« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
to whom the right of decision in the case belonged, gave its hearty approbation. So far was the change from being made in the underhand way that M. Gaussen represents. So far too was it from being the act of the ministers only, that they did not move in it till compelled by public opinion, which had already wrought the change in fact, and the Council ratified and established their act. Neither did they consider their work perfect and unalterable. In 1809 a committee of revision was appointed, which, after eighty-five sittings, reported a corrected edition, specifying seven alterations of importance. This edition, with all its improvements, was readily received, and went into universal use without opposition, it is said, from any of the very various opinions which are represented in the Company. Indeed, the changes seem to have been principally designed to remove all expressions on disputed points, about which there would be disagreement, and to retain only those general forms of representing doctrinal truth, to which all can equally assent. Accordingly, M. Gaussen himself, for twelve years, found no difficulty in teaching this catechism; for, as he himself says, he was easily able to add, for the instruction of his children, those peculiar sentiments which the text-book did not express. The other Orthodox ministers did the same. Revised editions were again published in 1811, 1814, and 1817. Whether the last was expressly authorized by the Company and the Council, does not appear; nor whether the revision embraced any important changes. It has from that time continued in universal use, and its approbation by the Government was acknowledged, when, in 1823, it requested the Company to strike out the sections which relate to the Catholic controversy.
As to the allegation, that the Ordinances require the use of Calvin's catechism, it is replied, that they have become in almost every particular a dead letter; time and disuse have rendered them obsolete. When an edict was passed for their revision in 1791, it contained a provision, that until this revision should be completed, the Ordinances should continue to be observed and executed in all their extent, excepting always those particulars in regard to which contrary usages have been introduced, in which
shall continue to be observed.' The same edict also forbids that any changes be made in the liturgy and catechisms, except in a certain way; thereby establishing the catechisms at that time in use,
namely, those of 1788. And if it should be thought to infringe the letter of the above edict, that the government gave only an implied assent to the later revisions, it yet is not inconsistent with its spirit; or if it were, still it would only restore to use the formularies of 1788, and by no means bring back, as M. Gaussen pretends, the ancient work of Calvin.
Having gone through with these historical notices, the report closes with urging, that this is a matter of discipline merely, in which it would not be becoming for the authority of the church to yield to the irregularity of one individual, and not at all a question of theological doctrine ; in regard to which it proceeds to vindicate the impartiality and fairness of the Company
The deliberations of the Company ended in an edict, confirming that of the tenth of September, requiring that the catechism shall be used in the school of the parish of Satigny and at the public catechizing, but allowing M. Gaussen to dispense with it in his private teaching. He was again requested to submit to consideration any suggestions for the improvement of the catechism, and for the better religious instruction of the young. He was further required to withdraw his letters.
M. Gaussen, on learning the tenor of this edict, immediately acknowledged that he had misunderstood the purport of that of the tenth of September, which had been couched in general terms; and finding that it was only designed to regulate the public instruction, and not to interfere with his own personal mode of teaching, he professed himself satisfied, and ready to continue his ministry as heretofore.
And here the whole matter might have rested in an amicable adjustment, had not a new bone of contention been thrown out in the unfortunate requisition that M. Gaussen should withdraw his letters. The Company thought its dignity concerned in insisting that its archives should not retain a document couched in language disrespectful to themselves, and calling in question their rights. M. Gaussen, on the other hand, thought that this step would infallibly be construed into a retraction of his principles and doctrines,' and therefore considered that it became his character to refuse to take back what he had written. The Company explained, that there was no desire or intention to make him disavow his principles; but he thought it would be so understood abroad. Neither party would yield, and the breach became irreparable. And thus, after the real difficulty had been removed, a mere punctilio of form was permitted to destroy the prospect of accommodation and peace. The venerable Company could not stoop from its dignity so far as to send back the offensive document, and the conscientious pastor was too fearful of the construction which might be put on the act to take it back himself. The Company thought its authority, nay its very existence, jeoparded by the resistance of the minister; and the minister thought his character ruined if he should yield. They stood like two duelists, whom honor forces to fight, when one word would reconcile them.
Another difficulty arose at the same time. The Company, in order to avoid misconstruction, had thought it necessary to state, that, in the votes which it had passed on this occasion, it did not design to surrender its legal right of making regulations in future, especially that of introducing, if judged best, a uniform mode of conducting the public catechizing in the several churches. M. Gaussen is greatly astonished and offended at this; he considers it as a proof that the Company are far from a conciliatory disposition, and in warm language complains of it.
