Online Biblical studies Rise of the Hugenots 29

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While the intrigues of the Duchess of Valentinois and other bigots had been successful at court, the enemies of the Hugue[Pg 474]nots had not been idle in other parts of France. Fearful of the effect which the apparent union between Catharine and the King of Navarre might produce in accelerating the advance of the reformed doctrines, they resolved to stir up the zeal of the populace—that portion of the people that retained the strongest devotion for the traditional faith—in the country as well as in the capital.[1024] Holy week furnished opportunities that were eagerly embraced. Fanatical priests and monks wrought up the excitable mob to a frenzy.[1025] When their passions had reached a fervent heat, it was easy to bring on seditious explosions, the blame of which could be attached to the other party. "Few cities in the realm," says Abbé Bruslart in his journal, "escaped at this time riots and tumultuous scenes occasioned by the new religion."[1026] Amiens, Pontoise, and Paris itself were among the scenes of these disorders. Twenty cities witnessed the slaughter of Protestants by the infuriated rabble.[1027]bible society, bible society, bible society,

The affair at Beauvais.

The disturbance that attracted more attention than any other took place in the episcopal city of Beauvais—about forty miles north of Paris—on Easter Monday, the very next day after Montmorency, Guise, and St. André had been confirming their inauspicious compact at the sacred feast in honor of a risen Redeemer. The Bishop of Beauvais was the celebrated Cardinal Odet de Châtillon, long suspected of being at heart a convert to the reformed doctrines. More bold than[Pg 475] he had formerly been, he now openly fostered their spread in his diocese.[1028] But even the personal popularity of the brother of Coligny and D'Andelot could not, in the present instance, secure immunity for the preachers who proclaimed the Gospel under his auspices. Incited by the priesthood, the people overleaped all the bounds within which they had hitherto contained themselves. The occasion was a rumor spread abroad that the Cardinal, instead of attending the public celebration of the mass in his cathedral church, had, with his domestics, participated in a private communion in his own palace, and that every communicant had, at the hands of the Abbé Bouteiller, received both elements, "after the fashion of Geneva." Hereupon the mob, gathering in great force, assailed a private house in which there lived a priest accused of teaching the children the doctrines of religion from the reformed catechisms. The unhappy Adrien Fourré—such was the schoolmaster's name—was killed; and the rabble, rendered more savage through their first taste of blood, dragged his corpse to the public square, where it was burned by the hands of the city hangman. Odet himself incurred no little risk of meeting a similar fate. But the strength of the episcopal palace, and the sight of their bishop clothed in his cardinal's costume, appeased the mob for the time; and before the morrow came, a goodly number of the neighboring nobles had rallied for his defence.[1029]

Assault on the house of Longjumeau.

If such riotous attacks followed the preaching of the ecclesiastics in the provinces, the demonstrations of hostility to the exercises of the Protestants could not be of a milder type in the midst of the turbulent populace of Paris, and within a stone's throw of the Collége de la Sorbonne. Toward the end of[Pg 476] April information was received that the city residence of the Sieur de Longjumeau, situated on the Pré aux Clercs, was becoming a haunt of the Huguenots. It was not long before the rabble, with ranks recruited from the neighboring colleges, instituted an assault. But they met with a resistance upon which they had not counted. Forewarned of his danger, Longjumeau had gathered beneath his roof a number of friendly nobles, and laid in a good supply of arms. The undisciplined crowd fled before the well-directed fire of the defenders, and left several men dead and a larger number wounded on the field. Not satisfied with this victory by force of arms, Longjumeau resorted to parliament. But the court displayed its usual partiality for the Roman Catholic faith. While it abstained from justifying the assailants, and forbade the students from assembling in the neighborhood, it reiterated the adage that "there is nothing more incompatible than the co-existence of two different religions in the same state,"[1030] censured the nobleman's conduct, and ordered him forthwith to retire to his castle at Longjumeau.[1031]

New and tolerant order.

