Monday, December 10, 2012

The godly French Huguenot Army (Theonomy Applied)

In the book History of the Rise of the Huguenots of France: Volume IIHenry M. Baird writes the following about the French Huguenot army at perhaps the height of its purity during the French Wars of Religion:
"Never, perhaps, was there an army that exhibited such excellent discipline as did the army of the Protestants in this the first stage of its warfare. Never had the morals and religion of soldiers been better cared for. It was the testimony of a soldier, one of the most accomplished and philosophical writers of his times—the brave "Bras de Fer"—that the preaching of the Gospel was the great instrument of imbuing the army with the spirit of order. 
"Crimes, he tells us, were promptly revealed; no blasphemy was heard throughout the camp, for it was universally frowned upon. The very implements of gambling—dice and cards—were banished. There were no lewd women among the camp-followers. Thefts were unfrequent and vigorously punished. A couple of soldiers were hung for having robbed a peasant of a small quantity of wine. Public prayers were said morning and evening; and, instead of profane or indelicate songs, nothing was heard but the psalms of David.   
"Such were the admirable fruits of the careful discipline of Admiral Coligny, the true leader of the Protestant party; and they made a deep impression upon such enthusiastic youths as Francois de la Noue and Téligny."[1]
Admiral Coligny
The following is an example of the Hugeunots' moral restraint in comparison with the rival Catholic troops:
"Not that the soldiers, dispersed at night through the villages, were freed from the necessity or the temptation to pillage; for the poor farmers, robbed of the fruits of their honest toil, frequently had good reason to complain that those who had recently dispensed their own treasure with so liberal a hand were even more lavish of the property of others. But they were far more merciful and considerate toward their enemies than the Roman Catholic army to its friends. Even a curate of Brie—no very great lover of the Huguenots, who relates with infinite gusto the violation of Huguenot women by Anjou's soldiers—admits that, excepting in the matter of the plundering of the churches and the distressing of priests, the Roman Catholics were a little worse than the heretics."[2]


[1] Henry M. Baird, History of the Rise of the Huguenots of France: Volume II (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1880), 66, 67. 

Unfortunately, this high standard of morality would lower, although not to the level of the papist troops: 

"Their more experienced author, however, was not imposed upon by these flattering signs. "It is a very fine thing," he told them, "if only it last; but I much fear that these people will spend all their goodness at the outset, and that, two months hence, nothing will remain but malice. I have long commanded infantry, and I know that it often verifies the proverb which says: 'Of a young hermit, an old devil!' If this army does not, we shall give it a good mark." The prediction was speedily realized; for, although the army of the prince never sought to rival the papal troops in the extent of its license, the standard of soldierly morality was far below that which Coligny had desired to establish.'" Ibid., 67. Baird quotes from "Si celle-cy y faut, nous ferons la croix á la cheminée." Mém. de la Noue, c. vi. 598, 599.

[2] Ibid., 224.

Note about the Theonomy Applied Series: In quoting any particular law, we do not necessarily endorse every aspect of that law as biblical, whether it be the prohibition, sanction, court procedure, etc. Rather, we are merely showing the more or less attempt to apply biblical law in history, whether or not that application was fully biblical. Moreover, in quoting any particular law, we do not necessarily consider those who passed and/or enforced such a law as being fully orthodox in their Christian theology. Professing Christian rulers in history have ranged in their theology from being orthodox (that is, Reformed Protestants) to heretical (for example, Roman Catholics). 

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