Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHURCHES - Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States, vol. 1 Abdication-Duty
Return to Title Page for Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States, vol. 1 Abdication-Duty
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
CHURCHES - John Joseph Lalor, Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States, vol. 1 Abdication-Duty 
Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States by the best American and European Authors, ed. John J. Lalor (New York: Maynard, Merrill, & Co., 1899). Vol 1 Abdication-Duty.
Part of: Cyclopaedia of Political Science, Political Economy, and of the Political History of the United States, 3 vols.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
CHURCHES, Protestant.51 The organization of churches is the only thing in religious matters which comes directly within the province of politics. It seems proper, therefore, to begin with a glance at the nature of Protestantism, the organization of a church naturally depending upon the principle on which that church is founded. And as Protestantism has given birth to many communions differing from one another in many respects, and founded upon different systems, it will also be proper to indicate the dogmatic differences which distinguish them from one another; we will therefore indicate, in their general traits, the constitutions which govern the principal among these churches.
—I. The Principle and Essence of Protestantism. Protestantism is not, like the Greek church, distinguished from Catholicism solely by differences of belief, ceremonies and ecclesiastical institutions. There is a more profound difference between them; it concerns the very principles which are at the foundation of the two religions. Both are equally derived from the teaching of Jesus Christ and the apostles, and consequently, in their final analysis, from the biblical books which contain this teaching. But while in Catholicism the interpretation of these books, and, consequently, all that concerns religious life, belong exclusively to the clergy united in council.52 and the faithful are bound to accept simply and without any more ample information, as positive declarations of the Holy Ghost, the decisions of the ecclesiastical body regularly assembled; in Protestantism, the interpretation of the Bible is of right for all the faithful, who, after surrounding themselves with all the light they may need, determine their own belief according to what they find in the sacred scriptures.
—This is the essential difference between the two forms of Christianity, and it is a radical one. It is in religious matters a system of authority in the one case, and a system of liberty in the other. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, and considering them from an historical and philosophical point of view, we may say they correspond to and agree with different states of culture and civilization. One imposes itself by the very force of circumstances upon nations too little developed to be able to direct themselves, as also upon individuals who, not wishing or not daring to accept the responsibility of their acts, their thoughts and their sentiments, invoke assistance to help their weakness; the other is introduced, naturally, at a time when man, more enlightened, aspires to maintain his individuality, and feeling himself capable of freely determining his own resolves, has no longer any need of a strange hand to guide him in the difficult paths of life. Considered from this point of view Protestantism and Catholicism may be compared, the former to a free state in which each citizen participates, in a certain measure, in the legislative power which makes the laws that govern him; the second to a state, monarchical by divine right, whose subjects have but to obey, and be silent.
—Hence it follows that Protestantism can not aim at that unity of doctrine, rites and institutions of which Catholicism boasts, and which it gives as a proof of its divine character. Freedom of investigation must necessarily lead to a great variety of opinions, and, as a consequence, give rise to a host of different churches; this is what has occurred within the pale of Protestantism. All Catholic controversial writers have, with Bossuet, offered these variations as a decisive argument against free investigation, and, consequently, against Protestantism, which is based upon it. Protestants themselves have believed in the validity of this objection; many still believe in it. Let Protestants reassure themselves. All the fragile scaffolding of Catholic controversy will fall to the ground the very day Catholics cease to confound, as they have nearly always done, religion and theology, and begin to distinguish the church from the school. Religion is an affair of sentiment; unity of sentiment is all it asks for. Christian sentiment necessarily ought to be common to all Christians. It is the mark by which they are recognized. Dogma, undoubtedly, is not an indifferent matter, since it is a need of the mind, and thus serves to nourish religious sentiment; but the object of our reflections is susceptible, like everything within the scope of our intelligence, of an infinite variety of appreciation and conception; for each man views abstract and metaphysical propositions in a different light.
—Unity of opinion is far from possessing the value attributed to it. It is also, and even more frequently, the mark of error than of truth. Witness the Mussulmans and Buddhists, among whom it obtains with no less intensity than among Catholics. It is, in all cases, the sign of spiritual death, as variety and versatility of opinion are the sign of spiritual life. As Leibnitz said, long ago, universal peace can be found only in the grave. Diversity of dogmatic conceptions in unity of Christian sentiment; this should be, this would be, in fact, the device of Protestantism if its followers had a clear conception of their own principles.
—But, be this as it may, to reproach Protestantism for the variety of opinions which divide it, is to reproach it for being Protestantism; to wish to impose unity upon it is to re-convert it into a new Catholicism, or, we should rather say, to suppress it. Without variety in dogma, there would no longer be any liberty in religion, which is the true manifestation of individuality from a religious point of view.
—It was not, therefore, for the sake of the mere theoretical principle of private investigation that the reformers rebelled against the Catholic church. In reality they proposed to themselves no other end than the re-establishment of Christianity in its primitive purity; as Zwingli expresses it, by freeing religious truth, such as it is taught in the sacred scriptures, from the alterations introduced by the failings of the church and the errors of tradition. Private investigation was in their eyes but an instrument. They even thought to abandon it when they would have re-established the true doctrine; but from the dogmatic point of view, from which they considered it, they could not imagine that any one could freely study the Bible, and not see in its precisely what they themselves saw. Matters did not, however, turn out as they expected. Most marked differences were discovered upon points which seemed to them to be beyond all question, and instead of admitting that variety of opinion was the consequence of the principle of private investigation which they had appealed to, and that the new dissenters did nothing, in reality, but follow the example which they themselves had set them, and use toward them a right which they had claimed for themselves against the Catholic church, they would recognize in them but perverse and rebellious spirits who must be compelled by the fear of punishment to render homage to truth. The reformation at once changed its language and its conduct. The constraint in religious matters which it had condemned and continued to condemn as an insupportable tyranny, when it emanated from Rome, it exercised immediately after, as a God-given right to itself, over those whom it had called to liberty.
—We must say of this inconsistency what a Geneva professor replied to a Catholic who reproached Calvin with the burning of Servetus' Reliquiæ papismatis; it was a remnant of the Catholic education of the reformers. Protestantism has been at great pains to free itself of these remnants, and even to this day it has not entirely succeeded, though it has labored without ceasing to this end. All its internal contests have been, in fact, but one long and constant effort to escape from the equivocal position of half-Catholic, half-Protestant, in which it was placed by the circumstances attending its birth, and to free from the yoke of tradition, which its founders had broken only in part, the religious liberty which they had called all Christians to enjoy. Under one form or another, even where the despotism of confessions of faith seemed most solidly established, Protestants have aspired to individual convictions, and have claimed the right to base their belief upon a personal study of the Bible. This tendency, always the same, and always active, should alone suffice to prove that private investigation is the soul of Protestantism.
