« PreviousContinue »
polity was attended with quarrels, intrigues, schisms, and wars.
Religion itself was made to consist of the performance of numerous ceremonies, of pagan, jewish, and monkish extraction, all which might be performed without either faith in God, or love to mankind. The church ritual was an address, not to the reason, but to the senses of men ; music stole the ear, and soothed the passions; statues, paintings, vestments, and various ornaments, beguiled the eye ; while the pause, which was produced by that sudden attack, which a multitude of objects made on the senses, on entering a spacious decorated edifice, was enthusiastically taken for devotion. Blind obedience was first allowed by courtesy, and then established by law. Public worship was performed in an unknown tongue, and the sacrament was adored as the body and blood of Christ. The credit of the ceremonial produced in the people a notion, that the performance of it was the practice of piety, and religion degenerated into gross superstition. Vice, uncontrolled by reason or scripture, retained a pagan vigour, and committed the most horrid crimes ; and superstition atoned for them, by building and enlowing religious houses, and by bestowing donations on the church. Human merit was introduced, saints were invoked, and the perfections of God were distributed by canonization, among the creatures of the Pope. - The pillars, that supported this edifice, were immense riches, arising, by imposts, from the sins of mankind; idle distinctions between supreme and subordinate' adoration ; senseless axioms, called the divinity of the schools ; preach-“ ments of buffoonery, or blasphemy, or both; cfuel casuistry, consisting of a body of dangerous and scandalous morality; false miracles and midnight visions ; spurious looks and" paltry relics ; oaths, dungeons, inquisitions, and crusades. The whole was denominated THE HOLY, CATHOLIC, AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH, and laid to the charge of Jesus Christ.
Loud complaints had been made of these excesses, for the last hundred and fifty years, to those whose business it was to reform, and, bad as they were, they had owned the necestity of reforination, and had repeatedly promised to reform. Several councils had been called for the purpose of reforming: but nothing had been done, nor could any thing be expected from assemblies of mercenary men, who were too deeply interested in darkness to vote for day. They were in
flexible against every remonstrance, and, as a Jesuit has since expressed it, They would not .extin uish one taper, tho' it were to convert all the.Hugonots in France.
The restorers of literature reiterated and reasoned on these complaints : but they reasoned to the wind. The church champions were hard driven, they tried every art to suprort their cause : but as they could neither get rid of the attack by a polite duplicity, nor intimidate their sensible opponents by anathemas, as they would not determine the matter by scripture, and as they could not defend themselves by any other method, as they were too obstinate to reform themselves, and to proud to be reformed by their inferiors, the plaintiffs at length laid aside thoughts of applying to them, and, having found out the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free, went about reforining theinselves. The reformers were neither popes, cardinals, nor bishops ; but they were good men, who aimed to promote the glory of God, and the good of mankind. This was the state of the church, when Francis I. ascended the throne, 1515.
Were we to enter into a m nute examination of the reformation in France, we would own a particular interposition of Providence ; but we would also take the liberty to observe, that a happy conjunction of jarring interests rendered the sixteenth century a fit æra for reformation. Events, that produced, protected, and persecuted reformation, proceeded from open and hidden, great and little, good and bad causes. The capacities and the tempers, the virtues and the vices, the views and the interests, the wives and the mistresses, of the princes of those times; the abilities and dispositions of the officers of each crown; the powers of government, and the persons who wrought them; the tempers and genuises of the people; all these, and many more, were springs of action, which, in their turns, directed the great events that were exhibited to public view. But our limits allow no inquiries of this kind.
The reformation, which began in Germany, had extended itself to Geneva, and thence into France. The French had a translation of the bible, which had been made, in 1224, by Guiars des Moulins. It had been revised, corrected, and printed at Paris, 1487, by order of Charles VIII. and the study of it now began to prevail. The reigning king, who was a patron of learning, encouraged his valet de chambre, Clement Marot, to versify some of David's psalms, and took
great pleasure in singing them,* and either protected, or persecuted the reformation, as his interest seemed to him to require. Although in 1535, he went in procession to burn the first martyrs of the reformed church, yet, in the same year, he sent for Melancthon to come into France to reconcile religious differences. Although he persecuted his own protestant subjects with infinite inhumanity, yet, when he was afraid that the ruin of the German protestants would strengthen the hands of the emperor Charles V. he made an Alliance with the protestant princes of Gerinany, and allowed the Duke of Orleans, his second son, to offer them the free exercise of their religion in the Dukedom of Luxemburg. He suffered his sister, the Queen of Navarre, to protect the reformation in her country of Bearn, and even saved Geneva, when Charles Duke of Savoy would have taken it. It was no uncommon thing, in that age, for princes to trife thus with religion. His majesty's first concern was to be a king, his second to act like a rational creature.
