Difficulties and Dangers
This section comprises chapters 6 through 9. They are listed below. To go directly to any particular chapter click on the link to that chapter. Otherwise you can scroll down as you read chapter by chapter.
- Chapter 6 – Farel a Wanderer
- Chapter 7 – A New Field
- Chapter 8 – Mourning and Madness
- Chapter 9 – Farel’s Turning Point
Farel A Wanderer 1523–1524
Home, 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. Rumors 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 not at first abandon the Church of their fathers; but, when persecution came, they had the courage to sacrifice friends, property, and country, for the sake of liberty in Christ.
Farel thus kindled a new fire on the hearth at home, but he was not content until he had declared the truth to his friends and relatives in the neighborhood. There are some who assert that he was invited, by certain of the clergy, to preach in the churches; others declare that he did not yet assume to enter the pulpit. However this may be, he taught in such a way as to cause great agitation. The multitude and the priests wished to silence him. “What new and strange heresy is this?” they asked. “Must all the practices of piety be counted vain? He is neither monk nor priest; he has no business to preach.” Of this, Farel was the better judge, and upon his labors came the blessing of heaven.
It was a time when several Frenchmen of that region were gained over to the gospel. Among them was a young gentleman from Dauphiny, the Chevalier Anemond de Chatelard. Even in his Romish piety he was a foe to relics, processions, and the dissipated clergy of his acquaintance. From Farel he received the truth, gave it a deep place in his heart, and soon was very zealous for it. He disliked forms in religion, and gladly would have seen all the ceremonies of the church abolished. “Never,” he declared, “has my spirit found any rest in externals. The sum of Christianity is comprised in these words—John truly baptized with water, but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost; ye must put on the new man.”
Anemond could not be idle, for he had all the vivacity of a Frenchman. If a celebrated doctor was to be heard, he wished to be present. If a door was open to the gospel, he was waiting to enter it. His father was dead. His elder brother was harsh, haughty, and bigoted, and repelled him with disdain. His younger brother, Lawrence, with all his love, could but half understand him. Anemond, finding himself rejected by his own kindred, sought to be of service in another quarter. Only laymen had yet been converted in Dauphiny, and Farel, with his friends, had wished to see a priest at the head of the movement, which already gave some promise of shaking the Alps. God had his finger upon the man.
There lived at Grenoble a Franciscan priest, Peter Sebville by name, a preacher of great eloquence, a man of a good and honest heart. He sought infallibility in Romanism; it was not there, and yet it must be somewhere, if man had any religion on which he could depend. He took up the long-neglected book, and found it in the word of God. He resolved to preach the word “purely, clearly, holily.” His eloquent voice was heard in the province. Farel was delighted, and Anemond felt at liberty to visit Luther and Zwingli. He willed his property to his brother Lawrence, who, probably thought the chevalier was going forth on as foolish an errand as that of many a knight in the olden time.
And perhaps Luther thought likewise when the young Frenchman first met him at Wittenberg. His plans were on the largest scale, and his hopes of seeing all France converted were the brightest, if Luther would only go himself and take the glorious prize. But the Saxon doctor could not enter the field across the Rhine. “Then write to the Duke Charles, of Savoy,” earnestly said Anemond, who thought that Francis I might be reached through his uncle. “This prince feels a strong attraction toward piety and true religion, and loves to converse with certain persons at his court about the Reformation. He is just the man to understand you, for his motto is this—Nothing is wanting to those who fear God, and this is yours also. His heart stands in need of God and his grace; all he wants is a powerful impulse. If he were won to the gospel, he would have an immense influence on Switzerland, Savoy, and France. Write to him, I beseech you.”
“Assuredly,” replied Luther, “a love for the gospel is a rare gift, and an inestimable jewel in a prince.” Although Luther knew that the success of the gospel did not so greatly depend upon the favor of princes as his friend supposed, yet he wrote a most touching letter to the duke. We know not the result. Anemond, in his ardor, would have rejoiced to possess the power of rousing all France.
Farel hardly expected the German champion to come over the Rhine. He labored on until the civil and ecclesiastical powers of Gap combined against him. They thought him an agent of that sect which the Sorbonne denounced, Beda hunted, and Duprat was ready to burn. “Let us cast this firebrand of discord far from us,” they exclaimed. He was summoned to appear, was harshly treated, and violently expelled from the city. But he was still a “voice crying in the wilderness.” He knew the country of his youth, when his rashness had led him to explore the mountains, and now, if closely followed, he could hide in the forests, caves, and clefts of the rocks. He went about preaching in private houses, secluded hamlets and lonely fields, and found an asylum in the woods and on the brink of torrents. In this school God was training him for future labors and endurance. The poor heard the truth from his lips, and the solitary places were glad.
Letters came to him from Anemond, and he greatly desired to see the reformers of Germany and Switzerland. The valleys of his native land were narrow; perhaps he might find a broader, as well as a safer, field. France was offering him nothing but fire and sword; perhaps some other country would offer him a large harvest to reap. But how was he to get away? Foes hung upon every path, neither willing for him to teach the people nor to leave them to themselves. Following by-roads, hiding in the forests, now losing his way and now finding some other way, he evaded the pickets of the enemy and escaped. He reached Switzerland early in 1524, and found Anemond at Basle.
Farel was received at Basle as one of the most devoted champions of the gospel. There was honor in the hospitality extended to him. He was the guest of Œcolampadius, one of the most genial of the reformers. Scarcely any two men were more unlike in their natures. The host charmed his hearers by his mildness; the guest carried all before him by his impetuosity. It was Peter in the house of John, and that most remarkable friendship in the apostolic band was reproduced in the union between these two reformers.
Œcolampadius had been preaching in Basle as a pastor, but his words seemed to fall like gentle snowflakes upon a rock. He was discouraged and greatly depressed. He had said to Zwingli, “Alas, I speak in vain, and see not the least reason to hope. Perhaps among the Turks I might meet with greater success. But I lay the blame on myself alone.” These sighs rose in Farel’s ear, and called forth his sympathy and his heroic words of good cheer. The bold man fired up the courage of the timid. An undying affection grew up in the heart of the host., and he must declare it. “Oh, my dear Farel, I hope that the Lord will make our friendship immortal, and if we cannot live together here below, our joy will only be the greater when we shall be united at Christ’s right hand in heaven.”
There were many refugees in the city, who had escaped from the scaffolds of France. They formed a French church. Among them were Anemond of Dauphiny, Esch and Toussaint of Metz, Du Blet of Lyons, and others of lesser note. These all held Farel in high esteem, and he was not backward to maintain his reputation. His courage, learning, and piety soon won the hearts of all who could appreciate his influence. He was the rising man, and to him were the honors paid.
There was, however, one man who felt slighted. He was sensitive to neglect. He had not come to Basle to be overlooked. He had made a noise in the world. It had been the affair of his life to send a storm upon the schoolmen and the monks, and his scathing satires had made his name a dread to all who did not please him. His learning was acknowledged in all the great universities. As a pioneer, he had hoped to prepare the way for the reformers; but the wisest of the reformers had made the painful discovery that he was trying to castle himself on the half-way ground, between popery and protestantism, and shot the arrows of wit at both parties. His levity of mind was like that of his body—a puff of wind might bear him away. He could expose error, but he lacked the moral courage to stand up for the truth. Yet he had drawn the gaze of Christendom, for he was Erasmus, the prince of scholars. Thousands were ready to crouch at his feet and do him reverence, coveting one kind look, one brotherly word from this master of the age.
And yet Farel had not come near him, as a young noble, wishing to be made a knight by a blow of the sword, and the words, “Rise, sir,” from his king. The young Dauphinese refused to go and pay homage to the old sage of Rotterdam, because he despised those men who are only by halves on the side of truth. The commentaries of Lefèvre had caused no little debate among the guests, at their simple entertainments, where it was well-known that Erasmus had said harsh things of the good doctor, who had excelled him in making the New Testament the book of the people. The lines were drawn, some taking sides with the commentator, and some with the severe critic. Farel was valorous for the old teacher, who had shown him the spiritual stations on the way of the true cross. He was ready to break a lance with the caviling Erasmus. What greatly annoyed him was the treatment given to the lovers of the gospel. Erasmus had shut his door against them. Farel was not the man to go and beg for admission. The favor of the old sage was of little account to him. He would not fawn for his sarcastic smile. More than all, if Erasmus had given a pledge to the pope to write against Luther, he would have nothing to do with such a spy in the camp.
