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The Protestants of Paris viewed the matter in a different light. So soon as they heard that Beza had concluded not to accede to their request, they wrote again, on the tenth of August. In this letter they begged him, although it was already so late that they had little hope of his being able to reach Poissy in time to take part in the opening of the colloquy, at least to change his mind, and to set out as soon, and travel as expeditiously as possible, in order to succor those who had, in his absence, entered upon the contest. Already, seeing little eagerness on the part of the Protestants, their adversaries had begun to boast of victory. The common cry at Paris, even, was that the Protestants would not dare to maintain their errors "before so good a company." If the prelates should be allowed to adjourn without advantage being taken of the opportunity accorded the reformers of defending their faith, the nobles would be too much disgusted to interfere in their behalf a second time; and the queen had distinctly said that, in that case, she would never be able to believe that they had any right on their side. 

"As to the edict," they added, "which has induced you to adopt this resolution, although it is very bad, yet it can place you in no danger; for by it there is nothing condemned excepting the 'assemblies;' and as to simple heresy, as they call it, it can at most be punished only by banishment from the kingdom, without other loss. Moreover, we know with certainty that this edict was made for the sole purpose of contenting King Philip and the Pope, and drawing some money from the ecclesiastics. These ends are bad, but it seems to us that there is nothing in all this that ought to prevent our appearing for the maintenance of the truth of God, since it has pleased Him to give us the opportunity of coming forward and being heard, as we have so long desired."[1069] Two days later Antoine of Navarre added his solicitations in an earnest letter to the "Magnificent Seigniors, the Syndics and Council of the Seigniory of Geneva."[1070][Pg 497]bible society, bible society, bible society,

Beza comes to St. Germain.

That it was no personal fear which had occasioned Beza's delay was soon proved. Antoine had written on the twelfth of August; on the sixteenth, without waiting for a safe-conduct, the reformer was already on his way to St. Germain, acting upon the principle laid down by Calvin: "If it be not yet God's pleasure to open a door, it is our duty to creep in at the windows, or to penetrate through the smallest crevices, rather than allow the opportunity of effecting a happy arrangement to escape us."[1071] So expeditious, in fact, was Beza, that on the twenty-second of August he was in Paris.[1072] The next day he reached the royal court at St. Germain.

Beza's previous history.

The theologian whose advent had been so anxiously awaited was a French exile for religion's sake. Born, on the twenty-fourth of June, 1519, of noble parents, in the small but famous Burgundian city of Vezelay, none of the reformers sacrificed more flattering prospects than did Theodore Beza when he cast in his lot with the persecuted Protestants. At Bourges he had been a pupil of Wolmar, until that eminent teacher was recalled to Germany. At Orleans he had been admitted a licentiate in law when scarcely twenty years old. At Paris he gave to the world a volume of Latin poetry of no mean merit, which secured the author great applause. The "Juvenilia" were neither more nor less pagan in tone than the rest of the amatory literature of the age framed on the model of the classics. 

That they were immoral seems never to have been suspected until Beza became a Protestant, and it was desirable[Pg 498] to find means to sully his reputation. The discovery of the hidden depths of iniquity in the reformer's youthful productions it was reserved for the same prurient imaginations to make that afterward fancied that they had detected obscene allusions in the most innocent lines of the Huguenot psalter. At the age of forty-two years, Beza, after having successively discharged with great ability the functions of professor of Greek in the Académie of Lausanne, and of professor of theology in that of Geneva, was, next to Calvin, the most distinguished Protestant teacher of French origin. He was a man of commanding presence, of extensive erudition, of quick and ready wit, of elegant manners and bearing. No better selection could have been made by the Huguenots of a champion to represent them at the court of Charles the Ninth.[1073]

Wrangling of the prelates.

