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by laws as truly organic, as when the sap of a tree flows into the limb."
Following Dr. Bushnell through the pages of his second book, our author finds him at an alarming stage of advance in the path of religious error; and of which he speaks with frankness and seriousness. We would that it might prove to be not too late; although there is but too much truth in the remark of the late venerable President Dwight, that "there is no hope of a man, after he has written a book."
These remarks bring us to a point in our review on which it is doubtless proper to speak with some particularity, and to call attention to facts belonging to this investigation, but not embraced in the Letters before us. This point is, the theological position at present occupied by Dr. Bushnell. After having advanced such singular and unscriptural views, on subjects vital in the system of Christian truth, he cannot be surprised nor reasonably offended, if the question should be asked, What is his theological latitude and longitude? Were he in Germany, he might bury himself in concealment, and amidst the multiform views abounding, might pass with little observation. But it so happens that he is a New England man. And it also happens, that, from education and habit, and the existence and preservation among us of the Puritan views of the Fathers of our country, the theological optics of New England men are somewhat keen and critical. Orthodox men here can generally give good reasons, and plenty of them, for their faith in the truth, and for their dissent from error, of whatever form. And the teachers and abettors of religious error, too, are quite skilful in "making the worse appear the better reason," and moreover somewhat quick-sighted in discovering where a man stands and belongs, as to his theology. No minister therefore, who, in his pulpit or in his book, advances his views in good set English, and as a clear thinker, will be misunderstood, or have a wrong estimate put upon his theological position.
Three years since, at the anniversary of the American Unitarian Association in this city, as appears from the Annual Report of the Association for the year 1845, the Rev. Mr. Bellows, minister of a Unitarian Church in New York, sustained the idea of "not erecting new pulpits, with the hope to advance Unitarianism; but of infusing its liberal and truly Christian
elements into other pulpits." He stated, that on "the last Sabbath he had heard the Rev. Dr. Bushnell of Hartford preach. If such liberal sentiments as he advanced were to prevail generally, it would argue ill for independence of Unitarian effort, but would react most forcibly upon the exclusiveness of other denominations, and forward most effectually Unitarian doctrine. This was all that was wanted."
Time passes on, and Dr. Bushnell comes forth with his book on Christian Nurture; first, the discourses by themselves; afterwards, the same with several articles on kindred subjects. These books are examined, of course, by men of different theological creeds; and their opinions are given, of the theological position of their author. The Christian Register, a prominent Unitarian paper, of our city, quotes two solid columns from the discourses on Christian Nurture; adds thereto an article of some length on the subject, and insists that "Dr. Bushnell's views of religion are such as Unitarians accept and have maintained; " that "Dr. Bushnell's views of the fall into evil, and the rescue from it, of sin and redemption, are coincident with the views of Unitarians." The Christian World, another Unitarian paper in Boston, declares, that "a better tract on the religious bringing up of children is hardly to be met with anywhere," and that "Dr. Bushnell, in his exceeding good nature, has furnished Unitarians with a manual in harmony with their own views."
What, now, think Orthodox men, of Dr. Bushnell? author of the Letters before us, speaks, for himself and for many others of the Orthodox school, and says to him:
"The complaint against you, let it be distinctly understood, is not that you agree with Unitarians some things, which are matters of mere speculation, but that you agree with them in matters of momentous interest, and matters in which they and the Orthodox have been considered as being toto cœlo apart. That the Unitarians have been convinced by your book that they were in an error, and have come over to Orthodox ground, no one pretends; and yet for some reason they are greatly pleased with your views." "It is evident that Unitarians do understand you to adopt substantially their views in reference to depravity and regeneration, and the whole subject of Christian Nurture. And do you claim that they have misunderstood you? Not at all." "One of two things must be true; either you intended to deceive the Unitarians, and are very happy to find that you have done it; or you and they do substantially agree on the points in question,- points not of mere speculation, but of great practical importance."
Meanwhile what says Dr. Bushnell of himself? He says, (and this will explain the reason of the last sentence but one, above quoted from Dr. Tyler ;) "It gives me unfeigned pleasure to find myself approved by the Unitarians." "And since my nerves are equal to it, I will go farther and confess that I had a secret hope beforehand, of carrying the assent of the Unitarians; that in drawing out my views of depravity as connected with organic character, and also in speaking of what I supposed to be their theory of education, I did seek to present the truth in such a way that all their objections might be obviated."
In which effort Dr. Bushnell has completely succeeded, not by convincing them of truths which he believed, and they did not; but by going over to their creed on the points of doctrine in hand.
These facts need no comment from us. The views which are taken of Dr. Bushnell's theological position, by Unitarians, and by Orthodox men, it will be seen, are the same for substance. And since his nerves are equal to it," he virtually endorses the views expressed of him. We give him full credit for his honesty, in this matter. And we advise his friends to be as honest as he is; and not to weary themselves with any farther attempts to maintain that he is a soundly Orthodox man. Let every man stand before the christian public for what discerning men of different sentiments honestly think and pronounce him to be; and for what, in honesty, he confesses himself to be; and for what he unquestionably is.
