The Cambridge History of American Literature/Book II/Chapter XXII
- 1 Divines and Moralists, 1783–1860
- 1.1 § 1. The Followers of Jonathan Edwards.
- 1.2 § 2. Relation between Divinity and Literature.
- 1.3 § 3. Samuel Hopkins.
- 1.4 § 4. Timothy Dwight.
- 1.5 § 5. Unitarianism.
- 1.6 § 6. The Buckminsters.
- 1.7 § 7. Andover Theological Seminary.
- 1.8 § 8. Princeton Theological Seminary.
- 1.9 § 9. Andrews Norton.
- 1.10 § 10. Opposition to Transcendentalism.
- 1.11 § 11. Furness.
- 1.12 § 12. Horace Bushnell.
- 1.13 § 13. Henry Ward Beecher.
- 1.14 § 14. Clerical College Presidents.
- 1.15 § 15. Mark Hopkins.
- 2 Notes
Divines and Moralists, 1783–1860
§ 1. The Followers of Jonathan Edwards.
THE writings of the American clergy between the Revolution and the Civil War have Jonathan Edwards for their point of departure, and carry onward the tendencies he brought to a focus. Let us rather say two focuses: for Edwards is great precisely in the intensity with which he manifests a tough-mindedness and a tender-mindedness that are universal. He is at once dogmatist and mystic; he works out his theology into dualistic metaphysics, yet he knows himself to be one with God; though he philosophizes away the Freedom of the Will, and preaches Hell for sinners, yet he meditates also the Benevolence of the Deity, and is translated into mystical rhapsodies upon the divine love and upon Nature as its symbol and emanation. The primacy he gives to motivation places him with those who insist that reward and punishment must be held up before depraved mankind to keep it even outwardly decent; his insistence upon an inner light and a love for universal being faces him toward the believers in man’s essential goodness and perfectibility. He never reconciled these tendencies in his own thinking; nor have they been reconciled since in that American literature which in various phases, mixtures, and proportions they have continued to colour.
Historically, at the close of the American Revolution the tender-minded derive from the Cambridge Platonists and their successors the English deists. Their thought is developed by Shaftesbury and the “benevolists”; favoured by Berkeley; much re-enforced by the works of Paley, and by Butler’s Analogy; and developed again in various directions by Rousseau, William Godwin, and, later, Kant and Coleridge. They are the liberals, transcendentalists, and romantics, and Plato is their ultimate master, though he contributes his realism to their opponents. The tough-minded derive from Aristotle, St. Augustine, and, of course, Calvin; find themselves close kin to Hobbes and Locke, to the “motivists,” and, later, to Reid and Dugald Stewart; and are the classics—the orthodox. In the large, the thought of American divines and moralists from Edwards to Beecher moves from tough to tender, parallel with the romantic movement in secular literature; while Beecher’s contemporary, Mark Hopkins, toughly reacting against romanticism, anticipates the present secular return toward greater sharpness in realizing evil and the fundamental cleavages in things.
§ 2. Relation between Divinity and Literature.
Our secular and our theological literature, thus closely akin in ideas, have also a strong personal connection, almost a family connection. With us, divinity has seldom been more, and has usually been less, than a generation removed from literary scholarship or the literary imagination. Andrews Norton is father to Charles Eliot Norton, William Henry Furness to Horace Howard Furness, Abiel Holmes to Oliver Wendell Holmes, Charles Lowell to James Russell Lowell. James Russell Lowell and Robert Traill Spence Lowell are brothers; so are Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Samuel Longfellow. There is something filial in the scholar Ticknor’s pious task of editing the sermons of the Rev. Joseph Stevens Buckminster, one generation before him. Emerson’s forefathers had been clergymen for seven generations; and within his single life the early days as preacher and the later days as sacer vates were “bound each to each by natural piety.” So were those of John Gorham Palfrey, George Ripley, and Octavius Brooks Frothingham, and of such clerical families as the Channings, the Abbotts, the Wares, the Beechers, the Muhlenbergs, and the Dwights, whose pietas, priestly, educational, juristic, and literary, has extended unto the third generation and beyond. It would be easy, but needless, to multiply examples in proof of the close and various personal connections between our divinity and our scholarship and literature.
The family tradition is evident at once in Edwards's disciples. The sons of Jonathan, whether after the flesh or after the spirit, included Jonathan Edwards the younger (1745–1801), a systematic theologian, President of Union College, Schenectady, from 1799 to his death; David Brainerd (1718–47), author of a diary of his mystical experiences; Joseph Bellamy (1719–90); Samuel Hopkins (1721–1803); and Edwards’s grandson Timothy Dwight (1752–1817). Of these, Hopkins and Dwight are for many reasons the most important. The younger Edwards, after graduating at Princeton in 1765, was Hopkins’s disciple; Bellamy’s chief works were all published before the Revolution; and Brainerd, a young consumptive, who was to have been Edwards’s son-in-law, died before him. Hopkins, moreover, exercised an influence which went beyond theology into literature; and Dwight produced something uncommonly like literature itself.
§ 3. Samuel Hopkins.
Hopkins was born of Puritan stock at Waterbury, Connecticut. Roused to religious conviction at Yale by his college mate, David Brainerd, and by the revivalist Tennent, he heard Edwards before graduating in 1741, and, still not sure that he was a Christian, “concluded to go and live with Mr. Edwards” at Northampton as a student of divinity—which he did off and on till 1743. Then he was settled and ordained at Housatonic (later Great Barrington), where he had to contend with Indian attacks, malaria, and the Dutch settlers in his congregation; taking comfort, however, in a second intimate contact with Edwards while the latter was conducting the mission to the Stockbridge Indians. In 1769 the poverty of Hopkins’s congregation, together with their opposition to his stiff doctrine, led to his dismissal.
In the next year he accepted a call to the First Congregational Church at Newport. The Rev. Ezra Stiles, then minister of the Second Congregational Church and later (1777–95) President of Yale, opposed the call, but preached a learned sermon at Hopkins’s installation, and remained on friendly terms with him despite radical differences in doctrine and temper. In Newport, too, Hopkins became acquainted with the Channing family: William Ellery Channing, then a boy, heard him preach and was repelled by his harsh doctrine. Though the Revolutionary War wrecked his church, he remained with it, and in the lean years following wrote his System of Doctrines Contained in Divine Revelation Explained and Defended (1793). After 1770 he also produced his sermons and pamphlets against slavery, probably the most readable of his works, being somewhat less impeded than the others by the pitiless iteration and verbose pedantry of his style. He seems to have aided in procuring the passage of the Rhode Island laws of 1774 and 1784, respectively forbidding the importation of negroes and declaring free all children born of slaves after the next 1 March. In failing health and with a dwindling congregation, he ministered faithfully until his death in 1803.
