« AnteriorContinuar »
error, that the light w. From this tim
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 began 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 every good and perfect gift cometh down from above ?' asked Lefevre, with the gentle persuasion of a Paul, eager to carry his hearers with him by arguments. “Now who will deny that justification is the good and perfect gift? . . . If we see a man moving, the respiration that we perceive is to us a sign of life. Thus works are necessary, but only as signs of a living faith, which is followed by justification. Do eye-salves or lotions give light to the eye? No! it is the influence of the sun. Well, these lotions and these eye-salves are our works. The ray that the sun darts from above is justification itself.'
Faith is the link that binds us to Christ ; and yet it is more than a link : it is a life. Lefevre did not dwell on this living link alone ; he went further, and exhibited Jesus in whom he believed. Like Luther, he could almost paint the true cross in his eloquence; and still he felt that no tongue could do justice to the vicarious death of Christ. It was unspeakable. "Ineffable exchange !'he declared ; 'the innocent One is condemned, and the criminal acquitted ; the Blessing is cursed, and he who was cursed is blessed ; the Life dies, and the dead live ; the Glory is covered with shame, and he who was deep in shame is covered with glory.'
Then, rising still higher toward that sovereign love which sent such a divine Redeemer to sinful men, and dwelling on the privilege of being loved before they loved God, and being chosen before they chose Jesus, he exhorted his hearers to live as if their lives were hid with Christ. Oh! if men could but understand this privilege, how chastely, purely, and holily would they live ; and they would look upon all the glory of this world as disgrace, in comparison with that inner glory which is hidden from the eyes of the flesh.'
Was this too lofty a strain of eloquence for some of his hearers, on whose corrupt minds a gross darkness lay? He would give them a word in season ; for the arrow of truth must prepare them for the balm of Gilead. He must not prophesy smooth things. Even the clergy of his day must be rebuked for their revels, and the sins of the times he touched with unsparing fidelity. With an indignation against sin, tempered by love for the sinner, he exclaimed : ‘How scandalous it is to see a bishop asking persons to drink with him, gambling, rattling the dice, spending his time with hawks and dogs; and in hunting, hallooing after rooks and deer, and frequenting the worst of houses and haunts! ... O men, deserving a severer punishment than Sardanapalus himself !
Did not Farel remember the "holy cross,' and wish the priest of Sainte Croix could hear such reproofs ? The tales there told to him when a child now appeared as the baldest lies. He saw, too, the evidence of a general deception in the use of 'holy relics.' The holy cross' near Tallard was said to be made of the very wood of the one on which Christ was crucified. In Paris, he had been adoring another cross, of which the same story was told. Yet the wood was of a different kind! For others still there were the same lying pretensions, and he now wondered how he had ever been so stupid as to believe that the real cross of Calvary had been preserved. He repented with deep sorrow of his blindness, credulity, and superstitious reverence.
When the corruptions of the Romish Church,' wrote Farel in after years, are unveiled to the soul that has been drawn aside by them, its sense of their enormity is so overwhelming, that only the clear exhibition of the
welcome doctrine of salvation by Christ can prevent a man from utter despair, or losing his senses.'
But it was only daylight with the young Dauphinese; not yet was it clear sunshine. Some clouds must be broken and scattered before his noon would come. He had closed the Bible, and he must open it again, and from the very fountains drink the crystal waters of eternal life. He must hear not only the voice of Lefevre, but the voice of Jehovah.
Thus Lefevre preached ; thus Farel believed. But at length the admiration of the saints returned upon him like a satanic spell. To pray to them seemed easier than to pray to Christ. They had no merit to give him ; they must not be trusted in for salvation; Jesus only was the Saviour on whom his faith must be fixed. He saw all that; but yet, might not the saints help to bear his prayers to God? Christ alone must be trusted; but was Christ alone to be invoked? He was troubled, and he carried his question to Lefevre.
“My dear son,' said the spiritual father, we cannot be sure that the saints hear any words we speak. We know they cannot hear different persons, in different places, at the same time. We are sure that Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Ghost, do hear us, and to this holy Trinity only we are at liberty to pray. We must hold to what is certain, and abandon everything that is doubtful.'
But the saints have such a feeling for us.'
Jesus has infinitely more. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He knows us altogether. No saint can have such a tender sympathy for us as Christ. He alone hath trodden the wine-press. He only is the Head of the Church. Let us not call ourselves after St. Paul or St. Peter ; but, in Christ, let us be Christians.