« AnteriorContinuar »
THE H 0 L Y CROSS.
<MONG the Alps of Dauphiny is a mountain called the Bayard, near which the traveller passes on the road from Grenoble to Gap. At the foot of the Bayard, about a stone's throw from the highway, may be seen the old village of the Farels, called by the people of the district, Fareau. It is a mere group of houses, half hidden by the trees, and it shows only the relics of what it was three centuries ago. On a broad terrace, above the hamlet, a cottage now stands on the spot where once stood an elegant mansion. In those days of war and marauding, it was, doubtless, fortified. In that ancient chateau dwelt a family, which had some claims to nobility; and yet their name is rescued from silence by the child who was born at Fareau in 1489, and named William de Farel. Rank, fortune, and a heroic spirit might have made him more celebrated than his three brothers, Daniel, Walter, and Claudius, even had he not become a reformer. Of them, and of his one sister, we have an occasional glimpse in these pages. We know not but that he was the youngest son. If so, the last became the first.
The Farels may have had some knowledge of the Waldenses and their doctrines; but they had reason enough to know that it was a perilous thing to renounce the traditions of the Romish Church, and accept the simple truths of the gospel. Certain Waldensian teachers had dared to cross over from Piedmont into Dauphiny, and tell men the glad tidings of a Saviour, as their Lord had done among the hills of Judaea. Their doctrines were taking root upon the western slopes of the Cottian Alps. Some of the people believed and longed for the Bible. Many, who had been all their lives deceived by the priests, became bold in faith, and stood up bravely against the superstitions of the Romish Church. The new converts to the truth were likely to speak more openly than their teachers; for good news must be told to everybody who will hear. The goat-herd could tell his neighbours how he had talked with the missionary at the hedge; the traveller how he had walked with him on the highway; the chamois hunter how he had met on the mountain-path a man who told him of the true cross and of the Good Shepherd; and the young man, returning home from the town, could tell how he had heard a man, on the corner of the street, declare, 'This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.' Too good news to be kept; it began to find its way to many an ear, into many a heart and many a home, and it may have reached the village, and the very door of the Farels.
But the Romish priests and bishops took the alarm. They claimed the field; and if good seed was sown therein, they were the fowls of the air ready to gather it up. They were the thorns growing up to choke it. They saw that if the kind and harmless Waldenses gained ground, the priests must lose the people. If Jesus Christ should win the hearts of men by His free gospel, the Pope would be forsaken, and Popery renounced. They talked, they threatened, they laid their plans, and persecution arose.
'These Waldenses and their followers must be destroyed,' said the priests.
'Will the Pope send an army to crush them?' asked the bishops; and Innocent vin., one of the most guilty of mortals, was pleased with the question.
'To arms!' responded the Pontiff; 'to arms! and trample these heretics under foot as venomous serpents.'
The trumpet rang, the drum was beaten, and an army of more than eighteen thousand men entered the valleys "of Dauphiny, and drove these poor disciples of Christ into the mountains, where they took refuge in caverns and in clefts of the rocks, as birds take shelter from the gathering storm. The misnamed Innocent died, and the vicious Borgia continued the cruel work. This bad Pope seemed to be more fearful of these unarmed Christians, than of the legions of the French king, Charles vin., who was threatening to sweep Italy with war; and the persecution of a few quiet disciples seemed to please him more than the gift of the New World, lately made to him by Columbus. Not a valley, nor a wood, nor a rock was left .unexplored by the persecutors. The door of the Farels was not open to these hunted Christians; yet, while they were hiding from their merciless foes, a child of that house was lying in his cradle, or in boyish rashness clambering up the rocks of the Bayard, who would one day set the Swiss Alps aflame with that fire which the Saviour kindled on earth. He should be greater than any of the nameless ones who had cast the good seed in the valleys of his native land, and been driven away before it grew to the full harvest, and should gain for himself the title of' The Valais Luther.'
The soldiers, who were ready to bind the Lord's hidden ones in their retreats, or burn them in the villages, had no cause to persecute the Farels; nor had the priests any reason to suspect them of the least departure from the Romish faith and customs. The father and the mother believed everything taught by their Church, and brought up their children in its rites and devotions. William, whose nature it was to do nothing by halves, threw his whole soul into the follies of Popery. He could cross himself, go to the confessional, respond at the mass, adore the wafer, count his beads, pray to the Virgin Mary, eat no meat on Friday, and tell the saints' days in a manner that must have delighted the parish priest. It was said of him as he grew up, that 'he was more popish than the Pope himself.'
William was a bold boy, fond of daring exploits. Like the young David, at home among the wild hills of Bethlehem, he scarcely knew fear, and would not allow defeat where success was possible. He had the moral courage always to tell the truth. What he feared was a lie. If any one could swim the Buzon when it was high with the torrent from the melting snows, or venture to the pass of the Glaize when the storm threw fearful risk in the path, he was likely to boast of such a daring feat. Men said that nature made him for a brave knight, or a cavalier; but the truth is, God made him for a bold, fearless, unflinching reformer. His temper needed to be curbed, his rashness to be subdued, and his lively imagination to be tamed. His parents had often to check his impetuous nature. If, however, he. was bent upon having his own will, it was