Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

Their 'studies' were of the most moderate quality. Pastors were sorely wanted in France; and to furnish forth these at the shortest possible notice was the primary object. Latin and Greek were left out of the cursus. A raw young man was taken through the elements of theology, posted up in current subjects of controversy, and then turned off to illuminate the seekers of the Desert. By degrees these things improved. Court himself had the greatest value for education, and deeply regretted his own want of it. After he had been seventeen or eighteen years at Lausanne, and funds and the concourse of students had augmented, Latin and Greek were regularly taught, and a student's term of years increased from three to five. Logical and theological exercises were also instituted. The head of the Academy was Professor Polier. Court himself did not assume any recognised official post in the Academy, for which, indeed, his attainments did not qualify him; but he was the informing spirit of the institution, its effective superintendent and guide. He encouraged the pupils, gave them counsel, excited their ardor, applauded their efforts. He could tell them, from his own experience, of the life they were about to encounter, its demands, its perils. What he required of them above all things else was what was called in the quaint language of the time, l'esprit du Désert. Court himself thus comments on the term: 'I understand by it a spirit of mortification, of sanctification, of prudence, of circumspection; a spirit of reflection, of great wisdom, and, above all, of martyrdom, which, teaching us to die every day to ourselves, to conquer, to overcome our passions with their lusts, prepares and disposes us to lose life courageously in tortures and on the gibbet, should Providence call us thereto.'

'Strange school of death,' says a modern writer, of this Seminary, which, disciplining enthusiasm within the formulas of modest prose, sent on martyrs unweariedly to feed the scaffold.' The young men themselves, rude countrymen of Languedoc, were looked down upon by the aristocratic population of the Pays de Vaud; their patois, their garb, their customs were made subjects of laughter. Their training while at the Seminary was of the hardest description; their fare the simplest. And when the hour of departure came, when the Desert reclaimed them,' they set out

with a gladness of heart which it was pathetic to witness. They rejoiced to play their new part,' says M. Hugues, 'true Frenchmen that they were, daring danger with a smile on their lips, but without bravado or insolence.'

Lausanne continued to be for seventy years the head-quarters of instruction for the French Protestant ministry. During that time nearly 300 pastors received their education there. For a long time great mystery was kept up as to the source from which the funds were derived for its maintenance, and which were applied by a committee sitting at Geneva. These funds came in fact mainly from the Protestant princes of Europe, and from the French refugees within their borders. And the work of raising supplies from these sources had fallen to Duplan, as deputy-general of the Churches. His first begging journey through Switzerland has been mentioned In 1731 he set out on an extended tour through other parts of Europe. This tour, which was intended to last one year, was prolonged in fact to fourteen: 'It was expected,' says M. Hugues, to achieve no result; it, in fact, secured the existence of Protestantism. In Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, England, the brave old gentleman of Languedoc begged his way. He established himself principally in London, where George II. and Lord Wilmington, however, proved more niggard patrons than the general public. Unfortu nately his own zeal outran his discretion, and he got involved in money disputes with the hoirie, or authorised committee of agency at Geneva, and with Court himself, whose tact and good temper, however, ultimately smoothed away all asperities.'

Fourteen years after Court had taken up his residence at Lausanne, he re entered France; but it was for a short visit only, and on a special occasion, to heal a schism which had divided the Protestant Churches ever since his departure in 1730, and which was caused by the insubordination and ambition of a preacher named Boyer. Court tells of his cautious entry into the realmof his care to elude the soldiers who were out' in the regions through which he had to pass, and the priests, whom here and there he threw off their guard by inviting them to drink with him. In some places he passed himself off as a purchaser of lace; in others as a ribbon merchant from Lyons. Perhaps

he would not have ventured at all, but for a momentary relaxation in the repressive measures of Government in consequence of the death of Cardinal Fleury. This temporary relaxation marks an important date in the history of the Protestant Restoration. For the first time the proscribed religion now ventured on a daring exhibition of itself. The strength that had been gathering through long years of discouragement in their Desert refuges and nocturnal assemblies craved for display, and the novel sight was seen of Protestant assemblies, numerously attended, held in open day at the gates of cities; of marriages and baptisms publicly performed; of a joyful profession of belief amounting to audacity. But for the want of temples to pray in, and of bells to summon them to prayer, the Protestants might, to the casual observer, seem at this moment as free in their position as before the Revocation.

