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History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.
« Prev The Leaders of the Libertines and their… Next »

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


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

1. Jacques Gruet was the first victim of Calvin’s discipline who suffered death for sedition and blasphemy. His case is the most famous next to that of Servetus. Gruet739739    A son of Humbert Gruet, notary public of Geneva; not to be confounded with Canon Claude Gruet. See Opera, XII. 546, note 9; Bonnet,Letters fr. I. 212, and Henry, II. 440. was a Libertine of the worst type, both politically and religiously, and would have been condemned to death in any other country at that time. He was a Patriot descended from an old and respectable family, and formerly a canon. He lay under suspicion of having attempted to poison Viret in 1535. He wrote verses against Calvin and the refugees which (as Audin says) were "more malignant than poetic." He was a regular frequenter of taverns, and opposed to any rules in Church and State which interfered with personal liberty. When in church, he looked boldly and defiantly into the face of the preacher. He first adopted the Bernese fashion of wearing breeches with plaits at the knees, and openly defied the discipline of the Consistory which forbade it. Calvin called him a scurvy fellow, and gives an unfavorable account of his moral and religious character, which the facts fully justified.

On the 27th of June, 1547, a few days after the wife of Perrin had defied the Consistory,740740    On the date see Opera, XII. 546, note 7, and Annal. XXI. 407, sub Lundi Juin 27: "Un é’crit violent contre Calvin et ses collègues est trouvédans la chaire d’un des temples." Calvin’s letter to Viret, July 2, 1547: "Postridie reperitur charta in suggestu qua mortem nobis minantur." the following libel, written in the Savoyard patois, was attached to Calvin’s pulpit in St. Peter’s Church: —


"Gross hypocrite (Gros panfar), thou and thy companions will gain little by your pains. If you do not save yourselves by flight, nobody shall prevent your overthrow, and you will curse the hour when you left your monkery. Warning has been already given that the devil and his renegade priests were come hither to ruin every thing. But after people have suffered long they avenge themselves. Take care that you are not served like Mons. Verle of Fribourg.741741    Peter Wernly, a canon of St. Peter’s, was killed in a fight with the Protestants, while endeavoring to save himself by flight, May 4, 1533. We will not have so many masters. Mark well what I say."742742    "Nota bin mon dire." See the original of the placard in Opera, XII. 546, note 8. Gaberel and Ruchat give it in modern French. The editors of the Opera refer panfar to Abel Poupin ("Panfar ventrosum dicit Poupinum").


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

Gruet was tortured every day for a month, after the inhuman fashion of that age.743743    In the case of Gentilis and Servet, however, no mention is made of the torture. He confessed that he had affixed the libel, and that the papers found in his house belonged to him; but he refused to name any accomplices. He was condemned for religious, moral, and political offences; being found guilty of expressing contempt for religion; of declaring that laws, both human and divine, were but the work of man’s caprice; and that fornication was not criminal when both parties were consenting; and of threatening the clergy and the Council itself.744744    The sentence of condemnation (Opera, XII. 667) reads: "Par jceste nostre diffinitive sentence, laquelle donnons icy par escript, toy Jaque Gruet condampnons a debvoyr estre mene au lieu de Champel et illect debvoyer avoyer tranche la teste de dessus les espaules, et ton corps attache aut gibet et la teste cloye en jcelluy et ainsy finiras tes jours pour donner exemple aux aultres qui tel cas vouldroyent commestre." The charges assigned are blasphemy against God, offence against the civil magistracy, threats to the ministers of God, and "crime de leze majeste meritant pugnition corporelle."

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

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

Gruet’s book was, at Calvin’s advice, publicly burnt by the hangman before Gruet’s house, May 22, 1550.745745    The sources for the case of Gruet are the acts of the criminal process and sentence, printed in Opera, XII. 563-568 (in French); letters of Calvin to Viret, July 2, 24, 1547 (in Opera, XII. 545, 559, in Bonnet II. 108 and 114); Calvin’s report on the blasphemous book of Gruet, in Opera, XIII. 568-572 (in French, also printed in Henry, II. 120, and in Letters by Jules Bonnet, French ed., I. 311; English ed., II. 254); Reg. du Conseil, July 25, 1547, and May 22, 1550, noticed in Annal. 409, 465.—Of modern writers, see Henry, (II. 410, 439, 441 sqq.; abridged in Stebbing’s translation, II. 64 sqq., without the Beilage); Audin, ch. XXXVI. (pp. 396 sqq. of the English translation); Dyer, 213 sqq.; and Stähelin, I. 399 sqq.

