Page images

of right and wrong. Under the pretext of the freedom of the spirit, they advocated the unbridled license of the flesh. Their spiritualism ended in carnal materialism. They taught that there is but one spirit, the Spirit of God, who lives in all creatures, which are nothing without him. "What I or you do," said Quintin, "is done by God, and what God does, we do; for he is in us." Sin is a mere negation or privation, yea, an idle illusion which disappears as soon as it is known and disregarded. Salvation consists in the deliverance from the phantom of sin. There is no Satan, and no angels, good or bad. They denied the truth of the gospel history. The crucifixion and resurrection of Christ have only a symbolical meaning to show us that sin does not exist for us.

The Libertines taught the community of goods and of women, and elevated spiritual marriage above legal marriage, which is merely carnal and not binding. The wife of Ameaux justified her wild licentiousness by the doctrine of the communion of saints, and by the first commandment of God given to man: "Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth" (Gen. 1: 28).

The Libertines rejected the Scriptures as a dead letter, or they resorted to wild allegorical interpretations to suit their fancies. They gave to each of the Apostles a ridiculous nickname.1 Some carried their system to downright atheism and blasphemous anti-Christianity.

They used a peculiar jargon, like the Gypsies, and distorted common words into a mysterious meaning. They were experts in the art of simulation and justified pious fraud by the parables of Christ. They accommodated themselves to Catholics or Protestants according to circumstances, and concealed their real opinions from the uninitiated.

The sect made progress among the higher classes of France,

1 They called St. Matthew, the publican, usurier (a usurer); St. Paul, potcusst (a broken vessel); St. Peter, on account of his denial of Christ, renonceur dcDicu; St. John, jouvenceau et follet (a childish youth), etc.

where they converted about four thousand persons. Quintin and Pocquet insinuated themselves into the favor of Queen Marguerite of Navarre, who protected and supported them at her little court at Ne"rac, yet without adopting their opinions and practices.1 She took offence at Calvin's severe attack upon them. He justified his course in a reply of April 28, 1545, which is a fine specimen of courtesy, frankness, and manly dignity. Calvin assured the queen, whose protection he had himself enjoyed while a fugitive from persecution, that he intended no reflection on her honor, or disrespect to her royal majesty, and that he wrote simply in obedience to his duty as a minister. "Even a dog barks if he sees any one assault his master. How could I be silent if God's truth is assailed ?2 . . . As for your saying that you would not like to have such a servant as myself, I confess that I am not qualified to render you any great service, nor have you need of it. . . . Nevertheless, the disposition is not wanting, and your disdain shall not prevent my being at heart your humble servant. For the rest, those who know me are well aware that I have never studied to enter into the courts of princes, for I was never tempted to court worldly honors.3 For I have good reason to be contented with the service of that good Master, who has accepted me and retained me in the honorable office which I hold, however contemptible in the eyes of the world. I should, indeed, be ungrateful

1 Bonnet, in a note on Calvin's letter to the queen (I. 429), says of her: "In the later years of her life [she died in 1549] her piety gradually degenerated into a kind of contemplative mysticism, whose chief characteristic was indifference towards outward forms, uniting the external ordinances of the Roman Church with the inward cherishing of a purer faith." See above, p. 323.

2 " Un chien abaye, sil voyt quon assaille son maistre; ie serois bien lasche, si en voyant la verite de dieu ainsi assail//?, ie faisois du muet sans sonner mot."

"Au reste, ceulx qui me cognoissent, savent bien que nay iamais aspire davoir entree aux courtz des princes, dautant que ie nestois pas tente de parvenir aux estatz" (honorum studio titillatus).

beyond measure if I did not prefer this condition to all the riches and honors of the world."1

Beza says: "It was owing to Calvin that this horrid sect, in which all the most monstrous heresies of ancient times were renewed, was kept within the confines of Holland and the adjacent provinces."

During the trial of Servetus the political and religious Libertines combined in an organized effort for the overthrow of Calvin at Geneva, but were finally defeated by a failure of an attempted rebellion in May, 1555.

§ 109. The Leaders of the Libertines and their punishment: Gruet, Perrin, Ameaux, Vandel, Berthelier.

We shall now give sketches of the chief Patriots and Libertines, and their quarrels with Calvin and his system of discipline. The heretical opponents — Bolsec, Castellio, Servetus — will be considered in a separate chapter on the Doctrinal Controversies.

