Imágenes de páginas

is heard in England, in Holland, in Germany, in France; and has even reached the astonished ears of the inhabitants of the new world. Why this outcry? Why this tumult? Because the people of Geneva have not consented, and will not consent, to become Methodists.

First Symptoms of Perturbation. In the month of March 1810, a period at which a vigorous arm gave equal protection to every form of worship throughout the vast empire of France, the Consistory of the Genevese Church received an anonymous writing proposing the re-establishment of some religious ceremonies suppressed by the Reformation, and complaining of the extreme simplicity of the Protestant worship. About the same time it was known that a small number of congregations existed in the city, whose leaders were connected with the Moravians, and who had always holden exclusive opinions; it was known likewise that some theological students occasionally attended. It was thought proper to look on in silence.

On the 13th of December, however, in the same year, the Consistory appointed a commission to inqu whether the Protestant religion were not incurring danger, and to watch over those theological students who occasioned uneasiness, and who met se cretly at the house of one of the pastors, (never the friend of his clerical brethren,) who instilled into their minds prejudices against his colleagues, and taught them obscure and puerile dogmas. It was decided that no public notice should be taken of these proceedings, and that there was no cause for apprehension.

Stronger alarm was again excited in the year 1813: Madame de Krudener came to Geneva, collected assemblies, and placed at their head M. Empaytar, a young student who had frequented the former meetings. It was, indeed, asserted that the object of these assemblies was merely to worship God and to afford opportunities of attending divine service in the evening to those persons who, occupied throughout the day, were unable to frequent the public religious assemblies; invitations were given, likewise, to some of the pastors to be

present at these evening services; but could they without impropriety have sanctioned them by their presence, and have gone to receive instruction from the mouth of a young man just commencing his theological career, whose studies they were appointed to conduct, and whose improvement they were to report? They were aware also that pains were taken to inspire doubts respecting the purity of their faith and to prejudice young catechumens against them. The consistorial commission did not consider it right to lay any restraint on the persons frequenting these assemblies, but they thought it necessary to attend to the conduct of the theological students, who were subjected to their immediate inspection, and destined to become the instructors of the church; those young men could not be at once ministers of the Church of Geneva and of another church dissenting from it.

M. Empaytar had several conversations with his pastor, to whom he gave a promise of not attaching himself to any sect; and as he seemed resolved to continue the religious services he was in the habit of conducting, he was required to attend in the Salle des Séances of the body of the clergy, that he might give some account of his proceedings and unfold his motives. Arguments were then pressed on his attention to convince him of the bad consequences which night result from his meetings, and some weeks subsequently, on the 19th of November 1813, when he was again sent for, he declared that the considerations enforced upon him had inade him resolve to separate himself from those religious assemblies, which he now considered likely to endanger the unity and peace of the Church.

The Consistory was informed of the precautions taken by the pastors, and learning that the petit Conseil at Bâle, had, under similar circumstances, prepared a formulary by which the clergy bound themselves to avoid all sectarianism, to occasion no schism, and to frequent no religious assembly subject to foreign direction, they made the following regulation, for the guidance of all the theological students: (Dec. 24, 1813 :)

1st. Any student who, after being dehorted by the pastors from attending a religious meeting not established

by the Consistory, persists in frequenting it, cannot be ordained to the ministry in our Church.

2ndly. The following expression shall be inserted in the formulary of ordination: "You promise to abstain from all sectarianism, and to avoid whatever would be the occasion of schism, or interrupt the unity of the Church."

Notwithstanding this regulation and these promises, M. Empaytar continued to preside at his own house, over unauthorized assemblies; the moderator announced to him, in June 1814, on the day on which he appeared with his companions at the annual examination, that by his opposition to the proposed regulation, he had excluded himself from ordination to the ministry in our Church.

Soon after this he set off to rejoin Madame de Krudener. During his journey to Bâle, it was inserted in a newspaper, that in a dream he had seen Religion under the form of a desolate woman, and after listening to her lamentation on the state to which she was reduced, he had protested his zeal and devotedness to her service. In a short time he received orders from the police, in various situations, to quit the places in which he carried on his religious services. We read in the Journal des Debats, under the date of Carlsruhe, February 4, 1816: "The sermons preached during some weeks past by a minister (M. Empaytar) in the balcony of the house inhabited by Madame de Krudener, and the awful prophecies which he uttered, attracted an immense number of auditors. The police of the grand Duchy of Baden, a few days since, conducted this new apostle to Lorrach, on the frontiers of Switzerland, together with all the diseased in mind or body whose cure he had undertaken."