Meantime the prelates had been in session more than three weeks. But little good had thus far come of their deliberations. In vain, had the king delivered before them a speech in which he incited them "to provide such good means that the people might be induced to live in concord, and in obedience to the Catholic Church." In vain had he assured them that he would not give them permission to separate until they had made a satisfactory settlement of the religious affairs of the kingdom.[1074][Pg 499] The prelates much preferred to fritter away their time in the discussion of petty details of ecclesiastical order and discipline—in regulating the number of priests, settling the dignity of cathedral churches, prescribing the duties of bishops, and other matters of equal importance—"fancying that, in answering such questions, they were applying an efficacious remedy to the ills that desolated the church in these times of troubles and divisions."[1075] In the words of a minister of state, writing to a French ambassador on the very day of Beza's arrival at court, they intended to treat of the reformation of manners alone, "without coming to the point of doctrine, which they had as lief touch as handle fire."[1076]

Cardinal Châtillon's communion.

The doubtful allegiance of some of their own number to the Romish Church was a source of peculiar vexation. As the prelates were about to join in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, Cardinal Châtillon and two other bishops insisted upon communicating under both forms; and when their demand was refused, they went to another church and celebrated the divine ordinance with many of the nobility, all partaking both of the bread and of the wine, thus earning for themselves the nickname of Protestants.[1077]

Determination of Catharine and L'Hospital.

What with the disinclination of the bishops to enter into the consideration of the real difficulties that beset the kingdom, and the open hostility of the Pope and of Philip the Second[1078] to any assembly that bore the least resemblance to a national council, Catharine and her principal adviser, the chancellor, had an arduous and well-nigh hopeless task. They strove to quiet the King of Spain and the Pope by the[Pg 500] assurance that the prelates had only been assembled in order to prepare them to go in a body to attend the universal council soon to be convened. "Those who are dangerously ill," wrote Catharine in her defence, "may be excused for applying all herbs to their ache, in order to alleviate it when it becomes insupportable. Meanwhile they send for the good physician—whom I take to be a good council—to cure so furious and dangerous a disease." Only those who feel the suffering, she intimated, can talk understandingly with respect to its treatment.[1079]

A remarkable letter to the Pope.
Effect produced at Rome.

Catharine was not, however, satisfied with this general apology; she even undertook to express to the pontifical court her idea of some of the reforms which were dictated by the times.[1080] On the fourth of August—nearly three weeks before Beza's arrival—she wrote a letter to Pius the Fourth of so radical a character that its authenticity has been called into question, although without sufficient reason. After acquainting the Pope with the extraordinary increase in the number of those who had forsaken the Roman Church, and with the impossibility of restoring unity by means of coercion, she declared it a special mark of divine favor that there were among the dissidents neither Anabaptists nor Libertines, for all held the creed as explained by the early councils of the[Pg 501] Church. It was, consequently, the conviction of many pious persons that, by the concession of some points of practice, the present divisions might be healed. But more frequent and peaceful conferences must be held, the ministers of religion must preach concord and charity to their flocks, and the scruples of those who still remained in the pale of the Church must be removed by the abolition of all unnecessary and objectionable practices. 

Images, forbidden by God and disapproved of by the Fathers, ought at once to be banished from public worship, baptism to be stripped of its exorcisms, communion in both forms to be restored, the vernacular tongue to be employed in the services of the church, private masses to be discountenanced. Such were the abuses which it seemed proper to correct, while leaving the papal authority undiminished, and the doctrines of the Church unaffected by innovations.[1081] To such a length was a woman—herself devoid of strong convictions, and possessing otherwise little sympathy with the belief or the practice of the reformers—carried by the force of the current by which she was surrounded. But, whether the letter was dictated by L'Hospital, or inspired by Bishop Montluc—at this time suspected of being more than half a Huguenot at heart—the fact that a production openly condemning the Roman Catholic traditional usages on more than one point should have emanated from the pen of Catharine de' Medici, is certainly somewhat remarkable. At Rome the letter produced a deep impression. If the Pope did not at once give utterance to his serious apprehensions, he was at least confirmed in his resolution to redeem his pledge in respect to a universal council, and he must have congratulated himself on having already despatched an able negotiator to the French court, in the person of the Cardinal of Ferrara, a legate whose intrigues will occupy us again presently.[1082][Pg 502]

Beza's flattering reception.

