History of movemnets - 32

Switzerland.—The first Unitarian martyr who suffered at the hands of his Protestant brethren was a Swiss by name Lewes Hetzee who was executed at Zurich on the 4th February 1529. Twenty-four years after, Servitus above referred to, was caught and publicly burnt. Notwithstanding these sad events Switzerland soon became a kind of retreat for heretics from Italy. The members and ministers of the Swiss Church, not being committed by any decla­ration to the belief in orthodox doctrines, the Pastors at Geneva and other places soon became Unitarians. Zurich in German—Switzerland takes the place of honour, holding aloft the banner of liberalism, since Dr. Stranss settled in that city in 1839. In 1870 was founded “the Swiss Union of liberal Chris­tianity” and has branches in Bale, Berne, Aargan, Sobure, Aphenzell, St. Gall, Zurich and, Geneva; it is a great force of Protestant liberalism in Swit­zerland. “The General Society of Protestant Missions’ whose present headquarters are at Berlin, but in whose foundations Swiss Liberal Protestantism played a prominent part, was created in 1884. This Society has striven to establish missionary enterprise on liberal lines, inculcating respect for the religions of non-Christian peoples, and spiritualizing the elements of truth which they contain. So far this society supports missionaries in China and Japan only.

Germany.—The German people have had the honour of not only producing Luther but also of the earliest of the Unitarian Reformers. During the last 350 years the scholars and divines of this country have often lent their help towards the rationalization of theology. Still there is as yet no distinctly named Unitarian Movement in Germany. However as early as 1861 there were 3,25,077 persons who called themselves Unitarians in the Governmental statistics. Dr. Julius Rupp a very virtuous and learned man was dismissed by a judgment of the consistory for his preaching at Koenigsberg, the City of Kant, against the use of the old con­fession of faith. But his numerous friends and scholars stood faithfully by him and founded the first Free Religions Congregation in 1846 at Koenigsberg. “Soon afterwards Free Religions Congregations were founded in other cities of Germany, in Magdeburg by Uhlich in Halle, Nordhansen and others. Two years later there was a similar movement in the Roman Catholic Church of which Ronge and Czerski were the leaders. These communities were subse- quently united with the free evangelical communities.”

Dr.C.Schieler, representative of the Free Religious Congregations in Germany said in his address before the International Council of Liberal Religion in London in 1901:—

“Dr. Rupp the first preacher of F. R. Congrega­tions was several times imprisoned because he was more obedient to his conscience than to the laws of the state. The religious services were watched by policemen and more than once dissolved, and even private assemblies were broken up. In 1851 the Church was closed by the head of the Police at Koenigsberg. The position began to improve under the regency of the Prince of Prassia, afterwards the German Emperor William I. Now the congregation is at liberty to celebrate its divine service and festivals, but in defiance of the constitution.”

“We have no confession of faith and do not pre­scribe any dogmas for the acceptance of our members. Everybody is expected and urged to farther, refine and to perfect his religious knowledge and to order his moral life according to his religions convictions. We do not want to be free from religion but from the constraint in religious questions and life. We do not believe that religion is morality only; but that morality is the best fruit of religion. We esteem the Gospel highly because it contains the doctrines of the greatest teacher of mankind, Jesus Christ. But we also respect the results of modern criticism and those of other sciences as they concern religion.”

“We are not members of a Church. We have no Pope, or Bishop or Priest: We are a free association. Our aim is to erect the Kingdom of God preached by Jesus, the free Kingdom of free children of God….. emphasizing the great Commandment; Love to Godand Love to Man ... And if there are some who want to have a Church I accept a word I have heard here: The only Church of the future is the Church of reli­gious liberty of humanity.”