Helvetic Consensus

Helvetic Consensus

(Formula Consensus Helvetica), a confession of faith drawn up in 1675 by J. G. Heidegger at the request of the Calvinistic divines of Switzerland. It was chiefly designed to restrain the progress of the mitigated Calvinism of Amyraldus and the school of Saumur generally, which was spreading in Switzerland. SEE AMYRALDUS. Turretin, Zwinger, Werenfels, Hottinger, and other Swiss theologians aided in its preparation, but its form is chiefly due to Heidegger.

It consists of a preface and twenty-six canons. Canons 1-3 treat of the Scriptures; and the second (against Cappel) maintains that the Hebrew text is to be received as divinely inspired, not only as to the substance, but as to the very words, consonants, vowels, and vowel points (tum quoad consonas, tum quoad vocalia, sive puncta ipsa, sive punctorum saltent potestatem, et tum quoad res, tum quoad verba Θεόπνευστος). The remaining canons are chiefly occupied with definitions of the Calvinistic view of predestination, sin, grace, the extent of the atonement, etc., all which are set forth in language as decided as that cited above with regard to the Scriptures. The Formula is given in full by Augusti (Corpus Libr. Symbol. Reform. D. 443 sq.) and by Niemeyer (Collectio Confess. p. 729). Within a year from its promulgation it was adopted by the magistrates of Basle, Zurich, Berne, etc., but it was not received at Geneva until 1679. It was finally made authoritative throughout Switzerland: all ministers, teachers, and professors were bound to subscribe to it; and it was ordained that no candidate for the ministry should be admitted except upon declaration that he received it ex anivso (Augustli 1. c. p. 646). But these strong measures, together with the influence of the French clergy, and especially the intercession of Frederick William of Brandenburgh, produced a reaction; and in 1686 the magistrates of Basle allowed the admission of candidates without subscription to the Formula. By 1706 its strict obligation had fallen into disuse at Geneva. In the other cantons it was still retained, but gave rise to long conflicts. In 1722 the kings of Prussia and England sent letters to the Swiss Cantons, for the sake of the unity and peace of Protestantism, to drop the use of the Formula as a binding creed.

In 1723 they renewed these letters to the same purpose. By 1740 the Formula had fallen entirely into disuse. "It never acquired authority outside of Switzerland. Within about fifty years it was abrogated. One of the strongest advocates of this last measure was Turretin's own son, Alphonso Turretin, who was as zealous in opposing as his father had been in advocating it. If there was ever a creed which deserves to be called the manifesto of a theological party rather than a confession of faith on the part of the Church, the Formula Consesus is that one" (Fisher, in New Englander, July, 1868, p. 502). See Hottinger, Formulae Consensus Historia (1723, 4to), in favor of the Consensus; Pfaff, Schediasma theol. de Form. Consens. Helvet. (Tübingen, 1723, 4to), on the Lutheran side; Schröckh, Kirchen. seit der Reformation, 8, 659 sq.; Barnaud, Memoirs pour servir ha 'histoire des troebles a l'occasion du Consensus (Amst. 1726, 8vo); Mosheim, Ch. History, cent. 17 pt. 2, ch. 3; Trechsel, in Herzog, Real-Encyklop. 5, 719 sq.; Shedd, Hist. of Doctrins, 2, 472; Augusti, Allg. christl. Symbolik, 1861, p. 160; Schweizer, in Zeitschrifi für d. hist. Theol. 1860, p. 122; Hagenbach, History of Doctrines, ed. H. B. Smith, § 222, and references there.

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