« AnteriorContinuar »
formed church there was distinguished for the talents, the zeal, the piety, and the faithfulness of the clergy, and for the devout lives of her members; but when the fountains of truth began to be poisoned, the floodgates of vice and immorality were also thrown open. We find the minutes of the general synods from that time, groaning under the complaints, sent up from the subordinate courts, that the churches were not well attended, that they were leaving off the custom of carrying their psalm books to places of public worship, that horse racing, gambling, intemperance, theatrical exhibitions and various other vices, were become common, to a most alarming degree. This was the voice of providence, and though they would not attend to the admonitions of other churches, nor to those of the aged and venerable among themselves, yet they should have listened to this. But they were deaf to all.
What reward did the protestants receive from the catholics, for all those concessions, made as they partly admitted for the sake of peace? Such a reward as men of the world, or devotees of idolatry and superstition always bestow upon those who forsake the truth. God, in his righteous judgment, gave up the church to divisions; it ceased to flourish, and became feeble and more contemptible in the eyes of the enemy every day; and the fathers of the church and friends of truth, gradually sunk into the grave. While Louis XIII. was making incroachments upon the rights of the reformers, Du Moulin wrote a letter to James I. of England, in which he insinuated that the friends of the reformation, in France, hoped for his aid. The letter fell into the hands of the duke of Buckingham, and was by him sent to the king of France, who immediately issued orders to apprehend the writer. He got notice of the storm that was gathering, and made his escape, before it burst upon him. He was taken under the protection of the duke de Bouillon, who procured his settlement 'as pastor of the congregation and priocipal of the university of Sedan, a small principality, belonging to that nobleman, where he died in 1656, admired and beloved by all the good, and leaving his praise
in all the churches. Soon after his death, the Salmurensian errors seem to have overrun almost the whole church, some of whose members embraced them in full, and nearly all in part. In 1669, thirty-six years after the commencement of Amyraut's professional labours, the number of protestants in France was diminished to one third of what it had formerly been, and these were disunited, exhibiting no more than the fragments of what had been a magnificent fabric. They were no longer an object of respect, to the crown, or to the catholic princes. In 1680 an act was passed, by which protestants were incapacitated for holding civil offices; in 1682, protestant gentlemen were prohibited from keeping servants of their own religion, in their families, and all protestant officers and princes of the nobility degraded; and in 1685, fifty-one years after the commencement of Amyraut's public career, the edict of Nantz, was finally and completely revoked, and the storm of persecution burst upon the church, in all its ruthless fury. As these were doubtless, the judgments of God upon a church, for a dereliction of truth and duty, it will be proper to give an extract from Gallia Reformata, a work edited by the Rev. Mr. Quick of London, from which the principal part of the facts we have given in relation to the Gallic church is taken. It contains a complete file of the minutes of the general synods of France, from that of Paris when the draught of their confession of faith was presented, to the revocation of the edict of Nantz. He gives * the following picture of their suffering. “They," the papists, “ fell upon the protestants, and there was no wickedness though ever so horrid, that they did not put in practice, that they might enforce them to change their religion. Amidst a thousand hideous cries, they hung up men and women by the hair, upon the roofs of their chambers, or by hooks in the chimneys, and smoked them with wisps of wet hay, till they were no longer able to bear it; and when they had taken them down, if they would not sign an abjuration of their
* Vol. I. pp. 131, 132.
pretended heresies, they then put them up again. Some they threw into great fires kindled on purpose, and would not take them out until they were half roasted. They put ropes under the arms of some and plunged them often into deep wells, until they would promise to change their religion. They bound them as criminals are, when put to the rack, and in that posture put funnels into their mouths, and poured wine down their throats, till its fumes had deprived them of their reason, and they had in that condition made them consent to become Catholics, or until the doleful outcries of these poor tormented creatures, calling upon God for mercy, compelled them to let them go. They beat them with staves and dragged them, all bruised, to the Romish churches, where their enforced presence was reputed as an abjuration. They kept them waking for seven or eight days together, relieving one another by turns, that they might not get any rest or sleep. In case they began to nod, they threw water in their faces, or holding kettles over their heads, they beat on them, with such continual noise, that the poor wretches lost their senses.
