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The History of Protestantism

by the Rev. James A. Wylie, LL.D.
Author of “The Papacy,” “Daybreak in Spain,” &c.

“Protestantism, the sacred cause of God’s Light and Truth against the Devil’s Falsity and Darkness.”—Carlyle

Volume 2

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Cassell & Company, Limited: London, Paris & New York. 1878

James A. Wylie’s History of Protestantism was first published in 1878. It is a massive work that covers the beginnings of Christianity to the Glorious Revolution in Great Britain in 1688.

The following quote on J.A. Wylie is taken from a publisher’s Preface by Mourne Missionary Press:

The Rev. James Aitken Wylie was for many years a leading Protestant spokesman. Born in Scotland in 1808, he was educated at Marischal College, Aberdeen and at St. Andrews; he entered the Original Seccession Divinity Hall, Edinburgh in 1827, and was ordained in 1831.  Dr. Wylie became sub-editor of the Edinburgh Witness in 1846, and, after joining the Free Church of Scotland in 1852, edited the Free Church Record from 1852 until 1860.  In 1860 he was appointed Lecturer on Popery at the Protestant Institute, a position he held until the year of his death.  Aberdeen University awarded him the LL.D. in 1856.


Volume 2

Book 10: Rise and Establishment of Protestantism in Sweden and Denmark

Chapter 10.1: Causes That Influenced The Reception Or Rejection Of Protestantism In The Various Countries
Chapter 10.2: Fortunes Of Protestantism In Italy, Spain, And Britain
Chapter 10.3: Introduction Of Protestantism Into Sweden
Chapter 10.4: Conference At Upsala
Chapter 10.5: Establishment Of Protestantism In Sweden
Chapter 10.6: Protestantism In Sweden, From Vasa (1530) To Charles IX. (1604)
Chapter 10.7: Introduction Of Protestantism Into Denmark
Chapter 10.8: Church-Song In Denmark
Chapter 10.9: Establishment Of Protestantism In Denmark
Chapter 10.10: Protestantism Under Christian Iii., And Its Extension To Norway And Iceland

Book 11: Protestantism in Switzerland From Its Establishment in Zurich (1525) to the Death of Zwingli (1531)

Chapter 11.1: Zwingli – His Doctrine Of The Lord’s Supper
Chapter 11.2: Disputation At Baden And Its Results
Chapter 11.3: Outbreak And Suppression Of Anabaptism In Switzerland
Chapter 11.4: Establishment Of Protestantism At Bern
Chapter 11.5: Reformation Consummated In Basle
Chapter 11.6: League Of The Five Cantons With Austria – Switzerland Divided
Chapter 11.7: Arms – Negotiations – Peace
Chapter 11.8: Proposed Christian Republic For Defence Of Civil Rights
Chapter 11.9: Gathering Of A Second Storm
Chapter 11.10: Death Of Zwingli

Book 12: Protestantism in Germany From the Augsburg Confession to the Peace of Passau

Chapter 12.1: The Schmalkald League
Chapter 12.2: The German Anabaptists, Or The “Heavenly Kingdom.”
Chapter 12.3: Accession Of Princes And States To Protestantism
Chapter 12.4: Death And Burial Of Luther
Chapter 12.5: The Schmalkald War, And Defeat Of The Protestants
Chapter 12.6: The “Interim” – Re-Establishment Of Protestantism

Book 13: From Rise of Protestantism in France (1510) to Publication of the Institutes (1536)

Chapter 13.1: The Doctor Of Etaples, The First Protestant Teacher In France
Chapter 13.2: Farel, Briconnet, And The Early Reformers Of France
Chapter 13.3: The First Protestant Congregation Of France
Chapter 13.4: Commencement Of Persecution In France
Chapter 13.5: The First Martyrs Of France
Chapter 13.6: Calvin: His Birth And Education
Chapter 13.7: Calvin’s Conversion
Chapter 13.8: Calvin Becomes A Student Of Law
Chapter 13.9: Calvin The Evangelist, And Berquin The Martyr
Chapter 13.10: Calvin At Paris, And Francis Negotiating With Germany And England
Chapter 13.11: The Gospel Preached In Paris – A Martyr
Chapter 13.12: Calvin’s Flight From Paris
Chapter 13.13: First Protestant Administration Of The Lord’s Supper In France
Chapter 13.14: Catherine De Medici
Chapter 13.15: Marriage Of Henry Of France To Catherine De Medici
Chapter 13.16: Melancthon’s Plan For Uniting Wittemberg And Rome
Chapter 13.17: Plan Of Francis I. For Combining Lutheranism And Romanism
Chapter 13.18: First Disciples Of The Gospel In Paris
Chapter 13.19: The Night Of The Placards
Chapter 13.20: Martyrs And Exiles
Chapter 13.21: Other And More Dreadful Martyrdoms
Chapter 13.22: Basle And The “Institutes.”
Chapter 13.23: The “Institutes.”
Chapter 13.24: Calvin On Predestination And Election
Chapter 13.25: Calvin’s Appeal To Francis I

Book 14: Rise and Establishment of Protestantism at Geneva

Chapter 14.1: Geneva: The City And Its History
Chapter 14.2: Genevese Martyrs Of Liberty
Chapter 14.3: The Reform Commenced In Lausanne And Established In Morat And Neuchatel
Chapter 14.4: Tumults – Successes – Toleration
Chapter 14.5: Fabel Enters Geneva
Chapter 14.6: Geneva On The Brink Of Civil War
Chapter 14.7: Heroism Of Geneva
Chapter 14.8: Rome Falls And Geneva Rises
Chapter 14.9: Establishment Of Protestantism In Geneva
Chapter 14.10: Calvin Enters Geneva – Its Civil And Ecclesiastical Constitution
Chapter 14.11: Sumptuary Laws – Calvin And Farel Banished
Chapter 14.12: Calvin At Strasburg – Rome Draws Near To Geneva
Chapter 14.13: Abortive Conferences At Hagenau And Ratisbon
Chapter 14.14: Calvin Returns To Geneva
Chapter 14.15: The Ecclesiastical Ordinances
Chapter 14.16: The New Geneva
Chapter 14.17: Calvin’s Battles With The Libertines
Chapter 14.18: Calvin’s Labors For Union
Chapter 14.19: Servetus Comes To Geneva And Is Arrested
Chapter 14.20: Calvin’s Victory Over The Libertines
Chapter 14.21: Apprehension And Trial Of Servetus
Chapter 14.22: Condemnation And Death Of Servetus
Chapter 14.23: Calvin’s Correspondence With Martyrs, Reformers, And Monarchs
Chapter 14.24: Calvin’s Manifold Labors
Chapter 14.25: Final Victory And Glory Of Geneva
Chapter 14.26: Geneva And Its Influence In Europe
Chapter 14.27: The Academy Of Geneva
Chapter 14.28: The Soclal And Family Life Of Geneva
Chapter 14.29: Calvin’s Last Illness And Death
Chapter 14.30: Calvin’s Work

Book 15: The Jesuits

Chapter 15.1: Ignatius Loyola
Chapter 15.2: Loyola’s First Disciples
Chapter 15.3: Organization And Training Of The Jesuits
Chapter 15.4: Moral Code Of The Jesuits–Probabilism, Etc
Chapter 15.5: The Jesuit Teaching On Regicide, Murder, Lying, Theft, Etc
Chapter 15.6: The “Secret Instructions” Of The Jesuits
Chapter 15.7: Jesuit Management Of Rich Widows And The Heirs Of Great Families
Chapter 15.8: Diffusion Of The Jesuits Throughout Christendom
Chapter 15.9: Commercial Enterprises And Banishments
Chapter 15.10: Restoration Of The Inquisition
Chapter 15.11: The Tortures Of The Inquisition

Book 16: Protestantism in the Waldensian Valleys

Chapter 16.1: Antiquity And First Persecutions Of The Waldenses
Chapter 16.2: Cataneo’s Expedition (1488) Against The Dauphinese And Piedmontese Confessors
Chapter 16.3: Failure Of Cataneo’s Expedition
Chapter 16.4: Synod In The Waldensian Valleys
Chapter 16.5: Persecutions And Martyrdoms
Chapter 16.6: Preparations For A War Of Extermination
Chapter 16.7: The Great Campaign Of 1561
Chapter 16.8: Waldensian Colonies In Calabria And Apulia
Chapter 16.9: Extinction Of Waldenses In Calabria
Chapter 16.10: The Year Of The Plague
Chapter 16.11: The Great Massacre
Chapter 16.12: Exploits Of Gianavello – Massacre And Pillage Of Rora
Chapter 16.13: The Exile
Chapter 16.14: Return To The Valleys
Chapter 16.15: Final Re-Establishment In Their Valleys
Chapter 16.16: Condition Of The Waldenses From 1690

Book 17: Protestantism in France From Death of Francis I (1547) to Edict of Nantes (1598)

Chapter 17.1: Henry Ii And Parties In France
Chapter 17.2: Henry Ii And His Persecutions
Chapter 17.3: First National Synod Of The French Protestant Church
Chapter 17.4: A Gallery Of Portraits
Chapter 17.5: The Guises, And The Insurrection Of Amboise
Chapter 17.6: Charles IX – The Triumvirate – Colloquy At Poissy
Chapter 17.7: Massacre At Vassy And Commencement Of The Civil Wars
Chapter 17.8: Commencehent Of The Huguenot Wars
Chapter 17.9: The First Huguenot War, And Death Of The Duke Of Guise
Chapter 17.10: Catherine De Medici And Her Son, Charles IX – Conference At Bayonne – The St. Bartholomew Massacre Plotted
Chapter 17.11: Second And Third Huguenot Wars
Chapter 17.12: Synod Of La Rochelle
Chapter 17.13: The Promoters Of The St. Bartholomew Massacre
Chapter 17.14: Negotiations Of The Court With The Huguenots
Chapter 17.15: The Marriage, And Preparations For The Massacre
Chapter 17.16: The Massacre Of St. Bartholomew
Chapter 17.17: Resurrection Of Huguenotism – Death Of Charles IX
Chapter 17.18: New Persecutions – Reign And Death Of Henry III
Chapter 17.19: Henry Iv And The Edict Of Nantes

Volume 2

Book 10: Rise And Establishment Of Protestantism In Sweden And Denmark.

Chapter 10.1: Causes That Influenced The Reception Or Rejection Of Protestantism In The Various Countries

Germany –causes disposing it toward the New Movement – Central Position – Free Towns – Sobriety and Morality of the People – Switzerland – The Swiss – Hardy-Lovers of Liberty – The New Liberty – Some Accept, some Refuse –France– Its Greatness – Protestantism in France Glorified by its Martyrs – Retribution – Bohemia and Hungary– Protestantism Flourishes there – Extinction by Austrian Tyranny – Holland – Littleness of the Country–Heroism – Holland raised to Greatness by the Struggle – Belgium – Begins Well – Faints – Sinks down under the Two-fold Yoke of Religious and Secular Despotism.

Engraving of James Wylie

WHAT we have already narrated is only the opening of the great drama in some of the countries of Christendom. Protestantism was destined to present itself at the gates of all the kingdoms of Europe. Thither must we follow it, and chronicle the triumphs it obtained in some of them, the defeat it sustained in others. But first let us take a panoramic view of the various countries, as respects the state of their peoples and their preparedness for the great, spiritual movement which was about to enter their territories. This will enable us to understand much that is to follow. In these opening Chapters we shall summarize the moral revolutions, with the national splendors in some cases, the national woes in others, that attended them, the historical record of which will occupy the pages that are to follow.

In some countries Protestantism made steady and irresistible advance, and at last established itself amid the triumphs of art and the higher blessings of free and stable government. In others, alas! it failed to find any effectual entrance. Though thousands of martyrs died to open its way, it was obliged to retire before an overwhelming array of stakes and scaffolds, leaving the barriers of these unhappy countries, as France and Spain, for instance, to be forced open by ruder instrumentality’s at a later day. To the gates at which the Reformation had knocked in vain in the sixteenth century, came Revolution in the eighteenth in a tempest of war and bloody insurrections.

During the profound night that shrouded Europe for so many centuries, a few lights appeared at intervals on the horizon. They were sent to minister a little solace to those who waited for the dawn, and to give assurance to men that the “eternal night,” to use the pagan phrase, had not descended upon the earth. In the middle of the fourteenth century, Wicliffe appeared in England; and nearly half a century later, Huss and Jerome arose in Bohemia. These blessed lights, welcome harbinger of morn—nay, that morn itself—cheered men for a little space; but still the day tarried. A century rolls away, and now the German sky begins to brighten, and the German plains to glow with a new radiance. Is it day that looks forth, or is it but a deceitful gleam, fated to be succeeded by another century of gloom? No! the times of the darkness are fulfilled, and the command has gone forth for the gates to open and day to shine in all its effulgence.

Both the place and the hour were opportune for the appearance of the Reformer. Germany was a tolerably central spot. The great lines of communication lay through it. Emperors visited it at times; imperial Diets were often held in it, which brought thither, in crowds princes, philosophers, and scribes., and attracted the gaze of many more who did not come in person. It had numerous free towns in which mechanical arts and burghal rights flourished together.

Other countries were at that moment less favorably situated. France was devoted to arms, Spain was wrapped up in its dignity, and yet more in its bigotry, which had just been intensified by the presence on its soil of a rival superstition—Islam namely—which had seized the fairest of its provinces, and displayed its symbols from the walls of the proudest of its cities. Italy, guarded by the Alps, lay drowned in pleasure. England was parted from the rest of Europe by the sea. Germany was the country which most largely fulfilled the conditions required in the spot where the second cradle of the movement should be placed. In its sympathies, sentiments, and manners Germany was more ecumenical than any other country; it belonged more to Christendom, and was, moreover, the connecting link between Asia and Europe, for the commerce of the two hemispheres was carried across it, though not wholly so now, for the invention of the mariner’s compass had opened new channels for trade, and new routes for the navigator.

If we consider the qualities of the people, there was no nation on the Continent so likely to welcome this movement and to yield themselves to it. The Germans had escaped, in some degree, the aestheticism which had emasculated the intellect, and the vice which had embruted the manners of the southern nations. They retained to a large extent the simplicity of life which had so favorably distinguished their ancestors; they were frugal, industrious, and sober-minded. A variety of causes had scattered among them the seeds of a coming liberty, and its first sproutings were seen in the interrogatories they were beginning to put to themselves, why it should be necessary to import all their opinions from beyond the Alps, where the people were neither better, braver, nor wiser than themselves. They could not understand why nothing orthodox should grow save in Italian soil.

Here, then, marked by many signs, was the spot where a movement whose forces were stirring below the surface in many countries, was most likely to show itself. The dissensions and civil broils, the din of which had distracted the German people for a century previous, were now silenced, as if to permit the voice that was about to address them to be the more distinctly heard, and the more reverentially listened to.

From the German plains we turn to the mountains of Switzerland. The Swiss knew how to bear toil, to brave peril, and to die for liberty. These qualities they owed in a great degree to the nature of their soil, the grandeur of their mountains, and the powerful and ambitious States in their neighborhood, which made it necessary for them to study less peaceful occupations than that of tending their herds, and gave them frequent opportunities of displaying their courage in sterner contests than those they waged with the avalanches and tempests of their hills. Now it was France and now it was Austria, which attempted to become master of their country, and its valorous sons had to vindicate their right to independence on many a bloody field. A higher liberty than that for which Tell had contended, or the patriots of St. Jacob and Morat had poured out their blood, now offered itself to the Swiss. Will they accept it? It only needed that the yoke of Rome should be broken, as that of Austria had already been, to perfect their freedom. And it seemed as if this happy lot was in store for this land. Before Luther’s name was known in Switzerland, the Protestant movement had already broken out; and, under Zwingli, whose views on some points were even clearer than those of Luther, Protestantism for awhile rapidly progressed. But the stage in this case was less conspicuous, and the champion less powerful, and the movement in Switzerland failed to acquire the breadth of the German one. The Swiss mind, like the Swiss land, is partitioned and divided, and does not always grasp a whole subject, or combine in one unbroken current the entire sentiment and action of the people. Factions sprang up; the warlike Forest Cantons took the side of Rome; arms met arms, and the first phase of the movement ended with the life of its leader on the fatal field of Cappel. A mightier champion was to resume the battle which had been lost under Zwingli: but that champion had not yet arrived. The disaster which had overtaken the movement in Switzerland had arrested it, but had not extinguished it. The light of the new day continued to brighten on the shores of its lakes, and in the cities of its plains; but the darkness lingered in those deep and secluded valleys over which the mighty forms of the Oberland Alps hang in their glaciers and snows. The five Forest Cantons had led gloriously in the campaign against Austria; but they were not to have the honor of leading in this second and greater battle. They had fought valorously for political freedom; but that liberty which is the palladium of all others they knew not to value.

To France came Protestantism in the sixteenth century, with its demand, “Open that I may enter.” But France was too magnificent a country to become a convert to Protestantism. Had that great kingdom embraced the Reformation, the same century which witnessed the birth would have witnessed also the triumph of Protestantism; but at what a cost would that triumph have been won! The victory would have been ascribed to the power, the learning, and the genius of France; and the moral majesty of the movement would have been obscured if not wholly eclipsed. The Author of Protestantism did not intend that it should borrow the carnal weapons of princes, or owe thanks to the wisdom of the schools, or be a debtor to men. A career more truly sublime was before it. It was to foil armies, to stain the glory of philosophy, to trample on the pride of power; but itself was to bleed and suffer, and to go onwards, its streaming wounds its badges of rank, and its “sprinkled raiment” its robe of honor. Accordingly in France, though the movement early displayed itself, and once and again enlisted in its support the greater part of the intelligence and genius and virtue of the French people, France it never Protestantized. The state remained Roman Catholic all along (for the short period of equivocal policy on the part of Henry IV. is no exception); but the penalty exacted, and to this day not fully discharged, was a tremendous one. The bloody wars of a century, the destruction of order, of industry, and of patriotism, the sudden and terrible fall of the monarchy amid the tempests of revolution, formed the price which France had to pay for the fatal choice she made at that grand crisis of her fate.

Let us turn eastward to Bohemia and Hungary. They were once powerful Protestant centers, their proud position in this respect being due to the heroism of Huss and Jerome of Prague. Sanctuaries of the Reformed faith, in which pastors holy in life and learned in doctrine ministered to flourishing congregations, rose in all the cities and rural districts. But these countries lay too near the Austrian Empire to be left unmolested. As when the simoom passes over the plain, brushing from its surface with its hot breath the flowers and verdure that cover it, and leaving only an expanse of withered herbs, so passed the tempest of Austrian bigotry over Bohemia and Hungary. The Protestantism of these lands was utterly exterminated. Their sons died on the battle-field or perished on the scaffold. Silent cities, fields untilled, the ruins of churches and houses, so lately the abodes of a thriving, industrious, and orderly population, testified to the thorough and unsparing character of that zeal which, rather than that these regions should be the seat of Protestantism, converted them into a blackened and silent waste. The records of these persecutions were long locked up in the imperial archives; but the sepulcher has been opened; the wrongs which were inflicted by the court of Austria on its Protestant subjects, and the perfidies with which it was attempted to cover these wrongs, may now be read by all; and the details of these events will form part of the sad and harrowing pages that are to follow.

The next theater of Protestantism must detain us a little. The territory to which we now turn is a small one, and was as obscure as small till the Reformation came and shed a halo around it, as if to show that there is no country so diminutive which a great principle cannot glorify. At the mouth of the Rhine is the little Batavia. France and Spain thought and spoke of this country, when they thought and spoke of it at all, with contempt. A marshy flat, torn from the ocean by the patient labor of the Dutch, and defended by mud dykes, could in no respect compare with their own magnificent realms. Its quaking soil and moist climate were in meet accordance with the unpoetic race of which it was the dwelling-place. No historic ray lighted up its past, and no generous art or chivalrous feat illustrated its present. Yet this despised country suddenly got the start of both France and Spain. As when some obscure peak touched by the sun flashes into the light, and is seen over kingdoms, so Holland:, in this great morning, illumined by the torch of Protestantism, kindled into a glory which attracted the gaze of all Europe. It seemed as if a more, than Roman energy had been suddenly grafted upon the phlegmatic Batavian nature.

On that new soil feats of arms were performed in the cause of religion and liberty, which nothing in the annals of ancient Italy surpasses, and few things equal. Christendom owed much at that crisis of its history to the devotion and heroism of this little country. Wanting Holland, the great battle of the sixteenth century might not have reached the issue to which it was brought; nor might the advancing tide of Romish and Spanish tyranny have been stemmed and turned back.

Holland had its reward. Disciplined by its terrible struggle, it became a land of warriors, of statesmen, and of scholars. It founded universities, which were the lights of Christendom during the age that succeeded; it created a commerce which extended to both hemispheres; and its political influence was acknowledged in all the Cabinets of Europe. As the greatness of Holland had grown with its Protestantism, so it declined when its Protestantism relapsed. Decay speedily followed its day of power; but long afterwards its Protestantism again began to return, and with it began to return the wealth, the prosperity, and the influence of its better age.

We cross the frontier and pass into Belgium. The Belgians began well. They saw the legions of Spain, which conquered sometimes by their reputed invincibility even before they had struck a blow, advancing to offer them the alternative of surrendering their consciences or surrendering their lives. They girded on the sword to fight for their ancient privileges and their newly-adopted faith; for the fields which their skillful labor had made fruitful as a garden, and the cities which their taste had adorned and their industry enriched with so many marvels. But the Netherlanders fainted in the day of battle. The struggle, it is true, was a sore one; yet not more so to the Belgians than to the Hollanders: but while the latter held out, waxing ever the more resolute as the tempest grew ever the more fierce, till through an ocean of blood they had waded to liberty, the former became dismayed, their strength failed them in the way, and they ingloriously sank down under the double yoke of Philip and of Rome.

Chapter 10.2: Fortunes Of Protestantism In Italy, Spain, And Britain

Italy – Shall Italy be a Disciple of the Goth? – Pride in the Past her Stumbling-block – Spain – The Moslem Dominancy – It Intensifies Spanish Bigotry – Protestantism to be Glorified in Spain by Martyrdom – Preparations for ultimate Triumph – England – Wicliffe – Begins the New Times – Rapid View of Progress from Wicliffe to Henry VIII. – Character of the King – His Quarrel with the Pope – Protestantism Triumphs – Scotland.

PROTESTANTISM crossed the Alps and essayed to gather round its standard the historic nations of Italy and Spain. To the difficulties that met it everywhere, other and peculiar ones were added in this new field. Unstrung by indolence, and enervated by sensuality, the Italians had no ear but for soft cadences, no eye but for aesthetic ceremonies, and no heart but for a sensual and sentimental devotion. Justly had its great poet Tasso, speaking of his native Italy, called it—

this Egyptian land of woe,
Teeming with idols, and their monstrous train.1

And another of her poets, Guidiccioni. called upon her to shake off her corrupting and shameful languor, but called in vain—

Buried in sleep of indolence profound
So many years, at length awake and rise,
My native land, enslaved because unwise.2

The new faith which demanded the homage of the Italians was but little in harmony with their now strongly formed tastes and dearly cherished predilections. Severe in its morals, abstract in its doctrines, and simple and spiritual in its worship, it appeared cold as the land from which it had come—a root out of a dry ground, without form or comeliness. Her pride took offense. Was Italy to be a disciple of the Goth? Was she to renounce the faith which had been handed down to her from early times, stamped with the approval of so many apostolic names and sealed with the sanction of so many Councils, and in the room of this venerated worship to embrace a religion born but yesterday in the forests of Germany? She must forget all her past before she could become Protestant. That a new day should dawn in the North appeared to her just as unnatural as that the sun, reversing his course, should rise in that quarter of the sky in which it is wont to set.

Nowhere had Christianity a harder battle to fight in primitive times than at Jerusalem and among the Jews, the descendants of the patriarchs. They had the chair of Moses, and they refused to listen to One greater than Moses; they had the throne of David, to which, though fallen, they continued to cling, and they rejected the scepter of Him who was David’s Son and Lord. In like manner the Italians had two possessions, in which their eyes were of more value than a hundred Reformations. They had the capital of the world, and the chair of St. Peter. These were the precious legacy which the past had bequeathed to them, attesting the apostolicity of their descent, and forming, as they accounted them, the indubitable proofs that Providence had placed amongst them the fountain of the Faith, and the seat of universal spiritual dominion. To become Protestant was to renounce their birth-right. So clinging to these empty signs they missed the great substance. Italy preferred her Pope to the Gospel.

When we cross the Pyrenees and enter Spain, we find a people who are more likely, so one would judge, to give Protestantism a sympathetic welcome. Grave, earnest, self-respectful, and naturally devotional, the Spaniard possesses many of the best elements of character. The characteristic of the Italy of that day was pleasure, of Spain we should say it was passion and adventure. Love and song filled the one, feats of knight-errantry were the cherished delights of the other. But, unhappily, political events of recent occurrence had indisposed the Spanish mind to listen to the teachings of Protestantism, and had made the maintenance of their old orthodoxy a point of honor with that people. The infidel Saracen had invaded their country, had reft from them Andalusia, the garden of Spain, and in some of their fairest cities the mosque had replaced the cathedral, and the adoration of Mohammed had been substituted for the worship of Christ. These national humiliations had only tended to inflame the religious enthusiasm of the Spaniards. The detestation in which they held the crescent was extended to all alien creeds. All forms of worship, their own excepted, they had come to associate with the occupancy of a foreign race, and the dominancy of a foreign yoke. They had now driven the Saracen out of their country, and torn the standard of the Prophet from the walls of Granada; but they felt that they would be traitors to the sign in which they had conquered, should they renounce the faith for the vindication of which they had expelled the hosts of the infidel, and cleansed their land from the pollution of Islam.

Another circumstance unfavorable to Spain’s reception of Protestantism was its geographical situation. The Spaniards were more remote from the Papal seat than the Italians, and their veneration for the Roman See was in proportion to their distance from it. They viewed the acts of the Pope through a halo which lent enchantment to them. The irregularities of the Papal lives and the scandals of the Roman court were not by any means so well known to them as to the Romans, and even though they had been so, they did not touch them so immediately as they did the natives of Italy.

Besides, the Spaniards of that age were much engrossed in other matters. If Italy doted on her past, Spain was no less carried away with the splendid future that seemed to be opening to her. The discovery of America by Columbus, the scarce less magnificent territories which the enterprise of other navigators and discoverers had subjected to her scepter in the East, the varied riches which flowed in upon her from all these dependencies, the terror of her arms, the luster of her name, all contributed to blind Spain, and to place her in antagonism to the new movement. Why not give her whole strength to the development of those many sources of political power and material prosperity which had just been opened to her? Why distract herself by engaging in theological controversies and barren speculations! Why abandon a faith under which she had become great, and was likely to become greater still. Protestantism might be true, but Spain had no time, and less inclination, to investigate its truth. Appearances were against it; for was it likely that German monks should know better than her own learned priests, or that brilliant thoughts should emanate from the seclusion of Northern cells and the gloom of Northern forests?

Still the Spanish mind, in the sixteenth century, discovered no small aptitude for the teachings of Protestantism. Despite the adverse circumstances to which we have referred, the Reformation was not without disciples in Spain. If a small, nowhere was there a more brilliant band of converts to Protestantism. The names of men illustrious for their rank, for their scholarship, and for their talents, illustrate the list of Spanish Protestants. Many wealthy burgesses also became converts; and had not the throne and the priesthood—both powerful—combined to keep Spain Roman Catholic, Protestantism would have triumphed. A single decade had almost enabled it to do so. But the Reformation had crossed the Pyrenees to win no triumph of this kind. Spain, like France, was too powerful and wealthy a country to become Protestant with safety to Protestantism. Its conversion at that stage would have led to the corruption of the principle: the triumph of the movement would have been its undoing, for there is no maxim more certain than this, that if a spiritual cause triumphs through material and political means, it triumphs at the cost of its own life. Protestantism had entered Spain to glorify itself by martyrdom.

It was destined to display its power not at the courts of the Alhambra and Escurial, but on the burning grounds of Madrid and Seville. Thus in Spain, as in many other countries, the great business of Protestantism in the sixteenth century was the origination of moral forces, which, being deathless, would spread and grow from age to age till at length, with silent but irresistible might, the Protestant cause would be borne to sovereignty. It remains that we speak of one other country.—

Hedged in with the main,
That water-walled bulwark, still secure
And confident from foreign purposes.3

England had it very much in her option, on almost all occasions, to mingle in the movements and strifes that agitated the nations around her, or to separate herself from them and stand aloof. The reception she might give to Protestantism would, it might have been foreseen, be determined to a large extent by considerations and influences of a home kind, more so than in the case of the nations which we have already passed in review.

Providence had reserved a great place for Britain in the drama of Protestantism. Long before the sixteenth century it had given significant pledges of the part it would play in the coming movement. In truth the first of all the nations to enter on the path of Reform was England.

When the time drew nigh for the Master, who was gone fourteen hundred years before into a far country, to return, and call His servants to account previously to receiving the kingdom, He sent a messenger before Him to prepare men for the coming of that “great and terrible day.” That messenger was John Wicliffe. In many points Wicliffe bore a striking resemblance to the Elijah of the Old Dispensation, and John the Baptist of the New; and notably in this, that he was the prophet of a new age, which was to be ushered in with terrible shakings and revolutions. In minor points even we trace a resemblance between Wicliffe and the men who filled in early ages a not dissimilar office to that which he was called to discharge when the modern times were about to begin. All three are alike in the startling suddenness of their appearance. Descending from the mountains of Gilead, Elijah presents himself all at once in the midst of Israel, now apostate from Jehovah, and addresses to them the call to “Return.” From the deserts of Judah, where he had made his abode till the day of his “showing unto Israel,” John came to the Jews, now sunk in traditionalism and Pharasaic observances, and said, “Repent.” From the darkness of the Middle Ages, without note of warning, Wicliffe burst upon the men of the fourteenth century, occupied in scholastic subtleties and sunk in ceremonialism, and addressed to them the call to “Reform.”

“Repent,” said he, “for the great era of reckoning is come. There cometh one after me, mightier than I. His fan is in His hand, and He will throughly purge His floor, and gather the wheat into the garner; but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Even in his personal appearance Wicliffe recalls the picture which the Bible has left us of his great predecessors. The Tishbite and the Baptist seem again to stand before us. The erect and meager form, with piercing eye and severe brow, clad in a long black mantle, with a girdle round the middle, how like the men whose raiment was of camel’s hair. and who had a leathern girdle upon their loins, and whose meat was locusts and wild honey!

In the great lineaments of their character how like are all the three! Wicliffe has a marked individuality. No one of the Fathers of the early Church exactly resembles him. We must travel back to the days of the Baptist and of the Tishbite to find his like—austere, incorruptible, inflexible, fearless. His age is inconceivably corrupt, but he is without stain. He appears among men, but he is not seen to mingle with them. Solitary, without companion or yoke-fellow, he does his work alone. In his hand is the axe: sentence has gone forth against every corrupt tree, and he has come to cut it down.

Beyond all doubt Wicliffe was the beginning of modern times. His appearance marked the close of an age of darkness, and the commencement of one of Reformation. It is not more true that John stood on the dividing line between the Old and New Dispensations, than that the appearance of Wicliffe marked a similar boundary. Behind him were the times of ignorance mid superstition, before him the day of knowledge and truth. Previous to Wicliffe, century succeeded century in unbroken and unvaried stagnancy. The yearn revolved, but the world stood still. The systems that had climbed to power prolonged their reign, and the nations slept in their chains. But since the age of Wicliffe the world has gone onward in the path of progress without stop or pause. His ministry was the fountain-head of a series of grand events, which have followed in rapid succession, and each of which has achieved a great and lasting advance for society. No sooner had Wicliffe uttered the first sentence of living truth than it seemed as if a seed of life, a spark of fire had been thrown into the world, for instantly motion sets in, in every department and the movement of regeneration, to which a the first touch, incessantly works its lofty platform of the sixteenth century. War and 1etters, the ambition of princes and the blood of martyrs, pioneer its way to its grand development under Luther and Calvin.

When Wicliffe was born the Papacy had just passed its noon. Its meridian glory had lasted all through the two centuries which divided the accession of Gregory VII. (1073) from the death of Boniface VIII. (1303). This period, which includes the halcyon days of Innocent III., marks the epoch of supremest dominancy, the age of uneclipsed splendor, which was meted out to the Popes. But no sooner had Wicliffe begun to preach than a wane set in of the Papal glory, which neither Council nor curia has ever since been able to arrest. And no sooner did the English Reformer stand out in bold relief before the world as the opponent of Rome, than disaster after disaster came hurrying towards the Papacy, as if in haste to weaken and destroy a power which stood between the world entrance of the new age.

Let us bestow a moment on the consideration of this series of calamities to Rome, but of emancipation to the nations. At the distance of three centuries we see continuous and systematic progress, where the observer in the midst of the events may have failed to discover aught save confusion and turmoil. First came the schism of the Popes. What tremendous loss of both political influence and moral prestige the schism inflicted on the Papacy we need not say. Next came the deposition of several Popes by the Council of Pisa and Constance, on the ground of their being notorious malefactors, leaving the world to wonder at the rashness of men who could thus cast down their own idol, and publicly vilify a sanctity which they professed to regard as not less immaculate than that of God.

Then followed an outbreak of the wars which have raged so often and so furiously between Councils and the Popes for the exclusive possession of the infallibility. The immediate result of this contest, which was to strip the Popes of this superhuman prerogative and lodge it for a time in a Council, was less important than the inquiries it originated, doubtless, in the minds of reflecting men, how far it was wise to entrust themselves to the guidance of an infallibility which was unable to discover its own seat, or tell through Whose mouth it spoke. After this there came the disastrous campaigns in bohemia. These fruitless wars gave the German nobility their first taste of how bitter was the service of Rome. That experience much cooled their ardor in her cause, and helped to pave the way for the bloodless entrance of the Lutheran Reformation upon the stage a century afterwards.

The Bohemian campaigns came to an end, but the series of events pregnant with disaster to Rome still ran on. Now broke out the wars between England and France. These brought new calamities to the Papacy. The flower of the French nobility perished on the battle-field, the throne rose to power, and as a consequence, the hold the priesthood had on France through the barons was loosened. Yet more, Out of the guilty attempt of England to subjugate France, to which Henry V. was instigated, as we have shown, by the Popish primate of the day, came the Wars of the Roses.

These dealt another heavy blow to the Papal power in Britain. On the many bloody battle-fields to which they gave rise, the English nobility was all but extinguished, and the throne, now occupied by the House of Tudor, became the power in the country. Again, as in France, the Popish priesthood was largely stripped of the power it had wielded through the weakness of the throne and the factions of the nobility.

Thus with rapid and ceaseless march did events proceed from the days of Wicliffe. There was not an event that did not help on the end in view, which was to make room in the world for the work of the Reformer. We see the mountains of human dominion leveled that the chariot of Protestantism may go forward. Whereas at the beginning of the era there was but one power paramount in Christendom, the Pope namely, by the end of it three great thrones had arisen, whose combined authority kept the tiara in check, while their own mutual jealousies and ambitions made them a cover to that movement, with which were bound up the religion and liberties of the nations.

Rome had long exercised her jurisdiction in Britain, but at no time had that jurisdiction been wholly unchallenged. One mean king, it is true, had placed his kingdom in the hands of the Pope, but the transaction did not tend to strengthen the influence of the Papacy in England. It left a ranking sense of shame behind it, which intensified the nation’s resistance to the Papal claims on after occasions. From the days of King John, the opposition to the jurisdiction of Rome steadily increased; the haughty claims of her legates were withstood, and her imposts could only at times be levied. These were hopeful symptoms that at a future day, when greater light should break in, the English people would assert their freedom.

But when that day came these hopes appeared fated to be dashed by the character of the man who filled the throne. Henry VIII. possessed qualities which made him an able coadjutor, but a most formidable antagonist. Obstinate, tyrannical, impatient of contradiction, and not unfrequently meeting respectful remonstrance with transports of anger, he was as unscrupulous as he was energetic in the support of the cause he had espoused. He plumed himself not less on his theological knowledge than on his state-craft, and thought that when a king, and especially one who was a great doctor as well as a great ruler, had spoken, there ought to be an end of the controversy. Unhappily Henry VIII. had spoken in the great controversy now beginning to agitate Christendom. He had taken the side of the Pope against Luther. The decision of the king appeared to be the death-blow of the Protestant cause in England.

Yet the causes which threatened its destruction were, in the hand of God, the means of opening its way. Henry quarreled with the Pope, and in his rage against Clement he forgot Luther. A monarch of passions less strong and temper less fiery would have striven to avoid, at that moment, such a breach: but Henry’s pride and headstrongness made him incapable of temporizing. The quarrel came just in time to prevent the union of the throne and the priesthood against the Reformation for the purpose of crushing it. The political arm misgave the Church of Rome, as her hand was about to descend with deadly force on the Protestant converts. While the king and the Pope were quarrelling, the Bible entered, the Gospel that brings “peace on earth” began to be preached, and thus England passed over to the side of the Reformation.

We must bestow a glance on the northern portion of the island. Scotland in that age was less happily situated, socially and politically, than England. Nowhere was the power of the Roman hierarchy greater. Both the temporal and spiritual jurisdictions were in the hands of the clergy. The powerful barons, like so many kings, had divided the country into satrapies; they made war at their pleasure, they compelled obedience, and they exacted dues, without much regard to the authority of the throne which they despised, or the rights of the people whom they oppressed.

Only in the towns of the Lowlands did a feeble independence maintain a precarious footing. The feudal system flourished in Scotland long after its foundations had been shaken, or its fabric wholly demolished, in other countries of Europe. The poverty of the nation was great, for the soil was infertile, and the husbandry wretched. The commerce of a former era had been banished by the distractions of the kingdom; and the letters and arts which had shed a transient gleam over the country some centuries earlier, were extinguished amid the growing rudeness and ignorance of the times. These powerful obstacles threatened effectually to bar the entrance of Protestantism.

But God opened its way. The newly translated Scriptures, secretly introduced, sowed the seeds of a future harvest. Next, the power of the feudal nobility was weakened by the fatal field of Flodden, and the disastrous rout at the Solway. Then the hierarchy was discredited with the people by the martyrdoms of Mill and Wishart. The minority of Mary Stuart left the kingdom without a head, and when Knox entered there was not a baron or priest in all Scotland that dared imprison or burn him. His voice rang through the land like a trumpet. The Lowland towns and shires responded to his summons; the temporal jurisdiction of the Papacy was abolished by the Parliament; its spiritual power fell before the preaching of the “Evangel,” and thus Scotland placed itself in the foremost rank of Protestant countries.

Chapter 10.3: Introduction Of Protestantism Into Sweden

Influence of Germany on Sweden and Denmark – Planting of Christianity in Sweden – A Mission Church till the Eleventh Century – Organized by Rome in the Twelfth – Wealth and Power of the Clergy – Misery of the Kingdom – Arcimbold – Indulgences – Christian II. of Denmark – Settlement of Calmar – Christian II. Subdues the Swedes – Cruelties – He is Expelled – Gustavus Vasa – Olaf and Lawrence Patersen – They begin to Teach the Doctrines of Luther – They Translate the Bible – Proposed Translation by the Priests – Suppression of Protestant Version Demanded – King Refuses – A Disputation Agreed on.

IT would have been strange if the three kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, lying on the borders of Germany, had failed to participate in the great movement that was now so deeply agitating their powerful neighbor. Many causes tended to bind together the Scandinavian and the German peoples, and to mould for them substantially the same destiny.

They were sprung of the same stock, the Teutonic; they traded with one another. Not a few native Germans were dispersed as settlers throughout Scandinavia, and when the school of Wittenberg rose into fame, the Scandinavian youth repaired thither to taste the new knowledge and sit at the feet of the great doctor of Saxony. These several links of relationship became so many channels by which the Reformed opinions entered Sweden, and its sister countries of Denmark and Norway. The light withdrew itself from the polished nations of Italy and Spain, from lands which were the ancient seats of letters and arts, chivalry, to warm with its cheering beam the inhospitable shores of the frozen North.

We go back for a moment to the first planting of Christianity in Sweden. There, although the dawn broke early, the coming of day tarried. In the year 829, Anschar, the great apostle of the North, stepped upon the shores of Sweden, bringing with him the gospel. He continued till the day of his death to watch over the seed he had been the first to sow, and to promote its growth by his unwearied labors. After him others arose who trod in his steps. But the times were barbarous, the facilities for spreading the light were few, and for 400 years Christianity had to maintain a dubious struggle in Sweden with the pagan darkness. According to Adam, of Bremen, the Swedish Church was still a mission Church in the end of the eleventh century. The people were without fixed pastors, and had only the teaching of men who limerated over the country, with the consent of the king, making converts, and administering the Sacraments to those who already had embraced the Christian faith. Not till the twelfth century do we find the scattered congregations of Sweden gathered into an organized Church, and brought into connection with the ecclesiastical institutions of the West. But this was only the prelude to a subjugation by the great conqueror. Pushing her conquests beyond what had been the Thule of pagan Rome, Rome Papal claimed to stretch her scepter over the freshly-formed community, and in the middle of the twelfth century the consolidation of the Church of Sweden was the consolidation of the Church of Sweden was completed, and linked by the usual bonds to the Pontifical chair.

From this hour the Swedish Church lacked no advantage which organization could give it. The powerful body on the Seven Hills, of which it had now become a humble member, was a perfect mistress in the art of arranging. The ecclesiastical constitution framed for Sweden comprehended an archiepiscopal see, established at Upsala, and six episcopal dioceses, viz., Linkoping, Skara, Strengnas, Westeras, Wexio, and Aabo. The condition of the kingdom became that of all countries under the jurisdiction of Rome. It exhibited a flourishing priesthood with a decaying piety. Its cathedral churches were richly endowed, and fully equipped with deans and canons; its monkish orders flourished in its cold Northern air with a luxuriance which was not outdone in the sunny lands of Italy and Spain; its cloisters were numerous, the most famous of them being Wadstena, which owed its origin to Birgitta, or Bridget, the lady whom we have already mentioned as having been three times canonized;1 its clergy, enjoying enormous revenues, rode out attended by armed escorts, and holding their heads higher than the nobility, they aped the magnificence of princes, and even coped with royalty itself. But when we ask for a corresponding result in the intelligence and morality of the people, in the good order and flourishing condition of the agriculture and arts of the kingdom, we find, alas that there is nothing to show. The people were steeped in poverty and ground down by the oppression of their masters.

Left without instruction by their spiritual guides, with no access to the Word of God—for the Scriptures had not as yet been rendered into the Swedish tongue—with no worship save one of mere signs and ceremonies, which could convey no truth into the mind, the Christian light that had shone upon them in the previous centuries was fast fading, and a night thick as that which had enwrapped their forefathers, who worshipped as gods the bloodthirsty heroes of the Eddas and the Sagas, was closing them in. The superstitious beliefs and pagan practices of old times were returning. The country, moreover, was torn with incessant strifes. The great families battled with one another for dominion, their vassals were dragged into the fray, and thus the kingdom was little better than a chaos in which all ranks, from the monarch downwards, struggled together, each helping to consummate the misery of the other. Such was the condition in which the Reformation found the nation of Sweden.2

Rome, though far from intending it, lent her aid to begin the good work. To these northern lands, as to more southern ones, she sent her vendors of indulgences. In the year 1515, Pope Leo X. dispatched Johannes Angelus Arcimboldus, pronotary to the Papal See, as legate to Denmark and Sweden, commissioning him to open a sale of indulgences, and raise money for the great work the Pope had then on hand, namely, the building of St. Peter’s. Father Sarpi pays this ecclesiastic the bitter compliment “that he hid under the prelate’s robe the qualifications of a consumate Genoese merchant.” The legate discharged his commission with indefatigable zeal. He collected vast sums of money in both Sweden and Denmark, and this gold, amounting to more than a million of florins, according to Maimbourg,3 he sent to Rome, thus replenishing the coffers but undermining the influence of the Papal See, and giving thereby the first occasion for the introduction of Protestantism in these kingdoms.4

The progress of the religious movement was mixed up with and influenced by the state of political affairs. The throne of Denmark was at that time filled by Christian II., of the house of Oldenburg. This monarch had spent his youth in the society of low companions and the indulgence of low vices. His character was such as might have been expected from his education; he was brutal and tyrannical, though at times he displayed a sense of justice, and a desire to promote the welfare of his subjects. The clergy were vastly wealthy; so, too, were the nobles—they owned most of the lands; and as thus the ecclesiastical and lay aristocracy possessed an influence that overshadowed the throne, Christian took measures to reduce their power within dimensions more compatible with the rights of royalty. The opinions of Luther had begun to spread in the kingdom ere this time, and the king, quick to perceive the aid he might derive from the Reformation, sought to further it among his people. In 1520 he sent for Martin Reinhard, a disciple of Carlstadt, and appointed him Professor of Theology at Stockholm. He died within the year, and Carlstadt himself succeeded him. After a short residence, Carlstadt quitted Denmark, when Christian, still intent on rescuing the lower classes of his people from the yoke of the priesthood, invited Luther to visit his dominions. The Reformer, however, declined the invitation. In the following year (1521) Christian II. issued an edict forbidding appeals to Rome, and another encouraging priests to marry.5 These Reforming measures, however, did not prosper. It was hardly to be expected that they should, seeing they were adopted because they accorded with a policy the main object of which was to wrest the power of oppression from the clergy, that the king might wield it himself. It was not till the next reign that the Reformation was established in Denmark.

Meanwhile we pursue the history of Christian II., which takes us back to Sweden, and opens to us the rise and progress of the Reformation in that country. And here it becomes necessary to attend first of all to the peculiar political constitution of the three kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. By the settlement of Calmar (1397) the union of the three kingdoms, under a common sovereign, became a fundamental and irrevocable law. To secure the liberties of the States, however, it was provided that each kingdom should be governed according to its peculiar laws and customs. When Christian II. ascended the throne of Denmark (1513), so odious was his character that the Swedes refused to acknowledge him as their king, and appointed an administrator, Steno Sturius, to hold the reins of government.6 Christian waited a few years to strengthen himself in Denmark before attempting the reduction of the Swedes. At length he raised an army for the invasion of Sweden; his cause was espoused within the kingdom by Trollius, Archbishop of Upsala, and Arcimboldus, the Pope’s legate and indulgence-monger, who largely subsidized Christian out of the vast sums he had collected by the sale of pardons, and who moreover had influence enough to procure from the Pope a bull placing the whole of Sweden under interdict, and excommunicating Steno and all the members of his government.7 The fact that this conquest was gained mainly by the aid of the priests, shows clearly the estimate formed of King Christian’s Protestantism by his contemporaries.

The conqueror treated the Swedes with great barbarity. He caused the body of Steno to be dug out of the grave and burned.8 In want of money, and knowing that the Senate would refuse its consent to the sums he wished to levy, he caused them to be apprehended. His design, which was to massacre the senators, was communicated to the Archbishop of Upsala, and is said to have been approved of by him. The offense imputed to these unhappy men was that they had fallen into heresy. Even the forms and delay of a mock trial were too slow for the vindictive impatience of the tyrant. With frightful and summary cruelty the senators and lords, to the number of seventy, were marched out into the open square, surrounded by soldiers, and executed. At the head of these noble victims was Erie Vasa, the father of the illustrious Gustavus Vasa, who became afterwards the avenger of his father’s death, the restorer of his country’s liberties, and the author of its Reformation.

Gustavus Vasa fled when his sire was beheaded, and remained for some time in hiding. At length, emerging from his place of security, he roused the peasantry of the Swedish provinces to attempt the restoration of their country’s independence. He defeated the troops of Christian in several engagements, and after an arduous struggle he overthrew the tyrant, received the crown of Sweden, and erected the country into an independent sovereignty. The loss of the throne of Sweden brought after it to Christian II. the loss of Denmark. His oppressive and tyrannical measures kept up a smoldering insurrection among his Danish subjects; the dissatisfaction broke out at last in open rebellion. Christian II. was deposed; he fled to the Low Countries, where he renounced his Protestantism, which was a decided disqualification in the eyes of Charles V., whose sister Isabella he had married, and at whose court he now sojourned.

Seated on the throne of Sweden (1523), under the title of Vasa I., Gustavus addressed himself to the Reformation of his kingdom and Church. The way was paved, as we have already said, for the Reformation of the latter, by merchants who visited the Swedish ports, by soldiers whom Vasa had brought from Germany to aid him in the war of independence, and who carried Luther’s writings in their knapsacks, and by students who had returned from Wittemberg, bringing with them the opinions they had there imbibed. Vasa himself had been initiated into the Reformed doctrine at Lubeck during his banishment from his native country, and was confirmed in it by the conversation and instruction of the Protestant divines whom he gathered round him after he ascended the throne.9 He was as wise as he was zealous. He resolved that instruction, not authority, should be the only instrument employed for the conversion of his subjects. He knew that their minds were divided between the ancient superstitions and the Reformed faith, and he resolved to furnish his people with the means of judging between the two, and making their choice freely and intelligently.

There were in his kingdom two youths who had studied at Wittemberg under Luther and Melancthon, Olaf Patersen and his brother Lawrence. Their father was a smith in Erebro. They were born respectively in 1497 and 1499. They received the elements of their education at a Carmelite cloister school, from which Olaf, at the age of nineteen, removed to Wittemberg. The three years he remained there were very eventful, and communicated to the ardent mind of the young Swede aspirations and impulses which continued to develop themselves during all his after-life. He is said to have been in the crowd around the door of the Castle-church of Wittemberg when Luther nailed his Theses to it. Both brothers were eminent for their piety, for their theological attainments, and the zeal and courage with which they published “the opinions of their master amid the disorders and troubles of the civil wars, a time,” says the Abbe Vertot, “favorable for the establishment of new religions.”10

These two divines, whose zeal and prudence had been so well tested, the king employed in the instruction of his subjects in the doctrines of Protestantism. Olaf Patersen he made preacher in the great Cathedral of Stockholm,11 and Lawrence Patersen he appointed to the chair of theology at Upsala. As the movement progressed, enemies arose. Bishop Brask, of Linkoping, in 1523, received information from Upsala of the dangerous spread of Lutheran heresy in the Cathedral-church at Strengnas through the efforts of Olaf Patersen. Brask, an active and fiery man, a politician rather than a priest, was transported with indignation against the Lutheran teachers. He fulminated the ban of the Church against all who should buy, or read, or circulate their writings, and denounced them as men who had impiously trampled under foot ecclesiastical order for the purpose of gaining a liberty which they called Christian, but which he would term “Lutheran,” nay, “Luciferian.” The opposition of the bishop but helped to fan the flame; and the public disputations to which the Protestant preachers were challenged, and which took place, by royal permission, in some of the chief cities of the kingdom, only helped to enkindle it the more and spread it over the kingdom. “All the world wished to be instructed in the new opinions,” says Vertot, “the doctrine of Luther passed insensibly from the school into the private dwelling. Families were divided: each took his side according to his light and his inclination. Some defended the Roman Catholic religion because it was the religion of their fathers; the most part were attached to it on account of its antiquity, and others deplored the abuse which the greed of the clergy had introduced into the administration of the Sacraments…. Even the women took part in these disputes…all the world sustained itself a judge of controversy.”12

After these light-bearers came the Light itself—the Word of God. Olaf Patersen, the pastor of Stockholm, began to translate the New Testament into the tongue of Sweden. Taking Luther’s version, which had been recently published in Germany, as his model, he labored diligently at his task, and in a short time “executing his work not unhappily,” says Gerdesius, “he placed, amid the murmurs of the bishops, the New Testament in Swedish in the hands of the people, who now looked with open face on what they had formerly contemplated through a veil.”13

After the New Testament had been issued, the two brothers Olaf and Lawrence, at the request of the king, undertook the translation of the whole Bible. The work was completed in due time, and published in Stockholm. “New controversies,” said the king, “arise every day; we have now an infallible judge to which we can appeal them.”14

The Popish clergy bethought them of a notable device for extinguishing the light which the labors of the two Protestant pastors had kindled. They resolved that they too would translate the New Testament into the vernacular of Sweden. Johannes Magnus, who had lately been inducted into the Archbishopric of Upsala, presided in the execution of this scheme, in which, though Adam Smith had not yet written, the principle of the division of labor was carried out to the full. To each university was assigned a portion of the sacred Books which it was to translate. The Gospel according to St. Matthew and the Epistle to the Romans were allotted to the College of Upsala. The Gospel according to St. Mark, with the two Epistles to the Corinthians, was assigned to the University of Linkoping; St. Luke’s Gospel and the Epistle to the Galatians to Skara; St. John’s Gospel and the Epistle to the Ephesians to Stregnen; and so to all the rest of the universities. There still remained some portions of the task unappropriated; these were distributed among the monkish orders. The Dominicans were to translate the Epistle to Titus and that to the Hebrews; to the Franciscans were assigned the Epistles of St. Jude and of St. James; while the Carthusians were to put forth their skill in deciphering the symbolic writing of the Apocalypse.15 It must be confessed that the leisure hours of the Fathers have often been worse employed.

As one fire is said to extinguish another, it was hoped that one light would eclipse another, or at least so dazzle the eyes of the beholders that they should not know which was the true light. Meanwhile, however, the Bishop of Upsala thought it exceedingly dangerous that men should be left to the guidance, of what he did not doubt was the false beacon, and accordingly he and his associates waited in a body on the king, and requested that the translation of Pastor Olaf should be withdrawn, at least, till a better was prepared and ready to be put into the hands of the people.

“Olaf’s version, he said, “was simply the New Testament of Martin Luther, which the Pope had placed under interdict and condemned as heretical.” The archbishop demanded further that “those royal ordinances which had of late been promulgated, and which encroached upon the immunities and possessions of the clergy, should, inasmuch as they had been passed at the instigation of those who were the enemies of the old religion, be rescinded.” 16

To this haughty demand the king replied that “nothing had been taken from the ecclesiastics, save what they had unjustly usurped aforetime; that they had his full consent to publish their own version of the Bible, but that he saw no cause why he either should revoke his own ordinances or forbid the circulation of Olaf’s New Testament in the mother tongue of his people.”

The bishop, not liking this reply, offered to make good in public the charge of heresy which he had preferred against Olaf Patersen and his associates. The king, who wished nothing so much as that the foundations of the two faiths should be sifted out and placed before his people, at once accepted the challenge. It was arranged that the discussion should take place in the University of Upsala; that the king himself should be present, with his senators, nobles, and the learned men of his kingdom. Olaf Patersen undertook at once the Protestant defense. There was some difficulty in finding a champion on the Popish side. The challenge had come from the bishops, but no sooner was it taken up than “they framed excuses and shuffled.”17 At length Peter Gallus, Professor of Theology in the College of Upsala, and undoubtedly their best man, undertook the battle on the side of Rome.

Chapter 10.4: Conference At Upsala

Programme of Debate – Twelve Points – Authority of the Fathers – Power of the Clergy – Can Ecclesiastical Decrees Bind the Conscience? – Power of Excommunication – The Pope’s Primacy – Works or Grace, which saves? – Has Monkery warrant in Scripture? – Question of the Institution of the Lord’s Supper – Purgatory – Intercession of the Saints – Lessons of the Conference – Conscience Quickened by the Bible produced the Reformation.

THAT the ends of the conference might be gained, the king ordered a list to be made out beforehand of the main points in which the Protestant Confession differed from the Pontifical religion, and that in the discussion point after point should be debated till the whole programme was exhausted. Twelve main points of difference were noted down, and the discussion came off at Upsala in 1526. A full report has been transmitted to us by Johannes Baazius, in the eighth book of his History of the Church of Sweden,1 which we follow, being, so far as we are aware the only original account extant. We shall give the history of the discussion with some fullness, because it was a discussion on new ground, by new men, and also because it formed the turning-point in the Reformation of Sweden.

The first question was touching the ancient religion and the ecclesiastical rites: was the religion abolished, and did the rites retain their authority, or had they ever any?

With reference to the religion, the Popish champion contended that it was to be gathered, not from Scripture but from the interpretations of the Fathers. “Scripture,” he said, “was obscure; and no one would follow an obscure writing without an interpreter; and sure guides had been given us in the holy Fathers.” As regarded ceremonies and constitutions, “we know,” he said, “that many had been orally given by the apostles, and that the Fathers, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, and others, had the Holy Spirit, and therefore were to be believed in defining dogmas and enacting institutions. Such dogmas and constitutions were, in fact, apostolic.”

Olaf replied that Protestants did not deny that the Fathers had the Spirit, and that their interpretations of Scripture were to be received when in accordance with Holy Writ. They only put the Fathers in their right place, which was below, not above Scripture. He denied that the Word of God was obscure when laying down the fundamental doctrines of the faith. He adduced the Bible’s own testimony to its simplicity and clearness, and instanced the case of the Ethiopian eunuch whose difficulties were removed simply by the reading and hearing of he Scriptures. “A blind man,” he added, “cannot see the splendor of the midday sun, but that is not because the sun is dark, but because himself is blind. Even Christ said, ‘My doctrine is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me,’ and St. Paul declared that should he preach any other gospel than that which he had received, he would be anathema. How then shall others presume to enact dogmas at their pleasure, and impose them as things necessary to salvation?”2

Question Second had reference to the Pope and the bishops: whether Christ had given to them lordship or other dominion save the power of preaching the Word and administering the Sacraments? and whether those ought to be called ministers of the Church who neglected to perform these duties?

In maintaining the affirmative Gallus adduced the eighteenth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, where it is written, “But if he will not hear thee, tell it to the princes of the Church;” “from which we infer,” he said, “that to the Pope and prelates of the Church has been given power to adjudicate in causes ecclesiastical, to enact necessary canons, and to punish the disobedient, even as St. Paul excommunicated the incestuous member in the Corinthian Church.”

Olaf in reply said

“that we do indeed read that Christ has given authority to the apostles and ministers, but not to govern the kingdoms of the world, but to convert sinners and to announce pardon to the penitent.”

In proof he quoted Christ’s words, “My kingdom is not of this world.”

“Even Christ,” he said, “was subject to the magistrate, and gave tribute; from which it might be surely inferred that he wished his ministers also to be subject to kings, and not to rule over them; that St. Paul had commanded all men to be subject to the powers that be, and that Christ had indicated with sufficient distinctness the work of his ministers when he said to St. Peter, ‘Feed my flock.’” As we call no one a workman who does not fabricate utensils, so no one is to be accounted a minister of the Church who does not preach the Rule of the Church, the Word of God.

Christ said not, “Tell it to the princes of the Church,” but, “Tell it to the Church.” The prelates are not the Church. The apostles had no temporal power, he argued, why give greater power to bishops now than the apostles had? The spiritual office could not stand with temporal lordship; nor in the list of Church officers, given in the fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, is there one that can be called political or magisterial. Everywhere in the Bible spiritual men are seen performing spiritual duties only.3

The next point raised was whether the decrees of man had power to bind the conscience so that he who shirked4 them was guilty of notorious sin?

The Romish doctor, in supporting the affirmative, argued that the commands of the prelates were holy, having for their object the salvation of men: that they were, in fact, the commands of God, as appeared from the eighth chapter of the Book of Proverbs, “By me princes decree righteousness.” The prelates were illuminated with a singular grace; they knew how to repair, enlarge, and beautify the Church. They sit in Moses’ seat; “hence I conclude,” said Gallus, “that the decrees of the Fathers were given by the Holy Ghost, and are to be obeyed.”

The Protestant doctor replied that this confounded all distinction between the commands of God and the commands of man; that it put the latter on the same footing in point of authority with the former; that the Church was upheld by the promise of Christ, and not by the power of the Pope; and that she was fed and nourished by the Word and Sacraments, and not by the decrees of the prelates. Otherwise the Church was now more perfect, and. enjoyed clearer institutions, than at her first planting by the apostles; and it also followed that her early doctrine was incomplete, and had been perfected by the greater teachers whom modern times had produced; that Christ and his apostles had, in that case, spoken foolishly5 when they foretold the coming of false prophets and of Antichrist in the latter times. He could not understand how decrees and constitutions in which there reigned so much confusion and contradiction should have emanated from the Holy Ghost. It rather seemed to him as if they had arrived at the times foretold by the apostle in his farewell words to the elders of Ephesus, “After my departure there shall enter in grievous wolves not sparing the flock.”

The discussion turned next on whether the Pope and bishops have power to excommunicate whom they please?6 The only ground on which Doctor Gallus rested his affirmative was the eighteenth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, which speaks of the gift of the power of binding and loosing given to St. Peter, and which the doctor had already adduced in proof of the power of the prelates.

Olaf, in reply, argued that the Church was the body of Christ, and that believers were the members of that body. The question was not touching those outside the Church; the question was, whether the Pope and prelates had the power of casting out of the Church those who were its living members, and in whose hearts dwelt the Holy Ghost by faith? This he simply denied. To God alone it belonged to save the believing, and to condemn the unbelieving. The bishops could neither give nor take away the Holy Ghost. They could not change those who were the sons of God into sons of Gehenna. The power conferred in the eighteenth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, he maintained, was simply declaratory; what the minister had power to do, was to announce the solace or loosing of the Gospel to the penitent, and its correction or cutting off to the impenitent. He who persists in his impenitence is excommunicate, not by man, but by the Word of God, which shows him to be bound in his sin, till he repent. The power of binding and loosing was, moreover, given to the Church, and not to any individual man, or body of men. Ministers exercise, he argued, their office for the Church, and in the name of the Church; and without the Church’s consent and approval, expressed or implied, they have no power of loosing or binding any one. Much less, he maintained, was this power of excommunication secular; it was simply a power of doing, by the Church and for the Church, the necessary work of purging out notorious offenders from the body of the faithful.

The discussion next passed to the power and office of the Pope personally viewed.

The Popish champion interpreted the words of Christ (Luke 22), “Whosoever will be first among you,” as meaning that it was lawful for one to hold the primacy. It was, he said, not primacy but pride that was here forbidden. It was not denied to the apostles, he argued, or their, successors, to hold the principality in the government of the Church, but to govern tyrannically, after the fashion of heathen kings; that history showed that since the times of Pope Sylvester—i.e., for twelve hundred years—the Pope had held, with the consent of emperors and kings, the primacy in the Church, and that he had always lived in the bonds of charity with Christian kings, calling them his dear sons; how then could his state of dominancy be displeasing to Christ?

Doctor Olaf reminded his opponent that he had already proved that the power conferred by Christ on the apostles and ministers of the Church was spiritual, the power even to preach the Gospel and convert sinners. Christ had warned them that they should meet, in the exercise of their office, bitter opposition and cruel persecutions: how could that be if they were princes and had servants to fight for them? Even Christ himself came not to be a ruler, but a servant. St. Paul designated the office of a bishop, “work” and not “dominion;” implying that there would be more onus than honor attending it.7 The Roman dominancy, he affirmed, had not flourished for twelve hundred years, as his opponent maintained; it was more recent than the age of Gregory, who had stoutly opposed it. But the question was not touching its antiquity, but touching its utility. If we should make antiquity the test or measure of benignity, what strange mistakes should we commit! The power of Satan was most ancient, it would hardly be maintained that it was in an equal degree beneficent. Pious emperors had nourished this Papal power with their gifts; it had grown most rapidly in the times of greatest ignorance; it had taken at last the whole Christian world under its control; when consummated it presented a perfect contrast to the gift of Christ to St. Peter expressed in these words, “Feed my sheep.” The many secular affairs of the Pope did not permit him to feed the sheep. He compelled them to give him not only their milk and wool, but even the fat and the blood. May God have mercy upon his own Church.8

They came at length to the great question touching works and grace, “Whether is man saved by his own merits, or solely by the grace of God?”

Doctor Gallus came as near to the Reformed doctrine on this point as it was possible to do without surrendering the corner-stone of Popery. It must be borne in mind that the one most comprehensive distinction between the two Churches is Salvation of God and Salvation of man: the first being the motto on the Protestant banner, the last the watchword of Rome. Whichever of the two Churches surrenders its peculiar tenet, surrenders all. Dr. Gallus made appear as if he had surrendered the Popish dogma, but he took good care all the while, as did the Council of Trent afterwards, that, amid all his admissions and explanations, he should preserve inviolate to man his power of saving himself. “The disposition of the pious man,” said the doctor, “in virtue of which he does good works, comes from God, who gives to the renewed man the grace of acting well, so that, his free will co-operating, he earns the reward promised; as the apostle says, ‘By grace are we saved,’ and, ‘Eternal life is the gift of God;’ for,” continued the doctor, “the quality of doing good, and of possessing eternal life, does not flow to the pious man otherwise than from the grace of God.” Human merit is here pretty well concealed under an appearance of ascribing a great deal to Divine grace. Still, it is present—man by working earns the promised reward.

Doctor Olaf in reply laid bare the mystification: he showed that his opponent, while granting salvation to be the gift of God, taught that it is a gift to be obtained only by the sinner’s working. This doctrine the Protestant disputant assailed by quoting those numerous passages of Scripture in which it is expressly said that we are saved by faith, and not by works; that the reward is not of works, but of grace; that ground of glorying is left to no one; and that human merit is entirely excluded in the matter of salvation; from which, he said, this conclusion inevitably followed, that it was a vain dream to think of obtaining heaven by purchasing indulgences, wearing a monk’s cowl, keeping painful vigils, or going wearisome journeys to holy places, or by good works of any sort.

The next, point to be discussed was whether the monastic life had any foundation in the Word of God?

It became, of course, the duty of Doctor Gallus to maintain the affirmative here, though he felt his task a difficult one. He made the best he could of such doubtful arguments as were suggested to him by “the sons of the prophets,” mentioned in the history of Samuel; and the flight at times of Elijah and Elisha to Mount Carmel. He thought, too, that he could discover some germs of the monastic life in the New Testament, in the company of converts in the Temple (Acts 2); in the command given to the young man, “Sell all that thou hast;” and in the “eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” But for genuine examples of monks and monasteries he found himself under the necessity of coming down to the Middle Ages, and there he found no lack of what he sought.

It was not difficult to demolish so unsubstantial a structure as this. “Neither in the Old Testament nor in the New,” Doctor Olaf affirmed, “is proof or instance of the monastic life to be found. In the times of the apostles there were no monks. Chrysostom, in his homily on the Epistle to the Hebrews, says, ‘Plain it is that the Church for the first 200 years knew nothing of the monastic life. It began with Paulus and Antoniius, who chose such a life, and had many solitaries as followers, who, however, lived without ‘order’ or ‘vow,’ till certain arose who, about A.D. 350, framed regulations for these recluses, as Jerome and Cassian testify.” After a rapid sketch of their growth both in numbers and wealth, he concluded with some observations which had in them a touch of satire. The words of Scripture, “Sell all that thou hast,” etc., were not, he said, verified in the monks of the present day, unless in the obverse. Instead of forsaking all they clutched all, and carried it to their monastery; instead of bearing the cross in their hearts they embroidered it on their cloaks; instead of fleeing from the temptations and delights of the world, they shirked its labors, eschewed all acquaintanceship with the plough and the loom, and found refuge behind bolted doors amid the silken couches, the groaning boards, and other pleasures of the convent. The Popish champion was doubtless very willing that this head of the discussion should now be departed from.

The next point was whether the institution of the Lord’s Supper had been changed, and lawfully so?

The disputant on the Popish side admitted that Christ had instituted all the Sacraments, and imparted to them their virtue and efficacy, which virtue and efficacy were the justifying grace of man.9 The essentials of the Sacrament came from Christ, but there were accessories of words and gestures and ceremonies necessary to excite due reverence for the Sacrament, both on the part of him who dispenses and of him who receives it. These, Doctor Gallus affirmed, had their source either from the apostles or from the primitive Church, and were to be observed by all Christians. Thus the mass remains as instituted by the Church, with significant rites and decent dresses.

“The Word of God,” replied Olaf, “endures for ever; but,” he added, “we are forbidden either to add to it or take away from it. Hence it follows that the Lord’s Supper having been, as Doctor Gallus has admitted, instituted by Christ, is to be observed not otherwise than as he has appointed. The whole Sacrament—as well its mode of celebration as its essentials—is of Christ and not to be changed.” He quoted the words of institution, “This is my body”—“take eat;” “This cup is the New Testament in my blood”—“drink ye all of it,” etc. “Seeing,” said he, “Doctor Gallus concedes that the essentials of a Sacrament are not to be changed, and seeing in these words we have the essentials of the Lord’s Supper, why has the Pope changed them? Who gave him power to separate the cup from the bread? If he should say the blood is in the body, I reply, this violates the institution of Christ, who is wiser than all Popes and bishops.”

Did Christ command the Lord’s Supper to be dispensed differently to the clergy and to the laity? Besides, by what authority has the Pope changed the Sacrament into a sacrifice? Christ does not say, ‘take and sacrifice,’ but, ‘take and eat.’ The offering of Christ’s sacrifice once for all made a full propitiation. The Popish priestling,10 when he professes to offer the body of Christ in the Lord’s Supper, pours contempt upon the sacrifice of Christ, offered upon the altar of the cross. He crucifies Christ afresh. He commits the impiety denounced in the sixth chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. He not only changes the essentials of the Lord’s Supper, but he does so for the basest end, even that of raking together 11 wealth and filling his coffers, for this is the only use of his tribe of priestlings, and his everlasting masses.”

From masses the discussion passed naturally to that which makes masses saleable, namely, purgatory.

Doctor Gallus held that to raise a question respecting the existence of purgatory was to stumble upon plain ground, for no religious people had ever doubted it. The Church had affirmed the doctrine of purgatory by a stream of decisions which can be traced up to the primitive Fathers. It is said in the twelfth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, argued Doctor Gallus, that the sin against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven, “neither in this world, neither in the world to come;” whence it may be inferred that certain sins will be forgiven in the future world. Not in heaven, for sinners shall not be admitted into it; not in hell, for from it there is no redemption: it follows that this forgiveness is to be obtained in purgatory; and so it is a holy work to pray for the dead. With this single quotation the doctor took leave of the inspired writers, and turned to the Greek and Latin Fathers. There he found more show of support for his doctrine, but it was somewhat suspicious that it was the darkest ages that furnished him with his strongest proofs.

Doctor Olaf in reply maintained that in all Scripture there was not so much as one proof to be found of purgatory. He exploded the fiction of venial sins on which the doctrine is founded; and, taking his stand on the all-sufficiency of Christ’s expiation, and the full and free pardon which God gives to sinners, he scouted utterly a theory founded on the notion that Christ’s perfect expiation needs to be supplemented, and that God’s free pardon needs the sufferings of the sinner to make it available. “But,” argued Doctor Gallus, “the sinner must be purified by these sufferings and made fit for heaven.” “No,” replied Doctor Olaf, “it is faith that purifies the heart; it is the blood of Christ that cleanses the soul; not the flames of purgatory.”

The last point to be debated was “whether the saints are to be invocated, and whether they are our defenders, patrons, and mediators with God?” On this head, too, Doctor Gallus could appeal to a very ancient and venerable practice, which only lacked one thing to give it value, the authority of Scripture. His attempt to give it this sanction was certainly not a success. “God,” he said, “was pleased to mitigate the punishment of the Jews, at the intercession of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then shut up in limbo, and on the express footing of their merits.” The doctor forgot to explain how it happened that the merits which could procure remission of punishment for others, could not procure for themselves deliverance from purgatory. But, passing this, the Protestant respondent easily disposed of the whole case by referring to the profound silence of Scripture touching the intercession of the saints, on the one hand, and its very emphatic teaching, on the other, that there is but one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.12

The conference was now at an end. The stage on which this conference was conducted was an obscure one compared with that of Wittemberg and Augsburg, and the parties engaged in it were but of secondary rank compared with the great chiefs between whom previous contests of a similar kind had been waged; but the obscurity of the stage, and the secondary rank of the combatants, are the very reasons why we have given it so prominent a place in our history of the movement. It shows us the sort of men that formed the rank and the of the army of the Reformers. They were not illiterate, sectarian, noisy controversialists—far from it; they were men who had studied the Word of God, and knew well how to wield the weapons with which the armory of the Bible supplied them. In respect of erudition they were ahead of their age. When we confine our attention to such brilliant centers as Wittemberg and Zurich, and to such illustrious names as those of Luther and Melancthon, of Zwingle and Ecolampadius, we are apt to be told, these were the leaders of the movement, and we should naturally expect in them prodigious power, and vast acquisitions; but the subordinates were not like these. Well, we turn to the obscure theater of Sweden, and the humble names of Olaf and Lawrence Patersen—from the masters to the disciples—what do we find? Sciolists and tame imitators? No: scholars and theologians; men who have thoroughly mastered the whole system of Gospel truth, and who win an easy victory over the sophists of the schools, and the dignitaries of Rome.

This shows us, moreover, the real instrumentality that overthrew the Papacy. Ordinary historians dwell much upon the vices of the clergy, the ambition of princes, and the ignorance and brutishness of the age. All these are true as facts, but they are not true as causes of the great moral revolution which they are often adduced to explain. The vice and brutishness of all ranks of that age were in truth a protective force around the Papacy. It was a state of society which favored the continuance of such a system as the Church of Rome, which provided an easy pardon for sin, furnished opiates for the conscience, and instead of checking, encouraged vice. On the other hand, it deprived the Reformers of a fulcrum of enlightened moral sentiment on which to rest their lever for elevating the world. We freely admit the causes that were operating towards a change, but left to themselves these causes never would have produced such a change as the Reformation. They would but have hastened and perfected the destruction of the putrid and putrifying mass, they never could have evoked from it a new and renovated order of things. What was needed was a force able to restore conscience. The Word of God alone could do this.

Protestantism—in other words, evangelical Christianity—came down, and Ithuriel-like put forth its spear, touched the various forces at work in society, quickened them, and drawing them into a beneficent channel, converted what would most surely have been a process of destruction into a process of Reformation.

Chapter 10.5: Establishment Of Protestantism In Sweden

The Battles of Religion – More Fruitful than those of Kings – Consequences of the Upsala Conference – The King adopts a Reforming Policy – Clergy Refuse the War-levy – Conference respecting Ecclesiastical Possessions and Immunities – Secret Compact of Bishops – A Civil War imminent – Vasa threatens to Abdicate – Diet resolves to Receive the Protestant Religion – 13,000 Estates Surrendered by the Romish Church – Reformation in 1527 – Coronation of Vasa – Ceremonies and Declaration – Reformation Completed in 1529 – Doctrine and Worship of the Reformed Church of Sweden – Old Ceremonies Retained – Death and Character of Gustavus Vasa – Eric XIV. – John – The “Red Book ” – Relapse – A Purifying Fire.

IF “Peace hath her victories no less renowned than War,” we may say that Religion has her battles yet more glorious than those of kings. They spill no blood, unless when the persecutor comes in with the stake, they make no widows and orphans, they leave behind them as their memorials no blackened cities and no devastated fields; on the contrary, the land where they have been waged is marked by a richer moral verdure than that which clothes countries in which no such conflicts have taken place. It is on these soils that the richest blessings spring up. The dead that lie strewn over these battle-fields are refuted errors and exploded falsehoods. Such battles are twice blessed: they bless the victor, and they bless, in measure yet larger, the vanquished.

One of these battles has just been fought in Sweden, and Pastor Olaf was the conqueror. It was followed by great and durable consequences to that country. It decided the king; any doubts that may have lingered in his mind till now were cleared away, and he cast in his lot without reserve with Protestantism. He saw plainly the course of policy which he ought to pursue for his people’s welfare, and he resolved at all hazards to go through with it. He must reduce the overgrown wealth of the Church, he must strip the clergy of their temporal and political power, and set them free for the discharge of their spiritual functions—in short, remodel his kingdom in conformity with the great principles which had triumphed in the late disputation. He did not hide from himself the immense obstacles he would encounter in prosecuting these reforms, but he saw that till they were accomplished he should never reign in peace; and sooner than submit to defeat in a matter he deemed vital, he would abandon the throne.

One thing greatly encouraged Gustavus Vasa. Since the conference at Upsala, the light of the Reformation was spreading wider and wider among his people; the power of the priesthood, from whom he had most to fear, was diminishing in the same proportion. His great task was becoming less difficult every day; time was fighting for him. His coronation had not yet taken place, and he resolved to postpone it till he should be able to be crowned as a Protestant king. This was, in fact, to tell his people that he would reign over them as a Reformed people or not at all. Meanwhile the projects of the enemies of Protestantism conspired with the wishes of Gustavus Vasa toward that result.

Christian II., the abdicated monarch of Denmark, having been sent with a fleet, equipped by his brother-in-law, Charles V., to attempt the recovery of his throne, Gustavus Vasa, knowing that his turn would come next, resolved to fight the battle of Sweden in Denmark by aiding Frederick the sovereign of that country, in his efforts to repel the invader. He summoned a meeting of the Estates at Stockholm, and represented to them the common danger that hung over both countries, and the necessity of providing the means of defending the kingdom. It was agreed to lay a war-tax upon all estates, to melt down the second largest bell in all the churches, and impose a tenth upon all ecclesiastical goods.1 The possessions of the clergy, consisting of lands, castles, and hoards, were enormous. Abbe Vertot informs us that the clergy of Sweden were alone possessed of more than the king and all the Other Estates of the kingdom together. Notwithstanding that they were so immensely wealthy, they refused to bear their share of the national burdens. Some gave an open resistance to the tax; others met it with an evasive opposition, and by way of retaliating on the authority which had imposed it, raised tumults in various parts of the kingdom.2 To put an end to these disturbances the king came to Upsala, and summoning the episcopal chapter before him, instituted a second conference after the manner of the first. Doctors Olaf and Gallus were again required to buckle on their armor, and measure swords with one another. The contest this time was respecting revenues and the exemption of the prelates of the Church. Battle being joined, the king inquired, “Whence have the clergy their prebends and ecclesiastical immunities?” “From the donation of pious kings and princes,” responded Dr. Gallus, “liberally bestowed, according to the Word of God, for the sustentation of the Church.” “Then,” replied the king, “may not the same power that gave, take away, especially when the clergy abuse their possessions?” “If they are taken away,” replied the Popish champion, “the Church will fall,3 and Christ’s Word, that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, will fail.” “The goods of the Church,” said the king, “go into the belly of sluggards,4 who know not to write or preach any useful thing, but spend the hours, which they call canonical, in singing canticles, with but small show of devotion. Since therefore,” continued the king, “it cannot be proved from Scripture that these goods are the absolute property of the clergy, and since they manifestly do not further the ends of piety, is it not just that they be turned to a better use, and one that will benefit the Church?”

On this, Doctor Gallus held his peace. Thereupon, the king ordered the archbishop to reply, but neither would he make answer. At length the provost of the cathedral, George Turson, came forward, and began to defend with great warmth the privileges of the clergy. “If any one,” he said, “dare take anything from the Church, it is at the peril of excommunication and eternal damnation.” The king bore the onset with great good-nature. He calmly requested Turson, as a theologian, to handle the matter in a theological manner, and to prove what he had maintained from Holy Scripture. The worthy provost appears to have declined this challenge; for we find the king, in conclusion, giving his decision to the following effect, namely, that he would give all honor and all necessary and honest support to the pious ministers of the Church, but to the sluggards of the sanctuary and the monastery he would give nothing. To this the chapter made no reply, and the king took his departure for Stockholm.5

The bishops, however, were far from submitting quietly to the burdens which had been imposed upon them. They met and subscribed a secret compact or oath, to defend their privileges and possessions against all the attempts of the king. The deed, with the names appended, was deposited in a sepulcher, where it was discovered fifteen years afterwards.6 An agitation of the kingdom was organized, and vigorously carried out. The passions of the populace, uninstructed for the most part, and attached to the old religion, were inflamed by the calumnies and accusations directed against the king, and scattered broadcast over the kingdom. Disorders and tumults broke out; more especially in Delecarlia the most northern part of Sweden, where the ignorance of the people made them an easy prey to the arts of the clerical agitators.7 The country, at last, was on the brink of civil war. Gustavus Vasa resolved that an end should be put to this agitation. His chancellor, Lawrence Andersen, an able man and a Protestant, gave him very efficient support in the vigorous measures he now adopted. He summoned a meeting of the Estates of Sweden, at Vesteraas, June, 1527.

Gustavus addressed the assembled nobles and bishops, appealing to facts that were within the knowledge of all of them, that the kingdom had been brought to the brink of civil war, mainly through the factious opposition of the clergy to their just share in the burdens of the State, that the classes from whom this opposition came were by much the wealthiest in Sweden, that this wealth had been largely acquired by unlawful exactions, and was devoted to noxious uses; that the avarice of the bishops had reduced the nobles to poverty, and their oppression had ground the people into slavery; that for this wealth no adequate return was received by the State; it served but to maintain its possessors in idleness and luxury; and that, unless the necessities of the government were met, and the power of the throne upheld, he would resign the crown and retire from the kingdom.8

This bold resolve brought matters to a crisis. The Swedes could not afford to lose their magnanimous and patriotic king. The debates in the Diet were long and warm. The clergy fought stoutly for their privileges, but the king and his chancellor were firm. If the people would not support him in his battle with the clergy, Gustavus must lay down the scepter. The question, in fact, came to be between the two faiths—shall they adopt the Lutheran or retain the Popish? The monarch did not conceal his preference for the Reformed religion, which he himself had espoused. He would leave his subjects free to make their choice, but if they chose to obey a clergy who had annihilated the privileges of the citizens, who had devoured the wealth of the nobles, who were glutted with riches and swollen with pride, rather than be ruled by the laws of Sweden, he had no more to say; he would withdraw from the government of the realm.9

At length the Diet came to a resolution, virtually to receive the Protestant religion. The day on which this decision was come to is the most glorious in the annals of Sweden. The Estates decreed that henceforward the bishops should not sit in the supreme council of the nation; that the castles and the 13,000 estates which had been given to the Church since the times of Charles Canut (1453) should be restored; that of the castles and lands, part should be returned to the nation, and part to those nobles from whose ancestors they had been wrested; and if, in the interval, any of these donations had been sold, restitution must be made in money. It is computed that from 13,000 to 20,000 estates, farms, and dwellings passed into the hands of lay possessors. The bishops intimated their submission to this decree, which so effectually broke their power, by subscribing their names to it.10

Other articles were added bearing more directly upon the Reformation of religion. Those districts that adopted the Reformation were permitted to retain their ecclesiastical property; districts remaining Popish were provided by the king with Protestant ministers, who were paid out of the goods still left in possession of the Popish Church. No one was to be ordained who was unwilling, or who knew not how, to preach the pure Gospel. In all schools the Bible must be read, and the lessons of the Gospel taught. The monks were allowed to reside in their monasteries, but forbidden to beg; and safeguards were enacted against the accumulation of property in a dead hand—a fruitful source of evil in the past.11 So far the Reformation of Sweden had advanced in 1527. Its progress had been helped by the flight of the Archbishop of Upsala and Bishop Brask from their native land. Deserted by their generals, the soldiers of the ancient creed lost heart.

The coronation of Gustavus Vasa had been delayed till the kingdom should be quieted. This having been now happily effected, the monarch was crowned with great solemnity on the 12th of January, 1528, at Upsala, in presence of the whole Senate. It cost Vasa no little thought beforehand how to conduct the ceremony, so as that on the one hand it: might not be mixed up with the rites of the ancient superstition, nor, on the other, lack validity in the eyes of such of his subjects as were still Popish. He refrained from sending to Rome for investiture; he made three newly ordained bishops—Skara, Aabo, and Strengnas12—perform the religious rites; the Divine name was invoked; that part of the coronation oath was omitted which bound the sovereign to protect “holy Church;” a public declaration, which was understood to express the sentiments both of the king and of the Estates, was read, and afterwards published, setting forth at some length the reciprocal duties and obligations of each.

The declaration was framed on the model of those exhortations which the prophets and high priests delivered to the Kings of Judah when they were anointed. It set forth the institution of magistracy by God; its ends, to be “a terror to evil-doers,” etc.; the spirit in which it was to be exercised, “in the fear of the Most High;” the faults the monarch was to eschew—riches, luxury, oppression; and the virtues he was to practice—he was to cultivate piety by the study of Holy Scripture, to administer justice, defend his country, and nourish the true religion. The declaration concludes by expressing the gratitude of the nation to the “Omnipotent and most benignant Father, who, after so great a persecution and so many calamities inflicted upon their beloved country, by a king of foreign origin, had given them this day a king of the Swedish stock, whose powerful arm, by the blessing of God, had liberated their nation from the yoke of a tyrant” “We acknowledge,” continued the declaration, “the Divine goodness, in raising up for us this king, adorned with so many gifts, preeminently qualified for his great office; pious, wise, a lover of his country; whose reign has already been so glorious; who has gained the friendship of so many kings and neighboring princes; who has strengthened our castles and cities; who has raised armaments to resist the enemy should he invade us; who has taken the revenues of the State not to enrich himself but to defend the country, and who, above all, has sedulously cherished the true religion, making it his highest object to defend Reformed truth, so that the whole land, being delivered from Popish darkness, may be irradiated with the light of the Gospel.”13

In the year following (1529), the Reformation of Sweden was formally completed. The king, however zealous, saw it wise to proceed by degrees. In the year after his coronation he summoned the Estates to Orebrogia (Oerebro), in Nericia, to take steps for giving to the constitution and worship of the Church of Sweden a more exact conformity to the rule of the Word of God. To this Diet came the leading ministers as well as the nobles. The chancellor Lawrence Andersen, as the king’s representative, presided, and with him was joined Olaf Patersen, the Pastor of Stockholm. The Diet agreed on certain ecclesiastical constitutions and rules, which they subscribed, and published in the tongue of Sweden. The bishops and pastors avowed it to be the great end of their office to preach the pure Word of God; they resolved accordingly to institute the preaching of the Gospel in all the churches of the kingdom, alike in country and in city. The bishops were to exercise a vigilant inspection over all the clergy, they were to see that the Scriptures were read daily and purely expounded in the cathedrals; that in all schools there were pure editions of the Bible; that proper care was taken to train efficient preachers of the Word of God, and that learned men were provided for the cities. Rules were also framed touching the celebration of marriage, the visitation of the sick and the burial of the dead.

Thus the “preaching of the Word” was restored to the place it undoubtedly held in the primitive Church. We possess its pulpit literature in the homilies which have come down to us from the days of the early Fathers. But the want of a sufficient number of qualified preachers was much felt at this stage in the Reformed Church of Sweden. Olaf Patersen tried to remedy the defect by preparing a “Postil” or collection of sermons for the guidance of the clergy. To this “Postil” he added a translation of Luther’s larger Catechism for the instruction of the people. In 1531 he published a “Missal,” or liturgy, which exhibited the most important deviations from that of Rome. Not only were many unscriptural practices in use among Papists, such as kneelings, crossings, incensings, excluded from the liturgy of Olaf, but everything was left out that could by any possibility be held to imply that the Eucharist was a sacrifice—the bloodless offering of Christ—or that a sacrificial character belonged to the clergy.

The Confession of the Swedish Church was simple but thoroughly Protestant. The Abbe Vertot is mistaken in saying that this assembly took the Augsburg Confession as the rule of their faith. The Augustana Confessio was not then in existence, though it saw the light a year after (1530). The Swedish Reformers had no guide but the Bible. They taught; the birth of all men in a state of sin and condemnation; the inability of the sinner to make satisfaction by his own works; the substitution and perfect expiation of Christ; the free justification of the sinner on the ground of His righteousness, received by faith; and the good works which flow from the faith of the justified man.

Those who had recovered the lights of truth, who had rekindled in their churches, after a long extinction, the lamp of the Gospel, had no need, one should think, of the tapers and other substitutes which superstition had invented to replace the eternal verities of revelation. Those temples which were illuminated with the splendor of the Gospel did not need images and pictures. It would seem, however, as if the Swedes felt that they could not yet walk alone. They borrowed the treacherous help of the Popish ritual.

Several of the old ceremonies were retained, but with new explanations, to divorce them if possible from the old uses. The basin of holy water still kept its place at the portal of the church; but the people were cautioned not to think that it could wash away their sins: the blood of Christ only could do that. It stood there to remind them of their baptism. The images of the saints still adorned the walls of the churches—not to be worshipped, but to remind the people of Christ and the saints, and to incite them to imitate their piety. On the day of the purification of the Virgin, consecrated candles were used, not because there was any holiness in them, but because they typified the true Light, even Christ, who was on that day presented in the Temple of Jerusalem. In like manner, extreme unction was practiced to adumbrate the anointing of the Holy Spirit; bells were tolled, not in the old belief that they frightened the demons, but as a convenient method of convoking the people.14 It would have been better, we are disposed to think, to have abolished some of these symbols, and then the explanation, exceedingly apt to be forgotten or disregarded, would have been unnecessary. It is hard to understand how material light can help us the better to. perceive a spiritual object, or how a candle can reveal to us Christ. Those who tolerated remains of the old superstition in the Reformed worship of Sweden, acted, no doubt, with sincere intentions, but it may be doubted whether they were not placing hindrances rather than helps in the way of the nation, and whether in acting as they did they may not be compared to the man who first places a rock or some huge obstruction in the path that leads to his mansion, and then kindles a beacon upon it to prevent his visitors from tumbling over it.

Gustavus I. had now the happiness of seeing the Reformed faith planted in his dominions, His reign was prolonged after this thirty years, and during all that time he never ceased to watch over the interests of the Protestant Church, taking care that his kingdom should be well supplied with learned bishops and diligent pastors. Lawrence Patersen (1531) was promoted to the Archbishopric of Upsala, the first see in Sweden, which he filled till his death (1570). The country soon became flourishing, and yielded plenteously the best of all fruit—great men. The valor of the nobles was displayed on many a hard-fought field. The pius and patriotic king took part in the great events of his age, in some of which we shall yet meet him. He went to his grave in 1560.15 But the spirit he had kindled in Sweden lived after him, and the attempts of some of his immediate successors to undo what their great ancestor had done, and lead back the nation into Popish darkness, were firmly resisted by the nobles.

The scepter of Gustavus Vasa passed to his son, Eric XIV., whose short reign of eight years was marked with some variety of fortune. In 1568, he transmitted the kingdom to his brother John, who, married to a Roman Catholic princess, conceived the idea of introducing a semi-Popish liturgy into the Swedish Church. The new liturgy, which was intended to replace that of Olaf Patersen, was published in the spring of 1576, and was called familiarly the “Red Book,” from the color of its binding. It was based upon the Missale Romanum, the object being to assimilate the Eucharistic service to the ritual of the Church of Rome. It contained the following passage: “Thy same Son, the same Sacrifice, which is a pure unspotted and holy Sacrifice, exhibited for our reconciliation, for our shield, shelter, and protection against thy wrath and against the terrors of sin and death, we do with faith receive, and with our humble prayers offer before thy glorious majesty.” The doctrine of this passage is unmistakably that of transubstantiation, but, over and above this, the whole of the new Missal was pervaded by a Romanizing spirit. The bishops and many of the clergy were gained over to the king’s measures, but a minority of the pastors remained faithful, and the resolute opposition which they offered to the introduction of the new liturgy, saved the Swedish Church from a complete relapse into Romanism. Bishop Anjou, the modern historian of the Swedish Reformation, says—“The severity with which King John endeavored to compel the introduction of his prayer-book, was the testing fire which purified the Swedish Church to a clear conviction of the Protestant principles which formed its basis.” It was a time of great trial, but the conflict yielded precious fruits to the Church of Sweden. The nation saw that it had stopped too soon in the path of Reform, that it must resume its progress, and place a greater distance between itself and the principles and rites of the Romish Church; and a movement was now begun which continued steadily to go on, till at last the topstone was put upon the work. The Protestant party rallied every day. Nevertheless, the contest between King John and the Protestant portion of his subjects lasted till the day of his death. John was succeeded by his son, Sigismund, in 1592. On arriving from Poland to take possession of the Swedish crown, Sigismund found a declaration of the Estates awaiting his signature, to the effect that the liturgy of John was abolished, and that the Protestant faith was the religion of Sweden.

Chapter 10.6: PRotestantism In Sweden, From Vasa (1530) To Charles IX. (1604)

Ebb in Swedish Protestantism – Sigismund a Candidate for the Throne-His Equivocal Promise – Synod of Upsala, 1593 – Renew their Adherence to the Augsburg Confession – Abjure the “Red Book” – Their Measure of Toleration – The Nation joyfully Adheres to the Declaration of the Upsala Convocation – Sigismund Refuses to Subscribe – The Diet Withholds the Crown – He Signs and is Crowned – His Short Reign – Charles IX. – His Death – A Prophecy.

SINCE the middle of the reign of Gustavus Vasa, the liberties of the Reformed Church of Sweden had been on the ebb. Vasa, adopting the policy known as the Erastian, had assumed the supreme power in all matters ecclesiastical. His son John went a step beyond this. At his own arbitrary will and pleasure he imposed a semi-Popish liturgy upon the Swedish clergy, and strove, by sentences of imprisonment and outlawry, to compel them to make use of it in their public services. But now still greater dangers impended: in fact, a crisis had arisen. Sigismund, who made no secret of his devotion to Rome, was about to mount the throne. Before placing the crown on his head, the Swedes felt that it was incumbent on them to provide effectual guarantees that the new monarch should govern in accordance with the Protestant religion. Before arriving in person, Sigismund had sent from Poland his promise to his new subjects that he would preserve religious freedom and “neither hate nor love” any one on account of his creed. The popular interpretation put upon this assurance expresses the measure of confidence felt in it. Our future sovereign, said the Swedes, tells us that he will “hate no Papist and love no Lutheran.”

The nation was wise in time. The synod was summoned by Duke Charles, the administrator of the kingdom in the absence of Sigismund, to meet at Upsala on the 25th February, 1593, and settle ecclesiastical affairs.

There were present four bishops, four professors of theology, three hundred and six clergymen, exclusive of those who had not been formally summoned. Duke Charles, and the nine members of council, many of the nobles, and several representatives of cities and districts were also present at this synod, although, with the exception of the members of council, they took no part in its deliberations. The business was formally opened on the 1st March by a speech from the High Marshal, in which, in the name of the duke and the council, he welcomed the clergy, and congratulated them on having now at length obtained what they had often so earnestly sought, and King John had as often promised—but only promised—” a free ecclesiastical synod.” He invited them freely to discuss the matters they had been convoked to consider, but as for himself and his colleagues, he added, they would abide by the Augsburg Confession of 1530, and the ecclesiastical constitution of 1529, framed for them by Lawrence Patersen, the late Archbishop of Upsala.

Professor Nicolas Olai was chosen president, and the synod immediately proceeded to the all-important question of a Confession. The Augsburg Confession was read over article by article. It was the subject day after day of anxious deliberation; at last it became evident that there existed among the members of synod a wonderful harmony of view on all the points embraced in the Augustan Symbol, and that there was really no need to frame a new formula of belief. Whereupon Bishop Petrus Jonmae, of Strengnas, stood up and put to the synod and council the interrogatory, “Do you adopt this Confession as the Confession of your faith, and are you resolved to abide firmly by it, notwithstanding all suffering and loss to which a faithful adherence to it may expose you?”

Upon this the whole synod arose and shouted out, “We do; nor shall we ever flinch from it, but at all times shall be ready to maintain it with our goods and our lives.” “Then,” responded the president in loud and glad tones, “now is Sweden become as one man, and we all of us have one Lord and God.”

The synod having thus joyfully completed its first great work, King John’s liturgy, or the “Red Book,” next came up for approval or non-approval. All were invited to speak who had anything to say in defense of the liturgy. But not a voice was lifted up; not one liturgical champion stepped down into the arena. Nay, the three prelates who had been most conspicuous during the lifetime of the former king for their support of the Missal, now came forward and confessed that they had been mistaken in their views of it, and craved forgiveness from God and the Assembly. So fell the notorious “Red Book,” which, during sixteen years, had caused strifes and divisions in the Church, had made not a few to depart from “the form of sound words,” and embittered the last years of the reign of the man from whom it proceeded.

We deem it incumbent to take into consideration three of the resolutions adopted by this synod, because one shows the historic ground which the Reformed Church of Sweden took up, and the other two form the measure of the enlightenment and toleration which the Swedes had attained to.

