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§ 99. The Reformation in Prussia. Duke Albrecht and Bishop Georg Von Polenz.
I. Luther’s Letters to Albrecht from May 26, 1525, to May 2, 1545 (17, see list in Erl. ed. LVI. 248), to Briesmann and Georg von Polenz, in the collections of De Wette and Enders. J. Voigt: Briefwechsel der berühmtesten Gelehrten des Zeitalters der Reformation mit Herzog Albrecht von Preussen, Königsb. 1841.
II. Hartknoch: Preussische Kirchenhistorie, Königsberg, 1686. Arnoldt: Preussische Kirchengeschichte, Königsberg, 1769. Bock: Leben Albrechts des Aelteren, Königsb. 1750. Rhesa: De primis sacrorum reformatoribus in Prussia, Königsberg, 1823–1830 (seven University Programs containing biographies of Briesmann, Speratus, Poliander, Georg v. Polenz, Amandus). Gebser: Der Dom zu Königsberg, 1835. Erdmann: Preussen, Ordensstaat, in Herzog1, XII. 117–165 (1860; omitted in the second ed.). Pastor (R. Cath.): Neue Quellenberichte über den Reformator Albrecht von Brandenburg, Mainz, 1876 (in the "Katholik," LVI. February and March). C. A. Hase: Herzog Albrecht von Preussen und sein Hofprediger. Eine königsberger Tragödie aus dem Zeitalter der Reformation, Leipzig, 1879. Rindfleisch: Herzog Albrecht von Hohenzollern, der letzte Hochmeister, und die Reformation in Preussen, Danzig, 1880. P. Tschackert (professor in Königsberg): Georg von Polentz, Bischof von Samland, Leipzig, 1888 (in "Kirchengeschichtl. Studien" by Brieger, Tschackert, etc., pp. 145–194).
III. The general histories of Prussia by Stenzel, Droysen, Voigt (large work, 1827–39, in 9 vols.; condensed ed. 1850, in 3 vols.), Cosel, Hahn, Pierson (4th ed. 1881, 2 vols.), Ranke (Zwölf Bücher preussischer Gesch. 1874), Förster, etc. For the history of the Teutonic order, see Watterich: Die Gründung des deutschen Ordensstaates in Preussen, Leipzig, 1857; and Joh. Voigt: Geschichte des deutschen Ritterordens, Berlin, 1859, 2 vols.
IV. Ranke: Vol. II. 326 sqq. Janssen: III. 70–77.
Of greater prospective importance than the conversion of Hesse and even of Saxony to Protestantism, was the evangelization of Prussia, which from a semi-barbarous Duchy on the shores of the Baltic rose to the magnitude of a highly civilized kingdom, stretching from the borders of Russia beyond the banks of the Rhine, and which is now, in connection with the new German Empire, the leading Protestant power on the Continent of Europe.784784 "Bei weitem die merkwürdigste und durchgreifendste Veränderung fand in Preussen statt." Ranke, II. 326. Janssen can see in the Reformation of Prussia only a change for the worse. The best refutation of his view is the subsequent history and present condition of Prussia. The history of the past must be read in the light of the present. "By their fruits ye shall know them."
Old Prussia785785 Prussia proper is a division of the kingdom of Prussia, and comprises East or Ducal Prussia and West or Royal Prussia, with a total area of 24,114 square miles, and a population of about three millions and a half. East Prussia was united with Brandenburg by the Elector John Sigismund, 1618 West Prussia was severed from Poland by Frederick the Great in the first division of that kingdom, 1772. was a colony of the Teutonic Knights (Deutschorden), one of the three military religious orders which arose during the crusades for the defense of the Holy Land and the protection of pilgrims. They had the same military and monastic constitution as the Knights Templars, and the Knights of St. John (Johannitae); but their members were all Germans. They greatly distinguished themselves in the later crusades, and their chivalrous blood still flows in the veins of the old Prussian nobility. They wore a white mantle with a black silver-lined cross, and as a special favor an imperial eagle on their arms, which descended from them to the royal house of Prussia. After the fall of Jerusalem they removed their headquarters to Venice, and afterwards to Marienburg and Königsberg (the capital, where the kings of Prussia are crowned). Emperor Frederick II. and Pope Innocent III. granted them all the lands they might conquer from the heathen on the eastern borders of Germany, and the grand-master’s received the dignity of princes of the Roman Empire. They were invited by the Duke of Poland to defend the frontiers of his country against the heathen Prussians (1240). The conquest was completed in 1283. The Knights Christianized, or rather Romanized and Germanized, the Prussians, after the military fashion of Charlemagne in his dealings with the Saxons, and of Otho I. in subduing the Wends. The native heathenism was conquered, but not converted, and continued under Christian forms. Prussia is said to have contained under the Knights two millions of people and more than fifty cities, which carried on an extensive trade by means of the Hanseatic League. The chief cities were Marienburg, Königsberg, Thorn, Danzig, and Culm. But the common people were treated as slaves.