—It is often said that Protestantism may be summed up in the doctrine of justification by faith. The orthodox sects in particular are pleased to present it in this light; and we must confess that they are in the right: their only fault is that they take a part for the whole. It was by restoring the doctrine of justification by faith, that the reformers combated the Catholic doctrine of justification by works, a doctrine which, as is always the case in the field of religious beliefs, becoming more and more materialized, was scarcely anything more in the sixteenth century than the doctrine of salvation by external observances. To this not very spiritual idea of Catholicism, to this belief that in practicing the ceremonies of religion one acquires mechanically, by a sort of opus operatum, a right to salvation, Protestantism opposes the far nobler idea, that salvation is the result of an interior labor of the soul under the influence of Christian sentiments; that is to say, of sentiments which are inspired in the believer by the thought of the love which God has manifested for us by sending us his Son, and allowing him to be sacrificed for us.
—But, though this doctrine may be the very heart of Protestant theology it does not constitute the entire work of Protestantism; it presents but one side of this work, an important side, no doubt, but not the most important. By this doctrine Protestantism speaks only to believers, and acts only in a purely religious field, while, in reality, it speaks to all men without distinction, and exerts a universal influence as well in the moral as in the social world, as well in the domain of philosophy as in that of literature; in a word, in the whole field of activity of the human mind, by making known the rights of individual liberty, and proclaiming private investigation, which, by an inevitable consequence, must extend, and in fact does extend, from religious questions to all that concerns human existence. By the dogma of justification by faith the Christian is freed from the spirit of religious mechanism which constituted Catholicism at the end of the middle ages; by private investigation, man, liberated from the empire of prejudice, of routine, and of every species of blind and unconscious servitude, is restored to himself, and to the legitimate exercise of his intellectual faculties.
—Nevertheless these two doctrines are most intimately connected with each other. Private investigation and the doctrine of justification by faith spring from the same source, and tend to the same end, and are, in reality, but the one same manifestation of the soul in two orders of action, different, yet connected together, like everything which really belongs to human nature. The latter is an internal principle of moral life. Calvin repeats incessantly, and not unreasonably, that justifying faith is at the same time sanctifying faith; the former is an intimate principle of individual intellectual life. It is, in the one case as in the other, my own individual activity, substituted for the state of passivity in which it is held as well by the faith imposed by authority, as by the Catholic doctrine of salvation by works. In the one case, we have the free inspiration of a soul purified by Christian sentiment, in opposition to the direction of consciences, which the Catholic church claims for herself; in the other, we have the individual action of the mind seeking for itself a solution more and more satisfactory of the great problem of human destiny, as opposed to a theory forever fixed, determined, decreed by an authority which allows neither contradiction nor control.
—II. Dogmatic Differences between the principal Protestant Churches. The Lutheran church and the Calvinist church. The opponents of Catholicism, outside the Auglican church of which we have nothing to say here (see GREAT BRITAIN), formed themselves, from the very earliest days of the reformation, into two great communions, that of the confession of Augsburg, so called from the celebrated document which the German reformers presented to Charles V. at the diet of Augsburg in 1530, and that of the Helvetic confession, which owes its name to the confession of faith drawn up at Basle in 1536, by the theologians delegated by the cities of Zurich, Berue, Schaffhausen, Saint-Gall, etc., and adopted by the Swiss cantons which had declared in favor of the reformation. The first is often called the Lutheran church, from the name of the great reformer who was in some sort its father, and who still remains its doctor par excellence; it is also styled the Protestant church, from the "protest" which some free cities and some states that had declared themselves for the cause sustained by Luther, entered in 1529 against the second diet of Spires, which placed restrictions upon the liberty of conscience accorded by the diet held in the same city three years before. The second is likewise known under the name of the Calvinistic church, Calvin having been its most eminent theologian, and having expounded its tenets with great talent, in his "Christian Institutions;" it is sometimes designated also the Reformed church, by a sort of opposition to the title Protestant church given to the Lutheran communion.
—The church of the confession of Augsburg established itself in the north of Germany, and in several other parts of the same country; that of the Helvetic confession in Switzerland. France, along the banks of the Rhine, in the Low Countries, and in Scotland.
—Of the points upon which they are divided, the most important is that which concerns the sacrament of the eucharist. The Reformed church, breaking away completely from the doctrine of the Catholic church on this point, sees in the sacrament only a symbol of the death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ; this was the belief professed by Zwingli Bucer, Œcolumpadius and Capito; this is more extreme than the teaching of Calvin, who, endeavoring to take a middle course, taught that Jesus Christ is present in the species of the holy communion, not only symbolically or spiritually, but really and substantially for the believer, who thus becomes, in the communion, a participant in the body and blood of the Saviour. The Protestant church ruled on this point by Luther, approaches still nearer than Calving to the Catholic theory. For transubstantiation it substitutes consubstantiation, that is to say, it admits that the species of the holy communion, without losing their own proper substantiality to be transformed into the real flesh and true blood of Jesus Christ, as the Catholic church teaches, and still remaining bread and wine, contain really the body of Jesus Christ, just as heated iron contains heat, without, however, ceasing to be truly iron, and without losing the substance which constitutes it. The reformers in vain endeavored to agree upon this point; the difference of teaching continued, and assumed very great importance, especially in the eyes of the Lutherans, who, for more than a century, regarded the Calvinists as nothing else than heretics.
—We may add that the separation was also maintained by differences in the forms of worship, which were more pompous among the Lutherans, and characterized by an extreme simplicity among the Calvinists; in the organization of the corps of pastors, who were in a certain sense hierarchical among the former, but absolutely on an equality among the latter; finally, in the administration of ecclesiastical affairs, in which the laity participate to a much greater extent among the Calvinists than among the Lutherans.
—Apart from these differences, which do not concern fundamental points, the teaching of the two churches was substantially the same. Identical in the main with that of the Catholic church in what concerns God, creation, Providence, the Trinity, it differed from it in what concerns anthropology, and the means of salvation; upon these points, it differed but very little in any respect from the system which St. Augustine used in combating Pelagianism. The starting point of this system is a profound sentiment of the sinfulness and moral misery of man. With St. Augustine, Luther and Calvin held that man was of himself absolutely incapable of doing good, or even of conceiving the wish to do good. This deplorable state is the consequence of the sin of Adam, which has corrupted morally and physically the entire human race. Without going as far as Luther, who taught that original sin is substantial, that is to say, that it constitutes a part of man's very essence, Calving thought that the divine image was completely effaced in us by the fall of Adam, that all religious and moral strength is taken from our souls, and that a radical perversity has invaded our whole nature. Eternal damnation would be the deserved portion of all human creatures, if Jesus Christ the Godman had not suffered in our stead the punishment intended for us, and by his expiatory death, satisfied divine justice. This satisfaction, however, effects nothing of itself as an exterior act, it is of value to the sinner only inasmuch as he applies it to himself by faith. But how can man, in whom all it evil, be able to apply to himself by faith the merits of the Saviour, and thus escape the condemnation he deserves? Even this does not come from him, but from the grace which gives him the desire to be partaker in the faith which justifies and sanctifies. Is this grace given to all men? By no means, but only to those whom God has chosen: as for the others, he abandons them to the condemnation, which is the necessary consequence of their perverse nature. And if you ask the reformers why God has destined some to salvation, and abandoned others to damnation, they will refer you, with St. Augustine, to the will of God, arbitrio suo, as Calvin says, adding, however, that the judgments and the ways of God are unfathomable, investigabilia judicia ejus, et investigabiles vius ejus.
