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THE ROMANCE OF PREACHING.
J HE valleys now promised a cheering harvest for their Lord, and Farel turned his eyes to another quarter. He was supported by Berne. The cantons of Berne and Friburg held, in partnership, the parishes of Morat, Orbe, and Granson; they also had alliances with Lausanne, the capital of Vaud, and with the cantons of Neufchatel and Geneva. The Bernese senators saw that it was both their interest and their duty to have the gospel preached to as many of their allies and subjects as they could reach. They commissioned Farel to 'carry it among them, provided he could obtain the consent of the respective governments. This was granted him.
The visitor at Friburg may be shown the ancient trunk of a lime-tree, which supports a legend. The story runs, that on the day of the battle at Morat, in 1476, a young Friburger, who had fought bravely, ran home to tell the good news in the city, how Charles the Bold of Burgundy was defeated and disgraced by the loss of 15,000 men. The courier reached this spot, losing breath and blood, and falling down utterly exhausted. He could barely say, • Victory,' and then he died. He carried a branch of lime in his hand, and this was planted on the spot where he expired. It grew into the old tree which now is propped up by pillars of stone. Farel was to wage a moral battle at Morat, with Friburg against him, and, as bold as the once routed duke, he was to win a better victory than Charles lost. It was for him to bear the palm of victory, and to plant in this very town that little seed which should grow into the mightiest trees of righteousness.
One day he went to Morat and preached the truth, at the foot of those towers which had been thrice attacked by some of the greatest armies of Europe. If we mistake not, the Bishop of Lausanne had been at this place a few years before, and, in his avarice, had attempted to impose a tax on the people at the celebration of the mass. This they had not forgotten. In a short time the new preacher gained the willing ears of a large class of people, and certain of the priests became obedient unto the faith. The reception of the reformed doctrines was to be decided, after a fair hearing, by the majority. The general vote was still in favour of the Pope, and Farel quietly withdrew and went to Lausanne, where a considerable number of people had already abandoned Popery.
The bishop and the clergy opposed the reformer and drove him from Lausanne. He soon reappeared, bearing a letter from the lords of Berne to the authorities of the city. They read the bold words: 'We send him to you to defend his own cause and ours. Allow him to preach the word of God, and beware that you touch not a hair of his head.'
This was a shell thrown into the camp, and might burst. The council was in great confusion. There was the bishop on the one side, and Berne on the other. It was a very serious business. The Council of Twenty-four referred it to the Council of Sixty; but their honours excused themselves from touching it, and sent it up to the Council of Two Hundred (Nov. 24, 1529). But they could do nothing. They gave it back to the Smaller Council. No one wished to have anything to do with it.
True, there was need of a reform. The citizens were complaining of the priests, and canons, and monks, saying 'that their lives were one long train of excesses.' But the faces of the reformers looked too austere. They seemed too strict and rigid for those who sought mere gentle decency rather than earnest devotion. The new preachers would carry the people over to the other extreme. Besides, how dull would the city be if deprived of her bishop, his court, and the dignitaries about him! No more pilgrims to the image of Our Lady; no more great fairs for the sale of relics and indulgences; no more purchasers in the markets, nor boon companions in the taverns; no more suitors in the church courts, nor gay processions on her festivals; no more masses in the great cathedral which Pope Gregory x. had consecrated two centuries and a half ago! It was painful to think of the change which the reform would make. The city would become a desolate widow, beholding no more the noisy throng of her people, who were her wealth and her glory. * Better a disorder that enriches, than a reform that impoverishes!' It would raise an uproar. It would turn everything upside down. It must not be permitted. Berne must not send her preachers there. Farel must depart; and he departed.
He returned to Morat. The word gained over the hearts of the people. Merry bands were upon the roads
on festival days, who said to one another, laughingly, 'Let us go to Morat and hear the preachers.' Then slily cautioning each other, they said, ' Be careful not to fall into the hands of the heretics.' They entered the church, smiling; they soon grew serious, glancing no more at each other, but riveting their eyes on the preacher, or dropping them to weep. Truth had her firm grasp upon them. They went home, some in deep, silent thought, some in spirited talk about the doctrines they had heard, some to pray, and many to believe the glad tidings. The fire sparkled among the people, and spread in every direction. This was enough for Farel; he found a welcome for the truth. His eye was turned to another stronghold among the ridges of the Jura, and on the borders of France.
At a short distance from Morat was one of the fortresses of Popery, the earldom of Neufchatel, with its six or seven delightful valleys, and its chief town of the same name, built on a hill that slopes down to one of the most charming lakes of Switzerland. Its chateau had been the old home of princes, and now belonged to Joan, the widow of Louis of Orleans. She had inherited the earldom from her ancestors, and lost it when her husband aided the French king (1512) in a war against the Swiss; but now (1529) she had just received it back as a present from the Swiss cantons.
The princess was now at Paris, in the suit of Francis 1., —' a woman of courtly style, vain, extravagant, always in debt, and thinking of Neufchatel only as a farm that should bring her in a large revenue,' and devoted to the Pope and Popery. Twelve canons, with several priests and chaplains, made up a powerful clergy, having at their head the Provost Oliver, the brother of the princess. This main army was flanked by a strong array of auxiliaries. About half a league distant, on one side, was the abbey of Fontaine-Andre1, regarded with great veneration. The monks, who founded it in the twelfth century, cleared the ground with their own hands, and became powerful lords in the world. On the other side was the abbey of the Benedictines of the Isle of St. John, whose abbot had lately been deposed by the Bernese, and, burning with vengeance, he had taken refuge in his priory at Corcelles, where a third entrenchment was thrown up.
To march right into such a stronghold, held by such an army, and having such reserve forces on each side, and demand its surrender, looked as foolish as the wildest dream of the old knight-errants of the Rhine. Even Farel would not thus attempt to take the fortress.' The Papists had done all they could to make it difficult of access. They dared not weaken their own cause by instructing the people; they hoped to strengthen it by amusing them. Pomps and shows took the place of sermons. 'The church, built on a steep rock, was filled with altars and images of the saints; and religion, descending from this sanctuary, ran up and down the streets, and was travestied in dramas and mysteries, mingled with indulgences, miracles, and debaucheries.' The higher clergy were rich, influential, and corrupt; the people untaught, rude, superstitious, and warlike; the princess was ready to crush any new movement; and the governor, George de Rive, was zealous for the ancient system of worship. It seemed that the place could be taken only by a wise strategy.
On a December day a frail boat left the southern bank of the lake, and carried a Frenchman of ordinary appear