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Mrs. Huston Dixon

BR 85 .B9325 1883 v. 6
Bushnell, Horace, 1802-1876.
Selected works


Se-le-cJt. WftrUss \.(o






713 AND T45 Bkoadwat


Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1867,


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States

for the Southern District of New York.

Copyright by




Printing and Bookbinding Company

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Of the three vohimes by Dr. Bushnell now produced
under the general title of " Literary Yarieties " two
have long been out of print and one is new. The lat-
ter Consists of various articles and addresses which have
been printed in some fugitive form, and which Dr.
Bushnell himself designated under the heading of
Eeliquife as the material for a book to be published
after his death. Collecting thein now as a nearly com-
plete edition of his miscellaneous writings, we would em-
phasize the distinction between these and his theological
works, these " the spontaneous overplus and literary by-
play of a laborious profession," the latter the embodiment
of that profession itself. They so richly represent and,
as it were, personify the varied interests of his life as
to form in themselves, if rightly interpreted, a biogra-
phy necessary to the completeness of any which has
been or could be written. As an aid to such interpre-
tation, a few facts and thoughts may here be fitly pre-

The oration on AYork and Play, often spoken of as
the supreme literary product of his life, followed closely


upon a profound private religious experience and was
written and delivered in that year of tlieologic tempest
which threatened to overwhelm him as a heretic. But
its atmosphere is sererie, the liig-h tenor of its literary
inspiration unbroken by a note of strife. His ideal of
a literary era painted in its closing pages seems to be
that it shall emerge from a period of struggle under a
religious impulse, as his own had done. The same
tliought is conveyed with equal force and beauty in his
address on " Our Obligations to the Dead/' for which
room has not been found in the volume on " Building
Eras in Religion," wherein he depicts the future liter-
ary age for which the great struggle of our war has, he
thinks, furnished fit training and noble subjects, re-
ligion being still " the only sufficient fertilizer of genius
as it is the only real emancipator of man."

In this first volume we have also the "Age of Home-
spun," which contains the scenery and the dramatis
])epso)UB of his childhood ; " The Growth of Law," in
which we find the impress of his law studies ; " The
Founders great in their Unconsciousness," wherein the
strength of his own hereditary Puritan consciousness is
revealed ; " The Day of Roads," the direct product of
his European journey; "City Plans," so closely con-
nected with his work for Hartford and its Park ; and
" Religious Music," whose melodious thought and
rhythmical style seem to date back to that time when,
as a boy, he taught himself by a reverse process from


his motlier's song liow to read music. In tliis volume
one address on " Agriculture at the East " has been
withdrawn, as superseded by the progress of history,
and in its place we have now that on " Barbarism the
First Danger,-' which was the first public address by
which he became widely known. Its truths were un-
popular truths — needed, but unwelcome to the sensitive-
ness of new communities. As long as we have a fron-
tier the article may be useful.

These articles, taken all together, evince a large
amount of reading and study. Apart from the refer-
ences to historical works, many of which were consulted
in preparation for certain subjects, we find everywhere
evidences that his mind was keenly alive to the inspira-
tions of the great thought-makers, from Plato and
Epictetus down to Bacon and Shakespeare. Books of
systematized thought were less attractive to him than
those in which thought is offered in free and fluent
forms, capable of transmutation. The works of scien-
tists and travellers, whose subject-matter is necessarily
in the concrete, had special value to his mind as offer-
ing food for thought. He read more than is commonly
believed, lai-gely of books by the few master-minds, but
also freely of the best present writers, — very little of
metaphysical or mental-and-religious-science books.

The volume on the " Moral Uses of Dark Things "
is not, as might be supposed, a logical treatise designed
to solve the " Enigmas of Life," but rather a series of


observations made in a curious and inquiring spirit
upon some of the strange and mysterious provisions of
creation. It was as early as tlie 3'ear 1846 that Dr.
Bushnell first had his attention called to some of these
morally unaccountable aspects of human life and na-
ture, and he then preached sermons on the uses of de-
formity and of physical danger. From time to time
he observed new phases of the same riddle, and tore
the disguise of a curse fi-om many a blessing. At last
he consolidated the fruit of his observations in the pres-
ent volume, a subtle and curious contribution to the
thought of our time, but one so unpretending of system
as to be properly classified with his " Literary Varieties."

