A name by which the French Protestants are often designated. Its etymology is uncertain. According to some the word is a popular corruption of the German Eidgenossen (conspirators, confederates), which was used at Geneva to designate the champions of liberty and of union with the Swiss Confederation, as distinguished from those who were in favour of submission to the Duke of Savoy. The close connection of the Protestants with Geneva, in the time of Calvin, might have caused this name to be given to them a little before the year 1550 under the form eigenots (or aignots), which became huguenots under the influence of Hugues, Bezanson Hugues being one of their chiefs. Others have maintained that the word was first used at Tours and was applied to the early Lutherans, because they were wont to assemble near the gate named after Hugon, a Count of Tours in ancient times, who had left a record of evil deeds and had become in popular fancy a sort of sinister and maleficent genius. This name the people applied in hatred and derision to those who were elsewhere called Lutherans, and from Touraine it spread throughout France. This derivation would account for the form Hugonots, which is found in the correspondence of the Venetian ambassadors and in the documents of the Vatican archives, and for that of Huguenots, which eventually prevailed in the usage of Catholics, conveying a slight shade of contempt or hostility, which accounts for its complete exclusion from official documents of Church and State. Those to whom it was applied called themselves the Réformés (Reformed); the official documents from the end of the sixteenth century to the Revolution usually call them the prétendus réformés (pseudo-reformed). Since the eighteenth century they have been commonly designated "French Protestants", the title being suggested by their German co-religionists, or Calvinists, as being disciples of Calvin.
French Protestantism received from Calvin its first organization and the form which has since become traditional; but to Luther it owed the impulse which gave it birth. That the ideas of these two Reformers were to a certain degree successful in France was due in that country, as elsewhere, to the prevailing mental attitude. The Great Western Schism, the progress of Gallican ideas, the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, and the war of Louis XII against Julius II had considerably weakened the prestige and authority of the papacy. The French clergy, owing to the conduct of many of its members, inspired but little respect. After the Pragmatic Sanction (1438) the episcopal sees became the object of ceaseless rivalry and contention, while too many of the bishops ignored their obligation of residence. In spite of some attempts at reform, the regular clergy languished in inactivity, ignorance, and relaxation of discipline, and all their attendant imperfections. The humanism of the Renaissance had created a distaste for the verbose, formalistic scholasticism, still dominant in the schools, and had turned men back to the cult of pagan antiquity, to naturalism, and in some cases to unbelief. Other minds, it is true, were led by the Renaissance itself to the study of Christian antiquity, but, under the influence of the mysticism which had shortly before this become current as a reaction from the system of the schools and the philosophy of the literati, they ended by exaggerating the power of faith and the authority of Holy Scripture. It was this class of thinkers, affected at once by humanism and mysticism, that took the initiative, more or less consciously, in the reform for which public opinion clamoured.
Their first leader was Lefèvre d'Etaples, who, after devoting his early life to the teaching of philosophy and mathematics, became when nearly sixty years old an exegete and the editor of French translations of the Bible. In the preface to his "Quincuplex Psalterium", published in 1509, and in that to his commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul, published in 1512, he ascribes to Scripture an almost exclusive authority in matters of religion, and preaches justification by faith even to the point of counting good works as naught. Furthermore, he sees in the Mass only a commemoration of the one Sacrifice of the Cross. In 1522 he published a Latin commentary on the Gospels, the preface to which may be regarded as the first manifesto of the Reformation in France. Chlitoue, Farel, Gérard Roussel, Cop, Etienne Poncher, Michel d'Arande rallied around him as his disciples. Briçonnet, Bishop of Meaux, constituted himself their protector against the Sorbonne, and called them to preach in his diocese. None of these men, however, intended to carry their innovations to the point of breaking with the Church; they meant to remain within it; they accepted and they sought its dignities. Lefèvre became Vicar-General to Briçonnet; Gerard Roussel was made a canon of Meaux, then by papal appointment Abbot of Clairac, and eventually Bishop of Oloron; Michel d'Arande became Bishop of Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux (Triscastrinensis). Their aim, for the time being, was only to "preach the pure gospel", and thereby lead the people back to the genuine religion of Christ, which, as they said, had been corrupted by the superstitions of Rome. They were powerfully aided in their undertaking by Margaret, Queen of Navarre, who favoured both them and their ideas; she was their advocate with her brother Francis I, and, when necessary, their protectress against the Sorbonne.
This learned body soon began to feel concern at the progress of the new ideas. Its syndic, Beda, was a man of narrow mind, of violent and sometimes ill-timed zeal, but of profound convictions, clear insight, and undeniably disinterested aims. Under his guidance the Sorbonne, aided only by the Parliament, took the lead in the struggle with heresy, while the king hesitated between the parties or changed his attitude according to his political interests. Since 1520 the writings of Luther had been spreading in France, at least among the educated, and his books were selling in Paris by hundreds. On 15 April, 1521, the faculty of theology formally condemned Luther's doctrines. Stimulated by this faculty and armed by the pope with special powers for the suppression of heresy, the Parliament of Paris was preparing vigorous measures against Lefèvre d'Etaples, but the king interfered. When Francis I was imprisoned at Madrid, the Parliament, on which the queen-regent placed no restraint, inaugurated in 1523 sanguinary measures of repression; not a year passed but some heretic was arrested and scourged or burned. The most famous of the victims in these early times was Louis de Berquin, a nobleman of Artois and a friend and councillor of the king; several Lutheran writings were found in his possession. At this energetic action of the Parliament the Meaux group took fright and scattered. Briçonnet retracted and wrote pastorals against Luther. Lefèvre and Roussel escaped to Strasburg or to the dominions of the Queen of Navarre. Chlitoue wrote against Luther, Farel rejoined Zwingli in Switzerland. But all this time Lutheranism continued to spread in France, disseminated chiefly by the students and professors from Germany. Again and again the king complained in his edicts of the spread of heresy in his kingdom. Since 1530 there had existed at Paris a vigorous group of heretics, recruited principally from the literary men and the lower classes, and numbering from 300 to 400 persons. Some others were to be found in the Universities of Orléans and Bourges; in the Duchy of Alencon where Margaret of Navarre, the suzerain, gave them licence to preach, and whence the heresy spread in Normandy; at Lyons, where the Reformation made an early appearance owing to the advent of foreigners from Switzerland and Germany; and at Toulouse, where the Parliament caused the arrest of several suspects and the burning of John of Cahors, a professor in the faculty of law.
