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enty times seven. They include the bath-tub as well as
the font ; the coffee-house and cook-shop as well as the
Holy Supper; the gymnasium as well as the prayer-meet-
ing. The " college settlement " plants colonies of the best
life of the church in regions which men of little faith are
tempted to speak of as " God-forsaken." The Salvation
Army, with its noisy and eccentric ways, and its effective
discipline, and its most Christian principle of setting every
rescued man at work to aid in the rescue of others, is wel-
comed by all orders of the church, and honored according
to the measure of its usefulness, and even of its faithful
effort to be useful.

It is not to be supposed that this immense, unprecedented
growth of outward activity can have been gained without
some corresponding loss. The time is not long gone by,
when the sustained contemplation of the deep things of
the cross, and the lofty things in the divine nature, and
the subtile and elusive facts concerning the human consti-
tution and character and the working of the human will,
were eminently characteristic of the religious life of the
American church. In the times when that life was stirred
to its most strenuous activity, it was marked by the vicis-
situde of prolonged passions of painful sensibility at the
consciousness of sin, and ecstasies of delight in the con-
templation of the infinity of God and the glory of the
Saviour and his salvation. Every one who is conversant
with the religious biography of the generations before our
own, knows of the still hours and days set apart for the
severe inward scrutiny of motives and " frames " and the
grounds of one's hope. liauLei^fit-truly the church of to-


day may judge that the piety of their fathers was dispro-
portionedand morbidly introspective and unduly concerned
about one's own salvation, it is none the less true that the
reaction from its excesses is violent, and is providing
for itself a new reaction. "The contemplative orders,"
whether among Catholics or Protestants, do not find the
soil and climate of America congenial. And yet there is
a mission-field here for the mystic and the quietist; and
when the stir-about activity of our generation suffers their
calm voices to be heard, there are not a few to give ear.

An event of great historical importance, which cannot
be determined to a precise date, but which belongs more
to this period than to any other, is the joss of the Scotch
and Puritan Sabbath, or, as many like to call it, the Amer-
ican Sabbath. The law of the Westminster divines on
this subject, it may be affirmed without fear of contradic-
tion from any quarter, does not coincide in its language
with the law of God as expressed either in the Old Testa-
ment or in the New. The Westminster rule requires, as
if with a "Thus saith the Lord," that on the first day of
the week, instead of the seventh, men shall desist not only
from labor but from recreation, and " spend the whole time
in the public and private exercises of God's worship, ex-
cept so much as is to be taken up in the works of necessity
and mercy." ^ This interpretation and expansion of the
Fourth Commandment has never attained to more than a
sectarian and provincial authority ; but the overmastering
Puritan influence, both of Virginia and of New England,
combined with the Scotch-Irish influence, made it for a
long time dominant in America. Even those who quite

1 Westminster Shorter Catechism, Ans. 60. The commentaries on the
Catechism, which are many, like Gemara upon Mishna, build wider and
higher the " fence around the law," in a fashion truly rabbinic.


declined to admit the divine authority of the glosses upon
the commandment felt constrained to " submit to the or-
dinances of man for the Lord's sake." But it was inevi-
table that with the vast increase of the travel and sojourn
of American Christians in other lands of Christendom, and
the multitudinous immigration into America from other
lands than Great Britain, the tradition from the Westmin-
ster elders should come to be openly disputed within the
church, and should be disregarded even when not denied.
It was not only inevitable ; it was a Christian duty dis-
tinctly enjoined by apostolic authority.^ The five years
of war, during which Christians of various lands and creeds
intermingled as never before, and the Sunday laws were
dumb " intej' anna'' not only in the field but among the
home churches, did perhaps even more to break the force
of the tradition, and to lead in a perilous and demoralizing
reaction. Some reaction was inevitable. The church
must needs suffer the evil consequence of overstraining
the law of God. From the Sunday of ascetic self-denial
— " a day for a man to afflict his soul " — there was a ready
rush into utter recklessness of the law and privilege of rest.
In the church there was wrought sore damage to weak
consciences ; men acted, not from intelligent conviction,
but from lack of conviction, and allowing themselves in
self-indulgences of the rightfulness of which they were
dubious, they " condemned themselves in that which they
allowed." The consequence in civil society was alike dis-
astrous. Early legislation had not steered clear of the error
of attempting to enforce Sabbath-keeping as a religious
duty by civil penalties ; and some relics of that mistake
remained, and still remain, on some of the statute-books.
The just protest against this wrong was, of course, undis-
criminating, tending to defeat the righteous and most sal-

