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earnestness, and she is entered on the list of friends to the new movement. The bishop of Meaux becomes her guide in the path of faith.
Francis was crowned in 1515, and there was some hope that he would go beyond Louis, his father-in-law, and extend his shield to those brave men who were using spiritual weapons against popery. He invited learned reformers into his kingdom, and heard them talk with delight. He founded professorships of Greek and Hebrew, to the great joy of Beza. He listened to his affectionate sister and was almost persuaded to be a Christian. But the court thought it would never do for the king to lend his hand in turning the world upside down. These reformers must be treated with contempt, and even persecution might teach them silence. Margaret's new opinions were whispered to the courtiers; their surprise was great, their talk was loud, their ridicule was keen. '' What! the sister of the king take part with these new people! It must not be!" It seemed for the moment that her doom had come. She was denounced to Francis I. He, as her brother, pretended to think that the charge was untrue. Then her noble character silently rebuked her reprovers. They could not resist the charm of her good deeds. Everyone loved her, says Brantome; "She was very kind, mild, gracious, charitable, affable, a great almsgiver, despising nobody, and winning all hearts by her excellent qualities.''
No preacher could have done what Margaret was doing among the better minds at the French court. Her life pleaded the cause of the gospel with that eloquence which consists in actions more convincing than words. The new doctrine was gaining upon the nobles of France. If the king had followed his persuading sister, the nation might have opened its gates to Christ, and Margaret's conversion saved it from those storms which afterwards drenched that beautiful land with the blood of the Huguenots.
Not that Margaret was a saint,—far from it. In her writings were blots, in her character blemishes, and in her devotion appear tinges of Romanism. But, even a clouded star was a wonder in that court of darkness. If she wavered between her brother and her Saviour, it was because she turned to the one in order to give him light, and to the other to receive life. We shall soon see how true were Beza's words, when he said that Grod raised her up to overthrow, as far as possible, the cruel designs of Louisa, Anthony Duprat, the chancellor of France, and their associates, when they excited the king against the so-called heretics.
When wounded by the arrows of sin, and by the thorns of the court, she fled to her lonely retreat, and laid bare her sorrows to the eye of her crucified Lord. Her poetry then became prayer.
"0 Thou, my Priest, my Advocate, my King,
The tramp of the forest explorer calls the hungry lion from his lair, and so the march of these French reformers brought out the most cruel foes to track them along every new path of truth. They needed not to be ferreted out by spies, for these friends were not hiding away, as if ashamed of their doctrines. All was open, and broadly proclaimed. They were well-known by the lamps whicli they held forth in the night of error. By their light we may see who were their bitterest foes.
Louisa, the mother of Margaret and the king, loved her iniquities so well, that she naturally hated the word of God, and all who set it above the traditions of the Romish Church. She was the more to be feared on account of her great influence over her son. But, she had a favourite even worse than herself, whom she had put forward as chancellor of the kingdom; and he was now the cruel power behind the throne. This was Anthony Duprat, represented as "the most vicious of all • bipeds." Pie had enriched himself at the expense of justice, and then taken "holy orders," so as to get his hands upon the richest livings, and increase his wealth at the expense of religion. Two such depraved characters might well seek to wash away their own lust and avarice in the blood of the "heretics." Devoted to the pope, and pleading for his absolute power over the Church, they sharpened the sword and kindled the fire, and hoped to make short work of the reformers. This was the enmity of the state.
Still more fearful was the enmity of the Church. The dignified Sorbonne joined hands with the profligate court. It furnished bigots of every grade; but our eyes fix on the leader of the gang. The same Picardy that sent forth Lefevre to begin a reformation, also let slip Noel Beda to begin a persecution. He was "reputed to be the greatest brawler, and most factious spirit of his day." Always restless, he was a torment to all around him. He seemed born to fight, and, when he had no foes, he struck at his friends. He loudly declaimed against learning, and tried to make every new idea appear frightful. Many smiled while he blustered; but, there were enough to listen, and, by making himself a terror to all who differed from him, he gained a wide sway among the colleges. He "created heretics before any existed," and had called for the burning of Merlin, the vicar-general of Paris. "But, when the new doctors appeared, he bounded like a wild beast that suddenly perceives an easy prey within its reach.'' The cautious Erasmus wrote,—"In one Beda there are three thousand monks." But, where was the proper victim?
The suspecting eye fell upon Lefevre, for Beda had grown nervous over the renown of his fellow-countryman. To increase his own chance for making a noise, he would gladly have put the aged doctor to silence. He either could not see, or could not lay hold of the strong points in the new doctrines, and he scented out the grievous heresy of "the three Magdalenes." For Lefevre had asserted that Mary, the sister of Lazarus, Mary Magdalen, and the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus, were three different persons. This set Beda and his host in motion. The whole Church was aroused, and, as a specimen of her infallible judgment, she declared that these were but one person, an opinion which no priest would be likely now to affirm. Lefevre was condemned by the Sorbonne, and prosecuted by the parliament as a heretic. But Francis, glad to strike a blow at the Sorbonne and to humble the monks, rescued him from their violent hands, and saved him from the scaffold. Perhaps the thanks are due to Margaret. Beda was enraged at seeing his victim snatched from his grasp, and he resolved to take more caution with the next one, whom he was about to select from the nobility.
At the court was a gentleman of Artois, about thirty years old, named Louis de Berquin. He was frank and open-hearted, pure in his life, tender toward the poor, warmly attached to his friends, and wished to have no enemies. He had fairly won the title of "the most learned of the nobles." He had a horror of everything called heresy by the church, and devoutly observed the fasts, festivals, confessions and masses. It created surprise to see so much devotion at court.
There seemed to be nothing to incline such a man toward the new doctrines. But Beda disgusted his generous spirit. Not wishing to injure any one, he could not bear to see others injured. As he did nothing by halves, he spoke freely, whereever he went, about the cruelty of this rough tool of the Sorbonne, and he attacked "in their very nests, those odious hornets who were then the terror of the world." Nor did he stop here, as if it were enough to oppose the persecutors. He sought to learn what the persecuted had to say for themselves. He wished to know that Bible, which was "so dear to the men against whom Beda and his creatures were raging, and he scarcely began to read the book, before it won his heart."
Berquin lost no time in seeking admission to the circle of reformers, in which was the delightful company of Margaret, Lefevre, Farel, Briconnet, and the Boussels. Any one who loved the word of God was now a brother, and all sat at the feet of the Master. Nor was the young noble yet satisfied. He wished all France to know the truth. He showed all the zeal of Beda in the other direction. He began to use the pen in order to resist Beda's sword.
In 1520 the noise about Luther had reached France. His writings came soon after with the east wind. His victory over Dr. Eck gave joy and courage to the company of reformers. Many of the Sorbonne doctors found striking truths in the little books of the monk of Wittemberg. They were watched by their colleagues, and if one of them uttered a reasonable sentiment, the loud cry arose, "He is worse than Luther." The