Billeder på siden

by which he became equal to the great tasks imposed upon him, and especially by which he fitted himself for that commanding place which he so long held as a preacher. Some of the details of his rhetorical methods are pregnant with invaluable hints. They ought to be pondered by all of that indolent and mistaken generation who think that excellence in writing and speaking is a natural gift, and who fill our pulpits with commonplace, tiresome, rambling harangues, proving nothing so strongly as their own utter unacquaintance with all true notions of effective speaking and impressive teaching. The thing required is not words, words, words, but thought, much thought, deep, fervent, extensive and choice thought, long meditated, thoroughly digested, strictly arranged, compactly expressed thought, brought forth for use by one qualified to utter it, through the laborious discipline of patient practice. How many are there who could give of themselves an account similar to the following? Yet how evidently would discipline like this purify and elevate pulpit oratory? After expressing regret that he had been led to neglect a certain course of instruction, Reinhard proceeds thus:

[ocr errors]

"That without a knowledge of these rules, I have been able to produce so many sermons and give them at least a tolerable form, is owing to the diligence with which I read the ancient orators and rhetoricians, and the no less diligence with which I applied myself to philosophy. I had early made myself acquainted with the old systems of eloquence, particularly those of Cicero, at school. When at the university I not only read them again, but with them connected Quintilian and Aristotle. With the theories of the ancients respecting eloquence, I compared their discourses, particularly those of Isocrates, Demosthenes, schines, Lysias, and Cicero; and I have always thought, that the study of these proved of more use to me than lectures upon homiletics would have done.

"Here I must remark, that it was reading the ancients which formed in me that idea of genuine eloquence which afterwards always remained with me, which still appears to be the only true one, and which in my labours I have ever endeavoured to keep before me, though I have come far short of it. I spent some years at the university before I became acquainted with the Grecian orators. Until then, my notions of eloquence were drawn chiefly from Cicero's works. I looked upon him with admiration as the greatest master in this department, excepting, that, on comparing him with the concise Haller overflowing with thought, I could not avoid occasionally pronouncing him somewhat verbose.

"Excited by him, I finally began to read the Grecian orators; and how astonished I was on finding in the most celebrated orator of all antiquity, a man, who, for accomplishing his object and producing the greatest effects, never uses a single flower or far-fetched expression, a conceited and remarkable phrase; or anything that bears the least resemblance to poetical prose; -who, on the other hand, says and delivers every thing in those terms which are the most natural; correctly distinguishing, and strikingly descriptive, and hence a man in whom are to be discovered no traces of

affectation, or struggling after wit and surprising turns, or of that audacity so pleasing to many, and said to be the companion of genius;-a man, on the contrary, who chains the attention of his hearers by a diction, strong, manly, and unincumbered with a single superfluous word; who overpowers, as it were, the understanding by the strength of his thoughts, the force of his reasons, and the superiority with which he developes them; and finally bears every thing away with him by means of an eloquence, which rolls forth in periods, which are perfect in themselves, are harmonious, and fill the ear."

In connexion with this, he was equally studious of the philosophers, ancient and modern, thus accustoming his mind to vigorous, acute, and patient thinking. Even while a student, he says he devoted a great part of his time to philosophy.

"With the systematic study of practical philosophy I began occasionally to combine reading the ancient moralists; particularly Plato, Aristotle, Arrian, Plutarch, and Seneca. He who is acquainted with these writers, knows what treasures of moral truths are heaped together in their works, and what life, power and practical utility may be derived from a systematic knowledge of ethics, if with it we combine a profitable reading of these writers. Many of them, particularly the Dissertationes Epictetece of Arrian, the moral treatises of Plutarch, and some works of Seneca, became of so much importance to me in these circumstances, that I read them often, and always with additional profit in respect to the enlargement and correction of my ethical information. In general, practical philosophy became more interesting to me, the longer I occupied myself with it. Afterwards, I gradually passed over to the best moralists of modern times; and, what proved of very great usefulness to me, began to read the best historians and poets of every age, with an exclusive reference to ethics."

