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One interesting aspect about people watching is observing how Christians present themselves to others.

Several of the churchgoers in my area look permanently miserable, angry even. They are eager to talk about their problems and illnesses. Their conversations revolve around them. Rarely have I heard from them a friendly hello or a sincere ‘How are you?’ Smiles are nowhere to be seen.

They do not seem to have purpose.

They seem devoid of hope.

One wonders about their faith.

If I were not a believer, they would not be the ones bringing me to Christ Jesus, that’s for sure.

‘Church is a hospital for the sick,’ they say.

Yes, the spiritually sick, so they can be saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Churches and related committees — meant to serve the congregation — should not overly indulge or encourage personal psychodrama and moaning.* If they do, something is wrong somewhere.

Navel gazing denies the lordship of Christ. It prevents loving one’s neighbour. It’s spiritual darkness.

If such ‘Christians’ think they are evangelising, they’re giving a poor example to everyone they encounter.

A number of these people have spouses and children who shy away from attending church. I’m not surprised, based on what they experience at home. It’s no wonder secularists are winning the battle for hearts and minds.

Self-absorbed pewsitters would do well to pray honestly for our Lord to show them purpose with regard to others, starting with their own families. Along with that should be a private study of the Bible with the aid of a sound commentary. Too many programmes, like Alpha, encourage a non-judgemental ‘Scripture is what I think it says’ outlook, which can often hinder faith.

Navel gazers should focus on divine grace which would allow them to progressively leave their self-preoccupation behind and become a more responsible spouse, parent and church member. Those in my area should also give thanks for their God-given blessings: a comfortable house, good neighbourhood, patient family members and much more. Millions in Britain would love to be in their shoes.

It’s hard to know whether such self-obsession results from a lack of faith, a surfeit of pride or both. Whatever it is, it isn’t good or helpful for these people — or others.

The best ambassador for Christ I can think of lives in our street. She is an elderly lady who suffers from a debilitating illness. Sometimes she needs a zimmerframe (‘walker’, for my American readers). Often, a friend has to accompany her to church. However, she stops to talk to her neighbours and actually converses with them. She’s perpetually cheerful. I’ve never heard her discuss her ailment, even though she’s probably in chronic pain. She shows interest in other people and things. She and I had a lengthy conversation about the ornamentals in our front garden one day.

She is a delightful woman and a good Christian.

Would that more emulated her fine example.

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*  I have seen it first hand, and it’s put me off serving on church committees for good.

slipperyMany thanks to loyal reader Llew, who sent in the link to the Spiked article cited below!

The UK Parliament will be debating assisted dying in September 2015. Over the past few years, several high profile cases have come to light of older Britons who have ended it all with professional help. Sometimes this was because of terminal illness, however, not always.

Secularist supporters

In August 2015, university lecturer and author Kevin Yuill wrote an article for Spiked — the UK’s libertarian, secular humanist/atheist site — about the curious case of retired nurse Gill Pharaoh.

Pharaoh was 75 and relatively healthy when she died on July 21, 2015, at the LifeCircle clinic in Switzerland. Yuill says she was ‘healthy’, but her final entry states that, in recent years, she’d suffered an attack of shingles, ongoing tinnitus and joint pain. A lot of other older people have these ailments, too. But she wanted to end her life her way.

Yuill cites Pharaoh’s blog. She wanted

people to remember me as I now am – as a bit worn around the edges but still recognisably me!

But how was she to know what she would be like in five or even 15 years’ time? Only the Almighty knows that. Maybe she would have continued to age gracefully apart from physical complaints which are entirely normal, albeit annoying, aspects of growing old.

Pharaoh had no faith. She objected to British law with regard to assisted death because it

originates from a god in whom we have no belief.

Pharaoh blogged about her decision-making regarding ending her own life. She also gave a interview to The Times (Murdoch paper, ergo paywall), summarised in the Daily Mail. Yuill says she was searching for validation and recognition. He introduces his article with a précis of Christopher Lasch‘s excellent 1979 book, The Culture of Narcissism. If you can buy or borrow a copy, it will be more relevant today than when it was written. I read it in the early 1980s in the US and was shocked. Needless to say, my work colleagues told me the man was talking out of his hat. Yet, how correct he was. His book warns about attention-seeking behaviour which demands that everyone else acquiesces to one’s wishes. What Pharaoh wanted was a change in the law.

The Daily Mail article quotes Pharaoh as saying that her mother had dementia and that, if she could have done so, she would have helped her mother die. My family members and I have had parents with dementia and Alzheimer’s, for shorter and longer periods of time. None of us, even the agnostics, ever thought of putting them to death.

Another high profile case in Britain was that of 68-year old Bob Cole, who ended his days at the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland on August 14, 2015. Cole’s wife Ann Hall, who suffered from progressive supranuclear palsy, had died at the clinic 18 months before.

Cole had mesothelioma, a lung cancer, which left him doubled over — in his words, ‘crouching like an animal’. He, too, wanted a change in the law. The Telegraph reports (aforementioned link) that he told The Sun (another Murdoch paper, like The Times) in an interview:

I should be able to die with dignity in my own country, in my own bed. The law needs to change. How do you change the law? People have got to take a stand. So that’s what I’m doing today. 

The politicians need to have the guts to change this law. Just bite the bullet. Accept that the British public want this change. If they don’t it will be forced upon them because the public feeling is overwhelming.

Is ‘public feeling overwhelming’ on this issue?

In any event, there are British organisations promoting legalised assisted death. Dignity in Dying were informed once Bob Cole died. Gill Pharaoh had been a member of the Society for Old Age Rational Suicide (SOARS). What role do such groups play in encouraging personal publicity for past and future high profile assisted suicides?

Yuill has a point when he says that people who want to terminate their lives through assisted dying should do so quietly with no publicity.

Judeo-Christian supporters

Only days after my reader Llew forwarded me the Spiked article, I read an article in The Telegraph which left me speechless.

‘”There is nothing sacred about suffering”, insist faith leaders in assisted dying call’ shocked me.

Among these faith leaders are

Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism and Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain a leading figure in Reform Judaism …

That is bad enough. However, there are Christians, too: Baroness Richardson, first female President of Methodist Conference, along with prominent Anglicans such as Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, The Bishop of Buckingham, the Rt Rev Alan Wilson, and ‘a handful of Anglican clerics’.

