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SPECIAL PREFACE TO THIS TRANSLATION.33 Dr. Riehm, who has kindly furnished me this general preface, and to whom I am indebted for many valuable suggestions in regard to my undertaking, is one of the professors of theology at Halle, and also editor-in-chief of the Studien und Kritiken.—Tr.
THE author of the work which here appears in English, Dr. Carl Friedrich Adolf Wuttke, has won for himself a distinguished place in the evangelical Church and theology of Germany. A few items as to his life and activity, and as to the spirit and character of his endeavors, may serve to call attention to a work which is widely circulated and much read throughout Germany.
Born in Breslau, November 10, 1819, in humble life, the young Wuttke obtained his preparatory education under circumstances of great difficulty and self-denial. In 1840 he entered the University of 1reslau in view of studying theology, but he found very little satisfaction in the theology that was there taught. The superficial Rationalism which then prevailed in Breslau violently repelled him, and drove him at once and forever to a position of antagonism to this stand-point. As neither his religious nor his scientific wants found satisfaction in his theological teachers, he endeavored to satisfy the latter, at least, by turning his attention primarily and chiefly to philosophy. To this end he possessed dialectic talents of unusual excellence, and he received from the celebrated and, then, fully mature Braniss fruitful inspiration. His academic career he began in 1848, in Breslau, as Doctor and privat-docent of philosophy. His preferred field was the Philosophy of Religion. This led him to thorough studies in the history of reliions. A fruit of his studies he has embodied in his “History of Heathenism in respect to religion, knowledge, art, viiiMorals and Politics, (Breslau, 1852-53),—a work which established his reputation as a scholar. Utilizing his extensive acquaintance with the historical material, his chief endeavor was to give here a faithful objective presentation of the subject-matter, and to avoid doing it violence by forcing it into harmony with preconceived theories,—and his success was so great as to obtain for him the warm recognition, among others, of that master of Indian antiquities, Dr. A. Weber of Berlin. At the same time, however, he was also able to present the religioso-historical matter in a clear synoptical order, and to elucidate it from higher religioso-philosophical stand-points.
The more he pursued his studies in the history and philosophy of religions, so much the more fully and renewedly he became convinced that the highest and the only soul-satisfying knowledge of the truth is to be found only by merging one’s self into the Holy Scriptures and into the therein-witnessed revelations of the living God; hence he felt himself more and more attracted back to the field of theology. In 1853 he obtained the degree of Licentiate in Theology, and changed his field of instruction from philosophy to that of theology; having been called to Berlin, in November, 1854, to an extraordinary professorship of theology, he found an enlarged and appreciative sphere for the exercise of his gifts.—In virtue of his firm and independent nature—partly inborn and partly developed in the severe school of experience—he felt also a pressing need of a firmly-based construction of his theological views, and of a clear, distinct, and unambiguous expression of the same. This need was in part met by the Lutheran form of doctrine. It is true, he saw very clearly the defects and imperfections which a scientific construction and demonstration of this doctrinal formula bring to light; taking into consideration, however, its essential features, he found in it the purest and truest didactic presentation of evangelical truth.44 As a German Protestant, Dr. Wuttke had practically only two choices in his Church-relations, namely, between the Lutheran Church and the Reformed or Calvinistic Church. The so-called “United” Church of Prussia has little more than a legal existence, the individual societies having mostly remained essentially Lutheran or Reformed, as before the union.—TR. To preserve this form of the truth in its main features, ixand by his own deeper study of the Scriptures as well as by earnest systematic thought so to raise it to a new scientific construction that it should express the truth of the Bible in a still richer degree, and that in its form and demonstration it should answer the requirements made upon it by the present stand-point of theology and philosophy, and that it might be raised to a more full development also in fields wherein it had as yet attained only to an imperfect and very inadequate expression,—such was the life-task to which Dr. Wuttke felt himself, with ever-deepening conviction, called by God. And this life-task he endeavored, in the greatest conscientiousness and in the most unwearied and exhausting labor, to fulfill. And the animating spring of his labor was the consciousness so