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be expected, the Basle session was far more cosmopolitan than the one in New York, which, by general consent, had exceeded all others in popular enthusiasm. But there was comparatively a small representation of Europeans in New York, owing chiefly to the hesitation of the continental theologians to cross the Atlantic. At Basle there was not this defect. No Protestant field in Europe was without its strong delegation. The very place itself served to add to the interest of the occasion. The rich historical associations impressed the stranger at once. The quaint buildings, the narrow, winding streets, and the antique character of the older part of the city, contrasting strangely with the rapid flow of the ever-youthful Rhine, seemed to suggest that ancient Basle (Basileia) had yet its queenly work to do for the great present and the greater future. It was not forgotten that away back in the mediæval period a Council had been held there for the reform of abuses in the Roman Catholic Church, and that it had spoken the strongest words ever uttered by a papal body in favor of purity of life and doctrine.*
The Roman Catholics, as a body, have endeavored to give a spurious character to the Basle Council, and it actually adjourned without a positively beneficial bearing on the body which had convened it. But it performed one permanent service to Switzerland and to Europe. It filled the air with a hunger for greater purity. Moreover, it inaugurated measures for the founding of a university which was in full progress when the Reformation began, which passed promptly over to the Protestants, became one of the disseminating forces of Protestant learning for all Europe, and for three centuries and a half has been the leading evangelical university south of Germany.
* The Basle Council passed decrees for freedom of election in Churches, against expectancies, usurpations of patronage, reservations, annats, and other exactions by which Rome drained the wealth of the Church ; against frivolous appeals, the abuse of interdicts, the concubinage of the clergy, and the burlesque festivals and other indecencies of the Church service. It laid down rules for the behavior of the Popes. The Pope was to make his profession with some additions to the form prescribed at Constance, and at every celebration of his anniversary it was to be read over to him by a cardinal at the service of the mass. The number of cardinals was limited to twenty-four, and they were to be taken from all Christian countries, and to be chosen with the consent of the existing cardinals. All neph. ews of the reigning Pope were to be excluded from the college. Comp. Robertson, “ History of the Christian Church," vol. iv, p. 423.
At the Alliance there was hardly a delegate from any country to whom the city did not suggest very precious memories. The Spaniard could not forget that, in that same Basle, Francis Enzinas, a born Spaniard, had lived a length of time, and had translated and published his Spanish New Testament, which was sent to Spain, distributed throughout the country, and did invaluable service in propagating Protestantism. The representatives from New Italy were reminded that they were treading the streets of a city which, three centuries before, had been a hospitable place of refuge for exiled Reformers from the plains of Lombardy, and even the banks of the Tiber. The German knew he was in the adopted home of his own Ecolampadius, who had preached Protestantism fearlessly to Swiss hearers, and had brought it to pass in the very church where the Alliance was holding its sessions. The Dutchman thought of his own great Erasmus, who had studied long in the cathedral cloisters, and had prepared in Basle his version of the Greek Testament, which became the textual foundation of the Reformation in every European land. The Frenchman could hardly forget that, three hundred years previously, that same city had welcomed a band of foot-sore Huguenots, who were fleeing for life from the far-off banks of the Moselle; and the President of the Alliance during its session in Basle, Mr. Carl Şarasin, was a direct descendant of one of those way-worn Protestant fugitives. The Englishman could call up many bonds of union between his country and Basle, and especially the fact that when Mary came to the throne this Swiss city welcomed and entertained a large colony of English refugee Protestants, and that such Englishmen as John Hooper, Thomas Lever, John Burcher, Lawrence Humphrey, and John Fox, author of the “ Book of Martyrs," made Basle their second home.
Basle, too, was a reminder of one of the universal laws of religious history, that welcome to a fugitive for conscience' sake proves a blessing to him who extends it. When this Swiss city gave a home to the exiled Huguenots, the question was, What could they do toward their own support? They were silk weavers at their old home, and might be in this new
So they began in a humble way, just to get bread, the weaving of silk ribbons, which, in time, developed into a vast
industry, and for many years has been the chief source of financial prosperity to the whole city and suburbs of Basle. When Hanau, in the Valley of the Main, one day entertained the tired and hungry Dutch Protestant fugitives from the cruelty of the heartless Spanish Alva, it little dreamed that these men had the rare skill of working in gold and silver, and much less could it prophesy that down to the last of the nineteenth century this industry would be the chief employment of the working people of Hanau, and that the gold and silver ware from this place would find its way along the arteries of commerce throughout the world. Even England is not without this lesson. The Dutch led the trade of Europe in the manufacture of cutlery, and when a number fled for safety to England they went as far north as Sheffield, and established the manufacture of cutlery there. From that time the Sheffield cutlery has taken the lead in all lands, while in Sheffield itself one can still see on the sign boards, over the places of business, (the Wostenholms, for example, the traces of the welcome to the Dutch cutlers in the sixteenth century.
