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Title: Great Christians of France, Saint Louis and Calvin
Author: Guizot, François
Language: English
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            Great Christians Of France

                    Saint Louis




                     M. Guizot

           Member Of The Institute Of France

                Macmillan And Co.
                  And New York




                    St. Louis.

                   Chapter I. -- 5

Origin Of The Title 'most Christian King,' As Given To
The Kings Of France. Canonization Of Charlemagne
And St. Louis.

                   Chapter II. -- 9

Education Of St. Louis. Influence Of His Century, And
Of His Mother, On The Formation Of His Character.

                   Chapter III. -- 19

Majority Of St. Louis
His Marriage, And The Commencement Of His Government.

                   Chapter IV. -- 26

Relations Of St. Louis With His Vassals.
His Feudal Conflicts.
War With Henry III. Of England.

                   Chapter V. -- 37

Attitude Of St. Louis In The Struggle Between The German Empire
And The Papacy.

                   Chapter VI. -- 43

Christian Europe And Mahometan Asia In The Thirteenth Century.

                   Chapter VII. -- 51

Origin Of The Passion Felt By St. Louis For The Crusades.
His Sickness In 1244.
His Vow.
His Departure On His First Crusade In 1248.

                   Chapter VIII. -- 58

St. Louis In Egypt. 1249-1250.


                   Chapter IX. -- 80

St. Louis In Palestine And Syria.

                   Chapter X. -- 95

Return Of St. Louis To France.
His Domestic Policy.

                   Chapter XI. -- 102

Foreign Policy Of St. Louis.

                   Chapter XII. -- 109

The King's Legislative And Administrative Power.

                   Chapter XIII. -- 117

Christianity Of St. Louis In His Private And Social Life, As Well
As In His Public Career And Political Relations.

                   Chapter XIV. -- 130

The Crusade The Ruling Passion Of St. Louis.
In Spite Of Strenuous Opposition, He Decides On A Second Crusade (1270).
His Arrival And Death Before Tunis (25th August, 1270)

                   Chapter XV. -- 140

Portrait Of St. Louis As The Ideal Man, Christian, And
King Of The Middle Ages.
His Participation In The Two Great Errors Of His Time.


                     John Calvin.

                   Chapter I. -- 145

Final Judgment On Great Men And Great Events Must Be Reserved For
Future Generations.
Characteristics Of The Religious Reform Of The Sixteenth Century.

                   Chapter II. -- 152

Birth And Parentage Of Calvin.
His Brother Charles.
Education Of Calvin.
His Choice Of A Career.


                   Chapter III. -- 157

Calvin The Law Student, At Orleans And Bourges.
Calvin The Reformer, In Paris.

                    Chapter IV. -- 165

Calvin A Fugitive.
Persecution Of The Protestants In Paris.

                   Chapter V. -- 173

Calvin The Theologian.

                   Chapter VI. -- 181

Calvin's Belief In The Plenary Inspiration Of The Bible.

                   Chapter VII. -- 189

Calvin's Theory Of Free-will And Predestination.

                   Chapter VIII. -- 202

Calvin Preaches Religious Reform In Italy.
The Duchess Of Ferrara.
Calvin's Flight From Aosta.

                   Chapter IX. -- 212

William Farel.
Calvin In Geneva.

                   Chapter X. -- 232

Calvin's Polemics.

                   Chapter XI. -- 241

Calvin, Luther, And Melancthon.
Calvin In Search Of A Wife.

                   Chapter XII. -- 250

Calvin Returns To Geneva.

                   Chapter XIII. -- 258

Calvin's Ecclesiastical Polity.

                   Chapter XIV. -- 266

Calvin's Civil Legislation.


                   Chapter XV. -- 278

Division Of The Religious And Civil Authorities On The Question
Of The Lord's Supper.

                   Chapter XVI. -- 283

Defeat Of The Libertines.

                   Chapter XVII. -- 290

Calvin's Theological Controversies.

                   Chapter XVIII. -- 312

Servetus In Geneva.
His Trial And Execution.

                   Chapter XIX. -- 326

The Two Opponents.
Calvin's Letter To Socinus.

                   Chapter XX. -- 333

Calvin's Influence Over The Reformed Churches.
His Presbyterianism.

                   Chapter XXI. -- 345

Calvin The Author.
His Church Catechism.
His Respect For The Intellect.

                   Chapter XXII. -- 355

                     The End.



'Go ye and preach to all nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.'

This was the last injunction of Jesus Christ to His Apostles.

_Universality_ is therefore the first principle and ultimate
aim of Christianity. It has been designed for and is intended to
become, in fundamental belief, the religion of the universe.

The _Universality_ of Christianity in fundamental belief is
accompanied by _Diversity_ in institutions and forms of
worship, which are secondary and external developments; for this
_Diversity_ is the inevitable result of difference of place,
of time, of degrees of civilization, and of all those events
which mould the destiny and constitute the history of nations.

When the Apostles were commanded to instruct all nations 'in the
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,' they
also received the gift of tongues. This gift, which was a
consequence of the _Diversity_ of their means and methods of
instruction, also bore witness to it, and at the same time
manifested the _Unity_ and _Universality_ of their


The whole history and progress of Christianity verifies these two
facts. There has been great _Diversity_ in the numerous
developments of the Christian religion which we find over the
face of the whole earth, and it has often entailed deplorable
strife. But Christian _Unity_ has never ceased to be the
fundamental principle of these different manifestations, and
_Universality_ has remained the ultimate aim of
Christianity, in spite of the different methods which it has
adopted and forms in which it has been clothed, as it has spread
from land to land.

In Europe, and in the states which have grown out of European
colonies, Catholicism and Protestantism are the two great
branches which have sprung from the Christian stem. For a long
time a grievous and sanguinary war was waged between these two
Churches. They triumphed or succumbed on different battle-fields.
But where Catholicism has conquered, as in France, Protestantism
has not perished; where Protestantism has been the victor, as in
England, Catholicism still survives. After having subjected each
other to so many trials and so much suffering, these two Churches
have at last learnt that they can and ought to live together in
peace, and that liberty must be their watchword and their

From the brightest epochs of Catholicism and Protestantism, I
have endeavoured to select some of their most earnest and noble
representatives,--men whom no intelligent and well-informed man
of the present day can refuse to recognise as Christians.


I was born a Protestant, and the experience of life, as well as
the study of history, have more and more confirmed me in the
faith of my forefathers; but, at the same time, they have taught
me to recognise and to revere those true Christians who are
members of Churches not my own.

The thirteenth and the seventeenth centuries are the two noblest
and fairest epochs of French Catholicism. The sixteenth century
and the beginning of the seventeenth are the two noblest and
fairest periods of French Protestantism.

Among French Catholics I have chosen St. Louis in the thirteenth
century and St. Vincent de Paul in the seventeenth, as two great
and noble Christians, two earnest and illustrious representatives
of the Christian faith and life, as well as of the loftiest
thought and purest morality of their country and their
generation. Among the Protestants of the sixteenth century,
Calvin and Du Plessis Mornay present the same characteristics,
and deserve an equal glory.

These four men were emphatically and first of all Christians, in
thought and life. Christian faith and piety shone out in all of
them, notwithstanding their profound divergence and their fierce
controversies. That is why I have selected them; and I have tried
to depict them as glorious and profitable examples of
Christianity, and of its persistent _Unity_ in the midst of
its most striking _Variety_.

  Val Richer, 1868.



           St. Louis, King Of France.

  Born At Poissy, Near Paris, _April_ 25, 1215.
  Died Before Tunis, _August_ 25, 1270.

                   Chapter I.

  Origin Of The Title 'most Christian King,' As Given To
  The Kings Of France. Canonization Of Charlemagne And St. Louis.

It was one of the chief glories of the kings of France to be
called 'Most Christian King.' This was a title of traditionary
honour rather than a testimony to their personal and religious
merits, for, to tell the truth, the majority of these monarchs
were very indifferent Christians. It is not mere external
profession which makes the Christian, but the condition of a
man's soul and the manner of his life.

By a startling coincidence, it was under the reign of one of the
most villanous, knavish, and yet able sovereigns France ever
had--Louis XI.--that the title 'Most Christian King' became the
permanent and official attribute of French royalty. Before the
middle of the fourteenth century we sometimes find it in letters
from the popes to the kings of France, but rarely and casually,
or else in documents of questionable authenticity.
In 1286, Pope Honorius IV. writing to Philip the Fair, styled him
'the Catholic King,' a name, he said, 'belonging specially to the
kings of France.' And even in 1456, Pope Calixtus III. addressed
a brief to Charles VII. under no other title than that of
'Illustrious King of the Franks.' Twelve years after, in 1468,
Pope Paul II., in replying to the complimentary address which had
been conveyed to him by Guillaume de Montreuil, envoy of Louis
XI., recalled all that the kings of France had done for the Holy
See since the days of Pepin le Bref and Charlemagne, and declared
that, if his predecessors had not always given the title of 'Most
Christian' to these sovereigns, he himself had begun, and
intended to continue so to designate them. Since that time, both
at home and abroad, the French monarchs have claimed and received
this august title.

Another title, more august still--that of 'Saint'--has been
received by only two, Charlemagne and Louis IX., out of this long
line of sovereigns. We must not exact a very strict proof of the
right of Charlemagne to this title in the Catholic Church. He was
only canonized in 1165 or 1166 by the Antipope Pascal III. and
through the influence of the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Since
then, not one of the legitimate popes has ever officially
recognised or proclaimed his canonization, but still they have
tolerated and tacitly admitted it, no doubt on account of his
services to the Papacy. Nevertheless, besides emperors and popes,
Charlemagne had warm and powerful admirers; he was the great man,
the popular hero, of nearly the whole German race, who
acknowledged his sanctity with enthusiasm, and have always
religiously honoured it.
From the earliest days of the University of Paris, Charlemagne
has been the patron-saint of all the German students there. In
France, however, his position in the calendar remained obscure
and uncertain until the end of the fifteenth century, when, from
some motive which we cannot now discover, (perhaps to snatch from
his great enemy, Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, possessor of
the finest German provinces in Charlemagne's empire, the
exclusive privilege of showing reverence to the memory of so
great a man,) Louis XI. ordained saintly honours to be paid to
the illustrious emperor, and fixed as his fête-day the 28th of
January, threatening with death all who refused to acknowledge
this new object of worship. In vain: the sanctity of Charlemagne
has never been generally recognised by the Church of France; but
the University of Paris has remained faithful to her tradition,
and in 1661, two centuries after the death of Louis XI.--without
expressly bestowing the title of _Saint_--she publicly
proclaimed Charlemagne her patron, and ordered his fête-day to be
solemnly kept every year. In spite of the hesitations of the
'Parlement' [Footnote 1] of Paris, and the revolutions of our
century, it is still celebrated as the chief fête-day of the
great classical schools in France.

    [Footnote 1: The French 'Parlement' was not a representative
    assembly like the English Parliament. It consisted originally
    of the great vassals of the King, who were called together to
    deliberate on the general affairs of the kingdom on the 1st
    of March or the 1st of May every year, or if any urgent
    necessity arose, were summoned whenever the King had need of
    their advice. By degrees this assembly was transformed into a
    great judicial court; at first it also preserved its
    political character, and this was strongly manifested even as
    late as the sixteenth century, in the so-called religious
    wars. But starting from the reigns of Louis XIII. and Louis
    XIV., the 'Parlement' became merely a court of justice, which
    was joined on solemn occasions by the royal princes, and the
    dukes and peers of the realm.]


Thus the University of France has repaid her emperor for his
benefits towards her: he protected her students and her learning,
she has protected his saintship.

That of Louis IX. did not require such pertinacious and erudite
defence, nor suffer such uncertainties of fate. Proclaimed
immediately after his death, not only by his son, Philip the
Bold, and the barons and prelates of the kingdom, but by the
public voice of France and of Europe, it became immediately the
object of papal inquiry and deliberation. For twenty-four years,
nine popes--Gregory X., Innocent V., John XXI., Nicholas III.,
Martin IV., Honorius IV., Nicholas IV., St. Celestine, and
Boniface VIII.--swift successors in the papal chair, pursued the
customary inquiry into the faith and life, virtues and miracles
of the defunct king; and it was at last Boniface VIII.
(afterwards destined to maintain a fierce conflict with the
grandson of St. Louis, Philip the Fair) who, on August 11, 1297,
decreed the canonization of the most Christian of all the
monarchs of France, nay, of one of the truest Christians, monarch
or peasant, that either France or Europe ever knew.


                   Chapter II.

            Education Of St. Louis.
    Influence Of His Century, And Of His Mother,
	On The Formation Of His Character.

Born to a throne, a powerful monarch, a valiant soldier, and a
noble knight, the object of devoted attachment to those about his
person and of admiring respect to those further removed from him,
whether friends or enemies,--these honours and pleasures failed
either to dazzle or intoxicate King Louis. They held the first
place neither in his thoughts nor his actions. Before all things
and above all things, he desired to be--and was--a Christian, a
true Christian, guided and governed by the determination to keep
the faith and fulfil the law of Christianity. If he had been born
in the lowest worldly estate, or if he had occupied a position in
which the claims of religion would have been most imperative; if
he had been poor, obscure, a priest, a monk, or a hermit, he
could not have been more constantly and passionately pre-occupied
with the desire to live as Christ's faithful servant, and to
insure by pious obedience upon earth his eternal salvation
hereafter. It is this peculiar and original feature in the
character of St. Louis,--the rare, perhaps the sole instance of
the kind in the annals of monarchs,--which I wish now to bring
forward into the light.


The causes which could influence and produce such a character
have been sometimes sought in the general or special influences
of the age in which St. Louis lived. The thirteenth century was
one of faith and religious observances. The creeds and ordinances
of Christianity exercised a very strong influence over all
classes. The mother of Louis IX., Queen Blanche of Castile, was a
remarkable woman in mind and character, and as pious as she was
clever. She gave her son a sound Christian education in his
youth, and wise counsel and valuable support during the whole
course of her life. Some writers have considered that these facts
are sufficient to account for the spiritual development and life
of the King. But this is a very superficial view, for neither the
religious spirit of the thirteenth century nor the influence of
Queen Blanche could have produced such a lofty moral nature as
that of St. Louis; nor will they suffice to account for its

Though the thirteenth century was fruitful in faith and Christian
observances, still the Christians of that age were neither so
numerous nor so influential as, in order to shame our present
day, is often averred. The Crusades, that great outbreak of
Christian zeal, had introduced tastes, passions, and habits of
great licence into all classes. I find, in a learned and
judicious 'History of St. Louis,' to which the French Academy has
lately awarded a prize, the following faithful and authentic
summary of the moral disorders of the time: '"People start on
these sacred expeditions in order to become holy," says Rutebeuf,
the contemporary poet, "and they come back--those who do come
back--reprobate vagabonds."
Their faith was tainted by association with the Mussulmen, and
their lives by the manners and customs of the East. The clergy
even did not escape corruption.  ... The priests were so despised
by the laity that they looked down upon them as if they had been
Jews, saying, "I'd rather be a priest than do so-and-so." The
young priests, when they appeared in public, hid the tonsure,
which they wore close to the forehead, by drawing the hair from
the back of the head over it. The nobles no longer allowed their
sons to take holy Orders; they found it more convenient to
appoint to the churches the children of their vassals, from whom
they could exact some share of the pecuniary dues. The bishops
had no chance of choosing their own priests, but were reduced to
accept any who would condescend to enter such a discreditable

At the same time, the luxury of the higher orders of the clergy
was a subject of great scandal. 'The councils of the Church had
often attempted to check it, and in 1179 the third Council of
Lateran suggested the following regulation as a reform: "The
archbishops on their journeys shall have at the utmost from forty
to fifty horses, the cardinals twenty-five, the bishops twenty or
thirty, the arch-deacons seven, and the deans and their inferiors
two." The progress of the legates of the Holy See was justly
dreaded as causing absolute ruin. "Wherever they went," says Abbe
Fleury, "they exacted magnificent entertainment from the bishops
and abbots; and in order to defray these expenses the monasteries
were sometimes even compelled to sell the sacred vessels from
their churches." [Footnote 2]

    [Footnote 2: Faure, 'Histoire de Saint Louis,' vol. i. p. 38.]


Such a clergy,' adds the historian, 'was unable to check the evil
tendencies of the age, either by setting the example of a life of
self-denial or by teaching a pure and enlightened religion.' Nor
could such a period produce religious kings. The history of the
thirteenth century gives a striking proof of this fact, for the
grandfather and grandson of Louis IX., though able and energetic
princes, who served both the throne and the nation well, showed
much more tendency towards worldly policy and keen self-interest
than towards Christian faith. Philip Augustus was no type of St.
Louis, and Philip le Bel no imitation of him.

Nor will the education he received from his mother, and her
influence over him, both during a regency of ten years and even
after he had attained his majority and assumed the reins of
power, fully account for the profoundly Christian character of
St. Louis, both in word and deed. Queen Blanche was a sincere
believer and a pious woman, and she was very anxious to secure
the moral and religious welfare of her son. We cannot doubt this,
because it is proved by numerous facts, by many documents of the
period, and by the testimony of the King himself. On the day of
his birth, the 25th of April, 1215, when the feeble new-made
mother noticed that the bells of the church of Poissy did not
ring as usual, and was told they had been stopped that she might
take repose, Blanche immediately commanded that she herself
should be moved to a distance if necessary, but that nothing
should hinder the summoning of the faithful to prayer.
She herself took charge of the early education of her boy 'as
being the future ruler of so great a kingdom, and her own
favourite child.' As soon as he entered his fourteenth year, she
gave him a strict and careful preceptor, 'who followed him about
everywhere, even in his amusements, by wood or stream, so that he
might always be teaching him, and who even sometimes used to beat
him--which he bore with patience,' say the contemporary
chronicles. Later still, when the King related to his intimate
friends his recollections of his mother: 'Madame used to say,' he
often repeated, 'that if I were sick unto death, and could only
be cured by committing some mortal sin, she would let me die
rather than utterly offend my Creator.' [Footnote 3]

    [Footnote 3: 'Vie de Saint Louis,' by the Confessor of Queen
    Marguerite, in Bouquet's 'Recueil des Historians des Gaules
    et de la France;' Tillemont, 'Vie de Saint Louis,' &c. &c.]

A guardianship so careful, firm, and righteous, joined to rare
skill in the difficult task of ruling France during a long
minority, could not fail to secure to Queen Blanche great
influence over her son's character and actions; an influence so
great and so lasting that we are sometimes tempted to be
surprised at it, and to fancy that Louis, when he was not only a
king but a great king, was too weak and too dependent as a son.
He had the deepest respect for his mother, great confidence in
her political ability, and very lively gratitude for her
invaluable energy and maternal devotion. But mother and son were
so unlike, both by nature and instinct, that there could be no
spontaneous and familiar intercourse between them; none of that
communion which is the truest bond of two human souls, because it
adds the charm of mutual sympathy to the strong power of


Blanche was ambitious, proud, imperious. These qualities appeared
in her youth both towards her husband, Louis VIII., and her
father-in-law, Philip Augustus. In 1216 she strongly urged the
former to accept the English crown, offered him by the barons of
England when at war with King John on the question of Magna
Charta; and when Philip Augustus prudently refused to assist his
son openly in this hazardous enterprise, the Princess Blanche
recruited a band of knights who were to uphold the cause of the
French prince on the other side of the Channel, and she herself
was present at their meeting and at their departure. Ten years
later, when the death of Louis VIII. made her Regent of France,
she had to battle for ten years more, until her son's majority,
with intrigues, plots, insurrections, open wars; and with what
was much worse for her, the secret insults and calumnies of the
principal vassals of the Crown, who were eager to snatch back
from the rule of a woman the power and independence of which
Philip Augustus had deprived them. But Queen Blanche resisted
them, either with direct, masculine, and most persevering energy,
or with the adroit finesse and ingenious fascination of a mere
woman. Although forty years of age when her regency began, she
was still beautiful, graceful, abounding in attractions, both of
manner and conversation; gifted with the power to please, and the
will to use that power with a coquetry that was sometimes a
little too obvious to be prudent. Her enemies spread the most
odious reports concerning her.
One of the highest vassals of the kingdom, Thibaut IV. Count of
Champagne, a clever and voluminous poet, a gay and brilliant
knight, was declared to be madly in love with her--her slanderers
said, not in vain; and added that she had with his aid
assassinated the king her husband. In 1230, some of the principal
barons of France--the Count of Bretagne, the Count of Boulogne,
and the Count of St. Pol--united to attack Count Thibaut and to
seize Champagne; whereupon the Queen Regent, with her young son,
came to his rescue, and arriving near Troyes, commanded the
barons in the King's name to retire. 'If you have any complaint
against the Count of Champagne,' said she, 'present it, and I
will grant you justice.'  'We will not plead before you,' was
their scornful reply. 'We know it is the way of women to fix
their choice above all men upon the man who has killed their
husband.' Nevertheless, in spite of this cruel insult, the barons
left the field.

Five years after, in 1235, the Count of Champagne himself took up
arms against his sovereign. But he was compelled to make peace on
very hard terms in order to escape an ignominious defeat, and an
interview took place between him and the Queen Regent. '"_Par
Dieu!_" said Blanche; "Count Thibaut, you ought not to be our
adversary. You should remember all the goodness of my son, and
how he went to your aid when all the barons of France were
against you, and would have burnt your lands to charcoal." The
Count looked at the Queen, who was so wise and so fair, till he
was quite abashed by her great beauty, and he answered, "By my
faith, Madame, my heart and my body and all my domain are at your
command. There is nothing you may deign to desire that I will not
gladly do, and, if it please God, never will I fight against you
or yours."
He departed pensively from her presence, and the sweet looks of
the Queen, and her beautiful presence, came often to his mind, so
that tender and yearning thoughts entered his heart. But when he
remembered how noble a lady she was and how good, and of such a
great purity that she would never return his love, his tender and
yearning thoughts changed to a great sadness. And because these
sad thoughts engender melancholy, he was advised by several wise
men to study song and poesy. And he made after that time the most
beautiful songs and the most delectable and melodious that were
ever heard.' [Footnote 4]

    [Footnote 4: Jubainville, 'Histoire des Dues et des Comtes de
    Champagne,' vol. iv, p. 249; 'Chroniques de St. Denis;'
    Bouquet's 'Recueil des Historiens des Gaules et de la
    France,' vol. xxi. p. 111.]

I can find nothing in history to justify the accusations of Queen
Blanche's enemies. I do not know if the songs of Count Thibaut
ever touched her heart; certainly they never influenced her
conduct. She continued to oppose the claims and plots of the
great vassals of France, whether her foes or her lovers, and to
increase the possessions and the power of the Crown in spite of
them. Though a sincere believer and a wise, devoted mother, she
was essentially a politician, engrossed by the love of power, the
claims of her position, and her temporal success. I can find in
her no trace of the lofty moral impulses, the sensitive
conscience, the enthusiasm and sympathy, which are characteristic
of Christian piety, and which guided the whole life of St. Louis.
He derived these noble impulses neither from the teaching nor the
example of his mother; and if we would understand how they
existed in him, we must consent to acknowledge one of the
mysteries of creation: we must recognise the distinct
individuality of each human soul, the separate personality and
infinite diversity of disposition given by the Creator in
accordance with an unknown and impenetrable design. Enthusiasm,
sympathy, and conscientiousness,--these words describe the
condition of that man whose whole nature is entirely penetrated
and influenced by Christianity; for Christianity says to a man,
'There is none good but one, that is, God; and so leads him to
put his trust and hope in God; it lifts him above the interests
and chances of this life, and this is the true and essential
character of enthusiasm. Christianity teaches a man to love his
neighbours as himself, and thus calls out in him that tender,
ready, and universal charity which is justly called sympathy. It
gives him a profound conviction of his own moral infirmity, makes
him therefore keep watch and guard over his actions, and fills
him with doubt lest with all his efforts he should not keep
abreast of his duties. In a word, it makes him conscientious. The
true Christian, be he great or small, rich or poor, is such a man
as this; and Louis IX. was such a man and a king. But neither the
general influence of his contemporaries nor the personal
influence of his mother could have made him what they themselves
were so far from being.


What St. Louis really owed to Queen Blanche, and this was not
little, was the authority she gained and kept during her regency
over the great vassals, either by force of arms or negotiations,
and the predominance which she secured to the Crown, even amidst
the fierce contests of the feudal system. She had an instinctive
knowledge of what powers and what alliances would strengthen the
royal authority against its rivals. When, on the 29th November,
1226, three weeks only after the death of her husband, Louis
VIII., her young son was crowned at Rheims, Blanche invited to
the ceremony not only the hierarchy and nobility of the kingdom,
but the common people of the neighbourhood; she wished to show
the royal child to the great vassals, supported and surrounded by
the people. Two years afterwards, in 1228, there was an
insurrection of the barons assembled at Corbeil, and they
proposed to seize the person of the young King, whose progress
had been arrested at Montlhéry, on his march to Paris. The Queen
Regent summoned around her, besides those lords who remained
faithful, the burgesses of Paris and of the country round, who
hastened to respond to her call. 'All armed, they started for
Montlhéry, where, having found the King, they conducted him to
Paris, marching in battle array. From Montlhéry to Paris the road
was lined the whole way with armed men and others, who prayed
aloud that God would grant the young King a happy and prosperous
life, and preserve him from all his enemies. Then the great
vassals, hearing of this and not being able to oppose such a mass
of the people, withdrew to their own homes, and by the mercy of
God, who orders all things according to His will, they dared not
attack the King any more during the rest of that year.'
[Footnote 5]

    [Footnote 5: Tillemont, 'Vie de St. Louis,' vol. ii. p. 354.]


                   Chapter III.

              Majority Of St. Louis
                  His Marriage,
       The Commencement Of His Government.

In 1236, Louis attained his majority and received from his
mother's hands the full royal power; a power held in fear and
respect, even by the vassals of the Crown, turbulent and
aggressive as they still were. But they were also disunited,
enfeebled, intimidated, and somewhat fallen into discredit; while
for the last ten years they had been invariably baffled in all
their plots.

When she had secured his political position, and he was
approaching his majority, Queen Blanche began to busy herself
with her son's domestic life. She was one of those who like to
play the part of Providence towards the objects of their
affection; to plan, rule and regulate everything in their
destinies. Louis was nineteen years old; handsome, though with
that kind of beauty which indicates more moral than physical
strength. He had delicate and refined features, a brilliant
complexion, and fair hair--shining and abundant--which, through
Isabella, his grandmother, he inherited from his ancestors, the
Counts of Hainault. He was a man of refined tastes and high
spirits; he loved amusement; delighted in games of all sorts and
in hunting; was fond of dogs and falcons; took pleasure in rich
clothes and magnificent furniture.
Nay, a monk is said to have once reproached his mother for having
tolerated in the young man some love-fancy which threatened to
become an irregular connexion; upon which Queen Blanche
determined to have her son married immediately. She found no
difficulty in inspiring young Louis with the same creditable
wish. Raymond Berenger, Count of Provence, had an eldest
daughter, who, according to the chronicles, 'was at that time
said to be the noblest, fairest, and best brought up princess in
all Europe.' By the advice of his mother and of the wisest
counsellors of the kingdom, the young King demanded her in
marriage. Her father received the offer with great joy, but was a
little troubled at the thought of the large dowry which he was
told would be expected with her. However, his most intimate
friend and adviser, a Provençal gentleman named Romée de
Villeneuve, said: 'Count, let me manage the matter, and do not
let the heavy expenses weigh upon your mind. If your eldest
daughter makes this royal marriage, the connexion will be so
desirable that all the others will marry the better for it, and
at less expense.' So Count Raymond followed this advice, and soon
recognised its wisdom. He had four daughters, Margaret, Eleanor,
Sancia, and Beatrix. After Margaret was Queen of France, Eleanor
became Queen of England; Sancia married the Earl of Cornwall, and
was afterwards Queen of the Romans; and Beatrix was first
Countess of Anjou and Provence, and ultimately Queen of Sicily.
Princess Margaret of Provence entered France, escorted by a
brilliant embassy, which Louis had sent to fetch her; and the
marriage was celebrated at Sens on the 27th of May, 1234, in the
midst of great public festivities, and public charities likewise.


When he was married and in the enjoyment of domestic happiness
Louis renounced of his own accord his former pleasures, both
royal and worldly. His entertainments, his hunting, his
magnificent ornaments and dress gave place to simpler pleasures
and the good works of a Christian life. From that time the active
duties of royalty, earnest and scrupulous attention to his
religious duties, the tender and vigilant cares of charity, the
pure and intense delights of conjugal love, combined with the
noble projects of a true knight--a soldier of the Cross--filled
up the whole life of this young king, who was humbly striving to
become a saint and a hero.

But trouble came to him sometimes in the midst of his felicity.
As soon as her son was married, Queen Blanche became jealous of
the wife and the happiness which she herself had procured for
him--jealous as mother and as queen, who saw a rival both in
affection and in sovereignty. This odious sentiment led her on to
acts equally undignified, malignant, and unjust.

'The cruelty of Queen Blanche to Queen Margaret was,' says
Joinville, 'so great that she would not allow her son to enjoy
his wife's companionship during the daytime at all, if she could
prevent it. The favourite abode of the King and Queen was at
Pontoise, because there the apartments of the King were above
those of the Queen, and they had arranged so well that they used
to sit and talk on a winding staircase which led from one story
to the other, and they had contrived all so cleverly that when
the King's guard saw the Queen-mother coming to the apartment of
her son the King, they used to knock with their rods against his
door, and the King would come running to his own room, that his
mother might find him there.
Likewise the guard of Queen Margaret learned to apprise their
mistress when her mother-in-law was approaching, in order that
she might be in her own apartment. Once, when the King was
sitting beside the Queen, his wife, who had been in great peril
of childbirth, the Queen-mother entered, and saying, "Come away,
you can do nothing here," took him by the hand, and carried him
off. Whereupon Queen Margaret cried out, "Alas! you will not let
me see my lord whether I am living or dying!" and fainted, so
that they thought she was dead; and the King, who believed that
she was dead, returned, and after great difficulty she was

Louis, in this strait, comforted his wife, but yet did not desert
his mother. In the noblest of souls and the happiest of lives,
there are oftentimes some incurable wounds and some griefs which
can only be accepted in silence.

The young King's accession to royal power caused no change in the
royal policy, nor in the management of public affairs. There were
no innovations dictated by mere vanity; no change in the acts and
words of the sovereign or in the choice of his advisers and the
amount of consideration shown to them. The son's reign was but
the continuation of the mother's regency. Louis continued to
oppose the power of the great vassals in order that he might
establish the supremacy of the Crown: he succeeded in subduing
Pierre Mauclerc, the turbulent Count of Bretagne; won from
Thibaut IV. Count of Champagne, the right of suzerainty in the
lands of Chartres, Blois, Sancerre, and Châteaudun; and bought
from their owner the fertile lands of Mâcon.
It was almost invariably by pacific measures, negotiations ably
conducted, and treaties scrupulously fulfilled, that he thus
extended the domains of the Crown.

Queen Blanche, during her regency, had practised a far-sighted
economy which placed large funds at the disposal of her son.
Following her example, Louis was economical at ordinary times,
but liberal when policy demanded it. The property, and the rights
belonging thereto, which he purchased from the Count of
Champagne, cost him a sum which would now in English money be as
nearly as possible equivalent to £144,000 paid down, and an
annual ground-rent of £7,200. [Footnote 6]

    [Footnote 6: 40,000 livres Tournois paid down, and a
    ground-rent of 2,000 livres Tournois, or in modern French
    money about 3,600,000 francs paid down, and a ground-rent of
    180,000 francs.]

The learned language of the political economy of our time--the
terms 'sound system of taxation,' 'financial responsibility,' and
'balance of receipts and expenditure' cannot be applied to the
thirteenth century, and to feudal royalty. But we may truly say,
that St. Louis, free from all frivolous fancies, and desiring
only the well-being of his subjects, managed to maintain order in
his royal treasury, and knew both how to economize and how to
spend freely for the success of his designs.


I notice here one fact characteristic of both the King and his
century. Many of these amicable transactions with his great
vassals were almost immediately followed by the departure of the
latter on a new crusade. The Christian world had not renounced
the hope of freeing Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulchre from the
yoke of the Mussulman. The desire to astonish the world by
startling acts of penance, and the love of military adventure,
still agitated both the highest and lowest ranks of feudal
society. Pope Gregory IX. continued to preach a crusade--a
double crusade--to Jerusalem for the deliverance of the Holy
Sepulchre, to Constantinople for the succour of the recently
established Latin Empire, which was already tottering. The King
of France found, doubtless, that it was very convenient to extend
his dominion thus without war at the expense of his vassals, and
to get rid of these turbulent individuals. But to these reasons
of general or private interest was certainly added the personal
influence of Louis, already passionately absorbed in the thought
of the glory and religious salvation which he hoped to win for
himself in one of these expeditions.

As early as 1239, some of the principal vassals with whom he had
just concluded advantageous treaties--the Counts of Champagne,
Bretagne, and Mâcon--started for Palestine at the head of an
army of Crusaders, numbering (so it is said) fifteen hundred
knights and forty thousand squires. Louis was not content simply
with encouraging and promoting this enterprise. 'He desired,'
says De Tillemont, 'that Amaury de Montfort, his constable,
should in this war serve Jesus Christ in his stead. Therefore he
gave him his arms and granted him a daily sum of money, for which
Amaury thanked him on his knees. That is, he did him homage after
the custom of the time. The Crusaders were much rejoiced to have
this noble lord with them.'


The heavy sickness from which the King suffered five years after,
and his pious thankfulness for his cure, are said to have given
rise to his resolve to take the Cross. But this is a grave
mistake, for from the year 1239, when he saw his chief vassals
departing for Palestine with the cross embroidered on their
shoulder, the heart of St. Louis had already taken flight towards


                   Chapter IV.

      Relations Of St. Louis With His Vassals.
              His Feudal Conflicts.
         War With Henry III. Of England.

While awaiting the time when he should be able to gratify his
pious hope of becoming a Crusader, Louis diverted himself and
feudal France by royal and knightly festivities. He had assigned
the province of Poitiers to his second brother Alphonse, but the
young prince had not yet received his investiture as a knight,
nor had he been put in possession of his domain. In order to
perform this double ceremony, the King summoned to Saumur his
full court--that is, all his noble vassals, lay and ecclesiastic.
There were political motives for this assemblage and for the
place of its meeting. The monarch of France displayed all his
power and all his magnificence on the confines of Poitiers, and
in the centre of a district formerly possessed by the kings of


'The King,' says Joinville, who was present, 'gave this feast in
the halls at Saumur, which the great King Henry of England
[Footnote 7] had erected, it was said, for his own banquets.

    [Footnote 7: Henry II. son of Geoffrey Plantagenet,
    Count of Anjou.]

This edifice is built after the fashion of cloisters belonging to
the White Monks' (monks of the Cistercian order), 'but I doubt if
any cloisters could ever have been nearly so large. And I will
tell you why I think so: in that aisle of the hall at Saumur
where the King banqueted, surrounded by all his knights and
officers, who occupied a great deal of space, there was a table
where twenty bishops and archbishops were feasted. And beyond the
bishops and archbishops there was another table at which was the
Queen-mother, Blanche: this was at the further end of the
cloisters, and not where the King was eating. In waiting upon
Queen Blanche were the Count of Boulogne, afterwards King of
Portugal; the good Count of St. Pol, and a German, aged about
eighteen, who was said to be the son of the holy Elizabeth of
Thuringia. On this account it was said that Queen Blanche used to
kiss him on the forehead, out of religious devotion, because she
thought his mother must many times have kissed him there. At the
furthermost part of the cloister, moreover, there were kitchens,
butteries, pantries, and other offices; from this part bread,
meat, and wine were served out to the King and Queen. In the
other aisles and in the open space in the centre of the cloisters
there feasted such a harvest of good knights that I could not
attempt to number them, and the people who looked on said they
had never seen such a number of surcoats and other vestments of
cloth of gold at any banquet as there were there, and they say
that above three thousand knights and cavaliers were present.'

From the festivities at Saumur, Louis went to Poitiers, where the
new-made Count, his brother Alphonse, was to receive in his
presence the homage of the neighbouring lords who had become his
vassals. But ill news came to disturb their pleasures; a
confidential letter was received, addressed, not to the King but
to his mother, who was regarded by many faithful subjects as the
true sovereign of the kingdom, and who doubtless still had her
own confidential and secret agents.
An inhabitant of La Rochelle wrote to tell Queen Blanche of the
existence of a conspiracy among various powerful lords of La
Marche, La Saintonge, L'Angoumois, and still further districts,
who proposed to refuse homage to the Count of Poitiers, and thus
to rebel against the King himself. This unpleasant warning was as
true as it was circumstantial. Hughes de Lusignan, Count of La
Marche, the principal vassal of the new Count of Poitiers, if he
had not originated was certainly the leader of the plot. His
wife, Isabella of Angoulême, widow of the late King John of
England, and mother of the reigning sovereign, Henry III., was
indignant at the idea of becoming a vassal to a prince who was
himself the vassal of the King of France, and furious at finding
herself, once a queen and still the widow and mother of a king,
placed in rank below a mere Countess of Poitiers. When her
husband, the Count of La Marche, returned to Angoulême, he found
his lady melting from wrath into tears, and from tears rising
back again into wrath.

'"Did you not perceive," said she, "that when in order to gratify
your king and queen I waited three days at Poitiers, and then
appeared before them in their chamber, the King was seated on one
side of the bed, and the Queen with the Countess of Chartres and
her sister the Abbess at the other, and they never summoned me to
sit beside them. They did it designedly, to disgrace me before
all these people.
And neither on my entrance nor my departure did they so much as
rise from their seats; putting me to shame, as you must have seen
yourself. I can scarcely speak of it, so overcome am I with grief
and shame. I shall die of it; it is even worse than the loss of
our lands, of which they have so disgracefully robbed us. But at
least, by God's grace, they shall repent of this, or I may see
them miserable in their turn, and deprived of their own lands, as
I am of mine. And for this end, I, for my part, will strive
whilst I have life, even though it should cost me all that is

'"The Count," adds Queen Blanche's secret correspondent, "who is
a good man as you know, seeing the Countess in tears, said to
her, deeply moved, 'Madame, give your commands, and I will do all
that I can: be sure of that.' 'If you do not,' said she, 'you
shall never enter my presence more, and I will never see you
again.' Whereupon the Count, with many oaths, swore that he would
do everything his wife desired."' [Footnote 8 ]

    [Footnote 8: This letter, the original of which is in the
    Bibliothèque Impériale at Paris, was discovered and published
    by M. Léopold Delisle, with a learned commentary, in the'
    'Bibliothèque de l'Ecole des Chartres.']

He was as good as his word. In late autumn of the same year 1241,
'the new Count of Poitiers, holding his court for the first time,
did not fail to summon all the nobles who were his vassals; and
as the chief among them, the Count and Countess of La Marche.
They went to Poitiers. But four days before Christmas, when all
the guests had assembled, the Count of La Marche was seen
advancing towards the prince mounted on his war steed, his wife
behind him on a pillion, escorted by a troop of men-at-arms also
on horseback, their cross-bows in their hands, as if ready for
Everybody waited eagerly for what was going to happen. Then the
Count of La Marche, addressing the Count of Poitiers in a loud
voice, said, "In a forgetful and weak moment I did once think of
paying thee homage, but I now swear with a resolute heart that
thy liege servant I will never be. Unjustly thou callest thyself
my lord: unworthily hast thou stolen these lands from my
son-in-law, Count Richard, while he was faithfully fighting for
God in the Holy Land, where by his prudence and tender mercy he
delivered many captives." After this insulting speech, the Count
of La Marche caused his men-at-arms to disperse roughly all those
who were in his way; rushed, as a last insult, and set fire to
the quarters which his host had assigned him, and, followed by
all his people, quitted Poitiers at full gallop.'

This meant war without doubt: and in early spring of the
following year it broke out. But King Louis was found well
prepared and fully resolved to carry it on. However, with all his
determination, he lacked neither justice nor prudence; he
respected popular opinion and wished for the approval of those
whom he must needs call upon to compromise themselves with him
and for him. He called together the vassals of the Crown. 'What
think you?' asked he. 'What ought to be done to a vassal who
wishes to hold his lands independent of any liege lord, and who
refuses the faithful homage which has been paid time out of mind
by him and his forefathers?'

They answered that the lord of the soil ought then to resume this
fief as his own property.


'By my royal name,' said the King, 'this Count of La Marche
pretends to hold lands after such a fashion--lands which have
been a fief of France ever since the time of the brave King
Clovis, who took all Aquitaine from unbelieving Alaric, King of
the Goths, and conquered the whole country up to the Pyrenees.'
The vassals promised their king active help against his foe.

The Count of La Marche began the contest. He had powerful allies,
but the chief of them, his stepson, Henry III. of England, and
his neighbour, Raimond III. Count of Toulouse, were tardy in
their movements. Provoked by the devastations committed on his
lands, Louis suddenly took the field. He had made great
preparations, had provided large stores of provisions, means of
transport and encampment, and machinery for carrying on a siege.
Four thousand knights and twenty thousand men-at-arms followed
him. The provincial militia joined: in short, as it neared the
enemy's country, the King's army swelled apace, says the old
chronicler, 'like rivers when they approach the sea.' Many
fortresses in La Saintonge and L'Angoumois were carried by
assault. Furious and desperate with her ill success, the Countess
Isabelle of La Marche tried another form of warfare: she gave two
of her serfs a poison which they undertook to mix either with the
food or wine of the King and his brothers. But when they reached
the royal camp, the two poor wretches were discovered, taken, and

At length the King of England landed at Royan, at the mouth of
the Gironde. His Parliament, disliking this war, had refused him
any assistance in it; but he brought with him seven of his
principal vassals, three hundred knights, and, above all, the
treasure which he had succeeded in amassing: 'thirty hogsheads
full of esterlings,' says Matthew Paris, 'enough to pay a whole
army of Poitevins and Gascons.'


A truce had subsisted for some time between France and England.
Henry sent messengers to Louis, informing him that this truce was
now broken, since he considered it his duty to defend his
step-father, the Count of La Marche, by force of arms. Louis
replied, that on his part he had scrupulously respected the
truce, and had no thought of breaking it; but that he considered
himself quite at liberty to punish a rebellious vassal. So the
war began with ardour on both sides; and this young king, docile
son of so capable a mother, soon showed himself to be an
unsuspected hero.

Near two towns in Saintonge, Taillebourg and Saintes, on a bridge
which commanded the approach to the one and before the walls of
the other, Louis fought two battles, where his brilliant personal
valour and the enthusiastic devotion of his troops decided the
victory and caused the surrender of both places.

'At sight of the numerous banners above which the Oriflamme was
floating in front of Taillebourg, and of the multitude of tents
pitched close together so as to look like one great populous
city, Henry III. turned quickly round to the Count of La Marche.
"My father," said he, "is that what you promised me? Is this the
countless army which you engaged yourself to raise for me; while
my sole care should be to provide the money?" "I never said
that," replied the Count. "Yea, truly," observed the Earl Richard
of Cornwall, brother of Henry III. "I have in my possession a
letter in your own hand upon this point."
And when the Count of La Marche energetically denied having
either signed or sent such a letter, the English king reminded
him with some bitterness of his many messages and anxious
solicitations for help. "I swear these were never with my
knowledge," said the Count. "Blame your mother, who is my wife.
_Par la gorge de Dieu_, it has all been managed without my

Henry III. was not alone in his disgust at the war into which his
mother had thus drawn him. The greater part of his English
knights quitted him, and asked of Louis permission to travel home
to England through France. Some persons about the court objected
to this. 'Let them depart,' said Louis. 'I only wish I could get
rid of all my foes thus peacefully.' And when he heard his
courtiers making a mock of Henry III. who, deserted by the
English and pillaged by the Gascons, had taken refuge in
Bordeaux, 'Cease,' said he. 'I forbid you either to ridicule him,
or to cause him to hate me for your folly. His charity and piety
will save him from all danger and all disgrace.'

When the Count of La Marche himself begged for peace, it was
granted by the King with all the prudence of a far-seeing
politician, and the pitying kindliness of a Christian. He only
exacted that the conquered lands should remain the property of
the Crown, and, under the suzerainty of the Crown, should belong
to the Count of Poitiers; and that with regard to the rest of his
estates, the Count of La Marche, his wife, and children should
come and ask them as a grant from the mere will of the King. To
this the Count added, as a pledge of his future fidelity, that he
would maintain in three of his castles a royal garrison at his
own expense.


His submission being thus fully made, the Count was brought into
the presence of the King with his wife and children, 'where' (it
is chronicled) 'they fell upon their knees and broke into sobs
and tears, and began to cry aloud, "Most courteous sire, take
away thy anger and displeasure from us, and have pity on us, for
we have sinned grievously and haughtily against thee. Sire,
according to the multitude of thy great mercies, pardon us our
misdeeds!" At which the King, who could not contain himself at
the sight, bade them rise, and forgave the Count frankly all the
evil he had done.'

As long as the war lasted, Louis had conducted it vigorously and
heroically; but he was at the same time a true and generous
knight towards his adversaries, full of respect for the laws of
chivalry and for feudal honour. His brother Alphonse had been
grievously wounded at the siege of Fontenay, and when, after a
brave resistance, the place was taken, the son of the Count of La
Marche was among the prisoners. Some persons counselled the King
to inflict cruel punishments upon the vanquished, in order to
avenge the wound which Count Alphonse had received and the
obstinate defence of the town. 'No,' said he, 'how can a son
merit death for having simply obeyed his father, or vassals for
having faithfully served their lord?' Later on, 'Hertold, lord of
Mirebeau--a strong castle in Poitou--and vassal of Henry III.,
seeing the rapid success of the French king, and finding himself
unable to resist him, went to seek the King of England at Blaye,
where he had taken refuge.
"My Lord King," said he, "your excellence may perceive that
fortune is against us. What shall I do? Can you help me in such
great danger, or deliver me if I am besieged? Or shall I, like my
neighbours, be overwhelmed by a general disaster and forced to
yield to the hated French yoke, which my ancestors resisted for
so long?" "Hertold," replied the English king, with a dejected
aspect, "thou seest that I can hardly deliver even myself from
danger. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was betrayed by His
disciple Judas: who then can be secure? The Count of La Marche,
whom I looked upon and honoured as my father, has given you all a
pernicious example. I leant on a broken reed, and it has pierced
me. Thou alone, in consulting me thus, thou hast acted with
honour. The lands which thou holdest as my vassal, I will gladly
give thee as thy own possessions. Freely therefore do that which
seems to thee best." Hertold quitted, weeping, the presence of
the English sovereign; and went to the King of France, before
whom he presented himself with dishevelled hair and reddened
eyes. "My Lord King," said he, "God has in His anger poured out
upon me so many misfortunes, that I am constrained, much against
my own will, to take refuge under your merciful protection.
Abandoned and alone, I throw myself in great sorrow before your
royal excellence, begging you to accept and receive my castles,
and the homage of my service." To which the King of France
replied with a gracious air, "Friend, I know that thou hast been
with the King of England, and all that thou hast said to him.
Thou alone hast acted faithfully. I receive thee heartily, and
will protect thee and thy possessions.
Men like thee are those of whom I most approve, and the merciful
heart should never be closed against them." Therefore Hertold
gave up to the King of France the noble Castle of Mirebeau, with
all its lands, and it was immediately restored by Louis, after
the Count had taken an oath of fidelity to him. After this
example, the whole country, with the exception of Montauban and a
few other places, passed into the possession of the French.'
[Footnote 9]

    [Footnote 9: Matthew Paris.]

A prince who knew so well how to conquer and how to treat his
vanquished enemies might have been tempted to abuse both victory
and clemency, and to seek exclusively his own aggrandizement, but
Louis was too entirely a Christian for this. Unless war was a
necessity or a duty, this valiant and distinguished knight, from
the very equity and goodness of his soul, preferred peace to war.
The success of his campaign in 1242 did not lead him to make this
the first step in a career of glory and conquests; his chief aim
was rather to consolidate his victories by securing the benefits
of peace to Western Europe, obtaining it for his enemies as well
as for himself. He negotiated successively with the Count of La
Marche, the King of England, the Count of Toulouse, the King of
Arragon, and the divers princes and great feudal lords who had
been more or less openly engaged in this war. The latest and most
appreciative of his biographers, M. Felix Faure, says that, in
January 1243, 'the Treaty of Lorris marked the end of all the
feudal troubles so long as the reign of St. Louis lasted. He
never again drew his sword save against the Mussulmans, those
enemies of the faith and of Christian civilization.'


                   Chapter V.

     Attitude Of St. Louis In The Struggle Between
     The German Empire And The Papacy.

If ambition had been the ruling passion of King Louis, he might
have fostered the dissensions of his neighbours to his own
advantage, for he had many opportunities of interfering in their
affairs when his influence would have had considerable weight.
The whole of Christendom was agitated at this time by the great
struggle between the secular and sacerdotal powers, represented
by Frederick II. and the two Popes Gregory IX. and Innocent IV.
The Emperor and the Pope claimed the right of entire control over
each other's actions, and asserted their power of determining
each other's destiny.

Louis IX. had only just attained his majority when, in 1237, he
received an invitation from Frederick II. to meet him at
Vancouleurs, and come to an understanding as to the course which
the lay sovereigns ought to pursue with regard to the claims of
the Holy See. The King of France had good reason for distrusting
the Emperor of Germany. Frederick II. had not long previously
married the sister of Henry III. of England, and had on several
occasions shown an inclination to help his brother-in-law of
England to regain his French provinces.
Louis did not decline the meeting at Vancouleurs, but he took the
precaution of commanding that an escort of 2,000 knights should
accompany him thither. When Frederick heard of this he adjourned
the interview to the following year, and there was then no
further mention of it. Louis, after this, tried to induce the two
sovereigns to restore peace to Christendom, but he failed, and
thenceforward maintained an attitude of strict neutrality towards

The Pope had very recently pronounced a sentence of
excommunication against the Emperor, and had declared him to be
deposed from his throne. And now, in order to enlist Louis on his
own side, the Holy Father suggested the possibility of the
election of the Count of Artois (brother of Louis) as Emperor of
Germany, and promised to assist the Count not only with influence
but with money.

Louis consulted the barons of the kingdom. 'If the crimes of the
Emperor,' they said, 'make it necessary that he should be
deposed, his sentence can be pronounced by a General Council

Louis acquainted the Emperor with the proposal which he had
received from Rome and the answer which he intended to make to
it, and also informed him of the religious offences which the
Pope alleged against him as a justification of the sentence of
excommunication. 'We do not intend,' said the French envoys to
Frederick, 'to attack you without lawful grounds. As to any
advantages which the imperial crown may bring, we think that our
sovereign, the King of France, who is raised to the throne by the
hereditary nobility of his royal blood, is high above an Emperor
who owes his elevation to an election which may be refused. Count
Robert thinks it honour enough to be the brother of our King.'


The Emperor did not protest against these words; for though they
were haughty enough, they were at the same time reassuring.

The Pope convoked a General Council. The Emperor, who foresaw the
result of a meeting of his enemies, declared that he would oppose
it by force of arms. On the 3d of May, 1241, his fleet attacked
and completely defeated the Genoese fleet, which had on board the
prelates who were summoned to the Council at Rome. Legates,
archbishops, bishops, abbots, delegates from the chapters, more
than a hundred eminent ecclesiastics, were seized, thrown into
the holds of the victorious vessels, and conveyed to Naples,
where the Emperor kept them imprisoned in the castle of San
Salvatore. Many French ecclesiastics were among those who
suffered from this act of violence. Louis peremptorily demanded
their liberty: Frederick refused it, not without a touch of
irony: 'Let not your royal Majesty be astonished,' he wrote to
Louis, 'if Cæsar keeps in tribulation the prelates of France who
came to cause Cæsar tribulation.'

Again Louis remonstrated, this time haughtily and with threats:
'Hitherto,' he said, 'we have had a sure trust that, owing to the
reciprocal affection, established for so long a time, no cause
either of hatred or variance could arise between the empire and
our kingdom; for all the kings of blessed memory, our
predecessors, showed themselves eager to contribute to the honour
and glory of the empire, and we, who by the grace of God have
succeeded them, were animated by the same sentiments. Therefore
this is a thing that surprises us greatly.
We are deeply moved, and not without reason. You have no cause,
no pretext even, of offence against us, and yet you have seized
the prelates of our kingdom on the sea. They were on their way to
the Apostolic seat, to which they are bound both by faith and
obedience, so that they dare not disobey its commands, and yet
you detain them in prison. We are more deeply wounded than your
Majesty may probably suppose. Their letters have clearly shown us
that they entertained no designs against your imperial Majesty,
nor would they have taken any share in the less legitimate steps
which the sovereign Pontiff may have contemplated. Since, then,
their captivity is owing to no fault of their own, your Majesty
must restore their rightful liberty to the prelates of our realm.
By doing this you will put an end to all estrangement on our
part, for be assured that we look upon their detention as a wrong
done to our own self. Our royal power must be strangely
diminished and debased if we could patiently endure such
treatment. Turn your eyes upon the past, and remember how, as
every one knows, we repulsed the offers of the Bishop of
Palestrina and the other legates of the Church when they
endeavoured to obtain our co-operation against you. They could
obtain no help in our kingdom against your Majesty. We pray you,
therefore, in your imperial prudence, to pause and reflect, and
we counsel you to weigh what we have written in the balance of
your royal judgment; do not listen only to the promptings of
power and to your own will, and so reject our demand, for the
kingdom of France is not so exhausted or so weak that you may
venture to prick us with your spurs.'


The threat uttered by Louis was not without effect. The Emperor
hesitated a little longer, and then set the French prelates at

Gregory IX. died, and under the pontificate of Innocent IV. the
struggle between the Papal See and the Empire became more and
more fierce. The two parties and the two adversaries divided the
whole of Christendom; sovereigns and peoples were to be found
first in one camp and then in the other, now estranged by the
Pope's acts of violence and now by those of the Emperor. Doubt
and indecision at length affected even the clergy. In 1245,
Frederick II. was excommunicated for the third time, and at Paris
the Curé of St. Germain de l'Auxerrois announced the sentence in
the following words:--

  'Listen, all of you! I am commanded to pronounce a solemn
  sentence of excommunication--tapers lighted and bells
  tolling--against the Emperor Frederick. I do not know the
  reason of this. I know there is a fierce quarrel, and that
  inexorable hatred has grown up between him and another. I know
  that one of them is doing injustice to the other. But which of
  them? And to which?--I cannot tell. Therefore, so far as it is
  in my power, I hereby excommunicate, and declare to be
  excommunicated, that one who has done wrong to the other; and I
  absolve him who suffers the wrong--a wrong which embitters the
  whole Christian world.' [Footnote 10]

    [Footnote 10: Matthew Paris, ed. 1644, p. 442.]

In the midst of this conflict of passions, and at a time of such
great perplexity in the minds of men, the conduct of Louis
remained unchanged. He took the part of neither one adversary nor
the other; he preserved the most scrupulous neutrality in his
relations with the Empire and the Papal See, and laboured hard to
establish peace.


In the thirteenth century the principles of national law,
especially that of the right of intervention on the part of one
government in the struggles either of the sovereigns or the
subjects of its neighbours, had not been as systematically laid
down and defined as they are now. But the good sense and moral
rectitude of St. Louis led him to follow the right path, and no
temptation, not even his own fervent piety, ever induced him to
swerve from it. It was his constant care not to allow either the
State or Church of France to take any part in the struggle
between the Papacy and the Empire, and he strove to uphold the
dignity of his crown and the well-being of his subjects by using
his influence to secure the establishment of a just and peaceful
policy throughout Christendom.


                    Chapter VI.

          Christian Europe And Mahometan
          Asia In The Thirteenth Century.

A just and peaceful policy throughout Christendom was the great
need of Christianity in the thirteenth century, for it had to
struggle with two enemies, and was exposed to two very formidable

The Crusaders had inaugurated a fierce and bitter struggle with
the Mahometans in Asia; and towards the middle of the thirteenth
century, in the very heat of the conflict, and from the depths of
Asia itself, a barbarous and almost pagan people--the Mongol
Tartars--spread like a foul flood over Eastern Europe. They swept
over Russia, Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, and Germany, ravaging and
threatening with total destruction every province through which
they passed. M. Abel Rémusat has studied all the documents
relating to these terrible invasions, which he describes with the
accuracy of a scholar. He writes as follows:--


  'According to the laws established by their first great chief
  Tchinggis Khan, the Mongols were commanded to show mercy to
  those princes and nations that gave proof of their submission
  by surrendering their towns and consenting to pay tribute. All
  others were given up to the fury of the soldiers, and massacred
  without distinction of age or sex, the very animals being often
  included in an indiscriminate slaughter. It was impossible to
  negotiate with the Tartars in their early invasions; men had
  either to submit or die, and countless pyramids of human bones,
  which they erected on the sites of ruined cities, testified to
  the danger of resistance. These ghastly monuments were to be
  seen long afterwards, and were the terror of our travellers who
  passed through the regions which the Tartars had swept over and
  made desolate.'

The chronicles of the thirteenth century describe
the Tartars as--

  'A terrible race rushing down from the mountains of the North;
  an impious multitude who fear nothing, believe nothing, and
  worship nothing but their king--him they call the great King of
  kings and Lord of lords; men, or rather brutes, who are
  relentless; monsters having nothing human about them; greedy
  for blood, and drinking it with delight; tearing and devouring
  the raw flesh of animals, of dogs--nay, even of human beings;
  having an enormous head on a misshapen body, huge chests, large
  arms and short strong legs; clothed in the skins of cattle, and
  armed with iron lances; untiring warriors, unequalled archers,
  and of astounding courage, riding on great and strong horses
  which are so swift that they can go three days' journey in one
  day, and require no other food than leaves and the bark of
  trees. These horses they mount by means of three stirrups
  suspended one from the other, for they need this ladder on
  account of the shortness of their legs; crossing the broadest
  and most rapid rivers without delay or difficulty by means of
  boats made of ox-hide which they carry about with them: and for
  the matter of that, it gives them no more trouble to swim than
  to eat' [Footnote 11]

    [Footnote 11: M. Felix Faure has also very ably collected the
    characteristic features of the Mongol portraits, and put them
    together so as to form a striking picture. He has taken his
    materials from the chronicles of the time, and especially
    from the works of Matthew Paris and Albéric des Trois


The name and description of these barbarians, the report of their
devastations, and the terror which they inspired, were soon
spread throughout Christendom. The princes of Eastern Europe
wrote to their relatives and allies in the West, warning them of
the danger which threatened them, relating their own troubles,
and imploring help against the common enemy.

