Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

which lies at the foundation of his Church History, while it forms (though indeed in very different logico-dialectical shape,) the very life blood of Hegel's system. Thus decidedly unjust towards Hegel and his disciples, be allowed himself on the oiher hand to be greally carried away with the sanguine hopes, which were fixed on the coming forward of Schelling in Berlin with his “positive” philosophy, as it was called-hopes that have been since but very partially fulfilled. Just as little finally can we approve his harsh judgment upon the revival of the strong church tendency, by which be brought dissension unnecessarily into the ranks of the friends of revelation, and without meaning it placed in the hands of the Rationalists a welcome weapon against the cause of truih. · Who will deny, that especially in a time so distracted and unsetiled as ours, this revival of the sym bolical theology had full righi and weighiy reason, though we agree with Neander of course in the view, ibal the present has a far more comprehensive task to fulfil than simply to restore again out and out the church relations of the 16h century, it thing at all events that can nerer be done. Neander moreover could not but know, that in the most essential points of fuiih he was himself of one mind with those champions of church orthodoxy, and differed from them properly only in scientific formu and range of vision. The more unfair has ii aspeared to us for This reason, that whilst lie showed a certain toleration even toward: Dr. Strauss in his well known judgment on the prohibition of his infamous “ Leben Jesi," he should have lield himself almost entirely aloof from his colleague Hengstenberg, a man who lias borne so much of the reproach of Christ, and inat to the deep grief of the pious in Berlin he renounced at last formally and publicly all connection whatever with the Evangelical Church Journal," on account especially of its undue severily towards the cherished memory of his great friend Schlei. ermacher. They were men indeed cf altogether different nature, but yet not more so than for instance Melancihon and Calvin, who notwithstanding honored and loved one another as brothers.

At all events, think of these theological tendencies themselves as we may, the manner and style in which Neander was accus tomed to assail them, in bis evening circles particularly, urged on often by slavishly devoted students, was by no ineans free from morbid irritation and passion; an infirmity suited to keep the admiration of his friends from running into actual man worship.

The weakness of a great and good man goes only to show, that the highest human virtue is imperfect, and that we all need inercy and intercession. This fact was well understood by the

humble Neander himself, who in addressing his pupils from his window, on the last anniversary of his birth but one, poured forth publicly a consession of his own sinfulness that moved every heart.

Aside bowever from the strong and invincible prejudices now mentioned, it was not easy indeed to detect in him a single fault; he presented on the contrary a combination of the noblest qualiries and faire: t virtues, refined by the spirit of Christianity, such as is rarely ir deed met with in a single man. The leading seaTures of his character were simplicity, honesty, disinterestedness, humility, love. of the plots and intrigues, the manifold duplicities and cra'ty calculations of worldly men, he had hardly a conception even by hearsay; his noble Nathannel spirit lay clear and open before God and man, like the simplicity of the dave itself.' He gave his confidence to every body, and was thus indeed often enough deceived. Great as his the retic knowledge of men was, he erred continually in the application of it to particular actual cases, and this from sheer goodness of heart and child like simplicity. To understand and admire in its true living force that great word of the Redeemer, Except yo become as little childi en ye shall not enter into the kingdom of hearing it was only necessary to become acquainted with Neander.-He was in very truth a child in malice, and yet at the sanie time a giant in understanding. In our whole life we have never met, among learned men, with spirits more childlike anu amiable than those of Neander and the pious naturalist and waveller G. H. von Schubert of Münich. And who does not admiie the noble and conscientious regard for truth, which appears in all Neander s scientific investigations, not excepting those even in which h 8 views whether right or wrong were found 10 deviate from the older orthodoxy. His disinterestedness was, we may well say, without bounds. He had indeed for his own person externally few wants; his clothing was of the most simple sort; fuis moderation in eating and drinking reminded one of ihe lives of the old ascet cs, and of St. Anthony, who felt ashamed as an immortal spirit of having to use earthly food. By reason of his unpractical nature moreover, and his total abstraction from the world, he was indeed wholly ignorant of the value of money, and had not his sister relieved himn from taking care of it, he would no doubt have brought himself to beggary over and over again by sheer benerolence. In this respect also he showed not a trace of his Jewish descent. It is known that the university teachers in Germany receive apart of their remuneration from the students who have for this purpose to pay over a fixed sun

man

for every course to the treasurer. To get a remission of this honorarium from Neander was the easiest thing in the world, and he was very often imposed on here by those who were any. thing but poor. The Society for Sick Students in Berlin owed its origin to him, and he devoted to it the whole profits of several of his writings; as he gave also all that he got for another part of his works to Bible Societies, for the circulation of bibles among the heathen. Every one in want or need found with him a sympathizing heart and liberal hand. We have still a very lively remembranee of his heartfelt interest for a young

who was blind. Earnesily thirsting after religious knowledge, the youih had attended several of his lectures in 1840-41 on church history and exegesis, and spoke afterwards with the most grateful satisfaction of the spiritual benefit they had afforded him. When Neander heard of his necessitous circumstances, he showed the greatest emotion, inquired with slaring eyes and growing agitation into all the details, and then hurried away to his sister to procure hiin help. We happened 10 be in his study at the time, and the scene struck us the more deeply, as Neander, by reason of his total lack of practical tact, had himself the air of one perfectly helpless, and with the greatest readiness to assist want was still in a persect quandary as to how it should be done, till his sister or some student came to his relief. And how much good did he not do, which only eternity