In the fact that the material of our third volume,
entitled "Building Eras in Religion," was selected by
Dr. Bushnell himself as that which he was willing to
liave stand when he was gone, we have his endorsement
of it as being not inconsistent with his ripest thought,
l^otwithstanding this the articles were some of them
among his earliest, as the date given with each will

It is through these three volumes that he will be best
known to the world in his personality as a man.
They are both fiower and fruit, and not only illustrate
but are the growth, the ceaseless activity, the ever- vary-
ing form of life, in one of the most living of men.


It would Lave been easy to construct a treatise on
the general subject presented in these essays, and
there was a considerable temptation to do it, in the
fact that our treatises of E^atural Theology are so com-
monly at fault, in tracing what they call their " argu-
ment from design " — assuming that Physical Uses are
the decisive tests, or objects, of all the contrivance to
be looked for in God's works. Wliereas they are re-
solvable, in far the greater part, by no such tests, but
only by their Moral Uses, which are, in fact, the last
ends of God in every thing, including even his Physi-
cal Uses themselves. Still the defect here specified
will as easily be corrected by these essays, on so many
promiscuous topics, as by a regular treatise, and they
have the advantage of being each a subject by itself.
And, to secure this advantage, they are thrown together
in a manner as neglectful of system as possible.' They


do not make a book to be read in course, but a book to
be taken up as the moods of the mind, and the rising
of this or that question, may prepare an affinity for
them. For there is scarcely. a year that passes with-
out somehow recalling every one of these topics, or
topics closely related, in a manner that prepares to new
interest, or awakens fiesh cariosity.



I.— Of Night and Sleep 7

II.__Of Want and Waste 29

III. —Of Bad Government 53

IV.— Of Oblivion, or Dead History 73

v.— Of Physical Pain 95

VL— Of Physical Danger 120

VII.— Of the Conditions of Solidarity 143

VIII. — Of Non-Intercourse between Worlds 1C5

IX.— Of Winter 188

X.— Of Things Unsightly and Disgustful 210

XI.— Of Plague and PestUence 233

XII.— Of Insanity 249

XIII. — Of the Animal Infestations 274

XIV.— Of Distinctions of Color 296

XV.— Of the Mutabilities of Life 319

^^^Of the Sea 344






In proposing a series of articles on the moral uses of
things, particularly the dark things of the world, I
assume the reality of final causes without argument.
Our pantheistic literature, and many of our late
philosophers, it is well known, disallow final causes
altogether, treating them in fact with disrespect, as
being only feeble and fond conceits that have amused
the fancy of religious people heretofore, but are now to
be dismissed. I do not write for such. But what we
all see with our eyes I think I have some right to as-
sume, namely, that this whole frame of being is bedded
in Mind. Matter itself is not more evident than the
mind that shapes it, fills it, and holds it in training for
its uses. Philosophy itself, call it positive or by any
other name, is possible only in the fact, that the world is
cognate with mind and cast in the molds of intelligence.
And then, as it belongs inherently to mind that it


must have its ends, tlie All-Present mind must have
reference to ends, and the whole system of cfiuses must
at bottom be, exactly as we see it to be, a system
of final causes. That the philosophers discard them
ought, accordingly, to cost us no concern, for they have a
wondrously copious ability to assert themselves ; which
they have kept on doing and will, rolling in their tidal
sweep of conviction from every point of time, and all
structural things, and organic workings of the creation.
Speculation can as well keep out the sea.

The dark things of which I am to speak are sncli, in
general, as have some relation more or less perceptible
to, or connection with, Moral Evil, which is, in fact, the
the njo-ht-side of the creation. All the enismas and
lowering difiiculties we meet are shaduws from this;
for it is to meet the conditions and prepare the discipline
of this, that so many rough, unseemly kinds of furni-
ture are required. Pursuing the logical method, I
ought, therefore, to begin with an introductory chapter
on moral evil itself, or, at least, on the uses of that pro-
bational training of liberty that involves so great peril,
and the certainty of such unspeakable disaster. But
I prefer, on the whole, not to observe the logical
method, lest, by seeming to be engaged in the heavy
^ work of a treatise, I make all the subjects heavy and
dry in proportion. They have each an interest more
fresh and peculiar when taken by itself. I propose
to call them up, therefore, in a perfectly miscella-
neous way, taking the lighter and less troublesome,
and the darker and more difficult — those which lie in


nature and its appointments, those whicli lie in tlie
fortunes of individual and social experience, and those
which relate to the scheme of Providence — without re-
gard to order, and as mere convenience may direct. In
this way I propose, for the present article, a subject
not generally felt to be at all dark or difhcult, and only
just over the line, when it is more closely and thought-
fully considered, namely. Night and Sleep.

I put the two together because they are so closely
related, one being a fact of external nature, provided
for in the astronomic appointments of nature, the other
being a corresponding appointment of our psychologi-
cal system itself, only somijwhat more absolute than
the other. For, within the polar circles, the astronom-
ic night is continuous for six long months, while the
psychological necessities of sleep maintain their period
unchanged, and the human populations are obliged to
seize a night about once in twenty-four hours, when no
such night is provided by the diurnal revolutions. In
which we see that our human body and mind have a
night appointment in them, more unvarying and fixed
than the planetary night itself So that if we raise
the question whether our psychologic nature is timed
by the planetarj- order, or the planetary order timed
to fit our psychologic nature, we are thrown upon the
latter supposition, by the fact that our sleep has reasons
more absolute and more inherent than the reasons even
of the astronomic order itself. Still the night we have
without, and the night we inherently want, are really

coincident, in all the more habitable parts of the earth.


But if the question be, why it is, either that any
such institution of night is appointed, or any such
want as sleep prescribed, we encounter some difficulty.
As regards the former, it is no sufficient answer to say
that the revolution of the earth, turning it away just
half the time from the sun, creates a night by astro-
nomic necessity ; for the astronomic system might,
perhaps, have been differently organized, or so as to
maintain a perpetual day ; every habitable orb, for
example, having for its sun a vast concave orb shining
perpetually round it, and creating neither night, nor
shadow, nor region of polar cold. As regards the latter,
too, the want of rest and sleep, it does not appear that
our body and mind might not both have been so
organized as to be capable of perpetual action, without
either exhaustion or weariness. And since we are put
here, not for rest, but for action, by that only winning
the required character, and becoming what is given
us to be, why are we not made capable of sleepless
activity ? If our errand here is the trial and training
of our liberty, we are neither being tried nor trained,
when our very liberty itself is sunk in a state of un-
consciousness. Such a state wants relativity, we might
say, to the errand on which we are sent, and the time
thus occupied is lost time. And when the creation
puts out its lights and commands us away into a state
of oblivion, what is that oblivion but a state in which
we are to drop, and even forget, our errand ?

Besides, there will appear to many to be something
fearful and forbidding in the expression of darkness.


Cliildren are commonly afraid of tlie dark, and even
Holy Scripture makes the state of "outer darkness"
an image of all that is most terrible in God's retribu-
tions. And what shall we say of that mental and
bodily state in which the senses are shut up, and reason
itself gone out, and nothing left of a nature so high in
dignity but a mere palpitating clod? What do we
say of one who habitually drowns his higher nature in
a similar condition of stupefaction by the excesses of
intemperance ? And if this be a crime, as it is by the
general consent of mankind, is it not remarkable that
half the world's population is, all the while, laid pros-
trate and senseless, by a soporific planned for, in the
economy both of heaven and of their own bodies ?

Besides, night is itself the opportunity of crime, and
we even speak of crimes in a general way as being
deeds of darkness.

" Oh treacherous night I
Thou lendest thy ready vail to every treason,
And teeming mischiefs thrive beneath tliy shade."

Incendiaries, thieves, robbers, assassins, go to their
deeds under shelter of the night, and even prefer a
specially dark night. Adulteries are stolen pleasures
of the night. It is in the night that great conspiracies
are hatched. Where crimes are committed by day,
the absconding is commonly by night. And there is
still another reason for this crowding of crime into the
dark hours, in the fact that the world is then asleep,
and the particular victims selected will then be locked


in a state of unconsciousness — inobservant as in death
itself, and passive to whatever wrong will make them
its i^rey. Since the world, then, is made, as we know
it to be, for the trial of creatures who will be in wrong,
why is it made to cover wrong-doing a full half of the
time, and furnish it an opportunity so convenient ?
Or, if we must be creatures of sleep, why is it that
the law of sleep is not made absolute upon all, so that
the bad shall be taken into custody by it, as the inno-
cent and good are made defenseless by it ? for then the
nights could settle down upon the world as times of
truce for all wrong-doing. When, too, we create a
special police for the night, what is the implication, but
that we impeach the care of Providence by proposing
to supply one of its considerable defects ourselves?
As if it belonged to us to assume the defense of inno-
cence, now that Providence has taken away its shield !
Is there not, also, another deed of dai-kness, not com-
monly so named, but thought of with eminent respect,
and which, partly for that reason, is, morally speaking,
more harmful? I refer to the untimely shows and
bewildering dissipations of what is called fashionable
society. It is very true that we do not wa,nt the whole
twelve hours for sleep. And the evening, after the great
works of the day are finished, is a time favorable above
all others to the genuine pleasures of society. But this
is not the way of those who rule the mode and claim
the chief honors of society. It is not the faces and
voices of friends, or the lively cheer of intellectual and
social play, that meets their idea ; thev are commonly


incapable of any so fine sort of pleasure. They do not
so much care to be freshened, as to be in figure. Natu-
ralness they despise, and the more artificially got up
every thing may be for the desired show, the better.
Their time must be taken against nature ; fur society,
they think, would be a tame aftair, submitted to the
appointments of astronomy. And what so fit time, or
time so finely exclusive, is there, as when the common
world is stilled in sleep? By the brilliancy of their
lights, and by figures floating in dress and glittering in
gems, can they not make a show more dazzling than
day? Entertainment is the same thing as expense, and
a crowd they call society. Tiieir time begins just
where the evening ends, and the throng disperses for
sleep, when sleep might better end. The young men
and women of sixty — for, in this high tier of fashion, it
is not permissible to be old — are too bitterly fagged and
jaded to sleep, and the really young have their heads
too full of excitement. Sleep, at least, is long in com-
ing, and comes more as a fever than as a refreshment.
At length, when the dew is dried up and every bird is
wearied with its song, the young frivolity, be it man or
woman, rises to begin another day. The brain is sore ;
the day is dull or only enlivened by fretfulness. There
is no relish for either business or study, and no capaci-
ty for it; and where the dissipation is frequent, no
habit of order and right industry can survive. Life
will become as trivial as it is artificial.

What substitute would have been sought, if no such
opportunity of night had been given, we can not pro-


tend to say; but this we sufficiently know, that no kind
of substitute could produce a more wide-spread, practi-
cally immense demoralization, in the same high circles
of life. It changes, in fact, the general cast of society.
There is, besides, no mode of character so heartless and
false and cruel, as that of high fashion, or so totally
opposite to all the noblest, best ends of living.

Going on from this point, now, to speak of the moral
uses of night and sleep, we have it, first of all, to say,
as regards the bad opportunities they give, that such
opportunities are not bad, but are only made so by the
abuses of wrong ; for what best thing is there which
wrong may not abuse ? The very system of moral lib-
erty supposes that wrong is going to have, or at least,
make, its opportunities. And since we are all in wrong
as being under evil, how shall we be made to under-
stand more impressively what is in all wrong, than
when we and society are its victims ? We are put in
moral society, in fact, to act and be acted upon as in
terms of duty — existing alone, no terms of duty would
be given — and a great part of the benefit is to be, that
we get revelations of wrong, and become so revolted by
it as to be turned away from it. And what revelations
can be more effective than to see it stealing upon inno-
cence in deeds of midnight robbery and murder, show-
ing how cruel and cowardly and detestably mean it is ;
or to see it crowding society out of heaven's times, and
turning it into a pageant of the night, as remote aa
possible from the sobrieties of reason, and the sweet
simplicity of virtue?


Consider, next, how differently tempered a realm of
bad minds becomes, under the ordinance of night and
sleep, from wliat it otherwise would be. Always
fresh and strong, incapable of exliaustion as the spring
of a watch, moral ideas would seldom get near enough
to be felt. Evil is proud, stiffening itself always against
the restrictions of God, and trying to be God itself.
Therefore only a little modicum of capacity is given it,
which runs out in a single day. After twelve or six-
teen hours, the man that rose in the morning, full of
might, as if a young eternity were in him, begins to
flag, his nervous energy is spent, his limbs are heavy,
his motions want spirit and precision. If he tries, fur
some particular reason, to hold on over whole days, his
hands grow weaker, his eyelids more heavy, till, at
length, he is obliged to resign himself to his fate, and
drops, a merely unconscious lump, on the couch of the
sleeper. Every day this lesson of frailty is given him.
The grass that is cut down by the mower's scythe does
not sooner wither and dry up, than the strength of the
mower himself. We take our very capacity thus in
little loans of only a few hours, and when the time
has gone, we fall back into God's bosom again to be
recruited. Were it not for this wise and morally beau-
tiful arrangement, we might be as stiff in wrong as so
many evil angels.

Having only this short run of power, we are humbled
to a softer key. We do not feel or act as we should, if
we could rush on our way and have our sin as a law
of ceaseless momentum, for tlie whole period of our


life. For we are like an engine that is started oif on
the track by itself; the fuel and water will soon be
exhausted, and then it must stop. But, if it could gc
on without fuel or water, it would even whirl itself
across a continent and pitch itself into the sea. So, if,
being loose in evil, we could rush interminably on, never
to be spent or recruited by sleep, our bad momentum
would itself drive us on, till we are hurried by the goal
of life itself. We should be hard in our self-will
beyond conception; our very ambitions and purposes
would fly, bullet- wise, at their mark ; consideration, con-
ciliation, candor, patience, would all be driven out of the
world by the remorseless persistency of our habit. Hap-
pily it is not so. We are stopped every few hours and
brought to nothingness. Perliaps we do not say that
we are made little, but, what is far better, we practi-
cally are so to ourselves, whether we think it or not ;
for feeling is often truer than thought, and takes the
type of fact when thought does not. We are not
bad gods or demons in our impetuosity, but men, men
that go to sleep as children do and must. Being spaced
otf in this manner by stoppages, we consent to limits.
We are softened and gentled in feeling, more perhaps
than we would like to be. It is difficult not to be
sometimes tender. Reason will sometimes get a chance
to speak, and sometimes even preaching will meet a
fair possibility. The tremendous passion for gain, and,
speaking more inclusively, all that belongs to the
world-spirit, and the spell it works in niiuds under
evil, is broken every few hours by the counter-?pell of


sleep, and so the infatuation is restricted. So tliat,
having this appointment in it, we can see that God has
prepared even the world itself to be a corrector of
worldliness. Even the astronomic revolutions he sets
running as a mill against it. lie buries the world in
darkness that we may not see it. He takes the soul
off into a world of unconsciousness and dream to break
up its bad enchantment. He palsies the hand to make
it let go, palsies even the brain to stifle its infatuations.
Were it not for this I verily believe that what we call
the world would get to be a kind of demoniacal posses-

In the same way ali the various malignities of evil
passion are either extirpated or greatly softened. After'

Online LibraryHorace BushnellSelect works (Volume 6) → online text (page 1 of 25)