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During twenty years, Yale College continued to enjoy the watchful superintendance and indefatigable labours of this invaluable man; and at the age of sixty three, his constitution exhibited no symptoms of decay or infirmity. The regularity of his habits, and the uniform course of exercise which he pursued, rendered him at that age more active and energetic than most men are at forty. It was his constant practice, when the season admitted of it, to work for at least one hour before breakfast in his garden. He also walked, or rode on horseback, for some time every day; and often in the winter, when no other mode of exercise was convenient, would employ himself in cutting fire-wood. By these means, he secured the uninterrupted enjoyment of vigorous health, till, in February 1816, he was seized with the first attack of the painful disease to which he ultimately fell a victim. For several weeks, he endured with unyielding fortitude and resignation the most excruciating pain; and when at length he obtained, by surgical aid, partial relief, it was evident that the disorder had made the most fearful ravages in his constitution. During the summer, he was able so far to struggle with the disease as to resume his professional and official labours. But, although his cheerfulness, as well as the activity of his mind, were unabated, his strength was visibly ebbing away. Often, languid and scarcely able to support himself, he would enter the lecture-room, announcing his intention only to ask the students a few questions; but, kindling with the subject, his physical system,' says his biographer, " seemed temporarily excited by the action of his mind, and he would discourse with his usual eloquence and interest, and even threw a charm of sprightliness and brilliancy over his communications." Only a week before his death, he heard the theological class at his own house for the last time. His sufferings were extreme; his debility so great that it appeared a painful effort for him to speak; "but again, his mind abstracted itself from sympathy with an agonised frame," and, in a discourse of one hour and a half, he expatiated on the doctrine of the Trinity in a strain of cogent reasoning and interesting illustration, which left an indelible impression on the minds of his pupils. He continued in a state of suffering, but not of inactivity, his amanuensis being kept in constant employment during his long confinement, till the 8th of January, 1817, when he was seized with new and alarming symptoms, and after lingering till the 11th, expired without a struggle.
We have deemed this brief sketch of the life and character of the admirable author of these volumes, the best introduction to a review of their contents, and, possibly, the most effectual recommendation of them to our readers. The high veneration which the memoir is adapted to inspire, although by no means necessary to secure the attention which they demand, and which they will so richly repay, prepares the reader to enter with appropriate expectations on the perusal. We have of necessity omitted many very interesting details illustrative of his finished character as a preacher,
a theological tutor, a citizen, and a Christian, will be found in the very ample narrative of his biographer. It would admit, in some parts, of a little compression, and a revised form, would be highly deserving of separate republication, since the magnitude of the work will place it out of the reach of many individuals to whom the memoir will be highly acceptable.
The lectures contained in these volumes were planned, and in part composed and delivered, during Dr. Dwight's residence at Greenfield. When appointed to the divinity professorship, in addition to the presidency, of Yale College, his practice was, to preach one of them on every Sunday morning during term time; by which arrangement, he finished the course once in four years, so that every student who completed the regular term of his education, had the opportunity of hearing the whole series. The lectures were published as they were dictated to the amanuensis, with scarcely any corrections. He wrote no plan of them himself, and yet, the analysis of them drawn up by the editor, exhibits the most exact and lucid arrangement. They are strictly, and in the best sense, sermons, and sermons of a highly practical nature, while they are fully entitled by their systematic order, their metaphysical acuteness, their depth and comprehensiveness of thought, and their logical accuracy of reasoning, to the character of theological lectures. "Their primary object," the editor justly states, "is to explain and prove the great truths of theology; their second, to enforce them on the conscience, and to show their practical influence." His most obvious purpose was, to promote the salvatiou of those to whom they were addressed.