No doubt Farel said more than was proper, and the illustrious scholar was nettled at his independence. Princes, kings, doctors, bishops, popes, reformers, priests, and men of the world were ready to pay their tribute of admiration to the Rotterdam philosopher; even Luther had treated him with a certain forbearance; and now this young Frenchman, unknown to fame, and an exile, dared to brave his power and beard the lion in his den! Such insolent freedom was more annoying than the homage of the whole world was pleasant. Hence Erasmus took every occasion to vent his ill humor on Farel, and on all the French refugees in Basle, whose frankness and decision offended him. They had little respect to persons, and cared not for the man who “knew what was right, but had not the courage to avow it,” however exalted his genius. We may wish them more gentleness, but, if we admire the vigor of the old prophets, we must credit them with a brave love for truth when they would not bow down before that which the world adores. It was evident that a face-to-face engagement was soon to take place between the bold Dauphinese and the learned Dutchman.
One day Farel was talking with several friends on the doctrines of Christianity, in the presence of Erasmus. The former had perhaps heard that, instead of being called Farellus, the name Fallicus had dropped often from the lips and pen of the satirist, thus giving to one of the frankest men of his day the epithet of a cheat and deceiver. The latter had heard that he had been called a Balaam, as if the presents of the pope had induced him to curse the people of God. If he had been heated before, he was now boiling with wrath to chastise the author of this reproach.
“Why do you call me Balaam?” inquired Erasmus, rudely interrupting the conversation.
“I have not given you that title,” replied Farel, at first astonished by so abrupt a question.
“Then name the offender.”
Farel declined, tried the virtue of mild words, explained his own position, but yet felt himself pressed.
“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? 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 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. Œcolampadius was ready to take them at their word, and use their own weapons. He posted up four theses and invited all who took offense 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 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 Œcolampadius 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 my opinion,” said Farel in beginning, “that every Christian cannot do better than make himself thoroughly acquainted with the truth, which Christ has declared himself to be.” He did not attack, by name, any particular 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 ardor as a virtue, for without it the world could not be moved nor the church roused 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 appreciate, coming as it did from one of the gentlest of men.
Farel visited the land of Zwingli and Myconius, who welcomed him with a kindness never forgotten. On his return to Basle he found Erasmus and other enemies at work, stirring up the senate against him. As his freedom of speech was not on their side, they insisted that the people could not bear it, and disturbances would arise if he was not ordered away. In vain did his friends urge that this was an abuse of all custom and law, for their city took pride in being an asylum for the persecuted. Farel bade adieu to Basle. “It is thus we exercise hospitality,” said his indignant host, “we true children of Sodom!”
With the chevalier Esch he set out for Germany, with letters for Luther and Capito, and he was commended, by his friend of the warm heart and home, as “that William who has toiled much in the work of God.” It does not appear that he went as far as Luther’s Wittenburg.
The opposers of the gospel in Basle became more arrogant than ever, and by public mandates or secret intrigues, endeavored to suppress the truth and crush its adherents. But Œcolampadius had caught something of Farel’s spirit, and he no more wished himself among the Turks. In a letter to the bishop he reproached them for being so noisy after refusing to appear in defense of their faith, and for claiming the exclusive right to teach a people who were not allowed to understand their doctrines. The flock would go where they were best fed, the priests were despised as cowards and hirelings who did not care for the sheep, and the reformers were counted as their best friends and pastors. Thus the gospel was working with power at Basle.
A New Field 1524
In strange ways God can open new fields of labor. The young Duke Ulrich had lost his estates in Wurtemberg by the Swabian league, in 1519, and taken refuge in Montbeliard, an earldom in France, which still belonged to him. In his dark days he had met with the reformers in Switzerland, and found the cheering light of the gospel. The once violent and cruel prince now seemed to be a lamb, seeking the fold of Christ. The priests led him in barren pastures, and his eye was attracted to a little flock that, in some way, had been gathered at the chief town in his domain. They wanted a pastor, and the duke promised to aid and protect them in sustaining a man of their choice. They laid their case before Œcolampadius, and he saw that the hand of God was extended to lead back the chief of the exiles to France. He sent word to Farel to come to him from Strasburg.
Farel was bold enough to go to Basle, and wise enough not to expose himself to those who had lately driven him away. There were hidden paths and dark nights, of which he could take advantage, and he secretly entered the old city. He was safely concealed in the house of his former pilgrimage, and we seem to hear the mild voice of his friend rising into earnestness, and his own louder voice toned into greatness.
“I have sent for you,” says the host, “to urge you to preach the gospel. You have refrained from entering fully into the service of the Church. It is now your duty, for there is in you all that may constitute you a minister of the Lord.”
“I have considered my weakness,” replies Farel, “and I have not dared to preach, waiting for the Lord to send more suitable persons. If I could have a clear call, I would not hesitate.”
“You have a three-fold call. God, in his providence, has opened the way for your return to your country. All France calls you, for, behold, how little is Jesus Christ known to those who speak the French language! Will you not speak to them in words which they can understand? And the people of Montbeliard invite you among them, and the duke gives his assent.”
“It does not seem lawful for me to resist; I must obey in God’s name. I accept the charge, but I am not yet ordained.”
“Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures. You must here, in this house, be set apart to the ministry.”
The step was a bold one, and is not an example to be followed. Whether any of the preachers in Basle were invited to be present, we know not, but Œcolampadius ventured upon a private ordination. He solemnly set Farel apart to the ministry, calling upon the name of the Lord. Let the success of the minister be considered in evidence of the Lord’s approval.
“Now, go and feed the flock of God,” said his friend, “and guard your own nature. The more you are inclined to violence, the more you should practice gentleness; temper your lion’s courage with the meekness of the dove.” This needed counsel was received by Farel with all his heart.
In July 1524, he entered upon his labors at Montbeliard, and the first promise of success was astonishing. The seed was hardly sown when the harvest began to appear. The duke and his court were much in his favor. Most of the people were eager to hear the word of God; a few, who regarded themselves as of the higher class, were disposed to treat him with contempt, or dread his presence as a source of disturbances. There are always some who fear lest the world will be turned upside down by the gospel. Chevalier Esch was his companion, and, doubtless, was of service at the court of the duke. Farel had written to his gentle friend at Basle, with no little exultation, and now another chevalier proposes to join him.
Anemond, delighted with the good news, ran, with his usual vivacity, to Peter Toussaint, saying, hastily, “I shall set off, tomorrow, to visit Farel.”
“Good! I am just finishing a letter to him. You must be the bearer.”
“Gladly will I be so, and I am to take one also from Œcolampadius.” At the time appointed the chevalier set out, and in a few days was at Montbeliard, where his face and the letters were appreciated.
Œcolampadius wrote, “It is easy to instill a few doctrines into the ears of our auditors, but to change their hearts is in the power of God alone.” Toussaint wrote, “I am glad that the duke and court are on your side, but there is need of watchfulness, for you well know that the destroyer of our peace never slumbers. He employs every weapon to overcome his opponents, and the more so whenever any extraordinary attack is made upon his kingdom.” These were but little drops of caution in cups overflowing with encouragement.
The advice was timely, for Farel was already attacked by the destroyer of peace. The city was in commotion. Many of the nobles were alarmed, and said, as they looked in contempt at the new preacher, “What does this sorry fellow want with us? Would that he had never come! He cannot stay here, for he will ruin us all, as well as himself.” But the worst opposition came from the Romish clergy.
On a certain Sabbath Farel had just begun to preach, when the priests, sent there for the purpose, called him a liar and a heretic. In an instant the whole congregation was in an uproar. The people rose up and made the confusion still worse by crying out for silence. Word was sent to the castle; the duke hurried to the spot, and found that the disturbers were led on by the dean of the priory and the guardian of the Franciscan convent at Besançon. They and their pack had come over to cry down the gospel preacher. The duke reprimanded the dean, who took it in good part and retired from the scene. But not so, the guardian. He went to another church in the afternoon, gave the lie to Farel, abused his sermon, and did all he could to excite a tumult in the town. The duke arrested both Farel and the guardian, requiring the latter to prove that the sermon was heretical, or to retract what he had said about it. He chose to retract, and confessed publicly, from the pulpit, that Farel had spoken the truth, and that the opposition to him arose out of a bad temper. Farel was set at liberty. An official account of the affair was published, so that no false reports might be circulated.
Farel, whose very nature had fire enough, was now burning with zeal. He thought it his duty to unmask the priests who had been so active in all this riotous business, and with a vigor he applied the sword of the word. He had been preaching what their guardian admitted to be the truth, and now he exposed their errors.
“How fares it with Farel’s meekness?” inquired Œcolampadius of one who had come from Montbeliard, probably Anemond. The strongest testimony was borne to his faithfulness, energy, and success, although he had shown too much violence in attacking the priests for their errors concerning the mass. His gentle friend wrote him and reminded him of the resolutions which he had formed at Basle. He advised meekness and modesty. “Mankind must be led, not driven.”
