Mary A. Bushnell Cheney.

Life and letters of Horace Bushnell online

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this kind of professorship who will teach words, show how
words are made up into systems, how all systems slip by slip-
ping in Avords— how the science they attempt has, therefore,
never been forth-coming, and never will be. . . .

The following note Avas Avritten to a friend Avlio had sent
him a little barometric " weather-house," from AA'hose door a
man is made to come out in bad weather, or a woman when
the weather changes to fair: — ,

Dear Miss E., — It is a rather tough joke upon us male
ones that w^e are to be the signs of all bad Aveather, and the
AA'omen folk to bring all the fair mornings and bright, open
skies. Is it so in the great "Weather - House of the world,
Avhere the so-called mated people live? Does the Avoman
run out of the house at one door, Avhenever the man comes


ill at the other? Pray has that been your feeling? If so,
it explains one thing I could never understand. ISTo, my
friend, your "weather-house" does not rejiresent the inside
weather, but the outside. And when your man comes brave-
ly forth to report the coming storms, that is the generosity
of his make. And when the dear mate timidly retires with-
in, claiming her " woman's rights," that is — what you please.
Very good. I like it, and shall be a great deal more atten-
tive to the weather, for the weather-house's sake, and shall
peer inside sometimes, wishing comfort in the storms to the
giver. With much affection, yours, II. B.

During the year 1868 several articles from his pen were
published in various magazines. One, on " Science and Re-
ligion," appeared in Putnam'' s Magazine j and another, of un-
common interest, on " Bailding Eras in Religion," in Hours at
Home. This latter article was originally written in the form
of a sermon for use at the dedication of the Park Church. In
its descriptions of the Cathedral age occur many passages of
singular force and beauty : —

"And now (after the crusades) the old heroics of sentiment,
the romance, the church fervor, took fire in the thought of
building for religion, and began to throw itself up in stone
as by a divine call. . . . Thus went up the magnificent Minster
at York, the grandly-studied pile at Antwerp, the gossamer
web of Strasburg, the sublime ineipiency of Cologne, the
mountain-peak of St. Stephen's at Vienna, and the immortal
beauty and unmatched miracle of St. Ouen at Rouen." Of
the latter he says : " It was as if the stone itself, bedded in
cruciform lines of foundation, had shot up into peaks, and
pinnacles, and pointed forms, and sprung its flying buttresses
across in air by some uplifting sense or quickened aspiration."

Encountering the different people, — architects. Ritualists,
Puritans, and Adventists, — who say, from their different
stand-points, that there will be no grander building eras in the
future, he argues, with great force and eloquence, that there
will be.

He believed with all his mind and heart in the doctrine of


progress. Our boasted civilization, superior as it is to what
has formerly existed, is an infantine affair. These days be-
long to the beginnings. " The world is an unhatched egg as
yet. ... It will go on propagating salvation, character, saint-
hood, brotherhood, intelligence, and glory for some hundred
thousand years yet, till the populations of the redeemed souls
preponderate so vastly as to throw all computations of loss out
of mind."

Never before as now could vast assemblies be gathered at
single points.

" We can set all choirs and organs in every part of a State
or of the nation upon a perfect chime of time-beat, in any
given anthem, at any hour of day or night. . . . We are to
have unequalled resources for building, and such resources
will appear, as occasion arises, in structures unequalled for
majesty and magnitude."

He has no fears that the art of building has found its limit.
Then follows this curious sentence : — " Supposing that no new
forms or orders are ever to be added, auy least inventive bigot
of routine can see that, putting down a Greek cross for a
centre and drawing out the four limbs into four Latin crosses,
a most perfect five-fold whole can be constructed of any con-
ceivable extent."

He shows how the cathedral, with all its grandeur and
beauty, is a great w\ay off from being completely and genuine-
ly Christian. Christianity has already gone beyond it in its
development, and requires a building for the communion of
saints and their w^orship in the Spirit, instead of one for altar-
worship only. " Great movements now beginning all over
the world foretoken vast assemblages of believers flowing to-
gether in a sublime concourse of brotherhood. ... In that
great day which the Spirit is preparing, we can see, at a
glance, that great changes will be coming to pass that will
demand great feasts and anthems of Koinonial worship, such
as our world-brotherhood has never yet imagined."

