Roussel, Gerard

Roussel, Gerard (Lat. Gerardas Rufus), bishop of Oleron, in France, and reformer, was born at Vaquerie, near Amiens, and became a student at Paris, where Lefevre d'Etaples convinced him that man is saved only through faith in God's mercy, but that such faith may consist with the practice of the external forms of Romanism, they being regarded as indifferent matters. When Lefevre was accused of heresy and obliged to flee to bishop Briconnet of Meaux in 1521, Roussel followed, and remained at Meaux until compelled to seek a refuge against imprisonment for heresy himself, when he established himself in the house of Capito at Strasburg. In 1526 Francis I recalled the fugitives, and Roussel became court preacher to Margaret of Orleans, in that position faithfully preaching evangelical doctrines, but retaining the usages of Rome. On the marriage of Margaret with the king of Navarre (1527), Roussel became her confessor. In 1530 he obtained the rich abbey of Clairac. In 1533 his patroness invited him to preach in the Louvre, which he did amid great popular agitation. Many Romanists were expelled the city, and Roussel, on the other hand, was imprisoned, but afterwards released and forbidden to preach. He returned with his protectress to Bdarn, and soon afterwards obtained the bishopric of Oleron, for accepting which Calvin censured him strongly, because his new position would compel him to tolerate abuses which he had formerly condemned. Roussel, however, did what he could for the welfare of his diocese, while holding an intermediate position between Rome and the Reformation. He explained the Bible in his sermons, celebrated mass in the vernacular, administered the communion under both kinds, made provision for the Christian training of the young, and devoted his rich revenues to the support of the poor. He also wrote Expositions, in dialogue form, of the Apostles' Creed, the Decalogue, and the Lord's Prayer, as guides to his clergy in the conduct of catechetical instruction. In this work Roussel occupied thoroughly evangelical ground, if a few concessions in regard to ceremonies be set aside. The only appeal is to the Bible; Christ is represented as the only head of the Church; faith in him as the only condition of salvation. The Church triumphant is the only perfect Church, and of visible churches that alone is a true Church in which the Gospel is preached in its purity, and in which the sacraments, of which there are but two, are properly administered. A subsequent tract on the Lord's supper taught the impartation of Christ's glorified body in the sense of Calvin, with whose theology the views of Roussel had much in common, particularly in the feature of an absolute predestination. The Sorbonne extracted a number of propositions from these works and condemned them as heretical, as it had already done the sermon in the Louvre; but before the sentence was pronounced Roussel had ended his career. In the spring of 1550 he had preached a sermon before a synod held at Mauleon, in which he advocated a reduction in the number of saints' days, which excited the rage of the Romish fanatics present to such a degree that they broke down the pulpit in which he stood, and injured him so severely in the process that he died soon afterwards. In addition to the works referred to, Roussel published, in early life, a Latin translation of Aristotle's Ethics, and a Commentary accompanying an edition of the arithmetic of Bontius, which was designed to elucidate the mystical signification of numbers. See C. Schmidt, Gerard Roussel, Predicateur de la Reine Marguerite de Navarre (Strasburg. 1845).

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