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Tenor Of Protestant History In Sweden, The Netherlands, And Switzerland

Tenor Of Protestant History In Sweden, The Netherlands, And Switzerland


The political importance acquired by Sweden in the course of the Thirty Years' War enabled her to rank for an interval in the first grade of European powers. But under the adventurous and unfortunate Charles XII. (1697-1718) there was a rapid loss of prestige and influence.


In ecclesiastical affairs Sweden was distinguished by no independent development. The conservative instinct was dominant, so that the reactions against the stringent Lutheran dogmatism which occurred in Germany were for the most part excluded from the northern realm. We read of two bishops who affiliated in a measure with the spirit and principles of Calixtus. But they had a very limited opportunity to spread their views. Exposed to the hostility of the government and the great body of the clergy, they were obliged to pay for their liberality with the sacrifice of their office (1661-1663). The other Scandinavian countries, if less impervious in the following century to innovation than Sweden, showed much the same theological fixity in the seventeenth century.


It has been noticed that the severe proscription which befell the Arminians in the United Netherlands resulted from a combination of political and ecclesiastical causes, and was soon followed by a more lenient policy. In fact, the Dutch Republic afforded as conspicuous an example of religious tolerance as could anywhere be found in the last three quarters of the seventeenth century. It served accordingly as a refuge for the persecuted, and its ecclesiastical complexion was somewhat variegated.


A good degree of theological activity was maintained in the Calvinistic communion. A part of this went to maintain in full integrity the tenets which were sanctioned at the Synod of Dort. But the Calvinistic body did not remain strictly homogeneous. The Cartesian philosophy acted as a diversifying agent. Espoused by one party, it was strongly reprobated by another. A second cause which worked toward diversity was the "Federal Theology" of Coccejus, so called from the prominence which it gave to Divine covenants. This did not assail any of the Calvinistic tenets, but in its attempt to give to doctrine a more directly Biblical foundation than was secured by the preceding scholastic method, it initiated a tendency to modified views of some of the accepted dogmas. It was accordingly very obnoxious to conservative minds. The dispute at one time (1650-1670) grew so warm between the school of Coccejus and its opponents that a schism seemed imminent; but at length a ground of mediation was furnished in the softened dogmatism of the younger generation, which had been trained amid the conflicting currents of opinion.


Among the smaller parties which found a refuge in the Dutch Republic was an offshoot of the Antibaptist movement, the Mennonites, or followers of Menno Simons. After 1626 full toleration was accorded them in the republic. In their attitude toward infant baptism the Mennonites held the common Baptist principle. On the other hand, they were distinguished from the ordinary type of Baptists, as not being, in the main, immersionists. In several respects,such as the reprobation of oaths and all forms of violence, they exhibited a distinct kinship with the Quakers.


Like the Mennonites, the Labadists may be described by their relation at once to the Baptists and the Quakers. They resembled the former in regarding baptism as appropriate only to the regenerate; with the latter they were disposed to emphasize the inner working of the Spirit, and the relative independence of this working, or its possible disconnection from the written Word. The Labadists were a small sect, deriving their name from Jean de Labadie, who passed from the Romish to the Reformed Church near the middle of the seventeenth century. Among the disciples of Labadie the most noted was the devout and learned Anna Marie von Schürmann.


A contemporary of Labadie, and like him brought up in the Roman Catholic Church, also obtained a small following in the Netherlands. We refer to the enthusiast and mystic, Antoinette Bourignon. Finding by experience that earnest piety was not monopolized by any one church, she came to make little account of the dividing lines between different communions. In this she was imitated by her most distinguished disciple, the Reformed theologian, Pierre Poiret, who systematized her ideas and presented them in purified form.


The jealousy which existed between the Romish and the Reformed Cantons of Switzerland twice issued into open violence within the period. In the earlier contest (1656), which is described as the first Vilmergen war, the advantage was with the Romish party. In the later struggle, or second Vilmergen war (1712), the victory was with the Reformed Cantons. In neither case, however, was the gain or the loss of sufficient moment to seriously disturb the political or religious balance in the Confederacy.


In its theological activity the Protestant Church of Switzerland gave some distinct tokens of the influence of outside movements. The conservative party had occasion to defend Swiss orthodoxy against the modified Calvinism which was advocated in France by Placæus and Amyraut, as also against the critical views of Louis Cappel.l

1 Placæus advocated mediate imputation of Adam's sin, as opposed to immediate. Amyrant contended that Christ died for all, though the benefits of his death are efficacionally applied only to the elect. Cappel opposed the extreme theory of the time, which made even the vowel-points in the Hebrew Bible the product of inspiration.
The Helvetic Consensus Formula (1675) was designed to raise a secure barrier against innovation from this direction. It can hardly be said to have fulfilled the aim of those by whom it was contrived. Some years later a resolute attempt was made to close the door against Pietism, which had crossed the border from Germany. The attempt was but partially successful. While Pietism did not became a controlling factor, it continued to hold a place in Switzerland.

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