The only salvation of France lay in putting an end to such alarming exhibitions of discord, from the frequent recurrence of which it was to be feared that the country stood upon the verge of civil war. For this reason, Catharine de' Medici yielded to the persuasions of Chancellor L'Hospital, and, on the nineteenth of April, caused a royal letter to be addressed to all the judges, in which the practice of self-control and tolerance was enjoined. Insulting expressions based on differences of religion were strictly forbidden. The very use of[Pg 477] the hateful epithets of "Papist" and "Huguenot" was proscribed. Far from offering a reward for denunciation, the king proclaimed it criminal to violate the sanctity of the home for the alleged purpose of ferreting out unlawful assemblages. He again ordered the release of all imprisoned for religion's sake, and extended an invitation to exiles to return to their homes, if they would live in a Catholic manner, granting them permission, if they were otherwise disposed, to sell their property and leave the kingdom.[1032]

Opposition of the Parliament of Paris.

It would have been not a little surprising if so tolerant an edict, even though it did little more than repeat the provisions of the last royal letters on the same subject (of the twenty-eighth of January), had been accepted without opposition by the Romish party.[1033] Still more strange if parliamentary jealousy had not taken umbrage at the neglect of immemorial usage, when the letter was sent to the lower courts before having received the honor of a formal registry at the hands of the Parisian judges. It is difficult to say which offence was most resented. Toleration, parliament remonstrated, was a tacit approval of a diversity of religion—a thing unheard of from Clovis's reign down to the present day. Kings and emperors—nay, even popes—had[Pg 478] fallen into error and been proclaimed heretical or schismatic, but never had such calamity befallen a king of France. It were better for Charles to make open profession of his intention to live and die in his religion, and to enforce conformity on the part of his subjects, than to open the door wide to sedition by tolerating dissent. Better to renew the prohibition of heretical conventicles, and to reiterate the ancient penalties. Particularly ill-advised was it that Charles should be made to pronounce seditious those who applied the names "Papist" and "Huguenot" to their opponents, for it seemed to establish side by side two rival sects, although the name of the one was so novel as never to have found a place in any former missives of the crown.[1034]

Popular cry for Protestant pastors.

The refusal of the Parisian parliament to verify the edict in the customary manner prevented its universal observance; but, notwithstanding this untoward circumstance, it proved exceedingly favorable to the development of the Huguenot movement.[1035] Scarcely a month after its publication, Calvin, in a letter to which we have more than once had occasion to refer, expressed his astonishment at the ardor with which the French Protestants were pressing forward to still greater achievements. The cry from all parts of Charles the Ninth's dominions was for ministers of the Gospel.[1036] "The eagerness with which pastors[Pg 479] are sought for on all hands from us is not less than that with which sacerdotal offices are wont to be solicited among the papists. Those who are in quest of them besiege my doors, as if I must be entreated after the fashion of the court; and vie with each other, as if the possession of Christ's kingdom were a quiet one. And, on our part, we desire to fulfil their earnest prayers to the extent of our ability; but we are thoroughly exhausted; nay, we have for some time been compelled to drag from the book-stores every workman that could be found possessed even of a slight tincture of literature and religious knowledge."[1037]

The letters that reached Calvin and his colleagues by every messenger from Southern France—many of which have recently come to light in the libraries of Paris and Geneva—present a vivid picture of the condition of whole districts and provinces. From Milhau comes the intelligence that the mass has for some time been banished from the place, but that a single pastor is by no means sufficient; he must have a colleague, that one minister may take exclusive care of the neighboring country, "where there is an infinite number of churches," while the other remains in the city. Everywhere there is an abundance of hot-headed persons who, by their breaking of crosses and images, and even plundering of churches, give the adversary an opportunity for calumniating. "May the Lord, of His goodness, be pleased to purge His church of them!"[1038]

Moderation of the Huguenot ministers.

