« السابقةمتابعة »
General Assembly, printed and unprinted, and various MS. Records of Synods and Presbyteries, to which I have had the privilege of access.
Many are imperfectly acquainted with the early history of the Protestant Church of France. It is imagined that it was small and poor, and that its annals contain little to interest the Christian student; but the truth is, it was one of the largest and most glorious Churches of Christendom, supplied an immense host of martyrs, and furnishes the most interesting and valuable instruction to Christians in every age. I can refer only to the more prominent facts. The doctrines of the Reformation were early introduced into France, and, as in other continental countries, the professors of them were not a little indebted to the countenance and support of persons of rank and influence. At a period when the Church of Rome was so completely paramount, it is not easy to see, humanly speaking, how the gospel, or its first profession, could have made progress at all, had not ministers and people been favoured by the powerful. Accordingly, so early as 1520, the sister of Francis I. was a zealous Protestant, while her brother was a bitter persecutor. Fifteen years later, the Scriptures were translated into the French language, by Olivitan, the uncle of the celebrated Calvin, and shortly after, the Psalms of David were turned into verse by one of the popular poets of the day, and set to melodious music. This last undertaking was attended with remarkable success. There had been nothing of the same kind before, and so the whole music of the people was perverted to superstitious and sinful purposes. Now, the national genius was enlisted on the side of truth. "This holy ordinance," says Quick, "charmed the ears, hearts, and affections of court and city, town and country. They were sung in the Louvre, as well as in the Pres des Clerks, by the ladies, princes, yea, and by Henry II. himself. This one ordinance alone contributed mightily to the downfall of Popery, and the propagation of the Gospel. It took so much with the genius of the nation, that all ranks and degrees of men practised it, in the temples, and in their families. No gentleman professing the Reformed Religion would sit down at his table without praising God by singing. Yea, it was an especial part of their morning and evening worship in their several houses, to sing God's praises." Such offence did this sacred verse and music give to the Popish priests, and so much did they dread its power, that a leading man of their number had the Odes of
Horace translated and set to music as a counteractive. us hope that the turning of the Irish Psalms into verse, an honour which has been reserved for the Rev. Dr. McLeod of Glasgow, will be as extensively useful in displacing vindictive and licentious songs, and conveying a saving knowledge of divine truth, in the most interesting form, to a people not less susceptible of the charms of poetry, nor less deeply sunk in the moral degradation of Popery. About the same period in which the Scriptures were translated into French, the celebrated Institutes of Calvin were published, and extensively circulated. These means, together with the labours of faithful men, were crowned with the divine blessing; and the Gospel made such decided progress, that persecution was awakened in a very virulent form. The king himself assisted at the burning of many martyrs at Paris. These proceedings, as has often been the case in similari nstances, instead of hindering, accelerated the cause they were meant to destroy, and in so important a degree, that in 1559, the first General Assembly of the Protestant Church was held at Paris, in the very face of a hostile court. It is remarkable, that this was the very year before the first General Assembly of the Protestant Church of Scotland was held at Edinburgh, so nearly cotemporaneous was the progress of the Gospel in the two countries. In spite of all the persecution which had been sustained, the following is Quick's account of the Protestant cause at the time the first Assembly convened at Paris.
"The holy word of God is duly, truly, and powerfully preached in churches and fields, in ships and houses, in vaults and cellars, in all places where the gospel ministers can have admission and conveniency, and with singular sucMultitudes are convinced and converted, established and edified. Christ rideth out upon the white horse of the ministry, with the sword and bow of the gospel preached, conquering and to conquer. His enemies fall under him, and submit themselves unto him. O the unparalleled success of the plain and zealous sermons of the first reformers! Multitudes flock in like doves into the windows of God's ark. As innumerable drops of dew fall from the womb of the morning, so hath the Lord Christ the dew of his youth. The Popish churches are drained, the Protestant temples are filled. The priests complain that their altars are neglected; their masses are now indeed solitary. Dagon cannot stand before God's ark. Children, and persons of riper years, are
catechised in the rudiments and principles of the Christian religion, and can give a comfortable account of their faith, a reason of that hope that is in them. By this ordinance do their pious pastors prepare them for communion with the Lord at his holy table. Here they communicate in both kinds, according to the primitive institution of the Sacrament by Jesus Christ himself."
It would be unjust, however, to the memory of the suffering saints of God, not to be a little more particular as to the early persecutions of the Protestants of France. Clarke, in his Martyrology, gives a short detail, from which it appears that the fire may be said to have been kindled as soon as in 1524. Down to 1560, or in thirty-six years, there were ever and anon cases of martyrdom, in that most dreadful of all forms-burning to death. I have counted eighty-five cases; and, as the historian frequently uses the general terms "several," " divers," we may safely conclude that, before the Protestant Church could boast of any distinct organization, more than a hundred saints had sealed their testimony with their blood. The English martyrologist, John Foxe, particularizes a hundred. This is a much greater number than suffered in Scotland in the same period, and shows how keen and virulent was the hostility from the very first. Indeed, France has ever shown a peculiar appetite for blood. Satan would crush the earliest buddings of the truth, justly apprehensive of what they would grow to. Among the sufferers I may relate, on the authority of M. Savagner, (Histoire de Calvinisme en France,) the case of the six, or rather the thirty-six persons, destroyed in the presence and with the assistance of the king, to whom I have already alluded. Francis I., of France, ranks in history as one of the most heroic and generous of kings, as well as one of the most devoted sons of the Church of Rome.
