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THE PREACHERS A.T THE INN,
ON a fine October day two travellers, the one riding a white horse, and the other a black one, entered Geneva, stopped at the Tour Perce, dismounted, addressed the landlord and took up their quarters under his roof. He would never forget them, for the little slender man with a red beard and sun-burnt face was William Farel, and the other was Anthony Saunier, now on their return from the visit to the Waldenses. One of their first thoughts was to inform Robert Olivetan of their arrival.
The school-master hastened to meet them, supposing that the gospel in Geneva was to be the first and last topic of conversation. But Farel had another idea which must first be mentioned. He had fixed on this excellent Greek and Hebrew scholar to translate the Bible for the Waldenses.
"I cannot accept such a commission,'7 said the modest teacher. "The work is difficult,and I am not qualified."
"Your excuses cannot be admitted. God gives you this call, and he has prepared you for the task."
'' You could do this work much better yourself,'' still urged the accomplished scholar.
"God has not given me leisure," replied Farel, "He calls me to another work. He wills me to sow the pure seed of the word in his field, and water it and make it flourish like the garden of Eden." The subject was changed to matters in the city.
Out of his pocket Farel took the letters given him at Berne for some of the chief Huguenots. They went and made several calls, talking as they went of the late affairs in the streets. The Huguenots opened the letters and found that a famous man was in town. They looked at him with gratitude to him, to Berne and to God. Certainly he should preach, not simply because Berne requested them to hear him, but because they expected that this great preacher would bring the light of heaven into their hearts. Farel left them for the night, saying that he would be happy to see them at his inn.
The great missionary had come! It was the best of news to the Huguenots. "Let us go and hear him," they said; "he is the man they call the scourge of the little priests." But there was wrath among the bigots, the friars and the nuns. They knew what to expect. Jeanne de Jussie, a literary nun, wrote thus, in venting her feelings,—"A shabby little preacher, one Master William, of Dauphiny, has just arrived in the city."
To a room in the Tour Perce many of the noted citizens and councillors went the next morning to be instructed. The landlord brought in some benches and stools, and Farel took his station near a little table. On it he placed a Bible, and he drew from it the faith that he preached. He set forth before this select audience, in which were the earliest champions of. modern liberty, both Romanism and the reformation. They saw the former was all wrong; the latter they wished to embrace. They rose, thanked him and left the room, saying that it seemed right to put the Bible in place of the teaching of the pope. The placards of the "great pardon" noted a first step; this preaching at the Tour Perce marked the second step toward the reformation in Geneva.
These men carried home what they had heard; they talked about it; there was a "great sensation in the city," and sister Jeanne de Jussie again journalized about "this wretched preacher, who was beginning to speak secretly at his quarters, in a room, seeking to infect the people with heresy." There was a second meeting, and still plainer preaching, "at which those who heard him took great pleasure.'' The priests were alarmed, and they set about alarming the women, who then were the main supporters of the papacy. The Genevan ladies begged their husbands and brothers to drive away the heretics. Some went with their husbands, angrily, to the inn, and desired the preachers to leave at once, if they did not wish to be turned out by force. But this was to Farel no storm at all; it was a mere zephyr, that he did not mind.
The council, or senate, was now in trouble. Its members were divided on the great question,—What should be done with these preachers? To keep them would rouse the wrath of the priests and their party; to expel them would greatly offend the stout old Berne. All agreed that it was fair to hear them still farther, and Farel and Saunier were led to the town-hall. As they entered the senate-chamber every eye was fixed on "that man with keen look and red beard, who was setting all the country in a blaze, from the Alps to the Jura." Before long one of the senators opened his battery upon Farel.
"It is you, then, that do nothing but disturb the world. It is your tongue that is trumpeting rebellion. You are a busybody, who have come here only to create discord. We order you to leave the city instantly." This was certainly intelligible enough, without the aid of the angry looks now turned upon Farel.
"I am not a deluder; I am not a trumpet of sedition," answered the reformer, in calm self-control. 111 simply proclaim the truth. I am ready to prove out of God's word that my doctrine is true, and"—the voice grew tender with emotion,— "not only to sacrifice my ease, but to shed the last drop of my blood for it.''
The senators were touched at this noble simplicity. The Huguenots were moved to defend the accused. The tone and temper of all were softened by his moderation. But Farel could defend himself. "Most honoured lords," said he, "are you not allies of Berne?" They grew solemn at the mention of that name. He placed the letters from that city before them, saying,— "They bear witness to my innocence and doctrine, and beg you to hear me preach peacefully. ... If you condemn me unheard, you insult God, and also, as you see, my lords of Berne.'' The countenances of the senators changed, and they gently dismissed the preachers, simply begging them not to disturb the peace of the city by new doctrines.
Disturb such a peace as Geneva had known! It must have seemed absurd to their honours. The real disturbers were already in council under the wing of the church. At the house of the grand vicar, de Gingins, were gathered the clerical strength of the Bomish party. That challenge of Farel,—"I will prove by the word of God," was a terror to them. "If we discuss," said they, "all our office is at an end." They liked not the weapons. The priests had others. They carried arms under their gowns. It was proposed to use them. Sister Jeanne de Jussie knew of the plot. The council would entrap the preachers by asking for a disputation. '' Having deliberated to kill Farel and his companion," says an old manuscript, "they found, the best means of getting them to come would be to invite them to a debate." The conspirators agreed that Farel was never to go alive out of the vicar-general's house; but, first of all, they must get him to enter it. The bishop's secretary, Machard, was deputed to summon the preachers and the schoolmaster to retract or to explain before the council what they had preached at the inn.
The plot was whispered. The Huguenots in the town-hall grew suspicious, and sent the two chief magistrates to go with the bishop's secretary. These three Genevans went to the Tour Perce and met the three reformers. Machard invited them to retract the doctrines they had taught.
"We affirm these doctrines in the strongest way possible," said Farel, "and again offer to die if we cannot prove them by Scripture."
"In that case," said the secretary, "come before the Episcopal council, to discuss with the priests and maintain what you have declared.''
"No harm shall be done to you," added the two magistrates. "We pledge our word to it." The preachers were delighted with this opportunity of announcing the gospel, and, with Olivetan, they set out, not expecting any danger.
Already was there a suspicious-looking group in front of the Tour Perce. While the upper house of the clergy was sitting at the vicar's, the lower house had met in the streets. The armed curates and chaplains had watched the messengers going to the inn, and guessed what it meant. They gathered their followers, particularly the women and the rabble. When the three Genevans with the three reformers passed, they fell in the train. "Look at the dogs," said they, with coarse jeers and threats.