The prelates' notion of a conference.
A full week elapsed before the Cardinal of Lorraine was ready to make
his reply. Meantime the prelates had met, and had resolved that, instead
of embracing a discussion of the entire field of controversy between the
two churches, the conference should be restricted to two points--the
nature of the church and the sacraments. It was even proposed that a
formula of faith should be drawn up and submitted to the Protestant
ministers. If they refused to subscribe to it, they were to be formally
excommunicated, and the conference abruptly broken off. Such was the
crude notion of a colloquy conceived by the prelates. No discussion at all, if
1 To her ambassador in Germany, instructed to defend her
course in convening the conference, however, she purposely exaggerated
her indignation, and gave a different coloring to the facts of the case.
"Mais estant enfin (de Bèze) tombé sur le fait de la Cene, il s'oublia
en une comparaison si absurde et tant offensive des oreilles de
l'assistance, que pen s'en fallut, que je ne luy imposasse silence, et
que je ne les renvoyasse tous, sans les laisser passer plus avant." She
accounts for the fact that she did not stop him, by noticing that he was
evidently near the end of his speech, and by the consideration that, "as
they are accustomed to take advantage of everything 'pour la
confirmation et persuasion de leur doctrine,' they would rather have
gained by such a command; and moreover, that those who had heard his
arguments would have gone away imbued with and persuaded of his
doctrine, without hearing the answer that might be made." Letter of
Cath. of Sept. 14th, ubi supra. Prof. Baum well remarks that "the last
words furnish the most irrefragable proof of the great and convincing
impression which the speech in general had made." Theod. Beza, ii. 263,
2 It is inserted in La Place, 168, 169, and Hist. ecclés.
des égl. réf., i. 328-330; De Thou, iii. (liv. 28) 69. Letter of Cath.,
possible!1 Otherwise only on those points where agreement
was most difficult, and it was easiest to excite the odium theologicum
of the by-standers. On the other hand, when this came to the ears of the
Protestants, they felt constrained to draw up another solemn protest to
the king against the folly of making the prelates judges in a suit in
which they appeared also as one of the parties--a course so impolitic
that it would rob the colloquy of all the good effects that had been
expected to flow from it.2
September 16th. Peter Martyr arrives. The Cardinal of Lorraine's reply.
The Huguenots to wait for their faith to grow old.
The remonstrance was not without its effect. On the next day, the
sixteenth of September, the same assemblage was again gathered in the
conventual refectory of Poissy, to hear the reply of the Cardinal of
Lorraine. The reformers appeared as on the previous occasion; but their
ranks had received a notable accession in the venerable Peter Martyr,
just arrived from Zurich. The prelates had, it is true, objected to the
admission of a native of Italy; for the invitation, it was urged, had
been extended only to Frenchmen. But the queen, who had greeted her
distinguished countryman with flattering marks of attention, interfered
in his behalf, and, at the last moment, announced it to be her desire
that he should appear at the colloquy.3 The same trickery that had
brought Beza to the bar, in order to give him the appearance of a
criminal put upon trial, rather than that of the representative of a
religious party claiming to possess the unadulterated truth, assigned
Charles of Lorraine a pulpit among his brother prelates, where, with a
theologian more proficient in theological controversy at his elbow, he
could assume the air of a judge giving his final sentence respecting the
matters in dispute.4 His long exordium was devoted to a
consideration of the royal and the sacerdotal
1 "Would that he had been dumb, or that we had been deaf!"
the Cardinal of Lorraine is said to have exclaimed in the prelatic
consultation. La Place and Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., ubi supra; J. de Serres, i. 273.
2 La Place, 170; Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 330, 331, where the protest is reproduced.
3 "Me excludere volebant adversarii, ne interessem, tanquam hominem peregrinum. Regina
tamen mater per Condæum principem eo ipso articulo, cum profisciscendum erat, evocavit
et adesse voluit." Letter of Martyr to the Senate of Zurich, Sept. 19, 1561, Baum, ii., App., 67.
