« AnteriorContinuar »
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. Let the servant pray only to the Master. Our prayers must reach the willing ear of God, or they are useless. Then, let them go up directly to Him.'
The soul of Farel was now shaken by conflict. Two views opened before him. In one he saw the vast array of saints, with the Church on earth; in the other, Jesus Christ alone, with his beloved teacher. Now he inclined to the saints, now to the Saviour. It was his last error, and he must decide his last battle. He was almost carried over to those revered men and women, at whose feet thousands fell adoring. Had he also fallen there, he must have exalted Mary above her divine Son and Lord. But God struck the blow for him; the spell was broken, the enchantment gone. The saints were in a cloud, and Christ appeared in His glory, as deserving of all adoration. Never could he render him reverence enough. And why waste adoration upon the holiest saint in paradise? It was robbing the Lord of His right to all the tribute of the heart. Referring to this last conflict, when he for ever renounced the word of the Church, he wrote: 'Then Popery was utterly overthrown. I began to detest it as devilish, and the holy word of God had the chief place in my heart.'
'It was necessary,' he again wrote, * that Popery should fall little by little from my heart, for it did not tumble down at the first shock. . . . O Lord, would that my soul had served Thee with a living faith, as Thy obedient servants have done! Would that it had prayed to Thee. and honoured Thee as much as I have given my heart to the mass, and to serve that enchanted wafer, giving it all honour! I have known Thee too late; too late have I loved Thee!'
From the stormy sea Farel had now reached the port,
guided by the light of his aged friend; and no man who ever exchanged a wrecked and sinking ship for the solid, healthy land, could have been more delighted with the new appearance of all things around him. Days of languor and disgust at sea give the traveller a keen wish for the fruits of the land; and thus Farel, long soul-sick, but now having a firm footing on the shore of heavenly truth, craved and enjoyed the bread of life in the gospel. The desire for holy truth gives to it an enduring newness, for love never permits its object to seem old. 'Now,' said he, ' everything appears to me under a new aspect. The Bible has a new face, Scripture is cleared up, prophecy is opened, the apostles shed a strong light on my soul. A voice, till now unknown—the voice of Christ, my Shepherd, my Master, my Teacher—speaks to me with power. So great a change has come over me, that, instead of keeping the murderous heart of a ravening wolf, I have come back quietly, like a meek and harmless lamb, with my heart entirely withdrawn from the Pope, and wholly given to Jesus Christ.'
Drawn from the abyss of Popery, he must now go deeply into the Bible, enriching himself with its treasures. With absorbing interest he began the study of Greek and Hebrew, without neglecting his other 'studies, on which he set a just value. In order to hide the word of God in his heart, he read it daily, and God gave him increasing light and life. Now he gave the Scriptures just the meaning which was apparent in them: what conflicted with them he cast away; what agreed with them he held fast. No longer did he 'keep to the interpretation of the Church, and indeed of the Pope.' No more did he think that his ' degree in arts' must precede those degrees which the Apostle—not the Pope—Peter laid down: