Imágenes de páginas


in the kingdom is at liberty to preach from any other text than that selected and appointed at head-quarters.

The new liturgy was intended for the clergy, and not for the people. It cannot be purchased by the public at any shop in Prussia. The use of the Bible in the churches by the people is discountenanced. The only book in the hands of the congregation, is a sort of hymn-book, filled with doggrel verse, though printed as prose, from which they sing two portions in the course of the service.

By a tyrannical edict, issued March 9th, 1834, the exercise of public religious worship was forbidden in all places except churches.

At the time when the union was projected, most of the churches in Silesia were Lutheran. Here the proposal met with the greatest resistance. The parish of Hermannsdorf refused compliance with the order of the consistory, and continued to worship in the old Lutheran

Their pastor, Berger, was then commanded to administer the sacrament according to the old and new form alternately. He refused the compromise, and was suspended. The parish of Hoenigern also refused. Their pastor, Kellner, was suspended; and, having protested against the authority of the commissioners who suspended him, was-—with forty elders, elected by the congregation to defend their liberties—thrown into prison. A minister was selected, and sent to be intruded on the people, but found the church-doors nailed, and a crowd of people obstructing the entrance. On the 20th December, 1834, five hundred soldiers marched from Breslau to this recusant parish, to force the minister on the people against their will, and to compel them to observe a form of service which they disapproved of. So great were the sufferings of these honest villagers, arising from this persecution, that six hundred of them, like our pilgrim forefathers, fled to the forests of America, that there they might enjoy the sacred rights that were denied them in their native land.

These facts, dates and all, are just as I gather them from Mr. Laing's book.* If they be correct, they tell a tale of the despotism of Prussia's government, and the thraldom of Prussia's people, which ought to open the eyes of British statesmen and British Christians, and moderate the language in which they have been wont to speak of this pattern-nation of education and good institutions. If the same restrictions are imposed on the churches in the Rhenish provinces, to which J. D. M. particularly refers, as on those in the other provinces ; in every church there is an altar railed in, and covered with an altar-cloth, with two lighted wax candles, and a crucifix standing upon it, and pictures of saints, and holy subjects, hanging behind and around it; if the name of Protestant, as applied to the church, is forbidden

* Notes of a Traveller. By Samuel Laing, Esq. London, 1842.

by law; if the service must not exceed an hour altogether, and the sermon not thirty minutes ; if the ministers must on certain occasions preach only from texts appointed by authority, and may never, on any occasion whatever, present an extemporary prayer ; and if, as your correspondent's paper teaches us, all this was quietly submitted to by the people, and promoted by the clergy--then surely we have but little to expect from such churches, in defence of Protestant principles, and the propagation of pure and undefiled religion. O come the day when kings and governments will cease to corrupt churches, and impede the progress of vital piety, by interfering with a subject which is altogether beyond their legitimate province !

Yours truly, March 8, 1844.

L. M. N.

EDITORIAL NOTE. These remarks were written and forwarded to us, as the date will show, immediately after the insertion of the first article on the Rhenish Churches, which appeared in our March number. The object of that article, as is stated by the writer, was simply to give the facts of the case relating to the union of the Synod of Rhineland, the Synod of Westphalia, and the few Lutheran churches interspersed, into one ecclesiastical family, and to leave every one to form his own conclusions on the matter. Such conclusions, we apprehend, could not be very favourable to state-interference in religious concerns. The second article, which appeared in April, and which was in. tended to show the real state of these united churches, goes far we think to meet the objections of our correspondent; inasmuch as, while it gives them credit for whatever appeared praiseworthy in their conduct, it exhibits both their doctrinal errors, and also (a thing which L. M. N. seems to fear is passed over) the tyranny to which they submitted from the civil government, in its enforcement of the new ecclesiastical laws. L. M. N. appears to be involved in some little confusion, from the fact of his confounding the union of the two synods and the Lutherans above mentioned, with the general question respecting the enforcement of the late king of Prussia's new church scheme. The unjustifiable and illiberal conduct of the Prussian government in the case of the Silesian churches, has repeatedly been brought before the British public; but in the casc of the churches belonging to the two synods of Rhineland and Westphalia, we are not aware that any other means were resorted to, or any persecution experienced, beyond what was stated in the conclusion of the second article. The treatment of the strict Lutherans in the eastern parts of the kingdom is no criterion by which to judge of the position of these Rhenish and Westphalian churches, who were expressly allowed to follow their old régime under the conditions formerly stated.

