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less could I ever have thought of printing a whole library of them. I had preached as provost of the university church at Wittemberg for two years, when, in 1786, I permitted a collection of my sermons to be published.
As I was then obliged to apply all my powers to other matters, I should never have done so, had it not been for the earnest importunities of my friends. Of the numerous sermons, however, which I then had by me, I published only sixteen in this collection, supposing that with these I should satisfy the desires of my friends, without being obliged to deviate altogether from my resolution, not to trouble the public with many sermons.
Indeed, with the exception of the two which I delivered on being transferred from one station to another, the profits of which were to be applied to the establishment of a young ladies' school at Wittemberg, I printed but a single sermon during the six following years, though I preached in the mean time with unremitting diligence, at the abovenamed place, and had begun to do so with still greater zeal at Dresden. With none of the numerous requests which I received, to publish many sermons, did I comply; and it was not until 1793, when a new edition of my first volume was called for, that I added a second, which, like the first, comprised but sixteen sermons; which I thought would satisfy people, and be the last.
Soon afterwards, or in the year 1795, a proposal was made in the Imperial Advertiser, t and sustained by various reasons, that I should publish all the sermons I had delivered. To this proposal, however, ignorant as I was from what quarter it came, I should have paid little or no attention, and by it, hardly have been induced to change my original purpose, in regard to printing but a few sermons, if a circumstance had not occurred which almost obliged me to do so. My sermons were taken down as they were delivered. This was done by ignorant persons, who acquired their living by means of the sermons which they sent into the city and province. It is easy to imagine what a form my sermons in this way received.
* See the preface to the first edition of these sermons. + The Reichsanzeiger.
I cannot deny that when some of these transcribed sermons first fell into my hands, I was exceedingly vexed. You may believe me, my dear friend, or not, but I could hardly recognize myself in them. I was astonished at the nonsense which was put into my mouth; and yet it was not in my power to prevent these transcripts from being taken, as the goodnaturedness of the readers made it too profitable a business for the transcribers to relinquish it. I was obliged, therefore, to choose between two evils, and either see my sermons brought into general circulation in a very garbled and corrupted state, or publish them myself, as they were originally delivered. As I had been requested to do the latter, and it appeared to be the only means left me for avoiding a thousand errors, so it appeared to me of the two evils to be the least; and hence, agreeably to the advice of my friends, I made choice of it.*
As soon as one collection of the serinons which I had delivered in 1795, made its appearance, I received urgent requests, not only in the Imperial Advertiser, but from various quarters, to continue printing them; and as the principal reason which induced me to publish the first, existed in regard to the others, so I was induced, rather than see my sermons circulating in a garbled and corrupted state, to accede to the importance of these requests. In the mean time, people continued to receive them with unanticipated favor, and from various quarters, I derived very positive evidence of their having been productive of good. Notice was taken of them even in foreign countries, and many of them were translated into other languages; and though I was more than once resolved to stop printing them, yet, partly out of compliance with public requests, and partly out of compliance with the wishes of friends made known to me in private letters, I was induced to deviate from my resolution; so that I have now printed all the sermons which I preached for a series of fifteen years, which constitute the number of volumes extant. But enough for once. As soon as I
time for the purpose, my dear friend, I will come to what you particuJarly wish to know,—the character and course of my homiletical education. Farewell.
* See the preface to the first edition of the Sermons of 1795,
Early education—Instructed by his father-Becomes attached to well-arranged
sermons-Learns the ancient languages-Fond of poetry, but destitute of good poets-Gets hold of Haller.
MY DEAR FRIEND
If you wish to know all the circumstances which exerted a decided influence upon my education for the ministry, you must acco
company me far back into the years of my childhood. This is the only way in which I shall be able to give you a radical and historical account of my sermons,—to show you how they assumed the form they possess.
