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final blow to a false religion. They asked, 'If we take away these idols from before our eyes, will it not aid us in taking them from our hearts? Once these idols broken, how many souls, now hesitating, will decide for the truth! We must save them as by fire.' The latter motive decided them, and then began a scene that filled the Romanists with horror; for, according to them, it must bring down upon the city the terrible judgments of God.
In his castle, adjoining the cathedral, was the governor, De Rive; and with anxiety he looked upon the people, while they were furnishing him with abundant materials for a letter to the Princess Joan. 'These daring fellows,' wrote he, 'seize mattocks, hatchets, and hammers, and thus march against the images of the saints.' They march against the statues of certain ones who were not saints—those of the counts themselves—which the people take for idols and utterly demolish. They lay hold of the paintings, tear out the eyes in the pictures of the saints, and cut off their noses. The crucifix also is thrown down, for it has taken homage from our crucified Lord. One image yet remains, the most venerated of all: it is ' Our Lady of Mercy,' presented by Mary of Savoy; but it is not spared. 'They have bored out the eyes of Our Lady of Mercy,' writes the governor, 'which the departed lady, your mother, had caused to be made.' The fragments of the broken images are carried out and thrown from the top of the rock into the roaring torrent below.
All this was rude, and none can fully justify it, although it was not mere rioting and excess. The people felt that the temple must be cleansed, Popery must be put down, the gospel must have its proper place, and God must be no longer robbed of His glory by graven images. They had now gone far enough; but, in the excitement, they went still farther. They seized the patens, from which they emptied the 'holy wafers,' and then cast them into the torrent. They wished to show that they did not any longer believe that the wafers were the real body of the Lord, and they distributed them one to another and ate them as merely common food. At this sight the canons and chaplains could no longer remain quiet. A cry of horror was heard. They rushed forth, leading their infuriated party, and the dreaded struggle began in a battle of blows.
At the windows of the castle, all this time, were certain dignified, but wrathful and helpless spectators,—the Provost Oliver, and two canons (the three being members of the privy council), and other high dignitaries. They had been silent; they dared not be otherwise. But now they showed themselves to restore peace, by ordering all 'the supporters of the evangelical doctrine' to appear before the governor. This was. like 'trying to chain the whirlwind.' For why should the reformed party stop? There was the authority of the magistrates on their side. They haughtily replied, 'Tell the governor that, in the concerns of God and of our souls, he has no command over us.'
The governor found that he was simply George de Rive, with no authority that weighed a feather with the people. He must yield, and save some remnant of the Papal idolatry. Some images were not broken, and he had them hid away in secret chambers. The citizens allowed him to do this, saying to him, 'Save your gods; preserve them under strong bars, lest, perchance, a robber should deprive you of the objects of your adoration.'
The tumult gradually ceased, and quiet was restored. As but a comparatively small part of the citizens were actively engaged in these proceedings, the governor still believed that the majority were in favour of the Romish faith. He was anxious to have the matter tested by a vote of the parishioners. But the reformed party insisted that this step should not be taken in the absence of the Bernese deputies. They at length came, and heard both sides of the case. They proposed that the vote should be taken, when the Papal party, who 'always took the other side,' objected. Some of them rose in the council, and, touching the hilts of their swords, spoke of dying 'martyrs for their holy faith.' The young soldiers, who had been in the Genevese war, were quite as ready for that style of arbitration as the Romanists. A little more, and there would have been a battle. At last it was agreed that the votes should be taken. The cathedral was opened, and there, amid the ruins of pictures and altars, the majority decided for the Reformation, and gave the last blow to Popery in that city.
The mass was expelled from the churches, although it was mournfully chanted every day in the castle. It became a storehouse for various spoils, removed from the cathedral when it was thoroughly cleansed, such as relics, ornaments of the altars, much machinery of Romish worship, and even the organ. Several of the canons embraced the Reformation. Others turned their eyes to some quiet corner where they might hide the disgraces of their defeat. When the November winds were raging among the mountains, a troupe of canons, priests, monks, and singing-boys painfully climbed through the gorges of the Jura, and took refuge in the Val de Travers, wondering if the voice of Farel should ever startle them again.
A little 'miracle,' such as Popery often furnishes to the ignorant, occurred about this time. Two townsmen, named Fauche and Sauge, were going out to their vineyards. They passed by a little chapel, in which the latter had set up a wooden image of St. John. The former said, 'There is an image, and I shall kindle my fire with it to-morrow.' So, as Fauche returned, he took it away, and laid it down in front of his house. The next morning he put it into the fire. An awful explosion followed; the humble family were in dismay; it was a miracle caused by the anger of the saint at being burned; the priests were ready to vouch for it. The poor man made haste to return to the mass. His neighbour came to explain it; but it was in vain that Sauge protested on oath that it was only a joke. He had come at night, bored into the image (and the saint complained of no pain!), filled it with gunpowder, and closed the wound. It was a very earthly thing; but Fauche would not believe one word of such reasoning. He must flee the vengeance of the saints. He took his family and settled in France. From a faith in such tricks the reformers were delivering the people, by leading them back to the real miracles of the Saviour, whose words, works, and death were their only hope.
What a renovating change since the day when the people carried Farel into the cathedral! If he had been the chief mover in the scenes of October 23d, the governor would surely have given him a full notice in his minute letter to the princess. Yet he did not name him as taking any part in the fearful movement. Nor did Farel appear in all the business of the votes. One might have said that he was not at Neufchatel. The governor knew not of him in his report. There was something greater than Farel, the word of God. It was at work; and to its Author be the praise for the wondrous change.
Farel was held in grateful remembrance by the council and the citizens, as the chief agent in introducing the gospel. They would gladly have retained him; but he was under engagements to the Bernese authorities. He made a second visit to the Val de Ruz.
For many years an inscription was visible on one of the pillars of the cathedral. It brought to mind the memorial day, as one read—
On October 23D, 1530, Idolatry Was Overthrown
AND REMOVED FROM THIS CHURCH BY THE CITIZENS.