Page images

cities; the training of deacons and deaconesses; in fact, the whole field of Christian philanthropy. It has become almost co-extensive with practical Christianity. Its moving soul is that love which is as old as the Church, and whose fountain springs from the Cross. It does the work of the Church and for the Church, and with the most active members of the Church--but mostly in the form of free asssociation. Hence the opposition of the High Church Lutherans to Inner Mission; for like the Romanists and Puseyites, they virtually identify the Church with the clergy, and disown every Christian work, however good and noble, which does not proceed from the clergy, and has not the official seal stamped upon it. But this principle of free association and lay activity in the Church-only think of the British and American Bible, Tract, and Missionary Societies !-has become an irresistible power of the age, and opened a new chapter in church history. Even Romanism seems to be unable to suppress it altogether if we look at the various societies formed in 1848 under the names of Bonifacius, Boromæus, Pius, and at the singular fact, that the leading and most vigorous organs of the Roman Catholic press, even those of the Ultramontane party-as the “Historisch-Politische Blätter,'

L'Univers,' and 'Brownson's Review'-are conducted by laymen, generally converts from Protestantism.

The inherent life of the movement of Inner Mission, in connextion with the sanction of the Kirchentag, and especially the peculiar condition of affairs at that critical period, made it spread since 1848 with unusual rapidity all over Germany and Switzerland, and its popularity and vigour seems still extending and deepening, although a number of so-called evangelical societies which owed their existence to the charm of novelty and the excitement of the moment, have already gone

the way

of all flesh. Wichern gives the work a fresh impulse at every meeting of the Church Diet, of which he is, upon the whole, the most popular and interesting orator. He speaks without notes, with great freedom, energy, and fluency. He is perhaps somewhat too lengthy and prolis, but commands the audience nevertheless to the end. His generous zeal for a great and good cause, his noble figure, his earnest countenance, his blue eyes sparkling with the fire of genius and sanctified benevolence, never fail to make a deep impression, as he unfolds the the statistics of misery and crime, and calls upon the assembly to show their faith by works, and to stem the flood of infidelity, socialism, and revolution, by leading society back to practical virtue and religion, as revealed in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

The movement of Inner Mission does not propose any alteration in the creed and constitution of the Church. It rests throughout on the basis of the Evangelical Protestant confessions of faith, and differs therefore from Romanism as well as from mere natural philanthropy. But it may be called a practical complement to the Reformation of the sixteenth century, and to the modern evangelical theology-a noble effort to rebuild what rational and indifferentism have destroyed in the moral and religious life of the nation. It insists upon works of charity, but on the ground of the merit of Christ and the free grace of God.

Quite recently an important step was taken by the Evangelical Conference which assembled at Berlin in November, 1856, to embody a part of the work of Inner Mission, which was carried on thus far, as already remarked, mostly in the form of voluntary agency, in the regular machinery of the Evangelical Church of Prussia, and thus to give it an official and permanent character. We mean the introduction of the diaconate as a congregational office for the care of the poor and the sick, according to the practice of the apostolic church. Wichern and Fliedner were among the fifty-eight members of that Conference, elected by the king. They may regard this action, which will no doubt receive the sanction of the projected general Synod, as a triumph of their long and self-denying labours. But it will require some time till a sufficient number of efficient deacons and presbyters, or lay helpers of the minister in the exercise of pastoral care, can be found in a state church where the majority of congregations are either spiritually dead, as in most of the Eastern provinces, or at least composed of the most heterogeneous material. In the Western provinces, where the Reformed Church prevails, the office spoken of has long been established, and is more or less in successful operation.

Closely connected with the diaconate is the institution of female deacons or deaconesses, or, if you choose to call them so, evangelical Sisters of Charity. This should likewise be made a regular ecclesiastical office. It was agitated long before 1848, by Dr. Fliedner, an eminently practical minister, who is favourably known as the founder and director of the establishment of deaconesses at Keiserswerth on the Rhine. The celebrated Miss Florence Nightingale is one of his pupils, which alone should be sufficient to commend him to the favourable notice of Great Britain and America. By indefatigable exertions he succeeded to awaken a deep interest in this matter. Similar establishments have be founded since at Berlin (Bethania, with a magnificent building and rich endowment by the queen), at Jerusalem, in connexion with the Anglo-Prussian bishopric, at Smyrna, and at Pitsburg, Pa. (under the care of the Rev. Mr. Passavant, an active Lutheran minister), and have been mostly supplied with excellent and well-trained female nurses from the mother institution of Keiserswerth. Fliedner brought them himself to America, and to Jerusalem. All these institutions of Christian sisterhoods have proved a great temporal and spiritual blessing to the sick placed under their care. It has been asserted recently by a number of bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, that' the Sisters of Charity in the Romish communion are worth, perhaps, more to their cause than the combined wealth of their hierarchy, the learning of their priesthood, and the self-sacrificing zeal of their missionaries.' (Memorial Papers, ed. by Bishop Potter,