Despite Pope and prelates, Beza met with the most flattering reception. He was welcomed upon his arrival by the principal statesmen of the kingdom. L'Hospital showed his eagerness to obtain the credit of having introduced him. Coligny, the King of Navarre, and the Prince of Condé betrayed their joy at his coming. The Cardinals of Bourbon and Châtillon shook hands with him. Indeed, the contrast between Bourbon's present cordiality and his coldness a year before at Nérac, provoked Beza to make the playful remark that "he had not undergone any change since the cardinal had refused to speak to him through fear of being excommunicated."[1083] Afterward, attended by a numerous escort,[1084] the reformer was conducted to the quarters of the Prince of Condé, where the princess and Madame de Coligny showed themselves "marvellously well disposed." On the morrow, which was Sunday, Beza preached in the prince's apartments before a large and honorable audience. Condé himself, however, was absent, engaged in making that unfortunate St. Bartholomew's Day reconciliation with the Duke of Guise, of which mention has already been made.[1085] Certainly neither Beza nor the other reformers could complain of the greeting extended to[Pg 503] them. "They received a more cordial welcome than would have awaited the Pope of Rome, had he come to the French court," remarks a contemporary curate with a spice of bitterness.[1086]

Beza meets Cardinal Lorraine.
The cardinal professes to be satisfied.
A witty woman's caution.

That very evening Beza and Lorraine crossed swords for the first time in the apartments of Navarre.[1087] The former, coming by invitation, was much surprised to find there before him not only Antoine and his brothers, but Catharine de' Medici and Cardinal Lorraine, neither of whom had he previously met. Without losing his self-possession, however, he briefly adverted to the occasion of his coming, and the queen mother in return graciously expressed the joy she would experience should his advent conduce to the peace and quietness of the realm. Hereupon the cardinal took part in the conversation, and said that he hoped Beza might be as zealous in allaying the troubles of France as he had been successful in fomenting discord—a remark which Beza did not let pass unchallenged, for he declared that he neither had distracted nor intended to distract his native land. From inquiries respecting Beza's great master, 

Calvin, his age and health, the discourse turned to certain obnoxious expressions which Lorraine attributed to Beza himself; but the latter entirely disclaimed being their author, much to the confusion of the cardinal, who had expected to create a strong prejudice against his opponent in the minds of the by-standers. The greater part of the evening, however, was consumed in a discussion respecting the real presence. Beza, while denying that the sacramental bread and wine were transmuted into the body and blood of Christ, was willing to admit, according to Calvin's views and his own, "that the bread is sacramentally Christ's body—that is, that although that body is now in heaven alone, while we have the signs with us on earth, yet the very body of Christ is as truly given to us and received by faith, and that to our eternal life, on account of God's promise, as the sign is in a natural manner placed in our[Pg 504] hands."[1088] The statement was certainly far enough removed from the theory of the Romish Church to have consigned its author to the flames, had the theologians of the Sorbonne been his judges. 

But it satisfied the cardinal,[1089] who confessed that he was little at home in a discussion foreign to his ordinary studies—a fact quite sufficiently apparent from his confused statements[1090]—and did not attempt to conceal the little account which he made of the dogma of transubstantiation.[1091] "See then, madam," said Beza, "what are those sacramentarians, who have been so long persecuted and overwhelmed with all kinds of calumnies." "Do you hear, cardinal?" said the queen to Lorraine. "He says that the sacramentarians hold no other opinion than that to which you have assented."[1092] With this satisfactory conclusion the discussion, which had lasted a couple of hours,[1093] was concluded. The queen mother left greatly pleased with the substantial agreement which the two champions of opposite creeds had attained in their first interview, and flattering herself that greater results might attend the public conferences. The cardinal, too, professed high esteem for Beza, and said to him, as he was going[Pg 505] away: "I adjure you to confer with me; you will not find me so black as I am painted."[1094] Beza might have been pardoned, had he permitted the cardinal's professions somewhat to shake his convictions of the man's true character. He was, however, placed on his guard by the pointed words of a witty woman. Madame de Crussol, who had listened to the entire conversation, as she shook the cardinal's hand at the close of the evening, significantly said, in a voice loud enough to be heard by all: "Good man for to-night; but to-morrow—what?"[1095] The covert prediction was soon fulfilled. The very next day the cardinal was industriously circulating the story that Beza had been vanquished in their first encounter.[1096]

A Huguenot petition.
Vexatious delay.
The petition informally granted.

