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all works written in opposition to religion, and neglected or con-
demned those in its favour. This work was commenced in 17G5,
and increased to 118 volumes. The influence of this work was
far greater than any such review could have at present.

4. The influence of the philosophy of Wolf, out of which the
Popular Philosophy arose. Wolf's philosophy contained a princi-
ple which operated fatally, not only against revelation, but against
inward piety. It pretended to be able to demonstrate the truths
of revelation in a mathematical manner upon principles of reason,
which subjected these truths to the spirit of speculation. It made
also the broadest distinction between natural and revealed religion.
It did not indeed deny the latter, but it accustomed the people to
consider them as different ; and as the truths of natural religion
were represented as so firmly grounded, many were induced to
embrace them as sufficient. It operated also against Christianity,
by its cold syllogistical method of reasoning, which tended to dc-



586 ^iioluck's history of theology

stroy everything that was vital, not merely the religion of the
heart, but every finer feeling vrhich was not satisfied with dull ab-
stract forms. It was from this system, as before remarked, the
Popular Philosophy arose, which undertook to prove, on the prin-
cijjles of Reason, tlie truths of Natural Religion. Without resting
satisfied with the views proposed by Wolf, it turns them all to its
advantage. To this school belong Jerusalem, Garve, Reimarus,
Eberhardt, Moses Mendelssohn, &c. The worst thing about this
system was that it laid claim to the name of philosophy, when it
was, in fi^ct, nothing more than a set of arbitrary opinions. Its
defenders, who were but weak thinkers, stood in breathless amaze-
ment when Kant and others appeared upon the field. Thus Ja-
cobi, in his latter years, said, when the works of Hegel appeared,
that he had been able to understand all other philosophical works,
but these were too abstruse for him : and Mendelssohn could not
understand Jacobi, nor Garve, Mendelssohn.

The opposition among the theologians to the truths of revelation
was at first by no means decided ; as a first step we must regard
the influence of some theological writers who were not themselves
enemies of these truths, but prepared the way for their rejection,
and. without intending it, forged weapons for those who should
come after them. The occasion of this lay in the degraded state
of theologv in the beajinnins: of the 18th century. Such men as
Calvin, Melancthon, Chytraeus and many others, were profoundly
learned, and knew how to employ their learning in the service of
theology without weakening their faith in the doctrines of the Bi-
ble : their erudition enlarged their views without injuring either
their faith or piety. But the situation of theology, especially in the
Lutheran church, at the period referred to, was exceedingly low ;
it consisted in little more than establishins^ and illustratino^ the doc-
trmes of the church ; all the main ideas in the several departments
rested upon tradition ; the study of theology was a work of memo-
ry ; few giving themselves the trouble to examine how fir the
doctrines they had received from their fathers agreed with the
sacred scriptures. Learning, properly speaking, was not wanting,
tor such men as Calov and Carpzov among the orthodox, and Ram-
bach and Buddeus among the Pietists, may be compared with any
of the learned men of the present day, and even excelled them ;
it was not learning, therefore, but a scientific spirit that was want-
ing. The situation of profane literature was much the same, for
here also was wanting an independent self-formed character : what
was received was transmitted. But about the middle of the pre-
ceding century, a new spirit was introduced into this department.
In philosophy. Wolf and his disciples excited a new and lively in-
terest, which rapidly spread itself over Germany, and at the same
time introduced an entirely difterent method of treating the sub-
ject. In history a new era was formed by Thomasius, and the
various translations of English historical works increased the in-
terest which he had excited. In philology a new school was



IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY. 587

formed by Ernesti, Rciske and others, who adopted a method much
sujDcrior to that pursued by the philologians of Holland. As all
these departments are more or less connected with theology, it
could not fail that the impulse should be communicated to it. Se-
veral distinguished men appeared at this period, as Baumgarten in
Halle, Ernesti in Leipzig, and John David Michaelis in Gottingen,
who j)ursucd with ardour the study of profane literature, and en-
deavoured to effect a connexion between this literature and the-
ology, and to enrich the latter with the results of the former, and
this was the first step to neology.

