Much as we must deplore and condemn sectarian strife and bitterness, it would be as unjust to charge them on Protestantism, as to charge upon Catholicism the violent passions of the trinitarian, christological and other controversies of the Nicene age, or the fierce animosity between the Greek and Latin Churches, or the envy and jealousy of the monastic orders of the Middle Ages, or the unholy rivalries between Jansenists and Jesuits, Gallicans and Ultramontanists in modern Romanism. The religious passions grow out of the selfishness of depraved human nature in spite of Christianity, whether Greek, Roman, or Protestant., and may arise in any denomination or in any congregation. Paul had to rebuke the party spirit in the church at Corinth. The rancor of theological schools and parties under one and the same government is as great and often greater than among separate rival denominations. Providence overrules these human weaknesses for the clearer development of doctrine and discipline, and thus brings good out of evil.
The tendency of Protestantism towards individualism did not stop with the three Reformation Churches, but produced other divisions wherever it was left free to formulate and organize the differences of theological parties and schools. This was the case in England, in consequence of what may be called a second Reformation, which agitated that country during the seventeenth century, while Germany was passing through the horrors of the Thirty Years’ War.
The Toleration Act of 1689, after the final overthrow of the semi-popish and treacherous dynasty of the Stuarts, gave the Dissenters who were formerly included in the Church of England, the liberty to organize themselves into independent denominations under the names of Presbyterians, Independents or Congregationalists, Baptists, Quakers; all professing the principles of the Reformation, but differing in minor points of doctrine, and especially in discipline, and the mode of worship.
The Methodist revival of religion which shook England and the American colonies during the eighteenth century, gave rise to a new denomination which spread with the enthusiasm of an army of conquest and grew into one of the largest and most influential communions in English-speaking Christendom.
In Scotland, the original unity of the Reformed Kirk was likewise broken up, mostly on the question of patronage and the sole headship of Christ, so that the Scotch population is now divided chiefly into three branches, the Established Church, the United Presbyterian Church, and the Free Church of Scotland; all holding, however, to the Westminster standards.
In Germany, the Moravian brotherhood acquired a legal existence, and fully earned it by its missionary zeal among the heathen, its educational institutions, its pure discipline and stimulating influence upon the older churches.
All these Churches of Great Britain and the Continent were transplanted by emigration to the virgin soil of North America, where they mingle on a basis of equality before the law and in the enjoyment of perfect religious freedom. But few communions are of native growth. In America, the distinction between church and sect, churchmen and dissenters, has lost its legal meaning. And even in Europe it is weakened in the same proportion in which under the influence of modern ideas of toleration and freedom the bond of union of church and state is relaxed, and the sects or theological parties are allowed to organize themselves into distinct communities.
Thus Protestantism in the nineteenth century is divided into half a dozen or more large denominations, without counting the minor divisions which are even far more numerous. The Episcopalians, the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, the Congregationalists, the Methodists, and the Baptists, are distinct and separate families. Nor is the centrifugal tendency of Protestantism exhausted, and may produce new denominations, especially in America, where no political power can check its progress.
To an outside spectator, especially to a Romanist and to an infidel, Protestantism presents the aspect of a religious chaos or anarchy which must end in dissolution.
But a calm review of the history of the last three centuries and the present condition of Christendom leads to a very different conclusion. It is an undeniable fact that Christianity has the strongest hold upon the people and displays the greatest vitality and energy at home and abroad, in English-speaking countries, where it is most divided into denominations and sects. A comparison of England with Spain, or Scotland with Portugal, or the United States with Mexico and Peru or Brazil, proves the advantages of living variety over dead uniformity. Division is an element of weakness in attacking a consolidated foe, but it also multiplies the missionary, educational, and converting agencies. Every Protestant denomination has its own field of usefulness, and the cause of Christianity itself would be seriously weakened and contracted by the extinction of any one of them.
Nor should we overlook the important fact, that the differences which divide the various Protestant denominations are not fundamental, and that the articles of faith in which they agree are more numerous than those in which they disagree. All accept the inspired Scriptures as the supreme rule of faith and practice, salvation by grace, and we may say every article of the Apostles’ Creed; while in their views of practical Christianity they unanimously teach that our duties are comprehended in the royal law of love to God and to our fellow-men, and that true piety and virtue consist in the imitation of the example of Christ, the Lord and Saviour of all.
There is then unity in diversity as well as diversity in unity.
And the tendency to separation and division is counteracted by the opposite tendency to Christian union and denominational intercommunion which manifests itself in a rising degree and in various forms among Protestants of the present day, especially in England and America, and on missionary fields, and which is sure to triumph in the end. The spirit of narrowness, bigotry and exclusiveness must give way at last to a spirit of evangelical catholicity, which leaves each denomination free to work out its own mission according to its special charisma, and equally free to co-operate in a noble rivalry with all other denominations for the glory of the common Master and the building up of His Kingdom.
The great problem of Christian union cannot be solved by returning to a uniformity of belief and outward organization. Diversity in unity and unity in diversity is the law of God in history as well as in nature. Every aspect of truth must be allowed room for free development. Every possibility of Christian life must be realized. The past cannot be undone; history moves zig-zag, like a sailing vessel, but never backwards. The work of church history, whether Greek, Roman, or Protestant, cannot be in vain. Every denomination and sect has to furnish some stones for the building of the temple of God.
And out of the greatest human discord God will bring the richest concord.
§ 11. Protestantism and Religious Liberty.
Comp. Ph. Schaff: The Progress of Religious Freedom as shown in the History of Toleration Acts, N. York, 1889. (126 pages.)
The Reformation was a grand act of emancipation from spiritual tyranny, and a vindication of the sacred rights of conscience in matters of religious belief. Luther’s bold stand at the Diet of Worms, in the face of the pope and the emperor, is one of the sublimest events in the history of liberty, and the eloquence of his testimony rings through the centuries.41 To break the force of the pope, who called himself and was believed to be, the visible vicar of God on earth, and who held in his hands the keys of the kingdom of heaven, required more moral courage than to fight a hundred battles, and it was done by an humble monk in the might of faith.
If liberty, both civil and religious, has since made progress, it is due in large measure to the inspiration of that heroic act. But the progress was slow and passed through many obstructions and reactions. "The mills of God grind slowly, but wonderfully fine."
It seems one of the strangest inconsistencies that the very men who claimed and exercised the right of protest in essentials, should have denied the same right to others, who differed from them in nonessentials. After having secured liberty from the yoke of popery, they acted on the persecuting principles in which they had been brought up. They had no idea of toleration or liberty in our modern sense. They fought for liberty in Christ, not from Christ, for liberty to preach and teach the gospel, not to oppose or pervert it. They were as intensely convinced of their views as their Roman opponents of theirs. They abhorred popery and heresy as dangerous errors which should not be tolerated in a Christian society. John Knox feared one Romish mass in Scotland more than an army of ten thousand French invaders. The Protestant divines and princes of the sixteenth century felt it to be their duty to God and to themselves to suppress and punish heresy as well as civil crimes. They confounded the law with the gospel. In many cases they acted in retaliation, and in self-defense. They were surrounded by a swarm of sects and errorists who claimed to be the legitimate children of the Reformation, exposed it to the reproach of the enemies and threatened to turn it into confusion and anarchy. The world and the church were not ripe for a universal reign of liberty, nor are they even now.
Religious persecution arises not only from bigotry and fanaticism, and the base passions of malice, hatred and uncharitableness, but also from mistaken zeal for truth and orthodoxy, from the intensity of religious conviction, and from the alliance of religion with politics or the union of church and state, whereby an offence against the one becomes an offence against the other. Persecution is found in all religions, churches and sects which had the power; while on the other hand all persecuted religions, sects, and parties are advocates of toleration and freedom, at least for themselves. Some of the best as well as the worst men have been persecutors, believing that they served the cause of God by fighting his enemies. Saul of Tarsus, and Marcus Aurelius, the Stoic saint and philosopher on the throne of the Caesars, have in ignorance persecuted Christianity, the one from zeal for the law of Moses, the other from devotion to the laws and gods of Rome. Charlemagne thought he could best promote Christianity among the heathen Saxons by chasing them through the river for wholesale baptism. St. Augustin, Thomas Aquinas, and Calvin were equally convinced of the right and duty of the civil magistrate to punish heresy. A religion or church established by law must be protected by law against its enemies. The only sure guarantee against persecution is to put all churches on an equal footing before the law, and either to support all or none.
