« PreviousContinue »
Prosperity of the Dutch republic.
THE United Netherlands now ranked among the foremost nations of the world. They had signalized the commencement of their newly-recognized sovereignty by establishing diplomatic relations with most of the neighbor
ing courts of Europe ; and distant powers had begun to 1610. seek their alliance. The King of Morocco early sent am
bassadors to the states, and negotiated a liberal treaty; 1612. while the sultan opened to the Dutch the commerce of the
Levant, which before had been monopolized by England and France. With Wurtemburg and Brandenburg a mutual freedom of trade was soon adjusted; and, in a memorial to King James, Raleigh bore. eloquent testimony to the large policy of the early tariffs of the Netherlands, declaring that “ the low duties of these wise states draw all traffic to them, and the great liberty allowed to strangers makes a continual mart." As sagacious as he was patri
otic, Olden Barneveldt had consolidated the independence 1616. of his country by procuring from the weakness of James
the restitution of the Brielle, Vlissingen, and Rammekens, which had been pledged to Elizabeth as a security for the repayment of her advances to the United Provinces. The surrender of these "cautionary towns”-a measure which excited murmurs and discontent in England, and astonishment in other nations-gave intense satisfaction to the people of the Netherlands, and added a new impulse to the commercial prosperity which seven years of peace had established and confirmed. The flag of the republic floated on every sea—from Japan to Manhattan, from Nova Zem
bla to Cape Hoorn-her ports were crowded with richly- CHAP. IV. laden shipping; her warehouses were filled with the costly
1620. products of the East; and the markets, which formerly knew only the furs of Muscovy, had already become familiar with the peltry of New Netherland.*
But while Europe was watching with jealous interest the triumphant progress of the United Provinces, a cause was secretly at work within, which threatened more evil to the nation than all the might of foreign foes. During the greater part of the war with Spain, religious differences Religious had, more or less, prevailed in the Netherlands. When the sions. truce was finally signed, men's minds, relieved from the absorbing consideration of martial affairs, were soon eagerly engaged in fierce debates on articles of faith ; and the theological controversy waxed as bitter in spirit as the political contest which had just been settled.
Early in the fifth century, Saint Augustine opened the Pelagianfamous controversy upon the “heresies” which the English monk Pelagius had just broached. Augustine maintained the doctrines of original sin, and the predestination of the elect to salvation. Pelagius denied them. The Churches of the East generally supported Pelagius; those of the West, Augustine. Luther, a disciple of Augustine, affirmed the doctrines of the patron of his order; and Calvin, following the great Father of the Reformation, with Calvinism. severe logic carried them out to their extreme consequences. Besides their distinctions in doctrine, the two Reformers differed also in their views respecting church government and the ceremonies of worship; the somewhat conservative opinions of the leader of the German Protestants, upon these points, contrasting strongly with the more thorough system of the Genevese theologian.
Wessel Gansevoort and Rudolf Agricola, of Groningen, The Reforhad already begun to teach evangelical faith.
When Holland. the writings of Luther were printed in Friesland, and 1518. circulated in Holland, Erasmus, though at heart not opposed to many of the views of the German Reformer,
* Van Meteren, xxxi., 662; xxxii., 694, 707; Davies, ii., 446, 452 ; McCullagh, ii., 251
CEAP. IV. thought that the cause of truth would be better promoted
by less violent proceedings. Interposing between the followers of Luther and the adherents of the Pope, Erasmus drew upon himself, for a time, the ill will of both parties. The mild impartiality of Adrian II., however, saw and ad
mitted the necessity of correcting the abuses in the Church; 1522. and the Rotterdam scholar was invited to Rome to assist
the Pontiff with his advice. But Erasmus, remaining in Holland, devoted his admirable talents to the cause of Reform in his own land. The seeds of truth, which had germinated there, could not be rooted out by all the efforts of the inquisitors of Charles V. and Philip II. The successive edicts of the kings of Spain but planted more deeply in the hearts of the people the emancipating principles of the Reformation. Persecution but confirmed their belief, and invigorated their zeal The old nobility and the beneficed prelates, dreading a change which might damage their secular interests, generally adhered to the Pope ; but the popular movement carried along with it the inferior clergy. Mind acted on mind, and prescription yielded to the irresistible impulse. A Confession of Faith, modeled
after that of the Calvinistic Church of France, was adopted, 1561. in 1561, by the Protestants of the Netherlands, who thence
forward went by the name of THE REFORMED."*
The first public meeting and preaching of the Reformed of the Re in Holland took place in a field near the city of Hoorn, on 1566. the fourteenth of July, 1566. The rumor of this bold step
soon spread over the province, and Protestants at Haerlem, Leyden, and other towns, followed the example of their brethren at Hoorn. Ministers were presently settled in the chief cities; and the Reformed doctrine was openly preached in the grand cathedrals which the Vandal fervor
of Iconoclasts had despoiled. The Psalms were translated translated into Low Dutch, and sung by great congregations. Thus,
by degrees, the minds of the people were fully prepared for 1573. the important step which the states took, in the year 1573,
* Brandt's History of the Reformation, ii., 64, 84 ; V., 254; Davies, i., 354–356, 446 ; ii., 452-454.
