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The Massacre of St. Bartholomew

by C. H. Spurgeon
From the April 1866 Sword and Trowel


OT until the day of universal restitution will the infamous atrocity perpetrated on the eve of St. Bartholomew, 1572, by the Roman Catholics on the unoffending Huguenots or Protestants of France, cease to be remembered with the most intense horror. The coolness of the proceedings which instigated such a carnage, and the devilish passions which led Catholic nobles and statesmen to burst the bounds of humanity by heading the massacre, make the event unparalleled in the history of gigantic crimes. There, is no shadow of doubt as to who the originators of the plot were. The Roman Catholics had conceived the bitterest hatred to the Huguenots, and were determined that the land should be rid of them. Catherine de Medicis, whose furious enmity to Protestantism made her an admirable mover in the dreadful design, controlled her son, Charles IX. sufficiently to make him a mere puppet in her hands. Admiral Coligny, one of the most prominent advisers of the King of Navarre, who was then at the head of the Huguenots, was invited to attend the Parisian court. Coligny was the especial object of the Catholics' resentment, and an unsuccessful attempt was therefore made upon his life. The Queen-mother, finding that this part of her scheme had failed, represented to the king that the Huguenots were clamorous for revenge upon the nobles of the court for the attack upon Coligny. These representations had the effect of frightening the weak-minded king, who at once authorized the massacre of the offending Protestants.
    Our illustration represents the first attack of the murderous Catholics in the streets of Paris. Charles IX. is in the act of giving the first signal by firing a gun from the window of his palace. Coligny with his household was murdered, and his body thrown out to the mob. Everywhere the cry was heard, "Kill every man of them! Kill the Huguenots!" The streets were reeking with the blood of men, women, and children. Not an individual suspected of a leaning towards the Reformed religion was suffered to escape. While this scene was going on, the Protestants of Lyons, Rouen, and other cities, fell victims to the savage fury of the Catholics. The massacre was carefully planned so as to break out at the same hour in various cities and in their suburbs. By some it is supposed that at least 100,000 persons suffered death. The estimate given by Sully at 70,000, has, however, been adopted. It is pretty certain that at least 10,000 were destroyed in Paris alone, and this estimate does not include the 500 who belonged to the higher orders. It is said that "the roads were rendered almost impassable, from the corpses of men, women, and children,—a new and appalling barricade."
    The monstrous deed received the high approval of the Pope and his Cardinals, and thanks were impiously made to Heaven for the distinguished favor that had been rendered to the Church. The then head of the English Church by law established (Queen Elizabeth) seemed to take the matter equally well; for we find her immediately afterwards receiving the French Ambassador, and accepting thankfully a love-letter from the Duke of Alençon; and, in a few months, standing at the font as godmother to the child of the murderous King of France.
    By the side of these facts we ought to place a few computations which will show that the unexampled outrage on St. Bartholomew's Eve is only a part of a line of policy which the Church on the Seven Hills has carried out during the twelve hundred years of its existence. Mr. D. A. Doudney, the incumbent of Bedminster, near Bristol, recently mentioned at a public meeting that at least fifty millions have been put to death by the Romish Church. That estimate gives us the number of martyrs annually at 40,000, or more than 100 a day for the last twelve hundred years. Spain especially has had her share in the responsibility of this iniquity, for under forty-five Inquisition trials, between the years 1481 and 1808, 31,658 were burnt alive, 18,049 were burnt in effigy, and 225,214 were condemned to galleys or imprisonment. It must not be supposed that in consequence of the respectable appearance which Catholicism is now necessitated to put on that the nature of Popery is changed. It is, and from its organization must continue to be, ambitious of supremacy. Even the Times, which looks upon the proselytizing schemes of the Romanists with cynical indifference, believes that it is impossible not to recognize in the recent complaints of English priests and dignitaries "something of that perverse ambition which has always been the bane of Roman Catholicism. A purely religious power the Roman Catholic Church never has been, is not now, and it seems to have made up its mind that it never will be. Though it still embraces half Europe in its spiritual sway, it laments the loss of a few petty provinces in Italy with a bitterness far keener than that of the exiled dukes." That this ever-increasing ambition will not rest satisfied until England shall bow before the Beast may be readily believed; and that all the efforts now being put forth to weaken the progress of Protestantism in this country have as their central object the humiliation of a liberty-loving people is too plain a fact to withstand. To obtain its ends Popery would not despise the most atrocious and abominable means. If our Savior's words, "By their fruits shall ye know them," have any significance whatever, they may be appropriately used in reference to this insidious Church. What have been the fruits of this fearful heresy during the period of its almost unlimited sway, but spiritual and political oppression as well as persecution in its grossest and most multifarious forms? Looking at the atrocities of this Church, one would feel tempted to question whether its character of being "Drunken with the blood of the saints" is not too mildly drawn. The only defense of God's true Church is in God. By the constant preaching of his Word, and by the uplifting of the cross, we hope the day will come when no invectives will be required to denounce the gross imposture which has for so long a time "made the people to sin."

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