Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

the great fatalist. He had studied Coleridge, and received from him an elevation above the low grounds of "the understanding" into the upper region of “the reason," and was thereby enabled to say, On the grounds of logical understanding Edwards cannot be refuted; but in the light of the pure reason he is invalid; and the ground of his mistake is that he tries a transcendent problem by a sense logic. All of which seemed satisfactory to him, but not, either then or now, to our own mind.

At this time there was about him an air of personal independence, which, blended, nevertheless, with a certain pleasantry, was colloquially attractive, but which gave a degree of coldness to his manner of public address. The Puritan and the latitudinarian seemed blended in him. Both his Coleridgeanism and his personal independency raised him into a region where orthodoxy did not hold imperative sway. His publications, written from the inspirations of that upper air, produced no little commotion among his Congregational brethren, who abode in the low flat-lands of “understanding” and orthodoxy. In that controversy, which for a while held the Congregational ban over his head, we Methodists took no stock. We had occupancies enough of our own. We appreciatively measured the nobleness of Mr. Bushnell's intellect, but we lent no study to his speculations.

Mr. Bushnell's cashiering of Calvinism, in spite of his office in a Calvinistic Church, was somewhat hereditary. His grandmother, as he tells us in a very interesting narrative, was released from her Calvinistic bondage by the gospel of early Methodism, and, with a truer independence than her noble grandson, became a professed and consistent Methodist. In her rural bamlet she started Methodist meetings, having, as a part of the exercises, sermons read by a young man of the place. In due time it was given her to tell that young man that it was his duty to be a Methodist preacher. On his telling her that he had never been converted, she told him that then so much the more was to be done ; he must first become a Christian, and then a preacher. He obeyed both calls. “And thus began the public story of the great Bishop Hedding, one of the most talented and grandly executive men of the Methodist Episcopal Church-led into his work and office, we may say, by the counsel and prayers of his woman-bishop guide.”

It is remarkable that his launch into transcendental semi-heresy was preceded by a “crisis” of religious experience. Not, it would appear, from any study of Wesleyan authors, but from Upham,

, Madame Guyon, and Fénelon, he was enabled to emerge into “ a higher, fnller life.”

“ It came to him, at last, after all his FOURTH SERIES, Vol. XXXI.-39

thought and study, not as something reasoned out, but as an inspiration-a revelation from the mind of God himself.” This was in 1848; and even as late as 1871 he referred to it. "I seemed to pass a boundary. I had never been very legal in my Christian life, but now I passed from those partial seeings, glimpses, and doubts, into a clearer knowledge of God, and into his inspirations, which I have never wholly lost. The change was into faith-a sense of the freeness of God, and the ease of approach to him.”

“His own statement, made elsewhere, of the nature of faith, gives a deeper insight into his meaning. Christian faith,' as he says, “is the faith of a transaction.'”

Notwithstanding the Arminian strand in his pedigree, and his creed, and his “higher life," there was no interchange of sympathies between Bushnell and Methodism. His transcendental yearnings were toward the Unitarians, whom he sought to win, by what some thought compromise, to a recognition of “God in Christ," and a full experience of God in the soul. He saw them standing on the low grounds of naturalism, and he sought to in. duce them to feel that an evangelical spiritualism is the deepest of all realities. It would seem that this overture be was divinely permitted to make to them; but in vain. They are still there. Most of them prefer the auroral ice-beams of Emerson and his fel. lows, wandering children of the cold twilight, to whose owl-eyed vision night is day and day is night.

The Life and Work of William Augustus Mühlenberg. By ANNE AYRES. 8vo.,

pp. 524. New York: Harper & Brothers. 1880. A Dutchman by descent, a Quaker by parental origin, a Churchman by choice, Mühlenberg, from an early Pennsylvanian, became a permanent and final New Yorker. In New York his monument is the St. Luke's Hospital; throughout the Englishsinging world he is known as the anthor of the hymn, “ I would not live alway.”

Dr. Mühlenberg was ritualistic, but not high-church. He was ritualistic from esthetic preference, loving to be devout under antique symbolic forins; low-church because he had no faith in a divinely organized successional episcopate. He was in the

. high career of ritualistic advancement when the publication of the Oxford Tracts unveiled the real nature of the movement, and brought him to a pause and a protest. He took a trip to England, held converse with Pusey and Newman, but retired to a Wesleyan chapel for his best spiritual food. The gentle sarcasms with which, while staying in a high-Church, he could satirize high-churchery, are admirable for their blend of amenity, wit, and wisdom. Having himself decreed that no unchurchly man should offer prayer in his hospital, when a frightened nurse announced to him that an intrusive Methodist preacher was perpetrating a prayer, he replied, “Go and stop him immediately, before his prayer reaches heaven.” We can hardly approve his irritability at finding his magnificent hymn his great title to world-wide fame, nor his injudicious attempt at its reconstruction. When Dr. Cummins seceded from “the Church,” it was hoped by many that Dr. Mühlenberg would join the exodus, but he condemned it as "a multiplication of sects." Yet that secession is far more likely to check the spirit of towering Churchimanship, both in England and America, than any protest within its fold could bave done.

