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his congregation. His morning studies were employed in the first place in making some progress in his preparations for the ensuing Sabbath. His discourses on that day were indeed begun on the Sabbath evening previous, sometimes even before it; and in general they were fully prepared by a day or two before the week ended. It may here be noticed that he seldom spoke in the pulpit or out of it, without having previously written what he meant to say: not that he wanted the ability to speak extempore, but because he disliked the inaccurate sentiments and unfinished phraseology incidental to that mode of speaking, and because he wished to offer in the sanctuary only the richest fruits. Of the quality of his expository lectures, which occupied the morning, and the sermons which occupied the afternoon of the Sabbath, a judgment may be formed from the printed specimens; there being between them and those of every Sabbath no perceptible difference. Whatever time allotted for study was not taken up in preparing for the pulpit, was devoted to various branches of learning, with the exception of part of the forenoon and the whole of the afternoon of Saturday, which he usually spent with his family. We conclude with stating what is necessary to complete the picture, that his studies were pursued apparently without toil, were resunied or laid aside with ease, and never seemed to be engrossing his mind while in the company of his family or friends; that, although a hard student, he did not leave undone any one of the more active duties of his profession; and that while his labours in the closet and out of doors, when put together, exceeded, perhaps, those of the most of men, he overtook them all without bustle and without hurry, and never performed them in a superficial manner, but left on every thing he touched the marks of careful finishing."
In 1788, Dr. Dick first appeared before the public as an author, in a sermon, entitled “The Conduct and Doom of false Teachers of Religion.” This was occasioned by the appearance of a work, entitled, “A practical Essay on the Death of Christ,” by Dr. M'Gill of Ayr, in which that author, though a Presbyterian minister, boldly advanced Socinian sentiments. This sermon, though not possessing the high polish nor the condensation of sentiment which characterize most of his subsequent productions, contains a large body of scriptural truth and deep moral reflection, and everywhere breathes a truly apostolic spirit against those who would corrupt the fundamental doctrines of the gospel.
His next publication appeared in 1796, “On the Necessity of Confessions of Faith.” A large number of the members of the Synod to which he belonged, and among them Dr. Dick himself, wished to have a change made in their ordination-service, in regard to a few points of a purely speculative kind. The proposal awakened considerable controversy, in the course of which, those who pleaded for the change were charged with acting inconsistently with their subscription to the standards of the church. The sermon is entitled, “ Confessions of Faith necessary, and the Duty of the Church in regard to them excplained.” In this sermon he of course defends the moderate use of confessions: the substance of his defence will be found in its proper place among his Lectures, and need not, therefore, be here repeated. It is proper, however, here to state, that he considered, and in this discourse endeavours to show, that one capital error on this subject has been committed by the great majority of Protestant churches, and one which has perhaps been a more prolific source of angry debate and schismatic division than almost any other: the error consists in their practically considering their various “Articles,” “Confessions,” and “Constitutions," as perfect and infallible. He does most pointedly and justly condemn that undue reverence for them which forms an almost impassable obstacle in the way of any subsequent revision when once they have been adopted, and which elevates them to a place in the estimation of a large portion of the religious public, to which, as the works of imperfect and fallible men, they can have no sort of claim-a place which belongs, in fact, only to the perfect word of God. He held, that they should be frequently revised, and that the contrary but most common practice is inconsistent with our profession as Protestants, and unworthy of those who are daily students of the Bible. As these views have not been very commonly expressed by the defenders of “Confessions,” or, to say the least, have not been held up very prominently to view, and as the opposite and hitherto almost universal practice has given occasion to those who are hostile to “Creeds and Confessions” to “speak reproachfully" of them, we regret that this sermon has not been more generally known in this country, particularly of late years.
His next work, “ On Inspiration,” which, prior to the publication of his “ Lectures on Theology,” formed the chief basis of liis reputation as a theological writer, is said to have been occasioned by the same controversy that gave birth to the former. In the course of the discussion about the power of the civil magistrate in ecclesiastical matters, and on the binding obligation of those “covenants” entered into by the church and parliament of Scotland in the seventeenth century, which agitated a considerable portion of the Scottish church about forty years since, frequent reference was made to those events in the history of the Jews supposed by some of the disputants to be analogous to those events in Scottish history which were the matters of debate. They who denied these covenants to be any longer binding, it was affirmed, virtually questioned the inspiration of such portions of the Old Testament as had been referred to in the course of the controversy. The charge, being made in the heat of debate, was too contemptible to receive serious notice; it, however, induced Dr. Dick to direct his attention to the general subject of inspiration. He prepared and preached to his people a series of discourses on the subject. His mother, who heard them, and who was well qualified to judge of their merit, united with his people in asking their publication. With this request Dr. Dick did not then see fit to comply; but after a careful revision, he threw them into the form of an essay, and published it some years afterwards to aid in stemming the torrent of infidelity which was then setting in upon Great Britain with fearful power, owing to the popularity of French philosophy and politics. It is one of the best works upon the subject, and has already passed through a large number of editions in Great Britain, and through several in the United States. The substance of this work will also be found in its proper place among the Lectures on Theology.
