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Lutheranism and Calvinism.


Lutheranism and Calvinism.

James Dodson



“Each of these religions deems itself the most perfect: CALVINISM believes itself to be most conformed to what Jesus Christ has said; and LUTHERANISM to what the Apostles have done.”—Montesquieu, Esprit des Lois, book xxiv,, chap. 5.

THE times are pressing. It is becoming necessary to aim at the useful; not to be involved in useless discussions, but to seek, according to the apostolic precept, that which will truly contribute to the edification of the Church. This thought has determined me to lay before you the following question:

What in our Reformed French churches has characterized the past year?

It is, if I mistake not, a new manifestation of principles which have frequently been designated by the names of parties opposed to us, but which we desire to mention only in terms of kindness; and for this reason we will call them (using a name dear to us) the principles of Lutheranism.

Lutheranism and the Reform[2] possess distinct characters, but they are not separated so much by errors as by diversities. God has chosen that this diversity should exist, that in the end the Reformation might be complete. Having in the beginning proposed to make immense bodies move around the sun, His powerful hand impressed them with two contrary forces; the one tending to drive them from the center, the other to attract them toward it. It is from these apparent contradictions that the motion of the universe and the admirable unity of the heavenly system result. So it was in the days of the Reformation. Opposite tendencies were necessary for this work, and these very tendencies enhance its admirable unity.

“In the garden of my master

There are many kinds of flowers.”[3]

So wrote a Christian author,[4] Shall we then look for one blossom only? Ah! let us not, like unskillful gardeners, tear up those indigenous plants, the culture of which is suited particularly to our soil and climate, and supply their place with exotics, which require other soil, and which would perish in our hands.

Yes, let us understand this well: there is not only friendship and harmony between Lutheranism and the Reform; there is more than this—there is unity.

First, they possess that thorough unity which results from the same living faith animating both. They believe alike in man's entire inability to do good; they believe in God manifest in the flesh; in atonement by His blood, and regeneration by His Spirit, in justification by faith in His name, in charity, and in good works by virtue of their communion with Him. But it is not of this unity of identity that we wish to speak at present. We go much farther: we intend to show that Lutheranism and the Reform are one, in their very diversities; whence we infer that, instead of being effaced, most of these diversities—and especially those relating to the Reform which we have to defend—should be carefully preserved. Such is our position.

And those who, hearing us to-day, enumerate the characters, so different in themselves, that distinguish Lutheranism from the Reform, would fall into a grave error, should they exclaim with painful surprise, “What, then! are not these so many friends the less, and so many enemies the more?” The body and the soul differ vastly in their respective attributes, yet they form but one being. Man and woman have very opposite capacities and duties, yet are but one flesh. In Christ, humanity and divinity were certainly distinct, yet they together constitute but one Savior. So Lutheranism and the Reform, though very different, are yet in unity.

Shall we speak of their strifes? But is there never any strife between the body and the spirit? between the husband and the wife? Was there not strife in Christ Himself, between His humanity and divinity? “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me,” cried His humanity, shuddering at the approach of the cross. Strife, indeed, but strife when overcome, far from being opposed to unity, is essential to it, at least on earth.

I believe the time is now near at hand when the struggle shall be over, and the union of Lutheranism and the Reform will be triumphant, if the rash friends of the former do not endeavor to force the latter to submit to its laws. Bear in mind that the Reform, which is essentially the friend of proselytism, does not strive to make proselytes within the pale of Lutheranism; it loves it; it venerates it; it leaves it to its own strength, or, rather, to that of its God. But, strange to say, Lutheranism (certainly not that of Germany, nor of Geneva), Lutheranism, generally passive in its character, advances heedlessly, seemingly desirous of taking from us our patrimony, and substituting itself for the three centuries’ work of our Reformers. Is it indeed necessary, in order to effect unity, to destroy one of the two members? This may be one method, but it is not ours. Lutheranism has important duties to discharge toward the Reform, and too well do we know the noble principles of the excellent men who, in Germany, are its true supporters, not to be convinced that they will perform them well.

If one of two friendly and allied armies has been beaten and dispersed by the common enemy while the other has remained in its camp, marshaled under its leaders and its standards, shall this latter seize that opportunity to assert its supremacy, and impose upon the other its own colors? Will it not rather generously help them to recover the ancient standards of their fathers? It is this that we now ask of Lutheranism.

We need not assert that we have no prejudice against Martin Luther. If there exist in the history of the world a man whom we love above all others, it is he. We venerate Calvin; we love Luther. Lutheranism itself is dear to us, and for weighty reasons. There are principles in the Reform which we would fear, if there existed not the counterpoise of Lutheranism; as there are also in Lutheranism those which would alarm us, were it not for the counterpoise of the Reform. Luther and Lutheranism have not, even in Germany, not even at Wittenberg, more zealous friends and admirers than ourselves.

But if this question be proposed, Should the Reform in France, in Switzerland, or elsewhere, give way to Lutheranism? We reply, without hesitation, Certainly not!

Now we think this is the question which, during the past year, has been brought before our churches.

Have they at all times answered as they should have done? We think not. The Reform is misunderstood, even among the Reformed themselves. Two centuries of persecution and humiliation have caused it to lose its finest traditions. Principles opposed to it find eloquent and pious advocates. Even within its bosom there are distinguished minds, which hesitate, and are irresolute at the moment of revival, and which, mistaking one voice for another, are ready to undergo a most wonderful transformation. One would say, judging from what is passing at the present day, that the Reform may organize societies, may exercise a certain external activity, but with regard to principles, Lutheranism alone must establish them, so that it only remains for us to place ourselves under its guardianship. Our standard, which is three centuries old, is called radical and innovating; and colors rejected by ten generations begin to be raised up here and there, in this presbytery and in that church. Some communities, even, which are wholly Reformed, are ready to advocate it. There are countries covered with eloquent ruins, and strewed with the sepulchres of the saints, where such things are going on, and where, if they be not stopped, the very stones will cry out.

We firmly believe that the Swiss and French of the Reformed Church have no need to ask directions of any foreign Church, particularly of one with which, it is true, the same faith and the same charity ought to unite them, but which does not know them, and which, we must say, has, though with many remarkable exceptions, been frequently wanting in justice and impartiality toward them. If the Reform is to live, it must possess a life peculiar to itself. It has in its own traditions an abundance of most sublime inspirations, but, unfortunately, it does not know how to appreciate them; and instead of exploring the golden mine of its antiquity, doubtless with some trouble, and by the sweat of its brow, it prefers receiving with eagerness coin already stamped, but stamped with foreign arms.

In order that the Reformed Church should preserve the principles God has entrusted to it, it must know them. What are they, then? It is to this research that we appropriate this essay. We shall only lay before you truths acknowledged for three centuries past, but which seem, in our day, to be completely forgotten.

A great mind, the genius of Montesquieu, perceived a fundamental difference between Lutheranism and the Reform, when he said, in his “Esprit des Lois:” “Each of these religions deems itself the most perfect: the Calvinistic deeming itself most conformed to what Jesus Christ has said, and the Lutheran to what the apostles have done.” This language, undoubtedly, implies that the Reform has for its basis the word of God, while Lutheranism has the acts and usages of the Church. This distinction is profound, and, generally speaking, contains much truth.

But let us examine more minutely these differences, without, however, pretending to enumerate them all. Let us lay aside peculiarities of doctrine, and particularly that of the free and eternal grace of God, which is our most precious jewel. Let us not speak, at present, of the election of the Father, nor of the manner in which humanity and divinity are united in the person of the God-man, nor of the nature of the Lord’s Supper, nor of the doctrine of Baptism; these are well-known peculiarities from which all others flow. Let us confine ourselves especially to questions relating to the Church; which is daily becoming the greatest, and, so to speak, the all-engrossing subject.

I. The Reformed Church lays down as the groundwork of Christianity the Scriptural principle, that the word of God is the positive rule, the absolute law, the sole source of faith, and of the Christian life; whereas Luther lays down as the basis of his Reformation a principle not less to be venerated, but entirely different, namely, faith, or justification by faith.

