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read and when he read them, at this date; such a statement would be of more worth to us than pages of empty declamation.
His college course would not close until the summer of 1834, yet he entered the junior class at the Divinity School in April of that year. Weiss implies on page 47 that his poverty was the sole reason of his not taking his degree, so that he must have completed the usual course of study. Indeed, Mr. Parker writes to Mr. Patterson that he had kept well ahead of his class in college. While this was going on he had also learned German and Hebrew, and meddled with Syriac. He also read "Greek and Latiu literature, German metaphysics, as much political economy as he could find, mathematics, theology, and missal reading." Alas, that we knew just what he did read, and just how well he understood it! It seems unfair, after such vague talk from Mr. Parker, that Weiss should march liim up and down on his own account before the well-filled shelves of Dr. Francis's library and trumpet out this unmeaning phrase: "Here, then, were Dogmatik, Metaphysik, and Hermeneutik for Theodore." And just as he left Watertown for the Divinity School, Weiss records that, "During the school-keeping he read Tacitus, Cicero, Herodotus, and Thucydides, and translated Pindar, Theocritus, Bion and Moschus, as well as iEsehylns. He fell in with Cousin and the new school of French philosophers, and became acquainted with Coleridge. He also pursued the study of the literature of all the modern languages .he then knew, (that is, French, Spanish, and German,) and made great strides in metaphysics and theology."
He entered the Theological School on the first day of April, 1834. He says that he had hesitated somewhat before taking this step. He had even made some preliminary studies looking toward the law as a profession. He was repelled by the doctrines which were taught in the pulpits, the notorious dullness of Sunday services, and the fact that the clergy did not lead in the intellectual, moral, or religious progress of the people. He says that Dr. Channing was the only man in the New England pulpit who seemed to him great. This account was written a little before his death. It is curious to compare all this with the references in his journal and letters to men like Francis, Norton, Palfrey, Stuart, Dewey, and Ware. It is plain that in this account of his* experience as a minister Parker continually substitutes his later conclusions for his early impressions. The account of the three questions which he asked and answered seems like an afterthought, stilted and artificial as the Masonic ritual. In certain cases we can detect great discrepancies between the statements contained in this document and the real facts. For example, among the "five distinct denials" of the popular theology with which he alleges that he entered upon his theological education, the first is " the ghastly doctrine of eternal damnation and a wrathful God." This he states that he made way with somewhere from his seventh to his tenth year. But he had forgotten the confession of his faith which he made in a letter to his nephew, Columbus Greene, on the second day of April, 1834. There he says, "I believe in a God . . . who will reward the good and punish the wicked, both in this life and the next. This punishment may be eternal."
The third "distinct denial" runs thus: "I had found no evidence which to me could authorize a belief in the supernatural birth of Jesus of Nazareth. The twofold biblical testimony was all; that was contradictory and good for nothing; we had not the affidavit of the mother, the only competent human witness, nor even the declaration of the Son; there was no circumstantial evidence to confirm the statement of the Gospels of a most improbable event."
In the letter to Greene he says, "I believe that Christ was the Son of God, conceived and born in a miraculous manner." Weiss also gives a quotation, on page 82, vol. i, of his Life, apparently from the Journal: "I do not doubt that Jesus was a man 'sent from God,' and endowed with power from on high, that he taught the truth and worked miracles." This was in 1835 or later. Indeed, he wavers a good deal on this head for some years more. In June, 1839, he speaks of Christ's miracle-working power as something natural to him and to the human race. Parker thinks he has himself felt something of it. He deems it not contrary to nature but above it. More than a year later he tells Miss Peabody, "I have no doubt that Jesus wrought miracles." It seems, then, that he had not even then gained the conception of God which " makes miracles as impossible as a round square."
The fourth "distinct denial" is thus stated: "Many miraclea related in the Old and New Testaments seemed incredible to me; some were clearly impossible and others were wicked. Such, of course, I rejected at once, while I arbitrarily admitted others." Weiss quotes from him in 1835 or 1836 as follows: "Mr. Dewey pave us the Dudleyan lecture this year. It was the best, perhaps, that I have ever heard, though upon the least interesting part of the Evidences of Revealed Religion, namely, miracles. He removed the presumption against them—the objections were not only met but overturned? Dr. Dewey was hardly a leader in the New England pulpit, yet here is a note on him which shows whether Parker then thought Channing the only great man among the New England clergy, "Ah me! what an infinite distance between me and such men " as Dr. Dewey!
The fifth "distinct denial" is thus stated: "I had no belief in the plenary, infallible, verbal inspiration of the whole Bible, and strong doubts as to the miraculous inspiration of any part of it." Yet he tells Greene, "I believe the books of the Old and New Testaments to have been written by men inspired by God for certain purposes, but I do not think them inspired at all times."
