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'I detest the court more than any one has done. Farewell to it.'
The Cardinal of Lorraine appeared now as his friend. He advised Toussaint to be cautious, for as a heretic he was never secure of his life. But his courage rose with the perils of his situation. He requested Farel to address him without any concealment, since he was not ashamed of his own name, nor of his correspondence, nor afraid of the consequences of its being known. Since no one else had invited Farel to France, he did it, assuring him of protection among certain friends in Paris. But Farel wished an invitation from a higher authority.
Margaret begged him not to leave France, and commended Toussaint to one of her friends, Madame de Centraigues, a noble lady, who abounded in charity for the persecuted evangelists, and gave them a home in her chateau of Malesherbes, in the Orleans district. He, fearing that a terrible struggle was coming, besought his friends to pray that France would show herself worthy of the word of God. He also prayed that the Lord would send to this people a teacher to lead them in the true paths of life, and went to his new home to wait there for more favourable days.
Who would be the reformer of France? Not Lefevre; for he was old, timid, and wished not to separate from the Romish Church. Not Roussel; for he dare not always go as far as his convictions prompted him. 'Alas!' he wrote to Farel, 'there are many gospel truths, one-half of which I am obliged to conceal.' He was just the man for the duchess; he would advance the Christian life without touching the institutions of the Church.
Would it be Berquin? We left him in a comfortable chamber of his prison, forming large plans for the conquests of the truth. Margaret had not dared to visit him; but she tried to send him a few words of good cheer. It was, perhaps, for him that she wrote the Complaints of the Prisoner, in which he thus addresses his Lord:
'But yet where'er my prison be,
She did not rest here; she was unwearied in her petitions to the king. The Romish party knew -that, if Berquin was free, he would deal hard blows, which they could not resist; and they did all they could to prevent the bolt from being drawn. But Margaret had a hand on that prison-bolt; -and at length, in November 1526, he left his guarded chamber to enter upon the plans he had formed for rescuing France from the hands of the Pope. He was then thirty-five years of age, pure in his life, charming in his character, devoted to study, flaming with zeal, and indomitable in his energy. His enemies feared him; Beda said to himself that Berquin would be the Luther of France.
But Berquin could not advance a great system of gospel truth. He could preach duties, but could not raise up a fortress of doctrines into which the trembling might flee and be safe. His work was to resist Beda and the ' three thousand monks' that were in him, and to die such a noble martyr, that one of the executioners would say publicly, to the great vexation of the judges, 'No better Christian has died for a hundred years than Berquin.'
Was the reformer of France to be Farel? He was then her greatest light. Toussaint was waiting for him to appear; and let us see how it was that this most fervent, most eloquent, most intrepid and persevering of the French reformers before Calvin, came not back to his own country, but went to Switzerland, to set the western Alps on fire.
When the king recalled the other exiles, Farel was left behind. He saw his friends returning to their country, wondered why he must remain alone in exile, and, overwhelmed with sorrow, cried to God for resignation. He still remained at Strasburg, with one foot on the border, waiting for a call; but the order did not come. The king and his sister did not wish so bold a man in the land; they were afraid of him. The court had no taste for his style of preaching; they 'wished for a softened and perfumed gospel in France.'
There were Christians in the land who saw that the men at Margaret's court would stop half-way in the work, and accomplish nothing permanent. In their view, France needed a man of artless nature, fearless spirit, powerful eloquence, and ability to give a new impulse to the work which Lefevre had begun. They thought of Farel; but his coming seemed to depend upon the duchess. Roussel knew her fears. He knew that Farel would be a preacher, and not a courtier, and he would never agree with her policy. Still the noble and devout Roussel felt that such a man was greatly needed, and he tried to open the way for him to put forth his mighty labours in some of the provinces. 'I will obtain the means of providing for all your wants,' he wrote, on the 27th of August 1526, 'until the Lord gives you an entrance at last among us.'
This also was Farel's earnest desire. He was not then invited to Switzerland. His country possessed his heartj day and night his eyes were turned toward the gates which were so strangely shut against him ; he went up and knocked. None came to open them. He was depressed, and he exclaimed, 'Oh, if the Lord would but open a way for me to return and labour in France!' Suddenly there was a prospect that his greatest wishes would be realized.
On the day of a grand reception at court, the two sons of Prince Robert de la Marche came to pay their respects to the king's sister. Margaret, ever intent on winning souls, said to Roussel, her eyes indicating the persons meant:
'Speak to those two young princes; seize, I pray, this opportunity of advancing the cause of Jesus Christ.'
'I will do so,' replied the willing chaplain. He approached the young noblemen, and began to converse about the gospel. They showed no astonishment, but listened with a lively interest. Finding that they were not strangers to the good word, he urged them to extend the truth among their subjects.
They gave their fullest assent to his words, but felt that they were too weak for the task of making known the gospel. Roussel now thought he had found a field for the pining exile, and he said to the young nobles: 'I know of but one man fitted for such a great work; he is William Farel. Christ has given him an extraordinary talent for making known the riches of His glory. Invite him.'
'We desire it still more than you,' said the young princes. 'Our father and we will open our arms to him. He shall be to us as a son, a brother, and a father. Let him fear nothing; he shall live with us; yes, in our own palace. All whom he will meet there are the friends of Jesus Christ. We ourselves will be there to receive him. Only bid him make haste; let him come before next Lent.'
'I promise you that he shall,' replied Roussel; and he began to think how he should lay all this before Farel. Toussaint wrote, and added his entreaties: 'Never has any news caused me more joy; hasten thither as fast as you can.'
Thus was a plan laid for Farel to come into almost the centre of France. So confident were the young princes of his coming, that they undertook to set up a printing establishment, in order that he might circulate the truth by means of the press, not only in La Marche, but throughout the kingdom.
'Farel would have been the man fitted for this work,' says D'Aubigne'. 'He was one of those whose simple, serious, earnest tones carry away the masses. His voice of thunder made his hearers tremble. The strength of his convictions created faith in their souls; the fervour of his prayers raised them to heaven. When they listened to him, " they felt," as Calvin says, " not merely a few light stings, but they were wounded and pierced to the heart; and hypocrisy was dragged from those wonderful and more than tortuous hiding-places which lie deep in the heart of man." He pulled down and built up with equal energy. He was not only a minister of the word; he was a bishop also. He was able to discern the young men who were fitted to wield the weapons of the gospel, and to direct them in the great war of the age. Farel never attacked a place, however difficult of access, which he did not take. Such was the man then called into France, and who seemed destined to be her reformer.' The letters of Roussel and Toussaint were on the way;