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§ 173. Beza’s Conferences with Lutherans.

The bitter theological differences between Lutherans and Reformed had long been a disgrace. Beza had in early life brought trouble upon himself by minimizing them, as has been already recorded, but in his old age he made one more attempt in that direction. Count Frederick of Würtemberg, a Lutheran, but a friend of reconciliation, called a conference at Montbéliard (or Mömpelgard), a city in his domains in which were many Huguenot refugees, with whom the Lutherans would not fraternize. The count hoped that a discussion between the leaders on each side might mend matters. Accordingly he summoned Beza, confessedly the ablest advocate of Calvinism. On March 21, 1586, the conference began. It took a wide range, but it came to nothing. Beza showed a beautiful spirit of reconciliation, but Andreä, the Lutheran leader, in the very spirit of Luther at the famous Marburg Conference with Zwingli (1529), refused to take Beza’s hand at parting (March 29).13041304    Heppe, 287. Although he could not greet him as a brother, Andreä kindly offered to give Beza his hand as a mark of his love toward him as a fellow-man—a condescension which not unnaturally the Genevese reformer at once declined. Baird, ibid., I. 401.

Undeterred by this churlish exhibition, Beza left Montbéliard for another round of visits at German courts to induce them once more to plead with France to restore to the Huguenots their rights of worship; for the Peace of Fleix had not lasted long, and the country was again plunged in the horrors of civil war.

The Montbéliard conference had an echo in the Bern Colloquy of April 15th to 18th, 1588, in which Samuel Huber, pastor at Burgdorf, near Bern, a notorious polemic, and Beza represented the Lutheran and Calvinist parties, respectively. It was Beza’s last appearance as a public disputant, and the hero of so many wordy battles once more carried off the palm. In fact, his victory was much more decided than such contests were usually, as the Bernese Council condemned Huber for misrepresenting Beza and Calvinism generally.

Beza had left Geneva with a heavy heart because his faithful and beloved wife had just died, and when he returned, found public matters in a critical condition. The magistrates had felt themselves compelled by the condition of the city treasury to economize as much as possible, and had dismissed two of the professors in the Academy, and contemplated other retrenchments. Beza knew that these extreme measures would probably greatly cripple the institution, and so, old as he was, and failing, he undertook to give a full course of instruction in theology, and persisted with it for more than two years,—until the crisis was passed,—and for these extra duties he would not take any compensation.

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