The cause, indeed, had had its martyrs. Since Court had been last in France two able and devoted pastors, Pierre Durand and Dortial, had died on the gibbet: others had been sentenced and escaped. But a new generation had arisen to supply the gaps. And of this new generation the most striking figure was that of Paul Rabaut. The influence which Rabaut's force of character gained for him among the Churches made his position similar to that which Court had once held. If Court restored Protestantism in France, says M. Hugues, it was Rabaut who gave it root. He was the leader, the representative man, of the Protestant ministry; and when, ten years afterwards, the Prince De Conti, sulking in opposition to Government at l'Ile Adam, thought for a moment to make political capital out of sectarian interests, it was Rabaut who in a personal interview conducted the negotiation on behalf of his co-religionists.

When Court re-entered France, he found his own place in popular estimation very different from what it had been when he quitted the country. In 1729 he had been reproached with abandoning the Churches in their need: the dark hour of persecution was upon them, and he had retreated to a safe asylum in Switzerland. In 1744 he was received with enthusiastic joy and welcome. His steadfast devotion to the cause, shown by his care of the Seminary and his active correspondence and negotiations on behalf of his fellow-Protes

tants, had justified his title to be still considered the head of the Restoration, which had progressed in so remarkable a manner in spite of all the trials to which the severe measures of the Court had subjected it.

At this time Protestant France counted

thirty-three pastors. In Normandy, where the Revival had been but of a few years' standing, there existed seventeen Churches. In Poitou, where the persecution had been in times past especially severe, there were no fewer than thirty. In this province there was a large proportion of gentry and people well-to-do among the believers. In Dauphiné and Languedoc, as heretofore, resided the main strength of the cause. The Churches of Dauphiné were sixty in number. In the month of June a National Synod was held; the first deserving of the name that had met since the old days. Twenty-one deputies and ten pastors were present. The provinces of Normandy and Poitou, besides others of the West of France, were represented. Antoine Court, though he declined the office of Moderator, conducted effectively its deliberations, which were mainly directed to the consolidation and unification of the Protestant cause. The Churches and provinces were to draw closer the ties of concerted action; and an effort was to be made, by the presentation of a petition signed by all the Reformed religionists in the kingdom, to induce Louis XV. to withdraw the persecuting edicts, and give tacit sanction to their assemblies, marriages, and baptisms, against which those edicts had been directed. When Antoine Court quitted France to return to Lausanne, the hopes and illusions of his fellow-believers were at their highest. He shared them to the uttermost, and his review of the situation shows how easily even his statesmanlike mind was deceived. If one reflects a little,' he wrote, ' on the present situation of European affairs, on the war by which for some years the Continent has been afflicted, and the small hope of seeing peace re-established, on the uncertainty of future events, which are known to God alone, probable conjectures may arise of our enjoying the sort of tolerance which reigns now, longer than might have been looked for.' He took care, however, to strengthen the outworks of defence; and for this end promoted the organization of committees

[ocr errors]

in the principal towns of France specially charged with giving him information of current events, and transmitting his directions to the faithful. I shall be,' he said, the centre in which all the lines of this correspondence will terminate ;' and for this end he placed himself at the head of a permanent committee of action at Lausanne, which became thenceforth for the Protestant cause an effective governing body such as Synods and Councils Extraordinary had as yet failed to constitute. The year 1744 was a revelation,' says M. Hugues. It showed the orthodox party to what unsuspected strength their victims had attained, in spite of all efforts to crush them. To rouse Government to more active measures, false rumors of disloyalty on the part of the Reformed were now spread abroad. It was said that in their Desert congregations they sang canticles against France and against the King. Louis XV. was worked upon to issue new edicts of terror; and the persecution of 1745 to 1752, the Grande Persécution, as it was called, was the result.

Antoine Court, returning to Lausanne full of exultation after the National Synod of 1744, refused at first to give up his illusions. When he could no longer entertain them, he exhorted his fellow-students to stand firm, and at every price to continue their assemblies, the cessation of which would be just the triumph their enemies wished for. In urging this point, he had to oppose an opinion which had many advocates in Switzerland. To conciliate the authorities, by discontinuing the practice of public worship, was maintained by certain writers to be the safest course for the future of Protestantism. Court entered into the war of pamphlets which arose on the occasion. After a momentery panic the assemblies did recommence in full vigor, though not with the daring publicity of 1744. Night surprises by the troops, abduction of children, maltreatment of the dead, imprisonment of men and women, capture and execution of preachers all the old measures set in again. The sectarians steadfastly abjured the use of arms, and suffered. Among the six ministers who sealed their faith with their lives at this time was Jacques Roger, the octogenarian Apostle of Dauphiné.

