« PreviousContinue »
ways? We can look forward only at the most for a few days or years. He, with His Almighty power, can on to the end, and will guide us ever with His loving hand. Dominus providebit, the Lord will provide for us, as He did for Elijah in the lonely wilderness. The cloud appears so dark and threatening, that in our doubt and anxiety we see not the silver lining. But God hides it there all the same, and we shall see it in His own good time, for the sun of His mercy was shining all the while, though we knew it not.
My Huguenot brethren, if this day is one of interest for one not of your race, what must it be for you ? A day indeed, as one can well imagine, of sorrowful retrospect that your ancestors should have been driven so ruthlessly from the home of their fathers. But a day, it must be, of joy and thankfulness that they, in their perplexity, fled for refuge to the shores of England, so that you now can claim your rights as citizens of the freest country in the world; a land where every man, whatever be his rank or station, is able to worship his Creator how, when, and where he will, according to the dictates of his conscience, and the promptings of the faith that is in him.
And there is a way open to you for showing your gratitude to Almighty God for the many mercies you and yours have experienced at His hands. You are proud, as well you may be, to read of these grand old Huguenot refugees, and to call them your ancestors. Do something then for the Westminster French Protestant School, established for girls of Huguenot descent. Subscribe liberally to the Bi-centenary Fund, now started for this purpose. I need only quote the words of a good Huguenot lately gone to his rest, who was the Secretary to this worthy charity. He says "Forty or fifty guineas permanent addition to the annual income would make the little Home School passing rich. It is only for fifteen girls. These are safe to find. Will the fifty guineas be equally safe to get?" My brethren, to you he puts the touching question. Your answer will be—must be—“ Yes.”
To your liberality, then, I commend this excellent work. Freely ye have received; freely give."
After the service most of the congregation proceeded to the French Hospital, Victoria Park, where, with many other visitors, they were received by the Treasurer and other Directors, under the joint presidency of Richard Hervé Giraud, Esq., Deputy Governor of the Hospital, and the Very Revd. the Dean of Peterborough, Member of your Council.
A short interval having been devoted to necessary refreshment, of the visitors as possible assembled in the largest room of the building, and were addressed by the Dean of Peterborough on the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes and its far-reaching results.
The following able and interesting paper was then read by the Hon. and Rev. Canon Fremantle.
THE BEARING OF THE REVOCATION OF THE EDICT OF NANTES ON THE ENGLISH REVOLUTION OF 1688.
It cannot be doubted that the cause of the English Revolution of 1688 was the high-handed attempt of James II. to bring back the Nation to Popery. But among the influences which roused the nation to alarm, and made them realize what a return to Popery implied, none was more powerful than the accounts constantly brought from France of the persecuting measures taken against the Protestants, which culminated in the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
England had, from the first, been the asylum for the persecuted Protestants of France and the Low Countries. These men mixed freely with the English people in all the populous centres in which their Colonies were established, Sandwich, Canterbury, Southampton, Norwich, London, and many others; and they kept up communications with their brethren abroad. In this way every fresh repressive measure became known in England, and the news of such measures was reinforced by the actual presence of the sufferers, of whom fresh numbers came over after each of such measures had been taken.
During the reign of Charles II. though he was secretly a Papist, and also a Pensioner of the French King, nothing occurred to diminish the hospitable welcome which was given to the refugees. When the Dragonnades began in Poitiers in 1681, not only were they allowed to land freely in England, but Charles put forth an edict, dated at Hampton Court, July 28th, in which he declared that he felt obliged, in conscience, to succour Protestants who were persecuted for their faith, and expressly accorded them letters of naturalization and privileges of settling and exercising their callings throughout the realm.* Whether this action of the King was prompted by good nature, or by policy, it is certain that the presence of the refugees had a strong effect in turning the attention of the English people to what was going on in France. Barillon, the French ambassador in London,
*Weiss i., 268. Burn, 20.
writes to Louis some time before the Revocation, saying that the feeling expressed among the English is such that he believes, had they a Protestant King, they would insist on attempting by force to stop the measures taken against the Huguenots.
The year 1685 was, as Burnet says,* ever to be remembered as the most fatal to the Protestant religion. In February, a King of England declared himself a Papist. In June, the Elector Palatine dying without issue, the Electoral dignity went to the House of Neuburg, a most bigoted Popish family. In October, the King of France recalled the Edict of Nantes; and in December, the Duke of Savoy recalled the Edict of toleration granted by his father to the Vaudois. The long contention about the succession, and the Popish plot, in the Reign of Charles, had alarmed the nation, but not effectually. The feeling of loyalty to the kingly family enabled James to succeed, without opposition, to the throne; and his first utterances were satisfactory. But the cruelties practised by Kirke's soldiers after the suppressing of Monmouth's rebellion in July, and the bloody assize under Jeffreys which followed, alienated the sympathies of the people from James; and his determination to keep togethera standing army, and to officer it illegally with Papists, made men begin to fear for civil and religious liberty together.