—How could a doctrine, as offensive to conscience as to reason, and so opposed to the spirit of Christianity, be adopted by the reformers as the expression of absolute religious truth? Many different circumstances serve to explain their conduct here, to two of which we would for a moment direct the reader's attention.
—A task at once so considerable and so full of peril to its authors as the reformation of the church could be undertaken only under the influence of extraordinary religious enthusiasm. Now, of all religious systems, there is none more completely religious, if I may be allowed the expression, than that which does away with man entirely, the more to exalt divine action. If we reflect that religion is after all but the sentiment of our total dependence upon an infinite power which rules us, we will understand that the more profound religious sentiment is, the more ought he who professes religion to regard himself as a mere nothing in the presence of God. This system has been taught by all the mystics of all times and all places without any exception. It inevitably re-appears in all great religious crises. It could not but manifest itself in the great religious revolution of the sixteenth century.
—On the other hand, this system just referred to came as a necessary reaction, not so much from the sale of indulgences, which was less the cause than the occasion of the reformation, as from the general tendency of Catholicism, of which this scandalous traffic was, in reality, a consequence, remote no doubt, but still a logical one. Placed by her principles upon a slippery descent the Catholic church has been too often forced, so to speak, to accord to acts what belonged only to the feelings of which acts are only the internal expression and for which they can not be substituted. It has been too often forced in actual cases, to confound, if not in theory, at least in practice, penance with repentance. It was in view of this tendency, that the reformers protested, in the name of the religious feeling, against the efficacy attributed to acts which frequently had no merit. From the worthlessness of penance they inferred the insufficiency of repentance for the pardon of sins. Divine grace appeared to them the only refuge of the sinner; and, going from one extreme to the other, from opposing the Pelagianism of the Catholic church they denied the doctrine of Augustine.
—This system, a veritable metaphysical and religious drama, may be suited to an epoch of strife, or to ardent souls greatly agitated and distressed, to a St. Paul, an Augustine, or a Luther; it has no place in the ordinary course of life. But the doctrine of Luther and Calvin disappeared as rapidly as Augustinianism had, in the fifth century, been transformed into a species of semi-Pelagianism, and as Paulinism had been effaced in the beginning of the second century by a sort of eclectic system. Melancthon had already protested against it in the second edition of his "Loci Communes," after having upheld it in his first edition; and the Formula of Agreement (1579) held that God wishes to save all sinners who oppose no obstacle to the action of grace, and that those who are to be saved are not predestined to salvation, except inasmuch as God foresees that they will follow the inspirations of his grace, and that those who are to be lost are not predestined to damnation, but inasmuch as he foreknows that they will voluntarily persevere in evil. From that day to this the doctrine of predestination and that of unconditional salvation have never been without opponents in the Lutheran church.
—Arminian Church. Now it was that strife grew fierce in the Reformed church. The dogma of absolute predestination had given rise to scruples in the minds of many pastors in Holland, when J. Arminius (who died in 1609) proposed to explain or replace it by a theory which soon won numerous adherents. He held that election and reprobation could not be arbitrary, but that they had for condition the perseverance of the elect in good, and the persistence of the reprobate in evil, which God, from whose eyes the future is no more concealed than the past or the present, knows from all eternity. Moral liberty being thus given to man, there could no longer be any question either of irresistible grace, for those who had received it by way of salvation independently of, and even against their will, as Calvin maintained, or of the unconditional gift of this grace to some, and its equally arbitrary refusal to others. Hence it follows that the Christian has some part in the working out of his own salvation; that he depends upon his own efforts to maintain himself in the grace which is offered him, as he can also, after having received it, render himself unworthy of it by abandoning himself to evil. Finally, Arminius denied that Jesus Christ died only for the elect, the merits of the Saviour being imputable, according to him, to all who lay claim to them, and render themselves worthy of participating in them.
—It must be admitted that this doctrine is far inferior in force and logical sequence to that of Calvin, whose system forms a complete whole. But the inconsistencies with which it abounds are largely compensated for by the humane sentiment which pervades it throughout, and we could scarcely understand how it was that it did not gain the assent of all Christians if we did not know how difficult it is to change belief. The situation of Holland at this epoch opposed new difficulties to the triumph of Arminianism. Religious discussion became entangled with a political question. The partisans of Arminius, called from his name Arminians, and also Remonstrants, from a remonstrance in five articles which they presented in 1610 to the states of Holland and Friesland, as a summary of their doctrine, were sustained by the chiefs of the republican party; while their adversaries, the rigid Calvinists, who were styled Contra-Remonstrants, because they declared themselves against the remonstrance of the Arminians, or Gomarists, after the theology of Gomar, who was the principal antagonist of Arminius, had with them the great majority of both pastors and people, and were supported by the prince of Orange.
—The troubles to which this theological quarrel gave rise in Holland are well known. Barneveldt forfeited his life for his attachment to republican principles and Arminian opinions. Grotius would probably have shared the same fate if he had not succeeded in escaping from the prison in which he had been confined. The Arminians were abandoned to the fury of a people blinded by fanaticism. The persecution soon abated, however, and from the year 1625 the Arminians were tolerated in Holland; they there had separate churches and a theological school, at the head of which we find some eminent men, such as Episcopius, Courcelles, Limborch and John Leclere. Arminianism had many adherents in England, who professed its tenets without separating themselves from the Anglican church. It particularly flourished at Cambridge, where it was taught by Chillingworth, Tillotson, Cudworth and other theologians, whose influence combined to modify very greatly the intolerant spirit of the Anglican church. In France, the theologians of the academy of Saumur in the seventeenth century inclined toward this doctrine.
—Arminianism also made its way into Germany. A great number of Arminians, driven from Holland by persecution, took refuge in Holstein, where the king of Denmark allowed them to build a city, since grown into a place of considerable importance under the name of Friederichstadt. From there their principles were diffused over different parts of Germany. Still it was not to Arminianism that we must directly attribute the reaction which commenced in the first half of the seventeenth century in the churches of the confession of Augsburg, against the scholastic theology founded on the absolute authority accorded to the symbolical books. It was the result of a variety of circumstances, among the first of which we must reck on the syncretic tendencies of a certain number of theologians, especially of Callixtus. A liberal thinker, he, more than any other theologian of his time, undertook to establish between the different Christian communions a true religious peace, and to convert the hatred which they bore toward one another into mutual love and support. It was with this end in view he proposed to restrict the articles essential to Christian faith to the apostles' creed, and leave opinion free upon all other points. He claimed, and not without some show of reason, that the several churches had all preserved enough of Christian truth to enable their followers to attain salvation in them if they led upright lives. Considered from this point of view, they were to him but different members of the true church. This proposition looking to toleration and concord was premature; it was not accepted, but it found supporters, and certainly left its impress on the minds of men.
