Morely (or Morelly) (Lat Morelius), Jean Baptiste
Morely (or Morelly) (Lat. Morelius), Jean Baptiste a French Protestant divine, noted for his attempts to introduce into the Church a democratic organization such as it had in apostolic times, was born at Paris about 1510. But little is known of his early personal history. He suddenly became noted by his criticism of the fourth book of Calvin's Institution Chretienne, in an essay on ecclesiastical discipline, in which he tried to prove that the laity ought to have power to decide on all important questions of doctrine, morals, election of pastors, etc., privileges assigned by the Geneva Reformer to a Consistory, and fortified his theory by declarations of Scripture and the usages of the primitive Church. He submitted the same in manuscript to Calvin; but Calvin returned it with the excuse that he had not time to peruse so long a treatise on a subject already settled by the Word of God. Morely then had it printed under the title,
Traite de lae discipline etpolice Chrltienne (Lyons, 1561). The moderation, the force of argument, the clearness of exposition displayed in it found little countenance with the Calvinistic churches, and when in 1562 he presented it to the National Synod held at Orleans it was rejected. This condemnation appeared rather strange to a large number of the Reformed; among others, Soubise expressed himself strongly against this proceeding to Theodore de Beza, who, however, succeeded in quieting him. Morely retired to Tours, where he found a violent adversary in the pastor of Saint- Germain, and thence to Geneva (November 1562). Here he was ere long summoned before the Consistory, and asked to retract. This he refused to do, but proposed to submit the matter to the judgment of Farel, De Viret, and Calvin. The latter would not accept the part of arbiter, saying he would not place himself above the synod, which had condemned his book. Even Morely's request to give him permission to defend himself in writing was not granted; on the contrary, the Consistory treated him as an obstinate heretic, and (August 31, 1563) excommunicated him; his book, referred to the council, was condemned to be burned (September 17), and all bookstores were forbidden to expose it for sale, all citizens and inhabitants of Geneva warned not to purchase it for reading, and all who possessed copies of it were ordered to bring them, and those who knew where there were any, to denounce them within twenty-four hours at the risk of severe punishment in case of non-compliance. Morely left Geneva, but the passion of the Calvinistic clergy ceased not to manifest itself against him. When in 1566 he acted as tutor to the son of Jeanne d'Albret, the Consistory did not rest satisfied until he was dismissed from that family. The National Synods of Paris (1565) and Nimes (1572) also condemned his Traite de la Discipline, as well as his Reponse, which he published against An Apology of the Calvinistic Doctrine, variously attributed to Chandieu and Viret. On the other hand, a goodly number of persons of rank, several churches of Languedoc, those of Sens, Meaux, and others, approved and shared his opinions concerning church organization, and demanded with him that the laity should have a vote in the election of elders, pastors, etc. Ramus, too, became interested, and insisted upon that right. The author of all this agitation in 1572 dropped out of sight. He is supposed to have died towards the end of the 16th century in London, England. His plan of congregational lay representation in ecclesiastic government is now realized essentially in most Protestant churches, after three hundred years of controversy. Besides the two principal works mentioned, two other publications are ascribed to him, viz. Verborum Latinorum cum Gracis
Anglicisque conjunctorum locupletissimi Conmmentarii (1583), and De Ecclesia ab antichristo per ejus excidium liberanda (Lond. 1589); the latter was dedicated to queen Elizabeth, and translated into German. See Bayle, Hist. Dict. s.v.; Haag, La France Protestante, s.v.; Niceron, Memoires, volume 36; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Generale, 36:546, 547.