It should be noted that the Church of England officially opposes euthanasia.

These men and women, Jews and Christians, are opposing the government — and God.

In a letter to The Telegraph, the article says, they wrote that:

far from being a sin, helping terminally ill people to commit suicide should be viewed simply as enabling them to “gracefully hand back” their lives to God.

There is, they insist “nothing sacred” about suffering in itself and no one should be “obliged to endure it”, they insist.

Wow. Just. Wow.

How can one ‘gracefully hand back’ one’s life to God by terminating it? He gave us life. Only He can legitimately end it. It is not up to us to decide when that moment is. Not so long ago, this sort of attitude would have been rightly condemned.

Well, Rob Marris (Labour) will have his Assisted Dying Bill debated within the next few weeks. May life-respecting and God-fearing heads prevail.

Why the law should stay as it is

The Telegraph article included the following rationale for maintaining the status quo:

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, co-chair of the Campaign group Living and Dying Well, which opposes a change, said: “The law exists to protect us, all of us and especially the most vulnerable among us, from harm – including self-harm.

“People who are terminally ill are especially vulnerable. As a society we go to considerable lengths to discourage and prevent suicide.

“Licensing assisted suicide for terminally ill people would fly in the face of that.”

I couldn’t agree more. In 2014, I pointed out that children’s euthanasia was already legal in the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium. There’s no minimum age in Belgium and in the other two countries a child only needs to be 12 years old before he can request his own death. These kids could be disabled, suffering from terminal illness or have a curable condition such as anorexia. This is a very slippery slope.

Returning to the Spiked article, Kevin Yuill pointed out that, on the other end of the age spectrum, a Dutch citizen’s initiative Uit Vrije Wil (Out of Free Will) received 117,000 letters of support in 2010 for a relaxation of the Netherlands’ law which would allow persons over the age of 70 to end their own lives just because they were tired of living!

And this isn’t a European phenomenon, either. My aforementioned post from 2014 gave these statistics:

In 2005, Gallup’s poll on the subject found that a majority of Christians in the United States support euthanasia: 75% of Catholics, 70% of Protestants and 61% of Evangelicals. A majority of Catholics and Protestants also support physician-assisted suicide, PAS — 60% and 52%, respectively — although only 32% of Evangelicals do.

It’s pretty clear that the rise of secularism in the 1960s, possibly before, brought about legalised control over life and death, beginning with abortion. A person can be his own god, making decisions only the Almighty rightly has control over.

Does God pardon Christian suicide?

John MacArthur’s Grace to You (GTY) ministry team wrote a worthwhile article, ‘Can one who commits suicide be saved?’

It’s short and well worth reading. On the one hand, as Christians are saved, in principle, suicide

can be forgiven like any other sin.

HOWEVER … on the other hand …

GTY say that this would be (emphases mine) only 

in a time of extreme weakness.

They explain:

… we question the faith of those who take their lives or even consider it seriously–it may well be that they have never been truly saved.

In which case, there is the issue of the second death at Judgement Day leading to eternal condemnation.

Their article cites Scripture saying that a true Christian has hope and purpose in his life. As such, suicide would not enter into the equation. And:

Furthermore, one who repeatedly considers suicide is practicing sin in his heart (Proverbs 23:7), and 1 John 3:9 says that “no one who is born of God practices sin.” And finally, suicide is often the ultimate evidence of a heart that rejects the lordship of Jesus Christ, because it is an act where the sinner is taking his life into his own hands completely rather than submitting to God’s will for it. Surely many of those who have taken their lives will hear those horrifying words from the Lord Jesus at the judgment–“I never knew you; Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23).

The article concludes:

So though it may be possible for a true believer to commit suicide, we believe that is an unusual occurrence. Someone considering suicide should be challenged above all to examine himself to see whether he is in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Bible verses against suicide and assisted death

There are many web pages with notional Scripture verses against suicide which includes assisted death. However, most of the verses are not very helpful.

The best page I have found is Adrian Warnock’s on Patheos.

Warnock is a physician and author. He also serves as part of the leadership team at Jubilee Church London.

Any Christian who is considering ending his own life through assisted dying would do well to read Warnock’s selection of Bible verses, meditate on them then pray fervently and frequently.

Here are the first three (emphases in the original):

This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it (John 11:4).

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. (2 Corinthians 7:10).

For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. (2 Corinthians 1:8–10.)

His page has several more.

Conclusion

Christians who listen to their clergy and leaders who advocate for euthanasia or assisted dying are in danger of dying an everlasting death. As they are making a considered, premeditated decision, they are guilty of murdering themselves.

Clergy advocating assisted dying would do well to examine their hearts humbly before the Lord, repent and publicly say they were wrong. They could be sending Christians — and themselves — to an eternal death. Theirs is such an irresponsible and reprehensible position to adopt.

No one knows why the Lord sends us debilitating and lengthy illnesses. However, He works everything to His purpose. In these situations, Christians must have hope, faith and pray whilst seeking palliative relief.

The basic problem is — and this seems to include certain clergymen, too — lack of faith, a love of self and pride in one’s own abilities and decision-making. I’ll return to these themes soon in another context.

Bible readingThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 9:1-8

Jesus Heals a Paralytic

And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing[a] their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

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Accounts of this miracle also feature in Luke’s and Mark’s Gospels.

I wrote about Luke 5:17-26 two years ago. That post includes a discussion of all three accounts. Mark’s version — Mark 2:1-12 — is actually one of the readings in the three-year Lectionary.

Matthew’s account is somewhat abbreviated by comparison. In verse 1, we read that Jesus was in His own city. Matthew 8 ends with the healing miracle of the two men with demons in the Gadara region. That was on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. The townspeople were afraid of Jesus after He sent the demons into the pigs which then ran off a cliff into the sea. The people asked Him to leave. He and His disciples sailed back home. They were now in Capernaum — probably at Peter’s house — as we know from Mark 2:1:

1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.

Matthew does not mention the setting for this miracle, but Mark and Luke do. Mark 2:2 tells us:

2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.

The first sentence of Luke 5:17 says:

17 On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem.

Matthew tells us that Jesus saw the faith of those who brought the paralytic before Him and that He pronounced the man’s sins forgiven (verse 2). Luke and Mark describe the extent of this intense faith. Luke 5:18-19:

18 And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, 19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus.

Mark 2:4:

4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.

One can imagine the commotion that must have caused.

