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Other Huguenots found European countries more to their liking, among them England and the Channel Islands. These nations, among others, were known to the French as pays du Refuge. In fact, the word refugié (refugee) is hardly a new one. It came about with the escape of the Huguenots from France and was first coined in 1681 (see p. 4 of the PDF, a talk by historian Robin Gwynn).
This timeline describes the long persecution of French Protestants. Some were allowed to settle in England under Edward VI’s and Elizabeth I’s reigns in the 16th century. Elizabeth I also helped to finance the Huguenot effort in France, as did Germany (see item 9 of the timeline).
After the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in October 1685, opinion among powerful Frenchmen was divided. Whilst many lauded Louis XIV’s decree, General Vauban sounded the alarm regarding the Huguenot flight four years later in 1689:
- 80,000 to 100,000 people had left;
- 30 million livres (‘pounds’, their currency at the time) went with them, in cash;
- France’s high-end craftsmanship and luxury goods industry — a lucrative source of exports — were ruined with their departure;
- 8,000 to 9,000 sailors had defected, ‘the best in the kingdom’;
- 10,000 to 12,000 soldiers along with 500 to 600 officers had deserted, ‘more warlike’ than those of the countries to which they had escaped — potentially putting France in grave danger in her ongoing conflicts, especially with England.
In England, suspicions grew over James II’s seeming support of Louis XIV. Noblemen, politicians and everyday people believed James II was trying to stamp out the Protestant faith. The establishment’s opposition to his reign led to the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the accession of William of Orange (Dutch) to the throne. My post explains (emphases mine):
In order to bring England back to the Catholic Church, James II increased his standing army to 40,000 men. Innkeepers who refused to accommodate Army officers lost their licences. He also used the newly developed post office as a means of spying on dissenters. He also ensured that local government officials supported him and filled Parliament with men who were onside.
A number of Christians in England — mostly Protestants, but even a number of Catholics — opposed this illiberal approach. So, too, did the prominent political parties at the time, the Whigs and the Tories. Together, they managed, despite the lack of instant communication we know today, to build a network to oppose James II’s reforms. This revolt, known as the Glorious Revolution of 1688, was less bloody than the subsequent French revolution of 1789 (in which revolt against the monarchy and the Church featured prominently). Nonetheless, it was marked by intense and violent popular uprisings which culminated in an Anglo-Dutch military invasion which saw William of Orange become King of England …
The Glorious Revolution was short, ending the following year. Yet, it paved the way for the Acts of Union in 1707, readying the country for the Industrial Revolution and the building of the British Empire. England became a modern, liberal state by becoming a constitutional monarchy, which effectively did away with the notion of the divine right of kings. Parliament created a Bill of Rights which, among other things, guaranteed freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right of petition and abolition of cruel and unusual punishments.
During this time, the island of Jersey, close to the French mainland as are the other Channel Islands, was a popular first port of call and, for some, final destination for fleeing Huguenots.
Jersey still retains a French flavour and combines the best of France and British influence.
In 1985, the Société Jersiaise commemorated the 300th anniversary of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. To assemble the most history as possible of their Huguenot families, they called on a number of sources, including the Huguenot Society of London. They also invited guest speakers, including some from France, to talk about this period of history. As Marguerite Syrvet explains in her article (linked above):
Stories of evacuation, escape by sea, deportation, helped us to recreate the circumstances of those earlier migrations. Escape routes, safe houses, trusted guides, information by word of mouth or on scraps of paper led to La Rochelle or Granville, recognised ports of escape.
She describes two stories of refugees. Louis Moquet, who died in 1789, related his to his grand-daughter Marie Chevalier. Since then, it has stayed in the family:
A native of Poitou, Moquet was forced to wander from place to place to avoid his enemies: ‘The persecutions in France against the French Protestants constrained him to fly for refuge to the island of Jersey. Having been married by a Protestant minister, he was in danger of being sent to the galleys for life. His wife was taken from him and placed in a convent, where she remained eighteen months. Whilst there she gave birth to a child who died soon after. One of the nuns, moved with compassion, promised to help her to escape, provided she would not discover it.
Mrs Moquet made this known to her husband in Jersey who went over to Granville. With the assistance of friends she escaped in the night and, having joined her husband, went over with him to Jersey. Louis prospered and was appointed ‘distributor of the Royal Bounty to Protestant refugees’.
The Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland explains more about this Royal Bounty. They add that it can be useful for those tracing their Huguenot heritage. That said, they advise that people know in advance roughly where in England or the Channel Islands one’s ancestors lived.
Ironically, given the history above, James II instituted the Royal Bounty in 1686, the year after the Revocation of the Treaty of Nantes. The Royal Bounty continued through the reign of George III.
In 1804, Parliament ruled that the Bounty be paid to existing pensioners only. The last Huguenot pensioner died in 1876, as did the Bounty.
An English Committee managed the funds which they delegated to the French Committee made up of prestigious and well-respected Huguenots to distribute accordingly. An Ecclesiastical Committee was in charge of donating funds to poor Huguenot clergymen.