For the whole of my early education, I am indebted to my father, who was my teacher until
sixteenth year. John Stephen Matthias Reinhard* a man whose name would always have been sacred to me, even if he had not been my father, was a minister at Vohenstrauss, a market town in the dukedom of Sulzbach. He was unanimously looked upon by all, as one of the best preachers in that region. He could not indeed rise entirely above the faults of his age. Agreeably to the custom then prevalent, he made choice of a particular method, and selected a general theme, upon which he treated in all its relations and extent, until another year commenced. His thorough education, however, deep knowledge of human nature, great experience, and vivacious delivery, introduced so many changes into his method, rendered his discourses so attractive, connected them so intimately and firmly together, and made them such a well arranged whole, that he was not only heard with uniform attention by his church, but listened to with pleasure by strangers; it being usual for many on their way to or from Prague, so to order their affairs as to stop on the Sabbath morning and hear him preach. Among the peculiar qualities for which his sermons were
* My father wrote his name Reinhart, but for reasons, a part of which he himself suggested, I thought it best to exchange the t for a d.
distinguished, may be named a strict and minute arrangement of every thing they contained. That this arrangement was perfectly natural, and obvious at first glance, you may infer from the fact, that, when a lad from ten to eleven years of age, I could remember it, and write it down upon paper on my return home. I did so, and, as I found the exercise pleased my father, for he usually examined what I had written, and corrected it whenever he found it wrong, I regularly continued this practice every Sabbath, until I had acquired such skill in this respect, that not a single topic escaped me.
The result was, as you may infer, that I early formed the conception of a sermon strictly arranged, and so disposed in regard to all its main parts, as easily to be retained in the memory,-a conception, accompanied with all the allurements of a paternal example, and so firmly_fastened in my soul, as never again to be extirpated. From this time onward, every sermon was entirely lost to me, which either had no plan, or one which I was unable to comprehend; and this is the reason why most of the sermons which I afterwards heard in various places, presented me with no attractions,
Not less important or rich in results, was the instruction which I received from my father in the ancient languages. He was an excellent philologist, and read the ancients with feeling and a correct and lively apprehension of their sentiment. He did not seek at first to impart this feeling and such an apprehension, to me. On the other hand, when we commenced reading an ancient work together, his principal object was to increase my knowledge of the language, by entering into a philological explanation of every thing it contained. The other part of the task was left for another time. During the day he was engaged in the laborious duties of his office, but the evenings, after supper,
spent at home, taking enjoyment and repose in the bosom of his family. As on these occasions, he early discovered in me a susceptibility for conversation upon subjects of general utility and a serious character, so he began to devote the time which he spent with his children from eight o'clock in the evening to ten, almost exclusively to me, conversing with me upon such subjects as were adapted to my age and attainments. It was on these occasions that that love was awakened in me for the study of the ancients which increased with after years, and remains with me still. It was his custom to converse with me upon some passage of an ancient work, especially in the Latin, (the Greek I was then unable to read.) These passages were generally selected from Virgil and Cicero, the two classics which he admired the most, and which we had begun to read together. In these exercises, nothing was said respecting philology. Our solė object was to discover in what the beauty, ingeniousness, greatness, and sublimity of the passage consisted; and these were developed by him with a fire which entered into my heart and early convinced me, that the ancients were the genuine masters of poetry and eloquence, and that we must learn of them and take them for models.
In the mean time, however, as regards my native language, I was quite deserted. As early as my ninth year indeed, I felt an inclination for poetry, which might have been strengthened, had there been any thing to strengthen it. Scarcely had I been able to read a single German poet with feeling, when my father lost his library, which was a valuable one for that time and place, in a disastrous fire, not a single leaf of it being saved. I, who had begun to hanker more and more after the German poets, was
ow confined to the Sulzbach Hymn Book, at this time a very miserable one, Caniiz's poems, and Brockes** trical translation of Pope's Essay on Man. Accordingly, I read these books again and again, imitated the poetry, and tried to do for myself all I could. I had an obscure feeling, indeed, that they were far from being perfect. In short, I could never avoid thinking there was something far above them in point of excellence, and this, because my father had already pointed out to me something superior to them, among the ancients. Two years elapsed, however, before I was able to light upon any thing better in our own language ; with reference to which it should be recollected, that the state of our literature had but just begun to improve, and that the Upper Palatinate was al
* (For a notice of Canitz and Brockes, see Memoirs of Goethe, N. Y. 1824, p. 302, and p. 306.)