It is an interesting and important question, whether this connex-
ion of profane literature with theology has a necessary tendency
to neology. That in the Lutheran church it obviously had this
tendency, cannot be denied. And something of the same kind
may be seen in the Reformed Church, especially among the Armi-
nians. But, on the other hand, history shows that this is not neces-
sarily the case. Calvin, Melancthon, Chytraeus, and Bucerus were
profoundly versed in these studies, without manifesting the least
tendency to infidelity. Hence it appears that it depends upon the
manner of treating the subject, and the way in which profane and
sacred literature are united. There is in theology a two-told ele-
ment, the one human, the other su])ernatural ; by the one it is con-
nected with every department of human knowledge, and hence an
accurate acquaintance with human science must have a salutary
influence upon the study of theology. On the other hand, there
is something supernatural, which is to be found in no human sci-
ence ; and which no human science can either explain or illus-
trate. If, therefore, the theologian does not know this, by his own
living experience ; if he be not connected by faith with the invisi-
ble world, with him the study of profane literature and its connex-
ion with theology must prove injurious. If a theologian be with-
out faith and without profane literature, as was the case with many
of the orthodox party in the Lutheran church, he will deliver
Christianity to his successors as he found it, without understanding
it himself but a means of blessing to those who did, as actually oc-
curn d among the orthodox. But were he better acquainted with
profane literature, he would be led, while he retained the earthly
part of theology, to endeavour to explain what was supernatural
by his profane science ; placing human and profane ideas in the
place of the divine, and thus his knowledge would prove destruc-
tive. This remark is particularly illustrated by the history of
Semlcr. Those, therefore, who, in the period of which we speak,
first connected the study of profane literature with theology, and
introduced a scientific spirit into this department, although not
avowed enemies to what was supernatural in Christianity, yet
knew it not in its depths, and thus worked without intending it, to
remove the very essence of the system.

Baumgarten in Halle, who died in 1757, was the first who raised
a third party in the Lutheran church. He was sincerely subject



588 tholuck's history of theology

to the truths of Christianity, but inordinate in his love of human
learning, which produced an injurious effect upon his theological
views. He operated upon his students and his contemporaries in
giving a new tendency to their minds, partly by the introduction of
various English theological works, which were of a superficial cha-
racter, and were more or less deistical. He also introduced many
English historical works, especially the " Universal History," by
Guthrie and Gray, which excited a desire for the study of profane
literature among the theologians of Halle, and partly also by
adopting the logical demonstrative method of Wolf, insisting upon
the most accurate division and subdivision of every subject ; a me-
thod which he did not confine to the dogmatic, but applied also to
exegesis. He exhorted his students to throw off the trammels of
tradition and apply their own understandings. Connected with
this, however, he chilled their hearts, and softened down the genu-
ine Christian doctrines. It is indeed impossible to present these
doctrines in such strict logical forms ; divine things are in them-
selves simple, but they cannot by speculation and subtle logic be
placed in the light, and every effort to express these peculiar ideas
in precise forms stifles their spirit. Many of the students of Baum-
garten were led by his method to a cold, intellectual, but lost the
inward, knowledge.

The influence of John August Ernesti was far more extensive.
He was made professor of Leipzig in 1759. Ernesti was a man
of profound and extensive learning ; he retained his faith in the
divine truths, and was very cautious in all his undertakings. He
had already made himself so extensively known by his philological
works, that those which he published upon theology excited the
greater attention, and students flocked from all quarters to attend
his lectures. His principal object was to make his philosophical
knowledge useful in exegesis, and he applied the same rules to the
interpretation of the sacred scriptures which he had applied to the
classics. His most important work is his " Institutio Jnterpretis
Novi Testamenti ;" the shortest and most useful compend of Her-
meneutics. Before the time of Ernesti, the department of sacred
philology had long lain tallow. He was joined in these labours by
his colleague. Professor Fischer, who, however, went much fur-
ther. Fischer was the first to apply the new philology to the Lexi-
cography of the New Testament, in his work, " De Vitiis Lexico-
rum Nov. Testam." It was already clearly manifested in these
works, particularly those of Fischer, how much evil results from
the unenlightened connexion of profane literature with theology.
The peculiar Christian ideas were brought more or less to the
standard of mere deistical notions ; ihus ava\tvvr,ins was made to
mean, emendatio per Religionem Christianam, tlie doctrine of the
Holy Spirit was reduced to the notion of praiseworthy qualities,
obtained by divine assistance. It is easy to see how these ideas
lead to neology. Regeneration was with many, merely a recep-
tion into a religious community. The phrase " are one," (as used by



IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY. 589

Christ in reference to himself and the Father) was explained of a
unity of feeling and will.

.John David Michaelis, who was the third learned man to whom
reference has been made, was appointed Professor in Gottlngen
in 1745, and died in 1791. He was the son of the excellent J. P.
Michaelis, of Halle, where he was educated in the society of the
pious professors of the University. But (to use his own words)
he was too light-minded to give himself up to the pietistical spirit
which then reigned in Halle. In Gottingen he freed himself from
his early trammels both in respect to doctrine and practice. The
principal objects of his attention were, profane history, geography,
antiquities, and the oriental languages. He seems not to have had
so much religion as Baumgarten or Ernesti. nnd therefore his man-
ner of treating theology was much more injurious. He did not,
indeed, deny any essential doctrines, but softened them down, made
what was internal merely external, much to the detriment of what
constitutes the essence of Christianity. Thus to make the opposi-
tion between TTvevnn and eap^ nothing more than the opposition be-
tween reason and sensuality, must necessarily be destructive in its
operation, for if this be all, the Christian religion does not differ
from tlie philosophy of Plato. The grounds also upon which he
rested the authority of Christianity were superficial ; he said that
were it not for the miracles and prophecies he would not believe
in the scriptures, and that he had often read the Bible, but never
found the testimonium spiritus sancti. In his writings we remark
a great want of delicacy, which was still more observable in lec-
tures which were sometimes disgraced by downright obscenities.
The influence and mode of operation of these three men may be
best learnt from the fallowing works : that of Baumgarten, from
the autobiography of Semler ; that of Ernesti (and also Fischer)
from the autobiography of Bahrdt ; that of Michaelis from his
own life, and the autobiography of John von Miiller, who speaks
of the exceedingly improper manner of his lecturing.

Until this period the basis of Christianity had not been attacked,
the main doctrines yet stood firm, although doubts had been here
and there excited. The method of treating these subjects was very
arbitrary ; the manner in which the church had presented the lead-
ing doctrines was laid aside ; many of the passages before relied
upon in their support were rejected, and the manner of proving
them was changed ; the arguments being drawn from general de-
istical principles or profane literature. The most important prac-
tical doctrines also were so much explained away, as to lose their
nature. The students of these men came out in a spirit essentially
different from that of their teachers. Semler was the pupil of
Baumgarten, Morus of Ernesti, Koppe and Eichhorn of Michaelis,
and by them neology was established. Among these founders of
neology, the most important, and its real author, is Semler, an ori-
ginal thinker, which is what we rarely meet with among the neolo-
gists. Semler had been brought up in Halle in contact with vital



