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We shall hear of him again, through the kind interventions of the Duchess Margaret.
Thus one Protestant leader had surrendered, another had left the field, and a third was a prisoner. Who next should receive a blow? The name may surprise us— Erasmus. To punish him would throw the reformers into terror. If such a trimmer could not escape, how could those who had gone the whole length of the new movement? True, he had courted the favour of the Romanists; but was he not still in the camp of the reformers? He had written against Luther; but had he not stung the monks? One of those solitary Carthusians in the woods near Paris, had sent forth from his retreat a hot shell filled with all manner of slanders against the 'heretics.' But his name, Sutor (cobbler), even when polished into Le Couturier, raised a laugh; and by his meddling with things which he did not understand, the old proverb was suggested, ' Let the cobbler stick to his last.'1 Erasmus cared little for such a missile as he had sent up in the air.
Beda came to the attack. He ordered Erasmus to lay down his caustic pen. The old sage must not write that the blunders and calumnies in Beda's book against Lefevre were so gross, that 'even smiths and cobblers could have pointed them out.' He must not say of the articles on which Berquin was condemned,' I find nothing impious in them.' He must not declare of the Sorbonne doctors and tools, 'They employ every device to excite the anger of the nation. They vomit fire and flame against their adversaries, and heap upon them the most scurrillous abuse. All means are good in their eyes; they pick out a few words here and there, neglecting the 1 Ne Sutor ultra crepidara.
text that may explain the passage quoted; they insert expressions of their own, and omit or add anything they please, to blacken the characters of those whom they suspect.'
This scathing pen of the great scholar must be dropped. Beda grasped at it, and thought he had it in his hand. He made a collection of all the calumnies that the monks had invented against the illustrious philosopher, translated them into French, and circulated his book through the court, the city, and the land, striving to rouse all France against him. This was the signal for a great army to march upon the works and character of a solitary man, who disdained to be counted with the reformers. Erasmus was assailed from every quarter. He was a greater heretic than Luther! He was an apostate, and Berquin was his follower! Erasmus' books should be used to bum Berquin!
Astonishment took hold of Erasmus. Was this the result of all his trimming, his half-way policy, his courting all parties, and even his hostility to Luther? Better be a thorough reformer. He would not lay down his pen. He would turn the point of it against the worst of all his foes, those in his rear, whom he had imagined to be friends. He fell upon the whole pack of those who were hounding him to death. He wrote to the Sorbonne, charging Beda and his fellows with a conspiracy, and with betraying the soldier who was fighting in their interest. He complained to the Parliament that Beda and Sutor were allowed to attack him from behind; while, at the order of the Emperor, the Pope, and the princes, he was leading on the charge against 'these Lutherans.' He appealed to the captive king, touching upon a tender point, and warning him that his descendants would suffer from the Sorbonne, for its doctors 'aspire to tyranny even over princes.' This prophecy was to be fulfilled in the very next age, when the house of Valois was put under the ban of the priests. He invoked the protection of Charles v., saying: 'Certain persons, who, under the pretence of religion, wish to establish their own gluttony and despotism, are raising a horrible outcry against me. I am fighting under your banners, and those of Jesus Christ. May your wisdom and power restore peace to the Christian world!'
Thus was this prince of the pen drawn away from the war against the reformers, and enlisted against the persecutors. His appeals were heard by the king and emperor. The danger was averted; for those who had attacked this one man found that the great powers of the world were leagued on his side. The vultures thought their prey was in their talons; but now they must drop it, and turn their eyes to another quarter. We shall see them again in Lorraine, the country of the Guises, who are rising into terrible power.
Where was the Duchess Margaret all this time? The nation knew that she was toiling for the deliverance of the captive king. He was a sick prisoner at Madrid. She made a heroic journey thither; found him—a dying man, pale, worn, and helpless; was the agent of restoring him to life, and of securing his liberty early in 1526. The reformers knew where her heart was, and they had reason to bless God for her voice and her hand. She was in Spain when she heard of the fierce movement going on against 'her brethren, the reformers.' She poured into her brother's ear the most earnest entreaties for those who were in exile or in prisons. Words were not enough; she must show her love by her works.
reported, even among his enemies, that he had been poisoned. Sebville, probably, did not preach his Lent sermons. Michael D'Arande was threatened with death. Margaret thus saw her plans for the spread of the gospel at Lyons end in sad disappointment. The camp was broken up, the forces scattered, and the cause seemed to be lost.
Nor was this all. Another strong force was leaving the field where there had been such great success. Farel was pulling up his stakes at Montbeliard. The defeats at Pavia and Lyons could hardly have influenced him, for he removed before these sad tidings could have put him in fear. It has been hinted that Erasmus, whose anger still burned against him, may have done much to excite a persecution too bitter for him to endure. But another reason has been given by those who lament that Farel's warlike zeal sometimes carried him too far, and brought unnecessary opposition against him.
One day, about the time of the king's defeat at Pavia, Farel was walking on the banks of a little river that runs through Montbeliard, beneath a lofty rock on which the citadel is built. It was the day of the feast of Saint Anthony; and when he came to the bridge he met a procession which was crossing it, reciting prayers, and headed by two priests bearing the pretended image of the saint. Farel suddenly found himself face to face with these superstitions, without seeking it. A violent struggle took place in his soul. His blood boiled at the sight of such a delusion practised upon the people. Should he give way? Should he hide himself? Should he gaze and be silent? He could not be a coward, and would not let his silence give consent to the imposture. He knew that he was exposing himself to the fate of Leclerc; yet he boldly advanced, grasped the image of the holy hermit from the arms of the priest, and tossed it over the bridge into the river; as bold a deed as that of the Chevalier Bayard when he stayed an army at the bridge of the Garigliano. Then, turning to the awestricken crowd, he exclaimed, 'Poor idolaters, will ye never cease from your idolatry!'
The priests stood confused and motionless. With the loss of their saint, they lost their presence of mind. Their superstitious fear seemed to rivet them to the spot. But some one cried out, 'The image is drowning!' The priests recovered from their stupor. The multitudes shouted in rage, and gazed at the image floating away. Farel let them gaze and rave; and taking advantage of their devout attention to the saint, he escaped their violence. For a time he hid himself among his friends.
The duke and his court soon left the city; and having no strong arm to defend him, Farel had an additional reason for leaving Montbeliard. In the spring he took a secret refuge at Basle. He always took an interest in the church he had left, as a minister will ever do in the flock where were gathered the first-fruits of his labours. We will meet Peter Toussaint in this field.