« AnteriorContinuar »
familiar and affectionate society gathered round the fire in the little parlour, the walls of which were adorned with beautiful prints from the pictures of Claude, Caracci, Raphael, and Correggio; all these are vivid sketches of a set of men whom the peculiarity of their situation had marked with distinctive features. They had preserved the lively temper and elegant tastes of their original race, but acquired more sedate habits,
of human life, than the majority of their former countrymen, for which they were indebted both to their previous condition in France and to the examples they had met abroad. Thus the following epitaph, though inscribed on a tombstone in the French church of Norwich, and consecrated to the son of one who had been among the original refugees, breathes a purely English spirit:
1784, August 30th, Paul Colombine, Esq., aged 85, descended * from an ancient family in the province of Dauphiny in France. 6..... By temperance, industry, and moderation, through a • long and blameless life, he had merited and obtained the best and sweetest of human blessings, health, competence, and content.'
The French congregations were thus insensibly absorbed in the English community, and the French mind was by degrees divested of its most characteristic national marks. In a sermon pronounced on the 3rd January, 1782, by Jacob Bourdillon, who had been fifty years a minister of a French church in London, we see the old preacher lamenting over the progressve extinction of the French flock and of the French language. Many years before, in 1735, the same regrets were already expressed by M. Cesar de Missy in the French church of the Patent, on the fast day instituted for the anniversary of the Revocation. . By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept' was the regular text of the annual sermon delivered on that occasion. It is curious to observe the perplexity of the preacher, bound to the traditional subject of the solemnity, when the feelings of the congregation have undergone so great a change. It is his official duty to cause his hearers to weep at the remembrance of Sion ; but it is evident that they are no longer disposed to take France for Sion and England for Babylon. M. de Missy himself is so afraid of falling into any exaggeration, that he draws the most attractive pictures of the land of captivity, to which he ought to apply the gloomy lamentation of the psalmist; and when he comes to the terrible hope of revenge, the energetic expression of which doubtless accorded well with the feelings of the first refugees :—'O daughter of Babylon, happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones! the good M. de Missy feels quite uneasy. He softens his text by mild interpretations, and the children of Edom are spared their allotted punishment.
The descendants of the refugees had in fact forgiven the injuries inflicted on their fathers : it was only a kind of melancholy pleasure for them to preserve, in the hospitable lands where they had been received, a faithful recollection of the country which had expelled them. By degrees, they renounced those instinctive ties which had maintained a secret attachment in their hearts for their original country. In England, in Holland, in Germany they had changed their native family names by translating them into the language of their true countrymen. They had cast off all the signs which could have reminded them of their descent; and when the ambition of Napoleon threatened again to subjugate all Europe, they were foremost, especially in Prussia, in showing their aversion to the French conqueror and the French conquest. Philip Skelton, whom we bave already quoted, had, indeed, beautifully foretold the side they would join in such a contest. He replied to some English who suspected the fidelity of the refugees to England, on account of the affection they seemed to entertain for their former country, - Let them love France in their hearts; we see they love • these nations in their consciences, and the whole world knows their consciences have the entire ascendant over their hearts.'
We have dwelt upon the particulars of the French emigration in England, because they are matters of a more direct concern to us; but we do not intend to follow the refugees into all the countries where they found an asylum. Their settlement in Brandenburg having been managed by administrative measures, does not present the moving and varied aspect of the English colony. Switzerland, though much benefited by their dispersion, was perhaps more a thoroughfare and a place of meeting for most of them, than a place of abode where they could obtain much influence as a body. But the figure which the refugees make in Holland is so characteristic, and they were watched there and depicted with so much accuracy by a contemporary observer, that we cannot miss the opportunity of completing our outline of the exiled population with the information supplied by such a witness as Saurin. For the history of the most celebrated persons who fled to Holland in the first days of the emigration, we must refer to the excellent chapters of M. Sayous upon Bayle and Jurieu. But warned by M. Sayous himself, we shall go at once to Saurin, for the general condition of the refugees in Holland, which is more our especial
ons in their ance in theitain for their fond, on account
object. We regrèt that M. Weiss has not availed himself of the useful hint thrown out by M. Sayous about the importance of Saurin's sermons for the knowledge of the French society in Holland, and we will endeavour to make some amends for his omission. .
Saurin says of one of his sermons, (and he might have said the same of many more) that he intended it to apply to his hearers; that it was the result of a continual observation of their habits and propensities for the twenty years he had dwelt among them; and with the bold spirit which rendered him so powerful a preacher, he exclaims : Do not suppose that any one of you who attend here, will frighten me by saying I have meant his house, his circle, his mode of life; for I grant him he is right, and the greater the scandal he creates, the more urgent is my duty to defend his brethren against the ill effect of his example.'*
We have, therefore, a gallery of contemporary portraits in the sermons of Saurin ; and some of them so plainly marked, that his hearers sometimes started at the unpleasant likeness. These sermons were for many years the whole of the preacher's life; they were of great moment in his daily intercourse with his congregation, a constant matter of discussion nearly as much as of edification. Preaching obtained a larger space in the public worship of the Reformed Churches, in proportion as they departed farther from the ritual liturgy and ceremonial service of the Catholic ages. It had, moreover, a peculiar importance for a congregation of exiles, who, during many years, could only feel their national and social feelings revived when they were gathered around a native pulpit in a foreign country. Saurin himself expostulates in one place with his hearers for minding nothing but the sermons at church, and for not sustaining their attention or observing a proper behaviour while the prayers, the ten commandments, and the lessons were read.* A complete perusal of his once attractive sermons would be a heavy task for our days, but still it is not difficult to understand why they were regarded with so deep an interest in his time when we see how closely they bore upon the contemporary feelings and circumstances.
