Theodore Beza

The Counsellor of the French Reformation

by Henry Martyn Baird

G. P. Putnam’s Sons New York and London The Knickerbocker Press 1899

Theodore Beza, one of the lesser-known names of Reformation history in our day and age, was born in Vézelay, France in 1519 and would become one of the most important leaders of French Protestants during the critical period of the sixteenth century. Leaving behind the pleasures and security that come with a wealthy family of nobility, he chose to cast his lot with the persecuted people of God. After his conversion to the Gospel of Christ in 1548, he forsook his worldly education and career and left his native country for Geneva, Switzerland, where he was welcomed by John Calvin and became a Protestant preacher. Beza also became a champion of the Huguenots as their foremost representative to King Charles IX and the Catholic ecclesiastical leaders of France, risking his life in his travels as he plead the case of the suffering French Christians. They would turn to him time and time again for counsel and leadership during the dark days of civil war and brutal persecutions, including the infamous massacre of St. Bartholomew’s Day, 1572. Beza also contributed greatly to the writing of the French Psalter, which fueled the fire of the Huguenot cause, and inspired their soldiers with courage as they faced the armies of Catholic tyranny on the battlefield. Beza became John Calvin’s successor at Geneva and labored tirelessly in preaching and in caring for the thousands of destitute, persecuted saints who fled to Geneva for refuge. He remained at Geneva for many years until his death in 1605.