« AnteriorContinuar »
his creatures which they cherish towards each other, and makes him content simply to bless them, without a possible thought of personal gain accruing therefrom to himself. What we want to know, then, is, not what is merely incidental to moral power, or what it does, but what is characteristic of it, or what it in itself is. Here Dr. Bushnell gives us no glimmer of light. Indeed, if he had once fairly attempted to do so, he would have found how vain and futile an imagination it is to attribute such power to God.
For what does morality mean? What is it that to our imagination makes moral existence to differ from mere animate existence, - moral power to differ from mere physical power? In short, what is the scientific differentia between man and animal, between human nature and all other natures? It is this. Every mineral, every plant, every animal, is under law exclusively to its own nature, or what it possesses in common with all other minerals, all other plants, all other animals. Man, on the other hand, is under law exclusively to what he calls conscience, which is a sentiment he feels in his own bosom of his profound individuality or difference from all other men, and at the same time of his profound identity or community with them. Conscience is always the explicit attestation of a conflict, and the implicit attestation of a harmony, of interests between man and man. It is thus an essentially social force ; being, indeed, the invincible Divine pledge and germ of a frank and lustrous society, fellowship, or equality which is eventually to gather all men of all races in all the earth into one grand spiritual kinship. The animal is truly animal by his utmost possible identification with his particular race or kind; man is truly man only by his utmost possible differentiation with his particular kind, or the expansion of his sympathies into the broadest human fellowship. The animal, in other words, is whatsoever he distinctively is by passive natural generation or inheritance; that is, by so much as he derives from, or is made by, his ancestors. Man is whatsoever he distinctively is by active social regeneration, or so much as he becomes in himself. In short, while the animal is animal only by birth and never by culture, man is never man by birth but always by culture; so that the law of life in the animal is inevitable descent or decrease, - in man, infallible ascent or increase.
* Further on in his book, where he is discoursing (in utter oblivion of the logical obligation he has contracted here) of God's essential in opposition to his acquired morality, — as if an, essentially moral being could ever be devoid of moral power, - he does incidentally define it as "obedience to right.” But what is explicit obedience to right, but implicit aversion to wrong? And how could God ever be so tempted to wrong as to make his obedience to right a literal fact, and not a mere figurativo expression of our shallow spiritual thought ?
Only the past can ever be sure to the animal; the whole realm of the future attributes itself exclusively to man.
If, then, to be a moral being is to disavow one's mere animate consciousness, made up of the pleasurable and painful relations one is under to his own body, and put on a veritably human consciousness, made up of the relations of good and evil one is under to his fellow-man, then evidently morality is a mere negative sign, or inverse attestation of our essentially social origin and destiny. And if morality be a strictly social phenomenon, or argue a profound but unsuspected fellowship or equality among all its subjects, with what propriety can we ascribe moral characteristics to Deity, save as a provisional refuge of our own infirm spiritual thought? That God allows himself to be cogitated by us in our own finite lineaments, or conceived of as having the same personal sensibility to good and evil that we have, to the extent of ordaining a heaven for those who please him and a hell for those who displease him, is one thing, and a very benignant one, since otherwise we should not have had even a traditional kņowledge of his name along the infancy of human development. But that he really is in himself the finite being he allows himself to be thought by us, instinct with all moral infirmity and devoid of all spiritual perfection,this is a very different thing, and one which no truly reverent mind can think of without shuddering disavowal. Who is God's socius or fellow, to whom he is under an obligation of equality? And how can God be a moral being in any literal, and not a mere figurative sense of the word, unless he be in relations of essential equality or fellowship with other beings? Dr. Bushnell has an instinct of disaster to his speculative interests here, and he takes care now and then to slip in a parenthetic justification of his use of the word, by making morality mean “ obedience to right.” But this is a paltry quibble, unworthy of a good cause. . For what can right mean to any rational being but conformity to his social obligations? Is right an essentially abstract thing in Dr. Bushnell's estimation, or an essentially practical thing? If the latter, then it must relate its subject to some object external to himself, that is to say, must be of a strictly moral, not of a spiritual quality. Will Dr. Bushnell point out then some object eternally external to the Divine mind, and compelling his homage ? Dr. Bushnell indulges himself ever and anon in an ominous amount of windy talk about some “ absolute law of right” which is equally binding upon God and man. But what absolute law of right can exist either for God or man, but the law of his own nature as God or as man? And is one deserving of moral applause for obeying the law of his own nature? Man is a moral form, and susceptible to praise or blame, only because he is born ignorant of his true nature as a social being, and comes very slowly into its recognition. But surely God is always in the amplest possession and exercise of his own nature, not indeed as a social being, which would be absurd, but as a creative one, and can never by any possibility prove recreant to its law. How, then, shall you ascribe morality to a being for obeying what he can't help obeying, — what he can no more deny than he can deny his own existence ? Can you imagine any law to be a moral law, in short, or obligatory on moral natures, which is not wholly addressed to the pronouncing its subjects good or evil, exactly as they stand justly or unjustly affected towards other beings ? And now we appeal to Dr. Bushnell again, and ask what other beings exist to the Divine mind to whom He is under obligations of fellowship, and who have a right, therefore, to deem him good or evil as he observes or violates the rule of their equality with Him?
