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must never endure this, for it puts all her interests in danger, Romanism cannot stand if the Bible be the book of the people.
The secret whisperings in the Sorbonne, the plots of their detectives, and the noise of the monks, were of little avail unless the king would give the order to crush the heresies, and force men into the faith of the Church. And what did Francis say to all this uproar? He appointed a commission to investigate the matter. Lefevre appeared before it, justified himself, and came off from this attack with victory on his banners of truth. Yet flight was wisdom, and he soon after left Meaux for a time. It seems, however, that he returned, and was secretly harboured by the bishop.
Farel could not hope for protection, since his host had turned against the invited guests. He left the city where there were still many firm adherents to the gospel, and where martyrs were soon to seal their testimony with blood. It seems that he went at first to Paris, and with unsparing words attacked the errors of Rome, until he put his life in jeopardy. Thence he probably went to Dauphiny, anxious to bear the good news to his native land. It has been supposed, however, that he spent several months at Metz, where the gospel standard was being lifted high, and to it were gathering some of the most worthy chieftains of the French Reformation. Let us see them flocking to this ancient city, the old Divodurum of Tacitus, built where the Seille adds its waters to the blue Moselle.
Before the bishop fell, and his chief guests departed, the Lord raised up a lowly disciple to be a pastor to the little flock at Meaux. John Leclerc heard his fellowwool-carders talk of the gospel, and hid the good word
d strength to in opery such a bh his prudence, amfort
in his heart; for it must not be mentioned at home to his father, who was blindly led by the monks. His mother and his brother Peter joined with him on the side of the new preachers. He read the Bible and the 'little books;' he grew strong under the teachings of Lefevre and Farel, and became a ready expounder of the Scriptures. When the teachers were exiled, the Christians looked to him as their shepherd
This wool-carder went from house to house comforting the disciples. His zeal outran his prudence, and he sought to give Popery such a blow as only a Luther had strength to inflict. He wrote a proclamation against the Pope, declaring that the Lord was about to destroy Antichrist by the breath of His mouth. He took the
placards, and boldly posted them on the gates of the cathedral. Hundreds gathered on the spot to read the strange words. Soon all were in confusion : the disciples were amazed; the priests were angry; the monks were outrageous, and they demanded that at least one example should be made to terrify the people. Who would be a better one than this wool-carder? The king would not call him one of his learned men,' and treat him with favour. Leclerc was cast into prison.
He was hurried through a trial, under the eyes of the fallen bishop. He was condemned to be whipped through the streets of the city on three days; and to wind up the cruelty, his forehead was to be branded with the mark of a heretic. No time was to be lost.
The poor carder was led through the city, with his hands bound and his shoulders bare, while the blows fell and the blood flowed. An immense crowd followed in the gory tracks of the victim : some yelled with rage against the heretic; others gave clear signs of their tender com
passion. One woman lent him her eyes and her voice : the sufferer took courage ; she was his mother.
At last, on the third day, when the scourgings and marches were over, the fortieth stripe not being spared, the procession halted at the usual place of execution. The hangman prepared the fire, heated the iron, and branded the brow on which the name of Jesus was written. A loud shriek was heard, but it came not from the tormented disciple. It was that of the mother, who shouted, with a voice that made the persecutors tremble, "Glory to Jesus Christ, and to His witnesses!' Such boldness, at such a moment, was a crime worthy of severe punishment; but she had appalled both priests and soldiers. An unseen hand controlled their fury. She turned away, the crowd respectfully parted, the monks and town-sergeants gazed unmoved, and she slowly walked to her humble dwelling. None dared to arrest her. Leclerc was then set at liberty, and passed some months at Rosay, about twenty miles from Meaux. He was recovering for a greater work in a new field.
The foes of truth were elated with their victory; the friends of the Crucified hid under the shadow of the Almighty. An old chronicler says : ‘The Cordeliers, having recaptured the pulpits, propagated their lies and trumpery as usual.' But the poor workmen would not go to hear them. They began to meet in secret, after the manner of the sons of the prophets in the time of Ahab, and of the Christians of the primitive Church ; and as opportunity offered, they assembled at one time in a house, at another in some cave, sometimes also in a vineyard or in a wood. There he who was most versed in the Holy Scriptures exhorted the rest ; and this done, they all prayed together with great courage, supporting each other with the hope that the gospel would be revived in France, and that the tyranny of Antichrist would come to an end.'
On other plains the light was breaking. At Metz 1 there dwelt a man, described as 'a marvellously learned clerk, of small stature, who had spent much time in travel, who spoke every language, and had studied every science.' This was Master Agrippa, now chief magistrate of the city. . He had read Luther's works, and lent them to his friends. Many of the clergy, nobility, and citizens were gained over to the cause of truth. In 1522, some one had pasted on the corner of the bishop's palace a placard, whose large letters extolled what Luther had done. The public attention was excited. Master Agrippa had enough to do in answering questions and preserving the peace.
Leclerc went to Metz in 1523, and there, like Paul at Corinth, he worked at his trade and persuaded the people. He talked with the labourers, and the ‘Lutheran business' was on every lip. The flames, partly smothered, now broke out afresh. Every opposition was useless : the people would inquire, discuss, and believe. Many of the more learned among them took the side of the Reformation, and the gospel began to be preached. Another helper came to the work of the Lord.
1 In the thirteenth century, Metz drew the attention of Christendom. Certain Waldenses brought to that city translations of several books of the Bible, which were scattered through the diocese, and eagerly read by the people. Societies of Bible-readers were formed. These Christians began to separate themselves from the Roman Church. The priests endeavoured to put a stop to their meetings. The bishop reported them to the Pope, who advised gentle measures. But they were forbidden to hold their meetings. They refused to give up the Bible, even if the Pope should demand it. They pointed out many Romish errors, and said that the Bible gave them better light than the ignorant clergy. At length they were accounted heretics, quite akin to the Waldenses : their assemblies were broken up, their Bibles burned ; and a synod at Toulouse (1229) uttered its warning against all translations of the Scriptures into the language of the people.—NEANDER's Church History, vol. iv.
John Chatelain, an Augustine monk, had been brought to the truth at Antwerp. He came to Metz, says the chronicle, a man declining in years, and of agreeable manners, a great preacher, and very eloquent, a wondrous comforter to the poorer sort; by which means he gained the good-will of most of the people, not of all, especially of the majority of the priests and great rabbins, against whom the said friar John preached daily, setting forth their vices and their sins, saying that they abused the poor people, by which animosity was stirred up.' And yet the truth from his eloquent tongue did not fall with such power as it did from the lips of a poor artisan, who laid aside the comb with which he carded his wool, to explain a French version of the gospel.'
There dwelt in the city a devout woman of the middle class, named Toussaint, who often talked with her son Peter in a serious strain while he was at play. She, like all the townspeople, expected something wonderful to occur in those times. One day the child was riding on a stick in his mother's room, while she was conversing with her friends on the things of God. She said to them, in an earnest tone, ' Antichrist will soon come with great power, and destroy those who have been converted at the preaching of Elias.' These words, often repeated, were fixed in the child's memory for life.
Peter was no longer a child when the new preachers were declaring the gospel in Metz. His genius led his relatives to hope that he would one day fill an eminent