These writings, and his occasional labours in various parts of the church, gained for him a very high reputation, and prepared the way for his being called to a more prominent position, and his entering on a more enlarged sphere of labour than he had previously occupied. He was twice called by the church
in Aberdeen, over which his father had presided, but did not see his way clear to accept their invitation. In 1801, he was called to be one of the ministers of Greyfriars church, Glasgow, one of the oldest in the Secession body, and by its extent, its wealth, and its situation in the midst of a populous and enterprising city, is one of its most prominent and important stations. Among this people he laboured faithfully and diligently, growing every year in their affection and veneration. Å short time after his settlement in Glasgow he published his “ Lectures on select Portions of the Acts of the Apostles," which have obtained a very extensive circulation, and which are declared by the best judges to be, “ for soundness of view, richness of sentiment, lucid arrangement, and clear, forcible, and elegant diction, models for the exposition of the holy Scriptures."
In 1815, he received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from the college of Princeton, New Jersey.
The professorship of Systematic Divinity in the Seminary of the Secession Church having become vacant by the death of the venerable Dr. Lawson, in 1819, Dr. Dick was chosen to fill it. He at first would not consent to perform the duties of the professorship for a longer time than a single session; at the close of it, he yielded to the joint and urgent request of his pupils and his brethren in the ministry, to remain permanently in the office. Into this new office he entered, possessed of every qualification necessary to the discharge of its important duties, in a manner honourable to himself and useful to the church. He had a very humble opinion of his own attainments; and this, together with his extreme aversion to all parade, prevented strangers from becoming acquainted with their extent, except as it was discovered in the precision, soundness, and comprehensiveness of his general opinions and reflections. Of his acquaintance with theology, to teach which was the peculiar duty of his new office, this much can be said, that he had left no means untried to render his knowledge of it complete. To the study of that science he was devoted by love of its truths, by a sense of duty, and by an opinion which he carefully impressed on all around him, that it is peculiarly disgraceful in any man to be ignorant of his own profession. The holy Scriptures occupied every day a large share of his attention; and to illuminate their pages he employed all the light he drew from other departments of knowledge.
The following character of him as a theologian is from the pen of one who knew him long and intimately well. “He was distinguished by the strictness with which he adhered to the great Protestant rule of making the Bible, in its plain meaning, the source of his religious creed, and the basis of his theological system. His distrust of reason, as a guide in religion, was deeply sincere, and never wavered; and so was his confidence in revelation; both were the result of inquiry: and the perfect reasonableness of his faith was in nothing more evident than in the limits which he set to it; for he had taken pains to ascertain the bounds of revelation, and within these he was as teachable as a child; to every thing beyond them, where we are left to our own resources, no one could apply the test of reason with more uncompromising boldness. When elected to the professorship, his powers of mind were in full vigour. Long and intense study, instead of impairing the strength of his intellect, or deranging its balance by an overconstant use of some one faculty to the neglect of the rest, had been a course of improving discipline to his whole mind. He retained the original force of his reasoning powers; even his imagination, which time might have been expected to cool or extinguish, seemed to be growing to the last in warmth, and acquiring new graces; and while he was in his closet, a singularly patient and laborious investigator, he elsewhere exhibited the playfulness, quickness, and occasional impetuosity in thinking and in speaking, which he had inherited from nature. The intellectual excellence for which he was chiefly remarkable was that of conceiving clearly; and when united, as in him, with acuteness and a sound judgment, must be peculiarly useful in theological investigation. Instinctively rejecting all obscure and dubious ideas, he either shunned entirely some departments of human research, in which the profoundest investigations can seldom reach clearness and certainty; or when he entered upon them, employed himself in ascertaining where inquiry ceased to satisfy, and in pointing out to others the limits of the human faculties. In this difficult task he was reckoned to have been eminently successful.