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Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 14 - December 2006 / January 2007 > A History of the Christian Church - Part Ten

A History of the Christian Church

Part Ten, by Denis Jenkins

compiled by Denis Jenkins

Title      A History of the Christian Church
Part       Ten
Theme   Berquin, an Influence as Great as Luther.

This is Part 10 in the series. Parts 1 to 9 can be found at the following links -->  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8. and Part 9.

Berquin was one of the most influential and learned French Nobles.  He was very close to the King Francis I. Berquin was a zealous supporter of the Roman Church.   On reading the scriptures, Berquin found the doctrine presented by Luther to be true.  Louis De Berquin who had treated Lutherism with abhorrence was considered by many in France to be a reformer even more powerful than Luther.  If Berquin had been supported by Francis I as Luther had been protected by the Elector, Berquin would have had much more impact on Europe than Luther.  But this was not the case.  Instead of being protected, Berquin was imprisoned by the papal authorities.  Erasmus tried to persuade Berquin to go into exile to protect himself, but, Berquin decided to meet error head on to show that Rome had been misleading the people and that they did not agree with the truths found in the Bible.

Berquin challenged the Roman scholars at Paris University to prove their doctrinal position by the Bible.  The scholars knew that they would be proved false and were not prepared to lose face.  So these scholars looked for a way of escape.  As with Luther, the Roman authorites blamed those in the reformation for any civil unrest.  A statue of the virgin Mary had been vandalised in Paris.  The authorities claimed that it was Berquin's encouragement and influence that had incited vandalism.  The scholars blamed both Berquin and the Lutheran teachings for encouraging such lawlessness.

On the basis of this accusation, Berquin was ordered to be killed.  Berquin was both strangled and burnt, being made an example of what was to happen to those who did not up hold the teachings of the Roman Church.

If the Roman Church had thought that silencing Berquin, such an influential person in the French society, was going to send the message that no one is protected even if a prominent member of society, from the wrath of the church, they totally under estimated the outcome of their actions.  Instead of discouraging the efforts of the reformers, it spurred them on with a new vigour spreading the word of God further afield.  Lefeuvre went to Germany, Farrel went to his home town to spread the good news of the Gospel.  Even though Farrel met with opposition from the authorities, he went from house to house preaching the Gospel privately.

The action of the Roman church against such a well known nobleman of France, as Berquin, sent shock waves around Europe magnifying the fervour and commitment that a person of his substance had exhibited despite all that he had to lose by taking this course of action, demonstrated how much more important what he stood for was than all the wealth and power that he had at his hands in social terms.   Such a large sacrifice made people of note take a much closer interest in why Berquin was prepared to give up so much for a belief and ideology.  

Calvin was such a man swayed by this event. Calvin was the academic pride of his college.  Hearing about the reformers and their heretical views, Calvin decided he wanted nothing to do with their heretical opinions.  However, this event made Calvin interested enough to listen to a cousin who had as a result of this event joined the reformers.  The cousin pled with Calvin to accept Jesus as his saviour.

It was not until Calvin personally witnessed the peace and serenity of a so called "Heretic" being burned at the stake that he realised that there must be something worth while in the scriptures for people such as Berquin and others to give up their lives for it. Calvin knew that it was upon the Bible that the "Heretics" Based their faith. He therefore studied the Bible to see if he could vindicate the Roman church's position.  In studying the Bible Calvin made a discovery of his life.

Whether dead or alive, Berquin was a testament to the worth and the power of the Gospel.  It made men and women around Europe realise the importance of the Gospel and the word of God.

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