4 Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 332.
authority, each of which he in turn extolled. Then passing to the particular
occasion of the convocation of so goodly a number of archbishops, bishops,
and theologians--to all of whom he professed himself inferior in
intelligence, knowledge, and eloquence--he expressed most sincere pity
for the persons who a week ago had, by the king's command, been
introduced into this assembly--persons long separated from the prelates
by a discordant profession of faith and by insubordination, but showing,
according to their own assertions, some desire to be instructed by
returning to this their native land and to the house of their fathers,
who stood ready to receive and embrace them as children so soon as they
should recognize the Church's authority. He would utter no reproaches,
but compassionate their infirmity. He would recall, not reject; unite,
not separate. The prelates had gladly heard the confession of faith the
Huguenots had made, and heartily wished that, as they agreed in the
words of that document, so they might also agree in the interpretation
of its articles. Dismissing the consideration of the remaining points,
as requiring more time than could be given on a single day, the cardinal
undertook to prove only two positions, viz.: that the Church is not an
invisible, but a visible organization, and that the Lord Jesus Christ is
really and bodily present in the Holy Supper. He then called upon the
reformed ministers, if, in their views respecting the eucharist, they
could accord neither with the Latin Church, nor with the Greek, nor with
the Lutherans of Germany, at least to seek that solitude for which they
seemed to long. "If you have so little desire to approach our faith and
our practice," he said, "go also farther from us, and disturb no longer
the flocks over which you have no legitimate charge, according to the
authority which we have of God; and, allowing your new opinions, if God
permit, to grow as old as our doctrine and traditions have grown, you
will restore peace to many troubled consciences and leave your native
land at rest." He urged Charles to cling steadfastly to the faith of his
ancestors, of whom none had gone astray, and who had transmitted to him
the proud title of "Very Christian" and of "First Son of the Church." He
exhorted the queen mother and
his other noble hearers to emulate the glorious examples set for their imitation
by Clotilde, who brought Clovis to the Christian religion, and by their own illustrious ancestry; and he concluded by declaring the unalterable determination
of the ecclesiastics of the Gallican Church never to forsake the holy, true,
and Catholic doctrine which they preached, and to sustain which they
would not spare their blood nor their very lives.1
Tournon's new demand. Beza asks a hearing.
Such was the substance of the speech of Charles of Lorraine, so long
heralded by his brother ecclesiastics and by the devout Roman Catholics
of the land as the sure refutation of all the heresies which the
reformers might advance. It was fitting that some signal proof of its
success should be given. Scarcely had Lorraine ceased when the whole
body of prelates arose and gathered around the throne. Tournon was again
their spokesman. He declared the full approval with which the Gallican
bishops regarded the address of the Cardinal of Lorraine. They were
ready, if need be, to sign it with their own blood, for it was in
accordance with the will of Christ and of his bride, our Mother Holy
Church. They begged Charles to give it full credit, and persevere in the
Catholic faith of his fathers. Let the Protestants sign what the
cardinal had said, as a preliminary to their receiving further
instruction. If they refused, let Charles purge his very Christian realm
of them, so that there might be only "une foy, une loy, un
roy."2 He was followed at once by Theodore Beza, who, on the
contrary, urged his Majesty to grant him the liberty
1 Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 332-348; La Place,
170-177; De Thou, iii. 70; J. de Serres, i. 273-280. The impression made
by the cardinal's speech upon his Romanist and Protestant hearers
differed widely. According to the Abbé Bruslart (Mém. de Condé, i. 52),
he spoke "en si bons et élégans termes, et d'une si bonne grace et
asseurance, que nos adversaires mesmes l'admiroient." Stuck makes him
speak "admodum inepte" (ap. Baum, ii., App., 66); while Beza writes:
"Nihil unquam audivi impudentius, nihil ineptius.... Cætera ejusmodi quæ
certe mihi nauseam moverunt" (Ib., 63, 64). Peter Martyr judged more
leniently (Ib., 67, 68). It is, therefore, hardly likely that Beza said,
as Dr. Henry White alleges without referring to his authority (Massacre
of St. Bartholomew, 64); "Had I the Cardinal's eloquence I should hope
to convert half France."