The second general resolution ran thus: “We further declare the unity and agreement of the Swedish Church with the Christian Church of the primitive ages, through our adoption of the Apostolic, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds; with the Reformed Evangelical Church, through our adoption of the Augsburg Confession of 1530; and with the preceding Reformation of the Swedish Church itself, through the adoption of the ecclesiastical constitution established and held valid during the episcopate of Laurentius Petri, and the concluding years of the reign of King Gustavus I.”

In the fourth resolution, over and above the condemnation of the liturgy of King John, because it was “a stone of stumbling” and “similar to the Popish mass,” the synod adds its rejection of the “errors of Papists, Sacramentarians, Zwinglians, Calvinists, Anabaptists, and all other heretics.”

In the sixth resolution, the synod declares it to be “strictly right that persons holding other forms of faith than the Lutheran should not be permitted to settle in the kingdom;” nevertheless, having respect to the requirements of trade and commerce, they grant this indulgence, but under restriction that such shall hold no public religious meetings in their houses, nor elsewhere, nor speak disrespectfully of the national creed.

It is easy to pity, nay, it is easy to condemn this narrowness; but it is not so easy to apportion due praise to the synod for the measure of catholicity to which it had attained. Its members had repudiated the use of the stake for conscience-sake; that was a great advance at this early period; if, notwithstanding, they framed an edict that has the aspect of persecution, its object was not to coerce the opinion of others, but to defend their own belief. Plotters and foes abounded on every side; it behooved them to take measures to guard against surprise, and as regards other points, fuller information would have qualified their judgment on some of the opinions enumerated in their, list of ostracized sects. But despite these defects, we find in their creed and resolutions the pure and renovating breath of our common Protestantism. The faces of these men are turned toward liberty. The molding principles of their creed are those which generate noble characters and heroic actions. It scattered among the Swedish people the germs of a new life, and from that hour dates their resurrection to a nobler destiny. The spirit of the Upsala convocation embodied itself in Duke Charles’s illustrious son, it bore him in triumph into the very heart of Papal Germany, it crowned his arms with victory in his Protestant campaigns, and the echoes of the solemn declaration of the Estates in 1539 come back upon us in battle-thunder from many a stricken field, and grandest and saddest of all from the field of Lutzen.

The synod had done its work, and now it made its appeal to the nation. Will the Swedish people ratify what their pastors had done at Upsala?

Copies of the declaration and resolutions were circulated through the kingdom. The sanction of the nation was universally and promptly given. All ranks of persons testified their adherence to the Protestant faith, by subscribing the Upsala Declaration. The roll of signatures contained the names of Duke Charles, Gustavus, Duke of Saxony and Westphalia, the grandson of Gustavus I., 14 councilors of State, 7 bishops, 218 knights and nobles, 137 civil officials, 1,556 clergymen, the burgomasters of the thirty-six cities and town’s of the realm, and the representatives of 197 districts and provinces. This extensive subscription is proof of an enthusiasm and unanimity on the part of the Swedish people not less marked than that of the synod.

One other name was wanted to make this signature-roll complete, and to proclaim that the adoption of Protestantism by the Swedish people was truly and officially a national act. It was that of King Sigismund. “Will he subscribe the Upsala Declaration?” every one asked; for his attachment to the Romish faith was well known. Sigismund still tarried in Poland, and was obviously in no haste to present himself among his new subjects. The council dispatched a messenger to solicit his subscription. The reply was an evasion. This naturally created alarm, and the Protestants, forewarned, bound themselves still more closely together to maintain their religious liberty. After protracted delays the new sovereign arrived in Sweden on the 30th of September the same year. The duke, the council, and the clergy met him at Stockholm, and craved his subscription to the Upsala resolutions. Sigismund refused compliance. The autumn and winter were passed in fruitless negotiations. With the spring came the period which had been fixed upon for the coronation of the monarch. The royal signature had not yet been given, and events were approaching a crisis. The Swedish Estates were assembled in the beginning of February, 1594. The archbishop, having read the Upsala Declaration, asked the Diet if it was prepared to stand by it. A unanimous response was given in the affirmative, and further, the Diet decreed that whoever might refuse to sign the declaration should be held disqualified to fill any office, civil or ecclesiastical, within the realm. Sigismund now saw that he had no alternative save to ratify the declaration or renounce the crown. He chose the former. After some vain attempts to qualify his subscription by appending certain conditions, he put his name to the hated document. A Te Deum was sung in the cathedral the day following, and on the 19th of February, King Sigismund was crowned. The struggle of Sweden for its Reformation, which had lasted over twenty years, came thus at last to a victorious close. Arcimbold, by the preaching of indulgences, and the political conflicts to which this led, had ploughed up the soil; Olaf and Lawrence Patersen came next, scattering the seed; then arose the patriotic Gustavus Vasa to shield the movement. After a too early pause, during which new dangers gathered, the movement was again resumed. The synod of the clergy met and adopted the Augustan Confession as the creed of Sweden; their deed was accepted by the Estates and the nation, and finally ratified by the signature of the sovereign. Thus was the Protestant faith of the Swedish people surrounded with all legal formalities and securities; to this day these are the formal foundations on which rests the Reformed Church of Sweden.1

Only a few years did Sigismund occupy the throne of Sweden. His government, in accordance with the Upsala Declaration, partook too much of the compulsory to be either hearty or honest; he was replaced in 1604 by Charles IX., the third son of Gustavus Vasa. When dying, Charles is reported to have exclaimed, laying his hand upon the golden locks of his boy, and looking forward to the coming days of conflict, “Ille faciet.”2

This boy, over whom his dying sire uttered these prophetic words, was the future Gustavus Adolphus, in whom his renowned grandfather, Gustavus Vasa, lived over again, with still greater renown.

Chapter 10.7: Introduction Of Protestantism Into Denmark

Paul Elia – Inclines to Protestantism – Returns to Rome – Petrus Parvus – Code of Christian II. – The New Testament in Danish – Georgius Johannis – Johannis Taussanus – Studies at Cologne – Finds Access to Luther’s Writings – Repairs to Wittemberg – Returns to Denmark – Re-enters the Monastery of Antvorskoborg – Explains the Bible to the Monks – Transferred to the Convent of Viborg – Expelled from the Convent – Preaches in the City – Great Excitement in Viborg, and Alarm of the Bishops – Resolve to invite Doctors Eck and Cochlaeus to Oppose Taussan – Their Letter to Eck – Their Picture of Lutheranism – Their Flattery of Eck – He Declines the Invitation.

IN tracing the progress of the Reformation in Sweden, our attention was momentarily turned toward Denmark. Two figures attracted our notice—Arcimboldus, the legate-a-latere of Leo X., and Christian II., the sovereign of the country. The former was busy gathering money for the Pope’s use, and sending off vast sums of gold to Rome; the latter, impatient of the yoke of the priests, and envious of the wealth of the Church, was trying to introduce the doctrines of Luther into Denmark, less for their truth than for the help they would give him in making himself master in his own dominions. Soon, however, both personages disappeared from the scene.

Arcimbold in due time followed his gold-bags to Italy, and Christian II., deposed by his subjects, retired to the court of his brother-in-law, Charles V. His uncle Frederick, Duke of Holstein and Schleswig, succeeded him on the throne.1 This was in 1523, and here properly begins the story of the Reformation in Denmark.

Paul Elia, a Carmelite monk, was the first herald of the coming day. As early as 1520 the fame of Luther and his movement reached the monastery of Helsingfor, in which Elia held the rank of provincial. Smitten with an intense desire to know something of the new doctrine, he procured the writings of Luther, studied them, and appeared heartily to welcome the light that now broke upon him. The abuses of the Church of Rome disclosed themselves to his eye; he saw that a Reformation was needed, and was not slow to proclaim his conviction to his countrymen. He displayed for a time no small courage and zeal in his efforts to diffuse a knowledge of the truth in his native land. But, like Erasmus of Holland, and More of England, he turned back to the superstitions which he appeared to have left. He announced the advent of the heavenly kingdom, but did not himself enter in.2

Among the early restorers of the Gospel to Denmark, no mean place is due to Petrus Parvus. Sprung of an illustrious stock, he was not less distinguished for his virtues. Attracted to Wittemberg, like many of the Danish youth, by the fame of Luther and Melancthon, he there heard of a faith that brings forgiveness of sin and holiness of nature, and on his return home he labored to introduce the same gracious doctrine into Denmark.3

Nor must we pass over in silence the name of Martin, a learned man and an eloquent preacher, who almost daily in 1520 proclaimed the Gospel from the cathedral pulpit of Hafnia (Copenhagen) in the Danish tongue to crowded assemblies.4 In 1522 came the ecclesiastical and civil code of Christian II., of which we have already spoken, correcting some of the more flagrant practices of the priests, forbidding especially appeals to Rome, and requiring that all causes should be determined the courts of the country. In the year following (1523) the king fled, leaving behind him a soil which had just begun to be broken up, and on which a few handfuls of seed had been cast very much at random.

In his banishment, Christian still sought opportunities of promoting the best interests of the land which had driven him out. One is almost led to think that amid all his vices as a man, and errors as a ruler, he had a love for Lutheranism, for its own sake, and not simply because it lent support to his policy. He now sent to Denmark the best of all Reformers, the Word of God. In Flanders, where in 1524 we find him residing, he caused the New Testament to be translated into the Danish tongue. It was printed at Leipsic, and issued in two parts—the first containing the four Gospels, and the second the Epistles. It bore to be translated from the Vulgate, although the internal evidence made it undoubted that the translator had freely followed the German version by Luther, and possibly by doing so had the better secured both accuracy and beauty.5 The book was accompanied with a preface by the translator, Johannis Michaelis, dated Antwerp, in which he salutes his “dear brethren and sisters of Denmark, wishing grace and peace to them in God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” He bids them not be scared, by the bulls and other fulmination’s of the Vatican, from reading what God has written; that the object of Rome is to keep them blindfolded, that they may believe implicitly all the fables and dreams she chooses to tell them. God, he says, has sent them, in great mercy, the Light by which they may detect the frauds of the impostor. “Grace and remission of sins,” says he, “are nowhere save where the Gospel of God is preached. Whoever hears and obeys it, hears and knows that he is forgiven, and has the assurance of eternal life; whereas, they who go to Rome for pardon bring back nothing but griefs, a seared conscience, and a bit of parchment sealed with wax.”6 The priests stormed, but the Bible did its work, and the good fruits appeared in the following reign.

Frederick, the uncle of Christian, and Duke of Holstein and Schleswig, was now upon the throne. A powerful priesthood, and an equally powerful nobility attached to the Romish Church, had exacted of the new monarch a pledge that he would not give admission to the Lutheran faith into Denmark; but the Danish Bible was every day rendering the fulfillment of the pledge more difficult. In vain had the king promised “not to attack the dignity and privileges of the Ecclesiastical Estate,”7 when the Scriptures were, hour by hour, silently but powerfully undermining them.

A beginning was made by Georgius Johannis. He had drunk at the well of Wittemberg, and returning to his native town of Viborg, he began (1525) to spread the Reformed opinions. When the Bishop of Viborg opposed him, the king gave him letters of protection, which enabled him to set up a Protestant school in that city,8 the first of all the Protestant institutions of Denmark, and which soon became famous for the success with which, under its founder, it diffused the light of truth and piety over the kingdom.

After Johannis came a yet more illustrious man, who has earned for himself the title of the “Reformer of Denmark,” Johannis Taussanus. He was born in 1494, in the country of Fionia; his parents were peasants. From his earliest years the young Taussan discovered a quick genius and an intense thirst for knowledge, but the poverty of his parents did not permit them to give him a liberal education. Following the custom of his time he entered the Order of John the Baptist, or Jerusalem Monks, and took up his abode in the monastery of Antvorskoborg in Zealand.

He had not been long in the monastery when the assiduity and punctuality with which he performed his duties, and the singular blamelessness of his manners, drew upon him the eyes of the superior of the order, Eskildus.9 His parts, he found, were equal to his virtues, and in the hope that he would become in time the ornament of the monastery, the superior adjudged to the young Taussan one of those bursaries which were in the gift of the order for young men of capacity who wished to prosecute their studies abroad. Taussan was told that, he might select what school or university he pleased, one only excepted, Wittemberg. That seminary was fatally poisoned; all who drank of its waters died, and thither he must on no account bend his course. But there were others whose waters no heresy had polluted: there were Louvain, and Cologne, and others, all unexceptionable in their orthodoxy. At any or all of these he might drink, but of the fountain in Saxony he must not approach it, nor taste it, lest he become anathema. His choice fell upon Cologne. He had been only a short while at that seat of learning when he became weary of the futility’s and fables with which he was there entertained. He thirsted to engage in studies more solid, and to taste a doctrine more pure. It happened at that time that the writings of Luther were put into his hands.10 In these he found what met the cravings of his soul. He longed to place himself at the feet of the Reformer. Many weary leagues separated Wittemberg from the banks of the Rhine, but that was not the only, nor indeed the main, difficulty he had to encounter. He would forfeit his pension, and incur the wrath of his superiors, should it be known that he had gone to drink at the interdicted spring. These risks, however, did not deter him; every day he loathed more and more the husks given him for food, and wished to exchange them for that bread by which alone he felt he could live. He set out for Witternberg; he beheld the face of the man through whom God had spoken to his heart when wandering in the wilderness of Scholasticism, and if the page of Luther had touched him, how much more his living voice!

Whether the young student’s sojourn here was known in his native country we have no means of discovering; but in the summer of 1521, and about the time that Luther would be setting out for the Diet of Worms, we find Taussan returning to Denmark. His profiting at Wittemberg was very sufficiently attested by a most flattering mark of distinction which was bestowed on him on his way home. The University of Rostock conferred upon him the degree of Doctor in Theology, an honor which doubtless he valued chiefly because it admitted him to the privilege of teaching to others what himself had learned with joy of heart at the feet of the Reformers.11

The monastery at whose expense he had studied abroad had the first claim upon him; and some time elapsed before he could teach publicly in the university. He brought back to the monastery, which he again entered, the same beautiful genius and the same pure manners which had distinguished him before his departure; but the charm of these qualities was now heightened by the nameless grace which true piety gives to the character, “As a lamp in a sepulcher,” says one, “so did his light shine in the midst of the darkness of that place.”12 It was not yet suspected by his brethren that they had a Lutheran among them under the cloak of their order, and Taussan took care not to put them upon the scent of the secret, nevertheless, he began betimes to correct the disorders and enlighten the ignorance of his fellow-monks—evils which he now saw had their origin not so much in the vices of the men as in the perversity of the institution.

He would draw them to the Word of God, and opening to them in plain language its true meaning, he would show them how far and fatally Rome had strayed from this Holy Rule. At the Easter of 1524 he preached a sermon setting forth the insufficiency of good works, and the need of an imputed righteousness in order to the sinner’s justification. “All the blind supporters of the Pontifical superstition,” says the historian, “were in arms against him.”13 The disguise was now dropped.

There was one man whose wrath the sermon of the young monk had specially roused, the prior of the convent, Eskildus, a bigoted upholder of the ancient religion, and the person who had sent Taussan abroad, whence he had brought back the doctrine, the preaching of which had converted his former friend into his bitter enemy.

That he might not corrupt the monks, or bring on the monastery of Antvorskoborg, which had preserved till this hour its good name untarnished, the terrible suspicion of heresy, the prior formed the resolution of transferring Taussan to the convent of Viborg, where a strict watch would be kept upon him, and he would have fewer opportunities of proselytizing under the rigorous surveillance which Prior Petri Jani was known to exercise over those committed to his care. The event, however, turned out quite otherwise. Shut up in his cell, Taussan communicated with the inmates of the convent through the bars of his window. In these conversations he dropped the seeds of truth into their minds, and the result was that two of the monks, named Erasmus and Theocarius, were converted to the truth.14

The horror-struck prior, foreseeing the perversion of his whole brotherhood should he retain this corrupter a day longer in the monastery, again drove Taussan forth. If the prior saved his convent by this step, he lost the city of Viborg, for it so happened that about that time a rescript (1526) of King Frederick was issued, commanding that no one should offer molestation to any teacher of the new doctrine, and Taussan thus, though expelled, found himself protected from insult and persecution, whether from the prior or from the magistrates of Viborg. By a marvelous providence, he had been suddenly transferred from the monastery to the city, from the cell to the vineyard of the Lord; from a little auditory, gathered by stealth at his grated window, to the open assemblies of the citizens. He began to preach. The citizens of Viborg heard with joy the Gospel from his mouth. The churches of the city were opened to Taussan, and the crowds that flocked to bear him soon filled them to overflowing.15

It was now the bishop’s turn to be alarmed. The prior in extinguishing the fire in his convent had but carried the conflagration into the city; gladly would he have seen Taussan again shut up in the monastery, but that was impossible. The captive had escaped, or rather had been driven out, and was not to be lured back; the conflagration had been kindled, and could not now be extinguished. What was to be done? The bishop, Georgius Friis, had no preachers at his command, but he had soldiers, and he resolved to put down these assemblies of worshippers by arms. The zeal of the citizens for the Gospel, however, and their resolution to maintain its preacher, rendered the bishop’s efforts abortive. They bade defiance to his troops. They posted guards around the churches, they defended the open squares by drawing chains across them, and they went to sermon with arms in their hands. At length there came another intimation of the royal will, commanding the disaffected party to desist from these violent proceedings, and giving the citizens of Viborg full liberty to attend on the preaching of the Gospel.16

Foiled in his own city and diocese, the Bishop of Viborg now took measures for extending the war over the kingdom. The expulsion of Taussan from the convent had set the city in flames; but the bishop had failed to learn the lesson taught by the incident, and so, without intending it, he laid the train for setting the whole country on fire. He convoked the three other bishops of Fionia (Jutland), the most ancient and largest province of Denmark, and, having addressed them on the emergency that had arisen, the bishops unanimously agreed to leave no stone unturned to expel Lutheranism from Denmark. Mistrusting their own skill and strength, however, for the accomplishment of this task, they east their eyes around, and fixed on two champions who, they thought, would be able to combat the hydra which had invaded their land. These were Doctors Eck and Cochlaeus. The four bishops, Ivarus Munck, Stiggo Krumpen, Avo Bilde, and Georgius Friis, addressed a joint letter, which they sent by an honorable messenger, Henry Geerkens, to Dr. Eck, entreating him to come and take up his abode for one or more years in Jutland, in order that by preaching, by public disputations, or by writing, he might silence the propagators of heresy, and rescue the ancient faith from the destruction that impended over it. Should this application be declined by Eck, Geerkens was empowered next to present it to Cochlaeus.17 Neither flatteries nor promises were lacking which might induce these mighty men of war to renew, on Danish soil, the battles which they boasted having so often and so gloriously fought for Rome in other countries.

The letter of the four bishops, dated 14th of June, 1527, has been preserved; but the terms in which they give vent to their immense detestation of Lutheranism, and their equally immense admiration of the qualities of the man whom Providence had raised up to oppose it, are hardly translatable. Many of their phrases would have been quite new to Cicero. The epistle savored of Gothic rigor rather than Italian elegance.

The eccentricities of their pen will be easily pardoned, however, if we reflect how much the portentous apparition of Lutheranism had disturbed their imaginations. They make allusion to it as that “Phlegethonian plague,” that “cruel and virulent pestilence,”18 the “black contagion” of which, “shed into the air,” was “darkening great part of Christendom,” and had made “their era a most unhappy one.” Beginning by describing Lutheranism as a plague, they end by comparing it to a serpent; for they go on to denounce those “skulking and impious Lutheran dogmatizers,” who, “fearing neither the authority of royal diets nor the terrors of a prison,” now “creeping stealthily,” now “darting suddenly out of their holes like serpents,” are diffusing among “the simple and unlearned flock,” their “desperate insanity,” bred of “controversial studies.”19

From Lutheranism the four bishops turn to Dr. Eck. Their pen loses none of its cunning when they come to recount his great qualities. If Lutheranism was the plague that was darkening the earth, Eck was the sun destined to enlighten it. If Lutheranism was the serpent whose deadly virus was infecting mankind, Eck was the Hercules born to slay the monster. “To thee,” said the bishops, casting themselves at his feet, “thou most eloquent of men in Divine Scripture, and who excellest in all kinds of learning, we bring the wishes of our Estates. They seek to draw to their own country the man who, by his gravity, his faith, his constancy, his prudence, his firm mind, is able to bring back those who have been misled by perverse and heretical teachers.” Not that they thought they could add to the fame of one already possessed of “imperishable renown, and a glory that will last throughout the ages;” “a man to whom nothing in Divine literature is obscure, nothing unknown;” but they urged the greatness of their need and the glory of the service, greater than any ever undertaken by the philosophers and conquerors of old, the deliverance even of Christianity, menaced with extinction in the rich and populous kingdoms of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. They go on to cite the great deeds of Curtius and Scipio Africanus, and other heroes of ancient story, and trust that the man they address will show not less devotion for the Christian commonwealth than these did for the Roman republic. Their hope lay in him alone—“in his unrivalled eloquence, in his profound penetration, in his Divine understanding.” In saving three kingdoms from the pestilence of Luther, he would win a higher glory and taste a sweeter pleasure than did those men who had saved the republic.20

This, and a great deal more to the same effect, was enough, one would have thought, to have tempted Dr. Eck to leave his quiet retreat, and once more measure swords with the champions of the new faith. But the doctor had grown wary. Recent encounters had thinned his laurels, and what remained he was not disposed to throw away in impossible enterprises, he was flattered by the embassy, doubtless, but not gained by it. He left the Cimbrian bishops to fight the battle as best they could.

Chapter 10.8: Church-Song In Denmark

Paul Elia Opposes – Harangues the Soldiery in the Citadel – Tumults – The King summons a Meeting of the Estates at Odensee – His Address to the Bishops – Edict of Toleration – Church-Song – Ballad-Poetry of Denmark – Out-burst of Sacred Psalmody – Nicolaus Martin – Preaches outside the Walls of Malmoe – Translates the German Hymns into Danish – The Psalms Translated – Sung Universally in Denmark – Nicolaus Martin Preaches inside Malmoe – Theological College Established there – Preachers sent through Denmark – Taussan Removed to Copenhagen – New Translation of the New Testament.

MEANWHILE the truth was making rapid progress in Viborg, and throughout the whole of Jutland. The Gospel was proclaimed not only by Taussan, “the Luther of Denmark” as he has been called, but also by George Jani, or Johannis, of whom we have already made mention, as the founder of the first Reformed school in Viborg, and indeed in Denmark.

The king was known to be a Lutheran; so too was the master of his horse, Magnus Goyus, who received the Communion in both kinds, and had meat on his table on Fridays. The army was largely leavened with the same doctrine, and in the Duchies of Holstein and Schleswig the Lutheran faith was protected by law. Everything helped onward the movement; if it stopped for a moment its enemies were sure again to set it in motion. It was at this time not a little helped by Paul Elia, the first to sow the seeds of Lutheranism in Denmark, but who now was more eager to extirpate than ever he had been to plant them. The unhappy man craved permission to deliver his sentiments on Lutheranism in public. The permission was at once granted, with an assurance that no one should be permitted to molest or injure him. The master of the horse took him to the citadel, where at great length, and with considerable freedom, he told what he thought of the faith which he had once preached. His address fell upon attentive but not assenting ears. When he descended from his rostrum he was met with a tempest of scoffs and threats. he would have fallen a sacrifice to the incensed soldiery, had not a lieutenant, unsheathing his sword, led him safely through the crowd, and dismissed him at the gates of the fortress. The soldiers followed him with their cries, so long as he was in sight, saying that “the monks were wolves and destroyers of souls.”

This and similar scenes compelled Frederick I. to take a step forward. A regard for the tranquillity of his kingdom would suffer him no longer to be neutral. Summoning (1527) the Estates of Denmark to Odensee, he addressed them in Latin. Turning first of all to the bishops, he reminded them that their office bound them to nourish the Church with the pure Word of God; that throughout a large part of Germany religion had been purged from the old idolatry; that even here in Denmark many voices were raised for the purgation of the faith from the fables and traditions with which it was so largely mixed up, and for permission to be able again to drink at the pure fountains of the Word. He had taken an oath to protect the Roman and Catholic religion in his kingdom, but he did not look on that promise as binding him to defend all “the errors and old wives’ fables” which had found admission into the Church. “And who of you,” he asked, “is ignorant how many abuses and errors have crept in by time which no man of sane mind can defend? ” “And since,” he continued, “in this kingdom, to say nothing of others, the Christian doctrine, according to the Reformation of Luther, has struck its roots so deep that they could not now be eradicated without bloodshed, and the infliction of many great calamities upon the kingdom and its people, it is my royal pleasure that in this kingdom both religions, the Lutheran as well as the Papal, shall be freely tolerated till a General Council shall have met.”1

Of the clergy, many testified, with both hands and feet, their decided disapproval of this speech;2 but its moderation and equity recommended it to the great majority of the Estates. A short edict, in four heads, expressed the resolution of the Assembly, which was in brief that it was permitted to every subject of the realm to profess which religion he pleased, the Lutheran or the Pontifical; that no one should suffer oppression of conscience or injury of person on that account; and that monks and nuns were at liberty to leave their convents or to continue to reside in them, to marry or to remain single.3

This edict the king and Estates supplemented by several regulations which still further extended the reforms. Priests were granted leave to marry; bishops were forbidden to send money to Rome for palls; the election was to be in the power of the chapter, and its ratification in that of the king; and, finally, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction was restricted to ecclesiastical affairs.4

Another influence which tended powerfully to promote the Reformation in Denmark was the revival of church-song. The part which Rome assigns to her people in her public worship is silence: their voices raised in praise are never heard. If hymns are ever sung under the gorgeous roofs of her temples, it is by her clerical choirs alone; and even these hymns are uttered in a dead language, which fails, of course, to reach the understandings or to awaken the hearts of the people. The Reformation broke the long and deep silence which had reigned in Christendom. Wherever it advanced it was amid the sounds of melody and praise. Nowhere was it more so than in Denmark. The early ballad-poetry of that country is among the noblest in Europe. But the poetic muse had long slumbered there: the Reformation awoke it to a new life. The assemblies of the Protestants were far too deeply moved to be content as mere spectators, like men at a pantomime, of the worship celebrated in their sanctuaries; they demanded a vehicle for those deep emotions of soul which the Gospel had awakened within them. This was no mere revival of the poetic taste, it was no mere refinement of the musical ear; it was the natural outburst of those fresh, warm, and holy feelings to which the grand truths of the Gospel had given birth, and which, like all deep and strong emotions, struggled to utter themselves in song.

The first to move in this matter was Nicolaus Martin. This Reformer had the honor to be the first to carry the light of the Gospel to many places in Schonen. He had studied the writings of Luther, and “drunk his fill of the Word,”5 and yearned to lead others to the same living fountain. The inhabitants of Malmoe, in 1527, invited him to preach the Gospel to them. He obeyed the summons, and held his first meeting on the 1st of June in a meadow outside the walls of the city. The people, after listening to the Gospel of God’s glorious grace, wished to vent their feelings in praise; but there existed nothing in the Danish tongue fit to be used on such an occasion. They proposed that the Latin canticles which the priests sang in the temples should be translated into Danish. Martin, with the help of John Spandemager, who afterwards became Pastor of Lund, in Schonen, and who “labored assiduously for more than thirty years in the vineyard of the Lord,”6 translated several of the sacred hymns of Germany into the tongue of the people, which, being printed and published, at Malmoe, formed the first hymn-book of the Reformed Church of Denmark.

By-and-by there came a still nobler hymn-book. Francis Wormord, of Amsterdam, the first Protestant Bishop of Lund, was originally a Carmelite monk. During his residence in the monastery of Copenhagen or of Helsingborg, for it is uncertain which, led by love of the truth, he translated the Psalms of David into the Danish tongue. The task was executed jointly by himself and Paul Elia, for, being a native of Holland, Wormord was but imperfectly master of the Danish idiom, and gladly availed himself of the help of another. The book was published in 1528, “with the favor and privilege of the king.”7 The publication was accompanied with notes, explaining the Psalms in a Protestant sense, and, like a hand-post, directing the readers eye to a Greater than David, whose sufferings and resurrection and ascension to heaven are gloriously celebrated in these Divine odes. The Psalms soon displaced the ballads which had been sung till then. They were heard in the castles of the nobles; they were used in the assemblies of the Protestants. While singing them the worshippers saw typified and depicted the new scenes which were opening to the Church and the world, the triumph even of Messiah’s kingdom, and the certain and utter overthrow of that of his rival.8 Long had the Church’s harp hung upon the willows; but her captivity was now drawing to an end; the fetters were falling from her limbs; the doors of her prison were beginning to expand. She felt the time had come to put away her sackcloth, to take down her harp so long unstrung, and to begin those triumphal melodies written aforetime for the very purpose of celebrating, in strains worthy of the great occasion, her march out of the house of bondage. The ancient oracle was now fulfilled: “The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs.”

In particular the Psalms of David may be said to have opened the gates of Malmoe, which was the first of all the cities of Denmark fully to receive the Gospel. The first Protestant sermon, we have said, was preached outside the walls in 1527. The announcement of “a free forgiveness” was followed by the voices of the multitude lifted up in Psalms in token of their joy. Louder songs re-echoed day by day round the walls of Malmoe, as the numbers of the worshippers daily increased. Soon the gates were opened, and the congregation marched in, to the dismay of the Romanists, not in serge or sackcloth, not with gloomy looks and downcast heads, as if they had been leading in a religion of penance and gloom, but with beaming faces, and voices thrilling with joy, as well they might, for they were bringing to their townsmen the same Gospel which was brought to the shepherds by the angels who filled the sky with celestial melodies as they announced their message. The churches were opened to the preachers; the praises uttered outside the walls were now heard within the city. It seemed as if Malmoe rejoiced because “salvation was come to it.” Mass was abolished; and in 1529 the Protestant religion was almost universally professed by the inhabitants. By the king’s direction a theological college was erected in Malmoe; Frederick I. contributed liberally to its endowment, and moreover enacted by edict that the manors and other possessions given aforetime to the Romish superstition should, after the poor had been provided for, be made over for the maintenance of the Protestant Gymnasium.9

This seminary powerfully contributed to diffuse the light; it supplied the Danish Church with many able teachers. Its chairs were filled by men of accomplishment and eminence. Among its professors, then styled readers, were Nicolaus Martin, the first to carry the “good tidings” of a free salvation to Malmoe; Andreas, who had been a monk; Wornlord, who had also worn the cowl, but who had exchanged the doleful canticles of the monastery for the odes of the Hebrew king, which he was the first by his translation to teach his adopted countrymen to sing. Besides those just named, there were two men, both famous, who taught in the College of Malmoe—Peter Lawrence, and Olaus Chrysostom, Doctor of Theology. The latter’s stay in Malmoe was short, being called to be first preacher in the Church of Mary in Copenhagen.10

The king’s interest in the work continued to grow. The Danish Reformers saw and seized their opportunity. Seconded by the zeal and assistance of Frederick, they sent preachers through the kingdom, who explained in clear and simple terms the heads of the Christian doctrine, and thus it came to pass that in this year (1529) the truth was extended to all the provinces of Denmark. The eloquent Taussan, at the king’s desire, removed from Viborg to Copenhagen, where he exercised his rare pulpit gifts in the Temple of St. Nicholas.

Taussan’s removal to this wider sphere gave a powerful impulse to the movement. His fame had preceded him, and the citizens flocked in crowds to hear him. The Gospel, so clearly and eloquently proclaimed by him, found acceptance with the inhabitants. The Popish rites were forsaken—no one went to mass or to confession. The entrance of the truth into this city, says the historian, was signalized by “a mighty outburst of singing.” The people, filled with joy at the mysteries made known to them, and the clear light that shone upon them after the long darkness, poured forth their gratitude in thundering voices in the Psalms of David, the hymns of Luther, and in other sacred canticles. Nor did Taussan confine himself to his own pulpit and flock; he cared for all the young Churches of the Reformation in Denmark, and did his utmost to nourish them into strength by seeking out and sending to them able and zealous preachers of the truth.11

This year (1529), a truly memorable one in the Danish Reformation, saw another and still more powerful agency enter the field. A new translation of the New Testament in the Danish tongue was now published in Antwerp, under the care of Christian Petri. Petri had formerly been a canon, and Chancellor of the Chapter in Lurid; but attaching himself to the fortunes of Christian II., he had been obliged to become an exile. He was, however, a learned and pious man, sincerely attached to the Reformed faith, which he did his utmost, both by preaching and writing, to propagate. He had seen the version of the New Testament, of which we have made mention above, translated by Michaelis in 1524, and which, though corrected by the pen of Paul Elia, was deformed with blemishes and obscurities; and feeling a strong desire to put into the hands of his countrymen a purer and more idiomatic version, Petri undertook a new translation. The task he executed with success. This purer rendering of the lively oracles of God was of great use in the propagation of the light through Denmark and the surrounding regions.12

Chapter 10.9: Establishment Of Protestantism In Denmark

The King summons a Conference – Forty-three Articles of the Protestants – Agreement with the Augsburg Confession – Romanist Indictment against Protestants – Its Heads – In what Language shall the Debate take place? – Who shall be Judge? – The Combat Declined at the Eleventh Hour – Declaration of Protestant Pastors – Proclamation of the King – Dissolution of the Monasteries, etc.. – Establishment of Protestantism – Transformation undergone by Denmark.

BUT the wider the light spread, and the more numerous its converts became, the more vehemently did the priests oppose it. Their plots threatened to convulse the kingdom; and Frederick I., judging an aggressive policy to be the safest, resolved on another step towards the full establishment of the Reformation in his dominions. In 1530 he summoned all the bishops and prelates of his kingdom,1 and the heads of the Lutheran movement, to Copenhagen, in order that they might discuss in his own presence, and in that of the Estates of the Realm, the distinctive articles of the two faiths. The Protestants, in anticipation of the conference, drew up a statement of doctrine or creed, in forty-three articles, “drawn from the pure fountain of the Scriptures,” and presented it to the king as the propositions which they were prepared to maintain.2 The Romanists, in like manner, drew up a paper, which they presented to the king. But it was rather an indictment against the Protestants than a summary of their own creed. It was a long list of errors and crimes against the ancient faith of which they held their opponents guilty! This was to pass judgment before the case had gone to trial: it was to pass judgment in their own cause, and ask the king to inflict the merited punishment. It was not for so summary a proceeding as this that Frederick had summoned the conference.

Let us examine the heads of the Protestant paper, mainly drawn up by Taussan, and accepted as the Confession of the Danish Church. It declared Holy Scripture to be the only rule of faith, and the satisfaction of Christ in our room the only foundation of eternal life. It defined the Church to be the communion of the faithful, and it denied the power of any man to cast any one out of that Church, unless such shall have first cut himself off from the communion of the faithful by impenitence and sin. It affirmed that the worship of God did not consist in canticles, masses, vigils, edifices, shaven crowns, cowls, and anointings, but in the adoring of God in spirit and in truth: that “the true mass of Christ is the commemoration of his sufferings and death, in which his body is eaten and his blood is drunk in certain pledge that through his name we obtain forgiveness of sins.”3 It goes on to condemn masses for the living and the dead, indulgences, auricular confession, and all similar practices. It declares all believers to be priests in Christ, who had offered himself to the Father a living and acceptable sacrifice. It declares the Head of the Church to be Christ, than whom there is no other, whether on earth or in heaven, and of this Head all believers are members.4

This document, bearing the signatures of all the leading Protestant pastors in the kingdom, was presented to the king and the Estates of the Realm. It was already the faith of thousands in Denmark. It struck a chord of profoundest harmony with the Confession presented by the Protestants that same year at Augsburg.

The Romanists next came forward. They had no summary of doctrine to present. The paper they gave in was drawn up on the assumption that the faith of Rome was the one true faith, which, having been held through all the ages and submitted to by the whole world, needed no proof or argument at their hands. All who departed from that faith were in deadly error, and ought to be reclaimed by authority. What they gave in, in short, was not a list of Romish doctrines, but of “Protestant errors,” which were to be recanted, and, if not, to be punished.

Let us give a few examples. The Romanists charged the Protestants with holding, among other things, that “holy Church had been in error these thirteen or fourteen centuries;” that “the ceremonies, fasts, vestments, orders, etc., of the Church were antiquated and ought to be changed;” that “all righteousness consisted in faith alone;” that “man had not the power of free will;” and that “works did not avail for his salvation;” that “it was impious to pray to the saints, and not less impious to venerate their bones and relics;” that. “there is no external priesthood; ” that “he who celebrates mass after the manner of the Roman Church commits an abominable act, and crucifies the Son of God afresh;” and that “all masses, vigils, prayers, alms, and fastings for the dead are sheer delusions and frauds.” The charges numbered twenty-seven in all.5

The king, on receiving the paper containing these accusations, handed it to John Taussan, with a request that he and his colleagues would prepare a reply to it. The article touching the “freedom of the will,” which the Romanists had put in a perverted light, Taussan and his co-pastors explained; but as regarded the other accusations they could only plead guilty; they held, on the points in question, all that the Romanists imputed to them; and instead of withdrawing their opinions they would stand to them, would affirm over again “that vigils, prayers, and masses for the dead are vanities and things that profit nought.”

This fixed the “state of the question” or point to be debated. Next arose a keen contest on two preliminaries—“In what language shall we debate and who shall be judge?” The priests argued stoutly for the Latin, the Protestants as strenuously contended that the Danish should be the tongue in which the disputation should be carried on. The matter to be debated concerned all present not less than it did the personal disputants, but how could they determine on which side the truth lay if the discussion should take place in a language they did not understand?6

The second point was one equally hard to be settled: who shall be judge? The Protestants in matters of faith would recognize no authority save that of God only speaking in his own Word, although they left it to the king and the nobles and with the audience generally to say whether what they maintained agreed with or contradicted the inspired oracles. The Romanists, on the other hand, would accept the Holy Scriptures only in the sense in which Councils and the Fathers had interpreted them, reserving an appeal to the Pope as the ultimate and highest judge. Neither party would yield, and now came the amusing part of the business. Some of the Romanists suddenly discovered that the Lutherans were heretics, schismatics, and low persons, with whom it would be a disgrace for their bishops to engage in argument; while others of them, taking occasion from the presence of the royal guards, cried out that they were overawed by the military, and denied the free expression of their sentiments,7 and that the king favored the heretics. The conference was thus suddenly broken off; the king, the Estates of the Realm, and the spectators who had gathered from all parts of the kingdom to witness the debates, feeling not a little befooled by this unlooked-for termination of the affair.8

Although the Romanists had fought and been beaten, they could not have brought upon themselves greater disgrace than this issue entailed upon them. The people saw that they had not the courage even to attempt a defense of their cause, and they did not judge more favorably of it when they saw that its supporters were ashamed of it. Taussan and the other Protestant pastors felt that the hour had come for speaking boldly out.

Setting to work, they prepared a paper exhibiting in twelve articles the neglect, corruption, and oppression of the hierarchy. This document they published all over the kingdom. It was followed by a proclamation from the king, saying that, the “Divine Word of the Gospel” should be freely and publicly preached, and that Lutherans and Romanists should enjoy equal protection until such time as a General Council of Christendom should meet and decide the question between them.

From that time the Protestant confessors in Denmark rapidly increased in number. The temples were left in great degree without worshippers, the monasteries without inmates, and the funds appropriated to their support were withdrawn and devoted to the erection of schools and relief of the poor. Of the monasteries, some were pulled down by the mob; for it was found impossible to restrain the popular indignation which had been awakened by the scandals and crimes of which report made these places the scene. The monks marched out of their abodes, leaving their cloaks at the door. Their hoards found vent by other and more useful channels than the monastery; and the fathers found more profitable employments than those in which they had been wont to pass the drowsy hours of the cell. Not a few became preachers of the Gospel; and some devoted to handicraft those thews and sinews which had run waste in the frock and cowl.

The tide was manifestly going against the bishops; nevertheless they fought on, having nailed their colors to the mast. They fed their hopes by the prospect of succor from abroad; and in order to be ready to co-operate with it when it should arrive, they continued to intrigue in secret, and took every means to maintain a brooding irritation within the kingdom. Frederick, to whom their policy was well known, deemed it wise to provide against the possible results of their intrigues and machinations, by drawing closer to the Protestant party in Germany. In 1532 he joined the league which the Lutheran princes had formed for their mutual defense at Schmalkald.9

It is not easy adequately to describe the change that now passed upon Denmark. A serene and blessed light arose upon the whole kingdom. Not only were the Danes enabled to read the Scriptures of the New Testament; in their own tongue, and the Psalms of David, which were also often sung both in their churches and in their fields and on their highways, but they had likewise numerous expounders of the Divine Word, and preachers of the Gospel, who opened to them the fountains of salvation. The land enjoyed a gentle spring. Eschewing the snares which the darkness had concealed, and walking in the new paths which the light had discovered to them, the inhabitants showed forth in abundance in their lives the fruits of the Gospel, which are purity and peace.10

Chapter 10.10: Protestantism Under Christian III., And Its Extension To Norway And Iceland

Scheme for Restoring the Old Faith Abortive – Unsuccessful Invasion of the Country by Christian II. – Death of the King – Interregnum of Two Years – Priestly Plottings and Successes – Taussan Condemned to Silence and Exile – The Senators Besieged by an Armed Mob in the Senate House – Taussan given up – Bishops begin to Persecute – Inundations, etc. – Christian III. Ascends the Throne – Subdues a Revolt – Assembles the Estates at Copenhagen – The Bishops Abolished – New Ecclesiastical Constitution framed, 1547 – Bugenhagen – The Seven Superintendents – Bugenhagen Crowns the King – Denmark Flourishes – Establishment of Protestantism in Norway and Iceland.

AN attempt was made at this time (1532) to turn the flank of the Reformation. Jacob Ronnovius, the Archbishop of Roeschildien, a man of astute but dangerous counsel, framed a measure, professedly in the interest of the Gospel, but fitted to bring back step by step the ancient superstition in all its power. His scheme was, in brief, that the Cathedral-church of Copenhagen, dedicated to Mary, should be given to the Franciscans or to the Friars of the Holy Ghost; that the mass and other rites should not be abolished, but retained in their primitive form; that the offices and chantings should be performed, not in the popular, but in the Latin tongue; that the altars and other ornaments of the sacred edifices should not be removed; in short, that the whole ritualistic machinery of the old worship should be maintained, while “learned men” were, at the same time, to preach the Gospel in the several parishes. This was a cunning device! It was sought to preserve the former framework entire, in the firm hope that the old spirit would creep back into it, and so the last state of the Danish people would be worse than the first. This scheme was presented to the king. Frederick was not to be hoodwinked. His reply put an effectual stop to the project of Ronnovius. It was the royal will that the Edict of Copenhagen should remain in force. The archbishop had to bow; and the hopes that the retrogades had built upon his scheme came to nothing.1

Scarcely had this cloud passed, when danger showed itself in another quarter. The ex-King Christian II., supported by his Popish allies in the Netherlands, and encouraged by the clerical malcontents in Denmark, made a descent by sea upon the country in the hope of recovering his throne. Discomfiture awaited the enterprise. As he approached the Danish shore a storm burst out which crippled his fleet; and before he could repair the damage it had sustained, he was attacked by the ships of Frederick, and the engagement which ensued, and which lasted a whole day, resulted in his complete rout. Christian was seized, carried to Soldenberg, in the Isle of Alsen, shut up in a gloomy prison, and kept there till the death of Frederick in 1533.2

So far the young Reformation of Denmark had been wonderfully shielded. It had kept its path despite many powerful enemies within the kingdom, and not a few active plotters without. But now came a short arrest. On the 10th of April, 1533, Frederick I., now in his sixty-second year, died. The Protestants bewailed the death of “the Good King.” He was in the midst of his reforming career, and there was danger that his work would be interred with him. There followed a troubled interregnum of two years. Of the two sons of Frederick, Christian, the elder, was a Protestant; the younger, John, was attached to the Romish faith. The Popish party, who hoped that, with the descent of Frederick to the tomb, a new day had dawned for their Church, began to plot with the view of raising John to the throne. The Protestants were united in favor of Christian. A third party, who thought to come in at the breach the other two had made for them, turned their eyes to the deposed King Christian II., and even made attempts to effect his restoration. The distracted country was still more embroiled by a revival of the priestly pretensions. Frederick was in his grave, and a bold policy was all that was needed, so the bishops thought, to hoist themselves and their Church into the old place. They took a high tone in the Diet. They brow-beat the nobles, they compelled restoration of the tithes, and they put matters in train for recovering the cathedrals, monasteries, manors, and goods of which they had been stripped. These successes emboldened them to venture on other and harsher measures. They stretched forth their hand to persecute, and made no secret of their design to extirpate the Protestant faith in Denmark.

Their first blows were aimed at Taussan. The removal of that bold Reformer and eloquent preacher was the first step, they saw, to success. He had long been a thorn in their side. The manifesto which had been placarded over the whole kingdom, proclaiming to all the negligence and corruption of the hierarchy, and which was mainly his work, was an offense that never could be pardoned him. The bishops had sufficient influence to get a decree passed in the Diet, condemning the great preacher to silence and sending him into exile. He was expelled from the Cathedral-church of Copenhagen, where he usually conducted his ministry; every other church was closed against him; nay, not the pulpit only, the pen too was interdicted. He was forbidden to write or publish any book, and ordered to withdraw within a month from the diocese of Zealand. In whatever part of Denmark he might take up his abode, he was prohibited from publishing any writing, or addressing any assembly; nor could he discharge any ecclesiastical function; he must submit himself in all things to the bishops.3

When rumors of what was being enacted in the Diet got abroad, the citizens of Copenhagen rushed to arms, and crowding into the forum filled it with tumult and loud and continued outcries. They demanded that Taussan should be restored to them, and that the Diet should refrain from passing any decree hostile to the Protestant faith, adding that if harm shoal befall either the religion or its preacher, the bishops would not be held guiltless. The Diet saw that the people were not in a mood to be trifled with, and some of the senators made an effort to pacify them. Addressing the crowd from the windows of the senate-house, they assured them that they would take care that no evil should happen to Taussan, that no hostile edict should pass the Diet, and that their Protestant customs and privileges should in nowise be interfered with; and they exhorted them to go quietly to their homes and attend to their own affairs. These words did not allay the fears of the populace; the uproar still continued. The senators now got angry, and shouting out with stentorian voice they threatened the rioters with punishment. They were speaking to the winds. Their words were not heard; the noise that raged below drowned them. Their gestures, however, were seen, and these sufficiently indicated the irritation of the speakers. The fumes of the “conscript Fathers” did but the more enrage the armed crowd. Raising their voices to a yet louder pitch, the rioters exclaimed, “Show us Taussan, else we will force the doors of the hall.”

The senators, seized with instant fear, restored the preacher to the people, who, forming a guard round him, conducted him safely from the senate-house to his own home. Ronnovius, Archbishop of Roeschildien, the prime instigator of the persecution now commenced against the adherents of the Lutheran doctrine, had like to have fared worse. He was specially obnoxious to the populace, and would certainly have fallen a sacrifice to their wrath, but for the magnanimity of Taussan, who restrained the furious zeal of the multitude, and rescued the archbishop from their hands.

The prelate was not ungrateful for this generous act; he warmly thanked Taussan, and even showed him henceforward a measure of friendship. By-and- by, at the urgent intercession of the leading citizens of Copenhagen, the church of their favorite preacher was restored to him, and matters, as regarded religion, resumed very much their old course.4

The other bishops were not so tolerant. On returning to their homes they commenced a sharp persecution against the Protestants in their several dioceses. In Malmoe and Veiis, the metropolitan Tobernus Billeus proscribed the preachers, who had labored there with great success. These cities and some others were threatened with excommunication. At Viborg the Romish bishop, George Frisius, left no stone unturned to expel the Reformers from the city, and extinguish the Protestantism which had there taken root and begun greatly to flourish. But the Protestants were numerous, and the bold front which they showed the bishop told him that he had reckoned without his host.5 Not in the towns only, but in many of the country parts the Protestant assemblies were put down, and their teachers driven away. Beyond these severities, however, the persecution did not advance. The ulterior and sterner measures to which these beginnings would most assuredly have led, had time been given, were never reached. Denmark had not to buy its Reformation with the block and the stake, as some other countries were required to do. This, doubtless, was a blessing for the men of that generation; that it was so for the men of the following ones we are not prepared to maintain. Men must buy with a great price that; on which they are to put a lasting value. The martyrs of one’s kindred and country always move one more than those of other lands, even though it is the same cause for which their blood has been poured out.6

The calamities of the two unhappy years that divided the decease of Frederick I. from the election of his successor, or rather his quiet occupation of the throne, were augmented by the rage of the elements. The waters of the sky and the floods of ocean seemed as if they had conspired against a land already sufficiently afflicted by the bitterness of political parties and the bigotry of superstitious zealots. Great Inundations took place. In some instances whole towns were overflowed, and many thousands of their inhabitants were drowned. “Ah!” said the adherents of the old worship to the Protestants, “now at last you are overtaken by the Divine vengeance. You have cast down the altars, defaced the images, and desecrated the temples of the true religion, and now the hand of God is stretched out to chastise you for your impiety.”7 It was unfortunate, however, for this interpretation that these Inundations swallowed up the house and field of Romanist and of Protestant alike. And, further, it seemed to militate against this theory that the occurrence of these calamities had been simultaneous with the apparent return of the country to the old faith. There were not wanting those who regarded these events with a superstitious fear; but to the majority they brought a discipline to faith, and a stimulus to effort. In two years the sky again cleared over the Protestant cause, and also over the country of Denmark. The eldest son of Frederick, whose hearty attachment to Protestantism had already been sufficiently proved by his reforming measures in Holstein and Schleswig, was elected to the throne (July, 1534), and began to reign under the title of Christian III.

The newly-elected sovereign found that he had first to conquer his kingdom. It was in the hands of enemies, the bishops namely, who retired to their dioceses, fortified themselves in their castles, and made light of the authority of the newly-elected sovereign. Christopher, Count of Oldenburg, also raised the standard of revolt in behalf of Christian II. The wealth of the religious houses, the gold and silver ornaments of the cathedrals, and even the bells of the churches, coined into money, were freely expended in carrying on the war against the king. Much labor and treasure, and not a little blood, did it cost to reduce the warlike count and the rebellious prelates.8 But at last the task was accomplished, though it was not till a whole year after his election that Christian was able to enter on the peaceable possession of his kingdom. His first step, the country being quieted, was to summon (1536) a meeting of the Estates at Copenhagen. The king addressed the assembly in a speech in which he set forth the calamities which the bishops had brought upon the nation, by their opposition to the laws, their hatred of the Reformed doctrine, and their ceaseless plottings against the peace and order of the commonwealth, and he laid before the Diet the heads of a decree which he submitted for its adoption. The proposed decree was, in brief, that the order of the episcopate should be for ever abolished; that the wealth of the bishops should revert to the State; that the government of the kingdom should be exclusively in the hands of laymen; that the rule of the Church should be administered by a general synod; that religion should be Reformed; that the rites of the Roman Church should cease; and that, although no one should be compelled to renounce the Roman faith, all should be instructed out of the Word of God; that the ecclesiastical revenues and possessions, or what of them had not been consumed in the war just ended:, should be devoted to the support of “superintendents” and learned men, and the founding of academies and universities for the instruction of youth.

The proposal of the king was received by the Diet with much favor. Being put into regular form, it was passed; all present solemnly subscribed it, thus giving it the form of a national and perpetual deed. By this “Recess of Copenhagen,” as it was styled, the Reformed faith was publicly established in Denmark.9

So far the work had advanced in 1536. The insurrection of the bishops had been suppressed, and their persons put under restraint, though the king magnanimously spared their lives. The Romish episcopacy was abolished as an order recognized and sanctioned by the State. The prelates could no longer wield any temporal jurisdiction, nor could they claim the aid of the State in enforcing acts of spiritual authority exercised over those who still continued voluntarily subject to them. The monasteries, with some exceptions, and the ecclesiastical revenues had been taken possession of in the name of the nation, and were devoted to the founding of schools, the relief of the poor, and the support of the Protestant pastors, to whom the cathedrals and churches were now opened. The work still awaited completion; and now, in 1547, the crown was put upon it.

In this year, also a memorable one in the annals of Denmark, the king called together all the professors and pastors of his kingdom and of the two duchies, for the purpose of framing a constitution for the Protestant Church. A draft, the joint labor, it would appear, of the king and the theologians, of what scented the Scriptural order, was drawn up.10 A German copy was sent to Luther for revision. It was approved by the Reformer and the other theologians at Wittemberg, and when it was returned there came along with it, at the request of the king, Bugenhagen (Pomeranus), to aid by his wisdom and experience in the final settlement of this matter. The doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Danish Protestant Church were arranged substantially in accordance with the scheme of the king and his theologians, for the emendations of Wittemberg origin were not numerous; and the constitution now enacted was subscribed not only by the king, but also by two professors from each college, and by all the leading pastors.11

The Popish bishops having been removed from their sees, it was the care of the king, this same year, to appoint seven Protestant bishops in their room. These were inducted into their office by Bugenhagen, on the 7th of August, in the Cathedral-church of Copenhagen, with the apostolic rite of the laying on of hands. Their work, as defined by Bugenhagen, was the “oversight” of the Church, and their title “superintendent” rather than “bishop.”12 When installed, each of them promised that he would show fidelity to the king, and that he would use all diligence in his diocese to have the Word of God faithfully preached, the Sacraments purely administered, and the ignorant instructed in the principles of religion. They further engaged to see that the youth gave attendance at school, and that the alms of the poor were rightly distributed. The names and dioceses of these seven superintendents were as follow: Peter Palladius was appointed to Zealand; Francis Wormord to Schonen; George Viborg to Funen; John Vandal to Ripen; Matthew Lang to Arthusien; Jacob Scaning to Viborg; and Peter Thom to Alborg. These were all men of piety and learning; and they continued for many years hugely to benefit the Church and Kingdom of Denmark by their labors.13

In the above list, as the reader will mark, the name of the man who was styled the Luther of Denmark does not occur. John Taussan was appointed to the chair of theology in the University of Roeschildien. It was judged, doubtless, that to train the future ministry of the Church was meanwhile the most important work of all. He discharged this duty four years. In 1542, on the death of John Vandal, he was made superintendent of Ripen.14 Of the three Mendicant orders which had flourished in Denmark, some left the kingdom, others joined the ranks of the people as handicraftsmen; but the majority, qualified by their talents and knowledge, became preachers of the Gospel, and in a very few years scarce a friar was there who had not renounced the habit, and with it the Romish religion, and embraced the Protestant faith.15

This year (1547), which had already witnessed so many events destined to mould the future of the Danish people, was to be illustrated by another before it closed. In the month of August, King Christian was solemnly crowned. The numerous rites without which, it was believed in Popish times, no king could validly reign, and which were devised mainly with a view to display the splendor of the Church, and to insinuate the superiority of her Pontiff to kings, were on this occasion dispensed with. Only the simple ceremony of anointing was retained. Bugenhagen presided on the occasion. He placed on the king’s head the golden crown, adorned with a row of jewels. He put into his hands the sword, the scepter, and the apple, and, having committed to him these insignia, he briefly but solemnly admonished him in governing to seek the honor of the Eternal King, by whose providence he reigned, and the good of the commonwealth over which he had been set.16

The magnanimous, prudent, and God-fearing king had now the satisfaction of seeing the work on which his heart had been so greatly set completed. The powerful opposition which threatened to bar his way to the throne had been overcome. The nobles had rallied to him, and gone heartily along with him in all his measures for emancipating his country from the yoke of the hierarchy, the exactions of the monks, and the demoralizing influence of the beliefs and rites of the old superstition. Teachers of the truth, as contained in the fountains of inspiration, were forming congregations in every part of the kingdom. Schools were springing up; letters and the study of the sacred sciences—which had fallen into neglect during the years of civil war began to revive. The University of Copenhagen rose from its ruins; new statutes were framed for it; it was amply endowed; and learned men from other countries were invited to fill its chairs;17 and, as the consequence of these enlightened measures, it soon became one of the lights of Christendom. The scars that civil strife had inflicted on the land were effaced, and the sorrows of former years forgotten, in the prosperous and smiling aspect the country now began to wear. In June, 1539, the last touch was put to the work of Reformation in Denmark. At the Diet at Odensee, the king and nobles subscribed a solemn bond, engaging to persevere in the Reformed doctrine in which they had been instructed, and to maintain the constitution of the Protestant Church which had been enacted two years before.18

Still further towards the north did the light penetrate. The day that had opened over Denmark shed its rays upon Norway, and even upon the remote and dreary Iceland. Norway had at first refused to accept of Christian III. for its king. The bishops there, as in Denmark, headed the opposition; but the triumph of Christian in the latter country paved the way for the establishment of his authority in the former. In 1537, the Archbishop of Drontheim fled to the Netherlands, carrying with him the treasures of his cathedral.

This broke the hostile phalanx: the country submitted to Christian, and the consequence was the introduction into Norway of the same doctrine and Church constitution which had already been established among the Danes.

Iceland was the farthest possession of the Danish crown towards the north. That little island, it might have been thought, was too insignificant to be struggled for; but, in truth, the powers of superstition fought as stout a battle to preserve it as they have waged for many an ampler and fairer domain. The first attempts at Reformation were made by Augmund, Bishop of Skalholt. Dismayed, however, by the determined front which the priests presented, Augmund abdicated his office, to escape their wrath, and retired into private life.19 In the following year (1540) Huetsfeld was sent thither by the king to induct Gisser Enerson, who had been a student at Wittemberg, into the See of Skalholt.20 Under Enerson the work began in earnest. It advanced slowly, however, for the opposition was strong. The priests plotted and the mobs repeatedly broke into tumult. Day by day, however, the truth struck its roots deeper among the people, and at last the same doctrine and ecclesiastical constitution which had been embraced in Denmark were received by the Icelanders;21 and thus this island of the sea was added to the domains over which the sun of the Reformation already shed his beams, as if to afford early augury that not a shore is there which this light will not visit, nor an islet in all the main which it will not clothe with the fruits of righteousness, and make vocal with the songs of salvation.

Book 11: Protestantism In Switzerland From Its Establishment In Zurich (1525) To The Death Of Zwingli (1531).

Chapter 11.1: Zwingli – His Doctrine Of The Lord’s Supper

Turn Southward – Switzerland – Reformation from Above – Ulric Zwingli – His Preparation – Resume of his Career – The Foreign Service – The Gospel the Cure of his Nation’s Evils – Zwingli at Zurich – His varied Qualities – Transformation of Switzerland – A Catastrophe near – The Lord’s Supper – Transubstantiation – Luther’s Views – Calvin’s Views, Import of the Lord’s Supper on the Human Side, Its Import on the Divine Side – Zwingli’s Avoidance of the two Extremes as regards the Lord’s Supper.

FOLLOWING in the track of the light, we have reached our farthest limit toward the north. We now turn southward to those lands where the Reformation had its first rise, and where it fought its greatest battles. There every step it took was amidst stakes and scaffolds, but if there its course was the more tragic, its influence was the more powerful, and the changes it effected the more lasting. In France thousands of confessors and martyrs are about to step upon the stage, and act their part in the great drama; but first we must turn aside to Switzerland, and resuming our narrative at the point where we dropped it, we shall carry it forward to the death of Zwingli.

We have traced in former pages the dawn of Protestantism among the hills of Helvetia. Not from Germany, for the name of Luther had not yet been heard in Switzerland; not from France, nor any neighboring country, but from the skies, it may be truly said, the light first shone upon the Swiss. From a herdsman’s cottage in the valley of the Tockenburg came their Reformer, Ulric Zwingli. When a child he was wont to sit by the evening’s hearth and listen with rapt attention to the histories of the Bible recited by his pious grandmother. As years passed on and his powers expanded he found access to the book itself, and made it his daily study. The light broke upon his soul. Continuing to read, it shone clearer every day. At last, but not fill years after, his eyes were fully opened, he saw the glory of the Gospel, and bade a final adieu to Rome.

Personal contact with evil can alone give that sense of its malignity, and that burning detestation of it, which will prompt one to a life-long struggle for its overthrow. We can trace this principle in the orderings of Zwingli’s lot. He was destined to spend his days in constant battle with two terrible evils that were tarnishing his country’s fame, and extinguishing his country’s virtue. But reared in the Tockenburg, artless and simple as its shepherds, he was not yet fit for his destined work, and had to be sent to school. We refer to other schools than those of Basle and Vienna, where he was initiated into the language and philosophy of the ancients. First stationed at Glarus, he there was brought into contact with the horrors of the foreign service. He had daily before his eyes the widows and orphans of the men who had been drawn by French and Italian gold across the Alps and slaughtered; and there, too, he saw a not less affecting sight, the maimed and emaciated forms of those who, escaping the sword, had brought back to their country worse evils than wounds, even the vices of corrupt and luxurious nations. At Einsiedeln, to which by-and-by he removed, he received his second lesson. There he had occasion to mark the ravages which pilgrimages and image-worship inflict upon the conscience and the morals. He had time to meditate on these two great evils. He resolved to spare no effort to uproot them. But his trust for success in this work was solely in the Gospel. This alone could dispel the darkness in which pilgrimages with all their attendant abominations had their rise, and this alone could extinguish that love of gold which was draining at once the blood and the virtue of his countrymen. Other and subsidiary aids would come in their time to assist in this great battle; but the Gospel must come first. He would teach the individual Swiss to bow before a holy altar, and to sit at a pure hearth; and this in due time would pour a current of fresh blood into the veins of the State. Then the virtue of old days would revive, and their glorious valleys would again be trodden by men capable of renewing the heroic deeds of their sires. But the seed of Divine truth must be scattered over the worn-out soil before fruits like these could flourish in it. These were the views that led to the striking union of the pastor and the patriot which Zwingli presents to us. The aim of his Reform, wider in its direct scope than that of Germany, embraced both Church and State, the latter through the former. It was not because he trusted the Gospel less, but because he trusted it more, and saw it to be the one fruitful source of all terrestrial virtues and blessings, and because he more freely interpreted his mission as a Reformer, and as a member of a republic felt himself more thoroughly identified with his country, and more responsible for its failings, than it is possible for a subject of an empire to do, that he chalked out for himself this course and pursued it so steadfastly. He sought to restore to the individual piety, to the nation virtue, and both he would derive from the same fountain—the Gospel.

Having seen and pondered over the two lessons put before him, Zwingli was now prepared for his work. A vacancy occurred in the Cathedral-church of Zurich. The revival of letters had reached that city, and the magistrates cast their eyes around them for some one of greater accomplishments than the chapter could supply to fill the post. Their choice fell on the Chaplain of Einsiedeln. Zwingli brought to Zurich a soul enlightened by Divine truth, a genius which solitude had nursed into ardor and sublimity, and a heart burning with indignation at the authors of his nation’s ruin. He firmly resolved to use his eloquence, which was great, in rousing his countrymen to a sense of their degradation. He now stood at the center of the Republic, and his voice sounded in thrilling tones through all Switzerland. He proceeded step by step, taking care that his actual reforms did not outrun the stage of enlightenment his countrymen had reached. He shone equally as a pastor as a writer and as a disputant. He was alike at home in the council-chamber, in the public assembly, and in the hall of business. His activity was untiring. His clear penetrating intellect and capacious mind made toil light, and enabled him to accomplish the work of many men. The light spread around him, other Reformers arose. It was now as when morning opens in that same Swiss land: it is not Mont Blanc that stands up in solitary radiance; a dozen and a dozen peaks around him begin to burn, and soon not a summit far or near but is touched with glory, and not a valley, however profound, into which day does not pour the tide of its effulgence. So did the sky of Switzerland begin to kindle all round with the Protestant dawn. Towns and hamlets came out of the darkness—the long and deep darkness of monkery—and stood forth in the light. The great centers, Bern (1528), Basle (1529), Schaffhausen (1529), St. Call (1528), abandoned Rome and embraced the Gospel. Along the foot of the Jura, around the shores of the lakes, east and west of Northern Switzerland, from the gates of Geneva to the shores of Constance did the light spread. The altars on which mass had been offered were overturned; the idols burned like other wood; cowls, frocks, beads, and pardons were cast away as so much rubbish; the lighted candles were blown out and men turned to the living lamp of the Word. Its light led them to the cross whereon was offered, once for all, the sacrifice of the Eternal Priest.

We halted in our narrative at what might be termed the noon of the Zwinglian Reformation. We saw Protestantism fully established in Zurich, and partially in the cantons named above; but the man who had had the honor to begin the work was not to have the honor of completing it; his brilliant career was soon to close; already there were signs of tempest upon the summit of the Helvetian mountains; by-and-by the storm will burst and obscure for a time—not destroy the great work which the Reformer of Zurich had originated. The catastrophe which is but a little way before us must be our second stage in the Swiss Reformation.

The last time Zwingli came before us was at Marburg in 1529, where we find him maintaining against Luther the spirituality of the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper. Before resuming our narrative of events it becomes necessary to explain the position of Zwingli, with reference to the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and this requires us to consider the views on this head held by Luther and Calvin. It is possible clearly to perceive the precise doctrine of the Sacrament taught by any one of these great men only when we have compared the views of all three.

The Lord’s Supper began early to be corrupted in the primitive Church. The simple memorial was changed into a mystery. That mystery became, century by century, more awful and inexplicable. It was made to stand apart from other ordinances and services of the Church, not only in respect of the greater reverence with which it was regarded, but as an institution in its own nature wholly distinct, and altogether peculiar in its mode of working. A secret virtue or potency was attributed to it, by which, apart from the faith of the recipient, it operated mysteriously upon the soul. It was no longer an ordinance, it was now a spell, a charm. The spirit of ancient paganism had crept back into it, and ejecting the Holy Spirit, which acts through it in the case of all who believe, it had filled it with a magical influence. The Lord’s Supper was the institution nearest the cross, and the spirit of reviving error in seizing upon it was actuated doubtless by the consideration that the perversion of this institution was the readiest and most effectual way to shut up or poison the fountain of the world’s salvation. The corruption went on till it issued, in 1215, in the dogma of transubstantiation. The bread and wine which were set upon the Communion tables of the first century became, by the fiat of Innocent III., flesh and blood on the altars of the thirteenth.

Despite that the dogma of transubstantiation is opposed to Scripture, contradicts reason, and outrages all our senses, there is about it, we are compelled to conclude, some extraordinary power to hold captive the mind. Luther, who razed to the ground every other part of the Romish system, left this one standing. He had not courage to cast it down; he continued to his life’s end to believe in consubstantiation—that is, in the presence of the flesh and blood of Christ with, in, or under the bread and wine. He strove, no doubt, to purify his belief from the gross materialism of the Romish mass. He denied that the Lord’s Supper was a sacrifice, or that the body of Christ in the elements was to be worshipped; but he maintained that the body was there, and was received by the communicant. The union of the Divinity with the humanity in Christ’s person gave to His glorified body, he held, new and wholly unearthly qualities. It made it independent of space, it endowed it with ubiquity; and when Zwingli, at Marburg, argued in reply that this was opposed to all the laws of matter, which necessitated a body to be in only one place at one time, Luther scouted the objection as being merely mathematical. The Reformer of Wittemberg did not seem to perceive that fatal consequences would result in other directions, from asserting such a change upon the body of Christ as he maintained to be wrought upon it in virtue of its union with the Divinity, for undoubtedly such a theory imperils the reality of the two great facts which are the foundations of the Christian system, the death and the resurrection of our Lord.

Nor was it Luther only who did homage to this dogma. A yet more powerful intellect, Calvin namely, was not able wholly to disenthrall himself from its influence, he believed, it is true, neither in transubstantiation nor in consubstantiation, but he hesitated to admit the thorough, pure spirituality of the Lord’s Supper. He teaches that the communicant receives Christ, who is spiritually present, only by his faith; but he talks vaguely, withal, as if he conceived of an emanation or influence radiated from the glorified humanity now at the Right hand, entering into the soul of the believer, and implanting there the germ of a glorified humanity like to that of his risen Lord. In this scarcely intelligible idea there may be more than the lingering influence of the mysticism of bygone ages. We can trace in it a desire on the part of Calvin to approximate as nearly as possible the standpoint of the Lutherans, if so he might close the breach which divided and weakened the two great bodies of Protestants, and rally into one host all the forces of the Reformation in the face of a yet powerful Papacy.

Zwingli has more successfully extricated the spiritual from the mystical in the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper than either Luther or Calvin. His sentiments were a recoil from the mysticism and absurdity which, from an early age, had been gathering round this Sacrament, and which had reached their height in the Popish doctrine of the mass.

Some have maintained that the recoil went too far, that Zwingli fell into the error of excessive simplicity, and that he reduced the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper to a mere memorial or commemoration service. His earliest statements (1525) on the doctrine of the Sacraments, and especially the Eucharist, may be open to this objection; but not so his latter teachings (1530), we are disposed to think. He returned to the golden mean, avoiding both extremes—neither attributing to the Sacrament a mystical or magical efficacy, on the one hand, nor making it a bare and naked sign of a past event on the other.

In order to understand his views, and see their accordance with Scripture, we must attend a moment to the nature and design of the Lord’s Supper as seen in its institution. The primary end and significance of the Lord’s Supper is a commemoration: “Do this in remembrance of me.” But the event commemorated is of such a kind, and our relation to it is of such a nature, that the commemoration of it necessarily implies more than mere remembrance. We are commemorating a “death” which was endured in our room, and is all expiation of our sin; we, therefore, cannot commemorate it to the end in view but in faith. We rest upon it as the ground of our eternal life; we thus receive his “flesh and blood”—that is, the spiritual blessings his death procured. Nay, more, by a public act we place ourselves in the ranks of his followers. We promise or vow allegiance to him. This much, and no more, is done on the human side.

We turn to the Divine side. What is signified and done here must also be modified and determined by the nature of the transaction. The bread and wine in the Eucharist, being the representatives of the body and blood of Christ, are the symbols of an eternal redemption. In placing these symbols before us, and inviting us to partake of them, God puts before us and offers unto us that redemption. We receive it by faith, and he applies it to us and works it in us by his Spirit. Thus the Supper becomes at once a sign and a seal. Like the “blood” on the door-post of the Israelite, it is a “token” between God and us, for from the Passover the Lord’s Supper is historically descended, and the intent and efficacy of the former, infinitely heightened, live in the latter. This, in our view, exhausts, both on the Divine and on the human side, all which the principles of the Word of God warrant us to hold in reference to the Eucharist; and if we attempt to put more into it, that more, should we closely examine it, will be found to be not spiritual but magical.

Zwingli’s grand maxim as a Reformer eminently was the authority of Holy Scripture. Luther rejected nothing in the worship of God unless it was condemned in the Bible: Zwingli admitted nothing unless it was enjoined. Following his maxim, Zwingli, forgetting all human glosses, Papal edicts, and the mysticism of the schools, came straight to the New Testament, directed his gaze steadfastly and exclusively upon its pages, and gathered from thence what the Lord’s Supper really meant. He found that on the human side it was a “commemoration” and a “pledge,” and on the Divine side a “sign” and “seal.” Further, the instrumentality on the part of man by which he receives the blessing represented is faith; and the agency on the part of God, by which that blessing is conveyed and applied, is the Holy Spirit.

Such was the Lord’s Supper as Ulric Zwingli found it in the original institution. He purged it from every vestige of mysticism and materialism; but he left its spiritual efficacy unimpaired and perfect.

Chapter 11.2: Disputation At Baden And Its Results

Alarm of the Romanists – Resolve to Strike a great Blow – They propose a Public Disputation – Eck chosen as Romanist Champion – Zwingli Refused Leave to go to Baden – Martyrs – Arrival of the Deputies – Magnificent Dresses of the Romish Disputants – The Protestant Deputies – Personal Appearance of Eck and Ecolampadius – Points Debated – Eck Claims the Victory – The Protestants Gather the Fruits – Zwingli kept Informed of the Process of the Debate – Clever Device – A Comedy – Counsels Frustrated – Eck and Charles V. Helping the Reformation.

THE victories that we narrated in a foregoing Book of this History (Book 8.) caused the utmost alarm among the partisans of the Papacy. The movement, first despised by them, and next half welcomed as holding out the hope of a little pleasurable excitement, had now grown to such a head that it threatened to lay in the dust the whole stately fabric of their riches and power. They must go wisely to work, and strike such a blow as would sweep Zwingli and his movement from the soil of Helvetia. This, said they, making sure of their victory before winning it, will react favorably on Germany. The torrent once stemmed, the waters of heresy will retreat to the abyss whence they issued, and the “everlasting hills” of the old faith, which the deluge threatened to overtop, will once more lift up their heads stable and majestic as ever.

An event that happened in the political world helped yet further to impress upon the Romanists the necessity of some instant and vigorous step. The terrible battle of Pavia projected a dark shadow upon Switzerland, but shed a gleam of popularity on Zwingli, and indirectly on the Reformation. A numerous body of Swiss mercenaries had fought on that bloody field. From five to six thousand of their corpses swelled its slain, and five thousand were taken alive and made prisoners. These were afterwards released and sent home, but in what a plight! Their arms lopped off, their faces seamed and scarred; many, through hunger and faintness, dying by the way, and the rest arriving in rags! Not only was it that these spectacles of horror wandered over the land, but from every city and hamlet arose the wail of widow and the cry of orphan. What the poet said of Albion might now be applied to Helvetia:

Our isle be made a nourish of salt tears,
And none but women left to wail the dead.1

In that day of their sore calamity the people remembered how often Zwingli had thundered against the foreign service from the pulpit. He had been, they now saw, their best friend, their truest patriot; and the Popish cantons envied Zurich, which mainly through Zwingli’s influence had wholly escaped, or suffered but slightly, from a stroke which had fallen with such stunning force upon themselves.

The Romanists saw the favorable impression that was being made upon the popular sentiment, and bethought them by what means they might counteract it. The wiser among them reflected, on the one hand, how little progress they were making in the suppression of Lutheranism by beheading and burning its disciples; and, on the other, how much advantage Zwingli had gained from the religious disputation at Zurich. “They deliberated,” says Bullinger, “day and night,” and at last came to the conclusion that the right course was to hold a public disputation, and conquer the Reformation by its own weapons—leaving its truth out of their calculations. They would so arrange beforehand as to make sure of the victory, by selecting the fitting place at which to hold the disputation, and the right men to decide between the controversialists. The scheme promised to be attended with yet another advantage, although they took care to say nothing about it, unless to those they could absolutely trust. Zwingli, of course, would come to the conference. He would be in their power. They could condemn and burn him, and the death of its champion would be the death of the movement.2

Accordingly at a Diet held at Lucerne, the 15th January, 1526, the Five Cantons—Lucerne, Uri, Schwitz, Appenzell, and Friburg—resolved on a disputation, and agreed that it should take place at Bern. The Bernese, however, declined the honor. Basle was then selected as the next most suitable, being a university seat, and boasting the residence within it of many learned men. But Basle was as little covetous of the honor as Bern.

After a good deal of negotiating, it was concluded to hold the disputation at Baden on the 16th May, 1526.3

This being settled, the cantons looked around them for powerful champions to do battle for the old faith. One illustrious champion, who had figured not without glory on the early fields of the Reformation, still survived Dr. Eck, Vice-Chancellor of Ingolstadt. Our readers have not forgotten the day of Leipsic, where Eck encountered Luther, and foiled him, as he boasted; but finding Luther perversely blind to his defeat, he went to Rome, and returned with the bull of Leo X. to burn the man who had no right to live after having been confuted by Eck. Dr. Eck was a man of undoubted learning, of unrivalled volubility—in short, the best swordsman Rome had then at her service. The choice of the Popish cantons unanimously fell on this veteran.

Eck was to reap from this passage-at-arms more solid laurels than mere fame. On the side of Rome the battle had begun to be maintained largely by money. The higher clergy in Suabia and Switzerland piously taxed themselves for this laudable object. The Suabian League and the Archduke of Austria raised money to hire the services of men willing and able to fight in these campaigns. There was no reason why the doctor of Ingolstadt should give his time, and endanger, if not life, yet those hard-won honors that made life sweet, without a reasonable recompense. Eck was to be handsomely paid;4 for, says Bullinger, quoting a very old precedent, “he loved the wages of unrighteousness.” The doctor of Ingolstadt accepted the combat, and with it victory, its inseparable consequence as he deemed it. Writing to the Confederate deputies at Baden, Dr. Eck says, “I am full of confidence that I shall, with little trouble, maintain against Zwingli our old true Christian faith and customs to be accordant with Holy Scripture,” and then with a scorn justifiable, it may be, in so great a personage as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ingolstadt, when descending into the arena to meet the son of the shepherd of the Tockenburg, he says, “Zwingli no doubt has milked more cows than he has read books.”5

But Dr. Eck was not to encounter Zwingli at Baden. The Council of Zurich refused leave to their pastor to go to the conference. Whispers had come to the ears of their Excellencies that the Romanists intended to employ other weapons besides argument. The place where the conference was to be held was of evil omen; for at Baden the blood of the Wirths6 was yet scarcely dry; and there the Popish cantons were all-powerful. Even Eck, with whom Zwingli was to dispute, had proclaimed the futility of fighting against such heretics as the preacher of Zurich with any other weapons than “fire and sword.”7 So far as the “fire” could reach him it had already been employed against Zwingli; for they had burned his books at Friburg and his effigy at Lucerne. He was ready to meet at Zurich their entire controversial phalanx from its Goliath downwards, and the magistrates would have welcomed such meeting; but send him to Baden the council would not, for that was to send him not to dispute, but to die.

In coming to this conclusion the lords of Zurich transgressed no law of charity, and their conclusion, hard though it was, did the Romanists of Switzerland no wrong. Wherever at this hour they looked in the surrounding cantons and provinces, what did they see? Stakes and victims. The men who were so eager to argue at Baden showed no relish for so tedious a process where they could employ the more summary one of the sack and rope. At Lucerne, Henry Messberg was thrown into the lake for speaking against the nuns; and John Nagel was burned alive for sowing “Zwinglian tenets.” At Schwitz, Eberhard Polt of Lachen, and a priest of the same place, suffered death by burning for speaking against the ceremonies. At the same time Peter Spongier, a Protestant minister, was drowned at Friburg by order of the Bishop of Constance. Nor did the man who had won so many laurels in debate, disdain adding thereto the honors of the executioner. But a short week before the conference at Baden, Eck presided over a consistory which met in the market-place of Mersburg, and condemned to the flames as a heretic John Hugel, the Pastor of Lindau. The martyr went to the stake singing the Te Deum, and was heard amid the fires offering the prayer, “Father, forgive them.”8

When the appointed day came the deputies began to arrive. Twelve cantons of the Confederacy sent each a representative. Zurich had received no invitation and sent no deputy. The Bishops of Constance, of Coire, of Lausanne, and of Basle were also represented at the conference. Eck came attended by Faber, the college companion of Zwingli,9 and Thomas Murner, a monk of the order of the Carmelites. The list of Protestant controversialists was a modest one, embracing only the names of Ecolampadius from Basle, and Haller from Bern. In neither of these two cities was the Reformation as yet (1526) established, but the conference just opening was destined to give a powerful impulse to Protestantism in both of them. In Bern and Basle it halted meanwhile; but from this day the Reformation was to resume its march in these cities, and pause only when it had reached the goal. Could the Romanists have foreseen this result, they would have been a little less zealous in the affair of the conference. If the arguments of the Popish deputies should prove as strong as their dresses were magnificent, there could be no question with whom would remain the victory. Eck and his following of prelates, magistrates, and doctors came robed in garments of damask and silk. They wore gold chains round their necks; crosses reposed softly and piously on their breasts; their fingers glittered and burned with precious jewels;10 and their measured step and uplifted countenances were such as beseemed the bravery of their apparel. If the plays of our great dramatist had been then in existence, and if the men now assembling at Baden had been a troupe of tragedians, who had been hired to act them, nothing could have been in better taste; but fine robes were slender qualifications for a discussion which had for its object the selection and adoption of those principles on which the Churches and kingdoms of the future were to be constructed. In the eyes of the populace, the Reformers, in comparison with the men in damask, were but as a company of mendicants. The two were not more different in dress than in their way of living. Eck and his friends lodged at the Baden parsonage, where the wine, provided by the Abbot of Wettingen, was excellent. It was supplied without stint, and used not less so.11 Ecolampadius put up at the Pike Inn. His meals were quickly dispatched, and the landlord, wondering how he occupied his time in his room, peered in, and found him reading or praying. “A heretic, doubtless,” said he, “but a pious one withal.”

Eck was still the same man we saw him at Leipsic—his shoulders as broad, his voice as Stentorian, and his manner as violent. If the logic of his argument halted, he helped it with a vigorous stamp of his foot, and, as a contemporary poet of Bern relates, an occasional oath. In striking contrast to his porter-like figure, was the tall, thin, dignified form of his opponent Ecolampadius. Some of the Roman Catholics, says Bullinger, could not help wishing that the “sallow man,” so calm, yet so firm and so majestic, were on “their side.”

It is unnecessary to give any outline of the disputation. The ground traversed was the same which had been repeatedly gone over. The points debated were those of the real presence, the sacrifice of the mass, the adoration of Mary and the saints, worshipping by images, and purgatory, with a few minor questions.12 The contest lasted eighteen days. “Every day the clergy of Baden,” says Ruchat, “walked in solemn procession, and chanted litanies, to have good success in the disputation.”13 Eck reveled in the combat, and when it had ended he claimed the victory, and took care to have the great news published through the Confederacy, exciting in the Popish cantons the lively hope of the instant restoration of the old faith to its former glory. But the question is, who gathered the spoils? We can have no difficulty in answering that question when we think of the fresh life imparted to Bern and Basle, and the rapid strides with which, from this time forward, they and other cities advanced to the establishment of their Reformation.

Eck felt the weight of Zwingli’s arm, although the Reformer was not present in person. The Popish party, having appointed four secretaries to make a faithful record of the conference, prohibited all others from taking notes of the debate, under no less a penalty than death. Yet, despite this stern law, evening by evening Zwingli was told how the fight had gone, and was able, morning by morning, to send his advice to his friends how to set the battle in order for the day. It was cleverly done. A student from the Vallais, Jerome Walsch, who professed to be using the baths of Baden, attended the conference, and every evening wrote down from memory the course the argument had taken that day. Two students did the office of messenger by turns. Arriving at Zurich overnight, they handed Walsch’s notes, together with the letters of Ecolampadius, to Zwingli, and were back at Baden next morning with the Reformer’s answer. To lull the suspicions of the armed sentries at the gates, who had been ordered to keep a strict watch, they carried on their heads baskets of poultry. Even theologians, they hinted, must eat. If Dr. Eck, and the worthy divines with him, should go without their dinner, they would not be answerable for what might happen to the good cause of Romanism, or to those who should take it upon them to stop the supplies. Thus they came and went without its being suspected on what errand they journeyed.

After the serious business of the conference, there came a little comedy. In the train of the doctor of Ingolstadt, as we have already said, came Thomas Murner, monk and lecturer at Lucerne. The deputies of the cantons had just given judgment for Eck, to the effect that he had triumphed in the debate, and crushed the Zwinglian heresy. But Murner, aspiring to the honor of slaying the slain, rose, in presence of the whole assembly, and read forty charges, which, putting body and goods in pledge, he offered to make good against Zwingli. No one thought it worth while to reply.

Whereupon the Cordelier continued, “I thought the coward would crone, but he has not shown face. I declare forty times, by every law human and divine, that the tyrant of Zurich and all his followers are knaves, liars, perjurers, adulterers, infidels, thieves, sacrileges, gaol-birds, and such that no honest man without blushing can keep company with them.”14 Having so spoken he sat down, and the Diet was at an end.

Thus we behold, at nearly the same moment, on two stages widely apart, measures taken to suppress Protestantism, which, in their results, help above all things to establish it. In the little town of Baden we see the deputies of the cantons and the representatives of the bishops assembling to confute the Zwinglians, and vote the extinction of the Reform movement in Switzerland. Far away beyond the Pyrenees we see (March, 1526) the Emperor Charles sitting down in the Moorish Alcazar at Seville, and indicting a letter to his brother Archduke Ferdinand, commanding him to summon a Diet at Siftres, to execute the Edict of Worms. The disputation at Baden led very directly, as we shall immediately see, to the establishment of Protestantism in the two important cantons of Bern and Basic. And the Diet of Spires (1526), instead of an edict of proscription, produced, as we have already seen an edict of toleration in favor of the Reformation. The Chancellor of the University of Ingolstadt and the head of the Holy Roman Empire, acting without concert, and certainly not designing what they accomplish, unite their powerful aids in helping onward the cause of the world’s emancipation. There is One who overrules their counsels, and makes use of them to overthrow that which they wish to uphold, and protect that which they seek to destroy.

Chapter 11.3: Outbreak And Suppression Of Anabaptism In Switzerland

Rise of Anabaptism in Switzerland – Thomas Munzer – His First Disciples, Grebel and Manx – Summary of their Opinions – Their Manners and Morals – Zwingli Commanded to Dispute with them – Coercive Measures – Anabaptism extends to other Cantons – John Schuker and his Family – Horrible Tragedy – Manx – His Seditious Acts – Sentenced to be Drowned in the Lake of Zurich – Execution of Sentence – These Severities Disapproved of by Zwingli – The Fanaticism Extinguished by the Gospel – A Purification of the Swiss Church – Zwingli’s Views on Baptism Matured thereby.

THE river of Reform was rolling its bounteous floods onward and diffusing verdure over the barren lands, when suddenly a foul and poisoned rivulet sought to discharge itself into it. Had this latter corrupted the great stream with which it seemed on the point of mingling, death and not life would have been imparted to the nations of Christendom. Zwingli foresaw the evil, and his next labor was to prevent so terrible a disaster befalling the world; and his efforts in this important matter claim our attention before proceeding to trace the influence of the Baden disputation on the two powerful cantons of Bern and Basle.

Zwingli was busy, as we have seen, combating the Papal foe in front, when the Anabaptist enemy suddenly started up and attacked him in the rear. We have already detailed the deplorable tragedies to which this fanatical sect gave birth in Germany.1 They were about to vent the same impieties and enact the same abominable excesses on the soil of Switzerland which had created so much misery elsewhere. This sect was rather an importation than a native growth of Helvetia. The notorious Thomas Munzer, thrown upon the Swiss frontier by the storms of the peasant-war in Germany, brought with him his peculiar doctrines to sow them among the followers of Zwingli. He found a few unstable minds prepared to receive them, in particular Conrad Grebel, of an ancient Swiss family, and Felix Manx, the son of a prebend. These two were Munzer’s first disciples, and afterwards leaders of the sect. They had been excellently educated, but were men of loose principles and licentious lives. To these persons others by-and-by joined themselves.2

These men came to Zwingli and said to him, “Let us found a Church in which there shall be no sin.” Grebel and Manx had a way peculiar to themselves of forming an immaculate society. Their method, less rare than it looks, was simply to change all the vices into virtues, and thus indulgence in them would imply no guilt and leave no stain. This was a method of attaining sinlessness in which Zwingli could not concur, being unable to reconcile it with the Gospel precept which says that “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present evil world.” “In whatever crime or vice they are taken,” said Zwingli, “their defense is ever the same: I have not sinned; I am no more in the flesh, but in the spirit; I am dead to the flesh, and the flesh is dead to me.” The wisdom of Zwingli’s reply to Grebel’s proposal was as great as its words were few. “We cannot,” said he, “make a heaven upon earth.”3

Re baptism was rather the badge than the creed of this sect. Under the spiritual pretext of emancipation from the flesh, they denied the office and declined the authority of the pastors of the Church and of the magistrates of the State.4 Under the same pretext of spirituality they claimed a release from every personal virtue and all social obligations. They dealt in the same way with the Bible. They had a light within which sufficed for their guidance, and made them independent of the Word without. Some of them threw the book into the fire saying, “The letter killeth.” “Infant baptism,” said they, “is a horrible abomination, a flagrant impiety, invented by the evil spirit and Pope Nicholas of Rome.”5

The freaks and excesses in which they began to indulge were very extraordinary, and resembled those of men whose wits are disordered. They would form themselves in a ring on the street, dance, sing songs, and tumble each other about in the dust. At other times, putting on sackcloth, and strewing ashes on their heads, they would rush through the streets, bearing lighted torches, and uttering dismal cries, “Woe! woe! yet forty days and Zurich shall be destroyed.”6 Others professed to have received revelations from the Holy Spirit. Others interrupted the public worship by standing up in the midst of the congregation and proclaiming aloud, “I am the door; by me, if any man enter in, he shall be saved.” They held from time to time nocturnal revels, at which psalms and jovial ballads were sung alternately, and this they called “setting up the Lord’s table.”

Fourteen of their number were apprehended by the magistrates, contrary to Zwingli’s advice, shut up in the Heretics’ Tower, and fed on bread and water. On the fourteenth day “an angel opened their prison door and led them forth.”7 Contrary to what happened in Peter’s case, with which they compared their deliverance, the angel found it necessary to remove certain planks before he could effect their liberation.

The magistrates, alarmed for the public peace, ordered Zwingli to hold a disputation with them. The conference took place on the 17th January, 1525. Zwingli’s victory was complete, and the 8magistrates followed it up by an edict, ordering all infants to be baptized within eight days.8 The fanatics no more gave obedience to the command of the magistrates than submission to the arguments of Zwingli. They neither brought their children to be baptized nor abjured their opinions. A second disputation, was enjoined by the council. It was held in the March of the same year, but with the same results. Victory or defeat came alike to men who had resolved to adhere to their beliefs whatever arguments might be brought in refutation of them.

Severer measures were now adopted against them. Some were imprisoned; others were banished from the canton. Zwingli disapproved of these coercive remedies, and the event justified his wisdom. Persecution but inflamed their zeal, and their dispersion carried the fire to other cantons. In St. Gall their numbers were reckoned at 800; in the canton of Appenzell at 1,200. They extended also to Schaffhausen and the Grisons, where they gave rise to disorders. Two of the sect undertook to go and preach in the Popish canton of Schwitz; the unhappy creatures were seized and burned. They died calling on the name of the Savior.9

In some cases fanaticism developed into madness; and that madness gave birth to atrocious deeds which did more to open the eyes of the people, and banish this sect from the soil of Switzerland, than all the punishments with which the magistrates pursued it. One melancholy and most revolting instance has come down to us. In a solitary house in the canton of St. Gall there lived an aged farmer, John Schuker, who, with his family and servants, had received the “new baptism.” Two of his sons were specially noted for the warmth of their zeal. On Shrove Tuesday the father killed a calf and invited his Anabaptist friends to the feast. The company, the wine, the fanatical harangues and visionary revelations in which the night was spent, would seem to have upset the reason of one of the sons. His features haggard, his eyes rolling wildly, and speaking with hollow voice, he approached his brother, Leonard, with the gall of the calf in the bladder, and thus addressed him, “Bitter as gall is the death thou shalt die.” He then ordered him to kneel down. Leonard obeyed. A presentiment of evil seized the company. They bade the wretched man beware what he did. “Nothing will happen,” he replied, “but the will of the Father.” Turning to his brother, who was still kneeling before him, and hastily seizing a sword, he severed his head from his body at a single blow. The spectators were horror-struck. The headless corpse and the blood-stained maniac were terrible sights. They had witnessed a crime like that of Cain. Groans and wailings succeeded to the fanatical orisons in which the night had been spent. Quickly over the country flew the news of the awful deed. The wretched fratricide escaping from the house, half naked, the reeking sword in his hand, and posting with rapid steps through hamlet and village to St. Gall, to proclaim with maniac gestures and frenzied voice “the day of the Lord,” exhibited in his own person an awful example of the baleful issues in which the Anabaptist enthusiasm was finding its consummation. It was now showing itself to men with the brand of Cain on its brow. The miserable man was seized and beheaded.10

This horrible occurrence was followed by a tragedy nearly as horrible. We have mentioned above the name of Manx, one of the leaders of the fanatics. This man the magistrates of Zurich sentenced to be drowned in the lake. In adjudging him to this fate they took account, not of his views on baptism, or any opinions strictly religious, but of his sentiments on civil government. Not only did he deny the authority of magistracy, but he gave practical effect to his tenets by teaching his followers to resist payment of legal dues, and by instigating them to acts of outrage and violence, he had been repeatedly imprisoned, but always returned to his former courses on being set at liberty. The popular indignation against the sect, intensified by the deed we have just narrated, and the danger in which Switzerland now stood, of becoming the theater of the same bloody tragedies which had been enacted in Germany the year before, would no longer permit the council to wink at the treasonable acts of Manx. He was again apprehended, and this time his imprisonment was followed by his condemnation. The sentence was carried out with due formality. He was accompanied to the water’s edge by his brother and mother, now an old woman, and the unacknowledged wife of the prebend. They exhorted him to constancy, but indeed he exhibited no signs of shrinking. They saw the executioner lead him into the boat; they saw him rowed out to deep water; they saw him taken up and flung into the lake; they heard the sullen plunge and saw the water close over him. The brother burst into tears, but the mother stood and witnessed all with dry eyes.11

In these proceedings Zwingli had no share. This fanatical outburst had affected him with profound sorrow. He knew it would be said, “See what bitter fruits grow on the tree of Reform.” But not only did he regard the reproach as unjust, he looked to the Gospel as the only instrumentality able to cope with this fanaticism. He pleaded with the magistrates to withhold their punishments, on the ground that the weapons of light were all that were needed to extirpate the evil. These Zwingli plied vigorously.

The battle against Anabaptism cost him “more sweat,” to use his own expression, than did his fight with the Papacy. But that sweat was not in vain. Mainly through his labors the torrent of Anabaptist fanaticism was arrested, and what threatened fatal disaster at the outset was converted into a blessing both to Zwingli and to the Protestant Church of Switzerland. The latter emerged from the tempest purified and strengthened. Instead of an accusation the Anabaptist outbreak was a justification of the Reformation. Zwingli’s own views were deepened and purified by the controversy. He had been compelled to study the relation in which the Old and New Testaments stand to one another, and he came to see that under two names they are one book, that under two forms they are one revelation; and that as the transplanting of trees from the nursery to the open field neither alters their nature nor changes their uses, so the transplanting of the institutions of Divine revelation from the Old Testament, in the soil of which they were first set, into the New Testament or Gospel dispensation where they are permanently to flourish, has not in the least changed their nature and design, but has left them identically the same institutions: they embody the same principles and subserve the same ends. Baptism, he argued in short, is circumcision, and circumcision was baptism, under a different outward form.

Proceeding on this principle, the sum of what he maintained in all his disputations with the Anabaptists, and in all that he published from the press and the pulpit, was that inasmuch as circumcision was administered to infants under the Old Testament, it is clear that they were regarded as being, by their birth, members of the Church, and so entitled to the seal of the covenant. In like manner the children of professing parents under the New Testament are, by their birth, members of the Church, and entitled to have the Sacrament of baptism administered to them: that the water in baptism, like the blood in circumcision, denotes the removal of an inward impurity and the washing by the Spirit in order to salvation; and that as circumcision bound to the observance of God’s ordinances, so baptism imposes an obligation to a holy life.12

Chapter 11.4: Establishment Of Protestantism At Bern

Bern prepares to Follow up the Baden Disputation – Resolves to institute a Conference – Summoned for January, 1528 – Preparations and Invitations – The Popish Cantons Protest against holding the Conference – Charles V. Writes Forbidding it – Reply of the Bernese German Deputies – Journey of Swiss Deputies – Deputies in all 350 – Church of the Cordeliers – Ten Theses – Convert at the Altar – Fete of St. Vincent – Matins and Vespers Unsung – The Magnificat Exchanged for a Mourning Hymn – Clergy Subscribe the Reformed Propositions – Mass, etc., Abolished – Reforming Laws – Act of Civic Grace – The Lord’s Supper.

THE disputation at Baden had ended in the way we have already described. The champions engaged in it had returned to their homes. Eck, as his manner was, went back singing his own praises and loudly vaunting the great victory he had won. Ecolampadius had returned to Basle, and Haller to Bern, not at all displeased with the issue of the affair, though they said little. While the Romanist champions were filling Switzerland with their boastings, the Protestants quietly prepared to gather in the fruits.

