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While Dr. Dwight resided at Greenfield, his reputation as a preacher, and as a man of literature and splendid talents, was constantly increasing and extending. As a preacher, at this time he was especially distinguished for the clearness of his thoughts, for the copiousness and elegance of his diction, and for the distinctness and fervour of his elocution. Hence he was often solicited to officiate on public occasions of great interest; and, on no such occasion, ever disappointed the expectations of his friends. Soon after his settlement at Greenfield he delivered a discourse at the ordination of a clergyman in a neighbouring town, which received more than usual applause. This sermon he refused to publish; but manuscript copies of it were taken by his friends, and extensively circulated. One of these copies reached England, and was in possession of Cowper. It is the discourse alluded to in a letter from Cowper to an American correspondent, in the life of that poet by Hayley. “I return you my thanks, sir,' says he · for the volumes you sent me, two of which I have read with pleasure, Mr. Edward's book, and the Conquest of Canaan. The rest I have not had time to read, except Dr. Dwight's sermon, which pleased me almost more than
that I have either seen or heard.'The same discourse, with some alterations, he delivered in New-Haven in the year 1812, at the ordination of the Rev. Nathaniel Taylor. It was then published.–Of his other occasional discourses which he delivered while at Greenfield, and which were given to the public, those which were the most finished and which gained him the greatest reputation, were, a sermon delivered before the legislature of Connecticut at the general election in 1791; a sermon on the authenticity and genuineness of the New Testament, delivered in New Haven 1794, at the lecture established by the clergy of Connecticut, on the day preceding the annual commencement of Yale College; and a sermon delivered (1795) before the society of Cincinnati, for the state of Connecticut. The second of these disa courses exhibits him as a man of learning in his profession, and a most able reasoner on facts and circumstances. He had early observed among his countrymen, with the deepest regret, an increasing disbelief in the divine origin of the Scriptures, and a corresponding disregard of their authority and precepts. He had accordingly made the great question between Christians and Infidels the subject of very long and laborious investigation. If there was any one department of his professional studies, in which he felt peculiarly at home, it was this. His sermon on the authenticity and genuineness of the New Testament is a fair specimen, of his manner of reasoning on topics connected with this important subject. His sermon VOL. IX.
before the society of Cincinnati was on the means of establishing public happiness'--and is worthy of attention as containing the outlines of those opinions on religion, government and morals, considered in their effects in civil society, which he continued, through the whole of his presidency, to inculcate on the minds of his pupils.
Dr. Dwight, during his residence at Greenfield, contributed largely, both in prose and verse, to a newspaper of a superior literary character published in New Haven, by Mr. Josiah Meigs, afterwards professor of mathematics and natural philosophy in Yale College, and since president of the University of Georgia. Of these
communications, it may be proper to particularize a series of papers, in the manner of the British periodical essayist, entitled The Friend.'-- They possess no inconsiderable excellence, both for style of composition, and for selection of topics. The sentiments are not only just, and of practical application --but are particularly appropriate to the character and modes of thinking of those for whom they were intended. The series extended but to a few numbers. What prevented his continuing these papers is not known; probably his very numerous avocations, which in his estimation, might have a stronger claim upon his time. It is certain, however, that the cause of their discontinuance was not a failure of materials, or a want of disposition to pursue the undertaking. It is well known, that he ever considered this species of writing as affording one of the fairest fields for literary enterprise; and he would have engaged, with his accustomed ardour, at any time, during the ten last years of his life, in anew series of periodical papers-if he could have easily found what he considered a proper vehicle for his communications. He has indeed, left, it is reported, several numbers in continuation of the Friend, ---some of which he wrote during the last weeks of his life. It is much to be regretted, that circumstances were not more propitious to his engaging anew in this favorite undertaking; which, from his extensive knowledge of mankind, and his enlarged views of society and manners, he was so peculiarly qualified to accomplish.
Soon after Dr. Dwight removed to Greenfield, he opened an academy for the reception of youth of both sexes; which soon gained a reputation, perhaps, unparalleled in any similar institution in this country. It was indebted, for its celebrity, to no extraneous aid whatever; and rested, for support, solely on the talents and exertions of the founder. Numbers flocked to it from all parts of Connecticut,-from the neighbouring states,
and even from remote parts of the union. Young
men, at this place, passed through the same course of instruction as is usually pursued in colleges ; and some were prepared to enter advantageously on professional life. The school, the pleasant situation of the village, and the celebrity of Dr. Dwight as a preacher and instructor, drew to this spot most respectable strangers in their passage through the country; and Greenfield become a place of great notoriety and fashionable resort. Perhaps no place was ever more benefited, in so short a time, by the labours of any individual, whose only resources were, the exercise of talents, and the influence of personal character.
