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In like manner, it was just when the Reformation, an internal and regenerating force, desired to vindicate its right of existence, that is, to become an earthly power, that it lost all at once its original purity. We have already watched an ecclesiastical and a theological organization impose shackles upon the conscience, and prepare the way for the despotism of intellectual formulas : now the nobility are about to bring with them an element of worldliness unknown to the learned men who had propagated the Reformation, and to the people who had at first adopted it. The party which numbered among its adherents, Coligny, d’Andelot, Lanoue, Soubise, Mornay, Jeanne d'Albret, the true heroes of duty, likewise contained Condé and the Navarres, father and son, who had changed their faith without changing their morals—who were, as Brantôme tells us, more ambitious than religious," and quite as much devoted to pleasure as to ambition. How far are we now from the spirit of the martyrs !
At the death of Henry the Second, Catharine de Medicis and all the princes of the royal blood, with the exception of one cardinal, were favourable to the new religion ; but the indolent and frivolous Antoine de Bourbon, with whom lay the direction of affairs under the young king Francis the Second, suffered the Guises to seize the power of the state. Their fanaticism and their political designs concurred in recommending a furious persecution. They struck terror into the principal towns of France by their confiscations, their pillages, their capital sentences, and their atrocious cruelties (1560). Their insolence and despotism, however, armed against them, in the conspiracy of Amboise, the whole of the nobility, who entered into it more from discontent than from attachment to the Huguenot party. This conspiracy had for its object to drive from power the princes of Lorraine, to entrust the guardianship of the king to the princes of the blood, and to procure the convocation of the Estates. The plot, directed by La Renaudie, miscarried ; twelve hundred of the conspirators perished by tortures, at which the ladies of the court, and the young princes, Henry the Second and his brother, afterwards Charles the Ninth, were present, as an after-dinner amusement.
It was a strange age in which the stake and the revival of letters, the Institution Chrétienne of Calvin and the Gargantua of Rabelais,* Huguenot austerity and infamous dissoluteness, the adorable gentleness of the martyrs and the most execrable ferocity of their persecutors, met face to face. No age set less value on human life. The thrones of Europe were filled with poisoners and assassins : Catharine, Charles the Ninth, Mary Stuart, Philip the Second, whose servants were butchers of men; the Guises, and the Duke of Alva, who received the blessings of Popes ; Paul IV., St. Pius V., Gregory XIII. and Sixtus V., whose single word was extermination, and who glorified the exalted deeds of such men as Jacques Clément, Parry, Zimmermann, Salcède and Balthazar Gérard. It was an age drunk with fanaticism, which seems to have taken for its motto the maxim adopted by the bishops at the Conference of Poissy-One God, one king, one faith, one law! Catholicism strove to drown Protestantism in blood ; and Protestantism, in its turn, wherever it had the power, would not tolerate the exercise of the Catholic worship. It seems as if the people had been inspired by the training which they had received from Popery, with a rage for religious unity. Nevertheless, a new principle is about to arise even from the midst of these horrors and torrents of blood, namely, the principle of toleration.
The Chancellor de L'Hopital, a man in advance of his age, opposed persecution like a true disciple of the gospel. “Henceforth it will be necessary for us,” he declared to the Assembly of Notables at Fontainebleau, in 1650, “to arm ourselves with virtue and good morals; and then to assail them (the Protestants) with the weapons of charity, prayers, persuasion, and words of God, which alone are becoming in such a warfare. Example is better than precept, as the proverb tells us. The knife is of little avail against the spirit
, unless it be to destroy the soul along with the body. Gentleness will do more than severity. Let us then away with those diabolical words, Lutheran, Huguenot, Papist, names which carry factions and seditions with them; let us abide by the name Christian.”+ Jean de Montluc, Bishop of Valence, and Charles de Marillac, both suspected of Huguenot tendencies, held the same language, which is also that of De Thou in the Preface to his History: "Religion is independent of commands; and torture has no effect upon it..... We are bound to confess that, in all the monuments of sound antiquity, there is not an approved example of the punishment of heretics; and that the ancient church always looked with horror on the shedding of blood." Later, Duplessis-Mornay also said, “There is neither Huguenot nor Catholic: whoever is a good Frenchman, I hold to be a fellow-citizen and a brother.” Bodin, too, in his République (1577), asks that the state should resist the introduction of new sects, but should not attempt to force them into uniformity when once in existence.
* These two books appeared in the same year. + Th. de Bèze, Hist. Eccl. I. 266.