Not long after this time M. Empaytar published his Considerations on the Divinity of Jesus Christ, addressed to his former companions, the theological students of Geneva; in which he attacked the faith of the clergy of that city, transcribing into his work, without acknowledgment, part of Massillon's Sermon on the Divinity of Jesus Christ. This gave rise to a scurrilous publication by a French Abbé, M. Labouderie, cour

teously addressed to the same students, and professedly a sequel to the former production. Every member of a reformed church who attacks the reformed clergy may reckon on the support of the Romish priests. The Abbé enforced the accusations of M. Empaytar, in the ardour of his zeal talked of Calvin himself as a Socinian, and gave a ludicrous proof of his own ignorance; for he praised the style of his co-operator in that part of his publication which is copied word for word from Massillon, in these terms: "The latter pages are admirable, though they have not the force of Massillon's treatise on the same subject," &c. Hence we may logically infer that our Abbé was better acquainted with Empaytar than with Massillon.

Immediately after the publication of this work, the theological students requested admittance to the body of the clergy, to give assurance that nothing could diminish their confidence, respect and attachment to them. Messrs. Guers and Gonchier, intimate friends of M. Empaytar, who afterwards seceded from the Church of Geneva, were the only individuals who did not join in this act.

At the beginning of 1815 had been circulated in the city an anonymous writing, brought by the courier from Lyons, consigned to a Sœur de la Cha rite, and then sent to the Curé of Geneva, who, on being interrogated by the police, affirmed that he had not distributed any copies, but that he had allowed his servants to carry the parcels to the persons to whom they were addressed. Each subsequent attack on the clergy has been little more than an amplification of this, and the imprudence of the Protestants has led them to become auxiliaries of the Roman Catholics.

It was shortly after this period that individuals arrived at Geneva from amongst a people that had become respectable in our eyes, during the troubles of former times, by the defence of liberty and the diffusion of those glorious sentiments which preserve the existence of nations. English gentlemen arrived under the cloak of religion, and bearing the ho nourable and pacific appellation of members of the Bible-Society, to fructify the widely-scattered seeds of

division, to add fuel to the fire of discord, to malign the characters of the Genevan pastors, whom they knew only through the suspicious medium of accounts given by declared adversaries; and all this was for the glory of God, and the triumph of their favourite opinions. The clergy were in an extraordinary situation: attacked from without by foreigners, from within by some of their own members, partizans of the new sect, they found their conduct and sentiments misrepresented and caricatured. Assailed on every side by the unrestrained enmity of their opponents, they were themselves morally fettered, condemned to silence by magistrates who, although their friends, were (to say the truth, without violating the respect we are anxious to shew them) under the influence of unwarrantable timidity. What was the result? Charges repeated again and again were listened to and believed, whilst the silence of the accused passed for a confession of guilt with men who were either unthinking or malevolent, with those who had not the means or the desire of obtaining information on the subject.

A Scotchman, Mr. Haldane, a ri gid Calvinist, whose theological principles are to be found in print, especially in his Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, in which those who have the courage to undertake the task may judge of his doctrines; Mr. Haldane invited to his house

some students and ministers, occupied their minds with the mysterious points of the Christian religion, and inoculated them with his own exclusive and intolerant spirit. He insisted so strongly on the contempt with which reason, proud reason, ought to be regarded, that one of his hearers in going out of his house once cried out, "Yes, I see plainly that in the affairs of religion, reason ought to be trodden under foot!" Mr. Haldane waged war so indiscreetly against good works, that they were spoken of with disdain in the discourses of his adherents, and in the pamphlets circulated to perpetuate his influence after his depar ture. In so licentious a manner was it common to treat this subject, that a young ecclesiastic did not blush to translate into French and to publish The Refuge, in which we read in so

many words, that the man most deeply stained with crimes and the man who has performed the greatest number of good works are perfectly equal in the sight of God!