The two leading divisions of the work are, a series of lectures on the doctrines, and a series on the duties of religion. The first series is rather arbitrarily, and not very correctly subdivided, in the editor's analysis, into doctrines of natural religion, and doctrines peculiar to the Christian religion. With no propriety are the discoveries of Revelation respecting the decrees of God, the existence and rank of angels, the fall of man, and the impossibility of being justified by the works of the law, ranked among doctrines of natural religion. For such an arrangement, Dr. Dwight is not responsible. His own division of the subjects, is, into, Scripture truths, and Scripture precepts. The first sixteen sermons treat of the existence and attributes of God, and embrace, of course, a notice of what is termed the atheistic controversy. These are followed by nine sermons on the works of God, including a specific consideration of the nature and the end of man. To these succeed a series on the providence of God as Creator, in which the probation, the fall, and the consequent depravity of man, together with "the situation in which mankind are by means of their corruption," are treated at large. These thirty-four sermons have a general correspondence, as to their order and contents, to the first book of Calvin's Institutes, De cognitione Dei Creatoris. Dr. Dwight has followed the same natural order of the Apostles'
creed, in proceeding to treat, in the subsequent sermons, on the doctrines which come under the title of his second book, De cognitione Dei Redemptoris. In these, the Socinian controversy comes under examination; and many of the remarks and illustrations which occur in this part of the series, are peculiarly striking and original. The following is the order of the subjects which it comprises: the deity of Christ (in seven sermons), the humanity of Christ; (one sermon), the covenant of Redemption under which he acted (one sermon), his threefold office as prophet, priest, and king, including the special consideration of the nature, necessity, and extent of his atonement (sixteen sermons), the miracles, of Christ, his resurrection, and the amiableness of his moral character (each, one sermon). The consequences of Christ's mediation are treated of under the heads of justification by faith, regeneration, adoption, and sanctification, with its fruits and evidences, in sermons 64 to 90; corresponding to the third book of Calvin, De modo percipiendæ Christi gratiæ, et qui fructus inde nobis proveniant. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit's agency, and that of the Trinity, come under consideration in this part of the series. The "system of duties," which occupies sermons 91 to 162, comprises, first, an exposition of the Commandments, and secondly, all those subjects which come under the general designation of means of grace. The subjects of Calvin's fourth book, therefore, De externis Mediis ad Salutem, are embraced in this part of the work, including the subject of church government, as well as what is too often considered as foreign from theological discussions, a code of christian morality. Death, the resurrection, the final judgment, and the future state, which are treated of by Calvin in his third book, among the fruits of Christ's mediation, are with more correctness reserved by Dr. Dwight for what might be termed a fifth book. We see no propriety, however, in the general title given to them in the analysis; a "system of dispensations." They belong in fact, with the exception of the first topic, to the truths of revealed religion. They form a part only, and are but the consummation of that great system of Providential dispensations which commences with the mediatorial intervention of the Saviour. This, it is evident from the author's own language, was the light in which he himself viewed these subjects, although, from their mixed nature, he deemed it more proper, instead of classing them with other doctrines of religion in connexion with the scheme of redemption, to reserve them for a separate series that might form an impressive conclusion of the whole course. They consist of nine sermons, which, with two concluding lectures on the internal evidence of the truth of Revelation, supplied by this view of the christian theology, make a total of one hundred and seventy-three.
Besides these, Dr. Dwight had collected materials for a series of fifty lectures on the Evidences of Revelation; some of which he delivered in the year following his induction. But the weakness of his eyes compelled him to desist, and they were left unfinished.
