Friday, November 7, 2008

Reminiscences of an Active Life #10 -- November 7, 2008

Doctor Peter Henri Van Der Weyde was born in Nymegen, Holland in 1813. He went on to live a remarkable life of achievement in the sciences and the arts. He died in America in 1895.

While serving as editor of Manufacturer and Builder Magazine, he wrote many articles, including the ones which gave this blog its name. In 1893 and 1894, he published a 23-part (!) memoir in the same periodical. Here is the tenth part. He continues to discuss theology.

Henry Ward Beecher was a prominent clergyman and social reformer in Brooklyn, NY. I took a creative writing class from a relative of his, John Beecher. He had just been reinstated in 1977 after being blacklisted in the 1950s for refusing to sign a loyalty oath.

Herbert Spencer was a British philosopher who came up with the idea of Social Darwinism.

When he describes "Rev. P. H. Scholten", I wonder if he means Hendrik Pieter (H. P.) Scholte, who founded Pella, Iowa, and doesn't sound like as bad a guy as the Doctor describes. Holland, Michigan was founded by Doctor Albertus van Raalte.

The image comes from Manufacturer and Builder Volume 4, Issue 10, October 1872, page 233.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

Part Nine

Reminiscences of an Active Life.


From Manufacturer and Builder, Volume 25, Issue 11, November 1893

(Continued from page 559.)

6th. Career as a Theological Student. -- The locality where I was a witness of the conflict between ultra-orthodoxy and progress, was the city of Heusden, ten miles west of the capital of North Brabaud, s'Hertozenbosch, where, as was mentioned in the February number, I gave my first extempore lecture on acoustics. This city contains the largest and finest cathedral in the Netherlands, in regard to which possessors of the back volumes of the MANUFACTURER AND BUILDER may see a fine engraving and description on page 232, October number for 1872. This structure, in point of size, is inferior to the colossal cathedral of Cologne, but the beauty and symmetry of its design is considered by experts to be far superior as a specimen of the purest Gothic style.

In the city of Heusden is also a very old cathedral of smaller size, of which, in 1832, I was appointed organist according to the rule prevailing in Holland, which prescribes a comparative examination by experts. There were some twenty candidates, each of whom had to perform the same prescribed numbers of a programme. The examiners did not know who was playing, neither had the candidates a chance to hear one another. Soon after this appointment I was also the leader of an orchestra, and began then and there my career as a musician, to which in the future I will also devote a few articles.

The preacher of this cathedral, the Rev. Pape, was almost as influential a man in the smaller circle of the surrounding cities and villages (all densely populated) as was Henry Ward Beecher in the wider circle of Brooklyn and New York. He was one of the most enlightened and eloquent preachers, and belonged to that party wbich did its utmost to keep the Reformed Church at the level of the progress continually made in natural sciences, to which party also belonged the leading clergymen of the large cities, as well as the professors of the universities and the heads of the Department of Public Worship, from the treasury of which all the salaries were paid.

It must be stated here that only those denominations partake of the government salaries which existed when the kingdom of Holland, with its old republican local laws, was established on the ruins of the fallen Napoleonic empire, by which the church property had been confiscated and transferred to tbe new independent government established in 1815.

It is evident that such a system tends to prevent the formation of new sects, based on notions about things which Herbert Spencer has so properly specified as belonging to the unknowable. Therefore they have in Holland no Unitarians or Universalists as separate sects, but thousands of church members believe in these doctrines without separating themselves from the Church in which they were born, and which they will not leave, because it tends to reform itself in accordance with the advancement of human knowledge.

Here we have arrived at the cause of the schism referred to before. In the vicinity of the city of Heusden was a small village, of which I have forgotten the name, but not that of its preacher, P. H. Scholten, who found that many of the inhabitants were ultra-orthodox, which means that they liked to hear sermons about eternal damnation in a hell of fire and brimstone, where all would go who did not believe exactly as they did. They preferred, also, to sing only David's divinely inspired psalms, as their fathers did, and not the new-fangled hymns, which they considered in conflict with the Bible, as there was one line in them which mentioned God as the creator of a thousand suns, while the Bible mentioned only one sun. Therefore the Rev. P. H. Scholten never gave out hymns to be sung, but only the psalms as inspired by God to King David, who they considered as a very pure and holy man, notwithstanding the Bible states the very reverse of this.

When the hymns were first introduced (after having been selected by a committee, discussed, and approved by three different synods, first in Zwoll, in 1797; then in Gorcum, in 1798; and in Leyden, 1801), there was some opposition, wherefore the classis, which is a church government, decided that every preacher should give out at least one hymn to be sung at every service. They all obeyed, and hymns and psalms were sung by the congregations, until Dominie Scholten (as they call their preachers there) refused, and made himself conspicuous by omitting the hymns. It gave him great popularity, and farmers with their families came from considerable distances to attend the services where uninspired hymns were not sung, but only the psalms of the holy David, while in addition they were edified with liberal doses of damnation for their enemies, in which Dominie Scholten only followed David's example, as is proved by the very psalms which David wrote.

As the classis had not the power to suspend the preacher for his doctrines, that body had to confine itself to his disobedience of the order of his superiors to give out hymns. Therefore he was discharged, salary stopped, and another preacher appointed in his place. Then one of the farmers offered him his large barn to preach in. This offer he accepted, and the schism was completed; the ultra-orthodox came to the barn; they were in the majority, while the newly-appointed preacher had a congregation which was in the minority in regard to numbers.

Dominie Scholten, however, saw soon tbat his influence was merely local, and that he never would succeed in making his orthodoxy spread. He saw that the intelligent over the whole land were satisfied with the hymns, and despised any retrograde steps from the road of progress which thus far had been wisely followed by the great body of Protestants; therefore Dominie Scholten, considering the hold he had upon his followers, commenced preaching about emigration to the United States, where there was freedom, and no supervision of the classis or other church authorities. It was said that Dominie Pape of the church where I was organist, favored the plan in order to get rid of a demagogue whose purpose was self-aggrandisement.

That this conclusion was correct, was proved when Scholten induced the farmers to sell out and give him the money so that he could go to the United States and buy land for them. This was done, and he selected good land in Michigan, where afterward the emigrants followed him, and established the town of Holland on the land he had purchased, and distributed among them according to the amount of money they had invested.

If they expected that they could now hear his sermons on the old faith of a heaven of bliss for the elect and a hell for the damned, they were disappointed, as he soon found out that there are more profitable kinds of business than preaching; he became a land agent, and as such is well known in the West. He is well off now, and it is said that he has given up preaching orthodox sermons.

(To be continued.)

No comments: