A. D. 1553-1610.
In this lecture I shall confine myself principally to the connection of Henry IV. with that memorable movement which came near making France a Protestant country. He is identified with the Huguenots, and it is the struggles of the Huguenots which I wish chiefly to present. I know he was also a great king, the first of the Bourbon dynasty, whose heroism in war was equalled only by his enlightened zeal in the civilization of France,—a king who more deeply impressed himself upon the affections of the nation than any monarch since Saint Louis, and who, had he lived to execute his schemes, would have raised France to the highest pitch of glory. Nor do I forget, that, although he fought for a great cause, and reigned with great wisdom and ability, and thus rendered important services to his country, he was a man of great defects of character, stained with those peculiar vices which disgraced most of the Bourbon kings, especially Louis XIV. and Louis XV.; that his court was the scene of female gallantries and intrigues, and that he was more under the influence of women than was good for the welfare of his country or his own reputation. But the limits of this lecture will not permit me to dwell on his acts as a monarch, or on his statesmanship, his services, or his personal defects of character. I am obliged, from the magnitude of my subject, and from the necessity of giving it unity and interest, to confine myself to him as a leader of the Huguenots alone. It is not Henry himself that I would consider, so much as the struggles of the brave men associated with him, more or less intimately, in their attempt to secure religious liberty in the sixteenth century.
The sixteenth century! What a great era that was In comparison with the preceding centuries since Christianity was declared! From a religious and heroic point of view it was immeasurably a greater period than the nineteenth century, which has been marked chiefly for the triumphs of science, material progress, and social and political reforms. But in earnestness, in moral grandeur, and in discussions which pertain to the health and life of nations, the sixteenth century was greater than our own. Then began all sorts of inquiries about Nature and about mind, about revelation and Providence, about liberty of worship and freedom of thought; all of which were discussed with an enthusiasm and patience and boldness and originality to which our own times furnish no parallel. And united with this fresh and original agitation of great ideas was a heroism in action which no age of the world has equalled. Men risked their fortunes and their lives in defence of those principles which have made the enjoyment of them in our times the greatest blessing we possess. It was a new spirit that had arisen in our world to break the fetters which centuries of fraud and superstition and injustice had