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§ 62. The Gallican Confession. A.D. 1559.


I. Editions of the Gallican Confessions.

The original French text in Theod. de Beza: Histoire ecclésiastique des églises réformées au royaume de France, Antw. 1580, Tom. II. pp. 173–190; in Niemeyer's Collectio Conf. in eccles. reformatis public. pp. 311–326; and in the Zeitschrift für die histor. Theologie for 1875, pp. 506–544, with an introduction by Dr. Heppe. The shorter recension in the new edition of Calvin's Opera, Vol. IX. pp. 739 sqq. The text, as revised by the Synod of Rochelle (1571), was often printed in French Bibles, and separately. Comp. the Toulouse edition of 1864, entitled Confession de Foi et Discipline ecclésiastique des églises réformées de France (Société des livres religieux, pp. 9–35).

The Latin translation: Gallicarum ecclesiarum Confessio Christianissimo Carolo IX. regi anno MDLXI. exhibita. Nunc vero in Latinum conversa, ut omnino constet eas ab omnibus hæresibus sive sectis esse prorsus aliena. Anno Domini 1566—and often reprinted; also in Corpus et Syntagma Conf. 1654, pp. 77–88, and in Niemeyer's Collectio, pp. 327–339.

A German translation appeared first at Heidelberg, 1562 (see Niemeyer, Præfat. p. 1.); also in Böckel's Bekenntniss-Schriften der evang. reform. Kirche, pp. 461–474.

An English translation in John Quick's Synodicon in Gallia Reformata, Lond. 1692, Vol. I. pp. vi.-xvi.

II. History of the Reformation and the Reformed Church in France.

See partly the Literature on Calvin, quoted p. 421.

Theod. Beza: Histoire ecclés. des églises réformées au royaume de France (1521–63), Antw. 1580, 3 vols.

Jean Crespin (d. 1572): Livre des martyrs (Acta Martyrum), depuis Jean Hus jusqu’en 1554. Geneva, 1560; enlarged edition, Genève, 1617, and Amsterd. 1684.

Serranus (Jean de Serres, historiographer of France, 1540–98): Commentarius de statu religionis et reipublicæ in regno Galliæ, 1571–73 (five parts).

Theod. Agrippa d’Aubigné (Albinæus, a Huguenot in the service of Henry IV.; d. at Geneva, 1630): Histoire universelle de mon temps, 1616–20, 3 vols.

Du Plessis Mornay: Mémoires et correspondance. Paris, 1824–25.

John Quick (a learned Non-conformist, d. 1706): Synodicon in Gallia Reformata; or, the Acts, Decisions, Decrees, and Canons of the National Councils of the Reformed Churches in France. London, 1692, 2 vols. fol. (with a history of the Church till 1685). Much more accurate than Aymon.

Aymon: Tous les synodes nationaux des églises réformées de France. La Haye, 1710, 2 vols. 4to.

E. A. Laval: Compendious History of the Reformation in France . . . to the Repealing of the Edict of Nantes. London, 1737–41, 7 vols.

Smedley: History of the Reformed Religion in France. London, 1832, 3 vols.

G. de Félice: Histoire des Protestants en France. Toulouse, 1851; Engl. translation, by Lobdel, 1851. By the same: Histoire des synodes nationaux des églises réformées de France. Paris.

W. G. Soldan: Geschichte des Protestantismus in Frankreich bis zum Tode Karl’s IX. Leipzig, 1855, 2 vols.

G. von Polenz: Geschichte des französischen Calvinismus bis zur Nationalversammlung i. J. 1789, zum Theil aus handschriftl. Quellen. Gotha, 1857–64, 4 vols.

E. Stähelin: Der Uebertritt Heinrich’s IV. Basle, 1856.

Ath. Coquerel: Histoire des églises du désert. Paris, 1857, 2 vols.

W. Haag: La France protestante. Paris, 1858 (biographies).

Weiss: Histoire des réfugiés protestants de France depuis la révocation de l’édit de Nantes jusqu’à nos jours. Paris, 1853; English translation, London, 1854, 2 vols.

Much valuable information on the early history of Calvinism and French Protestantism generally is contained in Herminjard's Correspondance des réformateurs dans les pays de langue français, Genève and Paris, 1866 sqq. (so far 4 vols.), and in the Bulletin de la Société de l’histoire du Protestantisme français. Documents historiques inédits et originaux XVI e, XVII e, et XVIII e siécles. Paris (3, rue Lafitte), 1854–63; so far 22 vols.

