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vour to catechise every one in their flocks once or twice a year, and shall exhort them to conform themselves thereunto very carefully.” With regard, again, to the poor, it was enjoined that every church should seek to support its own poor-a wholesome practice, which, for many years, was universal throughout the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and which still prevails to a considerable extent. vent those disorders which daily fall out by reason of certificates given unto the poor, every church shall endeavour to maintain its own; and in case any one be constrained, through the urgency of his affairs, to travel, ministers shall examine with the greatest care in their consistories, the just causes of his journey, and thereupon shall give him letters directed to the next church, lying in the straight way by which he must go, specifying his name, age, stature, hair, and the place whither, and the cause of his travel, and the assistance which was given him; nor shall the date of the day and year be omitted; which letters, the church he is directed to, shall keep by it, and give him others unto the next; and all certificates formerly given shall be torn in pieces.”
With respect, again, to the general conduct of church members, it was ordained in the following terms:
“Printers, booksellers, painters, and other artificers, and, in general, all the faithful, and, in particular, such as bear office in the Church, shall be admonished that they do not in the least act any thing in their calling that tends directly to countenance the superstitions of the Church of Rome; and as for secret acts, and the censure incurred by them, their judgment is left unto the consistory.” “Fathers and mo
. thers shall be exhorted to be very careful of their children's education, which are the seedplot and promising hopes of God's Church. And, therefore, such as send them to school to be taught by priests, monks, jesuits, and nuns, they shall be prosecuted with all Church censures. Those, also, shall be censured who dispose of their children to be pages, or servants, unto lords and gentlemen of the contrary religion.” “ Churches which have printers belonging to them, shall advise them not to print any books concerning religion or the discipline of the Church, without having first communicated them unto the consistory, because of those manifold inconveniences which have formerly happened upon this account. And neither printers, nor booksellers, nor hawkers, shall sell any books of idolatry, or that are scandalous, stuffed with ribaldry or impiety, which tend to the corrupting of good manners.”
At the same time, while thus decided, as all Protestant Churches should be, against the errors and superstitions of the Church of Rome, there was no spirit of bitterness or provocation towards individual Roman Catholics. It is expressly enjoined, as strongly as any of the preceding canons, that “all violence and injurious words against the members of the Church of Rome, as also against priests and monks, shall not only be forborne, but also, as much as may be, shall be totally suppressed."
I might refer to many other wise and salutary regulations, but it is unnecessary. Let me quote only that which alludes to the dispensation of the Lord's Supper. At the first national Synod held at Paris, it was appointed that, at the closing up of the Synod, the Lord's supper “ shall be celebrated, to testify their union, not only by the ministers and elders of the Synod, but in general with the whole Church." And, as a general rule, the following canon was adopted:
Although it hath not been the custom to administer the Lord's Supper in the greatest part of our churches more than four times a-year, yet it were to be desired that it might be oftener, so that the reverence which is needful for this holy sacrament could be kept up and observed. Because it is most profitable for the children of God to be exercised, and grow in faith by the frequent use of the sacraments; and the example of the primitive Church doth invite us to it. And, therefore, our national Synods shall take that care and order in this matter as is requisite for the weal and happiness of our churches."
A striking proof of the high state of discipline, and the deep tenderness of conscience which prevailed in the Protestant Church of France, may be gathered from the fact, that in the very first Synod of Paris, above twenty cases of conscience were discussed and decided upon; and, it may be added, the judgments of the Assembly were generally marked with much good sense, and great regard for the auathority of the word of God.
The unexceptionable character of the Confession of Faith and Canons of Discipline which the Protestant Church drew up at Paris in 1559, and published, did not save her from the violence of her enemies. She may have had rest for a year or two, but shorıly persecution was revived. One sovereign after another proved equally adverse. Mere men of the world would have been wearied out by such treatment, but the Spirit of God rested upon the Church and upon the admirable standards under which she was organized, and so her members increased and multiplied from day to day. In 1571, or in twelve short years from the period of her first public Assembly, she may be said to have reached her highest prosperity. At the Synod or General Assembly of Rochelle in 1571, the celebrated Theodore Beza presided as moderator; and the Queen of Navarre, the Prince of Navarre, Henry de Bourbon, Prince of Conde, Prince Lewis, Count of Nassau, and Count de Coligny, Admiral of France, and other lords and gentlemen, were present. So rapid had been the diffusion of the Gospel, under the outpouring of the Spirit, that Beza could count 2150 churches in connection with the Protestant Church of France-almost double the number of the present Church of Scotland; and the churches were not small or insignificant in point of strength. In some there were 10,000 members. The church of Orleans had 7000 communicants; and the ministers in such churches were proportionally numerous; two ministers to a church was common, and that of Orleans had five. At this period there were 305 pastors in the one province of Normandy, and in Provence there were 60. All this betokens wonderful growth. What a contrast to the present state of the French Protestant Church! With all its revival of late years, it appears, on the testimony of the Rev. Mr. Davis, in his recent “ Letters from France," that for between two and three millions of professed Protestants, there are only between four and five hundred churches, and three hundred ministers. The Ecclesiastical Budget for 1837 gives three hundred and sixtysix pastors of the Reformed Church. What an unhappy change! We have beheld the French Protestant Church at the height of her glory; and we may draw from the facts detailing her rapid prosperity the cheering inference, that God, who vouchsafed his Spirit so plentifully in former times, may vouchsafe his influences as richly and suddenly in these latter days. Good men are often discouraged in their prayers and labours, by thinking that the progress of Christianity must necessarily be slow and tedious. Let them remember the history of the Protestant Church of France, and be animated and refreshed. God is as able and as willing as ever to interpose in behalf of his people, and frequently there is one characteristic style of dealing towards the same Church in different ages. If, in twelve years, he wrought such a change in and by the persecuted Church of France, who can tell what happy moral and religious changes may be accom
plished by the same Church in these latter days? And who can estimate what glorious achievements the Christian Church of Britian
may be honoured to effect, in more favourable circumstances, in as brief a space of time.
In reading the history of modern missions in the South Seas, one is struck with the rapidity of the change. Often a few days, or weeks, or months, according to Williams, were sufficient to induce whole islands, comprehending several thousand inhabitants, to abandon their idolatry, though taught only by two or three humble agents.
The conversion of a few of the leading chiefs led to the conversion of the great body of the people, at least, to the renunciation of the horrible creed and practices of their fathers. Tidings of change in one island, led to change in another. Singular events in the providence of God, too, such as epidemics and famines, under which superstition could afford no comfort, seem, when the people had reached a certain awakened state of mind, to have acted as precursors and hasteners of the change. It is certain, that when the lies of heathenism were once found out, like broken credit at a bank, the public confidence at once gave way on every point. The experience of Scotland, in reference to Popery atthe Reformation, as I shall have occasion to notice, was similar. Both cases hold out the pleasing prospect, that when God's time arrives, all superstition, whether Popish or Pagan, shall be overtaken with the same rapid destruction. Who can doubt that were a considerable body of the Roman Catholic priesthood in this country, at this moment, to throw off Popery, tens of thousands of the people would follow their example? This is one of the consolations in connection with false religion, that when it does break up, it will disappear like smoke, and, by the suddenness and universality of its death, so to speak, compensate for the duration of its life. It is an interesting remark of the sacred writer, in reference to the cleansing of the House of God, in the days of Hezekiah: “And Hezekiah rejoiced, and all the people, that God had prepared the people : for the thing was done suddenly.
FROM 1572 to 1598.
The progress of the Protestant Church of France was exceedingly rapid, and indicated the outpouring of the Spirit of God in a remarkable manner. But matters were not long permitted to remain in this prosperous condition. Provoked, it would seem, with the amazing growth of the cause of God, the great adversary of the Church stirred up the most violent opposition against her members, and, doubtless, their own shortcomings also lent an unhappy influence in bringing down upon them the heavy chastisement under which they were now destined to groan. No sooner had the Church of France become eminent for character and numbers, than she became eminent for her sufferings. The day of affliction often follows quickly upon the day of prosperity.
Various are the forms of persecution which the Church of Rome has employed, but the present was, perhaps, one of the most savage and cowardly of the whole. A scheme was devised for treacherously cutting off the whole Protestant population-at least the influential portion—at a blow; and to a considerable extent the scheme was successful. I allude to the massacre of St. Bartholomew's day, in 1572,-a massacre which was begun at Paris, at midnight, upon unoffending Protestants collected into the capital on false pretences, and which was afterwards extended to the country, lasting for days and months, and destroying not less, according to Sully, than sixty or seventy thousand persons. The first who fell was Admiral Coligny, eminent at once for his rank and his piety. I need not sicken the reader with the details of this infamous massacre ; but it is due to the memory of the suffering saints of God, whose record is on high, that I mention a few particulars. It appears, then, from unquestionable Roman Catholic authorities, that this crime of indescribable atrocity, was not the deed of a passionate moment, but was deliberately planned two years before; and that the peace of the space of time which preceded it, was intended, and, as it proved, successfully, to draw the Protestants together, throw them off their guard, and render the slaughter the more complete. There were 60,000 armed men collected in Paris for the work of murder. This inci.