With regard to the statements taken from Mr. Laing respecting the usages of the Protestant churches, some will apply to the Rhenish district, and some will not. There is in every church an altar railed off, and an altar-cloth; a crucifix and two candles were added by the new regulations, but the candles are only lighted on special occasions. Pictures are not enjoined, and, we believe, are by no means usual, neither are the ministers debarred on all occasions from the use of extempore prayer ; in addition to which, we might remark, that ever since the present sovereign came to the throne, a far more liberal policy has been followed. The whole attempt of the late king to secure a mere stiff and cold uniformity, we certainly consider as very absurd and very unjust, but the readiness of the people, in many instances, to merge their minor differences in their general unanimity of faith was certainly praiseworthy, and, as far as Rhenish Prussia was concerned, was brought about by no illiberal means; although when the majority in the synods had once voted for the union, the government did not hesitate to use persecution to enforce its universal adoption. On some of the subordinate points mentioned by Mr. Laing, we cannot speak decidedly in reference to the Rhenish district; but we should hardly imagine he had ever read many of the hymns which he has styled“ doggrel,” as not a few of them are amongst the finest specimens of sacred poetry that were ever composed. In this department no language can be compared in copiousness with the German.

We are simply anxious to do proper justice to our Christian brethren in Germany, as well as in every other part of the world; and whilst we deprecate as strongly as any one the evil effects of state tyranny in religious concerns, yet it is always a grateful task to point out the power of Christian principle, as it struggles through difficulties, and bears fruit even under the withering shade of civil interference. No one, we think, who witnessed the spirit of Dr. Sydow (the minister of the church at Potsdam, to which L. M. N. refers,) when he was lately in England, could think that he was a man likely to join in a union with other Protestants, because he was “too indifferent on the subject to manifest any enthusiasm in opposing it.”

We do not agree with those who cry up the German churches just because they happento be something foreign, nor with those who altogether run them down because they admit usages, and allow principles, different from our own. In this case, as well as in most others, we hold that truth lies between two extremes.



for a

TO THE EDITOR OF THE CONGREGATIONAL MAGAZINE. Dear Sir,—You are the organ of our denomination, read by the most intelligent members of our body. It is therefore a matter of importance, that those who wish to appear well before the public, should appear well in your pages.

I am a young man—a young ministerand having noticed divers things of late, tending to disparage the class to which I belong, I ask, and without fear of refusal, space few arks, touching them and their accusers.

It is obvious that we are approaching a schism of no small magnitude, between the young and the old ministers of our body,—and if care be not taken, that schism will be inevitable. I am not for hurrying it on, but for preventing it altogether, convinced that, supposing the blame, if any, not altogether on either side, the errors and evils belonging to both would be increased and aggravated by a division. It is only in the candour and confidence of mutual intercourse that we have security, that any existing mischief shall not go, in either direction, to a greater extreme, to say nothing of other manifest and manifold painful results to the denomination, and to truth. But is the course adopted calculated to conciliate and soothe, or teach and improve? We have papers without end on the faults of the young minister, ominous allusions, bold reproofs, – but what are they?

Careful statements of the points supposed to be controverted? Wise and candid reasonings upon them? Nothing of the kind.

In the first place, they are chiefly anonymous. Charges of the most serious nature are brought by persons who hide themselves in the dark, and see, without being detected, the pain which they inflict on others. Sometimes indeed, a bold man, strong in his own soul, and his just influence, like Dr. Hamilton, publicly, and in his own proper person, declares that our young men are nothing, and deserve nothing,—that they are full of conceit, and empty of knowledge; but generally our accusers are invisible. Is this creditable? Again, the character of the charges to which we are exposed, presents a mournful subject for contemplation. That we do not submit to our superiors in age—that we govern" the churches—that we have abandoned the use of some expressions, not scriptural, and speak about religion in the style of common sense—that we do not esteem the so-called spirituality of an interpretation an argument for its truth-that-but it is useless to go further. I have not seen many charges which were not based on principles that, if fairly carried out, would lead us into evils the very opposite of those which we are sought to be preserved from. And then, it is a fact, that, right or wrong, the accusers of our young ministers are in the “high places.” They conduct our periodicalsthey manage our unions—they fill our largest spheres of pastoral labour. It is therefore no wonder that surmises and suspicions are circulated far and wide. Is it astonishing that all this should wound the minds of young ministers—should make them feel a disposition to resistance ? Verily, if they be not hurried into excesses, it will not be the fault of those who essay to keep them back.

Of course I am not about to enter on a defence of young men—they do not need it ; and till there be something more definite and distinct than is often seen, it would be extremely difficult. Let some of our opponents “write a book," stating in explicit terms the accusations, and the grounds of them, and then it will be time enough to set up a regular and formal vindication. My object, at present, is to suggest a few general remarks on the whole subject-especially on the spirit of the matter.

Is that spirit just ? Are there no traces that something besides any knowledge of a real and great evil leads on to the attack ? One thing I have seen, or think I have seen—that no small part of the sin and folly of young ministers is in their being young. There is a tone of superciliousness, of impatient contempt, which says-“Who are you? hold your peace!” Indeed, not a little is said about forsaking the principles and proceedings of their fathers—a sound argument at Rome, but rather out of place in a sect so little subject to traditionary authority as our own. And the tendency of many of the things advanced in their behalf is to a denial of what has been most esteemed and honoured. Fear is a bad counsellor; yet fear, it is easy to detect, is at the bottom of the anti-young-ministers prejudice. It is common enough to have talent abused; scientific knowledge, if it be not just what was possessed a hundred years ago, called “ dangerous ;" young men of ability termed too clever to be humble believers—and so on. I ask—Is this just ? And yet this is the tenor of a great deal of conversation in the “best circles.” Would any class be safe from such a mode of attack as this?

Is it kind? Do our accusers know that young men have feelings, and characters, and families—that they depend on their repute? Are they prepared to foster a prejudice which must comprise all young men ? But is it kind to the churches ? Who are to supply these churches but young men ? And what is to be done if our leading and influential men succeed in making the people believe that they are unworthy of confidence and support ? Great surprise is expressed that the demand for students to supply vacant pulpits has decreased so much of late. Without entering into the causes—and they are several of this falling off, there is one which I wonder is not recognised. Is it likely that all that has been said by our accusers should be without effect ? Have they so poor an opinion of their influence as to suppose that no one believes them? They have, in innumerable instances, implanted the conviction that the young ministers are very unsound in the faith, rash in conduct, undevout in temper; and the natural result is—“We will not have them." All this must re-act, and it is not kindness, therefore, to themselves. But further. Who are entering the world, and who are going out of it? Our institutions and literature must depend on young ministers, after all. But who that knows human nature can suppose that they will support and promote these things, while they are made the means of their own injury and disgrace? It is too much to imagine that a young minister will endeavour to circulate among his people a periodical in which they will be taught to suspect or disesteem his ministry.

Is it consistent ? We are dissenters—the second or third remove. What, then, is the temper in which we should treat dissent among ourselves ? Alas, popery is more a natural principle than an ecclesiastical form, and, therefore, all the arguments and weapons of popery may be found among the most approved nonconforming Protestants. We, ourselves, stand on the individual right to reject the widest and longest tradition, and yet we bow implicitly to the great men of our denomination. We renounce the authority of the fathers of the church, European, African, and Asiatic, and yet implicitly refer to Howe and Owen! This manifestly will not do. And it is as little consistent with the practice, as the profession, of those who thus act and speak. The men who are now blaming us for departing from their modes, departed themselves from the modes of their predecessors. Everything that


« AnteriorContinuar »