The Protestant ministers, assembled at St. Germain about ten days before Beza's arrival,[1097] had, with wise forethought, presented to the king a petition embracing four points of prime importance.[1098] They guarded against an unfair treatment of the cause they had come to maintain, by demanding that their opponents, the prelates, should not be permitted to constitute themselves their judges, that the king and his council should preside in the conferences, and that the controversy should be decided by reference to the Word of God. Moreover, lest the incidents of the discussion should be perverted,[Pg 506] and each party should so much the more confidently arrogate to itself the credit of victory as the claim was more difficult of refutation, they insisted on the propriety of appointing, by common consent of the two parties, clerks whose duty it would be to take down in writing an accurate account of the entire proceedings. 

To so reasonable a petition the court felt compelled to return a gracious reply. The requests could not, however, be definitely granted, the ministers were told, without first consulting the prelates, and gaining, if possible, their consent.[1099] This was no easy matter. Many of the doctors of Poissy, and even some members of the council, maintained that with condemned heretics, such as the Huguenots had long been, it was wrong to hold any sort of discussion.[1100] Day after day passed, but the attainment of the object for which the ministers had come seemed no nearer than when they left their distant homes. They were not yet permitted to appear before the king and vindicate the confession of faith which they had, several months before, declared themselves prepared to maintain.[1101] Meantime it was notorious that their enemies were ceaselessly plotting to arrange every detail of the conference—if, indeed, it must be held—in a manner so unfavorable to the reformers, that they might rather appear to be culprits brought up for trial and sentence, before a court composed of Romish prelates, than as the advocates of a purer faith.[1102] 

At length, weary of the protracted delay, the Protestant[Pg 507] ministers presented themselves before Catharine de' Medici, on the eighth of September, and demanded the impartial hearing to which they were entitled; and they plainly announced their intention to depart at once, unless they should receive satisfactory assurances that they would be shielded from the malice of their enemies.[1103] It was well for the Protestants that they exhibited such decision. Catharine, who always deferred a definite decision on important matters until the last moment—a habit not unfrequently leading to the hurried adoption of the means least calculated to effect her selfish ends—was constrained to yield a portion of their demands. In the presence of the Protestants an informal decree was passed, with the consent of Navarre, Condé, Coligny, and the chancellor[1104]—those members of the council who happened to be in the audience chamber—that the bishops should not be made judges; that to one of the secretaries of state should be assigned the duty of writing out the minutes of the conference, but that the Protestants should retain the right of appending such notes as they might deem proper. The king would be present at the discussions, together with the princes of the blood. But Catharine peremptorily declined to grant a formal decree according these points. This, she said, would only be to furnish the opposite party with a plausible pretext for refusing to enter into the colloquy.[1105] Meanwhile she urged them to maintain a modest demeanor, and to seek only the glory of God, which she professed to believe that they had greatly at heart.[1106]

Last efforts of the Sorbonne to prevent the colloquy.

The Romish party, however, was unwilling to approach the[Pg 508] distasteful conference without a final attempt to dissuade the queen from so perilous an undertaking. As the Protestants left Catharine's apartments, a deputation of doctors of the Sorbonne entered the door. They came to beg her not to grant a hearing to heretics already so often condemned. If this request could not be accorded, they suggested that at least the tender ears of the king should be spared exposure to a dangerous infection. But Catharine was too far committed to listen to their petition. She was resolved that the colloquy should be held, and held in the king's presence.[1107]


[Pg 509]

CHAPTER XII.

