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When he took charge of the college, all the foundations were out of course ;' but his energy and wisdom soon brought them to their places. He knew how to touch the secret springs of motion and action, so as to make the great body of the students respect themselves; and this being done, they were brought to respect the laws and government of the institution, almost as a matter of course. In the most hopeless cases of refractoriness, his forbearance was carried to the extreme point of safety ; but there was something portentous in this very forbearance, which the subject of it could not fail to perceive, and to fear.
In his government of the college, Dr. Dwight was truly parental. He loved his pupils, and on his tongue was the law of kindness. When they erred, he treated them as in error, and not as in deliberate transgression. His intercourse with them was that of benignity and confidence. He wished them to forget that there were any laws, other than those by which gentlemen and Christians voluntarily govern themselves. In this manner he commonly succeeded and established an influence far preferable to that of pains and penalties. When a student refused to be won by means like these, which sometimes happened, and private admonition was called for, it was given with so much kindness, mingled with firmness, that it commonly had the desired effect. If, however, it failed, no man better knew how to administer threatening and terror than Dr. Dwight. No man could more easily make the transgressor tremble, or make him more heartily despise himself, by showing him what he was, and what he might be. Long will the friends of Yale College have reason to bless God, for raising up and placing over it such a man, at the very time when his peculiar talents and almost unbounded popularity were so imperiously required.
Dr. Dwight would bave appeared to advantage in almost any station to which he could bave been called. He would have been distinguished at the bar, or on the bench : his eloquence would have been impressive in the halls of legislation; he would have presided with dignity in the deliberative assembly; he would have been respected and listened to in the cabinet ; he would have done honor to bis country, as ber representative at a foreign court; and he was early solicited to receive the suffrages of his fellow citizens, and aspire to civil and political distinction. But God had raised him up for different services; and whatever reputation he might have earned at Washington, or St. Cloud, we believe he could nowhere have done so inuch for his country and his kind, as in the place which he actually filled. It was chiefly through his influence and that of his pupils, that many of the churches were brought back from the half way practice, with all its laxness in doctrine and discipline, to the foundation on which the American church was first established by our pilgrim fathers. We do not say, that this great reformation, involving, as we believe it did, the salvation of thousands, would not have been effected without him, for God could have raised up a mightier champion for the truth ; or he could have accomplished his purpose by much feebler instrumentality ; but what we think ourselves fully justified in repeating, is, that Dr. Dwight was honored, above all his contemporaries, in the influence which he directly or remotely exerted, for the recovery of the half way churches around him, and others in different parts of the land, from their backslidings. This, which of itself would have been richly worth any man's living for, was but one among the many important services, which he personally rendered to the cause of truth and righteousness.
But great as was the good which he did while living, it bore no proportion to what we believe his surviving influence and his writings are destined to accomplish. Such a man, especially when intrusted extensively with the education of youth, for all the high offices and learned professions of the country, will impress much of his own character upon the next generation. Dr. Dwight could not, indeed, impart his great and various intellectual powers to his pupils. But he could, and did breathe into many of them, the spirit of patriotism, philanthropy, and moral enterprise which glowed in his own bosom. He could, and did mould the characters of a large proportion of every class, we will not say into his own image, but into habits of thought and action, specially adapted to the
age in which they were to live. How many hundreds who are now acting their parts with ability and usefulness on the great theatre of human life, rose up under his plastic hand, and will entail blessings upon a remote posterity. Not far from fifteen hundred, we believe, of the liberally educated men of our country enjoyed, at one time or another, the advantages of his instructions, example, experience, and advice. And when it is considered how many of these are burning and shining lights in the church -are found in our courts of justice in the halls of science, and legislation, and in various other departments of literary, political, and moral influence, throughout a mighty empire, even now in its early youth; who will undertake to estimate the final aggregate of that influence upon coming generations ? To have been instrumental in a giving wise and useful direction to so many minds ; to have set in motion such a mighty machinery, and still to live and think and speak, in so many representatives, is an honor which but few men can secure for themselves, under the most favorable circumstances.
Upon the merits of Dr. Dwight's writings we have no room for further enlargement. The good which his system of divinity has already accomplished beyond the Atlantic, where it has been carried through many editions, would be a rich reward for a thousand fold more labor than it cost; while a vast increase of popularity and usefulness is confidently anticipated. The celebrity of the author, and the intrinsic value of the work, give it both currency and credence, where no other American Calvinistic preacher could gain an equally favorable hearing; and thus, the doctrines which have been so eminently owned of God on this side of the water, are in a fair way of extending their influence on the other.
At home, the call for Dr. Dwight's theological works has, perhaps, hitherto been less urgent than might have been anticipated, from the extensive acquaintance and high popularity of the author in his life-time. But this may be accounted for on principles which cannot long stand in the way of a wide and useful circulation. The eloquent voice of the preacher imparted an interest to his discourses, which it is hardly possible for a silent perusal to afford. Of course, those who heard them delivered, are likely, when they read them in print, to feel something like a disappointment.
The prevailing taste of the age, moreover, demands excitement rather than solid instruction; and Dr. Dwight has made very little provision for this sickly appetite. What he offers, is the product of thought, is full of thought, and requires thinking to digest and make it profitable. But these causes must be temporary. The existing generation will soon pass away. The commanding elocution of the author will be no more remembered. Readers will again be willing to reason and to think, as in times gone by; and then, we venture to predict, will the discourses, both doctrinal and practical, which have now passed under our hasty review, be read with increasing interest, and will enjoy an enduring popularity.