2 La Place, 178; Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., ubi supra;
Jean de Serres, i. 280; De Thou, iii. 71.
of replying on the very spot to the arguments of his opponent. But Catharine,
after a brief consultation with the members of the royal council seated near
her, denied the request, and adjourned the discussion until another
Advancing shadows of civil war.
The opportunity thus promised, however, seemed distant and doubtful. The
determination of the prelates to have nothing to do with any project for
a fair and equal conference was undisguised, and rumors were frequent
and ominous that the queen would yield before their resolute attitude.
The decision of the reformers, under these circumstances, was soon
taken: it was, that, if these repeated delays were persisted in, they
would leave the court, protesting against the injustice which had been
manifested to them and to their cause.2 Yet their anxiety was
great. That dark cloud of portentous aspect could be descried by all
sharp-sighted observers. It was the approaching storm of civil war,
every moment rising higher above the horizon.3 Even now its advent
was heralded by the anarchy pervading entire provinces--a righteous
retribution for the sanguinary legislation and the yet more barbarous
executions ordered by the courts of law, to repress the free action of
the human intellect in the most noble sphere in which its energies could
be exercised--the region of religious thought.
Another conference reluctantly conceded, September 24th.
Beza's reply to the Cardinal of Lorraine. Claude D'Espense.
Claude de Sainctes.
Another tedious week passed by. Again, in view of the threats of an
abrupt termination of the colloquy, the Huguenot ministers petitioned
Charles to give them a patient hearing;
1 La Place, etc., ubi supra; J. de Serres, i. 281.
2 "Nobis certum est," says Beza in a letter of Sept. 17th,"vel mox congredi vel protestatione
facta discedere, si pergant diem de die ducere." Baum, ii., App., 64.
3 "Quid novi sperare possim non video. Nempe vel ipsa necessitas aliquid extorquebit, vel,
quod Deus avertat, expectanda sunt omnia belli civilis incommoda. Quotidie ex diversis
regni partibus multa ad nos tristia afferuntur in utramque partem, quoniam utrinque peccatur
plerisque locis." Letter of Beza, Sept. 17th, ubi supra. In a similar strain Stuck writes on the next day: "In Gascony and Normandy scarcely an image is any longer to be seen; masses have ceased
to be said. Undoubtedly, unless the liberty of preaching and hearing the Gospel with
impunity be granted, there is great reason to fear an intestine war." Baum, ii., App., 67. Cf. Summa eorum, etc., apud Schlosser, Leben des Theodor de Beza, Anhang, 358, 359.
reminding him of the distance they had come--some of their number even from
foreign lands, relying on his royal word for a friendly interview with the prelates of his kingdom--in order to exhibit the inveterate abuses which the Pope and
his agents had introduced into the Church. Other remonstrances of like
tenor followed.1 At last, with great reluctance,2 the twenty-fourth
of September was selected for a third conference. The obstinate
resistance of the Romish ecclesiastics gained them one point.
The public character of the colloquy was abandoned.3 The large
refectory was exchanged for the small chamber of the prioress. The king
was not present. Catharine presided, and Antoine and Jeanne d'Albret,
with the members of the royal council, replaced the more numerous
assemblage of the previous occasions. Instead of the crowd of prelates
whose various and striking dress formed a notable feature of the
colloquy, there appeared five or six cardinals, about as many bishops,
and fifteen or sixteen theologians of the Sorbonne, laden with thick
folios--the writings of the Fathers of the first five centuries, with
which the Cardinal of Lorraine still professed his ability to confute
the Reformed.4 Again the twelve Huguenot ministers were admitted;
but the lay deputies
1 La Place, Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., Jean de Serres,
etc., ubi supra, Castelnau, l. iii., c. 4.
