This completes the history of the first of the three movements, the destructive action of rationalism. The most flourishing period of this form of it was about the beginning of the present century. We have seen it originating in the rational tone of Wolff's philosophy, and the well-meant but ill-judged exegesis which Semler exhibited under the pressure of sceptical difficulties. Stimulated by critical investigations, and by the strong wish which operated on our own theologians, to find the cause of everything, its adherents were led into a disbelief of the supernatural, and ended in explaining away the miraculous, and reducing Christianity to natural religion. The movement, it will be observed, was professedly not intended to be destructive of Christianity. Instead of being inimical, it originated with the clergy, and aimed at harmonizing Christianity with reason. But it contained its own death. The negative criticism is essentially temporary.
The activity of thought was already producing change. We have previously stated that even the Kantian philosophy itself, though at first stimulating the appeal to reason, fostered a deeper perception of duty, and thus prepared the way for a moral reawakening.(730)
We shall accordingly now proceed to state the causes which introduced new elements into the current of public thought; and then describe the gradual progress of the reactionary movement which ensued from them.
Four causes are usually assigned. The first of them was the introduction of new systems of speculative philosophy.
It is not unusual, in those who have no taste for speculation, and who understand only the prosaic, though in some respects the truer, philosophy of Scotland, to despise the great systems of German speculation. Yet, if the series be measured as an example of the power of the human mind, whatever may be the opinion formed in respect to its correctness, it stands among the most interesting efforts of thought. Though the writers can be matched by isolated examples in former ages, perhaps no series of writers exists, hardly even the Greek, certainly not the Neo-Platonist nor the Cartesian, which, in far-reaching penetration, in minuteness of analysis, in brilliancy of imagination, in loftiness of genius, in poetry of expression, in grasp of intellect, in influence on every branch of thought or life, approximates to the series of illustrious thinkers which commenced with Kant and ended with Hegel.(731) The two philosophers at this time whose teaching formed a new influence, were Fichte(732) and Jacobi.(733) Details in reference to their systems must be sought elsewhere.(734) It is only possible here to indicate their central thought, in order to notice their effects on theological inquiry.
We have seen that Kant had reconsidered the great problem, commenced by Descartes and Locke, concerning the ground of certitude, and the nature of knowledge; and had revolutionised philosophy, by attributing to the natural structure of the mind many of those ideas which had usually been supposed to be derived from experience. In his system he had left two elements, a formal and a material; the formal, or innate forms, through which the mind gains knowledge, and the material, presented from external sources. It was the former or ideal element which was examined by Fichte; the latter by Jacobi.
Fichte began to teach at Jena soon after 1790. Grasping firmly Descartes' principle, "Cogito, ergo sum," he conceived that, as we can only know ourselves, there is no proof that the datum supposed to be external is anything but a form of our own consciousness; and thus he arrived at a subjective idealism not unlike that of bishop Berkeley.(735) Under his view God was only an idea or form of thought; a regulative principle of human belief, the moral order of which the mind was conscious in the universe; and, as atheism was suspected to follow as an inference from his views, he became the subject of persecution. But the instincts of the heart, as well as the arguments of the understanding, were too potent for him; and when he had thus as it were shut up man within the circle of his own finite self, he strove to find a logical passage into a knowledge of the infinite by a principle analogous to that of Spinoza; viz. by regarding both self and the outer world, the subjective and objective, to be identified in some absolute self-existence, of which they were respectively phases.(736)
This aim was only partially effected by Fichte, and was completed by his distinguished successor, Schelling.(737) Schelling saw that the subjective tendency had been pushed too far; and, relying on the spiritual sense through which men of all ages have conceived that they saw the infinite, the reality of which accordingly seems to be attested by a universal induction, he tried to grasp the idea of the self-existent One, who is the one absolute Reality, the one eternal Being, the eternal Source from which all other light is derived, and from which all things develope. "Intellectual intuition" he thought to be the means by which we have this knowledge of the infinite, and are able to trace the development of it into its limitations in nature and in the mind. The method is analogous to that of Spinoza, save that the infinite is studied dynamically instead of mechanically, as a movement not a substance, in time not in space.
The roll of these great thinkers, whose speculations were suggested by the formal side of Kant's philosophy, is not yet full. But the two which have been named wrote and affected thought, the one before, the other soon after, the commencement of the present century. Hegel followed in the same track, but influenced thought at a later period.(738) He too aimed at solving the same problem as Schelling: he too sought to transcend the conditions of object and subject which limit thought; but it was by assuming a representative or mediate faculty that transcends consciousness, and not, as Schelling, an intuitional or presentative.(739)
Such were the philosophers who aimed at solving the problem of knowledge and being from the intellectual side. Jacobi on the other hand attempted it from the emotional. Perceiving the necessity of finding some justification for the material element which Kant had assumed in his philosophy, he sought it in faith, in intuition, in the direct inward revelation of truth to the human mind. He thought that, as sensation gives us an immediate knowledge of the world, so there is an inward sense by which we have a direct and immediate revelation of supernatural truth. It is this inward revelation which gives us access to the material of truth. His position was analogous to that of Schelling, but he asserted the element of feeling as well as intuition.
These philosophies, of Fichte, Schelling, and Jacobi, formed one class of influences, which were operating about the beginning of the century, and were the means of redeeming alike German literature and theology. Their first effect was to produce examination of the primary principles of belief, to excite inquiry; and, though at first only reinforcing the idea of morality, they ultimately drew men out of themselves into aspirations after the infinite spirit, and developed the sense of dependence, of humility, of unselfishness, of spirituality. They produced indeed evil effects in pantheism and ideology;(740) but the results were partial, the good was general. The problem, What is truth?—was through their means remitted to men for reconsideration; and the answers to it elicited, from the one school,—It is that which I can know:—from the other,—It is that which I can intuitively feel:—threw men upon those unalterable and infallible instincts which God has set in the human breast as the everlasting landmarks of truth, the study of which lifts men ultimately out of error.
These systems had even a still more direct effect on the public mind. They were the means of creating a literature, which insinuated itself into public thought, and familiarised society with spiritual apprehensions long obliterated. The school of literature commonly called the Romantic,(741) commencing with such writers as Schlegel and Novalis, fanciful as it may in some respects seem to be, created the same change in the belief and tastes of the German mind as the contemporary school of Lake Poets in England. The German literature bore the marks either of the old scholasticism, or of the materialism introduced from France, or of the classic culture introduced by Lessing and his coadjutors. The element now revived was the mediaeval element of chivalry, the high and lofty courage, the delicate aesthetic taste, which had marked the middle ages. Herder,(742) to whom Germany owes much, disgusted with the stoical and analytic spirit of the Kantian philosophy, had already attempted, and not in vain, to throw the mind back to an appreciation of old history, and especially had manifested an enthusiastic admiration of Hebrew literature; but now, as if by one general movement, the public taste was turned to an appreciation of the freshness of feeling, and fine elements of character, which existed in the Christianity of the middle ages.(743)
This literary movement prepared the way for and accompanied another, which, though occurring a little later, may be reckoned as the third influence which caused a religious reaction. Indeed it is the one to which the Germans attribute the chief effect. It is found in the outburst of national patriotism which took place in the liberation wars of 1813;(744) the spontaneous chivalry which made the heart of Germany beat as the heart of one man, to endeavour to hurl back Napoleon beyond the limits of the common fatherland. In that moment of deep public suffering, the poetry and piety of the human heart brought back the idea of God, and a spirit of moral earnestness. The national patriotism,(745) which still lives in the poetry of the time, expelled selfishness: sorrow impressed men with a sense of the vanity of material things, and made their hearts yearn after the immaterial, the spiritual, the immortal: the sense of terror threw them upon the God of battles. It was the age of Marathon and Salamis revived; and the effect was not less wonderful.(746)
A fourth influence remains to be noticed, which was in its nature more strictly theological, and limited to the church. When after the return of peace the tercentenary of the Reformation was celebrated in 1817, an obscure theologian at Kiel, named Harms,(747) published a set of theses as supplements to the celebrated theses of Luther, which, by the excitement and controversy unexpectedly occasioned by them, turned attention anew to the study of the reformational and biblical theology, and created a revival of the spiritual element which was too much forgotten.