The formula associated with Hopkins’s name, and most definitely set forth in his posthumous Dialogue between a Semi-Calvinist and a Calvinist, is “Willingness to be damned for the glory of God.” It is the upshot of all his strict Calvinist theory of decrees, election, and evidences. Rejecting the benevolists’ belief in a mild Deity, he transfers “universal benevolence” from God to man—of whom he then requires it. The germs of the doctrine are to be found in Edwards’s theory of virtue as consisting in love for universal being; and some of Mrs. Edwards’s own religious experiences while Hopkins resided at her house might well have suggested to him his extension of the doctrine. For with him the willingness to be damned is not merely the acme of mystical devotion, but an indispensable evidence of grace—a necessary, though not a sufficient, condition of salvation. If you are not willing to be damned, then you are sure to be.
Hopkins thus carried onward and reduced to a system the materials which Edwards left unco-ordinated. So tough-minded was he that in his hands what might otherwise have been an efflorescence of tender mysticism became a dogma of terror. Naturally it roused intense opposition, but this, together with the logical completeness of the system, focussed attention upon it; so that it remained a powerful influence until the time of general emancipation from theological terrors.
Hopkins personally met his own requirements of benevolence. His combination of terrific doctrine with a kindly and self-denying personal life among his Newport parishioners is the underlying theme of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, The Minister's Wooing. His philanthropic opposition to the slave trade, said to be the first open opposition by an American clergyman, rendered him so unpopular among the prosperous traders of Newport that he was left to die in poverty with the feeling that his work was unaccomplished. Futile, he must have felt, was his letter of remonstrance and admonition (1802) to his revered master’s grandson, Aaron Burr, upon the latter’s dangerous courses; and his Farewell to the World is a pathetic review of the state of man as he then beheld it in all portions of the globe, particularly in Newport among his congregation. It is not a hopeful view. Hopkins could not foresee the success of his opposition to slavery; and he could scarcely have believed, even if told, that his doctrine of disinterested benevolence had so impressed young Channing with the boundlessness of human generosity and the infinite worth of man that it became with him one of the points of departure for a new hopefulness.
§ 4. Timothy Dwight.
Timothy Dwight (1752–1817) could have had no such doubts of his present success. After a varied experience as student (graduated 1769) and tutor at Yale, as an army chaplain during the Revolution, as a farmer, as a member of the Connecticut legislature, and as preacher, schoolmaster, and writer of verse at Greenfield, Connecticut, he became, at the age of forty-three, Dr. Stiles’s successor in the presidency of Yale. He seems to have been the prototype of the modern college president,—appreciative of scholarship, but primarily a practical administrator. He raised the college to financial prosperity; he broadened the curriculum, especially by introducing courses in science; and to the infidels then numerous among the student body he brought religious conviction.
His divinity (Theology Explained and Defended, 1818–19), though schematic, is also controversial, aiming perhaps less to systematize than to convince, and establishing orthodoxy by refuting heresy. It consists of the sermons—essentially Hopkinsian—which he delivered from the college pulpit week after week and year after year, repeating the full set every four years so that each student generation might have the benefit of the whole course.
As a contribution to American prose it is much less important than his four posthumously published volumes of Travels in New England and New York (1821–22). These record a series of journeys, on horseback or in a gig or “sulky,” which Dwight undertook for his health, usually during college vacations, beginning in September, 1796, and continuing at intervals until 1815. The book is the upshot of his experience of life; he was engaged upon the manuscript within nine months of his death, and probably within a few days of it.
He professes as his motive for writing, the humanistic desire to vivify the past; he had wished to know “the manner in which New England appeared or to mine own eye would have appeared eighty or one hundred years before”; and, finding this impossible for himself, he resolved to make it possible for posterity. A second professed motive was the desire to refute foreign misrepresentations of America; and with this in view he cast his material into the form of letters and topical essays addressed to an imaginary Englishman.
These definite purposes do not prevent the book from being an omnium gatherum. For Dwight does not use them as a basis of selection or exclusion of material, but admits anything that happens to interest him; and as he is interested in anything he sees and thinks of, the unity of his book is far to seek. Now, in emulation of the early New England annalists, he chronicles a great storm or an egregious murder; now, in a vein reminiscent of White’s Selborne, he tells of the habits of birds, of the fitness of trees for particular soils, or of the right weather for maple sap; now, for chapter after stodgy chapter, he repeats and summarizes the Connecticut constitution and laws, the system of land tenure, the powers and duties of officers of government, and the penal system, even down to the fines imposed for various offences. Yet his commentary upon this tedious material—shrewd and lucid, well-balanced both in judgment and in style, and above all practical—places it in a kind of Blackstonian tradition. For the rest, he mingles topographical accounts of the regions he passes through with sketches of the characters and lives of distinguished residents, descriptions of scenery, estimates of inns and innkeepers, bits of historical narrative, and statistics of industry, wealth, religion, and climate.
Dwight’s descriptive powers are high but unsustained. At Canajoharie, he tells us, the Mohawk runs below, in a gorge, while above is a
- long narrow stripe of azure seen overhead. On both sides rise stupendous walls of a deep black, awful with their hanging precipices, which are hollowed with a thousand fantastical forms…. As you advance up the stream … you suddenly arrive at a cascade sixty feet in height, where the water descends with a sufficient approximation to perpendicularity to convert the current from a sheet into a mass of foam perfectly white and elegant.
The passages that he does not thus spoil, as, for example, his description of the Notch of the White Mountains, of a view in the Catskills, or of the “oak openings” of the Genesee River, are very few. His narratives, too, while interesting as raw material of literature, are seldom more. The woman one hundred and two years old who, when “the bell was heard to toll for a funeral, … burst into tears and said, ‘When will the bell toll for me? It seems that the bell will never toll for me,’” might have appealed poignantly to Hawthorne. Dwight’s traveller, who rode across a bridge in the dark, and only in the morning discovered that the bridge had not a plank on it and that his horse had found his way across the naked frame, was in fact used by Henry Ward Beecher as an illustration rather less effective than the original. Dwight’s tale of how the regicide Goff, then a venerable man in concealment in the house of the minister at Hadley, had suddenly appeared during an Indian raid upon the congregation, rallied them, and disappeared, may well have actually suggested Hawthorne’s story of The Grey Champion. But Dwight has no flair for imaginative material; nor is he content to leave even his expository effects unspoiled. His narrative of the Saratoga campaign is solid historical writing; but alas, hard at its heels follows the judgment that Saratoga was more important than Marathon.
In description, in narrative, in its dry controversial humour, Dwight’s style is a sound eighteenth-century style, very serviceable in conveying his keen judgments upon statecraft and college management; an administrator’s style, clean in structure, sharp and low-toned in diction, modelled upon Johnson and Burke, but with an occasional richer rhythm. “The bloom of immortality, already deeply faded, now withered away.” The apostle Eliot, when he died, “undoubtedly went to receive the benedictions of multitudes, who, but for him, had finally perished.” Sometimes there are short passages of a sober eloquence not unlike Edwards’s own. Of the congregation to whom Dr. Swift had been a faithful pastor Dwight observes: “Many of them will probably remember him with gratitude throughout eternity.” But such pieces of Attic diction or noble rhythm may be followed in the very next sentence by a banality. As in his descriptions and narratives, so in the general body of his prose, the passages of power or beauty are not sustained. He has merely stumbled upon them.
From first to last Dwight has either no æsthetic standards or only the standards of cocksure provincialism. “Longitude from Yale College,” the legend upon the map prefixed to each of his volumes, might be their motto. His opinions upon Elizabethan writers, upon architecture, upon the drama, upon Greek and Roman literature, would be incredible if they did not stare us in the face from cold type. His genuine powers are rendered nugatory by his incompetence in the realms of taste and imagination. He is the complete Puritan, inhospitable to art but thoroughly efficient in dealing with things; and—to modify Arnold’s formula concerning the Philistine—a maker of farms that produce, of sermons that edify, of a college that educates, and of characters that wear. His want of adequate standards leaves his book a miscellany, not so much because there are all sorts of things in it as because of their huge artistic incongruities; not so much because of the variety of its contents as because of the unplumbed gaps between their literary levels.
Yet this is not to say that after some acquaintance with the Travels the reader does not perceive a dominant interest emerge. This is Dwight’s interest in watching the world confirm his creed. Streams erode their banks, waterfalls recede, puddingstone is compounded, in order to support the Mosaic chronology, which infidel geologists had been heard to assail. Insects found alive in wood known to be eighty years old, seeds that germinate after centuries, frogs found alive by diggers far under ground, are not mere curiosities: they prove that a species supposed to be new may well have been the offspring of such durable creatures, and hence that there is no new species and no spontaneous generation. Dwight chronicles them to support the Biblical account of the origin of all species by creation at the beginning, an account which even in his time was being questioned by precursors of the evolutionary philosophy. His interest in other marvels, again, such as floating islands and mysterious bright spots in the clouds, is much the same as Cotton Mather’s interest in magnalia—What hath God wrought! Every detail of the creation is full of manifest providences. The rich vegetable mould on the surface of new lands, for example, which yields an abundant crop to the pioneer almost without effort on his part, has been placed there for that very purpose, to support him during the first years of his settlement, when his energies, being required to build his house and clear more land, are diverted from the soil. Then, when the beneficent mould has disappeared, the poor soil has its providential purpose too, for by now the settler has time to cultivate it, indeed, must cultivate it if he is to live; so that he has a motive for industry and the other virtues which make him respectable. Thus both the presence and the absence of vegetable mould are effects of the final causes which make the world for man.
Carrying his theology into his judgments upon life, Dwight is interested above all, then, in seeing how a depraved humanity actually gets along in the world. His picture of the trim green New England landscape, with its white spires and prosperous villages, and his picture of the unkempt and sprawling German settlements along the Mohawk, though they may at first seem intended to produce an imaginative contrast, at length reveal his purpose of showing what it is that makes people become respectable. In fact the whole book is a collection of materials toward a genetic psychology of respectability. Dwight’s observations of certain portions of Long Island and Westchester County, of the whole of Rhode Island (which he considers “missionary ground”), of the Indian settlements in parts of Connecticut, of the Irish settlements in central New York, and, generally speaking, of the world outside New England Congregationalism, all strengthen his conviction of the general depravity of man, and help him to confute the doctrines of Rousseau and William Godwin that men are good by nature but have been corrupted by civilization. His theology here coincides with his politics—his inveterate abhorrence of French “atheistic” democracy and Jeffersonianism in general. The Travels is a Federalist document, exhibiting in its most sensible consequences the view that men are presumably bad until something makes them good. Bent therefore upon discovering and applying the incentives that will make them good—for Dwight is a convinced motivist—he exemplifies everywhere the sanctions furnished by thrift, by education, by strong government, and by strong religion. Probably there exists no completer application of Calvinistic principles to secular life. Dwight is the last of the Puritans.
§ 5. Unitarianism.
The term “Unitarian” was accepted by the leaders of the movement only after much reluctance and delay. The doctrine designated by it is not perhaps the characteristic note of the movement at all, for it suggests mere static belief or disbelief in a proposition; whereas Unitarianism was a dynamic tendency, and to be designated rather by some such term as “Liberal Christianity.” Liberty, tolerance, the free play of the intellect, the enfranchisement of the soul from its terrors, faith in the possibilities and the worth of man,—these are more characteristic of it than the denial of the divinity of Jesus, though its high concept of humanity, indeed, renders its humanization of Christ no derogation.
Thus interpreted, Unitarianism has points of contact with whatever is liberal and hopeful in any religion. Its affiliation with Deism, Natural Religion, Benevolism, and other liberal tendencies of eighteenth-century Europe, need not be traced here. It is sufficient to observe that in America the Unitarians drew strength from the liberal wing of any or all of the Protestant churches. The less strict Calvinists, like Ezra Stiles, Jonathan Mayhew, and Charles Chauncy, are thus accounted to have been upon the verge of Unitarianism. Mayhew (died 1766) had been a champion not more of civil than of religious liberty. Stiles exhibited the Unitarian tolerance: he was the friend not only of Hopkins but of the Boston progressives and of the Newport rabbis. His administration at Yale is said to have broadened and secularized the college. In his pursuit of the intellectual life he touched another side of Unitarianism: he and Cotton Mather were the two American scholars whom Timothy Dwight considered able to stand comparison with British scholars. Chauncy had condemned the more violent manifestations of the Great Awakening of 1740. In the pre-Revolutionary controversy concerning the establishment of Episcopacy in America, he had opposed the Anglican views of William White of Philadelphia (afterward the first Bishop of Pennsylvania), asserted that the English Church had best leave the American to develop independently, and contended for the right of the congregation to ordain its own minister. He leaned also toward the Arminian emphasis upon human choice as a genuine factor in salvation, thus falling in with the Unitarian tendency to magnify man. At the same time he is credited with “high” Arianism, and with a touch of Universalism. He had written, too, upon the benevolence of the Deity. He is thus found upon several characteristic Unitarian pathways.
It was the Boston Episcopalians, however, rather than the Congregationalists, who took the first decisive step. In 1785, the congregation of King’s Chapel, having adopted a modification of the Anglican liturgy, from which all Trinitarian doctrine had been omitted, ordained and installed as its rector James Freeman, who, together with William Hazlitt (father of the essayist), had performed the revision. This ordination is usually held to mark the formal beginning of Unitarianism in New England.
§ 6. The Buckminsters.
The Rev. Joseph Buckminster (1751–1812) of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, a strict Calvinist, from first to last was doomed to lift up his voice against the liberal movement in vain. He protested against the Rev. Mr. Foster’s Sermon at New Braintree (1788), which, he thought, offered salvation upon too easy terms; in a series of letters (1811) to the Rev. Hosea Ballou (1771–1852) he protested against that pioneer Universalist’s preaching the final salvation of all mankind; and above all he protested against the defection of his own son, the Rev. Joseph Stevens Buckminster (1784–1812), whose ordination sermon (1805) he nevertheless preached, not without a note of fatherly foreboding.
The Buckminsters were of the Edwards stock. The staunch and earnest father was a contemporary of Dwight, Barlow, and Trumbull at Yale; the scholarly, eloquent, and saintly son was an immediate predecessor of Andrews Norton, and a contemporary of W. E. Channing, Charles Lowell, and Washington Allston at Harvard. But for his father’s opposition, he might have become assistant to James Freeman, whom he heard with admiration at King’s Chapel. He taught Daniel Webster Latin at Phillips Exeter, and tried to persuade his pupil to take part in the school exercises in public speaking. His work, in fact, is full of seeds which the future brought to fruition. Its new note of secular culture, against which his father had warned him—its allusions to art, to foreign books and travel (he was abroad in 1806–07), and to classical philosophy and literature—becomes increasingly characteristic of nineteenth-century clerical writing. In quietly removing emphasis from the staggering conditions of salvation to the process of religious training, Buckminster anticipates Jacob Abbott and Horace Bushnell. He anticipates Andrews Norton both in attaching prime importance to philology and history, as evidences of Christianity, and in a large conception of theology as including the widest range of scholarship,—as bounded, in fact, only by the limits of human knowledge. Buckminster realized Norton’s idea of a “learned and able theologian—disciplined in habits of correct reasoning—[and] informed by extensive learning.” Norton seems to have laid upon himself the task of continuing the work that his admired friend had “died too young to do.” “Hearing Buckminster,” said Norton, “one seemed to be walking in the triumphal procession of Truth.”
Despite warning and opposition, then, “liberal Christianity” continued to flourish, until in 1805 the Rev. Henry Ware, an outspoken Unitarian, was appointed to the Hollis Professorship of Divinity in Harvard College. This invasion of the school whose initial purpose had been the production of Congregational ministers roused the Congregationalists of every shade of opinion to the defence of their discipline; and from extreme Hopkinsians to moderate Calvinists, they combined to establish at Andover a new theological seminary, which was opened in 1808.
§ 7. Andover Theological Seminary.
During the era of orthodoxy Andover Seminary published The Andover Review, and had its famous teachers, such as Leonard Woods, Moses Stuart, Austen Phelps, and Edwards A. Park; yet in the course of time even this stronghold yielded to the irresistible trend toward liberalism. In 1886, five of its professors who had published a volume of advanced theological thought were tried for heresy, and acquitted. The legal proceedings for their removal also failed. By a bit of historical irony, the counsel for the defence was Theodore William Dwight, a grandson of Timothy. In 1908, the wheel having come full circle, Andover Seminary removed to Cambridge and became affiliated with Harvard University.
§ 8. Princeton Theological Seminary.
The Princeton Theological Seminary, founded by the Presbyterian branch of the Calvinists, was opened in 1812, and had its strong men also: Archibald Alexander (1772–1851) and his sons James W. (1804–59) and Joseph A. Alexander (1809–60); Charles Hodge (1797–1878), who in 1825 established the organ of the Seminary, afterwards named The Princeton Review; and James McCosh (1811–94), President of Princeton College 1868–88. Princeton has always remained Presbyterian.
These conservative reactions in the early nineteenth century widened the cleavage between the Calvinists and the Unitarians, which by 1819 had become so marked that William Ellery Channing, who in that year preached the ordination sermon of Jared Sparks at Baltimore, adopted for it the title Unitarian Christianity. Thenceforth the separate establishment of the Unitarians was unquestioned.
§ 9. Andrews Norton.
As Channing was their great mild preacher, so Andrews Norton was their hard-headed champion. Descended from the Rev. John Norton, the notable minister of Ipswich and of Boston, Andrews Norton was born in 1786 at Hingham. In 1804 he graduated at Harvard, and spent the next fifteen years as graduate student, tutor, and lecturer, there and at Bowdoin. In 1819 he was appointed Dexter Professor of Sacred Literature in Harvard College, acting also from 1813 to 1821 as the College Librarian. His Statement of Reasons for Not Believing the Doctrine of Trinitarians, first published in 1819 in a controversy with Professor Stuart of Andover, soon became a Unitarian classic. In 1833 and 1834 he was engaged with Charles Folsom in editing The Select Journal of Foreign Periodical Literature, one of the numerous magazines of that period of growing international culture. The first number contains Macaulay’s Essay on Hampden, reprinted from The Edinburgh Review; Paulin Paris’s Letter upon the Romances upon the Twelve Peers of France, from Férussac’s Bulletin Universel (“translated from the French with notes by Professor Longfellow”); and reviews from The Foreign Quarterly Review and elsewhere. For a number of years Norton contributed also to The North American Review, and was influential in its management.
Emerson’s celebrated Divinity School Address in 1838 brought to a head Norton’s distaste for the Transcendental movement. A year later he addressed to the alumni of the Harvard Theological School at their Commencement reunion his Discourse on the Latest Form of Infidelity, which, by opposing Spinoza, Schleiermacher, Strauss, and Hegel, whom apparently Norton considered responsible for much Transcendental error, refutes Emerson by indirection, without mentioning him or taking explicit issue with his views. Yet the clash of their opinions is uncompromising. Where Emerson insisted upon intuition, Norton requires an outer revelation evidenced by historical documents. Where Emerson insisted that genuine religion cannot be received at second-hand, but is intuitive and immediate, Norton emphasizes the dependence of laymen upon expert authority and mediation in difficult matters of research and exegesis. Where Emerson rejected any conception of a miracle that would oppose it to the ordinary course of nature, implying that nature is miraculous enough, and that miracles are happening all the time, Norton reiterates that miracles are suspensions of the course of nature, are historical, and are evidence of the divine mission of Christ. George Ripley’s answer to Norton’s Discourse led to a controversy which belongs to the history of the Transcendental movement.
§ 10. Opposition to Transcendentalism.
Norton’s opposition to intuitionalism appears throughout his works. His Views of Calvinism scores the proposition (which had found support even at Andover Seminary) that “The truths of Christianity have always been addressed to the intuitive perceptions of the common mind.” Norton points out the inconsistency between the Calvinist doctrine that the common mind is naturally so depraved as to be unable to perceive religious truth, and the new Andover doctrine, adopted from Transcendentalism, that the common mind has absolute intuitions of religious truth. He thus hits out in opposite directions, against both the orthodox and the Transcendentalists, but on the same ground, namely, his rejection of intuitions. The violence of this rejection, indeed, carried him too far; so that when in the warmth of controversy he rejected all but the historical or external evidences of Christianity, he laid himself open to George Ripley’s charge of narrowness.
From the very first, however, for example in his Defence of Liberal Christianity (1812), Norton had been consistent in pleading for the historical and linguistic interpretation of the Bible, and the consideration of dogma less as prescribed by authority than as developed by history. His final contributions to scholarship, the Evidences of the Genuineness of the Gospels (1837–44), and the Translation of the Gospels and Internal Evidences of the Genuineness of the Gospels (both published posthumously in 1855), take the same line. Even by “internal evidences” Norton does not mean evidences of spiritual truth. He is concerned not with establishing Christianity but with the genuineness of certain documents; thus his remarks are limited generally to matters of historical and linguistic exegesis and logical probability. Least of all does he consider what might by some be defined as internal evidence, the adaptability of Christianity to the character of man, or the intuition that Christianity is true.
Norton is the representative Unitarian in taking the position, typical of that body, precisely half-way between Calvinism and Transcendentalism, engaging impartially in controversy on the one hand with Moses Stuart and on the other with George Ripley. The common basis of his opposition to both is his opposition to Plato. Platonism, his researches led him to believe, had in its Neo-Platonic avatar at Alexandria produced, among other doctrines of emanation, the doctrine of the Trinity. Platonism also, believing the soul to have been in contact with ideal archetypes whose memory it retained in this life, was the very fountain of the doctrine of intuitions. Norton’s opposition to Emerson and Ripley was thus of a piece with his opposition to Philo Judæus and Moses Stuart, the opposition of an exact scholar to what he considered loose, effusive, and sentimental thinking. Indeed, though Norton never says so in so many words, he seems to have recognized the Platonism of the Transcendental movement, and to have condemned it upon the same grounds as those upon which he condemned Plato himself. Anti-Platonism is the key to Norton’s position.
§ 11. Furness.
Norton’s teaching is praised by his disciple William Henry Furness (1802–96), who carried it to the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia; and it must, in fact, have been a powerful stimulus to anyone who could taste his austerity and his intellectual keenness. He is not wholly free from banalities, those devils that stand ever ready at the clerical elbow; he prefers Mrs. Stowe to Goethe; but the great body of his work is ascetically pure in taste as in style. It can still be read with pleasure, indeed with a certain intellectual thrill.
§ 12. Horace Bushnell.
The work of enfranchisement was carried on in their several modes by three notable contemporaries: Horace Bushnell (1802–76), Henry Ward Beecher (1813–87), and Mark Hopkins (1802–87), each in his way a liberator.
Superficially, Bushnell may seem to have been a reactionary. Born in Litchfield Township, Connecticut, he graduated at Yale in 1827, whither, after a short experience in journalism, he returned as tutor, student of law, and finally student of theology. In 1833 he was ordained pastor of the North Congregational Church in Hartford, where he remained until 1859. In 1856, while in California for his health, he was active in organizing at Oakland the “College of California,” which in 1869 was merged in the University of California, and the presidency of which he declined. He thus belongs by birth, by training, and by professional activity to that hinterland—consisting of the valleys of the Connecticut and the Housatonic, and of the Litchfield and Berkshire Hills—whose orthodoxy has stood out against the liberal movements of the coast line from Boston to Newport.
Bushnell disliked what to his richly mystical temperament seemed the baldness of Unitarianism, and he re-established on a new basis many of the institutes of orthodoxy, notably the Trinity and the Atonement. Yet he consistently opposed all dogma, not because it was bigoted on the one hand or lax on the other, but because of the inadequacy of language as such to convey the religious mysteries which his piety bade him hold fast despite their logical contradictions. Mere logic he distrusted so deeply that its contradictions, dilemmas, antinomies were to him no arguments against a belief. According to a well-known anecdote, Bushnell, finding a college-mate stropping his razor all in one direction, bade him oppose his strokes to each other, a procedure which has been accepted as typical of Bushnell’s dialectic, and which is not unlike Hegel’s. Contradictories merely led him to a higher resultant—a mystical synthesis and a sort of credo quia impossibile. He saved impossible dogmas by turning them into sacraments.
At the same time, the rationalist in him offered to weaker faiths a modus vivendi. The Trinity, whose essence was a mystery inexpressible in language, was reconcilable with the divine unity in that it was a mode and an instrument by which the Absolute revealed itself to and worked upon finite souls. This epistemological view, which is said to go back to Sabellius, was perhaps a novelty in American theology; its pragmatism and distrust of logic seem even to be anticipations. In much the same way Bushnell retained the doctrine of the Atonement by attributing to it a moral effect upon the human soul, instead of the old-fashioned governmental or legalistic function of paying a debt, expiating a crime, or mending a broken law. These positions he promulgated in his God in Christ (1849), with its introductory Dissertation on the Nature of Language as Related to Thought and Spirit, in Christ in Theology (1851), and in The Vicarious Sacrifice (1856). For the old revivals, with their sudden superemotional conversions, he also substituted the concept of a gradual education in Christianity; Christian Nurture (1847), like Jacob Abbott’s The Young Christian (1832), directs the attention of those who would be of the faith toward the possibility of growing in it by a process open to all mankind, the process of training. In his attitude toward the abolition of slavery, Bushnell was likewise detached from the extremists. Here, too, he believed less in drastic measures than in education and in the gradual workings of nature under Providence. In the same way he assumed toward the scientific movement of the mid-nineteenth century an attitude at once decisive and concessive. Whatever science might have to say about the rigour of causation and necessity within the physical world, man was always to be recognized as an essentially free supernatural being, placed literally above nature by his alliance with the divine. Yet the two realms, of necessity and of freedom, were held together by a Deity immanent in both (Nature and the Supernatural, 1858).