The time is coming when our sectarian subdivisions shall
make w^ay for the state of unity: when "the immense impost-
ure of the Pope shall go down, when all priesthoods shall go


down, and God's armies of believers shall enter into the liber-
ties of his kingdom ; when science and religion, reconciled,
shall join Creator-worship and Redeemer-worship ; and then
we shall have great spaces, great symbols, great anthems like
the waves of the sea, great temples of unity ! Then the
grandest doxologies, and most hallowed prayers, and widest
human brotherhoods will be mounting into stone by the up-
ward lift of their affinities."

This almost forgotten essay seems to us to be one of the
most beautiful that was ever written by Dr. Bushnell. It
is a poem from first to last ; and if his forecastings and fore-
shadowings are a poet's creations, they are too beautiful not
to be true, or to lie in obscurity. Professedly Puritan and
anti- Ritualist as he was, he cannot write of the bright and
better daj^s of unity and completeness to come, without in-
vesting worship with the decent splendors and pomps that
belong to it and become it. He hears thunders of responsive
assent ; petitions of prayer answered by Aniens like the sound
of many waters ; anthems that are like the waves of the sea ;
and sees holy processions, timed by marches and hymns, in
the aisles and galleries of walh that are alive with worship.
As it was with Milton, the Puritan, so it was with him w^ien
his imagination was set on conceiving what Zion might be in
the perfection of her beauty, and when God should be wor-
shipped in the full beauty of holiness.

The summer vacation of 1S68 was passed, not in the old
haunts, but in the Adirondacks, whither he went for the next
summer also. A letter written there gives a detailed account
of his ramblings and excursions. Though an invalid, he
walked, and climbed, and fished, after a fashion that would
have exhausted many men who boast of perfect health. He
did not believe in travelling much in " Dumpdom." " It
is a poor country, with very bad roads, and almost anybody
would do better to go round it than to pass through it."

He made, or rather found, some true friends in that beauti-
ful valley. He honored the manly qualities of some of the
guides, enjoyed the ruminations and piquancies of " Old
Phelps," and all the meandering walks and talks they had to-


getlier. But his thoughts often adverted with a peculiav
tenderness to the lowly Christian souls there, having an ex-
perience that differed so widely from his own, sustaining in
those quiet recesses of the mountains an inward life with
God which was almost unrecognized by man. Of one house-
hold, beneath whose roof he found a peaceful shelter, he said,
— " How beautiful are such lives, growing in obscurity, hid-
den away here like the mosses in the forest !"

Mount Marcy was not enough for him, and, with a guide,
he set forth for " twice as tough a job,"— to climb the Giant
of the Valley by an unknown route. As this mountain
had then been visited by only a few persons, and as his
o-uide was an old man whose qualification for the attempt
consisted in the fact that he had once reached its top from
another quarter, their expedition was regarded as not only
difficult but hazardous. The Giant is peculiarly inaccessible,
owing to the tangle of rough hills which hem it in ; the
way was trackless, and the climb, even under more favora-
ble circumstances, is one of the most arduous to be made in
that reo-ion. They however succeeded in reaching the sum-
mit ; and then, as daylight was waning and time became val-
uable. Dr. Bushnell proposed a rapid way of descent by means
of the bare slides of rock made by avalanches, and extend-
ino- half way down the mountain on its farther side. Trust-
ing themselves to these, the two old men proceeded to coast
down the steep incline, clinging or catching as they might,
here and there, by a bush or shrub. This crazy exploit
was safely accomplished, and after dark, and when great
anxiety was beginning to be felt for them, the travellers ap-
peared, staggering with fatigue, but jubilant over the success
of their adventure. Those who remember how exceedingly
frail Dr. Bushnell seemed at that time can but wonder at his
fourteen miles' tramp up and down in the wilderness. But
they can understand why he should attempt it, when he says,
"It had for me the interest of an exploration."

Many interesting reminiscences of his Adirondack life have
been related by his dear young friend, Rev. J. H. Twichell,
who was his companion in those scenes.


