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A BUSY BISHOP.
iOME to me, good father Lefevre, and find rest MViW from your troubles,' we seem to read in a %$& letter from Briconnet, the bishop of Meaux, who is now at home with his flock in the beautiful country of the river Maine. 'Our city will afford you an asylum.'
'Shall such a man as I flee?' we think Lefevre responds, in the spirit of Nehemiah.
'Come over and help us,' urges the bishop; and the call to work proves stronger than the invitation to rest. Lefevre goes, and finds a busy bishop, who needs help and counsel. Let us see what has been going on at Meaux.
After Briconnet had opened his heart to the 'good Guest,' he returned to the diocese; and with the zeal of a Christian, began the work of a faithful bishop. He visited every parish. He inquired into the doctrines and lives of the preachers, as one who had an account to render unto the great Master. He summoned witnesses, who had a sad story on their lips.
'At collection time,' they said, 'the Franciscans of Meaux begin their rounds. A single preacher will visit four or five parishes in a day, always delivering the same sermon, not to feed the souls of his hearers, but to fill his mouth, his purse, and his convent. When their, wallets are replenished, their end is gained; there are no more sermons, and the people see the priests no more in the churches until the next pay-day comes.'
'These shepherds make it their only business to shear the sheep,' declares the bishop, who pities the shorn flocks, and is indignant against the monks. 'But where are these hirelings?'
'They get their money, and then go to Paris to spend it,' reply the parishioners.
'Alas! are they not traitors who thus desert the service of Jesus Christ?'
The bishop resolved upon a sifting process. He called all his clergy together in 1519, and took account of them. Many, who cared for little else than the charms of Paris, urged that they had employed curates to tend their flocks while they enjoyed the city. What, then, of these curates? Were they as bad as the priests who held the livings? One hundred and twenty-seven of them were examined, and only fourteen of them were approved by the bishop! The rest were weak, ignorant, worldly, and selfish.
The next year the bishop published a mandate, in which he declared 'traitors and deserters all those pastors who, by abandoning their flocks, show plainly that what they love is the fleece;' selected others, who were found to be qualified, and set them over the sheep, ransomed by the most holy blood of Jesus Christ. He now was convinced that, if he would have able ministers in his diocese, he must train them himself. He therefore resolved to establish a theological school at Meaux, under the direction of pious and learned doctors. He must find good teachers; and, without meaning it, Beda was providing them.
Lefevre had left Farel and the Bible-band at the capital, hunted everywhere by the secret detective police of the Sorbonne. Farel did not preach, for he was not yet ordained; but he talked with students and citizens, argued with professors and priests, and boldly proclaimed the cause of the Reformation at the university and in the city. Some, however, fired by his example, openly preached the gospel. Martial Mazurier, president of St. Michael's college, and eloquent in the pulpit, threw aside all reserve, and painted the disorders of the times in the darkest but the truest colours. It was almost impossible to resist the wisdom with which this earnest Stephen spake. Beda and his recruits were raised to the highest pitch of anger, and declared: 'If we tolerate these innovators, they will invade the whole body, and all will be over with our teaching, our traditions, our places, and the respect felt towards us by France and the whole of Christendom.'
All had, indeed, been over long ago, with the respect which the Sorbonnists claimed. They had forfeited it by their bigotry and intolerance. They stood accused, before all true Christendom, of the great crime of persecuting the men who would have saved France from darkness and blood. On them was fixed the lasting dishonour of having refused the true light, because their deeds and doctrines were evil. They were blinding their own eyes, and were fighting against God. To them, these excellent men, of whom Paris was not worthy, might have said, as Paul and Barnabas declared to certain the gospel comes, it is hailed as good news from heaven, as bread to the hungry soul, and as her defence against the evils of a corrupt court. Certain ladies tell her of the new doctors; they lend her the new little books; they tell her of the ancient Church and the word of God; she listens, reads, and believes. She walks out to breathe the fresh air of the revival morning, and catches some glimpses of the Light of the world. She talks with Lefevre, Farel, and Roussel; she is struck with their pure morals, their piety, and their earnestness, and she is entered on the list of friends to the new movement. The Bishop of Meaux becomes her guide in the path of faith. Francis was crowned in 1515, and there was some hope that he would go beyond Louis', his father-in-law, and extend his shield to those brave men who were using spiritual weapons against Popery. He invited learned reformers into his kingdom, and heard them talk with delight. He founded professorships of Greek and Hebrew, to the great joy of Beza. He listened to his affectionate sister, and was almost persuaded to be a Christian. But the court thought it would never do for the king to lend his hand m turning the world upside down. These reformers must be treated with contempt, and even persecution might teach them silence. Margaret's new opinions were whispered to the courtiers j their surprise was great, their talk was loud, their ridicule was keen. 'What! the sister of the king take part with these new people! It must not be!' It seemed for the moment that her doom had come. She was denounced to Francis 1. He, as her brother, pretended to think that the charge was untrue. Then her noble character silently rebuked her reprovers. They could not resist the charm of her good deeds. Every one loved her, says Brantome; 'she was very kind, mild, gracious, charitable, affable, a great almsgiver, despising nobody, and winning all hearts by her excellent qualities.'
No preacher could have done what Margaret was doing among the better minds at the French court. Her life pleaded the cause of the gospel with that eloquence which consists in actions more convincing than words. The new doctrine was gaining upon the nobles of France. If the king had followed his persuading sister, the nation might have opened its gates to Christ, and Margaret's conversion saved it from those storms which afterwards drenched that beautiful land with the blood of the Huguenots.
Not that Margaret was a saint,—far from it. In her writings were blots, in her character blemishes, and in her devotion appear tinges of Romanism. But even a clouded star was a wonder in that court of darkness. If she wavered between her brother and her Saviour, it was because she turned to the one in order to give him light, and to the other to receive life. We shall soon see how true were Beza's words, when he said that God raised her up to overthrow, as far as possible, the cruel designs of Louisa, Anthony Duprat, the Chancellor of France, and their associates, when they excited the king against the so-called heretics.
When wounded by the arrows of sin, and by the thorns of the court, she fled to her lonely retreat, and laid bare her sorrows to the eye of her crucified Lord. Her poetry then became prayer:
'O Thou, my Priest, my Advocate, my King,