1 Colossians, ii. i6.

HEAcriox rRo.-\r puritax excess. ^-ii

utary laws that aimed simply to secure for the citizen the
privilege of a weekly day of rest and to secure the holiday
thus ordained by law from being perverted into a nuisance.
The social change which is still in progress along these
lines no wise Christian patriot can contemplate with com-
placency. It threatens, when complete, to deprive us of
that universal quiet Sabbath rest which has been one of the
glories of American social life, an.d an important element
in its economic prosperity, and to give in place of it, to
some, no assurance of a Sabbath rest at all, to others, a
Sabbath of revelry and debauch.



The rapid review of three crowded centuries, which is
all that the narrowly prescribed limits of this volume have
permitted, has necessarily been mainly restricted to ex-
ternal facts. But looking back over the course of visible
events, it is not impossible for acute minds devoted to such
study to trace the stream of thought and sentiment that
is sometimes hidden from direct view by the overgrowth
which itself has nourished.

We have seen a profound spiritual change, renewing the
face of the land and leaving its indelible impress on suc-
cessive generations, springing from the profoundest con-
templations of God and his work of salvation through
Jesus Christ, and then bringing back into thoughtful and
teachable minds new questions to be solved and new dis-
coveries of truth to be pondered. The one school of
theological opinion and inquiry that can be described as
characteristically American is the theology of the Great
Awakening. The disciples of this school, in all its diver-
gent branches, agree in looking back to the first Jonathan
Edwards as the founder of it. Through its generations it
has shown a striking sequence and continuity of intellec-
tual and spiritual life, each generation answering questions
put to it by its predecessor, while propounding new ques-


tions to the generation following. After the classical
writings of its first founders, the most widely influential
production of this school is the " Theology Explained and
Defended in a Series of Sermons " of President Dwight.
This had the advantage over some other systems of haviiig
been preached, and thus proved to be preachable. The
"series of sermons" was that delivered to successive
generations of college students at Yale at a time of pre-
vailing skepticism, when every statement of the college
pulpit was liable to sharp and not too friendly scrutiny ;
and it was preached with the fixed purpose of convincing
and converting the young men who heard it. The audi-
ence, the occasion, and the man — a fervid Christian, and
a born poet and orator — combined to produce a work of
wide and enduring influence. The dynasty of the Ed-
wardeans is continued down to the middle of the nine-
teenth century, and later, through different lines, ending
in Emmons of Franklin, Taylor of New Haven, and Fin-
ney of Oberlin, and is represented among the Hving by
the venerable Edwards A. Park, of Andover, who adds to
that power of sustained speculative thinking in a straight
line which is characteristic of the whole school, a wide
learning in the whole field of theological literature, which
had not been usual among his predecessors. It is a pre-
vailing trait of this theology, born of the great revival, that
it has constantly held before itself not only the question,
What is truth? but also the question. How shall it
be preached? It has never ceased to be a revival the-

A bold and open breach of traditionary assumptions
and habits of reasoning was made by Horace Bushnell.
This was a theologian of a diff"erent type from his New
England predecessors. He was of a temper little disposed
to accept either methods or results as a local tradition, and