We think it was well that these two fundamental principles should have been established at the same time. In this particular, the combined action of Lutheranism and the Reform was admirable; that of Lutheranism especially fills us with the deepest veneration. Not only did Luther and his friends set forth the capital doctrine of justification in a manner still more explicit than did the Reform, but, had they not done so, we boldly assert that there would have been no Reformation. Why was not the great Reformation accomplished by the sects of the Middle Ages, which originated the principles of the Reform? For several reasons, undoubtedly, but principally because they were not fully impressed with the importance of this great idea, of which Luther, after St. Paul, was the most faithful promulgator.

The Reformation, and, prior to it, nascent Christianity, had two fundamental principles: that of the Reform, which was simple, and that of Lutheranism, which was material. The Reform required faith also; Lutheranism, too, required the Bible. But each of these principles was distinctively and specially entrusted to a faithful guardian. These were the two forces which were to urge on the new world created in the sixteenth century; and herein we admire with gratitude the most perfect unity in the diversity of the work of God.

However, we would not justify the consequences to which Luther carried his principles. Applying them to the word of God with a boldness which astonishes us, he declares, in the preface of his translation of the New Testament, that the Gospel of St. John, the Epistles of St. Paul, particularly that to the Romans, and the first Epistle of St. Peter, are the true marrow of the Scriptures, because they treat especially of faith; he considers the Gospels inferior to the Epistles; lightly esteems the Revelation by St. John, and speaks of one of the Epistles (that of St. James) in terms so well known that I need not repeat them here. Rationalism, which shakes or revokes all the canonical writings, has appeared, and, as it seems to us, could only appear in the Church of Luther.

The Swiss and French Reform could not be reproached with this want of respect. On the contrary, in throwing off the authority of the Church, it had recourse to that sovereign authority, which the Church itself had always exalted, that of the Holy Scriptures. “Forsaking,” says one of its leaders,[5] “the decrees of the Popes and the Fathers of the Church, I went to the very fountain head. My soul was there refreshed, and from that time I strongly maintained this principle: the Bible alone should be our guide, and all the additions of men be rejected.”

“The Church of Christ,” said the pastors of Berne, in the famous dispute which decided the Reform of that Canton in 1528, “has made neither laws nor commandments in addition to the word of God. This is the reason why all human traditions, called ecclesiastical, are obligatory only so far as they are contained and commanded in this holy word.” And in the seventeenth century, Chillingworth, an English Reformer of the Episcopal Church, chancellor of the diocese of Salisbury, all of whose opinions we should not uphold, but who, having been a Papist, understood well in what should consist the spirit of the Reform, uttered these sublime words: “The Bible, the whole Bible, nothing but the Bible, is the religion of the Reformed Church.” Let us here remember, that the Church of England is a Reformed Church, and not Lutheran. It is such, not only by the name it bears, but by its admirable articles of faith, and especially by the testimony it therein renders to the word of God.

This principle of the Reform is of even earlier date than the views of Luther; for it was not only the principle of the primitive Church, of Wickliffe, of the Waldenses, and of many other fervent Christians, but it was proclaimed in the very morning of the Reformation, in the year 1518, by Carlstadt, who says, in those theses which Dr. Eck so violently attacked, “We prefer the letter of the Bible, not only to one or many doctors of the Church, but even to the authority of the whole Church itself.”

Every thing in the Reformed Church reveals this grand principle of the exclusive authority of the word of God. While the Augsburg Confession is silent with regard to the sole authority of the Scriptures, all the Confessions of the Reformed Church are unanimous on this subject.[6] While the Lutherans uphold the Apocryphal books, and frequently select from them texts for their sermons, the Reformed distinguish them from the canonical writings with scrupulous care, and, if necessary, contend earnestly for this distinction, as did the British and Foreign Bible Society not long since, excited by the example of Scotland, that eminently Reformed country; and they regard it as a matter of the highest importance to define exactly the extent of the word of God, and carefully to exclude all human additions. While the text of the Lutheran Bibles does not distinguish human from divine words, in all our translations of the Bible, on the contrary, the words not found in the original are printed in italics, in order that the reader may, as far as is possible in a translation, discern between the word of God and the word of man. And it may be remarked that the translation of the New Testament published a few years since in Lausanne, which is purely and simply a fac simile of the original, has been prompted by the spirit of the Reform. We do not think that such a translation would have appeared among Lutherans.

It is not true, however, as has been recently pretended, that the Reform presents the Bible to us as a book all-sufficient in itself, whatever doctrine may be deduced from it. “We are persuaded,” says the Helvetic Confession, “that a solid knowledge of true religion depends on the internal enlightening of the Holy Spirit. We only regard as real and orthodox those explanations which are drawn from Scripture itself in conformity with the analogy of faith and the law of charity.” Nor is it true, as has been asserted, that the Reform possesses no kind of tradition. There is not a century, not a generation, to whose voice the Reform is not ready to listen, and from which it is unwilling to derive instruction. Only it places the great voice above all smaller voices, and, instead of judging of the import of Scripture by tradition, it judges, according to the principles of the Fathers, of the truth of traditions by the Scriptures. Such, then, is our first principle:

The Reform is pre-eminently the confession of the Bible.

Never shall such man-worship be found among us, even of the men of God in the Church, as has been justly called elsewhere Lutherolatry. Never will there be seen among us such writings as have been published in Germany with these titles: Luther, a Prophet—The Second MosesAn EliasA StarA Sun. We have no other Prophet than Jesus Christ, and no other Sun than the Bible. And while, for a long space of time, all sorts of relics of Luther were preserved with a religious veneration, we hardly know where the great Calvin resided; there is not even a small stone in our cemetery to mark the place where his ashes repose; and four venerable trees, which were to be seen, five or six years ago, shading the ground where it is said the mortal remains of this great servant of God were laid, have been hewn down to make room! . . . This is undoubtedly going too far; but its import is striking: it reminds us that Calvin forbade that a monument should be erected to his memory, because he desired that the word of "God alone should be honored in his Church.

Yes, the Rock of the word of God is the foundation of the Reform; we know of none other. Let other Churches boast of their ecclesiastical basis; we will boast only of our Bible foundation. And in this, we believe ourselves more truly ecclesiastical than those who mingle with the Divine Rock the quicksands of human tradition. We will not forsake this our foundation for any price, not for the Pope, nor for Luther—what do I say? not even for our Reformers themselves. Far distant be the day when the Reformed Church shall glory in being called the Church of Calvin or Zwingle. The Bible—the Bible—the whole Bible—nothing but the Bible!

We asserted, at the outset, that the principle intrusted to the Lutheran Church was, in the days of the Reformation, of at least equal importance with that which God intrusted to the Reformed Church. Which of the two is of most importance in our day?

I dare not decide. But I will say, however, that the principle of the Bible appears to me, at present, at least as important as that of Faith. Which are the powerful adversaries called upon to fight the battle of the nineteenth century? Evangelism and Ecclesiasticism. And by what means shall Ecclesiasticism be silenced, and those clouds of human traditions and human works which envelop it be dispelled? By the Bible.

If we hesitate on the importance of the principle of the Reform, shall we not be instructed by the cry which is now sounding on all sides: The Church! The Church! and would put the visible Church above the word of the Lord? Shall we not, by that proud pontiff who calls us sectaries of the Bible,[7] and who, with “that audacious mouth which spake very great things,” as says Daniel the prophet, has just uttered a cry from the depths of the magnificent chambers of his Vatican, and, stretching forth his arms in terror in the midst of his Apollos, his Venuses, and all those trophies of Paganism by which he is surrounded, has rung throughout all Christendom that watchword of alarm and dread—THE BIBLE! THE BIBLE! What, then! has He who reveals all secrets, “made known to him, in the silent watches of the night, what shall come to pass hereafter?” Has He shown him the Bible at the gates of Italy? Has He shown him already suspended in the air, overhanging Rome, “the stone that was cut out of the mountain without hands,” that is to break in pieces the ancient statue, and lay it low in the dust, amid the ruin and devastation of twenty centuries? Ah! if there is a time when the Reform should remain faithful to its principles, it is the day in which we now live. To conquer by the Bible, or to perish, is the only alternative before us.

