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et historiæ sanctorum according to their own manner and fashion; how at length in the tenth century, since about the time of Otho the great, the historical taste of the ceclesiasties, together with their manner of writing history so manifestly improved, that, during the reign of this emperor, and for sometime after him, the details of history became connect. ed and progressive, and after so many childish attempts in history, Luitprand, Witekind, and Dithmar appeared. He shewed what peculiarities in the manner and language of narration were discoverable according to the different centuries, nations, and objeets of the authors of these histories; how the monks of St. Gallen delighted in a bold and eareless habit, in assurance, verbosity, and affected wit; how the Annales Francici exhibit a peculiar Latin idiom, and the sacred histories, particularly those written by the Benedictines, are filled with singular rhetorical scraps; how confined historical communications were in those times; whence, amidst all their plagiarisms, the chroniclers of the several European states seldom stole from one another, but Germans plundered their own countrymen, and the French annalists, seldom coming over the Rhine, rarely furnished the German annalists with any thing pertaining to them. In fine Semler gave rich specimens of illustration, of verbal and general criticism, as he afterwards accustomed himself to scatter them abundantly through all his works upon the middle ages, and shewed by examples, that learning and genius were as much tried by laboring through the barrcn monkish chronicles, as in the ancient elassics, What Gatterer recommended concerning this period, in his historical collections, to young historians, who wished to prove their historico-critical genius to their native land, that they should investigate the history of the middle ages, the same did Semler likewise recommend. But it is to be lamented, that the example, the directions, and persuasions of two such great men could not overcome the phlegm, the indolence, and love of ease, in our common historians. They are rather party writers, without knowledge of original sour: ces, and without personal examination of the historical trath of what they can scrape together in haste, out of writers easy of access; and they prefer an ephemeral reputation in the pages of a mercenary gazette, to permanent historical merit.
Semler, who proceeded with such preparatory labor, so much study, such inquiry into the original authorities, and such extensive reading, to the elaboration of historical works, could deliver nothing common.
His works upon ecclesiastical history have, both in the choice of materials, and their disposition in certain points of view, much that is peculiar. He departed little however from the customary method of the historians of the church who preceded him. Like his predecessors, he servilely pursued the unwieldy plan of division into centuries, as easily as he must have perceived, that the history might be much more conveniently conducted according to greater and smaller divisions of time, defined by the windings of the history itself. He so far however forsook the beaten track, as not to adhere to the same uniform method through every century, as if there were in all the same unbroken identity of destiny, of scenes and events, and the same great extent and uniform sufficiency of materials. With the change of materials and events he changed the number and extent of his divisions, compressed or amplified the contents, added new chapters, rejected old titles, and changed the arrangement. In the most ancient periods he dwelt particularly upon heresies. In the fourth century he was full upon the collecting and ordering of churches; in the sixth, when reflection upon subjects of theology gradually ceased, and therefore the cries of heresy were hushed, and when good writings were rare, heresies appeared only as incidental; in the eighth the history of episcopacy appeared to him worthy of particular examination, and in the tenth, that of papacy claimed the same consideration.*
• His principal works upon ecclesiastical history are: Selecta capita historiæ ecclesiasticæ. Halæ, 1767-9, 3 tom. 8vo.
Essay towards an ample compendium of ecclesiastical history (German,) 3 vol. 8vo.
Commentarii historici de antiquo Christianorum statu.
