EXPLAINED AND DEFENDED,
SERIES OF SERMONS;
TIMOTHY DWIGHT, S. T. D. LL. D.
LATE PRESIDENT OF YALE COLLEGE.
THE LIFE OF THE AUTHOR.
IN FOUR VOLUMES.
PRINTED AND PUBLISHED BY S. CONVERSE.
STEREOTYPED by A. CHANDLER.
[ 2 ]
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT, ss.
BE it remembered, that on the fifth day of January, in the forty second year of the Independence of the United States of America, Timothy Dwight, and William T. Dwight, both of said District; Administrators of the Rev. Timothy Dwight, now deceased, and late of the said District, have deposited in this office the title of a book, the right whereof they claim as Administrators as aforesaid, and Proprietors, in the words following, to wit:
Theology; explained and defended, in a Series of Sermons; by Timothy Dwight, T. D., LL. D. late President of Yale college. With a Memoir of the Life the Author,. in five Volumes. Vol 1.’’
In conformity to the Act of the Congress of the United States, entitled, " An Act for the encouragement of learning, by securing the copies of Maps, Charts, and Books, to the authors arid proprietors of such copies, during the times therein mentioned."
R. I. INGERSOLL,
Clerk of the District of Connecticut.
A true copy of Record, examined and sealed by me.
Clerk of the District of Connecticut.
This document was scanned from an original printing.
The text of this and other superb works are available on-line from:
The Willison Politics and Philosophy Resource Center
Reprint and digital file June 2, 2001.
We are pleased to be able to present this astonishing biography of one of Yale's most influential Presidents, TIMOTHY DWIGHT, as found in this 1823 printing of his Yale theology lectures which are commonly known as 'Dwight's Theology". Republished many times over, they serve to deliver a very useful body of applied theology, superb in depth of learning, concerning the human, moral, and spiritual issues of this world, and of infinite importance for every person, to that of the next world, the eternal and spiritual dimension we shall all enter into
Due to its length, we have divided it into two parts. Part 1 ( pp. 1-30 ) begins with his remarkable family background, and concludes with his entrance to Yale's Presidency. Part 2 continues with his published works, a dramatic account of his final days preceding his death, and a review of his life, in particular as it affected others, which as president of Yale flowed forth vicariously through the thousands who passed through its doors, and then to the world in manifold and elevated stations of life.
To aid the reader, we have retained the original page numbers in brackets as shown here: [ 3 ]
Portions that present, in our opinion, items of import have been highlighted in bold face. No bold face appears in the original.
The following is a short index of interesting topics in Part 1:
[ 4 ] Dwight's family background, grandson of Jonathan Edwards. Taught to read the Bible before age 4 by his mother.
[ 6 ] Enters Yale at age 13
[ 8 ] Receives B. A. at age 17 ( 1765 )
[ 10 ] Receives M. A. at age 20 (1772). On that occasion he delivered, as an exercise at the public Commencement, "A Dissertation on the History, Eloquence, and Poetry of the Bible."
[ 12 ] Tutor at Yale, stresses value of personal character, and of the prophetic importance the U.S. ( and the students of course ) are shortly to play in the world scene.
[ 16 ] As a Massachusetts legislator, convinces that body to pass a bill for state grants to support Harvard, in a convincing and eloquent speech.
[ 17 ] An early and ardent supporter of higher education for women. This has immense import.
[ 19 ] Receives D. D. from Princeton (1787)
[ 20 ] As Yale President, convincingly refutes a majority of student's embrace of Enlightenment Philosophy, and delivers a striking defence of the Bible as the Word of God, and the Divinity of Christ. Also see [ 22, 23 ]
[ 21 ] Sees education more than acquisition of facts, "but to fit students for the various scenes into which they were to pass in life."
[ 25 ] Dwight was known as " The Young Man's Friend"
[ 26 ] Dwight's Theology served as a 4 yr. Course in Biblical Divinity to Yale students.
[ 29 ] Served in the establishment of the Missionary Society of Connecticut Society of Foreign Mission.
[ 30 ] Labors to establish the American Bible Society.
Here begins the original text:
[ 3 ]
LIFE OF PRESIDENT DWIGHT.
MEN of letters pass their lives in a course so tranquil and uniform, it is generally supposed, as to furnish but few incidents for the labours of the biographer or the entertainment of his readers. Mankind are attracted rather by what is brilliant in character and daring in action, than by the less splendid achievements of learning and piety. The exploits of the hero are recounted with applause while he is living, and after his death are enrolled with admiration on the records of nations; but the Minister of CHRIST must usually wait to receive his honours in eternity, and expect the due estimate of his labours only as they are written on the tablet of the skies.
There are, however, exceptions to this remark. Sometimes the good man, by the uncommon powers of his mind, by peculiar incidents in his life, by having exerted a commanding influence on the interests of the public, or by having acquired an unusual share in their affections ; presents the most attractive subject of biography. Contemporaries indulge a strong desire to view more minutely the life and character of the man, whose living excellence they have often felt and acknowledged; and posterity receive with admiration the history of one who so widely blessed a preceding generation.
The AUTHOR of the following Discourses claims a high rank among men of this class. The testimonies, far and wide, given by the public to his excellence, the heart-felt sorrow so extensively occasioned by his death, and the honours so profusely poured upon his memory; persuade us that we shall he listened to with lively interest, while we attempt in the following Memoir, to sketch the most important incidents of his life, and to delineate the most striking traits of his character.
TIMOTHY DWIGHT was born at Northampton, in the county of Hampshire, state of Massachusetts, on the 14th day of May, A. D. 1752. His parents were Timothy and Mary Dwight. The first ancestor of his father’s family in this country, John Dwight, came from Dedham in England, and settled at Dedham in Massachusetts, in 1637. From him, the subject of this Memoir was descended in the oldest male line; and he was able to look back on each individual in that line, including five generations, and reflect that he
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was a member of the Church of Christ, and had a fair reputation for piety. His father received his education at Yale College, where he entered on his bachelor’s degree in 1744. He was by profession a merchant, and owned a handsome landed estate in the town in which he lived. He was a man of sound understanding, of fervent piety, and of great purity of life. His mother was the third daughter of Jonathan Edwards, for many years the minister of Northampton, and afterwards president of Nassau-hall— well known in this country and in Europe as one of the ablest divines of the last century. She possessed uncommon powers of mind, and for the extent and variety of her knowledge, has rarely been exceeded by any of her sex in this country. Though married at an early age, and a mother at eighteen, she found time, without neglecting the ordinary cares of her family, to devote herself with the most assiduous attention to the instruction of this son, and her numerous family of children, as they successively claimed her regard. Perhaps few instances can be found, in which this great duty has been performed with more scrupulous fidelity, than in the case now under consideration. With a mind originally vigorous and discriminating, she had been accustomed from in fancy to the conversation of men of literature, who resorted in great numbers to her house; and thus was forcibly taught the importance of that learning, the effects of which she had so often had opportunity to witness. It was a maxim with her, the soundness of which her own observation through life fully confirmed, that children generally lose several years, in consequence of being considered by their friends as too young to be taught. She pursued a different course with her son. She began to instruct him almost as soon as he was able to speak; and such was his eagerness as well as his capacity for improvement, that he learned the alphabet at a single lesson; and, before he was four years old, was able to read the Bible with ease and correctness. His father was so extensively engaged in mercantile and agricultural pursuits, that he was necessitated to confide the care of his family, and particularly the superintendence of the early education of his children, chiefly to their mother. With the benefit of his father’s example constantly before him, enforced and recommended by the precepts of his mother, he was sedulously instructed in the doctrines of religion, as well, as the whole circle of moral duties. She taught him, from the dawn of his reason, to fear God and to keep his commandments; to be conscientiously just, kind, affectionate, charitable, and forgiving; to preserve, on all occasions and under all circumstances, the most sacred regard to truth; and to relieve the distresses and supply the wants of the poor and unfortunate. She aimed, at a very early period, to enlighten his conscience, to make him afraid to sin, and to teach him to hope for pardon only through the righteousness of CHRIST. The impressions thus made upon his mind in infancy were never effaced.
