Dear Reader: After sharing about Saint Bartholomew’s Massacre and the Huguenots (French Protestants) in the pervious post, I wanted to share why they fled to various nations, including America. The following article is from The One Year Christian History by E. Michael and Sharon Rusten.
God bless you. Carl
“Why is France today considered a mission field?”
The Wars of Religion began in France in 1562 between the Roman Catholics and the French Protestants called Huguenots. The Huguenots were led by the family of Henry of Navarre, a minor kingdom including a small portion of southern France and the present Spanish province of Navarre. Henry inherited the throne of Navarre from his staunchly Calvinist mother. When his cousin King Henry III of France died in 1589, he became heir to the throne of France. His Calvinism made him an unacceptable candidate in Catholic France until he embraced Catholicism in 1593. He was then crowned King Henry IV.
Once he became king, however, he did not forget his Huguenot roots, and in 1598 he issued the Edict of Nantes. This agreement gave the Huguenots freedom of religion in certain areas of the country, civil equality, and fair administration of justice. It provided the Huguenots with a state subside for their troops and pastors and allowed them to retain control of approximately two hundred towns. The Edict of Nantes was historically unique in that it was the first time freedom was granted to two religions to coexist in a nation.
By the late 1600s Henry IV’s grandson, Louis XIV, was king of France. But Louis XIV shared none of his grandfather’s empathy for the Huguenots and on October 18, 1685, he revoked the Edict of Nantes. All Huguenot churches were either destroyed or turned in Catholic churches. Huguenot clergy were given fourteen days to leave France, but the remaining Huguenots were forbidden to emigrate. All children within France were to be baptized by a Catholic priest and raised as Catholics.
[Dear Reader: As time drew near for Louis XIV to meet his Maker, he inquired of his Roman Catholic priest as to what could he do to atone for the wicked things he had done in his life. The priest told him to exterminate the Protestants. To read about this time of persecution read “Six Centuries of Carnage” on this blog. If you scroll down under this blog, you will find it. ]
Mounted soldiers were housed in the homes of Huguenots. The troops were given license to do anything they pleased, short of murder. They forced their hosts to dance until they collapsed. They poured boiling water down their throats. They beat the soles of their feet and pulled out the hairs from their beards. The soldiers burned the arms and legs of their Huguenot hosts with candles and made them hold red-hot coals in their hands. They forced women to stand naked in the streets.
Some four hundred thousand “converts” were forced to attend Mass and receive the Eucharist. Those who spat out the wafer as they left the [Catholic] church were sentenced to be burned alive. Obstinate Huguenot men were imprisoned in dungeons and unheated cells. The women sometimes fared better as they were sent to convents, where they often receive unexpectedly sympathetic treatment from the nuns.
Of the 1.5 million Huguenots living in France in 1660, over the next decades 400,000 risked their lives by escaping across the guarded borders. Geneva, a city of 16,000, welcomed four thousand Huguenots. Although they were Catholic, English kings Charles II and James II aided the Huguenot immigrants in their country. An entire quarter of London was soon populated with French workers. The elector of Brandenburg gave such a friendly reception to the Huguenots that over a fifth of Berlin was French by 1697. Holland welcomed thousands and gave them citizenship. Dutch Catholics joined Protestants and Jews in raising money for Huguenot relief. Many Huguenots fled to South Carolina and to the other colonies as well.
At the height of the Reformation nearly half of the population of France was Huguenot. But as a result of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes and the intense persecutions that followed, today less than one percent of the French shares the faith of the Huguenots, making France a mission field for the gospel.”
The above history is from The One Year Christian History by E. Michael and Sharon Rusten. If you are looking for a daily, historical devotional, I strongly recommend this book.
Considering all of this, is it any wonder that some of the early American colonies prohibited Catholics from settling in their colony? And that the Huguenots risked it all to reach a tolerant nation where they would have freedom of religion.
Today, Christians are being persecuted in many nations. It is our responsibility as born again believers and children of Almighty God to remember out brothers and sisters who are being prosecuted, tortured, kidnapped and murdered for their faith in the Muslin countries, Nigeria, Vietnam, Communist China, Hindu India, Mexico, Central America and other countries. Hebrew 13:3 says:
“Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated , since you yourselves also are in the body. “
Pray for the comfort of the Holy Spirit to be with them and that they may persevere in the Faith, even unto death if necessary. Pray that their persecutors would be saved by the grace of God.
Thank you for your time.