After condemning the works of Margaret of Navarre, who was inspired with the new ideas, the Sorbonne witnessed the banishment of Beda and the appointment of Cop to the rectorship of the University of Paris, although he was already suspected of sympathizing with Lutheranism. At the opening of the academic year, 1 November, 1533, he delivered an address filled with the new ideas. This address had been prepared for him by a young student then scarcely known, whose influence however upon the French Reformation was to be considerable; this was John Calvin. Born in 1509 at Noyon in Picardy, where his father was secretary of the bishopric and promoteur to the chapter (an ecclesiastical office analogous to the civil office of public prosecutor), he obtained his first ecclesiastical benefice there in 1521. Two years later he went to study at Paris, then to Orléans (1528) and to Bourges for the study of law. At Bourges he became acquainted with several Lutherans — among others his future friend Melchior Wolmar, professor of Greek. His cousin Olivetan had already initiated him into their ideas; some of these he had adopted, and he introduced them into Cop's rectorial discourse. This address called forth repressive measures against the two friends. Cop fled to Switzerland, Calvin to Saintonge. The latter soon broke with Catholicism, surrendered his benefices, for which he received compensation, and towards the end of 1534 betook himself to Basle in consequence of the affair of the "placards" — i.e. the violent manifestos against the Mass which, by the contrivance of the Lutherans, had been placarded in Paris (18 October, 1534), in the provinces, and even on the door to the king's apartments. Francis I, who until then had been divided between his will to meet the wishes of the pope and the expediency of winning to himself the support of the Lutheran princes of Germany against Charles V, made up his mind to defer on this occasion to the demands of the exasperated Catholics. In the January following he took part in a solemn procession during the course of which six heretics were burned; he let the Parliament arrest seventy-four of them a Meaux, of whom eighteen were also burned; he himself ordered by edict the extermination of the heretics and of those who should harbour them, and promised rewards to those who should inform against them. But before the end of the year the king reversed his policy and thought of inviting Melanchthon to Paris. It was at this juncture that Calvin entered upon his great role of leader of French Protestantism by writing his "Institutio Christianae Religionis" (Institutes of the Christian Religion), the preface to which, dated 23 August, 1535, took the form of a letter addressed to Francis I. It was published in Latin (March, 1536), and was at once an apology, a confession of faith, and a rallying signal for the partisans of the new ideas, who were no longer Catholics and were hesitating in their choice between Luther, Zwingli, and the other chiefs of the Reformation. Calvin became famous; many Frenchmen flocked to him at Geneva, where he went to reside in 1536, making that city the home of the Reformation. Thence his disciples returned to their own country to spread his writings and his ideas, and to rally old partisans or recruit new ones. Alarmed at their progress, Francis I, who had just concluded a treaty with the pope (June, 1538), thenceforward took a decidedly hostile attitude towards Protestantism, and maintained it until his death (31 March, 1547). In 1539 and 1540 the old edicts of toleration were replaced by others which invested the tribunals and the magistrates with inquisitorial powers against the heretics and those who shielded them. At the instance of the king the Sorbonne drew up first a formula of faith in twenty-six articles, and then an index of prohibited books, in which the works of Dolet, Luther, Melanchthon, and Calvin appeared; the parliaments received orders to prosecute anyone who should preach a doctrine contrary to these articles, or circulate any of the books enumerated in the index. This unanimity of king, Sorbonne, and Parliament, it may be said, was what prevented the Reformation from gaining in France the easy success which it won in Germany and England. The magistrates were everywhere extremely zealous in enforcing the repressive edicts. At Paris, Toulouse, Grenoble, Rouen, Bordeaux, and Angers, numbers of heretics and hawkers of prohibited books were sent to the stake. At Aix the Parliament passed a decree ordering a general massacre of the descendants of the Waldenses grouped around Mérindol and de Cabrieres, its enforcement to be suspended for five months to give them time for conversion. After withholding his consent to this decree for five years the king allowed an authorization for its execution to be wrung from him, and about eight hundred Waldenses were massacred — an odious deed which Francis I regretted bitterly until his death. His successor, Henry II, vigorously maintained the struggle against Protestantism. In 1547 a commission — the famous Chambre Ardente — was created in the Parliament of Paris for the special purpose of trying heretics; then in June, 1551, the Châteaubriant Edict codified all the measures which had previously been enacted for the defence of the Faith. This legislation was enforced by the parliaments in all its rigour. It resulted in the execution of many Protestants at Paris, Bordeaux, Lyons, Rouen, and Chambéry, and drove the rest to exasperation. The Protestants were aided by a certain number of apostate priests and monks, by preachers from Geneva and Strasburg, by schoolmasters who disseminated the literature of the sect; they were favoured at times by bishops — such as those of Chartres, of Uzès, of Nîmes, of Troyes, of Valence of Oloron, of Lescar, of Aix, of Montauban, of Beauvais; they were supported and guided by Calvin, who from Geneva — where he was persecuting his adversaries (e.g. Cartellion), or having them burnt (e.g. Servetus) — kept up an active correspondence with his party. With these helps the Reformers penetrated little by little into every part of France. Between 1547 and 1555 some of their circles began to organize themselves into churches at Rouen, Troyes, and elsewhere, but it was at Paris that the first Reformed church was definitely organized in 1555. Other followed — at Meaux, Poitiers, Lyons, Angers, Orléans, Bourges, and La Rochelle. All of these took as their model that of Geneva, which Calvin governed; for from him proceeded the impulse which stimulated them, the faith that inspired them; from him, too, came nearly all the ministers, who put the churches into communication with that of Geneva and its supreme head. It lacked only a confession of faith to ensure the union of the churches and uniformity of belief. In 1559 there was held at Paris the first national synod, composed of ministers and elders, assembled from all parts of France; it formulated a confession of faith, drawing inspiration from the writings of Calvin.
From this moment the French Reformation was established; it had its creed, its discipline, its organization. Of the forty articles of its creed those alone are of interest here which embody the beliefs peculiar to the Huguenots. According to these, Scripture is the rule of faith, and contains all that is necessary for the service of God and our salvation. The canonical books of which it is formed (all those in the Catholic canon except Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and 1 and 2 Maccabees) are recognized as such not by the common consent of the Churches, but by the internal testimony and persuasion of the Holy Spirit, Who causes us to discern them from other ecclesiastical books. The three symbols of the Apostles, of Nicaea, and of St. Athanasius are received as conformable to Holy Scripture.
Man fallen through sin has lost his moral integrity; his nature is utterly corrupt, and his will captive to sin. From this general corruption and condemnation only those are rescued whom God has elected of His pure bounty and mercy in Jesus Christ without consideration of their works, leaving the others under the said condemnation in order that in them His justice may be manifested. We are reconciled with God by the one sacrifice which Jesus Christ offered on the Cross, and our justice consists entirely in the remission of our sins assured to us by the imputation of the merits of Christ. Faith alone makes us sharers in this justice, and this faith is imparted to us by the hidden grace of the Holy Spirit; it is bestowed, not once for all merely to set us upon the way, but to bring us to the goal; the good deeds done by us do not enter into the reckoning as affecting our justification. The intercession of the saints, purgatory, oral confession, the Sacrifice of the Mass, and indulgences are human inventions. The institution of the Church is Divine; it cannot exist without pastors authorized to teach; no one should live apart from it. The true Church is the society of the faithful who agree to follow the word of God and the pure religion which is based thereon. It ought to be governed, in obedience to the ordinance of Christ, by pastors, guardians, and deacons. All true pastors have the same authority and equal power. Their first duty is to preach the Word of God; their second to administer the sacraments. The sacraments are outward signs and assured pledges of the grace of God. There are only two: Baptism and the Supper, in which, by the hidden and incomprehensible power of His Spirit, Jesus Christ, though He is in Heaven, spiritually nourishes and vivifies us. In Baptism, as in the Supper, God gives us that which the sacrament signifies. It is God's will that the world be governed by laws and constitutions; He has established the various governments; these therefore must be obeyed.
This profession of faith, the elements of which are borrowed from Calvin's "Institutio Christianae Religionis", evidently takes for its basis Luther's principal doctrines, which are however here more methodically expounded and more rigorously deduced. The Huguenots added to the Lutheran theories only the belief in absolute predestination and in the certainty of salvation by reason of the inamissibility of grace. They also deviated from Lutheranism in the organization of their church (which is not, as with Luther, absorbed in the State) and in their conception — obscure enough indeed — of the sacraments, in which they see more than the empty and inefficacious signs of the Sacramentarians, and less than ceremonies conferring grace, the Lutheran conception of a sacrament.
