Tholuck, Friedrich August Gottgetreu
Tholuck, Friedrich August Gottgetreu one of the greatest Protestant divines of Germany, was born at Breslau, March 30, 1799, of humble parentage. He continued at school till twelve years of age, when he was set to learn his father's trade, which was that of a goldsmith. It is said that he had till late years a ring, which he himself had made. Still he bated the trade so much that he determined to get back to study. He soon found his way to the gymnasium, from which he graduated at the age of eighteen. His diligence was so great that he almost destroyed his sight, so that at times he has been on the verge of blindness. For a while he remained at the University of Breslau, but afterwards went to Berlin. In some way or other a taste for Oriental literature was awakened in him and he sought from Prof. Kosegarten (then of Greifswalde, but from 1817 till 1824 professor at Jena), who was a great Oriental scholar, the means to carry on such studies. Prelate von Dietz, another distinguished Orientalist, took such an interest in him as to adopt him as his son; and when the prelate died, Von Altenstein secured for him all needful support. He went soon after to Jena, where he studied under his benefactor, Kosegarten, and graduated as doctor of philosophy. He always looked back upon these Oriental studies with delight, and said on Dec. 1, 1870 (the evening before the fiftieth anniversary of his appointment as professor), in answer to a congratulatory address from Jena, "You may be assured, my friends, that when I look back upon these studies, it is not with feelings like those with which one recollects a forsaken love, but rather with those felt towards one that still inflames and fills my spirit with youthful enthusiasm, and, at the same time, calls up a grateful remembrance of Prof. Kosegarten of Jena, who so lovingly encouraged and helped me on in the path of these studies." Tholuck's progress in Oriental lore is proved by three works which he published, two of which are learned productions. The first was written in 1821, from Turkish, Persian, and Arabic MSS., and entitled Sufismus sire Theosophia Persarunm Pantheistica, quam e MSS. Bibliothecae Regiae Berolinensis Persicis, Arabicis, Turcicis eruit et illustravit (Berolini, 1821). The second was more popular, and appeared in 1825 with the title An Anthology of the Oriental Mystic Poems, with an Introduction on the Mystics Generally, and the Eastern in Particular. The third of these works appeared in 1826, and was one of learning-Speculations of the Later Orientalists respecting the Doctrine of the Trinity.
While at Berlin, the great crisis in his religious life was approaching, and actually took place. In order to understand this, it is necessary carefully to read his work Sin and Redemption, or the True Consecration of a Sceptic. This was published in 1825, and was, in effect, a refutation of De Wette's Theodore, or the Consecration of the Sceptic. It describes the conversion of two young theologians, Julius and Guido, who were, no doubt, Dr. Julius Muller and the writer himself. This work was written in three weeks, and, like many books written off-hand, it has had remarkable success. Still more insight into Tholuck's spiritual life is caught in his address on the evening preceding the jubilee of December, 1870. A few of its thoughts may here be reproduced, for they furnish the key to his extraordinary success in winning souls to Christ:
"Those whom I see around me are not merely my pupils, nor my admirers, but my friends-my friends in Christ, many of them also my children in Christ, whom I have also borne with much pain. My course has been designated a successful life among youth. I have had not merely to water like Apollos, but to plant with Paul, and introduce new life into dead, corrupt, and wayward youthful hearts. But this-can only be where the spirit of fire is the beam of a divine influence from God. 'Nothing fills me more with adoring wonder than to think how this spirit of fire has ever been given to me since the hour when I received the baptism of fire from above. From the age of seventeen I have always asked myself, 'What is the chief end of man's life?' I could never persuade myself that the acquisition of knowledge was this end. Just then God brought me into contact with a venerable saint who lived in fellowship with Christ, and from that time I have had but one passion, and that is Christ, and Christ alone. Every one out of Christ I look upon as a fortress which I must storm and win. I was in my eighteenth year when the Lord gave me my first convert. He was an artillery officer, a Jew, a wild creature, without rest; but soon he became such a true follower of Christ that he put me to shame. And when I look back upon the thousands of youths whose hearts have opened up under my influence, I can only say the Lord hath done it. In working thus to save souls, my life has been one of joy rather than toil. Among the students were many frivolous, careless ones. I just now remember one whom a mother laid on my heart, but who soon fell among companions who led him astray, so that he could be found at home only at six in the morning. More than once I have visited him at that hour, and also in prison, but all seemed in vain, till one day in the sermon I said, 'Ah, yes, we preachers should have hard work were it not that we have one in league with us in every heart, even the most careless, that says, while we are preachers, "Well, the preacher is right." 'The next evening I received a letter from him, in which he promised to give up evil and enter upon a new life. Alas! four or five days later a card came from him with only these words— "Tholuck is sighing, Tholuck is praying, but I am drinking like a brute." Yet my labor was not in vain, for he is now a noted preacher of the Gospel of Christ. And what a number of those who were once my students have risen up and can now say, each one, like myself, 'I have but one passion, and that is Christ, and Christ alone!'
