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'It was the merchant Du Blet of Lyons,' said Farel.
'It may be he who made use of the word, but it was you who taught him;' and then, ashamed that he had lost his temper, Erasmus quickly turned the conversation. 'Why do you assert that we ought not to invoke the saints P1 Is it because it is not enjoined in Holy Scripture?'
'Well, then, I call upon you to prove by Scripture that we ought to invoke the Holy Ghost.'
Farel made this simple and true reply: 'If He is God, we must invoke Him.'
Some accounts represent the discussion as going on through a long line of arguments, not because Erasmus doubted the divinity of the Holy Spirit, or the duty of praying to Him, but solely for the sake of worrying the young reformer. But Erasmus wrote: 'I dropped the conversation, for the night was coming on.' He evidently confessed himself baffled.
From that day, whenever the name of Farel fell from his pen, he represented him as a hateful person, who
1 Farel might have read him a passage from his Praise of Folly, to show that Erasmus regarded the worship of the saints as an absurdity: 'Do we not see every country claiming its peculiar saint? Each trouble has its saint, and every saint his candle. This one cures the toothache; that assists in sickness; a third restores what a thief has stolen; a fourth preserves you in shipwreck; a fifth protects your flocks. There are some who have many virtues at once, and especially the Virgin, in whom the people place more confidence than in her Son. . . . The mind of man is so constituted, that imposture has more hold upon it than truth. If there is one saint more apocryphal than another (a St George, St. Christopher, or St. Barbara), you will see him worshipped with greater fervency than St. Peter, St. Paul, or even than Christ Himself.'
ought to be shunned. He was clearing himself, in the eyes of the Romanists, from all suspicion of heresy, by employing the most bitter abuse of the reformer and his countrymen. He wrote to the Pope's secretary: 'Some Frenchmen are still more out of their wits than even the Germans;' and hinted that they were prompted by Satan to * have five expressions always in their mouths: the gospel, God's word, faith, Christ, and the Holy Ghost.' This was high authority in proof of the sound teaching of these 'Frenchmen.' The same charge might have been brought against the apostles John and Paul. Thus the sage's abuse was the reformer's praise. No wonder Farel declared that Erasmus was 'the most dangerous enemy of the gospel;' and yet his letters are full of moderation in regard to the satiric scholar. The gospel in its most fiery temper is milder than mere philosophy,—a fact still illustrated by those who take shelter under the broad wing of the church, while they hurl their reproaches against her men of truth and zeal.
In the meantime, the forces were gathering for a contest in a larger field. Basle had its university and its senate. In both there were many friends, but more enemies, of the gospel. The doctors opposed it to the utmost of their power. They sought to suppress it by public disputations. CEcolampadius was ready to take them at their word, and use their own weapons. He posted up four theses, and invited all who took offence at his doctrines to refute them, or yield to the force of his arguments. He defended them, adopting the new plan of speaking in the German language, so that all the people might understand. The doctors did not appear, not even with their Latin essays; and the general respect for the gospel preacher increased. The people felt more interest in such discussions, and knew that the reformers were not afraid to expose their doctrines to the light.
Stephen Stoer, the priest of Liestal, had taken a wife, believing that the laws of the Bible were better than the decrees of Rome. The Papists thought it a scandal to their pretended sanctity, and wished the senate to send this priestly husband into disgrace. But he was loved in his parish; and the people asked the senate to permit him to defend the step he had taken by an appeal to Scripture in a public, debate. The doctors tried hard to prevent it; but a disputation in the German language was held in the University Hall. Five theses were defended; but no deputies from the bishop, nor any of the professors, came to hear or answer. All they had to say was to express their mortification at seeing the five theses approved by the majority of the preachers, and even by the friars.
The doctors thought they had had enough of debate; but Farel thought it his duty to give them a little more, and profess in Switzerland the doctrine set forth at Paris and Meaux, that 'the word of God is all-sufficient.' He asked permission of the university to maintain certain theses, as he said, ' the rather to be reproved, if I am in error, than to teach others.' The university refused. Its leading professor was the intimate friend of Erasmus.
Farel then applied to the senate, submitting to it thirteen propositions, from which the following sentences are taken :—
'Christ has given us a perfect rule of life, which we are not at liberty to alter, either by adding to it or taking from it .
'No one should impiously regard the precepts of Christ simply as good advice, nor exalt the advice of his fellow-men to a level with Christian precepts.
* We ought to pray most earnestly for what the Holy Spirit can impart to us. Christians must present their offerings to God alone.'
The senate granted the request, and issued a public notice, that a Christian man and brother, named William Farel, had drawn up certain articles in conformity with the gospel; and they had given him liberty to maintain them in Latin. The doctors saw that they could not arrest the discussion, for the university must yield to the senate. But their wits suggested another scheme. They asked the vicar-general to interfere. He at once issued an order to all the priests, students, and others, forbidding them to attend the disputation, on pain of excommunication and banishment . Farel might declaim to the walls.
Not so thought the senate. Jealous of its supreme authority, they issued an edict, making it a duty to give Farel an audience, and a crime to stay away. It ran: 'The pastors, preachers, priests, students, and other persons connected with the university, shall attend the disputation, under penalty of being deprived of their benefices and the protection of the laws." The day came, and an audience with it . Farel spoke in Latin, and CEcolampadius translated it into the language of the people, so that the French accent of the debater might not prevent the understanding of every word.
'It is n\v opinion," said F.-Jtel, in beginning, 'that every Christian cannot do better than make himself thoroughly accaaiated wi:h the truth, which Christ has tiecUred Hiras**:" t> be-' He did not attack, by name, any pankular men or doctrines. His two leading ideas were a return to the word of God and to faith in Christ. The opposers were frequently invited to reply, but not one of them appeared. They contented themselves with boasting in private how much they could have done had they been there! The interpreter said: 'These sophists act the braggart; but they do it in dark holes and corners.'
One effect of the disputation was, that the priests and members of the university sank in the estimation of the people; for they wished to suppress the truth, and dared not defend their own doctrines. Another effect was, that Farel rose in the esteem of all the reformers as a champion in the good cause. They were delighted to see a Frenchman exhibit so much knowledge with his zeal, and piety in his courage. 'He is strong enough,' said they, 'to destroy the whole Sorbonne single-handed.' Conrad Pellican, a learned Franciscan monk, was confirmed in the faith, and became a valuable ally of the great Reformation.
Farel had learned a lesson concerning himself. He found that he needed more of the dove in his nature. His zeal had betrayed him into language which fell like hail where the soft and gentle rain would have been more effective. In the pleasant home of his friend he was kindly admonished of this fault. They mutually agreed to cultivate meekness, and a tenderness of speech. Yet his friend regarded his ardour as a virtue; for without it the world could not be moved, nor the Church aroused from sleep. He wrote to Luther, in a letter of introduction, afterwards: 'There are certain men who would have his zeal against the enemies of the truth more moderate; but I cannot help seeing in this same zeal an admirable virtue, which, if seasonably excited, is no less needed than gentleness itself.' This the impetuous Luther could