Rev. Morgan Edwards was born in Wales, May 9, 1722. He was educated at Bristol College under Bernard Foskett, its first president. He was ordained June 1, 1757, in Cork, Ireland, where he labored for nine years. He returned to England and preached for a year in Rye, in Sussex, when, through the recommendation of Dr. Gill and others, on the application of the Baptist church of Philadelphia, he came to that city and church, and entered upon the pastorate May 23, 1761.
In 1770 be preached a sermon on the text, "This year thou shalt die," which by many was regarded as his intended funeral sermon, as it is said that he expected to die on a particular day. But he was disappointed when the day of death dawned and departed, for instead of expiring, he lived for nearly a quarter of a century after. Circumstances led to his resignation that year, though he continued to preach for a considerable period later.
After his departure from Philadelphia he never assumed the duties of the pastorate in any other church. He resided in Delaware. He supplied vacant churches till the Revolution, during which he gave up preaching, and after peace, was proclaimed he gave lectures on Divinity in various parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and New England. He died at Pencador, Del., Jan. 28, 1795.
Mr. Edwards took the side of the mother-country during the Revolutionary struggle. One reason given for this course was that he had a son an officer in the service of Great Britain. He was the only Tory in the ministry of the American Baptist churches. The Baptists everywhere over this land, ministers and laymen, were enthusiastic friends of liberty.
Morgan Edwards was a man of refined manners, and shone to peculiar advantage in good society. He was the master of scholarly attainments, and he was accustomed to say, "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." His attachment to Baptist principles was intense, and no man since the days of the Apostles ever showed greater love, or made more costly sacrifices for them than he did. He was full of generosity, he would give anything to a friend or to a cause dear to him. Edwards was a man of uncommon genius. In his day no Baptist minister equaled him, and none since his time has surpassed him.
He was the founder of Brown University, at first called Rhode Island College. It is well known that this enterprise was started in the Philadelphia Baptist Association in its meeting in 1762, and Morgan Edwards was "the principal mover in this matter," as he was the most active agent in securing funds for the permanent support of the institution. To Morgan Edwards more than to any other man are the Baptist churches of America indebted for their grand list of institutions of learning, with their noble endowments and wide-spread influence.
But we owe him another heavy debt for his "Materials Towards a History of the Baptists," etc. He journeyed from New Hampshire to Georgia gathering facts for a history of the Baptists, and these "Materials," printed or penned, are the most valuable Baptist records in our country. They show immense painstaking, they are remarkably accurate, they treat of points of great value. Morgan Edwards and Robert B. Semple, of Virginia, deserve the lasting gratitude of every American Baptist in a fervent measure. This great Welshman has conferred favors upon American Baptists not second to those of his illustrious countryman who founded Rhode Island.
[From William Cathcart, editor, The Baptist Encyclopedia, 1881; rpt. 1988, p. 362. jrd]
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