2. Ami Perrin (Amy Pierre), the military chief (captain-general) of the Republic, was the most popular and influential leader of the Patriotic party. He had been one of the earliest promoters of the Reformation, though from political rather than religious motives; he had protected Farel against the violence of the priests, and had been appointed deputy to Strassburg to bring Calvin back to Geneva.746746    Oct. 21, 1540. A day afterwards, Dufour was appointed by the Council, and went in his place. Annal. 267. See above, p. 430. He was one of the six lay-members who, with the ministers, drew up the Ecclesiastical Ordinances of 1542, and for some time he supported Calvin in his reforms. He could wield the sword, but not the pen. He was vain, ambitious, pretentious, and theatrical. Calvin called him, in derision, the stage-emperor, who played now the "Caesar comicus," and now the "Caesar tragicus."747747    Beza calls him "vanissimus, sed audax et ambitiosus " (XXI. 138). Audin, the patron of all the enemies of Calvin, describes Perrin as "a man of noble nature, who wore the sword with great grace, dressed in good taste, and conversed with much facility; but a boaster at table and at the Council, where he deafened every one with his boastful loquacity, his fits of self-love, and his theatrical airs … . As to the rest, like all men of this stamp, he had an excellent heart, was devoted as a friend, with cool blood, and patriotic even to extremes. At table it was his delight to imitate the Reformer, elongating his visage, winking his eyes, and assuming the air of an anchorite of the Thebaid" (p. 390). Perrin’s chief defender is the younger Galiffe.

Perrin’s wife, Francesca, was a daughter of François Favre, who had taken a prominent part in the political struggle against Savoy, but mistook freedom for license, and hated Calvin as a tyrant and a hypocrite. His whole family shared in this hatred. Francesca had an excessive fondness for dancing and revelry, a violent temper, and an abusive tongue. Calvin called her "Penthesilea" (the queen of the Amazons who fought a battle against the Greeks, and was slain by Achilles), and "a prodigious fury."748748    "Prodigiosa furia." Letter to Farel, Sept. 1, 1546 (in Opera, XII. 377 sq., and Bonnet, II. 56). In the same letter he says: "She shamelessly undertakes the defence of all crimes." She did not spare Calvin’s wife, and calumniously asserted among her own friends that Idelette must have been a harlot because Calvin confessed, at the baptism of his infant, that she and her former husband had been Anabaptists. So Calvin reports to Farel, Aug. 21, 1547 (in Opera, XII. 580 sq.; Bonnet, II. 124). Audin apologizes for Francesca, as "one of those women whom our old Corneille would have taken for heroines; excitable, choleric, fond of pleasure, enamoured of dancing, and hating Calvin as Luther hated a monk" (p. 390).

He found out too late that it is foolish and dangerous to quarrel with a woman. He forgot Christ’s conduct towards the adulteress, and Mary Magdalene.

A disgraceful scene which took place at a wedding in the house of the widow Balthazar at Belle Rive, brought upon the family of Favre, who were present, the censure of the Consistory and the punishment of the Council. Perrin, his wife and her father were imprisoned for a few weeks in April, 1546. Favre refused to make any confession, and went to prison, shouting: "Liberty! Liberty! I would give a thousand crowns to have a general council."749749    Calvin reminded Francesca on that occasion that "her father had been already convicted of one adultery [in 1531], that the proof of another was at hand, and that there was a strong rumor of a third. I stated that her brother had openly contemned and derided both the Council and the ministers." Letter to Farel, April, 1546. She told him in reply: "Méchant homme, vous voulez boire le sang de notre famille, mais vous sortirez de Genève avant nous." See the notes in Opera, XII. 334. Perrin made an humble apology to the Consistory. Calvin plainly told the Favre family that as long as they lived in Geneva they must obey the laws of Geneva, though every one of them wore a diadem.750750    See Calvin’s letters to Farel, April, 1546, and Sept. 1, 1546 (in Opera, XII. 334 sqq., 377 sq., and Bonnet II. 38, 56), and extracts from the Registers of the Consistory and the Council in Annal. 377 sqq. Comp. Dyer, 208 sq.; Audin, 391 sq. Audin gives a lively description of the wedding and dancing at Belle Rive, and the examination before the Consistory.

