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GOD IN CHRIST.
God in Christ. Three Discourses delivered at New Haven, Cambridge, and Andover.
With a Preliminary Dissertation on Language. By Horace BUSHNELL. Chapman, 142, Strand, London. 1850.
R. BUSHNELL is an American Teacher of ‘Orthodox Theology,' but one of Me that rare kind that dare to look at the Works and Word of God in an
original way,--that is, from his own individuality and for himself. He is, moreover, a man of fine powers and feeling. The consequence, as might have been expected, is a book of a remarkably refreshing character,---full of beautiful exposition, clear reasoning, and strong suggestive thought. We dissent very widely from many of his positions, but do not the less warmly thank Mr. Bushnell for the profit and instruction we have derived from his labors, frankly confessing that it is many a day since the Theological school of the Author has bestowed upon us a book so full of excellence and wisdom. Instead of criticising the work at present, we prefer to give a few extracts, with the view of inducing our readers to purchase the handsome reprint which Mr. Chapman now offers at a reasonable
THEORY OF LANGUAGE.
“1. Words of thought and spirit are possible in language only in virtue of the fact that there are forms provided in the world of sense, which are cognate to the mind, and fitted, by reason of some hidden analogy, to represent or express its interior sentiments and thoughts.
"2. Words of thought and spirit, are, in fact, names of such forms or images existing in the outward or physical state.
"3. When we investigate the relation of the form, or etymological base, in any word of thought or spirit, to the idea expressed, we are able to say (negatively) that the idea or thought has no such form, or shape, or sensible quality, as the word has. If I speak of right (straight, rectus,) it is not because the internal law of the conscience, named by this word, has any straightness or lineal quality whatever. Or if I speak of sin, peccatum, Quapria, where, in so many languages, as I might also show in a great variety of others, the image at the root of the word is one of lineal divarication, (as when an arrow is shot at the mark, and misses or turns aside,) it is not because sin, as a moral state of being, or a moral act, has any lineal form in his mind. Thoughts, ideas, mental states, we cannot suppose have any geometric form, any color, dimensions, or sensible qualities whatever. *
“7 Words of thought or spirit are not only inexact in their significance, never measureing the truth or giving its precise equivalent, but they always affirm something which is false, or contrary to the truth intended. They impute form to that which really out of form. They are related to the truth, only as form to spirit-earthen vessels in which the truth is borne, yet always offering their mere pottery as being the truth itself. Bunyan beautifully represents their insufficiency and earthiness when he says—
'My dark and cloudy words, they do but hold
The truth, as cabinets inclose the gold;' only it needs to be added, that they palm off upon us, too often, their 'dark and cloudy' qualities as belonging inherently to the golden truths they are used to express. Therefore, we need always to have it in mind, or in present recollection, that they are but signs, in fact, or images of that which has no shape or sensible quality whatever ; a kind of painting, in which the speaker, or the writer, leads on thro a gallery of pictures or forms, while we attend him, catching at the thoughts suggested by his forms. In one view, they are all false; for there are no shapes in the truths they represent, and therefore we are to separate continually, and by a most delicate process of art, between the husks of the forms and the pure truths of thought presented in them. We do this insensibly, to a certain extent, and yet we do it imperfectly, often. A very great share of our theological questions or disputes, originates in the incapacity of the parties to separate truths from their forms, or to see how the same essential truth may clothe itseif under forms that are repugnant. There wants to be a large digestion, so to speak, of form in the teacher of theology or mental philosophy, that he may always be aware how the mind and truth, obliged to clothe themselves under the laws of space and sensation, are taking, continually, new shapes or dresses—coming forth poetically, mystically, allegorically, dialectically, fluxing thro definitions, symbols, changes of subject and object, yet remaining still the same; for if he is wanting in this, if he is a mere logicker, fastening on a word as the sole espression and exact equivalent of a truth, to go on spinning his deductions out of the form of the word, (which yet have nothing to do with the idea,) then he becomes a one-word professor, quarreling, as for truth itself, with all who chance to go out of his word; and, since words are given, not to imprison souls, but to express them, the variations continually indulged by others are sure to render him as miserable in his anxieties, as he is meagre in his contents, and busy in his quarrels.
