Preparing for Victory

Christian Martyrs

From "History of the Reformation in the time of Calvin"




Their crime?

They were Christians who refused to compromise or recant. 

They would rather die than deny their faith and betray the Lord they loved!


FACTS alone do not constitute the whole of history, any more than the membe
D'aubigné, J. H. M., D.D. (2009). History of the reformation in Europe in the time of Calvin, Vol. 1 (1). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

AT the very moment when the duchess, the Count of Hohenlohe, and others were indulging in the sweetest hopes, the darkest future opened before their eyes. Margaret had dreamt of a new day, illumined by the brightest sunshine, but all of a sudden the clouds gathered, the light was obscured, the winds rose, and the tempest burst forth.
There was a young man, about twenty-eight years of age, a licentiate of laws, William Joubert by name, whom his father, king’s advocate at La Rochelle, had sent to Paris to study the practice of the courts. Notwithstanding the prohibition of the parliament, William, who was of a serious disposition, ventured to inquire into the catholic faith. Conceiving doubts about it, he said in the presence of some friends, that ‘neither Genevieve nor even Mary could save him, but the Son of God alone.’ Shortly after the issuing of the proclamation, the licentiate was thrown into prison. The alarmed father immediately hurried to Paris: his son, his hope … a heretic! and on the point of being burnt! He gave himself no rest: he went from one judge to another: ‘Ask what you please,’ said the unhappy father; ‘I am ready to give any money to save his life.’* Vainly did he repeat his entreaties day after day; on Saturday, February 17, 1526, the executioner came to fetch William; he helped him to get into the tumbrel, and led him to the front of Notre Dame: ‘Beg Our Lady’s pardon,’ he said. He next took him to the front of St. Genevieve’s church: ‘Ask pardon of St. Genevieve.’ The Rocheller was firm in his faith, and would ask pardon of none but God. He was then taken to the Place Maubert, where the people, seeing his youth and handsome appearance, deeply commiserated his fate; but the tender souls received but rough treatment from the guards. ‘Do not pity him,’ they said; ‘he has spoken evil of Our Lady and the saints in paradise, and holds to the doctrine of Luther.’ The hangman then took up his instruments, approached William, made him open his mouth, and pierced his tongue. He then strangled him and afterwards burnt his body. The poor father returned alone to Rochelle. But the parliament was not satisfied with one victim; erelong it made an assault upon the inhabitants of a city which the enemies of the Gospel detested in an especial manner.
D'aubigné, J. H. M., D.D. (2009). History of the reformation in Europe in the time of Calvin, Vol. 1 (466). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