Church history is lurid with the infernal fires of persecutions, not only of Christians by heathens and Mohammedans, but of Christians by Christians.
But there is a silver lining to every cloud, and an overruling Providence in all human wickedness. The persecutions test character, develop moral heroism, bring out the glories of martyrdom, and sow the bloody seed of religious liberty. They fail of their object when the persecuted party has the truth on its side, and ultimately result in its victory. This was the case with Christianity in the Roman empire, and to a large extent with Protestantism. They suffered the cross, and reaped the crown.
Let us now briefly survey the chief stages in the history of persecution, which is at the same time a history of religious liberty.
1. The New Testament furnishes not a single passage in favor of persecution. The teaching and example of Christ and the Apostles are against it. He came to save the world, not to destroy it. He declared that His kingdom is not of this world. He rebuked the hasty Peter for drawing the sword, though it was in defense of his Master; and he preferred to suffer and to die rather than to call the angels of God to aid against his enemies. The Apostles spread the gospel by spiritual means and condemned the use of carnal weapons.
For three hundred years the church followed their example and advocated freedom of conscience. She suffered persecution from Jews and Gentiles, but never retaliated, and made her way to triumph through the power of truth and a holy life sealed by a heroic death.42
2. The change began with the union of church and state under Constantine the Great, in the East, and Charles the Great, in the West. Both these emperors represent the continuation of the old Roman empire under the dominion of the sword and the cross.
The mediaeval theory of the Catholic Church assumes a close alliance of Caesar and Pope, or the civil and ecclesiastical power, in Christian countries, and the exclusiveness of the Catholic communion out of which there can be no salvation. The Athanasian Creed has no less than three damning clauses against all who dissent from the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation. From this point of view every heresy, i.e., every departure from catholic orthodoxy, is a sin and a crime against society, and punishable both by the church and the state, though in different ways. "The church does not thirst for blood "43 but excommunicates the obstinate heretic and hands him over to the civil magistrate to be dealt with according to law. And the laws of pagan Rome and Christian Rome were alike severe against every open dissent from the state religion. The Mosaic legislation against idolatry and blasphemy, which were punished by death, as a crime against the theocracy and as treason against Jehovah,44 seemed to afford divine authority for similar enactments under the Christian dispensation, in spite of the teaching and example of Christ and his Apostles. The Christian emperors after Constantine persecuted the heathen religion and heretical sects, as their heathen predecessors had persecuted the Christians as enemies of the national gods. The Justinian code, which extended its influence over the whole Continent of Europe, declares Christian heretics and schismatics, as well as Pagans and Jews, incapable of holding civil or military offices, forbids their public assemblies and ecclesiastical acts, and orders their books to be burned.
The leading divines of the church gave sanction to this theory. St. Augustin, who had himself been a heretic for nine years, was at first in favor of toleration.45 But during the Donatist controversy, he came to the conclusion that the correction and coërcion of heretics and schismatics was in some cases necessary and wholesome. His tract on the Correction of the Donatists was written about 417, to show that the schismatical and fanatical Donatists should be subjected to the punishment of the imperial laws. He admits that it is better that men should be led to worship God by teaching than be driven to it by fear of punishment or pain; but he reasons that more men are corrected by fear. He derives the proof from the Old Testament. The only passages from the New Testament which he is able to quote, would teach a compulsory salvation rather than punishment, but are really not to the point. He refers to Paul’s conversion as a case of compulsion by Christ himself, and misapplies the word of our Lord in the parable of the Supper: "Constrain them to come in."46 Yet he professed, on the other hand, the correct principle that "no man can believe against his will."47 And he expressly discouraged the infliction of the death-penalty on heretics.48
Thomas Aquinas, next to Augustin, the highest authority among the canonized doctors of the Latin church, went a step further. He proved, to the satisfaction of the Middle Ages, that the rites of idolaters, Jews, and infidels ought not to be tolerated,49 and that heretics or corruptors of the Christian faith, being worse criminals than debasers of money, ought (after due admonition) not only to be excommunicated by the church, but also be put to death by the state.50 He does not quote a Bible passage in favor of the death-penalty of heretics; on the contrary he mentions three passages which favor toleration of heretics, 2 Tim. 2:24; 1 Cor. 11:19; Matt. 13:29, 30, and then tries to deprive them of their force by his argument drawn from the guilt of heresy.
The persecution of heretics reached its height in the papal crusades against the Albigenses under Innocent III., one of the best of popes; in the dark deeds of the Spanish Inquisition; and in the unspeakable atrocities of the Duke of Alva against the Protestants in the Netherlands during his short reign (1567–1573).51
The horrible massacre of St. Bartholomew (Aug. 24, 1572) was sanctioned by Pope Gregory XIII., who celebrated it by public thanksgivings, and with a medal bearing his image, an avenging angel and the inscription, Ugonottorum strages.52
The infamous dragonnades of Louis XIV. were a continuation of the same politico-ecclesiastical policy on a larger scale, aiming at the complete destruction of Protestantism in France, in violation of the solemn edict of his grandfather (1598, revoked 1685), and met the full approval of the Roman clergy, including Bishop Bossuet, the advocate of Gallican liberties.53
The most cruel of the many persecutions of the innocent Waldenses in the valleys of Piedmont took place in 1655, and shocked by its boundless violence the whole Protestant world, calling forth the vigorous protest of Cromwell and inspiring the famous sonnet of Milton, his foreign secretary:
"Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold,
Even them who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshiped stocks and stones."
These persecutions form the darkest, we may say, the satanic chapters in church history, and are a greater crime against humanity and Christianity than all the heresies which they in vain tried to eradicate.
The Roman church has never repented of her complicity with these unchristian acts. On the contrary, she still holds the principle of persecution in connection with her doctrine that there is no salvation outside of her bosom. The papal Syllabus of 1864 expressly condemns, among the errors of modern times, the doctrine of religious toleration.54 Leo XIII., a great admirer of the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas, in his Encyclical of Nov. 1, 1885, "concerning the Christian constitution of states," wisely moderates, but reaffirms, in substance, the political principles of his predecessor.55 A revocation would be fatal to the Vatican dogma of papal infallibility. The practice of persecution is a question of power and expediency; and although isolated cases still occur from time to time,56 the revival of mediaeval intolerance is an impossibility, and would be condemned by intelligent and liberal Roman Catholics as a folly and a crime.
3. The Protestant theory and practice of persecution and toleration.
(a) The Lutheran Reformers and Churches.
