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taking it sou the elistant
Dr. Paulus seems to have felt all the difficulty of writing of himself. “The attempt to describe oneself,” he says, “ is always a hazardous undertaking ; yet in old age we feel so different from what we were in our youth, that we are able to look back on our early years almost with the eyes of a stranger: we take as it were a telescopic view of the distant past, and that view is consequently less liable to be a partial one.” Yet never was apology less called for; the total absence of egotism-of every selfish consideration-is particularly striking in this most pleasing autobiographical sketch. The singleness of the author's aim is apparent in every page. His object is to show how entirely his religious opinions are the result of earnest and patient inquiry, and of the most sincere conviction. The memoir embodies his particular views, but his anxiety is not so much to enforce these upon others, however true and important they may appear to himself; his most ardent desire is that others should feel as he feels, that truthfulness—an absolute and fearless faithfulness to conviction, to conviction arising from honest investigation-is man's highest, most imperative duty; and that in so far only as he is faithful to his convictions, does he act in conformity with the will of God.
Dr. Paulus was born in 1761, at the small village of Leonburg in Würtemberg. When nine years of age, his mother died, and his father being dissatisfied with his progress at the public school, removed him from it, and became his sole tutor. Dr. Paulus dwells with fond and grateful remembrance on these early years, passed under the paternal roof. The father's method of instruction was very admirable, and his own industrious habits and steady application had a most beneficial influence upon the mind of his boy. Paulus's love of reading seems to have been very great. He read indiscriminately all the tales and romances he could lay his hand upon; and when he had exhausted a large store of German books of this description, he ransacked his father's library to discover new treasures. Here he found Fenelon's Telemachus, and an Elzevir Homer with a Latin translation. He read these with avidity, though at that time altogether for the sake of the story. He would often of an evening take refuge in the then vacant study, and by twilight, and even by moonlight, pursue the exciting adventure to the end, till his curiosity was satisfied. The Æneid, though mastered with difficulty, was included in this romance reading; and if much was passed over without being understood, the boy found pleasure in tracing and following the historical thread interwoven with the fiction ; and he delighted
greatly in the high-flowing diction, at once grand, sonorous, and rich in thought.
Dr. Paulus thinks this kind of reading, which occupied so many of the leisure hours of his boyhood, was highly useful to him.
“ The representations of fictitious circumstances, positions, and exploits, which did not overstep the limits of human possibility, led me always to the contemplation of the actual-matter of fact-historical ground of human existence. I loved the ideal and the noble, but not that which transcended the bounds of the possible. By comparing the fictitious delineations I met with in these works of taste, with historical facts, and real life, I acquired the habit, not only of analysing the wide distinctions which exist in human characters, and of observing the practical influences which they exercise upon each other, but likewise, more especially, of inquiring into the probable causes of actions and events narrated as historical. The more we accustom our minds to the contemplation of that which is humanly possible, the less liable shall we be to take a one sided view of actual occurrences. Not only shall we find it difficult to persuade ourselves to refer all things to one exclusive source, to good, or to evil; but we shall also discover—what is of the first importance in all historical investigations—that events are rarely the consequence of one solitary cause that those occurrences which appear to us extraordinary, as well as those which we term ordinary, result from a combination of motives and causes, and admit of a natural explanation.”
The father's favourite study was mathematics; he was much habituated to reasoning and demonstration, and he felt particular pleasure in training his boy to take part in logical discussions. He encouraged him to inquire the “ wherefore ” of all that came under his observation, and incited him, if possible, to seek out the answer for himself. The father had a particularly clear and felicitous mode of expressing himself, and of simplifying his subject. It was moreover a principle with him, and his daily practice, to explain the grounds of any opposition or difference of opinion he might express, studiously avoiding the exaction of a mere submissive acquiescence on the part of his children. Upon one subject however, and upon that alone-rendering the distinction so much the more marked and striking—he pursued an exactly opposite course. If religion, or, more strictly speaking, mysterious matters of belief, came under consideration, any objection raised against the evidences adduced, or the explanations given, invariably disturbed the father's equanimity, and excited his displeasure.
This inconsistency in his father's conduct, this unwillingness
to admit any reasoning or questioning upon the subject of religion, whilst investigation and inquiry were encouraged on all other subjects, produced a powerful effect upon Paulus: it gave birth to many a painful doubt respecting that belief which was so dogmatically taught :-in short it determined the direction of his whole future life.
Dr. Paulus gives an interesting explanation of the cause of his father's intolerance of religious inquiry. We have curtailed the account, but have retained his own words as far as this was possible. How naturally did the superstition of the father engender in the mind of the son that disbelief of the marvellous and the supernatural which constituted him, in maturer age, a Rationalist !
“My father,” says Dr. Paulus, “ was the officiating clergyman in the small village of Leonburg, and he preached and inculcated the doctrines of his church with affectionate earnestness. He considered them calculated to afford consolation to the many; he thought them essentially beneficial in their moral influence; but above all, he deemed them infinitely superior to the dogmas of the traditional and hierarchical church of Rome, to which he was warmly opposed. The consequence was, he was regarded by his congregation as an eloquent and zealous Christian minister, whilst, in truth, he remained during many years a secret unbeliever. The belief in which he had been educated, appeared to him consistent in itself, but the foundation of all religious belief-the very being of a God—was with him a matter of doubt; he doubted also the existence of a state of consciousness after death. He sought in philosophy a solution of the difficulties which perplexed his mind, but the philosophy of the day—it was that of Wolf-failed to afford him the satisfaction he desired. These doubts, however, were confined to his own breast ; they were the subjects of his private meditations. But the unwillingness he evinced to speak of an hereafter, to express any opinion respecting the reality of a future life, could not escape the observation of my actively pious and gentle mother. She suspected that he was sceptical on this point, and in consequence called his attention to a little book containing the histories of certain individuals who, in fulfilment of a promise made in their lifetime, had given signs of continued consciousness after death to the surviving friend. My father objected that the historical evidence of such individual experiences was very slight, and that such testimony was not to be relied on; that these appearances were possibly mere delusions, occasioned by an over-excited state of the brain. Still it is now unquestionable that these highly-coloured representations made a lasting impression on his naturally lively imagination.
“ Shortly after this, my mother died at an early age, of an intermittent fever. During her illness my father's mind had been kept in a state of intense anxiety-of constant alternation between hope and fear. The event afflicted him deeply; he was inconsolable. In this hour of affliction his doubts of the existence of a God, and of immortality, became almost insupportable. Whilst kneeling in the distant and solitary chamber, in front of the bed upon which the corpse of the deceased was laid, he became greatly agitated. He could not endure the thought that the good—the beloved—had actually ceased to be. Could it indeed be possible that she was passed away into an eternal oblivion, into nothingness?
“ If there be a God, surely he will deliver me from this dreadful anguish of soul. Such was his thought—his hope. His prayer was a sigh.-Ens entium miserere mei !-In this moment of extreme perturbation, his whole frame trembling violently, and his eyes filled with tears, the corpse suddenly appeared to him to raise itself into a sitting posture, and immediately again sink back. The recollection of a similar apparition mentioned in the little book the deceased had pointed out to him, instantly flashed across his mind. From that moment, and ever afterwards, my father's belief that his wife had designed to give him, through the medium of her corpse, a sign of her continued consciousness, was as confident as his belief that the corpse had appeared to him to raise itself up. Thus in a thousand instances does belief mingle itself with fact. The presumed explanation of the cause, and the actual occurrence, become interwoven with each other, and constitute history. Firm however as my father's conviction was of the reality of the apparition, he has more than once assured me that whilst still kneeling by the bed, he sought to discover whether what he had seen might not have been a delusion, the effect of refraction, his eyes being at the time filled with tears. But he tried in vain to reproduce the same appearance.”
“ Thus by one single flash and stroke, were my father's metaphysical doubts as it were physically annihilated. That which he believed to have actually happened, and which consequently he could not but regard and hold fast as a fact, together with his own persuasion respecting the cause and design of the occurrence, became so indissolubly connected in his mind, that it ever remained a matter of absolute certainty with him that he had received a sensible demonstration, not only of the continued existence and consciousness of the departed—but also that the deceased retain a recollection of the events of their former life. Now indeed the existence of the Deity—of that Being who had shown mercy to the supplicant, and had vouchsafed an answer to his prayer, could no longer be subject of doubt. The premises, upon which to build that system of theology which had always appeared to him consistent in itself, were now abundantly proved.”
“The recurrence of such apparitions to a mind which had once fully admitted their reality, is no-wise surprising. They became increasingly frequent, and in his latter years, visions and significant dreams were almost matters of course : they were the rule rather than the exception.”
We have Dr. Paulus's assurance that after the intimate intercourse of many years it was impossible for him ever to entertain the slightest doubt of the perfect sincerity of his father's belief in the reality of all these supernatural apparitions and impressions. On the contrary, his earnest devotion, his honest adherence to his persuasions, the rightness of his intentions, his active zeal, and his persevering, untiring industry, made a deep and lasting impression upon the youthful mind of his son, and inspired him with the truest respect and esteem for his father's character.
The father's religious instructions to his children were conveyed chiefly through the medium of books and discourses. In these readings, however, many things were occasionally advanced which the boy felt to be assertion without proof, and which it was impossible for him to affirm that he believed.
“He earnestly desired to believe, and it was cause of great unhappiness to him that he could not force himself to admit all that was so confidently asserted. He realized the experience that he whose mind has once been awakened to reflection, cannot believe because he may desire to believe : that it is not in the power of any man-however great his anxiety may be to receive one particular view—to compel himself to regard as true, what appears to him either inconsistent in itself, or in contradiction to ascertained and established truths. The boy neither had, nor could have, any distinctly apprehended grounds of doubt, much less did he seek to disbelieve. Most willingly would he have embraced that which he was taught, could it only have been made to appear credible to him. Yet it was impossible for him to attribute to God—to that Being to whom he ascribed all his young mind could conceive of highest and best—those many arbitrary decrees and acts which are so unhesi. tatingly imputed to the All-good. Moreover, the adduced passages from the Bible did not seem to him always to express that which appeared to him so unworthy of the Divine Being. He heard with how much confidence these interpretations and inferences were maintained ; still conviction, such as he experienced respecting many other matters, was not produced in his mind. To persuade himself that he did believe, was to contradict his inward consciousness; yet how often did he endeavour, with childlike simplicity, to compel belief.”
He could not venture to confess his doubts and fears to his father, who would not fail to regard his unbelief as disbelief, and to class him among the reprobates who are unworthy of the divine mercy. He continued silent, but became more and more unhappy. His anxiety to know and embrace that which was true, continually increased ; and it became with him a fixed and sacred resolve, to make the attainment of individual conviction the primary object of his life. It was this irresistible necessity to satisfy his own mind, which at ten years of age determined him to become a theologian.
This choice was by no means disagreeable to his father, but he was apprehensive lest the displeasure of the ecclesiastical authorities which had fallen upon himself, in consequence of his