The reformation greatly increased in this reignt. The pious Queen of Navarre made her court a covert from every storm, supplied France with preachers, and the exiles at Geneva with money. Calvin who in 1534, had fled from his rectory in France, and had settled at Geneva in 1541, was a chief instrument; he slid his catechism and other books into France. Some of the bishops were inclined to the reformation: but secretly, for fear of the christians of Rome. The reformation was called Calvinism. The people were named Sacramentarians, Lutherans, Calvinists: and nick-named Hugonots, either from Hugon, a Hobgoba lin, because, to avoid persecution, they held their assemblies in the night: or from the gate Hugon, in Tours, where they used to ineet; or from a Swiss word which signifies a league.
Henry II. who succeeded his father Francis, 1547, was a weak, and a wicked prince. The increase of his authority was the law and the prophéts to him. He violently persecuted
the calvinists of France, because he was taught to believe, that heresy was a faction repugnant to authority; and he made an alliance with the German protestants, and was pleased with the title of Protector of the Germanic libero ties, that is, protector of protestantism. This alliance he made in order to check the power of Charles V. He was governed, sometimes by his queen, Catharine de Medicis, niece of Pope Clement VII. who, it is said, never did right, except she did it by mistake: often by the constable de Montmorenci, whom, contrary to the express command of his father, in his dying illness, he had placed at the head of administration: chiefly by his mistress, Diana of Poitiers, who had been mistress to his father, and who bore an implacable hatred to the protestants: and always by some of his favourites, whom he suffered to amass iminense fortunes by accusing men of heresy. The reformation was very much advanced in this reign. The genry promoted the acting of plays, in which the comedians exposed the lives and doctrines of the popish clergy, and the poignant wit and humour of the comedians afforded infinite diversion to. the people, and conciliated them to the new preachers. Beza, who had fled to Geneva, 1548, came backward and forward into France, and was a chief promoter of the work. His Latin testament, which he first published in this reign, was much read, greatly admired, 1556, and contributed to the strength of the cause. The new testament was the Goliah's sword of the clerical reformers, there was none like it, .
Francis II succeeded his father Henry, 1559. He was. only in the sixteenth year of his age, extremely weak both in body and mind, and therefore incapable of governing the kingdom by himself. In this reign began those civil wars, which raged in France for alınost forty years. They have been charged on false zeal for religion : but this charge is a, calumny, for the crown of France was the prize for which the generals fought. It was that which inspired them with hopes and fears, productive of devotions, or persecutions, as either of them opened ascess to the throne. The interests of religion, indeed, fell in with these views, and so the parties were blended together in war.
The family of Charles the Great, which had reigned in France for 236 years, either became extinct, or was deprived' of its inheritance, at the death of Lewis the Lazy in 987. Him Hugh Capet had succeeded, and had transmitted the crown to his own posterity, which, in this reign sub
sisted in two principle branches, in that of Valois, which was in possession of the throne, and that of Bourbon, the next heir to the throne of France, and then in possession of Bearn. The latter had been driven out of the kingdom of Navarre: but they retained the title, and were sometimes at Bearn and sometimes at the court of France. The house of Guise, Dukes of Lorrain, a very rich and powerful family, to whose niece, Mary Queen of Scots, the young king was married, pretended to make out their descent from Charles the Great, and were competitors, when the times served, with the reigning family for the throne, and, at other times, with the Bourbon family, for the apparent heirship to it. With these views they directed their fainily alliances, perfected themselves in military skill, and intrigued at court for the administration of affairs. These three houses formed three parties. The house of Guise, (the chiefs of which were five brethren at this time) headed one; the King of Navarre, the princes of the blood, and the great officers of the crown, the other; the Queen-mother, who managed the interests of the reigning family, exercised her policy on both, to keep either from becoming too strong; while the feeble child on the throne was alternately a prey to them all.
Protestantism had obtained numerous converts in the last reign. Several princes of the blood, some chief officers of the crown, and many principal families, had embraced it, and its partizans were so numerous, both in Paris and in all the provinces, that each leader of the court parties deliberated on the policy cf strengthening his party by openly espousing the reformation, hy endeavouring to free the protestants from penal laws, and by obtaining a free toleration for them. At length, the house of Bourbon declared for protestantism, and, of consequence, the Guises were inspired with zeal for the support of the ancient religion, and took the roman catholics under their protection. The king of Navarre, and the prince of Conde, were the heads of the first : but the Duke of Guise had the address to obtain the. chief management of affairs, and the protestants were persecuted with insatiable fury all the time of this reign.
Had religion then no share in these commotions? Certainly it had, with many of the princes, and with multitudes of the soldiers : but they were a motley mixture; one fought for his coronet, another for his land, a third for liberty of conscience, and a fourth for pay. Courage was a