—A little later Pietism urged the same point. It boldly proclaimed that Christianity did not consist in an arid orthodoxy, and that it is less important to engrave dogmatic subtleties upon the mind than to impress Christian sentiments upon the heart. The leader of this party which never formed, as is often imagined, a separate church, did not aim at division, and never, at any time, dreamt of abandoning the Lutheran church. P. J. Spener was not exacting in matters of opinion, but was a very sever judge of acts. He devoted his attention to the cultivation of heartfelt piety, and to removing everything that might serve as an obstacle to its development. While combating the caviling spirit of the Lutheran theologians, he attacked with no less spirit and success the superstitious respect which they had for their symbolical books, and in this manner, labored in the cause of toleration and freedom of investigation. To-day the denominations Lutheran, Calvinist and Arminian have but an historical existence. The differences in point of dogma, which separated the churches, have disappeared. They together profess a common body of doctrine, which does not differ much from the Arminian theology, and which is designated by the vague but generally adopted name of orthodoxy. Their union goes still further; the Lutheran and reformed churches are distinguished from one another in France by their methods of administration, which are not precisely alike. But in Germany the two churches are almost perfectly united into one, which goes by the name of the Evangelical church. The duchy of Nassau set the example here. A general synod held at Idstein in August, in 1817, decided upon the union of the two communions. The king of Prussia, by a circular of the 17th of September of the same year, invited the Lutherans and Calvinists to reunite in one church. There was considerable opposition in different places, particularly in Breslau, but in general the fusion was easily effected. Since that time the union of the two churches has been brought about in the principality of Hanan, in the duchy of Fulda, and in Rhenish Bavaria in 1818; in 1820 in the duchy of Anhalt-Bernebourg; in 1821 in the principality of Waldeck and Pyrmont, and in the grand duchy of Baden; in 1822 in Rhenish Hesse; in 1823 in the principality of Anhalt-Dessau. In the other states it has been adopted in principle; the particular circumstances which are opposed to its immediate realization will disappear, either of themselves or under the pressure of public opinion which is nearly everywhere favorable to the measure.
—Socinians, Anti-Trinitarians, Unitarians. The reformation was from the beginning more radical in Switzerland and France than in Germany. On penetrating into Italy, it assumed a form more radical still, and immediately and unhesitatingly rejected such of the ecclesiastical dogmas as seemed contrary to reason, among others those of the Trinity, original sin, and predestination. The members of this sect are known by the name of Anti-Trinitarians, their denial of the doctrine of the Trinity being the most marked feature of their belief, as also the one which rendered them odious to all the other churches without exception. They are also called Socinians, Lelius Socinius and his nephew Faustus Socinius having been, if not the founders, at least the most eminent theologians of this sect, and the Polish Brethren, because it was in Poland alone that they were tolerated at first.
—The Socinians regarded Jesus Christ as a divine being, as the first-born of God, but not God in the exact sense of the word; and the Holy Ghost they did not regard as a divine person having a distinct existence, but merely as a virtue, an activity of God. Despite their anti-Trinitarian notions they did not desist from offering to Jesus Christ the worship of adoration, as all other Christians are accustomed to do. Faustus Socinius even wrote several treatises against those of the Anti-Trinitarians, who, more consistent than he, maintained that we should adore God alone. This opinion, however, as might have been expected, finally triumphed among them. In rejecting the Trinity they equally rejected, or at least greatly modified most of the other Christian doctrines, among the rest that of original sin, which they did not regard as an actual sin, that is, as an act for which we are responsible, but simply as a proneness to evil, which, however, is not such as to render us absolutely incapable of any good thought or good act, as the Lutherans and Calvinists hold. In conclusion let us add, that they admitted no other symbol of faith than the apostles' creed, and ever professed the greatest toleration for individual opinion.
—But this toleration was never practiced in their regard. Odious alike to Lutherans, Calvinists and Catholics, pursued on all sides as impious, they did not succeed in founding establishments anywhere but in Poland, and in 1658 they were expelled even from their. The only flourishing churches they have to-day are in Trausylvania, but their opinions continue constantly to attract to them new adherents. They are actually professed, with some modifications, by the Unitarians, whose influence is constantly increasing, especially among the enlightened classes of America. Like the old Socinians, the American Unitarians prefer the practical side of Christianity to metaphysical speculation; like them too, they wish to be guided in the interpretation of the sacred scriptures by the dictates of sound reason, whose rights they never cease energetically to defend.
—Unitarianism also numbers many disciples in England. The English Unitarian Society for the Propagation of the Knowledge of Christianity gave a résumé of its own faith in the preamble to its rules, in 1791. That résumé is substantially as follows: The fundamental principles of this society are that there is but one God, sole creator, preserver and ruler of the universe, the only true object of public worship, and that there is one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ, who received from God the mission of instructing men in their duties, and revealing to them the doctrine of a future life.
—The Unitarians have organized churches in England as well as in the United States, and reckon among their number men estimable alike for their character and their talents. The celebrated chemist, Priestley, was one of their ministers in England, and in our times Channing and Parker performed the same function in the United States of America.
—Besides the great Protestant churches which we have now considered, there are several others of much less importance, but which however had, at the time of their origin, a reason for their existence. There is not one of them which does not correspond, in a certain sense, to a particular form of religious sentiment, and which has not produced, together with the lamentable disturbances which are inevitable in human affairs, some happy development of religion and even of religious science, although these churches are not specially distinguished in the latter field. We may consider them, in a Protestant sense, as playing a part analogous to that of the different lay congregations, which a devotion, venerable and profound no doubt, but in general puerile and unenlightened, has founded in great number in the Catholic church. It will suffice to mention here those which are the most important, namely, the Anabaptists, the Quakers, the Moravians, and the Methodists.
—Anabaptists. The Anabaptists date from the earliest days of the reformation. Their doctrine was an exaggeration of the principles of liberty preached by the German Protestants, and, at the same time, a violent, but almost inevitable reaction against the intolerable yoke which weighed down not only the consciences but the entire life of the lower classes in Germany. Their supporters were drawn mostly from the peasants and the laboring classes. Their history, from 1521 to 1535, is too well known to need to be repeated here. But what is not so generally known is that, after the bloody defeats which they sustained in 1535, they submitted to the reform which a pious and enlightened man, Menno Simonis, began in 1536, to introduce into their doctrines, their discipline and their morals. From that time, they have formed, under the name of Baptists, or Mennonites, a sect animated by a pacific and practical spirit, avoiding controversies, and attaching little importance to science, although they have produced some distinguished writers. They have some communities in Alsace, Holland, England, Prussia and Russia; they are still more numerous in the United States. Disagreeing among themselves on some points of discipline, they all agree in not admitting to baptism any but adults, believing, like the Catholics, that this sacrament has a hyperphysical virtue, that is to say, that it produces in the neophyte an infusion of divine grace, which renders him capable, thenceforth, of performing the good works necessary for the neophyte's salvation. They are likewise unanimous in condemning the taking of oaths, in refusing to bear arms, and in declining public offices. In the doctrines of original sin and redemption their belief nearly resembles that of the Arminians. Finally, they reject all authority in matters of faith, and admit the individual interpretation of the scriptures.
—Quakers. The Quakers were, at first, but a sect of fanatics. It was founded in 1647 by George Fox, a man devoid of education, but accustomed from infancy to contemplative meditation. His disciples combined the severity of the ancient Montanists with the mysticism of the Fraticelli, and gave themselves up to many extravagances. They were brought back to reason by the wise Robert Barclay (who died in 1690), who systematized their doctrine, and, together with the celebrated William Penn (who died in 1718), contributed to its diffusion.
