THE REVOCATION OF THE EDICT OF NANTES,
AND ENGLISH REVOLUTION STAGE
HERE we reach the beginning of the last act of the Papal tragedy. Louis XIV sat on the throne of France at Versailles. At his side was Madame de Maintenon. Behind her stood the Jesuit Confessor Pere la Chaise. Behind him again the Pope, and his inspirer the Prince of Darkness.
In Piedmont the trembling remnant of Protestants left by the great massacre of 1655 still clung to their native rocks, and Alpine fastnesses.
In England James II was struggling to restore Papal supremacy, and enslave the children of the Puritans who had bought their liberties at so great a price.
Behind the scene historically lay ages of darkness; before it ages of light.
O thou who wouldst draw near to behold this sight—the bush that burned with fire and was not consumed, take thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place on which thou standest is holy ground. Clear away the mists of ignorance which hide the great tragedy from thine eyes. Thou art the heir of freedom purchased by the sufferings and sacrifices of these martyr days. Gaze then upon the sublime and touching spectacle, and let it fix itself in thy memory forever.
Fear not to enter this gloomy region for light shall spring from the sepulchral darkness; life from the ashes of the dead. Hark! a wail bursts forth from the lips of thousands of Protestant parents robbed of their children. That wail is the prelude of the last great Papal persecution of the Huguenots; a persecution which was followed by the French Revolution, inaugurating the modern era of civil and religious liberty.
“A terrible law strikes dismay into the hearts of fathers and mothers—a law that will bring us to the determination to go and cast ourselves at the feet of the king; begging him to grant us either death, or freedom of conscience for us and for our children; or permission, leaving behind us our property, to forsake the nation, and drag out a languishing existence, scattered in every country of the globe.” It is Pierre Jurieu who utters this bitter cry in his “Last Efforts of Afflicted Innocence,” relating to the effects of the statute of Louis XIV, of June, 1681.
And what was this law? It was a law which struck at the existence of the family; which authorized the wholesale compulsory conversion of all the children of the Protestants throughout France to the Roman Catholic Church. It authorized children of the tender age of seven years to renounce the religion of their Protestant parents, and gave freedom to the Romish priests and population to ensnare them into an enforced confession of the Romish faith; a mere sentence, a word expressing admission of some popish doctrine sufficing; forbidding the poor innocent to take back its words; and thus tearing the child from its parents and its home, and hurrying it, in spite of frantic protests from the father and the mother, into some nunnery or other place, to be there immured until “conversion” was complete.
A refinement of cruelty this, unmatched even in the persecutions of old heathen Rome.
Institutions spring up at once all over France, Nouveaux Catholiques for boys; Nouvelles Catholiques for girls; they are quickly crowded. Bereaved Protestant parents sit in their desolated homes, weeping over the children who have been torn away from them. “All the torments that have heretofore been inflicted upon us are as nothing,” say they, “in comparison with this.” It is, however, but the beginning of the tragedy. The parents are not yet converted.
Unreasonable parents! The elder brothers and sisters still remain Protestants. They dare to hold prayer-meetings in their desolated homes. They bow down on their knees, and hide their weeping faces in their hands. They cry to the Father in heaven. What infamy! A stop must be put to this.
But how? Had Satan ingenuity equal to the occasion? How were the parents and elder sons and daughters to be compelled to come wholesale into the Catholic fold? By a new method. By Dragonnades. The army of Louis XIV was vast and powerful; his soldiers unscrupulous, ungodly, superstitious, lustful, intolerant, ready instruments for arty abomination. Quarter the soldiers in the homes of the Protestants. Commission these “booted evangelists” to convert them; give them leave to do as they will in these homes with the women, as well as the men; with the mothers and the daughters. Set them to work. Let them stable their horses in the parlours; break the furniture; devour the provisions; tie the fathers hand and foot, and violate in their presence the wives and daughters.
Let them prevent the wretched Huguenots from closing their eyes in sleep until they have renounced their Protestantism.
Keep the heretics awake; beat them; drag them about. Shout at them, walk them up and down the rooms all night long, Keep up this fiendish treatment day and night till they submit. Cursed heretics, what right have they to resist the will of Louis XIV, and the almighty Pope of Rome?
And these horrors were done; done throughout all France. The soldiers quartered on the Protestants “pinched them, prodded them, hung them up by ropes, tormented them in a hundred other ways, until their unhappy victims scarcely knew what they were doing.” “They spat in the faces of women, made them lie down on burning coals, made them put their heads into ovens whose hot flames stifled them.” The new mission went forward rapidly, Louis XIV directing. “From Guyenne and Upper Languedoc the Dragonnades extended to Saintonage, Aunis, and Poitou on the west, and to Vivarais on the East. Next came the turn of the province of Lyonnaise, of the Cevennes, of Lower Languedoc, of Province, of Gex. Later still the rest of the kingdom became a prey to the hideous work of the “booted mission” as it was called—Normandy, Burgundy, and the central provinces, even to far-off Brittany, and to Paris itself.” “The horrors the dragoons inspired, the crimes they perpetrated, the sufferings the wretched victims endured,” who shall describe? But this was only the beginning of the tragedy.
