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Creeds of Christendom, with a History and Critical notes. Volume I. The History of Creeds.
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§ 75. The Reformation in Hungary and the Confession of Czenger.

Literature.

I. The Latin text of the Confessio Czengerina, or Hungarica, in the Corpus et Syntagma Conf., and in Niemeyer, pp. 539–550; the German text in Böckel, pp. 851–863.

II. P. Ember (Reform.): Historia ecclesiæ reform. in Hungaria et Transylvania (ed. Lampe). Utrecht, 1728.

Ribini (Luth.): Memorabilia Aug. Conf. in regno Hungariæ. 1787, 2 vols.

Geschichte der evang. Kirche in Ungarn vom Anfang der Reformation bis 1850 [by Bauhofer, not named]. Mit einer Einleitung von Merle d’Aubigné. Berlin, 1854.

Gieseler: Church History, Vol. IV. pp. 258 sqq. (Am. ed.).

Baur: Geschichte der christl. Kirche, Vol. IV. (1863), pp. 214 sqq., 552 sqq.

Ebrard: Kirchen- und Dogmengeschichte, Vol. III. (1866), pp. 415–432.

E. L. Th. Henke (d. 1872): Neuere Kirchengeschichte (ed. by W. Gass). Halle, 1874, Vol. I. pp. 352 sqq.

Burgovszky: Art. Ungarn, in Herzog's Real-Encykl. Vol. XVI. pp. 636 sqq.

 

Hungary, an extensive and fertile country on the banks of the lower Danube, once an independent kingdom, then united with the empire of Austria, and containing a mixed population of Magyars, Germans, Slowaks, Ruthenians, Croats, Serbs, etc., received the first seeds of the Christian religion from Constantinople; but the real apostle of the Hungarians was Stephen I. (979–1038), a king and a saint, who by persuasion and violence overthrew heathenism and barbarism, gave rich endowments to the churches and clergy, and brought his country into close contact with the Roman Church and the German Empire.

THE REFORMATION.

The way for the Reformation was prepared by Waldenses and Bohemian Brethren who sought refuge in Hungary from persecution. The writings of Luther found ready access among the German population, and were read with avidity, especially the one on the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. Many young Hungarians, among them Matthias Dévay (De Vay), called 'the Hungarian Luther,'11281128   Dévay lived in the home of Luther, who calls him 'vir honestus, gravis et eruditus.' He sympathized, however, with Melanchthon in the eucharistic controversy, and inclined to the Calvinistic view, so as to cause complaint on the part of the strict Lutherans in Hungary (1544). See Luther's Letters, Vol. V. p. 644 (ed. De Wette), and Henke, p. 355. and Leonard Stöckel, studied at Wittenberg; others, as John Honter, at Basle; and on their return they introduced the new doctrines at Ofen, Cronstadt, and other cities, without any compulsion or aid from the government. It was a spontaneous movement of the people. Even some bishops and other dignitaries of the Roman Church became Protestants from conviction.

In 1545 a meeting of twenty-nine ministers at Erdöd adopted a creed of twelve articles in essential agreement with the Augsburg Confession. Another Lutheran synod at Medwisch (Medias), in 1548, drew up the Confessio Pentapolitana, which represented five free cities in Upper Hungary, and was declared legal in 1555. The Saxon or German population of Hungary and Transylvania remained mostly Lutheran.

On the other hand, the majority of the Magyars or Hungarians proper (the ruling race in that country) were more influenced by the Latin writings of Melanchthon and Calvin than by the German of Luther, and during the violent eucharistic controversies in Germany embraced the Calvinistic creed, which they formally adopted at the Synod of Czenger, 1557, and which they nominally profess to this day.11291129   We say nominally, for both the Reformed and Lutheran Churches of Hungary have been much affected by rationalism. This applies, however, to nearly all the State Churches of the Continent. A large number of Magyar pastors left the Lutheran Confession and embraced Calvinism in 1563. The Presbyterian polity and discipline were introduced by the Synods of Tarczal, Göntz, and Debreczin. Thus the separation of the two evangelical Churches was completed.

Protestantism made rapid progress under Maximilian II. At the close of the sixteenth century the larger part of the people and the whole nobility, with the exception of three magnates, had accepted the Reformation. It gave a vigorous impulse to national life and literary activity. 'It is astonishing to see the amount of religious information which was then spread among the citizens and the lower classes, and the fertility of the press in places where now not even an almanac is printed.'11301130   Burgovszky, l.c. p. 643.