After nearly two centuries of rule the Knights degenerated, and their power declined by internal dissensions and the hostility of Poland. In 1466 they were forced by Casimir IV. in the Peace of Thorn to cede West Prussia with the richest cities to Poland, and to accept East Prussia as a fief of that kingdom. This was virtually the destruction of the political power of the order. The incompatibility of the military and monastic life became more and more apparent. Pope Adrian VI. urged Albrecht to restore the order to its former monastic purity and dignity. But this was impossible. The order had outlived itself.786786 "Der deutsche Orden," says Ranke (II. 334), "und seine Herrschaft in Preussen war ohne Zweifel das eigenthümlichste Product des hierarchischritterlichen Geistes der letzen Jahrhunderte in der deutschen Nation; er hatte eine grossartige Weltenwirkung ausgeübt und ein unermessliches Verdienst um die Ausbreitung des deutschen Namens erworben; aber seine Zeit war vorüber."
Luther saw this, and inaugurated a different kind of reform. He seized a favorable opportunity, and exhorted the Knights, in a public address, March 28, 1523, to forsake the false monastic chastity so often broken, and to live in true matrimonial chastity according to the ordinance of God in paradise (Gen. 2:18), which was older and wiser than popes and Councils. "Your order," he argued, "is truly a singular order: it is both secular and spiritual, and neither; it is bound to wield the sword against infidels, and yet to live in celibacy, poverty, and obedience, like other monks. These things do not agree together, as is shown by reason and by daily experience. The order is therefore of no use either to God or the world."787787 An die Herren deutsches Ordens, dass sie falsche Keuschheit meiden und zur rechten ehelichen Keuschheit greifen, Ermahnung. Wittenberg, den 28 März, 1523. In the Erl. ed. XXIX. l6-33. Walch, XIX. 2157 sqq.
In the summer of the same year be sent, at the wish of Albrecht, the pioneer of Protestant preachers, to Prussia, in the person of his friend Dr. Johannes Briesmann (14881549), a theologian of learning, piety, and executive ability, who arrived in Königsberg, Sept. 27, 1523, and labored there as preacher in the Dome, and successor of Bishop Georg von Polenz, till his death, with the exception of four years which he spent as evangelist in Riga (1527–1531).788788 He published several sermons. Extracts in Seckendorf, I. 272. See the article "Briesmann" by Dr. Erdmann in Herzog2, II. 629-631, with literature. He afterwards sent two other gifted evangelists, known for their evangelical hymns, namely, Paul Speratus (d. 1551), and John Poliander (Graumann, d. 1541), who made themselves very useful. A third one, Amandus, created disturbance by his radicalism, which resembled that of Carlstadt, and caused his removal from Königsberg.
With the help of these theologians and evangelists, Duke Albrecht and Bishop Georg von Polenz brought about a radical change in Prussia, and prepared the way for its great future destiny. The religious reformation preceded the political change.
Albrecht, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, last grandmaster of the Teutonic Knights, and first Duke of Prussia, was born at Ansbach, May 16, 1490; destined for the clerical profession; received into the order of the Knights, and elected its grand-master in 1511. He made his entry into Königsberg, Nov. 22, 1512. His effort to make Prussia independent and to refuse obedience to the king of Poland, involved him in a disastrous war till 1521, when an armistice for four years was concluded. He attended, as one of the princes of the empire, the Diet of Nürnberg, 1522 and 1523, and sought protection against Poland, but in vain. He diligently heard, during that time, the sermons of Andreas Osiander, and was converted to the doctrines of the Reformation. He called him his "spiritual father in Christ, through whom God first rescued him from the darkness of popery, and led him to the true divine knowledge." On a journey to Berlin he had a private conference with Luther and Melanchthon, and asked their advice (September, 1523). "Trust in God," said Luther with the consent of Melanchthon, "rather than the empire; shake off the senseless rules of your order, and make an end to that hermaphrodite monster which is neither religious nor secular; abolish the unchaste chastity of monkery; take to thyself a wife, and found a legitimate secular sovereignty." At the same time be recommended to him Paul Speratus as his assistant, who afterwards became bishop of Pomesania. The prince smiled, but said nothing.789789 Letter to John Briesmann, July 4, 1524, in De Wette, II. 526 sq. He wavered between obedience to the pope and to his conscience, and his open and secret instructions to the bishop of Samland were contradictory. His brother, Margrave Georg of Brandenburg, had previously given him the same advice as Luther, and he ultimately followed it.