The pastors, who from various parts of Switzerland had been present at the disputation, returned home, their courage greatly increased. Moreover, on arriving in their several spheres of labor they found a fresh interest awakened in the cause. The disputation had quickened the movement it was meant to crush. They must follow up their success before the minds of men had time to cool down. This was the purpose now entertained especially by Bern, the proudest and most powerful member of the Swiss Confederacy.

Bern had been halting for some time between two opinions. Ever as it took a few paces forward on the road of Reform, it would stop, turn round, and cast lingering and regretful looks toward Rome. But now it resolved it would make its choice once for all between the Pope and Luther, between the mass and the Protestant sermon. In November, 1527, it summoned a Diet to debate the question. “Unhappy Helvetia,” said some, “thus torn by religious opinions and conflicts. Alas! the hour when Zwingli introduced these new doctrines.” But was the, state of Switzerland so very sad that it might justly envy the condition of other countries? As the Swiss looked from his mountains he beheld the sky of Europe darkened with war-clouds all round. A fierce tempest had just laid the glory of Rome in the dust. Francis I. and Henry of England, with Milan, Venice, and Florence, were leaguing against the emperor. Charles was unsheathing his sword to spill more blood while that of recent battles was scarcely dry.

The deep scars of internecine conflict and hate were yet fresh on the soil of Germany. Ferdinand of Austria was claiming the crowns of Bohemia and Hungary, and fighting to rescue the provinces and inhabitants of Eastern Europe from the bloody scimitar of the Turk. Such was the state of Europe when the lords and citizens of Bern assembled in their Great Council on the Sabbath after Martinmas, 1527, resolved to institute in the beginning of the coming year a conference on religion, after the model of Zurich, to the intent “that the truth might not be concealed, but that the ground of Divine truth, of Christian intelligence, and of saving health might be discovered, and that a worship in conformity with the Holy Scriptures might be planted and observed.”1

The preparations were on a scale commensurate with the rank of the city and the gravity of the affair. Invitations were sent to the four Bishops of Lausanne, Basle, Constance, and Sion, who were asked to be present either in person or by deputy, under penalty of the loss of all rights and revenues which they claimed within the canton of Bern in virtue of their episcopal dignity.

The Bernese sent to all the cantons and free towns of the Helvetic Confederacy, desiring them to send their theologians and learned men of both parties to the conference, to the end that, freely and without compulsion to any one, their common Confederacy might make profession of a common faith. They further ordered that all the pastors and cures in the canton should repair to Bern on the first Sunday of January, and assist at the conference from its opening to its close, under pain of deprivation of their benefices. Addressing the learned men of the State, “Come,” said the lords of Bern, “we undertake for your safety, and guarantee you all liberty in the expression of your opinions.”

One man was honored with a special invitation, Thomas Murner namely, who, as our readers may recollect, gave so comic a close to the conference at Baden. His pleasantries threatened to become serious things indeed to the Swiss. He was daily scattering among the cantons the most virulent invectives against the Zwinglians, couched in brutal language, fitted only to kindle the fiercest passions and plunge the Confederacy into war. Their Excellencies did well in giving the Cordelier an opportunity of proving his charges in presence of the conference. Murner did not come himself, but took care to send a violent philippic against the Bernese.2

The adherents of the old faith, with one accord, entered their protest against the holding of such a conference. They claimed to have won the victory at Baden, but it would seem they wished no more such victories. The four bishops came first with a strong remonstrance. The seven Popish cantons followed suit, conjuring the Bernese to desist from a project that was full of danger, and abide by a Church in which their fathers had been content to live and die: even the Emperor Charles wrote exhorting them to abandon their design and await the assembling of a General Council. “The settlement of the religious question,” he added, “does not pertain to any one city or country, but to all Christians “3—that is, practically to himself and the Pope. There could not possibly be stronger proofs of the importance the Romanists attached to the proposed conference, and the decisive influence it was likely to exert on the whole of Switzerland. The reply of the Bernese was calm and dignified. “We change nothing in the twelve articles of the Christian faith; we separate not from the Church whose head is Christ; what is founded on the Word of God will abide for ever; we shall only not depart from the Word of God.”4

All eyes were turned on Zwingli. From far and near clergy and learned men would be there, but Zwingli must take command of the army, he must be the Achilles of the fight. The youthful Haller and the grey-headed Kolb had done battle alone in Bern until now, but the action about to open required a surer eye and a sturdier arm. Haller wrote in pressing terms to this “best-beloved brother and champion in the cause of Christ,” that he would be pleased to come. “You know,” he said, “how much is here at stake, what shame, mockery, and disgrace would fall upon the Evangel and upon us if we were found not to be competent to the task. My brother, fail not.”5

To this grand conference there came deputies not from Switzerland only, but from many of the neighboring countries. On New Year’s Eve, 1528, more than a hundred clergy and learned men assembled at Zurich from Suabia, invitations having been sent to the towns of Southern Germany.6 The doctors of St. Gall, Schaffhausen, Glarus, Constance, Ulm, Lindau, Augsburg, and other places also repaired to the rendezvous at Zurich. On the following morning they all set out for Bern, and with them journeyed the deputies from Zurich—Zwingli, Burgomaster Roist, Conrad Pellican,7 Sebastien Hoffmeister, Gaspard Grossmann, a great number of the rural clergy, Conrad Schmidt, Commander of Kussnacht; Pierre Simmler, Prior of Kappel; and Henry Bullinger, Regent in the college, of the same place.8

At the head of the cavalcade rode the Burgomaster of Zurich, Roist. By his side were Zwingli and several of the councilors, also on horseback. The rest of the deputies followed. A little in advance of the company rode the town herald, but without his trumpet, for they wished to pass on without noise. The territory to be traversed on the way to Bern was owned by the Popish cantons. The deputies had asked a safe-conduct, but were refused. “There will be abundance of excellent game abroad,” was the news bruited through Popish Switzerland; “let us go a-hunting.” If they seriously meant what they said, their sport was spoiled by the armed escort that accompanied the travelers. Three hundred men with arquebuss on shoulder marched right and left of them.9 In this fashion they moved onwards to Bern, to take captive to Christ a proud city which no enemy had been able to storm. They entered its gates on the 4th of January, and found already arrived there numerous deputies, among others Ecolampadius of Basle, and Bucer and Capito of Strasburg.

The Bernese were anxious above all things to have the question between the two Churches thoroughly sifted. For this end they invited the ablest champions on both sides, guaranteeing them all freedom of debate. They heard of a worthy Cordelier at Grandson, named De Marie Palud, a learned man, but too poor to be able to leave home. The lords of Bern dispatched a special messenger with a letter to this worthy monk, earnestly urging him to come to the conference, and bidding the courier protect his person and defray his expenses on the road.10 If Eck and the other great champions of Rome were absent, it was because they chose not to come. The doctor of Ingolstadt would not sit in an assembly of heretics where no proof, unless drawn from the Word of God, would be received, nor any explanation of it admitted unless it came from the same source. Did any one ever hear anything so unreasonable? asked Eck. Has the Bible a tongue to refute those who oppose it? The roll-call showed a great many absentees besides Eck. The names of the Bishops of Basle, Sion, Constance, and Lausanne were shouted out in accents that rung through the church, but the echoes of the secretary’s voice were the only answer returned. The assemblage amounted to 350 persons—priests, pastors, scholars, and councilors from Switzerland and Germany.

The Church of the Cordeliers was selected as the place of conference. A large platform had been erected, and two tables placed on it. At the one table sat the Popish deputies, round the other were gathered the Protestant disputants. Between the two sat four secretaries, from whom a solemn declaration, tantamount to an oath, had been exacted, that they would make a faithful record of all that was said and done. Four presidents were chosen to rule in the debate.11

The disputation lasted twenty consecutive days, with the single interruption of one day, the fete of St. Vincent, the patron saint of Bern. It commenced on the 6th January, and closed on the 27th. On Sunday as on other days did the conference assemble. Each day two sessions were held—one in the morning, the other after dinner; and each was opened with prayer.12

Ten propositions13 a were put down to be debated. They were declarations of the Protestant doctrine, drawn so as to comprehend all the points in controversy between the two Churches. The discussion on the mass occupied two whole days, and was signalized at its close by a dramatic incident which powerfully demonstrated where the victory lay.

From the Church of the Cordeliers, Zwingli passed to the cathedral, to proclaim from its pulpit, in the hearing of the people, the proofs he had maintained triumphantly in the debate. At one of the side altars stood a priest, arrayed in pall and chasuble and all necessary sacerdotal vestments for saying mass. He was just about to begin the service when Zwingli’s voice struck upon his car. He paused to listen. “He ascended into heaven,” said the Reformer in a slow and solemn voice, reciting the creed; “and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,” pausing again; “from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.” “These three articles,” said Zwingli, “cannot stand with the mass.” The words flashed conviction into the mind of the priest. His resolution was taken on the spot. Stripping off his priestly robes and flinging them on the altar, he turned his eyes in the direction of Zwingli, and said in the hearing of all in the cathedral, “If the mass rest on no better foundation, I will neither read it now, nor read it more.”14 This victory at the very foot of the altar was hailed as an omen of a full triumph at no great distance.

Three days thereafter was the fete of St. Vincent. The canons of the college waited on the magistrates to know the pleasure of their Excellencies respecting its celebration. They had been wont to observe the day with great solemnity in Bern. “Those of you,” said the magistrates to the canons, “who can subscribe the ‘ten Reformed propositions’ ought not to keep the festival; those of you who cannot subscribe them, may.” Already the sweet breath of toleration begins to be felt. On St. Vincent’s Eve all the bells were tolled to warn the citizens that tomorrow was the festival of the patron saint of their city. The dull dawn of a January morning succeeded; the sacristans made haste to open the gates of the cathedral, to light the tapers, to prepare the incense, and to set in order the altar-furniture: but, alas! there came neither, priest nor worshipper at the hour of service. no matins were sung under the cathedral roof that morning.

The hour of vespers came. The scene of the morning was renewed. No evensong broke the silence. The organist was seated before his instrument, but he waited in vain for the coming of canon to mingle his chant, as the wont was, with the peal of the organ. When he looked about him, half in terror, and contrasted the solitude around him with the crowd of vested canons and kneeling worshippers, which used on such occasions to fill choir and nave of the cathedral, and join their voices with the majestic strains of the Magnificat, his heart was full of sadness; the glory had departed. He began to play on the organ the Church’s mourning hymn, “O wretched Judas, what hast thou done that thou hast betrayed thy Lord?” and the music pealed along roof and aisle of the empty church. It sounded like a dirge over the fall of the Roman worship. “It was the last piece,” says Ruchat, “that was played on that organ, for soon thereafter it was broken in pieces.”15

The conference was at an end. The Reformers had won an easy victory. Indeed Zwingli could not help complaining that Eck and other practiced champions on the Roman side had not been present, in order to permit a fuller development of the strength of the Protestant argument.16 Conrad Treger of Friburg, Provincial of the Augustines, did his best, in the absence of the doctor of Ingolstadt, to maintain the waning glory and tottering authority of Rome; but it is not surprising that he failed where Eck himself could not have succeeded. The disputants were restricted to Scripture, and at this weapon Zwingli excelled all the men of his time.17

The theologians had done their part: their Excellencies of Bern must now do theirs. Assembling the canons and ecclesiastics of the city and canton, the magistrates asked them if they wished to subscribe the Reformed theses. The response was hearty. All the canons subscribed the articles, as did also the Prior and Sub-Prior of the Dominicans, with six: of their brethren, and fifty-two cures and other beneficed clergy of the city as well as the rural parts.18

Having dismissed the members of the conference with honor, defraying the expenses of those they had specially invited, and appointing a guard of 200 armed men to escort the Zurich deputies through the territory of the Five Cantons, the magistrates set about bringing the worship into conformity with the Reformed creed which the clergy had so unanimously subscribed. The lords in council decreed that the observance of the mass should cease in Bern, as also in those landward parishes whose cures had adopted the Reformed confession. The sacrifice abolished, there was no further need of the altar. The altars were pulled down. A material object of worship stands or falls with a material sacrifice; and so the images shared the fate of the altars. Their fragments, strewed on the porch and floor of the churches, were profanely trodden upon by the feet of those whose knees had so recently been bent in adoration of them. There were those who witnessed these proceedings with horror, and in whose eyes a church without an altar and without an image had neither beauty nor sanctity.

“When the good folks of the Oberland come to market,” said these men, “they will be happy to put up their cattle in the cathedral.”

An august transaction did that same building—albeit its altars were overturned and its idols demolished witness on the 2nd of February, 1528. On that day all the burgesses and inhabitants of Bern, servants as well as masters, were assembled in the cathedral, at the summons of the magistrates, and swore with uplifted hands to stand by the council in all their measures for the Reformation of religion.19 Secured on this side, the magistrates published an edict on the 7th of February, in thirteen articles, of which the following are the chief provisions:

1st. They approved and confirmed the “ten propositions,” ordaining their subjects to receive and conform themselves to them, and taking God to witness that they believed them to be agreeable to the Word of God.

2nd. They released their subjects from the jurisdiction of the Bishops of Basle, Constance, Sion, and Lausanne.

3rd. They discharged the deans and chapters from their oath of obedience, the clergy from their vow of celibacy, and the people from the law of meats and festivals.

4th. The ecclesiastical goods they apportioned to the payment of annuities to monks and nuns, to the founding of schools and hospitals, and the relief of the poor. Not a penny did they appropriate to their own use.20

5th. Games of chance they prohibited; the taverns they ordered to be closed at nine o’clock; houses of infamy they suppressed, banishing their wretched inmates from the city.21

Following in the steps of Zurich, they passed a law forbidding the foreign service. What deep wounds had that service inflicted on Switzerland! Orphans and widows, withered and mutilated forms, cowardly feelings, and hideous vices had all entered with it! Henceforward no Bernese was to be at liberty to sell his sword to a foreign potentate or shed his own or another’s blood in a quarrel that did not belong to him. In fine, “they made an inscription,” says Sleidan, “in golden letters, upon a pillar, of the day and the year when Popery was abolished, to stand as a monument to posterity.”22

The foreign deputies did not depart till they had seen their Excellencies of Bern honor the occasion of their visit by an act of civic clemency and grace. They opened the prison doors to two men who had forfeited their lives for sedition. Further, they recalled all the exiles. “If a king or emperor,” said they, “had visited our city, we would have released the malefactors, exhorting them to amendment. And now that the King of kings, and the Prince who owns the homage of our hearts, the Son of God and our Brother, has visited our city, and has opened to us the doors of an eternal prison, shall we not do honor to him by showing a like grace to those who have offended against us? “23

One other act remained to seal the triumph which the Gospel had won in the city and canton of Bern. On Easter Sunday the Lord’s Supper was celebrated after what they believed to be the simple model of primitive times. “That Sunday was a high day.” Bern for centuries had been in the tomb of a dark superstition; but Bern is risen again, and with a calm joy she celebrates, with holy rites, her return from the grave. Around the great minister lies the hushed city; in the southern sky stand up the snowy piles of the Oberland, filling the air with a dazzling brightness. The calm is suddenly broken by the deep tones of the great bell summoning the citizens to the cathedral. Thither all ranks bend their steps; dressed with ancient Swiss simplicity, grave and earnest as their fathers were when marching to the battle-field, they troop in, and now all are gathered under the roof of their ancient minister: the councilor, the burgess, the artizan; the servant with his master, and by the side of the hoar patriarch the fresh form and sparkling eye of youth. On that cathedral floor is now no altar; on its wall no image. No bannered procession advances along its aisles, and no cloud of incense is seen mounting to its roof; yet never had their time-honored temple—the house where their fathers had worshipped—appeared more venerable, and holy, than it did in the eyes of the Bernese this day.

Over the vast assembly rises the pulpit; on it lies the Bible, from which Berthold Haller is to address to them the words of life. Stretching from side to side of the building is the Communion table, covered with a linen cloth: the snows of their Alps are not whiter. The bread and the cup alone are seen on that table. How simple yet awful these symbols! How full of a gracious efficacy, and an amazing but blessed import, presenting as they do to the faith of the worshipper that majestic Sufferer, and that sublime death by which death has been destroyed! The Mighty One, he who stood before Pilate, but now sitteth on the right hand of God, is present in the midst of them, seen in the memorials of his passion, and felt by the working of his Spirit.

The sermon ended, Haller descends from the pulpit, and takes his stand, along with the elders of the flock, at the Communion table. With eyes and hands lifted up he gives thanks for this memorial and seal of redemption. Then a hymn, sung in responses, echoes through the building. How noble and thrilling the melody when with a thousand tongues a thousand hearts utter their joy! The song is at an end; the hushed stillness again reigns in aisle and nave of the vast fabric. Hailer takes the bread, and breaking it in the sight of all, gives it to the communicants, saying, “This is my body; take, eat.” He takes the cup, and says, “This cup is the New Testament in my blood, shed for you; drink ye all of it.” Within that “sign” lies wrapped up, to their faith, the Divine and everlasting “thing signified.”

They receive, with the bread and wine, a full forgiveness, an eternal life—in short, Christ and the benefits of his redemption. Faith opens the deep fountains of their soul, their love and sorrow and joy find vent in a flood of tears; scarcely have these fallen when, like the golden light after the shower, there comes the shout of gladness, the song of triumph: “They sing a new song, saying, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing: for thou hast redeemed us unto God with thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation: and hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth.”24 Such was the worship that succeeded the pantomimic rites and histrionic devotion of the Romish Church.

Chapter 11.5: Reformation Consummated In Basle

All Switzerland Moved – The Oberland – Surprise and Anger of its Herdsmen – Basle – Its Importance – Ecolampadius – Protestants of Basle Petition for Abolition of Mass – Popular Conflicts – Temporizing Policy of Council – Citizens take Arms – New Delays by the Council – New Demands of the People – The Night of the 8th of February – The City Barricaded – Two Thousand Men in Arms – The Senate’s Half-concession – The Idols Broken – Idols of Little Basle – Edict of Senate Establishing the Reform – Ash-Wednesday – Oath of the People – Exodus of the Priests – Departure of Erasmus.

THE triumph of the Gospel in Bern was felt on sides. It gave new life to the Protestant movement in every part of the country. On the west it opened the door for the entrance of the Protestant faith into French-speaking Switzerland. Farel was already in those parts, and had commenced those labors which we shall afterwards have occasion to trace to that grand issue to which a greater was destined to conduct them. On the east, in German Helvetia, the movement, quickened by the impulse communicated from Bern, was consummated in those towns and villages where for some time it had been in progress. From the Grisons, on the Italian frontier, to the borders of the Black Forest, where Basle is washed by the waters of the Rhine, the influence of Bern’s accession was felt, and the Protestant movement quickened.

The great mountains in the center of the land, where the glaciers have their seat, and the great rivers their birth-place, were alone unmoved. Not unmoved indeed, for the victory at Bern sent a thrill of surprise and horror through the Oberland. Shut up with their flocks in the mists and gorges of their mountains, living apart from the world, spending their days without books, untrained to reflect, nor ever coming in contact with a new idea, these mountaineers so brave, so independent, but so ignorant and superstitious, had but one aim, even to abide steadfast to the traditions of their fathers, and uphold Rome. That Switzerland should abandon the faith it had held from immemorial times they accounted a shameful and horrible thing. They heard of the revolution going on in the plains with indignation. A worship without mass, and a church without an image, were in their eyes no better than atheism. That the Virgin should be without matins or vespers was simply blasphemy. They trembled to dwell in a land which such enormities were beginning to pollute. They let drop ominous threats, which sounded like the mutterings of the thunder before the storm bursts and discharges its lightning’s and hailstones on the plains below. Such a tempest was soon to break over Switzerland, but first the work of Reformation must proceed a little further.

Next to Zurich and Bern, Basle was the city of greatest importance in the Swiss Confederacy. Its numerous and rich foundations, its university, founded as we have said by Eneas Sylvius, nearly a century before, its many learned men, and its famous printing-presses enabled it to wield a various and powerful influence. It was the first spot in all Helvetia on which the Protestant seed had been cast. So early as 1505, we saw Thomas Wittembach entering its gates, and bringing with him the knowledge of the sacred tongues, and of that Divine wisdom of which these tongues have been made the vehicle. A few years later we find Zwingli and Leo Juda sitting at his feet, and listening to his not yet fully comprehended anticipations of a renovated age and a restored faith.1 The seed that fell from the hand of Wittembach was reinforced by the writings of Luther, which the famous printer Frobenius scattered so plentifully on this same soil. After this second sowing came the preacher Capito, to be succeeded by the eloquent Hedio, both of whom watered that seed by their clear and pious expositions of the Gospels. In 1522, a yet greater evangelist settled in Basle, Ecolampadius, under whom the Reformation of this important city was destined, after years of waiting and conflict, to be consummated. Ecolampadius, so scholarly, so meek and pious, was to the prompt and courageous Zwingli what Melancthon was to Luther.

With all his great parts, Ecolampadius was somewhat deficient in decision and courage. We have seen him combating alone at Baden in 1526, and at Bern by the side of Zwingli in 1528, yet all the while he had not taken the decisive step in his own city. Not that he felt doubt on the question of doctrine; it was the dangers that deterred him from carrying over Basle to the side of Protestantism. But he came back from Bern a stronger man. The irresolute evangelist returned the resolved Reformer; and the learned Basle is now to follow the example of the warlike Bern.

At this time (1528) the Lutherans were in a great majority in Basle. They were 2,500 against 600 Roman Catholics.2 Tumults were of frequent occurrence, arising out of the religious differences. On the 23rd December the Reformed assembled without arms, to the number of 300 and upwards, and petitioned the magistrates to abolish the observance of the mass, saying that it was “all abomination before God,” and asking why “to please the priests they should draw down his anger on themselves and their children.” They further craved of the magistrates that they should interdict the Pope’s preachers, till “they had proved their doctrine from the Word of God,” and they offered at the same time to take back the mass as soon as the “Roman Catholics had shown from the Scriptures that it was good,” which sounded like a promise to restore it at the Kalends of April. The Roman Catholics of Little Basle, which lay on the other bank of the Rhine, and was mostly inhabited by Romanists, assembled in arms, and strove to obstruct the passage of the petitioners to the town hall. The Senate, making trial of soft words, advised both parties to retire to their homes, and—the hour we presume being late—” go to sleep.”3 The council affected to be neutral, the spirit of Erasmus pervading the higher ranks of Basle. Two days thereafter, being Christmas Day, both parties again assembled. This time the Reformed came armed as well as the Roman Catholics. The Roman Catholics were the first to stir; the terrible news that they were arming circulated from house to house, and brought out the Lutherans, to the number of about 800. The alarm still flying from door to door roused others, and at last the number amounted to 3,000.4 Both parties remained under arms all night. After four days deliberation, during which the streets were in a state of tumult, and all the gates were closed except two, which were strongly guarded, the Senate hit on an expedient which they thought would suffice to restore the peace between the two parties. They enacted that the “Evangel” should be preached in all churches, and as regarded mass that every man should be at liberty to act as his conscience might direct; no one would be prevented giving attendance on it, and no one would be compelled to do so.

This ordinance made the scales incline on the side of the Reformers. It was a step in the direction of free preaching and free worship; the Reformed, however, refused to accept it as a basis of peace. The agitation still continued. Basle wore the appearance of a camp, which a sudden blow from either side, or a rash word, might at any moment change into a battle-field. News of what was going on in Basle flew through the Confederation. From both the Reformed and Popish cantons came deputies to offer their meditation. It was whispered among the Roman Catholics that the Lutherans were bringing in their confederates to fight for them. This rumor raised their fury to a yet higher pitch. A war of hearths seemed imminent. The Senate made another attempt to restore the peace. They decreed that a public disputation on the mass should take place on the second Sabbath after Pentecost, and that meanwhile in three of the churches only should mass be celebrated, and that only one mass a day should be said, high mass namely.5 Now, thought the magistrates, we have found the means of restoring calm to the agitated waters. Basle will resume its lettered quiet.

These hopes were doomed to be disappointed. The publication of the edict evoked a greater tempest than ever. On the reading of it, loud and vehement voices resounded on both sides. “No mass—no mass—not even a single one—we will die sooner.”6 Counter-shouts were raised by the Romanists. “We are ready to die for the mass,” cried they, waving their arms menacingly to add to the vehemence of their voices; “if they reject the mass—to arms! to arms!”7

The magistrates were almost at their wit’s end. Their temporizing, instead of appeasing the tempest, was but lashing it into greater fury. They hit on another device, which but showed that their stock of expedients was nearly exhausted. They forbade the introduction of the German psalms into those churches where it had not been the wont to sing them.8 It was hardly to be expected that so paltry a concession would mollify the Roman Catholics.

The Romish party, fearing that the day was going against them, had recourse to yet more violent measures. They refused the decree to hold a disputation on the mass after Pentecost. One thing was clear to them, that whether the mass was founded on the Word of God or not, it attracted to Basle large sums from the Popish districts, every penny of which would be cut off were it abolished. Seeing then, if its proof were dubious, its profit was most indubitable, they were resolved to uphold it, and would preach it more zealously than ever. The pulpits began to thunder against heresy; Sebastien Muller, preacher in the Cathedral of St. Peter, mounted the pulpit on the 24th January, 1529, and losing his head, at no time a cool one, in the excess of his zeal, he broke out in a violent harangue, and poured forth a torrent of abusive epithets and sarcastic mockeries against the Reformed. His sermon kindled into rage the mass of his hearers, and some Lutherans who were present in the audience were almost in risk of being torn in pieces.9

This fresh outbreak quickened the zeal on the other side, not indeed into violence, but activity. The Reformed saw that the question must be brought to an issue, either for or against the mass, and that until it was so their lives would not be safe in Basle. They, accordingly, charged their committee to carry their complaint to the Senate, and to demand that the churches should be provided with “good preachers” who would “proclaim to them the pure Word of God.” Their Excellencies received them graciously, and promised them a favorable answer. The magistrates were still sailing on two tacks.10

Fifteen days passed away, but there came no answer from the Senate. Meanwhile, a constant fire of insults, invectives, and sanguinary menaces was kept up by the Roman Catholics upon the Reformed, which the latter bore with wonderful patience seeing that they formed the vast majority of the citizens, and that those who assailed them with these taunts and threatenings were mostly the lower orders from the suburb of the Little Basle. The Reformed began to suspect the Senate of treachery; and seeing no ending to the affair but a bloody encounter, in which one of the two parties would perish, they convoked an assembly of the adherents of the Reformation. On the 8th February, 800 men met in the Church of the Franciscans, and after prayer to God, that he would direct them to those measures that would be for his glory, they entered on their deliberations.

To the presence of “the fathers and relatives of the priests” in the council they attributed that halting policy which had brought Basle to the edge of an abyss, mad resolved, as the only effectual cure, that the council should be asked to purge itself.11 They agreed, moreover, that the election of the senators henceforward should be on a democratic basis—above-board, and in the hands of the people.

“Tomorrow,” said the council, somewhat startled, “we will give you an answer.”

“Your reply,” rejoined the citizens, “must be given tonight.”

No eyes were to be closed that night in Basle. The Senate had been sitting all day. There was time for an answer, yet none had been forthcoming. They had been put off till tomorrow. What did that mean? Was it not possible that the intervening night would give birth to some dark plot which the Senate might even now be hatching against the public safety? They were 1,200 men, all well armed. They sent again to the council-hall to say, “Tonight, not tomorrow, we must have your answer.” It was nine of the evening. The Senate replied that at so late an hour they could not decide on a matter of so great moment, but that to-morrow they should without fail give their answer, and meanwhile they begged the citizens to retire in peace to their homes.12

The citizens resolved not to separate. On the contrary they sent once more, and for the last time, to the Senate, to demand their answer that very night. Their Excellencies thought good no longer to trifle with the armed burghers. Longer delay might bring the whole 1,200 warriors into the Senate House. To guard against an irruption so formidable, they sent a messenger when near midnight to say that all members of Senate who were relatives of priests would be excluded from that body, and as to the rest of their demands, all things touching religion and policy would be regulated according to their wish.13

The answer was so far satisfactory; but the citizens did not view it as a concession of their demands in full. Their enemies might yet spring a mine upon them; till they had got something more than a promise, they would not relax their vigilance or retire to their dwellings. Dividing themselves into three companies they occupied three different quarters of the city.

They planted six pieces of cannon before the Hotel de Ville; they barricaded the streets by drawing chains across them; they took possession of the arsenal; they posted strong guards at the gates and in the towers on the wall; and kindling immense torches of fir-trees, they set them on high places to dispel with their flickering beams the darkness that brooded over the city. So passed the night of the 8th February, 1529, in Basle.

The leaders of the Romanists began to quail before the firm attitude of the citizens. The burgomaster, Henry Meltinger with his son-in-law, and several councilors, stole, under cover of the darkness, to the Rhine, and embarking in one of the boats that lay moored on its banks, made their escape on its rapid current. Their flight, which became known over-night, increased the popular uneasiness and suspicion. “They are gone to fetch the Austrians,” said the people. “Let us make ready against their return.” When day broke they had 2,000 men in arms.14

At eight in the morning the Senate sent to the committee of the citizens to say that they had designated twelve senators, who were to absent themselves when religious affairs were treated of, but that the men so designated refused to submit unconditionally, and had appealed their cause for a hearing before the other cantons. The citizens were willing to meet them there, but on this condition, that the appellants paid their own expenses, seeing they were prosecuting their own private quarrel, whereas the citizens defending the cause of the commonwealth and posterity were entitled to have their charges defrayed from the public treasury.15 On this point the Senate sat deliberating till noon without coming to any conclusion. Again the cry of treachery was raised. The patience of the burghers was exhausted. They sent a detachment of forty men to inspect all the posts in the city in case of surprise. The troops marched straight to the Cathedral of St. Peter. One of them raising his halberd struck a blow with all his force on a side door. It was that of a closet in which the idols had been stowed away. The door was shivered; one of the images tumbled out, and was broken in pieces on the stony floor. A beginning having been made, the idols, one after another, were rolled out, and soon a pile of fragments—heads, trunks, and limbs—covered the floor. Erasmus wondered that “they wrought no miracle to save themselves, for if all accounts were true, prodigies had been done on more trivial occasions.”

The priests raised an outcry, and attempted resistance, but this only hastened the consummation they deplored. The people came running to the cathedral. The priests fled before the hurricane that had swept into the temple, and shutting themselves up in the vestry, listened with dismay and trembling, as one and another of the idols was overturned, and crash succeeded crash; the altars were demolished, the pictures were torn down, and the fragments being carried out and piled up, and set on fire in the open squares, continued to burn till far in the evening, the citizens standing round and warming their hands at the blaze in the chilly air. The Senate, thinking to awe the excited and insurgent citizens, sent to ask them what they did. “We are doing in an hour,” said they, “what you have not been able to do in three years.”16

The iconoclasts made the round of Basle, visiting all its churches, and destroying with pike and axe all the images they found. The Romanists of Little Basle, knowing the storm that was raging on the other side of the Rhine, and fearing that it would cross the bridge to their suburb, so amply replenished with sacred shrines, offered to purge their churches with their own hands. The images of Little Basle were more tenderly dealt with than those of St. Peter’s and other city churches. Their worshippers carried them reverently to upper rooms and garrets, and hid them, in the hope that when better times returned they would be able to bring them out of the darkness, and set them up in their old places. The suburban idols thus escaped the cremation that overtook their less fortunate brethren of St. Ulric and St. Alban.17

The magistrates of Basle, deeming it better to march in the van of a Reform than be dragged at the tail of a revolution, now granted all the demands of the citizens. They enacted, 1st, that the citizens should vote in the election of the members of the two councils; 2ndly, that from this day the idols and mass should be abolished in the city and the canton, and the churches provided with good ministers to preach the Word of God; 3rdly, that in all matters appertaining to religion and the commonweal, 260 of the members of the guilds should be admitted to deliberate with the Senate.18 The people had carried the day. They had secured the establishment of the Protestant worship, and they had placed the State on a constitutional and popular basis. Such were the triumphs of these two eventful days. The firmness of the people had overcome the neutrality of the Senate, the power of the hierarchy, the disfavor of the learned, and had achieved the two liberties without shedding a drop of blood. “The commencement of the Reformation at Basle,” says Ruchat, “was not a little tumultuous, but its issue was happy, and all the troubles that arose about religion were terminated without injury to a single citizen in his life or goods.”

The third day, 10th of February, was Ash-Wednesday. The men of Basle resolved that their motto that day should be “Ashes to ashes.” The images that had escaped cremation on the evening of the 8th were collected in nine piles and burned on the Cathedral Square.19 The Romanists, Ecolampadius informs us, “turned away their eyes, shuddering with horror.” Others remarked, “the idols are keeping their Ash-Wednesday.” The idols had the mass as their companion in affliction, fragments of the demolished altars having been burned in the same fires.

On Friday, 12th of February, all the trades of the city met and approved the edict of the Senate, as an “irrevocable decree,” and on the following day they took the oath, guild by guild, of fidelity to the new order of things. On next Sunday, in all the churches, the Psalms were chanted in German, in token of their joy.20

This revolution was followed by an exodus of priests, scholars, and monks. The rushing Rhine afforded all facilities of transport. No one fled from dread of punishment, for a general amnesty, covering all offenses, had set all fears at rest. It was dislike of the Protestant faith that made the fugitives leave this pleasant residence. The bishop, carrying with him his title but not his jurisdiction, fixed his residence at Poirentru. The monks peaceably departed “with their harems”21 to Friburg. Some of the chairs in the university were vacated, but new professors, yet more distinguished, came to fill them; among whom were Oswald Myconius, Sebastien Munster, and Simon Grynaeus. Last and greatest, Erasmus too departed. Basle was his own romantic town; its cathedral towers, its milky river, the swelling hills, with their fir-trees, all were dear to him. Above all, he took delight in the society of its dignified clergy, its polite scholars, and the distinguished strangers who here had gathered round him. From Basle this monarch of the schools had ruled the world of letters. But Protestantism had entered it, and he could breathe its air no longer. He must endure daily mortification’s on those very streets where continual incense had been offered to him; and rather than do so he would leave the scene of his glory, and spend the few years that might yet remain to him elsewhere.

Embarking on the Rhine in presence of the magistrates and a crowd of citizens, who had assembled to do him honor, he spoke his adieu to his much-loved Basle as the boat was unmooring: “Jam Basilea vale!”22 (Basle, farewell, farewell!) and departed for Friburg, in Brisgau.23

Chapter 11.6: League Of The Five Cantons With Austria—Switzerland Divided

The Light Spreading – The Oberland in Darkness – The Gospel Invades the Mountains – League of the Five Cantons with Austria – Persecution Begun – Martyrdom of Pastor Keyser – The Christian Coburghery – The Breach among the Swiss Cantons Widening – Dean Bullinger – The Men of Gaster – Idols that won’t March – Violence of the Popish Cantons – Effort of Zurich to Avert War-The Attempt Abortive – War Proclaimed – Zwingli’s Part in the Affair – Was it Justifiable?

IT is a great crime to force an entrance for the truth by the sword, and compel unwilling necks to bow to it. It is not less a crime to bar its path by violence when it is seeking to come in by legitimate and peaceable means. This was the error into which the five primitive cantons of Switzerland now changed. Their hardy inhabitants, as they looked down from under the overhanging glaciers and icy pinnacles of their great mountains, beheld the new faith spreading over the plains at their feet. It had established itself in Zurich; the haughty lords of Bern had welcomed it; Schaffhausen and St. Gall had opened their gates to it; and even Basle, that abode of scholars, had turned from Plato and Aristotle, to sit at the feet of apostles. Along the chain of the Jura, by the shores of the Leman, to the very gates of a city as yet immersed in darkness, but destined soon to become the brightest luminary in that brilliant constellation, was the light travelling. But the mountains of the Oberland, which are the first to catch the natural day, and to flash their early fires all over Switzerland, were the last to be touched with the Reformed dawn now rising on Christendom. With the light brightening all round, they remained in the darkness.

The herdsmen of these cantons saw with grief and alarm the transformation which was passing upon their country. The glory was departing from it. They felt only horror as messenger after messenger arrived in their mountains and told them what was transacting on the plains below; that the altars at which their fathers had worshipped were being cast down; that the images to which they had bent the knee were being flung into the flames; that priest and monk were being chased away; that the light of holy taper was being extinguished, and that silence was falling on those holy orisons whose melodies welcomed the morn and greeted the departure of the day; that all those rites and customs, in short, which, were wont to beautify and sanctify their land were being abolished, and a defiling and defiant heresy was rearing its front in their stead. The men of the Forest Cantons learned with yet greater indignation and dismay that this pestilent faith had come to their very gates, and was knocking for admission. Nay, it was even penetrating into their grand valleys. This was not to be borne. They must make haste, for soon their own altars would be overturned, their crucifixes trampled in the mire, and the light of their holy tapers extinguished. They resolved to oppose the entrance of the Reformation as they would that of the plague; but they could oppose it by the only means of resistance which they understood the faggot and the sword.

Their alarm was intensified when they learned that Protestantism, performing a flank movement, was attacking them in the rear. It had crossed the Alps, and was planting itself in Italy. There was at that time (1530) a little band of Carmelite monks in Locarno, on the fertile and lovely shores of Lake Maggiore, who had come to the knowledge of a free salvation, and who, under the protection of Zurich, whose suzerainty then extended to that part of Italy, were laboring to initiate the Reformation of their native land. The men of the Five Cantons saw themselves about to be isolated, shut up in their mountains, cut off even from Italy, the cradle of their faith. They could sit still no longer.

But whither shall they turn? They could not wage war themselves against the Reformed cantons. These cantons were superior in men and money, and they could not hope to cope successfully with them. They must seek other allies. By doing so they would break the league of brotherhood with the other cantons, for they had resigned the right of forming new alliances without the consent of all the other members of the Federation; but they hoped to conduct the negotiations in secret. They turned their eyes to Austria. This was the last quarter from which a Swiss canton might have been expected to seek help. Had they forgotten the grievous yoke that Austria had made them bear in other days? Had they forgotten the blood it cost their fathers to break that yoke? Were they now to throw away what they had fought for on the gory fields of Morgarten and Sempach? They were prepared to do this. Religious antipathy overcame national hatred; terror of Protestantism suspended their dread of their traditional foe. Even Austria was astonished, and for awhile was in doubt of the good faith of the Five Cantons. They were in earnest, however, and the result was that a league was concluded, and sworn to on both sides, the 23rd of April, 1529, at Waldshut.1 The Switzer of Unterwalden and Uri mounted the peacock’s feather, the Austrian badge, and grasped in friendship the hands of the men with whom his fathers had contended to the death. The leading engagement in the league was that all attempts at forming new sects in the Five Cantons should be punished with death, and that Austria should give her aid, if need were, by sending the Five Cantons 6,000 foot-soldiers, and 400 horse, with the proper complement of artillery. It was further agreed that, if the war should make it necessary, the Reformed cantons should be blockaded, and all provisions intercepted.2

Finding Austria at their back, the men of the Five Cantons had now recourse, in order to defend the orthodoxy of their valleys, to very harsh measures indeed. They began to fine, imprison, torture, and put to death the professors of the Reformed faith. On the 22rid May, 1529, Pastor Keyser was seized as he was proceeding to the scene of his next day’s labor, which lay in the district between the lakes of Zurich and Wallenstadt, and carried to Schwitz. He was condemned; and although the cities of Zurich and Glarus interceded for him, he was carried to the stake and burned. When he heard his sentence he fell a-weeping; but soon he was so strengthened from above that he went joyfully to the stake, and praised the Lord Jesus in the midst of the flames for accounting him worthy of the honor of dying for the Gospels.3

Thus did the men of the mountains fling down their defiance to the inhabitants of the plains. The latter had burned dead idols, the former responded by burning living men. This was the first-fruits of the Austrian alliance. You must stop in your path, said Unterwalden to Zurich, you must set up the altars you have cast down, recall the priests you have chased away, rekindle the tapers you have extinguished, or take the penalty. The Forest Cantons were resolved to deal in this fashion, not only with all Protestants caught on their own territory, but also with the heresy of the plains. They would carry the purging sword to Zurich itself. They would smother the movement of which it was the center in the red ashes of its overthrow. Fiercer every day burned their bigotry. The priests of Rome and the pensioners of France and Italy were exciting the passions of the herdsmen. The clang of arms was resounding through their mountains. A new crusade was preparing: in a little while an army of fanatics would be seen descending the mountains, on the sanguinary but pious work of purging Zurich, Bern, and the other cantons from the heresy into which they had sunk.

Zwingli had long foreseen the crisis that had now arisen. He felt that the progress of the religious Reform in his native land would eventually divide Switzerland into two camps. The decision of the Forest Cantons would, he felt, be given on the side of the old faith, to which their inhabitants were incurably wedded by their habits, their traditions, and their ignorance; and they were likely, he foresaw, to defend it with the sword. In the prospect of such an emergency, he thought it but right to themselves and to their cause that the Reformed cantons should form a league of self-defense. He proposed (1527) a Christian Co-burghery, in which all the professors of the Reformed faith might be united in a new Reformed federation. The suggestion approved itself to the great body of his co-patriots. Constance was the first city to intimate its adhesion to the new state; Bern, St. Gall, Mulhansen, Basle, Schaffhausen, and Strasburg followed in the order in which we have placed them. By the end of the year 1529 this new federation was complete.

Every day multiplied the points of irritation between the Reformed ’red the Popish cantons. The wave of Reformed influence from Bern had not yet spent itself, and new towns and villages were from time to time proclaiming their adhesion to the Reformed faith. Each new conversion raised the alarm and animosity of the Five Cantons to a higher pitch of violence. In Bremgarten the gray-haired Dean Bullinger thus addressed his congregation from the pulpit, February, 1529: “I your pastor have taught you these three-and-thirty years, walking in blind darkness, what I myself have learned from blind guides. May God pardon my sin done in ignorance, and enlighten me by his grace, so that henceforth I may lead the flock committed to me into the pastures of his Word.” The town council, which a year before had promised to the Five Cantons to keep the town in the old faith, deposed the dean from his office. Nevertheless, Bremgarten soon thereafter passed over to the side of Protestantism, and the dean’s son, Henry Bullinger, was called to fill his father’s place, and proved an able preacher and courageous champion of the Reformed faith.4

The men of Gaster, a district which was under the joint jurisdiction of Popish Schwitz and Protestant Glarus, in carrying out their Reform, threw a touch of humor into their iconoclastic acts, which must have brought a grim smile upon the faces of the herdsmen and warriors of the Oberland when told of it. Having removed all the images from their churches, in the presence of the deputies from Schwitz sent to prevail on them to abide in the old religion, they carried the idols to a point where four roads crossed. Setting them down on the highway, “See,” said they, addressing the idols, “this road leads to Schwitz, this to Glarus, this other to Zurich, and the fourth conducts to Coire. Take the one that seems good unto you. We will give you a safe-conduct to whatever place you wish. But if you do not move off we tell you that we will burn you.” The idols, despite this plain warning, refused to march, and their former worshippers, now their haters, taking them up, threw them into the flames.5

The deputies from Schwitz, who had been witnesses of the act, returned to tell how they had been affronted. Schwitz haughtily commanded the men of Gaster to abandon the heresy they had embraced and re-establish the mass. They craved in reply to have their error proved to them from the Holy Scriptures. To this the only answer was a threat of war. This menace made the Protestants of Gaster east themselves for help on Zurich; and that protection being accorded, matters became still more embroiled between Zurich and the Five Cantons.

These offenses on the side of the Reforming cantons were altogether unavoidable, unless at the expense of suppressing the Reform movement. Not so the acts in which the Popish cantons indulged by way of retaliation: these were wholly gratuitous and peculiarly envenomed. Thomas Murner, the ribald monk, whom we have already met at Bern, labored zealously, and but too successfully, to widen the breach and precipitate the war in which so much blood was to be shed. He published daily in his “Black Calendar” lampoons, satires, and caricatures of the Protestants. A master of what is now known as “Billingsgate,” he spared no abusive epithet in blackening the men and maligning their cause. The frontispiece that garnished his “Calendar” represented Zwingli suspended from a gallows; underneath which were the words, “Calendar of the Lutheran-Evangelical Church Robbers and Heretics.” The followers of the Reformation were compendiously classified in the same elegant publication as “impotent unprincipled villains, thieves, lick-spittles, dastards, and knaves;” and he proposed that they should be disposed of in the following summary fashion, even “burned and sent in smoke to the devil.”6 These insults and ribaldries, instead of being discouraged, were hailed by the Five Cantons and widely diffused, although in so doing; hey were manifestly scattering “firebrands, arrows, and death.”

Zurich and the Reformed cantons saw war at no great distance, nevertheless they resolved to make another effort to avert it. In a Diet (21st April, 1529) held in Zurich, without the Five Cantons, it was resolved to call on these cantons to with. draw from their league with Austria, to cease murdering the Reformed pastors, and to silence the shameful vituperations of Murner. They appointed further an embassage to proceed to these cantons, and entreat them not to violate the federal compact. The deputies as they went the round of the Five Cantons with the olive-branch were only scoffed at. “No preaching!” shouted the men of Zug. “We wish the new faith eternally buried,” said those of Uri. “Your seditious parsons,” said Lucerne, “undermine the faith as erst in Paradise the serpent swung his folds round Adam and Eve. We will preserve our children, and our children’s children, from such poison.” “We,” said they in Unterwalden, “and the other Wald towns, are the true old confederates, the real Swiss.” As he was leaving the place the deputy saw on the house of the town-clerk a gallows painted, on which the arms of Zurich, Bern, Basle, and Strasburg were suspended. At Schwitz only did the council admit the ambassadors to an audience.7 Thus the proffered conciliation of their brethren was rudely and arrogantly put away by the Five Cantons.

Everywhere the Reformed deputies were insulted and sent back. It was evident that the Popish cantons were bent on quarrelling. But we shall mistake if we suppose that they were animated by a chivalrous and high-minded attachment to the faith of their fathers. A greed of the foreign pensions, quite as much as devotion to the “Holy Father,” swayed them in adopting this course. The deterioration of manners consequent on the foreign service was visible in every part of Switzerland, in Zurich as well as Unterwalden; but it was in the Five Cantons that this corruption was the deepest, because these were the cantons most addicted to this disgraceful warfare. The preaching of the Gospel revealed the evils and iniquities of this practice, and threatened to put an end to it, and of course to the gold that flowed from it; hence the fierce hostility of the men of the Oberland to the Reformation.8 Not only their idols and altars, but their purses also were at stake.

The patience of the Reformed cantons was well-nigh exhausted. There was no end of insults, provocation’s, and lampoons. The maltreatment and murder of their brethren in the faith, the return of their deputies shamefully used, and now the burning pile of Keyser—here was enough to fill up the cup. Zwingli thought that, the question of religion apart, the public order demanded that these outrages should be stopped. He was told, moreover, that the mountaineers were arming, that the Austrian auxiliaries on the frontier were enlisting soldiers, that war was determined on the Popish side, and that it would be wise in the interests of peace to strike the first blow. Let us, said Zwingli, attack the Five Cantons on several points at once. Let us convince them that resistance is useless. Our present peace is only war, with this difference, that it is the; blood of one side only that is being sprit. Our war will be peace. Zwingli hoped thus the campaign would be bloodless. The Council of Zurich on the 3rd of June resolved on war, proclaiming it in the first instance against Schwitz.9

The Reformer’s conduct in this affair has been much criticized. Some historians of great name have blamed him, others have not less warmly defended him. Let us look a little at what he did, and the reasons that appear to justify and even necessitate the line of action he adopted. While taking a leading part in the affairs of the State at this crisis, he continued to labor as indefatigably as ever in preaching and writing. He sought, in doing what he now did, simply to take such means as men in all ages of the world, and in all stages of society, guided by the light of reason and the laws which the Creator has implanted in the race, have taken to defend their lives and liberties. The members of that Confederation were Christians, but they were also citizens. Christianity did not annihilate, it did not even abridge the privileges and powers of their citizenship. If while they were Romanists they had the right to defend their lives, their homes, and their possessions against all assailants, whether within or without Switzerland; and if, further, they had the right of protecting their fellow-citizens who, guilty of no crime, had been seized, and in violation of inter-cantonal law were threatened with a cruel death, surely they retained the same rights as professors of the Reformed faith. But it may be said—nay, it has been said that it was Church federation and not State federation that ought to have been had recourse to. But at that time the State and the Church were inextricably mingled in Switzerland: their separate action was not at that moment possible; and, even though it had been possible, pure Church action would not have met the case; it would have been tantamount to no action. The Forest Cantons, impelled by their bigotry and supported by Austria, would have fallen sword in hand upon the professors of the Gospel in Helvetin and rooted them out.

Besides, does not the Gospel by its Divine efficacy rear around it, sooner or later, a vast number of powerful and valuable forces? It nourishes art, plants courage, and kindles the love of liberty. For what end? For this among others, to be, under the providence of God, a defense around itself.

When Christians are utterly without human succor and resource, they are called to display their faith by relying wholly on God, who, if it is his purpose to deliver them, well knows how to do so. Then their faith has in it reason as well as sublimity. But if means are laid to their hand, and they forbear to use them, on the plea that they are honoring God by showing their trust in him, they are not trusting but tempting God, and instead of exercising faith are displaying fanaticism.

Zwingli, it has been further said, was a pastor, and the call to combine and stand to the defense of their liberties now addressed to the Reformed cantons ought to have come from another than him. But Zwingli was a citizen and a patriot, as well as a pastor. His wonderfully penetrating, comprehensive, and forecasting intellect made him the first politician of his country; he could read the policy of its enemies better than any one else; he had penetrated their purposes; he saw the dangers that were gathering round the Reformed cantons; and his sagacity and experience taught him the measures to be adopted. No other man in all Switzerland knew the matter half so well. Was he to stand aloof and withhold the counsel, the suggestion, the earnest exhortation to action, and let his country be overwhelmed, on the plea that because he was in sacred office it did not become him to interfere? Zwingli took a different view of his duty, and we think justly. When the crisis came, without in the least intermitting his zeal and labors as a minister, he attended the meetings of council, he gave his advice, he drew plans, he thundered in the pulpit, he placed even his military experience acquired in Italy at the service of his countrymen; combining, in short, the politician:, patriot, and pastor all in one, he strove to kindle the same ardent flame of patriotism in the hearts of his fellow-citizens that burned so strongly in his own, and to roll back the invasion which threatened all that was of value in the Swiss Confederation with destruction. The combination was an unusual one, we admit, but the times and the emergency were also unusual. That Zwingli may have always preserved the golden mean when the parts he had to act were so various, and the circumstances so exciting, we are not prepared to maintain. But we do not see how his policy in the main can be impugned, without laying down the maxim that when civil liberty only is at stake is it right to have recourse to arms, and that when the higher interests of faith and religious liberty are mixed up with the quarrel, we are bound to do nothing—to stand unarmed and inactive in the presence of the enemy.

Chapter 11.7: Arms – Negotiations – Peace

Zurich Girds on the Sword – Mustering in the Popish Cantons – 4,000 Warriors March from Zurich – Encamp at Kappel – Halt – Negotiations, Peace – Zwingli Dislikes it – Zwingli’s Labors – His Daily Life – His Dress, etc., Arrangement of his Time, His Occupations – Amusements Writings.

FIRST carne the startling news to the Swiss Reformers that the Five Cantons had struck a league with Austria. Next came the flash of Keyser’s martyr-pile. This was succeeded by the clang of military preparations. Zurich saw there was not a moment to be lost. The council of the canton met; it was resolved to support, religious liberty, and put a stop to the beheadings and burnings which the Popish cantons ]had commenced. But to carry out this resolution they must gird on the sword. Zurich declared war.1

From Zug sounded forth the summons to arms on the other side. There was a mustering of warriors from all the valleys and mountains around. From the rich meadows of Uri, which the footsteps of Ten had made for ever historic; from that lovely strand where rise the ramparts of Lucerne, reflected on its noble lake, and shaded by the dark form of the cloud-capped Pilatus; from those valleys of Unterwalden, whose echoes are awakened by the avalanches of the Jungfrau; from the grassy plains of Schwitz on the east, armed men poured forth prepared to fight for the faith of their fathers, and to quench in blood the new religion which Zwingli and Zurich had introduced, and which was spreading like an infection over their country. The place of rendezvous was the deep valley where the waters of Zug, defended all round by mighty mountains, and covered by their shadows, lie so still and sluggish in their bed.

On the 9th of June, 4,000 picked soldiers, fully armed, and well furnished with artillery and provisions, under the command of Captain George Berguer, with Conrad Schmidt, Pastor of Kussnacht, as their chaplain, issued from the gates of Zurich, and set out to meet the foe.2 The walls and towers were crowded with old men and women to witness their departure. Among them rode Zwingli, his halberd across his shoulder,3 the same, it is said, he had carried at 1garignano. Anna, his wife, watched him from the ramparts as he rode slowly away. Crossing the Albis Alp, the army of Zurich encamped at Kappel, near the frontier of the canton of Zug.

It was nine of the evening when the Zurich warriors encamped at Kappel. Next morning, the 10th of June, they sent a herald at daybreak with a declaration of war to the army of the Five Cantons assembled at Zug. The message filled the little town with consternation. The sudden march of the Zurich army had taken it unawares and found it unprepared; its armed allies were not yet arrived; the women screamed; the men ran to and fro collecting what weapons they could, and dispatching messengers in hot haste to their Confederates for assistance.

In the camp of the Zurichers preparations were making to follow the herald who had carried the proclamation of hostilities to Zug. Had they gone forward the enemy must have come to terms without striking a blow. The van-guard of the Zurichers, marshaled by its commander William Toenig, was on the point of crossing the frontier. At that moment a horseman was observed spurring his steed uphill, and coming towards them with all the speed he could. It was Landamman Ebli of Glarus. “Halt!” he cried, “I come from our Confederates. They are armed, but they are willing to negotiate. I beg a few hours delay in hopes that an honorable peace may be made. Dear lords of Zurich, for God’s sake prevent the shedding of blood, and the ruin of the Confederacy.” The march of the Zurich warriors was suspended.4

Landamman Ebli was the friend of Zwingli. He was known to be an honorable man, well disposed towards the Gospel, and all enemy of the foreign service. All hailed his embassy as a forerunner of peace. Zwingli alone suspected a snake in the grass. He saw the campaign about to end without the loss of a single life; but this halt inspired him with melancholy and a presentiment of evil. As Ebli was turning round to return to Zug, Zwingli went up to him, and earnestly whispered into his ear the following words, “Godson Amman,5 you will have to answer to God for this mediation. The enemy is in our power, and unarmed, therefore they give us fair words. You believe them and you mediate. Afterwards, when they are armed, they will fall upon us, and there will be none to mediate.”

“My dear godfather,” replied Ebli, “let us act for the best, and trust in God that all will be well.” So saying he rode away.

In this new position of affairs, messengers were dispatched to Zurich for instructions, or rather advice, for it was a maxim in the policy of that canton that “wherever the banner waves, there is Zurich.” Meanwhile the tents of the soldiers were spread on the hill-side, within a few paces of the sentinels of the Five Cantons. Every day a sermon was preached in the army, and prayers were offered at meals. Disorderly women, who followed the armies of that age in shoals, were sent away as soon as they appeared. Not an oath was heard. Cards and dice were not needed to beguile the time. Psalms, national hymns, and athletic exercises filled up the hours among the soldiers of the two armies. Animosity against one another expired with the halt. Going to the lines they chatted together, ate together, and, forgetting their quarrel, remembered only that they were Swiss. Zwingli sat alone in his tent, oppressed by a foreboding of evil.

Not that he wished to shed a drop of blood; it was his eagerness to escape that dire necessity that made him grudge the days now passing idly by. All had gone as he anticipated up till this fatal halt. Austria was too seriously occupied with the Turks to aid the Popish cantons just at this moment; and had the answer sent back by Landamman Ebli been the unconditional acceptance of the terms of Zurich or battle, it was not to be doubted that the Five Cantons would have preferred the former. The opportunity now passing was not likely to return; and a heavy price would be exacted at a future day for the indolence of the present hour.

After a fortnight’s negotiations between Zurich and the Five Cantons, a peace was patched up.6 It was agreed that the Forest Cantons should abandon their alliance with Austria, that they should guarantee religious liberty to the extent of permitting the common parishes to decide by a majority of votes which religion they would profess, and that they should pay the expenses of the war. The warriors on both sides now struck their encampments and returned home, the Zurichers elate, the Romanists gloomy and sullen. The peace was in favor of Protestantism. But would it be lasting? This was the question that Zwingli had put to himself. When the army re-entered Zurich, he was observed, amid the acclamations that resounded on every side, to be depressed and melancholy. He felt that a golden opportunity had been lost of effectually curbing the bigotry and breaking the power of the Popish cantons, and that the peace had been conceded only to lull them asleep till their opponents were better prepared, when they would fall upon them and extinguish the Reform in blood. These presentiments were but too surely fulfilled.

This peace was due to the energy and patriotism of Zurich. Bern had contributed nothing to it; her warriors, who had often gone leith on a less noble quarrel, abode within their walls, when the men of Zurich were encamped on the slopes of the Albis, in presence of the foe. This want of firm union was, we apprehend, the main cause of the disastrous issue of Zwingli’s plan. Had the four Reformed cantons—Basle, Zurich, Bern, and St. Gall—stood shoulder to shoulder, and presented an unbroken front, the Romanists of the mountains would hardly have dared to attack them. Division invited the blow under which Reformed Switzerland sank for awhile.

The Reformer of Zurich is as yet only in mid-life, taking the “three-score and tell” as our scale of reckoning, but already it begins to draw toward evening with him. The shadows of that violent death with which his career was to close, begin to gather round him. We shall pause, therefore, and look at the man as we see him, in the circle of his family, or at work in his study. He is dressed, as we should expect, with ancient Swiss simplicity.

He wears the wide coat of the canon, and on his head is the priest’s hat, or “baretta.” The kindness of his heart and the courage of his soul shine out and light up his face with the radiance of cheerfulness, humorous visitors, of all conditions, and on various errands, knock at his door, and are admitted into his presence. Now it is a bookseller, who comes to importune him to write something for an approaching book-fair; now it is a priest, who has been harshly used by his bishop, who craves his advice; now it is a brother pastor, who comes to ask help or sympathy; now it is a citizen or councilor, a friend from the country, who wishes to consul him on State affairs, or on private business. He receives all with genuine affability, listens with patience, and gives his answers in a few wise words. Sometimes, indeed, a sudden frown darkens his brow, and the lightning of his eye flashes forth, but it is at the discovery of meanness or hypocrisy. The storm, however, soon passes, and the light of an inward serenity and truthfulness again shines out and brightens his features.

Towards well-meaning ignorance he is compassionate and tender. In regard to his meals, his fare is simple. The dainties of his youth are the dainties of his manhood. Living in a city, with its luxuries at command, and sitting often at the table of its rich burghers, he prefers the milk and cheese which formed the staple of his diet when he lived among the shepherds of the Tockenburg. As to his pleasures they are not such as have a sting in them; they are those that delight the longest because the most natural and simple. His leisure—it is not much—is spent in the society of his accomplished and high-souled wife, in the education of his children, in conversation with his friends, and in music. In his college-days how often, as we have already seen, in company of his friend Leo Juda, did he awake the echoes of the valleys beside the romantic Basle with his voice or instrument! On the grander shores of the Zurcher-See he continued to cultivate the gift, as time served, with all the passion of an artist.

He is very methodical in his habits. His time is wisely divided, and none of it is frittered away by desultoriness or unpunctuality. Both in body and mind he is eminently healthy. Luther had even more than the joyous disposition of Zwingli, but not his robustness and almost uninterrupted good health. The Doctor of Wittemberg complained that “Satan tilted through his head,” and at times, for weeks together, he was unable to work or write. Calvin was still more sickly. His “ten maladies” wore away his strength; but they had power over the body only; the spirit they did not approach to ruffle or weaken, and we stand amazed at the magnificence of the labors achieved in a frame so fragile and worn. But it was not so with the Reformer of Zurich; he suffered loss neither of time nor of power from ill-health; and this, together with the skillful distribution of his time, enabled him to get through the manifold labors that were imposed upon him.

He rose early. The hours of morning he spent in prayer and the study of the Scriptures. At eight o’clock he repaired to the cathedral to preach, or to give the “Prophesying,” or to the Professorial Hall, to deliver an exegesis from the Old and New Testaments alternately. At eleven he dined. After dinner, intermitting his labors, he spent the time in conversing with his family, or in receiving visitors, or walking in the open air. At two o’clock he resumed work, often devoting the afternoon to the study of the great writers and orators of Greece and Rome. Not till after supper does he again grant himself a respite from labor in the society of his family or friends. “Sometimes,” says Christoffel, “he sups in those mediaeval society-houses or guild-rooms—as they still exist in many of the Swiss towns—in the company of his colleagues, the members of the council, and other respectable and enlightened friends of evangelical truth. The later hours of the evening, and even a part of the night itself, he employs in writing his many letters.” If business is pressing, he can dispense with his night’s rest. During the disputation at Baden, as we have seen, he received each night letters from Ecolampadius. He sat up all night to write his answer, which had to be sent off before morning; and this continued all the while the conference was in session, so that, as Zwingli himself tells us, he was not in bed all the time—that is, six weeks. But, as Bullinger informs us, on other occasions he could take the necessary amount of sleep. Thus, with the careful distribution and economy of his time, combined with an iron constitution and a clear and powerful intellect, he was able to master the almost overwhelming amount of work which the Reformation laid upon him.7

He complained that the many demands on his time did not leave him leisure to elaborate and polish his productions. The storms and emergencies of his day compelled him to write, but did not leave him time to revise. Hence he is diffuse after an unusual manner: not in style, which has the terse vigor of the ancients; nor in thinking, which is at once clear and profound; but in a too great affluence of ideas. He modestly spoke of what came from his pen as sketches rather than books. Scripture he interpreted by Scripture, and thus, in addition to a naturally penetrating intellect, he enjoyed eminently the teaching of the Spirit, which is given through the Word. Zwingli sought in converse with his friends to improve his heart; he read the great works of antiquity to strengthen his intellect and refine his taste; he studied the Bible to nourish his piety and enlarge his knowledge of Divine truth. But a higher means of improvement did he employ—converse with God. “He strongly recommended prayer,” says Bullinger, “and he himself prayed much daily.” In this he resembled Luther and Calvin and all the great Reformers. What distinguished them from their fellows, even more than their great talents, was a certain serenity of soul, and a certain grandeur and strength of faith, and this they owed to prayer.

Chapter 11.8: Proposed Christian Republic For Defence Of Civil Rights

Another Storm brewing in the Oberland – Protestantism still spreading in Switzerland – A Second Crisis – Zwingli proposes a European Christian Republic – Negotiates with the German Towns, the King of France, and the Republic of Venice – Philip of Hesse to be put at the Head of it – Correspondence between Philip and Zwingli – League for Defense of Civil Rights only – Zwingli’s Labors for the Autonomy of the Helvetian Church.

THE peace which negotiation had given Zurich, Zwingli felt, would be short, but it was precious while it lasted, and he redoubled his efforts to turn it to account. He strove to carry the sword of the Spirit into those great mountains whose dwellers had descended upon them with the sword of the warrior, for he despaired of the unity and independence of his country save through the Gospel. His labors resulted, during this brief space, in many victories for the faith. At Schaffhausen fell the “great god,” namely, the mass. The Reformation was consummated in Glarus, in the Appenzell, and introduced into parts of Switzerland which had re-rosined till now under the yoke of Rome. So much for the freedom of conscience guaranteed by the peace of Kappel. Every day, as the men of the Forest Cantons looked from their lofty snow-clad summits, they beheld the symbols of the Roman faith vanishing from the plains beneath them; convents deserted, the mass abolished, and village after village meeting, discussing, and by vote adopting the Protestant worship. As yet they had been able to maintain the purity of their mountains, thanks to the darkness and the foreign gold, but they were beginning to be defiled by the feet of the Protestants, and how soon their stronghold might be conquered, and the flag of the Gospel unfurled where the banner of Rome had so long and so proudly waved, they could not tell. A Popish historian of the time, describing the activity of Zwingli and his fellow-laborers, says: “A set of wretched disturbers of the peace burst into the Five Cantons, and murdered souls by spreading abroad their songs, tracts, and little Testaments, telling the people they might learn the truth itself from these, and one did not require any more to believe what the priests said.”1 While they were barring their gates in front, suddenly, as we have already said, Protestantism appeared in their rear. A shout came up from t]he Italian plains that the Gospel had entered that land, and that Rome had begun to fall. This brought on a second crisis.

We are approaching the catastrophe. Zwingli, meditating day and night how he might advance the Reformation and overthrow that terrible power which had held the nations so long in bondage, had begun to revolve mighty plans. His eye ranged over all Christendom; his glance penetrated everything; his; comprehensive and organizing mind, enlarged by the crisis through which Christendom was passing, felt equal to the task of forming and directing the grandest projects. He had already instituted a Christian co-burghery in Switzerland to hold in check the Popish cantons; this idea he attempted to carry out on a grander scale by extending it to the whole of Reformed Christendom. Why should not, he said, all the Protestant States and nations of Europe unite in a holy confederation for frustrating the plans which the Pope and Charles V. are now concocting for the violent suppression of the Reformation? It was at this time that he visited Marburg, where he met Philip of Hesse, between whom and himself there existed a great harmony of view on the point in question. Both felt that it was the duty of the Protestant States to put forth their political and military strength in the way of repelling force by force. They meditated the forming of a great Christian republic, embracing the Reformed Swiss cantons, the free cities of Southern Germany, and the Protestant Saxon States in Central and Northern Germany. Zwingli even turned his eyes to Venice, where a Protestant movement of a promising kind had recently presented itself. He sent an ambassador to the republic, who came back with a secret assurance of aid in case of need. The Reformer was not without hope of enlisting France in the league. Overtures to that effect had in fact. been made by Francis I., who seemed not unwilling to leave the path of violence on which he had entered, and take under his wing the Reformation of his country. This Protestant alliance was meant to extend from the Adriatic to the German Ocean, forming a Protestant power in Central Europe sufficient to protect conscience and the free preaching of the Gospel. This display of strength, Zwingli believed, would hold in check the emperor and the Pope, would be a rampart around the preachers and professors of the Protestant faith, and would prevent an Iliad of woes which he saw approaching to Christendom. The project was a colossal one.

At the head of this Protestant republic Zwingli proposed to place Philip the Magnanimous. Among the princes of that age he could hardly have made a better choice. It is probable that Zwingli communicated the project to him in his own Castle of Marburg, when attending the conference held in the autumn of that year (October, 1529) on the question of the Lord’s Supper. The ardent mind of Philip would be set on fire by the proposal. He had in fact attempted to form a similar league of defense among the Reformed princes and cities of Germany. He had fretted under the restraints which Luther had imposed upon him; for ever as his hand touched his sword’s hilt, to unsheathe it in defense of the friends of the Gospel, came the stern voice of the Reformer commanding him to forbear. He had been deeply mortified by the refusal of the Lutherans to unite with the Zwinglians, because it left them disunited in presence of that tremendous combination of force that was mustering on all sides against them. Now came the same thing in another form; for this new defensive alliance promised to gain all the ends he sought so far as these were political. Switzerland and South Germany it would unite; and he hoped, indeed he undertook, to induce the princes and States of North Germany also to accede to the league; and thus what time the emperor crossed the Alps with his legions—and he was now on his way northward, having shaken hands with the Pope over the proposed extermination of Lutheranism—he would find such a reception as would make him fain again to retreat across the mountains.

Zwingli’s journey to Marburg had been of signal importance to him in this respect. He had correctly divined the secret policy of the emperor, but at Strasburg he had obtained information which had given him a yet surer and deeper insight into the designs of Charles. His informant was the town sheriff, James Sturm, a far-seeing statesman, devoted to the Reformed cause, and enjoying the friendship of many men of influence and position in Germany and France. Through them Sturm came into possession of important documents disclosing the emperor’s plans against the Reformers. Zwingli forwarded copies of these to the secret council of Zurich, with the remark, “These are from the right workshop.”

The substance of these documents is probably contained in the statements which Zwingli made to those statesmen who had his confidence. “The emperor,” said he, “stirs up friend against friend, and enemy against enemy, in order to force himself between them as mediator, and then he decides with a partiality that leans to the interests of the Papacy and his own power. To kindle a war in Germany he excites the Castellan of Musso2 against the Grisons, the Bishops of Constance and Strasburg against the cities of Constance and Strasburg, Duke George of Saxony against John, Elector of Saxony; the Bishops of the Rhine against the Landgrave of Hesse; the Duke of Savoy against Bern, and the Five Cantons against Zurich. Everywhere he makes division and discord. When the confusion has come to a head and all things are ripe he will march in with his Spaniards, and befooling one party with fair words, and falling upon the other with the sword, he will continue to strike till he has reduced all under his yoke. Alas! what an overthrow awaits Germany and all of us under pretense of upholding the Empire and re-establishing religion.”3

After his return from Marburg, Zwingli corresponded with the landgrave on this great project. “Gracious prince,” wrote he on the 2nd of November, 1529, “if I write to your Grace, as a child to a father, it is because of the confidence I have that God has chosen you for great events, which I dare not utter…. We must bell the cat at last.”4 To which the landgrave answered, “Dear Mr. Huldreich, I hope through the providence of God a feather will fall from Pharaoh,5 and that he will meet with what he little expects; for all things are in the way of improvement. God is wonderful. Let this matter touching Pharaoh remain a secret with you till the time arrives.”6

Like a thunder-cloud charged with fire, the emperor was nearing Germany, to hold the long-announced Diet of Augsburg. The Reformer’s courage rose with the approach of danger. The son of the Tockenburg shepherd, the pastor of a little town, dared to step forth and set the battle in array against this Goliath, the master of so many kingdoms. “Only base cowards or traitors,” he wrote to Councilor Conrad Zwick of Constance, “can look on and yawn, when we ought to be straining every nerve to collect men and arms from every quarter to make the emperor feel that in vain he strives to establish Rome’s supremacy, to destroy the privileges of the free towns, and to coerce us in Helvetia. Awake, Lindau! Arouse, ye neighbor cities, and play the men for your hearths and altars! He is a fool who trusts to the friendship of tyrants. Even Demosthenes teaches us that nothing is so hateful in their eyes as the freedom of cities. The emperor with one hand offers us bread, but in the other he conceals a stone.”7

Had the object aimed at been the compelling of the Romanists to abandon their faith or desist from the practice of its rites, Zwingli’s project would have been supremely execrable; but the Reformer did not for a moment dream of such a thing. He never lost sight of the great fact, that by the preaching of the Gospel alone can men be enlightened and converted. But he did not see why States, to the extent to which God had given them the power, should not resist those treacherous and bloody plots which were being hatched for the destruction of their faith and liberties. Luther disapproved of this policy entirely. Christians, he said, ought not to resist the emperor, and if he requires them to die they are to yield up their lives.

It was by the stake of the martyr and not by the sword of the State, he never ceased to remind men, that the Gospel was to triumph. Luther, reared in a convent and trained in habits of submission to authority, was to a much greater extent than Zwingli a man of the past. Zwingli, on the other hand, born in a republic, with all the elements and aspirations of constitutional liberty stirring in his breast, was a man of the present. Hence the different policies of these two men. It is impossible to say to what extent the atrocities that darkened the following years would have been prevented, had Zwingli’s plan been universally acted upon. But the time for it was not yet come; and the Great Ruler by willing it otherwise has thrown a moral grandeur around the Reformation, which could not have belonged to it had its weapons been less spiritual and its triumph less holy.

In the midst of these negotiations for banding the Protestants in a great European confederacy for the defense of their civil and religious liberties, Zwingli did not for a moment abate his labors as a pastor. The consolidation of the Gospel in Switzerland must be the basis of all his operations. In 1530 he held synods in various parts of the country. At these measures were adopted for perfecting the autonomy of the Church: the ministers were examined; incapable and scandalous pastors were removed; superintendents to watch over moral and administer discipline were appointed; and arrangements set on foot for giving a competent salary to every minister. In February, 1531, it was agreed that whenever any difficulty should arise in doctrine or discipline an assembly of divines and laymen should be convoked, which should examine what the Word of God says on the matter, and decide accordingly.8

Chapter 11.9: Gathering Of A Second Storm

Persecution renewed by the Five Cantons – Activity of Zwingli – Address of the Reformed Pastors – Bern proposes Blockade of the Five Cantons – Zwingli Opposed – No Bread, etc. – Zwingli asks his Dismissal – Consents to Remain – Meeting at Bremgarten – The Comet – Alarming Portents – Zwingli’s Earnest Warnings-Unheeded.

EVERY Step of the Gospel nearer their mountains made the men of the Five Cantons only the more determined to rend the treaty in which they had bound themselves to their brethren. They had already violated its spirit. The few professors of the Reformed faith in their territory they drove out, or imprisoned, or burned. In the common parishes—that is, the communes governed now by the Reformed, and now by the Popish cantons—they committed the same atrocities when their turn of jurisdiction came. They imprisoned the preachers and professors of the Reformed faith, confiscated their goods, cut out their tongues, beheaded and burned them. Calumnies were next circulated to inflame the popular wrath against the Protestants; then followed wrathful speeches; at last was heard the clang of arms; it was evident that another tempest was brewing among the mountains of the Oberland.

A General Diet of the Swiss Confederation was convoked at Baden on the 8th of January, 1531.1 It was unable to come to any decision. Meanwhile the provocation’s which the Forest Cantons were daily offering were becoming intolerable, yet how were they to be restrained? Behind those cantons stood the emperor and Ferdinand, both, at this hour, making vast preparations; and should war be commenced, who could tell where it would end? Meanwhile it was of the last importance to keep alive the patriotism of the people. Zwingli visited in person the Confederate cantons; he organized committees, he addressed large assemblies; he appealed to everything that could rouse Swiss valor. The armies of Rome were slowly closing around them; the Spaniards were in the Grisons; the emperor was in Germany; soon they would be cut off from their fellow-Protestants of other lands and shut up in their mountains. They must strike while yet they had the power. It would be too late when the emperor’s sword was at their gates, and the Romanists of their own mountains had fallen like an avalanche upon them. Never had their fathers bled in so holy a cause.

The heroes of the past seemed all to live again in this one man. Wherever he passed he left behind him a country on fire.

A Diet of the Reformed cantons was held at Arau on the 12th of May, to decide on the steps to be taken. The situation, they said, was this: “The Mountain Cantons remain Roman Catholic; they divide Switzerland into two camps; they keep open the door: for the armed hordes of foreign bigotry and despotism. How shall we restore Swiss unity?” they asked.

“Not otherwise than by restoring unity of faith.” They did not seek to compel the Five Cantons to renounce Popery, but they believed themselves justified in asking them to cease from persecuting the preachers of the Gospel in the common parishes, and to tolerate the Reformed doctrine in their valleys. This was the demand of the four Reformed cantons.

The Pastors of Zurich, Bern, Basle, and Strasburg assembled in Zwingli’s house the 5th of September, 1530, and speaking in the name of the Reformed cantons addressed to their Popish confederates the following words: “You know, gracious lords, that concord increases the power of States, and that discord overthrows them. You yourselves are a proof of the first. May God prevent you from becoming also a proof of the second.”

For this reason we conjure you to allow the Word of God to be preached among you. When has there ever existed, even among the heathen, a people which saw not that the hand of God alone upholds, a nation? Do not two drops of quicksilver unite as soon as you remove that which separates them? Away then with that which separates you from your cities, that is, the absence of the Word of God, and immediately the Almighty will unite us as our fathers were united. Then placed in your mountains, as in the center of Christendom, you will be an example to it, its protection and its refuge; and after having passed through this vale of tears, being the terror of the wicked and the consolation of the faithful, you will at last be established in eternal happiness.”

“The minister’s sermon is rather long,” said some, with a yawn, in whose heating this address was read. The remonstrance was without effect. Zwingli earnestly counseled a bold and prompt blow—in other words, an armed intervention. He thought this the speediest way to bring the Mountain Cantons to reasonable terms. Baden, though admitting that the Five Cantons had broken the national compact, and that the atrocities they were committing in shameful violation of their own promises justified war, thought it better, nevertheless, that a milder expedient should be tried.

Uri, Schwytz, Unterwalden, Zug, and Lucerne were dependent for their daily supplies upon the markets and harvests of the plains. Shut out from these, they had no alternative but surrender or death by famine. “Let us blockade these cantons,” said Bern. Zurich and Zwingli strongly disapproved of this measure. It confounded, they said, the innocent with the guilty; whereas war would smite only the latter. The blockade, however, was resolved upon and rigorously carried out. The markets of the entire region around were closed, and the roads leading to the towns blockaded. Instantaneously the Five Cantons were enclosed in a vast desert; bread, wine, and salt suddenly failed from their chalets, and the horrors of famine began to reign in their mountains. This calamity was the more severely felt inasmuch as the preceding year had been one of dearth, and the “sweating sickness” had visited their valleys, adding its ravages to the sufferings caused by the failure of the crops.2

A wail of suffering and a cry of indignation arose from the mountains. A General Diet was opened at Bremgarten on the 14th of June, in presence of the deputies of several foreign Powers. The Five Cantons demanded that, first of all, the blockade should be raised; till this was done they would listen to no proposition. Bern and Zurich replied: “The blockade we will not raise till you shall have ceased your persecutions, and opened your own valleys to the free preaching of the Gospel.” Conciliation was impossible; the conference broke up, and the breach remained unclosed.

This was a terrible complication. Nothing but a united and bold policy, Zwingli saw, could extricate them from it. But instead of this, the Council of Zurich was every day displaying greater vacillation and feebleness. The lukewarm and timid were deserting the Reform, its old enemies were again raising their heads. Courage and patriotism were lacking to meet the ire of the mountaineers, roused by the half-measures which had been adopted. Ruin was coming on apace. The burden of the State rested on Zwingli; he felt he could no longer accept a position in which he was responsible for evils which were mainly owing to the rejection of those measures he had counseled. He appeared before the Great Council on the 26th of July, 1531, and, with a voice choking with emotion, said: “For eleven years I have preached the Gospel among you, and warned you of the dangers that would threaten the Confederacy if the Five Cantons—that is to say, the party which lives by pensions and mercenary service—should gain the upper hand. All has been of no avail. Even now you elect to the council men who covet this blood-money. I will no longer be responsible for the mischief that I cannot prevent; I therefore desire my dismissal.”3 He took his departure with tears in his eyes.

Thus was the pilot leaving the ship at the moment the storm was about to strike it. The councilors were seized with dismay. Their former reverence and affection for their magnanimous and devoted leader revived. They named a deputation to wait on him and beg him to withdraw his resignation. Zwingli took three days to consider what course he should pursue. These were days of earnest prayer. At length he reappeared in the council, his eyes dimmed, and his face bearing traces of the conflict through which he had passed. “I will stay with you,” said he, “and I will labor for the safety of the State—until death.”

For a moment the union and courage of Zurich revived. Zwingli began again to have hope. He thought that could he rouse to action the powerful canton of Bern, all might yet be well; the gathering tempest in the mountains might be turned back, and the iron hand that lay so heavy upon conscience and the preaching of the Gospel lifted off. He arranged a midnight meeting with the deputies of Bern at Bremgarten, and put the matter before them thus: “What is to be done?” said he. “Withdraw the blockade?—the cantons will then be more haughty and insolent than ever; Enforce it?—they will take the offensive, and if their attack succeed, you will behold our fields red with the blood of the Protestants, the doctrine of truth cast down, the Church of Christ laid waste, all social relations overthrown, our adversaries more irritated and hardened against the Gospel, and crowds of monks and priests again filling our rural districts, streets, and temples.” He paused; then solemnly added, “And yet that also will have an end.” The words of Zwingli had deeply impressed the Bernese. “We see,” said they, “all the disasters that impend over our common cause, and will do our utmost to ward them off.”

Zwingli took his departure while it was yet dark. His disciple, the young Bullinger, who was present, and relates what was said at the interview, accompanied him a little way. The parting was most sad, for the two were tenderly attached, and in the hearts of both was a presentiment that they should meet no more on earth.4 A strange occurrence took place at the gate of the town. As Zwingli and his friends approached the sentinels, a personage in robes white as snow suddenly appeared, and threw the soldiers into panic. So the guard affirmed, for Zwingli and his friends saw not the apparition.5

The Council of Zurich sank down again into their former apathy. The pensioners—the foreign gold formed the great obstacle, Zwingli felt, to the salvation of his country. It had corrupted the virtue and undermined the patriotism of the Mountain Cantons, and it had bred treachery and cowardice in even the Reformed councils. Zwingli’s appeals grew more stirring every hour. “Ruin,” said he, “is at the door;” but he felt that his words were spoken to dead men; his heart was almost broken.

In the August of that year a comet of unusual size appeared in the heavens.6 As night after night, with lengthening tail and fiercer blaze, it hung suspended in the west, it attracted the gaze and awoke the terrors of all. On the night of the 15th of August, Zwingli and his friend George Muller, the former Abbot of Wettingen, contemplated it from the burying-ground of the great minister. “What may this star signify, dear Huldreich?” inquired Mailer. “It is come to light me to my grave,” replied Zwingli, “and many an honest man with me.”7 “With God’s grace, no,” said Mailer.

“I am rather short-sighted,” rejoined Zwingli, “but I foresee great calamities in the future:8 there comes a great catastrophe; but Christ will not finally forsake us; the victory will remain with our cause.”

Portent was heaped upon portent, and rumor followed rumor. Not a locality but furnished its wonder, prognosticating calamity, and diffusing gloomy forebodings over the country. At Brugg, in Aargau, a fountain, not of water, but of blood, was reported to have opened suddenly, and to be dyeing the earth with gore. The sky of Zug was illumined with a meteor in the form of a shield, and noises as of men engaged in conflict came from the hollows of the mountains. In the Brunig Pass banners were seen to wave upborne by no earthly hand, and stirred by no earthly breeze; while on the calm surface of the Lucerne Lake spectral ships were seen careering, manned with spectral warriors.9

There was no need of such ghostly signs; the usual symptoms of approaching disaster were but too manifest to those who chose to read them. Zwingli perceived them in the disunion and apathy of the Reformed cantons, in the growing audacity of the enemy, and in the sinister rumors which were every day brought from the mountains. He raised his voice once more; it was in vain: the men who trembled before the portents which their imagination had conjured up, were unmoved by the sober words of the one man whose sagacity foresaw, and whose patriotism would have averted, the coming ruin.

Chapter 11.10: Death Of Zwingli

Forest Cantons decide on War – Assembling of their Army – Zurich dispatches 600 Hen – Tedious Debates in the Council – A Night of Terror – Morning – The Great Banner Clings to its Staff – Depression – 700 mustered instead of 4,000 – Zwingli Mounts his Steed – Parting with his Wife and Children – Omens – The Battle – Bravery of the Zurichers – Overwhelmed by Numbers – The Carnage – Zwingli Mortally Wounded – Dispatched by Camp Followers – Tidings of his Death – Grief and Dismay

IN the beginning of October the preparations of the Five Cantons for war were completed. Their Diet assembled at Brunnen, on the banks of the Lake of Lucerne; a vote was taken, and the campaign was decided upon. Straightway the passes were seized that no one might tell it in Zurich.1

The avalanche hung trembling on the mountain’s brow; but a dead calm reigned in Zurich and the other Reformed cantons, for the rumors of war had suddenly ceased. It was the calm before the tempest.

On the 9th of October the mountain warriors assembled ill their chapels, heard mass, and then, to the number of 8,000, began their march toward the Protestant frontier. They set up their standard at Baar, between the canton of Zug and the canton of Zurich. The men of Schwytz, Uri, Zug, Unterwalden, and Lucerne hastened to assemble round it. Their ranks were swelled by soldiers from the Italian valleys, and deserters from Zurich and Bern. Another Popish host, 12,000 strong, spread themselves over the free parishes, inflicting all the horrors of war wherever they came. Tidings reached Zurich that the bolt had fallen the war was begun; the enemy was at Baar, on the road to Zurich.

On receiving this startling intelligence on the evening of the 9th, the council hastily assembled; but instead of sounding the tocsin, or calling the people to arms, they dispatched two councilors to reconnoiter, and then retired to rest.

At day-break of the 10th another messenger arrived at Zurich, confirming the intelligence of the previous day. The Great Council assembled in the morning, but still professed to doubt the gravity of the situation.

Messenger after messenger arrived; at last came one who told them that the enemy had crossed the frontier, and seized upon Hitzkylch. On hearing this, the councilors turned pale. They were alarmed at last. It was now resolved, although only after a lengthened debate, to send forward Goeldi, with 600 men and artillery.2 This was the vanguard; the main body was to follow. Crossing the Albis, Goeldi and his men arrived at Kappel during the night. He had instructions not to engage the forces of the enemy till succors arrived.

Lavatar, the commander-in-chief of the forces of the canton, earnestly counseled a levy en masse, and the instant dispatch of a powerful body to the frontier. There followed another tedious debate in the council; the day wore away, and it was evening before the council were able to come to the determination to send an army to defend their invaded country.

The sun went down behind the Albis. The city, the lake, and the canton were wrapped in darkness; with the darkness came trembling and horror. The bells were rung to summon to arms. They had hardly begun to toll when a tempest burst forth, and swept in terrific fury over Zurich and the surrounding country. The howling of the winds, the lashing of the waves of the lake, the pealing of the steeple-bells, the mustering of the land-sturm, and the earthquake, which about nine o’clock shook the city and canton, formed a scene of terror such as had seldom been witnessed. Few eyes were that night closed in sleep. In the dwellings of Zurich there were tears, and loud wailings, and hasty and bitter partings of those who felt that they embraced probably for the last time.

The morning broke; the tempest was past and gone, the mountains, the lake, and the green acclivities of the Albis were fairer than ever. But the beauty of morning could not dispel the gloom which had settled in the hearts of the Zurichers. The great banner was hoisted on the town-hall, but in the still air it clung to its staff. “Another bad omen,” said the men of Zurich, as they fixed their eyes on the drooping flag.

Beneath that banner there assembled about 700 men, where 4,000 warriors ought to have mustered. These were without, uniform, and insufficiently armed. The council had appointed Zwingli to be war-chaplain. He well knew the hazards of the post, but he did not shirk them. He pressed Anna, his wife, to his bruised and bleeding heart; tore himself from his children, and with dimmed eyes but a resolute brow went forth to mount his horse, which stood ready at the door. He vaulted into the saddle, but scarcely had he; touched it when the animal reared, and began to retreat backwards. “He will never return,” said the spectators, who saw in this another inauspicious omen.3

The little army passed out of the gates about eleven of the forenoon. Anna followed her husband with her eyes so long as he was visible. He was seen to fall behind his troop for a few minutes, and those who were near him distinctly heard him breathing out his heart in prayer, and committing himself and the Church to God. The soldiers climbed the Albis. On arriving at “The Beech-tree” on its summit they halted, and some proposed that they should here wait for reinforcements. “Hear ye not the sound of the cannon beneath us?” said Zwingli; “they are fighting at Kappel; let us hasten forward to the aid of our brethren.” The troop precipitated its march.4

The battle between the two armies had been begun at. one o’clock, and the firing had been going on for two hours when the Zurichers bearing the “great banner” joined their comrades in the fight.5 It seemed at first as if their junction with the van would turn the day in their favor. The artillery of Zurich, admirably served and advantageously posted, played with marked effect upon the army of the Five Cantons spread out on a morass beneath.6 But unhappily a wood on the left flank of the Zurich army had been left unoccupied, and the mountaineers coming to the knowledge of this oversight climbed the hill, and under cover of the trees opened a murderous fire upon the ranks of their opponents. Having discharged their fire, they rushed out of the wood, lance in hand, and furiously charged the Zurichers. The resistance they encountered was equally resolute and brave. The men of Zurich fought like lions; they drove back the enemy.

The battle swept with a roar like that of thunder through the wood. The fury and heroism on both sides, the flight and the pursuit of armed men, the clash of halberds and the thunder of artillery, the shouts of combatants, and the groans of the dying, mingling in one dreadful roar, were echoed and re-echoed by the Alps till they seemed to rock the mountains and shake the earth. In their advance the Zurichers became entangled in a bog. Alas! they were fatally snared. The foe returned and surrounded them. At this moment the troop under Goeldi, a traitor at heart, fled. Those who remained fought desperately, but, being as one to eight to the men of the Five Cantons, their valor could avail nothing against odds so overwhelming. “Soon they fell thick,” says Christoffel, “like the precious grain in autumn, beneath the strokes of their embittered foes, and at length were obliged to abandon the battle-field, leaving upon it more than five hundred who slept the sleep of death, or who were writhing in the agony of death-wounds.” On this fatal field fell the flower of Zurich—the wisest of its councilors, the most Christian of its citizens, and the ablest of its pastors.

But there is one death that affects us more than all the others. Zwingli, though present on the field, did not draw sword: he restricted himself to his duties as chaplain. When the murderous assault was made from the forest, and many were falling around him, he stooped down to breathe a few words into the ear of a dying man. While thus occupied he was struck with a stone upon the head, and fell to the earth. Recovering in a little he rose, but received two more blows. As he lay on the ground a hostile spear dealt him a fatal stab, and the blood began to trickle from the wound.

“What matters it?” said he; “they may kill the body, but they cannot kill the soul.” These were the last words he uttered.7

The darkness fell, the stars came out, the night was cold. Zwingli had fallen at the foot of a pear-tree, and lay extended on the earth. His hands were clasped, his eyes were turned to heaven, and his lips moved in prayer. The camp-followers were now prowling over the field of battle.

Two of them approached the place where the Reformer lay. “Do you wish for a priest to confess yourself?” said they. The dying man shook his head. “At least,” said they, “call in your heart upon the Mother of God.”

He signified his dissent by another shake of the head. Curious to know who this obstinate heretic was, one of them raised his head, and turned it toward one of the fires which had been kindled on the field. He suddenly let it fall, exclaiming, “Tis Zwingli!”8 It happened that Bockinger, an officer from Unterwalden, and one of those pensioners against whom Zwingli had so often thundered, was near. The name pronounced by the soldier fell upon his ear. “Zwingli!” exclaimed he; “is it that vile heretic and traitor Zwingli?” He had hardly uttered the words when he raised his sword and struck him on the throat. Yielding to this last blow, Zwingli died (October 11, 1531).9

It was on the field of battle that the Reformer met death. But the cause for which he yielded up his life was that of the Reformation of the Church and the regeneration of his country. He was not less a martyr than if he had died at the stake.

When the terrible tidings reached Zurich that Zwingli was dead, the city was struck with affright. The news ran like lightning through all the Reformed cantons and spread consternation and sorrow. Switzerland’s great patriot had fallen. When Ecolampadius of Basle learned that the Reformer was no more, his heart turned to stone, and he died in a few weeks. The intelligence was received with profound grief in all the countries of the Reformation. All felt that a great light had been quenched; that one of the foremost champions in the Army of the Faith had fallen, at a moment when the hosts of Rome were closing their ranks, and a terrible onset on the Truth was impending.

Zurich made peace with the Five Cantons, stipulating only for toleration. In the common parishes the Reformed faith was suppressed, the altars were set up, mass restored, and the monks crept back to their empty cells.

Luther, when told of the death of Zwingli and Ecolampadius, remembered the days he had passed with both of these men at Marburg, and was seized with so pungent a sorrow that, to use his own words, he “had almost died himself.” Ferdinand of Austria heard of the victory of Kappel, but with different feelings. “At last,” he thought, “the tide has turned,” and in Kappel he beheld the first of a long series of victories to be achieved by the sword of Rome. He wrote to his brother, Charles V., calling upon him to come to the aid of the Five Cantons, and beginning at the Alps, to traverse Christendom at the head of his legions, purging out heresy, and restoring the dominion of the old faith.

Zwingli had fallen; but in this same land a mightier was about to arise.

Book 12: Protestantism In Germany From The Augsburg Confession To The Peace Of Passau.

Chapter 12.1: The Schmalkald League

The Augsburg Confession – The Emperor’s Hopes and Disappointments – Melanchthon’s Despair – Luther’s Courage – Formation of Schmalkald League – The Kings of France, England, etc., invited to Enter it – The Swiss Rejected – Luther’s Hesitation – The Turk Invades Europe – Charles offers Peace to the Protestants – Peace of Ratisbon – The Church has Rest Fifteen Years.

WE have already traced the history of Protestantism in Germany from the day of the Theses (1517) to the day of the Augsburg Confession (1530). The interval between these two dates is short; but what a train of important and brilliant events marks its currency, and how different the Christendom of one era to the Christendom of the other! If the hammer of Luther, nailing his propositions to the door of the Schloss-kirk, sounded the knell of the Old times, the Augsburg Confession, presented only thirteen years afterwards, opens to us the gates of the New world. Where in all history are we to look for a transition so vast, accomplished in so short a time? Of all the factors in human affairs, that which despots commonly account the weakest, and of which they sometimes take no account at all, is immeasurably the strongest,—Conscience. It is more powerful than philosophy, more powerful than letters, more powerful than the sword. The schoolmen had toiled for ages to enlighten the world, but it was seen at last that their intellectual subtlety could not break the chains of the human soul. Their day faded into the night of mysticism. Next came the revival of letters, the sure prelude, it was said, of a new age.

But civilization and liberty did not come at the call of the Humanists, and after flourishing a little while letters began to retrace their steps towards the pagan tomb from which they had come. Scepticism was descending upon the world. But when the Word of God touched the conscience, the world felt itself shaken by a power mightier than that of schools or armies. It tottered upon its foundations. The veil was rent from the heart of Christendom.

We resume our narrative at the point where we broke it off the old town of Augsburg in the year 1530. What a numerous, brilliant, and motley gathering is that which its walls now enclose! Here are all the sovereign princes, dukes, and counts of the Empire, with their courts and their men-at- arms. Here are all the great scholars and theologians of Germany, her Popish dignitaries and her Protestant Reformers. Here too, in the train of the chief personages, is much that is neither princely nor scholarly—lacqueys and men-at-arms, idlers and sight-seers from far and near, who crowd the streets, fill the taverns, and disturb the peace and quiet of the city by engaging in battles of a different kind from those which exercise the prowess of the combatants in the Palatinate Chapel. A great place is empty in this vast gathering—that of Luther. But he is no farther off than the Castle of Coburg, where, sitting apart and maintaining a keen correspondence with his friends, he can make his spirit felt in the Diet and, unseen, guide the course of its debates.

All being gathered into Augsburg, in obedience to the summons of the emperor, at last with great pomp comes the emperor himself, Charles, master of two worlds. Behind him what a long and brilliant train! Kings, Papal legates, ambassadors, archbishops, priests, friars, and some ten thousand men-at-arms. It is Mediaevalism rising up in a power and glory unknown to it for ages, feeling instinctively that its last struggle is come with a power before which it is destined to fall.

Before crossing the Alps, Charles V. had had an. interview with the Pope at Bologna, and these two potentates had come to an understanding touching the policy to be pursued towards the Lutherans. They must be required to submit to the Church. This was the summary and simple solution that awaited the problem of the age. There was, it is true, the promise of a Council in the future, and of whatever reforms that Council might be pleased to grant; but, first, the Lutherans must return to their obedience. So then the end of the heresy was near—the Pope and the emperor, the two masters of Christendom, had decreed its extirpation. The brilliant assemblage now gathered from east to west of Germany had come to witness the burial of the Lutheran revolt, and the resurrection in new glory and power of Roman Catholicism.

But how mortifying to this master of so many kingdoms! He who had been twice victorious over his great rival Francis I., who had dictated peace at almost the gates of Paris, who had bowed the Pope to his policy, was withstood, thwarted, beaten by these heretical princes and excommunicated preachers. He was compelled to hear them read their Confession in open Diet; and thus had he erected a stage, and got together an audience, for the greater eclat of that Lutheranism which he expected to see sink into eternal annihilation beneath the weight of his arms and the prestige of his authority. A whole winter’s scheming with the Pope had suddenly collapsed.

