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A STRANGE VOICE IN PARIS.
ijY dear William,' said Lefevre one day when returning from the mass, as he grasped the hand of his young friend; 'God will renew the world, and you will see it.' 'Often have you said this to me, but I do not yet fully understand your words.'
'Ah, one cannot tell what light is until it fills his eye, nor what life is until he feels it in his soul. God will soon give us both; new light by His holy truth, new life by His Holy Spirit. The word of God will take the place of the word of the Church. We must give up the Lives of the Saints, and read the words of the apostles.'
'But are you not going on to publish those lives? I have been delighted with the two monthly numbers now issued.'
'No, no. I began with zeal the laborious task of collecting and arranging them in the order of their names in the calendar. But I am weary of them. They disgust me. They are foolish legends at best, and many of them are the false tales of monks, who could write a life to order, without any knowledge of the facts.'
'Yon astound me, father Lefevre.' 'I wish to, if there be no other way to keep you from having anything more to do with these legends. They are puerile superstitions, and are no better than brimstone fit to kindle the fire of idolatry. They cause us to idolize lie saints, and to treat our Lord wi;h neglect They are too paltry fables to keep us from the sublime word of God.* 'How came you to know this so suddenly?' 'By one of those beams of light which come from heaven through the Holy Scriptures. All at once, I was struck with the impiety of addressing prayers to the saints. Go. dear William, to the Bible.'
Lefevre had taken a long and sure step. The Refornation began in France at the moment when he laid aide the wondrous tales of the monks, and put his hand Mi the word of God, fully resolved to interpret all other iings by it. Not the Breviary, but the Bible, should ^eaceforth be his authority. He studied the epistles of Pad, and light beamed on his mind; life was breathed into his heart. By the press, and from the pulpit, he :*gan to teach men, and 'open unto them the Scripones.' That favourite idea, 'God will renew the world,' *> often expressed to FareL, appears in his Commen'-ay1 on Paul's Episdes. 'God, in His great mercy, r3 soon revive the expiring spark in the hearts of -en, so that faith, and love, and a purer worship will stum.' Strange doctrines were then first heard publicly in
J 'The first edition, if I mistake not, is that of 1512. The learned :--io says that "James Leferre deserves to be ranted among the --s skilful commentators of the age." We should ghc him higher i=e than this.'—D Auiigtu.
Paris; strange, because they had been lost for centuries; and yet stranger, inasmuch as they were boldly declared in the very bosom of the Sorbonne. The roof of the university had reason to cry out in astonishment, as it re-echoed the words of Lefevre. * It is God alone,' he declared, ' who by His grace, through faith, justifies unto everlasting life. There is a righteousness of works, there is a righteousness of grace: the one cometh from man, the other from God: one is earthly, and passeth away; the other is heavenly, and eternal : one is the shadow and the sign, the other the light and the truth: one makes sin known to us, that we may escape death ; the other reveals grace, that we may obtain life.'
'What then?' asked his hearers, as they listened to this teaching, so opposed to that of four centuries. 'Has any one man ever been justified without works?'
'One! they are innumerable,' replied the zealous preacher, whose young disciples were aroused, and eager for the truth. 'How many people of disorderly lives have there been who have ardently prayed for the grace of baptism, possessing faith in Christ alone, and who, if they died the moment after, have entered into the life of the blessed, and that without works!'
'If, therefore, we are not justified by works,' said his listeners, 'it is in vain that we perform them.'
'Certainly not! They are not in vain. If I hold a mirror to the sun, its image is reflected: the more I polish and clear it, the brighter is the reflection; but if we allow it to become tarnished, the splendour of the sun is dimmed. It is the same with justification1 in those who lead an impure life.'
1 Had he said sondification in those who fall into inconsistencies, he would have been more nearly correct.
Thus taught the Paris doctor,--not altogether free from error, but so near the greatest truth which man can know, that the light was brilliant. And, while all wondered, many believed. From this time there were two parties in the university, two peoples in the city, and there beCTan to be two great divisions in Christendom: those who put works above faith, and those who put faith before works; one people exalting the Church of Rome as the infallible teacher, and the sole dispenser of eternal life on earth; the other trusting to the word of God as the only unerring guide, and adoring Christ as the only Saviour of men.
Farel listened, as for life, to this teaching of justification by faith, and he saw at once in which great division to take his place. The doctrine that Jesus was the only Saviour, and that one such Saviour was enough, had a weighty charm for his heart, and a glorious power over his soul. 'Every objection fell, every struggle ceased. No sooner had Lefevre put forward this doctrine, than Farel embraced it with all the ardour of his nature. He had undergone labour and conflicts enough to be aware that he could not save himself.' He forgot his admired saints; he lost all sympathy with the monks of the forest; he gave up all human merit; he believed in Jesus. To himself he seemed strange; it was the old Saul of Tarsus trying to make out who was the new Paul; the old Simon astonished at the new Peter. In later years he wrote: 'Lefevre extricated me from the false opinion of human merits, and taught me that everything came from grace, which I believed as soon as it was spoken.' Thus, with trembling step, he took his place in the ranks of the men of faith.
The men of works were not slow to fall into line, and prepare for the contest. There were professors in the colleges and doctors of the Sorbonne ready to display their generalship; there were students ready to volunteer in defending human merit. Many, whose works were bad and disgraceful, urged, all the more zealously, their dependence on good works. They knew little of the great question, for they had passed through no struggles of soul for life; and, instead of caring for the Bible, they had been 'engaged in learning their parts in comedies, in masquerading, and in mountebank farces;' so much so, that Parliament had summoned their teachers, and forbidden 'those indulgent masters to permit such dramas to be represented in their houses.' In these plays the great were ridiculed, the princes caricatured, and the king attacked. The government felt obliged to interfere.
But the hand of Parliament could only provoke the disorderly students. The voice of the preacher gave them a new and powerful diversion. From comedies, their thoughts were turned to debates about faith and' works. 'Great was the uproar on the benches of the university,' and every student must take sides with Lefevre or with the Sorbonne. With the latter gathered not only the young men of careless minds and evil deeds, but also many whose lives were the least at fault. The more upright class took credit to themselves for their moralities; and not willing to let the doctrine of faith condemn their 'good works,' they urged that James, their apostle, was opposed to Paul, the apostle of Lefevre. The gospel doctor was quicker than Luther to see how these two apostles perfectly agreed together: one looking at faith as the starting-point, and the other at works as the evidence of salvation.
'Doth not St. James in his first chapter declare, that