While the idea of climbing on to someone’s roof sounds alarming to us, the houses in Jesus’s time had ladders or some sort of staircase to the roof where people often gathered in warm weather.

As for the forgiveness of sins, the King James Version has a lovely wording of Jesus’s absolution in verse 2 (emphases mine below):

Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.

As my post on Luke’s account says, not every illness was or is a result of sin, although this man’s paralysis was. John MacArthur says in his corresponding sermons for Luke and Matthew that it is possible this man had syphilis, which can result in paralysis.

That our Lord calls the man ‘son’ shows His true affection for and spiritual adoption of him. John MacArthur looks at the original Greek equivalent:

The word teknon could probably be translated child.  It’s a term of infinite tenderness.  Here is a man who is overwrought with his sin.  It’s been thrown at him from the social viewpoint, it’s bubbled up inside of him from the guilt of his own soul, he knows he is a sinful man, he believes that this man has the power of God, he has the faith as a sinner to put himself in the presence of a holy God and take his chances, and he is afraid.  That is why the Lord says to him, “Don’t be afraid.  Take courage.”  It simply means stop being afraid.  There’s nothing to fear.  The man is afraid because he’s a sinner.  But how wonderfully does the Lord say to him, “Child,” a word of tenderness.  How thrilling to face the Holy One, conscious of your sickness, conscious of your sin, in grief and terror and fear and hear Him say, “Child.”  That’s the tenderness of Christ, to love the sinner, even though He was offended by his sin.

Not surprisingly, the scribes accused Him of blasphemy (verse 3). Jesus replied by asking why they think in such an evil way and which would be the easier to utter: forgiveness or healing (verses 4 and 5). John MacArthur offers this analysis:

Which is easier?  Well they’re stuck.  You notice they don’t give any answer.  There is no answer because neither is easier.  Both are impossible to men; both are possible to God.  “Which is easier, to say, ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee’; or to say, ‘Arise and walk?’”  Well they knew they couldn’t say either one, but He could say both.  He can do either with the same divine ease.  They’re both just as easy to Him.  God doesn’t sweat doing anything.  Only God can heal.  Only God can forgive.  And they were the ones who taught that disease and sickness was the result of sin, so the two things were inseparable: One who could heal disease could forgive sin and one who could forgive sin could heal diseases.  If they thought about it, their own theology told them that.  So He says, “Which is easier, to forgive or to heal?”  And the answer is that neither is easier.  Both are impossible to them.  They’re impossible. So the Lord is saying, “Look.  You’re stuck.  If I can do them, if I can do one I can do the other.  And if I can do the other I’m not a blasphemer, I’m God.”  They were trapped.  They knew He could heal and when He said, “Is it easier to forgive?” they couldn’t say yes because it wasn’t.  Only God could do that and only God could do the other.  Just shows you that their rejection was a willful rejection against the truth.  If Jesus put away sickness, disease, and demons, and disasters, and death, He could certainly deal with sin.

Jesus then went on to say that He would show His divine authority not only by forgiving the man’s sins but also healing him (verse 6). The man picked up his bed and went home (verse 7).

Matthew Henry explains:

He that had power to remove the punishment, no doubt, had power to remit the sin. The scribes stood much upon a legal righteousness, and placed their confidence in that, and made no great matter of the forgiveness of sin, the doctrine upon which Christ hereby designed to put honour, and to show that his great errand to the world was to save his people from their sins.

When I was a child, I always wondered why Jesus told the man to pick up his bed and not hand it to him out of mercy. Henry says Jesus had a reason for this instruction:

Now, 1. Christ bid him take up his bed, to show that he was perfectly cured, and that not only he had no more occasion to be carried upon his bed, but that he had strength to carry it.

Unlike the Gadarenes, the crowd’s response was very different. Of course, this can be explained by the crowd’s religious knowledge and belief. Although only a handful of them probably ever believed that Christ was their Messiah, they knew this miracle came from God and felt a righteous awe (verse 8). Henry tells us:

Though few of this multitude were so convinced, as to be brought to believe in Christ, and to follow him, yet they admired him, not as God, or the Son of God, but as a man to whom God had given such power. Note, God must be glorified in all the power that is given to men to do good.

MacArthur makes this distinction about the onlookers:

This fear, this phobos, this reverential awe of God, is the substance out of which all Christian behavior is to come.  They glorify God and so should we, but they did it because they feared God, they reverenced, they were in awe of His presence.  That’s the right response.  I hope you have such awe of Christ.  So Jesus forgives sin; the greatest message we have to give.  All I can say to you is I hope you’ve had that forgiveness.  When the crowd was split there were those who were forgiven and those who were furious.  It doesn’t tell us about another group, but they were there too, those that were fickleThey just took it in and walked away

I can add nothing to the conclusion of his sermon:

Christ offers forgiveness, blocks out all the past, washes away all sins; plural is the word here, past, present, future.  The greatest news you’ll ever have.  It’s available to you.

Next time: Matthew 9:14-17

My Forbidden Bible Verses post last week looked at Matthew 8:28-34, the account the deliverance of the men near Gadara of their many demons.

This is often referred to as the story of the Gadarene swine, since Jesus sent the demons into a flock of pigs which ran off a cliff into the Sea of Galilee.

The townspeople were no doubt upset at the loss of their pigs. However, more importantly, they were alarmed by Jesus’s divine power and, instead of considering His miracle as being of God, actively rejected Him. Tomorrow’s post will reveal what happened to them. (If you’re reading this on August 27 into August 28, 2015, the link is not yet live.)

Many people today, Christians and secularists, find this healing miracle of deliverance disturbing because Jesus, at the demons’ request, drove them into the swine. The demons were so powerful that they drove the swine into the sea. Therefore, the modern conclusion is that Jesus was cruel in doing that to helpless pigs.

However, John MacArthur tells us that Jesus had to do it for reasons of human understanding:

Why?  Because if He’d just said, “Demons leave,” nobody would have known whether they left or where they went … But when you watch two thousand pigs dive off a cliff and drown in the sea, they knew exactly what had happened, that the demons had entered those pigs, which proved the point that He had cleansed those two men.

This is an important — and essential — point to explain to people who object to our Lord’s actions in this healing. Everything He did — and does — serves a divine purpose.

 

As I mentioned last week, London’s small silk weaving industry was based in Spitalfields in the East End. In its infancy, it employed mostly Irish weavers.

