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

Their leader was Theodore de Beze Beza


This

bold proposal was impracticable in the condition of the kingdom. The _Parlement_ of Paris regarded it as a revolutionary attack on the rights of property, and it alienated them for ever from the Reformation movement; but it enabled the Government to wring from the alarmed Churchmen a subsidy of sixteen million livres, to be paid in six annual instalments.

Sec. 11. _The Conference at Poissy._

It was scarcely possible, in view of the Pope and Philip of Spain, to assemble a National Council, but the Government had already conceived the idea of a meeting of theologians, which would be such an assembly in all but the name. They had invited representatives of the Protestant ministers (July 25th) to attend the synod of the clergy sitting at Poissy. The invitation had been accepted, and the Government intended to give an air of unusual solemnity to the meeting. The King, surrounded by his mother, his brothers, and the Princes of the Blood, presided as at a sitting of the States General. The Chancellor, in the King's name, opened the session with a remarkable speech, in which he set forth the advantages to be gained from religious union. He addressed the assembled bishops and Roman Catholic theologians, assuring them that they ought to have no scruples in meeting the Protestant divines. The latter were not heretics like the old Manicheans or Arians. They accepted the Scriptures as the Rule of Faith, the Apostles' Creed,

the four principal Councils and _their_ Creeds (the symbols of Nicea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon). The main difference between them was that the Protestants wished the Church to be reformed according to the primitive pattern. They had given proof of their sincerity by being content to die for their faith.

The Reformers were represented by twelve ministers, among whom were Morel of Paris; Nicolas des Gallars, minister of the French Protestant Church in London, and by twenty laymen. Their leader was Theodore de Beze (Beza), a man of noble birth, celebrated as a Humanist, a brilliant writer and controversialist, whom Calvin, at the request of Antoine de Bourbon, Catherine de' Medici, and Coligny, had commissioned to represent him. De Beze was privately presented to the King and the Regent by the King of Navarre and by the Prince de Conde, and his learning, presence, and stately courtesy made a great impression upon the Court. He had been born in the same year as the Regent (1519), and had thrown away very brilliant prospects to become a minister of the Reformed Church.

The meeting was held in the refectory of the nuns of Poissy.[216] The King and his suite were placed at one end of the hall, and the Romanist bishops and theologians were arranged by the walls on the two sides. After the Chancellor had finished his speech, the representatives of the Protestants were introduced by the Duke of Guise, in command of an escort of the King's archers. They were placed in front of a barrier which separated them from the Romanist divines. "There come the dogs of Geneva," said the Cardinal of Tournon as they entered the hall.

The speech of de Beze, delivered on the first day (Sept. 7th) of the Colloquy, as it came to be called, made a great impression. He expounded with clearness of thought and precision of language the creed of his Church, showing where it agreed and where it differed from that of the Roman Catholic. The gravity and the charm of his eloquence compelled attention, and it was not until he began to criticise with frank severity the doctrine of transubstantiation that he provoked murmurs of dissent. The speech must have disappointed Catherine. It had made no attempt to attenuate the differences between the two confessions, and held out no hopes of a reunion of the Churches.


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