inclined rather to prefer that which had been " hammered
out on his own anvil." And yet, while very free in mani-
festing his small respect for the " logicking " by syllogistic
processes which had been the pride of the theological
chair and even the pulpit in America, and while declining
the use of current phraseologies even for the expression
of current ideas, he held himself loyally subject to the
canon of the Scriptures as his rule of faith, and deferential
to the voice of the church catholic as uttered in the con-
cord of testimony of holy men in all ages. Endowed with
a poet's power of intuition, uplifted by a fervid piety,
uttering himself in a literary style singularly rich and
melodious, it is not strange that such a man should have
made large contributions to the theological thought of
his own and later times. In natural theology, his dis-
courses on "The Moral Uses of Dark Things" (1869),
and his longest continuous work, on " Nature and the
Supernatural " (1858), even though read rather as prose-
poems than as arguments, sound distinctly new notes in
the treatment of their theme. In " God in Christ " ( 1 849),
"Christ in Theology" (185 i), "The Vicarious Sacrifice"
(1866), and "Forgiveness and Law" (1874), and in a
notable article in the "New Englander " for November,
1854, entitled "The Christian Trinity a Practical Truth,"
the great topics of the Christian system were dealt with
all the more effectively, in the minds of thoughtful readers
in this and other lands, for cries of alarm and newspaper
and pulpit impeachments of heresy that were sent forth.
But that work of his which most nearly made as well as
marked an epoch in American church history was the
treatise of "Christian Nurture" (1847). This, with the
protracted controversy that followed upon the publication
of it, was a powerful influence in lifting the American
church out of the rut of mere individualism that had been


wearing deeper and deeper from the days of the Great

Another wholesome and edifying debate was occasioned
by the publications that went forth from the college and
theological seminary of the German Reformed Church,
situated at Mercersburg in Pennsylvania. At this institu-
tion was efTected a fruitful union of American and German
theology ; the result was to commend to the general at-
tention aspects of truth, philosophical, theological, and
historical, not previously current among American Protes-
tants. The book of Dr. John Williamson Nevin, entitled
" The Mystical Presence : A Vindication of the Reformed
or Calvinistic Doctrine of the Holy Eucharist," revealed
to the vast multitude of churches and ministers that gloried
in the name of Calvinist the fact that on the most distinc-
tive article of Calvinism they were not Calvinists at all,
but Zwinglians. The enunciation of the standard doctrine
of the various Presbyterian churches excited among
themselves a clamor of "Heresy! " and the doctrine of
Calvin was put upon trial before the Calvinists. The
outcome of a discussion that extended itself far beyond
the boundaries of the comparatively small and uninfluential
German Reformed Church was to elevate the point of view
and broaden the horizon of American students of the
constitution and history of the church. Later generations
of such students owe no light obligation to the fidelity
and courage of Dr. Nevin, as well as to the erudition and
immense productive diligence of his associate, Dr. Philip

It is incidental to the prevailing method of instruction
in theology by a course of prelections in which the teacher

1 For fuller accounts of " the Mercersburg theology," with references to
the literature of the subject, see Dubbs, " The Reformed Church, German "
(American Church History Series," vol. viii.), pp. 219, 220, 389-378; also,
Professor E. V. Gerhart in " Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia," pp. 1473-1475.


reads to his class in detail his own original sununa theo-
logice, that the American press has been prolific of pon-
derous volumes of systematic divinity. Among the more
notable of these systems are those of Leonard Woods (in
five volumes) and of Enoch Pond ; of the two Drs. Hodge,
father and son ; of Robert J. Breckinridge and James H.
Thornwell and Robert L. Dabney ; and the " Systematic
Theology " of a much younger man, Dr. Augustus H.
Strong, of Rochester Seminary, which has won for itself
very unusual and wide respect. Exceptional for ability,
as well as for its originality of conception, is " The Re-
public of God : An Institute of Theology," by Elisha Mul-
ford, a disciple of Maurice and of the realist philosophy,
the thought of whose whole life is contained in this and
his kindred work on "The Nation."