Luther was the most advanced among the Reformers in the ideas of toleration and liberty. He clearly saw the far-reaching effect of his own protest against Rome, and during his storm- and pressure-period, from 1517 to 1521, he was a fearless champion of liberty. He has left some of the noblest utterances against coërcion in matters of conscience, which contain almost every essential feature of the modern theory on the subject. He draws a sharp line between the temporal power which is confined to the body and worldly goods, and the spiritual government which belongs to God. He says that "no one can command or ought to command the soul, except God, who alone can show it the way to heaven;" that "the thoughts and mind of man are known only to God;" that "it is futile and impossible to command, or by force to compel any man’s belief;" that "heresy is a spiritual thing which no iron can hew down, no fire burn, no water drown;" that "belief is a free thing which cannot be enforced."57 He opposed the doctrine of the Anabaptists with every argument at his command, but disapproved the cruel persecution to which they were subjected in Protestant as well as Catholic countries. "It is not right," he said in a book against them (1528), "and I deeply regret that such wretched people should be so miserably murdered, burned, and cruelly put to death; every one should be allowed to believe what he pleases. If he believes wrongly, he will have punishment enough in the eternal fire of hell. Why should they be tortured in this life also?"58 If heretics were to be punished by death, the hangman would be the best (the most orthodox) theologian. "I can in no way admit," he wrote to his friend Link in 1528, "that false teachers should be put to death: it is enough that they should be banished ."59
To this extent, then, he favored punishment of heretics, but no further. He wanted them to be silenced or banished by the government. He spent his violence in words, in which he far outstripped friends and foes, and spared neither papists, nor Zwinglians, nor Anabaptists, nor even temporal princes like Henry VIII., Duke George of Saxony, and Duke Henry of Brunswick.60 But his acts of intolerance are few. He refused the hand of fellowship to Zwingli, and would not have tolerated him at Wittenberg. He begged the elector, John, to prevent a certain Hans Mohr from spreading Zwinglian opinions in Coburg. He regretted the toleration of the Zwinglians in Switzerland after their defeat, which he uncharitably interpreted as a righteous judgment of God.61
A few words on his views concerning the toleration of the Jews who had to suffer every indignity from Christians, as if they were personally responsible for the crime of the crucifixion. Luther was at first in advance of public opinion. In 1523 he protested against the cruel treatment of the Jews, as if they were dogs, and not human beings, and counseled kindness and charity as the best means of converting them. If the apostles, he says, who were Jews, had dealt with the heathen, as we heathen Christians deal with the Jews, no heathen would ever have been converted, and I myself, if I were a Jew, would rather become anything else than a Christian.62 But in 1543 he wrote two violent books against the Jews.63 His intercourse with several Rabbis filled him with disgust and indignation against their pride, obstinacy and blasphemies. He came to the conclusion that it was useless to dispute with them and impossible to convert them. Moses could do nothing with Pharaoh by warnings, plagues and miracles, but had to let him drown in the Red Sea. The Jews would crucify their expected Messiah, if he ever should come, even worse than they crucified the Christian Messiah. They are a blind, hard, incorrigible race.64 He went so far as to advise their expulsion from Christian lands, the prohibition of their books, and the burning of their synagogues and even their houses in which they blaspheme our Saviour and the Holy Virgin. In the last of his sermons, preached shortly before his death at Eisleben, where many Jews were allowed to trade, he concluded with a severe warning against the Jews as dangerous public enemies who ought not to be tolerated, but left the alternative of conversion or expulsion.65
Melanchthon, the mildest of the Reformers, went—strange to say—a step further than Luther, not during his lifetime, but eight years after his death, and expressly sanctioned the execution of Servetus for blasphemy in the following astounding letter to Calvin, dated Oct. 14, 1554: "Reverend sir and dearest brother: I have read your work in which you have lucidly refuted the horrible blasphemies of Servetus, and I thank the Son of God, who has been the arbiter (brabeuthv") of this your contest. The church, both now and in all generations, owes and will owe you a debt of gratitude. I entirely assent to your judgment. (Tuo judicio prorsus adsentior.) And I say, too, that your magistrates did right in that, after solemn trial, they put the blasphemer (hominem blasphemum) to death."66 He expressed here his deliberate conviction to which he adhered. Three years later, in a warning against the errors of Theobald Thammer, he called the execution of Servetus "a pious and memorable example to all posterity."67 We cannot tell what Luther might have said in this case had he lived at that time. It is good for his reputation that he was spared the trial.68
The other Lutheran Reformers agreed essentially with the leaders. They conceded to the civil ruler the control over the religious as well as political opinions of their subjects. Martin Bucer went furthest in this direction and taught in his "Dialogues" (1535) the right and the duty of Christian magistrates to reform the church, to forbid and punish popish idolatry, and all false religions, according to the full rigor of the Mosaic law.69
In accordance with these views of the Lutheran Reformers the Roman Catholics in Lutheran countries were persecuted, not, indeed, by shedding their blood as the blood of Protestants was shed in Roman Catholic countries, but by the confiscation of their church property, the prohibition of their worship, and, if it seemed necessary, by exile. In the reorganization of the church in Electoral Saxony in 1528, under the direction of the Wittenberg Reformers, the popish priests were deprived of their benefices, and even obstinate laymen were forced to sell their property and to leave their country. "For," said the Elector, "although it is not our intention to bind any one to what he is to believe and hold, yet will we, for the prevention of mischievous tumult and other inconveniences, suffer neither sect nor separation in our territory."70
The Protestant dissenters fared no better in Lutheran Saxony. The Philippists (Melanchthonians) or Crypto-Calvinists were outlawed, and all clergymen, professors and school teachers who would not subscribe the Formula of Concord, were deposed (1580). Dr. Caspar Peucer, Melanchthon’s son-in-law, professor of medicine at Wittenberg and physician to the Elector Augustus of Saxony, was imprisoned for ten years (1576–1586) for no other crime than "Philippism" (i.e. Melanchthonianism), and Nicolas Crell, the chancellor of Saxony, was, after ten years’ confinement, beheaded at Dresden for favoring Crypto-Calvinism at home and supporting the Huguenots abroad, which was construed as high treason (1601).71 Since that time the name of Calvin was as much hated in Saxony as the name of the Pope and the Turk.72
In other Lutheran countries, Zwinglians and Calvinists fared no better. John a Lasco, the Reformer of Poland and minister of a Protestant congregation in London, when fleeing with his followers, including many women and children, from the persecution of the bloody Mary, was not allowed a resting place at Copenhagen, or Rostock, or Lübeck, or Hamburg, because he could not accept the Lutheran doctrine of the real presence, and the poor fugitives were driven from port to port in cold winter, till at last they found a temporary home at Emden (1553).73
In Scandinavia every religion except the Lutheran was forbidden on pain of confiscation and exile, and these laws were in force till the middle of the nineteenth century. Queen Christina lost her Swedish crown by her apostasy from Lutheranism, which her father had so heroically defended in the Thirty Years’ War.
(b) The Swiss Reformers, though republicans, were not behind the Germans in intolerance against Romanists and heretics.
Zwingli extended the hand of brotherhood to Luther, and hoped to meet even the nobler heathen in heaven, but had no mercy on the Anabaptists, who threatened to overthrow his work in Zürich. After trying in vain to convince them by successive disputations, the magistrate under his control resorted to the Cruel irony of drowning their leaders (six in all) in the Limmat near the lake of Zürich (between 1527 and 1532).74
Zwingli counselled, at the risk of his own life, the forcible introduction of the Reformed religion into the territory of the Catholic Forest Cantons (1531); forgetting the warning of Christ to Peter, that they who take the sword shall perish by the sword.75
Calvin has the misfortune rather than the guilt of pre-eminence for intolerance among the Reformers. He and Servetus are the best abused men of the sixteenth century; and the depreciation of the good name of the one and the exculpation of the bad name of the other have been carried far beyond the limits of historic truth and justice. Both must be judged from the standpoint of the sixteenth, not of the nineteenth, century.
The fatal encounter of the champion of orthodoxy and the champion of heresy, men of equal age, rare genius, and fervent zeal for the restoration of Christianity, but direct antipodes in doctrine, spirit and aim, forms the most thrilling tragedy in the history of the Reformation. The contrast between the two is almost as great as that between Simon Peter and Simon Magus.76 Their contest will never lose its interest. The fires of the funeral pile which were kindled at Champel on the 27th of October, 1553, are still burning and cast their lurid sparks into the nineteenth century.
Leaving the historical details and the doctrinal aspect for another chapter,77 we confine ourselves here to the bearing of the case on the question of toleration.
Impartial history must condemn alike the intolerance of the victor and the error of the victim, but honor in both the strength of conviction. Calvin should have contented himself with banishing his fugitive rival from the territory of Geneva, or allowing him quietly to proceed on his contemplated journey to Italy, where he might have resumed his practice of medicine in which he excelled. But he sacrificed his future reputation to a mistaken sense of duty to the truth and the cause of the Reformation in Switzerland and his beloved France, where his followers were denounced and persecuted as heretics. He is responsible, on his own frank confession, for the arrest and trial of Servetus, and he fully assented to his condemnation and death "for heresy and blasphemy," except that he counselled the magistrate, though in vain, to mitigate the legal penalty by substituting the sword for the fire.78
But the punishment was in accordance with the mediaeval laws and wellnigh universal sentiment of Catholic and Protestant Christendom; it was unconditionally counselled by four Swiss magistrates which had been consulted before the execution (Zurich, Berne, Basel, and Schaffhausen), and was expressly approved by all the surviving reformers: Bullinger, Farel, Beza, Peter Martyr, and (as we have already seen) even by the mild and gentle Melanchthon. And strange to say, Servetus himself held, in part at least, the theory under which he suffered: for he admitted that incorrigible obstinacy and malice deserved death,79 referring to the case of Ananias and Sapphira; while schism and heresy should be punished only by excommunication and exile.