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A great proportion of the instruction which he received before he arrived at the age of six years, was at home with his mother. The school-room was the nursery. Here, he had his regular hours for study as in a school; and twice every day she heard him repeat his lesson. Here, in addition to his stated task, he watched the cradle of his younger brothers. When his lesson was recited, he was permitted to read such books as he chose, until the limited period was expired. During these intervals, he often read over the historical parts of the Bible, and gave an account of them to his mother. So deep and distinct was the impression which these narrations then made upon his mind, that their minutest incidents were indelibly fixed upon his memory. His relish for reading was thus early formed, and was strengthened by the conversation and example of his parents. At the age of six, he was sent to the grammar-school, where he early began to importune his father to permit him to study Latin. This was denied, from an impression that he was too young to profit by studies of that description, and the master was charged not to suffer him to engage in them. It was soon found to be in vain to prohibit him his zeal was too great to be controlled. Not owning the necessary books, he availed himself of the opportunity when the elder boys were at play to borrow theirs; and, in this way, without his father’s knowledge or the master’s consent, studied through Lilly’s Latin Grammar twice. When his master discovered the progress he had made, he applied earnestly to his father, and finally obtained a reluctant consent that he might proceed; though every effort short of compulsion was used to discourage him. He pursued the study of the languages with great alacrity, and would have been prepared for admission into College at eight years of age, had not a discontinuance of the school interrupted his progress, and rendered it necessary for him to be taken home, and placed again under the instruction of his mother. By her, his attention was now directed to the study of Geography and History. With no other help than Salmon’s Grammar, the only work on the subject then to be procured in the country, and a set of valuable maps of the four quarters of the globe, under the faithful tuition of his mother, he became thoroughly versed in the former science. In the latter, his father’s library furnished him with the requisite books; and the wisdom and affection of his mother with the necessary guidance. He was previously familiar with the historical parts of the Bible. She first turned his attention to Josephus and Prideaux, and the more modern history of the Jews. After this he read Rollin, Hooke’s History of Rome, Histories of Greece and England, and accounts of the first settlers of New-England, and their wars with the Indians. Often has he been heard to say, that almost all his knowledge of Geography and History was acquired at this period; and it is believed, that few persons have possessed a more extensive or accurate acquaintance with either of these sciences. This domestic
[ 6 ]
education rendered him fond of home and of the company of his parents, and led him to feel a livelier interest than is usual with boys of the same age, in the conversation of those who were older than himself. It also saved him from the school-boy coarseness and effrontery, often thought, in this rough world, a necessary but by no means an ornamental appendage of thc youthful character.
His father was particularly fond of the society of men of education and intelligence; and his hospitable house was the well— known resort of gentlemen of this character. To no one of the family were they more welcome, than to his son. Even at this very early period of life, while listening to their conversation on the character of the great men of the age, both in the colonies and in Europe, a deep and lasting impression was made upon his mind; and he then formed a settled resolution, that he would make every effort in his power to equal those, whose talents and character he had heard so highly extolled.
In his twelfth year, he went to Middletown, for the purpose of pursuing his studies, under the late Rev. Enoch Huntington, a gentleman of high classical attainments, he boarded in the family, and devoted himself to his books with unusual assiduity and success. Not content with the time regularly allotted to study in the school, he spent most of his leisure hours at home in intense application. So entirely was his mind absorbed by his books, that it was no uncommon thing for the members of the family to pass through his room, and even to call him by name, without being perceived by him. During his residence at Middletown, his conduct was marked with the strictest propriety, his manners were amiable and affectionate, his attention to his studies was intense and unremitted, and his progress in them rapid and honourable. When he left Middletown, he had acquired a very accurate knowledge of the Latin and Greek languages; and had read not only those classical authors which were necessary for admission into College, but those also which were studied during the two first years of a collegiate life.
In September, 1765, when he had just passed his thirteenth year, he was admitted as a member of Yale College. At that time, unfortunately, the freshman class had no stated tutor; but were dependant for their instruction, sometimes upon one officer of college, and sometimes upon another: a state of things too irregular and unsettled to produce any substantial benefit to the pupil. During the winter, he had the misfortune to break his arm; and, for several months in the spring and summer, he was prevented by sickness from pursuing his studies. Near the close of the Collegiate year, President Clap resigned his office; and the students for a short time were dispersed: a series of calamities, by which the year was in a considerable measure lost to him as a student. The discipline of College had been for several years chiefly annihilated. Loose opinions on morals and religion, prevailed
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extensively in the country, and their pernicious influence was too obviously felt in the various seminaries of learning. Owing to the bad state of the College commons, the students had been indulged in the practice of providing entertainments at their rooms. This naturally produced a great degree of inattention to their studies, and gave rise to scenes of revelry and riot, in the highest degree injurious to the pursuits of literature, it is not surprising, that in such a state of things the practice of gambling had become unhappily prevalent in College. Under all these disadvantages, young Dwight gained considerable reputation for genius and acquirements. His information and address rendered his society generally pleasing. it was courted, even by members of the higher classes, who strongly solicited him to join them in their pernicious amusements. But the instructions of his parents had made so deep an impression upon his mind, that no importunities of this nature could prevail upon him to engage with them in gambling. He was at length so far wrought upon, however, as to play for amusement; and, not being necessitated to study his lessons, gradually yielded to their solicitations, until much of his time was wasted in this manner. In no instance, however, did they influence him to play for money, or to stake even a farthing. Yet playing for amusement had so far become a habit, that when he returned to College, upon the commencement of his second year, he entered upon the practice with considerable ardour. From this danger he was fortunately rescued by the exertions of his tutor and kinsman, the Hon. Stephen Mix Mitchell, late Chief Judge of the Supreme Court of Connecticut; to whom, for this and many other acts of kindness, shown him while a member of College, he ever after acknowledged himself to be most deeply indebted. During the sophomore year, he was badly poisoned; by reason of which he was confined at his father's house four months, and obliged to discontinue his studies during that period.
It is apparent, from the foregoing recital, that the two first years of his collegiate, life must have been in a great measure lost.
On commencing his junior year, he devoted himself seriously to study. He was now fifteen: had
lost a great part of the two preceding years, and had but two remaining, in which he might hope
to redeem his loss, and lay the foundation for future usefulness and respectability. He entered
on the studies of the year with great zeal, and pursued them with unremitting assiduity and
perseverance. At that time College-prayers were attended at half past five o’clock in the
morning, in the winter, and at half past four in the summer. He began the year by qualifying
himself, every morning, to construe and parse a hundred lines in Homer before prayers. This
lesson, which formed no part of the regular College-exercises, was, of course, acquired by
candle-light; and his object in attending to it was, to render himself more thoroughly master of
the Greek language, than he could expect to become in the common
[ 8 ]
round of studies pursued by his class. The lesson, as he advanced, was gradually increased to a much larger quantity. His eyes being seriously affected by this intense application, at such unseasonable hours, it is not improbable that the foundation was thus early laid of that weakness in them, which caused him so much distress during the remainder of his life.
In addition to the ordinary pursuits of the year, he devoted a considerable portion of his time to
the inprovement of his handwriting; and by dint of his own exertions, attained a degree of
excellence in penmanship, that has rarely been equalled. So elegant, indeed, was his writing, that
it was with difficulty distinguished from the handsomest engravings. We have seen several of the
Diplomas which he wrote for his particular friends, and think some of them decidedly more
beautiful than the usual copper-plate impressions.
This is the earliest period in which he is known to have paid any attention to poetry and music.
The date of his first poetical composition cannot be precisely ascertained. Two or three
specimens, however, are preserved, which bear the date of 1767, and, of course, were written
when he was fifteen years of age. His attachment to music, particularly sacred music, was ardent.
His voice was at once melodious and powerful; and his ear exquisitely discriminating. He began
a collection of church music in the course of the year, but left it unfinished, probably because it
interfered with his more severe and important pursuits.
This may, with propriety, he considered as the era of his excessive devotion to study, and the acquisition of knowledge. At the commencement of the year he formed a resolution, to which he faithfully adhered during the remainder of his collegiate life, to employ fourteen hours each day in close application to his studies. Such intense and unwearied diligence, with the aid of his natural genius, soon established his reputation as a scholar, and placed him among the first of his class. He received the degree of Bachelor of Arts in the year 1769, when he was a little past seventeen years of age. At the Commencement, but a single appointment was made from the class which received the degree of Bachelors. Before giving it out, the President sent for Dwight and Strong, [ Footnote: The late Dr. Strong, of Hartford ] and informed them that, in the view of the officers of College, they were at the head of the class, and equally deserving of the appointment; but as Strong was the elder of the two, it would be given to him at that time, and to Dwight when the class entered on the degree of Masters.
A short time after leaving College, he was employed to take charge of a grammar-school, at New-Haven. In this situation he continued two years, highly esteemed as an instructor, both by his pupils and their parents. This was the commencement of that
[ 9 ]
course of life, which, with very little interruption, he pursued for nearly fifty years: a course of life, in which Providence peculiarly qualified him to excel. Probably few men have lived, who, in the same mode, have rendered more eminent services to mankind.
During these two years, he made great advancement in literature and science. His time was regularly divided, and occupied: six hours in each day in school; eight hours in close and severe study; and the remaining ten hours in exercise and sleep.
In September, 1771, when he was past nineteen, he was chosen a tutor in Yale College. In this situation he remained for six succeeding years, performing its duties with distinguished success and reputation.
When he entered upon the office, more than half the members of his class were older than himself; and the freshman who waited upon him was thirty-two years of age. [ Footnote: DAVID BUSHNELL, a man of strong mechanical genius, and the inventor of "the Submarine Boat." ]
Notwithstanding a circumstance generally so disadvantageous, he proceeded in the discharge of his official duties with firmness and assiduity; and, in a short time, gained a reputation for skill in the government and instruction of his class rarely known in the former experience of the College. It ought here to be observed, that the study of the classics and of the mathematics had been for a number of years vigorously pursued, owing to the exertions of several superior men; and the discipline of the seminary raised to a higher standard. His associates were men of distinguished talents; and by their united efforts the institution soon acquired a new and most important character. The study of rhetoric had been, till then, in a great measure neglected. The period from 1771 to 1777, will ever be considered as forming an era in the history of the College. Through the exertions and influence of Howe, Trumbull, and Dwight, a taste for those pursuits was excited, the effects of which have been experienced to the present time. The "art of speaking" had previously been thought scarcely worthy of attention. Of so much importance, however, was it considered by these gentlemen, that they not only taught it to their respective classes, but, from time to time, went upon the College stage to enforce their precepts by their example. Poetry was cultivated by them, especially by Trumbull and Dwight, with all the enthusiasm of genius. It was in the first year of his tutorship, at the age of nineteen, that the subject of this memoir commenced writing the CONQUEST OF CANAAN, a regular epic poem, founded upon the portion of sacred history to which its title refers, and which was finished in the year 1774, when he was twenty-two years of age.
No tutor was ever more faithful in the instruction of his class. His attention to their oratory, has been mentioned. In addition to
[ 10 ]
the customary mathematical studies, he carried them through spherics and fluxions. and went as far as any of them would accompany him into the Principia of Newton. He also delivered to them a series of lectures on style and composition, on a plan very similar to that contained in the Lectures of Blair, which were not published until a considerable time afterwards. His application to study during the time he remained in office was intense. He began to study so early in the morning as to require candle-light, and continued the employment until late at night.
While a tutor, he was inoculated for the small-pox. The disease affected him mildly; but, upon his recovery, he too soon resumed his former habit of severe application to study. Long before this, his eyes had been greatly weakened, and probably for that reason were more sensibly affected by the smallpox. On being subjected to such rigorous exercise, before they had recovered their natural energy, they were so far injured as to cause him, through life a great degree of pain and embarrassment.
In the year 1772, he received the degree of Master of Arts. On that occasion he delivered, as an exercise at the public Commencement, "A Dissertation on the History, Eloquence, and Poetry of the Bible." This production, composed and delivered by a youth of twenty, on a subject then so new and of such high interest, was received by the audience with the strongest marks of approbation. A copy was immediately requested for the press; and it was afterwards re-published, both in this country and in Europe. We have seen it mentioned, in several instances, with very high respect, on the other side of the Atlantic. It is now rarely to be met with. Those who have read it, need not be informed, that it was an effort of no common character. It unfolded, at that early age, the bolder features of the author’s mind; and evinced uncommon maturity of judgment and taste. The style is dignified and manly, and formed by a standard truly classical. The field of thought was new in this country. The Lectures of Lowth, if then published, were not known on this side of the Atlantic; nor do we know of any work, except the Bible itself, to which the author appears to have been indebted for his plan or his illustrations. The knowledge of criticism displayed in it is profound; the conceptions are bold and original; the images are beautiful and distinct; and the very spirit which breathes in the Sacred Writers, appears to animate his own mind. This was his only effort, in public, which his father ever witnessed.
At a subsequent period, during his residence in College as a tutor, he engaged deeply in the study of the higher branches of the Mathematics. Among the treatises on this science to which his attention was directed, was Newton's Principia, which he studied with the utmost care and attention; and demonstrated, in course, all but two of the propositions, in that profound and elaborate work. This difficult but delightful science, in which the mind is always
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guided by Certainty in its discovery of truth, so fully engrossed his attention, and his thoughts, that, for a time, he lost even his relish for poetry; and it was not without difficulty that his fondness for it was recovered.
During the second year of his tutorship, he attempted, by restricting his diet, to remove the necessity for bodily exercise, and yet to secure himself from the dullness incident to a full habit and inactive life, he began by lessening the quantity of his food at dinner, and gradually reduced it, until he confined himself to twelve mouthfuls. After an experiment of this regimen, being still somewhat dissatisfied with its effects, and feeling less clearness of apprehension than was desirable, he confined himself for a considerable period to a vegetable diet, without, however, increasing the quantity. His other meals were proportionally light and abstemious.
After this system of study and diet had been pursued about a twelve-month, his health began insensibly to decline, and his constitution, naturally vigorous, to give way. During the summer of 1774, he first perceived the reality of this change, but had no suspicion of the cause. Though he had suffered several distressing attacks of the bilious colic before the College Commencement, yet after the vacation he renewed the same course of regimen and of application to study. But a short time had elapsed before these attacks were repeated with increased violence; and his friends becoming seriously apprehensive of the consequences, informed his connexions of his situation. His father, on his arrival at New Haven, found that his disorder had indeed made dreadful ravages in his constitution. His frame was emaciated, and his strength so far reduced, that it was with extreme difficulty he could be conveyed to Northampton. When he left New-Haven, his friends. and his pupils took leave of him, as they supposed, for the last time and he had himself relinquished all hope of recovery. In the course of two months he had nineteen severe attacks of the disease. An eminent physician, whom he now consulted, after successfully administering to his immediate relief, recommended to him, among other things, a daily course of vigorous bodily exercise, as the only means of restoring his constitution to its primitive vigour. He followed his advice, and, within a twelve-month, walked upwards of two thousand miles, and rode on horseback upwards of three thousand. To his perseverance in this system, he was probably indebted for his recovery, as well as for the uninterrupted health and vigour of constitution which he enjoyed for the ensuing forty years.
In the year 1774, Mr. Dwight united himself to the College church. At this time, it was his expectation to pursue the practice of law; and, towards the close of his residence in College as a tutor, his studies were directed towards that object.
The first class which he instructed entered on the degree of
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Bachelors in September, 1775, the year before the declaration of independence. At that time he
delivered them a "Valedictory Address,’’ every where sparkling indeed with brilliant imagery,
but every where fraught also with strong thoughts and noble conceptions. In two points of view
it deserves notice It unfolds to his pupils the duty of fixing on a very high standard of
character as intelligent and as moral beings, in a manner which proves at once that this
was literally the rule which governed his own conduct, and that he was admirably
qualified to influence others to adopt it ; it also communicates to them views of the growth
and ultimate importance of this country, which were at once new, noble, and prophetic.
In March, 1777, he was married to Miss Mary Woolsey, the daughter of Benjamin Woolsey,
Esquire, of Long-island, the class—mate, room—mate, and intimate friend of his father. They
had eight sons, of whom six survive their father. Mrs. Dwight is still living.
