« IndietroContinua »
south-west petitioned the Synodal Commission to the same effect, and expressed the hope that a new Synod would declare that the regulations are not to be imposed upon such parishes as decline to accept them.
As yet the sanction of the government, so much dreaded by the Liberals, had not been rendered to the determinations of the Synod. On February 28, 1874, however, the Confession of Faith, accompanied by the new electoral conditions, was officially promulgated by the Council of State. Minister Bardoux, nevertheless, announced to the Synodal Commission that "the religious guarantees of the electorate remain beyond the sphere of the government." An official committee was appointed to provide for "difficulties of application" in the law. This action of the government was bitterly denounced by the Liberals, and the Synod called a Protestant Pope, the Confession a Syllabus.
At the elections in April for the presbyterial councils great confusion prevailed. In Paris, out of two thousand five hundred and seventy-two electors, one thousand four hundred gave in formal adhesion to the new conditions. The remainder, for the most part, voted without regard to it, claiming a legal right so to do. In the country, also, there was little uniformity. This course of things put the Reformed Church in a more perplexing attitude toward the government than ever before, which was especially a disappointment to M. Thiers and M. Simon, who had confidently hoped for a harmonious result from the Synod. In October a government decree annulled the elections which had not conformed to the new condition. The forty-two Liberal consistories thereupon expressly declined to renew the elections, and petitioned the government for an equitable separation. Without an equitable division of property and support, however, they claimed the right to remain in the Reformed Church, advocating such opinions as their "consciences" might dictate. In April they appealed from the Minister of Public Worship, who had annulled the elections, to the Council of State. Meanwhile the whole evangelical press advocated leniency and the policy of equitable division, except the leading organ, Le Christianisme au XIX' siecle, which called upon the Liberals to submit, or else abandon the name "Reformed." The prominent Orthodox leaders,
Fourth Skeibs, Vol. XXXII.—31
also, seem to have influenced the government against conciliation; and, with the accessions to the Republican party in the State, in February, 1875, the opportunity for an amicable separation seems to have been lost, since a disturbance of the Liberals was now out of the question.
An apparent epoch in the complications was reached, however, when, in June, 1876, a body of delegates, called the "Pacification Committee," of the Liberal party, appointed at a Liberal conference, held in Paris in April, sought to form a compromise with the Commission of the Synod. The delegation declared itself, in a document dated June 14, "ready to accept the synodal presbyterial organization and the electoral condition; to acknowledge that the Confession of Faith is the expression of the general faith of the Church, and that the Confession cannot, either in itself or in its contents, be the object of attack by the pastors in the exercise of their functions." On its part the Synodal Commission agreed in substance to advocate at the coming Synod a modification of the ordination imposed upon the pastors, to the effect that they be simply required to read the Confession of Faith, while a change in the electoral law might be secured at the next Synod, and in any case the mode of its application was to be left to the wisdom of the several consistories. The Liberals at the same time agreed to withdraw their appeal to the Council of the State about the elections. This compromise was readily accepted by the Liberal Conference of Nismes, July 12, but under the express assumption that hereby "the Orthodox party have frankly acknowledged that in the bosom of Protestantism there undoubtedly exist two ecclesiastical principles, and that a modus vivendi must be found corresponding to both without sacrificing either to the other." On hearing of this very broad interpretation put upon their action, M, Bois and four other members of the Synodal Commission at once withdrew their names from the agreement. An Evangelical conference, held at Le Vigan, in the following autumn, rejected the compromise for the same reason. A conference, mostly of the Right Center, at Rouen, and one at Lille, in the same season, again proposed an adjustment not differing much from the one above mentioned. The Synod was to exercise no repressive authority over doctrinal utterances, except on complaint of the " competent authorities," which must mean the consistories and local presbyteries. The only subscription to be required of the electors was that they should listen to the reading of the required qualification. A truly unhappy situation is here implied—a Confession of Faith without any obligation, an electoral law without guarantee, a Synod without power. As in the relations between Church and State, so in the mutual attitude of the two parties, the action of the Synod seems only to have wrought confusion. For one step forward there have been two backward. The dispute appears interminable, and threatens to exhaust the spiritual force of the Church. Yet all have looked to a new Synod as a solution of the problem.