In the mean time the evangelical doctrines had already spread in Prussia, and facilitated the proposed political change by undermining the monastic constitution of the order.
Two bishops of Prussia, differing from their brethren in Germany, favored the movement, George von Polenz of Samland, and Erhard von Queiss of Pomesania. The former took the lead. Luther was agreeably surprised, and expressed his joy that one, at least, of the bishops dared to profess the free gospel of Christ.790790 "At last," he wrote to Spalatin, Feb. 1, 1524, "even a bishop has given the glory to the name of Christ, and proclaims the gospel in Prussia, namely the bishop of Samland, encouraged and instructed by John Briesmann, whom I sent, so that Prussia also begins to give farewell to the kingdom of Satan." De Wette, II. 474. He dedicated to him his commentary on Deuteronomy, with a congratulatory letter full of gratitude for the rapid flight of the gospel to Prussia in the far North (1525).791791 Erl. ed., Op. Lat. XIII. The dedicatory letter dated April, 1525, is printed also in De Wette, II. 647-651. In this letter occurs the notable passage (p. 649): "Vide mirabilia, ad Prussiam pleno cursu plenisque telis currit Evangelion." Comp. the passage quoted p. 539, note 2. The bishop did not reply, and seems to have preserved a dignified or prudent reserve towards the person of Luther, while allowing free course to his doctrines.792792 Professor Tschackert, his best biographer, says (l.c., p. 187): "The correspondence of Bishop Georg von Polentz, as far as known, contains not a syllable nor even an allusion to a letter of his to Luther. Even the name of Luther occurs after the reformatory mandate of 1524 only once, in a postscript to a letter to Paul Speratus, Aug. 22, 1535." In this letter he requested his colleague, Bishop Speratus of Pomesania, to give some noble students from Lithuania letters of introduction to Luther and Melanchthon ("literis tuis Martino et Philippo commendes.") See the letter, l.c., p. 191.
Erhard von Queiss renounced popery in a public sermon, 1524, and resigned his worldly possessions and authority to the Duke (1527), in order to attend better to the spiritual duties of an evangelical bishop.
Georg von Polenz was the chancellor and chief counselor of Albrecht (we may say his Bismarck on a small scale) in this work of transformation. He was about five years older than Luther, and survived him four years. He descended from an old noble family of Meissen in Saxony, studied law in Italy, and was for a while private secretary at the court of Pope Julius II. Then he served as a soldier under Maximilian I. He became acquainted with Margrave Albrecht at Padua, 1509, and joined the Teutonic Knights. In 1519 he was raised to the episcopal chair, and consecrated by the neighboring bishops of Ermland and Pomesania in the Dome of Königsberg. The receipt of the Roman curia for a tax of fourteen hundred and eighty-eight ducats is still extant in the archives of that city. The first years of his office were disturbed by war with Poland, for which he had to furnish men and means. During the absence of the Duke in Germany he took his place.
In September, 1523, be became acquainted with Dr. Briesmann, and learned from him the biblical languages, the elements of theology, which he had never studied before, and the doctrines of Luther. In January, 1524, be already issued an order that baptism be celebrated in the vernacular tongue, and recommended the clergy to read diligently the Bible, and the writings of Luther, especially his book on Christian Liberty. This was the beginning of the Reformation in Prussia. We have from him three sermons, and three only, which he preached in favor of the change, at Christmas, 1523, and at Easter and Pentecost, 1524. He echoes in them the views of Briesmann. He declares, "I shall with the Divine will hold fast to the word of God and to the gospel, though I should lose body and life, goods and honor, and all I possess." He despised the authority of Pope Clement VII., who directed his legate, Campeggio, Dec. 1, 1524, to summon the bishop as a rebel and perjurer, to induce him to recant, or to depose him.