But under the reign of Rudolph II., King of Hungary from 1572 to 1608, began the counter-reformation of the Jesuits (among whom Peter Pázmány, a nobleman of Calvinistic parents, was the most successful in making converts), and a series of cruel persecutions by the Hapsburg rulers, urged on by the Popes, which continued for nearly two centuries, amid reactions, rebellions, civil wars, and wars with the Turks. A Jesuitical formula for the conversion of Hungarian Protestants pronounces awful curses on the evangelical faith, with the promise to persecute it by the sword. Whether genuine or not, it shows the intense bitterness of the conflict.11311131   See above, p. 92, note 2. General Caraffa, a cruel papist, erected in the market-place at Eperjes a bloody scaffold, or 'slaughter-bank,' where for several months daily tortures and executions by fire and sword took place (1657).11321132   Sismondi and Merle d’Aubigné (l.c. p. ix.) state that the persecutions of the Hungarian Protestants surpassed in cruelty the persecutions of the Huguenots under Louis XIV.

Protestantism survived these trials. Joseph II., by his famous Edict of Toleration, Oct. 29, 1781, secured to the followers of the Augsburg and Helvetic Confessions liberty of conscience and public worship. His brother and successor, Leopold, confirmed it in 1791. The remaining restrictions were removed in 1848. The present number of Protestants in Hungary is about three millions, or one fifth of the whole population (which in 1869 amounted to fifteen millions and a half). The Lutheran Confession prevails among the German population; the followers of the Reformed or Helvetic Confession are twice as numerous, and are mostly Magyars.

THE HUNGARIAN CONFESSION.

The Hungarian Confession, or Confessio Czengerina, was prepared and adopted at a Reformed Synod held at Czenger in 1557 or 1558,11331133   The date is uncertain. and printed in 1570 at Debreczin.11341134   Debreczin is a royal free city in the northeastern part of the Hungarian Lowland, with about fifty thousand inhabitants, and contains the principal Calvinistic college of the kingdom. In 1849 it was the seat of the revolutionary government of Kossuth, and the independence of Hungary was there declared in the Reformed Church.

It treats, in brief articles or propositions, of the Triune God, of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Scripture designations of the Holy Spirit, the rules for explaining the phrases concerning God, the law and the gospel, the rights and sacraments of the Church, Christian liberty, election, the cause of sin, and the only mediator Jesus Christ. It is preceded by a strong Biblical argument against the anti-Trinitarians and Socinians, who had spread in Transylvania. It vehemently rejects the Romish transubstantiation and the Lutheran 'sarcophagia,'11351135   'Damnamus Papisticum delirium . . . primo panem transsubstantiari, et offerri in missa: deinde sola accidentia panis manere. . . . Ita et eorum insaniam damnamus, qui asserunt Sarcophagiam, id est, ore corporali sumi corpus Christi naturale, sanguinolentum, sine ulla mutatione et transsubstantiatione.'—Niemeyer, pp. 544 sq. The severe judgment of the Lutheran doctrine was a retaliation for the condemnation of Zwingli and Calvin as sacramentarians by a Lutheran Synod of Hermanstadt. Ebrard, Vol. III. p. 424. but also the 'sacramentarian' view of a purely symbolical presence, and teaches that Christ is truly though spiritually present, and communicates himself in the Lord's Supper as the living bread and the celestial drink, with all his gifts, to the believer.11361136   'Rejicimus et eorum delirium, qui Cœnam Domini vacuum signum, vel Christi absentis tantum memoriam his signis recoli docent. Nam sicut Christus est Amen, testis fidelis, verax, veritas et vita . . . ita Cœna Domini est præsentis et infiniti æternique Filii Dei unigeniti a Patre memoria: qui se et sua bona, carnem suam et sanguinem suum, id est, panem vivum et potum cœlestem, Spiritus Sancti ope per verbum promissionis gratiæ, offert et exhibet electis fide vera evangelium Christi apprehendentibus.'—Page 545. It defends infant baptism against the Anabaptists. It teaches a free election, but is silent about reprobation, and denies that God is the author of sin. Later synods professed more clearly the doctrine of predestination and the perseverance of saints.

This Confession presents some original and vigorous features, but has only a secondary historical importance. It was practically superseded by the Second Helvetic Confession of 1566, which is far superior, and was subscribed by the entire Reformed clergy of Hungary convened at Debreczin in 1567. The Heidelberg Catechism was also introduced.


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