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LAYMEN IN THE FIELD.
THE Huguenots were demanding that the Genevans should he free; others, mostly laymen, were coming with a little book in their hands, to say "The truth shall make you free indeed.'' One class spoke in the name of humanity, the other in the name of Christianity. The two great forces were soon at work; but they did not work unitedly. Many of these political Huguenots were still Romanists. They were afraid of the Bible. Like many now in Europe, they wished to throw off the temporal power of the pope, but yet let the pope have his spiritual power. The patriot Hugues hoped for a free, but not a protestant Geneva. It was the state, not the church, that he wished to see reformed. The same mind was in Bonivard, who, like Erasmus, dealt his satires upon all parties. If these Huguenots had all been athirst for the Bible, and if they had made that the corner-stone of their liberties, there would have been less battle and a speedier victory. Farel would have found the reformation already there when he entered the city. Calvin would have had far less trouble in fulfilling his mission.
Had these patriots all been protestants, Geneva might have received her form of doctrine and polity from Wittemberg. Luther was known there in 1520. A few Huguenots had rejoiced at his resistance to the papal power. They wished to treat the bulls of the Vatican as Luther had done—burn them. His writings seem to have found their way into the city. Bonivard says in his chronicle,—"Luther had already given instruction at this time to many in Geneva and elsewhere." The duke's party heard the great monk's name and took alarm. They thought it worth while to make a splendid parade, and march out of the city with the image of St. Peter, and cry down Luther and his doctrines. The Huguenots noticed the procession of canons, priests, monks, scholars and white clerks marching beyond the walls. "All the priests have gone out," said they; "let us shut the gates and prevent them from returning." Had they done so, it would have been nothing more than a rough joke. But they lacked the courage. The idea got wind; the startled priests and monks hurried back to their nests, and had only a good fright. There was a far better way to exclude these haters of Luther, had these Huguenots been willing to learn it. They were to have the opportunity. The Bible was coming.
The deeds of men outlast their names. We know not who were the humble missionaries that came to Geneva about the year 1524; but we know what they carried. It was Lefevre's French Testament. It was borne on the waves of that missionary movement, which was started at Basle, Montbeliard and Lyons. Not in vain did the Cfrevalier Anemond oversee the printing of these Testaments and religious books; not in vain did the merchants, Vaugris and Du Blet, send them into those regions which swell the Bhone with their streams. The book-hawkers came to Geneva, and some of the citizens "talked with them and bought their books.''
One of the first to welcome these Bible-colpdrteurs was Baudichon, who read the Scriptures with astonishment, because he could find in them no Romanism, no images, no mass, no pope, no purgatory, but could find a new religion, a new authority, a new life, a new church; and all these new things were just what the Lord and his apostles taught. Robert Vandel also read with delight, for he thought that here was the power to make Geneva a republic, independent in religion and politics. Such men saw with disgust the snares laid by the duke's party in the amusements which pretended to be in honour of Charles and the new bishop. Among other displays was a theatrical performance called "the finding of the cross." It was a lame attempt at a "mystery-play." It represented the Emperor Constantine and his mother, Helena, going to Jerusalem to find the cross, so that the precious relic might be of use to the church. Three crosses were dug up on the Calvary represented upon the stage. A miracle would decide the true one from those of the two thieves. A dead body, (so feigned,) was brought. Helena says,—
To this corpse we will apply
The three crosses are applied and when the third one touches the corpse it is restored to life! Wonderful miracle! The Mamelukes were delighted. Charles fancied such tricks were acting like a charm. "The flies are caught by the honey," said he; "yet a few more diversions and these proud Genevans will become our slaves.''
The Huguenots resolved to have a play of their own, and gained permission to honour the duke and new bishop in their own way. A great fair was drawing the people to the city, and a crowd gathered to see the Huguenot play. A bishop or two and many priests came, but Charles knew the men too well; he feared a "snake in the grass" and did not appear. The play was Le Monde Malade, the Sick World, or really the Finding of the Bible. The World was very sick, growing worse and worse, a priest comes with his wares and masses, World wants the masses very short, priest shows him some, they don't suit, priest finds that neither short nor long masses will do, a wise man proposes a new remedy—"What is it, say?"
"A thing which no man dare gainsay,
The WoiM does not like that remedy, and proves himself a fool! Thus the play ends. The Genevans soon had more serious events to engage their minds. For two years there were banishments and martyrdoms, but the Testaments were not lost. The tyrants missed their mark by sending patriots as exiles to Berne and Basle, and other cities where the truth was preached. The Romanists were sending them to the school of the gospel.
These wanderers had woes enough, but this helped to bring about the Swiss alliance of 1526. Berne and Friburg joined hands with Geneva. The exiles returned, the duke's party began to flee "like birds of night before the first beams of day." Laymen began to talk about the gospel, and to read and think for themselves. An honest Helvetian was coming to give them a lift.
Thomas ab Hofen, a wise and sedate man, had done a good work at Berne. The alliance-business brought several deputies to Geneva, and he came along with them, greatly to Zwingle's joy. This Christian layman had no intention of reforming the city; his mission was diplomatic; but he was not one who could
hide his genial light. He visited many citizens, attended the churches, met the people in their meetings, and concluded that there was much patriotism among them, but very little Christianity. The great want in Geneva was religion. At his inn he wrote to Zwingle, '' The number of those who confess the gospel must be increased.'' There were a few Christians in the city.
The deputy of Berne was not ashamed to be an ambassador of Christ. When he could take an hour from his official dutfes, he conversed with the people, telling them what was going on at Berne and Zurich. Around the hearth of some Huguenot, where burned the January fire, he talked of the good gospel, and kindled a love for the liberty «*here is in Christ. We imagine him often at the house of Baudichon whose wife became, an earnest believer. But he had a chance to learn the former fatness of the priests by looking behind the screens.
The priests honoured him at first, as one in high office. Some of them heard him often speak of religion and imagined that he belonged to their coterie. They were afraid to have a layman talk of the gospel; it looked too much like apostolic and reformation days. They sought to gain his pity by innocently telling him of the fine times they had, when presents of bread, wine, oil, game and tapers were plentiful in their houses. "But alas!" said they, with sad complaints, "the faithful bring us no more offerings, and people do not run so ardently after indulgences as they used to do." This was more, pleasing news to Ab Hofen than they supposed. It might be a bad state of things for the priests, but it was good for the gospel.
The citizens became more and more attached to the genial visitor. They invited him to their homes, and their public assemblies, that he might speak of the noble things occurring