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Reformation in France;



THE celebrated Mr. SAURIN, author of the following sermons, was a French refugee, who, with thousands of his country inen, took shelter in Holland from the persecutions of France. The lives, and even the sermons, of the refugees are so closely connected with the history of the Reformation in France, that, we presume. a short sketch of the state of religion in that kingdom till the banishment of the Protestants by Lewis XIV. will not be disagreeable to some of the younger part of our readers.

Gaul, which is now called France, in the time of Jesus Christ, was a province of the Roman empire, and some of the apostles planted Christianity in it In the first centuries, while Christianity continued a rational religion, it spread and supported itself without the help, and against the persecutions, of the Roman emperors. Numbers were converted from paganism. several Christian soc eties were formel, and many eminent men, having spent their lives in preaching and writing for the advancement of the gospel, sealed their doctrine with their blood.

In the fifth century Clovis I., a pagan king of France, fell in love with Clotilda, a Christian princess of the house of Burgundy, who agreed to marry him only on condition of his becoming a Christian, to which he consented. [A. D. 491.] The king, however, delayed the performance of this condition till five years after his marriage; when, being engaged in a desperate battle, and having reason to fear the total defeat of his army, he lifted up his eves to heaven, and put up this prayer, Got of Queen Clotilda! Grant me the victory, and I vow to be baptized, and thenceforth to worship no other God but thee! He obtained the victory, and at his return, was baptized at Rheims [Dec. 25. 496] His sister, and more than three thousand of his subjects followed his example, and Christianity became the professed religion of France.

Conversion implies the cool exercise of reason, and whenever passion takes the place, and does the office of reason, conversion is nothing but a name. Baptism did not wash away the sins of Clovis ; before it he was vile, after it he was infamous, practising all kinds of treachery and cruelty. The court, the army, and the common people, who were pagan when the king was pagan, and Christian when he was Christian, continued the same in their morals after their conversion as before. When the Christian church, therefore, opened her doors, and delivered up her keys to these new con

verts, she gained nothing in comparison of what she lost. She increased the number, the riches, the pomp, and the power, of her family: but she resigned the exercise of reason, the sufficiency of scripture, the purity of worship, the grand simplicity of innocence, truth, and virtue, and became a creature of the state. A virgin before; she became a prostitute now.

Such Christians, in a long succession, converte 1 Christianity into som thing worse than paganism. They elevated the Christian church into a temporal kingdom, and they degra led temporal kingdoms into fiets of the church. They founded dominion in grace, and they explained grace to be a love of dominion. by these means they completed that general apostacy, known by the name of Popery, which St. Paul had foretold, 1 Tim. iv. 1. and which rendered the reformation of the sixteenth centurv essential to the interests of all mankind.


The state of religion at that time [A D.1545.] was truly deplorable. Ecclesiastical govern ment, instead of that evangelical simplicity, and fraternal freedom, which Jesus Christ and his apostles had taught, was become a spiritual domination under the form of a temporal empire. An innumerable multitude of dignities, titles, rights, honors, privileges,and pre-eminences belonged to it, and were all dependent on a sovereign priest, who, being an absolute monarch, required every thought to be in subjection to him. The chief ministers of religion were actually become temporal princes, and the highpriest, being absolute sovereign of the ecclesiastical state, had his court and his council, his ambassadors to negociate, and his armies to murder his flock. The clergy had acquired immense wealth, and, as their chief study was either to collect and to augment their revenues, or to prevent the alienation of their estates, they had constituted numberless spiritual corporations, with powers, rights, statutes, privi. leges, and officers. The functions of the ministry were generally neglected, and, of consequence, gross ignorance prevailed. All ranks of men were extremely depraved in their morals, and the Pope's penitentiary had published the price of every crime, as it was rated in the tax-book of the Roman chancery. Marriages, which reason and scripture allowed, the Pope prohibited, and, for money, dispensed with those which both forbade. Church-benefices were sold to children, and to laymen, who then let them to under tenants, none of whoin performed the duty, for which the profits were paid; but all having obtained them by simony,


spent their lives in fleecing the flock to repay themselves. The power of the pontiff was so great that he assumed, and, what was more astonishing, was suffered to exercise a supremacy over many kingdoms. When monarchs gratified his will, he put on a triple crown, ascend. ed a throne, suffered them to call him Holiness, and to kiss his feet. When they disobliged him, he suspended all religious worship in their dominions; published false and abusive libels, called bulls, which operated as laws, to injure their persons; discharged their subjects from obedience; and gave their crowns to any who would usurp them. He claimed an infallibility of knowledge, and an omnipotence of strength; and he forbade the world to examine his claim. He was addressed by titles of blasphemy, and, though he owned no juris liction over himself, yet he affected to extend his authority over heaven and hell, as well as over a middle place called purgatory, of all which places, he said, he kept the keys. This irregular church polity was attended with quarrels, intrigues, schisms, and wars.

