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GERMAN REFORMED CHURCH.

BY LEWIS MAYER, D.D.,

YORK, PA.

The German Reformed Church, as its name imports, comprises that portion of the family of reformed churches,who speak the German language and their descendants, and as such is distinguished from the French Reformed, the Dutch Reformed, &c. It embraces the reformed churches of Germany and of the German part of Switzerland, and their brethren and descendants in other countries, particularly in the United States of America.

The founder of this church was Ulric Zwingli, a native of Switzerland. He was born on the 1st day of January, 1484, at Wildhaus, a village of the ancient county of Tokkenburg, then a dependency of the Benedictine Abbey of St. Gall, under the guardianship of the canton of Schweitz, but, since 1803, included in the new canton of St. Gall.

About the time of Zwingli's birth, the people of Tokkenburg had effected their emancipation from the condition of serfs to the saintly abbey, and now breathed the air of freedom in all its delightful freshness; and the future reformer, inhaling the same enlivening air from his infancy, and growing up to manhood under its influence, became the champion of liberty, in all the forms in which the human mind is by nature free.

Possessing talents of a high order, and cultivated by the best education which the times could afford, and a lofty genius could attain; taught, at the same time, by the Spirit of God, and guided by him into a knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus: Zwingli rose upon

the world a burning and shining light, and showed to bewildered men, groping in the darkness of a long night, the way to God, whose mercy they sought, and the path to heaven, for which they sighed. Dark clouds often intercepted the light; but its beams burst forth again in their wonted brightness; the truth prevailed, superstition gave way, and the church arose in her strength, the fetters falling from her

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hands, and occupied the place which God had assigned her as the bride of his Son, and the parent of true piety and virtue.

The first principle of the German Reformed Church is contained in the proposition: “ The Bible is above all human authority, and to it alone must every appeal be made.” This principle Zwingli first announced in 1516, when he was yet pastor of the Church of Glarus ; from it he went forth in all his subsequent investigations of religious truth, and in all his public instructions; and when he reformed the church, after his establishment in Zurich, he swept away from her ritual, as well as from her doctrinal system, all that the Bible did not authorize, either by an express warrant or by an implied one. The interpretation of the Bible he left, where God had left it, to the judgment and the conscience of every man who can apprehend the meaning of words, and compare one passage with another; and if the truth could not be ascertained in this way, he felt assured that neither the fathers, nor the Pope, nor a general council, could be trusted as interpreters of the sacred oracles; for these, he knew, had no better way.

The Reformed Church differed, at first, from the Lutheran in nothing but the single point only of the Lord's Supper. In the conference at Marburg in 1529, which had been procured by the Landgrave of Hesse for the purpose of healing the breach between the Saxon and the Swiss divines, and where Zwingli and Ecolampadius disputed with Melancthon and Luther, this was the only point on which they did not agree. Neither did they differ concerning the whole subject of the eucharist, but concerning only the import of the words, “ This is my body;" “ This is my blood." Zwingli took them as a trope, and understood them to mean that the bread was a sign or figure of the Lord's body, and the wine of his blood. Luther insisted on a literal meaning, and contended that these words were the irrefragable testimony of the Lord himself, that his material body and blood were really present in and with the bread and wine, and were received, together with them, by the communicant; and to fix this notion, he maintained that, like the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ were received, not by faith, but by the mouth; not by the believer only, but by every communicant.

The Reformed regarded this difference as unessential, and acknowledged their opponents as brethren in Christ, whom it was their duty to receive. Luther classed it with the essentials of Christianity, and would not admit that those who denied the real presence were Christians at all. Zwingli proffered his hand to Luther and besought him with tears to receive him as a Christian brother, saying that there were no people in the world with whom he would delight more to have fraternal communion than those of Wittemberg. Luther spurned his hand and turned away. In her subsequent history, the Reformed Church often sought the same fraternity, and made some concessions for that object; but she was as often repelled; and her anxiety for a reunion subjected her to the epithet of Gern-Brüder, i. e. Would-bebrethren.

The doctrine of predestination, which at a later period became a prominent subject of controversy between the two churches, was held by all the reformers, unless Haller, the reformer of Berne, and Bullinger, Zwingli's successor in Zurich, he exceptions. Luther contended for it, in its rigid Augustinian form, in his tract De Servo Arbitrio. Melancthon also maintained it in the earlier editions of his Loci Communes Theologici, a system of divinity which long continued to be the text-book of theological students in the Lutheran church. Controversy on this subject between theologians of the two churches first arose in 1561, when Zanchius and Marbach, two divines of Strasburg, took opposite sides; and such was still the prevailing sentiment of that period, that this strise could be composed by submitting to the contending parties, as the terms of peace, an ambiguous form of words, which each might interpret as he pleased. Long after this time, Melancthon's theory of synergism, or co-operation of the human will with divine grace in the sinner's conversion, was condemned as heresy in the Lutheran Church; and in the synergistic controversy between the Philipists, or followers of Melancthon, and the rigid Lutherans, while the former ascribed to the human will a power to co-operate with the Holy Spirit in the act of conversion, the latter not only denied this power, but maintained in all its rigour the Augustinian doctrine of absolute predestination. (See Plank's Gesch. der Protestantischen Theologie, Bd. III. p. 805, &c.)

A third cause of difference, which became, at a later period, a subject of controversy between the two churches, was the use of certain religious rites and institutions which to the Reformed appeared to favour superstition, while the Lutherans regarded them all as tolerable, and some of them as useful. Such were the use of images in the churches, the distinguishing vestments of the clergy, private confession of sins and absolution, the use of the wafer in the Lord's Supper, lay-baptism, exorcism of the evil spirit previous to baptism, altars, baptismal fonts, &c. Most of these usages have been laid aside, and are now unknown in the Lutheran Church in this country. Little now remains to distinguish the two churches; they recognise each other as brethren, worship together, and abhor the controversy that would rupture the bond of mutual love.

After the death of Zwingli and Ecolampadius, in 1531, none of their associates enjoyed so decided a superiority over his brethren, as to give him a commanding influence over the whole church, and to secure to him the chief direction of her councils. This honour was reserved for John Calvin, the French reformer. He was born at Noyon, in France, in the year 1509. Driven from his own country by persecution, he came to Basel in 1534. Here, in the following year, he published the first edition of his “ Institutes of the Christian Religion;" a work which became the text-book of theology in the Reformed Church, and which he enlarged and improved in successive editions, until the year 1559. On his return from a visit to the Duchess of Ferrara, in Italy, who was friendly to the Reformation, being compelled by the war to take the route through Geneva, he came to that city in August 1536, and was persuaded by Farell and Viret to remain there, and complete the reformation which they had begun. A violent opposition from the licentious part of the inhabitants, who hated the strictness of his moral discipline, resulted in his expulsion in 1538. He repaired to Strasburg, where he taught theology, and preached to a French congregation; but in 1541 he was recalled to Geneva, and appointed professor of theology and principal pastor of the city. He was now enabled to prosecute successfully, though not without frequent and often malicious opposition, the plan of reformation which he had formed. Endowed with great natural talents, richly furnished with stores of theological learning, fired by an ardent zeal for what he conceived to be truth, and possessed of a spirit of diligence that never tired, he rose in power and reputation above all his cotemporaries, and caused his influence be felt wherever the Reformation was known, or became known. His design was vast and bold, like his genius : not content with reforming the little state which had received him as her spiritual father, he meditated the extension of the same work far beyond her narrow bounds, and sought to make Geneva the nursery and the model of all the Reformed churches throughout the world. Neither was he wholly disappointed. The splendour of his name, and the fame of his associate and successor, Theodore Beza, who maintained his entire system, attracted to Geneva the studious youth who looked to the Christian ministry, from all the countries upon which the light of the Reformation had risen ; the university over which they presided cast into the shade the University of Basel and the Seminary of Zurich, and reigned long almost without a competitor; and Geneva became thus the nursing-mother from whom the whole church received her pastors and derived her spiritual instruction, and the model after which, in more than one country, her ecclesiastical constitution was formed.

The influence of the school of Calvin was felt by the German as well as by the other Reformed churches. The preachers who came from Geneva brought with them the doctrine and the spirit of the new reformer, and diffused them through the churches over which they presided; and Calvinism thus became every where triumphant. Out of Switzerland, Zwingli, silent in death that came, alas ! too soon, was by degrees neglected and forgotten; and even in his own country his spirit was checked and his doctrine modified by this foreign influence.

Calvin differed from Zwingli chiefly on three points, viz., on the Lord's Supper, on church-government, and on religious liberty.

On the first point of difference Calvin took a position that was less offensive to the Papists than the doctrine of Zwingli, and presented to the Lutherans a middle ground upon which they might unite with the Reformed. Zwingli had taught, that to eat the flesh of Christ and to drink his blood, was simply to believe in him, and thereby to obtain pardon and eternal life. Calvin, on the contrary, maintained a real participation of the material body and blood of Christ, of which he considered the partaking of the bread and wine the visible sign artd seal. He distinguished between believing in Christ and partaking of his flesh and blood, and made the latter consequent upon the former. This participation of Christ's body and blood, he viewed as necessary to spiritual and eternal life. It is confined to the believer, and is effected, he thought, by the agency of the Holy Spirit, who elevates the believer, by means of his faith, to Christ, in heaven, and makes him, in a mysterious manner, a participant of the Lord's body and blood; and we thus become united with Christ, so that we are flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone, and constitute one body with him, which is governed by one and the same spirit. He differed from Luther in separating Christ from the bread and wine, and denying the presence of his body and blood in or with those elements. A consequence of this was, that a communicant might receive the elements without receiving the body and blood of Christ; and this, he held, was the case of all who were destitute of true faith. (See Calvin's Institutes, Book IV. chap. xvii.)

Zwingli, seeing the abuse of church-power in the Roman hierarchy, and finding no authority for it in the holy scriptures, subjected the

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