Happy the veteran saint and scholar who could, in a green old age, look back upon such labors! He had all the more confidence in the power of Christianity from having felt it in his own heart. When he left the gymnasium to enter the university, his oration was on The Superiority of Mohammedanism over Christianity. He was especially prejudiced against experimental Christianity, which was then called Pietism and Mysticism. He thought it checked all vigor of action and freedom of thought, and impressed on every countenance the pale hue of death, and that all who adopted it must turn their view from the boundless magnificence of the starry heavens and dwell in the damp and gloom of a catacomb. Neander exerted a great influence on him for good, but it was especially baron von Kottwitz who was the instrument of his conversion, as well as of his friends Olshausen, Julius Muller, and Richard Rothe On Dec, 2, 1820, Tholuck passed his examination as licentiate of theology at the Berlin University. This was a daring step, for he then suffered from a complaint which, according to three physicians whom. he consulted at the request of baron von Kottwitz, was to end in speedy death. But a young physician, without curing him, removed the imminent danger, and he could go on in his work. Through the considerateness and liberality of the Prussian government, he went to England in 1825, and spent nearly a year there in travels undertaken for the purpose of prosecuting scientific researches. On his return to Berlin in 1826, he was called to fill the chair of ordinary theology at Halle, made vacant by the death of Dr. Knapp. Notwithstanding -his promotion to the position of extraordinary professor of theology at Berlin, so deeply was he imbued with the spirit and interested in the prosecution of the work of Francke at Halle that the daily longing of his heart was that he might be transferred to the university founded by him. "Every day," says he, "I prayed to God that he might be pleased to call me to that place where, a hundred years before, August H. Francke had built his Orphan Asylum, and had, by his addresses both from the pulpit and from the chair, gathered a faithful community, teaching that the first stage on the way to the tree of knowledge was by the tree of life." His prayer was answered, the mantle of Francke fell upon him, and, by a remarkable coincidence of Providence, after laboring as his successor for more than fifty years, his burial took place within one day of the 150th anniversary of the burial of Francke, and the passage selected as the text of the preacher at the obsequies of Francke served the same purpose at the funeral of Tholuck— "Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded," from the Gospel for the Sunday (June 10) on which Tholuck died.
The state of things which he found when he went to Halle in 1826 is described by himself as follows:
"It is universally known how a dead orthodoxy had, throughout the 17th century, been predominant in German churches and universities… Almost throughout the breadth of the country the tendency to 'rationalism,' as it was termed, about the beginning of the present century, had taken an uncontested possession of the pulpits and academical chairs... At Halle there had been but one single man (Prof. Knapp) who feebly indeed, and secretly enough, dared to resist all-powerful Rationalism. Out of nine hundred students he found five who, being revived by the aid of a Christian craftsman, believed in the divinity of Christ. They were called the idiotic orthodox they were the few, the little ones, faint-hearted, weak, and not gifted, and over against them the great multitude of the gifted, active, and assiduous students; the body of the academic teachers, in agreement with the whole mass of the students, had sent a petition to the minister of state for ecclesiastical affairs against my appointment to a professorship at Halle. That was the most trying period of my life, in which I learned seeking and pursuing love." Such was the state of Germany, its Established Church, and its institutions when Tholuck was called to Halle. Hegel, who, as a philosophical lecturer, had imbibed Christian principles in the religious atmosphere of Berlin, urged Tholuck, in his parting words, that he should "deal a death-blow to the bald rationalism prevalent at Halle." This was no easy task, considering that Gesenius and Wegscheider had such wonderful influence there.