III. General Histories of France touching upon the Reformation Period.

Thuanus (Jacques Auguste de Thou—born, 1553; died, 1617): Historiarum sui temporis libri 138, from 1546–1607 (several editions in five, seven, and sixteen volumes). The author was a moderate Catholic, witnessed the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and helped to prepare the Edict of Nantes. His history was put in the Index Expurg. 1609.

491 Lacretelle: Histoire de France pendant les guerres de la religion. Paris, 1822, 4 vols.

Sismondi: Histoire des Français, Par. 1821–44, 31 vols. (from vol. 16th).

Jules Michelet (born, 1798): Histoire de France, 1833–62, 14 vols. (vols. 8 and 9).

Sir James Stephen: Lectures on the History of France, 1857, third edition, 2 vols.

Leop. Ranke: Französische Geschichte namentlich im 16. und 17. Jahrh. 1852–68, 6 vols. (English translation in part, London, 1852, 2 vols.)

Henri Martin: Histoire de France depuis les temps les plus reculés jusqu’en 1789, fourth edition, Paris, 1855–60, 16 Tom. (Vols. VII. to X.).


In France the Reformation seemed to be better prepared than even in Germany, if we look only at the surface of the situation. The French Church had always maintained a certain independence of Rome, under the name of Gallican rights or liberties. Paris was, it is true, the chief seat of orthodox scholasticism, and the Sorbonne took an early opportunity to condemn Luther and his writings (1521); but it nursed also the spirit of mysticism and disciplinary reform, which led to the Councils of Pisa, Constance, and Basle. In the South a remnant, of the Waldenses had survived the bloody persecutions. The humanistic studies flourished greatly at Paris, Orleans, Bourges, and found favor at the court of Francis I. (1494–1547), who invited classical scholars from Italy, thought of calling Erasmus and even Melanchthon to his capital, and aided, for political, reasons, the Protestants in Germany, while yet he inflicted imprisonment and death upon them in France.

For half a century, and amid bloody civil wars, three conflicting tendencies, represented by Calvin, Rabelais, and Loyola—who happened to be in Paris at about the same period—struggled for the mastery: Calvinism, with its high intelligence and uncompromising virtue; the Renaissance, with its elegant culture and frivolous skepticism; and Jesuitism, with its reactionary and unscrupulous fanaticism. Francis I. wavered between the Renaissance, which suited his natural taste, and Romanism, which was the religion of the masses of Frenchmen; his gifted sister, Queen Margaret, of Navarre (grandmother of Henry IV.), protected the Reformation and the Renaissance, and harbored at one time Calvin, and at another the Libertines. Romanism triumphed first over Protestantism, and afterwards over semi-evangelical Jansenism, and France reaped infidelity and the Revolution.

Calvinism, always in the minority, and too stern and exacting for the national character, after a period of heroic martyrdom, gained for a time a limited legal existence under Henry IV. in the Edict of Nantes (1598), but was expelled under Louis XIV. to fertilize other 492countries, and reduced to a proscribed sect of the desert at home, where nevertheless, like the burning bush, it could not be consumed, and was providentially preserved for better days.939939   On an old seal, the device of which has been preserved, the French [Reformed] Church may be seen represented under the image of the burning bush of Moses, with this motto: "Flagror, sed non comburor." These words sum up the tragical history of our Church. This Church has been essentially militant; she has known better, perhaps, than any other what it is to fight for life. . . . Most young Frenchmen are brought up in a holy horror of Protestantism; and traces of this early impression are even found clinging to the minds of men of independent thought—nay, of those whose boast it is that they are free-thinkers.'—A. Decoppet, in his report on the Reformed Church in France, at the General Conference of the Evangelical Alliance in New York, 1873. See Proceedings, p. 72. The synodical seal, with the above motto and the date 1559, is reproduced on the title-page of the first volume of Bersier's Histoire du Synode Général de l’église réform, de France 1872 (Paris, 1872).

The father of French Protestantism in its unorganized form is Jacques Lefèvre d’Etaples (Faber Stapulensis, 1455–1537), Professor of the Sorbonne and tutor of the royal princes. He translated the Bible from the Vulgate (completed 1530); he taught, even before Luther and Zwingli,940940   His Commentary on the Pauline Epistles appeared in 1512. the doctrine of justification by faith without human works or merit, and the supremacy of the Bible as a rule of faith, and predicted a reformation, saying to his pupil, Farel, 'God will renovate the world, and you will be a witness of it;' but he had to flee to Strasburg, and afterwards to the court of Queen Margaret.