From this time on Perrin stood at the head of the opposition to Calvin. He loudly denounced the Consistory as a popish tribunal. He secured so much influence over the Council that a majority voted, in March, 1547, to take the control of Church discipline into their own hands. But Calvin made such a vigorous resistance that it was determined eventually to abide by the established Ordinances.751751    See the extracts from the Rég. du Conseil March and April, 1547, in Annal. 399-406.

Perrin was sent as ambassador to Paris (April 26, 1547), and was received there with much distinction. The Cardinal du Bellay sounded him as to whether some French troops under his command could be stationed at Geneva to frustrate the hostile designs of the German emperor against Switzerland. He gave a conditional consent. This created a suspicion against his loyalty.

During his absence, Madame Perrin and her father were again summoned before the Consistory for bacchanalian conduct (June 23, 1547). Favre refused to appear. Francesca denied the right of the court to take cognizance of her private life. When remonstrated with, she flew into a passion, and abused the preacher, Abel Poupin, as "a reviler, a slanderer of her father, a coarse swine-herd, and a malicious liar." She was again imprisoned, but escaped with one of her sons. Meeting Abel Poupin at the gate of the city she insulted him afresh and "even more shamefully than before."752752    Calvin to Viret, July 2, 1547 (Opera, XII. 545, Bonnet, II. 108). Comp. Annal. 407 sq.; Gaberel, I. 387; Roget, II. 284. Bonivard and after him Gaberel report that Francesca rushed with her horse against Abel, who barely escaped serious injury. See note 6 in Opera, XII. 546.

On the 27th of June, 1547, Gruet’s threatening libel was published.753753    See above, p. 502. Calvin was reported to have been killed. He received letters from Burgogne and Lyons that the Children of Geneva had offered five hundred crowns for his head.754754    Calvin to Farel, Aug. 21, 1547 (Opera, XII. 580; Bonnet, II. 123 and note); Reg. of the Consistory, Sept. 1, 1547.

On his return from Paris, Perrin was capitally indicted on a charge of treason, and of intending to quarter two hundred French cavalry, under his own command, at Geneva. His excuse was that he had accepted the command of these troops with the reservation of the approval of the government of Geneva. Bonivard, the old soldier of liberty and prisoner of Chillon, took part against Perrin. The ambassadors of Bern endeavored to divert the storm from the head of Perrin to the French ambassador Maigret the Magnifique. Perrin was expelled from the Council, and the office of captain-general was suppressed, but he was released from prison, together with his wife and father-in-law, Nov. 29, 1547.755755    Reg. du Conseil: "Perrin est relâchévu sa long detention et crie merci." Annal. 417. François Favre had been previously deprived of the rights of citizenship (Oct. 6) on the charge of exciting an émeute against the French refugees, and calling Calvin "le grand diable." Ibid. 413sq.

The Libertines summoned all their forces for a reaction. They called a meeting of the Council of Two Hundred, where they expected most support. A violent scene took place on Dec. 16, 1547, in the Senate house, when Calvin, unarmed and at the risk of his life, appeared in the midst of the armed crowd and called upon them, if they designed to shed blood, to begin with him. He succeeded, by his courage and eloquence, in calming the wild storm and preventing a disgraceful carnage. It was a sublime victory of reason over passion, of moral over physical force.756756    Dec. 16 (not Sept. 16) is the date given in the Reg. of the Venerable Company, quoted in Annal. 418. Beza briefly alludes to the scene; Calvin gives an account of it in a letter to Viret, dated Dec. 17, 1547, a day after the occurrence (in Opera, XII. 632 sq.). This letter is misdated, Dec. 14, by Bonnet (II. 134, apparently a typographical error), and Sept. 17 by Henry (II. 434) and Dyer (p. 219). The last error crept into the Latin editions, against the manuscripts, which give Dec. 17. The letter is defective at the beginning and was first published by Beza. Galiffe overlooked it. See the notes of the Strassburg editors, XII. 633.

The ablest of the detractors of Calvin cannot help paying here an involuntary tribute to him and to the truth of history. This is his dramatic account.

