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BUSHNELL ON CHRISTIAN NURTURE.*
In our last number we gave a pansion and defense of its principles hasty notice of the “New Theolog. and arguments. ical Controversy," which had origin. We do not propose to give an ex. ated in the publication of Dr. Bush. tended account of this volume. Nor nell's two « Discourses on Christian do we think it necessary for the purNurture," and which then seemed pose which we have in view in this likely to continue.
discussion. That it shows on every Since that time, there has been page the attractions peculiar to its but little progress in the discussion, author, we need not say. Our con. and as far as publications are con. slant readers are too familiar with cerned, the stalus belli is very nearly these attractions to require that they as we left it. The Committee of the should be commented upon by us. Massachusetts Sabbath School Soci. These readers also know that Dr. ety have not seen fit to take any Bushnell, as one associated in the public notice of the “ Argument” conduct of this journal, is a writer addressed to them. Mcanwhile the and a man whose aid we value most author has assumed to himself the highly, and on whom we very much copyright which he never wholly rely. We are very willing, too, lo relinquished, and has issued in a voi. have them suppose, that we should ume, “ the Discourses,” the “ Argu. be inclined 10 bestow a friendly and ment," and other productions that are perhaps a partial criticism upon any related to the subject in discussion. of his productions. We should be These are, an article on the “Spir. quite ashamed to be supposed capable itual Economy of Revivals,” first of any other feelings. At the same published in the Christian Spectator time, we are not willing to confess for 1838 ; another entitled "Growth ourselves conscious of any deficiency not Conquest the true method of in the purpose to judge of his posi. Christian Progress,” which originally tions and arguments in any other than appeared in ihe New Englander for the light of truth, or to withhold 1944, under another title; and two from them a full and unbiased scru. sermons, now published for the first tiny. Without premising any farther, time, one entitled “The Organic unity we enter at once into the critical ex. of the family,” and the oiher, “the amination which we have proposed, scene of the Pentecost and a Chris. following our own order of thought. tian Parish.” The design of this We inquire at the outset-What additional matter, was to explain, to is the truih that is advanced and devindicale, and to qualify the posi- fended by the author ? To this in. tions advanced in the Discourses and quiry, he has given a distinct anthe Argument. The volume is sub. swer. The doctrine of the original stantially one, having one object and discourses is thus announced in his being sustained by the same consid- own language. “ Assuming then erations; all of which are suggested the question above stated, What is or implied in the original discourses. the true idea of Christian education ? The discourses give us the substance I answer in the following proposi. of the entire volume. The addi. tion, which it will be the aim of my tional essays, &c., are but an ex. arguments to establish, viz: THAT
THE CHILD IS TO GROW UP A Chris. Views of Christian Nurture, and of
TIAN. subjects adjacent therelo; by Horace
In other words, the aim, ef. Bushnell. 12mo, pp. 247. Hariford: Ed. fort and expectation should be, not, win Hunt. 1847.
as is commonly assumed, that the Vol. VI.
child is to grow up in sin, to be con. Other countries and at other times, verted, after he comes to a mature it is not new. We raise it also for age ; but ihat he is to open on the another reason. There is a cer. world as one that is spiritually re- tain class of critics, whose wisdoin newed, not remembering the time is often exhausted by the very pithy when he went through a technical observation on a doctrine, which experience, but seeming rather to they are unable or are indisposed to have loved what is good from his canvass, that " whatever is new in earliest years."-p. 6.
it is not true, and whatever is true The proposition announced in is not new.” For this common de. these words seems to us to be suffi. cision of cautious and non-commillal ciently clear and intelligible. It wisdom, we have very liule respect, speaks its meaning for itself. To albeit it constitutes the entire stock avoid any possible debate or confu- of many who are cried up as oracles sion, we add that it is in form a prac. for safety and profoundness. It is tical proposition, r a proposition with an eye to them that we propose concerning a duty. The duty is the question, whether there is any that Christian parents and teachers thing peculiar and new in the posi. should aim, strive and expect, to tion of the author. realize a given result. That result The author, as we have said, is, - that the child is to grow up a
thinks his views are new and pecu. Christian." The reality and the ob- liar. “But unhappily the public ligation of the duty, will of course mind is preoccupied extensively by turn upon a question of fact. That a view of the whole subject, which question is, whether the result con. I must regard as a theoretical mis. templaied is both possible and at take, and one which must involve, tainable. This is the only question as long as it continues, practical reabout which there is or can be any sults systematically injurious. This difference of opinion, and the whole mistaken view it is necessary, if discussion is entirely concerned with possible, to reinove. And accord. this question of truth or of fact. No ingly what I have to say will take man will deny or question, if the the form of an argument on the implied truth ihus contended for by question thus put in issue."-pp. 5,6. Dr. Bushnell is established, that the What the mistaken view is, with consequent duty will follow. The which he joins issue, he indicates in proposition actually discussed is one his formal proposition, as already of fact. The author contends that a quoted. He does it in the words, child can and may be expected to not as is commonly supposed that grow up a Christian. The great the child is to grow up in sin, to be question about which he concerns converted after he comes to a ma. himself, is the question of the truth ture age.” With the view thus sta. or falsehood of this position. ted he holds a vigorous argument.