Without being a compromiser, Bushnell thus works rapprochements everywhere. His thought holds all subjects suspended in a sort of Platonic solvent, conciliating opposites—not without sometimes confusing them. Yet he continues with vigour the tradition of Plato, Hegel, and Coleridge, and is a genuine religious thinker, whose importance in the history of American thought has perhaps not been generally recognized. In many ways he suggests William James. Moreover, he has a style, nervous, clean, and racy. Kept fresh by its “antiseptic” virtue, his Literary Varieties—the volumes of essays entitled Work and Play (1864), and Moral Uses of Dark Things (1868) and Building Eras in Religion (1881)—will still richly reward a reader. Indeed, all of Bushnell’s prose, though manifestly influenced by Emerson, by Carlyle, and by Ruskin, yet possesses its own peculiar vitality, a pulsation that at its best may be likened, to use a metaphor of his own, to the beat of wings.
§ 13. Henry Ward Beecher.
Henry Ward Beecher, too, was born in the orthodox uplands of Litchfield, and of a strictly Calvinistic sire. Lyman Beecher (1775–1863) had studied theology under Timothy Dwight at Yale; had occupied, after 1798, first the Presbyterian pulpit at Easthampton, Long Island, next the Congregational pulpit at Litchfield, and lastly that of the Park Street Church in Boston; until in 1832 he became President of the newly established Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. He is best known, perhaps, for his Six Sermons on Intemperance, but he was a dogmatist as well as a moralist, staunchly supporting the Calvinism of his native tradition.
His son Henry, graduating at Amherst in 1834 in no doubt as to his vocation, at once entered the Lane Theological Seminary, and studied under his father and under Calvin Stowe (1802–86), an Oriental scholar of real attainment, who in 1836 married Beecher’s sister Harriet. Beecher served his apprenticeship in the pulpit at Lawrenceburg and Indianapolis, whence in 1847 he was called to the new Brooklyn congregation of Plymouth Church. The liberal movement of his thought paralleled his geographical wanderings from the region of orthodoxy, through the region of culture, to the practical West, and back to the metropolitan East. He had had his fill of dogmatic theology in youth, and never took much further interest in it. He became more and more a minister, looking rather to the needs of humanity than to the theory of divinity. In the West, under the stress of primitive conditions, he soon threw overboard a system of doctrines in which, he found, plain people were not interested; so that by the time he took the Brooklyn pulpit, which soon became a national platform, he was preaching straight at human nature, and touching it with a more and more liberating hand as he advanced in years.
From his Seven Lectures to Young Men (1844) to his Evolution and Religion (1885) he came a long way. The Lectures are addressed apparently not to young men in general, but to young employees—clerks, mechanics, salesmen, and apprentices. Hence their flavour of Poor Richard and the Industrious Apprentice. Guided to his audience by Franklin and Hogarth, Beecher combines allegory with vivid eighteenth-century realism; bigoted invective against the theatre and novels, with “characters,” the Sluggard, the Busybody, the Dandy, the Pleasure-Loving Business Man, the Cynic, the Libertine. This antique literary material explains the excessively oldfashioned flavour of the book. Though Beecher grew immeasurably away from it, he seems never to have disavowed or changed it, and for fifty years it remained perhaps his most popular work.
To Beecher’s Western period also belong short pieces which first appeared in an Indiana agricultural paper and were later (1859) reprinted as Plain and Pleasant Talk about Fruit, Flowers and Farming. Of no intrinsic literary importance, they are of interest as showing the sources of much of Beecher’s imagery. He was always close to the soil, and he drew from natural phenomena some of his most effective “illustrations.” The Star Papers (1855 and 1859) and the Eyes and Ears (1862), collections of short essays, are good reading even now. With naïveté and self-depreciation, Beecher records his impressions of his first tour in Europe, tells of holiday outings among the Connecticut hills and trout streams, and gives plainly and modestly his very sensible opinions upon such subjects as sudden conversion, mischievous self-examination, and total depravity. The latter doctrine he rejects, accepting the doctrine of men’s sinfulness and the necessity of their atonement not because Adam fell but because sin is actual and present. With regard to conversion, he takes the empiricist view that only in rare cases does the inner clock strike twelve when men have found grace; they may have it, yet not have infallible evidence. Hence he deprecates excessive introspection and hesitation, and says “Go ahead.” His reminiscences, too, of old Litchfield at a time when that lucky town held Miss Pierce’s Female Seminary and the celebrated Law School of Judge Gould and Judge Tapping Reeve, are discursive essays of permanent interest. His story of how, having as a boy of thirteen visited the Charlestown Navy Yard, he stole a cannon ball and went away with it in his hat, is as enjoyable as Franklin’s apologues of The Axe to Grind and of Paying too Dear for One's Whistle. The Essay on Apple Pie is not toto cælo removed from the Essay on Roast Pig. Home Revisited, the record of a few days in Indianapolis, recalls the first of his sermons which he considered a success because it was aimed at his hearers; and tells by the way of his awe of Jonathan Edwards. “I never could read … Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God … at one sitting. I think a person of moral sensibilities, alone at midnight, reading that awful discourse, would well nigh go crazy.” Through many of these pieces there breathes a frank sensuous enjoyment of physical beauty, which passes easily into religious exaltation. Beecher revels in the form and colour of great painting, and in the sounds, sights, and colours of landscape; the pictures in the Louvre and the glories of a sunset are to him literally revelations. These volumes testify once more to the richness of his mental imagery, and to its decided growth in range and in culture after his removal to the East.
Meanwhile, during all the years from his first pulpit to the beginning of the Civil War, his opposition to slavery had been deepening. He never joined the Abolitionists, but untiringly opposed the extension of slavery, and during the decade from 1850 to 1860, in lectures and in contributions to periodicals, denounced the various compromises and outrages that led up to the conflict. Freedom and War (1863), a volume of spirited sermons and addresses from the Brooklyn pulpit, exhibits the growth of his opinions up to the moment when he began to advocate immediate abolition—a moment just before the Emancipation Proclamation itself.
In educating public opinion upon slavery, Beecher had been unconsciously preparing his own armament for uses which he could not have guessed. While upon a vacation in England in the autumn of 1863 he was asked to speak on the war, and in the course of eleven days delivered almost impromptu, at Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool, and London, the series of addresses which gave him perhaps his greatest celebrity. Some of his audiences, notably those at Liverpool and Glasgow, were most tumultuous, and had actually to be conquered by the speaker. He conquered them, and won over the English middle class to sympathy with the Union cause. The determination of the British government to maintain strict neutrality is said to have been largely due to Beecher’s effect upon public opinion. As literature, the addresses in England, though of course they bear the marks of their hasty composition and contested delivery, yet reveal the easy mastery of his material which Beecher had been storing up in his years of preparatory writing and speaking. Their lucidity and humour are still delightful; they still throw off visibly the live sparks that were struck out in the original clash between the speaker and his hearers; they reproduce the time in its very form and pressure; and in their way, too, they are classics of argumentation, for Beecher realizes the essential Aristotelian form of rhetoric—the orator’s persuasion of an audience confronting him. The history of slavery and of secession could hardly be read in a more interesting form.