"The Council of the Two Hundred was assembled. Never had any session been more tumultuous; the parties, weary of speaking, began to appeal to arms. The people heard the appeal. Calvin appears, unattended; he is received at the lower part of the hall with cries of death. He folds his arms, and looks the agitators fixedly in the face. Not one of them dares strike him. Then, advancing through the midst of the groups, with his breast uncovered: ’If you want blood,’ says he, ’there are still a few drops here; strike, then!’ Not an arm is raised. Calvin then slowly ascends the stairway to the Council of the Two Hundred. The hall was on the point of being drenched with blood; swords were flashing on beholding the Reformer, the weapons were lowered, and a few words sufficed to calm the agitation. Calvin, taking the arm of one of the councillors, again descends the stairs, and cries out to the people that he wishes to address them. He does speak, and with such energy and feeling, that tears flow from their eyes. They embrace each other, and the crowd retires in silence. The patriots had lost the day. From that moment, it was easy to foretell that victory would remain with the Reformer. The Libertines, who had shown themselves so bold when it was a question of destroying some front of a Catholic edifice, overturning some saint’s niche, or throwing down an old wooden cross weakened by age, trembled like women before this man, who, in fact, on this occasion, exhibited something of the Homeric heroism."757757    Audin, Life of Calvin, p. 394.

Notwithstanding this triumph, Calvin did not trust enemies, and expressed in letters to Farel and Viret even the fear that he could no longer maintain his position unless God stretch forth his hand for his protection.758758    See the extracts quoted on p. 495.

A sort of truce was patched up between the contending parties. "Our çi-devant Caesar (hesternus noster Caesar)," Calvin wrote to Farel, Dec. 28, 1547, "denied that he had any grudge against me, and I immediately met him half-way and pressed out the matter from the sore. In a grave and moderate speech, I used, indeed, some sharp reproofs (punctiones acutas), but not of a nature to wound; yet though he grasped my hand whilst promising to reform, I still fear that I have spoken to deaf ears."759759    Opera, XII. 642 sq.: "Tametsi resipiscentiam manu in manum implicita promisit, vereor, ne frustra surdo cecinerim fabulam." Dyer (p. 221) misdates this letter Dec. 2 (probably a typographical error).

In the next year, Calvin was censured by the Council for saying, in a private letter to Viret which had been intercepted, that the Genevese "under pretence of Christ wanted to rule without Christ," and that he had to combat their, hypocrisy." He called to his aid Viret and Farel to make a sort of apology.760760    Registers of Council for October, 1548, in Annal. 436-438. About the same time the wife of Calvin’s brother, Antoine, was imprisoned on the charge of adultery. Ibid. 441.

Perrin behaved quietly, and gained an advantage from this incident. He was restored to his councillorship and the office of captain-general (which had been abolished). He was even elected First Syndic, in February, 1549. He held that position also during the trial of Servetus, and opposed the sentence of death in the Council (1553).

Shortly after the execution of Servetus, the Libertines raised a demonstration against Farel, who had come to Geneva and preached a very severe sermon against them (Nov. 1, 1553).761761    He was charged with saying that "la jeunesse de cette citésont pires que les brigands, meurtriers, larrons, luxurieux, athéists." Reg. of Nov. 3, 1553, in Annal. 559. Philibert Berthelier and his brother François Daniel, who had charge of the mint, stirred up the laborers to throw Farel into the Rhone. But his friends formed a guard around him, and his defence before the Council convinced the audience of his innocence. It was resolved that all enmity should be forgotten and buried at a banquet. Perrin, the chief Syndic, in a sense of weakness, or under the impulse of his better feelings, begged Farel’s pardon, and declared that he would ever regard him as his spiritual father and pastor.762762    Comp. the action of the Council, Nov. 13, in Annal. 561 and 562.

After this time Calvin’s friends gained the ascendency in the Council. A large number of religious refugees were admitted to the rights of citizenship.

Perrin, then a member of the Little Council, and his friends, Peter Vandel and Philibert Berthelier, determined on rule or ruin, now concocted a desperate and execrable conspiracy, which proved their overthrow. They proposed to kill all foreigners who had fled to Geneva for the sake of religion, together with their Genevese sympathizers, on a Sunday while people were at church. But, fortunately, the plot was discovered before it was ripe for execution. When the rioters were to be tried before the Council of the Two Hundred, Perrin and several other ringleaders had the audacity to take their places as judges; but when he saw that matters were taking a serious turn in favor of law and order, he fled from Geneva, together with Vandel and Berthelier. They were summoned by the public herald, but refused to appear. On the day appointed for the trial five of the fugitives were condemned to death; Perrin, moreover, to have his right hand cut off, with which he had seized the bâton of the Syndic at the riot. The sentence was executed in effigy in June, 1555.763763    Rég. du Conseil, June 3, 1555, in Annal. 608: "Perrin est condamnépar contumace quil ayt le poing du bras droit duquel il a attentéaux bastons sindicalz copé: et tous tans ledit Perrin que Belthesard, Chabod, Verna, et Michalet la teste copé: les testes et ledit poing cloués au gibet et les corps mis en quartier iouxte la coustume et condamnez a tous despens damps et interestz."

