« PreviousContinue »
when at length it was made plain that he could not land until he had produced his passport, he received the intelligence with a transport of virtuous indignation, for which his country ought to decree him a triumph on his return. Well! I guess I'll take a note of that,' he exclaimed, call this a republic, when they set two fellows with swords to demand passports from strangers! And in huge dudgeon he delved into the recesses of his trunk for his passport, which he handed to the officer with an air that plainly said, "You are a disgrace to the name of 'free institutions;' but wait till I get to our country, and I shall expose you.'-pp. 46, 47.
At the time of his arrival, the Société Helvétique des Sciences Naturelles was holding its annual session in the city, and our traveller availed himself, of course, of the opportunity of making the acquaintance of its members. His account is not highly flattering, though, in justice to the Swiss savans, it must be remembered that he was present only at their closing meeting. His description of a fete given by Mrs. Marcet, the author of the well known Conversations,' throws light on the social habits of the people, and will be read with interest by all who have benefited by that lady's numerous publications. Our author was invited to be present on the occasion, and tells us:
A steamer was placed at the disposal of those members of the society who had been invited to this entertainment, by the municipality of Geneva, and to my surprise I found that after all that bad passed, there was still to be more eating and drinking during our sail. For my own part, I preferred the fresh air and the exquisite scenery, and therefore remained upon deck. A more delicious evening I can hardly conceive. Not a cloud specked the sky, and though the sun had been powerful during the day, a gentle breeze just curling the surface of the lake sufficed agreeably to cool the atmosphere. On the banks of the lake every thing wore its most lovely aspect, refreshed by the rains of the preceding day, and radiant with the sunshine of the present. On our left, as we sailed up the lake, the land was too distant for the eye to dwell upon its scenery, but on the right we kept so near the shore that every object, almost, was clearly visible. Here the eye ranged over a continual succession of elegant chateaux, with their smooth lawns, and flower gardens sloping to the margin of the lake; beyond lay the fields where husbandry reigned, with its frugal purposes and busy labours; and still further in the remote distance were seen the giant forms of the Alps, towering upwards as if in scorn of those regions which man had mastered and laboured,-cold, stern, and commanding, the haughty, yet august aristocracy of nature.
The scene to me was surpassingly attractive, but I confess I was a little mortified to find that in the majority of the company it appeared to excite no notice. Perhaps this was partly the effect of familiarity, but I suspect that it was the result principally of deficiency of sus
ceptibility. The. French Swiss are very far from being an imaginative people; and of all classes of men, perhaps, the students of natural science are, generally speaking, the least given to admire the beauties of nature.
'The Chateau of Malagny is about three-quarters of a mile from the margin of the lake. The road up to it lies through pleasant green lanes, bordered by hedge-rows, in which a number of wild flowers hang out their graceful forms. It then enters the gate; after which it continues through a winding avenue, adorned on either side by noble trees. At the house we were received by Mrs. Marcet and her son, who is a professor in the college at Geneva. I was surprised and delighted to see the excellent lady whose ingenious and attractive Conversations' I had conned as my first lesson in philosophy, so many years before, still retaining so much of almost youthful vigour. Far from being, as I had somehow unconsciously depicted her, a lady of severe and pedagogic aspect, I found in her that delightful combination of grace and dignity, vivacity and intelligence, which throws such an inexpressible charm over the manners and conversation of the softer sex, wherever it is possessed. Amid the large and intellectual company which she had that evening assembled around her, the lively hearted and intelligent hostess moved as the presiding genius of the whole.