Distributions were made to the following categories of Protestant refugees: Noblesse or People of Quality, the Bourgeoisie or People of the Middling Sort and the Common People. Bounty records often are good with the first two groups but less so with the last. Some receipts of people signing for money have also been preserved. This is why the Bounty documentation can be helpful to genealogists.
Returning to Jersey by way of Marguerite Syvret’s article, she tells of another true Jersey story, related to Charles Dickens which he included in an 1853 edition of his journal, Household Words. It involves Magdalen Lefebvre whose great-granddaughter, in turn, related it to Dickens:
Farmer Lefebvre lived in Normandy on a small, self-sufficient estate producing honey, vegetables, poultry and livestock to feed his family; sheep, hemp and flax to provide wool, linen and fine thread to clothe them. On a rare visit to the market at Avranches to purchase a cow he learnt of the Revocation and its implications. His wife was an invalid unable to travel, but lest their infant daughter, Magdalen, be taken from them to a convent, they arranged for her to be sent to Jersey. Wrapped in a mattress half concealed in sackcloth and a load of straw, the child was taken by horse and cart to Granville and entrusted to the owner of a fishing smack with apples and pears for Jersey, where the orchard crops had failed.
With her went a trunk containing her unfinished trousseau begun at her birth by her mother and made with fine spun thread from home grown flax. Willing hands took her from Jersey to London to be brought up by maiden aunts.
The schoolchildren of Jersey took part in an essay-writing competition concerning the island’s Huguenot influence. One essay quoted the Victorian author and civic reformer, Samuel Smiles, a Scot who was raised as a Reformed Presbyterian. Although he discontinued religious practice as an adult, he blended Calvinist values into his works, the most famous of which is Self-Help. Of Jersey and the Huguenots, Smiles wrote:
Although the refugees for the most part regarded the Channel Islands as merely temporary places of refuge … a sufficient number remained to determine the Protestant character of the community and completely to transform the islands by their industry; since which time Jersey and Guernsey, from being among the most backward and miserable places on the face of the earth, have come to be recognised as among the most happy and prosperous.
They continue to be so today and prove to be delightful holiday destinations. Those who are able to live there permanently are blessed indeed.
More will follow tomorrow on the Huguenots in England.
The Huguenot Society of South Africa has a page with a list of family names and describes their history in the country. H C Viljoen, the author of the article, tells us that not all the original names survive today because offspring were daughters.
Viljoen describes the Dutch East India Company’s offer to the persecuted French-speaking Protestants. The Dutch were primarily Calvinist and saw like-minded co-religionists in the Huguenots. That meant their worship and values would be the same. However, the Dutch knew of their expertise in a number of fields which made them attractive candidates to settle in South Africa.
Huguenot families could bring only a minimum of possessions on board. The Dutch East India Company was interested in increasing the number of farms in South Africa. The Company’s plan was to focus initially on wheat and sheep farming. They gave interested Huguenots land, implements, seed and/or livestock free of charge. Any harvest or proceeds from livestock or meat sales would go to the Company as reimbursement. The Company thought that crops and livestock would bring in income more reliably than viticulture (growing grapes for wine and vinegar), which came later.
With regard to wine, the number of vines grew quickly, from 100 in 1655 to 1.5 million by 1700. Successive generations of growers have improved growing and production methods to create a superior product known around the world. A number of the estates still bear their original French names. Viljoen writes:
The De Villiers brothers in particular arrived at the Cape with a reputation for viticulture and oenology. Through the years the De Villiers brothers planted more than 40 000 vines at the Cape. They moved from the original farm allocated to them (which they named La Rochelle) to finally settle on individual allottments near Franschhoek with the names Bourgogne, Champagne and La Brie.
Franschhoek, incidentally, translates as ‘French Corner’.
Those Huguenots who did not pursue agriculture agreed with the Company to pursue a trade or profession, e.g. medicine, teaching, carpentry, hat-making.
Viljoen makes an important point regarding Huguenot assimilation into Afrikaner society, one which today’s immigrants might do well to keep in mind (emphases mine):
The Huguenots did indeed leave a direct and indirect legacy in South Africa. They did not continue to live as an separate, clearly identifiable subgroup. Already early in the eighteenth century they were assimilated by the rest of the population at the Cape as a result of both political measures and their minority numbers. But despite their relatively small numbers, they nevertheless left an indelible mark on and made a valuable contribution during the early years of the settlement at the Cape of Good Hope to various areas – economy, education, technology, agriculture, culture, church life, religion, etc.
To honour their memory, South Africans have erected several monuments. The two most prominent are the Huguenot Memorial Museum and the Huguenot Monument (pictured at right, courtesy of Wikipedia). Both are in Franschhoek.
The Monument’s Wikipedia entry (click this link then on the monument picture for an expanded view) explains the symbolism behind the design:
The monument was designed by J.C. Jongens, completed in 1945 and inaugurated by Dr. A.J van der Merwe on 17 April 1948.
The three high arches symbolize the Holy Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. On top of the arches is the sun of righteousness and above that, the cross of their Christian faith.