One day, as they were fishing together, and his friend,
drawing him out, remarked on the satisfaction lie must feel
at the many testimonies that came to him of his helpfulness,
he made answer that the only ground of self-satisfaction he
had was that he knew he had loved truth, and had tried to
find it out !

Again he said, — "The wonder of wonders to me, in the
personal dealings of God with me, is the patience he has had
with me ! Oh, how he has had to bear with me ! How he
has borne with me !"

He often fell into moods of criticism that were fatal to
whatever books came under review. One night, as he lay,
with two friends, before the camp-fire, the conversation turn-
ed npon authors. One by one the literary champions went
down nnder his lance, until the field was pretty thick with
the slain. One then quietly asked him what authors he did
like. Hesitating a little, and probably perceiving the snare,
he mentioned two or three, but finally demolished them all,
save Coleridge. I have often heard him say that he was
more indebted to Coleridge than to any extra-Scriptural au-
thor. If the sermons of Dr. Bushnell made a deep impres-
sion on th6 minds of his hearers, and were treasured np in
memory, so also with his prayers. He prayed as if speak-
ing to some one within hearing, and as if that one was lis-
tening. AVith singular felicity and simplicity of language
too. His prayers had the effect of somehow enlarging the
spiritual horizon. They let in light. God's presence was
felt to be near. They made one feel how great a privilege
there is in prayer, and into what a freedom it leads.

Mr. Twichell speaks of this in the following anecdote : —
" I shall never forget one night when I was alone with him,
away up on the side of Mount Marcy, when it Came time to
sleep, and I asked him to pray, how turning on his face (for
we were both lying doAvn) he began in his natural voice, but
with a tone as soft and still and melodious as the low mur-
mur of the stream that ran by our camp, what seemed for
all the world like talking with some person who was next
to him, but whom I did not see. And so he continued com-


muning sweetly in expressions of adoring tlianks, and love,
and humility, and trust, and blessed hope, with that near Pres-
ence; till when he ended I found every other feeling swallow-
ed up in the thought that God was there."

Certain characteristic traits of Dr. Bushnell are pleasantly
illustrated in a description, by Mr. Twichell, of an expedition
in the Adirondacks. It will be read with zest by all who
knew him : —

" Up in the Adirondacks there is a certain route that par-
ties have always taken into the wilderness to visit some of the
notable natural phenomena of that locality. The first time
the Doctor went there, he had, within two days after his ar-
rival, by looking at the lay of the conntry and studying the
map, made up his mind that there was a better course to fol-
low in taking that trip, and nothing would do but that I must
set out with him and prove it. It was a sort of heresy in the
premises, but he succeeded in establishing it. There were in-
cidents of this little expedition that stick in my memory be-
cause they so exhibited certain of the Doctor's traits. I may
be pardoned for relating some of them. We took with us two
of the most experienced guides of that region, men skilled in
woodcraft, who had lived among those mountains most of
their lives. But as for being guided by them in the sense of
saying ' Go ahead, and I will follow,' the Doctor evidently had
no such idea. From the hour that we set out he insisted on
knowing the why and wherefore of every turn that was made
through the whole journey. Their statements as to the course
we were pursuing he invariably verified by the compass. And
when his judgment and theirs, as to the way to take at any
point, crossed, as not infrequently happened, they had to jus-
tify their view to his complete satisfaction before he would
accept it. Indeed, it was just about the same as if he had
been alone. At one time we. went a little astray, and it was
necessary to take a considerable look about us before proceed-
ing. I did all I could to get the Doctor to sit still and rest
while the guides took the observations the case called for.
But no, he could not delegate such a matter as finding out the
way to go right, and so he went clambering, here and there,


