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George Bush, one of the most eminent Biblical scholars and Orientalists of his time in America, was born in Norwich, Vt., June 12, 1796, a son of John and Abigal (Marvin) Bush, and grandson of Capt. Timothy Bush.
The boyhood of George Bush was mostly passed in Hanover, New Hampshire, whither his father removed when he was quite young. The son gave early indications of superior intelligence. His eldest sister says “he had a ravishing love of books from her first remembrance of him.” He frequented the College library at Hanover and would bring home ponderous volumes, almost as large as he could carry. Old residents remember him riding to mill on horseback with his face hidden in the pages of an open book that he held before him. At the age of nineteen he entered Dartmouth College, graduating in 1818 with the valedictory and the highest honors of his class, which was of more than average ability, containing among others such scholars as Professor William Chamberlain of Dartmouth College, and the late Professor Thomas C. Upham of Bowdoin College. During a part of his college course, Mr. Bush was a private tutor in the family of Honorable Mills Olcott, and there probably was formed an intimate friendship between himself and Rufus Choate of the class of 1819. The two young men chummed together during the college course, and Mr. Choate ever after kept a high regard for and estimate of his college friend. After teaching one year in the Orange County Grammar School at Randolph, Vt., Mr. Bush commenced the study of theology at Princeton Seminary, where he graduated in 1821, in the same class with Albert Barnes. He resided one or two years afterwards at Princeton as tutor in the College of New Jersey, preaching occasionally in various places in the vicinity, and in 1824 went west on a missionary trip, which resulted in his settlement the following year over a Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, Ind., where he remained three or four years.
In 1823, he married a daughter of Honorable Louis Condict of Morristown, New Jersey, by whom he had one son, who died at the age of twenty-nine years, Mrs. Bush dying in 1828 or 9, and difficulties with the Presbytery having arisen as to the soundness of the young preacher’s views in regard to the Presbyterian form of church government, the pastoral relations with the church were dissolved and Mr. Bush returned to the East and soon after established himself in New York City, where he remained for more than twenty years devoting himself to authorship, lecturing, and scholarly pursuit.
In 1831, Mr. Bush was made Professor of Hebrew and Oriental Literature in the University of New York, and the next year he published “The Life of Mahomet,” his first book, it being Volume X of Harper’s Family Library. In 1833, the “Treatise on the Millennium” appeared, and in 1835 his “Hebrew Grammar.” His ”Commentaries on the Old Testament,” which went through many editions, were brought out in 1840. “The Doctrine of the Resurrection” followed in 1845. “Mesnier and Swedenborg” in 1847. His last book, “Priesthood and Clergy Unknown to Christianity,” the most radical and unpopular of all his works, was published in 1857. Several minor publications of transient interest also followed at various times, and he was always a frequent contributor to periodicals and newspapers. The substance of several of his books was first given in the form of lectures in several cities and towns in New York and New England.
For several years prior to 1845, Professor Bush had been slowly drifting away from the orthodox theology in which he had been educated, and eventually embraced the doctrines of Swedenborg. From the time of his adhesion to the Swedenborgian or New Church, his old friends and associates in the Presbyterian and Congregational Churches, with few exceptions, immediately gave him the cold shoulder. One of the exceptions was Rev. Asa D. Smith, then pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, N. Y., and for many years after President of Dartmouth College.
It is impossible not to feel great respect for Professor Bush, both for his head and his heart, for his intellect and great learning, and for his character and life.
He died September 19, 1859.