In May, 1525, he resigned the secular part of his episcopal authority into the hands of the Duke, because it was not seemly and Christian for a bishop to have so much worldly glory and power. A few days afterwards be married, June 8, 1525, five days before Luther’s marriage. In the next year the Duke followed his example, and invited Luther to the wedding (June, 1526). This double marriage was a virtual dissolution of the order as a monastic institution. In 1546 Georg von Polenz resigned his episcopal supervision into the hands of Briesmann. He died in peace, April 28, 1550, seventy-two years old, and was buried in the cathedral of Königsberg, the first Protestant bishop and chancellor of the first Prussian Hohenzollern, standing with him on the bridge of two ages with his hand on the Bible and his eye firmly fixed upon the future.
Albrecht, acting on the advice of Luther, changed the property of the Knights into a hereditary duchy. The king of Poland consented. On April 10, 1525, Albrecht was solemnly invested at Crakow with the rule of Prussia as a fief of Poland. Soon afterwards he received the homage of the Diet at Königsberg. The evangelical preachers saluted him under the ringing of the bells. The Emperor put him under the ban, but it had no effect. Most of the Knights received large fiefs, and married; the rest emigrated to Germany. Albrecht formally introduced the Reformation, July 6, 1525, and issued a Lutheran constitution and liturgy. The fasts were abolished, the number of holy days reduced, the ceremonies changed, the convents turned into hospitals, and worship conducted in the vernacular. All Romish and sectarian preaching was prohibited. He assumed all the ecclesiastical appointments, and became the supreme bishop of Prussia, the two Roman-Catholic bishops Georg and Queiss having surrendered to him their dignity. Their successors were mere superintendents. He felt, however, that the episcopal office was foreign to a worldly sovereign, and accepted it as a matter of necessity to secure order.793793 "Coacti sumus," he said, "alienum officium, i.e., episcopate in nos sumere, ut omnia ordine, et decenter fierent." Preface to the Articuli ceremoniarum, published by a general synod at Königsberg, May 12, 1530. He founded the University of Königsberg, the third Protestant university (after Wittenberg and Marburg). It was opened in 1544.794794 Arnoldt, Historie der königsberger Universität, 1746. He called Dr. Osiander from Nürnberg to the chief theological chair (1549); but this polemical divine, by his dissertations on the law and the gospel, and on the doctrine of justification, soon turned Prussia into a scene of violent and disgraceful theological controversies.795795 See above, p. 570. Osiander’s son-in-law, Funke, Albrecht’s chaplain and confessor, continued the controversies, but was at last beheaded with two others, 1566, as "Ruhestörer, Landesverräther und Beförderer der osiandrischen Ketzerei."
Albrecht did not enjoy his reign. It was sadly disturbed in this transition state by troubles from within and without. He repeatedly said that he would rather watch sheep than be a ruler. He was involved in heavy debts. The seven children of his first wife, a daughter of the king of Denmark, died young, except a daughter, Anna Sophia, who married a duke of Mecklenburg (1555). His pious and faithful wife died, 1547. In 1550 he married a princess of Braunschweig; her first daughter was born blind; only one son, Albrecht Friedrich, survived him, and spent his life in melancholy. But Albrecht remained true to his evangelical faith, and died (March 20, 1568), with the words of Psa. 31:5, upon his lips, "Into Thine hand I commend my spirit: Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, Thou God of truth." He left proofs of his piety in prayers, meditations, and the testament to his son, who succeeded him, and died without male issue, 1618.
A few glimpses of the later history are here in place to explain the present confessional status of the Protestant church in the kingdom of Prussia.
The Duchy of Prussia in 1618 fell as an inheritance to John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg (1608–1619), son-in-law of the second Prussian Duke (Albert Frederick), and a descendant of Frederick of Hohenzollern, who had become margrave of Brandenburg by purchase in 1415. In this way the connection of Prussia arid Brandenburg was completed.
But Prussia remained in feudal subjection to Poland till 1656, when Frederick William, "the great Elector," conquered the independence by the victory of Warsaw. He is the first, as Frederick II., his great-grandson, is the second, founder of the greatness of Prussia. After the terrible devastations of the Thirty Years’ War he gathered the broken fragments of his provinces into a coherent whole during his long and successful reign (1640–1688). He was the most enlightened and most liberal among the German princes of his age. He protected the independence of Germany against French aggression. He was married to Louisa Henrietta, princess of Orange, of the Calvinistic faith, and authoress of the popular resurrection hymn, "Jesus, meine Zuversicht."796796 Several English translations; one by Miss Winkworth, "Jesus my Redeemer lives." The hymn has a long and interesting history. See A. F. W. Fischer, Kirchenlieder-Lexicon, I. 390-396. He secured toleration to the Reformed churches in the Treaty of Westphalia. He gave refuge to over twenty thousand French Huguenots, who with their descendants became an important element in the Prussian nationality and the Reformed church. His son Frederick became the first king of Prussia, and was crowned at Königsberg, Jan. 18, 1701. He founded the University of Halle, 1693, which ultimately absorbed the University of Wittenberg by incorporation (1815), and assumed an important position in the history of German theology as the nursery, first of pietism, then of rationalism, and (since Tholuck’s appointment, 1827) of the evangelical revival.