The discipline established by the Synod of 1559 was also contained in forty articles, to which others were very soon added. The primary organization with its successive developments may be reduced substantially to this: Wherever a sufficient number of the faithful were found, they were to organize in the form of a Church, i.e. appoint a consistory, call a minister, establish the regular celebration of the sacraments and the practice of discipline. A church provided with all the elements of organization was an église dressée; one which had only a part of these requisites was an église plantée. The former had one or more pastors, with elders and deacons, who composed the consistory. This consistory was in the first instance elected by the common voice of the people; after that, it co-opted its own members; but these had to receive the approbation of the people. Pastors were elected by the provincial synod or the conference after an inquiry into their lives and beliefs, and a profession of faith; imposition of hands followed. The people were notified of the election, and the newly elected pastor preached before the congregation on three consecutive Sundays; the silence of the people was taken as an expression of consent. The elders, elected by those members of the Church who were admitted to the Supper, were charged with the duty of watching over the flock, jointly with the pastor, and of paying attention to all that concerned ecclesiastical order and government. The deacons were elected like the elders; it was their office to administer, under the consistory, the alms collected for the poor, to visit the sick, those in prison, and so on.
A certain number of churches went to form a conference. The conferences assembled at least twice a year. Each church was represented by a pastor and an elder; the function of the conference was to settle such differences as might arise among church officers, and to provide generally for all that might be deemed necessary for the maintenance and the common good of those within their jurisdiction. Over the conferences were the provincial synods, which were in like manner composed of a pastor and one or two elders from each church chosen by the consistory, and met at least once a year. The number of these provincial synods in the whole of France was at times fifteen, at other times sixteen. Doctrines, discipline, schools, the appointment of pastors, erection and delimitation of parishes fell within their jurisdiction. At the head of the hierarchy stood the national synod, which, in so far as possible, was to meet once a year. (As a matter of fact, there were only twenty-nine between 1559 and 1660 — on an average, one every three years and a half). It was made up of two ministers and two elders sent by each provincial synod, and, when fully attended, it had (sixty or) sixty-four members. To the national synod it belonged to pronounce definitively upon all important matters, internal or external, disciplinary or political, which concerned religion.
The complement of these various institutions was the translation of the Bible into the vernacular. In 1528 Lefèvre d'Etaples had already completed a translation from the Vulgate, making use of Jean de Rely's already existing translation, but suppressing the glosses. His translation was improved by going back to the original texts in the four editions which appeared successively before the year 1541. But the first really Huguenot version was that of Olivetan, a relation of Calvin's. It was called the "Bible de Sevrieres" — the Sevrières Bible — from the locality where it was printed. For the protocanonical books of the Old Testament it goes to the Hebrew; for the deuterocanonical, it is in many places content with a revision of Lefèvre's text. Its New Testament is translated from the Greek. Calvin composed its preface. In 1540 there appeared an edition of it revised and corrected by the pastors of Geneva. Again there appeared at Geneva, in 1545, another edition in which Calvin had a hand. A more thorough revision marks the editions of 1553, 1561, and 1563, the last two with notes taken from Calvin's commentaries. Finally, Olivetan's text, more or less revised or renewed by Martin and Osterwald, became the permanent basis of the Bibles in use among French Protestants.
It was from Calvin, too, and from his book "La forme des prières et des chants ecclésiastiques" (1542), that the Huguenot liturgy was taken. Like Luther's, it embraces the suppression of the Mass, the idea of salvation by faith, the negation of merit in any works, even in Divine worship, the proscription of relics and of the intercession of saints; it attaches great importance to the preaching of God's word and the use of the vernacular only. But the breach with Catholicism is much wider than in the case of Luther. Under pretext of returning to the earliest ecclesiastical usage, Calvin and the French Protestants who followed him reduced the whole liturgy to three elements: public prayers, preaching, and the administration of the sacraments. In the Divine service for Sunday prayers were either recited or chanted. At the beginning there was the public confession and absolution, the chanting of the Ten Commandments or of psalms, then a prayer offered by the minister, followed by the sermon and a long prayer for princes, for the Church and its pastors, for men in general, the poor, the sick, and so on. Besides these, there were special prayers for baptism, marriage, and the Supper, which last was under certain circumstances added to the Divine service.
The history of French Protestantism may be divided into four well-defined periods: (1) A Militant Period, in which it is struggling for freedom (1559-98); (2) the Period of the Edict of Nantes (1598-1685); (3) the Period from the Revocation to the Revolution (1685-1800); (4) the Period from the Revolution to the Separation (1801-1905).
The organization of their discipline and worship gave the Huguenots a new power of expansion. Little by little they penetrated into the ranks of the nobility. One of the principal families of the kingdom, the Coligny, allied to the Montmorency, furnished them their most distinguished recruits in d'Andelot, Admiral Coligny, and Cardinal Odet de Chatillon. Soon the Queen of Navarre, Jeanne d'Albret, daughter of Margaret of Navarre, professed Calvinism and introduced it into her dominions by force. Her husband, Antoine* de Bourbon, the first prince of the blood, appeared at times to have gone over to the Huguenots with his brother the Prince de Condé, who, for his part, never wavered in his allegiance to the new sect. Even the Parliament of Paris, which had so energetically carried on the struggle against the heresy, allowed itself to become tainted, many of its members embracing the new doctrine. It was necessary to deal severely with these; many were imprisoned, Antoine* du Bourg among others. But at this point Henry II died, leaving the throne to a delicate child of sixteen. Nothing could have been more advantageous for the Huguenots. Just at that time they formed a numerous group in almost every district of France. Certain provinces, such as Normandy, contained as many as 5000 of them; one day 6000 persons at the Pré-aux-clercs, in Paris, sang the Psalms of Marot which the Huguenots had adopted; Basse-Guyenne, it was said, had seventy-six organized churches. Two years later, Bordeaux counted 7000 of the Reformed; Rouen, 10,000; mention is made of 20,000 at Toulouse, and the Prince de Condé presented a list of 2050 churches — which, it is true, cannot be identified. The papal nuncio wrote to Rome that the kingdom was more than half Huguenot; this was assuredly an exaggeration, for the Venetian ambassador estimated the district contaminated with this error at not the one-tenth part of France; nevertheless it is evident that the Huguenots could no longer be regarded as a few scattered handfuls of individuals, whose case could be satisfactorily dealt with by a few judicial prosecutions. Organized into churches linked together by synods, reinforced by the support of great lords of whom some had access to the councils of the Crown, the Calvinists thenceforward constituted a political power which exerted its activity in national affairs and had a history of its own.
After the accession of Francis II, and through the influence of the Guises, who were all-powerful with the king and strongly devoted to Catholicism, the edicts against the Huguenots were rendered still more severe. Antoine* du Bourg was burned, and a royal edict (4 September, 1559) commanded that houses in which unlawful assemblies were held should be razed and the organizers of such assemblies punished with death. Embittered by these measures, the Huguenots took advantage of every cause for discontent afforded by the government of the Guises. After taking counsel with their theologians at Strasburg and Geneva, they resolved to have recourse to arms. A plot was formed, the real leader of which was the Prince de Conde, though its organization was entrusted to the Sieur de la Renaudié, a nobleman of Périgord, who had been convicted of forgery by the Parliament of Dijon, had fled to Geneva, and had there become an ardent Calvinist. He visited Geneva and England, and scoured the provinces of France to recruit soldiers and bring them together about the Court — for the plan was to capture the Guises without, as the conspirators said, laying hands on the king's person. While the Court in order to disarm Huguenot hostility was ordering its agents to desist from prosecutions, and proclaiming a general amnesty from which only preachers and conspirators were excepted, the Guises were warned of the plot being hatched, and thus enabled to stifle the revolt in the blood of the conspirators who were assembling in bands about Amboise, where the king was lodged (19 March, 1560). The resentment aroused by the severity of this repression and the appointment as chancellor of Michel de L'Hôpital, a magistrate of great moderation, soon led to the adoption of less violent counsels; the Edict of Romorantin (May, 1560) softened the lot of the Protestants, who had as their advocates before the "Assembly of Notables" (August, 1560) the Prince de Conde, the chancellor L'Hôpital, and the Bishops of Valence and Vienne.
The accession of Charles IX, a minor (December, 1560), brought into power, as queen regent, his mother Catharine de' Medici. This was fortunate for the Huguenots. Almost indifferent to questions of doctrine the ambitious regent made no scruple of granting any degree of toleration, provided she might enjoy her power in peace. She allowed the Conde and the Coligny to practice the reformed religion at court, and even summoned to preach there Jean de Mouluc, Bishop of Valence, a Calvinist scarcely concealed by his mitre. At the same time she ordered the Parliament of Paris to suspend the prosecutions, and authorized Huguenot worship outside of the cities until such time as a national council should have pronounced on the matter. An edict promulgated in the month of April, while prohibiting religious manifestations, set at liberty those who had been imprisoned on religious grounds. In vain did the Parliament of Paris try to suspend the publication of this edict; a judiciary commission composed of princes, high officers of the Crown, and members of the Royal Council, granted the Huguenots amnesty on the sole condition that they should in future live like Catholics. In the hope of bringing about a reconciliation between the two religions Catharine assembled Catholic prelates and Huguenot ministers at the Conference of Poissy. For the latter Théodore de Bèze spoke; for the former, the Cardinal of Lorraine. Each party claimed victory. In conclusion the king forbade the Huguenots to hold ecclesiastical property, and the Catholics to interfere with Huguenot worship. In January, 1562, the Huguenots were authorized to hold their assemblies outside of the towns, but had to restore all property taken from the clergy, and abstain from tumults and unlawful gatherings. This edict, however, only exasperated the rival factions; at Paris it occasioned disturbances which obliged Catharine and the Court to flee. The Duke of Guise, on his way from Lorraine to rejoin the queen, found at Vassy in Champagne some six or seven hundred Huguenots holding religious worship (1 March, 1562), which according to the Edict of January they had no right to do, Vassy being a fortified town. Their singing soon interfered with the Mass at which the Duke of Guise was assisting. Mutual provocations ensued, a quarrel broke out, and blood was shed. Twenty-three Huguenots were slain and more than a hundred wounded.
Forthwith, at the call of the Prince de Conde, there began the first of the civil wars called the "wars of religion". The Huguenots rose, as they said, to enforce respect for the Edict of January, which the Duke of Guise was trampling under foot. Everywhere the mutual animosities found vent in acts of violence. Huguenots were massacred in one place, monks and religious in another. Wherever the insurgents gained the mastery, churches were sacked, statues and crosses mutilated, sacred utensils profaned in sacrilegious burlesques, and relics of saints cast into the flames. The most serious encounters took place at Orléans, where the Duke of Guise was treacherously assassinated by a Huguenot. The assassin Poltrot de Méré declared that he had been urged on by Bèze and Coligny. Finally, although Conde and Coligny had not been ashamed to purchase support from Queen Elizabeth of England by delivering Havre over to her, the victory remained with the Catholics. Peace was established by the Edict of Amboise (19 March, 1563), which left the Huguenots freedom of worship in one town out of each bailiwick (bailliage) and in the castles of lords who exercised the power of life and death (haute justice). Four years later there was another civil war which lasted six months and ended in the Peace of Longjumeau (23 March, 1568), re-establishing the Edict of Amboise. Five months later hostilities recommenced. Conde occupied La Rochelle, but he was killed at Jarnac, and Coligny, who succeeded to his command was defeated at Moncontour. Peace was made in the following year, and the Edict of Saint-Germain (8 April, 1570) granted the Huguenots freedom of worship wherever their worship had been carried on before the war, besides leaving in their hands the four following refuges — La Rochelle, Montauban, La Charite, and Cognac.
On his return to Court, Coligny found great favour with the king and laboured to win his support for the revolted Netherlands. The marriage of Henry, King of Navarre, with the king's sister, Margaret of Valois, soon after this brought all the Huguenots lords to Paris. Catharine de' Medici, jealous of Coligny's influence with the king, and it may be in collusion with the Duke of Guise who had his father's death to avenge on the admiral, plotted the death of the latter. But the attempt failed; Coligny was only wounded. Catharine, fearing reprisals from the Huguenot's, suddenly won over the king and his council to the idea of putting to death the Huguenot leaders assembled in Paris. Thus occurred the odious Massacre of St. Bartholomew, so called from the saint whose feast fell on the same day (24 August, 1572), Admiral Coligny being slain with many of his Huguenot followers. The massacre spread to many provincial towns. The number of victims is estimated at 2000 for the capital, and 6000 to 8000 for the rest of France. The king explained to foreign courts that Coligny and his partisans had organized a plot against his person and authority, and that he (the king) had merely suppressed it. Thus it was that Pope Gregory XIII at first believed in a conspiracy of the Huguenots, and, persuaded that the king had but defended himself against these heretics, held a service of thanksgiving for the repression of the conspiracy, and commemorated it by having a medal struck, which he sent with his felicitations to Charles IX. There is no proof that the Catholic clergy were in the slightest degree connected with the massacre. Cries of horror and malediction arose from the Huguenot ranks; their writers made France and the countries beyond its borders echo with those cries by means of pamphlets in which, for the first time, they attacked the absolute power, or even the very institution of royalty. After St. Bartholomew's the Huguenots, though bereft of their leaders, rushed to arms. This was the fourth civil war, and centred about a few fortified towns, such as La Rochelle, Montauban, and Nîmes. The Edict of Boulogne (25 June, 1573) put an end to it, granting to all Huguenots amnesty for the past and liberty to worship in those three towns. It was felt that the rising power of the Huguenots was broken — that from this juncture forward they would never again be able to sustain a conflict except by allying themselves with political malcontents. They themselves were conscious of this; they gave themselves a political organization which facilitated the mobilization of all their forces. In their synods held from 1573 to 1588 they organized France into généralités, placing at the head of each a general, with a permanent council and periodical assemblies. The delegates of these généralités were to form the States General of the Union, which were to meet every three months. Special committees were created for the recruiting of the army, the management of the finances, and the administration of justice. Over the whole organization a "protector of the churches" was appointed, who was the chief of the party. Conde held this title from 1574; Henry of Navarre after 1576. It was, so to say, a permanently organized revolt. In 1574 hostilities recommenced; the Huguenots and the malcontents joined forces against impotent royalty until they wrested from Henry, the successor of Charles IX (30 May, 1574), by the Edict of Beaulieu (May, 1576) the right of public worship for the religion, thenceforth officially called the prétendue reformée, throughout France, except at Paris and the Court. There were also to be established chambers composed of equal numbers of Catholics and Huguenots in eight Parliaments; eight places de sureté were to be given to the Huguenots; there was to be a disclaimer of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, and the families which had suffered from it were to be reinstated. These large concessions to the Huguenots and the approbation given to their political organization led to the formation of the League, which was organized by Catholics anxious to defend their religion. The States-General of Blois (December, 1576) declared itself against the Edict of Beaulieu. Thereupon the Protestants took up arms under the leadership of Henry of Navarre, who, escaping from the Court, had returned to the Calvinism which he had abjured at the time of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew. The advantage was on the Catholic side, thanks to some successes achieved by the Duke of Anjou, the king's brother. The Peace of Bergerac, confirmed by the Edict of Poitiers (September, 1577), left the Huguenots the free exercise of their religion only in the suburbs of one town in each bailiwick (bailliage), and in those places where it had been practised before the outbreak of hostilities and which they occupied at the current date.
The national synods, which served to fill up the intervals between armed struggles, give us a glimpse into the forces at work in the interior life of the Huguenot party. The complaints made at their synods show clearly that the fervour of their early days had disappeared; laxity and dissensions were finding their way into their ranks, and at times pastors and their flocks were at variance. It was necessary to forbid pastors to publish anything touching religious controversies or political affairs without the express approval of their conferences, and the consistories were asked (1581) to stem the ever-widening wave of dissolution which threatened their church. A Venetian ambassador writes at this period that the number of Huguenots had decreased by seventy per cent. But the death of the Duke of Anjou on 10 June, 1584, the sole surviving heir of the direct line of the Valois, revived their hopes, since the King of Navarre thus became heir presumptive to the throne. The prospect thus opened aroused the League; it called upon Henry III to interdict Huguenot worship everywhere, and to declare the heretics incapable of holding any benefices or public offices — and consequently the King of Navarre incapable of succeeding to the throne. By the Convention of Nemours (7 July, 1585) the king accepted these conditions; he revoked all previous edicts of pacification, ordered the ministers to leave the kingdom immediately and the other Huguenots within six months, unless they chose to be converted. This edict, it was said, sent more Huguenots to Mass than St. Bartholomew's had, and resulted in the disappearance of all their churches north of the Loire; it was therefore impossible for them to profit by the hostilities which broke out between the king and the Guises, and resulted in the assassination of the Guises at the States-General of Blois (23 December, 1588) and the death of Henry III at the siege of the revolted city of Paris (1 August, 1589). Henry of Navarre succeeded as Henry IV, after promising the Royalist Catholics who had joined him that he would seek guidance and instruction from a council to be held within six months, or sooner if possible, and that in the meantime he would maintain the exclusive practice of the Catholic religion in all those places where the Huguenot religion was not actually being practised. Circumstances prevented him from keeping his word. The League held Paris and the principal towns of France, and he was forced into a long struggle against it, in which he was enabled to secure victory only after his conversion to Catholicism (July, 1593), and, above all, after his reconciliation with the pope (September, 1595). The Huguenots had meanwhile been able to obtain from him only the measure of tolerance guaranteed by the Edict of Poitiers; they had profited by this to reopen at Montauban (June, 1594) the synods which had been interrupted for eleven years. They soon completed their political organization in the Assemblies of Saumur and Loudun, they extended it to the whole of France and claimed to treat with the king as equal with equal, bargaining with him for their help against the Spaniards, refusing him their contingents at the siege of Amiens, withdrawing them in the midst of a campaign during the siege of La Fère. Thus they brought the king, who was besides anxious to end the civil war, to grant them the Edict of Nantes (April-May, 1598).
This edict, containing 93 public and 36 secret articles, provided in the first place that the Catholic religion should be re-established wherever it had been suppressed, together with all the property and rights previously enjoyed by the clergy. The Huguenots obtained the free exercise of their religious worship in all places where it actually existed, as also in two localities in every bailiwick (bailliage), in castles of lords possessing the right of life and death, and even in those of the ordinary nobles in which the number of the faithful did not exceed thirty. They were eligible for all public offices, for admission to colleges and academies, could hold synods and even political meetings; they received 45,000 crowns annually for expenses of worship and support of schools; they were given in the Parliament of Paris a tribunal in which their representatives constituted one-third of the members, while in those of Grenoble, Bordeaux, and Toulouse special chambers were created, half of whose members were Huguenot. One hundred places de sureté were ceded to them for eight years, and, while the king paid the garrison of these fortresses, he named the governors only with the assent of the churches. If many of these provisions are nowadays recognized by common law, some on the other hand would seem incompatible with orderly government. This condition of benevolent and explicit tolerance was entirely new for the Huguenots. Many of them considered that too little had been yielded to them, while the Catholics thought that they had been given too much. Pope Clement VIII energetically complained of the edict to Cardinal d'Ossat, the king's ambassador; the French clergy protested against it; and many of the parliaments refused for a long time to register it. Henry IV succeeded finally in imposing his will on all parties, and for some years the Edict of Nantes ensured the religious peace of France. The Huguenots, possessing at that time 773 churches, enjoyed during the reign of Henry IV the most perfect calm; their happiness was marred only by the efforts of the Catholic clergy to make converts among them. Cardinal du Perron and many of the Jesuits, Capuchins, and other religious engaged in this work, and sometimes with great success. Upon the death of Henry IV (1610) there was at first no change in the situation of the Protestants. They did indeed raise numerous complaints in their assemblies of Saumur, Grenoble, La Rochelle, and Loudun, but in reality they had no grievances to allege except those due to popular intolerance with which the Government had nothing to do. Truth compels the less prejudiced among their historians to admit that the Huguenots, who complained so much of Catholic intolerance, were themselves just as intolerant wherever they happened to be the stronger. Not only did they retain the church property and the exclusive use of the churches, but, wherever possible (as at Béarn), they even opposed the enforcement of those clauses of the Edict of Nantes which were favourable to Catholics. They went so far as to prohibit Catholic worship in the towns that had been ceded to them. It was with the greatest difficulty that Sully, the minister of Henry IV and himself a Protestant, could obtain for Catholic priests permission to enter the hospitals of La Rochelle, when summoned to administer the sacraments, and authorization to bury, with never so little solemnity, their dead co-religionists. To this intolerance, which often explains the attitude of the Catholics, they added the imprudence of showing themselves ever ready to make common cause with the domestic enemies of the State, or with any lords who might be in revolt. In 1616, in Guyenne, Languedoc, and Piotou, they allied themselves with Rohan and Conde, who had risen against the queen regent, Marie de' Medici. They again got restless when the king, conformably with the Edict of Nantes, re-established Catholicism at Béarn. An assembly, held at La Rochelle despite the king's prohibition, divided the realm into eight military circles, and among other matters provided for plundering the king's revenues and the goods of the Church. To deal with this condition of affairs the king was obliged to capture Saumur, Thouars, and other rebellious towns. He laid siege to Montauban, which city, defended by Rohan and La Force, repelled all his assaults. Lastly he invested Montpellier and had no better success; nevertheless peace was signed there (October, 1622), according to which the Edict of Nantes was confirmed, political meetings were forbidden, and the cities which had been won from the Protestants remained in the king's hands. Cardinal de Richelieu, when he became prime minister, entertained the idea of putting an end to the political power of the Huguenots while respecting their religious liberty. Rohan and Soubise, on the pretext that the Edict of Nantes had been violated, quickly effected an uprising of the South of France, and did not hesitate to make an alliance with England, as a result of which an English fleet of ninety vessels manned by 10,000 men endeavoured to effect a landing at La Rochelle (July, 1627). The king and Richelieu laid siege to this stronghold of the revolted Huguenots; they drove off the English fleet, and even made its approach to the place impossible in future by means of a mole about 1640 yards long which they constructed. In spite of the fanatical heroism of the mayor Guiton and his co-religionists, La Rochelle was obliged to capitulate. Richelieu used his victory with moderation; he left the inhabitants the free exercise of their religion, granted them a full amnesty, and restored all property to its owners. Rohan, pursued by Conde and Epernon, kept up the war, not disdaining to accept succour from Spain, but he was at last obliged to sign the Peace of Alais, by which the Edict of Nantes was renewed, an amnesty promised, the cities taken from the Huguenots, and the religious wars brought to an end (June, 1629). Subsequently Protestantism disappeared from the stage of politics, content to enjoy in peace the advantages of a religious character which were still accorded to it. The strife was transferred to the field of controversy. Public lectures, polemical and erudite writings, were multiplied, and preachers and professors of theology — such as Chamier, Amyraut, Rivet, Basnage, Blondel, Daillé, Bochart — demonstrated their industry, learning, and courage. The Church in France, more and more affected by the beneficent influence of the Council of Trent, opposed them with vigorous and learned controversialists, with prudent and zealous preachers, such as Sirmond, Labbe, Coton, St. Francis de Sales, Cospéan, Lejeune, Sénault, Tenouillet, Coeffeteau, de Bérulle, Condren, whose success was manifested in numerous conversions. These conversions took place especially in the higher circles of society; the great lords abandoned Calvinism, which retained its influence only among the middle classes. Excluded from the public service, the Huguenots became manufacturers, merchants, and farmers; the number of their churches decreased to 630; their religious activity lessened; between 1631 and 1659 they held only four synods. Without being sympathetic towards them, the public authorities respected the religious liberty guaranteed by the Edict of Nantes. Richelieu judged that the scope of that edict should not be widened, nor should the liberties there granted be curtailed, and even Protestant historians pay tribute to his moderation. Louis XIV being a minor at his accession, his mother, Anne of Austria, began her regency by promising to the Protestants the enjoyment of their liberties. Mazarin abstained from disturbing them. "If the little flock", he said, "feeds on evil weeds, it does not wander away" (Si le petit troupeau broute de mauvaises herbes, il ne s'écarte pas). It is indeed true that some of the feudal lords, the Duc de Bouillon among others, when they gave up Calvinism, caused the temples within their jurisdictions to be closed; but the Edict of Nantes permitted this, and the Government had neither the right nor the inclination to prevent it. In 1648, when Alsace with the exception of Strasburg was reunited with France, liberty of public worship was maintained for all the new subjects who were of the Augsburg Confession. In 1649 the Royal Council, dealing with certain complaints of the Huguenots, declared that those of the "pseudo-reformed" (prétendue réformée) religion should not be disturbed in the practice of their worship, and ordered the reopening of some of their temples which had been closed. Thus the Protestant minister Jurieu could write that the years between the Rising of the Fronde and the Peace of the Pyrenees were among the happiest within the memory of his creed.
In proportion as Louis XIV got the reins of government into his own hands, the position of the Huguenots became increasingly unfavourable. After 1660 they were forbidden to hold national synods. At that time they counted 623 churches served by 723 pastors, who ministered to about 1,200,000 members. A commission, established in 1661 to inquire into the titles on which their places of worship were held, brought about the demolition of more than 100 churches, for which no warrant could be found in the provisions of the Edict of Nantes. A royal order of 1663 deprived relapsed persons — i.e. those who had returned to Protestantism after having abjured it — of the benefit of the Edict of Nantes, and condemned them to perpetual banishment. A year later, it is true, this order was suspended, and proceedings under it were arrested. Then, by another ordinance, parish priests were authorized to present themselves with a magistrate at the domicile of any sick person and to ask whether such person wished to die in heresy or to be converted to the true religion; the children of Protestants were declared competent to embrace Catholicism at the age of seven, their parents being obliged to make an allowance for their separate support conformably with their station in life. The Protestants soon saw themselves excluded from public office; the chambers in which the parties were equally represented were suppressed, Huguenot preaching was restrained and emigration was forbidden under pain of confiscation of property.
These measures and others of less importance were taken chiefly in response to demands made by the Assemblies of the Clergy or by public opinion. Their efficacy was augmented by the controversial works, those of Bosseut, "Exposition de la doctrine catholique", "Avertissement aux Protestants", "Histoire des variations des Eglises protestantes", being conspicuously brilliant, to which the ministers — Claude, Jurieu, Pajon — replied but feebly. Meanwhile the commissioners (intendants) were working with all their might to bring about conversions of Protestants, to which end some of them made as much use of dragoons as they did missionaries, so that their system of making converts by force rather than by conviction came to be branded with the name of dragonnade.
Trusting in the number and sincerity of these conversions, Louis XIV thought it no longer necessary to observe half measures with the Huguenots, and consequently revoked the Edict of Nantes on 18 October, 1685. Thenceforward the exercise of public worship was forbidden to the Protestants; their churches were to be demolished; they were prohibited from assembling for the practice of their religion in private houses. Protestant ministers who would not be converted were ordered to leave the kingdom within fifteen days. Parents were forbidden to instruct their children in Protestantism, and ordered to have them baptized by priests and sent to Catholic schools. Four months' grace was granted the fugitive Protestants to return to France and recover their property; after the lapse of this period the said property would be definitively confiscated. Emigration was forbidden for men under pain of the galleys, and for women under pain of imprisonment. Subject to these conditions Protestants might live within the realm, carry on commerce, and enjoy their property without being molested on account of their religion. This measure, which was regrettable from many points of view, evoked in France unanimous applause from Catholics of all classes. With the exception of Vauban and Saint-Simon, all the great men of that period highly approved of the revocation. This attitude is explained by the ideas of the time. Tolerance was almost unknown in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and, in those countries where they had the ascendancy, the Protestants had been long inflicting upon Catholics a treatment harder than they themselves underwent in France. At Geneva and in Holland Catholic worship was absolutely forbidden; in Germany, after the Peace of Augsburg, all subjects were bound to take the religion of their prince, in accordance with the adage: Cujus regio ejus religio. England, which even forced those who dissented from the Established Church to seek religious liberty in America, treated Catholics more harshly than did Turkey; all priests were banished from the country; should one of them return and be caught in the exercise of his functions, he was condemned to death; a heavy tribute was imposed upon Papists, as though they were slaves.
The Revocation did not produce the effect intended by its author. Scarcely had it been published when, in spite of all prohibitions, a mighty movement of emigration developed in the provinces adjacent to the frontiers. Vauban had to write that the "Revocation brought about the desertion of 100,000 Frenchmen, the exportation of 60,000,000 livres ($12,000,000), the ruin of commerce; enemies' fleets were reinforced by 9000 sailors, the best in the kingdom, and foreign armies by 600 officers and 1200 men, more inured to war than their own." Those who remained took advantage of the last article of the Revocation to dispense with attendance at church and the reception of the sacraments at the hour of death. The king in his embarrassment consulted the bishops and the intendants, and their replies inclined him to relax the execution of the edict of revocation somewhat, without changing anything in its letter. On the other hand, a few preachers remained in spite of the Revocation, and clandestinely organized their worship in the fields and in remote places, or, as the Protestant historians express it, "in the desert". Of this number were Brousson, Corteiz, and Regnart. In the Vivarais the management of the churches passed into the hands of the illuminés — fanatical preachers, peasants, and young girls — who stirred up the population with prophesies of the approaching triumph of their cause. Three armies and three marshals of France had to march against these insurgents (the Camisards), who were reduced to order only after a struggle of five or six years' duration (1702-1708).
From that time the churches lived only as secret associations, without religious worship and without regular gatherings. The ministers were hunted into hiding, those who were caught being mercilessly put to death. Still, some of them were not afraid to risk their lives; the best known of these, Antoine* Court (1696-1760), spent nearly twenty years in this secret labour, travelling through the South, and distributing propagandist or polemical tracts, holding numerous meetings "in the desert", and even organizing semblances of provincial synods in 1715, and national synods in 1726. Retiring to Lausanne in 1729, he founded there a seminary for the education of pastors for the Protestant ministry in France. This condition of official persecution and hidden vitality lasted until after the middle of the eighteenth century. The authorities continued to hang ministers and destroy churches until 1762; but ideas of toleration had for some time been gradually finding their way into the mind of the nation; prosecutions for religious offences became unpopular, especially after the Calas affair. A Protestant of that name at Toulouse was charged with having killed one of his sons to prevent his becoming a Catholic. Arrested and condemned on this charge by the Parliament of Toulouse (9 March, 1762), he was executed at the age of sixty-eight after a trial which created great excitement. His widow and children demanded justice. Voltaire took up their cause and succeeded by his writings in arousing the public opinion of France and of Europe against the Parliament of Toulouse. The Supreme Council (Grand Conseil) unanimously reversed the judgment of the Parliament, and another tribunal rehabilitated the memory of Calas. The Protestants derived great benefit from the trend of public feeling resulting from this rehabilitation. Without any legislative change as yet, the modification of public opinion incessantly tended to the improvement of their lot, and the Government treated them with a tacit toleration. At last, in 1787, a decided amelioration of their condition came with the Edict of Toleration, which granted to non-Catholics the right to practise a profession or handicraft without molestation, permission to be legally married before magistrates, and to have births officially recorded. In practice these liberties went even farther, and churches were openly organized. Two years later complete liberty and access to all employments were recognized as belonging to them, no less than to other citizens, by the "Declaration of the Rights of Man", voted by the Constituent Assembly (August, 1789). This legislative body, which for a short period (March, 1790) was presided over by the Protestant pastor Rabaud, went so far as to order that the property of those who had emigrated under the Revocation should be restored to their descendants, who might even recover their rights as French citizens on condition that they took up their residence in France. Protestants had to suffer, like Catholics, though infinitely less, from the sectarian and anti-religious spirit of the Revolution; churches vanished during the Reign of Terror; religious worship could not be reorganized until about the year 1800.
