Antoine Court (1696–1760) was a French reformer called the "Restorer of Protestantism in France." He was born at Villeneuve-de-Berg, in Languedoc, March 27, 1696. His parents were peasants, adherents of the Reformed church, which was then undergoing persecution. When but 17 years old, Court began to speak at the secret meetings of the Protestants, held literally "in dens and caves of the earth," and often in darkness, with no pastor present to teach or counsel.
In 1685, Louis XIV of France revoked the Edict of Nantes, referred to as the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, aka the Edict of Fontainebleau. This caused mass exodus of Protestants. There were those who stayed and continued to secretly practice Protestantism; called “The Church of the Desert”, or "Christians of the Desert". His followers were always hounded, persecuted, and put to death.
He entertained a great desire to build up the church so ruthlessly persecuted; and to this end he proposed four things:
- regular religious meetings for teaching and worship;
- suppression of the fanaticism of those who professed to be inspired, and of the consequent disorders;
- restoration of discipline by the establishment of consistories, conferences, and synods;
- the careful training of a body of pastors.
To the performance of this great task he devoted his life. From audiences of half a dozen meeting in secret, he came to address openly 10,000 at one time. In 1715 he convoked the first Synod of the Desert, or synod of the French Reformed Church.
In 1724 further fury was hurled at the Protestants in a decree which assumed that there were no Protestants in France and prohibited the most secret exercise of the Reformed religion. A price was set on Court's head, and in 1730 he fled to Lausanne, Switzerland, where an academy, or seminary, for Protestant ministers had been founded in 1537. There, after great exertion, he founded a college for the education of the clergy, of which, during the remaining 30 years of his life, he was the chief director. This college sent forth all of the pastors of the Reformed church of France until the close of the eighteenth century. He died at Lausanne, June 13, 1760.
Court intended to write a history of Protestantism and made extensive collections for the purpose, but he did not live to do the work. He wrote, however,:
- An Historical Memorial of the Most Remarkable Proceedings Against the Protestants in France from 1744-51 (English translation, London, 1832)
- Histoire des troubles des Cévennes ou de la guerre des Camisards (1760; new edition, three volumes, Alais, 1819)
- Autobiography, edited by E. Hugues (Toulouse, 1885)
- Letters, from 1739, edited by C. Dardier (Paris, 1885; 1891)
- Lecture notes, Christian Heritage III, Professor Karen Bullock, BH Carroll Theological Institute
References cited by the New International Encyclopedia
- E. Hugues, Antoine Court (Paris, 1872)
- E. Hugues, Les synodes du désert (three volumes, Paris, 1885–86)
- H. M. Baird, The Huguenots and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (New York, 1895)
- Bulletin de la Société de l'Histoire du protestantisme français (Paris, 1893–1906)