Such were the four influences—the philosophical, the literary, the political, the spiritual,—which entered into German life, and produced or increased the reaction that took place in German theology in the period which we are about to sketch.
We placed the limits of this second period from about 1810 till the literary revolution caused by alarm at Strauss's work in 1835.(748) It was in 1810, in the depth of Prussian humiliation, when Halle had passed into one of the kingdoms dependent on France, that the university of Berlin was founded. Schleiermacher, Neander, and De Wette, were its teachers. The first was the soul of its theological teaching; and through his agency it became the great source of a religious reaction. It is around these names that our studies most centre. The signs indeed of some other movements are traceable. The deistic rationalism is not dead, but it is dying: it is a thing of the past: a return to strict dogmatic orthodoxy is also visible in the Lutheran clergy rather than in the university; but it is as yet in its infancy: and a new form of gnosticism is observable in the philosophy of Hegel, but the full development of it belongs to the next period. The field is now occupied by the partial reaction to orthodoxy, which aimed at a reconciliation of science and piety, of criticism and faith.(749) Schleiermacher, with is follower Neander, will typify the philosophical and more orthodox side of it; perhaps De Wette, and at the end of the period Ewald, the critical.
Schleiermacher(750) was by education and sympathy eminently fitted to attempt the harmony of science and faith, to which he devoted his life. Gifted with an acute and penetrating intellect, capable of grappling with the highest problems of philosophy and the minutest details of criticism, he could sympathise with the intellectual movement of the old rationalism; while his fine moral sensibility, the depth and passionateness of his sympathy, the exquisite delicacy of his taste and brilliancy of imagination, were in perfect harmony with the literary and aesthetic revival which was commencing. German to the very soul, he possessed an enthusiastic sympathy with the great literary movements of his age, philosophical, classical, or romantic. The diligent student and translator of Plato,(751) his soul was enchanted with the mixture at once of genius, poetry, feeling, and dialectic, which marks that prince of thinkers, and he was prepared by it for understanding the speculations of his time. The dialectical process through which Plato's mind had passed (30) represents not improbably, in some degree, the history of Schleiermacher's own mental development as traceable in his works. The conviction derived from Plato's early dialogues, that the mind, in travelling outward to study the objective, could not prove the highest realities, but must have faith in its own faculties, prepared him for imbibing the philosophy of Jacobi. The looking inward to the deep utterances of the soul, the interpretation of the objective world by means of the internal, prepared him for Fichte. The mystical attempt to understand the ideas themselves, to use the archetype for creating an ontology from the objective side, observable in Plato's latest works, found its parallel in Schelling. Schleiermacher had large sympathies with these three processes, but mainly with the first; which was to be expected from his purpose. Aiming at gaining spiritual certitude rather than speculating for intellectual gratification, Jacobi's philosophy appeared to combine the excellences of the other two systems, the subjective character of the one, and the intuitional of the other; with the additional advantage of seeming to give expression to the instincts of the heart, as well as the intuitions of the mind. Beyond all these qualities, Schleiermacher inherited from his Moravian education the spirit of pietism, which, almost extinguished by the recent activity of mind, had retired to the quiet sphere where a Stilling(752) or an Oberlin(753) communed with God and laboured for man.
Possessing therefore the two great elements which had been united in the Reformation,—endowed on the one hand with the largest sympathy with every department of the intellectual movement, and the mastery of its ripest erudition, and at the same time with a soul kindled with a hearty love for Christianity,—he was fitted to become the Coryphaeus of a new reformation, to attempt again a final reconciliation of knowledge and faith. Whether we view him in his own natural gifts and susceptibilities; in the aim of his life; in his mixture of reason and love, of philosophy and criticism, of enthusiasm and wisdom, of orthodoxy and heresy; or regard the transitory character of his work, the permanence of his influence; church history offers no parallel to him since the days of Origen.(754)
His early education was received in the university of Halle; an institution which had long been the home of pietism, and has continued with but few intervals(755) to evince much of the same Christian spirit. He became professor there early in the century,(756) until the town passed, as already stated, into the power of the French. He removed to Berlin when that university was founded,(757) and continued to exercise his influence there, from the pulpit and the professor's chair, for a quarter of a century, until his death.(758)
Before the conclusion of the last century, while still the literary influence of Weimar was at its height, he wrote Discourses on Religion,(759) to arouse the German mind to self-consciousness; which produced as stirring an effect in religion(760) as Fichte's patriotic addresses to the German nation subsequently in politics; and from them may be dated the first movement of spiritual renovation, as from the latter the first of German liberation from foreign control. In successive works his views on ethics and religion were gradually developed, until, in his Glaubenslehre (31) he produced one of the most important theological systems ever conceived. We can give no idea of the compass exhibited in that work, nor spare time to trace the growth in Schleiermacher's own mind as new influences like that of Harms, which he rejected, indirectly influenced him; but we must be content to define his general position in its destructive and constructive aspects.
The fundamental principles(761) were, that truth in theology was not to be attained by reason, but by an insight, which he called the Christian consciousness,(762) which we should call Christian experience; and that piety consists in spiritual feeling, not in morality. Both were corollaries from his philosophical principles.
There are two parts, both in the intellectual and emotional branches of our nature;—in the emotional, a feeling of dependence in the presence of the Infinite, which is the seat of religion; and a consciousness of power, which is the source of action and seat of morality;—and in the intellectual, a faith or intuition which apprehends God and truth; and critical faculties, which act upon the matter presented and form science.(763) In making these distinctions, Schleiermacher struck a blow at the old rationalism, which had identified on the one hand religion and morality, and on the other intuition and reason. Hence from this point of view he was led to explain Christianity, when contrasted with other religions, subjectively on the emotional side, as the most perfect state of the feeling of dependence; and on the intellectual, as the intuition of Christianity and Christ's work: and the organ for truth in Christianity was regarded to be the special form of insight which apprehends Christ, just as natural intuition apprehends God; which insight was called the Christian consciousness.(764) Thus far many will agree with him. Perhaps no nobler analysis of the religious faculties has ever been given. Religion was placed on a new basis: a home was found for it in the human mind distinct from reason. The old rationalism was shown to be untrue in its psychology. The distinctness of religion was asserted; and the necessity of spiritual insight and of sympathy with Christian life asserted to be as necessary for appreciating Christianity, as aesthetic insight for art.
In its reconstruction of Christian truth, however, fewer will coincide. Following out the same principles; in the same manner as he regarded the intuitions of human nature to be the last appeal of truth in art or morals, so he made the collective Christian consciousness the last standard of appeal in Christianity. The dependence therefore on apostolic teaching was not the appeal to an external authority, but merely to that which was the best exponent of the early religious consciousness of Christendom in its purest age.(765) The Christian church existed before the Christian scriptures. The New Testament was written for believers, appealing to their religious consciousness, not dictating to it. Inspiration is not indeed thus reduced to genius, but to the religious consciousness, and is different only in degree, and not in kind, from the pious intuitions of saintly men. The Bible becomes the record of religious truth, not its vehicle; a witness to the Christian consciousness of apostolic times, not an external standard for all time. In this respect Schleiermacher was not repeating the teaching of the reformation of the sixteenth age, but was passing beyond it, and abandoning its reverence for scripture.
From this point we may see how his views of doctrine as well as his criticism of scripture were affected by this theory. For in his view of fundamental doctrines, such as sin, and the redeeming work of Christ, inasmuch as his appeal was made to the collective consciousness, those aspects of doctrine only were regarded as important, or even real, which were appropriated by the consciousness, or understood by it.(766) Sin was accordingly presented rather as unholiness than as guilt before God;(767) redemption, rather as sanctification than as justification; Christ's death as a mere subordinate act in his life of self-sacrifice, not the one oblation for the world's sin;(768) atonement regarded to be the setting forth of the union of God with man; and the mode of arriving at a state of salvation,(769) to be a realisation of the union of man with God, through a kind of mystical conception of the brotherhood of Christ.(770)
Hence, as might be expected, the dogmatic reality of such doctrines as the Trinity was weakened.(771) The deity of the Son, as distinct from his superhuman character, became unimportant, save as the historical embodiment of the ideal union of God with humanity.(772) The Spirit was viewed, not as a personal agent, but as a living activity, having its seat in the Christian consciousness of the church.(773) The objective in each case was absorbed in the spiritual, as formerly in the old rationalism it had been degraded into the natural. It followed also that the Christian consciousness, thus able to find as it were a philosophy of religion, and of the material apprehended by the consciousness of inspired men, possessed an instinct to distinguish the unimportant from the important in scripture, and valued more highly the eternal ideas intended than the historic garb under which they were presented.