Jacques Saurin was born at Nîmes in 1677, and educated at Geneva, whither his family had been driven by the Revocation At the age of seventeen years he had left the academy for the regiment of the Earl of Galway ; but after a campaign in which he distinguished himself and got promoted for a brilliant achievement, the young cornet returned to his former studies, and entered the church. He then went to England, was appointed one
* Sermons, vol. vi. p. 197.
erinin very country rationument of the principle on heade on
heral programdamental ere Then ble justifica still protein one
of the ministers of the Walloon congregation in London, and there he married. In 1705 he passed from London to the Hague, where having been invested with an extraordinary situation as ministre des nobles, he remained till his death in 1730, and spent these twenty-five years in the constant discharge of his pastoral duties.*
This was a time very different from the previous period of the French emigration. The excitement caused by the sceptical criticisms of Bayle, and by the tempestuous domination of Jurieu had nearly subsided. Bayle died in 1706. Jurieu's last years † faded away in a sort of discredit. On the other hand, the great theological dispute which had divided the Calvinist body during the whole of the seventeenth century, about the certainty of grace and the means of salvation, was at an end, even in this very country where its violence had been greatest. The general progress of rational philosophy had weakened the sway which the fundamental argument of the Calvinistic doctrine exercised over the conscience. The hard principle of a predestined damnation and an indefeasible justification had been assuaged or eluded even by the divines who still professed to support it, and the primitive rigour of the doctrine was, in one way or other, concealed or excused. The Arminians, or such as advocated similar notions of man's merit and liberty in his relation to God, had been admitted to a standing of perfect equality with the orthodox communion, and the spirit of toleration had turned the canons fulminated at Dort against them into a dead letter. There was no longer any warlike sound, like that of the battles fought by Jurieu, either for the Gomarists and the strict observance of orthodox Calvinism, or against Bayle and the free thinkers, all, as he thought, embodied in his personal enemy.
Meantime, in Holland as well as in England, the refugees were forgetting their regret for their native country, and were losing their ardour for revenge. They enjoyed the declining prospects of the great reign, and the misfortunes of the great king, with the bitter satisfaction of old sufferers to whom justice has at last been done; but little now remained of the anxiety with which, before the peace of Ryswick, they looked out for a favourable turn in their affairs; and when the peace of Utrecht was concluded without any condition for their reinstatement, they became every day more accustomed to think of France as of a foreign country. The thirty years included between the Revocation and the death of Louis XIV. had brought forth a fresh set of men for whom Holland was less a land of exile
bservance of as he thought as well aheir native
than of hospitality; for many, the land of their birth. They had entered into closer connexion with Dutch affairs and habits; they could not, however, but preserve much of their original nature, and being no longer under the pressure of the harsh circumstances which had altered the French character in the French Protestants, they returned insensibly to some of their national tendencies.
Such was the generation which Saurin addressed, and its characteristics are stamped in his sermons. The impoverished fugitives have become wealthy merchants and citizens. The first calamities of their exodus are no longer mentioned, except as proud reminiscences of obstacles overcome through the assistance of God, or as grounds of reproach against their Protestant brethren who did not dare to partake of their glorious trials. The wonderful opulence of Holland; the large share in it which had fallen to the lot of the refugees; the benefit of living under the rule of law, instead of bearing an arbitrary yoke; the peculiarities of the mutual intercourse between the two nations,—these are subjects upon which Saurin often expatiates. His congregation was never exclusively French; people of both races were sitting together under his pulpit, and he took every opportunity of making them acceptable to each other. He expressed the gratitude of the French to the Dutch; the latter he cautioned against being too much offended by the difference between the French character and theirs; the former, against any remissness in the fulfilment of their public duties towards their adopted country.
We know no clearer and more intelligent testimony borne to the material progress of the French refugees abroad than that furnished by Saurin's allusions. But with the progress of material well being and security, the private and the public life of this second generation of confessors had been already changed for the worse. Saurin warns them at every page of his sermons against the fatal consequences of their relaxed discipline and virtue; and, though he was a severe censor of his contemporaries, it is not less curious to see how the Calvinistic morals, even in the sanctuary of exile, had departed from the puritanic ideal of Geneva. This ideal, indeed, Saurin would have established in Holland, had it not been an impossible attempt to force the sumptuary laws and monastic regimen of Geneva upon that great mercantile community, upon an emporium open to the cupidity and appetites of all the world.
In the midst of their luxuries, however, many of his flock devoted themselves to the study of the casuists and controversialists of their own church; a study from which they derived