History of the rise of the huguenots



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His conciliatory remarks.

Having concluded his petitions, Beza arose from his knees, and addressed

the king. His speech was graceful and conciliatory.2 It was a great

privilege, he said, for a faithful and affectionate subject to be

permitted to see his prince, and thus to be more clearly impressed with

the fealty and submission which is his due. Still happier was he if

permitted to be seen by his prince, and, what was more important, to be

heard, and finally accepted and approved by him. To these great

advantages a part of Charles's very humble and obedient subjects, much

to their regret, had long been strangers. It were sufficient ground for

gratitude to God to the end of their days that now at length they were

granted an audience before the king and so noble and illustrious a

company. But, when the same day that admitted them into the royal

presence also invited, or rather kindly and gently constrained them with




1 La Place, 159; Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 316.

2 "De Bèze portant la parole pour tous les autres,

commença et continua longuement sa rémonstrance en assez doux termes, se

soûmettant souventefois, si l'on montroit par la Sainte Escriture," etc.

Letter of Catharine de' Medici to the Bishop of Rennes, Sept. 14, 1561,

apud Le Laboureur, Add. Castelnau, i. 733.

common voice to confess the name of their God, and declare the

obedience they owed Him, their minds were so incompetent to conceive,

their tongues so inadequate to utter the promptings of their hearts,

that they preferred to confess their impotence by modest silence rather

than to disparage so great a benefit by the defect of their words. Yet

one of the points they had so long desired was still unfulfilled, and

that the most important, namely the acceptance of their service as

agreeable. Would to God that so happy a termination might by their

coming be put, not so much to their past sufferings--of which the memory

was well-nigh extinguished by this joyful day--as to the troubles that

had afflicted the kingdom in consequence of religious dissensions, and

to the attending ruin of so great a number of the king's poor subjects.
The Huguenots victims of calumny. Their creed.

Points of agreement. His declaration as to the body of Christ.

What, then, had hitherto prevented the Huguenots from obtaining a boon

so long and ardently desired? It was the belief entertained by some that

they were, through ambition or restless love of innovation, the enemies

of all concord, and the impression in the minds of others that their

arrogance demanded impossible conditions of peace. The prejudice arising

from this and other sources to which he avoided an allusion, lest he

might seem to be reopening old wounds, was so strong, that the reformed

would have good reason to give way to despair, were they not sustained

by a good conscience, by their assurance of the gentleness and equity of

Charles and the illustrious princes of the blood, and by a charitable

presumption that the prelates with whom they had come to confer were

disposed to exert themselves with them in the common endeavor rather to

make the truth clear than to obscure it. Respecting the extent of the

differences between the prelatic and the reformed beliefs, those who

represented them as of insignificant importance, and those who made them

as great as between the creed of Christians and the creed of Jews or

Moslems, were equally mistaken. If in some of the principal articles of

the Christian faith there was full agreement, on others, alas! there was

an opposition between their tenets. The orator here enumerated in

considerable detail the articles of the ancient creeds in which the

Huguenot, not less than the Roman Catholic,

professed his concurrence. What then, some one would say, are not these
the terms of our belief? In what are we at variance? To which inquiry the
true answer was, that the two sides differed not only because they gave some
of these articles divergent interpretations, but because the Church had built
upon this foundation a structure that comported little with it, "as if the