When order was restored the Huguenots were included in the measures initiated by Napoleon for pacifying the nation. They received from him an entirely new organization. At this time there were in France about 430,000 Réformés. By the law of 18 Germinal, Year X (7 April, 1802), there was to be a consistorial church for every 6000 believers, and five consistorial churches were to form a synod. The consistory of each church was to be composed of a pastor and the leading elders. They were entrusted with the maintenance of discipline, the administration of property, and the election of pastors, whose names had, however, to be submitted for the approval of the head of the State. Each synod was composed of a pastor and an elder from each of the churches, and had to superintend public worship and religious instruction. It could assemble only with the consent of the Government under the presidency of the prefect or the sub-prefect, and for not longer than six days. Its enactments had to be submitted for approval to the head of the State. There was no national synod. The churches of the Augsburg Confession, chiefly in Alsace, had, instead of synods, boards of inspection subordinate to three general consistories. Salaries were guaranteed to the pastors, who were exempt from military service. The old seminary of Lausanne was transferred to Geneva, at that time a French city, and then to Montauban (1809) and annexed to the university as a faculty of theology. For the churches of the Augsburg Confession, two seminaries or faculties were to be erected in the east of France. Politically, Protestantism had no further modifications to undergo, whatever changes of government there might be. In the early days of the Restoration its members had, indeed, a certain amount of rough usage to suffer in some of the cities of the south, but this was the work of local animosity or of personal vengeance, and the public authorities had no part in it. The churches laboured to adapt themselves as well as possible to the system of organization that had been imposed on them.
In 1806, after Napoleon's conquests, there were 76 consistories with 171 pastors. The religious life of their churches was very languid; indifference reigned everywhere. At Paris, the pastor Boistard complained that out of 10,000 Protestants hardly fifty or a hundred attended worship regularly — two or three hundred at most during the fine season. The pastors, hastily prepared for their work at Geneva, brought back generally with them rationalistic tendencies; they were content to fulfil the routine duties of their profession. Their preaching dwelt upon the commonplaces of morality or of natural religion. Two tendencies in regard to dogma were beginning to reveal themselves. One of these was represented by Daniel Encoutre, dean of the theological faculty at Montauban, and was directed towards rigid orthodoxy, based firmly on dogmas and confessions; the other was championed especially by Samuel Vincent, one of the most respected pastors of the time, and put religious feeling above doctrine and morality, Christianity being according to this view a life rather than an aggregate of facts and revealed truths. The movement known as the Réveil (Awakening) helped to accentuate this divergence. The men who constituted themselves its propagators in France during the first years of the Restoration were disciples of Wesley. They insisted, in their sermons, on the absolute powerlessness of man to save himself by his own efforts, upon justification by faith alone, upon individual conversion, and were animated by a zeal for the saving of souls and the preaching of the Gospel which contrasted strangely with the indolence of the official Protestant pastors. The Réveil was ill received by the two sections into which French Protestantism was beginning to divide. The orthodox, while accepting its doctrines, did not sympathize with its efforts at a renewal of the spiritual life, of renunciation and sacrifice, and of zeal for saving souls. This they plainly showed at Lyons where they effected the removal of the pastor Adolphe Monod, who had wished to introduce Réveil practices. For the representatives of the liberal tendencies, the preaching of the Réveil was nothing but a collection of superannuated doctrines, in opposition alike to what they called the spirit of the Gospel and to the ideas and aspirations of modern society.
These three tendencies grew farther apart from day to day. The friends of Réveil, sometimes called Methodists, severed their connection with the Reformed Churches of France, and organized in 1830 in the Rue Taitbout, Paris, a free Church of which Edmond de Pressense soon became the most noted leader. In their profession of faith and their disciplinary regulations they emphasized the individual character of faith, the Church's independence of the State, and the duty of maintaining a propaganda. Some of them, with the periodical "L'Esperance" for their organ, refused to break with the National Church. The Liberals, who were at first called Latitudinarians or Rationalists, repudiated the earlier confessions of faith, predestination by absolute decree and illumination by irresistible grace, and the whole body of their doctrine — according to M. Nicolas, one of their number — consisted in "avoiding Calvinistic and Rationalistic exaggerations". A synod held in 1848, consisting of fifty-two ministers and thirty-eight elders, increased the existing divisions. The Liberals obtained the presidency, and, in deference to their wishes, the question of confessions of faith was set aside by an almost unanimous vote, the synod contenting itself with drawing up an address in which the majority set forth the principles common to French Protestants, namely, respect for the Bible and the liturgies, and faith in historical and supernatural Christianity. But as the assembly refused to re-establish a clear and positive profession of faith, the pastors Frederic Monod, Amal, and Cambon left the official Church, and issued an appeal to all the independent churches which had been formed by the labours of isolated evangelists. In 1849 they held a synod, in which thirteen of these already formed churches and eighteen which were in process of formation were represented, voted a profession of faith, and established the "Union of the Free Evangelical Churches of France" (Union des eglises évangéliques libres de France).
All these divisions made a civil reorganization of the churches desirable; it was effected by a decree of Louis Napoleon, who was then President of the Republic. This decree reconstituted the parishes, placing them under a presbyterial council of pastors and elders. At the head of the hierarchy so constituted was a central council, the members of which were appointed by the Government; its function was merely to represent the churches in their relations with the head of the State, without possessing any religious or disciplinary authority. The Lutheran churches were placed under the authority of the Superior Consistory and of a Directory. The only subsequent modification in the status of these churches resulted from the Prussian annexation, after the War of 1870, of the Alsatian territories, where there were a great many Protestants; the Lutheran churches by this event lost two-thirds of their membership, and their faculty of theology had to be transferred from Strasburg to Paris, where it augmented the strength of the Liberal section. The gulf between the two parties still continued to widen. The Orthodox vainly endeavoured, by abandoning the formulae of the old theology, and by rejecting all but the great facts and essential doctrines of Christianity, to maintain their position; the Liberals, following the lead of the "Revuede Strasbourg", displayed an ever greater readiness to welcome the most radical conclusions of German rationalistic criticism, particularly those of the Tübingen School. The authority of Holy Scripture, the Divinity of Christ, the idea of the Redemption, of miracles, of the supernatural, were successively abandoned. M. Pécaut, a representative of this tendency, even wrote in 1859 a book (Le Christ et la conscience) in which he called in question the moral perfection and holiness of Christ. Others — and among them pastors such as Athanase Coquerel the Younger, Albert Réville, and Paschoud — did not conceal their sympathy for Renan's "Vie de Jésus". The two last named of these, indeed, were deprived of their churches by the council; they of course asserted in defence of their ideas — as, for that matter, did all the Liberals — that they had only used the right of free inquiry — the right which constitutes the whole of Protestantism, since the Reformation was based on the right of every man to interpret the Scriptures according to his own lights. Their opponents replied that, if this were so, the Church was impossible; that a common worship presupposes common beliefs. This question brought on many lively discussions between the representatives of the two tendencies in the Press, at the conferences, and in the elections for the presbyterial councils. To restore peace, a general synod had to be convoked with the consent of the Government in June, 1872. Here the orthodox had a majority; a profession of faith was carried by sixty-one votes to forty-five, and subscription to it was made obligatory upon all the young pastors. This decision became an insurmountable barrier between the two parties. The Liberals, not content with repudiating the notion of any obligatory confession of faith, refused, so long as it was maintained, to take any part in the synod of 1872, and have also abstained from participating in any of the general synods, which have been held about every three years since 1879, at Paris, Nantes, Sedan, Auduze and elsewhere, and from which the orthodox party have taken the name of "the Synodal Church". For all that, the Liberals had no intention of breaking with the organization recognized by the State. Numerous attempts have been made in the last thirty years, to bring about an understanding between the two parties, but have not succeeded in establishing doctrinal unity. The Separation seems calculated rather to increase the divisions, and already a third party has been formed by the fusion at Jarnac (1 October, 1906) of 65 Liberal churches and 40 Synodal under the name of the "Union des Eglises Reformées".
