Page images
PDF
EPUB

generalis in terris," was held to be subject to this jurisdiction, no temporal Prince could be allowed to pass unquestioned. If Leo the Tenth and Sixtus the Fifth were tried and condemned, at the bar of reason and the Bible, no prescription, no power could exempt Francis the First, or Charles the Fifth.

The next step was, to assert the right to examine the temporal authority of the temporal Prince. If the subjects of a spiritual Prince had a right to examine the character of his government; the principles of authority in the public, and of obedience in the private man; the obligation of the ruler and the rights of the people; the conclusion was too clear for argument, that they must possess the same rights, in relation to the temporal authority of temporal Princes.

From the first position, viz. the right to examine the spiritual jurisdiction of the spiritual prince, resulted a fundamental conclusion, in spiritual matters. As Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for Man, so Christians were not organized into a religious community for the sake of its Rulers; but these were instituted for the sake of those.--Church government was then but an instrument for the happiness of the people, and the officers of the Church were but the servants of the people. The New Testament was, in matters of doctrine, moral precept and discipline, the constitution which bound equally the governor and the governed. To transcend this commission, was usurpation in the former: to disobey its requisitions, was rebellion in the latter. Hence arose the only true principles, which determine the nature and extent of the relation, between the spiritual ruler and his flock.

From the second position, viz. the right to examine the temporal jurisdiction, of the temporal Prince, arose in temporal matters, a correspondent fundamental conclusion. As Man could not answer the ends of his being, without society; as society would be anarchy, without government; and government could only be administered by a few; civil ruJers were ordained only for the sake of the people. If the Divine right of Popes and Bishops, who traced a title to the Apostles, could not screen them from the scrutiny of reason and the test of Scripture, it was impossible that the Reformer, even admitting the divine right of kings, should not assert the amenability of the successors of Constantine, Clovis and Charlemagne to the same tribunal. The inference then of the Reformer could not be resisted, that kings were but the servants of the people, ordained for their good,

in the order of Providence; and responsible to them. When Gregory the Great, assumed as his title, “servant of the servants of God,” he gave an example of wisdom, humility, and virtue, which kings might have imitated, honorably and advantageously—a lesson, which the people of some monarchies have inscribed, and the people of all others, if equally oppressed, will inscribe, in letters of blood, on the canopy of every throne. The result of these two positions, taken together, was, that all the officers and institutions of Church and State, and the entire administration of spiritual and ecclesiatical concerns, of civil and political affairs, were ordained for the good of the whole community; and that the people had the right, and therefore, the power to correct abuses, and to resist the tyrant and oppressor, whether he wore a crown or a mitre.

From the great principles of responsibility thus established, were deduced four conclusions—1st. If the great institutions of civil and ecclesiastical government were only means to the attainment of an end, and that end the welfare of the people, it followed, that every inferior depository of power, and every possible modification of society, must have been ordained for the same purpose, with the same accountability.

2dly. Every individual was himself but a fellow laborer in the common cause, for the common good, whether as a Christian, in relation to the Church, or as a subject, in relation to the state. All his talents and virtues, all his capa. cities for usefulness, were indeed his, in point of personal power, but were the property of the community in point of relative duty. Hence, every man was bound by the fundamental principles of the Christian social compact, to promote not only his own, but the welfare and happiness of others.

3dly. If Man himself, and all that he had received from nature, or had acquired by education, were destined to those ends, by the constitutional law of Christian society, the Arts and Sciences, the whole circle of human knowledge, all that Man ever had done, and all that Man ever could do, were ordained to promote the happiness and interests of the PeoPLE, and were valueless, if they did not. Hence, the true worth of the respective departments of knowledge, depended on their power to meliorate the condition of society, and not on their antiquity, or on their fitness to decorate princes and courts; and to promote an ostentatious, dazzling, national glory.-Hence, also, it followed, that the departments of Moral Science, were incomparably more important, than those of the Physical Sciences; that among the Moral Sciences, Religion stood in the first rank, and political philosophy next.*

4thly. The grand result of all the principles of the Reformation, and of all the considerations flowing from them, is worthy of such a cause, and of such champions, as the Reformers. It is centered in two words-duty and usefulness: Duty, as the only criterion of right; Usefulness, as the only standard of merit. In a word, the Reformation ordained, not only for its own day, and the communities of that day, but for all time, and for all nations, that the New Testament is the only genuine moral constitution of Society, and its principles, the only safe and wise foundation of all civil and political establishments.

After this review, I feel assured, that no one will question, but that the Reformation, must have revolutionized the structure of Society, the principles of Government, and all the relations of public and private life, whether in spiritual or temporal matters. But many may perhaps desire, that I should go beyond this, and exhibit the immediate effects of the Reformation on Science: and the mode, by which its principles became the focal point of the whole circle of knowledge arranging by their powerful and harmonizing influence, the anarchy and chaos of one and twenty centuries, into order, at once novel, sublime and beautiful.

First then, let us consider the immediate effects of the Reformation, on the whole body of literature.

1st. On Theology. The following passage from Villers' prize essay on the Reformation, exhibits the state of this branch of knowledge, at the beginning of the sixteenth Century. In the time, when the Roman Church reigned alone in the West, the absence of all contradiction, led to that of all inquiry, and of all study of religious antiquities. Besides, the Church, as we have already seen, opposed an active resistance to all investigations into these matters. It prohibited, with all its power, the teaching of the Oriental languages, and the reading of the books of the old and new Testament. Its system was founded on passages and termas. in these books, interpreted according to its own views; and on traditions, passages from the holy Fathers, decisions of councils, pontifical bulls, decretals, charters and other historical monuments. Such was the state of this noble Sci

* See Note D.

ence, at the opening of the sixteenth century, according to the judgment of this admirable writer. The Reformers assailed and overthrew this system. From the acute study of the Oriental and Greek Archæologia, by the Protestant Divines, applied to the study of the sacred books, a perfection unknown before, has resulted to the Science, called Exegesis, or a critical examination of the text of the Scriptures.

The history of the Church, as well that of its doctrines, as that of the exterior events, which have connected this church as a society, with political bodies, acquired a consistence and truth, an impartiality and an accuracy, which have made it one of the most important branches of human knowledge. I cannot close the above extracts, better, than with the following, “Whoever is anxious to be well informed in history, in classical literature, in philosophy, can use no better method, than a course of Protestant Theology.”

2dly. The second branch of knowledge, on which the Reformation exerted a beneficial influence, was morality. Here, the effect was as decisive, as in any department of philosophy. Under the dominion of the schools, scarce a vestige remained of true morality. In its place, the schoolmen had created the system of casuistic morality, in which duty to the Church, became almost the only substitute for every duty, towards God and man. When the Gospel had regained its rank, and displaced casuistry, the pure and divine morality of the Scriptures, resumed its place in the pulpits and writings of its Pastors. In fine, we owe to a Protestant Theologian, Calixtus, the elevation of religious morality, to the rank of a Science.

3dly. The third branch of knowledge, which may be said, not merely to have been remodeled, but almost to have been created by the principles of the Reformation, is Political Philosophy. That morality of States, which determines political power, and civil rights, as well as the rules of international law, which gives the theory of all human law, and fixes the true limits of natural positive rights, in a civil state, was, in its development and progress, unparalleled. The works of Luther, Melancthon, and Buchanan, of Languet, Boëtie and Milton, served to open the subject, and to awaken attention. These shortly gave way to the superior productions of wise and penetrating minds, which re-created the Science of the rights of nations, and of the people. The moral impulse given by the Reformation, exerted a remarkable and very happy influence, in all Protestant countries, on Legislation, formerly plunged in scholastic barbarism. Protestantism produced and perfected Statistics, one of the most important branches of political economy. The public spirit of each State, revived and enlightened by the Reformation, devoted itself to the public good. The Science of Cameralistics taught the administration of the public revenues ; Agriculture and Commerce had their libraries, and were raised above servile imitation by the inquiries of genius, and the assistance derived from the other Sciences, such as Geography and Navigation, which in their turn also, received improvement. The knowledge of the Mechanical Arts, and of all objects of human industry, under the name of Technology, was exceedingly improved. The study of all these objects became, under the influence of the Reformation, a part of public instruction among Protestants , and their Universities were, and still are provided with Professors of the Political and Cameralistic Sciences, of public and rural Economy, Technology and Statistics." The Reformation, which, from its birth, was so intimately in contact with politics, and with every object of public utility, must have directed the minds of men to the Sciences, connected with the economy and administration of States.

4thly. The next department of knowledge, to which the Reformation gave a new being and a new form, was Philosophy, embracing Metaphysics and Dialectics. Before the 16th Century, a deformed Philosophy prevailed in the schools: a puerile, extravagant dialectic was amalgamated with the Roman Theology. 66. To support this system, was, in fact, for many centuries, the only end of Philosophy. The Theologians, who were generally Monks, were the only philosophers.” “Their subtle and sometimes risible arguments, tended only to the support of orthodoxy, against innovators and heretics. It never entered into their heads, to teach a useful morality to human society. They only employed themselves in establishing the rights of the Clergy; but never those of the people, or of individuals. This system was assailed ineffectually by Erasmus and other men of talents; but they had not the courage, like the Reformers, to quit the Church, supported by this monkish Philosophy. Hence, the Reformation only could have dethroned, as it did, scholastic Philosophy, as well as scholastic Theology. Then began a philosophical period, during which, the interest in truths of a superior order, in the discussion of the most

« PreviousContinue »