Students of the French Reformation

One of the deep joys of my life has been involvement with other scholars seeking to grow in their understanding of God’s ways in the history of his Church. This past week I spent three and a half days with Stéphane Gagné, the assistant pastor of a French Baptist Church in St-Georges-de-Beauce, Quebec. He is working on a M.A. in Church History from SEMBEQ in Montreal (for Stéphane’s blog, see Yanick Éthier, Stéphane Gagné, & François Turcotte). We normally meet twice a year like this and spend time working through an historical period. This time we spent our days at St. Paul’s marvelous library in Ottawa, working through the French Reformation, the relationship of Calvin and Pierre Viret, the origins and course of the French Reformed cause in France, Huguenot history between the death of Théodore de Bézè and the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, and some of the key figures of this era—Pierre du Moulin, Jean Claude, Moïse Amyraut, and Claude Brousson. Last night and this morning we studied the English Reformation—its causes and course—and the emergence of Puritanism.

Looking at the French Reformation and the English Reformation in such close proximity reminded me afresh of the links between the two. For instance, I cannot help but think that it is possible that Jean-Baptiste Morelli’s working out a Congregationalist perspective in Paris in the 1560s before the Massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day had an influence on the position of Browne, Barrow and Greenwood in the 1580s and 1590s.

Or again, to be Reformed between 1660 and the 1680s was a harrowing experience. In both France and England the Reformed cause was a house under siege and it was on the defensive. From a pessimistic perspective, much seemed lost. But our ways are not God’s ways, nor are our time his times. His timing is always perfect.