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    Triumph and Persecution in France 


An extract from the “History of the Reformation in the Time of Calvin” by J. H. Merle d’Aubigné (1794-1872)



After Calvin’s flight, the Queen of Navarre, as we have seen, had succeeded in calming the storm; and yet the evangelical cause had never been nearer a violent persecution. The prisons were soon to be filled; the fires of martyrdom were soon to be kindled. During the year 1533 Lutheran discourses had greatly multiplied in the churches. ‘Many notable persons,’ says the chronicler, ‘were at that time preaching in the city of Paris.’1  

The simplicity, wisdom, and animation of their language had moved all who heard them. The churches were filled, not with formal auditors, but with men who received the glad-tidings with great joy. ‘Drunkards had become sober; libertines had become chaste; the fruits which proceeded from the preaching of the Gospel had astonished the enemies of light and truth.’

The doctors of the Sorbonne did not wait for the king’s orders to attack the evangelicals; his interview with the pope, and the news of the bull brought from Rome, had filled the catholic camp with joy. ‘What!’ they exclaimed, ‘the king is uniting with the pope at Marseilles, and in Paris the churches are opened to heresy! . . . let us make haste and close them’ . . .

The pious Roussel, the energetic Couralt, the temporizing Berthand, and others besides, were forbidden to preach, and one morning the worshippers found the church doors shut.2

Great was their sorrow and agitation. Many went to Roussel and Couralt, and loudly expressed their regret and their wishes. The ministers took courage, and ‘turned their preaching into private lectures.’ Little meetings were formed in various houses in the city. At first none but members of the family were present; but it seemed that Christ, according to his promise, was in the midst of them, and erelong friends and neighbours were admitted. The ministers set forth the promises of Holy Scripture, and the worshippers exclaimed: ‘We receive more blessings now than before’ . . .

The Sorbonnists, having heard of these conventicles, declared ‘that they disliked these lectures still more than the sermons.’ In fact, if the preaching in the churches had been a loud appeal, the Divine Word in these small meetings spoke nearer to men’s hearts, enlightening them and making them fast in Jesus Christ; and accordingly the conversions increased in number.


1 Crespin, Martyrologue, fol. 111.

2 Theod. de Beze, Hist. Eccl. 1. p. 9.