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Life and Character of Theodore Beza.
almost entirely in the shade; that he dwelt with avidity on the abstract and metaphysical, while he made few appeals to the conscience or the heart; and that hence it was important, if he were presented at all, to hold him up in such a way that his teaching should have an aspect of repulsion rather than attraction. But it would be unpardonable injustice to the memory of the man, and a gross perversion of facts thus to represent one whose best affections clustered about the truth as it is in Jesus, and whose best energies were expended in elucidating that truth so that others might perceive its beautiful harmony, and enforcing it so that others, feeling its constraining and sanctifying power, might rejoice in its freedom and experience its salvation. The stranger who visited him while living, in order to see the bear,' found him a man of bright thoughts, genial sympathies, and remarkably fascinating and companionable. He left him with kind wishes and deep veneration, carrying with him remembrances which ever after made that visit an era in his life—a green and hallowed spot in his pilgrimage. So may he who commenced reading this article, expecting to see metaphysical speculations and theological abstractions projected in bold relief, and to behold their author as a rash, stern, one-sided, unpractical teacher, to be gazed at as a monster and then turned away from with fear and trembling, be as agreeably disappointed. May he see the consistency running through the whole of our author's system and giving character to it: and while seeing, may he rejoice in it, and be led to study all his works with profit and delight.
LIFE AND CHARACTER OF THEODORE BEZA.'
By R. D. C. Robbins, Professor of Languages in Middlebury College, Vt.
The Lineage and Childhood of Beza.
In a wild and mountainous part of Burgundy, a province in the eastern part of France, on the declivity of a mountain at the foot of which flows the river Eure, lies the small town of Vezelay. At a lit
This Article is founded mainly on a Work entitled: Theodor Beza nach handschriftlichen Quellen dargestellt von Johann Wilhelm Baum. Erster Theil. Leipzig. 1843.
tle distance out of the village, a stone cross may be seen, marking the spot where the "holy St. Bernard," by his fervid appeals and miracles, roused Louis VII. of France and many of his vassals to undertake the rescue of the holy sepulchre from infidel hands. Here too, fortyfive years later, Philip Augustus of France and the Lion-hearted Richard of England, took upon themselves the sign of the cross as leaders of the new crusade to the Holy Land.
Among the noble families of Burgundy, in an early age, was that of de Bèze. And although in the disturbed state of the province which ensued, the castle of the Bezas was demolished, their property wasted; and their privileges taken from them, yet they could not long be kept in a state of subordination. Industry and tact brought wealth, and this was judiciously devoted to the elevation of their fallen family and the improvement of the neighborhood. At the time of the contest between Francis I. and Charles (V.) of Spain, Peter de Bèze had the command of a castle that overlooked the town of Vezelay before designated, and the adjoining region. His wife, Maria Bourdelot, also of noble origin, was distinguished for the activity, zeal, and tenderness with which she performed the duties of wife and mother. Three daughters and two sons already demanded the care and solicitude of these parents, before the birth of Theodore de Bèze, June 24, 1519, more commonly designated among us Beza, who is the subject of the present narrative. As the young Theodore was rather delicate, he seems to have been the object of peculiar care, even during the short time of his stay under the paternal roof.1 But he was hardly out of the nurse's arms before his uncle, Nicholas de Bèze, a member of the parliament of Paris, who was visiting at Vezelay, pleased with the child, determined to take him back with him to Paris, and rear him as his own offspring. His mother after long refusal, was rather constrained than persuaded to give up her child to his uncle. She could not send the loved one away from the paternal roof, but herself accompanied him to his new home.
The few short years which remained for the mother on earth, were so spent as to indicate, that it was with no empty show of filial piety, nor with the mere partiality of a child, that Beza when he had grown to man's estate thanked God that he had been born of such a mother. Soon after her return from Paris, she was thrown from a horse while riding; and although she fractured the bone of one of her limbs above the knee, yet her own tact and knowledge of medicine enabled her to perfect a cure, without aid from the surgeon. She seems ever to have had a peculiar fondness for this science from her early days, and was
He says of himself, in a letter to Wolmar: In pateina domo tenerrime edu
thus able to render herself useful to, and beloved by the poor in all the region around. But she was soon attacked by a fever, which baffled all medical aid; and in the bloom of life, when only thirty-two years old, was taken from a family of which she was the centre of attraction, and from a community who lamented for her as for a friend and benefactor. Twenty-five years after her death, Beza, when on a visit to his native town, placed on her monument an inscription commemorative of his sorrow for her early death.1
In the house of his bachelor uncle, the young Beza received every ⚫attention that wealth and kindness could suggest; but it was long doubtful whether life or death was to claim the puny nursling for itself. He could scarcely leave his cradle till after he was four years old. And soon after this, he took from a servant, with whom he was accustomed to play, a troublesome disease, which was aggravated not only by his own feebleness, but by the unskilfulness of the physician, although the best which Paris afforded was employed. So severe were the remedies used, that even thirty years afterwards he says, that he cannot think of the tortures which he then endured, without shuddering. At first the physician attended the child in the house of his patron; but when the uncle could no longer endure to witness his sufferings, he commanded his servants to take him, with another young relative, also infected with the same disease, to the physician. The way from the university where the uncle lived to the house of the physician near the Louvre, lay across a bridge. The boys frequently went on before the servants and stopped upon this bridge, which, on one occasion, but for an apparently providential occurrence, had proved fatal to them both. Beza, in a letter to Wolmar, says: "My companion, from a dread of the operation which awaited us with the physician, already possessed of the courage of a soldier, often urged me to throw myself, with him, from the bridge, that we thus might end our sufferings. I being of a more timid nature, at first shrank from it; but afterwards,
urged on by the increasing severity of pain and by his more urgent entreaties, promised to follow, when he had first thrown himself over!" When they were on the point of accomplishing the proposed deed, it so happened that their uncle passed that way, in returning home from the parliament-house, and seeing them without the servants near them, took them, though unwilling, home with him. Whether he had any suspicion of their intentions does not appear, but they were not afterwards sent to the physician.
The early Education of Beza; his Teacher Melchior Wolmar.
The young Theodore received the first elements of an education, under his uncle's roof, from a teacher employed for that purpose. The activity of mind that he exhibited, and his readiness to learn, early induced his foster-father to devote him to study. Paris, which under Francis I. became the most cultivated capital in Europe, and was resorted to by many of the learned men of the age, would undoubtedly have furnished the whole intellectual nurture and training of the young student, but for one circumstance. A kinsman of Nicholas de Bèze, a member of the great council of the king, when dining one day with him, noticing the boy, said to his host that he had at his home in Orleans, a son of the same age, who was a pupil of one Wolmar, a proficient in the Greek language, then a rare acquisition, and also peculiarly fitted for the training of the young. The confidence placed in this relative was so great, that the uncle decided to send the young Beza to Orleans, where he hoped perhaps that he would escape the corruptions of the great city; and requested that he might be received as the companion and playfellow of the son of his friend.
Melchior Wolmar, or as he was often termed by friends and pupils, Melior, was a native of Rotweil in Germany. After receiving the elements of an education at Berne, he pursued his studies at Paris under Faber (Stapulensis), William Budaeus, and John Lascaris, and became so distinguished in study, that among one hundred who received the master's degree, he was first. Orleans was celebrated for its school of law at this time, under the direction of the celebrated Peter Stella, president of the parliament of Paris, and Wolmar repaired thither in order to avail himself of his instructions. Here, in order to gain a support, as well as from the desire to see the youth of gentle origin instructed in language and polite learning, he received a limited number of pupils into his family. His treatment of and influence over his pupils, is thus generally described by a Catholic biographer of Calvin : 1
Influence of the Reformation.
"Melchior cherished as the sons of his own flesh, the pupils which he engendered, rather for Luther than for Sophocles or Demosthenes'; he took especial care of them, caressed them, and in case of need even paid their debts."
It was on the 5th of Dec. 1528, when Beza was in his tenth year, that the anxious foster father committed him to the instruction and guardianship of the teacher at Orleans. Wolmar was at that time thirty-one years old. The kindliness with which he received the young student into his house, and the gentleness which he ever manifested toward him soon won his affection; and a mutual friendship, which strengthened day by day and only ended with life, was the result. Wolmar was soon after called by Margaret, duchess of Alençon and Berri, afterwards "Queen of Navarre," to Bourges, where his pupil followed him, and remained with him in all seven years. When in his seventeenth year he had made such progress under this teacher, that it was said that there was no Greek or Latin author that he had not read, and no science except that of jurisprudence in which he had not made some proficiency.
Wolmar was not however satisfied with merely instructing his pupil in language and science. He was careful in regard to his manners, habits and principles. He had himself been early imbued by his teachers at Paris with something of the new religious spirit that was here and there manifesting itself in France, and as a German he had not been unmindful of or uninterested in the changes that were taking place in his own native land and Switzerland. It was natural that the favorite pupil should also sympathize with him. Besides, Bourges itself, as is well known, was the refuge of many who embraced the new doctrines, and the persecutions of the Sorbonnists only added fuel to the flame which had been kindled. It was during Beza's residence at Bourges that Margaret was so quietly active in defending and disseminating the sentiments of reform. He himself says of this time, in his Church History: "God made his voice heard at Orleans, Bourges and Toulouse, three cities with universities." At Paris at one time, too, there had been three evangelical preachers. In Guienne and Bearn in consequence of the influence of the duchess Margaret, divine service was performed and the sacrament administered according to the reformed doctrine. The house of Wolmar was ever open for the reception of those who, for conscience' sake, had taken refuge in Navarre. Under such influences at home, and with such examples about him, the young Beza could not have failed to be, at least, secretly influenced in favor of reform. Among those with whom Beza came in contact at Bourges, was John Calvin of Noyon in Picardy. He had studied law VOL. VII. No. 27. 43