“There is no book in the world that contains so many repugnances, or antagonistic forms of assertion, as the Bible. Therefore, if any man please to play off his constructive logic upon it, he can easily show it up as the absurdest book in the world. But whosoever wants, on the other hand, really to behold and receive all truth, and would have the truthworld overhang him as an empyrean of stars, complex, multitudinous, striving antagonistically, yet comprehended, height above height, and deep under deep, in a boundless score of harmony; what man soever, content with no small rote of logic and catechism, reaches with true hunger after this, and will offer himself to the many-sided forms of the scripture with a perfectly ingenuous and receptive spirit; he shall find his nature flooded with senses, vastnesses, and powers of truth, such as it is even ness to feel
God's own lawg heroes, poets, historians, prophets, and preachers and doers of righteousness, will bring him their company, and representing each his own age, character, and mode of thought, shine upon him as so many cross lights on his field of knowlege, to give him the most complete and manifold view possible of every truth. He has not only the words of Christ, the most manifold of all teachers, but he has gospels which present him in his different words and attitudes; and then, besides, he has four, some say five, distinct writers of epistles, who follow, giving each his own view of the doctrine of salvation and the Christian life, (views so unlike or antagonistical, that many have regarded them as being quite irreconcilable) Paul, the dialectic, commonly so called ; John, the mystic; James, the moralizer; Peter, the homilectic; and, perhaps, a fifth in the epistle to the Hebrews, who is a Christian templar and Hebraizer. The Old Testament corresponds. Never was there a book uniting so many contrarious aspects of one and the same truth. The more complete, therefore, because of its manifoldness; nay, the more really harmonious, for its apparent want of harmony.
“How, then, are we to receive it and come into its truth? Only in the comprehensive manner just now suggested: not by destroying the repugnances, but by allowing them to stand, offering our mind to thetr impressions, and allowing it to gravitate inwardly, towards that whole of truth in which they coalesce. And when we are in that whole, we shall have no dozen propositions of our own in which to give it forth, neither will it be a whole which we can set before the world, standing on one leg, in a perfectly definite shape, clear of all mystery; but it will be such a whole as requires a whole universe of rite, symbol, incarnation, historic breathings, and poetic fires, to give it expression,-in a word, just what it now has.”
The practical application of this theory to theology is thus set forth :
“Is it to be otherwise in religion? Can there be produced, in human language, a complete and proper Christian theology; can the Christian truth be offered in the moulds of any dogmatic statement? What is the Christian truth? Pre-eminently and principally, it is the expression of God—God coming into expression, thrö histories and rites, thrö an incarnation, and thrö language-in one syallable, by the Word. The endeavor is, by means of expression, and under the laws of expression, to set forth God-His providence and His government, and, what is more and higher than all, God's own feeling His truth, love, justice, compassion, Well, if it be something for a poet to express man, it is doubt. less somewhat more for a book to be constructed that will express God, and open His eternity to man. And if it would be somewhat difficult to put the poet of humanity into a few short formulas, that will communicate all he expresses, with his manifold, wonilrous art, will it probably be easier to transfer the grand poem of salvation, that which expresses God, even the feeling of God, into a few dull propositions; which, when they are produced, we may call the sum total of the Christian truth? Let me freely confess that, when I see the human teacher elaborating a phrase of speech, or mere dialectic proposition, that is going to tell what God could only shew me by the history of ages, and the mystic life and death of Jesus our Lord, I should be deeply shocked by his irreverence, if I were not rather occupied with pity for his infirmity.
“It ought not to be necessary to remind any reader of the Bible, that religion has a natural and profound alliance with poetry. Hence, a very large share of the Bible is composed of poetic contributions. Another share, equally large, is that which comes to us in a form of history and fact; that is, of actual life, which is equally remote from all abstractions, and, in one view, equally poetic; for history is nothing but an evolution or expression of God and man in their own nature and character. The teachings of Christ are mere utterances of truth, not argumentations over it. He gives it forth in living symbols, without definition, without proving it, ever, as the logicians speak, well understanding that truth is that which shines in its own evidence, that which finds us, to use an admirable expression of Coleridge, and thus enters into us.
