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PRESIDENT DWIGHT, in consequence of an early and permanent injury sustained by his eyes from too close application to study, was able, during no part of his ministerial life, to write out his Sermons with his own band. A few of his earlier discourses, as well as a few others prepared for occasions of peculiar interest, were written by the aid of an amanuensis ; but almost all of those, which he preached before September 1805, were delivered either extemporaneously, or from short notes. They were usually prepared in his own mind when walking, or riding, or working in his garden ; and, if prepared at all, were drawn out in the form of a brief skeleton, during the hours immediately preceding the morning and afternoon service of the Sabbath. From that period, until the close of his life, the Corporation of Yale College enabled him to employ a succession of amanuenses ; through whose aid he wrote his Theology, his Travels, a considerable number of occasional Sermons, and several other compositions which may perhaps be published hereafter.
The great body of the Discourses, in the two volumes now offered to the public, were originally preached at Greenfield, and were ultimately written out at NewHaven. The author, from long and habitual attention to exactness of thought, of arrangement, and of language, was accustomed in conversation, in the desk, and while dictating to an amanuensis, to present the conceptions of his own mind in a form and manner so finished, as to need usually few or no corrections to prepare them for the press. This was the case with the following Discourses,—they are published as written down, with scarce an alteration either from the author or the editor.
The last twelve Discourses of the first volume are Valedictory Sermons, delivered in successive years to the members of the Senior Class, on the last Sabbath of their collegiate life--the Sabbath preceding the public commencement, just before they were admitted to the degree of Bachelor of Arts. Two of these, On the Nature and Danger of Infidel Philosophy, have heretofore been published both in this country and in England. A third, that on 1 Cor. ix. 24, has been extensively regarded as one of the fairest models of pulpit eloquence.
Three of the Sermons were delivered at the ordination of different clergymen. That on “ the Dignity and Excellency of the Gospel,” was first delivered at Milford, in 1785, at the ordination of the Rev. William Lockwood. At that time a manuscript copy of it, without the knowledge of the author, was sent, by one of his friends, to Cowper the poet. It is the Sermon of which he speaks, in Letter 137, of Hayley's Life of Cowper.
The Sermon on Jer. viii. 20, entitled, “ The Harvest Past,” was probably the most useful, and by many perhaps will be regarded as the most eloquent of his Discourses. At least four extensive revivals of religion were supposed to commence in consequence of its delivery
Should these two volumes be favourably received, it is not improbable that one or two more may hereafter be published.
New Haven, Sept. 29, 1827.
Whence then cometh wisdom; and where is the place of understand-
ing? seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living.--JOB xxviii.