Schleiermacher, Friedrich Daniel Ernst
Schleiermacher, Friedrich Daniel Ernst was a theologian of the Reformed Church of Germany, who, standing on the borderline between the decline of rationalism and the birth of the new evangelical school of Germany, exerted an influence for good in all the higher fields of thought which has rarely been equaled by any mind in any age ("the greatest divine of the 19th century," says P. Schaff, Creeds, 1, 451). He was born at Breslau, Nov. 21, 1768. His father was an humble army chaplain of Calvinistic faith, upright life, and rather cold and harsh temper. His mother (nee Stubenrauch), a pastor's daughter, was sprightly, prudent, and pious. Young Schleiermacher's health was delicate. His education up to his fifteenth year was derived chiefly from his parents. In 1783 he was sent To the school of the Moravian Brethren at Niesky. Here he made rapid strides in knowledge; but he also began to be troubled with religious doubts. At the age of seventeen he entered the higher school of the same brethren at Barby. Here he was brought face to face with a body of doctrine which, not being able to command his full assent, had the effect of forcing him to begin the construction of a system of his own. His first chief doubts related to the substitutional atonement of Christ and the eternity of future punishment. The attempts of his teachers to remove these doubts had no other effect than to sadden him, and to convince him that his religious life would have to be nurtured outside of Moravian circles. He was frank enough to open his heart and explain his doubts to his dry, traditional father. The father rudely answered him, "O foolish son, who has bewitched thee that thou obeyest not the truth and crucifiest the Savior afresh?" Subsequent correspondence, however, brought the father into a more Christian frame of mind, and finally led each to esteem and respect the other in a far higher degree than before. With great difficulty having obtained his father's consent, he entered the University of Halle in the spring of 1787. While thus breaking his outward connection with the Moravians, he yet bore away with him from them a spirit of tender, subjective religiousness which ever after lingered like a heavenly aroma over everything which he printed or spoke. In Halle he lived with an uncle, and studied and heard lectures just as he pleased. He was not very methodical. He heard the aged rationalist Semler, devoured the works of Wolf, Kant, and Jacobi, became familiar with modern languages, and pursued mathematics. At this time he wrote: "I am not sure that I can construct the whole field of knowledge into such a system that I can readily assign to every question its place and its solution; but I am sure that the nearest approach to it will be made by a candid hearing of the reasons on both sides, and by not settling upon anything with positiveness until this has previously been done." These words of the youth truly express the spirit that led him throughout life. While not in every case attaining to definitive results, he yet incessantly worked towards that goal; and his one life aim was to ascertain as nearly as practicable the limits of attainable human knowledge. Leaving Halle in 1790, he passed his theological examination in Berlin, and, on the recommendation of F.S.G. Sack, became private instructor in the pious family of the count Dohna-Schlobitten in East Prussia. Differing, ultimately, with the count on certain pedagogic principles, he returned to Berlin and taught, for a while, an orphan school (1793), then preached as vicar to pastor Schumann at Landsberg, on the Wartha (1794), and finally was made one of the two pastors at the Charité, the chief hospital in Berlin, a position which he filled until 1802. From 1796 onwards, his intellectual life took on a marvelous richness of flow and depth. Surrounded with such persons as Brinkmann, Scharnhorst, Alexander Dohna, Henrietta Herz, Dorothea Veit, he breathed the most stimulating atmosphere of the Prussian capital. In his scientific and philosophical studies he made vast acquisitions. By his intimacy with the younger Schlegel he was partially imbued with the spirit of the romantic school in art. From this influence the clearness of his moral consciousness was momentarily disturbed. Hence arose his Letters upon Schlegel's romance, Lucinde (Vertraute Briefe, 1801), which, though well meant and full of moral earnestness, brought upon him no little odium. They can, at best, be called only a beautiful commentary to a bad text. Hence, also, sprang his romantic friendship with Leonore Grunow, the childless wife of a Berlin pastor, which was absolutely broken off only in 1805. Much satisfactory light is thrown upon this single shadow in his life by his letters to his sister Charlotte and to Henrietta Herz. These incidental matters did not interfere with the steady maturing of his intellectual and theological systems. It was, perhaps, the richest development period (from his twenty- eighth to his thirty-second year) in his life. Hence it is to be explained that with so little previous literary experience (he had only helped Sack translate Blair's Sermons, and himself translated Fawcett's Sermons and contributed a few essays to periodicals) he was able at once to electrify the nation by such a masterwork as his Reden (discourses on religion )