In May of the same year, College was broken up. The students left New-Haven at the
commencement of the vacation, and pursued their studies during the summer under their
respective tutors, in places less exposed to the sudden incursions of the enemy. Mr. Dwight
retired with his class to Weathersfield, and remained with them till September. Early in June he
was licensed as a preacher, by a committee of the Northern Association, in his native county of
Hampshire, in the state of Massachusetts. Beside instructing his class during the summer, he
preached on the Sabbath at Kensington, a parish in Weathersfleld.
The following fact is a striking proof of the respect and affection with which he was regarded by the students. It being well ascertained that the existing head of the College would relinquish his connexion with it, the students, as a body, drew up and signed a petition to the Corporation, that he might he elected to the Presidency. It was owing to his own interference, that the application was not formally made.
He left College early in September, and soon after was appointed Chaplain to General Parsons' brigade, which was a part of the division of General Putnam, in the army of the United States. In the British army and navy, this office is too often filled by men who are distinguished only for their ignorance and profligacy. We are also compelled to admit, that, during our late war, this was most extensively true of those who held the same stations among our own forces. But in our war of the revolution the very contrary was the fact. The generous enthusiasm which then pervaded the country, not only prompted our young men of honour in civil life to take the field, but induced many of our clergy, of the first reputation for piety and talents, to attach themselves to the staff. The soldier of the revolution need not be told how animating were their sermons and their prayers, nor how correct and exemplary were their lives.
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Mr. Dwight joined the army at West Point in October, 1777. Although the scene was entirely new to him, he was not idle nor inattentive to the business which now devolved upon him. He performed the. appropriate duties of his office with strict punctuality, and with uncommon reputation. The troops who composed the brigade were, principally, Connecticut farmers; men who had been soberly educated, and who were willing to listen to the truths of the Gospel, even in a camp. On the Sabbath, they heard him with profound attention. During the week, they beheld him exerting himself, as far as lay in his power, to instruct them in morals and religion. Several of his discourses delivered to the whole army, owing partly to their intrinsic merit, and partly to the feelings of the times, gained him high reputation with the American public. He also wrote several patriotic songs, which were universally popular. They were favourite songs with the soldiers, and contributed not a little to kindle their enthusiasm in the cause of freedom. One of them, his "Columbia," will not soon be forgotten: it opened the eyes of his countrymen on a prospect new, brilliant, and delightful; and exhibited in distinct vision the rising glories of our infant empire. His connexion with the army enabled him to form an extensive acquaintance with many officers of distinction; and among them he had the satisfaction to rank the commander in chief. That great man honoured him with flattering attentions. Mr. Dwight ever remembered his kindness with lively gratitude, and entertained for his character and services, military and civil, the highest respect and veneration.
He remained in the army a little more than a year, when the news of his father's death, which reached him near the close of October, 1778, rendered it necessary for him to resign his office, in order to console his mother under that severe affliction, and to assist her in the support and education of her numerous family. On leaving the army, he received from his brother officers, particularly from Generals Putnam and Parsons, as well as from the soldiers, of the brigade, the most grateful testimonies of respect and kindness.
His father, in the midst of health and usefulness, had gone in the summer of 1776 to the Mississippi, for the purpose of providing a settlement in that country for two of his sons, by whom he was accompanied. Himself, with his brother-in-law, General Lyman, had grants from the crown of a large tract of land, in the southwest angle of what is now the state of Mississippi, comprising the present township of Natchez, and a considerable extent of adjacent country. Here he commenced a settlement under prosperous circumstances; but, near the close of the following year, fell a victim to the disease of the climate. He died at Natchez. His two sons, in company with the other adventurers, crossed the country through the wilderness in the dead of winter; and, after innumerable dangers and hardships, reached the sea-coast
[ 14 ]
of Georgia in safety. An account of this expedition will be found in the Travels of President Dwight. Rarely have we met with a more interesting or melancholy story. The original papers containing the grant were unhappily lost; and the family have never been able to substantiate their title to the land. Mr. Dwight’s personal grant was a considerable part of the township of Natchez. He left a widow and thirteen children, ten of whom were under twenty-one years of age. The subject of this memoir was the eldest, and on him devolved the care of the family, at a period when the situation and circumstances of the country rendered the task peculiarly difficult and laborious. From the time of his entering on the Bachelor's degree at College, to his leaving the army, he had subjected his Father to no expense for his own support. The intelligence of his death, in consequence of the peculiar circumstances of the country, did not reach the family until near a twelve-month after the event had happened. Upon receiving the information, he, with as little delay as possible, removed his own family to Northampton, and undertook the performance of the new duties which providentially had devolved upon him, with the greatest promptitude and cheerfulness. In this situation he passed five years of the most interesting period of his life; performing in an exemplary manner the offices of a son and a brother, and as a guardian to the younger children. Here he was emphatically the staff and stay of the family. The government and education of the children, as well as the daily provisions for their wants, depended almost exclusively on his exertions. The elder as well as the younger were committed to his care, and loved and obeyed him as their father. The filial affection and dutiful respect and obedience which he exhibited towards his mother, and the more than fraternal kindness with which he watched over the well-being of his brothers and sisters, deserve the most honourable remembrance. To accomplish this object, he postponed his own establishment for life, and a provision for his family. To accomplish it, though destitute of property, he relinquished in their favour his own proportion of the family estate ; laboured constantly for five years with a diligence and alacrity rarely exampled; and continued his paternal care and exertions and liberality long after his removal from Northampton. Often have we heard his mother, who died only ten years since, acknowledge, in language of eloquent affection and gratitude, his kindness and faithfulness, and honourable generosity to her and to her children. The respect which she felt and manifested towards him, though perhaps not his inferior in native powers of mind, resembled the affection of a dutiful child towards her father, rather than the feelings of a mother for her son. During this period, he laboured through the week upon the farm, and preached on the Sabbath to different vacant congregations in the neighbouring towns. He also established a school at Northampton, for the instruction of youth of
[ 15 ]
both sexes, which was almost immediately resorted to by such a number of pupils, that he was under the necessity of employing two assistants. At the same time, owing to the dispersed condition of the College at New-Haven, and to his established character as an instructor, a part of one of the classes in that seminary repaired to Northampton, and placed themselves under his care as their preceptor. To them he devoted his own immediate attention, until they had completed their regular course of collegiate studies. The school was continued during his residence there, and uniformly maintained an extensive and distinguished reputation. At the same time, he preached almost without intermission upon the Sabbath, with increasing popularity. For about, one year, commencing with the winter of 1778—1779, he supplied the vacant congregation of Westfield; the year following, that of Muddy-Brook, a parish of Deerfield; and the year after, that of South Hadley. He often mentioned it to the honour of the people of Muddy-Brook, that they paid him for preaching, not in the depreciated currency of the country, but in specie, or wheat at the specie price, at his election. The compensation which he received for preaching, as well as the profits of his school, were all expended in the support of the common family.
A strong disposition was manifested, from time to time, by the inhabitants of Northampton, to employ him in civil life. In the county conventions of Hampshire he repeatedly represented the town; and, in connexion with a few individuals, met and resisted that spirit of disorganization and licentiousness which was then unhappily prevalent in many parts of the county, and which had too visible an influence in an assembly often fluctuating and tumultuous, it was owing eminently to his exertions, and those of his colleague, the Hon. Joseph Hawley, in opposition to the current of popular feeling, and to no small weight of talents and influence, that the new constitution of Massachusetts was adopted by the convention of the most important county in the state. Twice he consented to serve the town as their representative in the state legislature. This was in the years 1781 and 1782, just before the close of the war of independence; when subjects of an interesting and perplexing nature, growing out of the great controversy in which the country had so long been engaged, extensively agitated the public mind, and engrossed legislative attention. Every thing was then, in a sense, unsettled. That war had sundered not only the cords which fastened the colonies to the mother country, but those, also, which bound them to each other. The old foundations were, in a sense, destroyed; and new ones were to be established. Many of the old laws and regulations were to be altered; and others, accommodated to the slate of freedom and independence, were to be devised and instituted. A sense of subordination and obedience to law, was, also, to be cherished, instead of a spirit of licentiousness then widely prevalent. In this
[ 16 ]
situation, inexperienced as he was in the business of a politician or a legislator, he at once became one of the most industrious and influential members of that body, and was greatly admired and distinguished for his talents and eloquence. All his exertions were on the side of good order and good morals; and indicated a steady attachment to the principles of rational liberty, and decided hostility to licentiousness. On one occasion he was enabled to prove his devotion to the interests of learning. A petition for a grant in favour of Harvard College was before the legislature. At that time such grants were unpopular. That spirit of honourable liberality, which now happily characterizes the legislature and people of that commonwealth, was then far from being universally operative. During his occasional absence from the house, the petition had been called up; and, after finding but few, and those not very warm advocates, had been generally negated. On taking his seat, Mr. Dwight, learning what had occurred, moved a reconsideration of the vote. In a speech of about one hour in length, fraught with wit, with argument, and with eloquence, and received with marked applause on the spot, from the members and the spectators, he effectually changed the feelings of the house, and procured nearly a unanimous vote in favour of the grant. It gave him high pleasure thus to confer an obligation on that respectable seminary: an obligation which was gratefully acknowledged by its principal officers, as well as by many others of its friends.
