History of the rise of the huguenots

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Calvin shuns notoriety.

The prominence obtained by Calvin as chief theologian and pastor of the

church of Geneva, however, was foreign to his tastes. He was by

preference a scholar, averse to notoriety, fond of retirement, and, if

we are to believe his own judgment, timid and even pusillanimous by

nature.1 He had in vain sought seclusion in France. From Basle and

Strasbourg he made a hasty retreat in order to preserve his incognito,

and avoid the fame the Institutes were likely to earn for him.2 Only

Farel's adjuration detained him in Geneva, and he subsequently confessed

that his fortitude was not so great but that he rejoiced even more than

was meet when the turbulent Genevese expelled him from their city.3

But not even then was he able to secure the coveted quiet, for Martin

Bucer was not slow in imitating the urgency of Farel, and employed the

warning example of the prophet Jonah seeking to flee from the will of

the Almighty, to induce him to employ himself in the organization and

administration of the French church at Strasbourg.4 Not less decided

was Calvin's reluctance to accede to the repeated invitations of the

council and people of Geneva, that he should return and resume his

former position.
His character and natural endowments. He is consulted by Protestants in
every quarter of Europe.

Such was the man who was called to take the reins of the spiritual

direction, not only of a single small city, but of a large body of

earnest thinkers throughout France, and even to distant parts of

Christendom--a man of stern and uncompromising devotion to that system

which he believed to be truth; of slender imagination, but of a memory

prodigious in its grasp, of an

1 "Ego qui natura timido, molli et pusillo animo esse fateor." Preface to the Psalms.

2 "Porro, an propositum esset mihi famam aucupari, patuit

ex brevi discessu, præsertim quum nemo illic sciverit me authorem esse."


3 "Me tamen non tanta sustinnit magnanimitas, quin

turbulenta ejectione plus quam deceret lætatus sim." Ibid.

4 "Præstantissimus Christi minister, M. Bucerus me iterum

simili qua usus fuerat Farellus, obsecratione, ad novam stationem

retraxit. Jonæ itaque exemplo, quod proposuerat, territus," etc. Ibid.

understanding wonderfully acute, and of a power of exposition

and expression unsurpassed by that possessed by any writer among
his contemporaries. His constitution, naturally weak, had been
still further enfeebled by excessive application to study. In

his letters there are frequent references to the interruptions

occasioned by violent pains in his head, often compelling him to stop

many times in the writing of a single letter.1 His strength was

taxed to the utmost by the unremitting toil incident to his multifarious

occupations. The very recital of his labors fills us with amazement. He

preached twice every Sunday, besides frequent sermons on other days. He

lectured three times a week on theology. He made addresses in the

consistory, and delivered a lecture every Friday in the conference on

the Scriptures known as the "Congrégation." To these public burdens must

be added others imposed upon him by his wide reputation. From all parts

of the Protestant world, but especially from every spot in France where

the Reformation had gained a foothold, the opinion of Calvin was eagerly

sought on various points of doctrine and ecclesiastical practice. To

Geneva, and especially to Calvin, the obscure and persecuted adherents

of the same faith, not less than the most illustrious of the Protestant

nobility, looked for counsel and direction. Under his guidance that

system was adopted for supplying France with ministers of the Gospel

which led the Venetian ambassador, near the end of the great reformer's

life, to describe Geneva as the mine from which the ore of heresy was

extracted.2 How faithfully he discharged the trust committed

1 "La difficulté est," he writes to M. de Falaise, April,

1546, "des fascheries et rompemens de teste qui interviennent, pour

interrompre vingt fois une lettre, ou encore d'advantaige." He adds

(and the details are interesting) that, although his general health is

good, "je suis tormenté sans cesse d'une doleur qui ne me souffre quasi

rien faire. Car oultre les sermons et lectures, il y a desjà un mois

que je n'ay guères faict, tellement que j'ay presque honte de vivre

arnsi inutile." Lettres françaises, i. 141, 142. Many a scholar of his

day, or of ours, would consider a week of health well occupied with

the preparation and delivery of two sermons and three theological


2 "Ginevra ... che è la minera di questa sorte di metallo."

Relazione di M. Suriano, 1561. Relations des Amb. Vénitiens, i. 528.

to him is sufficiently attested by a voluminous correspondence, some portions

of which have escaped the wreck of time; while the steady advance of the doctrines he advocated is an enduring monument to the zeal and sagacity

of his exertions.
Meets with bitter opposition, but obtains the support of the people.

In his arduous undertaking, however, Calvin had to encounter no little

opposition in the very city of Geneva. It was this, even more than

bodily infirmity, that bore severely upon his spirits, and robbed him of

the rest demanded alike by his overtaxed body and mind. His advocacy of

strenuous discipline procured him relentless enemies among the Genevese

of the "Libertine" party. Those were stormy times for Calvin, when, in

derision of the student, legislator, and theologian, deafening salutes

were fired by night before his doors, and when the dogs were set upon

him in the streets.1 But, when we read of the violent antagonism

elicited by the publication of the severe provisions of the

"Ordinances," regulating even the minor details of the life of a

Genevese citizen, it must not be forgotten that the unpopular system,

although devised by Calvin, was not imposed by him upon unwilling

subjects, but established by a free and decisive vote of the people, in

the exercise of its sovereignty, and influenced to its adoption by the

same considerations that had determined Calvin himself in devising it.2
1 This period of his life was referred to by him in his last address to the body of his
colleagues: "J'ay vescu içy en combats merveilleux; j'ay esté salué par mocquerie le
soir devant ma porte de 50 ou 60 coups d'arquebute. Que pensez-vous que cela
pouvoit estonner un pauvre escholier, timide comme je suis, et comme je l'ay toujours
esté, je le confesse?... On m'a mis les chiens à ma queue, criant hère, hère, et m'ont prins
par la robbe et par les jambes." Adieux de Calvin, apud Bonnet, Lettres françaises, ii. 575.

2 "This sacrifice," M. Gaberel forcibly observes, "has scarcely a parallel in history. Men
willingly consent to make the greatest efforts, to perform the most painful acts of self-denial,
with the aim of saving their country. Formerly the Genevese suffered unto death to preserve
their independence. Now the same unselfish spirit is demanded of them in ordinary times
that they exhibited in evil days. And, if the people accepts the 'Ordinances,' it is because it
has narrowly scanned the slavery to which that moral license was leading it,

which Rome authorizes in order to confiscate all other liberties. It

accepts the 'Ordinances' because it has just escaped the treacherous

machinations, the servitude prepared for it by men whose principle is to

go just as their own heart leads them.... Strengthened by this vote,

Calvin can henceforth hope to succeed in his project, and make of Geneva

the Protestant metropolis, bearing as its motto, 'Holiness to the

Lord.'" Histoire de l'église de Genève, i. 346, 347.

An estimate of Calvin by Étienne Pasquier.

Such a man could not fail to secure the respect of his opponents, and

the undisguised admiration of all who could regard his character and

work with some degree of impartiality. Among the most virtuous of his

contemporaries was the excellent Étienne Pasquier, who described him as

he appeared in the eyes of men of culture--men who, without forsaking

the Roman Catholic Church, were stanch friends of reform and of

progress. "He was a man," says Pasquier, "that wrote equally well in

Latin and in French, and to whom our French tongue is greatly indebted

for having enriched it with an infinite number of fine touches. It were

my wish that it had been for a better subject. He was a man, moreover,

marvellously versed and nurtured in the books of the Holy Scriptures,

and such that, had he directed his mind in the right way, he might have

ranked with the most illustrious doctors of the church. And, in the

midst of his books and his studies, he was possessed of the most active

zeal for the progress of his sect. We sometimes saw our prisons

overflowing with poor, misled people, whom he unceasingly exhorted,

consoled, and comforted by his letters; and there were never lacking

messengers to whom the doors were open, in spite of any exertions of the

jailers to the contrary. Such were the methods by which he gained over

step by step a part of our France."1
Continued persecution. The tongues of the victims cut out, and records