The ideological tendency, as it is now called,(774) the natural longing of the philosophical mind that tries to rise beyond facts into their causes, to penetrate behind phenomena into ideas, grows up in a country, as is seen by the example of ancient Greece, when the popular creed and the scientific have become discordant. Suggested in Germany by the old rationalism, it had been especially stimulated by the subjective philosophy of Kant and Fichte. Historic facts were the expression of subjective forms of thought. The Non-ego was a form, in which the Ego was expressing itself. This theory, suggested to Schleiermacher from without, fell in with his own views as above developed, and affected his critical inquiries. When he involved himself in the great questions of the higher criticism, which have been already treated in connexion with Semler, subjective criticism(775) was used in an exaggerated manner, not merely to suggest hypotheses, or to check deductions by Christian appreciation, but as a substitute a priori for historic investigation. In the controversy as to the composition of the Gospels, which will be hereafter explained, he was led, by his ideological theory and his instinctive perception of the relative importance of doctrines in theological perspective, to abandon the historical importance of miracles as compared with doctrine, and also the verity of the early history of Christ's life, considered to have been communicated by tradition; while he held fast to the moral and historical reality of the latter.(776)
These remarks must suffice to point out the position of Schleiermacher. We have seen how completely he caught the influences of his time, absorbed them, and transmitted them. If his teaching was defective in its constructive side; if he did not attain the firm grasp of objective verity which is implied in perfect doctrinal, not to say critical, orthodoxy; he at least gave the death-blow to the old rationalism, which, either from an empirical or a rational point of view, proposed to gain such a philosophy of religion as reduced it to morality. He rekindled spiritual apprehensions; he above all drew attention to the peculiar character of Christianity, as something more than the republication of natural religion, in the same manner that the Christian consciousness offered something more than merely moral experience. He set forth, however imperfectly, the idea of redemption, and the personality of the Redeemer; and awakened religious aspirations, which led his successors to a deeper appreciation of the truth as it is in Jesus. Much of his theology, and some part of his philosophy, had only a temporary interest relatively to his times; but his influence was perpetual. The faults were those of his age; the excellencies were his own. Men caught his deep love to a personal Christ, without imbibing his doctrinal opinions. His own views became more evangelical as his life went on, and the views of his disciples more deeply scriptural than those of their master. Thus the light kindled by him waxed purer and purer. The mantle remained after the prophet's spirit had ascended to the God that gave it.
In strict truth he did not found a school. Though his mind was dialectical, he had too much poetry to do this. Genius, as has been often observed, does not create a school, but kindles an influence. The university of Berlin, the very centre of intellectual greatness in every department from its foundation, was the first seat of Schleiermacher's influence; and the political importance of the capital added impulse to the movement. The reaction extended to other universities,(777) and not only marked the chief theologians of an orthodox tendency which are commonly known to us,(778)—Tholuck, Twesten, Nitzch, Julius Mueller, Olshausen,—but even modified the extreme rationalist party, and diffused its influence among theologians of the church of Rome.(779)
It is impossible to specify the views of those who were the chief representatives of the effects of Schleiermacher's teaching. One however, his friend and colleague, deserves mention, the well-known church historian Neander.(780) Brought up a Jew, he passed into Christianity, like some of the early fathers, through the gate of Platonism; and, knowing by experience that free inquiry had been the means of his own conversion, he ever stood forth with a noble courage as the advocate of full and fair investigation, feeling confidence that Christianity could endure the test. More meditative and less dialectical than Schleiermacher, and too original to be an imitator, he surpassed him in the deeper appreciation of sin and of redemption; placing sin rather in alienation of will than in the sense of discordance, and holding more firmly the existence of some objective reality in the anthropopathic expression of the wrath of God removed by Christ's death.(781) His great employment in life was history; not, like his master, philosophy and criticism. Viewing human nature from the subjective stand-point, the central thought of his historical works was, that Christianity is a life resting on a person, rather than a system resting on a dogma. Hence he was able to find the harmony of reason and faith from the human side instead of the divine, by noticing the adaptation of the divine work to human wants. The inspiration of the scriptural writers was viewed as dynamical not mechanical, spiritual not literal;(782) and Christianity as the great element of human progress, being the divine life on earth which God had kindled through the gift of his Son.(783) The great aim accordingly of Neander in his historical sketches was to exhibit the Christian church as the philosophy of history, and God's work in Christ, realised in the piety of the faithful, as the philosophy of the Christian church. The history of the church in his view is the record of the Christian consciousness in the world. The subjective and mystical spirit engendered by such a conception, was in danger of converting history into a series of biographies; but the deep influence which it possessed in contributing to foster the reaction against the old rationalism will be obvious. It becomes us to speak with reverence of the writings of a man whose labours have been the means of turning many to Christ. Though lacking form as works of art, yet, if they be compared with works of grander type, where church history has been treated as an epic, we cannot help feeling that the depth of spiritual perception and of psychological analysis compensates for the artistic defects. We are conducted by them from the outside to the inside; from things to thoughts; from institutions to doctrines; from the accidents of Christianity to the essence.
Neander's teaching, while an offshoot from Schleiermacher, marks the highest point to which the principles of the master could be carried. It advances farther in the hearty love for Christ and for revelation, and bears fewer traces of the ancient spirit of rationalism; being allied to it in few respects, save in the wish constantly exhibited to appropriate that which is believed; but the wants of the heart, not the conceptions of the understanding, are made the gauge of divine truth, and the interpreter of the divine volume.
We pointed out that the great reaction in the present century was marked not only by the philosophical and doctrinal school just described, but by a contemporaneous one, which employed itself on literary and critical inquiries in reference to the Bible, and was the continuation of the earlier rationalist criticism on improved principles. The most important name representing this critical movement in the beginning of the period was De Wette. (32) Perhaps too we may without injustice mention, as a type of it at the close of the period, a theologian who is almost too original to admit of being classified—the learned Ewald.
De Wette was nurtured amid the old rationalism of Jena, at the time of its greatest power, about the beginning of the present century; and imbibed the peculiar modification of the doctrines of Kant and Jacobi which was presented in the philosophy of Fries.(784) It was the appeal to subjective feeling thence derived which preserved him from the coldness of older critics, and caused his labours to contribute to the reaction. His works were very various; but the earlier of them were especially devoted to the examination of the Old Testament, and the later to the New.
The peculiarity of this school generally may be said to be, a disposition to investigate both Testaments for their own sake as literature, not for the further purpose of discovering doctrine. These writers are primarily literary critics, not dogmatic theologians. Like the older rationalists, they are occupied largely with biblical interpretation; but, perceiving the hollowness of their attempt to explain away moral and spiritual mysteries by reference to material events, they transfer to the Bible the theories used in the contemporary investigations in classical history, and explain the Biblical wonders by the hypothesis of legends or of myths. Though they ignore the miraculous and supernatural equally with the older rationalists, they allow the spiritual in addition to the moral and natural, and thus take a more scholarlike and elevated view of the Hebrew history and literature. The system of interpretation adopted is the transition from the previous one, which admitted the facts but explained them away, to the succeeding one of Strauss, which denies the facts, and accounts for the belief in them by psychological causes.
