Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

istence of Articles 291-294 of the Penal Code, and their constructive application to assemblies for religious purposes. Catholic influence has, under this construction of the law, interfered in several instances, since the establishment of the republic, with the work of Protestant evangelization.

We alluded in the former article to the prolonged and able debates conducted in the Chambers upon this point of the law during the reign of Louis Philippe, and to its application under the second empire. We can say but a word here concerning the distinguished efforts of M. Pressens6, while a member of the National Assembly, to secure an abolition or modification of the autorisation prealable; that is, a requirement of official sanction for the opening of new religious assemblies. Such a change in the law is highly essential to any proper development of religious life in France. M. Pressens^ proposed his measure early in 1873 to the committee of the Assembly appointed to consider the subject of the "Liberty of Religious Assemblies," and was supported by such able statesmen as MM. Waddington, Bardoux, and D'Haussonville. The committee reported favorably through M. Bardoux in 1874. The speech of M. Pressens6 before the committee and that of M. Bardoux before the Assembly ably reviewed the history during the present century of the relations between the State and the Church, and these speeches constitute a very notable passage in the history of French parliamentary debates on the religious question. The liberal law submitted by the committee awaited consideration, but ultimately failed of coming to a decisive vote. Another bill of like character was reported with good prospects early in 1877. Again, in March of the present year, M. Seignobos offered in the Chamber a bill of which the first article runs thus: "Meetings having as their sole object the celebration of religious worship are lawful if held in public, and if a previous declaration has been made to the local municipality."

The Ferry laws have, however, this year absorbed both legislative and popular attention. The leading Protestants seem generally to have favored the proposed limitation of the authority to confer degrees to the State, and the exclusion of the clergy from the Superior Council of public instruction where they had gained so much power under the reactionary law of 1850, while there has been, perhaps, equal agreement in objecting to the principle of Article 7. It is argued that the Jesuits should be allowed equal privileges with other citizens, and that the safeguards deemed necessary should be established rather through additional general laws in respect to religious societies. M. Pressense, says, in condemnation of Article 7: "We must absolutely reject this scandalous abandonment of the liberal idea of State authority, which annuls its character as. a lay institution, and will eventuate in constituting it a pope for the benefit of an official irreligion."

IV. Concerning The Prospects Of Protestantism In France our limits allow but a word.

The ability of Protestants, notwithstanding their great numerical inferiority,* to hold many high posts in the government councils; the late notable conversion of eminent men from the ranks of Catholicism and infidelity; the number of able pamphlets lately issued for popular circulation, similar to the work of M. Reveillaud, presented in Professor Wells' article in a recent number of this Review, all urging upon the French people the necessity of a hearty adoption of Protestantism as the only hope of the nation; together with the wide-spread spirit of popular inquiry and desire for Protestant teaching, "an eagerness," it has been said, "which recalls the early days of the Reformation"—all these signs naturally inspire high hope for the success of Protestantism in France. M. Turquet, the newly converted deputy of Aisne, asserts that France may become Protestant in forty years. The older leaders by no means share such ardent expectation. It is pleasing to observe the patient confidence of so able a man as M. Reveillaud, who says in his late report: "If the result we wish requires long waiting, if it demands the effort of many generations, let us not be discouraged by that. Something has been achieved if we can

"The note in the First Article (October, 1879, p. 661) gives too large an estimate of the general Protestant population. Prof. Biiird, author of the carefully written "History of the Rise of the Huguenots of France," thinks 1,000,000 may be taken as the extreme limit in such an estimate, the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine included, and 750,000 exclusive of these provinces; the truth being rather below than above these numbers. The figures given in the text (of the First Article) are more frequently quoted, though doubtless quite too low to express tha full strength of Protestantism in France.

Fourth Series, Vol. XXXII.—32

arouse the attention of the people. . . . We nrnst continue to plant like Paul, and water like Apollos, though with God remains the giving of the increase."

The new scheme of Pere Hyacinthe, who still makes emphatic his adherence to Rome, though charitably received by the Protestants, seems, at present view, likely to be fruitless. Romanism does not meet the deep-felt want of. the people, and is insufficient to save France. But at the present hour, above any strife of parties, as such, within the bosom of Protestantism, or any contention with Catholicism as a form of Church life, arises the demand for a firm and united struggle of spiritual faith with the power of unbelief. "A world without God," says Le Temoiguage, "rushes up to the assault of all we love and all we worship; a generation is rising which believes in naught else but the gross enjoyments of sensual appetites. You are face to face with a moral epidemic such as our age has not previously seen." M. Pressens6 uses similar language. "More than ever," says he, "are we struck with the fearful, almost tragic, gravity of the situation, which involves the very existence of Christianity. . . . And all sympathy should be accorded to those who are making any effort whatever to reanimate the trembling flame of a higher life." The peril of the present Republic is certainly as great from the assaults of infidelity as from the schemes of Romanism. We believe that ultimately a thoroughly spiritual and intelligent Protestantism can alone bring order out of the confusion, solve the riddle so unceasingly presented to the nation, and open the way to that career of moral power so suited to the lofty genius of the French people.