How great is the debt which the church owes to its
heretics is frequently illustrated in the progress of Chris-
tianity in America. If it had not been for the Unitarian
defection in New England, and for the attacks from Ger-
many upon the historicity of the gospels, the theologians
of America might to this day have been engrossed in
" threshing old straw " in endless debates on " fixed fate,
free will, foreknowledge absolute." The exigencies of
controversy forced the study of the original documents of
the church. From his entrance upon his professorship at
Andover, in 1810, the eager enthusiasm of Moses Stuart
made him the father of exegetical science not only for
America, but for all the English-speaking countries. His
not less eminent pupil and associate, Edward Robinson,
later of the Union Seminary, New York, created out of
nothing the study of biblical geography. Associating
with himself the most accomplished living Arabist, Eli
Smith, of the American mission at Beirut, he made those


" Biblical Researches in Palestine " which have been the
foundation on which all later explorers have built. An-
other American missionary, Dr. W. M. Thomson, has
given the most valuable popular exposition of the same
subject in his volumes on "The Land and the Book."
With the exception of Dr. Henry Clay Trumbull in his
determination of the site of Kadesh-barnea, the American
successors to Robinson in the original exploration of the
Bible lands have made few additions to our knowledge.
But in the department of biblical archaeology the work
of Drs. Ward, Peters, and Hilprecht in the mounds of
Babylonia, and of Mr. Bliss in Palestine, has added not
a little to the credit of the American church against the
heavy balance which we owe to the scholarship of Europe.

Monumental works in lexicography have been produced
by Dr. Thayer, of Cambridge, on New Testament Greek ;
by Professor Francis Brown, of New York, in conjunction
with Canon Driver, of Oxford, on the languages of the
Old Testament ; and by Dr. Sophocles, of Cambridge, on
the Byzantine Greek.

In the work of the textual criticism of the Scriptures,
notwithstanding its remoteness from the manuscript sources
of study, America has furnished two names that are held
in honor throughout the learned world : among the recent
dead, Ezra Abbot, of Cambridge, universally beloved and
lamented ; and among the living, Caspar Rene Gregory,
successor to the labors and the fame of Tischendorf. A
third name is that of the late Dr. Isaac H. Hall, the suc-
cessful collator of Syriac New Testament manuscripts.

In those studies of the higher criticism which at the
present day are absorbing so much of the attention of
biblical scholars, and the progress of which is watched
with reasonable anxiety for their bearing on that dogma
of the absolute inerrancy of the canonical Scriptures which


has so commonly been postulated as the foundation of
Protestant systems of revealed theology, the American
cliurch has taken eager interest. An eminent, and in some
respects the foremost, place among the leaders in America
of these investigations into the substructure, if not of the
Christian faith, at least of the work of the system-builders,
is held by Professor W. H. Green, of Princeton, whose
painstaking essays in the higher criticism have done much
to stimulate the studies of younger men who have come
out at conclusions different from his own. The works of
Professors Briggs, of Union Seminary, and Henry P.
Smith, of Lane Seminary, have had the invaluable advan-
tage of being commended to public attention by ecclesias-
tical processes and debates. The two volumes of Professor
Bacon, of Yale, have been recognized by the foremost
scholars of Great Britain and Germany as containing
original contributions toward the solution of the problem
of Pentateuchal analysis. The intricate critical questions
presented by the Book of Judges have been handled with
supreme ability by Professor Moore, of Andover, in his
commentary on that book. A desideratum in biblical
literature has been well supplied by Professor Bissell, of
Hartford, in a work on the Old Testament Apocrypha.
But the magmnn opus of American biblical scholarship,
associating with itself the best learning and ability of other
nations, is the publication, under the direction of Professor
Haupt, of Baltimore, of a critical text of the entire Scrip-
tures in the original languages, with new translations and
notes, for the use of scholars.

The undeniably grave theological difficulties occasioned
by the results of critical study have given rise to a novel
dogma concerning the Scriptures, which, if it may justly
be claimed as a product of the Princeton Seminary, would
seem to discredit the modest boast of the venerated Dr.


Charles Hodge, that " Princeton has never originated a
new idea." It consists in the hypothesis of aa-"j3riginal
au.tQgraph " of the Scripturevthe^pfeci&e^pntents of which
are now undiscoverable, but which diflfered from any ex-
isting text in being absolutely free from error of any kind.
The hypothesis has no small advantage in this, that if it is
not susceptible of proof, it is equally secure from refutation.
If not practically useful, it is at least novel, and on this
ground entitled to mention in recounting the contributions
of the American church to theology at a really perilous
point in the progress of biblical study.