Tholuck's position was, therefore, at first exceedingly difficult in this reign of rationalism. He was scouted, hated, and ridiculed as a pietist, mystic, fanatic, Pharisee, etc.; but he persevered, and God most richly blessed his labors. A radical revolution has been wrought in Halle, so far as theology is concerned. The Rev. L. Witte, one of his pupils, who represented him at the Evangelical Alliance, in 1873, at New York, and read the paper he had prepared on Evangelical Theology in Germany, says, "We know that, in a great measure, the wholesome change from rationalism to faith which has been granted to our native country within the last fifty years is, next to God's grace, owing to the restless zeal of this 'miles Christi,' a genuine good knight without fear and without reproach. In dark and dreary days he has gallantly borne disgrace for Christ's sake. He, a single man, has won the field in the University of Halle; and all his colleagues, one by one, have been forced to yield to his superiority of Christian energy and knowledge. But, more than that, thousands upon thousands call him their spiritual father, their father in Christ." Tholuck verified the prophetic words of Prof. Hegel, drew the sword of the Spirit, and gave bald rationalism its death-blow in the University of Halle. It was only with the change of government and ministry in Prussia in 1840 that Tholuck's influence assumed great dimensions. Frederick William IV and the minister of worship, Eichhorn. looked upon his theology as one which avoided all extremes and yet held the faith firmly. They considered it the only justifiable form. When vacancies were to be filled in the Prussian universities, his advice was always valued, whether it had been formally asked or voluntarily proposed. Under the minister Von Raumer, his influence rather declined; but under the succeeding minister, Von Müller, it acquired its old power and dimensions, and many of the appointments of that time were suggested by him. His earnest labor for personal and experimental religion caused him to view with mildness smaller departures from ecclesiastical orthodoxy. Divine truth was in his eyes too sublime to be sharply and exactly defined in formulae. In his True Consecration of the Sceptic, he does not even stiffly demand an express belief in the personality of God if the self-consciousness and existence of the Divine Being are admitted. Sternly to insist upon creeds seemed to him a departure from the faith. In his sermons he despised all rhetoric and display of learning. There were, however, flashes of appeal that cut into the heart like lightning. And then his life, so warm and tender and loving, made him a universal favorite with his students. It is no wonder that he exerted an almost fascinating influence over them. Indeed, he looked upon personal effort among students as his peculiar calling. Every day he spent two hours in walking, and generally had one or two with him, with whom he engaged in pleasant but earnest conversation. This gave him, after a time, such an extensive psychological knowledge that he could easily find an entrance to the hearts of those whom he would save. Tholuck said himself, in the address which he delivered at his jubilee, "Not without reason has it been said that I would rather be with candidates [for the ministry] than with pastors and rather with students than with candidates. Not without cause have they called mea studenten-professor [a professor for students, as opposed to a book professor], who everywhere had a home with students, and nowhere else would rather have had his home. I had my delight in many a sprouting shoot, and, as it were, their flower buds as they unfolded petal after petal, and in the full-developed flowers; but every blossom gradually developed, and in a different perfume and color. Yes, that is a blessed delight! and he who has once found his love and his pleasure in it, and to whom God has given the gift of being a professor, will no longer find the life of a professor to be labor, but rather joy and pleasure. And thus have I spent my life, and up to the present day my life as a professor has not been my work, but rather my joy and my delight.
"But, at the same time, the life of a professor is not all pleasure and enjoyment. If upon every word an echo would resound in the awakened heart; if upon every warning [spiritual breath green shoots would spring up; if on every bestowal of a gift there would follow its reception then it would be nothing but enjoyment. But thus it does not always happen, for there are also the silent, the dull, and the slow ones, whom one can call again and again, but no echo resounds; where one can thrust in the spade day after day before anything is heard resounding under the earth. And to be surrounded by such, that was my lot in the beginning.
"I have seen the secrets of many hundred young men disclosed to me; I have seen them wander far, far from the real aim of human life. I have been able to show them this, and I have had the pleasure to know that many a one perceived it who now enjoys this pleasure once unknown to him.
"This, then, is the life of a student professor; he has not only easy, joy and pleasure-bringing work, but also a heavy task in youth, seeking love. But what a precious task when such young men are found that sit at the feet of Christ, who have been awakened from their slumbers, or who have returned from their erring ways! Wherever giving is also a receiving, that is a work which affords a higher enjoyment than all others that are more easily performed." With such a love for students, Dr. Tholuck became a very popular professor, and students flocked to Halle from all parts of the world. His thorough knowledge of the English language made him an especial favorite with American students, large numbers of whom sat at his feet. Among the most distinguished of these we may mention Drs. Hodge, Addison, Alexander, Prentiss, H. B. Smith, Park, and others. The partiality manifested for Tholuck by American students was reciprocated by him. He regarded them with more than ordinary interest, and was in the habit of calling a number of those named his "special pets." Besides the English, he was a master of a great many languages, and was only surpassed by cardinal Mezzofanti, who is said to have known fifty, including dialects. He was also gifted with poetic genius, and had acquired an immense store of varied learning. He was not only a master in theology, but profoundly versed in philology, philosophy, history, and poetry; in ancient and modern, Oriental and Occidental, heathen, Jewish, Mohammedan, and Christian literature. He was a voluminous writer. He commenced his literary labors as an author in 1821, and, besides the works already named, he wrote Commentaries on the Epistle to the Romans, the Hebrews, the Psalms, the Gospel of John: —a philosophico-theological exposition on The Sermon on the Mount: —The Credibility of the Gospel History (an antidote to Strauss's Life of Christ): —The Spirit of the Lutheran Theologians of Wittenberg in the 17th Century: —and The Academic Life of the 17th Century. In the last two productions he gives, mostly from MS. sources, a very interesting and graphic, but by -no means favorable, picture of the palmy days of orthodox Lutheranism, for the instruction and warning of those contemporaries who would so zealously revive it as the best state of the Church, without considering that it was followed by the terrible apostasy of Rationalism. These works were forerunners of an extensive history of Rationalism. We mention the Hours of Devotion, together with several volumes of Sermons, as well as numerous articles published in. the theological journals of Germany. He also issued his miscellaneous writings in two volumes, and republished The True Consecration of the Sceptic (1823), under the changed title of The Doctrine of Sin and the Propitiator, in 1851. Most of his writings have been translated into the more widely spoken modern languages. of Europe.