The flames of the persecution kindled by the publication of the placards

continued to burn. From Paris, where Laurent de la Croix fell a victim

to the rage of the priests, the conflagration spread to Essarts, in Poitou,

where a simple girl was consigned to the fire for reproving a Franciscan

1 Recherches de la France (ed. of 1621), p. 769. Giovanni

Michiel, in 1561, told the Doge of Venice: "Nè potria vostra Serenità

creder l'intelligenza e le pratiche grandi che ha nel regno il principal

ministro di Genevra che chiamano il Calvino, Francese e Picardo di

nazione, uomo di estraordinaria autorità, per la vita, per la dottrina,

e per i scritti appresso tutti quelli di questa sette." Rel. des Amb.

Vén., i. 415.

monk; and to Macon, where an unlearned peasant underwent a

like punishment, amazing his judges by the familiarity he displayed with

the Bible. Agen, in Guyenne, and Beaune, in Burgundy, witnessed similar

scenes of atrocious cruelty; while at Nonnay, André Berthelin was burned

alive, because, when wending his way to the great fair of Lyons, he

refused to kneel down before one of the many pictures or images set up

by the roadside for popular adoration. At Rouen, four brave reformers

were thrown into a tumbril, reeking with filth, to be drawn to the place

of execution, one of them exclaiming with radiant countenance: "Truly,

as says the apostle, we are the offscouring of the earth, and we now

stink in the nostrils of the men of the world. But let us rejoice, for

the savor of our death will be a sweet savor unto God, and will profit

our brethren."1 But the details of these executions are too horrible

and too similar to find a place here. Nor, indeed, would it be possible

to frame a complete statement of the case of each of the constant

sufferers; for, from this time forward, it became a favorite practice

with those who presided over these bloody assizes to cut out the tongues

of their victims, lest their eloquent appeals should shake the

confidence of the spectators in the established faith, and afterward to

throw the official record of the trial of Protestants into the fire that

consumed their bodies, in order to prevent its furnishing edifying

material for the martyrology.2
Failure of persecution.

But, as usual, persecution failed utterly of accomplishing what had been

expected of it. For a brief moment, indeed, Francis flattered himself

that exemplary punishments had purged his kingdom of the professors of

the hated doctrines.3 But, in the course of a few years, he

discovered that, in spite of continued severities, the "new faith" had

so spread--partly by means of persons suffered to return, in virtue

1 Histoire ecclésiastique, i. 13-17; Crespin, Actiones et

Monimenta (Geneva, 1560), fol. 65, etc.

2 Histoire ecclésiastique, i. 15.

3 "En manèire que pensions nostredit royaume en estre purgé

du tout et nettoyé," Francis is made to say in the Edict of

Fontainebleau. Isambert, Recueil des anciennes lois françaises, xii. 677, etc.

of the royal declaration of Coucy (on the sixteenth of July, 1535), and

partly through the teachings of others who lay concealed during the

first violence of the storm--that he had good reason to fear that the

last errors were worse than the first.1 What rendered the matter

still more serious was the favor shown to the heretics by persons of

high rank and influence.2
Edict of Fontainebleau cuts off appeal, June 1, 1540.

With the view of employing still more rigid means for the detection and

punishment of the offenders, a fresh edict was published from

Fontainebleau, on the first of June, 1540. In this long and sanguinary

document the monarch--or the Cardinal of Tournon, who enjoyed the credit

of a principal part in its preparation--enjoined upon the officers of

all the royal courts, whether judges of parliament, seneschals, or

bailiffs, to institute proceedings concurrently against all persons

tainted with heresy. No appeal was to be permitted to delay their

action. The examination of the suspected took precedence of all other

cases. Tribunals of inferior jurisdiction were instructed to send

prisoners for heresy, together with the record of their examination, to

the sovereign courts of parliament, there to be tried in the "Chambre

criminelle." The appeal to the "Grand' chambre," customarily allowed to

persons claiming immunity on account of order or station, was expressly

cut off, so as to render the course of justice more expeditious.