In this state of things, the Company felt itself compelled to regard M. Gaussen as a refractory member, obstinately set in opposition to the legal authority of the church, and requiring to be treated accordingly. It proceeded therefore to an act of discipline; and after discussing the different measures, more or less severe, which were proposed by different individuals, adopted a resolution in the following form:
• The Venerable Company of the Pastors of Geneva, considering that, on the 15th and 22d of October last, M. Gaussen addressed to this body letters, which for their manner and substance are censurable, though no reference is herein had to the religious doctrines stated in them; -- considering that he has obstinately refused to observe that part of the edict of November 5th which requires him to withdraw his letters ; considering, moreover, that they had been preceded by an act contrary to ecclesiastical discipline in the introduction of unauthorized changes into the mode of religious instruction in the parish of Satigny; - ordains, 1. that M. Gaussen is censured ; 2. that he is suspended for one year from the right of sitting in the Company except in cases where his presence VOL. XI.- N. S. VOL. VI. NO. II.
shall be especially required ; it being understood, that the Company retains its oversight over the religious affairs of the parish of Satigny.'
Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth ! It is truly said in the pamphlet before us, that this, in its commencement, was a very small affair ; and it would seem that it might have been very easily adjusted. But, unfortunately, there was wanting a perfect confidence between the two parties, and their mutual jealousy of each other's intentions tended to widen the breach which each at heart desired should be closed. M. Gaussen, knowing that for doctrinal reasons he had broken the rules of the church, suspected that it was doctrinal reasons only which induced the church authorities to deal with him. The Company, on the other hand, insisted that it was simply and purely a matter of discipline, and attempted by every possible means to clear themselves of all suspicion of acting from theological bias. And we do not see how, with any pretence of justice, it can be charged upon them. Look at the case. It is a Presbyterian church. There are certain laws and regulations to which its ministers are necessarily subject, and over the execution of them the Company of the Pastors is the constituted guardian. One of the members is guilty of a breach of rule. Does it not follow, as a matter of necessity, that he is called to account for it? And because he happens to hold some doctrines opposed to those of the majority, is it therefore to be said that they are prompted, in calling him to account, by party bias, and that this is persecution ?. Indeed it seems to us that such an accusation is singularly inconsiderate and unfair.
But it will be said, the regulation was an oppressive one, and M. Gaussen could not in conscience observe it. But, in the first place, he had observed it for twelve years, and, so far from finding it oppressive, had been able very easily to teach, under its cover, all the orthodoxy he desired, and no had hindered him. In the next place, he was willing that the catechism should be taught in his parish, provided he was not compelled to teach it personally, - which was not demanded of him; so that his whole complaint was after all ungrounded and gratuitous. Besides which, how is the regulation in any sense oppressive ? Only consider that it is a national and Presbyterian church, and you will not find in the compass of ecclesiastical history any thing of the sort so generous as this.
All such establishments have their formularies, which they compel their members to adopt and learn; and thus all contain fixed articles of faith, from which no departure is allowed. Not so at Geneva. To its immortal honor be it said, it has set the example of a national, established, Presbyterian church, striking out from its catechism all enumeration of doctrines which could embarrass the faith, or offend the conscience, or check the free inquiry of any individual, and retaining only the broad and fundamental principles under which all may unite whatever the variety of their private opinions ; --- and under which M. Gaussen himself, as well as others, had, quietly taught Calvinism for many years. Now then where is the oppression ? Where is the infringement of conscience talked of? And especially how does it become the 'Chris, tian Observer,' advocating a Church Establishment which is far from granting this liberal allowance, to be foremost in casting a stone at its sister of Geneva? No; the fault for which the Genevan establishment is thus held up to the censure of the Christian world, is not that it makes oppres, sive requisitions of conscience, but that it does not make any ; not that it compels its members to adopt the faith of its own majority, but that it does not compel them to adopt the Orthodox faith ; as M. Gaussen himself says more than once ; he acknowledges that he is allowed to teach what he thinks to be the true doctrine, but that does not satisfy him, for others are also allowed to teach what they hold to be true; and he complains that there is not a catechism which would forbid them to do so. He would have them reinstate Calvin's; and if this were only done, and all the Pastors were obliged to teach, and all the children compelled learn, that ancient compendium, he and his English friends would be well satisfied. This is very like the complaint recently made in this neighbourhood, that the Theological professors of Harvard College were to offer daily prayers in the University chapel ; not because they would introduce any thing ojectionable, but because they would.omit' what is Orthodox.
We are no friends of an establishment, or of ecclesiastical tribunals. We wish that our brethren at Geneva were well rid of them. We look with admiration on what they have been able to do for religious liberty while so encumbered as they have been with their antiquated forms, and walking in fetters. But we wish they were throughly emancipated. It