At this period, he was earnestly solicited by his friends to quit the profession in which he had engaged, and devote himself to public life. In the winter of 1782—1783, a committee from the delegation of Hampshire, waited upon him with assurances from that delegation, that, if he would consent, their influence should be exerted to secure his election to the continental Congress : a place in the gift of the legislature. The late Governor Phillips, of Andover, who was his friend and fellow-lodger, though a man of distinguished piety, gave it as his own unqualified opinion, that he ought to listen to those proposals and remain in civil life; assuring him, also, with several of the most influential members of both houses, of their cordial support. But he had become so thoroughly weaned from his first intention of practising law, and was so much attached to the clerical profession, and so convinced of its superior usefulness, that nothing could change his resolution to devote his life to the latter. Having preached occasionally while attending the legislature, in Boston, and the neighbourhood, he received invitations, accompanied with flattering offers, as it regarded compensation, to settle as a minister, in Beverly and Charlestown; both of which, however, he declined. In the month of May, 1783, he was invited, by an unanimous vote of the church and congregation of Greenfield, a parish in the town of Fairfield, in Connecticut, to settle as their minister. This invitation he accepted, on the 20th of July, in the same year. On the 5th of November following,
[ 17 ]
he was regularly ordained over that people; and for the succeeding twelve years remained their pastor.
The annual compensation which he received at Greenfield was a salary of five hundred dollars, the use of six acres of parochial land, and twenty cords of wood. They also gave him a settlement of one thousand dollars. From his extensive acquaintance with men of consideration in literature and politics throughout the country, and a native propensity to hospitality, it was very apparent that he could not expect to support a growing family, and the expenses incident to his standing in the community, upon such an income. To supply the deficiency, he immediately established an academy at Greenfield, which he superintended himself; devoting six hours regularly every day to the instruction of his pupils. In a short time, youths in great numbers, and of both sexes, not only from various parts of New-England, but from the middle and some southern states, as well as from abroad, resorted to his school. This institution was commenced and carried on absolutely without funds, and depended solely on his own character and exertions. He supported it during the whole period of his residence there with unexampled reputation. We know of no similar institution in this country, thus dependant, which has flourished so long, or to such a degree. During the twelve years of his residence there, he instructed upwards of one thousand pupils. Numbers of them were carried through the whole course of education customary at College. In his school he adopted, to a considerable degree, one part of the Lancasterian mode of instruction; making it extensively the duty of the older scholars, who were competent, to hear the recitations of the younger. Many, of his pupils were regularly boarded in his family; so that its usual collective number was from twenty to twenty-five. It ought to be mentioned that his female pupils were instructed in many of the higher branches of literature, which had not, here previously been taught to their sex; and that under his auspices, on the delightful spot where he resided, that that superior system of female education which is founded on the principle, that women are intelligent beings, capable of mental improvement, and which is at present extensively prevalent. Even to this day, however, in very few of the higher female schools, are they carried through the same extensive and solid course of study which was pursued by his pupils. Probably to the exertions and influence of no one individual are the ladies of our country so extensively indebted. No man thought more highly of the sex; no man loved better the company of women of refinement and intelligence; and no man did more to exalt the female character.
Beside the instruction of his school, he preached steadily twice every Sabbath; and regularly visited his people. He also cultivated, with his own hands, a large kitchen, fruit, and flower garden. Living but a few rods [ 16.5 ft., Willison ed.] from the public road, in a most delightful
[ 18 ]
village, and having numerous family connexions, and very many friends and acquaintance, he saw and entertained an almost uninterrupted succession of company; greater, we are led to believe, than any individual whom we have known in the state. Among these were many strangers of respectability, from various and distant parts of the country. Greenfield was the resort of learning, of talents, of refinement, and of piety; and his own hospitable doors were ever open to welcome the stranger as well as friend. We believe the instances to be rare, in which a single individual has been the centre of such extensive attraction to men of superior character, or so entirely altered the aspect of society in the region around him.
When it is considered that, from his leaving College as a tutor, his eyes were so weak as not only to preclude him almost entirely from reading and writing, but to cause him, very frequently extreme pain and distress; it will naturally be concluded, that he must have passed a very industrious and laborious life. Such, however, was his capacity for every kind of business in which he was engaged, that he was able to devote as much time as was necessary to the calls of company and friendship, as well as to perform the extra—parochial duties of a minister to his people. Previous to his settlement at Greenfield, his character as a preacher stood high in the public estimation. During the period of his residence there, he gained a reputation not often equalled in this Country.
Having experienced the disadvantages of too abstemious as well as too sedentary a life when engaged as tutor in College, he became ever afterwards extremely attentive to his health. For the purpose of guarding himself against the recurrence of his former sufferings in this respect, he used a great deal of bodily exercise. He not only walked and rode, but he worked steadily and vigorously in his garden and on his land.
Being unable from the weakness of his eyes to write, he very early discovered that he must perform his stated duties as a preached without notes, or abandon his profession. A very few experiments convinced him that he was able to adopt the former course; and he pursued it for many years almost exclusively. That course was, to write the heads of his discourse, and the leading thoughts of which it was to be composed, and to fill up the body of it at the time of delivery. What was committed to writing occupied him but a few minutes. Under all the disadvantages which he experienced from the weakness of his eyes, and notwithstanding the variety of his avocations and duties, he composed and preached, while at Greenfield, about one thousand sermons, which, deducting the time he was absent during that period, will differ very little from two each week.
In the year 1785, he published the Conquest of Canaan. This work was begun, as has been remarked, when he was nineteen years
[ 19 ]
of age, and finished in his twenty-third year. Proposals for printing it were issued in 1775, and upwards of three thousand subscribers procured; but the circumstances of the country, just then commencing the war of independence, which lasted till 1783, postponed its publication. A few additions were made to the poem between that time and its appearance in 1785; but the great body of it was published as it was written in 1773.
In 1787, Mr. Dwight received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from the College at Princeton, New-Jersey. He was then thirty-five years of age.
In 1791, he was appointed by the governor of the state to preach the election sermon, before the legislature, at Hartford.
In the year 1793, he published a sermon on the Genuineness and Authenticity of the New Testament; and in the following year, a poem in seven parts, called after the place of his residence, "GREENFIELD HILL". The Conquest of Canaan, and Greenfield Hill, were both re-published in England.
During his residence at Greenfield, he cultivated an extensive acquaintance and intercourse, not only with the Congregational Clergy of New England, but with many in the Presbyterian Church in New-York and the states farther south. This fact often enabled him to exert an auspicious influence in removing the prejudices which unhappily existed in many of both classes; as well as in various instances directly to promote the great interests of morals and religion. Among other subjects which early engaged his attention, was that of a more intimate union of the Congregational and Presbyterian Churches throughout the United States. On this subject he entered into an extensive correspondence with the more influential clergy, both in Connecticut and New-York. A proposition for this object was made by him, early in the year 1790, in the particular Association of which he was a member. It was carried from that body to the General Association of Connecticut, which, in June of that year, met at his house. That venerable body proposed it in form to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church and the General Convention of Massachusetts. The two former bodies appointed each a committee of three to form and establish articles of union. This committee, of whom Dr. Dwight was one, met at New-Haven in September, 1791, and most harmoniously and happily executed their commission. To the union then agreed on, the associated churches of Massachusetts, Hew-Hampshire, and Vermont, have since acceded: an event that has been attended with very beneficial consequences to religion and the Church.