A statute still remained—the Edict of Nantes—protecting the lives and liberties of the Huguenots. By one fell stroke this last, protection was swept away. The Edict was revoked. The floodgates were opened, and persecution in its worst, form rolled over the Protestant population of France.
The fatal day of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes was the 17th of October, 1685.
The first article of the new law recalled all legislation favourable to the Huguenots.
The second forbade all gatherings of Protestants for the services of their religion.
The three following had reference to Protestant ministers. All these were commanded to leave France within fifteen days from the publication of the Edict, on pain of the galleys.
The seventh article abolished all private schools for the instruction of Protestant children.
The eighth prescribed that all children hereafter born of Protestant parents should be baptized by the parish priests, and brought up in the Roman Catholic religion. Recalcitrant parents incurred a fine of five hundred livres or more.
In the tenth article the king issued “very express and repeated prohibitions to all his Protestant subjects against leaving his kingdom, or allowing their wives or children to leave it, and against exporting their goods and chattels. The penalty was the galleys for men, and confiscation of body and goods for women.”
All the Protestant churches throughout France were shut or pulled down. Nothing but ruins remained. The pastors were exiled, and the flocks forbidden to follow them. An entire people, the best and noblest of the land, lay crushed under the cruel heel, the iron hoof, of the relentless Papal persecutor.
Then followed the great Exodus. Nothing could arrest it. Thousands on thousands of Huguenots fled from France. The frontiers were guarded in vain. Disguised in all manner of ways, their faces disfigured, their garments rent, in the darkness of night, by sequestered paths, through forests, across mountains, and over the seas in open boats, they fled, and still fled, until half a million had escaped. They fled to Switzerland, to Holland, to England, and other countries. Four hundred thousand perished in the effort to escape. The prisons were crowded. The homes of the Protestants emptied, their houses left tenantless. Thousands of Protestants had broken down under the strain, and professed submission to their Roman Catholic persecutors; but the great mass of the Huguenots had remained faithful. No power could conquer their convictions, or compel them to deny their Lord.
Chained to the oars in the horrible galleys, and brutally beaten and bastinadoed by their captors, they remained faithful. Crammed into filthy jails, left to rot in dungeons, they remained faithful. Broken on the wheel they remained faithful. Aged pastors lay bound by their limbs to that cruel instrument, while through a long agony, protracted sometimes for hours, every bone in their body was broken. Stroke followed stroke while life remained. Groans went up from the galleys, from the prisons, from the lands of exile. In The Tower of Constance Huguenot women were immured without hope of release. The walls were nearly ninety feet high, and eighteen feet in thickness. It contained two great circular vaulted chambers one above the other. High and narrow loopholes admitted a feeble light. By that ray one of the noble women imprisoned there wrote on the wall, “Resistez!” Resist!
Yes, they “resisted unto blood” in that awful strife. Who were the victors in that struggle? Louis XIV and the Pope and priests of Rome, or the suffering Huguenots? Was not the Crucified the Conqueror? Is not the martyr the Victor? So they overcame. “When young Chamier underwent his horrible torture, for the scene of which, by a refinement of cruelty, the street in front of his paternal home had been selected, it was his mother that chiefly urged him to fortitude in suffering for the faith. “I have yet,” said she, “three children whom I shall cheerfully give up, if they be called to die for religion’s sake.”
Like the noble martyrs of primitive times “they loved not their lives unto the death.” They overcame; for greater is He who was in them, than he who was in the opposing world. Rome believed and boasted that she had triumphed. She rang her joybells. She struck Commemoration Medals. On one of them the crowned monarch stands on. the steps of the altar, and extends to France, represented by a kneeling suppliant the sceptre of his mercy, while around are inscribed the words Sacra Romana Restituta — “The Roman religion restored.”
The Queen of Sweden received and sheltered some of the refugees. “I pray with all my heart,” said she, “that the false joy and triumph of the Church may not some day cost her tears and sorrows.” What it did cost France history has since related.
In the Vaudois valleys at this same period the wave of persecution had reached its highest altitude. “In thy book,” cried Milton,
“…record their groans
Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold
Slain by the bloody Piedmontese, that rolled
Mother with infants down the rocks. Their groans
The vales redoubled to the hills, and they To heaven.”
The Vaudois Protestants were cut up alive, roasted over fires, impaled on stakes, disembowelled, torn limb from limb, tortured in ways too horrible to describe. Leger’s volume contains pictures of all these horrors, and gives the names and numbers of the sufferers.
In 1686 Louis XIV sent 14,000 men under the Marquis de Catinat to join the Piedmontese army, to enforce the submission of the Vaudois. Following his victory over the Protestants of the Valleys the Duke condemned 14,000 of them to the prisons of Turin: of these 11,000 perished by heat, cold, hunger, and thirst in their imprisonment. The remaining three thousand on emancipation from prison fled over the mountains to Switzerland and Brandenburg. The republic of Geneva extended to the exiles a touching welcome.