"On the 21st of January 1535, the procession for public expiation of offences against the holy sacrament issued from the church of St. Germain, bearing the bodies and the relics of all the martyrs preserved in the sanctuaries of Paris: amongst the rest, the beard of St. Louis, and those relics from the holy chapel which had not been exposed since his death. There were many cardinals, bishops, abbes, and other prelates; all the secular colleges-the bishop of Paris bearing the holy sacrament-then followed the king, uncovered, holding a wax candle in his hand; and after him the queen, the princes, the two hundred gentlemen of the court, all the guard,
the parliament, the masters of requests, and all the bench of justice-then the ambassadors of foreign states and princes. The procession passed slowly through all the quarters of the city; and, in the six principal places, an altar for the holy sacrament, a scaffold, and a funeral pile, had been previously prepared. At each of these spots six persons were burned alive! amidst immense outcries from the populace, which was so excited, that it attempted to wrest the victims from the executioner, in order to tear them in pieces. The king had ordered those unhappy persons to be tied to an elevated machine, a kind of beam so balanced, that, as it was let down, they were plunged into the flames of the pile, but lifted up again, so as to prolong their agonies; and this repeated, until the cords which bound them being consumed, they fell into the fire. It was so arranged, that the operations of this frightful see-saw should be complete, and the victims fall immediately after the procession and the king reached each station. And then the king, handing his candle to the cardinal of Lorraine, joined his hands, and humbly prostrating himself, implored the Divine mercy on his people, until the victims perished in their horrible tortures. Then the procession advanced, and finally stopping at the Church of St. Genevieve, where the sacrament was deposited on the altar, and mass chanted. After which the king and the princes dined with the bishop of Paris, Iean du Bellay; and the king made a speech." "At the very moment of these horrible proceedings," says M. Savagner, "Francis I. wrote a letter to the Protestants of Germany, seeking their friendship and alliance, in order to strengthen himself against his great rival, Charles V., in which letter he condescended to the utmost baseness to gain his ends."
I cannot withhold from the reader the account of another martyrdom, which, while it shows the malignity of Popery, beautifully illustrates the power of true religion. Happily, the Protestant Church of France, like several other Protestant Churches, has been favoured with a faithful chronicler of the sufferings of her saints. John Crispin of Arras, a lawyer, has for France executed the part so well done for England by John Foxe, and for Scotland by the author of the Cloud of Witnesses. These publications have been eminently useful in arming the Protestants of the respective countries against the Man of Sin, and spreading the principles of the Reformation. In Crispin's celebrated work, entitled "History of Martyrs, persecuted for the truth of the
Gospel, from times of the Apostles to the year 1574," we have a short account of the martyrdom of five young men, students, who were burnt at Lyons in 1553. Their confession and letters from the prison in which they were confined for a year, indicate clear views of divine truth, and the noblest spirit of Christianity. I have room only for the closing scene. They had been confined in the same dungeon to prevent them contaminating others: "When the hour of two o'clock came they were led out, clad in gray robes, and tied with cords. They exhorted one another to presevere steadfastly, since the end of their course was won, and victory was certain. They were put into one wagon. They then began to sing the 9th Psalm-'I will bless thee continually, O Lord,' &c. Although they had no time to finish it, yet they continued to call upon God, and to recite passages of Scripture. Among others, as they traversed the place called L'Herbérié, at the end of the bridge, over the Soane, one of them turning to the crowd, with a loud voice, said, the 'The God of peace, who brought again from the dead the Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will;' then they began to recite the apostles' creed, dividing it by articles, and reciting them one after another. The one who had to repeat the words' He was conceived of the Holy Ghost; born of the Virgin Mary,'raised his voice, that the people might know the calumny by which it was pretended they denied this article, and that they had spoken evil of the Virgin Mary. Twice they said to the soldiers, who often troubled them, and threatened to make them hold their peace, Will you hinder us for the little time we have to live, from praying and calling upon God? Atlast, when they had reached the place of punishment, they were seen with a light heart upon the pile of wood which was around the stake. The two youngest of them mounted first, the one after the other; and when they had taken off their robes, the executioner tied them to the stake. The last who mounted was Martial Alba, the oldest of the five. He was a long time on both knees upon the wood, praying to the Lord. When the executioner, who had tied the others, came to him while he was still upon his knees, he took him under the arms to put him down with the others, but Alba earnestly requested Lieutenant Tignac to grant him a favour. • What do you wish?' said the lieutenant. That I may kiss my brethren before we die.' The lieutenant consented. Then