« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
whom he can know nothing, will bless him through the year for the aid and solace which his poetry has imparted.
“BURIAL of THE DEAD.
“And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And He came and touched the bier (and they that bare him stood still) and said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. St. Luke vii. 14, 15.
“Who says, the wan autumnal sun
“Waft him, thou soft September breeze,
“And let some graceful arch be there
“Who says the widow’s heart must break,
“Bids weep no more. — O heart bereft,
“Yet is the voice of comfort heard,
“Even such an awful soothing calm
On Christian mourners, while they wait
“And such the tones of love, which break
“Unchang'd that voice, — and though not yet
ART. III. — Johann Gottfried von Herder's Sämmtliche Werke. Zur Religion und Theologie. Herausgegeben durch Johann GEORG MüLLER. 18. Theile. Stuttgart und Tübingen. 1827 – 1830. The Complete Works of J. G. HERDER. On Religion and Theology.
THE biographical sketch of Herder, which we gave in a former Number,” may have awakened the desire, in some of our readers, to be put in possession of further notices of his theological opinions and services. Our intention of doing this has already been intimated; and with such facilities as are afforded in his voluminous, but somewhat desultory writings, we now proceed to the performance of the agreeable task.
The epoch at which Herder flourished is one of great importance in the history of German Theology. He was born, as will be recollected, about the middle of the last century, when a spirit of bold and free inquiry, on all subjects pertaining to the interests of man, was just beginning to pervade the most active and enlightened portions of European society. The great topics of religion were destined to feel the influence of this movement. The prevailing faith of the church, which had hitherto rested chiefly on tradition and authority, was submitted to new and startling examinations, and an effectual shock given to many modes of thought, which had been handed down from father to son for ages, without a suspicion that they were not founded on the rock of everlasting truth. This was the unavoidable result of the mental stagnation, that had long reigned over the whole province of Theology. That noble science, which presents such vast and fruitful themes to the intellect and heart of man, when it breathes its native life, was reduced to a collection of petrisactions, without sufficient beauty or grace, to entitle them even to a place in the cabinets of the curious. Its vital sap and freshness were exhausted, and it needed the infusion of a new life, before it could bear fruit fit for the refreshment and sustenance of man. Since the time of Luther and his immediate coadjutors, little had been done to redeem Theology from the errors of past ages, and to animate it with a living principle of progress and growth. The direction, which that great but undisciplined reformer had
* See Christian Examiner, No. LXVIII. for May, 1835.
impressed upon the current of thought, had been arrested soon after its commencement, by the influence of a scholastic philosophy, which still exercised an almost unlimited power, and by the leaden weight of the formal and elaborate creeds, in which his doctrinal opinions were embodied, and which soon became the objects of an undue veneration, as the unchangeable standards of the church and the oracular expressions of her faith. The study of Theology, as a science, the principles of which are deeply laid in the nature of man, was almost wholly neglected. The want of extensive philological learning, and of sound canons of criticism, prevented a correct understanding of the contents of the Bible; so that, although the Reformation had made a vigorous attack on the errors of the Romish Church, the condition of Protestantism, in point of true and enlightened ideas of religion, presented but faint indications of actual improvement. This was the prevailing state of the Lutheran Church in Germany, until some time after the commencement of the last century. The labors of the theological writers of that period, who, for the most part, made use of the Latin language, present specimens of formality, dryness, and a servile devotion to the letter of their creeds as well as of Scripture, hardly surpassed in the worst days of English Theology. The opinions of Hutter, Gerhard, Calov, Quenstedt, and others of the same stamp, who were eminent divines in their time, are of little value now, except as evidences of the state of Theology and of general scientific culture, which could give currency to their tedious and wiredrawn speculations. The first light that indicated the dawning of a brighter day, proceeded from Baumgarten, a professor at Halle, the predecessor and teacher of the renowned Semler. He did nothing more, however, than to prepare the way for the progress of his pupils, and his own works have passed into oblivion. Semler may be regarded as the father of the modern German Theology. He early engaged, with great independence and ardor, in the study of the Scriptures, and, guided by higher views of philology, than had hitherto prevailed, soon struck out an original path of thought and investigation, which cannot yet be said to have been pursued to its end. His abilities and zeal, united with the labors of Ernesti at Leipsic and of Michaelis at Göttingen, threw a new light on the science of Theology, and gave a strong impulse to its successful study.
The researches of many of the most able and learned scholars in Germany, were now turned in the direction of sacred letters; and from this period we may fairly date the birth of that complicated system, which, under the name of German Theology, has been the object of so much interest with scientific theologians of every nation, and, under different circumstances, of so much mingled apprehension and hope. Among the pioneers in this reform, Herder holds a conspicuous place. He was contemporary with the most eminent writers, from whom it received its first and strongest impulses, and himself contributed, in no small degree, towards its progress. He early saw the defects in the prevailing systems of the times. His fine taste was thoroughly averse to the dry and formal style of discussion that entered into most theological writings. His excellent judgment detected many errors and inconsistencies in the usual representations that were given of religion, and his fearless spirit did not hesitate to avow the convictions, which were forced upon it. The ardent love of truth, which he cherished as the apple of his eye, led him to admit the results of accurate inquiry and sound reasoning, though at war with his previous opinions and ideas. At the same time, he saw that many crude and extravagant theories were often proposed, many false lights hailed as the rising of the true sun, and many ardent minds led in unsafe paths, which had nothing to recommend them but their novelty and danger. With these views, Herder can hardly be classed with either the old or the new school, into which the theologians of that day, though pursuing a common object, and acting in harmony with each other, were in fact divided. He stood rather on his own independent ground, with his eye open to the approach of light from whatever part of the heavens it might break forth, but unwilling to yield his free thoughts to the guidance of any earthly teacher. In the account which we shall give of Herder's mode of thinking in Theology, we would take care to guard ourselves and all others from being made responsible for any of the opinions which may be described. We wish to show what Herder was, not to inquire how far the views which he cherished are in accordance with truth. That would involve a wide range of thought and investigation, for which, perhaps, neither our readers nor ourselves are sufficiently prepared. It may be said of Herder, with far more correctness than he said of Leibnitz,