Christian religion were an edifice which was never finished." To speak

with greater detail, the reformed maintained, in opposition to the

Romish theory, that there could be no satisfaction for sin save in

Christ, and that to suppose the blessed Saviour to pay but a part of the

price of man's salvation, would be to rob him of his perfect mercy, and

of his offices of prophet, priest, and king. They agreed with the

Romanists neither in their definition of justifying faith, nor in their

account of its origin and effects. The same might be said respecting

good works. And, again, as to the Holy Scriptures, they received the Old

and New Testaments as the word of God and the complete revelation of all

that is necessary for salvation, and consequently, as the touchstone for

testing the Fathers, the councils, and the traditions of the Church. Two

points remained for consideration: the sacraments and the government of

the Church. "We are agreed, in our opinion," said Beza, "regarding the

meaning of the word sacrament. The sacraments are visible signs by means

of which our union with our Lord Jesus Christ is not merely signified or

set forth, but is truly offered to us on the Lord's side, and therefore

confirmed, sealed, and, as it were, engraved by the Holy Spirit's

efficiency in those who by a true faith apprehend Him who is thus

signified and presented to them. We, consequently, agree that in the

sacraments there must necessarily supervene a heavenly, a supernatural

change. For we do not assert that the water of holy baptism is simply

water, but that it is a true sacrament of our regeneration, and of the

washing of our souls in the blood of Jesus Christ. So also we do not say

that the bread is simply bread, but the sacrament of the precious body

of our Lord Jesus Christ which was offered up for us. Yet we do not say

that this change takes place in the substance of the signs, but in the

use and end for which they are ordained." The reformer

then touched upon the doctrines of transubstantiation and consubstantiation;


both of which he rejected. "If then," he continued, "some one asks us, whether

we make Jesus Christ absent from His Holy Supper, we answer that we do

not. But, if we regard the local distance (as we must do, when His

corporeal presence and His humanity distinctly considered are in

question), we say that His body is as far removed from the bread and

wine as the highest heaven is from the earth; since, as to ourselves, we

are on the earth, and the sacraments also; while, as to Him, His flesh

is in heaven, so glorified that his glory, as says St. Augustine, has

not taken away from Him the nature, but only the infirmity of a true body."
Outcry of the theologians of the Sorbonne.

The last words of the sentence were inaudible, except to those who were

close to the speaker. The words, "We say that His body is as far removed

from the bread and wine as the highest heaven is from the earth," had

fired the train to the magazine of concealed impatience and anger

underlying the studied external calmness of the prelatical body. An

explosion instantly ensued. The cry, "Blasphemavit! Blasphemavit Deum!"

resounded from every quarter.1 Beza's voice was drowned in the

noisy expressions of disapproval by which the theologians of the Sorbonne
sought to testify their own unimpeachable orthodoxy.2 It seemed for the


1 "His solumodo verbis Cardinales atque Episcopi usque

adeo exasperati atque exacerbati sunt, ut in hæc verba, orationem ipsius

interpellates, proruperint: blasphemavit, blasphemavit Deum! Sed eorum

adversis admurmurationibus D. Beza minime perturbatus, eodem vultu,"

etc. Letter of Joh.. Guil. Stuckius to Conrad Hubert, Sept. 18, 1561, Baum, ii., App., 66.

2 "Da Beza eine schöne Oration gethon, darinn er kurtz

perstringiert alle strytigen Artikel, und als er letstlich kom uff den

Artikel von der Gegenwirtikeit Christi im Sacrament, und under anderm

gesagt das sige so veer von einander als der Himmel von der Erden,

habend die Sorbonischen angfangen klopfen, rütschen, brummlen, das

nieman nüt mer mögen hören, dess die alte Königin übel zufriden gsyn.

Dessgleichen auch der Cardinal von Lutringen und sy gheissen in Stille

losen, man werde sy doch hernach auch gutwilliklich verhören." Letter of

Haller to Bullinger, Sept. 25, 1561, Baum, ii., App., 73. "Cela fut

trouvé si nouveau et estrange entre les prélats, que soubdain ils

commencèrent tous à murmurer et faire un grand bruict; lequel toutesfois

estant aucunement appaisé," etc. La Place, 167, 168. "Hic enim mussitare

Cardinales et Episcopi, et tantum non vestes scindere." Letter of Martyr

to the Senate of Zurich, Sept. 12, 1561, Baum, ii., App., 63.

moment as if the ecclesiastics would continue their repetition of the
words and actions of the Jewish high-priest in the ancient Sanhedrim,
and break up the conference with the exclamation: "What further
need have we of witnesses? Behold, now ye have heard his

blasphemy." Some of the prelates arose as if to leave, and Cardinal

Tournon went so far as to address himself to Charles and beg him either

to impose silence upon Beza, or to permit him and his brother

ecclesiastics to retire. But no notice was taken of his request.1

On the contrary, the queen and the Cardinal of Lorraine felt constrained

to express their displeasure at this outburst of passion on the part of

the prelates, and their desire that the conference should proceed.2


Beza's peroration.