In these most difficult circumstances—while, on the one hand, the demand for ministers was largely in excess of the supply, and, on the other, the folly of certain inconsiderate enthusiasts seemed likely to draw upon the great body of Protestants the unwarranted charge of disorder and insubordination to law—the Huguenot ministers fearlessly took a position that strikingly exhibits their excellent judgment, as[Pg 480] well as their high moral principle. They declined to countenance a policy which offered, to say the least, bright temporary advantages. They refused to trust the vessel freighted with their best hopes for the future of France, to be carried into port on the treacherous waves of popular excitement. They preferred to abate somewhat of the proper demands which they might have exacted with success, that they might deprive their enemies of the slightest ground for maligning their loyalty to their native land and its legitimate king. When the Protestants of Montauban—a town then beginning to assume a religious character which it has never since lost—learned that they had been falsely accused of having revolted from the king, and of having elected a governor of their own, established a polity similar to that of the Swiss cantons, and coined money as an independent state, they not only refuted the charges to the satisfaction of the royal lieutenant sent to investigate the truth,[1039] but they discontinued the public celebration of the Lord's Supper, in order to avoid even the appearance of unwillingness to obey the king's commands. At the same time they wrote to Geneva an earnest request that, notwithstanding the need of teachers in France, no persons that had been monks or chaplains should be admitted to the ministry unless after long and careful scrutiny. They did more harm, they disquieted the churches more, they said, than the most violent persecutions that had befallen the Protestants. For they refused to submit to discipline, made light of the decisions of their brethren, and, while seeking only their own pleasure, drew odium upon the ministers who endeavored to uphold good order among the people.[1040]

Inconsistent laws and practice.
Judicial perplexity.

The position of the Huguenots was certainly anomalous, and presented the strangest inconsistencies. The royal letters enjoined that no inquiries should be made with the view of dis[Pg 481]turbing any one for religion's sake; the Parliament of Paris refused to register these letters and obey the provisions; the still more fanatical counsellors of the Parliament of Toulouse rather increased than diminished their severities, and daily consigned fresh victims to the flames.[1041] It was natural that the clergy should take advantage of these circumstances to renew their remonstrances against the continuance of the existing toleration. The Cardinal of Lorraine seized the opportunity afforded him by the solemn ceremonial of Charles's anointing at Rheims (on the thirteenth of June, 1561) to present to the queen mother the collective complaints of the prelates, because, so far from witnessing the rigid enforcement of the royal edicts, they beheld the heretical conventicles held with more and more publicity from day to day, and the judges excusing themselves from the performance of their duty by alleging the number of conflicting laws, in the midst of which their course was by no means easy. He therefore recommended the convocation of the parliament with the princes and members of the council, that, by their advice, some permanent and proper settlement of this vexed question might be reached.[1042] Catharine, who, in the publication of the letters-patent of April, had followed the advice of Chancellor L'Hospital, and seemed to lean to the side of toleration, now yielded to the cardinal's persuasions—whether from a belief that the mixed assembly which he proposed to convene would pursue the path of conciliation already pointed out by the government, or from a fear of alienating a powerful party in the state.

The "Mercuriale" of 1561.

On the twenty-third of June, Charles, accompanied by his mother, by the King of Navarre, and the other princes of the blood, and by the council of state, came to the chamber of parliament, and the chancellor announced to the assembled members the object of this extraordinary visit.[Pg 482] It was to obtain advice not respecting religion itself—that was reserved for the deliberation of the national council, and its merits could not be discussed here—but respecting the best method of appeasing the commotions daily on the increase, caused by a diversity of religious tenets. He therefore begged all present to express in brief terms their opinions on this important topic. It is not surprising that the answers given should have been of the most varied import. Ever since the time of Henry the Second, the Parliament of Paris had contained a considerable number of friends, more or less open, of Protestantism, and among the princes and noblemen who came to join in the deliberation, the number of its warm advocates was proportionately still greater. At the same time, the Roman Catholic party was largely represented in the ranks of the members of the parliament proper, as recent events had indicated; while, among the high nobility and the dignitaries of the church, the weight of the constable and the Duke of Guise, the cardinals of Bourbon, Tournon, Lorraine, and Guise, and the Bishop of Paris, counterbalanced the influence of the King of Navarre, the Prince of Condé, the Châtillons, and the chancellor. Five or six different opinions were announced by the successive speakers;[1043] but they could all be reduced to three. The more tolerant advocated the suspension of all punishments until the determination of the questions in dispute by a council. A second class, on the contrary, maintained the propriety and expediency of enforcing the laws which made death the penalty of heretical[Pg 483] belief. The rest—and they mustered in the end a majority of three[1044] over the advocates of toleration, while they were much more numerous than the champions of bloody persecution—advised the king to give to the ecclesiastical courts exclusive cognizance of heresy, according to the provisions of the Edict of Romorantin, and to forbid the holding of public or private conventicles, whether with or without arms, in which sermons should be preached or the sacraments administered otherwise than according to the customs of the Romish Church.[1045] Such was the result of the deliberations of the Mercuriale of June and July, 1561,[1046] in the course of which opinions had been freely expressed far more radical than those of Anne Du Bourg in the Mercuriale of 1559.

The "Edict of July."
Disappointment at its severity.

The edict for which the direction had been thus marked out was published on the eleventh of July, 1561.[1047] It has become celebrated in history as the "Edict of July." After reiterating the injunctions of previous royal letters, and forbidding all insults and breaches of the peace, on pain of the halter, Charles was made to prohibit "all enrollings, signatures, or other things tending to sedition." Preachers in the churches were strictly commanded to abstain from uttering words calculated to excite the popular passions or prejudice. The most important portion of the law, however, was that which punished, by confiscation of body and goods, all who attended, whether with or without arms, conventicles in which preaching was held or the holy sacraments administered. Of simple heresy the cognizance was still restricted, as by the edict of Romorantin in the previous year, to the church courts; but no higher penalty could be imposed on the guilty, when handed[Pg 484] over to the secular arm, than banishment from the kingdom. The punishment of all offences in which public disorder or sedition was mingled with heresy, remained in the hands of the presidial judges.[1048] These were the leading features of this severe ordinance. It is true that the edict was expressly stated to be only provisional—to last no longer than until the Universal or National Council, whichever might be held—that pardon was offered to those who would live in a Catholic manner for the future, that calumny was threatened with exemplary punishment. Yet it was clear that the law was framed in the interest of the Roman Catholics, and in their interest alone. The Duke of Guise openly exulted. He exclaimed in the hearing of many, "that his sword would never rest in its scabbard when the execution of this decision was in question."[1049] The disappointment of the Protestants was not less extreme. At court, Admiral Coligny did not hesitate to declare that its provisions could never be executed.[1050] The farther they were removed from St. Germain, the more loudly the Huguenots murmured, the greater was their indisposition to submit to the harsh conditions imposed upon them. In Guyenne and Gascony, and in Languedoc, where whole towns were to be found containing scarcely one avowed partisan of the papacy, the discontent was open and threatening. How long did the bigots of Paris intend to keep their eyes closed and refuse to recognize the altered aspect of affairs? Until what future day was the simplest of rights—the right of the social and public worship of God—to be proscribed? Must the inhabitants of entire districts continue, month after month, and year after year, to stand in the eye of the law as culprits, with the halter around their necks, and beg mercy of a despised priesthood and a dissolute court, for the crime of assembling in the open field, in the school-houses, or even in the parish churches,[Pg 485] where their fathers had worshipped before them, to listen to the preaching of God's word?

Iconoclasm at Montauban.