The central female figure, created by Coert Steynberg, personifies religious freedom with a bible in her one hand and broken chain in the other. She is casting off her cloak of oppression and her position on top of the globe shows her spiritual freedom. The fleur-de-lis on her robe represents a noble spirit and character.
The southern tip of the globe shows the symbols of their religion (the Bible), art and culture (the harp), the agriculture and viticulture (the sheaf of corn and grape vine) and industry (spinning wheel).
The water pond, reflecting the colonnade behind it, expresses the undisturbed tranquility of mind and spiritual peace the Huguenots experienced after much conflict and strife.
It is a fitting tribute to a deserving people.
We can learn much from the Huguenot example in being responsible, faithful Christians.
It is estimated that 250,000 Huguenots lost their lives in France during the Wars of Religion.
Another 250,000 fled to countries which were tolerant with regard to religious practice. Among them were the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Hungary, the American colonies, England and South Africa. (The 17th century English civil servant and diarist Samuel Pepys married a Huguenot.)
The Huguenots brought with them industriousness and integrity which served them well in their new host countries.
The Huguenot Society of South Africa tells us that on October 3, 1685, three weeks before Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes on the 22nd, the Dutch East India Company invited interested Huguenots to sail to South Africa to forge a new life for themselves, principally in farming.
Dutch settlers were already in South Africa, as was one Huguenot lady pictured above — Maria de la Quellerie — who had arrived on April 6, 1652. She was married to a Dutch ship’s commander, Jan van Riebeeck. Together, they established and ran a refreshment post for incoming ships at the Cape of Good Hope. They left the Cape 10 years later and moved eastward.
The next Huguenot to arrive on the Cape was François Villion (Viljoen) in October 1671. He is considered to be the first Huguenot refugee in South Africa.
It is interesting that the Dutch East India Company’s first invitation to Huguenots in 1685 and 1686 held little interest. Only three men took up the offer: Jean de Long (de Lange) and his family in 1685 and brothers Guillaume and François du Toit the following year.
When the Dutch East India Company renewed their invitation in 1687, more Huguenots took up the offer. By 1689, 175 had settled in South Africa. By 1729, this number had increased to 279 living at the Cape of Good Hope.
The offer to sail and settle lasted until 1707, although Huguenots continued to seek a new life in South Africa for several more years. This page from the Huguenot Society of South Africa has a list of ships which sailed during this period.
The Dutch were careful in planning where the new settlers would live. They purposely placed their farms in a majority of Dutch ones. This was to prevent the French from banding together and conspiring against the Dutch government as well as lessening the possibility of loyalty to France. Although the latter seems doubtful, given the persecution of the Huguenots, stranger things have happened in the course of history.
The Dutch assigned the Huguenots to Table Valley, Stellenbosch and the Berg River valley, namely between Franschhoek (‘French Corner’) and Wellington. Those living in Stellenbosch were allowed to retain as minister the clergyman who had sailed with them, the Revd Pierre Simond. They worshipped in the Stellenbosch church where they could hold French-language services. By 1691, they were allowed to form their own congregation and have their own church building. The present Huguenot thatched roof church is located in Paarl. In the early 1700s, Simond wrote the first literary and theological work of the Cape of Good Hope. It was published in Amsterdam in 1704: Les Veilles Afriquaines ou les Pseaumes de David mis en vers François (‘The Africa night watches or the Psalms of David in French verse form’).
The following Huguenots were among the early settlers:
Josue Cellier (Cilliers, Cillié) – farmer, wine maker and carpenter
Daniel Nortier and Jacques Pinard – carpenters
Daniël Hugot and André Gaucher (Gouws) – ironsmiths
Francois Villion & Estienne Bruére (Bruwer) – wagon makers
Durand Sollier & Jean Cloudon – cobblers
Paul Roux – teacher
Isaac Taillefert – hatter and successful farmer
Jean Prieur du Plessis, Jean Durand, and Paul le Fébre – medical practitioners
Gideon le Grand – medical practitioner, dentist, and barber
Life was challenging for the French settlers. They struggled with a new climate, terrain, flora and fauna. Farmers had to till virgin soil and build their farms from scratch. The newcomers’ relationship with the Political Council was also uneasy.
Fewer Huguenots arrived after 1700. Consequently, it was not long before French ceased being used. In fact, the Dutch authorities banned it from official communications in 1707.
This list shows a number of Huguenots who married Dutch settlers. Some of them made their surnames more in line with the Dutch: Pinard became Pienaar, Manié became Manje, Mézel became Mijsaal, Prévost became Provo and Villion became Viljoen. That said, it is still common today to have a French first name. The name of retired Springboks player Francois Pienaar illustrates this perfectly.
Despite their early difficulties, the Huguenots proved themselves to be responsible citizens and hard workers. Their farmers, in particular, helped to establish what we recognise today as characteristic products of South Africa: delicious fruit and quality wines.
Tomorrow’s post looks more at Huguenot life in South Africa.
The posts below describe what happened in the late 17th century, which drove many Huguenot families to leave France for England, the Netherlands, Prussia and South Africa where they could worship and work in peace.