When the storm had somewhat spent its violence, and comparative silence

had been restored, Beza, in no wise discomposed by the uproar, resumed

his interrupted discourse. He deemed it unnecessary to dwell upon the

matter of the administration of holy baptism, he said, for none could

confound the reformers with the Anabaptists, who found no more

determined enemies than they were. With respect to the other five

sacraments of the Romish Church, while the reformed refused to designate

them by that name, they believed that among themselves true confirmation

was established, penitence enjoined, marriage celebrated, ordination

conferred, and the visitation of the sick and dying practised,

conformably to God's Word. The last point--the government of the

Church--Beza despatched with a few words; for, appealing to the prelates

themselves to testify to the results of their recent deliberations, he

described the structure ecclesiastic as one in which everything was so

perverted, everything in such confusion and ruin, that scarce could the

best architects in the world, whether they considered the present order

or had regard to life and morals, recognize the remains, or detect the

traces of that ancient edifice so symmetrically laid out and reared by

the apostles. He closed by declaring the fervent desire of those whose

spokesman he was


1 Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 327.

2 Letter of Haller, ubi supra.

for the restoration of the Church to its pristine purity, and by making


on their behalf a warm profession of loyalty and devotion to their
earthly king. As he concluded, Beza and his associates again
kneeled in prayer. Then rising, he presented anew to Charles the

confession of faith of the reformed churches, begging him to receive it

as the basis of the present conference between their delegates and the

Romish prelates.1


Cardinal Tournon tries to cut short the conference.

As soon as Beza had ended his speech, Cardinal Tournon, the oldest

member of the Papal consistory in France, and presiding officer in the

convocation of the prelates, rose, trembling with anger, and addressed

the king. It was only by express command of Charles, he said, that the

prelates had consented to hear "these new evangelists." They had

hesitated from conscientious scruples, fearing, with good reason, as the

event had proved, that they would utter words unworthy of entering the

ears of a very Christian king, and calculated to offend the good people

around him. It was for this reason that the ecclesiastical convocation

had instructed him, in such case, humbly to entreat his Majesty to give

no credit to the words of him who had spoken for "those of the new

religion," and to suspend his judgment until he had heard the answer

they intended to give. But for their respect for the king, he said, the

prelates, on hearing the abominable blasphemies pronounced in their

hearing, would have risen and broken off the colloquy. He prayed Charles

with the greatest humility to persevere in the faith of his fathers, and

invoked the Virgin Mary and the blessed saints of paradise that thus it

might be.2


1 The admirable speech of Theodore Beza is given word for

word by La Place, 159-167, and somewhat modernized by the Hist. ecclés.

des égl. réf., i. 316-327. Cf. De Thou, iii. 67, 68; Castelnau, 1. iii.,

c. 4; Abbé Bruslart, Mém. de Condé, i. 51; Letters of Stuck, Haller, and

Martyr, ubi supra. Summa eorum quæ a die 22. Augusti usque ad 15.

Septembr. in aula regis Galliæ acta sunt, apud F. C. Schlosser, Leben

des Theodor de Beza und des Peter Martyr Vermili (Heidelberg, 1809),

Appendix, 355-359. Discours des Actes de Poissy, ubi supra, 652-657.



2 Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 327; La Place, 168; De

Thou, iii. 68; Letter of Haller, ubi supra; Actes de Poissy, Recueil

des choses mém., 657, 658.
Catharine's decision.

How long the age-stricken cardinal, the active persecutor of an entire

generation of reformers, would have proceeded in his diatribe against

the "blasphemy" of the Genevese doctor, is doubtful. He was cut short in

the midst of it by the queen mother, who, in a decided tone, informed

him that the plan of the conference had been adopted only after mature

deliberation, with the advice of the council of state and by consent of

parliament. No change or innovation was contemplated, but the appeasing

of the troubles incident upon diversity of religious sentiment, and the

restoration to the right path of such as had erred. The matter in hand

was to demonstrate the truth by means of the simple Word of God, which

should be the sole rule. "We are here," she said, "for the purpose of

hearing you on both sides, and of considering the matter on its own

merits. Therefore, reply to the speech of Sieur de Bèze which you have

just heard." "The speech was too long for us to undertake to answer it

on the spur of the moment," responded Tournon, in a more tractable tone;

but he promised that, if a copy of it were given to them in writing, a

suitable refutation would soon be forthcoming on the part of the

prelates.1 Thus the conference broke up for the day.
Advantages gained.