Religion itself was made to consist in the performance of numerous ceremonies, of Pagan, Jewish, and Monkish extraction, all of 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 perform ance 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 endowing 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 impost from the sins of mankind; idle distinctions between supreme and subordinate adoration; senseless axioms, called the divinity of the schools; preachments of buffoonery or blasphemy, or both; cruel casuistry, consisting of a body of dangerous and scandalous morality; false miracles and midnight visions; spurious books 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 exesses, for the last hundred and fifty years, to those whose business it was to reform, and, as

bad as they were, they had owned the neeessity of reformation, 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 inflexible against every remonstrance, and, as a Jesuit has since expressel it, They would not extinguish one taper, though it were to convert al 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 support their cause: but they could not get rid of the attack by a polite duplicity: they could not intimidate their sensible opponents by anathemas; they would not dispute the matter by scripture, and they could not defend themselves by any other method; they were too obstinate to reform themselves, and too proud to be reformed by their inferiors. At length, the plaintiffs laid aside the thoughts of applying to them, and, having found out the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free, went about reform, ing themselves. 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 minute examination of the reformation in France, we would own a particular interposition of Provide ce but we would also take the liberty to observe, that a happy conjunction of jarring interests rendered the sixteenth century a fit era for reformation. Events that produced, protected, and persecu ted 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 geniuses of the people; all these, and many more, were springs of action, which, in their turns, directed the great events that were exhi bited to public view. But our limits allow no inquiries of this kind.

The reformation which began in Germany spread itself to Geneva, and thence into France. The French had a translation of the Bible, which had been made by Guiars des Moulins, [In 1224.] It had been revised, corrected, and printed at Paris, by order of Charles VIII, and the study of it now began to prevail. [1487.] 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

His majesty's favourite psalm, which he sang when he went a hunting, was the 42d. The queen used to sing the 6th, and the king's mistress the 130th. Marot translated fifty,

reformation, as his interest seemed to him to require. Although he went in procession to burn the first martyrs of the reformed church, yet in the same year, [1535] 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 Germany, and he 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 trifle 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 reign. 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 had fled from his rectory in France, and had settled at Geneva. [153] was a chief instrument; he slid his catechism, and other books into France. [1541.] 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 Hobgoblin, because, to avoid persecution, they held their assemblies in the night; or from the gate of Hugon, in Tours, where they used to meet; or from a Swiss word, which significs a league.

Henry H., who succeeded his Father Francis. [1547] was a weak, and a wicked prince. The increase of his authority was the law and the prophets 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 plea-ed with the title of Protector of the Germanic liberties, 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 adminis tration chiefly by his mistress. Diana of Poitiers, who had been mistress to his father, and who bore an implacable hatred to the protest

B za the other hundred, Calvin got them set to music by the best musicians, and every body sang them as ballads. When the reformed churches made them a part of their worship, the papists were forbidden to sing them any more, and to sing a psalm was a sign of a Lutheran.


ants and always by some of his favourites, whom he suffered to amass immense fortunes by accusing men of heresy. The reformation was very much advanced in this reign. The gentry 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, [1543]came backward and forward into France, and was a chief promoter of the work. His Latin Testament, which he first published in this reign, [1556] was much read, greatly admired, and contributed to the spread 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 almost 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 access 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. [987.] Him, Hugh Capet had succeeded, and had transmitted the crown to his own posterity, which, in this reign, subsisted in two principal branches, in that of Valois, which was in possession of the throne, and in that of Bourbon, the next heir to the throne of France, and then in pos-session 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 family 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 teeble 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 partisans were so numerous, both in Paris and in all the provinces, that each leader of the court parties deliberated on the policy of strengthening his party, by openly espousing the reformat.on, by 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 zed for the support of the ancient religion, and took the Roman Cathol es 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 chie! 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 wer a motley mixture; one lought for his coronet, another for his land, a third for liberty of conscience, and a fourth for pay. Courage was a joint stock, and they were mutual sharers of gain or loss, praise or blame. It was religion to secure the lives and properties of noble families, and though the common people had no lordships, yet they had the more valuable rights of conscience, and for them they fought. We mistake, if we imagine that the French have never understood the nature of civil and religious liberty; they have well understood it, though they have not been able to obtain it. Suum cuique would have been as expressive a motto as any that the protestant generals could have borne.