When the Huguenots settled there, they were able to expand England’s silk weaving industry. It wasn’t long before Spitalfields was known as ‘Weaver Town’. Exodus (“Movement of the People”) explains that more silk coupled with French styling proved fashionable with the British upper class. It wasn’t long before Weaver Town’s Huguenot owners of silk weaving workshops became wealthy men with hundreds of employees. Their large family homes are still standing today.

From the time of the first arrivals in London, Huguenots quickly established their own churches and charities. One church, La Patente, was in Spitalfields. Another, the French Church, was further west in Soho, in present-day central London. The French Protestant Hospital, La Providence, in Old Street came later, having been established in 1718. It took care not only of the sick but also the destitute. Institutions such as these provided an informal job network, particularly for those who arrived with no contacts, such as would-be apprentices.

A Birkbeck (University of London) PhD thesis by William Farrell, Silk and globalisation in eighteenth-century London: commodities, people and connections c.1720-1800, tells us how many were employed in textiles from the records of the three aforementioned institutions (p. 85 of the document). In the 18th century, La Patente’s register showed three-fifths textile employment, the French church in Soho four-fifths and La Providence hospital 48%.

Farrell writes that earlier Huguenot records with regard to silk industry employment are unclear. However, his research reveals that the more successful weavers and artisans settled in East London between 1610 and 1694 (p. 81). Not surprisingly, Spitalfields became a nexus for Huguenot silk weaving and a century later, was a well-established community where new arrivals could seek employment.

The same was true in Ireland, although their initial settlement in the 17th century was easier than that of the Huguenots in England. William of Orange facilitated this in two ways. He recruited Huguenots who had fled to the Netherlands to his army to fight the Battle of the Boyne. He also appealed to them through the Statute of King William for Encouraging French Protestants to Settle in Ireland (p. 81).

Whilst many silk industry workers were successful, movement was sometimes fluid for those who were less in demand or beset by bad luck in short-term employment. Some moved from Ireland to London. A few dared to travel back to France for work when the British silk seasons were slow. In any event, migrations were undertaken quickly once a worker determined where he wanted to go next (pp 81, 82).

Natalie Rothstein’s Canterbury and London: The Silk Industry in the Late Seventeenth Century tells us that Huguenot silk weavers came from Normandy’s Pays de Caux region which comprises the cities of Dieppe and Le Havre. She notes that those settling in Canterbury would have found a familiarity about the region. Kent’s topography is similar to the Pays de Caux’s with its fertile farmland. In terms of employment, there was a rich market to be plumbed. The seat of the Church of England is there and, at the time anyway, there were many wealthy farmers and members of the landed gentry in the surrounding area.

Huguenot and Walloon weavers in Canterbury established a workshop in the 16th century. Edward VI granted them the whole of the western crypt of Canterbury Cathedral for worship purposes. The workshop was in steady use until 1830.

Rothstein’s paper puts together the pieces of the puzzle with regard to the workshop’s closure and the death of the silk industry in Canterbury. It must have been quite a challenge. What is available says that the original records are difficult to come by and some have even been destroyed.

However, in the mid-18th century, the War of Austrian Succession disrupted the shipment of raw silk from Asia, Italy and Turkey (Farrell, p. 83). Dublin’s silk industry shrank dramatically between 1730 and 1763. Many weavers moved to London.

Another serious challenge came around the same time: mechanisation. Punch card looms put many weavers out of work, not only in Britain but also elsewhere in Europe. By 1801, embroidery had been mechanised, too.

Yet another difficulty, despite Huguenot expertise, was that the climate in the British Isles was never going to be conducive to a large-scale silk industry.

In the end, finished Indian and Chinese silks took over.

The Exodus article says that 30,000 workers in the 18th century were affected by the downturn. Violent clashes took place between owners and employees. The 1801 Spitalfields Acts attempted to calm things down by improving wages and conditions as well as protecting the English silk market.

However, the Huguenots of Spitalfields ended up moving to what were then London’s suburbs (likely to be in the centre of the capital today). Another chapter of artisanal history had come to a close.

Although commercial controversies surrounding Huguenot trading in England had been largely resolved, Charles I’s reign brought a return of threat to French worship.

A book from 1871, Protestant exiles from France in the reign of Louis XIV or, The Huguenot refugees and their descendants in Great Britain and Ireland, details this story. A summary and excerpts follow.

The ill-fated Charles I began his reign on March 24, 1625. His relationship with Protestant practice was compromised by his Catholic family members and friends. He didn’t feel able to embrace the Huguenot cause as James and Elizabeth had done. However, he also did not want to be seen to reject them for fear of going against public opinion. In 1626, he declared official recognition of ‘existing immunities’ of foreign Protestants and their children.

In 1633, the Most Reverend William Laud became Archbishop of Canterbury. He remains controversial to this day, and people either love him or loathe him. Laud boldly declared ‘brotherhood’ with Rome and wanted to change official statements of Protestantism as ‘the true religion’. He then forbade Huguenot children born in England from worshipping in their parents’ French churches; they had to attend English-speaking Anglican parish churches. He also proscribed French language liturgy in Huguenot churches.

Ten years later, the Civil War began and Parliament abolished the episcopacy on November 5, 1643. Members of the Commons and the Lords wanted to establish a British Church of a Calvinist nature. Certain English clergymen involved knew Calvinist practice in Scotland and France well and could speak French. Other clergy helping them in this regard were Huguenots in England.

In 1660 — the year of the Restoration — the Church of England’s structure was re-established along with the monarchy. Reports circulated about some of the Huguenots who had worked for Cromwell in diplomatic missions to France during the Interregnum. A few were suspected of being closet Catholics who worked against Cromwell, helping to bring about Charles II’s ascension to the throne. Others were suspected of being anti-monarchists and had to leave England for good. It was a time of religious and political intrigue. Jesuits were suspected of stirring the pot and plotting with renegade Huguenots against Cromwell.

In 1681, Charles II proposed citizenship for Huguenots. Oddly, given supposed public support of the French Protestants, legislators did nothing for the next 20 years. Favourable public opinion to the Huguenots did not extend to giving them the same rights and privileges as natural-born Englishmen, especially in London:

Any Englishman proposing such an act, was upbraided as an Esau, guilty of flinging away precious means of provision for himself and his family, the restrictions for foreigners being providential blessings for Englishmen. Any Bill to give foreigners a share of the Englishman s right was unpopular with the City of London, and with all boroughs and corporations.