'What must be done in so sad a case?' said Queen Blanche to her
son the King of France. Louis answered, the chronicles say, 'with
mournful voice, and yet not without a certain divine
inspiration.' 'My mother,' he said, 'there is one heavenly
consolation in which we may find support. If these Tartars, as we
call them, come here, either we shall send them back to Tartarus,
the place from whence they come, or they will send us up to

M. Abel Rémusat says: 'This play upon the words Tartarus (the
infernal regions) and Tartar, which is here attributed to St.
Louis, is found in almost all the documents of the period, and it
is just possible that it affords the true explanation of the
change made in the word Tatars by all the nations of the West.
These tribes are called Tatari in the Russian chronicles, Tattari
by Christophorus Manlius, and Tatari or Tattari in a letter
written by Ives of Narbonne to Giraud, Archbishop of Bordeaux.
But, as a rule, we find that they were called Tartars from the
very first, and "Tartari, imò Tartarei"--Tartars from the depths
of Tartarus--as the Emperor Frederick called them, became a
favourite expression. There was certainly a very general
impression that these Mongols were either demons sent to chastise
mankind, or men who had dealings with demons.' [Footnote 12]

    [Footnote 12: Mémoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions et
    Belles Lettres, tome vi. p. 408.]

Another incident of less importance for Europe had, however, a
more personal interest for Louis, and had already turned all the
ardent piety of his inquiring spirit more and more towards the
East. In the summer of 1237 he was at Compiègne, celebrating the
marriage of his brother Robert, whom he had invested as knight
and endowed with the province of Artois for an appanage. In the
midst of the festivities people remarked with surprise that four
strangers were present, men of foreign race and unfamiliar
appearance, whom the King seemed to treat with great
consideration. These, say the chronicles, were emissaries from
the Old Man of the Mountain, the chief of an Arab sect and tribe
which had sprung up in the midst of the religious, political, and
warlike agitations of Islamism. This tribe had established itself
in the mountains of Anti-Lebanon, between Antioch and Damascus,
and its members had been known in the East for more than a
century under the name of Assassins. It is said that they owed
this name to the blind fanaticism with which they executed the
orders of their sheikh (a word which means both chief and old
man), who insured their passionate devotion to himself by all
kinds of material indulgences, and made use of them to get rid of
his enemies, near and far, Christian and Saracen.
In 1190 they assassinated Conrad, Marquis of Montserrat, then
about to ascend the throne of Jerusalem, and the great Saladin
himself, in spite of all his victories over the Christians, had
twice nearly fallen a victim to their blows.

The fame of the young King's piety and valour had reached Syria,
and it was said that Louis was about to start for the East at the
head of a new crusade, and to re-establish the kingdom of
Jerusalem. This report caused the Old Man of the Mountain to send
two of his fanatical followers to France, with orders to kill the
future enemy of their country. But, on the receipt of further
information, he renounced the design, and sent other two of his
followers to France to prevent the execution of the murder. In
this they succeeded: they not only warned Louis of his danger,
but had time to return and meet the first emissaries of their
master, with whom they went back to Compiègne. 'Louis, who had
taken every precaution against their attempt, received them
well,' say the chronicles, 'and sent them home to the Old Man of
the Mountain with rich gifts.'

Voltaire ridicules the whole story with that levity and shallow
common sense which so often led him to place blind confidence in
his own scepticism, and made him ready to reject as absurd fables
any facts which he could not easily explain. 'The great Prince of
the Assassins,' says he, 'fearing lest the King of France, Louis
IX., of whom he had never heard, should journey to the East at
the head of a new crusade, and snatch away his dominions, sent
two noble adherents from his court in the caverns of Anti-Lebanon
to assassinate the King in Paris.
But next day he was told what an amiable and generous prince this
was; so he sent two other nobles by sea to countermand the
assassination.' [Footnote 13]

    [Footnote 13: Œuvres de Voltaire, tome xxvii. Edit, de

But, in order to disprove the records of the thirteenth century,
something more is necessary than merely to burlesque them in the
language of the eighteenth. The chronicles of the time give
numerous and detailed accounts of these early transactions
between the Old Man of the Mountain and St. Louis. The accounts
agree with all the documents of the time which refer to the
relations existing between the East and West after the
commencement of the Crusades. They are confirmed by other and
almost contemporaneous testimony, which shows the Old Man of the
Mountain, four years later, asking the help of St. Louis against
the Mongol Tartars, from whose invasions Western Asia suffered as
much as Eastern Europe. Without thinking of any difference of
race or religion, the foes of yesterday eagerly sought each
other's help against the common enemy of to-day. Such a
complication of nations, princes, and events would give rise to
many improbable and contradictory facts, and the true history of
the period lies hidden under the many legends which exaggerate
and disfigure it.

Another apprehension and another temptation were added about this
time to those which already attracted the thoughts and heart of
Louis to the East. The dangers of the Latin empire of
Constantinople increased daily.
It was assailed alike by Greek, Mussulman, and Tartar. In 1236
the young Emperor Baldwin II. resolved to solicit in person the
help of the princes of the West, more especially of the young
King of France, who was already renowned for his piety and his
chivalrous zeal.

Baldwin was the possessor of a treasure which fascinated the
imagination of the Christians of those days--the crown of thorns
worn by Christ during His passion. He had pledged it at Venice as
a security for a considerable loan from the Venetians, and he now
offered to make it over to Louis in return for efficient help
either in men or money. Louis accepted the offer with rapture.
Not long before he had been greatly alarmed at the reported loss
of another precious relic, one of the nails said to have fastened
the body of our Lord to the cross. It had been deposited in the
Abbey of St. Denis, and disappeared one day during a religious
ceremony. When it was found, Louis said: 'I would rather that the
earth had opened and swallowed up one of the chief cities of my
kingdom than have lost it.'

He took every care to avoid the disgrace which would attend any
kind of traffic in so sacred a matter, and ultimately obtained
the crown of thorns for a sum which, including all expenses,
would equal about 54,000_l_. of our money. [Footnote 14]

    [Footnote 14: 12,000 livres Parisis, about 1,350,000 francs
    in modern French money. The French _livre_ (like the
    English _pound_) was formerly a pound's _weight_ of
    silver. Charlemagne ordained that a silver sou should be
    precisely the twentieth part of twelve ounces of silver, and
    in this way twenty sous came to be looked upon as a livre.
    Both weight and value have been very greatly reduced in the
    course of time. Again, the weight of the livre, and
    consequently its value, varied in different parts of France.
    The _livre Parisis_ was the livre of Paris, the _livre
    Tournois_ (p. 19) the livre of Tours, &c.]


We cannot, in the present day, sympathise with the eager
credulity which Christian faith does not require and sound
criticism entirely condemns; but we ought to and we can
understand it in an age when men contemplated every fact and
every tradition of the Gospel with a deep, poetic faith, and when
the belief that they were in the presence of any fragment or
relic of sacred times was sufficient to call forth emotion and
reverence as deep as their faith.

It is to such feelings that we owe one of the most perfect and
graceful monuments of the Middle Ages, the Sainte Chapelle, built
by Louis between 1245 and 1248, to contain the precious relics
which he had accumulated. The architect, Pierre de Montreuil,
comprehended and glorified the piety of the King in a marvellous
manner, and no doubt his own genius was kindled by the same
strong religious feeling which animated St. Louis.


                    Chapter VII.

  Origin Of The Passion Felt By St. Louis For The Crusades.
                His Sickness In 1244.
                      His Vow.
      His Departure On His First Crusade In 1248.

At the close of the year 1244, in the midst of all these European
troubles, and when his sympathy with them was so great, Louis
fell ill at Pontoise and was soon in extreme danger. The alarm
and grief of his realm reached the highest point. Bishops,
abbots, priests, barons, knights, citizens, and peasants hurried,
some to Pontoise and some to their churches, to learn 'how it
would please the Lord to deal with the King.' Louis himself
thought that his last hour was come. He caused all the members of
his household to be summoned, thanked them for their services to
himself, bade them serve God faithfully, and 'did all that a good
Christian ought to do' in sight of death. His mother, wife,
brothers, and all those who were about him, prayed for him
incessantly; 'his mother more than all the others,' say the
chronicles, 'and she added to her prayers great austerities.'

At one time the King lay motionless and without sign of breath,
so that those around him thought he was dead. 'One of the ladies
watching him,' says Joinville, 'wished to cover his face, saying
that he was dead; but another lady on the opposite side of the
bed would not allow it, for she said that the soul had not yet
left the body.
The King heard these ladies speaking, and, by the grace of our
Lord, he began to breathe again; he stretched out his arms and
legs, and said in a voice as hollow as that of one who has risen
from the grave, "The dayspring from on high hath visited me, and
by the grace of God recalled me from among the dead."'

No sooner had he regained consciousness and the power of speech,
than he sent for William of Auvergne, Bishop of Paris, and Peter
of Cuisy, Bishop of Meaux, in whose diocese he then was, and
asked them to affix the holy cross to his shoulder, as a sign
that he should journey beyond the seas to the Holy Land. The two
bishops tried to dissuade him from this idea, and the two queens,
Blanche and Margaret, implored him on their knees to wait until
he was well, and after that to do whatsoever he would. But he
persisted, and said that he would touch no food until he had
received the cross, and at length the Bishop of Paris yielded and
bestowed it upon him. The King received his cross with the
deepest emotion; 'he kissed it, and laid it down very gently upon
his breast.'

'When the Queen, his mother, knew that he had taken the cross,'
says Joinville, 'she showed as much sorrow, according to his own
account, as if she had seen him lying dead.' [Footnote 15]

    [Footnote 15: Joinville, chap. xxiv.; 'Vie de St. Louis, par
    le Confesseur de la Reine Marguerite,' in Bouquet's 'Recueil
    des Historiens des Gaules et de la France,' vol. xx. pp. 66,
    67; Tillemont, 'Vie de St. Louis,' vol. iii.; Faure,
    'Histoire de St. Louis,' vol. i.]


More than three years passed away before Louis was able to fulfil
the engagement to which he had thus pledged himself. We might
almost say that he was pledged to himself and by himself alone,
and against the will of nearly every one about him.

The Crusades still possessed great fascination for the public
mind, and were still the object of religious and chivalric
enthusiasm; but, at the same time, they were dreaded and
discouraged from a political point of view, and there were many
men of very considerable standing, both among the clergy and
laity, who would not have dared to say so, but who had no desire
whatever to take part in a new crusade. Under the influence of
this state of public feeling, not the less seriously entertained
because it shrank from showing itself openly, Louis continued for
the next three years to busy himself with the affairs of France
and Europe. He tried to mediate in his neighbours' quarrels, and
attempted to bring about a reconciliation between the Pope and
the Emperor, as if it had been the one object of his life. His
mother and the wisest of his advisers had once for a short time
entertained some hope of being able to induce him to abandon his
enterprise. The Bishop of Paris, the same who in the crisis of
his illness and at his urgent request had given him the
Crusader's cross, one day said to him: 'My lord the King, bethink
you that when you received the cross, when suddenly and without
due consideration you made this portentous vow, you were very
feeble, and, to confess the truth, of clouded mind; your words,
therefore, had not the weight of royal authority and verity. Our
lord the Pope knows the requirements of your kingdom and the
weakness of your bodily health, and he will very willingly grant
you a dispensation.
Consider how many dangers threaten us: the power of the
schismatic Frederick, the snares of the rich King Henry of
England, the treason of the Poitevins, only just crushed out, and
the subtle disputes of the Albigenses. Germany is agitated; Italy
has no peace. The Holy Land is difficult of access; you may never
reach it, and, if you do, you leave behind you the implacable
hatred for each other of the Pope and the Emperor.'

Queen Blanche made an appeal of a different kind. She reminded
her son of the good counsel she had always given him, and told
him that a son who obeyed and trusted his mother was well
pleasing in the sight of God. She promised that if he would be
content to give up his project, the Holy Land should not suffer,
for more troops should be sent thither than he would have marched
at the head of. The King listened attentively to all that was
said, and was deeply moved by it. Then he answered:

'You tell me that I was not in the possession of all my faculties
when I took the cross. Therefore, since it is your wish I
renounce the cross, I restore it to you.' And with his own hands
he unfastened the cross from his shoulder: 'There, my lord
bishop, I place the cross with which I was invested in your hands

All present were full of joy, and began to congratulate each
other, when, with a sudden change of countenance and of manner,
the King said: 'My friends, at this present time I am assuredly
in possession of my reason and of all my senses. I am neither
weak in health nor of clouded mind.
I now ask to have my cross given back to me. He who knows all
things knows that not one morsel of food shall enter my lips
until it is once again affixed to my shoulder.' 'These words
plainly showed that the finger of God was in this matter, and
therefore no one ventured to raise a single objection to the will
of the King.' [Footnote 16]

    [Footnote 16: Matthew Paris, p. 407.]

Louis proclaimed his resolve openly, and urged forward the
preparations for a new crusade. He announced that he would start
after Pentecost in the following year, 1248.

His brothers first, and then the majority of his vassals, knights
as well as great barons, also took the cross. The enthusiasm of
Louis was contagious, and many were kindled by it, whilst others
for very shame could not forsake their king and lord, who was so
noble a prince and so faithful a Christian. On Friday, the 12th
of June, 1248, the King went to St. Denis, and there received the
oriflamme, and then the pilgrim's wallet and staff. After this,
he returned to Paris, and went barefooted to Notre Dame to hear
mass, followed by a great crowd of people. Queen Margaret was to
accompany him to the East, and she went through the same farewell
ceremonies, sometimes with and sometimes after her husband. Queen
Blanche waited for her son at Corbeil, and Louis there took leave
of her, having first appointed her Regent of France, and granted
her the fullest powers during his absence. Some say, however,
that she accompanied him as far as Cluny.


'O my fair son, my fair and gentle son!' she said when he bade
her adieu. 'O my most tender son, my heart tells me that I shall
never see thee more!' And one account adds that, in spite of her
high spirit and great courage, she fainted twice when she saw her
son finally depart.

The King went on his way, and at Lyons received the benediction
of the Pope Innocent IV.; he there put a stop to the brigandage
of the wicked lord of one of the castles on the banks of the
Rhone, and at length reached Aiguesmortes, in Provence, as some
say in July, according to others in the beginning of August. He
was to set sail from thence, and had requested all the Crusaders
who intended to cross the sea with him to meet him there. He took
up his abode in a very humble house, which, as it was the King's
residence, was dignified by the name of 'palace;' it would not
accommodate his own suite and the retinue of his brothers, tents
were therefore erected for them outside the town, and in the
neighbouring hamlets. A great number of Crusaders, vassals or
allies of the King of France, arrived in rapid succession, and
these had separate camps distinguished by their standards. There
were thirty-eight large ships in the port hard by, and a whole
host of vessels of transport. The preparations of the fleet were
completed on the 20th of August, and on Tuesday, the 25th, Louis
went to the humble church, Notre Dame des Sablons, to invoke the
protection of God for his enterprise, and on the same day he
embarked. A young writer of the present age, who has collected
local details full of interest with regard to this solemn event,


  'It was left entirely to the master-mariners to decide when the
  wind would be favourable for setting sail, and on Friday the
  28th, after careful deliberation, they were all agreed. They
  then summoned the pilot. "Are you ready?" said they. "Yes,
  masters," he answered. One of them stepped up to the King of
  France: "Sire, call up your parsons and priests, for the
  weather is fair and fine." Chaplains, monks, and bishops came
  on deck, and the same master-mariners called out, "Sing, good
  fathers; sing, in the name of God!" Whereupon they chant the
  "Veni Creator," which is taken up in vessel after vessel, until
  it is heard from one end of the fleet to the other. This pious
  canticle ended, the pilots call out to the sailors, "Hoist your
  sails in God's name!" And first from one ship and then from
  another you hear the captain calling, "Weigh your anchor, for
  you are too near, and may do us harm."

  'Before long the wind filled our sails, and bore us out of
  sight of the land; we saw nothing but sky and sea, and every
  day the wind carried us farther away from the places of our
  birth. And I think this will show you that a man must be very
  foolhardy if he will run into such danger with other people's
  goods, or when he is in a state of mortal sin, for he goes to
  bed at night in a place which may be at the bottom of the sea
  the next morning.' [Footnote 17]

    [Footnote 17: Topin, 'Aiguesmortes' (1865);
    Joinville, chap, xxviii.]

Thus thought and wrote the companion and historian of St. Louis,
the Sire de Joinville, when, a few days after the King had left
Aiguesmortes, he sailed from Marseilles to join him at Cyprus,
the general rendezvous of the Crusaders.


                   Chapter VIII.

                St. Louis In Egypt.

I am not now writing the history of St. Louis, and of his heroic
and unfortunate crusade. What I desire at this time specially to
do is to show the man and the Christian in this king. The world
is a stage on which we may see much that impresses us, but not
much that we can imitate; great events abound, but noble and
virtuous lives are rare, and therefore in every age they possess
the charm of novelty, and afford the most salutary spectacle that
can be presented to mankind.

Louis arrived at the island of Cyprus on the 12th of September,
1248. He did not expect to stay long there; he hoped to set sail
without delay for Egypt, where he proposed to commence the
struggle against the Mussulmans. At that time the Christian world
believed that in order to deliver the Holy Land from the hands of
the infidel, the first blow at Islamism must be struck in Egypt,
its stronghold. Louis had appointed Cyprus merely as a
meeting-place for the Crusaders who had set out from so many
different parts; he had concentrated vast stores of all kinds in
the island, provisions, arms, and implements of war, provided at
his expense and by his care; but his intention was to convey them
immediately to the shores of the Nile.
At Cyprus, however, the difficulties and dangers of the
expedition began to show themselves. These may have originated
either in the social condition and manners of the period, or in
the faults of individual men. Many of the crusading
princes--nobles who were impatient of control and soldiers from
choice--arrived tardily and at long intervals. The King of
Cyprus, Henry of Lusignan, and his Cypriot vassals received the
Crusaders kindly; and even promised to join the expedition, but
they had not received due notice of it, and were not prepared to
set out at once. They were glad to prolong the stay of the
crusading army, which furnished the court with an opportunity for
indulging in the festivities in which chivalry delighted, and
proved a source of unexpected profit to the inhabitants of the
island. The leader of the crusade, Louis, showed more
perseverance in his religious zeal than tenacity of purpose in
his practical aims, and he inspired admiration more readily than
he exercised power over those with whom he was brought into
contact. His opinion as to the wisdom of proceeding at once to
Egypt did not guide the council of war, consisting of the
principal leaders of the army; they decided on passing the winter
in the island of Cyprus; and during those seven months of
enforced idleness, the improvidence of the Crusaders, their
ignorance of the places, people, and facts of every kind which
they were rushing to meet, their blind self-confidence, their
obstinate rivalry, their moral disorders and military
insubordination, daily aggravated the already enormous
difficulties of the enterprise.
Louis spent his whole time amongst them in making peace,
adjusting quarrels, repressing licence, reconciling the Templars
and the Hospitallers. He received envoys from the King of
Armenia, the Khan of Tartary, and many other princes of the East,
Christian and Pagan, who came, not to offer support in the
crusade, but by their intrigues to draw the Crusaders into their
own quarrels, and to obtain help in promoting their own private

'The Empress of Constantinople [Footnote 18] sent me word,' says
Joinville, 'that she had arrived at Baffe, [Footnote 19] a city
of Cyprus, and that I must needs go and seek her, I and
Monseigneur Erard de Brienne. When we arrived we found that her
vessel had dragged its anchors in a storm, and drifted over to
Acre, and that she had nothing out of the whole of her luggage
except the mantle she was wearing and a surcoat. [Footnote 20]

    [Footnote 18: Marie de Brienne, wife of the Latin Emperor
    Baldwin II.]

    [Footnote 19: The ancient Paphos.]

    [Footnote 20: A garment worn by ladies over their petticoat
    and tight-fitting jacket.]

We escorted her to Limisso, where the King, the Queen, and all
the nobles received her with great honour. On the morrow I sent
her a piece of cloth for a garment, and some taffetas to line it
with. She had come to ask the King's help for her lord, and she
managed so well that she carried back two hundred letters and
more from me and other friends she had there. In these letters we
were bound by oath, if the King or the legate would send three
hundred knights to Constantinople after the return of the King
from the crusade, we were then bound, I say, by our oath, to go
thither also.
And when we were about to return, in order to fulfil this oath, I
appealed to the King before the Count of Eu, whose letter I still
have, saying that if he would send three hundred knights I would
go and fulfil my oath. And the King answered that he had not the
wherewithal, and that great as his treasure was he had poured it
out to the very dregs.' [Footnote 21]

    [Footnote 21:  Joinville, c. xxx.]

In fact Louis had exhausted his means not only in paying the
expenses of the expedition, but in providing money for the
Christians scattered in the East, and for the Crusaders who
accompanied him. This is a point on which Joinville could speak
from experience: 'When I arrived in Cyprus,' says he, 'I found
that, after my shipping expenses were paid, I had only 240 livres
Tournois [Footnote 22] left. On this account some of my knights
sent me word that, if I did not provide myself with money, they
would leave me. But God, who has never failed me, provided for me
in a wonderful manner, for the King, who was at Nicosia, sent to
seek me, and put 800 livres into my coffers, and then I had more
than I knew what to do with.' [Footnote 23]

    [Footnote 22: See page 49.]

    [Footnote 23: Joinville, c. xxix.]

At last they left Cyprus, but not without trouble, for a violent
storm stranded a hundred and fifty vessels on the coast of Syria.
They arrived in sight of Egypt and of Damietta. The principal
Crusaders met on board the King's ship, the _Montjoie_. One
of those present, Guy, a knight in the suite of the Comte de
Melun, wrote to one of his friends, a student in Paris, and said
that the King spoke as follows:


'My friends good and true! If we are inseparable in our love we
shall be invincible. We could not have reached this place so
quickly without the approval of God. Let us therefore land and
take possession of it in all confidence. I am not the King of
France; I am not the Holy Church. It is all of you who are both
King of France and Holy Church. I am but a man, whose life will
fade away like that of all other men when it pleases God.
Whatever may be the result of our enterprise, it must be for our
good. If we are defeated, we shall ascend to heaven as martyrs;
if we conquer, the glory of the Lord will be exalted, and the
renown of all France, still more of the whole of Christendom,
will be increased. It would be madness to suppose that God, who
is all-wise, has raised me up in vain. In our cause He will see
His own cause, His great cause. Let us fight for Christ, and
Christ will triumph in us, not for us, but for the honour and
glory of His blessed name.'

The disembarkation was then decided upon, and commenced on the
following day. Large numbers of Saracens were seen upon the
shore. The boat which carried the oriflamme was one of the first
to reach the land. 'When the King heard that the standard of St.
Denis had touched the shore, he walked along his ship with mighty
strides, and, in spite of the dissuasions of the legate who was
with him, he leaped into the sea to follow it, although the water
was up to his shoulders, and he made his way through it to his
people who were on the shore, with his shield before his breast,
his helmet on his head, and lance in hand. When he had landed he
saw the Saracens, and asked who they were. He was told that they
were Saracens; whereupon he couched his lance, held his shield
before him, and would have made a course against them at once had
not some of his more prudent followers prevented it.' [Footnote

    [Footnote 24: Joinville, chap, xxxv.; Matthew Paris.]


The knights were no less impetuous than their king. As soon as
the Crusaders were encamped on the shore, one of the knights,
Gautier d'Autrèche, issued all armed from his tent, 'put spurs to
his horse,' says Joinville, 'and galloped off against the Turks;
but before reaching them he was thrown, and the horse trod upon
him. Four Turks attacked him as he lay upon the ground, and as
they rode past struck him heavy blows with their maces. The
Constable of France and some of the King's troops rescued him,
and carried him back to his tent. Late at night we went to see
him, for he was a man of high repute and of great valour. His
chamberlain came to meet us, and begged us to walk softly so as
not to awaken his master. We found him lying upon a coverlid of
miniver, and we went up to him very softly and saw that he was
dead. When the King heard of it, he said that he would not have a
thousand such knights even if he could, for they would all take
their own way as this one had done, and pay no heed to his

Louis remembered at that moment that he was a king and must be
obeyed, but he himself was the first to give way to transports of
blind unreflecting valour, and the very devotion to his cause
made him continually forget, not only the difficulty of success,
but the first conditions of it. The whole campaign in Egypt was a
series of heroic and irrational actions. At first the boldness of
the Crusaders' attack and their brilliant courage struck terror
to the hearts of the Mussulmans.
They abandoned Damietta notwithstanding its great strength and
importance, and the Crusaders took possession of it without
difficulty. When the Turkish commander, Fakr Eddin, appeared
before the Sultan of Egypt, who was very ill and at the point of
death: 'Could you not have held out even for an hour?' said the
monarch. 'Was there not one man amongst you who would give his
life for the place?' When he saw the Crusaders established in
Damietta he tried to dislodge them, by proposing to the King that
on the day after St. John the Baptist's day, which was near at
hand, there should be a general engagement in a place to be
agreed on by both sides, so that the East and West might fairly
try the fortune of war, and those to whom fate gave the victory
might have great glory, while the vanquished should retreat with
due humility. 'Our lord the King answered, "I do not defy the
enemy of Christ more on one day than on another; I do not fix any
time when I shall rest; but I defy him now and always, to-morrow
and all the days of my life, unless he takes pity upon his own
soul and believes on our Lord Jesus Christ, who wishes that all
men should be saved, and opens His compassionate heart to all
those who turn to Him."'

The Sultan still prolonged his attempts at negotiation, and sent
to ask the King, 'Why have you brought ploughs, spades, and other
implements wherewith to cultivate a land which is ours? I could
have given you quite enough wheat for the time that you will be
here.' As if to say ironically, 'You are young and delicate, and
will not remain here long.'
To which the King answered, 'I made a vow and took an oath to
come hither, and as far as it was in my power I fixed a time for
my arrival, but I have neither made a vow nor taken an oath to
return, nor have I fixed any time for my departure. That is why I
brought agricultural implements with me.'

There were the same delays and loss of time in Damietta as there
had been in Cyprus. The army waited for the arrival of new
Crusaders, and whilst waiting they quarrelled over the booty
taken in the city, consuming and wasting it without forethought;
they fell into all kinds of excesses, which Louis saw and mourned
over, but had not the power to repress. 'The barons began to give
sumptuous banquets,' says Joinville, 'with great profusion of
dishes, and the common soldiers gave themselves up to low
debauchery; and it was for this reason that, when we returned
from captivity, the King dismissed nearly all his attendants.
When I asked him why he had taken such a step, he told me that he
knew for certain that the men whom he had dismissed had kept
places of ill fame within a stone's throw of his own tent, and
that at a time when the army was enduring greater hardships and
misery than it had ever known.'

At length, on the 20th of November, after five months of
inactivity in Damietta, the army resumed its march: it had
received important reinforcements from Europe; among others it
had been joined by Alphonse, Count of Poitiers, one of the
brothers of the King, and his suite; there was also a strong
force of English crusaders just returned from Palestine, whither
they had gone at first. Queen Margaret and many pilgrims were
left at Damietta under the charge of five hundred chosen knights.
There was no port at Damietta, and therefore many prudent leaders
urged the seizure of Alexandria, so as to obtain a seaport before
proceeding further; but, in opposition to their advice, it was
decided that the army should march direct upon _Babylon_,
that suburb of Cairo now known as 'Old Cairo,' which in their
ignorance the majority of the Crusaders believed to be the true
Babylon, and in which they hoped to find vast treasures and to
avenge the ancient wrongs of the Hebrew captives. 'It is the head
of the whole kingdom of Egypt,' said the Count of Artois, the
impetuous brother of the King, 'and he who would destroy the
serpent entirely must crush its head.' But the Mussulmans had now
had time to recover from their first panic. They had reassembled
their forces and prepared a vigorous resistance at all points;
every day, at every step, the Crusaders were exposed to sudden
attacks, and were assailed by instruments of war hitherto unknown
to them. Louis was grievously disquieted. 'Every time,' says
Joinville, 'that our holy king heard that the Saracens were
throwing Greek fire, he would cast himself upon his couch and
stretch out his hands towards the crucifix, saying, "Dear Lord
God, take care of my people, keep them for me!" But his people
would not take care of themselves, and the wisest counsels could
not influence them so much as the impulsive ardour of the Count
of Artois. On the 8th of February, 1250, twenty leagues from
Damietta, at a place called Mansourah (or the City of Victory),
which stands on the right bank of the Nile, the battle began.
There was at first a promise of brilliant success for the
Christians, but dissension arose between the Count of Artois and
William of Sonnac, the Grand Master of the Templars: the latter
wished to wait until the King and the bulk of the army came up,
so that they might push their victory to the uttermost. 'At all
events,' he said, 'it is to the Templars that the King has
assigned the front rank on the march, and Count Robert's place is
behind them.' Whilst this dispute was going on, an old tutor of
the prince, called Foucault de Merle, who was deaf, and
understood nothing that was being said, seized the bridle of
Robert's horse and urged him onward, shouting, 'Forward,
forward!' Robert turned to the Grand Master, and said that if he
was afraid he could stay behind. 'Neither I nor my brethren are
afraid,' answered William of Sonnac, 'we will not stay behind, we
will go with you, but I greatly doubt whether any of us will ever
return.' William Longsword, Earl of Salisbury, the chief of the
English crusaders, also put forward a few objections, but the
Count of Artois replied to them with insults. 'Count Robert,'
said William, 'I shall face danger and death without any fear,
and we shall soon be in a place where you will not venture to
come near my horse's tail.'

A messenger now arrived, saying that the King commanded his
brother to wait for him. But Robert did not heed this, and
galloped forward so as to be the first to enter Mansourah,
followed by all those who had attempted to dissuade him. The
Saracens, thinking that the whole Christian army was upon them,
fled from the place; soon, however, they began to rally,
especially the Mamelukes, a force consisting of Turkish slaves,
and the chief strength of the Egyptian army; they rushed back
into Mansourah and attacked the Christians, who were now broken
up into small groups and scattered in all directions.
The Count of Artois fell, covered with many wounds, and with him
more than three hundred knights, his followers; the same number
of English knights, with their leader, William Longsword, as also
two hundred and eighty Templars, paid with their lives for the
intemperate zeal of the French prince.

The King hastened to the support of his brother, but before he
reached him or knew his fate he was himself surrounded by a host
of Saracens, and he and his suite were engaged in a fresh and
exciting scene of action. 'Never,' says Joinville, 'have I beheld
so noble a knight; he was seen above all the rest, for he was
taller by the whole head and shoulders; he had a gilded helmet on
his head and a long German sword in his hand.' The combat grew so
fierce that Louis was for a moment separated from his companions,
and on the point of being taken prisoner by six Saracens, who had
already seized his horse's bridle; he freed himself by some
tremendous sword strokes, and was immediately surrounded by his
knights, who had rushed to his rescue in alarm and fury. 'It is
said,' writes Joinville, 'we should all have been lost on that
day if the King had not been there in person.'

The Saracens began to give way: one of the knights of Malta,
Henry of Ronnay, approached the King. Louis asked him if he had
news of the Count of Artois, his brother; the knight answered
that he had great news, for he was certain that the Count of
Artois was in Paradise. 'Ah, sire!' he added, 'be of good
comfort, for never King of France attained to such honours as you
have done; you have crossed a dangerous river to meet your
enemies, and have defeated them and put them to flight.
You have captured their engines of war and their tents, and this
night you will sleep in their quarters.' 'And the King answered,
"that we ought to praise God for all His good gifts," and great
tears fell from his eyes.'

All those who were engaged in this great struggle were as deeply
affected as the King, but they did not all show such pious
sorrow. In the heat of the tumult, 'Seneschal,' said the Comte of
Soissons to Joinville, 'let these curs howl on, but, _par la
Coiffe-Dieu_--his usual oath--we shall yet tell of this day in
the ladies' bowers.'

Although the Crusaders held possession of the field of battle,
they did not occupy it as victors: their losses had been heavy
and memorable; the enemy hovered on all sides of them, and
increased in number and audacity from hour to hour. On Friday,
the 11th of February, three days after the battle of Mansourah,
the King's camp was attacked by a swarm of Saracens, mounted and
on foot. 'When they approached our army they began to throw bolts
and darts, and to hurl stones according to their custom, and they
fell so thick and fast that many of those present said they had
never seen a heavier hail-storm. It was easy to see that these
men had no fear of death, and held their lives cheap. When some
were tired, others, fresh and eager, took their places. To me
they did not seem like men, but more like savage wild beasts.'
The Crusaders defended themselves heroically, sometimes
entrenched behind their palisades, at others rushing forth to
scatter their assailants. Louis was always to be found at the
point of greatest danger. 'He was never of sad countenance, nor
timorous, nor dismayed, and his face showed very clearly that
there was neither fear nor perturbation in his heart.'


The Saracens were driven back at all points; and at the close of
the day, when his nobles were gathered around him, the King said:
'We owe hearty thanks to our Lord for what He has done for us
twice during this week; such great honour, that on Tuesday, the
day before Lent, we drove the infidels from their camp, which we
now occupy, and on the Friday following, the day just ended, we
have defended ourselves against them, although we were on foot,
whilst they were mounted.' [Footnote 25]

    [Footnote 25: Faure, vol. i. p. 561; Joinville, chap. liv.]

But the most exalted virtues cannot compensate for the want of
prudence and forethought, and neither great valour nor devout
trust in God can remedy the defects of an ill-timed and
badly-planned enterprise. When Louis rushed into his crusade he
had not duly considered his own position and his strength, nor
had he taken into account the difficulties and chances of the
enterprise. He was not a victorious barbarian like Tchinggis
Khan, overrunning and laying waste the whole world at the head of
a wandering nation. Nor was he an adventurer-king like Richard
Cœur-de-Lion, engrossed by his own pleasure and glory. In the
middle of the thirteenth century the Crusades were no longer the
objects of popular and universal interest throughout Christendom
as they had been at the end of the eleventh. They had lost the
seduction of novelty and the illusion of success.
The crusades of Louis le Jeune and Philippe-Auguste had both
failed; the Christian kingdom had disappeared from Jerusalem, and
at Constantinople the Latin Empire was falling into ruin. When
Louis left Damietta to conquer Egypt he was at the head of from
30,000 to 40,000 men, knights and soldiers, but a campaign of two
months and two battles had sufficed to reduce this army to such
an extent that from the 11th of February, 1250, king and nobles
hoped for no more than to defend themselves against their
enemies. Sickness and want of provisions soon augmented the
difficulties of their situation; each day the Christian camp was
more and more encumbered by the starving, the dying, and the
dead: the necessity of retreat was evident to all. There was now
a new Sultan, Malek-Moaddam, with whom Louis opened negotiations,
offering to evacuate Egypt and give up Damietta provided that the
kingdom of Jerusalem was restored to the Christians, and his army
allowed to retreat unmolested. The Sultan seemed inclined to
entertain this proposal, and asked what security the King would
give him for the surrender of Damietta. Louis offered one of his
brothers as a hostage. The Mussulman demanded the King himself.
With one voice the whole army protested: 'We would rather,' said
Geoffrey of Sargines, 'have been all slain or taken prisoners
than have endured the reproach of having left our King in pawn.'
The Sultan broke off all negotiations; and on the 5th of April,
1250, the Crusaders decided on a retreat.


It was at this time that all the virtues of the Christian were
shown in their noblest and most attractive form in the King.
Before the departure of he army, and whilst disease and famine
were ravaging the camp, he went about to visit, to console, and
to tend the sufferers; his presence and his words exercised a
subtle influence over the sick and desponding. One day he had
sent his chaplain Guillaume de Chartres to visit one of his
personal attendants, a very worthy and humble man, named
Gaugelme, who was at the point of death. As the chaplain was
leaving--'I am waiting until my lord our holy King comes,' said
the dying man: 'I cannot leave this world until I have seen him
and spoken to him; then I shall die.' So the King went to see his
servant, and spoke to him with much affection, and consoled him.
He had only just left him, and had not reached his own tent, when
he was told that Gaugelme was dead.

When the 5th of April arrived, the day fixed for the retreat,
Louis himself was ill and very weak. He was urged to embark in
one of the boats which was to sail slowly down the Nile carrying
the wounded and those who were dangerously ill; but he refused
peremptorily, saying, 'I will not be separated from my people in
the hour of danger.' He remained on shore, and when the time came
for starting he fainted several times from exhaustion. 'They
called to us as we were sailing down the river,' says Joinville,
'to say that we must wait for the King.' But Louis persisted in
his resolve; he was one of the last to leave the camp, mounted on
a small Arab horse covered with silk housings; he accompanied the
rear-guard, watched over by Geoffrey of Sargines, who was by his
side, and 'defended me against the Saracens,' said Louis himself
to Joinville, 'like a good servant who drives off the flies from
his master's winecup.'


But the courage of the King and the devotion of his faithful
followers could not even enable them to make good their retreat.
About four leagues from the camp which they had just left, in a
village situated on a slight eminence where it was still possible
to attempt a defence, the rear-guard of the Crusaders, pressed,
harassed, surrounded by Saracen troops, was compelled to halt.
Louis could no longer sit upon his horse. 'They carried him into
a house,' says Joinville, 'and laid him down almost dead, and a
citizen's wife from Paris took his head upon her knees; they did
not believe that he would last until evening.' With his consent
one of his faithful followers went out to parley with one of the
Mussulman chiefs: a truce was about to be concluded, and the
Mussulman was in the act of taking the ring off his finger as a
pledge that he would keep it; 'but meantime,' says Joinville, 'a
very great misfortune befell us, for a vile traitor of a
sergeant, whose name was Marcel, began shouting out to our
people, "Sir knights, give up your arms, the King commands it; do
not cause your King to be slain." And so, believing that the King
had commanded it, they gave up their swords to the Saracens.'
Being made prisoners, the King and all the rear-guard were now
taken back to Mansourah. The King was put on board a boat; his
two brothers, the Counts of Poitiers and Anjou, with all the
other Crusaders, were bound with cords, and followed in a great
troop marching on foot along the banks of the river.


The vanguard and all the rest of the army--those who, like
Joinville, were sailing down the Nile, and those who travelled by
land--soon met with the same fate. 'We thought it better,' says
Joinville, 'to surrender to the Sultan's galleys, because then we
had a chance of keeping together, than to surrender to the
Saracens on the shore, who would have separated us, and sold us
to the Bedouins. An old quartermaster said, "Sire, I can't
swallow this advice." I asked him what he would like better, and
he said, "To my mind it would be much better if we were all
slain, for then we should go to Paradise." But we did not agree
with him.'

All the prisoners were collected at Mansourah--more than ten
thousand in number, says Joinville. And here the King met with
fresh trials, and we have again to record his heroic Christian
deeds. He was a prisoner, and was at first loaded with chains; he
was so ill and weak that he could not stand: his teeth chattered,
his face was pallid and covered with sores, and he was so thin
that his bones seemed as if they would start through his skin.
All his clothes were lost, and he had nothing but just one green
surtout which a poor fellow in his service stripped off and gave
to him; he had but one attendant left, a man named Ysambert, who
cooked for him, dressed and undressed him, even carried him
about, and this man says that never did he see the King angry or
cast down, or complaining: on the contrary, he bore his own
sufferings and the adversity of his followers with great
patience, and prayed without ceasing. His fervent and unwearied
piety excited the respect of the Mussulmans, and one of them
brought him his Breviary, which had been lost at his capture.
Louis received it with great joy, and at once resumed his
observance of the services of the Catholic Church.
The Sultan, Malek-Moaddam, freed him from his fetters and put an
end to all his privations; he even treated him with a certain
magnanimity; but at the same time he asked as the price of a
truce and his liberty the immediate surrender of Damietta, a
heavy ransom, and the restitution of several places in Palestine
still held by the Christians. The Sultan would have liked to
treat separately with all the principal Crusaders, in the hope of
setting them at variance, and he therefore addressed the same
demands to all of them. Louis forbade his followers to enter into
any private negotiations, saying that it was for him alone to
make terms for all of them, and that he would pay for all. The
Sultan sent word to the Christian chiefs that he would have them
beheaded if they refused his demands; but they all obeyed the
King's injunction. Louis on his side answered that the places
which he was called upon to surrender were not his; some of them
belonged to foreign princes, who alone had any right to dispose
of them, and others to the religious orders, Templars and
Hospitallers, who had taken an oath never to surrender them for
the ransom of any one, let him be whom he might.

The Sultan was surprised and annoyed. He threatened to put the
King to the torture, or send him to the Grand Khalif of Bagdad,
who would keep him in prison for the rest of his life. 'I am your
prisoner,' said Louis; 'you can do with me as you will.'


'We are greatly astonished,' said the Mussulman. 'You say that
you are our prisoner, and we had indeed thought so; but you treat
us as if we were held captives by you.' The Sultan understood
that he had to deal with a man of indomitable will, and the
negotiations were therefore restricted to arrangements for the
ransom and the surrender of Damietta. Louis was asked 500,000
livres [Footnote 26] (about £405,280 of our money) as the price
of his liberty. 'I will gladly pay 500,000 livres as the ransom
of my followers,' said he, 'and I will restore Damietta in return
for my own liberty, for I am not a man who can be redeemed with

    [Footnote 26: It is probable that the livre spoken of is the
    livre Tournois, and, according to M. de Wailly, this would be
    a sum of about 10,132,000 francs in modern French money.]

'By my faith,' said the Sultan, when he heard this, 'the Frank is
a fine fellow not to higgle over such a sum of money. Go back,
and tell him that I will give him 100,000 livres to help him pay
the ransom.'

The negotiations were concluded on this basis: victors and
vanquished left Mansourah, and travelling some by land and others
down the river Nile, they arrived within a few leagues of
Damietta. There, for the first time, the King and the Sultan had
an interview; they decided on the manner in which the convention
should be carried out, and appointed the 7th of May for the
surrender of Damietta.

But on the 2d of May there was a great tumult in the Mussulman
camp. Hurried movements and confused cries indicated some serious
outbreak; Louis and his nobles waited anxiously, not knowing what
was going on, or what the result would be to themselves. Suddenly
several Mussulmans, Emirs of the Mamelukes, entered the King's
tent, sword in hand, with an excited but not threatening aspect:
they had just killed the Sultan Malek-Moaddam; he had incensed
them, and they had been plotting against him for a long time.


'Fear nothing,' they said to Louis, with great deference, 'and,
gentlemen, do not be alarmed. You need not be astonished at what
has just taken place; there was no help for it. Fulfil your part
of the treaty that has been made, and you shall soon be free.'

Then one of the Mameluke conspirators, Faress-Eddin-Octaï, who
had just helped to kill the Sultan with his own hands, and to
tear out his heart, entered the tent, sword in hand: 'What will
you give me?' he said to the King, 'I have killed your enemy, who
would have put you to death if he had lived;' and he then
abruptly demanded that Louis should make him a knight. It was a
very honourable title in the eyes of Orientals, and Saladin
himself had been willing to receive it at the hands of one of his
Christian prisoners. Louis answered nothing; several Crusaders
around him urged him to gratify the wish of the Emir, with whom
the decision of their fate now rested.

'I will never make a knight of an infidel,' said Louis. 'Let the
Emir become a Christian, then I will take him back to France with
me, and enrich him, and make him a knight.' At this the Mameluke
withdrew in silence.

It has been said that the Mussulman conspirators, being puzzled
in the choice of a new sovereign, and filled with admiration for
the piety and resolution of Louis, which were equally
indomitable, entertained the notion of making him their sultan.
'Do you think that I ought to have accepted the kingdom of
Babylon [Footnote 27] if it had been offered me?' he once asked
of Joinville. '"I answered," says Joinville, "that if he had he
would have done a very foolish thing, seeing that they had just
murdered their lord." Nevertheless, he said that he would not
have refused it. And you must know that the project only failed
because they said that the King was the haughtiest Christian ever

    [Footnote 27: See page 66, line 6: "_Babylon_, that
    suburb of Cairo now known as 'Old Cairo,'..."]


After three days of excitement and uncertainty in both camps,
during which the Christians were at one moment threatened with a
general massacre and the next treated with the greatest
consideration, the negotiations were resumed and concluded, the
terms being almost the same as those agreed upon by the King and
the late Sultan. On the 5th of May, Louis with his nobles and the
Mameluke chiefs had arrived before the walls of Damietta. There
fresh dangers awaited them: some of the Saracens wanted to take
possession of the town by force, and made an unsuccessful attempt
to scale the walls; the Crusaders whom Louis had left to defend
it, and at their head Queen Margaret, who had only just given
birth to a son, hesitated to give the town back into the hands of
the infidels. At every new difficulty and delay the Emir
Faress-Eddin-Octaï, he whom Louis had refused to make a knight,
said to the messengers who passed between, them, 'Tell the King
from me that, so long as he is in our hands, he must not show in
any way that this annoys him, or he is a dead man.' At length all
the difficulties were removed, and the conditions agreed upon for
the payment of the ransom and setting the Christian prisoners at
liberty were fulfilled.

    [Footnote 28 (unknown location on this page): Guillaume de
    Chartres; Bouquet's 'Recueil des Historiens des Gaules et de
    la France,' vol. xx. p. 31; Joinville, chap. lxxii.]


On the morning of the 7th of May, 1250, Geoffrey of Sargines
restored the keys to the Emirs; the Saracens rushed into the town
in great disorder, and committed all kinds of acts of violence.

While the King was waiting on board his ship for the completion
of the payment of the ransom for his brother the Count of
Poitiers, a Saracen came up to him very well clad and a goodly
man as to his person, and presented him with some jars of curdled
milk and flowers of divers kinds, telling him that they were from
the children of the Nazar [Footnote 29] of the former Sultan of
Babylon. He spoke in French, and the King asked him where he had
learnt it; upon which he answered that he had formerly been a
Christian. Then the King said, 'Depart from me, for I will not
speak another word to you.'

At length Louis saw a galley approaching in which he recognised
his brother: 'Light up! light up!' he shouted to his sailors. It
was the signal agreed upon for their departure, and leaving the
shores of Egypt the whole Christian fleet set sail for the Holy

    [Footnote 29: Farmer-general Inspector. ]


                   Chapter IX.

        St. Louis In Palestine And Syria.

Independently of the heavy losses which he had incurred during
his stay in Egypt, the forces of the King were still further
diminished when he set sail for the Holy Land by the desertion of
some of the principal leaders who had accompanied him. The Count
of Soissons, of Bretagne, and many others, who were either sick,
disheartened or penniless, renounced the crusade and set out for
Europe. When on the 14th of May he arrived at St. Jean d'Acre--a
remnant of the kingdom of Jerusalem still belonging to the
Christians--Louis had no difficulty in discovering that many of
those who had accompanied him so far now wished to leave him. He
had at all times shown great consideration for the opinion and
wishes of his subjects--a very rare virtue in monarchs--and he
preferred the acquiescence of free men to the obedience of
slaves. He called them together in council, and said:--

'My Lords! The Queen my mother has entreated and commanded me, so
far as it is in her power, to return to France, as my kingdom is
in great danger, for I have neither peace nor truce with the King
of England. On the other hand, the people of this country to whom
I have spoken tell me that this land is lost if I leave it, for
all those who are in Acre will follow me, since none dare remain
in it with so small a force.
I beg you, therefore, to take this matter into consideration; and
because this question is of such grave importance, I give you
until this day week to deliberate, and then you will answer as it
seemeth good to you.'

'On the following Sunday,' says Joinville, 'we presented
ourselves before the King, who then asked his brothers and other
lords what advice they gave him, whether to go or stay. They all
answered that they had deputed Guy of Mauvoisin to convey their
opinion to the King. The King commanded him to proceed with that
which he had undertaken to do, and he spoke as follows: "Sire, my
lords, your brothers and the other nobles here present, have
carefully considered your position, and they see that you cannot
remain in this country with honour either to yourself or your
kingdom. For of the knights who accompanied you, and who joined
you in Cyprus, numbering in all two thousand eight hundred, there
are not now a hundred in this town. Therefore, sire, they advise
you to go back at once to France and provide yourself with men
and money, so that you may quickly return to this country and
avenge yourself on the enemies of God who held you in prison."
The King would not rest content with the opinion expressed by Guy
of Mauvoisin, but questioned the Count of Anjou, the Count of
Poitiers, and many other nobles who were seated behind them, and
they all agreed with him who had spoken for them. . . . I was the
fourteenth in rank, and sat opposite the legate,' continues
Joinville; 'he asked me what I thought, and I said that, if the
King could manage to carry on the campaign for a year, he would
gain great honour by remaining.
And the legate said angrily, "How is it possible for the King to
carry on the campaign with such a handful of troops?" I answered
with equal warmth, for I thought he had said it to annoy me,
"Sir, since you wish it, I will tell you. It is said--I do not
know if it is true--that the King has not yet spent any of his
own money, but only the money of the clergy. Let the King
therefore now expend the royal treasure, and send to seek for
knights in the Morea and over the sea. When they hear of the high
pay which the King offers, knights will come to him from all
quarters, and then he will be able to carry on the campaign for a
year if it pleases God, and by staying he will deliver the poor
prisoners who were taken captive when they were serving God and
the King, and who will never be set free at all if the King goes
away." There was not one present who had not dear friends in
prison; therefore no one answered, but all began to weep. The
legate next questioned William of Beaumont, who was at that time
Marshal of France, and he answered that I had spoken well. "And I
will tell you why," said he. But his uncle, the good knight Jean
of Beaumont, who was very anxious to return to France, stopped
him most rudely, crying out, "Now, long tongue! what do you want?
Sit down and be quiet." The King said, "My lord Jean, that was
not well done: let him speak." "Certes, sire, I will not let
him;" and the Marshal was forced to be silent. No one else agreed
with me except the lord of Chatenay. Then the King said, "My
lords, I have listened with attention to all that you have to
say, and I will answer you on this day week, and inform you what
it is my pleasure to do."


'When we had left the presence of the King I was attacked on all
sides. "The King is mad, Sieur de Joinville, if he takes your
advice rather than that of the whole kingdom of France." The
tables were laid soon after this, and the King bade me sit near
him during the repast, in the place where I always sat when his
brothers were not present. He did not speak one word to me while
the meal lasted, which was not his wont, for he always showed me
great attention at that time. I verily believed that he was angry
with me for saying that he had not employed his own money, when
he had really expended such very large sums. Whilst the King was
at prayers after the repast, I went away to a grated window which
was in a recess near the head of the King's bed, and put my arms
through the bars, and then folded them outside the window; and I
stood there leaning against the window, and thinking that if the
King returned to France I would go to the Prince of Antioch (who
was a kind of relation, and had sent to seek me) until there was
another crusade, by the help of which the prisoners might be set
free. ...

'At that moment the King came up, and leant on my shoulder, and
placed his two hands on my head. I thought it was Philip of
Nemours, who had annoyed me the whole day on account of my advice
to the King, so I said, "Leave me in peace, Monseigneur
Philippe!" Now it chanced that, as he was trying to turn my head
towards him, the King's hand slipped down over my face, and then
I knew that it was the King, because of an emerald which he wore
on his finger.
And he said, "Be still; I want to ask how you, who are so young,
could be so bold as to venture to advise me to stay, in
opposition to all the greatest and wisest men of France, who
counselled me to go?" "Sire," I answered, "if I had an evil
thought in my heart, I would never, at whatever cost, advise you
to carry it out." "Do you say," he continued, "that I shall do an
ill deed if I leave this land?" "Yes, sire, I do believe it, so
help me God in time of need!" And he said, "If I stay, will you
stay?" I replied, "Yes, if I can; either at my own expense or at
that of some one else." "Now be of good cheer," he said; "for I
am right well pleased with what you have said; but tell no one of
it all this week."

'On the following Sunday we met again in the presence of the
King, and when he saw that we were all assembled, he said, "My
lords, I thank all those who advised me to return to France, and
I also return many thanks to those who advised me to stay here.
Now I have considered this matter, and if I stay here I do not
see that there is any danger of the loss of my kingdom, for the
Queen Regent has plenty of men who will defend it. And I have
thought much, also, of what the knights in this country say, that
if I depart Jerusalem is lost, for no one will dare to stay after
I am gone. I have determined, therefore, that I will not at any
cost leave the kingdom of Jerusalem which I came to conquer and
to keep. And now I am firmly resolved to stay here for the
present, and therefore I ask the great lords who are here, as
well as all good knights who are willing to stay with me, to come
and speak to me freely, and I will give you such ample supplies
that the fault shall not be with me if you do not remain." Many
who heard these words were put to shame by them, and many wept.'
[Footnote 30]

    [Footnote 30: Joinville, chap. lxxxii. &c.]


Having resolved to stay in the East, Louis hastened the departure
of his two brothers, the Count of Anjou and the Count of
Poitiers, together with those Crusaders who wished to renounce
the expedition; and he sent them to France, bearing a long letter
addressed 'to his dear and faithful prelates, nobles, knights,
citizens, burgesses, and the whole people of the kingdom of
France.' It contained an admirably candid account of all that he
had done and what had befallen him in Egypt, from the capture of
Damietta to the time that he had set sail for Acre, and a
pressing exhortation to send the reinforcements which he wanted
in order to obtain the freedom of all the Christians still kept
in captivity by the Mussulmans, and to insure the safety of all
the towns and possessions still held by Christians in Palestine
and Syria. I do not hesitate to affirm that never, in any age or
in any country, has a sovereign laid before his people his
actions and motives, his aims, his failure, his success and his
needs, with more unflinching frankness, with so much modest
dignity, and such deep religious feeling.  [Footnote 31]

    [Footnote 31: My account of this remarkable document is taken
    from the text given in the supplements to the edition of
    Joinville published by Ducange (1668), pp. 384-388.]


To such an extent did Louis carry his conscientious scruples and
virtuous inflexibility, that, after the departure of his
brothers, 'he called together all the officers of his household,
exhorted them to lead sober and chaste lives, and said that, if
any were afraid of failing in this duty, he was prepared to grant
leave for their return to the West. Not one asked for this
permission. But some time after St. Louis found that there were
sixteen or seventeen who had not lived as they ought to have
done; he dismissed them from his household, and would not pardon
them for three or four months, until Easter of the following
year.' [Footnote 32]

    [Footnote 32: Tillemont, vol. iii. p. 392.]

We have no very definite or reliable information as to the
numerical strength of the army after the desertion of the King's
brothers, but there can be little doubt that it was unequal to
the double task which Louis had set before him--the liberation of
the Christian captives held by the Saracens, and the security of
the Christians in Palestine and Syria. In his own heart Louis
always brooded over another project which he did not openly
proclaim; this was to snatch the Holy Sepulchre from the
Mussulmans and once more establish the kingdom of Jerusalem:--his
was one of those ardent natures which hope against hope. Twice he
seemed on the point of realizing this dream: in 1250, Malek
Hasser, the Sultan of Aleppo and Damascus, who was then at war
with the Mameluke Emirs of Egypt, offered to restore the kingdom
of Jerusalem if he would enter into active alliance with him
against his enemies. The temptation was strong; but, on leaving
Damietta, Louis had concluded a ten years' truce with the Emirs,
who on their side had undertaken to set free all their Christian
The agreement was at that time being carried out. Louis would not
break his word to the Mussulmans, nor would he leave the
Christians, whom he had promised to deliver, in captivity, and
very probably exposed to a frightful massacre. He made answer to
the Sultan of Damascus that he would call upon the Egyptian Emirs
to fulfil their engagement without any further delay, and that,
if they refused, he would willingly make war upon them. The Emirs
did not refuse; they even set free a considerable number of the
captives, but they still retained some thousands. Louis waited,
negotiating slowly both with the Sultan of Damascus and the
Egyptian Emirs. In 1252 the latter, being hard pressed by the
enemy, applied in their turn to the King, offering to restore the
ancient kingdom of Jerusalem with the exception of four places,
to set free all their Christian captives, and to excuse the
payment of the 200,000 livres still owing for the ransom. Louis
accepted the offer, and a treaty was concluded at Cæsarea; but at
the very time when it should have been carried out the Egyptian
Emirs and the Sultan of Damascus changed their minds, forgot
their differences, and united to attack the remnant of crusading

Louis had not been dismayed by danger or discouraged by reverses,
nor could he be daunted by disappointment: he at once threw his
whole energy into a consideration of the position of the
Christians in Syria and Palestine; he made every effort both to
insure their present safety and also to train and prepare them as
a basis of support in future crusades.
He resolved to spend in the fortification of their towns the
200,000 livres which he was now prevented from devoting to the
ransom of Christian prisoners in Egypt, and preparations were at
once begun for putting St. Jean d'Acre, Jaffa, Cæsarea, and Sidon
in a state of defence;  he visited them constantly, and in case
of need protected them against the attacks of the Saracens with
such forces as he had,--the Crusaders who had not deserted him,
the Templars and Hospitallers, and the Christian population of
the East. He had sent a great number of workmen to fortify Sidon;
the Saracens surprised them, and massacred nearly all of
them,--two or three thousand, say the chronicles. The King
resolved to avenge them, and to pay them a solemn act of homage;
after making a raid upon the towns and lands of the Mussulmans in
the vicinity, he arrived before Sidon.

'The corpses of the Christian workmen had been left unburied on
the ground, and emitted a pestilential stench. The King did not
content himself with giving orders that they should receive
Christian burial, nor even with superintending their interment;
he put his own hands to the work, touching the ghastly remains
with the greatest reverence, and helping to place them in sacks
which had been prepared for the purpose. "Let us go," he would
say in the morning to his attendants, "let us help to bury those
martyrs who have suffered death for the sake of our Lord. And do
not be weary in well-doing, for they have endured far greater
things than this will cost us." And when he saw his knights
shrink with disgust from the task, "Do not loathe these poor
bodies," he said, "for these men are martyrs and in Paradise."'
[Footnote 33]

    [Footnote 33: M. Faure, who gives this account, has collected
    his material from scattered notices in Joinville, the
    Confesseur de la Reine Marguerite, Guillaume de Nangis,
    Guillaume de Chartres, &c.]


Asiatic and European, Mussulman and Christian, the inhabitants of
Syria and of the neighbouring countries, all beheld this
manifestation of faith, piety, loyalty, persevering courage, and
sympathetic goodness with surprise and respectful admiration. The
King's name and his person became the object of curiosity and
reverence. 'A great troop of pilgrims from Upper Armenia,' says
Joinville, 'on their way to Jerusalem, came to me, and begged
that I would show them the saintly King. I went to the King, and
found him sitting in a tent on the bare sand, without carpet or
cushion under him. I said, "Sire, there is a great crowd of
pilgrims here, and they have begged me to show them the royal
saint; for my own part I have no desire to kiss your bones just
yet." The King laughed heartily, and bade me bring them to his
presence, which I did. And when they had seen the King, they
commended him to God; and the King did the same by them.'

