« AnteriorContinuar »
that they must be abandoned by men, and die in loneliness, without pastor or priest, found a plain, bold man urging his way to their couches. There he told them of Christ's death, free pardon, and holy heaven; there he carried such consolation for the dying as they never had heard before; and even into houses that would otherwise have been shut against him he found a welcome. Full scope was thus given to his fearless activity, and many recognised Farel, the preacher who had declared the good tidings in the churchyard. In the meantime he sent word to the neighbouring cantons, which had united in the Protestant league of Smalcalde, to send deputies to Metz, and receive into their union the Protestants of that city. The senators would not allow the deputies to enter the gates, and they imposed a fine upon any one who should visit Farel. They secured a mandate from the emperor forbidding him to preach, and declaring that all the citizens should remain Roman Catholics until the next general council. The emperor's mandate was posted up in the streets, and pulled down by the children.
In this state of affairs Farel retired to the neighbouring town of Gorze, under the protection of Count William of Furstenberg. At his court Walter Farel was engaged in an honourable service. Another brother, Claudius, came from Strasburg to visit the preacher. At Gorze he preached in the parish church and in the abbey chapel. A monk was one day descanting on the glories of Mary, when Farel called his statements in question. The women in the audience attacked him, and handled him so roughly that he came near losing his life. He was obliged to keep his room for several days; but, with this exception, he preached with growing success. At Easter many came from Metz to hear him and to celebrate the Lord's Supper.
This enraged the Romanists in Metz, and they formed a conspiracy against Farel and his hearers. The renegade Caroli seems to have been at the head of the plot. He persuaded the Duke of Guise to send a body of soldiers to Gorze, and there fall upon the congregation. About three hundred persons had just celebrated the Lord's Supper on one Sabbath, when suddenly a trumpet was heard, and a troop of armed men fell upon this helpless and unsuspecting company. A son of the duke led the band; and it is said that Francis 1. sanctioned the plot. Some were slaughtered, and others drowned; Farel was wounded, and with great difficulty he and Count William escaped into the castle. It was some time before the friends of the preacher knew what had become of him. The count had him and many other wounded sent on litters to Strasburg.
Caroli was now preparing for the great masterstroke which, as he hoped, would bring him honour and office. Having failed to murder Farel, he attempted to crush him. The clergy and council of Metz so favoured him that he had the insolence to send Farel a pompous and noisy challenge to a dispute. And, to gain the more glory, the dispute should not be held in Metz, but before the Pope or the Council of Trent, or in some of the great universities. It was to be held at the risk of each life: the one who should be defeated was to be put to death. In order to effect this, Caroli would become a prisoner at Metz, and Farel might place himself in the hands of the French king. Caroli sent this absurd challenge to the great powers in the Romish Church, so that they might know what a champion was about to appear.
Farel replied, asking him who had commissioned him to hold such a debate, and suggesting that it would not be so expensive to have it in Metz as in some distant city. 'If you have not sufficient influence to have a debate appointed in your own city, how can you secure one in a place where you are unknown?' The ridiculous proposal was thoroughly exposed. Farel employed his pen in replying to various slanders set on foot by Caroli. In one letter to him, he says, 'If I am rightly informed, you have publicly declared that I am the greatest heretic that the world has ever seen. Might it please the Lord that I could in truth say, you are the most faithful and pious servant of God that ever appeared! . . . I beseech you to retrace your steps, and to employ the good gifts, which God has bestowed upon you, for his glory. I am ready to hold a friendly conference with you at Metz, and endeavour to restore harmony among the people.'
This man had circulated such reports about the Genevan ministers, that they thought it wisest to have a public disputation with him, and thus assert, defend, and prove their doctrines. It might open the eyes of the people of Metz, and put the Reformation there on a good footing. They cared very little for the aspersions of Caroli, and had no fears for their own personal characters; but they wished to see the truth established among its enemies. The Genevese sent Calvin to Strasburg for the purpose of securing the debate. He and Farel begged the senate to give them a safeguard to Metz, and a request to the senate there to grant them an audience. But it was all fruitless. Caroli was the last man who wished to meet them in a discussion. His pretensions brought him a fall; his haughty spirit was a token of his utter ruin. The Papists must have laughed at his absurd challenge. He never came again in contact with the admirable men whom he had abused. He surrendered himself to his weaknesses, or rather his strong vices, and at last one might have seen, in an hospital at Rome, a poor, disappointed, wretched, and forsaken victim of excess, dying in disgrace. It was the last of Peter Caroli, who is a first-class specimen of several men with whom the reformers had to contend. He could never justly complain that Farel and his brethren had treated him with severity.
Farel had been absent from his parish about a year, when he returned to Neufchatel. His recent sufferings in the Lord's service brought him new esteem from all who were able to appreciate his merits. But there were also fresh troubles. His colleague, Chaponneau, seemed disposed to act over again the part of Caroli. By degrees Farel won him to the right path. The church became more settled under a better organization. Elders and deacons were appointed, and there was a firm but kindly discipline. The children were carefully taught the Bible and the catechism; and the plan of a Sabbath school appears to have existed. The form of church government was Presbyterian, and its principles were derived, not from the Waldenses, but from the apostles.
'OT long after Farel's return from Metz, he paid a visit to Geneva. His garments were a proof of the persecutions he had endured, as well as of his poverty, or his disregard of The senate had given Calvin a new suit when he returned to the city, and now a similar one was voted to Farel. He seemed to suspect that it was meant to buy him off from speaking his mind, or he felt that he did not deserve it; and when he appeared before that dignified body, he admonished them to lead good lives, maintain justice, and revere the word of God. He respectfully declined the present. He also refused to accept their invitation to reside in Geneva. The suit was put in Calvin's keeping. Some time after, Calvin wrote to Farel, 'The suit is at my house, until some one be found to take it. Your refusing it was all very well; but you may now very properly accept of it.' It seems that he laid aside his scruples, accepted the present, and allowed his personal appearance to be improved by dressing in the style of Geneva.
It was still a favourite plan of Calvin to have Farel