Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

of your taking offence at this confession. The truth always remains the truth whenever and wherever it may be found; and should not a preacher of the present day, draw from those very samne sources from which the most judicious fathers of the ancient church and its best preachers, agreeably to their own confessions, rejoiced to draw so much that was useful?* But enough of the years I devoted to study. As soon as I have more time to spare, I will give you some farther information respecting the commencement of my academical career, and the influence which it probably exerted upon my education, preparatory to becoming a preacher. Farewell.

LETTER VII.

Prepares for teaching-Lectures-Becomes Professor Extraordinary of Philosophy, Professor Ordinary of Theology, and Provost of the Castle Church -Passes through a painful mental struggle-Preserved from skepticism by respect for the Bible and for morality-The effect of all this on his ministerial education.

[ocr errors]

MY DEAR FRIEND

Permit me to give you a very short account of the changes I passed through from the commencement of my duties as academical teacher, until I was intrusted with the ministerial office. It will then be easy for us to ascertain in what respects they contributed to prepare me for that office.

66

*The oration of Basilius the Great, Ad adolescentes de modo. e literis Graecis utilitatem percipiendi, is known. Comp. Krebsen's Abhandlung über diese Schrift, in the Opuscula academica et scholastica, p. 398ss., which Sturz has printed with his edition of the above named oration. Philosophi autem," says Augustin, "qui vocantur, si qua forte vera et fidei nostrae accommodata dixerunt, maxime Platonici, non solum formidanda non sunt, sed ab eis etiam, tamquan iniustis possessoribus, in usum nostrum vindicanda." De doctrina christiana, I, II, c. 40.

[ocr errors]

In Nov. 1777, I went about qualifying myself for the work before me, and devoted from that time until the Easter of 1778, to preparing the lectures which I intended to deliver. These lectures, which treated of philosophical and philological subjects, attracted so many hearers, that I was encouraged to continue them; and being requested by many of my hearers to lecture upon theology also, in Nov. of the year 1778, I took the degree of Bachelor of Theology, necessary for this purpose. In 1780, I was appointed Professor Extraordinary of Philosophy. With express reference to this appointment, I then devoted by far the greatest part of my time to the philosophical sciences, though my hearers induced me to alternate some theological lectures with the philosophical. Scarcely had I sustained the office of Professor Extraordinary of Philosophy for two years, when I was called to become Professor Ordinary of Theology, with the express reserve. however, of my former professorship. Accordingly, in Nov., 1782, I became Doctor of Theology, and in Dec. of the same year, entered upon the duties of my new office. From this time onward, my attention was divided between philosophy and theology, as I was called upon to teach both of these sciences; and as, excited by the number, zeal, and adherence of my auditors, I read from four to five or even more lectures, a day, it was not long before I had occasion to go through with the substance of both departments. In this manner I had labored but two years, when I received the office of Provost of the Castle or University Church, and of course, that of preacher, upon which I actually entered on the feast of Mary's Annunciation, in 1784. In addition to my professorial duties, therefore, I had now all at once become obligated to deliver a sermon in the University Church, on the forenoon of every Sabbath and festival. Before I say any thing of my labors as provost, however, let us go back, my dear friend, to the commencement of those years, of whose changes I have given you so cursory a survey, in order to see what was done during this time to prepare me for the business of preaching, and ensure me some success in the ministerial office.

From 1778 to 1784, I did not, I may say, exercise my

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

self in preaching, at all; for during this period, I certainly did not preach more than four times at the farthest; and one of these, was, when I became Doctor of Theology. This is easy to be accounted for. During this period, I was not obliged to preach either as a matter of duty or office; and having enough to do with the sciences, the principles of which I wished thoroughly to investigate, and then exhibit in the clearest and best manner, I could not think of entering the pulpit. Besides, so long as I was Professor Extraordinary of Philosophy, I was uncertain whether I should not entirely and forever exchange the pulpit for the philosophical chair. At least, I had so much to do with the latter and for it, that I lost the former entirely out of view. I did indeed conduct exercises in a small society and at its request, in the composition and delivery of sermons; and in particular, give some general directions respecting their proper construction. These, however, were out of the usual course, and soon brought to a close by the gradual dispersion of the society. With regular exercises of this kind, I absolutely had nothing to do, during this period.

And here, my dear friend, I cannot avoid giving you a description of the internal struggle so singular, and, in respect to my whole learned education, so important, through which I passed, in the first years of my academical career.

I have told you that I was a zealous Crusian when I began to deliver lectures. If I had not been, I should not have taken the trouble which I actually did, to acquire a thorough knowledge of the system of this somewhat heavy philosopher. Accordingly, I adopted it in my first lectures. In so doing, however, I felt myself under à pressing necessity to become acquainted also with other philosophical systems; in part, for the purpose of ascertaining what the best geniuses of every age had thought respecting the great problems which philosophy has to solve; and in part, because I saw that my own views could not be thorough and satisfactory until I bad taken such a survey, and become acquainted with opposing systems. Hence, I began with great zeal to look into the most celebrated systems of the ancient and modern world, and in particular, to read the various authors extant upon every system.

But how astonished I was, and overwhelmed with embarrassment, when, in this course of study, I discovered a multitude of weak parts in my own system, of which I had before had no suspicion. In proportion as my philosophical views were extended, I learned, that many things could be said in favor of those positions, which, to the partial Crusians, had either appeared absurd, or highly dangerous; the stronger I began to feel that every system contains something true and good; that in every one, human reason exhibits itself in some peculiar way, and hence, that every one is deserving of investigation and respect; the more doubts arose in my mind; the more uncertain the ground became, upon which I before believed myself standing with such firmness; and finally, it came to such a pass, (for why should I not confess to you the truth,)—it came to such a pass, that I had nothing firm under my feet; that I was involved in the mazes of discordant speculations, and fluttering as it were in the air, without knowing any longer where to find the ground.

About this time, disputes became more and more general in the theological world, and not only threatened to shake doctrinal theology in particular, but actually to overturn it. These greatly added to the perplexity of my internal fermentation, and sometimes increased it to the most painful disquietude.

Neither my conscience nor my heart, however, would suffer me to remain ignorant of these disputes and discussions. The question, What connexion has philosophy with revelation, and how can the two be reconciled together? had always been an interesting and important one to me, and it became increasingly so, from the moment I was called to deliver lectures upon theology. It is in vain for me to attempt to give you a description of the sad struggle in which I saw myself involved every morning;-a struggle which was renewed with every preparation I made for lecturing, and as often accompanied with the greatest helplessness and embarrassment. The idea of saying any thing which should infect the youth with pernicious error, filled me with trembling; and yet I had to speak of a thousand things respecting which I was obliged to explain myself with such problematicalness, as to render a convic

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

tion of the truth impossible. Accordingly, the striking of the clock which called me to the lecture-room, often found me walking up and down my chamber with tears in my eyes, engaged in earnest prayer to God, that he would guide me at least in such a manner, as not to suffer me to do any thing detrimental to religion and morality; and not unfrequently was it difficult for me to conceal my internal commotion from my hearers. Notwithstanding the uncertainty, however, in which all my knowledge, even that which I had considered as resting upon a solid basis, was, about this time involved, two principles remained by me unshaken: First, never to permit myself to indulge in any explanations in philosophy which did violence to my moral feelings; and second, never to assert any thing in theology which was at variance with the obvious declarations of the Bible.

That any thing could be true in philosophy which was prejudicial to morality, was something of which I could in no wise be convinced. Positions of this kind, with how much so ever plausibility they were laid down, always disgusted me. By means of the moral education I had received, and the diligent attention I had paid to my own improvement, moral feeling had been rendered too active. in me, not immediately to reject and that too with aversion, every position of an immoral tendency; and whenever such occurred to me, I soon succeeded in discovering their falsity and tracing out the sophisms upon which they rested. Hence, though I found myself unable to embrace any party as a whole, and felt very far removed from any system which had been thoroughly tried and was satisfactory to myself, yet I never embraced any opinions of a dangerous character or prejudicial to morality; and besides, I was an Eclectic, whose object was to obtain what appeared to be the best and most tenable of every system, and arrange it in a convenient form. This being the case, that my philosophical lectures were always assuming a new aspect is a matter of course. I constantly extended my investigations and arrived at new views and results. This could prove of no disadvantage to my hearers. I always gave them, what, according to duty and conscience, I considered the best and truest; and if any

« PoprzedniaDalej »