In 1694, a naturalisation Bill was quietly dropped before the requisite readings could begin.

Therefore, it was only by through special measures — patent-letters from the King or private Acts of Parliament — that individual Huguenots, families and small groups could become citizens of England.

What follows is the text of a King’s Letter granting citizenship to one Peter de Lainc (emphases mine):

CHARLES, R. In pursuance of our Order of Council, made the 28th day of July last past [1681], in favour and for the relief and support of poore distressed protestants, who by reason of the rigours and severities which are used towards them upon the account of their Religion shall be forced to quitt their native country and shall desire to shelter themselves under our Royall protection and free exercise of their religion, of whom Peter de Lainc Esq., French Tutor to our dearest brother James Duke of York his children, is one, as appears by sufficient certificate produced to one of our principall Secretarys of State, and that he hath received the Holy Communion. Our will and pleasure is that you prepare a Bill for our royall signature, to pass our Create Scale, containing our grant for the making him the sayd Peter de Lainc, being an Alien borne, a free denizen of this oure kingdome of England, and that he have and enjoy all rights, priviledges and immunities as other free Denizens do. Provided he, the said Peter de Laine, live and continue with his family in this our kingdome of England, or elsewhere within our Dominions ; the said denization to be forthwith past under our great Scale without any fees or other charges whatsoever to be paid by him. For which this shall be your warrant. Dated at Whitehall, the 14th day of October, 1681.

By his Majesties Command,

To our Attorney or Sollicitor General.” I,. JENKINS.

Those naturalised included doctors, inventors, teachers, tutors, watch-makers, jewellers, tailors and  wig-makers.

In the 18th century, some Huguenot clergymen joined the Churches of England or Scotland. One prominent case concerned The Duke of Devonshire who was the patron of John-Armand du Bourdieu. The Duke gave him the Rectory of Sawtrey-Moynes in 1701, where du Bourdieu remained until he died in 1726.

Surnames became anglicised in some cases, for example:

As to the surname, Cabibel, I have often thought that the important modern name, Cabbel, was derived from it. As a beginning of changing French names into English equivalents, observe the entry “John Greene alias Vert.”

Queen Anne’s reign (1702-1714) produced little or nothing in the way of Huguenot naturalisation in the early years. Nonetheless, they were considered responsible and productive persons, as if they were English.

Finally, in 1709, a group of MPs managed to get a citizenship measure passed, the Bill for the Naturalization of Foreign Protestants:

The Bill became an Act of Parliament on the 23d March 1709; the qualification was the taking of the usual oaths, and there was also a Proviso, “that no person shall be naturalized, &c., unless he shall have received the Sacrament in some Protestant or Reformed congregation within this kingdom”.

The fee was sixpence.

Not every Huguenot took advantage of this long-awaited opportunity. Some hoped to return to France. Taking English citizenship would annul their French nationality.

Some Huguenots went to live in Ireland early on as administrators for Elizabeth I. Others went in commercial capacities or were given property. Later, Huguenot officers were enlisted to help fight in the Battle of the Boyne under General Schomberg for William of Orange. These officers were well-received and known for their military prowess and self-discipline. Some went on to serve in the West Indies and others to fight against France in 1706.

One example of the high esteem the English nobility had for these men concerns a Major Ovray at the end of his career:

The surname Ouvry occurs in the registers under the various spellings of Oufrey, Oufry, Ovre, Ouvres, Overy. On 5th June 1708, the Duke of Marlborough writes to the Earl of Pembroke, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, in favour of Major Ovray, who, having served the crown for thirty-six years was about to retire from the army in order to settle in Ireland, and “always behaved himself, as his officers inform me, with honour and reputation.” The purport of the Duke s request to the Earl is. “Bestow upon him some mark of your favour and goodness. Enable him to support himself and his family with comfort, and in a manner some way suitable to the character he has borne.”

What a lovely sentiment and way in which to recognise Huguenot character.

Bible ourhomewithgodcomThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 8:28-34

Jesus Heals Two Men with Demons

28 And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes,[a] two demon-possessed[b] men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. 29 And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” 30 Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. 31 And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” 32 And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters. 33 The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.

——————————————————————————————————-

Last week’s post described the storm on the Sea — lake — of Galilee that struck fear into the disciples. They woke Jesus who ‘rebuked the winds and the sea’ to restore immediate calm. He then asked the disciples why they had so little faith.

Now they have crossed the lake and are in another region, that of the Gadarenes (verse 28). I wrote about Luke’s account of this story in 2013 here and here. Both of those links explain more about the background to this story. Luke’s and Mark’s accounts (Mark 5:1-20 is in the three-year Lectionary) are much longer and record that the man — only one — wanted to become Jesus’s disciple. Jesus told him to go home and tell his friends what happened to him. No doubt he would do better among his own in being a living testament to Jesus’s healing power.

The Wikipedia map at the right shows Gadara and Gerasa. They are inland, but as my posts on Luke’s account explain, thanks to John MacArthur, those were probably the largest towns nearby. In any event, this region was known as the Decapolis, which also included what is now called Kersa. Kersa, MacArthur says, has many lakeside cliffs with tombs. What the Gospels describe is accurate.

Matthew says that there were two demon-possessed men, not one. They had extraordinary strength because of the demons working in them. They had to live away from everyone else, hence the tombs.

The demons spoke when they saw Jesus (verse 29), addressing Him as ‘the Son of God’, asking Him what His business was with them and why He was coming so early. That was a reference to the Second Coming.

Matthew Henry analyses the demons’ words (emphases mine):

Even the devils know, and believe, and confess Christ to be the Son of God, and yet they are devils still, which makes their enmity to Christ so much the more wicked, and indeed a perfect torment to themselves for how can it be otherwise, to oppose one they know to be the Son of God? Note, It is not knowledge, but love, that distinguishes saints from devils

Note, It is possible for me to call Jesus the Son of God, and yet have nothing to do with him. Secondly, It is as true, that the devils desire not to have any thing to do with Christ as a Ruler[;] they hate him, they are filled with enmity against him, they stand in opposition to him, and are in open rebellion against his crown and dignity.