But Charles could do something toward veiling the humiliation he could not but feel. He bade his theologians prepare an answer to the Confession of the Protestant princes and divines. Another unfortunate step. The blundering and sophistry of Dr. Eck acted as a foil to a document which combined the strength of Luther and the elegance of Melanchthon. The Augsburg Confession stood higher than ever. The emperor bade the Protestants consider themselves refuted. It would seem that he himself had but small faith in this refutation, for he made haste to throw his sword in along with the pen of Dr. Eck against the Protestants. On the 19th of November, 1530, he issued a decree,1 addressed to the Protestant princes, States and cities, commanding them, under peril of his displeasure, to return to their obedience to the See of Rome, and giving them till the next spring (15th of April) to make their choice between submission and war. Dr. Eck was rewarded for his services at the Council by the Bishopric of Vienna, which gave occasion to the witty saying of Erasmus, that “the poor Luther had made many rich.”2

The edict of the emperor forbade from that hour all further conversions to Protestantism, under pain of forfeiture of goods and life; it further enacted that all which had been taken from the Roman Catholics should be restored; that the monasteries and religious houses should be rebuilt; that the old ceremonies and rites should be observed; and that no one who did not submit to this decree should sit in the Imperial Chamber, the supreme court of judicature in the Empire; and that all classes should assist with their lives and fortunes in carrying out this edict.3 The edict of Spires was directed mainly against Luther; the ban of Augsburg was wider in its scope; it fell on all who held his opinions in Germany—on princes, cities, and peasants.

Melancthon was overwhelmed with dismay. He was “drowned,” says Sleidan, “with sighs and tears.”4 Happily, Luther yet lived. His magnanimity and faith rose to the occasion. He looked the great emperor and his persecuting edict in the face, and in a characteristic publication foretold that the edict would be a failure, and that even the emperor’s sword, strong as it was, was not strong enough to extinguish the light and bring back the darkness.

The spirit of Luther fired the princes. At Christmas, 1530, they met at Schmalkald to deliberate on the steps to be taken. That their religion and liberties must be defended at all costs was with them an axiom. The only question then was, How? They formed the League, known in history as the League of Schmalkald, engaging to stand by one another in the defense of their faith and their liberties, and in particular to resist any attempt that might be made by arms to carry out the Edict of Augsburg.5 For this purpose they were to maintain, each of them, for the space of six years, a military force ready to assist any principality or town which might be attacked by the imperial arms.

It was not the question of their religious liberties only that made it seem expedient for the Protestant princes to form this confederacy. To this were added political considerations of no small weight. Recent successes had greatly increased the power, and widened in the same proportion the ambition, of Charles V. The emperor was at this moment revolving schemes dangerous to the constitution and civil liberties of Germany. He had made his brother Ferdinand of Austria be elected King of the Romans.

To elect a King of the Romans was to designate the future Emperor of Germany. This was a violation of the Golden Bull of Charles IV., inasmuch as it was a manifest attempt on the part of Charles to vest the imperial crown in his family, and to render that dignity hereditary which the Golden Bull declared to be elective. The Protestant princes saw revolution in all this. The emperor was making himself master. They must resist this usurpation in time; hence the Schmalkald League, made first at Christmas, 1530, and renewed a year after, at Christmas, 1531, with the addition of a great many princes and cities. They wrote to the Kings of France, England, Denmark, and to the maritime towns in the north of Germany, to enter the League, or otherwise assist in their enterprise. The answers returned were in every case favorable, though considerations of policy made the writers postpone joining the League for the present. This bold step failed at first to meet Luther’s approval. It looked like war, and he shuddered at anything that threatened to bring war and the Gospel into contact. But when it was explained to him that the League was purely defensive; that it was meant to attack no one; that it was simply an arrangement for enabling its members to exercise unitedly, and therefore more successfully, their natural rights of self-defense, on behalf of what was dearer to them and to their countrymen than life itself, he acquiesced in the League of the princes.

The measure undoubtedly was right in itself, and was demanded by the circumstances of extreme peril in which Protestantism was now apparently placed. It linked the Protestant States of Germany into one confederation, under the regis of which the Protestant faith might be preached, and its doctrines professed, without terror of the stake. Further, we recognize in the Schmalkald League a decided step in the progress of Protestantism. Protestantism as a principle or doctrine was developed in the teaching of the Reformers. But Protestantism was never meant to remain a mere principle. Its mission was to create around it a new political, social, and intellectual world. At the center of that world the Protestant principle took its place, sitting there as on a throne, or rather dwelling in it as its soul, and in times of peril calling to its defense all those forces—arts, letters, free constitutions which itself had created. The beginning of this new political world was at Schmalkald.

A great many princes and free cities, in addition to the original confederates, had subscribed the League, and now its attitude was a somewhat imposing one. The Swiss Protestant cantons held out their hand, but were repulsed. They were held to be disqualified by their sentiments on the Lord’s Supper.6 This was a grave error. It was nearly as great an error on the other side when the Kings of France and England, who could hardly be more orthodox in the eyes of the Germans than were the Zwinglians, were invited to join the League.7 Happily these monarchs sent replies which saved the Leaguers from the political entanglements in which an alliance with these scheming and selfish potentates would have been sure to land them.8 This was the very danger that Luther had feared. He foresaw the League growing strong and beginning to lean on armies, neglecting the development of the religious principle in whose vitality alone would consist the consolidation, power, and success oft heir federation. If the rampart should smother the heavenly fire it was meant to enclose, both would perish together.

When the spring of 1531 came, the emperor, instead of beginning hostilities, paused. The sword that was to have swept German Protestantism from the face of the earth, and which was already half drawn, was thrust back into its sheath. Besides the Schmalkald League, other things had arisen to convince the emperor of the extreme hazard of attempting at this moment to enforce the Edict of Augsburg. France, whose monarch was still smarting from the memories of Pavia and the imprisonment at Madrid, threatened to break the peace and commence hostilities against him. The irrepressible Turk was again appearing in the east of Europe. Further, the emperor had given umbrage to the Popish princes of Germany by making his brother Ferdinand be elected King of the Romans, and so could not; count on the aid of his own party. Thus, ever as Charles put his hand upon his sword’s hilt, a new difficulty started up to prevent him drawing it. It must have seemed, even to himself, as if a greater power than the Schmalkald Confederacy were fighting against him.

The issue was that Charles, on a survey of his position, found that he must postpone the enforcing of the Edict of Augsburg to a more convenient time, and meanwhile he must come to an understanding with the Protestants. Accordingly, after tedious and difficult negotiations, a peace was agreed upon at Nuremberg, July 23rd, and ratified in the Diet at Ratisbon, August 3rd, 1532. In this pacification the emperor granted to the Lutherans the free and undisturbed exercise of their religion, until such time as a General Council or an Imperial Diet should decide the religious question; and the Protestants—now seven princes and twenty-four cities—promised to aid the emperor in his war against the Turk.9 Thus the storm that looked so dark rolled away without inflicting any harm on those over whom it had lowered so ominously. The finest army which united Christendom had yet raised marched against the Turks; “and the emperor,” says the Abbs Millot, “who had not yet appeared at the head of his troops (a thing surprising in an age of heroism), on this occasion took the command. He had the glory of disconcerting a formidable enemy, whose forces are said to have amounted to three hundred thousand men.”10 Solyman, intimidated by this display of force, withdrew his devastating hordes without coming to a battle; and the emperor leaving Germany in order to superintend the vast military projects he was now setting on foot in other countries, the Church had rest from persecution, and the period of her tranquillity was prolonged for well-nigh a decade and a half.

Chapter 12.2: The German Anabaptists, Or The “Heavenly Kingdom.”

Peace in the Church: in the World Distress – Its Four Great Rulers – Troubles of Henry VIIL – Mortification’s of Francis I. – Labours of Charles V. – Griefs of Clement VII. – A Contrast – The Anabaptist Prophets – Matthias the Baker – The New “Mount Zion” – Morals of the Sect – Buckholdt the Tailor – The “Heavenly Kingdom” – Buckholdt the King of the “Heavenly Kingdom” – Nominates Twelve Apostles – Sends out Twenty-eight Evangelists – Their Instructions and Departure – Their Fate – Marriage Abolished – Minster, the Den of this Crew, Besieged and Taken – Buckholdt put to Death – Lesson.

IF the Church had rest, society around it was terribly convulsed—“on the earth” was “distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring.” What miserable and distracted lives were those which were led by the tour great potentates that governed Europe! Cares, perplexities, and disappointments came crowding in upon them, and filled up every hour of every day of their outwardly brilliant:, but inwardly most unhappy existences.

Henry of England had commenced his great divorce. The delays and doublings of the Vatican kept him in a perpetual fume, and when at length his suit reached its final issue fix the Papal court, the haughty monarch was thrown into a paroxysm of rage, which shaped itself ultimately into a course of crime. His impetuous and choleric temper could as little brook the opposition he was meeting with from the Protestants of his own kingdom, who had thrown off Popery while he had thrown off only the Pope, and aimed at stepping into his vacant place in the consciences of his subjects.

Francis I. of France was every year becoming a guiltier and a more wretched man. His rival, Charles V., had robbed him of the laurels he had won in his earlier campaigns. To the anger and shame which his imprisonment in Madrid left rankling in his soul were added the loss of the Italian duchies, and the recent humiliating peace of Cam-bray. Francis gave himself no rest, if haply he might wipe out these disgraces and humble the haughty man who had inflicted them upon him. He intrigued to sow dissension between Clement and the emperor; he toiled to raise new armaments in the hope that. past defeats would be forgotten in the splendor of new victories; but all that he reaped from these harassing labors was only to add thereby to the weight of his subjects’ burdens, and to the list of his own embarrassments and disappointments.

The career of Charles V. was outwardly more prosperous, but at the heart of his glory were labor and sorrow. Raised above all other men in point of worldly state, the emperor was in hourly terror of falling from the dazzling pinnacle on which he stood, and in order to maintain himself was compelled to have continual resort to fresh levies, new battles, and the expenditure of yet more millions of gold crowns, till at length the gulf was dug into which himself and his kingdom finally descended. Not to speak of Francis, who was a thorn in his side; nor of Clement, whose fickle alliance gave him little satisfaction, the emperor hold no faith in the order of things which he had established in Italy and Germany, and labored under continual apprehensions of his system falling in pieces around him. But worst of all he was: haunted by the spectre of Lutheranism, which a true instinct told him would one day rob him of his Empire; nor could he understand how it should happen that every time he raised his sword to make an end of that detested thing, the Turk unexpectedly presented himself, and seemed with menacing gestures to forbid the blow.

As regards the fourth great power of the age, Clement VII. of Rome, these were not times when Popes any more than temporal monarchs could sleep in peace. His ghostly empire was falling in pieces; kings and nations were escaping from under the tiara, and neither anathemas nor concessions—and both were tried by turns—could bring them back. Germany had revolted from its obedience; half the Swiss cantons had lifted up the heel of heretical pravity; Sweden and Denmark were going the same downward road, and England was following fast after them. There never before had been so unfortunate a Pontificate, and there have been few so anxious, perplexed, and unhappy Popes, though there have been many more vicious ones. Nor was Clement more happy in the sovereigns that remained with him than in those that had deserted him. The most Christian King of France and his most Catholic Majesty of Spain were fully as troublesome as useful to him. Instead of the two pillars of his throne, they rather resembled two colossal swords suspended above it, which threatened ever and anon to fall and crush it. Much artifice and management did it require on the part of Clement to poise the one against the other. At no time did the views and interests of all three coincide. On one object only were they able to agree—the overthrow of Protestantism; but even here their jealousies and rivalships prevented their acting in concert. Their conflicting passions drew them into a whirl of excitement and of war against one another, which wasted their years, burdened their treasuries, and devastated their kingdoms.

Compared with the spectacles we have been contemplating, how truly sublime the position of Luther and his fellow-Reformers! From their closets they wield a far mightier power than Charles and Francis do from their thrones. Not armies to ravage, but ideas to enlighten the earth do they send forth. By the silent but majestic power of truth they are seen dethroning errors, pulling down tyrannies, planting the seeds of piety and liberty, and nursing the infancy of arts and letters, and free States, which are destined to remain the fruit of their labors and the monument of their wisdom when the victories of Charles and of Francis have been forgotten, and the fabric of their political greatness has mouldered into dust.

The Church of Germany, during these years of peace, extended on every side. All her great teachers were still spared to her. Luther, Melancthon, and the band of eminent men around them, still unbroken, were guiding her counsels and propagating her doctrines. By her side stood the League warding off the sword of Charles, or whoever might wish to attack her.

The timid found courage to avow their convictions, and ranged themselves on the Protestant side. Whole districts in Northern and Central Germany came over. Anhalt and Pomerania, Augsburg, Frankfort, Hanover, and Kempten were among the new accessions. This did not escape the notice of the emperor, but, meanwhile, it was not in his power to prevent it—he dared hardly show his displeasure at it.

The prosperity of these peaceful days was, alas! disturbed by a most deplorable outbreak of lawless passion and horrible fanaticism. We have already narrated the tumults and bloodshed of which the provinces of Upper Germany were the scene about a decade before, caused by the efforts of men who had espoused principles that converted the liberty of the Gospel into worse than pagan licentiousness. The seeds of these evils were still in the soil, and the days of peace brought them to the surface a second time. In 1533, two Anabaptist prophets—John Matthias, a baker of Haarlem, and John Buckholdt, a tailor in Leyden—with a body of their followers, seized upon the city of Munster, in Westphalia,1 judging it a convenient spot from which to propagate their abominable tenets. They gave out that God had commissioned them to put down all magistracy and government, and establish the kingdom of heaven, which from its center in Munster, or Mount Zion, as they styled it, was to reign over all the nations of the earth. Matthias, the baker, was the first monarch of this new kingdom. His talent for enterprise, his acts of sanctity, and his fervid enthusiasm fitted him for his difficult but impious project. He abolished all distinctions of rank, proclaimed a community of goods, made all eat at a common table, and abrogating marriage, permitted a plurality of wives, himself setting the example, which his followers were not slow to imitate.2

Matthias, the baker, soon died, and was succeeded by John Buckholdt, the tailor. It was now that the new “heavenly kingdom” shone forth in all its baleful splendor. Buckholdt gave out that it was the will of God, made known to him by special revelation, that he should sit upon the throne of his father David, and discharge the august office of universal monarch of the world. He ordered a crown and scepter, both of the best gold, to be prepared for him; and he never appeared abroad without these insignia of his sovereignty. He dressed himself in the most sumptuous garments, had a Bible and naked sword carried before him, and coined money stamped with his own image.

He fell into a sleep of three days, and on awakening, calling for pen and ink, he wrote down on a slip of paper the names of twelve men of good family in Munster, whom he nominated heads of “the twelve tribes of Israel.” He had a high throne erected in the market-place, covered with cloth of gold, where, attended by his officers of state, his guards, and his wives, of whom one bore the title of queen, he heard complaints and administered justice.3

He had, moreover, a body of missionaries, whose office it was to proclaim the “true doctrine.” Twenty-eight of these men were sent forth to preach in the cities around, and to say that the “kingdom of heaven” had been set up at Munster; that John of Leyden had been commissioned by God to govern all the nations of the world; that the time was come when the meek should inherit the earth, and the wicked be rooted out of it; and that the most terrible judgments would fall on all who should refuse to enter the “heavenly kingdom.” One only of these twenty-eight deputies returned to “Mount Zion,” to tell what acceptance their message had met with.

Of the sending out of these missionaries Sleidan gives the following graphic description: “One day,” says he, “Buckholdt sounded a trumpet through all the streets, and commanded the citizens to meet him armed at the gate of the cathedral. When they came to the place of rendezvous they found a supper prepared. They are ordered to sit down, being about 4,000 of them; afterwards about a thousand more sit down, who were on duty while the first number were at supper. The king and the queen, with their household servants, wait at the table. After they had eaten, and supper was almost done, the king himself gives every one a piece of bread, with these words: Take eat, shew forth the Lord’s death.”

The queen in like manner, giving them a cup, bids them Shew forth the Lord’s death. When this was over, the prophet before-mentioned gets into the pulpit, and asks them if they would obey the Word of God? When they all told him, Yes: It is the command of the Heavenly Father, says he, that we should send out about twenty-eight teachers of the Word, who are to go to the four quarters of the world, and publish the doctrine which is received in this city. Then he repeats the names of his missionaries, and assigns them all their respective journeys. Six are sent to Osenburg, six to Vardendorp, eight to Soest, and as many to Coesfeld. Afterwards the king and queen and the waiters sat down to supper with those who were designed for this expedition… After supper, those eight-and-twenty men we mentioned are sent away by night. To every one, besides provision by the way, was given a crown in gold, which they were to leave in those places that refused to believe their doctrine, as a testimony of their ruin and eternal destruction, for rejecting that peace and saving doctrine which they had been offered. These men went out accordingly, and when they had reached their respective posts they cry out in the towns that men must repent, otherwise they would shortly be destroyed. They spread their coats upon the ground before the magistrates, and throw down their crowns before them, and protest they were sent by the Father to offer them peace if they would receive it. They command them to let all their fortunes be common; but if they refused to accept it, then this gold should be left as a token of their wickedness and ingratitude. They added ‘that these were the times foretold by all the prophets in which God would make righteousness flourish all the world over; and when their king had fully discharged his office, and brought things to that perfection, so as to make righteousness prevail everywhere, then the time would be come in which Christ would deliver up the kingdom to the Father.’”

“As soon as they had done their speech,” says Sleidan, “they were apprehended, and examined, first in a friendly manner, but afterwards upon the rack, concerning their faith, and way of living, and how the town (Munster) was fortified. Their answer was that they only taught the true doctrine, which they were ready to maintain with the hazard of their lives; for since the times of the apostles the Word of God was never rightly delivered, nor justice observed. That there were but four prophets, whereof two were righteous, David and John of Leyden; the other two wicked, viz., the Pope and Luther, and this latter the worst.”4

Buckholdt combined the duties of missionary with those of universal sovereign. Not only did he press upon his preachers to exhort their hearers to use the liberty wherewith the Gospel had invested them, more especially in the matter of marriage; he would himself at times ascend his throne in the market-place, and turning it into a pulpit, would harangue the people on the propriety of following his example in the matter of taking to themselves more wives. This was surely an unnecessary labor, considering that the passions of the citizens were no longer restrained either by the authority of laws or by the sense of decency. In the wake of lust, as always happens, came blood.

Munster, the den of this filthy crew, stank in the nostrils of Papist and Protestant alike. It was a thing so supremely offensive and disgusting that it was not possible to live in the same country with it. No matter whether one believed in the mass or in Protestantism, this “heavenly kingdom” was more than either religion could tolerate; and must, in the name of that common humanity of which it was the reproach, be swept away. The princes of the Rhine Provinces in 1535 united their forces and marched against the city—now strongly fortified. They besieged and took it. Buckholdt was led about in chains and exhibited in several German towns. He was finally brought back to Munster, the scene of his grandeur and crimes, and there subjected to an agonising death.5 The body of the prophet was—after death—put into an iron cage; and the dead bodies of two of his followers being similarly dealt with, all three were hung at the top of the city-tower, as a public spectacle and warning—Buckholdt in the midst, and on either side a companion.

Luther sought to make his countrymen understand the lesson taught them by these deplorable occurrences. The Gospel, he said, was the only safe path between two abysses. Rome by usurping authority over the moral law had opened one abyss, the prophets of Munster by abrogating that law had opened another. The Gospel, by maintaining the supremacy of that law, placed the conscience under the authority of God, its rightful Ruler, and so gave man liberty without licentiousness; and if the world would avoid falling headlong into the gulf that yawned on either hand, it must go steadily forward in the road of Protestantism. Rome and Munster might seem wide apart, but there was a point where the two met. From the indulgence-box of Tetzel came an immunity from moral obligation, quite as complete as that of the “heavenly kingdom” of the Anabaptist prophet of Munster.

Chapter 12.3: Accession Of Princes And States To Protestantism

Wurtemberg – Captivity of Duke Christopher – Escape – Philip of Hesse takes Arms to Restore the Duke – His Success – The Duke and Wurtemberg Join the Protestants – Death of Duke George – Accession of Albertine-Saxony to Protestantism – All Central and Northern Germany now Protestant – Austria and Bavaria still Popish – Protestant Movements in Austria – Petition of Twenty-four Austrian Nobles – Accession of the Palatinate – The Elector-Archbishop of Cologne embraces Protestantism – Expelled from his Principality – Barbarossa-Dissimulation of the Emperor – Purposes War.

WE turn to Protestantism, which, as we have said above, was continually multiplying its adherents and enlarging its area. At this hour a splendid addition was unexpectedly made to its territorial domain. In the year 1519, Duke Ulrich of Wurtemberg had been expelled his dominions, having made himself odious to his subjects by his profligate manners and tyrannical dispositions.1 The emperor, Charles V, seized on his territory, gave it to his brother Ferdinand of Austria, who occupied it with his troops; and to make all sure the emperor carried off Christopher, the son of the duke, in his train. The young captive, however, contrived to give his majesty the slip. The imperial cavalcade was slowly winding up the northern slopes of the Alps. It might be seen disappearing this moment as it descended into some gorge, or wound round some spur of the mountain, and coming fully into view the next as it continued its toilsome ascent toward the summit of the pass. The van of the long and brilliant procession now neared the snows of the summit while its rear was only in mid-ascent. The young duke, who meditated flight—watching his opportunity—fell behind.

The vigilance of the guards was relaxed; a friendly rock interposed between him and the imperial cavalcade. He saw that the moment was come. He turned his horse’s head and, followed by a single attendant whom he had let into the secret, fled, while the emperor continued his progress upward.2

When at length his flight was known the pursuit began in hot haste. But it was all in vain. The pursuers returned without him; and it was given out that the young Duke of Wurtemberg, in crossing the mountains, had been slain by brigands, or had perished by accident.

Years wore on: the duke was believed to be dead. Meanwhile the Wurtembergers found the yoke of Austria—under which the emperor had placed them—more unbearable than that of Ulrich, which they had cast off, and began to sigh for their legitimate ruler. It was now the year 1532.

It came to be known that the young Christopher was still alive; that he had been all the while in hiding with his relations on the confines of Alsace and Burgundy; and that he had embraced the Reformed faith in his retirement. As these same opinions had been spreading in Wurtemberg, the desire was all the stronger on the part of the inhabitants of that territory to have the son of their former sovereign, the young duke, back as their prince.

The advantage of strengthening the League of Schmalkald and enlarging the Protestant area by so splendid an addition as Wurtemberg was obvious to the Protestant princes. But this could not be done without war. Luther and Melancthon recoiled from the idea of taking arms. The League was strictly defensive. Nevertheless, Philip of Hesse, one of its most active members, undertook the project on his own responsibility. He set about raising an army in order to drive out the Austrians and restore Christopher to his dukedom.

Further, the Landgrave of Hesse came to a secret arrangement with the King of France, who agreed to furnish the money for the payment of the troops. It was the moment to strike. The emperor was absent in Spain, Ferdinand of Austria had the Turk on his hands, Francis I—ever ready to ride post between Rome and Wittemberg—had sent the money, and Protestant Germany had furnished the soldiers.

The landgrave began the campaign in the end of April: his first battle was fought on the 13th of May, and by the end of June he had brought the war to a successful issue. Ferdinand had to relinquish the dukedom, Ulrich and his son Christopher were restored,3 and with them carne liberty for the new opinions. A brilliant addition had been made to the Schmalkald League, and a Protestant wedge driven into Southern Germany.

Nor did this close the list of Protestant successes. Among the German princes was no more restless, resolute, and consistent opponent of Lutheranism than George, Duke of Albertine-Saxony. His opposition:, based on a sincere belief in the doctrines of Romanism, was inflamed by personal antipathy to Luther. He raged against the Reformer as a fire-brand and revolutionist; and the Reformer in his turn was at no pains to conceal the contempt in which he held the duke, whom he commonly styled the “clown.” On the 24th of April, 1539, George, Duke of Saxony, died. By his death without issue for his two sons had predeceased him—his succession fell to his brother Henry, whose attachment to Protestantism was as zealous as had been that of his deceased brother to Popery. Duke George ordered: in his last will that his brother should make no change in the religion of his States, and failing fulfillment of this condition he bequeathed his kingdom to the emperor and Ferdinand of Austria. Henry on the first news of his brother’s death hastened to Dresden, and disregarding the injunction in the will on the matter of religion, he took possession of the kingdom by making himself be proclaimed, not only in the capital, but in Leipsic and other great towns.

Luther was invited to preach a course of sermons at Leipzig, to initiate the people into the doctrines of the Reformed faith; and in the course of a few weeks the ancient rites were changed and the Protestant worship was set up in their room. The change was hailed with joy by the majority of the inhabitants, some of whom had already embraced the Reformed opinions, but were restrained from the avowal of them by the prisons and executioners of Duke George. The accession of this powerful dukedom to the Schmalkald League converted what had heretofore been a danger—lying as it did in the heart of the Lutheran States—into a buttress of the Protestant cause.4

In Brandenburg were thousands of Protestants, but secretly for fear of Elector Joachim. In 1539, Joachim I. died, with him fell the mass, and on its ruins rose the Protestant worship. Brunswick followed in 1542.5 A chain of Protestant States now extended, in an almost unbroken line, from the shores of the Baltic to the banks of the Rhine.

The whole of Central and Northern Germany was now Protestant. On the side of the old faith there remained only Austria, Bavaria, the Palatinate, and the ecclesiastical principalities of the Rhine. Nor did it seem that these States would long be able to resist the advances of Protestantism. In all of them a religious movement was already on foot, and if peace should be prolonged for a few years they would, in all likelihood, be permanently added to the side of the Reform. On the 13th of December, 1541, a petition was presented to Ferdinand, in the name of the nobility and States of Austria, praying for the free exercise of religion.6 The petition was signed by twenty-four nobles and ten cities, among which was Vienna.

The neighboring provinces of Styria and Carniola joined in the request for freedom of conscience. Referring to the miseries of their times, the wars, pestilences, and famines which these sixteen years had witnessed, and the desolations which the Turk had inflicted, the petitioners pointed to the corruption of religion as the cause which had drawn this terrible chastisement upon them. “In the whole body politic,” say they, “there is nothing pure or sound; all discipline both public and private is laid aside… We truly know no other medicine, most dread sovereign, than that the word of God be truly taught, and the people stirred up to amendment of life, that in confidence thereof they may withstand the violences of the Turks, for in the true worshipping of God all our safety consist .. .. Wherefore we humbly beseech your Majesty to give command that the Gospel be purely taught, especially that point of doctrine which relates to justification, viz., that our sins are pardoned through Christ alone. In the next place, that men be exhorted to the practice of charitable and good works, which are as it were the fruit and signs of faith. In like manner that they who desire it may have the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper given them according to the custom of the primitive Church; that injunction be also laid upon the bishops, that according to the late decree of the Empire, that they reform what is amiss in the Church, that they appoint able ministers to instruct the people, and not to turn out sound preachers as they have always done hitherto.”7

To this request King Ferdinand would fain have said peremptorily and roundly, “No;” but with Hungary pressing him on the one side, and the Turk on the other, he dared not use such plainness of speech. He touched, in his reply, on the efforts he had made to have “the Word of God rightly preached, according to the traditions of the Fathers, and the interpreters of the Church;” he spoke sanguinely of the coming Council which was to compose all differences about religion, and exhorted them meanwhile to “avoid innovations, and follow in the footsteps of their fathers, and walk in the old way of their religion.”8

In Bavaria, the call for Reform was met by the appointment; of a Church visitation into the state of the clergy. The investigation had proceeded but a short way when it became evident to what that road would lead, and the business was wound up with all the expedition possible, before the Roman Church should be utterly discredited, and her cause hopelessly damaged in the eyes of the people.

In the Palatinate the movement bore fruit. The elector provided Protestant preachers for the churches; permitted the Sacrament to be dispensed in both kinds; gave the priests leave to marry; and on January 10th, 1546, Divine service, in the tongue of the people, was celebrated in room of the mass in the Cathedral-church of Heidelberg.9

The ecclesiastical electorate of Cologne caused more uneasiness to the emperor and the Pope than all the rest. It was at this hour trembling in the balance. Its prince-bishop had come to be persuaded of the truth of Protestantism, and was taking steps to reform his principality. He invited Bucer to preach in Bonn and other towns, and he had prevailed on Melancthon to come to Cologne, and assist in drawing up a scheme of Reformation. The secession from the Roman ranks of one who held a foremost place among the princes of Germany would, it was foreseen, be a terrible blow both to the Popedom and the Empire. The Archbishop of Cologne was one of the four ecclesiastical electors, the other three being the Archbishops of Mainz, Treyes, and Salzburg, and his conversion would make a radical change in the electoral college. The majority would be shifted to the Protestant side, and the inevitable consequence would be the exclusion of the House of Austria from the Empire. This could not but alarm Charles.

But the evil would not end there. There was a goodly array of ecclesiastical principalities—some half-a-hundred—scattered over Germany. Their bishops were among the most powerful of the German magnates. They wielded the temporal as well as the spiritual jurisdiction, the sword was as familiar to their hand as the crosier, and they were as often in the field, at the head of armies, as in the chapter-house, in the midst of their clergy. They were, as may be believed, the firmest pillars of the Popedom in Germany. If so influential an electorate as that of Cologne should declare for Lutheranism, it was hard to say how many of these ecclesiastical princedoms would follow suit. Those in Northern Germany had already gone over. The Rhenish electorates had till now remained firm; only Cologne, as yet, had wavered. But the danger was promptly met. The Pope, the emperor, the chapter, and the citizens of Cologne, all combined to resist the measures of the elector-bishop, and maintain the faith he appeared on the point of abandoning. The issue was that the archbishop, now an old man, was obliged to succumb.10 Under pressure of the Pope’s ban and the emperor’s arms he resigned his electorate, and retired into private life. Thus Cologne remained Popish.

The emperor clearly saw how matters were going. The progress of Lutheranism had surpassed even his fears. Principality after principality was going over to the Schmalkald League; each new perversion was, he believed, another prop of his power gone; thus was the Empire slipping from under him. He could hardly hope that even his hereditary dominions would long be able to resist the inroads of that heresy which had overflown the countries around them. He must adopt decisive measures.

From this time (January, 1544) his mind was made up to meet the Protestants on the battle-field.

But the emperor was not yet ready to draw the sword. He was on the eve of another great war with France. To the growing insolence and success of Solyman in Eastern Europe was now added an irruption of the Turks in the South. The fleet of Barbarossa was off the harbor of Toulon, and waited only the return of spring to carry terror and desolation to the coast of Southern Europe. While these obstacles existed the emperor wore peace on his lips, though war was in his heart. He ratified at Ratisbon and Spires the Decree of Nuremberg (1532), which gave substantial toleration to the Protestants. He dangled before their eyes the apple with which he had so long tempted them—the promise of a Council that should heal the schism; and thus for two years he lulled them into security, till he had settled his quarrels with Francis and Solyman, and completed his preparations for measuring swords with the League, and then it was that the blow fell under which the Protestant cause in Germany was for awhile all but crushed.

Chapter 12.4: Death And Burial Of Luther

Preparations for War – Startling Tidings – Luther’s Journey to Eisleben – Illness on the Road – Enters Eisleben – Preaches – His Last Illness – Death – His Personal Appearance – Varillas’ Estimate of him as a Preacher – The Supper-table in the Augustine Convent – Luther’s Funeral – The Tomb in the Schloss-kirk.

THE man of all others in Germany who loved peace was Luther. War he abhorred with all the strength of his great soul. He could not conceive a greater calamity befalling his cause than that the sword should be allied with it. Again and again, during the course of his life, when the opposing parties were on the point of rushing to arms the Reformer stepped in, and the sword leapt back into its scabbard. Again war threatens. On every side men are preparing their arms: hosts are mustering, and mighty captains are taking the field. We listen, if haply that powerful voice which had so often dispersed the tempest when the bolt was ready to fall shall once more make itself heard. There comes instead the terrible tidings—Luther is dead!

In January, 1546, the Reformer was asked to arbitrate in a dispute between the Counts of Mansfeld, touching the line of their boundaries. Though not caring to meddle in such matters he consented, moved chiefly by the consideration that it was his native province to which the matter had reference, and that he should thus be able to visit his birthplace once more. He was taken ill on the road, but recovering, he proceeded on his journey. On approaching Mansfeld he was met by the counts with a guard of honor, and lodged at their expense in his native town of Eisleben. “He was received by the Counts of Mansfeld and all escort of more than one hundred horsemen, and entered the town,” writes Maimbourg, “more like a prince than a prophet, amidst the salute of cannon and the ringing of the bells in all the churches.”

Having dispatched to the satisfaction of the counts the business that took him thither, he occasionally preached in the church and partook of the Communion; but his strength was ebbing away. Many signs warned him that he had not long to live, and that where he had passed his morning, there was he spending his eve—an eve of reverence and honor more than kingly. “Here I was born and baptised,” said he to his friends, “what if I should remain here to die also?” He was only sixty-three, but continual anxiety, ceaseless and exhausting labor, oft-recurring fits of nervous depression, and cruel maladies bad done more than years to waste his strength. On the 17th of February he dined and supped with his friends, including his three sons—John, Martin, and Paul—and Justus Jonas, who had accompanied him. “After supper,” says Sleidan, “having withdrawn to pray, as his custom was, the pain in his stomach began to increase. Then, by the advice of some, he took a little unicorn’s horn in wine, and for an hour or two slept very sweetly in a couch in the stove.

When he awoke he retired to his chamber, and again disposed himself to rest.”1 Awakening after a short slumber, the oppression in his chest had increased, and perceiving that his end was come he addressed himself to God in these words:

“O God, my heavenly Father, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, God of all consolation, I give thee thanks that thou hast revealed unto me thy Son Jesus Christ, in whom I have believed; whom I have confessed; whom I have loved; whom I have declared and preached; whom the Pope of Rome, and the multitude of the ungodly, do persecute and dishonor; I beseech thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, receive my soul. O heavenly Father, though I be snatched out of this life; though I must now lay down this body; yet know I assuredly that I shall abide with thee for ever, and that no man can pluck me out of thy hands.”

His prayer had winged its way upward: his spirit was soon to follow. Three times he uttered the words, his voice growing fainter at each repetition, “Into thy hands I commit my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O God of truth!” and, says Sleidan, “he in a manner gently slept out of this life, without any bodily pain or agony that could be perceived.”2

Thus does that sun go down whose light had filled for so many years, not the skies of Germany only, but those of all Christendom. The place left empty in the world by Luther’s departure was like that which the natural sun leaves void in the firmament when he sets in the west. And, further, as the descent of the luminary of day is followed by the gathering of the shades and the deepening of the darkness around the dwellings of men, so too was the setting of this other sun. No sooner was Luther laid in his grave than the shadows began to gather round Germany, and soon they deepened into a night of calamity and war. We are not sure that the brilliance which departed when the tomb closed over the Reformer has to this day fully returned to the Fatherland.

Luther’s career had been a stormy one, yet its end was peace. He had waged incessant battle, not with the emperor and the Pope only, but also with a more dreadful foe, who had often filled his mind with darkness. Yet now he dies expressing his undimmed joy and his undying trust in his Savior. It is also very remarkable that the man whose life had been so often sought by Popes, kings, priests, and fanatics of every grade, died on his bed; Luther often said that it would be a great disgrace to the Pope if he should so die. “All of you, thou Pope, thou devil, ye kings, princes, and lords, are Luther’s enemies; and yet ye can do him no harm. It was not so with John Huss. I take it there has not been a man so hated as I these hundred years.” During the last twenty-five years of his life—that is, ever since his appearance at the Diet of Worms—the emperor’s ban and the Pope’s anathema had hung about him; yet there fell not to the ground a hair of his head. The great sword of the emperor, which conquered Francis and chastised the Turk, could not approach the doctor of Wittemberg. The Reformer lived in his little unarmed Saxon town all his days; he rose up and lay down in peace; he toiled day by day forging his bolts and hurling them with all his might at the foe; and that foe dreaded his pen and tongue more than the assault of whole armies. To be rid of him Rome would have joyfully given the half of her kingdom; but not a day, not an hour of life was she able to take from him. The ancient command had gone forth, “Touch not mine anointed and do my prophets no harm.” And so we find Luther finishing his course, as the natural sun, after a day of tempest, is sometimes seen to finish his, amid the golden splendors of a calm eventide.3

It were vain, and superfluous to boot, to attempt drawing a character of Luther. He paints himself, and neither needs nor will permit any other, whether friend or foe, to draw his portrait. Immeasurably the greatest spirit of his age, his colossal figure filled Christendom. But we cannot be too often reminded whence his greatness sprang; and happily it can be expressed in a single word. It was his Faith—faith in God. There have been men of as commanding genius, of as fearless courage, of as inflexible honesty, of as persuasive popular eloquence, and as indefatigable in labor and unchangeable in purpose, who yet have not revolutionized the world. It was not this assemblage of brilliant qualities and powers which enabled Luther to achieve what he did. They aided him, it is true, but the one power in virtue of which he effected the Reformation was his faith. His faith placed him in thorough harmony with the Divine mind and the Divine government; the wisdom with which he spake was thus the wisdom of God, and it enlightened the world; the object he aimed at was what God had purposed to bring to pass, and so he prospered in his great undertaking. This is the true mystic potency of which priests in all ages have pretended, though falsely, to be possessed; it descended in all its plenitude upon Luther, but what brought it down from its native source in the skies was not any outward rite, but the power of faith.

There is one quality of the illustrious Reformer of which we have said little, namely, his eloquence in the pulpit. Of the extraordinary measure in which he possessed this gift we shall permit two Popish witnesses to bear testimony. Varillas says of him: “In him nature would appear to have combined the spirit of the Italian with the body of the German; such are his vivacity and his industry, his vigor and his eloquence. In the study of philosophy and scholastic theology he was surpassed by none; and at the same time none could equal him in the art of preaching. He possessed in perfection the highest style of eloquence; he had discovered the strong and the weak sides of the human understanding, and knew the ways by which to lay hold of both; he had the art of sounding the inclinations of his hearers, however various and eccentric they might be; he knew how to rouse or allay their passions, and if the topics of his discourse were too high and incomprehensible to convince them, he could carry all before him by a forcible attack on the imagination through the vehemence of his imagery. Such was Luther in the pulpit; there he tossed his hearers into a tempest and calmed them down again at his pleasure. But when he descended from the pulpit it was only to exercise a still more absolute reign in his private conversation. He stirred men’s minds without discomposing them, and inspired them with his sentiments by a mode of which none could discover either the action or the traces. In short, he triumphed by the elegance of his German style over those who had been struck with his eloquence and captivated by his conversation; and as nobody spoke or wrote his native language so well as he, none have ever since spoken or written it with so much purity.”

Another writer, hostile to Luther and the Reformation—Florimond de Raemond—speaking of his eloquence says: “When declaiming from the pulpit, as if smitten by a frenzy, with action suited to the word, he struck the minds of his hearers in the most marvelous manner, and carried them away in a torrent wherever he would—a gift and power of speech which is seldom found among the nations of the North.”

There could hardly be a greater contrast than that between Luther in public, where his temper appeared so imperious and his onsets were so fierce and overwhelming, and Luther in private, where he was gentle as a child. In men like Luther the love of truth, which in public kindles into passion and vehemency in the face of opposition, becomes mildness and love in the midst of the congenial circle. “Whoever has known him and seen him often and familiarly,” writes Melancthon of him, “will allow that he was a most excellent man, gentle and agreeable in society, not in the least obstinate and given to disputation, yet with all the gravity becoming his character. If he showed any great severity in combating the enemies of the true doctrine, it was from no malignity of nature, but from ardor and enthusiasm for the truth.”4 Communion with God through his Word, and in prayer, were the two chief means by which he nourished his faith, and by consequence his strength. “I have myself,” says Melancthon, “often found him shedding bitter tears, and praying earnestly to God for the welfare of the Church. He devoted part of each day to the reading of the Psalms and to invoking God with all the fervor of his soul.”5 His sublime task was to draw forth the light of the Word from its concealment, and replace it in the temple, in the school, and in the dwelling.

His personal appearance has been well sketched by one of his biographers: “In stature he was not much above the ordinary height, but his limbs were firmly set; he had an open, right valiant countenance; a broad German nose, slightly aquiline; a forehead rather wide than lofty, with beetling brows; large lips and mouth; eyes full of lustre, which were compared to the eagle’s or the lion’s; short curling dark hair, and a distinguishing wart on the right cheek. In the early part of his career his figure was emaciated to the last degree, subsequently it filled out, and in his latter years inclined to corpulency. His constitution was naturally of the strongest cast; one of the common mould must have sunk under his unparalleled energy; and he was never better than with plenty of toil and study, and a moderate diet, such as his accustomed herring and pease.”6

As the patriarchs of old sat in the door of their tent to bid the wayfarer welcome to its shade and hospitality, so dwelt Luther in the Augustine convent. It’s door stood open to all. Thither came the poor for alms, the sick for medicine, and distinguished strangers from all parts of Europe to see and converse with its illustrious occupant. The social meal was the supper. Luther would come to the table, weary with the labors of the day, not unfrequently holding a book in his hand, in which he would continue for some time reading. All kept silent till he had lifted his eyes from the page. Then he would inquire the news; this was the signal for conversation, which soon became general. Around his board would be gathered, it might be, some of his fellow-professors; or old friends from a distance, as Link from Nuremberg, or Probst from Bremen; or eminent scholars from distant lands; or statesmen and courtiers, who chanced to be traveling on some embassy. Men of every rank and of all professions found their way to the supper-table in the Augustine convent, and received an equal welcome from the illustrious host.

In those days news traveled slowly, for the newspaper was not then in being, and the casual traveler was often the first to bring the intelligence to Wittemberg, that some great battle had been fought, or that the Turk had again broken into Christendom, or that a new Pope had to be sought for the vacant chair of St. Peter. No likelier place was there to get early information of what was passing in the world than at the supper-table in the Augustine. If the guests were delighted, the traveler too was rewarded by hearing Luther’s comments on the news he had been the first to retail.

How often were statesmen astonished at the deeper insight and truer forecast of the Reformer in matters belonging to a province which they deemed exclusively their own! With terrible sagacity he could cut right into the heart of a policy, and with characteristic courage would tear the mask from kings. Or it might happen that some distinguished scholar from a distant land was a guest in the Augustine. What an opportunity for ascertaining the true translation of some word, which had occurred, it might be, in a passage on which the Reformer had been occupied that very day! If the company at table was more promiscuous, so, too, was the conversation. Topics grave and gay would come up by turns. Now it was the scheme of the monarch, and now the affairs of the peasant that were passed in review. Shrewd remarks, flashes of wit, bursts of humor, would enliven the supper-room. The eye of Luther would begin to burn, and with beaming face he would look round on the listeners as he scattered amongst them his sayings, now serious, now playful, now droll, but always embodying profound wisdom. Supper ended, Aurifaber, or some other of the company, would retire and commit to writing the more notable things that had just fallen from the Reformer, that so in due time what had been at first the privilege of only a few, might become the property of all in Luther’s Table Talk. A Latin chant or a German hymn, sung by a chores of voices, in which Luther’s tenor was easily distinguishable, would close the evening.

Luther was dead: where would they lay his dust? The Counts of Mansfeld would fain have interred him in their own family vault; but John, Elector of Saxony, commanded that where his labors had been accomplished, there his ashes should rest. Few kings have been buried with such honors.

Setting out for Wittemberg, relay after relay of princes, nobles, magistrates, and peasants joined the funeral procession, and swelled its numbers, till it looked almost like an army on its march, and reminded one of that host of mourners which bore the patriarch of Old Testament story from the banks of the Nile to his grave in the distant Machpelah. As the procession passed through Halle and other towns on its route, the inhabitants thronged the streets so as almost to stop the cortege, and sang, with voices thrilling with emotion., psalms and hymns, as if instead of a funeral car it; had been the chariot of a conqueror, whose return from victory they were celebrating with paeans. And truly it was so. Luther was returning from a great battle-field, where he had encountered the powers and principalities of spiritual despotism, and had discomfited them by the sword of the spirit. It was meet, therefore, that those whom he had liberated by that great victory should carry him to his grave, not as ordinary men are carried to the tomb, but as heroes are led to the spot where they are to be crowned. On the 22nd of February, the cavalcade reached Wittemberg. As it drew near the gates of the town the procession was joined by Catherine von Bora, the wife of Luther. The carriage in which she was seated, along with her daughter and a few matrons, followed immediately after the body, which, deposited in a leaden coffin covered with black velvet, was carried on a car drawn by four horses. It was taken into the Schloss-kirk,7 and some funeral hymns being sung, Pomeranus ascended the pulpit and gave an appropriate address.

Melancthon next delivered an eloquent oration, after which the coffin was lowered into the grave by certain learned men selected for the purpose, amid the deep stillness, broken only by sobs, of the princes, magistrates, pastors, and citizens gathered round the last resting-place of the great Reformer.8

Chapter 12.5: The Schmalkald War, And Defeat Of The Protestants

The Emperor’s League with Pope Paul III. – Charles’s Preparations for War – His Dissimulation – The Council of Trent – Its Policy – The Pope’s Indiscretion – The Army of the Schmalkald League – Treachery of Prince Maurice – The Emperor’s Ban – Vacillation of the Protestants – Energy of the Emperor – Maurice Seizes his Cousin’s Electorate – Elector John Returns Home – Landgrave Philip Defeated – The Confederates Divide and Sue for Pardon – Charles Master.

FOR two years war had lowered over Germany, but while Luther lived the tempest was withheld from bursting. The Reformer was now in his grave, and the storm came on apace. The emperor pushed on his preparations more vigorously than ever. He arranged all his other affairs, that he might give the whole powers of his mind, and the undivided strength of his arms, to the suppression of Lutheranism. He ended his war with France. He patched up a truce with the Turk, his brother Ferdinand submitting to the humiliation of an annual payment of 50,000 crowns to Solyman. He recruited soldiers in Italy and in the Low Countries, and he made a treaty with the Pope, Paul III. There were points in which the policy of these two potentates conflicted; but both agreed that all other matters should give place to that one which each accounted the most important.

What the object was, which held the first place in the thoughts of both, was abundantly clear from the treaty now concluded between the Pope and the emperor, the main stipulation of which was as follows: “The Pope and the emperor, for the glory of God, and the public good, but especially the welfare of Germany, have entered into league together upon certain articles and conditions; and, in the first place, that the emperor shall provide an army, and all things necessary for war, and be in readiness by the month of June next ensuing, and by force and arms compel those who refuse the Council, and maintain those errors, to embrace the ancient religion and submit to the Holy See.”1 The Pope, in addition to 100,000 ducats which he had already advanced, stipulated to deposit as much more in the Bank of Venice toward defraying the expense of the war; to maintain at his own charge, during the space of six months, 12,000 foot and 500 horse; to grant the emperor for this year one-half of the Church revenues all over Spain; to empower him to alienate as much of the abbey-lands in that country as would amount to 500,000 ducats; and that both spiritual censures and military force should be employed against any prince who might seek to hinder the execution of this treaty2 “Thus did Charles V.,” says the Abbe Millot, “after the example of Ferdinand the Catholic, make a mock of truth, and use the art of deceiving mankind as an instrument for effecting his purposes.”3

Another step toward war, though it looked like conciliation, was the meeting of the long-promised and long-deferred Council. In December previous, there had assembled at the little town of Trent some forty prelates, who assumed to represent the Universal Church, and to issue decrees which should be binding on all the countries of Christendom, although Italy and Spain alone were as yet represented in the Council.

Hitherto, the good Fathers had eschewed everything like business, but now the emperor’s preparations being nearly completed, the Council began “to march.” Its first decrees showed plainly the part allotted to it in the approaching drama. “They were an open attack,” says the Abbe Millot, “on the first principles of Protestantism.”4 The Council, in its third session, decreed that the traditions of the Fathers are of equal authority with the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and that no one is to presume to interpret Scripture in a sense different from that of the Church.5 This was in reality to pre-judge all the questions at issue, and to render further discussion between the two parties but a waste of time. Obviously the first step toward the right settlement of the controversy was to agree on the rule according to which all matters in dispute were to be determined. The Protestants affirmed that the one infallible authority was the Word of God. They made their appeal to the tribunal of Holy Scripture; they could recognize no other judge. The sole supremacy of Scripture was in fact the corner-stone of their system, and if this great maxim were rejected their whole cause was ad-judged and condemned.

But the Council of Trent began by repudiating this maxim, which is comprehensive of all Protestantism. The tribunal, said the Council, to which you must submit yourselves and your cause is Tradition and the Scriptures, as interpreted by the Church. This was but another way of saying, “You must submit to the Church.” This might well amaze the Protestants. The controversy lay between them and the Church, and now they were told that they must accept their opponent for their judge. Every one knew how the Church interpreted the questions at issue. The first decree of the Council, then, embraced all that were to follow; it secured that nothing should emanate from the Council save a series of thoroughly Popish decisions or dogmas, all of them enjoined like the first under pain of anathema.

It was clear that the Fathers had assembled at Trent to pass sentence on the faith of the German people as heresy, and then the emperor would step in with his great sword and give it its death-blow.

Meanwhile Charles pursued his policy of dissimulation. The more he labored to be ready for war, the louder did he protest that he meant only peace. He cherished the most ardent wishes for the happiness of Germany, so did he affirm; he had raised only some few insignificant levies; he had formed no treaty that pointed to war; and he contrived to have an interview with Philip, Landgrave of Hesse, who, he knew, saw deepest into his heart and most suspected his designs, and by his consummate duplicity, and his earnest disavowals of all hostile intentions, he succeeded in removing from the mind of the landgrave all apprehensions that war was impending. On his return from this interview Philip communicated his favorable impressions of the situation to his confederates, and thus were the suspicions of the Protestants again lulled to sleep.

But soon they were rudely awakened. From every quarter came rumors of the armaments the emperor was raising. Seeing Charles was at war with neither Francis nor Solyman, nor any other Power, for what could he intend these preparations, except the extinction of Protestantism? The Lutheran princes had warnings from their friends in Italy and England that their ruin was intended. Finally there came a song of triumph from Rome: Paul III., full of zeal, and not doubting the issue of an undertaking that inexpressibly delighted him, told the world that the overthrow of Lutheranism was at hand. “Paul himself,” says the Abbe Millot, “betrayed this dark transaction. Proud of a league formed against the enemies of the Holy See, he published the articles of it in a bull, exhorting the faithful to concur in it, in order to gain indulgences.”6 This was a somewhat embarrassing disclosure of the emperor’s projects, and compelled him to throw off the mask a little sooner than he intended. But even when he avowed the intentions which he could no longer conceal, it was with an astuteness and duplicity which to a large extent disguised his real purpose.

“He had address enough,” says Millot, “to persuade part of the Protestants that he was sincere.” True, he said, it was Germany he had in his eye in his warlike preparations; but what he sought; was not to interfere with its religious opinions, but to punish certain parties who had broken its peace. The Schmalkald League was an empire within an empire, it could not consist with the imperial supremacy: besides certain recent proceedings of some of its members called for correction. This pointed unmistakably to John Frederick, Elector of Saxony, and Philip, Landgrave of Hesse.

The pretext was a transparent one, but it enabled the timid, the lukewarm, and the wavering to say, This war does not concern religion, it is a quarrel merely between the emperor and certain members of the League. How completely did the aspect the matter now assumed justify the wisdom of the man who had lately been laid in his grave in the Schlosskirk of Wittemberg! How often had Luther warned the Protestants against the error of shifting their cause from a moral to a political basis! The former, he ever assured them, would, when the day of trial came, be found to have double the strength they had reckoned upon in fact, to be invincible; whereas the latter, with an imposing show, would be found to have no strength at all.

Meanwhile the major part of the Protestants, being resolved to repel force by force, made vigorous preparation for war, “They solicited the Venetians,” says the Abbe Millot, “the Swiss, Henry VIII., and Francis I. to support them against a despotism which, after having enslaved Germany, would extend itself over the rest of Europe. None of these negotiations succeeded, but they could dispense with foreign assistance. In a few months they levied an army of more than fourscore thousand armed men, furnished with every necessary in abundance. The Electors of Cologne and Brandenburg remained neutral, as did also the Elector Palatine.”7 The Margrave of Misnia, and the two princes of Brandenburg, though all Protestants, declared for the emperor. The Elector of Saxony, the Landgrave of Hesse, the Duke of Wurtemberg, the princes of Anhalt, the cities of Augsburg, Ulm, and Strasburg, alone set this formidable armament on foot. The League was divided from the very commencement of the campaign; but what completed the disorganization of the Protestant camp, and paved the way for the tragedy that followed, was the treachery of Prince Maurice of Saxony.

Maurice was the son of that William who succeeded Duke George, the noted enemy of Luther. William, a weak prince, was now dead, and his son Maurice was Duke of Albertine-Saxony. Neglected in youth, he had grown to manhood restless, shrewd, self-reliant, self-willed, with ambition as his ruling passion. He was a Protestant, but without deep religious convictions. In choosing his creed he was influenced quite as much by the advantage it might offer as by the truth it might contain. He was largely imbued with that skeptical spirit which is fatal to all strength of character, elevation of soul, and grandeur of aim. The old race of German princes and politicians, the men who believing in great principles were capable of a chivalrous devotion to great causes, was dying out, and a new generation, of which Prince Maurice was the pioneer, was taking their place. In the exercise of that worldly wisdom on which he plumed himself, Maurice weighed both sides, and then chose not the greater cause but the greater man, or he whom he took to be so, even the Emperor Charles. With him, he felt assured, would remain the victory, and as he wished to share its spoils, which would be considerable, with him he cast in his lot.

On the 20th of July the blow fell. On that day the emperor promulgated his ban of outlawry against the two Protestant chiefs, John Frederick, Elector of Saxony, and Philip, Landgrave of Hesse.8 This step was the more bold as it ought to have been authorized by the Diet. The war, now that it had come, found the League neither united nor prepared. But notwithstanding some cowardly defections it was able to bring into the field 47,000 troops9 The first question was, who should have the command? Philip of Hesse was the better soldier, but John Frederick of Saxony was the greater prince. Could a landgrave command an elector? In the settlement of this nice point much time was wasted, which had better have been devoted to fighting. The campaign, from its commencement in the midsummer of 1546, to its close in the spring of 1547, was marked, on the part of the League, by vacillation and blundering. There was no foresight shown in laying its plans, no vigor in carrying them out. The passes of the Tyrol were strangely left undefended, and the Spanish and Italian soldiers, unopposed, deployed on the German plains. The troops which Charles had raised in the Low Countries in like manner were suffered to cross the Rhine without a blow being struck10 Before the arrival of these levies, the emperor’s army was not more than 10,000 strong. His camp at Ingolstadt might easily have been surprised and taken by the superior forces of the League, and the campaign ended at a blow.11

While the Protestant leaders were debating whether they ought to essay this, the imperial reinforcements arrived, and the opportunity was lost. Money began to fail the League, sickness broke out in their army, and, despairing of success, the soldiers and officers began to disperse to their several homes. Without fighting a battle the League abandoned Southern Germany, the first seat of the war, leaving Wurtemberg, and the Palatinate, and the cities of Ulm, Augsburg, and others, to make what terms they could with the emperor.12

Prince Maurice now undertook the execution of the imperial ban on the dominions of the elector. When John Frederick was informed of this, he set out from the camp of the League to defend his dukedom, now ravaged by the arms of his former ally. He was pursued by the army of the emperor, overtaken on the Elbe at Muhlberg (24th April, 1547), routed, taken captive, stripped of his electorate, and consigned to prison. The emperor parted the elector’s dominions between Maurice and his brother Ferdinand .13

Landgrave Philip was still in the field. But reflecting that his forces were dispirited and shattered while the army of the emperor was unbroken and flushed with victory, he concluded that further resistance was hopeless. He therefore resolved to surrender. His son-in-law, Prince Maurice, used all his influence with the emperor to procure for him easy terms. Charles was inexorable; the landgrave’s surrender must be unconditional.14 All that Maurice could effect was a promise from the emperor that his father-in-law should not be imprisoned. If this promise was ever given it was not kept, for no sooner had Philip quitted the emperor’s presence, after surrendering to him, than he was arrested and thrown into confinement.15

So ended the Schmalkald war. It left Charles more completely master of Germany than he had ever been before. There was now no outward obstruction to the restoration of the ancient worship. The Protestants appeared to be completely in the emperor’s power. They had neither sword nor League wherewith to defend themselves. They were brought back again to their first but mightiest weapon—martyrdom. If, instead of stepping down into the arena of battle, they had offered themselves to the stake, not a tithe of the blood would have been shed that was spilt in the campaign, and instead of being lowered, the moral power of Protestantism thereby would have been immensely raised.

But we dare not challenge the right of the Protestant princes to combine, and repel force by force. It was natural, in reckoning up the chances of success, that they should count swords, especially when they saw how many swords were unsheathed on the other side. But no greater calamity could have befallen the Reformation than that Protestantism should have become, in that age, a great political power. Had it triumphed as a policy it would have perished as a religion. It must first establish itself on the earth as a great spiritual power. This could not be done by arms. And so, ever and anon, it was stripped of its political defenses that the spiritual principle might have room to grow, and that all might see that the conquests of the Reformation were not won for it by force, nor its dominion and rule given it by princes, but that by its own strength did it grow up and wax mighty.

Chapter 12.6: The “Interim” – Re-Establishment Of Protestantism

All seems Lost – Humiliation of Germany – Taxes – The “Interim” – Essentially a Restoration of Popery – Persecutions by which it was Enforced – The Climax of the Emperor’s Power – It Falls – The Pope Forsakes him – Maurice Turns against him – Manifesto of Maurice – Flight of the Emperor – Peace of Passau – Treaty of Augsburg – Re-establishment of Protestantism in Germany – Charles’s Abdication and Retirement to the Monastery of St. Juste – Reflections.

IT did seem as if the knell of the Lutheran Reformation had been rung out. The emperor’s triumph was complete, and he had it now in his power to settle the religious question as he chose. From the southern extremity of Wurtemberg, as far as the Elbe the provinces and the cities had submitted and were in the occupation of the imperial troops. Of the three leading princes of the League, one was the ally of the emperor, the other two were his prisoners. Stripped of title and power, their castles demolished, their lands confiscated, Charles was leading them about from city to city, and from prison to prison, and with wanton cruelty exhibiting them as a spectacle to their former subjects. Germany felt itself insulted and disgraced in this open and. bitter humiliation of two of its most illustrious princes. The unhappy country was made still further to feel the power of the conqueror, being required to pay a million and a half crowns—an enormous sum in those days—which Charles levied without much distinction between those who had served and those who had opposed him in the late war.1 “The conqueror publicly insulted the Germanic body by leading its principal members in captivity from town to town. He oppressed all who joined the League of Schmalkald with heavy taxes, carried off their artillery, and disarmed the people; levied contributions at his pleasure from his allies, and treated them as if they had been his own subjects .. .. . Ferdinand exercised the same despotism over the Bohemians, and stripped them of almost all their privileges.”2

Events abroad left Charles yet more free to act the despot in Germany. His two rivals, Henry VIII. of England and Francis I. of France, were removed from the scene by death, and he had now little cause to fear opposition to his projects in the quarters from which the most formidable resistance aforetime had come. Of the four potentates—Leo of Rome and the Kings of England, France, and Spain—whose greatness had signalised, and whose ambition had distracted, the first half of the sixteenth century, Charles was now the sole survivor;—but his sun was nearer its setting than he thought

Master of the situation, as he believed, the emperor proceeded to frame a creed for his northern subjects. It was styled the “INTERIM.” Meant to let Lutheran Germany easily down, it was given out as a half-way compromise between Wittemberg and Rome. The concoctors of this famous scheme were Julius Pflug, Bishop of Naumberg, Michael Sidonius, and John Agricola, a Protestant, but little trusted by his brethren.3 As finally adjusted, after repeated corrections, this new creed was the old faith of Rome, a little freshened up by ambiguities of speech and quotations from Scripture. The Interim taught, among other things, the supremacy of the Pope, the dogma of transubstantiation, the sacrifice of the mass, the invocation of the saints, auricular confession, justification by works, and the sole right of the Church to interpret the Scriptures; in short, not one concession did Rome make. In return for swallowing a creed out-and-out Popish, the Protestants were to be rewarded with two paltry boons. Clergymen already married were to be permitted to discharge their office without putting away their wives; and where it was the wont to dispense the Sacrament in both kinds the custom was still to be tolerated. This was called meeting the Protestants half-way.4

Nothing was to be altered in the canon of the mass, nothing changed in the ceremonies of baptism. In every city church two masses were to be said daily; in village churches and landward parishes, one, especially on holidays. Exorcism, chrism, oil, etc., were to be retained; as were also vestments, ornaments, vessels, crosses, altars, candles, and images. The compilers added, without intending to be in the least satirical, “that if anything have crept in which may give occasion to superstition, it be taken away.”5

This document was presented (May 15th, 1548) by the emperor to the Diet at Augsburg. It was read according to form. Without giving time for any discussion, the Archbishop of Mainz, President of the Electoral College, hastily rose, and thanking the emperor for this new token of his care about the Church, and his pious wish to heal her divisions, expressed the Diet’s concurrence in the new scheme. Not a dissent was tendered; the Diet sat silent, awed by the emperor’s soldiers, who had been massed around Augsburg. The Interim was straightway promulgated by the emperor: all were to conform to it under pain of his displeasure, and it was to remain in force until a free General Council could be held.6

Astute and far-seeing as the emperor was within his own province, the Interim remains the monument of his short-sightedness in matters outside of that province. Great as his experience had been of the world and its affairs, he did not yet know man. He knew the weakness of man, his self-love, his covetousness, and his ambition; but he did not know that in which lies his strength—namely, in conscience. This was the faculty that Protestantism had called into existence, and it was with this new power—which Charles did not understand, or rather did not believe in—that he was now rushing into conflict. He thought he was advancing to victory, when the issue showed that he was marching to destruction. The emperor now proceeded to enforce the Interim. “The emperor insisted on the observance of it with the authority of a master that would be obeyed.”7 He was astonished to find that a matter which he had taken to be so simple should give rise to so many difficulties. The Interim, for which he had anticipated a chorus of welcome on all sides, had hardly a friend in the world beyond the narrow circle of its compilers. It stank in the nostrils of the Vatican authorities. It gave offense in that quarter, not in point of substance, for theologically there was little to complain of, but in point of form. That the emperor in virtue of his own sole authority should frame and promulgate a creed was not to be tolerated; it was to do the work of a Council; it was, in fact, to seat himself in the chair of the Pope and to say, “I am the Church.” Besides, the cardinals grudged even the two pitiful concessions which had been made to the Protestants.

In Germany the reception which the Interim met with was different in the different provinces. In Northern Germany, where the emperor’s arm could hardly reach, it was openly resisted. In Central Germany it in a manner fell to the ground. Nuremberg, Ulm, Augsburg accepted it. Prince Maurice, to please Charles, had it proclaimed in his dominions, but, in tenderness to his former allies, he excused himself from enforcing it. It was otherwise in Upper or Southern Germany. There the Churches were purified from their Protestant defilement. The old rites were restored, Protestant magistrates were replaced by Popish ones, the privileges of the free cities were violated, and the inhabitants driven to mass by the soldiers of the emperor.

The Protestant pastors were forced into exile, or rendered homeless in their native land. Four hundred faithful preachers of the Gospel, with theft wives and families, wandered without food or shelter ill Southern Germany. Those who were unable to escape fell into the hands of their enemy and were led about in chains.8

There is one submission that pains us more than all the others. It is that of Melancthon. Melancthon and the Wittemberg divines, laying down the general principle that where things indifferent only are in question it is right to obey the commands of a lawful superior, and assuming that the Interim, which had been slightly manipulated for their special convenience, conflicted with the Augustan Confession in only indifferent points, and that it was well to preserve the essentials of the Gospel as seed-corn for better times, denied their Protestantism, and bowed down in worship of the emperor’s religion.9

But amid so many prostrate one man stood nobly erect. John Frederick of Saxony, despite the suffering and ignominy that weighed upon him, refused to accept the Interim. Hopes of liberty were held out to induce him to indorse the emperor’s creed, but this only drew from him a solemn protestation of his adherence to the Protestant faith. “God,” said the fallen prince, “has enlightened me with the knowledge of his Word; I cannot forsake the known truth, unless I would purchase to myself eternal damnation; wherefore, if I should admit of that decree which in many and most material points disagrees with the Holy Scriptures, I should condemn the doctrine of Jesus Christ, which I have hitherto professed, and in words and speech approve what I know to be impious and erroneous. That I retain the doctrine of the Augustan Confession, I do it for the salvation of my soul, and, slighting all worldly things, it is now my whole study how, after this painful and miserable life is ended, I may be made partaker of the blessed joys of life everlasting.”10

Believing Roman Catholicism to be the basis of his power, and that should Germany fall in two on the question of religion, his Empire would depart, Charles had firmly resolved to suppress Lutheranism, by conciliation if possible; if not, by arms. He had been compelled again and again to postpone the execution of his purpose. He had appeared to lose sight of it in the eager prosecution of other schemes. Yet, no; he kept it ever in his eye as the ultimate landing-place of all his projects and ambitions, and steadily pursued it through the intrigues and wars of thirty years. If he combated the King of France, if he measured swords with the Turk, if he undertook campaigns in the north of Africa, if he coaxed and threatened by turns his slippery ally, the Pope, it was that by overcoming these rivals and enemies, he might be at liberty to consolidate his power by a consummating blow against heresy in Germany. That blow he had now struck. There remained nothing more to be achieved. The League was dissolved, the Protestants were at his feet. Luther, whose word had more power than ten armies, was in his grave. The emperor had reached the goal. After such ample experience of the burdens of power, he would now pause and taste its sweets.

It was at this moment, when his glory was in its noon, that the whole aspect of affairs around the emperor suddenly changed. As if some malign star had begun to rule, not a friend or ally had he who did not now turn against him.

It was at Rome that the first signs of the gathering storm appeared. The accession of power which his conquests in Germany had brought the emperor alarmed the Pope. The Papacy, he feared, was about to receive a master. “Paul III already repented,” says the Abbe Millot, “of having contributed to the growth of a power that might one day make Italy its victim; besides, he was offended that he received no share of the conquests, nor of the contributions.”11

Paul III., therefore, recalled the numerous contingent he had sent to the imperial army to aid in chastising the heretics. The next step of the Pope was to order the Council of Trent to remove to Bologna. A sudden sickness that broke out among the Fathers furnished a pretext, but the real motive for carrying the Council to Italy was a dread that the emperor would seize upon it, and compel it to pass such decrees as he chose. A religious restoration, of which Charles himself was the high priest, was not much to the taste of the Pope, and what other restoration had the emperor as yet accomplished? He had put down Lutheranism to set up Caeasarism. He was about to play the part of Henry of England. So was it whispered in the Vatican.

Nearer him, in Germany, a yet more terrible tempest was brewing. “So many odious attempts against the liberties of Germany brought on a revolution.”12 The nation felt that they had been grossly deceived. They had been told before the war began that it formed no part of the emperor’s plans to alter the Reformed religion. The Protestant ministers turned out of office and banished, their churches in possession of mass-priests, blazing with tapers, and resounding with chants and prayers in an unknown tongue, told how the promise had been kept. To deception was added insult. In the disgrace of its two most venerated chiefs, Germany beheld its own disgrace. As every day renewed its shame, so every day intensified its indignation. Prince Maurice saw the gathering storm, and felt that he would be the first to be swept away by it. His countrymen accused him as the author of the calamities under which Germany was groaning. They addressed him as “Judas,” and assailed him in daily satires and caricatures. At last he made his choice: he would atone for his betrayal of his Protestant confederates by treachery to the emperor.

He divulged his purpose to the princes. They found it difficult not to believe that he was digging a deeper pit for them. Able at length to satisfy them of his sincerity, they willingly undertook to aid him in the blow he meditated striking for the liberties of Germany. He had a large force under him, which he was employing professedly in the emperor’s service, in the siege of Magdeburg, a town which distinguished itself by its brave resistance to the Interim. Maurice protracted the siege without discovering his designs. When at last Magdeburg surrendered, the articles of capitulation were even conformable to the views of Charles, but Maurice had privately assured the citizens that they should neither be deprived of the exercise of their religion nor stripped of their privileges. In a word, he so completely extinguished their former hatred of him, that they now elected him their burgrave.13 The force under him, that had been employed in the siege of Magdeburg, Maurice now diverted to the projected expedition against the emperor. He farther opened communications with King Henry II., who made a diversion on the side of France, by entering Lorraine, and taking possession of the imperial city of Metz, which he annexed to the French monarchy. All these negotiations Maurice conducted with masterly skill and profound secrecy.

The emperor meanwhile had retired to Innspruck in the Tyrol. Lulled into security by the artifices of Maurice, Charles was living there with a mere handful of guards. He had even fewer ducats than soldiers, for his campaigns had exhausted his money-chest. In March, 1552, the revolt broke out. The prince’s army amounted to 20,000 foot and 5,000 horse, and before putting it in motion he published a manifesto, saying that he had taken up arms for the Protestant religion and the liberties of Germany, both of which were menaced with destruction, and also for the deliverance of Philip, Landgrave of Hesse, from a long and unjust imprisonment14

The emperor, on being suddenly and rudely awakened from his security, found himself hemmed in on every side by those who from friends had been suddenly converted into foes. The Turk was watching him by sea. The French were striking at him by land. In front of him was the Pope, who had taken mortal offense; and behind him was Maurice, pushing on by secret and forced marches, “to catch,” as he irreverently said, “the fox in his hole.” And probably he would have done as he said, had not a mutiny broken out among his troops on the journey, which, by delaying his march on Innspruck, gave Charles time to learn with astonishment that all Germany had risen, and was in full march upon Innspruck. The emperor had no alternative but flight.

The night was dark, a tempest was raging among the Alps; Charles was suffering from the gout, and his illness unfitted him for horseback. They placed him in a litter, and lighting torches to guide them in the darkness, they bore the emperor over the mountains, by steep and rugged paths, to Villach in Carinthia. Prince Maurice entered Innspruck a few hours after Charles had quitted it, to find that his prey had escaped him.15

The emperor’s power collapsed when apparently at its zenith. None of the usual signs that precede the fall of greatness gave warning of so startling a downfall in the emperor’s fortunes. His vast prestige had not been impaired. He had not been worsted on the battle-field; his military glory had suffered no eclipse; nor had any of his kingdoms been torn from him; he was still master of two worlds, and yet, by an extraordinary concurrence of circumstances, he was rendered helpless in presence of his enemies, and had to save his liberty, if not his life, by a hasty and ignominious flight. It would be difficult, in all history, to find such another reverse of fortune. The emperor never fully recovered either himself or his Empire.

There followed, in July, the Peace of Passau. The main article in that treaty was that the Protestants should enjoy the free and undisturbed possession of their religion till such time as a Diet of all the States should effect a permanent arrangement, and that failing such a Diet the present agreement should remain in force for ever.16 This was followed by the Treaty of Augsburg in 1555. This last ratified and enlarged the privileges conceded to the Protestants in the pacification of Passau, and gave a legal right to the Augustan Confession to exist side by side with the creed of the Romish Church.17 The ruling idea of the Middle Ages, that one form of religion only could exist in a country, was then abandoned; yet with some unwillingness on both sides; for the Lutherans, not less than the emperor, had some difficulty in shaking themselves free of the exclusiveness of former times. The members of the Reformed Church, the followers of Zwingle and Calvin, were excluded from the privileges secured in the treaties of Passau and Augsburg, nor was legal toleration extended to them till the Peace of Westphalia, a century later.

To the emperor how mortifying this issue of affairs! To overthrow the Protestant religion in Germany, and restore the Popish worship to its ancient dominancy, was the one object of all his campaigns these five years past. His efforts had led to just the opposite result. He had been compelled to grant toleration to Lutheranism, and all things appertaining to the churches, schools, and pastors of Germany had returned to the position in which they were before the war. He was in the act of putting the crown upon the fabric of his power, when lo! it suddenly fell into ruin.

At the beginning of his career, and when just entering on his great combat with the Reformation, Charles V., as we have already seen, staked kingdom and crown, armies and treasures, body and soul, in the battle with Protestantism.18 Thirty years had passed since then, and the emperor was now in circumstances to say how far he had succeeded. Hundreds of thousands of lives had he sacrificed and millions of money had he squandered in the contest, but Protestantism, so far from being extinguished, had enlarged its area, and multiplied its adherents four-fold.

While the fortunes of Protestantism flourished day by day, how different was it with those of the emperor! The final issue as regarded Spain was as yet far from being reached, but already as regarded Charles it shaped itself darkly before his eyes. His treasury empty, his prestige diminished, discontent and revolt springing up in all parts of his dominions, his toils and years increasing, but bringing with them no real successes, he began to meditate retiring from the scene, and entrusting the continuance of the contest to his son Philip. In that very year, 1555, he committed to him the government of the Netherlands, and soon thereafter that of the Spanish and Italian territories also.19 In 1556 he formally abdicated the Empire, and retired to bury his grandeur and ambition in the monkish solitude of St. Juste.

Disembarking in the Bay of Biscay, September, 1556, he proceeded to Burgos, and thence to Valladolid, being borne sometimes in a chair, sometimes in a horse-litter. So thoroughly had toil and disease done their work upon him, that he suffered exquisite pain at every step. A few only of his nobles met him on his journey, and these few rendered him so cold an homage, that he was now made painfully aware that he was no longer a monarch. From Valladolid he pursued his journey to Placentia in Estremadura, near to which was a monastery belonging to the Order of St. Jerome, so delightfully situated that Charles, who had chanced to visit it many years before, had long dreamed of ending his days here. It lay in a little vale, watered by a brook, encircled by pleasant hills, and possessing a soil so fertile and an air so salubrious and sweet, that it was esteemed the most delicious spot in Spain.

Before his arrival an architect had added eight rooms to the monastery for the emperor’s use. Six were in the form of monks’ cells, with bare walls; the remaining two were plainly furnished. Here, with twelve servants, a horse for his use, and a hundred thousand crowns, which he had reserved for his subsistence, and which were very irregularly paid, lived Charles, so lately at the head of the world, “spending his time,” says the continuator of Sleidan, “in the innocent acts of grafting, gardening, and reconciling the differences of his clocks, which yet he never could make to strike together, and therefore ceased to wonder he had not been able to make men agree in the niceties of religion.”20

As soon as he had set foot upon the shore of Spain, “he prostrated himself upon the earth,” says the same writer, “and kissing it he said, ‘Hail, my beloved mother; naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and now I return naked to thee again, as to another mother; and here I consecrate and give to thee my body and my bones, which is all the acknowledgment I can give for all thy numerous benefits bestowed upon me.’”21

What a striking contrast! The career of Charles ends where that of Luther begins. From a convent we see Luther come forth to enlighten the world and become a king of men: year by year his power expands and his glory brightens. At the door of a convent we behold Charles bidding adieu to all his dominion and grandeur, to all the projects he had formed, and all the hopes he had cherished. The one emerges from seclusion to mount into the firmament of influence, where a place awaits him, which he is to hold for ever: the other falls suddenly from the heaven of power, and the place that knew him knows him no more. In the emphatic language of Scripture, “that day his thoughts perish.”

Volume 2

Book 13: From Rise Of Protestantism In France (1510) To Publication Of The Institutes (1536)

Chapter 13.1: The Doctor Of Etaples, The First Protestant Teacher In France

Arrival of a New Actor – Central Position of France – Genius of its People – Tragic Interest of its Protestantism – Louis XII. – Perdam Babylonis Nomen, – The Councils of Pisa and the Lateran Francis I. and Leo X. – Jacques Lefevre – His Birth and Education Appointed to a Chair in the Sorbonne – His Devotions – His Lives of the Saints – A Discovery – A Free Justification – Teaches this Doctrine in the Sorbonne – Agitation among the Professors – A Tempest gathering.

THE area of the Reformation—that great movement which, wherever it comes, makes all things new is about to undergo enlargement. The stage, already crowded with great actors—England, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark—is to receive another accession. The plot is deepening, the parts are multiplying, and the issues give promise of being rich and grand beyond conception. It is no mean actor that is now to step upon that stage on which the nations do battle, and where, if victorious, they shall reap a future of happiness and glory; but if vanquished, there await them decadence, and shame, and ruin. The new nationality which has come to mingle in this great drama is France.

At the opening of the sixteenth century, France held a foremost place among the countries of Europe. It might not unworthy aspire to lead in a great movement of the nations. Placed in the center of the civilized West, it touched the other kingdoms of Christendom at a great many points. On its south and south-east was Switzerland; on its east and north-east were Germany and the Low Countries; on its north, parted from it only by the narrow sea, was England At all its gates, save those that looked towards Italy and Spain, was the Reformation waiting for admission. Will France open, and heartily welcome it? Elevated on this central and commanding site, the beacon-lights of Protestantism will shed their effulgence all around, making the day clearer where the light has already dawned, and the night less dark where the shades still linger.

The rich endowments of the people made it at once desirable and probable that France would embrace the Reformation. The French genius is one of marvelous adaptability. Quick, playful, trenchant, subtle, it is able alike to concentrate itself in analytical investigations, and to spread itself out in creations of poetic beauty and intellectual sublimity. There is no branch of literature in which the French people have not excelled. They have shone equally in the drama, in philosophy, in history, in mathematics, and in metaphysics. Grafted on a genius so elegant and yet so robust, so playful and yet so Penetrating—in short, so many sided—Protestantism will display itself under a variety of new and beautiful lights, which will win converts in quarters where the movement has not been regarded hitherto as having many attractions to recommend it—nay, rather where, it has been contemned as “a root out of a dry ground.”

We are entering on one of the grandest yet most tragic of all the pages of our history. The movement which we now behold entering France is to divide—deeply and fiercely divide the nation; for it is a characteristic of the French people that whatever, cause they embrace, they embrace with enthusiasm; and whatever cause they oppose, they oppose with an equal enthusiasm. As we pass on the scenes will be continually shifting, and the quick alternations of hope and fear will never cease to agitate us. It is, so to speak, a superb gallery we are to traverse; colossal forms look down upon us as we pass along. On this hand stand men of gigantic wickedness, on that men of equally gigantic virtue—men whose souls, sublimed by piety and trust in God, have attained to the highest pitch of endurance, of self-sacrifice, of heroism. And then the lesson at the close, so distinct, so solemn. For we are justified in affirming that in a sense France has glorified Protestantism more by rejecting it than other countries have done by accepting it.

We lift the curtain at the year 1510. On its rising we find the throne of France occupied by Louis XII., the wisest sovereign of his time. He has just assembled a Parliament at Tours to resolve for him the question whether it is lawful to go to war with the Pope, who violates treaties, and sustains his injustice by levying soldiers and fighting battles?1 The warlike Julius II. then occupied the chair which a Borgia had recently filled.

Ignorant of theology, with no inclination, and just as little capacity, for the spiritual duties of his see, Julius II. passed his whole time in camps and on battle-fields. With so bellicose a priest at its center, Christendom had but little rest. Among others whom the Pope disquieted was the meek and upright Louis of France; hence the question which he put to his Parliament. The answer of that assembly marks the moral decadence of the Papacy, and the contempt in which the thunderbolts of the Vatican were beginning to be held. “It is lawful for the king,” said they, “not only to act defensively but offensively against such a man”2 Fortified by the advice of his Parliament, Louis gave the command to his armies to march, and two years later he indicated sufficiently his own opinion of the Papacy and its crowned chief, when he caused a coin to be struck at Naples bearing the words, Perdan Babylonis nomen 3 These symptoms announced the near approach of the new times.

Other things were then being transacted which also gave plain indication that the old age was about to close and a new age to open. Weary of a Pope who made it his sole vocation to marshal armies and conquer cities and provinces, who went in person to the battle-field, but never once appeared in the pulpit, the Emperor Maximilian I. and Louis of France agreed to convoke a Council4 for “the Reformation of the Church in its head and members.” That Council was now sitting at Pisa. It summoned the Pope to its bar, and when Julius II. failed to appear, the Council suspended him from his office, and forbade all people to obey him.5 The Pope treated the decree of the Fathers with the same contempt which he had shown to their summons. He convoked another Council at the Lateran, made void that of Pisa, with all its decrees, fulminated excommunication against Louis,6 suspended Divine worship in France, and delivered the kingdom to whomsoever had the will and the power to seize upon it.7

Thus Council met Council, and the project of the two sovereigns for a Reformation came to nothing, as later and similar attempts were destined to do.

For the many evils that pressed upon the world, a Council was the only remedy that the age knew, and at every crisis it betook itself to this device. God was about to plant in society a new principle, which would become the germ of its regeneration.

Julius II. was busied with his Council of the Lateran when (1513) he died, and was succeeded in the Papal chair by Cardinal John de Medici, Leo X.

With the new Pope came new manners at Rome. Underneath, the stream of corruption continued steadily to flow, but on the surface things were changed. The Vatican no longer rang with the clang of arms. Instead of soldiers, troops of artists and musicians, crowds of masqueraders and buffoons now filled the palace of the Pope. The talk was no longer of battles, but of, pictures and statues and dancers. Soon Louis of France followed his former opponent, Julius II., to the grave. He died on the 1st January, 1515, and was succeeded by his nephew, Francis I.

The new Pope and the new king were not unlike in character. The Renaissance had touched both, communicating to them that refinement of outward manners, and that aesthetical rather than cultivated taste, which it never failed to impart to all who came under its influence. The strong, wayward, and selfish passions of the men it had failed to correct. Both loved to surround themselves with pomps. Francis was greedy of fame, Leo was greedy of money, and both were greedy of pleasure, and the characteristic passions of each became in the hand of an overruling Providence the means of furthering the great movement which now presents itself on the scene.

The river which waters great kingdoms, and bears on its bosom the commerce of many nations, may be traced up to some solitary fountain among the far-off hills. So was it with that river of the Water of Life that was now to go forth to refresh France. It had its first rise in a single soul. It is the year 1510, and the good Louis XII. is still upon the throne. A stranger visiting Paris at that day, more especially if of a devout turn, would hardly have failed to mark an old man, small of stature and simple in manners, going his round of the churches and, prostrate before their images, devoutly “repeating his hours:” This man was destined to be, on a small scale, to the realm of France what Wicliffe had been, on a large, to England and the world—“the morning star of the Reformation.” His name was Jacques Lefevre. He was born at Etaples, a village of Picardy,8 about the middle of the previous century, and was now verging on seventy, but still hale and vigorous. Lefevre had all his days been a devout Papist, and even to this hour the shadow of Popery was still around him, and the eclipse of superstition had not yet wholly passed from off his soul. But the promise was to be fulfilled to him, “At evening time it shall be light.” He had all along had a presentiment that a new day was rising on the world, and that he should not depart till his eyes had seen its light.

The man who was the first to emerge from the darkness that covered his native land is entitled to a prominent share of our attention. Lefevre was in all points a remarkable man. Endowed with an inquisitive and capacious intellect, hardly was there a field of study open to those ages which he had not entered, and in which he had not made great proficiency. The ancient languages, the belles lettres, history, mathematics, philosophy, theology;—he had studied them all. His thirst for knowledge tempted him to try what he might be able to learn from other lands besides France. He had visited Asia and Africa, and seen all that the end of the fifteenth century had to show. Returning to France he was appointed to a chair in the Sorbonne, or Theological Hall of the great Paris University, and soon he drew around him a crowd of admiring disciples. He was the first luminary, Erasmus tells us, in that constellation of lights; but he was withal so meek, so amiable, so candid, and so full of loving-kindness, that all who knew him loved him. But there were those among his fellow-professors who envied him the admiration of which he was the object, and insinuated that the man who had visited so many countries, and had made himself familiar with so many subjects, and some of them so questionable, could hardly have escaped some taint of heresy, and could not be wholly loyal to Mother Church.

They set to watching him; but no one of them all was so punctual and exemplary in his devotions. never was he absent from mass; never was his place empty at the procession, and no one remained so long as Lefevre on his knees before the saints. Nay, often might this man, the most distinguished of all the professors of the Sorbonne, be seen decking the statues of Mary with flowers.9 No flaw could his enemies find in his armor.

Lefevre, thinking to crown the saints with a fairer and more lasting garland than the perishable flowers he had offered to their images, formed the idea of collecting and re-writing their lives: He had already made some progress in his task when the thought struck him that he might find in the Bible materials or hints that would be useful to him in his work. To the Bible—the original languages of which he had studied—he accordingly turned. He had unwittingly opened to himself the portals of a new world. Saints of another sort than those that had till this moment engaged his attention now stood before him—men who had received a higher canonisation than that of Rome, and whose images the pen of inspiration itself had drawn. The virtues of the real saints dimmed in his eyes the glories of the legendary ones. The pen dropped from his hand, and he could proceed no farther in the task on which till now he had labored with a zeal so genial, and a perseverance so untiring.

Having opened the Bible, Lefevre was in no haste to shut it. He saw that not only were the saints of the Bible unlike the saints of the Roman Calendar, but that the Church of the Bible was unlike the Roman Church. From the images of Paul and Peter, the doctor of Etaples now turned to the Epistles of Paul and Peter, from the voice of the Church to the voice of God. The plan of a free justification stood revealed to him. It came like a sudden revelation—like the breaking of the day. In 1512 he published a commentary, of which a copy is extant in the Bibliotheque Royale of Paris, on the Epistles of Paul. In that work he says, “It is God who gives us, by faith, that righteousness which by grace alone justifies to eternal life.”10

The day has broken. This utterance of Lefevre assures us of that. It is but a single ray, it is true; but it comes from Heaven, it is light Divine, and will yet scatter the darkness that broods over France. It has already banished the gloom of monkery from the soul of Lefevre; it will do the same for his pupils—for his countrymen, and he knows that he has not received the light to put it under a bushel. Of all places, the Sorbonne was the most dangerous in which to proclaim the new doctrine. For centuries no one but the schoolmen had spoken there, and now to proclaim in the citadel and sanctuary of scholasticism a doctrine that would explode what had received the reverence, as it had been the labor, of ages, and promised, as was thought, eternal fame to its authors, was enough to make the very stones cry out from the venerable walls, and was sure to draw down a tempest of scholastic ire on the head of the adventurous innovator. Lefevre had attained an age which is proverbially wary, if not timid; he knew well the risks to which he was exposing himself, nevertheless he went on to teach the doctrine of salvation by grace. There rose a great commotion round the chair whence proceeded these unwonted sounds. With very different feelings did the pupils of the venerable man listen to the new teaching. The faces of some testified to the delight which his doctrine gave them. They looked like men to whose eyes some glorious vista had been suddenly opened, or who had unexpectedly lighted upon what they had long but vainly sought. Astonishment or doubt was plainly written on the faces of others, while the knitted brows and flashing eyes of some as plainly bespoke the anger that inflamed them against the man who was razing, as they thought, the very foundations of morality.

The agitation in the class-room of Lefevre quickly communicated itself to the whole university. The doctors were in a flutter. Reasonings and objections were heard on every side, frivolous in some cases, in others the fruit of blind prejudice, or dislike of the doctrine. But some few were honest, and these Lefever made it his business to answer, being desirous to show that his doctrine did not give a license to sin, and that it was not new, but old; that he was not the first preacher of it in France, that it had been taught by Irenaeus in early times, long before the scholastic theology was heard of; and especially that this doctrine was not his, not Irenaeus’, but God’s, who had revealed it to men in his Word.

Mutterings began to be heard of the tempest that was gathering in the distance; but as yet it did not burst, and meanwhile Lefevre, within whose soul the light was growing clearer day by day, went on with his work.

It is important to mark that these occurrences took place in 1512. Not yet, nor till five years later, was the name of Luther heard of in France. The monk of Wittemberg had not yet nailed his Theses against indulgences to the doors of the Schloss-kirk. From Germany then, most manifest it is, the Reformation which we now see springing up on French soil did not come.

Even before the strokes of Luther’s hammer in Wittemberg are heard ringing the knell of the old times, the voice of Lefevre is proclaiming beneath the vaulted roof of the Sorbonne in Paris the advent of the new age. The Reformation of France came out of the Bible as really as the light which kindles mountain and plain at daybreak comes out of heaven. And as it was in France so was it in all the countries of the Reform. The Word of God, like God himself, is light; and from that enduring and inexhaustible source came forth that welcome clay which, after a long and protracted night, broke upon the nations in the morning of the sixteenth century.

Chapter 13.2: Farel, Briconnet, And The Early Reformers Of France

A Student from the Dauphinese Alps – William Farel – Enters University of Paris – Becomes a Pupil Of Lefevre – His Doubts – Passes with Lefevre into the New Day – Preaches in the Churches – Retires to Switzerland – William Briconnet, Bishop of Meaux – Briconnet goes on a Mission to Rome – State of the City – His Musings on his Way back – Change at Meaux – The Bible – What Briconnet Saw in it – Begins the Reformation of his Diocese – Characters of Francis I. and Margaret of Valois.

AMONG the youth whom we see gathered round the chair of the aged Lefevre, there is one who specially attracts our notice. It is easy to see that between the scholar and his master there exists an attachment of no ordinary kind. There is no one in all that crowd of pupils who so hangs upon the lips of his teacher as does this youth, nor is there one on whom the eyes of that teacher rest with so kindly a light. This youth is not a native of France. He was born among the Alps of Dauphine, at Gap, near Grenoble, in 1489. His name is William Farel.

His parents were eminently pious, measured by the standard of that age. Never did morning kindle into glory the white mountains, in the midst of which their dwelling was placed, but the family was assembled, and the bead-roll duly gone over; and never did evening descend, first enkindling then paling the Alps, without the customary hymn to the Virgin. The parents of the youth, as he himself informs us, believed all that the priests told them; and he, in his turn, believed all that his parents told him.

Thus he grew up till he was about the age of twenty—the grandeurs of nature in his eye all hours of the day, but the darkness of superstition deepening year by year in his soul. The two—the glory of the Alps and the glory of the Church—seemed to blend and become one in his mind. It would have been as hard for him to believe that Rome with her Pope and holy priests, with her rites and ceremonies, was the mere creation of superstition, as to believe that the great mountains around him, with their snows and their pine-forests, were a mere illusion, a painting on the sky, which but mocked the senses, and would one day dissolve like an unsubstantial though gorgeous exhalation. “I would gnash my teeth like a furious wolf,” said he, speaking of his blind devotion to Rome at this period of his life, “when I heard any one speaking against the Pope.”

It was his father’s wish that he should devote himself to the profession of arms, but the young Farel aspired to be a scholar. The fame of the Sorbonne had reached him in his secluded native valley, and he thirsted to drink at that renowned well of learning. Probably the sublimities amid which he daily moved had kept alive the sympathies of a mind naturally ardent and aspiring. He now (1510) set out for Paris, presented himself at the gates of its university, and was enrolled among its students.

It was here that the young Dauphinese scholar became acquainted with the doctor of Etaples. There were but few points to bring them together, one would have thought, and a great many to keep them apart. The one was young, the other old; the one was enthusiastic, the other was timid; but these differences were on the surface only. The two were kindred in their souls, both were noble, unselfish, devout, and in an age of growing skepticism and dissoluteness the devotion of both was as sincere as it was ardent. This was the link that bound them together, and the points of contrast instead of weakening only tended the more firmly to cement their friendship. The aged master and the young disciple might often be seen going their rounds in company, and visiting the same shrines, and kneeling before the same images.

But now a change was commencing in the mind of Lefevre which must part the two for ever, or bind them together yet more indissolubly. The spiritual dawn was breaking in the soul of the doctor of Etaples; would his young disciple be able to enter along with him into that new world into which the other was being translated? In his public teaching Lefevre now began to let fall at times crumbs of the new knowledge he had gleaned from the Bible. “Salvation is of grace,” would the professor say to his pupils.

“The Innocent One is condemned and the criminal is acquitted.” “It is the cross of Christ alone that openeth the gates of heaven and shutteth the gates of hell.”1 Farel started as these words fell upon his ear. What did they import, and where would they lead him? Were then all his visits to the saints, and the many hours on his knees before their images, to no purpose—prayers flung into empty space? The teachings of his youth, the sanctities of his home, nay, the grandeurs of the mountains which were associated in his mind with the beliefs he had learned at their feet, rose up before him, and appeared to frown upon him, and he wished he were back again, where, encompassed by the calm majesty of the hills, he might no longer feel these torturing doubts.

Farel had two courses before him, he must either press forward with Lefevre into the light, or abjuring his master as a heretic, plunge straightway into deeper darkness. Happily God had been preparing him for the crisis. There had been for some time a tempest in the soul of the young student. Farel had lost his peace, and the austerities he had practiced with a growing rigor had failed to restore it. What Scripture so emphatically terms “the terrors of death and the pains of hell” had taken hold upon him. It was while he was in this state, feeling that he could not save himself, and beginning to despair of ever being saved, that the words were spoken in his hearing, “The cross of Christ alone openeth the gates of heaven.” Farel felt that this was the only salvation to suit him, that if ever he should be saved it must be “of grace,” “without money and without price,” and so he immediately pressed in at the portal which the words of Lefevre had opened to him, and rejoined his teacher in the new world into which that teacher himself had so recently entered.2 The tempest was at an end: he was now in the quiet haven. “All things,” said he, “appear to me under a new light. Scripture is cleared up.” “Instead of the murderous heart of a ravening wolf, he came back,” he tells us, “quietly like a meek and harmless lamb, having his heart entirely withdrawn from the Pope and given to Jesus Christ.”3

For a brief space Jacques Lefevre and Guillaume Farel shone like twin stars in the morning sky of France. The influence of Lefevre was none the less efficient that it was quietly put forth, and consisted mainly in the dissemination of those vital truths from which Protestantism was to spring among the young and ardent minds that were gathered round his chair, and by whom the new doctrine was afterwards to be published from the pulpit, or witnessed for on the scaffold. “Lefevre was the man,” says Theodore Beza, “who boldly began the revival of the pure religion of Jesus Christ, and as in ancient times the school of Socrates sent forth the best orators, so from the lecture-room of the doctor of Etaples issued many of the best men of the age and of the Church.”4 Peter Robert Olivetan, the translator of the first French Bible from the version of Lefevre, is believed to have been among the number of those who received the truth from the doctor of Etaples, and who, in his turn, was the means of enlisting in the service of Protestantism the greatest champion whom France, or perhaps any other country, ever gave to it.

While Lefevre scattered the seed in his lecture-room, Farel, now fully emancipated from the yoke of the Pope, and listening to no teaching but that of the Bible, went forth and preached in the temples. He was as uncompromising and bold in his advocacy of the Gospel as he had aforetime been zealous in behalf of Popery. “Young and resolute,” says Felice, “he caused the public places and temples to resound with his voice of thunder.”5 He labored for a short time in Meaux,6 where Protestantism reaped its earliest triumphs: and when the gathering storm of persecution drove him from France, which happened soon thereafter, Farel directed his steps towards those grand mountains from which lie had come, and preaching in Switzerland with a courage which no violence could subdue, and an eloquence which drew around him vast crowds, he introduced the Reformation into his native land. He planted the standard of the cross on the shores of the lake of Neuchatel and on those of the Leman, and eventually carried it within the gates of Geneva, where we shall again meet him. He thus became the pioneer of Calvin.

We have marked the two figures—Lefevre and Farel—that stand out with so great distinctness in this early dawn. A third now appears whose history possesses a great although a melancholy interest. After the doctor of Etaples no one had so much to do with the introduction of Protestantism into France as the man whom we now bring upon the stage.7 He is William Briconnet, Count of Montbrun, and Bishop of Meaux, a town about eight leagues east of Paris, and where Bossuet, another name famous in ecclesiastical annals, was also, at an after-period, bishop. Descended from a noble family, of good address, and a man of affairs, Briconnet was sent by Francis I. on a mission to Rome. The most magnificent of all the Popes—Leo X.—was then in the Vatican, and Briconnet’s visit to the Eternal City gave him an opportunity of seeing the Papacy in the noon of its glory, if now somewhat past the meridian of its power.

