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Excerpts from Two Sermons by Friedrich August Tholuck: "What is Human Reason Worth?" (c. 1840) and "When is Greater Civic Freedom Fortunate for a People?" (1848)

An active preacher and prolific writer, the Awakened theology professor Friedrich August Tholuck (1799-1877) was an influential opponent of religious rationalism and biblical criticism in Germany. The following excerpts from two of his sermons, one given during the Revolution of 1848/49, exemplify the movement's passionate appeals to parishioners to keep their faith and – typical of most devout Protestants' political conservatism at the time – its sharp criticism of calls for freedom, democracy, and civic rights.

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[Chapter] XVI. What is human reason worth?

My beloved! I have spoken to you on orders from the Lord Himself about the struggles and groupings of the times – I say: on orders from the Lord Himself, for it is the Lord who has commanded His followers to pay heed to the signs of the times. We have looked at the currents of the time, now we shall also look at the themes of the day, at the themes that have become slogans on the right and the left, which we now hear discussed again in the alleys and the taverns, in the trains and mail coaches. How we would thank God that religion has finally stepped down again from the pulpit into the life of the people, if only we could perceive – if only occasionally – a secret searching and praying behind the outward chatter, perceive that people were not merely asking: What must I do to be more clever?, but also: What must I do to be saved? Still, we prefer even this worldly zeal to none at all, though all the zeal were not about but against religion! How much benefit we would at least derive – we who know in whom we believe – if that false zeal awakened our proper zeal, if the louder the No! sounded from that side, the more joyfully our Yes! rang out into the land! Behold, is it not already a good thing that you who do not wish to abandon your faith, must now also learn what to answer if they ask you about the reason behind your hope? I shall now play a part in this; that is why I shall preach to you about the questions of the times, so that you may have something to respond with, that you may become aware again that we are standing on a good, an eternal foundation!

The theme, then, which tops the slogans of these times is the question: What is human reason worth? But from which of the many teachers and wise men of the world shall we get our answer? We who have in Christ a king of truth and no longer need to go around to beg for an answer to our questions from the nobles and princes in the land of truth, we approach Him and none other also with this question. Him of whom it is written: “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” – from Him and none other we shall hear the answer; of Him we know: He knows whereof He speaks, for He says what He was told by the Father. Let Him tell us, then, what human reason is worth. Listen to His answer (Matt. 6.20-24), where He speaks thus:

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