« PreviousContinue »
politically and spiritually, such lamentation cannot be regarded as excessive. Subsequent generations, however, have taken care that if at this time too much honour was shown to the dead, an ample compensation should be made for it, by the utter oblivion or hatred into which the memory of Calvin has been allowed to pass. In Geneva this once honoured name is no longer a household word. In the pulpits of Geneva, (with a few exceptions,) the doctrines of Calvin are referred to only to be repudiated and scorned. No memorial marks the ground where his dust reposes, and which friendship fondly congratulated on receiving such a guest, when his remains were committed to it. No monument to his memory betokens the gratitude and admiration of any of those successive generations which have reaped the advantage of his toils, his sufferings, and his virtues. The veneration of Geneva has passed to other altars than those at which Calvin ministered, and has been offered to the priests of a very different faith from his. She has no prouder recollection now than that it was near her walls that the poor shrivelled, selfish, sneering, mocking, and unhappy wit, sought repose, when disappointed and detested he fled from courts and cities, to spend an undignified old age at Ferney. And when she would show her veneration for the dead, it is the sensual and polluting author of the Nouvelle Heloise, to whom she consecrates an island, and erects a statue.'-pp. 60-62.
The same reaction of the temporal against the spiritual, which is visible in other parts of protestant Europe, has taken place in Switzerland. The despotism of Rome has been overthrown by another form of tyranny, distinct in its outward aspect, yet alike pernicious in its influence. Such is the ordinary course of human affairs. One evil is corrected by another. Present relief is effected by questionable means; existing wrongs are redressed, and unlawful power smitten to the ground, by an authority which soon usurps its place and repeats its fearful tragedy. For many centuries the spiritual power was omnipotent throughout Europe. The Pontiff ruled the Emperor. Gregory placed his foot on Henry, and the Roman See constituted the central force which determined the policy of every cabinet in Europe. This was felt to be a grievous wrong, but the ignorance and superstition which prevailed, rendered fertile, for a time, every effort at resistance. At length the day of retribution came. It had been long dawning; but when it did break upon the nations, princes and nobles took advantage of its enthusiam, to establish, on the overthrow of their rival, their own supremacy. From being a dictator the Church became a slave, Erastian in its policy, and most supple and unscrupulous in its obedience. The personal qualities of some of the reformers, aided by the circumstances of their position, enabled them for a time to stave off this result, but the
tendency of the new order of things was too powerful to be permanently resisted. A change had come over mankind, and all classes and degrees of men were affected by it. Calvin was one of those who maintained the supremacy of the spiritual power; and his ecclesiastical policy seemed admirably adapted to insure its continued maintenance. But a stronger than he was at work; and the compact, severe, inexorable system he bequeathed to the Genevese has gradually become a dead letter; the mere form of spiritual freedom, beneath which the civil power has firmly established itself. In various parts of Switzerland the process has now been completed, of which an illustration is furnished in the recent history of the Canton of Vaud. ferring to the Vaudoise Church, Dr. Alexander says:
'Such was the state of things up to 1839, when the established church of Vaud was called to pass through an ordeal of which she has not yet exhausted all the consequences. In that year a new arrangement was entered into between the church and the state, in pursuance of a plan snggested by certain commissioners, who, in 1831, had been appointed to consider the subject of ecclesiastical affairs in the canton. This arrangement was based upon the principle that the church, as by law established, is purely an instrument of the state, and must consequently, in every thing, be under the control of the state. Proceeding upon this principle, the state assumed the right not only to control all the actions of the church, but also to prescribe its doctrines, and, if need be, to supersede its ritual. Nor did the state content itself with merely assuming these powers; it proceeded in certain very material points to use them, especially by abolishing the rule which imposed upon every clergyman the signing of the Helvetic Confession, an act which virtually left the Vaudoise Church without any authoritative standard of doctrine or discipline. It is astonishing and deplorable, that any men of honour, intelligence, and piety should have been found willing to submit to such degrading terms as those dictated to the National Clergy of Vaud; but, however humiliating, the fact must be stated, that whilst the mass of the pious laity deserted a church which had been thus enslaved, only a very few of the clergy were found manly enough to follow their example. Whatever may have been the reasons by which the others were induced to remain-and with many of them I have no doubt these were of an honourable kind-there can be but one opinion now of the unhappy consequences of this resolution. By it they consented to sacrifice principle to expediency, and sowed the seeds of that bitter fruit which since they have been compelled to eat. Had they vigorously resisted this first systematic attempt to enslave their church, they might have done so with success, and would at least have secured for themselves honour; but having once agreed to receive such ignominious chains, they have enjoyed little popular sympathy in their subsequent impatient endurance of them; and in their ultimate
revolt from under them have excited little popular enthusiasm, approbation, or support.
For a season, the government appears to have been satisfied with the submission of the clergy to the new arrangement; at least it does not appear that any annoyance was given by the state to the clergy, so long as the party by which this new arrangement had been effected retained the reins of government. In the early part, however, of last year (1845) this party was driven from power, and was succeeded by one of a still more popular character; and with this the clergy, ere many months had elapsed, came into serious and determined collision. The result, as is well known, has been a disruption of the Cantonal Church of Vaud.'
The result of the contest has been that one hundred and sixty of the pastors resigned their livings, and seceded from the national church, of whom about forty speedily repented of the step they had taken, and returned to their parishes. This movement, however, has had little effect on the people. The secession has been purely clerical, and there are not wanting circumstances which sufficiently account for its want of popular favour. To those who are disposed to investigate a subject, which on many accounts is highly instructive, we recommend an attentive perusal of our author's intelligent and dispassionate examination.