In Norwood, or Village Life in New England (1868), advertised as “Mr. Beecher’s only novel,” Beecher attempted an excursion into imaginative literature, but failed for want of breath. He had no power of construction and very little power of characterization. The personages are lay figures moving through an action prescribed for them by the author, and speaking his language, not their own. The general woodenness of the book, and several delightful absurdities, lay it open to easy parody. So much allowed, Norwood, if taken not as a novel but as a series of sketches of New England types, descriptions of New England scenery, and discussions not too profound of topics in religion, politics, and æsthetics, has distinct merit. This is much the same merit that is exhibited, under much the same limitations, by Beecher’s short essays: though he had imagination, he had no architectonic.
Beneath the routine activities of the next twenty years—his regular sermons, the public addresses for which he was more and more in request, and his sentimental Life of Jesus the Christ (1871), Beecher was quietly conducting an earnest study of the evolutionary philosophy. From the very beginning of his acquaintance with the new way of thinking, he seems to have felt that it would be his latest and his last instrument for enfranchising the soul; and when he had accomplished his task of educating public opinion at home and abroad toward the abolition of slavery, he turned to this other task of spiritual emancipation. “If I had preached thirty years ago,” he says in one of the sermons of his Evolution and Religion (1885), “what I preach now, it would have been a great mischief to you; but for thirty years I have been cautious, and have fed you as you could bear it.”
Beecher did not, it would seem, understand the full power of the instrument he was employing, and as he was a man of images and not of ideas he never brought his own self-contradictions to a clear issue. In his prevailing mood he makes the assumption, which comes down to him from Platonism, natural religion, and Transcendentalism, that nature is a symbol of God and the moral order, is a continuing revelation of God, is sympathetic with humanity, and is parallel, analogous, and favourable to religion and morals. Often, however, he realizes to some extent, and frankly declares, as far as he realizes it, the inevitable implication of the theory of natural selection, that nature is alien to the moral strivings of man, and is thoroughly unmoral if not immoral. When he is conscious of his self-contradiction at all, Beecher seems merely puzzled by it as by one mystery among many. It would of course be fatal to his work if that work were a philosophical system—which it is not.
Despite his indecision upon this central problem, really the problem of evil itself, Beecher succeeds in giving sight and freedom to souls weighed down and blinded by the old unhappy dogma of depravity. Without denying man’s sinfulness, he reverses the whole prospect of humanity by simply declaring that it is not true that men were created innocent but fell and incurred a debt which they could never hope to pay; but rather that the human race began low down, has not come up very far, and has the opportunity for limitless development upward.
Beecher’s close contact with his audience and the abundance of his imagery are the sources of his peculiar power. They keep his style homely and racy (Robert South he declared to have been his chief model), and hold his thought and feeling near to human needs. He deliberately cultivated both. He carried pocketfuls of gems, which he loved to turn over and examine; he haunted picture-galleries and jewellers’ shops. Like Whitman, whom he is said to have influenced, he walked the streets, spent whole days among the docks and ferry boats, made himself familiar with all sorts of trades, and talked with all sorts of people. These sources of power were also at times sources of weakness. Beecher came to depend upon hearers rather than readers; his hand faltered when he felt himself out of contact with an audience; and as he could not bring himself to revise with any degree of care the reports of his oral discourse, the form in which much of it has come to us is distinctly sub-literary. His exuberance of imagery also upon occasion betrayed him into incongruity and bathos. Yet his writings as a whole produce a deepening impression of merit. Here was a large personality, all of a piece, singularly free from repressions, and with no closet for a skeleton to lurk in. Beecher’s openness of soul—exhibiting frankly his delight in beautiful things and in human contacts—is perhaps his characteristic note, and together with the great historical interest of his work will probably go far to render it permanent.
§ 14. Clerical College Presidents.
Mark Hopkins was one of a group of clerical college presidents and teachers in whom the old interest in systems was transferred from theology to “anthropology.” The group includes men like Francis Wayland (1796–1865), President of Brown University (1827–55); Archibald Alexander (1772–1851), professor at Princeton; James McCosh (1811–94), President of Princeton (1868–88); and Noah Porter (1811–94), President of Yale (1871–86). All of these turn from dogmatic theology to psychology, ethics, and the relations of the human mind to Christianity. They produce textbooks on “Christian Evidences,” “Moral Science” or “Moral Philosophy,” and “Mental Philosophy,” for the most part in a vein of Scottish dualistic realism modified by Sir William Hamilton’s Kantian importations.
§ 15. Mark Hopkins.
Mark Hopkins, like Beecher, came of tough-minded stock in a tough-minded region. He was the grandson of Mark, one of three younger brothers who were reared by the benevolent Samuel Hopkins. He was born at Stockbridge, graduated in 1824 at Williams College, and spent the next two years there as tutor. In 1829 he took a degree in medicine at the Berkshire Medical College in Pittsfield, but in 1830 returned to Williamstown as Professor of Moral Philosophy and Rhetoric. Though licensed in 1833, he did not accept a pulpit, but in 1836 became President of Williams College, where he did main service until his resignation in 1872. He remained at Williamstown as President Emeritus, and as a general counsellor to the college and to the very wide community of his pupils.
The influence to which they testify is accounted for not only by his strong, gentle, and sympathetic personality, but also by his mastery of those pregnant generalizations which interest growing minds. He was from first to last a man of ideas. It would be too much to expect that among so many ideas even the majority should be original, and in point of fact Hopkins derived nearly all from his Calvinistic tradition and from his reading. His works refer explicitly to an exceedingly large number of authors. But the success with which, as a teacher, he caused his pupils to wheel his ideas into action, is surely originality enough. Those ideas, if not themselves a liberal education, gave to the education of hundreds its coherence, articulation, and aim. The winged word of his pupil James A. Garfield, variously reported, asserts that the essence of a college is a student at one end of a log and Mark Hopkins at the other.
Literary quality was only a by-product of a mind thus primarily engaged in forming character. Hopkins’s prose is exceedingly uneven. Probably nothing in it was obscure when he spoke it aloud with his own significant intonations; but as a text for the eye it abounds in pitfalls. Yet he so reiterated, developed, illustrated, and enforced his ideas as to produce a total effect of lucidity. He has moments, too, of eloquence and charm.
From the Edwardean tradition Hopkins received the concept of universal benevolence, the dogmatic side of which interested him, however, much less than its usefulness as a basis of ethics. From his very early essay on The Connection between Taste and Morals down to his latest volume on The Scriptural Idea of Man, he so used it. In his mind it coincided fruitfully with the Aristotelian notion of a scale of things in which each lower member is the condition of a higher; the State, for instance, in which the best life for the citizen is conditioned upon the existence of slaves. Hopkins combined these or kindred ideas into a scale of forces and beings each member of which had a worth higher than that of the one upon which it was conditioned. Thus he established at once a series of ethical values and a series of physical phenomena, each built upon all the preceding and all leading up to the highest, which took up all the lower, and benevolence toward which was the basis of morals. As early as 1857 Hopkins’s baccalaureate sermon, The Higher and the Lower Good, explained gravity as conditioning cohesion, cohesion as conditioning chemical affinity, and so on up through regularity of form, organic life, sensitive life, rational life, and moral life. Thenceforward this conception reappeared in all his more important works. Essential to its working also was the assumption that each stage was lifted into the next higher stage by the addition of some external force. It will be observed that this gave Hopkins a full-fledged evolutionary process, worked, however, not from within but from without, by means of accessions of matter and force effected by an external artificer. It was this last phase of his theory that gradually drew to itself the chief emphasis and the most important functions of the whole, and became in Hopkins’s hands his great instrument of liberation.
To Hopkins’s thinking, the evolutionary philosophy threatened the destruction of personality, the personality of God and of man, both of whom seemed about to be swallowed up in a mechanistic nature. Hopkins has no illusions on the subject. Charm she never so wisely, Nature cannot persuade him of her virtue. She is not, except in some very early Platonistic effusions of his, the symbol of a divine moral order, but is rather a machine grinding out uniform cycles under mechanical necessity, and making no answer to the human demand for purpose and freedom. These elements must be supplied from without; and it is a detached Deity who supplies them.
The germ of this portion of Hopkins’s system appears in one of his earliest published works, that entitled On the Argument from Nature for the Divine Existence (1833), a review of Whewell’s Bridgewater Treatise on Astronomy and General Physics Considered with Reference to Natural Theology. Here Hopkins already discredits the “argument from design” and finds evidence of the existence of God much less in nature than in man. Nature, though full of “contrivance,” is often irrational and neither wise nor good; only in man is there found a glimmering of wisdom and goodness, only there a moral valuation,—which must be the effect of a cause not different in kind, and hence of the Deity. This argument, too, runs throughout Hopkins’s system, parallel with his use of the scale of conditioning and conditioned; so that when he beholds the menace of the evolutionary philosophy, he has his weapons ready.
Tyndall’s Belfast Address (1874), with its assertion of the complete immanence of all the developing forces within matter itself, realized Hopkins’s worst fears; and thenceforth he held evolutionism to this its extreme logic. With a flexibility that was little short of marvellous in one well past his threescore years and ten and confronted by a new and complex hypothesis, he seized at once the fundamental issue between evolutionism and Christianity. This, he saw, was essentially the old issue of immanence against transcendence. Many a younger mind even now fails to grasp this ultimate implication as Hopkins grasped it the moment Tyndall pointed it out; many a Christian even now thinks himself a thorough-going evolutionist when he believes that a detached God created the universe and left it thenceforth to evolve. Hopkins perceived and turned to account with much acumen these same intellectual compromises, futilities, and divisions within the camp of the evolutionists themselves. Spencer, with his utterly detached transcendent Absolute; Fiske, with his old argument from nature to his new unknowable power distinct from matter; and, Hopkins might have added, Wallace, with his several special creations of “higher faculties,” one every little while;—these, clearly enough, not only were divided among themselves, but were not carrying the evolutionary argument “whithersoever it led.” They were only clouding the issue. All such compromises he refused, and with an intellectual honesty and courage even more admirable than his flexibility, pushed the question to its ultimate form and squarely faced it there. About each professor of evolution he asks, in effect: “Does he, or does he not, say that this power is inherent in matter? If he does, he is properly an evolutionist. If he does not, … but says that the results are due to the action of a being … that is separable from matter and uses it, then he is not properly an evolutionist.” So facing the question, Hopkins had no need of the Bishop of Oxford’s weapons. For at least a generation his own mind, as if anticipating the struggle to come, had been forging its sword.
Hopkins, then, uncompromisingly groups together evolutionism, with its mechanistic nature, its continuity, uniformity, necessity, law, monism, immanence, and tendency to pantheism, over against a scale of being that rises into personality, with its freedom, its choice of ends, its discontinuity, its movement per saltum, its realism as to species, its supernatural man, and its transcendent Deity. The sum of God’s attributes, indeed, is that he is a person; and for Hopkins religion is faith in a person. This order of ideas, suggested as early as the Williams College Semicentennial Address of 1843, grows stronger and stronger in the series of his works; with deepening earnestness he declares that, deprived of personality and of the scale of moral values conditioned by it, the world will go forever circling through mechanical revolutions, but that progress is impossible.
It is a matter for serious inquiry whether the future is not with him. The world has of course moved beyond a denial of the facts of evolution; but it may have to admit that from the accepted and undeniable facts it has been drawing the falsest inferences. The romantic “return to Nature” has led man into the suicidal fallacy that he ought to imitate her in the conduct of his own affairs, and that because he has been evolved by natural selection he must continue its wild work. A reaction against these romatic horrors is now in sight. Many are feeling that romanticism, having given us its best, has had its day; and that “as the Nineteenth Century put man into nature, so it will be the business of the Twentieth to take him out.” If man shall indeed acknowledge that he has been following the law for thing rather than the law for man, if he shall understand how it was by following nature’s senseless competitive ways, instead of subjecting his self-assertiveness to man’s ethical scale, that he betrayed his race to mutual slaughter, and how it was a pseudo-scientific philosophy that brought him to this doloroso passo, he will turn from his ghastly naturalism to a controlling humanism such as has never yet been realized.
- See Book I, Chap. IV for Edwards. For divines of other denominations than Congregational and Unitarian see Book III.
- The romance indicated by the title was suggested in part by an incident of Hopkins’s ministry at Great Barrington.
- For his verse see Book I, Chap. IX.
- Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia (1786) has these points in common with Dwight’s Travels: it purports to answer questions asked by a foreigner; it gives information about the constitution and laws, religion and manners, public revenue and expense, manufactures, commerce, money, histories, and memorials; it refutes the views of Buffon and of the Abbé Raynal upon the bad climate and soil of America, and upon the degeneracy of its animals and men. (See also Book II, Chap. I.) An immediate predecessor of Dwight in this genre was Ezra Stiles, who bequeathed to Dwight his Literary Diary, and whose Itineraries Dwight may well have seen in MS. Investigation would probably show that Dwight owed much to Jefferson and to Stiles.
- See also Book I, Chap. V.
- See ibid.
- Great-uncle of Hosea Ballou 2d, who was a founder and the first President of Tufts College.
- See Book II, Chap. VIII.
- See also Book II, Chap. IX.
- See Book II, Chap. VIII.