letter by the Rev. Dr. Ashbel Green originally appeared in The Baltimore Literary and Religious Magazine, a publication edited by Robert J. Breckinridge. It was subsequently reprinted in The Presbyterian, and that text is here reproduced.
"President Edwards a Presbyterian"
The Presbyterian (12 January 1839): 201.
Philadelphia, Nov. 12th 1838
Rev. and Dear Sir:--I have recollected, since I last saw you, that the fact has already been published, which I then mentioned to you in conversation;--and in regard to which you requested me to furnish you with a written statement. In the Christian Advocate, the 10th volume--the volume for the year 1832, and in the No. for March of that year, page 128--after having mentioned a class of Congregationalists, who, in my estimation, were eminent for genuine piety, I added as follows:--"We should have put down here, the name of the great President Edwards; but he was, in sentiment, a decided Presbyterian, and left a manuscript in favor of Presbyterian church government; as his son, the second President Edwards, distinctly admitted to us not long before his death. Beside, the elder Edwards was either a member of the Presbytery of New Brunswick, at the time of his death, or would soon have been so, if his lamented decease, shortly after his becoming President off the College at Princeton, had not prevented."
The admission referred to in the foregoing extract, was made in consequence of an inquiry put, by me, to Dr. Edwards, as he and I were walking together to the place of meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church, then in session in this city. I do not recollect the year. I had heard a report, which I think must have come either from my father or from my colleague Dr. Sproat,--both of whom were contemporaries and admirers of the first President Edwards--that he had written a tract, or an essay, in favor of Presbyterian church government; and I was glad to take the opportunity which at this time offered, to ascertain from his son the truth or fallacy of the report. The inquiry resulted in the distinct admission that the report which I had heard was true.
I spoke to Dr. Edwards, of printing the tract or essay, in question; but he did not seem to favor the idea, and I forbore to press it. He said, that the manuscript referred to, was among several other unpublished papers of his father, which, as I understood him, were then in his hands. Into whose hands they have passed, since the death of Dr. Edwards, is unknown to me.
Respectfully and affectionately, Yours,