Divided among themselves on doctrinal questions, the Protestants have by no means lost their solidarity in regard to external activities. The movement of spiritual renovation which followed the Napoleonic wars produced among them various propagandist, educational, and benevolent enterprises, such as the "Societe biblique" (1819), the "Societe des traites religieux" (1861), the "Societe des missions évangéliques de Paris" (1824), the Society for the Promotion of Primary Instruction among Protestants (1829), the Institution of Deaconesses (1841), the agricultural colony of Sainte-Toy (1842), and divers orphanages, homes for neglected children, and primary schools. Of these last, the greater number (about 2000) have been closed since 1882. The missionary activity of the French Protestants has been chiefly exerted through the "Societe des missions évangéliques de Paris", at Bassoutos (South Africa), where they count at the present time 15,000 adherents, with schools and a printing press; in Madagascar, where a large number of schools are dependent on them (117 schools, according to statistics for 1908, with 7500 pupils); in Senegal, in French Congo, in Zambesi, Tahiti, and New Caledonia. Some sixty missionaries are at work on these missions, and in late years they have received an annual grant amounting to about 320,000 dollars. At home their propaganda is carried on chiefly among the Catholic population by the "Societe centrale protestante d'evangelisation", with a budget of 90,000 dollars per annum; by the "Societe évangéliquede France", which in some years has received as much as 24,000 dollars; by the "Mission populaire évangélique" (MacAll) without, however, any appreciable success.
Journalistic enterprise has not been overlooked. The first Protestant periodical, the "Archives du christianisme", was founded in 1818; then came the "Annales protestantes" in 1820, the "Mélanges de la religion" in the same year, "Revue protestante" and the "Lien" in 1841, the "Evangéliste" in 1837, the "Espérance" in 1838, the "Revuede Strasbourg" in 1859, the "Revue théologique", the "Protestant", the "Vie Nouvelle", the "Revue chrétienne", and the "Signal", a political journal. Only the best-known periodicals are mentioned here; most of them have disappeared; many are, or have been, the organs of particular sections of the Protestants. There must still be, according to the "Agenda, annuaire protestant", more than 150 in existence, but the majority have only a restricted circulation, and, excepting the "Bulletin historique et littéraire de la société de l'histoire du protestantisme français" (1852), are practically without readers outside of the Protestant world.
At present Protestantism counts about 650,000 adherents in France — 560,000 Réformés, 80,000 Lutherans, and 10,000 independents — that is a little less than one-sixtieth of the population. This seemingly negligible minority has, as everyone admits, made for itself in politics and in the executive government a place out of all proportion to its numerical strength. From a religious point of view Protestantism shows no indications of progress; its doctrines are daily losing ground, above all in educated circles. There, as recently declared by M. Edmond Stapfer, dean of the faculty of Protestant theology at Paris, in the "Revue Chrétienne", "people no longer want most of the traditional beliefs; they no longer want the dogmatic system, used by the Reformers and the Réveil, in which many 'evangelical' pastors still believe, or by their silence leave the faithful to conclude that they still believe . . . . The intellectuals will have no more of these antiquities, they do not go to hear the pastors preach; they are agnostics; they respectfully salute the ancient beliefs, but they get on without them, and have no need of them either for their intellectual or their moral life." Indeed it does not appear that the practice of religion has any more vitality among the masses than faith has among the intellectuals. Official reports made to the synods testify that "the number of mixed marriages is increasing, which proves that faith is diminishing. . . . In certain districts the number is sometimes as many as 95 per cent; even in the very Protestant districts, we know of 25 per cent in one place and 20 per cent in others, and as high as 50 per cent of unions of this kind." As for attendance at public worship: "Here", says one report made to the General Synod of Bordeaux (1899), "are the figures for a section of the country which must be classed among the best, that of the Pyrenees. The average of attendance is 32 per cent. It does not go so high everywhere; in Paris, for example, it reaches only 11 per cent, and in some churches of Poitou we must go still lower . . . to averages of 5 per cent. The same difference is found in the number of communicants: here it is 12 per cent; there, 4 or even 3 per cent." These are results which would doubtless have astonished and scandalized Calvin, but which are sufficiently explained by the theory of free inquiry and the intimate history of French Protestantism, especially during the last century.
CALVIN, Opera in Corpus reformatorum (Brunswick, 1863-96), ed. BAUM, CUNITZ, AND REUSS; [DE BEZE], Histoire ecclesiastique des eglises reformees au royaume de France (2 vols., Toulouse, 1882); DE LA TOUR, Les Origines de la Reforme (2 vols. already issued, Paris, 1905-9); FLORIMOND DE RAEMOND, Histoire de la naissance, progres, et decadence de l'heresie de ce siecle (Paris, 1612); GRAF, Essai sur la vie et les ecrits de J. Lefevre d'Etaples (Strasburg, 1892); DE SABBATIER-PLANTIER, Origines de la Reformation francaise (Toulouse, 1870); LAVAL, Compendious History of the Reformation in France (7 vols., London, 1737); SMEDLEY, History of the Reformed Religion in France (3 vols., London, 1832); BROWNING, History of the Huguenots (London, 1840); PUAUX, Histoire de la Reformation francaise (7 vols., Paris, 1859); QUICK, Synodicon in Gallia reformata (2 vols., London, 1692); AYMON, Les synodes nationaux (2 vols., The Hague, 1710); DE FELICE, Histoire des synodes nationaux (Paris, 1864); XXX Synode general de l'Église reformee de France. Proces-verbaux et actes (Paris, 1873); BERSIER, Histoire du synode general de l'Église reformee de France (2 vols., Paris, 1872); PETAVEL, La Bible en France (Paris, 1864); DEGERT, Proces de huit eveques francais suspects de calvinisme (Paris, 1904); [BENOIT], Histoire de l'Edit de Nantes (5 vols., Delft, 1693); DEGERT, Le cardinal d'Ossat (Paris, 1896); PEYRAT, Histoire des pasteurs du Desert (2 vols., Paris, 1842); ANQUEZ, Histoire des assemblees politiques des Reformes de France (Paris, 1859); COIGNET, L'evolution du protestantisme francais au XIX siecle (Paris, 1908); Encyclopedie des sciences religieuses, ed. LICHTENBERGER (Paris, 1877-82), s.v.; HAAG, La France protestante (10 vols., Paris, 1846; 2nd ed. begun in 1877); Bulletin de l'histoire du protestantisme francais; Revue chretienne; DE PRAT, Annuaires protestants; GAMBIER, Agendas protestants.
APA citation. (1910). Huguenots. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved April 26, 2010 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07527b.htm
MLA citation. "Huguenots." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 7. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 26 Apr. 2010 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07527b.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Judy Levandoski.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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