Scarcely had this champion ceased his warfare when he was succeeded by another, of less skill but greater impetuosity-Mr. Henry Drummond. The latter kept no terms; he openly urged those who united with him to secede from the Genevan Church; he collected assemblies in which he distributed both instruction and money; he even addressed the pastors directly in a most audacious letter, in which, after giving his opinions in the most dogmatical way and uttering his decrees like a pope, this banker taunted the clergy as impious blasphemers. He was called before the Syndics, and reprehended by them for his conduct. He quitted Geneva, and his discourses and articles which he published in the journals did much in exciting prejudice against the city.

The impetus was given; every week new pamphlets came out in which the clergy were insulted, in which common sense, virtue and religion were so far violated, that in one of them it was asserted, that of all illusions remorse was the most dangerous, because it betrayed mistrust in the efficacy of redemption. Thus was dis union occasioned by foreigners in a city which had shewed them hospitality and welcomed them with joy.

Regulation of the 3rd of May, 1817.

The necessity had been felt of hav ing recourse to some regulation to restrain the imprudence of young preachers, when from the pulpit had been taught not the insufficiency of good works for procuring salvation, an evangelical doctrine professed by all Christian ministers, but the abso lute inutility of good works, a doctrine which, if stated without precaution, tends to produce discouragement and to disorganize society. In the Christmas holy-days of 1816, an aged pastor, a man deservedly honoured and till then pointed out as a model of wisdom and moderation, went into the pulpit, and, to the amazement of his hearers, openly attacked those who did not hold the opinions he esteemed orthodox: he treated as a fatal system the ideas of those instructors and

members of the church who disbe lieved the consubstantiality of the Word. A few days afterwards, a preacher in allusion to this attack, preached on the Mysteries, blaming those ministers who insisted on ab struse and incomprehensible doctrines and represented them as fundamental and the belief of them essential to salvation. This occasioned great uneasiness; it was felt how injurious and dangerous it would be if pulpit discourses became controversial and were constantly filled with disputed dog


It was therefore proposed (with all due respect, however, to the inde pendence of the preachers, to freedom of thought and to the principles essential to the Reformation) to prevent the pulpit from becoming an arena, whilst the minds of men were in a state of agitation; to prevent those public dissensions of the spiritual teachers on articles of faith, which would render the people uncertain what they ought to believe, and throw them into a state of perplexity on the most important subjects, which would lead some to dejection and others to scepticism, or at least to indifference.

The basis of the pacific plan was laid, the right spirit of action pointed out, the feelings of all were regarded, every one was listened to, the advice of each taken into consideration; the two preachers who had censured each other were consulted, and mutual concessions were made by all parties.

Each one of the pastors confessed that Jesus was a Divine Being, that all men were sinners, that the grace of God was necessary for salvation, that man was ree, and that there was no limit to the Divine knowledge. They all confessed likewise, that, from the origin of Christianity no one had been able to comprehend the manner in which the Son had proceeded from the Father; the imputation of Adam's sin to his posterity; the way in which God influences the human mind; and the means of reconciling the prescience of the Almighty with the undeniable liberty of man. All were, at the same time, equally convinced of the necessity of banishing these disputed topics from the Christian pul pit; of giving importance not to the words but to the spirit of the gospel;

of loving and of cherishing peace. In this temper, and with the consent of all parties, was drawn up the regula tion of the 3rd of May, 1817, of which the preliminary remark, giving the cause of the act, is in truth the inost important part. We subjoin it entire:


"The pastors of the Church of Geneva, imbued with a spirit of hu mility, peace and Christian charity, and convinced that the existing circumstances of the Church entrusted to their care demand on their part wise and prudent measures, have resolved, without giving any judgment on the following questions or restraining in any degree the liberty of opinion, to require the students who desire to be set apart for the gospelministry, and the ministers who aspire to exercise the pastoral functions, to enter into the following engage ment: We promise, as long as we reside and preach in the Canton of Geneva, to abstain from discussing, either in whole discourses or in parts of our discourses, the subjoined topics :

"1st. The manner in which the Divine Nature is united to the person of Jesus Christ.