Picardy next furnished its tribute. Picardy in the north and Dauphiny in the south were the two provinces of France best prepared to receive the Gospel. During the fifteenth century many Picardins, as the story ran, went to Vaudery. Seated round the fire during the long nights, simple catholics used to tell one another how these Vaudois (Waldenses) met in horrible assembly in solitary places, where they found tables spread with numerous and dainty viands. These poor christians loved indeed to meet together from districts often very remote. They went to the rendezvous by night and along by-roads. The most learned of them used to recite some passages of Scripture, after which they conversed together and prayed. But such humble conventicles were ridiculously travestied. ‘Do you know what they do to get there,’ said the people, ‘so that the officers may not stop them? The devil has given them a certain ointment, and when they want to go to Vaudery, they smear a little stick with it. As soon as they get astride it, they are carried up through the air, and arrive at their sabbath without meeting anybody. In the midst of them sits a goat with a monkey’s tail: this is Satan, who receives their adoration!’ … These stupid stories were not peculiar to the people: they were circulated particularly by the monks. It was thus that the inquisitor Jean de Broussart spoke in 1460 from a pulpit erected in the great square at Arras. An immense multitude surrounded him; a scaffold was erected in front of the pulpit, and a number of men and women, kneeling and wearing caps with the figure of the devil painted on them, awaited their punishment. Perhaps the faith of these poor people was mingled with error. But be that as it may, they were all burnt alive after the sermon.*
A young student, who already held a living, though not yet in priest’s orders, had believed in the Gospel, and had boldly declared that there was no other saviour but Jesus Christ, and that the Virgin Mary had no more power than other saints.* This youthful cleric of Thérouanne in Picardy had been imprisoned in 1525, and terrified by the punishment. On Christmas-eve, with a lighted torch in his hand and stripped to his shirt, he had ‘asked pardon of God and of Mary before the church of Notre Dame.’ In consideration of his ‘very great penitence,’ it was thought sufficient to confine him for seven years on bread and water in the prison of St. Martin des Champs. Alone in his dungeon, the scholar heard the voice of God in the depths of his heart; he began to weep hot tears, and ‘forthwith,’ says the chronicler, ‘he returned to his folly.’ Whenever a monk entered his prison, the young cleric proclaimed the Gospel to him; the monks were astonished at such raving; all the convent was in a ferment and confusion. Dr. Merlin, the grand penitentiary, went to the prisoner in person, preached to him, advised and entreated him, but all to no effect. By order of the court, the young evangelist ‘was burnt at the Grève in Paris,’ and others underwent the same punishment. Such was the method employed in that cruel age to force the doctrine of the Church back into the hearts of those who rejected it: they made use of scourges to beat them, and cords to strangle them.
It was not only in Paris that severity was used against the Lutherans: the same was done in the provinces. Young Pierre Toussaint, prebendary of Metz, who had taken refuge at Basle after the death of Leclerc,† having regained his courage, returned to France and proclaimed the Gospel. His enemies seized him, and gave him up to the Abbot of St. Antoine. This abbot, a well-known character, was a violent, cruel, and merciless man.* Neither Toussaint’s youth, nor his candour, nor his weak health could touch him; he threw his victim into a horrible dungeon full of stagnant water and other filth,† where the young evangelist could hardly stand. With his back against the wall, and his feet on the only spot in the dungeon which the water did not reach, stifled by the poisonous vapours emitted around him, the young man remembered the cheerful house of his uncle the Dean of Metz and the magnificent palace of the Cardinal of Lorraine, where he had been received so kindly while he still believed in the pope. What a contrast now! Toussaint’s health declined, his cheeks grew pale, and his trembling legs could hardly support him. Alas! where were those days when still a child he ran joyously round the room riding on a stick,‡ and when his mother seriously uttered this prophecy: ‘Antichrist will soon come and destroy all who are converted.’ The wretched Toussaint thought the moment had arrived … His imagination became excited, he fancied he saw the terrible antichrist foretold by his mother, seizing him and dragging him to punishment; he screamed aloud, and was near dying of fright.§ He interested every one who saw him; he was so mild; harmless as a newborn child, they said, so that the cruel abbot knew not how to justify his death. He thought that if he had Toussaint’s books and papers, he could find an excuse for burning him. One day the monks came to the wretched young man, took him out of the unwholesome pit, and led him into the abbot’s room. ‘Write to your host at Basle,’ said the latter; ‘tell him that you want your books to amuse your leisure, and beg him to send them to you.’ Toussaint, who understood the meaning of this order, hesitated. The abbot gave utterance to terrible threats. The affrighted Toussaint wrote the letter, and was sent back to his pestilential den.