A herd of pigs was feeding nearby (verse 30). How could this be in a Jewish region? Henry surmises:

Probably, lying in the outskirts of the land, there were many Gentiles among them, to whom this herd of swine belonged: or they kept them to be sold, or bartered, to the Romans, with whom they had now great dealings, and who were admirers of swine’s flesh.

He says that as a punishment to the people for breaking the Law in this manner, God allowed demon possession of these two men.

Demons don’t like the thought of dying. They assumed that Jesus would cast them out of the men. So they asked Him to let them continue their existence in the pigs (verse 31). He granted permission, they invaded the pigs and their incredible strength drove the herd into the sea (verse 32).

This should tell us how powerful Satan and his minions are. They bring nothing but destruction and death to souls:

See what an industrious enemy Satan is, and how expeditious he will lose no time in doing mischief …

Note, The possession which the devil gets is for destruction. Thus the devil hurries people to sin, hurries them to that which they have resolved against, and which they know will be shame and grief to them: with what a force doth the evil spirit work in the children of disobedience, when by so many foolish and hurtful lusts they are brought to act in direct contradiction, not only to religion, but to right reason, and their interest in this world!

The herdsmen rushed off to tell the townspeople what had happened to the men, now delivered (verse 33). The townspeople came to meet with Jesus and asked Him to leave (verse 34).

You would think they would be grateful and relieved, but they want nothing to do with Him.

John MacArthur explains:

By the way, this is the first recorded instance of open opposition to the Messiah and it all just mounts from here on.  He exposed them.  They despised him.  He was better than they, greater than they, purer than they, more powerful than they, more holy than they, and they resented that.  And they felt dirty and inadequate in His presence because He was so holy, and they felt impotent

To a believer, rejection of Christ for those reasons is an odd reaction to have. Yet, it is entirely normal. Even God-fearing people in Scripture responded likewise:

We’re right back to Isaiah 6.  “Woe is me.”  Woe, that’s the word of a curse.  Isaiah, the best man in the land, pronounced a curse on himself when he saw God because his unholiness was exposed.  Peter, when He saw Jesus Christ and the majesty of His power, said, “Depart from me for I’m a sinful man, O Lord.”  And last week I told you, when the storm came they were afraid, and when Jesus stilled the storm they were exceedingly afraid.  They were more afraid of the calm than they were of the storm because they knew God was in their boat and they were in awe of God. 

With the Gadarenes:

They saw the supernatural and it panicked them.  They saw One who could control the demons.  They saw One who could control animals.  They saw One who could take the soul of a man and give it back to him as white and pure as the driven snow, and they were scared to death.  They saw God, is what they saw.  I don’t know if they all understood that, but they knew it was supernatural, and men don’t like that.  It makes them uncomfortable: “Give us back our pigs and go away.”  Men can handle pigs; they can’t handle God. The mystery of the supernatural they can’t handle.

In the larger context of the Gospel story, MacArthur says that nearly everyone rejected Christ:

They couldn’t tolerate Jesus because of His perfection.  They couldn’t tolerate Him because of His absolute holiness.  He was so far beyond them that He unmasked them, that He showed the stupidity of their own lives.  That’s why they had to kill Him.  And here it all just begins to build.  They saw Him, they saw the power, they were absolutely panicked in awe of God.  Instead of falling at His feet in worship, they said, “Get out.  Go away.  We don’t want you.”

One would have thought that witnessing His miracles would have had an overwhelming power of conversion on more people. But that wasn’t the case:

… the people who saw the miracles didn’t believe.  They nailed Him to a cross and they’d seen miracle after miracle after miracle after miracle.  They still didn’t believe.  That just made them hate Him more and more and more and more.  People think today that if they can just show everybody a pile of miracles everybody will believe.  No, because some people, when exposed in the presence of the awesomeness of holy God, will literally run because they love their darkness. Have you ever picked up a rock and found a whole lot of little bugs under it that have been there for a long time, and as soon as you expose them to the light they just split, try to find a hole?  That’s the way men are.  You expose them to the light of God and they love their darkness.  They’ll go right back into the earth to find it again.  That’s where these were.

Loving darkness is the devil’s work.

May we follow the Light of the World today and always.

Next time: Matthew 9:1-8

Yesterday’s post discussed the rancour that English merchants and London Companies (guilds) had towards the Huguenots.

However, the Huguenots’ refugee-asylum status often had local or city ordinances attached with regard to work. Geni‘s article on their settlement points out that, in Canterbury, they (emphases mine):

practised the variety of occupations necessary to sustain the community distinct from the indigenous population, as such separation was the condition of the refugees’ initial acceptance in the City.

Therefore, it is hardly surprising that they were highly successful in employing skills they already had, that these skills were different to those of the indigenous population and that, eventually, these conditions were going to cause problems in terms of competitiveness.

Huguenots were kept apart from English trade, at least initially. They worked amongst themselves. Their talents and workmanship attracted the attention of the great and the good, as their products were elaborate and techniques new. It is understandable that the established London Companies and specialist manufacturers were going to resent their success and seek to rein it in.

Exodus (“Movement of the People”) tells us:

By 1710, between 40,000 and 50,000 refugees had made their way to the safety of England. Historians estimate that around half that number settled in Spitalfields [in London’s East End] where housing was cheap and the trade guilds held less economic power.

In general:

The Huguenots came from all walks of life, though many were intellectuals and highly skilled tradesmen with backgrounds in weaving, clock making, and financial services. Textile manufacturing, in fact, was the prevalent occupation amongst the refugees, and they found their services in high demand among the British upper class.

Their general demeanour also intrigued the British:

Their high fashion and language set them apart from the general population, and over time they achieved a level of respectability — particularly in contrast to the squalor and immorality of many Londoners.

No doubt that was a source of irritation to their detractors.

Another Geni page on British migration says that the Huguenots arrived when the silk industry in Spitalfields was small and employed mostly Irish weavers. The French were able to expand it greatly and add the manufacture of velvet.

Elsewhere in London:

Some were expert in making clocks and scientific instruments. Others were goldsmiths, silversmiths, merchants and artists.

And:

Because of their hard work and skills the Huguenots were known as ‘the profitable strangers’. During the 18th century members of the Huguenot and Jewish communities gave major financial support to both state and army.

Outside of London, I’ve mentioned elsewhere that the Huguenots favoured towns along the southern coast of England. Geni tells us that in Kent, besides Canterbury, they also settled in:

Sandwich, Faversham and Maidstone—towns in which there used to be refugee churches.