“If they found any sick, who kept their beds, whether of fevers, or other diseases, they were so cruel, as to beat an alarm of drums about their beds, for whole weeks together, till they had promised to change."
All impartial historians of these times, speak in the same strain with Quick, of the sufferings of the French protestants, after the revocation of the edict of Nantz. Death with every species of cruel torture, or flight from the kingdom were the only alternatives left to those, who adhered to the confession of faith, and to the order of the protestant church. Many thousands fled as exiles, into remote countries, in which they ended their days. The greatest number of those exiles, took refuge in Holland. Among these was the divine Saurin, the learned Claude, and many other distinguished persons. It is remarkable, that nearly all of them were more or less tainted with the Salmurensian errors. Saurin whose name should never be mentioned without respect says, “ there certainly is some sense in
which Christ died for all mankind." This however, seems to be the only point in which he departed from the opinions of the orthodox, for he maintained that the atonement was necessary—that God could not, in consistency with his justice dispense with the punishment of sin. Either in his own person, or in that of his surety, the sinner must receive that punishment which he deserved. “ If God," says he,“ be free to relax any part of the punishment, denounced, he is equally free to relax the whole. If we may infer that he will certainly release the sufferer from a part, because he is at liberty to do so, we have an equal right to presume he will release him from the whole, and there would be no absurdity in affirming the one, after we had allowed the other.”
If those, who fled from their country, were tinctured with those errors, what must have been the condition of those who made their peace with their persecutors, by sinful compliances? In reality the whole beautiful fabrick sunk into complete ruin, from which it hath never yet emerged. Little has since been heard of the reformed church in France. It has always, it is true, existed as a body, but entirely degenerated from the soundness of the faith and the purity of practice which characterized the reformers in the days of Calvin, Beza, and Du Moulin. It has been said, upon good authority, that the greater part of the synod of Rochelle, and of the French protestants generally, about three years ago denied the divinity of Christ Jesus, and considered him with Arius, either a super-angelic being, or with a modern heretic, a mere man. The point at which they began to deviate from the system of truth, was that of a definite atonement; and they have gone from one step to another, until they now deny the divinity of Messiah, and have thus torn away, as far as in them lies, the last pillar of the Christian church, and rendered it heathen except in name.
While correct views of the doctrines of grace, especially of the nature of the atonement were spreading from the Genevan school, a heresy of a most formidable nature arose in the north of Europe. We have before seen that the Arian heresy overspread a great portion of the Christian
church, and swept away all belief in the doctrine of the satisfaction by Christ Jesus. Suill, the Arians never thought of maintaining that Jesus was any thing less than the most exalted of all created intelligences. The Arians considered Christ as in some sense the saviour of men. It was reserved for modern times to attempt to degrade “God with us," to the character of a mere man. This heresy was broached by Lælius Socinus, in the sixteenth century. In 1547, he was forced to fly from Sienna in Tuscany, on account of some opposition to the Roman Catholic religion. He settled in Switzerland, after having travelled over a great part of Europe, and embraced the Helvetic confession of faith, by a public profession. This confession exhibits on the person Christ Jesus, his mediatorial character, the doctrine of the trinity, the decrees, the atonement, and all other capital doctrines of the Christian system, the same views with those taught in the Genevan school, and with the French confession. Though in his life Lælius professed to believe these doctrines, yet it appeared after his death, which took place 1562, in Switzerland, that a great part of his life had been spent in endeavours to destroy them. The manuscripts, which contained the heretical labours of a great part of his life, fell into the hands of his nephew, Faustus Socinus. It is impossible to tell where the uncle left off, and where the nephew began; however, as Lælius was confessedly a man of great genius and extensive learning, and as Faustus though possessed of considerable natural talents, was in a great measure illiterate, it is probable that the greater part of the works published by the latter, are from the pen of the former. He denied utterly the divinity of Christ Jesus, and maintained that he was a mere man, and never had
any existence till he was conceived in the womb of the virgin: that he neither died for the sins of mankind, nor obeyed the law for them; that all men have power to do good works sufficient to save them; that the only atonement required by divine justice, consists in faith in God and his revelations, and in repentance; that there are no divine decrees, and that Christ's holiness of life, sufferings, and death