Sunday, December 13, 2009

Heart and Soul of the Huguenot Faith

It has been testified to by many that psalmody was at the heart and soul of the French Huguenot faith. The singing of French psalms was outlawed by the Sorbonne in 1543, but to be a Huguenot was to be a psalm-singer, and vice-versa. They were sung while working around the house, walking through the street, in battle as well as in the sacred assembly, and at all times the words of David were upon the lips of the French faithful. It was a mark, a badge, of identity as a Protestant, and it was a reflection of one's covenant relationship to God and his people. If it is true as Andrew Fletcher said, that "if a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of a nation," then the French Huguenot "état dans l'état" ("state within a state"), built as it was upon the foundation of God's Word, was a little Zoar, where l'Eternel (Pierre Robert Olivétan's term for the Tetragrammaton) was praised at all times, whether amidst hard providences or sweet.

Matthew Henry wrote in his Essay on Psalmody that:

And, to come nearer in our own day, that is worthy our notice which Mr. Quick, in the Introduction to his Synodicon, tells us, Vol. I. p. 5. That the singing of Psalms in families, even those of the best rank, not only at their morning and evening worship, but at their meals, conduced very much to the strength and growth of the reformed religion in France, in its first and best days.

John Quick, Synodicon in Gallia Reformata, Vol. 1, p. 5:

Clement Marot a Courtier, and a great Wit, was advised by Mr. Vatablus, Regius Professor of the Hebrew Tongue in the University of Paris, to consecrate his Muse unto God; which Counsel he embraceth, and translateth fifty of David's Psalms into French Meeter. Mr. Beza did the other hundred, and all the Scripture-Songs. Lewis Guadimel, another Asaph, or Jedathun, a most Skillful Master of Musick, set those sweet and melodious Tunes unto which they are sung even unto this day. This holy Ordinance charmed the Ears, Hearts and Affections of Court and City, Town and Country. They were sung in the Louvre, as well as in the Pres des Clerks, by the Ladies, Princes, yea and by Henry the Second himself. This one Ordinance only contributed mightily to the downfall of Popery, and the propagation of the Gospel. It took so much with the genius of the Nation, That all ranks and degrees of Men practiced it in the Temples and in their Families. No Gentleman professing the Reformed Religion, would sit down at his Table without praising God by singing. Yea it was a special part of their Morning and Evening Worship, in their several Houses, to sing God's Praises. The Popish Clergy raged, and to prevent the growth and spreading of the Gospel by it, that mischievous Cardinal of Lorrain, another Elymus the Sorcerer, got the Odes of Horace, and the filthy obscene Poems of Tibullus and Catallus to be turn'd into French, and sung in the Court. Ribaldry was his Piety, and the means used by him to expel and banish the singing of divine Psalms out of the prophane Court of France.

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