—The system of the Society of Friends (it is by this name that the Quakers delight in styling their church) formulated by Barclay, was strongly imbued with mysticism. He placed by the side of the sacred scriptures the interior illumination, which alone can enable us to understand them. This interior illumination is not a new revelation, but the light of God manifesting itself by Jesus Christ in our hearts, and causing to spring up therein an irresistible inclination to good; this light of Christ in us, which illumines and sanctifies us, is the supreme law of faith. Christian life is all interior; it needs neither dogmatic formulas, nor ceremonies, nor even baptism, nor the holy eucharist: it consists in listening to the spirit, and following its impulses. In such an organization a clergy would be useless. No one presides at their religious meetings; each one is free to address his exhortations to the members present; it sometimes happens that no address disturbs the meditation to which each one devotes himself. In the system of Barclay, the life of Jesus Christ, as he is described in the gospels, was offered simply as an allegorical representation of the action of Christian feeling. The Quakers of to-day admit the reality of the gospel truths, and accord the Bible a greater importance than they did formerly. The proverbial mildness of their manners is well known. There remains of their primitive excess only a praiseworthy and extremely decorous religious zeal. They are renowned for their probity and philanthropy, and, like the Baptists, avoid public offices, condemn war, and refuse to take an oath. To the Quakers belongs the glory of having inaugurated liberty of worship at the same time with civil liberty in Pennsylvania, a colony founded in 1681 by William Penn.
—Moravians. Some descendants of the ancient Moravians,53 persecuted in their own country, took refuge, in 1721, in the territory of the count of Zinzendorff, and there founded the society called Herrnhut (Guard of the Saviour), by which name they are sometimes designated. Zinzendorff introduced among them the spirit of pietism, which he had imbibed from Spener, of whom he was an admirer, and, seconded by Watteville and Spangenberg, he made of the Moravian Herrnhuters a sect which he organized very much after the fashion of a monastery, and which soon had establishments in nearly every part of the world. Their tenets differed but little from those of the Reformed church, except that they insisted upon the doctrine of original corruption as the consequence of Adam's fall, and the expiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, they made religious unity consist, less in a conformity of ideas, than in a unanimity of feeling. They appeal, in religious matters, rather to the affections than to reason. They have not a single eminent theologian, and the fact seems to occasion them very little uneasiness. Their piety, simple, but narrow, the uniformity of the education which they give their children, the monotonous rigor of their life, are little calculated to develop the intellect, and will always prove obstacles to any influence they might aim at exercising over modern society. But this is not the point in which they have manifested the greatest activity. Their zeal is particularly devoted to the spreading of religious and moral truths among barbarous peoples. At the beginning of this century, this sect, with comparatively very few adherents, had 29 mission establishments, and something like 150 missionaries.
—Methodists. The cradle of Methodism was a society of pious young men, who, urged by their religious needs, established among themselves in Oxford, in 1729, reunions for mutual edification. It has many striking points of analogy with the pietism of Spener. It has, like him, its conventicles (Collegia pietatis of Spener), wherein the faithful devote themselves to preaching, prayer, and the chanting of psalms. Like him it insists upon the corruption of human nature, redemption by the expiatory death of Jesus Christ, and salvation by faith. Like him also, it delights in exciting terror in the soul of the sinner by the most material and fantastic pictures of hell. The two can hardly be distinguished except by the disciplinary organization of Methodism, which is much more concise, and more perfect of its kind, than that which governed the colleges of piety.
—Methodism, as Haag remarks, (Histoires des dogmes, vol. I., pp. 124, 125), has not and can not have any scientific tendencies. Even its mysticism has nothing very elevated about it. Its sole merit consists in its indefatigable efforts to improve the morals of the lower classes, by preaching repentance in a tone and in an order of ideas not above the level of their intelligence. The adherents of Methodism are confined almost exclusively to England and the United States. Since 1741 they have been divided into two parties. The disciples of George Whitfield are rigid Calvinists; those of John Wesley are, in point of doctrine, identical with the Arminians.
—III. Different Modes of Organization of the Protestant Churches. Setting aside the churches of the Baptists, the Moravians, the Quakers, etc., which are not capable of any considerable development, we find in the churches born of the reformation of the sixteenth century only three systems of organization, the consistorial government, which may be regarded as an aristocratic system, adopted by the churches of the confession of Augsburg, and in our time by the Evangelical churches; the presbyterian or synodal government, which might be characterized by the modern name of representative, adopted by most of the Calvinist and Reformed churches; finally, the Congregationalist, or independent government, a system of more recent origin in use in several churches of different denominations.
—1. Evangelical Churches. Luther and Melancthon, as well as Zwingi and Calvin, were of opinion that religious society has the right to govern itself; that the holy ministry belongs to all Christians without distinction (omnes aequaliter esse sacerdotes); and that no one can exercise it but by the consent of the community, and by election (eligite quem et vos volueritis, qui digni et idonei visi fuerint). But, in practice, it did not seem to them either proper or possible even, to intrust the direction of religious matters to the ignorant and vulgar crowd. "The church," said Melancthon, "ought not to be a democracy. Everybody can not be allowed to come there to agitate dogmatic questions. It must be an aristocracy." (Corpus Reformatorum, Melancth. Opera, vol. iii., p. 470.)
—But of what elements should this aristocracy be composed? The German reformers here found themselves in great perplexity. They would have wished it were possible to preserve, by divesting it of its character of divine right, and considering it merely as a human institution, established simply for the maintenance of good order, the old organization, that is to say, the bishops with their council, and their retinue of priests. This was, in reality, what was done in Sweden and Denmark, where the Catholic bishops, having joined the reformation, continued, after changing their religious views, the exercise of their functions. But in Germany the bishops nearly every where declared themselves against the new doctrines; their withdrawal brought disorganization into the churches. How was order to be restored? There remained only the authority of the temporal rulers. To this authority it became necessary to resort. Civil authority became also, by the force of circumstances, ecclesiastical authority, and they adopted this direful maxim: Cujus est regio, ejus religio, the religion of the ruler is the religion of the land.
—Luther and Melancthon do not seem to have been deceived as to the consequences of this system. "Tyranny will, in consequence, become more intolerable than it was before," wrote Melancthon to Camerarium in 1530. These sad forebodings pervade a host of passages in his later writings. Luther expresses himself even still more forcibly: "If the courts wish," he wrote to Cresser of Dresden, in 1543, "to govern the churches in their own interests, God will withdraw his benediction from them, and things will become worse than before." "Either let them make pastors of themselves," he says of the princes and lords, "preach, baptize, visit the sick, administer communion; in a word, let them fulfill all the ecclesiastical functions, or, ceasing to confound the two vocations, let them occupy themselves with civil affairs, and leave the churches to those who are called to edify them, and who must render an account of them to god. Satan still remains Satan. Under the popes he made the church meddle in politics; in our time he wishes to make politics meddle with the church."
