Page images

idea, but with real prepense purpose of spoliation of a neighbour, of aggrandisement, and annexation. To cede Gibraltar would be to forfeit the safety of the overland route, would be putting to hazard our power and our influence, not merely in the Mediterranean but over the whole habitable globe.

The Gibraltar of the present day is invulnerable. Almost impregnable by nature, it has been rendered completely so by art. When France and Spain attacked it in 1782 there were but 100 guns; now 1,000 guns are in position. Gibraltar gives to us the command of the Straits; it affords accommodation to our vessels, it separates the harbours of France and Spain, and renders the junction of their fleets difficult. These are advantages we cannot part with to please a small and crotchety school of politicians among us. And if Marshal O'Donnell seriously asks Lord Palmerston or Lord John Russell for a surrender of the rock fortress, both will respond with a will, Take it if you can.' The old rule practised in the past will be practised in the future

[ocr errors][merged small]

ART. V.-(1.) The Religions before Christ. By ED. DE PRESSENSÉ.
Translated by L. CORKRAN. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark._1862.
(2.) Les Deux Théologies Nouvelles. Par J. F. ASTIÉ.
Ch. Meyrueis & Cie. 1862.


(3.) Etudes Critiques sur la Bible-Ancien Testament. Par MICHEL NICOLAS. Paris: Michel Lévy Frères. 1862.

(4.) Sermons. Par T. COLANI. Deuxième Recueil. 2me Edition. Strasbourg: Treuttel & Wurtz. 1860.

(5.) Mélanges de Critique Religieuse. Par EDMOND SCHERER. Paris: Cherbuliez. 1860.

(6.) Essais de Critique Religieuse. Par A. RÉVILLE. Paris: Cherbuliez. 1860.

(7.) Du Protestantisme en France. Par SAM. VINCENT. Nouvelle Edition avec une Introduction de M. PRÉVOST PARADOL. Paris: Michel Lévy Frères. 1860.

FRENCH Protestantism entered a new era of its history in 1802. The memorable year 1789 saw the Protestants of France admitted to the possession of the same civil and religious rights as the rest of their countrymen; but in 1802 this newlygained position was most materially affected by the connection then formed between the State and the two Churches which represented the Protestantism of the Empire-the Reformed and the Lutheran. By this step they lost the right of self

The First Consul and the Protestants.


government, and placed their liberties in the hands of the civil power.

Various causes had long been tending to destroy all religious life among the Huguenots. As early as the end of the 17th century their principal leaders, together with large numbers of their most devoted and intelligent men, had either been put to death, or had escaped from the country. Thus weakened, Protestantism was but ill fitted to face the spirit of persecution that lingered in the country, or to encounter the attacks of that infidelity which became so prevalent under the auspices of Voltaire, Rousseau, and others. Their faith and zeal diminished from year to year, until the Revolution came and subjected every belief and institution to its fearful ordeal. It can, therefore, be no matter of surprise that, when some degree of order was re-established, and the temples were re-opened, and the scattered and diminished flocks began to re-assemble, the only traces of religion observable, except in a very few instances, were the external forms of worship, together with a strong feeling of opposition to Roman Catholicism.

Such was the general condition of the Protestants when the Government offered to insure them a certain status by taking their Churches under its patronage, and paying the salary of the pastors. The offer was a tempting one. It is true they would no longer have the sole direction of their affairs, and their church organizations would become subservient to the State. But, all things considered, the balance turned decidedly in favour of the proposals of the Government.

For a short period it had appeared probable that the First Consul would follow the advice of his Ministers, and leave all religious parties, except the Catholics, to pursue their own course, unfettered by any limitations save those necessary for the preservation of order and morality. The Concordat of the 15th of July, 1801, declared the Roman Catholic religion to be the religion of the majority of Frenchmen, and stipulated that the Government should pay the stipends of the ministers, on condition of its having the right to nominate the principal ministers, and to exercise surveillance over the subordinate ones. The Protestants were assured that these arrangements with the Holy See would not in any way affect their interests, and for a short time they enjoyed perfect religious freedom. But such a condition of affairs did not accord with Napoleon's governmental theory. He wished his authority to extend over all the institutions of the country. Hence the proposals made by him to the Protestants, which, as we have stated, they gladly accepted. The law that settled these new

relations between the civil power and the French Protestant Churches, both Reformed and Lutheran, is dated 18th Germinal, year X. (April 7th, 1802).

As that law, except in a few particulars to be mentioned hereafter, continues to determine the relations between the Government and the two Protestant communions, it becomes necessary to give a general view of its provisions. The Reformed Churches and it is to these only that we shall at present refer-are to have 'Pastors, local Consistories, and Synods.' The Consistories are to be composed of the pastor or pastors of the church, and of not less than six, and of not more than twelve elders, chosen from among the Protestants of the neighbourhood, who pay the largest amount of taxes. Every two years, half of the members are to withdraw, but may be re-elected. The ordinary meetings of the Consistories are to take place on certain fixed days. No extraordinary meeting can be held without the permission of the sub-prefect or mayor. There is to be a Consistorial Church for every 6,000 members of the same communion. Five such churches form the district of a Synod, which is to consist of the pastor, or of one of the pastors, and of an elder from each church. In these Synods matters pertaining to ecclesiastical affairs, religious teaching, and the celebration of worship, are to be discussed. They are not to be convoked without the permission of the authorities, and are not to last more than six days. All the subjects to be taken up must be communicated beforehand to the Minister of Worship, to whom also a copy of all the deliberations must be forwarded. The meetings must take place in presence of the prefect or sub-prefect of the district where they are held.

Such are the principal regulations. Not a word is said respecting General Synods, one of the essential features of a Presbyterian form of Church government, nor respecting the doctrines to be believed and taught. Such omissions are strange and significant. The Reformed Church, as thus constituted, is, if we may admit the supposition, like an arch without foundations and without a key-stone. As the Government of the First Consul ordained no Confession of Faith, and did not even mention that of La Rochelle, which, from 1561, had been considered the standard of doctrine, it is clear that either they did not deem it to be within their province to deal with such matters, or else they wished to leave the pastors free to adopt and proclaim what doctrines they pleased. The former hypothesis is untenable; for in art. iv. of the law of 1802 we read, 'No doctrinal or 'dogmatic decision, no formulary, under the title of a Confession or under any other title, may be published or become the basis

[ocr errors]
[blocks in formation]

of instruction, until the Government has authorized its publication or promulgation.' This was equivalent to saying, 'We give you no Confession of Faith, and we will not allow you to make one without our permission.' And if, as seems most probable, the Government, by their silence in reference to General Synods, intended that none should be held, it is obvious that the Reformed Church, never being able to have a general convocation, can never agree upon any Confession of Faith to be presented to Government for its sanction, and can therefore never possess a regular and authorized Confession.

Shortly after the promulgation of the law of 1802, a petition was presented asking for permission to form a Central Committee on the same plan, and with the same restrictions, as the District Synods, for the purpose of establishing some unity in matters of doctrine, worship, and discipline. But the petition appears to have been disregarded, and now, after sixty years have passed away, the questions of General Synods, and of a Confession of Faith, are still unsettled.*

It will be seen by the above particulars that the government of the Reformed Church was completely revolutionized by the law of 1802. It ceased to be Presbyterian. The bond of union was destroyed, and the several consistorial churches came to resemble so many Congregational churches, independent of one another, and subject only to the civil authority. As Samuel Vincent says, 'There is not a greater difference between the Church of England and the various Dissenting Churches that have sprung up around it, than there is between the Reformed "Church, as constituted by the law of 1802, and the same Church 'as it was in the time of Henri IV.'†

[ocr errors]

The law of 1802 is the same in its general provisions for the Lutheran as for the Reformed Church. Though called the Church of the Confession of Augsburg, the law makes no mention of that or of any other Confession of Faith; and thus this Church, too, has no legally recognised Confession to which to appeal. There has always been more ecclesiastical action in this Church than in the other. While in the Reformed Church but one District Synod has been held since 1802, in the Lutheran Church, the Inspections, answering to the District Synods, have been regularly held. There are also General Consistories, com

These words were written previous to the discussion that took place in the French Senate on the 28th of last May, relative to a petition addressed to that body by M. F. de Coninck, member of the Consistory of Havre, praying for the re-establishment of General National Synods. The Committee appointed to examine into the matter reported that they found no regulations in the law of 1802 concerning General Synods, and the petition was consequently rejected. + Du Protestantisme en France, p. 134. Nouv. Edition. 1859.

posed of delegates from the various Inspections, and, in addition, a Directory, which is the executive power in the Church. But all this is the appearance, and not the reality of self-government. The civil authority is represented in every business meeting, and not a single resolution can be carried without its permission. That such a régime should have been cheerfully accepted by the Lutheran churches, is in itself a proof that they were, equally with the Reformed churches, in a state of utter prostration, if not decay.

The establishment of peace in 1815 is the era from which we may date the commencement of the religious awakening, which our French brethren emphatically term the Revival, and which has brought about that change in the aspect of French Protestantism which we shall have to describe. France being once more accessible to the rest of Europe, multitudes began to flock to her capital, and to spread themselves over the country in search of business or pleasure. Of these, some few were Moravians from Germany, while others were Christians of different persuasions from Great Britain. The former effected a considerable amount of good, by gathering together for private worship here and there such of the Protestants as they found desirous of more spiritual instruction than they could obtain in the temples. Chief among those who went over from this country at that period, for the purpose of ascertaining the state of religion among French Protestants, was Robert Haldane. His inquiries and efforts were chiefly directed to the theological faculties of Montauban and Geneva, where most of the young men, destined for the ministry in connection with the Reformed Church, receive their training. Several students, who have since risen to great eminence in the Christian Church, speak of their indebtedness to his teachings. But it is incorrect to attribute the origin of the Revival in France and Switzerland to Mr. Haldane. The movement had begun before he arrived. What he did was to give impetus to it, and to draw special attention to the doctrine of justification by faith. He seems also to have laid great stress on the doctrine of election, and thus unfortunately to have paved the way for much subsequent and painful controversy.

The Wesleyans also began about this time to look upon France as a field for missionary work. The late Rev. Dr. Cook,* and a few others, were appointed to visit various parts of the country, and for several years they rendered great service as

One of Dr. Cook's sons is engaged in writing his father's life. The first part has already appeared, and contains many interesting details of Dr. Cook's earlier labours in France.

« PreviousContinue »