On this state of mind the news of the Revocation fell ; and the religious bigotry by which the act was dictated was everywhere proclaimed. It was not, as with Richelieu, a question of state policy, which withdrew from the Protestants the means of becoming a dividing power in the State. Louis, it was declared, was converted. He married his former mistress, Madame de Maintenon, and gave himself up to the practices of Popish devotion; and the sign of his conversion was his truculent edict against the Protestants. When the Revocation consummated the hateful work, the French Bishops burst into a chorus of praise. Bossuet exclaimed (January 15th, 1686), "Let us expand our hearts in praise of the piety of the Great Louis. Let us say to this new Constantine, this new Theodosius, what the 630 Fathers said at the Council of Chalcedon: "You have strengthened the faith, you have exterminated the heretics; King of Heaven, preserve the King of Earth."+ Massillon was equally loud in the praise of the persecutor. And the French prelates, especially Bossuet, and the King's confessor, Père la Chaise, had been the foremost advisers of the wicked act. But the speech which was most circulated in England, and created the greatest indignation, + Smiles's Huguenots, 183-4.
* Own Times i., folio ed. 655.
was that of the Bishop of Valence, who addressed Louis in the name of the Gallican clergy. The pious sovereign of England, he said, looked to the most Christian King for support against a heretical nation. "Copies of this," says the Venetian ambassador, "were seen by all the Parliament men, and produced the worst impression."* The King, indeed, seems to have been sincerely vexed at the Revocation. He was not naturally cruel and he saw that the indignation of his people might be turned against himself, and his designs be marred. "I hear," says Barillon to Louis, "such evident expressions against your "Majesty, that I have spoken to the King of England, begging "him to repress such insolence." James endeavoured to counteract the bad impression by promulgating an edict, like that of his brother, in favour of the Refugees, (for which he received the solemn thanks of their ministers in London), and ordered collections to be made in the churches. The Parliament (who, assembling on November 9th, had refused the supplies for the army asked by the king), gladly voted a sum of money, which together with the church collections. amounted to £200,000; and the king granted £16,000 a year from his pension fund, of which £1700 was devoted to the payment of ministers. A Committee was named by the King, at the head of which were the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, and the Bishop of London, for the administration of this fund.†
We can readily understand, that these proceedings gave opportunities for deepening the anti-Popish impression in the minds of the people. The votes of Parliament to the Refugee fund, coincided with the jealous scrutiny of the demands of the king. Every sermon in favour of the refugees, every committee for collecting funds, must have become a focus for the growing feeling of indignation against the designs of the king. And, further, the refugees not being Episcopalians, the sympathy showed to them helped on the growing unity between the Episcopalians and the English Dissenters, which showed itself so strongly during James's reign. It was felt that there was a common danger, and differences disappeared under its imminence. Archbishop Sancroft even went so far as to elaborate a plan of comprehension; and it was determined by agreement, that prayers should be offered for the union of Reformed Churches against the common foe.‡
Macaulay i. 326. Small edition. + Burn's Foreign Protestant Refugees, 22 Staughton v., 18, 19.
The feeling of James gradually changed towards the refugees. This was seen in the matter of the book published by Claude, the former pastor of Charenton, near Paris, and the holder of the controversy with Bossuet. He published a book, directed against Louis, under the title, “The Complaints of the Protestants cruelly persecuted in the Kingdom of France." This book began to be circulated in England; and the French ambassador complained to James of the impression which it was producing, and desired its suppression. James not only gave in to this request, and ordered the book to be burnt by the common hangman; but in his Council said that he had taken his resolution: "Even dogs defend one another: may not kings do the same?" Not a word was said in answer at the Council; and the people looked on at the burning of the book iu silent indignation. The French ambassador reports to his master, that nothing had hitherto occurred, which had made such an impression on the popular mind, and that men were now convinced that James approved of all that had been done in France.*
It was not without cause, that James felt that the Huguenots could not be other than his opponents. For though those who had taken refuge in England were loyal and grateful, they must have shared to the full the growing discontent and in Holland their brethren took part with enthusiasm in the cause of the Prince of Orange. The refugees, who had at first applied for service in the English army, were rejected; but in the Dutch army they were welcomed with open arms; and, when at last, the Prince of Orange set out for England, he had with him, three regiments of infantry and one of cavalry composed entirely of the refugees, who were the backbone of his army, and were commanded by Schomberg, one of the most experienced and skilful Marshals of France. who remained faithful to England and to William, till he fell, at the head of his troops, in the battle of the Boyne. "Of all the services rendered to England," says Weiss, "by the refugees, the most important was the energetic support which they lent to William of Orange against James II."+
Thus the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes not only conferred on England the benefits of the industry and intellect of the Refugees, but aided our country in attaining the greatest and most beneficial of all our political changes, the Revolution of 1688, which established the Protestant succession to the Crown, and gave to England the Bill of Rights, and terminated the ecclesiastical struggles of the 17th century by the
* Weiss i., 287-8. + Weiss i., 295-9.