—As the jus territorii combined the jus episcopale, and also—as recognized by the peace of Westphalia—the jus reformandi, that is to say, the right of the prince to impose his own religion upon his subjects, the sovereign was by right the head of the church, and the ecclesiastical administration was, in Protestant Germany, but a part of the general administration of the country. This continues so even to this day. Fortunately, contrary to what is too often witnessed elsewhere, the German princes have been, as a rule, better than the laws, and real liberty of conscience has obtained in the very countries in which intolerance and constraint in matters of religion were recognized by law.
—The direction of ecclesiastical matters was early entrusted to councils called consistories. The first council of this kind was established at Wurtemburg in 1539. It was created to settle the numerous difficulties caused by dissolutions of the marriage tie; but it was not long before its jurisdiction was extended to all ecclesiastical matters. Similar councils were soon established in all the Protestant countries of Germany. They generally consisted of two theologians, two doctors of law, one public minister, and a secretary. All of the members were appointed by the civil power. One of the doctors of law was generally president. In places where there was a general superintendent the presidency was sometimes given to him. Each diocese had its consistory, which was supposed to take the place of the ancient councils of bishops.
—Under the consistories, acting as their representative and their agent in the province, was a superintendent, whose special duties were the inspection of churches and schools, as well as the looking after the different edifices used for divine worship, as residences for the pastors, and for primary schools. In Bavaria, the grand duchy of Baden, and some other countries of Germany, these functionaries bore, and still bear, the name of deacons, or elders. In the Lutheran church of France they are styled ecclesiastical inspectors. The superintendents, deacons, or ecclesiastical inspectors, are always the chief pastors of their districts. In some parts of Germany there were, and are still, general superintendents who are above the superintendents, and perform only some of the duties performed elsewhere by them, such, for example, as the conferring of ordination on young ministers. The general superintendents are always members of the consistory, and when they do not hold the presidency, are seated next after the president.
—This condition of things has been a little modified in our day, either by reason of the union of the Lutheran and Reformed churches, or on account of the continual complaints raised against a form of government, which, in theory at least, is a lamentable slavery of the church. Not that the Evangelical church has obtained autonomy; it has not ceased to depend upon the civil power; its administration still continues, after all, an affair of bureaucracy in the hands of the ministers of worship; but it has been placed, by the law, in possession of certain liberties, which must inevitably secure for it still others. It is besides helped on by public opinion, which is nowhere so independent in religions matters as in Germany.
—The movement originated in Prussia; but it was not there that its most marked results were manifested. In 1819 Prussia, feeling the necessity of allowing the churches a share in their administration, while retaining the supreme control of them all, called together the provincial synods, for the purpose of consulting them upon a plan of ecclesiastical organization, in which it had hoped to unite and conciliate the synodal and consistorial régimes. There was great diversity of opinion. Some of the synods demanded more than the government was disposed to accord, that is to say, the very establishment of the synodal systems itself with all its consequences. The government feared the ecclesiastics would aim at forming a hierarchy independent of the state, and confined itself to asking the churches to name councils of presbyters, whose powers were not definitely determined. The synodal system was allowed only in the duchies of Julich, Cleve and Berg, and in the district of La Mark, where however, it has been established since the earliest days of the reformation. We should also remark that the nomination of two bishops, in 1816, one for Berlin, the other for Köningsberg, worked no change in the former system. This title added nothing to the authority of those who received it, who are but general superintendents under another name. The supreme control of the churches of Prussia, therefore, still remains entirely in the hands of the government, of which the consistories, the bishops and the general superintendents are mere agents.
—In Bavaria, where the Protestants form nearly one-third of the population, the Evangelical church has been reorganized by an organic law of May 26, 1818, and the explanatory decrees of the same date. A higher consistory, established at Munich under the minister of the interior, is the organ through which the government exercises its supreme authority over all the Evangelical churches of the kingdom. Under this higher consistory are three consistories, one at Anspach, one at beyreuth, and one at Spires. Finally, each of these three consistories embrances under its jurisdiction the deaneries of its district.
—A diocesan synod is held every year in each deanery. It is made up of two-thirds ecclesiastics and one-third laymen. The latter are appointed by the consistory, from nominations made by the ecclesiastics. A general synod is held every fourth year in the sees of the consistories. Each deanery sends to this synod two ecclesiastics, the dean and one pastor, and one layman, selected by the ecclesiastics.
—This organization is a mixture of the consistorial and the synodal systems. But the synods are not a true representation of the churches, since they neither directly nor indirectly elect the members—This system has undergone some beneficial changes in the district of the consistory of Spires. They there organized councils of presbyters, the indispensable wheel-work of the synodal system, but, at the same time, accorded to the churches the nomination of the lay delegates to the synod. As a consequence of this last modification the lay delegates acquired considerable influence in these assemblies, although they formed only one-third of it. They are the true representatives of the churches; their voice has a great moral weight. This system, founded on a most rational basis, was not slow to produce its fruit. Taken together, the Evangelical churches of Rhenish Bavaria stand pre-eminently first, according to all reports. The consistory of Spires, composed, since 1832, of partisans of the old confessions of faith, has endeavored in vain to instill a different spirit into them; it has not succeeded in destroying the liberal tendencies of the pastors and churches of the province.
—In the consistorial circuits of Anspach and Beyreuth also they recognized the convenience of the councils of presbyters as the basis of the synodal system, and wished to follow the example of the Palatinate. Unfortunately some pastors, among others Lehmus, dean of Anspach, proposed to give to this council the right of inspection and the censure of the lives of the faithful. There arose one common outery against an organization which threatened to bring back the old ecclesiastical tyranny. In the face of this general opposition the decree establishing the council of presbyters was suspended. It was afterward determined to leave the churches at liberty to appoint councils of presbyters for themselves, or to follow the old system, as they chose. In the two circuits of Anspach and Beyreuth the churches have remained as they were, without representatives freely chosen by themselves in the religious synodal assemblies; and it is to this cause that Gieseler, in his Ecclesiastical History of the Nineteenth Century, not unreasonably attributes their relative inferiority.
—In Wurtemburg there are two annual synods; but they are composed only of the presidents of the consistories, and the six general superintendents of the kingdom. These persons, being appointed by the government, are public functionaries, and not representatives of the churches. Thus all ecclesiastical administration depends upon the government, although article 71 of the organic decrees promises the churches independence in their private affairs. In the diets of 1833 and 1834 it was proposed to grant the Evangelical church a synodal and presbyteral organization; but to the present time these propositions have not been adopted.
—In Saxony, from 1831 to 1834, a synodal and presbyteral organization was earnestly petitioned for but without success. What seems most surprising is, that such enlightened men as Bretschueider, Krehl, Rudelbach and Jaspis should declare against the representative system in the church. Superintendent Grossman, on the contrary, undertook to defend the cause of the independence and liberty of the church, both in his writings, and in the upper chamber of which he was a ember.
—The grand duchy of Baden offers a far different spectacle. When the two communions were united in 1821 they gave the new Evangelical church a presbyteral and synodal organization. Each parish has a council of presbyters. The diocesan synods are made up of all the pastors of the district, and of half as many laymen chosen by the councils of presbyters. The general synod is composed of a certain number of pastors, elected by the ecclesiastics of all the parishes of the grand duchy, and of half as many laymen named by the lay members of the diocesan synods, and besides of two members of the higher ecclesiastical council, a member of the theological faculty of Heidelberg, chosen by the professors, and finally a government commissioner, who is its president.