It could not be denied that Beza had spoken with great effect. For the

first time in forty years the Reformation had obtained a partial

hearing. The time-honored fashion of condemning its professors without

even the formality of a trial had for once been violated; and, to the


1 The response of the queen is concisely given by La

Place, the Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., the Actes de Poissy, and De Thou

(ubi supra); but the graphic account upon which the text is based is

found in the letter of Haller to Bullinger, Sept. 25, 1561, which Prof.

Baum discovered at Zurich, and has published in the volume of documents

which figures as an appendix to the second volume of his extremely

valuable biography of Beza. It is superfluous for me to acknowledge

formally my obligations to this rich storehouse of original authorities,

since the frequent references that I have already made, and shall

doubtless have occasion for some time to make, to its separate

documents, will sufficiently attest the high estimate I place upon its

value. The correspondence of the reformers is always an important

commentary upon the contemporaneous history. In the present instance,

much of the most trustworthy information is derived from it. Prof.

Baum's own narrative is admirable (Book iv., c. 5).

satisfaction of some and the dismay of many, it was found that the

arguments that could be alleged in its behalf were neither few nor

insignificant. The Huguenots had acquired a new position in the eyes of

the court; that was certain. They were not a few seditious persons, who

must be put down. They were not a handful of enthusiasts, whom it were

folly to attempt to reason with. The child had become a full-grown man,

whose prejudices--if prejudices they were--must be overcome by calm

argument, rather than removed by chastisement.1 If the studied

arrangement of the bar at the Colloquy of Poissy had been employed by

the petty malice of their opponents in order to give them the aspect of

convicted culprits, public opinion, unbiassed by such solemn trifling,

regarded the disputants as equals in the eye of the law, and attempted

to derive from the bearing of the champions some impression concerning

the justice of their respective positions.

The change in the basis for the settlement of the controversy was not

less apparent. For an entire generation the advocates of Protestantism

had been pressing the claims of the Holy Scriptures as the ultimate

authority for the decision of all doubtful questions. The only reply was

a reference to the dogmas of the Church, and the demand of an

unconditional submission to them. Beza had only reiterated the offer,

made a thousand times by his fellow-reformers, to surrender at once his

religious position should it be rendered untenable by means of proofs

drawn from the Scriptures. Cardinal Tournon had again made the trite

rejoinder of the clergy; but sensible persons were tired of the

unsatisfactory repetition. Catharine had given expression to the

peremptory requisition of all enlightened France when she announced the

sole appeal as lying to the "simple Word of God."


Brilliant success of Beza.

From this exhibition of his brilliant oratorical powers, and from those

displays that shortly followed, Theodore Beza acquired

1 "Car d'y proceder à present par la force," writes

Catharine de' Medici at this very time, "il s'y voit un si éminent

peril, pour estre ce mal penetré si avant comme il est, que je n'en suis

en sorte du monde conseillée par ceux qui aiment le repos de cet Estat."

Letter of Sept. 14th, apud Le Laboureur, i. 734.

the highest reputation both with friend and foe. Even those who would have


it that "he deceived the people," that his acquirements were superficial, that

he lacked good judgment, and, on the whole, had "a very hideous soul,"

could not help admitting that he was of a fine presence, ready wit, and

keen intellect, and that his excellent choice of language and ready

utterance entitled him to the credit of eloquence.1 On the other

hand, nothing could exceed the admiration and love excited by his ardent

espousal of their cause in the breasts of the Protestants in all parts

of the kingdom. His appearance at Poissy became their favorite episode

in recent history. His portrait was hung up in many a chamber. He was

almost adored by whole multitudes of Frenchmen,2 as one whom noble

birth, learning, and brilliant prospects had not deterred from following

the dictates of his conscientious convictions; whom security in a

foreign land had not rendered indifferent to the interests of the land

of his birth; whose persuasive eloquence had won new adherents to the

cause of the oppressed from among the rich and noble; who had maintained

the truth unabashed in the presence of the king and "of the most

illustrious company on earth."
His frankness justified.