It is probable that some of our readers may be of opinion that Reinhard cherished too high an estimate of the writings of the heathen moralists; and that the benefits to be derived from (query, a vain) philosophy are at best of a negative character; the truth being that they could neither point out the road to heaven, nor teach men their duties here on earth, to their Creator, to their neighbour, nor to themselves. But still it is to be borne in mind that the "Court Preacher" took an enlarged and combined view of ethics; and that much of his time daily is said to have been given up to the study of the Holy Scriptures. Early habit also must be taken into account, and all the associations of academical education.

He was born at Vohenstruss, in the dukedom of Salzbach, 1753. His father was the minister of that place, an excellent man and a scholar, whose superintendence of the boy's education was such as to give him an early love of the classics, and to fix habits of diligence and accuracy in study. The young Francis was an apt and an eager scholar, and gave indications of uncommon talents. At the age of

fifteen he was placed at the Gymnasium Poeticum at Regensberg, where he spent four years and a half, and then entered the University of Wittemberg. Here at the age of twenty-four, he became lecturer in Philosophy, was soon made Professor extraordinary, and at the age of twenty-nine, received the additional appointment of Professor of Theology. Two years afterward he was promoted to the provostship of the University Church, which obliged him (the translator says obligated) to preach once every sabbath and festival, in addition to all the duties of his two professorships. Until now he had scarcely preached at all,—not more than sixteen or twenty times. His extensive studies, however, and his habits of lecturing, had prepared him to find this labour easy and to make it successful. During these years he was not only a teacher greatly admired and eagerly followed, but was an anxious inquirer and student himself; and both in philosophy and theology passed through trying exercises of mind which resulted in important modifications, if not changes of previous opinions.

In 1792, he became chief court preacher at Dresden, a station of great ecclesiastical importance in Saxony, which he occupied till his death in 1812. Here he obtained that celebrity as a preacher which has rarely been equalled. Crowds thronged to hear him, and stenographers attended to report his sermons, as regularly as the debates of parliament are reported; and although their skill is said to have been such, that their copies often agreed word for word with the original as it was afterwards printed, yet the preacher felt compelled in self-defence to publish authentic copies of what he had delivered. And thus for many years he printed what he preached, until the number of volumes amounted to thirty-nine. Many of these discourses are written upon the same texts; a circumstance accounted for by the very singular and, we think, absurd regulation alluded to in the following passage:

"In the year 1808, Reinhard was commissioned by the highest authority, to select a new course of texts for two years, which, united with the old one, should constitute a regularly returning series for three years, to be used throughout the kingdom. This new course commenced in 1809. The evangelical Court Church, however, was a year ahead of the other churches in this respect. For this church, therefore, Reinhard was commissioned to make a new selection for the year 1811, in order that they might all come together in 1812. This gave Reinhard an opportunity to preach from three new series of texts for three years in succession, and enabled him to speak upon many subjects, which he would not otherwise have done; and hence this series of his sermons is particularly valuable and of especial importance. Reinhard was extremely fond of the historical texts which he had selected for the first year's course, and preached seventeen sermons of great value upon the most useful narratives of the Acts. The selections which he made for the church have since been most fully approved of, and as they had all

along been called for by the age, cannot in the strict sense of the word be considered as his. He himself could have preached twenty years longer from the old series, as is evident from a book in which he has entered his themes."

Besides his numerous labours already adverted to, he made frequent appearances as an author. His most extensive and valued works were, his "Plan of the Founder of Christianity," and his "Christian Ethics," in five volumes, which was left in an unfinished state, but is described as a treatise of the highest character. His smaller works were numerous.

