« AnteriorContinuar »
company in such a plight, so overcome with fatigue and grief that several swooned by the way. It was rainy weather, and all were obliged to walk through the muddy roads, except four poor old women who had taken their vows more than sixteen years before. Two of these, who were past sixty-six, and had never seen anything of the world, fainted away repeatedly. They could not bear the wind; and when they saw the cattle in the fields, they took the cows for bears, and the sheep for ravening wolves. They who met them were so overcome with compassion that they could not speak a word. And though our mother, the vicaress, had supplied them all with good shoes to save their feet, they could not walk in them. And so they walked from five in the morning, when they left Geneva, till near midnight, when they got to St. Julien, which is only a little league off.' We should feel more pity for these nuns if they had been as simple and innocent as was generally supposed, and as they wished to be thought. It created no little surprise, after their departure, to find that there was a secret, underground passage leading from their convent to the monastery of the Franciscans. From this it was suspected that they were not altogether dead to earthly vanities.
The citizens met on the 21st of May 1535, and took an oath to support the Reformation. Geneva was rising into a Protestant state, quite theocratic in its government, and powerful in its influence upon the world. Michelet, who is a moderate Roman Catholic, declares, ' Europe was saved by Geneva.' And who saved Geneva? So far as mere men are concerned, due credit must be given to Farel, the great missionary, and Calvin, the great theologian. Unto God they gave all the glory.
CALVIN UNITED WITH FAREL.
ET us go back a little and see what has become of some of our French heroes, and trace the steps of others who are on the way to Geneva. 'Never tire in the middle of your journey,' was the maxim of a young man who was entering the old city of Angouleme, where the Duchess Margaret was born. He walked along a street which in after years bore the name Rue de Geneve, in honour of him. In this street was the mansion of Du Tillet, where he knocked and was admitted. There he had a young friend, Louis du Tillet, to whose refuge he was invited, and he was now welcomed as John Calvin. A fierce persecution had driven Calvin from Paris, and in this retreat he found a happy home. In the large library he found books that he had never seen before, and prepared for writing the Institutes, the greatest work on theology that had ever appeared. In a vineyard near by he took recreation, and to this day it is called La Calvine. In the village of Claix he drew the notice of the people, who asked the name of that short, thin, pale young man, and they called him 'The Little Greek,' because he was giving some persons lessons in that language.
Not far distant was Nerac, the residence of Margaret, who was now the Queen of Navarre. Calvin wished to see Lefevre before the old man was taken away, and Roussel, whom he feared was not firm enough in the faith. He set out, and at Nerac inquired for the house of Lefevre. Everybody knew the good old man, and perhaps his Testament was in many of their hands. 'He is a little bit of a man,' said they, ' old as Herod, but lively as gunpowder.' This old man, with his white hair and broken appearance, had about him a living force, meekness, gentleness, moral grandeur, and heavenly brightness that charmed the young visitor. They talked, rejoiced, sympathized, and wept together. Lefevre was deeply moved when he saw that Calvin was bold enough to break away from the old Church and enlist 'under the banner of Jesus.' Gazing upon him, he said, 'Young man, you will one day be a powerful instrument in the Lord's hand. . . . God will make use of you to restore the kingdom of heaven in France. Be on your guard, and let your ardour be always tempered with charity.' Thus they talked. The old man pressed the young man's hand, and they parted, never to meet again on earth.
About three years after this, Lefevre died (1537) at Nerac, where Margaret took delight in treating him as a father. One day, when near his end, he burst into tears. The queen asked the reason. He replied, sorrowfully, that he could not help reproaching himself, because he had shrunk from the very cross which he had advised others to bear. While he had imparted to so many the gospel, and encouraged them in exposing their lives for its sake, it grieved him to think that he was dying in quiet, and that by flight he had deprived himself of the glory of a martyr's name.
Gerard Roussel never broke with the Romish Church, although, as Bishop of Oleron, he still preached the new doctrines. A Roman Catholic wrote of him: 'His life was without reproach. His kennel of greyhounds was a great crowd of poor people; his horses and his train were a flock of young children instructed in letters. He had much credit with the people, upon whom he stamped by degrees a hatred and contempt for the religion of their fathers.' The good man was a Protestant at heart, and he died in 1550.
Calvin left this region, gathered about him several missionaries, and they laboured in the west of France, until the wrath of the priests knew no bounds. He gained no little fame as an 'arch-heretic,' while his friends said, 'Would to God that we had many Calvins!' But we find him and Du Tillet, with two horses and two servants, leaving France in 1534. They were robbed by one of the servants, who took their money, mounted one of the horses, and rode away as fast as he could. One horse was left, and the other servant came forward and offered them ten crowns that he had. This took them to Strasburg, where they rested, and suddenly heard that a certain William Farel had made a tremendous uproar in France.
An old chronicler called 1534 the year of the placards. Certain men in Paris wished to strike a blow in behalf of rights which they dare not proclaim. They seemed oppressed into silence, and they wished to protest against errors and wrongs, in a way that would arouse the public attention of all, from the king to the cottager. They sent Feret to Switzerland to learn how to do it. He consulted with Farel and his co-labourers. The scheme of the placards was proposed. Farel undertook the task. He could not write without using 'his trenchant style and thundering eloquence.' He wrote it, and proved himself to be what Michelet calls him, 'The Bayard of the battles of God.' The paper was printed in two forms, one for posting up on the walls, and the other as little tracts to be dropped in the streets. The sheets were packed, and Feret departed with 'the thunderbolt forged on Farel's anvil.' These were soon after distributed far and near, to be exposed in every city of the kingdom. It was long enough for a short sermon; and when it appeared, men read a terrible protest against the errors of Romanism. Beda charged Margaret1 with it; but she felt that it was a protest against her and her temporizers. Next Beda accused the king; but he cleared his hands by allowing a furious persecution to sweep the land. There were martyrs, prisoners, and exiles by scores. One of the prisoners was a most eloquent preacher, named Courault, who spoke forth the gospel without reserve or disguise. He had so presented the truth to Louis du Tillet, while he was in Paris, as to lead him out of Margaret's party of temporizers into that of the scripiurisls, soon to be headed by Calvin. Aged and infirm as he was when he was brought before the king, he would not yield, and, in spite of Margaret's tears and entreaties, he was sent back to the convent . Did
1 After this affair the Queen of Navarre was less openly favourable to the Protestants. She, however, took an unceasing interest in their cause, and wished Calvin to demand of her any aid that she could render. In her later years she fell into a sort of mysticism, in her struggles for a purer inward faith and devotion. She died in 1549