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

Culminating in the Edict of Chateaubriand


it was that all those in France who felt the need of intimate fellowship with God, all to whom a religion, which was at once inflexible in matters of moral living and which appealed to their reasoning faculties, was a necessity, hailed the _Christian Institution_ as the clearest manifesto of their faith, and grouped themselves round the young author (Calvin was barely twenty-six when he wrote it) as their leader. Those also who suffered under the pressure of a despotic government, and felt the evils of a society constituted to uphold the privileges of an aristocracy, learnt that in a neighbouring country there was a city which had placed itself under the rule of the Word of God; where everyone joined in a common worship attractive from its severe simplicity; where the morals, public and private, were pure; where the believers selected their pastors and the people their rulers; where there were neither masters nor subjects; where the ministers of religion lived the lives of simple laymen, and were distinguished from them only by the exercise of their sacred service. They indulged in the dream that all France might be fashioned after the model of Geneva.

Many a Frenchman who was dissatisfied with the condition of things in France, but had come to no personal decision to leave the mediaeval Church, could not help contrasting what he saw around him with the life and aspiration of those "of the religion,"[190] as the French Protestants began to be

called. They saw themselves confronted by a religion full of mysteries inaccessible to reason, expressing itself even in public worship in a language unintelligible to most of the worshippers, full of pomp, of luxury, of ceremonies whose symbolical meaning had been forgotten. They saw a clergy commonplace and ignorant, or aristocratic and indifferent; a nobility greedy and restless; a Court whose luxurious display and scandals were notorious; royal mistresses and faithless husbands and wives. Almost everywhere we find a growing tendency to contrast the purity of Protestantism and the corruption of Roman Catholicism. It found outcome in the famous scene in the _Parlement_ of Paris (1559), when Antoine de Bourg, son of a former Chancellor, advocated the total suspension of the persecution against those "who were called heretics," and enforced his opinion by contrasting the blasphemies and scandals of the Court with the morality and the purity of the lives of those who were being sent to the stake,--a speech for which he afterwards lost his life.[191]

It was this growing united Protestantism which Henry II. and his advisers had determined to crush by the action of the legislative authority.

Sec. 5. _Persecution under Henry II._[192]

The repressive legal measures introduced by Francis I. were retained, and a new law against blasphemy (prepared, no doubt, during the last days of Francis) was published five days after the King's death (April 5th, 1547). But more was believed to be necessary. So a series of edicts, culminating in the Edict of Chateaubriand, were published, which aimed at uniting all the forces of the kingdom to extirpate the Reformed faith.

On October 8th, 1547, a second criminal court was added to the _Parlement_ of Paris, to deal solely with cases of heresy. This was the famous _Chambre Ardente_. It was ordered to sit continuously, even during the ordinary Parliamentary vacancies in August and September; and its first session lasted from Dec. 1547 to Jan. 1550, during which time it must have passed more than five hundred judgments. The clergy felt that this special court took from them one of their privileges, the right of trying all cases of heresy. They petitioned against it. A compromise was arranged (Edict of Nov. 19th, 1549), by which all cases of simple heresy (_cas communes_) were to be sent to the ecclesiastical courts, while cases of heresy accompanied by public scandal (_cas privilegies_) were to be judged in the civil courts. In practice it usually happened that all cases of heresy went first before the ecclesiastical courts and, after judgment there, those which were believed to be attended by public scandal (the largest number) were sent on to the civil courts. These measures were not thought sufficient, and the Edict of Chateaubriand (June 27th, 1551) codified and extended all the various legal measures taken for the defence of the Roman Catholic faith.

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