From this point onward, accordingly, Dr. Bushnell's book is a mass of almost unredeemed sophistical argumentation, painful to contemplate, and addressed apparently to the pacification of his somewhat distempered ecclesiastical conscience. And here accordingly the volume ceases to be of any further public or intellectual interest. When Dr. Bushnell wrote “ Nature and the Supernatural,” he would not have felt so keenly the logical straits into which he has now drifted. For then, in order to vindicate the supernatural claims of morality in us, he was intent upon inflaming or aggravating the moral consciousness of Deity to such a pagan pitch as to make any degree of personal enmity and antipathy between him and his creature both logical and inevitable. And then, besides, he was not prepared to take the very
decided stand he now takes in opposition to the orthodox view of Christ's sacrifice. But his present book is a great stride in advance of its predecessor in point of feeling, as it would assuredly have been also in point of thought, if he had not been afraid of too openly justifying the serious criticism his former book provoked. The beneficent effects of that criticism are so apparent in the softened tone of the moral temper he ascribes to Deity, that one would hardly think it was the same stout dogmatist that indited both books. We have certainly no complaint to make of this modification in Dr. Bushnell's theology, but rather rejoice in it. We only refer to it in the interest of his own present philosophic position, which it fatally complicates. For, in order to undermine the doctrine of Christ's vicarious sacrifice as held by the Church, Dr. Bushnell obliges himself to show that the sinner has in God no vindictive, but a truly generous enemy, and that Christ consequently was never called upon to save the sinner from objective, but only from subjective peril and damage. But in that case, in case the Divine oppugnancy to sin becomes thus demoralized, where any longer is the need which Dr. Bushnell alleges of Christ's overpowering, self-sacrificing sympathy with the sinner? If, as Dr. Bushnell now argues, the Divine hostility to sin be not absolute, as possessing that proud or direful personal quality it claimed in his former book, - if the regard with which God contemplates it be now a gracious, forgiving, or sympathetic regard, as it must be to permit us to see in all things a strict consonance between the mind of Christ and the heart of God, — why should the sinner's condition have so challenged his sympathy as to make him on the one hand renounce, according to Dr. Bushnell, the delights of his Father's house and society, and the constant sense of the Divine complacency in him, and come down to earth, on the other hand, for no other
purpose than to encounter the hiding of his Father's face, to endure years of cheerless anguish, to identify himself with all that was vile and opprobrious in human character, to live a thankless life, and die a death so little appreciated or requited, that learned theologians, like Dr. Bushnell, after two thousand years nearly of discussion about it, have not yet ascertained what it meant, or what exact good it wrought? Surely the lot of the sinner, whose sin had no power to exclude him from the active Divine sympathy and compassion, could never have been forlorn enough in this or any other world to call for a sacrifice so costly.
Such is the philosophic weakness of Dr. Bushnell's book. It is a systematic attempt — and this is literally all it-amounts to — to put "new wine into old bottles"; and nothing is effected but the dispersion of the bottles. It is an attempt to eke out "an old garment with new cloth"; the sole result being to make the garment even more unwearable than it was before. It would be very unjust to Dr. Bushnell to insinuate that he himself is not profoundly cognizant of the cat-and-dog life which his theology and his philosophy thus lead each other. Dr. Bushnell is a man of great personal sagacity, - no man in New England of more; and he feels his personal relations to the thought of the time with unexampled sensitiveness. He makes an heroic struggle, consequently, to clear himself of the obvious inconsistency he practises in attempting to reconcile Orthodox forms with Unitarian substance; but the end of the struggle is defeat, not victory, and this of necessity : assuredly not because the combatant is himself deficient in any force requisite to sustain a good cause, but simply for the reason that the cause he here devotes himself to is a purely personal and wilful one, disowned of common sense or right reason. Dr. Bushnell's sympathies are all with the scientific rationalism of the day. But he is a man of such commanding moral force in his own connection, so head-and-ears uplifted in all, intellectual regards above the majority of his ecciesiastical brethren, and so entitled therefore to their docile following, that it would be a sheer dereliction in him both of duty and affection to go over to the other side without at least a reasoned effort to carry these along with him. Hence the assiduous and fruitless labor recorded in this volume. Dr. Bushnell, we have no need to say to any one familiar with his books, is a writer of very remarkable gifts, possessing a most subtile scope of thought, and a pictorial power of phrase which rises at times to a sustained and dignified eloquence bordering on poetry. But these are Dr. Bushnell's happiest moments. His ordinary literary aspect is that of a trained gymnast or athlete, whose muscles are strained out of all symmetry in habitual contention for a prize; and the rhetorical tours de force he thus displays -- his alternate feats of persuasive, derisive, coaxing, menacing, expository, and damnatory logic and hermeneutics - stamp him beyond dispute the grimmest, sturdiest, most remorseless and formidable candidate for public honors ever stripped for our Olympia. We know no man whose powers command more legitimate admiration in the arena ; we wish we could say that his performances were equally fruitful in the sphere of private thought.
4.- Recollections of Seventy Years. By MRS. JOHN FARRAR. Au
thor of “The Young Lady's Friend,” “The Children’s Robinson Crusoe,” etc. Boston: Ticknor and Fields. 1865. 16mo. pp. viii., 331.
No one, of our day, was ever farther removed than Mrs. Farrar from the condition of Canning's Knife-Grinder. “Story! God bless you! I've all sorts to tell, sir!” might be the motto of her book. She has them like Perdita's flowers, for every season, for every occasion, for every affection of life; fitted to point every moral axiom the world's turning-lathe has yet neatly finished off. Compare her volume of “Recollections” with that of Rogers the poet, - a story-teller too. He packs his stories out of sight into epigrammatic sayings and suggestions of what is not told, and cuts them down till they are not longer than a fable of Æsop, and almost as impersonal; while Mrs. Farrar expands and dilates, with the breath of her own vivacity, the incidents she narrates, till the shapeless, flaccid, and empty bladder becomes rounded and presentable, and, so to speak, solid, and a source of amusement to a large circle. Moreover, to every story is affixed, either really or by implication, the statement which Miss Edgeworth believed youth to regard as the most delightful of all assurances, “ This is a fact.”
In these pages one seems to meet with half one's old acquaintance.