페이지 이미지

tification, and new obedience. As he advances, he gives a lucid and searching exposition of the ten commandments ; insists with great earnestness on the importance of the means of grace; speaks with no common ability of the constitution, officers, and special ordinances of the Christian church ; anxiously follows both the righteous and the wicked to their dying beds, to the judgment bar, and thence to their eternal reward :-shuddering as he looks down into the bottomless abyss, and exulting as he looks upward to the throne of God and the Lamb.'

How vast and solemn the range of such a system ! How momentous all the leading subjects of discussion ! Jehovah in his infinite majesty and dominion! Good and bad angels; man in bis innocence and his shame; Jesus in his agony and his triumph; Sinai, Calvary, the last trump, a burning world, the great white throne, the descending Judge, the final sentence, hell with its undying horrors, and heaven with its eternal glories ! This is a mere glance at Dr. Dwight's system ; and no one, we are sure, can give it an attentive and candid perusal, without being struck with the extent and variety of his theological attainments, the originality and freshness of his conceptions, the force of his reasoning, and the benevolence of his heart.

It is hardly necessary to add, that in his religious views, Dr. Dwight was a Calvinist. By this we do not mean to say, that he adopted all the opinions of the great and much abused Genevan reformer ;-for he certainly did not.

But whoever will look into their respective systems, will find a substantial agreement on all the important points, which distinguish them from the school of Arminius. Dr. Dwight, however, called no man master. He went up to the fountain head, and drew water directly

< from the wells of salvation.' All the doctrines which he ever taught, he found, or believed he found, in the Bible; and he taught them because he found them there, not because Calvin, or any other man had previously embraced them.

Voluminous as his system is, it bears evident marks, in some of its divisions, of laborious condensation. Many of the discourses chiefly consist, aside from the application, of concise and weighty propositions, each of which might have been drawn out into a long paragraph : and though never obscure, we think parts of the system would have been more interesting, had the pruning knife been less freely employed. But though an occasional complaint of needless dry discussion may perhaps be sustained by an appeal to some of these discourses, there is one redeeming quality in them all, which will be dwelt upon with satisfaction by every serious mind. We allude to their practical application. It seems never to have occurred to the pious author, that because he was writing a system of didactic theology, his work was done as soon as he had established a principle, or proved a doctrine. So far from it, he evidently valued principles and doctrines, chiefly on account of their practical bearing upon the consciences of men, and the great duties of human life. Accordingly, at the close of every sermon, he deduced from the subject matter in hand those solemn truths and awakening motives, which he thought it was intended by the Holy Spirit to suggest. In this way, the attention of the thoughtless youth was often suddenly arrested, and conviction was fastened upon his mind, before he had time to harden his heart against it.

Nor could the perverse caviller always escape.

Led onward from step to step, by the dignified elocution and powerful reasoning of

the preacher, he was surprised at length into conclusions which he would gladly have avoided, but from which he found it too late to escape.

If there is a God, he is to be worshipped ; if he made us, he has a right to do what be will with his own; and if we are wholly depraved, we must be born again ; if Christ, a divine and Almighty Saviour, came down from heaven to die for us, then must the demerit of sin be dreadful indeed. Such are the inferences which abound in the system of which we are speaking, and which constitute an exceedingly valuable part of it. And it is no common praise to say, that the attentive Christian reader, as he passes on from theme to theme, will be reminded, at almost every step, of Paul's epistles to the churches, which commence with the discussion of great doctrinal principles, and end with the most earnest practical applications.

Our limits prohibit our offering the remarks which have occurred upon the several grand divisions of Dr. Dwight's system ; but we cannot take our final leave of it, without adverting to two of them. The first is that in which he treats of the divine and mediatorial character of Christ. Here the reader will find a degree of amplification which no other subject perhaps would justify. The discussion is continued through no less than thirty discourses ; and is spread over more than four hundred and fifty pages. To those who make light of Christ,' this part of the work cannot fail of being exceedingly tire

What,' they will be ready to ask, “is thy beloved more than another beloved ?' For, alas ! to them, He has no form nor comeliness-no beauty, that they should desire him.' But those who remember that he hath 'a name given him which is above every name,' and whose hearts prompt them to sing, "Whom have we in heaven


but thee, and there is none upon earth that we desire beside thee,' will read these discourses with very different emotions : for how can they ever be weary of such a theme? They will bear it in mind, too, that the divinity and atonement of Christ lie at the foundation of that glorious superstructure, whose · head-stone shall be brought forth with shoutings, Grace, grace unto it.' And when they recollect what mighty efforts are making to undermine this foundation, they will bless God for such large and impregnable munitions—for impregnable we are confident they will prove, whatever-force may assail them. The main arguments for the supreme divinity of the Saviour are here set in a strong and convincing point of view, the most plausible objections are repelled, and we believe that very few professed theologians have thought and read so much on this great subject, that they can gain no additional light from these lucid pages.

We have spoken of Dr. Dwight's system of divinity, as his great work; but a more leisurely perusal of his practical volumes, leaves us in doubt which is entitled to the highest rank. Each, if not absolutely preeminent in its appropriate sphere, will, we venture to predict, be placed on the same shelf with the ablest productions of the kind. They have their distinctive features, to be sure, and they ought to have. The one contains more of divine philosophy, and the other of sacred rhetoric. That, perhaps, has more bone and muscle; but this surpasses it in the heart and soul of pulpit eloquence. When we turn to the system, if fancy is there, she generally sits with folded wings, and imagination is held in check by a strong hand, to give scope for severe theological discussion : but when we come back to these more practical and popular discourses, we find the reins relaxed. Logi

cal filiations are less extended and less abounding; feeling has more sway; the heart is more directly aimed at; and far more room is given for vivid pictures, and strong appeals both to the hopes and fears of the reader.

But after all, the great lineaments of talent, and feeling, and piety, are every where the same. There is the same originality, independence, richness, and vigor of thought; the same love of arrangement; the same earnesiness and copiousness of diction; the same glow of benevolence; and the same lofty conceptions of God, of the Gospel of Christ, of the worth of the soul, and of eternity.

When we say, as we would be understood distinctly to say, that, in our judgment, the sermons before us will not suffer in comparison with some which have enjoyed the greatest popularity, we do not mean to intimate, that they possess, in the highest degree, every requisite of this species of composition—nor that they are equally adapted to all occasions, and to every class of readers. Davies has more tropical fervor, and perhaps more genuine pathos, but not near so much depth and solidity. Bellamy sometimes makes the law thunder louder; and Edwards gives a nearer and more vivid reality to the deathless worm, and the unquenchable fire ; but neither of those great preachers was master of so correct, or so captivating a style. For the conference room, in the commencement and progress of a revival, these discourses of Dr. Dwight will not compare with Burder's Village sermons, nor with many others which we could name. They are too long -too long, we mean, for the occasion. They are also, paradoxical as it may appear, too full of thought ; and the style is too elevated. In short, they belong to a higher class of compositions, and will fill a very important

« 이전계속 »