In the year 1794, he was invited by the Consistory of the Reformed Dutch Church in the city of Albany, to remove to that place and settle as their minister. The application was unanimous, and the compensation which they offered was considered, at the time, as liberal; but it was not accepted. for reasons which were deemed by him satisfactory.
[ 20 ]
In May, 1795, the Presidency of Yale College became vacant by the death of the Rev. Dr. Stiles. In fixing on a successor, it may with propriety be said, that towards Dr. Dwight the attention of the community was universally directed. The high reputation as an instructor, which he had gained whilst a tutor, and which he had maintained and enlarged since he left the College, was so universally known and acknowledged, that there was no difficulty in determining the question which now devolved upon the Corporation. They had nothing to do but to pursue the course pointed out by public opinion, which, in this case, was clearly and distinctly marked. Accordingly, he was, with great unanimity, appointed to fill that important and respectable station ; was inaugurated in September of that year, and presided at the public Commencement; and, in December following, removed his family to New Haven. The people of his parish with whom he had lived for twelve years in uninterrupted harmony, heard of his appointment with extreme regret. They loved their pastor, and they were proud of him, and they could not consent to give him up. Never have we known a parish part with their minister with more reluctance.
We are how entering upon a very interesting period in the life of Dr. Dwight. Owing to a variety of causes which it is not necessary to enumerate, the state of Yale College at the time of his accession to the office of President, was in many respects unhappy. Destitute in a great degree of public or private patronage, its numbers were reduced, its discipline was relaxed, a looseness of moral and religious sentiment had become fashionable, and its reputation had been for some time on the decline through the community. One of the greatest evils under which it suffered, was an extensive prevalence of infidelity among the students. This pernicious spirit had been derived from the circumstances of the country at the close of the preceding war. As was natural, it found easy access to the minds of a collection of youths, who were fascinated with ideas of mental as well as political independence, and who were easily induced to shake off what they considered the shackles of habit and superstition. The degree to which it prevailed may be conjectured from the following fact. A considerable proportion of the class which he first taught had assumed the names of the principal English and French infidels, and were more familiarly known by them than by their own. Under circumstances like these, he entered upon the duties of his office as PRESIDENT of YALE COLLEGE.
The talents which he possessed for the instruction and government of youth were now called into full exercise. A thorough reformation in the system of discipline was early commenced, and accomplished with as much expedition as the nature of the case would admit. Infidelity was assailed by argument, and vanquished, and vice was disgraced, and in a great measure banished from the College.
[ 21 ]
He took upon himself the instruction of the senior class, pursuing a system which produced the most beneficial effects. "The public (says Professor Silliman) have been little aware of the extent and diversity of the labours of President Dwight, in this Institution. He has, in fact, discharged the duties of four offices, either of which is, ordinarily, considered as sufficient to engross the time and talents of one man. He has been charged with the general superintendence and responsibility constituting the appropriate duties of the presidency; like his predecessors, he instructed the senior class in their peculiar studies, but on a much more enlarged plan; he voluntarily discharged, to a great extent, the duties of a professor of Belles-Lettres and Oratory; and he has been charged also with those of a professor of Theology." [ Footnote" Address, p. 15]
The mode of instructing was peculiarly his own. His long experience in this employment, had made him thoroughly acquainted with the youthful character, and enabled him to teach as well as to govern young men, with extraordinary success. "The students (says Professor Silliman) habitually expected the senior year with much interest, as one in which they looked for the most valuable instructions; nor were they disappointed. President Dwight delighted much in the peculiar studies which it was his duty to elucidate. Although these studies were prosecuted by the students in appropriate text-books, the order of which he observed in his recitations, he always thought for himself with much independence, but with a respectful deference to the opinions of men of eminence. Still the opinions of the authors in question he sometimes found reason to controvert, and while he candidly stated his own views, with the grounds of them, he enjoined upon his pupils the same independence of mind, and was willing that they too should differ from him and think for themselves. The recitations of the senior class were, in fact, although not in name, a series of familiar lectures; and the driest parts of logic arid metaphysics were rendered interesting by the ample illustrations of the President, enlivened by agreeable and apposite anecdote, and by sallies of sprightliness, which, while they took nothing from his dignity, greatly relieved the tedium of long discussions.
"Into his recitations and discussions he also threw a vast fund of practical instruction, on almost every subject of life, manners, and human business; for few men have ever observed more carefully and extensively; few have conversed more largely, and been more in contact with the world, in all its innocently accessible points.
"His object was not only to instruct the young men under his care in the particular sciences which came before them, but to fit them, by repeated counsels, and by information pressed upon them with parental solicitude, for the various scenes into which they were to pass in life."
[ 22 ]
In discussing the various subjects which customarily came before the senior class, especially those connected with the decision of disputed questions, it was usual for the President to assume a considerable range of statement and argument; and all those who have had the happiness to attend on his instructions, will remember, that not on a few occasions, his mind was kindled with his subject; till, excited by the re-acting stimulus of his own thoughts and communications, he has spoken even more eloquently, and with a more finished touch of feeling, than was usual in his regular written discourses.
"It was never any part of his plan merely to discharge his duty: he did it with his whole mind and heart; and thought nothing adequately done, till all was done that the case admitted of. Till the increase of professorships rendered it unnecessary, he heard the senior class recite twice as often as had been customary, and on most occasions his recitations were of double the length that would have been required."
In the year 1795, when President Dwight entered upon the duties of his office in the College, the whole number of students was one hundred and ten. Almost immediately after his accession, they began to increase, and in the course of his presidency amounted to three hundred and thirteen; an increase unexampled in any similar institution in this country.
It has been remarked, that at the time of his accession to the presidency, infidelity [ Infidelity as used here refers to the atheism/deism movement leaching out from the Enlightenment philosophy dominant in Europe ca. 1800. See Dwight's sermons on the Deity of Christ, or the Willison Center's Daniel Dana 1810 sermon for convincing arguments proving the tenets of the so-called "Enlightenment" are, indeed, spurious. Willison ed. ] was fashionable and prevalent in the College. To extirpate a spirit so pernicious and fatal, he availed himself of an early and decisive opportunity. Forensic disputation was an important exercise of the senior class. For this purpose they were formed into a convenient number of divisions; two of which disputed before him every week, in the presence of the other members of the class, and of the resident graduates. It was the practice for each division to agree upon several questions, and then refer them to the President to select which he thought proper. At that time infidelity was extensively prevalent in the state, and in the country; and an impression existed generally among the students, that Christianity was supported by authority, and not by argument and that their instructors were afraid to investigate the question respecting the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures, in the field of open and fair discussion. One of the questions presented by the first division was this : " Are the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament the Word of God?." To their surprise the President selected it for discussion; told them to write on which side they pleased, as he should not impute to them any sentiments which they advanced as their own; and requested those who should write on the negative side of the question to collect and bring forward all the facts and arguments which they could produce: enjoining it upon them, however, to treat the subject with becoming respect and reverence. Most if not all the members of the division came forward
[ 23 ]
as the champions of Infidelity. When they had finished the discussion, he first examined the ground they had taken; triumphantly refuted their arguments; proved to them that their statement of facts was mistaken or irrelevant; and, to their astonishment, convinced them that their acquaintance with the subject was wholly superficial. After this, he entered into a direct defence of the divine origin of Christianity, in a strain of powerful argument and animated eloquence which nothing could resist. The effect upon the students was electrical. From that moment Infidelity was not only without a strong hold, but without a lurking place. To espouse her cause was now as unpopular as before it had been to profess a belief in Christianity. Unable to endure the exposure of argument, she fled from the retreats of learning, ashamed and disgraced.
