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properly so styled? And as it is not parental character which is organized, but the family elements themselves, can the effect of such character upon children be properly called organic? It is not to be wondered at that Dr. Bushnell, though very positive in this novel usage at times, did once feel that his footing was uncertain, and term it "something like a law of organic connection."
Every body knows the difference between an influence and an organic cause, and the measure of influence which relations like the parental possess.
But Dr. Bushnell contradistinguishes what he calls an organic connection of character from parental or family influence. It is not matter of choice on the part of parent or child, not dependent on teaching. “For a considerable time after birth,” he says, "the child has no capacity of will and choice developed, and therefore is not a subject of influence, in the common sense of that term. Meantime he is open to impressions from everything he sees. His character is formed under a principle, not of choice, but of nurture.” There can be no question about the fact here stated; this parental power over infancy does exist; but is it rightly called organic? Is it correct to deny to it the name influence ? Now teaching is influence, and Dr. Bushnell expressly includes teaching under the term nurture. Then he should not contradistinguish nurture from teaching, and all other kinds of influence that involve choice. Moreover, in a well known and eloquent discourse of his published in 1846, only a year earlier than this Hartford volume, he set forth unconscious influence" as an influence independent of choice, the flowing in of the power of personal character from one into another, unnoticed, without conscious exertion of purpose. And his
first example is the family and the family spirit :
6. The child looks and listens, and whatever tone of, feeling, or manner of conduct, is displayed around him, sinks into his plastic, passive soul, and becomes a mould of his being ever after. The very handling of the nurzery is significant, and the petulance, the passion, the gentleness, the tranquility indicated by it, are all reproduced in the child. The soul is a purely receptive nature, and that, for a considerable period, without choice or selection.” “When we
are conscious of exerting no influence over them, [children] are drawing from us impressions and moulds of habit.”
Why was that which Dr. Bushnell himself called unconscious influence in 1846, “not properly called influence” in 1849 ?
Moreover, in the volumes before us, in the very discourse in which he essays to distinguish the organic power from influence, he says : “The spirit of the house is breathed into his, the child's, nature, day by day. The anger and gentleness, the faithfulness and patience, the appetites, passions, and manners, all the variant moods of feeling exhibited around him, pass into him as impressions, and become seeds of character in him.” Now this power sinking into, breathed into, passing into, flowing into, a child's soul, is, by all the laws of the English tongue and of the mind, influence. It will be noticed, too, that when Dr. Bushnell turns from definition to description, he delineates both unconscious influence and that which can not properly be called such” in almost the same words !
If these considerations did not show that the term organic is a misnomer, facts would set it aside. Organic effects are inevitable; the organs, or organism, from which they proceed not failing. Dr. Bushnell represents a child's character as “actually included in that of the parent, as a seed is found in the capsule.” “The will and character of the parents are designed to be the matrix of the child's will and character.” So the word organic is made to give this connection the force of inevitable, which indeed is several times expressly declared, viz., that children will receive the very character itself of their parents into themselves, or be formed in it so as to be infallibly what their parents are.
From which it would follow, that all the children of all Christians grow up Christians, which is not true, as Dr. Bushnell admits. What is gained, then, by calling parental influence something else, with a meaning the plain facts deny ?
1 Thomas Fuller says admirably in his Meditations : "Lord I find the genealogy of my Saviour strangely checkered with four remarkable changes, in four immediate gen. erations. 1. Rehoboam begat Abijah, that is, a bad father begat a bad son. 2. Abijak begat Asa, that is, a bad father, a good son. 3. Asa begat Jehoshaphat, that is, a good father, a good son. 4. Jehoshaphat begat Jehoram, that is, a good father, a bad son. I see, Lord, from hence, that my father's piety can not be entailed. That is bad news for me. But I see also, that actual impiety is not always hereditary. That is good news for my son."
The relation of this to infant baptism will at once appear. Dr. Bushnell founds the ordinance on this theory, or phraseology, of "organic connection,” with its implications, a curious instance of words taken in a sense that goes beyond the facts they are used to represent, and then other facts bent to conform to this unwarranted sense of words. If there be an inevitable sequence of character resulting from organization, then, as soon as the parent has Christian character, that of the child is made sure by natural law,' and baptism is as proper in the one case as in the other, and for a reason. Accordingly, he says that household baptism “supposes" this “organic connection," and is “a seal of faith in the parent, applied over to the child, on the ground of a presumption that his faith is wrapped up in the parent's faith ; so that he is accounted a believer from the beginning.” Does infant baptism stand on this foundation, the integrity and appellation of which we have already tested ?