It was only after the French Revolution when they received the full rights and protections of other Frenchmen:
After so many left, taking with them craftsmanship which other Frenchmen could not reproduce as well, France lamented her treatment of Protestants. By then, it was too late. Although some Huguenots returned, the situation could not be recovered.
Today, only a few hundred thousand Protestants live in France.
Continuing a study of the passages from Luke’s Gospel which have been omitted from the three-year Lectionary for public worship, today’s post is part of my ongoing series Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential to understanding Scripture.
The following Bible passages have been excluded from the three-year Lectionary used by many Catholic and Protestant churches around the world.
Do some clergy using the Lectionary want us understand Holy Scripture in its entirety? You decide.
Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur (sermons cited below).
The Law and the Kingdom of God
14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. 15And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
16 “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.[a] 17But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.
The first 13 verses of Luke 16 concern the Parable of the Dishonest Manager which ends with this verse:
13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
The servant was unfaithful to his master, wasting his possessions and/or stealing his money. Jesus’s parable is an analogy for our wasting or misusing God’s gifts. It is also a warning to those who value money and possessions above God.
John MacArthur has sermons discussing this parable, referencing other Bible verses. One of the sermons says (emphases mine):
… we have a right to money. It comes from God; He gives it to whom He will, sovereignly, in varying amounts. We are told to work for it, to save for it, to plan for it. God will give us all that we need. Everything that we have we manage for Him. If we manage it faithfully it will increase and it will grown and we will be blessed both here and throughout eternity and there will be friends there to welcome us when we arrive who are there because the gospel went to them when we supported it and we’ll find that having been faithful over whatever we had here, we’ll be given much to enjoy there. And having served God not money here, we will enter into the joy of our Lord there.
… He intends some basic things to occur with whatever it is that we possess. One, support your needs. God knows that you have to survive; you have to live. You’re not supposed to be a charity case. You’re supposed to take care of yourself. The Bible says if a man doesn’t work he doesn’t eat, so you’re given the priority responsibility for you as an individual to take care of our own needs. That is why God has given you what He has given you in terms of resources and talent and opportunity, so you can engage yourself in such a way as to take of yourself, always recognizing that the source of everything is God and using what God has given to meet your needs in a reasonable way.
Secondly then to support your family. And to support your family, would mean if you’re a husband your children and your wife. If you’re a family member and somebody in your extended family has a need you, of course, then become responsible for that extended family as I Timothy 5 says …
A third and very important thing to think about is this: support your nation. The Bible is crystal clear on the fact that we are to pay our taxes, that we are to be good citizens, and we are to render to the government what is due to the government, tax to whom is tax is due, Romans 13, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom is due …
Moving a little bit beyond that as you use your money for your personal needs, your family needs, and as you pay your taxes, I think it’s reasonable to say that God expects you to enjoy sensible comforts with a worshipping heart. I don’t think we’re supposed to take a vow of poverty and go around in dirty clothes, eating brown bread, and drinking water for the rest of our lives. I don’t think God filled this planet with the richness that He did for us to ignore it and live in some level of destitution. I think we can enjoy a measure, a reasonable comfort with a worshipping and grateful heart.
Matthew 6 has more on this subject, especially the spirit of giving to our place of worship and to the poor.
In today’s verses from Luke, we read that the Pharisees — ‘lovers of money’ — heard Jesus’s parable with derision (verse 14). MacArthur explains that everything they did was for status and public display:
[Matthew 6] Verse 2, “When you do your alms, give your alms, don’t sound a trumpet.” Can you imagine what those Pharisees did? On the way in to give there were thirteen trumped shaped receptacles around the court of women and they would drop money in, they would blow a trumpet to announce their arrival. Look folks, I’m giving, this is how much I’m giving. These are the hypocrites. They did it in the synagogues too. They would give in the synagogues, the local synagogues in the same public way. They do it in the streets, he says in verse 2, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you they have their reward in full. Their full reward is they were honored by men. No reward from God. You don’t want to give that way, so when you give your alms, this is an interesting way, this is kind of hyperbole, over the top, don’t even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Be so secret that one side of you doesn’t even know what the other side is doing. Not only do the people around you not know, but it’s that secret. Let your alms be done in secret, and then your father who sees in secret will repay you, believe me in an open way in heaven to come. So your giving is to be secret and humble.
Jesus told the Pharisees that what they did they did for men’s admiration, which God found abominable (verse 15). They did nothing for His glory, despite all their outward appearances.
The condemning words here are ‘those who justify yourselves before men’. Their hearts were spiritually dead, yet they made it look as if all their works meant they were obeying God’s laws. They were all about external style and no spiritual substance. Even worse, they lorded their status over the people. They demanded excessive obedience to the Law, whilst creating loopholes for themselves. This is where the lawyers — theologians — came in to the picture. The lawyers devised the loopholes. They also demanded money from widows and rejected sacrifices brought to the temple because they were not purchased there. They ignored everyone who was not in their elitist circle.
Jesus told them that John the Baptist’s ministry hailed the coming abolition of ceremonial law of what we know as the Old Testament (verse 16). This is because John the Baptist announced the coming of Christ. Jesus referred to Himself and John with the words ‘since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached’.
