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REFORMATION IN FRANCE,
REV. JAMES SAURIN.
THE celebrated Mr. Saurin, author of the following sermons, was a French refugee, who, with thousands of his countrymen, took shelter in Holland from the persecutions of France. The lives, and even the sermons, of the refugees are so closely connected with the history of the reformation in France, that, we presume, a short sketch of the state of religion in that kingdom till the banishment of the protestants by Lewis XIV. will not be disagreeable to some of the younger part of our readers.
Gaul, which is now called France, in the time of Jesus Christ, was a province of the Roman empire, and some of the apostles planted Christianity in it. In the first centuries, while Christianity continued a rational religion, it spread and supported itself without the help, and against the persecutions,
of the Roman emperors. Numbers were converted from paganism, several Christian societies were formed, and many eminent men, having spent their lives in preaching and writing for the advancement of the gospel, sealed their doctrine with their blood.
In the fifth century, Clovis I. a pagan king of France, fell in love with Clotilda, a Christian prin cess of the house of Burgundy, who agreed to mar
ry him only on condition of his becoming a
Christian, to which he consented. The king, however, delayed the performance of this condition till five years after his marriage, when, being engaged in a desperate battle, and having reason to fear the total defeat of his army, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and put up this prayer, God of Queen Clo-. tilda! grant me the victory, and I vow to be baptised, and thenceforth to worship no other God but thee! He obtained the victory, and at his return,
was baptized at Rheims. His sister, and more than three thousand of his subjects,
followed his example, and christianity became the professed religion of France.
Conversion implies the cool exercise of reason, and whenever passion takes the place, and does the office of reason, conversion is nothing but a name. Baptism did not wash away the sins of Clovis; before it he was vile, after it he was infamous, practising all kinds of treachery and cruelty. The court, the army, and the common people, who were pagan when the king was pagan, and Christian when he was Christian, continued the same in their morals after their conversion as before. When
the Christian church, therefore, opened her doors, and delivered up her keys to these new converts, she gained nothing in comparison of what she lost. She increased the number, the riches, the pomp, and the power, of her family: but she resigned the exercise of reason, the sufficiency of scripture, the purity of worship, the grand simplicity of innocence, truth, and virtue, and became a creature of the state. A virgin before; she became a prostitute now.
Such Christians, in a long succession, converted Christianity into something worse than paganism. They elevated the Christian church into a temporal kingdom, and they degraded temporal kingdoms into fiefs of the church. They founded dominion in grace, and they explained grace to be a love of dominion. And by these means they completed that general apostacy, known by the name of Popery, which St. Paul had foretold, 1 Tim. iv. 1. and which rendered the reformation of the sixteenth century essential to the interests of all mankind.
The state of religion at that time was truly deplorable. Ecclesiastical government, instead of that evangelical simplicity, and fraternal freedom, which Jesus Christ and his apostles had taught, was become a spiritual domination under the form of a temporal empire. An innumerable multitude of dignities, titles, rights, honors, privileges, and pre-eminences belonged to it, and were all dependent on a sovereign priest, who, being an absolute monarch, required every thought to be in subjection to him. The chief ministers of
religion were actually become temporal princes, and the high-priest, being absolute sovereign of the ecclesiastical state, had his court and his council, his ambassadors to negociate, and his armies to murder his flock. The clergy had acquired immense wealth, and, as their chief study was either to collect and to augment their revenues, or to prevent the alienation of their estates, they had constituted numberless spiritual corporations, with powers, rights, statutes, privileges, and officers. The functions of the ministry were generally neglected, and, of consequence, gross ignorance prevailed. All ranks of men were extremely depraved in their morals, and the Pope's penitentiary had published the price of every crime, as it was rated in the tax-book of the Roman chancery. Marriages, which reason and scripture allowed, the Pope prohibited, and, for money, dispensed with those which both forbad. Church-benefices were sold to children, and to laymen, who then let them to under tenants, none of whom performed the duty, for which the profits were paid; but all having obtained them by simony, spent their lives in fleecing the flock to repay themselves. The power of the pontiff was so great that he assumed, and, what was more astonishing, was suffered to exercise a supremacy over many kingdoms. When monarchs gratified his will, he put on a triple crown, ascended a throne, suffered them to call him Holiness, and to kiss his feet.
When they disobliged him, he suspended all religious worship in their dominions; published false and abusive libels, called bulls, which operated as laws, to injure their persons; discharged their subjects from obedience; and gave their crowns to any who would usurp them. He claimed an infallibility of knowledge, and an omnipotence of strength; and he forbad the world to examine his claiin. He was addressed by titles of blasphemy, and, tho' he owned no jurisdiction over himself, yet he affected to extend his authority over heaven and hell, as well as over a middle place called purgatory, of all which places, he said, he kept the keys. This irregular churchpolity was attended with quarrels, intrigues, schisins, and wars.
Religion itself was made to consist of the performance of numerous ceremonies, of Pagan, Jewish, and Monkish extraction, all which might be performed without either faith in God, or love to mankind. The church ritual was an address, not to the reason, but to the senses of men: music stole the ear, and soothed the passions; statues, paintings, vestments, and various ornaments, beguiled the eye; while the pause which was produced by that sudden attack, which a multitude of objects made on the senses, on entering a spacious decorated edifice, was enthusiastically taken for devotion. Blind obedience was first allowed by courtesy, and then established by law. Public worship was performed in an unknown tongue, and the sacrament was adored as the body and blood of Christ. The credit of the ceremonial produced in the people a notion, that the performance of it was the practice of piety, and religion degenerated into gross superstition. Vice, uncontrolled by reason or scripture, retained a pagan vigor, and com