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THE DECLINE, REVIVAL, AND PRESENT STATE OF
EVANGELICAL RELIGION IN GERMANY."
The attention of the Christian heard their haughty enemies say, public has, of late, been called · Bow down, that we may go over ;' particularly and repeatedly to the and they laid their bodies as the great and interesting changes, ground and as the street to them which religion and religious senti- that went over.' • Raze it, raze it,' ments have undergone, within from was the universal shout of the adabout sixty to eighty years, in that versaries in that gloomy time, when part of Europe of which I am at this God drew back his hand, and hid time to speak. We have had the his face from his people.; when he appalling sight of a Christian coun made them to pass through the furtry deluged with infidelity, and all nace of fire, to purge away their its concomitants of licentiousness dross, and to take away their tin.' and vice. We have witnessed a But withal, we have seen the few noble spirits, a few names wrath of man to praise God, and written, as we trust, in heaven, the remainder thereof restrained. engaged in a contest, long and Zion is awaking again, shaking fierce, against a host of enemies- herself from the dust, and, putting enemies as powerful,and malicious, on her strength, meets in open as subtle, decided, and persevering contest, and with brightening hopes as have ever been arrayed against of victory, her profane enemy, who the cause of truth. We have heard had so proudly and so long the shout of victory raised by the fied the armies of the living God, enemy, echoing from one end of
It is proposed to divide the subthe land to the other, proclaiming ject into three parts. First, The the supposed extermination of the declining state of religion in Gertrue religion of Christ. We have many during the latter half of the seen the believers in Jesus, as a last century. Secondly-Its revival body, overwhelmed, and prostrated and growth, from about 1804 to with their faces to the dust, bear- 1824. And thirdly– Its present ing their iniquity and the iniquity state. of their fathers, “ and drinking at 1. The declining state of religion the hand of the Lord the cup of his in Germany. fury" to the very dregs. We have If we go back into the first half
* The writer of the following article, as will be inferred from the statements and mode of expression, is a German. The account which he gives will be new and interesting to our readers, and it is presumed, may be relied on as correct. --Extracted from “ The Spirit of the Pilgrims,” Feb, 1830. Boston, U. S. VOL. XII, N, S, NO, 07.
of the eighteenth century, and ex divest a man, before he was aware amine the state of the Protes- of it, of all belief in the Bible as a tant churches in Germany, and revelation from God, and in Christ the spirit of the religious publica- as a divine person, and the Retions of the day, we shall find deemer of lost men. much sound and deep practical Whoever is acquainted with the piety in the community, and a very state of German theology at that animating spirit of devotedness, time, will easily account for these connected with purity of doc- facts. The theological scepticism trine, in the religious works then of Semler and his companions had published. The writings of Arndt, captivated the greater part of the Spener, Franke, Tersteegon, Ger- ministry. Doubts or secret unbelief hard, and many others, were ad- as to a positive divine revelation, mirably calculated to excite and possessed their hearts, controlled cherish true and undefiled religion their reason, and guided their pens. in the churches. They exhibited The scepticism of some of the Engdivine truth with a simplicity, lish philosophers and rationalists, faithfulness, and power, worthy of and the infidelity of the French the apostolic age.
But in the se- philosophers, could not remain cond half of the century, the reli- without effect. They had read gious publications underwent ge- Shaftesbury, Tindal, Morgan, nerally a rapid and lamentable Chubb and Hume; Whitby, Taychange. A most surprising bar- lor, and Clarke; Voltaire, the renness characterizes most even of Encyclopédists, and the author of the better works published from the System of Nature (Système de 1760 and downward. The more la Nature). And if the German they increased in number, and rose philosophy counteracted, in any in character, as compositions, the measure, the influence of these less they seemed to contain to lead men, and saved the ministry from the sinner to Christ, or to animate universal scepticism and atheism, and benefit the believer. Sermons, it stripped the weaker, that is, the hymn-books, prayer-books, and greater part, of what belief they other works for public and private yet had'in any of the strictly reuse, as clear as water, and as pre- vealed truths. To the courts of cise as any proposition in geometry, Germany, it is well known an exas cold also as the one, and as ample of infidelity was set, by unproductive of religious feeling Joseph II., the Roman emperor, as the other, were daily pouring and Frederic I., king of Prussia in upon the public, to supplant-men, whose influence was the those precious guides to heaven more powerful, as they united some which had so long been instrumen- excellencies of character, as men tal in building up the church of and as monarchs, with an utter Christ. Particularly striking is neglect, if not contempt of religion. the unequalled deceitfulness of Through the lower and middle many of these publications. In classes of society, especially about various instances, it was not only the Rhine, irreligion and vice was difficult, but absolutely impossible, effectually spread by the French fairly to unmask the author, and emigrants at the close of the cento convict him of unchristian sen- tury. Nor were injurious examples timents, so well he knew how to wanting among some men of learnhide himself under a show of pietying and reputed piety. Gellert, and orthodoxy. And yet, the cer the father of modern German taio effect of these books was to poetry, whose religious hymns are
yet used and admired, once tried his sermons, in the first volume himself in novel-writing, and com- of that work. The first was posed a number of very tedious the Dignity of Man, and wherein plays for the moral improvement it consisted.” II. “ What is opof the German stage. He wanted posed to that Dignity." III. " to make the devil pious," as
is How does the Christian religion Luther says, but did not succeed. restore the Dignity of Man ?” We will charitably suppose that he This seems to imply that his digdid not know what he was doing. nity was lost; but no: for it re
The consequences of all this stores it, 1. By throwing light might easily have been predicted. upon our relation to God; 2. It Through the influence of unre teaches us what an interest God strained depravity, the morals of takes in the welfare of man, what society rapidly declined. The re- he did for him, and what he still ligious state of the communities does. Here the coming of Christ grew worse from year to year; is just touched upon, in three or and the preaching heard from most four lines, whilst the dealings of of the othudox pulpits was far God with the patriarchs, and the enough from being able to coun- people of Israel, is largely exhiteract the spirit of the times. Gos. bited. 3. It throws light upon the pel truth was, indeed, proclaimed providence and government of by many as yet; but not con God. 4. It makes the dignity of stantly, not the whole, not in its man conspicuous in the person of fulness, not with close and fearless Christ, and in his conduct and application, Christian morals, destiny, as the head and restorer the favourite subject, was preached of our 5. It teaches the by some of the best men to a dis- great doctrines of immortality and proportionate and sometimes an eternal life. This is the manner almost disgusting degree. Take, in which the Christian religion refor instance, Zollikofer, the great stores the dignity of man.
Can a Coryphæus of pulpit eloquence more uncertain sound' be given? among the reformed churches in Then follow sermons on the fol. Germany. In all his published ser- lowing subjects: On the value of mons, I have not seen one on any of life; of health; of riches; of hothe distinguishing doctrines of the nour; of the pleasures of sense ; Gospel. In 1783, he published of spiritual enjoyment; of devotwo volumes of sermons “ On the tion; of sensibility; of virtue, &c. Dignity of Man,” when there was In the confession of faith, promuch more reason to publish as posed to a young prince at his many • On the Depravity of Man.' confirmation, not one of those docThis Dignity, according to the first trines is mentioned, which distinsermon, consists in reason, liberty, guish the Christian religion from activity, growth of perfection, Rationalism, Unitarianism, or any immortality, his relation to God, other Monotheism. &c. This relation is the image of Much better is Francis V. ReinGod which man possesses. (Not hardt, one of the best preachers a word about his having lost it.) Germany ever had. He entered This image of God is the ground upon his theological career as an of man's relation to Christ, as his acute thinker, and a sceptical infriend, brother, relative, as making quirer; but came out a believing, man a member of Christ's body, of pious theologian and Christian. one mind with him, &c. I will He touches frequently upon the give a few more of the subjects of doctrines of the Gospel, even at
the earlier period of his life; and with as much orthodoxy, or clothed whenever he does so, he is une- in as orthodox a phraseology, as quivocally orthodox.
But he the supposed prejudice of his connever gave these doctrines that gregation would require. In many prominence which they deserve, places, persons of this description until perhaps from the year 1810, occupied the whole ground; whilst when his mind became fully satis- in others, they had the dissatisfac. fied with regard to them. He was, tion of seeing the progress of their however, too much of a moralist. pretended reformation checked, by His sermons are exceedingly in- the orthodox preaching of some teresting and improving to the superstitious mystics, as they Christian; and if he had lived in termed them. By the governthe millennium, when the devil will ments, Rationalism was rather be bound, and cast into the bot- fostered than opposed, and the tomless pit, and shut up to deceive universities soon came out boldly the nations no more, his preaching on its side. Periodicals either took would have been well adapted to no notice of religion, or were dehis audience, and to the state of cidedly opposed to it, and espethings. But when it was empha- cially to every appearance of a tically the hour of the enemy, and revival, which they deemed the the power of darkness; when the heighth of folly and fanaticism. very gates of hell seemed to be The reading part of the commuopen, to let loose upon half Eu- nity were diverted from the subject rope all which was subtle, mali- of religion by the impulse which cious and ruinous; then was a every science and art was receive clearer sound needed, to rouse the ing at that time, and especially by slumbering or disheartened disci- those sweeping revolutions in the ples of Christ, and to rally them departments of metaphysics and around the standard of the cross. philosophy. And whosoever felt I might proceed to characterize a desire after something better than Spalding, and some other preachers mere speculation, usually took up of that
limits will not with that sentimental religion (if permit. They all labour, in a it deserves the name) of which De greater or less degree, under the Wette was the advocate—a sickly, same difficulty. Their sermons sterile, undefinable abortion of are little more than moral essays, metaphysics, unproductive of anyaddressed to men as though they thing good or holy in life or emowere almost, if not altogether, in tion, but doubtless the only refuge a safe condition. The character of those who find no rest in phiof an unconverted audience, and losophy, and seek none in revelathe peculiar and important office tion. of the law in the conversion of the Religion, then, in the proper sinner, were not understood. sense of the word, soon became
Thus, whilst religion had but a almost entirely unknown. The few, and those timid defenders, Bible was neglected in families. Rationalism, as may be supposed, To young persons of education or had bold and daring advocates in polished manners, it would have abundance. The higher literary been a disgrace so much as to own characters promulgated the new Public worship was dedoctrines as professors and authors; serted; the Sabbath was profaned while men of less weight and learn- by every kind of business, the ing inculcated them in the pulpit, opening of theatres, ball-rooms, each in his own way, mixed up &c.; and vice and licentiousness