תמונות בעמוד

striking view of the disorders of the church, and proposed the remedies that were proper to heal them. Many persons of good and upright intentions were highly pleased both with the proceedings and writings of Spener, and indeed the greatest part of those who had the cause of virtúe and practical religion truly at heart, applauded the designs of this good man, though an apprehension of abuses retained numbers from encouraging them openly. These abuses actually happened. The remedies proposed by Spener to heal the disorders of the church, fell into unskilful hands, were administered without sagacity or prudence, and thus, in many cases, proved to be worse than the disease itself. The religious meetings above mentioned, or the colleges of piety, as they were usually called by a phrase borrowed from the Dutch, tended in many places to kindle in the breasts of the multitude the flames of a blind and intemperate zeal, whose effects were impetuous and violent, instead of that pure and rational love of God, whose fruits are benign and peaceful. Hence complaints arose against these institutions of pietism, as if, under a striking appearance of sanctity, they led the people into false notions of religion, and fomented, in those who were of a turbulent and violent character, the seeds and principles of mutiny and sedition.

XXVII. These first complaints would have been undoubtedly hushed, and the tumults they occasioned would have subsided by degrees, had not the bombe a comencontests that arose at Leipsic, in the year 1689, sic. added fuel to the flame. Certain pious and learned professors of philosophy, and particularly Franckius, Schadius, and Paulus Antonius, the disciples of Spener, who at that time was ecclesiastical superintendent of the court of Saxony, began to consider with attention the defects that prevailed in the ordinary method of instructing the candidates for the ministry; and this review persuaded them of the necessity of using their best endeavours to supply what was wanting, and to correct what was amiss. For this purpose, they undertook to explain in their colleges certain books of holy Scripture, in order to render these genuine sources of religious knowledge better understood, and to promote a spirit of practical piety and vital religion in the minds of their hearers. The novelty of this method drew attention, and rendered it singularly pleasing to many; ac

The common tions at Lein

cordingly, these lectures were much frequented, and their effects were visible in the lives and conversations of several persons, whom they seemed to inspire with a deep sense of the importance of religion and virtue. Whether these first effusions of religious fervour, which were, in themselves, most certainly laudable, were always kept within the strict bounds of reason and discretion, is a question not easily decided. If we are to believe the report of common fame, and the testimonies of several persons of great weight, this was by no means the case : and many things were both said and done in these biblical colleges, as they were called; which, though they might be looked upon, by equitable and candid judges, as worthy of toleration and indulgence, were nevertheless contrary to custom, and far from being consistent with prudence. Hence rumours were spread, tumults excited, animosities kindled, and the matter at length brought to a public trial, in which the pious and learned men above mentioned were indeed declared free from the errors and heresies that had been laid to their charge, but were at the same time prohibited from carrying on the plan of religious instruction they had undertaken with such zeal. It was during these troubles and divisions that the invidious denominations of pietists was first invented; it may at least be affirmed, that it was not commonly known before this period. It was at first applied by some giddy and inconsiderate persons to those who frequented the biblical colleges, and lived in a manner suitable to the instructions and exhortations that were addressed to them in these seminaries of piety. It was afterward made use of to characterize all those who were either distinguished by the excessive austerity of their manners, or who, regardless of truth and opinion, were only intent upon practice, and turned the whole vigour of their efforts toward the attainment of religious feelings and habits. But as it is the fate of all those denominations by which peculiar sects are distinguished, to be variously and often very improperly applied, so the title of pietists was frequently given, in common conversation, to persons of eminent wisdom and sanctity, who were equally remarkable for their adherence to truth and their love of piety; and, not seldom, to persons whose motley characters exhibited an enormous mixture of profligacy and enthusiasm, and who deserved

The progress

the title of delirious fanatics better than any other deno, mination. • XVIII. This contest was by no means confined to Leipsic, but diffused its contagion, with incredible celerity, through all the Lutheran churches in the of The progress different states and kingdoms of Europe. For, bales. from this time, in all the cities, towns, and villages, where Lutheranism was professed, there started up, all of a sudden, persons of various ranks and professions, of both sexes, learned and illiterate, who declared, that they were called, by a divine impulse, to pull up iniquity by the root, to restore to its primitive lustre, and propagate through the world, the declining cause of piety and virtue, to govern the church of Christ by wiser rules than those by which it was at present directed, and who, partly in their writings, and partly in their private and public discourses, pointed out the means and measures that were necessary to bring about this important revolution. All those, who were struck with this imaginary impulse, unanimously agreed, that nothing could have a more powerful tendency to propagate among the multitude solid knowledge, pious feelings, and holy habits, than those private meetings that had been first contrived by Spener, and that were afterward introduced into Leipsic. Several religious assemblies were accordingly formed in various places, which, though they differed in some circumstances, and were not all conducted and composed with equal wisdom, piety, and prudence, were however designed to promote the same general purpose. In the mean time, these unusual, irregular, and tumultuous proceedings filled, with uneasy and alarming apprehensions, both those who were intrusted with the government of the church, and those who sat at the helm of the state. These apprehensions were justified by this important consideration, that the pious and well-meaning persons, who composed these assemblies, had indiscreetly admitted into their community a parcel of extravagant and hot-headed fanatics, who foretold the approaching destruction of Babel, by which they meant the Lutheran church, terrified the populace with fictitious visions, assumed the authority of prophets honoured with a divine commission, obscured the sublime truths of religion by a gloomy kind of jargon of their own invention, and revived doctrines that had long before been condemn


