« AnteriorContinuar »
He paid the landlord his bill, strapped his little bundle on his shoulders, and, without one word of adieu to the cold Huguenots, bent his steps toward the Swiss gate and—stopped. An invisible hand seemed to arrest him. A voice cried up from his conscience. A force, greater than that of man, sent him back. He took his room at the inn, sat down with his head in his hands, and asked what God wanted wdth him. He remembered what Farel had done at Aigle. He rebuked himself for coming there as a preacher. He will now begin in humility as a schoolmaster.
He met with a man of lowly lot, and asked him where there was a place for a school. He was led to a large hall, near the Molard, in a house on which is still seen the sign of the golden cross. With his eye he measured the room and rented it. He would have a school, if he could only get the scholars. He drew up a placard; in his best hand-writing, and posted several copies in the public places. It read thus,—"A young man, just arrived in this city, engages to teach reading and writing in French, in one month, to all who will come to him, young and old, men and women, even such as have never been to school; and if they cannot read and write within the said month, he asks nothing for his trouble. He will be found at Boytet's hall, near the Molard. Many diseases are also cured gratis.''
The papers were read by the passers by, and some who had met him, said, "We have heard him speak; he talks well.', To some his proposal was suspicious; others replied that it was benevolent, for '' in any case he does not aim at our purses.'' But the priests and their followers were irritated, and exclaimed in their usual style, '' He is a devil. He enchants all who go near him.''
The school opened, and there was no lack of young learners. Froment taught with clearness and simplicity. Before dismissing the children he would open his Testament, read a few verses, explain them, and then ask if any at their homes were sick. If -so he gave them a few harmless remedies. The children ran home, and told everything. The mothers stopped in their work to listen, and the fathers, especially the Huguenots, made them tell it over again. Thus the children prattled about it, and the older ones were set wondering. Soon the city was quite engaged about "the school-master who spoke French so well."
The teacher was doing more than he promised; there were Arithmetic, and good manners, a thing not to be despised in Geneva, and there were those readings and talks from the Bible. The grown people must go and hear. Certain ones played off their jokes, wives held back their husbands, priests vented their feelings in coarse abuse, but still Froment found the interest increasing. There were some peeping in and slyly listening to his words. The little sermon was what most came for, and they seemed to lack ears and mouths enough to gather it all. The boys glanced on the men whom they had brought in, with a feeling of triumph, and the men came oftener and stayed longer. Many of the Huguenots began to see that true Christianity did not consist in mocking the priests and the mass, as they had so long been doing, but in knowing and loving the Saviour. "Come," they began to say to their neighbours, "come to the Golden Cross, and hear him, for he preaches very differently from the priests, and charges nothing for his trouble." Men, women, and children began to see who could get first to the hall. The poor man who had been bluffed and bowed out of their houses, had risen to high esteem among the Huguenots, and to the honour of being ridiculed by the priests. *
* " That fine preacher, Froment, who, having laid aside his apron, got
The motive which led some to the hall was not a love for the gospel, but a hatred of the priests, monks" and mamelukes. Such Huguenots as Ami Perrin, Goulaz and Adda, thought that the new doctrine "which fell from the skies," might overthrow the party that opposed the liberties of the city, and they ranged themselves on the benches of the hall and supported Froment with great zeal in the city. Rome was to fare even worse. Certain more liberal priests came to hear the schoolmaster, and declared the doctrines good for all to receive. But the monks went into houses, lingered with groups on the streets, and jeered at Froment's appearance, and his doctrines. "What can that little fool know, who is hardly twenty-two?" His admirers answered, "That fool can teach you to be wise."
From the days that Paul found "the chief women not a few," to be among the first to receive the word of Christ, it has often occurred that influential women have led the advance in confessing the true faith. It was so in Geneva. For three . centuries the ancestors of Paula had been styled nobles, and she had honoured John Levet with her personal merits in being an excellent wife. When the preaching of Farel reached her ear she "became very zealous for the word." She now was anxious to win her sister-in-law, Claudine, the wife of the worthy Aime Levet, to the gospel. Claudine was "an honest, devoted and wondrously superstitious woman,'' and more than • once had shown combat when the new doctrines were broached. She lived across the Rhone.
up into his pulpit, then went to his shop where he prated (talked,) and thus gave a double sermon." Thus Calvin referred to him, when giving his dying farewell to the ministers of Geneva. Perhaps Froment had to support himself by toil as well as by teaching, at this time as well as afterwards when Calvin came to the city.
"Come, now," said Paula one day when at her house, uand hear the school-master. Those beautiful little sermons will give you delight."
"I have so great a horror of him," was the reply, "that for fear of being bewitched I will neither see nor hear him."
"He speaks like an angel,''
"I look upon him as a devil."
"If you hear him you will be saved."
"And I think I shall be damned."
"Pray hear him once," and Paula in deep emotion still pleaded,—"Pray hear him once, for love of me." Claudine at last consented to go. But she would thoroughly protect herself. She gathered fresh rosemary leaves, and fixed them about her temples; she hung relics, crosses and rosaries round her neck, and saying,—"I am going to see an enchanter," she went with Paula, thinking that she would even lead back her sister into the "mother church."
In mockery Claudine sat down before the magician, who held a book in his hand. Then, mounting on a round table to be the better heard, he opened the book, read a few words, and began to apply them. Dame Claudine, not caring the least for the assembly, and wishing to make known her religion, crossed herself several times, and repeated certain prayers. Froment still unfolded the rich treasures of the little book. She began to be astonished; she looked at the minister; she was not hearing an angel, but God was speaking from that small book. Not a more attentive listener was in the hall. She asked .herself,—"Can this be true, seeing that the church knows nothing%bout it?" Her eyes fixed on the school-master's book. It was not a missal or a breviary. It seemed to her full of life. It was indeed the word of life.
The talk was ended, and all lingered and left. She sat still, looked at the teacher, and asked,—"Is that all true? Is it proved by the gospel?"
"It is all true. It is the gospel," said he, in a pleasing voice.
"Is not the mass mentioned in it?"
"Not that I can find."
"And is the book from which you preach a genuine New Testament?"
"It is, Madame." It was probably Lefevre's version.
"Then, lend it to me," she earnestly requested. He did so, and she placed it carefully under her cloak, among her beads and relics, and went home talking with Paula, who began to hope that the finger of God had touched her soul.
Dame Claudine was in earnest. She took her room, ordered that her family should not wait meals for her, nor knock at her door, and '' she remained apart for three days and three nights, without eating or drinking, but with prayers, fastings and supplications." The Testament lay open on her table before her, and she read it, kneeling and lifting her eyes to heaven for light. She had many severe struggles, but at last she heard her Lord say, through his word,—"Daughter, thy sins are forgiven thee." She discovered that "the grace of God trickled slowly into her heart,'' but the least drop seemed a fountain never to be exhausted. Three days she thus spent, as Paul remained * three days in prayer at Damascus.
And now she must see the man who had first led her into these rich treasures. She sent for him to come to her house over the bridge. He crossed the Rhone, and was met in her home with no other language than the "tears that fell on the floor." When the tide of emotion had receded, she told him how God had opened for her the door of heaven, and so talked