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probably enough to tell him that if he had his own way, he should be kept at home the next saint's day, or he should not be taken to see 'the holy cross,' one of the seven wonders of Dauphiny.
'I can see crosses any day,' we fancy the lad saying; 'there is one at almost every corner where two roads come together. Are they not all holy? I always bow to them and say the Ave Maria.'
'None is so holy as the one at Sainte Croix,' his parents would answer. 'The cross in that place is made of the very wood on which Christ was crucified.'
'What is it there for?'
'It was put there by some of the saints or angels, so that good people can make pilgrimages to it, and get an indulgence for a month or two.'
'Then I am going to the holy cross when I am old enough. Why don't you take me now?'
'You are not good enough yet, my son.'
'But if it will make me better, I ought to see it.'
The wish to visit the holy cross grew stronger in the mind of the child; and his father's talk about it took the form of a promise. It was before him, as an expected visit to Jerusalem was before the mind of a young Hebrew. When William was about eight years old, his parents resolved to take him on the pilgrimage. They went about nine miles to the town of Gap, and then twelve miles southward, to Tallard, and then walked up the hill, that rises above the roaring stream of the Durance, on which stood the cross.
When they reached the foot of the highly venerated cross, they fell down before it in adoration. They gazed intently on the sacred wood, believing that it once bore the sacred body of the dying Saviour. They looked at the copper on it, which, the priest said, was taken from the basin in which Christ washed the feet of His disciples. The wondering pilgrims then turned their eager eyes to a little crucifix fastened to the larger cross.
'Why is the little cross there?' they asked by their silent gaze.
'When the devils send us hail and thunder,' said the priest, 'this crucifix moves about so violently, that it seems to get loose from the cross, as if desirous of running at the devil; and it continues throwing out sparks of fire against the storm. If it were not for this, nothing would be left on earth.'
The credulous pilgrims, with their hair almost standing on end, were deeply moved by the account of these prodigies. No doubt, the father had often argued that the cross was only the sign of the crucified Lord, and that he did not worship the sign, but the Saviour whom it represented. Even if the pilgrims intended to adore the Christ, they were not assisted in their devotions by the lying priest. They were not in a mood for even the better sort of Romish devotion.
'No one,' continued the priest, 'sees or knows aught of these things except myself and this man.'
'What man?' thought the pilgrims, for they had been so engaged with the cross, and so startled by the prodigious stories, that they had not seen him. On turning their heads, they saw one of the strangest of mortals. William never forgot his appearance, for in old age he said that 'it was frightful to look at him. White scales covered his eyes, whether they were there in reality, or Satan only made them appear so.' Those who did not credit these marvels called him 'the priest's wizard.' The sight of him was enough to provoke, in the minds of the visitors, a doubt of what the priest had declared.
* Is it not all true?' the priest asked of the wizard, as if no one would dare to doubt the man with the scaly eyes.
'True, all true,' said the wizard; 'and there's no blessing to those who do not believe it.'
A new folly was introduced. If the bewildered pilgrims had not heard enough, they were now to see enough, to cause them to suspect the morals of the priest. That they were not filled with disgust, only proves how they were steeped to the eyes in Romish superstitions. William remembered the scene to his last days; and in his book on The True Use of the Cross, he thus wrote of it, so that men might know how deep the Romish priests were sunk in folly and crime: 'There came up a young woman, intent on other devotion than that of the cross, carrying her infant wrapped in a cloth. Then the priest went up, took hold of the woman and child, and led them into the chapel. I may safely assert, that never did dancer take a woman and lead her out more gallantly than these two did. But such was our blindness, that neither their looks nor their gestures appeared otherwise than good and holy.'
Immoral priests and blinded people! Such were the two elements in almost the entire Romish Church of those days. There were some exceptions; but they were found among those who shook off the fetters of Popery, and were labouring to reform the Church. William Farel was to see some of the worst delusions and vices of Romanism, in order to prepare him for exposing them to the people, whom he would point to the true cross of Jesus Christ. The family returned home, and this is the last we hear of their pilgrimages to Sainte Croix.
Crosses similar to the one thus visited are often seen in Romish countries. On a mountain-side in Switzerland a tourist once stopped in the road, before a cross set up in a little 'oratory,' or place for prayer, which looked like the small shelter for a watchman on the railroad. It was built of stone, with the front open, and appeared quite ancient. An image of the so-called Virgin Mary was very conspicuous. A small crucifix was fastened to the larger cross; and although the rain was falling, it did not spin around, nor throw out sparks of fire, as the priest declared of ' the holy cross.' Upon a board was an inscription, which is thus translated:
'Forty days' indulgence will be given to any one who will recite before this oratory one Pater Noster, one Ave Maria, and an act of contrition.'
There was Romanism.
While standing there the attention of the traveller was arrested by the music of a little rill of the purest water, gliding down the mountain, and directly crossing the path. There it was, free, full, clear as crystal, and right in the way of the pilgrim,—a type of the waters of the river of life flowing unceasingly from the throne of God. There was a symbol of Protestantism, which ever sets forth the free grace of God in salvation.
NOT BATTLES, BUT BOOKS.
'OUNG FAREL was sincere, although superstitious. He believed in Romish miracles, and wished to see whatever pretended to be one. But he was not willing that ignorance should be the mother of his devotion. He thirsted for knowledge. And if the Bible had not been a forbidden book, he must have found the truth at an early age. He knew of no such book as the word of God. He asked permission to study.
'Study what?' we imagine his father saying. 'Whatever is taught in the best schools. I want to be something in the world.'
'Be a soldier, then. Put on the armour that hangs in the hall, take the rosary1 for your heart, and the sword in your hand, and enter the service of Gaston de Foix, or
1 The rosary of Dominic was a necklace of beads intended to ensure the repetition of the 'Lord's prayer' fifteen times a day, and that of 'Hail Mary' one hundred and fifty times, the beads being passed through the fingers as the task was accomplished. This invention was thought such an honour, that the Dominicans were sometimes called the Order of the Rosary.