The Mussulmans were sometimes rough and threatening, but Louis
speedily made them respectful. The Old Man of the Mountain, who
was accustomed to inspire fear in all around him, one day sent a
messenger to express his astonishment that the King had not yet,
'in order to keep him as a friend, offered him rich presents, as
is done yearly by the Emperor of Germany, the King of Hungary,
the Sultan of Babylon, and others.' Louis received the messenger
coldly, and told him to return in the afternoon. He did so, and
found the King sitting in state, having on his right hand the
Grand Master of the Templars, and on his left the Grand Master of
the Hospitallers, the two Orders for which the Old Man of the
Mountain showed most consideration; 'knowing well,' says
Joinville, 'that if he had caused one of the chiefs of either
Order to be killed by his assassins he would be replaced by
another equally good.'
The King had deputed the two Grand Masters to answer for him;
they told the messenger 'that his master must be very fool-hardy
to venture to send such an insolent message to the King, and that
if it had not been for the great respect they felt for the King
to whom the messenger had been sent, they would have had him
thrown into the filthy sea of Acre in spite of his master. And we
command you,' added they, 'to return to your lord, and to come
back within a fortnight, bringing such letters and jewels from
your prince that King Louis shall be contented with him and with

The Old Man of the Mountain did not venture to resist this
summons: his messenger returned a fortnight later bringing
presents, to which Louis responded by sending back 'a great
abundance of jewels, scarlet cloth, cups of gold, and silver

The position of St. Louis was precarious and full of peril, and
yet he contrived to inaugurate and maintain friendly relations
with the non-Christian races that did not make war on him. It was
during his sojourn in Syria that he sent the monk Rubruquis,
whose quaint account is still extant, on a mission to Mangou,
Khan of the Mongol Tartars.

Louis was influenced not only by political motives, but by the
hope of attracting these barbarians to Christianity, and he
displayed the credulity of blind zeal in giving credit to the
slightest rumour of any readiness on their part to receive the
Christian faith.
More than once Mussulmans from Egypt or Syria were so deeply
touched by his piety and many virtues that they had gone to him,
begging to be made Christians. 'He received them with great joy,'
says his confessor, Geoffrey of Beaulieu, 'and had them baptized
and carefully instructed in the faith of Christ. He supported
them entirely at his own expense, took them with him to France,
and provided means of subsistence for them, their wives and
children.' But this was not all; in 1270, by his will, he
enjoined his successor to continue 'to all the converts, great
and small, whom we brought from over the sea with us, the
supplies which we set apart for them.' [Footnote 34]

    [Footnote 34: Bouquet's 'Recueil des Historiens des Gaules et
    de la France,' vol. xx. p. 16; Duchesne, vol. v. p. 430.]

The ardent piety and royal generosity of the King impressed even
his greatest enemies, and extorted from them expressions of
esteem, and almost of sympathy. Whilst he was at Jaffa the Sultan
of Damascus sent him word that, if he wished, he might make a
pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and that he should do so in perfect
safety. 'The King held a great council,' says Joinville, 'and no
one advised him to go. They pointed out to him that if he, who
was the greatest of Christian kings, visited Jerusalem as a
simple pilgrim, without delivering the city from the hands of the
enemies of God, all other kings and pilgrims who followed in his
steps would be contented to perform their pilgrimage in the same
manner as the King of France had done, and would trouble
themselves no further about the deliverance of Jerusalem.' They
also cited in support of the advice a great example: in 1192,
sixty years earlier, an illustrious Crusader, less holy but quite
as brave as himself, Richard Cœur-de-Lion, King of England,
discovered that he was quite close to the Holy City.
One of his knights cried out, 'Come, sire, come hither, and I
will show you Jerusalem.' When Richard heard that, he covered his
eyes and wept, and cried to our Lord, 'Ah! Lord God, I pray Thee
not to let me even see Thy Holy City, since I am not able to
deliver it out of the hands of Thine enemies.'

In the beginning of the year 1253 Louis was still in Syria,
undertaking many expeditions, devoting himself to the Christian
cause, and working for it with more perseverance than success,
when at Sidon he received news which caused him the greatest
sorrow and anxiety. Queen Blanche, his mother, had resumed her
regency during his absence, and he now heard of her death at
Paris, the 27th November, 1252. The Pope's legate, the Archbishop
of Tyre, and Geoffrey of Beaulieu, the King's confessor,
endeavoured to break the sad tidings to him as gently as
possible; they went with him into a small private chapel
adjoining his chamber, and all sat down near the altar. At their
first words Louis uttered a great cry, and, bursting into tears,
fell on his knees before the altar. 'So great was his grief,'
says Joinville, 'that for two days he could see no one. After
that he sent one of his attendants to seek me. When I entered the
room in which he was sitting all alone, he stretched out his
arms, and said, "Ah, Seneschal, I have lost my mother!"'


His loss was indeed a heavy one, both as son and as king. Even
those contemporary writers who are least favourable to her
acknowledge that Queen Blanche was 'the most discreet woman of
her time, singularly acute and sagacious, with a man's courage,
but the attractions and keen perceptions of her sex; magnanimous
in her nature, a woman of indomitable energy; sovereign mistress
of all the affairs of the century; guardian and protector of
France; best to be compared to Semiramis, the greatest among

During her son's minority, and from the time of his departure for
the East, she had given him constant proofs of enthusiastic but
not blind devotion, and had been very useful to him in spite of
being slightly tyrannical. Several of the chroniclers assert that
the absence of her son from 1248 to 1252, her anxiety on his
account, and the duties which she undertook to perform for him,
shortened her life. She died at the age of sixty-five; a few days
before her death she bade farewell to the world, took the veil
and made her vows as a nun of the Abbey of Maubuisson, which she
had founded ten years previously and in which she was buried.

Queen Margaret shared her husband's grief. 'Madame Marie de
Vertus,' says Joinville, 'a very excellent and pious woman, came
to tell me that the Queen was in great affliction, and begged me
to go to her and comfort her. When I entered I found her weeping,
and I said that he had spoken truly who said that no faith was to
be placed in women, "for she was the woman whom you hated above
all others, and yet you show all this sorrow for her." She
replied that she did not weep for the death of Queen Blanche, but
for the King's grief, and for her daughter Isabella, [Footnote
35] who had been left in France under the care of her
grandmother, and would now fall to the charge of men.'

    [Footnote 35: Afterwards Queen of Navarre.]


Louis had a sincere love for his wife, and it was well merited,
for during the whole crusade both in Egypt and Syria Queen
Margaret had displayed both the constancy and courage of her
affection. And yet when she rejoined the King at Sidon, in 1253,
on hearing of her arrival, Louis asked his seneschal if the Queen
and the children were well, and Joinville remarks: 'During the
five years I had been with him he had never spoken of the Queen
or of his children either to me or any one else. It seemed to me
not a right thing thus to be a stranger to his own wife and

But let the degree of affection in the royal household have been
what it might, there can be no doubt that his mother Queen
Blanche was the woman whom the King most admired, whom he most
trusted, and who was treated by him with the greatest respect and


                   Chapter X.

        Return Of St. Louis To France.
             His Domestic Policy.

On the death of the Regent, all the letters which Louis received
from France urged his immediate return. The Christians of Syria
gave the King the same advice. 'The King,' they said, 'has done
everything for us that he can do here; he will now serve us much
better if he sends us help from France.' Louis decided on his
departure, and embarked at Acre on the 24th of April, 1254. 'He
told me that it was the same day of the month as that on which he
was born,' says Joinville, 'and I told him he might well say that
he had been born again now that he had escaped from that land of

Thirteen vessels, large and small, composed the King's fleet. As
they drew near the isle of Cyprus, the King's ship struck on a
sandbank in the night, and seemed in danger of becoming a wreck.
The terror of those on board was very great. Queen Margaret was
there with the three young children to whom she had given birth
in the East. The nurses went to her and said: "Madame, what shall
we do with your children? Shall we wake them and take them up?"
The Queen, despairing of life in this world either for herself or
her children, said: "You will not wake them nor take them up; you
will let them go to God in their sleep."
The King was entreated to leave the ship and go on board another;
he summoned the master-mariners, and said, "Suppose the vessel
was yours, and was laden with merchandise; I ask you, upon your
honour, if you would abandon it?" And they all answered No,
because they would rather run the risk of being drowned than pay
4,000 livres or more for a new ship. "Then why do you advise me
to leave the ship?" "Because," they answered, "the stakes are not
equal; for no amount of gold or silver can equal the worth of
your life, nor of the lives of your wife and children who are on
board, and for that reason we urge you not to put yourself and
them in danger." Then the King said: "Sirs, I have heard your
opinion, and that of my own people, and now in my turn I will
give you mine, which is this. If I abandon this ship, there are
five hundred persons who will remain in the isle of Cyprus for
fear of bodily peril (for there is not one of them who does not
love his life as well as I love mine), and who, peradventure,
will never return to their own land. Therefore I prefer to place
myself, my wife, and my children in the hands of God rather than
cause so great an injury to so many persons as are on board."'

I do not think that history affords any other example of a king
so mindful of the fate and interests of strangers in the midst of
such great danger to him and his. However, the royal vessel got
off the shoal, and went on its way; on the 8th of July, after
sailing for ten weeks more, the King and all his fleet reached
the port of Hyères in Provence, which then belonged to the Empire
and not to France.
For two days Louis refused to disembark, as he was most anxious
on his return to set foot for the first time on the soil of his
own land at Aiguesmortes, from whence he had set out six years
previously. But at length he yielded to the entreaties of the
Queen and of all those with him, landed at Hyères, journeyed
slowly through France, and arrived at Vincennes on the 5th of
September, 1254. On Sunday, the 6th, he went to St. Denis to
thank God for having protected him during his long pilgrimage,
and on the following day he made his royal entry into Paris. 'The
burgesses and all others in the city went to meet him, decked and
dressed in their best, each one according to his means. Other
cities had received their king with delight, but Paris showed
greater joy than any. For many days there were bonfires, with
dances and other public entertainments, which however were put an
end to sooner than the people desired; for St. Louis was much
troubled at the great expense, the dances, and the frivolities in
which they were indulging, and so he went away to Vincennes, in
order to put a stop to the whole thing.' [Footnote 36]

    [Footnote 36: Joinville, chap. cxxi.--cxxiii.; Bouquet's
    'Recueil des Historiens des Gaules et de la France,' vol. xx.
    p. 70; Tillemont, vol. iv. pp. 31-45.]

I find in Joinville an anecdote relating to just this period of
the King's life which is too characteristic to be passed over in

'Whilst the King was staying at Hyères,' he says, 'in order to
procure horses to take him into France, the Abbot of Cluny made
him a present of two palfreys which were worth quite 500 livres,
one for himself and the other for the Queen. When the abbot had
made this present, he said: "Sire, I will come to-morrow to speak
of things which concern me."
On the morrow the abbot returned; the King listened very
attentively, and for a very long time. When the abbot had taken
leave, I went to the King and said: "Sire, if you will allow me,
I wish to ask you whether you have not listened more graciously
to the Abbot of Cluny because he gave you those two palfreys
yesterday?" The King reflected for some time, and then said,
"Yes, truly." "Sire," I said, "do you know why I put this
question to you?" "Why?" he asked me. "Because," I answered, "I
warn you and advise you to forbid your sworn councillors, when
you come to France, to take anything from those who have to plead
before them, for rest assured that, if they receive anything,
they will listen more patiently and attentively to those who
give, as you have done to the Abbot of Cluny." Then the King
summoned his council, and repeated what I had said, and they told
him I had given him good advice.'

It was in this frame of mind--humble, conscientious, free from
egotism, with ready sympathies, and animated not only by
reverence for truth and justice, but by love for them--that Louis
returned to France, and resumed the government of his kingdom
after an absence of six years, during which his efforts on behalf
of Christianity had been as heroic as they were unavailing. Those
who were nearest to him, and knew him best, were astonished not
only at what he had remained, but also at what he had become
during his long and severe trial.


'When happily the King had returned to France, with what piety he
conducted himself towards God, with what justice towards his
subjects, how compassionately towards the afflicted, with what
humility in all that concerned himself, and how zealously he
endeavoured, according to his strength, to grow in grace,--these
things can be attested by those who watched his life closely, and
knew how sensitive was his conscience. Persons of most
intelligence and discernment think that as gold is more precious
than silver, so the life and conduct of the King, after his
return from the Holy Land, were devout and regenerate, and of
higher excellence than his old manner of life, although even in
his youth he was always good and pure, and worthy of great

Thus speaks Geoffrey of Beaulieu, the King's confessor, in a
brief and simple chronicle--the brevity, in fact, almost
amounting to dryness, but the work of a man who was well
acquainted with his subject. [Footnote 37]

    [Footnote 37: Bouquet's 'Recueil des Historiens des Gaules et
    de la France,' vol. xx. p. 18.]

These words of his confessor are fully confirmed by the King's
subsequent career, by the laws which he enacted, by his domestic
policy and relations with foreign Powers, in short by every act
in the reign of St. Louis during the fifteen years which elapsed
between the return from his first and his departure on his second
crusade. His idea of government differed from that of many
sovereigns. He did not desire to establish a deliberate and
inflexible policy, recognising only one special aim, and pursuing
it by means which may be more or less justifiable and more or
less successful, but which must always be accompanied by a large
share of crime in the rulers, of iniquity in their actions, and
of suffering to the country at large.
Before the time of St. Louis this had been the policy of his
grandfather Philip Augustus, and after him it was more especially
that of his grandson Philip le Bel. Both one and the other of
these able monarchs laboured ceaselessly to extend the dominion
and power of the Crown, to subjugate not only their neighbours
but their vassals. Their aim was to destroy the feudal system by
force and fraud, and to substitute for it an absolute monarchy;
by liberality, as well as usurpation, to place the royal
authority high above the power and rights of the nobles and the

St. Louis neither desired nor attempted anything of the kind; he
did not make war upon the feudal system either openly or
covertly, but loyally accepted its general principles which he
found embodied in the facts and spirit of the age. Whilst he
repressed with great firmness all the attempts of his vassals to
throw off their allegiance to him and make themselves independent
of the Crown, he respected their rights, was scrupulously mindful
of his promises, and exacted no more than was really due to him.
He had granted a charter to the heirs of the Countess Mahaut of
Boulogne, promising them the county of Dammartin, of which he
meanwhile retained possession. At her death, one of her heirs,
Renaud, Seigneur de Trie, brought the charter to the King, and
claimed fulfilment of the promise. But the seal was broken; and
at that time the seal was held to be the only proof that a
document was genuine. All that remained of the King's effigy
consisted of part of the legs and the stool for the royal feet.


'The King showed it to all of us who were of his council,' says
Joinville, 'and asked us to help him in coming to a decision. We
all said, without a single exception, that he was in no way bound
to execute the charter. Then he asked John Sarrazin, his
chamberlain, to hand him a document for which he had asked, and
when he received it he said, "Sirs, this is the seal which I used
before I crossed the sea, and you can plainly perceive from it
that the impression on the broken seal is similar to that on the
seal which is entire; therefore I cannot, with a clear
conscience, keep back the county." He then called Renaud de Trie,
and said, "I make over the county to you."'

Many of his vassals were also vassals of the King of England, and
this gave rise to many subtle and difficult questions as to the
extent of the service they owed to both kings. These conflicts
between custom and duty were very displeasing to Louis.

'At the beginning of the year 1244, he commanded all those nobles
who held fiefs in English territory to appear before him in
Paris, and addressed them as follows: "As it is impossible for
any man living in my kingdom and having possessions in England to
serve two masters rightly, you must therefore either attach
yourselves altogether to me, or inseparably to the King of
England." After saying this, he left them entire freedom of
choice.' [Footnote 38]

    [Footnote 38:  Faure, 'Histoire de St. Louis,'
    vol. i. p. 401.]

He thus endeavoured to promote justice and peace in the heart of
feudal society, instead of cultivating those germs of difficulty
and constantly recurring occasions for dissension which he might
have used to increase his own power.


                    Chapter XI.

           Foreign Policy Of St. Louis.

In his relations with neighbouring sovereigns Louis showed the
same loyalty and endeavour to promote peace which we have noticed
in his domestic policy.

'Some members of his council,' says Joinville, 'told him that he
did not act wisely in not allowing these foreigners to make war
upon one another; for if he left them to impoverish themselves,
they would not be so likely to run a-muck at him as if they were
very rich. To this the King answered that these words were not
well spoken, "for," said he, "if the neighbouring princes see
that I leave them to fight, they may well take counsel together,
and say, 'The King has some evil design in allowing us to attack
each other.' And then, out of the hatred they would bear me, they
would all run a-muck against me, and I might lose everything,
without taking into account that I should earn the enmity of God,
who has said, 'Blessed are the peace-makers.'"

So great was his fame as a true friend of peace and an equitable
arbitrator in the contests between princes and people, that his
intervention and his decisions were often asked for and accepted,
in disputes beset with great difficulty and danger.
In spite of his brilliant victories in 1242, over Henry III. of
England at Taillebourg and Saintes, Louis saw, after his return
from the East, that there was no solid peace between England and
France, and that at any moment the possessions which he had
acquired by these victories might again give rise to new wars,
which would be injurious to both, and possibly disastrous to one
people or the other. He conceived the idea of establishing this
very desirable peace upon a sound basis, by founding it on a
transaction which both sides should acknowledge to be equitable.
He succeeded in this by restoring to the King of England some of
those possessions which he had lost in the war of 1242, and by
obtaining from him in return, 'both in his own name and in the
names of his sons and of their heirs, a formal renunciation of
all the rights to which they could lay claim in the Duchy of
Normandy, the counties of Anjou, Maine, Touraine, and Poitou; a
resignation of the homage paid for Berry, Bretagne, Auvergne,
Marche, Angoumois, and in general a cession of all the
possessions which he and his ancestors; had ever held on the
continent of Europe, with the exception of those which the King
of France restored to him by this treaty, and of those which he
still held in Gascoigne.' For all these the King of England
undertook to pay homage to the King of France in the character of
Peer of France and Duke of Aquitaine, and to fulfil strictly all
the duties of his fiefs.

When Louis informed the members of his council of this
transaction, 'they were strongly opposed to it,' says Joinville.
'It seems to us, sire,' they said, 'that if you believe you have
no right to the possessions which you and your ancestors have
conquered from the King of England, you do not make fitting
restitution to the said king unless you restore them all to him;
and if you believe that you have a right to them, you throw away
all those that you give up to him.'


'Sirs,' answered Louis, 'I am certain that the ancestors of the
King of England very justly lost the possessions which I keep;
and the land which I give him I do not give it to him and his
heirs because they have a right to it, but in order to create
love between his children and mine, who are cousins-german. And
it seems to me that what I give to him I use right well, for he
was not formerly my vassal, and now he comes to do me homage.'

And, in truth, Henry did go to Paris in order to take with him
the treaty which he had signed, and to perform the ceremony of

'Louis received him like a brother, but spared him nothing of a
ceremony which, according to feudal notions, was no more
humiliating than the name of "vassal," which the greatest lords
bore proudly. It took place on Thursday, the 4th of December,
1259, in the royal meadow before the palace, and in that part
which we now call the Place Dauphiné. There were great crowds of
prelates, barons, and other distinguished persons of the two
courts and of both nations. The King of England, kneeling and
bare-headed, without mantle, belt, sword or spurs, put his joined
hands into those of his suzerain the King of France, and said:
"Sire, henceforth I am your man, to serve you in word and deed,
and I swear and promise to be faithful and loyal and to maintain
your right to the utmost of my power, and to do justice at your
behest or the behest of your deputy, to the best of my judgment."


'The King then kissed him on the mouth, and raised him up.'
[Footnote 39]

    [Footnote 39: Joinville, chap. xiv.; Faure, vel. ii. p. 151.]

Three years later Louis gave, not only to the King of England,
but to the whole English nation, a striking proof of his
prudence, justice, and good faith. A fierce civil war had broken
out between Henry and his barons, in which both sides were
defending their own rights, whilst neither respected the rights
of their adversaries, and England endured alternately the tyranny
of the King and the tyranny of the nobles.

Both sides had agreed to submit their differences to the
arbitration of the King of France, and on the 23d of January,
1246, Louis pronounced a solemn judgment in favour of the English
king, at the same time upholding the Magna Charta and the
traditional liberties of the people; his decision closed with
these conciliatory words:

'It is also our desire that the King of England and his barons
shall mutually forgive each other, and that they shall forget any
resentment which may still exist between them, and which has
arisen in consequence of the circumstances now submitted to our
arbitration; and that from henceforth they shall respectively
abstain from any annoyance or injury on account of these

But when opinions and interests are violently opposed and
passions fully roused, the wisest decrees and most prudent
counsel that man can utter do not suffice to re-establish peace;
the lessons taught by experience are often absolutely necessary,
and the opponents will not submit until one or the other, and
perhaps both, are exhausted in the struggle, and feel the
absolute necessity either of making some concession or accepting
their defeat.
The conciliatory arbitration of the King of France did not put a
stop to the civil war in England; but Louis did not seek in any
way to take advantage of it in order to increase his own
possessions and power at the expense of his neighbours: he stood
aloof from their quarrels, and his unsuccessful mediation was
followed by an honest neutrality.

Five centuries later the great historian Hume wrote the following
encomium:--'Whenever this prince interposed in English affairs,
it was always with an intention of composing the differences
between the King and his nobility; he recommended to both parties
every peaceable and reconciling measure; and he used all his
authority with the Earl of Leicester, his native subject, to bend
him to compliance with Henry.' [Footnote 40]

    [Footnote 40: Hume, vol. ii. p. 38.]

Louis pursued the same course towards all neighbouring states,
great and small, strong and weak. In Flanders, Piedmont,
Provence, Arragon, everywhere and on every occasion, his chief
aim was to promote peace and to uphold both the laws of the land
and the rights of the people. He was at the same time energetic
and circumspect, always ready to use the influence which
naturally belongs to a king of France, but he never allowed
France to be compromised by the difficulties and quarrels of
other nations; nor would he tolerate the use of his country's
name and weight to serve the ends of any mere personal ambition,
not even if these ends would have promoted his own interest or
that of his family.
He gave a very decided refusal to the offer of the crown of
Sicily for one of his sons. The Pope (Urban IV.) claimed the
disposal of it, and urgently desired Louis to take it. When the
crown was accepted by his brother Charles Count of Anjou, Louis,
who had no power to prevent his receiving it, showed his
displeasure openly and would give no sanction to the act.

The sovereign Pontiff wrote oftentimes to the King, entreating
him to help his brother, who was already in Italy. He described
the arrival of the Count of Anjou in Rome, without money, without
horses: he conjured the King 'in the name of their brotherly
love, in the name of Holy Church, his mother, or rather in the
name of Him who repays a hundredfold all that is lent to Him.'
But in vain; Louis contributed neither his son, his money, nor
his men. He disapproved of the enterprise; for although Pope
Innocent IV. had excommunicated and deposed the Emperor Frederick
II. [Footnote 41] in the presence of the Council of Lyons but
without its approbation, Louis considered that the House of
Suabia--of which Conradin was the last and only
representative--had an indisputable right to the crown of Sicily,
and he refused to be a party to any action which might weaken its

    [Footnote 41: On the 17th of July, 1245.]

But prudence does not always suffice to prevent a government,
whether monarchy or republic, from rushing into a fruitless and
disastrous enterprise and dragging a whole nation after it;
political honesty and respect for right and justice give a far
more essential and much safer guarantee against the commission of
similar crimes than mere prudence.
Louis IX. was not a prudent monarch by disposition or nature; his
conduct with regard to the Crusades shows how far it was possible
for him to be led astray by irresistible impulse and rash
enthusiasm; but when there was a right to be respected, a duty to
be fulfilled, in his relations with his people and with other
sovereigns, he was cautious and circumspect. The nobility of his
nature made him more prudent than his descendant Louis XI. two
centuries later, in spite of the much-vaunted and undoubted
ability of that monarch.


                    Chapter XII.

    The King's Legislative And Administrative Power.

Something higher than prudence, higher even than virtue is
required, if a monarch--a man to whom the government of men has
been committed--is to accomplish his entire task and actually to
deserve the title of 'Very Christian.' He must know the
'enthusiasm of humanity'; his heart and brain must be in sympathy
with the vast number of human beings over whose fate he exercises
so great an influence.

More than any king who has ever lived, St. Louis seems to have
been actuated by this generous sympathy and fellow-feeling with
his subjects. He loved his people and he loved mankind
spontaneously, and because he could not help it; he took the
tenderest and deepest interest in their destiny, their happiness,
their sorrows. He was dangerously ill in 1259, and desired to
give his last and most earnest advice to his son, Prince Louis,
who died the year following. He said: 'Fair son, I pray you to
teach the people of your kingdom to love you; for verily I would
rather that a Scotchman should come from Scotland and govern the
people of this realm loyally and well, than that you should
govern them badly.'


To govern wisely, to watch over the interests of all classes in
his kingdom, to secure strict and ready justice to all his
subjects, these things were sources of continued and anxious
solicitude to St. Louis. M. Félix Faure, in the history to which
I have alluded, enumerates all the journeys which the King
undertook in his own country between 1254 and 1270, in order to
make himself acquainted with the facts and details of his
government; and he also gives an account of all the 'Parlements'
which Louis held during the same period for the better
administration of justice: these two tables show how unceasing
was his activity. Joinville's account of the simple and kindly
manner in which St. Louis would himself listen to the grievances
of his subjects, and administer justice, has been often quoted,
but I cannot resist the temptation of repeating it.

'Now many a time it befell,' he says, 'that in summer, after
mass, the King would go and sit down in the wood at Vincennes
with his back to an oak, and would make us all sit round him. And
all those who had any grievance came to speak to him without
hindrance from any ushers or such folk. And then with his own
lips he would question them. "Is there any one here who has a
suit to bring before me?" And all those who wished to appeal to
him would stand forward; then he would say, "Be silent, all of
you, and your cases shall be dispatched one after the other."
Upon that he would call Monseigneur Pierre de Fontanes and
Monseigneur Geoffroy de Villette, [Footnote 42] and would say to
one of them, "Dispose of this case for me." When he saw anything
to correct in the words of those who spoke for him, or in the
words of those who spoke for others, with his own lips he would
correct it.
Sometimes, in summer, I have seen him come into the garden at
Paris to administer justice to his people, and he would be
dressed in a camlet coat [Footnote 43] and a surcoat of tiretaine
[Footnote 44] without sleeves, a coat of black taffetas on his
shoulders, his hair very carefully combed and without coif, and a
hat with white peacock's feathers on his head. Carpets were
spread that we might sit around him, and all the people who
brought suits before him stood round about, and he would have
their cases dispatched in the manner I have described before, as
he used to do in the wood at Vincennes.'

    [Footnote 42: Two eminent jurists and councillors of St.

    [Footnote 43: The 'cotte,' or coat, was the principal
    vestment at that time; the 'surcoat' was worn over it.]

    [Footnote 44: 'Tiretaine,' a coarse woollen material, grey,
    still manufactured in France.]

The active benevolence of St. Louis extended beyond this paternal
interest in the private affairs of his people; he gave quite as
much attention and interest to those measures which were required
by the social conditions of the age and the general welfare of
his kingdom. Among the twenty-six ordinances, edicts, and
official letters of his reign contained in the first volume of
the 'Recueil des Ordonnances des Rois de France,' seven at least
were acts of great legislative and administrative importance.
These decrees all bear the same character, and whatever may have
been their result, their aim was never to extend the power of the
Crown or to serve some special interest of royalty when it was
struggling with other social forces; they were intended to effect
great social and moral reforms, were directed against the
violence, the disorder and the abuses of feudal society, and
aimed at the extension of justice and peace in the nation, but
they did not seek to destroy the existing conditions of society,
or to control them exclusively in the interest either of the King
or of any one class of citizens.


Many other of the King's ordinances and decrees have been
published, either in the later volumes of the work already
alluded to or in similar collections. M. Daunou, in an article on
St. Louis which he has prepared for the continuation of
'L'Histoire Littéraire de France, par des Membres de l'Institut,'
vol. xix. has alluded to a great many inedited documents to be
found in different archives. The great collection of legislative
enactments known as the 'Etablissements' of St. Louis, which
seems to be a kind of general but confused code of laws of the
period, is probably a work of jurisprudence of later date than
this reign; but in it we see the same endeavour to secure
practical and moral reform, and note the same absence of attempt
to promote any private interests whatsoever. There is a spirit of
such true piety in the paragraph which serves as a preface to
this work, that it might have been dictated by St. Louis himself.
I reproduce it here, with only such modifications in the language
as may be necessary to render it intelligible.

'Louis, by the grace of God King of France, to all good
Christians dwelling in the kingdom and under the suzerainty of
France, and to all others present and to come, greeting in the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ.'


'Seeing that malice and fraud are so prevalent in the human race
that some men often do wrong and injury and all kinds of evil to
their fellows against the will and the law of God, and that there
are many who have neither fear nor dread of the terrible day of
judgment of the Lord Jesus Christ; and seeing that we wish all
our subjects to live in peace and loyalty, and each one to beware
of doing any ill to his neighbour for fear of bodily chastisement
and loss of worldly goods; seeing that we desire also to punish
and repress malefactors by means of the law and by a rigorous
execution of justice, and by turning for help to God, who is a
true and just Judge above all others: We have therefore ordained
these enactments, and we require that justice shall be
administered in accordance with them in all lay courts throughout
the kingdom and suzerainty of France.'

At the head of one of his essays Montaigne wrote, 'This is an
honest book.' We may say of the measures and decrees of St. Louis
that they were acts of honest legislation, altogether devoid of
egotistical ambition, of party spirit, or the desire of inventing
a system; they were inspired solely by an instinctive respect for
the common rights of all men, and by love of the public good.

Another act, known as the Pragmatic Sanction, is also given
[Footnote 45] as the work of St. Louis, under date of March 1268.
Its object is first to assert the rights, liberties, and
canonical rules of the Church of France; then to forbid 'the
exactions and very heavy pecuniary dues imposed, or which may at
any future time be imposed, upon the said Church by the Court of
Rome, by which our kingdom has been miserably impoverished,
unless they arise from a reasonable, pious and very urgent
necessity, from some unavoidable cause, and are imposed with our
spontaneous and express consent, together with that of the Church
of our kingdom.'

    [Footnote 45: Recueil des Ordonnances des Rois de France,
    vol. i. p. 97.]


The authenticity of this document was eagerly maintained in the
seventeenth century by Bossuet, [Footnote 46] and has been
asserted in our own days by M. Daunou, [Footnote 47] but many and
weighty reasons have been urged in opposition to it, which M.
Faure sums up in the following words:--

    [Footnote 46: In his defence of the declaration of the clergy
    of France in 1682, chap. ix.]

    [Footnote 47: L'Histoire Littéraire de France, vol. xvi. p. 75.]

'It is not mentioned by any writer of the period, or in any
contemporaneous document; in the correspondence between Louis and
the sovereign Pontiffs of his reign it is never once alluded to,
although analogous subjects were discussed, and the importance of
this would have given it precedence over all the others. It was
not until two hundred years after the date assigned to it (in the
remonstrances presented to Louis XI. by the 'Parlement' of Paris
when, on his accession to the throne, he violated the Pragmatic
Sanction of his father, Charles VII.) that the Pragmatic Sanction
of St. Louis was for the first time alluded to and quoted. The
authority of his name was then invoked in aid of legislative
measures to which the promoters wished to give the appearance of
ancient and venerable institutions. It is impossible to
understand why Philip le Bel--the grandson of Louis--did not
quote this document in his disputes with Boniface VIII. Why did
not Charles VI. succeed, if it existed when he tried to put a
stop to the exactions of the Court of Rome? Nay, how was it that
Charles VII., when he promulgated his Pragmatic Sanction, did not
rest it upon an authority and example so highly revered as that
of his sainted ancestor?'


I do not intend to discuss this unimportant problem of historical
criticism, but I wish to call attention to the fact that, even if
the authenticity of the document is open to doubt, there is
nothing in the 'Pragmatic Sanction of St. Louis' which is not in
entire harmony with all that we know of the character and actions
of that prince. In his relation to the Papacy he was the
respectful, affectionate and faithful son of the Church, but he
took good care to maintain the independence of his crown in
temporal affairs, and his own right of supervision, and sometimes
even of intervention, in spiritual matters. I have already called
attention to his cautious and reserved attitude in the great
quarrel between the Papacy and the Empire, and to the firmness
with which he resisted the violent measures of Gregory IX. and
Innocent IV. against the Emperor Frederick II. He carried his
notions as to the entire independence of his authority and
judgment beyond political matters, and into questions that were
purely religious. The Bishop of Auxerre one day said to him, in
the name of several prelates: 'Sire, the archbishops and bishops
here present desire me to tell you that Christianity is perishing
in your hands.' The King made the sign of the cross, and said,
'Now tell me how that may be.' 'Sire,' said the bishop, 'it is
because people now-a-days think so little of excommunication that
those who are excommunicated are not afraid of dying before they
have obtained absolution, and rendered satisfaction to Holy
Therefore these prelates require of you, sire, for the love of
God, and because you ought so to do, that you command your
serjeants and bailiffs, by the seizure of their goods, to compel
all those who have been excommunicated for a year and a day to
obtain absolution.' And the King replied that he was quite
willing to command that this should be done when he had received
proof that they were in the wrong. The bishop said that the
prelates would not on any account consent to this, and that they
did not acknowledge the King's jurisdiction in ecclesiastical
matters; and the King said that he would not consent on any other
condition, for that it would be against God and against reason if
he were to compel those who were excommunicated to seek
absolution when not they, but the clergy, were in the wrong.

'For example,' said the King, 'take the case of the Count of
Bretagne, who for seven years was at law with the prelates of
Bretagne, and all that time was excommunicated, and at the end of
it he proved his case, and the Pope condemned them all. Now, if I
had constrained the Count to obtain absolution at the end of the
first year, I should have sinned against God and against him.'
Thereupon the prelates were forced to submit, and I have not
heard that any similar demand has ever since been made. [Footnote

    [Footnote 48: Joinville, chap. xiii. p. 43.]


                   Chapter XIII.

      Christianity Of St. Louis In His Private And Social
  Life, As Well As In His Public Career And Political Relations.

I now come to that which is perhaps the most striking and
original feature in the character of St. Louis. He was engrossed
by religion,--I may say that piety was his ruling passion; and
yet his naturally clear and upright judgment in secular and
social affairs was scarcely ever disturbed by his religious
views. He was not content with the mere forms and appearances of
a thing or a person, but must go straight to the very heart of
every fact, seeking truth and justice underneath all human
conditions, social relations, and royal customs.

Tillemont, the most thorough and minutely accurate of his
historians, analyses the life of Louis as the best method of
describing it.

'We will study him,' he says, 'first as a simple individual, with
no other care than that of his own soul; 'then as a father, the
head of a family, having the charge of a wife, children, and
servants; and last of all as a king, to whom has been confided
the guidance of a whole people, and who has to conduct himself as
a Christian prince both toward his own subjects and the nations


I am certain that this was precisely the order in which St. Louis
himself viewed his duties, and I shall preserve a certain harmony
and conformity with that which was passing in his own thoughts,
if I close this sketch by relating some of those incidents in
which the innermost recesses of so noble a nature are
spontaneously and truthfully revealed.

'He called me one day,' says Joinville, 'and said, "You are a man
of such a light nature that I do not dare to speak to you of
things relating to God, and I have called these monks who are
here because I wish to ask you a question." Now the demand was

'"Seneschal, what is God?"

'"Sire," I answered, "so good a thing that better cannot be."

'"Truly," said he, "that is well spoken, for the answer you have
given is written down in the book which I hold in my hand. Now I
wish to ask," he continued, "which you would prefer to be, a
leper or to have committed a mortal sin?" And I, who never told
him a lie, I answered I would rather commit thirty mortal sins
than be a leper. When the monks had gone, he called me to him
alone, made me sit down at his feet, and said, "How could you
tell me what you did yesterday?" And I answered that I should say
the same thing over again. Then he said, "You spoke rashly and
foolishly, for there is no leper so hideous as he who is in a
state of mortal sin. When a man dies he is set free from the
leprosy of the body, but when a man dies who has committed a
mortal sin, he does not know, nor can he be quite sure, that his
repentance has been such as to secure the forgiveness of God. And
for this reason he ought to be greatly afraid lest this leprosy
of sin should last as long as God is in heaven.
Therefore I entreat you, as urgently as I can, for the love of
God and the love of me, to teach your heart to choose rather that
any ill should happen to your body, by leprosy or any other
disease, than that mortal sin should attack your soul."

'Another day he asked me,' says Joinville, 'if I wished to be
honoured in this world and to go to Paradise when I died; and I
said, "Yes." Then he said, "Beware, then, of doing or saying
anything wittingly which, if all the world knew, you would be
ashamed to own, and would hesitate to acknowledge, I did this, I
said that."'

Tillemont says, 'Even in his early youth he had a great dislike
to profane oaths in conversation; he contented himself with
affirming a thing in the simplest and plainest terms, without
introducing the name of God, or of the saints or evangelists, or
using a single word which could diminish the respect due to
things sacred, whatever cause he might have for anger. When he
wished to affirm a thing very strongly, he would say, "Truly it
is so," or "Truly it is not so." In order to avoid using other
oaths he used at one time to say, "_By my name!_" but
hearing that a religious person found fault with this expression,
he never after made use of it' [Footnote 49]

    [Footnote 49: Tillemont, vol. v. p. 371.]

M. Faure says: 'It was with the utmost sincerity that he placed
the name of Christian high above his title as king. One day, at
the Castle of Poissy, the place of his birth, he said to those
around him: "In this castle God granted me the greatest blessing
and the greatest honour I ever received in this world."


'Every one tried to find out, but no one could guess this honour:
his words seemed to point rather to the town of Rheims, where he
had been crowned, than to Poissy. At last he said, with a smile,
"I was baptized here." He always retained a feeling of affection
and gratitude for Poissy, as if it had been his native land. In
the letters which he wrote as friend to friend when he wished to
discard even the shadow of royal dignity, he was in the habit of
styling himself "Louis of Poissy," or "Louis, lord of Poissy."'
[Footnote 50]

    [Footnote 50: Faure, vol. ii. p. 559.]

I have already spoken of his relation to the two queens, his
mother and his wife. His position was often one of great
difficulty, but his conduct was never short of exemplary. Louis
was a model both of conjugal fidelity and filial piety. He had
eleven children by Queen Margaret, six boys and five girls. He
loved his wife very tenderly and was scarcely ever apart from
her, and the noble courage which she displayed during the first
crusade certainly made her dearer to him than ever. But he was
not blind to her ambition and her want of political capacity.
When he was preparing for his second crusade, he did not confide
the regency of France to Queen Margaret in his absence; nay more,
before he left the kingdom he took care to regulate her expenses
and to restrain her power; he forbade her to receive any presents
for herself or her children, to interfere with the administration
of justice, or to choose any attendant for herself or her family
without the consent of the Council of Regency. He had good
reasons for acting in this manner, for about this time Queen
Margaret, eager to hold the same position in the state that Queen
Blanche had done, was making provision for herself in case of her
husband's death.
She had induced her son Philip, heir to the throne and at that
time only sixteen years old, to take oath that he would remain
under her tutelage until he was thirty, that he would have no
advisers of whom she did not approve, reveal to her all the
designs which were formed against her, enter into no alliance
with his uncle, Charles of Anjou, and keep this oath which she
administered to him a secret. Louis was probably informed of this
strange transaction by his young son himself, and Philip took
care to ask Pope Urban IV. to absolve him from his oath. But the
King foresaw the tendencies of Queen Margaret, and therefore
adopted measures to protect the crown and the kingdom.

The education of his children, their future position and
well-being, engrossed the attention of the King as entirely, and
were subjects of as keen an interest, as if he had been a father
with no other task than the care of his children. 'After supper
they followed him to his apartment, where he made them sit around
him for a time whilst he instructed them in their duty; he then
sent them to bed. He would direct their attention particularly to
the good and bad actions of princes. He used to visit them in
their own apartment when he had any leisure, inquire as to their
progress, and, like a second Tobias, give them excellent
instruction. ... On Maunday Thursday, he and his children used to
wash the feet of thirteen poor persons, give them large alms, and
afterwards wait upon them whilst they dined. The King, together
with his son-in-law King Thibault, whom he loved and looked upon
as his own son, carried the first poor man to the hospital of
Compiègne, and his two eldest sons, Louis and Philippe, carried
the second.
They were accustomed to act with him in all things, showing him
great reverence, and he desired that they and Thibault also
should obey him implicitly in everything that he commanded.'

He was very anxious that his three children born in the East
during the Crusade--Jean Tristan, Pierre, and Blanche--and even
his eldest daughter Isabella, should enter the monastic life,
which he looked upon as the most likely to insure their
salvation; he frequently exhorted them to take this step, writing
letters of the greatest tenderness and piety, especially to his
daughter Isabella; but, as they did not show any taste for it, he
did not attempt to force their inclinations. Thenceforward, he
busied himself in making suitable marriages for them, and
establishing them according to their rank; at the same time he
gave them the most judicious advice as to their conduct and
actions in the world upon which they were entering. When he was
before Tunis and found that he was sick unto death, he gave the
instructions which he had written out in French with his own hand
to his eldest son, Philip. They are models of virtue, wisdom, and
paternal tenderness, worthy of a king and a Christian. [Footnote

    [Footnote 51: There are several versions of these
    instructions, differing in form but identical in spirit. They
    are contained in Bouquet's 'Recueil des Historiens des Gaules
    et de la France,' vol. xx. pp. 84, 300, and 459; Tillemont,
    vol. v. pp. 166 and 180-383; Faure, vol. ii. pp. 582-593.]


I proceed now from the family of St. Louis to the royal
household, and pass on from his children to his servants. In the
relation between master and servant we miss the strongest
tie--that of blood, and lose that intensely personal and yet
disinterested feeling which parents feel when they live again in
their children: kindly feeling and custom, much weaker motives,
form the bond between master and servant, and give a moral tone
to the relation. Now, in St. Louis, the kindliness of his nature
was so great that it resembled affection, and called out
affection in the hearts of those to whom it was shown.

He could not pardon any breach of morality in his servants, but
he passed over in silence all the small faults of which they were
guilty, and in such cases treated them not only with gentleness
but with that consideration which calls out self-respect, and
raises a man in his own eyes, let his position in life be what it
may. 'Louis visited his servants when they were sick, and he
never failed to pray for them himself and to entreat the prayers
of others also, when they were dead. A mass for the dead was
chanted for them daily, at which he was always present.'

He took into his household an old servant of his grandfather's,
Philip Augustus, dismissed by that king because one day his fire
crackled and Jean, who had charge of it, had not been able to
make it burn quietly. Now from time to time Louis used to suffer
from an inflammation of the right leg. That part between the calf
and the ankle would swell, grow very red and cause him great
pain. One day when he had an attack of this kind and was lying
down, he wished to examine the part affected. Jean held a lighted
candle close to the King, and so awkwardly that a drop of boiling
grease fell on the bad leg.
The King started up from his bed and cried out, 'Oh, Jean, Jean,
my grandfather sent you away for a much less thing!' and this
exclamation was the only reproof which Jean received for his

Far from the King's household, not engaged in his service, and
without any personal claim upon him, there was a large class of
persons who nevertheless held an important place in his thoughts
and whom he was always ready to help. They were the poor, the
infirm, the sick, and all who were destitute and in misery. All
the chronicles of the time and the historians of his reign praise
his charity as much as his piety, and the philosophers of the
eighteenth century almost overlooked his love of relics in
consideration of his benevolence. The benevolence of St. Louis
was not of that vicarious kind which contents itself with making
laws and instituting charities; he was not satisfied merely to
build and endow hospitals, infirmaries, and asylums, such as the
Hôtel Dieu (or hospital) at Pontoise, those of Vernon and
Compiègne, and the Maison des Quinze-Vingt for the blind; it was
benevolence shown in his own person, by his own actions, and it
taught him that no deed of mercy was beneath the dignity of a

Wherever the King might be, a hundred and twenty poor persons
received daily two loaves each, a quart of wine, meat or fish
enough for a good meal, and a silver penny. Mothers had an extra
loaf for each child. Besides these hundred and twenty who
received outdoor relief, thirteen others were daily admitted to
the palace, and had their meals with the officers of the royal
household. Three of them dined at the same time as the King, in
the same apartment, and quite near to him.


'Many a time,' says Joinville, 'I have seen him cut their bread
for them, and pour out their drink. One day he asked me if I
washed the feet of the poor on Maunday Thursday. "Sire," I
answered, "what, the feet of those dirty wretches! No, indeed, I
shall never wash them." "Truly," replied the King, "you have
spoken ill; for you ought not to despise that which God intended
for our instruction. I pray you, therefore, first of all for the
love of God, and then by your love towards me, that you make a
habit of washing their feet."

Sometimes, when the King had a little spare time, he would say,
'Let us go and visit the poor of such a place, and give them a
feast to their liking.'

Once when he went to Château Neuf on the Loire, a poor old woman,
who was standing at the palace door with a loaf in her hand,
said, 'Good King, it is this bread, thy charity, upon which my
poor husband lives, who is lying at home very ill.' The King took
the loaf, saying, 'The bread is hard enough,' and went with her
to the house to see the sick man.

One Maunday Thursday, at Compiègne, he was going to all the
churches, walking barefooted from one to the other, as he was
wont to do, and distributing alms to all the poor whom he met
when he saw a leper on the other side of a muddy pool in the
street. The leper did not dare to approach the King, but he was
trying to attract his attention; Louis immediately crossed over
to him, gave him some money, and then took his hand and kissed
'All present,' says the chronicle, 'were astonished, and made the
sign of the cross when they witnessed the pious temerity of the
King, who was not afraid to press his lips to a hand which no
other person would have dared to touch.'

In acts like these there is infinitely more than the kindness and
generosity of a noble nature; they show that fervour of Christian
sympathy which at the sight of human suffering, either of body or
mind, knows no fear, shuns no anxiety, feels no repugnance, and
has no thought beyond alleviating pain and administering comfort.

And the man who felt and acted thus was no monk, no monarch
absorbed by his religious duties, and exclusively addicted to
charitable works and devout observances; he was a knight, a
warrior, a politician, a true king, as earnest in the performance
of the duties of his position as in doing deeds of charity. He
obtained the reverence and admiration of his intimate friends as
well as of strangers, sometimes by the fervour of his mystic
piety and his monkish austerities, sometimes by his
administrative ability, his freedom from intolerance and
prejudice, and the noble independence of his attitude even
towards those representatives of Christian faith and the
Christian Church with whom he was in full sympathy.

'The King himself was considered the wisest member of his whole
council: when grave difficulties arose or great questions had to
be discussed, no one showed more insight or was able to estimate
them more justly; and in addition to a clear and vigorous
intellect he possessed the power of expressing his thoughts with
such a measured grace that he was a most perfect an agreeable


'He was very cheerful,' says Joinville; 'and when we were in
private with him, after dinner, he used to sit at the foot of his
bed, and if the Franciscans and Dominicans told him of a book
which they thought he would like to hear, he would answer, "No,
you shan't read to me now, for there is no book so good after
eating as a talk _ad libitum;_ that is, let each one say
what he likes." But, for all this, he was very fond of books and

'He sometimes listened to the sermons and discussions in the
University, but he took care also to seek the truth himself in
the Word of God and the traditions of the Church. When he was in
the East he heard that a Saracen sultan had collected a great
number of books for the use of the philosophers of his sect; he
was ashamed to think that the Christians were less zealous to
learn the truth than the infidels were to teach themselves lies.
Therefore, on his return to France, he commanded that search
should be made in the abbeys for all the genuine works of St.
Augustine, St. Ambrose, St. Jerome, St. Gregory, and other
orthodox teachers, and, having caused them all to be copied, he
had them laid up in the treasure-house of the Sainte-Chapelle. He
read them whenever he had any spare time, and gladly lent them to
those who could make any use of them either for themselves or
others. Sometimes towards the close of the afternoon he would
send for persons of well-known piety, and converse with them of
God, and also of the Bible stories and the lives of the saints or
fathers of the Church.'


He had a special friendship for Robert of Sorbon the founder of
the Sorbonne, and not only afforded him every facility and gave
him all the necessary help for establishing his learned college,
but also made him one of his chaplains, and often invited him to
sit near him at dinner in order that he might have the pleasure
of hearing him converse.

'One day it happened,' says Joinville, 'that Master Robert of
Sorbon was sitting by my side at dinner-time, and we were talking
together in a low voice. The King reproved us, saying, "Speak
aloud, or your companions will think that you are speaking ill of
them. If you are talking of anything at dinner-time that can give
us pleasure, speak so that we can hear you; if not, be silent."'

Another day, when they had met in the King's presence, Robert of
Sorbon reproached Joinville for being 'more magnificently attired
than the King, for,' said he, 'you dress yourself in furs and
green cloth, which the King does not do.' Joinville defended
himself very warmly, and turned the tables on Master Robert,
attacking him for the smartness of his clothes. The King took the
part of the learned doctor, but when he had left them, 'My lord
the King,' continues Joinville, 'called Monseigneur Philip, his
son, and King Thibault, and sat down at the door of his oratory;
placing his hand on the ground, he said, "Come and sit close to
me, that no one may hear us." Then he said he had called us that
he might confess to me that he had been wrong in defending Master
Robert. "But," he said, "I saw he was so taken aback that he had
need of my help. For all that, do not think too much of what I
said in defence of Master Robert; for, as the Seneschal has said,
you ought to dress well and suitably: your wives will love you
the better for it, and your people will also think more of you.
For," said this wise king, "we ought so to choose both our
apparel and our dress, that the old men of this age may not say
we do too much, nor the young ones that we do too little."'

In his own costume and manner of life nothing could be more
simple than St. Louis. 'After he returned from beyond the sea,'
says Joinville, 'he never wore furs, either miniver or squirrel,
nor scarlet cloth, neither did he use gilded spurs or stirrups;
his vestments were of camlet or of pers'--a dark blue cloth--'and
the linings of his coverlets and garments were of doeskin or

He dressed and undressed himself almost without attendants, rose
in the morning and went to bed at night, dispensing altogether
with royal etiquette. 'But,' adds Joinville, 'the daily expenses
of his household were very great; he behaved with great
generosity and liberality in the "Parlements" and at the
assemblies of the barons and knights; the service of his court
also was conducted with great courtesy, liberally and without
stint; far more so than had been the case for a long time at the
court of his ancestors.'


                   Chapter XIV.

   The Crusade The Ruling Passion Of St. Louis.
   In Spite Of Strenuous Opposition,
   He Decides On A Second Crusade (1270).
   His Arrival And Death Before Tunis (25th August, 1270).

Unquestionably the life of St. Louis was no mere empty royal
life. Its varied interests and great labours might have employed
the most active mind, and satisfied the most exacting conscience;
but although the soul of the King was serene and calm, his
imagination was incessantly excited, and he suffered from a kind
of pious fever,--a fever very different in its aim, but also
similar in kind, to that which consumes those great potentates
whose restless nature is always discontented, who cherish some
vast project quite apart from the ordinary course of events until
its accomplishment becomes their fixed idea and ruling passion.
As Alexander and Napoleon continually formed new plans, or, to
speak more accurately, new dreams, of conquest and dominion, so
Louis, in his Christian ambition, always pictured to himself the
return to Jerusalem, the deliverance of the Holy Sepulchre and
the victory of Christianity over Islamism in the East. It was all
in vain that during his first crusade he discovered the immense
difficulty, not to say the impossibility of the enterprise, and
found that his utmost efforts could not ensure success: the
crusade always remained his passion, as the one and only method
of realizing his fondest hope and fulfilling his most sacred
During the first years after his return from Syria to
France--that is, from 1254 to 1260--it does not appear that he
spoke of his scheme even to his most intimate and confidential
friends. But I am convinced that it was never out of his
thoughts, and that he always hoped favourable circumstance would
recall him to his interrupted work.

There was no lack of difficulties in the East: the Christians of
Palestine and Syria were exposed to perils and losses which
increased daily; they were losing their bravest warriors, the
Templars and Hospitallers, by incessant warfare; their strong
places were falling to ruin; the soldiers of the Cross were
defeated now by the Tartars of Tchinggis Khan, now by the
Mamelukes of Egypt; the Latin Empire of Constantinople was
disappearing; and the Greek Church had again obtained possession
of St. Sophia. The most lamentable accounts, the most urgent
entreaties daily reached the Christians of the West; and Pope
Urban IV. made a special appeal to the King of France. Geoffrey
of Sargines, the heroic and faithful representative whom Louis
had left in St. Jean d'Acre at the head of a small, garrison,
wrote to tell him that all was lost unless they received
immediate succour.

In 1261 Louis held a 'Parlement' at Paris, and although he did
not then speak of a new crusade, he took measures which revealed
his intentions and thoughts. Fasts and prayers were appointed on
behalf of the Christians of the East; all extravagant expenses,
shows, and tournaments were forbidden; and frequent and important
military exercises were appointed.


In 1263 the crusade was preached throughout France. Taxes were
levied in aid of it which even the clergy had to pay. Princes and
barons undertook to join in the expedition; some even went so far
as to set out. Louis congratulated himself, and showed his
pleasure and approval without openly declaring his own intention.
In 1267 a 'Parlement' was convoked at Paris. The King very
discreetly broached the subject of a crusade first of all to some
of his barons, in order to make sure of their approval. Then
suddenly, after the precious relics from the Sainte-Chapelle had
been exposed to the gaze of the assembly, he opened the
proceedings by an earnest exhortation to all present 'to avenge
the ancient wrongs of our Lord and Saviour in the Holy Land, and
to regain the heritage of Christendom so long--for our sins--in
the possession of the infidel.' The following year another
'Parlement' met at Paris, and there, on the 9th of February,
1268, the King made a vow to set out in May of 1270.

Great was the surprise of many of his subjects, and their anxiety
was even greater than their surprise. The country was tranquil
and prosperous to an extent that had been unparalleled for a long
period; there was peace without, and law and order within; feudal
quarrels were becoming rare, and were promptly settled; the royal
authority was felt everywhere, and was accompanied by a more
orderly administration and greater certainty of justice; the King
possessed the confidence as well as the respect of his whole
people, and he was respected and obeyed by all his agents. 'Why
should we risk,' they said, 'these advantages in a costly and
distant, enterprise where success is more than doubtful?'
Either from good sense or from displeasure at the taxes imposed
upon them, many ecclesiastics as well as laymen were unfavourable
to the crusade. Pope Clement IV., who had succeeded Urban IV.,
'hesitated for some time about urging St. Louis to this
enterprise; indeed, it seems that in a letter which he wrote
towards the close of September 1266, he rather dissuaded him from
it. He was, however, annoyed at having written this letter almost
as soon as he had dispatched it, and said just the reverse in a
letter which he wrote with his own hand, and at first thought of
sending immediately; but, hesitating still, he withheld it. ...
He ended by making up his mind to encourage the King in his pious
design; but when he learnt that Louis was taking three sons with
him to the crusade, the eldest twenty-two, and the two others
seventeen and eighteen years old, he could not resist writing to
the Cardinal of Sainte-Cécile as follows: "It does not seem to us
that it would be wise or judicious to allow so many of the King's
sons to take the cross, especially the eldest; and, although we
have heard many reasons given in favour of the opposite view, yet
either we deceive ourselves entirely, or they are devoid of any
reason whatsoever."' [Footnote 52]

    [Footnote 52: Tillemont, vol. v. pp. 10 17.]

Grave anxiety was felt as to the King himself: his health was
very much shattered, and it was feared that he himself was no
better able to bear the fatigue of the expedition than his
country was likely to endure without loss the disadvantage of his
absence. Many of his wisest and most faithful advisers openly
opposed his scheme. Joinville says: 'It came to pass that the
King summoned all his barons to Paris during Lent (1267).
I sent my excuses to him on account of a quartan fever which I
then had, and begged him graciously to dispense with my
attendance. He sent word that he insisted on my going, for he had
good physicians at Paris who would soon cure a quartan fever. So
I went thither. When I had heard mass at the Madeleine I went to
the King's chapel, and found him mounted upon the platform where
the relics were, and causing the true cross to be carried down.
When the King was descending, two knights who were of his council
began to speak together, and one said, "Never believe me, if the
King does not now take the cross." And the other answered: "If
the King takes the cross, it will be one of the saddest days that
ever was in France; for if we do not also take it we shall lose
the King's love, and if we take it we shall lose the love of God,
because it will not be for His sake that we undertake this
crusade."' The King earnestly entreated Joinville to take the
cross, but he positively refused to do so. 'I thought,' he says,
'that all those who advised him to undertake that voyage
committed a great sin, because France was in such a condition
that the whole kingdom was at peace within itself, and at peace
with all its neighbours; and, from the time that he departed, its
condition has never ceased to grow worse and worse. Those who
advised this voyage in his weak state of health committed a great
sin, for he was able neither to ride in a carriage nor on
horseback; nay, his debility was so great that he allowed me to
carry him in my arms from the house of the Count of Auxerre,
where I took leave of him, to the Franciscans. And yet, feeble as
he was, if he had remained in France, he might have lived for
many years, and done much good.'


But the impulse had been given, not only to the King, but to his
family and the whole feudal world; his sons, his brothers, his
son-in-law Thibault, King of Navarre, many foreign princes, 'a
multitude of counts, barons, and knights,' took the cross; some
with eager fervour, others with resignation and after much
hesitation. The second crusade of St. Louis was a flame which
leaps up at intervals from a dying fire, and throws out bright
and fitful gleams.