Then we have Jesus’s statement about everyone forcing themselves into the divine kingdom. Matthew Henry interprets this in the following ways. First, our Lord’s Gospel message is irresistible. Second, it isn’t just for the Jewish people anymore but for the whole world. Third, because it is open to everyone, the relationship between God, our Lord and us is an intensely personal one. Fourth, those who take it to heart might have to struggle against the world for their heavenly reward:
“But,” saith Christ, “now that the gospel is preached the eyes of the people are opened, and as they cannot now have a veneration for the Pharisees, as they have had, so they cannot content themselves with such an indifferency in religion as they have been trained up in, but they press with a holy violence into the kingdom of God.” Note, Those that would go to heaven must take pains, must strive against the stream, must press against the crowd that are going the contrary way.
Jesus concludes by saying that it would be easier for the universe to end than for the law to be invalidated (verse 17). Henry explains:
The moral law is confirmed and ratified, and not one tittle of that fails; the duties enjoined by it are duties still; the sins forbidden by it are sins still. Nay, the precepts of it are explained and enforced by the gospel, and made to appear more spiritual.
We are enjoined to obey the Ten Commandments, which encompass loving God and loving our neighbour as ourselves. In light of the Gospels, we are able to understand them and obey them all the more with our knowledge of Christ, through God’s grace.
Next time: Luke 16:18
Those who stayed behind in France were often the victims of persecution. They prayed diligently and worked hard. They chose occupations which involved detail and care, including fine tableware, luxury fabrics and watchmaking.
Where worship was concerned, the méreau, one side of which is pictured at left, was necessary if they were to participate in church life. The coin indicated a church member of good standing and had to be shown to the elders of the congregation when attending services.
Find out more about the Huguenots at the links below:
More on the Huguenots next week.
Yesterday’s entry reprised part of my 2013 posts on the history of the early French Protestants, known as the Huguenots — worth reading before continuing.
To escape persecution in their home country and open up new trading posts, the most enterprising Huguenots sailed for the New World in the 16th century. They settled parts of it before the Portuguese and the English took over.
You can read more about their intrepid journeys and experiences at the links below:
Tomorrow’s post features more about those who stayed behind in France.
Many Huguenots had to leave France; others were persecuted. Some gave their lives for their faith during the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre which took place around the saint’s feast day, August 24, 1572.
One of their distinctive crosses is at left, courtesy of The National Huguenot Society in the United States.
For new readers and those who missed this series last year, the following posts will help to explain the history of these devout and industrious French men and women:
Notes on the Reformation (with regard to the Huguenots)
More to follow tomorrow.
By the time Martin Luther began the Protestant Reformation by nailing the Ninety-five Theses on the church door of Wittenburg, he had already begun distributing small pamphlets — tracts — about the downfall of the Church.
He compared the corrupt Church of his day to Babylon. Not only were the official representatives of Christ’s Bride collecting money for indulgences as repentance for sin, they were also denying the sacred, inspired truth of Holy Scripture.
The Catholic Church will readily agree to that post-Vatican II. I was taught of the Church’s errors in RE (Religious Education) class in the 1970s. Yet, what appears to linger there is the synergistic notion that we must work for our salvation. God’s grace is insufficient. In fact, we must merit it.
Things are not so different in certain Protestant denominations, especially in some — not all — Evangelical and mainstream Non-Conformist (e.g. Wesleyan, Baptist) congregations.
A works-based salvation is, at best, semi-Pelagian. At worst, it is full-on Pelagianism, which is a heresy. Pelagianism denies Original Sin and says that man is basically good. Semi-Pelagianism acknowledges Original Sin but says that man must work for his conversion, his rebirth in Christ or his ultimate salvation. Both of these dangerous beliefs are devoid of Scriptural truth and divine grace, which God the Father gives us in our Christian walk.
The Reformed theologian Dr R C Sproul — a monergist — deplores the Church’s departure from monergism. Monergism, involving God as the author of our spiritual regeneration and ultimate salvation, espouses the doctrine of grace — completely unmerited on our part but mercifully granted by our Father in heaven nonetheless.
The Covenant Presbyterian Church, a member of the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) in Bakersfield, California, has posted several helpful articles and essays for their congregation as well as for other Christians who might wonder if they are truly saved. Worrying about one’s personal salvation can cause many late nights, much soul-searching and years of anguish.
Sproul’s article which sheds light on monergism, synergism, grace, error and heresy is called ‘The Pelagian Captivity of the Church’. Excerpts follow with page references to the PDF.
Sproul wonders what would happen if Luther were to see the state of Protestantism today (p. 1):
Of course I can’t answer that question with any kind of definitive authority, but my guess is this: If Martin Luther lived today and picked up his pen to write, the book he would write in our time would be entitled The Pelagian Captivity of the Evangelical Church.
