PROTESTANT, a general term com prehending all those who profess Chris tianity, and are not in the communion of the Church of Rome. There is a great variety of opinion among the persons thus separated, in points of faith, church order, and discipline, but this term com prehends them all.
The term originated in Germany. At the diet at Spire, in 1526, decrees had been passed which were so far favour able to the progress of the Reformation that they forbade any peculiar measures against it. The consequence was that the spirit of reformation gained strength, and spread itself more extensively in Germany. Then arose also commo tions which were attributed to the re formed and to the spirit kindled by them. Both the pope and the emperor looked with increasing alarm on the aspect of affairs ; and at another diet, held at the same place in 1529, the em peror directed an imperial brief to the persons assembled, to the effect that he had forbidden all innovation, and pro scribed the innovators in matters of re ligion, who had notwithstanding in creased since the decrees of 1526, but that now, by virtue of the full powers in herent in him, he annulled those decrees as contrary to his intentions. The per emptory tone of these letters alarmed the persons who were present at the diet ; and particularly the elector of Saxony is reported to have said to his son that no former emperor had used such language, and that he ought to be informed that their rights were more ancient than the elevation of his family.
This strong, measure of the emperor had also the effect of uniting, at least on this point, the two great sections of the German reformers, the Lutherans and the Sacramentarians, of whom Zuinglius was the head. However, the party op
posed to the Reformation was the stronger, and the emperor's brief re ceived the sanction of the diet. Upon this the reformers declared that this was not a business of policy or temporal interests, with respect to which they were ready to submit to the will of the majority, but it affected the interests of conscience and futurity. On this and other grounds they founded a protest, which was delivered in on the 13th day of April, but refused by the rest of the diet. A second protest, larger than the former, was presented on the succeeding day. The princes and the cities who favoured the Reformation joined in it, and thenceforth it became usual to call the reformers Protestants.
It is often found that a particular oc casion leads to the construction of a name for a religious party, which becomes ex tended, as in this instance, to parties who have no immediate connection with the particular incident, or interest in the question with which it is connected. The term Protestant in fact seems to have as much to do with the constitution of the Germanic confederacy as with the prin ciples of the Reformation ; and certainly neither England nor Scotland had any thing to do with the proceedings of the emperor or with the diet of Spire. The term Reformed Church might seem to designate the church of England or the church of Scotland more appropriately than the Protestant church.