[ocr errors]

"2dly. Original Sin.

"3dly. The operation of Grace, or Effectual Calling.


4thly. Predestination.

"We engage also not to oppose in our public discourses the senti ments of any minister or pastor on these subjects. Lastly, we promise that if we should be led to mention these topics, we will do so without expatiating on our own views, or departing more than is unavoidable from the words of the Holy Scriptures.?"

What now took place? This regu lation, which was in no wise injurious to freedom of opinion, which did not oppose the publication of theological doctrines, either in writing, without any reserve, or in the pulpit, if there explained briefly and mildly and when the subject led to them, was every where represented as an instrument of tyranny; it was declared to be imposed by force, and signatures to it exacted; the clergy of Geneva were reproached with it as a demonstration of their heresy. In order to cause division and excite animosity, it was sent to various places, detached from

the preliminary considerations which explained its object and spirit. It is remarkable that the first copies of it which were spread abroad were the first draught of the committee by whom it was composed, not contain ing the corrections made by the body when it was adopted by them: this circumstance clearly proves the quarter whence proceeded this indiscretion, since none but the persons appointed to deliberate on the subject saw the regulation before it was modified and finally decreed.

All the theological students submitted to it, with the exception of M. Guers; as he had not attained the age required by law for ordination, no dispensation was asked from the magistrate, and he was allowed a twelvemonth for reflection. A few days subsequently the pastors enjoined the rule on all their own members, and on the young ministers. The wishes of the enemies of the pastors were, however, realized and their efforts successful: the regulation ill-understood and unexplained occasioned a violent outcry. At this time. Mr. John Owen, one of the Secretaries of the British and Foreign Bible-Society, came to Geneva; as he sought for truth and was desirous of hearing all parties, I had the honour of conversing with him during some hours; at the commencement of our interview he acknowledged to me that the regulation of the 3rd of May was the true cause of complaint against the Genevan Church. He had received false impressions on the subject, and the opponents of the clergy with whom he had conversed had carefully prevented him from viewing it in its just light; but after I had explained to him the origin, spirit, tendency and limits of the regulation, he expressed his satisfaction at having his opinions rectified, and promised to give just information on the subject whenever an opportunity occurred. This interview took place in the presence of a magistrate, a man of respectability, who would doubtless feel no objection to confirm my testimony.

Our opponents then pretended that the regulation was so obscure, so ambiguous, that even its framers attributed various meanings to it; that it was susceptible of thirty different interpretations, that it consequently

meant nothing and served no purpose but to shew the inclination of the Genevan Clergy to get rid of orthodoxy. Now I would ask every sincere man who has attentively perused that writing, whether he does not clearly see that the object of the Regulation of the 3rd of May was to prevent the renewal of disputes in the Christian pulpit? It may be added,― this object it attained.

Successive Attacks on the Pastors of


These attacks were so multiplied that I shall do little more than enumerate, without entering into the details of them. I shall pass over in silence the covert intrigues, the stabs given in the dark; I shall say nothing of false brethren and concealed enemies; I shall mention only open at tacks.

If the gospel forbid doing evil that good may come, how much more strongly does it forbid doing evil for the attainment of a bad object! Yet such has been the conduct of the ans tagonists of the Genevan pastors; every means has appeared to them justifiable, the most daring imputations, the most odious calumnies have been lavished to blacken the characters of the clergy, to deprive them of the confidence of their parishioners and of the esteem of Europe.

It is needless, I think, to remark that we are far from classing all these assailants together, or considering their intentions and means of attack equally bad. We have seen that M. Empaytar was the first among the Reformed to enter the lists.

Secondly, the Counsellor Jaques Grenus, with the vehemence peculiar to him, followed in the steps of M. Empaytar and soon went beyond him. He was reckless what language, what accusations, what insults he vented; aged, infirm, on the point of going to render an account of his contempti ble and turbulent life, he laughed triumphantly in his bed of sickness, when informed of the scandal occa, sioned by his attacks; these he renewed three several times-in his Fragments of Ecclesiastical History, at the commencement of the 19th century; in a Sequel to those Fragments, and in his correspondence with a Genevan Professor. Suffice it to

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »