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    March 30, 1888

    “Historical Necessity of the Third Angel’s Message. No. 5” The Signs of the Times 14, 13, pp. 199, 200.

    IN entering the seventeenth century we find a new element upon the sea of controversy. Philosophy of the different schools was in each one striving for ascendancy; and if not a direct cause of many of the disputes of this century, it gave a coloring to them. At this time philosophy was represented in the two classes of Peripatetics (followers of Artistotle) and Fire-Philosophers, from their proposition that “the dissolution of bodies by the power of fire is the only way in which the first principles of things can be discerned.” The Peripatetics held the professorships in almost all of the places of learning; and held all who questioned Aristotle, as little less criminal than downright heretics; and so, there was a lively contest kept up between them and the Fire-Philosophers, or chemists. But there was a union of the interests of these two, when, about 1640, the Cartesian gauntlet, “Cogito, ero sum” (i.e., I think, therefore I am), was thrown into the arena; and they both turned with all their energy against the new philosophy; “not,” says Mosheim, “so much for their philosophical system as for the honors, advantages, and profits they derived from it.” And, “seconded by the clergy who apprehended that the cause of religion was aimed at and endangered by these philosophical innovations, they made a prodigious noise and left no means unemployed to prevent the downfall of their old system.... They not only accused Descartes of the most dangerous and pernicious errors, but went so far, in the extravagance of their malignity, as to bring a charge of atheism against him.” In opposition to Descartes, Gassendi also entered the lists, and this gave rise to yet another school of philosophy, the Mathematical. That of Descartes was called the Metaphysical, or Cartesian, philosophy. As the Peripatetic was the only philosophy taught in the Lutheran schools, the rise of the new philosophy was a new subject for discussion and opposition there, and gave more ample scope for the exercise of their propensities.SITI March 30, 1888, page 199.1

    Another thing that greatly troubled the Lutherans was, that in 1614 John Sigismund, elector of Brandenburg, entered the communion of the Calvinists, and granted to all his subjects entire liberty in religious matters, and left to the free choice of all whether they would embrace one religion or another, or any at all. But the Lutherans “deemed it intolerable that the Calvinists should enjoy the same privileges as themselves.” And this was carried to such a length that the people of Brandenburg were prohibited from studying at the University of Wittenberg.SITI March 30, 1888, page 199.2

    But that which gave the Lutherans the most trouble in this century was the efforts of a succession of persons to bring about a state of harmony between them and the Calvinists. James I. of England tried it, and failed. In 1631, in a synod of the Calvinists at Charenton, an act was passed, which granted that the Lutheran religion “was conformable to a spirit of true piety, and free from pernicious and fundamental errors,” but the overture was not accepted. In the same year, a conference was held at Leipsic, between several of the most eminent doctors of both communions, in Saxony and Brandenburg. And although the Calvinists showed all possible fairness, and made concessions that the Lutherans themselves could scarcely expect, yet all their efforts were looked upon and regarded with suspicion, as being only schemes to ensnare them, and the conference broke up with nothing done.SITI March 30, 1888, page 199.3

    In 1645, Vladislaus IV., king of Poland, called a conference at Thorn, but it only increased the party zeal. In 1661, William VI., landgrave of Hesse, called a conference at Cassel, in which the doctors there assembled came to an agreement, embraced one another, and declared that there was nothing between them of sufficient importance to prevent union and concord. This was no sooner learned by the Lutheran brethren, than they turned al their fury against their delegates, and loaded them with reproaches of apostasy, Calvinsim, etc.SITI March 30, 1888, page 199.4

    Besides these public efforts, there were others of a private character. John Dureus, a Calvinist, a native of Scotland, says Mosheim, “during a period of forty-three years, suffered vexations, and underwent labors which required the firmest resolution, and the most inexhaustible patience; wrote, exhorted, admonished, entreated, and disputed; in a word, tried every method that human wisdom could suggest, to put an end to the dissensions and animosities that reigned among the Protestant churches.... He traveled through all the countries in Europe where the Protestant religion had gained a footing; he formed connections with the doctors of both parties; he addressed himself to kings, princes, magistrates, and ministers.... But his views were disappointed.... Some, suspecting that his fervent and extraordinary zeal arose from mysterious and sinister motives, and apprehending that he had secretly formed a design of drawing the Lutherans into a snare, even attacked him in their writings with animosity and bitterness, and loaded him with the sharpest invectives and reproaches; so that this well-meaning man, neglected at length by his own communion, ... spent the remainder of his days in repose and obscurity at Cassel.”—Church History, 17th cent., sec. 4, part 4, chap. 1, paragraph 6.SITI March 30, 1888, page 199.5