. will bring to light! For he was the man precisely and in full, 10 abhor all show and not to let the right hand know what was done by the left. No doubt he possessed naturally in high degree what we call a good heart; but it was lifted into the region of grace, and seasoned and sanctified by the love of Christ, the Saviour of the world. Of sexual love he knew nothing ; and yet how highly he conceived of the dignity and worth of woinan; how beautifully he has portrayed the blessed influence of pious mothers upon the religious history of several of the great

. est church fathers, such as Gregory of Nazianzen, Chrysostom and Augustine ; how tenderly devored was he towards his sis. ters, especially to that one who gave herself up to the care of his earihly wants, that his rich niind might be consecrated to the undis: urbed service of the Church! Sons and daughters were denied him; but this privation was made up to him in his students, fur whom he had the feelings of a real father. Never perhaps was the love of a professor towards theological youth so inward and strong. No wonder, that they were enthusiastically devoted to him also in return. As ofien as his birth day came round, they brought him some suitable present and a serenade,

10 which was added not unfrequently a grand torch-light procession; not only his own immediate pupils, but hundreds of ştudenis also from the other faculties, joining with lively interest in the occasion. And as he was ready to serve every German youth, so had he a warm welcome also for every foreigner, who visited him as a theologian or as a friend of the kingdom of God. In France, England, Scotland, and America, there are to be found many very worthy ministers, who have experienced his kindness and hospitality and hold them still in thankful remembrance. Through such visiis, where his familiarity with the French and English languages did him excellent service, he has scattered many a noble seed into distant lands, which has since sprung up in quiet stillness and is now yielding fruit a hundred fold. For Americans he had a certain partiality, as a free course of the religionis life, undisturbed by any sort of political influence, sell in specially with his taste; although of course the division and distraction of the Church in this country was not approved by him, and near at hand would have been still more deplored than as seen only at so great a distance. For he was eniphatically a man for union, and sought the one in the manifold no less than the manifold in the one.

This glorious character, thus full of childlike simplicity, tender conscientiousness, unwearied professional fidelity, and warm self-sacrificing love, this life thus wholly cousecrated to the highest ends of the spirit, the advancement of truth and piety, was rooled and secured throughout in the grace of humility. Neander knew the deep corruption of human nature, the absolute necessity of its redemption in Christ, placed hiniself cheerfully in the great concern of life by the side of the least; with all his uncommon learning preferred the simple unadorned preaching of the gospel for poor sinners to the most brilliant displays of rhetorical talent; listened on Sunday with touching attention and devotion to the foolishness of the cross, which yet puts to shame all the wisdom of this world; and with all his immense popularity, and his fame spread over the whole theological world, never allowed himself to be blinded by pride and vanity, or to swerve the breadıh of a finger even froin ihe track of that virtue which Chrysostom styles the foundation of all christian norality; he remained to the last breath as simple and humble as a child, and would be nothing in himself, but all only in and through Christ. One of his favorite moitos, which he wrote for us in our album, was, Theologia crucis, non gloriae ; and according to this he himself lived, spoke, and wrote, till life's frail lenement gave way and his spirit passed into the full vision of the crucified One in glory.

a

a

Neander had always a weak and sickly body. In the last years of his life however, he became in a very peculiar sense a theologian of the cross, with painful experience that the via lucis is indeed also a vin crucis. By a dark though gracious dispensation of the Lord, he was doomed, like the illustrious author of the Paradise Lost, to an almost total loss of sight, long before weakened by incessant study day and night-a doubly severe trial for a scholar, and particularly for a historian, 10 whom no organ is in any degree so valuable and necessary as his eyes. Thus must this friend of God be perfected by suffering. His faith gave him power to bear also this calamity, and to him might be applied in full measure what St. Anthony once said to the blind church teacher, Didymus of Alexandria: “Let it not trouble thee to be without the eyes with which even flies can see; but rejoice rather that thou hast the eyes that angels see with, for the vision of God and his blessed light.' Not a murmur, not a sound of complaint or discontent, passed over Neander's lips; and in this way the crown was set upon his character by patience and quiet resignation to God's will. He did not suffer himself to be interrupted in his work by this affliction, and showed in it a rare power of will over opposing nature. Not only did he continue to hold his lectures as before with the most conscientious fidelity, but he went forward unceasingly also in his litera ry labors wiih the help of a reader and amanuensis. Nay, he took part even so late as the beginning of the year 1850, in connection wiih Dr. Julius Müller of Halle and Dr. Niizch of Ber. lin, in esablishing a new periodical, the valuable “ Deutsche Zeitschrift für christliche Wissenchaft und christliches Leben ;” and furnished for it a number of excellent articles, such as a retrospect of the first half of this century, one on the difference between the Hellenic and Christian Ethics, another on the practical exposition of the Bible-in which he still soared with unabated strengih like an eagle, only a short time before his death.

What his departed friend Schleiermacher had wished for himself already in his “ Monologues," and af erwards actually re. ceived, was granted also to Neander, the privilege namely of dying in the full possession of his mental powers and in the midst of his work. Only eight days before his death, on the occasion of a visit from Guizlaff, “ the aposile of the Chinese," he made an address with youthful freshness on the Chinese Mission, and looked forward with animation to the future triumphs of the kingdom of God, the setting forth of whose growth, under the guidance of the twofold likeness of the mustard seed

« PredošláPokračovať »