The wish to give a possible basis for the existence of legend, by interposing a chasm between the events and the record of them, stimulated the pursuit of the branch of criticism slightly touched on by their predecessors, which investigates the origin and date of scripture books. They transferred to the Hebrew literature the critical method by which Wolf had destroyed the unity of Homer, and Niebuhr the credibility of Livy. Not a single book,—history, poetry, or prophecy,—was left unexamined. The inquiries of this kind, instituted with reference to the book of Daniel, were alluded to in a former lecture;(785) and those which relate to the Gospels will occur hereafter.(786) At present it will only be possible to specify a single instance in illustration of these inquiries—the celebrated one which relates to the authorship and composition of the Pentateuch. It is the one to which most labour has been devoted, and is an excellent instance for exhibiting the slow but progressive improvement and growing caution shown in the mode of exercising them.(787)
As early as the time of Hobbes and Spinoza it was perceived that the Pentateuch contains a few allusions which seem to have been inserted after the time of Moses; a circumstance which they, as well as R. Simon, explained, by referring them to the sacred editor Ezra, who is thought to have arranged the canon: but about the middle of the last century a French physician, Astruc,(788) pointed out a circumstance which has introduced an entirely new element into the discussion of the question; viz. the distinction in the use of the two Hebrew names for God,—Elohim and Jehovah. It will be necessary to offer a brief explanation of this distinction, in order that we may be able to perceive the line at which fact ends and hypothesis commences, and understand the character of the criticism which we are describing.
It is now generally admitted that the word Elohim is the name for Deity, as worshipped by the Hebrew patriarchs; Jehovah, the conception of Deity which is at the root of the Mosaic theocracy.(789) El, or the plural Elohim, means literally "the powers," (the plural form being either, as some unreasonably think, a trace of early polytheism, or more probably merely emphatic,(790)) and is connected with the name for God commonly used in the Semitic nations. Jehovah(791) means "self-existent," and is the name specially communicated to the Israelites. The idea of power or superiority in the object of worship was conveyed by Elohim; that of self-existence, spirituality, by Jehovah. Elohim was generic, and could be applied to the gods of the heathen; Jehovah was specific, the covenant God of Moses. (33)
In this age, when words are separated from things, we are apt to lose sight of the importance of the difference of names in an early age of the world. The modern investigations however of comparative mythology enable us to realize the fact, that in the childhood of the world words implied real differences in things; not merely in our conceptions, but in the thing conceived.(792) But the explanations above offered will show that, independently of the general law of mind just noticed, a really different moral conception was offered by Providence to the Hebrew mind through the employment of these two words.
Nor was the difference unknown or forgotten in later ages of Jewish history. The fifty-third Psalm, for example, is a repetition of the fourteenth with the name Elohim altered into Jehovah. In the two first of the five books into which the Psalms are divided, the arrangement has been thought to be not unconnected with the distinction of these names.(793) In the book of Job also the name Jehovah is used in the headings of the speeches of the dialogues; but in the speeches of Job's friends, as not being Israelites, the name Elohim is used.(794) In the book of Nehemiah the name Elohim is almost always used, and in Ezra, Jehovah; and in the composition of proper names, which in ancient times were not merely, as now, symbolical, the names El and Jah respectively are employed in all ages of the Hebrew nation: and, though no exact law can be detected, it seems probable that in the great regal and prophetic age the name Jehovah was especially used. (34)
These remarks will both explain the difference of conception existing in the Hebrew names of Deity, and show that the Jews were aware of the distinction to a late period. When we advance farther, we pass from the region of fact into conjecture.
The distinctness of conception implied in the two names has been made the basis of an hypothesis, in which they are used for discovering different elements in the Pentateuch. Throughout the book of Genesis especially, and slightly elsewhere,(795) the critics that we are describing have supposed that they detect at least two distinct narratives, with peculiarities of style, and differences or repetitions of statement; which they have therefore regarded as proofs of the existence of different documents in the composition of the Pentateuch; an Elohistic, in which the name Elohim, and a Jehovistic, in which the name Jehovah was used; upon the respective dates of which they have formed conjectures.
Though we may object to these hazardous speculations, we shall perceive the alteration and increasing caution displayed in the criticism, if we trace briefly the successive opinions held on this particular subject.
Astruc, who first dwelt on the distinction, regarded the separate works to be anterior to Moses, and to have been used by him in the construction of the Pentateuch.(796) Eichhorn took the same view, but advanced the inquiry by a careful discrimination of the peculiarities which he thought to belong to each. Vater followed, and allowed the possibility of one collector of the narratives, but denied that it could be Moses. Thus far was the work of the older critical school of rationalists. It was purely anatomical and negative. It is at this point that we perceive the alteration effected by the school which we are now contemplating.
De Wette strove to penetrate more deeply into the question of the origin, and to attain a positive result. His discussion was marked by minute study; and he changed the test for distinguishing the documents from the simple use of the names to more uncertain characteristics, which depended upon internal peculiarities of style and manner. The conclusion to which he came was, that the mass of the Pentateuch is based on the Elohistic document, with passages supplemented from the Jehovistic; and he referred the age of both to a rather late part of the regal period. Ewald, with great learning and delicacy of handling, has reconsidered the question(797) and, though arriving at a most extraordinary theory as to the manifold documents which have supplied the materials for the work, has thrown to a much earlier period the authorship of the main portion; and the views of later critics are gradually tending in the same direction. Both study the Pentateuch as uninspired literature; but De Wette absurdly regarded it as an epic created by the priests, in the same manner as the Homeric epic by the rhapsodes: Ewald on the contrary considers it to be largely historic.(798)
This statement of mere results, too brief to exhibit the critical acumen shown at different points of the inquiry even where it is most full of peril, will show the increasing learning displayed, and the appreciation of valuable literary characteristics. It will be perceived that prepossessions still predominate over this criticism; but they are of a different kind from those which existed earlier. They are not the result of moral objections to the narratives, but of the contemporary critical spirit in secular literature. The discrepancy of result obtained by the process is a fair practical argument which proves its uncertainty; but its adherents allow that both in art and literature internal evidence admits of few canons, and consequently that the result of criticism could only admit of probability.
The general summary of the movement shows a steady advance in criticism, as was before shown in doctrine, toward a higher and more spiritual standard. It is not the recognition of the inspired authority of scripture, but it is some approach to it. Instead of the hasty denunciation of narratives or of books as imposture, seen in the Wolfenbuettel Fragments, or the merely rationalist view of Eichhorn and Paulus, we perceive the recognition of spiritual and psychological mysteries as subjects of examination; and even when the result established is altogether unsatisfactory, valuable materials have been collected for future students. If we were to abandon our position of traditional orthodoxy, and accept that of Schleiermacher in doctrine, or of De Wette in criticism, it would be a retrogression; but for the Germans of their time it was a progress from doubt towards faith. It was not orthodoxy, but it was the first approach to it.
This double aspect, philosophical and critical, of the reaction, brings us to the end of the second period in the history of German theological thought.
It has already been stated that the elements of other movements existed, which were hereafter to develope; and that one of these was an attempt, originating in the philosophy of Hegel, to reconstruct the harmony of reason and faith from the intellectual, as distinct from the emotional side. It bore some analogy to the gnosticism of the early church; and the critical side of it gave birth to Strauss.
We have traced the antecedent causes which produced rationalism, and two out of the three periods into which we divided the history of it. We are halting before reaching the final act of the drama; but we already begin to see the direction in which the plot is developing.
It is when a great movement of mind or of society can be thus viewed as a whole, in its antecedents and its consequents, that we can form a judgment on its real nature, and estimate its purpose and use. As in viewing works of art, so in order to observe correctly the great works of God's natural providence, we must reduce them to their true perspective. It is the peculiarity of great movements of mind, that when so viewed they do not appear to be all shadow and formless, nor acts of meaningless impiety. They are products of intellectual antecedents, and perform their function in history. In nothing is the Divine image stamped on humanity, or the moral providence of God in the world, more visible, than in the circumstance, of which we have already had frequent proofs, that thought and honest inquiry, if allowed to act freely, without being repressed by material or political interference, but checked only by spiritual and moral influences, gradually attain to truth, appropriating goodness, and rejecting evil. Thought seems to run on unrestrained, stimulated by human caprice, sometimes by sinful wilfulness; yet it is seen really to be restrained by limits that are not of its own creation. In the world of conscious mind, as in unconscious matter, God hath set a law that shall not be broken. Reason, which creates the doubts, also allays them. It rebukes the unbelief of impiety, making the wrath of man to praise God; and guides the honest inquirer to truth.
