History of the rise of the huguenots

The prelates' notion of a conference

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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.,

ubi supra.

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,

"conductitius Balaam."

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."

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