Canterbury Cathedral still holds a service in the French Reformed rite every Sunday at 3 p.m. in the chantry chapel of the Black Prince.

Elsewhere in England, Bedfordshire and Norwich were popular destinations. Bedfordshire:

was (at the time) the main centre of England’s lace industry. Huguenots greatly contributed to the development of lace-making in Bedfordshire, with many families settling in Cranfield, Bedford and Luton. Some of these immigrants moved to Norwich, which had accommodated an earlier settlement of Walloon weavers; they added to the existing immigrant population, which comprised about a third of the population of the city.

Weavers who settled in Ireland often went to Dublin and the Liberties district of the city. There:

they became part of the existing weaving fraternity. Many of them were experienced silk weavers and their expertise contributed to the establishment of a thriving silk and poplin industry.

The Irish weavers seem to have been more integrated than their English counterparts. When Dublin’s weavers needed a new guildhall in 1745, a Huguenot, David Digges La Touche, advanced the necessary sum of £200.

Ensign Message‘s article says that many Huguenots who settled in England came from northern France, particularly Picardy (John Calvin’s home region), Normandy and Brittany. Brittany has a centuries-old tradition of lace making. A significant number of — though not all — silk weavers came from Lyon, which is still the centre of France’s textile industry.

The footnotes to Ensign Message‘s essay are illuminating. One neatly summarises the advances British industry was able to make thanks to the Huguenots:

These skilled workmen brought in new methods of work, and in many cases new trades. Take the silk trade as an example. Before these French refugees came into the country, the silk trade in England was a very small affair. But among the newcomers was a large body of silk-weavers from Lyons, the headquarters of the French silk industry.They settled chiefly in Spitalfields, and with their aid the English trade advanced by leaps and bounds.

Among other trades introduced by these refugees were the making of sailcloth, of paper, of hats, of velvets and damasks, while other trades much benefited were those of watchmaking, clock-making, lock-making, cutlery, glass and pottery.

One industry, that of hat-making, seemed to come over bodily to England. The art of dealing with the beaverskin was brought to such perfection among the Huguenot refugees that from the factory in London even the Cardinals of Rome used to obtain their hats.

The other footnote has a marvellous quote from historian John Finnemore’s 1924 book, Social Life in England (italics in the original):

Between 1670 and 1690 no less a number than 80,000 French Protestants came to England.They were well received, and they were worthy of a welcome. For one and all belonged to the thrifty, hard-working, deft-handed class which has always been the salt of France.

More posts on the Huguenots in Britain will follow next week.

After the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre on August 23, 1572, hundreds of Huguenots set sail for England.

In Paris, Ambassador Sir Francis Walsingham’s house was respected as a place of sanctuary for the Huguenots. However, those who lived in the north of France packed their belongings and planned their escape.

A book from 1871, Protestant exiles from France in the reign of Louis XIV or, The Huguenot refugees and their descendants in Great Britain and Ireland, details this story. A summary and excerpts follow.

Elizabeth I, her advisers and the Church of England were shocked and moved by the persecution of their Protestant counterparts in France. Special prayers were authorised to be said in churches on October 27, 1572. Plans were made to offer the refugees shelter and a new life.

As with so many migrations, the upper classes viewed this differently to ordinary townspeople. The historian Strype observed:

The better sort of the Queen’s subjects were very kind unto these poor Protestants, and glad to see them retired unto more safety in this country ; but another sort (divers of the common people and rabble, too many of them) behaved themselves otherwise towards these afflicted strangers, and would call them by no other denomination but French dogs. This a French author, sometime afterward, took notice of in print, to the disparagement of the English nation.

William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley from NPG (2).jpgAnother adviser to the Queen, Lord Burghley, deeply affected by events, was kept informed of Huguenot arrivals. One of his memoranda states that, in the weeks after the massacre, 641 people from the northern French towns of Dieppe and Rouen arrived in Rye (East Sussex), one of England’s Cinque Ports. In November, 58 more arrived.

Burghley’s family estate was further north in Lincolnshire in the town of Stamford. He was instrumental in creating a Huguenot colony there. Among the new arrivals were schoolmasters, merchants, silk-weavers, hatters, dyers and cutlers (cutlery makers). They had their own place of worship and their own minister. However, by the early 18th century, the colony had dispersed. Strype wrote in 1711 that townspeople still remembered the minister, Isbrand Balkius, who must have stayed there as he was of riper years when he died.

Many Huguenots settled in coastal towns along the south coast of England from Kent to the West Country. A few, manufacturers in particular, went to the Midlands or to the East of England. English merchants had reservations about how much trade the Huguenots should do. Whilst they empathised with the plight of the French Protestants and were happy with them to make goods at wholesale level,

they were bent upon shutting up the retail-shops of all foreigners.

In 1588, much to Lord Burghley’s disappointment, Parliament debated the Bill against Strangers and Aliens Selling Wares by Retail. In an impassioned speech to Parliament, Burghley acknowledged that he must let his head rule his heart on the matter. However, he also cited the Old Testament books of Leviticus and Ezekiel which exhort kindness to strangers. He concluded that Huguenot retail shops would be so few in number that English shopkeepers would not notice an effect on their revenues.

Burghley’s speech might have helped to defeat the legislation. The Bill was also refused a second reading. A subsequent proposal requiring foreigners’ children to pay a special tax never saw the light of day.

It should be noted that none of the Huguenot groups asked for a handout, only the opportunity to work for a living. The better off took care of their poorer brethren.

Burghley died in 1598, at which point shopkeepers’ rancour again surfaced. In 1599, the Lord Mayor of London forbade foreign retail shops. Queen Elizabeth, Archbishop Whitgift and prominent advisers advised him to drop the restrictions. In 1601, Lord Buckhurst, the Lord High Treasurer, asked Attorney-General Coke to drop all legal cases against foreign shopkeepers.

Queen Elizabeth died on March 24, 1603. Archbishop Abbot said:

Queen Elizabeth, who, having at her coming to the crown, promised to maintain the truth of God and to deface superstition, with this beginning with uniformity continued, yielding her land, as a sanctuary to all the world groaning for liberty of their religion, flourishing in wealth, honour, estimation every way.

Her successor, King James, wrote letters in French to the French Church in England and to the Dutch Refugee Church promising that he would continue his predecessor’s policy of sanctuary to persecuted Protestants. He acknowledged their contributions to English society, particularly in the manufacture of goods and in political science.