During the winter a friar, of the order of St. Anthony, came into the neighborhood and employed a monk to proclaim from the pulpit that he had some relics for sale. The monk gave the wares a hearty commendation. There was at Montbeliard a disciple of Luther, named John Gailing, who first preached the gospel in Wurtemberg, and was now the court preacher to the duke. He had, doubtless, rendered great assistance in the work going forward, and he knew that the sale of these relics was only a trick to divert the minds of the people from the gospel. Farel and Gailing appealed to the senate to put a stop to such imposture, representing in strong terms how this traffic had destroyed souls, robbed the poor of their savings, and God of his glory. But the senate had not courage to act in the case, and declared that such matters belonged solely to the duke. To the duke they went, asking him to send away the friar, unless he could prove from Scripture that it was right to sell relics. This gave the monk and friar a fine chance to defend themselves by that all-sufficient word, by which Farel would test everything, as well as to show that the relics were genuine. But the imposters dared not accept the challenge, and made no further noise.
A report of Farel’s labors and success came to the ears of the old sage, Erasmus, and mightily annoyed him. He hinted to some spy in the camp at Montbeliard that severe measures should be employed against the zealous preacher. He wrote at once to his Romish friends that an exiled Frenchman was making a great disturbance in those regions. Farel knew of all this, but had enough to engage his attention in spreading the truth far and near. He was, at Montbeliard, “like a general on a hill, whose piercing eye glances over the field of battle, cheering those who are actively engaged with the foe, rallying those ranks which are broken by an impetuous charge, and animating those who hang back through fear.” Behind him were Basle and Strasburg, as a base of operations, whence he drew his supplies of tracts and books.
The refugees at Basle were forming a Tract and Bible Society, and raising up colporteurs to scatter the truth through France. The presses then were constantly occupied in printing French books, and these were sent to Farel, who put them into the hands of book-hawkers, and these simple-hearted men passed through the country, calling at almost every door. Anemond was a true chevalier in this good work, which was moving forward with such strength that Erasmus was on the rage, and the Sorbonne in alarm. He sent to Farel all the useful books he could get, and one of his large plans was for Farel to use the pen, while he raised a fund and a force to work the presses, day and night, and thus flood all France with the truth. He was anxious to see the New Testament printed in French, and widely circulated in the provinces.
The Chevalier happened one day at the house of a friend, where his eye fell upon a new edition of Lefèvre’s French Testament. He was overjoyed. But how came the needed prize so near at hand? Vaugris, a merchant of Lyons, who had fled to Basle, had secured its publication in October 1524. The edition was limited. “Lose no time in reprinting it,” said the earnest Anemond, “for there will be a call for a great number.”
At the urgent advice of his friends Farel wrote several small books, among which was “A summary of what a Christian ought to know, in order to trust God, and serve his neighbor.” The last one passed through several large editions, and was widely circulated.
This same year Lyons was the center of a movement in which Farel took a deep interest, if not an active part. The merchants Du Blet and Vaugris had taken the lead in the reformation at this old city where four centuries before, Peter Waldo had preached, and by his sermons had shaken all France. Preachers were again needed, and the raging of nations was to bring them. Francis I was leading an army against Charles V of Spain, and passed through Lyons on the way to Pavia. Margaret the Duchess of Alençon came also leading the spiritual soldiers of the Lord, and they halted at this point, while the other hosts went on to Italy. She caused the gospel to be publicly preached at Lyons. Her preacher, Michael D’Arande, drew large crowds to hear him, and with courage he declared a pure gospel. Anthony Papillon, a friend of Erasmus, and “the first in France for the knowledge of the gospel,” was present to support the efforts of the duchess. Nor were these labors confined to the city. Into all the region round about, the Christians went with the good word. There was at Lyons a monk named Maigret, who had been boldly declaring the new doctrine in Dauphiny, and had been driven out by the priests. One of Farel’s brothers had written to Chevalier Anemond, painting the state of things in the gloomiest colors, and asking for Farel and the knight to come to the help of their native land. Anemond thought of going, but the Lord sent more efficient workers. Maigret urged Papillon and Du Blet to repair thither, and they went.
We have not forgotten Sebville, whom we left preaching the word, “purely, clearly, holily” in Dauphiny. A violent storm had just broken out against him, and the monks, who were angry because Farel, Anemond, and Maigret had escaped their grasp, now called for Sebville’s arrest. The friends at Grenoble felt that they could not have him taken from them. They appealed to Margaret, and she had him rescued from the fury of his persecutors.
But the mouth of Sebville was closed for a time, for he must choose between silence and a scaffold. He wrote Anemond, “Silence is imposed upon me under pain of death.” Many gave way; but Amadeus Galbert, a cousin of Anemond, gathered a faithful band around him, and clung to the truth. These Christians met Sebville secretly at their own houses, and if there was none to preach, there were many to talk of the good word. They crept away to some retired spot; they visited some brother by night; they prayed in secret to Christ, and though often alarmed were not arrested. The threat was that if they dared to speak the word in public their lot should be the stake.
Thus stood affairs when Papillon and Du Blet went to Grenoble. They may not have done much in Dauphiny, but they put Sebville upon anew mission. “If you cannot preach at Grenoble, you can at Lyons. The Lent is coming on, and there will be crowds in the city.” He went, and met with a kind reception from Margaret. It was proposed that Michael, Maigret, and Sebville should lead on the gospel army. There was to be a gospel Lent in Lyons. The rumor of it went abroad far and near. Anemond wrote in joy to Farel, “Sebville is free, and will preach the Lent sermons.” Maigret was already preaching “God manifest in the flesh.” The priests raged, but the duchess protected him. At last, however, they seized the bold preacher, dragged him through the streets, and cast him into prison. Vaugris left for Basle, spreading the news on the way. One thought still cheered the reformers, “Maigret is taken, but Madame de Alençon is there: praised be God!”
The work of the spiritual army was greatly disturbed by the defeat of the royal army at Pavia, in February 1525. The king was taken prisoner and was on the way to Madrid. The duke of Alençon had proved a coward, and he came to Lyons to die of shame and grief. All France was full of mourning, and the Romanists began to declare that this great disaster was provoked by Heaven, because the new doctrines had been tolerated in the kingdom. The “heretics” must be expelled, “People and parliament, church and throne, joined hand in hand” to banish the gospel. The preachers at Lyons were dispersed. Soon after this Du Blet sank under persecution. Papillon died in such a way that it was reported, even among his enemies, that he had been poisoned. Sebville, probably, did not preach his Lent sermons. Michael D’Arande was threatened with death. Margaret thus saw her plans for the spread of the gospel at Lyons end in sad disappointment. The camp was broken up; the forces scattered, and the cause seemed to be lost.
Nor was this all. Another strong force was leaving the field where there had been such great success. Farel was pulling up his stakes at Montbeliard. The defeats at Pavia and Lyons could hardly have influenced him, for he removed before these sad tidings could have put him in fear. It has been hinted that Erasmus, whose anger still burned against him, may have done much to excite a persecution too bitter for him to endure. But another reason has been given by those who lament that Farel’s warlike zeal sometimes carried too far, and brought unnecessary opposition against him.
One day, about the time of the king’s defeat at Pavia, Farel was walking on the banks of a little river that runs through Montbeliard, beneath a lofty rock on which the citadel is built. It was the day of the feast of saint Anthony, and when he came to the bridge he met a procession which was crossing it, and headed by two priests bearing the pretended image of the saint. Farel suddenly found himself face to face with these superstitions, without seeking it. A violent struggle took place in his soul. His blood boiled at the sight of such a delusion practiced upon the people. Should he give way? Should he hide himself? Should he gaze and be silent? He could not be a coward, and would not let his silence give consent to the imposture. He knew that he was exposing himself to the fate of Leclerc, yet he boldly advanced, grasped the image of the holy hermit from the arms of the priest, and tossed it over the bridge into the rivers—as bold a deed as that of the Chevalier Bayard when he stayed an army at the bridge of the Garigliano. Then turning to the awe-stricken crowd he exclaimed, “Poor idolaters, will ye never cease from your idolatry!”
The priests stood confused and motionless. With the loss of their saint, they lost their presence of mind. Their superstitious fear seemed to rivet them to the spot. But someone cried out, “the image is drowning!” The priests recovered from their stupor. The multitudes shouted in rage, and gazed at the image floating away. Farel let them gaze and rave, and taking advantage of their devout attention to the saint, he escaped their violence. For a time he hid himself among his friends.
The duke and his court soon left the city, and having no strong arm to defend him, Farel had an additional reason for leaving Montbeliard. In the spring he took a secret refuge at Basle. He always took an interest in the church he had left, as a minister will ever do in the flock where were gathered the first-fruits of his labors. We will meet Peter Toussaint in this field.
