Herder, Johann Gottfried Von

Herder, Johann Gottfried von one of the most variously gifted of German writers, was born August 25, 1744, at Mohrungen, in East Prussia, where his father kept a little girls' school. His early training was strict and religious. A preacher named Trescho taught him Greek and Latin; and the pastor's books of theology were devoured by the young student. A complaint in the eyes brought him under the notice of a Russian surgeon, who offered to instruct him in surgery gratis. Herder accepted the offer, but at Konigsberg fainted at the first dissection which he attended, and thereupon resolved to study theology. He gained the acquaintance of persons who appreciated him, and procured him a place as instructor in the Frederick's College at Konigsberg. Here he became intimate with Kant and Hamann, who greatly influenced the development of his mind. With the most indefatigable industry he studied philosophy, natural science, history, and languages, and in 1764 became assistant at the cathedral school at Riga, to which office that also of preacher was attached. Here he laid the foundations of his great celebrity as a pulpit orator. Some literary disputes disgusted him, and he went to France, and was there chosen by the prince of Holstein-

Oldenburg as his traveling companion. He would have gone from France to Italy had he not been arrested by the complaint in his eyes at Strasbourg, where he first became acquainted with Gothe. In 1776 he was called to Weimar as court preacher, and in that little capital, then celebrated as the Athens of Germany, he spent the remainder of his life, respected as a preacher and as an active promoter of education and other public improvements, and laboring unweariedly in his multifarious literary pursuits. He died Dec. 18, 1803. Herder's literary activity was enormous. There is hardly a field of literature which he left unexplored. His collected writings amount to sixty volumes (Sämmtliche Werke, Stuttgardt, 1827-30, 60 vols. 18mo; also 45 vols. 8vo, edited by Heyne and Miller. Tübingen, 1805-1820). They may be divided into four classes-History, Belles-Lettres, Philosophy, and Theology. In philosophy, Herder was rather an observer than a metaphysician. His reputation in that field rests chiefly on his Ideen zur Geschichte der Menschheit (4th ed. Leips. 1841, 2 vols.), translated into English by Churchill, under the title Outlines of a Philosophy of the History of Man (2nd edit. London, 1803, 2 vol. 8vo) As a theologian, Herder is noted not for science or system so much as for his freedom of thought and his genial spirit. In some respects he was the precursor of Schleiermacher, and his rationalism, though low enough, was of a totally different school from that of Semler, Paulus, and the neologists generally. He sought especially to render Biblical studies more profitable by making them more free, and by investing them with a human and scientific interest. In his work on the Geist der ebrdischen Poesie (1782; translated by Dr. Marsh, of Vermont, under the title Spirit of Hebrew Poetry, 1833, 2 vols. 12mo), he dwelt especially on the aesthetical and human side of the Bible, which, in his' view, instead of weakening its claims to divine authority, greatly strengthens them. He was the first to show critically the poetical beauties of the Bible, which he did not consider as mere ornaments, but rather as being grounded in the inner nature of the revelation, and not to be separated from a correct view of the inspiration of the contents of the O.T. Though others, Lowth for instance, had already treated this subject of the poetry of the Hebrews, none had seen so deeply into its nature, or shown so plainly the true spirit which pervaded it. By this poetical consideration of the O.T. history, and of the series of religious precepts based on this history, he rid the Bible from the mistakes of such interpreters as Michaelis and others. His älteste Urkunde d. Menschengeschlechts, eine nach Jahrhunderten enthüllte heilige Schrift, which appeared in 1774, revolutionized the system of O.T. exegesis by attempting to treat the history of creation (Genesis 1) from a different standpoint from the one which generally prevailed. In his Erlaüterungen z. A. T. aus einer neu eröfneten morgenländischen Quelle (the. Zend Avesta), which he published in 1775, he also endeavored to render the exegesis of the N.T. more accurate and profound, by showing the influence of Parseeism on the Hebrew and, incidentally, on the Christian mode of thought. He worked especially on the books of James and Jude, under the title of Briefe zweier Brüder Jesu in unserm Kanon (1775), and on the Apocalypse in Das Buch v. der Zukunft des Herrn (Riga, 1779). In the former work he considers James and Jude as the real brothers of the Lord