repeatedly expressed by him, that theology is intrusted with the preservation of sacred treasures. Fidelity in preserving the intrusted truth-treasure,—such is the animating spirit of his theologico-scientific labor; and with this fidelity are connected the limits and imperfections of the same. In this fidelity he was earnestly resolute, even in the face of the coryphei of theological and philosophical speculation, in rejecting all views and thought-constructions which seemed to him foreign to the spirit of the Holy Scriptures, however much they might seem to he characterized by profundity or by loftiness of thought, and however much they might bedazzle by brilliant ingenuity and by their artful application to Biblical ideas. This fidelity made him a decided. opponent of all efforts which he regarded as bent on seeking an accommodation between faith and unbelief. In this fidelity he deliberately consented to sacrifice the favor and approbation of the majority of his contemporaries; and he neglected no opportunity, where he felt the duty of championing the pure evangelical truth and of assailing perversions and misrepresentations of the same, manfully and with open visor to enter the lists, and to fight it out with keen weapons and without respect of persons. It is true he has, in his earnestness, not always awarded due honor to the views of the ideally-inclined theologians, nor to the results of historical and critical Scripture-examination. For his own person, however, he was, in this work, never concerned, nor for the interests of any party, but solely and simply for Christian truth and for the kingdom of God.x
In this sense and spirit he exercised his office of theological teacher in Berlin. One can well imagine how glad the late Dr. Hengstenberg was to have found in him so able a co-laborer, and also that he became warmly and intimately attached to his younger colleague.55 Dr. Wuttke, however, was free from the ultra-confessionalism of Hengstenberg; he even favored the “Union.” See Neue evangelische Kirchenzeitung of May 7, 1870.—Tr. But also the other members of the Berlin faculty, though in part of different churchly. and theological tendencies, fully appreciated his scientific ability and his faithful and fruitful academic activity; and they expressed their esteem publicly by conferring upon him, in 1860, the doctorate of theology.
In the autumn of 1861 he accepted a call to an ordinary professorship of systematic theology in our university at Halle. Although, as the representative of a strictly churchly theology, he stood here somewhat isolated, still the positive evangelical tendency (a tendency based on faith in the revelations and redemptive acts of God as witnessed in the Scriptures) of the other members of the faculty (and among them the universally known and revered Dr. Tholuck) afforded a broad and firm basis for a richly productive official co-operation. Highly esteemed by his colleagues for his straight-forwardness, reliableness, punctuality, and conscientious fidelity in all his official duties, he exercised, here, his calling as teacher in a circle of hearers, at first relatively narrow, but which soon grew visibly larger, especially in the case of his lectures on Christian ethics; and he had the joy of seeing the seed, he had sown, spring up and bear fruit in many youthful hearts,—until on the 12th of April, 1870, after a brief sickness, it pleased the Lord whom he served to permit him, unexpectedly early, to pass from faith to sight.
Along-side of his more specific professional activity, Dr. Wuttke was always ready to serve the church by special addresses, in ecclesiastical and other assemblies, on weighty questions of the day. Quite a number of these addresses have been published in Hengstenberg’s “Evangelical Church Journal.” To one of them, which was delivered in 1858, at a church-diet at Hamburg, is due the preparation of his widely-popular and excellent work, “The German Popular xiSuperstition of the Present,” which appeared in 1860 in its first, and in 1869 in a new and enlarged second, edition. This work combines laborious selection with a lucid grouping of the abundant material, and is inspired by a vital interest for the health of the German national life and for the healing of its defects by the divine power of the Gospel.
For the judgment and appreciation of some portions of the work here presented to the public, it will not be out of place to observe that the author took a lively and active part also in the political life of the nation. As early as during the revolutionary storm of 1848 he defended for a while, as editor of a conservative journal in Königsberg, the cause of legal order and of the government. And during his activity among us,—though in other respects living in the greatest seclusion,—he frequently appeared publicly, in political meetings in Halle and in other towns of the province of Saxony, as the spokesman of the constitutional party; and once he took part also in the labors of the national diet, to which the confidence of his fellow-citizens had called him.