ed by the church. These enthusiasts also asserted, that the millennium, or thousand years reign of the saints on earth, mentioned by St. John, was near at hand. They endeavoured to overturn the wisest establishments, and to destroy the best institutions, and desired that the power of preaching and administering public instruction might be given promiscuously to all sorts of persons. Thus was the Lutheran church torn asunder in the most deplorable manner, while the votaries of Rome stood by and beheld, with a secret satisfaction, these unhappy divisions. The most violent debates arose in all the Lutheran churches; and persons, whose differences were occasioned rather by mere words and questions of little consequence, than by any doctrines or institutions of considerable importance, attacked one another with the bitterest animosity; and, in many countries, severe laws were at length enacted against the pietists. XXIX. These revivers of piety were of two kinds, who,

by their different manner of proceeding, deserve debates to be placed in two distinct classes. One sect of

these practical reformers proposed to carry on vines of Balle. their plan without introducing any change into the doctrine, discipline, or form of government that were established in the Lutheran church. The other maintained, on the contrary, that it was impossible to promote the progress of real piety among the Lutherans, without making considerable alterations in their doctrine, and changing the whole form of their ecclesiastical discipline and polity. The former had at their head the learned and pious Spener, who, in the year 1691, removed from Dresden to Berlin, and whose sentiments were adopted by the professors of the new academy at Halle; and particularly by Franck

carried on with Spener and tbe di

·m This whole matter is amply illustrated by the learned Jo. George Walchius in his Introductio ad Controversias, vol. ii. and ji. who exhibits, successively, the various scenes of this deplorable contest, with a view of the principal points that were controverted, and his judgment concerning each, and a particular account of the writers, that displayed their talents on this occasion. It would indeed be difficult for any one man to give an ample and exact history of this contest, which was accompanied with so many incidental circumstances, and was, upon the whole, of such a tedious and complicated nature. It were therefore to be wished, that a society of prudent and impartial persons, furnished with a competent knowledge of human nature and political transactions, and also with proper materials, would set themselves to compose the history of Pietism. If several persons were employed in collecting from public records, and also from papers that lie yet concealed in the cabinets of the curious, the events which happened in each country where this controversy reigned ; and if these materials, thus carefully gathered on the spot, were put in the hands of a man capable of digesting the whole, this would produce a most interesting and useful history,

ius and Paulus Antonius, who had been invited thither from Leipsic, where they began to be suspected of pietism. Though few pretended to treat either with indignation or contempt the intentions and purpose of these good men, which indeed none could despise without affecting to appear the enemy of practical religion and virtue, yet many eminent divines, and more especially the professors and pastors of Wittemberg, were of opinion, that, in the execution of this laudable purpose, several maxims were adopted, and certain measures employed, that were prejudicial to the truth, and also detrimental to the interests of the church. Hence they looked on themselves as obliged to proceed publicly, first against Spener, in the year 1695, and afterward against his disciples and adherents, as the inventers and promoters of erroneous and dangerous opinions. These debates are of a recent date; so that those who are desirous of knowing more particularly how far the principles of equity, moderation, and candour influenced the conduct and directed the proceedings of the contending parties, may easily receive à satisfactory information.

xxx. These debates turned upon a variety of points; and therefore the matter of them cannot be com- The subject of prehended under any one general head. If we these delsates. consider them indeed in relation to their origin, and the circumstances that gave rise to them, we shall then be able to reduce them to some fixed principles. It is well known that those who had the advancement of piety most zealously at heart, were possessed of a notion, that no order of men contributed more to retard its progress than the clergy, whose peculiar vocation it was to inculcate and promote it. Looking upon this as the root of the evil, it was but natural that their plans of reformation should begin here; and, accordingly, they laid it down as an essential principle, that none should be admitted into the ministry, but such as had received a proper education, were distinguished by their wisdom and sanctity of manners, and had hearts filled with divine love. Hence they proposed, in the first place, a thorough reformation of the schools of divinity; and they explained clearly enough what they meant by this reformation, which consisted in the following points; that the systematical theology, which reigned in the academies, and was composed of intricate and disputable doctrines, and obscure and unusual forms of expression, should

« הקודםהמשך »