Nor should we overlook the peculiar aggravation of the case. We may now put a more favorable construction on Servetus’ mystic and pantheistic or panchristic Unitarianism than his contemporaries, who seemed to have misunderstood him, friends as well as foes; but he was certainly a furious fanatic and radical heretic, and in the opinion of all the churches of his age a reckless blasphemer, aiming at the destruction of historic Christianity. He was thus judged from his first book (1531),80 as well as his last (1553),81 and escaped earlier death only by concealment, practicing medicine under a fictitious name and the protection of a Catholic archbishop. He had abused all trinitarian Christians, as tritheists and atheists; he had denounced the orthodox doctrine of the Holy Trinity, as a dream of St. Augustin, a fiction of popery, an invention of the devil, and a three-headed Cerberus.82 He had attacked with equal fury infant-baptism, as a detestable abomination, a killing of the Holy Spirit, an abolition of regeneration, and overthrow of the entire kingdom of Christ, and pronounced a woe on all baptizers of infancy who close the kingdom of heaven against mankind. He had been previously condemned to the stake by the Roman Catholic tribunal of the inquisition, after a regular trial, in the archiepiscopal city of Vienne in France, partly on the ground of his letters to Calvin procured from Geneva, and burned in effigy with his last book after his escape. He then rushed blindly into the hands of Calvin, whom he denounced, during the trial, as a liar, a hypocrite, and a Simon Magus, with a view, apparently, to overthrow his power, in league with his enemies, the party of the Libertines, which had then the majority in the council of Geneva.83
Considering all these circumstances Calvin’s conduct is not only explained, but even justified in part. He acted in harmony with the public law and orthodox sentiment of his age, and should therefore not be condemned more than his contemporaries, who would have done the same in his position.84
But all the humane sentiments are shocked again by the atrocity, of the execution; while sympathy is roused for the unfortunate sufferer who died true to his conviction, reconciled to his enemies, and with the repeated prayer in the midst of the flames: "Jesus, thou Son of the eternal God, have mercy upon me!"
The enemies of Calvin raised, in anonymous and pseudonymous pamphlets, a loud protest against the new tribunal of popery and inquisition in Geneva, which had boasted to be an asylum of all the persecuted. The execution of Servetus was condemned by his anti-trinitarian sympathizers, especially the Italian refugees in Switzerland, and also by some orthodox Christians in Basel and elsewhere, who feared that it would afford a powerful argument to the Romanists for their persecution of Protestants.
Calvin felt it necessary, therefore, to come out with a public defense of the death-penalty for heresy, in the spring of 1554.85 He appealed to the Mosaic law against idolatry and blasphemy, to the expulsion of the profane traffickers from the temple-court (Matt. 21:12), and he tries to refute the arguments for toleration which were derived from the wise counsel of Gamaliel (Acts 5:34), the parable of the tares among the wheat (Matt. 13:29), and Christ’s rebuke of Peter for drawing the sword (Matt. 26:52). The last argument he disposes of by making a distinction between private vengeance and public punishment.
Beza also defended, with his usual ability, in a special treatise, the punishment of heretics, chiefly as a measure of self-defense of the state which had a right to give laws and a duty to protect religion. He derived the doctrine of toleration from scepticism and infidelity and called it a diabolical dogma.86
The burning of the body of Servetus did not destroy his soul. His blood was the fruitful seed of the doctrine of toleration and the Unitarian heresy, which assumed an organized form in the Socinian sect, and afterward spread in many orthodox churches, including Geneva.
Fortunately the tragedy of 1553 was the last spectacle of burning a heretic in Switzerland, though several years later the Anti-trinitarian, Valentine Gentile, was beheaded in Berne (1566).
(c) In France the Reformed church, being in the minority, was violently and systematically persecuted by the civil rulers in league with the Roman church, and it is well for her that she never had a chance to retaliate. She is emphatically a church of martyrs.
(d) The Reformed church in Holland, after passing through terrible trials and persecutions under Spanish rule, showed its intolerance toward the Protestant Arminians who were defeated by the Synod of Dort (1619). Their pastors and teachers were deposed and banished. The Arminian controversy was, however, mixed up with politics; the Calvinists were the national and popular party under the military lead of Prince Maurice; while the political leaders of Arminianism, John Van Olden Barneveldt and Hugo Grotius, were suspected of disloyalty for concluding a truce with Spain (1609), and condemned, the one to death, the other to perpetual banishment. With a change of administration the Arminians were allowed to return (1625), and disseminated, with a liberal theology, principles of religious toleration.
§ 12. Religious Intolerance and Liberty in England and America.
The history of the Reformation in England and Scotland is even more disfigured by acts of intolerance and persecution than that of the Continent, but resulted at last in greater gain for religious freedom. The modern ideas of well regulated, constitutional liberty, both civil and religious, have grown chiefly on English soil.
At first it was a battle between persecution and mere toleration, but toleration once legally secured prepared the way for full religious liberty.
All parties when persecuted, advocated liberty of conscience, and all parties when in power, exercised intolerance, but in different degrees. The Episcopalians before 1689 were less intolerant than the Romanists under Queen Mary; the Presbyterians before 1660 were less intolerant than the Episcopalians; the Independents less intolerant (in England) than the Presbyterians (but more intolerant in New England); the Baptists, Quakers, Socinians and Unitarians consistently taught freedom of conscience, and were never tempted to exercise intolerance. Finally all became tolerant in consequence of a legal settlement in 1689, but even that was restricted by disabling clauses. The Romanists used fire and sword; the Episcopalians fines, prisons, pillories, nose-slittings, ear-croppings, and cheek-burnings; the Presbyterians tried depositions and disabilities; the Independents in New England exiled Roger Williams, the Baptist (1636), and hanged four Quakers (two men and two women, 1659, 1660 and 1661) in Boston, and nineteen witches in Salem (1692). But all these measures of repression proved as many failures and made persecution more hateful and at last impossible.
1. The first act of the English Reformation, under Henry VIII., was simply the substitution of a domestic for a foreign popery and tyranny; and it was a change for the worse. No one was safe who dared to dissent from the creed of the despotic monarch who proclaimed himself "the supreme head of the Church of England." At his death (1547), the six bloody articles were still in force; but they contained some of the chief dogmas of Romanism which he held in spite of his revolt against the pope.
2. Under the brief reign of Edward VI. (1547–1553), the Reformation made decided progress, but Anabaptists were not tolerated; two of them, who held some curious views on the incarnation, were burnt as obstinate heretics, Joan Bocher, commonly called Joan of Kent, May 2, 1550, and George Van Pare, a Dutchman April 6, 1551. The. young king refused at first to sign the death-warrant of the woman, correctly thinking that the sentence was "a piece of cruelty too like that which they had condemned in papists;" at last he yielded to Cranmer’s authority, who argued with him from the law of Moses against blasphemy, but he put his hand to the warrant with tears in his eyes and charged the archbishop with the responsibility for the act if it should be wrong.
3. The reign of the bloody Queen Mary (1553–1558) was a fearful retaliation, but sealed the doom of popery by the blood of Protestant martyrs, including the Reformers, Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley, who were burnt in the market place at Oxford.
4. Queen Elizabeth (1558–1603), by virtue of her office, as "Defender of the Faith, and supreme governor of the Church" in her dominions, permanently established the Reformed religion, but to the exclusion of all dissent. Her penal code may have been a political necessity, as a protection against domestic treason and foreign invasion, but it aimed systematically at the annihilation of both Popery and Puritanism. It acted most severely upon Roman Catholic priests, who could only save their lives by concealment or exile. Conformity to the Thirty-nine Articles and the Book of Common Prayer was rigidly enforced; attendance upon the Episcopal service was commanded, while the mass and every other kind of public worship were forbidden under severe penalties. The rack in the tower was freely employed against noblemen suspected of disloyalty to the queen-pope. The statute de haereticis comburendis from the reign of Henry IV. (1401) remained in force, and two Anabaptists were burnt alive under Elizabeth, and two Arians under her successor. The statute was not formally abolished till 1677. Ireland was treated ecclesiastically as well as politically as a conquered province, and England is still suffering from that cruel polity, which nursed a hereditary hatred of the Catholic people against their Protestant rulers, and made the removal of the Irish grievances the most difficult problem of English statesmanship.