The persecution of the protestants was very severe at this time. Counsellor Du Bourg, a gentleman of eminent quality, and great merit, was burnt for heresy, and the court was inclined, not only to rid France of protestantism, but Scotland also, and sent La Brosse with three thousand men, to assist the queen of Scot land in that pious design. This was frustrated by the intervention of queen Elizabeth of Eng. land. The persecution becoming every day more intolerable, and the king being quite inaccessible to the remonstrances of his people, the protestants held several consultations, and took the opinions of their ministers, as well as those of their noble partisans, on the question, whether it were lawful to take up arms in their own defence, and to make way for a free access to the king to present their petitions? It was unanimously resolved, that it was lawful, and it was agreed, that a certain number of men should be chosen, who should go on a fixed day under the direction of Lewis prince of Conde, present their petition to the king, and seize the Duke of Guise, and the cardinal of Lorrain, his brother, in order to have them tried before the states. This affair was discovered to the Duke by a false brother, the design was defeated, and twelve hundred were beheaded. Guise pretended to have suppressed a rebellion that was designed to end in the dethroning of the king, and by this manoeuvre. he procured the general lieutenancy of the kingdom, and the glorious title of Conservator

of his country. He pleased the puerile king by placing a few gaudy horse-guards round his palace, and he infatuated the poor child to think himself and his kingdom rich and happy, while his protestant subjects lay bleeding through all his realm.

The infinite value of an able statesman, in such important crises as these, might here be exemplified in the conduct of ›ichael de L'Hospital, who was at this time [1560] promoted to the chancel-lordship: but our limits will not allow an enlargement. He was the most consummate politician that France ever employed. He had the wisdom of governing without the folly of discovering it, and all his actions were guided by that cool moderation which always accompanies a superior knowledge of mankind. He was a concealed protestant of the most liberal sentiments, an entire friend to religious liberty, and it was his wise management that saved France. It was his fixed opinion, that FREE TOLERATION Was sound policy. We must not wonder that rigid papists deemed him an atheist, while zealous, but mistaking protestants, pictured him carrying a torch behind him, to guide others but not himself. The more a man resembles God, the more will his conduct be censured by gnorance, partiality and pride!

The Duke of Guise, in order to please and strengthen his party, endeavoured to establish an inquisition in France. The chancellor, being willing to parry a thrust which he could not entirely avoid, was forced to agree [lay 1560] to a severer edict than he could have w.shed, t defeat the design. By this edit, the cognizance of the crime of heresy was taken from the secular judges, and given to the bishops alone. The Calvinists complained of this, because it put them into the hands of their enemies, and although their Lordships condemned and burnt so many heretics, that their courts were justly called chambres ardentes,* yet the zealous catholics thought them less eligible than an inquisition after the manner of Spain.

Soon after the making of this edict, [Aug. 1560] many families having been ruined by it, Admiral Coligny presented a petition to the king, in the names of all the protestants of France, humbly praying that they might be allowed the free exercise of their religion. The king referred the matter to the parliament, who were to consult about it with the lords of the council. A warm del ate ensued, and the catholics carried it against the protestants by three voices. It was resolved, that people should be obliged, either to coform to the old established church, or to quit the kingdom, with permission to sell their estates. The protestants argued, that in a point of such importance, it would be unreasonable, on account of three voices, to inflame all France with animosity and war: that the method of banishment was impossible to be executed; and that the obliging of those, who continued in France, to submit to the Romish religion, against their consciences, was an absurd at

Burning courts-fire offices.

tempt, and equal to an impossibility. The chancellor, and the protestant Lords, used every effort to procure a toleration, while the catholic party urged the necessity of uniformity in religion. At length two of the bishops owned the necessity of reforming, pleaded strenuously for moderate measures, and proposed the deciding of these controversies in an assembly of the states, assisted by a national council, to be summoned at the latter end of the year. To this proposal the assembly agreed.