One thing, among others, which alarms us concerning the state of England is, that recently (about a month since), in London, while the assemblies belonging to particular churches (Episcopal or dissenting) crowded the vast extent of Exeter Hall, for the first time the meeting of the Bible Society had comparatively but few present. It is not our intention to draw too serious consequences from this; we know it may have arisen from various causes, but we confess that the knowledge of this fact caused us to shudder, and with sadness we recalled to mind these words, “Ichabod, Ichabod!” Hath thy glory indeed departed?

II. But if the Reformed Church places the word of God so decidedly above any word of man, and gives it pre-eminence even above Faith, on the other hand it places Faith above the Church. One of the oldest doctors, Irenæus of Lyons, has called attention to this great antithesis: Where the Spirit is, there is the Church; this is the principle of the Reform; and Where the Church is, there is the Spirit, is the principle of Rome and Oxford; and it is also, though in a milder form, that of Lutheranism. A distinguished theologian, Dr. Lange, who occupies in the university of one of our confederate cities the professorship which was intended for Strauss, has recently brought to mind that antithesis, wording it thus: The Church comes of faith, or faith comes of the Church. We do not hesitate to say that both these propositions are true in a certain sense, and provided the visible Church be not confounded with the invisible; for there is a marvelous alternative between faith and the Church. But observe: while Lutheranism places emphasis on the latter, and declares that, since the foundation of the Church, God converts men only by means of the Church, the Reform, on the contrary, lays stress on the former, and asserts that faith, that faith which God implants in the heart, alone begets the Church. Hence the Reform does not say, The Church (which is the assembly of the faithful) exists first, and then follows each individual believer; but it says, First each believer exists, and then comes the Church, which is the union of all. Lutheranism says, First the species, then the individual; the Reform says, First the individual, then the species. We are ready to allow that both are right, but we add, that it should be our especial care to uphold the principle of the Reform.

And why so? Because if we assert, in an absolute sense, that faith comes of the Church, we establish at once the principle that leads to the Inquisition, and which gave rise to it in times past. Now, at the period of the Reformation, when for centuries all those who did not humbly receive their faith from the visible Church had been stretched on the rack, it was necessary that the renewed Church should loudly proclaim opposite principles. The Reform is then in direct opposition here to Rome, and also to ultra-Lutheranism. By this name we call that extreme Lutheran orthodoxy, which, in the days of Calow and Quenstedt, exaggerating the Lutheran principle, revived the scholastic system, and placed above all other doctrines that of the Church and the means of salvation.

The Reform, on the contrary, remembering that Christ saves His people soul by soul, gives, has given, and always will give the first place in Christian theology to what concerns the individual work, the regeneration, the justification, and the conversion of the believer.

Thus, what distinguishes Lutheranism is the importance attached to the Church, to the Church collectively, and particularly to its ministers. In truth, it is not very far from that sacerdotalism which is the essence of Rome and of Oxford. The Lutherans do not hesitate to give their pastors the name of priests; and in a celebrated book on Practical Theology, written by a German whose memory is very dear to us, Claude Harms, prevost of Kiel, one of the sections is entitled the Preacher, another the Pastor, and a third the PRIEST.

This, too, was essential to our unity. The individual element of the Reform might have brought on dissolution and dispersion of the members of the Church, which would have proved fatal to the whole body, had it not been restrained by the ecclesiastical element of Lutheranism; as also the tendency of the latter would have been to languor and certain death, had it not been restrained by the spontaneous and vivifying influence of the Reform. It is the combination of these two forces, the one centripetal, the other centrifugal, which has launched into the universe a new world, and which sustains it.

Shall we abandon, then, the principle of our strength, as we are called upon to do? God preserve us from this invasion on the eternal decrees of His all-wise providence! Let us not look on one side only; let us examine both, and contemplate the magnificent ensemble of the work of the Lord. If a man is a Lutheran, he is right, quite right; if a man embraces the Lutheran faith, he is right still; but if he is Reformed, if he converses with the Reformed, he should neither act nor speak as though he were Lutheran, or as though he were addressing Lutherans, to counteract, impede, and destroy the Reformed principle in the bosom of the Reform itself.

We shall not enumerate here the numberless evils to which too strict an application of the Lutheran principles has led. From this arose clerocracy,[8] or the excessive authority of the pastor, or, more properly speaking, confessor (for among the Lutherans each individual has a pastor to whom he gives that name), so that, in the last century, these confessors having become infidels, and the unsuspecting Lutherans continuing to submit to them, infidelity spread throughout their churches with inconceivable facility. It has even been asserted, in Lutheranism, that each individual should cling to his spiritual guide, appointed by the competent ecclesiastical authority, even though that guide were a stranger or entirely opposed to the true faith! The Reformed Christians will never acknowledge this as their maxim. They will ever rank the Bible above the pastor, and, if there is a decided disagreement between them, rather than allow themselves and their children to be led by them into infidelity, they will forsake their pastor, and take refuge beneath the word of Christ. In so doing, they carry the Church with them, leaving to themselves both the sect and the pastor.

It is from this Ecclesiasticism that originates the different importance which the Lutherans and the Reformed attach to the confessions of faith of the Churches. The Lutherans look upon them as rules of faith—normæ normatæ; and they have even gone so far as to assert that their authors had a kind of inspiration, such inspiration as the Roman Catholics call deutero-canonical, when speaking of the Apocryphal books. In the Reform, symbolical writings are, on the contrary, but the expression of the faith of the Church. “Our Churches do not say to those who desire to occupy our pulpits, Believe! but they ask them, Do you believe?” Thus spoke, in the true spirit of the Reform, two men who are dear to us, Cellerier and Gaussen, when, twenty-five years ago, they republished the Helvetic Confession of Faith in Geneva. Although this privilege belongs, by right, to another here present, allow me to pay a passing tribute to the memory of this faithful servant of Jesus Christ,[9] who was taken from us a few weeks since, in a good old age, and whose glory it was to have been the first, after a century of infidelity, to raise again in our country the standard of the Gospel and the Reform.

Again I repeat: The Church comes of faith, rather than faith of the Church.

This is our watchword. And who will dare assert that the time is come when we should lower our colors, and meekly march under those which others offer us, and which Papacy itself has shown for so many centuries past? If any of our brethren deem it their duty so to do, we openly declare that we will not; convinced that, in this day, to uphold and vindicate the principles of the Reform is to save the Reformation.

But, it may be said, if the maxim that faith comes of the Church leads to the Inquisition, the maxim that the Church comes of faith leads to separation.

We do not deny that this is the excess of the principle, nor that this excess is to be seen in our day. But we deny that the abuse of a principle can ever subvert it. No; the principle of the Reform is not essentially a principle of separation; nor does it necessarily flow from that principle, that Christendom should be divided into a thousand sects. Undoubtedly, it is a right and a duty of a Christian, as was done in the days of the Reformation, and has been repeatedly done since, to separate from a community which no longer confesses Jesus Christ, “God manifest in the flesh,” the only righteousness of His people. But to make separation a constantly-recurring duty, is, according to the Reform, to trample under foot numerous passages of the word of God; it is to invite what the Apostle Paul declares should be rejected, “strifes, seditions, and heresies.”[10]

“I assert,” says Calvin, “that we should not, for slight dissimilarity of opinion, separate from a Church where the fundamental doctrine of salvation is preserved, and where the sacraments are lawfully administered according to the institution of our Lord.”[11]

However, if choice must be made between uniformity and error on the one side, and diversity and truth on the other, the Reform does not hesitate; it always sides with the truth; truth being always its great aim.

III. But the Reform has always distinguished itself by a liberal spirit of Christian charity; and this third characteristic triumphantly answers the charge of separatism; it has ever held out a brotherly hand to all communions that preserve pure the doctrines of salvation. So that, while a sectarian spirit has animated other confessions in various degrees, the Reform has ever worn on its brow the seal of true catholicity.

We shall not here speak of the sectarian spirit of Rome or of Oxford; these are well-known topics; but history obliges us to acknowledge this spirit even in Lutheranism. The Lutherans, like the Romanists, have always aimed, not at fraternally uniting with the Reform, but at absorbing it.

Exclusiveness is a feature of Lutheranism. Here it will be asked, What becomes of your unity? This exclusiveness itself was necessary for it. It is one of the wheels which must form part of the admirable machinery which the hand of the Great Architect prepared three centuries ago. Ezclusiveness is essential to the Church. Who was more exclusive than He who said, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me?” and again, “Without me ye can do nothing?” The Church needs a holy jealousy for the eternal truth of God. Latitudinarianism is fatal to it. The history of all ages has proved this, and none can show it more clearly than that of our own age. It was this exclusiveness with which Martin Luther was charged; and although he was mistaken in carrying out his exclusiveness, not only with regard to the fundamental doctrines, but even respecting the different methods of understanding the same truth; although it was against our Reform that his darts were hurled, yet we love, we admire Luther, even in his errors; and we behold in him, not a furious Orestes, as he was called by Bucer and Capito themselves, but a Prometheus, who, anxious that man should lift his eyes toward heaven,

.... erectos ad sidera tollere vultus, [upright to look at the stars,]

and having taken fire from on high to inspire him, was cast down in consequence of his very elevation, and his entrails devoured by ruthless vultures. “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall!” Luther believed that the real presence of Christ was a truth of God, and he went too far to defend it. May God teach us what Luther did not know, to distinguish truth from falsehood, what is essential from what is secondary! God grant unto us what Luther could not do, to instruct with mildness those who entertain opposite opinions! But God grant at the same time that, like Luther, we may be inflamed with devotion to truth and filled with zeal for the house of God!

Here again, however, we can not justify every thing. History is inflexible, and points out sad excesses to us. This is the most painful part of our task; for Luther is our father (we speak after the manner of men), a father whom we regard with profound veneration, and tender, filial affection. The true Lutherans are our friends, our beloved brethren; they are among those whom we hope one day to join in the kingdom of our Lord. If, then, their opposition draws from us a sigh, let it never cause in our hearts the least bitterness of feeling toward them. Be it remembered that the violence of controversy, far from proving us to be declared enemies, is a proof of the closest bonds uniting us to Lutheranism; for at all times, and in all matters, the more united we are on essential points, the more we are carried away by differences on minor ones.

It was Luther, that great man of God, who in this, as in every thing else, advanced at the head of his Church. When, in 1527, the Reformed pleaded for brotherly love and Christian concord, he answered, “Be such charity and unity cursed, even to the bottomless depths of hell.” He himself relates to one of his friends that, at the conference convoked at Marburg by the Landgrave of Hesse, to unite the Lutherans and the Reformed, Zwingle, moved to tears, approached him, saying, “There are no men on earth with whom I so much desire to be united as with the Wittenbergers.” And Luther repulsed the Zurich Reformer, answering, “Your spirit is not our spirit!” and refused to acknowledge Zwingle and the Swiss as his brethren.

Since that day a sectarian spirit has always pervaded Lutheranism. When, in 1553, the unhappy Reformed were driven from London by the unfeeling order of bloody Mary, they were cruelly repulsed, in the midst of winter, by the advice of the Lutheran theologians, from the walls of Copenhagen, of Rostock, of Lübeck, and of Hamburg, where they asked for shelter. “Better Papists than Calvinists,” said they; “better Mohammedans than Reformed.” And on one house in Wittenberg was written, “The words and the writings of Luther are poison to the Pope and to Calvin.” The name of Calvin was given to cats and dogs. Books were published with such titles as these: “Proofs that the Calvinists have six hundred and thirty-six errors in common with the Turks;” “Brief evidence that the present attempt at union (1721) with the self-styled Reformed is in direct opposition to the Ten Commandments, to all the articles of the Apostles’ Creed, to all the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, to the doctrine of holy Baptism, the power of the Keys, the holy Communion, as well as the whole Catechism.” In a Lutheran Catechism of the beginning of the sixteenth century this question is asked: “Dost thou believe that, instead of honoring and worshiping the true and living God, the Calvinists honor and worship the devil? Answer: I do, from the bottom of my heart.” A Lutheran doctor, who is still living, and is remarkable for his piety and zeal, applies the following passage from St. Paul to the Reformed: “Be ye not yoked with unbelievers.” It is well known that the Lutheran missionary societies have recently dissolved their connection with that of the city of Basle, which, however, comes nearer Lutheranism than any of the Reformed churches.

What shall we say concerning these excesses? We will say, with St. Paul, “They have zeal without knowledge;” and we will add with a smile the well-known words of Jerome of Prague, when he saw a peasant approach with a load of wood to deposit on his stake, SANCTA SIMPLICITAS! and then we will repeat that the Lutherans are our brethren, our well beloved brethren!

A spirit of conciliation, of union and fraternity, has pervaded our Church in all ages, and is, perhaps, its most beautiful ornament. Zwingle, ŒcoIampadius, Calvin, and Farel always extended a brotherly hand to Luther and his friends. Calvin, even, does not hesitate to assert that, in his sight, Luther is far superior to Zwingle: “For if these two are compared, you are aware how much Luther surpasses him.”[12] And he writes thus to Bullinger on the 25th of November, 1544: “I hear that Luther is lavishing the most cruel invectives upon you and all of us. I scarcely dare ask of you to be silent; but I earnestly entreat you, at least, to remember how great a man Luther is; what admirable qualities distinguish him; what courage, what faithfulness, what skill, what power of doctrine he possesses to bring down the reign of anti-Christ, and to propagate the knowledge of salvation. I say, and have frequently repeated, that even though he should call me Satan, I would not cease to honor him and acknowledge him to be an illustrious servant of God.” These are sublime words; let the Reform never forget them! And observe, they come from Calvin, that man who is represented to us as so irritable and so proud.

At different times, proposals for peace and projects of union were offered by the Reform. The Reformed of French-Switzerland particularly showed, on this score, the most unshaken perseverance. At the period when the ultra-Lutherans, Westphal, Timann, Von Eitzen, and many others had discharged their heavy artillery upon the Reform, Calvin and his friends appeared on the field of battle, with the olive branch in their hands. This same year (1557), when Theodore Beza and Farel traveled throughout all the cities of Switzerland, to excite the public sympathy in favor of the Waldenses, who had been cruelly massacred in the valley of Angrogna, they also visited Germany, where they presented a Confession of Faith of the Churches of Switzerland and Savoy, designing to unite all the Reformation, by convincing the Lutheran Churches that they also were brethren and fellow-soldiers in the war against anti-Christ. In 1631, the General Synod of Charenton, near Paris, took the lead, accomplished this union, and passed a resolution which declared that “the Churches of the Confession of Augsburg agreeing with them in all the articles essential to true religion, the members of these Churches may be allowed to present themselves at the holy table without any previous abjuration.” In our days it is from the Reformed that propositions and efforts to reestablish true union in the Church have always proceeded.

And wherefore this difference between Lutheranism and the Reform? Undoubtedly it proceeds in great part, as far as Luther and the Lutherans are concerned, from the importance they attach to the real presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper, from that unshaken attachment to what they believe to be the truth, which we sincerely respect; but we must say that it also results from that difference which we have already designated. The Biblical tendency of the Reform must lead all the Reformed to attach slight importance to Ecclesiastical differences and much to Bible truth; consequently, to endeavor to extend a brotherly hand to all Churches, and all individuals who hold to the Bible. It is thus from sound principles that beneficial consequences always flow. Let us remain faithful to this spirit of true catholicity. Let us not forget these memorable words of the Apostle, “One God, one Lord, one body, and one spirit.” To uphold these is the special mission of the Reform.

IV. But if the Reform possesses great liberality, it is none the less distinguished for a genuine profoundness. It is not merely a reformation of faith, as is Lutheranism, but a reformation of life; and for this reason it is more universally Christian. Undoubtedly, Antinomianism is foreign to Lutheranism; Luther himself opposed it. Still, there is great difference in the manner in which Lutheranism and the Reform view the law. A singular and characteristic feature points out one of the principal differences. In the Lutheran Catechism, the ten commandments are placed before faith, before dogmas. Their use is to convince man of sin, and bring Him to Christ. On the contrary, in the Reformed Catechism, the law is placed after faith, and after the doctrine of salvation, as an expression of the gratitude of the child of God for his redemption through Christ. The law, according to Luther, is for the unconverted only. According to Calvin, it is also addressed to believers.

Luther did not accomplish a reformation of morals, nor did he even attempt it. This was not, undoubtedly, because he did not think it of the highest importance. “How,” as he wrote to the brethren of Bohemia, who desired him to establish such discipline, “how can we, who live in the midst of Sodom, of Gomorrah, and of Babylon, bring about order, discipline, and exemplary life?” Luther thought that the Reformation of morals should proceed simply and naturally from the influence of sound doctrine.

Let us here observe, again, how necessary the diversity of Lutheranism and the Reform is for the unity and even the existence of the Reformation. Who does not discern a profound Christian truth in the doctrine that faith leads to sound morals? Was it not necessary, after centuries in which the discipline of the Church had caused innumerable troubles, and still greater superstitions, that there should be a protestation against these fatal errors? Was it not necessary that, besides the strength of the Reform, which has a sectarian tendency, there should be another force in the renewed Church that should tend to enlarge the views of the faithful? Was it not necessary that, above all that men could do, above all their efforts to rebuke the disorderly and to watch over the Lord’s inheritance, there should be a finger to point to heaven, and that a loud voice should pronounce this oracle: “The good shepherd goeth before his sheep, and his sheep follow him, for they know his voice?” But if one of these was necessary, the other was not less so. The work of Christian vigilance and pastoral guardianship was entrusted to the Reform; and we are reformed.

Zwingle started from this principle: “A universal renovation of life and morals is as requisite as a renovation of faith.” Immediately after the Reformation, in Zurich, Berne, and Basle, ordinances for the promotion of good morals were published, prostitution was abolished, pensions and enlistments in foreign service were suppressed; and when afterward the pope, according to his ancient custom, required troops from Zurich, the citizens offered him instead two thousand monks and priests whom they could spare! Would to God that in our day we sent not Swiss soldiers to Rome. The morals of ministers were particularly insisted on: “As the word of Truth is solemn, the life of its servant ought also to be grave,” said the ordinance of 1532.

But it was especially in Geneva that this principle was fully carried out. Calvin, with the zeal of a prophet and the resignation of a martyr who submits himself unreservedly to the severe word of God, exacted of the Church under his care absolute obedience. He struggled hard with the party of the Libertines, and by the grace of God he overcame. Geneva, which was so corrupt before, was regenerated, and evinced a purity of morals and a Christian simplicity so remarkable, that it drew from Farel (after an absence of fifteen years) an expression of admiration in these memorable words: “I had rather be the last in Geneva than the first elsewhere.”

And fifty years after the death of Calvin, a fervent Lutheran, John Valentine Andreæ, having passed some time within our walls, said on his return, “What I have seen there I shall never forget. The most beautiful ornament of that republic is its tribunal of morals, which every week inquires into the disorders of the citizens. Games of cards and chance, swearing and blasphemy, impurity, quarreling, hatred, deceitfulness, infidelity, drunkenness, and other vices, are repressed. Oh! how beautiful an ornament to Christianity is this purity. We Lutherans can not too deeply deplore its absence among us. If the difference of doctrine did not separate me from Geneva, the harmony of its morals could have induced me to remain there forever.”

This moral character was not confined to Switzerland and Geneva alone; it spread through France, Holland, Scotland, and wherever the Reform made its way. It has in a measure remained in some of those countries to the present day. A German author, Mr. Goebel, having related that a traveler, also a German, was unable to find in the churches of Scotland which he visited a single instance of adultery and divorce, and very little impurity, exclaims, “Let the frightful immorality of Germany be contrasted with this; in the country as well as in the city let only the pastors be interrogated, and one will be filled with astonishment and terror.” Alas! we can not pride ourselves on such a state of things at present. These morals are no more. We do not pretend to say that there was nothing in this discipline adapted to hasten its fall; on the contrary, we think that the part the State took in these matters must inevitably have destroyed it. We reject all Christian discipline exercised by constables and soldiers; but we think we can lay aside all public force, retaining the power of vigilance, of charity, and of the word of God.

This was not done, and what is the result? Senebier said, “The prosperity of Geneva was long the fruit of Calvin’s wise laws. In the purity of our ancient morals consisted our glory. We can prove that one of the causes of our misfortunes is the diminution of their influence. Thus, Rome was lost when its censors could not make themselves heard any more, and Sparta fell with the credit of those whose charge was to cause virtue to be respected.” If Senebier spoke thus in 1786, what shall we now say?

Ah! who could fail to understand what Montesquieu said, that the Genevese ought to bless and celebrate the day of Calvin's birth, and that of his arrival in their midst? But what the most profound politician of the eighteenth century clearly saw, the Genevese have not comprehended. Instead of celebrating the birthday of the Reformer, they and their children celebrate that of a noted sophist, a man of an ardent soul, of unsurpassed talent, but who sent to the hospital the sad results of his libertinism! They have erected a magnificent statue to the memory of Rousseau, and they have erected none to Calvin! “We will do it at Edinburgh,” said a Scotch divine to me last year. “Edinburgh,” added he, “is now the metropolis of the Reform.”

The revival of faith and sound morals among the Reformed is the statue which Calvin, that great but unassuming man, would have desired. Shall we not erect it? And if now, as in Saxony in the days of Luther, a too rigid law is inapplicable, shall we not at least remember, that whoever asks for a reformation of morals possesses the spirit of the Reform, and that it is the most sacred duty, not only of ministers, but of all reformed Christians, to cause all those who invoke the name of the Savior to be “blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke in the midst of a perverse nation.”

V. This leads us to a fifth consideration. The Reform has, both in its principles and its progress, something more decided than Lutheranism. The principle of Lutheranism was, to preserve in the Church all that is not condemned by the word of God; while that of the Reform was, to abolish in the Church all that is not prescribed by the word of God. Lutheranism is a reformation of the Church; the Reform, its renovation; or, to express this distinction by the different pronunciations of the same word, Lutheranism is a reformation, the Reform a re-formation. Lutheranism took the Church, such as it was, contenting itself with effacing its stains. The Reform took the Church at its origin, and erected its edifice on the living Rock of the Apostles. While Luther, hearing what Carlstadt was doing, writes, “We must remain in the middle path,” and opposes those who cast down the images, Carlstadt, the first Reformed, from the year 1521 boldly reforms the church of Wittenberg, of which he was the prevost, abolishing the mass, images, and confessions, the fast days, and all the abuses of papacy. Zwingle, almost at the same time, proceeds in the same manner at Zurich; and as to what took place in Geneva, we shall merely transcribe here an inscription which, for nearly three centuries, remained on the walls of our City Hall, from 1536 to 1798, and which expresses better than we could do the uncompromising character of the Reform. At the time of the jubilee of 1835, it was to have been placed in the Church of St. Peter, but it has not yet been done.

“In the year 1535, the tyranny of Roman Antichrist having been overthrown, and its superstitions abolished, the most holy religion of Jesus Christ was established here in its purity, and the Church better organized, by an extraordinary blessing of God. And at the same time, this city itself having repulsed its enemies, and put them to flight, was again set free, but not without a remarkable miracle. The Council and the people of Geneva have here erected this monument to perpetuate its memory, so that the testimony of their gratitude toward God should descend to their posterity.”

What has resulted from this difference between Lutheranism and the Reform?

Two very distinct courses, each of which has its favorable aspect. The course of Lutheranism is defensive, successive; that of the Reform is offensive, acquisitive. To Lutheranism belongs the principle of resistance and passivity; to the Reform that of activity and life.

Is it necessary to recall to your mind that these two tendencies are important to the prosperity of the Church? Must we insist that in a well-organized community immobility of principle should be joined to mobility of life?

There is not even a family where two opposite tendencies are not to be found. To counterbalance the decisive and imposing authority of the father, the conciliating and indulgent tenderness of the mother is requisite. Thus, in a political State, the conservative and the liberal elements should be constantly combined. An exclusive immobility leads to violence, hatred, and revolution. Had we not an example of this during the reign of Charles X.? An excess of mobility leads to levity, superficiality, agitation, and pride. Do not nations furnish us with a demonstration of this? These two elements are so indispensably necessary to the life of the whole body, that if, by some means, you could annihilate one of the two, it would soon reappear. In France, in 1830, the ancient conservators being excluded, those who, for fifteen years, had played the part of liberals, became themselves conservators.

And what is necessary in the State, and even in each family, would you exclude from the Church? Would you by some revolution drive away one of these two elements? Impotent conspirators! Could you succeed in destroying the element of the Reform, you would be compelled to become Reformed yourselves!

But undoubtedly Lutheranism had much to suffer in the sixteenth century for having carried its principles too far. Halting between the Bible and the Church, between that which it should retain and that which it should reject, its progress was in consequence somewhat impeded, its Reformation could not attain the height to which it had before aspired, and Luther, naturally of a gay character and joyful temperament, ended his days in sadness and weariness. While the Reform, possessing a visible and unclouded aim in the Bible, and nothing but the Bible, advanced with power; Calvin, Farel, Knox, and even Zwingle, died joyfully and triumphantly. What a death was Calvin’s; how touching his dying words!

Lutheranism, paralyzed from the beginning, witnessed, after the death of Luther, its conservativeness turned into stagnation.

The Lutheran princes, unfaithful to the glorious memory of the Diet of Spire (1529), opposed every extension of Protestantism, and were but too well seconded by their theologians.

Even now a new society, which we hail with affection and respect, the Society of Gustavus Adolphus, faithful to this Lutheran principle, endeavors, it is true, to support the Protestant Churches which are tottering, yet declares itself opposed to any activity beyond the sphere of acknowledged Protestantism, as well as to all proselytism.

It is not thus with the Reform. It advances, it gains every where. Our Evangelical Societies of Paris and Geneva, with their essentially proselyting characteristics, all our Missionary Societies, are the fruits of the Reformed spirit.

But it is principally in the relation between these two Churches and the Papacy that we see the characteristic which distinguishes them. Lutheranism, which took the offensive with regard to the Reform, rested on the defensive with regard to the pope; while the Reform, holding out the right hand of fellowship to Lutheranism, boldly and courageously took the offensive toward Rome. Melanchthon, at Augsburg, in 1530, said to the cardinals, that but a trifle separated him from the pope; but an immense abyss separated him from Zwingle.[13] Lutheranism, to which the visible Church is of so much moment, could capitulate with Rome. The Reform, which will have nothing but the Bible, must fight Rome boldly. Wherever are found superstitious fears of a struggle with Papacy; wherever extreme circumspection is observed; wherever it is supposed, for instance, that prudence should keep Protestants from offering a fraternal hand to priests who reject the Pope, and confess Jesus Christ, there you will perhaps find ultra-Lutheranism; but there most assuredly the spirit of the Reform is not.

Inspired with a holy love for souls, and a deep conviction that Rome leads them to perdition, the Reform seized the sword of the word three centuries ago, and commenced with the papal power a war, the issue of which is life or death. Notwithstanding the constant and violent opposition of the most powerful monarchs of Europe, notwithstanding the redoubled efforts of that hierarchy which fettered the whole world, the Reform has advanced, like little David against that gigantic Goliath, having nothing in its sling but a few round pebbles of God’s word; and it conquered in the name of the Lord of Hosts.

We certainly acknowledge all that Christian princes have done, especially the immortal Gustavus Adolphus. But that was the work of a prince, and perhaps was done with political views. With us it is the business of the faithful, and the work of faith. It is the Reform which saved the Reformation in troublous times, and the Reform will save it yet in our days.

It is true that it saved it at the price of its blood. While the Lutheran Church numbers scarcely any martyrs, ours are counted by thousands; and their faithfulness filled the best Lutherans with respect and admiration, such Lutherans as the sympathizing Spener and Zinzendorf. In Switzerland, Scotland, and England, and especially in Belgium and France, the Inquisition, the daggers and the scaffolds of Popery, have covered with corpses the soil of the Bible. The Reform witnessed it, but it bowed not its head. It saw its children joyfully shed their blood, trusting in Jesus Christ, and it continued its onward march.

A circular, written in the name of a priest, who calls himself Count of Lausanne, and Prince of the Holy Roman Empire (although since the beginning of this century there has existed no Holy Empire), has dared to say recently in that city, “Always, and every where, since the time of the apostles, the Church (of Rome), its pontiffs and its priests, have been persecuted. The holy pontiffs and priests of Jesus Christ, laboring from the origin of Christianity for the conversion and sanctification of souls, have never employed other means than those which the Gospel, conscience, and reason approve.”[14]

This is really too much, and a sigh escapes us. What! you dare hold such language in this city, in the midst of a people formed, so to speak, from the fragments that escaped from your wheels, your racks, and your knives! We are accustomed to the effrontery of Rome, but we never had such a sample of it.

Men of no memory! To whom belongs the bloody application of these words, Constrain them to enter? By whose commands were shed those torrents of blood of the Waldenses and the Albigenses which inundated the Middle Ages? Who, if not your pope, on the night of the 24th of August, 1572, amid nuptial festivals, caused the venerable Coligny, on his knees, and sixty thousand Reformed, to be cruelly butchered? Who ordered all the bells in Rome to be rung in merry peals, and the cannon of the Castle of St. Angelo to resound, and medals to be struck? Who, in 1685, razed to the ground more than sixteen hundred churches in France, slaughtered thousands and thousands of Protestants, and forced others to flee? In our days, who forbids, in nearly all Romish countries, the preaching of the Gospel? Who compels*the poor inhabitants of Zillerthal to leave their father-land? Who makes laws in Austria against conversion to Protestantism? Who condemned to prison that Maurette, who struggled here last winter with the priests, charged with having merely read your circular from the pulpit? Who, two months since, in a village near our frontier, within three miles of this place, caused a poor peasant to be arrested, thrown into a dungeon, and condemned to the galleys, for having committed no other crime than that of reading his Bible? Who, not in the fourteenth or fifteenth century, but only a few weeks since, condemned to death Maria Joaquina for having refused to worship the Virgin, and to believe the doctrine of transubstantiation? And you speak of Rome as a persecuted Church! And you assert that it has never employed other means than the voice of conscience and of persuasion! . . . Men of no memory! . . . Come, come! when you persecute, you are consistent with yourselves. Persecution ought to be, and is, in fact, a dogma of yours. No one will envy you that opprobrium, no one will rob you of that glory. . . . Your Church is a Church of murderers; ours is a Church of martyrs.

VI. We shall select but one more characteristic among all those which yet remain. It is a consequence of that characteristic on which we have just remarked. It is the difference which exists between these two communions, both as to liberty of the Church and liberty of the State.

Whatever his enemies may say to the contrary, Luther was an humble and submissive monk; and however great may have been the power which he acquired by his language, he ever remained within the bounds of the most perfect obedience to his emperor and his prince. And even in 1530, Luther, who in 1522 had written a book entitled, “Against the State, falsely called spiritual, of the Pope and the Bishops,” appeared, as did Melanchthon also, entirely ready to acknowledge all bishops, provided those bishops would acknowledge the authority of the Gospel. Luther’s Reformation was essentially monarchical in its relations to the State, and hierarchical in its relations to the Church. The people are never brought forward in it otherwise than as modestly receiving that which is given them by the higher authorities. It is true that Luther at last made quite a proper distinction between the two swords of the Church and the State; but after him, and even in his day, the Lutheran princes, invested with the territorial episcopacy, absorbed all liberties, and all ecclesiastical independence.

Is it necessary to observe that Lutheranism possesses peculiar excellence in this respect? The vehicle which bore the human mind was, in the sixteenth century, at the top of a steep declivity. The Reform boldly seated itself on the coachman’s box; with one hand it seized the reins, and with the other it used the whip; and away went the coach. What was necessary to prevent a terrible catastrophe at the foot of the mountain? To use a vulgar comparison, the wheel-lock must be used; that lock was Lutheranism. By this means the progress is rapid, though safe; and if it be true that the dreaded danger has been realized, it is because both Lutheranism and the Reform have lost their essential characteristics, and their intrinsic excellence, during the past century; it is that the wheel-lock has been taken off, and the driver thrown to the ground.

In this, therefore, consists a new difference between the Reform and Lutheranism; and it was not unaptly that Bossuet said, in the presence of the court of Louis XIV., The Calvinists are bolder than the Lutherans.

The Reform, in its very origin, was essentially democratic. Switzerland, where the Reform is developed, is an assembly of small nations in which the people are the sovereign. There the reformation comes from the people; and when the councils are opposed to it (as, for instance, at Basle), the people make it prevail. The political rights and liberties, which were trodden under foot by the Papacy, and which Lutheranism gave up without reluctance, are zealously claimed by the Reform. They advance with it, and are established wherever it goes. The reformation of the Free Cities of Germany, now Lutheran,[15] was the most striking act of their unfettered will; but in making this supreme effort they lost their energy and their freedom, and from that time they fell under the influence of their formidable neighbors.

But the Reform, on the contrary, wherever it goes, makes sacred the ancient liberties and bears new ones with it. Why is it that the fate of Geneva, a free imperial city, is at present very different from that of Augsburg, Nuremberg, and many other towns, which were once as free and independent as it is? History will answer. In 1559, when Geneva was in dread of a siege, Calvin himself helped on the work of raising another rampart. To the same spirit which animated Calvin, Geneva owed her capability of maintaining her independence against formidable enemies for three centuries. Every where is this distinction between Lutheranism and the Reform apparent. In our own days, for instance, when, on the fall of Charles X. in 1830, the Christians of France and some other countries rejoiced, and the Christians of Germany were astounded and scandalized, perhaps the simple reason of this was that the former were Reformed and the latter Lutherans.

This has long furnished the Roman Catholics with a favorite subject for reproachful language toward the Reform. Well, be it so. Only let us remember the continual commotions of Popish countries, of Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Belgium, Ireland, France, and (but three days since) the battle of Trient (Valais). Let us remember the anxiety, the uneasiness, and the sad groans of the Lutheran states of Germany. Let us remember the mighty and fruitful liberties which are peaceably enjoyed by the Reformed countries at this time; by Scotland, Holland, England, America, and by some Swiss cantons. And if, in America, the quiet city of William Penn, once the city of Brotherly Love, is now defiled by bloody riots, whence is it? We do not say that the Protestants have been in no wise wrong. On the contrary, we grant that in this case probably the salt hath lost its savor. But it is perfectly evident that the disaster which has occurred in Philadelphia is an act by which Popery and Ireland signalize their invasion there.

As it regards political freedom, Popery is in a state of revolution, Lutheranism in a state of fermentation, and the Reform in a state of possession.

Let no one say, There are democratic sympathies in the Reform; it is therefore not suitable for monarchies. This would be a singular anachronism; it would be reasoning in the style of the age of Louis XIV. Do not the greatest minds of the day acknowledge that democracy, under one form or another, is a future state toward which all nations tend? Now, if the Reform, as M. De Tocqueville himself asserts, possesses the light and the strength necessary to lead and moderate democracy, is it not essential to the future interests of all states? To reject it now, would be to send off" the seamen, to chase away the pilot, to throw overboard the compass, and to break the rudder, at the very moment when the ship is about to set sail and go forth into the open sea. “Let us reform the morals of democracy by religion,” says De Tocqueville. The Reform is the golden bit, powerful, yet easy, which a Divine hand has prepared for the mouth of liberty. True pacific democracy is the Reform. You will find it nowhere else.

But, if the Reformed Church gives freedom to the State, it is because it possesses freedom itself. In the Reform, the government of the Church does not proceed from certain individuals whose functions place them above all the rest, but from the Church as a body, from the vote of each believer, so that, if any are raised above the rest, it is only as instruments or delegates of the Church. All necessary precautions are taken to hinder domination from entering it. “Let the moderator have the presidency” (say the ordinances of Schaffhausen), “but nothing more, lest a monarchy should take the place of democracy.”

The Reform does not establish a Church of the clergy; it establishes, observe, a Church of the people; not of a worldly people, but of the people of God; that is to say, a Church essentially, though not exclusively, composed of those devout and holy men whose thoughts have been led captive to the obedience of Christ.

Finally, as to the independence of the Church—we do not say entire separation from the State, for we shall not enter upon that subject in this discourse—as to the independence of the Church, that is not less essential in the Reform. Zwingle, to be sure, who never met with any opposition from the State, and who, on the contrary, received all kind of help from it, regarded the Church as a society embraced in the State, protected, cared for, and even, in some measure, governed by the State. But had Zwingle been living in a day when the State attacks Christian truth, for the benefit of Popery or Socinianism, do you suppose that he would have given up the Church to its rule? No! he would have separated from it.

Even before Calvin asserted this, the Synod of Berne, in 1532, declared that the State ought not to interfere with religious matters except in respect to external order. “But as to the work of grace, it is not in the power of man, and is dependent on no magistrate. The State should not meddle with the conscience; Jesus Christ our Lord is our only Master. If the magistrate meddles with the Gospel, he will only make hypocrites.”

But it was especially Calvin, the head of the Reform, who reclaimed the autonomy, autocracy, and independence of the Church. He was not, like Zwingle, a citizen by birth of a republic, but a subject of a monarchy, and as such he felt less than the former, that he was an integral part of the State. The organization of a monarchy, moreover, gave place, much less than that of a republic, to that confusion of Church and State which Zwingle realized.

Luther was a German, Zwingle was a Swiss; but nationality found but a secondary place in the great mind of Calvin; Christ and the Church were every thing to him. He was neither French, nor Swiss, nor Genevese; he was of the City of God. On leaving France he sacrificed all that was most precious to him; he did not build up new idols to replace his old ones. Doubtless he loved Geneva; it was his adopted country; but the remembrance of his great nationality was above that of all lesser ones. Nothing was so insupportable to him as national egotism. Turning away from those narrow places in which others chose to remain, his eagle eye was continually fixed on the Church as a whole. His colleagues in the Cantons endeavored to form a Swiss national Church; but this scheme seemed too paltry for his lofty genius; and, passing over rivers and mountains, he constantly aspired to the Universal Church. He knew none other than the holy nation, none other than the ransomed people.

His very principle, which bound him to biblical and apostolical antiquity, led him back to the Church of the first three centuries, and made him view the independence of the Church as its normal state. And how could Calvin, at the sight of the State united in France to the Romish hierarchy, and roaring like a wild beast at the humble followers of the Man of Galilee, resist the desire of sheltering the Church from its attacks? Nor was it merely the oppression of Francis I. or of Henry II. which he rejected, but the protection of Reformed magistrates also gave him much uneasiness. He viewed the relation which existed between the Church and the State in Zurich and Berne as something servile, which hindered the free movements of the Church, and was encroaching on its holy liberty. “I do not believe that we are so slavishly fettered,” he writes, in 1557, to Bullinger,[16] who insisted on the authority of the magistrate.

Calvin, therefore, entirely rejected the idea of having the State govern the Church, even though the State might have become evangelical. He wanted it to form a community sui generis, of which each member would have a certain share in the government. He made of each church a small democracy, and of the union of these churches a Confederation.

Nowhere, perhaps, was the spirit of Calvin so strongly manifested, with regard to the independence of the Church, as in the Canton of Vaud. The Church in that fine country stood between Geneva and Berne, as between two conflicting forces. The spirit of independence and liberty seemed wafted to it from the walls of Geneva by the mighty breath of Calvin; while the military republic of Berne, desirous of preserving that power of the State, which for several centuries contributed to its greatness, endeavored, with a strong arm, to draw tighter the bonds and forms by which the State was attempting to restrain the Church. Berne could not permit any part whatsoever of the public power to be withdrawn from the mighty hands of the State, not even in religious matters. And thus, when the Vaudois[17] Church claimed the free exercise of ecclesiastical discipline, the State feared lest, if this power were granted, its independence might thereby be acknowledged in some degree. It was willing to allow discipline, but it wanted to exercise it by means of its own officers.[18]

Nevertheless, Viret, Theodore Beza, and a number of other ministers maintained the principles of independence in the Canton of Vaud. The ties uniting it to Berne were daily slackening, and all turned their eyes to Geneva. These two great systems, placed in opposition to each other, rendered a crisis unavoidable. “A rupture was inevitable,” says the learned Hundeshagen (who is now a professor at Berne), in his history of the struggles of that Church. Thus, in the sixteenth century, two hundred and fifty years previous to its emancipation, the independence of the Church was probably on the point of giving political independence to the Vaudois people. But the bear[19] was the stronger. It rushed down roaring from its mountain heights; and Viret, and Beza, and Marlorat, and Merlin, with about forty of their brethren, all friends of the freedom of the Church, had to fly from the country where they had preached the Gospel of Christ with so much joy, and went to enrich Geneva and the Reformed churches of France with their piety and their learning. The Free Church of Scotland was allowed to remain in the very scene of the struggle; but the Free Church of Vaud, having its strongest limbs broken, and its hands chained together by a powerful Republic, was obliged to leave its smiling villages, its valleys, and its mountains . . . . . and the fettered Church alone remained. The whole classis of pastors was imprisoned for two days in the castle of Lausanne; and not one was allowed to leave that prison until he had promised to appear at the first summons. At the same time the State withdrew from the Church the power of convoking either classes or colloquies[20] in future. Thus Vaud was the scene of the complete triumph of the State over the Church. “Order reigned in Warsaw.” That order, which followed one of the most memorable struggles of Christianity, has endured for three centuries, and the influence of the Bernese principles has so pervaded that beautiful country, in the course of time, that if the eloquent voices of Viret and Beza are heard here and there amid the ruins, claiming the rights of the Church of Jesus Christ, those sounds which have lasted for three centuries are, strangely enough, taken for modern words and theories of the day.

Without doubt, there were relations between Church and State in Calvin's system; but they were so little essential, that, two years since, at the time of our revolution, it was enough that a few voices recalled these principles of the Reform, to place these relations in imminent danger of being broken. Let us, then, mark this, that, although there is now a recrudescence of nationality in some minds, though there are some honorable Christians who preach a blind submission, and who are opposed to allowing citizens and believers to request respectfully in petitions that the liberty which has been promised them by oath, and has been secured to them by the Constitution itself of their country, should be given them: still, let us mark this, that such a mode of acting is an invasion of Lutheranism, of a false Lutheranism, as well as a great deviation from the principles of the Reform.

Freedom in matters of the Church, and in those of the State, is our antiquity; this is our custom; this is our tradition; and we are its preservers. It would be a revolutionary deed to take from the Reform that noble love of freedom.


It is time to close.

“The Catholic Church,” says Lange, “is the Church of Priests; the Lutheran Church is that of Theologians; the Reformed Church is that of the Faithful.” We accept this definition, observing, nevertheless, that Lange’s idea is, that the very Catholicism of the Reformed Church makes it attribute, both to doctors and pastors, the place belonging to them.

Were it necessary to give a motto to the Reform, what ought to be inscribed on its banner? I would choose this:

Above, GRACE.


GRACE, for its doctrine. Grace, in its fullness and its eternity, from the first movement of the regenerated heart to the entire accomplishment of its salvation.

CATHOLICISM and LIBERTY for the Church.

Catholicism. Assuredly the Reformed Church possesses it, for it has never ceased to make the great Christian union one of its most fervent desires, one of its dearest objects. It possesses it in a far higher degree than the self-styled Catholic Church, which has ever unhesitatingly cut off from its communion every man who has had any degree of truth and life. It did so to Jansenius, and almost to Fenelon.

But if Grace is the sun of the Reform, and if Catholicism is one of its poles, Liberty is the other pole. Catholicism for that Church as a body, and liberty for its individual members. Individuality and Catholicism are both equally essential to it; and to rise against either of them is to cease to be Reformed.

Thus, in the day when the Lord will bring His army together in holy solemnity, in the day when the body of Christ will unite its scattered members, the Reformed Church will advance, bringing, as a gift to the new Church, these three things, which will abide: Grace, Catholicism, Liberty. What other Church can bring so sublime an offering?

We say, then, in conclusion, let us be intelligent, faithful, and unchangeable sons of the Reform; let us be such not only here, in Geneva, but in Lausanne, in Neuchatel, in all Switzerland, in France, in Holland, in Scotland, in England, in Germany, in America. The fate of the Church depends on this.

Shall we forget our fathers, their principles, their struggles, their faithfulness, their blood? While they took such care to preserve the Reform pure, not only in relation to Popery, but also in all its secondary aspects, shall we lightly forsake the precious principles of their faith? Shall we walk over their tombs, treading under foot their bones, and scattering their ashes to the winds?

Doubtless, Lutheranism has its work as well as we. Doubtless, Lutheranism and the Reform ought to walk hand in hand beneath the banner of Christ, to the conquest of the world; and, that we should do our ally the service which he has a right to expect of us, we must be ourselves. And are we that?

Ah! He who wrote those revival letters to the seven churches of Asia, speaks to us also. Seeing how many there are whose “hands fall down, and whose knees are feeble,” He exclaims to the Reform, “Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. That good thing which was committed to thee, keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in thee.”[21]

The Reform is the Church of the present day; the Confession of the present, as a German writer calls it.[22] Its special work, assigned to it by the Lord, is the bringing together of the nations. Let it, then, advance with freedom and courage in the world, and let it there accomplish the sacred functions which it has received from the Most High; and, as the sixteenth century was the century of a great separation, may the nineteenth become, through the prayers and labors of the Reform, the century of a great union.

“I will make thee a pillar in the temple of my God.”


[1] This essay, originally in the form of a discourse, was read before the Evangelical Society of Geneva, at its Anniversary in 1844.

It is thought best to add, that much of what is said of Lutheranism in this discourse is applicable only to that of Europe, and can not be said of that of this country.—Trans.

[2] The reader must remember that the author uses the term Reformation to. designate the grand work of the sixteenth century in general, while the word Reform is employed when the work of Zwingle and Calvin is especially referred to.—Trans.

[3] “Dans le jardin de mon maître

Il est toutes sortes de fleurs.”

[4] Tersteegen.

[5] Wolfgang Joner.

[6] Gallican Confession, Art. V.; Confessio Belgica, Art. V.; Confess. Helv., Art. I., II.; Conf. Angl., Art. VI.; Conf. Bohem., Art. I.; Conf. of Westminster (of Scotland), Chap. I.

[7] Circular of the Pope, dated the day after the nones of May, 1844.

[8] This word, as well as another here used (ecclesiasticism), though coined by the author, is none the less significant and appropriate for its novelty.—Trans.

[9] The author alludes to the recent death of the venerable Cellérier, an illustrious servant of God in Geneva.—Trans.

[10] Gal., v., 20.

[11] Christian Institutes, book iv., chap. i.

[12] Nam si inter se comparantur, scis ipse quanto intervallo Lutherus excedat.

[13] Dogma nullum habemus diversum ab ecclesia Romans. Parati sumus obedire ecclesiae Romanae. (Legato Pontificio Melanchthon.) Ambeunt (reformati) colloquium cum Philippo; sed hic hactenus recusavit.—Brentius. [We have no difference from the dogma of the Church of Rome. We are ready to obey the Roman Church. (The papal Legate has Melanchthon.) They (the Reformed) solicit an interview with Philip; But this has been declined.—Brentius.]

[14] Circular of the Bishop of Lausanne and Geneva, of 17th of May, 1844.

[15] Save Bremen; there the Reformed Church and doctrine prevail.—Trans.

[16] Non puto tam serviliter nos constrictos teneri.

[17] Vaud is a Swiss canton; the term Vaudois must not be confounded here with the French name of the Waldenses, which is spelt in the same way.—Trans.

[18] Ordonnance de réformation des seigneurs de Berne. Voir Ruchat, 1837, tome iv., p. 522.—Pièces Justificatives.

[19] The bear is the emblem of the Bernese Republic.

[20] The Classis is equivalent to our Presbytery; the Colloquy to our Conference.Trans.

[21] Rev., iii, 11. 2 Tim., i., 14.

[22] “Die Confession der Gegenwart.”—LANGE.