When the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle was to be negotiated, Court seized the occa

sion to solicit the intervention of the plenipotentiaries on behalf of the French Protestants, but it was in vain. As at Utrecht, their interests were not taken into consideration by the high contracting parties who were engaged in resettling the affairs of Europe. The additional severities of 1752, of which the abduction of their children was a salient feature, at last worked up the Protestants to thoughts of emigration. This time Court himself counselled it; and he corresponded with Duplan and with Serce, the agent of the Irish Emigration Committee, as to the best mode of carrying it out. The emigration to Ireland was indeed the only one which prospered at this time. The French Government took alarm at the commencing exodus; placed guards on the public roads, and turned many wanderers back. Others returned of their own accord, discouraged, and hopeless of improving their condition. But the movement had the effect of causing the authorities to pause and reconsider their attitude.

A treatise just published by Antoine Court, entitled the Patriote français et impartial, had dwelt on the miseries endured by the unhappy Protestants, and the commencing emigration was a commentary upon his statements, the force of which was not to be evaded. At this time the controversy passed into a phase of active argumentation. The King was beset with supplications and apologies' from the religionists. Each time the royal soldiers took the field against their assemblies, fresh documents were put forth. Antoine Court published a second edition of his Patriote in 1753, and in 1756 a continuation of it, dealing especially with the question of civil tolerence of the sect, and the question of Protestant marriages. The argument of Court and the other Protestant apologists was as thus: We are three millions of our religion in the kingdom. In the eye of the law we do not exist; we are treated as rebels. We demand a civil status and a modus vivendi. Why are we treated as enemies of the State, and outlawed? We are peaceable citizens, honest, devoted to the King; we possess talent and fortune. We are the bourgeoisie. The state has suffered much from the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes; it suffers from it still. That measure has enriched the enemies of France at the expense of France itself. Peaceful as Protestants may now be, their continued

submission under persecution cannot be guaranteed.' The same year, 1756, was published an important work by M. Rippert-Monclar, entitled Mémoire théologique et politique au sujet des mariages clandestins des Protestants de France. The author was a Catholic gentleman, member of the Parliament of Aix; and his treatise affords a very significant token of the advance that the principles of justice and liberality had made in the classes behind the clergy and the Court since the time when the last edict of Louis XIV. was promulgated. 'According to the jurisprudence of this kingdom,' said Monclar, 'no Protestants exist in France. Nevertheless, according to facts, there are more than three millions of them. These imaginary beings fill the towns, the provinces, the country districts; and the capital city of the realm alone contains more than sixty thousand.' M. Hugues observes that this treatise of Monclar's, which was supposed at first to proceed from a Protestant pen, proved in effect the medium by which the Protestant question' was placed on the order of the day' for the eighteenth century. The practical remedy proposed by the writer was the institution of civil marriages for members of the Reformed religion in France, analogous to the practice in Holland; 'the publication of banns, for instance, in a tribunal of justice, and the celebration of marriages before the magistrates.' 'Is it safe,' he asked, 'to ill treat three millions of men who are scattered through all parts of the kingdom, even to despoiling them of all they hold dearest in the world -their goods, their wives, and their children; above all, when it is conceded that these three millions are all faithful, serviceable, nay, even indispensable citizens ? '

In point of fact, it was far more the pressure of the danger and social inconvenience caused by the non-recognition of their civil status, than the application to the Protestants of the abstract principles of mental freedom now working in the philosophical ranks which determined the bent of public opinion in their favor. Men of State and men of law felt the evil, and knew how inadequate military force really was to contend with it, how dangerous it was to alienate permanently so important a section of the population; and but for the vehemence of the clergy, totally unable as yet to read the signs of the times, persecution would

doubtless have ceased some decades of years before it actually did cease. As it is, it sounds like an anachronism to hear of an ordinance issued in Guyenne as late as October 15, 1760, against assemblies, baptisms, and marriages. It was the last; the standing point of the clergy had been undermined; two years later took place the judicial tragedy of the Calas family, and Voltaire's spirited intervention on behalf of the victims of the Parliament of Toulouse. The case of the Calas' turned upon a question of legal procedure primarily; but it involved the interests of clerical fanaticism in its immediate issues; and the triumph of Voltaire was the initiative victory of religious toleration.

