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The hand of God had drawn him away for some purpose yet to be disclosed. He will remain at the humble desk in his little school, and have an experience which invites our further attention.
Thus France lost the reformer whom many Christians thought had been raised up for her deliverance. But God had wisely planned these events. Farel would have been a powerful evangelist; but he was too much a soldier, and too little a scholar, for that great nation. He was a general who could urge forward a movement against error; but not the guide who could lead men to the full system contained in the Bible. A greater than Farel was about to appear, who could combine all the excellences of his predecessors in the French Reformation. He was then a student of seventeen, in the college of La Marche, at Paris, working his way, as Farel had done, into the clear light of the gospel. His was that great name—John Calvin. Farel knew him not; but it was yet to be the work of this Alpine schoolmaster to lay the foundation in Roman Switzerland, to open the gates of Geneva, and be the forerunner of Calvin, whose voice should shake the world, and roll on through the centuries.
'O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.' 'The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholdeth him with His hand.' What was true of Jeremiah and David was to be true of William Farel, who had passed the delicate turning-point in his eventful life.
THE ALPINE SCHOOLMASTER.
)N the banks of the 'Great Water,' a narrow stream that falls in thunder from the rugged glaciers of the Diablerets, lies the small town of Aigle1 (iElen), about ten miles from Villeneuve, at the upper end of Lake Leman. A railway now passes through it, and from the train at this point one may see the sublime Dent du Midi rising on the south, and the proud Dent de Morcles on the north, both crowned with snow; and between them, a quiet, smiling valley, whose picture will not soon fade from his memory. There the laurel blooms beside the most exquisite grapes; and yet, hanging almost above them, are vast glaciers, near to which, in summer, the shepherds lead their flocks for pasture. If this be his first gate of entrance, the traveller begins to think that he is amid the grandeur of Switzerland.
To this small town, in December 1526, a man was making his way on foot, and in the rain. He wished to conceal his name, for he was one whom persecution had made an exile from France. He was of middle stature,
1 The old Latin Aquilea, now containing about 1650 inhabitants. with red beard, quick eyes, fearless face, and the step of a native mountaineer. If he met any of the villagers, he was likely to give them the whole road, and speak kindly to them, in purer French than they employed; but if he met a haughty priest, he was ready to claim his full share of the path, and look back at him with indignation after he had passed. The wonder is, that he did not tear down some of the crosses along the way, and dash in pieces the images that exacted devotion from the superstitious traveller.
With him walked a single friend. Night closed around them, and the rain fell heavy and cold. They lost their path,—a very dangerous thing for Alpine travellers, on whom the snow might be falling before morning. Drenched and chilled, they sat down almost in despair. 'Ah!' said the chief one, 'God, by showing me my helplessness in these little things, has willed to teach me how weak I am in the greatest without Jesus Christ.'
'It is no little thing to be lost,' we imagine the other replying. 'We shall perish if we stay here.'
'Let us perish, then, trying to find our way.' Then rising, they bent forward on their dark journey, feeling for stepping-places among the rocks, plunging through bogs, wading through the waters, crossing vineyards, fields, hills, forests, and valleys; and at length, dripping with rain and covered with mud, they reached the village of Aigle.
In this desolate night the exile received a new baptism. His natural energy was somewhat softened. He was so subdued, that he felt more timidity than he needed; and anxious to be wise, he overstepped his mark. He assumed a new name, hoping, as he afterwards said, 'by pious frauds to circumvent the old serpent that was hissing around him.' He represented himself to be a schoolmaster—Ursinus; and he waited for a door to be opened, that he might appear as a reformer.
He looked about upon the people, and saw ignorance and degradation as the fruits of Romanism. The priests fleeced the flocks, and then left them to be pastured by curates who played the hireling, and only confirmed the people in their rudeness and turbulence. The best way to bring the priests into watchfulness was to teach the villagers the gospel. Awaken thought among them, and the jealous clergy would rush to the spot to smother it. He cared not, however, how far they kept away from the field.
Ursinus gathered the children, and began his work with no fixed salary. His modest lessons were mingled with new and strange doctrines. His scholars wondered when he told them of the good book, and the great God who gave it; the true cross, and the Lord of Glory who died upon it. They had something to believe, to tell, to expand their minds and elevate their souls. The teacher was encouraged; by feeding the Saviour's lambs, he would soon have sheep to feed.
When the day's work was done, Master Ursinus left the schoolroom and the primers, and took refuge in his poorly furnished lodging-place. It became a palace, for the Bible was the light thereof. He applied himself with absorbing interest to the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures, and the few works of learned theologians that he had brought with him. The debate between Luther and Zwingle was still going on. He examined anew the entire ground on which they wrestled, and asked to which of these champions he should attach himself. The case was decided; he clung to the Zurich reformer.
Master Ursinus went a step further in his work. He cautiously set about teaching the- parents as well as the children. He showed them that purgatory was a mere invention; there was no such place. Then he exposed the delusion practised in the invocation of the saints. * As for the Pope, he is nothing,' said he, 'or almost nothing, in these parts; and as for the priests, if they annoy the people with that nonsense, which Erasmus knows so well how to turn into ridicule, that is enough for them.'
Thus he went on teaching in a quiet way for some months. A flock gathered around him, loving the good man, who did more for them than any one had dreamed of doing before. If they were puzzled by the thought that one so great should come among them in their outof-the-way corner, it was all explained by his simple goodness of heart. And he told them of Him who descended from heaven to earth; from the throne to a manger; from the crown to the cross; and they understood and believed. He thought the looked-for moment had come, and he might tell them who he was, and what was his mission.
'I am William Farel, minister of God,' said he one day. The villagers thought none the more nor any the less of him for that. It was to them like any other unheard-of name. But the priests and magistrates were in amazement and terror. They had heard of William Farel. They now saw among them that very man whose name had already become so fearful. They dared not do anything but let him have his way. Nor did he consult with flesh and blood. He had quietly taken the tower; now he would take the town by a bold movement. He ascended the pulpit, and openly preached