With John Sigismund began an important confessional change, which laid the foundation for the union policy of his successors. He introduced the Reformed or Calvinistic element, which had been crushed out in Saxony, into the Court and Dome Church of Berlin, and gave the Heidelberg Catechism a place besides the Augsburg Confession. His grandson, "the great Elector," strengthened the Reformed element by his marriage to a princess from Holland, who adorned her faith, and by inviting a colony of French Huguenots who left their country for the sake of conscience. It was therefore quite natural that the Reformed rulers of a Lutheran country should cherish the idea of a union of the two confessions, which was realized in the present century.797797 For fuller information, see Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, I. 554 sqq. To the literature there given should be added Ranke, Zwölf Bücher Preuss. Geschichte, Leipz. 1874, I. 185-192; Kawerau in Herzog2, XIV. 227-232; and Wangemann, Joh. Sigismund und Paul Gerhard, Berlin, 1884. The literature on the Prussian Union refers to the history after 1817, and is very large. We mention Nitzsch, Urkundenbuch der evangelischen Union, Berlin, 1853; Jul. Müller, Die evangel. Union, ihr Wesen und göttliches Recht, Berlin, 1854; Brandes, Geschichte der kirchlichen Politik des Hauses Brandenburg, 1872,’ 73, 2 vols.; Mücke, Preussen’s landeskirchliche Unionsentwicklung, 1879; Wangemann, Die preussische Union in ihrem Verhältniss zur Una Sancta, Berlin, 1884.
We have seen that Old Prussia was Lutheranized under the direct influence of the Wittenberg divines with whom Albrecht was in Constant correspondence. In Brandenburg also, the Lutheran type of Protestantism, after many reverses and controversies, was established under John George (1571–1598); the Formula of Concord was forcibly introduced, and all Calvinistic teaching was strictly forbidden. The Brandenburg "Corpus Doctrinae" of 1572 emphasizes Luther’s word that Zwingli was no Christian, and the Brandenburg chancellor Dietelmeyer is known by his unchristian prayer: "Impleat nos Deus odio Calvinistarum!"
But the Elector John Sigismund, who by travels and personal intercourse with Calvinistic princes and divines conceived a high regard for their superior Christian piety and courtesy, embraced the Reformed faith in 1606, and openly professed it in February, 1614, by declaring his assent to the four oecumenical symbols (including the Chalcedonense) and the altered Augsburg Confession of 1540, without imposing his creed upon his subjects, only prohibiting the preachers to condemn the Calvinists from the pulpit. In May, 1514, he issued a personal confession of faith, called the "Confession of Sigismund," or the "Brandenburg Confession" (Confessio Marchica). It teaches a moderate, we may say, Melanchthonian and unionistic Calvinism, and differs from the Lutheran Formula of Concord in the following points: It rejects Eutychianism and the ubiquity of Christ’s body, consubstantiation in the Lord’s Supper, the use of the wafer instead of the broken bread, and exorcism in baptism; on the other hand, it teaches the Calvinistic view of the spiritual real presence for believers, and unconditional election, but without an unconditional decree of reprobation; it distinctly declares that God sincerely wishes the salvation of all men, and is not the author of sin and damnation.
The change of Sigismund was the result of conscientious conviction, and not dictated by political motives. The people and his own wife re-mained Lutheran. He made no use of his territorial summepiscopate and the jus reformandi. He disclaimed all intention to coerce the conscience, since faith is a free gift of God, and cannot be forced. No man should pre-sume to exercise dominion over man’s religion. He thus set, in advance of his age, a noble example of toleration, which became the traditional policy of the Prussian rulers. The pietistic movement of Spener and Francke, which was supported by the theological faculty at Halle, weakened the confessional dissensus, and strengthened the consensus. The Moravian brotherhood exhibited long before the Prussian Union, in a small community, the real union of evangelical believers of both confessions.
