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(Translated by J. Fitzgerald.)
HE little book which three months after its first appearance is now about to come before the world in a fourth edition, was originally left, and still remains, without a preface. It must speak for itself, thought I; and in point of fact it left very little room for doubt whether as to its motive or its object. But so much has been said against it in several quarters, and that with such vehemence, and in some cases with such force, that some reply will be expected from the author. There is material enough at hand for a whole series of polemical works on subjects the most dissimilar-philosophy and theology, natural and political science. Still, not alone. the vastness of such an undertaking but also the very nature of the matter in hand, requires that I should restrict myself to a narrower field. This is a Confession; it does not assail the position held by others, but only defends its own. Meanwhile, however briefly I may express what I have to say, these pages, if appended to my purposely compendious work, would weight it down, and therefore I
let it go forth by itself. It will serve not only as a preface to the new edition, but also as a postscript to the readers of the earlier ones.*
Lessing, as we know, was content to be less bepraised than Klopstock, provided he was more diligently read.
Indeed we know that he made no objection, if lack of approval now and then was changed into hearty disapprobation. In such a frame of mind as that, I should be perfectly satisfied with the reception my Confession of Faith has met with. Strike, but listen, exclaimed the Athenian general and statesman to his opponent. In truth, when a man has been condemned not without a hearing the presumption that he is innocent is so far lessened. If I had been condemned by all who have read my book, I should be without excuse. But I have reasons for believing that such is not the case. Over against the thousands of my readers stand a score or so of my public accusers an inconsiderable minorityand it would be hard for them to show that they are exactly the faithful interpreters of the former. If in a matter like this persons who do not understand the question have been foremost in crying aloud while those who do understand have been content with quiet acquiescence, the reason is to be found in certain circumstances with which we are all familiar. It
The German edition of this postscript was issued in a small pamphlet.
is all very well to ask in derision who are the we of whom I speak; but my questioners know as well as as I do how the matter stands.
Here again I make no account of an expedient which I might turn to good use; and such neglect might well appear to be unpardonable in a literary veteran. The apostle Paul (at least as he is represented in the Acts) used other strategy. When standing in presence of the High Council at Jerusalem, so soon as he saw before him the Pharisees and Sadducees, whilom enemies, now brethren, banded together against him, he contrived to break up this ominous coalition and to bring the Pharisees over to his side, by throwing out the assertion that his of fence was only this, that he taught the resurrection of the dead. If one were to-day, in imitation of the Apostle of the Gentiles, to declare before the theological world: "It is because of my denial of Christ's godhead that these men condemn me, notwithstanding that I have no hesitation in acknowledging the man Jesus as Redeemer and Eternal Head of the Church" he would secure himself against attack from the side of the Orthodox of the Protestant League. In like manner he who, disregarding the reproach of materialism, upholds the right of Science to explain the universe, man included, has merely to avoid mention of certain topics, certain measures, if he has nothing to say in favor of them, and he will
* So the author. Qu. What then is heterodoxy ?--Trans.
have nearly all the democrats and socialists on his side. But what is to be thought of that man's judgment who on every occasion knowingly incurs the displeasure of both sides and exposes himself to the cross-fire of orthodox and progressive theologians; of conservatives and socialistic democrats? Well, be the estimate of his judgment what it will, his candor is not to be questioned.
According to a reviewer in the Weser-Zeitung, my book is like a declaration of war against the Protestant League and the Old Catholics. This accusation is as unjust as it well could be, and I will come back to it again, but it was quite natural that when once the book was regarded in that light, thereafter all those who are of one mind with the Protestant League, viz. the writers in the Deutsche Allgemeine and the Weser-Zeitung, as also the OldCatholic professor who opened out on me in the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung (to say nothing of the Protestantische Zeitung) should pass as unfavorable a sentence upon it as the Kreutz-Zeitung itself or the Orthodox Kirchen-Zeitungs. In this respect some Socialist-democratic periodicals were fairer, inasmuch as they did not suffer the indignation they felt at my political principles to prevent their appreciation of the critical and philosophical portion of my book. And if the writers and publicists of that party are prone to employ in controversy a style of language which is hardly what you might suppose to be dictated by good taste or by etiquette, at least such
manners are not in contradiction with their fundamental principles. On the other hand, we have grown accustomed to similar language on the part of the Clericals; but then we can conceive how in their eyes courtesy and respect shown to one who is held. to be damned everlastingly, must appear to be simple hypocrisy. Contrariwise the educated middle party are wont to claim the credit of complying with the usages of respectable society even in controversy. If on the present occasion even they have departed from this policy in their treatment of me, there must be some special reasons for the phenomenon.
When I compare the tone in which most of the criticisms of my latest work are expressed, with that in which for some years past it has been usual in German literature to make reference to me, it is not surprising that I should be profoundly pained at the sudden change that has come about. After the tumults of former contests had subsided, people had gradually accustomed themselves to meet me with some degree of respect; on many sides even I was done the unsolicited honor of being ranked as a sort of classical writer of prose. This esteem it appears I have now forfeited for good and all by my latest work; the newspapers think they must address me with a lofty air, as though I were some beginner, some chance comer. But fortunately this new tone of the press is nothing new at all to me: rather is it the very first greeting I received when I entered on my literary career with the "Life of Jesus." That I observe that