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public instruction was none other than this, to banish the Bible from the schools, as wholly unfit for reading, as inculcating immorality, and debauching the minds of young people! It was the most advanced infidelity, addressing its trite, stock arguments with even more than its usual impudence and frivolity to an audience entrapped under false pretences. The effect of this surprise in a little town like Neuchatel can readily be conceived. It was the sole subject of conversation. But Buisson had not succeeded. He had not convinced his auditory, but he had made them indignant at the trick played upon them and at his own impertinence. When, four days later, Professor Godet, a well-known clergyman, replied to the attack, the place of meeting was so crowded that the “ Conference " had to be repeated in the largest church of Neuchatel. Professor Godet, while avoiding to commit himself to the indiscriminate use of every portion of the Old Testament in schools, easily defeated his opponent. His lecture on the “Holiness of the Bible" undertook to defend its God, its laws, and its history, and triumphantly vindicated the cause of religion. Buisson was beaten, but not silenced. His lecture-room might be forsaken, and the Communion-tables at Christmas surrounded by larger numbers than had ever been known to attend. He had gained another victory. The protest against the Bible in the schools was in reality only a feint-just as the title of the first Conference had been. The real object, as avowed in a second “Conference” (8th January, 1869), was to raise the banner of “ Liberal Protestantism” at Neuchatel. It soon appeared that M. Buisson was only the mouthpiece of a party, comparatively small, but active, to whom it had long been wormwood and gall that orthodoxy reigned supreme in their canton and church. M. Buisson traversed the country, lecturing in every village and town, everywhere closely followed by Professor Godet. Leading “Liberal Christians” came to the rescue, from Geneva, from France, and from Holland, and were in turn answered by pastors, laymen, and schoolmasters. In short, the peaceful little canton was in a ferment of excitement, and the churches were in danger of being converted into arenas of angry controversy.
The battle had hitherto gone decidedly in favour of the orthodox. In fact there was little more to fight for. The arguments on both sides were not new, and people began decidedly to weary. Under these circumstances the “Liberal” party held a grand meeting in a brewery, and decided on commencing a campaign to effect the disestablishment of the Church. In the month of March a news. paper, L'Emancipation, was started. It is amusing to contrast the negative principles on which it was proposed to found a new Church of Neuchatel with those owned in the canton from the Reformation downwards. So lately as the year 1849 every clergyman had still in turn to submit to the ordeals of the “ Sermons de Générale" and of the “Grabeaux.” On the first Wednesday of every month the clergy met in the Castle-Church of Neuchatel, listened to a sermon from one of their number by rotation, and then proceeded to a “brotherly criticism,” which must occasionally have been anything but pleasant. A more terrible trial still was the “Grabeaux,” administered hy the Synod itself. One by one, each member had to leave the assembly, while his conduct during the year and his shortcomings—personal, family, and official—were freely discussed. On his return the Dean announced the sentence of approval or blame pronounced by the brethren during his absence. Well might these doubtful assizes, at which it was impossible to explain or defend oneself, be compared to "a day of fasting and penitence for the pastorate of the Church.” *
The attempt to bring about a separation of Church and State was unquestionably a false move on the part of the “Liberals.” The existing constitution gave them ample powers of mischief within the Church, and had they well concerted their measures, they might ere long have acquired a commanding position, and forced the orthodox party to leave the Establishment. The Synod had the sagacity to perceive this, and the boldness to explain it publicly. In fact, the argument for a separation from the State was chiefly founded on this consideration.
Meantime the “Liberals " succeeded in their attempt. A petition for the suppression of the budget of public worship was presented to the “Grand Conseil,” which in turn remitted it to a committee. The report of the latter was to the effect that the petition really meant disestablishment, and in this sense the matter was sent for decision from the “Grand Council” to the “ Council of State.” Under such circumstances the Synod met on the 21st July, and after a very full discussion appointed a committee of thirteen to correspond with the various “ Colloques,” and to report to the Synod what steps it might be desirable for the Church to take. The report, presented to the Synod on the 21st September, is strongly in favour of a separation between Church and State, on certain bases and conditions. Just two months afterwards (on the 17th November) the Council of State laid a similar decree before the “Grand Council.” It now awaits only the ratification of a popular vote. Thus the Church first, and then the State, have agreed to recommend disestablishment to the people.
We have still to explain the specific reasons which actuated the Church to adopt so unusual a proposal. In so doing we shall again learn how much even the most independent State Church is fettered
* Godet, Histoire de la Réformation dans le Pays de Neuchatel, p. 179.
by the necessity of its position, and what considerations should most weigh with Christian men in the settlement of such questions.
The first point which the Synod proposed to itself was, whether the present ecclesiastical law afforded sufficient guarantees to the Church, specially in reference to purity of doctrine ? The answer to this was in the negative. How could the Church be said to possess autonomy, the first condition of independence, when its very constitution as a Church was the work of a political body, outside of itself (the “Grand Council"), and might in turn be modified, altered, or abolished? Besides, the ecclesiastical law embodied provisions wrong in themselves, and which might, at some future time, become fraught with danger. True, the worst article in the Constitution of 1848, which expressly reserved the spiritual “supremacy of the State” in all matters, had been abolished in 1858. In its stead it had been enacted that “the administration of the Church in all matters spiritual belonged exclusively to the Synod.” But then it had been added that, though the Synod alone had power to enact its own regulations, especially in reference to public worship, these required the sanction of the Council of State. Again, the Synod was allowed freely to exercise its own discipline. But in cases of suspension or deposition of pastors, an appeal lay to the civil power. It was admitted that the State had never yet interfered with the Church, but still it possessed the power of mischief. Nor were even these the most objectionable parts of the Constitution. Articles XII. and XLVIII. gave to the “ Council of State” a direct vote in the Synod by the appointment of two members. Still worse was Article VI., which accorded the right of voting on all ecclesiastical matters to all persons “ twenty years of age who accept the forms of the Protestant Church.” The Article was purposely so framed to open the Church to all kinds of religionists. The danger was aggravated by Article XX., which provided that in case of a scarcity of candidates, or of their non-acceptability, the Council of State might present ministers unexamined and unauthorised by the Synod. In other words, at the instance of any heterodox majority, the Council of State might leaven the Synod by introducing the most advanced liberals from other countries into the ministry of Neuchatel. To complete all, Article LXXV. bore that all disputes about the meaning or application of the ecclesiastical constitution were to be absolutely settled by the Council of State. Thus, however independent, comparatively speaking, the Church of Neuchatel was essentially Erastian in its constitution.
But how to mend this? The Synod was convinced that there was no rational hope of a revision of the law in any sense favourable to the liberties of the Church. To remain in statu quo were to
invite a slow process of internal disintegration. The only alternative left lay in a separation of Church and State. But this also presented certain material, and, above all, religious difficulties. Who was to be the recipient of the property belonging to the Church disestablished? The orthodox or the heterodox party? Both might claim to be the new Church! Or were they to divide the income and share the use of churches and parsonages ? If so, how, and in what proportions, and who was to decide in cases of dispute ?
Then, turning to higher considerations, how would the contemplated separation between Church and State affect the question of religious instruction in the schools, how that of national Sunday observance, and, most important of all, would it not greatly diminish the influence for good which the minister of a State Church exercised, even in virtue of his official position ?
The Synod addressed itself to each of these points.
At present the law leaves religious instruction in schools optional, enjoining that it should be given in separate hours and by the various religious bodies to which the scholars belonged. Why should this not continue, unless indeed the State meant, not disestablishment, but open hostility to the Church? As to the Sunday question, the State had a direct interest in Sunday observance, which was enjoined by law even in the United States. Besides, were it otherwise, at most those penalties could be abolished which even now it was not in the interest of the Church to see enforced. Lastly, the Synod repelled with warmth the idea that the influence of the pastor in any measure depended on his official position rather than on his work and character.
And yet the Synod has hesitated to pronounce the word of separation. As a substitute it has proposed a plan which, in its opinion, would leave the Church disestablished indeed, but still national, the old Church of Neuchatel, only free from the trammels of State control. Let the State, then, suppress the budget of public worship and return to the Church the revenue derived from its own property. On the other hand, let the Church be henceforth independent of all State control, free to alter its present constitution and to modify it, so as to secure purity of doctrine and liberty of discipline. Let the present Synod represent the Church, and let a constituent ecclesiastical assembly be called for the purpose of introducing such modifications as may be found necessary. If any should feel themselves aggrieved and wish to leave the Church or to form new communities, let them receive compensation proportionate to their numbers. Any deficiency of funds should be met by voluntary contributions, and a special committee of Synod administer its secular affairs on the principle of the smaller and poorer parishes
being supported out of a common fund in which all shall equally share.
Thus far the report of the Committee on the Separation of Church and State. We have only to add that the Synod has adopted this report, and addressed to the people, committed to its charge, a singularly beautiful and earnest exposition of the duties of Church and people under present circumstances. On the other hand, the proposed decree of the Council of State already mentioned embodies à virtual ratification of the views and wishes expressed by the Church. Henceforth she will be free from the control of a power foreign to her. Church and State, the spiritual and the secular, shall be no more confounded. A great danger has been averted, and a great scandal has been removed. And thus has the Church of Neuchatel, through grace, peacefully, happily, and satisfactorily to all parties, solved the great problem which in our day presses upon all ecclesiastical establishments.
creat danger has bee the Church of
GLIMPSES THROUGH THE CLERESTORY;
OR, SIDE LIGHTS OF THE CHURCH.
BY TIMOTHY B. VANE, ESQ., LL.D. CHAPTER IV.-Wherein the order of discussion is broken for a parenthesis, both for the pleasure of the author and the delight and advantage of the reader, and that concerning the natural aversion of the flesh to going to
the house of God. The reader has been already informed of the untoward and melancholy accident which befell the author in his childhood, and in consequence of which he has been a cripple and often a confirmed invalid and prisoner of the couch. Attendance at the public services of Salem has necessarily been irregular, and sometimes altogether impossible. Sometimes, movement from my own room has been entirely denied me, and then I have had to be content with my chair or couch drawn up to the window, and there in the morning or evening have I watched the people going into chapel, and, as best I could, joined in the service, or at least so much of it as was heard or seen, weaving in a dreamy, meditative mood my own musings, now with the joyous song of praise, and now in the silence, which I knew was the time of common prayer.
But my window commanded not only the exterior of Salem, with occasional glimpses of the inside, but also I was able to see the street and the people who passed along. Whither were these going? Many of them to church or chapel, but many, perhaps many