Antoine Court died at Lausanne in 1760. He lived to see the restoration of the Protestant Church in France an irreversible fact. If the number of three millions, at which its apologists rated its members, was an exaggerated estimate, that of four hundred thousand, suggested by Romanist statisticians, was probably at least as far removed from truth on the other side. Three years after Court's death the number of pastors amounted to sixty-two; of proposants, to thirty-five; of students, to fifteen. The Seminary of Lausanne was in a most flourishing condition. The days of struggle were over. But legally the ban on civil rights was still in force; and it required the continued efforts of sagacious statesmen to get it removed. Malesherbes and Rulhières took the matter pertinaciously in hand, and at last, in 1787, Louis XVI. issued an edict which recognised the existence of a Protestant community in France, and granted to its members full civil rights as connected with the marriages and baptisms performed after their own fashions. Thus was finally reversed and contradicted the decree laid down by Louis XIV. in 1715. Although it required a further turn of the political wheel to bring Protestantism to a complete level with Romanism as to State recognition, still the vital change was effected by this law of Louis XVI., passed before the meeting of the National Assembly, before the full pressure of the Tiers Etat had been brought to bear on the hereditary traditions of royal and clerical autocracy. A Protestant, writing under the Empire, thus describes the eagerness with which the members of the Reformed Churches availed themselves of the relief afforded by this measure:

There might be seen the Reformed hurrying in crowds to the judges to have their marriages and the births of their children registered. In many provinces the judges were obliged to go themselves to the different communes of their jurisdiction, to prevent the assembling of such great

crowds, and to spare Protestant families the expense of long journeys. In many cases old men registered their marriages along with those of their children and grandchildren.

-Fraser's Magazine.

PROPHETIC DAYS.

WOULD-BE Weatherwise folks would be saved a world of trouble if experience justified the popular faith in certain days of the year-saints' days, of course, most of them having such a prophetic power attached to them, that by merely using our eyes and our almanacs, we may learn what the future will bring of good or evil luck, of plagues, of dearths, or season's quality.' These ominous days are but few in number, something under a score; and it is impossible to guess why they, any more than their fellows, should be invested with

[ocr errors]

such a valuable attribute.

If the New year's first morning sky is covered by clouds of a dusky red hue, there will be much debate and strife among the great ones of the earth, and— this we may readily believe-many robberies will be perpetrated before the year has run its course. Should the sun deign to shine upon St. Vincent's Day, dwellers in wine-growing lands may take heart and rejoice, for they will see more wine than water-that is to say, they may calculate upon a dry season, especially conducive to a profitable vintage. Less limited in its application is the fore-knowledge acquirable by meteorological students upon the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, according to the old monkish rhymes, one of the many translations of which runs:

If St. Paul's Day be fair and clear,
It does betide a happy year;
But if it chance to snow or rain,
Then will be dear all kind of grain;
If clouds or mist do dark the sky,
Great store of birds and beasts shall die;
And if the winds do fly aloft,
Then war shall vex the kingdom oft.

Candlemas prognostications go, as those of dreams are said to do, by contraries; fine weather on Candlemas Day being prophetical of a long succession of unseasonably cold days, and necessarily a failure of the crops; while foul weather on that day is a sure promise of a bright spring, with a summer to match:

If Candlemas Day be dry and fair,
The half o' winter 's to come, and mair;
If Candlemas Day be wet and foul,
The half o' winter 's gone at Yule.
Or as a southern version puts it:

If Candlemas Day be fair and bright,
Winter will have another flight;

But if it be dark with clouds and rain, Winter is gone, and will not come again. This idea is common throughout Europe. In Germany, they aver that the badger peeps out of his hole upon Candlemas morning, and if the ground be white with snow, takes his walks abroad; but should the sunshine greet his eyes, he will not venture from his snug abiding-place; being of one mind with the shepherd, who would rather see a wolf enter his

fold, than the sun, upon Candlemas Day. So in Norfolk the proverb goes that a shepherd would prefer seeing his wife on the bier, than the sun shining clear upon Candlemas Day; and they firmly believe in the wisdom of the rhymes:

On Candlemas Day, if the thorns hang a drop, Then you are sure of a good pea-crop.

As far as the sun shines in on Candlemas Day, So far will the snow blow in afore Old May.

In 1855, a correspondent of Notes and Queries announced that the Candlemas prognostication had been verified in Norfolk, if nowhere else, when a spell of rough winter weather was brought to an end by a fair and sunny Candlemas Day. 'On the following evening, about ten o'clock, a thaw suddenly commenced; but on the evening of the fifth, frost again set in with increased intensity, which continued uninterruptedly to February the twentyfourth, the ice in the "broads" ranging from eight inches to a foot in thickness.' But he had forgotten to take the change of style into account; so the striking verification of the ancient superstition was no verification at all. The Hebrideans observe, or did observe, an odd custom. On Candlemas Day, in every house, a sheaf of oats was dressed in feminine attire, and laid, with a big club by its side, in a basket,

« AnteriorContinuar »