Luther, Sproul tells us, believed in the doctrine of grace as revealed in the Bible (emphases mine):
Luther saw the doctrine of justification as fueled by a deeper theological problem. He writes about this extensively in The Bondage Of the Will. When we look at the Reformation — sola Scriptura, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo Gloria, sola gratia – Luther was convinced that the real issue of the Reformation was the issue of grace; and that underlying the doctrine of sola fide, justification by faith alone, was the prior commitment to sola gratia, the concept of justification by grace alone.
Luther was not alone. Calvin, Zwingli and other early Reformers agreed on
the helplessness of man in sin and the sovereignty of God in grace …
In other words, our faith in Christ is
the free gift of a sovereign God.
Pelagius was a British monk. He lived in the 5th century AD, as did his rival, St Augustine of Hippo (Egypt). Although these were dark and primitive times, Church councils covering Europe and North Africa were ongoing. Pelagius objected to Augustine’s belief in a sovereign God.
Pelagius maintained that, although Adam and Eve sinned, future generations were spared inheriting that sin. This viewpoint goes against Scripture and Christianity, both of which point to our inherent and ongoing depravity because we actually have a proclivity to sin, which we received from Adam and Eve. As St Augustine believed, this state (p. 2), leaves us in
a sinful, fallen condition.
As such, we are able to achieve nothing good or godly on our own. We must rely on God’s grace, the workings of the Holy Spirit and the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins.
Yet, Pelagius insisted that Adam and Eve’s sin was not passed down to us and that any grace we inherited ‘facilitates’ righteousness to us. Sproul said that Pelagius meant that whilst divine grace helps mankind, mankind doesn’t actually need it. In fact, he said that people could live perfect lives under their own willpower, with no divine grace necessary (p. 3).
The Church condemned Pelagianism as a heresy at the Council of Orange in the 5th century, later at the Council of Carthage and, once more, much later, in the 16th century at the Council of Trent (p. 3).
However, despite Church theologians declaring Pelagianism a heresy, the appeal of man’s ‘island of righteousness’ — perhaps ‘divine spark’ — refused to fade away. Hence the rise of semi-Pelagianism: we need God’s grace but we are also capable of accepting or rejecting it.
Ironically, the Church condemned semi-Pelagianism as vehemently as it had condemned original Pelagianism. Yet by the time you get to the sixteenth century and you read the Catholic understanding of what happens in salvation the Church basically repudiated what Augustine taught and what Aquinas taught as well. The Church concluded that there still remains this freedom that is intact in the human will and that man must cooperate with — and assent to — the prevenient grace that is offered to them by God. If we exercise that will, if we exercise a cooperation with whatever powers we have left, we will be saved. And so in the sixteenth century the Church reembraced semi-Pelagianism.
Now to the present day. Many Evangelical — mostly independent, but sometimes associated — churches around the world feature a believer’s testimony and an altar call. The unconverted in the congregation can seemingly ‘choose’ to ‘accept’ Christ as Saviour and Lord. These are also features of Holiness churches of the Wesleyan tradition. Essentially, even if the preachers talk about sin, they say that we have the inner power to overcome it. Furthermore, those sitting in the congregation — a Barna survey says more than 70% — believe that man is basically good (p. 3).
Sproul says (p. 4):
To say we’re basically good is the Pelagian view. I would be willing to assume that in at least thirty percent of the people who are reading this issue, and probably more, if we really examine their thinking depth, we could find hearts that are beating Pelagianism. We’re overwhelmed with it. We’re surrounded by it. We’re immersed in it. We hear it every day. We hear it every day in the secular culture. And not only do we hear it every day in the secular culture, we hear it every day on Christian television and on Christian radio.
You have no doubt heard the sayings ‘The squeaky wheel gets the grease’ and ‘An empty paper bag makes the loudest noise’. One firebrand evangelist in 19th century America lived up to both. His name was Charles Finney. Whether we like it or not, he changed the face of much of American Christianity forever.
Whereas the earliest Reformers held to the aforementioned Solas, Finney claimed we had enough power and ability to affect our salvation alone. We don’t need divine grace — or possibly even Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection — for salvation. Sproul delivers his verdict (p. 4):
… if what the reformers were saying is that justification by faith alone is an essential truth of Christianity, who also argued that the substitutionary atonement is an essential truth of Christianity; if they’re correct in their assessment that those doctrines are essential truths of Christianity, the only conclusion we can come to is that Charles Finney was not a Christian. I read his writings — and I say, “I don’t see how any Christian person could write this.” And yet, he is in the Hall of Fame of Evangelical Christianity in America. He is the patron saint of twentieth-century Evangelicalism. And he is not semi-Pelagian; he is unvarnished in his Pelagianism.
Sproul anticipates that people will object to this assessment, saying that grace is necessary for sinful man’s regeneration and redemption. Then he posits — and this is important to consider (p. 4):
But it’s that little island of righteousness where man still has the ability, in and of himself, to turn, to change, to incline, to dispose, to embrace the offer of grace that reveals why historically semi-Pelagianism is not called semi-Augustinianism, but semi-Pelagianism. It never really escapes the core idea of the bondage of the soul, the captivity of the human heart to sin — that it’s not simply infected by a disease that may be fatal if left untreated, but it is mortal.