The particular excellence of Semler's works upon ecelesiastieal history is to be sought in his choice of valuable 'materials, in the clear point of view in which he has placed them, and in the independent judgment that he has exercised in regard to a great part of them. From sources which before him had lain out of the region of ecclesiastical historians, or from which they had drawn but very imperfectly, he collected, by means of his extensive reading, that especially, which had hitherto been almost or wholly unknown; and hence he selected from the acts of councils and their canons whatever best served the purpose of historical instruction concerning the Christian chureh, its external and internal condition in each period, and described it on all sides, the good with the bad. He attempted in particular to supply the deficiences of former ecclesiastical histories, to banish their partialities, and to do away their partyspirit. What others had already well elucidated and justly executed, he either omitted altogether, or touched but slightly. He wished to give only that which he had investigated before any other, or had examined more thoroughly, and preferred a lacuna in the details of history, to transcribing the works of his predecessors. He was satisfied too in the main barely with copious extracts from his authorities, without elaborating them with historical art. And does he not deserve thanks and approbation, for having in this way exhibited what was of most consequence from fathers and councils in excerpta for the indolent historians, who shudder at folios, or for men who would wish to see the elements of their knowledge, but have neither opportunity, time, nor patience enough to explore the original sources? He who is not determined to avoid writings which serve for serious study, and not merely for conversation, can now judge for himself, and learn from these extracts the modes of teaching of the ruling party, and the contrast exhibited by the weaker; and thence, as well as from the wavering and ambiguity of reputable teachers in ideas and expressions, draw consequences, which must direct his judgment concerņing the present systems of theology. For such purposes he is an as. sistance to all considerate readers. Sometimes he inserts a critical parenthesis between the words of his original, or directs the attention by some other means to objects worthy of examination. Thus he accustomed the inexperienced reader to reflection; and by this means his writings upon ecclesiastiçal history have become a pleasing guide, by which one may read and study the works which embrace it, in a profitable
It cannot be denied however, that these constant excerpta were of little value to many readers; since for them too much remained undone. Nothing was wrought out. It was too confidently expected, that what was cited would speak for itself, without regard to the incapacity of most minds to comprehend what was spoken. The father in a manner presented himself, and showed his works; but how many could know without the sign and motto subjoined, how they should use them, or what they could borrow from them for polemic and dogmatic theology, for ethies and interpretation? Semler could have made a much better use of his excerpta than he did: he should have employed them barely as records; and should merely have called them in as vouchers for the truth of what he collected from them, and expressed in his own words.
His judgment was in the main just and acute, but in some cases too stern and unmerciful. It was right and just that he, unpolluted by the passions which reigned in the church, should deseribe the vices and corruption of the ecclesiastics, and the strides of hierarchy, in strong and lively colours. But it was a fault, not peculiar however to himself, that he generalized with too much violence the vices recorded of many members of the body of ecclesiastics, and transferred them not only to the whole clergy, but to the great mass of common Christians. The deeds of honorable and righteous men, unless it may be by accident, are seldom distinguished, because one discovers in them nothing but the result of duty and obligation: but may not one suppose that, together with great vices, there were to be found also great virtues in those living in the same age? Are all the worthy ecclesiastics of a country, as well as the worthless, found in the transactions of the consistories of our time and would it be otherwise in the acts of councils? And as to the laity-must all these bear the crimes of a few; since, according to sad experience, theological learning dwells too frequently in a base heart?
One is not to look in Semler for every thing pertaining to the church not for the whole circle of its history, but abstracts concerning particular subjects of importance, with new and striking views; nothing entire, but particularly select, ex. cellent and bold observations and hypotheses; no clear light, but the materials for its future appearance, if an impartial, philosophical historian of a powerful mind, and, as far as possible, furnished with a complete view of the sources of ecclesiastical history, should elaborately attempt such a history through its several periods. Still every thing human must struggle with imperfection. How different are the two contemporaries, Walch and Semler! Were the excellencies of both united in one man, what a day would at once.open for the history of the church! In Walch we have evidence of the most perfect view of the source of each event, of an exact and careful collection of materials even to the smallest fragment:prodigy of diligence! But we discover in him no capacity for surveying what is intrinsic, no strides of genius, no independent advances. Semler manifests a faithful use of original sources, and a power of discovering such as are unknown; yet he is destitute of patience for the minute examination of all that deserves to be considered. But with his splendid genius, wherever he directed his clear and luminous view, the mists were dissipated and darkness vanished. The full light of day however he could not impart, for his view did not at once embrace all that was requisite.
[In the preceding portion of the life of Semler, as well as in that which was contained in our last number, there are some sentiments and opinions to which we do not assent. It will not be expected how. ever, that the editor should publish and his friends translate nothing but what they altogether approve. There are views and opinions of some of the German divines, from which, as far as we are acquainted with them, pe altogether dissent; and some speculations we have seen, from which