On the death of President Stiles, in May 1795, the public attention was immediately turned towards Dr. Dwight, as his successor. He was accordingly elected to the presidency of Yale College, at the first meeting of the corporation; and inducted into office the succeeding September. Very high expectations were indulged from his labours and influence in this new station. He was already well known as an academic instructor—and had given the public repeated proofs of the extent of his capacity, and of peculiar qualifications for directing the youthful mind in the pursuit of knowledge. It ought here to be remarked, that Yale College has been supported, from its first establishment, chiefly, by the countenance afforded it by the clergy and men of education generally, and by the individual exertions of those, who have filled its offices of instruction. The aid, which it has occasionally received from the legislature of the state, has been granted only in cases of absolute necessity; and private munificence it has experienced in a still less degree. While some other similar institutions, in our country, have received almost unlimited public and private benefactions, Yale College has had to struggle on, under the hard pressure of comparative poverty. This want of adequate public patronage has, indeed, been seen and lamented by many distinguished individuals; and great exertions have been made to lead the public mind to more enlarged and liberal views respecting that institution. But as long as so many find an interest in representing all appropriations for its benefit as worse than useless, -any material change, in this respect, is to be regarded as hopeless. Yet in these circumstances, Dr. Dwight did not disappoint the expectations of his friends. Under his superintendance the College soon began to flourish beyond all former example; and perhaps its reputation was never more extensive than at the time of his death. When he entered on the duties of the presidency, the office of professor of divinity was vacant; and, as several ineffectual attempts had been made to procure a proper incumbent, Dr. Dwight engaged to discharge the duties of this office likewise. A few
years after, he was regularly elected to the divinity chair; which he filled, till his death, with unparalleled reputation and success.
It may not be improper to introduce here some more particular account of the variety and extent of the labours upon which he now entered. As President, it was his duty to superintend all the general interest of the college; which, in so large an establishment, demanded no inconsiderable portion of his time and attention. He likewise took upon himself the whole instruction of the senior class in rhetoric, logic, metaphysics, and ethics,--heard two disputations each week, and once, each during the same period, gave the class an informal lecture on the first principles of theology. As Professor of Divinity, it was his custom to deliver, in the forenoon of each sabbath, a discourse forming part of a general system of theological science,—which it usually took four years to complete; and, in the afternoon, a discourse on some miscellaneous subject, such as he judged the circumstances of his audience to require. In addition to this, he had under his care and instruction a class of graduates, pursuing the study of theology, with professional views. Besides these various duties, more immediately connected with his station,--he was ever ready to give his advice in the formation of new literary institutions; and from his known experience and success in academic discipline, he was not unfrequently applied to on this subject. He was often consulted in the concerns of the neighbouring churches; was occasionally a member of the general association of the congregational clergy of Connecticut; and was several times a member of the general assembly of the presbyterian clergy of the United States;in the business of both of which bodies he took an active part.
Among the literary labours of Dr. Dwight, while in the presidency, may be mentioned, in the first place, his systematic discourses; containing a complete view of theoretical and practical divinity. These discourses he composed with great care; frequently revised them; and has left them prepared for the press. He has left, likewise, in the same state of preparation, many discourses on miscellaneous topics, and several dissertations on subjects connected with the proofs of Christianity and biblical literature. Another work, upon which he bestowed great labour, and which he has left ready for publication, is an account of the States of New-England, and the State of New York; collected in various tours through this part of the United States, during the last twenty years of his life. This is a work, in the preparation of which, he took much more than usual interest. The representations of society and manners, in
this country, by most foreign travellers, he considered as mere caricatures,-calculated to make not only false impressions at first,--but to do the United States a lasting, if not irreparable, injury. He thought, likewise, that an exact transcript of the present state of this country, would be a valuable record for posterity; as, from the rapid progress of the United States in population and improvement, and the consequent change of manners and pursuits,-much valuable information now to be obtained, would, in a few years, be lost for ever. Some opinion of the ardour with which he prosecuted this work, and the labour and expense attendingit, may be formed from the fact that, to collect information, he travelled, chiefly on horseback, more than twelve thousand miles,—besides maintaining an extensive correspondence with gentlemen of information in various parts of the extensive territory which he had undertaken to describe. The work is historical, topographical, and statistical; and will undoubtedly be considered as an invaluable legacy to his country. He has likewise left an original poem, which he completed only a few days before his death. He also took a very active part in the formation of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences; and, as their printed transactions will show, contributed several papers to the collections of that body,
It now remains to give some general view of the character of Dr. Dwight,--as a man of talents and literature --as a preacher,--as an academic instructor and governor,--and as a member of society, in the various relations of public and private life. If genius is an attribute which is seen in execution; if it consists in judgment, imagination, sensibility, and ardour, harmoniously combined in the prosecution and accomplishment of its purposes,-it will be readily admitted by those who have attended to the character of President Dwight, that he was endowed with this quality in a very eminent degree. His mind was evidently formed for the highest efforts of intellectual vigour. His judgment was clear and discriminating; his memory retentive; his imagination strong and active; and his sensibility acute. But, what perhaps chiefly distinguished him, was a mental energy,--a faculty of at once summoning to his aid all the powers of his understanding,--a readiness,--a promptitude, which, on no occasion, deserted him. Hence, as a public speaker he appeared to uncommon advantage; especially in extemporaneous addresses.
As a man of literature his information was various and extensive. It should here be recollected, that from the age of twenty-three or twenty four, an account of the weakness of his eyes, almost all his reading was done by the aid of others, and almost all his writing by an amanuensis. No person, probably,