[ocr errors]

p. 61.) This may be greatly exaggerated. But it is certainly high time that the Protestant churches should begin seriously to consider the great importance of affording the large number of unmarried and unemployed females which are found everywhere, a proper opportunity to devote their peculiar talents and gifts to the service of Christ and humanity, in the discharge of the most tender and most endearing offices of charity.

To return to Dr. Wichern, we may state in conclusion that he has been called recently to Berlin as general superintendent of the prisons (on which subject he was consulted some years ago by the Prussian Government), and been offered a seat at the same time in the Oberkirchenrath and Staatsrath, the two highest councils of the Prussian Church and State. But it seems he has declined so far to give up his connexion with the Rough House, to which he devoted the labours of his first love, and in which he trained himself to general usefulness. He could hardly find a more influential, and at the same time a more independent position, than he occupies now.

If we now look over the field and prospects of practical Christianity in Germany, the question naturally rises — Is this movement of Inner Mission likely to continue much longer, either in a free, or in an official form; or will it gradually die away, especially if Wichern and Fliedner shall once have been called to their rest? Will the work of a radical regeneration of Protestantism, on its present doctrinal basis, which the movement aims at, succeed on a large scale; or must we look for a new reformation, which the Lord alone can bring about by his Spirit ? Will the thirty-eight independent sovereignties, and as many State-Churches of Germany which now mar its unity and divide its strength, ever be merged into one free powerful confederation, so as to become the thinking head and the beating heart of old and ever-renewing Europe? Will that noble country ever flourish like a garden of God; or has it seen its brightest days, and fulfilled its mission to the world ? Are the many signs of progress and improvement the rays of the rising or of the setting sun ? Is not the new life of Christianity, after all, confined to a comparatively small number, and are not the masses of the people, in spite of all church diets, church counsels, church ordinances, church hymns, church books and church papers, fearfully alienated from the Church, and becoming more and more addicted to the degrading and disgraceful worship of Mammon? Are not the present agitations and commotions ominous of a new political and social convulsion that shall leave the revolution of 1848 far behind, and sweep away in its current church and state, priests and kings, to make room for anarchy and dissolution? Or are they the birth-throes simply of a new creation, and the final triumphs of the everlasting gospel of love and peace ?

We cannot look through the veil of the future. But we do know that the recent revival of evangelical theology and religion which we have described in this book is not an empty dream, but a living reality, and that its conquests in the battle with error can never be

lost. We know that the practical movements which resulted from it have been an incalculable blessing to hundreds and thousands of immortal souls. Though the tree should die in the land of its birth, its fruitful seed has already taken root in other countries, full of hope and promise. The African Church died away after she had produced her greatest divine and saint; but St. Augustine's theology and piety continued to live through the middle ages, and fertilized the soil of the Reformation, and are a rich source of instruction and edification to this day.

Dr. Wichern has adopted for his motto the words of the disciple who leaned on the Master's bosom : Faith is the victory which overcometh the world. May the faith of the apostolic church, the faith which justifies and sanctifies the whole man, the faith which worketh by love, overcome all the countless and fearful foes who contend against it in the land of the Reformation. This is our concluding hope and prayer for Germany, and for the world.


The Old Believers of the Russian Church.


The inn of Jakoff, transformed into a place of rendezvous for the Christian Dissenters, soon prospered. All the sectarians, who were summoned before the authorities, stopped there, before or after the examination. Sometimes this examination is put off for several weeks, and these adjournments turn to the profit of the inn-keeper, who, in giving the Old Believers an asylum, never fails to pay himself, either in money or in kind. The local administration is, at last, warned by the traitor Andrialika, who denounces his old companion, only to put himself in his place. The sectarian is driven from his inn. Reduced to a wandering and miserable life, he submits to the trial as a just punishment for his faults. His religious instincts are re-awakened, and he decides on entering one of those communities of solitary men, still so numerous in Russia--and this brings us into contact with a new class of Old Believers. The spiritual chief who admits Jakoff, the father Acafa, is nearly a hundred years old. The tents of the hermits who recognise his authority are scattered round his little house, which stands at the bottom of a wild ravine.

