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Göttingen, JOHN LAWRENCE VON MOSHEIM, († 1755,) who holds the first place among the church historians generally of the last century. His Institutiones historiæ ecclesiasticæ (Helmstadt, 1755), in four books, translated into German also, and continued by SCHLEGEL and VON EINEM, gained in England and North America a still greater authority than in Germany, being used even to this day as a text book in most Seminaries. But little known on the other hand out of Germany are his valuable monographies, on the Period before Constantine, on the History of Heretics, (the Ophites, Apostle-Brethren, Michael Servetus,) and his Institutiones H. E. Majores, of which however only the first volume (saec. I.) was published. Mosheim distinguishes himself in all these works, by his thorough use of sources, his critical acuteness, his large culture and knowledge of men, his bold combinatory skill, at times inordinate, his power of historical contemplation, and his mastery beyond all his predecessors and contemporaries of a clear, tasteful and agreeable style, both Latin and German. The practical element, on the other hand, falls with him into the background. He too takes the side of heretics frequently; not however by praising them enthusiastically and heaping reproaches on their orthodox adversaries, like Arnold, but with calm and dignified criticism, showing the sense and inward connection of their systems; as he was the first, for instance, who felt in the Gnostic speculations the presence of the deep sense which they derive from the philosophy of an older time. It is strange that he did not abandon the current division by centuries, and that he should have adopted so mechanical an arrangement, as that of external and internal, prosperous and adverse events. His contemporary, PFAFF of Tübingen, was equally learned indeed, but his Institutiones are not so clearly and interestingly written, and are too much burdened with citations. The indefatigable scholar S. J. Baumgarten brought down his "Abstract of Church History" only to the end of the ninth century. COTTA's "New Testament Church History in detail," (1768-73), remained also incomplete. The most extensive work from this school, showing also its gradual transition over into latitudinarianism and rationalism, is the Church History of J. M. SCHRÖCKH, Prof. in Wittenberg († 1808), which makes with TZSCHIRNER'S continuation forty-five volumes, and was published between the years 1768 and 1810. In spite of its wearisome diffuseness, its want of right proportion and its wholly injudicious method, it is still invaluable for its faithful transcriptions from the original authorities, and will long remain a real mine of historical learning. Smaller text books were published by SCHRÖCKH, SPITTLER and STAUDLIN, the last in the interest of Kant's moral philosophy. J. F. Roos wrote popularly for a larger public.
Cramer, Walch, Planck.
After these general works, however, a number of others deserve honorable mention, produced by Lutheran theologians in the service of particular parts of church history. J. A. CRAMER, chancellor, in the end, of the university of Kiel († 1788), in his continuation of Bossuet's Universal History, has thoroughly investigated the scholasticism of the Middle Ages, and was the next German after Mosheim who wrote history with elegance and force in his vernacular tongue. J. GEORGE WALCH, Prof. in Jena († 1775), and still more his W. son, FRANCIS WALCH, Prof in Göttingen († 1784), belong to the most industrious, solid and honest inquirers who have ever lived. The last gave himself mainly to the history of heresies, divisions and religious controversies, and his work on this field, in eleven parts, is still indispensable. He occupies Lutheran ground fully indeed in his own mind, but shows no polemic zeal, being conscientiously intent throughout on understanding and representing his sources, in a critical pragmatic way, without sympathy or antipathy. The historical sense is already so far matured with him, that he cannot conceive of history without change, while he distinguishes properly between the immutability of the Christian truth itself and the changing form of its apprehension among men. He lacks however organic sense and graphic life. The elder PLANCK († 1833), who has immortalized himself especially by his learned and able history of Protestant Doctrine, 13 stands at the extreme end of this school, where it is just ready to pass over into Rationalism. He carries the subjective view, pragmatism, to its highest pitch, and sees in history already the dry theatre only of human interests and passions. To the contents of the doctrinal strifes which he relates, he holds himself quite indifferent; his interest in them is not religious or theological, but psychological only and formal.14 With such indifference to church doctrine, it is truly marvellous indeed