So long as the light continued, the chief part of the company enjoyed themselves in strolling through the beautiful grounds around the house, which were thrown open for this purpose. The scene here presented a gay and inspiring aspect. Here was a group of sage savans gathered under an umbrageous chestnut tree, discussing some weighty point which had been mooted, but not fully settled at their meeting; or suggesting to each other topics of inquiry and speculation to be pursued in their respective spheres when they had separated. Close by was a brilliant circle of ladies in elegant evening costumes, maintaining with some of the younger and more courtly of the philosophers the keen encounter of wit and badinage, and casting, ever and anon, curious and quizzical glances at the staid and somewhat uncouth figures which occasionally moved heavily past them with uneasy and half averted look, as if men who dwelt amidst glaciers and listened to the roar of avalanches had entered on forbidden ground, when they presumed to tread the verge of the enchanted circle where so much beauty and gaiety reigned. Through openings in the trees and shrubbery, parties might be seen winding their way in every direction, and giving continual life and variety to the picture; while beyond lay the grand expanse of the lake, over which the setting sun was casting his parting rays from behind the Jura. Nearer the house an excellent band of performers filled the air with music; whilst a busy throng of servants was engaged in dispensing the plentiful refreshments which the hospitality of our entertainer had provided,-not certainly, the least animated part of the
'At nine o'clock a gun, fired from the steamer, summoned us to
re-embark. A crowd of peasants with lighted torches conducted us through the lanes, which were now completely dark, and supplied us with light sufficient to enable us to reach the vessel in safety. Another gun fired, and was succeeded by the bump of the engine and the splashing of the wheels, which told that we were again in motion. At this moment the view of the shore was striking. At some distance was the chateau still brilliantly lighted up; coloured lamps were hung upon many of the trees on the lawn and in the avenue; along the shore was a row of flambeau casting their red glaring light forward upon the water, and backward upon the groups of peasantry and the masses of foliage; and over the whole stretched the deep blue curtain of a cloudless sky studded with stars.'—pp. 50-53.
The principal interest of the volume, however, is derived from the light which it throws on the religious condition and prospects of the Swiss Cantons. Dr. Alexander has evidently been at considerable pains to collect information on these points; and the results of his inquiries, if they have not exhausted the subject, are given with a lucidity and calm judgment which must greatly aid the inquirer. We cannot pretend to follow the whole course of his remarks. It will consist better with our limits to select one or two of the numerous topics he discusses, in doing which, we are mainly concerned to put our readers into possession of the information he has collected.
Few places possess more historical interest to the ecclesiastical student than Geneva. As the scene of Calvin's labours, whence flowed to other parts of Europe, the theological system and ecclesiastical polity of that distinguished reformer, it has always been regarded with deep interest, and its history been traced with more than ordinary solicitude. The personal character of Calvin, the unbounded influence he exerted over the fortunes of Geneva, his wondrous intellect, his compact and fearless energies, the supremacy he obtained over his contemporaries, and the extent to which his views were propagated, have all contributed to fix on him and on the scene of his labours, the special attention of the protestant church. We are not amongst his worshippers, but are free to admit the existence of grievous defects, both in his character and in his views. He was a man of his own age; one of its master-spirits, it is true, but still identified with it in the judaical temper with which he legislated for the church, and frowned down religious liberty. With an intellect more penetrating, and a heart less susceptible of fear than his compeers, he mistook the apparently logical precision of his theology, for the simplicity of scripture truth: and the minuteness and severity of his ecclesiastical platform for a faithful adherence to apostolic precedent.
In meeting the exigencies of the hour, he sacrificed the free play and generous ardour of the spiritual life; and his polity has consequently survived,-a dead and powerless thing, concealing under the semblance of life, religious desolation and priestly intolerance. But while free to admit all this, we yet claim for Calvin no small tribute of admiration and gratitude. He was a burning and a shining light; and if his views were not always sound, nor his spirit sympathetic with the temper of his Lord, we need only remember the limitation of human faculties, and the distorting influences amid which he was reared. Let due allowance be made for these, and the reformer of Geneva will be placed, by a grateful posterity, amongst the noblest and most useful of an illustrious band., The general aspect of his ecclesiastical polity is ably sketched by our author in the following passage:
'It is well known that the church of Geneva was, by the united labours of Farel and Calvin, assisted by those whom they had attached to their school, placed upon a basis of rigid orthodoxy, and supplied with all that appeared necessary to maintain that basis inviolate. A Confession of Faith, a Catechism, a Liturgy, and a Polity were all carefully prepared in accordance with the views divulged in the writings of Calvin; and never, we may say, was church so elaborately nursed into orthodoxy, and drilled into order, as was this.