I. The word “presumption,” like the phrase "something like,” above, acts the part here of a sort of saving clause. Previously the author had said, that the child's character is wrapped up in the parents, “as the seed in the capsule.” But if one parent is Christian, and the other not, we might ask, in which? Or, is such a child blessed with two characters, one of each kind, wrapped up in each? But the language first used asserted necessary, causative, physical law; one character derived from another inevitably. Now, the connection is only “presumptive.” The discrepancy, and the incoherence of the whole theory, will appear more clearly, if we give the author the benefit of his own explanations :
66 We must distinguish here between a fact and a presumption of fact,
look upon a seed of wheat, it contains in itself, presumptively, a thousand generations of wheat, though, by reason of some fault in the cultivation, or some speck of diseased matter in itself, it may, in fact, never reproduce at all. So the Christian parent has in his character a germ, which has power, presumptively, to produce its like in his children, though by reason of some bad fault in itself, or possibly some outward hindrance in the
The word organic has properly all of this meaning, for it has even more. Prof. Shedd says: "The connection between two things inay be both pecessary and natural, and yet not organic."* Mutual relation and mutual influence must exist in this, Th, Hist., p. 19, seq.
church, or some providence of death, it may fail to do so. Thus it is that infant baptism becomes an appropriate rite. It sees the child in the parent, counts him presumptively a believer and a Christian, and, with the parent, baptises him also."
Now this language is unquestionably nearer to the facts than that used before. It is truer to say that the piety of children is in that of a Christian parent, if it can be said to be so at all, or that the depravity of children is in that of an unchristian parent, as a thousand generations of wheat are in a single seed, than as a single seed is contained in the capsule. For it is only there potentially if at all, as Dr. Bushnell says elsewhere, and therefore it is not there actually, or “ infallibly," as he had asserted before. By the word presumption, he saves the facts at the expense of this consistency, but does he thus lay a foundation for the ordinance ? A divine ordinance must deal with facts, not presumption of facts. Nor would it account one a believer from the beginning, surely, unless he were a believer from the beginning. Baptism, whether of adults or infants, is on all sides held to be symbolical. It has either this meaning, or a literal one, viz., the very channel of grace. Baptism, whether of adults or infants, is on all sides held to be symbolical of facts. A divine symbol for a presumption would certainly be a very singular thing. A divine symbol for an “ organic connection of character” which does not exist, or, to reduce it to the terms of our analysis, for a parental power over character which may fail, as is confessed on all sides, men are hardly prepared to accept or understand. Dr. Bushnell
very ingeniously turns the flank of the Baptist objection that “a baptized child may not prove to be a Christian afterwards, and then the rite will have been misplaced and should be done over," by observing that perhaps nearly as often immersed adults prove not to be Christians afterwards, “and yet our Baptist brethren never re-baptize them, notwithstanding all they say of faith as a necessary condition of baptism.” A more effective answer might have been that an adult immersed on the judgment of his being already a Christian, and proving unconverted, might need re-baptism as the correction of a mistake of fact, while an infant, baptized on a mere presumption, might not. Only it might have demolished both the objection
and the author's own theory at the same time! The real difficulty is about a first baptism on a mere presumption! On one point the mass of the Christian world does not differ from the Baptists, viz., that some fact lies beneath the symbolism of baptism. Here was the strength of their opposition to Dr. Bushnell's peculiar theory. Some people expected that it would convert them extensively to infant baptism. Its progress in that direction is as yet imperceptible. Even among Congregationalists the ordinance has gathered no strength from it. Parental responsibility has not been invested with any new sanctions. We more than suspect that what was needed was not on the side of human relations or probabilities, but on the side of divinely disclosed and symbolized facts. The question between us and the Baptists is really: What fact does the ordinance fundamentally symbolize?
II. Dr. Bushnell does not analyze baptism at all, but evidently argues, at least part of the time, upon the common view that it is the symbol of a fact of experience, and that that experience is, specifically and characteristically, faith in Christ as a Redeemer. The Baptists carry the common view a little further by claiming that it properly symbolizes a fact of foregone personal experience, viz., faith already exercised. So they refuse to baptize infants who have not believed. It would be interesting to analyze thoroughly the foundation of both the
1 This holds good in general and ir particular. Dr. Vermilye reported to the General Association of Connecticut in 1863 that out of 283 churches there were 76 in which there were no infant baptisms, more than one-fourth of the churches of the State. “Only eleven churches that baptized ten and upwards, none that baptized over twenty, and one in which there has not been a baptism for five years." “ Five infant baptisms should occur to every hundred communicants; at present there are not two to a hundred.” A cure for this is certainly possible; nay, even a view that will reconcile Baptists to the ordinance which the rest of Christendom maintains. But it must be sought in the opposite direction from that in which Dr. Bushnell so earnestly and so fruitlessly seeks it.
2 The Baptists use the words “Redeemer" and "faith" in their accepted Orthodox signification. What Dr. Bushnell means by them we must now gather from his “ Vicarious Sacrifice." Evidently it is not what we understood or supposed when he published on Christian Nurture, at least in 1847. What it is for the faith of a child to be wrapped up in that of a parent is one thing: what the (supposed) faith of the child is depends upon what the faith of the parent is understood to be. As now advised, it is confidence in Christ under what is called the moral view of the atonement. We have looked over the “Vicarious Sacrifice" again to see if it might not be claimed therein that this view is better fitted to make children “grow up Christians” than the accepted view, but do not find it. Perhaps the intricate metaphysics of it discouraged or prevented the suggestion.