over the rocks and fallen timber (it was an exceedingly rough
place), charged with the whole responsibility of the situation,
till the problem was solved. The exertion he had made, how-
ever, brought on presently a hemorrhage to which he was sub-
ject. I knew nothing of it till, as he walked before me he
turned and said, 'Look here,' and showed me a mouthful of
blood he had just thrown out upon the ground. 'We must
stop at once,' I said. ' No, no,' he answered ; ' don't tell the
guides. It is nothing serious, and I had rather move along.'
But by the time we stopped to go into camp he was very
weak. During the night he continued to raise blood, and grew
feverish, and slept hardly at all ; and, as if to complete the
misery of his plight, it came on to rain. In the morning he
found himself quite unable to jiroceed. I was in utter dis-
tress, and did not know what to do, for we were miles from
any house. It looked as if he might die there. But after
lying still under the bough-shelter tlirough the day, telling me
all the while not to worry, toward evening he began to revive
and feel a good deal better, and that night he rested. In the
morning he rose and stirred about a little, and said, ' Well, I'm
on my feet again. We'll march to-day.' Of course I had no
notion, under the circumstances, of his marching anywhere
but straight back home by the shortest route, and in some way
I implied that. Whereupon, to my equal surprise and dismay,
he exclaimed, 'No, indeed; we are not going back; we are
going on — unless you give out.' And, accordingly, on we
went, and travelled three whole days more, and accomplished
what we set out to do before we returned."

In the year 1869, many articles of his were printed in
Hours at Jlome,— -one on "Progress;" and the series of essays
on tlie "Moral Uses of Dark Things" was begun. Another,
still, was entitled " Our Gospel a Gift to the Imagination,"
which seems to me to be one of the ablest and noblest of all
his essays.

His theory, that language is utterly inadequate to serve the
uses of religious dogma, is vigorously set forth in it.

The following paraphrases and quotations may serve to in-
dicate his line of thought : —


" The Christian gospel is pictorial. Its every line or lineament is
traced in some image or metaphor, and no ingenuity can get it away
from metaphor. No animal ever understood a metaphor. That belongs
to man as a creature of intelligence, by virtue of his power to see in all
images the faces of truth and to read their meaning. All the truths of
religion are given by images ; all God's revelation is made to the imagi-
nation ; and all the rites, and services, and ceremonies of the olden times
were only a preparation of draperies and figures for what was to come,
— tlie basis of words sometime to be used as metaphors of the Christian

" Christ is ' God's last metaphor !' ' tlie express image of God's per-
son !' and when we have gotten all the metaphoric meanings of his life
and death, all that is expressed and bodied in his person of God's
saving help, and new-creating, sin-forgiving, reconciling love, the sooner
we dismiss all speculations on the literalities of his incarnate miracles,
his derivation, the composition of his person, his suflFering — plainly tran-
scendent as regards our possible understanding— the wiser we shall be
in our discipleship.

"Nothing makes infidels more surely than the sijinning, splitting,
nerveless refinements of theology. This endeavor, to get the truths of
religion away from the imagination, into propositions of the speculative
understanding, makes a most dreary and sad history. . . . They were plants
alive and in flower, but now the flavors are gone, the juices are dried,
and the skeleton parts packed away and classified in the dry herbarium
called theology. . . .

" Scientific theology will be completely thought out ' about the same
time that words are substituted for algebraic notations, and poetry re-
duced to the methods of the calculus or the logarithmic tables.'

"All atterajats to think out the cross and have it in dogmatic state-
ment have resulted only in disagreement and distraction. If we un-
dertake to make a science out of the altar metaphors, it will be no
Gospel that we make, but a poor, dry jargon rather — a righteousness
that makes nobody righteous, a justice satisfied by injustice, a mercy
on the basis of pay, a penal deliverance that keeps on foot all the
penal liabilities."

Tlie essay concludes with a masterly comparison of Tur-
retin and Bunyan, one a great expounder in the school of
dogma, and the other a teacher by and before the imagina-

" The venerable dogmatizer is already far gone by, . . . but the glori-
ous Bunyan fire still burns, because it is fire, kindles the world's imagi-
nation more and more, and claims a right to live till the sun dies out in
the sky. Ilis Pilgrim holds on his way still fresh and strong as ever.


nay, fresher and stronger than ever, never to be put off the road till the
last traveller heavenward is conducted in."

At this time the small volume on "Woman Suffrage" was
written. How much effect the argument has had in the gen-
eral discussion, I know not, but the description of it, in his
title, as a " Reform against Nature " made a hard hit. That
phrase got abroad, and wrought effectually.

But there is nothing in the book more worthy of insertion
here than the Preface.