It was the same Pope to whom the Bishop of Meaux was now sent as ambassador to whom the saying is ascribed, “What a profitable affair this fable of Christ has been to us!” To Luther in his cell, alone with his sins and his conscience, the Gospel was a reality; to Leo, amidst the statues and pictures of the Vatican, his courtiers, buffoons and dancers, the Gospel was a fable. But this “fable” had done much for Rome. It had filled it—no one said with virtues—but with golden dignities, dazzling honors, and voluptuous delights. This fable clothed the ministers of the Church in purple, seated them every day at sumptuous tables, provided for them splendid equipages drawn by prancing steeds, and followed by a long train of liveried attendants: while couches of down were spread for them at night on which to rest their wearied frames—worn out, not with watching or study, or the care of souls, but with the excitements of the chase or the pleasures of the table. The viol, the tabret, and the harp were never silent in the streets of Rome. Her citizens did not need to toil or spin, to turn the soil or plough the main, for the corn and oil, the silver and the gold of all Christendom flowed thither. They shed copiously the juice of the grape in their banquets, and not less copiously the blood of one another in their quarrels. The Rome of that age was the chosen home of pomps and revels, of buffooneries and villanies, of dark intrigues and blood-red crimes.8 “Enjoy we the Papacy,” said Leo, when elected, to his nephew Julian de Medici, “since God has given it to us.”

But the master-actor on this strange stage was Religion, or the “Fable” as the Pontiff termed it. All day long the bells tolled; even at night their chimes ceased not to be heard, telling the visitor that even then prayer and praise were ascending from the oratories and shrines of Rome. Churches and cathedrals rose at every few paces: images and crucifixes lined the streets: tapers and holy signs sanctified the dwellings: every hour processions of shorn priest, hooded monk, and veiled nun swept along, with banners, and chants, and incense. Every new day brought a new ceremony or festival, which surpassed in its magnificence and pomp that of the day before. What an enigma was presented to the Bishop of Meaux! What a strange city was Rome—how full of religion, but how empty of virtue! Its ceremonies how gorgeous, but its worship how cold; its priests how numerous, and how splendidly arrayed! It wanted only that their virtues should be as shining as their garments, to make the city of the Pope the most resplendent in the universe. Such doubtless were the reflections of Briconnet during his stay at the court of Leo.

The time came that the Bishop of Meaux must leave Rome and return to France. On his way back to his own country he had a great many more things to meditate upon than when on his journey southward to the Eternal City. As he climbs the lower ridges of the Apennines, and casts a look behind on the fast-vanishing cluster of towers and domes, which mark the site of Rome on the bosom of the Campagna, we can imagine him saying to himself, “May not the Pope have spoken infallibly for once, and may not that which I have seen enthroned amid so much of this world’s pride and power and wickedness be, after all, only a ‘fable’?” In short, Briconnet, like Luther, came back from Rome much less a son of the Church than he had been before going thither.9

New scenes awaited him on his return, and what he had seen in Rome helped to prepare him for what he was now to witness in France. On getting back to his diocese the Bishop of Meaux was astonished at the change which had passed in Paris during his absence. There was a new light in the sky of France: a new influence was stirring in the minds of men. The good bishop thirsted to taste the new knowledge which he saw was transforming the lives and gladdening the hearts of all who received it. He had known Lefevre before going to Rome, and what so natural as that he should turn to his old friend to tell him whence had come that influence, so silent yet so mighty, which was changing the world? Lefevre put the Bible into his hands: it was all in that book. The bishop opened the mysterious volume, and there he saw what he had missed at Rome—a Church which had neither Pontifical chair nor purple robes, but which possessed the higher splendor of truth and holiness. The bishop felt that this was the true Spouse of Christ.

The Bible had revealed to Briconnet, Christ as the Author of a free salvation, the Bestower of an eternal life, without the intervention of the “Church,” and this knowledge was to him as “living water,” as “heavenly food.” “Such is its sweetness,” said he, “that it makes the mind insatiable, the more we taste of it the more we long for it. What vessel is able to receive the exceeding fullness of this inexhaustible sweetness?”10

Briconnet’s letters are still preserved in MS.; they are written in the mazy metaphorical style which disfigured all the productions of an age just passing from the flighty and figurative rhetoric of the schoolmen to the chaster models of the ancients, but they leave us in no doubt as to his sentiments. He repudiates works as the foundation of the sinner’s justification, and puts in their room Christ’s finished work apprehended by faith, and, laying little stress on external ceremonies and rites, makes religion to consist in love to God and personal holiness. The bishop received the new doctrine without experiencing that severe mental conflict which Farel had passed through. He found the gate not strait, and entered in—somewhat too easily perhaps—and took his place in the little circle of disciples which the Gospel had already gathered round it in France—Lefevre, Farel, Roussel, and Vatable, all four professors in the University of Paris—although, alas! he was not destined to remain in that holy society to the close.

Of the five men whom Protestantism had called to follow it in this kingdom, the Bishop of Meaux, as regarded the practical work of Reformation, was the most powerful. The whole of France he saw needed Reformation; where should he begin? Unquestionably in his own diocese. His rectors and cures walked in the old paths. They squandered their revenues in the dissolute gaieties of Paris, while they appointed ignorant deputies to do duty for them at Meaux. In other days Briconnet had looked on this as a matter of course: now it appeared to him a scandalous and criminal abuse. In October, 1520, he published a mandate, proclaiming all to be “traitors and deserters who, by abandoning their flocks, show plainly that what they love is their fleece and their wool.” He interdicted, moreover, the Franciscans from the pulpits of his diocese. At the season of the grand fetes these men made their rounds, amply provided with new jests, which put their hearers in good humor, and helped the friars to fill their stomachs and their wallets. Briconnet forbade the pulpits to be longer desecrated by such buffooneries. He visited in person, like a faithful bishop, all his parishes; summoned the clergy and parishioners before him: inquired into the teaching of the one and the morals of the other: removed ignorant cures, that is, every nine out of ten of the clergy, and replaced them with men able to teach, when such could be found, which was then no easy matter. To remedy the great evil of the time, which was ignorance, he instituted a theological seminary at Meaux, where, under his own eye, there might be trained “able ministers of the New Testament;” and meanwhile he did what he could to supply the lack of laborers, by ascending the pulpit and preaching himself, “a thing which had long since gone quite out of fashion.”11

Leaving Meaux now, to come back to it soon, we return to Paris. The influence of Briconnet’s conversion was felt among the high personages of the court, and the literary circles of the capital, as well as amidst the artizans and peasants of the diocese of Meaux. The door of the palace stood open to the bishop, and the friendship he enjoyed with Francis I. opened to Briconnet vast opportunities of spreading Reformed views among the philosophers and scholars whom that monarch loved to assemble round him. One high-born, and wearing a mitre, was sure to be listened to where a humbler Reformer might in vain solicit audience. The court of France was then adorned by a galaxy of learned men—Budaeus, Du Bellay, Cop, the court physician, and others of equal eminence—to all of whom the bishop made known a higher knowledge than that of the Renaissance.12 But the most illustrious convert in the palace was the sister of the king, Margaret of Valois. And now two personages whom we have not met as yet, but who are destined to act a great part in the drama on which we are entering, make their appearance.

The one is Francis I., who ascended the throne just as the new day was breaking over Europe; the other is his sister, whom we have named above, Margaret of Angouleme. The brother and sister, in many of their qualities, resembled each other. Both were handsome in person, polished in manners, lively in disposition, and of a magnanimous and generous character. Both possessed a fine intellect, and both were fond of letters, which they had cultivated with ardor: Francis, who was sometimes styled the Mirror of Knighthood, embodied in his person the three characteristics of his age—valor, gallantry, and letters; the latter passion had, owing to the Renaissance, become a somewhat fashionable one. “Francis I.,” says Guizot, “had received from God all the gifts that can adorn a man: he was handsome, and tall, and strong; his amour, preserved in the Louvre, is that of a man six feet high; his eyes were brilliant and soft, his smile was gracious, his manners were winning.”13

Francis aspired to be a great king, but the moral instability which tarnished his many great qualities forbade the realization of his idea. It was his fate, after starting with promise in every race, to fall behind before reaching the goal. The young monarch of Spain bore away from him the palm in arms. Despite his great abilities, and the talents he summoned to his aid, he was never able to achieve for France in politics any but a second place. He chased from his dominions the greatest theological intellect of his age, and the literary glory with which he thought to invest his name and throne passed over to England. He was passionately fond of his sister, whom he always called his “darling;” and Margaret was not less devoted in affection for her brother. For some time the lives, as the tastes, of the two flowed on together; but a day was to come when they would be parted. Amid the frivolities of the court, in which she mingled without defiling herself with its vices, the light of the Gospel shone upon Margaret, and she turned to her Savior. Francis, after wavering some time between the Gospel and Rome, between the pleasures of the world and the joys that are eternal, made at last his choice, but, alas! on the opposite side to that of his lovely and accomplished sister. Casting in his lot with Rome, and staking crown, and kingdom, and salvation upon the issue, he gave battle to the Reformation.

We turn again to Margaret, whose grace and beauty made her the ornament of the court, as her brilliant qualities of intellect won the admiration and homage of all who came in contact with her.14 This accomplished princess, nevertheless, began to be unhappy. She felt a heaviness of the heart which the gaieties around her could not dispel. She was in this state, ill at ease, yet not knowing well what it was that troubled her, when Briconnet met her (1521).15 He saw at once to the bottom of her heart and her griefs. He put into her hand what Lefevre had put into his own—the Bible; and after the eager study of the Word of God, Margaret forgot her fears and her sins in love to her Savior. She recognized in him the Friend she had long sought, but sought in vain, in the gay circles in which she moved, and she felt a strength and courage she had not known till now. Peace became an inmate of her bosom. She was no longer alone in the world. There was now a Friend by her side on whose sympathy she could cast herself in those dark hours when her brother Francis should frown, and the court should make her the object of its polished ridicule.

In the conversion of Margaret a merciful Providence provided against the evil days that were to come. Furious storms were at no great distance, and although Margaret was not strong enough to prevent the bursting of these tempests, she could and did temper their bitterness. She was near the throne. The sweetness of her spirit was at times a restraint upon the headlong passions of her brother. With quiet tact she would defeat the plot of the monk, and undo the chain of the martyr, and not a few lives, which other wise would have perished on the scaffold, were through her interposition saved to the Reformation.

Chapter 13.3: The First Protestant Congregation Of France

A Bright Morning – Sanguine Anticipations of the Protestants – Lefevre Translates the Bible – Bishop of Meaux Circulates it – The Reading of it at Meaux – Reformation of Manners – First Protestant Flock in France – Happy Days – Complaints of the Tavern-keepers – Murmurs of the Monks – The King Incited to set up the Scaffold – Refuses – The “Well of Meaux.”

A MORNING without clouds was rising on France, and Briconnet and Lefevre believed that such as the morning had been so would be the day, tranquil and clear, and waxing ever the brighter as it approached its noon. Already the Gospel had entered the palace. In her lofty sphere Margaret of Valois shone like a star of soft and silvery light, clouded at times, it is true, from the awe in which she stood of her brother and the worldly society around her, but emitting a sweet and winning ray which attracted the eye of many a beholder.

The monarch was on the side of progress, and often made the monks the butt of his biting satire. The patrons of literary culture were the welcome guests at the Louvre. All things were full of promise, and, looking down the vista of coming years, the friends of the Gospel beheld a long series of triumphs awaiting it—the throne won, the ancient superstition overturned, and France clothed with a new moral strength becoming the benefactress of Christendom. Such was the future as it shaped itself to the eyes of the two chief leaders of the movement. Triumphs, it is true, glorious triumphs was the Gospel to win in France, but not exactly of the kind which its friends at this hour anticipated. Its victories were to be gained not in the lettered conflicts of scholars, nor by the aid of princes; it was in the dungeon and at the stake that its prowess was to be shown. This was the terrible arena on which it was to agonize and to be crowned. This, however, was hidden from the eyes of Briconnet and Lefevre, who meanwhile, full of faith and courage, worked with all their might to speed on a victory which they regarded as already half won.

The progress of events takes us back to Meaux. We have already noted the Reformation set on foot there by the bishop, the interdict laid on the friars, who henceforward could neither vent their buffooneries nor fill their wallets, the removal of immoral and incapable cures, and the founding of a school for the training of pastors. Briconnet now took another step forward; he hastened to place the Reform upon a stable basis—to open to his people access to the great fountain of light, the Bible.

It was the ambition of the aged Lefevre, as it had been that of our own Wicliffe, to see before he died every man in France able to read the Word of God in his mother tongue. With this object he began to translate the New Testament.1 The four Gospels in French were published on the 30th October, 1522; in a week thereafter came the remaining books of the New Testament, and on the 12th October, 1524, the whole were published in one volume at Meaux.2 The publication of the translated Bible was going on contemporaneously in Germany. Without the Bible in the mother tongues of France and Germany, the Reformation must have died with its first disciples; for, humanly speaking, it would have been impossible otherwise to have found for it foothold in Christendom in face of the tremendous opposition with which the powers of the world assailed it. The bishop, overjoyed, furthered with all his power the work of Lefevre. He made his steward distribute copies of the four Gospels to the poor gratis.3 “He spared,” says Crespin, “neither gold nor silver,” and the consequence was that the New Testament in French was widely circulated in all the parishes of his diocese.

The wool trade formed the staple of Meaux, and its population consisted mainly of wool-carders, spinners, weavers.4 Those in the surrounding districts were peasants and vine-dressers. In town and country alike the Bible became the subject of study and the theme of talk. The artizans of Meaux conversed together about it as they plied the loom or tended the spindle. At meal-hours it was read in the workshops. The laborers in the vineyards and on the corn-fields, when the noontide came and they rested from toil, would draw forth the sacred volume, and while one read, the rest gathered round him in a circle and listened to the words of life. They longed for the return of the meal-hour, not that they might eat of the bread of earth, but that they might appease their hunger for the bread whereof he that eateth shall never die.5

These men had grown suddenly learned, “wiser than their teachers,” to use the language of the book they were now so intently perusing. They were indeed wiser than the tribe of ignorant cures, and the army of Franciscan monks, whose highest aim had been to make their audience gape and laugh at their jests. Compared with the husks on which these men had fed them, this was the true bread, the heavenly manna. “Of what use are the saints to us?” said they. “Our only Mediator is Christ.”6 To offer any formal argument to them that this book was Divine, they would have felt to be absurd. It had opened heaven to them. It had revealed the throne of God, and their way to it by the one and only Savior. Whose book, then, could this be but God’s? and whence could it have come but from the skies?

And well it was that their faith was thus simple and strong, for no less deep a conviction of the Gospel’s truth would have sufficed to carry them through what awaited them. All their days were not to be passed in the peaceful fold of Meaux. Dark temptations and fiery trials, of which they could not at this hour so much as form a conception, were to test them at no distant day. Could they stand when Briconnet should fall? Some of these men were at a future day to be led to the stake. Had their faith rested on no stronger foundation than a fine logical argument—had their conversion been only a new sentiment and not a new nature—had that into which they were now brought been a new system merely and not a new world—they could not have braved the dungeon or looked death in the face. But these disciples had planted their feet not on Briconnet, not on Peter, but on “the Rock,” and that “Rock” was Christ: and so not all the coming storms of persecution could cast them down. Not that in themselves they could not be shaken—they were frail and fallible, but their “Rock” was immovable; and standing on it they were unconquerable—unconquerable alike amid the dark smoke and bitter flames of the Place de Greve as amid the green pastures of Meaux.

But as yet these tempests are forbidden to burst, and meanwhile let us look somewhat more closely at this little flock, to which there attaches this great interest, that it was the first Protestant congregation on the soil of France. They were the workmanship, not of Briconnet, but of the Spirit, who by the instrumentality of the Bible had called them to the “knowledge of Christ,” and the “fellowship of the saints.” Let us mark them at the close of the day. Their toil ended, they diligently repaired from the workshop, the vineyard, the field, and assembled in the house of one of their number. They opened and read the Holy Scriptures; they conversed about the things of the Kingdom; they joined together in prayer, and their hearts burned within them. Their numbers were few, their sanctuary was humble, no mitred and vested priest conducted their services, no choir or organ-peal intoned their prayers; but ONE was in the midst of them greater than the doctor of the Sorbonne, greater than any King of France, even he who has said, “Lo, I am with you alway”—and where he is, there is the Church.

The members of this congregation belonged exclusively to the working class. Their daily bread was earned in the wool-factory or in the vineyard. Nevertheless a higher civilization had begun to sweeten their dispositions, refine their manners, and ennoble their speech, than any that the castles of their nobility could show. Meek in spirit, loving in heart, and holy in life, they presented a sample of what Protestantism would have made the whole nation of France, had it been allowed full freedom among a people who lacked but this to crown their many great qualities.

By-and-by the churches were opened to them. Their conferences were no longer held in private dwellings: the Christians of Meaux now met in public, and usually a qualified person expounded to them, on these occasions, the Scriptures. Bishop Briconnet took his turn in the pulpit, so eager was he to hold aloft “that sweet, mild, true, and only light,” to use his own words, “which dazzles and enlightens every creature capable of receiving it; and which, while it enlightens him, raises him to the dignity of a son of God.”7 These were happy days. The winds of heaven were holden that they might not hurt this young vine; and time was given it strike its roots into the soil before being overtaken by the tempest.

A general reformation of manners followed the entrance of Protestantism into Meaux. No better evidence could there be of this than the complaints preferred by two classes of the community especially—the tavern-keepers and the monks. The topers in the wine-shops were becoming fewer, and the Begging Friars often returned from their predatory excursions with empty sacks. Images, too, if they could have spoken, would have swelled the murmurs at the ill-favored times, for few now bestowed upon them either coin or candles. But images can only wink, and so they buried their griefs in the inarticulate silence of their own bosoms. Blasphemies and quarrellings ceased to be heard; there were now quiet on the streets and love in the dwellings of the little town.

But now the first mutterings of the coming storm began to be heard in Paris; even this brought at first only increased prosperity to the Reformed Church at Meaux. It sent to the little flock new and greater teachers. The Sorbonne—that ancient and proud champion of orthodoxy—knew that these were not times to slumber: it saw Protestantism rising in the capital; it beheld the flames catching the edifice of the faith. It took alarm: it called upon the king to put down the new opinions by force. Francis did not respond quite so zealously as the Sorbonne would have liked. He was not prepared to patronize Protestantism, far from it; but, at the same time, he had no love for monks, and was disposed to allow a considerable margin to “men of genius,” and so he forbade the Sorbonne to set up the scaffold.

Still little reliance could be placed upon the wavering and pleasure-loving king, and Lefevre, on whom his colleagues of the Sorbonne had contrived to fasten a quarrel, might any hour be apprehended and thrown into prison. “Come to Meaux,” said Briconnet to Lefevre and Farel, “and take part with me in the work which is every day developing into goodlier proportions”8 They accepted the invitation; quitting the capital they went to live at Meaux, and thus all the Reformed forces were collected into one center.

The glory which had departed from Paris now rested upon this little provincial town. Meaux became straightway a light in the darkness of France, and many eyes were turned towards it. Far and near was spread the rumor of the “strange things” that were taking place there, and many came to verify with their own eyes what they had heard. Some had occasion to visit its wool markets; and others, laborers from Picardy and more distant places, resorted to it in harvest time to assist in reaping its fields; these visitors were naturally drawn to the sermons of the Protestant preachers moreover, French New Testaments were put into their hands, and when they returned to their homes many of them carried with them the seeds of the Gospel, and founded churches in their own districts,9 some of which, such as Landouzy in the department of Aisne, still exist.10 Thus Meaux became a mother of Churches: and the expression became proverbial in the first half of the sixteenth century, with reference to any one noted for his Protestant sentiments, that “he had drunk at the well of Meaux.”11

We love to linger over this picture, its beauty is so deep and pure that we are unwilling to tear ourselves from it. Already we begin to have a presentiment, alas! to be too sadly verified hereafter, that few such scenes will present themselves in the eventful but tempestuous period on which we are entering. Amid the storms of the rough day coming it may solace us to look back to this delicious daybreak. But already it begins to overcast. Lefevre and Farel have been sent away from the capital. The choice that Paris has made, or is about to make, strikes upon our ear as the knell of coming evil. The capital of France has already missed a high honor, even that of harboring within her walls the first congregation of French Protestants. This distinction was reserved for Meaux, though little among the many magnificent cities of France. Paris said to the Gospel, “Depart. This is the seat of the Sorbonne; this is the king’s court; here there is no room for you; go, hide thee amid the artizans, the fullers and wool-combers of Meaux.” Paris knew not what it did when it drove the Gospel from its gates. By the same act it opened them to a long and dismal train of woes—faction, civil war, atheism, the guillotine, siege, famine, death.

Chapter 13.4: Commencement Of Persecution In France

The World’s Center – The Kingdoms at War – In the Church, Peace – The Flock at Meaux – Marot’s Psalms of David universally Sung in France – The Odes of Horace – Calvin and Church Psalmody – Two Champions of the Darkness, Beda and Duprat – Louisa of Savoy – Her Character – The Trio that Governed France – They Unsheathe the Sword of Persecution – Briconnet’s Fall.

THE Church is the center round which all the affairs of the world revolve. It is here that the key of all politics is to be found. The continuance and advance of this society is a first principle with him who sits on the right hand of Power, and who is at once King of the Church and King of the Universe; and, therefore, from his lofty seat he directs the march of armies, the issue of battles, the deliberation of cabinets, the decision of kings, and the fate of nations, so as best to further this one paramount end of his government. Here, then, is the world’s center; not in a throne that may be standing to-day, and in the dust to-morrow, but in a society—a kingdom—destined to outlast all the kingdoms of earth, to endure and flourish throughout all the ages of time.

It cannot but strike one as remarkable that at the very moment when a feeble evangelism was receiving its birth, needing, one should think, a fostering hand to shield its infancy, so many powerful and hostile kingdoms should start up to endanger it. Why place the cradle of Protestantism amid tempests? Here is the powerful Spain; and here, too, is the nearly as powerful France. Is not this to throw Protestantism between the upper and the nether mill-stones? Yet he “who weigheth the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance,” permitted these confederacies to spring up at this hour, and to wax thus mighty. And now we begin to see a little way into the counsels of the Most High touching these two kingdoms. Charles of Spain carries off the brilliant prize of the imperial diadem from Francis of France. The latter is stung to the quick; from that hour they are enemies; war breaks out between them; their ambition drags the other kingdoms of Europe into the arena of conflict; and the intrigues and battles that ensue leave to hostile princes but little time to persecute the truth. They find other uses for their treasures, and other enterprises for their armies. Thus the very tempests by which the world was devastated were as ramparts around that new society that was rising up on the ruins of the old. While outside the Church the roar of battle never ceased, the song of peace was heard continually ascending within her. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble. Therefore, will not we fear, although the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be removed.”

From this hasty glance at the politics of the age, which had converted the world into a sea with the four winds warring upon it, we come back to the little flock at Meaux. That flock was dwelling peacefully amid the green pastures and by the living waters of truth. Every day saw new converts added to their number, and every day beheld their love and zeal burning with a purer flame. The good Bishop Briconnet was going in and out before them, feeding with knowledge and understanding the flock over which, not Rome, but the Holy Ghost had made him overseer. Those fragrant and lovely fruits which ever spring up where the Gospel comes, and which are of a nature altogether different from, and of a quality infinitely superior to, those which any other system produces, were appearing abundantly here. Meaux had become a garden in the midst of the desert of France, and strangers from a distance came to see this new thing, and to wonder at the sight. Not unfrequently did they carry away a shoot from the mother plant to set it in their own province, and so the vine of Meaux was sending out her branches, and giving promise, in the opinion of some, at no distant day of filling the land with her shadow.

At an early stage of the Reformation in France, the New Testament, as we have related in the foregoing chapter, was translated into the vernacular of that country. This was followed by a version of the Psalms of David in 1525, the very time when the field of Pavia, which cost France so many lives, was being stricken. Later, Clement Marot, the lyrical poet, undertook—at the request of Calvin, it is believed the task of versifying the Psalms, and accordingly thirty of them were rendered into metre and published in Paris in 1541, dedicated to Francis I1 Three years afterwards (1543), he added twenty others, and dedicated the collection, “to the ladies of France.” In the epistle dedicatory the following verses occur:

Happy the man whose favor’d ear
In golden days to come shall hear
The ploughman, as he tills the ground,
The carter, as he drives his round,
The shopman, as his task he plies,
With psalms or sacred melodies
Whiling the hours of toil away!
Oh! happy he who hears the lay
Of shepherd or of shepherdess,
As in the woods they sing and bless
And make the rocks and pools proclaim
With them their great Creator’s name!
Oh! can ye brook that God invite
Them before you to such delight?
Begin, ladies, begin!…2

The prophecy of the poet was fulfilled. The combined majesty and sweetness of the old Hebrew Psalter took: captive the taste and genius of the French people. In a little while all France, we may say, fell to singing the Psalms. They displaced all other songs, being sung in the first instance to the common ballad music. “This holy ordinance,” says Quick, “charmed the ears, heart, and affections of court and city, town and country. They were sung in the Louvre, as well as in the Pres des Clercs, by the ladies, princes, yea, by Henry II. himself. This one ordinance alone contributed mightily to the downfall of Popery and the propagation of the Gospel. It took so much with the genius of the nation that all ranks and degrees of men practiced it, in the temples and in their families. No gentleman professing the Reformed religion would sit down at his table without praising God by singing. It was an especial part of their morning and evening worship in their several houses to sing God’s praises.”

This chorus of holy song was distasteful to the adherents of the ancient worship. Wherever they turned, the odes of the Hebrew monarch, pealed forth in the tongue of France, saluted their ears, in the streets and the highways, in the vineyards and the workshops, at the family hearth and in the churches. “The reception these Psalms met with,” says Bayle, “was such as the world had never seen.”3 To strange uses were they put on occasion. The king, fond of hunting, adopted as his favorite Psalm, “As pants the hart for water-brooks,” etc. The priests, who seemed to hear in this outburst the knell of their approaching downfall, had recourse to the expedient of translating the odes of Horace and setting them to music, in the hope that the pagan poet would supplant the Hebrew one 4 The rage for the Psalter nevertheless continued unabated, and a storm of Romish wrath breaking out against Marot, he fled to Geneva, where, as we have said above, he added twenty other Psalms to the thirty previously published at Paris, making fifty in all. This enlarged Psalter was first published at Geneva, with a commendatory preface by Calvin, in 1543. Editions were published in Holland, Belgium, France, and Switzerland, and so great was the demand that the printing, presses could not meet it. Rome forbade the book, but the people were only the more eager on that account to possess it.

Calvin, alive to the mighty power of music to advance the Reformation, felt nevertheless the incongruity and indelicacy of singing such words to profane airs, and used every means in his power to rectify the abuse. He applied to the most eminent musicians in Europe to furnish music worthy of the sentiments. William Franc, of Strasburg, responding to this call, furnished melodies for Marot’s Psalter; and the Protestants of France and Holland, dropping the ballad airs, began now to sing the Psalms to the noble music just composed. Now, for the first time, was heard the “Old Hundredth,” and some of the finest tunes still in use in our Psalmody.

After the death of Mater (1544) Calvin applied to his distinguished coadjutor, Theodore Beza, to complete the versification of the Psalms. Beza, copying the style and spirit of Marot, did so,5 and thus Geneva had the honor of giving to Christendom the first whole book of Psalms ever rendered into the metre of any living language.

This narration touching the Psalms in French has carried us a little in advance of the point of time we had reached in the history. We retrace our steps.

A storm was brewing at Paris. There were two men in the capital, sworn champions of the darkness, holding high positions. The one was Noel Beda, the head of the Sorbonne. His chair—second only, in his own opinion, to that of the Pope himself—bound him to guard most sacredly from the least heretical taint that orthodoxy which it was the glory of his university to have preserved hitherto wholly uncontaminated. Beda was a man of very moderate attainments, but he was moderate in nothing else. He was bustling, narrow-minded, a worshipper of scholastic forms, a keen disputant, and a great intriguer. “In a single Beda,” Erasmus used to say, “there are three thousand monks.” Never did owl hate the day more than Beda did the light. He had seen with horror some rays struggle into the shady halls of the Sorbonne, and he made haste to extinguish them by driving from his chair the man who was the ornament of the university—the doctor of Etaples.

The other truculent defender of the old orthodoxy was Antoine Duprat. Not that he cared a straw for othodoxy in itself, for the man had neither religion nor morals, but it fell in with the line of his own political advancement to affect a concern for the faith. A contemporary Roman Catholic historian, Beaucaire de Peguilhem, calls him “the most vicious of bipeds.” He accompanied his master, Francis I., to Bologna, after the battle of Marignano, and aided at the interview at which the infamous arrangement was effected, in pursuance of which the power of the French bishops and the rights of the French Church were divided between Leo X. and Francis I. This is known in history as the Concordat of Bologna; it abolished the Pragmatic Sanction—the charter of the liberties of the Gallican Church—and gave to the king the power of presenting to the vacant sees, and to the Pope the right to the first-fruits. A red hat was the reward of Duprat’s treachery. His exalted office—he was Chancellor of France—added to his personal qualities made him a formidable opponent. He was able, haughty, overbearing, and never scrupled to employ violence to compass his ends. He was, too, a man of insatiable greed. He plundered on a large scale in the king’s behoof, by putting up to sale the offices in the gift of the crown; but he plundered on a still larger scale in his own, and so was enormously rich. By way of doing a compensatory act he built a few additional wards to the Maison de Dieu, on which the king, whose friendship he shared without sharing his esteem, is said to have remarked “that they had need to be large if they were to contain all the poor the chancellor himself had made.”6 Such were the two men who now rose up against the Gospel.7

They were set on by the monks of Meaux. Finding that their dues were diminishing at an alarming rate the Franciscans crowded to Paris, and there raised the cry of heresy. Bishop Briconnet, they exclaimed, had become a Protestant, and not content with being himself a heretic, he had gathered round him a company of even greater heretics than himself, and had, in conjunction with these associates, poisoned his diocese, and was laboring to infect the whole of France; and unless steps were immediately taken this pestilence would spread over all the kingdom, and France would be lost. Duprat and Beda were not the men to listen with indifferent ears to these complaints.

The situation of the kingdom at that hour threw great power into the hands of these men. The battle of Pavia—the Flodden of France—had just been fought. The flower of the French nobility had fallen on that field, and among the slain was the Chevalier Bayard, styled the Mirror of Chivalry. The king was now the prisoner of Charles V. at Madrid. Pending the captivity of Francis the government was in the hands of his mother, Louisa of Savoy. She was a woman of determined spirit, dissolute life, and heart inflamed with her house’s hereditary enmity to the Gospel, as shown in its persecution of the Waldensian confessors. She had the bad distinction of opening in France that era of licentious gallantry which has so long polluted both the court and the kingdom, and which has proved one of the most powerful obstacles to the spread of the pure Gospel. It must be added, however, that the hostility of Louisa was somewhat modified and restrained by the singular sweetness and piety of her daughter, Margaret of Valois. Such were the trio—the dissolute Louisa, regent of the kingdom; the avaricious Duprat, the chancellor; and the bigoted Beda, head of the Sorbonne into whose hands the defeat at Pavia had thrown, at this crisis, the government of France. There were points on which their opinions and interests were in conflict, but all three had one quality in common—they heartily detested the new opinions.

The first step was taken by Louisa. In 1523 she proposed the following question to the Sorbonne: “By what means can the damnable doctrines of Luther be chased and extirpated from this most Christian kingdom?” The answer was brief, but emphatic: “By the stake;” and it was added that if the remedy were not soon put in force, there would result great damage to the honor of the king and of Madame Louisa of Savoy. Two years later the Pope earnestly recommended rigor in suppressing “this great and marvelous disorder, which proceeds from the rage of Satan;”8 otherwise, “this mania will not only destroy religion, but all principalities, nobilities, laws, orders, and ranks besides.”9 It was to uphold the throne, preserve the nobles, and maintain the laws that the sword of persecution was first unsheathed in France!

The Parliament was convoked to strike a blow while yet there was time. The Bishop of Meaux was summoned before it. Briconnet was at first firm, and refused to make any concession, but at length the alternative was plainly put before him—abandon Protestantism or go to prison. We can imagine the conflict in his soul. He had read the woe denounced against him who puts his hand to the plough and afterwards withdraws it. He could not but think of the flock he had fed so lovingly, and which had looked up to him with an affection so tender and so confiding. But before him was a prison and mayhap a stake. It was a moment of supreme suspense. But now the die is cast. Briconnet declines the stake—the stake which in return for the life of the body would have given him life eternal. On the 12th of April, 1523,10 he was condemned to pay a fine, and was sent back to his diocese to publish three edicts, the first restoring public prayers to the Virgin and the saints, the second forbidding any one to buy or read the books of Luther, while the third enjoined silence on the Protestant preachers.

What a stunning blow to the disciples at Meaux! They were dreaming of a brilliant day when this dark storm suddenly came and scattered them. The aged Lefevre found his way, in the first instance, to Strasburg, and ultimately to Nerac. Farel turned his steps toward Switzerland, where a great work awaited him. Of the two Roussels, Gerard afterwards powerfully contributed to the progress of the Reformation in the kingdom of Navarre.11 Martial Mazurier went the same road with Briconnet, and was rewarded with a canonry at Paris.12 The rest of the flock, too poor to flee, had to abide the brunt of the tempest.

Briconnet had saved his mitre, but at what a cost! We shall not judge him. Those who joined the ranks of Protestantsism at a later period did so as men “appointed unto death,” and girded themselves for the conflict which they knew awaited them. But at this early stage the Bishop of Meaux had not those examples of self-devotion before him which the martyr-roll of coming years was to furnish. He might reason himself into the belief that he could still love his Savior in his heart, though he did not confess him with the mouth: that while bowing before Mary and the saints he could inwardly look up to Christ, and lean for salvation on the Crucified One: that while ministering at the altars of Rome he could in secret feed on other bread than that which she gives to her children. It was a hard part which Briconnet put upon himself to act; and, without saying how far it is possible, we may ask how, if all the disciples of Protestantism had acted this part, could we ever have had a Reformation?

Chapter 13.5: The First Martyrs Of France

The Flock at Meaux – Denis, a “Meaux Heretic” – Visited in Prison by his former Pastor, Briconnet – The Interview – Men Burned and yet they Live – Pavane – Imprisoned for the Gospel – Recants – His Horror of Mind – Anew Confesses Christ – Is Burned – His the First Stake in Paris – Martyrdom of the Hermit of Livry – Leclerc, the Wool-comber – Acts as Pastor – Banished from Meaux – Retires to Metz – Demolishes the Images at the Chapel of Mary – Procession – Astonishment of Processionists – Leclerc Seized – Confesses – His Cruel Death – Bishop Briconnet.

BRICONNET had recanted: but if the shepherd had fallen the little ones of the flock stood their ground. They continued to meet together for prayer and the reading of the Scriptures, the garret of a wool-comber, a solitary hut, or a copse serving as their place of rendezvous.1 This congregation was to have the honor of furnishing martyrs whose blazing stakes were to shine like beacons in the darkness of France, and afford glorious proof to their countrymen that a power had entered the world which, braving the terror of scaffolds and surmounting the force of armies, would finally triumph over all opposition.

Let us take a few instances. A humble man named Denis, one of the “Meaux heretics,” was apprehended; and in course of time he was visited in his prison by his former pastor, Briconnet. His enemies at times put tasks of this sort upon the fallen prelate, the more thoroughly to humiliate him. When the bishop made his unexpected appearance in the cell of the poor prisoner, Denis opened his eyes with surprise, Briconnet hung his with embarrassment. The bishop began with stammering tongue, we may well believe, to exhort the imprisoned disciple to purchase his liberty by a recantation. Denis listened for a little space, then rising up and steadfastly fixing his eyes upon the man who had once preached to him that very Gospel which he now exhorted him to abjure, said solemnly, “‘Whosoever shall deny me before men, him shall I also deny before my Father who is in heaven!’” Briconnet reeled backwards and staggered out of the dungeon. The interview over, each took his own way: the bishop returned to his palace, and Denis passed from his cell to the stake.2

That long and terrible roll on which it was so hard, yet so glorious, to write one’s name, was now about to be unfolded. This was no roll of the dead: it was a roll of the living; for while their contemporaries disappeared in the darkness of the tomb and were seen and heard of no more on earth, those men whose names were written there came out into the light, and shone in glory un-dimmed as the ages rolled past, telling that not only did they live, but their cause also, and that it should yet triumph in the land which they watered with their blood. This was a wondrous and great sight, men burned to ashes and yet living.

We select another from this band of pioneers. Pavane, a native of Boulogne and disciple of Lefevre, was a youth of sweetest disposition, but somewhat lacking in constitutional courage. He held a living in the Church, though he was not as yet in priest’s orders. Enlightened by the truth, he began to say to his neighbors that the Virgin could no more save them than he could, and that there was but one Savior, even Jesus Christ. This was enough: he was apprehended and brought to trial. Had he blasphemed Christ only, he would have been forgiven: he had blasphemed Mary, and could have no forgiveness. He must make a public recantation or, hard alternative, go to the stake. Terrified at death in this dreadful form, Pavane consented to purge himself from the crime of having spoken blasphemous words against the Virgin. On Christmas Eve (1524) he was required to walk through the streets bare-headed and barefooted, a rope round his neck and a lighted taper in his hand, till he came to the Church of Notre Dame. Standing before the portals of that edifice, he publicly begged pardon of “Our Lady” for having spoken disparagingly of her. This act of penitence duly performed, he was sent back to his prison.

Returned to his dungeon, and left to think on what he had done, he found that there were things which it was more terrible to face than death. He was now alone with the Savior whom he had denied. A horror of darkness fell upon his soul. No sweet promise of the Bible could he recall: nothing could he find to lighten the sadness and heaviness that weighed upon him. Rather than drink this bitter cup he would a hundred times go to the stake. He who turned and looked on Peter spoke to Pavane, and reproved him for his sin. His tears flowed as freely as Peter’s did. His resolution was taken. His sighings were now at an end: he anew made confession of his faith in Christ. The trial of the “relapsed heretic” was short; he was hurried to the stake. “At the foot of the pile he spoke of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper with such force that a doctor said, ‘I wish Pavane had not spoken, even if it had cost the Church a million of gold.’”3 The fagots were quickly lighted, and Pavane stood with unflinching courage amid the flames till he was burned to ashes.

This was the first stake planted in the capital of France, or indeed within the ancient limits of the kingdom. We ask in what quarter of Paris was it set up? In the Place de Greve. Ominous spot! In the Place de Greve were the first French martyrs of the Reformation burned. Nearly three hundred years pass away; the blazing stake is no longer seen in Paris, for there are now no longer martyrs to be consumed. But there comes another visitant to France, the Revolution namely, bringing with it a dreadful instrument of death; and where does the Revolution set up its guillotine? In the same Place de Greve, at Paris. It was surely not of chance that on the Place de Greve were the first martyrs of the Reformation burned, and that on the Place de Greve were the first victims of the Revolution guillotined.

The martyrdom of Pavane was followed, after a short while, by that of the Hermit of Livry, as he was named. Livry was a small burgh on the road to Meaux. This confessor was burned alive before the porch of Notre Dame. Nothing was wanting which his persecutors could think of that might make the spectacle of his death terrible to the on-lookers. The great bell of the temple of Notre Dame was rung with immense violence, in order to draw out the people from all parts of Paris. As the martyr passed along the street, the doctors told the spectators that this was one of the damned who was on his way to the fire of hell. These things moved not the martyr; he walked with firm step and look undaunted to the spot where he was to offer up his life.4

One other martyrdom of these early times must we relate. Among the disciples at Meaux was a humble wool-comber of the name of Leclerc. Taught of the Spirit, he was “mighty in the Scriptures,” and being a man of courage as well as knowledge, he came forward when Briconnet apostatised, and took the oversight of the flock which the bishop had deserted. Leclerc had received neither tonsure nor imposition of hands, but the Protestant Church of France had begun thus early to act upon the doctrine of a universal spiritual priesthood. The old state of things had been restored at Meaux. The monks had re-captured the pulpits, and, with jubilant humor, were firing off jests and reciting fables, to the delight of such audiences as they were able to gather round them.5 This stirred the spirit of Leclerc; so one day he affixed a placard to the door of the cathedral, styling the Pope the Antichrist, and predicting the near downfall of his kingdom. Priests, monks, and citizens gathered before the placard, and read it with amazement. Their amazement quickly gave place to rage. Was it to be borne that a despicable wool-carder should attack the Pontiff? Leclerc was seized, tried, whipped through the streets on three successive days, and finally branded on the forehead with a hot iron, and banished from Meaux. While enduring this cruel and shameful treatment, his mother stood by applauding his constancy.6

The wool-comber retired to Metz, in Lorraine. Already the light had visited that city, but the arrival of Leclerc gave a new impulse to its evangelisation. He went from house to house preaching the Gospel; persons of condition, both lay and clerical, embraced the Reformed faith; and thus were laid in Metz, by the humble hands of a wool-carder, the foundations of a Church which afterwards became flourishing. Leclerc, arriving in Metz with the brand of heretic on his brow, came nevertheless with courage unabashed and zeal unabated; but he allowed these qualities, unhappily, to carry him beyond the limits of prudence.

A little way outside the gates of the city stood a chapel to Mary and the saints of the province. The yearly festival had come round, and to-morrow the population of Metz would be seen on their knees before these gods of stone. Leclerc pondered upon the command, “Thou shalt break down their images,” and forgot the very different circumstances of himself and of those to whom it was originally given. At eve, before the gates were shut, he stole out of the city and passed along the highway till he reached the shrine. He sat down before the images in mental conflict. “Impelled,” says Beza, “by a Divine afflatus,”7 he arose, dragged the statues from their pedestals, and, having broken them in pieces, strewed their fragments in front of the chapel. At daybreak he re-entered Metz.

All unaware of what had taken place at the chapel, the procession marshalled at the usual hour, and moved forward with crucifixes and banners, with flaring tapers and smoking incense. The bells tolled, the drums were beat, and with the music there mingled the chant of the priest.

And now the long array draws nigh the chapel of Our Lady. Suddenly drum and chant are hushed; the banners are cast on the ground, the tapers are extinguished, and a sudden thrill of horror runs through the multitude. What has happened? Alas! the rueful sight. Strewn over the area before the little temple lie the heads, arms, legs of the deities the processionists had come to worship, all cruelly and sacrilegiously mutilated and broken. A cry of mingled grief and rage burst forth from the assembly.

The procession returned to Metz with more haste and in less orderly fashion than it had come. The suspicions of all fell on Leclerc. He was seized, confessed the deed, speedy sentence of condemnation followed, and he was hurried to the spot where he was to be burned. The exasperation of his persecutors had prepared for him dreadful tortures. As he had done to the images of the saints so would they do to him. Unmoved he beheld these terrible preparations. Unmoved he bore the excruciating agonies inflicted upon him. He permitted no sign of weakness to tarnish the glory of his sacrifice. While his foes were lopping off his limbs with knives, and tearing his flesh with red-hot pincers, the martyr stood with calm and intrepid air at the stake, reciting in a loud voice the words of the Psalm—

“Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; noses have they, but they smell not; they have hands, but they handle not; feet have they, but they walk not; neither speak they through their throat. They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them. O Israel, trust thou in the Lord; he is their help and their shield.” (Psalm 115:4-9.)8

If Leclerc’s zeal had been indiscreet, his courage was truly admirable. Well might his death be called “an act of faith.” He had by that faith quenched the violence of the fire—nay, more, he had quenched the rage of his persecutors, which was fiercer than the flames that consumed him. “The beholders,” says the author of the Acts of the Martyrs, “were astonished, nor were they untouched by compassion,” and not a few retired from the spectacle to confess that Gospel for which they had seen the martyr, with so serene and noble a fortitude, bear witness at the burning pile.9

We must pause a moment to contemplate, in contrasted lights, two men—the bishop and the wool-comber. “How hardly shall they who have riches enter the kingdom of heaven!” was the saying of our Lord at the beginning of the Gospel dispensation. The saying has seldom been more mournfully verified than in the case of the Bishop of Meaux. “His declension,” says d’Aubigne, “is one of the most memorable in the history of the Church.”

Had Briconnet been as the wool-carder, he might have been able to enter into the evangelical kingdom; but, alas! he presented himself at the gate, carrying a great burden of earthly dignities, and while Leclerc pressed in, the bishop was stopped on the threshold. What Briconnet’s reflections may have been, as he saw one after another of his former flock go to the stake, and from the stake to the sky, we shall not venture to guess. May there not have been moments when he felt as if the mitre, which he had saved at so great a cost, was burning his brow, and that even yet he must needs arise and leave his palace, with all its honors, and by the way of the dungeon and the stake rejoin the members of his former flock who had preceded him, by this same road, and inherit with them honors and delights higher far than any the Pope or the King of France had to bestow—crowns of life and garlands that never fade? But whatever he felt, and what ever at times may have been his secret resolutions, we know that his thoughts and purposes never ripened into acts. He never surrendered his see, or cast in his lot with the despised and persecuted professors of those Reformed doctrines, the Divine sweetness of which he appeared to have once so truly relished, and which aforetime he labored to diffuse with a zeal apparently so ardent and so sincere. In communion with Rome he lived to his dying day. His real character remains a mystery. Is it forbidden to hope that in his last hours the gracious Master, who turned and looked on Peter and Pavane, had compassion on the fallen prelate, and that, the blush of godly shame on his face, and the tears of unfeigned and bitter sorrow streaming from his eyes, he passed into the presence of his Savior, and was gathered to the blessed company above—now the humblest of them all—with whom on earth he had so often taken sweet counsel as they walked together to the house of God?

Chapter 13.6: Calvin: His Birth And Education

Greater Champions about to Appear – Calvin – His Birth and Lineage – His Appearance and Disposition – His Education – Appointed to a Chaplaincy – The Black Death – Sent to La Marche at Paris – Mathurin Cordier – Friendship between the Young Pupil and his Teacher – Calvin Charmed by the Great Latin Writers – Luther’s and Calvin’s Services to their respective Tongues – Leaves the School of La Marche.

THE young vine just planted in France was bending before the tempest, and seemed on the point of being uprooted. The enemies of the Gospel, who, pending the absence of the king, still a prisoner at Madrid, had assumed the direction of affairs, did as it pleased them. Beda and Duprat, whom fear had made cruel, were planing stake after stake, and soon there would remain not one confessor to tell that the Gospel had ever entered the kingdom of France. The Reformation, which as yet had hardly commenced its career, was already as good as burned out. But those who so reasoned overlooked the power of Him who can raise up living witnesses from the ashes of dead ones. The men whom Beda had burned filled a comparatively narrow sphere, and were possessed of but humble powers; mightier champions were about to step upon the stage, whom God would so fortify by his Spirit, and so protect by his providence, that all the power of France should not prevail against them, and from the midst of the scaffolds and blazing stakes with which its enemies had encompassed it, Protestantism would come forth to fill Christendom with disciples and the world with light.

The great leader of the Reformation in Germany stepped at once upon the scene. No note sounded his advent and no herald ushered him upon the stage. From the seclusion of his monastery at Erfurt came Luther startling the world by the suddenness of his appearing, and the authority with which he spoke. But the coming of the great Reformer of France was gradual. If Luther rose on men like a star that blazes suddenly forth in the dark sky, Calvin’s coming was like that of day, sweetly and softly opening on the mountain-tops, streaking the horizon with its silver, and steadily waxing in brightness till at last the whole heavens are filled with the splendor of its light.

Calvin, whose birth and education we are now briefly to trace, was born in humble condition, like most of those who have accomplished great things for God in the world. He first saw the light on the 10th of July, 1509, at Noyon in Picardy.1 His family was of Norman extraction.2 His grandfather was still living in the small town of Pont l’Eveque, and was a cooper by trade. His father, Gerard, was apostolic notary and secretary to the bishop, through whom he hoped one day to find for his son John preferment in the Church, to which, influenced doubtless by the evident bent of his genius, he had destined him. Yes, higher than his father’s highest dream was the Noyon boy to rise in the Church, but in a more catholic Church than the Roman.

Let us sketch the young Calvin. We have before us a boy of about ten years. He is of delicate mould, small stature, with pale features, and a bright burning eye, indicating a soul deeply penetrative as well as richly emotional. There hangs about him an air of timidity and shyness3,—a not infrequent accompaniment of a mind of great sensibility and power lodged in a fragile bodily organisation. He is thoughtful beyond his years; devout, too, up to the standard of the Roman Church, and beyond it; he is punctual as stroke of clock in his religious observances.4 Nor is it a mere mechanical devotion which he practices. The soul that looks forth at those eyes can go mechanically about nothing. As regards his morals he has been a Nazarite from his youth up: no stain of outward vice has touched him. This made the young Calvin a mystery in a sort to his companions. By the beauty of his life, if not by words, he became their unconscious reprover.5 From his paternal home the young Calvin passed to the stately mansion of the Mommors, the lords of the neighborhood. The hour that saw Calvin cross this noble threshold was a not uneventful one to him. He was not much at home in the stately halls that now opened to receive him, and often, he tells us, he was fain to hide in some shady corner from the observation of the brilliant company that filled them. But the discipline he here underwent was a needful preparation for his life’s work. Educated with the young Mommors, but at his father’s cost,6 he received a more thorough classical grounding, and acquired a polish of manners to which he must ever have remained a stranger had he grown up under his father’s humble roof. He who was to be the counsellor of princes, a master in the schools, and a legislator in the Church, must needs have an education neither superficial nor narrow.

The young Calvin mastered with wonderful ease what it cost his class-fellows much labor and time to acquire. His knowledge seemed to come by intuition. While yet a child he loved to pray in the open air, thus giving proof of expansiveness of soul. The age could not think of God but as dwelling in “temples made with hands.” Calvin sublimely realized him as One whose presence fills the temple of the universe. In this he resembles the young Anselm, who, lifting his eyes to the grand mountains that guard his native valley of Aosta, believed that if he could climb to their summit he would be nearer him who has placed his throne in the sky. At this time the chaplaincy of a small church in the neighborhood, termed La Gesine, fell vacant, and Gerard Chauvin, finding the expense of his son’s education too much for him, solicited and obtained (1521) from the bishop the appointment for his son John.7 Calvin was then only twelve years of age; but it was the manner of the times for even younger persons to hold ecclesiastical offices of still higher grade—to have a bishop’s crozier, or a cardinal’s hat, before they were well able to understand what these dignities meant.8 The young Chaplain of Gesine had his head solemnly shorn by the bishop on the eve of Corpus Christi,9 and although not yet admitted into priest’s orders, he became by this symbolic act a member of the clergy, and a servant of that Church of which he was to become in after-life, without exception, the most powerful opponent, and the foe whom of all others she dreaded the most.

Two years more did the young Chaplain of La Gesine continue to reside in his native town of Noyon, holding his title, but discharging no duties, for what functions could a child of twelve years perform? Now came the Black Death to Noyon. The pestilence, a dreadful one, caused great terror in the place, many of the inhabitants had already been carried off by it, and the canons petitioned the chapter for leave to live elsewhere during its ravages. Gerard Chauvin, trembling for the safety of his son, the hope of his life, also petitioned the chapter to give the young chaplain “liberty to go wherever he pleased, without loss of his allowance.” The records of the chapter show, according to the Vicar-General Desmay, and the Canon Levasseur, that this permission was granted in August, 1523.10 The young Mommors were about to proceed to Paris to prosecute their studies, and Gerard Chauvin was but too glad of the opportunity of sending his son along with his fellow-students and comrades, to study in the capital. At the age of fourteen the future Reformer quitted his father’s house. “Flying from one pestilence,” say his Romish historians, “he caught another.”

At Paris, Calvin entered the school or college of La Marche. There was at that time in this college a very remarkable man, Mathurin Cordier, who was renowned for his exquisite taste, his pure Latinity, and his extensive erudition.11 These accomplishments might have opened to Cordier a path to brilliant advancement, but he was one of those who prefer pursuing their own tastes, and retaining their independence, to occupying a position where they should to some extent have to sacrifice both. He devoted his whole life to the teaching of youth, and his fame has come down to our own days in connection with one of his books still used in some schools under the title of Cordier’s Colloquies.

One day Mathurin Cordier saw a scholar, about fourteen years of age, fresh from the country, enter his school. His figure was slender, his features were sallow, but his eye lent such intelligence and beauty to his face that the teacher could not help remarking him. Cordier soon saw that he had a pupil of no ordinary genius before him, and after the first few days the scholar of fourteen and the man of fifty became inseparable. At the hour of school dismissals it was not the play-ground, but his loving, genial instructor, who grew young again in the society of his pupil, that Calvin sought. Such was the great teacher whom God had provided for the yet greater scholar.

Mathurin Cordier was not the mere linguist. His mind was fraught with the wisdom of the ancients. The highest wisdom, it is true, he could not impart, for both master and pupil were still immersed in the darkness of superstition, but the master of La Marche initiated his pupil into the spirit of the Renaissance, which like a balmy spring was chasing away the winter of the Middle Ages, and freshening the world with the rich verdure and attractive blossoms of ancient civilization. The severe yet copious diction of Cicero, the lofty thoughts and deep wisdom of this and of other great masters of Roman literature, the young Calvin soon learned to appreciate and to admire. He saw that if he aspired to wield influence over his fellowmen, he must first of all perfect himself in the use of that mighty instrument by which access is gained to the heart and its deep fountains of feeling, and its powerful springs of action touched and set in motion—language, namely, and especially written language. From this hour the young student began to graft upon his native tongue of France those graces of style, those felt cities of expression, that flexibility, terseness, and fire, which should fit it for expressing with equal ease the most delicate shade of sentiment or the most powerful burst of feeling.

It is remarkable surely that the two great Reformers of Europe should have been each the creator of the language of his native country. Calvin was the father of the French tongue, as Luther was the father of the German. There had been a language in these countries, doubtless, since the days of their first savage inhabitants, a “French” and a “German” before there was a Calvin and a Luther, just as there was a steam-engine before James Watt. But it is not more true that Watt was the inventor of the steam-engine, by making it a really useful instrument, than it is true that Luther and Calvin were the creators of their respective tongues as now spoken and written.

Calvin found French, as Luther had found German, a coarse, meager speech—of narrow compass, of small adaptability, and the vehicle of only low ideas. He breathed into it a new life. A vastly wider compass, and an infinitely finer flexibility, did he give it. And, moreover, he elevated and sanctified it by pouring into it the treasures of the Gospel, thereby enriching it with a multitude of new terms, and subliming it with the energies of a celestial fire. This transformation in the tongue of France the Reformer achieved by the new thinking and feeling he taught his countrymen; for a language is simply the outcome of the life of the people by whom it is spoken.

“Under a lean and attenuated body,” says one of his enemies, “he displayed already a lively and vigorous spirit, prompt at repartee, bold to attack; a great faster, either on account of his health, and to stop the fumes of the headache which assaulted him continually, or to have his mind more free for writing, studying, and improving his memory. He spoke but little, but his words were always full of gravity, and never missed their aim: he was never seen in company, but always in retirement.”12 How unlike the poetic halo that surrounds the youth of Luther! “But,” asks Bungener, “is there but one style of poetry, and is there no poetry in the steady pursuit of the good and true all through the age of pleasure, illusion, and disorder?”13

That Calvin was the father of French Protestantism is, of course, admitted by all; but we less often hear it acknowledged that he was the father of French literature. Yet this service, surely a great one, ought not to be passed over in silence. It is hard to say how much the illustrious statesmen and philosophers, the brilliant historians and poets, who came after him, owed to him. They found in the language, which he had so largely helped to make fit for their use, a suitable vehicle for the talent and genius by which they made themselves and their country famous. Their wit, their sublimity, and their wisdom would have been smothered in the opaque, undramatic, poverty-stricken, and inharmonious phraseology to which they would have been forced to consign them. Than language there is no more powerful instrumentality for civilising men, and there is no more powerful instrumentality for fashioning language than the Gospel.

“Luther,” says Bossuet, “triumphed orally, but the pen of Calvin is the more correct. Both excelled in speaking the language of their country.” “To Calvin,” says Etienne Pasquier, “our tongue is greatly indebted.” “No one of those who preceded him excelled him in writing well,” says Raemond, “and few since have approached him in beauty and felicity of language.”

Calvin fulfilled his course under Cordier, and in 1526 he passed to the College of Montaigu, one of the two seminaries in Paris—the Sorbonne being the other for the training of priests. His affection for his old master of La Marche, and his sense of benefit received from him, the future Reformer carried with him to the new college—nay, to the grave. In after-years he dedicated to him his Commentary on the First Epistle to the Thessalonians. In doing so he takes occasion to attribute to the lessons of Cordier all the progress he had made in the higher branches of study, and if posterity, he says, derives any fruit from his works, he would have it known that it is indebted for it, in part at least, to Cordier.

Chapter 13.7: Calvin’s Conversion

Calvin in the Montaigu – His Devotions and Studies – Auguries of his Teachers – Calvin still in Darkness – Trebly Armed – Olivetan – Discussions between Olivetan and Calvin – Doubts Awakened – Great Struggles of Soul – The Priests Advise him to Confess – Olivetan sends him to the Bible – Opens the Book – Sees the Cross – Another Obstacle – The “Church” – Sees the Spiritual Glory of the True Church – The Glory of the False Church Vanishes – One of the Great Battles of the World – Victory and its Fruits.

ON crossing the threshold of La Montaigu, Calvin felt himself in a new but not a better atmosphere. Unlike that of La Marche, which was sunny with the free ideas of Republican Rome, the air of Montaigu was musty with the dogmas of the school-men. But as yet Calvin could breathe that air. The student with the pale face, and the grave and serious deportment, did not fail to satisfy the most scholastic and churchy of the professors at whose feet he now sat. His place was never empty at mass; no first did he ever profane by tasting forbidden dish; and no saint did he ever affront by failing to do due honor to his or her fete-day.

The young student; was not more punctual in his devotions than assiduous in his studies. So ardent was he in the pursuit of knowledge that often the hours of meal passed without his eating. Long after others were locked in sleep he was still awake; he would keep poring over the page of schoolman or Father till far into the morning. The inhabitants of that quarter of Paris were wont to watch a tiny ray that might be seen streaming from a certain window of a certain chamber—Calvin’s—of the college after every other light had been extinguished, and long after the midnight hour had passed. His teachers formed the highest hopes of him.

A youth of so fine parts, of an industry so unflagging, and who was withal so pious, was sure, they said, to rise high in the Church. They prognosticated for him no mere country curacy or rectorship, no mere city diocese, nothing less was in store for such a scholar than the purple of a cardinal. He who was now the pride of their college, was sure in time to become one of the lights of Christendom. Yes! one of the lights of Christendom, the student with the pale face and the burning eye was fated to become. Wide around was his light to beam; nor was it the nations of Europe only, sitting meanwhile in the shadow of Rome, that Calvin was to enlighten, but tribes and peoples afar off, inhabiting islands and continents which no eye of explorer had yet discovered, and no keel of navigator had yet touched, and of which the Christendom of that hour knew nothing.

But the man who had been chosen as the instrument to lead the nations out of their prison-house was meanwhile shut up in the same doleful captivity, and needed, first of all, to be himself brought out of the darkness. The story of his emancipation—his struggles to break his chain—is instructive as it is touching. Calvin is made to feel what Scripture so emphatically terms “the power of darkness,” the strength of the fetter, and the helplessness of the poor captive, that “remembering the gall and the wormwood” he may be touched with pity for the miseries of those he is called to liberate, and may continue to toil in patience and faith till their fetters are broken.

The Reformation was in the air, and the young student could hardly breathe without inhaling somewhat of the new life; and yet he seemed tolerably secure against catching the infection. He was doubly, trebly armed. In the first place, he lived in the orthodox atmosphere of the Montaigu; he was not likely to hear anything there to corrupt his faith: secondly, his head had been shorn; thus he stood at the plough of Rome, and would he now turn back? Then, again, his daily food were the schoolmen, the soundly nutritious qualities of whose doctrines no one in the Montaigu questioned. Over and above his daily and hourly lessons, the young scholar fortified himself against the approaches of heresy by the rigid observance of all outward rites. True, he had a mind singularly keen, penetrating, and inquisitive; but this did not much help the matter; for when a mind of that caste takes hold of a system like the Papacy, it is with a tenacity that refuses again to let it go; the intellect finds both pleasure and pride in the congenial work of framing arguments for the defense of error, till at last it becomes the dupe of its own subtlety. This was the issue to which the young Calvin was now tending. Every day his mind was becoming more one-sided; every day he contemplated the Papacy more and more, not as it was in fact, but as idealised and fashioned in his own mind; a few years more and his whole thinking, reasoning, and feeling would have been intertwined and identified with the system, every avenue would have been closed and barred against light, and Calvin would have become the ablest champion that ever enrolled himself in the ranks of the Roman Church. We should, at this day, have heard much more of Calvin than of Bellarmine.

But God had provided an opening for the arrow to enter in the triple armor in which the young student was encasing himself. Calvin’s cousin, Olivetan, a disciple of Lefevre’s, now came to Paris. Living in the same city, the cousins were frequently in each other’s company, and the new opinions, which were agitating Paris, and beginning to find confessors in the Place de Greve, became a topic of frequent converse between them.1 Nay, it is highly probable that Calvin had witnessed some of the martyrdoms we have narrated in a previous chapter. The great bell of Notre Dame had summoned all Paris—and why not Calvin?—to see how the young Pavane and the hermit of Livry could stand with looks undismayed at the stake. Olivetan and Calvin are not of one mind on the point, and the debates wax warm. Olivetan boldly assails, and Calvin as boldly defends, the dogmas of the Church. In this closet there is a great battlefield. There are but two combatants before us, it is true; but on the conflict there hang issues far more momentous than have depended on many great battles in which numerous hosts have been engaged. In this humble apartment the Old and the New Times have met. They struggle the one with the other, and as victory shall incline so will the New Day rise or fade on Christendom. If Olivetan shall be worsted and bound again to the chariot-wheel of an infallible Church, the world will never see that beautiful version of the New Testament in the vernacular of France, which is destined to accomplish so much in the way of diffusing the light. But if Calvin shall lower his sword before his cousin, and yield himself up to the arguments of Lefevre’s disciple, what a blow to Rome! The scholar on whose sharp dialectic weapon her representatives in Paris have begun to lean in prospect of coming conflict, will pass over to the camp of the enemy, to lay his brilliant genius and vast acquirements at the feet of Protestantism.

The contest between the two cousins is renewed day by day. These are the battles that change the world—not those noisy affairs that are fought with cannons and sabres, but those in which souls wrestle to establish or overthrow great principles. “There are but two religions in the world,” we hear Olivetan saying. “The one class of religions are those which men have invented, in all of which man saves himself by ceremonies and good works; the other is that one religion which is revealed in the Bible, and which teaches man to look for salvation solely from the free grace of God.” “I will have none of your new doctrines,” Calvin sharply rejoins; “think you that I have lived in error all my days?” But Calvin is not so sure of the matter as he looks. The words of his cousin have gone deeper into his heart than he is willing to admit even to himself; and when Olivetan has taken farewell for the day, scarce has the door been closed behind him when Calvin, bursting into tears, falls upon his knees, and gives vent in prayer to the doubts and anxieties that agitate him.

The doubts by which his soul was now shaken grew in strength with each renewed discussion. What shall he do? Shall he forsake the Church? That seems to him like casting himself into the gulf of perdition. And yet can the Church save him? There is a new light breaking in upon him, in which her dogmas are melting away; the ground beneath him is sinking. To what shall he cling? His agitation grew anon into a great tempest. He felt within him “the sorrows of death,” and his closet resounded with sighs and groans, as did Luther’s at Erfurt. This tempest was not in the intellect, although doubtless the darkness of his understanding had to do with it; its seat was the soul—the conscience. It consisted in a sense of guilt, a consciousness of vileness, and a shuddering apprehension of wrath. So long as he had to do merely with the saints, creatures like himself, only a little holier it might be, it was all well. But now he was standing in the presence of that infinitely Holy One, with whom evil cannot dwell. He was standing there, the blackness and vileness of his sin shown in the clear light of the Divine purity; he was standing there, the transgressor of a law that says, “The soul that sinneth shall die”—that death how awful, yet that award how righteous!—he was standing there, with all in which he had formerly trusted—saints, rites, good works—swept clean away, with nothing to protect him from the arm of the Lawgiver. He had come to a Judge without an advocate. It did not occur to him before that he needed an advocate, at least other than Rome provides, because before he saw neither God’s holiness nor his own guilt; but now he saw both.

The struggle of Calvin was not the perplexity of the skeptic unable to make up his mind among conflicting systems, it was the agony of a soul fleeing from death, but seeing as yet no way of escape. It was not the conflict of the intellect which has broken loose from truth, and is tossed on the billows of doubt and unbelief a painful spectacle, and one of not infrequent occurrence in our century; Calvin’s struggle was not of this sort; it was the strong wrestlings of a man who had firm hold of the great truths of Divine revelation, although not as yet of all these truths, and who saw the terrible realities which they brought him face to face with, and who comprehended the dreadful state of his case, fixed for him by his own transgressions on the one hand, and the irrevocable laws of the Divine character and government on the other.2 A struggle this of a much more terrific kind than any mere intellectual one, and of this latter sort was the earnestness of the sixteenth century. Not knowing as yet that “there is forgiveness with God,” because as yet he did not believe in the “atonement,” through which there cometh a free forgiveness, Calvin at this hour stood looking into the blackness of eternal darkness. Had he doubted, that doubt would have mitigated his pain; but he did not and could not doubt; he saw too surely the terrible reality, and knew not how it was to be avoided. Here was himself, a transgressor; there was the law, awarding death, and there was the Judge ready—nay, bound—to inflict it: so Calvin felt.

The severity of Calvin’s struggle was in proportion to the strength of his self-righteousness. That principle had been growing within him from his youth upwards. The very blamelessness of his life, and the punctuality with which he discharged all the acts of devotion, had helped to nourish it into rigor and strength; and now nothing but a tempest of surpassing force could have beaten down and laid in the dust a pride which had been waxing higher and stronger with every rite he performed, and every year that passed over him. And till his pride had been laid in the dust it was impossible that he could throw himself at the feet of the Great Physician.

But meanwhile, like King Joram, he went to physicians “who could not heal him of his disease;” mere empirics they were, who, gave him beads to count and relics to kiss, instead of the “death” that atones and the “blood” that cleanses. “Confess!”3 cried the doctors of the Montaigu, who could read in his dimmed eye and wasting form the agony that was raging in his soul, and too surely divined its cause. “Confess, confess!” cried they, in alarm, for they saw that they were on the point of losing their most promising pupil, on whom they had built so many hopes. Calvin went to his confessor; he told him—not all—but as much as he durst, and the Father gave him kindly a few anodynes from the Church’s pharmacopoeia to relieve his pain. The patient strove to persuade himself that his trouble was somewhat assuaged, and then he would turn again to the schoolmen, if haply he might forget, in the interest awakened by their subtleties and speculations, the great realities that had engrossed him. But soon there would descend on him another and fiercer burst of the tempest, and then groans louder even than before would echo through his chamber, and tears more copious than he had yet shed would water his couch.4

One day, while the young scholar of the Montaigu was passing through these struggles, he chanced to visit the Place de Greve, where he found a great crowd of priests, soldiers, and citizens gathered round a stake at which a disciple of the new doctrines was calmly yielding up his life. He stood till the fire had done its work, and a stake, an iron collar and chain, and a heap of ashes were the only memorials of the tragedy he had witnessed. What he had seen awakened a train of thoughts within him.

“These men,” said he to himself, “have a peace which I do not possess. They endure the fire with a rare courage. I, too, could brave the fire, but were death to come to me, as it comes to them, with the sting of the Church’s anathema in it, could I face that as calmly as they do? Why is it that they are so courageous in the midst of terrors that are as real as they are dreadful, while I am oppressed and tremble before apprehensions and forebodings? Yes, I will take my cousin Olivetan’s advice, and search the Bible, if haply I may find that ‘new way’ of which he speaks, and which these men who go so bravely through the fire seem to have found.” He opened the Book which no one, says Rome, should open unless the Church be by to interpret. He began to read, but the first effect was a sharper terror. His sins had never appeared so great, nor himself so vile as now.5

He would have shut the Book, but to what other quarter could he turn? On every side of him abysses appeared to be opening. So he continued to read, and by-and-by he thought he could discern dimly and afar off what seemed a cross, and One hanging upon it, and his form was like the Son of God. He looked again, and the vision was clearer for now he thought he could read the inscription over the head of the Sufferer: “He was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our transgressions; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.” A ray now shone through his darkness; he thought he could see a way of escape—a shelter where the black tempest that lowered over him would no longer beat upon his head; already the great burden that pressed upon him was less heavy, it seemed as if about to fall off, and now it rolled down as he kept gazing at the “Crucified.” “O Father,” he burst out—it was no longer the Judge, the Avenger—“O Father, his sacrifice has appeased thy wrath; his blood has washed away my impurities; his cross has borne my curse; his death has atoned for me!” In the midst of the great billows his feet had touched the bottom: he found the ground to be good: he was upon a rock.

Calvin, however, was not yet safe on shore and past all danger. One formidable obstacle he had yet to surmount, and one word expresses it—the Church. Christ had said, “Lo, I am with you alway.” The Church, then, was the temple of Christ, and this made unity—unity in all ages and in all lands—one of her essential attributes. The Fathers had claimed this as a mark of the true Church. She must be one, they had said.

Precisely so; but is this unity outward and visible, or inward and spiritual? The “Quod semper, quod ubique et ab omnibus,” if sought in an outward, realization, can be found only in the Church of Rome. How many have fallen over this stumbling-block and never risen again; how many even in our own age have made shipwreck here! This was the rock on which Calvin was now in danger of shipwreck. The Church rose before his eyes, a venerable and holy society; he saw her coming down from ancient times, covering all lands, embracing in her ranks the martyrs and confessors of primitive times, and the great doctors of the Middle Ages, with the Pope at their head, the Vicar of Jesus Christ. This seemed truly a temple of God’s own building. With all its faults it yet was a glorious Church, Divine and heavenly. Must he leave this august society and join himself to a few despised disciples of the new opinions? This seemed like a razing of his name from the Book of Life. This was to invoke excommunication upon his own head, and write against himself a sentence of exclusion from the family of God—nay, from God himself! This was the great battle that Calvin had yet to fight.

How many have commenced this battle only to lose it! They have been beaten back and beaten down by the pretended Divine authority of “the Church,” by the array of her great names and her great Councils, and though last, not least, by the terror of her anathemas. It is not possible for even the strongest minds, all at once, to throw off the spell of the great Enchantress Nor would even Calvin have conquered in this sore battle had he not had recourse to the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Ever and anon he came back to the Bible; he sought for the Church as she is there shown—a spiritual society, Christ her Head, the Holy Spirit her life, truth her foundation, and believers her members—and in proportion as this Church disclosed her beauty to him, the fictitious splendor and earthly magnificence which shone around the Church of Rome waned, and at last vanished outright.

“There can be no Church,” we hear Calvin saying to himself, “where the truth is not. Here, in the Roman Communion, I can find only fables, silly inventions, manifest falsehoods, and idolatrous ceremonies. The society that is founded on these things cannot be the Church. If I shall come back to the truth, as contained in the Scriptures, will I not come back to the Church? and will I not be joined to the holy company of prophets and apostles, of saints and martyrs? And as regards the Pope, the Vicar of Jesus Christ, let me not be awed by a big word. If without warrant from the Bible, or the call of the Christian people, and lacking the holiness and humility of Christ, the Pope place himself above the Church, and surround himself with worldly pomps, and arrogate lordship over the faith and consciences of men, is he therefore entitled to homage, and must I bow down and do obeisance? The Pope,” concluded Calvin, “is but a scarecrow, dressed out in magnificences and fulminations. I will go on my way without minding him.”

In fine, Calvin concluded that the term “Church” could not make the society that monopolized the term really “the Church.” High-sounding titles and lofty assumptions could give neither unity nor authority; these could come from the Truth alone; and so he abandoned “the Church” that he might enter the Church—the Church of the Bible.

The victory was now complete. The last link of Rome’s chain had been rent from his soul; the huge phantasmagoria which had awed and terrified him had been dissolved, and he stood up in the liberty wherewith Christ had made him free. Here truly was rest after a great fight—a sweet and blessed dawn after a night of thick darkness and tempest.

Thus was fought one of the great battles of the world. When one thinks of what was won for mankind upon this field, one feels its issues important beyond all calculation, and would rather have conquered upon it than have won all the victories and worn all the laurels of Caesar and Alexander. The day of Calvin’s conversion is not known, but the historian d’Aubigne, to whose research the world is indebted for its full and exact knowledge of the event, has determined the year, 1527; and the place, Paris—that city where some of the saints of God had already been put to death, and where, in years to come, their blood was to be poured out like water. The day of Calvin’s conversion is one of the memorable days of time.

Chapter 13.8: Calvin Becomes A Student Of Law

Gate of the New Kingdom – Crowds Pressing to Enter – The Few only Able to do so – Lefevre and Farel Sighing for the Conversion of Francis I. – A Greater Conversion – Calvin Refuses to be made a Priest – Chooses the Profession of Law – Goes to Orleans – Pierre de l’Etoile – Calvin becomes his Scholar – Teaching of Etoile on the Duty of the State to Punish Heterodoxy – Calvin among his College Companions – A Victory – Calvin Studies Greek – Melchior Wolmar – Calvin Prepared for his Work as a Commentator – His Last Mental Struggle.

THE Reformation has come, and is setting up anew the kingdom of the Gospel upon the earth. Flinging wide open its portals, and stationing no sentinel on the threshold, nor putting price upon its blessings, it bids all enter. We see great multitudes coming up to the gate, and making as if they would press in and become citizens of this new State. Great scholars and erudite divines are groping around the door, but they are not able to become as little children, and so they cannot find the gate. We see ecclesiastics of every grade crowding to that portal; there stands the purple cardinal, and there too is the frocked friar, all eagerly inquiring what they may do that they may inherit eternal life; but they cannot part with their sins or with their self-righteousness, and so they cannot enter at a gate which, however wide to the poor in spirit, is strait to them. Puissant kings, illustrious statesmen, and powerful nations come marching up, intent seemingly on enrolling themselves among the citizens of this new society. They stand on the very threshold; another step and all will be well; but, alas! they hesitate; they falter; it is a moment of terrible suspense. What blinds them so that they cannot see the entrance? It is a little word, a potent spell, which has called up before them all imposing image that looks the impersonation of all the ages, and the embodiment of all apostolic virtues and blessings—“the Church.” Dazzled by this apparition, they pause—they reel backwards—the golden moment passes; and from the very gates of evangelical light, they take the downward road into the old darkness. The broad pathway is filled from side to side by men whose feet have touched the very threshold of the kingdom, but who are now returning, some offended by the simplicity of the infant Church; others scared by the scaffold and the stake; others held back by their love of ease or their love of sin. A few only are able to enter in and earn the crown, and even these, enter only after sore rightings and great agonies of soul. It was here that the Reformation had its beginning—not in the high places of the world, amid the ambitions of thrones and the councils of cabinets. It struggled into birth in the low places of society, in closets, and the bosoms of the penitent, amid tears and strong cries and many groans.

Paris was not one of those cities that were destined to be glorified by the light of Protestantism, nevertheless it pleased God, as narrated in the last chapter, to make it the scene of a great conversion.1 Lefevre and Farel were sighing to enrol among the disciples of the Gospel a great potentate, Francis I. If, thought they, the throne can be gained, will not the preponderance of power on the side of the Gospel infallibly assure its triumph in France? But God, whose thoughts are not as man’s thoughts, was meanwhile working for a far greater issue, the conversion even of a pale-faced student in the College of Montaigu, whose name neither Lefevre nor Farel had ever happened to hear, and whose very existence was then unknown to them. They little dreamed what a conflict was at that very hour going on so near to them in a small chamber in an obscure quarter of Paris. And, although they had known it, they could as little have conjectured that when that young scholar had bowed to the force of the truth, a mightier power would have taken its place at the side of the Gospel than if Francis and all his court had become its patrons and champions. Light cannot be spread by edict of king, or by sword of soldier. It is the Bible, preached by the evangelist, and testified to by the martyr, that is to bid the Gospel, like the day, shine forth and bless the earth.

From the hour of Calvin’s conversion he became the center of the Reformation in France, and by-and-by the center of the Reformation in Christendom: consequently in tracing the several stages of his career we are chronicling the successive developments of the great movement of Protestantism. His eyes were opened, and he saw the Church of Rome disenchanted of that illusive splendor—that pseudo-Divine authority—which had aforetime dazzled and subdued him. Where formerly there stood a spiritual building, the House of God, the abode of truth, as he believed, there now rose a temple of idols. How could he minister at her altars? True, his head had been shorn, but he had not yet received that indelible character which is stamped on all who enter the priesthood, and so it was not imperative that he should proceed farther in that path. He resolved to devote himself to the profession of law. This mode of retreat from the clerical ranks would awaken no suspicion.

It is somewhat remarkable that his father had come, at about the same time, to the same resolution touching the future profession of his son, and thus the young Calvin had his parent’s full consent to his new choice—a coincidence which Beza has pointed out as a somewhat striking one. The path on which Gerard Chauvin saw his son now entering was one in which many and brilliant honors were to be won: and not one of those prizes was there which the marvelous intellect and the rare application of that son did not bid fair to gain. Already Gerard in fancy saw him standing at the foot of the throne, and guiding the destinies of France. Has Calvin then bidden a final adieu to theology, and are the courts of law and the offices of State henceforth to claim him as their own? No! he has turned aside but for a little while, that by varying the exercise of his intellect he may bring to the great work that lies before him a versatility of power, all amplitude of knowledge, and a range of sympathy not otherwise attainable. Of that work he did not at this hour so much as dream, but He who had “called him from the womb, and ordained him a prophet to the nations,” was leading him by a way he knew not.

The young student—his face still pale, but beaming with that lofty peace that succeeds such tempests as those which had beat upon him—crosses for the last time the portal of the Montaigu, and, leaving Paris behind him, directs his steps to Orleans, the city on the banks of the Loire which dates from the days of Aurelian, its founder. In that city was a famous university, and in that university was a famous professor of law, Pierre de l’Etoile, styled the Prince of Jurists.2 It was the light of this; “star” that attracted the young Calvin to Orleans.

The science of jurisprudence now became his study. And one of the maxims to which he was at times called to listen, as he sat on the benches of the class-room, enables us to measure the progress which the theory of liberty had made in those days. “It is the magistrate’s duty,” would “Peter of the Star” say to his scholars, “to punish offenses against religion as well as crimes against the State.” “What!” he would exclaim, with the air of a man who was propounding an incontrovertible truth, “What! shall we hang a thief who robs us of our purse, and not burn a heretic who steals from us heaven!” So ill understood was then the distinction between the civil and the spiritual jurisdictions, and the acts falling under their respective cognisance. Under this code of jurisprudence were Calvin and that whole generation of Frenchmen reared. It had passed in Christendom for a thousand years as indisputably sound, serving as the cornerstone of the Inquisition, and yielding its legitimate fruit in those baleful fires which mingled their lurid glare with the dawn of the New Times. Under no other maxim was it then deemed possible for nations to flourish or piety to be preserved; nor was it till a century and a half after Calvin’s time that this maxim was exploded, for of all fetters those are the hardest to be rent which have been forged by what wears the guise of justice, and have been imposed to protect what professes to be religion.

The future Reformer now sits at the feet of the famous jurist of Orleans, and, by the study of the law, whets that wonderful intellect which in days to come was to unravel so many mysteries, and dissolve the force of so many spells which had enchained the soul. What manner of man, we ask, was Calvin at Orleans? He had parted company with the schoolmen; he had bidden the Fathers of the Montaigu adieu, and he had turned his face, as he believed, towards the high places of the world. Did his impressions of Divine things pass away, or did the grandeurs of time dim to his eye those of eternity? No; but if his seriousness did not disappear, his shyness somewhat did. His loving sympathies and rich genialities of heart, like a secret gravitation for they were not much expressed in words—drew companions around him, and his superiority of intellect gave him, without his seeking it, the lead amongst them. His fellow-students were a noisy, pleasure-loving set, and their revels and quarrels woke up, rather rudely at times, the echoes of the academic hall, and broke in upon the quiet of the streets; but the high-souled honor and purity of Calvin, untouched by soil or stain amidst the pastimes and Bacchanalian riots that went on around him, joined to his lofty genius, made him the admiration of his comrades.

The nation of Picardy—for the students were classified into nations according to the provinces they came from—elected the young Calvin as their proctor, and in this capacity he was able, by his legal knowledge, to recover for his nation certain privileges of which they had been deprived.

There have been more brilliant affairs than this triumph over the local authority who had trenched upon academic rights, but it was noisily applauded by those for whom it was won, and to the young victor this petty warfare was all earnest of greater battles to be fought on a wider arena, and of prouder victories to be won over greater opponents. The future Chancellor of the Kingdom of France—for no inferior position had Gerard Chauvin elected for his son to fill—had taken his first step on the road which would most surely conduct him to this high dignity. Step after step—to his genius how easy!—would bring him to it; and there having passed life in honorable labor, he would leave his name inscribed among those of the legislators and philosophers of France, while his bust would adorn the Louvre, or the Hall of Justice, and his bones, inurned in marble, would sleep in some cathedral aisle of Paris. Such was the prospect that opened out before the eye of his father, and, it is possible, before his own also at this period of his life. Very grand it was, but not nearly so grand as that which ended in a simple grave by the Rhone, marked only by a pine-tree, with a name like the brightness of the firmament, that needed no chiselled bust and no marble cenotaph to keep it in remembrance. Calvin next went to Bourges. He was attracted to this city by the fame of Alciati of Milan, who was lecturing on law in its university. The Italian loved a good table, and a well-filled purse, but he had the gift of eloquence, and a rare genius for jurisprudence. “Andrew Alciat,” says Beza, “was esteemed the most learned and eloquent of all the jurisconsults of his time.”3 The eloquence of Alciati kindled anew Calvin’s enthusiasm for the study of law. The hours were then early; but Calvin, Beza informs us, sat up till midnight, and, on awakening in the morning, spent an hour in bed recalling to memory what he had learned the evening previous. At Bourges was another distinguished man, learned in a wisdom that Alciati knew not, and whose prelections, if less brilliant, were more useful to the young student. Melchior Wolmar, a German, taught the Greek of Homer, Demosthenes, or Sophocles, “but less publicly,” says Bungener, “though with small attempts at concealment, the Greek of another book far mightier and more important.”4

When Calvin arrived in Bourges he knew nothing of Greek. His Latinity he had received at Paris from Mathurin Cordier, whose memory he ever most affectionately cherished; but now he was to be initiated into the tongue of ancient Greece. This service was rendered him by Melchior Wolmar,5 who had been a pupil of the celebrated Budaeus.

Calvin now had access to the Oracles of God in the very words in which inspired men had written them—an indispensable qualification surely in one who was to be the first great interpreter, in modern times, of the New Testament. He could more exactly know the mind of the Spirit speaking in the Word, and more fully make known to men the glory of Divine mysteries; said the commentaries of Calvin are perhaps unsurpassed to this day in the combined qualities of clearness, accuracy, and depth. They were in a sort a second giving of the Oracles of God to men. Their publication was as when, in the Apocalypse, “the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament.”

Before leaving Orleans his spiritual equipment for his great work had been completed. The agony he had endured in Paris returned in part. He may have contracted from his law studies some of the dross of earth, and he was sent back to the furnace for the last time. Doubts regarding his salvation began again to agitate him; the “Church” rose up again before him in all her huge fascination and enchantment. These were the very foes he had already vanquished, and left dead, as he believed, on the battle-field.

Again they stood like menacing spectres in his path, and he had to recommence the fight, and as at Paris, so again in Orleans he had to wage it in the sweat of his face, in the sweat of his heart. “I am in a continual battle,” he writes; “I am assaulted and shaken, as when an armed man is forced by a violent blow to stagger a few steps backward.”6 Grasping once more the sword of the Spirit, he put his foes to flight, and when the conflict was over Calvin found himself walking in a clearer light than he had ever before enjoyed; and that light continued all the way even to his life’s end. There gathered often around him in after-days the darkness of outward trial, but nevermore was there darkness in his soul.

Chapter 13.9: Calvin The Evangelist, And Berquin The Martyr

Calvin Abandons the Study of the Law – Goes to Bourges – Bourges under Margaret of Navarre – Its Evangelisation already Commenced – The Citizens entreat Calvin to become their Minister – He begins to act as an Evangelist in Bourges – The Work extends to the Villages and Castles around – The Plottings of the Monks – His Father’s Death calls Calvin away – A Martyr, Louis de Berquin – His Youth – His Conversion – His Zeal and Eloquence in Spreading the Gospel – Imprisoned by the Sorbonnists – Set at Liberty by the King – Imprisoned a Second and a Third Time – Set at Liberty – Erasmus’ Counsel – Berquin Taxes the Sorbonnists with Heresy – An Image of the Virgin Mutilated – Berquin consigned to the Conciergerie – His Condemnation and Frightful Sentence – Efforts of Budaeus – Berquin on his Way to the Stake – His Attire – His Noble Behaviour – His Death.

EMERGING from the furnace “purified seven times,” Calvin abandons the study of the law, casts behind him the great honors to which it invited him, turns again to the Church—not her whose head is on the Seven Hills—and puts his hand to the Gospel plough, never to take it away till death should withdraw it. Quitting Orleans he goes to Bourges.

With Bourges two illustrious conquerors of former days had associated their names: Caesar had laid it in ashes; Charlemagne had raised it up from its ruins; now a greater hero than either enters it, to begin a career of conquests which these warriors might well have envied, destined as they were to eclipse in true glory and far outlast any they had ever achieved. It was here that Calvin made his first essay as an evangelist.

Bourges was situated in the province of Berry, and as Margaret, whom we have specially mentioned in former chapters, as the disciple and correspondent of Briconnet and Lefevre, had now become Queen of Navarre and Duchess of Berry, Bourges was under her immediate jurisdiction. Prepared to protect in others the Gospel which she herself loved, Bourges presented an opening for Protestantism which no other city in all France at that time did. Under Margaret it became a center of the evangelisation. For some time previous no little religious fermentation had been going on among its population.1 The new doctrines had found their way thither; they were talked of in its social gatherings; they had begun even to be heard in its pulpits; certain priests, who had come to a knowledge of the truth, were preaching it with tolerable clearness to congregations composed of lawyers, students, and citizens. It was at this crisis that Calvin arrived at Bourges.

His fame had preceded him. The Protestants gathered round him and entreated him to become their teacher. Calvin was averse to assume the office of the ministry. Not that he shrunk from either the labors or the perils of the work, but because he cherished a deep sense of the greatness of the function, and of his own unworthiness to fill it. “I have hardly learned the Gospel myself,” he would say, “and, lo! I am called to teach it to others.”

Not for some time did Calvin comply with these solicitations. His timidity, his sense of responsibility, above all his love of study, held him back. He sought a hiding-place where, safe from intrusion, he might continue the pursuit of that wisdom which it delighted him with each studious day to gather and hive up, but his friends surprised him in his concealment, and renewed their entreaties. At last he consented. “Wonderful it is,” he said, “that one of so lowly an origin should be exalted to so great a dignity.”2

But how unostentatious the opening of his career! The harvests of the earth spring not in deeper silence than does this great evangelical harvest, which, beginning in the ministry of Calvin, is destined to cover a world. Gliding along the street might be seen a youth of slender figure and sallow features. He enters a door; he gathers round him the family and, opening the Bible, he explains to them its message. His words distil as the dew and as the tender rain on the grass. By-and-by the city becomes too narrow a sphere of labor, and the young evangelist extends his efforts to the hamlets and towns around Bourges.3 One tells another of the sweetness of this water, and every day the numbers increase of those who wish to drink of it. The castle of the baron is opened as well as the cottage of the peasant, and a cordial welcome is accorded the missionary in both. His doctrine is clear and beautiful, and as refreshing to the soul as light to the eye after long darkness. And then the preacher is so modest withal, so sweet in his address, so earnest in his work, and altogether so unlike any other preacher the people had ever known! “Upon my word,” said the Lord of Lignieres to his wife, “Master John Calvin seems to me to preach better than the monks, and he goes heartily to work too.”4

The monks looked with but small favor on these doings. The doors open to the young evangelist were shut against themselves. If they plotted to stop the work by casting the workman into prison, in a town under Margaret’s jurisdiction this was not so easy. The design failed, if it was ever entertained, and the evangelist went on sowing the seed from which in days to come a plentiful harvest was to spring. The Churches whose foundations are now being laid by the instrumentality of Calvin will yield in future years not only confessors of the truth, but martyrs for the stake.

In the midst of these labors Calvin received a letter from Noyon, his native town, saying that his father was dead.5 These tidings stopped his work, but it is possible that they saved him from prison. He had planted, but another must water; and so turning his face towards his birth-place, he quits Bourges not again to return to it. But the work he had accomplished in it did not perish. A venerable doctor, Michel Simon, came forward on Calvin’s departure, and kept alive the light in Bourges which the evangelist had kindled.

On his journey to Noyon, Calvin had to pass through Paris. It so happened that the capital at that time (1529) was in a state of great excitement, another stake having just been planted in it, whereat one of the noblest of the early martyrs of France was yielding up his life. Providence so ordered it that the pile of the martyr and the visit of the Reformer came together. God had chosen him as the champion by whom the character of his martyrs was to be vindicated and their blood avenged on the Papacy, and therefore it was necessary that he should come very near, if not actually stand beside their stake, and be the eye-witness of the agonies, or rather the triumph, of their dying moments. Before tracing farther the career of Calvin let us turn aside to the Place de Greve, and see there “the most learned of the nobles of France” dying as a felon.

Louis de Berquin was descended of a noble family of Artois.6 Unlike the knights of those days, who knew only to mount their horse, to handle their sword, to follow the hounds, or to figure in a tournament, Berquin delighted in reading and was devoted to study. Frank, courteous, and full of alms-deeds, he was beloved by all. His morals were as pure as his manners were polished: he had now reached the age of forty without calumny finding occasion to breathe upon him. He often went to court., and was specially welcomed by a prince who delighted to see around him men of intellectual accomplishments and tastes. Touching the religion of Rome, Berquin was blameless, having kept himself pure from his youth up. “He was,” says Crespin, “a great follower of the Papistical constitutions, and a great hearer of masses and sermons.” All the Church’s rites he strictly observed, all the Church’s saints he duly honored, and he crowned all his other virtues by holding Lutheranism in special abhorrence.7

But it pleased God to open his eyes. His manly and straightforward character made the maneuvers and intrigues of the Sorbonne specially detestable to him. Besides, it chanced to him to have a dispute with one of its doctors on a scholastic subtlety, and he opened his Bible to find in it proofs to fortify his position. Judge of his amazement when he perceived there, not the doctrines of Rome, but the doctrines of Luther. His conversion was thorough. His learning, his eloquence, and his influence were from that hour all at the service of the Gospel. He labored to spread the truth among his tenantry in the country, and among his acquaintances in the city and at the court. He panted to communicate his convictions to all France. Many looked to him as the destined Reformer of his native land; and certainly his position and gifts made him the most considerable person at that time on the side of the Reform in France. “Berquin would have been a second Luther,” said Beza, “had he found in Francis I. a second Elector.”8

The Sorbonne had not been unobservant; their alarm was great, and their anger was in proportion to their alarm. “He is worse than Luther,” they exclaimed. Armed with the authority of Parliament the Sorbonne seized and imprisoned Berquin (1523). There was nothing but a stake for the man whose courage they could not daunt, and whose eloquence they could not silence, and all whose wit and learning were employed in laughing at their ignorance and exposing their superstition. But the king, who loved him, set him at liberty.

A second time the monks of the Sorbonne seized Berquin. A second time the king came to his rescue, advising him to be more prudent in future; but such strong convictions as those of Berquin could not be suppressed. A third time Berquin was seized, and the Sorbonnists thought that this time they had made sure of their prey. The king was a prisoner at Madrid: Duprat and Louisa of Savoy were all-powerful at Paris. But no: an order from Francis I., dated 1st April, 1526, arrived, enjoining them to suspend proceedings till his return; and so Berquin was again at liberty.

Berquin’s courage and zeal grew in proportion as the plots of his enemies multiplied. Erasmus, who was trying to swim between two streams, foreseeing how the unequal contest must end, warned Berquin in these characteristic words: “Ask to be sent as ambassador to some foreign country; go and travel in Germany. You know Beda and such as he—he is a thousand-headed monster darting venom on every side. Your enemies are named legion. Were your cause better than that of Jesus Christ, they will not let you go till they have miserably destroyed you. Do not trust too much to the king’s protection. At all events, do not compromise me with the faculty of theology.”9

Berquin did not listen to the counsel of the timid scholar. He resolved to stand no longer on the defensive, but to attack. He extracted from the writings of Beda and his colleagues twelve propositions, which he presented to the king, and which he charged with being opposed to the Bible and, by consequence, heretical.10

The Sorbonnists were confounded. That they, the pillars of the Church, and the lights of France, should be taxed with heresy by a Lutheran was past endurance. The king, however, not sorry to have an opportunity of humbling these turbulent doctors, requested them to disprove Berquin’s allegations from Scripture. This might have been a hard task; the affair was taking an ugly turn for the Sorbonne. Just at that time an image of the Virgin, at the corner of one of the streets, was mutilated. It was a fortunate incident for the priests. “These are the fruits of the doctrines of Berquin,” it was exclaimed; “all is about to be overthrown—religion, the laws, the throne itself—by this Lutheran conspiracy.” War to the knife was demanded against the iconoclasts: the people and the monarch were frightened; and the issue was that Berquin was apprehended (March, 1529) and consigned to the Conciergerie.11

A somewhat remarkable occurrence furnished Berquin’s enemies with unexpected advantage against him in the prosecution. No sooner was he within the walls of his prison than the thought of his books and papers flashed across his mind. He saw the use his persecutors would make of them, and he sat down and wrote instantly a note to a friend begging him to destroy them. He gave the note to a domestic, who hid it under his clothes and departed.12

The man, who was not a little superstitious, trembled at the thought of the message which he carried, but all went well till he came to the Pont du Change, where, his superstition getting the better of his courage, he swooned and fell before the image of “Our Lady.” The passers-by gathered round him, and, unbuttoning his doublet that he might breathe the more freely, found the letter underneath. It was opened and read. “He is a heretic,” said they: “Our Lady has done it. It is a miracle.” The note was given to one of the bystanders, at whose house the monk then preaching the Lent sermons was that day to dine, who, perceiving its importance, carried it to Berquin’s judges.13 His books were straightway seized and examined by the twelve commissioners appointed to try him. On the 16th April, 1529, the trial was finished, and at noon Berquin was brought into court, and had his sentence read to him. He was condemned to make a public abjuration in the following manner: He was to walk bare-headed, with a lighted taper in his hand, to the Place de Greve, and there he was to see his books burned; from the Place de Greve he was to pass to the front of the Church of Notre Dame, and there he was to do penance “to God and his glorious mother, the Virgin.” After that his tongue, “that instrument of unrighteousness,” was to be pierced; and, lastly, he was to be taken back to prison, and shut up for life within four walls of stone, and to have neither books to read, nor pen and ink to write.14 Berquin, stunned by the atrocity of the sentence, at first remained silent, but recovering in a few minutes his composure, said, “I appeal to the king.” This was his way of saying, I refuse to abjure.