But Paul,,was not Paul a dialectician ? the dialectician, some say; for, confessedly, there is no other among all the scripture writers. Did Paul, then, it will be asked, set himself to an impossible task, when he undertook to reason out and frame into logical order, a scheme of Christian theology ? To this, I answer, that I find no such Paul in the scripture as this method of speaking supposes. Paul undertakes no theologic system, in any case. He only speaks to some actual want, to remove some error, rectify some hurtful mistake. There is nothing of the system-maker about him. Neither is he to be called a dogmatizer, or a dialectic writer, in any proper sense of the term. True, there is a form of reasoning or argumentation about him, and he abounds in illatives ; piling 'For’ upon
'For’in constant succession. But, if he is narrowly watched, it will be seen that this is only a dialectic form that had settled on his language, under his old theologic discipline, previous to his conversion ; for every man gets a language constructed early in life, which nothing can change afterwards. Notwithstanding his deductive manner, it will be plain to any one who reads him with a true insight, that, under the form of ratiocination, he is not so much theologizing, as flaming in the holy inspirations of truth; speaking not as a logician, but as a seer. Under so many illatives and deductive propositions, he is emitting fire, not formulas for the mere speculative understanding; rolling on, in the vehement power of a soul possessed with Christ, to declare the mystery that hath been hid for ages; conceiving nowhere that he is the first professor of Christian dogmatics; nowhere thinking, as a Christian Rabbi, to prepare a Targum on the Gospels.
“Besides, it will be clear, on examination, that his illatives often miscarry, when taken as mere instruments, or terms of logic, while, if we conceive him rushing on thrö so many Fors' and parentheses, which belong to his old Pharisaic culture, and serve as a continuous warp of connectives to his speech-now become the vehicle or channel, not for the modes of Rabbi Gamaliel, but for a stream of Christian tire—what before seemed to wear a look of inconsequence, assumes a port of amazing energy, and he becomes the fullest, heartiest, and most irresistible of all the inspired writers of the Christian scriptures. But, in order to this his true attitude, we must make him scer, and not a system-maker; we must read his epistle as a prophesying of the spirit, not as a Socratic lecture."
TO A SEEKER.
My Friend,-- There is something from God, deep within thy heart, and waiting to germinate there, if thou wilt only be still from evil, and let it. Its root is love; its stem is truth; its branches knowlege; its leaves consistency; its flowers honesty ; its fruits usefulness; and its sceds the occasion of its likeness in others, in whom it will be reproduced to the end of time, if thou be but faithful to it in thyself; and in this sense the Israel within thee shall be the father of nations whose God is the Lord-nations of beautiful and holy principles, the similitudes of His attributes, and like them eternal. To the first motions and expansions of this life within thee, take heed as to something above all price. Had I been invariably faithful to them myself, there is not any sorrow from which I might not have been preserved, or for which I might not have had some immediate compensation of joy; for there is comfort even in the sufferings of such a life,-just as the cloud whose appearance towards the carth is black, has ever a bright and hopeful side towards heaven.
SPENCER T. Hall,
TO A LITTLE CHILD.
BY SPENCER T. HALL.
WOULD not be so rash and vain
Yet, oh! that I could be again
With look as bright and voice as wild,
And heart by earth as unbeguiled,
Thine eye from heaven its blue hath caught,
And warmth and light are in its beams; And in thy voice to me is brought
The music of my rural dreams,
The charm of scenes where April streams Gurgle and lisp and laugh along,
Gladdening the sight with loveliest gleams, And thrilling every nerve with song.
No other muse need I invoke,
To bring me back the by-gone days,
In words of gratitude and praise,
Until in corresponding lays
And my heart paused in rapt amaze,
For childhood's spirit is the key
All other instruments above-
Unlock a universe of love!
Nay, more! by it alone we prove
By it all sin and shame remove-
Newcastle, May, 1850.