Page images
PDF
EPUB

Neander was born on the 16th of January, 1789, at Göttingen, in the kingdom of Hanover. Most of his youth, however, was spent at Hamburg. Here he prosecuted the studies preparatory to his University course, and was favored with the special regard of the celebrated Gurlitt, director of the Johanneum, under whose management it had risen to the first rank among the classical schools of Germany. He now abandoned Judaism, in which he had been born and nurtured, and professed his faith in Christ; with what sincerity of conviction, and ardor of attachment to the new object of his faith, his whole life and writings have testified to the world. His University course he commenced in 1806 at Halle, and completed it at Göttingen. He then resided for a short time at Hamburg. Of his

residence here, there is an interesting reminiscence in the fragment of a letter preserved among the works of the poet Chamisso; describing his amiable and talented young friend as wholly withdrawn from general society, and absorbed in communion with the spirit of Plato, to whose writings he was then devoting himself with characteristic ardor. In 1811 he proceeded to the University of Heidelberg, where he was admitted, after the usual test, to the privileges of a private teacher in the University; and in the following year was made professor extraordinary in the Faculty of Theology. In 1812 he was called to the University of Berlin, where he labored till his death.

His published works have been numerous, and chiefly in the department of ecclesiastical history, viz. :

1. On the Emperor Julian and his Age, 1812. 2. St. Bernard and his Age, 1813. 3. Genetic Development of the Principal Gnostic Systems,

1818. 4. St. Chrysostom, and the Church, especially the Eastern

Church, in his Age, 1821. (2d ed. 1832, 3d ed. 1849.) 5. Paul and James. The Unity of the Evangelic Spirit in

Diversity of Forms, 1822. (Included in No. 9.) 6. Antignosticus. Spirit of Tertullian, and Introduction to

his Writings, 1826. (2d ed. 1848.) 7. Memorabilia from the History of Christianity, and of the

Christian Life, 1822. (2d ed. 1825–27.) 8. General History of the Christian Religion and Church,

1825, sq. (2d ed. 1842–46.) 9. A Collection of short Occasional Essays, 3d ed. 1829.

10. History of the Planting and Training of the Church by

the Apostles, 1832. (3d ed. 1841.) 11. The Life of Jesus, in its Historical Connection and in its

Historical Development, 1837. (2d ed. 1839.) 12. The Epistle to the Philippians, Practically Explained,

1849. 13. The Epistle of James, Practically Explained, 1850. Besides smaller occasional essays, as e.g.: The Kingdom of Christ,the Kingdom of True Freedom and Equality, (on occasion of the 35th anniversary of the Prussian Bible Society,) 1849; Jesus's Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (on occasion of a festival of the Church,) 1849, &c.

Neander was not, as is very generally supposed, merely a man of the study. From two to three hours a day were spent in delivering lectures in the University. These, with the direction of the historical seminarium, and the examination of theological candidates, were his principal official labors. But in addition to this, he devoted much time to personal intercourse with his pupils, to whom his house was open a portion of every day. The salutary influences thus exerted over the young, to which thousands live to bear grateful testimony, may justly be regarded as among the most useful labors of his life. He delighted especially in encouraging and furthering the efforts of young scholars; and many a useful work owes its origin to a hint from Neander, and its chief excellences to his judicious suggestions. He was remarkable for the warmth of his personal attachments; and no service was ever withheld from those who enjoyed his confidence and regard.

It is superfluous to speak of Neander's merits in the department of history, in which he is chiefly known to the world as a writer. It is not so generally known, however, that nearly one half of his public labors in the University were devoted to the exegesis of the New Testament, and that his lectures in this branch of sacred learning were more popular, and commanded a far more numerous attendance, than in the department of history. Indeed it seems to bave been his own favorite field of labor in the lecture-room. His method was the happiest union of the various elements essential to a perfect interpreter. The great charm of his exegetical lectures arose from his matchless power of combination ; his perfect mastery of the subject enabling bim to combine all the various topics of discussion in a continuous, unbroken stream of argumentation. The aids of philology

stood always at his command, but were never in his way. He was never diverted from his purpose to the easy task of commenting on words and phrases. The lumber of philology he left to others; its real uses no one better understood, nor could any more skilfully avail himself of them when required.

Neander's life was one of earnest and untiring effort. The springs of that activity—and this is his noblest eulogiumwere his love of truih, and his love of man. He labored for both, where he believed he could do it most effectually,“ in the defense and confirmation of the gospel of Christ." To set forth the divine authority and the true teachings of the Holy Scriptures,—the church of the New Testament, as constituted by the Apostles of Christ under the guidance of bis Spirit, and the church “ through all times, as a living witness of the divine power of Christianity, as a school of Christian experience, a voice of instruction and warning,"—these were the labors to which " he felt an inward call," and he obeyed it as divine. He held that the Scriptures are the sole repositories of divine truth ; that in them God has, once for all, revealed himself for all ages of the world. His countrymen have long looked to him as the leading champion of this evangelical principle. He has maintained it, both in his leclure-room and in his writings, againsi that school of philosophical skepticism which has sprung up within the last twenty years, holding the Christianity of the church to be merely a progressive development of human thought and reason, imperfect in its beginnings, but advancing gradually to its destined completeness. In the efficacy of that Divine Word, rightly understood and attended by the quickening Spirit, he had full confidence, and in the simple, divinely appointed means for the maintenance and dissemination of truth. The truth, he believed, should be left to make its own conquests, alike unaided and untrammelled by human power, in the voluntary homage of the intellect and heart. He found, and has set forth in light never again to be obscured, the DIVINE recognition of this principle in the constitution of the New Testament church. With him, it should be remarked, this was not a speculative notion merely, a matter of history belonging to the past. It was the ordinance of God, essential to the true nature and well-being of the Christian church. The usual objections to it, on the ground of its inapplicability in practice, he treated with disdain. On one occasion, he showed the writer a letter which he had just received from the English translator of his History, objecting to his view of the primitive church the practical working of