Among his twelve judges was the celebrated Hellenist, Budaeus, the intimate friend of Berquin, and a secret favourer of the new doctrines. Budaeus hastened after him to the prison, his object being to persuade him to make a recantation, and thereby save his life. In no other way he knew could Berquin escape, for already a second sentence stood drafted by his judges, consigning him to the stake should he refuse to do public penance. Budaeus threw himself at Berquin’s feet, and implored him with tears not to throw away his life, but to reserve himself for the better times that were awaiting the Reformation in France. This was the side on which to attack such a man. But the prisoner was inflexible. Again and again Budaeus returned to the Conciergerie, and each time he renewed his importunities with greater earnestness. He painted the grand opportunities the future would bring, and did not hesitate to say that Berquin would incur no small guilt should he sacrifice himself.15

The strong man began to bow. “The power of the Holy Ghost was extinguished in him for a moment,” says one. He gave his consent to appear in the court of the Palace of Justice, and ask pardon of God and the king. Budaeus, overjoyed, hastened back to tell the Sorbonne that Berquin was ready to withdraw his appeal and make his recantation. How fared it the while with Berquin in the prison? His peace had forsaken him that same hour. He looked up to God, but the act which aforetime had ever brought joy and strength into his heart filled him with terror. This darkness was his true prison, and not the stone walls that enclosed him. Could the Sorbonne deliver him from that prison, and was this the sort of life that he was reserving for the Reformation? Verily he would do great things with a soul lettered by fear and bound down by a sense of guilt! No, he could not live thus. He could die—die a hundred times, but to appear before the Sorbonne and to say of the Gospel, “I renounce it,” and of the Savior, “I know him not,” that he could not do.16 And so when Budseus returned, there was an air in the face of the prisoner which told its own tale before Berquin had had time to speak. He had weighed the two—recantation and the stake; and he had chosen the better part—though Budaeus hardly deemed it so—the stake.

The king, who it was possible might interpose at the last moment and save Berquin, was not indeed in Paris at this moment, but he was no farther away than at Blois. The Sorbonne must despatch their victim before a pardon could arrive from Blots.

A week’s delay was craved in the execution of the sentence. “Not a day,” said Beda.17 But the prisoner has appealed to the royal prerogative. “Quick,” responded his persecutors, “and let him be put to death.” That same day, April 22nd, 1529, at noon, was Berquin led forth to die. The ominous news had already circulated through Paris, from every street came a stream of spectators, and a dense crowd gathered and surged round the prison, waiting to see Berquin led to execution. The clock struck the hour: the gates of the Conciergerie were flung open with a crash, and the melancholy procession was seen to issue forth.

The passage of that procession through the streets was watched with looks of pity on the part of some, of wonder and astonishment on the part of others. It amazed not a few to find that the chief actor in that dismal tragedy was one of the first nobles of France. But the most radiant face in all that great concourse of men was that of Berquin himself. He was going—we had almost said to the stake, but of the stake he thought not—he was going to the palace of the sky; and what though a wretched tumbril was bearing him on his way? a better chariot—whose brightness it would have blinded the beholder to look upon—stood waiting to carry him upward as soon as he had passed through the fire; and what mattered it if those who knew not what he was going to, hooted or pitied him as he passed along? how soon would the look of pity and the shout of derision be forgotten in the presence of the “Blessed!”

The cart in which Berquin was placed moved forward at a slow pace. The crowd was great, and the streets of the Paris of those days were narrow, but the rate of progress enabled the multitude all the better to observe the way in which the martyr bore himself. As he rode along, escorted by a band of 600 bowmen, the spectators said one to another, as they marked the serenity of his looks and the triumph of his air, “He is like one who sits in a temple and meditates on holy things.”18

“And see,” said they, “how bravely he is arrayed! He is liker one who is going to a bridal banquet than one who is going to be burned.” And, indeed, it was so. Berquin had that morning dressed himself in his finest clothes. He wore no weeds; sign of mourning or token of woe would have belied him, as if he bewailed his hard lot, and grieved that his life should be given in the cause of the Gospel. He had attired himself in pleasant and even gay apparel. A citizen of Paris, who wrote a journal of these events, and who probably saw the martyr as he passed through the streets, tells us that “he wore a cloak of velvet, a doublet of satin and damask, and golden hose.”19 This was goodly raiment for the fire. “But am I not,” said Berquin, “to be this day presented at court—not that of Francis, but that of the Monarch of the Universe?”

Arrived at the Place de Greve, he alighted from the vehicle and stood beside the stake. He now essayed to speak a few words to the vast assembly which he found gathered at the place of execution. But the monks who stood near, dreading the effect on the multitude of what he might say, gave the signal to their creatures, and instantly the shout of voices, and the clash of arms, drowned the accents of the martyr. “Thus,” says Felice, “the Sorbonne of 1529 set the populace of 1793 the base example of stifling on the scaffold the sacred words of the dying.”20

What though the roll of drums drowned the last words of Berquin? It was his DEATH that must speak. And it did speak: it spoke to all France; and this, the most eloquent and powerful of all testimonies, no clamours could stifle.

The fire had done its work, and where a few minutes before stood the noble form of Berquin there was now only a heap of ashes. In that heap lay entombed the Reformation in France—so did both friend and foe deem. The Sorbonnists were overjoyed: the Protestants were bowed down under a weight of sorrow. There was no sufficient reason for the exultation of the one or the dejection of the other. Berquin’s stake was to be, in some good measure, to France what Ridley’s was to England—a candle which, by God’s grace, would not be put out, but would shine through all that realm.21

Chapter 13.10: Calvin At Paris, And Francis Negotiating With Germany And England

The Death of the Martyr not the Death of the Cause – Calvin at Noyon – Preaches at Pont l’Eveque – His Audience – How they take his Sermon – An Experiment – Its Lessen – Calvin goes to Paris – Paris a Focus of Literary Light – The Students at the University – Their Debates – Calvin to Polemics adds Piety – He Evangelises in Paris – Powers of the World – Spain and France kept Divided – How and Why – The Schmalkald League holds the Balance of Power – Francis I. approaches the German Protestants – Failure of the Negotiation – Francis turns to Henry VIII. – Interview between Francis and Henry at Boulogne – Fetes – League between the Kings of France and England – Francis’s Great Error

BERQUIN, the peer of France, and, greater still, the humble Christian and zealous evangelist, was no more. Many thought they saw in him that assemblage of intellectual gifts and evangelical virtues which fitted him for being the Reformer of his native land. However, it was not so to be. His light had shone brightly but, alas! briefly; it was now extinguished. Of Berquin there remained only a heap of ashes, over which the friends of Protestantism mourned, while its enemies exulted. But it was the ashes of Berquin merely, not of his cause, that lay around the stake. When the martyr went up in the chariot which, unseen by the crowd, waited to carry him to the sky, his mantle fell on one who was standing near, and who may be said to have seen him as he ascended. From the burning pile in the Place de Greve, the young evangelist of Bourges, whose name, destined to fill Christendom in years to come, was then all but unknown, went forth, endowed with a double portion of Berquin’s spirit, to take up the work of him who had just fallen, and to spread throughout France and the world that truth which lived when Berquin died.

How Calvin came to be in Paris at this moment we have already explained. Tidings that his father had died suddenly called him to Noyon. It cost him doubtless a wrench to sever himself from the work of the Gospel which he was preaching, not in vain, in the capital of Berry and the neighboring towns; still, he did not delay, but set out at once, taking Paris in his way. The journey from Paris to Noyon was performed, we cannot but think, in great weariness of heart. Behind him was the stake of Berquin, in whose ashes so many hopes lay buried; before him was the home of his childhood, where no father now waited to welcome him; while all round, in the horizon of France, the clouds were rolling up, and giving but too certain augury that the Reformation was not to have so prosperous a career in his native land as, happily, at that hour it was pursuing in the towns of Germany and amid the hills of the Swiss. But God, he tells us, “comforted him by his Word.”

Calvin had quitted Noyon a mere lad; he returns to it on the verge of manhood (1529), bringing back to it the same pale face and burning eye which had marked him as a boy. Within, what a mighty change! but that change his townsmen saw not, nor did even he himself suspect its extent; for as yet he had not a thought of leaving the communion of Rome. He would cleanse and rebuttress the old fabric, by proclaiming the truth within it. But an experiment which he made on a small scale at Noyon helped doubtless to show him that the tottering structure would but fall in pieces in his hands should he attempt restoration merely.

The fame of the young scholar had reached even these northern parts of France, and the friends and companions of his youth wanted to hear him preach. If a half-suspicion of heresy had reached their ears along with the rumor of his great attainments, it only whetted their eagerness to hear him.

The Church of Pont l’Eveque, where his ancestors had lived, was opened to him. When the day came, quite a crowd, made up of his own and his father’s acquaintances, and people from the neighboring towns, filled the church, all eager to see and hear the cooper’s grandson. Calvin expounded to them the Scriptures.1 The old doctrine was new under that roof and to those ears. The different feelings awakened by the sermon in different minds could be plainly read on the faces clustered so thickly around the pulpit. Some beamed with delight as do those of thirsty men when they drink and are refreshed. This select number embraced the leading men of the district, among whom were Nicholas Picot. On that day he tasted the true bread, and never again turned to the husks of Rome. But the faces of the most part expressed either indifference or anger. Instead of a salvation from sin, they much preferred what the “Church” offered, a salvation in sin. And as regarded the priestly portion of the audience, they divined but too surely to what the preacher’s doctrine tended, the overthrow namely of the “Church’s” authority, and the utter drying-up of her revenues.

Many a rich abbacy and broad acre, as well as ghostly assumption, would have to be renounced if that doctrine should be embraced. Noyon had given a Reformer to Christendom, but she refused to accept him for herself. The congregation at Pont l’Eveque was a fair specimen of the universal Roman community, and the result of the sermon must have gone far to convince the preacher that the first effect of the publication of the truth within the pale of the “Church” would be, not the re-edification, but the demolition of the old fabric, and that his ultimate aim must point to the rearing of a new edifice.

After a two months’ stay Calvin quitted his native place. Noyon continued to watch the career of her great citizen, but not with pride. In after-days, when Rome was trembling at his name, and Protestant lands were pronouncing it with reverence, Noyon held it the greatest blot upon her escutcheon that she had the misfortune to have given birth to him who bore that name. Calvin had to choose anew his field of labor, and he at once decided in favor of Paris. Thither accordingly he directed his steps.

France in those days had many capitals, but Paris took precedence of them all. Besides being the seat of the court, and of the Sorbonne, and the center of influences which sooner or later made themselves felt to the extremities of the country, Paris had just become a great focus of literary light. Francis I., while snubbing the monks on the one hand, and repelling the Protestants on the other, kneeled before the Renaissance, which was in his eye the germ of all civilization and greatness. He knew the splendor it had lent to the house of Medici, and he aspired to invest his court, his kingdom, and himself with the same glory. Accordingly he invited a number of great scholars to his capital: Budaeus was already there; and now followed Danes and Vatable, who were skilled, the former in Greek and the latter in Hebrew,2 the recovery of which formed by far the most precious of all the fruits of the Renaissance. A false faith would have shunned such a spot: it was the very fact of the light being there that made Calvin hasten to Paris with the Gospel.

A great fermentation, at that moment, existed among the students at the university. Their study of the original tongues of the Bible had led them, in many instances, to the Bible itself. Its simplicity and sublimity had charms for many who did not much relish its holiness: and they drew from it an illumination of the intellect, even when they failed to obtain from it a renovation of the heart. A little proud it may be of their skill in the new learning, and not unwilling to display their polemical tact, they were ready for battle with the champions of the old orthodoxy wherever they met them, whether in the courts of the university or on the street. In fact, the capital was then ringing with a warfare, partly literary, partly theological; and Calvin found he had done well, instead of returning to Bourges and gathering up the broken thread of his labors, in coming to a spot where the fields seemed rapidly ripening unto harvest.

And, indeed, in one prime quality, at all times essential to work like his, but never more so than at the birth of Protestantism, Calvin excelled all others. In the beautiful union of intellect and devotion which characterised him he stood alone. He was as skillful a controversialist as any of the noisy polemics who were waging daily battle on the streets, but he was something higher. He fed his intellect by daily prayer and daily perusal of the Scriptures, and he was as devoted an evangelist as he was a skillful debater. He was even more anxious to sow the seed of the Kingdom in the homes of the citizens of Paris, than he was to win victories over the doctors of the Sorbonne. We see him passing along on the shady side of the street. He drops in at a door. He emerges after awhile, passes onward, enters another dwelling, where he makes another short stay, and thus he goes on, his unobtrusiveness his shield, for no one follows his steps or suspects his errand. While others are simply silencing opponents, Calvin is enlightening minds, and leaving traces in the hearts of men that are imperishable. In this we behold the beginnings of a great work—a work that is to endure and fill the earth, when all the achievements of diplomacy, all the trophies of the battle-field, and all the honors of the school shall have passed away and been forgotten.

Leaving the evangelist going his rounds in the streets and lanes of Paris, let us return for a little to the public stage of the world, and note the doings of those who as the possessors of thrones, or the leaders of armies, think that they are the masters of mankind, and can mould at will the destinies of the world. They can plant or they can pluck up the Reformation—so they believe. And true it is, emperors and warriors and priests have a part assigned them which they are to do in this great work. The priests by their scandals shook the hierarchy: the kings by their ambitions and passions pulled down the Empire; thus, without the world owing thanks to either Pope or Kaiser, room was prepared for a Kingdom that cannot be removed. The greatest monarchy of the day was Spain, which had shot up into portentous growth just as the new times were about to appear. The union of some, dozen of kingdoms under its scepter had given it measureless territory; the discovery of America had endowed it with exhaustless wealth, and its success; in the field had crowned its standards with the prestige of invincible power. At the head of this vast Empire was a prince of equal sagacity and ambition, and who was by turns the ally and the enemy of the Pope, yet ever the steady champion of the Papacy, with which he believed the union of his Empire and the stability of his power were bound up. Charles V., first and chiefly, the Protestants had cause to dread.

But a counterpoise had been provided. France, which was not very much less powerful than Spain, was made to weigh upon the arm of Charles, in order to deaden the blow should he strike at Protestantism. He did wish to strike at Protestantism, and sought craftily to persuade Francis to hold back the while. In the spring of 1531 he sent his ambassador Noircarmes to poison the ear of the King of France. Do you know what Lutheranism is? said Noircarmes to Francis one day. It means, concisely, three things, he continued—the first is the destruction of the family, the second is the destruction of property, and the third is the destruction of the monarchy. Espouse this cause, said the Spanish ambassador, in effect, and you “let in the deluge.”3 If Noircarmes had substituted “Communism” for “Lutheranism,” he might have been regarded as foretelling what France in these latter days has verified.

And now we begin to see the good fruits reaped by Christendom from the disastrous battle of Pavia. It came just in time to counteract the machinations of Charles with the French monarch. The defeat of Francis on that field, and the dreary imprisonment in Madrid that followed it, planted rivalries and dislikes between the two powerful crowns of France and Spain, which kept apart two forces that if united would have crushed the Reformation. Inspired by hatred and dread of the Emperor Charles, not only had the insinuations of his ambassador the less power with Francis, but he cast his eyes around if haply he might discover allies by whose help he might be able to withstand his powerful rival on the other side of the Pyrenees. Francis resolved on making advances to the Protestant princes of Germany. He was all the more strengthened in this design by the circumstance that these princes, who saw a tempest gathering, had just formed themselves into a league of defense. In March, 1531, the representatives of the Protestant States met at Schmalkald, in the Electorate of Hesse, and, as we have elsewhere related, nine princes and eleven cities entered into an alliance for six years “to resist all who should try to constrain them to forsake the Word of God and the truth of Christ.”

The smallest of all the political parties in Christendom, the position of the Schmalkalders gave them an influence far beyond their numbers; they stood between the two mighty States of France and Spain. The balance of power was in their hands, and, so far at least, they could play off the crowns of Spain and France against one another.

Accordingly next year Francis sent an ambassador—it was his second attempt—to negotiate an alliance with them. His first ambassador was a fool,4 his second was a wise man, Du Bellay,5 brother to the Archbishop of Paris, than whom there was no more accomplished man in all France.

Du Bellay did what diplomatists only sometimes do, brought heart as well as head to his mission, for he wished nothing so much as to see his master and his kingdom of France cast off the Pope, and displaying their colors alongside those of Protestant Germany, sail away on the rising tide of Protestantism. Du Bellay told the princes that he had his master’s express command to offer them his assistance in their great enterprise, and was empowered “to arrange with them about the share of the war expenses which his majesty was ready to pay.” This latter proposal revealed the cloven foot. What was uppermost in the mind of the King of France was to avenge the defeat at Pavia; hence his eagerness for war. The League of Schmalkald bound the German princes to stand on the defensive only; they were not to strike unless Charles or some other should first strike at them. Luther raised his powerful voice against the proposed alliance. He hated political entanglements, mistrusted Francis, had a just horror of spilling blood, and he protested with all his might that the Protestants must rest the triumph of their cause on spiritual and not on carnal weapons; that the Gospel was not to be advanced by battles, and that the Almighty did not need that the princes of earth should vote him succors in order to the effectual completion of his all-wise and Divine plan. The issue was that the stipulation which Du Bellay carried back to Paris could not serve the purposes of his master.

Repulsed on the side of Germany, the King of France turned now to England. This was a quarter in which he was more likely to succeed. Here he had but one man to deal with, Henry VIII. To Henry, Protestantism was a policy merely, not a faith. He had been crossed in his matrimonial projects by the Pope, and so had his special quarrel with Clement VII., as Francis had his with Charles V. The French king sent a messenger across the Channel to feel the pulse of his “good brother” of England, and the result was that an interview was arranged between the two sovereigns—Henry crossing the sea with a brilliant retinue, and Francis coming to meet him with a train not less courtly. Taking up their quarters at the Abbot’s Palace at Boulogne (October, 1532), the two monarchs unbosomed to each other their grievances and displeasures, and concerted together a joint plan for humiliating those against whom they bore a common grudge. While Francis and Henry were closeted for hours on end, amusement was found for their courtiers. Balls, masquerades, and other pastimes common in that age occupied that gay assemblage, and helped to conceal the real business which was proceeding all the while in the royal closet. That business eventually found issue in a league between the Kings of France and England, in which they engaged to raise an army of 50,000 men, ostensibly to attack the Turk; but in reality to begin a campaign against the emperor and the Pope.6 Now, thought Francis, I shall wipe out the disgrace of Pavia; and I, said Henry, shall chastise the insolence of Clement. But both were doomed to disappointment. This league which looked so big, and promised so much, came to nothing. Had this great army been assembled it would have shed much blood, but it would have enlightened no consciences, nor won any victories for truth. It might have humbled the Pope, it would have left the Papacy as strong as ever.

While Francis I. was looking so anxiously around him for allies, and deeming it a point of wisdom to lean on the monarch who could bring the largest army into the field, there was one power, the strength of which he missed seeing. That power had neither fleets nor armies at its service, and so Francis shunned rather than courted its alliance. It was fated, in his opinion, to go to the abyss, and should he be so imprudent as to link his cause With it, it would drag him down into the same destruction with itself. This was a natural but, for Francis, a tremendous mistake. The invisible forces are ever the strongest, and these were all on the side of Protestantism. But it is the eye of faith only that can see these. Francis looked with the eye of sense and could see nothing; and, therefore, stood aloof from a cause which, as it seemed to him, had so few friends, and so many and so powerful enemies. Francis and France lost more than Protestantism did.

Chapter 13.11: The Gospel Preached In Paris – A Martyr

Margaret of Navarre – Her Hopes – Resolves to have the Gospel Preached in France – The City Churches not to be had – Opens a Private Chapel in the Louvre – A Large and Brilliant Assembly convenes – The Preachers – Paris Penitent and Reforming – Agitation in the Sorbonne – The Sorbonnists apply to the King – The Monks occupy the Pulpits – They Threaten the King – Beda Banished – Excitement in Paris – The Populace Remain with Rome – The Crisis of France – The Dominican Friar, Laurent de la Croix – His Conversion – Preaches in France – Apprehended and conducted to Paris – His Torture – His Condemnation – His Behaviour at the Stake – France makes her Choice: she will Abide with Rome.

LEAVING princes to intrigue for their own ends, under cover of advancing religion, let us turn to the work itself, and mark how it advances by means of instrumentalities far different from those which kings know to employ. This brings before us, once more, a lady illustrious for her rank, and not less illustrious for her piety—Margaret, the sister of the king, and now Queen of Navarre. She saw her brother holding out his hand to the Protestants of Germany, and the King of England, and permitted herself to believe that the hour had at last come when Francis and his kingdom would place themselves on the path of the Reform, and that in the martyrdom of Berquin, which had filled her soul with so profound a sorrow, she had seen the last blood that would ever be sprit on the soil of France, and the last stake that would ever blaze in the Place de Greve for the cause of the Gospel. Full of these hopes, her zeal and courage grew stronger every day.

Reflecting that she stood near the throne, that thousands in all parts of Reformed Christendom looked to her to stand between the oppressor and his victim, and that it became her to avert, as far as was in her power, the guilt of innocent blood from her house and the throne of her brother, she girded herself for the part which it became her to act. The Gospel, said this princess, shall be preached in France, in the very capital, nay, in the very bosom of the Roman Catholic Church. The moment was opportune. The Carnival of 1533 was just ended. Balls and banquets had for weeks kept the court in a whirl and Paris in continual excitement, and, wearied with this saturnalia, Francis had gone to Picardy for repose. Margaret thus was mistress of the situation. She summoned Roussel to her presence, and told him that he must proclaim the “great tidings” to the population of Paris from its pulpits. The timid evangelist shook like aspen when this command was laid upon him. He remonstrated: he painted the immense danger: he acknowledged that it was right that the Gospel should be preached, but he was not the man; let Margaret find some more intrepid evangelist. The queen, however, persisted. She issued her orders that the churches of Paris should be opened to Roussel. But she had reckoned without her host. The Sorbonne lifted its haughty head and commanded that the doors of the churches should be kept closed. The queen and the Sorbonne were now in conflict, but the latter carried the day. These Sorbonnists could be compared only to some of old, who professed to be the door-keepers of the kingdom of heaven, but would neither go in themselves, nor permit those that would to enter.

Margaret now bethought her of an expedient which enabled her to turn the flank of the doctors. She was resolved to have the Gospel preached in the capital of France, and to have it preached now; it might be the turning-point of its destiny, and surely it was a likelier way to establish the Reform than that of diplomatists, who were seeking to do so by leagues and battles, if the Sorbonnists were masters in the city, Margaret was mistress in the palace. She accordingly extemporised a chapel in the Louvre, and told Roussel that he must preach in it. This was a less formidable task than holding forth in the city pulpits. The queen publicly announced that each day at a certain hour a sermon would be preached under the royal roof, and that all would be welcome from the peer downwards. The Parisians opened their eyes in wonder. Here was something till now unheard of—the king’s palace turned into a Lutheran conventicle! When the hour came a crowd of all ranks was seen streaming in at the gates of the Louvre, climbing its staircase, and pressing on through the antechambers to the saloon, where, around Roussel, sat the King and Queen of Navarre, and many of the grandees of France. The preacher offered a short prayer, and then read a portion of Scripture, which he expounded with clearness and great impressiveness. The result bore testimony to the wisdom of Roussel and the power of the truth. A direct assault on the Papacy would but have excited the combative faculties of his hearers, the exposition of the truth awakened their consciences.

Every day saw a greater crowd gathering in the chapel. The saloon could no longer contain the numbers that came, and antechambers and corridors had to be thrown open to give enlarged space to the multitude. The assembly was as brilliant as it was numerous. Nobles, lawyers, men of letters, and wealthy merchants were mingled in the stream of bourgeoisie and artisans that each day, at the appointed hour, flowed in at the royal gates, and devoutly listened under the gorgeous roof of the Louvre to preaching so unwonted. Verily, he would have been a despondent man who, at that hour, would have doubted the triumph of the good cause in France.

Margaret, emboldened by the success which had attended her experiment, returned to her first idea, which was to get possession of the churches, turn out the monks, and for their ribald harangues substitute the pure Gospel. She wrote to her brother, who was still absent, and perhaps not ill-pleased to be so, making request to have the churches placed at her disposal. Francis granted her wish to the extent of permitting her the use of two of the city churches. He was willing to do Protestantism this service, being shrewd enough to see that his negotiations with English and German Protestants would speed none the worse, and that it might equally serve his purpose to terrify the Pope by the possible instant defection of France from its “obedience” to the “Holy See.” One of the churches was situated in the quarter of St. Denis, and Margaret sent the Augustine monk Courault to occupy it, around whom there daily assembled a large and deeply impressed congregation gathered from the district. Berthaud, also an Augustine, occupied the pulpit of the other church put by Francis at Margaret’s disposal.1 A fountain of living water had the Queen of Navarre opened in this high place; inexpressible delight filled her soul as she thought that soon this refreshing stream would overflow all France, and convert the parched and weary land into a very garden. It was the season of Easter, and never had Lent like this been kept in Paris. The city, which so lately had rung from one end to the other with the wild joy and guilty mirth of the Carnival, was now not only penitent, but evangelical. “The churches were filled,” says the historian Crespin, “not with formal auditors, but with men who received the glad tidings with great joy.

Drunkards had become sober, the idle industrious, the disorderly peaceful, and libertines had grown chaste.” Three centuries and more have rolled over Paris since then. Often, in the course of that time, has that city been moved, excited, stricken, but never in such sort as now. The same Spirit which, in the days of Noah’s preaching, strove with the antediluvians, then shut up, as in prison, under the doom of the coming deluge, unless they repented, was manifestly striving, at this hour, with the men of Paris and of France, shut up, as in a prison, under a sentence which doomed them, unless they escaped by the door that Protestantism opened to them, to sink beneath the fiery billows of war and revolution.

What, meanwhile, were the doctors of the Sorbonne about? Were they standing by with shut mouths and folded arms, quietly looking on, when, as it must have seemed to them, the bark of Peter was drifting to destruction? Did they slumber on their watch-tower, not caring that France was becoming Lutheran? Far from it. They gave a few days to the hearing of the report of their spies, and then they raised the alarm. A flood of heresy, like the flood of waters that drowned the old world, was breaking in on France. They must stop it; but with what? The stake. “Let us burn Roussel,” said the fiery Beda, “as we burned Berquin.”2 The king was applied to for permission; for powerful as was the Sorbonne, it hardly dared drag the preacher from the Queen of Navarre’s side without a warrant from Francis. The king would interfere neither for nor against.

They applied to the chancellor. The chancellor referred them to the archbishop, Du Bellay. He too refused to move. There remained a fourth party to whom they now resolved to carry their appeal the populace. If they could carry the population of Paris with them they should yet be able to save Rome. With this object an agitation was commenced, in which every priest and monk had to bear his part. They sent their preachers into the pulpits. Shouting and gesticulating these men awoke, now the anger, now the horror of their fanatical hearers, by the odious epithets and terrible denunciations which they hurled against Lutheranism. They poured a host of mendicants into the houses of the citizens. These, as instructed beforehand, while they filled their wallets, dropped seditious hints that “the Pope was above the king,” adding that if matters went on as they were doing the crown would not long adorn the head of Francis.

Still further to move the people against the queen’s preachers, processions were organized in the streets. For nine days a crowd of penitents, with sackcloth on their loins and ashes on their heads, were seen prostrate around the statue of St. James, loudly imploring the good saint to stretch out his staff, and therewith smite to the dust the hydra that was lifting up its abhorred head in France.

Nor did the doctors of the Sorbonne agitate in vain. The excitable populace were catching fire. Fanatical crowds, uttering revolutionary cries, paraded the streets, and the Queen of Navarre and her Protestant coadjutors, seeing the matter growing serious, sent to tell the king the state of the capital.

The issue, in the first instance, was a heavy blow to the agitators. The king’s pride had been touched by the attack which the Romanists had made on the prerogative, and he ordered that Beda, and the more inflammatory spirits who followed him, should be sent into banishment.3

It was a trial of strength, not so much between Evangelism and Romanism as between the court and the university, and the Sorbonne had to bow its proud head. But the departure of Beda did not extinguish the agitation; the fire he had kindled continued to burn after he was gone. Not in a day were the ignorance and fanaticism, which had been ages a-growing, to be extirpated: fiery placards were posted on the houses; ribald ballads were sung in the streets.

“To the stake! to the stake! the fire is their home; As God hath commanded, let justice be done,”

was the refrain of one of these unpolished but cruel productions. Disputations, plots, and rumors kept the city in a perpetual ferment. The Sorbonnists held daily councils; leaving no stone unturned; they worked upon the minds of the leading members of the Parliament of Paris, and by dint of persistency and union, they managed to rally to their standard all the ignorant, the fanatical, and the selfish—that is, the bulk of the population of the capital. The Protestant sermons were confirmed for some time; many conversions took place, but the masses remained on the side of Rome.

This was the CRISIS of France—the day of its special visitation. More easily than ever before or since might France have freed its soul from the yoke of Rome, and secured for all coming time the glorious heritage of Protestant truth and liberty. This was, in fact, its second day of visitation.

The first had occurred under Lefevre and Farel. That day had passed, and the golden opportunity that came with it had been lost. A second now returned, for there in the midst of Paris were the feet of them that “publish peace,” and that preach “the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” What all auspicious and blessed achievement if Margaret had been able to win the population of Paris to the Gospel! Paris won, France would have followed. It needed but this to crown its many happy qualities, and make France one of the most delightful lands on earth—a land full of all terrestrial good things; ennobled, moreover, by genius, and great in art as in arms. But Paris was deaf as adder to the voice of the charmer, and from that hour the destiny of France was changed. A future of countless blessings was fatally transformed into a future of countless woes. We behold woe on woe rising with the rising centuries, we had almost said with the rising years. If for a moment its sun looks forth, lo! there comes another tempest from the abyss, black as night, and bearing on its wings the fiery shower to scorch the miserable land. The St. Bartholomew massacre and civil wars of the sixteenth century, the dragonnades of the seventeenth, the revolution of the eighteenth, and the communism of the nineteenth are but the more notable outbursts of that revolving storm which for 300 years has darkened the heavens and devastated the land of France.

Paris had made its choice. And as in old time when men joined hands and entered into covenant they ratified the transaction by sacrifice, Paris sealed its engagement to abide by the Pope in the blood of a disciple of the Gospel. Had the Sorbonne been more completely master of the situation, Roussel would have been selected as the sacrifice; but he was too powerfully protected to permit the priests venturing on burning him, and a humbler victim had to be found. A Dominican friar, known by the name of Laurent de la Croix, had come to the knowledge of the Gospel in Paris.

Straightway he threw off his cowl and cloak and monkish name, and fled to Geneva, where Farel received him, and more perfectly instructed him in the Reformed doctrines. To great natural eloquence he now added a clear knowledge and a burning zeal. Silent he could not remain, and Switzerland was the first scene of his evangelizing efforts. But the condition of poor France began to lie heavy on his heart, and though he well knew the perils he must brave, he could not restrain his yearnings to return and preach to his countrymen that Savior so dear to himself. Crossing the frontier, and taking the name of Alexander, he made his way to Lyons. Already Protestantism had its disciples in the city of Peter Waldo, and these gave a warm welcome to the evangelist. He began to preach, and his power to move the hearts of men was marvelous. In Lyons, the scene of Irenaeus’ ministry, and the seat of a Church whose martyrs were amongst the most renowned of the primitive age, it seemed as if the Gospel, which here had lain a thousand years in its sepulcher, were rising from the dead. Alexander preached every day, this hour in one quarter of the city and the next in the opposite.4 It began to be manifest that some mysterious influence was acting on the population. The agents of the priests were employed to scent it out; but it seemed as if the preacher, whoever he was, to his other qualities added that of invisibility. His pursuers, in every case, arrived to find the sermon ended, and the preacher gone, they knew not whither. This success in baffling pursuit made his friends in time less careful. Alexander was apprehended. Escorted by bowmen, and loaded with chains, he was sent to Paris.

The guard soon saw that the prisoner they had in charge was like no other that had ever before been committed to their keeping. Before Paris was reached, the captain of the company, as well as several of its members, had, as the result of their prisoner’s conversation with them, become converts to the Gospel. As he pursued his journey in bonds, Alexander preached at the inns and villages where they halted for the night. At every stage of the way he left behind him trophies of the Protestant faith.

The prisoner was comforted by the thought that his Master had turned the road to the stake into a missionary progress, and if in a few days he should breathe his last amid the flames, others would rise from his ashes to confess the truth when he could no longer preach it.

Arrived in Paris, he was brought before the Parliament. The prisoner meekly yet courageously confessed the Reformed faith. He was first cruelly tortured. Putting his limbs in the boot, the executioners drove in the wedges with such blows that his left leg was crushed. Alexander groaned aloud. “O God,” he exclaimed, says Crespin, “there is neither pity nor mercy in these men! Oh, that I may find both in thee!” “Another blow,” said the head executioner. The martyr seeing Budaeus among the assessors, and turning on him a look of supplication, said, “Is there no Gamaliel here to moderate the cruelty they are practicing on me?”5

Budaeus, great in the schools, but irresolute in the matters of the Gospel, fixing an eye of pity on Alexander, said, “It is enough: his torture is too much: forbear.” His words took effect. “The executioners,” says Crespin, “lifted up the martyr, and carried him to his dungeon, a cripple.”6 He was condemned to be burned alive. In the hope of daunting him, his sentence, contrary to the then usual practice, was pronounced in his presence; but they who watched his face, instead of fear, saw a gleam of joy shoot, at the instant, athwart it. He was next made to undergo the ceremony of degradation. They shaved his crown, scraped his fingertips, and tore off his robe. “If you speak a word,” said they, “we will cut out your tongue;” for about this time, according to the historian Crespin, this horrible barbarity began to be practiced upon the confessors of the truth. Last of all they brought forth the rob de fol. When Alexander saw himself about to be arrayed in this dress, he could not, says Crespin, refrain from speaking. “O God,” said he, “is there any higher honor than to receive the livery which thy Son received in the house of Herod?”

The martyr was now attired for the fire. Unable to walk to the place of execution, for one of his legs had been sorely mangled in the boot, they provided a cart, one usually employed to convey away rubbish, and placed the martyr in it. As he passed along from the Conciergerie to the Place Maubert he managed to stand up, and resting his hands on the sides of the cart and leaning over, he preached to the crowds that thronged the streets, commending to them the Savior for whom he was about to die, and exhorting them to flee from the wrath to come. The smile which his sentence had kindled on his face had not yet gone off it; nay, it appeared to glow and brighten the nearer he drew to the stake. “He is going to be burned,” said the onlookers, “and yet no one seems so, happy as he.”

Being come to the place of execution they lifted him out of the cart, placed him against the stake, and bound him to it with chains. He begged, before they should kindle the pile, that he might be permitted to say a few more last words to the people. Leave was given, and breaking into an ecstasy he again extolled that Savior for whom he was now to lay down his life, and again commended him to those around. The executioners, as they waited to do their office, gazed with mingled wonder and fear on this strange criminal. The spectators, among whom was a goodly number of monks, said, “Surely there is nothing worthy of death in this man,” and smiting on their breasts, and bewailing his fate, with plenteous tears, exclaimed, ” If this man is not saved, who of the sons of men can be so?”7 Well might the martyr, as he saw them weeping, have said, “Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves.” A few sharp pangs, and to him would come joy for ever; but for them, alas! and for their children, the cry of the blood of the martyr, and of thousands more yet to be slain, was to be answered in a future dark with woes.

Now that we find ourselves 300 years from these events, and can look back on all that has come and gone in Paris since, we can clearly see that the year 1533 was one of the grand turning-points in the history of France. Between the stake of Berquin and the stake of Alexander, there were three full years during which the winds of persecution were holden. During at least two of these years the Gospel was freely and faithfully preached in the capital; an influence from on High was plainly at work amongst the people. Five thousand men and women daily passed in at the gates of the Louvre to listen to Roussel; and numerous churches throughout the city were opened and filled with crowds that seemed to thirst for the Water of Life. Many “felt the powers of the world to come.” In these events, Providence put it distinctly to the inhabitants of Paris, “Choose ye this day whom ye shall serve. Will ye abide by the Papacy, or will ye cast in your lot with the Reformation?” and the men of Paris as distinctly replied, when the period of probation had come to an end, “We will abide by the Pope.” The choice of Paris was the choice of France. Scarcely were the flames of Alexander’s pile extinguished, when the sky of that country, which was kindling apace, as the friends of truth fondly thought, with the glories of the opening day, because suddenly overcast, and clouds of threatening blackness began to gather. In the spring of 1534 the churches of Paris were closed, the sermons were suppressed, 300 Lutherans were swept off to prison, and soon thereafter the burnings were resumed. But the ominous circumstance was that the persecutor was backed by the populace. Queen Margaret’s attempt to win over the population of the capital to the Gospel had proved a failure, and the consequence was that the Sorbonne, with the help of the popular suffrage, again set up the stake, and from that day to this the masses in France have been on the side of Rome.

Chapter 13.12: Calvin’s Flight From Paris

Out of Paris comes the Reformer – The Contrasts of History – Calvin’s Interview with the Queen of Navarre – Nicholas Cop, Rector of the Sorbonne – An Inaugural Discourse – Calvin Writes and Cop Delivers it – The Gospel in Disguise – Rage of the Sorbonne – Cop flies to Basle – The Officers on their way to Arrest Calvin – Calvin is let down by the Window – Escapes from Paris disguised as a Vine-Dresser – Arrives in Angouleme – Received at the Mansion of Du Tillet – Here projects the Institutes – Interview with Lefevre – Lefevre’s Prediction.

PEPIN of France was the first of the Gothic princes to appear before the throne of St. Peter, and lay his kingdom at the feet of the Pope. As a reward for this act of submission, the “Holy Father” bestowed upon him the proud title—for so have the Kings of France accounted it—of “Eldest Son of the Church.” Throughout the thirteen centuries since, and amid much vicissitude of fortune, France has striven to justify the distinction she bears by being the firmest pillar of the Papal See. But, as d’Aubigne has observed, if Paris gave Pepin to the Popedom, it is not less true that Paris gave Calvin to the Reformation. This is the fact, although Calvin was not born in Paris. The little Noyon in Picardy had this honor, or disgrace as it accounted it.1 But if Noyon was the scene of Calvin’s first birth, Paris was the scene of his second birth, and it was the latter that made him a Reformer. In estimating the influence of the two men, the pen of Calvin may well be thrown into the scale against the sword of Pepin.

As the cradle of Moses was placed by the side of the throne of Pharaoh, the Church’s great oppressor, so the cradle of this second Moses was placed by the side of the chair of Pepin, the “Eldest; Son of the Church,” and the first of those vassal kings who stood round the Papal throne; and from the court of France, as Moses from the court of Egypt, Calvin went forth to rend the fetters of his brethren, and ring the knell of their oppressor’s power. The contrasts and resemblances of history are instructive as well as striking. They shed a beautiful light upon the Providence of God. They show us that the Great Ruler has fixed a time and a place for every event and for every man; that he sets the good over against the evil, maintaining a nice and equitable poise among events, and that while the laws of his working are eternal, the results are inexpressibly varied.

We have seen Calvin return to Paris in 1529. He was present in that city during those four eventful years when the novel and stirring scenes we have narrated were taking place. How was he occupied? He felt that to him the day of labor had not yet fully arrived; he must prepare against its approach by reading, by study, and by prayer. In the noisy combats with which the saloons, the halls of the Sorbonne, and even the very streets were then resounding, Calvin cared but little to mingle. His ambition was to win victories which, if less ostentatious, would be far more durable. Like his old teacher, Mathurin Cordier—so wise in his honesty—he wished solidly to lay the foundations, and was not content to rear structures which were sure to topple over with the first breeze. He desired to baptise men for the stake, to make converts who would endure the fire. Eschewing the knots of disputants in the streets, he entered the abodes of the citizens, and winning attention by his very shyness, as well as by the clearness and sweetness of his discourse, he talked with the family on the things that belonged to their peace. He had converted a soul while his friends outside had but demolished a syllogism. Calvin was the pioneer of all those who, since his day, have labored in the work of the recovery of the lapsed masses.

However, the fame he shunned did, the more he fled from it, but the more pursue him. His name was mentioned in the presence of the Queen of Navarre. Margaret must needs see the young evangelist.2 We tremble as we see Calvin enter the Louvre to be presented at court. They who are in king’s houses wear “soft raiment,” and learn to pursue middle courses. If Calvin is to be all to the Church he must be nothing to kings and queens. All the more do we tremble at the ordeal he is about to undergo when we reflect that, in combination with his sternness of principle and uprightness of aim, there are in Calvin a tenderness of heart, and a yearning, not for praise, but for sympathy, which may render him susceptible to the blandishments and flatteries of a court. But God went with him to the palace. Calvin’s insight discovered even then, what afterwards became manifest to less penetrating observers, that, while Margaret’s piety was genuine, it was clouded nevertheless by mysticism, and her opinions, though sound in the main, were too hesitating and halting to compass a full Reformation of the Church.

On these accounts he was unable to fully identify himself with the cause of the Queen of Navarre. Nevertheless, there were not a few points of similarity between the two which excited a mutual admiration. There was in both a beautiful genius; there was in both a lofty soul; there was in both a love of what is pure and noble; and especially there was in both—what is the beginning and end of all piety—a deep heaven-begotten reverence and love of the Savior. Margaret did not conceal her admiration of the young scholar and evangelist. His eye so steadfast, yet so keen; his features so calm, yet so expressive of energy; the wisdom of his utterances, and the air of serene strength that breathed around him—betokening a power within, which, though enshrined in a somewhat slender frame, was evidently awaiting a future of great achievements—won the confidence of the queen.3 Calvin was in a fair way of becoming a frequent visitor at the palace, when an unexpected event drove the young scholar from Paris, and averted the danger, if ever it had existed, of the chief Reformer of Christendom becoming lost in the court chaplain.

That event fell out thus—Nicholas Cop, Rector of the Sorbonne, was the intimate friend of Calvin. It was October, 1533, and the session of the university was to open on the 1st of next month (All Saints’ Day), when Cop was expected to grace the occasion with an inaugural discourse. What an opportunity, thought Calvin, of having the Gospel preached in the most public of all the pulpits of Christendom! He waited on his friend Cop and broke to him his stratagem. But Cop felt unequal to the task of composing such an address as would answer the end. It was finally agreed between the two friends that Calvin should write, and that Cop should read the oration. It was a bold experiment, full of grave risks, of which its devisers were not unaware, but they had made up their minds to the dangerous venture.

The 1st of November arrived. It saw a brilliant assembly in the Church of the Mathurins—professors, students, the elite of the learned men of Paris, a goodly muster of Franciscans, some of whom more than half suspected Cop of a weakness for Lutheranism, and a sprinkling of the friends of the new opinions, who had had a hint of what was to happen.

On a bench apart sat Calvin, with the air of one who had dropped in by the way. Cop rose, and proceeded amid deep silence to pronounce an oration in praise of “Christian Philosophy.” But the philosophy which he extolled was not that which had been drawn from the academies of Greece, but that diviner wisdom to reveal which to man the Immortal had put on mortality. The key-note of the discourse was the “Grace of God,” the one sole fountain of man’s renewal, pardon, and eternal life. The oration, although Protestant in spirit, was very thoroughly academic. Its noble sentiments were clothed in language clear, simple, yet majestic.4

Blank astonishment was portrayed on the faces of the most part of the audience at the beginning of the oration. By-and-by a countenance here and there began to kindle with delight. Others among the listeners were becoming uneasy on their seats. The monks knit their brows, and shooting out fiery glances from beneath them, exchanged whispers with one another. They saw through the thin disguise in which the rector was trying to veil the Gospel. Spoken on “All Saints’ Day,” yet not a word about the saints did that oration contain! It was a desecration of their festival; an act of treason against these glorious intercessors; a blow struck at the foundations of Rome: so they judged, and rightly. The assembly rose, and then the storm burst. Heresy had reached an astounding pitch of audacity when it dared to rear its head in the very midst of the Sorbonne. It must be struck down at once.

Cop was denounced to the Parliament, then the supreme judge and executioner of heretics. Summoned to its bar, he resolved, strong in the integrity of his cause, and presuming not a little on his position as head of the first university in Christendom, to obey the citation. He was already on his way to the Palace of Justice, attired in his robes of office, his beadles and apparitors preceding him, with their maces and gold-headed staves, when a friend, pressing through the crowd, whispered into his ear that he was marching to his death. Cop saw the danger of prosecuting further this duel between the Parliament and the Sorbonne. He fled to Basle, and so escaped the fate already determined on for him.5

When Cop was gone, it began to be rumored that the author of the address, which had set Parliament and the university in flames, was still in Paris, and that he was no other than Calvin. Such a spirit was enough to set all Christendom on fire: he must be burned. Already the lieutenant-criminal, Jean Morin, who for some time had had his eye on the young evangelist,6 was on his way to apprehend him. Calvin, who deemed himself safe in his obscurity, was sitting quietly in his room in the College of Fortret7 when some of his comrades came running into his chamber, and urged him to flee that instant. Scarcely had they spoken when a loud knocking was heard at the outer gate. It was the officers. Now their heavy tramp was heard in the corridor. Another moment and Calvin would be on his way to the Conciergerie, to come out of it only to the stake. That would, indeed, have been a blow to the Reformation, and probably would have changed the whole future of Christendom. But God interposed at this moment of peril. While some of his friends held a parley with the officers at the door, others, seizing the sheets on his bed, twisted them into a rope, fastened them in the window, and Calvin, catching hold of them, let himself down into the street of the Bernardins.8

Dropped into the street, the fugitive traversed Paris with rapid steps, and soon reached the suburbs. His first agitation subsiding, he began to think how he could disguise himself, knowing that the officers of Morin would be on his track. Espying a vine-dresser’s cottage, and knowing the owner to be friendly to the Gospel, he entered, and there arranged the plan of his flight. Doffing his own dress, he put on the coat of the peasant, and, with a garden hoe on his shoulder he set out on his journey. He went forth not knowing whither he went—the pioneer of hundreds of thousands who in after-years were to flee from France, and to seek under other skies that liberty to confess the Gospel which was denied them in their native land. To Calvin the disappointment must have been as keen as it was sudden.

He had fondly hoped that the scene of his conversion would be the scene of his labors also. He saw too, as he believed, the Gospel on the eve of triumphing in France. Was it not preached in the churches of the capital, taught from some of the chairs of the Sorbonne, and honored in the palace of the monarch? But God had arranged for both France and Calvin a different future from that which the young evangelist pictured to himself. The great kingdom of France was to harden its heart that God might glorify his power upon it, and Calvin was to go into exile that he might prepare in solitude those great works by which he was to instruct so many nations, and speak to the ages of the future.

Turning to the south, Calvin went on towards Orleans, but he did not stop there. He pursued his way to Tours, but neither did he halt there. Going onwards still, he traveled those great plains which the Loire and other streams water, so rich in meadows and tall umbrageous trees, and which are so loved by the vine, forming then as they do at this day the finest part of that fine country. After some weeks’ wandering, he reached Angouleme, the birth-place of Margaret of Navarre.9 Here he directed his steps to the mansion of the Du Tillets, a noble and wealthy family, high in office in the State, famed moreover for their love of letters, and with one of whose members Calvin had formed an acquaintance in Paris. The exile had not miscalculated. The young Du Tiller, the only one of the family then at home, was delighted to resume in Angouleme the intercourse begun in Paris. The noble mansion with all in it was at the service of Calvin.10

The mariner whose bark, pursued by furious winds, is suddenly lifted on the top of some billow mightier than its fellows, floated in safety over the reef on which it seemed about to be dashed, and safely landed in the harbor, is not more surprised or more thankful than Calvin was when he found himself in this quiet and secure asylum. The exile needed rest; he needed time for reading and meditation; he found both under this princely and friendly roof. The library of the chateau was one of the finest of which France, or perhaps any other country, in that age could boast, containing, it is said, some 4,000 volumes. Here he reposed, but was not idle. As Luther had been wafted away in the midst of the tempest to rest awhile in the Wart-burg, so Calvin was made to sit down here and equip himself for the conflicts that were about to open. Around him were the mighty dead, with nothing to interrupt his converse with them. An occasional hour would he pass in communing with his friend the young Louis du Tillet; but even this had to be redeemed. Nights without sleep, and whole days during which he scarcely tasted food, would Calvin pass in this library, so athirst was he for knowledge. It was here that Calvin projected his Institutes, which d’Aubigne styles “the finest work of the Reformation.” Not that he wrote it here; but in this library he collected the materials, arranged the plan, and it may be penned some of its passages. We shall have occasion to speak of this great work afterwards; suffice it here to remark that it was composed on the model of those apologies which the early Fathers presented to the Roman emperors on behalf of the primitive martyrs.

Again were men dying at the stake for the Gospel. Calvin felt that it became him to raise his voice in their defense; but how could he better vindicate them than by vindicating their cause, and proving in the face of its enemies and of the whole world that it was the cause of truth? But to plead such a cause before such an audience was no light matter. He prepared himself by reading, by much meditation, and by earnest prayer; and then he spoke in the Institutes with a voice that sounded through Europe, and the mighty reverberations of which have come down the ages.

An opponent of the Reformation chancing to enter, in after-years, this famous library, and knowing who had once occupied it, cast around him a look of anger, and exclaimed, “This is the smithy where the modern Vulcan forged his bolts; here it was that he wove the web of the Institutes, which we may call the Koran or Talmud of heresy.”11

An episode of a touching kind varied the sojourn of Calvin at Angouleme. Lefevre still survived, and was living at Nerac, near to Angouleme, enjoying the protection and friendship of Margaret. Calvin, who yearned to see the man who had first opened the door of France to the Reformation, set out to visit him. The aged doctor and the young Reformer met for the first and last time. Calvin was charmed with the candor, the humility, the zeal, and the loving spirit of Lefevre—lights that appeared to shine the brighter in proportion as he in whom they dwelt drew towards the tomb. Lefevre, on his part, was equally struck with the depth of intellect and range of view exhibited by Calvin. A Reformer of loftier stature than any he had hitherto known stood before him. In truth, the future, as sketched by the bold hand of Calvin, filled him with something like alarm. Calvin’s Reform went a good way beyond any that Lefevre had ever projected. The good doctor of Etaples had never thought of discarding the Pope and hierarchy, but of transforming them into Protestant pastors. He was for uniting the tyranny of the infallibility with the liberty of the Bible. Calvin by this time had abandoned the idea of Reforming Catholicism; his rule was the Word of God alone, and the hoped-for end a new structure on Divine foundations. Nevertheless, the aged Lefevre grasping his hand, and perhaps recalling to mind his own words to Farel, that God would send a deliverer, and that they should see it, said, “Young man, you will be one day a powerful instrument in the Lord’s hand; God will make use of you to restore the kingdom of heaven in France.”12

Chapter 13.13: First Protestant Administration Of The Lord’s Supper In France

Calvin goes to Poictiers – Its Society – Calvin draws Disciples round him – Re-unions – The Gardens of the Basses Treilles – The Abbot Ponthus – Calvin’s Grotto – First Dispensation of the Lord’s Supper in France – Formation of a Protestant Congregation – Home Mission Scheme for the Evangelisation of France – The Three First Missionaries – Their Labors and Deaths – Calvin Leaves Poictiers – The Church of Poictiers – Present State and Aspect of Poictiers.

CALVIN had been half-a-year at Angouleme, and now, the storm having blown over, he quitted it and returned northward to Poictiers. The latter was then a town of great importance. It was the seat of a flourishing university, and its citizens numbered amongst them men eminent for their rank, their learning, or their professional ability. Two leagues distant from the town is the battlefield where, in 1356, the Black Prince met the armies of France under John of Valois, and won his famous victory. Here, in the spring of 1534, we behold a humble soldier arriving to begin a battle which should change the face of the world. In this district, too, in former times lived Abelard, and the traces he had left behind him, though essentially skeptical, helped to prepare the way for Calvin. Thin, pale, and singularly unobtrusive, yet the beauty of his genius and the extent of his knowledge soon drew around the stranger a charmed circle of friends.

The Prior of Trois Moutiers, a friend of the Du Tillets, opened his door to the traveler. The new opinions had already found some entrance into the learned society of Poictiers; but with Calvin came a new and clearer light, which soon attracted a select circle of firm friends.

The chief magistrate, Pierre de La Planche, became his friend, and at his house he was accustomed to meet the distinguished men of the place, and under his roof, and sometimes in the garden, the Basses Treilles, did Calvin expound to them the true nature of the Gospel and the spiritual glory of the kingdom of heaven, thus drawing them away from idle ceremonies and dead formulas, to living doctrines by which the heart is renewed and the life fructified. Some contemned the words spoken to them, others received them with meekness and joy. Among these converts was Ponthus, abbot of a Benedictine convent in the neighborhood of Poictiers, and head of a patrician family.1 Forsaking a brilliant position, he was the first abbot in France who openly professed himself a disciple of the Reformed faith. Among his descendants there have been some who gave their lives for the Gospel; and to this day the family continue steadfastly on the side of Protestantism, adorning it by their piety not less than by their rank.2

It was at Poictiers that the evangelisation of France began in a systematic way. The school which Calvin here gathered round him comprehended persons in all conditions of life—canons, lawyers, professors, counts, and tradesmen. They discoursed about Divine mysteries as they walked together on the banks of the neighboring torrent, the Clain, or as they assembled in the garden of the Basses Treilles, where, like the ancient Platonists, they often held their re-unions. There, as the Papists have said, were the first beginnings in France of Protestant conventicles and councils.3 “As it was in a garden,” said the Roman Catholics of Poictiers, “that our first parents were seduced, so are these men being enchanted by Calvin in the garden of the Basses Treilles.”4

By-and by it was thought prudent to discontinue these meetings in the Basses Treilles, and to seek some more remote and solitary place of re-union. A deep and narrow ravine, through which rolls the rivulet of the Clain, winds past Poictiers. Its rocks, being of the limestone formation, abound in caves, and one of the roomiest of these, then known as the “Cave of Benedict,” but which from that day to this has borne the name of “Calvin’s Grotto,” was selected as the scene of the future gatherings of the converts.5 It was an hour’s walk from the town. Dividing into groups, each company, by a different route, found its way to the cave. Here prayer was offered and the Scriptures expounded, the torrent rolling beneath, and the beetling rocks and waving trees concealing the entrance. In this grotto, so far as the light of history serves, was the Lord’s Supper celebrated for the first time in France after the Protestant fashion.6 On an appointed day the disciples met here, and Calvin, having expounded the Word and offered prayer, handed round the bread and cup, of which all partook, even as in the upper room at Jerusalem sixteen centuries before. The place had none of the grandeurs of cathedral, but “the glory of God and the Lamb” lent it beauty. No chant of priest, no swell of organ accompanied the service, but the devotion of contrite hearts, in fellowship with Christ, was ascending from that rocky chamber, and coming up before the throne in heaven.

Often since have the children of the Reformation assembled in the dens and caves, in the forests, wildernesses, and mountains of France, to sing their psalm and celebrate their worship; and He who disdains the gorgeous temple, which unholy rites defile, has been present with them, turning the solitude of the low-browed cave into an august presence-chamber, in which they have seen the glory and heard the voice of the Eternal.

Calvin now saw, as the fruit of his labors, a little Protestant congregation in Poictiers. This did not content him; he desired to make this young Church a basis of evangelisation for the surrounding provinces, and ultimately for the whole kingdom. One day in the little assembly he said, “Is there any one here willing to go and give light to those whom the Pope has blinded?”7 Jean Vernon, Philip Veron, and Albert Babinot stood up and offered themselves for this work. Veron and Babinot, turning their steps to the south and west, scattered the good seed in those fertile provinces and great cities which lie along the course of the Garonne. In Toulouse and Bordeaux they made many disciples. Obeying Calvin’s instructions they sought to win the teachers of the youth, and in many cases they entirely succeeded; so that, as we find the staunch Roman Catholic Raemond complaining, “the minister was hid under the cloak of the magister,” “the young were lost before they were aware of their danger,” and “many with only down on their chins were so incurably perverted, that they preferred being roasted over a slow fire to renouncing their Calvinism.”8 Jean Vernon remained at Poictiers, where he found an interesting field of labor among the students at the university. It was ever the aim of Calvin to unite religion and science. He knew that when these are divorced we have a race of fanatics on the one side, and of sceptics on the other; therefore, of his little band, he commanded one to abide at the university seat; and of the students not a few embraced the Reformed faith. These three missionaries, combining prudence with activity, and escaping the vigilance of the priests, continued to evangelise in France to their dying day. Veron and Babinot departed in peace; Vernon was seized as he was crossing the Alps of Savoy, and burned at Chambery. This was the first home-mission set agoing in modern times. After a stay of barely two months Calvin quitted Poictiers, going on by way of Orleans and Paris to Noyon, his birth-place, which he visited now for the last time.

But he did not leave Poictiers as he had found it. There was now within its walls a Reformed Church, embracing many men distinguished by their learning, occupying positions of influence, and ready to confess Christ, if need were amid the flames.9

It is deeply interesting to observe the condition at this day of a city around which the visit of Calvin has thrown so great an interest, and whose Church, founded by his hands, held no inconspicuous place among the Protestant Churches of France in the early days of the Reformation.10

Poictiers, we dare say, like the city of Aosta in Italy, is in nowise proud of this episode in its history, and would rather efface than perpetuate the traces of its illustrious visitor; and, indeed, it has been very successful in doing so. We question whether there be now a dozen persons in all Poictiers who know that the great chief of the Reformation once honored it by his residence, and that there he laid the foundations of a Protestant Church which afterwards gave martyrs to the Gospel. Poictiers is at this day a most unexceptionably Roman Catholic city, and exhibits all the usual proofs and concomitants of genuine Roman Catholicism in the dreariness and stagnation of its streets, and the vacuity and ignorance to be read so plainly on the faces of its inhabitants. The landscape around is doubtless the same as when Calvin went in and out at its gates. There is the same clear, dry, balmy sky; there is the same winding and picturesque ravine, with the rivulet watering its bottom, and its sides here terraced with vines, there overhung with white limestone rocks, while cottages perched amid fruit-trees, and mills, their wheels turned by the stream, are to be seen along its course. East and west of the town lie outspread those plains on which the Black Prince, in the fourteenth century, marshalled his bowmen, and where French and English blood flowed in commingled torrents, and where, 200 years later, Calvin restored to its original simplicity that rite which commemorates an infinitely greater victory than hero ever achieved on earth. Within its old limits, unchanged since the times of Calvin, is the town itself. Here has Poicfiers been sitting all this long while, nursing its orthodoxy till little besides is left it to nurse.

Manufactures and commerce have left it; it has but a scanty portion of the corn and wine which the plains around yield to others. Its churches and edifices have grown hoary and tottering; the very chimes of its bells have a weird and drowsy sound; and its citizens, silent, listless, and pensive, look as if they belonged to the fifteenth century, and had no light to be seen moving about in the nineteenth.

In the center of Poictiers is a large quadrangular piazza, a fountain in the middle of it, a clock-tower in one of its angles, and numerous narrow lanes running out from it in all directions. These lanes are steep, winding, and ill-paved.

In one of these lanes, but a little way from the central piazza, is a venerable pile of Gothic architecture, as old, at least, as the days of Calvin, and which may have served as the college amongst whose professors and students he found his first disciples. Its gables, turned to the street, show to the passer-by its rich oriels; and pleasant to the eye is its garden of modest dimensions, with its bit of velvet sward, and its trees, old and gnarled, but with life enough in their roots to send along their boughs, in spring, a rush of rich massy foliage.

A little farther off from the Piazza, in another lane which attains the width of a street, with an open space before it, stands the Cathedral, by much the most noticeable of all the buildings of Poictiers. Its front is a vast unrolled scroll of history, or perhaps we ought to say of biography. It is covered from top to bottom with sculptures, the subjects extremely miscellaneous, and some of them not a little grotesque. The lives of numerous Scripture heroes—patriarchs, warriors, and kings—are here depicted, being chiselled in stone, while in the alternate rows come the effigies of saints, and Popes, and great abbots; and, obtruding uncouthly among these venerable and dignified personages, are monsters of a form and genus wholly unknown to the geologist. A rare sight must this convention of ante-diluvians, of mediaeval Popes, and animals whose era it is impossible to fix, have presented when in the prime of its stony existence. But the whole goodly assemblage, under the influence of the weather, is slowly passing into oblivion, and will by-and-by disappear, leaving only the bare weather-worn sand-stone, unless the chisel come timeously to the rescue, and give the worthies that figure here a new lease of life.

Calvin must sometimes have crossed the threshold of this Cathedral and stood under this roof. The interior is plain indeed, offering a striking contrast to the gorgeous grotesqueness of the exterior. The walls, covered with simple whitewash, are garnished with a few poor pictures, such as a few pence would buy at a print-seller’s. The usual nave and aisle are wanting, and a row of stone pillars, also covered with whitewash, run along the center of the floor and support the roof of the edifice. It had been well if Poictiers had continued steadfast in the doctrine taught it by the man who entered its gates in the March of 1534. Its air at this hour would not have been so thick, nor its streets so stagnant, nor its edifices so crumbling; in short, it would not have been lying stranded now, dropped far astern in the world’s onward march.

Chapter 13.14: Catherine De Medici

St. Paul – Calvin – Desire to Labor in Paris – Driven from this Field – Francis I. Intrigues to Outmanoeuvre Charles V. – Offers the Hand of his Second Son to the Pope’s Niece – Joy of Clement VII. – The Marriage Agreed on – Catherine de Medici – Rise of the House of Medici – Cosmo I. – His Patronage of Letters and Scholars – Fiesole – Descendants of Cosmo – Clement VII. – Birth of Catherine de Medici – Exposed to Danger – Lives to Mount the Throne of France – Catherine as a Girl – Her Fascination – Her Tastes – Her Morals – Her Love of Power; etc.

ST. PAUL when converted fondly hoped to abide at Jerusalem, and from this renowned metropolis, where the Kings of Judah had reigned, where the prophets of Jehovah and One greater than all prophets had spoken, he purposed to spread abroad the light among his countrymen. But a new dispensation had commenced, and there must be found for it a new center.

In Judaea, Paul would have had only the Synagogue for his audience, and his echoes would have died away on the narrow shore of Palestine. He must speak where his voice would sound throughout the world. He must carry the Gospel of his master through a sphere as wide as that which the Greek philosophy had occupied, and subjugate by the power of the Cross tribes as remote as those Rome had vanquished by the force of her arms.

And so, too, was it with one who has been styled the second Paul of the Christian dispensation. The plan which Calvin had formed to himself of his life’s labors, after his conversion, had Paris and France as its center. Nearest his heart, and occupying the foreground in all his visions of the future, was his native land. It needed but the Gospel to make France the first of the nations, and its throne the mightiest in Europe.

And the footing the Gospel had already obtained in that land seemed to warrant these great expectations. Had not the Gospel found martyrs in France, and was not this a pledge that it would yet triumph, on the soil which their blood had watered? Had not the palace opened its gates to welcome it? More wonderful still, it was forcing its way, despite the prejudice and pride of ages, into the halls of the Sorbonne. The many men of letters which France now contained were, with scarce an exception, favorable to the Reformation. The monarch, it is true, had not yet decided; but Margaret, so sweet in disposition, so sincere in her Protestant faith, would not be wanting in her influence with her brother, and thus there was ground to hope that when Francis did decide his choice would be given in behalf of Protestantism. So stood the matter then. Was it wonderful that Calvin should so linger around Paris, and believe that he saw in it the field of his future labors? But ever and anon, as he came back to it, and grasping the seed-basket, had begun again to sow, the sky would darken, the winds would begin to howl, and he was forced to flee before a new outburst of the tempest. At last he began to understand that it was not the great kingdom of France, with its chivalrous monarch and its powerful armies, that God had chosen to sustain the battle of the Reformation. A handful only of the French people had the Reformation called to follow it, whose destined work was to glorify it on their own soil by the heroism of the stake, and to help to sow it in others by the privations and sacrifices of exile. But before speaking of Calvin’s third and last flight from Paris, let us turn to an incident big with the gravest consequences to France and Christendom.

The Pope, Spain, and France, the three visible puissances of the age, were by turns the allies and the adversaries of one another. The King of France, who was constantly scheming to recover by the arts of diplomacy those fair Italian provinces which he had lost upon the battle-field, was now plotting against Charles of Spain. The emperor, on his way to Augsburg, was at this moment closeted, as we have already related, with the Pope at Bologna.1 Francis, who was not ignorant of these things, would frequently ask himself, “Who can tell what evil may be brewing against France? I shall out-manoeuvre the crafty Charles; I shall detach the Pope from the side of Spain, and secure him for ever to France;”—for in those days the Pontiff, as a dynastic power, counted for more than he afterwards did.

Francis thought that he had hit on a capital device for dealing a blow to his rival. What was it? The Pope, Clement VII., of the House of Medici, had a niece, a little fairy girl of fourteen; he would propose marriage between this girl and his second son, Henry, Duke of Orleans. The Pope, he did not doubt, would grasp at the brilliant offer; for Clement, he knew, was set on the aggrandisement of his family, and this marriage would place it among the royal houses of Europe. But was Francis I. in earnest? Would the King of France stoop to marry his son to the descendant of a merchant? Yes, Francis would digest the mortification which this match might cause him for the sake of the solid advantages, as he believed them to be, which it would bring with it. He would turn the flank of Charles, and take his revenge for Pavia. Had Francis feared the God of hosts as much as he did the emperor, and been willing to stoop as low for the Gospel as for the favor of the Pope, happy had it been for both himself and his kingdom.

Clement, when the offer was made to him, could scarce believe it.2 He was in doubt this moment; he was in ecstasy the next. The emperor soon discovered the affair, and foreseeing its consequences to himself, endeavored to persuade the Pope that the King of France was insincere, and counselled him to beware of the snake in the grass. The ambassadors of the French King, the Duke of Albany and the Cardinals Tournon and Gramont, protested that their master was in earnest, and pushed on the business till at last they had finished it. It was concluded that this girl, Catherine de Medici by name, should be linked with the throne of France, and that the blood of the Valois and the Medici should henceforth be mixed. The Pope strode through his palace halls, elate at the honor which had so unexpectedly come to his house, and refused to enter the league which the emperor was pressing him to form with him against Francis, and would have nothing to do with calling a Council for which Charles was importuning him.3 And the King of France, on his part, thought that if he had stooped it had been to make a good bargain. He had stipulated that Catherine should bring with her as her dowry, Parma, Florence, Pisa, Leghorn, Modena, Urbino, and Reggio, besides the Duchy of Milan, and the Lordship of Genoa. This would leave little unrecovered of what had been lost on the field of Pavia. The Pope promised all without the least hesitation. To Clement it was all the same—much or little—for he had not the slightest intention of fulfilling aught of all that he had undertaken.4

Let us visit the birth-place of this woman—the natal lair of this tigress. Her cradle was placed in one of the most delicious of the Italian vales. Over that vale was hung the balmiest of skies, and around it rose the loveliest of mountains, conspicuous among which is the classic Fiesole. The Arno, meandering through it in broad pellucid stream, waters it, and the olive and cypress clothe its bosom with a voluptuous luxuriance. In this vale is the city of Florence, and here, in the fifteenth century, lived Cosmo, the merchant. Cosmo was the founder of that house from which was sprung the little bright-eyed girl who bore the name of Catherine de Medici—a name then innocent and sweet as any other, but destined to gather a most unenviable notoriety around it, till it has become one of the most terrific in history, the mention of which evokes only images of tragedies and horrors.

With regard to her famous ancestor, Cosmo, he was a merchant, we have said, and his ships visited the shores of Greece, the harbors of Egypt, and the towns on the sea-coast of Syria. It was the morning of the Renaissance, and this Florentine merchant had caught its spirit. He gave instructions to his sailing-masters, when they touched at the ports of the Levant and Egypt, to make diligent inquiry after any ancient manuscripts that might still survive, whether of the ancient pagan literature, or of the early Christian theology. His wishes were carefully attended to; and when his ships returned to Pisa, the port of Tuscany, they were laden with a double freight—the produce and fabrics of the countries they had visited, and the works of learned men which had slumbered for ages in the monasteries of Mount Athos, the convents of Lebanon, and in the cities and tombs of the Nile. Thus it was that Cosmo prosecuted, with equal assiduity and success, commerce and letters. By the first he laid the foundations of that princely house that long reigned over the Florentine Republic; and by the second he contributed powerfully to the recovery of the Greek and Hebrew languages, as they in their turn contributed to the outbreak of evangelical light which so gloriously distinguished the century that followed that in which Cosmo flourished. The sacred languages restored, and the Book of Heaven again opened, the pale, chilly dawn of the Renaissance warmed and brightened into the day of Christianity.

Another event contributed to this happy turn of affairs. Constantinople had just fallen, and the scholars of the metropolis of the East, fleeing from the arms of the Turk, and carrying with them their literary treasures, came to Italy, where they were warmly welcomed by Cosmo, and entertained with princely hospitality in his villa on Fiesole. The remains of that villa are still to be seen half-way between the base of the hill and the Franciscan monastery that crowns its summit, looking down on the unrivalled dome of Brunelleschi, which even in Cosmo’s days adorned the beautiful city of Florence. The terrace is still pointed out, bordered by stately cypresses, where Cosmo daily walked, conversing with the illustrious exiles whom the triumph of barbarian arms had chased from their native East, the delicious vale of the Arno spread out at their feet, with the clustering towers of the city and the bounding hills in the nearer view, while the remoter mountains, rising peak on peak in the azure distance, lent grandeur to the scene.5 “In gardens,” says Hallam, “which Tully might have envied, with Ficino, Laudino, and Politian at his side, he delighted his hours of leisure with the beautiful visions of the Platonic philosophy, for which the summer stillness of an Italian sky appears the most congenial accompaniment.”

His talents, his probity, and his great wealth placed Cosmo at the head of Florence, and gave him the government of the Duchy of Tuscany. His grandson Lorenzo—better known as Lorenzo the Magnificent—succeeded him in his vast fortune, his literary and aesthetic tastes, and his government of the duchy. Under Lorenzo the Medician family may be said to have fully blossomed. Lorenzo had three sons—Giuliano, Pietro, and Giovanni. The last (John) became Pope under the title of Leo X. He inherited his father’s taste for magnificence, and the Tuscan’s love of pleasure. Under him the Vatican became the gayest court in all Christendom, and Rome a scene of revelry and delights not surpassed, if equalled, by any of the capitals of Europe. Leo’s career has already come before us. He was far from “seeing the day of Peter,” but he lived to see Luther’s day, and went to the tomb as the morning-light of the Reformation was breaking over the world, closing with his last breath the halcyon era of the Papacy. He was succeeded in the chair of St. Peter, after the short Pontificate of Adrian of Utrecht, by another member of the same family of Medici, Giulio, a son of the brother of Leo X., who ascended the Papal throne under the title of Clement VII.

When Clement took possession of the Papal chair, he found a storm gathering round it. To whatever quarter of the sky his eye was turned, there he saw lowering clouds portending furious tempests in the future.

Luther was thundering in Germany; the Turk was marshalling his hordes and unfurling his standards on the borders of Christendom; nearer home, at his own gates almost, Francis and Charles were settling with the sword the question which of the two should be master of that fair land which both meanwhile were laying waste. The infuriated Germans, now scarcely amenable to discipline, were hanging like tempest on the brow of Alp, and threatening to descend on Rome and make a spoil of all the wealth and art with which the lavish Pontificate of Leo X. had enriched and beautified it.

To complete the unhappiness of the time the plague had broken out at Rome, and with pomps, festivities, and wassail, which went on all the same, were mingled corpses, funerals, and other gloomy insignia of the tomb. The disorders of Christendom had come to a head; all men demanded a remedy, but no remedy was found, and mainly for this reason, that no one understood that a cure to be effectual must begin with one’s self. Men thought of reforming the world, but leaving the men that composed it as they were.

The new Pope saw very plainly that the air was thick and the sky lowering, but having vast confidence in his own consummate craft and knowledge of business, he set about, the task of replacing the world upon its foundations. This onerous work resolved itself into four divisions.

First, he had the abuses of his court and capital to correct; secondly, he had the poise to maintain between Spain and France, taking care that neither Power became too strong for him; thirdly, he had the Turk to drive out of Christendom; and fourthly, and mainly, he had the Reformation to extinguish; and this last gave him more concern than all the rest. His attention to business was unwearied; but labor as he might it would not all do. The mischiefs of ages could not be cured in a day, even granting that Clement had known how to cure them. But the storm did not come just yet; and Clement continued to toil and intrigue, to threaten the Turk, cajole the kings, and anathematise Lutheranism to no other effect than to have the advantage gained by the little triumph of to-day swept away by the terrible disaster of the morrow.

That woman who was just stepping upon a scene where she was destined long and conspicuously to figure, and where she was to leave as her memorials a throne dishonored and a nation demoralised, here demands a brief notice. Catherine was the daughter of Lorenzo II.,6 the grandson of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who, as we have said, was the grandson of Cosmo I., or Cosmo il Vecchio, as he is styled at Florence, the founder of the greatness of the family, and so honourably remembered as the patron of letters and the friend of scholars. Her mother was Magdeleine de Boulogne, of the Royal House of France.7 Her father survived her birth only a few days; her mother, too, died while she was still a child, and thus the girl, left an orphan, was taken under the care of her relative, Clement VII. An astrologer was said to have foretold at her birth that the child would be the ruin of her house; and the vaticination, as may well be believed, wrought her no good. She was but little cared for, or rather she was put, on purpose, in the way of receiving harm. She is said to have been placed in a basket, and hung outside the wall of a castle that was being besieged, in the hope that a chance arrow might rid them of her, and along with her the calamity which her continued existence was believed to portend. The missiles struck right and left, leaving their indentations on the wall, but the basket was not hit, and the child it enclosed lived on to occupy at a future day the throne of France.

When she comes before us, in connection with this marriage-scheme, Catherine de Medici was a gift of fourteen, of diminutive stature, of sylph-like form, with a fiery light streaming from her eyes. Bright, voluble, and passionate, she bounded from sport to sport, filling the halls where she played with the chatter of her talk, and the peals of her merriment. There was about her the power of a strange fascination, which all felt who came near her, but the higher faculties which she displayed in after-life had not yet been developed. These needed a wider stage and a loftier position for their display.

As she grew up it was seen that she possessed not a few of the good as well as the evil qualities of the race from which she was sprung. She had a princely heart, and a large understanding. To say that she was crafty, and astute, and greedy of power, and prudent, patient, and plodding in her efforts to grasp it, is simply to say that she was a Medici. She possessed, in no small degree, the literary and aesthetic tastes of her illustrious ancestor, Cosmo I. She loved splendor as did her great-grandfather, Lorenzo the Magnificent. She was as prodigal and lavish in her habits as Leo X.; and withal, as great a lover of pleasure. She filled the Louvre with scandals, even as Leo had done the Vatican, and from the court diffused a taint through the city, from which Paris has not been cleansed to this day.

The penetration and business habits of her uncle—we style him so, but his birth being suspicious, it is impossible to define his exact relationship—Clement VII., she inherited, and the pleasures in which she so freely indulged do not appear to have dulled the one or interrupted the other.

Above all, she was noted for the truly Medician feature of an inordinate love of power. Whoever occupied the throne, Catherine was the real ruler of France. Most of the occurrences which made the reigns of her husband and sons so tragical, and blackened so dismally that era of history, had their birth in her scheming brain. Not that she loved blood for its own sake, as did some of the Roman Emperors, but her will must be done, and whatever cause or person stood in her way must take the consequences by the dungeon or the stake, by the poignard or the poison-cup.

Chapter 13.15: Marriage Of Henry Of France To Catherine De Medici

The Pope sets Sail – Coasts along to France – Meets Francis I. at Marseilles – The Second Son of the King of France Married to Catherine de Medici – Her Promised Dowry – The Marriage Festivities – Auguries – Clement’s Return Voyage – His Reflections – His Dream of a New Era – His Dream to be Read Backwards – His Troubles – His Death – Catherine Enters France as Calvin is Driven Out – Retrogression of Protestantism – Death and Catherine de Medici – Death’s Five Visits to the Palace – Each Visit Assists Catherine in her Ascent to Power – Her Crimes – She Gains no Real Success.

THE marriage is to take place, and accordingly the Pope embarks at Leghorn, and sets out for the port of Marseilles, where he is to meet the King of France, and conclude the transaction. Popes have never loved ships, unless it were the bark of St. Peter, nor cared to sail in any sea save the sea ecclesiastic; but Clement’s anxiety about the marriage overcame his revulsion to the waves. He sails along the coast of Italy; he passes the Gulf of Spezzia; he rounds the bold headland of Monte Fino; Genoa is passed; and now the shore of Nice, where the ridge of Apennine divides Italy from France, is under his lee, and thus, wafted along over these classic waters by soft breezes, he enters, in the beginning of October, 1533, the harbor of Marseilles. Catherine did not accompany him. She tarried at Nice meanwhile, to be at hand when she should be wanted. The interview between the Pontiff and the king terminated to the satisfaction of both parties. Francis again stipulated that the bride should bring as outfit “three rings,” the Duchies of Urbino, Milan, and Genoa; and Clement had no difficulty in promising everything, seeing he meant to perform nothing. All being arranged, the little Tuscan beauty was now sent for; and amid the benedictions of the Pope, the congratulations of the courtiers, the firing of cannon, ringing of bells, and rejoicings of the populace, Catherine de Medici, all radiant with joy and sparkling with jewels, became the daughter-in-law of Francis I., and wife of the Duke of Orleans, the future Henry II.

In the banquet-chamber in which sat Catherine de Medici as the bride of the future Henry II. of France, well might there have been set a seat for the skeleton which the Egyptians in ancient times were wont to introduce into their festal halls. Had that guest sat amid the courtiers at Marseilles, glaring on them with empty sockets, and mingling his ghastly grin with their gay merriment, all must have confessed that never had his presence been more fitting, nor his augury more truly prophetic. Or if this was not clearly seen at the moment, how plain did it become in after-years, when the bridal torches were exchanged for martyr-fires, and the marriage-songs were turned into wailings, which ever and anon rung through France, and each time with the emphasis of a deeper woe! But before that day should fully come Clement was to sleep in marble; Francis too was to be borne to the royal vaults of St. Denis, leaving as the curse of his house and kingdom the once lively laughing little girl whose arrival he signalised with these vast rejoicings, and who was yet too young to take much interest in court intrigue, or to feel that thirst for power which was to awaken in her breast with such terrible strength in years to come.

The marriage festivities were at an end, and Pope Clement VII. turned his face toward his own land. He had come as far as to see the utmost borders of the children of the Reformation, and, like another Balaam, he had essayed to curse them. He had come doubly armed: he grasped Catherine in the one hand, he held a bull of anathema in the other; the first he engrafted on France, the second he hurled against the Lutherans, and having shot this bolt, he betook him again to his galleys. A second time the winds were propitious. As he sailed along over the blue sea, he could indulge his reveries undistracted by those influences to which Popes, like other men, are liable on shipboard. He had taken a new pledge of France that it should not play the part England was now playing. France was now more than ever the eldest daughter of the Papacy. Clement, moreover, had fortifed himself on the side of Spain. To the greatness of that Power he himself, above most men, had contributed, when he acted as the secretary and adviser of his uncle Leo X.,1 but its sovereigns becoming less the champions and more the masters of the Papacy, Spain caused the Pope considerable uneasiness. Now, however, it was less likely that the emperor would press for a Council, the very idea of which was so terrible to the Pope, that he could scarce eat by day or sleep by night. And so, as the coast of France sunk behind him and the headlands of Italy rose on his prow, he thought of the new splendor with which he had invested his house and name, and the happier days he was now likely to see in the Vatican.

Nevertheless, the horizon did not clear up: the storm still lowered above Rome. The last year of Clement’s life—for he was now drawing toward the grave—was the unhappiest he had yet seen. Not one of all his fond anticipations was there that did not misgive him. If the dreams of ordinary mortals are to be read backwards, much more—as Clement and even Pontiffs in our own time have experienced—are the dreams of Popes.

The emperor became more pressing for a Council than ever. The Protestants of Germany, having formed a powerful league, had now a voice at the political council-table of Christendom. Nay, with his own hands Clement had been rearing a rampart round them, inasmuch as his alliance with Francis made Charles draw towards the Protestants, whose friendship was now more necessary to him. Even the French king, now his ally, could not be depended upon. Catherine’s “three rings” the Pope had not made forthcoming, and Francis threatened, if they were not speedily sent, to come and fetch them. To fill up Clement’s cup, already bitter enough and brimming over, as one would think, his two nephews quarrelled about the sovereignty of Florence, and were fighting savagely with one another. To whatever quarter Clement turned, he saw only present trouble and portents of worse to come. It was hard to say whether he had most to dread from his enemies or from his friends, from the heretical princes of Germany or front the most Christian King of France and the most Catholic King of Spain.

Last of all, the Pope fell sick. It soon became apparent that his sickness was unto death, and though but newly returned from a wedding, Clement had to set about the melancholy task of preparing the ring and robe which are used at the funeral of a Pope. “Having created thirty cardinals,” says Platina, “and set his house in order, he died the 25th September, 1534, between the eighteenth and nineteenth hour,2 having lived sixty-six years and three months, and held the Papacy ten years, ten months, and seven days. He was buried,” adds the historian, “in St. Peter’s; but, in the Pontificate of Paul III. (his successor), his body was transferred, along with the remains of Leo X., to the Church of Minerva, and laid in a tomb of marble.”3 “Sorrow and secret anguish,” says Soriano, brought him to the grave. Ranke pronounces him “without doubt, the most ill-fated Pope that ever sat on the Papal throne.”4

Clement now reposed in marble in the Minerva, but the evil he had done was not “interred with his bones;” his niece lived after him, and to her for a moment we turn. There are beings whose presence seems to darken the light, and taint the very soil, on which they tread. Of the number of these was Catherine de Medici. She was sunny as her own Italy: but there lurked a curse beneath her gaieties and smiles. Wherever she had passed, there was a blight. Around her all that was fair and virtuous and manly, as if smitten by some mysterious and deadly influence, began to pine and die.

And, moreover, it is instructive to mark how nearly contemporaneous were the departure of Calvin from France and the entrance into that country of Catherine de Medici. Scarcely had the gates of Paris shut out the Reformer, when they were opened to admit the crafty Italian woman. He who would have been the restorer and savior of his country was chased from it, while she who was to inoculate it with vice, which first corrupted, and at last sunk it into ruin, was welcomed to it with demonstrations of unbounded joy.

We trace a marked change in the destinies of France from the day that Catherine entered it. Up till this time events seemed to favor the progress of Protestantism in that country; but the admission of this woman was the virtual banishment of the Reformation, for how could it, ever mount the throne with Catherine de Medici sitting upon its steps? and unless the throne were won there was hardly a hope, in a country where the government was so powerful, of the triumph of the Reformation in the conversion of the great body of the nation.

True, the marriage of the king’s second son with this orphan of the House of Medici did not seem an event of the first consequence. Had it been the Dauphin whom she espoused, she would have been on the fair way to the throne; but as the wife of Henry the likelihood was that she never would be more than the Duchess of Orleans. Nor had Catherine yet given unmistakable indication of those imperious passions inclining and fitting her for rule that were lodged in her. No one could have foretold at that hour that the girl of fifteen all radiant with smiles would become the woman of fifty dripping all over with blood. But from the day that she put her hand into Henry’s, all things wrought for her. Even Death, as d’Aubigne has strikingly observed, seemed to be in covenant with this woman. To others the “King of Terrors,” to Catherine de Medici he was but the obsequious attendant, who waited only till she should signify her pleasure, that he might strike whomsoever she wished to have taken out of her path. How many a visit, during her long occupancy, did the grim messenger pay to the Louvre! but not a visit did he make which did not assist her in her ascent to power. He came a first time, and, lo! the Dauphin lay a corpse, and Henry, Catherine’s husband, became the immediate heir to the throne. He came a second time, and now Francis I. breathes his last. Henry reigns in his father’s stead, and by his side sits the Florentine girl, now Queen of France. Death came a third time to the Louvre, and now it is Henry II. that is struck down; but the blow, so far from diminishing, enlarged the power of Catherine, for from this time she became, with a few brief and exceptional intervals, the real ruler of France.

Her imbecile progeny sat upon the throne, but the astute mother governed the country. Death came a fourth time to the palace, and now it is the weak-minded Francis II. who is carried out a corpse, leaving his throne to his yet weaker-minded brother, Charles IX. If her son, a mere puppet, wore the crown, Catherine with easy superiority directed the government. Casting off the Guises, with whom till now she had been compelled to divide her power, she stood up alone, the ruler of the land. Even when Death shifted the scenes for the last time by the demise of Charles IX., it was not to abridge this woman’s influence. Under Henry III., as under all her other sons, it was the figure of Catherine de Medici that was by far the most conspicuous and terrible in France. Possessing one of those rare minds which reach maturity at an age when those of others begin to decay, it was only now, during the reigns of her last two sons, that she showed all that was in her. She discovered at this period of her career a shrewder penetration, a greater fertility of resource, and a higher genius for governing men than she had yet exhibited, and accordingly it was now that she adventured on her boldest schemes of policy, and that she perpetrated the greatest of her crimes. But, notwithstanding all her talent and wickedness, she gained no real success. The cause she espoused did not triumph eventually, and that which she opposed she was not able to crush.

Chapter 13.16: Melancthon’s Plan For Uniting Wittemberg And Rome

The Laborers Scattered – The Cause Advances – The Dread it Inspires – Calvin and Catherine – A Contrast – The Keys and the Fleur-de-Lis – The Doublings of Francis – Agreement between Francis and Philip of Hesse at Bar-le-Duc – Campaign – Wurtemberg Restored to Christopher – Francis I’s Project for Uniting Lutheranism and Romanism – Du Bellay’s Negotiations with Bucer – Melancthon Sketches a Basis of Union – Bucer and Hedio add their Opinion – The Messenger Returns with the Paper to Paris – Sensation – Council at the Louvre – Plan Discussed – An Evangelical Pope.

OF the evangelists who, but a dozen years before the period at which we are now arrived, had proclaimed the truth in France, hardly one now survived, or was laboring in that country. Some, like Lefevre, had gone to the grave by “the way of all men.” Others, like Berquin and Pavane, had passed to it by the cruel road of the stake. Some there were, like Farel, who had been chased to foreign lands, there to diffuse the light of which France was showing itself unworthy. Others, whose lot was unhappier still, had apostatised from the Gospel, seduced by love of the world, or repelled by the terrors of the stake. But if the earlier and lesser lights had nearly all disappeared, their place was occupied by a greater; and, despite the swords that were being unsheathed and the stakes that were being planted, it was becoming evident to all men that the sun of truth was mounting into the horizon, and soon the whole firmament would be filled with his light.

The movement caused much chagrin and torment to the great ones of the earth. They trembled before a power which had neither war-horse nor battle-axe, but against which all their force could avail nothing. They saw that mysterious power advancing from victory to victory; they beheld it scattering the armies that stood up to oppose it, and recruiting its adherents faster than the fire could consume them; and they could hardly help seeing in this an augury of a day when that power would “possess the kingdom and dominion and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven.” This power was none other than the CHRISTIANITY of the first ages, smitten by the sword of the pagan emperors, wounded in yet more deadly fashion by the superstition of Rome, but now risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works did show forth themselves in it.

The two chiefs of the great drama which was now opening in France had just stepped upon the stage—Calvin and Catherine de Medici. The one was taken from an obscure town in the north of France; the other came from a city already glorified by the renown of its men of letters, and the state and power of its princes. The former was the grandson of a cooper; the latter was of the lineage of the princely House of Tuscany. Catherine was placed in the Louvre, with the resources of a kingdom at her command; Calvin was removed outside of France altogether, where, in a small town hidden among the hills of the Swiss, he might stand and fight his great battle. But as yet Catherine had not reached the throne, nor was Calvin at Geneva. Death had to open the way that the first might ascend to power, and years of wandering and peril had yet to be gone through before the latter should enter the friendly gates of the capital of the Genevese.

We return for a moment to Marseilles. Catheline de Medici had placed her cold hand in that of Henry of Valois, and by the act a new link had been forged which was to bind together, more firmly than ever, the two countries of Italy and France. The. Keys and the Fleur-de-lis were united for better for worse. The rejoicings and festivities were now at an end. The crowd of princes and courtiers, of prelates and monks, of liveried attendants and men-at-arms, which for weeks had crowded the streets of Marseilles, and kept it night and day in a stir, had dispersed; and Francis and Clement, mutually satisfied, were on their way back, each to his own land. The winds slept, the uneasy Gulf of Lyons was still till the Pontiff’s galley had passed; and as he sailed away over that glassy sea, Clement felt that now the tiara sat firmer on his head than before, and that he might reckon on happier days in the Vatican. Alas, how little could he forecast the actual future! What awaited him at Rome was a shroud and a grave.

Francis I., equally overjoyed, but equally mistaken, amused himself, on his journey to Paris, with visions of the future, arrayed in colors of equal brilliancy. He had not patience till he should arrive at the Louvre before making a beginning with these grand projects. He halted at Avignon, that old city on the banks of the Rhone, which had so often opened its gates to receive the Popes when Rome had cast them out. Here he assembled his council, and startled its members by breaking to them his purpose of forming a league with the Protestants of Germany.1 Fresh from the embraces of Clement, this was the last thing his courtiers had expected to hear from their master. Yet Francis I. was in earnest. One hand had he given to Rome, the other would he give to the Reformation: he would be on both sides at once.2 This was very characteristic of this monarch;—divided in his heart—unstable in all his ways—continually oscillating—but sure to settle on the wrong side in the end, and to reap, as the fruit of all his doublings, only disgrace to himself and destruction to his kingdom.

The King of France was, in sooth, at this moment playing a double game—a political league and a religious reform. Of the two projects the last was the more chimerical, for Francis aimed at nothing less than to unite Rome and the Reformation. What a strange moment to inaugurate these schemes, when Europe was still ringing with the echoes of the bull in which the German heretics had been cursed, and which had been issued by the man with whom Francis had been closeted these many days past! And not less strange the spot chosen for the concoction of these projects, a city which was a second Rome, the very dust of which was redolent of the footprints of the Popes, and whose streets and palaces recalled the memories of the pride, the luxury, and the disorders of the Papal court.

The key of the policy of Francis was his desire to humble his dreaded rival, Charles V. Hence his approach to the Pope, on the one hand, and to the Protestant princes, on the other. For the Papacy he did not greatly care; for Lutheranism he cared still less: his own ascendency was the object he sought.

The political project came first and sped best. An excellent opportunity for broaching it presented itself just at this time. Charles V. had carried away by force of arms the young Duke of Wurtemberg. And not only had he stolen the duke; he had stolen his duchy too, and annexed it to the dominions of the House of Austria.3 Francis thought that to strike for the young duke, despoiled of his ancestral dominions, would be dealing a blow at Charles V., while he would appear to be doing only a chivalrous act. It would, moreover, vastly please the German princes, and smooth his approaches to them. If his recent doings at Marseilles had rendered him an object of suspicion, his espousal of the quarrel of the Duke of Wurtemberg would be a counter-stroke which would put him all right with the princes. An incident which had just fallen out was in the line of these reasonings, and helped to decide Francis.

The young Duke Christopher had managed to escape from the emperor in a way which we have narrated in its proper place. He remained for some time in hiding, and was believed to be dead; but in November, 1532, he issued a manifesto claiming restoration of his ancestral dominions. The claim was joyfully responded to by the Protestants of Germany, as well as by his own subjects of Wurtemberg. This was the opening which now presented itself to the King of France, ever ready to ride post from Rome to Germany, and back again with even greater speed and heartier good-will from Germany to Rome.

A Diet was assembling at Augsburg, to discuss the question of the restoration of the States of Wurtemberg to their rightful sovereign. The representatives of Ferdinand were to appear before that Diet, to uphold the cause of Austria. Francis I. sent Du Bellay as his ambassador, with instructions quietly, yet decidedly, to throw the influence of France into the opposite scale.4 Du Bellay zealously carried out the instructions of his master. He pleaded the cause of Duke Christopher so powerfully before the Diet, that it decided in favor of his restoration to Wurtemberg. But the ambassadors of Austria stood firm; if Wurtemberg was to be reft from their master, and carried over to the Protestant side, it must be by force of arms. Philip, Landgave of Hesse, met Francis I. at Bar-le-Duc, near the western frontier of Germany, and there arranged the terms for a campaign on behalf of the young Duke Christopher. The landgrave was to supply the soldiers, and the King of France, was to furnish—though secretly, for he did not wish his hand to be seen—the requisite money.5 All three had a different aim, though uniting in a common action. Philip of Hesse hoped to strengthen Protestantism by enlarging its territorial area. Du Bellay hoped to make the coming war the wedge that was to separate Francis from the Pope, and rend the Ultramontane yoke from the neck of his country. Francis was simply pursuing what had been his one policy since the battle of Pavia, the humiliation of Charles V., which he hoped to effect, in this case, by kindling a war between the German princes and the emperor.

There was another party having interest; this party now stepped upon the scene. Luther and Melancthon were the representatives of Protestantism as a religion, as the princes were the representatives of it as a policy. To make war for the Gospel was to them the object of their utmost alarm and abhorrence. They exerted all their rhetoric to dissuade the Protestant princes from drawing the sword. But it was in vain. The war was precipitately entered upon by Philip. A battle was fought. The German Protestants were victorious; the Austrian army was beaten, and Wurtemberg, restored to Duke Christopher, was transferred to the political side of Protestantism.6

The political project of Francis I. had prospered. He had wrested Wurtemberg from Ferdinand, and through the sides of Austria had hurt the pride of his rival Charles V. This success tempted him to try his hand at the second project, the religious one. To mould opinions might not be so easy as to move armies, but the Lutheran fit was upon Francis just now, and he would try. The Reformation which the French king meditated consisted only in a few changes on the surface; these he thought would bring back the Protestants, and heal the broken unity of Rome. He by no means wished to injure the Pope, much less to establish a religion that would necessitate a reform of his own life, or that of his courtiers. The first step was to sound Melancthon, and Bucer, and Hedio, as to the amount of change that would satisfy them. It was significant that Luther was not approached. It was Lutheranism with Luther left out that was now entering into negotiations with Rome. It does not seem to have struck those who were active in setting this affair on foot, that the man who had created the first Lutheranism could create a second, provided the first fell back into the old gulf of Romanism.

Meanwhile, however, the project gave promise of prospering. Du Bellay, in his way back from Augsburg, had an interview with Bucer at Strasburg; and, with true diplomatic tact, hinted to the pacific theologian that really it was not worth his while to labor at uniting the Zwinglians and the Lutherans. Here was something more worthy of him, a reconcilement of Protestantism and Romanism. The moment this great affair was mentioned to Bucer, other unions seemed little in his eyes. Though he should reconcile Luther and Zwingle, the great rent would still remain; but Rome and the Reformation reconciled, all would be healed, and the source closed of innumerable, strifes and wars in Christendom. Bucer, being one of those who have more faith in the potency of persons than of principles, was overjoyed; if so powerful a monarch as Francis and so able a statesman as Du Bellay had put their shoulders to this work, it must needs, he thought, progress.

A special messenger was dispatched to Melancthon (July, 1534) touching this affair. The deputy found the great doctor bowed to the earth under an apprehension of the evils gathering over Christendom. There, first of all, was the division in the Protestant camp; and there, too, was the cloud of war gathering over Europe, and every hour growing bigger and blacker. The project looked to Melancthon like a reprieve to a world doomed to dissolution. The man from whom it came had been in recent and confidential intercourse with the Pope; and who could tell but that Clement VII. was expressing his wishes and hopes through the King of France? Even if it were not so, were there not here the “grand monarchs,” the Kings of France and England, on the side of union? Melancthon took his pen, sat down, and sketched the basis of the one Catholic Church of the future. In this labor he strove to be loyal to his convictions of truth. His plan, in brief, was to leave untouched the hierarchy of Rome, to preserve all her ceremonies of worship, and to reform her errors of doctrine. This, he admitted, was not all that could be wished, but it was a beginning, and more would follow.7 Finishing the paper, he gave it to the messenger, who set off with it to Francis.

On his way to Paris the courier halted at Strasburg, and requested Bucer also to put on paper what he thought ought to form a basis of union between the two Churches. Bucer’s plan agreed in the main with that of Melancthon. The truth was the essential thing; let us restore that at the foundation, and we shall soon see it refashioning the superstructure. So said Bucer. There was another Reformer of name in Strasburg—Hedio, a meek but firm man; him also the messenger of Francis requested to give his master his views in writing. Hedio complied; and with these three documents the messenger resumed his journey to Paris.

