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^HERE is an old castle, built on a rock, that overlooks the town of Valangin, about a league over the mountain from Neufchatel. Here lived the counts who exercised lordship over the Val de Ruz and four other valleys, which lay among the seven mountains of the Jura chain.
In this castle dwelt Williamette de Vergy, the widow of Count Claudius, and the dowager of Valangin. She was full of reverence for the Pope, and of respect for the memory of her husband, at whose burial a hundred priests had chanted high mass. Then, too, many peni. tent young women were married, large alms were distributed, the Curate of Locle was sent to Jerusalem, as a reward for his services, and the widow herself afterward made a pilgrimage for the repose of the soul of her departed lord. That she would be a bitter foe to the Reformation might be well understood. It was the one thing she hated. Her zeal for Popery prompted her to much fasting and solitude. Yet her long silences and gloomy devotions were sometimes followed by merry dances in her halls, when the wife of John, the knight of Gruyere, paid her a visit, and reported his threats against Farel with exquisite satisfaction. They never dreamed that this 'French Luther' had his eye upon the Val de Ruz. Williamette and her priests, and her chamberlain Bellegarde, who even excelled her in hating the Reformation, had reason to tremble.
People from the Val de Ruz had come daily to Neufchatel, where they heard the doctrines of the reformers; and they carried back to their parishes certain good news, which were certain to spread far and wide. Still, they were not likely to neglect the great Romish festival on the 15 th of August—that of 'Our Lady of the Assumption.' It was a day when the villages would swarm with people.
This was the very day that Farel selected to make a descent upon the valleys. He left Neufchatel after the affair of the placards, that the people might settle their own affairs with the Bernese deputies. With him went a young Dauphinese, a relative (as it appears), an ardent Christian, and a man of strong, decided character— Anthony Boyve. This family has since given several pastors to the church at Neufchatel. The two missionaries climbed the mountains through the pine forest, and then descended into the valley. They were not disposed to linger about the castle; and, shunning Valangin, as it seems, they halted at the village of Boudevilliers, and proposed to preach there.
They met some persons who had heard the 'great preaching' at the capital of the canton, and all of them went into the church. On all sides the people were thronging to it, to hear the praises of 'Our Lady' celebrated. The priest was preparing to chant the mass; but Farel entered the pulpit and began his form of service. While the reformer was preaching Jesus Christ and His promises, the priest and his choir were chanting the missal. It was Christianity and Romanism in open competition and contrast. The awful moment came when the wafer was to be changed into the very body of the Lord; the sacred words fell from the priest's lips over the elements. The people felt the power of their old habits and their superstition, and they deserted the preacher and gathered toward the altar. The crowd was kneeling. Rome seemed triumphant.
Suddenly, a young man, who felt indignant at seeing the mass preferred to a sermon, rushed forth, through the choir and up to the altar, and snatched the Host from the hands of the priest, and cried aloud, as he turned to the people, 'This is not the God whom you should worship. He is above, in heaven, in the majesty of His Father, and not, as you believe, in the hands of a priest.' This man was Anthony Boyve.
At first this daring act produced the desired effect. The mass and the chanting ceased; the crowd was silent and motionless in astonishment. Farel, who was still in the pulpit, took advantage of the calm, and preached Him 'whom the heavens must receive until the times of restitution of all things.' The people listened. But the priests and their party acted as if there was a sweeping fire in the town. They rushed into the towers and rang the alarm-bell with all their might. These means drew a crowd of new-comers, not so devotional as the rest. Farel and Boyve would have been slain on the spot had they not retired. 'God delivered them.'
In the evening they set out for home, by a narrow path that wound beneath the castle. They were stealing cautiously along, when suddenly, in a narrow pass, a shower of stones fell upon them, and about a score of priests, men, and women assailed them with clubs. The quaint old chronicler states ' that the priests had not the gout either in their feet or arms; the ministers were so beaten that they nearly lost their lives.' They were dragged, half-dead, nearer to the castle, to afford some satisfaction to the countess. She came down the terrace and cried, ' Drown them! drown them! throw them into the Seyon—these Lutheran dogs, who have despised the Host!' The priests were already dragging them towards the bridge. Never was Farel nearer death.;
Just theft, from behind the last rock that hides Valangin, 'there appeared certain good persons of the Val de Ruz, coming from Neufchatel.' They asked of the priests, probably intending to save Farel, 'What are you doing?'
'Treating these heretics as they deserve. Putting them into the river.'
'Put them, rather, in a place of safety, that they may answer for their proceedings. Would you deprive yourselves of the only means of finding out those who are poisoned by heresy? Make them confess who their friends are.'
The priests caught the idea, and took the bruised missionaries into the chapel of the castle. Passing by an image of the Virgin, they said to them, 'Kneel down before Our Lady.'
'Ye ought to worship the only true God, and not a dumb, lifeless image,' said Farel.
But they beat the blood out of him, and for six years the stains were visible on the walls. They led them to the prison, and 'let them down, almost lifeless, into the dungeon of the castle of Valangin.' The prisoners, like Paul and Silas in the jail at Philippi, could ' sing praises unto God.' Bellegarde had now an opportunity to display his zeal, and he was preparing for them a cruel end. But some townsmen of Neufchatel came and demanded them. The countess dared not refuse, for Berne might show a strong hand. The senate requested her to make an inquiry and detect the outlaws; she pretended to do so, 'to put a good face on the matter.' The canons of Valangin were ever after suspected of laying the plot in the house of the countess, where they were daily guests at her table. One account has it, that, 'nevertheless the priest who beat Farel most, never failed to eat daily at the lady's table by way of recompense.' This was of little moment; the great thing was that the truth had been sown in the Val de Ruz, and we shall soon see the reapers coming for the harvest.
This severe beating accounts for the gap in the previous chapter between August and October, when we had nothing to record pertaining to Farel . He was recovering from his wounds. It may have been that, during this interval, his letter to a young man about to enter the ministry was penned. * Look for labour, not for leisure. Truly a wide field lies open, but only for those who wish to feed the flock rather than to live upon it. Much reproach is to be endured. You must expect to meet with ingratitude in return for kindness, and evil for good.'
Farel had now passed through the great events of October 23d; he had preached in Neufchatel from a pulpit stripped of every ornament; he bad visited the surrounding villages,' working at a reformation night and day.' He had seen his friend Emer Beynon, who first set him up on the stone to preach in Serriere, take a decided course. This good man said one day to his