« AnteriorContinuar »
The noise of the sermon rose loudly through the city. The opposers of the Church declared that it was an insult to the state. They constrained the senate to give them a letter to the senate of Neufchatel, demanding that Farel should be sent back to be tried for an offence which they regarded as no less than capital.1 Calvin thought that Farel could defend himself, and advised him to come to Geneva, rather than wait for the senate of Neufchatel to take up the charge.
The old man, therefore, set out on foot, in the roughest of weather, and found Geneva in great excitement over him. He had seen it so before, and was fearless. The senate sent word to Calvin that he should not allow Farel to preach, for they knew his ruling passion and his power. He was in great peril. Berthelier tried to form the workmen in the mint into a gang that should go to the senate hall and raise a disturbance. Some think that from them arose the cry to fling the staunch old preacher into the Rhone, a cry that was not new to the ear of Farel. Others give another version of the matter; and both may be true. The senators were making out the charge against him, when the hostile party in the hall cried out, 'Throw him into the Rhone!' But Farel had friends.
A young man boldly stepped forward and warned
1 ' When our brother Farel, to whom, as you well know, our people owe everything, was lately here, and admonished them, as he was well entitled to do, they burst out into such a rage against him as not to scruple at capitally indicting him. They demanded of the people of Neufchatel that they should deliver up the father of their liberty, yea, the father of this Church. Farel came. Before he entered the city, the officer of the council delivered an official intimation at my house that he was not to enter the pulpit.'—Calvin to the Zurich ministers.
Perrin, the would-be Caesar of Geneva, to take care that the 'father of the city' suffered no harm. Other young men came forward to the defence of their former teacher and spiritual father. Perhaps they had been eager lads in Froment's school at the sign of the golden cross. They formed a guard about the fearless old man. Friends came in still greater numbers, and among them Calvin, Viret, and other ministers, who felt that justice demanded a loud protest in behalf of the accused. The citizens left their homes and shops to defend their ministers, and the factious party began to understand that all the strength of the city was not on their side.
The Genevese preachers made their voices heard in the senate hall. They set forth the evil designs and plots against Farel. The accusers became alarmed, and dared not proceed to violent measures. Farel was permitted to speak. He contended, in a long and animated speech, that his adversaries could not have heard his sermon, for they had altogether mistaken- his meaning, and that nothing was further from his thoughts than to insult a city toward which, as all men knew, he cherished the kindest feelings. They began to perceive that they had acted hastily, on mere rumours, and in a bad temper. The fiery eye, the loud voice, the persuasive address, and the earnest self-defence of the old man, had a powerful effect upon the senators and the crowd which had pushed into the hall. Many who had been most active against him were moved and melted. The majority now declared that he had only acted as a faithful preacher in his reproofs and admonitions, and that he was a true servant of the gospel, and their spiritual lather. Upon this the senate ordered that every one should give him his hand, and that a feast should be held in token of the general reconciliation. That Farel should be honoured with a feast in Geneva must have even exceeded his surprise; and the warm grasp of his hand must have put the most unmusical heart-strings in good tune for harmony at the banquet. Perrin, the leading senator, was obliged to declare, with trembling, that Farel's sermon was quite right, and that every one must live by the word of God. The Libertines, who had raised all this tumult, plainly discovered that the mass of the people overpowered them; and Perrin humbled himself before Farel, declaring that he was under obligations to him as his former friend, and should ever regard him as his father and pastor. How sincere all these demonstrations were, and how the feast passed off, we are not able to state; but Farel was at last dismissed, with a request that he would retain the Genevese in his affectionate remembrance and prayers. He returned home, cheered by the friendly termination of this noisy affair.
Thousands of exiles were taking refuge in the countries whose streams fed the Rhine and the Rhone. The young king of England, Edward v1., died, and the 'bloody Mary' reigned in his stead. Great numbers of them left the shores of England, among whom were John Fox, the author of the Book of Martyrs, several bishops of renown, and John Knox, for whom Scotland was waiting, that his mighty voice might shake her castles and her mountains. From France and Piedmont also the persecuted were coming — poor, weary, shelterless, and cast upon the mercy of God and of the Protestants, who had mercy upon them. It is hard to resist the temptation of describing the welcome which they received in the villages and cities where Farel was spoken of as the father of the feeble churches that had been gathered through his missionary labours. He ever took the most tender interest in these exiles.
After taking up a collection in Neufchatel for the exiles of Locarne, he wrote to them: * Oh ye happy ones! to whom it is given to prefer the gospel to every temporal blessing. It is delightful to the friends of Christ to hear how fathers are willing to forsake their sons on account of the word of God; how sons love Christ more than parents, brothers, or tenderly beloved sisters; and young women cannot be restrained from choosing the gospel. What heart is so hard as not to be softened at the holy sight! It would be almost incredible if the stony and cruel-hearted persecutors, who thirst after such sacred blood, should not at last be brought to change their hatred into love, and their violence into tenderness.'
In Geneva the enemies of the truth were bold in their threats and their violence against Calvin. The senate opposed him, and the Libertines sought his life. For a time he could not walk the streets without being insulted. Once, on his return from the church, he was attacked on the bridge of the Rhone. He told them that the bridge was wide enough for them all; and when his coolness abashed the ruffians, they turned upon a French exile, chased him into a shop and wounded him, crying out, 'Death to the foreigners.' By day and by night such assaults were occurring. But at length Calvin gained his point, not by arbitrary power, but by his preaching, his persuasions, his calmness, and his trust in God. He declared to the senate, 'I would rather die a hundred times than claim for myself an authority which belongs to the whole Church—that is, the right to establish rules of discipline.' And yet this is the man whom his opposers to this day hold up as • the pope of Geneva!'
The spirit of Calvin prevailed at last, and the Church of Geneva was permitted to guide her own affairs. And when the system of church government, introduced there by Farel and perfected by Calvin, was put into fair operation, its excellency was proved beyond any doubt. John Knox was so charmed with it that he wrote to his friend, John Locke: 'I always wished in my heart, nor could I ever cease to wish, that it might please God to bring me to this place, where I can say, without fear or shame, the best Christian school exists since the time of the apostles. I allow that Christ is truly preached in other places also; but in no other have I seen the Reformation so well wrought out, both morally and religiously, as in Geneva.' Let Farel, 'to whom our people owe everything,' as Calvin declared, have the honour due to him, while unto God be all the glory.
Nor were the Genevese forgetful of his labours, sufferings, and love for them. When, as an aged father, he visited them, they strove together for the favour of showing him hospitality, and the senate proposed that a special sum be given him in order to detain him in their city, so that it might never be said that Geneva had treated him with ingratitude. But he was not willing to retire upon such honours and such generosity. • Amid these stirring events Farel had an unexpected call from that very France out of which he had been barred in his younger days. Even Paris was now open to him. A reformed church had grown up in that city, where the voices of Lefevre and Farel had once been heard and hushed. A child had something to do with its organization. When the disciples were few, they met in the house of the Seigneur de la Ferriere, 'to offer their prayers in common and read the Holy Scriptures.' This