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weapons against the Christian, and uses her assistance in the conflict. The most bigoted advocate of ecclesiastical tyranny,
-the most abject upholder of political despotism, on ihe one hand, -and the most fanatical declaimer in favor of individual lawlessness, on the other, as well as the firm friend of law and liberty, all appeal with equal confidence to History, in justification of their principles, and conduct. And as regarded from their several points of view, she does appear to give each of them her approbation. Yet History in fact, is not thus self-contradictory. The seeming inconsistency results from the want of a proper understanding of what History, in itself considered, is.
The want of a proper idea of History, in this country, is too plainly evident to require proof. In fact, we cannot be said to have any general idea of it, whatever. Every one makes it what he pleases,-forming in this way his own History, and adopting that theory,--if he theorizes at all respecting it, which best accords with the character of his own mind, or will enable him to defend most successfully preconceived opinions. The truth, that History is but another name !or the World's-life, gradually unfolding itself, under the guidance of Divine Providence, and consequently that it has an existence of its own, as really as the individual life of man, seems to be comprehended by very few and very often is characterized as Mystical, Rationalistic, or Romanistic, or all together, according to the peculiar prejudices of the individual objector. Most commonly, History is looked upon merely as a collection of facts,-a narrative of events sustaining only an outward relation to each other, as cause and effect, and influencing the world in an incidental way, as the invention of gun-powder, for example, produced a change in the method of carrying on war. We do not wonder that History should be regarded as having no great claims to respect, so long as such notions of its nature are in vogue. Nor is it a matter of surprise to us, that the students of even our oldest and most respeciable Theological Seminaries should pursue its study with little interest, when a formal examination upon it is made to consist, possibly of interrogatories respecting the form and furniture of the Churches, and the costume of the clergy in a particular century, or other points of like mechanical concern.
Under such a view, History appears to be the result of merc human action. Its most secret springs are to be found in the caprices and passions of the human heart; and its most important events seem to be but the consequences of the ambition, the selfishness, the weakness, or the generosity, of particular individuals, or communities. “Thus God is thrust out of History,"
and His Providence is virtually denied; or if He is recognized as the ruler of events, it is only in an outward, mechanical way, presiding over the destinies of nations, and the actions of men, as a player presides over the pieces on a chess-board. It is a fact well worth considering, that most of the English Historians, -all of whom held this view of History, to a greater or less degree, -were infidels ;—and that in Germany, -as Dr. Schaf clearly shows, the idea ran out into Rationalism as its legitimate result
. Nor are we so free from this infidel influence, as is generally imagined. It is easy to see the effect of this false view of History, combined as it always necessarily is with a false view of the Church, upon a large portion of New England Puritanism, carrying it over into so-called “Liberalism,” and thence to infidelity by the closest logical process. Even in that part of the Christian community which is considered really sound, and under the form of the strictest orthodoxy, this tendency is but too apparent; and it is owing only to the powerful influence of divine truth under other forms, that we do not feel in all their disastrous consequences, the effects of a spirit, to which full assent is yielded in the sphere of History, but which robs History of its truthfulness-distorts the idea of Christianity as actualized in History, perverts the relation of God to the world, and is closely allied to infidelity in all its manifestations. In its least objectionable form, the view of History alluded to does gross injustice to History itself
. It throws aside a great portion of the past as entirely valueless. The long lapse of time between the fifth and fifteenth centuries, though full of intense activity, and abounding in vast movements,-being indeed the period when the foundations of our present social structure were laid,—is looked upon as unworthy of notice,—as a vast void in the World's life, during which God was not in the world at all, in fact, but men were left to grope their way, by themselves, in impenetrable darkness, as best they could.
From all these false results, the theory of History set forth in the book before us is free. God is recognized not only as ruling over the world but as actually dwelling in it. He is regarded not as merely watching the course of events, and by occasional interferences causing them to promote His glory, but as being Himself constantly present in History—the original source of its activity, and the controller of all its movements. At the same time, with full consistency, ample room is left for the largest freedom of human will and action. The struggles of man, and the changes of society, do not seem, in this theory, as in the view of History already mentioned, to be a sea of fluctuations in themselves without meaning, but the progressive effort of humanity, under the guidance of Divine Providence, to unfold its own nature, and thus to realize the ultimate object of its creation.No portion of the past is despised, but every part is considered important from its relation to the whole process of History, and as forming one stage of the world's progress.
Thus much for the importance of the subject discussed by Dr. Schaf. Believing that History is not a mere creature of the historian's brain, but has an actual existence of its own, he has endeavored in the work before us to point out its nature and laws. His book is emphatically a “tract for the times,”—an effort to answer questions hitherto unanswered, and little thought of in this country, but demanding a reply as necessary to the solution of the deepest questions of this, or indeed of any age. Impressed with this idea, the author has evidently bestowed upon the subject labor and thought commensurate with its importance and difficulty. His well known learning and mental vigor, and the acknowledged sincerity of his zeal for the truth, were in themselves, a sufficient guarantee for candor and thoroughness in the discussion of the subject. It might reasonably have been supposed, that a work of such character, breaking ground and preparing the way for future culture, in a field so difficult, and yet so rich in fruitful promise, would at once secure serious attention, -that it would be carefully studied, -that not merely isolated parts, but especially its fundamental idea would be critically examined, and that its errors, if any were found, would be pointed out, and refuted with the same candor, and thoroughness, that characterize the book itself. Surely no other treatment could be anticipated from an earnest theological public.
Such however was not the reception the work met with. It was noticed by two or three of the religious newspapers of the day,—was harshly denounced, in one instance, without having been read through; and in the only instance in which, so far as we remember, it was formally reviewed, its fundamental principle was left untouched. This, we believe to be a fair example of the mode in which views that do not fully accord with the reigoing tone of thought, both as to form and substance, are disposed of. The most approved method of escaping from them, seems to be, without the formality of a trial, either dictatorially to denounce them, or to consign them to oblivion by silent contempt. Quite a number of works upon important subjects, some of them very able, have lately met with this summary treatment. The method is certainly very effectual to prevent disturbance in established opinions, but most unfavorable to the progress of truth.
Though the effort of Dr. Schaf to direct attention to the nature and laws of Church History has apparently failed, we do not think that it has done so, in reality. Very probably it is better for the final success of the book, that it did not at once secure general notice. Had it done so, it doubtless would soon have been dismissed from attention, without having been permitted to produce much effect. As it is, many earnest minds have been quietly reflecting upon it, and the thought and discussion produced by kindred topics, meanwhile submitted to public consideration from different quarters, have prepared the way for a juster appreciation and a clearer apprehension of the whole subject. It is under this conviction, and with the hope of turning attention to the book, rather than of throwing light upon a subject treated in its pages with far more clearness than we have power to do, that we pen this article. In pursuance of our design, we shall employ the remaining space allowed us in exibiting as well as we can by extracts from the work, its general plan and character.'
Before entering upon the discussion of the true idea of Church History the author takes a comprehensive survey of the recent results of German labor in that direction. This survey is prefaced with some interesting remarks upon the general character of German Theology, and its probable influence upon the world, which we cannot forbear quoting, in part:
" In all the deeper movements of the world of mind, Germany for three hundred years past, has led the way for other nations. She is the land that gave birth to those world-embracing ideas which introduced the Protestant period of the Church, and have wrought such mighty changes in State, Science and art, and the entire social life of the modern world, in the Reformation she set in motion the entire course of Protestant History as it has developed itself from that time to the present. But as Rome was twice the centre of the world's life, while the sword of the capitol, transplanted with broken point to the dome of St. Peter, ruled the world for a full thousand years ; so Germany would appear to be called to act the second time a world-historical part in the fact that the spirit of the Reformation resuscitated under a new form is just at this time, actively engag. ed on all sides with the work of a vast revolution whose power may be
' To some, who have a copy of Dr. Schaf's work, it may seem unnecessary lo quote as largely, as we intend doing. It should be remembered, however, that in all probability the book has never been seen, by very many readers of the “Mercersburg Review;" and the most effectual way of introducing it to their notice, we believe, will be to furnish copious ex. tracts, together with a synopsis of its main chapter.
expected, in the end, to rule the life of the world for whole centuries to come.”
"No reference is here had to the so-called German Catholic movement, which the Protestant religious press of this country, with à most marvellous want of critical discernment, has already trumpeted as a second Reformation. We have in our eye rather the exploits as they may be styled, of the later Protestant Theology, of Germany. These must make their way in time over the whole cultivated world, and exert a mighty influence on the form and shape that shall be given hereafter to Church relations. Those who measure the importance of all things by their immediately outward consequences, and in whose view nothing is counted eventful but what fills the general popular consciousness with its sound, will be ready, no doubt, to smile at this declaration. Such, however, would do well to consider how they are to get along with Christianity itself, which was present in history as the great regenerating principle of dying humanity, working silently but powerfully like leaven, long before the central power of the world as it then stood, so much as thought of bestowing upon it the least notice.” *
“No one who is thoroughly acquainted with the extended exegetical, critical and historical inquiries, as well with the philosophical and dogmatic struggles of the last 20 or 30 years,” in Germany, ("reaching as they do to the inmost ground of all things) can possibly yield to the discouraging thought, that such an extraordinary mass of acuteness, intellect and learning should have been all to no purpose and that the sore spiritual toil of the most gifted and excellent men of the age should have been absolutely thrown away. It is true that the German theology, in the last century, became more estranged from its proper life-element of religion and the Church, than was the case in other lands. Whilst the Deism of England, and the Naturalism of France, failed to rise in general above the lowest and most shallow popular free-thinking, the unbelief, of Germany formed itself into a scientific system, fortified with a fearful bulwark of learning and philosophy, which became thus immensely more difficult to overcome than in any other case. The German takes so deep an interest in science and religion as such, and is possessed at the same time of such inexhaustible energy and perseverance of mind, that this character proclaims itself even under a false, perverse tendency, and he cannot rest till he has pushed a principle out to its most extreme consequences. But for this very reason again, he alone could produce a scientific remedy for the disease in question. A large shadow indicates always the presence of a large body. The process could not stop, of course, content with rationalism. For the Church of God must bid defiance even to the gates of hell. There arose accordingly with the beginning of the present century, and more particularly since the Jubilee of the Reformation, celebrated in the year 1817, in connexion with the false theology of Rationalism, in