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CALVIN UNITED WITLT FAlt EL.
LET us go back a little and see what has become of some of our French heroes, and trace the steps of others who are on the way to Geneva.
"Never tire in the middle of your journey," was the maxim of a young man who was entering the old city of Angoul^me, where the Duchess Margaret was born. He walked along a street which in after years bore the name Rue de Geneve, in honour of him. In this street was the mansion of Du Tillet, where he knocked and was admitted. There he had a young friend, Louis Du Tillet, to whose refuge he was invited, and he was now welcomed as John Calvin. A fierce persecution had driven Calvin from Paris, and in this retreat he found a happy home. In the large library he found books that he had never seen before, and prepared for writing the Institutes, the greatest work on theology that had ever appeared. In a vineyard near by he took recreation, and to this day it is called La Calvine. In the village of Claix he drew the notice of the people, who asked the name of that short, thin, pale young man, and they called him "the little Greek," because he was giving some persons lessons in that language.
Not far distant was Nerac, the residence of Margaret, who was now the queen of Navarre. Calvin wished to see Lefevre before the old man was taken away, and Roussel, whom he feared was not firm enough in the faith. He set out, and at Nerac inquired for the house of Lefevre. Everybody knew the good old man, and perhaps his Testament was in many of their hands. "He is a little bit of a man," said they, "old as Herod, but lively as gunpowder." This old man, with his white hair and broken appearance, had about him a living force, meekness, gentleness, moral grandeur and heavenly brightness that charmed the young visitor. They talked, rejoiced, sympathized and wept together. Lefevre was deeply moved when he saw that Calvin was bold enough to break away from the old church and enlist "under the banner of Jesus." Gazing upon him, he said,— "Young man, you will one day be a powerful instrument in the Lord's hand. . . . God will make use of you to restore the kingdom of heaven in France. Be on your guard, and let your ardour be always tempered with charity." Thus they talked. The old man pressed the young man's hand, and they parted, never to meet again on earth.
About three years after this Lefevre died, (1537,) at Nerac, where Margaret took delight in treating him as a father. One day when near his end he burst into tears. The queen asked the reason. He replied, sorrowfully, that he could not help reproaching himself, because he had shrunk from the very cross which he had advised others to bear. While he had imparted to so many the gospel, and encouraged them in exposing their, lives for its sake, it grieved him to think that he was dying in quiet, and that by flight he had deprived himself of the glory of a martyr's name.
Gerard Houssel never broke with the Romish church, although, as bishop of Oleron, he still preached the new doctrines. A Eoman Catholic wrote of him,—"His life was without reproach. His kennel of greyhounds was a great crowd of poor people; his horses and his train were a flock of young children instructed in letters. He had much credit with the people, upon whom he stamped by degrees a hatred and contempt for the religion of their fathers." The good man was a Protestant at heart, and he died in. 1550.
Calvin left this region, gathered about him several missionaries, and they laboured in the west of France, until the wrath of the priests knew no bounds. He gained no little fame as an "arch-heretic," while his friends said,—"Would to God that we had many Calvins." But we find him and Du Tillet, with two horses and two servants, leaving France in 1534. They were robbed by one of the servants, who took their money, mounted one of the horses, and rode away as fast as he could. One horse was left, and the other servant came forward and offered them ten crowns that he had. This took them to Strasburg, where they rested and suddenly heard that a certain William Farel had made a tremendous uproar in France.
An old chronicler called 1534 the year of the placards. Cer. tain men in Paris wished to strike* a blow in behalf of rights which they dare not proclaim. They seemed oppressed into silence, and they wished to protest against errors and wrongs in a way that would arouse the public attention of all, from the king to the cottager. They sent Feret to Switzerland to learn how to do it. He consulted with Farel and his co-labourers. The scheme of the placards was proposed. Farel undertook the task. He could not write without using "his trenchant style and thundering eloquence.'' He wrote it, and proved himself to be what Michelet calls him, "the Bayard of the battles of God." The paper was printed in two forms, one for posting up on the walls, and the other as little tracts to be dropped in the streets. The sheets were packed, and Feret departed with "the thunderbolt forged on Farel's anvil." These were soon after distributed far and near, to be exposed in every city of the kingdom. It was long enough for a short sermon, and when it appeared men read a terrible protest against the errors of Romanism. Beda charged Margaret* with it, but she felt that it was a protest against her and her temporizers. Next Beda accused the king, but he cleared his hands by allowing a furious persecution to sweep the land. There were martyrs, prisoners and exiles by scores. One of the prisoners was a most eloquent preacher, named Courault, who spoke forth the gospel without reserve or disguise. He had so presented the truth to Louis Du Tillet, while he was in Paris, as to lead him out of Margaret's party of temporizers into that of the Scripturists, soon to be headed by Calvin. Aged and infirm as he was when he was brought before the king, he would not yield, and, in spite of Margaret's tears and entreaties, he was sent back to the convent. Did Margaret have a hand on the keys? Whether or not, he in some way escaped, and, though nearly blind, he took the road to Basle. We shall meet him again in Geneva.
Farel was represented at Paris by one of the martyrs, and it will not be a mere episode to tell the story of the converted friar, Le Croix. While a Dominican at his convent in Paris, he was startled in mind by the teaching of Cop and young Calvin. He longed for the gospel, dared not hear it in the capital, and resolved to go to a country where it was freely preached. The eyes of Duprat were on the watch, but he escaped and went to Neufchatel and Geneva, leaving his cowl in the convent and his monkish name in the air. He was thenceforth Alexander Canus. Heartily was he welcomed by Farel and Froment, who carefully taught him the glad tidings which they preached. He was converted—completely transformed. He must proclaim the Sun of Righteousness, point to the cross, preach the Kingdom. One thought absorbed all others, "0 my Saviour! thou hast given thy life for me; I desire to give mine for thee.''
* After this affair the queen of Navarre was less openly favourable to the Protestants. SKe, however, took an unceasing interest in their cause, and wished Calvin to demand of her any aid that she could render. In her later years she fell into a sort of mysticism in her struggles for a purer inward faith and devotion. She died in 1549.
But he could not declare the truth in Geneva. The priests controlled the magistrates, and the magistrates wrote him a heretic and condemned him to death. They, however, lifted the sentence "for fear of the king of France," and he was simply turned out of the city. On the high-way beyond the walls he stopped and preached to the people who followed him. All were charmed by his powerful eloquence. *' Nobody could stop him,'' says Froment, "so strongly did his zeal impel him to win people to the Lord." •
He went with Froment to Berne, and there asked himself and heaven where he should go and preach. To Switzerland? It had already able men. To France? Prisons and d^ath awaited him there. But France needed preachers; he might, perhaps, do something for the gospel. He crossed the border, and went into the region of Macon, where Margaret's chaplain, Michael D'Aranda, had preached nearly ten years before. He raised his voice among the simple and warm-hearted people, who were exposed to the wildest fanaticism. Wandering along the streams he entered the cottages, talked unto the peasants and planted the truth on the plains of Bresse.