These are very singular freaks for any man's memory to play, but they are still harder to account for in one who styles his a "memory that holds all things firm as gravitation, and yet, like that, keeps them unmixed, not confusing the most delicate outline, and reproduces them at will, complete in the whole and perfect in each part." The truth is, that the socalled Experience of Theodore Parker as a Minister is almost entirely untrustworthy when not corroborated by independent testimony. It seems rather his experience as it should have beeu than his experience as it really was. So grave an assertion would not be made if confirmation were not at hand. We have just seen that in his twenty-fourth year Parker still believed in the punishment of sin in the future world, and that he thought such punishments might be eternal. The letter to Greene goes back to the very time of his admission into the Cambridge Divinity School. In several places Mr. Parker has described a crisis of his early religious life in regard to the doctrine of future and endless punishment. This is its form in one of his sermons: "I once knew a boy of early development in religion, dry-nursed at school, against his father's command, on the New England Primer, and he was filled with ghastly fear of the God represented in that Primer, and the hell thereof and the devil therein, and he used to sob himself to sleep with the prayer, 'O God! 1 beg that I may not be damned,' until at last, before he was eight years old, driven to desperation by that fear, he made way with that Primer, and with its grim God, and hell, and devil, and found rest for his soul in the spontaneous teachings of the religious sentiment that sprang up in his breast." Of course this has an autobiographic air; yet there are some strange facts to be connected with the account. In his Experience he affirms that he had such an early struggle over the dogma of endless retribution, and adds, "From my seventh year I had no fear of God, only an ever-greatening love and trust." The crisis described, then, occurred before his eighth year. Now it is singular that in his autobiography, which comes down to his eighth year, no mention is made of this fact. He discusses his early moral development then, and yet omits this event, one of its most striking features. How could he have attended Dr. Beecher's ministry for a whole year, and gone through one of his revivals, when teaching in Boston in 1S31, after he had passed through such a crisis? It might be supposed that Dr. Beecher had disturbed his complacent rejection of this awful dogma, did not Parker expressly say the opposite: "I went through one of his 'protracted meetings,' listening to the fiery words of excited men, and hearing the most frightful doctrines set forth in sermon, song, and prayer. . . . But I came away with no confidence in his theology. The better I understood it, the more self-contradictory, unnatural, and hateful did it seem. A year of his preaching about finished all the respect I had for the Calvinistic scheme of theology." Assuming the truth of this account, how came he to write, two years after he had ceased to hear Beecher, that he still believed in the dogma of future punishment, and that he thought it might be eternal 1 So far as I can find, Parker first made the record of this painful struggle in 1839, when he surely had rejected the dogma of eternal retribution ; it next appears in a sermon published in 1853, was next alluded to as a fact of his own history in a letter to Mr. Senkler, and finally reaffirmed in his letter from Santa Cruz. If a fourfold averment of any fact has any worth, Mr. Parker is pledged for the veracity of his recital; if a forgotten letter can convict its writer of mistake, the letter to Mr. Greene performs that service for Parker. There could have been no motive for misstatement when the letter was written; but the account of the "crisis" was employed as an argument against a doctrine he hated. It seems like an invention. Such sobbings of fear, followed by such joyful confidence in the falsity of the rejected doctrines, are hardly a consistent prelude to what is contained in the letter to Greene.
At the theological school Parker made a marked impression. He was full of odd information, and crammed with facts picked up from books and observation. He was grotesque and frolicsome; was given to anger somewhat, but more to despondency. He was obliged to resolve to restrain licentiousness of imagination, which contains many things not to be committed to paper, lest the paper blush. Alas, Mr. Weiss, that he had " no sins to speak of!" He prayed with pious feeling, and talked about answers to his prayers. He wrote very poor sermons, and Professor Ware's frank criticisms of them reduced him to despair. But he excelled in debate, and loved it with the zest of a born disputant. In discussion he used to call Paul the apostle, "Old Paul;" and, when checked for his irreverence, mended the matter by substituting the words, "The gentleman from Tarsus."
He obtained the reputation of being a prodigious student. Some of his classmates asserted that he studied fourteen hours a day. He speaks of studying from ten to twelve hours a day when he was teaching six or seven hours. At West Koxbury, he says he found it a pleasure to work from ten to fifteen hours in his study. James Freeman Clarke, who had some chance to know, tells us that he wrought from six to twelve hours daily; and a writer in the "Atlantic Monthly " declares that he has Parker's word that he used to toil from twelve to seventeen hours daily among his books. We leave Mr. Weiss to settle these discrepancies. The account of his doings at the seminary is interesting. He resolved to "sleep six hours at least, seven certainly, and eight very often, to avoid excess in food and drink, and to spend three hours daily in the open air."