With the rising excitement the power of the ministers to control the ardor of their flocks steadily declined. How could the people be moderate, or even prudent, when their rights were so thoroughly ignored? The events of Montauban during August and the succeeding months, may serve to illustrate the growing impatience of the laity. Until now, as we have seen, the earnest warnings of their pastors had generally been successful in restraining the Huguenots from touching the symbols of a hated system so temptingly exhibited before their eyes. But, a few weeks after the unofficial intelligence of the enactment of the edict of July had reached the city, the work of destruction commenced. On the night of the fourteenth of August the Church of St. Jacques received the first bands of iconoclasts. The pictures and images were torn down or hurled from their niches and destroyed; but the chalices, the silver crosses, and other precious articles, were left untouched. The object was neither robbery nor plunder. A week later, the same fate befel the paintings in the church of the Augustinians. After another and a shorter interval, the chapels of St. Antoine, St. Michel, St. Roch, St. Barthélemi, and Notre Dame de Baquet, witnessed similar scenes of destruction. It was at this juncture that the edict of July was brought to Montauban and publicly proclaimed. Nothing could have been more inopportune. The raging fever of the popular pulse had been mistaken for a transient excitement, and the specific now administered, far from quenching the patient's burning thirst, only stimulated it to a more irrepressible craving. That very evening (Tuesday, the twenty-sixth of August), the people, irritated beyond endurance, gathered around the Dominican church. The monks, forewarned of their danger, had taken the precaution to fortify themselves. They now rang the tocsin, but no one came to their rescue, and the stronghold was speedily taken. The assailants, however, cherished no enmity toward God's image in human flesh and bones. So, after effectually destroying all man's efforts to represent the Divine likeness in stone or on canvas, the Huguenots proceeded to the Carmelite Church.[Pg 486] Here rich trophies awaited them—a "Saint Suaire" and relics, which, on close inspection, were found to be the bones of horses instead of belonging to the saintly personages whose names they had borne. The reader will scarcely feel surprise to learn that the monks—with the single exception of the Franciscans—now judged that the time for them to leave the city had arrived.

Instructed by the somewhat suggestive example of the fate that had befallen their brethren, the black and white friars, and, doubtless considering discretion the better part of valor, the priests of the collegiate church of St. Stephen abandoned their preparations for defence, and, stipulating only for their own safety, gave up their paintings to be consigned to the flames. A bonfire was kindled on one of the public squares; and while the sacred pictures and images thrown upon it were being slowly consumed, bands of children looked on and chanted in chorus the metrical paraphrase of the ten commandments. The city being thus cleared of its public objects of superstitious devotion,[1051] the people next turned their attention to those of a more private character. As the crowds moved along the streets they earnestly appealed to the inmates of the houses to follow the noble example the churches had set them. We are informed by a contemporary record that the iconoclasts carefully abstained from trespassing, and confined themselves to an exhibition of those passages of Sacred Writ in which an idolatrous worship was prohibited. But, if the brief argumentation for which the rapidity of the transaction allowed time was not in all cases sufficient to produce entire conviction, it may be presumed that any remaining scruples were removed by the contagion of the popular enthusiasm. Montauban was purged of image-worship as in a day, and without the injury of man, woman, or child.[1052]

The Edict cannot be executed.
Impatience with "public idols."

Coligny was right. The Edict of July could not be carried into execution in those parts of France where, as in Montauban, the mass of the population had openly adopted Protestantism.[Pg 487] If the resistance encountered was often accompanied by an earnestness that disdained to be trammelled by the customary forms of civil law, it was almost always exercised in accordance with the dictates of natural justice. If the people, emancipated from the service of images, believed themselves to possess an indisputable right to dash in pieces or burn the curiously wrought saints sculptured in marble or portrayed by the painter's pencil, this fact is less wonderful than that they scrupulously spared the lives of the priests and monks to whose pecuniary advantage their former worship had principally redounded. The plain Huguenot, like the plain Christian in the primitive age, was fully persuaded that he had an owner's title in the public idol, which not only justified him in destroying it when he had discovered its vanity, but rendered it his imperative duty to execute the natural impulse. As for the obligation of nine-tenths of the population to use the idol tenderly, because of any rightful claim of the remaining tithe, this was a consideration that scarcely occurred to them.

Calvin endeavors to repress it.