A period of doubt is always sad; but it would be an unmixed woe for an individual or a nation, if it were not made, in the order of a merciful Providence, the transition to a more deeply-seated faith. It is a means, not an end.
You tell me, doubt is devil-born.
I know not; one indeed I knew In many a subtle question versed, Who touch'd jarring lyre at first, But ever strove to make it true:
Perplext in faith, but not in deeds, At last he beat his music out. There lives more faith in honest doubt, Believe me, than in half the creeds.
He fought his doubts, and gathered strength, He would not make his judgment blind, He faced the spectres of the mind And laid them: thus he came at length
To find a stronger faith his own.(799)
Religious truth is open to those who will seek it with humility and prayer.
In addition to the natural action of reason, the fatherly pity of God is nigh, to give help to all that ask it, and that endeavour to sanctify their studies to His honour. Even though the search be long, and a large portion of life be spent in the agony of baffled effort, the mind reaps improvement from its heart-sorrows, and at last receives the reward of its patient faith. "Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."(800) If we are thankful to be spared the sorrows of the doubter, let us admire the wisdom and mercy shown in the process by which Providence rescues men or nations from the state of doubt. "The Lord God omnipotent reigneth;"(801) and He shall reign for ever and ever.
LECTURE VII. FREE THOUGHT: IN GERMANY SUBSEQUENTLY TO 1835; AND IN FRANCE DURING THE PRESENT CENTURY.
MATT. xiii. 52.
Every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.
The last lecture was brought to a close before we reached the final forms assumed by German theology. In the present one we must complete the narrative; and afterwards carry on the history of free thought in France, as affected by the influence of German literature, from the period at which the narrative was previously interrupted to the present time.
We have noticed the traces of the reaction in favour of orthodoxy, which was produced in Germany by the influence of Schleiermacher. We treated the philosophical side of the movement, the vindication of the distinctness of religion and ethics; and also witnessed the improved tone in the critical, tending, if not to the recognition of a supernatural character in the holy scriptures, yet to a more spiritual appreciation of their literary characteristics, and of the psychological peculiarity of the facts recorded. We adverted also, in conclusion, to a rival philosophical influence, springing from the teaching of Hegel, which assisted the reaction by seeking a philosophical reconstruction of religion, though from a different point of view from Schleiermacher.
It was this school which gave origin to the subsequent movements in Germany. The sudden alteration in German thought induced by Strauss, which ushers in the modern period, arose from the union of the philosophical principles of this school with the criticism of that of De Wette. We must therefore endeavour to understand this movement, which forms the turning point between the reaction before described, which is the second of the three general divisions made of this portion of history,(802) and the forms which succeed constituting the third division. Hegel,(803) a name almost as important in its influence on the German mind as that of Goethe, has been already mentioned(804) as the last of that band of philosophers which strove to develop the mental as distinct from the material principle, presented in Kant's philosophy. Kant had completed the process of turning man's search inward, which Descartes had begun. Philosophy became psychology; the discovery of the limits of knowledge, rather than of the nature of the thing known. We have seen that Fichte and Schelling, not content with this result, had sought, though by opposite processes, to escape from this limited knowledge; to attain an ontology as well as a psychology. All philosophy aims at attaining a knowledge of reality, either a posteriori by means of generalisation, or a priori from the data of mind. These two philosophers strove to attain it by the latter mode; but their method either lacked system, or failed in its results: their philosophy was poetry rather than logic. Hegel followed in their steps, but adopted a basis which admitted of being developed in a formal system. The logical rigour of his method, and the encyclopaedic grasp which it gave over knowledge, partly accounted, as in the case of Spinoza or of Wolff, for its popularity. The universe was to be interpreted from the mind; the laws of thought were the laws of things. The microcosm and the macrocosm were one; thought, and the mind that thinks; or, more truly, both were phases of the universal mind which was unfolding. The mind of man could transcend the limits of the finite and phenomenal; and, being able to apprehend the idea, the νοούμενον, absolutely, without condition, thus possessed the solution of any branch of universal knowledge by an a priori process. The problem of philosophy was, to find the laws of this evolution in thought, to catch the ideal when it strives to become immanent and to manifest itself in the actual.
Without attempting here to explain the kind of threefold process, (35) according to which this evolution takes place, it is better, as in the case of the former philosophies named, to exhibit the influence of the general method rather than the effects of particular theories inculcated by it.
The method had many advantages, in displacing a low materialism, in stimulating loftiness of conception, and generating an historic study of every subject, by its view of the universe as a development; and also created a largeness of sympathy with differing views, by regarding all things as in transition, relative, true only in reference to their contradictory; and by considering all hypotheses to contain a germ of right, and to be the result of partial views of truth; but it will also be obvious, that the method had its evil effects. For, when applied to any department, it produced a disposition to seize the principle, the idea, of which the concrete is the embodiment; to descend from the type upon the individual. Its method was deductive and idealistic; giving being to abstractions, like the realism of the middle ages. It lost the fact in the principle; it personified the genus. Philosophy became a vast mythology.
When applied to Christianity, for example, it did not attempt to find a philosophic ground for it psychologically in the human aspirations, as Schleiermacher had done,(805) but objectively in the dogma. It discovered the ideal truth in religion, and regarded Christianity and Christ as being the manifestation of the effort of the great Spirit of the universe to convert the idea into act; the symbol which expressed the speculative truth of the essential unity of the ideal and the real, of the divine and the human. Like the ancient Gnosticism, it believed in dogmatic Christianity, because it descended upon it from an a priori principle, in which it found the explanation of it. Religion and philosophy were reconciled, because religion was made a phase of philosophy.
This system was taught by its founder at Berlin from about 1820 to 1830, contemporary with that of Schleiermacher; and the learned theologian Marheinecke(806) is the name best known of those who applied it to theology. It was regarded at that time as an instrument of orthodoxy.(807) It had the advantage over the old rationalism, in that while using similarity of method in seeking to explain mysteries, it did not pare them down, but absorbed them in principles of philosophy; and over the school of Schleiermacher, in that it was less subjective, less a matter of feeling, supplying a doctrine and not merely a spirit; and therefore it satisfied the longing of the mind for dogmatic truth, and at the same time more readily linked itself, ecclesiastically with churchlike and corporate tendencies, and politically with conservative and autocratic ones. Yet it is easy to see that its spirit was really far less Christian than Schleiermacher's. For it not only confused again philosophy and religion, which his system had severed, but it proudly claimed to explain doctrines rationally where his had only sought to appropriate them intuitionally. It verged towards pantheism. It was in danger of losing the historic fact in the idea; of encouraging, as it is now sometimes called, the "ideological tendency;"(808) whereas with Schleiermacher, the historic belief had only been regarded as less important than the emotional apprehension. Its a priori spirit created also a depreciation of the investigations which had been pursued by the critical school. It gave encouragement to the study of history; but it was to the history of philosophy, not to the investigations conducted by historical criticism.
Such was the system which, along with those described in the last lecture, was regarded as contributing to favour orthodox reaction, and was disputing theological preeminence with that of Schleiermacher, when a work was published by one of its disciples, which was the means, through the ferment produced, of altering completely the whole tone and course of German thought. It was the celebrated Life of Jesus by Strauss,(809) a criticism on the four biographies given in the gospels; a work in which the whole destructive movement was concentrated, with such singular ability and clearness, that hardly any work of theology has subsequently been written without some notice of the propositions there maintained.