In the same spirit labored his friends and pupils—Briçonnet, Bishop of Meaux, who fostered evangelical doctrines and practices in his diocese, but afterwards timidly joined in the condemnation of Luther; Melchior Wolmar, a native of Germany, Professor of Greek in Bourges and teacher of Calvin; Louis de Berquin (1489–1599), a royal counselor, who was burned at the stake; Clement Marot (1495–1544), the favorite poet of his age and translator of the Psalms in verse; Peter Robert Olivetan (d. 1538), a relative of Calvin and translator of the Bible into French (printed at Neuchatel, 1535); William Farel (1489–1565), Peter Viret, Anton Froment, Calvin, and Beza—who were driven to French Switzerland. The radical extravagances of Anabaptists and anti-Trinitarians also spread in France, and were confounded by the government with the sound evangelical doctrines, and made a pretext for persecution.

But it was only after Calvin, himself the greatest Protestant of France, had taken up his permanent abode in Geneva, that the Reformation 493movement was organized into a separate Church, and acquired a national importance. He therefore, and his friend and successor Beza, may be regarded as the fathers of the Reformed Church of France. Geneva became an asylum for their persecuted countrymen, and the nursery of evangelists. Henceforward French Protestantism assumed a Calvinistic type in doctrine and discipline, but, owing to the hostile attitude of the government, it was kept separate and distinct from the state. Although cruelly persecuted, and numbering its martyrs by thousands, it spread rapidly among the middle and higher classes, and in 1558 it embraced four hundred thousand followers.

The first national Synod was held in Paris, May 25–28, 1559, under the moderatorship of François de Morel, then pastor of Paris, a friend and pupil of Calvin.941941   An account of this Synod in Polenz, Vol. I. pp. 435 sqq. Owing to the troubles of the times there were only eleven congregations represented—Dieppe, Paris, Angers, Orleans, Tours, etc. It gave the Reformed Church a compact organization by the adoption of the Gallican Confession of Faith, in connection with a Presbyterian form of government and discipline, which remained the firm basis of the Church as long as she was allowed to exist and to hold national Synods, twenty-nine in all, the last being that at Loudun, 1659.


The Gallican Confession is the work of John Calvin, who prepared the first draft, and of his pupil, Antoine de la Roche Chandieu, who, with the Synod of Paris in 1559, brought it into its present enlarged shape.942942   Quick, in the Synod. Gall. Ref. (London, 1692, Vol. I. p. xv.), says: 'Calvin first drew up the Confession itself.' But Beza, in his History, connects Chandieu prominently with the origin of the Confession, without expressly naming him as the author. It is based, in part at least, on a shorter Confession to the King (Au Roy), which Calvin probably prepared, 1557, for the congregation of Paris, in vindication against false charges. See Bonnet, Lettres de Calvin, Tom. II. p. 131, and Opera, Vol. IX. p. 715 (comp. Proleg. p. lix.). Calvin also wrote another French Confession of Faith, in the name of the French Churches, during the war, to be presented to the Emperor Maximilian and the German Diet at Frankfort, 1562. Reprinted in Opera, Vol. IX. pp. 753–772.