Negligent judges were threatened with suspension and removal from

office. The high vassals of the crown were ordered to lend to the royal

courts their counsel and assistance, and to surrender to them all

offenders as guilty of sedition and disturbance of the public

peace--crimes of which the king claimed exclusive cognizance. Ecclesiastics
were exhorted to show equal diligence in the prosecution of culprits that
were in orders. In short, every servant of the king was bidden to abstain
from harboring or favoring the "Lutherans," since the errors and

1 "Tellement qu'il est fort à douter que les nouveaux

erreurs soient pires que les premiers." Ibid., xii. 677.

2 "Plusieurs gros personnages, qui secrettement les

recèlent, supportent et favorisent en leurs fausses doctrines, leur

aydans et subvenans de leurs biens, de lieux, et de places secrettes et

occultes, èsquelles ils retirent leurs sectateurs, pour les instruire

èsdites erreurs et infections." Ibid., xii. 677.

false doctrines the latter disseminated, it was said,

contained within them the crime of treason against God and the king, as

well as of sedition and riot.1 Every loyal subject must, therefore,

denounce the heretics and employ all means to extirpate them, just as

all men are bound to run to help in extinguishing a public

Exceptional fairness of President Caillaud.

The last injunction was not altogether unnecessary. Even among the

judges of parliament there were fair-minded persons not inclined to

condemn accused men or books on mere report. The ambassador of Henry the

Eighth having, in 1538, denounced an English translation of the Holy

Scriptures that was in press at Paris, the chancellor commissioned

President Caillaud to investigate the case. The latter, finding that the

printer's excuse was the scarcity of paper in England, quietly set about

a comparison of the suspected version with accessible French

translations. He said nothing to doctors of theology or royal

prosecuting officers. "It seemed to me," he reported, "quite unnecessary

to give the matter such notoriety. Moreover, I mistrusted that, without

further investigation, without even looking into it, they would have

condemned the English translation for the sole reason that it is in that

tongue. For I have seen them sustain that the Holy Scriptures ought not

to be translated into the French language or any other vernacular

tongue. Nevertheless, the Bible in French was printed in this city so

long ago as in 1529, and again this present year, and is for sale by the

most wealthy printers. For my part I have seen no prohibition either by

the church or by the secular authority, although I once heard some

decretal alleged in condemnation." Unfortunately such judges as Louis

Caillaud were rare--men that would take the pains to obtain the services

of a person acquainted with the English language to translate aloud a

Bible suspected of heretical teachings, while themselves

1 "Attendu que tels erreurs et fausses doctrines

contiennent en soy crime de lèze majesté divine et humaine, sédition du

peuple, et perturbation de nostre estat et repos public." Ibid., xii. 680.

2 "Mais tantost et incontinent qu'ils en seront advertis,

les révéler à justice, et de tout leur pouvoir aider à les extirper,

comme un chacun doit courir à esteindre le feu public." Ibid., xii. 680.

testing its accuracy by scanning versions made from the Vulgate and the

Hebrew original![433]
Royal letters from Lyons, Aug. 30, 1542.

Two years more had scarcely passed before fresh legislation against the

Protestants demonstrated the impotence of all measures thus far resorted

to. The interval had certainly been improved by their enemies, for the

stake had its victims to boast of.[434] And yet the new religious body

had its ministers and its secret conventicles, with an ever increasing

number of adherents. Accordingly, on the thirtieth of August, 1542,

Francis, then at Lyons, addressed new letters patent to the various

parliaments, enjoining new vigilance and activity. Previous edicts had

not borne all the fruit expected from them; for there was still a bad

seed of error and damnable doctrines--so wrote the king--growing and

multiplying from day to day. So exemplary a punishment must, therefore,

be inflicted, as might forever terrify offenders.[435] The king even

threatened delinquent prelates with seizure of their temporalities, in

case they failed to exercise due diligence in so important a matter.[436]
Audacity of the "Lutherans" of Bordeaux. Francis I. and the

King, bishops and parliaments were terribly in earnest. All were agreed

that Protestantism must and should be crushed, however little they

harmonized as to the reasons of its increase

1 President Louis Caillaud to the chancellor (Antoine Du Bourg), Oct. 22, 1538. Musée des
archives nationales; Documents orig. exposés dans l'Hotel Soubise (Paris, 1872), 347.

