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Updated 05/30/2013

 

I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord


Timothy Dwight

Timothy Dwight (1752-1817) was an American Congregationalist minister, theologian, educator, and author. He was the eighth president of Yale College, from 1795 to 1817.

Dwight was the eldest son of Northampton, Massachusetts merchant and farmer Timothy Dwight III (a graduate of Yale (1744). His father was also a major in the Continental Army and served under George Washington. His mother was the third daughter of theologian Jonathan Edwards. He was remarkably precocious, and is said to have learned the alphabet at a single lesson, and to have been able to read the Bible before he was four years old.
 

Dwight graduated from Yale in 1769. For two years, he was rector of the Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven, Connecticut. He was a tutor at Yale College from 1771 to 1777. Licensed to preach in 1777, he was appointed by Congress chaplain in General Samuel Holden Parsons's Connecticut Continental Brigade. He served with distinction, inspiring the troops with his sermons and the stirring war songs he composed, the most famous of which is "Columbia.

In 1777, Dwight married Mary, the daughter of New York merchant and banker Benjamin Woolsey]. This marriage connected him to some of New York's wealthiest and most influential families. Woolsey had been Dwight's father's Yale classmate, roommate, and intimate friend.

On news of his father's death in the fall of 1778, he resigned his commission and returned to take charge of his family in Northampton. Besides managing the family's farms, he preached and taught, establishing a school for both sexes. During this period, he served two terms in the Massachusetts legislature.

Dwight was the leader of the evangelical "New Divinity" faction of Congregationalism -- a group closely identified with Connecticut's emerging commercial elite. Although fiercely opposed by religious moderates -- most notably Yale president Ezra Stiles -- he was elected to the presidency of Yale on Stiles's death in 1795. His ability as a teacher, and his talents as a religious and political leader, soon made the college the largest institution of higher education in North America. Dwight had a genius for recognizing able protégés -- among them Lyman Beecher, Nathaniel W. Taylor, and Leonard Bacon, all of whom would become major religious leaders and theological innovators in the ante bellum decades.

During troubled times at Yale University, then-president Timothy Dwight saw his students drawn to the radical republicanism and “infidel philosophy” of the French Revolution, including the philosophies of Hume, Hobbes, Tindal, and Lords Shaftesbury and Bolingbroke. Between 1797 and 1800, Dwight frequently warned audiences against the threats of this “infidel philosophy” in America. An address to the candidates for the baccalaureate in Yale College called "The Nature and Danger of Infidel Philosophy, Exhibited in Two Discourses, Addressed to the Candidates for the Baccalaureate, In Yale College" was delivered on September 9, 1797. It was published by George Bunce in 1798. This book is credited as one of the embers of the Second Great Awakening.

Dwight was well known as an author, preacher, and theologian. He and his brother, Theodore, were members of a group of writers centered around Yale known as the "Hartford Wits." In verse, Dwight wrote an ambitious epic in eleven books, The Conquest of Canaan, finished in 1774 but not published until 1785, a somewhat ponderous and solemn satire, The Triumph of Infidelity (1788), directed against David Hume, Voltaire and others; Greenfield Hill (1794), the suggestion for which seems to have been derived from John Denham's Coopers Hill; and a number of minor poems and hymns, the best known of which is that beginning "I love thy kingdom, Lord".


Lyrics by Timothy Dwight

  I love Thy kingdom, Lord,
The house of Thine abode,
The church our blessed Redeemer saved
With His own precious blood.

I love Thy church, O God.
Her walls before Thee stand,
Dear as the apple of Thine eye,
And written on Thy hand.

If e’er to bless Thy sons
My voice or hands deny,
These hands let useful skills forsake,
This voice in silence die.

Should I with scoffers join
Her altars to abuse?
No! Better far my tongue were dumb,
My hand its skill should lose.
For her my tears shall fall
For her my prayers ascend,
To her my cares and toils be given
Till toils and cares shall end.

Beyond my highest joy
I prize her heavenly ways,
Her sweet communion, solemn vows,
Her hymns of love and praise.

Jesus, Thou Friend divine,
Our Savior and our King,
Thy hand from every snare and foe
Shall great deliverance bring.

Sure as Thy truth shall last,
To Zion shall be given
The brightest glories earth can yield
And brighter bliss of Heaven.