But, together with tidings which aroused angry alarm, news came
from the East which inspired fresh hopes and expectations. The
Emperor Michael Palæologus had returned to Constantinople, and he
held out to the Pope and all Christendom the hope of reunion
between the Greek Church and the Church of Rome; Mohammed
Mostanser, the King of Tunis (as he called himself), spoke of
becoming a Christian, he and all his subjects, and offered to
decide on taking this step if he could be secured against their
seditions. Clement IV. was enchanted with the Greek promises.
Louis heard of the prospect of the Moslem conversions with
rapture; he was in the state of mind of a man who has taken a
final resolve which is very dear to him, and who listens with the
most astounding credulity to any reasons and hopes which seem to
justify his course. 'Ah,' he wrote, 'if I might only hope to be
the godfather and the compeer of so great a godson!' At the fête
of St. Denis, the 9th of October, 1269, Louis was present in the
abbey church, at the baptism of a recently-converted Jew. The
Tunis envoys were also there: he called them to him, and said
with great emotion, 'Tell the King your master, from me, that I
desire the salvation of his soul so ardently that I would consent
to be in prison among the Saracens all the days of my life and
never see the light of day again, if only your king and his
nation might become true Christians.' From henceforward Louis was
absorbed by Christian zeal and faith, and was more saint than


He set out from Paris on the 16th of March, 1270, having left
Queen Margaret, whom he would not allow to accompany him further,
in the tower of the Castle at Vincennes. He was weak in health
and almost ill, but quite content; and probably out of all those
who accompanied him he alone had no anxious forebodings. Again he
was to embark from Aiguesmortes. No definite plan for the
expedition had yet been decided upon. Should they go first to
Egypt, to Palestine, to Constantinople, or to Tunis? Were there
any means of transport on which they could rely? There had been
negotiations on the subject with the Venetians and the Genoese,
but nothing was definitely settled. It was a haphazard
expedition, in which men put their trust in Providence, and
forgot that Divine Providence does not dispense with human
foresight. Louis arrived at Aiguesmortes in the middle of May,
and found neither Crusaders nor vessels; all the preparations
were made slowly, imperfectly, and without order; every one
relied too much upon the King, who relied too much upon everyone.
At length, on the 2d of July, 1270, the expedition set sail, and
actually left Aiguesmortes before any person knew, or the King
had told any one, where it was going. Not until he reached
Sardinia, after four days' delay at Cagliari, did Louis declare
to the leaders of the crusade, who had assembled on board his
vessel the _Montjoie_, that he was on his way to Tunis,
where their Christian work was to begin.


On the 17th of July, the fleet arrived before Tunis; and the
admiral, Florent de Varennes, without orders from the King,
probably even in opposition to instructions which showed less
impatience, took immediate possession of the port and of some
Tunisian vessels, which offered no resistance. He sent word to
the King 'that it was only necessary to support him, and that the
disembarkation of the army could take place in perfect safety.'
War was thus commenced against the Mussulman prince who had so
recently been expected very shortly to become a Christian.
Fifteen days later, after several combats devoid of result
between the Crusaders and the army of Tunis, all this
improvidence, delay, and, to call things by their right name,
political and military incapacity, had rapidly brought its
inevitable consequences. The reinforcements which his brother
Charles, King of Sicily, had promised to Louis, had not arrived;
there was a lack of provisions; the intense heat of an African
summer caused a pestilence which spread so rapidly that before
long there was no time to bury the dead, they were thrown one on
the other into the trench which surrounded the camp, and before
long the whole camp was infected.

On the 3d of August Louis was attacked by the prevailing fever,
and was obliged to keep his bed within his tent. He asked news of
his son, Jean Tristan, Count of Nevers, who had fallen ill before
him, for he had not been told of the death of the young prince,
who had expired on board the vessel to which he had been carried
in the hope that the sea-air might be beneficial to him. Jean
Tristan and the Princess Isabella were the dearest of all his
children; Louis joined his hands when he heard of his death, and
sought some relief for his sorrow in silence and prayer.
He became rapidly worse, and sent for his son and successor,
Prince Philip, took from his Breviary the 'Instructions' which he
had written for him in French with his own hand, gave them to
him, and exhorted him to observe them scrupulously. He also asked
for his daughter Isabella. 'She had been adorned by the most
saintly demeanour from her very infancy, and in this the King had
taken great delight,' although she had refused to become a nun,
which he had wished. She fell weeping at the foot of his bed, and
he gave to her husband, Thibault, King of Navarre, some written
counsel which he had prepared for her; then he called her to his
side and gave into her own hands a paper, which he charged her to
deliver to her youngest sister, the Princess Agnes, wife of the
Duke of Burgundy. 'Most dear daughter,' he said, 'lay this to
heart; many persons go to bed full of vain and sinful thought,
and in the morning are found dead. The true way of loving God is
to love Him with our whole heart, and He well deserves our love,
for He first loved us.' He was too weak to say more.

On the 24th of August, after he had thus taken leave of his
children, he was informed that envoys from the Emperor Michael
Palseologus had landed at the Cape of Carthage; they were
commissioned by their master to beg for the intervention of the
King with his brother Charles, King of Sicily, to induce him to
refrain from making war on the recently reestablished empire of
Greece. Louis made a last effort to receive them in his tent in
the presence of some of the members of his council, who were most
uneasy at the fatigue he was undergoing.
'I promise you, if I live,' he said to the envoys, 'to do that
which the Emperor requires of me; meanwhile I exhort you to have
patience, and to be of good courage.'

This was his last political act and his final anxiety in the
affairs of this world; after this he was absorbed in pious
thought and prayer, in reveries concerning his own duties and
spiritual experiences, or those interests of Christianity which
had been so dear to him all his life. He repeated his usual
prayers in a low tone; he was heard to murmur, 'Grant us, we pray
Thee, O Lord, to despise for love of Thee the prosperity of this
world, and not to fear its reverses.' And also, 'O Lord God, have
mercy upon this people who remain here, and lead them back to
their own land. Let them not fall into the hands of their
enemies, and let them never be forced to deny Thy name.'

On the night of the 24th of August he started up several times in
his bed and called out, 'Jerusalem! Jerusalem! we will go to
Jerusalem!' At last he ceased to speak, although he showed that
he was in full possession of his faculties, and in sympathy with
and conscious of the friends who surrounded him, and the priests
who brought him religious consolation; by his desire he received
extreme unction at the foot of his bed, extended upon a coarse
sack covered with ashes, and with the cross before him. On
Monday, the 25th of August, 1270, about three o'clock in the
afternoon, he expired peacefully. His last words were, 'Father,
after the example of the Divine Master, into Thy hands I commit
my spirit.'


                   Chapter XV.

         Portrait Of St. Louis As The Ideal Man,
	 Christian, And King Of The Middle Ages.
    His Participation In The Two Great Errors Of His Time.

The world has seen more profound politicians on the throne,
greater generals, men of more mighty and brilliant intellect,
princes who have exercised a more powerful influence over later
generations and events subsequent to their own time; but it has
never seen such a king as this St. Louis, never seen a man
possessing sovereign power and yet not contracting the vices and
passions which attend it, displaying upon the throne in such a
high degree every human virtue purified and ennobled by Christian
faith. St. Louis did not give any new or permanent impulse to his
age; he did not strongly influence the nature or the development
of civilization in France; whilst he endeavoured to reform the
gravest abuses of the feudal system by the introduction of
justice and public order, he did not endeavour to abolish it
either by the substitution of a pure monarchy, or by setting
class against class in order to raise the royal authority high
above all. He was neither an egotist nor a scheming diplomatist;
he was, in all sincerity, in harmony with his age and sympathetic
alike with the faith, the institutions, the customs, and the
tastes of France in the thirteenth century.
And yet, both in the thirteenth century and in later times, St.
Louis stands apart as a man of profoundly original character, an
isolated figure without any peer among his contemporaries or his
successors; so far as it was possible in the Middle Ages, he was
an ideal man, king, and Christian.

It is reported that in the seventeenth century, during the
brilliant reign of Louis XIV. Montecuculli, on learning the death
of his illustrious rival, Turenne, said to his officers, 'A man
has died to-day who did honour to mankind.' St. Louis did honour
to France, to royalty, to humanity, and to Christianity. This was
the feeling of his contemporaries, and after six centuries it is
still confirmed by the judgment of the historian.

I have shown his sympathy with his age, and his superiority to
it; nevertheless he was not free from its great defects. St.
Louis was a Christian, and yet he did not recognise the rights of
conscience; he was a king, and by his blind infatuation for the
Crusades he imposed useless dangers, miseries, and sacrifices
upon his people for a fruitless enterprise. It is not my
intention to discuss here the leading idea and general influence
of the Crusades; originally they were without doubt the
spontaneous and universal impulse of Christian Europe towards a
noble, disinterested, and moral aim, worthy alike of men's
enthusiasm and their devotion. The attacks of Islamism had for a
long time compelled Christianity to occupy a defensive position,
which was both humiliating and full of peril, and the crusade was
an aggressive reaction.
As to results, I think that the Crusades have had many that are
valuable; and if we take a comprehensive view of events and
centuries, we shall see that they rather aided than impeded or
changed European civilization. But in the last half of the
thirteenth century all the good that they could do had been
accomplished, and they had lost that character of spontaneous and
general impulse which had been at once their strength and their
excuse; people of all classes were beginning to be doubtful and
tired of them; not only the Sire de Joinville, but many burgesses
and country people had ceased to be attracted by the enterprise
or to believe in its success. By his blind infatuation, St. Louis
did more than any other man of that period to incur the
responsibility of prolonging a movement which was more and more
inexpedient and ill-timed, because day by day it became less
spontaneous and more impossible of success.

On another subject, of even greater importance than the Crusades,
St. Louis was quite as much in error, although his personal
responsibility was less because he obeyed the prevailing and
emphatic belief of his time with a sincere conviction of its
truth. This was the employment of compulsion in matters of
religion, and the prohibition by the State of all opinions
condemned by the Church.

The war waged against religious liberty has been for many
centuries the great crime of Christian society, and the cause not
only of most grievous wrongs, but of all the most formidable
reactions to which Christianity has been exposed. We see the
culminating point of this most dangerous theory in the thirteenth
century, when it was enforced by legislation as well as upheld by
the Church.
The confused code which bears the name of 'Etablissements' or
Statutes of St. Louis, and which contains many ordinances
belonging to periods both preceding and subsequent to his reign,
explicitly condemns to death all heretics, and commands the civil
governors to carry out the sentence of the bishops on this point.
St. Louis himself asked Pope Alexander IV., in 1255, to extend
the Inquisition (which was already established in the ancient
domains of the Counts of Toulouse on account of the Albigenses)
to the whole kingdom and to place the power which it gave in the
hands of the Franciscans and Dominicans. It is true that the
bishops were to be consulted before the inquisitors could condemn
a heretic to death, but this was more an act of courtesy to the
episcopacy than an effectual guarantee for the liberty of the
subject; indeed, with the feelings entertained by St. Louis on
this subject, liberty, or to speak more correctly, the merest
shadow of justice, had reason to hope for more from the church
than from the throne.

The extreme rigour of St. Louis against what he called 'that vile
oath,' blasphemy (a crime which is indefinite enough except in
name), gives perhaps the most striking indication of the state of
people's minds, and especially of the King's mind on this
subject. Every blasphemer was branded on the lips with a red hot
iron. 'One day the King caused a burgess of Paris to be branded
in this manner. Violent murmurs arose in the city, and reached
the King's ears. He answered by declaring that he would consent
to be branded on his own lips and to keep the disgrace of the
mark all his life, if only the vice of blasphemy could be
banished from his kingdom.'
Some time afterwards, when he was executing a work of great
public utility, he received numerous expressions of gratitude
from the owners of property in Paris. 'I expect a greater
recompense from the Lord,' he said, 'for the maledictions which I
received after branding that blasphemer, than for the
benedictions which I now receive on account of this act of public

Of all human errors, the most popular are the most dangerous, for
they are the most contagious, and those from which the noblest
natures find it most difficult to keep themselves free. It is
impossible to observe without alarm the aberrations of reason and
moral rectitude into which men who were in other respects
enlightened and virtuous have been dragged by the leading ideas
of their generation. And this alarm is very greatly increased
when we discover what iniquity, what suffering, what public and
private calamity have been the result of deviations from right
which were tolerated by the noblest spirits of the age. On the
question of religious liberty, St. Louis is a striking example of
the degree to which an upright judgment and scrupulous conscience
may be led astray if it falls under the dominion of a popular
feeling or idea. In all times of great intellectual fermentation
he stands as a solemn warning to those men who prize independence
of thought as well as of action, and to whom nothing is so dear
as justice and truth.

  [Footnote 53: Not marked in text; probably related to the
  quotation 'I expect a greater recompense ...': Faure, vol. ii.
  p. 300; Joinville, chap, cxxxviii.]


                   John Calvin.

        Born At Noyon, _July_ 10, 1509.
        Died At Geneva, _May_ 27, 1564.

                   Chapter I.

   Final Judgment On Great Men And Great Events Must Be
   Reserved For Future Generations.
   Characteristics Of The Religious Reform
   Of The Sixteenth Century.

Great events and great men impose a difficult and painful task
upon those who wish to understand them thoroughly, and to
appreciate their worth. They form the stage upon which all the
difficult and striking complications of good and evil, truth and
error, virtue and vice, noble and base passions, valuable results
and fatal consequences are displayed. They represent the noble
impulses and also the disastrous failures, the grandeur, but at
the same time the imperfection of human nature and human destiny;
and we cannot, therefore, contemplate them without sadness and


In modern times, the French Revolution as an event, and the
Emperor Napoleon I. as a man, have furnished and continue to
furnish us with the absorbing interest of watching such a drama.
I say, 'continue to furnish,' for, clearly, so far as either the
French revolution or Napoleon is concerned, the drama is not
ended, the final catastrophe of the plot is not yet known. In the
great stream of events it is the final issue which decides as to
the value of the source. There is a reckoning to be held with all
great events and all great men,--a balance to be struck between
what they have cost humanity, and that for which humanity is
indebted to them; but this final account is not closed until
late. Is there any one in the present day, who, even with a full
knowledge of events, would venture to pass a final judgment on
the French revolution and the Emperor Napoleon? Is there any one
who could apportion their due share of esteem and reprobation to
the great fact and the great man of this century, and whose
judgment would be received with general and lasting assent? Could
any one decide without hesitation to what extent their influence
has been for good or for evil?

The answer to this question is in the hands of the generations to
come. It is our successors who determine by a final analysis the
good and evil in the works of their precursors; in this they will
be guided by the impressions which they themselves receive from
these actions, as well as by the principles and examples which
have been bequeathed to them. One after the other the generations
are called upon to take up their inheritance; one after the other
they enter into their work, guided by their own light, their own
liberty, and their own responsibility. It is for them to
distinguish truth from falsehood, justice from injustice, that
which is useful from that which is injurious, the practicable
from the chimerical, and, according to right and reason, to
accept or reject or modify the decisions and actions of their
It is only after these prolonged investigations by the
intelligence and experience of mankind that the true worth of
great events and great men can be determined, and history can
pass sentence upon their claims to the gratitude or censure of
the human race.

I do not intend, from any considerations of prudence, to take
refuge in this obscurity of the future, or to keep back my
thoughts and observe silence as to my hopes and fears. In one of
the brightest moments of our epoch, forty years ago, when I
recommenced my course of lectures on Modern History at the
Sorbonne, I expressed my conviction that the youthful generation
to which I addressed myself might, without too much
self-confidence, use the words which Homer attributes to
Sthenelus:--'We thank Heaven that we are better than our

In recent meditations on the union of Christianity and Liberty,
and the difficulties which our recollections of the French
revolution seem to oppose to the realization of this union, I
said, 'Severity is necessary, but justice is due to different
periods and to a different state of society. We have learnt as
much morality and reason within the last century as we have
forgotten, as much and more. Society in France has attained its
actual condition by efforts more or less apparent and more or
less rapid, but efforts which have never been altogether
suspended, in spite of many interruptions and great vicissitudes.
France has freed herself in turns from the feudal system, from
the selfish ambitions and claims of the great nobles, from the
predominance of court influence, and from the despotism,
improvidence, and extravagance of absolute power.
She has desired national unity, civil equality, and political
liberty from the earliest period of her existence. All her great
politicians, and the whole nation, in its unconscious but
irresistible tendency, have aimed at and desired the same ends.
The revolution of 1789 was the most violent and serious explosion
of this unceasing national effort. Was it a fatal termination or
a fruitful crisis? France then thought that she obtained a great
victory, not only for herself, but for all humanity. Did she
deceive herself? Have we walked for so many centuries in a good
or an evil path, towards success or deception? Are we still
making progress, or has our decline already commenced? Many
eminent and honest thinkers hold very different opinions on this
subject, and some of them utter dark and alarming prophecies,
whilst others continue to chant songs of triumph.

'I have some right to say that no one has felt the crimes,
faults, errors, and follies of word and deed which blazed out in
the French revolution, more keenly than I have done. I have never
hesitated to express what I thought of them; and my frankness on
this subject may perhaps explain the heat of some of the
controversies which I have had to sustain in my political career;
my views irritated the prejudices and wounded the self-love of
very many. I retract nothing,--neither sentiments nor language,--
on that sad phase of our contemporary history.' [Footnote 54]

    [Footnote 54: _Meditations sur la Religion chrétienne dans
    ses Rapports avee l'État actuel des Sociétés et des
    Esprits_, 1868, pp. 15-18.]


But, in spite of the many bitter recollections and painful
mistakes of that time, I still retain my confidence that this age
and my country have more to hope than to fear from the criticism
of the future, and that the beneficial results of the French
revolution, both for France and the whole world, will far exceed
the errors into which it was the means of plunging them and the
evils it has inflicted. I am not however at all astonished at the
uncertainty and doubt to which this prolonged crisis has given
rise; error and evil are still so prominent that the final issue
cannot but appear uncertain; and the perils of the good cause
--the cause of liberty, morality, and good sense--are still so
great that it is impossible to look upon the question as decided,
and to rest with confidence in the prospect of future success.

The religious reform which was the revolution of the sixteenth
century has already been submitted to the test of time, and of
great social and intellectual perils. It brought with it much
suffering to the human race, it gave rise to great errors and
great crimes, and was developed amidst cruel wars and the most
deplorable troubles and disturbances. These facts, which we learn
both from its partisans and opponents, cannot be contested, and
they form the account which history lays to the charge of the
event. But as the Roman Cornelia could point to her sons, so,
after three centuries of trial, the Reformation of the sixteenth
century can show the nations among which it has prevailed, and
which have been formed under its influence--England, Holland,
North Germany, the Scandinavian States, the United States of
America--calling attention to their moral and social condition,
their attitude with regard to reverence for right and reason, and
their position so far as success and worldly prosperity are
These, also, are well-known and definite facts. I do not hesitate
to affirm that the revolution of the sixteenth century has
nothing to fear from the investigations of the nineteenth: the
children are an honour to their mother.

There are many different causes for the general and final success
of this movement, but I wish now to point to only one of them.
The Reformation of the sixteenth century was essentially and from
the very first a religious reform; politics occupied a secondary
position; they were necessary means, but not its chief aim. It
was begun in the name of Christianity and from an impulse given
by religion; liberty was only called in as a weapon to help
faith. The strength of the movement was derived from its
influence on the inner life of the soul, for both leaders and
followers were much more engrossed by the future and eternal
state of man than by his temporal condition. The reform of the
sixteenth century embraced the whole man and his destiny: first
his moral state in himself and before God, then his social
condition among his fellows. This is the peculiar and great
characteristic of the movement, the principal source of the good
which it has done, and we must therefore place it by the side of
the price which it has cost.

According to the decree of history and the verdict of Bossuet,
two men, Luther and Calvin, were the most mighty in their
influence and the truest representatives of that great movement
and of that period.
Luther marched at the head of German religious reform; Calvin
took the lead in France. Both these men were at the same time
successful innovators, profound theologians, clever politicians,
eloquent orators, and great writers. Both were exposed to many
attacks and much persecution; both gained great admiration and
devotion; and they both struggled greatly, suffered greatly, and
greatly triumphed. Not one of the conditions which give a man
power in his lifetime, and make his name great in history, was
wanting to either of them. They bore, during their lifetime, the
whole weight of responsibility which is attached to power and
greatness, and for three centuries history has connected it with
their names.

The time has come, I think, when we ought to understand them
aright, and appreciate them justly, and I wish to make this
possible as regards Calvin. It is no part of my design to recount
his whole history, and to follow him step by step throughout his
stormy career. It is the man himself, the moral and intellectual
being, his own thoughts and his own desires, that I wish to study
and to depict.


                   Chapter II.

        Birth And Parentage Of Calvin.
        His Brother Charles.
        Education Of Calvin.
        His Choice Of A Career.

John Calvin was born at Noyon in Picardy, on the 10th of July,
1509. He belonged to a family which had originally consisted of
simple mechanics, and had only just entered the rank of
burgesses. His grandfather was a cooper at Pont-l'Evêque in
Normandy; his father, Gerard Chauvin or Cauvin, settled, at some
time and from some motives now unknown, at Noyon, where he was a
notary in the ecclesiastical court and secretary to the bishop,
Charles de Hangest, who treated him with kindness. No ambition is
more disinterested than that of a father, but it is none the less
keen, and the desire of Gerard Cauvin's heart was that his
children should continue to climb the social ladder, of which he
was already standing on the first step. At that time the Church
offered an opening to all, and a means by which the very lowest
might possibly rise very high. The pious wishes of Jeanne
Lefranc, wife of Gerard Cauvin, were in harmony with the more
worldly desires of her husband: they devoted their two eldest
sons, Charles and John Calvin, to the Church.


The great difference in the life and character of these two young
men, who followed the same path from the very first, is a sign of
the times and of the opposing currents which influenced society.

The elder of the two brothers, Charles Calvin, became a priest,
and died in 1536, one of the chaplains of St. Mary's church at
Noyon; 'but,' an almost contemporary chronicler says, 'he was
easily led astray by the errors which abounded in those-days, for
he loved the path of liberty, and despised the Church. He uttered
blasphemous opinions concerning the sacraments. In spite of many
remonstrances he remained shameless, like a man plunged into the
depths of iniquity, and persisted in his faults. In 1534 the
chapter found it necessary to lament for him as a hopeless and
lost soul. He showed himself reprobate in everything, and took
care to manifest his indifference to the remedies offered to him
for the salvation of his soul. He lifted himself up against God
himself, and blasphemed the holy sacrament of the altar. At
length, in 1536, he was very ill, and as he had forsaken God, so
also at his deathbed did God abandon him as a lost soul. He
refused to receive the holy sacraments; on which occasion his
body was placed between the four pillars of a gibbet in the place
of execution at Noyon.'

One of the modern biographers of John Calvin has concluded from
these facts that Charles died a Protestant; but this is a great
mistake. Evidently Charles Calvin lived and died a dissolute man
and an unbeliever, and at the same time remained chaplain of the
Catholic Church in his native town. The sixteenth century abounds
in similar instances.


At this very time, from 1534 to 1536, whilst Charles was leading
a licentious life and dying miserably at Noyon, John left his
native land in order that he might openly profess and promulgate
his austere faith. At Basle he published the first edition of his
'Institutes of the Christian Religion,' the most solid body of
doctrine which the reformed Church possesses. After having
wandered for some months in Italy to make proselytes, he
established himself at Geneva, in order to organize both the
reformed Church and reformed society, and to carry on that fierce
struggle with libertines and sceptics in which his life was so
rapidly consumed.

The family of the Calvins presents a true picture of the period;
in the sixteenth century the same thing was going on everywhere,
unbelievers and fervent Christians, libertines and men of the
most austere lives, were springing up and living side by side.
Two contrary winds were blowing over Europe at that period, one
carrying with it scepticism and licentiousness, while the other
breathed only Christian faith and the severest morality. One of
these arose chiefly from the revival of the ancient literature
and philosophy of Greece and Rome; the other sprang from the
struggles made in the Church itself and in its Councils to arrive
at a reform which was at the same time greatly desired and
fiercely opposed.

These two impulses and these two paths give a special character
to the whole of the sixteenth century. It was at the same time
the fascinated worshipper of pagan antiquity and the fervent
apostle of Christian reform; it was full of impulse and of doubt,
of unbridled licence and of rigorous puritanism, fruitful alike
in learned sceptics and pious reformers, bold in making use of
the fact of liberty without admitting it in principle; it was, in
short, the age which produced Erasmus and Luther in Germany, and
Montaigne and Calvin in France.


The education of Calvin bore the impress of this fluctuation
between opposing tendencies and temptations. He was brought up at
first by the liberality of the Church, and for its service; at
the age of twelve he was nominated to a chapel at Noyon, called
the chapel of La Gésine, and went to Paris from 1523 to 1527, to
study classics and philosophy in the colleges of La Marche and
Montaigu, where he obtained well-deserved distinction by his zeal
and assiduity. 'He spoke little,' says a chronicle, 'and only on
serious and weighty matters; he was not given to much company,
but spent his time alone.' His seriousness, and possibly his
severity, had already impressed his fellow-students, who
nicknamed him 'The Accusative Case.' The report of his success
reached Noyon, and procured for him the post of curé at
Marteville, and two years after at Pont-l'Evêque, although he had
only received the tonsure, and never took any further steps
towards becoming a priest. He himself says that he was 'at that
time more attached than any one to the Papal superstitions,' and
he scrupulously fulfilled the duties of his position. He
sometimes preached at Pont-l'Evéque, to which place he was very
glad to have been appointed; 'joyous and proud,' according to one
of his biographers, 'that a single essay should have made him a


The native place of his family seems to have cherished all
recollections connected with Calvin. Thirty years after his
death, Cardinal Alexander de Medicis, legate of Pope Clement
VIII., and at a later period himself pope under the title of Leo
XI., was on his way to Vervins, to assist in framing the treaty
between France and Spain; he passed near Pont-l'Evêque, and there
stopped his whole retinue, 'got down from his litter, and went on
foot to see the cottage in which he had been told that John
Calvin was born.'

Calvin did not long follow the course prescribed by the Church.
'My father,' he says, 'saw that the study of the law generally
enriched those who pursued it, and this hope made him suddenly
change his mind with regard to me. And thus it happened that
being withdrawn from the study of philosophy in order to learn
the law, I compelled myself to work faithfully, so as to obey my
father's will. But, all the while, God in his secret providence
made me finally turn my head in another direction.'


                   Chapter III.

     Calvin The Law Student, At Orleans And Bourges.
     Calvin The Reformer, In Paris.

I am inclined to think that his father's will was not the only,
and possibly not even the principal, guiding motive in Calvin's
resolution. From the age of fourteen, when he began his studies
in the college of La Marche, at Paris, he had been a pupil of the
learned professor Mathurin Cordier, or Corderius, who was
afterwards placed by him at the head of the College of Geneva.
Robert Olivétan, afterwards one of the translators of the Bible,
was a fellow-countryman and relative of whom he saw much when he
was at Noyon. These two men were well acquainted with the labours
of Luther, and were themselves following the current of the new
ideas; and, doubtless, if they had not attracted Calvin towards
these ideas, they had at least prepared him to receive them. Be
that, however, as it may, in accordance with his father's wish
and his own inclination, he abandoned the Church in 1529, and
went first to Orleans and then to Bourges to study law. At these
two universities there were celebrated professors who taught, not
only jurisprudence, but the various branches of history,
philosophy and philology, which are cognate to that science.
Calvin met there Pierre de l'Estoile, Petrus Stella, a learned
and subtle jurist, who was afterwards President of the Court of
Inquiries in the 'Parlement' of Paris; Alciati of Milan, who had
been appointed by Francis I. as the most learned doctor of the
time in Roman law, and also as one of the most elegant scholars
in ancient literature; and Melchior Wolmar, the German, a learned
Greek scholar, who read Homer and Demosthenes with his pupils,
and who also read with them--but not quite so openly--the Bible.
From the earliest times the French jurists had been adversaries,
rather than partisans, of the Romish Church, and after the
revival of pagan literature the more learned among them
frequently prided themselves upon displaying great independence
and freedom of thought. The three professors of Orleans and
Bourges became the revered masters of Calvin, and Calvin was the
favourite pupil of his masters. But he was not long a pupil. 'He
profited so greatly in so short a time,' says Beza, 'that he was
not considered as a student, but as one of the learned doctors,'
and he was often called upon to take the place of his masters in
the professorial chair. But neither law nor learning, nor any of
the sciences taught by these professors, could satisfy Calvin's
soul or his intellect. In speaking of himself at this time, he
says:--'My conscience was very far from being in a condition of
certain peace. Every time that I looked down into myself or
lifted my heart up to God, such a supreme horror took possession
of me that there was no purification or expiation which could
have cured me; and the more closely I considered my own nature,
so much the more was my conscience goaded with fierce stings, so
that there remained no other comfort except to deceive myself by
forgetting myself.
But God, who took pity upon me, conquered my heart and subdued it
to docility by a sudden conversion. ... Having then received some
taste and knowledge of true piety, so great a desire was
incontinently kindled in me to profit by it, that although I did
not entirely renounce all other studies, yet I paid but little
attention to them. ... Before the year was at an end, all those
who were yearning for the true doctrine began to look towards me
as a teacher, although I myself had only just begun to learn. ...
Being of a shy and solitary nature, I have always loved
retirement and tranquillity; I began therefore to seek out some
hiding-place, and some means of withdrawing myself from my
fellows; but, so far from attaining my desire, it seemed, on the
contrary, as if every retreat I chose in a remote spot was at
once converted into a public school. In short, although it has
always been my chief desire to live in private without being
known, yet God has led me hither and thither, and turned me in so
many directions by different changes, that he never left me at
peace in any place, until, in spite of my own desires, he made me
come forward, and brought me into public life.'

All uncertainty had disappeared and anxiety for himself had been
removed; Calvin recognised his mission and entered on his
vocation with great ardour.
In 1531 or 1532, after three years of study he gave up the law,
as he had given up the Established Church; he left Bourges,
returned to Noyon, resigned his curé at Pont-l'Evêque and his
chapel of LaGésine in 1534, sold the small property he inherited
on the death of his father, and thenceforward devoted himself
entirely to the work of religious reform; a reform which was then
in its infancy, and was fiercely opposed. No resolve was ever
taken more spontaneously, more conscientiously, or involved a
more full and free self-sacrifice and such singleness of aim in
the desire to serve, at all costs, the cause which he looked upon
as the cause of the highest truth and the law of God.

He took up his abode at Paris with Etienne de la Forge, a wealthy
merchant, and an ardent partisan of the Reformation, 'whose
memory,' says Calvin, 'ought to be venerated by the faithful as
that of a martyred saint of Christ.' He was, in fact, burnt at
the stake a few years later. At his house the faithful reformers,
who were already fiercely persecuted, were in the habit of
meeting in secret. Calvin frequently addressed these meetings; he
spoke with a confidence which carried conviction to his hearers,
and almost always ended his discourses with the words: 'If God be
for us, who can be against us?' His indefatigable activity and
already wide-spread influence soon attracted the attention of
enemies as well as friends. 'In the midst of his books and
studies, he was,' says Etienne Pasquier, 'of such a restless
nature, that he must still be doing the very utmost to promote
the advancement of his sect. Our prisons were sometimes crowded
with poor misguided men, whom he exhorted, consoled, and
strengthened unceasingly by his letters; he never failed to find
messengers to whom the prison doors were open in spite of all the
efforts of the jailers to keep them out. This was his method of
proceeding at first, and it was by such means that little by
little he won over part of our France.'


Nevertheless, Calvin still remembered that not long previously he
had himself been a Catholic, and at this time he showed a
consideration for the institutions and members of his ancient
Church, and a moderation both of judgment and language, which
gave way, only too soon, to violence and invective. On the 29th
of June, 1531, he wrote from Paris to Francis Daniel, one of his
fellow-students at Orleans, as follows:--

  'I went to the monastery on Sunday to see the nuns, and,
  according to your wish, to fix the day on which your sister
  should take the vows. They informed me that, at a meeting held
  by the sisters, in accordance with a solemn custom, she and
  some of her companions had been already authorized to take the
  vows. I sounded your sister's heart, that I might learn if she
  accepted this yoke meekly, and if her neck had not been broken
  rather than bent to it. I exhorted her to confide freely in me
  all that was passing in her soul. I have never seen any one
  more ready and resolute, and it would be impossible to
  accomplish her desire too soon. Every time that she heard her
  vow spoken of one would have said that she was playing with
  dolls. It was no part of my mission to try and turn her aside
  from this feeling, but I urged her in a few words not to go
  beyond her strength, not to expect anything rashly from
  herself, but to place her whole trust in God, in whom we live
  and move and have our being.'


A few years later Calvin would not have undertaken such a
mission; or, if he had, he would not have acquitted himself with
so much delicacy and reserve. His first published work was an
appeal for mercy--or, to use the language of the eighteenth
century, for toleration--on behalf of the reformers, who were
persecuted, banished, imprisoned, and led to the stake. He put
forth his protest humbly, in the shape of a commentary on
Seneca's treatise, 'De Clementia' (On Mercy); so humbly that many
of his biographers, and among others the new editors of his
complete works, have considered that he did not intend to defend
the persecuted reformers, and that his commentary on Seneca's
treatise was simply the work of a moral philosopher and a
philologist. It is true that Calvin does not once speak of the
reformers and the hardships which they endured, throughout the
work; he does not make a single allusion to them which can be
laid hold of. Still, I am not the less convinced that, by this
publication, he hoped to serve the cause of his brethren, and
that, if reform had been triumphant and powerful, his commentary
on Seneca's treatise would never have appeared. The very title of
the book, and the circumstances under which it was published, are
much stronger proofs in favour of this assertion than the doubts
concerning it, which would arise from Calvin's reserve of
language. The dedication of the work to Charles de Hangest, the
Bishop of Noyon, his former patron, confirms me in this opinion.
So long as prudence was possible, Calvin was prudent, and anxious
to conciliate the established authorities. Very respectfully he
placed a eulogy of clemency under the eyes of a Catholic prelate
whom he knew to be well-disposed towards himself, and who would,
as he hoped, use his valuable influence on behalf of the
proscribed reformers.


The Bishop of Noyon was not the only person of whom Calvin
thought and to whom he spoke at this time with an almost
affectionate deference. On the 4th of April, 1532, he wrote to
Erasmus, to whom he sent his book, and reminded him in the most
flattering terms of his own recent labours on the works of
Seneca, addressing him as 'the honour and the chief delight of
the world of letters.' He did not then foresee that three years
later, when his friend Bucer introduced him to Erasmus at Basle,
after talking to him for some little time, Erasmus would say to
Bucer, in a low tone, 'I see rising up within the Church a great
scourge against the Church.'

At the same time that Calvin was anxious to conciliate persons of
importance he took great pains to secure publicity and success
for his book. On the 22d April, 1532, he wrote to his friend
Francis Daniel, at Orleans, 'The die is cast: my commentaries on
Seneca's treatise "De CLementia" have appeared; but they are
printed at my own expense and have cost me more money than you
will believe. I am now trying to gather a little of it in again.
If you wish to help me in that way I will send you a hundred
copies, or as many as you think it well to take. Meanwhile accept
the copy which I send you, and do not think that I impose any law
upon you in this matter, for I wish you to feel perfectly free in
all your dealings with me.'


Calvin was not slow in recognising that in the presence of
questions and passions which agitated men's minds more violently
from day to day, prudence and conciliation were of very little
use, and that, whether for defence or attack, it was necessary to
have recourse to more powerful weapons. He was one of those who
do not rush to the fore-front of every struggle, but who, at the
same time, will not make any sacrifice of their own belief or
opinion to avoid a contest, and who enter into it heart and soul
when once it becomes inevitable. Before long an incident occurred
which gave rise to this necessity. Calvin was very intimate with
Nicholas Cop, rector of the University of Paris, who in virtue of
his position was to deliver a discourse on All Saints' day, in
1533, at the church of the Mathurins. Calvin offered to compose
the sermon, and 'constructed a very different kind of oration,'
says Beza, 'from the ordinary one, for he spoke of religious
matters with great freedom, and in a liberal tone of which the
Sorbonne and the "Parlement" did not at all approve; so much so
that the "Parlement" sent to seek Nicholas Cop, and he set out to
go to them with his attendants; being warned, however, that they
intended to imprison him, he did not go to the palace, but turned
back and fled from the kingdom, going to Basle, the native place
of his father, William Cop, physician to the king, and a man of
great renown.' [Footnote 55] Calvin also was accused, and Jean
Morin, the judge in criminal causes, went to his rooms and
examined all his papers, with the intention of arresting him.
Calvin had been warned, however; he 'escaped by the window, took
refuge in the Faubourg St. Victor, at the dwelling of a
vine-dresser, changed his clothes,' and left Paris, scarcely
knowing whither he was going.

    [Footnote 55: Beza, _Histoire des Églises réformées de
    France_, vol. i. p. 14, and _Histoire de la Vie et de la
    Mort de Calvin_, 1657, p. 14.]


                   Chapter IV.

                Calvin A Fugitive.
     Persecution Of The Protestants In Paris.

For more than a year Calvin led a wandering and unsettled life;
he took refuge first of all at the Château d'Hazeville, near
Mantes; next at Angoulême, with the canon Louis du Tillet, who
cautiously befriended religious reform; and then at Nérac, where
Margaret of Valois, Queen of Navarre and sister of Francis I.,
held her court, and offered a welcome asylum to all more or less
openly avowed reformers. Calvin met there the learned Le Fèvre
d'Etaples, or Faber Stapulensis, at that time an old man, and one
of the first who had sown the seeds of the Reformation in France.
Thanks to the friendship which the bishop, William Briçonnet,
entertained for him, he had begun the good work in the diocese of
Meaux, but had not dared to carry it on, or to call it by its
true name. Twelve years previously, one of the boldest and most
ardent reformers, William Farel, had been staying with him at
Meaux, and one day Le Fèvre said to him, with a burst of
prophetic conviction: 'My dear William, God will renew the face
of the earth, and you will see it, even you.' When he saw Calvin
at Nérac in 1533, he often conversed with him, and had a
presentiment of his destiny; he 'looked at this young man with a
favourable eye,' says Beza, 'as if he foresaw that he would be
the author of the restoration of the Church of France.'


Another guest, who was also Queen Margaret's chaplain at Nérac,
Gérard Roussel, had much conversation with Calvin, and
endeavoured to persuade him that it was necessary 'to purify the
house of God, but not to destroy it.' But Calvin had already
abandoned that notion; and subsequent events, as well as
reflection, confirmed him more and more in the belief that any
such attempt would be fruitless.

Whilst he was thus wandering from one place of refuge to another,
sheltered by sincere but timorous friends, the contest on both
sides and the passions of both parties were becoming daily more
and more violent. Charles V. had just granted some concessions to
the German Protestants; Francis I. became, in consequence, more
hostile to the Protestants of France, in the hope of thereby
winning over the recently elected Pope, Paul III. The excesses of
the Anabaptists, and their outburst at Munster in 1534, had given
rise to great irritation and alarm at the new doctrines and their
abettors; and these feelings, although they were strongest in the
Catholic governments, were yet general in all. A very rash and
indiscreet manifestation on the part of certain French
Protestants furnished their enemies with new weapons, by means of
which they influenced both the king and the public. Violent
placards against the mass and the doctrine of transubstantiation
were printed at Neufchâtel, in Switzerland, and in October, 1534,
were posted up by night at all the crossways in Paris, and were
even affixed to the chamber-door of Francis I. in the castle of
The king's anger knew no bounds: he determined to make the most
ample reparation to the Catholic faith, and at the same time to
give a terrible lesson to Protestant audacity. On the 21st of
January, 1535, a solemn procession left the church of St. Germain
l'Auxerrois; John du Bellay, Bishop of Paris, bore the sacred
elements in his hands, whilst the three royal princes of France
and the Duke de Vendôme walked on either side, and held the
canopy over him; the king followed with a lighted torch in his
hand, walking between the Cardinals de Bourbon and de Lorraine.
At every oratory which they passed, the king gave his torch to
the Cardinal de Lorraine, and then joining his hands, he humbly
prostrated himself and implored the forgiveness of God for his
people. When the procession was ended, the king stayed to dinner
with John du Bellay, and there was afterwards a meeting of the
leading members of all the religious orders. The king took his
seat upon a kind of throne which had been erected for him. From
thence he uttered a discourse which breathed sorrow for his
realm, and curses on the authors of an outrage against the faith
and the Church. He ended by saying, 'Whatever progress this
contagion may have made already, the remedy is still easy, if all
of you are animated by the same zeal which is felt by me--if you
forget the ties of flesh and blood, remember only that you are
Christians, and denounce without pity all those who are partisans
or abettors of this heresy. As for me, if my right arm was
gangrened, I would cut off my right arm; and if my sons who now
hear me were to suffer so great a calamity as to fall into these
cursed and detestable opinions, I would give them up, and offer
them as a sacrifice to God.' [Footnote 56] At these words the
Constable de Montmorency [Footnote 57] said to the king, 'Sire,
you must begin with your sister.' 'Oh, as for her,' answered the
king, 'she loves me so well that she will never believe anything
except what I wish.'

    [Footnote 56: Garnier, continuateur de Vellay et Villaret,
    _Histoire de France_, vol. xxiv. pp. 536-540.]

    [Footnote 57: He was not made Constable of France until


On the 29th of January an edict was promulgated which condemned
those who harboured heretics, 'Lutherans and others,' to the same
penalties as 'the heretics aforesaid,' unless they gave up their
guests to justice. An accuser received one-fourth of the victim's
goods which were confiscated. A few days before this, on the 13th
of January, 1535, Francis I. signed an edict which was still more
extraordinary as the work of a king who was a patron of
literature: he decreed the abolition of printing because it was
the means of propagating heresy, and forbade the printing of any
book on pain of death. Six weeks later, however, on the 26th of
February, the king was ashamed of such a decree, and delayed its
execution indefinitely. [Footnote 58 ]

    [Footnote 58: Garnier, _Histoire de France_, vol. xxiv.
    p. 140. Henri Martin, _Histoire de France_, vol. viii.
    p. 223.]

These edicts were preceded and accompanied by numerous
punishments. 'The Journal of a Citizen of Paris,' the writer of
which was a Catholic of the period, enumerates with a certain
satisfaction twenty-four heretics burnt alive in Paris between
the 10th of November, 1534, and the 3rd of May, 1535, without
taking into account many who were condemned to less cruel
The trials were now conducted with great rapidity. The judge of
criminal causes in the Court of the Châtelet, passed summary
judgment, and the 'Parlement' confirmed his sentence. At first
the victims had been strangled before they were burnt, but before
long they were burnt alive, in accordance with the custom of the
Spanish Inquisition. Even this was not enough, and those who were
condemned to die were suspended by iron chains to a kind of
seesaw, which 'swung them high into the air and then lowered
them' into the fire until at length the executioner cut the rope
and the victim fell into the flames. The records of these trials
were burnt together with the victims, in order that the reformers
might not be able to obtain any reliable account of their

Some Protestant historians, both ancient and modern, have
asserted that Francis I. was present on several occasions at
these horrible spectacles, and they have specially named as one
of them the 21st of January, 1535. Not one of the principal
contemporary chronicles, either Catholic or Protestant, confirms
this imputation; [Footnote 59] we find no mention of it in the
'Journal du Bourgeois de Paris,' nor in Beza, nor in Jean
Crespin, the compiler of 'The Book of Martyrs from John Huss to
those of the year 1534.' Florimond de Ræmond, a chronicler of the
sixteenth century, who was for a short time a Protestant, but
very speedily returned to the Catholic faith, and in 1572 was
counsellor to the 'Parlement' of Bordeaux, asserts that the sight
of these tortures was far from producing that satisfaction and
approbation in the public mind which was expected from them.

    [Footnote 59: I think M. Michelet and M. Henri Martin were
    right in rejecting it.]


'Everywhere,' he says, 'the fires were lighted; and although on
the one hand the justice and severity of the laws restrained not
a few and kept them to their duty, yet on the other hand the
stubborn resolution of those who were dragged to execution
greatly astonished many. For they saw simple, silly women seeking
fierce torments in order to make trial of their faith, and going
to their death singing psalms, and with no other cry than
_Christ, the Saviour;_ young maidens walking more gaily to
the place of torture than they would have done to the nuptial
couch; men rejoicing when they saw the terrible implements and
preparations for death, and although half-burnt and roasted, yet
immoveable as rocks when the waves of torture dashed over them.
These sad and incessant sights excited some disquietude not only
in the minds of simple folk, but among those of the higher
classes, for they could not persuade themselves that these people
had not reason on their side, since they maintained their
opinions with so much resolution and at the cost of life. Others
had compassion upon them, were grieved to see them so persecuted,
and when they beheld the remains of those sufferers, their
blackened corpses hanging in vile chains in the public streets,
they could not restrain their tears; nay, their very hearts wept
as well as their eyes.'

It was in the presence of such facts as these, and under the
influence of the horror and terror with which they inspired the
reformers, that Calvin resolved to leave his own country and to
seek elsewhere safety, liberty, and the possibility of defending
a cause which had become all the dearer to him because it was so
cruelly persecuted.
He was too shrewd not to perceive that he must quickly exhaust
the different asylums open to him: Queen Margaret did not wish to
go too far in opposition to the king her brother; the canon Louis
du Tillet was half afraid that his fine library might be
compromised through the use made of it by his guest, who was
expounding and preaching in the neighbourhood of Angoulême;
Gérard Roussel, the Queen's chaplain, thought Calvin was going
too far, and was afraid that if the Reformation succeeded
completely, the bishopric of Oléron, which he wanted and at a
later period obtained, would be suppressed; Le Fèvre d'Etaples,
who had more sympathy with Calvin than any of the others, was
seventy-nine years old, and desired that his days might end in

Calvin left Angoulême and Nérac, and stayed for a time at
Poitiers, where the friends of religious reform who gathered
round him, eager for his words, celebrated for the first time the
Lord's Supper according to the evangelical rites, in a cave near
the town, which is called to this day Calvin's Cave. He was soon
compelled to leave Poitiers, and went to Orleans and thence
secretly to Paris, where he saw a man whose name was one day to
spread a dark stain over his own, the Spaniard, Michael Servetus,
a guilty heretic in his eyes. Calvin offered to meet him at a
conference, and discuss with him the doctrine of the Trinity,
which the Spaniard had just then openly attacked. Servetus
accepted the challenge, but did not appear when the appointed
time arrived. Possibly some angry scorn lingered in Calvin's
heart, who left Paris and went to Noyon, to take final leave of
his family. At length he set out for Strasburg, already one of
the strongholds of the Reformation, where he had many
friends--among others, the learned Bucer, with whom he had been
in constant correspondence.
He arrived there probably about the beginning of the year 1535;
but he did not settle at Strasburg; he preferred Basle, the place
where men of letters, scholars, theologians, and celebrated
printers were to be found--Erasmus, Simon Grynæus, and Froben--
and where he hoped to find the leisure which he needed in order
to produce the great work which he had projected, his "Institutes
of the Christian Religion."


                   Chapter V.

             Calvin The Theologian.

The production of the 'Institutes' was by no means the most
difficult or meritorious act of Calvin's life, for a man's
superiority and force of character are not manifested in the
labour of solitary thought, but in the contests of public and
practical life. Geneva was the stage on which we can best see how
Calvin comported himself as a man; but the 'Institutes of the
Christian Religion' were, and are still, the noblest monument of
the greatness of mind and originality of idea which distinguished
him in his own century. More than that, I believe this book to be
the most valuable and enduring of all his labours; for those
churches which are specially known as the reformed Churches of
France, Switzerland, Holland, Scotland, and the United States of
America, received from Calvin's Institutes the doctrine,
organization and discipline which, in spite of sharp trials,
grave mistakes, and claims that are incompatible with the
progress of liberty, have still, for more than three centuries,
been the source of all their strength and vitality.


The preface of the book is, in itself and apart from what
follows, very remarkable and very characteristic of the man.
Calvin dedicated his work to Francis I., to the persecutor of
French reformers during one of the fiercest outbreaks of
persecution, and at a time when he himself had been compelled to
leave his country in order to live in security, and speak with
freedom. 'And do not think,' he says to the king, 'that I
endeavour here to plead my own individual defence, in order to
obtain permission to return to the land of my birth; for,
although I have such an affection for it as it is in human nature
to feel, yet, under existing circumstances, I do not suffer any
great grief at being absent from it. But I plead the cause of all
the faithful, nay the cause of Christ, which is at the present
time so completely rent and trampled under foot throughout your
kingdom that it seems to be in a very desperate case. And all
this has come to pass more through the tyranny of certain
Pharisees than by your desire.'

Calvin was the boldest, and at the same time the least
revolutionary among the reformers of the sixteenth century; he
was devoid of fear, but he had great deference and consideration
for authority, even whilst he was openly opposing it. It appears
that the original idea of his great work occurred to him in 1534,
whilst he was at Angoulême, on a visit to the canon Louis du
Tillet. 'But nothing was farther from my thoughts, Sire,' he says
in the preface, 'than to write things which should be laid before
your Majesty; my intention was only to teach certain rudiments,
so that those who were moved by some good impulse from God might
be instructed in true piety. And chiefly, by this my labour, I
wished to serve our people of France, of whom I saw many
hungering and thirsting for Jesus Christ, but very few who had
any true knowledge of him.'
The idea of the book was therefore, at first, exclusively
religious, and it was destined for the use of the followers of
the French reformers. But when Calvin was about to publish it, he
again becomes prudent and politic; he addresses his book to the
King of France, invokes the authority of the persecutor, and
endeavours to convince his reason. He shows himself to be a
respectful and faithful subject at the same time that he is an
independent Christian and a reformer.

The language and conduct of Calvin were certainly not owing to
any uncertainty in his convictions, or any feeling of timidity in
the presence of royalty; in this preface he often forgets or puts
aside the very prudence and policy which induced him to address
the king. He places Francis I. in a very difficult position, and
hopelessly offends him by the brutal violence and insulting
familiarity with which, whilst addressing the king, he speaks of
the Catholic Church and of its dignitaries; sometimes he
encourages, sometimes threatens the king himself; he undertakes
to prove that the reformers are not insurgents, that they do not
meditate any plot against the crown or threaten any danger to the
state; he goes so far as to promise that, even if the king
refuses to do them justice, and if he continues to allow them
'still to be cruelly persecuted by imprisonment, scourging,
torture, confiscation, and the stake, yet in our patience we
shall possess our souls, and shall wait for the mighty hand of
the Lord.' But at the same time Calvin predicts that the Divine
wrath will overtake the king if he persists in persecuting the
reformers: 'For he is a true king who, in the government of his
kingdom, recognises that he is indeed the minister of God; and,
on the contrary, he who does not reign to the end that he may set
forth and show the glory of God is not a king but a brigand.
They are deceived who expect long prosperity in a kingdom which
is not ruled by the sceptre of God; that is to say, by his Holy
Word.' From page to page we see this alternation between
religious zeal and policy; the author is aiming at a revolution,
but all the time we see in the reformer the man who respects law
and order.

The question whether the 'Institutes of the Christian Religion'
was written first in French or in Latin has been often discussed
and is not yet decided. The preface from which I have quoted the
preceding passages is in French, and bears date Basle, 'the first
day of August, 1535.' I have it now before me in a copy of the
French edition which was published at Geneva in 1562; my copy
formerly belonged to Sully, and the margin is full of notes in
his own handwriting. It is said that no French edition of the
work itself bearing date 1535 can now be discovered; the earliest
edition known is that which was published at Basle in 1536, in
Calvin's own name, and of which both the body of the work and the
preface are in Latin. There was no French edition with date and
the author's name until 1540. I do not intend at this time to
plunge into the controversy that has been excited by the
chronological difficulty which envelopes the history of this
book; I have studied it carefully, and am inclined to think, with
many of Calvin's latest and most learned historians, that the
'Institutes of the Christian Religion' was written originally in
French, and published at Basle in 1535, without the author's
name, and that it was written first of all and specially for the
French nation, and was intended to remove from the mind of
Francis I. and the general public, the impressions produced by
the recent excesses of the Anabaptists, which their enemies laid
to the charge of the reformers also.
It is certain that the dedication to Francis I. was written and
published first of all in French, and on the first of August,
1535: these facts are beyond dispute. How was it that a preface
written in French, and dated 1535, was put at the head of a book
written in Latin, and not published until 1536? The book itself,
in this first edition, was probably nothing more than the rather
hasty and incomplete anonymous work of a young man as yet little
known, who had just left France, and was still much more French
than, as he became later, European. It was a first work, a sketch
rather than such a treatise as the title would lead the reader to
expect. Calvin himself points this out in the preface to his
'Commentaries on the Psalms,' in which he gives many important
details connected with his own life and works. That which seems
to me the most probable solution of the question is still beset
with many difficulties, and I will not linger to discuss them. Be
this as it may, from 1536 to 1559 Calvin published eight editions
of his 'Christian Institutes,' and they were successively revised
and enlarged to such a degree as ultimately to form a work which
differs from the first known edition both in extent and form,
although it is identical in spirit and in all essential points.
The edition of 1559 is the last which Calvin prepared for the
press, and it has therefore served as the basis for all other
editions and for the numerous translations which were made at a
later period.
It is undoubtedly the true work of Calvin, and contains his
latest injunctions respecting the doctrines of the reformed
Church, the rules for its internal government and its relation to
the state, its position in the commonwealth as well as its faith
and Christian discipline.

In order thoroughly to understand the fundamental idea and true
aim of Calvin's book we must transport ourselves to the precise
period when he first originated and wrote it. Luther, born in
1483, twenty-six years before Calvin, had accomplished, between
the years 1517 and 1532, his work of struggle and rupture with
the Church of Rome; the Confession of Augsburg had been
published; [Footnote 60] the Protestant princes had entered into
the Smalcaldic league; [Footnote 61] the religious peace of
Nuremberg had been concluded and ratified by the Diet of
Ratisbon; [Footnote 62 ] in fact, when Calvin left France and
took refuge at Basle in 1534, the German Reformation was
established in central and northern Europe. But the new work was
not so far advanced in western Europe, especially in France and
the neighbouring countries speaking the French language. In them
the war against the Church of Rome had also been eagerly
commenced, the demolition of the ancient edifice had been pursued
with ardour, but the work was hindered and opposed by the people,
and the construction of a new Church had not even been commenced.
The reformed Church appeared here and there, but without any bond
of unity or organization, and even in its cradle a prey to
uncertainty, confusion, and anarchy.

    [Footnote 60: In 1530.]

    [Footnote 61: In 1530.]

    [Footnote 62: In 1532.]


Calvin was so strongly impressed by this fact that it became an
object of constant anxiety to him; his intellect was so clear and
strong that he could not fail to understand the full extent of
the evil which was implied in the wavering, divided, and
scattered state of the reformation in France, and he set to work
to remedy it. His first act was to produce his 'Institutes of the
Christian Religion,' and by so doing he took the most effectual
means of creating a religious and social organization for the
reformation which was at that time springing up, in and around

It is by its doctrines and its institutions, by its faith and its
discipline, that a religious society is founded and maintained.
The first great work of Calvin was devoted to proclaiming the
grounds of the reformed faith, its rules of church government,
organization, and discipline, and its rights and duties in
connexion with the state. He was occupied during his whole life
either in putting into practice the principles which he had
imposed upon the Church, or in inducing his followers to carry
them out.

As to that which concerns faith, his idea may be traced
throughout the whole of the 'Institutes.' He does not put forth
new doctrines and purely philosophical notions when he calls upon
his contemporaries to join the cause of religious reform. He does
not desire to innovate, but to restore, and he opposes the
authority of Jesus Christ and the Gospel to that of the Church of
Rome and tradition. His own position in this great enterprise was
full of difficulty; this was the time of Rabelais, Erasmus, and
Montaigne on the one hand, and of the popes Julius II., Leo X.,
Cardinal Cajetan, and the Dominican Tetzel on the other.
In the presence of two opposing parties, both hostile to him, of
unbelieving or sceptical freethinkers and of blind adherents of
the Papacy, Calvin lived and moved. He had, at the same time, to
protest against intellectual licence and ecclesiastical
infallibility. He faces both, however, with his opinion clearly
defined, his side taken once for all, and his position maintained
with all his unbending strength. He has the most entire and
ardent belief in the Divine revelation contained in the Bible.
For him the Christian religion, as contained in the Old and New
Testaments, is a fact at the same time supernatural and
historical, an authentic and potent reality, the starting-point
of all his thoughts and the law of his whole life. Three of the
first chapters of his book bear the following titles:--

'In order to draw near to God the Creator we have need of the
Holy Scriptures for our guide and teacher.'

'Human reason furnishes proofs which are quite strong enough to
remove all doubts concerning the truth of the Scriptures.'

'The authority of the Scriptures must be sanctioned by the
testimony of the Holy Spirit, in order that we may fully believe
it; and it is an impious fiction to say that this authority is
derived from the judgment of the Church.' [Footnote 63]

    [Footnote 63: Calvin, _Institution de la Religion
    chrétienne_, vol. i. chaps, vi. viii. and ix. edition of

In this circle the mind of Calvin moves. His book is only the
development and commentary of the great Christian truths, facts,
dogmas, and precepts with which the Holy Scriptures furnish him.


                   Chapter VI.

  Calvin's Belief In The Plenary Inspiration Of The Bible.

I cannot attempt to follow him in his vast work, to discuss his
interpretations of gospel facts and words, and his deductions
from them. Calvin's books, his life, and the Church established
by him, show that the system which he founded was both strong and
compact, wanting neither in logical accuracy nor in practical and
available power. For more than three centuries it has embodied
the faith and regulated the lives of many millions of Christians
in France, Switzerland, Holland, Scotland, England, and America.
In spite of its imperfections it is, on the whole, one of the
noblest edifices ever erected by the mind of man, and one of the
mightiest codes of moral law which has ever guided him. I will
only pause here to notice two of Calvin's doctrines, which I look
upon as grave errors, opposed, in my opinion, to the true spirit
of Christianity, and at the present time out of harmony with the
intellectual and social progress of the human race.


The earliest complaints and attacks made by the reformers were
called forth by assertions of the authority and infallibility of
the pope. Luther was the first and mightiest, as he was also the
most impetuous leader of the assault. Calvin followed in the same
path; but he looked upon the work of demolition as almost
completed, and his own special work was to replace the authority
and infallibility of the Church by the authority and
infallibility of the sacred monument of divine revelation--that
is, to put the Bible in the place of the Pope: everything in the
name and in virtue of the Bible, nothing in opposition to or
without the Bible. This was Calvin's fixed idea, and the supreme
law of the Church which he established.

The extent and success of his work sufficiently prove that he
discerned the needs and religious instincts of his age. Calvin's
reformed Church at once took up an important position which it
has now occupied for three centuries. Catholicism and
Protestantism may continue their long struggle, but they cannot
underrate each other's strength; they have both survived many
reverses; they live on in spite of many faults, and at the
present time they are both face to face with the same enemies.
Both are now impelled by reason and commanded by necessity to
acknowledge their faults and to recognise the cause of their
reverses. In so far as the future is in the hands of man, their
future depends on the extent to which they have attained the
clearness of vision which belongs to long life and experience.

