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Reformation might establish a footing; but the country had grown as a great whole, whose national sentiment was that of unity, and whose elements of freedom were daily falling before the progress of a centralized despotism. Though monarchy had thus become supreme, yet between it and the church there existed in France a union more intimate than in any other nation of Europe. This union of Church and State greatness was a Colossus which the Reformation never overthrew.
In questioning the rightful supremacy of the Church, the French Reformers threatened the absolutism of the King. “ The recognition of an ecclesiastical form differing from that of the old church included, if not a conscious, yet an actual modification in the idea of the supreme power."* The position which the Calvinistic Church assumed, soon after its introduction into France, was such as to give the court good grounds for regarding it as aiming at a restriction upon the civil power. While the essence of the Calvinistic doctrines, disposed as they were to submit all theories, whether on spiritual or political matters, to the arbitration of reason, naturally induced the Protestants to call in question " the divine right of Kings.” Calvin himself early pronounced in favor of an aristocracy. And again, the general principle that “the enfranchisement of the mind from religious despotism leads directly to inquiries into the nature of civil government,"t imparted yet more of life to all the political tendencies of the Reformation. The feeblest attempt at innovation, however silent it might have been on the subject of government, would undoubtedly have met with opposition from the Court of France; but a system, with such obvious political aims as those of the Reformed Church, could not fail to provoke the hostility of a selfish and despotic King. It seems as if Calvin had not studied the political character of his native land any more deeply than he had its social character. No visions of such a statesman as Richelieu ever appear to have shaken the belief of the Reformer that his doctrines would ultimately triumph. No dark misgivings seem to have filled his mind, that ere long a terrible despotism would crush, as a political enemy, the system he had reared to redeem his land from a spiritual tyranny. Calvinism was, of all the forms of the Reformation, at once the most decided enemy of the old church, and, whether agreeable to the intentions of its founder or not, the bitterest opponent of the old maxims of government.
The historical development of the Reformation is plainly illustrative
*“Ranke's Civil Wars and Monarchy in France."
of its tendency to antagonism with the royal power and the political sentiments of the people. The freedom of the Reformed Church from the supremacy of the King as well as of the Pope forms the basis of all the treaties that vary the terrible struggles of the religious wars. The famous edict of Nantes, though rightly regarded by the Protestants as the bulwark of their liberties, yet nourished in them a habit of insubordination, which the unity of France could not long permit. Such treaties rather deferred the settlement of the struggle than secured for France a lasting peace. And again, the nobles, who espoused the Protestant cause, sought from time to time an actual dismemberment of the kingdom, thus enlisting against their faith a natural and universal hatred.
From the political aims of the Reformation result two facts greatly influencing its fate. Where centralization has invested the King, as in France, with an almost unlimited power, there will the attitude of the Court towards a new principle of development be of the utmost consequence to the progress of that principle. Hence an important reason for the different issues of the English and French Reformations; since the one succeeded, while the other did not, in gaining an advocate in the royal power. French history presents no fact more clearly than that, during the age of monarchy, no party could prevail unless united with the King. Not only did the Reformers never effect this union, but scarcely at all did they penetrate into Paris, that great focus of French centralization.
In the earlier years of the Reformation, the Kings were its enemies, chiefly from religious motives. The intimate friendship between the Pope and the House of Valois, alliances with Catholic powers, and especially a connection by marriage with the most bigoted of Catholic families, served to maintain the King in continued hostility to the Calvinists. Yet, during this period, Catholic influence rather than the choice of the monarch directed the religious persecutions. Proverbially selfish was the policy of the French princes.
But after the edict of Nantes, and when the political character of the Reformation had been fully developed, the Kings became its decided political enemies. Richelieu crushed the Protestants as a politician and not as a bigot. Louis the Fourteenth revoked the edict of Nantes ostensibly from religious motives; but is it not plain, that he hated rather those sentiments of freedom which found their only sanctuary in the hearts of the devoted Huguenots ? Louis swept away from France the last remains of a noble Reformation; yet how little did he think that
the gentle spirit of a religious liberty would be quickened by his intolerance into the avenging demon of revolution. The strong, central power of the French government, though often disposed to liberality, was still a mighty barrier to the progress of Calvinism.