Nothing is quite so real to an animal as the food he eats and the bed he sleeps upon. We are all animals and something more, but there is a popular tendency among us to cherish the grossness of the animal, and to smother and starve the heavenborn part that straggles for recognition through perceptions more ethereal than the animal knows, and longings that the animal cannot feel and that material things can never satisfy.

[ocr errors]
[graphic]

Assured that the meat by which man really grows is not that which nourishes the body, we do well to sit at the feet of those masters who offer to guide us out of this thralldom to the physical, and open our eyes upon the less palpable, but no less real, world in the midst of which we so unconsciously walk; for

"The spirit world is not locked up;

Thy feelings are closed, thy heart is dead."

Goethe's Faust.

Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi stands foremost among those who were quite as sure of their spiritual vision as of their physical sight, and many has he helped to a better assurance of spiritual things.

He was a son of a Diisseldorf merchant, and in his early training was prepared, as far as possible, to assist and succeed his father. In 1759, at the age of sixteen, he was sent to Frankfort-on-the-Main to further pursue his mercantile education. All outward forces thus far drew him toward material pursuits; but an irrepressible force within prevailed over the constraint imposed by the elder Jacobi, aDd kept the young merchant busier with his meditations than he was with his accounts. This struggle between material interest and inclination continued for several years, even after his father had committed to his charge a valuable business and left a large estate for him to administer.

He had already, during a three-years' residence in Geneva, acquired a remarkable familiarity with the French language and literature, which added a prominent qualification for a literary life. The conscientiousness, also, which marked his whole life had appeared very early, and had cost him some ridicule from his fellow-students, because he could not tolerate the most common tricks and immoralities of business and of society. His developing mind seized upon the profoundest truths with a resolution that would leave nothing unmastered, so that, as the tradition runs, when he made the vain attempt to comprehend infinity, he fell fainting to the floor.

The inevitable abandonment of mercantile for literary pursuits was favored by the political appointments which he received from the government, first as councilor of finance of the cities of Berg and Juliers, and afterward as privy councilor at Munich. In the latter office he exposed the abuses of the Bavarian system of customs, and advocated greater liberty of commerce, thus bringing upon himself such bitter hostility that it soon drove him into retirement at Pempelfort, his country-seat near Dusseldorf. Here he devoted himself at last to philosophy, hospitality and epistolary communion with the most learned men of his age. With the help of his beautiful and intellectual wife, Jacobi made his home a literary center, second only to Weimar and the university towns. Among the guests at Pempelfort Goethe occasionally appeared, where he formed a strong and intimate attachment to his host, of whom he writes: "Jacobi's original and constitutional direction toward the inscrutable was in the highest degree welcome and genial. ... At night, after we had already parted and withdrawn to our sleeping apartments, I would seek him again. The moonshine trembled on the broad Rhine; and we, standing at the window, reveled in the fullness of reciprocal giving and receiving." Again he writes, "And so we parted at last, with.the blessed feeling of eternal union."

Jacobi has left us his impressions of Goethe at the same period: "From the crown of his head to the sole of his foot he was all genius, power, and strength, a spirit of fire with the wings of an eagle, ... to whom it is allowed in scarcely any event to act otherwise than involuntarily."

A similarity is noticeable between the minds of these two remarkable men in respect to their extraordinary power of intuition; and Goethe himself confesses to some surprise that their " striving should take opposite directions."

Jacobi returned to Munich in 1804, upon the invitation of the newly founded academy of sciences in that city, of which, three years later, he was made president. This office he adorned for a few years, and then retired for a quiet, but literary evening of life at his country-seat. He died in 1819, having completed threescore and sixteen years

The writings of Jacobi were very opportune, since, like most great souls, he was so in communion with the spirit of his age, that his own contributions to the world's thought were what the world then needed. He found men contending about the sources of knowledge and the elements of certainty. The problem thus prepared had great interest for him, and no lesa

« IndietroContinua »