תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

THE

CHRISTIAN EXAMINER.

No. LXXIII.

THIRD SERIES - N. IV.

MARCH, 1836.

Art. I. — Theologische Studien und Kritiken. Eine Zeit

schrift für das gesammte Gebiet der Theologie, in Verbindung mit Dr. GieselER, Dr. Lücke, und Dr. Nitzsch, herausgegeben von Dr. C. ULLMANN und Dr. F. W. C. UMBREIT. Zweiter Band. 1834. Erinerungen an Dr. FRIEDRICH SCHLEIERMACHER von FRIEDRICH LÜCKE.

Recollections of SCHLEIERMACHER.

The history of modern theology in Germany presents few names more distinguished than that of Frederic Schleiermacher. A large class, indeed, in his own country would place him, without a rival, at the head of all theologians of the present day. We are aware of the great difficulty, under circumstances so different as our own from those with which they are surrounded, of forming a just estimate of the eminent men of foreign lands. In no department is this difficulty felt to a wider extent, than in the literature of Germany, and especially in every thing connected with its recent developements in philosophy and theology. Our habitual modes of thought, our English predilections in literature, and our rigid exaction of the laws of taste with which we are most familiar, preclude us from that ready sympathy with the productions of their great masters, which is essential to a correct judgment of any work of art. The tendency of mind, even among our most highly educated men, is so little in the direction of profound speculation, that we are apt to imagine that all inquiries, which descend much below the surface, are not only dark and repulsive,

- 30. S. VOL. II. NO, I. 1

VOL. XX.

but useless and even dangerous. The German mind, on the other hand, is so absorbed in the investigation of fundamental principles, in inquiries which serve, not merely to accumulate opulent stores of exact knowledge, but to settle the relative validity and true foundation of every kind of knowledge, that the outward forms of expression are often neglected, and the most original and fruitful ideas clothed in difficult and forbidding language.

For this reason, and others of a similar character, we do not suppose that a mind like that of Schleiermacher, is likely to excite a deep interest among us; or that the veneration, which is expressed for it among all classes of his own countrymen, will find a response with many of our readers. At the same time, we cannot believe that a man who has imprinted the mark of his own individuality so deeply upon the highest literature of his nation, can be destitute of claims upon the sympathy and admiration of intelligent minds, though trained under a discipline widely different from their own.

It is not our purpose, however, to present an analysis of Schleiermacher's genius, or to enforce his merits upon the attention of our philosophical theologians. Our words concerning him must be few, and chiefly in an historical connexion. It is often said that a great man is to be regarded as the exponent and the product of his age. This maxim is true in its fullest extent as applied to Schleiermacher. He represents an important epoch in the progress of thought, in its relations to a scientific theology. A person acquainted with the intellectual movements in Germany, since the latter part of the last century, might have ventured to predict the appearance of a man like Schleiermacher, who, receiving a strong impression from the circumstances of the times, was destined himself to give a new direction to the current of thought, which had broken down its ancient barriers, and had as yet found no channel of sufficient strength or capacity to retain it within its appropriate limits.

The problem of Schleiermacher's life was determined by the historical relations which preceded and accompanied the period of his literary activity. This problem, it will be seen in the sequel of the present article, was to reconcile the conflicting claims of religion and science, as they were exhibited in the state of intellectual cultivation in his own country. In the solution of this problem, Schleiermacher developed certain theological principles, which may be said to form a new era in the history of the science, and which have certainly created a large and increasing school among the modern theologians of Germany. A few brief statements will be sufficient to illustrate the

position which he occupied.

The writings of the English Deists were for the most part translated into the German language, and produced a deep impression on the minds of thinking men, both within and without the official precincts of theology. This impression was increased by the spirit of the French Revolution and the tendency of the King of Prussia towards a superficial literature and a material philosophy. The prevailing opinions in the Lutheran Church were not competent to present a barrier against the approaching torrent of skepticism and infidelity. The consequence was, that, after the Scriptures had been submitted to a critical examination of great extent and thoroughness, the doctrines of theology discussed on all sides with the utmost freedom, and the philosophy of religion made the subject of new and profound investigations, a new form of Christianity was presented, which admitted the essential truth of the ideas revealed by Jesus Christ, and their divine authority as coming from God, but denied their claims to a miraculous or supernatural character. This is the leading principle of the system of Rationalism. This system, the result of a scientific examination of the records of religion, but unaccompanied with a profound estimate of its inward spirit, has prevailed until within the last fifteen or twenty years, among the most celebrated theologians of Germany without any effectual opposition. About that time a reaction began to take place. Many, who had formerly been ardently attached to it, relaxed in their zeal, or took a new tendency in the opposite direction. The want of a more spiritual religion was distinctly and loudly expressed. Rationalism was charged with coldness and inefficiency, with being destitute of a deep philosophical foundation, and with inadequacy to meet the necessities of the religious nature of man. Still it was seen, that no help could be obtained from the literal and precise orthodoxy of the ancient standards of the Lutheran church. The common ideas on inspiration, on the nature of revelation, on the character of the sacred books, on the evidences of Christianity, and on the doctrines of the Christian faith, which were maintained in those formularies, could not be brought into harmony with the

improved science of modern times, or the results of sound and thorough critical investigations. It appeared, that the prevailing Rationalism would not do, and that the ancient Supernaturalism would do still less. The problem then was to discover some scientific principles, by which the merits of both systems could be secured and their defects avoided.

The solution of this problem was the mission of Schleiermacher's life. We will concisely indicate the process which he adopted. He admitted the validity of critical investigations to their fullest extent. These, he could not but perceive, had abolished the foundation on which the prevailing views of the

Bible had reposed. Hence, it was necessary to draw the sharpest line of distinction between religion in its essential elements, and religion in its outward manifestations. Instead then of taking his stand in the written letter, he commenced with the religious consciousness of human nature. He aimed not so much to carry over the spirit of Christianity into the soul, as to awaken the soul itself to a sense of its affinity with the essential revelations of the Gospel, and to lead it to embrace them with a consciousness of sympathy and relationship. But here two grand points were clearly to be settled as the condition of all further progress; first, what is the essential character of religion in the soul; and second, what is the peculiar spirit of Christianity, to which this character corresponds. These points are discussed by Schleiermacher with all the logical acuteness which was eminently characteristic of his mind. The results at which he arrives may be stated in a few words. Religion, he supposes, in its primitive elements, is neither knywledge nor action, but a sense of our dependence on God, and of our need of redemption from sin. The seat of this feeling is the primitive consciousness of human nature.

As to the second point, the essential spirit of Christianity is to be found in those principles, which have universally prevailed in the Christian church, from the time of the Apostles to the present day. These, of course, are not always to be taken in their literal sense, and never in that of the symbols and illustrations, with which it has been attempted to make them clear to the understanding. There have ever been great differences in the modes of conceiving essential ideas. And the difficulty bas been, that these various modes have been confounded with the primitive and unchanging truth. In all general conceptions of religion, then, as well as in the records of revelation, we must

« הקודםהמשך »