It presented a double aspect: it was both philosophical and critical. Strauss added to a general admission of the Hegelian point of view a love for the critical studies so much neglected by that party. Brought up in the moderate orthodoxy of Tuebingen, he had studied at Berlin under Schleiermacher, but caught the critical rather than the philosophical side of that master's teaching, and especially interested himself in the solution of the question relating to the origin and credibility of the Gospels, already partially considered in the critical inquiries of the old rationalism, and of the school of De Wette. It was an investigation which in its nature, in the spirit in which it was decided, and in its similarity to the contemporaneous discussions of classical criticism, bore a close resemblance to that before described in reference to the Pentateuch. A few words of explanation concerning it are necessary, previous to the statement of the nature of Strauss's work.(810)
As early as the last century the resemblance between the three "synoptical" Evangelists had excited attention; and examination was directed to discover the cause. Some, as Wetstein,(811) supposed that one or two of the Gospels were borrowed from the third; others, as Michaelis(812) and Eichhorn, that the three were all derived from one common original, now lost; others, as Schleiermacher, that they were composed from many detached written narratives; others, as Herder, and subsequently Gieseler, that they were the committal to writing of the oral tradition common in the church. Thus, whether the Gospels were regarded as copies, or as being composed from earlier documents, or from primitive tradition, the effect was, that they were reduced to the level of natural testimony, and instead of being three witnesses they became one. The fourth Gospel also was involved in uncertainty. Bretschneider added the full examination of it, and provoked a discussion concerning the alleged disagreement of its tone and statements with those of the synoptists.(813) Thus a chasm was introduced between the events and the record of them; and the testimony was reduced to traditional evidence.
This alteration in the critical attempt to shake the evidence of independent authorship had been accompanied by a corresponding change in the interpretation, as seen in the assaults made on the credibility of the facts narrated. In the hands of the English deists and of Reimarus this attack had been an allegation against the moral character of the writer. In Eichhorn and Paulus the imputation of collusion had been superseded by the rationalistic interpretation, which, without denying the historical recital, denied the supernatural, and explained it away by reference to the peculiarities of time at which the events were described. The next step was to transfer the doubt to the recital itself, and to find, in the absence of contemporary evidence for the events, the possibility for legend, and, in the antecedent expectation of them, the possibility for myth.
This was the state of the critical question with regard to the Gospels when the work of Strauss appeared. The Hegelian philosophy gave him the constructive side of his work, and criticism the destructive. Setting out with the preconception which had lain at the basis of German philosophy and theology since Kant, that the idea was more important than the fact,(814) the mythical interpretation of history furnished to him the medium for applying this conception as an engine of criticism.
The mythical system of interpretation, though slightly suggested by his predecessors in criticism, was Strauss's great work. The difference between allegory, legend, and myth, is well known. Our blessed Lord's miracles would be allegories, if they were, as Woolston claimed, parables intentionally invented for purposes of moral instruction, or facts which had a mystical as well as literal meaning: they would be legends if, while containing a basis of fact, they were exaggerated by tradition: they would be myths if, without really occurring, they were the result of a general preconception that the Messiah ought to do mighty works, which thus gradually became translated into fact. A legend is a group of ideas round a nucleus of fact: a myth is an idea translated by mental realism into fact. A legend proceeds upwards into the past; a myth downwards into the future.(815) Strauss's peculiarity consisted in trying to show that if a small basis of fact, heightened by legend, be allowed in the gospel history, the influence of myth is a psychological cause sufficient to explain the remainder. The idea is regarded as prior to the fact: the need of a deliverer, he pretends, created the idea of a saviour: the misinterpretation of old prophecy presented conditions which in the popular mind must be fulfilled by the Messiah. The gospel history is regarded as the attempt of the idea to realise itself in fact.
The fundamental fallacy of the inquiry is apparent from one consideration. Legends are possible in any age; myths, strictly so called, only in the earliest ages of a nation. Comparative philology has lately shown that mythology is connected with the formation of language, and restricted to an early period of the world's history.(816) But the encouragement offered to the mythic interpretation by Hegel's philosophy will be apparent. The mythus embodying itself in the facts of the gospel was the miniature of the process of universal nature. Everywhere the idea strives for realisation.
The scheme of Strauss formed the link between philosophy and criticism. Philosophy had explained the doctrines of Christianity, but not the facts of Christian history. Criticism had explained the facts by historical examination, but not by philosophy. Strauss attempted, for the first time, to present the philosophical explanation of facts as well as doctrines. He explained them, neither by charge of fraud, nor by historical causes, but by reference to the operation of a psychological law, the same which the Hegelian philosophy regarded as exemplified universally. Early Christian fiction was resolved into a psychological law, regulated by a definite law of suggestion, of which plausible instances were traced. The gospel history was regarded to be partly a creation out of nothing, partly an adaptation of real facts to preconceived ideas. This same philosophy, which thus contributed to the critical or destructive side of the theory, also furnished the reconstructive. The facts in Christianity were temporary, the ideas eternal. Christ was the type of humanity. (36) His life and death and resurrection were the symbol of the life, death, and resurrection, of humanity. The former were unimportant, the latter eternal. An exoteric religion for the people might exhibit the one: the esoteric for the philosopher might retain the other.(817)
This is Strauss's system and position. The book itself comprises three parts;—first, an historic introduction, in which the history of previous criticism and of Hermeneutics, and of the formation of the mythical theory is most ably presented:(818)—secondly, the main body of the work, which consists of a critical examination of the life of Christ,(819) subdivided into three parts; viz. an examination of the birth and childhood of Jesus,(820) of his public life,(821) and of his death;(822) the object of which is to point out in the narrative the historic or mythic elements:—and thirdly, a philosophical conclusion,(823) in which the doctrinal significance of the life is given. As a specimen of didactic and critical writing it is perhaps unrivalled in the German literature. The second part is the embodiment of all the difficulties which destructive criticism had presented. If the historic sketches captivate by their clearness, the critical do so by their surprising acuteness and dialectical power; and the philosophical by the appreciation of the ideal beauty of the very doctrines, the historic embodiment of which is denied. It is the work of a mind endowed with remarkable analytical power; in which the force of reflective theory has overwhelmed the intuitional perception of the personality and originality of the sacred character which is the subject of his study.(824)
The effect of the publication of the work was astonishing. It produced a religious panic unequalled since the Wolfenbuettel fragments. The first impulse of the Prussian government was to prevent the introduction of the book into the Prussian kingdom; but Neander stood up to resist the proposal, with a courage which showed his firm confidence in the permanent victory of truth; saying that it must be answered by argument, not suppressed by force; and forthwith wrote his own beautiful work on the life of Christ in reply to it. Yet neither the peculiarity of Strauss's theory nor the nature of the work gave ground for the panic. For the book was in truth not a novelty, but merely a fuller development of principles already existing in Germany; and Schleiermacher, before his death, when contemplating the tendency of religious criticism, had predicted(825) the probability of such an attempt being made. Nor was the work irreligious and blasphemous in its spirit, like the attacks of the last century. It professed to be executed solely in the interests of science; and, though subversive of historic religion, to be conservative of ideal. The critical part was only a means to an end; its real basis was speculative. But the literary aspect of the question was lost sight of in the religious. The heart spoke forth its terror at the idea of losing its most sacred hope, the object of its deepest trust, an historic Saviour. The alarm had not been anticipated by the author of the attack. He is described by a hostile critic(826) as a "young man full of candour, of sweetness, and modesty, of a spirit almost mystical, and as it were saddened by the disturbance which had been occasioned." But he became a martyr for his act, and an outcast from the sympathy of religious men. Unable to exercise his singular gifts of teaching in any professorship, he has continued to write from time to time literary monographs of more defiant tone; proofs of his ability, but vehicles for the expression of his opinions. (37)
The effect on the different theological critics throughout Germany, both friendly and hostile, was so remarkable, that the year 1835, in which the book was published, is as memorable in theology as the year 1848 in politics. The work carried criticism and philosophy to its farthest limits, and demanded from theologians of all classes a thorough reconsideration of the subject of the origines of Christianity.(827) The ablest theologians either wrote in refutation of it, or reconsidered their own opinions by the light of its criticisms. (38) The alarm at the loss of the historic basis of Christianity created a strong reaction in favour of the Lutheran orthodoxy, the commencement of which has already been named;(828) and gave the death-blow, not only to the Hegelian school, but almost to the passion for ontological speculation in Germany. While some thus assumed a churchly and conservative aspect, others outstripped Strauss, and, uniting with French positivism, advanced into utter pantheism and materialism.
