Pierre Durand – Huguenot Martyr

“I pray to the Lord that all will be to the glory of His name, to the furthering of His reign, and to the destruction of Satan’s empire.”

He could have fought back. In fact, he instinctively reached for his gun, but let go when he realized these were government authorities. One of the tenets of the newly reformed church – in contrast with the Camisards’ tactics – was respect for the civil powers. The guards took him for questioning, then led him to a prison to wait for his execution.

 

Pierre Durand was born in a turbulent France. In 1685, only 15 years before his birth, France’s king Louis XIV (“Le Roi Soleil”), revoked the 1598 Edict of Nantes, which had been allowing Protestants freedom of worship.

Louis’s persecution against Huguenots (French Protestants) had been gradual – from their simple exclusion from government positions and limitations of their meetings to an outright demand that they convert to Roman Catholicism. This demand was enforced by special forces known as dragoons. Once the number of Protestants was significantly reduced, revoking the Edict of Nantes appeared like a politically sensible move in the interest of national unity.

Pierre’s Youth

In order to survive, Pierre’s parents, Étienne and Claudine, had to make some compromises. For example, they had allowed their children to be baptized in the Roman Catholic Church and to receive Roman Catholic instruction at school. At home, however, they raised them in the Protestant faith, using a Bible, a Psalter, and a few other books they were able to keep in a hiding place inside a wall.

They also kept by the barn a hiding place for preachers who passed through their region – the rough, charming area between the Rhone River and the Massif Central mountains, where Protestantism had survived the harshest persecution.

Pierre was born in the small village of Bouschet de Pranles. As soon as he finished his basic schooling, he began to work for a notary in the nearby town of Privas. It was there that he met one of the young pastors who desired to unite and reform the small and struggling Huguenot churches.

There was a lot to do. After the persecution, some Protestants known as Camisards had started a militant rebellion against the crown. The main fighting lasted two years (1702-1704), but uprisings continued until 1710, when most of the Camisard leaders had died.

It was then that a new generation of pastors took the lead. The Camisards had fought bravely but had done little to unify the church, especially on doctrinal grounds. In 1715, taking advantage of an interim period in the government, the group met to discuss a line of action.

Their leader was 19-year old Antoine Court, a fiery young man with clear ideas. His agenda included the establishment of regular worship, the restoration of proper church government (including consistories and regular synods), the training of pastors, and the suppression of fanaticism in all its forms, such as violence and prophecies (which had often taken the place of Scriptures).

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