The court of Rome having laid it down as an indubitable maxim in church police, that an inquisition was the only support of the hierarchy, and dreading the consequences of allowing a nation to reform itself, was alarmed at this inteligence, and instantly sent a nuncio into France. His instructions were to prevent, if possible, the calling of a national council, and to promise the reassembling of the general council of Trent. The protestants had been too often dupes to such artifices as these, and, being fully convinced of the futility of general councils, they refused to submit to the council of Trent now for several good reasons. The pope, they said, who assembled the council, was to be judge in his own cause: the council would be chiefly composed of Italian bishops, who were vassals of the pope, as a secular prince, and sworn to him as a bishop and head of the church: the legates would pack a majority, and bribe the poor bishops to vote: each article would be first settled at Rome, and then proposed by the legates to the council: the Emperor, by advice of the late council of Constance, had given a safe conduct to John Huss, and to Jerome of Prague; however, when they appeared in the council, and proposed their doubts, the council condemned them to be burnt. The protestants had reason on their side, when they rejected this method of reforming, for the art of procuring a majority of votes is the soul of this system of church government This art consists in the ingenuity of finding out, and in the dexterity of addressing each man's weak side, his pride or his ignorance, his envy, his gravity, or his avarice: and the possessing of this is the perfec tion of a Legate of Rome.

During these disputes, the king died without issue, [Dec. 5, 1560] and his brother Charles IX. who was in the eleventh year of his age, succeeded him. [Dec. 13.] The states met at the time proposed. The chancellor opened the session by an unanswerable speech on the ill policy of persecution, he represented the mis. eries of the protestants, and proposed an abatement of their sufferings, till their complaints could be heard in a national council. The Prince of Conde and the King of Navarre were the heads of the protestant party, the Guises were the heads of their opponents, and the queen mother, Catharine de Medicis, who had obtained the regency till the king's majority, and who began to dread the power of the Guises, leaned to the protestants, which was a grand event in their favour. After repeated meetings, and various warm debates, it was agreed, as one side would not submit to a gene

ral council, nor the other to a national assembly, that a conference should be held at Poissy, between both parties. [July 1561] and an edict was made, that no persons should molest the protestants, that the imprisoned should be released, and the exiles called home. [Aug. 1561.] The conference at Poissy was held, in the presence of the king, the princes of the blood, the nobility, cardinals, prelates, and grandees of both parties. On the popish side, six cardinals, four bishops, and several dignified clergymen, and on the protestant about twelve of the most famous reformed ministers, managed the dispute. Beza, who spoke well, knew the world, and had a ready wit, and a deal of learning, displayed all his powers in favour of the reformation. The papists r asoned where they could, and where they could not they railed. The conference ended [Sept. 29] where most public disputes have ended, that is, where they b gan; for great men never enter these lists, without a previous determination not to submit to the disgrace of a public defeat.

At the close of the last reign, the ruin of protestantism seemed inevitable: but now the reformation turned like a tide, overspread every place, and seemed to roll away all opposition, and, in all probability, had it not been for one sad event, it would now have subverted popery in this kingdom. The king of Navarre, who was now lieutenant general of France, had hitherto been a zealous protestant, he had taken incredible pains to support the reformation, and had assured the Danish ambassador that, in a year's time, he would cause the true gospel to be preached throughout France. The Guises caballed with the pope and the king of Spain, and they offered to invest the king of Navarre with the kingdom of Sardinia, and to restore to him that part of the kingdom of Navarre, which lay in Spain, on condition of his renouncing protestantism. lure was tempting, and the king deserted, and even persecuted the protestants. Providence is never at a loss for means to effect its designs. The queen of Navarre, daughter of the last queen, who had hitherto preferred a dance to a sermon, was shocked at the king's conduct, and instantly became a zealous protestant herself. She met with some unkind treatment, but nothing could shake her resolution; Had I, said she, the kingdoms in my hand. I would throw them into the sea, rather than defile my conscience by going to mass. This courageous profession saved her a deal of trouble and dispute!


The protestants began now to appear more publicly than before. The queen of Navarre caused Beza openly to solemnize a marriage in a noble family, after the Geneva manner. This, which was consummated near the court, emboldened the ministers, and they preached at the countess de Senignan's, guarded by the marshal's provosts. The nobility thought that the common people had as good a right to hear the gospel as themselves, and caused the reformed clergy to preach without the walls of Paris. Their auditors were thirty or forty thousand people, divided into three companies,

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