2 No wonder; the prelates had just solemnly decreed, as
Abbé Bruslart informs us (Mém. de Condé, i. 52): "Non erat congrediendum
cum his qui principia et fundamentum totius nostræ fidei et religionis
christianæ negant." Not only so; but they had protested against the
heretics being heard, and had declared that whoever conferred with them
would be excommunicated! "Disants que ceux qui conféreroient avec eux
seroient excommuniés." The reader, if he cannot admire their
consistency, will certainly be struck with astonishment at the fortitude
of the prelates who, a few hours later, could bring themselves with so
little apparent trepidation under the highest censures of the Church.
Bruslart goes on to tell us that it was the Cardinal of Lorraine who
brought them into this dreadful condemnation, partly hoping to convert
the Huguenots, partly to please Catharine de' Medici!
3 "Mais ce ne fut pas en si grande compagnie
qu'auparavant. Car Messieurs les preslats croignoyent que le monde ne
fut infecté de nos heresies, qu'ils appellent." Letter of Beza to the
Elector Palatine, Oct. 3, 1861, Baum, ii., App., p. 88.
4 Baum, Theodor Beza, ii. 311, 312.
of the churches were excluded.1 The discussion was long
and desultory. Beza began by replying to the first part of the
cardinal's speech, and showed that there is an invisible as
well as a visible church, and that the marks of the true church are the
preaching of God's Word and the right administration of the sacraments.
Not a succession of ministry from the apostles, but a succession of
doctrine is essential.2 He was followed by a theologian of the
Sorbonne, Claude D'Espense, who, after making the gratuitous admission
that he wholly disapproved of the persecutions to which the Protestants
had been subjected,3 attempted to prove that the Protestant
ministers had no "calling" to their office, and that recourse must be
had to tradition to explain and supplement the Holy Scriptures. When
Beza was about to reply, the floor was seized by a coarse Dominican
friar, one Claude de Sainctes, who in a scurrilous speech went over much
of the same ground, and, waxing more and more vehement, did not hesitate
to assert that tradition stood on a firmer foundation than the Bible
itself, which could be perverted to countenance the most opposite
doctrines.4 An hour and a half of precious time was wasted by this
unseasonable interruption, which had disgusted friend as well as foe.
Then Beza, after remonstrating against the long and irregular character
of the discussion, proceeded, amid frequent interruptions, to set forth
the views of the reformers respecting the extraordinary vocation which
they had received.
1 Ib., ubi supra, Hist. ecclés., i. 349. Letter of N.
des Gallars to the Bishop of London, Sept. 29th, Baum, ii., App., 80.
2 Beza's speech is given in full by La Place, 179-189;
Hist. eccl. des égl. réf., i. 350-362; and J. de Serres, i. 282-312. See
also De Thou, iii. 71, and N. des Gallars, ubi supra.
3 "Et hoc quidem prorsus inepte, quia neque conquesti
eramus, neque quemquam poterat videri magis accusare, quam eum ipsum
[sc. Cardinal Loth.] cui accesserat advocatus." Letter of Beza, Sept.
27th, apud Baum, ii., App., 75. It was Beza's firm belief that
D'Espense had been hired by Lorraine to compose his speech of the 16th
of September, as well as to defend him on the present occasion. He
therefore not inappositely calls him, in this letter to Calvin,
4 La Place, 189, 190; Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 364;
Jean de Serres, i. 315; Beza, ubi supra.
Lorraine demands subscription to the Augsburg Confession.
Beza's home thrust.
