« AnteriorContinuar »
from the wells of salvation.' All the doctrines which he ever taught, he found, or believed he found, in the Bible ; and he taught them because he found them there, not because Calvin, or any other man had previously embraced them.
Voluminous as his system is, it bears evident marks, in some of its divisions, of laborious condensation. Many of the discourses chiefly consist, aside from the application, of concise and weighty propositions, each of which might have been drawn out into a long paragraph : and though never obscure, we think parts of the system would have been more interesting, had the pruning knife been less freely employed. But though an occasional complaint of needless dry discussion may perhaps be sustained by an appeal to some of these discourses, there is one redeeming quality in them all, which will be dwelt upon with satisfaction by every serious mind. We allude to their practical application. It seems never to have occurred to the pious author, that because he was writing a system of didactic theology, his work was done as soon as he had established a principle, or proved a doctrine. So far from it, he evidently valued principles and doctrines, chiefly on account of their practical bearing upon the consciences of men, and the great duties of human life. Accordingly, at the close of every sermon, he deduced from the subject matter in hand those solemn truths and awakening motives, which he thought it was intended by the Holy Spirit to suggest. In this way, the attention of the thoughtless youth was often suddenly arrested, and conviction was fastened upon his mind, before he had time to harden his heart against it. Nor could the perverse caviller always escape.
Led onward from step to step, by the dignified elocution and powerful reasoning of
the preacher, he was surprised at length into conclusions which he would gladly have avoided, but from which he found it too late to escape.
If there is a God, he is to be worshipped ; if he made us, he has a right to do what he will with his own; and if we are wholly depraved, we must be born again ; if Christ, a divine and Almighty Saviour, came down from heaven to die for us, then must the demerit of sin be dreadful indeed. Such are the inferences which abound in the system of which we are speaking, and which constitute an exceedingly valuable part of it. And it is no common praise to say, that the attentive Christian reader, as he passes on from theme to theme, will be reminded, at almost every step, of Paul's epistles to the churches, which commence with the discussion of great doctrinal principles, and end with the most earnest practical applications.
Our limits prohibit our offering the remarks which have occurred upon the several grand divisions of Dr. Dwight's system ; but we cannot take our final leave of it, without adverting to two of them. The first is that in which he treats of the divine and mediatorial character of Christ. Here the reader will find a degree of amplification which no other subject perhaps would justify. The discussion is continued through no less than thirty discourses; and is spread over more than four hundred and fifty pages. To those who make light of Christ,' this part of the work cannot fail of being exceedingly tire
What,' they will be ready to ask, “is thy beloved more than another beloved ?' For, alas ! to them, · He has no form nor comeliness—no beauty, that they should desire him. But those who remember that he hatha name given him which is above every name,' and whose hearts prompt them to sing, "Whom have we in heaven
but thee, and there is none upon earth that we desire beside thee,' will read these discourses with very different emotions : for how can they ever be weary of such a theme? They will bear it in mind, too, that the divinity and atonement of Christ lie at the foundation of that glorious superstructure, whose · head-stone shall be brought forth with shoutings, Grace, grace unto it.' And when they recollect what mighty efforts are making to undermine this foundation, they will bless God for such large and impregnable munitions—for impregnable we are confident they will prove, whatever force may assail them. The main arguments for the supreme divinity of the Saviour are here set in a strong and convincing point of view, the most plausible objections are repelled, and we believe that very few professed theologians have thought and read so much on this great subject, that they can gain no additional light from these lucid pages.
We have spoken of Dr. Dwight's system of divinity, as his great work; but a more leisurely perusal of his practical volumes, leaves us in doubt which is entitled to the highest rank. Each, if not absolutely preeminent in its appropriate sphere, will, we venture to predict, be placed on the same shelf with the ablest productions of the kind. They have their distinctive features, to be
. sure, and they ought to have. The one contains more of divine philosophy, and the other of sacred rhetoric. That, perhaps, has more bone and muscle; but this surpasses it in the heart and soul of pulpit eloquence. When we turn to the system, if fancy is there, she generally sits with folded wings, and imagination is held in check by a strong hand, to give scope for severe theological discussion : but when we come back to these more practical and popular discourses, we find the reins relaxed. Logical filiations are less extended and less abounding; feeling has more sway; the heart is more directly aimed at ; and far more room is given for vivid pictures, and strong appeals both to the hopes and fears of the reader.
But after all, the great lineaments of talent, and feeling, and piety, are every where the same. There is the same originality, independence, richness, and vigor of thought; the same love of arrangement; the same earnestness and copiousness of diction; the same glow of benevolence; and the same lofty conceptions of God, of the Gospel of Christ, of the worth of the soul, and of eternity
When we say, as we would be understood distinctly to say, that, in our judgment, the sermons before us will not suffer in comparison with some which have enjoyed the greatest popularity, we do not mean to intimate, that they possess, in the highest degree, every requisite of this species of composition-nor that they are equally adapted to all occasions, and to every class of readers. Davies has more tropical fervor, and perhaps more genuine pathos, but not near so much depth and solidity. Bellamy sometimes makes the law thunder louder; and Edwards gives a nearer and more vivid reality to the deathless worm, and the unquenchable fire ; but neither of those great preachers was master of so correct, or so captivating a style. For the conference room, in the commencement and progress of a revival, these discourses of Dr. Dwight will not compare with Burder's Village sermons, nor with many others which we could name. They are too long -too long, we mean, for the occasion. They are also, paradoxical as it may appear, too full of thought ; and the style is too elevated. In short, they belong to a higher class of compositions, and will fill a very important
space which ordinary sermons are not permitted to occupy. Such is the wisdom of God, in the diversity of gifts which he bestows upon his ministers, for the edification of the church.
Duly to estimate the value of these discourses, we must bear in mind that they were written, not for a common, but for a literary audience, with a view to be preached in the College Chapel at New Haven. Required by the statutes of the Seminary to appear in panoply every sabbath morning, Dr. Dwight could hardly be expected or desired to lay it wholly aside in the afternoon : but if he did not ordinarily put it off with the occasion, he was seldom or never incumbered with it. As in the theological chair, we always found the able logician and divine, so in every other department of the sacred office, we meet with the same earnest, faithful, and warm
To offer anything like a fair abstract, or even the framework of more than sixty sermons, occupying nearly eleven hundred closely printed pages, would be impossible within our limits. A richer table of contents we have rarely met with.
The first two hundred pages are devoted chiefly to the necessity of a special revelation, such as the Bible contains, to mankind acquainted with all those great truths on which their eternal well-being depends. And here, we know not which to admire most, the strong grasp of the author upon a great and difficult subject—the cogency, variety, and freshness of his arguments—his familiar acquaintance with the writings and opinions of heathen philosophers or his masterly exposure of their absurdities and contradictions. of the same general character are the two celebrated