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not by hundreds but by thousands; and although most of them are totally unknown to the modern reader of books, and some so scarce that money can not buy them, they were a genuine product of the age and people which they represent, possessing a real vitality, and exerting a powerful influence upon the times which gave them birth. This early New England literature is not only amazingly extensive, considering all the circumstances of the colonists and their first descendants; it possesses a marked individuality, and embodies an unusual measure of intellectual power. It is a literature almost entirely ecclesiastical and Congregational; a literature representing the seemingly trivial conflicts of a hundred years over the technicalities of church government and the relations of the Church to the State ; a literature which, judged by the test of artistic excellence, scarcely deserves the name. Yet what industry was put into it, what thoughtfulness, what diligent research, what stringent logic, what patient, constructive labor, what Puritan enthusiasm, what fervent prayer! Here was a company of noble Englishmen, most of them trained in European universities, practiced in thinking and in putting their thoughts on paper, who had crossed the sea and established homes in the wilderness for the sake of their religious opinions; and they made it their business to testify to their principles not only on the highway and in the pulpit, but also with their pens. Many of them seem to have felt as Arnold of Rugby, when he exclaimed, “I must write a pamphlet or I shall burst!" and not a few there were who could find relief from this inward peril only in a labored treatise or a complete “Body of Divinity.” What they produced had their life's blood in it, and this gave it a value which nothing else could have bestowed. A Connecticut scholar, speaking of John Eliot's translation of the Bible into one of the Indian languages-a task actually accomplished in that early time-characterizes it as a “marvelous triumph of scholarship, achieved in the face of difficulties which might well have appeared insurmountable...... It may be doubted if, in the two centuries which have elapsed since the Indian Bible was printed, any translation of the sacred volume has been made from the English to a foreign tongue of more literal accuracy and completeness.”? He gives the secret of this notable success in Eliot's own words: “Prayer and pains, through faith in Christ Jesus, will do anything”; and this, I think, is the explanation of what must otherwise be a strange phenomenon -this development of a New England literature during the early Colonial days.
0“Writing is not literature unless it gives to the reader a pleasure which arises not only from the things said, but from the way in which they are said ; and that pleasure is only given when the words are carefully or curiously or beautifully put together into sentences.”—Primer of English Literature, by the Rev. Stopford Brooke : p. 6.
These Colonial days constitute the first of three periods in the history of the Christian literature of New England. The second is the Revolutionary period, and may be described as theological. Questions of church government were by no means thrust out of sight, but questions of doctrine attracted more and more attention. Davenport and Eliot, Cotton and Roger Williams, Shepard and Hooker and the Mathersthose champions of a Congregational polity—were followed by a school of metaphysicians who put their whole strength into theology. Already in 1726, A Complete Body of Divinity, in two hundred and fifty lectures, written by Samuel Willard, of Boston, had been given to the world in a folio of 914 pages ; and in 1746, Solomon Williams, of Lebanon, in Connecticut, had issued a treatise on Justification. But the theological era really began with Jonathan Edwards, whose Inquiry into the Freedom of the Will, and dissertations concerning The End for which God created the World and The Nature of True Virtue, stand thus far unsurpassed for intellectual ability in the domain of American theology. This era embraces (among Connecticut men) John Smalley of New Britain, Joseph Bellamy of Bethlehem, Samuel Hopkins, who was born in Waterbury, Timothy Dwight, and Jonathan Edwards the younger; and, if we pass over into the modern period, we may include Lyman Beecher, Nathaniel W. Taylor, and Horace Bushnell, not to name others who still remain with us. All these have been voluminous and influential writers, and have contributed largely to the Christian literature of America. In the graces of style, some of them (Hopkins and Edwards especially) compare unfavorably even with their Puritan predecessors; but in intellectual acuteness, in logical skill, in tenacious adherence to a theological system and unflinching championship of it with tongue and pen, I know of no group of authors, in America at least, that can be compared with them.
* Mr. J. Hammond Trumbull, in the preface (p. 6) to his reprint of Roger Williams' Key into the Language of America, “Publications of the Narragansett Club," vol. I. Providence, R. I., 1866.
8 Samuel Willard died in 1707, so that the publication of his lectures was posthumous.
And now, what shall I say of the third, that is, the modern period, as compared with the other two? Looking at its strictly Christian, or rather, its strictly religious literature, how shall we estimate it ?