THE COLLOQUY OF POISSY AND THE EDICT OF JANUARY.

The Huguenot ministers and delegates.

On Tuesday, the ninth of September, 1561, the long-expected conference was to be opened. That morning, at ten o'clock, a procession of ministers and delegates of the Reformed churches left St. Germain-en-Laye on horseback for the village of Poissy. The ministers, twelve in number, were men of note: Théodore de Bèze, or Beza, with whom the reader is already well acquainted; Augustin Marlorat, a native of Lorraine, formerly a monk, but now famous in the Protestant ranks, and the leading pastor in Rouen, a man over fifty years of age; François de Saint Paul, a learned theologian and the founder of the churches of Montélimart, a delegate from Provence; Jean Raymond Merlin, professor of Hebrew at Geneva, and chaplain of Admiral Coligny; Jean Malot, pastor at Paris; François de Morel, who had presided in the First National Synod of 1559, and had recently been given to the Duchess Renée of Ferrara, as her private chaplain; Nicholas Folion, surnamed La Vallée, a former doctor of the Sorbonne, now pastor at Orleans; Claude de la Boissière, of Saintes; Jean Bouquin, of Oléron; Jean Virel; Jean de la Tour, a patriarch of nearly seventy years; and Nicholas des Gallars, who, after having been a prominent preacher at Geneva and Paris, had for the past two years ministered to the large congregation of French refugees in London. It was a body of Huguenot theologians unsurpassed for ability by any others within the kingdom.[1108][Pg 510]

So high ran the excitement of the populace, stirred up by frequent appeals to the worst passions in the human breast, and by highly-colored accounts of the boldness with which the "new doctrines" had for weeks been preached within the precincts of the court, that serious apprehension was entertained lest Beza and his companions might be assaulted by the way.[1109] The peaceable ministers of religion were, therefore, accompanied by a strong escort of one hundred mounted archers of the royal guard. After a ride of less than half an hour, they reached the nuns' convent, in which the prelates had been holding their sessions.

Assembly in the nuns' refectory.
The prelates.

Meantime, an august and imposing assembly was gathered in the spacious conventual refectory.[1110] On an elevated seat, upon the dais at its farther extremity, was the king, on whose youthful shoulders rested the crushing weight of the government of a kingdom rent by discordant sentiments and selfish factions, and already upon the verge of an open civil war. Near him sat his wily mother—that "merchant's daughter" whose plebeian origin the first Christian baron of France had pointed out with ill-disguised contempt, but whose plans and purposes had now acquired such world-wide importance that grave diplomats and shrewd churchmen esteemed the difficult riddle of her sphinx-like countenance and character a worthy subject of prolonged study. 

Not far from their royal brother, were two children: the elder, a boy of ten years, Edward Alexander, a few years later to appear on the pages of[Pg 511] history under the altered name of Henry the Third, the last Valois King of France; the younger, a girl of nine—that Margaret of Valois and Navarre, whose nuptials have attained a celebrity as wide as the earth and as lasting as the records of religious dissensions. Antoine and Louis of Bourbon, brothers by blood but not in character; Jeanne d'Albret, heiress of Navarre, more queenly at heart than many a sovereign with dominions far exceeding the contracted territory of Béarn; the princes representing more distant branches of the royal stock, and the members of the council of state, completed the group. On two long benches, running along the opposite sides of the hall, the prelates were arranged according to their dignities. Tournon, Lorraine, and Châtillon, each in full cardinal's robes, faced their brethren of the Papal Consistory, Armagnac, Bourbon, and Guise, while a long row of archbishops and bishops filled out the line on either side. Altogether, forty or fifty prelates, with numerous attendant theologians and members of the superior clergy, regular and secular, had been marshalled to oppose the little band of reformers.[1111]