Nor will the candid student of history, if he but consider the attitude

of the prelates at the colloquy of Poissy, be more inclined than were

the Protestants of his own day to censure Theodore Beza for any degree

of alleged injudiciousness exhibited in that celebrated sentence in his

speech which provoked the outburst of indignation on the part of Tournon

and his colleagues. What, forsooth, had their reverences


1 The testimony of Marc' Antonio Barbaro is the more

interesting from the reluctance he manifests to say any good of the

reformer, whom he blames for a great part of the progress of the

Huguenots in France. "È d'assai bello aspetto, ma d'animo molto

brutto, perciocchè, oltra l'eresie sue, è sedizioso e pieno di vizii e

di scelerità, che non racconto per brevità. Ha vivo spirito, e ingegno

acuto, ma non è prudente, nè ha ponto di giudizio. Mostra d'esser

eloquente, perchè parla assai con belle parole e prontamente," etc. Rel.

des Amb. Vén., i. 52.

2 "Ha operato tanto con la sua lingua, che non solamente

ha persuaso infiniti, massimamente dei nobili e grandi, ma è quasi

adorato da molti nel regno, i quali tengono nelle camere la figura sua."

Ib., ubi supra.


come to the colloquy expecting to hear from the lips of the reformed orators?
If not the most orthodox of sentiments--more orthodox than many
sentiments whose proclamation had been tolerated in their own private

convocation--was there not a moderate allowance of hypocrisy in their

pretended horror at the impiety of the heretic Beza? For certainly it

was scarcely to be anticipated by the most sanguine that he would

profess an unwavering belief in the transmutation of the substance of

the bread and wine into the very body and blood of Jesus Christ that

suffered on the cross; seeing that for a little more than a third of a

century those of whom he was the avowed representative had, it must be

admitted, pretty clearly testified to the contrary on a thousand

"estrapades" from the Place de Grève to the remotest corner of France.

Surely this extreme sensitiveness, this refined orthodoxy, unable to

endure the simple enunciation of an opinion differing from their own on

the part of an avowed opponent, savored a little of affectation; the

more so as it came from prelates whose solicitude for their flocks had

been manifested more in the way of seeking to obtain as large a number

of folds as possible, than in the way of giving any special pastoral

supervision to one, and who found a more congenial residence at the

dissolute court where pleasures and preferment could best be obtained,

than in obscure dioceses where a rude peasantry were thirsting for

instruction in the first rudiments of a Christian education. The truth

was--and no one was so blind as not to see it--that the Romish prelates

had come determined to seize the first good opportunity to break up the

colloquy, because from the colloquy they had good reason to apprehend

serious injury to their interests. Nothing short of a complete betrayal

of his cause by Beza could have precluded this.1


1 So Calvin's eye saw in an instant, and he applauded

Beza's boldness. "Your speech is now before us," he wrote to Beza, Sept.

24th, "in which God wonderfully directed your mind and your tongue. The

testimony which stirred up the bile of the holy fathers could not but be

given, unless you had been willing basely to tergiversate and to expose

yourself to their taunts." "I wonder that they were thrown into

agitation respecting this matter alone, since they were not less

severely hit in other places. It is a stupid assertion that the

conference was broken off in consequence of this ground of offence. For

those who now, by rabidly laying hold of one ground, after a certain

fashion subscribe to the rest of the doctrine, would have found out a

hundred other grounds. This also has, therefore, turned out happily."

Calvini Epistolæ, Opera, ix. 157.

Had he been never so cautious, he could not have avoided giving some handle


to those who were watching him so closely. Not the nature of the sentiment
he expressed, but the danger lest the prelates might take advantage of it

to refuse peremptorily to proceed with the colloquy, was the true ground

of Catharine's displeasure.1 In order to remove this, so far as it

might be based upon any misapprehension of the import of his words, Beza

addressed to the queen, on the next day, a dignified but conciliatory

letter of explanation.2

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