Mourning And Madness 1525–1526
Sad tidings came to Farel at Basle. His friend, the Chevalier Anemond, was sick at Schauffhausen, where the Rhine presents one of the finest waterfalls in Europe. The Chevalier had wandered from place to place, to recruit his failing health. He had hoped to preach the gospel, and still cherished plans, almost romantic, for urging forward the reformation. Farel sent him four gold crowns. A messenger came to tell him that his warm-hearted compatriot was dying. Before he could set out to visit him, a letter was received from Myconius, announcing the death of the young knight, “who was in himself an host,” and who had made many sacrifices for the truth.
Farel applied to the senate of Basle once more to sanction his return, but without success. He went to Strasburg, and, for about fifteen months, was engaged in preaching to a small church of French exiles. If we cast an eye upon France, we can see a reason why this brave man kept beyond her borders.
There was a loud wail throughout France over the disasters of Pavia. The king was carried away to Spain; the national power was humbled; the bravest of many an house had been slain, and ruin seemed at hand. The Romanists saw that it was their hour. They made the most of their time. They declared that heresy was in the land, it was the cause of all the troubles, and it must be crushed. The blame was thus laid upon those who were most innocent. There was a loud cry for blood.
Louisa was now the regent, the ruler, the Jezebel of the kingdom. She wrote to the pope, and he gave orders for the introduction of the inquisition into France. This delighted the cruel Duprat, who was made a cardinal, and who was given an archbishopric, and, in the bargain, a rich abbey. The parliament thought that the king had erred in tolerating the new doctrines, and the members said to Louisa, “Heresy has raised its head among us, and the king, by neglecting to bring the heretics to the scaffold, has drawn down the wrath of Heaven upon the nation.”
She wished to enlist the Sorbonne. They ordered Beda to return her an answer. He advised that all “writings of heretics be prohibited by a royal proclamation; and, if this means does not suffice, we must employ force against the persons of these false doctrines; for those who resist the light must be subdued by torture and by terror.”
Everything was arranged for a vigorous campaign against the “heretics.” Meaux was chosen as the first point of attack. The bishop, Briçonnét, had not yet fallen so far as to return fully to popery. But, how should they manage him? It might not be wise to burn him; those in sympathy with him would only cling the more stoutly to his doctrines. But, if he could be induced to recant, the effect would be better for the persecutors. There was an agent at hand to bring him to terms.
The eloquent Mazurier, whom we left among the reformers at Meaux, had been so zealous for the new faith that he had once broken to pieces an image of St. Francis. He was sent to prison. He was in fear of the stake. He saw that he was not with the popular party; Rome must conquer in France. He basely recanted, and became a Jesuit.
This man visited Briçonnét and endeavored to make the bishop fall as he himself had done. The plot succeeded. The earliest supporter of the gospel in France denied the glad tidings of grace, because he was artfully persuaded that, if he did not, he would lose his influence over the court, the church, the nation. He was deceived with the notion that Rome would permit him to be a reformer still! He found, however, that he must labor to undo all that he had done for the gospel. He restored the invocation of the saints, and put away every sign of “Lutheranism,” as the new doctrine was now called. Poor man! His fall is, perhaps, the strangest of all that occurred in those times. He died in 1533; in his will he commended his soul to the Virgin Mary, and ordered twelve hundred masses for its repose.
Such was the first triumph of the Sorbonne. It was one that went to the hearts of all his old friends, and caused them to trust less in men and more in God. But this must be speedily followed with another victory. It was not hard to decide upon the victims. It was the man who had led the bishop into the “heresy,” and who had been so long harbored at Meaux. Beda’s eye had long been upon this man, who was once a doctor of the Sorbonne—Lefèvre. His accusation was soon drawn up, and the parliament condemned nine doctrines found in his commentaries, and placed his French Testament on the list of prohibited books. This was but the prelude, as Lefèvre well knew, and he recalled the words of his Lord, “When they persecute you in one city, flee ye into another.” He quitted Meaux and went to Strasburg, under a borrowed name. The persecutors had missed their victim, but they consoled themselves by thinking that France was rid of the father of all heretics.
This was something for the Sorbonne, but still there were no tortures, and nothing to terrify the people. There was yet one man, who had vexed them more than the bishop or Lefèvre. This was Louis Berquin, a more decided man than either of his two masters. He had unmasked the monks, exposed the priests, and done much to enlighten the people. He was one of the noblest of the nobles of Artois. He went zealously among the cottages of his estate, and taught that there is salvation in Christ alone. He crossed into Picardy, and, in the fields and towns, declared the true way of life.
Every day some noble, priest, or peasant went to the Bishop of Amiens, and told him what was said or done by this Christian gentleman. The bishop called a council. Suddenly, he started for Paris, and had a word with the Sorbonne. Berquin was just the man they wanted. They went to his quarters in Paris, seized his writings, and, “after the manner of spiders,” drew from them certain articles, out of which “to make poison, and bring about the death of a person who, with simplicity of mind was endeavoring to advance the doctrine of God.”
Beda, probably, never read anything more eagerly in all his life. He had a remarkable talent for discovering in a book what would ruin its author, and he pored day and night over the seized volumes. He found enough to satisfy the inquisitors, who required but little, and Berquin’s death was decided upon by the Sorbonne and the parliament. An officer was sent to arrest him in the name of the law. The dwellers on his estate, who were devoted to him, would have risen up to defend him, but he restrained them. He was thrown into prison, “entering it with a firm countenance and an unbending head.”
Some months after this, three monks entered his prison as his judges, and reproached him for having taught that salvation is not dependent upon priests, and that the gates of hell could not harm a believing soul. “Yes,” answered he, “when the eternal Son of God receives a sinner who believes in his death, and makes him a child of God, the divine adoption cannot be forfeited.” To these monks this joyful confidence was mere fanaticism. The strength of the prisoner was admitted by the fact of an increasing force being brought against him. Two or three priors, “monks of all colors, imps of Anti-Christ,” says the chronicler, “gave help to the band of the Sorbonne, in order to destroy by numbers the firmness of Berquin.”
“Your books will be burnt,” said the pope’s delegates.
“I cannot help that,” thought the accused.
“You will make an apology, for only in this way can you escape. If you refuse what is demanded, you will be led to the stake.”
“I will not yield a single point,” said the man of heroic faith.
“Then it is all over with you,” exclaimed the whole party, more in exultation than pity. Berquin remained in prison, calmly waiting for their threats to be fulfilled. We shall hear of him again, through the kind interventions of the duchess Margaret.
Thus one protestant leader had surrendered, another had left the field, and a third was a prisoner.
Who next should receive a blow? The name may surprise us—Erasmus. To punish him would throw the reformers into terror. If such a trimmer could not escape, how could those who had gone the whole length of the new movement? True he had courted the favor of the Romanists, but was he not still in the camp of the reformers? He had written against Luther, but had he not stung the monks? One of those solitary Carthusians in the woods near Paris had sent forth from his retreat a hot shell filled with all manner of slanders against the “heretics.” But his name, Sutor (cobbler), even when polished into Le Couturier, raised a laugh, and by his meddling with things which he did not understand, the old proverb was suggested, “Let the cobbler stick to his last.” Erasmus cared little for such a missile as he had sent up in the air.
Beda came to the attack. He ordered Erasmus to lay down his caustic pen. The old sage must not write that the blunders and calumnies in Beda’s book against Lefèvre were so gross that “even smiths and cobblers could have pointed them out.” He must not say of the articles on which Berquin was condemned, “I find nothing impious in them.” He must not declare of the Sorbonne doctors and tools, “they employ every device to excite the anger of the nation. They vomit fire and flame against their adversaries, and heap upon them the most scurrilous abuse. All means are good in their eyes; they pick out a few words here and there, neglecting the text, that may explain the passage quoted; they insert expressions of their own, and omit or add anything they please to blacken the characters of those whom they suspect.”
This scathing pen of the great scholar must be dropped. Beda grasped for it and thought he had it in his hand. He made a collection of all the calumnies that the monks had invented against the illustrious philosopher, translated them into French, and circulated his book through the court, the city, and the land, striving to rouse all France against him. This was the signal for a great army to march upon the works and character of a solitary man, who disdained to be counted with the reformers. Erasmus was assailed from every quarter. He was a greater heretic than Luther! He was an apostate and Berquin was his follower! Erasmus’ books should be used to burn Berquin!
Astonishment took hold of Erasmus. Was this the result of all his trimming, his half-way policy, his courting all parties, and even his hostility to Luther? Better be a thorough reformer. He would not lay down his pen. He would turn the point of it against the worst of all his foes, those in his rear, whom he had imagined to be friends. He fell upon the whole pack of those who were hounding him to death. He wrote to the Sorbonne, charging Beda and his fellows with a conspiracy, and with betraying the soldier who was fighting in their interest. He complained to the parliament, that Beda and Sutor were allowed to attack him from behind while, at the order of the emperor, the pope and the princes, he was leading on the charge against “these Lutherans.” He appealed to the captive king, touching upon a tender point, and warning him that his descendants would suffer from the Sorbonne, for its doctors “aspire to tyranny even over princes.” This prophecy was to be fulfilled in the very next age, when the house of Valois was put under the ban of the priests. He invoked the protection of Charles V, saying, “Certain persons, who, under the pretence of religion, wish to establish their own gluttony and despotism, are raising a horrible outcry against me. I am fighting under your banners and those of Jesus Christ. May your wisdom and power restore peace to the Christian world.”
Thus was this prince of the pen drawn away from the war against the reformers, and enlisted against the persecutors. His appeals were heard by the king and emperor. The danger was averted, for those who had attacked this one man found that the great powers of the world were leagued on his side. The vultures thought their prey was in their talons, but now they must drop it and turn their eyes to another quarter. We shall see them again in Lorraine, the country of the Guises, who are rising into terrible power.
Where was the Duchess Margaret all this time? The nation knew that she was toiling for the deliverance of the captive king. He was a sick prisoner at Madrid. She made a heroic journey thither; found him a dying man, pale, worn, and helpless; was the agent of restoring him to life, and of securing his liberty early in 1526. The reformers knew where her heart was, and they had reason to bless God for her voice and her hand. She was in Spain when she heard of the fierce movement going on against “her brethren, the reformers.” She poured into her brother’s ear the most earnest entreaties for those who were in exile or in prisons. Words were not enough; she must show her love by her works. The thought of poor starving exiles, who knew not where to lay their heads, haunted her imagination while in the splendid palaces of Spain. She sent four thousand pieces of gold to be distributed among the sufferers.
She was too noble, too generous, too patriotic, and was doing too much for the nation, to be attacked by those who had the scepter and the sword in order to wage war upon the best men in the kingdom. But there was one person on whom they might wreak vengeance—Margaret’s secretary, Clement Marot. They threw him into prison, and he consoled himself by composing little poems. They did not dream that his poems would one day stir all France, when his version of the Psalms should be in the mouth of every Huguenot, and sung in the palace of the king.
Let us see how it fares with the two young gentlemen who fled from Metz after the burning of Leclerc. Peter Toussaint was often talked of in the mansion of the Cardinal of Lorraine. The many who met there with Peter’s uncle, the dean, deplored the sad fate of the young prebendary, who had promised so fair. He had been led away by those heretics, Chatelain and Leclerc! “He is at Basle,” they would say, with deep pity, “in the house of Œcolampadius, living with one of the leaders of this heresy!” The lamentable thing was that he could not see what an error he had committed, and what evils were shadowing his path.
They wrote to him as earnestly as if they thought him exposed to eternal death. These letters pained him, because he knew they were prompted by sincere but mistaken affection. One of his relatives, probably the dean, urged him to remove to Paris, to Metz, or to any other place in the world, where he would be far away from the reformers. This relative supposed that Peter felt exceedingly indebted to him, and would at once comply with his request, but, when he found his efforts useless, his love changed into violent hatred.
These men were so determined to win back the young Toussaint to the Romish Church, that they went to his mother, who was “under the power of the monks,” and wrought upon her mind. The priests crowded around her, frightening and persuading her that her son had committed crimes that they could not mention without shuddering. She wrote a touching letter to her son, “full of weeping” (said he), in which she set forth her misery in heart-rending language. “O wretched mother! O unnatural son! cursed be the breast that cherished thee! …”
The unhappy Toussaint was almost distracted. What should he do? He could not return to France. To go to any of the German cities would only add to the sorrow of his relative. Œcolampadius advised a middle course. “Leave my house,” said he. “Live with someone who is not attached to the reformation.” He went, with a sad heart, and made his home with an ignorant and obscure priest—one whose religion might have satisfied his relatives. It was a change that cost him much self-denial. He never saw his host, save at meals, and then they were constantly discussing matters of faith. As soon as the meal was over the debate was postponed until the next meeting, and Toussaint retired to his lonely room, where he carefully studied the word of God. “The Lord is my witness,” said he, “that in this valley of tears I have but one desire—that of seeing Christ’s kingdom extended.”
One event greatly cheered his heart. He persuaded the Chevalier Esch to return to Metz and encourage the trembling converts in that city. They were in peril. The Chevalier obtained some books from Farel, who was still at Montbeliard, and, traversing the forests, reached Metz early in 1525. The priests knew why he came, and watched all his movements.
It seems that in June of 1525 Toussaint and Farel made a journey to Metz, intending to take a firm stand in that field. They requested a hearing before their lordships, The Thirteen; this being refused, they appealed to the highest civil authority. But it was discovered by them that the agents of Beda were on the ground. They had exposed themselves to a masked battery. Plans were already laid for seizing and casting them into prison. Seeing the danger they quickly left the city and traveled all night, lest they should be overtaken. It was a timely escape, for the heresy hunters were sweeping down upon Lorraine.
The Chevalier Esch had not been able to escape the eyes and suspicions of the priests in Metz. They discovered that he kept up a communication with the gospel Christians, and this was enough. They arrested him and threw him into a prison at Pont-a-Mousson, about five miles above Metz, on the banks of the Moselle. Others were seized in the neighboring parishes. Among them was the pastor, Schuch, of St. Hypolyte. A guard of brutal men brought him to trial, and the judge heaped abuse upon him. The pastor made no reply to these epithets, but, holding in his hands a Bible, all covered with notes, he meekly, and with great power, faced the inquisitors with the truth. They were amazed and enraged, and, tearing from him his Bible “like mad dogs,” says the chronicler, “unable to bite his doctrine, they burned it in their convent.” He was afterwards sent to the stake, where he continued to recite a passage until the smoke and flames stifled his voice.
The refugees could not receive letters from their friends, nor write to them, without exposing some hidden believer to danger. An intercepted letter might betray him. One man, however, dared to carry tidings from France to Basle, by sewing a letter, which bore no signature, in his doublet. He escaped the bands of detectives, and laid before the exiles the sad account of what was going on in the kingdom. At Paris, Meaux, Metz, Lyons, everywhere that any trace of the Christians could be found, there was persecution to the death. “It is frightful,” Toussaint wrote to Farel, “to hear of the cruelties inflicted.”
Yet these strong-hearted exiles and their persecuted friends kept up their courage. The gates of hell should not prevail against the true church of God. “In vain were all the parliament on the watch; in vain did the spies of the Sorbonne and of the monks creep into churches, colleges, and even private families, to catch up any word that might fall unwarily; in vain did the soldiers arrest on the highways everything that bore the stamp of the Reformation,” for some would escape, and others confound their inquisitors with shame and defeat. These Frenchmen had faith in better days to come. But not from man had the refugees any hope. “Those who have begun the dance,” said Toussaint, “will not stop on the road.” They only trust that God would end their “Babylonish captivity.”
The Chevalier Esch escaped from his prison and met his friend at Strasburg. This fact soon was known to Toussaint, who immediately wrote to Farel, saying, “For the honour of God, endeavor to prevail on the knight, our worthy master (if it becomes us to have any master on earth), to return to Metz as speedily as possible, for our brethren have great need of such a leader.” Esch therefore went back, to expose himself to the wiles of his enemies.
It was not Toussaint’s disposition to send others to the battle and not join it himself. He was eager to engage in the cause, although Œcolampadius said, “I wish my dear lords of France would not be so hasty in returning to their own country, for the devil is spreading his snares on every side.” But the young exile felt that a prison could not be much worse than the house of the ignorant and contentious priest with whom he lodged. He turned his eye toward Paris. There the youthful James Pavanne of Meaux and the aged hermit of Livry had bee burned, and the fires were still smoking. There no one could name the reformation without risking his life. But was not this a reason why he should go? Thither, it appears from his letters, he went, and he entered the university. Instead of the rioting which held sway in the college while Farel was a student, he found an intense fanaticism for popery. He sought to form an acquaintance with some of the brethren who were secretly imitating Farel’s example, especially in the college of Lemoine where he and Lefèvre had taught. But this only exposed him to danger.
One day certain officers arrested him. A duke and an abbot, who are unknown now, had pointed him out to the agents of Beda as a heretic. He was cast into prison. While in chains he prayed to God, and dwelt on the names of his friends, Roussel and Lefèvre and Farel and Œcolampadius, that gentle father, said he, “whose work I am in the Lord.” Death seemed hanging over him, and his mother, his uncle, the dean of Metz, and the cardinal of Lorraine, made him the most lavish offers if he would recant. But he could not thus be moved. “I despise them,” said he, “I know they are a temptation of the devil. I would rather suffer hunger. I would rather be a slave in the house of the Lord than dwell with riches in the palaces of the wicked.” Then boldly confessing his faith he exclaimed, “It is my glory to be called a heretic by those whose lives and doctrines are opposed to Jesus Christ.” He signed his letters to Farel, “Peter Toussaint, unworthy to be called a Christian.”
The date of his release we cannot find. It seems that he soon after resolved to go to Metz, not to yield to his uncle and mother, but to assist the Chevalier Esch. On reaching Louvain he was betrayed, and arrested by his former friend, Theodore Chamond, the Abbot of St. Anthony. This abbot was well known as a cruel, violent, merciless man. He was not touched by the youth, the candor, nor the weak health of his victim. He threw him into a horrible dungeon, full of abominations, where the young evangelist could hardly stand. With his shoulders pressing against the wall, and his feet planted on the only spot which the water did not reach, and almost stifled by poisonous vapors, he called to mind the cheerful house of his uncle, the dean of Metz, and the gorgeous palace of the cardinal of Lorraine, where he had once been so kindly received while he believed in the pope. What a contrast now! And how cheaply might he buy it all back, and flourish again in he homes of the great! Only renounce his religion and all would be happy. But no! If he did not suspect that such a course would gain him only penances and humiliations at the hands of those who wanted to make a terrifying example of him, he knew that he would bring his soul into the deepest wretchedness. But where were the days, when, as a child, he learned from his mother to say, “Anti-Christ will soon come and destroy all who are not converted”? He thought that time had arrived. His imagination was excited. He saw himself dragged to punishment. He screamed aloud and was near dying of fright. All who saw him were interested in one so young, so feeble, and scarcely able to bear his weight on his feet.
The persecutor thought that if he could search Toussaint’s books and papers, he might find some excuse for burning him. One day the monks came to his vile pit, and led him out to see the abbot. “Write to your host at Basle,” said the crafty Romanist, “and tell him that you want your books to amuse leisure, and beg him to send them to you.” It flashed upon the mind of the young man, that the books were ordered for a far different purpose. He hesitated, and the abbot gave utterance to most terrible threats. The almost helpless hand penned the letter, and he was sent back to his pestilential den. There he must wait, without knowing that the duchess Margaret would appear as his deliverer.
Farel’s Turning Point 1525-1526
No exiles met on foreign shores with greater joy than did the aged Lefèvre and Farel, his disciple at Paris, his co-worker at Meaux, his dear son in the faith. The wrinkled hand of the one had first guided the steps of the other, and after a separation, in which months were as years, they both poured out their hearts together. But the disciple was now really in advance of his master, for Lefèvre had not entirely separated himself from the Romish Church. He and his patron, the bishop of Meaux, had hoped to aid a reform in that church, and see it brought back to apostolic purity. The bishop had been subdued, the doctor expelled.
“Do you remember,” said Farel, “what you once told me when we were both sunk in darkness, saying, ‘William, God will renew the world, and you will see it?’ Here is the beginning of what you foresaw.”
“Yes,” answered the pious old man. “God is renewing the world. My dear son, continue to preach boldly the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
It delighted this man, who had first lifted his voice in Paris and found it would not be heard, to listen to the preaching at Strasburg. It was just what he had intended to teach! “He seemed to have been born a second time to the Christian life.” The French refugees had formed a church, and Farel was the preacher, whom none heard with a more joyful heart than the former doctor of the Sorbonne. Such Christian society lessened the pain of exile.
An aged man, who had taken the name of Anthony Pilgrim, was often seen walking cautiously through the streets, as if he wished to be unknown. But he could not be hidden. In a short time the whole city knew that he was the illustrious Lefèvre, who was the translator of the Bible into the Gallic tongue, and the very children saluted the venerable Frenchman with respect. Gerard Roussel (Le-Roux) took the name of Tolnin, so fearful was he lest he should be found by the enemies who were upon his track. Master Cornelius Agrippa, who had loaned Luther’s works and started men to thinking in Metz, was there “taking his tone and tuning his voice” in harmony with the reformers.
The house of Capito was like an inn, where all were sure of a welcome. These refugees met with Zell, who, as priest of St. Lawrence, had been among the first to preach that “man is saved by grace.” A nobleman of this city, Count Sigismund, of Hohenlohe, was touched by the preaching of Zell and the heroism of Luther. He was not one of those nobles, so numerous then, who followed the Savior as a secret disciple. He made it his business to help Luther’s writings over the Rhine and forward them to the Duchess Margaret, who called him “her good cousin,” and felt herself greatly benefited by his influence.
The dews of Christian love had often been shed upon Farel, in order to moderate his flaming zeal, and he had taken kindly the gentle advice. But he thought that, while he might be over-hasty, some of his friends in Basle were too slow in acting fully up to their knowledge. They tolerated too many Romish practices. It was very offensive to him that Pellican should still attend mass and wear the dress of a monk. He remonstrated, but one of his friends, who had done the same thing to no purpose, only reminded him that it was a hard task to change a monk into a Christian. Farel requested Luther to use his influence with Pellican. The next year he had the pleasure of seeing his friend cast off the badge of popery and teach the word of God in Zurich.
To this zealous man was given the work of a peace-maker. A controversy had arisen in respect to the Lord’s Supper—some holding with Luther and some with Zwingli. It was likely to disturb the pleasant meetings of the preachers in Strasburg. They requested Farel to be an agent in reconciling the parties. He did much to bring Luther and Zwingli into a more friendly style of discussion, and, when their letters came, they were found to be quite nearly agreed on most of the points at issue. The friends at Strasburg resolved to fix upon the important meaning and benefit of the ordinance, and hold “to the main point—faith and love, or to the remembrance of Christ for the invigoration of our hope, since Christ must be internal and invisible, and not necessarily connected with what is external, be it a sign or anything else.”
The fellowship at Strasburg was bearing good fruit. Men raised up here and there, as they had been, and each struggling almost alone with the faith, needed such a school. Doctrine had been the great thing hitherto; discipline had been too much neglected. The energetic Farel, the learned Lefèvre, the spiritual Roussel, gifted with opposite natures, were now to act upon each other. Farel learned gentleness, Roussel gained courage; the one imparted the overplus of his peculiar traits to the other. The soft iron became steel; the steel had the rough wire taken from its edge. In other days these brethren remembered how they dwelt together in unity. “We carefully put out of sight all that might interrupt the harmony between brethren. The peace that we tasted, far from being without savor, like that of the world, was prepared with the sweet odor of God’s service.”
In the spring of 1526, a shout of joy was heard rolling through France from the Pyrenees to Calais. Strasburg heard it, and was behind no city in its gladness. The duchess Margaret had secured the release of the king. He was on the way to Paris. Louisa must resign her fearful power. Duprat must learn that he has a master. Beda may find that he has not the church of France in his hands.
None were more joyous than the friends of the gospel. Some of them determined to go and meet the king and petition him on behalf of the exiles and the prisoners. They felt sure that he would put himself at the head of a party which Charles V his detested rival and captor was persecuting. But he had a secret hatred of “the evangelicals,” and, although Margaret uttered a cry in favor of the miserable, he kept the most cautious reserve. She had hoped to see the Count Sigismund come from Basle to Paris, and give his talents to the work of restoring the gospel in France. He was delaying for the king to send him an invitation.
One day Margaret took courage, and asked her brother to invite the Count; he was not ready. He knew Count Sigismund well, and thought his gospel principles exaggerated. Besides, if there was to be any change in France, he meant to make it alone. And what would the pope and the emperor say, if the count were in Paris, preaching at the court, in the churches, and in the open air perhaps? He did not fully tell his sister what he would do, but to her suggestions he replied, “Not yet,” and she turned away bitterly disappointed.
Again she pleaded her cause. “I do not care for that man,” said Francis, sharply. This was not true. He cared for him when he wanted him. When he needed three thousand soldiers, then it was “my very dear and beloved cousin of Hohenlohe,” highly esteemed for “his loyalty and valor, his nearness of lineage, love and charity.” But where the gospel was concerned it was quite a different affair. The usual “Not yet,” was again heard. The Count Sigismund did not come to France.
Thus one of Margaret’s plans failed. But she had another. The king must call back the exiles, and open the prisons. Already had she entreated for one sufferer, saying to the king, “If you do not interfere, Berquin is a dead man.” He did interpose, and wrote from Spain that he would make the first president answerable for Berquin’s life, if he dared to condemn him. The president halted, the monks hung their heads, and Beda and his pack “were nigh bursting with vexation.” And now the returned king resolved to save Berquin from “the claws of Beda’s faction.” He said to the parliament, only a few days after his return, “I will not suffer the person or the goods of this gentleman to be injured. I will inquire into the matter myself.” The king sent his officers to take this Christian captive from his prison, and put him into a more commodious chamber. They were still to keep watch over him, but he should be well treated. He took courage, and set about forming plans for the triumph of the truth.
Good news for Strasburg, the king was inquiring into matters himself; he was making the prisoners more comfortable; he was listening to the importunate Margaret; he was despising the monks and vexing Beda, and now one step more, and the exiles would be permitted to return to France. One day the duchess urged him to put an end to the cruel exile of her friends. He granted it. The glad tidings went to Strasburg, and France was open to her refugees. Nay, not all of them. There was one exception, unaccountable to us, and mysterious in the providence of God. This we shall see to be the earnest William Farel.
What joy! the aged Lefèvre, the fervent Roussel, are recalled with honor. These are nearly the words of Erasmus, who did not regard the two men as “Lutherans,” nor so far gone out of the old Romish church as Farel. The Strasburgers bade them farewell with tears, and they took the road to France, happy that they were going to the land of their birth, one to die there, and the other to preach the new life. Others followed; all believed that the new times were come.
Lefèvre and Roussel hastened to their protectress. Margaret received them kindly, and lodged them in the castle of Angoulême, where she was born, on that smiling hill near “her softly flowing Charente.” She had a project in her mind. It was to make Blois, which had been the favorite residence of the house of Valois, a refuge for the persecuted and a strong-hold of the gospel. The first of June, Roussel went to this city, built about a hundred miles southeast of Paris. Lefèvre joined him there on the last of the month. One was the eloquent court preacher; the other was the teacher of the king’s third son and the keeper of the castle library. Chapelain, the physician of the duchess, and Cop, who was too near the truth to remain a doctor in the Sorbonne, were also there. All of them felt grateful to Francis I, and were contriving means to impart something of Christianity to the most Christian king,” which was in truth very necessary both for him and the people.
The amiable Peter Toussaint was still in the horrid den into which the cruel abbot of St. Anthony had thrust him. His host of Basle had not sent the books which the treacherous priest had forced him to order; no doubt the man saw through the trick, and knew in whose hands the life of his young friend was placed. Margaret heard of him through such men as the merchant Vaugris, who had interceded in vain for his release. She went to the king, as persistent as ever, and gained her suit. In July 1526 the order came for his deliverance. The officers charged with this pleasing task went down into the gloomy dungeon and raised out of his stifling den, a young man, thin, weak, and pale as a faded flower. His eyes were pained by the light of day, and his mind seemed bewildered with joy. He was as much less than the Toussaint of former days as a merciless tormentor could make him.
At first he knew not where to go. Hoping for some pity, he applied to certain old acquaintances, but they were afraid to shelter a heretic who had barely escaped the stake. He had not Berquin’s energy; his delicate sensitive nature needed a support, and in the free air and the wide world, he was almost as much alone as in a dungeon. “Ah,” he exclaimed, “God our heavenly Father has delivered me, in a wonderful manner from the hands of the tyrants, but alas! what is to become of me? The world is mad, and it spurns the rising gospel of Jesus Christ!”
“The duchess of Alençon alone can protect you,” said some timid and well-meaning friends. “There is no asylum for you but at her court. Make application to a princess, who welcomes with so much generosity all the friends of learning and of the gospel, and profit by your residence at her court to investigate closely the wind that blows in those elevated regions.” Toussaint laid hold of such a hope. Timid as he was, he went to Paris, under an assumed name.
Margaret was not there, but was soon expected. He kept himself closely concealed. When she arrived he asked permission to see her alone; she received him with great kindness. What an exchange! Just from one of the lowest dungeons, and snatched as a lamb from the claws of a monster, but now in the palace of St. Germain, and in favor with the most elegant and brilliant personage who lent her grace to the court. What charmed him most was her piety.
“The most illustrious duchess of Alençon,” he wrote to Œcolampadius, “has received me with as much kindness as if I had been a prince or the person who was dearest to her. I hope that the gospel will soon reign in France.”
The duchess was touched with the faith of the young evangelist. She could share in his hopes and sympathize in his fears.
She invited him to come again the next day. He went, and he went yet again. They had long conversations.
“God by the light of his word,” said he, “must illumine the world, and by the breath of his Spirit must transform all hearts.”
“It is the only thing that I desire,” she replied, believing in the final victory of truth. “It is not only myself that longs for this triumph. Even the king wishes for it. … The king is coming to Paris to secure the progress of the gospel, if, at least, the war does not prevent him.” Not the war, but the wickedness in high places, and the fear of the Romish powers, pope, Sorbonne, and all, were to prevent him. Toussaint learned that much of the piety displayed at the court was a mere pretense for the sake of gaining office. When with Margaret, the priests who were applicants for favors, were almost reformers; when with some scoffing noble they threw off the mask and were not even good Romanists. “Alas!” wrote he, “they speak well of Jesus Christ with those who speak well of him, but with those who blaspheme, they blaspheme also.” What could be expected of Francis I who lent his ear to such priests and courtiers? His sister saw only his best face.
Toussaint had another joy. Lefèvre and Roussel came to Paris. Young, impetuous, and full of respect for them, he hastened to tell them of his vexations, and wished them to unmask these hypocrites, and preach the gospel in this perverse court.
“Patience,” said the two scholars, each rather temporizing in his disposition. “Patience; do not let us spoil anything; the time is not yet come.”
Toussaint burst into tears. “I cannot restrain my tears,” said he. Perhaps he wished that Farel was there. “Yes, be wise after your fashion; wait, put off, dissemble as much as you please; you will acknowledge, however, at last, that it is impossible to preach the gospel without bearing the cross.” These words, from an honest heart, reveal one of the dividing lines between the reformers of France. One party, clustering about the duchess, would not do anything to injure the old fallen church; the other would leave the Romish church and seek a new one—or, rather, return to that one which had existed long before Rome introduced her perversions. Toussaint had already cast his lot with the thorough reformers.
He said plainly to Margaret, “Lefèvre is wanting in courage; may God strengthen and support him.” She did her utmost to keep the young evangelist at her court. She offered him great advantages, and advised him to be more moderate. She wished for men who would exhibit a Christian heart and life, but who would not break with the church. He repelled all these gracious advances. He was sick of the court air. Admiration gave way to disgust. “I despise these magnificent offers,” said he. “I detest the court more than anyone has done. Farewell to it.”
The cardinal of Lorraine appeared now as his friend. He advised Toussaint to be cautious, for, as a heretic, he was never secure of his life. But his courage rose with the perils of his situation. He requested Farel to address him without any concealment, since he was not ashamed of his own name, nor of his correspondence, nor afraid of the consequences of its being known. Since no one else had invited Farel to France, he did it, assuring him of protection among certain friends in Paris. But Farel wished an invitation from a higher authority.
Margaret begged him not to leave France, and commended Toussaint to one of her friends, Madame de Centraigues, a noble lady, who abounded in charity for the persecuted evangelists, and gave them a home in her chateau of Malesherbes, in the Orleans district. He, fearing that a terrible struggle was coming, besought his friends to pray that France would show herself worthy of the word of God. He also prayed that the Lord would send to this people a teacher to lead them in the true paths of life, and went to his new home, to wait there for more favorable days.
Who would be the reformer of France? Not Lefèvre, for he was old, timid, and wished not to separate from the Romish church. Not Roussel, for he dared not always go as far as his convictions prompted him. “Alas,” he wrote to Farel, “there are many gospel truths, one half of which I am obliged to conceal.” He was just the man for the duchess; he would advance the Christian life without touching the institutions of the church.
Would it be Berquin? We left him in a comfortable chamber of his prison, forming large plans for the conquests of the truth. Margaret had not dared to visit him, but she tried to send him a few words of good cheer. It was, perhaps, for him that she wrote the “Complaints of the Prisoner,” in which he thus addresses his Lord:
“But yet where’er my prison be,
Its gates can never keep out Thee,
For instant where I am, Thou art with me.”
She did not rest here; she was unwearied in her petitions to the king. The Romish party knew that if Berquin was free, he would deal hard blows, which they could not resist, and they did all they could to prevent the bolt from being drawn. But Margaret had a hand on that prison bolt, and, at length, in November 1526, he left his guarded chamber to enter upon the plans he had formed for rescuing France from the hands of the pope. He was then thirty-five years of age, pure in his life, charming in his character, devoted to study, flaming with zeal, and indomitable in his energy. His enemies feared him; Beda said to himself that Berquin would be the Luther of France.
But Berquin could not advance a great system of gospel-truth. He could preach duties, but could not raise up a fortress of doctrines into which the trembling might flee and be safe. His work was to resist Beda and the “three thousand monks” that were in him, and to die such a noble martyr that one of the executioners would say publicly, to the great vexation of the judges, “No better Christian has died for a hundred years than Berquin.”
