After so many centuries of persecution, scattering, loss of identity, near genocide, and latterly of being ignored and discredited, French Israelites should indeed be praised, admired and acknowledged. Aside from the known Israel areas like Normandy and Brittany, it is essential to distinguish the characteristics by which to identify those whose ancestors made the long and arduous trek through the Caucasus mountains and, by sea or other land routes, arrived at the Divinely appointed places in the isles and coasts of Western Europe.
Let us define the criteria set down in Holy Scripture for “the sheep who know their shepherd’s voice.” In Jeremiah 24:5-7, we read of God’s promise to the good figs of Judah who returned to the Holy land after the Babylonian captivity, “like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good. For I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them up and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.” We recognize this to be fulfilled in the followers of Ezra and Nehemiah returning to rebuild the temple and the wall of Jerusalem, and the Benjamites who settled in Galilee and later produced Jesus’ disciples, except for Judas Iscariot, of the tribe of Judah. We understand how thousands of these “ good figs ” turned to their Messiah with their whole hearts in life-changing, and life-threatening devotion. We cannot begin to count the martyrs who died in Palestine and later in Europe, India, and Africa for their blessed faith in Jesus Christ.
In Malachi 3:16, 17 we see the beautiful promise to them “..that feared the Lord [and] spake often to one another: and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him, for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him.”
The warning given in II Thess. 2:9-12, reveals those who “…received not the love of the truth that they might be saved, and for this cause God shall send them a strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” We understand that thousands around the world have pleasure in sin, reject the truth, and are suffering under terrible delusions, even insanity, madness and demon-possession.
Many other such Scripture quotes help us to recognize those who are Israelites by race and by adoption. As well we must remember that many in Israel by race have forfeited their promised blessings by unrighteousness and unbelief, and will have to repent as did the prodigal son to be restored to the great Family. That descriptive phrase so common to our language is “black sheep”.
Why did I choose to espouse the French nation? In the dictionary definitions of Roman, Romanist, Romanism and Romish it is mentioned that the terms are “usually used disparagingly, often taken to be offensive,” which surely indicates the widespread awareness of the errors abounding in that cult from its inception. The massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day in Paris in 1572, and similar violence spread to other areas resulting in the Wars of Religion, tortures, persecution and “genocidal” elimination of the faithful Protestants called Huguenots. Admiral Coligny was the first victim of the scheming of the infamous Catherine de Medici and others. Thousands of those Bible-believing Christians, standing out against the majority of their race by reason of their testimony to the pure gospel of Christ, perished by terrorizing, torturous methods. The same fate was suffered by the Waldenses, Albigenses; and later the Grande Ligne Mission in Quebec and Mission La Bonne Nouvelle in New Brunswick, subsequently either knowingly or ignorantly dismissed by historians, with the result that their truly Biblical witness in France and Canada almost disappeared from the record, and because of ridicule and persecution the brave and noble Huguenots have not banded together to form an ethnic or identifiable group such as the St. George’s Society, the Scottish Cultural groups, the Ukrainian cultural groups, etc.
Because of the dreadful slaughter of the faithful Protestant Christians, their numbers were drastically reduced and they were scattered and separated. The French translation of the scriptures by Guiars des Moulins in 1224 was revised, corrected and printed in Paris by order of Charles VIII and began to be widely studied by 1480. Clement Marot the valet de chambre to the reigning king, a patron of learning, was instructed to versify the Psalms of David so they could be sung. They became much loved and often sung by suffering Huguenots in adversity, affliction and agony. From the martyrology of Crespin and other writers might be cited innumerable instances of the Psalms sustaining the courage of French Protestants in the midst of mortal agony.