The Hegelian party, to which Strauss belonged, and which would fain have been excused from this reductio ad absurdum of its principles,(829) became split into sections through the various attempts made to parry the blow, and reconstruct their system on the philosophical side. The critical tendency had now too found a home, by means of Strauss's work, among the Hegelians; and this led to the creation of a new school of historical criticism to be hereafter described, which arose in Strauss's own university of Tuebingen.(830)
We have now explained the circumstances attending the change which closed the second and introduced the third period in German theology.
In this third period, which is that of contemporary thought, we may distinguish four broadly marked tendencies; three within the church, and one directly infidel in character outside of it.(831)
The last named, which we shall describe first, started from Strauss's position, and advanced still farther. It sprang from the destructive side of the Hegelian philosophy, and has sometimes been named the young Hegelian school. From the first it lacked the air of respect toward religion which Strauss did not throw aside in his work; and it also extended itself from theology to politics.
Bruno Bauer,(832) a Professor at Berlin, by turning suddenly round from the most orthodox to the most heterodox position in his school, may be classed with Strauss in his method, though not in his spirit. He carried out Strauss's critical examination of the Gospels with a coarse ridicule; and extended it by denying the historic basis of fact, and imputing the myth to the personal creation of the individual writer. But his successors advanced even farther. As Bauer developed the critical side of Strauss, Feuerbach(833) and Ruge(834) developed the philosophical, and destroyed the very idea of religion itself, by showing that the idea of God or of religion is of human construction, the giving objective existence to an idea. The aspiration, instead of guaranteeing the existence of an object toward which it is directed, is represented as creating it. This was the final result of the subjective point of view of the Kantian philosophy, and of the idealism of Hegel. Reason must, it was pretended, be followed, to whatever extent it contradicts the feelings. Theology becomes anthropology; religion, mythology; pantheism, atheism; man, collective humanity, becomes the sole object of the belief and respect which had been previously given to Deity; religion vanishes in morality. The love of man becomes the substitute for the love of God. This was a position analogous to that which positivism reached in France, but from a mental instead of a physical point of view. This form of thought found expression in literature through the poetry of Heine,(835) and linked itself with political theories of communism more extreme than the contemporary ones in France.
Still the lowest point was not reached: religion was treated as a psychological peculiarity, and the virtue of benevolence recognised. But when religion was felt to be only an idea, and the belief of the supernatural to be the great obstacle to political reform, an intense feeling of antipathy was aroused; and Schmidt,(836) under the pseudonym of Stirner, reached the naturalistic point of view held by Volney, the worship of self-love. This new school, which had arisen in the few years subsequent to Strauss's work, mingled itself with the revolutionary movements of Germany in 1848, and was the means of exciting the alarm which caused the suppression of them. Since that date the school has been extinct as a literary movement.
The tendency just described was entirely destructive. The three others, which remain for consideration, exist within the church, and are in their nature reconstructive, and aim at repelling the attacks of Strauss and of other previous critics. The one that we shall describe first is that which is most rationalistic, and approaches most nearly to Strauss's views; and is frequently called, from the Swabian university which has been its stronghold, the Tuebingen school.(837) It is a lineal offshoot in some slight degree from the school of Hegel, and more decidedly from the critical school of De Wette, before named. But it stands contrasted with the latter by caution, as marked as that which separates recent critics(838) of Roman history from earlier ones, like Niebuhr. Like Strauss, it restricts its attention to the New Testament; but it is a direct reaction against his inclination to undervalue the historical element. The great problem presented to it is, to reconstruct the history of early Christianity, to reinvestigate the genesis of the gospel biographies and doctrine. Declining to approach the books of the New Testament with dogmatic preconceptions, it breaks with the past, and interprets them by the historic method; proposing for its fundamental principle to interpret scripture exactly like any other literary work. Pretending that after the ravages of criticism, the Gospels cannot be regarded as true history, but only as miscellaneous materials for true history, it takes its stand on four of the Epistles of St. Paul, the genuineness of which it cannot doubt, and finds in the struggle of Jew and Gentile its theory of Christianity.(839) Christianity is not regarded as miraculous, but as an offshoot of Judaism, which received its final form by the contest of the Petrine or Judaeo-Christian party, and the Pauline or Gentile; which contest is considered by it not to have been decided till late in the second century. By the aid of this theory, constructed from the few books which it admits to be of undoubted genuineness, it guides itself in the examination of the remainder, tracing them to party interests which determined their aim, pronouncing on their object and date by reference to it.(840) In this way it arrives at most extraordinary conclusions in reference to some of them. Not one single book, except four of St. Paul's Epistles, is regarded to be authentic. The Gospel called that of St. John is considered as a treatise of Alexandrian philosophy, written late in the second century to support the theory of the Λόγος. It will thus be perceived that the inquiry, though it professes to be objective, yet has a subjective cast.
The leader of this school was Christian Baur, (39) lately deceased; a man of large erudition; a wonder of acuteness even in Germany; distinguished for the extraordinary ability displayed in his reply to the attacks made on Protestantism by the celebrated Roman catholic theologian Moehler: and though the doctrinal result of the school is ethics or pure Socinianism and naturalism, and the critical opinions obviously are most extravagant, the sagacity and learning shown in the monographs published by it make them some of the most instructive, as sources of information, in modern theology, to those who know how to use them aright. From an orthodox point of view the effect of the school is most destructive; but, if viewed in reference to the preceding schools, it manifests a tenacious hold over the historic side of Christianity, and has affected in a literary way the schools formerly described, which claim lineage from the older critics.
As the tendency just described is the modern representative of the older critical schools; so the next holds a similar position to the philosophical.
The school is frequently on this account described by the same name, of "Mediation theology,"(841) originally applied to Schleiermacher, because it attempts to unite science with faith, a true use of reason with a belief in scripture. It comprises the chief theological names of Germany, some of whom were disciples of Schleiermacher, others of the orthodox portion of the Hegelian party. Their object is not simply, like the revivers of Lutheran orthodoxy, to surrender the judgment to an external authority in the church, nor to give unbounded liberty to it like the critical school: not going back like the one to the ancient faith of the church, nor progressing like the other to new discoveries in religion, they seek to understand that which they believe, to find a philosophy for religion and Christianity.
Two theologians stand out above the others, as evincing vitality of thought, and boldly attempting to grapple with the philosophical problems;—Dorner(842) and Rothe,(843) both very original, but bearing traces of the influence of their predecessors. The former, moulded by the Hegelian school, investigates the Christological problem which lies at the basis of Christianity; the latter, moulded rather by the school of Schleiermacher, has attempted the cosmological, which lies at the basis of religion and providence.
The work of Dorner on "the Person of Christ" formed an epoch in German theology, by its fulness of learning, its orthodoxy of tone, and its union of speculative powers with historic erudition. The Christian doctrine of the incarnation is, that God and man have been united in an historic person as the essential condition for effecting human salvation. If the doctrine be viewed on the speculative side, the problem is to show a priori that this historic union ought to exist; if viewed on the historic, to prove that it has existed as a fact. The great aim of the Christology of the Hegelian system was to effect the former; the aim of Strauss was to destroy the latter. Dorner strove to reconstruct the doctrine, by making the historical study of its progress the means of supplying the elements of information for doing so. He commences by an examination of other religions,(844) in order at once to show the existence in them of blind attempts to realise that truth which the incarnation supplied, and to prove the impossibility that the Christian doctrine can have been borrowed from human sources, as the critical and mythical interpreters would assume. He discovers in all religions the desire to unite man to God; but shows(845) that the Christian doctrine cannot have been derived from the oriental, which humanised God; nor from the Greek, which deified man; nor from the Hebrew in its Palestinian form, which degraded the idea of the incarnate God into a temporal Messiah; nor in its Alexandrian form, which never reached, in its theory of the Λόγος, the idea of the distinction of person of the Son from the Father. Thus establishing the originality of the idea in Christianity, and exhibiting it as the fulfilment of the world's yearnings, he traces it in the teaching of the apostles, and of the apostolic age,(846) next as marking the different heretical sects,(847) which respectively lost sight of one of the two elements, till he finds the church's explicit statement of the doctrine in its fulness;(848) and then pursues it onwards through the course of history to the present time.(849) Though the work is to an English mind difficult, through the air of speculation which pervades it, and perhaps open to exception in some of its positions; yet, viewed as a whole, it is a magnificent argument in favour of Christianity; exhibiting the incarnation as the satisfaction for the world's wants, as the original and independent treasure in Christianity; and showing the process through which Providence in history has caused the doctrine to be evolved and preserved.