Popery disappeared for a while from British soil, and the Spanish Armada was utterly defeated. But Puritanism, which fought in the front rank against the big pope at Rome, could not be defeated by the little popes at home. It broke out at last in open revolt against the tyranny of the Stuarts, and the cruelties of the Star Chamber and High-Commission Court, which were not far behind the Spanish Inquisition, and punished freedom of speech and of the press as a crime against society.
5. Puritanism ruled England for about twenty years (1640 to 1660), which form the most intensely earnest and excited period in her history. It saved the rights of the people against the oppression of their rulers, but it punished intolerance with intolerance, and fell into the opposite error of enforcing Puritan, in the place of Episcopal, uniformity, though with far less severity. The Long Parliament abolished the Episcopal hierarchy and liturgy (Sept. 10, 1642), expelled about two thousand royalist clergymen from their benefices, and executed on the block Archbishop Laud (1644) and King Charles I. (1649), as traitors; thus crowning them with the glory of martyrdom and preparing the way for the Restoration. Episcopalians now became champions of toleration, and Jeremy Taylor, the Shakespeare of the English pulpit, raised his eloquent voice for the Liberty of Prophesying (1647), which, however, he afterward recalled in part when he was made a bishop by Charles II. (1661).87
The Westminster Assembly of Divines (1643–1652), which numbered one hundred and twenty-one divines and several lay-deputies and is one of the most important ecclesiastical meetings ever held, was intrusted by Parliament with the impossible task of framing a uniform creed, discipline and ritual for three kingdoms. The extraordinary religious commotion of the times gave rise to all sorts of religious opinions from the most rigid orthodoxy to deism and atheism, and called forth a lively pamphlet war on the subject of toleration, which became an apple of discord in the Assembly. Thomas Edwards, in his Gangraena (1645), enumerated, with uncritical exaggeration, no less than sixteen sects and one hundred and seventy-six miscellaneous "errors, heresies and blasphemies," exclusive of popery and deism.88
There were three theories on toleration, which may be best stated in the words of George Gillespie, one of the Scottish commissioners of the Assembly.89
(a) The theory of the "Papists who hold it to be not only no sin, but good service to God to extirpate by fire and sword all that are adversaries to, or opposers of, the Church and Catholic religion." Under this theory John Hus and Jerome of Prague were burnt at the Council of Constance. Gillespie calls it., in the Preface, "the black devil of idolatry and tyranny."
(b) "The second opinion doth fall short as far as the former doth exceed: that is, that the magistrate ought not to inflict any punishment, nor put forth any coërcive power upon heretics and sectaries, but on the contrary grant them liberty and toleration." This theory is called "the white devil of heresy and schism," and ascribed to the Donatists (?), Socinians, Arminians and Independents. But the chief advocate was Roger Williams, the Baptist, who became the founder of Rhode Island.90 He went to the root of the question, and demanded complete separation of politics from religion. Long before him, the Puritan Bishop Hooper, and Robert Browne, the renegade founder of Congregationalism had taught the primitive Christian principle that the magistrates had no authority over the church and the conscience, but only over civil matters. Luther expressed the same view in 1523.91
(c) "The third opinion is that the magistrate may and ought to exercise his coërcive power in suppressing and punishing heretics and sectaries less or more, according as the nature and degree of the error, schism, obstinacy, and danger of seducing others may require." For this theory Gillespie quotes Moses, St. Augustin, Calvin, Beza, Bullinger, Voëtius, John Gerhard, and other Calvinistic and Lutheran divines. It was held by the Presbyterians in England and Scotland, including the Scottish commissioners in the Assembly, and vigorously advocated by Dr. Samuel Rutherford, Professor of Divinity in St. Andrews,92 and most zealously by Thomas Edwards, a Presbyterian minister in London.93 It had a strong basis in the national endorsement of the Solemn League and Covenant, and triumphed in the Westminster Assembly. It may therefore be called the Presbyterian theory of the seventeenth century. But it was never put into practice by Presbyterians, at least not to the extent of physical violence, against heretics and schismatics either in England or Scotland.94
The Westminster Confession of Faith, in its original shape, declares, on the one hand, the great principle of religious liberty, that "God alone is Lord of the conscience," but also, on the other hand, that dangerous heretics "may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against by the censures of the church, and by the power of the civil magistrate."95 And it assigns to the civil magistrate the power and duty to preserve "unity and peace in the church," to suppress "all blasphemies and heresies," to prevent or reform "all corruptions and abuses in worship and discipline," and for this purpose "to call synods and be present at them."96
6. The five Independent members of the Assembly under the lead of Dr. Goodwin protested against the power given to the civil magistrate and to synods.97 The obnoxious clauses of the Confession were therefore omitted or changed in the Congregational recension called "the Savoy Declaration" (1658).98
But the toleration of the Independents, especially after they obtained the ascendancy under Cromwell’s protectorate differed very little from that of the Presbyterians. They were spoiled by success.99 They excluded from their program Popery, Prelacy, and Socinianism. Dr. Owen, their most distinguished divine, who preached by command a sermon before Parliament on the day after the execution of Charles I., entitled "Righteous Zeal encouraged by Divine Protection" (Jer. 15:19, 20), and accepted the appointment as Dean of Christ Church and Vice-Chancellor of the University at Oxford, laid down no less than sixteen fundamentals as conditions of toleration.100 He and Dr. Goodwin served on the Commission of the forty-three Triers which, under Cromwell’s protectorate, took the place of the Westminster Assembly. Cromwell himself, though the most liberal among the English rulers and the boldest protector of Protestantism abroad, limited toleration to Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists and Quakers, all of whom recognized the sacred Scriptures and the fundamental articles of Christianity; but he had no toleration for Romanists and Episcopal Royalists, who endangered his reign and who were suspected of tolerating none but themselves. His great foreign secretary, John Milton, the most eloquent advocate of liberty in the English language, defended the execution of the king, and was intolerant to popery and prelacy.
Had Cromwell reigned longer, the Triers and the Savoy Conference which he reluctantly appointed, would probably have repeated the vain attempt of the Westminster Assembly to impose a uniform creed upon the nation, only with a little more liberal "accommodation" for orthodox dissenters except "papists" and "prelatists"). Their brethren in New England where they had full sway, established a Congregational theocracy which had no room even for Baptists and Quakers.
7. Cromwell’s reign was a brief experiment. His son was incompetent to continue it. Puritanism had not won the heart of England, but prepared its own tomb by its excesses and blunders. Royalty and Episcopacy, which struck their roots deep in the past, were restored with the powerful aid of the Presbyterians. And now followed a reaction in favor of political and ecclesiastical despotism, and public and private immorality, which for a time ruined all the good which Puritanism had done.
Charles II., who "never said a foolish thing and never did a wise one," broke his solemn pledges and took the lead in intolerance and licentiousness. The Act of Uniformity was re-enacted May 19, 1662, and went into operation on St. Bartholomew’s Day, August 24, 1662, made hideous by the St. Bartholomew Massacre, nearly a hundred years before. "And now came in," says Baxter, one of the most moderate as well as most learned and pious of the Nonconformists, "the great inundation of calamities, which in many streams overwhelmed thousands of godly Christians, together with their pastors." All Puritan ministers were expelled from their livings and exposed to starvation, their assemblies forbidden, and absolute obedience to the king and conformity to episcopacy were enforced, even in Scotland. The faithful Presbyterians in that country (the Covenanters) were subjected by the royal dragonnades to all manner of indignities and atrocities. "They were hunted"—says an English historian101 — like criminals over the mountains; their ears were torn from their roots; they were branded with hot irons; their fingers were wrenched asunder by the thumbkins; the bones of their legs were shattered in the boots; women were scourged publicly through the streets; multitudes were transported to the Barbadoes; an infuriated soldiery was let loose upon them, and encouraged to exercise all their ingenuity in torturing them."
The period of the Restoration is, perhaps, the most immoral and disgraceful in English history. But it led at last to the final overthrow of the treacherous and semi-popish dynasty of the Stuarts, and inaugurated a new era in the history of religious liberty. Puritanism was not dead, but produced some of its best and most lasting works—Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress—in this period of its deepest humiliation and suffering.