In England James II had opened negotiations with the Pope. Papists were in full patronage and Jeffreys was holding his “bloody assizes.” In the army Protestant officers were replaced by Romanists; the Papal Nuncio was received at Windsor, and the seven Bishops sent to the Tower, the people venting their feelings in tears and prayers.
A storm was brewing, and a dark cloud hung over the land.
This closing crisis of Papal persecution had long been expected. Students of prophecy in the days of the Reformation and of the Puritan Revolution had forecast its advent and sought to calculate the period of its occurrence. They knew that the Protestant religion would be suppressed in some unprecedented way before the final judgments of God were poured forth on their persecutors.
They believed that the Protestant “witnesses” were yet to be slain; that they were to lie unburied for three and a half years, and then to be raised from death, and exalted to power and supremacy.
Peter Jurieu, one of the exiled Huguenot ministers wrote a book in 1687, a copy of which lies before us, entitled, “The accomplishment of the Scripture prophecies on the approaching deliverance of the Church, proving that the present persecution may end in three years and a half; after which the destruction of the Antichrist shall begin, which shall be finished in the beginning of the next age, and then the Kingdom of Christ shall come upon earth.”
It is a volume of six hundred pages, and remarkable for the clearness and force of its argument.
Was Jurieu mistaken?
The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes took place on the 17th of October, 1685.
The English Revolution followed in 1688, and the coronation of William of Orange and Queen Mary took place on the nth of April, 1689.
From October, 1685, to April, 1689, the interval is three and a half years.
The English Revolution marked the end of Papal supremacy in England, and Papal persecution on any widely extended scale in the world. It was the first stage in the inauguration of a new era.
In 1688, James II, the last Popish King of England, abandoned his throne, and fled. The victories of William of Orange in Ireland and on the continent followed; including those of Marlborough over the armies of Louis XIV, in the nine years’ war with France from May, 1689, to January 1697.
The almost unexampled series of English victories of this war was succeeded by the Treaty of Ryswtck [Ryswick] in September, 1697, and the full establishment of civil and religious liberty.
Encouraged by the English Revolution in 1689, the Vaudois refugees in Switzerland resolved to attempt to return to their country. Embarking at Nyon on the 16th of August, 1689, they crossed the Lake of Geneva, ascended the opposite heights, crossed the bridge of Marni, passed the towns of Cluse and Sallenches; crossed Mount Haute Luce, Mount Bon Hornme, and the River Isere; crossed Mount Tisser and Mount Cenis, Mount Tourliers, the Valley of Jaillon, by Chamont above Suza, Mount Sei, and descended into the Valley of Pragela, the most northern of the Vaudois valleys. In this long and perilous journey across the Alps, they were led by Henry Arnaud. Though opposed by 10,000 French and 12,000 Piedmontese, they cut their way through, losing only thirty of their number in their numerous encounters with their enemies.
Climbing the precipitous Alps, crossing the snows, sleeping on the bare ground: subsisting only on bread and herbs, they escaped or put to flight their foes, preserved as by a miracle from all the perils of the way. Their return to their native valleys celebrated as “La Rentree Gloruuse” [sic] [Glorious Return] was effected three and half years after their total dissipation.
We have said that Jurieu published a work on the “Approaching deliverance of the Church,” in 1687, in which he anticipated that the Restoration of Protestantism would follow three and a half years after its overthrow at the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685.
Another work on the Apocalypse written in 1685 by an exiled French minister contains the same anticipation. Copies of both of these works are lying before us. The latter contains the following reference to its authorship on the title-page, — “written by a French minister in the year 1685, and finished but two days before the Dragoons plundered him of all except this Treatise.”
It is a small volume of about 300 pages. Fallen to pieces with age, with broken binding, and separated leaves, my copy is tied together with string to preserve it from destruction; an eloquent witness to the last great Papal persecution, and the anticipation based on the sure word of prophecy, of the speedy restoration of Protestant liberties. The author tells us that he was unacquainted with Jurieu’s view when he wrote. “There were divers of the refugees,” says he, “who had the sight of this discourse when they were in France. For the author had finished it near the end of August, 1685, about two days before the arrival of the new missionaries, the Dragoons, who plundered him of all he had. So that this was the whole that he was able to save out of that doleful shipwreck; which since his arrival at a place of security he hath reviewed and corrected, in several places. And having met with “the Accomplishment of Prophecies,” written by the famous Monsieur Jurieu, the author was exceedingly pleased to find that he had explained the eleventh chapter (of Revelation) as promissory of the reestablishment of the Reformed in France, according as that great man hath done.”
Not in France, however, but chiefly in England whither great numbers of the refugees had come, and in the Waldensian Valleys, was the restoration of Protestantism to be effected. It came at the expected time. A darker experience awaited France, the execution of terrible judgments in retribution for her cruel and long continued persecution of the Huguenots. Regarded in its widest aspects, the English Revolution under William of Orange marked the commencement of the modern era of full Protestant liberties, and the political ascendancy of Protestant power in Europe, and throughout the world.
Source: Historicism.com Bookshelf