The proceedings of the Alliance were introduced on Sunday evening, August 31, by a reception of members and fraternal salutations, in the great Hall of the Vereinshaus, which corresponds to our Young Men's Christian Association Building. The addresses were in different languages, Pastor Ecklin, of Basle, opening the cordial salutations in the German; Pastor Viguet, of Lausanne, in French; and Rev. Dr. Schaff in English. On Monday, September 1, however, the formal session began, with Councilor Carl Sarasin as President. The day was devoted to representations of the religious condition of the various countries of Christendom. Switzerland was described by Dr. Güder, of Berne. This little country has 2,500,000 inhabitants, of whom 1,500,000 are Protestants. There are twenty-two independent districts or cantons. Seven of these are Roman Catholic, twelve are divided between the Protestants and Roman Catholics, and three are exclusively Protestant. Each canton has its separate constitutional and cantonal government, and none can interfere with its neighbor. Three languages are spoken, according to the geographical position—the Italian, German, and French. In the Engadine Valley there is still a fourth, the Romance language, which is the nearest living remnant of the old Latin tongue, and which has several local newspapers, and a limited, curious, and overlooked literature. The pastors in Protestant Switzerland are chosen by the congregations for a period of four to six years, after which they can be retained or dismissed by a similar vote. Within the last twenty-five years an important change for the worse has taken place in Swiss theology. Until about 1850 the tone was evangelical, and in harmony with the opinions of such men as Nitzsch, Tholuck, Dorner, Julius Müller, Hagenbach, Hundeshagen, Schneckenburger, and Vinet. But shortly afterward the shadows came. Rationalistic preachers and laymen gained the upper hand in nominations for vacant professorships and pastorates, and separate theological groups began to organize themselves. These are three in number, and have continued down to the present time. The Reformers deny the authority of the Scriptures, reject the supernatural, and regard the Church as chiefly a good moral agency for the conservation of society. Their organ in German Switzerland is the “Zeitstimmen,” (Voices of the Times,) edited by H. Lang, in Zurich, and in French Switzerland the “ Alliance Libérale,” (Liberal Alliance,) published in Geneva. The Mediatories seek a harmony between science and revelation, and, while making too important concessions to the prevailing skepticism, endeavor to secure a popular support for evangelical sentiment. Their organ is the “ Volksblatt für die Reformirte Schweiz,” (Popular Journal for Reformed Switzerland.) The Evangelicals adhere to the old Helvetic Confession, allow no laxity in the interpretation of the Scriptures, believe in a divine call to the ministry, and claim a supernatural origin for the Church. Their organ for German Switzerland is the “Kirchenfreund,” (Church Friend,) and for French Switzerland the “Semaine Religieuse,” (Religious Week.)
The Reformers have both extremes of society on their side. The politicians are with them, and the legislature is in their interest. The illiterate are likewise skeptical. Among the common people are frequently heard such expressions as: “My heaven is six feet below the ground,” “I give my money for schnapps instead of for the Bible,” and “I do not keep my Sunday in church, but in bed, in the forest, and in the beer-shop.” The churches are scantily attended. The highest rate in the attendance at church is one in every ten of the population. The communion service is sadly neglected. The sentimental socialism of the Russian type is in great force still. For example: In 1876 there were 1,102 cases of divorce; in 1877 there were 1,036. By comparison, it is found out that there are five per cent. more divorces than in any other country in Europe.
This is a sad picture of religious life in Switzerland. One would suppose that an evangelical Christian would be glad to Welcome to the vales and mountains of the land of Calvin and Zwingli and Farel an earnest worker from any part of the Christian world. Yet not so with even the evangelicals, of whom Dr. Güder reckons himself one. He pays a very unwilling compliment to the energy and success of our Methodist preachers in that country when he says: “The Methodists, with that disturbing vulgarity peculiar to them, have in twenty years gained a very respectable footing in the midst of the State Churches. In every large city they have a very handsome chapel, and in the rural regions they have very neat places of prayer and hired places of worship.” With such a testimony to the results of our labors in two decades we can afford to pass by the charge of vulgarity.
Germany was described by Dr. Cremer. His picture was not encouraging. Skepticism reigns supreme in many classes, and only in certain directions are there traces of the coming light. The thinking of the masses is unchristian, while the Roman Catholic Church is actually making inroads on German Protestantism. The skeptics welcome the Roman Catholics, as calculated to aid them in the general disintegration. Socialism is of incalculable injury to evangelical Christianity. Still, there are hopeful indications. There is greater unity than heretofore among Protestants. In the universities there is a more decidedly evangelical sentiment than in former years. France was represented by Pastor Babut, of Nimes. In the republic there are 650,000 Protestants. They have had to contend with great opposition on every side, but have made decided progress during the present century. In 1806 there were only 171 Protestant pastors, and the Protestant Church had no schools or religious or charitable associations. To-day it has 850 pastors, and, if Alsace and Lorraine were still French, would have 1,100. There are 1,250 Protestant schools and 30 religious journals.