'Experience, however, has shown, that when too much is done for a church, the result is seldom beneficial. The safety and wholesome action of such institutions depends far more on an influence operating from within, than upon artificial appliances and contrivances put upon them from without. If there be life in the church itself, and if that life be guided by light, the church will, of its own accord, grow into that form which is best adapted to its peculiar circumstances and aims. It is with churches as with children: give them proper freedom and wholesome food, and they will develop themselves in graceful and healthy forms; but if you try to force them into a particular shape, elongating this feature and compressing that, shutting them up in confined apartments, checking with a frown every natural movement, and subjecting them to stiff and artificial constraints, the result will certainly be an unhealthy constitution, an unhappy temperament, and a short and cheerless life.
'There can be no doubt that the church of Geneva suffered deeply from the over anxious care of its founders, and their determination to leave nothing to be desired or done by the church itself. According to their scheme, every Genevese who should afterwards be born, was to find a complete ecclesiastical system ready made and fitted for his reception, without any care or any choice of his own. They acted as if they repudiated the idea of religion being purely a personal thing, implying knowledge and conviction on the part of the individual professing it; with them it was supremely a national thing— a matter of law-an element in the constitution under which a man
was brought by the mere accident of his birth. The church was with them not so much a religious as a political institution, of which the magistracy of the canton were the directors and the lords. Hence they placed the church entirely under the power of the civil magistrate, and called upon him to use that power to preserve the order and well-being of the church. They invoked his aid also in order to prevent any departure from its communion or its standards. With them secession was revolt; to believe otherwise than as Calvin taught, a civil offence to be punished by civil penalties. They had no idea of allowing men to say that they did not understand Calvin's doctrine, and therefore could not profess it, or that they did not believe it, and therefore would not profess it. Their language was, 'Do this and live,' and if men would not hear, they had little scruple in saying, 'Then let them die.'-—pp. 154–156.
The natural effect of this error is seen in the present state of Geneva. Religion has withered and died out. Its forms are perpetuated, but its spirit is gone. Its temples yet stand, but there is no fire on their altars. Strange names and strange memories are familiar to the people who once regarded Calvin as the apostle of their God. Tempora mutantur, et nos mutamur cum illis, is the motto now inscribed on all which the traveller beholds. One extreme has generated another, and he who was formerly almost worshipped as a God, is now forgotten or contemned by the people for whom he laboured. The unnatural restraint imposed by his system, has led the public mind of Geneva through the several stages, of which infidelity to religion, and ingratitude to his memory, are the appropriate termination.
'Time was,' says Dr. Alexander, and there is a melancholy truth in his remarks, when a christian stranger visiting Geneva, could write to his friend thus: In my heart I could have wished, yea, and cannot cease to wish, that it might please God to guide and conduct yourself to this place, where, I neither fear nor ashame to say, is the most perfect school of Christ that ever was in the earth since the days of the apostles. In other places I confess Christ to be truly preached; but manners and religion so sincerely reformed I have not yet seen in any other place beside.' What Christian could write so of Geneva now? Nay, who but is constrained to say, 'How is the gold become dim! how is the most fine gold changed!'
'When Calvin died, the whole city of Geneva was filled for a day and a night, Beza tells us, with lamentation. The State,' says he, 'sought in vain its wisest citizen, the church deplored the decease of its faithful pastor, the school wept the loss of such a teacher, all, in fine, lamented, as deprived of a common parent, under God, and consoler. Many of the citizens sought to look upon his dead body, because they could not be torn from him even when dead.' When one remembers the services rendered by Calvin to Geneva, both