13 Six volumes, 2nd ed. 1791-1800.
14 Comp. e. g. his preface to Vol. IV., which brings him to the dogmatico-historical part of his work, where he candidly allows, p. 6, that the subject is one in which even the theological public of his time can hardly take any more a real interest, inasmuch as most of the doctrinal questions about which our fathers contended, "have lost for our present theology not only the importance once attached to them on their own account, but even the negative interest which their history had for the spirit of our age formerly, in its gradually ripening and advancing aversion to them. Ten years ago it might have dwelt upon them with some interest, since ten years ago it had not still cleared itself of their power. . . . Now, however, this bond also is gone. A wholly new theology is founded. Not only those forms, but many also of the old fundamental ideas, are left behind. There is no fear besides that the spirit of our theology can ever return of itself, or be forced back thither, and they are viewed accordingly as an indifferent antiquation." No Rationalist could well express himself more unfavorably on the doctrinal controversies of the church.
that such a man should expend so much toilsome study and learned industry on subjects so "fully antiquated" as the theological contentions of the 16th and 17th centuries. Of course this work, with all its great and enduring merits, could not fail to have a bad effect, in assisting to sunder the doctrinal consciousness of its age fully from the position of the older church orthodoxy, and to justify such rupture also as an imaginary progress or advance.
The Reformed church produced, in this period, but one work of considerable size, the Institutiones h. eccl. V. et N. T. of the learned Hollander, VENEMA, carefully drawn from the sources and reaching down to the year 1600. It had become the fashion in Holland, from the time of Cocceius, to place church history in close connection with the exposition of the Scriptures, especially of the Apocalypse, where the picture of Popery was seen clear as the sun, also with systematic theology, which of course destroyed its independence as a science and put an end to its progress. The popular and edifying work of the English MILNER has been already noticed. Smaller text-books, good in their kind, were furnished by the Genevan divine, TURRETIN, A. D. 1734, by P. E. JABLONSKY, professor in Frankfort on the O., A. D. 1755, and by MÜNSCHER, professor in Marburg, A. D. 1804. The last has still more reputation from his Dogmatic History, but belongs rather of right already, like Planck, to the Rationalistic school, to which we now pass.
§ 11. (4) The Rationalistic Period.
Arnold's unchurchly view of history, and his defence of all sorts of heretics and schismatics, as well as the confessional laxness and doctrinal indifference of the last representatives of the Supranaturalistic school, had already prepared the way fully for Rationalism; so that we are forced to admit for this a certain historical necessity. While however Pietism loved the sects for their real or supposed piety, Rationalism was pleased with them for their heresies, and the dogmatic indifference of a Planck and Münscher advanced into formal hostility against the doctrine and faith of the church.
Now Arius, with his denial of Christ's divinity, was right against Athanasius, Pelagius with his doctrine of an undepraved human will against Augustine, the Paulicians, Catharists, etc., against Catholicism, the Socinians against the Reformers, the Arminians against the synod of Dort, the Deists against the English church. They were in truth only congenial forerunners of Rationalism, in its contest with the church doctrine, nay in the end with the revelation of God in the Bible itself. For the unprejudiced must allow that at least the main sub
Spirit of Rationalism.
