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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 appearance, who steered for the Neufchatel shore. Quietly landing under the walls, he walked to one of the gates, near which had grown up the little village of Serriere. He inquired for Emer Beynon, the priest of the place, whom he had learned 'had some liking for the gospel.' Parson Emer received him with joy, for the visitor was no other than Farel, who had planned his campaign, and had entered upon it . But what could he do? Farel had been heard of and feared, and he was forbidden to preach in any church whatever in the earldom. The poor priest suggested that no injunction was laid upon the rocks or the open air. Farel mounted on a stone, still pointed out, in the cemetery, and, turning his face away from the church, preached to the wondering people who came at his call This rock was the corner-stone of Protestantism in the canton of Neufchatel. The whole town became his church, and many came to hear him.
Very soon the rumours of this bold movement went in at the gates, and filled all the capital. A great commotion was seen in the streets. On one side the government, the priests, and the canons cried 'Heresy!' On the other, 'some inhabitants, to whom God had given a knowledge of the truth,' flocked to the preacher's pulpit of stone. Already was there a small Protestant force in NeufchateL The soldiers, who had been with the Bernese army, had just returned, bringing back the liveliest enthusiasm for the reformed doctrines. They hailed with delight the man who had thus planted himself at the very gates of the city. These, and others who longed for the glad tidings of salvation, could not repress their joyful hopes. 'Come,' said they to Farel, 'and preach to us in the town.'
They were almost disposed to carry the preacher in their arms. They assumed to be his body-guard; they entered the gate of the castle; they passed the church, and in front of the canons' houses; they descended to the narrow streets, inhabited by the citizens, and reached the market-cross. There Farel mounted a platform and addressed the crowd which gathered from all the neighbourhood—' weavers, vine-dressers, farmers, a worthy race, possessing more feeling than imagination.' Grave was the preacher's countenance; weighty truths hung on his lips; his speech was energetic; his voice like the thunder; his eyes, his features, his gestures,—all showed that he was a man of intrepidity. The citizens, accustomed to run about the streets after mountebanks, were touched by his powerful language.
The very first sermon won over many of the people. If they could have had their way, scarcely a finger would have been lifted against the messenger of glad tidings. If the people in the sixteenth century had been left to their own choice, the Reformation would have gained all Europe. The same would be true now. But never and nowhere would the priests let them alone. At this first sermon of Farel, certain sly and crown-shaven monks glided among the hearers, and began to excite them to do what they would never have thought of doing. Some of the ruder class were thus aroused to obey their masters, and attempt violence. 'Let us beat out his brains,' cried some. 'Throw him into the fountain,' cried others. The fountain was near at hand (and is still shown); but the undaunted preacher was neither to be beaten nor drowned. None of these things moved him.
In vain had there been a decree that this 'heretic, William Farel,' should preach in no church in the canton.