590 tholuck's history of theology

piety, where he received impressions, which he could never en-
tirely obliterate, and which in his old nge revived. Possessed of a
very sanguine temperament, and, as he complains himself, light-
minded, he renounced entirely the party of the Pietists, who, it
must be admitted, were deficient in learning, and defective in the
manner in which' they defended their doctrines ; and connected
himself with Baumgarten. It was not the personal character of
Baumgarten, W'liich was dry and logical, which formed the attrac-
tion for Semlcr, but his great learning and his fine library to which
he gave his friend free access. Semler, under these circumstances,
acquired extensive erudition, and as his master had freed himself
from the form at least in which the church presented the Christian
doctrines, Semler went further and adopted opinions entirely new.
Baumgarten, perceiving the creative talents of this sanguine man,
said to him : " Theology stands in need of a new reformation, I am
too old to undertake the business ; this you must do," and this he
did. Semler was first Professor of History in Altdorf, and was
thence called as professor of theology to Halle in 1752. With re-
gard to the powers of his mind, it may be said, that they were on
the one hand very great, and on the other, very deficient. He had
an astonishing memory, and was able at any time to recall what
he had ever learnt. His mind w^as also acute, when the field of
investigation was small, and his imagination active and vivid,
which led him easily to form new combinations. But he was de-
ficient in all the qualifications of a philosopher, as well dialectical
as contemplative, and hence he never formed any system, although
he produced a multitude of new thoughts which he neither ex-
panded nor arranged, but cast them out in the greatest disorder.
His works are on this account very difficult to read, there is no
connexion in the ideas and no logical arrangement. He retained,
in all his investigations, the fear of God, which, joined with his
want of a philosophical spirit, prevented him from seeing wdiithcr
the principles he adopted naturally led ; and when he saw in
othei's the consequences of the course upon which he had entered,
he sincerely repented that he had gone so far. This led to the
firm opposition which he made to Bahrdt, whose conduct gave
him real distress. In his latter days, Semler wished to remedy
the evils he had occasioned, and published some very singular
views by which lie endeavoured to reconcile scepticism and ad-
herence to the doctrines of the church. He said there was a pub-
lic and private religion for the theologian ; in public he was not au-
thorized to reject any received doctrine, but in private he might
believe what he pleased. And when the preacher spoke of the
*' Son of God," it was no harm if one part of his audience regard-
ed him as really God, another as merely a man, and the third en-
tertained the Arian doctrine, all this was consistent with unity.
The revolution which Semler produced, w^as principally by his
exegesis. Ernesti had recommended the principle that the lan-
guage and history of the particular period, in which the several



I\ THE EIGHTEENTH CEXTURY. 591

sacred books were written, should be applied to their explication.
This principle is unquestionably correct, but improperly applied
leads to decided neology. Semlcr acted upon this principle, and was
for explaining evcrytliing from the circumstances of that age, and
reducing the general notions of the Bible to more precise ideas.
In this way the leading doctrines of the scrijitures were brought
down to mere temporary ideas ; and the spirit of the Bible, which
should ever attend and give it life, was lost, and it became a book
for the age in which in was written. Sap| and nvcvua he explained
from the peculiar opinions of that period ; aapi was the narrow
notion of the Jews respecting Christianity, against which Paul
wrote and contended ; irieffia was a free and liberal idea of Chris-
tianity.

On this principle he divided the books of the New Testament
into those in which the aap^ predominated, and those in which the
TTvtvita prevailed. The Gospels were written for ihc aa^KiKoi; Paul's
Epistles for the yvoiariKoi: the Catholic Epistles, too, united both
parties, and the Apocalyjise f<jr the Fanatics. In this way he must
necessarily lose the proper view of the Bible. In the J"]pistle to
the Romans he overlooked what is the main point in the whole
discussion, justification by grace, in opposition to that by works ;
according to him, Paul's object was to combat the narrow views
of the Jews, who believed that they alone could be saved ; where-
as, Paul wished to extend salvation to the heathen as well as the
Jews. It is plain that if these principles of Semler, when api)lied
to the New Testament, were so injurious, they must be much more
so when applied to the Old. If the Old Testament is to be ex-
plained according to the views entertained of it in the age in which
it was written, then it must lose its important meaning. Semler
did not hesitate to say, therefore, that it was useless for Christians:
that Jesus laid stress upon it merely because the Jews thought that
they had eternal life therein ; but Paul has directly attacked it.
Only such parts which, on account of their moral excellence, were
still valuable, could be of any use to Christians of the j)resent day.
Setnlcr was thus brought by his historical criticism to precisely the
same results as the Popular Philosophy. Semler was particularly
learned in the patristical and ecclesiastical history ; and most of
his writings refer to these departments. His scepticism and want
of religious experience are here also clearly displayed. In the his-
tory of the Christian doctrines, he could not distinguish the true
from the false ; and thought everything w^as full of contradictions,
because he was not able to see the ground of coincidence. His
want of religious feeling led him also to condemn Augustin and
justify Pelagius, and his view on this subject became every day
more general.

