1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Court, Antoine

COURT, ANTOINE (1696–1760), French Protestant divine, was born in the village of Villeneuve-de-Berg, in the province of the Vivarais. He has been designated the “Restorer of Protestantism in France,” and was the organizer of the “Church of the Desert.” He was eight years old when the Camisard revolt was finally suppressed, and nineteen when on the 8th of March 1715 the edict of Louis XIV. was published, declaring that “he had abolished entirely the exercise of the so-called reformed religion” (“qu’il avait aboli tout exercice de la religion prétendue réformée”). Antoine, taken to the secret meetings of the persecuted Calvinists, began, when only seventeen, to speak and exhort in these congregations of “the desert.” He came to suspect after a time that many of the so-called “inspired” persons were “dupes of their own zeal and credulity,” and decided that it was necessary to organize at once the small communities of believers into properly constituted churches. To the execution of this vast undertaking he devoted his life. On the 21st of August 1715 he summoned all the preachers in the Cévennes and Lower Languedoc to a conference or synod near the village of Monoblet. Here elders were appointed, and the preaching of women, as well as pretended revelations, was condemned. The village of Monoblet “thus seems entitled to the honour of having had the first organized Protestant church after the revocation of the edict of Nantes” (H. M. Baird). But there were as yet no ordained pastors. Pierre Corteiz was therefore sent to seek ordination. He was ordained at Zürich, and from him Court himself received ordination. The scene of his labours for fifteen years was Languedoc, the Vivarais, and Dauphiné. His beginnings were very small prayer-meetings in “the desert.” But the work progressed under his wise direction, and he was able “to be present, in 1744, at meetings of ten thousand souls.” In 1724 Louis XV., again assuming that there were no Protestants in France, prohibited the most secret exercise of the Reformed religion, and imposed severe penalties. It was impossible fully to carry out this menace. But persecution raged, especially against the pastors. A price was set on the life of Court; and in 1730 he escaped to Lausanne. He had already, with the aid of some of the Protestant princes, established a theological college (“Seminaire de Lausanne”) there, and during the remaining thirty years of his life he filled the post of director. He had the title of deputy-general of the churches, and was really the pillar of their hope. The Seminary of Lausanne sent forth all the pastors of the Reformed Church of France till the days of the first French Empire. Court formed the design of writing a history of Protestantism, and made large collections for the purpose, which have been preserved in the Public Library of Geneva; but this he did not live to carry out. He died at Lausanne in 1760. He wrote, amongst other works, a Histoire des troubles des Cévennes ou de la guerre des Camisards (1760). He was the father of the more generally known Court de Gebelin, Antoine (q.v.).

For details of his life see Napoléon Peyrat’s Histoire des pasteurs du désert (1842; English translation, 1852); Edmond Hugues, Antoine Court, histoire de la restauration du protestantisme en France au XVIII e siècle (2nd ed., 1872), Les Synodes du désert (3 vols., 1885–1886), Mémoires d’Antoine Court (1885); E. and E. Haag, La France protestante, vol. iv. (1884, new edition); H. M. Baird, The Huguenots and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1895), vol. ii.; cf. Bulletin de la société de l’histoire du protestantisme français (1893–1906).