Thus the very moment when the evangelical christians were hoping to have some relief was marked by an increase of severity. The Reform—Margaret was its representative at that time in the eyes of many—the afflicted Reform saw her children around her, some put to death, others in chains, all threatened with the fatal blow. The sister of Francis I., heartbroken and despairing, would have shielded with her body those whom the sword appeared ready to strike; but her exertions seemed useless.
Suddenly a cry of joy was heard, which, uttered in the Pyrenees, was reechoed even to Calais. The Sun (for thus, it will be remembered, Margaret called her brother) appeared in the south to reanimate the kingdom of France. On the 21st of March Francis quitted Spain, crossed the Bidassoa, and once more set his foot on French ground. He had recovered his spirits; an overflowing current of life had returned to every part of his existence. It seemed that, delivered from a prison, he was the master of the world. He mounted an Arab horse, and, waving his cap and plume in the air, exclaimed as he galloped along the road to St. Jean de Luz: ‘Once more I am a king!’ Thence he proceeded to Bayonne, where his court awaited him, with a great number of his subjects who had not been permitted to approach nearer to the frontier.
Nowhere was the joy so great as with Margaret and the friends of the Gospel. Some of them determined to go and meet the king and petition him on behalf of the exiles and the prisoners, feeling persuaded that he would put himself at the head of the party which the detested Charles V. was persecuting. These most pious Gauls, as Zwingle calls them,* petitioned the monarch; Margaret uttered a cry in favour of the miserable;† but Francis, though full of regard for his sister, could not hide a secret irritation against Luther and the Lutherans. His profane character, his sensual temperament, made him hate the evangelicals, and policy demanded great reserve.
Margaret had never ceased to entertain in her heart a hope of seeing the Count of Hohenlohe come to Paris and labour at spreading the Gospel in France. Sigismond, a man of the world and at the same time a man of God, an evangelical christian and yet a church dignitary, knowing Germany well, and considered at the court of France as belonging to it, appeared to the Duchess of Alençon the fittest instrument to work among the French that transformation equally demanded by the wants of the age and the Word of God. One day she took courage and presented her request to her brother: Francis did not receive her petition favourably. He knew Hohenlohe well, and thought his evangelical principles exaggerated; besides, if any change were to be made in France, the king meant to carry it out alone. He did not, however, open his heart entirely to his sister: he simply gave her to understand that the time was not yet come. If the count came to Paris; if he gathered round him all the friends of the Gospel; if he preached at court, in the churches, in the open air perhaps, what would the emperor say, and what the pope?—‘Not yet,’ said the king.
The Duchess of Alençon, bitterly disappointed, could hardly make up her mind to communicate this sad news to the count. Yet it must be done. ‘The desire I have to see you is increased by what I hear of your virtue and of the perseverance of the divine grace in you. But … my dear cousin, all your friends have arrived at the conclusion that, for certain reasons, it is not yet time for you to come here. As soon as we have done something, with God’s grace, I will let you know.’
Hohenlohe was distressed at this delay, and Margaret endeavoured to comfort him. ‘Erelong,’ she said, ‘the Almighty will do us the grace to perfect what he has done us the grace to begin. You will then be consoled in this company, where you are present though absent in body. May the peace of our Lord, which passeth all understanding, and which the world knoweth not, be given to your heart so abundantly that no cross can afflict it!’*
At the same time she increased her importunity with her brother; she conjured the king to inaugurate a new era; she once more urged the propriety of inviting the count. ‘I do not care for that man,’ answered Francis sharply. He cared for him, however, when he wanted him. There is a letter from the king ‘to his very dear and beloved cousin of Hohenlohe,’ in which he tells him that, desiring to raise a large army, and knowing ‘his loyalty and valour, his nearness of lineage, love, and charity,’ he begs him most affectionately to raise three thousand foot-soldiers.† But where the Gospel was concerned, it was quite another matter. To put an end to his sister’s solicitation, Francis replied to her one day: ‘Do you wish, then, for my sons to remain in Spain?’ He had given them as hostages to the emperor. Margaret was silent: she had not a word to say where the fate of her nephews was concerned. She wrote to the count: ‘I cannot tell you, my friend, all the vexation I suffer: the king would not see you willingly; the reason is the liberation of his children, which he cares for quite as much as for his own.’ She added: ‘I am of good courage towards you, rather on account of our fraternal affection than by the perishable ties of flesh and blood. For the other birth, the second delivery—there lies true and perfect union.’ The Count of Hohenlohe, Luther’s disciple, did not come to France.