Some of the names we should honor for their dedication to Truth, are Jean Rousseau, the Huguenot painter (1630 – 1693); the Duchess of Orleans; John Leclerc, woolcomber at Meaux, burned alive at Metz, after horrible tortures; Wolfgang Schuch, Lutheran preacher at Lorraine, burned alive at Nancy; Jean Rabec in 1556, raised and lowered into flames while singing Psalm 79; Henry of Navarre, Henri de Rohan, threatened with assassination in 1628, quoted Psalm 91 in a letter to his mother; and lastly, but not the last, Mme. Jeanne Guyon, imprisoned at Vincennes, writing spiritual songs, buoyed by the promises of Psalm 127. She is now best known for her little book, Experiencing God through Prayer, introduced as a treasure chest of spiritual wisdom… revealed to her by the Spirit of God. She has been highly esteemed by such Christian leaders as Andrew Murray, Watchman Nee, Hudson Taylor, and Jesse Penn-Lewis. Mme. Guyon found the way to God through prayer in the midst of a darkened civilization. Her words echo a timeless message as she paves the road for us to also find Him through her anointed instruction.
From the “Protestant Challenge” we quote “…the earliest honors of the reformation of the church, generally overlooked, belong to believers in France…In 1124, three evangelicals, Peter of Bruys, Henry and Arnold of Brecia, after sitting at the feet of Piedmontese, bore the gospel message into Provence, there to wear the praise and glory of martyrdom forever… there were in France many devout and devoted evangelical Christian believers.”
“In 1519 Martin Bracer and Philip Melancthon visited France and found multitudes clamoring to be taught from the Bible! … Among the doctors of theology, adorning the French capital ( Paris) was Lefevre, born 1455, who was engaged in gathering legends of saints, scholars and martyrs, and experienced a ray of light flashing into his mind, in pursuit of which he cast away “foolish fables” and embraced the sacred Scriptures…” Lefevre soon consistently communicated the Bible’s revealed truths to his classes in the university … preached Christ and declared, “Our religion has only one foundation, one object, one head. Jesus Christ, blessed for ever! … The cross of Christ alone opens heaven. and shuts the gates of hell.” Theodore Beza credits Dr. Lefevre with sending forth many of the best men of the age and of the church. Lefevre said to William Farel, his pupil who was later to “lay hands” on John Calvin, “William, God will change the face of the world and you will see it.” and to his students he thundered. “It is God alone, by His grace, who justifies!”
Between 1522 and 1528, this same Jacques Lefevre translated the entire Bible into French, and it was printed in Antwerp by the thousands. About 1521, Lefevre and his favorite pupil. Guillaume Fare!… made Meaux their headquarters, where Fare read the Word of God for himself, exclaiming in joy, “ Such is the sweetness of that heavenly manna! It never clovs. The more we taste of it, the more we long for it!” … In 1546 the Huguenot community at Meaux adopted the form of church organization. government and discipline planned by John Calvin. . . that of government by elders, and appointed Pierre Leclerc the chief pastor. . . September, 1555, saw John Macon (La Riviere) set apart as the first reformed minister in Paris with a consistory of elders and deacons appointed to administer church affairs for the Huguenots in Paris.
Martin Luther reached an impasse in theological growth, despairing until his confessor, a wise man, set him a vital task, to study, then teach his students the Book of Psalms and the Epistle to the Romans. The means God used to show the light of salvation to Luther’s unhappy soul, was a Frenchman! It was the philosopher, theologian, Sorbonne professor, Lefevre, who wrote in the preface to his book, “The hour is come in which our Lord Jesus Christ – the only Son, He Who is Truth itself, desires that His gospel be preached clearly to the world. Salvation is not achieved by your merit or any work that you can do. It is all of Christ! You cannot save yourself. Christ must save you. The cross is not yours, it is His! “…It must be insisted that with the words of Lefevre, here is the beginning of the Reformation! Lefevre was right and Luther accepted it as the truth of God. His life and hosts of others have thus been transformed into “ the kingdom of His dear Son!”
What a wonderful heritage from these faithful, courageous Huguenots for which we give humble and hearty thanks. May their descendants long cherish that spiritual legacy. and may we all pass on the torch of truth they lighted in those treacherous times.