The work here given to the English-reading public, Christian Ethics, which appeared in 1861-’62 in its first, and in 1864-’65 in its second, revised and enlarged, edition, is Dr. Wuttke’s only considerable theological work. He has here entered upon a field, the cultivation of which, his special life-task as above indicated, must have pressed upon him with very great urgency. Upon no other field had the scientific treatment of the theology he represented, remained to such a degree imperfect and unsatisfactory. Although Christian ethics, after the precedent of Danaeus on the Calvinistic side, had been raised by Calixtus to the dignity of an independent theological science, nevertheless the prevalent one-sidedly dogmatic interest hindered and prevented its thorough development. And when finally, since the last decade of the last century, a more lively scientific interest was turned to the subject, then, unfortunately, Christian ethics became involved in an almost slavish dependence upon the philosophical systems of a Kant, a Fichte, a Fries, a Hegel, and a Herbart, as they successively rose and followed each other. From this cramping pupilage, ethics was indeed emancipated by the Reconstructor of the collective body of German theology, xiiSchleiermacher, and also radically renovated from the basis of the specifically Christianly-ethical principle. But in Schleiermacher, as well as in Rothe, Christian ethics appeared rather in the garb of theologico-philosophical speculation; it was not based directly upon the Holy Scriptures; on the contrary, these highly deserving men endeavored to be just to the positive Biblical basis of evangelical Protestantism by undertaking to reconstruct the contents of the Holy Scriptures directly out of the Christian consciousness; in a word, these ethical systems stood in no manner of close connection with ecclesiastical dogmatics. On the other hand, Harless had produced an ethics based directly upon, and derived from, the Scriptures; but in his method he had disdained the learned structure and the dialectical procedure of modern science. Wuttke was the first theologian who made the attempt, upon the foundation66 That in the construction of his ethical system, Dr. Wuttke did not allow the Lutheran symbols to construe the Bible, but on the contrary measured them by the Bible, and freely criticized them where found defective, we have both his own reiterated avowal (as where, § 80, he declares it his purpose to write, not on ethics of this or that Church, but a Christian Ethics; and where, in his preface, p. 4, he declares the governing principles of his labors to be “honest loyalty to the Gospel”); and also his actual contrasting of the Lutheran and the Reformed ground-views (see § 37), and his ample admission that the Lutheran view needs to be complemented.—Tr. of the Lutheran dogmatical ground-views as enriched and vitalized by personal self-immersion in the study of the Scriptures, to carry out, by means of the dialectical method, (which theology had assumed at the time of the supremacy of philosophy), a strictly scientific, organic structure of Christian ethics, which should embody in itself the fruits of precedent labors upon this field, and also polemically elucidate its relation to the various other ethical systems. In this work, however, he makes no other use of this dialectical method than simply to purify theological ethics from all elements foreign or hostile to the Biblico-ecclesiastical ground-thoughts, and to bring these ground-thoughts to more complete expression by process of inner self-development. Hence the great majority of churchly-minded theologians could, with great reason, welcome in Wuttke the, until then, lacking scientific standard-bearer upon the field of xiiiethics; and consequently his work met with an astonishingly rapid circulation and a thankful reception. But also those who—as the writer of this preface77 I am indebted to Dr. P. Schaff for the following: “Dr. Riehm is a liberal Unionist of the critical school of Hupfeld, his predecessor.”—Tr.—stand in many respects upon the ground of other theological convictions, and who do not fully agree with many views and judgments expressed in the work, have every reason highly to prize this system of Ethics, and for the following reasons: because of its firm Biblical foundation,—because of its sharp and clear vindication and presentation of the ethical ground-thoughts of the Holy Scriptures against, and in the face of, various widespread errors and prevalent thought-currents of the day,—because of its thoroughly carried-out aim, in connection with all the rigor of a scientific method, to present in broad and clear light the sublime directness and simplicity of the truth of the Gospel,—because of the richness of the subject-matter which it presents, and—to mention especially one single feature—because of the exceedingly valuable, and hitherto almost entirely lacking, history both of the science of ethics and also of the ethical consciousness itself.
I doubt not, therefore, that this work will meet with a hearty welcome also in America and in England, and that too in theological circles which, while not sharing the special ecclesiastical views of the author, will yet not fail worthily to appreciate his conscientious fidelity to Scripture-truth and the scientific significancy of his labors; and I feel confident that the work will prove serviceable in the promotion of a healthy and practically-fruitful theological knowledge.
DR. EDUARD RIEHM,
Professor, in ordinary, of Theology at Halle.
HALLE, March 14th, 1872.xov1
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