I am a Protestant, and for that very reason I intend to speak
exclusively of Calvin's errors and faults as a Protestant

When he proclaimed the absolute infallibility and universal
authority of the Holy Scriptures, he failed to recognise the true
object and meaning of the divine revelation which they contain.
It is a revelation, which refers to the relation between man and
God, the duties of man towards God and towards his fellow-men.
This is indicated from the very beginning by the nature of the
subjects treated of, and it is confirmed by the Decalogue and the
Gospel. I may quote here some of the reflections which I have
already published on this subject, for day by day I find that
they represent my thoughts more accurately. Like Calvin, 'many
pious and learned men uphold the plenary inspiration of the Holy
Scriptures; they assert that not only the thoughts but the words
in which they are clothed are divinely inspired--every word on
every subject, the language as well as the doctrine. This
assertion seems to me to indicate a deplorable confusion, giving
rise to profound misconceptions as to the meaning and aim of the
sacred volume, and causing its authority to be very seriously
compromised. God never intended to teach men grammar by a
supernatural process, and he no more intended to teach them
geology, astronomy, geography, and chronology than grammar. Not
on these do the rays of divine light fall, but on the relation of
man to his Creator, and on the laws of his faith and life. God
dictated to Moses the laws which regulate the duties of man
towards God and towards his fellow-man; he left it to Newton to
discover the laws which govern the universe. The inspiration of
the Sacred Volume relates not only to religion and morality, but
to religion and morality alone, and apart from any mere human


'I have read the Bible over and over again, with the greatest
care, with no intention either of criticizing it or apologizing
for it, but with the single aim of learning to understand its
character and meaning aright. The more I have advanced in this
study, and have been able to live as it were in the Bible, the
more clearly have I apprehended two contemporaneous facts, a
divine fact and a human fact, which are at the same time entirely
distinct and closely connected. In every part of the Bible I find
God and man: God, a real and personal being, not affected by any
external incident, and in whom there is no change, always the
same and immoveable though the centre of universal movement, and
Himself giving this unprecedented definition of Himself, "I am
that I am;" and man, an incomplete, imperfect being, subject to
change, full of flaws and contradictions, of lofty instincts and
degrading tendencies, inquiring and yet ignorant, capable of good
and evil, and able to attain perfection in spite of his
imperfection. Throughout the whole Bible we see God and man,
their union and their antagonism: God watching over man and
guiding him; man sometimes accepting and sometimes rejecting the
influence of God. If I might be allowed to use such an
expression, I would say that the Divine person and the human
person are brought face to face with each other; we see them
acting on each other, and influencing events. We see the
education of man after his creation, the education of a religious
and moral being, neither more nor less. At the same time, whilst
God elevates he does not transform mankind; he created man
intelligent and free; he illuminates the laws of his spiritual
and moral life with a Divine light; but he leaves him to struggle
with great dangers and much peril, until he learns the right use
of his intellect and will. And at every period, in all
circumstances, even whilst he still continues to influence him,
God takes man just as he finds him, with all his passions, vices,
weakness, error, and ignorance, just what he has made himself,
and is making himself every day, by the good or evil use of his
intellect and his will. This, I say, is the Bible, and its
history of the relations between God and man.


'What a striking contrast is brought out in this history, and yet
what a close and strong bond between those whom I scarcely dare
to call the two performers! In no tradition or poetical
invention, in no religious mythology does God appear so exalted,
so pure, so free from all the imperfection and disquietude of
human nature, so immutable and serene, so truly God as in the
Bible. On the other hand, among no people, in no historical
narrative or document is man portrayed as more violent, more
barbarous, more brutal, more cruel, more prone to ingratitude and
rebellion against God, than among the Hebrews. Nowhere else, and
in no other history does the distance seem so great between the
divine sphere and the human region--between the sovereign and his
subjects. And yet the Israelites never separate themselves from
God. In spite of their vices and evil passions they always turn
again to the Lord, and always acknowledge his law and his
government, even at the very time that they violate the one and
rebel against the other. God is, however, nowhere manifested as
so solicitous with regard to man--at the same time so exacting
and so sympathetic; he does not change a man at one stroke, and
by a single act of his sovereign will; he watches all his
short-comings, his weakness and his errors, but never forsakes
him; he holds the torch of Divine light always before his eyes,
and never loses his interest in the destiny of mankind.
Religion and morality are the subjects which not only
predominate, but which are exclusively presented in the sacred
volume: nowhere else have the aspirations and labours of human
science held so insignificant a position in human thought and
society; God, and the relation between man and God,--this, and
this only, occupies every page of the Bible.

'I do not hesitate to affirm that science, with its special and
manifold subjects, astronomy, geology, geography, chronology,
physical science, historical criticism, all are foreign to the
plan and design of the Holy Scriptures. The study of science is
the work of the human intellect, and of the human intellect
alone: science is a fruit that ripens slowly, and is only brought
to perfection by the intellectual labour of many generations. If
then, in addition to those facts which are expressly declared to
be miraculous, you find statements and assertions in the Bible
which are in opposition to the established truths of science, do
not be astonished or dismayed; it is not the word of God on these
subjects; it is the language of the men of that age, and it
accords with the measure of their knowledge, or rather of their
ignorance; it is the language which they spoke, and in which it
was necessary to speak to them if they were to understand what
was said.

'The fact is so simple that I am astonished that it should be
necessary to assert it: in all times and places, among all
nations and in every age, there are spontaneous instincts, and
common aspirations and ideas in matters of religion and morality,
which not only clothe themselves, as it were, in the same
language, but have the power of making their language
intelligible to all those to whom it is addressed, in spite of
the difference which there may be in their several degrees of
education and civilization.
But we meet with nothing similar in purely scientific matters;
the majority of men see and speak, not in accordance with the
facts of science, but according to appearances; and they
understand, or do not understand, they listen, or do not listen,
just in so far as they have any knowledge of science, or are
ignorant of it. What would the Hebrews in the desert have said,
or the Jews who gathered round the Apostles, or the savages of
Polynesia addressed by the first Christian missionaries, if they
had been told that it is the earth which revolves round the sun,
and that the earth is a spheroid, inhabitable and inhabited at
the opposite points of its circumference? What more natural and
inevitable than the agreement of the language of Scripture with
the imperfect knowledge which men possessed of scientific
subjects, even although the light of Divine inspiration was, at
the same time, shed upon the laws which govern the spiritual and
moral nature of human beings?

'No one admires and honours science more than I do: the study of
science is one of man's highest vocations, but it has nothing to
do with the relation between man and God, and the influence of
God upon man. God is not a lofty philosopher who reveals
scientific truths to men in order that they may have the noble
pleasure of contemplating and disseminating them; the search for
these truths is a purely human labour. The divine work is grander
and more complicated, and it is essentially practical.
That which all men and every man needs and craves, the most
ignorant as well as the most learned, that which humanity demands
from God is the knowledge of those religious and moral truths
which ought to influence the soul and life, and in accordance
with which the life of the future will be regulated. God meets
this requirement of the whole human race; and the Bible is
addressed to all that they may be saved by leading a new life,
not that they may be well taught in matters of science.'
[Footnote 64]

    [Footnote 64: _Meditations sur la Religion chrétienne,_
    vol. i. p. 151; vol. iii. p. 27.]

If Calvin had lived in the nineteenth century I am inclined to
believe that his clear and vigorous intellect would have
preserved him from falling into this error of attributing
universal infallibility to every word contained in the Bible, and
that he would have recognised the aim and the true tendency of
those Divine revelations of which the Bible is so noble a
monument. Even a hundred years after his death the labours of the
great critics of the seventeenth century, of Richard Simon,
Bayle, and John Leclerc, would have helped him, by the clear
light which they threw on this question, and would have shown him
how to shield the Christian faith effectually both from improper
attacks and from the legitimate discoveries of human science. The
domain of science is not the same as that of Christian faith, nor
are they equal; the very aim of revelation has been to enunciate
truths, and to shed a light into the soul which no amount of
scientific labour would have sufficed to procure. This is the
real and true character of the Bible; it is from this that all
its authority proceeds, and by this, at the same time, that the
limits of its sphere are defined.


                   Chapter VII.

  Calvin's Theory Of Free-will And Predestination.

Calvin's second grave error consists, as I think, in his theory
of free-will and predestination. He denies free-will, and
believes that the destiny of every man, his future salvation or
damnation, is determined from all eternity by the irrevocable
decrees of God; and at the same time that he affirms this
two-fold doctrine, he exhausts himself in ineffectual attempts to
assert and uphold the moral obligation and responsibility of man
in this dual condition.

I have no wish at the present time to enter into a discussion
which, in all times and in every country, has divided, and will
continue to divide, all serious and earnest men, whether they are
theologians or philosophers. I repeat that this discussion will
continue to cause division, because it turns upon a problem which
men cannot help discussing, and which they are not able to
solve--that is, the reconciliation of human freedom with Divine
prescience and omnipotence. Forty years ago, in my course of
'Lectures on the History of Civilization in France,' I gave a
historical account of this difficult question, and of the
discussion concerning it between Pelagius and St. Augustine in
the fifth century. And now, in order to describe Calvin's
thoughts on this subject with accuracy, and to show their
influence on his life, I must recall some of the ideas which I
developed forty years ago, as well as those which I have more
recently expressed in my 'Meditations on the Christian Religion,'
with regard to the intimate union of Christianity and morality.


In order to understand and appreciate that fact connected with
man which we call his freedom, his free-will, we must disengage
it from all foreign elements, and consider it apart from them.
Owing to the want of this precaution, it has been very often
misunderstood; men have not studied the fact of free-will, and
that fact only: they have looked at it and described it in a
confused manner, together with a number of other facts which are,
so to speak, bound up with it in the moral life of mankind, and
yet which differ from it very essentially. For example, free-will
has been said to consist in the power of choosing between
different motives of action; and the act of deliberation,
together with the act of judgment which follows it, have been
said to constitute the essential part of free-will. It is nothing
of the kind; these are the acts of the intellect, and not of the
will; different motives of action--interests, opinions,
inclinations, and others--pass before the intellect, which
deliberates, compares, assigns a value, weighs, and ultimately
passes judgment. This is a preparatory labour which precedes the
action of the will, but does not constitute that action. When the
act of deliberation has taken place, when a man has investigated
the motives presented to him and their worth, then comes in an
entirely new fact,--the action of the will.
The man forms a resolution, that is to say, we come to a new
series of facts which have their origin in the man himself, of
which he looks upon himself as the author; which exist because it
is his will, and would not exist if it were not his will; which
would be other than they are if he chose to make them other than
they are. Keep apart from this act all recollection of the
deliberation of the intellect, of motives recognised and
appreciated, concentrate your thoughts on that single moment when
the man 'forms his resolution,' when he says 'I will,' and ask
yourself--ask the man himself to tell you in all sincerity
whether he could not have willed differently. Undoubtedly you
would answer, as he would answer, 'Yes.' And it is at this moment
and in this manner that the freedom of the human will is
revealed. It resides altogether in the resolution which a man
forms as the result of deliberation; it is this power of forming
a resolution which is the special action of the man, existing by
his will and his will only; it is a distinct act, separate from
all the facts which precede and surround it; it is the same under
the most dissimilar circumstances, always alike whatever may be
its motives or results.

This action of the will is recognised at the very moment of its
exercise; we have the same knowledge of our freedom as of our
existence; we feel and know that we are free. But at the same
time that we know ourselves to be free, and recognise in
ourselves the faculty of originating by our own will a certain
series of actions, at that very time we discover that our will is
placed under the control of a certain law which constrains but
does not coerce us; and which takes different names,--is called
the moral law, reason, justice, good sense,--according to the
occasions on which it is applied.
Man is free, but even according to his own notion this is not an
arbitrary freedom; he may use it in an absurd, mad, unjust, or
guilty manner; but every time that he does use it, there is a
certain law which ought to govern him. The study of this law is
his duty: it is the task imposed upon him by his freedom.

We soon perceive that we can never altogether perform this task,
that we can never act in perfect accordance with reason or the
moral law; that whilst we are always free, that is, morally
capable of conforming to the law, we do not in fact accomplish
all that we ought to do, or all that we can do. Whenever we
question ourselves closely, and answer sincerely, we are
compelled to acknowledge, 'I could have done it if I would;' our
will has been weak and cowardly, and has not gone to the full
extent of our duty or our power. Hence arises a feeling which is
found in all men under different forms, the feeling of the need
of external help, of some support for the human will, of a
strength to be added to its strength which may sustain it in time
of need. Man seeks this support, this help in time of need on all
sides; he asks it from the encouragement of friends, from the
counsel of the wise, from the example and approbation of his
fellows, and from fear of punishment. There is no one who cannot
find in his own daily conduct innumerable proofs of this impulse
of the soul, this eagerness to find out of itself an aid to the
liberty which it feels to be at the same time real but
insufficient; and as the visible world and human society do not
always respond to this desire, as they also are tainted with the
same insufficiency, which is at length perceived, the soul seeks
the support which it needs in something apart from the visible
world, above these human relations; it addresses itself to God,
and calls to him for help.
Prayer is the most elevated, but not the only form under which
this universal feeling of the weakness of the human will, and its
resort to an external and yet kindred strength, is manifested.

In addition to these facts which occur in the human soul and are
clearly manifested whenever we make use of our free-will, there
is another fact more obscure, but which I consider equally
capable of proof. Certain changes, certain moral phenomena take
place and are manifest in us, the origin of which we cannot refer
to any act of our own will, and of which we do not recognise
ourselves as the author. I will take an example of this class of
facts in the first place from the domain of intellect, where they
occur more frequently and can be more easily investigated. I
suppose there is no one who has not at some time or other made
painful efforts at night to recall some idea, some event, and
fallen asleep without succeeding in the attempt; waking on the
morrow, he has immediately and without effort accomplished his
aim. I draw one single deduction from this; that, independently
of the voluntary and premeditated activity of the mind, there is
a certain unconscious and involuntary action of the intellect
which we do not control, which we cannot follow in its
development, and which, nevertheless, is real and fruitful in
result,--a kind of unconscious growth which is not the act of our
will, but bears fruit spontaneously.
Now that which takes place in the realm of intellect takes place
also in the moral world; certain changes take place in the man
which he cannot attribute to himself and which he cannot account
for by the action of his own will. On a certain day or at a
certain moment he finds himself in an altogether new moral
condition, quite unlike that to which he is accustomed and which
he knows. He cannot discover the sources of these changes; he has
no recollection of having acquiesced in or originated them. In
other words, the moral man, even in the exercise of his own
free-will, is not altogether complete in himself; he learns from
experience and feels that causes and powers, or to speak more
correctly, a cause, a power external to himself, acts on him and
changes him without reference to his own will: in his moral life
as well as in the whole of his destiny he finds the
incomprehensible and the unknown.

Thus in the unconscious and free development of the human soul,
moral and religious facts are evolved, called forth and united
naturally. Man recognises of himself the distinction between
moral good and evil, recognises moral law, moral liberty, moral
responsibility, moral excellence or unworthiness; and at the same
time he recognises that the moral law is not a human invention
imposed by human consent, neither is it one of those immutable
laws by which the material world is governed. That is, he
recognises a higher power from whom the moral law emanates, whom
it reveals, and in whose presence he either keeps or violates
this law. God a moral ruler, and man a free subject, are revealed
to us side by side in the facts which constitute the moral nature
of man.
And just as a moral law without a sovereign legislator who
ordains it is an incomplete and inexplicable fact,--a river
without a source, so also man's moral responsibility without a
supreme judge who applies the law, is incomplete and
inexplicable, a river without an outlet, which flows on until it
loses itself we know not where. God is implied in the moral law
as its first author, and God is included in the moral
responsibility of man as his ultimate judge.

But if a man discovers and acknowledges the existence of God in
himself and in the world around him, he cannot study and
investigate, or explain, nor does he know God as he knows himself
and the external world which we call nature. Man and the external
world are mirrors in which God is reflected; but this reflection
or revelation is limited by the measure and limitations of our
own mind, and does not manifest the plenitude and immensity of
the divine nature. Those special and direct revelations which are
treasured up for us in the sacred volume only disclose an
infinite perspective of divine action, they do not give a full
and clear knowledge of that action. Even when we acknowledge and
worship God, we find that there is that in him which is not only
unknown, but unknowable by man; and that although he has
manifested himself, he is still impenetrable and inexplicable.
Why has God created man? Why has he created him free, that is,
capable of deciding his actions by his own will alone, in spite
of the many external motives which seek to influence him, and in
a world governed by fixed and inflexible laws? What is the nature
and what the extent of the moral responsibility which, according
to his own account, man as a free being incurs?
What part was assigned to him, and what influence did God give
him over his own life and his own destiny when he created him
free? Is it possible that he assigned him no part at all, no
influence at all, that beforehand and irrevocably he decided the
life and fate of man whom he created free, as he did that of the
material world which is governed by inflexible laws? Do we not
borrow the terms of merely human language when we use the word
prescience as applied to God,--God an eternal being, everywhere
eternally present, to whom we cannot apply our notions of space
and time, and of that succession of events in the midst of which
our fleeting life passes? These are questions of supreme
importance which we naturally ask ourselves, and which bear
witness to the nobility of human nature, but which we are not
permitted to answer; for in order to answer them we should need
to know and comprehend God, his nature and his designs, as God
knows and comprehends himself and his own actions. There is no
answer to these questions; even in the midst of Christian light
man must resign himself to Christian ignorance; all his knowledge
of his own being and of the world around him will never give him
a knowledge of God, or of the design of God in the creation of
the world and of mankind.

And this brings me to Calvin's great mistake. He was much more
engrossed in speculations concerning God than in the observation
of mankind. God is, so to say, the fixed centre and
starting-point of all his thoughts. He meditates and imagines,
and if I dared I would say that he presents God to us, and
describes him as if he knew him thoroughly, and had exclusive
possession of him.
He then summons man into the presence of God, and denies or
calmly rejects everything in him which does not accord with or
cannot be adjusted to the God whom he has conceived and depicted.
He denies the free-will of man and affirms his predestination,
because he imagines that man's free-will is opposed to the idea
which he has formed of the omnipotence and omniscience of God,
and that his predestination is necessary to it. Calvin had a very
imperfect knowledge and understanding of man because he professed
to know and understand too much about God.

I find proof in the works of Dr. Chalmers, the most eminent
Protestant theologian of our time, a faithful follower of Calvin,
and a man profoundly versed in science, that the state of
Calvin's mind must, in fact, have been that which I have
described; and that at first he was led to deny the free-will of
man and affirm his predestination, in order to prove his assumed
knowledge of the nature of God and of his design in creating the
universe. I find the following passage in Chalmers' 'Institutes
of Theology:'--

  'It is clear, that were there no such necessity in the world of
  matter--did it not in every instance take a precise direction
  from the laws and the forces which the Deity hath established
  over it--were there any of its phenomena, whereof no other
  account could be given, than that they sprung from a random
  contingency, in virtue of which another set of phenomena might
  have as readily occurred as the actual ones;--then, at this
  rate, the world of inanimate things would drift uncontrollably
  away from the authority of its God; nor would it be any longer
  his will that overruled the condition and the history of the
  universe which he formed.
  Now, it is the very same with the world of mind. ... If this
  class of events, if the movements of intelligent and animated
  nature, can be referred to no moving forces directed by and
  dependent upon him, of whom we have been taught to believe,
  that he hath ordained the mechanism of the spiritual world, and
  presides over all the evolutions of it--if amid the diversity
  of the operations by which we are surrounded, those of the will
  and of the mind form an exception to the doctrine that it is
  God who worketh all in all--then, by far the most dignified and
  interesting of all his creations is wrested from the dominion
  of him who gave it birth; ... and in the most emphatic sense of
  the term might it be said, that there is a universe without a
  Lord--an empire without an Imperial Sovereign to overrule its

  'Both the power and the prescience of God are involved in this
  question. It seems strange that the Creator of all should not
  be the governor of all; or that the universe which proceeded
  from his hands should have been so constituted in any of its
  departments as to have an independent history of its own,
  placed beyond the sovereignty and the control of him who gave
  it birth. But so it would be on the hypothesis of a
  self-determining power in any of the creatures. ... To avert
  this conclusion, all must be determinate, and all, both in the
  mental and material world, be under the absolute control of him
  who made all, and who upholds all.' [Footnote 65]

    [Footnote 65: Chalmers, _Institutes of Theology_, vol. ii.
    pp. 351-355.]


According, therefore, to Calvin and Chalmers, the moral world and
the material universe are on the same footing, and are governed
by laws of the same nature; they have deduced this opinion from
their own conception of God, and the knowledge which they believe
themselves to possess of his nature, his designs, and his
relation to his creatures. God, they say, is an absolute monarch;
and in no part of his realm, from no one of his subjects, will he
allow of any intervention, any action, or any will opposed to his
own law, and because of this inexorable and universal law they
deny the free-will of man.

Strange denial, which has been condemned beforehand by God
himself! God is infinitely more powerful and more
incomprehensible than Calvin and Chalmers have imagined him to
be. Among the infinitude of his creatures there is one being whom
he has created and placed high above all others on this earth,
and whom he has distinguished by his own mark placed upon him.
God has thought fit to create man, and to make him _in his own
image_, that is to say, a free being, capable of deliberate
acts of intelligence and will.

It is the Bible which tells us this--the book which contains the
record of Divine revelation; man's first act according to the
Bible, the first historical fact recorded of him in his relation
towards God, is an act of disobedience, that is, an act of
free-will. I repeat my questions: Why has God desired this, and
created man thus? What position and what share of action has God
assigned to man in the circle of his designs and works? We do not
know, and we shall never know. But, with all our ignorance, we do
wrong to disown the sublime gift which we have received from God,
and to deny our own free-will at the very time that we are using


Calvin was not a theologian and a moralist only, he did other
things besides the writing of books; he took part in human
affairs, and directed and controlled the social struggles and
convulsions of his age. At all times, his actions were prompted
and regulated by his opinions: he did not believe in man's
free-will, and he treated it with severity and a kind of
contempt; he had entire faith in the authority of God and the law
of God, and he worked with the utmost zeal to secure the triumph
of divine authority and law. In everything which had reference to
human opinions and actions, to the thought and conduct of private
individuals, to public or private life, Calvin laboured to
introduce and to insure the ascendency of the doctrines and
precepts, the discipline and morality, of which he found either
the germs or the formal expression in the sacred volume; that is,
in the Divine revelation to man. He had the strength arising from
the sincerity of his convictions and the disinterestedness of his
motives; he was exacting and rigorous towards himself, and
therefore he was exacting and rigorous to others also; he
believed and asserted that he had more right over other men's
opinions and actions than he ought to have claimed, and he did
not show sufficient respect to their rights. He was affectionate
and faithful to his friends, but he often lacked sympathy for men
in general, and justice to his enemies.
Some of his faults were, no doubt, owing to his natural character
and disposition; but the convictions which he held so firmly and
had systematized with such care, had a still greater share in the
occasional severity and injustice of his conduct towards others.
Perhaps no man was ever more devoted to that which he believed to
be the truth than Calvin; no man has shown more fearless courage
in running every risk, making every sacrifice, in order to serve
the cause to which he had given his faith. This is his noblest
and most beautiful characteristic, one that is manifested at
every step during the whole course of his life, even in his very
errors and those results of them which are most to be regretted.

And here, with great regret, I must close this inquiry into
Calvin's fundamental principles as they are disclosed in his
'Institutes of the Christian Religion:' an exhaustive discussion
of their merits and defects would necessitate a much more
complete development than I am able at this time to give them. I
therefore return to my picture of the character and genius of
Calvin as they are shown in the labours and struggles in which he
so rapidly wore out his life.


                   Chapter VIII.

       Calvin Preaches Religious Reform In Italy.
       The Duchess Of Ferrara.
       Calvin's Flight From Aosta.

Towards the close of 1535, when the first edition, or, to speak
more accurately, the first sketch of his 'Christian Institutes'
had been prepared, or possibly published at Basle, Calvin had not
as yet come to any definite conclusion with regard to his
ultimate abode and life-work; he was engrossed in the propagation
of his faith, and wandered about, as one may say, in search of
places which might seem to promise the best means and chances of
success for his labours. He resolved to visit Italy and, like
others, to preach reform in the very stronghold of the ancient
Church. I say 'like others,' for the Reformation already
possessed more or less open adherents in Italy--reformers who
were sincere and active even when they were timid. Their chief
protector was Renée of France, duchess of Ferrara and daughter of
Louis XII.: they gathered round her, secure of her favour, and at
times tolerated by her husband Hercules d'Este, Duke of Ferrara;
but their religious labours were always to some extent disguised
by their love of learning and literature.
Either from prudence or in the interest of his cause, Calvin did
not travel in Italy under his own name, nor did he pass by it at
Ferrara; he was known as Charles d'Espeville, a name which he
often assumed to the end of his life whenever he wished to write
without compromising his friends. At the court of Ferrara he soon
found, or rather gained, admirers and disciples, some of them
ardent and enthusiastic like M. and Madame de Soubise, others
brilliant and vacillating like the poet Clement Marot. But
Calvin's most important and valuable conquest at Ferrara was the
Duchess Renée herself. She was a princess of insignificant
appearance, little and deformed, but she possessed rare
intelligence and a very noble nature; she was deeply interested
in the study of religion as well as that of literature, and was
capable of making great efforts and sacrifices for the Christian
faith, although she never forgot the requirements of her position
and royal birth. She had married her eldest daughter to Francis,
Duke de Guise, and in 1557, at the close of the disasters of the
army commanded by the duke in Italy, 'she saved,' says Brantôme,
'more than ten thousand souls, poor Frenchmen, soldiers and
others, who would have died of hunger and want if it had not been
for her; they passed through Ferrara and she succoured them all,
as many as ever there were, supplying their wants and giving them
money: so much so, that I have heard from one of her _maîtres
d'hôtel_ that their passage through the place cost her more
than ten thousand crowns; and when the _intendants_ of her
palace remonstrated at the excessive expense, she said nothing
more to them than--"What would you have me do? They are poor
Frenchmen of my nation, and if God had given me a beard on my
chin, and I had been a man, they would have been my subjects; and
indeed they would be my subjects now if that cursed Salic law did
not press so hardly upon me."'


Some years later, after 1559, the duchess became a widow, and she
then returned to France, and lived in her own castle of
Montargis; in 1562, in the midst of the civil war, she sheltered
in it a considerable number of Calvinists, some of them men of
rank; her grandson Henry, Duke de Guise, besieged the castle, and
summoned her to deliver up her guests. 'Take good care of what
you are doing,' was Renée's answer to the duke's envoy; 'know
that, except the king himself, no one has any right to dictate to
me, and if you execute your threats, I will be the first to enter
the breach, and I will try if you are bold enough to kill a
king's daughter, whose death both heaven and earth will be
compelled to avenge on you and your descendants, down to the
children in their cradles.'

Such a victory for the Reformation, and such a protector for the
reformers, were well worthy of the affectionate esteem and great
consideration which Calvin constantly showed the Duchess of
Ferrara from 1536 to 1564. During his short sojourn in Italy he
had evidently acquired that ascendency over her which a powerful
nature always obtains over a generous one, and a religious leader
exercises over his sincere adherents. There is no indication of
his having ever seen her again; but he was in constant
correspondence with her, and he became truly, in the language of
the seventeenth century, the director of her conscience. In this
difficult task he displayed an admirable admixture of religious
severity and wise moderation; he was prompt in his warnings when
he found the duchess weak, but very careful not to wound her by
unnecessary severity, or to require anything at her hands which
was inconsistent with her position; he took pains to put her on
her guard against the irregularities of her servants, but did
this without any meddlesome interference in her affairs or the
affection she felt for her family.
In 1554 she asked him to send her a chaplain for herself, and two
widow ladies 'to take charge of and have rule over the daughters
of her house.' Calvin sent her a reformed minister, Francis
Morel, who was known as Monsieur de Colonges. 'I think,' wrote
Calvin, 'you will find him so satisfactory that you will have
good reason to thank God. As he is a gentleman of good birth, he
will be so much the better received by those who will never
listen to good men if they are contemptible in the world's eyes.
The truth is that we must strive after that which is highest, and
even noble birth is not always to be desired if a man prizes it
too highly and is hindered, because of it, from serving God.'
[Footnote 66]

    [Footnote 66: August 6th, 1554. _Lettres Françaises de Calvin_,
    vol. i. p. 428.]

In 1555 the duchess was compelled to witness the cruelty of her
husband Hercules, Duke of Ferrara, towards the reformers, and
even to submit to his wishes with regard to Catholic ceremonies:
'I am sure,' wrote Calvin, 'that you have been compelled to
swerve from the right path, or you could not have satisfied those
who are of this world; for it is an evil sign that they who
offered such fierce opposition, in order to turn you from the
service of God, now leave you in peace. But, Madam, since our
good God is always ready to have mercy upon us, and stretches out
his hand when we stumble so that we may not fall utterly, I pray
you to take courage; and if the enemy for once, by reason of your
weakness, has had the advantage over you, yet do not let him
think that he has gained any real victory; let him rather feel
that those whom God has raised have twofold strength to sustain
them against all assaults.' [Footnote 67]

    [Footnote 67: February 2d, 1553. Lettres Françaises, vol. ii.
    p. 5.]


When the duchess sheltered the reformers in her chateau of
Montargis, in 1562, and gave such a haughty refusal to the
summons of the Duke de Guise that she should deliver them up,
Calvin congratulated her in a sternly eloquent epistle: 'I have
often thought, Madam, that God had reserved some trials for your
old age in order to indemnify himself for all the arrears that
you owe him on account of your timidity in the past. I speak
according to the manner of men, for if you had done a hundred, a
thousand times more, it would not have been enough to pay what
you owe him from day to day for the infinite benefits which he
continues to grant you. But I understand that he has shown you
singular honour, and has employed you in no less a service than
that of bearing his banner, so that you may be a refuge for the
members of Christ.' [Footnote 68]

    [Footnote 68: May 10th, 1563. _Ibid_. vol. ii. p. 514.]


In 1564 Calvin was informed that the duchess was deeply grieved
at the violent hatred which the reformers continued to feel for
the memory of her son-in-law, Francis, Duke de Guise, who had
been assassinated the previous year by Poltrot, and by their
assertion that he would be condemned to everlasting punishment;
he was touched by her sorrow, and wrote to her four months before
his own death: 'Although we may all have said, "Woe to him by
whom the offence cometh, yet there has been reason why we should
lament and weep, in that a good cause has been very badly
conducted. And how could the Duke de Guise, who had kindled the
fire, be spared, if the evil which he committed vexed the souls
of all good men. I myself, even though I always prayed God to
have mercy upon him, yet verily I often implored the Lord to lay
his hand upon him and deliver the Church from him, if it was not
his will to turn his heart. And, I can assure you, that very
often during the war, if it had not been for me, impetuous and
resolute men would have attempted to rid the world of him; and
they were kept back by my exhortations only. Nevertheless, to say
that he will be damned is to go too far, unless we have sure and
certain signs of his condemnation. In which matter, we must guard
against rash presumption, for there is one judge only, before
whose throne we must all render up an account." [Footnote 69]

    [Footnote 69: January 24, 1564. _Lettres Françaises de
    Calvin_, vol. ii. p. 533.]

Surely, very few men in the sixteenth century--I do not speak of
any other--were liberal and large-hearted enough to use such
language concerning the death and the future state of their most
formidable enemy.

I do not hesitate to affirm, that the great Catholic bishops, who
in the seventeenth century directed the consciences of the
mightiest men in France, did not fulfil this difficult task with
more Christian firmness, intelligent justice, and knowledge of
the world, than Calvin displayed in his intercourse with the
Duchess of Ferrara. And the duchess was not the only person
towards whom he fulfilled this duty of a Christian pastor. His
correspondence shows that he exercised a similar influence, in a
spirit equally lofty and judicious, over the consciences of many


The severity of Hercules d'Este towards the Protestants obliged
Calvin to leave Ferrara. He knew no more than when he had arrived
there some months previously, where he should ultimately take up
his abode, nor how he should carry on the work to which he had
devoted his life. He wandered from place to place in northern
Italy, tarrying where he found friends, and teaching and
preaching religious reform wherever he went. Sometimes he was
received well, at others he was pursued by enemies who were
embittered against his doctrines and himself, for he had already
become famous. In 1536 he arrived in Piedmont and stayed there
some weeks, not in the city of Aosta itself, but in the
neighbourhood, at the house of a family of high rank, where
several of his adherents were assembled to meet him. But the
alarm was given to the civil and ecclesiastical authorities of
Piedmont: a council was held at Aosta, which was reinforced by a
strong manifestation of popular feeling. 'All the corporations in
the country renewed to the bishop the oath of fidelity which they
had taken to his royal highness, binding themselves to live and
die in obedience to him, and in the Apostolic and Roman faith.'
Orders were given to arrest Calvin 'and all others of his party.'
He escaped, but not without difficulty; he had to traverse
perilous Alpine passes, and, according to an ancient tradition,
was followed by 'the Marshal d'Aosta, Count of Chalans, who
pursued him to the very foot of the mountains with a drawn sword
in his hand.'
In 1541, five years later, a fountain surmounted by a cross was
erected, in the principal street of Aosta, in the market-place,
and the following inscription may now be seen on the pedestal:--

          CALVINI FUGA,
        Erexit Anno MDXLI.
   Religionis constantia reparavit
          Anno MDCCXLI.
          Civium pietas
      Renovavit et adornavit
         Anno MDCCCXLI.

'This cross, erected in 1541, in memory of Calvin's flight,
restored in 1741 by faithful believers, was renewed and
ornamented in 1841 by the piety of the citizens.'

The cross of Aosta and its inscription are not the only monuments
of Calvin's visit to Piedmont; local tradition has preserved many
other memorials: Calvin's _farm_ and Calvin's _bridge_
are still shown in the valley of Aosta; and the pass of Duranda,
one of the lofty passes on the borders of Valais which he
ascended when he fled from Piedmont, is still known as Calvin's

Driven out of Italy, he returned to France; not, however, that he
desired to remain there, or would have been able to do so, for
there was no more safety for him in France than in Italy; his
intention was to establish himself at Basle or Strasburg; but
either attracted by recollections of home, or influenced by other
motives of which we are ignorant, he desired once again to see
the place of his birth, and those members of his family who were
still living.
He reached Noyon, and spent some time there, apparently meeting
with no opposition; at Noyon also he preached the Reformation and
made proselytes. Among others he induced one of his sisters,
Mary, and his only remaining brother, Anthony, to share his
belief and follow him to a new country; accompanied by them, he
set out for Basle; but as hostilities had again broken out
between Francis I. and Charles V. he did not go by way of
Lorraine, where the war was being carried on, but by Geneva. He
arrived there towards the end of August 1536, not intending, so
he says, to stay more than a single night. It was at Geneva,
however, after many severe trials, that he was to be established
and to find the great work of his life.

Great ideas, great men, and great events cannot be measured by
the magnitude of their cradles. Geneva at that time seems not to
have had more than from 12,000 to 15,000 inhabitants, and it was
not then a place of renown; but within its narrow limits it was
the scene of every crisis and every problem, great or small,
which can agitate human society. It had only just obtained the
national independence which it was still struggling to defend,
and which it had wrested from its former masters, the dukes of
Savoy, and from the hands of its own bishops. Its form of
government as an independent state was still imperfect and
unsettled, and was undergoing many experiments. Religious reform
had been inaugurated at the same time as political freedom, but
as yet it had not been condensed and embodied either in doctrine
or in ecclesiastical organization and discipline.
There was an urgent need of moral reform, for the ancient creeds
and authorities had strangely tolerated the decay of public
morality; and their downfall had been followed by an increase of
licence and profligacy. Religious reform made moral reform all
the more necessary, but did not succeed in accomplishing it. In
fact, Geneva presented the spectacle of a tottering republic, a
wavering faith, a nascent church; State and Church were sometimes
confused together, at others entirely separated, and there were
no definite rules recognised by both Church and State in their
mutual relation; whilst to all these public difficulties must be
added the frightful immorality of private individuals. What was
the meaning of these numerous indications? What would be the
result of a complication in which everything as yet seemed dark
and uncertain? Was it life-giving power that was at work, or
unfruitful anarchy? Such were the questions suggested in the
sixteenth century, in Geneva as well as in several of the great
European States; but in Geneva they were put forward more
distinctly, emphatically, and urgently than elsewhere.

Geneva became a celebrated city, because she was able to answer
these questions in a manner that for three centuries has been
satisfactory, whilst it is to Calvin that the answers are due.


                   Chapter IX.

                 William Farel.
                Calvin In Geneva.

When Calvin reached Geneva towards the end of August 1536, with
the intention of resuming his journey on the following day,
another reformer, a man who was earnest, eloquent, and fearless,
was living there. This was William Farel, also a Frenchman, and
one who, like Calvin, after having tried to propagate reform in
France, had left it, as he had done, and travelled in
Switzerland, to Basle, Berne, and Neufchatel, teaching and
preaching with great fervour. Farel had now lived for some time
at Geneva, where he was working with his whole soul to ensure the
triumph of reform over all its adversaries, whether Genevese or
strangers, whilst they opposed him with equal zeal. After more
than two years of alternate success and reverses, of public
discussion and civil war, Farel succeeded in getting the whole
question stated in the following terms to the inhabitants of
Geneva, who were assembled in the church of St. Peter:--'By a
decree of the Council of Two Hundred you are assembled here, that
it may be known if there are any among you who have anything to
say against the Word of God, and the doctrine which is preached
to us in this city. ...
If so, let them speak, so that we may know if there are any who
are not willing to live according to the Gospel which has been
proclaimed to us since the abolition of the mass and of the papal
sacrifice.' 'Upon which,' says the Register, 'without one single
opposing voice, it was unanimously agreed to, and carried by the
holding up of hands; and a promise, and an oath taken to God that
all the people would live according to this holy evangelical law
and the Word of God which has been made known to them, forsaking
all masses and other papal ceremonies and frauds, images and
idols, and living together in unity and in obedience to the law.'

The latest and most accurate historian of the Church of Geneva,
says: 'That day, the 21st of May, 1536, is the true date of the
Reformation at Geneva. From that time the citizens, pressing to
their hearts a faith which was sanctified by misfortune, prepared
themselves for the sacrifices and glory of the future, and, like
the Hebrews on the frontiers of Canaan, they repeated Joshua's
oath, "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord."' [Footnote

    [Footnote 70: Gaberel, ancien Pasteur. _Histoire de
    l'Église de Genève_, vol. i. p. 261.]

Farel had conquered, but his victory gave him great uneasiness
and apprehension. He was as conscientious as he was courageous,
and did not deceive himself as to the defects of his work; the
reformed faith was triumphant at Geneva, but the foundations of
the reformed Church were not laid, nor did Farel feel that he was
capable of establishing a church: he lacked the knowledge and
authority, the intellect and judicious tact which are necessary
for such a task; his vocation was religious warfare, not the
organization of a new religious society.
In the midst of his perplexity, a French refugee at Geneva, the
canon Louis du Tillet,--who was, as we have seen, a lukewarm
reformer, and had formerly received Calvin at Angoulême, leaving
France with him afterwards,--hurried to Farel's house and told
him that Calvin, the author of the 'Institutes of the Christian
Religion,' had just arrived; that he had been driven out of
Italy, where he had gained great renown teaching and preaching
the reformed religion; but that he was only passing through
Geneva, and was on his way to Basle or Strasburg. Farel
immediately hurried to Calvin, implored him to stay at Geneva, to
establish himself there, and work with him to secure the complete
triumph of the reformed religion. Calvin refused, pleading the
studies he had commenced, his desire of pursuing them, and his
dislike to a public and stormy life. Farel pressed him eagerly;
Calvin persisted in his refusal. 'When he saw,' says Calvin,
'that he could gain nothing by prayer, he tried imprecation,
demanding that it might please God to curse my retirement and the
tranquillity which I was seeking for my studies, if I held back
and refused to give succour and aid at a time of such urgent
need. And these words terrified and shook me as if God from on
high had stretched out his hand upon me to stop me, so that I
renounced the journey which I had undertaken; but conscious of my
diffidence and timidity, I refused to bind myself to undertake
any definite office.' [Footnote 71]

    [Footnote 71: Calvin's Preface to the _Commentaries on the


At first he only engaged to give instruction, in St. Peter's
church, in the Holy Scriptures; he began to do so on the 1st of
September, and with such success that, on the 5th of the month,
Farel said at a meeting of the Council of State, that 'the
lectures which had been commenced in the cathedral by _the
Frenchman_ were absolutely necessary, and he entreated the
Council to retain that minister and provide for his maintenance.'
The Council consented, but they did not assign Calvin any
official function, and merely spoke of him as _the
Frenchman_. [Footnote 72]

    [Footnote 72: 'Iste Gallus.']

Calvin's powers were almost immediately manifested on a very
solemn occasion. A conference had been arranged at which
Catholics and Reformers should meet and freely discuss their
differences of faith and ecclesiastical discipline, and it was
held at Lausanne, towards the close of September 1536. Both Farel
and Calvin were present, Farel as the chief representative of
Geneva, Calvin as his ally and auxiliary. The conference lasted
seven days, and until the 5th Farel took the lead in the debate;
Calvin was silent. At length he took up the question of the real
presence of Christ at the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and
after expressing his ideas as to the nature of the debate itself,
he protested strongly against the reproach of the Catholics
against the Reformers that they despised the Fathers of the
Church, their belief and traditions: 'We read them, and learn
more from them than you do,' said Calvin; 'but we cannot submit
unreservedly to their judgment, because the Word of God forbids
us to do so. How can you dare to assert that whoever does not
acknowledge the absolute authority of the Fathers thereby rejects
all authority whatsoever, even that of the law and the rulers of
his country?'
And here he referred to all the principal Fathers of the Church,
especially Tertullian, St. Augustine, and Chrysostom; he traced
back all their thoughts to the New Testament itself, to the
Epistles of St. Paul, and that with so much learning and
eloquence that Joseph Jandy, a monk who was present at the
conference, suddenly started up and called out 'that at length he
had found the truth and could understand the teaching of the
Gospel; that if he did not receive it he should commit the sin
against the Holy Ghost; that he now confessed his errors, and
prayed God to grant the same grace to his brethren that they
might also confess theirs.'

Calvin's arguments and eloquence produced so deep an impression,
both in the conference and elsewhere, that the reformed religion
was formally adopted and proclaimed at Lausanne and throughout
the Pays de Vaud, as it had formerly been at Geneva, and Calvin
returned to the latter city towards the middle of October with
greatly augmented fame and influence.

He had need of it; for the task which awaited him and which he
imposed upon himself was indescribably complicated and arduous.
He desired to establish and promote Christian faith in accordance
with his own views;--to secure to the religious society which had
been founded in virtue of that faith, on the one hand religious
independence from state control, and on the other due authority
and power in matters of religion over its members and faithful
adherents; to reform public and private morality both in civil
and religious society, in the name of the allied powers of Church
and State, and by their mutual help.
Such was the threefold design which Calvin hoped to accomplish.
No doubt he had not set it very distinctly before him, nor had he
fully realized all that it involved and all its difficulties, but
he commenced the struggle with a stout heart and resolute mind.

He returned to Geneva with Farel in October 1536, was elected
pastor and, under this title, solemnly installed in the church of
St. Peter. The first time that he preached there the crowd
thronged around him with loud expressions of satisfaction, and he
was obliged to promise those who had been unable to hear him that
he would preach again on the following day. He and Farel together
drew up a confession of faith: 'a brief formula of belief and
doctrine,' says Beza, 'to give some shape to the newly
established Church. Calvin also wrote a catechism, not that which
we have at the present time, arranged in questions and answers,
but one which consisted of brief summaries of all the principal
tenets of our religion.' On the 10th of November in the same
year, Farel submitted the confession to the Council of Two
Hundred, who ordained 'that the articles should be regularly
observed by the citizens,' but did not definitely adopt them, and
adjourned the discussion of them to another day.

This first confession of faith by the reformed Church in France
was simple in form, moderate in tone, and free from many of the
theological controversies which afterwards arose among the
reformers; its principal object was to separate the reformed
faith clearly and entirely from the Church of Rome, its
traditions, its priestcraft, and its worship; at the same time it
was entirely in harmony with the facts, dogmas, and precepts
contained in the Scriptures, the authority of which it asserted
as the fixed basis and law of Christian faith.
The confession is divided into twenty-one articles. The
starting-point of the three first is the word and law of God 'as
they are contained in the Holy Scriptures,' and at their close
all the Ten Commandments are inserted according to the version
given in the Book of Exodus. The ten subsequent articles
enumerate and announce the fundamental doctrines of evangelical
orthodoxy; namely, the natural depravity of man, the redemption
by our Lord Jesus Christ, the necessity of faith in Christ for
regeneration and salvation, and they end with the insertion of
the whole of the Apostles' Creed and the Lord's Prayer, together
with this previous declaration: 'All that Jesus Christ did and
suffered for our redemption, we believe truly and without doubt
as it is stated in the creed which is recited in the Church.' The
eight remaining articles treat of the sacraments of the Church,
which they reduce to two, baptism and the Lord's Supper; they
very briefly indicate the essential principles of ecclesiastical
organization, the duties of the pastor to his flock, and of
believers to the civil powers: 'By which we mean that every
Christian is bound to pray to God for the prosperity of the
rulers and governors of the country in which he lives, to obey
the statutes and decrees which are not in opposition to the
commandments of God, to strive to promote the public welfare,
peace, and profit, and to take no part in schemes which may
provoke danger and dissension.'
At the same time in the hands of the Church, and to be exercised
by its authority, these articles formally establish 'the
punishment of excommunication which we hold to be a sacred and
salutary weapon in the hands of believers, so that the wicked by
their evil conversation may not corrupt the good and dishonour
Christ. We hold that it is expedient and according to the
ordinance of God, that all open idolaters, blasphemers,
murderers, thieves, adulterers and false witnesses, all seditious
and quarrelsome persons, slanderers, pugilists, drunkards, and
spendthrifts, if they do not amend their lives after they have
been duly admonished, shall be cut off from communion with
believers until they have given satisfactory proof of
repentance.' [Footnote 73]

    [Footnote 73: Gaberel, vol. i. _Pièces Justificatives_,
    p. 120.]

Objections and complaints broke out, before long, against a rule
of such religious and moral austerity: the bold innovators, who
in their struggles with dukes and bishops had recently
established the political independence of their country, were as
much accustomed to licence in their manner of life as to freedom
of thought. They accused Calvin of exceeding the duties of his
office: 'It was his place,' they said, 'to explain the
Scriptures; what right had he to meddle with other things, to
talk about morals and find fault? He was to show that they were
right in not having anything more to do with mass, and the Pope,
and confession, and all the rest of it; was he going to revive an
office which they had abolished, and make himself confessor to,
and inflict penance on the whole city?' Calvin did not deceive
himself as to the danger of these attacks: 'We are exposed to the
most serious difficulties,' he wrote to his friend Bullinger,
'for the people in breaking off the yoke of the priests think
that they have shaken off all authority in this world.
Many of the citizens say, "The knowledge of the Gospel is enough
for us; we know how to read it, and our actions are nothing to
you." The greater number are inclined to look upon us as
preachers rather than pastors. Oh, what a difficult thing the
rebuilding of the Church will be! We shall have to struggle
against all the worst passions of flesh and blood!'

But Calvin and Farel were of the number of those who gain
strength and courage in the face of danger; they addressed a long
memorial to the Council, in which they demanded that the
provisional vote of the previous 10th of November on the
organization of the Church, should be replaced by a decisive
vote; and they pointed out the measures which they looked upon as
essential in a Christian government,--monthly celebration of the
Lord's Supper, excommunication to be put in force, the
introduction of psalm-singing in public worship, instruction of
children in Christian doctrine, and the regulation of marriages.
The Council adjourned the consideration of, or discarded some of
these measures, and accepted others; although they were partisans
of Calvin and Farel, the magistrates were disposed to try
conciliation and patience. The two reformers, on their side,
showed their moderation by consenting to the modifications which
the magistrates desired, and on the 16th of January, 1537, the
Council definitely accepted the confession of faith, and all the
most important resolutions in the scheme of moral and religious
discipline which Calvin and Farel had drawn up.


Their scheme was put into execution at once; and although it was
not carried out in what the two reformers considered a complete
and satisfactory manner, still the attempt was bold and dangerous
enough in the state of men's minds at that time. One of the
magistrates entrusted with executive power, the syndic Ami
Portal, was a fearless and devoted friend of Calvin's; he
unhesitatingly applied the measures for the promotion of moral
and religious discipline; gaming-houses were closed; gamblers
were seized with loaded dice,--one of them was condemned to sit
for an hour at St. Gervais, with his cards suspended round his
neck; a convicted adulterer was led through the streets with his
accomplice and then expelled from the town; and all masquerades
and immodest dances were prohibited, 'I do not condemn amusements
as such,' said Calvin; 'dances and cards are not in themselves
evil, but how easily these pleasures succeed in making slaves of
those who are addicted to them! Wherever wrong-doing has become
an old-established custom we must avoid every risk of falling
back into it.'

This moral police force was at first well received; rich and
poor, great and small, were alike subject to it, and neither
family influence nor political merit could ensure exemption. A
man of some distinction, who was found guilty of offence, urged
in extenuation of it the services which he had rendered to Geneva
in the hour of peril when her national independence was at stake.
Calvin, to whom he had appealed, answered: 'It is the act of a
disloyal citizen to claim the right of doing evil and setting a
bad example, as a recompense for the blood which he has shed for
his country.' Moral instinct as well as secret jealousy causes
men to take pleasure in the contemplation of virtuous and
impartial severity, but they are none the less influenced by the
clamour of discontented men, and assertions of the right of


There was a violent outbreak at Geneva. Two Anabaptists arrived
there, and were favourably received by the adversaries of the two
reformers; they were members of a sect which was at that time in
great disrepute, both on account of the profligacy which it was
supposed to sanction, and of the mystical doctrines, immoral or
anarchical, held by its members, or attributed to them. Calvin
and Farel were uneasy at this introduction of a new element of
disorder, and were always ready to take part in the intellectual
contest which was kept up on both sides. They demanded a public
conference, at which the two Anabaptists could be openly heard
and refuted. At first the magistrates refused their request: 'It
would be dangerous,' they said, 'on account of the
_tenderness_ of the public mind; it would be better to hear
these men in the council.' Farel persisted; the magistrates gave
way: 'The usual conditions of these theological tournaments were
proposed to the strangers,' says the historian of Geneva,
[Footnote 74] and they consented to submit to banishment or death
in case of defeat.

    [Footnote 74: Gaberel, vol. i. p. 281.]


The discussion lasted for three days. The subjects of the most
important debates were, the sacrament of baptism and the nature
of the soul. Philosophy can show no more luminous demonstration
of the immortality of the soul than that uttered by Calvin. The
reasoning of his opponents does not seem to have been very
conclusive. There were many, however, who took their part; for
those who were secretly vicious were delighted to find that the
words of the Anabaptists made excuses for them; therefore they
held their reasons to be good and valid, and refused to examine
those of the ministers. At the end of three days the Council
seeing that the breach was widening daily, and that the faith of
many began to totter, commanded that the discussion should cease,
and summoned the Anabaptists before them: 'You see,' said the
first syndic, 'that we listen to each one, and that when we have
heard your arguments you cannot prove them to be valid by the
Scriptures. Since therefore you will not retract your errors and
turn to God, we banish you for ever from our land.' The two
Anabaptists left Geneva.

Calvin and Farel were victorious, but they were keenly alive to
the incompleteness of their victory, and the necessity of making
some powerful impression upon the minds of the people. They had
recourse to the two most legitimate and efficacious plans which
they could have adopted: they increased their intimacy with the
citizens, multiplied their visits and the religious instruction
given in private houses, and, acting with the magistrates, they
caused the confession to be printed and distributed among the
people. They thus placed their doctrines and precepts within the
reach of all, and they took great pains to find out the opinions
of the citizens, to strengthen and encourage believers, and to
enlighten and confirm those who hesitated. There was another
French refugee at Geneva, Courault, formerly a monk, then a
preacher of reform, received with favour by the Queen of Navarre,
now old and blind, but eloquent, impetuous, and indefatigable; he
became their colleague in the ministry, and their most popular
The assiduous labours of the reformers had the effect which is
invariably produced in the early and violent stages of moral and
social disturbances. Men's passions on both sides became equally
excited; the two parties were sharply divided and hopelessly
separated: the Libertines, as they were already called, became
more turbulent and aggressive; the orthodox believers more harsh
and exclusive. Calvin and Farel demanded that one of the syndics,
accompanied by certain officers, should enter every house, in
order to obtain the adhesion of the inmates to the confession.
The Council consented to take this step, but to the demand for
religious observance of the confession they added the following
restriction, 'as far as may be.' The result of these domiciliary
visits was to show the complete separation and mutual opposition
of the two parties; many of the citizens, some of them men of
good position, others humble and obscure, refused their adhesion
to the confession; one of the first of these sent word to the
Council that 'as to him and his servant there were certain
articles of the confession of faith which they were quite ready
to agree to, but that they could not take any oath about the ten
commandments of God, because they were exceedingly difficult to
keep.' Similar declarations, and the immorality of those who made
them, filled the pastors and their allies with alarm and anger;
in September 1537, when they were about to celebrate the Lord's
Supper, Calvin and Farel demanded that the abettors of the
Anabaptists should be censured before they were allowed to
partake of it; once again the magistrates consented, but they
implored the pastors to be careful and 'to exhort the people
without casting them out of the right path.'
Both pastors and magistrates felt that they were on the verge of
a crisis; the magistrates, although they did not in theory
acknowledge liberty of conscience, yet in point of fact respected
it, fearing that, unless they did so, public order would be
seriously disturbed, and the city depopulated; the pastors were
afraid that the civil powers would attack the independence and
rights of the Church, and were more and more anxious to assert
and use them so that they might be secured. The commencement of
the year 1538 was at hand, the time when the magistrates were to
be re-elected by the citizens; the pastors insisted on the
acknowledgment of their right of excommunication before they
would consent to celebrate the Lord's Supper; the Council
considered this threat too dangerous, and declared that communion
must be refused to no one. The pastors gave way for the moment,
for they were themselves anxious as to the sentiments of the
people and the result of the approaching elections, and as we
have seen already, Calvin was not incapable either of prudence or
patience. The elections were unfavourable to him; three at least
of the four new syndics were taken from the ranks of his enemies.
The pastors restrained themselves for some weeks longer, and were
content to do no more than call the attention of the Council to
'certain immoralities in the city both by night and day, as well
as indecent songs and language.'
The new magistrates, on their side, received these complaints
with due consideration, and 'sent criers round the town to
announce, to the sound of trumpets, that no one should dare to
sing indecent songs, or to go out after nine o'clock at night, or
to cause any disturbance or altercation in the city, on pain of
condemnation to bread and water for three days.' Both sides now
hesitated at the prospect of the contest towards which their own
passions, and those of their party, had been hurrying them for
the last eighteen months.

It was an external incident that brought about the explosion. The
canton of Berne and its magistrates had more than once taken up
arms in defence of Geneva, and had always been its faithful
allies; they now tried to induce the Genevese to lay aside their
internal dissensions, and regulate the celebration of the Lord's
Supper according to the same rules, customs, and conditions that
had been adopted in Berne. There were differences of more or less
importance between the Genevese ceremonial and that of Berne, but
they related to matters which clearly affected the authority of
the Church, and Calvin and his colleagues refused to accept the
rules and customs of Berne. Their adversaries were all the more
anxious to conform to them, and desired the magistrates to
enforce them upon the pastors. In March 1538, the difficulty was
submitted to a synod held at Lausanne, a city which was at that
time under the dominion of Berne, and the decision was
unfavourable to Calvin and Farel. They demanded that the question
should be referred to another synod which was about to meet at
Zurich, a city perfectly independent both of Berne and Geneva.
This was peremptorily refused, and the magistrates commanded them
to celebrate the Lord's Supper according to the Bernese custom,
and without refusing it to anyone.
They declared that they would not submit to commands which were
opposed to the rights of religious authority and to their own
consciences. 'There is,' said Calvin, 'a manifest distinction
between spiritual government and political or civil government.
Christ drew a distinction between the spiritual kingdom of God
and the kingdom of this world. If, therefore, princes usurp
something of the authority of God, we must not obey them, except
in so far as may be done without offending God. Is it any better
to submit to Berne than to Rome?'

But the 'Libertines' opposed Calvin with other weapons than
arguments; popular violence was joined to the injunctions of the
magistrates; 'tumultuous crowds assembled at night, uttering
threats of death against the ministers, discharging arquebuses at
their houses and crying, "To the Rhone with the pastors who will
not accept the Bernese rite!"' The most fiery of the pastors, old
Courault, responded to these threats by insults: 'You gentlemen
who are at the head of the government,' said he from the pulpit,
'you are like Daniel's idol; you have feet of wax. ... Perhaps
you think that the kingdom of heaven is like that of the frogs,
where those who are inside make more noise than the rest. You are
like rats among straw. ... Your flock consists of a troop of
drunkards, without any conscience.' After this attack the
magistrates forbade Courault to enter the pulpit, threatening him
with imprisonment if he did not obey. He made no answer, but a
few days later he preached again, 'using many abusive words
against the magistrates.' He was arrested and imprisoned.


The irritation which this step produced was extreme, and was
felt, not only by the pastors, but also by their pious and
austere partisans; they resolved to lay their complaint solemnly
before the Council. Calvin and Farel appeared before them,
accompanied by fourteen pious burgesses of note. [Footnote 75]

    [Footnote 75: April 20, 1538.]

Farel began abruptly, 'You have acted badly, wickedly,
iniquitously,' said he, 'in putting Courault in prison. I demand
that the matter be brought before the Council of Two Hundred. Ah,
sirs, you should remember that without me you would not be here

_A Burgess_. 'Yes, sirs, the pastors shall preach in spite
of you.'

_The Syndics_. 'Courault has been imprisoned for abusive
language to the magistrates; he will stay in prison until justice
is done. And you, sirs, the preachers, will you obey the decree
of Berne touching the Lord's Supper?'

_The Pastors_. 'We will only do what God commands us.'

_The Burgesses_. 'Set Courault at liberty. We will give bail
for him.'

_The Syndics_. 'It is not the custom, seeing that he is
imprisoned for contempt of justice.'

_A Burgess_. 'You have imprisoned him on the testimony of
false witnesses; there are traitors here, and I know very well
which they are.'