stance of the church doctrine is grounded in the Bible; and hence Rationalism in its last phases has rejected, consistently, not only the material principle of Protestantism, but its formal principle also, taking for the source and measure of truth and faith, or of unbelief rather, instead of God's word, human reason (thus Rationalism), and this not as it actuates history and the church, but the subjective reason of the reigning spirit of its own age, at bottom the every day finite understanding, what we call "common sense" in its baldest form. This tendency is constitutionally unhistorical in full; it takes no interest in history as such, but only the negative satisfaction of practising upon it its own destructive criticism. It denies the objective forces of history, and expels out of it, not only Satan, who is for it the phantom only of a superstitious, heated fancy, but what is of course far more serious, God himself, changing it thus into an eyeless monster, a labyrinth of human perversions, caprices and passions. All is referred to a subjective ground. Rationalism fancies itself to have grasped the greatest and most lofty facts, when it derives them out of the most accidental and external, or even the most common and ignoble causes and motives; the doctrine of Christ's divinity, for instance, and of the Holy Trinity, from the active fancy and Platonism of the Greek fathers; the evangelical doctrines of sin and grace, from Augustine's restless metaphysics; the papacy of the Middle Ages, from the trick of the false Isidorian decretals and the ambition of the "rascal" Hildebrand; the Reformation from the pecuniary embarrassment of Leo X., and the impudence of Tetzel; Luther's view of the Lord's supper, from his own stiff and stubborn humor, etc. This way of looking at history, so supremely subjective, not only cast censure on God, as having made the world so badly that it went to ruin in his hands, or as having no more care of its history than a watchmaker for a watch long since finished and sold, affording rich matter thus for full skepticism and nihilism; but it put at the same time the greatest possible dishonor on our human nature also, which was robbed in this way of all its dignity and higher worth. That so much diligence and learning should have been expended still on so heartless a work would be incomprehensible, were it not explained by the interest of opposing the church, and the indomitable tendency of the German mind to theory and speculation.15
And yet Rationalism, on the other side, has also its undeniable merits, in regard to church history. In the first place, it has exer
15 The greatest English master of history, however, GIBBON († 1794), in his celebrated History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, has also often noticed the history of the early church, and with a bitterness too towards Christianity, with which hardly any German Rationalist can be charged.
cised the boldest criticism, setting many things thus in a new light, and opening the way for a more free and unprejudiced judgment. Then again, it served to advance the conception of history itself, though rather in a merely negative way. Almost all earlier historians, Protestant as well as Catholic, saw movement and change only in the history of heresies, while they regarded the church doctrine as something once for all done, fixed and unchangeable, a view which cannot possibly stand before impartial inquiry. For although Christianity itself, the divine plan of salvation, is always the same and needs no change, the same thing cannot be affirmed at all of its apprehension in the different ages of the church, as is sufficiently shown at once by the great distinction of Catholicism and Protestantism, and in this last again by the differences of Lutheranism, Zwinglianism and Calvinism. Rationalism now saw, however, in the church as well as in the sects, change, movement, alteration, and prepared the way thus for that idea of organic development which lies at the ground of the latest German style of history. Still it went not beyond this vague notion of change. It overlooked in it wholly the truth contained in the old view, namely, that there is something enduring also with all this change, and that the church in the midst of it remains always in her inmost life one with herself. Church history became, under its hands, a storm-lost vessel, without helmsman or rudder, a wild chaos, without unity or living order, the play of chance, without any divine plan or definite end. It knew of no such development, as proceeds by necessary, rational laws, remains in its progress identical with itself, preserves the sum of every preceding stage, and though it be through many obstructions and much opposition, and in perpetual conflict with the kindgom of evil, makes its way still forward always towards a better state. Rather it took the course of history for a steady deterioration, or more accurately speaking for a process of continuous rarefaction and dilution, in which the church loses her doctrinal and religious substance more and more, till at last the age of Illumination makes the happy discovery that the whole of Christianity may be resolved at last into a few common-place moral maxims and notions of virtue.
The man by whom this great revolution in the idea and treatment of church history was mainly brought about, and who deserves with full right the title, father of neology, was JOHN SOLOMON SEMLER, Professor of Theology in Halle (†1791). He had been educated in the bosom of an anxious and pedantic Pietism, and retained from this his "private piety," which he held to be independent of all theory, and in virtue of which he opposed the appointment of the notorious Bahrdt, and wrote against the Wolfenbüttel Fragments. To Arnold's "Ketzerhistorie" he