" For once I "will dare to break open one of the customary seals of si-
lence, by inscribing this little book to the woman I know best and most
thoroughly ; having been overlapped, as it were, and curtained in the
same consciousness for the last thirty-six years. If she is offended that
I do it without her consent, I hope she may get over the offence shortly,
as she has a great many others that were worse. She has been with me
in many weaknesses and some storms, giving strength alike in both ;
sharp enough to see my foults, faithful enough to expose them, and con-
siderate enough to do it wisely: shrinking never from loss, or Ijlame, or
shame to be encountered in anything right to be done ; adding great
and high instigations — instigations always to good, and never to evil
mistaken for good; forecasting always things bravest and best to be
done, and supplying inspirations enough to have made a hero, if they
had not lacked the timber. If I have done anything well, she has been
the more really in it that she did not know it, and the more willingly
also that having her part in it known has not occurred to her ; compel-
ling me thus to honor not less, but more, the covert glory ot the woman-
ly nature; even as I obtain a distincter and more Avonderiug apprehen-
sion of the divine meanings, and moistenings, and countless, unbought
ministries it contributes to this otherwise very dry world."

In the month of March he preached an extremely interest-
ing sermon before the Connecticut Sunday-school Teachers'
Convention, the title of which w\as, " God's Thoughts fit
Bread for Children." He warmly advocated the " Moravian
way " of training children largely by the singing" of hymns
that centre in Christ. He would organize a " discipleship in
hosannas," and put children through " chants, litanies, son-
nets, holy madrigals, and doxologies — such and so many, and
so full of Christ's dear love, that they w^ill sing Christ into
their hearts."

With respect to preaching to children, he said : —



"We get occupied with great and high subjects that require a hand-
ling too heavy and deep for children, and become so fooled in our
estimate of -what we do, that yve call it coming down when we un-
dertake the preaching to children ; whereas it is coming up rather,
out of the subterranean hills, darknesses, intricacies, and dungeon-like
profundities of old, grown-up sin, to speak to the bright, daj'light
creatures of trust, and sweet affinities, and easy convictions. . . . Preach-
ing only to grown-up people is much as if we were to set our minis-
try to a preaching only to bachelors. We dry up in this manner,
and our thought wizens in a certain pomp of pretence that is hollow,
and not Gospel."

In March, 1870, the Eev. Geo. B. Spalding resigned his pas-
torate of tlie Park Church, and was succeeded bj the Rev. N.
J. Burton, D.D., who for many years had lived in neighbor-
liood and intimacy with Dr. Bushnell. This choice of Dr.
Burton by the Park Church was exceedingly grateful to Dr.
Bushnell, since it gave him for his successor in the ministry,
and for the pastor of his family, one of his most intimate and
valued friends.

In June Dr. Bushnell preached the installation sermon of
Pev. Washington Gladden, at N^orth Adams, Mass., and short-
ly afterwards made an address at the Commencement of Wil-
liams College. In July he delivered an address on " ]S"ew
Education," before the Sheffield Scientific School at New

During the three months' absence of the pastor of the Sec-
ond Church of Hartford, Dr. Bushnell supplied his pulpit,
preaching regularly each Sunday morning. The manner of
his administration of the Lord's Supper there was long re-
membered with tender interest. During all these years he
was not infrequently found preaching in the pulpits of the
Park, Second, and Asylum Hill churches, where he was rev-
erenced and listened to as a proj^het and apostle. His phys-
ical feebleness only served to excite an affectionate pity, and
to show, by way of contrast, his unabated mental vigor and
spiritual energy. It sometimes seemed, while he spake, as if
a superior and more than mortal power was in him. It was
evident tliat, while his outward man was daily perishing, his
inward man was dailv renewed.


In the autumn of the same year he also preached several
times for Dr. Storrs, of Brooklyn. In 1871 he spent several
weeks in New Haven, and preached repeatedly in the College
chapel. One sermon on the text, " His bones are full of the
sin of his youth," was listened to by the young men with
breathless attention, and was eagerly discussed among them
afterwards. The same year he prepared for publication a
new volume of sermons, which was issued the next year un-
der the title of " Sermons on Living Subjects." One of
these, in which he was particularly interested — " The En-
thronement of the Lamb " — had been preached to two con-

Online LibraryMary A. Bushnell CheneyLife and letters of Horace Bushnell → online text (page 46 of 53)