« AnteriorContinuar »
HORACE BUSHNELL, D. D.
It is our intention in these sketches of modern agitators, not to be confined to one class of reformers. We shall endeavor to draw the portraits of agitators in church as well as in state ; of some of those noble men who have battled manfully the slavery of intemperance, as well as of the agitators against negro.slavery. But we have been struck with surprise to find that the modern agitator is usually an advocate of all the just reforms of the day. It is very difficult to find a man of original and reformatory ideas in the church, who is an opponent of the cause of temperance, or who withholds his sympathy from the friends of freedom. The leading enemies of rum are generally friendly to the cause of the slave, and the antislavery men of the land are almost unanimously devoted temperance advocates.
The reader will perhaps naturally suppose that when we placed Dr. Bushnell's name at the head of this article, we had in mind the theological agitation caused throughout the country, and especially in Connecticut, by his somewhat celebrated volume, entitled, “ God in Christ.” Such was not the case. As to the merits of that controversy, which is not yet settled, we have here nothing to say, either in approval or condemnation of Dr. Bushnell. We make no pretensions to theological acquirements, and are not competent to discuss, much less decide, the points in dispute. But we look upon Dr. Bushnell as one of the most profound agitators of the age. We think in reference to theological matters, that the spirit of the age
is in him. The drift of his published writings is continually toward a liberal, unsectarian, and practical christianity. He makes deadly war upon mere creeds, and urges most earnestly upon the christian world a better practice. “ Deeds, not words,” is the essence of the religion he preaches. It seems to us that the reader must be obtuse who reading Bushnell sees only his peculiar views of the trinity and the sufferings of Christ. His opinions upon these points may be accepted or rejected, and the time may be coming when they will be forgotten, but he will be remembered ; and the books which contain his peculiar views may live, but they will not detract from the author's reputation. As an early, eloquent, and intellectually powerful advocate of a more generous christianity than that born of creeds, as a great defender of the important truths of the gospel upon philosophical principles, he will live in future generations. In this skeptical age, such a man is precious to the cause of pure religion, for he meets the skeptic with sound argument, instead of denunciation, with a profound love for Christ, instead of a burning hatred of those who unfortunately have lost, or never found, the path which leads to Him. It is this catholic, charitable tendency in all Dr. Bushnell's writings which awakens agitation wherever they are read, and which excites the bitter opposition of conservatives in the church. He has been accused by men actively engaged in important reforms of withholding his aid from them, and of being so absorbed in convincing men of the importance of more religion in the life, as to overlook the miserable drunkard in the streets, and the panting fugitive at his door-in fact, to neglect to practice what he preaches. But it must be remembered, that, to some men, it is given to enunciate great principles which underlie the foundations of society, or which should underlie society, and of such men little more can be asked. A slave-holder cannot live upon the food which Dr. Bushnell offers to him; the rumseller would choke upon it. And though the doctor does not often preach anti-slavery or temperance sermons (perhaps not so often as he should,) yet when he does, he speaks boldly for the right. Years ago, on the eve of an exciting election, he came out in his pulpit one Sabbath day with a sermon upon the duties of christian voters, which was like a bomb-shell thrown into a peaceful town. It was unexpected; the people were not prepared for it; but it was a bold enunciation of God's truth, and his hearers sat still, and listened somewhat as children do to God's thunder. He has also condemned in the strongest language the fugitive slave act, so that his views upon this part of the great compromise are everywhere known. But he deals usually in great general principles, rather than every-day applications of such principles. Perhaps he errs in this ; we have thought it would be a greater service to the world if he would dwell more upon the sins which are eating into its very heart; but we cannot ignore the fact, that all his productions and performances tend toward reform in church and state.
Horace Bushnell is a native of the town of Litchfield, Connecticut, and is about fifty years of age. His father was a clothier, a man of sterling character and intellect. His mother was one of the gentlest and most affectionate of women. When Horace was two years old, his father moved into the town of New Preston, where we believe he continued to reside for a number of years. The little that we know of Dr. Bushnell's early life can quickly be written. He entered Yale College, and graduated in the year 1827. Two years afterward he was appointed a tutor in the same institution, which office he filled for two years. He next removed to the city of New York, where for a time he edited a newspaper. He at length entered upon a theological course, to prepare himself for the ministry. He was ordained over the North church, in Hartford, May 22, 1833, and has continued to preach with great acceptance to the same church until the present day. He was married when young, to Miss Mary Apthorpe, of New Haven, by whom he has had five children, three of whom are living.
In Dr. Bushnell's discourse, delivered at the centennial celebration of Litchfield county, he has given us a picture or two of his boyish days, which are sufficiently graphic and beautiful to excuse us for quoting them here. He says:
“But the schools - we must not pass by these if we are to form a truthful and sufficient picture of the home-spun days. The schoolmaster did not exactly go round the district to fit out the children's minds with learning, as the shoe-maker often did to fit their feet with shoes, or the tailors to measure and cut for their bodies; but, to come as near it as possible, he boarded round, (a custom not yet gone by,) and the wood for the common fire was supplied in a way equally primitive, viz: by a contribution of loads from the several families, according to their several quantities of childhood.
There was no complaint in those days of the want of ventilation; for the large open fire-place held a considerable fraction of a cord of wood, and the windows took in just enough air to supply the combustion. Besides, the bigger lads were occasionally ventilated by being sent out to cut wood enough to keep the fire in action. The seats were made of the outer slabs from