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Good Words 1860
Protestantism in France


(Continued from, page 29.)

We pass naturally from these remarks as to the French Protestant clergy, to glance at the theological institutions at which they are educated. There are three of these. Montauban, Strasburg, and Geneva. Montauban and Geneva are for the students of the National Reformed Church. Strasburg is mainly for the students belonging to the Lutheran branch of French Protestantism. In Montauban there are seven professors, five of whom are pronounced by M. Grandpierre to be decidedly orthodox. The average number of students is about sixty. The faculty at Strasburg reckons eight, and about eighty students; thirty of whom, however, are only in the preparatory stage of their training. There are some distinguished names in the professoriate, such as Matter and Charles Waddington, the successor of Christian Bartholmess. In the faculty of Geneva there are five professors, and, in 1856, there were sixty-three students. The tone of the teaching here—the home of the old orthodoxy—is by no means so favourably spoken of by M. Grandpierre. It is by special authority that the theological faculty of Geneva is entitled to prepare students for the ministry in the Protestant Church of France. The origin of this arrangement dates from the time of the extreme persecution of French Protestantism, when it was impossible to obtain education for the clergy in France.

In addition to these regular theological institutions, there are two preparatory schools of theology, one at Nismes, and the other at Paris; the first founded by the clergy of Nismes, and the other maintained by the Central Protestant Society of Evangelisation. There may be thirty pupils at the first, and about fifteen or so at the second; that of Nismes is more latitudinarian; that of Paris more orthodox.

The students preparing for the ministry in the Dissenting or Independent Churches are chiefly educated at Geneva, at the separate school of theology founded and maintained there by the evangelical society of that city, and which is adorned by the names of Merle d'Aubigné and Gaussen. The number of students is about twenty-five, and the tone of the teaching, as may be inferred from the names mentioned, is highly evangelical.

After these higher scholastic institutions, the normal schools claim next our consideration. While the former train the clergy, the latter train the schoolmasters of French Protestantism. There are five Protestant normal schools in France for training male teachers, and three for training female. Among the former may be mentioned that of Courbevoie, founded and maintained by the Society for the Encouragement of Primary Instruction among the Protestants of France, which is, perhaps, the first normal school of France, both for the perfection of its educational machinery, and the living Christian spirit which animates it; and also the normal school of the Evangelical Society of France at Paris. M. Pastor Gaubley is at the head of the one, and M. Pastor Valliet at the head of the other. Each of these contain about thirty pupils.

Besides these schools there are numerous educational boarding-houses (pensionnats) for boys and girls, no fewer than twenty of the one kind and thirty of the other, in or about Paris. These boarding-houses, presided over by active Protestant superintendents, male and female, are deemed of great service in preserving the Protestant youth from the proselytising exertions of the Romish clergy.

Passing now to the literature of French Protestantism, it must be confessed that it is not very rich in great works. The Church has scarcely had repose as yet, for the cultivation of an original and influential theology. Its militant position, and the practical necessities of vigilance and defence, have claimed too much the employment of its talents and energies. The spirit of independent theological inquiry, however, has revived vigorously of late; and Matter's extended work on Gnosticism, Reuss' [Matter and Reuss are both professors in Strasburg, Cellerier in Geneva; De Pressense is the ablest of the dissenting clergy in Paris.] "History of Christian Theology in the Apostolic Age," Cellerier's "Critical Works on the Old and New Testaments," and De Pressense's "History of the Apostolic Age," with its comprehensive and valuable introduction, are among the most notable facts of thi3 reviving spirit. The historical labours of Bonnet, (his life of Olympia Morata, and his editions of the letters of Calvin,) and the works of Bartholmess and Waddington, in the department of Christian philosophy, [Bartholmess' "Historie Critique des Religieuse Opinion de la Philosophie Modern,"and Waddington's monograph on Peter Waldus.] are also eminently deserving of notice. Bungener, Felice, Bonnechose, Weiss, and Merle D'Aubigné, are names still better known in this country, all more or less distinguished in the department of popular history; to which may be added the less known, but no less eminent name of Paaux, who has just published the first volume of an extended history of the French reformation.

There are no fewer than seventeen religious journals, eleven of which appear in Paris, which represent the current interests of French Protestant literature; many of these, indeed, are merely of a practical and edifying character, and one or two are addressed to the young, hut others are of an elaborate and intellectual character ; of these the oldest is Les Archives du Christianisme, which dates from 1818 ; founded originally by the president of the consistory of the Reformed Church of Paris, it has become, in the hands of its present editor, (Frederick Monod,) the popular organ of dissenting Protestantism in France. A popular journal, under the name of L' Espérance, serves the same purpose for the endowed Protestant Churches.

The Revue de Theologie et de Philosophic Chré-tienne, emanating from Strasburg, under the editorship of MM. Scherer and Colary, and the Revue Chré-tienne, under the editorship of De Pressense, are the largest of these publications, and answer in some degree to the Quarterly Review among ourselves. The former is latitudinarian and even rationalistic; the latter is liberal, but thoroughly Christian. Some of the main articles of Christian doctrine have been the subject of a vigorous polemic between these reviews.

We may further mention, before closing this list, the Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire du Protest-antisme Francais, and the Journal des Missions,— the one, as its title indicates, devoted to the collection and examination of all documents relating to the history of French Protestantism, and the other to the publication of missionary intelligence and literature, under the auspices of the Paris Society of Evangelical Missions.

We come now, finally, to a brief record of the societies and charitable agencies, which form one of the most notable and encouraging features of French Protestantism. Before 1818 there were no such societies in existence. In this year was established the Protestant Bible Society, which devotes itself to the distribution of Bibles among Protestants only; while the French and Foreign Bible Society, founded in 1833, distributes Bibles to all without distinction. These two societies, with those of Malhouse and of Strasburg, sell or otherwise dispose of annually 65,000 copies of the Scriptures, at an expense of 120,000 francs.

Besides these, there are eight evangelical societies, whose special function is the diffusion of gospel truth. The Evangelical Society of France, founded in 1833, which aims to spread the gospel among Catholics, and which maintains 13 pastors, 43 evangelists, and 36 teachers, male and female, is under the management of the dissenting churches; the Evangelical Society of Geneva, which, although its seat and management are in Geneva, confines its labours almost exclusively to France; then the Great Central Protestant Society of Evangelisation, directly associated with the National Protestantism, and which, since its foundation in 1847, has made rapid progress. Following these three chief societies, there are five others with the same object, bra more local in the sphere of their operations. The revenue of the eight together amount to about 425,000 francs. There are various other societies for the diffusion of religious books and tracts; missionary, educational, and Sunday-school societies; all testifying to the life and activity of French Protestantism.

There is, further, a special and beautiful feature of French Protestantism—the institutions of deaconesses—of which there are two, one at Strasburg, and the other at Paris. These deaconesses correspond to the Romish sisters of charity, and, by their careful and self-denying labours in leading and educating neglected and orphan children, and visiting the hospitals, work an incalculable amount of unseen but widely-extending good.

The picture of French Protestantism presented in these brief notes is certainly an encouraging one, so far as the Christian future of that great country is concerned. All the healthiest and manliest features of the national life of France are to be found in the bosom of its Protestantism; and every one who desires the peace of the world, and the wellbeing of his race, may ardently pray for its increase and extension. The progress of the last thirty years gives every guarantee of an accelerated progress in the course of another generation; and we may allow ourselves hopefully to anticipate a still brighter era of prosperity for the truth in France, (notwithstanding the recent threatenings of Romish intrigue,) when we see so much practical earnestness and living faith uniting itself, as it is now rapidly doing, to a high intellectual and theological culture.


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