« AnteriorContinuar »
see that any one might pray to God in the name of Christ; every one might come to Jesus and find rest; and no one need to buy his pardon of a priest, nor an indulgence of the ' holy father.' He could see that penitents would be safer at Jesus' feet, and pilgrims better off at home. The thought must have arisen in his mind, that if priests could convert a wafer into the Deity, they could make anything a god ;1 and if the elevation of the Host be a crucifixion, then Jesus must be always suffering for our sins. The young Bible-reader went far enough to see that the word of God did not agree with the word of the Church.8 He scarcely dared go further. He had severe pangs of mind, and struggled to know which to accept. His first effort was the very reverse of what young Luther was now doing, when making the Church give way to the teachings of the chained Bible. The monk of Erfurth thought, in his best hours, that Christ must stand, and the Pope must fall; God must be believed, though the Church went to ruin. The Dauphinese student scarcely ventured to think; but first attempted to make the Bible give way to the teachings of Popery. If he read any passages of Scripture that opposed the Romish practices, he hung his head, cast his eyes upon his breast, as if trying to get a kind look from his conscience. He blushed, as if ashamed to deny his Lord, and yet dared
1 An Englishman had said, 'If every consecrated Host be the Lord's body, there are 20,ooo gods in England.'
2 This was one of the first things to be seen before there could be a reformation. Among the many predecessors of Luther who perceived this, was John of Wesalia, an aged doctor of divinity, who was tried for heresy at Mentz in 1479. He held that 'nothing was to be believed not found in the Scriptures ;' and was charged with saying, 'I despise the Pope and his councils. I love Christ; and may His word dwell in us abundantly!'
not believe the word of God. Fearing to keep free to face with the gospel writers, he turned his eyes from the holy book, saying, in deep mental anguish, 'ALas! I do not well understand these things. I must give a different meaning to the Scriptures from that which they seem to have. I must keep to the interpretation of the Church, and, indeed, of the Pope.'
Thus he must warp and wrest the sacred words, in order to make them agree with his prejudices; and it was hard and painful work. One day a doctor of the Church happened to come in, and he found him reading the Bible. Instead of 'a word in season to him that was weary,' a sharp rebuke fell from the tongue of the learned. 'No man,' said he, 'ought to read the Holy Scriptures before he has learned philosophy, and taken his degrees in arts.' It was filling the student's head with lead. It was giving a stone to him who asked for the bread of life. Farel believed him, although no such literary preparation was required of the disciples, when, as fishermen, they entered the school of Christ, nor of any of the common people, who heard Him gladly. His rule was one which holds good in all ages, and among all people: 'Search the Scriptures.' The Bible-reader was in the depths of mental darkness; and, long after, he gave thanks for the great and wonderful work of God, in raising him from such an abyss. He looked back, and said, 'I was the most wretched of men; shutting my eyes, lest I should see.'
It seems that he began to be afraid of the Bible, lest it should destroy his faith in the Church, and his love for its rites. As he left it unopened, his Romish fervour returned. He threw his whole soul into his mistaken devotions. He gained, among the people, a reputation for zeal. The keener-sighted Romanists cultivated him, as the shrewd priests in Zurich had sought to enlist young Zwingle in their interests, lest he should think too much, see too many gross evils, and have his mind turned toward a reform. They had learned from the boldness of Huss, Savonarola, Jerome of Prague, and the various ' reformers before the Reformation,' that such men must be managed in time, if they were to be prevented from making a noise in the world, and striking such blows at the Papacy that its wounds could never be healed. It was wiser to use gentle arts, and persuade them into active service when young, than to allow them to mature their powers by reading and thinking, and then burn them in old age for ' heresy.'
'You grow thin by study—your mind is oppressed,' they would say. 'You need exercise; you should do something that will engage your heart in good works, and thus relieve your over-burdened intellect.'
'My pilgrimages give my heart exercise,' we hear Farel replying. 'I try to do all the good works that will save the soul.'
'True, they may save the soul; but you must not wear out your body. The Church wants a long life from you. Visit the poor. Give them charities. Urge them to the stations, the confessional, and the mass.'
'Ah! I am not worthy thus to imitate Christ.'
'But we have work for you to do. There are poor students here, who need help, and there are rich men to aid them. We can trust you. Let us put the money in your hands, that you may dispense it among the needy.'
Farel assented; and many devout, rich persons in Paris entrusted him with various sums, to be given to the poorer students. The work was faithfully performed, by one who had the nicest scruples of conscience in all matters of honesty and charity.
'Cheer up your mind by reading the lives of the saints,' we hear the eagle-eyed watchers saying to the still sad student.
'Were not the apostles the best of saints?' he replies. 'Their teachings give me trouble.'
'They are too exalted for you. You are not prepared to understand them. Take first those nearer to our own age.'
'The fathers of the Church, then ;—but they would not agree with the Church of our day.'
'Leave them until you have your degree of arts* Read not of those who wrote their doctrines, but of those who were poor, who made long pilgrimages, who fasted in deserts, who mortified themselves in caves, who had visions, who wrought miracles, and who left for us the merit of their good works and penances.'
'Show me the books. Their works may give me more light than the words of those who taught what we must not now believe.'
The books were furnished, and Farel read them until his imagination was inflamed by the legends of the saints. In his heart he admired the invented stories of their zeal, their coarse fare, and rough burry garments, their barefoot pilgrimages, their self-tortures, the visits paid them by angels and by the Virgin Mary, and their entire freedom from mortal sin. The most disgusting tales of their voluntary filthiness were beautiful romances of a willing humiliation. He mistook their low and idle lives for that of a high and almost heavenly existence, and began to think of living like them.
In the deep shades of a forest near Paris, was a monastery of Carthusian monks, useless on earth, but making the world serve them better than was suspected abroad, in its reverence for their supposed piety. Farel was attracted toward them. Perhaps he had heard of their brethren in the old convent of Chartreux (Cartusium), not far from his native place. There was something romantic in its history. Bruno of Cologne had become disgusted with the evils in the Church in that old city, rather than with the world, and he sought to get out of both as nearly as possible. He coveted solitude. In the wild valley of the Chartreux, not far from Grenoble, he settled himself, about the year 1084, with twelve companions. They built a monastery for their worship; but did not live in it, lest they should be too much together. They built separate cells by the side of it, and each one spent his time by himself in silence, study, and labour enough to keep him alive. Their order increased in numbers and influence; and several branches were established in Europe, like the one in the woods near Paris. Their rules were most severe, if we may judge from those laid down for the monastery of Camaldula, built on one of the bleakest of the Apennines. Two words expressed them—solitude and silence. All else was but an exception to the rules. They met at worship, they ate silently together on certain festivals, and they met at times to inflict upon each other speechless discipline. One daily meal of bread, or vegetables, and water, was often given up, so that they might enjoy the merit of a severer fast. Money they might not touch, and no comforts were allowed in their cells. Their silence was broken only when they prayed or chanted, and when they indulged in a little talk at eventide. The recluse among them took an awful vow of perpetual