Having lately concerned ourselves in some degree about the Rationalism of Germany, and noticed some of its extravagances, we may take the opportunity which the mention of Reinhard's "Plan of the Founder of Christianity" offers, of giving some account of the purpose and the argument of that work; from which account it will appear that scepticism in Germany is ever ingeniously seeking out new and different modes of assailing the Christian faith; and that when driven from one point the enemies of revealed truth instantly leap to another, and perhaps to a wilder and more untenable posi


A sketch of this work first appeared in Latin, in 1780, and the first German edition was published in 1781. It was occasioned by a work which made a great noise in Germany, viz. the "Wolfenbüttel Fragments," and particularly by one on the "Object of Jesus and his Disciples," in which the ground was taken, that Jesus and his disciples were impostors, and that the object of the former was not the establishment of a universal religious institution, but was wholly of a political character; that he made use of the Jewish popular prejudice and expectations respecting a Messiah, for the purpose of overthrowing the existing state, and founding a merely earthly kingdom among the Jews; but, being defeated and put to death, his disciples continued the imposture in another shape by attributing to him a moral object and the idea of a universal spiritual kingdom on earth.

In opposition to this theory, and to similar views subsequently advanced by other German infidels, Reinhard wrote his book. It is accordingly of the nature of an apologetical performance, and might on this account perhaps, and particularly from the views above named, be thought to possess only a local and temporary interest. But as the author conducts the discussion on general principles, the work will be found to have a general and permanent value as a positive contribution to the truths of the Christian religion. And the more so, because the subject is presented in a point of view which had not before been distinctly considered.

The general character of Jesus, and the salutary effects of Christianity in this world, have indeed been very common sources of

evidence in favour of the Christian religion. It had not, however, been distinctly considered that the mere plan conceived by the Founder of Christianity for the good of mankind is of such a nature as to mark him for the most extraordinary individual that has ever appeared on earth. The conception of such a plan in the mind of Jesus is a fact altogether without a parallel. No human mind before him ever conceived the idea of establishing a universal spiritual kingdom of God,-a kingdom of truth, morality, and happiness :"the idea of radically curing all the evil with which humanity is afflicted, and of raising up for the Creator an entirely new and better generation. No sage, no ruler, no hero of antiquity was ever capable of such enlargement, such elevation of thought." The question then is, whether there is any adequate solution of the existence of this plan, conceived and formed in the mind of Jesus, except by regarding him as inspired by God;-whether we are not justified in considering him not only as the most exalted sage and greatest benefactor of mankind, but also as a most credible messenger of the Deity. And though these considerations may not afford incontestable proof of the divine origin of Christianity, yet they create a reasonable presumption of it, and form an important addition to the mass of evidence on this great subject.

Such is the scope of this work in which throughout, contemplating Jesus as any other great man of antiquity, the author compares his object and plan with the benevolent views of other venerable men, in order to show that his plan is the greatest, the most elevated, and most benevolent that has ever been conceived. The discussion is conducted with the clearness, lucid order, and logical connexion by which all Reinhard's works are distinguished. The subject is treated in three Parts. The First contains a sketch of the plan devised by Jesus for the good of mankind, in regard to its compass, its character, and the means by which it was to be effected. Its compass.-The plan of Christ embraced mankind at large. This is attempted to be shown from the conduct of Christ-from his explicit assertions, and his instructions to his disciples, and also lies at the foundation of the doctrines which he embraced. Its character.-Jesus declared that he came to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. That by this, however, he understood no such earthly monarchy, as many of his countrymen expected, but a universal, spiritual, and religious institution is evident from his conduct and his declarations. The plan of Jesus embraced the improvement of mankind in regard to religion, morality, and society. In regard to religion, by destroying the prevalent superstition and spreading everywhere the doctrine of the one God as the Father of mankind, and thus rendering religion clear and simple, and introducing a worship of God in spirit and in truth. In regard to morality,— by resolving it into love to the Supreme Father, and to men, his

« ForrigeFortsæt »