It was an array of pomp and power, of ecclesiastical place and wealth and ambition, of traditional and hereditary nobility, of all that an ancient and powerful church could muster to meet the attack of fresh and vigorous thought, the inroad of moral and religious reforms, the irrepressible conflict of a faith based solely upon a written revelation. The external promise of victory was all on the side of the prelates. Yet, strange to say, the engagement that was about to take place was none of their seeking. With the exception of the Cardinal of Lorraine, they were well-nigh unanimous in reprobating a venture from which they apprehended only disaster. Perhaps even Lorraine now repented his presumption, and felt less assured of his dialectic skill since he had tried the mettle of his Genevese antagonist. Rarely has battle been forced upon an army after a greater number of fruitless attempts to avoid it than those made by the French ecclesiastics, backed by the alternate solicitations[Pg 512] and menaces of Pius the Fourth, and Philip of Spain. Such reluctance was ominous.

On the other side, the feeling of the reformers was, indeed, confidence in the excellence of the cause they represented, but confidence not unmingled with anxiety.

Diffidence of Beza.

A letter written by Beza only a few days before affords us a glimpse of the secret apprehensions of the Protestants. "If Martyr come in time," he wrote Calvin, "that is, if he greatly hasten, his arrival will refresh us exceedingly. We shall have to do with veteran sophists, and, although we be confident that the simple truth of the Word will prove victorious, yet it is not in the power of every man instantly to resolve their artifices and allege the sayings of the Fathers. Moreover, it will be necessary for us to make such answers that we shall not seem, to the circle of princes and others that stand by, to be seeking to evade the question. In short, when I contemplate these difficulties, I become exceedingly anxious, and much do I deplore our fault in neglecting the excellent instruments which God has given us, and thus in a manner appearing to tempt His goodness. Meanwhile, however, we have resolved not to retreat, and we trust in Him who has promised us a wisdom which the world cannot resist.... Direct us, my father, like children by your counsels in your absence from us, since you cannot be present with us. For, simple children I daily see and feel that we are, from whose mouth I hope that our wonderful Lord will perfect the praise of His wisdom."[1112]

L'Hospital explains the objects in view.

The king opened the conference with a few words before the Protestants were admitted,[1113] and then called upon the chancellor to explain more fully the objects of the gathering. Hereupon Michel de L'Hospital, seating himself, by Charles's direction, on a stool at the king's right hand, set forth at considerable length the religious dissensions which had fallen upon France, and the ineffectual measures to which[Pg 513] the king and his predecessors had from time to time resorted. Severity and mildness had proved equally futile. Dangerous division had crept in. He begged the assembled prelates to heal this disease of the body politic, to appease the anger of God visibly resting upon the kingdom by every means in their power; especially to reform any abuses contrary to God's word and the ordinances of the apostles, which the sloth or ignorance of the clergy might have introduced, and thus remove every excuse which their enemies might possess for slandering them and disturbing the peace of the country. 

As the chief cause of sedition was diversity of religious opinion, Charles had acceded to the advice of two previous assemblies, and had granted a safe-conduct to the ministers of the new sect, hoping that an amicable conference with them would be productive of great advantage. He, therefore, prayed the company to receive them as a father receives his children, and to take pains to instruct them. Then, at all events, it could not be said, as had so often been said in the past, that the dissenters had been condemned without a hearing. Minutes of the proceedings carefully made and disseminated through the kingdom would prove that the doctrine they professed had been refuted, not by violence or authority, but by cogent reasoning. Charles would continue to be the protector of the Gallican Church.[1114]

The Huguenots are summoned.
Beza's retort.

These preliminaries over, the Protestants were summoned. Conducted by the captain of the royal guard, they entered and advanced toward the king, until their farther progress was arrested by a railing which separated the space allotted to the king and his courtiers, with the assembled prelates, from the lower end of the hall filled by a crowd of curious spectators.[1115] No place had been assigned the Protestants where they might sit during the colloquy on an equality with their opponents, the Romish ecclesiastics. They[Pg 514] were subjected to the paltry indignity of appearing in the guise of culprits brought to the bar to be judged and condemned. In truth, the spirit of conciliation which L'Hospital had been at so much pains to inculcate had found little welcome in the breast of the prelates. "Here come the Genevese curs," exclaimed a cardinal as the reformers made their appearance. "Certainly," quietly retorted Beza, whose ear had caught the insulting expression, turning to the quarter whence it came, "faithful dogs are needed in the Lord's sheep-fold to bark at the rapacious wolves."[1116]

Beza's prayer and address.