40

VOL. XV.NO. LXII.

such a constitution in the Independent congregations of England. “Was für ein argument !(what an argument !) he exclaimed, with a good-humored laugh ; " was kann man nicht misbrauchen !'' (what cannot be abused !) Of his own principles he made a noble and instructive application, in the case of Strauss, the skeptical author of the Life of Jesus. It was proposed by a department of the government to prohibit the sale of this work, and to confiscate the property; and Neander was asked his opinion of the propriety of the measure. His reply is worthy, in its principles and spirit, of a place by the side of Milton's “ Plea for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing.” The views of Strauss he admits to be wholly inconsistent with Biblical Christianity; but being propounded with seriousness, and in the spirit and form of scientific discussion, they may properly, and in Neander's opinion necessarily must be left to stand or fall at the tribunal of science. Of the wisdom of this decision no doubt can be entertained in our country; but how far it was in advance of the age in his own, was shown by the unsparing denunciation of it in the leading journal of the evangelical party.

In his own field of inquiry nothing escaped his observation. Every source of knowledge was at his command. One instance in point may interest the readers of this journal. A young friend, by his advice, had written a history of Congregationalism in New-England, including an account of the rise of the Baptists in that section of our country. On his mentioning this work, curiosity prompted the inquiry, what authorities were relied on in giving the account of the Baptists. He turned and took BACKUS'S HISTORY from the shelf, (a work scarcely to be found even in this country,) remarking that it had been followed as the principal source of information.

This brief and imperfect notice must not be closed, without grateful allusion to an interesting personal trait in the character of this great and good man. It must be fresh in the remembrance of every one who has been favored with an introduction to him from a personal friend. The letter of introduction presented at the proper hour, (for, happily, a German scholar can command his time ; you are not expected at all hours,) and he is soon seated familiarly before you, inquiring after your health, your friends, the objects of your visit, and how he can aid you in them; his benignant countenance meanwhile beaming with interest in every answer. As you rise to take leave, "Stay, let me note down your lodgings," and the street and number of your residence are duly entered

in a memorandum, for reference in case of need,

Any subsequent change of residence is noted with the same care ; and every attention and assistance in his power is bestowed, with the most grateful and unwearied kindness. When at length you call to take a final leave, and to thank him for his many acts of kindness, the proffered hand is grasped with the earnestness of parental affection, nor is suffered to be withdrawn, till blessings on blessings are implored upon the stranger, with an eloquent fervor, and a simplicity and beauty of expression, which once heard can never be forgotten.

The good Neander ! Clarum et venerabile nomen ! The Philanthropist of all ages and climes, the Friend of Man, is no more !

T. J. C.

Art. X.-NOTICES OF NEW PUBLICATIONS.

[ocr errors]

Der Brief Pauli an die Philipper, praktisch erläutert durch Dr. AUGUST

NEANDER. Berlin. 1849. Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, practically explained by Dr. AUGUSTUS

NEANDER. Berlin. 1849. Der Brief Jakobi, praktisch erläutert durch Dr. August NEANDER. Berlin.

1850. Epistle of James, practically explained by Dr. AugustUS NEANDER. Berlin. 1850.

These are the first two numbers in a projected series of practical expositions of portions of the Sacred Scriptures, from the pen of the lamented Neander. They are not addressed to the learned, though the views presented are the results of a life of learned research. The fruits of long and laborious investigation are here thrown out in a plain and familiar manner, adapted to all intelligent and reflecting readers of the Scriptures. A translation of the series, as far as completed, will be given to the public by Mrs. H. C. Conant. It was commenced, and the first number was ready for the press, when the death of the author was announced. The extruct, which we are permitted to give below, is a specimen of his man.

What more appropriate close of a life devoted to the cause of truth, than this beautiful offering of piety and learning!

The author does not take up verse by verse, seriatim, but interweaves his explanation of single passages into a connected discussion of all the leading topics presented in the epistle. The following are his closing remarks on the interesting passage in ch. i. vs. 21-25, where the apostle represents himself, in the benutiful language of the author, as in a strait betwixt two,—longing to depart out of the conflicts of the earthly life into the peace of the spirit's heavenly home; from where the Lord is seen only by the eye of faith, to where in blissful nearness he becomes an object of

ner.

« PreviousContinue »