The other great problem, the origin of things, and the relation of God to the world, which is at the basis of religion, as the incarnation is at the basis of Christianity, has been less frequently handled. Originally discussed, like the latter, in controversy with the early unbelievers, it had been touched upon in the speculations of Averroes and Spinoza, in the materialism of French infidelity, and in the earlier systems of speculative philosophy in Germany itself. It was this problem which was attempted by Rothe. (40) Advancing beyond this first question, he has considered the scheme of Providence in the development of religion, and the theory of the Christian church in relation to political society. It is unnecessary here to explain his system: his mind is too original to admit of comparison without injustice; yet the speculations of our own Coleridge, who on philosophical principles makes the state to be the realisation of the church, will perhaps give some imperfect conception of the character of his attempts.
This second school that we have been considering, though approximating extremely nearly to orthodoxy, and furnishing the works of most value in the modern theology, yet seeks to approach religion from the psychological or philosophical side. It speculates freely, and believes revelation because it finds it to coincide with the discoveries of free thought. But there is a third tendency, which believes revelation without professing to understand it; which rests on the revelation in scripture as an objective verity, and believes the Bible on the ground of evidence, without questioning its material.(850)
The first germ of this reaction in favour of rigid orthodoxy was observable in the feeling aroused by the theses of Harms, in 1817, already named, on occasion of the celebration of the tricentenary of the Reformation; but it was quickened by the attempts, initiated by the Prussian king, between the years 1821 and 1830, to unite the Lutheran and Calvinistic branches of the Protestant church.(851)
The time seemed then to thoughtful men a fitting one, when doctrines were either regarded as unimportant or superseded by the religious consciousness, to unite these two churches under the bond of a common nationality, and the practice of a common liturgy. But the old Lutheran spirit, which still survived in the retirement of country parishes, was aroused, and some pastors underwent deprivation and persecution rather than submit to the union.(852) This new movement at first caught the spirit of pietism, just as had been the case with that of Schleiermacher; but gradually abandoned it for a dogmatic and churchlike aspect, as he for a scientific expression. Its aim was to return to the Lutheranism of the sixteenth century, and to rally round the confessions of faith of that period. Hengstenberg(853) at Berlin, and Haevernick,(854) are the names best known as representing this party at the period of which we speak. Their efforts were directed to criticism rather than to doctrine, to reconstruct the basis for Christianity in Judaism by defending the authenticity and credibility of the ancient scriptures. In doctrine and the canon, they reverted to the position of the Reformation. But the alarm ensuing upon the work of Strauss, in 1835, invested this movement with a more reactionary character; and the journal(855) which gave expression to Hengstenberg's views, gradually assumed the character of an ecclesiastical censorship, frequently marked by defiance and severity, like the tone of Luther of old.
The panic caused by the revolutions of 1848 gave increased stimulus, by adding a political reaction to the religious. The extreme rationalist party had favoured the Revolution, and the school of Schleiermacher had supported the schemes for constitutional government. In the suppression of liberty which ensued for about ten years, the orthodox movement in theology united itself with the reaction in political. Absolute government was not merely a fact, but a doctrine. The theological reaction was no longer the spiritual aspiration of Germany seeking repose after doubt, but a political movement veiled under an ecclesiastical colour. The result has been, the creation of a Lutheran party far more extreme in its opinions than the one just described;—the political leader of which in the Prussian parliament was the jurist Stahl;(856)—intolerant towards other churches, suspicious of any independent associations for religious usefulness in its own, disowning pietism because of its unchurchlike character, and in its principles going back beyond the Reformation, discarding the subjective inward principle, and reposing on the objective authority of the church. Taking a political view of religion, it does not so much ask what is truth, but what the church asserts to be true. Though not offending popular prejudices by the introduction of Romish doctrines or rites, it really reposes on the Romish principle of a visible authoritative church with mystical powers, upholding a rigid sacramental theory and the doctrine of consubstantiation. Extending the sacramental efficacy to the ministerial office, and denying communion between God and the individual soul independently of the church as the element of communication.(857) Yet it contains many honoured names, and has produced many instructive works. The movement in English theology, which originated a generation ago in the panic caused by the liberal acts of the government which was introduced by the reform act,(858) offers a parallel; with the exception that the ecclesiastical principles then advocated had always had supporters in the English church, whereas they were nearly new in the Lutheran. The Lutheran movement too, only proposes to go back to the Reformation, the English ecclesiastical movement professed to go back to the early fathers. (41)
While the church has thus attempted a renovation of itself in doctrine, the value of which some will dispute, all will allow thankfully that there has been a deep increase of spiritual life throughout the German churches. Religion indeed had never died out; but in the retirement of country districts(859) the flame of divine love still burned with unextinguished glory. This spiritual fire has now spread, and expressed itself in acts of earnest life. Foreign missions have been promoted;(860) an inner or home mission established for schools, and other religious agency;(861) and an annual ecclesiastical diet(862) constituted, for promoting co-operation and ecclesiastical improvement.(863)
These three separate movements of the present age, even when incorrect, have contributed something to form a perfect theology. In the orthodox school we see the attempt to return to the Bible, as interpreted by the Reformation; in the mediation school, as interpreted by the religious consciousness; in the critical school, as interpreted by historic and critical methods.
We have now completed the history of the great movement in German theology, in its two elements, doctrinal and critical. Commencing in the first period,—in doctrine, with the disbelief of positive religion, replacing dogma by ethics; and in criticism, supplying a rationalistic interpretation: in the second, it was improved on the doctrinal side by the separation of religion and ethics; and on the critical by a spiritual acknowledgment of the literary characteristics and psychological peculiarities of revelation: in the third, by a total reconstruction of both inquiries, in a more historic and orthodox spirit; and by the creation of a traditionalist position in reference to each. The solution of the problem how to reconcile faith and reason, was attempted in the first by obliterating faith; in the second by uniting them; in the third by separating them. The whole movement stands remarkable, not only as being the most singular instance in history, where the action of free thought can be watched in its intellectual stages, disconnected in a great degree from emotional causes, and where the effort was exercised by the friends of religion, not by foes; but also in the circumstance that though referable to the influence of similar intellectual causes as former epochs of free thought, it is characterised by wholly different forms of them.
We have found, on nearer inspection, as might be anticipated in any great movement of mind, that instead of being without purpose, and a mere heap of ruins, there was a plan and method in it. It is a history which offers much cause for sorrow and much for joy. Though, as has been before remarked, a period of harrowing doubt in the life of an individual or a nation is a melancholy subject for consideration, yet when it is not induced by immorality, but produced, as in this instance, by the operation of regular causes, and is the result of the attractiveness of new modes of inquiry which invited application to the criticism of old truths, to be accepted or rejected after being fully tested; there is something to relieve the dreariness of the prospect. And when we look to the result, there is abundant cause for thankfulness. The agitation of free thought has produced permanent contributions to theology. Extravagant and shocking as some of the inquiries have been, and injurious in a pastoral point of view, being the utterance of men who had made shipwreck of faith; yet in a scientific, hardly one has been wholly lost, and few could be spared in building up the temple of truth. In criticism, in exegesis, in doctrine, in history alike, how much more is known than before the movement commenced: and what light has been thrown on that which is the very foundation problem, the just limits of inquiry in religion. Each earnest writer has contributed some fragment of information. At each point error was met by an apologetic literature, rivalling it in learning and depth; reason was conquered by reason; and though we cannot help rejoicing that we are able to reap the results of the experience, without undergoing the peril of acquiring it, yet we must acknowledge that the free and full discussion has in the end resulted in truth: the very error has stimulated discovery. So far from being a warning against having confidence in the exercise of inquiry, it is an unanswerable ground for reposing confidence in it.