according to the flesh, while in the second he maintains that the predictions of the Apocalypse were fulfilled at the destruction of Jerusalem. Herder also wrote on various points of the history of the New-Testament revelation and of Biblical dogmatics, especially in his Christliche Schriften. In these he treats of the gift of tongues on the first Christian Pentecost; of the resurrection as a point of faith, history, and dogma; of the Redeemer as presented in the three gospels; of the Son of God, the Savior of the world; of the spirit of Christianity; of religion, doctrinal meanings, usages, etc. "One of the chief services of Herder to Christianity was his persistent labor to elevate the pastoral office to its original and proper dignity. He held that the pastor of the church should not be solely a learned critic, but the minister of the common people. In his day the pastor was considered the mere instrument of the state, a sort of theological policeman — a degradation which Herder could hardly permit himself to think of without violent indignation. In his Letters on the Study of Theology, published in 1780, and in subsequent smaller works, he sought to evoke a generation of theologians, who, being imbued with his own ideas of humanity, would betake themselves to the edification of the humble mind. He would eject scholasticism from the study of the Bible, and show to his readers that simplicity of inquiry is the safest way to happy results. He would place the modern pastor, both in his relations to the cause of humanity and in the respect awarded him by the world, close beside the patriarch and prophet of other days; and that man, in his opinion, was not worthy the name of pastor who could neglect the individual requirements of the soul. According to Herder, the theologian should be trained from childhood in the knowledge of the Bible and of practical religion. Youth should have ever before them the example of pious parents, who were bringing them up with a profound conviction of the doctrines of divine truth. To choose theology for a profession from mercenary aims would preclude all possibility of: pastoral usefulness. 'Let prayer and reading the Bible be your morning and evening food,' was his advice to a young preacher. Some of the most eloquent words from his pen were written against the customary moral preaching which so much afflicted him. 'Why don't you come down from your pulpits,' he asks, 'for they cannot be of any advantage to you in preaching such things? What is the use of all these Gothic churches, altars, and such matters? No, indeed! Religion, true religion, must return to the exercise of its original functions, or a preacher will become the most indefinite, idle, and indifferent thing on earth. Teachers of religion, true servants of God's word, what have you to do in our century? The harvest is plenteous, but 'the laborers are few; pray the Lord of the harvest that he will send out laborers who will be something more than bare teachers of wisdom and virtue. More than this, help yourselves!' The counsel given by Herder to others was practiced first by himself. He lived among critical minds, who spurned humble pastoral work, but he felt it his duty, and therefore discharged it to the best of his ability. His preaching was richly lucid, and not directed to the most intelligent portion of his auditors. He took up a plain truth and strove to make it plainer. Yet, while the masses were most benefited by his simplicity of pulpit conversation, those gifted men who thought with him arose from their seats profoundly impressed with the dignity and value of the Gospel. A witty writer of the time, Sturz, gives an account of Herder's preaching that throws some light upon the manner in which the plain, earnest exposition of God's word always affected the indifferent auditor. 'You should have seen,' says this man, 'how every rustling sound was hushed and each curious glance was chained upon him in a very few minutes. We were as still as a Moravian congregation. All hearts opened themselves spontaneously; every eye hung upon him and wept unwonted tears; deep sighs escaped from every breast. My dear friend, nobody preaches like him' (Hurst, History of Rationalism, ch. vii). See Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 5, 747; Erinnerungen aus d. Leben Hersder's (Tübingen, 1820, 8vo); Quinet, Ideen z. Gesch. (Par. 1834); E.G. Herder, Herder's Character bild (Erlang. 1846, 6 vols.); article by Bancroft, North American Review, July, 1836, p. 216; Menzel, German Literature (American translation, ii, 419); review of Marsh's translation, Christian Examiner, 18:167; Hagenbach, History of the Church in the 18th and 19th Centuries, translated by Hurst, vol. 2, lectures 1-5.

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