They separated, the magistrates surprised and provoked, the
pastors and their friends more than ever resolved upon
resistance. That same evening the magistrates sent a messenger to
ask Calvin and Farel: 'Will you preach to-morrow, Easter Sunday,
and administer the Communion according to the tenor of the
letters from Berne?'
Calvin was alone, and he refused to give any answer: 'Then,' said
the messenger, 'on the part of the magistrates I forbid you to
preach to-morrow; they will find some one else.'

After having taken counsel together during the evening, Calvin
and Farel resolved to preach on the morrow, not in order that
they might administer the Lord's Supper, but in order to reproach
their enemies, magistrates and citizens, with their conduct
towards the defenders of the Reformation. The report spread
rapidly that the pastors intended to preach in spite of the
prohibition of the Council. Early on the morrow a dense crowd,
friends and enemies, filled the churches of St. Peter and St.
Gervais. Farel entered the pulpit at St. Gervais: 'I shall not
administer the Sacrament,' said he, 'but I tell you that it is
not from dislike to the Bernese rite, it is because your own
dispositions render all communion with Jesus Christ impossible.
There must be faith in order to hold communion with him, but you
revile the Gospel! There must be charity, but you are here with
swords and with sticks! There must be repentance; how have you
spent the night that is past?' and he launched into a description
of excesses which were familiar enough to the Libertines. Angry
exclamations were heard on all sides; swords were drawn at no
great distance from Farel; his friends surrounded him; he
descended from the pulpit, and left the church walking slowly,
his head thrown back, fiercely threatened but not attacked.
Similar scenes took place around Calvin in St. Peter's church.
On the following day [Footnote 76] the Council resolved to adopt
the Bernese rite definitely, and to depose the preachers who
showed such contempt for the law, 'allowing them to remain in
Geneva until others had been found to take their places.' The
next day these two resolutions were confirmed by the general
assembly, convened for that purpose, and an order to Farel and
Calvin was added to 'leave the town in three days.'

    [Footnote 76: April 22, 1538.]

The Genevese populace was undoubtedly hostile to the two
reformers, to the supremacy of their faith, and the severity of
their discipline and morality; their hostility was not without a
confused sense of the right to liberty in matters of belief,
although it also arose from vulgar antipathy to the moral results
of the Christian faith and law.

Bonnivard, an old and valued friend of Geneva, often imprisoned
and persecuted for the Genevese cause, and at that time living at
Berne, had predicted this revolutionary violence: 'You hated the
priests,' he said to the Genevese, 'for being a great deal too
much like yourselves; you will hate the preachers for being a
great deal too unlike yourselves; you will not have had them two
years before you will wish them with the priests, and you will
send them off with no other wages for their work than good blows
with a cudgel. The same thing will happen in Geneva which happens
among any people who have groaned for a long time beneath a hard
and tyrannical power; delighted to feel themselves free, their
love of liberty is changed to a love of licence; every man will
be his own master and will live as he pleases.'


When Calvin received, the order to leave Geneva within three
days: 'Well,' said he, 'so be it; if we had served man this would
be a bad return, but we serve a great master who will reward us.'
Calvin was not presumptuous, but he was proud, and he distrusted
men almost as much as he trusted God; he left Geneva dejected and
sad, and yet with a feeling of relief: 'Whenever I think how
wretched I was in Geneva,' he wrote a little later, 'I tremble
throughout my whole being; when I had to administer the
sacrament, I was tortured by anxiety for the state of the souls
of those for whom I should one day have to render an account
before God; there were many whose faith seemed to me uncertain,
nay doubtful, and yet they all thronged to the table of the Lord
without distinction. I cannot tell you with what torments my
conscience was beset, day and night.' [Footnote 77]

    [Footnote 77: Stähelin, 1860, vol. i. p. 157.]

Calvin did not know that he had sown seeds in Geneva which would
soon spring up and bear fruit.


                   Chapter X.

               Calvin's Polemics.

For four months Calvin wandered in Switzerland, visiting the
different centres of the Reformation, Berne, Zurich, Lausanne,
and Basle; sometimes doing his best to prove the lawfulness of
his actions at Geneva and of their motives, at others
acquiescing, although without hope of success, in the attempts of
some of his friends to bring about a reconciliation with the
Genevese. It was at Strasburg that he finally resolved to
establish himself: about fifteen hundred Frenchmen, who had
adopted the reformed faith and were fugitives like himself, had
found an asylum there; two celebrated reformers, who were already
his friends, Bucer and Capito, lived there and possessed great
influence; they pressed him to join them: 'It was,' says Calvin,
'a similar appeal to that of Farel, which had formerly touched me
so deeply: I yielded, like Jonah, [Footnote 78] to the warning
which called me to another work.'

    [Footnote 78: Jonah, chap. i.]

He arrived at Strasburg in the early part of September 1538, and
preached with his accustomed success before the assembled French
refugees. The magistrates immediately authorized him to organize
a religious congregation of his countrymen, he received the right
of citizenship, was appointed professor of theology, and
commenced a life of study and religious instruction, the only
life that was in harmony, so he said, 'with my timid, weak, and
even pusillanimous nature.' Wearied and disgusted with his first
combat, he was far from foreseeing the destiny for which he was
reserved, as the heroic champion of the reformed faith.


No sooner was he settled at Strasburg than he was unexpectedly
called upon to take up arms in defence of Geneva, the city which
had just banished him. In April 1539, Cardinal Sadolet, Bishop of
Carpentras, one of the most learned, most highly esteemed, and
moderate of the prelates at the court of Rome, wrote a long
letter to the Genevese, with the object of inducing them to
return to the bosom of the Church of Rome. The banishment of
Calvin had probably inspired him with some hope of the
possibility of such an event. The letter was singularly prudent
and temperate, free from all personal attack and special
controversy: its sole aim was to urge the following argument,
that eternal salvation being the first and chief interest of the
human soul, there was more certainty of obtaining it by faith and
humble submission to the Catholic church, than by accepting the
audacious and vagrant doctrines of the innovators. The cardinal
made numerous appeals to the authority of St. Paul, the favourite
apostle of the reformers; and he ended his letter with an
eloquent description of the different positions in which two
Christians would find themselves at the Day of Judgment, in
presence of the Supreme Judge, one of whom had humbly obeyed the
teaching and authority of the Church, whilst the other had set up
his own intellect and his own will as the law of his faith and
life. Without a single reproach or threat, and in a tone of
confident though sorrowful affection, the cardinal recalled the
children who had gone astray, warned them of their great danger,
and entreated them to return to the home of their fathers.


He had not named Calvin, or any other of the now celebrated
reformers; but Calvin was not a man to take advantage of this
discreet forbearance, or to screen himself behind the cardinal's
silence concerning him. As soon as the letter to the Genevese was
promulgated, the man who had been banished from Geneva,
considering that he was attacked without being named, published a
grand answer to it, in which he addressed the cardinal as his own
opponent. He began by acknowledging, in very courteous terms, the
high character, intellect, learning, and moderate language of the
prelate, and disavowing any personal animosity or annoyance on
his own part. Acknowledging the dignity and importance of their
mutual position, he then, in his own name, in the names of his
friends the reformers, and his disciples the Genevese, undertook
the defence of their common cause, the Reformation--its
principles and its aims. His defence was in reality an open and
powerful attack upon the Church of Rome, its deviations from the
Gospel teaching, its usurpations, immorality, and vice. 'I cannot
consent to allow you,' said he, 'to stir up against us the hatred
of ill-informed persons, by giving the name of Church to such a
profligate institution, as if we intended to make war against the
We are armed not only with the Word of God, but also with the
writings of the Fathers of the Church, by which means we can
fight against, overthrow, and destroy your empire; you hold up in
opposition to us the authority of the Church as if it were the
shield of Ajax, but I will take it from you, and show you by
means of a few striking examples how very far you are removed
from that sacred antiquity. . . . Recall to your minds the
ancient form of the Church, such as it was among the Greeks in
the time of Basil and Chrysostom, among the Latins in the time of
Cyprian, Ambrose, and Augustine, of which the records remain in
their own writings, and then look at the ruins of it that exist
in your midst. ... We ask for Christian liberty, which has been
oppressed and stifled under human traditions. ... Have we not
restored the rights of criminal and civil jurisdiction to the
magistrates, from whom they had been fraudulently abstracted by
the pretexts of episcopacy and priestcraft? ... Do not take to
yourselves the credit of a peaceful reign; there has been peace
only because Christ has been silent. I grant that this new
expansion of the Gospel has given rise to great strife which no
one foresaw; but do not impute this to our followers; they are
ready to give a reason for the faith that is in them at all times
and to all men. ... God grant, O Cardinal! that thou and all thy
followers may one day recognise that it is Christ our Saviour, he
who reconciles us to God the Father, who can alone unite his
scattered Church, and re-establish it in the bond of true unity.'

It is an easy and vulgar manner of writing history to depict
exclusively the most salient features of men and parties, and to
describe only those views and violent passions which separate
them most strongly. I have no taste for this superficial and
crude method: truth demands that we should penetrate beyond the
mere surface of minds and characters, that we should also show
their inmost nature, and point out the larger views and juster
feelings which have sometimes led opponents to seek to understand
and approach each other.
This is what I have just done with regard to Sadolet and Calvin;
for a time I have left out of sight their striking points of
difference and the subjects on which they profoundly offended
each other, and have shown them as they appeared in 1539, in
their polite and reserved polemics. The differences of principle
and action which separated them were not rendered less deep and
obvious by their mutual forbearance, and the contest between the
two causes to which they were devoted, the Church of Rome and the
Reformation, was carried on by them all the same. Both show
themselves, in fact, just what they are, they and their
followers: the cardinal is old, and Calvin is young;--one is
timid, the other bold;--one tries to arrest a great movement in
the human soul and human society which alarms and exhausts
him;--the other throws himself into the movement with all
confidence, and strives to help on the human soul and human
society in the path which they have just entered.

The two letters made a great noise throughout Europe: 'Here is a
work which has hands and feet,' said Luther when he read that of
Calvin; 'I thank God for raising up such men.' The letters were
forgotten, the cardinal's attempt was futile, but the impulse
given by Calvin spread and increased.

I have tried to find in the history of the time some other traces
of the intercourse thus commenced between two men, both of whom,
although so unequal, were very remarkable, and both of whom were
I was struck by a few lines in a remarkable work published by M.
Felix Bungener, pastor at Geneva, and entitled 'Calvin, his Life,
his Work, and his Books;' [Footnote 79] in which he refers to a
visit said to have been paid to Calvin at Geneva by Sadolet, at
some unknown period after their epistolary controversy.

  [Footnote 79: Bungener, p. 503. 1862.]

The fact seems to me not impossible, but very difficult to
reconcile with the facts and dates in the lives of the two men
from 1539 to 1547, the date of the cardinal's death. I asked M.
Bungener himself from what contemporaneous documents he had
extracted this anecdote, or by what testimony it was supported.
He acknowledged, with great candour, the difficulty of procuring
any such corroboration in its favour, and added (I make it a
point of duty to reproduce his exact words): 'I never placed
entire confidence in the story which struck you in my "Calvin." I
inserted it at first on the authority of local tradition; every
one at Geneva believes it, and I believed it, like every one
else. But I had also further authority than tradition; I found it
in Drelincourt's "Défense de Calvin," published at Geneva in
1667, in the following passage:

  '"It is said, and illustrious members of the Church of Rome
  have also heard it said, that Cardinal Sadolet, passing through
  Geneva _incognito_, as they call it, wished to see Calvin,
  who had written against him, and so he went to call upon him.
  He expected to find a palace, or at least a magnificently
  furnished mansion, well filled with servants. Instead of that
  he was greatly surprised when he was directed to a small house,
  and when, having knocked at the door, Calvin himself, very
  simply dressed, came to open it.
  The cardinal was astounded to find that this was the celebrated
  and renowned Calvin, for whose writings he entertained so much
  admiration; and he could not help expressing his astonishment
  and surprise. But Calvin told him to remember that in what he
  had done he had not taken counsel with flesh and blood; and
  that his aim had not been to make himself rich and powerful in
  this world, but to glorify God and defend the truth. Report
  adds that the illustrious cardinal conversed for some time with
  Calvin, and was greatly edified."' [Footnote 80]

    [Footnote 80: Drelincourt, _La Défense de Calvin_,
    p. 187. Geneva, 1667.]

Even if we admit the visit, I doubt--and M. Bungener doubts
also--whether it made the impression upon the two men which is
attributed to it in the chronicle. The cardinal was probably not
so much astonished at Calvin's humble dwelling; and Calvin did
not take so much pains to explain why he did not live more
sumptuously, and by what more lofty motives than the desire of
making himself rich and powerful in this world his life was
governed. They were both certainly capable of understanding each
other very much better than this. Calvin's entire
disinterestedness, and the extreme simplicity of his habits, had
been abundantly shown and were well known at that time. Wherever
he lived, and as long as he lived, at Basle, Strasburg, and
Geneva, he had scarcely the bare necessaries for the most simple
and humble existence: he received a stipend sometimes from the
small and parsimonious municipal governments of the places in
which he resided, at others from private friends who were
intimate with him and knew his needs. He arranged all domestic
matters with the most scrupulous exactness; he wanted no more
than would suffice regularly to supply the needs of every day,
and would leave him free from anxiety on the subject. All his
thoughts were entirely engrossed by his Christian work in the
world and his intellectual life.


He lived thus for three years at Strasburg, preaching, teaching,
and writing; passing from his labours in translating and
explaining the Scriptures to the partly ecclesiastical, partly
political missions which were entrusted to him, and which took
him to those meetings at which the general work of the
Reformation had to be discussed and decided. It was at this
period that he published his treatise 'On the Lord's Supper,' his
'Commentary on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans,' and his
revision of the 'Translation of the Bible,' by his
fellow-countryman Robert Olivétan. From 1539 to 1541 he was sent
by the magistrates of Strasburg and the dukes of
Brunswick-Lunebourg, as one of their delegates, to the diets or
conferences of Frankfort, Hagenau, Worms, and Ratisbon; the
object of these meetings was sometimes to attempt to establish
agreement and unity between the different reformed churches, at
others to seek some solution for the difficulties which arose
between the civil and religious authorities,--the Empire and the
new churches. On all these occasions, and especially at the time
of the controversy between Luther and Zwingli on the nature of
the eucharist, Calvin's conduct was that of a conciliatory and
politic theologian, skilful in distinguishing essential points
from those which are of secondary importance, and inclined to
seek for some compromise on the secondary, which might assist but
not prejudge or endanger, any decision ultimately formed on the
essential points.
He had no desire to undertake these difficult missions: 'Although
I continued,' he says, 'to be always like myself, that is,
unwilling to take part in great meetings, I do not know how it
was that I was always driven, as if by force, to the diets,
where, whether I liked it or no, I always found myself in the
company of many people.' In a recent and very intelligent history
of Calvin by a German author, I find the following passage: 'The
young Frenchman, with his reserved and rather shy manners, must
have been a singular apparition among the princes and most
eminent men of learning in the German empire amongst whom he was
suddenly thrown. As they often spoke in German he did not always
understand what was being discussed, and his position was rather
that of a learned and reliable man whom his friends had summoned
to give them valuable advice, than that of one who took an active
part in official debates.' [Footnote 81]

    [Footnote 81: Stähelin, vol. i. p. 233.]

Calvin had not attended these meetings long before he acquired a
very strong feeling of their inefficiency, and of his want of
power to give predominance to his own views: 'Certainly,' he
wrote, after the first meeting of the Diet of Ratisbon, 'if this
results in anything satisfactory it will be greatly opposed to my
expectations.' In fact, he did not succeed in harmonizing the
doctrines of the reformed German, Swiss, and French churches, nor
could he reconcile the Lutherans and Zwinglians on the question
of the Eucharist. Neither side had yet learnt, either by
experience or common danger, to unite in their great common
ground of Christian belief, and to concede mutual liberty in the
points on which they differed in knowledge as a nation, or as a


                   Chapter XI.

          Calvin, Luther, And Melancthon.
	  Calvin In Search Of A Wife.

Calvin's presence at these religious congresses was not devoid of
pleasure and valuable result to himself. He was brought into
personal relation with almost all of the most eminent men in the
different reformed churches; and he soon obtained such a high
place in their esteem that with one consent they called him
_The Theologian_, being struck not only by the extent of his
knowledge, but by the clear insight and courage which he
displayed, in dealing with the difficult questions which they had
to discuss. There was one important meeting--perhaps the most
important of any for the Reformation--which did not, however,
take place at these conferences--Calvin did not meet Luther; the
two great reformers never once saw each other and talked
together. Calvin, no doubt, regretted it keenly, for he ardently
desired the unity of the reformed churches. He wrote to the
learned Bullinger of Zurich: 'Nothing is more important, not only
for us but for the whole Christian Church, than the maintenance
of true harmony between those men to whom the Lord has confided
great powers. This is the point on which Satan has fixed his
eyes; he desires nothing so much as to excite quarrels among us,
and to isolate us from each other.'
Calvin was especially troubled at the controversy between Luther
and Zwingli on the subject of the eucharist: 'Although I have the
highest opinion of Luther's piety,' he wrote to his friend Bucer,
'I do not really know what I ought to think of him; even his
friends acknowledge that there is a good dose of self-esteem in
his firmness, and it does not seem to me at all improbable. The
Swiss may therefore be excused if they distrust the attempts at
re-union; Luther's offensive pride compels them to do so.'

A message, and a few words uttered by Luther, modified these
impressions. Calvin wrote to Farel: 'Craton, one of our
engravers, has just come from Wittenberg; he has brought a letter
from Luther to Bucer, in which Luther says, "Greet Calvin--whose
little works I have read with remarkable pleasure--
affectionately." Philip (Melancthon) also writes: "Calvin is in
high favour here." He also desired the messenger to say that
certain persons, wishing to irritate Martin (Luther), had pointed
out several passages in my works in which I alluded to him and
his followers in very bitter terms. Luther examined the passages,
and saw that he was undoubtedly the person referred to; he ended
by saying, "I hope Calvin will think better of me one day; we
ought to bear with something from so excellent a man." If we are
not melted by so much gentleness,' adds Calvin, 'we must be
stones; as for me, I am melted.'


The controversy concerning the eucharist still raged as fiercely
as ever between the two schools, but Calvin's feelings had
evidently undergone a change. 'I implore you,' he wrote to
Bullinger, who was a Zwinglian, 'never to forget how great a man
Luther is. Think with what courage, what constancy, what power he
has devoted himself to spreading the doctrine of salvation far
and near. As for me, I have often said, and I say it again,
though he should call me _devil_, I would still give him due
honour, and recognise him as a mighty servant of the Lord.' A
little later Calvin went beyond even this. He wrote to Luther:
'If I could only fly to you and enjoy your society, even for a
few hours! But since this happiness is not granted to me here
below, I hope that it may soon be granted me in the kingdom of
God. Farewell, then, most illustrious man, eminent minister of
Christ, father for ever venerable to me! May the Lord continue to
direct you by his Holy Spirit for the common good of his Church!'

Melancthon was charged to give this letter to Luther, but finding
no doubt that his master was not in the right humour to receive
it, the timid disciple kept the letter, and Luther never knew of
it. I do not know if it would have had the effect of calming his
irritation, but it remains as a noble expression of the
sentiments which Calvin entertained for him, and which he
continued to express even after Luther's death.

During the Diets of 1539 and 1542, Calvin frequently met
Melancthon, and they became close friends. When men are earnest
and sincere, they are drawn together, and united by their points
of difference almost as powerfully as by their common sympathies.
Melancthon attracted Calvin by the cultivation and fertility of
his intellect, by its comprehensiveness as well as its subtlety
and elegance; he was at the same time philosophical and literary,
as well versed in the ancient Greek and Latin literature as in
Christian history and theology. He belonged quite as much to the
Restoration of literature in the sixteenth century as to the
Reformation. All these things influenced Calvin, who was keenly
alive to the charm of great learning and fine language. Moreover
Melancthon shared the greater number of his own views on the
principal religious questions which were at that time in dispute,
especially his views on free-will and predestination. He was
older than Calvin, and a man of much greater renown, and yet he
showed him marked esteem and affection. During their early
intercourse Calvin was the disciple, welcomed and treated with
great favour by the celebrated man whose amiable nature was as
great an attraction as his rare intellect and acquirements, so
that he was no less honoured than delighted. He was not slow to
perceive that these fine qualities were allied in Melancthon to
defects which his own character and personal instincts caused him
to feel keenly. Calvin was a man of great intellectual precision
and courage, energetic, and of passionate intensity of character;
Melancthon was gentle, open to many influences, easily moved and
intimidated either by friends or enemies, and inclined to make
concessions in order to avoid a contest. Although Calvin was
impressed by these characteristics, which were unfavourable to
the common cause, yet he was no less alive to Melancthon's rare
and attractive merits; he remained faithful to his master, but
the pupil soon became an independent and candid critic, and
during the whole of their friendship he made it a duty to warn
Melancthon, and put him on his guard against his weakness: 'You
complain,' he wrote, 'of Luther's violence and blind intolerance;
but must not this defect increase and grow from day to day, if
every one trembles before him and gives way to him in everything?
I gladly acknowledge that by your gentle and conciliatory manner
you have kept many from quarrelling, or made peace between them.
I approve of this moderation and prudence; but is it a reason for
shrinking in terror from every contested question as from an
abyss, for fear of opposing and offending some one? Do you not
thus leave in uncertainty and perplexity a large number of
friends who look to you and rely upon you as the man in whom they
put their trust? Truly, as I have already told you more than
once, it is not to our honour that we refuse to sign with our ink
the doctrines which so many saints are sealing with their blood.
You know why I address you with such earnestness: I would rather
die with you a hundred times over than see you outlive your
divine and native nobility. I am not afraid of that, but I am
afraid that you will give our enemies a pretext that they have
long desired for injuring you in one manner or another. Forgive
these bitter complaints, which can do no good. May God guard
thee, excellent man, whom I carry always in my heart! May the
Lord still guide thee by his Holy Spirit, and sustain thee by his


It is possible that Calvin sometimes felt a secret pleasure in
thus assuming towards Melancthon the attitude and language of an
independent and severe judge; the noblest of human beings do not
entirely escape from the small and ignoble defects of human
nature, but, in spite of this, their nobility and rectitude are,
on the whole, the true motives of their conduct. It was love of
truth, sincere friendship for Melancthon, and zeal for their
common cause, much more than a secret pleasure in the
gratification of his own self-esteem, which led Calvin during the
whole of their intercourse to address Melancthon in frank and
dignified language. This was the tone of the last words--words
imbued with the deepest tenderness--which he wrote concerning
his friend when in 1560, having himself only a few more years to
live, he heard of his death.

'O Philip Melancthon! for it is upon thee that I call, upon thee
who now livest with Christ in God, and art waiting for us, until
we shall also be gathered to that blessed rest! A hundred times,
worn out with fatigue, and overwhelmed with care, thou hast laid
thy head upon my breast and said, "Would to God that I might die
here, on thy breast!" And I, a thousand times since then, have I
earnestly desired that it had been granted us to be together.
Certainly thou wouldst have been more valiant to face danger, and
stronger to despise hatred, and bolder to disregard false
accusations. Thus the wickedness of many would have been
restrained, whose audacity was increased by what they called thy

It would be difficult to reconcile truth, piety, and friendship
more tenderly.


Calvin had now lived at Strasburg for more than two years--years
of incessant work and arduous struggle. He had no other domestic
enjoyment than his books, and occasionally the society of one or
two young students who were invited to his humble home, no other
relaxation than conversation from time to time with his friends,
and journeys upon the different missions with which he was
entrusted. He was scarcely thirty, and yet his health was already
delicate and uncertain. He occasionally contemplated marriage,
but entertained neither romantic nor worldly notions on the
subject. On the 19th of May, 1539, he wrote to his most intimate
friend Farel, and no doubt alluded to some suggestion which had
been made to him: 'I will now speak more openly on the subject of
marriage. I do not know if, before the departure of Michael, any
one mentioned the person about whom I have written to you.
Remember, I pray you, what I look for in a wife. I am not one of
those idiotic lovers who can even adore defects when once they
are captivated by beauty. The only beauty I care for in a woman
is that she shall be modest, gentle, unobtrusive, economical,
patient, and that I may expect her to look after my health. If
you think that I do well to marry, pray see about it at once,
lest some one else should be beforehand with you. If you do not
think so, then let us give it up.' Some months later, on the 6th
of February, 1540, he wrote again to Farel: 'In the midst of all
these labours I have leisure enough to think of taking a wife. A
young girl of noble birth and good fortune--far beyond my
position--has been proposed to me. But there were two reasons
against the marriage. She did not understand our language, and I
was afraid that she might think too much of her birth and
Her brother, a very pious man, urged the marriage strongly, from
no other motive than his affection for me, which blinded him so
that he forgot himself; his wife entreated as earnestly as he
did, and I should have been compelled to give my hand, if the
Lord had not delivered me. I answered that I would do nothing
unless the young lady promised at once to devote herself to the
study of French. She asked for time to consider. I immediately
sent my brother, and a worthy man whom I know, in search of
another person; and if she is as good as her reputation, she will
bring me an ample marriage portion without any money, for all who
know her speak of her with admiration. If the thing succeeds
according to our hopes, the marriage will take place not later
than March 10th. God grant that you may be present to bless our
union! I shall feel rather foolish if my expectations come to
nothing, but I fully believe that the Lord will help me, and so I
act as if the thing were certain.' Three weeks later, on the 26th
of February, 1540, Calvin wrote once more to Farel: 'I am afraid
that if you wait for my wedding it will be a long time before you
come. My wife is not yet found, and I am afraid that I must look
again for her. Three days after my brother's return, I received
certain information about the young lady in question which
compelled me to send him back at once, in order to break off the

His friend Bucer now came to his aid, spared him the trouble of a
fresh search and saved him from further uncertainty. John
Störder, an Anabaptist from Liege, had been converted to the
orthodox faith by Calvin, and had since died of the plague; his
widow now lived at Strasburg.
Her name was Idelette, and she was born at Buren, a little town
in Gueldres; she had been left with three children, and in her
humble position had gained the esteem and affection of all who
knew her. Beza says: 'She was a grave and virtuous woman.' On
Bucer's recommendation Calvin saw her and conversed with her, and
was convinced, as he afterwards wrote to his friend Viret, 'that
whatever sharp trial might be sent him, she would willingly be
his companion in exile, poverty, and even unto death.' Their
wedding was celebrated in September 1540, with considerable
solemnity. Many of his friends, and deputies sent by different
consistories in French Switzerland, were present at the marriage
of an already celebrated reformer; a man from whom the members of
the reformed faith in western Europe, in the midst of their
struggles, expected much greater things than any that he had yet


                   Chapter XII.

             Calvin Returns To Geneva.

After the banishment of Calvin and Farel, Geneva became a prey to
moral and religious disturbances, and political perils which
increased in significance from day to day. The Libertines were
now in power, and, in a somewhat cynical manner, they put forward
their ideas, their immoral doctrines, and their aims. Of the four
syndics who called themselves members of the Reformed Church, one
refused to be present at the reformed worship, another said that
mass was not to be despised, and a third allowed it to be seen
that he thought the supremacy of Berne might be advantageous to
Geneva. The confession of faith which had been carried four years
previously was attacked at a meeting of the Council. Education
was not better treated than religion. A college had been
established at the request of Calvin, and possessed a principal
and professors who were pious and able men, acknowledged as such
in Switzerland, and even in France; they were requested to
preside at the sacramental tables, and to conform to the Bernese
rites which Calvin and Farel had rejected. They also refused to
do this, saying moreover that they had been engaged to teach
pupils at the college and not to take part in religious services.
They received orders to leave the city in three days, they
and their families, and had great difficulty in obtaining
permission to delay their departure for a fortnight. There were
most outrageous displays of licentiousness and violence in the
streets of the city, both by night and day. The pious and orderly
citizens were alarmed and excited; they protested in vain against
the immorality, and demanded that the banished pastors should be
allowed to return and explain the motives of their conduct. The
Government of Berne was also uneasy as to the state of Geneva,
and sent envoys who supported this request. The syndics presented
it to the General Council of the citizens, saying: 'Let those who
wish the banished ministers to return to the city, that they may
explain their conduct and resume their functions, hold up their
hands!' Only four persons had the courage to do so, and the crowd
immediately rushed upon these friends of the banished men, crying
out: 'To the Rhone with the Williamists!' [Footnote 82]

    [Footnote 82: William was the Christian name of Farel.]

In the presence of such facts as these, the hopes of the ancient
Catholic rulers of Geneva began to revive, and its last bishop,
Pierre de la Baume (who had been made cardinal), the Duke of
Savoy, and the Pope (Paul III.) prepared themselves for fresh
efforts. A conference was established at Lyons, consisting of
three cardinals and six archbishops or bishops, the object of
which was to seek and put into operation means whereby the
ancient Catholic religion might be re-established in Geneva.
There was no lack of partisans or agents in Geneva itself.
In addition to the danger from the hopes of the Catholics, the
city was threatened by the ambition of foreign states, especially
by that of Berne, which had many adherents in Geneva. Conspiracy,
sedition, trials, and political executions were added to
religious dissensions: national independence was in as great
danger as the Reformed Church.

Calvin's friends kept him well informed as to the position of
affairs, and when he left Geneva he bore in his heart a very deep
affection for the city in which he had first planted the banner
of his cause. But neither the illusions of affection, nor the
sorrows of exile, could blind his judgment with regard to what
the conduct of his friends ought to be during their trials; and
he unfailingly counselled moderation, patience, prudence,
perseverance in their work, and that they should abide in the
city where they had so much difficulty in performing it. There
was to be no open schism, no voluntary separation, no abandonment
of their native and national church, however gloomy the situation
of that church might be, and however inefficient the pastors who
ministered in the name of Christ. 'We must not,' he said, 'take
offence at certain defects of doctrine, for where is the church
which is altogether pure and perfect in this respect? It is
enough that the grand and essential truths, on which God has
founded his church, keep their place and are generally received.'

At the same time that he gave such wise advice, he endeavoured to
keep up the courage of the believers, and to raise their hopes:
'Always turn, my beloved brethren, to this consolation; although
the wicked strive to destroy your church, although your sins have
merited more punishment than you can endure, yet the Lord will
put an end to the chastisements which he has inflicted for your
Consider your enemies; you will see that all their ways lead to
confusion, although they may have achieved their desire.'
[Footnote 83]

    [Footnote 83: Stähelin, ii. 286-290. Gaberel, ii. 304.]

In proportion as the immorality increased and the dangers became
more apparent, a powerful reaction took place among the citizens
of Geneva; the Libertines lost credit, and orderly and pious men
resumed the position they had formerly held. The idea gained
ground rapidly that the best remedy for all evils would be to
recall Calvin and Farel, and openly to submit to their authority.
A bookseller, one of Calvin's friends, was the first to inform
him of the existence of this feeling. Calvin wrote immediately to
Farel: 'Do what you can to prevent the thing from making
progress, for I will not return. I would a thousand times rather
die than allow myself to be nailed again to that cross, where my
blood would flow daily from a thousand wounds. Certainly I
rejoice at the tidings, but who knows if these men are truly
converted and united together in the Lord? Unless it is so, this
peace will be very soon broken again.' The idea of recalling
Calvin made rapid progress at Geneva. On the 21st of September,
1540, the Council of State requested Ami Perrin, one of his
faithful adherents, to find the means of inducing him to return.
On the 20th of October the General Assembly voted that 'in order
to promote the increase and advancement of the Word of God it was
decreed to seek and send for Master John Calvin, who is a very
learned man, to be the evangelical minister in this city.'
On the 22d a pressing official letter was addressed to him:
'Seeing that our people wish for you, we will deal with you in
such a manner that you shall have good reason to be contented.'
An appeal was also made to the magistrates of Strasburg to induce
them to release Calvin from his engagements. At first they
hesitated, for Calvin was not only an ornament to their city, but
an honoured and useful representative in their transactions with
the German Diets and Conferences. At that period Calvin had just
set out for the Diet of Worms, and it was at Worms that the
letter from Geneva was delivered to him. He wrote at once in
answer to it, in very affectionate terms: 'If only in return for
the kindness and courtesy which in every way you show me, I
should not do my duty unless I made every effort in my power to
comply with your request. But I cannot leave my vocation in
Strasburg without the advice and consent of those whom our Lord
has put in authority there.'

From October 1540 to April 1541, four successive messengers
carried the entreaties of the Genevese to Strasburg, or wherever
else Calvin was to be found. The people of Strasburg seemed
inclined, although with regret, to consent to his leaving them.
They had just sent him again to the Diet of Ratisbon, but they
were struck by the importance of Geneva as the home and centre of
the Reformation in France and Italy, and were willing to give up
their own advantage to the general interest of the common cause.
But Calvin himself was greatly perplexed: 'I knew well,' he wrote
to Farel, 'that you would urge me to comply with the request; but
if you had seen my anguish when this message reached me, you
would have had pity on me.
I was scarcely in possession of my senses. When I recall the life
that I led in that place, I tremble to the very depths of my soul
at the thought of returning. At that time I had often the
greatest difficulty in stifling the desire of flight which would
rise within me; but I felt that my hands and feet were bound to
that city by the will of God. And now that his grace has set me
free, shall I of my own will return thither and plunge again into
an abyss of which I know the horror and the danger so well? ...
Nevertheless the more I am inclined to recoil with terror from
this task, the more I distrust myself. I therefore leave the
thing to take its own way, and entreat my friends not to urge me
in either direction. In any case I will never forsake the church
of Geneva, which is dearer to me than my life. I am not seeking
my own advantage, nor do I wish to make vain excuses; but I must
see the will of God clearly in this matter, in order that I may
walk in safety, and with his blessing.' This is a remarkable
instance of the manner in which a noble nature may be attracted
and yet alarmed by a great and difficult undertaking, and of the
mingled eagerness and apprehension with which it may be

But Calvin's hesitation was overcome by the urgent entreaties of
the Genevese, and the advice of his most intimate friends. M.
Bernard, one of the pastors who had remained in Geneva after his
departure, wrote to tell him that on a day in February 1541, when
he was in the pulpit, he saw that his hearers were deeply grieved
at the destitution of the Church, and that he exhorted them to
pray to the pastor of pastors, Jesus Christ, and implore him to
put an end to this state of things; and, when he had spoken thus,
every one thought of Calvin, and his name was on every tongue:
'As for me,' he continued, 'I blessed God that the stone which
the builders had rejected had become the chief stone of the
Come to us, then, revered brother in Christ; you belong to us,
for the Lord has given you to us. Come! for the Lord would
require our blood at your hands, because it is you whom he has
established as a shepherd over the house of Israel, which is
among us.' On the 1st of May, 1541, the General Council formally
revoked the decree of exile which had been pronounced in 1538,
stated that 'Calvin and Farel were good men and men of God, and
approved of all that the Council had done or might do to induce
Calvin to return.' They had ceased to urge Farel's return,
because Neufchatel had explicitly refused to part with him.
Calvin yielded: 'I thought the matter over conscientiously and
with reverence, and when I saw that it was my duty I gave way,
and consented to return to the flock from which I had been, as it
were, torn away. But, as the Lord is my witness, I submitted with
sorrow, tears, great solicitude, and anxiety. Not my will, O God,
but thy will be done! I offer my heart as a sacrifice to the

Calvin arrived at Geneva on the 12th of September, 1541,
[Footnote 84] after having spent a few days with Farel at
Neufchatel. A house, with a garden, had been provided for him;
and in the Registers of the Council for the month after his
arrival, we find the following details:--

    [Footnote 84: The 10th of September, according to a careful
    memoir by M. Amédée Roget, entitled _L'Église et l'État à
    Genève du Vivant de Calvin._ (Geneva, 1867.)]


'Resolved to send for Maître Calvin's wife and household, and to
provide him with all that is necessary for this purpose in men
and money.'

'Resolved to buy Maître Calvin some broadcloth to make him a

'Cheque for eight crowns for Maître Calvin's coat.'

'Resolved that as Maître Calvin is a man of great learning, and
well fitted to build up the Christian Church, and as he is put to
great expense in entertaining strangers who pass through the
city, that he shall receive a salary of 500 florins, [Footnote
85] twelve measures of wheat, and two tubs of wine, and shall
take the oaths here.' [Footnote 86]

    [Footnote 85: Worth about 3,600 francs, or 150_l_. at
    the present time.]

    [Footnote 86: Gaberel, vol. i. Appendix, p. 116.]

Beza says: 'He was received with singular affection by this
unhappy people, who now acknowledged their faults, and were
hungering and thirsting for the words of their faithful pastor,
so that they did not cease to importune until he had been induced
to return. And at length the rulers of Strasburg consented that
he should leave them, though they stipulated that he should
always remain a burgess of their city. They also requested him to
retain the revenues of a prebend, which had been assigned as the
salary of his professorship in theology. But he was a man who had
no love whatsoever for the things of this world, and they could
not succeed in persuading him to retain so much as a single
farthing.' [Footnote 87]

    [Footnote 87: Beza, p. 31.]


                   Chapter XIII.

           Calvin's Ecclesiastical Polity.

Calvin dreaded responsibility and warfare from afar and
beforehand, but as soon as he had entered the arena all
irresolution disappeared; he felt his own strength and did not
scruple to use it. Two days after his arrival in Geneva, as soon
as he had paid an official visit to the magistrates, he requested
them, without any further delay, to nominate a commission which
should have power to prepare the necessary reforms in the
constitution and government of the Church. Six members were at
once appointed, and a fortnight later, with the help of Calvin
and his colleagues, they had drawn up a hundred and sixty-eight
articles, which contained a complete scheme of ecclesiastical
polity. This scheme was presented to the Council on the 26th of
September, 1541. It was discussed during a whole month, and
modified on many points in which the civil magistrates thought it
too severe. It was adopted on the 9th of November by the Two
Hundred, and was received on the 20th by the General Assembly.
Several slight modifications were, however, made at the request
of some of the citizens, and it was not until the 2d of January,
1542, that the Ecclesiastical Ordinances were definitely accepted
by the General Assembly, consisting of 2,000 citizens.
On the 14th of March, 1542, Calvin wrote: 'We have now a
kind of ecclesiastical tribunal, and such a form of religious
discipline as these troublous times will allow of. But do not
think that we have obtained it without great effort. [Footnote

    [Footnote 88: Transcriber's note--No footnote appears.]

I will not attempt to give a detailed account of the internal
organization of the Church of Geneva, nor of the peculiar nature
of its relation to the State, which was the result of that
organization. But I am anxious to define its first principles and
to state its essential results with accuracy; not only because of
the importance of the problems then solved, but also because the
solution accepted at Geneva was so widely received. The religious
system established by Calvin in the Church of Geneva was adopted
by the reformed churches, and by Protestantism, properly so
called, in France, Holland, Switzerland, and several of the
United States of America. A local work does not spread in this
manner unless it responds to some great instinct of humanity, to
the general condition of men's minds, and to the wants of the
time. Calvin's ideas were larger than he himself knew, and whilst
he was laboriously discussing the Ecclesiastical Ordinances with
the syndics of Geneva, he was in reality working for much greater
states, although the foundations of some of them were not so much
as laid at that time.

There were two principles to which Calvin attached the highest
importance; I might almost call them his two supreme passions,
for they were as pre-eminent in his religious system as they were
in his life.


I. The distinction between religious and civil society; that is,
between Church and State. I say distinction, not separation; it
was an alliance between two societies, two powers, each
independent of the other in its own domain, but combining in
action, and giving each other mutual support.

II. The amendment and religious discipline of the life and morals
of all members of the Church, who were to be placed under the
inspection of the ecclesiastical powers, and subjected to their
authority, with recourse, in extreme cases, to the civil power.

In speaking of Church and State, I use the language of the
nineteenth century and not that of the sixteenth, and I do not
explain Calvin's aims. He spoke only of the Christian Church and
the Christian State. His Ordinances of 1542 were devised and
framed for the Christian church of the little Christian republic
of Geneva. They were, in fact, quite practicable in Geneva, which
was a free and independent city, and had just solemnly embraced
the reformed religion. Its two thousand citizens had been called
together and consulted, and they had bound themselves to the
Reformation by oath. Those who opposed this step had been bidden
to seek a home in some other country. Thus both Church and State
in Geneva had openly proclaimed themselves Christian. It only
remained, therefore, to organize the Christian Church in
accordance with the instructions given in Holy Scripture, and to
connect the religious with the civil administration of this
Christian State.


The constitution which was framed for the Christian Church of
Geneva was, to a certain extent, both liberal and cautious; and,
like the civil constitution of the Christian Genevese State, it
was republican. Two supreme courts were instituted, both having
somewhat of an elective character:--. The Venerable Company of
Pastors, whose power was spiritual and ecclesiastical; the
members were to preach and teach the Christian faith, to
administer the sacraments--more especially the Lord's
Supper--and to act as members of the Consistory. 2. The pastors
and certain laymen, called _elders_, formed the Consistory,
a moral tribunal, and the guardian of ecclesiastical ordinances.
The Consistory watched over the maintenance of Christian
discipline; repressed moral disorders of every kind, in persons
of all ranks; and thus introduced moral reform--of which Genevese
society stood in great need--side by side with the religious
reform already adopted. Church and State, civil and
ecclesiastical rulers, and the veto of the citizens, all helped
to form and keep up these two courts. 'In order that everything
in the Church may be done in due order, all aspirants for the
ministry are to be examined by the pastors; the object of the
examination being to ascertain, first, the doctrine of the
candidate--that is, if he possesses a thorough and sound
knowledge of the Scriptures; secondly, if he is a fit and meet
person to impart religious instruction to the people; and
thirdly, if he is a man of good character, and has always led a
blameless life. A satisfactory examination is followed by the
laying on of hands, in accordance with the apostolical custom,
and the candidate is then eligible to be elected pastor. The
election rests with the Venerable Company of Pastors, but the
Council is at once communicated with, and sends some of its
members to hear the candidate preach before the assembled
On the following Sunday the name of the new minister is published
in all the churches, together with an announcement that he has
been elected and approved in the usual manner, but that if any
one knows of anything to the prejudice of his character, it is to
be communicated to one of the syndics before the next Sunday. On
that day, if no valid objection has been raised, the new pastor
takes the oaths before the Council and is publicly installed.'
The twelve lay elders who, with six pastors, compose the
Consistory, 'are chosen by the Council, in accordance with the
indication of the pastors, and their election is confirmed by the
Two Hundred. Their names are published on a Sunday, and, before
the following Thursday, any objections which may be raised have
to be laid before one of the syndics.' The power of
excommunication belongs exclusively to this court, consisting of
laymen and ecclesiastics. [Footnote 89]

    [Footnote 89: Gaberel, i. 326-336. Bungener, pp. 270-275.]

Calvin thus introduced two new and daring measures into the great
European Reformation, in advance of anything attempted by its
first authors. When Henry VIII. rescued the Church of England
from the domination of the Pope, he proclaimed himself as its
head, and the Anglican Church accepted this royal supremacy. When
Zwingli provoked a rupture with the Church of Rome in German
Switzerland, he was contented to allow sovereign authority in
matters of religion to pass into the hands of the civil powers.
Even Luther, although he reserved a certain measure of liberty
and independence to the Church of Germany, yet placed it under
the protection and domination of lay sovereigns. In this great
question of the relation of Church and State, Calvin aimed at and
accomplished more than any of his predecessors.
Even before he occupied an important position among European
reformers, when he heard of the religious supremacy of Henry
VIII. in England, he protested strongly against such a system.
Notwithstanding his unceasing opposition to the Church of Rome,
his judgment was too clear and just to allow him to be blinded to
the strength and dignity which that Church derived from the
absolute independence of its sovereign, the Pope, and its
complete separation from the state. When he became one of the
leading reformers, he was anxious that the reformed Church should
not lose this grand characteristic; indeed, in calling it
evangelical, he claimed for it the independence and authority
possessed by the primitive Church in matters of faith and
religious discipline. In spite of the repeated opposition of the
civil magistrates, and of the concessions which he was sometimes
compelled to make, he maintained this principle firmly, and, in
all purely religious matters, secured to the Genevese Church the
right of self-government, in accordance with the faith and laws
made known in the Scriptures.

He also obtained the recognition of a second and no less
important principle. In the course of time, and by a successive
series of modifications, some of them natural and others factious
and illegal, the Christian Church had been divided, as it were,
into two distinct parts,--ecclesiastical and religious, or the
clergy and the believers. In the Catholic Church all power had
fallen into the hands of the clergy; the ecclesiastical governed
the religious world; and whilst the latter were adopting the
thoughts and opinions of the laity, the former remained more and
more separate and supreme.
The German and English Reformation had already modified this
state of things, and given laymen a certain amount of power in
matters relating to religion. Calvin interposed in a much more
direct and efficacious manner. He appointed a larger number of
laymen than of ecclesiastics, as members of the Consistory, which
was the principal moral authority in the reformed church of
Geneva and an authority evidently destined to increase; and he
thus completely destroyed the line of separation between the
clergy and the believers. He summoned laymen and ecclesiastics to
deliberate and act together, and in this manner secured a just
share of power and influence to all the members of the religious

One fact proves the importance that he attached to the active
participation of faithful believers with their pastor in public
worship. The reformed churches had abolished all the pomp and
ceremonies of the Romish Church, and Calvin did not regret them;
but although he was devoted to the severe simplicity of
evangelical worship, he did not overlook the inherent love of
mankind for poetry and art. He himself had a taste for music, and
knew its power. He feared that, in a religious service limited to
preaching and prayer only, the congregation, having nothing else
to do than to play the part of audience, would remain cold and
inattentive. For this reason he attached great importance to the
introduction and promotion of the practice of psalm-singing in
public worship, in addition to the sermons, prayers, and
'If the singing,' he said, 'is such as befits the reverence which
we ought to feel when we sing before God and the angels, it is an
ornament which bestows grace and dignity upon our worship; and it
is an excellent method of kindling the heart, and making it burn
with great ardour in prayer. But we must at all times take heed
lest the ear should be more attentive to the harmony of the sound
than the soul to the hidden meaning of the words.' [Footnote 90]
With this pious warning, he strongly urged the study of singing,
and its adoption in public worship. 'Some of the psalms which had
been translated in verse by Clement Marot were printed,
accompanied by a simple and elementary musical notation; and, in
order to popularise them, the children were taught to sing these
simple tunes in a loud and clear voice. A music master, who was
paid by the state, gave three lessons a week to several choirs of
children. When they had learnt the psalm thoroughly, they sang it
during the service.' [Footnote 91]

    [Footnote 90: Calvin, _Instit. de la Religion
    chrétienne_, ch. xx.]

    [Footnote 91: Gaberel, i. 353.]

An ecclesiastical organization thus arose in Geneva, created by
Calvin, and upheld by his influence. The development of this
system, and the completion and modification of its details
according to the different necessities of place and time,
ultimately formed the presbyterian religion--that is, the
religious system adopted in the reformed churches of France,
French Switzerland, Holland, Scotland, and several states in the
New World. In its origin it was a profoundly Christian and
evangelical system; it was republican in many of its fundamental
principles and practices, and at the same time it recognised the
necessity of authority and order, and originated general and
permanent rules of discipline.


                   Chapter XIV.

            Calvin's Civil Legislation.

For a long time Calvin's able and vigorous scheme of
ecclesiastical polity was accompanied by practical success at
Geneva. Public order and morality were placed under careful
supervision. Gaming-houses were prohibited; and in order to keep
the citizens out of taverns, which were at that time greatly
frequented, Calvin proposed the establishment of 'clubs open only
to members of the association, in which young men, and fathers of
families, could meet and discuss matters relating to the war, and
other things useful to the commonwealth.' Four such clubs were
immediately established. All gross immorality and coarse abuse of
the evangelical religion and worship were punished, and so were
all drunkards, men and women who led evil lives, and midnight
brawlers. In a little municipal republic, with a small
population, the character of individual members, and all facts
connected with them, were generally so well known that any abuse
of power was difficult. The pastors, if they were not active in
the discharge of their duty, or did not lead a good life, were
suspended, or even banished. There was perfect accordance between
the Venerable Company, the Consistory and the Council; and, on
the whole, the public approved of and supported all the steps
taken in concert by the civil and religious rulers.


But although Calvin's system was righteously conceived and
carried out, his thoughts and legislation were influenced by two
false notions which soon proved fatal; for when truth and error
are blindly united, the evil will assuredly be developed, and
will compromise the good. Calvin's religious system for the
evangelical church almost entirely overlooked individual liberty.
He desired to regulate private life in accordance with the laws
of morality and by means of the powers of the State; to penetrate
all social and family life, and the soul of every man, and to
restrict individual responsibility within an ever-narrowing
circle. In the relation of the evangelical church to the State,
he asserted and carried out the principle adopted in the Catholic
Church, the right of the spiritual power to appeal to the secular
arm in order to suppress and punish those offences against
religion recognised by the State; that is, impiety and heresy.
Calvin thus denied and violated the rights of conscience and
personal liberty in private life and in matters of religion,--a
deplorable but natural consequence of his contempt for, and
denial of man's free-will in his general doctrine.

In spite of the enthusiasm which had been called forth by
Calvin's return, the Libertines, whether sceptical or licentious,
of noble or simple birth, soon began to manifest their
discontent. They responded to the meddlesome interference and
demands of the magistrates, in matters of faith and religious
ordinances, by persistent coldness or insolent contempt.
'What a pleasant thing it is to see the delightful liberty that
there is in this city!' said a refugee from Lyons, who had not
long previously arrived in Geneva: 'Yes!' answered a woman,
'formerly they made us go to mass, and now they make us go to
church.' A man was found in the streets on horseback during the
hours of divine service: 'Why are you not at church?' said one of
the municipal officers: 'Oh!' said he, 'is there room enough in
church for my horse and me?' A peasant said, 'My faith and
religion are a block of wood, and I am cutting them into chips.'
Another heard an ass braying, and called out, 'What a fine psalm
he's singing!' A young man presented an account-book to his
betrothed, and said, 'Madam, this is your best hymn-book.' These
words were repeated, and the speakers prosecuted and punished.
One of them was even banished from the city. Disorderly conduct
and language were guarded against and repressed with watchful
severity. M. Gaberel, the learned and judicious author of the
history of the Church of Geneva, whilst he relates these facts
with scrupulous impartiality, adds: 'The most vigilant of
police-forces failed to discover more than eleven offences
against public worship between 1541 and 1546; a country deserves
warm praise in which religious feeling leaves so little room for
transgression.' [Footnote 92]

    [Footnote 92: Gaberel, i. 356-367.]


The remark is just; nevertheless, it is not so much the number as
the nature of these rigorous puerilities which gives such a
vexatious character to arbitrary power, and excites irritation
that, sooner or later, is sure to become contagious. There is no
doubt that there was a great improvement in the moral and social
condition of Geneva at this period, that good order and good
conduct were restored both in public and domestic life, and that
Calvin's government was infinitely superior to that of his
adversaries; but his unwarrantable interference in private life,
and his contempt for the rights of individuals, furnished his
enemies with dangerous weapons and prepared grave perils which he
had afterwards to encounter.

These perils from within were augmented by dangers from without,
in the attacks of an anti-Christian or sceptical pantheism, which
sought to disguise its immorality and anarchy under the name of
liberty. At this period pantheistic doctrines were taught on the
banks of the Rhine, in some of the great cities of western
Europe, as Antwerp and Lille, and they had even penetrated the
little court of Nérac, where Queen Margaret of Navarre, who had
formerly befriended many reformers, and even Calvin himself, now
granted hospitality to some of the advocates of these views, thus
showing more liberality than discretion. The sect assumed the
name of 'Spiritual Libertines.' Their tenets were soon made known
at Geneva, where they obtained prompt recognition from the local
and practical Libertines. Calvin was not one who could remain
indifferent and inactive in the presence of new germs of impiety
and immorality. In 1544 he published a pamphlet _Against that
fantastic and furious sect of Libertines who call themselves
Spiritual_. 'How is it possible,' said he, 'that I should
condemn the Pope and his accomplices, and should nevertheless
pardon these men who are much greater enemies of God and more
hostile to his truth?
For, after all, the Pope does leave some form of religion; he
does not rob men of the hope of eternal life; he instructs them
in the fear of God, and shows the difference between good and
evil; he acknowledges our Lord Jesus Christ to be very God and
very man, and recognises the authority of the Word of God. But
the whole aim of these men is to confound together heaven and
earth, to destroy all religion whatsoever, to efface all
knowledge of the spiritual nature of man, to deaden his
conscience, and obliterate all distinction between men and
brutes.' [Footnote 93]

    [Footnote 93: Calvini Opera, vii. 162 (1868).]

Queen Margaret complained to Calvin of this violent attack upon
men whom she honoured with her protection and favour. He
answered: 'My intention, Madam, was in no wise to seek to
diminish your honour, or lessen the respect which every believer
ought to feel for you. For I say that true believers owe you more
reverence than that which is your due from all men, on account of
the majesty to which our Lord has exalted you, the royal house
from which you have sprung, and your great excellence in the
things which pertain to this world. For those who know me are
well aware that I am not such a savage, nor so inhuman as to
despise and seek to inspire contempt for princes and nobles, and
that which belongs to the order and government of this world. But
I behold the most pernicious and execrable sect that ever existed
in this world. I see what destruction they are causing, and that
they are a fire kindled to scathe and destroy everything, a
contagion which will infect the whole earth, unless some remedy
be found. Since our Lord has called me to the position which I
occupy, my conscience constrains me to resist them so far as it
is in my power. A dog will bark if he sees his master attacked,
and should I not be a cowardly wretch if I could see God's truth
assailed and stand silent, and utter no word?' [Footnote 94]

    [Footnote 94: _Calvin, Lettres Françaises_, i. 109-117


Calvin never remained silent and indifferent on any occasion when
he thought that God's truth was assailed, and these occasions
were constantly arising. He was labouring to secure the
ascendency of Christian faith and morality in the public and
private life of the Genevese, in their deeds and words, in their
houses and the streets of their city; but at the same time the
love of intellectual liberty and practical licence was springing
up throughout the republic, and many were most anxious to throw
off the yoke of the reformer. Calvin was aided and supported
throughout this contest by the two religious organizations which
he had instituted--the Venerable Company and the Consistory; he
possessed numerous and warm adherents in the various public
councils and among all classes of the population; but he had also
bitter enemies. Perhaps the most serious dangers he had to
encounter arose from those prudent or timid men, who, being
short-sighted or weak-hearted, were alarmed at his moral severity
and oppressive exercise of ecclesiastical power. After having
supported him against his enemies, they would uphold some claim
of individual or civil liberty in opposition to him. In the space
of three years, from 1546 to 1549, there were seven or eight
occasions on which Calvin came into collision either with
aristocratic pretensions or popular prejudices, in cases which
made a great noise in so small a republic.


In 1546 a manufacturer of playing-cards, Pierre Ameaux, and his
wife Benoite, not only openly declared themselves to be
materialists, but carried out the principles they had adopted in
their own licentious lives. The woman was summoned before the
Consistory, and condemned to imprisonment. Her husband forsook
her and obtained a divorce from her, but he continued to lead an
immoral life and to declaim against Calvin. 'He is a bad man,'
said he, 'a wicked Picard, who has been teaching false doctrines
for seven years. It is we who hold the true doctrine, as I can
prove. He wants to make himself a bishop, and the magistrates do
nothing without consulting him. I could tell you things that
would astonish you, and all in good time I will make them known.'
Ameaux was summoned before the Consistory, and imprisoned; but
the Two Hundred disapproved of the sentence, and elected him a
member of the lower Council. There was a division between the two
powers. Calvin and the pastors declared that if it was decided
that Ameaux's fault was so trivial, and that they were suspected
of having preached false doctrine for seven years, they would
insist on being brought to trial. The Council hereupon revoked
their resolution in favour of Ameaux, and condemned him to the
punishment known as the _amende honorable_; that is, he was
to walk through all the principal parts of the town in his shirt,
bare-headed and with a lighted torch in his hand, and to end by
making a public confession and expressing sorrow for his faults,
upon his knees.


Theatrical representations were a favourite amusement of the
Genevese populace. But they were now rarely indulged in; and,
during this same year, certain performances were proposed. Calvin
approved of the first piece, entitled 'A History for the
Edification of the People,' 'provided one scene was suppressed,
in which shopkeepers were ridiculed and traduced.' Indeed, so
great was his toleration that the evening sermon was postponed on
account of the length of the theatricals. A month later
permission was asked for the representation of a second piece,
entitled 'The Acts of the Apostles.' The manuscript of the play
was submitted to Calvin, who said, 'Those who desire the
performance of this play ought rather to devote their money to
works of charity. What I say is not so much by way of censure as
of remonstrance; we ought first of all to spend our money for the
good of our neighbours.' In spite of this remonstrance, however,
the Council sanctioned the performance, adding, 'and, as it will
be very edifying, debtors may, for four days, have free admission
to see the aforesaid story acted.' One of the pastors, Calvin's
colleague, was much more strict, and preached in St. Peter's
church against the proposed play in strong terms. 'The women,' he
said, 'who mount the stage to perform that false scene are
shameless creatures; those who are handsome go to exhibit their
beauty, and the ugly ones to show off their finery and their
magnificent satins and gold. All this display excites evil
thoughts and profligate talk among the spectators.' The subject
was again laid before the Council, and Calvin generously
supported his colleague, declaring that he held precisely the
same opinions as those expressed in the sermon. This time,
however, the Council persisted in its toleration, and the play
was performed; but, at the request of the pastors, the
magistrates refused to sanction any further representations
'until the time was more favourable for them.'


After the theatricals the subject of dancing was discussed. In
spite of the ecclesiastical ordinances, a grand ball had been
given, accompanied by excesses, in which several of the most
important families in the city took part; among others that of
the former syndic Ami Perrin, who had at one time been one of
Calvin's adherents. Gaberel says: 'A memoir still exists which
gives a detailed account of these extraordinary amusements, and
from this terrible record it appears that the dances then
performed in private houses would not be tolerated at the present
day in the height of the most disorderly carnival.' [Footnote 95]

    [Footnote 95: Gaberel, _Pièces justificatives_, p. 249.
    The memorial, addressed to the King of Navarre by Dancau, is
    in the library of Geneva.]