Nor were they very solicitous respecting the dangers that might arise from over-precipitancy. Not so with Calvin, from whose closely logical intellect the influence of a thorough training in the principles of French law had not been obliterated. Never was disapprobation more clearly expressed than in the reformer's letter to the church of Sauve—a small town in the Cevennes mountains, a score of miles from Nismes—where a Huguenot minister, in his inconsiderate zeal, had taken an active part in the "mad exploit" of burning images and overturning a cross. This conduct Calvin regarded as the more reprehensible in one "whose duty it was to moderate others and hold them in check." He denied that "God ever enjoined on any persons to destroy idols, save on every man in his own house, or in public on those placed in authority," and he demanded that this "fire-brand" should exhibit his title to be lord of the territory in which he had undertaken to exercise so distinct a function of royalty. "In thus speaking," he added, "we are not become the advocates of the idols. Would to God that idolatry might be exterminated, even at the cost of our[Pg 488] lives! But since obedience is better than all sacrifice, we must look to what is lawful for us to do, and must keep within our bounds." "Have pity, very dear brethren," he wrote in conclusion, "on the poor churches, and do not wittingly expose them to butchery. Disavow this act, and openly declare to the people whom he has misled, that you have separated yourselves from him who was its chief author, and that, for his rebellion, you have cut him off from your communion."[1053] Calvin's advice was that of the whole body of Protestant divines in France and its neighborhood. Even an idolatrous worship must not be overturned by violent means.

Re-assembling of the States at Pontoise.
Able harangue of the "Vierg" of Autun.

The States General, after having been first summoned to meet at Melun on the first of May, and then prorogued, when it was found that some of the particular States had introduced the consideration of the public affairs of the kingdom, instead of devising means for the payment of the royal debt,[1054] finally met at Pontoise on the first of August. It does not come within the scope of this history to dwell at great length upon the proceedings of this important political assembly. The States were bold and decided in tone. It was only after finding that those who had a clear right to the regency were unwilling to assert it, that they consented, in deference to the request of Du Mortier, Admiral Coligny, and Antoine himself, to ratify the contract between Catharine de' Medici and the King of Navarre.[1055] Nearly four weeks were spent in the discussion of the subjects that were to be incorporated in the "cahiers," or bills of remonstrance to be presented to the king. It was at the solemn reception of the three orders in the great hall of the neighboring castle of St. Germain-en-[Pg 489]Laye,[1056] on the twenty-seventh of August, that the "tiers état" expressed with greatest distinctness its sentiments respecting the present condition of the realm. Jacques Bretagne, vierg[1057] of the city of Autun, a townsman of the clerical orator of the first of January, whose arrogance had inspired such universal disgust, was their spokesman. After reflecting with considerable severity upon the deficiency of the clergy in sound learning and spirituality—qualities for which they ought to be pre-eminently distinguished—he took an impressive survey of the excessive burdens of the people—burdens by which it had been reduced to such deep poverty as to be altogether unable to do anything to relieve the crown until it had obtained time to recruit its exhausted resources.[1058] He declared it to be utterly inconceivable how such enormous debts had been incurred, while the purses of the "third estate" had been drained by unheard-of subsidies. As he had before exhibited the obligations of the clergy by biblical example, so the orator next proved, by reference to the Holy Scriptures, that it was the duty of Charles to cause his subjects to be instructed by the preaching of God's word, as the surest foundation of his regal authority. Then, approaching the vexed question of toleration, he declared that never had monarch more reason to study the Word of Life than the youthful King of France amid the growing divisions and discords of his realm. The different opinions[Pg 490] held by Charles's subjects, he said, arose only from their great solicitude for the salvation of their souls. Both parties were sincere in their profession of faith. Let persecution, therefore, cease. Let a free national council be convened, under the presidency of the king in person, and let sure access be given to it. In fine, let places be conceded to the advocates of the new doctrines for the worship of Almighty God in the open day, and in the presence of royal officers; for the voluntary service of the heart, which cannot be constrained, is alone acceptable to heaven. From such toleration, not sedition, but public tranquillity, must necessarily result. And lest the ordinary allegation of the necessary truth of the Papal Church, on account of its antiquity, should be employed to corroborate the existing system of persecution, the deputy of the people reminded the king and court that the same argument might be rendered effective in hardening Jews and Turks in their ancient unbelief. "We need not busy ourselves in examining the length of time, with a view to determining thereby the truth or falsity of any religion. Time is God's creature, subject to Himself, in such a manner that ten thousand years are not a minute in reference to the power of our God!"[1059]

Written demands of the tiers état.