Chandieu, or, as he is also called, Sadeel,943943    The Hebrew name for Chandieu, i.e. Champ de Dieu, Field of God. was born 1534, of a wealthy noble family, in the castle Chabot, in Burgundy, studied law in the University of Toulouse, was converted to Protestantism in Paris, renounced a splendid career, studied theology at Geneva, was ordained 1554, and 494elected pastor of the small Reformed congregation in Paris. He was imprisoned 1557, escaped under the name Sadeel, was again imprisoned, but delivered by the hand of Anton de Bourbon (the father of Henry IV.), engaged in mission work near Poitiers, and returned to his congregation in Paris, 1559. He presided over the third National Reformed Synod at Orleans, 1562, attended as delegate the seventh National Synod at La Rochelle, 1571, barely escaped the massacre of St. Bartholomew (Aug. 24), fled with his family to Geneva, and taught theology at Lausanne. He received a commission in 1578 to attend a Protestant Union meeting at Frankfort, suggested by the Elector John Casimir, but never carried out. He was called back to France as chaplain of King Henry of Navarre (afterwards Henry IV.), returned to Geneva, 1589, and labored there as pastor and Professor of Hebrew till his death, Feb. 23, 1591. Beza esteemed him very highly. De Thou recommends him for 'noble birth, fine appearance, elegant manners, learning, eloquence, and rare modesty.'944944   Histor. Lib. XXIX. (on occasion of his election as president of the National Synod of Orleans, 1562): 'Ecclesiæ Parisiensis pastor, adolescens, in quo præter gentis nobilitatem, oris venusta facies, eruditio, eloquentia cum singulari modestia certabant.' Sadeel wrote twenty-three books and tracts, mostly in Latin, some in French, relating to Christian doctrines (especially the Word of God; the priesthood and sacrifice of Christ; the human nature of Christ; the spiritual manducation of his body), Church discipline, and the history of martyrs.945945   Ant. Sadeelis Opera theologia, edited after his death by his son John, and dedicated to Henry of Navarre, Genev. 1592; fifth edition, 1620. He also wrote three sonnets on Calvin's death, and Octonaires sur la vanité du monde. See France protestante, s. v. Chandieu, Vol. III. pp. 320–332; Bulletin de la société de l’histoire du protestantisme français, 1853, p. 279; G. von Polenz, Gesch. des franz. Calv., Vol. I. p. 435; Borrel (pastor in Nismes), art. Chandieu in Herzog, Real-Encykl. Vol. XIX. p. 318. On Sadeel's Christology, see Dorner, Entwicklungsgesch. der Lehre von der Person Christi, Vol. II. pp. 725, 733 sq., etc.


On a visit to the mission church of Poitiers, after the holy communion, Chandieu was requested by the brethren to suggest to the church in Paris the importance of preparing a common confession of faith and order of discipline.946946   Beza, Histoire, etc., Tom. I. pp. 172 sq., quoted in Calv. Opera, Vol. IX. p. lvii. Calvin was consulted, and sent three delegates with a draft of a confession to Paris. This was enlarged and adopted by the Synod at Paris, 1559; presented, with a Preface, to King Francis II. at Amboise, 1560, and afterwards by Beza to Charles IX. at the religious 495conference in Poissy, 1561. It was revised and ratified at the seventh National Synod held at La Rochelle, 1571, with Beza as moderator, in the presence of the Queen of Navarre and her son (Henry IV.), and Admiral Coligny. Hence it is also called the 'Confession of Rochelle.' Three copies were written on parchment—one for La Rochelle, one for Geneva, one for Béarn—and signed by the ministers and elders present.947947   The Geneva copy has been reproduced in fac-simile by Ed. Delessert. See Heppe, p. 513.

As to the text, the French is the original, but it exists in two recensions: the shorter contains thirty-five articles, the larger forty articles. The latter was sanctioned by the Synod of La Rochelle.948948   'D’autant que nostre confession de foy est imprimée de differentes manières, le Synode declare que celle-là est la véritable confession de nos Églises reformées de France qui commence par ces paroles: "Nous croyons qu’il y a un seul Dieu," etc., laquelle a esté dressée au premier Synode national tenu à Paris, le 25 mai de l’an 1559.' Quoted in Calv. Opera, Vol. IX. p. lix., from Aymon. The shorter edition is printed in Opera, Vol. IX. p. 739, under the title Confession de Foy faite d'un commun accord par les Églises qui sont dispersées en France et s'abstienent des idolatries papales. The larger edition is incorporated in the third volume of this work. It substitutes in the title for 'qui sont,' etc., the words 'qui désirent vivre selon la pureté de l’évangile de nostre Seigneur Jesus-Christ.' Comp. Heppe, pp. 509 sqq. It was often printed in different languages, and attached to many French Bibles.


The Gallican Confession is a faithful summary of the doctrines of Calvin. It begins with God (art. 1), his revelation (2), and the Scriptures as the Word of God and certain rule of our faith, which is above all customs, edicts, decrees, and councils (3–5). The three œcumenical Symbols are adopted (5), because they agree with the Word of God. The Holy Scripture teaches the unity of essence and tripersonality of God—the Father, who is the first cause, principle, and origin of all things; the Son, his eternal Word and Wisdom, eternally begotten by the Father; the Holy Spirit, his virtue and power eternally proceeding from both (6). God in three co-working persons created all things, visible and invisible (7); and governs all things, even sin and evil, yet without being the author of sin, but so making use of devils and sinners as to turn to good the evil which they do, and of which they alone are guilty (8). Man was created pure and perfect, but fell by his own guilt, and became totally corrupt and a slave of sin, although he can still discern good and evil (9). All posterity of Adam is in bondage to original sin, which is an inherited evil (not an 496imitation merely), and sufficient for condemnation; even after baptism it is still sin, but the condemnation of it is abolished out of free grace (10, 11). God, according to his eternal and immutable purpose, calls out of this corrupt mass those whom he has chosen in the Lord Jesus Christ, without regard to their merit, to the praise of his glorious grace, leaving the rest in their corruption and condemnation, to the praise of his eternal justice (12).949949   'Laissant les autres en cette même corruption et condamnation, pour démontrer en eux ca justice, comme aux premiers il fait luire les richesses de sa miséricorde.'

