Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

place in the Church, for his uncle was the dean, and Cardinal John of Lorraine a warm friend. Peter, although but a youth, had obtained a prebend, when the gospel came to his ear. He listened, and wondered if the preaching of Chatelain and Leclerc was that of Elias. Antichrist was arming against it in every quarter. He believed in the coming of the Lord, and prepared to enter His service. He saw the Chevalier Esch, his uncle's intimate friend, casting his lot with the reformers, who gave him a hearty welcome. Peter called him the knight, our worthy master, adding with noble candour, *if, however, we are permitted to have a master upon earth.'

Cheering was the progress of the gospel in the city, when it was suddenly arrested by the imprudent zeal of Leclerc. The affair of the placards at Meaux had not cured him of rashness. He saw with grief the idolatries of the people. One of their great festivals was approaching. It was the habit of the people, on a certain day, to make a pilgrimage to a chapel about three miles distant, where were images of the Virgin, and of the most celebrated saints of the country. They worshipped these images, in order to obtain the pardon of their sins.

The eve of the festival came ; Leclerc's pious soul was agitated. He seemed to hear a voice saying, “Thou shalt not bow down to their gods; but thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images.' As the night came, he left the city, and went to the chapel. There he sat a while, silent, before the statues. He wavered in his purpose ; but he thought how, in a few hours, the whole city would be bowing down before blocks of wood and stone. He rose up, took down the images, brake them in pieces, and scattered the fragments before the altar. Then he returned to the city, just at daybreak, and, almost unnoticed, entered the gates.

All Metz was on the move; the bells were ringing; the brotherhoods were assembling; the procession was forming with an array of greater and lesser clergy in the lead. The multitudes recited prayers and sang praises to the saints whom they were going to adore. Crosses and banners were displayed, drums were beaten, and sweeter music filled the air. After about an hour's march they reached the end of the pilgrimage. The priests advanced, with their smoking censers, to render the early homage. But what a sight! The images they had come to worship were shattered, and the fragments covered the ground. The monks recoiled with horror. They announced to the crowd what a sacrilege had been committed. Suddenly the chanting ceased, the instruments were silent, the banners were lowered, and an intense excitement prevailed. Their leaders inflamed the minds of the people, insisting that search be made for the criminal, and his death demanded. One cry burst from every lip, *Death, death to the sacrilegious wretch !' In haste and disorder they returned to the city.

All fixed upon Leclerc. Many times he had said that the images were idols. A few remembered that they had seen him at daybreak, coming from the direction of the chapel. He was seized. He confessed; he claimed that the deed was not a crime, and exhorted the people to worship God alone. To adore what a mere man could so easily destroy, was absurd. But no argument could cool the rage of the crowd. In their fury they wished to drag him to instant death. When led before the judges, he declared boldly that Christ alone should be adored. He was soon convicted, sentenced to be burned alive, and taken to the place of execution.

Here everything horrible in fire and heated irons was prepared for him. Wild yells rose from the monks and people; but he was firm, calm, unmoved. They began to torture him in ways too cruel for description. His body was being torn to pieces, but his mind was at rest. With a loud voice he recited the 115th Psalm, “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. ... They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them. The voice and the sight of such fortitude daunted the enemies, and gave strength to the faithful. The people, so angry before, were now touched with compassion. But the priests saw him burnt by a slow fire, and thus turned the festival into an awful funeral Leclerc was the first martyr among the French reformers.

Not yet were the priests satisfied. They had tried to persuade Chatelain to renounce the gospel, but were obliged to say, 'He is deaf as an adder, and will not hear the truth.' He was arrested, carried away, and shut up in the castle of Nommeny. The officers of the bishop degraded him: they stripped him of his priestly garments; they scraped his fingers with a piece of glass, saying, ‘By this scraping we deprive thee of the power to sacrifice, consecrate, and bless, which thou receivedst by the anointing of hands.' Then throwing over him a layman's dress, they surrendered him to the secular power, and another martyr perished in the flames. But the fires of truth were not thus to be quenched with blood. Even the historians of the Gallican Church, approving of this severity, admit that · Lutheranism spread not the less through the whole district of Metz'

The dean was in trouble, lest his nephew Toussaint should perish in the storm of persecution. He had not taken an active part against the first two French martyrs, but he dare not throw his shield over his brother's son. Peter's mother felt a still greater alarm. Not a moment must be lost. The liberty and life of every one who had lent an ear to the glad tidings of free pardon were endangered. The taste of blood inflamed the rage for more, and other scaffolds and other fires would soon threaten the faithful. The only safety seemed to be in flight. Peter Toussaint, the knight Esch, and many others, fled in haste, and sought refuge in Basle.

Thus the north of France rejected the gospel, and the gospel gave way for a time. But the great 'Captain of our Salvation' was only changing His forces to new fields. He, who retreated from Nazareth, appeared again in Capernaum, Samaria, and Jerusalem. The Reformation only changed its ground: we shall see it again in the south-east of France, and in Switzerland. For, as in the days of the apostles, "they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.'

[graphic][subsumed][merged small][merged small]

(1523-1524.) POME, unvisited for years, attracted Farel to

its refuge at the foot of the Alps, when he was driven from Meaux and shut out of

Metz. Time, study, truth, and grace had greatly changed him since the day when his father wished him to be a knight, like the brave Bayard. He was something far better—a good soldier of Jesus Christ, enduring hardness. It was not simply home, with its old scenes and comforts, that was drawing him ; he seemed to hear a voice saying : 'Return to thy house and thy kindred, and show what great things the Lord hath done for thee.'

His brothers had reason to wonder that he was still alive. They feared to have him come. In their eyes he was an apostate, a heretic, a fanatic. Rumours of what had taken place at Paris and Meaux filled them with a certain degree of terror. But William got their ear and their heart, as he told them of the new and admirable things in the gospel. He entreated them, with all his fiery zeal, to believe and embrace it. He won three, if not all of them, to the truth. They did

« AnteriorContinuar »