If the harangue of the orator of the third estate was alarming to the clergy, its written demands were little calculated to reassure them. For of several propositions made for the payment of the public debts from the ecclesiastical property, none were very satisfactory to the priests. According to one, all benefices were to be laid under contribution. The holders of the lowest in valuation were to give up one-fourth of their revenues; the holders of more valuable benefices a larger proportion; while the high dignitaries of the church were to be limited to a yearly stipend of six thousand livres for[Pg 491] bishops, eight thousand for archbishops, and twelve thousand for cardinals. But the most obnoxious scheme was one proposing an innovation of a very radical character. The aggregate revenues of the temporalities of the Gallican Church were estimated at four million livres; the temporalities themselves were worth one hundred and twenty millions. It was gravely proposed to dispose of all this property by sale. Forty-eight millions might be reserved, which, if invested at the usual rate of one-twelfth, or eight and a-third per cent., would secure to the clergy the revenue they now enjoyed. Forty-two millions would be required to pay off the debts of the crown. The remaining thirty millions might be deposited with the chief cities of the kingdom, to be loaned out to foster the development of commerce; while the moderate interest thus obtained would suffice to fortify the frontiers and support the soldiery.[1060]

Representative government demanded.

The constitutional changes proposed by the formal cahier of the third estate were of an equally radical character. They looked to nothing short of a representative government, protected by suitable guarantees, and a complete religious liberty.[Pg 492] On the one hand, the monarch was to be guided in the administration by a council of noblemen and learned and loyal subjects. Except in the case of princes of the blood, no two near relatives, as father and son, or two brothers, should sit at the same time in the council; while ecclesiastics of every grade were to be utterly excluded, both because they had taken an oath of fealty to the Pope, and because their very profession demanded a residence in their respective dioceses. On the other hand, the States General were to be convened at least once in two years, and no offensive war was to be undertaken, no new impost or tax to be raised, without consulting them. Happy would it have been for France, had its people obtained, by some such reasonable concessions as these, the inestimable advantage of regular representation in the government! At the price of a certain amount of political discussion, a bloody revolution might, perhaps, have been avoided.

In the matter of religion, the third estate recommended, first of all, the absolute cessation of persecution and the repeal of all intolerant legislation, even of the edict of July past; grounding the recommendation partly on the failure of all the rigorous laws hitherto enacted to accomplish their design, partly on the greater propriety and suitableness of milder measures. And they judiciously added, with a charitable discernment so rare in that age as to be almost startling: "The diversity of opinions entertained by the king's subjects proceeds from nothing else than the strong zeal and solicitude they have for the salvation of their souls."[1061] Strange that so sensible an observation should be immediately followed by a disclaimer of any intention to ask for pardon for seditious persons, libertines, anabaptists, and atheists, the enemies of God and of the public peace!

An impartial national council.

It was natural that, in accordance with these views, the third estate should call for the convocation of a national council to settle religious questions, to be presided over by the king himself, in which no one having an interest in retarding a reformation should sit, and where the word of God should be the sole guide in the decision of doubt[Pg 493]ful points. Meanwhile, the third estate proposed, that in every city a church or other place should be assigned for the worship of those who were now forced to hold their meetings by night because of their inability to join with a good conscience in the ceremonies of the "Romish Church"—for so the document somewhat curtly designated the establishment.[1062]

The French prelates at Poissy.

