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There was danger on every hand. In the council and in the streets men had sworn Farel's death. At the door of the vicar's house the three reformers had to wait some time, for the two magistrates went in to ask another pledge of the council that the ministers should be safe while they freely explained their doctrines. The pledge was given, and they entered and stood together before the imposing assembly, all in their sacerdotal robes. The official, de Veigy, was ordered to speak.
"William Farel," said he, "tell me who has sent you, for what reason you come here, and by what authority you speak." He knew of no authority but that of the Romish church.
"I am sent by God," replied Farel, with simplicity, "and I am come to declare his word.''
"Poor wretch," groaned the priests, with a shrug of the shoulders.
'' God has sent you, you say,'' resumed the official. '' How is that? Can you show a clear sign, as Moses did before Pharaoh? If not, then show us the license of our most reverend prelate, the bishop of Geneva. Preacher never yet preached in his diocese without his leave." He paused; he scanned the decently-dressed reformer from head to foot; he feared to hear any answer from Farel, and did not intend that one should be given, and then broke forth again,—"You do not wear the robes of a clergyman. You are dressed like a soldier or a brigand. How dare you preach? A decree of the holy church forbids laymen to preach. You are a deceiver and a bad man."
Thus ran the abuse. The clergy did not give Farel time to speak. It was not for that they had called him. They were glorying in the fact that they had within their grasp the terrible heretic, of whom they had been so long talking. It was hard for them to keep their hands off him. They sat, pale with anger, and clattered their feet on the floor. At last*they must speak or burst, and they all spoke at once, pouring insult on the reformer. They rose, rushed upon him, and, pulling him this way and that, they cried out,—"Come Farel, you wicked devil, what business have you to go up and down, disturbing all the world? Are you baptized? Where were you born? Where did you come from? Why do you come here? Are you the man that spread heresies at Aigle and Neufchatel, and threw the whole country into confusion?"
It was not meant that Farel should have any chance to answer these questions. The noise was so great that neither he, nor the vicar, nor the magistrates, could gain a hearing. A rattle was heard; the weapons were clattering beneath the priest's frocks. Farel remained still as he could amid all this uproar. At length the grand vicar secured order and silence. Farel seized the moment.
"My lords," said he, nobly lifting his head, "I am not a devil. I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son^nd Holy Grhost, and, if I journey to and fro, it is that I may preach Jesus Christ. . . . I am compelled to teach him to all who will hear me. For this cause, and for no other, I am come into this city. Having been brought before you to give an account of my faith, I am ready to do so, not only at this moment, but as many times as you please to hear me peaceably. As for the disturbances in the land, I will answer as Elijah did to King Ahab,— 41 have not troubled Israel, but thou and thy father's house.' Yes, it is you and yours who trouble the world by your traditions, your inventions and your dissolute lives."—
"He blasphemes; what further nee'd have we of witnesses,'' cried out one of the raging, gnashing priests. "He is guilty of death."
"To the Rhone, totheRhone!" shouted others. "Kill him! It is better for this rascally Lutheran to die than to let him trouble all the people.''
"Speak the word of God," said Farel at these perversions of Scripture, "and not those of Caiaphas."
"Strike! strike!" cried a Savoyard, as the furious priests shouted whatever was uppermost in their minds. They divided the three reformers among them, and each was abused, spit upon and beaten; yet each was calm and patient, remembering, doubtless, the meekness of the Great Master under similar treatment. Certain of the better priests and the two magistrates were ashamed of such a scene, and tried to end it.
"It is not well done," said an abbot; "have we not pledged our word and honour to them?"
"You are wicked men," cried out William Hugues, a just, quick and energetic magistrate, who was more than disgusted with the violent party. '' We brought you these men on your promise that no harm should be done to them, and you want to beat them to death before our faces. I will go and ring the great bell and convoke the general council."
The thought of a general assembly of the citizens alarmed the priests, for they might expel the authors of this disturbance and give .every security for the reformers to remain. In few cities would the people side with the priests, and Neufchatel was a fearful example of the popular power. The abbot took advantage of this new lull, and asked Farel and his two friends to withdraw so that the council might deliberate. Farel left the room, shamefully insulted, and bruised.
And what does the reverend sister Jeanne de Jussie say came next? About eighty of the lower order of priests had collected about the house, "all well armed with clubs to defend the holy catholic faith, and prepared to die for it." Strange mode of defending the faith! Not much danger of dying for it when there were eighty in arms against three defenceless strangers!'' They wished to put that wretch and his accomplices to a better death." Sister Jeanne knew all about the scheme.
As Farel entered a long gallery he saw a gun levelled at him, and in an instant the priming flashed, but the load was not expelled. Some say it burst in the hands of the vicar's servant who aimed it at Farel. "I am not to be shaken by a popgun, '' said he coldly. '' Your toy does not alarm me.'' His friends said, "Yerily, the God of mercy turned aside the blew that he might preserve Farel for more formidable struggles."
Again were the strangers summoned to the council-room. The grand-vicar said, "William Farel, leave my presence and this house, and within six hours get you gone from the city with your two companions, under pain of the stake. And know that if this sentence is not more severe you must ascribe it to our kindness and to our respect for the lords of Berne.''
"You condemn me unheard," said Farel. "I demand a certificate to show at Berne that I have done my duty.''
4' You shall not have one,'' was the reply. '' Leave the room, all of you, without one word more.'' They got out of the council of the clergy, but how were they to get away from the city? The mob must be met. They went forth into a hurricane of enmity. On a sudden there was a stir in the crowd, a falling back and parting. An armed body of men rescued them from violence, to the great grief of Sister Jeanne, who wrote of the most of the mob, that "the worthy men were not satisfied" to see the heretics depart alive, and one rushed forward at Farel with a sword "to run him through." The magistrates seized the "worthy man," and many were chagrined because the blow failed. Amid hootings, and hisses, and groans, and threats, the reformers reached the Tour Perce under guard. It grieved Farel that he must leave the generous men who had listened to him at the inn. But he intended to preach yet in Geneva.
Early the next morning a little boat lay waiting, and a few friendly citizens went to the Tour Perce to bring away the missionaries. The priest-party were there to turn their matins into murder. Some staunch Huguenots came up, brought out the two strangers, and hurried to the lake. In the boat they were carried over to an unfrequented place .near to Lausanne, and after a tender parting with their friends, who had thus far-attended them, they made their way to Orbe. It required faith in God to hope that Geneva would ever become a stronghold of Protestantism.