8. The act of Toleration under the reign of William and Mary, 1689, made an end to violent persecutions in England. And yet it is far from what we now understand by religious liberty. Toleration is negative, liberty positive; toleration is a favor, liberty a right; toleration may be withdrawn by the power which grants it, liberty is as inalienable as conscience itself; toleration is extended to what cannot be helped and what may be in itself objectionable, liberty is a priceless gift of the Creator.
The Toleration of 1689 was an accommodation to a limited number of Dissenters—Presbyterians, Independents, Baptists and Quakers, who were allowed liberty of separate organization and public worship on condition of subscribing thirty-six out of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. Roman Catholics and Unitarians were excluded, and did not acquire toleration in England till the nineteenth century, the former by the Act of Emancipation passed April 13, 1829. Even now the Dissenters in England labor under minor disabilities and social disadvantages, which will continue as long as the government patronizes an established church. They have to support the establishment, in addition to their own denomination. Practically, however, there is more religious liberty in England than anywhere on the Continent, and as much as in the United States.
9. The last and most important step in the progress of religious liberty was taken by the United States of America in the provision of the Federal Constitution of 1787, which excludes all religious tests from the qualifications to any office or public trust. The first amendment to the Constitution (1789) enacts that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."102
Thus the United States government is by its own free act prevented from ever establishing a state-church, and on the other hand it is bound to protect freedom of religion, not only as a matter of opinion, but also in its public exercise, as one of the inalienable rights of an American citizen, like the freedom of speech and of the press. History had taught the framers of the Constitution that persecution is useless as well as hateful, and that it has its root in the unholy alliance of religion with politics. Providence had made America a hospitable home for all fugitives from persecution,—Puritans, Presbyterians, Huguenots, Baptists, Quakers, Reformed, Lutherans, Roman Catholics, etc.—and foreordained it for the largest development of civil and religious freedom consistent with order and the well-being of society. When the colonies, after a successful struggle for independence, coalesced into one nation they could not grant liberty to one church or sect without granting it to all. They were thus naturally driven to this result. It was the inevitable destiny of America. And it involved no injustice or injury to any church or sect.
The modern German empire forms in some measure a parallel. When it was formed in 1870 by the free action of the twenty or more German sovereignties, it had to take them in with their religion, and abstain from all religious and ecclesiastical legislation which might interfere with the religion of any separate state.
The constitutional provision of the United States in regard to religion is the last outcome of the Reformation in its effect upon toleration and freedom, not foreseen or dreamed of by the Reformers, but inevitably resulting from their revolt against papal tyranny. It has grown on Protestant soil with the hearty support of all sects and parties. It cuts the chief root of papal and any other persecution, and makes it legally impossible. It separates church and state, and thus prevents the civil punishment of heresy as a crime against the state. It renders to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and renders to God the things that are God’s. It marks a new epoch in the history of legislation and civilization. It is the American contribution to church history. No part of the federal constitution is so generally accepted and so heartily approved as that which guarantees religious liberty, the most sacred and most important of all liberties. It is regarded almost as an axiom which needs no argument.
Religious liberty has thus far been fully justified by its effects. It has stimulated the fullest development of the voluntary principle. The various Christian churches can live in peace and harmony together, and are fully able to support and to govern themselves without the aid of the secular power. This has been proven by the experience of a century, and this experience is the strongest argument in favor of the separation of church and state. Christianity flourishes best without a state-church.
The separation, however, is peaceful, not hostile, as it was in the Ante-Nicene age, when the pagan state persecuted the church. Nor is it a separation of the nation from Christianity. The government is bound to protect all forms of Christianity with its day of rest, its churches, its educational and charitable institutions.103 Even irreligion and infidelity are tolerated within the limits of the law of self-preservation. Religious liberty may, of course, be abused like any other liberty. It has its necessary boundary in the liberty of others and the essential interests of society. The United States government would not tolerate, much less protect, a religion which requires human sacrifices, or sanctions licentious rites, or polygamy, or any other institution inconsistent with the laws and customs of the land, and subversive of the foundation of the state and the order of Christian civilization. Hence the recent prohibition of polygamy in the Territories, and the unwillingness of Congress to admit Utah into the family of States unless polygamy is abolished by the Mormons. The majority of the population decides the religion of a country, and, judged by this test, the American people are as Christian as any other on earth, only in a broader sense which recognizes all forms of Christianity. While Jews and infidels are not excluded from the enjoyment of any civil or political right on account of their religion or irreligion, they cannot alter the essentially Christian character of the sentiments, habits and institutions of the nation.
There are three important institutions in which church and state touch each other even in the United States, and where a collision of interests may take place: education in the public schools, marriage, and Sunday as a day of civil and sacred rest. The Roman Catholics are opposed to public schools unless they can teach in them their religion which allows no compromise with any other; the Mormons are opposed to monogamy, which is the law of the land and the basis of the Christian family; the Jews may demand the protection of their Sabbath on Saturday, while infidels want no Sabbath at all except perhaps for amusement and dissipation. But all these questions admit of a peaceful settlement and equitable adjustment, without a relapse into the barbarous measures of persecution.
The law of the United States is supreme in the Territories and the District of Columbia, but does not forbid any of the States to establish a particular church, or to continue a previous establishment. The Colonies began with the European system of state-churchism, only in a milder form, and varying according to the preferences of the first settlers. In the New England Colonies—except Rhode Island founded by the Baptist Roger Williams—orthodox Congregationalism was the established church which all citizens were required to support; in Virginia and the Southern States, as also in New York, the Episcopal Church was legally established and supported by the government.104 Even those Colonies which were professedly founded on the basis of religious toleration, as Maryland and Pennsylvania, enacted afterwards disabling clauses against Roman Catholics, Unitarians, Jews and infidels. In Pennsylvania, the Quaker Colony of William Penn, no one could hold office, from 1693 to 1775, without subscribing a solemn declaration of belief in the orthodox doctrine of the Holy Trinity and condemning the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation and the mass as idolatrous.105
The great revolution of legislation began in the Colony of Virginia in 1776, when Episcopacy was disestablished, and all other churches freed from their disabilities.106 The change was brought about by the combined efforts of Thomas Jefferson (the leading statesman of Virginia, and a firm believer in absolute religious freedom on the ground of philosophic neutrality), and of all dissenting denominations, especially the Presbyterians, Baptists and Quakers. The other Colonies or States gradually followed the example, and now there is no State in which religious freedom is not fully recognized and protected.
The example of the United States exerts a silent, but steady and mighty influence upon Europe in raising the idea of mere toleration to the higher plane of freedom, in emancipating religion from the control of civil government, and in proving the advantages of the primitive practice of ecclesiastical self-support and self-government.
The best legal remedy against persecution and the best guarantee of religious freedom is a peaceful separation of church and state; the best moral remedy and guarantee is a liberal culture, a comprehensive view of the many-sidedness of truth, a profound regard for the sacredness of conscientious conviction, and a broad and deep Christian love as described by the Apostle Paul.
§ 13. Chronological Limits.
The Reformation period begins with Luther’s Theses, a.d. 1517, and ends with the Peace of Westphalia, a.d. 1648. The last event brought to a close the terrible Thirty Years’ War and secured a legal existence to the Protestant faith (the Lutheran and Reformed Confession) throughout Germany.
The year 1648 marks also an important epoch in the history of English and Scotch Protestantism, namely, the ratification by the Long Parliament of the doctrinal standards of the Westminster Assembly of Divines (1643 to 1652), which are still in use among the Presbyterian Churches in England, Scotland, Ireland and the United States.
Within this period of one hundred and thirty-one years there are several minor epochs, and the dates vary in different countries.
The German Reformation, which is essentially Lutheran, divides itself naturally into four sub-periods:1. From 1517 to the Augsburg Diet and Augsburg Confession, 1530. 2. From 1530 to the so-called "Peace of Augsburg," 1555. 3. From 1555 to the "Formula of Concord," 1577, which completed the Lutheran system of doctrine, or 1580 (when the "Book of Concord" was published and enforced). 4. From 1580 to the conclusion of the Thirty Years’ War, 1648.
The Scandinavian Reformation followed closely in the path of the Lutheran Reformation of Germany, and extends, likewise, to the Thirty Years’ War, in which Gustavus Adolphus, of Sweden, took a leading part as defender of Protestantism. The Reformation triumphed in Sweden in 1527, in Denmark and Norway in 1537.