Was the reformer of France to be Farel? He was then her greatest light. Toussaint was waiting for him to appear, and let us see how it was that this most fervent, most eloquent, most intrepid and persevering of the French reformers before Calvin, came not back to his own country, but went to Switzerland, to set the western Alps on fire.
When the king recalled the other exiles, Farel was left behind. He saw his friends returning to their country, wondered why he must remain alone in exile, and, overwhelmed with sorrow, cried to God for resignation. He still remained at Strasburg, with one foot on the border, waiting for a call, but the order did not come. The king and his sister did not wish so bold a man in the land. They were afraid of him. The court had no taste for his style of preaching; they “wished for a softened and perfumed gospel in France.”
There were Christians in the land who saw that the men at Margaret’s court would stop half-way in the work, and accomplish nothing permanent. In their view, France needed a man of artless nature, fearless spirit, powerful eloquence, and ability to give a new impulse to the work which Lefèvre had begun. They thought of Farel, but his coming seemed to depend upon the duchess. Roussel knew her fears. He knew that Farel would be a preacher and not a courtier, and he would never agree with her policy. Still the noble and devout Roussel felt that such a man was greatly needed, and he tried to open the way for him to put forth his mighty labors in some of the provinces. “I will obtain the means of providing for all your wants,” he wrote on the twenty-seventh of August, 1526, “until the Lord gives you an entrance, at last, among us.”
This, also, was Farel’s earnest desire. He was not then invited to Switzerland. His country possessed his heart; day and night his yes were turned toward the gates which were so strangely shut against him; he went up and knocked. None came to open them. He was depressed and he exclaimed, “Oh! if the Lord would but open a way for me to return and labor in France!” Suddenly there was a prospect that his greatest wishes would be realized.
On the day of a grand reception at court, the two sons of Prince Robert de la Marche came to pay their respects to the king’s sister. Margaret, ever intent on winning souls, said to Roussel, her eyes indicating the persons meant, “Speak to those two young princes; seize I pray, this opportunity of advancing the cause of Jesus Christ.”
“I will do so,” replied the willing chaplain. He approached the young noblemen, and began to converse about the gospel. They showed no astonishment, but listened with a lively interest. Finding that they were not strangers to the good word, he urged them to extend the truth among their subjects.
They gave their fullest assent to his words, but felt that they were too weak for the task of making known the gospel. Roussel now thought he had found a field for the pining exile, and he said to the young nobles, “I know of but one man fitted for such a great work; he is William Farel. Christ has given him an extraordinary talent for making known the riches of his glory. Invite him.”
“We desire it still more than you,” said the young princes. “Our father and we will open our arms to him. He shall be to us as a son, a brother, and a father. Let him fear nothing; he shall live with us; yes, in our own palace. All whom he will meet there are the friends of Jesus Christ. We ourselves will be there to receive him. Only bid him make haste; let him come before next Lent.”
“I promise you that he shall,” replied Roussel, and he began to think how he should lay all this before Farel. Toussaint wrote and added his entreaties: “Never has any news caused me more joy; hasten thither as fast as you can.”
Thus was a plan laid for Farel to come into almost the center of France. So confident were the young princes of his coming that they undertook to set up a printing establishment in order that he might circulate the truth by means of the press, not only in La Marche, but throughout the kingdom.
“Farel would have been the man fitted for this work,” says D’Aubigné. “He was one of those whose simple, serious, earnest tones carry away the masses. His voice of thunder made his hearers tremble. The strength of his convictions created faith in their souls; the fervor of his prayers raised them to heaven. When they listened to him, ‘they felt,’ as Calvin says, ‘not merely a few light stings, but they were wounded and pierced to the heart; and hypocrisy was dragged from those wonderful and more than tortuous hiding places which lie deep in the heart of man.’ He pulled down and built up with equal energy. He was not only a minister of the word; he was a bishop also. He was able to discern the young men who were fitted to wield the weapons of the gospel, and to direct them in the great war of the age. Farel never attacked a place, however difficult of access, which he did not take. Such was the man then called into France, and who seemed destined to be her reformer.” The letters of Roussel and Toussaint were on the way, but already Farel had another invitation before him. Let us see whence it came.
On the shield of an ancient Swiss city was the figure of a bear, and the wits called its people the “bears of Berne.” It was the center of a little republic, whose freemen caught the spirit of the great awakening, and as early as 1518 held out attractions to literary men. Berne, whose soldiers had won renown, must have its scholars as well as Basle and Zurich. The next year appeared among them a young man of twenty-one, named Berthold Haller, who had been a fellow student with Melancthon. Haller won the hearts of the people and soon became the preacher of the cathedral. The gospel which Zwingli was teaching came to the city, and Haller examined it, believed, and began to declare it. But the “bears” were not lambs, willing to be led in the new pastures of truth, without making enough resistance to discourage the meek and timid shepherd. He wished to see Zwingli and talk to him as a son to a father. So, taking with him his burden of trials, he paid a visit to Zurich. He was kindly received by this “first of the reformers,” whose gentleness imparted a charm to his manners. Zwingli was pleased with this young man of about twenty-eight years, tall, artless, candid and diffident, but who gave fair promise of being the reformer of Berne.
“My soul is overwhelmed,” said Haller one day; “I cannot support such unjust treatment. I am determined to resign my pulpit and retire to Basle, to employ myself entirely in Wittembach’s society, with the study of sacred learning.” This desire for study was strong in the first reformers.
“Alas!” replied Zwingli, “and I too feel discouragement creep over me, when I see myself unjustly assailed, but Christ awakens my conscience by the terrible stimulus of his terrors and promises. He alarms me by saying, ‘Whosoever shall be ashamed of me before men, of him shall I be ashamed before my Father.’ He restores me to tranquility by adding, ‘Whosoever shall confess me before men, him also will I confess before my Father.’ Oh my dear Berthold, take courage! Our names are written in imperishable characters in the annals of the citizens on high. I am ready to die for Christ. Oh, that your fierce bears would hear the gospel; then they would grow tame. But you must undertake this duty with great gentleness, lest they should turn round furiously and rend you in pieces.”
Haller took courage, went home, labored gently, and then wrote to his friend, “My soul has awakened from its slumber. I must preach the gospel. Jesus Christ must be restored to this city, whence he has been exiled so long.” “The timid young preacher rushed,” as Zwingli described it, “into the midst of the savage bears, who, grinding their teeth, sought to devour him.”
The cause gained strength as the years passed, and Haller declared, in confident hope, “Unless God’s anger be turned against us, it is not possible for the word of God to be banished from the city, for the Bernese are hungering after it.” The Bernese had certain districts in Roman Switzerland, where the people spoke the French language, and a French missionary was needed. Farel was the man to carry the gospel into these new regions, and Haller gave him the most urgent invitation. What should Farel do? France was shut; no one opened its gates; not a word yet from thence inviting him to return. France had rejected him. Switzerland was open; a voice was calling him thither; it must be the voice of God, who took Paul away from the Asia in which he proposed to labour, and sent him over into Macedonia. He could not hesitate. He left Strasburg on foot in December, grieved as he cast an eye toward his native land that now disowned her son, but cheered as the prospects of success in new regions rose upon his vision. He was on the road when the messenger of Toussaint and Roussel arrived at Strasburg. It was too late. His friends sent the letters on to Berne, but even there they did not overtake him. In his zeal he had made haste to enter upon his new field. In a little Alpine village he had fully settled down, when he received the invitation of the lords of La Marche. Might he not even then return? Should he put aside the call of the lords of Berne, and the call of God’s providence, and obey the voice of the young princes? In his soul there was a fierce struggle. He was only a lowly schoolmaster in a little village of the Alps. In France he might be a reformer in a great field, using princes in pushing on the good work, perhaps enlisting the king, and making the throne, the court, the capital, a center of power on the side of the gospel. If this invitation had only reached him at Strasburg! But, no! It was too late. The hand of God had drawn him away for some purpose yet to be disclosed. He will remain at the humble desk in his little school, and have an experience which invites our further attention.
Thus France lost the reformer whom many Christians thought had been raised up for her deliverance. But God had wisely planned these events. Farel would have been a powerful evangelist, but he was too much a soldier and too little a scholar for that great nation. He was a general who could urge forward a movement against error, but not the guide who could lead men to the full system of truth contained in the Bible. A greater than Farel was about to appear, who would combine all the excellencies of his predecessors in the French reformation. He was then a student of seventeen, in the college of La Marche, at Paris, working his way, as Farel had done, into the clear light of the gospel. His was that great name—John Calvin. Farel knew him not, but it was yet to be the work of this Alpine schoolmaster to lay the foundation in Roman Switzerland, to open the gates of Geneva, and be the forerunner of Calvin, whose voice should shake the world and roll on through the centuries.
“O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand.” What was true of Jeremiah and David was to be true of William Farel, who had passed the delicate turning point in his eventful life.