The second fact conducing greatly to the failure of the Reformation, was the connection of the Reformers with political parties and struggles. Heresy had been pronounced in France a crime against the State. The Calvinists maintained, that government, while it properly should be theocratic, had not the right to enforce belief. A denial in point of theory was followed by a denial in point of fact. Persecution succeeded. The Protestants were driven by their sufferings to union and resistance as a party ; to which result led also the fact that political ideas had become so familiar to the Calvinists as to suggest to them the possibility of disarming the government of its pernicious power. Their allies, the House of Bourbon, became Protestant only in name, and from political motives simply. The princes of that family consulted their own advantage as politicians, when amid the struggles of the religious wars, they deserted the Reformers almost without exception. Religion was made their tool. In the very ranks of the Huguenots themselves existed a division directly prejudicial to the interests of their faith. Those who fought simpl; for religious freedom yielded to the guidance of those whose aim was a political reform. Hence resulted the rapid transfer of power from religious to political ideas. The successes of the Huguenots became political
The triumph of Henry the Fourth over the league was the triumph of French nationality and not of French Protestantism. The edict of Nantes might seem to usher in a day of promise for the Reformation, but the sun of its prosperity was soon to set. The Calvinists took more and more the form of a party. Exciting by their efforts the bitter enmity of the Court and the lower classes, the French Reformers lost even the possibility, which before existed, of their faith becoming national instead of sectional. The Church of Calvin stood alone, deserted by its selfish allies, its leaders fatally exposed to the corruptions of the Court, its followers overwhelmed by the wickedness of the age. Perhaps the Reformed Church may have sought the aid of faction to avert impending ruin; yet their policy was at the best a necessary evil, and ultimately suicidal.
There was still a large class in France who hated not merely the special forms of Calvinism, but even the essence of the Reformation itself. This class comprehended the Catholic Church and its supporters. While exerting among the French the same mighty power as in other nations
to suppress the spirit of free inquiry, the Church had been rendered yet more efficient by its unity throughout the kingdom, and by its intimate connection with the royal power. The Kings struck the blows which the Catholic hierarchy had planned. Soon after the rise of the Calvinistic System, the Church was armed for the work of persecution, by an internal renovation, by the introduction of the Jesuits, by the guidance of determined, unscrupulous leaders, and by unlimited assistance from abroad. Its wonderful organization was gifted with a spirit which sought, at any sacrifice, the ruin of the Protestants. The Kings might waver in their fidelity to the Catholic cause, the clergy never. That even the monarch was not exempt from the tyranny of the priest, is seen in the continued supremacy of Catherine de Medici, in the power of the League, in the compulsory abjuration of Henry the Fourth. Great and unforeseen reactions of opinion are eminently characteristic of French history; yet the French historian can record no change more wonderful than that which resulted from the efforts of the Jesuits. The principle that two religions cannot and should not exist in a single state, was enforced by French Catholicism in the most terrible persecution of modern times. The cruelties of the Duke of Guise, the massacre of St. Bartholomew, the Dragonnades of Louis the Fourteenth, hang a pall over the memory of devoted heroism never to be removed. Truly has the blood of the martyrs been the seed of the Church, but not where the heart of the persecutor has never relented, as in France. Yet persecution was in vain. Says Chateaubriand,“ the day of St. Bartholomew made only martyrs. It gave to philosophic ideas an advantage over the religious which they have never lost.”
Religious liberty thus failed of being formally admitted into France. Yet, is it not plain, that a principle so truly adapted to the needs of the age, could not by its failure be wholly shorn of its legitimate results ? Apart from the usual influence which it exerted on all the nations of Europe alike, the Reformation in France was attended with results which serve not a little to render the history of that country the most wonderful history of modern times. The controversy between the Jesuits and Jansenism, though partially resulting from the independence of the Gallican Church, may yet be traced to Calvinism secretly undermining what openly it could not conquer. The writings of Bayle, Voltaire, Rousseau, and their followers, are justly held responsible for the atheism of modern France. Their hostility to religion is due to a perversion of the free spirit which Protestantism had bequeathed. Men of letters rose indignantly against the bigotry of the Catholic Church, but
they mistook the spirit of the persecutor for the spirit of Christianity. The age in which the Reformation fell was remarkable for the universal activity of thought. Freedom of inquiry on religious subjects had indeed been outwardly repressed; but its example was contagious. The common as well as the philosophic mind had felt its secret influence; and when Catholic believers might venture to apply this principle to the theories of their Church, then came a change eminently characteristic of the temper of France--a change from implicit faith to utter skepticism. Free thought had been divorced from a belief in the realities of religion. Thus the Reformation indirectly, and at variance with its natural tendencies, contributed to a Revolution in Philosophy, which brought into favor not merely infidel but democratic theories. Absolutism had lived its day in France. The free spirit of Calvinism had modified politics as well as literature and religion. It cast upon the troubled waters germs of a political emancipation such as France had long desired. The French Revolution gave an utterance to these two principles which sprang from the quickening influence of the Reformation. All that force of reason, earnestness of purpose, and a noble spirit of self-sacrifice could do, was done by the Reformation to win the heart of France. Yet atheism, with its chilling faith, and a political confusion that has terrified the world, are witnesses to the well-nigh total failure of the principle of Religious Liberty.
The Sphinx and the Pyramids.
BY GEORGE PRATT, EAST WEYMOUTH, MASS.
Where the sacred river flows,
Wraps the soul in sweet repose.
Lifting up their fronts sublime,
Far above the wrecks of Time,