The syndic Amblard had been also present at the ball, but he
confessed his fault, listened to Calvin's remonstrances, and
still remained his faithful friend; he even declared that it was
only just that the rich should be punished as well as the poor.
But Madame Perrin was not of such a meek disposition. No sooner
had Calvin begun to address her, than she flew into a violent
passion, and broke into invective and abuse. 'Oh, you wicked
man!' said she, 'you would like to drink the blood of our family;
but you will be turned out of Geneva before we are.' Calvin
answered, 'Remember that you are a woman, and that you disgrace
yourself by speaking in such a manner; you have banished every
feeling of modesty from your thoughts and manners, but your
temper will not prevent the Consistory from doing its duty.
If there were as many crowns as there are empty heads in your
family, you would not be able to change the current of
ecclesiastical discipline. Build a new city if you want to live
after your own fashion; but so long as you are in Geneva your
efforts to shake off the yoke, of the Gospel will be in vain.' In
consequence of this scene, Madame Perrin was imprisoned for
several days, and from that time the cordial friendship which had
united her husband to the reformer was replaced by implacable

Whatever was the object, and wherever the locality of the
contest, whether in street or parlour, against an excited mob, or
face to face with angry friends, whether to establish order or to
uphold morality, Calvin's indomitable courage never failed. In
1547 a former canon, Jacques Gruet, one of the foremost
Libertines, who had, according to the historians, 'concentrated
all his hatred upon Calvin,' was one day seen loitering about St.
Peter's church and going into it. A paper, evidently addressed to
Calvin, was found in the pulpit: 'Pot-belly, you and your
companions had better hold your tongues, for if you irritate us
too far we will crush you to powder. When men have suffered more
than they can bear, vengeance is at hand. ... We will not have so
many masters.' Gruet was arrested, and his papers were seized.
Among them were some that were grossly blasphemous, ridiculing
and attacking the Christian religion; [Footnote 96] whilst, on
the other hand, there were proofs of his correspondence with the
Court of Savoy, and of his willingness to betray the republic,
and gratify, at the expense of the national independence, his
hatred of Calvin, and the system which he had established.

    [Footnote 96: Papers were found in his own handwriting in
    which he spoke of our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles in
    the most blasphemous and offensive manner. 'The Word of God,'
    he said, 'is worth nothing, any more than those who made it.
    The Gospel is only a tissue of lies; there is less in it than
    in Æsop's Fables, except false and absurd doctrine.' (Henry,
    vol. ii. Appendix, 121; Gaberel, i. 391.) I have suppressed
    his coarse and violent language, which would be painfully
    offensive to every religious and moral nature.]


Gruet was tried, condemned, and executed as a blasphemer and
traitor to his country. After his apprehension he was repeatedly
put to the torture, but he refused to name any accomplices. A
warning, however, came from the Pays de Vaud, in consequence of
which the Genevese Council was informed that 'more than twenty
persons had bound themselves by oath to throw Calvin into the
Rhone.' The indignation of the faithful, and the irritation of
the Libertines, had reached the highest point; and both
indignation and irritation broke out at a meeting of the Two
Hundred on the 16th of December, 1547. They had been called
together on account of new complaints made by the pastors of 'the
insolence, debauchery, dissolute manners, and enmity which tend
to the ruin of this city.' Fresh proceedings had been instituted
against the former syndic, Ami Perrin, but he had been acquitted
for want of proof against him, though deprived of his official
employment. Libertines and reformers were present at the meeting
in about equal numbers; the debate was transformed into a tumult,
and violent threats were uttered against the pastors and the
Consistory. Some of their friends, terrified at the proceedings,
left hastily to warn Calvin and his colleagues not to attend the
meeting of the Council.
'Wait a few moments for me,' said Calvin, and went out alone,
walked direct to the Hôtel de Ville, and entered the meeting
unexpectedly. He was received with loud outcries, and it is said
that several swords were drawn. He said: 'I know that I am the
chief cause of your quarrels, and if blood must be shed to
appease them, take my life, for I call God to witness that I am
come to expose myself to your swords.' There is sometimes one
happy moment in which courage conquers anger; the Council grew
calm, the members took their seats, and Calvin continued: 'There
is nothing except religion which can make you free, and secure
your liberty; but in order to obtain this you must be united, and
if my presence is an insuperable obstacle to the maintenance of
peace, I will leave the city, and will pray to God that those men
who desire to live without Christianity and law may save the
republic, and maintain its prosperity.' The reaction was as
sudden as the explosion. The Council voted oblivion of the past,
and the reconciliation of the opponents. Calvin and one of his
colleagues made the first advance: 'Gentlemen,' said they, 'the
Lord's Supper is at hand: we wish to unite all hearts, and we
desire to offer the hand of friendship to M. Ami Perrin, and we
beg, gentlemen, that you will reinstate him in his office of
councillor.' 'As for me,' answered Perrin, 'I bring no complaint
against any one, I do not wish evil to any one, and I desire to
live in peace.' Three months later he was restored to office, and
the opponents, whether Christians or Libertines, for a short time
imagined themselves to be reconciled.


                   Chapter XV.

   Division Of The Religious And Civil Authorities
      On The Question Of The Lord's Supper.

But however sincere a reconciliation may be, it is seldom so
thorough as to put an end to the difficulties which first caused
the quarrel. When Calvin proposed that the past should be
forgotten, and that there should be peace on the approach of the
Lord's Supper, he raised that question which offered precisely
the most serious difficulty to the members of the two hostile
parties. They were still divided as to whether the religious or
the civil authorities had the right of refusing the sacrament to,
and pronouncing sentence of excommunication upon, those whom they
deemed unworthy. Such a difficulty could not arise in any free
country in our own time, or indeed in any country where the
meaning of faith and religious liberty are known. The Lord's
Supper is administered by the religious authorities under a sense
of religious responsibility, and in the name of the religious
belief common to the pastors and their flock. It is for them
alone to decide those cases in which, for religious reasons, they
think it their duty to refuse it; and the civil power has no
right to interfere in this close communion of the conscience of
the priest with that of the believer.
It is true that ecclesiastics have often abused the right of
excommunication, and have thus provoked tyrannical intervention
on the part of the civil power--like that of the 'Parlement' of
Paris, for example, which occasionally compelled a priest, in
olden times, to administer the Lord's Supper to those to whom he
had refused it. The magistrates of Geneva, from motives of
prudence and to avoid what they called scandal, claimed the same
right; and a short time after Calvin's return they maintained
that they, and not the Consistory, ought to pronounce sentence of
excommunication, and that it was the duty of the pastor to
administer the sacrament to all those authorized by the Council
to receive it. Calvin immediately declared that he would
sacrifice everything and return into exile rather than admit such
a claim. Not that he held any fixed and preconceived doctrine on
the subject; his point of view was not that of a fanatical
theologian, but of a religious ruler. He wrote to Bullinger:
'Since my return to this church we have instituted a kind of
religious discipline which is not perfect in itself, and leaves
much to be desired, but which, on the whole, accomplishes its
aim. A Consistory has been established for the supervision of
morals; it has no civil jurisdiction, and can only restrain
evil-doers in accordance with the Word of God, and as the chief
representative of God,--that is, it can exclude from the Lord's
Supper. ... I know that our friends are not all of one mind upon
this subject; there are some learned and pious men who think that
excommunication is not necessary under a Christian government,
but no sane person would be so infatuated as to condemn and
abolish it where it is already established.
So far as I am concerned, the teaching of our Lord on this point
seems to me perfectly clear, and I believe you will allow that,
for us at least, it would be a great disgrace and a fatal defeat,
if the edifice of which our Lord has appointed us the guardians
was to be destroyed beneath our eyes.' [Footnote 97] The
Libertines at once saw the advantage which they might derive from
this disagreement between the Council and the Pastors; they
ranged themselves on the side of the Council, and Berthelier, one
of their most violent partisans,--a man whose incredulity and
immorality were known to all,--presented himself at the Lord's
Supper, and was excommunicated by the Consistory. He complained
to the Council, which declared that it would not ratify the
sentence, and that 'if Berthelier had no impediment in his own
conscience which hindered him from approaching the table of the
Lord, the Council authorized him to do so.' 'Gentlemen,' said
Calvin, 'as for me I would rather suffer death than allow the
table of my Lord to be profaned in such a manner.'

    [Footnote 97: Stähelin, i. 459, 460.]

The magistrates knew him well enough to feel that these were not
mere words. They were intimidated, and sent a private message to
Berthelier, saying: 'If you can stay away for the present, you
will do well.' But, unlike the magistrates, the Libertine and his
friends had no desire to avoid an open rupture. On Sunday the 3d
of September, 1553, St. Peter's church was filled by a large and
excited crowd; the pastors and elders filled the benches of the
Consistory; the Libertines thronged in the vicinity of the
communion table.
Calvin mounted the pulpit, and preached with great calmness upon
the state of mind and heart necessary for those who would
approach the table of the Lord; he ended his sermon by saying:
As for me, so long as it shall please God to keep me here, since
he has given me resolution and I have derived it from him, I
shall not fail to exercise it when there is need; and I will rule
my life in accordance with the will of my Master, which is quite
clear and well known to me. ... We are now about to receive the
holy sacrament; and if any one who has been excommunicated by the
Consistory tries to approach that table, at the risk of my life I
am prepared to do my duty.' He descended from the pulpit, and
approached and blessed the table of the Lord's Supper. The
Libertines drew near, and several among them made a movement
forward as if to seize the bread and wine. Calvin spread his
hands over the sacred elements, and cried out: 'You may break
these limbs, you may cut off my arms, you may take my life! Shed
my blood if you will; it is yours! But never shall any one compel
me to give things that are sacred to the profane, and to
dishonour the table of my God.' The Libertines hesitated; they
looked at each other, and looked around them; a murmur which
threatened danger was spreading throughout the hitherto silent
assembly; they drew back from the table, the crowd opened for
their passage, and the sacrament was then administered in silence
to the excited and agitated believers.


In the afternoon of the same day Calvin preached again: 'I do not
know,' he said, 'if this is not the last sermon I shall ever
preach in Geneva; not that I leave by my own wish, or that I
desire to depart from this spot and to give up the authority
which I hold. But I take that which has been done to signify that
Geneva will receive my services no longer, and will seek to
compel me to do what God does not permit. So long as I am free to
preach and to serve you, I will do it in the name of the Lord;
but if I am forced into an intolerable position, I will not
resist the constituted authorities, and I must go.' Calvin's
conduct had been energetic, but his language was guarded. He laid
claim to his own liberty, asserted his right to act in accordance
with the dictates of his conscience, did not urge others to
insurrection, and limited his resistance to voluntary exile. He
showed himself obedient to the law, and at the same time a
faithful pastor. But the people pronounced in his favour. The
Libertines drew back. The civil magistrates recognised the
difficulty of their position, and did not insist on carrying out
their decision. The discussion between the civil and religious
powers as to the right of pronouncing sentence of excommunication
lasted some time longer; it was occasionally diversified by
tumultuous outbreaks, and there was always a tendency towards
hesitation on the part of the civil rulers and their compromising
allies. At length, on the 25th of October, 1554, the Council
induced Berthelier 'to make peace with the pastors;' and on the
24th of January, 1555, the assembled Councils agreed that it was
the Consistory which ought to pronounce sentence of
excommunication. [Footnote 98]

    [Footnote 98: Gaberel, vol. i. p. 425]


                   Chapter XVI.

            Defeat Of The Libertines.

But egotism and hatred cannot be extinguished by defeat. The
Libertines sought to attack Calvin on other grounds, and
succeeded in their attempt; for although the question they raised
was on a lower level than the right of excommunication, it was
more plausible, and seemed to involve national rights. The
persecution of the reformers had become more active and cruel,
and it had brought a great number of refugees to Geneva, more
particularly from France and Italy. Nobles, burgesses, men of
letters, peasants, and artisans, hearing that the Reformation had
triumphed in Geneva, and that the pastors were men of great
renown, hoped to find in it a safe and sacred asylum. They were
warmly welcomed by their zealous Christian brethren; but the
local patriots were inclined to be uneasy and jealous: 'We have
no certain knowledge,' says M. Gaberel, 'of the number of
refugees who fled to Geneva at this time. During the revolution
of 1793, the friends of equality wished to destroy all
distinction between families living in the same republic, and
they therefore burnt the registers in which the names of
burgesses and inhabitants had been inscribed ever since the
sixteenth century.
Fortunately some persons possessed copies of the registers, but
these private documents are not complete. The book which records
the admission of strangers gives the names of 1,376 persons to
whom the right of residing in the city was granted between the
years 1549 and 1564; seventy-eight of them were made burgesses
during the same period, and paid considerable sums for the
privilege of incorporation. The city was in great want of money,
in order to rebuild and fortify its walls; therefore the new
burgesses were very well received. Indeed, popular feeling was so
strong in their favour that one day when a vessel, bringing
several refugees, entered the port of Geneva, several of the
citizens exclaimed: "That is well; there is a boat-load of money
and stone, which will help on the fortifications!"' [Footnote 99]

    [Footnote 99: Gaberel, i. 426.]

The strong religious feeling of these refugees was shown by their
flight from their own country; they were undoubtedly reliable and
zealous allies for Calvin and his party. The Libertines were not
slow to perceive this, and from the very first they displayed the
most active ill-will towards the new-comers. They found many who
were only too ready to join them; there were the old-established
burgesses of the city, who were annoyed at seeing strangers
invested with the rights, and sharing the advantages offered by
their country; and there were men of the lower and labouring
classes who dreaded the competition of labourers and artisans who
were often much more skilful and industrious than themselves.
Appeals were made both to national feeling and personal interest,
in order to keep up this hostility, and the discontented rich
fostered the jealousy of the discontented poor. Sometimes their
animosity was shown in the sneers uttered by men who had secretly
remained Catholics. 'Why, my good friends,' they said to the
French refugees, 'you were in a great hurry to leave your
country; the consecrated wafers seem to have stuck in your
throat.' At other times it was popular jealousy which broke
forth: 'By my faith,' said some, 'these people who ran away from
the fire for the sake of the Gospel, raise the price of
provisions very considerably.' 'See!' said the women, 'when the
Frenchmen are here, there is nothing done for the townspeople;
may the devil break the necks of all these Frenchmen!' Some of
the principal Libertines took advantage of the popular ill-will
to procure the passing of measures which would tend to weaken the
position and influence of the refugees. Calvin wrote to
Bullinger: 'They treat barbarously our brothers in the cause of
Christ who have fled to us. They subject them to inhuman
outrages, and yet the refugees bear it with a gentleness and
patience which even those who injure them cannot deny.' Ami
Perrin allowed the shops of the French refugees to be plundered;
he proposed to take all arms from them except their swords, which
they were no longer to be allowed to wear in public. Some days
later he went a step further, and demanded that the refugees
should also be deprived of their swords, as he was afraid of some
treason on their part in behalf of Henry II. king of France.


The refugees were indignant; they called upon Perrin to prove
that they had any intention of 'throwing themselves again into
the power of that Catherine who, with her husband, was bathed in
the blood of their brethren.' The first syndic, Jean Lambert,
laid their complaints before the Two Hundred: 'Gentlemen,' he
said, 'I ask myself in vain, why Captain Perrin and M. Vandel are
so furious against the foreign burgesses, saying that they desire
to drive the elders from the city and to give it up to the king
or to some other prince. Think for a moment if it is at all
probable that such an accusation is true! These men came to us
from different countries, with different manners, customs, and
languages. What plan could be proposed in which they would all
agree, or how could they be induced to unite in order to betray
and expel us? They have forsaken their own country, their
relations and friends, and all their worldly goods, to obey the
commands of God; and now we are told that they intend to throw
themselves back again into the power of those princes from whom
they have escaped, and that they propose to betray the city which
has given them shelter. Certes, Captain, I marvel greatly at your
suspicions, for you were quite free from them seven years ago
when you wished to admit two hundred dragoons into the city,
sworn servants of the king of France. For my part I hold that we
ought to grant every privilege to men who bring us fidelity,
honour, and money. The city will be greatly improved if we can
get men of good conduct and good report to become burgesses.'
[Footnote 100]

    [Footnote 100: Gaberel, i. 427-434. Bonnivard, _De
    l'ancienne et nouvelle Police de Genève_, pp. 127-131.]


At the beginning of the preceding year [Footnote 101] a
concession had been made with which the Libertines might well
have been contented.

    [Footnote 101: January 16th, 1554.]

A resolution had been carried stating that eligible members of
the Grand Council must have inhabited Geneva and shared its
perils during the war of 1536--that is, at the period when the
Reformation had been proposed and established. The fresh demands
for the exclusion of the refugees, made by Ami Perrin, were
rejected; and during the beginning of the year 1555, sixty new
burgesses were received. The malcontents declared that 'many of
the people regretted that so many new burgesses were admitted
from the same country.' The complaints of the Libertines were
changed to threats; they stated definitely to the Council that
their 'opposition might stir up the people, and that it was
absolutely necessary to put an end to these admissions in order
to preserve the public peace.'

The Libertines took the initiative in the breach of the peace,
and assumed the whole responsibility of it. Restless and defiant,
they saw that their influence over the popular mind was
diminishing rapidly, and they were driven to attempt a decisive
blow by their own passions and by the knowledge of their
approaching fall. On the 18th of May, 1555, three days after the
Council had rejected their last demands, the leaders of the party
supped together at a tavern, 'with many riotous companions,' says
Bonnivard; 'they tore the Frenchmen and the receivers of
Frenchmen to tatters with their sharp tongues. After the tongue
had done its office, the wine induced the feet and the hands to
do theirs. "Captain," said one of them to Ami Perrin, "I find you
lukewarm, but the people trust you; take the affair into your own
"Forward, gentlemen!" said Perrin; "what we do is for the
honour of Geneva!" They rushed out, and hurrying to all parts of
Geneva, summoned their partisans: "To arms, to arms, all good
citizens of Geneva! The French are going to sack the city. To the
Rhone with the Frenchmen! Down with every French rascal that
shows his head!" One of the bands attacked the Hôtel de Ville;
another passed before the house of the syndic Aubert. The
magistrate, hearing a great noise, goes down into the street in
his dressing-gown, with his baton of office in one hand and a
lighted candle in the other. He is knocked down and trampled
under foot, but gets up again, and friends come to his aid.
Another of the syndics rapidly calls together two or three
companies of militia, and they hasten to the defence of the Hôtel
de Ville. The struggle commences, many persons are killed, but
the insurgents are everywhere attacked, defeated and pursued.
Their resistance was as short as their attack had been sudden and
violent; many were taken prisoners, but their leaders, Perrin
amongst others, escaped and left the Genevese territory. The
insurrection was quickly repressed, and the rioters were severely
punished. When they were brought to justice, some of those who
had been taken in combat were condemned to death, and executed;
others were banished, and a hundred and fifty of their friends
withdrew with them to the Bernese territory. But they did not
consider themselves defeated. They asked the Bernese Government
first to solicit and then openly to insist on their return, thus
making Berne the judge between Geneva and those whom she had
The republic, after that, would only have needed to become the
vassal, and then the subject of Berne. In order to allay this
storm, much firmness and also much prudence were necessary; for
Berne was powerful, and Berne had no love for Geneva. It was
Calvin who conducted the whole business, and Berne was compelled
to renounce her ambitious pretensions.' [Footnote 102]

    [Footnote 102: Bungener, p. 339. Gaberel, i. 432-435.]

The Libertines now carried their animosity and treason elsewhere;
they applied to the Duke of Savoy to subdue Geneva: 'See,' said
they, pointing to the fortifications of their native city, 'look
at those white walls; before long they will be so battered with
cannon that there will not be one stone left upon another.' But
the city had been put into a good state of defence, and it was
not therefore attacked. The Libertines did not abandon their
plots, but the Duke of Savoy adjourned his projects. Calvin asked
the Council to ordain a Fast-day as a thanksgiving for great
mercies, and the pious solemnity took place. After nineteen years
of internal struggle the young republic, which in 1536, had so
boldly ranged itself under the banner of the Reformation, was
able, in 1555, to entertain the hope of living in peace under the
influence of its great reformer.


                   Chapter XVII.

        Calvin's Theological Controversies.

It has been often said, that from this time forward Calvin was
supreme in Geneva, and governed absolutely. His government has
been sometimes called an ecclesiastical theocracy established in
the midst of a Christian republic. The assertion is vague and
inaccurate. There can be no doubt that the final defeat of the
Libertines was a great victory for Calvin, and that it increased
his general influence in Geneva enormously. On all subsequent
occasions his opinion was relied upon. The civil magistrates
often asked his advice. When any important question or grave
difficulty arose with regard to the foreign policy of the little
state, Calvin was frequently applied to, requested to take part
in the negotiations, and to exercise in behalf of Geneva the
influence which he had obtained in those parts of Europe where
the Reformation had been adopted. But, although Calvin's
influence in the republic was very powerful, it is a mistake to
say that the government ever assumed an ecclesiastical character.
The distinction between the civil and religious powers was
strictly preserved, and their domains carefully separated.
The civil magistrates recognised the rights of the Venerable
Company, and of the Consistory, in all questions of faith and
religious and moral discipline; but they resisted any extension
of their power beyond its due limits, controlled it within these
limits, and exercised due authority over the pastors themselves.
The Venerable Company had transferred one of their pastors to a
country parish without asking the Council to authorize this step;
they were desired not to act in such a manner in future. The
registers of the Council contain the following entry: 'Nicolas
Vandert, preacher at Jussy, does not do his duty in his calling,
and does not visit the sick; resolved that he shall be dismissed,
and another put in his place.' A little later another pastor was
dismissed 'for incontinence.' The Council is informed that Pastor
Bernard preaches 'with closed doors,' and thereupon desires him
to preach 'with open doors.' Another pastor is warned 'that he is
not to speak evil of the magistrates in his sermons.' Even Calvin
himself was not beyond the reach of similar admonitions; 'On the
21st of May, 1548, the Council was informed that, in his sermon
yesterday, Calvin asserted, with much anger, that the magistrates
tolerated many offences. Wherefore it is ordained that he shall
be summoned before the Council, and asked what was his intention
in preaching to that effect; and if there is any such offence in
the city, then the officers of justice shall have orders to see
the law carried out.' The mutual recriminations still continued;
on the 9th of July, Calvin was denounced because 'yesterday he
was very violent in his sermon, speaking against baptism and
certain crosses worn upon the clothes.'
The Council decides to summon all the ministers before them and
remonstrate, telling them that 'they ought not to protest in
public, but first of all to bring their grievances before the
Council, and afterwards to address the public, if they find that
the Council takes no notice of their complaints.' There can be no
doubt that the power of the pastors was very great; but that of
the civil magistrates was equally great, and they had no
hesitation in using it. [Footnote 103]

    [Footnote 103: M. Amédée Roget, in a little pamphlet on the
    Church and State of Geneva during the lifetime of Calvin,
    published at Geneva in 1867, has fully established the truth
    of these facts, which he quotes from the registers of the

Calvin remained the victor in his struggle with the political
Libertines; but he was engaged in another contest--a series of
theological controversies with the heretical Libertines. He was
laying the foundations of the religious system and independence
of the reformed Christian Church, but he was also labouring to
uphold the Christian evangelical faith within that Church. The
three principal and most formidable characteristics of the
sixteenth century were its political disturbances, its public
immorality, and its ardent outburst of intellectual life, and
Calvin was simultaneously resisting all of them. I will not
attempt to follow him into the arena where he successfully
opposed the numerous speculative theologians who hovered around
the great reformers of the century,--Caroli, Bolsec, Castellio,
Westphal, Gribaldo, Valentinus Gentilis, Biandrata, Osiander, and
many others.
But I will select two of the most daring thinkers with whom he
was brought into contact, Michael Servetus and Lælius Socinus;
both of them celebrated, one for his tragical end, and the other
as the forerunner of his nephew, Faustus Socinus, the founder of
the well-known sect of Socinians. Two very different sides of the
character of Calvin are displayed in his connexion with these two
men; his harsh severity towards those opponents whom he despised,
and his moderation and almost gentle tolerance towards those whom
he esteemed, and believed to be sincere and humble.

In the year 1509, the very same year in which Calvin was born at
Noyon, Michael Servetus was born at Villanueva, a city of
Arragon, where his father, a burgess of some eminence, was a
notary. He received his early education in a Dominican convent,
and his father afterwards sent him to study law at Toulouse, just
as Calvin's father had wished him to pursue the same study at
Orleans and Bourges. In like manner as Calvin in his youth had
received assistance and protection from an ecclesiastic, so also
the first patron of Servetus was a priest,--Quintana,
father-confessor of the Emperor Charles V., whom Servetus
accompanied to Italy, an obscure member of the imperial suite. In
spite, however, of this patronage and of his youth, he was
strongly imbued with the novel opinions of the time; for when he
afterwards recalled the recollections of his visit to Rome, he
says: 'I saw there with my own eyes the Pope carried on the heads
of the princes of the land, and worshipped in the public squares
by a whole people on their knees; so much so that those who could
kiss his feet, or even his shoes, thought themselves blessed
above all others. O beast, the most murderous of all beasts! O
harlot, the most shameless of all harlots! Surely this was the
beautiful harlot described in the Book of Isaiah.' [Footnote 104]

    [Footnote 104: Isaiah, chap, xlvii. Henry, iii. 107.]


A little later, in 1530, Servetus was at Basle, holding communion
with the already celebrated reformers who had taken up their
abode there, with Œcolampadius, Capito and Bucer. Zwingli, the
great reformer of German Switzerland, who was to be struck by
death the following year on the battle-field of Cappel, was also
at Basle, holding converse with his friends regarding the
interests of their common cause. Œcolampadius said: 'I have got a
rash, hot-headed Spaniard here, Michael Servetus, who is always
raising the most difficult questions, and bothering me horribly.
He is an Arian.' 'Brother Œcolampadius,' said Zwingli, 'look
after him and be careful; the views of that Spaniard will be the
ruin of the whole Christian religion. Unless Christ was truly God
and the eternal God, he was not and could not have been our
Saviour, and all that the holy prophets and apostles have taught
must be false. Try by good and weighty arguments to bring the
young man back to the way of truth.' 'I have tried,' answered
Œcolampadius, 'but he is so vain, so presumptuous, and so
argumentative that I can do nothing with him.' In 1534, four
years later, Calvin also visited Basle, and made an impression
upon these same reformers, the very reverse of that which
Servetus had produced. They foresaw great danger to the reformed
religion in one of these young men, and great strength and hope
in the other. Their presentiments were not false.


Throughout 1531 and 1532 Servetus was wandering from Basle into
Germany, and from Germany back to Basle; sometimes in the suite
of the confessor of Charles V.; at others alone, and ardently
engrossed by the notions which were seething in his brain, and
from the realization of which he promised himself a brilliant
future. There were no limits to his ambition and presumption; he
proposed to inaugurate a very different kind of reformation from
that which was going on around him: 'I am neither Catholic nor
Protestant,' he said, and he already looked upon himself as the
most important, as well as the newest reformer. He returned to
Basle in 1531, and brought out his first work on the 'Errors of
the Trinity.' It was printed at Hagenau, and he did not hesitate
to put his real name on the title-page: 'by M. Servetus,
otherwise Reves, a Spaniard from Arragon.' [Footnote 105]

    [Footnote 105: _De Trinitatis Erroribus_, lib. vii. per
    M. Servetus, _alias_ Reves, ab Aragonia Hispanum. In

The printer was more prudent; so great was the suspicion which
the doctrines of Servetus had already inspired, that he did not
put his own name on the book, nor that of the place at which it
was published. The work was a violent attack upon the doctrine of
the Trinity, written with vigour and a certain glitter of
imagination and subtlety of thought, but its rash speculations
were vague and superficial. It was received with prompt and
severe disapproval both by Catholics and Protestants. Father
Quintana spoke of Servetus with contempt, as a young man who had
certainly belonged to his suite, and whom he knew by sight, but
whom he had never suspected of holding such impious opinions.
Even the most gentle of the German and Swiss reformers openly
expressed their indignation. Melancthon urged Œcolampadius to
take heed lest such doctrines should be imputed to the Swiss
Bucer denounced the work from the pulpit, and went so far as to
say that the author of it deserved to be torn limb from limb. The
Government of Basle caused the book to be seized, and even, so it
is said, imprisoned the author. But the imprisonment, if it took
place, must have been short, for Servetus almost immediately
published a second work [Footnote 106] on the same subject, still
in his own name, in which he explained, apologized for, and
retracted almost the whole of the first; not, however, on the
ground that his notions were false, but that they were crude and

    [Footnote 106: _Dialogorum de Trinitate_. Lib. ii. _de
    Justitia regni Christi_, cap. iv. In 8vo. 1532.]

Indeed, in addition to the attacks on the Trinity, this book
disclosed a much more wild and impious pantheism than the first
had done. The second work received little attention, either
favourable or unfavourable, but the impression produced by the
first was permanent. Servetus saw that he had very little chance
of success either in Germany or Switzerland, and he went
elsewhere to try and realize his dreams of success and power.

He hoped to do so in France, at Paris. He was there in 1534, and
was, at the same time, a student and a professor. He both gave
and received lessons in medicine, mathematics, and astronomy, and
was soon noted for his rapid insight, brilliant imagination,
marvellous powers of acquisition, and wealth of novel theories,
often rash, but sometimes ingenious and happy. He conjectured,
and almost described, the circulation of the blood, took part
with the Greek against the Arabian physicians, speaking of all
those who did not agree with him as 'fools and public pests.'
He gave courses of lectures on mathematics and astronomy which
were a mixture of science and chimerical conjecture, and he
translated Ptolemy's Geography. The extent and versatility of his
intellectual powers attracted large audiences; but at the same
time his exacting and arrogant character, his overbearing and
pretentious manners, his restless and quarrelsome temper soon
embroiled him not only with the physicians who were his rivals,
but with the whole University of Paris, which distrusted his
views and detested his person. He lacked both personal influence
and modesty; he was not only violent and abusive to his
adversaries, like the majority of even the most eminent learned
men in his time, but in every dispute he showed that presumptuous
and arrogant self-complacence which inflicts far deeper wounds
than open and even brutal anger. His theological heresies and
astrological dreams furnished numerous pretexts against him. He
was denounced to the 'Parlement' of Paris, and they condemned him
to suppress an abusive treatise which he had published, and
forbade him to teach astrology, or to prophesy and predict from
the stars. Annoyed at this, and lacking stability of purpose, he
left Paris and went to Lyons, where he obtained employment as
corrector of the press to the celebrated printers Melchior and
Caspar Trechsel; he returned to Paris, and left again; went first
to Avignon, then to Charlieu, a small town near Lyons, changing
his name and residence incessantly; sometimes eager for
retirement and sometimes for display; desiring fame, and yet
often in great need of concealment.
At length, in 1540, he settled at Vienne, in Dauphiné, where the
archbishop, Mgr. Palmier, who had attended some of his lectures
in Paris took him under his protection.

He lived at Vienne twelve years, concealing his real name
Servetus, and adopting that of Villanueva, his native city. He
was in high repute as a physician, and conformed outwardly to the
Roman Catholic religion; but he was more than ever absorbed in
his projected religious reformation, and the great part that he
was to play in it. He published numerous works; among others he
brought out a translation of the Bible by a learned monk named
Xantès Pagninus, then dead. But the Book of Revelations was the
special subject of his study. In it he saw the signs of the
times, and the approaching fall of Antichrist. 'The Dragon which
tries to devour the woman and her child is the Pope; the woman is
the Church; her child whom God takes away and saves is the
Christian faith. [Footnote 107]

    [Footnote 107: Revelation, chap. xii.]

For 1560 days, that is years, the Church has been under the yoke
of Antichrist, but now the struggle with the Dragon is about to
commence. Michael and his angels will triumph; we shall discover
the divine Revelation from the very earliest ages--the great
mystery of faith which is beyond all dispute; we shall see the
face of God which has never yet been seen. We shall see the glory
of his image in ourselves.' [Footnote 108]

    [Footnote 108: Henry, iii. 125-128.]

Servetus did not assert that he himself was the archangel
Michael, but he believed himself to be his ally, and one of our
Lord's new apostles. In order to make known all these seething
fancies, he prepared a new work entitled _Restoration of


The latest of Calvin's biographers, Stähelin, gives the following
account of the doctrines contained in the work of Servetus, 'or
rather of so much of them,' he says, 'as it is possible to make
out from his involved and mystical language, and the attempted
sublimity of his style. The fundamental principle of the whole
book is the assertion of the one absolute and indivisible God. It
would be impossible to imagine any direct action of God upon the
world; he is separated from it by an immeasurable abyss. The
instruments which he uses, the links which unite the finite and
the infinite, are found in the world of thought. Every thought or
idea must be contemplated as a personal reality, having its
origin in the being of God, and itself an image of his eternal
essence. Perfectly distinct, and yet not separate from God, these
ideas animate matter, and thus unite it to God. There are
therefore three worlds, each of which has its own separate
existence, although they are all closely united one to the
other,--God, ideas, and things or beings. All beings are
contained in ideas, all ideas in God; God is all things, and all
things are God.' [Footnote 109]

    [Footnote 109: Stähelin, i. 432.]

In 1848, two years before the publication of Stähelin's work, M.
Emile Saisset, a very distinguished philosopher of the
contemporary French school, published in the _Revue des deux
Mondes_ [Footnote 110] an account of the doctrine of Servetus,
which, although more fully developed, is in perfect agreement
with that of M. Stähelin, the theologian of Basle.

    [Footnote 110: _Revue des deux Mondes_, 1848, i.

That doctrine is, in fact, pantheism, with all its pretensions to
explain everything in a rational way, and with the chaos of
logic, mysticism, and mere words, which pantheism offers as
rational explanation.


When Servetus was living at Vienne, he was in frequent
communication with friends at Lyons, and was within a very short
distance, almost within reach, of the religious influence of
Geneva, that is of Calvin. I have already said that the two men
met in Paris in 1534, commenced a controversy, and appointed a
meeting so as to carry it on in public; that Calvin kept this
appointment, and Servetus broke it. Whatever may have been the
motive of Servetus in so doing, there can be no doubt that some
contempt for an adversary who had thus escaped from a contest
lingered in Calvin's mind. That which he afterwards heard
respecting Servetus from the German and Swiss reformers had
certainly confirmed the suspicion and disapprobation with which
he was inclined to regard him. But, on the other hand, Servetus
could not live so near Calvin without being struck by the
importance which he had acquired, the greatness of his work, and
the fame of his name. He wished to renew his acquaintance with
Calvin, wrote to him, sent him questions, asked his advice, even
sent him a copy of the book which he was preparing on the
'Restoration of Christianity;' no doubt for the purpose of
finding out beforehand the objections of his formidable
adversary. His letters bear the impress sometimes of
philosophical inquiry, sometimes of undisciplined temper: 'I am
always at work,' he wrote to Calvin, 'trying to revive the life
of the Church, and you are angry with me because I associate
myself with the angel Michael in such a contest, and because I am
anxious that all pious men should do as I do.'

    [Footnote 111 (no reference): Page 171.]


'Examine this passage in the Book of Revelations thoroughly, and
you will see that the combat is waged by men, and that they lay
down their lives to testify of the Christ. It is usual to call
them angels in Scripture, because the regeneration from above
makes us equal to the angels.'

To these letters, which were very numerous between 1540 and 1546,
Calvin replied coldly but without acrimony. He evaded the
questions of Servetus when they appeared insidious, and gave him
wise and earnest advice; but he was evidently careful not to
enter into regular correspondence with him, and anxious to avoid
all appearance of intimacy, even as an opponent, with a man whom
he did not esteem, and whose views and ideas outraged all his
own. 'I was anxious to carry out your wishes,' he wrote to their
common friend Frellon at Lyons; [Footnote 112] 'not that, from
what I see of his present frame of mind, I have any great hope of
doing much good to such a man, but in order to try once again if
there are any means of subduing him;--which will be when God has
so dealt with him that he is quite different to what he is now.'

    [Footnote 112: February 13th, 1546.]


'As he wrote to me in a very haughty tone, I wished, if possible,
to humble him by speaking more harshly than I am wont to do. I
could do no otherwise, for I assure you that there is no lesson
he is in such want of as one in humility; but it must come to him
from God and no otherwise. Nevertheless we must put our hands to
the work also. If by God's grace, shown both to him and to us,
the answer you have asked me to send should prove profitable to
him, I shall have reason to rejoice. But if he continues in his
present mind, you will lose time if you entreat me to labour any
further on his behalf, for I have other duties which are much
more imperative. ... I pray you to rest satisfied with what I
have already done, unless you find him differently disposed.'

Servetus, however, continued to write to Calvin; no doubt hoping
either to convince or to perplex him by his persistent
correspondence and controversy. At length Calvin grew weary of
it, and wrote: 'Neither now nor at any future time will I mix
myself up in any way with your wild dreams. Forgive me for
speaking thus, but truth compels me to do so. I neither hate you
nor despise you; I do not wish to treat you harshly; but I must
be made of iron if I could hear you rail against the doctrine of
salvation and not be moved by it. Moreover, I have no time to
concern myself any further with your plans and systems; all that
I can say to you on this subject, is contained in my "Christian
Institutes," to which I must now refer you.' [Footnote 113]

    [Footnote 113: Henry, iii. 125-133. Stähelin, i. 429-431.]

Servetus was deeply wounded by this haughty language: he had made
advances which Calvin had resisted, and laid snares from which he
had escaped. The prudent reformer with his clear and resolute
intellect could not show indifference to the self-confident
visionary, who was capable both of lofty sincerity and low
cunning, nor was it possible that he could be deceived by him.
Even if there had not been any special and profound disagreement
between these two men, they were antipathetic by nature, and
anything that drew them together and brought them into contact,
instead of uniting them, would only cause them to recoil more
From this time forward there was an end of all direct
correspondence on the part of Calvin. He had previously written
to Farel: [Footnote 114] 'Not long ago Servetus wrote to me, and
sent with his letter a volume of his extravagant folly, which he
put forward with great ostentation, and I was compelled to read
the most unheard-of and bewildering things. He says that, if I
like, he will come here; but I will not give him any assurance of
my protection, for if he does come and if my authority prevails,
I will never suffer him to depart from this city alive.' In
September 1548, he wrote to Viret: 'I think you have seen my
answer to Servetus. I have declined any further correspondence
with such an obstinate and conceited heretic. It is certainly a
case in which we ought to follow the precept of the apostle Paul.
[Footnote 115] He is now attacking you, and it is for you to
consider how far it is worth your while to refute his dreams.
From henceforth he will get nothing more from me.'

    [Footnote 114: February 13th, 1546.]

    [Footnote 115: II Timothy ii. 23.]

Servetus was more annoyed by silence than he could possibly have
been by controversy, and he sent back Calvin's copy of the
'Christian Institutes' full of marginal notes, in which he
attacked the doctrines it contained. He determined at the same
time to put forth his manifesto, his great work on the
'Restoration of Christianity;' which would, so he thought, effect
a much greater social and religious revolution in Europe than the
Reformation had done. But with a strange mixture of audacity and
timidity, although he published it, he did not venture to
proclaim himself as its author.
He tried first of all to get it printed at Basle; not succeeding
there he found a printer at Vienne, in the very diocese where he
was living under the protection of the Archbishop, who consented
to print it under the seal of secrecy. The production was
completed in three months, between September 1552 and January
1553, under the superintendence of Servetus himself. Some say
that one thousand and others that eight hundred copies were
struck off, and bales were forwarded at once to Lyons, Châtillon,
Frankfort, and Geneva. The book bore no name, either of author or
printer, but, with an infatuation which would be incomprehensible
if it were not for the paternal love of an author for his work,
the three initial letters of the name and country of Servetus
were placed at the end of it; M. S. V.--Michael Servetus,

The public indignation was great; especially in Lyons and Geneva,
the former the centre of Catholicism, and the latter of
Protestantism. The people of Geneva marvelled that in a city like
Lyons, where Cardinal de Tournon and the Roman Inquisitor
Matthias Ory resided, no steps were taken to stop the circulation
of such a book and to discover and punish the author. There was a
French refugee at Geneva, Guillaume de Trie, a zealous Protestant
and follower of Calvin, who was in correspondence with a relative
at Lyons, Antoine Arneys, who was an ardent Catholic; and, in
order to bring De Trie back to the bosom of the Church, Arneys
accused the reformers of being without discipline or rules of
faith, and of sanctioning the most unbridled licence. De Trie, in
his turn, accused the Catholic Church of indifference and
inability to repress licence in her own domains; and the name of
Servetus, his previous works, his new book, recently printed at
Vienne under the very eyes of the Archbishop, and the doctrines
taught in the book, were all brought forward in De Trie's letter
to the Catholic of Lyons, in proof of the justice of his
He added: 'In order that you may not think I speak from mere
conjecture, I send you the first sheet of the work.' And he did,
in fact, send the title-page, index, and first four pages of the
'Restoration of Christianity.'

The Inquisitor, the Cardinal, and the Vicar-General of the
Archbishop of Vienne, immediately took the matter in hand. At
their request Servetus was summoned to appear before Monsieur de
Montgiron, the _Lieutenant-Général du Roi_, [Footnote 116]
in Dauphiné, whose physician he was, under the name of
Villanueva. At the expiration of two hours, which even those who
uphold Servetus say that he no doubt spent in destroying papers
which might have compromised him, he appeared and answered all
the questions put to him by a general denial. He said that 'for a
long time he had lived at Vienne, and that he had often visited
the preachers and other professors of theology. But they would
not find that he had ever held heretical opinions or been
suspected of heresy. He was willing that his apartments should be
searched so as to remove all cause for suspicion, not only that
of the court but of any other persons, for he had always desired
to live so that there should be no cause for the said suspicion.'
His dwelling and papers were searched.

    [Footnote 116: The functions of the _Lieutenant-Général du
    Roi_ were military, political, administrative, and, on
    special occasions, judicial also. This confusion of offices
    prevailed for a long time in the old French Monarchy.]


The printer Arnoullet and his workmen were examined; they were
asked if they had seen the manuscript of the book of which the
first few pages were shown to them--they answered that they had
not, and produced a list of all the books printed by them within
the last two years; there was not one of any kind in octavo. The
questions put either to Servetus or to those who had assisted
him, only led to absolute denial of all that was suggested, and
the court decided that there was not sufficient evidence for
taking any further proceedings, or for imprisoning the Spanish
physician, Monsieur Villanueva.

The falsehood was rash and useless. Too many persons had been
engaged in the production of the book, too many copies had been
sent away, the initials M. S. V. (Michael Servetus Villanueva)
too plainly indicated the author, and Servetus himself had too
often boasted of his work, to make it possible that a serious
inquiry could have any other result than a discovery of the whole
truth. Cardinal de Tournon and the Inquisitor Ory applied to the
source from whence they had received warning, for further help.
They directed the Catholic Arneys, at Lyons, to write to the
Protestant De Trie, [Footnote 117] at Geneva, and ask for the
information and proof which they wanted, and amongst other things
for the whole volume of which he had only sent a few pages: 'In
order,' so said the letter, 'that the Genevese might see that
there were people in France who laid to heart the honour of God
and of the Christian faith, and that they were not all as
lukewarm as those of Geneva imagined.'

    [Footnote 117: According to Stähelin, i. 436, the Inquisitor,
    Matthias Ory, wrote to De Trie with his own hand.]


The inquiry at Vienne had taken place about the middle of March;
De Trie's answer to Arneys arrived at Lyons on the 26th of the
same month. It was as follows: 'When I wrote the letter which you
communicated to those who were in it accused of indifference, I
did not think that the matter would have gone so far. My only
intention was to let you see the fine zeal and devotion of those
who call themselves the pillars of the Church, and yet allow such
evil to exist among them, whilst they harshly persecute poor
Christians who desire nothing more than to serve God in all
simplicity. As this was a striking example which had come under
my notice, I thought that my letters--as I was writing on this
subject--gave me a suitable occasion for mentioning it. But since
you have made known that which I had intended to write for your
own eyes only, may God so dispose all things for the best, that
it may be the means of purging Christianity from such a foul
pest. If those you speak of are really as much in earnest as you
say, there will not be much difficulty in the affair (even
although I am unable at present to furnish you with what you ask
for, namely the book), for I can place in your hands that which
is more convincing, namely about two dozen papers written by the
person in question, and containing some of his heresies. If the
printed book was placed before him, he might deny it, but he
cannot deny his own writing. ... But I must confess that I have
had great difficulty in obtaining from Monsieur Calvin that which
I send you; not that he is unwilling that such execrable
blasphemy should be punished, but that it seems to him that,
since he does not wield the sword of justice, it is his duty to
confute heresy by sound doctrine rather than to seek to extirpate
it by any other method.
But I have importuned him so greatly, representing that I should
be charged with making reckless assertions unless he came to my
aid, that at length he has consented to give up that which I send
you.' [Footnote 118]

    [Footnote 118: _Revue des deux Mondes_, 1848, i. 822.]

The packet contained: I. Some pages of a copy of Calvin's
'Christian Institutes,' on the margin of which Servetus had
written with his own hand, occasionally using very violent
language, some of his theories which were utterly opposed to the
Christian dogmas recognised both by Protestants and Catholics.
II. Several autograph letters from Servetus to Calvin, in which
he brought forward and maintained the pantheistic notions upon
which his recent work, the 'Restoration of Christianity,' was

Calvin has been strongly blamed for giving up these private
letters and marginal notes to the Catholic authorities, who had
already commenced proceedings against Servetus. It has been said
that he laid the whole plot, and caused Servetus to be denounced,
in order to destroy a religious adversary and personal enemy, by
the instrumentality of the Catholic Church. His hesitation as to
whether he ought to give up the papers and allow them to be sent
to Lyons, shows that he had some doubt as to the moral rectitude
of his conduct; but it shows an extraordinary misapprehension of
his character to imagine that this hesitation was an act of
hypocrisy, and that the surrender of the papers was a piece of
premeditated perfidy. There are no errors, or rather no vices,
with which it is so impossible to charge Calvin as with untruth
and hypocrisy.
During the whole course of his life he openly avowed his thoughts
and acknowledged his actions; he left his native country for
ever, and the country of his adoption for a long period, just
because he was resolved to assert his opinions, and to act
according to his opinions. In his transactions with Servetus, he
was brought into contact with a man who, whilst he aimed at
becoming the most radical of reformers, lived for twelve years at
Vienne as a strict Catholic, and secretly printed and distributed
a profoundly anti-Christian book; then, seeing that he was in
danger, denied his work and his acts, and protested 'that he had
never desired to teach or maintain any doctrine opposed to the
Church or the Christian religion.' Calvin felt the greatest
contempt for so much untruth and cowardice; he openly condemned
the book and the conduct of Servetus from the very first; he
considered it both a right and a duty to prove the truth of that
which he had affirmed, and to show at Lyons as well as at Geneva
that the opinions of Servetus were the same as those put forward
in the condemned volume, and that Servetus was really the author
of it. 'It is reported,' said he, 'that I have contrived to have
Servetus taken prisoner in the Papal dominions, that is at
Vienne; and thereupon many say that I have not acted honourably
in exposing him to the deadly enemies of the faith. There is no
need to insist on my vigorously denying such a frivolous calumny,
which will fall flat when I have said in one word that there is
no truth in it. ... If there were any truth in the charge, I
should not deny it, and I do not think that it would be at all
discreditable to me.' [Footnote 119]

    [Footnote 119: Bungener, p. 362.]


The effect produced by this information was what might have been
expected. The proceedings at Vienne were at once resumed.
Servetus was called upon to explain the marginal notes in the
'Christian Institutes,' and the letters he had written to Calvin.
He was greatly troubled, and fell into all kinds of strange and
contradictory statements and denials: 'He says that, at first
sight, it is impossible for him to say if the letter is his or
not, because it has been written so long; however, having looked
at it more closely, he certainly thinks that he must have written
it; and says that whatever is found in it contrary to the faith,
he submits to the decision of our holy Mother Church, from which
he has never wished, nor would ever consent to be separated. And
if he has written any such things, he says that he wrote them
heedlessly, by way of argument and without serious thought.' And
then he is said to have burst into tears and uttered the most
unexpected lie, denying that he was Servetus: 'I will tell you
the whole truth. Twenty-five years ago, when I was in Germany, a
book by a certain Servetus, a Spaniard, was published at Aganon
(Hagenau); I do not know where he was then living. When I entered
into correspondence with Calvin, he charged me with being
Servetus, on account of the similarity of our views, and after
that I assumed the character of Servetus.' [Footnote 120]

    [Footnote 120: Henry, iii. 146.]

This incoherent mass of untruth and confession caused the
proceedings to be carried on in a more serious manner. Servetus
was arrested and imprisoned. The gaoler received orders to watch
him carefully. Nevertheless he was treated with an indulgence by
no means common at that time. He was allowed to have his own
servant, to keep possession of a gold chain and some rings which
he wore, and to send a demand for the payment of 300 crowns which
were due to him.
He had undoubtedly many staunch friends; probably the vice-Bailli
of Vienne, whose sick daughter he had cured, was one, and
possibly Monsieur de Montgiron, the _Lieutenant-Général_ in
whose service he had been, was another. It was afterwards proved
that a servant of the gaoler had said to the servant of Servetus,
'Go and tell your master to escape by the garden.' On the 7th of
April, 1553, two days after his imprisonment, Servetus did, in
fact, escape in the early morning by a garden which led into the
courtyard of the _Palais de Justice_. He hurried across the
bridge over the Rhone, and thus passed from Dauphiné into
Lyonnais; at least this was the account given by a peasant, who
had met him but was not interrogated until three days after his
escape. [Footnote 121]

    [Footnote 121: Henry, iii. 147; Gaberel, ii. 248; _Revue
    des deux Mondes_, 1848, i. 824.]

No traces of him can be discovered between April and July 1553.
He was wandering either in French or Swiss territory; and when,
at a later period, he was asked where he had intended to go after
his escape from Vienne, he varied in his answers, sometimes
naming Spain and at others Italy as his proposed place of refuge.
I am inclined to believe that from the very first he intended to
make his way to a much nearer spot. Be that as it may, whilst he
was wandering from place to place, either undecided as to his
future course, or waiting for a fitting opportunity of carrying
out his plan, sentence was pronounced upon him by the Catholic
judges at Vienne; and on the 17th of June he was condemned 'to be
burnt alive over a slow fire, at the place of public execution,
so that his body should be reduced to cinders as well as his


                   Chapter XVIII.

                 Servetus In Geneva.
	      His Trial And Execution.

A month later--on the 17th of July Servetus entered a little inn
on the banks of the lake at Geneva, called the _Auberge de la
Rose_. He was alone and unknown: he said that he wanted a boat
across the lake, so that he might go on to Zurich. He did not
cross the lake, but stayed for twenty-seven days at Geneva,
greatly exciting the curiosity of his host, who asked him one day
if he was married: 'No,' he said, 'there are plenty of women in
the world without marrying.' He seems to have walked out and seen
several persons. It is even asserted that he went to church and
heard Calvin preach. Calvin afterwards said, 'I do not know how
to account for his conduct, unless he was seized by a fatal
infatuation and rushed into danger.' [Footnote 122]

    [Footnote 122: Henry, iii. 149-151; Rilliet, _Procès de
    Michel Servet_, p. 20; _Revue des deux Mondes_, 1848,
    i. 826.]

The result shows the infatuation of his prolonged visit to
Geneva, but I think that this visit bears equally strong proof of
premeditated design. Precisely at this period Calvin was engaged
in the contest which I have recently described with the
Libertines, on the subject of excommunication from the Lord's
When Servetus entered Geneva, the Libertines had some reason to
expect that they might triumph; one of their leaders, Ami Perrin,
was first syndic; they believed themselves sure of a majority in
the Council of Two Hundred, and almost sure of one in the lesser
Council which possessed the executive power. A man of their
party, Gueroult, who had been banished from Geneva, had been
corrector of the press to the printer Arnoullet at Vienne, at the
time when the 'Restoration of Christianity' was published. Thanks
to the influence of his patrons, the Libertines, Gueroult had
returned to Geneva, and he would naturally be the medium between
them and Servetus. I do not find any definite and positive proof
of his intervention at this particular time; but taking a
comprehensive view of the whole case and the antecedents of all
those concerned in it, I am convinced that Servetus, defeated at
Vienne, went to Geneva, relying on the support of the Libertines,
whilst they on their side expected to obtain efficacious help
from him against Calvin.

But neither the Libertines nor Servetus knew the resolute
adversary with whom they had to deal. From the moment that Calvin
heard Servetus was in Geneva, he did not hesitate for one
instant, although he was already engaged in a fierce and perilous
struggle. He added a second contest to the first, and resolved to
obtain two victories instead of one--the victory of Christianity
over a pantheistic visionary, and the victory of religion and
morality over a licentious faction. He wrote to one of the
syndics requesting him, 'in virtue of the power granted to his
office by the criminal edicts of Geneva, to arrest Servetus.' On
the 13th of August, 1553, Servetus was arrested.
'I do not deny,' wrote Calvin on the following 9th of September,
'that he was imprisoned at my instance.' But, according to the
laws of Geneva, in order that the imprisonment should not be
merely temporary, it was necessary that there should be a formal
accusation, and a prosecutor who consented to submit to
imprisonment, and to hold himself criminally responsible for the
truth of the charge. It was Calvin who also provided for this
necessity. Nicolas de la Fontaine, a French refugee, his
secretary and intimate friend, consented to undertake the painful
office. 'I do not conceal the fact,' says Calvin, 'that by my
wish, Servetus was apprehended in this city, that he might be
compelled to give an account of his misdeeds. And since
malevolent and evil-disposed persons gabble all kinds of things
against me, I frankly confess that as, in accordance with the
laws and customs of this city, no one can be imprisoned unless
there is a prosecutor, or some previous knowledge of his crimes,
therefore in order to bring such a man to reason, I arranged so
as to procure a prosecutor.' The first examination of Servetus
took place the day after his arrest, and on the 15th of August
his trial commenced.

This theological tragedy lasted for two months and thirteen days.
There was great variety in the scenes of which it was composed,
corresponding to the different incidents in the political and
social struggle with the Libertines which Calvin was carrying on.
I do not intend to give a detailed account of this prolonged
trial, but I am anxious that its essential character and
principal phases should be clearly apprehended.


At its commencement, and for the first fourteen or fifteen days,
Servetus showed no lack either of moderation or skill, although
both attack and defence were sharp and keen. He openly assailed
Calvin as his personal and hateful enemy, but was careful not to
fall into violent abuse of him. He maintained the truth of the
doctrines asserted in his own works, but was most anxious to show
that they were not contrary to the Christian religion, that he
had never wished to separate himself from the Church, and that
his aim was to restore Christianity, not to abolish it. The trial
was soon transformed into a theological controversy, turning upon
points of doctrine; and after the 17th of August Calvin himself
took part in it, declaring that he had no intention of screening
himself behind those who had commenced or were carrying it on,
and that he was prepared to take the prosecution of the prisoner
upon himself. He was authorized by the Council to be present at
the examinations and take part in the debates, 'either for the
purpose of trying to reclaim Servetus, or in order that he might
point out his errors more clearly to him.' The scene became more
exciting, and gave promise of wider development. Servetus offered
'to show Calvin his own errors and faults before the whole
congregation, proving them by arguments drawn from the sacred
Scriptures.' Calvin eagerly accepted this offer, declaring that
'there was nothing he desired so ardently as to conduct this
trial in the church and before all the people.'

But the Council refused; they wished as a matter of prudence to
keep the decision of such matters in their own hands; they were
also probably influenced by the wishes of the friends of
Servetus, who had every reason to expect that Calvin's words
would have much more weight with the people than those of the
The discussion between the two adversaries was carried on
sometimes by written and sometimes by spoken arguments. For a
long time Calvin's keen insight had shown him that the works of
Servetus were pantheistic, and that pantheism must destroy
historical and dogmatic Christianity. He pressed Servetus closely
upon this point, and the Spaniard imprudently acknowledged his
doctrine: 'All created things,' he said, 'are of the substance of
God.' 'How, wretch!' said Calvin; 'if any one was to strike this
pavement with his foot and to tell you that he was treading on
your God, should you not shrink with horror at having subjected
the Majesty of God to such an indignity?' 'I do not doubt,'
answered Servetus, 'that this bench and this table and everything
that we see is essentially God.' Again, when it was objected
that, according to his views, the devil must be a manifestation
of God, he laughed, and answered boldly: 'Do you doubt it? As for
me I hold it to be a fundamental maxim that all things are a part
and portion of God, and that the collective universe is itself
the Deity.'

The Council was both shocked and embarrassed. There were warm
partisans of Calvin in its ranks, and eager protectors of
Servetus--among others the principal Libertine leaders, Ami
Perrin and Berthelier; but there were also some impartial members
who were sorry to see Calvin take such a prominent place in the
prosecution, and who had no desire to become judges in a trial
for heresy. Still they recognised the danger to Christianity of
the Spaniard's pantheism, and refused at any cost to appear to
sanction it.
Moreover, they disliked and suspected Servetus. He was sincere
enough in his adhesion to his own views, but on other points they
found him frivolous, vain, arrogant, irresolute, and untruthful.
He denied any connexion, even the most indirect, not only with
the Libertines of Geneva, but with their agent Gueroult at
Geneva, who had corrected the proofs of his book. The falsehood
of these disavowals was so obvious, that even those magistrates
who hesitated to condemn him, could no longer place any
confidence in him. It seems strange that they should have been
ignorant of the sentence passed upon him on the preceding 17th of
June, after his escape from Vienne, by which he was condemned to
be burnt alive; but either they were really ignorant of it, or
they wished to appear to be so, for the Protestant Council of
Geneva wrote to the Catholic judges of Vienne to ask for
'information as to the crimes which had caused the imprisonment
of Servetus in their city, both believing and hearing,' says the
letter, 'that it was not without cause, and that you have certain
information and charges against him for which he deserves
punishment.' It was no doubt by the advice of his supporters that
Servetus demanded that the principal reformed churches in
Switzerland--Berne, Zurich, Schaffhausen, and Basle--should be
consulted on his case; since on similar occasions they had always
shown themselves far more moderate than Calvin. The Council
granted this request, and Calvin did not oppose it. There can be
no doubt that the majority of the Genevese magistrates desired to
a certain extent to modify the character of the trial, and make
its personal animosity less apparent; they wished to appear the
defenders of Christianity rather than the enemies of any special
theological system. They adjourned the trial several times, and
put off the final decision as if they dreaded to pronounce it.