Not only was the Reformation a living thing in France, but it had increased to such an extent as to be no longer able to conceal itself. “A fourth part of the kingdom is Huguenot,” wrote L'Hopital to the Pope; the nuncio Prosper de St. Croix went farther, and said, one half.” Hitherto worship had only been celebrated in secret, often during the night, in woods and remote places; but from the year 1560, it began to be solemnized in public. The fury of the Guises burst forth at this innovation; orders were issued by them, “that the country should be cleared of the multitude of rabble who lived in the Genevese fashion." In some parts, the Huguenots even destroyed the images and the altars in the churches of which they had taken possession for their own meetings. Calvin found fault with this excess of zeal, which could only lead to an increase of persecution and barbarity.*
The death of Francis the Second happily removed the Guises for awhile from the court, and the Protestants, who had charged Coligny with the duty of claiming, from the Assembly of Notables at Fontainebleau, the right of having churches of their own, and of being exempt in future from condemnation as heretics, had the delight, in April, 1561, of seeing an edict issued in favour of toleration. A crowd of distinguished personages sought for ministers to attach them as chaplains to their households. In vain did Calvin daily send forth pastors from his school at Geneva; the number was insufficient to supply the wants of the multitudes who abandoned the Church of Rome. Beza, who had
* Lettres de J. Calrin, published by J. Bonnet, II. 463.
come to France to be present at the conference of Poissy, preached at the Château of St. Germain to immense crowds of people, among whom might be observed the whole court.
Heresy was seen entering in triumph into the palace of the Most Christian King," says the Jesuit Maimbourg ;* "and it might be said that, at that time, it exercised there a full and perfect sway. All the court appeared to be Calvinistic; and during Lent flesh-meat was served at every table." But the Guises returned to power; the edict of toleration was recalled; the country populations were excited to massacre ; and by the edict of July, 1562, the Catholicism of France was saved.
On the other hand, L'Hopital continued his work as a philanthropist and a Christian, by promulgating for the first time (at the assembly of St. Germain, 1562), the idea, so beautiful, so truly religious, so far in advance of the age, of the possible co-existence of the two religions, or, in other words, of respect for the conscientious convictions of others. “ Is it not possible,” he asked, “to be a good subject without being a Catholic, or even a Christian? Cannot citizens who differ in their religious opinions live in good fellowship with each other? Trouble not yourselves, then, to try to find out which of the two religions is the better; we are here, not to establish a dogma of faith, but to set in order the state.”+ Thus, by distinguishing between the domain of religion and of the civil power, between the province of faith and of the state, L’Hopital did more than preach toleration, he rendered it possible, and set it on its true base. The separation of the two powers is founded upon this principle: two kings and two kingdoms.
In this point of view, the French Reformation lagged behind that of Zurich and Scotland. To the question, whether unjust rulers ought to be obeyed ? Luther and Calvin answered, Yes ;# Zwingle and Knox answered, No. The unconquerable mountaineers of Scotland, as soon as they felt themselves powerful enough, resisted their persecutors. In 1557, the first Covenant was signed for the establishment of their worship; in 1559, they deposed the Queen Regent, and with arms in their hands finally triumphed over Papacy and Anglicanism. In their view, the state had absolutely no authority in matters of religion. The ecclesiastical rights of the faithful were much more extensive with them* than among the French Protestants. Both then and ever since, the Vaudois in like manner have maintained themselves in the Alps only by resisting at the sword's point the troops sent to slaughter them.†. If Calvin had been obeyed, and the people had allowed themselves to be massacred en masse, Protestantism would have become extinct in France, as it is in Spain and Italy, and as it must be wherever it remains purely individual and ideal, without assuming a concrete shape, and making for itself a place in the state and in society. The Reformation (we must not conceal the fact) succeeded only on condition of becoming warlike in Scotland and the Alps, autocratic and episcopalian in England, aristocratic in Denmark, princely in Germany, and communal in Switzerland. Without doubt, these are the principles which in the long run govern the world; but they only permanently triumph when they can enlist force on their side. As to the right and duty of resistance, no one would venture in our day to deny them to the Huguenots. Even if it be a nobler thing for a man to go to the stake than to take up arms in defence of his own life, the same cannot be said when the life and honour of his wife and children are concerned. The example of the early Christians bearing violation and murder in silence proves nothing for those who know that they firmly believed in the approaching end of the world : it was not
* Hist. du Calvinisme, III. 190.
# Calvin thus delivers himself : “Although those who are in authority and hold in their hands the sword of justice may make a very bad use of their power, although they may be the declared enemies of God, still we must remember that God has instituted governments in order that we may live peaceably in His fear,
All principalities are types of the kingdom of Jesus Christ; it is our duty to bold them precious, and to pray God to prosper them. I speak in the first place of legitimate governments." Sermons on the Second
Epistle of St. Paul to Timothy, Geneva, 1563, p. 65. See also Lettres de J. Calvin, II. 90, 382. Luther wrote to the rebels in Denmark : “Never fight against your master, though he be a tyrant ; and know that those who attack him will meet with their judge." Elsewhere he says again, “Whether a Christian may defend himself against authority, furnishes matter for much reflection. At the bottom, it is from the Pope, not from the Emperor, that I snatch the sword."
“It appertaineth to the people, and to every several congregation, to elect their own ministers.” The First Book of Discipline, chap. iv. sect. 2.
+ Monastier, Hist. de l'Eglise Vaudoise,