On his arrival in the capital the papers were instantly laid before the king. There was no small sensation in Paris; a great event was about to happen.

Protestantism had spoken its last word. Its ultimatum lay on the king’s table. How anxiously was the opening of these important papers, which were to disclose the complexion of the future, waited for! Were Rome and Wittemberg about to join hands? Was a new Church, neither Romanist nor Protestant, but Reformed and eclectic, about to gather once more within its bosom all the peoples of Christendom, hushing angry controversies, and obliterating the lines of contending sects in one happy concord? Or was the division between the two Churches to be henceforward wider than ever, and were the disputes that could not be adjusted in the conference-hall to be carried to the bloody field, and the blazing stake?. Such were the questions that men asked themselves with reference to the three documents which the royal messenger had brought back with him from Germany. In the midst of many fears, hope predominated.

The king summoned a council at the Louvre to discuss the programme of Melancthon and his two fellow-Reformers. Gathered round the council-table in the palace were men of various professions, ranks, and aims. There sat the Archbishop of Paris and other prelates; there sat Du Bellay and a few statesmen; and there, too, sat doctors of the Sorbonne and men of letters. Some sincerely wished a Reformation of religion; others, including the king, made the Reform simply a stalking-horse for the advancement of their own interests.

The papers were opened and read. All around the table, were pleased and offended by turns. The color came into the king’s face when he found the Reformers commencing by stating that “a true faith in Christ” was a main requisite for such a union as was now sought to be attained. But when, farther on, the Pope’s deposing power was thrown overboard, the monarch was appeased. Prominence was given to the “doctrine of the justification of sinners,” nor was the council displeased when this was ascribed not to “good works,” nor the “rites of priests,” but to the “righteousness and blood of Christ;” for had not the schoolmen used similar language? The question of the Sacrament was a crucial one. “There is a real presence of Christ in the Eucharist,” said the Reformers, without defining the nature or manner of that presence; but they added, it is “faith,” not the “priest,” that gives communion with Christ in the Lord’s Supper. The bishops frowned; they saw at a glance that if the opus operatum were denied, their power was undermined, and the “Church” betrayed. On neither side could there be surrender on this point.

The king had looked forward with some uneasiness to the question of the Church’s government. He knew that the Reformers held the doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers;” this, he thought, was fatal to order. But, replied the Reformers, the Gospel-church is a “kingdom of priests,” and in a kingdom there must be officers and laws; the function of priesthood is inherent in all, but the exercise of it appertains only to those chosen and appointed thereto. The king was reassured; but now it was the turn of the Protestants at the council-board to feel alarm; for Melancthon and his fellow-Reformers were willing to go so far on the point of Church government as to retain the hierarchy. True, its personnel was to undergo a transformation. All its members from its head downwards were to become Reformed. The Pope was to be retained, but how greatly changed from his former self! He was to hold the primacy of rank, but not the primacy of power, and after this he would hardly account his tiara worth wearing. Here, said the Protestants, is the weak point of the scheme. A Reformed Pope! that indeed will be something new! When Melancthon put this into his scheme of Reform, said they, he must have left the domain of possibilities and strayed into the region of Utopia.

To these greater reforms a few minor ones were appended. Prayers to the saints were to be abolished, although their festivals were still to be observed; priests were to be allowed to marry, but only celibates would be eligible as bishops; the monasteries were to be converted into schools; the cup was to be restored to the laity; private masses were to be abolished; in confession it was not to be obligatory to enumerate all sins; and, in fine, a conference of pious men, including laymen, was to meet and frame a constitution for the Church, according to the Word of God.8

Chapter 13.17: Plan Of Francis I. For Combining Lutheranism And Romanism

End of Conference – Francis I, takes the Matter into his own Hand – Concocts a New Basis of Union – Sends Copies to Germany, to the Sorbonne and the Vatican – Amazement of the Protestants – Alarm of the Sorbonnists – They send a Deputation to the King – What they Say of Lutheranism – Indignation at the Vatican – These Projects of Union utterly Chimerical – Excuse of the Protestants of the Sixteenth Century – Their Stand-point Different from Ours – Storms that have Shaken the World, but Cleared the Air.

THE conference was now over. The king was not displeased;1 the Protestants were hopeful; but the bishops were cold. At heart they wished to have done with these negotiations; for their instincts surely told them that if this matter went on it could have but one ending, and that was the subversion of their Church. But the king, for the moment, was on the side of the Reform. He would put himself at its head, and guide it to such a goal as would surround his throne with a new glory. He would heal the schism, preserve Catholicism, curb the fanaticism of Luther, punish the hypocrisy of the monks, repress the assumptions of the Pope, and humble the pride of the emperor. To do all this would be to place himself without a rival in Europe. The King of France now took the matter more than ever into his own hands.

Francis now proceeded to sketch out what virtually was a new basis of union for Christendom. He thought, doubtless, that he knew the spirit of the new times, and the influences stirring in the world at large, better than did the theologians of Wittemberg and Strasburg; that a throne was a better point of observation than a closet, and that he could produce something broader and more catholic than Melancthon, which would hit the mark.

Summoning a commission round him,2 he sat down, and making the papers of the three theologians the groundwork, retrenching here, enlarging there, and expunging some articles wholly,3 the king and his councillors produced a new basis of union or fusion, different to some extent from the former.

The king, although not aspiring like Henry of England to the repute of a theologian, was doubtless not a little proud of his handiwork. He sent copies of it to Germany, to the Sorbonne, and even to the Pope,4 requesting these several parties to consider the matter, and report their judgment upon it to the king. To the German theologians it caused no small irritation; they recognized in the king’s paper little but a caricature of their sentiments.5 In the Sorbonne the message of Francis awakened consternation. The doctors saw Lutheranism coming in like a torrent, while the king was holding open the gates of France.6 We can imagine the amazement and indignation which would follow the reading of the king’s paper in the Vatican. Modified, it yet retained the essential ideas of Melancthon’s plan, in that it disowned the saints, denied the opus operatum, and left the Papal tiara shorn of nearly all its authority and grandeur. What a cruel blow would this have been to Clement VII., aggravated, as he would have felt it, by the fact that it was dealt by the same hand which had so lately grasped his in friendship at Marseilles! But before the document reached Rome, Clement had passed from this scene of agitation, and was now resting in the quiet grave. This portentous paper from the eldest son of the Papacy was reserved to greet his successor, Paul III., on his accession to the Papal chair, and to give him betimes a taste of the anxieties and vexations inseparable from a seat which fascinates and dazzles all save the man who occupies it. But we return to the Sorbonnists.

The royal missive had alarmed the doctors beyond measure. They saw France about to commit itself to the same downward road on which England had already entered. This was no time to sit still. They went to the Louvre and held a theological disputation with the king’s ministers. Their position was not improved thereby. If argument had failed them they would try what threats could do. Did not the king know that Lutheranism was the enemy of all law and order? that wherever it came it cast down dignities and powers, and trampled them in the dust? If the altar was overturned, assuredly the throne would not be left standing. They thought that they had found the opening in the king’s armor. But Francis had the good sense to look at great facts as seen in contemporaneous history. Had law and order perished in Germany? nay, did not the Protestants of that country reverence and obey their princes more profoundly than ever? Was anarchy triumphant in England? Francis saw no one warring with kings and undermining their authority save the Pope, who had deposed his Brother of England, and was not unlikely to do the same office for himself one of these days. Sorbonnists saw that neither was this the right tack. Must France then be lost to the Papacy? There did seem at the moment some likelihood of such disaster, as they accounted it, taking place. The year 1534 was drawing to a close, with Francis still holding by his purpose, when an unhappy incident occurred, all unexpectedly, which fatally changed the king’s course, and turned him from the road on which he seemed about to enter. Of that event, with all the tragic consequences that followed it, we shall have occasion afterwards to speak.

As regards this union, or rather fusion, there is no need to express any sorrow over its failure, and to regret that so fair an opportunity of banishing the iron age of controversy and war, and bringing in the golden age of concord and peace, should have been lost. Had this compromise been accomplished, it would certainly have repressed, for a decade or two, the more flagrant of the abuses and scandals and tyrannies of the Papacy, but it would also have stifled, perhaps extinguished, those mighty renovating forces which had begun to act with such marked and beneficial effect. Christendom would have lost infinitely more than all it could have gained: it would have gained a brief respite; it would have lost a real and permanent Reformation. What was the plan projected? The Reformation was to bring its “doctrine,” and Rome was to bring its “hierarchy,” to form the Church of the future. But if the new wine had been poured into the old bottle, would not the bottle have burst? or if the wine were too diluted to rend the bottle, would it not speedily have become as acrid and poisonous as the old wine? “Justification by faith,” set in the old glosses, circumscribed by the old definitions, and manipulated by the old hierarchy, would a second time, and at no distant date, have been transformed into “Justification by works,” and where then would Protestantism have been? But we are not to judge of the men who advocated this scheme by ourselves. They occupied a very different standpoint from ours. We have the lessons of three most eventful centuries, which were necessarily hidden and veiled from them; and the utter contrariety of these two systems, in their originating principles, and in their whole course since their birth, and by consequence the utter utopianism of attempting their reconcilement, could be seen not otherwise than as the progression of events and of centuries furnished the gradual but convincing demonstration of it. Besides, the Council of Trent had not yet met; the hard and fast line of distinction between the two Churches had not then been drawn; in especial, that double-partition-wall of anathemas and stakes, which has since been set up between them, did not then exist; moreover, the circumstances of the Reformers at that early hour of the movement were wholly unprecedented; no wonder that their vision was distracted and their judgment at fault. The two systems were as yet, but slowly drawing away the one from the other, and beginning to stand apart, and neither had as yet taken up that distinct and separate ground, which presents them to us clearly and sharply as systems that in their first principles—in their roots and fibres—are antagonistic, so that the attempt to harmonise them is simply to try to change the nature and essence of things.

Besides, it required a far greater than the ordinary amount of courage to accept the tremendous responsibility of maintaining Protestantism. The bravery that would have sufficed for ten heroes of the ordinary type would scarcely have made, at that hour, one courageous Protestant. It began now to be seen that the movement, if it was to go forward, would entail on all parties—on those who opposed as well as on those who aided it—tremendous sacrifices and sufferings. It was this prospect that dismayed Melancthon. He saw that every hour the spirits of men were becoming more embittered; that the kingdoms were falling apart; that the cruel sword was about to sited the blood of man; in short, that the world was coming to an end. In truth, the old world was, and Melancthon, his eye dimmed for the moment by the “smoke and vapor” of that which was perishing, could not clearly see the new world that was rising to take its place. To save the world, Melancthon would have put the Reformation into what would have been its grave. Had Melancthon had his choice, he would have pronounced for the calm—the mephitic stillness in which Christendom was rotting, rather than the hurricane with its noise and overturnings. Happily for us who live in this age, the great scholar had not the matter in his choice. It was the tempest that came: but if it shook the world by its thunders, and swept it by its hurricanes, it has left behind it a purer air, a clearer sky, and a fresher earth.

Chapter 13.18: First Disciples Of The Gospel In Paris

Calvin now the Center of the Movement – Shall he enter Priest’s Orders? – Hazard of a Wrong Choice – He walks by Faith – Visits Noyon – Renounces all his Preferments in the Romish Church – Sells his Patrimonial Inheritance – Goes to Paris – Meets Servetus – His Opinions – Challenges Calvin to a Controversy – Servetus does not Keep his Challenge – State of things at Paris – Beda – More Ferocious than ever – The Times Uncertain – Disciples in Paris – Bartholemew Millon – His Deformity – Conversion – Zeal for the Gospel – Du Bourg, the Draper – Valeton, of Nantes – Le Compte – Giulio Camillo – Poille, the Bricklayer – Other Disciples – Pantheists – Calvin’s Forecastings – Calvin quits Paris and goes to Strasburg.

WE return to Calvin, now and henceforward the true center of the Reformation. Wherever he is, whether in the library of Du Tillet, conversing with the mighty dead, and forging, not improbably, the bolts he was to hurl against Rome in future years, or in the limestone cave on the banks of the rivulet of the Clain; dispensing the Lord’s Supper to the first Protestants of Poictiers, as its Divine Founder had, fifteen centuries before, dispensed it to the first disciples of Christianity, there it is that the light of the new day is breaking.

Calvin had come to another most eventful epoch of his life. The future Reformer again stood at “the parting of the ways.” A wrong decision at this moment would have wrecked all his future prospects, and changed the whole history of the Reformation.

We left Calvin setting out from Poictiers in the end of April, 1534, attended by the young Canon Du Tillet, whose soul cleaved to the Reformer, and who did not discover till two years afterwards, when he began to come in sight of the stake, that something stronger than even the most devoted love to Calvin was necessary to enable him to cleave to the Gospel which Calvin preached. Calvin would be twenty-five on the 10th of July. This is the age at which, according to the canons, one who has passed his novitiate in the Church must take the first orders of priesthood. Calvin had not yet done so, he had not formally broken with Rome, but now he must take up his position decidedly within or decidedly without the Church. At an early age the initiatory mark of servitude to the Pope had been impressed upon his person. His head had been shorn. The custom, which is a very ancient one, is borrowed from the temples of paganism. The priests of Isis and Serapis, Jerome informs us, officiated in their sanctuaries with shorn crowns, as do the priests of Rome at this day. Calvin must now renew his vow and consummate the obedience to which he was viewed as having pledged himself was performed upon himself when the rite of tonsure was performed upon him. He must now throw off the fetter entirely, or be bound yet more tightly, and become the servant of the Pope, most probably for ever.

His heart had left the Church of Rome, and any subjection he might now promise could be feigned only, not real. Yet there were not wanting friends who counselled him to remain in outward communion with Rome. Is it not, we can imagine these counsellors saying to the young cure, is it not the Reformation of the Church which is your grand aim? Well, here is the way to compass it. Dissemble the change within; remain in outward conformity with the Church; push on from dignity to dignity, from a curacy to a mitre, from a mitre to the purple, and from the purple to the tiara; what post is it to which your genius may not aspire? and once seated in the Papal chair, who or what can hinder you from reforming the Church?

The reasoning was specious, and thousands in Calvin’s circumstances have listened to similar persuasion, and have been undone. So doubtless reasoned Caraffa, who, as a simple priest, was a frequenter of the evangelical re-unions in Chaija at Naples, but who, when he became Paul IV., restored the Inquisition, and kindled, alas! numerous stakes at Rome. Those who, listening to such counsel, have adopted this policy, have either never attained the dignities for which they stifled the convictions of duty, or they found that with loftier position had come stronger entanglements, that honors and gold were even greater hindrances than obscurity and poverty, and that if they had now the power they had not the heart to set on foot the Reformation they once burned to accomplish.

Calvin, eschewing the path of expediency, and walking by faith, found the right road. He refused to touch the gold or wear the honors of the Church whose creed he no longer believed. “Not one, but a hundred benefices would I give up,” he said, “rather than make myself the Pope’s vassal.”1 Even the hope of one day becoming generalissimo of the Pope’s army, and carrying over his whole force to the camp of the enemy in the day of battle, could not tempt him to remain in the Papal ranks. He arrived in Noyon in the beginning of May. On May 4th, 1534, in presence of the officials, ecclesiastical and legal, he resigned his Chaplaincy of La Gesine, and his Cursoy of Pont l’Eveque, and thus he severed the last link that bound him to the Papacy, and by the sale of his paternal inheritance at the same time,2 he broke the last tie to his birth-place.

Calvin, “his bonds loosened,” was now more the servant of Christ than ever. In the sale of his patrimony he had “forgotten his father’s house,” and he was ready to go anywhere—to the stake should his Master order him. He longed to plant the standard of the cross in the capital of a great country, and hard by the gates of a university which for centuries had been a fountain of knowledge. Accordingly, he turned his steps to Paris, where he was about to make a brief but memorable stay, and then leave it nevermore to return.

It was during this visit to Paris that Calvin met, for the first time, a man whom he was destined to meet a second time, of which second meeting we shall have something to say afterwards. The person who now crossed Calvin’s path was Servetus. Michael Servetus was a Spaniard, of the same age exactly as Calvin,3 endowed with a penetrating intellect, highly imaginative genius, and a strongly speculative turn of mind. Soaring above both Romanism and Protestantism, he aimed at substituting a system of his own creation, the corner-stone of which was simple Theism. He aimed his stroke at the very heart of Christianity, the doctrine of the Trinity.4

Confident in his system, and not less in his ability, he had for some years been leading the life of a knight-errant, having wandered into Switzerland, and some parts of Germany, in quest of opposers with whom he might do battle.5 Having heard of the young doctor of Noyon, he came to Paris, and threw down the gage to him.6 Calvin felt that should he decline the challenge of Servetus, the act would be interpreted into a confession that Protestantism rejected the doctrine of the Trinity, and so was corrupt at the core. It concerned the Reformers to show that Protestantism was not a thing that tore up Christianity by the roots under pretense of removing the abuses that had grown up around it. This consideration weighed with Calvin in accepting, as he now did, Servetus’ challenge. The day, the hour, the place—a house in the suburb of St. Antoine—were all agreed upon.

Calvin was punctual to the engagement; but Servetus—why, was never known—did not appear.7 “We shall not forget,” says Bungener, “when the time comes, the position into which the Spanish theologian had just thrutst the leaders of the Reformation, and Calvin in particular. By selecting him for his adversary on the question of the Trinity, upon which no variance existed between Romanism and the Reformation, he, in a measure, constituted him the guardian of that doctrine, and rendered him responsible for it before all Christendom. It was this responsibility which nineteen years afterwards kindled the pile of Servetus.”8

Let us mark the state of Paris at the time of Calvin’s visit. We have already had a glimpse into the interior of the palace, and seen what was going on there. Francis I. was trying to act two parts at once, to be “the eldest son of the Church,” and the armed knight of the Reformation. He had gone in person to Marseilles to fetch the Pope’s niece to the Louvre, he had sent William du Bellay to negotiate with the German Protestants; not that he cared for the doctrines, but that he needed the arms of the Lutherans. And, as if the King of France had really loved the Gospel, there was now a conference sitting in the Louvre concocting a scheme of Reform. Councils not a few had labored to effect a Reformation of the Church in its head and members; but not one of them had succeeded. It will indeed be strange, we can hear men saying, if what Pisa, and Constance, and Basle failed to give to the world, should at last proceed from the Louvre. There were persons who really thought that this would happen. But Reformations are not things that have their birth in royal cabinets, or emerge upon the world kern princely gates. It is in closets where, on bended knee, the page of Scripture is searched with tears and groans for the way of life, that these move. ments have their commencement. From the court let us turn to the people.

We have already narrated the sudden turn of the tide in Paris in the end of 1533. During the king’s absence at Marseilles the fiery Beda was recalled from exile. His banishment had but inflamed his wrath against the Protestants, and he set to work more vigorously than ever to effect their suppression, and purge Paris from their defilement. The preachers were forbidden the pulpits, and some three hundred Lutherans were thrown into the Conciergerie. Not content with these violent proceedings, the Parliament, in the beginning of 1534, at the instigation of Beda, passed a law announcing death by burning against those who should be convicted of holding the new opinions on the testimony of two witnesses.9 It was hard to say on whom this penalty might fall. It might drag to the stake Margaret’s chaplain, Roussel; it might strike down the learned men in the university—the lights of France—whom the king had assembled round him from other lands. But what mattered it if Lutheranism was extinguished? Beda was clamoring for a holocaust. Nevertheless, despite all this violence the evangelisation was not stopped. The disciples held meetings in their own houses, and by-and-by when the king returned, and it was found that he had thrown off the Romish fit with the air of Marseilles, the Protestants became bolder, and invited their neighbors and acquaintances to their reunions. Such was the state in which Calvin found matters when he returned to Paris, most probably in the beginning of June, 1534. There was for the moment a calm. Protestant conferences were proceeding at the Louvre; Beda could not provide a victim for the stake, and the Sorbonne was compelled meanwhile to be tolerant. The times, however, were very uncertain; the sky at any moment might become overcast, and grow black with tempest.

Calvin, on entering Paris, turned into the Rue St. Denis, and presented himself at the door of a worthy tradesman, La Forge by name, who was equally marked by his sterling sense and his genuine piety. This was not the first time that Calvin had lived under this roof, and now a warm welcome waited his return. But his host, well knowing what was uppermost in his heart, cautioned him against any open attempt at evangelising. All, indeed, was quiet for the moment, but the enemies of the Gospel were not asleep; there were keen eyes watching the disciples, and if left unmolested it was only on the condition that they kept silence and remained in the background. To Calvin silence was agony, but he must respect the condition, however hard he felt it, for any infraction of it would be tantamount to setting up his own stake. Opportunities of usefulness, however, were not wanting. He exhorted those who assembled at the house of La Forge, and he visited in their own dwellings the persons named to him as the friends of the Gospel in Paris.

The evangelist showed much zeal and diligence in the work of visitation. It was not the mansions of the rich to which he was led; nor was it men of rank and title to whom he was introduced; he met those whose hands were roughened and whose brows were furrowed by hard labor; for it was now as at the beginning of Christianity, “not many mighty, not many noble are called, but God hath chosen the poor of this world.” It is all the better that it is so, for Churches like States must be based upon the people. Not far from the sign of the “Pelican,” at which La Forge lived, in the same Rue St. Denis, is a shoe-maker’s shop, which let us enter. A miserable-looking hunchback greets our eyes. The dwarfed, deformed, paralysed figure excites our compassion. His hands and tongue remain to him; his other limbs are withered, and their power gone. The name of this poor creature is Bartholomew Millon. Bartholomew had not always been the pitiably misshapen object we now behold him. He was formerly one of the most handsome men in all Paris, and with the gifts of person he possessed also those of the mind.10 But he had led a youth of boisterous dissipation. No gratification which his senses craved did he deny himself. Gay in disposition and impetuous in temper, he was the ring-leader of his companions, and was at all times equally ready to deal a blow with his powerful arm, or let fly a sarcasm with his sharp tongue.

But a beneficent Hand, in the guise of disaster, arrested Bartholomew in the midst of his mad career. Falling one day, he broke his ribs, and neglecting the needful remedies, his body shrunk into itself, and shrivelled up. The stately form was now bent, the legs became paralysed, and on the face of the cripple grim peevishness took the place of manly beauty. He could no longer mingle in the holiday spirit or the street brawl. He sat enchained, day after day, in his shop, presenting to all who visited it the rueful spectacle of a poor deformed paralytic. His powers of mind, however, had escaped the blight which fell upon his body. His wit was as sharp as ever, and it may be a little sharper, misfortune having soured his temper. The Protestants were especially the butt of his ridicule. One day, a Lutheran happening to pass before his shop, the bile of Millon was excited, and he forthwith let fly at him a volley of insults and scoffs. Turning round to see whence the abuse proceeded, the eye of the passer- by lighted on the pitiful object who had assailed him. Touched with compassion, he went up to him and said, “Poor man, don’t you see that God has bent your body in this way in order to straighten your soul?”11 and giving him a New Testament, he bade him read it, and tell him at an after-day what he thought of it.

The words of the stranger touched the heart of the paralytic: Millon opened the book, and began to read. Arrested by its beauty and majesty, “he continued at it,” says Crespin, “night and day.” He now saw that his soul was even more deformed than his body. But the Bible had revealed to him a great Physician, and, believing in his power to heal, the man whose limbs were withered, but whose heart was now smitten, cast himself down before that gracious One. The Savior had pity upon him. His soul was “straightened.” The malignity and spite which had blackened and deformed it were cast out. “The wolf had become a lamb.”12 He turned his shop into a conventicle, and was never weary of commending to others that Savior who had pardoned sins so great and healed diseases so inveterate as his.

The gibe and the scoff were forgotten; only words of loving-kindness and instruction now fell from him. Still chained to his seat he gathered round him the young, and taught them to read. He exerted his skill in art to minister to the poor; and his powers of persuasion he employed day after day to the reclaiming of those whom his former example had corrupted, and the edification of such as he had scoffed at aforetime. He had a fine voice, and many came from all parts of Paris to hear him sing Marot’s Psalms. “In short,” says Crespin, “his room was a true school of piety, day and night, re-echoing with the glory of the Lord.”

Let us visit another of these disciples, so humble in station, yet so grand in character. Such men are the foundation-stones of a kingdom’s greatness. We have not far to go. At the entrance of the same Rue was a large shop in which John du Bourg carried on, under the sign of the “Black Horse,”13 the trade of a draper. Du Bourg, who was a man of substance, was very independent in his opinions, and liked to examine and judge of all things for himself. He had imbibed the Reformed sentiments, although he had not associated much with the Protestants. He had gone, as his habit of mind was, directly to the Scriptures, and drawn thence his knowledge of the truth. That water was all the sweeter to him, that he had drunk it fresh from the fountain. He did not hoard his treasure. He was a merchant, but not one of all his wares did it so delight him to vend as this. “This fire,” said his relations, “will soon go out like a blaze of tow.” They were mistaken. The priests scowled, his customers fell off, but, says the old chronicler, “neither money nor kindred could ever turn him aside from the truth.”14

It consoled Du Bourg to see others, who had drunk at the same spring, drawing around him. His shop was frequently visited by Peter Valeton, a receiver of Nantes.15 Valeton came often to Paris, the two chief attractions being the pleasure of conversing with Du Bourg, and the chance of picking up some writing or other of the Reformers. He might be seen in the quarter of the booksellers, searching their collections; and, having found what he wanted, he would eagerly buy it, carry it home under his cloak, and locking the door of his apartment, he would begin eagerly to read. His literary wares were deposited at the bottom of a large chest, the key of which he carried always on his person.16 He was timid as yet, but he became more courageous afterwards.

Another member of this little Protestant band was Le Compte, a disciple as well as fellow-townsman of the doctor of Etaples, Lefevre. He had a knowledge of Hebrew, and to his power of reading the Scriptures in the original, he added a talent for exposition, which made him in no small measure useful in building up the little Church. The membership of that Church was farther diversified by the presence of a dark-visaged man, of considerable fame, but around whom there seemed ever to hover an air of mystery. This was Giulio Camillo, a native of Italy, whoin Francis I. had invited to Paris. The Italian made trial of all knowledge, and he had dipped, amongst other studies, into the cabalistic science; and hence, it may be, the look of mystery which he wore, and which struck awe into those who approached him. Hearing of the new opinions, on his arrival in France, he must needs know what they were. He joined himself to the Protestants, and professed to love their doctrine; but it is to be feared that he was drawn to the Gospel as to any other new thing, for when the time came when it was nccessary to bear stronger testimony to it than by words, Camillo was not found amongst its confessors.

Humbler in rank than any of the foregoing was Henry Poille, also a member of the infant Church of Paris. Poille was a bricklayer, from the neighborhood of Meaux. Around him there hung no veil, for he had not meddled with the dark sciences; it was enough, he accounted it, to know the Gospel. He could not bring to it what lie did not possess, riches and renown; but he brought it something that recommended it even more, an undivided heart, and a steadfast courage; and when the day of trial came, and others fled with their learning and their titles, and left the Gospel to shift for itself, Poille stood firmly by it. He had learned the truth from Briconnet; but, following a Greater as his Captain, when the bishop went back, the bricklayer went forward, though he saw before him in the near distance the lurid gleam of the stake.

Besides these humble men the Gospel had made not a few converts in the ranks above them. Even in the Parliament there were senators who had embraced at heart that very Lutheranism against which that body had now recorded the punishment of death; but the fear of an irate priesthood restrained them from the open confession of it. Nay, even of the priests and monks there were some who had been won by the Gospel, and who loved the Savior. Professors in the university, teachers in the schools, lawyers, merchants, tradesmen—in short, men of every rank, and of all professions—swelled the number of those who had abjured the faith of Rome and ranged themselves, more or less openly, on the side of the Reformation. But the most part now gathered round the Protestant standard were from the humbler classes. Their contemporaries knew them not, at least till they saw them at the stake, and learned, with some little wonder and surprise, what heroic though misguided men, as they thought them, had been living amongst them unknown; and, as regards ourselves, we should never have heard their names, or learned aught of their history, but for the light which the Gospel sheds upon them. It was that alone which brought these humble men into view, and made them the heirs of an immortality of fame even on earth; for so long as the Church shall exist, and her martyr-records continue to be read, their names, and the services they did, will be mentioned with honor.

Living at the house of La Forge, such were the men with whom Calvin came into almost daily contact. But not these only: others of a different stamp, whose inspiration and sentiments were drawn from another source than the Scriptures, did the future Reformer occasionally meet at the table of his host. The avowal of pantheistic and atheistic doctrines would, at times, drop from the mouths of these suspicious-looking strangers, and startle Calvin not a little. It seemed strange that the still dawn of the evangelic day should be deformed by these lurid flashes; yet so it was.17

The sure forecast of Calvin divined the storms with which the future of Christendom was pregnant, unless the Gospel should anticipate and prevent their outburst. We have already said that from the days of Abelard the seeds of communistic pantheism had begun to be scattered in Europe, and more especially in France. Dining the cold and darkness of the centuries that followed Abelard’s time, these seeds had lain silently in the frozen soil, but now the warm spring-time of the sixteenth century was bringing them above the surface. The tares were springing up as well as the wheat. The quick eye of Calvin detected, at that early stage, the difference between the two growths, and the different fruits that posterity would gather from them. He heard men who had stolen to La Forge’s table under color of being favorers of the new age, avow it as their belief that all things were God—themselves, the universe, all was God—and he heard them on that dismal ground claim an equally dismal immunity from all accountability for their actions, however wicked.18 From that time Calvin set himself to resist these frightful doctrines, not less energetically than the errors of Rome. He felt that there was no salvation for Christendom save by the Gospel; and he toiled yet more earnestly to erect this great and only breakwater. If, unhappily, others would not permit him, and if as a consequence the deluge has broken in, and some countries have been partially overflowed, and others wholly so, it is not Calvin who is to blame.

In the meantime Calvin quitted Paris, probably in the end of July, 1534. It is possible that he felt the air thick with impending tempest. But it was not fear that made him depart; his spirit was weighed down, for almost every door of labor was closed meanwhile; he could not evangelise, save at the risk of a stake, and yet he had no leisure to read and meditate from the numbers of persons who were desirous to see and converse with him. He resolved to leave France and go to Germany, where he hoped to find “some shady nook,”19 in which he might enjoy the quiet denied him in the capital of his native land. Setting out on horseback, accompanied by Du Tillet, the two travelers reached Strasburg in safety. His departure was of God; for hardly was he gone when the sky of France was overcast, and tempest came. Had Calvin been in Paris when the storm burst, he would most certainly have been numbered among its victims. But it was not the will of God that his career should end at this time and in this fashion.

Humbler men were taken who could not, even had their lives been spared, have effected great things for the Reformation. Calvin, who was to spread the light over the earth, was left. He served the cause of the Gospel by living, they by dying.

Chapter 13.19: The Night Of The Placards

Inconstancy of Francis – Two Parties in the young French Church: the Temporisers and the Scripturalists – The Policy advocated by each – Their Differences submitted to Farel – The Judgment of the Swiss Pastors – The Placard – Terrific Denunciation of the Mass – Return of the Messenger – Shall the Placards be Published? – Two Opinions – Majority for Publication – The Kingdom Placarded in One Night – The Morning – Surprise and Horror – Placard on the Door of the Royal Bed-chamber – Wrath of the King.

WE stand now on the threshold of an era of martyrdoms. Francis I. had not hitherto been able to come to a decision on the important question of religion. This hour he turned to the Reformation in the hope that, should he put himself at its head, it would raise him to the supremacy of Europe; the next he turned away in disgust, offended by the holiness of the Gospel, or alarmed at the independence of the Reform. But an incident was about to take place, destined to put an end to the royal vacillation.

There were two parties in the young Church of France; the one was styled the Temporisers, the other the Scripturalists. Both parties were sincerely devoted to the Scriptural Reform of their native land, but in seeking to promote that great end the one party was more disposed to fix its eyes on men in power, and follow as they might lead, than the other thought it either dutiful or safe. The monarch, said the first party, is growing every day more favorable to the Reformation; he is at no pains to conceal the contempt he entertains, on the one hand, for the monks, and the favor he bears, on the other, to men of letters and progress. Is not his minister, Du Bellay, negotiating a league with the Protestants of Germany, and have not these negotiations already borne fruit in the restoration of Duke Christopher to his dominions, and in an accession of political strength to the Reform? Besides, what do we see in the Louvre? Councils assembling under the presidency of the king to discuss the question of the union of Christendom. Let us leave this great affair in hands so well able to guide it to a prosperous issue. We shall but spoil all by obtruding our counsel, or obstinately insisting on having our own way.

The other party in the young Protestant Church were but little disposed to shape their policy by the wishes and maxims of the court. They did not believe that a monarch so dissolute in his manners, and so inconstant in his humors, would labor sincerely and steadfastly for a Reform of religion. To embrace the Pope this hour and the German Protestants the next, to consign a Romanist to the Conciergerie to-day and burn a Lutheran to-morrow, was no proof of impartiality, but of levity and passion. They built no hopes on the conferences at the Louvre. The attempt to unite the Reformation and the Pope could end only in the destruction of the Gospel.

The years were gliding away; the Reformation of France tarried; they would wait no longer on man. A policy bolder in tone, and more thoroughly based on principle, alone could lead, they thought, to the overthrow of the Papacy in France.

Divided among themselves, it was natural that the Protestants should turn their eyes outside of France for counsel that would unite them. Among the Reformers easily accessible, there was no name that carried with it more authority than that of Farel. He was a Frenchman; he understood, it was to be supposed, the situation better than any other, and he could not but feel the deepest interest in a work which he himself, along with Lefevre, had commenced. To Farel they resolved to submit the question that divided them.

They found a humble Christian, Feret by name, willing to be their messenger.1 He departed, and arriving in Switzerland, now the scene of Farel’s labors, he found himself in a new world. In all the towns and villages the altars were being demolished, the idols cast down, and the Reformed worship was in course of being set up. How different the air, the messenger could not but remark, within the summits of the Jura, from that within the walls of Paris. It required no great forecast to tell what the answer of the Swiss Reformers would be. They assembled, heard the messenger, and gave their voices that the Protestants of France should halt no longer; that they should boldly advance; and that they should notify their forward movement by a vigorous blow at that which was the citadel of the Papal Empire of bondage—the root of that evil tree that overshadowed Christendom—the mass.

But the bolt had to be forged in Switzerland. It was to take the form of a tract or placard denunciatory of that institution which it was proposed by this one terrible blow to lay in the dust. But who shall write it? Farel has been commonly credited with the authorship; and the trenchant eloquence and burning scorn which breathe in the placard, Farel alone, it has been supposed, could have communicated to it.2 It was no logical thesis, no dogmatic refutation; it was a torrent of scathing fire; a thunderburst, terrific and grand, resembling one of those tempests that gather in awful darkness on the summits of those mountains amid which the document was written, and finally explode in flashes which irradiate the whole heavens, and in volleys of sound which shake the plains over which the awful reverberations are rolled.

The paper was headed, “True Articles on the horrible, great, and intolerable Abuses of the Popish Mass; invented in direct opposition to the Holy Supper of our Lord and only Mediator and Savior Jesus Christ.” It begins by taking “heaven and earth to witness against the mass, because the world is and will be by it totally desolated, ruined, lost, and undone, seeing that in it our Lord is outrageously blasphemed, and the people blinded and led astray.” After citing the testimony of Scripture, the belief of the Fathers, and the evidence of the senses against the dogma, the author goes on to assail with merciless and, judged by modern taste, coarse sarcasm the ceremonies which accompany its celebration.

“What mean all these games?” he asks; “you play around your god of dough, toying with him like a cat with a mouse. You break him into three pieces… and then you put on a piteous look, as if you were very sorrowful; you beat your breasts… you call him the Lamb of God, and pray to him for peace. St. John showed Jesus Christ ever present, ever living, living all in one—an adorable truth! but you show your wafer divided into pieces, and then you eat it, calling for something to drink.”

The writer asks “these cope-wearers” where they find “this big word TRANSUBSTANTION?” Certainly, he says, not in the Bible. The inspired writers “called the bread and wine, bread and wine.” “St. Paul does not say, Eat the body of Jesus Christ; but, Eat this bread.” “Yes, kindle your faggots,” but let it be for the true profaners of the body of Christ, for those who place it in a bit of dough, “the food it may be of spiders or of mice.” And what, the writer asks, has the fruit of the mass been? “By it:” he answers, “the preaching of the Gospel is prevented. The time is occupied with bell-ringing, howling, chanting, empty ceremonies, candles, incense, disguises, and all manner of conjuration. And the poor world, looked upon as a lamb or as a sheep, is miserably deceived, cajoled, led astray—what do I say?—bitten, gnawed, and devoured as if by ravening wolves.”

The author winds up with a torrent of invective directed against Popes, cardinals, bishops, and monks, thus: “Truth is wanting to them, truth terrifies them, and by truth will their reign be destroyed for ever.”

Written in Switzerland, where every sight and sound—the snowy peak, the gushing torrent, the majestic lake—speak of liberty and inspire courageous thoughts, and with the crash of the falling altars of an idolatrous faith in the ears of the writer, these words did not seem too bold, nor the denunciations too fierce. But the author who wrote, and the other pastors who approved, did not sufficiently consider that this terrible manifesto was not to be published in Switzerland, but in France, where a powerful court and a haughty priesthood were united to combat the Reformation. It might have been foreseen that a publication breathing a defiance so fierce, and a hatred so mortal, could have but one of two results: it would carry the convictions of men by storm, and make the nation abhor and renounce the abomination it painted in colors so frightful, and stigmatized in words so burning, or if it failed in this—and the likelihood was that it would fail—it must needs evoke such a tempest of wrath as would go near to sweep the Protestant Church from the soil of France altogether.

The document was printed in two forms, with a view to its being universally circulated. There were placards to be posted up on the walls of towns, and on the posts along the highway, and there were small slips to be scattered in the streets. This light was not to be put under a bushel; it was to flash the same day all over France. The bales of printed matter were ready, and Feret now set out on his return. As he held his quiet way through the lovely mountains of the Jura, which look down with an air so tranquil on the fertile plains of Burgundy, no one could have suspected what a tempest traveled with him. He seemed the dove of peace, not the petrel of storm. He arrived in Paris without question from any one.

Immediately on his arrival the members of the little Church were convened; the paper was opened and read; but the assembly was divided. There were Christians present who were not lacking in courage—nay, were ready to go to the stake—but who, nevertheless, shrunk from the responsibility of publishing a fulmination like this. France was not Switzerland, and what might be listened to with acquiescence beyond the Jura, might, when read at the foot of the throne of Francis I., bring on such a convulsion as would shake the nation, and bury the Reformed Church in its own ruins. Gentler words, they thought, would go deeper.

But the majority were not of this mind. They were impatient of delay. France was lagging behind Germany, Switzerland, and other countries. Moreover, they feared the councils now proceeding at the Louvre. They had as their object, they knew, to unite the Pope and the Reformation, and they were in haste to launch this bolt, “forged on Farel’s anvil,” before so unhallowed a union should be consummated. In this assembly now met to deliberate about the placard were Du Bourg and Millon, and most of the disciples whom we have mentioned in our former chapter. These gave their voices that the paper should be published, and in this resolution the majority concurred.

The next step was to make arrangements to secure, if possible, that this manifesto should meet the eye of every man in France. The kingdom was divided into districts, and persons were told off who were to undertake the hazardous work of posting up, each in the quarter assigned him, this placard—the blast, it was hoped, before which the walls of the Papal Jericho in France would fall. A night was selected; for clearly the work could be done only under cover of the darkness, and equally clear was it that it must be done in one and the same night all over France. The night fixed on was that of the 24th October, 1534.3

The eventful night came. Before the morning should break, this trumpet must be blown all over France. As soon as the dusk had deepened into something like darkness the distributors sallied forth; and gliding noiselessly from street to street, and from lane to lane, they posted up the terrible placards. They displayed them on the walls of the Louvre, at the gates of the Sorbonne, and on the doors of the churches. What was being done in Paris was at the same instant being transacted in all the chief towns—nay, even in the rural parts and highways of the kingdom. France had suddenly become like the roll of the prophet. An invisible finger had, from side to side, covered it with a terrible writing—with prophetic denunciations of woe and ruin unless it repented in sackcloth and turned from the mass.

When morning broke, men awoke in city and village, and came forth at the doors of their houses to see this mysterious placard staring them in the face. Little groups began to gather round each paper. These groups speedily swelled into crowds, comprising every class, lay and cleric. A few read with approbation, the most with amazement, some with horror. The paper appeared to them an outpouring of blasphemous sentiment, and they trembled lest it should draw down upon the people of France some sudden and terrible stroke. Others were transported with rage, seeing in it an open defiance to the Church, and an expression of measureless contempt at all that was held sacred by the nation. Frightful rumors began to circulate among the masses. The Lutherans, it was said, had concocted a terrible conspiracy, they were going to set fire to the churches, and burn and massacre every one.4 The priests, though professing of course horror at the placards, were in reality not greatly displeased at what had occurred. For some time they had been waiting for a pretext to deal a blow at the Protestant cause, and now a weapon such as they wished for had been put into their hands.

The king at the time was living at the Castle of Amboise. At an early hour Montmorency and the Cardinal de Tournon knocked at his closet door to tell him of the dreadful event of the night. As they were about to enter their eye caught sight of a paper posted up on the door of the royal cabinet. It was the placard put there by some indiscreet Protestant, or, as is more generally supposed, by some hostile hand. Montmorency and Tournon tore it down, and carried it in to the king.5 The king grasped the paper. Its heading, and the audacity shown in posting it on the door of his private apartment, so agitated Francis that he was unable to read it. He handed it again to his courtiers, who read it to him. He stood pallid and speechless a little while; but at length his wrath found vent in terrible words: “Let all be seized, and let Lutheranism be totally exterminated!”6

Chapter 13.20: Martyrs And Exiles

Plan of Morin. – The Betrayer – Procession of Corpus Christi – Terror of Paris – Imprisonment of the Protestants – Atrocious Designs attributed to them – Nemesis – Sentence of the Disciples – Execution of Bartholomew Millon – Burning of Du Bourg – Death of Poille – His Tortures – General Terror – Flight of Numbers – Refugees of Rank – Queen of Navarre – Her Preachers – All Ranks Flee – What France might have been, had she retained these Men – Prodigious Folly.

NOW it was that the storm burst. The king wrote summoning the Parliament to meet, and execute strict justice: in the affair, he further commanded his lieutenant-criminal, Jean Morin, to use expedition in discovering and bringing to justice all in any way suspected of having been concerned in the business.1 Morin, a man of profligate life, audacious, a thorough hater of the Protestants, and skilfill in laying traps to catch them, needed not the increase of pay which the king promised him to stimulate his zeal. A few moments thought and he saw how the thing was to be done. He knew the man whose office it was to convene the Protestants when a reunion was to be held, and he had this man, who was a sheath-maker by trade, instantly apprehended and brought before him. The lieutenant-criminal told the poor sheath-maker he was perfectly aware that he knew every Lutheran in Paris, and that he must make ready and conduct him to their doors. The man shrunk from the baseness demanded of him. Morin coolly bade an attendant prepare a scaffold, and turning to his prisoner gave him his choice of being burned alive, or of pointing out to him the abodes of his brethren. Terrified by the horrible threat, which was about to be put in instant execution, the poor man became the betrayer.2 The lieutenant-criminal now hoped at one throw of his net to enclose all the Lutherans in Paris.

Under pretense of doing expiation for the affront which had been put upon the “Holy Sacrament,” Morin arranged a procession of the Corpus Christi.3 The houses in the line of the procession were draped in black, and with slow and solemn pace friar and priest passed along bearing the Host, followed by a crowd of incense-bearers and hymning choristers. The excitement thus awakened favored the plans of the lieutenant-criminal. He glided through the streets, attended by his serjeants and officers. The traitor walked before him. When he came opposite the door of any of his former brethren the sheath-maker stopped and, without saying a word, made a sign. The officers entered the house, and the family were dragged forth and led away manacled. Alas, what a cruel as well as infamous task had this man imposed upon himself! Had he been walking to the scaffold, his joy would have grown at every step. As it was, every new door he stopped at, and every fresh victim that swelled the procession which he headed, bowed lower his head in shame, and augmented that pallor of the face which told of the deep remorse preying at his heart.

Onwards went the procession, visiting all the quarters of Paris, the crowd of onlookers continually increasing, as did also the mournful train of victims which Morin and the traitor, as they passed along, gathered up for the stake. The tidings that the lieutenant-criminal was abroad spread over the city like wild-fire. “Morin made all the city quake.”4 This was the first day of the “Reign of Terror.” Anguish of spirit preceded the march of Morin and his agents; for no one could tell at whose door he might stop. Men of letters trembled as well as the Protestants. If fear marched before Morin, lamentation and cries of woe echoed in his rear.

The disciples we have already spoken of—Du Bourg, the merchant; Bartholomew Millon, the paralytic; Valeton, who was ever inquiring after the writings of the Reformers; Poille, the bricklayer—and others of higher rank, among whom were Roussel and Courault and Berthaud, the Queen of Navarre’s preachers, were all taken in the net of the lieutenant-criminal, and drafted off to prison. Morin made no distinction among those suspected: his rage fell equally on those who had opposed and on those who had favored the posting up of the placards. Persons of both sexes, and of various nationalities, were indeed among the multitude now lodged in prison, to be, as the lieutenant-criminal designed, at no distant day produced on the scaffold, a holocaust to the offended manes of Rome. 359
The Parliament. the Sorbonne, and the priests were resolved to turn the crisis to the utmost advantage. They must put an end to the king’s communings with German and English heretics; they must stamp out Lutheranism in Paris; a rare chance had the untoward zeal of the converts thrown into their power for doing so. They must take care that the king’s anger did not cool; they must not be sparing in the matter of stakes; every scaffold would be a holy altar, every victim a grateful sacrifice, to purify a land doubly polluted by the blasphemous placard. Above all, they must maintain the popular indignation at a white heat. The most alarming rumors began to circulate through Paris. To the Lutherans were attributed the most atrocious designs. They had conspired, it was said, to fire all the public buildings, and massacre all the Catholics. They were accused of seeking to compass the death of the king, the overthrow of the monarchy, and the destruction of society itself. They meant to leave France a desert. So it was whispered, and these terrible rumors were greedily listened to, and the mob shouted, “Death, death to the heretics!”5

With reference to these charges that were now industriously circulated against the Protestants of Paris, there was not a Lutheran who ever meditated such wickedness as this. Not a fragment of proof of such designs has ever been produced. Well; three hundred years pass away, and Protestantism is all but suppressed in France. What happens? Is the nation tranquil, and the throne stable? On the contrary, from out the darkness there stands up a terrible society, which boldly avows it as its mission to inflict on France those same atrocious designs which the disciples of the Gospel had been falsely accused of entertaining. The bugbear of that day, conjured up by hypocrisy and bigotry, has become the menace of ours. We have seen the throne overturned, the blood of nobles and priests shed like water, the public monuments sinking in ashes, the incendiary’s torch and the assassin’s sword carrying terror from end to end of France, and society saved only by the assertion of the soberer sense of the people.

The several stages of the awful drama we are narrating followed each other in quick succession. On the 10th November, just a fortnight after their apprehension, were Millon, Du Bourg, Poille, and the rest brought forth and presented before their judges. For them there could be no other sentence than death, and that death could come in no other form than the terrible one of burning. Nor had they long to wait. Three short days and then the executions began! The scaffolds were distributed over all the quarters of Paris, and the burnings followed on successive days, the design being to spread the terror of heresy by spreading the executions. The advantage however, in the end, remained with the Gospel. All Paris was enabled to see what kind of men the new opinions could produce. There is no pulpit like the martyr’s pile. The serene joy that lighted up the faces of these men as they passed along, in their wretched tumbril, to the place of execution, their heroism as they stood amid the bitter flames, their meek forgiveness of injuries, transformed, in instances not a few, anger into pity, and hate into love, and pleaded with resistless eloquence in behalf of the Gospel.

Of this little band, the first to tread the road from the prison to the stake, and from the stake to the crown, was Bartholomew Millon. The persecutor, in selecting the poor paralytic for the first victim, hoped perhaps to throw an air of derision over the martyrs and their cause. It was as if he had said, Here is a specimen of the miserable creatures who are disturbing the nation by their new opinions: men as deformed in body as in mind. But he had miscalculated. The dwarfed and distorted form of Millon but brought out in bold relief his magnanimity of soul, The turnkey, when he entered his cell, lifted him up in his arms and placed him in the tumbril. On his way to the place of execution he passed his father’s door. He bade adieu with a smile to his earthly abode, as one who felt himself standing at the threshold of his heavenly home. A slow fire awaited him at the Greve, and the officer in command bade the fire be lowered still more, but he bore the lingering tortures of this mode of death with a courage so admirable that the Gospel had no reason to be ashamed of its martyr. None but words of peace dropped from his lips. Even the enemies who stood around his pile could not withhold their admiration of his constancy.6

The following day the wealthy tradesman Du Bourg was brought forth to undergo the same dreadful death. He was known to be a man of decision; and his persecutors set themselves all the more to contrive how they might shake his steadfastness by multiplying the humiliations and tortures to which they doomed him before permitting him to taste of death and depart. The tumbril that bore him was stopped at Notre Dame, and there he was made a gazing-stock to the multitude, as he stood in front of the cathedral, with taper in hand, and a rope round his neck. He was next taken to the Rue St. Denis, in which his own house was situated, and there his hand was cut off—the hand which had been busy on that night of bold but imprudent enterprise. He was finally taken to the Halles and burned alive. Du Bourg in death as in life was still the man of courage; he shrunk from neither the shame nor the suffering, but was “steadfast unto the end.”7

Three days passed; it was now the 18th November, and on this day Poille, the bricklayer, was to die. His stake was set up in the Faubourg St. Antoine, in front of the Church of St. Catherine; for it was the inhabitants of this quarter of Paris who were next to be taught to what a dreadful end heresy brings men, and yet with what a glorious hope and unconquerable courage it has the power to inspire them. Poille had learned the Gospel from Bishop Briconnet, but while the master had scandalised it by his weakness, the disciple was to glorify it by his steadfastness. He wore an air of triumph as he alighted from his cart at the place of execution. Cruel, very cruel was his treatment at the stake. “My Lord Jesus Christ,” he said, “reigns in heaven, and I am ready to fight for him to the last drop of my blood.” “This confession of truth at the moment of punishment,” says D’Aubigne, quoting Crespin’s description of the martyr’s last moments, “exasperated the executioners. ‘Wait a bit,’ they said, ‘we will stop your prating.’ They sprang upon him, opened his mouth, caught hold of his tongue, and bored a hole through it; they then, with refined cruelty, made a slit in his cheek, through which they drew the tongue, and fastened it with an iron pin. Some cries were heard from the crowd at this most horrible spectacle; they proceeded from the humble Christians who had come to help the poor bricklayer with their compassionate looks, Poille spoke no more, but his eye still announced the peace; he enjoyed. He was burnt alive.”8

For some time each succeeding day had its victim. Of these sufferers there were some whose only crime was that they had printed and sold Luther’s writings; it was not clear that they had embraced his sentiments; their persecutors deemed them well deserving of the stake for simply having had a hand in circulating them. This indiscriminate vengeance, which dragged to a common pile the Protestants and all on whom the mere suspicion of Protestantism had fallen, spread a general terror in Paris.

Those who had been seen at the Protestant sermons, those who had indulged in a jest at the expense of the monks, but especially those who, in heart, although not confessing it with the mouth, had abandoned Rome and turned to the Gospel, felt as if the eye of the lieutenant-criminal was upon them, and that, at any moment, his step might be heard on their threshold.

Paris was no longer .a place for them; every day and every hour they tarried there, it was at the peril of being burned alive. Accordingly, they rose up and fled. It was bitter to leave home and country and all the delights of life, and go forth into exile, but it was less bitter than to surrender their hope of an endless life in the better country; for at no less a cost could they escape a stake in France.

A few days made numerous blanks in the society of Paris. Each blank represented a convert to the Gospel. When men began to look around them and count these gaps, they were amazed to think how many of those among whom they had been living, and with whom they had come into daily contact, were Lutherans, but wholly unknown in that character till this affair brought them to light. Merchants vanished suddenly from their places of business; tradesmen disappeared from their workshops; clerks were missing from the countinghouse; students assembled at the usual hour, but the professor’s chair was empty; their teacher, not waiting to bid his pupils adieu, had gone forth, and was hastening towards some more friendly land.

The bands of fugitives now hurrying by various routes, and in various disguises, to the frontiers of the kingdom, embraced all ranks and all occupations. The Lords of Roygnac and Roberval, of Fleuri, in Briere, were among those who were now fleeing their country and the wrath of their sovereign. Men in government offices, and others high at court and near the person of the king, made the first disclosure, by a hasty flight, that they had embraced the Gospel, and that they preferred it to place and emolument. Among these last was the privy purse-bearer of the king. Every hour brought a new surprise to both the friends and the foes of the Gospel. The latter hated it yet more than ever as a mysterious thing, possessing some extraordinary power over the minds of men. They saw with a sort of terror the numbers it had already captivated, and they had uneasy misgivings as to whereunto this affair would grow.

Margaret wept, but the fear in which she stood of her brother made her conceal her tears. Her three preachers—Roussel, Berthaud, and Courault—had been thrown into prison. Should she make supplication for them? Her enemies, she knew, were laboring to inflame the king against her, and bring her to the block. The Constable Montmorency, says Brantome, told the king that he “must begin at his court and his nearest relations,” pointing at the Queen of Navarre, “if he had a mind to extirpate the heretics out of his kingdom.”9 Any indiscretion or over-zeal, therefore, might prove fatal to her. Nevertheless, she resolved on braving the king’s wrath, if haply she might rescue her friends from the stake. Bigotry had not quite quenched Francis’s love for his sister; the lives of her preachers were given her at her request; but, with the exception of one of the three, their services to the Protestant cause ended with the day on which they were let out of prison. Roussel retired to his abbey at Clairac; Berthand resumed his frock and his beads, and died in the cloister; Courault contrived to make his escape, and turning his steps toward Switzerland, he reached Basle, became minister at Orbe, and finally was a fellow-laborer with Calvin at Geneva.

Meanwhile another, and yet another, rose up and fled, till the band of self-confessed and self-expatriated disciples of the Gospel swelled to be between 400 and 500. Goldsmiths, engravers, notably printers and bookbinders, men of all crafts, lawyers, teachers of youth, and even monks and priests were crowding the roads and by-ways of France, fleeing from the persecutor. Some went to Strasburg; some to Basle; and a few placed the Alps between them and their native land. Among these fugitives there is one who deserves special mention—Mathurin Cordier, the venerable schoolmaster, who was the first to detect, and who so largely helped to develop, the wonderful genius of Calvin. Million and Du Bourg and Poille we have seen also depart; but their flight was by another road than that which these fugitives were now treading in weariness and hunger and fear. They had gone whither the persecutor could not follow them.

The men who were now fleeing from France were the first to tread a path which was to be trodden again and again by hundreds of thousands of their countrymen in years to come. During the following two centuries and a half these scenes were renewed at short intervals. Scarcely was there a generation of Frenchmen during that long period that did not witness the disciples of the Gospel fleeing before the insane fury of the persecutor, and carrying with them the intelligence, the arts, the industry, the order, in which, as a rule, they pre-eminently excelled, to enrich the lands in which they found an asylum. And in proportion as they replenished other countries with these good gifts did they empty their own of them. If all that was now driven away had been retained in France; if, during these 300 years, the industrial skill of the exiles had been cultivating her soil; if, during these 300 years, their artistic bent had been improving her manufactures; if, during these 300 years, their creative genius and analytic power had been enriching her literature and cultivating her science; if their wisdom had been guiding her councils, their bravery fighting her battles, their equity framing her laws, and the religion of the Bible strengthening the intellect and governing the conscience of her people, what a glory would at this day have encompassed France! What a great, prosperous, and happy country—a pattern to the nations—would she have been! But a blind and inexorable bigotry chased from her soil every teacher of virtue, every champion of order, every honest defender of the throne; it said to the men who would have made their country a “renown and glory” in the earth, Choose which you will have, a stake or exile? At last the ruin of the State was complete; there remained no more conscience to be proscribed; no more religion to be dragged to the stake; no more patriotism to be chased into banishment; revolution now entered the morally devastated land, bringing in its train scaffolds and massacres, and once more crowding the roads, and flooding the frontiers of France with herds of miserable exiles; only there was a change of victims.

Chapter 13.21: Other And More Dreadful Martyrdoms

A Great Purgation Resolved on – Preparations – Procession – The Four Mendicants – Relics: the Head of St. Louis; the True Cross, etc. – Living Dignitaries – The Host – The King on Foot – His Penitence – Of what Sins does he Repent? – The Queen – Ambassadors, Nobles, etc. – Homage of the Citizens – High Mass in Notre Dame – Speech of the King – The Oath of the King – Return of Procession – Apparatus of Torture – Martyrdom of Nicholas Valeton – More Scaffolds and Victims – The King and People’s Satisfaction – An Ominous Day in the Calendar of France – The 21st of January.

AS yet we have seen only the beginning of the tragedy; its more awful scenes are to follow. Numerous stakes had already been planted in Paris, but these did not slake the vengeance of the persecutor; more victims must be immolated if expiation was to be done for the affront offered to Heaven in the matter of the placards, and more blood shed if the land was to be cleansed from the frightful pollution it had undergone. Such was the talk which the priests held in presence of the king.1 They reminded him that this was a crisis in France, that he was the eldest son of the Church, that this title it became him to preserve unsullied, and transmit with honor to his posterity, and they urged him to proceed with all due rigour in the performance of those bloody rites by which his throne and kingdom were to be purged. Francis I was but too willing to obey. A grand procession, which was to be graced by bloody interludes, was arranged, and the day on which it was to come off was the 21st of January, 1535. The horrors which will make this day famous to all time were not the doings of the king alone; they were not less the acts of the nation which by its constituted representatives countenanced the ceremonial and put its hand to its cruel and sanguinary work.

The day fixed on arrived. Great crowds from the country began to pour into Paris. In the city great preparations had been made for the spectacle. The houses along the line of march were hung with mourning drapery, and altars rose at intervals where the Host might repose as it was being borne along to its final resting-place on the high altar of Notre Dame. A throng of sight-seers filled the streets. Not only was every inch of the pavement occupied by human beings, but every door-step had its little group, every window its cluster of faces; even the roofs were black with on-lookers, perched on the beams or hanging on by the chimneys. “There was not,” says Simon Fontaine, a chronicler of that day, and a doctor of the Sorbonne, “the smallest piece of wood or stone, jutting out of the walls, on which a spectator was not perched, provided there was but room enough, and one might have fancied the streets were paved with human heads.”2 Though it was day, a lighted taper was stuck in the front of every house “to do reverence to the blessed Sacrament and the holy relics.”3

At the early hour of six the procession marshalled at the Louvre. First came the banners and crosses of the several parishes; next appeared the citizens, walking two and two, and bearing torches in their hands. The four Mendicant orders followed; the Dominican in his white woollen gown and black cloak; the Franciscan in his gown of coarse brown cloth, half-shod feet, and truncated cowl covering his shorn head; the Capuchin in his funnel-shaped cowl, and patched brown cloak, girded with a white three-knotted rope; and the Augustine with a little round hat on his shaven head, and wide black gown girded on the loins with a broad sash. After the monks walked the priests and canons of the city.

The next part of the procession evoked, in no ordinary degree, the interest and the awe of the spectators. On no former occasion had so many relics been paraded on the streets of Paris.4 In the van of the procession was carried the head of St. Louis, the patron saint of France. There followed a bit of the true cross, the real crown of thorns, one of the nails, the swaddling clothes in which Christ lay, the purple robe in which he was attired, the towel with which he girded himself at the last supper, and the spear-head that pierced his side. Many saints of former times had sent each a bit of himself to grace the procession, and nourish the devotion of the on-lookers—some an arm, some a tooth, some a finger, and others one of the many heads which, as it would seem, each had worn in his lifetime. This goodly array of saintly relics was closed by the shrine of Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, borne by the corporation of butchers, who had prepared themselves for this holy work by the purification of a three days’ fast.5

After the dead members of the Church, whose relics were enshrined in silver and gold, came a crowd of living dignitaries, in their robes and the insignia of their ecclesiastical rank. Cardinal and abbot, archbishop and bishop were there, in the glory of scarlet hat and purple gown, of cope and mitre and crozier. Now came the heart of this grand show, the Host; and in it the spectators saw One mightier than any dead saint or living dignitary in all that great procession. The Host was carried by the Bishop of Paris under a magnificent canopy, the four pillars of which were supported by four princes of the blood—the three sons of the king, and the Duke of Vend’me.

After the Host walked the king. The severe plainness of his dress was in marked and studied contrast to the magnificence of the robes in which the ecclesiastics that preceded and the civic functionaries that followed him were arrayed. Francis I. on that day wore no crown, nor robe of state, nor was he borne along in chariot or litter. He appeared walking on foot, his head uncovered, his eyes cast on the ground, and in his hand a lighted taper.6 The king was there in the character of a penitent. He was the chief mourner in that great national act of humiliation and repentance. He mourned with head bowed and eyes cast down, but with heart unbroken.

For what did Francis I., monarch of France, do penance? For the debaucheries that defiled his palace? for the righteous blood that stained the streets of his capital? for the violated oaths by which he had attempted to overreach those who trusted him at home, and those who were transacting with him abroad? No; these were venial offenses; they were not worth a thought on the part of the monarch. The King of France did penance for the all but inexpiable crime of his Protestant subjects in daring to attack the mass, and publish in the face of all France their Protest against its blasphemy and idolatry.

The end of the procession was not yet; it still swept on; at slow pace, and in mournful silence, save when some penitential chant rose upon the air. Behind the king walked the queen; she was followed by all the members of the court, by the ambassadors of foreign sovereigns, by the nobles of the realm, by the members of Parliament in their scarlet robes, by judges, officers, and the guilds of the various trades, each with the symbol of penitence in his hand, a lighted candle. The military guard could with difficulty keep open the way for the procession through the dense crowd, which pressed forward to touch some holy relic or kiss some image of saint. They lined the whole route taken by the processionists, and did homage on bended knee to the Host as it passed them.7

The long procession rolled in at the gates of Notre Dame. The Host, which had been carried thither with so much solemnity, was placed on the high altar; and a solemn mass proceeded in the presence of perhaps a more brilliant assemblage than had ever before been gathered into even the great national temple of France. When the ceremony was concluded the king returned to the bishop’s palace, where he dined. After dinner he adjourned with the whole assembly to the great hall, where he ascended a throne which had been fitted up for the occasion. It was understood that the king was to pronounce an oration, and the assembly kept silence, eager to hear what so august a speaker, on so great an occasion, would say.

The king presented himself to his subjects with a sorrowful countenance; nor is it necessary to suppose that that sorrow was feigned. The affair of the placards threatened to embroil him with both friend and foe; it had crossed his political projects; and we can believe, moreover, that it had shocked his feelings and beliefs as a Roman Catholic; for there is little ground to think that Francis had begun to love the Gospel, and the looks of sadness in which he showed himself to his subjects were not wholly counterfeited.

The speech which Francis I. delivered on this occasion—and several reports of it have come down to us—was touching and eloquent. He dwelt on the many favors Providence had conferred on France; her enemies had felt the weight of her sword; her friends had had good cause to rejoice in her alliance; even when punished for her faults great mercy had been mingled with the chastisement; above all, what an honor that France should have been enabled to persevere these long centuries in the path of the Holy Catholic faith, and had so nobly worn her glorious title the “Most Christian.” But now, continued the king, she that has been preserved hitherto from straying so little, seems on the point of a fatal plunge into heresy; her soil has begun to produce monsters; “God has been attacked in the Holy Sacrament,” France has been dishonored in the eyes of other nations, and the cloud of the Divine displeasure is darkening over her. “Oh, the crime, the blasphemy, the day of sorrow and disgrace! Oh, that it had never dawned upon us!”

These moving words drew tears from nearly all present, says the chronicler who reports the scene, and who was probably an eye-witness of it.8 Sobs and sighs burst from the assembly. After a pause the king resumed: “What a disgrace it will be if we do not extirpate these wicked creatures! If you know any person infected by this perverse sect, be he your parent, brother, cousin, or connection, give information against him. By concealing his misdeeds you will be partakers of that pestilent faction.” The assembly, says the chronicle, gave numerous signs of assent.

“I give thanks to God,” he resumed, “that the greatest, the most learned, and undoubtedly the majority of my subjects, and especially in this good city of Paris, are full of zeal for the Catholic religion.” Then, says the chronicle, you might have seen the faces of the spectators change in appearance, and give signs of joy; acclamations prevented the sighs, and sighs choked the acclamations. “I warn you,” continued the king, “that I will have the said errors expelled and driven from my kingdom, and will excuse no one.” Then he exclaimed, says our historian, with extreme anger, “As true, Messieurs, as I am your king, if I knew one of my own limbs spotted or infected with this detestable rottenness, I would give it you to cut off.… And farther, if I saw one of my children defiled by it, I would not spare him… I would deliver him up myself, and would sacrifice, him to God.”9

The king was so agitated that he was unable to proceed; he burst into tears. The assembly wept with him. The Bishop of Paris and the provost of the merchants now approached the monarch, and kneeling before him swore, the first in the name of the clergy, and the second in that of the citizens, to make war against heresy. “Thereupon all the spectators exclaimed, with voices broken by sobbing, ‘We will live and die for the Catholic religion!’”10

Having sworn this oath in Notre Dame—the roof under which, nearly three centuries after, the Goddess of Reason sat enthroned—the assembly reformed and set forth to begin the war that very hour. Their zeal for the “faith” was inflamed to the utmost; but they were all the better prepared to witness the dreadful sights that awaited them. A terrible programme had been sketched out; horrors were to mark every step of the way back to the Louvre, but Francis and his courtiers were to gaze with pitiless eye and heart on these horrors.

The procession in returning made a circuit by the Church of Genevieve, where now stands the Pantheon. At short distances scaffolds had been erected on which certain Protestant Christians were to be burned alive, and it was arranged that the faggots should be lighted at the moment the king approached, and that the procession should halt to witness the execution.

The men set apart to death were first to undergo prolonged and excruciating tortures, and for this end a most ingenious but cruel apparatus had been devised, which let us describe. First rose an upright beam, firmly planted in the ground; to that another beam was attached crosswise, and worked by a pulley and string. The martyr was fastened to one end of the movable beam by his hands, which were tied behind his back, and then he was raised in the air. He was next let down into the slow fire underneath. After a minute or two’s broiling he was raised again, and a second time let drop into the fire; and thus was he raised and lowered till the ropes that fastened him to the pole were consumed, and he fell amid the burning coals, where he lay till he gave up the ghost.11 “The custom in France,” says Sleidan,12 describing these cruel tragedies; “is to put malefactors to death in the afternoon; where first silence is cried, and then the crimes for which they suffer are repeated aloud. But when any one is executed for Lutheranism, as they call it—that is, if any person hath disputed for justification by faith, not by works, that the saints are not to be invocated, that Christ is the only Priest and Intercessor for mankind; or if a man has happened to eat flesh upon forbidden days; not a syllable of all this is published, but in general they cry that he hath renounced God Almighty… and violated the decrees of our common mother, Holy Church. This aggravating way makes the vulgar believe such persons the most profligate wretches under the cope of heaven; insomuch that when they are broiling in the flame, it is usual for the people to storm at them, cursing them in the height of their torments, as if they were not worthy to tread upon the earth.”

The first to be brought forth was Nicholas Valeton, the Christian whom we have already mentioned as frequently to be seen searching the innermost recesses and nooks of the booksellers’ shops in quest of the writings of the Reformers. The priests offered him a pardon provided he would recant. “My faith,” he replied, “has a confidence in God, which will resist all the powers of hell.”13 He was dealt with as we have already described; tied to the beam, he was alternately raised in the air and lowered into the flames, till the cords giving way, there came an end to his agonies.

Other two martyrs were brought forward, and three times, was this cruel sport enacted, the king and all the members of the procession standing by the while, and feasting their eyes on the torments of the sufferers. The King of France, like the Roman tyrant, wished that his victims should feel themselves die.

This was on the road between the Church of Genevieve and the Louvre. The scene of this tragedy, therefore, could not be very far from the spot where, somewhat more than 250 years after, the scaffold was set up for Louis XVI., and 2,800 other victims of the Revolution. The spectacles of the day were not yet closed. On the line of march the lieutenant-criminal had prepared other scaffolds, where the cruel apparatus of death stood waiting its prey; and before the procession reached the Louvre, there were more halts, more victims, more expiations; and when Francis I. re-entered his palace and reviewed his day’s work, he was well pleased to think that he had made propitiation for the affront offered to God in the Sacrament, and that the cloud of vengeance which had lowered above his throne and his kingdom was rolled away. The priests declared that the triumph of the Church in France was now for ever secured; and if any there were among the spectators whom these cruel deaths had touched with pity, by neither word nor sign dared they avow it. The populace of the capital were overjoyed; they had tasted of blood and were not soon to forego their relish for it,14 nor to care much in after-times at whose expense they gratified it.

As there are events so like to one another in their outward guise that they seem to be the same repeated, so there are days that appear to return over again, inasmuch as they come laden with the same good or evil fortune to which they had as it were been consecrated. Every nation has such days.

The 21st of January is a noted and ominous day in the calendar of France. Twice has that day summoned up spectacles of horror; twice has it seen deeds enacted which have made France and the world shudder; and twice has it inaugurated an era of woes and tragedies which stand without a parallel in history. The first 21st of January is that whose tragic scenes we have just described, and which opened an era that ran on till the close of the eighteenth century, during which the disciples of the Gospel in France were pining in dungeons and in the galleys, were enduring captivity and famine, were expiring amid the flames or dying on the field of battle.

The second notable 21st of January came round in 1793. This day had, too, its procession through the streets of Paris; again the king was the chief figure; again there were tumult and shouting; again there was heard the cry for more victims; again there were black scaffolds; and again the scenes of the day were closed by horrid executions; Louis XVI., struggling hand to hand with his jailers and executioners was dragged forward to the block, and there held down by main force till the axe had fallen, and his dissevered head rolled on the scaffold.

Have we not witnessed a third dismal 21st of January in France? It is the winter of 1870-71. Four months has Paris suffered siege; the famine is sore in the city; the food of man has disappeared from her luxurious tables; her inhabitants ravenously devour unclean and abominable things—the vermin of the sewers, the putrid carcasses of the streets. Within the city, the inhabitants are pining away with cold and hunger and disease; without, the sword of a victorious foe awaits them. Paris will rouse herself, and break through the circle of fire and steel that hems her in. The attempt is made, but fails. Her soldiers are driven back before the victorious German, and again are cooped up within her miserable walls. On the 21st of January, 1871, it was resolved to capitulate to the conqueror.15

Chapter 13.22: Basle And The “Institutes.”

Glory of the Sufferers – Francis I. again turns to the German Protestants – They Shrink back – His Doublings – New Persecuting Edicts – Departure of the Queen of Navarre from Paris – New Day to Bearn – Calvin – Strasburg – Calvin arrives there – Bucer, Capito, etc. – Calvin Dislikes their Narrowness – Goes on to Basle – Basle – Its Situation and Environs – Soothing Effect on Calvin’s Mind – His Interview with Erasmus – Erasmus “Lays the Egg” – Terrified at what Comes of it – Draws back – Calvin’s Enthusiasm – Erasmus’ Prophecy – Catherine Klein – First Sketch of the Institutes–What led Calvin to undertake the Work – Its Sublimity, but Onerousness.

WE described in our last chapter the explosion that followed the publication of the manifesto against the mass. In one and the same night it was placarded over great part of France, and when the morning broke, and men came forth and read it, there were consternation and anger throughout the kingdom. It proclaimed only the truth, but it was truth before its time in France. It was a bolt flung at the mass and its believers, which might silence and crush them, but if it failed to do this it would rouse them into fury, and provoke a terrible retaliation. It did the latter. The throne and the whole kingdom had been polluted; the Holy Sacrament blasphemed; the land was in danger of being smitten with terrible woes, and so a public atonement was decreed for the public offense which had been offered. Not otherwise, it pleased the king, his prelates, and his nobles to think, could France escape the wrath of the Most High.

The terrible rites of the day of expiation we have already chronicled. Was the God that France worshipped some inexorable and remorseless deity, seeing she propitiated him with human sacrifices? The tapers carried that day by the penitents who swept in long procession through the streets of the capital, blended their lights with the lurid glare of the fires in which the Lutherans were burned; and the loud chant of priest and chorister rose amid no cries and sobs from the victims. These noble men, who were now dragged to the burning pile, uttered no cry; they shed no tear; that were a weakness that would, have stained the glory of their sacrifice. They stood with majestic mien at the stake, and looked with calmness on the tortures their enemies had prepared for them, nor did they blanch when the flames blazed up around them. The sacrifice of old, when led to the altar, was crowned with garlands. So it was with these martyrs. They came to the altar to offer up their lives crowned with the garlands of joy and praise. Their faith, their courage, their reliance on God when suffering in His cause, their vivid anticipations of future glory, were the white robes in which they dressed themselves when they ascended the altar to die. France, let us hope, will not always be ignorant of her true heroes. These have shed around her a renown purer and brighter, a hundred times, than all the glory she has earned on the battle-field from the days of Francis I. to those of the last Napoleon.

Hardly had Francis I. concluded his penitential procession when he again turned to the Protestant princes of Germany, and attempted to resume negotiations with them. They not unnaturally asked of him an explanation of his recent proceedings. Why so anxious to court the favor of the Protestants of Germany when he was burning the Protestants of France?

Were there two true faiths in the world, the creed of Rome on the west of the Rhine, and the religion of Wittenberg on the east of that river? But the king was ready with his excuse, and his excuse was that of almost all persecutors of every age. The king had not been burning Lutherans, but executing traitors. If those he had put to death had imbibed Reformed sentiments, it was not for their religion, but for their sedition that they had been punished. Such was the excuse which Francis gave to the German princes in his letter of the 15th of February. “To stop this plague of disloyalty from spreading, he punished its originators severely, as his ancestors had also done in like cases.”1 He even attempted to induce Melanchthon to take up his abode in Paris, where he would have received him with honor, and burned him a few months afterwards. But these untruths and doublings availed Francis little. Luther had no faith in princes, least of all had he faith in Francis I. Melanchthon, anxious as he was to promote conciliation, yet refused to enter a city on the streets of which the ashes of the fires in which the disciples of Christ had been burned were not yet cold. And the Protestant princes, though desirous of strengthening their political defences, nevertheless shrank back from a hand which they saw was red with the blood of their brethren. The situation in France began to be materially altered. The king’s disposition had undergone a change for the worse; a gloomy determination to crush heresy had taken possession of him, and was clouding his better qualities.

The men of letters who had shed a lustre upon his court and realm were beginning to withdraw. They were terrified by the stakes which they saw around them, not knowing but that their turn might come next. The monks were again looking up, which augured no good for the interests of learning.

Not content with the executions of the terrible 21st of January, the king continued to issue edicts against the sect of “Lutherans still swarming in the realm;” he wrote to the provincial parliaments, exhorting them to furnish money and prisons for the extirpation2 of heresy; lastly, he indited an ordinance declaring printing abolished all over France, under pain of the gallows.3 That so barbarous a decree should have come from a prince who gloried in being the leader of the literary movements of his age, would not have been credible had it not been narrated by historians of name. It is one among a hundred proofs that literary culture is no security against the spirit of persecution.

Of those who now withdrew from Paris was Margaret of Valois, the king’s sister. We have seen the hopes that she long and ardently cherished that her brother would be won to the Reformation; but now that Francis I. had cast the die, and sealed his choice by the awful deeds of blood we have narrated, Margaret, abandoning all hope, quitted Paris, where even the palace could hardly protect her from the stake, and retired to her own kingdom of Bearn. Her departure, and that of the exiles who had preceded her, if it was the beginning of that social and industrial decadence which ever since has gone on, amid many deceitful appearances, in France, was the dawn of a new day to Bearn. Her court became the asylum of the persecuted. Many refugee families transported their industry and their fortune to her provinces, and the prosperity which had taken a long adieu of France, began to enrich her little kingdom. Soon a new face appeared upon the state of the Bearnais. The laws were reformed, schools were opened, many branches of industry were imported and very successfully cultivated, and, in short, the foundations were now laid of that remarkable prosperity which made the little kingdom in the Pyrenees resemble an oasis amid the desert which France and Spain were now beginning to become. When Margaret went to her grave, in 1549, she left a greater to succeed her in the government of the little territory which had so rapidly risen from rudeness to wealth and civilisation. Her daughter, Jeanne d’Albret, is one of the most illustrious women in history.

We return to Calvin, in the track of whose footsteps it is that the great movement, set for the rising of one kingdom and the fall of another, is to be sought. He now begins to be by very much the chief figure of his age. Francis I. with his court, Charles V. with his armies, are powers more imposing but less real than Calvin. They pass across the stage with a great noise, but half-a-century afterwards, when we come to examine the traces they have left behind them, it is with difficulty that we can discover them; other kings and other armies are busy effacing them, and imprinting their own in their room. It is Calvin’s work that endures and goes forward with the ages. We have seen him, a little before the bursting of the storm, leave Paris, nevermore to enter its gates.

Setting out in the direction of Germany, and travelling on horseback, he arrived in due course at Strasburg. Its name, “the City of the Highways,” sufficiently indicates its position, and the part it was expected to play in the then system of Europe. Strongly fortified, it stood like a mailed warrior at the point where the great roads of Northern Europe intersected one another. It was the capital of Alsace, which was an independent territory, thrown in as it were, in the interests of peace, between Eastern and Western Europe, and therefore its fortifications were on purpose of prodigious strength. As kings were rushing at one another, now pushing eastward from France into Germany, and now rushing across the Rhine from Germany into France, eager to give battle and redden the earth with blood, this man in armor—the City of the Highways, namely—who stood right in their path compelled them to halt, until their anger should somewhat subside, and peace might be maintained.

A yet more friendly office did Strasburg discharge to the persecuted children of the Reformation. Being a free city, it offered asylum to the exiles from surrounding countries. Its magistrates were liberal; its citizens intelligent; its college was already famous; the strong walls and firm gates that would have resisted the tempests of war had yielded to the Gospel, and the Reformation had found entrance into Strasburg at an early period. Bucer, Capito, and Hedio, whom we have already met with, were living here at the time of Calvin’s visit, and the pleasure of seeing them, and conversing with them, had no small share in inducing the Reformer to turn his steps in the direction of this city.

In one respect he was not disappointed. He much relished the piety and the learning of these men, and they in turn were much impressed with the seriousness and greatness of character of their young visitor. But in another respect he was disappointed in them. Their views of Divine truth lacked depth and comprehensiveness, and their scheme of Reformation was, in the same proportion, narrow and defective. The path which they loved, a middle way between Wittenberg and Rome, was a path which Calvin did not, or would not, understand. To him there were only two faiths, a true and a false, and to him there could be but two paths, and the attempt to make a third between the two was, in his judgment, to keep open the road back to Rome. All the greater minds of the Reformation were with Calvin on this point. Those only who stood in the second class among the Reformers gave way to the dream of reconciling Rome and the Gospel: a circumstance which we must attribute not to the greater charity of the latter, but to their incapacity to comprehend either the system of Rome or the system of the Gospel in all the amplitude that belongs to each.

Calvin grew weary of hearing, day after day, plans propounded which, at the best, could have but patched and soldered a hopelessly rotten system, but would have accomplished no Reformation, and so, after a sojourn of a few months, he took his departure from Strasburg, and began his search for the “quiet nook”4 where he might give himself to the study of what he felt must, under the Spirit, be his great instructor the Bible. The impression was growing upon him, and his experience at Strasburg had deepened that impression, that it was not from others that he was to learn the Divine plan; he must himself search it out in the Holy Oracles; he must go aside with God, like Moses on the mount, and there he would be shown the fashion of that temple which he was to build in Christendom.

Following the course of the Rhine, Calvin went on to Basle. Basle is the gate of Switzerland as one comes from Germany, and being a frontier town, situated upon one of the then great highways of Europe, it enjoyed a large measure of prosperity. The Huguenot traveler, Misson, who visited it somewhat more than a century after the time of which we speak, says of it: “The largest, fairest, richest city now reckoned to be in Switzerland.”5 Its situation is pleasant, and may even in some respects be styled romantic. Its chief feature is the Rhine, even here within sight, if one may so speak, of the mountains where it was born: a broad, majestic river, sweeping past the town with rapid flow,6 or rather dividing it into two unequal parts, the Little Basle lying on the side towards Germany, and joined to the Great Basle by a long wooden bridge, now changed into one of stone. Crowning the western bank of the Rhine, in the form of a half-moon, are the buildings of the city, conspicuous among which are the fine towers of the Minster. Looking from the esplanade of the Cathedral one’s eye lights on the waters of the river, on the fresh and beautiful valleys through which it rolls; on the gentle hills of the Black Forest beyond, sprinkled with dark pines, and agreeably relieved by the sunny glades on which their shadows fall; while a short walk to the south of the town brings the tops of the Jura upon the horizon, telling the traveler that he has reached the threshold of a region of mountainous grandeur. “They have a custom which is become a law,” says the traveler to whom we have referred above, speaking of Basle, “and which is singular and very commendable; ’tis that whoever passes through Basle, and declares himself to be poor, they give him victuals—I think, for two or three days; and some other relief, if he speaks Latin.” 7

Much as the scene presents itself to the tourist of to-day, would it appear to Calvin more than three centuries ago. There was the stream rolling its “milk-white” floods to the sea, nor was he ignorant of the fact that it had borne on its current the ashes of Huss and Jerome, to bury them grandly in the ocean. There was the long wooden bridge that spans the Rhine, with the crescent-like line of buildings drawn along the brow of the opposite bank. There were the Minster towers, beneath whose shadow Oecolampadius, already dismissed from labor, was resting in the sleep of the tomb.8 There were the emerald valleys, enclosing the town with a carpet of the softest green; there were the sunny glades, and the tall dark pines on the eastern hills; and in the south were the azure tops of the Jura peering over the landscape. A scene like this, so finely blending quietude and sublimity, must have had a soothing influence on a mind like Calvin’s; it must have appeared to him the very retreat he had so long sought for, and fain would he be to turn aside for awhile here and rest. Much troubled was the world around; the passions of men were raising frightful tempests in it; armies and battles and stakes made it by no means a pleasant dwelling-place; but these quiet valleys and those distant peaks spoke of peace, and so the exile, weary of foot, and yet more weary of heart—for his brethren were being led as sheep to the slaughter—very unobtrusively but very thankfully entered within those gates to which Providence had led him, and where he was to compose a work which still keeps its place at the head of the Reformation literature—the Institutes.

On his way from Strasburg to Basle, Calvin had an interview with a very remarkable man. The person whom he now met had rendered to the Gospel no small service in the first days of the Reformation, and he might have rendered it ten times more had his courage been equal to his genius, and his piety as profound as his scholarship. We refer to Erasmus, the great scholar of the sixteenth century. He was at this time living at Freiburg, in Brisgau—the progress, or as Erasmus deemed it, the excesses of the Reformed faith having frightened him into leaving Basle, where he had passed so many years, keeping court like a prince, and receiving all the statesmen and scholars who chanced to visit that city. Erasmus’ great service to the Reformation was his publication of the New Testament in the year 1516.9 The fountain sealed all through the Dark Ages was anew opened, and the impulse even to the cause of pure Christianity thereby was greater than we at this day can well imagine. This was the service of Erasmus. “He laid the egg,” it has been said, “of the Reformation.”

The great scholar, in his early and better days, had seen with unfeigned joy the light of letters breaking over Europe. He hated the monks with his whole soul, and lashed their ignorance and vice with the unsparing rigor of his satire; but now he was almost seventy, he had hardly more than another year to live,10 and the timidity of age was creeping over him. He had never been remarkable for courage; he always took care not to come within wind of a stake, but now he was more careful than ever not to put himself in the way of harm. He had hailed the Reformation less for the spiritual blessings which it brought in its train than for the literary elegances and social ameliorations which it shed around it.

Besides, the Pope had been approaching him on his weak side. Paul III. fully understood the importance of enlisting the pen of Erasmus on behalf of Rome. The battle was waxing hotter every day, and the pen was playing a part in the conflict which was not second to even that of the sword. A cardinal’s hat was the brilliant prize which the Pope dangled before the scholar. Erasmus had the good sense not to accept, but the flattery implied in the offer had so far gained its end that it had left Erasmus not very zealous in the Reformed cause, if indeed he had ever been so. Could the conflict have been confined to the schools, with nothing more precious than ink shed in it, and nothing more weighty than a little literary reputation lost by it, the scholar of Rotterdam would have continued to play the champion on the Protestant side. But when he saw monarchs girding on the sword, nations beginning to be convulsed—things he had not reckoned on when he gave the first touch to the movement by the publication of his New Testament—and especially when he saw confessors treading the bitter path of martyrdom, it needed on the part of Erasmus a deeper sense of the value of the Gospel and a higher faith in God than, we fear, he possessed, to stand courageously on the side of the Reformation.

How unlike the two men who now stood face to face! Both were on the side of progress, but each sought it on a different line, and each had pictured to himself a different future. Erasmus was the embodiment of the Renaissance, the other was the herald of a more glorious day. In the first the light of the Renaissance, which promised so much, had already begun to wane—sprung of the earth, it was returning to the earth; but where Erasmus stopped, there Calvin found his starting-point. While the shadows of the departing day darkened the face of the sage of Rotterdam, Calvin’s shone with the brightness of the morning. After a few interrogatories, to which Erasmus replied hesitatingly, Calvin freely gave vent to the convictions that filled his soul.11 Nothing, he believed, but a radical reform could save Christendom. He would have no bolstering up of an edifice rotten to its foundations. He would sweep it away to its last stone, and he would go to the quarry whence were dug the materials wherewith the Christian Church was fashioned in the first age, and he would anew draw forth the stones necessary for its reconstruction.

Erasmus shrank back as if he saw the toppling ruin about to fall upon him and crush him. “I see a great tempest about to arise in the Church—against the Church,”12 exclaimed the scholar, in whose ear Calvin’s voice sounded as the first hoarse notes of the coming storm. How much.

Erasmus misjudged! The Renaissance—calm, classic, and conservative as it seemed—was in truth the tempest. The pagan principles it scattered in the soft of Christendom, helped largely to unchain those furious winds that broke out two centuries after. The interview now suddenly closed.

Pursuing his journey, with his inseparable companion, the young Canon Du Tillet, the two travelers at length reached Basle. Crossing the long bridge, and climbing the opposite acclivity, they entered the city. It was the seat of a university founded, as we have already said, in 1459, by Pope Pius II., who gave it all the privileges of that of Bologna. It had scholars, divines, and some famous printers. But Calvin did not present himself at their door. The purpose for which he had come to Basle required that he should remain unknown, he wished to have perfect unbroken quietude for study. Accordingly he turned into a back street where, he knew, lived a pious woman in humble condition, Catherine Klein, who received the disciples of the Gospel when forced to seek asylum, and he took up his abode in her lowly dwelling.

The penetration of this good woman very soon discovered the many high qualities of the thin pale-faced stranger whom she had received under her roof. When Calvin had fulfilled his career, and his name and doctrine were spreading over the earth, she was wont to dilate with evident pleasure in his devotion to study, on the beauty of his life, and the charms of his genius. He seldom went out,13 and when he did so it was to steal away across the Rhine, and wander among the pines on the eastern hill, whence he could gaze on the city and its environing valleys, and the majestic river whose “eternal” flow formed the link between the everlasting hills of its birth-place, and the great ocean where was its final goal—nay, between the successive generations which had flourished upon its banks:, from the first barbarian races which had drunk its waters, to the learned men who were filling the pulpits, occupying the university chairs, or working the printing-presses of the city below him.

Calvin had found at last his “obscure corner,” and he jealously preserved his incognito. (Ecolampadius, the first Reformed Pastor of Basle, was now, as we have said, in his grave; but Oswald Myconius, the friend of Zwingli, had taken his place as President of the Church. In him Calvin knew he would find a congenial spirit. There was another man living at Basle at that time, whose fame as a scholar had reached the Reformer—Symon Grynaeus. Grynaeus was the schoolfellow of Melanchthon, and when Erasmus quitted Basle he was invited to take his place at the university, which he filled with a renown second only to that of his great predecessor. He was as remarkable for his honesty and the sweetness of his disposition:as for his learning. Calvin sought and enjoyed the society of these men before leaving Basle, but meanwhile, inflexibly bent on the great ends for which he had come hither, he forbore making their acquaintance. Intercourse with the world and its business sharpens the observing powers, and breeds dexterity; but the soul that is to grow from day to day and from year to year, and at last embody its matured and concentrated strength in some great work, must dwell in solitude. It was here, in this seclusion and retreat, that Calvin sketched the first outline of a work which was to be not merely the basis of his own life-work, but the corner-stone of the Reformed Temple, and which from year to year he was to develop and perfect, according to the measure of the increase of his own knowledge and light, and leave to succeeding generations as the grandest, of his and of his age’s achievements.

The Institutes first sprang into form in the following manner: While Calvin was pursuing his studies in his retirement at Basle, dreadful tidings reached the banks of the Rhine. The placard, the outbursts of royal wrath, the cruel torturings and bumlings that followed, were all carried by report to Basle. First came tidings of the individual martyrs; scarcely had the first messenger given in his tale, when another—escaped from prison or from the stake, and who could say, as of old, “I only am left to tell thee”—arrived with yet more dreadful tidings of the wholesale barbarities which had signalised the terrible 21st of January in Paris. The news plunged Calvin into profound sorrow. He could but too vividly realize the awful scenes, the tidings of which so wrung his heart with anguish. It was but yesterday that he had trodden the streets in which they were enacted. He knew the men who had endured these cruel deaths. They were his brethren. He had lived in their houses; he had sat at their tables. How often had he held sweet converse with them on the things of God! He knew them to be men of whom the world was not worthy; and yet they were accounted as the off-scouring of all things, and as sheep appointed to the slaughter were killed all day long. Could he be silent when his brethren were being condemned and drawn to death? And yet what could he do?

The arm of the king he could not stay. He could not go in person and plead their cause, for that would be to set up his own stake. He had a pen, and he would employ it in vindicating his brethren in the face of Christendom. But in what way should he best do this? He could vindicate these martyrs effectually not otherwise than by vindicating their cause. It was the Reformation that was being vilified, condemned, burned in the persons of these men; it was this, therefore, that he must vindicate. It was not merely a few stakes in Paris, but the martyrs of the Gospel in all lands that he would cover with his aegis.

The task that Calvin now set for himself was sublime, but onerous. He would make it plain to all that the, faith which was being branded as heresy, and for professing which men were being burned alive, was no cunningly devised system of man, but the Old Gospel; and that so far from being an enemy of kings, and a subverter of law and order, which it was accused of being, it was the very salt of society—a bulwark to the throne and a protection to law; and being drawn from the Bible, it opened to man the gates of a moral purification in this life, and of a perfect and endless felicity in the next. This was what Calvin accomplished in his Christianae Religionus Institutio.

Chapter 13.23: The “Institutes.”

Calvin Discards the Aristotelian Method – How a True Science of Astronomy is Formed – Calvin Proceeds in the same way in Constructing his Theology – Induction – Christ Himself sets the Example of the Inductive Method – Calvin goes to the Field of Scripture – His Pioneers – The Schoolmen – Melanchthon – Zwingli – The Augsburg Confession – Calvin’s System more Complete – Two Tremendous Facts – First Edition of the Institutes – Successive Editions – The Creed its Model – Enumeration of its Principal Themes-God the Sole Fountain of all things – Christ the One Source of Redemption and Salvation – The Spirit the One Agent in the Application of Redemption – The Church – Her Worship and Government.

WE shall now proceed to the consideration of that work which has exercised so vast an influence on the great movement we are narrating, and which all will admit, even though they may dissent from some of its’ teachings, to be, in point of logical compactness, and constructive comprehensive genius, truly grand. It is not of a kind that discloses its solidity and gigantic proportions to the casual or passing glance. It must be leisurely contemplated. In the case of some kingly mountain, whose feet are planted in the depths but whose top is lost in the light of heaven, we must remove to a distance, and when the little hills which had seemed to overtop it when we stood at its base have sunk below the horizon, then it is that the true monarch stands out before us in un-approached and unchallenged supremacy. So with the Institutes of the Christian Religion. No such production had emanated from the theological intellect since the times of the great Father of the West—Augustine.

During the four centuries that preceded Calvin, there had been no lack of theories and systems. The schoolmen had toiled to put the world in possession of truth; but their theology was simply abstraction piled upon abstraction, and the more elaborately they speculated the farther they strayed. Their systems had no basis in fact: they had no root in the revelation of God; they were a speculation, not knowledge.

Luther and Calvin struck out a new path in theological discovery. They discarded the Aristotelian method as a vicious one, though the fashionable and, indeed, the only one until their time, and they adopted the Baconian method, though Bacon had not yet been born to give his name to his system. Calvin saw the folly of retiring into the dark closet of one’s own mind, as the schoolmen did, and out of such materials as they were able to create, fashioning a theology. Taking his stand upon the open field of revelation, he essayed to glean those God-created and Heaven-revealed truths which lie there, and he proceeded to build them up into a system of knowledge which should have power to enlighten the intellect and to sanctify the hearts of the men of the sixteenth century. Calvin’s first question was not, “Who am I?” but “Who is God?” He looked at God from the stand-point of the human conscience, with the torch of the Bible in his hand. God was to him the beginning of knowledge. The heathen sage said, “Know thyself.” But a higher Authority had said, “The fear,” that is the knowledge, “of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” It is in the light that all things are seen. “God is light.”

In chemistry, in botany, in astronomy, he is the best philosopher who most carefully studies nature, most industriously collects facts, and most skilfully arranges them into a system or science. Not otherwise can the laws of the material universe, and the mutual relations of the bodies that compose it, be discovered. We must proceed in theology just as we proceed in natural science. He is the best theologian who most carefully studies Scripture, who most accurately brings out the meaning of its individual statements or truths, and who so classifies these as to exhibit that whole scheme of doctrine that is contained in the Bible. Not otherwise than by induction can we arrive at a true science: not otherwise than by induction can we come into possession of a true theology. The botanist, instead of shutting himself up in his closet, goes forth into the field and collects into classes the flora spread profusely, and without apparent order, over plain and mountain, grouping plant with plant, each according to its kind, till not one is left, and then his science of botany is perfected.

The astronomer, instead of descending into some dark cave, turns his telescope to the heavens, watches the motions of its orbs, and by means of the bodies that are seen, he deduces the laws and forces that are unseen, and thus order springs up before his eye, and the system off the universe unveils itself to him. What the flora of the field are to the botanist, what the stars of the firmament are to the astronomer, the truths scattered over the pages of the Bible are to the theologian. The Master Himself has given us the hint that it is the inductive method which we are to follow in our search after Divine truth; nay, He has herein gone before us and set us the example, for beginning at Moses and the prophets, He expounded to His disciples “in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” It was to these pages that Calvin turned. He searched them through and through, he laid all the parts of the Word of God under contribution: its histories and dramas, its Psalms and prophecies, its Gospels and Epistles. With profound submission of mind he accepted whatever he found taught there; and having collected his materials, he proceeded with the severest logic, and in the exercise of a marvellous constructive genius, to frame his system—to erect the temple. To use the beautiful simile of d’Aubigne, “He went to the Gospel springs, and there collecting into a golden cup the pure and living waters of Divine revelation, presented them to the nations to quench their thirst.”1

We have said that Calvin was the first to open this path, but the statement is not to be taken literally and absolutely. He had several pioneers in this road; but none of them had trodden it with so firm a step, or left it so thoroughly open for men to follow, as Calvin did. By far the greatest of his pioneers was Augustine. But even the City of God, however splendid as a dissertation, is yet as a system much inferior to the Institutes, in completeness as well as in logical power. After Augustine there comes a long and dreary interval, during which no attempt was made to classify and systematize the truths of revelation. The attempt of Johannes Damascenus, in the eighth century, is a very defective performance, Not more successful were the efforts of the schoolmen. The most notable of these were the four books of Sentences by Peter Lombard, and the Summa of Thomas Aquinas, but both are defective and erroneous. In perusing the theological productions of that age, we become painfully sensible of strength wasted, owing to the adoption of an entirely false method of interpreting the Word of God—a method which, we ought to say, was a forsaking rather than an interpreting of the Scriptures; for in the schoolmen we have a body of ingenious and laborious men, who have withdrawn themselves from the light of the Bible into the dark chamber of their own minds, and are weaving systems of theology out of their brains and the traditions of their Church, in which errors are much more plentiful than truths, and which possess no power to pacify the conscience, or to purify the life.

