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Timothy Dwight IV

Timothy Dwight IV

A grandson of Princeton president Jonathan Edwards, he could read at age 4 and entered Yale at 13. He was a chaplain in the Continental Army until his father died. Then, as the eldest of 13 children, he worked the family farm to pay off debts. He served in the very first session of the Massachusetts State Legislature.

His name was Timothy Dwight IV, and he died Jan. 11, 1817.

Timothy Dwight IV was Yale’s eighth president, serving from 1795 to 1817. In his 22 years at Yale, he created the Departments of Chemistry, Geology, Law, and Medicine. He also founded Andover Theological Seminary.

Timothy Dwight pioneered women’s education, and was critical of slavery and encroachment on Indian lands. He befriended Henry Opukahaia, the first Hawaiian convert to Christianity, which led to missionaries sailing to the Hawaiian “Sandwich” Islands. One of his students was Samuel Morse who invented the telegraph.

During Timothy Dwight’s time at Yale, the college grew from 110 to 313 students. Originally a Puritan college, Yale students had become enamored with “French infidelity” and France’s deistic “cult of reason.” Timothy Dwight met with students and answered their questions on faith.

By the time of his death, Jan. 11, 1817, over a third of the graduates were professing Christians, with 30 entered in the ministry.

On July 4, 1798, Timothy Dwight gave an address in New Haven titled “The Duty of Americans at the Present Crisis.” In this address, he explained how Voltaire’s atheism inspired the French Revolution and its Reign of Terror, 1793-1794, where 40,000 people were beheaded and 300,000 were butchered in the Vendée: “About the year 1728, Voltaire, so celebrated for his wit and brilliancy and not less distinguished for his hatred of Christianity and his abandonment of principle, formed a systematical design to destroy Christianity and to introduce in its stead a general diffusion of irreligion and atheism. For this purpose he associated with himself Frederick the II, king of Prussia, and Mess. D’Alembert and Diderot, the principal compilers of the Encyclopedie, all men of talents, atheists and in the like manner abandoned. The principle parts of this system were:

  1. The compilation of the Encyclopedie: in which with great art and insidiousness the doctrines of … Christian theology were rendered absurd and ridiculous; and the mind of the reader was insensibly steeled against conviction and duty.
  2. The overthrow of the religious orders in Catholic countries, a step essentially necessary to the destruction of the religion professed in those countries.
  3. The establishment of a sect of philosophists to serve, it is presumed as a conclave, a rallying point, for all their followers.
  4. The appropriation to themselves, and their disciples, of the places and honors of members of the French Academy, the most respectable literary society in France, and always considered as containing none but men of prime learning and talents. In this way they designed to hold out themselves and their friends as the only persons of great literary and intellectual distinction in that country, and to dictate all literary opinions to the nation.
  5. The fabrication of books of all kinds against Christianity, especially such as excite doubt and generate contempt and derision. Of these they issued by themselves and their friends who early became numerous, an immense number; so printed as to be purchased for little or nothing, and so written as to catch the feelings, and steal upon the approbation, of every class of men.
  6. The formation of a secret Academy, of which Voltaire was the standing president, and in which books were formed, altered, forged, imputed as posthumous to deceased writers of reputation, and sent abroad with the weight of their names.

These were printed and circulated at the lowest price through all classes of men in an uninterrupted succession, and through every part of the kingdom.”

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Timothy Dwight continued: “In societies of Illuminati … the being of God was denied and ridiculed. … The possession of property was pronounced robbery. Chastity and natural affection were declared to be nothing more than groundless prejudices. Adultery, assassination, poisoning, and other crimes of the like infernal nature, were taught as lawful … provided the end was good. … The good ends proposed by the Illuminati … are the overthrow of religion, government, and human society, civil and domestic. These they pronounce to be so good that murder, butchery, and war, however extended and dreadful, are declared by them to be completely justifiable. … The means … were … the education of youth … every unprincipled civil officer … every abandoned clergyman … books replete with infidelity, irreligion, immorality, and obscenity. … Where religion prevails, Illumination cannot make disciples, a French directory cannot govern, a nation cannot be made slaves, nor villains, nor atheists, nor beasts. To destroy us therefore, in this dreadful sense, our enemies must first destroy our Sabbath and seduce us from the house of God. …”

Timothy Dwight concluded: “Religion and liberty are the meat and the drink of the body politic. Withdraw one of them and it languishes, consumes, and dies. If indifference … becomes the prevailing character of a people … their motives to vigorous defense is lost, and the hopes of their enemies are proportionally increased. … Without religion we may possibly retain the freedom of savages, bears, and wolves, but not the freedom of New England. If our religion were gone, our state of society would perish with it and nothing would be left which would be worth defending.”

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