We inquire next, whether there is He expands this view. He dwells any thing new or peculiar in this upon it
. He attempts to show its position which Dr. B. takes and de. absurdity and inconsistency with the fends? We raise this inquiry, be- nature of things, with other received cause the author contends that it is principles, with the methods of God peculiar, in distinction from that in nature and in grace, with his dec. which he supposes his readers to larations in his word and with the hold—and in distinction also from experience of other nations and oththe view current among the church- er times. The fact that the view es; and that therefore it will be con- against which he contends is really sidered by them as new, though in. held, he does not discuss. This he asmuch as it has been recognized in takes for granted. Is he right in this assumption? Is the opinion believe it is also true, that the against which he contends the pre- majority of New England Chrisvailing opinion, and is his own opin. tians view this. Training as a proion peculiar in being different from cess preparatory to the possession that which generally prevails? of the Christian character by their
In undertaking to answer this children,—and that as a preparaquestion, we can only speak of that tory discipline, “a schoolmaster to which is more generally received,and bring them 10 Christ' it is genewhich is recognized as the current rally to be long continued, and pa. doctrine. For a doctrine may be tiently prosecuted for years, before current, and yet not be universally the result shall be realized that the received. The writer of these re. main design of so slow and gradual marks has always believed and a development of the powers of the preached the docirine advanced by infant into childhood and youth, is Dr. Bushnell. He has even preach- to provide for a long course of this ed it in the same antagonistic form discipline, which may be expected which he has adopted, as being dif. to result in conversion, when the ferent from the theoretical views of child attains that reflection which the great muss of the Christian com. shall fit it to understand and receive munity, and from the practical aims the Gospel. This it is thought must of the most of his hearers. It is to be the ordinary history of the Chris. be supposed that not a few have held tian life. Exceptions are admitted and taught, and sought to act upon to be possible by all. It is allowed the same opinion. Many too may that now and then, there may grow have felt dissatisfied with the cur- up the rare and blessed spectacle of rent doctrine, and have felt and a child that shall have never known strongly felt that there must be a the time when prayer and praise truth that differed from that doctrine, were not exhaled from its spirit, as and yet have not reached any set. naturally and as constantly as the tled conclusions. All this is quite sweet breath of the morning rises consistent with the fact that the view from the dewy bosom of the earth of these discourses differs from that a child into the history of whose inwhich is generally received. tellectual and moral life, kind affec.
What iben is the generally re- tions and virtuous resolutions, conceived opinion in respect to Chris. scientious services and religious tian nurture? It is generally held, hope, have been so closely interwe believe, that there is a nurture twined, as to seem a part of that which is peculiarly Christian—that life itself. But these children are there are methods of discipline and spoken of as special and strange instruction which are the appointed exceptions to the ordinary method means of spiritual blessings, and of God—as sanctified of God by a that to fulfill the measure of duty special act of his favor ;-children which rests upon the Christian pa. around whose cradle bright angels rent, is a most serious obligation. of grace have watched, and into We do not believe that there exists whose infantile dreams they have a Christian parent in New England, breathed gentler and purer influen. who does not suppose that he owes ces than fall to the lot of ordinary important duiies of this kind to his mortals. The blessing of such a children, and that the training which child is looked upon as peculiar, they shall receive from him has to hope for which would be premuch to do with the question, wheth. sumpiuous by ordinary mortals, and er they shall be Christians at all, to attempt 10 train which would be and also with the question, what sort to commit an audacious effrontery, of Christians they shall be. We by asserting a claim sure to be dishonored, upon the secret and reserv. fewest truths, and this the simplest ed gifts of God's sovereign pleasure. scheme of doctrine, that can be Accordingly such children are look. thought of, to furnish the basis of ed for in the hut of some widowed faith. But a mind to understand mother in Israel, as the rare com- these truths, must be trained to refort in sorrow patiently and meekly flection, and must be so far devel. endured, the only flower left to oped as to comprehend them. It is cheer her along her desolate path. well even, if more than this is not way—or perhaps in the house of supposed essential to conversion. some patient and noble laborer for Too often is it thought necessary Christ, the eargest of the reward for that the Gospel should be expanded which he hopes-or perhaps in the into an intricate metaphysical slale. line of a long series of eminent ment, and einbarrassed by the subileChristians, as the memorial of pray- ties of scholastic distinctions, and asers that in past generations went up sent is demanded to all this in order to God-or, which is last and rarest that the Christian character may of all, as sent into some house of have a beginning. For this a magodlessness and sin, a child of inno- ture mind is requisite-a mind not cence in the midst of corruption, to only mature enough for the ordinary carry the remembrance, the reproofs processes of thought, but one speand the attractions of heaven, into cially disciplined in the niceties of the very precincts and among the dogmatic theology. But to such a very defilements of hell.
