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of those who held forth the word of life! Paris then decided her history for centuries; she sent Christianity into exile; she set up Romanism in her heart, and there it has remained, causing, in one age, a St. Bartholomew's day of blood, and, in another, an infidel revolution of horror.
The bishop of Meaux learned how fierce was the enmity against Farel, the Roussels, Mazurier, and their co-labourers, and how all their zealous efforts were thwarted. He entreated them to come and join Lefevre. They saw only a hopeless conflict before them if they remained, and thought it important to be united together in one solid and sacred phalanx for the triumph of the truth. They accepted the bishop's invitation, and went to Meaux. They went into the neglected parishes to feed the flocks that had been fleeced by the priests and curates. They laid no tax upon the rich; they gave generously to the poor. The bishop was like that ancient "son of consolation," who laid his money at the apostle's feet. "His fortune equalled his zeal; never did man devote his wealth to nobler uses, and never did such noble devotedness promise, at first, to bear such glorious fruits.'' The new teachers gathered a goodly company around them, and Meaux has the honour of being the first city in France in which grew up a protestant congregation. In this "cradle of the French reform" a protestant church was established in 1546. Beza wrote of it, "the little flock of Meaux has not only served as an example to all the churches of France, but has also begotten to the Lord several other churches, and that too of the greatest. "What is more, it may boast of having offered martyrs to Grod as its first fruits, since the restoration of the gospel."
The voice of Lefevre was heard crying aloud, "Kings, princes, nobles, people! all nations should think and aspire after Christ alone. Every priest should resemble that archangel whom John saw in the apocalypse, flying through the air, holding the everlasting gospel in his hand, and carrying it to every people, nation, tongue and king. Come near ye pontiffs, come ye kings, come ye generous hearts. . . . Nations, awake to the light of the gospel, and inhale the heavenly life. The word of God is all sufficient.''
This all-sufficient word must be in all houses, in all hands, under all eyes, and become the book of the people. Lefevre wished to see it read by every class and in every language. During the next three years (1522—1525) he published the entire New Testament in French, and a version of the Psalms. In private and in families the Bible was read; conversations about its truths became more frequent and public, and the Holy Word proved itself to be from God by the light which it cast into the corrupt heart and the dark home.
Erasmus, by publishing the Greek Testament, reached chiefly the learned, and this was a result too great for time to estimate. Lefevre, by publishing the French version, not only drew educated minds to the Bible, but he sent it into the abodes of the poor, the lowly, the illiterate and the toiling. The city of Meaux was largely inhabited by artisans and dealers in wool. The fullers and weavers, says an old chronicler, "took no other recreation, as they worked with their hands, than to talk with each other of the word of God, and to comfort themselves with the same. Sundays and holidays, especially, were devoted to the reading of Scripture, and inquiring into the good pleasure of the Lord." The bishop was delighted to see the good work thus going on, for piety was taking the place of superstition in his diocese. An old Bomish annalist lays a heavy charge upon Lefevre for using his great learning to "so cajole and circumvent Messire G-uillaume Bric^onnet wita Ills plausible talk, that he caused him to turn aside grievously, so that it has been impossible, up to this day (1560,) to free the city and diocese of Meaux from that pestilent doctrine, where it has so marvellously increased. The misleading of that good bishop was a great injury, as until then, he had been so devoted to God and to the Virgin Mary."
Not only into the factories, but into the fields, went the glad tidings, and thence still farther out into the world. Near to the city were rich crops, and at the harvest time, a crowd of labourers came from the surrounding regions. They reaped until they needed rest, and then while resting they talked with the townpeople about other seed-times, other soils, and other harvests. When their work was ended, they went home with the gospel in their hearts. They told the wonderful news, and in one instance, the peasants of Landouzy carried back with them the gospel, and persevered until an evangelical church was formed in their district, and it still stands, we believe, as one of the oldest protestant churches in France. Thus '' in this diocese an image of the renovated church was seen to shine forth.''
Nor was the king forgotten. The light must reach him. The court must be gained to Christianity, if possible. The bishop sent to Margaret (now the Duchess of Alenc.on) "the epistles of St. Paul translated and splendidly illuminated, most humbly entreating her to present them to the king, which cannot but be the most pleasing from your hands." Thus, probably, the word of G-od was placed under the eyes of Francis I. and his mother Louisa. If they opened it, they closed it without receiving any lesson for their hearts. Perhaps too much was hoped from the conversion of the king, should he avow himself the patron of Christianity.
''The gospel is already gaining the hearts of the great, and of the people,'' said Lefevre one day, in the fervour of his heart, when certain of the Romanists were talking with him and Farel. "In a short time, spreading all over France, it will everywhere throw down the inventions of men."
On a sudden, a Franciscan monk, named Roma, started up to resist the animated doctor, whose eyes sparkled, and his wornout voice grew musical with the promise of refreshing times. "Then, I and all the other religioners will preach a crusade," cried Roma. "We will raise the people; and, if the king permits the preaching of your gospel, we will expel him from his kingdom by his own subjects."
It might have been ill for the monk, but well for the truth, had the knightly king heard this last threat. He might have taught Roma a lesson on loyalty. No reformer was proposing to drive the monarch from his throne, if he did not favour the gospel. If such a threat was a crime, where were Beda and Duprat? If they were on the hunt for an offence, there was one, far greater than any committed by the reformers. The Franciscans applauded the words of Roma. They began to feel alarm; their craft was in danger; their livings were reduced; they could not shear the sheep, and their convents were in need of supplies. They went about, mourning and clamouring, as if their fall was a sign that the world was coming to an end. They tried to rouse the people against the new teachers. Then, with bolder face, they went to the bishop, and impudently declared to him,—"Crush this heresy, or else the pestilence, which is already destroying the city of Meaux, will spread over the kingdom."
The bishop, at first, stood like an oak against the storm. He had a contempt for the selfish monks, who sought to lord it over him. He went into the pulpit and defended the aged Lefevre, and called the monks Pharisees and hypocrites. It had been well for his name had he been slain at the very onset of this gathering battle, and buried as the first Protestant who fell in France. But his courage failed. He trembled, wavered, and became a frail reed in the wind. He was only a bishop, and the monks could crush him. He took alarm when he saw them posting off to the capital, to lay their complaints before the higher powers. They entered Paris; they were closeted with Beda and his gang; they were a joy to Duprat, and they easily gained the ear of parliament. They charged the bishop with the immense mischief done at Meaux. His palace was a fountain of heresy, and it must be sealed. The Sorbonne and the parliament agreed in waging a war upon the reformers. Poor Bri9onnet! holding out a flag of truce at the very hour when a victory was at hand. He would not surrender everything, but he would yield enough to satisfy Rome. He would keep the gospel, but give up Luther's writings. He would allow Mary to,be invoked, along with Christ. The compromise was made. In 1523 he issued three mandates; |he first enjoined prayers for the dead and the invocation of the saints; the second one forbade any one to buy, borrow, read, or carry about with him, any of Luther's works, and ordered them to be torn in pieces, scattered to the winds, or burnt; the third asserted the doctrine of purgatory. But this was not enough. If he would save himself, he must sacrifice those who had trusted him, and whom he had sheltered. It was hinted that the gospel-teachers must not be allowed to leave Meaux, for they would only carry their doctrines into other places. An end must be made of them. This was too horrible a work for the bishop, and it was thought best to entrust it to surer hands. He was asked to forbid their