His system of discipline was peculiarly his own; and has from its success commanded entire and universal approbation. The College laws, in force when he entered on the Presidency, were the same which were generally in being before his admission to College as a student. They were compiled by President Clap from the statutes of the English Universities; were made for other times, and for a very different state of society. Without proposing in the outset any serious alterations in the written code of laws, he effectually changed the whole system of administration. The government of College became as really new, as if every statute had been altered. A single clause at the end of the chapter on "Crimes and Misdemeanors," furnished him and his companions with authority to introduce and to justify this change, and became, in a sense, the only written law in force. The purport of this clause was, that, as the laws of the College were few and general, the Faculty might proceed, in all cases not expressly provided for, according to their best discretion. The intercourse between the officers and the students was placed on a new footing: the latter were addressed and treated as young gentlemen, and no other marks of respect were demanded of them, than those which gentlemen of course render to each other. The distinctions between the classes, so far as they were unnecessary and odious, were prevented. That degrading servility to which, under the authority of long established usage, the freshman class had been subjected, was abolished. The practice of inflicting hues for infractions of the laws, was abrogated; and it is not known that resort was ever had to that species of punishment for absence from prayers or recitation, or for any other offence of a character not more heinous. Instead of pursuing a course which seemed only calculated to inflict a penalty on the parent, he wished to adopt one which should prevent the necessity of every kind of penalty, by preventing offences. In the room of pecuniary exactions for neglect of study, and other violations of duty, he substituted private remonstrance. Appeals were made to the conscience of the delinquent, as well as
[ 24 ].
to his hopes and fears: appeals founded on the guilt of his conduct, on his love of reputation, the happiness of his parents, and his prospects in life. These appeals were almost always successful. When they failed, early notice of this fact was given to the parent. If their united remonstrances were unavailing, the offender was privately informed that his connexion with College had ceased. This course was principally pursued during the freshman year; at the close of which, the class was regularly relieved of those who had manifested a settled disposition to be idle and vicious. It was his sincere endeavour to save the character of the young offender. If an offence was private, its punishment, if possible, was private; and this, whether the delinquent was permitted to remain a member of College or not. Many of his pupils can remember how kindly and honourably he conducted towards them when he had discovered their misconduct.
The system of matriculation, which he introduced, has proved highly efficacious and salutary. According to this system, those are found, upon examination, to possess the requisite literary attainments, do not at once become members of College. To be members in full standing, their names must be entered in the "Matriculation Book", and this cannot be done until they have established a fair character for correct moral deportment and application to study. Before this takes place, they are liable to be sent home at any moment. An important favour, also, was conferred on parents living at a distance, by requiting their children to have guardians to regulate their expenses.
He encouraged the students, especially those of the senior class, in all their difficulties and troubles, to come to him for advice and assistance, in every such case, the instructor was forgotten in the friend and father. He entered into their interests and feelings, just as if they were his own; and while he yielded the necessary relief; he endeared himself to them permanently by his kindness. The members of the senior class, who wished to engage for a season, after leaving College, in the business of instruction, applied to him regularly to procure them eligible situations. So lively was the interest which he took in their welfare, and so willing and active his exertions in their behalf, that few such applications failed of being successful. He remembered the feelings of a young man just leaving College, without a profession, without property, and with no means of support but the blessing of God and his own exertions. Nothing gave him higher pleasure than to encourage the heart of every youth so situated, to save him from despondence, and to open to him the road to property, to usefulness, and to honour. The number of his students whom he thus essentially befriended, if stated, would almost exceed belief. With others, who were in more affluent circumstances, he would enter into a free and confidential conversation on their plan of life, explain to them their peculiar dangers, and lead them to aim at eminence in their professions,
[ 25 ]
and to form for themselves a high standard of moral excellence. The respect and affection
manifested towards him by his pupils, (after leaving College) whenever they visited New
Haven, as well as when they met him abroad, was a sufficient reward for all his efforts to serve
them, if he had not found a still higher reward in doing good. We will only add, that his pupils
familiarly spoke of him, with reference to this subject, by the most honourable appellation,
"THE YOUNG MAN'S FR1END."
There can be no higher evidence of his qualifications for the important place, which he filled, than is furnished by the effects of his presidency. Yale College was founded by a number of pious clergymen without property, who had little to bestow upon it but a few books on theology. It has always struggled forward through great difficulties and embarrassments for the want of those funds which are indispensably necessary to its highest prosperity. Those at a distance, who know nothing of the institution but its extensive reputation, would indeed be astonished were they told how small is the amount of benefactions which it has received. The men of wealth, in the state where it is situated, have not sufficiently realized its importance to bestow upon it their bounty. The state, also, though at times she has assisted it, has not yet rivalled the munificence of her neighbours on the North and West towards their seminaries of learning. In her public funds, she is, in proportion to her population, the richest state in the Union; yet the College, emphatically her ornament and her glory, has but too sparingly enjoyed her patronage. We have already seen its situation, when Dr. Dwight was inducted into the presidency. Under all these disadvantages, in his hands, and by his unwearied assiduity and exertions, and those of his companions in office, it assumed a new appearance. Its numbers increased, its discipline was removed and invigorated, its morals were purified, and its relative character greatly elevated.
The period during which he presided over the College was attended with peculiar difficulties. A general sentiment of insubordination, growing out of the political situation of the civilized world, had seized the minds of the young as well as the old. High notions of freedom and personal independence prevailed among all ages. And the first impulse, to which in many instances the minds of youths as well as of men were disposed to yield, was resistance to authority. Many of our higher seminaries of learning have witnessed its effects in scenes of riot and insurrection, which have, for the time, subverted their authority, and destroyed their usefulness. Yale College wholly escaped these evils. No general combination of the students to resist its government, ever occurred during his presidency. This fact is to be ascribed to the wisdom and firmness of the President and his associates in office. He well knew that the tranquillity of such an institution must depend on the respect and affection of the students, and the steady watchfulness
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of its officer deeply read in the human character, and emphatically so in the character of young men, he foresaw the approaches of the storm which so extensively prevailed, and provided in season the means of defence and security. On every occasion of this kind, he derived the utmost benefit from one trait of his character, his energy; a trait which no man ever possessed in a more eminent degree. His decision and inflexibility to his purpose cannot be surpassed.
At the commencement of his presidency, the professorship of theology was vacant. The Corporation proposed to appoint him, in form, to the office. For the first ten years, he would consent to none but an annual appointment. In 1805, it was made permanent. During the whole period, he preached twice every Sabbath, with almost no assistance from his brethren, and very rarely having an opportunity to exchange with the neighbouring clergy. Early in the year following his induction, he commenced the delivery of a series of lectures on the Evidences of Divine Revelation. This was no part of the duties of either office; but, owing to the extensive prevalence of infidelity in the country at that period, he viewed it as necessary to guard his pupils against the contagion. These lectures were not written out; the weak state of his eyes forbad his employing them for such a purpose. After collecting materials for about fifty, the same difficulty compelled him to desist, and prevented him from delivering even the whole of that number. They were on a plan entirely new, and were listened to with great interest. Had not the battle with Infidelity been fought, and the victory won, we should regret, still more than we now do, that they were left unfinished. No one, not personally acquainted with the facts, can realize how great, at this period, were his sufferings from weakness of sight. For years it was with extreme difficulty that he could read or write even a sentence. He was greatly alarmed, for a long period, with the symptoms of an approaching gutta serena. Repeatedly the pressure on the brain was so great as to produce momentary blindness, and obviously to threaten apoplexy. Occasionally, for weeks together, the anguish of his eyes was so intense that it required powerful exertion to draw his mind to any other subject. And often, after attempting in vain to sleep, he has risen from his bed, and, to promote a free perspiration, has walked for miles in the middle of the night.
In the prosecution of his duties as professor of divinity, he early began to deliver the lectures in these volumes. His practice was to preach one on the morning of each Sabbath in term time. By this arrangement he finished the course once in four years. Thus each student, who completed his regular collegiate period, had an opportunity to hear the whole series, he first conceived the plan of the work at Greenfield. While there, he completed it in short notes in about one hundred sermons, and delivered them twice to his people before his removal. At New-Haven, he twice went
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through with them in the same state; frequently, however, adding to their number, and altering their arrangement.
In l800, when he was permanently appointed Professor of Theology, the Corporation allowed him fifty pounds per annum to employ an amanuensis. Though the compensation was trifling, yet the place was coveted, and regularly applied for, a length of tune before it became vacant. He began immediately to write out these Lectures; and wrote one a week during term time, or forty a year until they were completed. If not prevented, he commenced this task on Monday morning. His progress depended, with the exception of casual interruptions, on the rapidity of the amanuensis; which always fell short of the rapidity with which he dictated.