Dr. Tholuck was also an able and popular preacher. He breathed and exhibited the spirit of evangelical piety in all the circles in which he. moved-domestic, social, literary, and theological. He was simple and bland in his manners, social in his disposition, and kindly affectioned towards all men. He did not eschew pleasantry, but gave it its due place in conversation, and thus furnished the matter for many relishable anecdotes. He accepted the Prussian Union as consistent with ,the catholicity of Christianity, as well as with the doctrines of the Lutheran Church as set forth in her catholic symbol, the Augustana, and hence never allied himself with the separatistic Lutherans in their attempt to revive and perpetuate the symbolic dogmatism of the Lutheran theologians of the 17th-'century. In spite of his frail physical constitution, he was permitted to celebrate his semi-centennial jubilee as a professor Dec. 2, 1870, an occasion which was graced by the presence of a great number of his former pupils from all parts of the world. In responding to one of the addresses presented to him at his semi-centennial jubilee, he referred to the bodily infirmities he had been called upon to bear, and the comparatively small number of his days in which he was in the enjoyment of health. The performance of so much unintermitted labor, and the great age which he-attained, are attributable to his abstemious habits and systematic exercise, as well as to the cheerfulness of disposition inspired by his personal piety, and his extraordinary success in doing good and glorifying Christ. On June 10,1877, Dr. Tholuck's wife sent the following telegram to Dr. Schaff, who was then at Stuttgart, announcing his death, together with his last words: "HALLE, June 10,1877.
"This day, at 4 o'clock P. M., my dear husband, Dr. August Tholuck, after long suffering, gently entered into that blessed rest for which he had been longing from the days of his youth. Through the grace of God, his life, which was often threatened with an early termination, has been prolonged in indefatigable and fruitful labors to the age of seventy-eight years, two months, and ten days. Under the heavy pressure and painful anxiety of the last year, his friends around him were permitted to observe, in various ways, the growing assurance of his faith and the victory of love in his heart. His last intelligent words were a cheerful profession of the cross of Christ in view of approaching death: 'I am not afraid; Christ died for me'(Ich fiurchte mich nicht; denn Christus starb für mich)."
It was a fitting close of a long and useful career which was devoted to Christ. The sum and substance of his theology was that Jesus lived and died for the salvation of sinners. To him as the only Master he led his innumerable pupils. His lecture-room and his pulpit were a school of Christ. Herein lie his significance and fame in the history of German theology and religion. The New York Observer (Aug. 16, 1877) thus announced Tholuck's death to its readers: "The greatest theological light of Germany has just been extinguished;" while the Lutheran Observer (Aug. 3, 1877) winds up an article on Tholuck in the following words:
"Although Tholuck is dead, he nevertheless, like Abel, yet speaketh." He speaks on earth through the recollection of his conversations, exhortations, and sermons; speaks in the notes taken of his lectures; speaks in his articles published in theological reviews; speaks in the printed volumes written with his own hand; speaks through the sentiments, character, and labors of his students who have finished their course; speaks through the faith, writings, and efforts of his students who still live; speaks through the molding influence exerted upon the University of Halle, and the evangelical leaven infused into the institutions of Europe: speaks through the resurrection of doctrinal orthodoxy, experimental piety, and religious activity in the Lutheran and other Protestant churches; yea, speaks in his whole life as a Christian man, as a popular writer, as a learned theologian, as an eloquent preacher; and, over and above all, 'he yet speaketh,' and will continue to speak as the studenten-professor till time shall be no more." We have not as yet a complete biography of Dr. Tholuck, who will fill some chapters in the Church history of the 19th century. A sketch was published by Dr. Schaff, in his Germany: its Universities, Theology, and Religion (Phila. 1857), p. 278 sq. Another sketch is given in the Theologisches Universal-Lexikon, s.v. Our present article is made up from different necrologies. As to Tholuck's works, it would be useless to try to enumerate them. Zuchold alone (Bibl. Theol. 2, 1332 sq.) gives four pages. His Commentaries have been translated into English, and so also have some others of his works. The last of these, so far as we are aware, is Hours of Christian Devotion (Edinb. 1870), a work which has repeatedly been edited in Germany. (B.P.)