This refusal was not the only grief which Francis caused his sister. The love of the King of Navarre had grown stronger, and she began to return it. But the king opposed her following the inclination of her heart. Margaret, thwarted in all her wishes, drinking of the bitter cup, revolting sometimes against the despotic will to which she was forced to bend, and feeling the wounds of sin in her heart, retired to her closet and laid bare her sorrows to Christ.
O thou, my priest, my advocate, my king,
On whom depends my life—my everything;
O Lord, who first didst drain the bitter cup of woe
And know’st its poison (if man e’er did know),
These thorns how sharp, these wounds of sin how deep—
Saviour, friend, king, oh! plead my cause, I pray:
Speak, help, and save me, lest I fall away.*
The religious poems of Margaret, which are deficient neither in grace, sensibility, nor affection, belong (it must not be forgotten) to the early productions of the French muse; and what particularly leads us to quote them is that they express the christian sentitiments of this princess. This is the period at which it seems to us that Margaret’s christianity was purest. At an earlier date, at the time of her connection with Briçonnet, her faith was clouded with the vapours of mysticism. At a later date, when the fierce will of Francis I. alarmed her tender and shrinking soul, a veil of catholicism appeared to cover the purity of her faith. But from 1526 to 1532 Margaret was herself. The evidences of the piety of the evangelical christians of this period are so few, that we could not permit ourselves to suppress those we find in the writings of the king’s sister.
The Duchess of Alençon resorted to poetry to divert her thoughts; and it was now, I think, that she wrote her poem of the Prisoner. She loved to recall the time when the King of Navarre had been captured along with Francis I.; she transported herself to the days immediately following the battle of Pavia; she imagined she could hear young Henry d’Albret expressing his confidence in God, and exclaiming from the lofty tower of Pizzighitone:
Vainly the winds o’er the ocean blow,
Scattering the ships as they proudly go;
But not a leaf of the wood can they shake,
Until at the sound of thy voice they awake.
The captive, after describing in a mournful strain the sorrows of his prison, laid before Christ the sorrow which sprang from a feeling of his sins:
Not one hell but many million
I’ve deserved for my rebellion.
But my sin in thee was scourged,
And my guilt in thee was purged.*
The noble prisoner does not seek the salvation of God for himself alone; he earnestly desires that the Gospel may be brought to that Italy where he is a captive—one of the earliest aspirations for Italian reformation.
Can you tell why from your home—
Home so peaceful—you were torn?
’T was that over stream and mountain
The precious treasure should be borne
By thee, in thy vessel frail,
To God’s elect† …
On a sudden the prisoner remembers his friend; he believes in his tender commiseration and thus invokes him:
O Francis, my king, of my soul the best part,
Thou model of friendship, so dear to my heart,
A Jonathan, Orestes, and Pollux in one,
As thou seest me in sorrow and anguish cast down,
My Achates, my brother, oh! what sayest thou?*
But Henry d’Albret called Francis I. his Jonathan to no purpose; Jonathan would not give him his sister. The king had other thoughts. During his captivity the emperor had demanded Margaret’s hand of the regent.† But Francis, whom they were going to unite, contrary to his wishes, to Charles’s sister, thought that one marriage with the house of Austria was enough, and hoping that Henry VIII. might aid him in taking vengeance on Charles, was seized with a strong liking for him. ‘If my body is the emperor’s prisoner,’ he said, ‘my heart is a prisoner to the King of England!’‡ He gained over Cardinal Wolsey, who told his master that there was not in all Europe a woman worthier of the crown of England than Margaret of France.§ But the christian heart of the Duchess of Alençon revolted at the idea of taking the place of Catherine of Arragon, whose virtues she honoured;|| and Henry VIII. himself soon entered on a different course. It was necessary to give up the design of placing Margaret on the throne of England by the side of Henry Tudor … a fortunate thing for the princess, but a misfortune perhaps for the kingdom over which she would have reigned.
Yet the Duchess of Alençon did not see all her prayers refused. On leaving his prison, the sight of Francis I. was confused. By degrees he saw more clearly into the state of things in Europe, and took a few steps towards that religious liberty which Margaret had so ardently desired of him. It would even seem that, guided by his sister, he rose to considerations of a loftier range.
D'aubigné, J. H. M., D.D. (2009). History of the reformation in Europe in the time of Calvin, Vol. 1 (468). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

"If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.... If they persecuted Me they will persecute you... for they do not know the One who sent Me." John 15:19-21

1. "The Passion of the Scillian Martyrs," at

2. Christian History Magazine, Issue 27: Persecution in the Early Church (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 1990)

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