Their estates were confiscated, and their wives banished from Geneva. The office of captain-general was again abolished to avoid the danger of a military dictatorship.

But the government of Bern protected the fugitives, and allowed them to commit outrages on Genevese citizens within their reach, and to attack Calvin and Geneva with all sorts of reproaches and calumnies.

Thus the "comic Caesar" ended as the "tragic Caesar." An impartial biographer of Calvin calls the last chapter in Perrin’s career "a caricature of the Catilinarian conspiracy."764764    Dyer, p. 397.

3. The case of Pierre Ameaux shows a close connection between the political and religious Libertines. He was a member of the Council of Two Hundred. He sought and obtained a divorce from his wife, who was condemned to perpetual imprisonment for the theory and practice of free-lovism of the worst kind. But he hated Calvin’s theology and discipline. At a supper party in his own house he freely indulged in drink, and roundly abused Calvin as a teacher of false doctrine, as a very bad man, and nothing but a Picard.765765    He said, according to the Registers of the Council, Jan. 27, 1546, "que M. Calvin estoyt meschant homme et nestoyt que un picard et preschoyt faulce doctrine," etc. Comp. on his case Annal. 368, 370, 371. Audin calls Ameaux "a man of the bar-room with a wicked tongue and a soul destitute of energy" (p. 386). He gives quite an amusing account of the drinking party.

For this offence he was imprisoned by the Council for two months and condemned to a fine of sixty dollars. He made an apology and retracted his words. But Calvin was not satisfied, and demanded a second trial. The Council condemned him to a degrading punishment called the amende honorable, namely, to parade through the streets in his shirt, with bare head, and a lighted torch in his hand, and to ask on bended knees the pardon of God, of the Council, and of Calvin. This harsh judgment provoked a popular outbreak in the quarter of St. Gervais, but the Council proceeded in a body to the spot and ordered the wine-shops to be closed and a gibbet to be erected to frighten the mob. The sentence on Ameaux was executed April 5, 1546. Two preachers, Henri de la Mare and Aimé Maigret, who had taken part in the drinking scene, were deposed. The former had said before the Council that Calvin was, a good and virtuous man, and of great intellect, but sometimes governed by his passions, impatient, full of hatred, and vindictive." The latter had committed more serious offences.766766    Annal. 378 and 380. The ministers interceded in behalf of De la Mare, and the Council gave him six dollars (écus). Maigret was found guilty of neglecting his duties and visiting houses of ill fame.

4. Pierre Vandel was a handsome, brilliant, and frivolous cavalier, and loved to exhibit himself with a retinue of valets and courtesans, with rings on his fingers and golden chains on his breast. He had been active in the expulsion of Calvin, and opposed him after his recall. He was imprisoned for his debaucheries and insolent conduct before the Consistory. He was Syndic in 1548. He took a leading part in the conspiracy of Perrin and shared his condemnation and exile.767767    Annal. 411, 611 sq.; Opera, XII. 547, note 14, with references to Galiffe, Bonivard, and Roget.

5. Philibert Berthelier (or Bertelier, Bertellier), an unworthy son of the distinguished patriot who, in 1519, had been beheaded for his part in the war of independence, belonged to the most malignant enemies of Calvin. He had gone to Noyon, if we are to believe the assertion of Bolsec, to bring back scandalous reports concerning the early life of the Reformer, which the same Bolsec published thirteen years after Calvin’s death, but without any evidence.768768    See above, p. 302 sq. That abominable slander about sodomy, which even Galiffe rejects, Audin and Spalding are not ashamed to repeat. If the Libertines had been in possession of such information, they would have made use of it. Berthelier is characterized by Beza as "a man of the most consummate impudence" and "guilty of many iniquities." He was excommunicated by the Consistory in 1551 for abusing Calvin, for not going to church, and other offences, and for refusing to make any apology. Calvin was absent during these sessions, owing to sickness. Berthelier appealed to the Council, of which he was the secretary. The Council at first confirmed the decision of the Consistory, but afterwards released him, during the syndicate of Perrin and the trial of Servetus, and gave him letters of absolution signed with the seal of the Republic (1553).769769    See extracts from the Registers, March and April, 1551, and in September, 1553, Annal. XXI. 475-479, 551 sq.