A few mornings since, as I came down Chapel street, I stopped, as a visitor in New Haven should, to look at the statue of Abraham Pierson, first rector of Yale College. I was somewhat taken aback at seeing that bowed head bedecked with a jaunty felt hat-the midnight offering, doubtless, of some devout collegian! I turned away with a strange mixture of feelings; but, having my mind on the theme assigned me for to-night, I said to myself, Why not find in this crowned figure a symbol of the Christian literature of New England in the three periods of its history?—First, the granite pedestal ; secondly, the bronze effigy; and thirdly, the fashionable but transitory hat of felt! For, did we not begin with Hooker and Davenport, with Roger Williams and John Eliot ? and did we not attain to the heights represented by Edwards and Hopkins and Emmons ? and have we not, after all this, descended to the platitudes of tract societies, to the milk-and-water of religious fiction, and to the wearisome jingle of Sunday-school hymns ?
But, after all, we cannot with justice speak thus disparagingly of the Christian literature of the modern period, except as we give a very narrow definition to the word Christian. It is true that in proportion to the population of the country, the intelligence of the people, and the strength of the churches, there is less literary activity in strictly ecclesiastical fields than there was in our primitive times; it is true there is far less intellectual energy infused into systematic theology, and subjects allied to it; yet the Christian literature of to-day, as a whole, exhibits a decided advance upon that which preceded it. The increase in the amount of material is the least important part of the change which has taken place. There has been, along with this, a marked improvement in æsthetic quality, and an immense growth in catholicity and practical usefulness. In our first age, and until the Revolution, the New England people were engrossed with the affairs of religion. The Church was the pivot upon which everything turned. The thoughts of men ran in the well-worn grooves marked out for them by their spiritual teachers; their speech and life were imbued with ecclesiasticism, and, apart from an occasional combat in theology, their life moved on very quietly. For good or for ill, that time has gone by. Our communities have something to think of besides the "half-way covenant” and the doctrine of election. They must attend to their manufactures and their politics, to their banks and their railroads, to their hospitals and seminaries and missions, to art and science, to the fashions and the jails. And this increase in the breadth and variety of our social life reveals itself perforce in our literature.
It has been well remarked by President Porter, in his collection of papers entitled Books and Reading, that in order to deserve a place in Christian literature, "a work need not be religious either in matter or in form ; it need neither avow Christian doctrines nor express Christian feelings ;" if it be only controlled and pervaded by those ethical faiths and emotions that are distinctively Christian, and by a recognition of Christ as the object of trust and reverence, that is sufficient to show where it belongs. It is unquestionably right to enlarge our conception of Christian literature in accordance with this standard of measurement; and as soon as we have done so, how grand appears the literary development which has taken place in this modern age, how genuine and vigorous our literary life! We feel that President Dwight was contributing to Christian literature alike in publishing his Theology and in composing his Travels; that Bushnell was doing the same, alike in his Nature and the Supernatural, and in his address on The Age of Homespun; and that Dr. Woolsey is doing the same, alike when he publishes The Religion of the Present and of the Future, and when he lays before the world his Introduction to the Study of International Law. Our Christianity to-day will not allow itself to be limited, and our Christian literature must partake of the same breadth and versatility.
9 “ Adventures of all kinds must be very rare in a country perfectly quiet and orderly in its state of society. In a series of journeys sufficiently extensive to have carried me through two-thirds of the distance round the globe, I have not met with one. Nearly every man whom I have seen was calmly pursuing the sober business of peaceful life ; and the history of my excursion was literally confined to the breakfast, dinner, and supper of the day.” Dwight's Travels in New England and New York, vol. I, p. x. This was so late as 1796.
When the father of Rector Pierson, pastor of the church in Branford, prepared his Indian Catechism (published in 1658) for those full-grown babes of the Quinnipiac, in their buckskin and war-paint, this was the kind of meat he set before them: “How do you prove,” he asks, “ that there is but one true God ?” and he teaches the Red man to answer as follows:
“Because the reason why singular things of the same kind are multiplied is not to be found in the nature of God, for the reason why such like things are multiplied is from the fruitfulness of their causes; but God hath no cause of his being, but is of himself; therefore he is one.
“2. Because singular things of the same kind, when they are multiplied, are differenced among themselves by their singular properties; but there can not be found another God differenced from this by any such like properties." 11
19 Porter on Books and Reading, pp. 114-117.
11 " Some Helps for the Indians . Undertaken by Abraham Peir. son”: pp. (11), (12). These answe
swers are referred to by Mr. J. II. Trumbull in the preface to his reprint of Pierson's Catechism, p. 10.