Dr. Bushnell had presented his views somewhat in detail, on the general subject of Divine influences, and the very important one embraced therein, of Revivals of Religion. The fifth of Dr. Tyler's Letters is devoted principally to the examination of these views. He finds him objecting to the name or term "revival of religion;" neglecting to discriminate between the genuine and the spurious; confounding the works of the Holy Spirit, in the quickening of Christians and the awakening and revival of sinners, with the excitements produced by the preaching and measures of fanatical evangelists, of the Finney and Burchard class; criticising also the manner in which reports on the state of religion are presented in the meetings of the General Associations of Massachusetts and Connecticut; and overlooking the fact that there have been numerous revivals entirely free
from the evils upon which he expatiates. In reading Dr. Bushnell's remarks on this subject, we must say, that he appears in the attitude of a cynic, rather than of a Christian minister. We could not but ask, as we read his book, What has been his acquaintance with these scenes and seasons of the Divine favor to the Churches, especially within the bounds of New England, where they have ordinarily been free from spurious excitement? Has he ever witnessed, and as a minister or as a private Christian, been interested in a genuine revival of religion? There are passages in his book, which are very unhappily adapted, from the strong mixture of scepticism, ridicule and irreverence towards the sacred "things of the Spirit," as they appear in revivals, which are very sure to wound serious piety, and to awaken the smile of derision in the thoughtless and the irreligious. This feature in Dr. Bushnell's book appears to have struck Dr. Tyler, the editors of the Princeton Review, and others, as it has impressed us. We are persuaded, that in a serious reconsideration of his own language and general treatment of this subject; especially when the excitement of the present controversy shall have passed away, Dr. Bushnell will see occasion for deep regret at many things which he has allowed to escape from his pen. Unitarianism itself has, in recent years, been becoming at least more reverent in its treatment of such subjects; and has even written in some of its weekly journals, quite religiously upon this very subject of revivals. We commend to the imitation of Dr. Bushnell thus much at least, which is commendable, in the example of his new friends, the Unitarians.
The last two Letters of Dr. Tyler are devoted to some topics kindred to that just noticed; and to the complaints of Dr. Bushnell respecting the type of religion in the Churches of New England since the days of Edwards; to his strictures on what he calls "adult conversions," "angular experiences," "violent demonstrations;" to a defence of the type of religion which Dr. Bushnell has distorted; to the consideration of the mode of testing Christian character; to the vindication of Thomas Shepard and President Edwards, in their writings on the religious affections; and to the consideration of Dr. Bushnell's proposed remedies for the "type of religion" which he fancies to be so very defective. Dr. Tyler also calls Dr. Bushnell's attention to his caricatures and misrepresentations of the views 24*
of ministers and churches in New England; and to the very exceptionable manner in which he treats the common views of regeneration; of the influence of the Spirit of God; and of Christian experience as wrought by divine grace. We might,but we forbear, write down, from Dr. Bushnell's book, a catalogue of expressions, which it shocks Christian sensibility to read; and in which we are grieved to find, that a man in the sacred office of the ministry should be found to indulge. We have in past years respected Dr. Bushnell for his talents; have read, with interest, many things from his pen; and have found him giving views of many subjects, which we fully approved. But we begin to shrink from reading any thing from his pen, relating to serious religion, and to sound theological truth; for he too often trifles with them.
"Christ Jesus and him crucified," indeed have little place in Dr. Bushnell's book. He speaks of him and his religion, occasionally; but he goes little, if any, farther than Unitarians themselves go, toward a recognition of the high and distinctive truths of the New Testament respecting Christ. That name, dear to every true disciple, "a name which is above every name," does not seem possessed of any peculiar interest to Dr. Bushnell's mind. If a Divine and Almighty Saviour has a place in his system of belief, and as concerned in the rescue of the sinner from eternal woe, it does not appear in his book.
Here is probably one secret of the high satisfaction which Unitarians have manifested, as to the book in question. There is very little of Christ in it. "The offence of the cross is not there. Unitarian antipathy toward such doctrines as atonement through the blood of Christ, justification by faith in Christ, and acceptance before the throne of God through the mediation of Christ, is in no hazard of being offended in reading what Dr. Bushnell has here written. He says of himself: "It gives me unfeigned pleasure to find myself approved by the Unitarians, and I hope they may be able to approve, in like manner, every sentiment I may hereafter publish." Here we have a very explicit and simple explanation of his reserve on such subjects in this book; and are quite fairly forewarned what to expect from him for the future.
We shall continue to watch, with unabated interest, the progress of the discussion on Christian Nurture. Probably "the