Calvin was thus brought into direct conflict with the Council, and forced to the alternative of submission or disobedience; in the latter case he ran the risk of a second and final expulsion. But he was not the man to yield in such a crisis. He resolved to oppose to the Council his inflexible non possumus.

On the Sunday which followed the absolution of Berthelier, the September communion was to be celebrated. Calvin preached as usual in St. Peter’s, and declared at the close of the sermon that he would never profane the sacrament by administering it to an excommunicated person. Then raising his voice and lifting up his hands, he exclaimed in the words of St. Chrysostom: "I will lay down my life ere these hands shall reach forth the sacred things of God to those who have been branded as his despisers."

This was another moment of sublime Christian heroism.

Perrin, who had some decent feeling of respect for religion and for Calvin’s character, was so much impressed by this solemn warning that he secretly gave orders to Berthelier not to approach the communion table. The communion was celebrated, as Beza reports, "in profound silence, and under a solemn awe, as if the Deity himself had been visibly present among them."770770    Comp. the Reg. of the Council, and of the Venerable Company, Sept. 2, 1553, in Annal. 551.

In the afternoon, Calvin, as for the last time, preached on Paul’s farewell address to the Ephesian Elders (Acts 20:31); he exhorted the congregation to abide in the doctrine of Christ, and declared his willingness to serve the Church and each of its members, but added in conclusion: "Such is the state of things here that this may be my last sermon to you; for they who are in power would force me to do what God does not permit. I must, therefore, dearly beloved, like Paul, commend you to God, and to the Word of his grace."771771    The sermon was taken down by a stenographer, and translated into Latin by Beza.

These words made a deep impression even upon his worst foes. The next day Calvin, with his colleagues and the Presbytery, demanded of the Council to grant them an audience before the people, as a law was attacked which had been sanctioned by the General Assembly. The Council refused the request, but resolved to suspend the decree by which the power of excommunication was declared to belong to the Council.

In the midst of this agitation the trial of Servetus was going on, and was brought to a close by his death at the stake, Oct. 27. A few days afterwards (Nov. 3), Berthelier renewed his request to be admitted to the Lord’s Table—he who despised religion. The Council which had condemned the heretic, was not quite willing to obey Calvin as a legislator, and wished to retain the power of excommunication in their own hands. Yet, in order to avoid a rupture with the ministers, who would not yield to any compromise, the Council resolved to solicit the opinions of four Swiss cantons on the subject.772772    Rég. du Conseil, Nov. 7, 9, 23, 28, 1553, in Annal. 559-562,

Bullinger, in behalf of the Church and magistracy of Zürich, replied in December, substantially approving of Calvin’s view, though he admonished him privately against undue severity. The magistrates of Bern replied that they had no excommunication in their Church. The answers of the two other cantons are lost, but seem to have been rather favorable to Calvin’s cause.

In the meantime matters assumed a more promising aspect. On Jan. 1, 1554, at a grand dinner given by the Council and judges, Calvin being present, a desire for peace was universally expressed. On the second of February the Council of Two Hundred swore, with uplifted hands, to conform to the doctrines of the Reformation, to forget the past, to renounce all hatred and animosity, and to live together in unity.

Calvin regarded this merely as a truce, and looked for further troubles. He declared before the Council that he readily forgave all his enemies, but could not sacrifice the rights of the Consistory, and would rather leave Geneva. The irritation continued in 1554. The opposition broke out again in the conspiracy against the foreigners and the council, which has been already described. The plot failed. Berthelier was, with Perrin, condemned to death, but escaped with him the execution of justice by flight.773773    Reg. du Conseil, Aug. 6, 1555 (in Annal. 611 sq.): "Philibert Bertellier, P. Vandel, et. J. B. Sept condamnes àmort par contumace, Michael Sept au banissement perpétuel, sans peine de mort; six autres àla même peine; deux àdix ans de banissement, et tous aux dépens."

This was the end of Libertinism in Geneva.



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