There arose a man by the side of Semler, in Halle, who not
only united the various scattered neological doubts which he had
cast out, but connected with them many of his own arbitrary yet
destructive doctrines. A man who attacked not only the doctrines



592 tholuck's history of theology

of the church, but those of the Bible, and whose life was ns inju-
rious as his writings. This was the famous Dr. Bahrdt. His flither,
a professor of theology at Leipzig, was a strictly orthodox man.
The son manifested from the first, a great degree of light-minded-
ness, which his father did not properly attempt to correct. He
rather sought to conceal, than eradicate the faults of his son. His
education, therefore, produced a very bad effect upon his mind ;
observing on the one hand such strict orthodox principles, and on
the other such a laxity of practice, he got the idea that orthodoxy
was altogether an affiiir of the head, and that the heart was go-
verned by entirely different principles. He was early Privat Decent
and preacher in Leipzig ; but his gross misconduct and licentious-
ness forced him to resign his ofiice to avoid deposition. He re-
tired to Erfurdt, where he was made professor, and continued his
abandoned mode of life; thence he removed to Giessen, and from
thence to Maschlintz, to an institution of Herr von Salis. Thence
he went to Turkheim, in the territory of the Count of Leiningen,
where he was made General Superintendent. It was here he pub-
lished his New Testament, under the title, " Newest Revelation of
God," 1779. In his translation he endeavoured to give a new-
fashioned dress to everything, and introduced all the personages
sj)eaking and acting, as though they had been Saxons or Prussians
living in the year 1779. In his interpretations, whatever was most
perverse and unnatural, was sure to be adopted as true. This
book produced such a sensation that an imperial order was issued
from Vienna condemning the work, and urging that the author
should be displaced. The Count of Leiningen consented, and
Bahrdt was obliged to remove. He went now to the land of illu-
mination, to Prussia, and applied to the minister, Von Zedlitz, for
employment, who was very willing to secure him a situation.
Bahrdt came to Halle, and would probably have been made a pro-
fessor, had not the faculty objected. Semler was particularly ac-
tive in this affair, making the manner of Bahrdt's life the ground of
his opposition to his appointment. The minister, therefore, only
allowed him to read lectures in the Philosophical Faculty. He ac-
cordingly announced that he would lecture on rhetoric and decla-
mation ; but let it privately be known, that he really meant to read
on pastoral theology. It is said that 900 persons were assembled
in the great auditorium of the university to hear him. His manner
was that of a charlatan ; he endeavoured to show how the feelings
of an audience could be excited, and sought to make the manner of
preaching usually adopted ridiculous. These lectures, however,
did not bring him in enough money, which was his principal object.
The poor man, therefore, proposed to read a course of lectures on
morals, which citizens as well as students might attend. He suc-
ceeded in obtaining a considerable number of hearers вАФ students,
citizens, and officers ; and endeavoured to exercise his theatrical
talents upon this mixed audience. But he soon found this activity
too troublesome and too little productive, and, therefore, retired to



IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY. 593

a farm in the neighbourhood of Halle, and opened a coffee-house,
" a course," he said, " his health demanded." Before his death he
was cast into prison in Magdeburg, on account of a comedy which
he wrote against the government. He sought by all manner of lies
to avoid arrest, but in vain, and died in 1792. With regard to the
views of this man wc may say, as we said regarding those of Vol-
taire, that his character renders them undeserving of regard. Even
his own description of himself is sufficient to show that he was
destitute of princijjle ; but this was made still more apparent by
the publication of a collection of his letters. All kinds of deceit
were to him equal if he could but gain money. His talents were
such as, had they been turned to a good account, might have been
made really serviceable ; he had particularly the talent of writing
in a clear and easy style, and a creative fancy. His views gradu-
ally formed themselves ; he said that when he came to Halle he
had renounced all doctrines contrary to reason, excepting those of
inspiration and of divine infiuence. How he came to discover that
these also were unreasonable, he thus describes : " The historical



Online LibrarySamuel John BairdTheological essays: → online text (page 75 of 90)