2 Among others, two "Lutherans," otherwise unknown to us, whose execution a young German student, Eustathius de Knobelsdorf, witnessed on the Place Maubert, and described in a letter to
George Cassander, professor at Bruges, like himself a Roman Catholic. One of the "Lutherans," a
beardless youth of scarcely twenty years, the son of a shoemaker, after having his tongue cut out
and his head smeared with sulphur, far from showing marks of terror, signified, by a motion to
the executioner, his perfect willingness to meet death. "I doubt, my dear Cassander," writes De
Knobelsdorf, "whether those celebrated philosophers, who have written so many books on the
contempt of death, would have endured so cruel tortures with such constancy. So far did

this youth seem to be raised above what is of man." Letter of July 10,

1542. Translated in Bulletin, vi. (1858), 420-423; and Baum, Theodor

Beza, i. 52-55.

3 "En sorte que la justice, punition, correction, et

démonstration en soit faite telle et si griefve, que ce puisse estre

perpétuel exemple à tous autres."

4 Isambert, Recueil des anciennes lois françaises, xii. 785-787.

or the method of suppressing it. The Archbishop of Bordeaux denounced to the

parliament of that city the growing audacity of the "Lutherans" of his diocese,
who had even dared to preach their doctrines publicly. He accounted for this

disorder by the fact that the prosecution and exemplary punishment of

heretics had ceased to be the uniform rule; as if the experience of the

past score of years had not demonstrated the futility of attempting to

compel religious uniformity by the fear of human tribunals and

ignominious death. He therefore begged the parliament to spare neither

him nor his brother prelates in the matter of defraying the expense of

bringing "Lutherans" to trial and death. The secular judges were of the

same mind with the prelates, and both took new courage from a

declaration of Francis himself, which the archbishop had recently heard

with his own ears at Angoulême. In the presence of Cardinal Tournon and

others, the king had assured him that "he desired that no

sacramentarian should be permitted to abjure, but that all such heretics

should be remorselessly put to death!"1 By such pitiless measures

did Francis still think to establish his unimpeachable loyalty to the

doctrine of transubstantiation.

Royal ordinance of Paris, July 23, 1543.

But, as ill success continued to attend every attempt to crush the

Reformation in France, it was necessary to find some plausible

explanation of the failure. The ecclesiastical counsellors of the king

alleged that they discovered it in the recent edicts themselves, which

they represented as derogating from the efficiency of both prelates and

inquisitors of the faith. To meet this new objection, Francis

complaisantly published another ordinance (on the twenty-third of July,

1543), carefully defining the respective provinces of the lay and

clerical judges. Prelates and inquisitors were authorized to proceed, in

accordance with canon law, to obtain information alike against clergymen

and laymen, in case of suspected heresy, and the secular judges were

strictly enjoined to afford them all

1 "Lui a dit qu'il voulait qu'aucun sacramentaire ne fût

admis à abjurer, ains fût puni de mort." Reg. secr. du Parl. de

Bordeaux, July 7, 1543, Boscheron des Portes, i. 47, 48.

needed assistance in execution of their writs of summons and
arrest. But all persons guilty of open heresy, and not actually
in holy orders, must be given over, together with the documents
relating to their offences, to the royal judges and to the courts
of parliament, and by them tried as seditious disturbers of the
peace and tranquillity of the commonwealth and of the king's

subjects, secret conspirators against the prosperity of his estate, and

rebels against his authority and laws.1 In order, however, to secure

to the ecclesiastical tribunals their full control over clergymen, it

was provided that any churchman condemned to banishment, or any other

punishment short of death, should immediately after the "amende

honorable," and before execution of sentence, be remitted to his

spiritual superiors to undergo deprivation of office, and such other

penalties as canon law might prescribe.2

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