The Swiss Reformation was begun by Zwingli and completed by Calvin, and is accordingly divided into two acts: 1. The Reformation of German Switzerland to the death of Zwingli, 1517 to 1531. 2. The Reformation of French Switzerland to the death of Calvin, 1564, or we may say, to the death of Beza, 1605.
The introduction of the Reformed church into Germany, especially the Palatinate, falls within the second period.
In the stormy history of French Protestantism, the years 1559, 1598 and 1685, mark as many epochs. In 1559, the first national synod was held in Paris and gave the Reformed congregations a compact organization by the adoption of the Gallican Confession and the Presbyterian form of government. In 1598, the Reformed church secured a legal existence and a limited measure of freedom by the edict of Nantes, which King Henry IV. gave to his former fellow-religionists. But his bigoted grandson, Louis XIV., revoked the edict in 1685. Since that time the French Reformed church continued like a burning bush in the desert; while thousands of her sons reluctantly left their native land, and contributed, by their skill, industry and piety, to the prosperity of Switzerland, Holland, Germany, England, and North America.
The Reformation in Holland includes the heroic war of emancipation from the Spanish yoke and passed through the bloody bath of martyrdom, until after unspeakable sufferings under Charles V. and Philip II., the Utrecht Union of the seven Northern Provinces (formed in 1579), was reluctantly acknowledged by Spain in 1609. Then followed the internal theological war between Arminianism and Calvinism, which ended in the victory of the latter at the National Synod of Dort, 1619.
The progressive stages of the English Reformation, which followed a course of its own, were influenced by the changing policy of the rulers, and are marked by the reigns of Henry VIII., 1527–1547; of Edward VI., 1547–1553; the papal reaction and period of Protestant martyrdom under Queen Mary, 1553–1558; the re-establishment of Protestantism under Queen Elizabeth, 1558–1603. Then began the second Reformation, which was carried on by the people against their rulers. It was the struggle between Puritanism and the semi-popery of the Stuart dynasty. Puritanism achieved a temporary triumph, deposed and executed Charles I. and Archbishop Laud; but Puritanism as a national political power died with Cromwell, and in 1660 Episcopacy and the Prayer Book were restored under Charles II., till another revolution under William and Mary in 1688 made an end to the treacherous rule of the Stuarts and gave toleration to the Dissenters, who hereafter organized themselves in separate denominations, and represent the left wing of English Protestantism.
The Reformation in Scotland, under the lead of John Knox (1505–1572), the Luther of the North, completed its first act in 1567 with the legal recognition and establishment by the Scotch Parliament. The second act was a struggle with the papal reaction under Queen Mary of Scots, till 1590. The third act may be called the period of anti-Prelacy and union with English Puritanism, and ended in the final triumph of Presbyterianism in 1690. Since that time, the question of patronage and the relation of church and state have been the chief topics of agitation and irritation in the Church of Scotland and gave rise to a number of secessions; while the Westminster standards of faith and discipline have not undergone any essential alteration.
The Reformed faith secured a partial success and toleration in Poland, Hungary, Transylvania, Bohemia and Moravia, but suffered severely by the Jesuitical reaction, especially in Bohemia. In Italy and Spain the Reformation was completely suppressed; and it is only since the overthrow of the temporal rule of the Pope in 1871, that Protestants are allowed to hold public worship in Rome and to build churches or chapels.
§ 14. General Literature on the Reformation.
I. On The Protestant Side: (1) The works of the Reformers, especially Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingli, Calvin, Cranmer, Knox. They will be quoted in the chapters relating to their history.
(2) Contemporary Historians: Joh. Sleidan (Prof. of law in Strassburg, d. 1556): De Statu Religionis et Reipublicae Carolo V. Caesare commentarii. Libri XXVI. Argentor. 1555 fol., best ed. by Am Ende, Francof. ad M. 1785–86, 3 vols. Engl. transl. by Bohun, London, 1689, 3 vols. fol. French transl. with the notes of Le Courayer, 1767. Embraces the German and Swiss Reformation.
The Annales Reformationis of Spalatin, and the Historia Reformationis of Fr. Myconius, refer only to the Lutheran Reformation. So, also, Löscher’s valuable collection of documents, 3 vols. See below § 15.
II. Roman Catholic: (1) Official documents. Leonis X. P. M. Regesta, ed. by Cardinal Hergenröther under the auspices of Pope Leo XIII., from the Vatican archives. Freiburg i. B. 1884 sqq., 12 fascic. The first three parts contain 384 pages to a.d. 1514.—Monumenta Reformationis Lutheranae ex tabulariis secretioribus S. Sedis, 1521–’25, ed. by Petrus Balan, Ratisbonae, 1884 (589 pages). Contains the acts relating to the Diet of Worms, with the reports of Aleander, the papal legate, and the letters of Clement VII. from 1523–’25. It includes a document of 1513, heretofore unknown, which disproves the illegitimate birth of Clement VII. and represents him as the son of Giuliano de Medici and his wife, Florets. Monumenta Saeculi XVI. Historiam illustrantia, ed. by Balan, vol. I. Oeniponte, 1885 (489 pages).
(2) Controversial writings: Joh. Eck (d. 1563): Contra Ludderum, 1530. 2 Parts fol. Polemical treatises on the Primacy, Penance, the Mass, Purgatory etc. Jo. Cochlaeus (canon of Breslau, d. 1552): Commentaria de Actis et Scriptis Lutheri ab Anno Dom. 1517 ad A. 1547 fideliter conscripta. Mogunt. 1549 fol.; Par. 1565; Colon. 1568.—Laur. Surius (a learned Carthusian, d. at Cologne, 1578): Commentarius rerum in orbe gestarum ab a. 1500–1564. Colon. 1567. Against Sleidan.
I. Protestant Works.
(1) The respective sections in the General Church Histories of Schröckh (Kirchengesch. seit der Reformation, Leipzig, 1804–’12, 10 vols.), Mosheim, Gieseler (Bd. III. Abth. I. and II., 1840 and 1852; Engl. transl. N. Y. vols. IV. and V., 1862 and 1880), Baur (Bd. IV. 1863), Hagenbach (vol. III., also separately publ. 4th ed. 1870; Engl. transl. by Miss Eveline Moore, Edinburgh, 1878, 2 vols.; especially good on the Zwinglian Reformation). More briefly treated in the compends of Guericke, Neidner, Hase (11th ed. 1886), Ebrard, Herzog (vol. IIIrd), Kurtz (10th ed. 887, vol. IInd).
All these works pay special attention to the Continental Reformation, but very little to that of England and Scotland.
Neander comes down only to 1430; his lectures on modern church history (which I heard in 1840) were never published. Gieseler’s work is most valuable for its literature down to 1852, and extracts from the sources, but needs an entire reconstruction, which is contemplated by Prof. Brieger at Leipzig.
(2) Jean Henri Merle d’aubigne (usually miscalled D’Aubigné, which is simply an addition indicating the place of his ancestors, d. 1872): Histoire de la reformation du 16. siècle, Paris, 1835–’53, 5 vols., 4th ed. 1861 sqq.; and Histoire de la réformation en Europe au temps du Calvin, Par., 1863–’78, 8 vols. (including a posthumous vol.). Also in German by Runkel (Stuttgart, 1848 sqq.), and especially in English (in several editions, some of them mutilated). Best Engl. ed. by Longman, Green & Co., London, 1865 sqq.; best Am. ed. by Carter, New York, 1870–’79, the first work in 5, the second in 8 vols. Merle’s History, owing to its evangelical fervor, intense Protestantism and dramatic eloquence, has had an enormous circulation in England and America through means of the Tract Societies and private publishers.
H. Stebbing: History of the Reformation, London, 1836, 2 vols.
G. Waddington (Anglican, d. 1869): A History of the Reformation on the Continent. London, 1841, 3 vols. (Only to the death of Luther, 1546.)
F. A. Holzhauzen: Der Protestantismus nach seiner geschichtl. Entstehung, Begründung und Fortbildung. Leipzig, 1846–’59, 3 vols. Comes down to the Westphalian Treaty. The author expresses his standpoint thus (III. XV.): "Die christliche Kirche ist ihrer Natur nach wesentlich Eine, und der kirchliche Auflösungs-process, welcher durch die Reformation herbeigeführt worden ist, kann keinen anderen Zweck haben, als ein neues höhes positives Kirchenthum herzustellen."