    That which he proposed as the foundation upon which they might unite was the Apostles’ Creed, the ten commandments, and the Lord’s prayer.SITI March 30, 1888, page 199.6

    Another of the most zealous of the peacemakers was John Matthias, a Swedish bishop, who with George Calixtus, attempted to carry on the work of Dureus. But the opposition was so bitter that Matthias was obliged to resign his bishopric; and Calixtus was accused of syncretism, and to his “charge many other things were laid, besides the crime of endeavoring to unite the disciples of the same Master in the amiable bonds of charity, concord, and mutual forbearance.”—Id., par. 7. (Italics his.) This crime was called syncretism.SITI March 30, 1888, page 199.7

    The Pietistical controversy was another, that engaged the attention of the Lutherans during this century. This was set on foot by Philip James Spener, of Frankfort, who had in view the promotion of cital religion, rousing the lukewarm and indifferent, stemming the torrent of vice and corruption, and reforming the licentious manners of both the clergy and people. See paragraph 26. The better to accomplish this, Spener and his adherents proposed that, besides the stated times for public worship, private assemblies for prayer and other religious exercises should be held. For these laudable and most necessary aims they were nicknamed Pietists, and the opposition was as strong as against any of the others.SITI March 30, 1888, page 199.8

    This subject was carried further by some of the professors of Leipsic, who for the purpose of instructing the candidates for the ministry in something better than how to perpetrate broils, “undertook to explain in their colleges certain books of Scripture, in order to render these genuine sources of religious knowledge better understood, and to promote a spirit of practical piety and vital religion in the minds of their hearers.... Accordingly these lectures were much frequented, and their efforts were visible in the lives and conversation of several persons, whom they seemed to inspire with a deep sense of the importance of religion and virtue.” But immediately the cry arose that this was “contrary to custom.” “Hence rumors were spread, tumults excited, animosity kindled, and the matter at length brought to a public trial in which these pious and learned men were indeed declared free from the errors and heresies laid to their charge, but were at the same time prohibited from carrying on that plan of religious instruction which they had undertaken with so much zeal.”—Id. par. 37.SITI March 30, 1888, page 199.9

    But this did not put down the good work thus begun; for the contest spread rapidly through all the Lutheran Churches in Europe. Therefore the doctors and pastors of Wittenburg thought themselves obliged to proceed publicly, first against Spener in 1695, and afterwards against his disciples, which gave rise to new debates. The Pietists held: 1. That none should be admitted to the ministry but such as had been properly educated, and who were distinguished by wisdom and sanctity of manners, and who had their hearts filled with divine love. 2. That the scholastical theology should be abolished. 3. That polemical divinity, that is, the controversies between Christians, should be less eagerly taught. 4. That all mixture of philosophy and human learning with the Holy Scriptures should be abandoned. 5. That no person who was not himself a model of piety, was qualified to be a public teacher of piety, or a guide to others in the way of salvation.SITI March 30, 1888, page 200.1

    Out of these sprung other debates as follows: 1. “Can the religious knowledge acquired by a wicked man be termed theology?” 2. “How far can the office and ministry of an impious ecclesiastic be pronounced salutary and efficacious?” 3. “Can an ungodly and licentious man be susceptible of illumination?” The Pietists further demanded the suppression of certain propositions that it was customary to deliver from the pulpit publicly, that, unqualified, were capable certainly of being interpreted as granting indulgence. Such were these: “No man is able to attain that perfection which the divine law requires. Good works are not necessary to salvation; in the fact of justification on the part of man, faith alone is concerned without good works.” Also the Pietists prohibited dancing, pantomimes, theatrical plays, etc., among their members; and this again gave an opportunity for the scholastics to display their ingenuity. They raised the question, first, whether these actions were of an indifferent nature, and then from that whether any human actions are truely [sic.] indifferent; i.e., equally removed from moral good on one hand, and from moral evil on the other.SITI March 30, 1888, page 200.2

    In the Calvinist Church, after the death of its founder, the controversy over the “divine decrees” continued through the seventeenth century. From the college at Geneva the doctrine of Calvin spread to all parts of Protestant Europe, and into the schools of learning. But there arose a difference of opinion not about the “decrees,” but about the nature of the decrees. The majority held that God simply permitted the first man to fall into transgression; while a considerable minority maintained with all their might, that “to exercise and display his awful justice and his free mercy” God had decreed from all eternity that Adam should sin, and had “so ordered the course of events that our first parents could not possibly avoid their unhappy fall.”—Id., chap. 2, par. 10.SITI March 30, 1888, page 200.3

    These last were called Supralapsarians, while their opponents were called Sublapsarians.SITI March 30, 1888, page 200.4

    J.

    (To be continued.)

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