« PreviousContinue »
mitted the most horrid crimes; and superstition atoned for them, by building and endowing religious houses, and by bestowing donations on the church. Human merit was introduced, saints were invoked, and the perfections of God were distributed by canonization, among the creatures of
The pillars that supported this edifice, were immense riches, arising by impost from the sins of mankind; idle distinctions between supreme and subordinate adoration; senseless axioms, called the divinity of the schools; preachments of buffoonery or blasphemy, or both; cruel casuistry, consisting of a body of dangerous and scandalous morality; false miracles and midnight visions ; spurious books and paltry relics; oaths, dungeons, inquisitions, and crusades. The whole was denominated THE HOLY, CATHOLIC, AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH, and laid to the charge of Jesus Christ.
Loud complaints had been made of these excesses, for the last hundred and fifty years, to those whose business it was to reform, and, as bad as they were, they had owned the necessity of reformation, and had repeatedly promised to reform. Several councils had been called for the purpose of reforming; but nothing had been done, nor could any thing be expected from assemblies of mercenary men, who were too deeply interested in darkness to vote for day. They were inflexible against every remonstrance, and, as a Jesuit has since expressed it. They would not extinguish one taper, though it . were to convert all the Hugonots in France.
The restorers of literature reiterated and reasoned on these complaints: but they reasoned to the wind. The church champions were hard driven, they tried every art to support their cause: but they could not get rid of the attack by a polite duplicity ; they could not intimidate their sensible opponents by anathemas; they would not dispute the matter by scripture, and they could not defend themselves by any other method; they were too obstinate to reform themselves, and too proud to be reformed by their inferiors. At length, the plaintiffs laid aside the thoughts of applying to them, and, having found out the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free, went about reforming themselves. The reformers were neither popes, cardinals, nor bishops: but they were good men, who aimed to promote the glory of God, and the good of mankind. This was the state of the church, when Francis I. ascended the throne.
Were we to enter into a minute examination of the reformation in France, we would own a particular interposition of Providence: but we would also take the liberty to observe, that a happy conjunction of jarring interests rendered the sixteenth century a fit æra for reformation. Events that produced, protected, and persecuted reformation, proceeded from open and hidden, great and little, good and bad causes. The capacities and the tempers, the virtues and the vices, the views and the interests, the wives and the mistresses, of the princes of those times; the abilities and dispositions of the officers of each crown; the powers
of government, and the persons who wrought them; the
tempers and geniuses of the people; all these, and many more, were springs of action, which, in their turns, directed the great events that were exhibited to public view. But our limits allow no inquiries of this kind.
The reformation which began in Germany spread itself to Geneva, and thence into France. The French had a translation of the Bible, which had been
made by Guiars des Moulins. It had been revised, corrected, and printed at Paris, by
order of Charles VIII. and the study of it now began to prevail. The reigning king, who was a patron of learning, encouraged his valet de chambre, Clement Marot, to versify some of David's psalms, and took great pleasure in singing them, * and either protected, or persecuted the reformation, as his interest seemed to him to require. Although
he went in procession to burn the first
martyrs of the reformed church, yet in the same year, he sent for Melancthon to come into France to reconcile religious differences. Although he persecuted his own protestant subjects with infinite inhumanity, yet when he was afraid that the ruin of the German protestants would strengthen the hands of the emperor Charles V. he made an alliance with the protestant princes of Ger
* His majesty's favorite psalm, which he sang when he went a hunting, was the 42d. The queen used to sing the 6th, and the king's mistress the 130th. Marot translated fifty, Beza the other hundred, Calvin got them set to music by the best musicians, and every body sang them as ballads. When the reformed churches made them a part of their worship, the papists were forbidden to sing them any more, and to sing a psalm was a sign of a Lutheran.
many, and he allowed the Duke of Orleans, his second son, to offer them the free exercise of their religion in the Dukedom of Luxemburg. He suffered his sister, the Queen of Navarre, to protect the reformation in her country of Bearn; and even saved Geneva, when Charles Duke of Savoy would have taken it. It was no uncommon thing in that age for princes to trifle thus with religion. His majesty's first concern was to be a king, his second to act like a rational creature.
The reformation greatly increased in this reign. The pious Queen of Navarre made her court a covert from every storm, supplied France with preachers, and the exiles at Geneva with money. Calvin, who had fled from his rectory in France, and had settled at Geneva, was a chief instrument; he slid his catechism, and other books into France. Some of the bishops were inclined to the reformation: but secretly, for fear of the Christians of Rome. The reformation was called Calvinism. The people were nained Sacramentarians, Lutherans, Calvinists; and nick-named Hugonots, either from Hugon, a Hobgoblin, because, to avoid persecution, they held their assemblies in the night; or from the gate Hugon, in Tours, where they used to meet; or from a Swiss word, which signifies a league.
Henry II. who succeeded his father Fran- 1547. cis, was a weak, and a wicked prince. The increase of his authority was the law and the prophets to him. He violently persecuted the Calvinists of
France because he was taught to believe, that heresy was a faction repugnant to authority; and he made an alliance with the German protestants, and was pleased with the title of Protector of the Germanic liberties, that is, protector of protestantism. This alliance he made, in order to check the power of Charles V. He was governed, sometimes by his queen Catharine de Medicis, niece of Pope Clement VII. who, it is said, never did right except she did it by mistake: often by the constable de Montmorenci, whom, contrary to the express command of his father, in his dying illness, he had placed at the head of administration : chiefly by his mistress, Diana of Poitiers, who had been mistress to his father, and who bore an implacable hatred to the protestants : and always by some of his favourites, whom he suffered to amass immense fortunes by accusing men of heresy. The reformation was very much advanced in this reign. The gentry promoted the acting of plays, in which the comedians exposed the lives and doctrines of the popish clergy, and the poignant wit and humour of the comedians, afforded infinite diversion to the people, and
conciliated them to the new preachers. Be
za, who had fled to Geneva, came backward and forward into France, and was a chief promoter of the work. His Latin Testament, which he first
published in this reign, was much read, 1556.
greatly admired, and contributed to the spread of the cause. The New Testament was the Goliah's sword of the clerical reformers, there was none like it.