Jesus Christ is our all-sufficient Saviour, and 'made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption' (13). He assumed our human nature, being God and man in one person, like unto us in body and soul, yet without sin. We detest all ancient and modern heresies on the person of Christ, especially that of Servetus (14). The two natures in the one person of Christ are inseparably united, and yet remain distinct, so that the divine nature retains its attributes, being uncreated, infinite, and omnipresent, and the human nature continues finite and circumscribed (15). By the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross we are reconciled to God, and have the forgiveness of all our sins (16, 17). Our justification is founded on the remission of sins by the atoning death of Christ, without any merit of our own, and is apprehended and appropriated by faith alone (18–20). By this faith we are regenerated, and receive grace to lead a holy life, according to the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Faith, then, of necessity produces good works, but these works are not accounted to us for righteousness, which must rest exclusively on the satisfaction of Christ; otherwise we would never have peace (21, 22). Christ is our only Advocate before the Father. We therefore reject the intercession of saints, and all other devices which detract from the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ, as purgatory, monastic vows, pilgrimages, auricular confession, indulgences. We reject them not only on account of the false idea of merit attached to them, but also because they impose a yoke upon the conscience (23, 24).

The Church, with the ministry and preaching of the Word of God, is a divine institution, and must be respected and obeyed. The true Church is the company of believers who agree to live according to the Word of God, and to advance in holiness. Nevertheless there may be 497hypocrites and reprobates in it, who can not destroy its character and title. We reject the papacy for its many superstitions, idolatries, and corruptions of the Word and Sacraments. But as some trace of the true Church is left in the papacy, together with the virtue and efficacy of baptism, and as the efficacy of baptism does not depend upon the personal character of the minister, we teach that those who received baptism in the Romish Church do not need a second baptism. The true Church should be governed by pastors, elders, and deacons. All true pastors have the same authority and power under one head, the only sovereign and universal bishop, Jesus Christ; and consequently no Church shall claim any authority or dominion over the other (25–33).950950   The National Synod of Gap, 1603, inserted an article (31) declaring the pope to be 'the Antichrist and man of sin,' but the Synod of La Rochelle (1607) struck it out on account of the protest of the king. Heppe, p. 537. The Sacraments are added to the Word as pledges and seals of the grace of God to aid and comfort our faith. They are external signs through which God operates by the power of his Spirit. Their substance and truth is in Christ; separated from him they are empty shadows. There are but two Sacraments: Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Baptism is the permanent pledge and signature of our adoption; by it we are grafted into the body of Christ, so as to be cleansed by his blood and renewed by the Holy Ghost. The Lord's Supper is the witness of our union with Christ, who truly nourishes us with his broken body and shed blood through the secret and incomprehensible power of his Spirit. We hold that this is done spiritually and by faith, not because we substitute imagination or thought for reality and truth, but because this great mystery surpasses our senses and the order of nature. In Baptism and the Lord's Supper God really gives us what they represent. Those who approach the Lord's table with true faith, as a vessel, receive the body and blood of Christ, which nourish the soul no less than bread and wine nourish the body (34—38).

God has instituted kingdoms, republics, and other forms of government, whether hereditary or elective, for the order and peace of society. He has given the sword to the magistrate for the punishment of sin and crime, and the transgressions of the first as well as the second table of the Decalogue.951951   'Il a mis le glaive en la main des magistrats pour réprimer les pechés commis non seulement contre la seconde table des commandements de Dieu, mais aussi contre la première.' This clause justifies civil punishment of heresy. It is one of the chief causes why even orthodox members of the National Synod of 1872 were opposed to the re-adoption of this Confession in full. We must therefore obey the magistrate, 498pay tribute and taxes with a good and free will, even if the rulers are unbelievers. We therefore detest those who would resist authority, establish community of goods, and overthrow the order of justice (39, 40).

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