Channing’s character and convictions is found
in his sense of the inherent greatness of man.
Of this feeling his entire system is but the unfolding.
It was early and deliberately adopted by him as a
fundamental faith. It remained the immovable
centre of his reverence and trust amid all the inroads
of doubt and sorrow. Political interest was as
natural to Channing’s earlier manhood as it
had been to Fichte in the emergency of the Fatherland.
Similarly, in the later years of his life, when evils
connected with slavery had made themselves felt, his
participation in the abolitionist agitation showed
the same enthusiasm and practical bent. He had
his dream of communism, his perception of the evils
of our industrial system, his contempt for charity
in place of economic remedy. All was for man,
all rested upon supreme faith in man. That man
is endowed with knowledge of the right and with the
power to realise it, was a fundamental maxim.
Hence arose Channing’s assertion of free-will.
The denial of free-will renders the sentiment of duty
but illusory. In the conscience there is both
a revelation and a type of God. Its suggestions,
by the very authority they carry with them, declare
themselves to be God’s law. God, concurring
with our highest nature, present in its action, can
be thought of only after the pattern which he gives
us in ourselves. Whatever revelation God makes
of himself, he must deal with us as with free beings
living under natural laws. Revelation must be
merely supplementary to those laws. Everything
arbitrary and magical, everything which despairs of
us or insults us as moral agents, everything which
does not address itself to us through reason and conscience,
must be excluded from the intercourse between God and
man. What the doctrines of salvation and atonement,
of the person of Christ and of the influence of the
Holy Spirit, as construed from this centre would be,
may without difficulty be surmised. The whole
of Channing’s teaching is bathed in an atmosphere
of the reverent love of God which is the very source
of his enthusiasm for man.
A very different man was Horace Bushnell, born in
the year of Channing’s licensure, 1802.
He was not bred under the influence of the strict
Calvinism of his day. His father was an Arminian.
Edwards had made Arminians detested in New England.
His mother had been reared in the Episcopal Church.
She was of Huguenot origin. When about seventeen,
while tending a carding-machine, he wrote a paper in
which he endeavoured to bring Calvinism into logical
coherence and, in the interest of sound reason, to
correct St. Paul’s willingness to be accursed
for the sake of his brethren. He graduated from
Yale College in 1827. He taught there while studying
law after 1829. He describes himself at this
period as sound in ethics and sceptical in religion,
the soundness of his morals being due to nature and
training, the scepticism, to the theology in which