But there is a time for procrastination and a time for prompt
action, a time for courage and a time for prudence. The crisis of
the two struggles in which this small state was engaged had
arrived, and the great issues involved in them had to be decided.
Between Calvin and Servetus, between Calvin and the
Libertines--that is to say, between Christianity and Pantheism,
between tyrannical austerity and licentious anarchy--there was no
longer any possibility of either reconciliation or truce. With
the instinct of the man of action, Calvin felt this, and
unhesitatingly adopted the most energetic measures in both cases.
On the 27th of August, 1553, he uttered the severest censures
from the pulpit upon the conduct of Servetus; and on the 3d of
September following, as I have previously related, he solemnly
refused to administer the communion to the leader of the
Libertines, who--in spite of the decision of the Council of
State--had been pronounced unworthy of it by the Church. In both
cases he thus made a direct appeal to the general body of
believers. The trial of Servetus, which was going on at the time
of this double excitement, suddenly changed its whole character.
All moderation, all prudence were cast aside by the prisoner; led
away by the hope of overwhelming an enemy who was fiercely
attacked and in danger elsewhere, Servetus became the vehement
accuser of Calvin, even unto death. Small pamphlets sometimes
took the place of judicial debates.
'Miserable wretch,' said Servetus, 'you do not know what you are
saying; you endeavour to condemn things which you do not
understand! Do you think, O dog! that you can deafen the ears of
the judges by your howls? Your mind is so confused that you
cannot see the truth! ... You cry out like a blind man in the
desert, because the spirit of vengeance consumes your heart. You
have told lies, you have told lies, you have told lies, ignorant
slanderer!' Servetus did not confine himself to abuse, but, on
the 22d of September, demanded that his adversary should be
committed for trial, giving a list of the subjects 'on which
Michael Servetus demands that John Calvin shall be interrogated.
I demand, gentlemen, that my false accuser shall be punished by
the law of retaliation, that his property shall be handed over to
me as a compensation for my own, which by his means I have lost,
and that he shall be kept in prison as I am, until the trial
shall be ended by the condemnation to death of one of us two, or
by some other punishment.'

Calvin, in spite of his own violence, was at first overwhelmed by
this outburst of passion. He says, 'I was timorous and dismayed
before him, as if I had been the prisoner, and had been called
upon to answer for my doctrine. In truth, I am afraid that good
men will accuse me of too great meekness.'

Servetus soon discovered that his hopes had entirely deceived
him, and that the position of his adversary was much stronger
than he had imagined it to be. All that the Libertines were able
to do for the promotion of their own cause, was, to prolong for
sixteen months, the indecision of the civil power on the question
of the right of excommunication; but at the end of that time, on
the 24th of January, 1555, the civil authorities decided that the
right belonged to the Consistory.
And as to the unfortunate Servetus, the Libertines who had urged
him on, and compromised him in every way from the time of his
arrival at Geneva, gave him but feeble support when they saw that
the final crisis was at hand. His violent attack on Calvin was
not even noticed. On the 19th of September the Council decided to
apply officially to the pastors and magistrates of the four
churches of Berne, Zurich, Schaffhausen, and Basle for their
opinion of the trial. Calvin did not approve of this step, but he
had not opposed it; he had, however, written to some of his
friends in the cantons, among others to Bullinger at Zurich, and
to Sulzer at Basle, in order to point out the very serious nature
of the advice for which they had been asked; and it was well
known throughout Geneva that his letters would not fail to
influence the answers from the cantons. From that time the
passionate excitement of Servetus gave place to dejection and
anguish, He was in prison, sick and forsaken. On the 10th of
October, 1553, he wrote to the Council: 'Most noble lords, for
the last three weeks I have implored you to grant me an audience,
but have not been able to obtain it. I beseech you, for the love
of Christ, not to refuse that which you would not refuse to a
Turk who demanded justice at your hands. I have very important
things to tell you, which you ought to know. As to the orders
which you issued that something should be done towards keeping me
clean, nothing has been done, and I am in a more wretched
condition than ever.
Moreover, the cold torments me greatly, on account of the colic
and my other maladies, which give rise to infirmities of which I
should be ashamed to write to you. It is a great cruelty that I
am not permitted to speak, when I only want to ask that my wants
may be supplied. For the love of God, gentlemen, grant this,
either out of mercy or justice!' The Council sent two of its
members to the prison 'with orders,' says M. Rilliet, 'to cause
the necessary clothing to be given to the prisoner, so as to
remove the hardships of which he complained. But there is no
other trace of the result of this interview between the prisoner
and the deputies of the Council. Probably it was occupied with
topics which Servetus had previously discussed; and that his
object was to obtain some influence over the minds of the
magistrates rather than to give them any fresh information.' But
the appeal which he had made for compassion was of no more use
than his violence.

On the 18th of October, 1553, the messenger returned to Geneva,
bearing the answers of the four cantons. They were all cautious
and guarded, though in different degrees, and at the same time
sorrowful in tone, but they were unanimous in the nature of their
advice. 'We pray the Lord,' said the Bernese letter, 'that he
will give you a spirit of wisdom, prudence, and courage, so that
you may secure your own church as well as other churches from so
great a danger; and that at the same time you may do nothing that
will appear unseemly in Christian magistrates.'
'We are persuaded,' wrote the church of Basle, 'that you will not
fail either in Christian prudence or in holy zeal, but will find
a remedy for the snare which has already led away many souls to
destruction.' The language of the letter from Zurich was much
more definite: 'You must not allow the wicked and false attempts
of the said prisoner to prevail, for they are quite contrary to
the Christian religion, and cause our churches to be in bad
repute.' Schaffhausen gave the same advice as Zurich. There can
be no doubt that the four churches recommended severity, although
they added a few words so that they might not be charged with the
entire responsibility of the decision.

The Council met again on the 23d of October, 1553, and after
having read the answers from the Swiss churches, once more
adjourned so as to avoid coming to a final decision. Several of
the members who were favourable to Servetus had absented
themselves, amongst others, the first syndic, Ami Perrin, no
doubt in order to necessitate an adjournment. Another meeting was
fixed for the 26th of October; and again, when the day arrived,
several of the supporters of Servetus did not appear. But Ami
Perrin was true to him; he formally demanded that the accused
should be acquitted of the charge, and declared innocent; and
ultimately moved that the case should be referred to the Council
of Two Hundred. Both propositions were rejected. The majority of
the Council passed a resolution which was entered in their
register in words to the following effect:--'That,--considering
the summary of the trial of the prisoner, Michael Servetus, the
report of those who have been consulted, and his great errors and
blasphemies,--it is decreed that he be led to Champel and there
burnt alive, and he shall be executed to-morrow, and his books
burnt with him.'


At that period there was no hesitation on account of the
atrocious torture of such a punishment, and no scruple as to the
right of inflicting it. Heresy was a crime, and the stake was the
penalty of heresy. In that very year 1553, at Lyons, not far from
Geneva, several reformers had suffered martyrdom; among others,
five young French students from the theological Institute at
Lausanne. The Catholic judges at Vienne had condemned Servetus to
the stake. Save for some scattered protests which saved the
honour of the human conscience, in the sixteenth century the
burning of heretics at the stake was looked upon as the common
right of Christianity.

During the whole course of the trial Calvin had never concealed
his feeling as to what the sentence ought to be. On the 20th of
August, after it had commenced, he wrote to Farel: 'I hope that
he will be condemned to death; but I trust that there may be some
mitigation of the frightful torture of the penalty.' After the
execution of the sentence, he wrote: 'When Servetus had been
convicted of heresy, I did not say a word concerning his
execution: not only will all good men bear witness to this, but I
authorize the bad to speak if they have anything to say.' On the
26th of October, the very day on which sentence was passed, he
wrote to Farel: 'The wretch has been condemned by the Council
without a division. Tomorrow he will be led to the stake. We made
every effort to change the manner of his death, but in vain.'
Farel hurried to Geneva; he had taken the warmest interest in the
case, and had urged great severity; but he was not incapable of
sympathetic emotion, and was a man of very strong religious
When Servetus heard of his condemnation, he fell into the deepest
despair; he wept, entreated, implored, and cried, 'Mercy! mercy!
Farel hoped to bring him to repentance, and save his soul, whilst
at the same time his recantation might lead to a mitigation of
his sentence. He pressed him to see Calvin; Servetus was not
disinclined; Calvin also consented, and obtained permission for
the interview from the Council, who sent two of its own members
to accompany him on his visit to the condemned prisoner. When
asked what he had to say to Calvin, Servetus replied that he
wished to solicit his forgiveness. Then Calvin said: 'I protest
that I have never carried out any private animosity against you.
You must remember that sixteen years ago, being at Paris, I did
not spare myself in my efforts to win you for our Lord, and if
you would have listened to reason, I would have done everything
in my power to reconcile you with all the faithful servants of
God. You ran away from the conference, and yet I did not cease to
exhort you by letters; but all has been useless, and you have
assailed me not so much with anger as with fury. And now I have
done with all that concerns myself personally. Ask pardon, not of
me, but of that God whom you have blasphemed by trying to
disprove the existence of three Persons in one God; ask pardon of
the Son of God, whom you have debased and denied as your
Saviour.' These words were more likely to wound Servetus than to
convince him; they probed his wounds but did not heal them; he
remained silent. The repeated exhortations of Farel were of no
avail, and Calvin withdrew, following, he says, the rule of St.
Paul: 'A man that is an heretic after the first and second
admonition reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and
sinneth, being condemned of himself.' [Footnote 123]

    [Footnote 123: Epistle of Paul to Titus, iii. 10, 11.]


Servetus was willing to ask pardon, but he would not disavow his
opinions. Even in the depths of his despair he preserved all the
pride of honest conviction; and although he entreated that his
life might be spared, he would not consent to dishonour it by a
false recantation. Farel, who accompanied him to the stake, in
vain renewed his severe, but at the same time compassionate
exhortations up to the very last moment. The dignity of the
philosopher triumphed over the weakness of the man, and Servetus
died heroically and calmly at that stake, the very thought of
which had at first filled him with terror.


                   Chapter XIX.

                The Two Opponents.
	    Calvin's Letter To Socinus.

This celebrated trial has become a great historical event, and I
have followed its different stages with scrupulous care. I have
endeavoured to disentangle its philosophical, social, and
political aspects, and to describe them accurately. I have been
anxious truthfully to delineate the character, opinions,
passions, and attitude of the two opponents. It was their
tragical destiny to meet each other and to enter into mortal
combat as the champions of two great causes. It is my profound
conviction that Calvin's cause was the good one, that it was the
cause of morality, of social order, and of civilization. Servetus
was the representative of a system false in itself, superficial
under the pretence of science, and destructive alike of moral
dignity in the individual, and of moral order in human society.
In their disastrous encounter, Calvin was conscientiously
faithful to what he believed to be truth and duty; but he was
hard, much more influenced by violent animosity than he imagined,
and devoid alike of sympathy and generosity. Servetus was sincere
and resolute in his conviction, but he was a frivolous,
presumptuous, vain, and envious man, capable, in time of need, of
resorting both to artifice and untruth.
In an age full of martyrs to religious liberty, Servetus obtained
the honour of being one of the few martyrs to intellectual
liberty; whilst Calvin, who was undoubtedly one of those who did
most towards the establishment of religious liberty, had the
misfortune to ignore his adversary's right to liberty of belief.

I do not think that Calvin ever felt any hesitation or regret as
to his own conduct during the trial of Servetus. He believed in
his right and duty to suppress heresy in this manner, as
sincerely as Servetus believed in the truth of his own opinions;
and his most intimate friends, instead of trying to soften him,
endeavoured to confirm his severity. Farel wrote, on the 8th of
September, 1553: 'You desire to mitigate the severity of his
sentence, and in so doing you would act the part of a friend
towards him who is your greatest enemy. But I beseech you to
proceed in such a manner that hereafter no one shall seek to
promulgate new doctrines with impunity and throw all into
confusion as Servetus has done. It is absurd to conclude that
because the Pope accuses faithful believers of the crime of
heresy, and infuriated judges condemn these innocent victims to
tortures reserved for heretics, that therefore we must never put
heretics to death for the sake of ensuring the safety of true
believers. For my own part, I have often said that I was ready to
suffer death if I taught anything contrary to true doctrine; and
I have added that I should deserve the most frightful torments if
I turned any away from faith in Christ.' Even the most advanced
advocates of liberty did not go so far as to say that honest
error could not be crime.
Servetus himself, when he was accused of saying that the soul was
mortal, exclaimed, 'If ever I said that, and not only said it but
published it and infected the whole world, I would condemn myself
to death.' Nevertheless, either from instinctive justice or
influenced by the caution which their position required, many,
even of those reformers who were strongly attached to the
Calvinistic doctrines, were averse to the capital punishment of
heretics; and would not tolerate the reproduction, in their own
church, of the cruelty which they protested against in the Church
of Rome. These honest scruples were supported by the authority of
some of their most illustrious leaders. At the very commencement
of the struggle, Luther had said: 'The burning of heretics is
contrary to the will of the Holy Spirit.' Calvin himself, not
long before the trial of Servetus, reproved a young Italian
refugee towards whom he entertained very friendly feelings, for
holding opinions which in many respects resembled those of the
Spanish physician, but he expressed his disapprobation with
almost paternal tenderness. It is not without surprise that I
have found among his letters one which, in 1551, he wrote to
Lælius Socinus, [Footnote 124] of Siena, uncle of that Faustus
Socinus who, at a later period, founded the Socinian heresy.

    [Footnote 124:  Sozzini.]

Lælius Socinus was a young man of great intellectual power, with
a strong leaning towards philosophical speculation, and he had
passed several years in Germany and Switzerland on friendly terms
with all the principal reformers. Calvin wrote to him at
Wittenberg: 'You are mistaken in your impression that Melancthon
does not agree with us in holding the doctrine of predestination.
I told you in a few words that I had received a letter from him
in which he acknowledges that his opinion is the same as mine.
But I can well believe all that you tell me, since it is no new
thing for him to avoid speaking plainly on that subject, if for
no other reason than to escape troublesome questions. Certainly
no one can have a greater objection to paradoxes than I have, and
I do not take the slightest pleasure in mere intellectual
puzzles. But nothing shall prevent me from openly avowing those
things which I have learnt from the Word of God, for he is a
master in whose school we learn nothing that is not useful. The
Bible is my only guide, and I shall always endeavour to order my
life in accordance with its pure doctrines. I earnestly desire,
my dear Lælius, that you may learn to govern your faculties with
the same moderation. Do not expect any answer from me so long as
you put forward such strange questions. If it gives you any
pleasure to float in the ether of speculation, pray do so; but
you must allow me--a humble servant of Christ--to confine my
meditations to those points which may help to establish or
confirm my faith. From henceforward I will pray for you in
silence, and will importune you no further. But truly I am deeply
afflicted that the fine talents which God has given you should
not only be employed in vain and barren researches, but debased
and destroyed by pernicious speculations. I repeat with all
earnestness that which I told you long ago: if you do not try to
subdue your passion for investigation and speculative inquiry, it
is to be feared that you will bring upon yourself bitter
It would be great cruelty towards you if I treated with apparent
indulgence that which I look upon as a most dangerous error. I
would rather pain you a little now by my sincerity, than leave
you, without any protest, to be led into danger by your
over-inquisitive mind. I hope that the time may yet come when you
will be glad that you received such a harsh warning. Farewell, my
very dear and greatly honoured brother; and if my strictures seem
more severe than they have any right to be, you must remember
that they arise from my love towards you.' [Footnote 125]

    [Footnote 125: Calvin's Letters, published by M. Jules Bonnet
    and translated into English, ii. 330. (Philadelphia, 1858.)]

Assuredly no orthodox theologian could have spoken with more
affectionate earnestness, or more forbearance, to a man who was
incessantly expressing doubts as to the divinity of Christ, the
truth of redemption, expiation, original sin, and the majority of
the Christian doctrines. It is true that Lælius Socinus was
young; he had published nothing; and he showed very great respect
for Calvin, who had never been called upon to enter into any
controversy with him.

Nothing is more easy, and at the same time more vulgar and
unworthy, than to speak with irony and contempt of the
inconsistencies of even the greatest among men. We ought rather
to congratulate ourselves on these inconsistencies, as an
involuntary homage paid to truth. They show that truth is so
deeply rooted and so powerful in the human mind, that it keeps or
makes a place for itself even when we might expect it to be
destroyed by the most noxious errors. Man often creates the gloom
which darkens his own soul, but it is not in his power to shut
out altogether the light which comes from God.


At length, to the honour of humanity and the promotion of its
moral and social well-being, rays of divine light have shown us
the right of the human conscience to liberty of belief. In that
very city of Geneva where, three hundred years ago, the fire was
kindled for Servetus, the members of that same reformed religion
which Calvin then established, met together, not long ago,
[Footnote 126] in the various churches of the city, to
commemorate the three hundredth anniversary of the death of the
great reformer.

    [Footnote 126: On the 27th of May, 1864.]

One of the most eloquent and pious speakers present, M. le
pasteur Coulin, alluded to the trial and execution of Servetus,
and pronounced a just and righteous sentence upon that lamentable
act. He said: 'Even if Calvin's system had been exempt from any
possible error, if it had been, as he sincerely believed that it
was, truth itself, he should not have attempted to compel men to
accept it. He forgot that those around him did not understand, or
reason, or form conclusions as he did. That was his mistake, and
it is a very grave one. Assuredly truth is the queen of the
intellect, and whosoever believes in truth is a champion bound to
promote the establishment of her reign. But man is so constituted
that truth can and will consent to govern him, only on condition
of his own free adhesion to her rule. God has placed a something
inviolable within us for the reception of truth, which most shows
our own greatness when we maintain the supremacy of truth. If
truth is a queen, conscience is her throne.
This is why that which has truly been called liberty of
conscience is the essential condition of the reign of truth. Seek
truth, show it, prove it; exhibit in turns the splendour of its
beauty, the majesty of its strength, the charm of its excellence.
Urge all around you to bow before truth, and pay homage as to a
queen. But if you cannot prevail with them, then, in the name of
truth and of the most sacred interests of the glory of truth,
remember that there are still two things even in the most bitter
enemy--a free conscience which ought to be respected, an erring
brother who may be loved. These two things Calvin did not
recognise; in his blind zeal he wished the conscience either to
acquiesce or to abdicate its function. It is impossible to assert
too strongly that every outrage upon the liberty of conscience of
the individual, is a blow that truth receives upon the face,
which dishonours her. Make every allowance for the spirit of the
age, for the prevailing prejudices which not even a man of genius
can altogether escape; make allowance for all the necessities of
the time and the pressure of circumstances; make allowance for
whatsoever you choose: but the fact still remains that the laws
and measures by means of which Calvin endeavoured to ensure unity
of conviction in Geneva are a stain upon his memory, an element
condemned beforehand in his work, upon which time ought to pass a
just sentence.'


                   Chapter XX.

    Calvin's Influence Over The Reformed Churches.
              His Presbyterianism.

After the termination of the trial of Servetus in 1553, and of
the contest with the Libertines in 1555, Calvin obtained, not
repose, but victory and unopposed supremacy. He had need of it,
for his health, which was naturally weak, had become exceedingly
infirm. He had frequent attacks of quartan fever, violent
headaches, disease of the liver, attacks of gout, and he was
threatened with consumption. There was no longer any one in his
home to watch over him with that tender assiduity which is almost
as necessary for the health of the soul as for that of the body.
He had lost his wife, Idelette de Bure, on the 6th of April,
1549. She had borne him three children, but they all died young,
and in their conjugal solitude she had shown that entire and
unselfish devotion which gives everything, and asks for nothing
in return. She had three children by her first husband, Störder;
when she was very ill, one of her friends urged her to speak to
Calvin about them: 'Why should I?' said she; 'that which concerns
me is to have them virtuously brought up: if they are virtuous,
he will be a father to them; if they are not, of what use is it
for me to commend them to his care?'
But Calvin anticipated her maternal solicitude, and without
waiting until she spoke, he promised to treat them as if they
were his own children: 'I have already commended them to God,'
she said. 'That does not prevent me from also taking care of
them,' said Calvin. She answered: 'I know well that you will
never forsake those whom I have confided to the Lord.' She died
as she had lived, showing pious and tender confidence in God and
her husband. In the letters written during his lifetime to his
two most intimate friends, Farel and Viret, Calvin often spoke of
her, briefly but affectionately, and with entire satisfaction.
When she died he spoke of his grief more openly than he had ever
done of his happiness. He wrote to Viret: 'I have lost the
excellent companion of my life, who would never have forsaken me,
either in exile, poverty, or death. So long as she lived she was
my faithful assistant; she took no thought for herself, and was
never either a trouble or a hindrance to her husband. I control
my sorrow as far as it is in my power; my friends also do their
duty; but it is of very little use either for them or me. You
know the tenderness--not to say the weakness--of my heart. I
should give way utterly if God had not stretched out his hand to
hold me up. It is he who heals the broken-hearted, who consoles
the wounded spirit, who strengthens the trembling knees.'
[Footnote 127]

    [Footnote 127: Henry, i. 416-423; _Bulletin de la Société
    de L'Histoire du Protestantisme Français_, iv. 644-649.]


From the time that he lost his wife until his own death, that is
from 1549 to 1564, Calvin lived alone in his little house at
Geneva. He had been deprived of that domestic happiness which is
a rest alike to body and soul; he took no part in any ordinary
pleasures, but gave himself up entirely to the duties which he
had undertaken, and to the work to which he was devoted. These
duties and labours extended far beyond the narrow bounds of the
city in which he lived. His ambition was loftier than that of the
most mighty princes, and his proposed sphere of action more vast
than that of the most extended kingdom. His ruling passion, the
strongest desire of his soul, was the re-establishment and
organization of the Christian Church in accordance with the
intention of its divine author, and on the foundation laid by the
apostles. He wished to build up a Christian Church, free and
independent in its evangelical unity and universality. He
believed that neither the separation of nations, nor diversity of
origin and language, nor difference of political rule, ought to
affect the great Christian society. For Calvin, as for St. Paul,
there was no longer either Jew, or Greek, or Barbarian; either
Swiss, or French, or Italian, or English, or Slave. He saw only
the human being, called to become a faithful Christian and to
live in close relation to Christ, keeping his faith and
fulfilling his law. Calvin was convinced that Christ had revealed
in the Gospel all the essential principles of Christian society,
that is of the Christian Church; and he believed that these
essential principles were three in number:

I. The union and united action of ecclesiastics and laymen within
the Church, and in its internal government; no human theocracy
and no ecclesiastical tyranny.

II. The mutual independence and limited alliance of Church and
State. The Church perfectly free in her spiritual rule, but at
the same time acknowledging and supporting the temporal rule of
the State.

III. The spiritual and moral authority of the Church over the
religious and moral life of its members, to be maintained, if
necessary, by the power of the State.


The application and development of these principles was to be
found, according to Calvin's views, in the self-government of the
Church by a mixed body consisting of pastors and members. There
would then be the mutual and valuable influence of the Church in
the State, and of the State in the Church, each according to the
nature of its own power, and within the limits of its own rights.

He believed that such a system was in harmony on the one hand
with the Gospel, and on the other with the condition and
requirements of European society in the sixteenth century. He saw
in it the abolition of abuses, which time, and the crimes or
follies of men, had introduced into the Christian religion; and
he hoped by means of it to restore the spirit as well as the
spontaneous organization of the early Christian Church. He
expected to introduce into this system the degree of freedom and
of restraint necessary to accomplish the great aim of
Christianity, namely the discipline and salvation of the human

This was the Reformation according to Calvin's view, and he
endeavoured to realize it in the system known as Presbyterianism.


He watched its establishment in Switzerland, France, Holland,
England, Scotland, Germany, and Poland with inexhaustible
interest and unshaken fidelity. He had abundant means of knowing
all that was going on throughout Europe in reference to the
Reformation. Numerous refugees had sought a place of safety in
Geneva; he himself had made many expeditions into France,
Germany, and Italy; and the friendships which he had formed, and
his numerous correspondents had brought him into close connexion
with many foreign reformers. He knew how far the Reformation had
succeeded in different countries, what progress it was making,
and what obstacles it had met with, so that he could modify his
course of action according to circumstances. Where there was no
band of reformers ready to unite and openly proclaim themselves a
religious society, as for example in Italy, Calvin endeavoured,
in his letters and by his advice, to sow the first seeds of the
Reformation; and to make known the fundamental doctrines of the
reformed faith. 'Wherever he found the rudiments of a Christian
association and a reformed church, he endeavoured to promote its
organization in accordance with the principles of the system
established at Geneva. As a mother country provides for the early
wants of her colonies, so he sent models for confessions of faith
and rules of discipline, as well as founders and preachers for
the distant churches; and he watched over the progress of these
local works with paternal solicitude. Many of the French churches
were originally organized by Calvin, and received their first
pastors from him. Letters reached him from all parts asking for
light or guidance in the prevailing religious fermentation.
M. de Beaulieu wrote to Farel from Geneva on the 30th of October,
1561, saying: 'I cannot tell you how many persons there are in
this city who have come from Lyons, Nismes, Gap, Orleans,
Poitiers, and elsewhere, and who are asking for labourers in the
new harvest. Many have told me that if four or five thousand
pastors could be sent out, there would be no lack of work for
them.' [Footnote 128]

    [Footnote 128: Henry, iii. 483.]

In the midst of the stormy vicissitudes of the Reformation in
England and Scotland, Calvin's influence was also felt. He wrote
to the young king of England, Edward VI., to Queen Elizabeth, and
to all the most important persons in the kingdom, political or
ecclesiastical. He addressed the prudent and versatile Cranmer,
as well as the fiery and intractable Knox, and to each he gave
the advice best calculated to promote the general interests of
the Reformation. After Knox had been banished from Frankfort in
1555, he went to Geneva, where he was appointed pastor, and
remained until 1559, making himself fully acquainted with the
doctrine and discipline of the Presbyterian Church. In this vast
and varied exercise of his influence, Calvin was never led astray
by political bias or prejudice in favour of any system or sect.
He thought Knox took too prominent a part in the struggles of the
nobles and people in Scotland; that he was unduly hostile to the
Anglican Church, its liturgies and forms of worship: 'I hope,' he
wrote, 'that in those things which concern ceremonies, your
severity, which is displeasing to so many persons, is somewhat
abated. No doubt we must take care that the Church is purged from
all those evils which have been introduced by error and
We must take heed lest the divine mysteries be changed into
childish mummery; but when that is done, you are well aware that
there are many things which, without being approved, may yet be
tolerated. I am profoundly grieved at the dissensions of your
nobles.' [Footnote 129 ]

    [Footnote 129: Calvini Epistolæ, ix. 150. (Amsterdam, 1667.)]

John Knox, the Scotch reformer, was one of the most eminent and
influential of Calvin's allies, and, I do not say disciples but
coadjutors. By character, as well as position, Knox was a master,
not a disciple. He was four years older than Calvin, and like
Calvin he had been drawn towards the Reformation in early life;
but when he began to play an important part in it, he was led by
the state of public feeling, and probably by his own inclination
also, to take part in the political as well as the religious
struggles of his age and country. He was the champion of a party
as well as of a cause, and was quite as eager to subdue his
enemies in the State as to insure the predominance of his
doctrines in the Church. Often active and influential in his own
country, at other times proscribed and wandering on the continent
of Europe, he was tossed to and fro by divers fortunes. He became
personally acquainted with Calvin, and understood and admired him
from the very first. One of those close and intimate friendships
sprang up between them which unite men of the same temperament,
whatever may be their difference of disposition and habit.
Whenever Knox was compelled to leave Scotland, he sought refuge
in Geneva; he took the warmest interest in the labours, the
trials, and the struggles for success in which Calvin was
engaged, and watched his skilful organization of the reformed
Genevese Church.
When he returned to Scotland, he corresponded constantly
with Calvin, consulted him on numerous occasions, and set great
store by his advice, although he always preserved his own
independence of thought and action. Knox was as resolute and
persevering as Calvin, but more fiery, more violent, and without
that respect and consideration for established authority which
was so characteristic of Calvin even when he was opposing it. And
yet, with all their difference of predilection and method, the
work of the two reformers was essentially the same. Although he
was no less independent than his great ally, Knox was powerfully
influenced by Calvin's example, and he transported the
presbyterian system to Scotland, which, after three centuries of
trial, still flourishes there as it does in Geneva. The Scotch
Church has lately passed through the severe ordeal of division
into a Free and an Established Church, and, to its great honour,
without danger to the State or to religion.

But to return to Calvin: in France his moderation and liberality
were carried very far. He aimed at establishing the reformed
churches on the presbyterian basis, but he expressly warned their
members never to take the initiative in appeals to force or
insurrection. His correspondence with the principal French
reformers was a constant exhortation to prudence, patience,
submission to the civil powers and religious independence. He
desired to see neither aggression nor vengeance on the part of
the Protestants. He strongly condemned the conspiracy of Amboise,
[Footnote 130] and the sanguinary reprisals of the Baron des
Adrets. [Footnote 131]

    [Footnote 130: The conspiracy of Amboise was planned among
    the French Reformers in 1559 and 1560, and carried on by a
    gentleman of Perigord, named Godefroi de la Renaudie, in the
    name of the principal Protestant leaders, especially that of
    the Prince de Condé. Its object was to take all power from
    the hands of the Guises, to 'have them punished by law,' and
    to secure for the reformers, not only religious liberty, but
    the chief power over Francis II. in the government of France.
    It was discovered in March 1560, and repressed and punished
    with great severity.]

    [Footnote 131: The Baron des Adrets (Fraçois de Beaumont) was
    a Protestant gentleman of Dauphiné, who lived from 1513 to
    1586, and who was notorious at that period for his cruel
    reprisals upon the Catholics in the religious wars of


No doubt the precepts and practice of St. Paul were always
present to his mind, and that he both preached and practised
obedience to the powers that be, in things that did not interfere
with faith in Christ and the will of God. In all that concerned
religion no innovator was ever bolder than Calvin, and at the
same time less revolutionary. None was ever more scrupulously
indifferent to all other aims than the propagation of the Gospel,
the organization of the evangelical Church, and the reformation
of man's moral nature. I do not know how far his logical
forethought was able to penetrate the future, or if, whilst he
was prosecuting his work of religious emancipation, he foresaw
that what he was doing would bring forth, as a natural
consequence, such immense political and social changes. I am
inclined to believe that he did not concern himself about it in
any way, that his essentially judicious and practical mind was
'exclusively occupied by his mission and by the immediate
present, and that he did not seek to penetrate the darkness of
future centuries, and the far-off designs of God.


Calvin's conscientious conviction of the necessity of submission
was so great that he would sometimes say a man ought not to
employ force even to effect his escape from prison and to save
himself from martyrdom. After all, he said, it was martyrdom
which had contributed so powerfully to the triumph of the early
Christian Church; and when the cause of God had need of martyrs,
it was man's duty to submit.

This excessive severity and pious enthusiasm did not, however,
prevent him from using all the influence which he possessed, and
exerting all his power, both moral and political, in behalf of
those reformers who were persecuted, imprisoned, and on the eve
of martyrdom. He was not satisfied with doing all that was in his
own power, writing, preaching, importuning and harassing the
persecutors; he induced all those governments that were
favourable to the reformers, and able to exert influence which
would be beneficial to them, to intercede on their behalf. He
sent agents, legal help, indirect protectors, money and
assistance of all kinds. And when he had been unable to succeed
in averting persecution or diminishing its severity, when the day
of martyrdom arrived, he employed all his Christian zeal in
sustaining the courage of the victims, lavishing upon them proofs
of his own sympathy, and teaching them to put their trust in God
and his Divine justice. The persecuted reformers at Nismes in
1537; the Waldenses, cruelly ill-treated and tortured in Provence
and Dauphiné in 1545; the martyrs of Lyons in 1552; the church of
Paris and the victims of the attack upon the reformers in the Rue
St. Jacques in 1556 and 1557; and in many other places and on
many other occasions, the fugitives and martyrs of the French
reformation received warm help and fraternal consolation from
We may say that he changed the words of Dante, and that, when he
had been unable to save those for whom he had laboured, he opened
the doors of the eternal future, saying to them, 'Do not lose all
hope, ye who enter here!'

But Calvin's solicitude was not confined to the fugitives only,
and to the patent and manifest sufferings of the French
reformers. He had too deep a knowledge of human nature and the
world not to know the secret aspiration, hidden grief, and
ignoble strife which vex and torment the soul, and are found in
every social condition, the most exalted as well as the most
humble. In many such cases his watchful care and influence were
also felt. The Duchess Renée of Ferrara was not the only woman
nor the only great lady with whom he kept up a zealous
correspondence through life. He wrote numerous letters to
important personages, renowned leaders or vacillating friends of
the Reformation; to the King of Navarre, Admiral de Coligny, the
Duke de Longueville, M. de Soubise, and the Baron des Adrets. In
addition to these, the numerous published collections of Calvin's
letters, and the repositories which contain those that are still
unpublished, are full of others addressed to M. and Mme. de
Falais, M. and Mme. de Budé, Mme de Cany, Mme de Rentigny, the
Marchioness of Rothelin, Mlle. de Pons, Mme. de Grammont, and a
host of other persons who were important or interesting in his
eyes. Some of them were more or less closely connected with the
great cause which he had at heart; to others he was drawn by
their spiritual condition, and by the value which he set upon
their faith, conduct, and salvation.
Calvin was one of those rare great men who are rich both in heart
and intellect, who can no more look with indifference at the fate
of an individual than at that of a kingdom, and who feel for the
joy and sorrow of the human heart, as well as for the storms
which agitate a nation. He was as deeply interested in the faith
and sorrows of one simple woman as in those of all Christendom,
and could apply himself as eagerly to the enlightenment of a
single conscience as to the moral reformation of a whole city.
Moreover, he knew that sooner or later, far or near, the
influence which he thus acquired over single individuals would be
so much gained for the authority which he desired to exercise
over the general cause of the Reformation, and thus the
sympathetic zeal of the Christian helped the social mission of
the founder of a church.


                   Chapter XXI.

                Calvin The Author.
	      His Church Catechism.
	  His Respect For The Intellect.

At the same time that he showed this indefatigable activity in
his personal relations, Calvin continued to communicate with all
the reformed churches, and the whole European public, by means of
his written works. He revised and completed his great book, the
'Institutes of the Christian Religion.' He wrote commentaries on
all the books of the New Testament, and on some of the more
important of those in the Old Testament; among others on the
Pentateuch, the Psalms, and several of the Prophets. Historical
and philological criticism was at that time in its infancy, and
we do not find any striking evidence of its existence in Calvin's
Commentaries, but they show the most intelligent appreciation of
the moral and religious signification of the sacred volume, and
of the practical applications which Christians ought to draw from
it. He also published, either as sermons or special
dissertations, various works in support of the theories which he
had already put forth on certain great questions, such as the
Lord's Supper, free-will, predestination, and others. He carried
on with great ardour all the theological controversies in which
he had engaged, whether they were with Catholic adversaries of
the Reformation, with Protestant opponents of his own special
doctrines, or on the subject of the disagreements between the
reformers themselves.
In these different scenes of action he sometimes displayed a
noble spirit of conciliation, and at others the greatest
intolerance and most unmeasured violence. I do not intend to give
any detailed account of his different works. They were collected
at Geneva in 1617, and at Amsterdam from 1667 to 1671, in two
folio editions; the second of these is far better than the first,
but they are both incomplete and often faulty. Several learned
French and German editors, among others the eminent historian and
Professor of Theology at Strasburg, M. Edouard Reuss, are
preparing a new edition, published at Brunswick. The first seven
volumes, quarto, have already appeared, and this edition will be
in every respect infinitely superior to all that have preceded
it. I mention these large collections in order to give the reader
some insight into the numerous and varied literary works with
which Calvin was occupied, and which must be added to his
extensive correspondence, political struggles, daily labours,
preaching and religious instruction.

I will pause for a moment to consider one of these numerous
works; not only on account of its high moral value, but because
it formed part of the important system of public instruction
which Calvin inaugurated at Geneva after he had established the
Reformation. It is entitled, '_Catechism of the Church of
Geneva, for the instruction of children in Christian Doctrine;
written in the form of a dialogue in which the minister asks
questions and the child answers_.' It was published in 1545.


This catechism aimed at much more, and was quite on a different
plan from that published by Calvin in 1538, consisting of a
certain number of paragraphs in which the fundamental doctrines
and rules of the Protestant Church and Christian life were
briefly stated. In the Catechism of 1545, Calvin changed the
form, and extended the plan of the work. By the arrangement in
questions and answers, the book became a true catechism, fitted
for the instruction of youthful Protestants. It was fundamentally
a treatise on dogmatic theology, in which all the doctrines of
Calvin's great work, the 'Christian Institutes,' were reproduced
in the form of elementary instruction. The peculiarity of such a
method is that all the information is given by the pupil, _the
child_, as Calvin says, and that the only aim of the master's
questions is to bring out this information in a logical and
scientific form. The child thus seems to be teaching the master,
and certainly shows how far the master has been already well
taught. It is a very anomalous position, and becomes still more
so when the master's queries lead the child to discuss some of
the most difficult theological questions, and to uphold doctrines
which are disputed even among the most eminent theologians.
Calvin made his catechism serve not only for instruction in the
fundamental doctrines of Christianity, in its historical,
spiritual, and moral truths; but also for the propagation of
those parts of his theological system which were beset with
difficulty and controversy. In my eyes this is a very grave
defect; at the same time, however, Calvin's catechism has one
important characteristic, admirably suited for its purpose:--it
is not philosophical discussion, it is religious instruction.
I open some of the most highly approved catechisms, Protestant or
Catholic, and I find as the very first question, at the beginning
of one of them, 'What is God?' [Footnote 132]--in another, 'Are
we certain that there is a God, and by what proofs may we
convince ourselves of his existence?' [Footnote 133]

    [Footnote 132: _Instruction Chrétienne_, used in the
    Church which has adopted the Confession of Augsburg, and said
    to have been revised by one of its most eminent
    representatives, the late M. le Pasteur Verny, p. I.]

    [Footnote 133: _Catéchisme de Montpellier_, i. 10, 11

These questions involve philosophical research. Calvin proceeds
in a very different manner: he does not seek God, he knows him,
possesses him, and takes God as his starting-point. God the
creator, man his creature, and the relation of man to God, these
form the fundamental facts and natural basis of the history,
doctrines, and laws of Christianity. Calvin's catechism commences
thus: 'What is the chief end of human life?'--'To know God.' And
this first assertion is the mainspring of all the principles and
religious duties which are afterwards presented, not as the
discoveries of the human mind, but as communications made by God
in order to meet man's aspirations, and enable him to regulate
his life. It is neither a scientific method, nor is the catechism
a philosophical work: it contains the assertion of a real,
immemorial, universal and historical fact, and explains the
consequences of that fact. It is the natural and legitimate
method of imparting religious instruction, inherent in the very
first principle of all religion; it is specially in harmony with
the origin and history of Christianity, and no one has ever
recognised its power or proved its efficacy more fully than


Although Calvin gave the first place in his heart and thoughts to
theology, he was not exclusively engrossed by it. He knew too
much of human nature and human society not to give great
consideration to their different claims and wants. Moreover, he
entertained great respect for the human intellect, and looked
upon its full development as essential to the accomplishment of
the destiny of man and the glory of God. Literature and social
science, all great intellectual labour and all large utterance of
thought, had great value in his eyes, and attracted him

Geneva was not exclusively occupied by its republican efforts to
obtain national independence, but from the very commencement of
the fifteenth century was influenced by the revival of literature
which then took place, and the prevailing taste for classical
studies. In the year 1428, François de Versonnay, a citizen of
Geneva, founded a college there, in the following words: 'I look
upon instruction as a useful work; it dispels ignorance, disposes
the mind to wisdom, forms the manners, instils virtues, and is
favourable to the good administration of public affairs.
Nevertheless, up to the present time, Geneva has been entirely
deprived of this benefit for want of a public building,
conveniently situated, and able to hold all the pupils. To remedy
this defect I have set aside part of the worldly goods which
Providence has granted me.' And the college was thereupon
founded. Grammar and Aristotle's Logic were taught in it, and the
liberal arts, that is poetry and a knowledge of the works of
ancient authors. It prospered for several years; but towards the
end of the fifteenth century, and during the commencement of the
sixteenth, civil discord, danger from without, and want of means
caused it to fall into decay.
Several attempts to restore it were fruitless; and on the 3d of
January, 1531, at the height of the troubles of the Reformation,
'the Rector having left the city, and no application being made
for an appointment which on account of the small number of pupils
was not at all profitable, the Council decided upon closing the
school until fresh orders were given concerning it, as the
children were very destructive.' [Footnote 134]

    [Footnote 134: Gaberel, i. 493-498.]

With the exception of a few attempts made by Farel towards the
re-establishment of the College, this was the condition of public
education in Geneva, when Calvin returned from Strasburg and took
up his abode there in 1541. In the following year, 1542, he
proposed to the Council: 'In the first place to extend and
improve the College, and also to establish an academy in which
the citizens and strangers might pursue more advanced and
important studies.' He thus from the first disclosed his whole
plan; which was that the College should consist of an elementary
and a classical school, and that there should be an
_academy_ or university above it. But the times were stormy;
political and theological contests were all-absorbing; there was
a lack both of men and means, and sixteen years passed before any
step was taken beyond the purchase of a house for the projected
university. At length in 1558 the theological disputes were
terminated, and the Libertines, who were completely defeated, had
withdrawn from the contest.
Calvin again submitted his proposition to the Council, asking
them to take measures for procuring the necessary funds, and
offering to assist in obtaining them. The Council summoned the
notaries, 'in order to give them express commands that for the
future, in drawing up wills, they should exhort their clients to
leave a legacy for the support of the College.' They also set
apart for this purpose a portion of the fines inflicted in the
courts of justice. Calvin himself made a house-to-house
collection, explaining fully the nature of the two establishments
for which he was soliciting contributions. At the end of six
months he presented the sum of ten thousand and twenty-four
florins to the Council. [Footnote 135]

    [Footnote 135: From 1,200_l_. to 1,600_l_.--some
    30,000 or 40,000 francs.]

The work was immediately commenced, and the buildings were
planned and laid out. Calvin had only just recovered from a very
serious illness, but he insisted on being carried to the
building, where he exhorted the workmen, and watched their
progress from day to day; as active and influential in the public
streets as in the Council chamber. The old college building was
prepared for the reception of pupils. An unforeseen event was the
means of providing Geneva with professors for the _academy_
or university. The Government of Berne quarrelled with the
majority of the pastors and professors of Lausanne on the subject
of the right of excommunication. Many of the most eminent among
them--Beza, Viret, Chevalier, Tagaut, and Berault--left Lausanne,
and asked hospitality from Geneva. Calvin received them all
gladly, and those who would be of use to the new university, with
special warmth. Beza, who was already celebrated, was appointed
rector of the university and professor of theology; Chevalier was
named Professor of Hebrew, Tagaut of philosophy, and Berault of
When all was thus completed, professors and material means
provided, a solemn festival on the inauguration of the new
institution was fixed for the 5th of June, 1559. Laymen and
ecclesiastics, pastors, professors and students, magistrates and
burgesses, assembled in St. Peter's church; Calvin was there,
weak and exhausted by the sufferings which he had undergone for
many months, and from which he was only beginning to recover.
After an address, in which the magistrates congratulated their
city on becoming 'at the same time the mother of science and of
piety,' Beza spoke first, and as rector, addressed himself
especially to the students: 'I implore you, in the name of God,'
he said, 'not to be unfaithful to yourselves. There is a
celebrated saying of Plato's that knowledge, if separated from
justice and virtue, is only skill and not truth. Nothing is more
natural than that pagan philosophers should have been unable to
conform fully to all that this maxim implies. But you--how can
you excuse yourselves if you fall short of it?--you who have
sucked in the pure knowledge of God and of his truth with your
mother's milk. You are assembled here, not like the Greeks, to
take part in the exercise of intellectual dexterity or to behold
the display of noble physical powers, but to undertake the
earnest study of the highest truths and the most excellent
sciences, to fit yourselves for glorifying the name of God, for
becoming the blessing and ornament of your country: you have come
here that at the last day you may, with all confidence, give an
account to the Lord of the holy combat to which he has called
Calvin rose, added a few words, 'brief, clear and weighty,
according to his custom;' he thanked God for the success of the
work, expressed his gratitude to all who had given help, and
closed the meeting by a prayer, in which he invoked the
protection of God on the institution.

Calvin's prayers were answered from the very first by the success
of the academy. 'There was a hall in the cloisters of St. Peter's
church, in which classes were held, and the number of pupils
attending them was so great, that the Council set apart the
chapel of Notre Dame la Neuve, which was, after that, called the
_auditorium_. A hundred and nine students received
instruction from the new professors, and more than eight hundred
theological students, consecrated to the propagation of the
Gospel in France or Germany, gathered around Calvin.' [Footnote

    [Footnote 136: Gaberel, i. 507.]

This brilliant beginning was followed by permanent success;
Calvin's system of public education has existed and prospered in
Geneva for more than three centuries. He was not able at first to
give it so large a development as he desired. He wished to
establish schools of law and medicine in the University, and also
of all the higher studies, but he could find neither the
necessary professors nor the funds. At a later period, however,
the University of Geneva was honoured by the presence of many
men, illustrious in the world of science; Isaac Casaubon, Joseph
Scaliger, and Hottoman were there, as professors of Greek, of
philosophy, and of law. In our own day, Bonnet, De Saussure,
Pictet, and De Candolle have shed upon Geneva the light and fame
of their studies in natural science.
The educational establishments of Geneva were so vigorous, and so
firmly rooted in their native soil, that they withstood the
effect of revolutions which changed the face of the country. My
mother, guided by her great intelligence and entire devotion to
my education, took me to Geneva in 1799, in order that I might
obtain a classical and complete education, for which there was
not at that time any facility in France. Geneva had then become a
French Department; but the college, the university, the
lecture-halls for literature and philosophy, had survived the
fall of its national existence. The republic of Geneva had
disappeared, but the religious reformation and the system of
public education established by Calvin, the theological and
scientific professorships which he had founded, were still in
existence, and doing good work. Internal revolutions have again
changed the face of Geneva, but Calvin's work goes on; his
anniversary is still celebrated, and a new building has been
recently dedicated to the cause which he promoted, and to the
honour of his name.


                   Chapter XXII.

                     The End.

In 1559 his work was completed, so far as human work can be
completed, but Calvin had almost reached the limit of his
strength--I mean his physical strength, for his intellectual and
moral powers remained undiminished to the last. His health of
body drooped and failed, but his intellect remained clear and his
will unshaken. His soul was one of those which lack time on earth
for full development, and return again to God without having
expended all the store of wealth and power with which at their
creation he has endowed them. On the 2d of February, 1564, Calvin
gave his last lecture on theology, and on the following Sunday,
the 6th, he preached his last sermon. He had an attack of
bleeding from the lungs whilst he was in the pulpit, and all
speaking in public was after that prohibited. He was still
constantly engaged in study or writing, and when his friends
urged him to take a complete rest, he said: 'Then you wish that
when the Lord comes he shall not find me watching.' On Easter
Day, the 2d of April, he was carried to the church and received
the sacrament from the hands of Beza. He expressed a wish to be
carried to the Hôtel de Ville on the 27th of April, in order that
he might once more pay his respects to the Syndics and the
But they prevented this by visiting him in a body at his own
house. He thanked them 'for having condescended to show him so
much more honour than he had any claim to, and begged them to
excuse him for having done so much less than he ought to have
done, both in public and private life; and he thanked them also
for having patiently borne with his great vehemence and other
sins, of which he repented, and which he trusted that God had
forgiven.' He then with much gentleness offered them very
judicious advice as to the government of the republic, 'and
having begged them to pardon all his faults, which could never
have seemed so great in any eyes as they had done in his own,' he
held out his hand to say farewell. Beza says: 'I do not think
that any parting could have been more sad for these gentlemen. On
account of his office they all looked upon him, and with good
reason, as speaking to them from God, and they had an affection
for him as for a father, since he had known and trained many of
them from their youth upward.' On the 28th of April all the
evangelical ministers in the city and neighbourhood were
assembled in his room, and Calvin addressed his last counsels and
last farewell to them, speaking with solemn and affectionate
familiarity, like a chief who takes leave of his companions when
he is about to set out on some great enterprise: 'It may seem to
you,' he said, 'that I say too much, and that I am not really so
ill as I make people think; but I assure you, that although I
have often been ill before, I have never felt as I do now, nor
have I ever been so weak. When I am moved in order to be placed
on my bed, my head swims, and I faint immediately.
There is also this shortness of breath, which troubles me more
and more. I am in all things unlike other sick people, for when
they are near death their mind grows weak and wanders; whilst as
for me, it is true that I am as it were benumbed, but it seems as
if God intended to shut up all my senses within me and keep them
there. And I think that it will be very difficult for me to die,
and will cost a great effort, and I may lose the power of speech
whilst I still possess all my faculties. But I have given warning
of this, and have said what I wish should be done with me, and
for the same reason I desire to speak to you before God takes
me.' He then reminded them of all the principal incidents in his
political and religious career, the struggles which he had been
called upon to maintain for the Gospel and the Reformation, and
ended by saying: 'Gird yourselves up and take courage, for God
has a use for this church, and will maintain it. I tell you God
will keep it in safety. ... You have elected Monsieur de Bèze in
my place: take care that you comfort and support him, for he will
have a great responsibility. As for him, I know that his will is
good, and he will do what he can. See also that there are no
bickerings and no angry words among you; for I know that
oftentimes, when taunts are uttered, we see nothing but smiles at
the time, but there is great bitterness in the heart. It is all
of no use, and moreover there is a want of Christianity in it.
You must guard against it, and live in all true peace and
I had forgotten one thing. I beg you to make no changes, and to
introduce no novelties. People are always seeking novelty. Not
that I am thinking for myself, or speaking from ambition and a
desire that what I have begun shall continue, and that people
shall cling to it and not seek that which is better, but because
all changes are dangerous, and sometimes injurious.'

These last words were preserved by one of the ministers present,
who closes his account of the interview by saying: 'He took leave
kindly of all his brother pastors, who went up to him one by one
weeping, and shook hands with him.' ... 'Which caused me such
anguish and bitterness of heart,' adds Beza, 'that I cannot
recall it now without exceeding sorrow.'

There was still another last farewell about which Calvin was
anxious. He wished to take leave of his old friend Farel, who
twenty-eight years previously had induced him to stay at Geneva,
and thus had decided the work of his life; and for whom he
entertained an affection, which was perhaps the deepest and most
tender feeling he ever knew. On the 2d of May he received a
letter in which Farel, hearing of his illness, announced his
intention of visiting him. Calvin immediately dictated the
following answer: 'Fare thee well, my very dear and good brother!
and since it pleases God that you shall remain behind me, live in
the memory of our union, the fruit of which awaits us in heaven,
for it has been profitable to the church and to God. I will not
have you fatigue yourself for me. I draw my breath with very
great difficulty, and from hour to hour I expect breath will fail
me. It is enough that I live and die in Christ, which is gain to
those that are his, both in life and death.
I commend you to God, together with our brethren who are in your
parts.' Nevertheless Farel arrived; came on foot, say some, from
Neufchâtel to Geneva, in spite of his seventy-five years of age.
The two friends supped together, just those two. Farel preached
on the morrow, and then returned at once to Neufchâtel, saying in
his heart, as he said a few days later in a letter to Fabri: 'Why
was I not taken in his place, and many years of health granted
him for the service of the church and of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Praises be to God a thousand times for his inestimable grace in
allowing me to meet this man and detain him, against his will, at
Geneva, where he has begun and completed more than any tongue can
tell!' After the departure of Farel, Calvin only saw some of his
colleagues, the Genevese ministers, for a few moments. They were
to dine together in his house on the 19th of May; he remained in
his own chamber, which was quite close to the dining-room, and
said, 'with the most joyous face in the world,' says Beza: 'The
wall that is between us will not prevent my being with you in
spirit.' Both by day and night many persons, some of whom had
travelled a great distance, came to Calvin's door, asking to see
him or at least to have tidings of him. Beza says: 'On the 27th
of May, 1564, he seemed to speak with less difficulty and more
vigorously; but this was a last effort of nature, for towards
night-time, about eight o'clock, all the signs of approaching
death suddenly set in. I was sent for immediately, and ran to the
house, together with some of my brethren, but I found that he had
already given up the ghost.
He had died peacefully, without any last struggle, had been able
to speak clearly to the very last moment, and had been in full
possession of his judgment and all his senses; he had not moved
either hand or foot, and so he looked asleep rather than dead.
Thus, in an instant, our sun set on that day; and the greatest
light of this world, and the glory of the church, was withdrawn
and taken back into the heavens. We may well say that in our time
it has pleased God to show us in one single man both how to live
and how to die.'

'On the following day and night,' says Beza, 'there was great
lamentation throughout the city, for the people mourned for the
prophet of the Lord; the poor flock in the church wept for the
loss of their faithful pastor; the academy deplored its true
head, and all in common bewailed their beloved father and their
chief comforter next to God. He was placed in a simple wooden
coffin, and about two hours after mid-day, in accordance with his
own wish, was carried in the usual manner, without any pomp or
ceremony, to the public cemetery called Plain Palais. There he
lies to this very day, waiting for the resurrection which was his
own constant hope, as he taught us to make it ours. I say that
all was done quite simply, according to the custom of our church
in the burial of any person whatsoever; so that a few months
later, when certain new students who had come to the college
went, one day, to the cemetery to visit Calvin's tomb, they found
that they were mistaken. They expected to see some lofty and
magnificent monument, and there was only a simple mound of earth,
and it was just like all the other graves. And this may serve as
an answer to those who have long accused us of making an idol of


In the registers of the Consistory, under date of the 1st of
June, 1564, a cross follows the name of _Calvin_, †, and by
the side of it are these words, 'He went to God on the 27th of
May in this year.'

Men are called great and obtain a place in history under
different titles. With some it is exalted station, and glory, and
great power during their lifetime which makes them great; with
others the importance and permanence of their works; with others
again it is moral elevation of nature and beauty and purity of
life. The greatness of Calvin arises from all these sources; he
is great by reason of his marvellous powers, his lasting labours,
and the moral height and purity of his motives. When Pope Pius
IV. heard of his death, he said: 'The strength of that heretic
consisted in this, that money never had the slightest charm for
him. If I had such servants, my dominions would extend from sea
to sea.' It is true that Calvin's disinterestedness was a very
prominent characteristic, but it was by no means his chief or
only one. He was never influenced or governed by any interest,
any desire, any personal pleasure other than the triumph of his
faith, and the success of his labours for a moral as well as a
religious reformation. Although he took a leading part in a great
revolution, he had neither revolutionary ideas nor passions. He
was essentially a lover of order, he knew the conditions as well
as the claims of power, and had received from nature the gift of
exercising authority. Upon principle he neither recognised nor
admitted the claims of liberty, either in human nature or human
society. In his eyes man was God's instrument and not a
'fellow-worker with God,' as St. Paul says.
God, as he thought, had preordained the destiny of every man, and
of the whole human race. The mission of the civil powers was
therefore to recognise and carry out the law of God in all its
precepts and towards all its subjects, in private as well as in
public life, both in the family and in the state. But, in point
of fact, and in spite of his doctrines on free-will and
predestination, Calvin contributed largely to the progress of
liberty in the Christian world, for he both claimed and used it
in opposition to the religious and civil tyrants of his period.
He separated Church and State, but he united laymen and
ecclesiastics in the government of the religious society, and he
placed the soul of man not under the direction of a priest but
under the direct influence of the law of God made known in the
Scriptures. As a moral philosopher he was inaccurate and
inconsistent, but he was strictly consistent in the practical
application of his theories to his own conduct and his duties
towards his fellow-men. He honoured men but did not trust them;
had an ardent desire for their moral welfare, but did not dare to
leave their part in its accomplishment in their own hands; and he
obtained the devoted affection of the best men and the esteem of
all, without ever seeking to please them.

Earnest in faith, pure in motive, austere in his life, and mighty
in his works, Calvin is one of those who deserve their great
fame. Three centuries separate us from him, but it is impossible
to examine his character and history without feeling, if not
affection and sympathy, at least profound respect and admiration
for one of the great reformers of Europe and of the Great
Christians of France.

   Val Richer, 1869.


                Note To St. Louis.

      _The Punishment of Blasphemy_, p. 144.

One of my learned colleagues, M. Natalis de Wailly (_Académie
des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres_) has pointed out that the
punishment of branding a blasphemer on the lips with a red-hot
iron (p. 144) was probably resorted to on account of some
peculiarly heinous offence, and was an isolated case; that it
cannot be considered as due to any general and permanent decree
applied to all cases of 'that vile oath,' blasphemy, because
there is an enactment of St. Louis (_Recueil des Ordonnances
des Rois de France_, i. 99) which decrees that adult
blasphemers shall be punished by a fine, or in default of fine,
by the pillory and imprisonment. Blasphemers under fourteen years
of age were to be whipped. M. de Wailly's remark is just, and I
hasten to acknowledge that in this matter the piety of St. Louis
did not systematically lead him to exercise general and excessive


    List Of The Most Important Of The Works
    Referred To In This Volume.

                  St. Louis.

Bibliothèque de l'École des Chartres.

Dom Bouquet's _Recueil des Historiens des Gaules et de la
France_, vol. xx.

Faure (Félix), _Histoire de Saint Louis_. Paris, 1867.

Histoire littéraire de France, vol. xvi.

Joinville. Edition published by Mr. N. de Wailly. Paris, 1867.

Jubainville, _Histoire des Dues et des Comtes de Champagne_.

Paris (Mathieu), _Histoire de l'Angleterre_. Folio edition, 1644.

Recueil des Ordonnances des Rois de France, vol. i.

Rémusat (Abel), _Mémoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions et
Belles Lettres_.

Tillemont (le Nain du), _Vie ae Saint Louis_, édit, par De
Gaulle (_Soc. de l'Histoire de France_). 1847-51.

Topin (Morin), _Aiguesmortes_. 1865.


  _L'Histoire en bref de la Vie et Mort de Calvin_, par Th.
  de Bèze. Lyons, 1565. (_Archives curieuses de L'Histoire de

  _Histoire des Églises réformées de France_.

Calvin, _Œuvres de Calvin_. Brunswick, 1863.

Drelincourt, _La Défense de Calvin_. Genève, 1667.

Gaberel (Jean, _ancien pasteur_), _Histoire de l'Église de
Genève_. Genève, 1853.

Guizot (C. F. G.),
  _Meditations sur la Religion_. Paris, 1868.

  _Histoire de la Civilisation en France_. Paris, 1868.

Henry (Paul), _Das Leben Johann Calvins_. Hamburg, 1835.

Martin (Henri), _Histoire de France_, vol. xxiv.

Stähelin (Lie. E.), _Johannes Calvin_ (_Hagenbach_). 1860-63.

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