• I had no trouble,' says our hero, 'in following the rules that they followed. Prayer occupied one part of our day, and the other hours were passed in copying manuscript. When the weather was fine, the youngest went out to exchange our copies for provisions. Sometimes we remained shut up in our cabins an entire month, without seeing a human face. Never had I felt so happy, and I thought that I should like to finish my days in that state ; but Heaven willed otherwise, and destined me to sustain long conflicts with this world, which Antichrist still governs. We had among us a hermit named Martémiane; of all our brethren, he pleased me the least. One day he entered the old man's house, followed by a peasant. “What do you want, and where does this man come from?" demanded Acafa. “He is from Zourdine." “What does he ask for?" "I should like to live here, holy father," answered the peasant; “the taxes are heavy, and I am afraid they will take my son for a recruit." "You have, then, a family?” “Yes, an old wife, two daughters, and a son.” “Then it is the tax that brings you to us ?” “I cannot say no," answered the peasant, somewhat troubled. “What is the use of all these questions? ” rudely inquired Martémiane; “ receive kindly all the sheep who come and join themselves to our flock, whatever may be the reasons that bring them.”. We met in council afterwards, and Father Acafa spoke against the admission of this family. Martémiane contradicted him with bitterness, and at last said, “You are too old to govern us. Upon what footing are we here. One hardly dares sneeze. See how the hermits of Relox live. It is quite another thing: they fear nothing, and have made themselves masters of all the country.” “Well, well,” replied Acafa, “ you are right. I see that I do not suit you-I am too old. I know very well what will come of it, Father Martémiane. Solitude wearies you. Well, so be it; let me return. Take another director, and suffer me to die in peace." We entreated him to remain, but these prayers were not sincere, at least the greater part. He refused; and we named Martémiane as his successor. Some time after God took Father Acafa to himself. From that moment everything changed. Many peasant families came and joined themselves to the first; the hermits began to risit them, and soon neglected the religious duties that Father Acafa had taught them. Each one began to keep what had been given to him, and to seek all the enjoyments of the world. Disgusted, I resolved to leave the community; and having collected my manuscripts, I went down the river, and arrived at a village called Lenof. Thence I went to the hamlet of Illinskoé, where I settled. My host was an Old Believer, but, fearing persecution, he followed outwardly the observances of the Church. He had a son named Mikalka, who employed himself in falsifying passports. The Old Believers brought them to him from far, and he excelled in making them passable. As I could speak freely in this house, I one day reproached the father for allowing his son to follow such a wicked business. “Where do you come from, friend, with good advice?” said he. “Remember," I replied, what is written in the holy books. Does not Christ himself say, he is a wandering man? He who takes a passport is not a Christian. And you allow your son to make false passports, which is still worse.” “It is Father Acafa, without doubt," he replied, “who has taught you these things: with these ideas you will ruin us. You other hermits, what do you do in the woods? You are only good for saying prayers; that does not suit us: we wish to have places of refuge for rainy days. Life becomes difficult in the villages; sometimes superintendents, sometimes police, disturb us.

After one of their searches, one wanders entire days, like a soul in torture; some are beaten unmercifully, others are carried away, I do not know where-they are never seen again. This is why we have resolved to found in the depths of the forest large communities, which, in need, could serve as a refuge. We shall make a postal service which will go from one village to another, so that, being warned in time of the slightest intention of the authorities, when they arrive they will find no trace of the Old Believers in the woods.”'

The last pages of the tale show us Jakoff more and more weighed down with the conscious need of solitude; but it is no longer a cloister that he seeks, it is the monastic life in all its austerity; and the author takes leave of his hero at the moment when, eager to forsake the world, he sets out for the solitudes of Drienburg—there to terminate his life in ecstasy and prayer.

The other tale of M. Chetdrine, entitled “ Marfa,' sets more vividly before us, than this, the disorders with which the Old Believers' may be reproached. M. Chetdrine has sketched, with a vigorous hand, in


« PreviousContinue »