Wollner, Christoph

Wollner, Christoph the Prussian statesman of the reign of Frederick William II, who originated the famous religious edict in which orthodoxy in teaching was commanded, was born in 1732 at Doberitz, and was at first an orthodox, though tolerant, theologian. He became engaged in secular affairs after a time, and resigned his pastorate at Behnitz. During fifteen years (1765-80) he contributed nearly all the reviews on domestic and horticultural matters which appeared in Nicolai's Allgemeine deutsche Bibliothek. In 1776 he joined an order of templars founded at Wiesbaden by a certain knight, Theophilus a Cygna, which, promised to open the way into the most secret mysteriesaof nature. In 1777 he published in Nicolai's Bibliothek a prophecy concerning "the impending destruction of the prevalent rationalistic enlightenment." He became tutor in political economy to the crown-prince in 1782, was ennobled in 1786, and appointed councillor of finance and intendant of royal buildings, etc. On July 3, 1788, he was made minister of the department of justice, which included in its jurisdiction the affairs of the Church, and in that position was employed by the king to place a barrier in the way of the progress of the "enlightenment," which had become powerful in the land. The notorious religious edict, written by Wlllner, was issued in consequence, July 9. It accorded liberty of belief to everybody, but ordered that teachers who could not accept the doctrines of evangelical orthodoxy should either resign their positions or refrain from promulgating their own views, and in public support those of the Church, under penalty of being dismissed and still more severely punished." The edict, issued in the country of Frederick the Great, and after fifty years of governmental principles of a directly opposite character, produced an immense excitement, and called forth more than a hundred pamphlet reviews, about one third of which were in its favor, and, curiously enough, one by Semler, the father of rationalism, was in this class. Nothing in the way of enforcing the edict was done, however, for about two years; but then a royal order, dated August 13, 1791, compelled Wollner to proceed against offenders, e.g. Bahrdt (q.v.), who had ridiculed the edict by writing a comedy upon it. A commission, of which pastor Hermes of Breslau was the head, was instituted by the king to give effect to the edict; but as its members were altogether unknown in the learned world, its authority was not great, and its work unimportant. It addressed threatening fulminations to Nodsselt, Niemeyer, Kant, the University of Halle, etc., which were followed by no consequences whatever. With the accession of Frederick William III (1797), all the measures taken to advance the cause of orthodoxy were set aside. Wollner retained his office, and in 1798 attempted to revive the religious edict, but received a cutting rejoinder from the king. He resigned and retired to his estates, where he died, respected for his character and abilities, in the year 1800. See Teller, Denkschrift auf Herrn Staatsminister v. Wollner, etc. 1802; Das preussische Religionsedikt, etc. (Leipsic, 1842); Manso, Gesch. d. preuss. Staats, 1:165 sq., 201 sq.; Sack, Gesch. d. geistl. Ministeriums Wollner, in Niedner's Zeitschrift. hist. Theol. 1863, No. 3.

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