and his Monologen (1800). Leaving behind him these earnest protests against the prevalent spirit of irreligion, he now repaired (1802) to the post of court preacher at Stolpe, in East Pomerania. Here he passed two laborious years, and wrought upon his German translation of Plato. Here appeared his first strictly philosophical work, Kritik aller bisherigen Sittenlehren (1803). In 1801 he was transferred to Halle and made professor extraordinary of theology. It was a trying change; his own system of theology was not yet matured in his mind; and nothing but the great practical wisdom and originality of a Schleiermacher would have succeeded under the circumstances. He began at once to lecture in a very original manner on New Test. exegesis, dogmatics, and ethics. He also preached frequently, reestablishing the academic worship which had fallen into neglect. He was soon made professor in ordinary. Although he attracted general attention, yet he was not congenial to the members of the theological faculty. Only Niemeyer and Vater drew near to him; Knapp and Nosselt did not appreciate him. His lectures and sermons made strange and contradictory impressions. Was he an atheist, a Spinozist, or a superorthodox pietist? Some thought the one; some the other. At this period he produced his Weihnachtsfeier (1806) and his commentary on Timothy (1807). The ravages of the French invasion interrupting now his labors at Halle, he returned to Berlin (autumn of 1807) and became pastor of Trinity Church (Dreifaltigkeitskirche). In 1808 he married the widow of his young friend, Von Willich. In 1810 he was made professor in ordinary of the new University of Berlin and a member of two scientific associations. Here the most influential half of his life begins. He was of the small circle of great men who called the new university into being and gave to it fame. Here he passed from a rhapsodical to a dogmatic theologian; from a proclaimer of religious philosophy to an expounder of the Word of God. It is not a revolution, however, but only a growth. Besides his scholastic labors, Schleiermacher took a lively part in the troubled politics of his country. In the darkest hours of Napoleonic oppression, he was unwearied in pulpit labors, counseling patience and inspiring with hope. He gave also much thought to the Church agitation which afterwards culminated in the "Union" of the Lutherans and the Reformed. The most important production of his first ten years in Berlin was his Glaubenslehre. From 1818 to 1822 he labored with De Wette and Lücke in editing the Theologische Zeitschrift, which, ignoring the vulgar difference between rationalism and supernaturalism, represented a more general and a higher form of religious and philosophical science. Though not one of the founders of the Studien und Kritiken (1828), yet his contributions to its earlier numbers helped to give it its high character. But it was to his actual work of teaching that the strength of his life was given. He lectured from two to three hours per day, except Saturdays. His intercourse with the other members of the university — with Fichte, Savigny, and Hegel, with Buttmann, Böckh, and Lachmann, with De Wette, Marheineke, and Neander — was deeply beneficial on both sides. The subjects which he taught were hermeneutics, ethics, dogmatics, dialectics, psychology, and philosophy, besides other incidental subjects. To his sermons he gave but a few moments on Saturdays, rarely throwing upon paper more than a few outlines. The majority of his published sermons arose from notes taken down by his auditors and then revised by himself. In society Schleiermacher took great delight, though not always himself the greatest talker. Society did not weary, but recreate him. To the students he was by far not so familiar as Neander, but the time he gave to them left indelible impressions. In his domestic life he was peculiarly happy. Only the death of his sole son (1829) cast a shadow into his life from which he seemed never fully to recover. Still he fulfilled all his offices and was busy with his pen to the very last. His oft expressed wish that he might die in the full possession of his consciousness was graciously granted to him. Early in February, 1834, he was attacked with inflammation of the lungs, which closed his life on the 12th. His dying hours were those of a resigned, joyous follower of Christ. His very last act and words were the administering of the eucharist to himself and his friends.
From these outlines of Schleiermacher's outward life we pass to a brief notice of his chief literary and theological productions, following in the main the article (forty-four pages) by Gass in Herzog's Real-Encyklop. 13. He stood, as we have said, between the death and the birth of two ages. Combining the tendencies of the two — the rationalistic and the evangelical — in his own person, he helped to bury the one and to inaugurate the other. Yet he himself belonged to neither. He gave the death blow to rationalism, cast away the rubbish, and laid the foundations of the new evangelical edifice; but he did not fully build it. His intellectual history is the history of the Christian consciousness of his epoch. It is a growth. It has a dawn, a crystallizing period, and a philosophic maturity. It can be traced distinctly in the thirty-one volumes of his collective works as edited by his friend Jonas and others, from 1834 to 1864.
His career was opened by his Reden, addresses to cultivated unbelievers (1800). This work made an epoch in the German nation. It called the cultivated circles away from their pride in a high sounding philosophy and from their contempt of what they called religion. There is no incongruity, said the young prophet, between culture and religion. The culture that despises religion is but shallow presumption; the religion that despises culture is but a caricature. The foundations of religion are as deep as intuition and as broad as humanity. Each individual of the race is a vital member of the universe. By the universe he is sustained and furthered. In every life there come moments when this dependence on the universe is thrust upon the consciousness and made the very life of the soul. Such moments are as a conception, a birth, of the Eternal and Absolute within the limits of the finite and dependent. Religion is art, taste, a consciousness of the All. In becoming conscious of the Infinite we have the sentiment of our immortality. Religion is not mere dogmas and systems. It is the deepest and truest life of humanity itself. Men may sneer at religion, but they cannot get away from religion. Scorners turn from dry dogmatics to living nature. But what do they revere in nature? Not dead matter, not prosy, chemical elements, but rather nature's orderly march, its adaptation of means to ends. But this is, after all, the very essence of religion; it is a sympathy with the eternal basis of all being. Religion is thus universal. We can escape it only by putting out our reason. It is not from wholeness, but only from partialness, of vision that the cultivated turn aside from religion. The first three of the discourses treat, thus, of the nature of religion in general. The last two give a survey of religion in its historical reality. As the essence of religion is communion of feeling with the Absolute, the One, so its tendency is to organize man into communities and to express itself in organized worship. As there are infinite varieties of manifestation in nature, so the apprehension of the Infinite in the soul of man takes place under endless varieties. Hence the multiplicity of historical religions. But there are here points of greater and of less approximation. Ancient Israel stood exceptionally close to the Infinite. In Jesus of Nazareth, the One, the Infinite reached its (or his) intensest manifestation. Such is the general drift of these celebrated Reden. They were accused of a tendency to pantheism, though Schleiermacher resented the imputation. They were certainly not positively Christian. But they tended towards Christianity, and they unquestionably produced a more fruitful effect on the specific audience which they addressed than if they had been of more confessionally orthodox form. This effect was sudden and immense. In his preface to the third edition (1821) Schleiermacher had occasion playfully to remark that there was then really a greater call for discourses to the over righteous and the creed worshippers among the cultivated than to unbelievers. The Monologen, with which Schleiermacher greeted the dawn of the 19th century, stand, as an ethical work, by the side of the religious tendency of the Reden. They are a self scrutinizing and self-exhorting journey through the religious consciousness. Man should not be simply one of the monotonous members of the universe; but he should, by self concentration and self virtualization, develop himself into a rich and relatively independent individual. Means to this are reflection, meditation, retirement from too great absorption in dissipation, business, and external routine — in other words, the due consecrating of our secular life with the devotional element. As in the Reden an influence of Spinoza has been noticed, so in the Monologen some have found a trace of Fichte. These two works present their author in the first stadium of his development The Christmas Celebration (Weihnachtsfeier ) is a transition step towards positive theology. It is a charming dialogue, in the fashion of Plato, on the significance of the birth of Christ. The three speakers defend, each his peculiar view. Neither of them represents the author's exclusive views, but rather all of them in turn.