When the twelve ministers had reached the bar, Theodore Beza, at their request, addressed the king: "Sire, since the issue of all enterprises, both great and small, depends upon the aid and favor of our God, and chiefly when these enterprises concern the interests of His service and matters which surpass the capacity of our understandings, we hope that your Majesty will not find it amiss or strange if we begin by the invocation of His name, supplicating Him after the following manner."

As the orator pronounced these words, he reverently kneeled upon the floor. His colleagues and the delegates of the churches followed his example. A deep solemnity fell upon the assembly. According to one account of the scene, even the Roman cardinals stood with uncovered heads while the Huguenot minister prayed. Catharine de' Medici joined with still greater devotion, while King Charles remained seated on his throne.[1117] After a moment's pause, Beza, with hands stretched out to heaven, according to the custom of the reformed churches of[Pg 515] France,[1118] commenced his prayer with the confession of sins which in the Genevan liturgy of Calvin formed the introduction to the worship of the Lord's day.[1119]

"Lord God! Almighty and everlasting Father, we acknowledge and confess before Thy holy majesty that we are miserable sinners, conceived and born in guilt and corruption, prone to do evil, unfit for any good; who, by reason of our depravity, transgress without end Thy holy commandments. Wherefore we have drawn upon ourselves by Thy just sentence, condemnation and death. Nevertheless, O Lord, with heartfelt sorrow we repent and deplore our offences; and we condemn ourselves and our evil ways, with a true repentance beseeching that Thy grace may relieve our distress. Be pleased, therefore, to have compassion upon us, O most gracious God! Father of all mercies; for the sake of thy son Jesus Christ, our Lord and only Redeemer. And, in removing our guilt and pollution, set us free and grant us the daily increase of Thy Holy Spirit; to the end that, acknowledging from our inmost hearts our unrighteousness, we may be touched with a sorrow that shall work true repentance, and that this may mortify all our sins, and thereby bear the fruit of holiness and righteousness that shall be well-pleasing to thee, through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord and only Saviour.

"And, inasmuch as it pleaseth Thee this day so far to exhibit Thy favor to Thy poor and unprofitable servants, as to enable them with freedom, and in the presence of the king whom Thou hast set over them, and of the most noble and illustrious[Pg 516] company on earth, to declare that which Thou hast given them to know of Thy holy Truth, may it please Thee to continue the course of Thy goodness and loving kindness, O God and Father of lights, and so to illumine our understandings, guide our affections, and form them to all teachableness, and so to order our words, that in all simplicity and truth, after having conceived, according to the measure which it shall please Thee to grant unto us, the secrets Thou hast revealed to men for their salvation, we may be able, both with heart and voice to propose that which may conduce to the honor and glory of Thy holy name, and the prosperity and greatness of our king and of all those who belong to him, with the rest and comfort of all Christendom, and especially of this kingdom. O Almighty Lord and Father, we ask Thee all these things in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ, Thy Son our Saviour, as He Himself hath taught us to seek them, saying: 'Our Father, which art in heaven, etc.'"[1120]

His conciliatory remarks.

Having concluded his petitions, Beza arose from his knees, and addressed the king. His speech was graceful and conciliatory.[1121] 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[Pg 517] 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,[Pg 518] 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[Pg 519] 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.[1122] 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.[1123] It seemed for the[Pg 520] 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.[1124] 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.[1125]

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[Pg 521] 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.[1126]

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.[1127]/hugenots, huguenots, hugenot, huguenot,hugenots, huguenots, hugenot, huguenot,hugenots, huguenots, hugenot, huguenot

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