1. Jacques Gruet was the first victim of Calvin's discipline who suffered death for sedition and blasphemy. His case is the most famous next to that of Servetus. Gruet2 was a Libertine of the worst type, both politically and religiously, and would have been condemned to death in any other country at that time. He was a Patriot descended from an old and respectable family, and formerly a canon. He lay under suspicion of having attempted to poison Viret in 1535. He wrote verses against Calvin and the refugees which (as Audin says) were "more malignant than poetic." He was a regular frequenter of taverns, and opposed to any rules

1 The French original in Henry, II. Beilage, 14, p. 112 sqq.; also in Bonnet and in Opera, XII. 64-68. The Latin editions date the letter April 20 instead of 28.

2 A son of Humbert Gruet, notary public of Geneva; not to be confounded with Canon Claude Gruet. See Opera, XII. 546, note 9; Bonnet, Letters Jr. I. 212, and Henry, II. 440.

in Church and State which interfered with personal liberty. When in church, he looked boldly and defiantly into the face of the preacher. He first adopted the Bernese fashion of wearing breeches with plaits at the knees, and openly defied the discipline of the Consistory which forbade it. Calvin called him a scurvy fellow, and gives an unfavorable account of his moral and religious character, which the facts fully justified.

On the 27th of June, 1547, a few days after the wife of Perrin had defied the Consistory,1 the following libel, written in the Savoyard patois, was attached to Calvin's pulpit in St. Peter's Church: —

"Gross hypocrite ((/Yos panfar}, thou and thy companions will gain little by your pains. If you do not save yourselves by flight, nobody shall prevent your overthrow, and you will curse the hour when you left your monkery. Warning has been already given that the devil and his renegade priests were come hither to ruin every thing. But after people have suffered long they avenge themselves. Take care that you are not served like Mons. Verle of Fribourg.2 We will not have so many masters. Mark well what I say."3

The Council arrested Jacques Gruet, who had been heard uttering threats against Calvin a few days previously, and had written obscene and impious verses and letters. In his house were found a copy of Calvin's work against the Libertines with a marginal note, Toutes folies, and several papers and letters filled with abuse of Calvin as a haughty, ambitious, and obstinate hypocrite who wished to be adored, and to rob the pope of his honor. There were also found two Latin pages in Gruet's handwriting, in which the Scriptures

1 On the date see Opera, XII. 540, note 7, and Annal. XXI. 407, sub Lundi Juin 27: "Un e'erit violent contre Calvin et ses collegues est trouve" dans la chaire d'un des temples." Calvin's letter to Viret, July 2, 1647: "Postridie reperitur charta in suggestu qua mortem nobis minantur."

2 Peter Wernly, a canon of St. Peter's, was killed in a fight with the Protestants, while endeavoring to save himself by flight, May 4, 1533.

* "Nota bin mon dire." See the original of the placard in Opera, XII. 546, note 8. Gaberel and Ruchat give it in modern French. The editors of the Opera refer panfar to Abel Poupin ("Panfar ventrosum dicit Poupinum"').

were ridiculed, Christ blasphemed, and the immortality of the soul called a dream and a fable.

Gruet was tortured every day for a month, after the inhuman fashion of that age.1 He confessed that he had affixed the libel, and that the papers found in his house belonged to him; but he refused to name any accomplices. He was condemned for religious, moral, and political offences; being found guilty of expressing contempt for religion; of declaring that laws, both human and divine, were but the work of man's caprice; and that fornication was not criminal when both parties were consenting; and of threatening the clergy and the Council itself.2

He was beheaded on the 26th of July, 1547. The execution instead of terrifying the Libertines made them more furious than ever. Three days afterwards the Council was informed that more than twenty young men had entered into a conspiracy to throw Calvin and his colleagues into the Rhone. He could not walk the streets without being insulted and threatened.

Two or three years after the death of Gruet, a treatise of his was discovered full of horrible blasphemies against Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Prophets and Apostles, against the Scriptures, and all religion. He aimed to show that the founders of Judaism and Christianity were criminals, and that Christ was justly crucified. Some have confounded this treatise with the book "De tribus Jmpostoribus," which dates from the age of Emperor Frederick II., and puts

1 In the case of Gcntilis and Servet, however, no mention is made of the torture.

2 The sentence of condemnation (Opera, XII. 667) reads: "Par jceste nostre diffinitive sentence, laquelle donnons icy par escript, toy Juque Gruet condampnons a debvoyr estre viene au lieu de Cliampel et illect debvoyer aooyer tranche la teste de dessus les espaules, et ton corps attache aut gibet et la teste cloye en jcelluy et ainsy Jiniras tes jours pour donner eremple aux aultres qui tel cas vouldroyent commestre." The charges assigned are blasphemy against God, offence against the civil magistracy, threats to the ministers of God, and " crime de leze majeste meritant pugnition corjiortlle,"

« PreviousContinue »