« AnteriorContinuar »
How they met, we know not, but Farel "could not restrain his joy when he found himself kindly received by this celebrated man." It seemed as if he had gained his object in coming to the capital. "From that time his greatest pleasure was to converse with the doctor of Etaples, to listen to him, to hear his admirable lessons, and to kneel with him devoutly before the same shrines. Often might the aged Lefevre and his young disciple be seen adorning an image of the Virgin with flowers; and alone, far from all Paris, far from its scholars and its doctors, they murmured in concert the fervent prayers they offered up to Mary." The teacher, warring against certain errors, still held to some of the most absurd; and the student, who had refused to take the sword, still clung to the rosary.
Farel was sincere. He thought that he was right. He was not hoping for a rich benefice, nor preparing to fleece some flock over which he might be placed, nor dreaming of the vicious life then led by so many of the priests. A soul like his was above loving popery for money, or for power, or for indulgence in sin. In his view the pope sat on a throne of God, and ruled in the place of Christ. To obey and worship him as Christ was a part of salvation. If any one said aught that was ill of the "holy pontiff," he would "gnash his teeth like a furious wolf," and was ready to call down the lightnings of heaven "to overwhelm the guilty wretch with utter ruin and confusion.?'
"What do you believe?" we presume to be asked of him by some student who has caught up certain sarcastic remarks of Erasmus about the follies of Romanism. "Do you really believe that a wafer is converted into the very body of Christ?"
"I believe," said Farel, "in the cross, in pilgrimages, images, vows and relics. What the priest holds in his hands, puts into the box, and then shuts it up, eats, and gives others to eat, is my only true God, and to me there is no other, either in heaven or upon earth."
Still he was not satisfied. His spirit hungered, his soul found no rest. Everything was going from bad to worse. The study of the profane authors brought him not one crumb of the bread from heaven; in the rites of the church there was not one drop of the water of life to quench his thirst. Lefevre scarcely dared tell him the little truth that he was leaning upon, for he was not quite sure of it himself, and no lame man likes to give away his staff. The student went restless and wretched to several doctors of the age, but they only sent him away more wretched than before. He told them that he wanted to be a real Christian, and they gave him Aristotle as a guide! He read books, bowed to images, adored relics, invoked the saints, kept the fasts and festivals, carried his reverence for Mary to a superstitious extreme, and yet all proved worse than in vain. It was sending him to the brambles, under a delusion that from them he would gather grapes.
In his severe mental sufferings he learned one piece of good news. It was that the "holy father, the pope," was willing to allow the Old and New Testaments to be called the Holy Bible. Thanks to his holiness for this concession! If he had gone farther and said, with one of the English martyrs, '' No writings are holy but the Bible," it would have settled an important question in the anxious minds of hundreds, who like young Farel, knew not which to believe, Christ or the pope. That question was, which shall we follow, the word of God, or the word of the church? Farel thought that since the pope acknowledged the great good book to be the Holy Bible, he might read it for himself. Surely the pope and the apostles must agree in their teachings! But as he read the sacred page, he was amazed at seeing how they disagreed, and how different everything in Romanism was from the pure Christianity of the New Testament. Where was the mass taught in the Bible? Where prayer to the saints? Where the adoration of relies? Where the worship of the Virgin Mary? Where confession to priests? Where the paying of money for a pardon? Where purgatory? Where salvation by an endless round of mere works? Certainly not in the Bible. It taught repentance instead of penances, faith in the Crucified rather than the adoration of the cross, prayer to Jesus and not to the saints, and love to God rather than the fear of the pope. In its light he could see that any one might pray to God in the name of Christ; every one might come to Jesus and find rest; and no one need to buy his pardon of a priest, nor an indulgence of the "holy father." He could see that penitents would be safer at Jesus' feet, and pilgrims better off at home. The thought muat have risen in his mind that if priests could convert a wafer into the Deity, they could make anything a God,* and if the elevation of tfce host be a crucifixion, then Jesus must be always suffering for our sins.
The young Bible-reader went far enough to see that the word of God did not agree with the word of the Church,f He scarcely dared to go farther. He had severe pangs of mind, and struggled to know which to accept. His first effort was the very reverse of what young Luther was now doing, when making the Church give way to the teachings of the chained Bible. The monk of Erfurth thought, in his best hours, that Christ must stand, and the pope must fall, Cod must be believed, though the Church went to ruin. The Dauphinese student scarcely ventured to think, but first attempted to make the Bible give way to the teachings of popery. If he read any passages of Scripture that opposed the Romish practices, he hung his head, cast his eyes upon his breast, as if trying to get a kind look from his conscience. He blushed, as if ashamed to deny his Lord, and yet dared not believe the word of God. Fearing to keep face to face with the gospel writers, he turned his eyes from the holy book, saying, in deep mental anguish,—"Alas! I do not well understand these things. I must give a different meaning to the Scriptures from that which they seem to have. I must keep to the interpretation of the Church, and, indeed, of the pope." ^
* An Englishman had said, " If every consecrated host be the Lord's body, there are 20,000 gods in England."
fThis was one of the first things to be seen before there could be a reformation. Among the many predecessors of Luther, who perceived this, was John, of Wesalia, an aged doctor of divinity, who was tried for heresy, at Mentz, in 1479. /He held that "nothing was to be believed not found in the Scriptures," and was charged with saying,—"I despise the pope and his councils. I love Christ; and may his word dwell in us abundantly,"
Thus he must warp and wrest the sacred words, in order to make them agree with his prejudices; and it was hard and painful work. One day a doctor of the Church happened to come in, and he found him reading the Bible. Instead of "a word in season to him that was weary," a sharp rebuke fell from the tongue of the learned. "No man," said he, "ought to read the Holy Scriptures before he has learnt philosophy and taken his degree in arts." It was filling the student's head with lead. It was giving a stone to him who asked for the bread of life. Farel believed him, although no such literary prepararation was required of the disciples when, as fishermen, they entered the school of Christ, nor of any of the common people, who heard him gladly. His rule was one which holds good in all ages, and among all people,—"Search the Scriptures.'7 The Bible-reader was in the depths of mental darkness, and, long after, he gave thanks for the great and wonderful work of God, in raising him from such an abyss. He looked back, and said,— "I was the most wretched of men, shutting my eyes, lest I should see."
It seems that he began to be afraid of the Bible, lest it should destroy his faith in the Church, and his love for its rites. As he left it unopened, his Romish fervour returned. He threw his whole soul into his mistaken devotions. He gained, among the people, a reputation for zeal. The keener-sighted Romanists cultivated him, as the shrewd priests in Zurich had sought to enlist young Zwingle in their interests, lest he should think too much, see too many gross evils, and have his mind turned toward a reform. They had learned from the boldness of Huss, Savonarola, Jerome of Prague, and the various "reformers before the Reformation," that such men must be managed in time, if they were prevented from making a noise in the world, and striking such blows at the papacy that its wounds could never be healed. It was wiser to use gentle arts, and persuade them into active service when young, than to allow them to mature their powers by reading and thinking, and then burn them in old age for '' heresy.''
"You grow thin by study—your mind is oppressed," they would say; "you need exercise; you should do something that will engage your heart in good works, and thus relieve your over-burdened intellect.'x
"My pilgrimages give my heart exercise," we hear Far el replying. "I try to do all the good works that will save the soul."
"True, they may save the soul; but you*must not wear out