Nevertheless, by 1605, the London Companies (guilds) of weavers, cutlers, goldsmiths and others were up in arms, accusing Huguenots of undercutting them. They appealed to James’s advisers for new laws protecting them from ‘alien industry’. In 1606, a law was passed requiring ‘double custom’ to be paid on baize. The same tax was payable on other exported cloth.

In 1615, the Weavers Company made the following accusation:

the strangers employed more workmen than were allowed by statute, and then concealed them when search was made that they lived more cheaply and therefore sold more cheaply than the English that they imported silk lace contrary to law.

In 1621, the Weavers Company issued another complaint:

Their chiefest cause of entertainment here of late was in charity to shroud them from persecution for religion; and, being here, their necessity became the mother of their ingenuity in devising many trades, before to us unknown.

The result was a law requiring Huguenot businesses to employ English apprentices and servants to learn these unknown trades (emphases mine):

the neglect whereof giveth them advantage to keep their mysteries to themselves, which hath made them bold of late to devise engines for working of tape, lace, ribbon, and such, wherein one man doth more among them than seven Englishmen can do ; so as their cheap sale of those commodities beggareth all our English artificers of that trade and enricheth them. Since the making of the last statute they are thought to be increased ten for one, so as no tenement is left to an English artificer to inhabit in divers parts of the city and suburbs, but they take them over their heads at a great rate. So their numbers causeth the enhancing of the price of victuals and house rents, and much furthereth the late disorderly new buildings which is so burdonous to the subject that His Majesty hath not any work to perform for the good of his commons (especially in cities and towns) than by the taking of the benefit of the law upon them, a thing which is done against his own subjects by common informers. But their daily flocking hither without such remedy is like to grow scarce tolerable.

To address these accusations, London censuses were taken in 1618 and 1621. The government considered that the London Companies’ had exaggerated their accusations. The government’s conclusion aligned with English public opinion. People were happy with the Huguenots’ presence and their contributions to society.

I find interesting the arguments that the Weavers Company advanced about immigration, industry and housing in London. The general view today is that Huguenots were absorbed into English society without a problem. Whilst that might have been true generally, London — and no doubt other centres of industry — probably had the usual problems with an influx of foreigners.

What was the truth? Quite possibly somewhere between what both the government and the London Companies asserted. At least there was no question of public assistance in those days.

Tomorrow: Huguenots under Charles I

Yesterday’s post retraced the history of France’s Protestants, the Huguenots.

After the Revolution, France was unstable until Napoleon took power as First Consul and Emperor. His reforms in the Napoleonic Code brought social and political order which lasted throughout the restoration of the monarchy (1815-1848). Today, it endures through the various incarnations of the Republic. France is now in its fifth.

A book review from 1963 by Jean (John) Tulard on Protestantism in 19th century France — ‘French Protestants at the beginning of the 19th century’ — describes what happened during the Napoleonic era and the Restoration. The essay is in French. A summary of developments follows with page citations in parentheses.

When Napoleon assumed power, a number of prominent French men and women thought he would make France a Protestant nation (p. 48). The emperor had stated his admiration for Lutheranism over the Calvinism which dominated French Protestantism (p. 49). It is possible that Napoleon viewed Lutherans as being more respectful of German state authority whilst preserving their Christianity. France’s Calvinists were known as individualists who had rebelled against the government. John Calvin encouraged this outlook which, it could be argued, helped to exacerbate the Wars of Religion and result in the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre:

in his Readings on the Prophet Daniel, a book of 1561, in which he had argued that when kings disobey God, they “automatically abdicate their worldly power” – a change from his views in earlier works that even ungodly kings should be obeyed. This change was soon picked up by Huguenot writers, who began to expand on Calvin and promote the idea of the sovereignty of the people, ideas to which Catholic writers and preachers responded fiercely.[8]

Nevertheless, it was only in the aftermath of the massacre that anti-monarchical ideas found widespread support from Huguenots, among the “Monarchomachs” and others. “Huguenot writers, who had previously, for the most part, paraded their loyalty to the Crown, now called for the deposition or assassination of a Godless king who had either authorised or permitted the slaughter”.[9] Thus, the massacre “marked the beginning of a new form of French Protestantism: one that was openly at war with the crown. This was much more than a war against the policies of the crown, as in the first three civil wars; it was a campaign against the very existence of the Gallican monarchy itself”.[10]

However, by the time of the French Revolution a little over two centuries later, some historians argue that Protestants had no desire to overthrow the state. Jean Tulard says that, in reality, many supported a counter-Revolution (p. 51). The Revolution resulted in temporary sanctions against Christianity, affecting the religious practice of both Catholics and Protestants.

As far as Napoleon was concerned, however, he knew little about Protestant belief — whether Lutheran or Calvinist — and wanted to preserve a religious peace and practice with no return to bloody religious conflict (p. 52). Therefore, those who feared or wanted the creation of a Protestant state were mistaken.

In fact, whilst Protestants had religious liberty, Napoleon decreed that consistories could have no more than 6,000 congregants, the government had to authorise synod meetings and affiliations with churches abroad were forbidden (p. 53). All of these made Calvinists quietly suspicious of his intentions. Lutherans, on the other hand, did not mind these restrictions (p. 54).

Life in the early 19th century improved for France’s Protestants. A pastor of the era, Samuel Vincent, wrote that Protestants ‘were more than tolerated’. Seven were serving in government. The number of pastors rose from 200 in 1814 to 305 by 1829. Theological debate opened up and their Bible Society also revived (p. 55). Detailed records were kept of the various consistories all over the country (p. 56).

During the Restoration, France’s Protestants were once again allowed to liaise with their fellow Christians in foreign countries. Revival was taking place in Britain thanks to the Methodists and in Switzerland with an evangelist, Mr Neff, in Geneva. These associations helped France’s Bible Society to further prosper (p. 58). Protestants felt free to evangelise in their own nation and made a number of converts, notably in the north, in the southwest (Bayonne), the central region around Saint Étienne and also further east in Lyon.

The nature of Protestant practice and thought also changed. The Reformed churches became increasingly involved in charitable works. They opened orphanages, undertook missionary work in women’s prisons and opened an agricultural school for young male inmates (pp 58, 59).

This open social outlook continues today in France’s Reformed churches which are now part of the country’s United Church, where they partner with Lutherans.

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