[ocr errors]

Te Life of Willian Ellery Channing, D.D. The Centenary Memorial Edition. By his nephew, William HENRY CHANNING. 8vo., pp. 719. American Unitarian

Association, 1880. Passi:g fron such characters as Bushnell and Mühlenberg, we come to one who is annonced as “the morning-star of a better day for man." A centennial celebration proclaims that his birth was an epoch. A broader European fame places him in an upper atmosphere; and we are called, as it were, to use an astronomic apparatus to ascertain, if we can, the elevation and magnituile of this bright luminary. And we can say that whether his altitude and magnitude are overestimated or not, he beams with a very serene luster, and we have for long years gazed with a tranquil pleasure upon his aspect.

His biographer has wisely done in making Channing, as far as possible, his own biographer. Ilis wils emphatically the life of a soul, with very little event. Soon after his brilliant graduation at Harvard he commenced preaching, and attracted, by his marked ability, a call from the Federal-street Church, Boston, of which he became life-long pastor. A brief trip to Europe, where affinity caused an interview with Wordsworth and with Coleridge, on both whom he lett a marked impression, was the larg 'st event in his career. Yet bis mental development, ils shown by the copious forthpourings of his pen in the present volume, is replete with interest.

Possessed of rare genins, a gentle yet heroic spirit, the two strong points about him were bis optimism and his individualism. His optimistic spirit rejected all that wils stern in the prevalent theology, whether in the divine character, in human nature, or in the constitution of things. His writings are a beautiful antidote to pessimism. God was to him concrete living goodness; man was a being of marvelous nobleness; and the severity in nature and the sin and misery in the world were the necessary conditions of a probation whereby the heroic is possible and perfection a future result. Ilis individualistic views, if they did not grow out of his optimism, were admirably consistent with it. If man is a tran

a scendently noble being it is a frightful monstrosity for him to be, either mentally or physically, a slave. His noble single nature must ever assert itself, emancipating itself from all servility to the despotism of others or the enthrallment of ignoble influences. He must be free from the influence of tradition, of sect, of party. Each single man, aspiring after the highest possibilities of his own noble nature, must think and speak in perfect independence, furnishing bis own contribution to the reason of the whole race. The same individualism rendered bim averse to the mysteries of a creed. The trinity he rejected, not so much as a mystery as a contradiction in terms, the very formula which expressed it being a self-contradiction, and therefore a nothing.

In his theology the three greatest words were God, IMMORTALITY, and PERFECTION. These were the three great primary assumptions. Under a divine goodness man is destined to an eternal progress, of which a perpetual perfecting is the result. As to future retribution the Scriptures, which he fully accepted as a revelation, were to him not clear and decisive; but it was a happy condition, he thought, for a being to be embraced in the future destinies of the race. In our perfecting progress we are aided by the Spirit of God; and Christ is our transcendent example, teacher, and thereby redeemer from sin and its consequences.

Christ's character is the exhibited perfection at which we aim. It is truly and historically a miracle; and all his miracles, as narrated by the evangelists, are truly consonant with his character, and so not only credible, but required.

From his ultra individualism, Channing was "opposed to Methodism.” It was too organic, too despotic. In this respect Channing was the contrast of Wesley to his own disparagement, Wesley was a great organizer, Channing a disintegrator. Wesley would marshal men into a great enginery for bringing about stupendous beneficent reforms and advancements. Channing would reduce all the race to individual elements, in hope that its noble individualities might somehow spontaneously harmonize into an ultimate general perfection. IIis method is not God's method. God organizes dispensations. He formed an Old Testament Church of most organic shape. Christ founded a New Testament Church, with institutions and rulers, to be a collective agency in the world. Hence Wesley's name is now a far greater power than Channing's. It is mentioned a hundred times to Channing's onee. Channing has, for instance, an influence like that of Byron, as a fascinating spell, but without actuating energy. Channing has had one centennial in honor of his birth; Wesley has had a dozen centennials commemorative of his work. Channing's influence floats like a beautiful thin vapor in the atmosphere; Wesley's is like the steam condensed into a force that moves an enginery that moves the world. Each is great in his own way, but there is little equality in the volume and vastness of the power that has gone out from them.

Liberia : Its Origin, Rise, Progress, and Results. An Address delivered before

the American Colonization Society, January 20, 1880, by Hon. John B. LATROBE. 12mo., paper cover, pp. 11. Washington City: Colonization Building, 450 Pennsylvania Avenue. 1880. The Erodus : Its Effect upon the People of the South. Colored Labor not Indis

pensable. An Address delivered before the Board of Directors of the American Colonization Society, January 21, 1880, by Rev. C. K. MARSIALL, D.D., of Vicksburgh, Mississippi. Published by Request. Washington City: Colonization

Building, 450 Pennsylvania Avenue. 1880. The resumption of virtual existence and of operations by the Colonization Society from its paralysis under the blows of Garrison and his followers, followed by the war, calls for a new exposition of its history, purposes, and plans of operations. The history here is ably but concisely given by President Latrobe, and its origin, character, and achievements are shown to be worthy of all respect and approval. The attack by Garrison upon the society was one of his fanaticisms, followed by an equal fanaticism on the part of the spokesmen for the society in allowing it to become a stronghold of not only anti-Garrisonism, but of something very much like pro-slaveryism. It thereby gave Garrison the victory, and sunk from public confidence. From the beginning, Garrison's attacks were valid, not from the true organic purpose of the society itself as a machine for giving the negroes a chance for emigration when they desired, but from the unnecessary oppressive language of the advocates of the society against the negro. Speeches showing the incapacities of the negro, his incapability of rising to respect or position, collided against the largest liberality of our Christianity and hopes for mankind. They were seen to create the very race prejudice on which the argument was built. Even

« PoprzedniaDalej »