Frederick the Great was an unbeliever, and had as little sympathy with Pietism and Moravianism as with Lutheranism and Calvinism; but he was a decided upholder of religious toleration, which found expression in his famous declaration that in his kingdom everybody must be at liberty to get saved "after his own fashion." The toleration of indifferentism, which prevailed in the last century, broke down the reign of bigotry, and prepared the way for the higher and nobler principle of religious liberty.
The revival of religious life at the beginning of the nineteenth century was a revival of general Christianity without a confessional or denomina-tional type, and united for a time pious Lutherans, Reformed, and even Roman Catholics. It was accompanied by a new phase of evangelical theology, which since Schleiermacher and Neander laid greater stress on the consensus than the dissensus of the Protestant confessions in oppo-sition to rationalism and infidelity. The ground was thus prepared for a new attempt to establish a mode of peaceful living between the two confessions of the Reformation.
King Frederick William III. (1797–1840), a conscientious and God-fearing monarch, who had been disciplined by sad reverses and providen-tial deliverances of Prussia, introduced what is called the "Evangelical Union" of the Lutheran and Reformed confessions at the tercentennial celebration of the Reformation (Sept. 27, 1817). The term "evangelical," which was claimed by both, assumed thus a new technical sense. The object of the Union (as officially explained in 1834 and 1852) was to unite the two churches under, one government and worship, without abolishing the doctrinal distinctions.798798 The Cabinetsordre of Feb. 18, 1834, declares: "Die Union bezweckt und bedeutet kein Aufgeben des bisherigen Glaubensbekenntnisses; auch ist die Autorität, welche die Bekenntnisschriften der beiden evangelischen Confessionen bisher gehabt, durch sie nicht aufgehoben worden." It was conservative, not absorptive, and dif-fered in this respect from all former union schemes between the Greek and Latin, the Protestant and Roman Catholic, the Lutheran and Reformed Churches, which aimed at doctrinal uniformity or at best at a doctrinal compromise. The Prussian Union introduced no new creed; the Augsburg Confession, Luther’s Catechisms, and the Heidelberg Catechism continued to be used where they had been in use before; but it was assumed that the confessional differences were not vital and important enough to exclude Christian fellowship. The opposition proceeded chiefly from the "Old Lutherans," so called, who insist upon "pure doctrine," as the basis of union, to the exclusion of the Calvinistic "heresies," and who took just offense at the forcible introduction of the new liturgy of the king (the Agende of 1822); but the opposition was silenced by granting them the liberty of separate organization and self-government (1845). The Prussian Union suffers from the defects of Erastianism, but no more than any other state-church, or the introduction of the Reformation in the sixteenth century by the civil power. Experience has proved that moderate Lutherans and Reformed Christians can live together, commune at the same altar, and co-operate in the work of the common Master. This experience is a great gain. The union type of Protestantism has become an important historic fact and factor in the modern theology and church life of Prussia and those other parts of Germany which followed her example.
The two sons and successors of the founder of the Prussian Union, King Frederick William IV. (1840–1858), and Emperor William I. (1858–1888), have faithfully adhered to it in theory and practice.
Frederick William IV. was well versed in theology, and a pronounced evangelical believer. He wished to make the church more independent, and as a means to that end he established the Oberkirchenrath (1850, modified 1852), which in connection with the Cultusministerium should administer the affairs of the church in the name of the king; while a general synod was to exercise the legislative function. Under his reign the principle of religious liberty made great progress, and was embodied in the Prussian Constitution of 1850, which guarantees in Article XII. the freedom of conscience and of private and public worship to all religious associations.799799 See Schaff, Church and State in the United States, New York, 1888, p. 97 sq.
William I., aided by Bismarck and Moltke, raised Prussia, by superior statesmanship and diplomacy, and by brilliant victories in the wars with Austria (1866) and France (1870), to her present commanding position. He became by common consent of the German sovereigns and people the first hereditary emperor of United Germany under the lead of Prussia. He adorned this position in eighteen years of peace by his wisdom, integrity, justice, untiring industry, and simple piety, and gained the universal esteem and affection of the German nation, yea, we may say, of the civilized world, which mourned for him when on the 9th of March, 1888, in the ninety-first year of an eventful life, he entered into his rest. History has never seen a more illustrious trio than the Emperor William, "the Iron Chancellor," and "the Battle-thinker," who "feared God, and nothing else."
The new German Empire with a Protestant head is the last outcome of the Reformation of Prussia, and would not have been possible without it.
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