While the States General were occupied at Pontoise in considering the means of relieving the king's pecuniary embarrassments, Catharine had assembled at Poissy all the bishops of France to take into consideration the religious reformation which the times imperatively demanded. The Pope as yet delayed the long-promised œcumenical council, and there was little hope of obtaining its actual convocation on fair and practical terms unless, indeed, he should be frightened into it by the superior terrors of a French national council, which might throw France into the arms of the Reformation. Tired of the duplicity of the pontiff, alarmed by the rapid progress of religious dissensions at home, not unwilling, perhaps, to make an attempt at reconciliation, which, if successful, would confirm her own authority and remove the anxieties to which she was daily exposed—now from the side of the Guises, and again from that of the Huguenots—the queen mother had yielded to the suggestion frequently made to her, and had consented to a discussion between the French prelates and the most learned Protestant ministers.[1063][Pg 494]

Invitation to all Frenchmen,
and particularly to Beza.
The couriers of Rome stripped.

Accordingly, on the twenty-fifth of July an invitation had everywhere been extended by proclamation at the sound of the trumpet, to all Frenchmen who had any correction of religious affairs at heart, to appear with perfect safety and be heard before the approaching assembly at Poissy.[1064] Even before this public announcement, however, steps had been taken to secure the presence of the most distinguished orator among the reformed, and, next to Calvin, their most celebrated theologian. On the fourteenth of July, the Parisian pastors, and, on the succeeding days, the Prince of Condé, the Admiral, and the King of Navarre, had written to Theodore Beza, begging him to come and thus take advantage of the opportunity offered by the favorable disposition of the royal court.[1065] Similar invitations were sent to Pietro Vermigli—the celebrated reformer of Zurich, better known by the name of Peter Martyr—a native of Florence, now just sixty-one years of age, whose eloquence, it was hoped, might exercise a deep influence upon his countrywoman, the queen mother.[1066] So ear[Pg 495]nest, indeed, was the court in its desire to bring about the conference, that Catharine, well aware that, should tidings of the project reach the ears of the Pope, he would leave no stone unturned to frustrate her design, gave secret orders that all the couriers that left France for Rome about this time should be stripped of their despatches on the Italian borders! This daring step was actually executed by means of the governors of cities in Piedmont, who were devoted to her interests.[1067]

French sincerity doubted.

In spite of this flattering invitation, however, there was much in the condition of French affairs, especially in view of the edict of July just published, that made the two Swiss reformers and their colleagues hesitate before undertaking a mission which might possibly prove productive of less benefit than injury to the cause they had at heart. Well might they suspect the sincerity of a court from which so unfair an ordinance as that of July had but just emanated. What good results could flow from an interview for which the blood-stained persecutor of their brethren, Charles, Cardinal of Lorraine, professed his eagerness, promising himself and his friends an easy victory over the Huguenot orators?[1068]/hugenots, huguenots, hugenot, huguenot,hugenots, huguenots, hugenot, huguenot,hugenots, huguenots, hugenot, huguenot

3rd world war

9/11 documentary

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Abraham movie

A call to medical evangelism

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Adventist home book

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Aids a hoax

Aims of the Papacy

Alberto Rivera

Alejandro Bullon

Amy grant

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An appeal to mothers

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Asscherick david

Asscherick david the certain identity of the antichrist

Asscherick david eyes wide shut

Asscherick david what do you expect?

Asscherick david prophecy answers

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Audio bible

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Babylonian connection

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Best of christian rap

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Marqué à jamais

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Maybe on sunday

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Recovery from mental illness

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Ring of power

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Salomon movie

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Sex in the Bible


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Steps to Christ book


Switchfoot 2

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Theology debates

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Time and creation Wilder smith

Toby mac

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Tree 63

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Visiter le paris protestant

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Voice of prophecy

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What is creation science?

Who controls the world?

Who has infiltrated the usa?

Why my mother did not become a Jehovah's witness?

Wintley phipps

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World revolution

Yolanda adams

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Your health your choice