comprehension of Christian truth, We do not say that the existence the mind of the child is entirely unof such a character is deemed a equal, and on the theory which miracle, for it would not be true; makes it necessary, it is cut off from but we do say, that as far as the the Christian character, simply behope to rear such a child by efforts cause it is not sufficiently maiure; appropriate to the result, is concern- and no effort, no prayer, and no hope ed, so far it is viewed as though it is put forth, till the child shall be old were a miracle. It is treated as a enough to comprehend the Christian miracle, so far as not to be labored scheme. All the efforts that are for, because labor for it is thought used have a prospective reference. to have no propriety. Nay, it is not They all look to a date pushed for. even prayed for with any faith, be. ward in the history of the child. cause it is a gift of so rare and sin. The prayers even, are all drafts on gular a character, that even to pray time upon the treasury of heaven. for it to be wrought by concealed In order to hasten the time of posmethods of grace, is thought to be sible conversion, great pains are ta. presumptuous.
ken to simplify the doctrines of The grounds for this opinion are Christianity down to the capacity manifold. There is first, the view of the child. Metaphysical disquiof the Christian scheme as necessa sitions on the nature of the soul, ihe rily beyond the reach and compre. attributes of God, the evidences of hension of the mind of the infant. Christianity, and almost on the ori. The child, it is reasoned, must be gin of evil, are amplified and diluted. saved by the Gospel. The Gospel They are spiced with stories and ilto exert its influence on the charac. lustrated by pictures, in order to ter, must be understood. In order steal a year or two upon the appointto be understood, the character of ed time for the development of re. God, the evil of sin in its demerit flection, and to shorten the dreary and danger, the work of Christ as a season of necessary impiety. justifying Savior, must be reflected Another cause akin to the one upon and believed. These are the just named, is the very prevalent conviction that the Christian life passed. Childhood and youth remust begin by regeneration experi. turn to their sports and their thoughtenced as a conscious change of char. less moods, and because the Chris. acter. This supposes the capacity tian convert does not show his piety for reflection distinctly developed, by the gravity of premature manand the power to scrutinize closely hood-because he does not moralize and clearly the inner self, in order like a sage of seventy, or look out to observe and record its internal upon life with the sadness of one processes. Now inasmuch as the who has had experience of life's anchild is intellectually incapable of guish and its tears, its early promise such an experience, it is thought in of goodness is at once set down as a vain 10 hope for it. The child lives“ false conversion," and this severe in the outward. Its inner self is un. conclusion is written on the brow known as an object of reflection. of parents and Christian friends. Its very joys and sorrows, its pas- Nay, it is well if it do not stare out sions, hopes and sears, are all pro. from the chambers of the soul, like jected upon the outward objects that the handwriting upon the wall, 'no excite ihem. It hardly knows that hope, the evil heart still remains.' it has a heart, a conscience, affec- We ask next whether the view tions, or a will, and the teaching advanced in these discourses is true that it must have a new heart to be- and justly stated. We quote the gin with, and that it will do no good words a second rinne for the sake of to begin till it has first aimed to have clearness. “The aim, effort, and a new heart and succeeded in this expectation should be—hat he [the aim, is paralyzing to the parent, and child] is to open on the world as if nothing worse, is Chinese to the one that is spiritually renewed, not child. The parents are aware that remembering the time when he such a conversion, as a conscious went through a technical experie event to the mind reflecting on it- ence, but seeming raiher to have self, is beyond the years and the loved what is good from his earliest powers of ihe infants that prattle on years.” Is the fact taken for grant. their knees. To alleviate this diffi. ed in this proposition of duty, that culty, the same effort is used to force a child may and may be expected the mind to an unnatural precocity, thus 10
open on the world,” well and to drive it into itself by most, grounded? Is the statement true unnatural and revolting efforts at or false. On this point we feel no self-reflection. The child is set to hesitation. Of its truth, we doubt not the metaphysical study of the ques. in the least. And yet 10 guard tion, ' how to get a new heart,' by a against any possible misconstruction, treatise or story that is supposed to we add the following explavations dilute this complex subject down to of what we suppose the author 10 its infant understanding.
have intended by his language. Last of all, the prevalent view is When he speaks of the child rightly confirmed by a reference to the ac- trained as “not remembering the tual history, of early conversions. time when he went through a tech. It now and then happens that in a nical experience,” we do not supseason of excited religious activity, pose him to mean that the child or perhaps stimulated by the warn- shall know nothing of reflection upings and entreaties of faithful par- on sin indulged or committed, with ents, one or many children seem to the honesty of hearty repentance and begin the Christian life, and the hope the relief of trusting faith. Such is feebly ventured that they have "experiences" are not unfrequent true Christian feelings. But the sea. occurrences in the history of the son of present excitement is soon best of men long after the first "tech.