Sometimes, though rarely, the sermon was finished in a single day; usually in the course of the second day. The remainder of the week was employed in writing his Travels, and Occasional Sermons. When interrupted by company, if propriety did not forbid, he would proceed with two trains of thought by the hour together; conversing with the company, and also dictating to the amanuensis.
By a standing rule of the College, the President annually delivers a valedictory sermon, on the Sabbath preceding the Commencement, to the candidates for the Bachelor’s degree. Perhaps no part of his clerical labours excited more public attention, or were listened to with a livelier interest, than the sermons delivered on these occasions.
In the year 1797, he was appointed by the General Association of Connecticut to revise Dr. Watts’ version of the Psalms; to versify such as he had omitted; and to make a selection of Hymns suited to the general purposes of public worship. The work was completed in 1800, and laid before a joint committee of that body and of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church ; by whom it was approved, and recommended to the use of the Congregational and Presbyterian Churches throughout the United States. In the performance of this difficult task, he made alterations, of more or less consequence, in a considerable number of Dr. Watt's Psalms; and composed thirty-three entire psalms, containing about twelve hundred and fifty lines.
From the time he recovered his health, after the severe attack of colic already mentioned, he habituated himself to a steady course of vigorous bodily exercise. While at Greenfield, notwithstanding the multitude of his avocations, he walked, and rode on horseback, extensively; and constantly cultivated a large fruit and kitchen garden with his own hands. For this particular species of labour he had a high relish. His garden was distinguished for its beauty and its productiveness for the excellence of its vegetables, the abundance and delicacy of its fruits, and the choice variety of its flowers. Nor did the habit cease with him after his removal to New-Haven. He there pursued the same course—making it his constant practice through the whole season for gardening to work
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at least an hour every morning before breakfast. In other parts of the year, he walked much and daily; rode frequently ; and often in the winter, when no other mode of exercise was convenient, he would cut his firewood. On this subject he exhibited the strictest uniformity and perseverance; and both by precept and example inculcated upon his pupils the necessity of a similar course. With reference, in a considerable degree, to the same object, in the year 1796, he commenced journeying on horseback, or in a sulky, during the College vacations, particularly in May and September. This practice he continued through the remainder of his life, except the last year; when he was severely attacked by the disease by which it was terminated. In these various journeys, it is computed that he rode about twenty thousand miles. His excursions were chiefly confined to the New—England states, and the state of New—York. He experienced the highest
gratification from the beauties of scenery; and scarcely a spot can be named within those limits, where those beauties are to be found in high perfection, which he did not visit and describe. For his own amusement, he took notes of the most material occurrences of his several journeys; and afterwards wrote them out, for the gratification of his family. This suggested to him the idea of collecting materials, from time to time, for one or more volumes of travels; in which should be comprised, not only an account of the climate, soil, mountains, rivers, scenery, curiosities, and general face of the country over which he passed, but of the state of society, of manners, morals, literature, and religion; the institutions, civil, literary, and religious; and the character of the governments and laws, of thc above mentioned states. To the performance of this task he was greatly prompted by the very unfair and illiberal accounts, which are given of us by foreigners, who have done little else than caricature both the country and its inhabitants. In his opinion, also, there was something peculiar in the circumstances of this country, which would render its history interesting to the philosopher, the statesman, and the Christian. These circumstances arose from the singular character and romantic history of the aborigines; from the recent date of its settlement by civilized inhabitants; from the character, views, and history, of its first settlers; from the advancements it had made in wealth, science, the arts; the character of its government, laws, and institutions; and, in short, from its progress in all the great objects of a civilized and Christian community, in the course of a hundred and eighty years.
On these journeys he visited great numbers of the most intelligent and respectable inhabitants of those tracts of country over which he travelled; and derived, from his conversation with them, a great collection of facts relative to the general state of morals, manners, and religion. The information thus gained was arranged, reduced to writing, and prepared for publication: the whole forming materials for three octavo volumes. It is believed, by those
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who have had an opportunity to examine the manuscripts, that no work has appeared which contains so much correct information concerning the subjects of which it treats, as this. It is also believed that, should it ever be published, it will have the effect of redeeming our national character from the abuse and calumnies which have been heaped upon it by foreign travellers.
These journeys also enabled him to form an acquaintance with great numbers of the clergy, and many other persons of a religious character, in the states through which he travelled; and to ascertain the moral and religious condition of the people. This information was of the highest moment to him, both as it respected his feelings and his pursuits. By these means, and by his extensive correspondence, he became possessed of more knowledge, general and local, of the religious state and interests of the country, than almost any other man; and, by the aid of this knowledge, he was able to originate, and still oftener to aid, the execution of very numerous and extensive schemes of charity and benevolence.
To enumerate the various literary, charitable, and pious institutions, which he was active in founding, or promoting, would be a laborious employment. Some of the principal ones may be mentioned. By his exertions and influence, aided by those of distinguished men around him, "THE CONNECTICUT ACADEMY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES" was established. This was done in the year 1799; and the association was incorporated by the legislature of that state in October of the same year. One of the great objects in view was, to procure a Statistical Account of Connecticut. This he had much at heart, and flattered himself he should be able to accomplish. For this purpose, the Academy printed and distributed a list of inquiries to men of intelligence, throughout the state, and to encourage and stimulate others to assist in the execution of the plan. Notwithstanding the weakness of his eyes, he wrote the account of New-haven at an early date, which the Academy afterwards published. Accounts of a few other towns were furnished by other gentlemen. But, as it proved less easy than he imagined, to obtain the performance of a task attended with some labour and no profit, the business languished in hands far less occupied than his own, and the principal object was never accomplished.
He was a zealous promoter of the establishment, and the exertions, of the Missionary Society of Connecticut; an institution preeminent in this country for its zeal and success in the great cause for the promotion of which it was founded. To its funds, also, he was a liberal contributor—having devoted to their increase the profits of his edition of the psalms and hymns sold in that state. The amount of moneys received from this source, by the Society, exceeded one thousand dollars.
He was one of the projectors of the Society for Foreign Missions, established in the year 1809, at Boston, Massachusetts; and until his death was one of its active and influential officers.
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Such was the fact, also, with regard to the Theological Seminary at Andover, in that state. From its commencement, he was one of the visiters of that school, and annually attended to the duties of his office with great engagedness and punctuality. For it, his labours, his Counsels, and his prayers, were ever ready; and in its prosperity he was not less interested than in that of the College over which he presided.
From the time of the establishment of the most illustrious and sublime charity that has ever engaged the, attention, or drawn forth the exertions and the wealth of the pious and benevolent—" THE BRITISH AND FOREIGN BIBLE SOCIETY", it was the ardent wish of President Dwight, to see a similar institution established in the United States. Although a friend and promoter of smaller and more circumscribed institutions, he viewed the subject on a large scale, and was strongly impressed with the idea, that a National Society would be much more efficient, and far more extensively useful. Although he was prevented by sickness from being present at the establishment of " THE AMERICAN BIBLE SOCIETY", during the last year of his life; yet it was an object which not only met with his cordial approbation, but had the benefit of his warmest encouragement, and his earnest prayers; and it was a consoling consideration to him that he lived to see it accomplished, and making rapid progress towards extensive usefulness and respectability.
In addition to the foregoing institutions, a long list of more confined, but active and operative societies, formed for the purposes of piety and charity, had the benefit of his exertions, and the weight of his influence and patronage. According to his resources, he contributed largely and cheerfully; his services he rendered to an extent rarely equalled in this country; and in his endeavours to promote their usefulness and success, he was never weary.
Throughout his whole ministerial life, and especially while head of the College, he was resorted to by clergymen, from various parts of the country, for his advice and counsel on the subject of their professional concerns. Vacant parishes applied to him for his assistance in procuring ministers. In all associations of the clergy, local and general, of which he was a member, he was active and influential; able in devising, and firm in accomplishing measures for the advancement of religion, and for the good of the community. His services were extensively sought as a peacemaker, in removing difficulties between ministers and their people, and in restoring harmony in churches. Applications for private teachers, and instructors of public schools, from almost all parts of the United States, were made to him in immense numbers. The infant seminaries of our country often requested his assistance in the selection of their presidents, professors, and tutors. These various applications, not only occupied much of his time, but subjected him to a laborious correspondence, and to no inconsiderable expense.
This concludes Part One, containing pages 1 through 30.