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sermons, On the Nature and Danger of Infidel Philosophy, preached to the candidates for the Baccalaureate, in 1797, and soon after republished in England. These, we think, are the most elaborate and, upon the whole, the most finished and powerful of Dr. Dwight's discours
Such a synopsis of infidel opinions as they contain had never been given, we believe, by any writer; and if Hobbes, and Tyndal, and Herbert, and Shaftesbury, and Hume, have ever been summoned to answer for their unhallowed assaults upon the Christian system, by an abler indictment, we know not where to find it. Roused to a holy jealously for the Lord of Hosts, Dr. Dwight comes down upon these vaunting Philistines, like some indignant spirit from a higher sphere; and they quail and tremble under his rebukes. Awful is the majesty of truth! If the author of these two discourses had never done anything else for his country and the church, he would have been entitled to the gratitude of the age in which be lived.
The last twelve discourses of the first volume, including the two already mentioned on the natyre and danger of infidel philosophy, were delivered to as many successive classes, at the end of their collegiate course. To say that they were listened to with great interest, would be common praise. They are of that class of occasional sermons, which will bear to be read as well as heard; nay, which will richly reward a frequent perusal. They embody the results of long experience—the accumulated practical wisdom of no common mind. As specimens of classical taste and pulpit eloquence they are unequal, and several of them, perhaps, are in these respects surpassed by some other valedictory addresses. But in compass, and richness of thought; in minuteness of observation; in comprehension and philosophic views of human nature, and of mere earthly glory; in lofty moral principle; in earnest and pious exhortation ; and in overflowing paternal yearnings; we know not where to find anything superior to these baccalaureate discourses. We regret that we have no room for extracts; and that we are compelled to pass over, in silence, so much more that is excellent, in order to find room for the remarks which we intended to make, upon the talents and character of Dr. Dwight as a religious and literary teacher; upon the influence which he exerted while living; and the enduring good which will result from his instruction, example, and writings.
In selecting his topics, and preparing his discourses, Dr. Dwight never drew a bow at a venture. He had an aim, and he never lost sight of it. So accustomed. was he to invention, and to the arrangement of his thoughts under their proper heads, that to have written a sermon after the manner of some preachers, without any proper beginning, middle, or end, would have been impossible. Discussion was his life and breath. Order was the first law of his mind, which, as it advanced from step to step, would always create for itself a solid substratum. It had an instinctive fondness for hard labor; but it would not work at all, except by rule. Every sermon must have a skeleton, to be clothed with flesh and skin,' and the articulations and processes must be sufficiently prominent for the muscles and tendons. This is observable in all his discourses, whether doctrinal or practical. They are · fenced with bones and sinews ;' and the effect depends, not so much upon a single feature, as upon the compactness and goodly proportions of the whole frame. Dr. Dwight, like every other distinguish
ed preacher, made his own plans. The deep and broad current of his thoughts could never flow in common channels. Whenever a passage was to be cut through the solid rock, he chose to hew it out for himself; and he would as soon have gone to England for the materials of his “table talk,' as to Simeon, or any one else, for helps !
In his manner of delivery, Dr. Dwight was graceful, dignified, solemn, and animated. In his voice were united fullness, strength, flexibility, and melody. His articulation was remarkably distinct, though at times considerably rapid ; and it was always forcible. In whatever great and crowded house he was called to speak, he filled it with perfect ease, never failing to reach the remotest of the audience. We have seldom known a speaker, who could, especially on great occasions, hold an enlightened assembly in more fixed attention. The volume of his elocution, though always full and clear, and strong, was, for the most part, quite uniform. But there were times, under special excitement, when it burst forth like a torrent; and then, if it did not hurry you down the cataract, it inevitably swept you away from your moorings. That he was not acting a part, but pouring out the treasures of his own understanding and feelings, was manifest on all occasions; but when warmed by some favorite and inspiring subject, his whole soul was in bis eye; and his logic itself was all on fire.
But much as Dr. Dwight excelled and was admired in the pulpit, he appeared with still greater advantage in another sphere. The remark will no doubt be thought extravagant, if not invidious, by some of our readers, but it is our sober judgment, that no other man in this country ever possessed so many rare qualifications, physical, intellectual, and moral, for the presidency of a great literary institution; and all these combined with so much knowl- . edge and experience. With the bappiest talent for winning confidence and communicating instruction, teaching was his great business and his delight for almost fifty years; and during the last half of this period, we do not believe that any distinguished instructer, who knew him, ever considered it a disparagement to be placed below him. Having been so long conversant with youthful intellect, in its strength and its weakness; in its loftiest aspirations, and its deepest dwelling-places; and having made himself master of all the avenues by which it can be approached, he was seldom at a loss for expedients, even in the most discouraging cases.
If a student had any talent, any capacity for improvement, Dr. Dwight was sure to find where it lay, and to make the most of it. His maxim was, that nothing is impossible to application and perseverance; and cheered by his smiles, many a youth was nurtured up to respectability and usefulness, who would have come out a mere cypher from under the hand of an ordinary instructer. He was constantly exhorting his pupils to set their mark high, to think, to reason, to be thorough in every study, to fix their thoughts upon great and worthy objects, and to attempt great things for their country, for the church, and the world. There was nothing which he more heartily pitied and despised, than one who was content that his soul should revolve forever in an acorn shell; and no man ever knew better than he did how to make such an one feel his contemptibleness.
Always cheerful and animated himself, his example contributed powerfully to spread the same sunshine, even over minds predisposed to despondency. At all times accessible, courteous, and sensible, he entered at once into the feelings of such as applied to him for advice, made their interests his own, and, we believe, seldom failed to gain their confidence, and win their hearts. Viewed as an instructer and guide of young men, perhaps no two traits were more remarkable in the character of Dr. Dwight, than his assiduity and disinterestedness. "If he delighted in any thing, it was in doing good to those under his charge, and fitting them for usefulness. He cared not how much he labored, nor how much thought and time it cost him, if the great objects of their being, and of their education, could be promoted. His pupils felt, when they had occasion to consult him, that he could not have taken a deeper interest in the welfare of bis own children, than he manifested in theirs; and this, we believe, was literally true. For he had so long delighted in doing good, for its own sake, as well as from principle and habit, that he seemed incapable, to a degree which we have hardly ever known, of taking his own personal convenience or interests into the account.
But though winning and instructive everywhere, it was in the class room that his powers of communication were drawn out in their greatest strength and variety. It was there that he poured out the stores of his knowledge and experience on every subject that came before him. It was there that metaphysical acumen, a lofty imagination, keen logical discussion, and profound elocution, were blended often in unwonted harmony. It was there that Dr. Dwight, like a presiding genius, encouraged the timid, checked the temerity of the froward and presuming, enlightened the understanding, and warmed the heart. In short, it was there that he astonished, delighted, and animated those who had the privilege of hearing bim, almost at pleasure.
As a disciplinarian, he was perhaps equally unrivalled.