When we reach the age of the Reformation the true light again greets our eyes. Luther was no systematiser on a great scale; Melanchthon made a more considerable essay in that direction. His Loci Communes, or Common Places, published in 1521, were a prodigious advance on the systems of the schoolmen. They are quickened by the new life, but yet their mold is essentially mediaeval, and is too rigid and unbending to permit a free display of the piety of the author. The Commentarius de Vera et Falsa Religione, or Commentary on the True and False Religion, of Zwingli, published in 1525, is freed from the scholastic method of Melanchthon’s performance, but is still defective as a formal system of theology. The Confession of Augsburg (1530) is more systematic and complete than any of the foregoing, but still simply a confession of faith, and not such an exhibition of Divine Truth as the Church required. It remained for Calvin to give it this. The Intitutes of the Christian Religion was a confession of faith,2 a system of exegesis, a body of polemics and apologetics, and an exhibition of the rich practical effects which flow from Christianity—it was all four in one. Calvin takes his reader by the hand and conducts him round the entire territory of truth; he shows him the strength and grandeur of its central citadel—namely, its God-given doctrines; the height and solidity of its ramparts; the gates by which it is approached; the order that reigns within; the glory of the Lamb revealed in the Word that illuminates it with continual day; the River of Life by which it was watered that is, the Holy Spirit; this, he exclaims, is the “City of the Living God,” this is the “Heavenly Jerusalem ;” decay or overthrow never can befall it, for it is built upon the foundation of prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone. Into this city “there entereth nothing that defileth, or maketh a lie,” and the “nations of them that are saved shall walk in the light thereof.”

That Calvin’s survey of the field of supernatural truth as contained in the Bible was complete; that his classification of its individual facts was perfect; that his deductions and conclusions were in all cases sound, and that his system was without error, Calvin himself did not maintain, and it would ill become even the greatest admirer of that guarded, qualified, and balanced Calvinism which the Reformer taught—not that caricature of it which some of his followers have presented, a Calvinism which disjoins the means from the end, which destroys the freedom of man and abolishes his accountability; which is fatalism, in short, and is no more like the Calvinism of Calvin than Mahommedanism is like Christianity—it would ill become any one, we say, to challenge for Calvin’s system an immunity from error which he himself did not challenge for it. He found himself, in pursuing his investigations in the field of Scripture, standing face to face with two tremendous facts—God’s sovereignty and man’s freedom; both he believed to be facts; he maintained the last as firmly as the first; he confessed that he could not reconcile the two, he left this and all other mysteries connected with supernatural truth to be solved by the deeper researches and the growing light of the ages to come, if it were meant that they should ever find their solution on earth.

This work was adopted by the Reformed Church, and after some years published in most of the languages of Christendom. The clearness and strength of its; logic; the simplicity and beauty of ifs exposition; the candour of its conclusions; the fullness of its doctrinal statements, and not less the warm spiritual life that throbbed under its deductions, now bursting out in rich practical exhortation, and now soaring into a vein of lofty speculation, made the Church feel that no book like this had the Reformation given her heretofore; and she accepted it, as at once a confession of her faith, an answer to all charges whether from the Roman camp or from the infidel one, and her justification alike before those now living and the ages to come, against the violence with which the persecutor was seeking to overwhelm her.

The first edition of the Institutes contained only six chapters. During all his life after he continued to elaborate and perfect the work. Edition after edition continued to issue from the press. These were published in Latin, but afterwards rendered into French, and translated into all the tongues of Europe. “During twenty-four years,” says Bungener, “the book increased in every edition, not as an edifice to which additions are made, but as a tree which develops itself naturally, freely, and without the compromise of its unity for a moment.”3 It is noteworthy that the publication of the work fell on the mid-year of the Reformer’s life. Twenty-seven years had he been preparing for writing it, and twenty-seven years did he survive to expand and perfect it; nevertheless, not one of its statements or doctrines did he essentially alter or modify. It came, too, at the right time as regards the Reformation.4

We shall briefly examine the order and scope of the book. It proposes two great ends, the knowledge of God and the knowledge of man. It employs the first to attain the second. “The whole sum of wisdom,” said the author at the outset, “is that by knowing God each of us knows himself also.”5 If man was made in the image of God, then surely the true way to know what our moral and spiritual powers are, or ought to be, what are the relations in which we stand to God, and what the service of love and obedience we owe him, is not to study the dim and now defaced image, but to turn our eye upon the undimmed and glorious Original—the Being in whose likeness man was created.

The image of God, it is argued, imprinted upon our own souls would have sufficed to reveal him to us if we had not fallen. But sin has defaced that image. Nevertheless, we are not left in darkness, for God has graciously given us a second revelation of himself in his Word. Grasping that torch, and holding it aloft, Calvin proceeds on his way, and bids all who would know the eternal mysteries follow that shining light. Thus it was that the all-sufficiency and supreme and sole authority of the Scriptures took a leading place in the system of the Reformer.

The order of the work is simplicity itself. It is borrowed from the Apostles’ Creed, whose four cardinal doctrines furnish the Reformer with the argument of the four books in which he finally arranged the Institutes.

  1. “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and eartie.” Such is the argument of the first book. In it Calvin brings God before us in his character of Creator and sovereign Ruler of the world. But we must note that his treatment of this theme is eminently moral. It is no scenic exhibition of omnipotent power and infinite wisdom, as shown in the building of the fabric of the heavens and the earth, that passes before us. From the first line the author places himself and us in the eye of conscience. The question, Can the knowledge of God as Creator conduct to salvation? leads the Reformer to discuss in successive chapters the doctrine of the fall; the necessity of another and clearer revelation; the proofs of the inspiration of the Bible. He winds up with some chapters on Providence, as exercised in the government of all things, and in the superintendence of each particular thing and person in the universe. In these chapters Calvin lays the foundations for that tremendous conclusion at which he arrives in the book touching election, which has been so stumbling to many, and which is solemn and mysterious to all.
  2. “And in Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son.” The knowledge of God as Redeemer is the argument of book second. This ushers the author upon a higher stage, and places him amid grander themes. All that led up to the redemption accomplished on Calvary, as well as the redemption itself, is here discussed. Sin, the ruin of man, and his inability to be his own savior; the moral law; the gracious purpose of God in giving it, namely, to convince man of sin, and make him feel his need of a Savior; such are the successive and majestic steps by which Calvin advances to the Cross. Arrived there, we have a complete Christology: Jesus very God, very Man, Prophet, Priest, and King; and his death an eternal redemption, inasmuch as it was an actual, full, and complete expiation of the sins of his people. The book closes with the collected light of the Bible concentrated upon the Cross, and revealing it with a noonday clearness, as a fully accomplished redemption, the one impregnable ground of the sinner’s hope.
  3. “I believe in the Holy Ghost.” That part of redemption which it is the office of the Spirit to accomplish, is the argument to which the author now addresses himself. The theme of the second book is a righteousness accomplished without the sinner: in the third book we are shown a righteousness accomplished within him. Calvin insists not less emphatically upon the last as an essential part of redemption than upon the first. The sinner’s destruction was within him, his salvation must in like manner be within him; an atonement without him will not save him unless he have a holiness within him. But what, asks the author, is the bond of connection between the sinner and the righteousness accomplished without him? That bond, he answers, is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit works faith in the sinner, and by that faith, as with a hand, he receives a two-fold benefit—a righteousness which is imputed to him, and a regeneration which is wrought within him. By the first he obtains the justification of his person, by the second the sanctification of his soul, and a fitness for that glory everlasting of which he became the heir in the moment of his justification. The one grand corollary from all this is that man’s salvation is exclusively, and from first to last, of God’s sovereign grace.

Thus do Calvin and Luther meet. They have traveled by different routes; the first has advanced by a long and magnificent demonstration, the second has by a sudden inspiration, as it were, grasped the truth; but here at last the two mighty chiefs stand side by side on the ground of “Salvation of God,” and taking each other by the hand, they direct their united assault against the fortress of Rome, “Salvation of man.”

The moment in which Calvin arrived at this conclusion formed an epoch in the history of Christianity—that is, of the human race. It was the full and demonstrated recovery of a truth that lies at the foundation of all progress, inasmuch as it is the channel of those supernatural and celestial influences by which the human soul is quickened, and society advanced. The doctrine of justification by faith, of which St. Paul had been led to put on record so full and clear an exposition, early began to be corrupted. By the times of Augustine even, very erroneous views were held on this most important subject; and that great Father was not exempt from the obscurity of his age. After his day the corruption rapidly increased. The Church of Rome was simply an elaborate and magnificent exhibition of the doctrine of “Salvation by works.” The language of all its dogmas, and every one of its rites, was “Man his own savior.” Luther placed underneath the stupendous fabric of Rome the doctrine which, driven by his soul-agonies to the Divine page, he had there discovered—“Salvation by grace”—and the edifice fell to the ground. This was the application that Luther made of the doctrine. The use to which Calvin put it was more extensive; he brought out its bearings upon the whole scheme of Christian doctrine, and made it the basis of the Reformation of the Church in the largest and widest sense of the term. In the hands of Luther it is the power of the doctrine which strikes us; in those of Calvin it is its truth, and universality, lying entrenched as it were within its hundred lines of doctrinal circumvallation, and dominating the whole territory of truth in such fashion as to deny to error, of every sort and name, so much as a foot-breadth on which to take root and flourish.

  1. “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church.” The term Church, in its strict sense, he applied to the children of God; in its looser sense, to all who made profession of the Gospel, for the instruction and government of whom, God had instituted, he held, pastors and teachers. Touching the worship and government of the Church, Calvin laid down the principle of the unlawfulness of introducing anything without positive Scripture sanction. “This, he thought, would go to the root of the matter, and sweep away at once the whole mass of sacramentalism and ceremonialism, of ritualism and hierarchism, which had grown up between the apostolic age and the Reformation.”

    6 Augustine deplored the prevalence of the rites and ceremonies of his time, but he lacked a definite principle with which to combat and uproot them. These ceremonies and rites had become yet more numerous in Luther’s day; but neither had he any weapon wherewith to grapple effectually with them. He opposed them mainly on two grounds: first, that they were burdensome; and secondly, that they contained more or less the idea of merit, and so tended to undermine the doctrine of justification by faith. Calvin sought for a principle which should clear the ground of that whole noxious growth at once, and he judged that he had found such a principle in the following—namely, that not only were many of these ceremonies contrary to the first and second precepts of the Decalogue, and therefore to be condemned as idolatrous; but that in the mass they were without warrant in the Word of God, and were therefore to be rejected as unlawful.

In regard to Church government, the means which the Reformer adopted for putting an end to all existing corruptions and abuses, and preventing their recurrence, are well summed up by Dr. Cunningham. He sought to attain this end—

First, by putting an end to anything like the exercise of monarchical authority in the Church, or independent power vested officially in one man, which was the origin and root of the Papacy.

Second, by falling back upon the combination of aristocracy and democracy, which prevailed for at least the first two centuries of the Christian era, when the Churches were governed by the common council of Presbyters, and these Presbyters were chosen by the Churches themselves, though tried and ordained by those who had been previously admitted to office.

Third, by providing against the formation of a spirit of a mere priestly caste, by associating with the ministers in the administration of ecclesiastical affairs, a class of men who, though ordained Presbyters, were usually engaged in the ordinary occupations of society; and fourth, by trying to prevent a repetition of the history of the rise and growth of the prelacy and the Papacy, through the perversion of the one-man power, by fastening the substance of these great principles upon the conscience of the Church as binding jure divino.7

Chapter 13.24: Calvin On Predestination And Election

Calvin’s Views on the Affirmative Side – God as the Author of all things Ordains all that is to come to pass – The Means equally with the End comprehended in the Decree – As Sovereign, God Executes all that comes to pass – Calvin’s Views on the Negative Side – Man a Free Agent – Man an Accountable Being – Calvin maintained side by side God’s Eternal Ordination and Man’s Freedom of Action – Cannot Reconcile the Two – Liberty and Necessity – Tremendous Difficulties confessed to Attach to Both Theories – Explanations – Locke and Sir William Hamilton – Growth of the Institutes.

WE have reserved till now our brief statement of Calvin’s views on the subject of predestination and election—the shroud, in the eyes of some, in which he has wrapped up his theology; the rock, in the view of others, on which he has planted it. Our business as historians is neither to impugn nor to defend, but simply to narrate; to state, with all the clearness, fairness, and brevity possible, what Calvin held and taught on this great point. The absolute sovereignty of God was Calvin’s cornerstone. As the Author and Ruler of his own universe, he held that God must proceed in his government of his creatures according to a definite plan; that that plan he had formed unalterably and unchangeably from everlasting; that it embraced not merely the grander issues of Providence, but the whole array of means by which these issues are reached; that this plan God fully carries out in time; and that, though formed according to the good pleasure of his will, it is based on reasons infinitely wise and righteous, although these have not been made known to us. Such was Calvin’s first and fundamental position.

This larger and wider form of the question, to which is given the name of predestination, embraces and disposes of the minor one, namely, election. If God from everlasting pre-ordained the whole history and ultimate fate of all his creatures, it follows that he pre-ordained the destiny of each individual. Calvin taught, as Augustine had done before him, that out of a race all equally guilty and condemned, God had elected some to everlasting life, and that this decree of the election of some to life, implied the reprobation of the rest to death, but that their own sin and not God’s decree was the reason of their perishing. The Reformer further was careful to teach that the election of some to life did not proceed on God’s fore-knowledge of their faith and good works, but that, on the contrary, their election was the efficient cause of their faith and holiness.

These doctrines the Reformer embraced because it appeared to him that they were the doctrines taught in the Scriptures on the point in question; that they were proclaimed in the facts of history; and that they were logically and inevitably deducible from the idea of the supremacy, the omnipotence, and intelligence of God. Any other scheme appeared to him inconsistent with these attributes of the Deity, and, in fact, a dethroning of God as the Sovereign of the universe which he had called into existence, and an abandonment of its affairs to blind chance.

Such was the positive or affirmative side of Calvin’s views. We shall now briefly consider the negative side, in order to see his whole mind on the question. The Reformer abhorred and repudiated the idea that God was the Author of sin, and he denied that any such inference could be legitimately drawn from his doctrine of predestination. He denied, too, with the same emphasis, that any constraint or force was put by the decree upon the will of man, or any restraint upon his actions; but that, on the contrary, all men enjoyed that spontaneity of will and freedom of action which are essential to moral accountability. He repudiated, moreover, the charge of fatalism which has sometimes been brought against his doctrine, maintaining that inasmuch as the means were fore-ordained as well as the end, his teaching had just the opposite effect, and instead of relaxing it tended to brace the soul, to give it a more vigorous temper; and certainly the qualities of perseverance and indomitable energy which were so conspicuously shown in Calvin’s own life, and which have generally characterised those communities who have embraced his scheme of doctrine, go far to bear out the Reformer in this particular, and to show that the belief in predestination inspires with courage, prompts to activity and effort, and mightily sustains hope.

The Reformer was of opinion that he saw in the history of the world a proof that the belief in pre-destination—that predestination, namely, which links the means with the end, and arranges that the one shall be reached only through the other—is to make the person feel that he is working alongside a Power that cannot be baffled; that he is pursuing the same ends which that Power is prosecuting, and that, therefore, he must and shall finally be crowned with victory. This had, he thought, been exemplified equally in nations and in individuals.

Calvin was by no means insensible to the tremendous difficulties that environ the whole subject. The depth as well as range of his intellectual and moral vision gave him a fuller and clearer view than perhaps the majority of his opponents have had of these great difficulties. But these attach, not to one side of the question, but to both; and Calvin judged that he could not escape them, nor even diminish them by one iota, by shifting his position. The absolute fore-knowledge of God called up all these difficulties equally with his absolute pre-ordination; nay, they beset the question of God’s executing all things in time quite as much as the question of his decreeing all things from eternity. Most of all do these difficulties present themselves in connection with what is but another form of the same question, namely, the existence of moral evil. That is all awful reality. Why should God, all-powerful and all-holy, have created man, foreseeing that he would sin and be lost? why not have created him, if he created him at all, without the possibility of sinning? or why should not God cut short in the cradle that existence which if allowed to develop will, he foresees, issue in wrong and injury to others, and in the ruin of the person himself? Is there any one, whether on the Calvinistic or on the Arminian side, who can give a satisfactory answer to these questions?

Calvin freely admitted that he could not reconcile God’s absolute sovereignty with man’s free will; but he felt himself obliged to admit and believe both; both accordingly he maintained; though it was not in his power, nor, he believed, in the power of any man, to establish a harmony between them. What he aimed at was to proceed in this solemn path as far as the lights of revelation and reason could conduct him; and when their guidance failed, when he came to the thick darkness, and stood in the presence of mysteries that refused to unveil themselves to him, reverently to bow down and adore.1

We judged it essential to give this brief account of the theology of the Institutes. The book was the chest that contained the vital forces of the Reformation. It may be likened to the living spirits that animated the wheels in the prophet’s vision. The leagues, battles, and majestic movements of that age all proceeded from this center of power—these arcana of celestial forces. It is emphatically the Reformation. The book, we have said, as it first saw the light in Basle in 1536 was small (pp. 514); it consisted of but six chapters, and was a sketch in outline of the fundamental principles of the Christian faith. The work grew into unity and strength, grandeur and completeness, by the patient and persevering touches of the author, and when completed it consisted of four books and eighty-four chapters. But as in the acorn is wrapped up all that is afterwards evolved in the full-grown oak, so in the first small edition of the Institutes were contained all the great principles which we now possess, fully developed and demonstrated, in the last and completed edition of 1559.

Chapter 13.25: Calvin’s Appeal To Francis I

Enthusiasm evoked by the appearance of the Institutes – Marshals the Reformed into One Host – Beauty of the Style of the Institutes – Opinions expressed on it by Scaliger, Sir William Hamilton, Principal Cunningham, M. Nisard – The Institutes an Apology for the Reformed – In scathing Indignation comparable to Tacitus – Home-thrusts – He Addresses the King of France – Pleads for his Brethren – They Suffer for the Gospel – Cannot Abandon it – Offer themselves to Death – A Warning – Grandeur of the Appeal – Did Francis ever Read this Appeal?

THUS did a strong arm uplift before the eyes of all Europe, and throw loose upon the winds, a banner round which the children of the Reformation might rally. Its appearance at that hour greatly inspirited them. It showed them that they had a righteous cause, an energetic and courageous leader, and that they were no longer a mere multitude, but a marshalled host, whose appointed march was over a terrible battle-field, but to whom there was also appointed a triumph worthy of their cause and of the kingly spirit who had arisen to lead them. “Spreading,” says Felice, “widely in the schools, in the castles of the gentry, the homes of the citizens, and the workshops of the common people, the Institutes became the most powerful of preachers.”1

The style of the work was not less fitted to arrest attention than the contents. It seemed as if produced for the occasion. In flexibility, transparency, and power, it was akin to the beauty of the truths that were entrusted to it, and of which it was made the vehicle. Yet Calvin had not thought of style. The great doctrines he was enunciating engrossed him entirely; and the free and majestic march of his thoughts summoned up words of fitting simplicity and grandeur, and without conscious effort on his part marshalled them in the most effective order, and arranged them in the most harmonious periods. In giving France a religion, Calvin at the same time gave France a language.

Men who have had but little sympathy with his theology have been loud in their praises of his genius. Scaliger said of him, three hundred years ago, “Calvin is alone among theologians; there is no ancient to compare with him.” Sir William Hamilton in our own day has indorsed this judgment.

“Looking merely to his learning and ability,” said this distinguished metaphysician, “Calvin was superior to all modern, perhaps to all ancient, divines. Succeeding ages have certainly not exhibited his equal.” Dr. Cunningham, a most competent judge, says: “The Institutes of Calvin is the most important work in the history of theological science….. It may be said to occupy, in the science of theology, the place which it requires both the Novum Organum of Bacon and the Principia of Newton to fill up in physical science.”2 “Less learned,” says Paul Lacroix of his style, “elaborate, and ornate than that of Rabelais, but more ready, flexible, and skillful in expressing all the shades of thought and feeling. Less ingenious, agreeable, and rich than that of Amyot, but keener and more imposing.”

Less highly coloured and engaging than that of Montaigne, but more concise and serious and more French.3 Another French writer of our day, who does not belong to the Protestant Church, but who is a profound thinker, has characterised the Institutes as “the first work in the French tongue which offers a methodical plan, well-arranged matter, and exact composition. Calvin,” he says, “not only perfected the language by enriching it, he created a peculiar form of language, the most conformable to the genius of our country.” And of Calvin himself he says: “He treats every question of Christian philosophy as a great writer. He equals the most sublime in his grand thoughts upon God, the expression of which was equalled but not surpassed by Bossuet.”4

A scheme of doctrine, a code of government, a plan of Church organisation, the Institutes was at the same time an apology, a defense of the persecuted, an appeal to the conscience of the persecutor. It was dedicated to Francis I.5 But the dedication did not run in the usual form. Calvin did not approach the monarch to bow and gloze, to recount his virtues and extol his greatness, he spoke as it becomes one to speak who pleads for the innocent condemned at unrighteous tribunals, and for truth overborne by bloody violence. His dedication was a noble, most affecting and thrilling intercession for his brethren in France, many of whom were at that moment languishing in prison or perishing at the stake.

With a nobler indignation than even that which burns on the pages of Tacitus, and in a style scarcely inferior in its rapid and scathing power to that of the renowned historian, does Calvin proceed to refute, rapidly yet conclusively, the leading charges which had been advanced against the disciples of the Reformation, and to denounce the terrible array of banishments, proscriptions, fines, dungeons, torturing, and blazing piles, with which it was sought to root them out.6 “Your doctrine is new,” it was said. “Yes,” Calvin makes answer, “for those to whom the Gospel is new.” “By what miracle do you confirm it?” it had been asked. Calvin, glancing contemptuously at the sort of miracles which the priests sometimes employed to confirm the Romish doctrine, replies, “By those miracles which in the early age so abundantly attested the divinity of the Gospel—the holy lives of its disciples.” “You contradict the Fathers,” it had been farther urged. The Reformer twits his accusers with “adoring the slips and errors” of the Fathers; but “when they speak well they either do not hear, or they misinterpret or corrupt what they say.” That is a very extraordinary way of showing respect for the Fathers. “Despise the Fathers!” “Why, the Fathers are our best friends.” He was a Father, Epiphanius, who said that it was an abomination to set up an image in a Christian temple. He was a Father, Pope Gelasius, who maintained that the bread and wine remain unchanged in the Eucharist. He was a Father, Augustine, who affirmed that it was rash to assert any doctrine which did not rest on the clear testimony of Scripture. But the Fathers come faster than Calvin can receive their evidence, and so a crowd of names are thrown into the margin, who all with “one heart and one mouth” execrated and condemned “the sophistical reasonings and scholastic wranglings” with which the Word of God had been made void.7

Turning round on his accusers and waxing a little warm, Calvin demands who they are who “make war with such savage cruelty in behalf of the mass, of purgatory, of pilgrimages, and of similar follies,” and why it is that they display a zeal in behalf of these things which they have never shown for the Gospel? “Why?” he replies, “but because their God is their belly, and their religion the kitchen.”8—a rejoinder of which it is easier to condemn the coarseness than to impugn the truth.

If their cause were unjust, or if their lives had been wicked, they refused not to die; but the Reformer complains that the most atrocious calumnies had been poured into the ears of the king to make their tenets appear odious, and their persons hateful. “They plotted,” it was said, “to pluck the scepter from his hand, to overturn his tribunals, to abolish all laws, to make a spoil of lordships and heritages, to remove all the landmarks of order, and to plunge all peoples and states in war, anarchy, and ruin.”9 Had the accusation been true, Calvin would have been dumb; he would have been covered with shame and confusion before the king. But raising his head, he says, “I turn to you, Sire . . Is it possible that we, from whom a seditious word was never heard when we lived under you, should plot the subversion of kingdoms? And, what is more, who now, after being expelled from our houses, cease not nevertheless to pray to God for your prosperity, and that of your kingdom.” As regards their cause, so defamed by enemies, it was simply the Gospel of Jesus Christ. their only crime was that they believed the Gospel. They who were maintaining it were a poor, despicable people—nay, if the king liked it, “the scum of the earth;” but though its confessors were weak, the cause was great; “it is exalted far above all the power and glory of the world; for it is not ours, but that of the living God and his Christ, whom God has made King to rule from sea to sea, and from the rivers unto the ends of the earth.” he had not come before the king to beg toleration for that cause—the men of those days could no more conceive of a government tolerating two opposing religions than of a judge deciding in favor of two rival claimants—what Calvin demanded was that their cause should receive that submission which is the right of truth; that the king should embrace, not tolerate.

But if this may not be, Calvin says in effect, if injustice shall still be meted out to us, be it known unto you, O king, that we will not abandon the truth, or bow down to the gods that Rome has set up. As sheep appointed unto the slaughter, we shall take meekly whatever sufferings you are pleased to inflict upon us. We offer our persons to your prisons, our limbs to your racks, our necks to your axes, and our bodies to your fires; but know that there is One in whose sight our blood is precious, and in shedding it you are removing the firmest defenders of your throne and of your laws, and preparing for your house and realm a terrible overthrow.

The years will quickly revolve; the cup will be filled up; and then—but let us quote the very words in which the young Reformer closes this appeal to the great monarch: “I have set before you the iniquity of our calumniators. I have desired to soften your heart to the end that you would give our cause: a hearing. I hope we shall be able to regain your favor, if you should be pleased to read without anger this confession, which is our defense before your Majesty. But if malevolent persons stop your ears; if the accused have not an opportunity of defending themselves; if impetuous furies, unrestrained by your order, still exercise their cruelty by imprisonments and by scourging, by tortures, mutilation, and the stake…. verily, as sheep given up to slaughter, we shall be reduced to the last extremity. Yet even then we shall possess our souls in patience, and shall wait for the strong hand of the Lord. Doubtless, it will be stretched forth in due season. It will appear armed to deliver the poor from their afflictions, and to punish the despisers who are now making merry so boldly.

“May the Lord, the King of kings, establish your throne in righteousness and your seat in equity.”10

In penning this appeal Calvin occupied one of the sublimest positions in all history. He stood at a great bar—the throne of France. He pleaded before a vast assembly—all Christendom; nay, all ages; and as regards the cause which he sustained at this august bar, and in presence of this immense concourse of nations and ages, it was the greatest in the world, inasmuch as it was that of the Gospel and of the rights of conscience. With what feelings, one naturally asks, did Francis I. read this appeal? Or rather did he read it at all? It is commonly thought that he did not. His heart hardened by pleasure, and his ears preoccupied with evil counsellors, this cry of a suffering Church could find no audience; it swept past the throne of France, and mounted to the throne of heaven.

But before the “strong arm” to which Calvin had alluded should be “stretched forth” more than two centuries were to pass away. These martyrs had to wait till “their brethren” also should be slain as they had been. But meanwhile there were given unto them the “white robes” of this triumphant vindication; for scarcely were their ashes cold when this eloquent and touching appeal was pleading for them in many of the tongues of Europe, thrilling every heart with the story of their wrongs, and inspiring thousands and tens of thousands to brave the tyrant’s fury, and at the risk of torture and death to confess the Gospel. This was their “first resurrection.” What they had sown in weakness at the stake rose in power in the Institutes. Calvin, gathering as it were all their martyr-piles into one blazing torch, and holding it aloft, made the splendor of their cause and of their names to shine from the east even unto the west of Christendom.

The publication of the Institutes placed Calvin in the van of the Reformed hosts, he was henceforward the recognised chief of the Reformation. His retreat was now known, and this city on the edge of the Black Forest, on the banks of the Rhine, could no longer afford him the privacy he sought. Men from every country were beginning to seek him out, and gather round him. Rising up, he hastily quitted Basle, and crossing “Italy’s snowy wall” (by what route is not known), and holding on his way across the plain of Lombardy till he reached the banks of the Po, he found an asylum at the court of Renee, daughter of Louis XII. of France, and Duchess of Ferrara, who, like Margaret of Valois, had opened her heart to the doctrines of the Reformation. Calvin disappears for awhile from the scene.

Book 14: Rise And Establishment Of Protestantism At Geneva.

Chapter 14.1: Geneva: The City And Its History

Protestantism finds a New Centre – The Lake Leman – Geneva – Its Site – Its Diminutive Size – Sncers – History of Geneva – Four Names, Julius Caesar, Honorius, Charlemagne, the Reformation, indicate the Four Stages of its History – The Bishop its First Ruler – Intrigues of the Dukes of Savoy – Pope Martin V. takes from the Genevese the right of Electing their Bishop – Exercises it himself – Appoints a Prince of Savoy to be Bishop of Geneva – Its Independence on the point of being Extinguished – New Life – War between the Prince-Bishop and the Citizens – Bonivard – His Picture of the Popes – Berthelier – His Devotion to his Country – Levrier – His Love of Justice – The War Then and Now – Wonderful Preservation of Geneva’s Independence – A Higher Liberty Approaching.

PROTESTANTISM has now received its completed logical and doctrinal development, and a new and more central position must be found for it. Before returning to the open stage of the great Empires of France and Germany, and resuming our narrative of the renovating powers which the Reformation had called forth, with the great social and political revolutions which came in its train, we must devote our attention to a city that is about to become the second metropolis of Protestantism.

In leaving the wide arena of empire where Protestantism is jostled by dukes, prelates, and emperors, and moves amid a blaze of State pageantries, and in shutting ourselves up in a little town whose name history, as yet, had hardly deigned to mention, and whose diminutive size is all but annihilated by the mighty mountainous masses amid which it is placed, we make a great transition. But if the stage is narrow, and if Protestantism is stripped of all that drapery and pomp which make it so imposing on the wider arena, we shall here have a closer view of the principle itself, and be the better able to mark its sublimity and power, in the mighty impulses which from this center it is to send abroad, in order to plant piety and nourish liberty in other countries.

In the valley which the Jura on the one side, and the white Alps on the other, enclose within their gigantic arms, lies the mirror-like Leman. At the point where the Rhone gushes from the lake a bulging rock bristles up, and, framing in the form of a crescent a little space along the shore of the Leman, forms a pedestal for the city of Geneva. The little town looks down upon the placid waters of the lake spread out at its feet, and beholds its own image mirrored clearly, but not grandly, for architectural magnificence is not one of the characteristic features of the city, especially in the times of which we write. A few miles away, on the other side, another rock shoots up, dark, precipitous, and attaining the dignity of a mountain—lofty it would seem in any other country, but here it has to compete with the gigantic piles of the Alps—and, bending crest-like, leans over Geneva, which it appears to guard. A few acres suffice to give standing-room to the city. Its population in the days of Calvin numbered only some 12,000, and even now does not much exceed 40,000. Its cantonal territory is the smallest in all Switzerland, that of Zug excepted. Its diminutive size provoked the sneer of the philosopher of Ferney, who could survey it all standing at his door. “When I dress my peruke,” said Voltaire, “I powder the whole republic.” The Emperor Paul sarcastically called the struggles of its citizens “a tempest in a teapot.” In days prior to the utterance of these sarcasms and taunts—that is, in the latter part of the sixteenth century—this little town excited other emotions than those of contempt, and was the butt of other assaults than those of sarcasm. It brought pallor into the face of monarchs. It plucked the scepter from the grasp of mighty empires, and showed the world that it knew how to extend and perpetuate its sway by making itself the metropolis of that moral and spiritual movement which, whatever might be the fate of the city itself, even should its site become the bare rock it once was, would continue to spread abroad to all countries, and travel down to all the ages of the future.

Turning from its site to its history, Geneva dates from before the Christian era, and is scarcely, if at all, less ancient than that other city, that takes the proud name of “Eternal,” and with which it has been Geneva’s lot, in these last ages, to do battle. Buried amid the dense shadows of paganism, and afterwards amid the not less dense shadows of Popery, Geneva remained for ages unknown, and gave no augury to the world of the important part it was destined to play, at a most eventful epoch, in the history of nations.

It comes first into view in connection with the great Julius, who stumbled upon it as he was pursuing his career of northern conquest, and wrote its name in his Commentaries, where it figures as “the last fortress of the Allobroges.”1 But the conqueror passed, and with him passed the light which had touched for a moment this sub-Alpine stronghold. It fell back again into the darkness. Under Honorius, in the fourth century, it became a city. It rose into some eminence, and even was possessed of a little liberty, in the days of Charlemagne. But a better day-spring awaited Geneva. The rising sun of the Reformation struck full upon it, and this small town became one of the lights of the world.

But we must glance back, and see what a long preparation the little city had to undergo for its great destiny. The dissolution of the Empire of Charlemagne set Geneva free to consider after what fashion it should govern itself. At this crisis its bishop stepped forward and claimed, in addition to its spiritual oversight, the right to exercise its temporal government. The citizens conceded the claim only within certain limits. Still preserving their liberties, they took the bishop into partnership with them in the civic jurisdiction. The election of the bishop was in the hands of the people, and, before permitting him to mount the episcopal chair, they made him take an oath to preserve their franchises.2 In the middle of the thirteenth century the independence of Geneva began to be menaced by the Counts of Savoy. That ambitious house, which was labouring to exalt itself by absorbing its neighbors’ territory into its own, had cast covetous eyes upon Geneva. It would round off their dominions; besides, they were sharp-sighted enough to see that there were certain principles at work in this little Alpine town which made them uneasy. But neither intrigues nor arms—and the Princes of Savoy employed both—could prevail to this end. The citizens of Geneva knew how it fared with them under the staff of their bishop, but they did not know how it might go with them under the sword of the warrior, and so they stubbornly declined the protection of their powerful neighbor.

In the fifteenth century, the Counts of Savoy, now become dukes, still persevering in their attempts to bring the brave little city under their yoke, besought the aid of a power which history attests has done more than all the dukes and warriors of Christendom to extinguish liberty. Duke Amadeus VIII., who had added Piedmont to his hereditary dominions, as if to exemplify the adage that “ambition grows by what it feeds on,” petitioned Pope Martin V. to vest in him the secular lordship of Geneva.

The citizens scented what was in the wind, and knowing that “Rome ought not to lay its paw upon kingdoms,” resolved to brave the Pope himself if need were. Laying their hands upon the Gospels, they exclaimed, “No alienation of the city or of its territory—this we swear.” Amadeus withdrew before the firm attitude of the Genevese.

Not so the Pope; he continued to prosecute the intrigue, deeming the little town but a nest of eaglets among crags, which it were wise betimes to pull down. But, more crafty than the duke, he tried another tack. Depriving the citizens of the right of electing their bishop, Martin V. took the nomination into his own hands, and thus opened the way for quietly transferring the municipal rule of Geneva to the House of Savoy. All he had now to do was to appoint a Prince of Savoy as its bishop. By-and-by this was done; and the struggle with the Savoy power was no longer outside the walls only, it was mainly within. The era that now opened to Geneva was a stormy and bloody one. Intrigues and rumors of intrigues kept the citizens in perpetual disquiet. The city saw itself stripped of its privileges and immunities one by one. Its annual fair was transferred to Lyons, and the crowd of merchants and traders which had flocked to it from beyond the Alps, from the towns of France, and from across the Rhine, ceased to be seen. Tales of priestly scandals—for the union of the two offices in their prince-bishop only helped to develop the worst qualities of both—passed from mouth to mouth and polluted the very air. If Geneva was growing weaker, Savoy was growing stronger. The absorption of one petty principality after another was daily enlarging the dominions of the duke, which, sweeping past and around Geneva, enclosed it as in a net, with a hostile land bristling with castles and swarming with foes. It was said that there were more Savoyards than Genevese who heard the bells of St. Pierre. Such was the position in which the opening of the sixteenth century found Geneva. This small but ancient municipality was seemingly on the point of being absorbed in the dominions of the House of Savoy. Its history appeared to be closed. The vulture of the Alps, which had hovered above it for centuries, had but to swoop down upon it and transfix it with his talons.

At that moment a new life suddenly sprang up in the devoted city. To preserve the remnant of their franchises was not enough; the citizens resolved to recover what liberties had been lost. In order to this many battles had to be fought, and much blood spilt. Leo X., about the same time that he dispatched Tetzel to Germany to sell indulgences, sent a scion of the House of Savoy to Geneva (1513) as bishop. By the first the Pope drew forth Luther from his convent, by the second he paved the way for Calvin. The newly-appointed bishop, known in history as the” Bastard of Savoy,” brought to the episcopal throne of Geneva a body foul with disease, the fruit of his debaucheries, and a soul yet more foul with deceitful and bloody passions; but a fit tool for the purpose in hand. The matter had been nicely arranged between the Pope, the duke, and the Bastard.3 “John of Savoy swore to hand over the temporal jurisdiction of the city to the duke, and the Pope swore he would force the city to submit to the duke, under pain of incurring the thunders of the Vatican.”4

From that time there was ceaseless and bitter war between the citizens of Geneva on one side, and the duke and the bishop on the other. It is not our business to record the various fortune of that strife. Now it was the bishop who was besieged in his palace, and now it was the citizens who were butchered upon their own streets by the bishop’s soldiers. To-day it was the Bastard who was compelled to seek safety in flight, and to-morow it was some leader of the patriots who was apprehended, tortured, beheaded, and his ghastly remains hung up to the public gaze as a warning to others. But if blood was shed, it was blood that leads to victory. The patriots, who numbered only nine at first, multiplied from year to year, though from year to year the struggle grew only the bloodier. The Gospel had not yet entered the gates of Geneva. The struggle so far was for liberty only, a name then denoting that which was man’s noblest birthright after the Gospel, and which found as its champions men of pure and lofty soul. Wittemberg and Geneva had not yet become fused; the two liberties had not yet united their arms.

Among the names that illustrate this struggle, so important from what was to come after, are the well-known ones of Bonivard, Berthelier, and Levrier—a distinguished trio, to whom modern liberty owes much, though the stage on which they figured was a narrow one.

Bonivard was a son of the Renaissance. A scholar and a man of wit, he drew his inspiration for liberty from a classic font. From his Priory of St. Victor this accomplished and liberal-minded man assailed Rome with the shafts of satire. If his erudition was less profound and his taste less exquisite than that of Erasmus, his courage was greater. The scholar of Rotterdam flagellated the man in serge, but spared the man in purple: the Prior of St. Victor dealt equal justice to monk and Pope. He lashed the ignorance and low vices of the former, but castigated yet more severely the pride, luxury, and ambition of the latter. He mistrusted the plan Rome had hit on of regenerating men in tribes and clans, and preferred to have it done individualy. He thought too that it would be well if his “Holiness” possessed a little holiness, though that was a marvel he did not expect soon to see. “I have lived,” he said, “to see three Popes. First, Alexander VI. [Borgia] a sharp fellow, a ne’er-do-weel… a man without conscience, and without God. Next came Julius II., proud, choleric, studying his bottle more than his breviary, mad about his Popedom, and having no thought but how he could, subdue not only the earth, but heaven and hell. Last appeared Leo X., the present Pope, learned in Greek and Latin, but especially a good musician, a great glutton, a deep drinker; possessing beautiful pages, whom the Italians style ragazzi…… above all, don’t trust Leo X.’s word; he can dispense others, and surely can dispense himself.”5

He brusquely allegorised the German Reformation thus: “Leo X. and his predecessors,” said the prior, “have always taken the Germans for beasts; pecora campi, they were called, and rightly too, for these simple Saxons allowed themselves to be saddled and ridden like asses. The Popes threatened them with cudgelling (excommunications), enticed them with thistles (indulgences), and so made them trot to the mill to bring away the meal for them. But having one day loaded the ass too heavily, Leo made him gib, so that the flour was spilt, and the white bread lost. That ass is called Martin like all asses, and his surname is Luther, which signifies enlightener.”6

The lettered and gentlemanly Prior of St. Victor had not a little of the cold, sneering, sceptical spirit that belonged to the Renaissance. He “put on his gloves” when he came in contact with the citizens of Geneva; they were somewhat too bluff and outspoken for him; nevertheless he continued steadfastly on their side, and, with not a few temptations to act a contrary part, proved himself a true friend of liberty. He was seized with the idea that were he Bishop and Prince of Geneva, he would have it in his power to liberate his native city. He even set off to Rome in the hope of realising a project which every one who knew who Bonivard was, and what Rome was, must have deemed chimerical. It was found at Rome that he had not the grace for a bishop, and he returned without the mitre. It was a wonder to many that he was permitted to return at all, and the prior must have been thankful for his escape.

Berthelier was cast in another mold. He was the tribune of the people; he talked, laughed, and caroused with them; he sought especially to surround himself with the youth of Geneva; for this end he studied their tastes, and entered into all their amusements, but all the while he was on the watch for fitting occasions of firing them with his own spirit of hatred of tyranny, and devotion to the public welfare. He was sagacious, ready, indomitable, and careless of life. He knew what the struggle was coming to as regarded himself, but he did not bemoan the hard fate awaiting him, knowing that there was a mysterious and potent power in blood to advance the cause for which it was shed.

The third of a group, individually so unlike, yet at one in the cause of their country’s ancient freedom, was Levrier. He was calm, severe, logical; his ideal was justice. He was a judge, and whatever was not according to law ought to be resisted and overthrown. The bishop’s regime was one continuous perversion of right; it must be brought to an end: so pleaded Levrier. From time immemorial the men of Geneva had been free: what right had the Duke of Savoy and his creature, the bishop, to make slaves of them? Neither the duke nor the bishop was sovereign of Geneva; its true ruler was its charter of ancient franchises: so said the man of law. The duke feared the great citizen. Levrier was quiet, but firm; he indulged in no clamor, but he cherished no fear; he bowed before the majesty of law, and stood erect before the tyrant:

Non vultus instantis tyranni,
Mente quatit solida.

Such were the men who were now fighting the battle of liberty at the foot of the Alps in the dawn of modern times. That battle has varied its form in the course of the centuries. In after-days the contest in Continental Europe has been to separate the spiritual from the temporal, relegate each to its own proper domain, and establish between the two such a poise as shall form a safeguard to freedom; and especially to pluck the sword of the State from the hands of the ecclesiastical power. But at Geneva, in the times we write of, the conflict had for its immediate object to prevent a separation between the two powers. Nevertheless, the battle is the same in both cases, the same in Geneva 300 years ago as in Europe in 1875. The Genevans had no love for the man who occupied their episcopal throne; it was no aim of theirs, in the last resort, to preserve a class of amphibious rulers, neither prince nor bishop, but the two mixed and confounded, to the immense detriment of both. The Prince-Bishop of Geneva was, on a small scale, what the Prince-Bishop of Rome was on a great. But the Genevans preferred having one tyrant to having two. This was the alternative before them. They knew that should they, at this hour, strip the bishop of the temporal government, the duke would seize upon it, and they preferred meanwhile keeping the mitre and the scepter united, in the hope that they would thus not only shut out the duke, but eventually expel the prince-bishop.

Marvellous it truly was that so little a city should escape so many snares, and defy so many armed assaults; for the duke again and again advanced with his army to take it—nay, upon one occasion, was admitted within its walls. There were foes enough around it, one would have thought, to have swept it from off its rock, trod buried it beneath the waves of its lake. And so would it have happened to Geneva but for the bravery of its sons, who were resolved that sooner than see it enslaved they would see it razed to the ground.

Had it been a great empire, its posts, dignities, and titles might have stimulated and sustained their patriotism; but what recompense in point of fame or riches could a little obscure town like Geneva offer for the blood which its citizen-heroes were ready every moment to pour out in defense of its freedom? A higher power than man had kindled this fire in the hearts of its citizens. The combatants were fighting, although they knew it not, for a higher liberty than Geneva had yet tasted. And that liberty was on the road to it. The snowy peaks around it were even now beginning to kindle with a new day. Voices were heard crying to the beleaguered and perplexed town, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of them that bring good tidings; that publish peace!” It was the purpose of him who putteth down the mighty from their seats, and exalteth the lowly, to lift this city to equality with the ancient capitals of Christendom—nay, to place it above them all. For this end would he make empty the episcopal throne in St. Pierre, that the Gospel might enter and seat itself upon it. Then would Geneva raise its head in the presence of the ancient and historic cities of Europe—Rome, Paris, Milan, Venice—with a halo round it brighter than had ever encircled their brow. It would stand forth a temple of liberty, in the midst of Christendom, its gates open day and night, to welcome within its walls, as within an impregnable fortress, the persecuted of all lands.

Chapter 14.2: Genevese Martyrs Of Liberty

Berthelier – Apprehended – Beheaded – His Remains publicly Exposed – Bonivard – Banished – Castle of Chillon – Bishop of Geneva Dies – His Remorse – Levrier – His Arrest by the Duke – Carried to the Castle of Bonne – His Execution – What Victories of Brute Force Lead to – Momentary Triumph of the Duke – He Flees from Geneva never to Return – Lessons learned by Genevese Exiles – They Return to Act them out – Geneva’s Gates Open towards the Rising Sun.

BEFORE the day of Geneva’s greatness should have arrived, many of its heroic defenders would be resting in the grave, the road thither for nearly all of them being by the scaffold. Let us recount the fate of the more prominent; and, first of all, of Berthelier. One morning, as he was going to breathe the fresh air outside the walls in his favouite meadow, bathed by the waters of the Rhone, he was arrested by the duke’s soldiers.1 He bore himself with calmness and dignity both at his arrest and during the few days now left him of life. He wrote on the walls of his prison a verse of Scripture, which permits us to hope that he had cast anchor in another world than that which he was so soon to leave. His head fell by the hand of the executioner at the foot of Caesar’s Tower, in the isle in the Leman, near the point where the Rhone issues from the lake.2 His fellow-citizens beheld him die, but could not save him. The cruel deed but deepened their purpose of vengeance. The head of the patriot was fastened up on the bridge of the Arve. Blackening in the sun it was a ghastly memorial of Savoyard tyranny, and a thrilling appeal to the compatriots of Berthelier never to submit to the despot who had no other rewards than this for the noblest of Geneva’s sons.

The fate of Bonivard was less tragic, but has become better known to us, from the notice bestowed upon him by a great poet. He was deprived of his priory; and while a scaffold was set up for Berthelier at one extremity of the Leman, a dungeon was found for Bonivard at the other. The modern tourist, as he passes along the lovely shores of the lake, beneath the magnificent amphitheatre of mountains that overhang Vevay, has his attention arrested by the massive and still entire walls of a castle, surrounded on all sides by the deep waters of the Leman, save where a draw-bridge joins it to the shore. This is the Castle of Chillon, the scene of Bonivard’s imprisonment, and where the track worn by his feet in the rocky floor may still be traced, while the ripple of the water, which rises to the level of the loop-hole in the wall, may be heard when the wind stirs upon the lake.

At this stage of the drama, the wretched man who had filled the office of bishop, and had been the duke’s co-conspirator in these attempts upon the liberty of Geneva, died (1522) miserably at Pignerol, on the southern side of the Alps, on the very frontier of the territory of the Waldenses. His dying scene was awful and horrible. Around his bed stood only hirelings. Careless of the agonies he was enduring, their eyes roamed round the room in quest of valuables, which they might carry off whenever his breath should depart. The effigies of his victims seemed traced upon the wall of his chamber. They presented to him a crucifix: he thought it was Berthelier, and shrieked out. They brought him the last Sacrament: he fancied they were sprinkling him with blood; his lips, whitened with foam, let fall execrations and blasphemies. Such is the picture which a Romanist writer draws of his last hours. But before the dark scene closed something like a ray of light broke in. He conjured his coadjutor and successor, Pierre de la Baume, not to walk in his footsteps, but to defend the franchises of Geneva. He saw in the sufferings he was enduring the punishment of his misdeeds; he implored forgiveness, and hoped God would pardon him in purgatory.3

But Charles III, Duke of Savoy and Piedmont, still lived, and unwarned by the miserable end of his accomplice, he continued to prosecute his guilty project.4 Another martyr of liberty was now to offer up his life. The man who most embarrassed the duke still lived: he must be swept from his path. Charles did not believe in patriotism, and thought to buy Levrier.5

The judge spurned the bribe. Well, the axe will do what gold cannot. He was arrested (Easter, 1524) at the gates of St. Pierre, as he was leaving after hearing morning mass. “He wore a long camlet robe, probably his judicial gown, and a beautiful velvet cassock.”6 Mounted hastily upon a wretched nag, his hands tied behind his back, and his feet fastened below the belly of his horse, the judge was carried, in the midst of armed men, who jeered at and called him traitor, to the Castle of Bonne, where the duke was then residing.

The Castle of Bonne, now a ruin, is some two leagues from Geneva. It stands in the midst of scenery such as Switzerland only can show. The panorama presents to the eye an assemblage of valleys, with their carpet-like covering, foaming torrents, the black mouths of gorges, pines massed upon the hill-tops, and beyond, afar off, the magnificence of snowy peaks.

The tragedy enacted in this spot we shall leave d’Aubigne to tell, who has here, with his usual graphic power, set in the light of day a deed that was done literally in the darkness. “Shortly,” says the historian, “after Bellegrade’s” (the man who pronounced doom) “departure, the confessor entered, discharged his duty mechanically, uttered the sentence ‘Ego to absolvo,’ and withdrew, showing no more sympathy for his victim than the provost had done. Then appeared a man with a cord: it was the executioner. It was then ten o’clock at night. The inhabitants of the little town and of the adjacent country were sleeping soundly, and no one dreamt of the cruel deed that was about to cut short the life of a man who might have shone in the first rank in a great monarchy.…. The headsman bound the noble Levrier, armed men surrounded him, and the martyr of law was conducted slowly to the castle-yard. All nature was dumb, nothing broke the silence of that funeral procession; Charles’s agents moved like shadows beneath the ancient walls of the castle. The moon, which had not reached its first quarter, was near setting, and shed only a feeble gleam. It was too dark to distinguish the beautiful mountains, in the midst of which stood the towers whence they had dragged their victim; the trees and houses of Bonne were scarcely visible; one or two torches, carried by the provost’s men, alone threw light upon this cruel scene. On reaching the middle of the castle-yard the headsman stopped, and the victim also. The ducal satellites silently formed a circle round them, and the executioner prepared to discharge his office. Levrier was calm, the peace of a good conscience supported him in this dread hour.

Alone in the night, in those sublime regions of the Alps, surrounded by the barbarous figures of the Savoyard mercenaries, standing in that feudal courtyard which the torches ilumined with a sinister glare, the heroic champion of the law raised his eyes to heaven, and said, ‘By God’s grace, I die without anxiety for the liberty of my country and the authority of St. Peter!’ The grace of God, liberty, authority, these main principles of the greatness of nations, were his last confession. The words had hardly been uttered when the executioner swung round his sword, and the head of the citizen rolled in the castle-yard. Immediately, as if struck with fear, the murderers respectfully gathered up his remains and placed them in a coffin. ‘And his body was laid in earth in the parish church of Bonne, with the head separate.’ At that moment the moon set, and black darkness hid the stains of blood which Levrier had left on the court-yard.”7

Charles of Savoy did not reflect that the victories of brute force, such as those he was now winning, but pave the way for moral triumphs. With every head that fell by his executioners, he deemed himself a stage nearer to the success he panted to attain. Some illustrious heads had already fallen; so many more, say twenty, or it might be thirty, and he would be Lord of Geneva; the small but much-coveted principality would be part of Savoy, and the object so intently pursued by himself and his ancestors for long years would be realised. The duke was but practising a deception upon himself. Every head he cut off dug more deeply the gulf which divided him from the sovereignty of Geneva; every drop of blood he spilt but strengthened the resolution in the hearts of the patriots that never should the duke call them his subjects.

They never fail who die.
In a great cause: the block may soak their gore;
Their heads may sodden in the sun; their limbs
Be strung to city gates and castle walls—
But still their spirit walks abroad.
Though years Elapse, and others share as dark a doom,
They but augment the deep and sweeping thoughts
Which overpower all others, and conduct
The world at last to freedom.8

Nevertheless, what with stratagem this hour and violence the next—treachery within Geneva and soldiers and cannon outside of it—it did seem as if the duke were making way, and the proud little city must, by-and- by, lay its independence at his feet. In fact, for a moment, Geneva did succumb. On the 15th of September, 1525, the duke surprised the city with a numerous host. The patriots had nothing left them but massacre or speedy flight. Fleeing through woods or mountainous defiles, pursued by Savoyard archers, some escaped to Bern, others to Friberg. The duke, having entered the city, summoned a council of such citizens as were still to be found in it, and with the axes of his halberdiers suspended over their heads, these spiritless and lukewarm men promised to accept him as their prince.9 But the vow of allegiance given in the “Council of Halberds” to-day was revoked on the morrow. The duke was at first stunned, and next he was terrified, at this sudden revival of opposition, when he believed it had been trampled out. Influenced by this mysterious fear, he hastily left Geneva, never again to enter it, and let fall, after having seemingly secured it, what he and his ancestors had been struggling for generations to grasp.10

The duke had but scattered the fire, not extinguished it. The parts of Switzerland to which the patriots had fled were precisely those where the light of the Reformation was breaking. At Bern and Friburg the exiles of Geneva had an opportunity of studying higher models of freedom than any they had aforetime come in contact with. They had been sent to school, and their hearts softened by adversity, were peculiarly open to the higher teaching now addressed to them. How often in after-years was the same thing repeated which we see realised in the case of these early champions of freedom! Were not the patriotic citizens of Spain and Italy again and again chased to the British shores? And for what end? That there they might study purer models, be instructed in deeper and sounder principles, have their views of liberty rectified and enlarged, and on their return to their own country might temper their zeal with patience, fortify their courage with wisdom, and so speed the better in their efforts for the emancipation of their fellow-subjects. Fruitful, indeed, were the months which the Genevese exiles spent abroad. When they reunited in February, 1526, after the flight of the duke, a new era returned with them. Their sufferings had elicited the sympathy, and their characters had won the admiration, of the noblest among the citizens of the States where they had been sojourning. They recognised the important bearing upon Swiss liberty of the struggle which Geneva had maintained. It was the extreme citadel of the Swiss territory towards the south; it barred the invader’s road from the Alps, and it was impossible to withhold from the little town the need of praise for the chivalry and devotion with which, single-handed, it had taken its stand at this Swiss Thermopylae, and held it at all hazards.

But it was not right, they felt, to leave this city longer in its isolation. For their own sakes, as well as for Geneva’s, they must extend the hand of friendship to it. An alliance11 offensive and defensive was formed between the three governments of Bern, Friburg, and Geneva. If the conflicts of the latter city were not yet ended, it no longer stood alone. By its side were now two powerful allies. Whoso touched its independence, touched theirs. If the Gospel had not yet entered Geneva, its gates stood open towards that quarter of the sky which the rising sun of the Reformation was flooding with his beams.

Chapter 14.3: The Reform Commenced In Lausanne And Established In Morat And Neuchatel

Geneva on the Road to Liberty – Her Advance – There needs the Sword of the Spirit to Conquer her Highest Liberty – Farel – No Second Field of Kappel – Farel goes to Aigle – Acts as Schoolmaster – Begins to Preach – Commotion – Retires from Aigle – Leaves behind him a little Reformed Church – Goes to Morat–Then an Important Town – Eventually won to the Gospel – Attempts Lausanne – Goes to Neuchatel – Crowds flock to his Preaching – Plants the Reformed Faith at Meiry in the neighbouring Jura – Returns to Neuchatel – Carries its Reformation by a Coup.

GENEVA had gone a long way towards independence. It had chased the duke across the mountains to return no more. It had formed an alliance with Bern and Friburg without waiting for the consent of its prince-bishop; this was in effect to hold his temporal authority null, and to take the sovereignty into its own hands. Liberty had advanced a stage on its road. Free Europe had enlarged its area; and that of bond Europe had, to the same extent, been circumscribed: Rome saw the outposts of Progress so much nearer her own gates. The Pope beheld bold and spirited citizens ignoring the scepter of their prince-bishop, converting it into a bauble; and the thought must have suggested itself to him, might not the day come when his own more powerful rod would be plucked from his hand, and broken in pieces, like that of his vassal-bishop in Geneva?

But though on the road, Geneva had not yet arrived at the goal. She was not yet crowned with the perfect liberty. A powerful oppressor had her in his grip, namely, Rome. The tyrant, it is true, had been compelled to relax his hold, but he might tighten his grasp unless Geneva should succeed in entirely disengaging herself. But she had not yet got hold of the right weapon for such a battle. Berthelier assailed Rome on the ground of ancient charters; Bonivard hurled against her the shafts of a revived learning; Levrier maintained the fight with the sword of justice; but it needed that a more powerful sword, even that of the Word of the living God, should be unsheathed, before the tyrant could be wholly discomfited and the victory completely won. That sword had been unsheathed, and the champions who were wielding it, advancing in their victorious path, were every day coming nearer the gates of Geneva. When this new liberty should be enthroned within her, then would her light break forth as the morning, the black clouds which had so long hung about her would be scattered, and the tyrants who had plotted her overthrow would tremble at her name, and stand afar off for fear of that invisible Arm that guarded her. Let us turn to the movements outside the city, which, without concert on the part of their originators, fall in with the efforts of the champions of liberty within it for the complete emancipation of Geneva.

We have already met Farel. We have seen him, a mere lad, descending from the mountains of Dauphine, entering himself a pupil in that renowned seminary of knowledge and orthodoxy, the Sorbonne—contracting a close friendship with its most illustrious doctor, Lefevre, accompanying him in his daily visits to the shrines of the metropolis, and kneeling by the side of the venerable man before the images of the saints. But soon the eyes both of teacher and pupil were opened; and Farel, transferring that ardor of soul which had characterised him as a Papist to the side of the Reformation, strove to rescue others from the frightful abyss of superstition in which he himself had been so near perishing. Chased from France, as we have already related, he turned his steps toward Switzerland.

It is the second Reformation in Switzerland that we are now briefly to sketch. The commencement and progress of the first we have already traced. Beginning with the preaching of Zwingle in the convent of Einsiedein, the movement in a little time transferred itself to Zurich; and thence it rapidly spread to the neighboring towns and cantons in Eastern Helvetia, extending from Basle on the frontier of Germany on the north, to Choire on the borders of Italy on the south. The Forest Cantons, however, continued obedient to Rome. The adherents of the old faith and the champions of the new met on the bloody field of Kappel. The sword gave the victory to Romanism. The bravest and best of the citizens of Zurich lay stretched upon the battle-field. Among the slain was Zwingle. With him, so men said and believed at the moment, had fallen the Reformation.

In the grave of its most eloquent preacher and its most courageous defender lay inferred the hopes of Swiss Protestantism. But though the calamity of Kappel arrested, it did not extinguish, the movement; on the contrary, it tended eventually to consolidate and quicken it by impressing upon its friends the necessity of union. In after years, when Geneva came to occupy the place in the second Helvetian movement which Zurich had done in the first, the division among the Reformed cantons which had led to the terrible disaster of 1531 was avoided, and there was no second field of Kappel.

Arriving in Switzerland (1526), Farel took up his abode at Aigle, and there commenced that campaign which had for its object to conquer to Christ a brave and hardy people dwelling amid the glaciers of the eternal mountains, or in fertile and sunny valleys, or on the shores of smiling lakes. The darkness of ages overhung the region, but Farel had brought hither the light. “Taking the name of Ursin,” says Ruchat, “and acting the part of schoolmaster,1 he mingled, with the elements of secular instruction, the seeds of Divine knowledge. Through the minds of the children he gained access to those of the parents; and when he had gathered a little flock: around him, he threw off his disguise, and announced himself as ‘William Farel,’ the minister.” Though he had dropped from the clouds the priests could not have been more affrighted, nor the people more surprised, than they were at the sudden metamorphosis of the schoolmaster. Farel instantly mounted the pulpit. His bold look, his burning eye, his voice of thunder, his words, rapid, eloquent, and stamped with the majesty of truth, reached the conscience, and increased the number of those in the valley of Aigle who were already prepared to take the Word of God for their guide. But not by one sermon can the prejudices of ages be dispelled. The cures were filled with wrath at the bold intruder, who had entered their quiet valley, had shaken their authority, till now so secure, and had disturbed beliefs as ancient, and as firmly founded, the mountaineers believed, as the peaks that overhung their valleys.

The priests and people raised a great clamor, being supported by the cantonal officials, in particular by Jacob de Roverea, Lord of Cret, and Syndic of Aigle. Hearing of the opposition, the Lords of Bern, whose jurisdiction comprehended Aigle and its neighborhood, sent a commission to Farel empowering him to explain the Scriptures to the people.2 The mandate was posted up on the church doors,3 but instead of calming the tempest this intervention of authority only stirred it into fourfold fury. It would seem as if the Gospel would conquer alone, or not at all. The priests burned with zeal for the safety of those flocks to whom before they had hardly ever addressed a word of instruction;4 the Syndic took their side, and the placards of the magistrates of Bern were torn down.

“That cannot be the Gospel of Christ,” said the priests, “seeing the preaching of it does not bring peace, but war.” This enlightened logic, of a piece with that which should accuse the singing of the nightingale in a Swiss valley as the cause of the descent of the avalanches, convinced the mountaineers. The inhabitants of the four districts into which the territory of Aigle was divided—namely, Aigle, Bex, Ollon, and the Ormonds—as one man unsheathed the sword.5 The shepherds who fed their flocks beneath the glaciers of the Diablerets, hearing that the Church was in danger, rushed like an avalanche to the rescue. The herdsmen of the Savoy mountains, crossing the Rhone, also hastened to do battle in the good old cause. Tumults broke out at Box, at Ollon, and other places. Farel saw the tempest gathering, but remained undismayed. Those who had received the Gospel from him were prepared to defend him; but were it not better to prevent the effusion of blood, to which the matter was fast tending, and go and preach the Gospel in other parts of this lovely but benighted land?

This was the course he adopted; but, in retiring, he had the satisfaction of thinking that he had planted the standard of the cross at the foot of the mighty Dent de Morcles, and that he left behind him men whose eyes had been opened, and who would never again bow the knee to the idols their fathers had served,6 Soon thereafter, Aigle and Bex, by majorities, gave their voices for the Reform; but the parishes that lay higher up amid the mountains declared that they would abide in the old faith.

Whither should Farel go next? Looking from the point where the Rhone, rolling under the sublime peaks of the Dent du Midi and the Dent de Morelos, pours its discoloured floods into the crystal Leman, one espies, on the other side of the lake, the vine-clad hill on which Lausanne is seated. In Popish times this was a city of importance. Its tall cathedral towers soared aloft on their commanding site, while the lovely region held fast in the yoke of the Pope slumbered at their feet. Lausanne had a bishop, a college of rich canons, and a numerous staff of priests. It had besides an annual fair, to which troops of pilgrims resorted, to pray before the image of “Our Lady,” and to buy indulgences and other trinkets: a traffic that enriched at once the Church and the towns-people. But though one could hardly stir a step in its streets without:meeting a “holy man” or a pious pilgrim, the place was a very sink of corruption.7 There was need, verily, of a purifying stream being turned in upon this filthy place. Farel essayed to do so, but his first attempt was not successful, and he turned away upon another tack.8

Repulsed from Lausanne, Farel traversed the fertile country which divides the Leman from the Lake of Neuchatel, and arrived at Morat. This, in our day, insignificant place, was then a renowned and fortified town. It had sustained three famous sieges, the first in 1032 against the Emperor Conrad, the second in 1292 against the Emperor Rodolph of Hapsburg, and the third in 1476 against Charles, last Duke of Burgundy. Situated between France and Germany, the two languages were spoken equally in it. Farel brought with him an authorisation from the Lords of Bern empowering him to preach, not only throughout the extent of their own territories, but also in that of their allies, provided they gave consent.9

Here his preaching was not without fruit; but the majority of the citizens electing to abide still by Rome, he retraced his steps, and presented himself a second time before that episcopal city that overlooks the blue Leman, and which had so recently driven him from its gates. He was ambitious of subduing this stronghold of darkness to the Savior. This time he brought with him a letter from the Lords of Bern, who had jurisdiction in those parts, and naturally wished to see their allies of the same faith with themselves; but even this failed to procure him liberty to evangelist in Lausanne. The Council of Sixty read the letter of their Excellencies of Bern, and civilly replied that “It belonged not to them, but to the bishop and chapter, to admit preachers into the pulpits.” The Council of Two Hundred also found that they had no power in the matter.10 Farel had again to depart and leave those whom he would have led into the pastures of truth to the care of shepherds who knew so in to feed but were so skillful to fleece their flocks.

Again turning northwards, he made a short halt at Morat. This time the victory of the Gospel was complete, and this important town was placed (1529) in the list of Protestant cities.11 Farel felt that a mighty unseen power was travelling with him, opening the understandings, melting the hearts of men, and he would press on and win other cities and cantons to the Gospel. He crossed the lovely lake and presented himself in Neuchatel, which had lately returned under the scepter of its former mistress, Jeanne de Hochberg, the only daughter and heiress of Philip, Count of Neuchatel, who died in 1503.12 She regained in her widowhood the principality of Neuchatel, which she had lost in the lifetime of her husband, Louis d’Orleans, Duke of Longueville. No one could enter this city without having ocular demonstration that religion was the dominant interest in it—meaning thereby a great cathedral on a conspicuous site, with a full complement of canons, priests, and monks, who furnished the usual store of pomps, dramas, indulgences, banquetings, and scandals. In the midst of a devotion of this sort, Neuchatel was startled by a man of small stature, red beard, glittering eye, and stentorian voice, who stood up in the market-place, and announced that he had brought a religion, not from Rome, but from the Bible.

The men with shaven crowns were struck dumb with astonishment. When at length they found their voices, they said, “Let us beat out his brains.” “Duck him, duck him,” cried others.13 They fought with such weapons as they had; their ignorance forbade their opposing doctrine with doctrine. Farel lifted up his voice above their clamor. His preaching was felt to be not an idle tale, nor a piece of incomprehensible mysticism, but words of power—the words of God. Neuchatel was carried by storm.14 It did not as yet formally declare for Reform; but it was soon to do so.

Having kindled the fire, and knowing that all the efforts of the priests would not succeed in extinguishing it, Farel departed to evangelise in the mountains and valleys which lie around the smiling waters of Morat and Neuchatel. It was winter (January, 1530), and cold, hunger, and weariness were his frequent attendants. Every hour, more-over, he was in peril of his life. The priests perfectly understood that if they did not make away with him he would make away with “religion”—that is, with their tithes and offerings, their processions and orgies. They did all in their power to save “religion.” They suspended their quarrels with one another, they stole some hours from their sleep, they even stole some hours from the table in their zeal to warn their flocks against the “wolf,” and impress them with a salutary dread of what their fate would be, should they become his prey. On one occasion, in the Val de Ruz, in the mountains that overhang the Lake of Neuchatel, the Reformer was seized and beaten almost to death.15

Nothing, however, could stop him. He would, at times, mount the pulpit while the priest was in the act of celebrating mass at the altar, and drown the chants of the missal by the thunder of his eloquence. This boldness had diverse results. Sometimes the old bigotry would resume its sway, and the audience would pull the preacher violently out of the pulpit; at other times the arrow of conviction would enter. The priest would hastily strip himself of stole and chasuble, and cast the implements of sacrifice from his hands, while the congregation would demolish the altar, remove the images, and give in their adhesion to the new faith. In three weeks’ time four villages of the region had embraced the Reformed faith. The first of these was the village of Kertezers, the church of which had been given in the year 962 to the Abbey of Payerne, by Queen Berthe, wife of Rodolph II., King of Burgundy, foundress of the abbey. Since that time—that is, during 568 years—the religious of Payerne had been the patrons of that church, the cure of which was their vicar. As the Reformed were no longer served by him, they petitioned their superiors at Bern for a Reformed pastor. Their request was granted, and it was arranged that the Popish cure and the Protestant minister should divide the stipend between them.16 The cups, pictures, marbles, and other valuables of the churches were sold, and therewith were provided stipends for the pastors, hospitals for the poor and sick, schools for the youth, and if aught remained it was given to the State.17 The zeal of the citizens of Meiry outran their discretion. They overturned the altars and images before the Reformation had obtained a majority of votes. This furnished occasion to the Lords of Friburg to complain to those of Bern that their subjects in the Jura were infringing the settlement that regulated the progress of the Protestant faith. A few weeks, however, put all right, by giving a majority of votes in Meiry to the Reformation. Thus did the Gospel cast down the strongholds of error, and its preacher, in the midst of weakness, was triumphant. The spring and summer sufficed to establish the Reformed faith in great part of this region.

The Protestant hero Farel was now advancing to complete his conquest of Neuchatel. During his absence the Reformation had been fermenting. He entered the city at the right moment. Despite the opposition of the princess, of George de Rive, her deputy, and the priests, who sounded the tocsin to rouse the people, the magistrates, after deliberation, passed a decree opening the cathedral to the Reformed worship; and the citizens, forming round Farel, and climbing the hill on which the cathedral stood, placed him in the pulpit, notwithstanding the resistance of the canons. The solemnity of the crisis hushed the vast congregation into stillness. Farel’s sermon was one of the most powerful he had ever delivered, and when he closed, lo a mighty wind, felt though it could not be seen, passed over the people! They all at once cried out, “We will follow the Protestant religion, both we and our children; and in it will we live and die.”

Having restored the Gospel with its sublime doctrines and its worship in the spirit, the Neuchatelans felt that they had no longer need of those symbols by which Popery sets forth its mysteries, and through which the material worship of its votaries is offered. They proceeded forthwith to purge the church: they dismantled the altars, broke the images, tore down the pictures and crucifixes, and carrying them out, cast them down from the summit of the terrace on which the cathedral stands. At their feet slept the blue lake, beyond was the fertile champaign, and afar, in the south, a chain of glittering peaks, with the snowy crown of Mont Blanc rising grandly over all; but not an eye that day was turned on this glorious panorama. They had broken from their own and their children’s neck an ancient yoke, and were intent only on obliterating all the signs and instruments of their former slavery. In perpetual remembrance of this great day, the Neuchatelans inscribed on a pillar of the cathedral the words—ON THE 23RD OCTOBER, 1530, IDOLATRY WAS OVERTHROWN AND REMOVED FROM THIS CHURCH BY THE CITIZENS.18

Chapter 14.4: Tumults – Successes – Toleration

Second Vote on Religion at Neuchatel – Vallangin – Disgraceful Trick – Popular Tempest – Triumph of Reform – Farel turns his eye toward Geneva – Evangelises at Orbe – Makes a Beginning – First Communion at Orbe – Peter Viret – His Character – Goes to Grandson – A Battle in the Church – The Affair carried to the Conference at Bern – Protestant Bern and Catholic Friburg agree on a Policy of Toleration – Great Success of Farel – He turns toward Geneva.

WAS the storm that swept over Neuchatel on the 23rd of October, and which cleansed its cathedral-church of the emblems of superstition, a passing gust, or one of those great waves which indicate the rising of the tide in the spiritual atmosphere? Was it an outburst of mob-violence, provoked by the greed and tyranny of the priests, or was it the strong and emphatically expressed resolution of men who knew and loved the truth? If the former, the idols would again be set up; if the latter, they had fallen to rise no more. This was tested on the 4th of November following. On that eventful day the citizens of Neuchatel, climbing the hill on which stood the governor’s castle, hard by the cathedral that still bore traces of the recent tempest, in altars overturned, niches empty, and images disfigured, presented themselves before the governor and deputies from Bern. They had assembled to vote on the question whether Romanism or Protestantism should be the religion of Neuchatel. A majority of eighteen votes gave the victory to the Reformation. From that day (November 4, 1530) conscience was free in Neuchatel; no one was compelled to abandon Popery, but the cathedral was henceforward appropriated to the Protestant worship, and the Reformation was legally established.1

Vallangin, the town of next importance in this part of the Jura, followed soon thereafter the example Neuchatel. The issue here was precipitated by a shameful expedient to which the Papists had recourse, and which was of a sort that history refuses to chronicle. It was a fair-day; Antoine Marcourt, the Pastor of Neuchatel, was preaching in the market-place. A large and attentive congregation was listening to him, when a revolting spectacle was exhibited which was contrived to affront the preacher, insult the audience, and drive the Gospel from the place amid jeers and laughter.

The trick recoiled upon its authors. It was Popery that had to flee. A sudden gust of indignation shook the crowd. The multitudes rushed toward the cathedral. Who shall now save the saints? The priests have unchained winds which it is beyond their power to control. Altar, image, and monumental statue, all went down before the tempest. The relics were scattered about. Even the rich oriels, which flecked, with their glorious tints, stone floor and massive column, were not spared. The edifice, all aglow but a few moments before with the curious and beautiful picturings of chisel and pencil, was now a wreck. The popular vengeance was not yet appeased. The furious multitude was next seen directing its course towards the residences of the canons. The terrified clerics had already fled to the woods, but if their persons escaped, their houses were sacked.

By-and-by the storm spent itself, and calmer feelings returned to the breasts of the citizens. They ascended the hill on which stood the castle of the Countess of Arberg, who governed Vallangin, under the suzerainty of Bern. The authorities trembled when they saw them approach, and were greatly relieved when they learned that they had come with no more hostile intent than to demand the punishment of the perpetrators of the outrage. The countess gave orders for the punishment of the guilty, though she was suspected of connivance in the affair. As to all beyond, the matter was referred to Bern, and their Excellencies decided that the townspeople should pay for the works of art which they had destroyed, and that the countess in return should grant the free profession of the Reformed faith. The sum in which the citizens were amerced we do not know, but it must have been large indeed if it did not leave them immense gainers by the exchange.2

By a sort of intuition it was Geneva that Farel all along had in his eye. The victories which he won, and won with such rapidity and brilliancy, at the foot of the Jura, and on the shores of its lakes, were but affairs of outposts. They were merely stepping-stones upon his road, towards the conquest of that heroic little city, which occupied a site where three great empires touched one another, and where he longed to plant the Protestant standard. The idea was ever borne in upon his mind that Geneva had a great part before it, that it was destined to become the capital of Swiss Protestantism, and, in part, of French and Savoyard Protestantism also; for its higher destiny he did not dare to forecast. Therefore he rejoiced in every victory he gained, seeing himself so much the nearer what he felt must be his crowning conquest. But like a wise general he would not advance too fast; he would leave behind him no post of the enemy untaken; he intended that Geneva should be conquered once for all; he would enter its gates only after he had subdued the country around, and hang out the banner of the Gospel upon its ramparts when Geneva had become mistress of a renovated region. And it pleased the Captain whom he served to give him his desire.

There was a short halt in the march of this spiritual conqueror. At St. Blaise, on the northern shore of the Lake of Neuchatel, Farel was set upon by a mob, instigated by the priests, and almost beaten to death. Covered with bruises, spitting. blood, and so disfigured as scarcely to be recognized by his friends, he was put into a small boat, carried across the lake, and nursed at Morat. He had barely recovered his strength when he rose from bed, and set out for Orbe to evangelise. Orbe was an ancient town at the foot of the Jura, on the picturesque banks of a stream of the same name. It lay nearer Geneva than Neuchatel. Watered by rivulets from the mountains, the gardens that surrounded it were of more than ordinary beauty and luxuriance, but spiritually Orbe was a wilderness, a “land where no water was.” The Reformer would have given it “living water;” but, unhappily, Orbe, with its numerous priests, its rich convents, and its famous sisters of St. Claire, some of whom were of royal lineage, did not thirst for such water. Its good Catholics strove to render Farel’s journey of no avail. With this view they had recourse to expedients, some of which were tragic, others simply hdicrous. One of them is worth chronicling for its originality. It was agreed to outmanceuvre the evangelist by staying away—a masterly policy in the case of a preacher so attractive—but in one instance the policy was departed from. One day, when Farel entered the pulpit, a most extraordinary scene presented itself. He beheld three adults only present, while the church was nearly filled with children—“brats.” The latter lay perfectly flat as if sound asleep. But the moment Farel began to preach they jumped up, as puppets do when the string is pulled, and began to sing and dance, to laugh and scream. Farel’s voice was completely drowned by the noise. This scene continued for some time; at length the little ragamuffins made their exit in an uproar of screaming and howling. Farel was now left in quiet, but with no one to listen to him. “And this,” says a Popish chronicler, “was the first sermon preached in the town of Orbe.”3

Nevertheless the Reformer persevered. Soon a small but select number of converts gathered round him, some of them of good position in society. On Pentecost, the 28th of May, Farel celebrated the Lord’s Supper, for the first time in Orbe, to a little congregation of seven. Having preached in the morning, the bread and wine were placed on the table, and the communicants received them kneeling. Farel demanded of them whether they forgave one another, and receiving an affirmative reply, he distributed the elements to them. In the afternoon the Papists entered the church, and commenced the chanting of mass.” 4

Farel was beginning to think that Orbe was already won, when unhappily these bright prospects were suddenly dashed by the indiscreet zeal of one of the evangelists. Thinking to reform Orbe by a coup de main, this person, with the help of twelve companions, pulled down one day all the images in its seven churches.5 The destruction of the idols but prolonged the reign of idolatry. A reaction set in, and it was not till twenty years thereafter that Orbe placed itself in the rank of Reformed cities.

But if Orbe remained Roman it had the honor of giving to the Reformation one of its loveliest spirits and most persuasive preachers. Peter Viret was born in this town in 1511. His father was a wool-dresser. Sweet, studious, and of elevated soul, the son gave himself to the service of the altar. he was educated at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he remained about three years.

He attained the peace of the Gospel, like most of the Reformers, by passing through the waters of anguish; but in his case “the floods” were not so deep as in that of Luther and Calvin. When he returned to his native city, he entered the pulpit at the entreaty of Farel, and preached to his townsmen. The sweetness of his voice, the beauty of his ideas, and the modesty of his manner held his hearers captive. It was seen that he who distributes to his servants as he pleases for the edification of his body, the Church, had given to Viret his special gift. He did not possess the glowing imagery and bmuling ardor of Luther, nor the fiery energy of Farel, nor the thrilling power of Zwingle, nor the calm, towering, and all-mastering genius of Calvin; but his preaching, nevertheless, had a charm which was not found in that of any of those great men. Clear, tender, persuasive aided by the stircry tones of his voice, and the moral glow which lighted up his features, its singular fascination and power were attested, in after-years, by the immense crowds which gathered round him in Switzerland and the south of France, whenever he stood up to preach. He was indeed a polished shaft in the hand of the Almighty.6

Farel had to fall back from before Orbe; but if he retreated it was to wage fi’esh combats and to win new victories. He next visited Grandson, at the western extremity of the Lake of Neuchatel. The priests, alarmed at his arrival, rose in arms, and drove him away. Bern now interposed its authority for his protection. Their Excellencies would compel no one to become a Protestant, but they were determined to permit the two faiths to be heard, and the citizens to make their choice between the sermon and the mass. Taking with him Viret, Farel returned to Grandson, where he was joined by a third, De Glutinis, an evangelist from the Bernese Jura. They preached Sunday and weekday. The heresy was breaking in like a torrent.

The priests strove to rear a bulwark against the devastating flood. They refuted, to the best of their ability, the Protestant sermons. They called to their aid popular preachers from the neighboring towns, and they organised processions and sacred chants to invigorate the zeal and piety of their adherents. The tide, notwithstanding, continued to set in a contrary direction to that in which they wished to force it to flow. Arming themselves, they came to church to refute what they heard spoken there, not with arguments, but with blows. The sacristan threatened Farel with a pistol which he had concealed under his cloak; another attempted to assassinate Glutinis with a poignard. The ministers managed to mount the pulpits, but were pulled from them, thrown down on the floor, trampled upon, beaten, and when their friends rushed forward to defend them, the two parties fought over their prostrate bodies, and a regular battle was seen going forward in the church.7

But a great good resulted from these lamentable proceedings. The matter was brought before the Great Conference, which assembled, as we have previously related, at Bern in January, 1532. The Swiss were drifting toward a civil war. It was hopeless to think of conciliating the two parties that divided the nation, but was it necessary therefore that they should cut one another’s throats? Might it not be possible rather to bear with one another’s opinions? This was the device hit upon. It might appear to Rome, as it still appears to her, an execrable one, but to the Conference it appeared preferable to the crime and horror of internecine strife. Thus out of that necessity which is said to be the mother of invention, came the idea of toleration. We deem the mass idolatry, said Protestant Bern, but we shall prevent no one going to it. We deem the Protestant sermon heresy, rejoined Popish Friburg, but we shall give liberty to all who wish to attend it. Thus on the basis of liberty of worship was the public peace maintained. This dates in Switzerland from January, 1532.8 Toleration was adopted as a policy before it had been accepted as a principle. It was practiced as a necessity of the State before it had been promulgated as a right of conscience. It was only when it came to be recognised and claimed in the latter character as a right founded on a Divine charter—namely, the Word of God—and held irrespective of the permission or the interdiction of man, that toleration established inviolably its existence and reign.

In this manner did Farel carry on the campaign. Every hour he encountered new perils; every day there awaited him fresh persecutions; but it more than consoled him to think that he was winning victory after victory. He remembered that similar foes had beset the path of the first preachers of the Gospel in the cities of Asia Minor at the beginning of the Christian dispensation, to those which obstructed his own in the towns and villages of this region. But in the face of that opposition, how marvellous had his success been—not his, but that of the invisible Power that was moving before him! Among the towns won to the Gospel—the beginning of his strength—he could count Neuchatel, and Vallangin, and Morat, and Grandson, and Aigle, and Bex, and partially Orbe. Every day the fields were growing ripe unto the harvest; able and zealous laborers were coming to his aid in the reaping of it. By-and-by he hoped to carry home the last sheaf, in the conversion of the little town which nestled at the southern extremity of the Leman Lake, to which his longing eyes were so often turned. What joy would be his, could he pluck it from the talons of Savoy and the grasp of Rome, and give it to the Gospel!

Chapter 14.5: Fabel Enters Geneva

Basin of the Rhone – Leman Lake – Grandeur of its Environs – The Region in Former Times a Stronghold of Popery – Geneva – The Duke of Savoy Entreats the Emperor to put him in Possession of it – The Hour Passes – Farel Enters Geneva – Preaches – The Perfect Liberty – The Great Pardon – Beginning of a New Geneva – Terror of the Priests – Farel and Saunier Summoned before the Council – Protected by Letters from Bern – A Tumult – Farel narrowly Escapes Death – Is Sent away from Geneva – Froment Comes in his Room – Begins as Schoolmaster – His New Year’s Day Sermon – Popular Agitation – Retires from Geneva

THERE is no grander valley in Switzerland than the basin of the Rhone, whose collected floods, confined within smiling shores, form the Leman. As one looks toward sunrise, he sees on his right the majestic line of the white Alps; and on his left, the picturesque and verdant Jura. The vast space which these magnificent chains enclose is variously filled in. Its grandest feature is the lake. It is blue as the sky, and motionless as a mirror. Nestling on its shores, or dotting its remoter banks, is many a beautiful villa, many a picturesque town, almost drowned in the affluent foliage of gardens and rich vines, which clothe the country that slopes upward in an easy swell toward the mountains. In the remoter distance the eye ranges over a vast stretch of pasture-lands and corn-fields, and forests of chestnuts and pine-trees. Above the dark woods soar the great peaks, as finely robed as the plains, though after a different manner—not with flowers and verdure, but with glaciers and snows.

But this fertile and lovely land, at the time we write of, was one of the strongholds of the Papacy. Cathedrals, abbacies, rich convents, and famous shrines, which attracted yearly troops of pilgrims, were thickly planted throughout the valley of the Leman. These were so many fortresses by which Rome kept the country in subjection. In each of these fortresses was placed a numerous garrison. Priests and monks swarmed like the locusts. The land was fat, yet one wonders how it sustained so numerous and ravenous a host. In Geneva alone there were nine hundred priests. In the other towns and villages around the lake, and at the foot of the Jura, they were not less numerous in proportion. Cowls and shorn crowns, frocks and veils, were seen everywhere. This generation of tonsured men and veiled women formed the “Church;” and the dues they exacted of the lay population, and the processions, chants, exorcisms, and blows which they gave them in return, were styled “religion.” The man who would go down into this region of sevenfold blackness, and attack these sons of the Roman Anak, who here tyrannised so mercilessly over their wretched victims, had indeed need of a stout heart and a strong faith.

He had need to be clad in the armor of God in going forth to such a battle. This man was William Farel. The spiritual campaigns of the sixteenth century produced few such champions. “His sermons,” says d’Aubigne, “were actions quite as much as a battle is.” We have already chronicled what he did in these “wars of the Lord” in the Pays de Vaud; we are now to be engaged in the narrative of his work in Geneva.

We have brought down the eventful story of this little city to the time when it formed an alliance with Bern and Friburg. This brought it a little help in the battle which it had maintained hitherto single-handed against tremendous odds. The duke had left it, and placed the Alps between himself and it, but he had not lost sight of it. Despairing of being able to reduce it by his own power, he sent a messenger to Charles V. at Augsburg, entreating him to send his soldiers and put him in possession of Geneva. Most willingly would the emperor have put these haughty citizens under the feet of the duke, but his own hands were at that moment too full to attempt any new enterprise. The Lutheran princes of Germany, as stubborn in their own way as the Genevans were in theirs, were occasioning Charles a world of anxiety, and he could give the duke nothing but promises. The emperor’s plan, as communicated to the duke’s envoy, was first to “crush the German Protestants, and then bring his mailed hand down on the Huguenots of Geneva.”1 Geneva meanwhile had respite. The Treaty of Nuremberg shortly afterwards set Charles V. free on the side of Germany, and left him at liberty to convert the promises he had made the duke into deeds. But the hour to strike had now passed; a mightier power than the emperor had entered Geneva.

Returning from the Waldensian synod in the valley of Angrogna, in October, 1532, Farel, who was accompanied by Saunter, could not resist his long-cherished desire of visiting Geneva. His arrival was made known to the friends of liberty in that city,2 and the very next day the elite of the citizens waited on him at his inn, the Tour Perce, on the left bank of the Rhone. He preached twice, setting forth the glorious Gospel of the grace of God. The topic of his first address was Holy Scripture, the fountain-head of all Divine knowledge, in contradistinction to tradition of Fathers, or decree of Council, and the only authority on earth to which the conscience of man was subject. This opened the gates of a higher liberty than these men had yet understood, or aspired to. They had been shedding their blood for their franchises, but now the Reformer showed them a way by which their souls might escape from the dark dungeon in which tradition and human authority had succeeded in shutting them up. The next day Farel proclaimed to them the great pardon of God—which consisted, according to his exposition, in the absolutely free forgiveness of sinners bestowed on the footing of an absolutely full and perfect expiation of human guilt; and this he placed in studious opposition to the pardon of the Pope, which had to be bought with money or with penances. This was a still wider opening of the gates of a new world to these men. “This,” said Farel, “is the Gospel; and this, and nothing short of this, is liberty, inasmuch as it is the enfranchisement of the whole man, body, conscience, and soul.”3 The words of the Reformer did not fall on dull or indifferent hearts. The generous soil, already watered with the blood of the martyrs of liberty, now received into its bosom a yet more precious seed. The Old Geneva passed away, and in its place came a New Geneva, which the wiles of the Pope should not be able to circumvent, nor the arms of the emperor to subdue.

The priests learned, with a dismay bordering on despair, that the man who had passed like a devastating tempest over the Pays de Vand, his track marked by altars overturned, images demolished, and canons, monks, and nuns fleeing before him in terror, had come hither also. What was to be done? Effectual steps must be promptly taken, otherwise all would be lost. The gods of Geneva would perish as those of Neuchatel had done.4

Farel and Saunter were summoned before the town council.5 The majority of the magistrates received them with angry looks, some of them with bitter words; but happily Farel carried letters from their Excellencies of Bern, with whom Geneva was in alliance, and whom the councillors feared to offend. The Reformers, thus protected, after some conference, left the council-chamber unharmed.

Their acquittal awakened still more the fears of the priests, and as their fear grew so did their anger. Armed clerics were parading the streets; there was a great flutter in the convents. “A shabby little preacher,” said one of the sisters of St. Claire, with a toss of the head, “Master William Farel, has just arrived.”6 The townspeople were breaking out in tumults. What next was thought of? An episcopal council met, and under a pretext of debating the question it summoned the two preachers before them. Two magistrates accompanied them to see that they returned alive. Some of the episcopal council had come with arms under their sacerdotal robes. Such was their notion of a religious discussion. The Reformers were asked by what authority they preached? Farel replied by quoting the Divine injunction, “Preach the Gospel to every creature.” The meek majesty of the answer only provoked a sneer. In a few minutes the council became excited; the members started to their feet; they flung themselves upon the two evangelists; they pulled them about; they spat upon them, exclaiming, “Come, Farel, you wicked devil, what makes you go up and down thus? Whence comest thou? What business brings you to our city to throw us into trouble?” When the noise had a little subsided, Farel made answer courageously, “I am not a devil; I am sent by God as an ambassador of Jesus Christ; I preach Christ crucified—dead for our sins—risen again for our justification; he that believeth upon him hath eternal life; he that believeth not is condemned.” “He blasphemes; he is worthy of death,” exclaimed some. “To the Rhone, to the Rhone!” shouted others; “it were better to drown him in the Rhone than permit this wicked Lutheran to trouble all the people.” “Speak the words of Christ, not of Caiaphas,” replied Farel. This was the signal for a yet more ferocious outbreak. “Kill the Lutheran hound,” exclaimed they. Dom Bergeri, proctor to the chaplain, cried, “Strike, strike!” They closed round Farel and Saunier; they took hold of them; they struck at them. One of the Grand Vicar’s servants, who carried an arquebus, levelled it at Farel; he pulled the trigger; the priming flashed.7 The clatter of arms under the vestments of the priests foreboded a tragic issue to the affair; and doubtless it would speedily have terminated in this melancholy fashion, but for the vigorous interposition of the two magistrates.8

Rescued from the perils of the episcopal council-hall, worse dangers, if possible, threatened them outside. A miscellaneous crowd of clerics and laics, armed with clubs and swords, waited in the street to inflict upon the two heretics the vengeance which it was just possible they might escape at the hands of the vicar and canons.9 When the mob saw them appear, they brandished their weapons, and raising a frightful noise of hissing and howling, made ready to rush upon them. It looked as if they were fated to die upon the spot. At the critical moment a band of halberdiers, headed by the syndics, came up, and closing their ranks round the two Reformers escorted them, through the scowling and hooting crowd, to their inn, the Tour Perce. A guard was stationed at the door all night. Next morning, at an early hour, appeared a few friends, who taking Farel and Saunter, and leading them to the shore of the lake, made them embark in a small boat, and, carrying them over the quiet waters, landed them in the Pays de Vand, at an unfrequented spot between Merges and Lausanne. Thence Farel and Saunter went on to Grandson. Such was the issue of Farel’s first essay in a city on which his eye and heart had so long rested. It did not promise much; but he had accomplished more than he at the moment knew.

In fact, Farel was too powerful, and his name was of too great prestige, to begin the work. The seeds of such a work must be deposited by a gentle hand, they must grow up in a still air, and only when they have taken root may the winds be suffered to blow. Of this Farel seems to have become sensible, for we find him looking around for a humbler and feebler instrument to send to Geneva. He cast eyes on the young and not very courageous Froment, and dispatched him to a city where he himself had almost been torn in pieces.10 While Froment was on his way another visitor unexpectedly appeared to the Genevans. A comet blazed forth in their sky. What did it portend? War, said some; the rising of a Divine light, said others.11

Froment’s appearance was so mean that even the Huguenots, as the friends of liberty and progress in Geneva were styled, turned their backs upon him. What was he to do? Froment recalled Farel’s example at Aigle, and resolved to turn schoolmaster. He hired a room at the Croix d’Or, near the Molard, and speedily his fame as a teacher of youth filled Geneva. The lessons Froment taught the children in the school, the children taught the parents when they went home. Gradually, and in a very short while, the class grew into a congregation of adults, the school-room into a church, and the teacher into an evangelist. Reading out a chapter he would explain it with simplicity and impressiveness. Thus did he scatter the seed upon hearts; souls were converted; and the once despised evangelist, who had been, like a greater missionary, “a root out of a dry ground” to the Genevans, now saw crowds pressing around him and drinking in his words.12

This was in the end of the year 1532. The work proceeded apace. Among the converts were certain rich and honorable women: we mention specially Paula, the wife of John Lever, and Claudine, her sister-in-law. Their conversion made a great sensation in Geneva. By their means their husbands and many of their acquaintances were drawn to hear the schoolmaster at the Croix d’Or, and embraced the Gospel. From the Pays de Vaud, arrived New Testaments, tracts, and controversial works; and these, distributed among the citizens, opened the eyes of many who had not courage to go openly to the schoolmaster’s sermon. Tradesmen and people of all conditions enrolled themselves among the disciples. The social principle of Christianity began to operate; those who were of one faith drew together into one society, and meeting at stated times in one another’s houses, they strove to instruct and strengthen each other. Such were the early days of the Genevan Church.

First came faith—faith in the free forgiveness of the Gospel—next came good works A reformation of manners followed in Geneva. The Reformed ceased to frequent those fashionable amusements in which they had formerly delighted. They banished finery from their dress, and luxury from their banquets. They made no more costly presents to the saints, and the; money thus saved they bestowed on the poor, and especially the Protestant exiles whom the rising storms of persecution in France compelled to flee to the gates of Geneva as to a harbour of refuge. There was hardly a Protestant of note who did not receive into his house one of these expatriated Christians,13 and in this way Geneva learned that hospitality for which it is renowned to this day.

The congregation of Froment in a few weeks grew too large for the modest limits of the Croix d’Or. One day a greater concourse than usual assembling at his chapel door, and pressing in vain for admittance, the cry was raised, “To the Molard!” To the Molard the crowd marched, carrying with them the preacher. It was New Year’s Day, 1533. The Molard was the market-square, and here, mounted on a fish-stall—the first public pulpit in Geneva—Froment preached to the multitude. It was his “New Year’s gift,” as it has been called. Having prayed, he began his sermon 14 by announcing that “free pardon”—the ray from the open heavens which leads the eye upward to the throne of a Savior—which all the Reformers, treading in the steps of the apostles, placed in the foreground of their teaching. From this he went on to present to his hearers the lineaments of the “false prophets” and “idolatrous priests” as painted in the Old and New Testaments, pointing out the exact verification of these features in the Romish hierarchy of their own day. Froment’s delineations were so minute, so graphic and fearless, that his hearers saw the prophets of Baal, and the Pharisees of a corrupt Judaism, living over again in the priests of their own city. The preacher had become warm with his theme, and the audience were kindling in sympathy, when a sound of hurrying footsteps was heard behind them. On turning round a band of armed men was seen entering the square. The lieutenant of the city, the procurator-fiscal, the soldiers, and a number of armed priests, exasperated by this public manifestation of the converts, had come to arrest Froment, and disperse the assembly. Had the preacher been captured, it is not doubtful what his fate would have been, but the band returned without their prey. His friends carried him off to a place of hiding.15

The agitation of the citizens and the violence of the priests made the farther prosecution of Froment’s ministry in Geneva hopeless. He withdrew quietly from the city, and returned to his former charge in the village of Yvonand, at the foot of the Jura.16 The foundations of Protestant Geneva had been laid: greater builders were to rear the edifice.

Chapter 14.6: Geneva On The Brink Of Civil War

First Communion in Ge