ment of the
of expelling the Roman Catholics from the churches. Yet CHAP. IV. this measure was carried with great difficulty, and after
1573 much opposition; and it was justified only by the considerations of pressing political necessity, and of the danger of trusting too much, during the war with Spain, to ecclesiastics who had sworn allegiance to the Pope, and who remained firm in that allegiance. The Reformed religion, Establish as taught in Geneva and elsewhere, was publicly estab- Reformed lished in Holland about the close of the year. At the same time, and notwithstanding the acts of severity which they felt themselves compelled to use against the Papists, the people were of opinion “not only that all religions ought to be tolerated, but that all restraint in matters of religion was as detestable as the Inquisition itself."*
Two years after the famous Union of Utrecht, in 1579, the Prince of Orange, on accepting the office of stadthold- 1581. er, which was formally confirmed to him by the States of Holland, proclaimed that he would "maintain and promote the Reformed religion, and no other;" but" that he should not suffer any man to be called to account, molested, or injured, for his faith and conscience." In a few days, the noble manifesto of the States General announced to the 26 July. world that the Dutch had openly rejected Philip as their king, and that the people of the Netherlands were absolved from all allegiance to their former sovereign. This obliged the stadtholder to issue a proclamation prohibiting the pub-26 Dee. lic exercise of the Romish religion; nevertheless, the same instrument declared that it was not intended to impose Freedom of any burden, or make inquisition into any man's con- proclaimed. science." While Calvinism was thus established as the national religion of Holland, the followers of all other modes of faith were freely allowed to conduct their worship in private houses, which were frequently as spacious as the churches themselves. Under this system, there was, in fact, an entire liberty in the use of diverse services. Hooft, the burgomaster of Amsterdam, in a public address to his 1598. colleagues, declared that magistrates should not pretend 26 Jan,
* Brandt, vi., 318 ; X., 549, 550 ; Davies, i., 526-530, 541.
Chap. IV. to build up living temples to the Lord by force, and by
external arms;" for, in their conflict with Spain, the Dutch 1598.
had openly maintained that 6 no princes nor magistrates had any authority over the consciences of their subjects in matters of religion.'
Thus religious freedom was, from the first, recognized
as a universal right, and accompanied the spread of the Toleration Reformation in Holland. If Germany nursed the infancy religions of the Protestant faith, the Netherlands developed its true
proportions, and defended its maturer growth. While the Dutch, with dauntless courage, were breasting the power of Spain, they habitually extended to every sect the same liberty in matters of belief which they had claimed of Philip as their own right. Though Calvinism was their established religion, Calvinism was not their exclusive religion. Battling against a foreign bigot, it was only natural that the people of the Netherlands should generally have repudiated bigotry at home. And this policy produced the happiest effects. Occasional instances of sectarian excess were not, indeed, wanting. Yet, by degrees, Papists learned to think that Lutherans and Calvinists might be in the way of salvation; Protestants forbore to call the Pope anti-Christ, and Romanists idolaters; the Calvinist and the Lutheran emulated each other in large Christian charity; and the Jew, stopping his wandering
steps and forgetting his exclusiveness, rested in Holland, Folland an a faithful and patriotic citizen. The Low Countries soon e perseo" became an asylum for fugitives from persecution in other
lands; and the Dutch won the honorable distinction of European reproach for their system of universal religious toleration. Amsterdam was called “a common harbor of all opinions, of all heresies.” Holland was stigmatized as “a cage for unclean birds." The Netherlands became notorious among the bigots of Christendom for such com prehensive liberality in conscience and opinion, that it was observed that “all strange religions flock thither.” In
* Brandt, xiii., 675-677; xvi., 825–834 ; Van Meteren, X., 209; Bentivoglio, ii., 2; Da. vies, ii., 65, 141.