Sproul explores two semi-Pelagian stories often heard in certain churches. One concerns God throwing a drowning man a life preserver, making an exact hit to reach the man’s hands. Another is about the Almighty assisting a dying man in taking a curative medicine. In both instances, the two men are able to accept God’s help yet contribute their own ability to their rescues.
But, Sproul asks (p. 5), are these accurate and in line with conversion and salvation according to Scripture?
Now, if we’re going to use analogies, let’s be accurate. The man isn’t going under for the third time; he is stone cold dead at the bottom of the ocean. That’s where you once were when you were dead in sin and trespasses and walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air. And while you were dead hath God quickened you together with Christ. God dove to the bottom of the sea and took that drowned corpse and breathed into it the breath of his life and raised you from the dead. And it’s not that you were dying in a hospital bed of a certain illness, but rather, when you were born you were born D.O.A. That’s what the Bible says: that we are morally stillborn.
Sproul goes on to describe a conversation he had with a believer who objected to his theology of grace. Sproul asked him how he came to be a Christian when his friend did not. In the end, the man says:
OK! I’ll say it. I’m a Christian because I did the right thing, I made the right response, and my friend didn’t.
Astonished, Sproul concludes (p. 5):
What was this person trusting in for his salvation? Not in his works in general, but in the one work that he performed. And he was a Protestant, an evangelical. But his view of salvation was no different from the Roman view.
Today, we have theologians (e.g. N T Wright), clergy (even in older Protestant denominations) and laity claiming that we must play a part in our salvation via ‘good works’. Divine grace cannot truly help us, certainly not fully; we must play our part and do something.
This semi-Pelagianism, made popular in the 16th century by Jacob Arminius who sought to deny the doctrine of grace as a comfort for Christians — when it did precisely the opposite, causing them endless anxiety — is the prevailing theology in many churches. And, he says, this anxiety will not disappear until — and unless (p. 6):
we humble ourselves and understand that no man is an island and that no man has an island of righteousness, that we are utterly dependent upon the unmixed grace of God for our salvation …
A good site for exploring these two concepts further is John Hendryx’s excellent website Monergism. Hendryx has his own essays there as well as a marvellous library of classical Protestant essays on Christianity.
Many of today’s churches and denominations — including Catholic and Orthodox ones — are imbued with synergism. Synergism, simply expressed, is the belief that man must use his will in order to help effect his own regeneration. Grace plays only a part. Synergism also throws into question the person’s justification — salvation — by grace through faith. Because man must co-operate, churchgoers sometimes become concerned whether they are truly converted, born again and whether they will be saved. It is graceless. Synergism has no support in Scripture.
Monergism, on the other hand, is the belief that God grants us sinners to faith through His divine, merciful grace alone; we have no part in our conversion. The Holy Spirit then works through us to accomplish His will. Christ’s death and resurrection have the power to save; grace grants us faith in His enabling our salvation.
In his article ‘Monergism vs. Synergism’, Hendryx defines both concepts in detail. He also notes the rampant synergism in today’s churches.
He begins by asking the reader four questions about faith (emphases in the original):
To introduce you to this Scriptural doctrine let me begin by asking some questions that should help us begin to think about this issue: (1) What is man’s part and God’s part in the work of the new birth? (2) Why is it that one unregenerate person believes the gospel and not another? Does one make better use of God’s grace? (3) Apart from the grace of God, is there any fallen person who is naturally willing to submit in faith to the humbling terms of the gospel of Christ? (4) In light of God’s word, is our new birth in Christ an unconditional work of God’s mercy alone or does man cooperate in some way with God in the work of regeneration (making it conditional)? Your answer to these questions will reveal where you stand on this issue.
Hendryx rightly believes that synergism is weakening Christian practice and belief. His desire is for a return to monergism:
I hope to convince you of the deep importance of a biblical understanding of this issue to the health of our churches. This is because, for various reasons, a majority of modern evangelicals have abandoned the biblical position and thus thrown out the most important Scriptural truth that was recovered in the Reformation of the sixteenth century.
Grace plays a principal role in monergism. Synergism sees grace as helpful in conversion which is conditional on man’s co-operation: grace does some of the work, but man must do the rest. Synergism causes many Christians much needless worry with regard to assurance.
It is tragic that an unbiblical belief can cause people to fall away from the Church.
Of synergism, Hendryx writes (my emphases in purple):
In this system, then, grace is merely an offer or a help but does not do anything to change man’s heart of stone or natural hostility to God. This means that God will only look favorably upon and reward those natural men who are able to produce or contribute faith, independent of God’s inward gracious call or spiritual renewal. This is a subtle, but serious, error that is plaguing the church of the 21st century. It is a misapprehension of the biblical teaching concerning the depth of our fallen nature and the radical grace needed to restore us. This leads me to believe that one of the greatest challenges facing the church today is its re-evangelization. While many evangelicals may understand the doctrine of “sola fide” (faith alone), that we must place our faith in Christ to be saved, it seems many have abandoned the biblical concept of “sola gratia” (grace alone). The Synergistic Conception of “Sola Fide” therefore must, by definition, draw on nature to cooperate with God’s grace as the human fulfillment of a condition. Why do people believe this? I can only guess it is because by nature we want to maintain an island of righteousness, a last bastion of pride in thinking that he can still contribute something, be it ever so small, to our own salvation. It would involve great humility on our part to admit this. If the Church took more efforts to search the Scriptures and reform her doctrine on this point, I am convinced that a great deal of blessing would be restored and God would remove much of the current worldliness in our midst.
