Pierre Du Moulin

Patriarch of the French Reformation

His sermons were deeply pastoral. Some became polemic due to the nature of the attacks against Protestants. He also wrote books on an impressive variety of topics, from theology and piety to natural science and politics.

 

Little known today, Pierre du Moulin was one of the main protagonists of the French Reformation and one of the main defenders of the gospel against semi-Pelagian reinterpretations.

He was born in 1568 in the Château de Buhy in north-east Normandy, France, in 1568. His father Joachim was a nobleman and pastor in the Reformed church in the Orléans area. His mother, Françoise Gabet, was related by a previous marriage to the famous Reformer Philippe Du Plessis. In his autobiography, Pierre said he was proud to be born in the same room where Du Plessis drew his first breath twenty years earlier. These two men became pillars of the French Reformed Church.

A Pastor’s Son in a Dangerous World

At that time, the French Reformed churches were in a precarious situation. In 1573, the rippling effects of St. Bartholomew’s Massacre (a wave of Roman Catholic violence against French Protestants) arrived at Du Moulin’s doors, as Roman Catholic forces attacked his home. At first hidden inside a straw mattress, he was finally able to escape when a servant girl concealed him under her long skirt.

After some travels, his family settled at Sedan, a French-speaking Protestant district just outside the Kingdom of France. His mother died sometimes during this time of upheaval, possibly of exhaustion.

In Sedan, Pierre attended a Protestant college and academy. When the place ceased to be safe, he moved to Paris, where he tutored the children of a Protestant Family. Later, he relocated to London, where a pastor encouraged him to enter the ministry. With this new vision in mind, Pierre continued his studies first in Cambridge, then in Leiden, Netherlands. By this time, he was well respected and had already received (and declined) a call to pastor a church in Paris.

The trip to Leiden was adventurous, as he was caught in a violent storm and thrown overboard. He was safe, but his luggage was lost. On his arrival, he wrote a poem in Latin, Votiva tabella (“Memorial Tablet”), that made him famous.

Popular Preacher and Author

His fame reached Louise de Coligny (1555-1620), the French princess of Orange, who met him and introduced him to the Dutch court and to leaders of the republic. Together with Pierre’s brother-in-law André Rivet (1572-1651), a French theologian who taught logic at Leiden, the princess helped Du Moulin to obtain a post as teacher of logic and Greek at Staaten College. Around this time, he also became a popular author.

In February 1598, Du Moulin received a second invitation to pastor a church in Paris. By this time, Henry IV, king of France, had ratified an edict (Edict of Nantes, 1598), allowing French Protestants to worship undisturbed. They enjoyed greater peace, but were in dire need of pastors.

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