This subject, however, strictly speaking, forms no part of a system of theology; and it is possible that the author was less anxious to complete his design, from feeling that it was more proper for the lecture-room than for the pulpit, as being of a less practical nature. He might also think, that the internal evidences of revealed religion are those which it is most safe and most beneficial to bring forward; and these he takes frequent occasion, in these volumes, to insist upon. He well knew, that a man may acknowledge the authority of the scriptures and the credibility of the gospel history, and yet remain, as to the substance of revelation, an infidel. In all these lectures, he takes the truth of Christianity for granted, and argues from the declarations of Scripture as from first principles, never neglecting, at the same time, to show the reasonableness of its dictates, and the harmony of revealed truth with the soundest deductions of logic. We cannot but consider this as the most rational, the most philosophical, as well as the most salutary mode of investigation. Theology pre-supposes a revelation, and that revelation is not merely the primary source of our knowledge as to a large class of the most important truths, but it supplies the only medium of proof. This holds good with regard to the doctrines of what is termed natural religion, not less than with respect to the discoveries of the New Testament. Not only were they not discoverable, as the history of the most civilized nations of heathenism shows, by the light of reason; but the divine testimony is the only basis of certainty upon which, as principles of theological science, they can rest, and faith in that testimony is the only means of our knowing them. The practice, therefore, of exhibiting those doctrines apart from Revelation, we cannot but consider as wholly unadvisable, since it is to separate them from their true and proper evidence. Even the infidel who rejects the authority of the Scriptures, derives from the very Revelation he impugns, the knowledge of those primary theological truths which he attempts to turn against the believer. The existence and authority of Revelation must, then, be assumed as a first principle, in laying the foundation of theological science, and the legitimate purpose of a priori reasoning is, not to prove the truth of what, being revealed, is certain, but to answer the objections brought against the matter of Revelation. It is an unwarrantable and dangerous concession to the Humes, the Gibbons, and the Paines, to seem to admit, by the style of our reasonings, that there is any reasonableness in their scepticism as to the genuineness and credibility of the sacred records, or that Christianity, at this time of day, stands in need of being proved to be true. Yet, in many of the apologies of its advocates, and many lectures on the external evidences of Revelation, there is, we think, something too much of the tone of concession; and there is in some theologians a hesitating or timid way of referring to the Scriptural proof of religious doctrines, as if the inspiration of Scripture were really questionable; as if "Thus saith the Lord" were a less philosophical
reason for believing, than, Such is the testimony of Tacitus, or, such the reasoning of Mr. Hume.
The theological lectures of Dr. Dwight are characterised by a manner and spirit the very opposite of this. There is no dogmatism, neither is there any compromise of the claims of Revelation. He treads firmly, with the air of a man who knows the ground he has taken, and feels his position to be impregnable. There is, at the same time, a calm earnestness of manner, which bespeaks his conviction of the intrinsic value and practical efficacy of the truths he advocates. There is none of that professional sang-froid with which sometimes theological subjects have been discussed and lectured upon. The connection between his intellectual powers and his moral sensibilities, seem never to be suspended, but a wholesome circulation is going forward, which communicates warmth to his most abstract speculations. The consequent effect is, that these lectures are admirably adapted to make the reader not merely a rational believer, but a devout Christian.
In proceeding to substantiate these remarks, we feel no small difficulty in making from so large a mass of materials, our selection of extracts. The eighth and ninth sermons treat of the benevolence of God. In the first of these, the scriptural proposition, that "God is love," or benevolence (Ayarn), is proved from the works of creation and providence.
"Although,' says Dr. Dwight, I can by no means admit with many of my fellow-men respectable for their understanding and worth, that the Benevolence of God is not capable of being completely proved, or that it is not in fact completely proved, by the Scriptures, yet, I cannot help believing, that, if the proof furnished by reason be satisfactory also, and can be fairly exhibited as satisfactory, the minds of many men, at least, will rest on this subject with a conviction more unmingled, a confidence less exposed to danger and disturbance. The question concerning the amount of the evidence which Reason gives concerning this doctrine, has long been, and is still disputed. The proofs of the Divine benevolence from Reason, are regarded by many persons of reputation as insufficient. I have myself entertained, heretofore, opinions on this subject different from those I now entertain. As I have not seen it discussed in such a manner as satisfied my own wishes, I shall now consider it with more particularity than might otherwise be necessary.'
Having, in the previous lectures, proved from the self-existence and necessary attributes of Deity, that God is absolutely independent, that is to say, that he needs, and can need, nothing to render his ability either to do or to enjoy whatever he pleases, greater or more perfect, he proceeds to argue in proof of the necessary benevolence of God, first, that God can have no possible motive to be malevolent. The nature of things can furnish no