When we pass to Schleiermacher's critical treatment of the Bible, we meet with his least satisfactory works. And yet there was combined with his rather negative tendency very much which has enriched the results of exegetics. Ignoring the dogma of inspiration, he laid free hand upon the sacred book, just as upon the dialogues of Plato, or any other ancient documents. But he did not doubt the substantial genuineness of the Bible, and he was confident that critical science is capable of drawing the line between the essential and the non essential. His posthumously edited lectures on introduction to the New Test. hermeneutics and criticism have not fully answered all expectations.
In his outlines of theology (Kurze Darstellung des theologischen Studiums), which appeared first in 1810, and then, enriched with notes, in 1830, Schleiermacher assumes very positive dogmatic ground. He bases himself upon the objective fact of the Protestant Christian consciousness. Theology is a positive science, the elements of which are evolved from the Christian consciousness and from the exigencies of Church government. It is not a branch of philosophical science in general. With philosophy it must neither interfere nor by philosophy be dominated. Its truth is ascertained by historical criticism and by the comparative study of other religions. This forms the philosophical part. Its product is the historical, and out of the philosophical and historical parts results directly the practical part. This little work is of great originality, and has exerted wide influence. Its classification, however, has not been extensively followed.
The richest product of Schleiermacher's life is his dogmatics (Der christliche Glaube nach den Grundsätzen der evangelischen Kirche), which was first published in 1821 (2 vols.), then, in a much enriched and revised edition, in 1831. It is a monument of genius, and has been called the greatest theological product of the 19th century. Dogmatics is here presented, not as a speculative science, but as the systematized contents of the Protestant Christian consciousness. The essence of this consciousness is defined, not as knowledge or action, but as feeling, and as a feeling differing from all others in being a direct consciousness of the absolute. More specifically, it is a feeling of absolute dependence. This feeling is for the first time clearly realized in Christian monotheism. The principal defect of this definition is that it makes no adequate room for creatural freedom. A second definition is given of the specifically Christian consciousness. Thus, qualitatively it is a transition from the moral condition of unhappiness into that of happiness; historically, it is an effect of the life of Christ. The two elements must stand in perfect union. This union gives the limits within which the healthy Christian life must move, and beyond which lie the shoals of all error and heresy. Redemption is infringed upon by any view of human ability which overlooks the absolute necessity of redemption. Christ is infringed upon by any view which makes him either too near to or too remote from the ordinary conditions of human life. Accordingly, we find, in fact, two opposite christological and two anthropological heresies — the Ebionite and the Docetic, the Pelagian and the Manichaean. From this starting point, and within these limits, the dogmatic theologian has free movement. It is his privilege to seize the historical results of the past, to shape them into self consistency, and to impress upon them in turn the historical coloring of the present. Thus the body of Christian doctrines is at no point definitively complete, but is in constant process of maturing. The dogmatics of Schleiermacher made an epoch in theology. It superseded old modes of defending Christianity, and inaugurated new and better ones. It did not begin with dry proofs of the existence of God; it found God already given in the Christian consciousness. It did not make Christ simply a part of the Christian system;
it made him its beginning, its middle, and its end. In the distribution of the subject matter of his work, Schleiermacher studies (1) man as conscious of God prior to the experience of the antithesis of sin and grace; next, after becoming conscious of such an antithesis, as (2) the subject of sin, and (3) as the subject of grace: or the states of innocence, sin, and grace. Each of these divisions is subdivided in a threefold manner, describing respectively the condition of man, the attributes of God, and the constitution of the world, as they relate to the three above-named states. Thus Schleiermacher's method departs from all previous methods. While the schoolmen begin with God and his attributes, and then pass to man; while the reformers usually begin with the rule of faith, the Bible, and then, passing to the Deity, proceed in the scholastic manner, Schleiermacher, on the contrary, begins and ends with the human consciousness and its contents. The development of this scheme showed clearly that the old form of rationalism was shallow and worthless. It emancipated religion from its entanglement with