Info

religious conversion. The great fire that consumed Moscow, he later claimed, 'shed light in his soul'.20 The destruction of the grand army on the retreat from Moscow was for many Europeans the work of God. As an English clergyman observed of Napoleon's Russian nemesis in a sermon in 1814:

The valour and perseverance of the Russians did much, but the elements did more. God sent forth his own armies against him, the snow, the frost, the piercing cold, accompanied with disease and famine; and by these irresistible foes, his proud legions were in a few days almost annihilated.21

The destruction of Napoleon's army in Russia provided the occasion early in 1813 for a national rising in Prussia - a rising which also had the character of a Christian awakening. Many Prussians believed that the defeat and dismemberment of Prussia in the war of 1806-07 had been the bitter fruit of national sin and that national regeneration would come only through the Christian faith. After 1807, a number of Prussian clergymen, including Friedrich Schleiermacher, Gottfried Hanstein, H. T. Ribbeck and Ludwig Borowski, used sermons to prepare the population for national renewal and a war of liberation. As Schleiermacher assured a friend in 1808, Prussia was 'a chosen instrument and people of God' and was destined to rise again 'in full glory'.22 When in 1813 Prussia declared war on Napoleonic France, its king called on all Germany 'to join us in our mission of liberation', while from their pulpits Protestant pastors portrayed the war as a holy crusade, and aroused patriotic fervour with the language of martyrdom, redemption and resurrection. For some clerics, the war was an opportunity to strengthen the traditional alliance of throne and altar in Prussia, and make the church again the principal bulwark of royal absolutism. For others, and especially Schleiermacher, the war promised to align the clergy with popular and liberal causes. In taking their part in the national struggle, the clergy would lay claim to the role of tribunes of the people. Many Germans viewed the 'Battle of the Nations' at Leipzig in October 1813 and the subsequent fall of Napoleonic France in providential terms. This was the view of the Pietist Ludwig Nicolovius, director of ecclesiastical affairs in Prussia. 'We are now witnessing God's miracles', he wrote to Countess Luise Stolberg in the spring of 1814, 'This is the beginning ... of a new Jerusalem in which God Himself will be the center and source of everything'.23

This belief that Providence was guiding the nations took hold of Tsar Alexander. He was a tortured soul, ravaged by guilt over his complicity in the murder of his father that had brought him to the throne in 1801. Amid the devastation of his country in 1812, the Tsar had begun pouring over the Scriptures, under the influence of Prince Golitzin and other mystical masons in his court.

0 0

Post a comment