—It is to be regretted, perhaps, that the laymen are not equal in number to the ecclesiastics in the diocesan synods, and in the general synod. But, aside from this defect, this organization is excellent, and accords with the spirit of Protestantism. At first, no time was set for the meetings of the general synod, but its convocation was left to the arbitrary will of the government; and after the synod of 1821, another was not convoked until 1834. But in this assembly it was resolved that the general synod should convene regularly every seven years.
—The ancient duchy of Nassau, which is actually an administrative province of Prussia, has enjoyed, since 1817, a presbyteral and synodal church organization very similar to that of the grand duchy of Baden. The churches there have at their head a bishop, who performs the duties of general superintendent—In Sweden and Denmark the Lutheran church is episcopal, and organized under a system similar to that of the Anglican church. In the first named country the bishops are reckoned as part of the consistories, which are subordinate to them, and in the second the title of general superintendent is substituted for that of bishop.
—The Lutheran churches haw a constitution, which scarcely differs in anything from the organic articles of the eighteenth of Germinal of the tenth year, which governed the Reformed churches of France before the decree of March 26, 1852. The most considerable, we might almost say the only, difference is, that the Lutheran churches of Holland have a general synod which meets every two years. It may not be amiss to add that this general synod has the good sense to occupy itself only with administrative affairs, and to leave aside all dogmatic discussions, which, in the actual state of things, can work only discord and dissension.
—In France the church of the confession of Augsburg is ruled by the decree of March 26, 1852, and the ministerial decisions of Sept. 10, of the same year. Each parish has a presbyteral council, composed of the pastor or pastors of the parish, and from four to seven lay members, chosen by a general vote, and elected one-half every three years. The consistories extend over several parishes, and look after their general interests. They are made up of all the pastors of the district, the lay members of the council of the principal town, and a certain number of lay delegates from the parishes. The consistories are, in their turn, grouped into various supervisory bodies; at the head of all the churches is placed a higher or general consistory, which constitutes the legislative power, and a directory, which is the administrative power. The general consistory meets at least once a year. It is composed of two lay deputies of inspection, all the ecclesiastical inspectors, one seminary professor and one lay member of the directory appointed by the government, who is, of right, the president of the consistory. The directory is a permanent body, and consists of a president, one lay member, one ecclesiastical inspector named by the government, and two deputies named by the higher consistory.
—This condition of things will undoubtedly be modified. Alsace having been taken away from France, there remain to the church of the confession of Augsburg only two inspection districts, those of Paris and Montbéliard. Will it receive a new organization? Will it unite with the Reformed church? The future must tell.
—2. Reformed Churches. In principles, the constitution of the Reformed churches is presbyteral and synodal. All their particular churches or parishes are equal. "Let no church pretend," says the ancient discipline of the Reformed churches of France, "to primacy or power over another, nor one province (the combined churches of one province) over another." Their pastors are likewise equal; there is no hierarchy among them. The presidents of the different assemblies, who are always pastors, are either chosen by the votes of the assembly, or owe this honor to their long service in the pastoral function; in some places all the pastors are called to preside, in turu. Each parish has a council, called either by the presbyteral council, or presbytery, or consistory; it is the last named which is used in the ancient discipline of the Reformed churches of France; these same churches now employ the first (presbyteral council). This council is composed of the pastor or pastors of the parish, and of a certain number of laymen, chosen by all the faithful who have attained their majority; the number of these laymen always exceeds, and frequently very much exceeds that of the ecclesiastics. A certain number of contiguous parishes form what is now called a consistory (it was formerly called a colloquy). It is composed of a number of laymen proportioned to the number of parishes represented, and equal number being allowed to each. The colloquies or consistories of a province, have over them a provincial synod, assembled annually, or semi-annually, at which are present at least one pastor, and one or two elders from each parish of the province, all of them regularly delegated by their consistories. Finally, a national synod or general diet of all these ecclesiastical republics, united, not merely by a common language and national sentiment, but also by a community of interests, memories and faith, crowns the whole edifice. To this assembly, which meets every year or at greater intervals, but always at a fixed time, and which sits in each province successively, each provincial synod sends two pastors and two elders. It is in this assembly that the general interests of all the churches are discussed, and the appeals and questions remaining unsettled in the provincial synods, settled.
—As we have seen, the lay element is found represented in every degree, and that element is drawn, in the first instance, from the parishes themselves. This is a true representative government. All the Reformed churches—except the independent churches, which we will consider presently—are, in general, organized after this model. It is adopted by the churches of Holland, by those of Scotland, and by the Presbyterians of the United States. It was in vigor in the Reformed churches of Frances, before the revocation of the edict of Nantes. During the persecutions, the national synods were absolutely impossible, but provincial synods were held as often as circumstances permitted. Upon the restoration of religion, the government, which has imposed upon them the organic articles of the eightienth of Germinal of the eighth year, without consulting them, suppressed the national synod. It allowed, it is true, the provincial synods, and the decree of March 26, 1852, has made no change on these two points. But the provincial synods being but a useless piece of machinery in the absence of the national synod, were almost entirely abandoned; hence, the reformed church of France can no longer be classed among those which have a synodal organization, and are transformed, in fact, into congregational and independent churches, with this difference, however, that they have not the liberty of governing themselves absolutely in all things, and that their direction is in the hands of the minister of worship, although, to tell the truth, they enjoy a great deal of independence in what concerns the private affairs of their parishes.54
—In Switzerland, where the Reformed churches are divided according to cantons, there is no need of either provincial or national synods; the consistory which meets in the capital of the canton takes their place, and forms a sort of permanent synod.
—We should add that, in this system, the parish itself chooses its own pastor or pastors, a right most precious and rational, and conformable in all respects to the spirit of Protestantism. The Reformed churches of France, Switzerland and Holland, and the Presbyterian churches of the United States, have always enjoyed and still enjoy it. It is not so, however, with the Presbyterian church in Scotland; there exists there, as in several countries of Germany also, what is called patronage—a most absurd system, of which it may be well to say a few words in explanation, and which caused in this church, about the year 1840, a division which it is important to know.
—At the time of the reformation, in pursuance of a principle founded on the feudal right, and somewhat similar to what in Germany is styled the territorial right (cujus est regio, ejus religion), the lords nominated the pastors in the territory which belonged to them, and from that time they have considered these nominations as pertaining to them, of right, turning a deaf ear to the continual complaints of the Scottish church. When the ecclesiastical government was altered, after the expulsion of James II. in 1690, patronage was abolished. It was re-established 22 years later, in 1712, under the reign of Anne, and from that time has continued uninterruptedly. One-third of the Presbyterian churches are under royal patronage; the patronage of all the others is in the hands of particular private individuals, and this privilege is acquired and lost just as any other property.
—When a pastorate becomes vacant, the patron presents a candidate. If the presbytery, that is to say, the synod of the district, raise no objection, the candidate preaches before the community. Some days later, a pastor, already exercising his functions, in turn ascends the pulpit and invites the parish to sanction the call of the candidate presented. This act of the assembly, which was, in principle, an acknowledgment of the right of the faithful to choose their spiritual guide, has little by little fallen into disuse. The signature of one single member of the church is made to suffice, and even this formality is not unfrequently dispensed with. It should be noted, too, that this custom of the nomination of pastors by patrons is even more objectionable than that practiced in the Episcopal church, for the Presbyterian pastors of Scotland are thus nominated in great part by men who are strangers to their church.
—In 1830 a most spirited opposition was inaugurated against patronage. Thomas Charmers, professor of theology at Edinburgh, was at the head of this movement. They at once addressed themselves to the house of commons, and demanded from it the repeal of the law of queen Anne. The general assembly (national synod) of 1834 decreed, by a decision known under the name of the act of veto, that the church had the right to reject every pastor presented by a patron. This decision found many upholders. Several parishes rejected the candidates presented by patrons, and would not even listen to their trial sermon, although they had no fault to find with the candidates. The Scotch church was thus divided into two parties, the adherents of the act of veto, or non-intrusionists, and the moderates, who sustained the rights of the patrons.
—Some of the patrons and rejected candidates entered complaint in the court of session (the supreme court of justice in Scotland). This tribunal declared in their favor. The general assembly persisted; it suspended a presbytery (synod of a district); which, conformably to the decree of the court of session, had accepted a candidate presented by a patron. Thus it became a contest between the highest ecclesiastical authority and the supreme court of justice. A decision of parliament became necessary. The case was, however, allowed to drag wearily along, with the hope that time would have the effect of claiming minds.
—The general assembly at length appealed to the queen, complained to her of the attacks of the civil court upon the rights of the church, and demanded the complete abolition of patronage. The address was presented in June, 1842. The government temporized for some time, still cherishing the hope that the movement would die out of itself. But the committee of the general assembly, complaining of this delay, and reproaching the government with a want of consideration for the church, James Graham replied, at last, that the decision of the court of session was perfectly legal. He, at the same time, remarked that the existing organization offered the church every desirable guarantee, since patrons could present only candidates whom it had already approved, and to whom it had accorded the right to preach; that, even after the presentation, the candidates were submitted to the approbation of the presbytery; and, finally, that the parish had a right to make good its objections before this body, which pronounced definitively upon the admission of the candidates presented.
—This did not satisfy the non-intrusionists, who demanded that each parish should nominate its own pastors, and the law sanction this order of things. The government persisting in its support of patronage, the general assembly which met at Edinburgh May 18, 1843, received, at the opening of its first session, the protest of the non-intrusionsts. In view, they said, of the pretensions of the civil power to regulate affairs purely ecclesiastical, a legal and free reunion of the Scotch church was impossible. And thereupon the non-intrusionist members immediately retired from the assembly, and founded the Free Presbyterian church, which renounced all the advantages of the National church. More than four hundred ecclesiastics ranged themselves on its side; upward of £250 were subscribed for the foundation of the new church, and it established 687 parishes (free church associations). In many places they encountered great difficulties in erecting church buildings, the land owners refusing to give their land to the new associations; but they were not deterred by these obstacles; they held their services under tents, and sometimes even in the open air. The Free church is now solidly established, and has proved to old Europe, on the one hand, that a religious society can live and prosper without the support of the government, and, on the other, that a free church is in no wise dangerous to the state.
—3. Independent or Congregationalist Churches. We call by this name all churches that are independent, not only of the state, but also of one another. In them every parish constitutes a body absolutely free, choosing its own pastors, maintaining itself by its own resources, and governing itself by its own laws. Several, even a great number, may have analogous doctrines and similar worship; nevertheless each one of them none the less preserves its independence; there are between them no ties but those of universal toleration and charity. This ecclesiastical form was that of the primitive Christian churches; but it was short-lived. As soon as the churches multiplied and acquired some stability, they established among themselves a sort of hierarchy, in imitation of that of the civil administration of the provinces of the empire. It was not until about two centuries ago that the congregational form of church government reappeared among some of the Protestant sects in the United States.
—A great many objections have been raised against this ecclesiastical system; nor can we presume to say they are all frivolous. It may be feared, among other things, that it is not best suited to engender those lofty ideas and sentiments which raise nations above themselves, and urge them toward a new ideal. It seems calculated to retain in men's minds the conceptions which are most readily accessible to the great majority, and which favor narrow-mindedness in religious matters. It may also engender petty rivalries among neighboring congregations, and make religion, if I may be allowed the expression, a matter of business. It might he possible, in fine, that it would, at certain times, create a state of excitement, not necessarily dangerous, but ridiculous, and therefore fatal to religious sentiment. But, without having recourse to the reflection, that in this imperfect world what is most beautiful is never without some defect, we must acknowledge, on the one hand, that these defects can be removed, at least in part, and, on the other, that they are counterbalanced by the advantages which this system unquestionably possesses.
—In places and ages in which a rational spirit of toleration and intellectual progress are found side by side, human thought not confined within the narrow limits assigned to it by a dominant church, would take a flight, the grandeur of which we can not now measure, because our prejudices do not permit us to do so. A complete liberty in religious life would create at once conditions of intellectual existence other than those by which minds have hitherto been surrounded. But let us not dwell upon this view of the question; let us confine ourselves, in conclusion, to indicating some of the practical consequences of the congregational system.
—It certainly is the only one which allows a real and unlimited liberty of conscience. Each one unites himself to the congregation whose doctrines, worship and principles best answer the needs of his heart and his intelligence. In this church he brings up his children; but they, when they have reached the age of reason, using the same privilege, may either remain in it, or leave it to join another, according to the promptings of their religious feeling. In this church, where no torture is inflicted upon the conscience, either by the laws, or by public prejudices, there can be no motive to entice one to disguise his opinions; there is no longer any room for that hypocrisy which traffics in holy things, which is inconsistent both with honor, piety and virtue. All other systems offer some temptations of this kind. Besides, where entire liberty reigns, ignorance and superstition, the said results of the slavery of thought, must soon disappear. In fine, under this system, religious life becomes a truth. One attaches himself to a church because he thinks it the best, or the least defective; and this is the only motive with which one can ever sincerely join a church. This choice being, moreover, rational, men are intelligently religious, and not blindly so, as it happens nearly always in official churches, in which men remain simply because they happen to have been born in them.
—It is needless to remark that this ecclesiastical form can not exist except where the churches are entirely distinct from and independent of the state. We would add also, that so far as we can judge, nations are progressing toward a final separation of church and state. We do not indeed pretend that it is the final form of the manifestation of religious sentiment, nor even the best in an absolute point of view. We merely mean to say that it seems to us the most in harmony with the marked tendencies and inspirations of society as it exists to-day.55
[51.]This article is treated from the liberal Protestant point of view.
[52.]More properly to the pope since the declaration of papal infallibility.
[53.]The Moravians here referred to belonged to the dissenting churches founded in the fifteenth century by John Huss, in Bohemia and Moravia.
[54.]A general synod was convened at Paris in 1872
[55.]The following statistics show the comparative strength of the Protestant denominations in the United States, January, 1881: Baptist: 24,794 churches, 15,401 ordained ministers and 2,133,044 members, or 1 minister to each 139 members in the United States.