philosophical systems and placed it in the realm of feeling. It showed that spiritual insight — an awakened heart — is just as necessary to the appreciation of Christian theology as asthetic insight is to the enjoyment of art. But with these healthful principles Schleiermacher associated consequences which were of damaging tendency. As he made the human intuitions the criterion of absolute appeal in art and morals, so he made the collective Christian consciousness the ultimate test of religious truth. The value of the apostolic testimony in Scripture arises, therefore, not from its being an absolute objective standard, but from its being the clearest existing expression of the Christian consciousness in the earliest and purest age. The Church existed before the New Testament. The New Testament appeals to the religious consciousness, but does not dictate to it. Inspiration is not mere genius: it is the outgoing of the religious consciousness; it is but a higher degree of what is common to the pious intuitions of saintly men in all ages. The Bible is a record of religious truth, not its formal organ. It is a reflection of the Christian consciousness of the apostolic age, but not a mechanical criterion for all ages. By such views as these Schleiermacher made himself absolutely dependent upon the utterances of the religious consciousness. Hence he is unable fully to appreciate such points of doctrine as are not clearly given in this consciousness. Thus sin is understood rather as unholiness than as guilt before God; redemption rather as sanctification than as justification; Christ's death as a simple incident in his life of self sacrifice; atonement as the setting forth of the union of God with man; the mode of attaining to salvation as a spiritual realization of this union through the embracing of Christ in love (see Farrar, Fee Thought, p. 245-247). The Holy Ghost is presented as simply the collective Spirit of the Church, as resulting from the union of human nature with the divine. With the exception of the doctrines of immortality, eternal life, and retribution, all the other opinions in regard to man's future are questions of mere hope and speculation. The doctrine of the Trinity is not a direct utterance of the religious consciousness, nor was it a separate article of the early Christian faith; hence it does not really possess the character of an independent dogma, which the Church afterwards gave to it. The Trinity is, in fact, not a designation of Deity, but rather of the revelation of Deity. Schleiermacher inclines to an improved Sabellianism. The scholastic idea of a tripersonal God is, in his view, an undogmatic philosopheme, while the simpler old Protestant conception is a logical self contradiction (see Theol. Zeitschrift, pt. 3 [transl. in Bible Repos. Andover, vol. 5]). The reception which the public gave to Schleiermacher's dogmatics was very varying. Rationalism was displeased: the first volume was too speculative, the second too pietistic. Wegscheider regarded it as a pious representation of essential orthodoxy. The orthodox party warmly welcomed it, though without full approval. Braniss and Delbrück criticized it sharply. The latter declared it inconsistent with the foundations of Protestantism. But it speedily recovered from these shocks; and within a few years it numbered among its disciples such men as Twesten, Lücke, Nitzsch, Ullmann, Baumgarten- Crusius, Schwarz, and Gass. These men studied it, elucidated it, wrote upon it. It came to honor in nearly all the German universities. In some of them it was made the basis of special courses of lectures. But it speedily became evident that the body of disciples might be divided into three chief groups. Some held more to the negative, critical elements; others to the evangelically positive; others to the middle course of the master. Among the more positively evangelical of his disciples were Twesten, Nitzsch, Julius Muller, Hagenbach, Tholuck, Sack, Bleek, Usteri, Olshausen, Dorner, Erbkam, Martensen, Liebner, Lange, Eberard. Auberlen, Rothe, Schöberlein, Palmer, and a host of others.
In the field of ethics the influence of Schleiermacher was only less than in that of dogmatics; but he was not privileged to bring his thoughts to satisfactory completion and consistency. He began with a revolutionary and unhistorical criticism of previous systems in his Kritik aller bisherigen Sittenlehren in 1803. His personal views he began to elaborate in a series of essays in 1819. The substance of his lectures on ethics was edited by Schweizer (Entwurf der Sittenlehre) in 1835, also more briefly by Twesten (Grundriss der philosophischen Ethik) in 1841. His positively Christian ethics (Die christliche Sitte) was edited by Jonas in 1843. From these varied presentations it is difficult, if not impossible, to derive a single consistent view. The classification is artificial and unsatisfactory (see a severe criticism upon it in Wuttke's Christian Ethics [Engl. transl.], 1, 361-371). The fruitfulness of Schleiermacher in this field was rather in furnishing impulses to other authors than as the creator of a finished system.