That ‘island of righteousness’ relates to the ‘divine spark’ concept.
Hendryx points out an important detail regarding our faith once regenerated:
Note, I would like to clear up a common confusion about regeneration and justification. Regeneration, the work of the Holy Spirit which brings us into a living union with Christ, only refers to the first step in the work of God in our salvation. It is universally agreed among evangelicals, myself included, that the second step, faith in Christ, must be exercised by the sinner if one is to to be justified (saved). Therefore, justification is conditional (on our faith) … but our regeneration (or spiritual birth) is unconditional; an expression of God’s grace freely bestowed, for it is unconstrained and not merited by anything God sees in those who are its subjects. Regeneration and Justification, although occurring almost simultaneously are, therefore, not the same. Regeneration, has a causal priority over the other aspects of the process of salvation. The new birth (regeneration), therefore, is what brings about a restored disposition of heart which is then willing to exercise faith in Christ unto justification (Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26) …
Don’t get me wrong: We certainly must respond in faith to Christ to be justified, but it is grace itself which enables us to be obedient to the gospel. This position alone strips the pride of man and gives glory to God alone for our new life.
There lies the desire for regular prayer, worship and Bible study to understand God’s purpose for us. When we doubt, we ask for more grace and more faith.
Once we are regenerated, the Holy Spirit begins working through us. Hendryx cites a number of Bible verses, among them the following:
“no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3);
“natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2:14);
“the Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul“ (Acts 16:14b);
“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:26-27);
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. “But there are some of you who do not believe.” …65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” (John 6:63-65).
That last passage is a particular favourite of mine: no one can come to Christ unless God grants it. However, that gracious grant can come at any time in our lives, especially if we are broken and at rock bottom. If you are unchurched yet reading Christian websites or the Bible, God may well be granting grace to you.
Hendryx then asks how many of us hear an expository sermon on any of the aforementioned verses or on the doctrine of grace as stated in monergistic theology:
How often do you hear your pastor use this kind of biblical language and do serious exegesis of such passages? The Scriptures are filled with such pictures of Christ’s work in our salvation, so why aren’t our churches? Are we afraid that it might offend our sensibilities? Our pride? So instead of a full-orbed gospel that comes from the whole counsel of Scripture we have traded it for a kind of half-gospel. We do this by pulling out verses which we like that have enough biblical truth to get our attention yet we avoid the equally important passages which expose our utter spiritual impotence apart from grace. The absence of such a prominent biblical concept from our pulpits may explain our both anemic lack of influence in our world and the horrifying reality that 80 to 90% of those “making a decision for Christ” fall away from the faith. This is not to say that we should only speak of such things, but the only faithful church is the one which teaches exegetically through every verse in the Bible, not only topically, as some are in the habit of …
This is why world missions are so critical since the unregenerate can only come to Christ through hearing the word of God (Romans 10:13-15) by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit … God works concurrently with His church through prayers and the proclamation of His word to bring home His elect from every “tribe and language and people and nation.”(Rev 5:8)
Then there is the confusion over manmade works versus gracious fruits of faith. Hendryx explains:
When man recognizes that even humility itself is a gift of grace then and only then it is evident that God is truly working grace in a man.
Hendryx realises some churchgoers will find monergism a shock:
At first, many people might fight against this idea because it goes against everything they have ever been taught at their church. But I would challenge you to question your presuppositions. Carefully and prayerfully read the Scripture references I have given you because this is important. Remember that the effects of the fall on the mind … will [have] rendered mankind wholly incapable and unwilling to come to God, where we would always reject Him if left to our own unregenerate nature. Being spiritually dead, the Scripture teaches that it is impossible for man to respond, no matter how attractive God is (1 Cor 2:14). Man’s nature and disposition must first be changed (made alive Eph 2:5, born again John 3:3). To say that we would ever come to God by our own choice without God first making this effectual is to underestimate the depth and totality of man’s fall. We were spiritually dead. Dead men will not respond to pleading and reasoning alone (ROM 8:7) but only when coupled with the effectual call of Jesus who raises him spiritually, as He did the physical Lazarus. Yes, we must command man to repent and believe and we thus proclaim the Gospel to him, but the Holy Spirit has to enable and efficaciously draw him through our preaching if he is to come willingly (John 6:37, John 6:44, John 6:64,65 Ezekiel 11:19-20).
Hendryx makes it clear he is not condemning those who ascribe to synergism, however, he does pray that:
all the Lord’s people would go back to the Scriptures to earnestly seek God’s will in this crucial matter.
He lists more resources at the end of his article and gives the link to his helpful chart contrasting synergism and monergism.