B. Ter Haar (of Utrecht) Die Reformationsgeschichte in Schilderungen. Transl. from the Dutch by C. Gross. Gotha, 5th ed. 1856, 2 vols.
Dan. Schenkel (d. 1885): Die Refomatoren und die Reformation. Wiesbaden. 1856. Das Wesen des Protestantismus aus den Quellen des Ref. zeitalters. Schaffhausen, 1862, 3 vols.
Charles Hardwick: (Anglican, d. 1859): A History of the Christian Church during the Reformation. Cambridge and London, 1856. Third ed. revised by W. Stubbs (bishop of Chester), 1873.
J. Tulloch: (Scotch Presbyt., d. 1886): Leaders of the Reformation: Luther, Calvin, Latimer, Knox. Edinb., 1859; 3d ed. 1883.
L. Häusser (d. 1867): Geschichte des Zeitalters der Reformation, 1517–1648. ed. by Oncken, Berlin, 1868 (867 pages). Abridged EngI. transl. by Mrs. Sturge, N. Y., 1874.
E. L. Th. Henke (d. 1872): Neuere Kirgesch. ed. by Dr. Gass, Halle, 1874, 2 vols. The first vol. treats of the Reformation.
Fr. Seebohm: The Era of the Protestant Revolution. London and N. York, 1874.
J. A. Wylie: History of Protestantism. London, 1875–77, 3 vols.
George P. Fisher (Prof. of Church History in Yale College): The Reformation. New York, 1873. A comprehensive work, clear, calm, judicial, with a useful bibliographical Appendix (p. 567–591).
J. M. Lindsay (Presbyt.): The Reformation. Edinb., 1882. (A mere sketch.)
Charles Beard (Unitarian): The Reformation in its relation to Modern Thought and Knowledge. Hibbert Lectures. London, 1883; 2d ed., 1885. Very able. German translation by F. Halverscheid. Berlin, 1884.
John F. Hurst (Method. Bishop): Short History of the Reformation. New York, 1884 (125 pages).
Ludwig Keller: Die Reformation und die älteren Reformparteien. Leipz., 1885 (516 pages). In sympathy with the Waldenses and Anabaptists.
Two series of biographies of the Reformers, by a number of German scholars the Lutheran series in 8 vols., Elberfeld, 1861–’75, and the Reformed (Calvinistic) series in 10 vols., Elberfeld, 1857–’63. The Lutheran series was introduced by Nitzsch, the Reformed by Hagenbach. The several biographies will be mentioned in the proper places.
(3) For the general history of the world and the church during and after the period of the Reformation, the works of Leopold von Ranke (d. 1886) are of great importance, namely: Fürsten und Völker von Südeuropa im 16. und 17. Jahrh. (Berlin 1827, 4th ed. enlarged 1877); Geschichten der romanischen und germanischen Völker von 1494–1514 (3d ed. 1885); Die römischen Päpste, ihre Kirche und ihr Staat im 16. und 17. Jahrh. (Berlin, 8th ed. 1885, 3 vols. Engl. trans. by Sarah Austin, Lond. 4th ed. 1867, 3 vols.); Französische Geschichte im 16. und 17. Jahrh. (Stuttgart, 1852, 4th ed. 1877, 6 vols.); Englische Geschichte vornehmlich im 16. u. 17. Jahrh. (4th ed. 1877, 6 vols.; Engl. transl. publ. by the Clarendon Press); and especially his classical Deutsche Geschichte im Zeitalter der Reformation (Berlin, 1839–’43, 6th ed. 1880–’82, in 6 vols.; transl. in part by S. Austin, 1845–’47, 3 vols.). Ranke is a master of objective historiography from the sources in artistic grouping of the salient points, and is in religious and patriotic sympathy with the German Reformation; while yet he does full justice to the Catholic church and the papacy as a great power in the history of religion and civilization. In his 85th year he began to dictate in manly vigor a Universal History down to the time of Emperor Henry IV. and Pope Gregory VII., 1881–86; to which were added 2 posthumous vols. by Dove and Winter, 1888, 9 vols. in all. His library was bought for the University in Syracuse, N. Y.
For the general literature see Henry Hallam: Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the 15th, 16th, and 17th Centuries. London, 1842, etc. N. York ed., 1880, in 4 vols.
II. Roman Catholic Works.
(1) The respective sections in the General Church Histories of Möhler (d. 1838, ed. from lectures by Gams, Regensburg, 1867–1868, 3 vols.; the third vol. treats of the Reformation), Alzog (10th ed. 1882, 2 vols.; Engl. transl. by Pabish and Byrne, Cincinnati, 1874 sqq., 3 vols.), Kraus (2d ed. 1882), and Cardinal Hergenröther (third ed. 1885). Comp. also, in part, the Histories of the Council of Trent by Sarpi (d. 1623), and Pallavicini (d. 1667).
(2) Thuanus (De Thou, a moderate Catholic, d. 1617); Historiarum sui Temporis libri 138. Orleans (Geneva), 1620 sqq., 5 vols. fol. and London, 1733, 7 vols. fol.; French transl. London, 1734, 16 vols. 4to. Goes from 1546 to 1607.
Louis Maimbourg (Jesuit, d. at Paris, 1686): Histoire du Lutheranisme Paris, 1680; Histoire du Calvinisme, 1682. Controversial, and inspired by partisan zeal; severely handled by R. Bayle in his Critique générale de l’histoire du Calvinisme de M., Amsterd., 1684.
Bp. Bossuet (d. 1704): Histoire des variations des églises protestantes. Paris, 1688, 2 vols. and later edd., also in his collected works, 1819 sqq. and 1836 sqq. English transl., Dublin, 1829, 2 vols. German ed. by Mayer, Munich. 1825, 4 vols. A work of great ability, but likewise polemical rather than historical. It converted Gibbon to Romanism, but left him at last a skeptic, like Bayle, who was, also, first a Protestant, then a Romanist for a short season.
Kaspar Riffel: Kirchengesch. Der Neusten Zeit. Mainz, 1844–47, 3 vols.
Martin John Spalding (since 1864 Archbishop of Baltimore, d. 1872): History of the Protest. Reformation in Germany and Switzerland, and in England, Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands, France., and Northern Europe. Louisville, 1860; 8th ed., revised and enlarged. Baltimore, 1875, 2 vols. No Index. Against Merle D’Aubigné. The Archbishop charges D’Aubigné (as he calls him) with being a "bitter partisan, wholly unreliable as an historian," and says of his work that it is "little better than a romance," as he "omits more than half the facts, and either perverts or draws on his imagination for the remainder." His own impartiality and reliableness as an historian may be estimated from the following judgments of the Reformers: "Luther, while under the influence of the Catholic Church, was probably a moderately good man; he was certainly a very bad one after he left its communion "(I. 72)."Heu! quantum mutatus ab illo!" (77). "His violence often drove him to the very verge of insanity .... He occasionally inflicted on Melanchthon personal chastisement" (87). Spalding quotes from Audin, his chief authority (being apparently quite ignorant of German): "Luther was possessed not by one, but by a whole troop of devils" (89). Zwingli (or Zuingle, as he calls him) he charges with "downright paganism" (I. 175), and makes fun of his marriage and the marriages of the other Reformers, especially Bucer, who "became the husband of no less than three ladies in succession: and one of them had been already married three times—all too, by a singular run of good luck, in the reformation line" (176). And this is all that we learn of the Reformer of Strassburg. For Calvin the author seems to draw chiefly on the calumnies of Audin, as Audin drew on those of Bolsec. He describes him as "all head and no heart;" "he crushed the liberties of the people in the name of liberty;" "he combined the cruelty of Danton and Robespierre with the eloquence of Murat and Mirabeau, though he was much cooler, and therefore more successful than any one of them all; he was a very Nero." Spalding gives credit to Bolsec’s absurd stories of the monstrous crimes and horrible death of Calvin, so fully contradicted by his whole life and writings and the testimonies of his nearest friends, as Beza, Knox, etc. (I. 375, 384, 386, 388, 391). And such a work by a prelate of high character and position seems to be the principal source from which American Roman Catholics draw their information of the Reformation and of Protestantism!
The historico-polemical works of Döllinger and Janssen belong to the history of
the German Reformation and will be noticed in the next section.