Next in importance stand his works on pedagogics (Erziehungslehre), edited by C. Platz in 1849, and his Practical Theology (Praktische Theologie), edited by Frerichs. Of less worth are his lectures on Church history (Kirchengeschichte), edited by Bonnel in 1840. For the light thrown upon his inner religious life, none of Schleiermacher's writings are more interesting than his sermons. There are thus far published ten volumes. Of these four were revised by the author, and six have been prepared by others, mostly by Dr. Sydow. These sermons are from every period of his life, and of every class. The larger number, however, are not textual or exegetical, but synthetic, the regular development of a theme. In contents they stand midway between the instructive and the hortatory. The great preacher placed himself on the same level as his audience, and, while enriching their conception of Christianity, endeavored to inspire them to a fuller realization of it in their lives. The uniform central point of his utterance was Christ, the Redeemer. Dr. Schaff (see Creeds of Christendom, 1, 880) ascribes this intense love of Christ in Schleiermacher to his early Moravian education. He says, "It is a remarkable fact that the great German theologian Schleiermacher was cradled in the Moravian community, and conceived there his love for Christian union and personal devotion to Christ, which guided him through the labyrinth of speculation and scepticism, and triumphed on his death bed. He shook almost every dogma of orthodoxy, and was willing, if necessary, to sacrifice all if he could only retain a perfect and sinless Savior." He is inexhaustible in the variety and novelty of ways in which he impresses this vital point. This singleness of aim, however, does not imply monotony, but is consistent with very wide variety of matter. There is scarcely a single point in the circle of Christian doctrine which is not the theme of some of these sermons; hence they are often read from a merely dogmatic interest. They will long be esteemed among the richest fruits of the German pulpit.
Among the latest volumes edited from Schleiermacher's remains are his lectures on psychology (Psychologie), by George (1864) and his Life of Jesus (Leben Jesu), by Ritenik (1864). His correspondence with J.C. Gass was edited by W. Gass in 1852, and that with other friends appeared under the title Aus Schleiermacher's Leben (1858-62, 4 vols.). A brief autobiography, reaching only to 1794, was issued in Niedner's Zeitschrift in 1851.
For sources for Schleiermacher's life (besides his own writings and letters), see G. Bauer, Karakteristik, in Stud. u. Krit. 1859; Auberlen, Ein Karakterbild (Basle, 1859); Kosack, Jugendleben (Elberf. 1861); K. Schwarz (Gotha, 1861); E. Maier (1863); Baxmann (Bonn, 1864); Dilthey (1867); Schenkel (1868). On his doctrines, see Braniss, Ueber Schleiermacher's Glaubenslehre (Berl. 1822); F. Delbrück, Erorterungen (Bonn, 1827); C. Baur, Primoe Rationalismi et Supranaturalismi Historioe Capita Potiora (1827); Baumgarten-Crusius, Schleiermacher's Denkart u. Verdienst (1834); Lücke, Erinnerungen, in Stud. u. Krit. 1834; H. Schmid, Ueber Schleiermacher's Glaubenslehre (Leips. 1835); Rosenkranz, Kritik (1836); Baur, Die christliche Gnosis (Tübingen, 1835); Weissenborn, Darstellung u. Kritik der Glaubenslehre (1849); Schaller, Vorlesungen über Schleiermacher (Halle, 1844). On his ethics, see Twesten's preface to his edition of Schleiermacher's Phil. Ethik; Vorlander, Schleiermacher's Sittenlehre (1851); Herzog, in Stud. u. Krit. 1848; Reuter, in Stud. u. Krit. 1844. On his sermons, see Stud. u. Krit. 1831, 1848. See also Schürer, Religionsbegriff (Leips. 1848); P. Schmidt, Spinoza u. Schleiermacher (Berl. 1868); also Opuscules, by Carl Beck (Reutlingen, 1869); F. Zachler (Breslau, 1869); W. Bender (Worms, 1868); P. Leo (Jena, 1868); Hossbach (Berl. 1868); also article in Christ. Exam. vol. 53; Westm. Rev. July, 1861; Meth. Quar. Rev. April, 1869; Brit. and For. Evang. Rev. April, 1862; July, 1866; Oct. 1876; Princeton Rev. April, 1866; Universalist Rev. April, 1869; Mercersb. Rev. April, 1871; Presb. Quar. Rev. Oct. 1868. (J.P.L.)