In the autumn of 1875, the decision of the Council of State on the renewal of the elections being still withheld, appeared M. Doumergue's pamphlet, "L'unite de VEglise reformee," which denied the existence of any occasion for schism, on the ground that the new liberalism, being properly rationalism, had no rights (droit de cite) within the Reformed Church. M. Sayou, of the Left Center, in Le Regime synodale, defended the authority of the Synod, and sought to persuade the Liberals to submit. The notable reply of M. Maurice Vernes, Liberal delegate, aimed at the same practical result from an extremely radical point of view. It attributed such a fluctuating tendency to theological opinions as to make subscription appear a matter of small scruple and easily rendered for the sake of peace and material advantage. M. Vernes though an applicant for a theological chair at Montauban, is the author of Lea idem messianiques, wherein he exhibits a radicalism quite beyond that of MM. Colani and Reville concerning the authority of Jesus. The book was severely criticised by M. Pecaut in the Liberal journal La Renaissance.
While arguments thus drawn from the utter annihilation of the faith are applied to the pacification of the Church, and the government has seemed quite at a loss to know how it may put an end to the complications, the Churches have suffered from an unusual dearth of pastors. In the spring of 1877 forty-five pastorates were vacant. The cause lay partly in the poverty of the Churches, but also in the discords prevailing and the unsettled state of doctrinal opinions. The number of candidates for the ministry at the theological seminaries also considerably diminished. During this year MM. Bersier, Theodore and Ernest Monod, and John Bost, founder of the asylums at La Force, passed over from the Free Church to the National. The Church of EEtoile was received as a mission and M. Bessier recognized as an assistant pastor. In a letter to a friend he announces his abandonment of the hopes he had vainly cherished, as an enthusiasm of his youth, for the abolition of the principle of State Churches and Concordats in the present epoch. He had, in 1873, decidedly approved the vernacular liturgical service of Pere Hyacinthe, and the next year introduced it into his Church, besides certain observances hitherto characteristic of the Lutherans. In his published discourse, (pronounced June 3, 1877,) the accompanying preface, explanatory notes, and letter, he declares plainly for a sacramental Church, embracing all baptized persons, in distinction from a Church of "professants" or subscribers to a creed, which for the times is an institution too narrow and precarious. The principle of individualism is not adequate; the spiritual rights of the community at large must be regarded and fostered. The separation of the Protestant Church from the State at present would be disastrous to the cause of Protestantism. The Free Church has not succeeded in its enterprise. On the latter point M. Pressense, in his criticism on the above publication, responds, "Pray let him tell us what has succeeded in our unhappy French Protestantism." Theodore Monod, son of Frederic Monod, accepted the Church of St. Marie. In his letter of acceptance he wrote, "Moreover, I am of opinion that I am thus [in returning to the National Church] in no wise unfaithful to the memory of my father, convinced as I am that he would not have dreamed of forsaking the National Church had the Synod of 1848 done what that of 1872 has done." The Free Church, though saddened by these losses, was not disheartened. It was cheered by the accession of the strong Church of Lyons to this union, and both branches of Protestantism have had reason to be encouraged by the growing influence of their principles and of their adherents in the country at large. An unusual destitution of the Churches with respect to settled pastors has, however, continued, sixty-one vacancies being reported in March, 1878.
. Many elections, both regular and renewed, were held early in 1877, where the Liberals subscribed to the new condition and prevailed with their votes. The Orthodox minorities thus found themselves under the official control of their opponents. M. Duf aure, Minister of Public Worship, and his successor, M. Martel, had issued circulars to the presidents of the consistories urging conciliation in the conduct of the elections. Two conferences of the opposite parties, however, held at Paris in April, pronounced against the late measures of compromise, the Orthodox taking extreme ground concerning the rights of the Synod. The Liberals again besought the government to reverse the decree annulling the illegal elections. They continued to prevent the confirmation of Theodore Monod, and petitioned again for a division of the Paris Consistory. A commission of Catholic lawyers, of which Dufaure was chairman, was appointed to examine into the legality of the proposed division. The only conclusion reached by the report was to recommend conciliatory action to the dominant party in the matter of pastors for Liberal congregations. An unusual event occurred in March, 1878, when a body of senators and deputies called before them certain members of the Liberal party to hear their complaints and learn their wishes, and thereupon agreed to petition Minister Bardoux for the establishment of two consistories at Paris and for the approval of all the elections held according to the law of 1852, besides certain action regarding the special elections of Mazamet and St. Foy. The minister acceded, but appeal was taken to the Council of State. In thus seeking or admitting government interference, the Liberals were but doing, in an irregular way, that for which they had blamed the Orthodox, who had sought to establish themselves by formal statute. After the lapse of many months, however, these vexed electoral questions have come no nearer a solution. Liberal pastors also continue their ministrations without subscription to the Synodal Confession of Faith.
A remarkable change has, however, lately occurred in the attitude of the government, which has seemingly proposed to cut the Gordian knot of party differences in the Reformed Church by resuscitating the powers of the Central Council established by the law of 1852. This is an institution of the empire, and an instrument of absolute control over Church affairs. Former members of the council had deceased, and the functions