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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

And the Parlement appointed a commission to discover


Lefevre nor Briconnet was the man to lead a Reformation. The Bishop was timid, and feared the "tumult"; and Lefevre, like Marguerite, was a Christian mystic,[171] with all the mystic's dislike to change in outward and fixed institutions. More radical ideas were entering France from without. The name of Luther was known as early as 1518, and by 1520, contemporary letters tell us that his books were selling by the hundred, and that all thinking men were studying his opinions.[172] The ideas of Zwingli were also known, and appeared more acceptable to the advanced thinkers in France. Some members of the group of Meaux began to reconsider their position. The Pope's Bull excommunicating Luther in 1520, the result of the Diet of Worms in 1521, and the declaration of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Paris (the Sorbonne) against the opinions of Luther, and their vindication of the authority of Aristotle and Scholastic Theology made it apparent that even modest reforms would not be tolerated by the Church as it then existed. The _Parlement_ of Paris (August 1521) ordered Luther's books to be given up.[173]

Lefevre did not falter. He remained what he had been--a man on the threshold of a new era who refused to enter it. One of his fellow-preachers retracted his opinions, and began to write against his leader. The young and fiery Guillaume Farel boldly adopted the views of the Swiss Reformers. Briconnet temporised. He forbade the preaching of

Lutheran doctrine within his diocese, and the circulation of the Reformer's writings; but he continued to protect Lefevre, and remained true to his teaching.[174]

The energetic action of the Sorbonne and of the _Parlement_ of Paris showed the obstacles which lay in the path of a peaceful Reformation. The library of Louis de Berquin was seized and condemned (June 16th, 1523), and several of his books burnt in front of Notre Dame by the order of _Parlement_ (August 8th). Berquin himself was saved by the interposition of the King.[175] In March 1525, Jean Leclerc, a wool-carder, was whipt and branded in Paris; and six months later was burnt at Metz for alleged outrages on objects of reverence. The Government had to come to some decision about the religious question.

Marguerite could write that her mother and her brother were "more than ever well disposed towards the reformation of the Church";[176] but neither of them had her strong religious sentiment, and policy rather than conviction invariably swayed their action. The Reformation promoted by Lefevre and believed in by Marguerite was at once too moderate and too exacting for Francis I. It could never be a basis for an alliance with the growing Protestantism of Germany, and it demanded a purity of individual life ill-suited either with the personal habits of the King or with the manners of the French Court. It is therefore not to be wondered that the policy of the Government of Francis I. wavered between a negligent protection and a stern repression of the French Reformers.

Sec. 2. _Attempts to repress the Movement for Reform._

The years 1523-26 were full of troubles for France. The Italian war had been unsuccessful. Provence had been invaded. Francis I. had been totally defeated and taken prisoner at Pavia. Dangers of various kinds within France had also confronted the Government. Bands of marauders--_les aventuriers_[177]--had pillaged numerous districts; and so many conflagrations had taken place that people believed they were caused by emissaries of the public enemies of France. Louise of Savoy, the Queen-Mother, and Regent during her son's captivity in Madrid, had found it necessary to conciliate the formidable powers of the _Parlement_ of Paris and of the Sorbonne. Measures were taken to suppress the printing of Lutheran and heretical books, and the _Parlement_ appointed a commission to discover, try, and punish heretics. The result was a somewhat ineffective persecution.[178] The preachers of Meaux had to take refuge in Strassburg, and Lefevre's translation of the Scriptures was publicly burnt.

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