The field of church history, aside from local and sectarian
histories, was late in being invaded by American theolo-
gians. For many generations the theology of America
was distinctly unhistorica l. sp eculative , and prajdncial.
But a change in this respect was inevitably sure to come.
The strong propensity of the national mind toward his-
torical studies is illustrated by the large proportion of his-
torical works among the masterpieces of our literature,
whether in prose or in verse. It would seem as if our
conscious poverty in historical monuments and traditions
had engendered an eager hunger for history. No travelers
in ancient lands are such enthusiasts in seeking the monu-
ments of remote ages as those whose homes are in regions
not two generations removed from the prehistoric wilder-
ness. It was certain that as soon as theology should begin
to be taught to American students in its relation to the
history of the kingdom of Christ, the charm of this method
would be keenly felt.

We may assume the dais, of iAS3_ as an epoch from
which to date this ne^v era of theological stwdy. It was in
that year that the gifted, learned, and inspiring teacher,
Henry Boynton Smith, was transferred from the chair of


history in Union Theological Seminary, New York, to the
chair of systematic theology. Through his premature and
most lamented death the church has failed of receiving
that system of doctrine which had been hoped for at his
hands. But the historic spirit which characterized him
has ever since been characteristic of that seminary. It is
illustrative of the changed tone of theologizing that after
the death of Professor Smith, in the reorganization of the
faculty of that important institution, it was manned in the
three chief departments, exegetical, dogmatic, and prac-
tical, by men whose eminent distinction was in the line of
church history. The names of Hitchcock, Schaff, and
Shedd cannot be mentioned without bringing to mind
some of the most valuable gifts that America has made to
the literature of the universal church. If to these we add
the names of George Park Fisher, of Yale, and Bishop
Hurst, and Alexander V. G. Allen, of Cambridge, author
of " The Continuity of Christian Thought," and Henry
Charles Lea, of Philadelphia, we have already vindicated
for American scholarship a high place in this department
of Christian literature.

In practical theology the productiveness of the American
church in the matter of sermons has been so copious that
even for the briefest mention some narrow rule of exclusion
must be followed. There is no doubt that in a multitude
of cases the noblest utterances of the American pulpit,
being unwritten, have never come into literature, but have
survived for a time as a glowing memory, and then a fading
tradition. The statement applies to many of the most
famous revival preachers ; and in consequence of a preva-
lent prejudice against the writing of sermons, it applies
especially to the great Methodist and Baptist preachers,
whose representation on the shelves of libraries is most


disproportionate to their influence on the course of the
kingdom of Christ. Of other sermons, — and good ser-
mons, — printed and pubHshed, many have had an influence
almost as restricted and as evanescent as the utterances of
the pulpit improvisator. If we confine ourselves to those
sermons that have survived their generation or won at-
tention beyond the limits of local interest or of sectarian
fellowship, the list will not be unmanageably long.

In the early years of the nineteenth century the Unitarian
pulpits of Boston were adorned with every literary grace
known to the rhetoric of that period. The luster of
Channing's fame has outshone and outlasted that of his
associates ; and yet these were stars of hardly less mag-
nitude. The two Wares, father and son, the younger
Buckminster, whose singular power as a preacher was
known not only to wondering hearers, but to readers on
both sides of the ocean, Gannett and Dewey — these were
among them ; and, in the next generation, Henry W.
Bellows, Thomas Starr King, and James Freeman Clarke.
No body of clergy of like size was ever so resplendent
with talents and accomplishments. The names alone of
those who left the Unitarian pulpit for a literary or political
career — Sparks, Everett, Bancroft, Emerson, Ripley, Pal-
frey, Upham, among them — are a constellation by them-

To the merely literary critic those earnest preachers,
such as Lyman and Edward Beecher, Griflin, Sereno
Dwight, Wayland, and Kirk, who felt called of God to
withstand, in Boston, this splendid array of not less earnest
men, were clearly inferior to their antagonists. But they

Online LibraryLeonard Woolsey BaconA history of American Christianity → online text (page 30 of 34)