Of the varieties observable amongst the protestant churches of the cantons, Dr. Alexander remarks::
The Cantons of Basle, Berne, Vaud, Neufchatel, and Geneva, have been and are the main strongholds of Protestantism in Switzerland. In the first two we have Protestantism in its older forms, though not always with its ancient spirit; in the others we have it under a more modern and accommodating aspect The difference of
race, doubtless, aided in some instances, perhaps, by differences of government, has here had its influence: the German and aristocratic Cantons have abode by old forms, usages, and habits; the French Cantons, and especially those of them which have been under republican influence, have exhibited a greater promptitude to assume new modes of thought and adopt new forms of action in religious
There is, as just hinted, no Swiss national church; but in each Canton that formula of doctrine and of order which has seemed best to the ruling powers, has been established by public sanction. In respect of doctrine there is no great difference, so far as creeds go, between the Cantonal churches, almost all of them holding professedly by the ancient Helvetic confession; and in point of order they are more or less strictly conformed to the Presbyterian model, though in some cases with a slight infusion of the Episcopal element, and in others, with certain leanings to the Congregational platform. Thus, as respects the appointment of the ministers, in some Cantons the choice rests exclusively with the people, who have power to
B B B 2
appoint and power to remove, independent of any superior control; in other Cantons the government nominates the clergy, and the people have not even a veto upon the appointment; in other cases the people send up a list to the government with whom the final appointment rests; in some cases a right of interference belongs to the body of clergy already in office; and in one case, that of Neufchatel, the clerical body absorb the entire power, subject only to the supervision of the King of Prussia, who never interferes with their For the most part the Presbyterial parity is preserved amongst the clergy-the office of Doyen, which is the highest rank among them, being simply that of primus inter pares, and lasting but for one year at a time in the case of each occupant. In the Canton of Basle, however, some vestiges of the Episcopal subordination are retained, the first minister of the Minster church in the city of Basle holding a certain official pre-eminence amongst his brethren, and his colleague, the second minister, bearing the title of archidiaconus, or archdeacon. The tenure by which the ministers hold their parishes is also very different in different Cantons, some being elected for life or fault, others for a term of years, and others from week to week. In fine, the mode in which the clergy are supported varies in different Cantons; in some the government provides the entire salary of the minister, whilst in others the government supplies only a part, and in some cases but a very small part, and the rest is made up by fees, or from the voluntary offerings of the people.
'These Cantonal churches stand, for the most part, in a relation of very great subjection to the state, their constitution in this respect being thoroughly Erastian. The degree of subjection is not exactly the same for all, but in none of the Cantons does the church enjoy any adequate measure of liberty. Perhaps the most free is the church of Neufchatel, and the least free that of Berne. In the latter, not even the slightest deviation from the prescribed rule of acting is allowed, unless notice be given to the Educational Council,' with which rests absolute power over the clergy and the church. It may perhaps be taken as a tolerably significant indication of the state of feeling in this Canton, that ecclesiastical affairs should be regarded as forming merely a department of the educational interests of the community.-pp. 149-151.
An interesting sketch is supplied of the Independent and other dissenting churches, which are now planted throughout several of the cantons; the history of which strikingly harmonizes with that of similar societies in our own country. Happily for our Swiss brethren, the period of their troubles has been much briefer than that of our fathers. The indignant voice of Europe has been uttered on their behalf. Public sentiment has advanced since the days of the Stuarts; and the suffering confessors of Switzerland have, in consequence, been spared the protracted persecutions to which the puritans and non-conformists of England were exposed. The following brief account, however, of
the trial of M. Charles Rochat, furnished by the late Baron de Stael, shews what iniquities were recently practised :
This trial took place at Vevay, amid the most beautiful scenery in the world, in a country whose richness and beauty might have seemed such as to inspire no other feelings in the heart than those of gratitude towards God, and benevolence towards man.
''An accusation was laid against M. Rochat to the effect that he had held at his house an unlawful religious assembly. [How strangely this combination of words sounds!] The obscure name of the person who informed against him we have not heard; but the baseness of his language and manners betrays itself in every line of his accusation. On a complaint like this, an agent of police went to the house of M. Rochat, and searched it, but without finding any one: as he was retiring, Mr. R. himself conducted him to a room on the second floor, where he found five persons assembled, viz., the wife of Mr. R., one of their friends, with two of his sisters, and a young person a stranger to the family. These five individuals were seated round a table, on which lay an open book; it was the Bible, of which Mr. R. was about to read and explain a chapter. Here was the substance of the charge.
The trial begins; M. Rochat's indictment is read; a multitude of witnesses are summoned and heard; they are examined and cross-examined; the testimony of all agrees; the discussions of the counsel add nothing to, and take nothing from, the declaration of the agent of police; the charge remains as it was, neither lessened nor aggravated. This remains certain, that in his own house, and in the presence of his wife and four friends, M. Rochat had read and explained a chapter of scripture, and then had prayed to God for a blessing on what had been said.
Such is his crime in its whole length and breadth; we have kept back nothing. Here certainly was most blameworthy and dangerous conduct! To leave this unpunished would compromise all social order! Hence the public prosecutor pleaded, that M. Rochat might be confined for a year to his commune. But in the eyes of the magistrates this was not enough; such chastisement was not proportioned to the offence; they inflicted unhesitatingly the maximum punishment, and M. Rochat was condemned to be banished for three years!!'-p. 245.
We thank Dr. Alexander for the pleasure his volume has afforded us, and for the information we have derived from it. Our readers will do well to procure it for themselves, and such of them as do so will regret neither its cost nor the time expended in its perusal.