But this portion of the debate was soon closed by the Cardinal of
Lorraine, who, declaring that the doctrine respecting the Church had
been sufficiently considered, proposed the question of the sacraments,
asserting that the prelates refused to proceed with the conference until
this should be settled. He then demanded of the ministers whether they
would subscribe to the Augsburg Confession, which was received by the
Protestants of Germany. His object was manifest. He had long since
resolved on adopting this course, with the view of either setting the
French reformers at war with their brethren beyond the Rhine, or sowing
dissension in the ranks of the Huguenots themselves. Beza, however, was
not unprepared for the question. He replied by asking whether the
cardinal was himself ready to give the Augsburg Confession his
unqualified approval. The wily prelate parried this home thrust, and
still persisted in his inquiry. Under these circumstances, could the
reformers have relied upon the fairness of the conduct of the
conference, their course would have been clear. But, aware that their
distinct refusal to consider a formula which their opponents were not
themselves prepared to adopt would be seized upon as a welcome pretext
for abruptly breaking off the colloquy, Beza, after declaring that he
and his brethren were deputed by the French churches to maintain their
own confession, and that this document alone furnished the proper
subject for debate, asked that a copy of the articles which they were
required to sign might be furnished him for the deliberation of his
fellow-ministers. The request was granted; and, as the session ended, a
short extract was handed to him, which asserted the real presence of
Christ's body and blood in the sacrament, and its actual reception by
those who partook of the holy ordinance.1
Alternatives presented to the Huguenots. September 26th.
Beza claims fair play
Two days later the colloquy was renewed. The delay, which had at first
been a source of annoyance to the ministers, was now recognized by them
as a providential interference in their behalf.
1 La Place, 192; Jean de Serres, i. 321-323; Hist. ecclés. des égl. réf., i. 370; Beza to Calvin,
Baum, ii., App., 77; N. des Gallars to the Bishop of London, ibid., 81; De Thou, iii. 73.
What they had only surmised, they now learned with certainty from trustworthy
friends. Their hesitation to sign the Augsburg Confession was to be used as a
convenient handle for breaking up the conference; their refusal, for
involving them in a quarrel with Protestant Germany; their consent,
for causing their expulsion from the churches they had betrayed, or
splitting those churches up into many parts.1 Theodore Beza opened
the discussion by reading the reply which he had carefully prepared by
common consent of all his brethren. Never had his oratorical skill been
exhibited to better advantage. He began by showing the evident
impropriety of introducing, as his opponents had done in the last
conference, a discussion of the validity of the divine vocation of the
Protestant ministers; for they had come here to confer, not to
officiate--much less to witness the institution of the semblance of a
penal prosecution against them. The objectionable character of such a
debate would be the more manifest, should he address any supposed bishop
with whom he was disputing and who had inquired: "By what authority do
you preach and administer the sacraments?" and retort by asking him in
turn: "Were you elected by the elders of the church of which you are
bishop? Did the people seek for you? Were inquiries first made
respecting your life, your morals, and your belief?" or,
1 Letter of Beza to Calvin, Sept. 27th, ubi supra.
Besides permitting the communication of this information, the break in
the conferences (caused by the discovery, on Catharine's part, that the
majority of the prelates had resolved to submit a proposition respecting
the mass, drawn up in a strictly Romish sense--a refusal to sign which
they intended to take as the signal for declining to hold any further
intercourse with the Protestants) furnished an opportunity for Montluc,
Bishop of Valence--a prelate suspected of Protestant proclivities--and
Claude d'Espense, one of the most moderate of the theologians of the
Sorbonne, to meet privately, by request of Catharine de' Medici, with
Beza and Des Gallars. The result of their interview was the provisional
adoption of a declaration on the subject of the eucharist, which, though
undoubtedly Protestant in its natural import, was rejected by the rest
of the ministers as not sufficiently explicit. Hist. ecclés. des égl.
réf., ubi supra. See a full account in Baum, Theodor Beza, ii.
342-344. They rightly judged that where there is essential discrepancy
of belief, little or nothing can be gained by cloaking it in ambiguous
"Who ordained you? How much did you pay him?" The answers to such questions
would make many a bishop blush. Beza next reminded the cardinal of his promise
to confute the Protestants by the testimony of the Fathers of the first
five centuries. For a discussion based upon them the ministers had come
prepared. But now he brought them a single article on the Lord's Supper,
and imperiously said: "Sign this, or we will proceed no farther!" Even
were the Huguenots prisoners brought before him for trial, they would
not be so treated. Their very office required the prelates to speak
differently, for the bishop must be "able by sound doctrine both to
exhort and to convince the gainsayers."