Imágenes de páginas

and went on touching the hearts of his hearers. No mob could be raised, for a captain was in the crowd. Many left the inn, saying,' Really, we never saw a man answer his adversaries better by Holy Scripture.' Thus Alexander the captive marched on as a conqueror, waited upon by increasing crowds. 'Wonderful thing!' remarks Froment; 'he was more useful at the inns and on the road than he had ever been before.'

The Easter of 1534 had passed in Paris—a very happy one for Roussel and Courault, who were set at liberty; but a wretched one for Beda and his pack, who were thrust into prison in place of the preachers. All this was done by the king, in answer to Margaret's entreaties. All Paris had enough to talk about, besides the rumours from Lyons concerning an invisible preacher, who kept the police in perplexity. But a change was suddenly given to the conversation. One day a man loaded with chains entered the capital. He was escorted by archers, who treated him with the greatest respect, even when leading him to the great prison. It was Alexander. The Dominicans remembered him as the friar Le Croix, and they made the most noise. If Beda was takea from their party, they said, one should be taken from the other party to match him; and Francis 1. let matters take their course. Alexander was brought before the court. 'Name your accomplices,' said the judges. He had none to name. The order was declared, * Give him the boot.'

The reader will remember William Budceus, the illustrious scholar. He was at the trial; he saw the awful tortures applied until a limb was crushed. He heard the groan and the prayer, 'O God! there is neither pity nor mercy in these men! May I find both in Thee 1'

'Keep on,' said the chief of torture.

'Is there no Gamaliel here to moderate these cruelties?' asked the victim, as he turned on Budceus a mild look of supplication. The scholar had been astonished at the patience of the sufferer.

'It is enough,' said the man of weighty words. 'He has been tortured too much; you ought to be satisfied.'

The inhuman work ceased. The poor man was lifted up a cripple, and carried to his dungeon. Not long after, amid great display, the sentence was pronounced, 'Alexander Canus, of Evreux, in Normandy, you are condemned to be burnt alive.' A flash of joy lit up his face.

'Truly, he is more joyful than ever before,' said the spectators. The priests then came forward. They feared lest Alexander should preach the gospel even at that very hour.

'If you utter a word,' said they, 'you will have your tongue cut out,'—a practice that began about this time. They shaved his head and took off his clerical dress. Meanwhile he was silent, only smiling at some of their absurdities. They brought the rough robe to put it on him.

'O God!' he exclaimed, 'is there any greater honour than to receive this day the livery which Thy Son received in the house of Herod?'

He was put into a mean dust-cart, and as it jolted on, he stood up, leaned toward the people, and 'scattered the seed of the gospel with both hands.' The hearers were moved, some with rage, some with pity; the Dominicans in the cart with him pulled his gown and in every way annoyed him, but he would not be checked.

'Either recant or hold your tongue,' said they.

'I will not renounce Jesus Christ,' he replied, turning round to them with a withering look. * Depart from me, ye deceivers of the people.'

The ruling passion for preaching was strong in death. Alexander saw some lords and ladies in the crowd, along with his friends, the monks and common people, and he asked permission to speak a few words to them. A dignitary, unusually gracious, gave his consent . Then, with a holy enthusiasm, Alexander confessed himself a believer in Christ. 'Proceed,' said he to the executioners. They bound him to the pile; but above the roar of the flames his voice of faith was heard, saying, * O Saviour, receive my spirit. My Redeemer! O my Redeemer!' At last all was still; the people wept; the executioners said one to another, 'What a strange criminal!'

'If this man is not saved, who will be?' whispered the monks, no doubt remembering their good brother friar, Le Croix.

'A great wrong has been done to that man,' said many who were beating their breasts and starting home. 'It is wonderful how these people suffer themselves to be burnt in defence of their faith.'

Burnt in defence of the gospel! Truly this was the only real defence it had in France, when, but a few months before, this monk had left the capital to be taught of William Farel, to preach and found a church in Lyons, to talk of the good tidings along every road and in all company, and to return a martyr, and leave the world a lesson from his short but glorious career.

But if the faith be defended by the death of one champion, it is to be fortified by the life of another. It was Calvin's duty to escape, for the Lord had need of his active energies.

In the summer of 1536 a young preacher came to the house of Viret in Geneva, intending to stop there for only a night. He had been in Italy, and was on the way to Basle, where he had spent some time as an exile from France. Some one—Du Tillet1 or Caroli—discovered him, and went and brought Farel to see him. He was already in high repute as the author of the Institutes of the Christian Religion; and Farel met, for the first time, John Calvin, from the country of his noble friends, Lefevre and Olivetan. Farel thought what Beza afterwards said, 'God conducted him hither,' and was resolved to secure his services in that city. He at once presented the case to the guest of Viret.

'I cannot bind myself to any one church,' says Calvin; 'but I would endeavour to be useful to all. I have my plan for study before me, and I am not one of those who can afford to be always giving without receiving.'

'Now,' said Farel, with that manner and voice which filled thousands with awe, 'I declare to you in the name of the Almighty God—to you who only put forth your studies as a pretence—that if you will not help us to carry on this work of God, the curse of God will rest upon you, for you will be seeking your own honour rather than that of Christ.'

The conscience of the young traveller was so touched that he never forgot it. Toward the close of his life he said, 'As I was kept in Geneva, not properly by an express exhortation or request, but rather by the terrible

1 This gentle and genial man was about two years in Geneva. He thought it too perilous for him to remain a Protestant, and going back to France, returned to the Romish Church. He still was a friend to Calvin, and offered him kindly aid in the days of the reformer's distress.

threatenings of William Farel, which were as if God had seized me by His awful hand from heaven, so was I compelled, through the terror thus inspired, to give up the plan of my journey, but yet without pledging myself, for I was conscious of my timidity and weakness, to undertake any definite office.' He is first noticed in the archives of Geneva as iste Gallus, 'that Gaul;' but in the spirit of modern appreciation, Montesquieu says, 'The Genevese ought to observe the day of his arrival in their city as a festival.'

In the highest part of the city, where once stood a temple to Apollo, visitors still enter the old cathedral of St. Peter, dating back to the sixth century, and gaze on the same little pulpit in which Calvin preached his powerful sermons. We suppose that he there stood when his first sermon in Geneva created such an enthusiasm that the people could scarcely restrain their delight. They followed him to his lodgings, and he was obliged to promise that he would preach the next day, so that their friends might hear him. Farel was overjoyed; for if he were thus eclipsed, there would be all the more light in that dark city, which was waiting for it. Calvin, soon after his arrival, was elected preacher and professor of theology. He at first declined the former office, but was so urged that he accepted it the next year. His first labours were almost gratuitous, but none the less cheerfully rendered.

With no little joy to Farel it was arranged to have a debate at Lausanne, where he had made several attempts to gain a footing for the truth. Viret had succeeded in gathering a small church. The priests agreed to the discussion. All the Romish clergy were urged to come. And some of them, who knew not so much of the Bible

« AnteriorContinuar »