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    Book 15—Switzerland—Conquests 1526—1530

    Chapter 1

    Originality of the Swiss Reform—Change—Three Periods of Reform—Switzerland Romande—The two Movements in the Church—Aggressive Spirit—The Schoolmaster—Farel’s new Baptism—Mysticism and Scholasticism—A Door is opened—Opposition—Lausanne—Manners of the Clergy—Farel to Galeotto—Farel and the Monk—The Tribunal—The Monk cries for Pardon—Opposition of the Ormonds—A false Convert—Christian Unity

    The divisions which the Reformation disclosed within its bosom, on its appearance before the Diet of Augsburg, humbled it and compromised its existence; but we must not forget that the cause of these divisions was one of the conditions of the existence of the regenerated Church. No doubt it would have been desirable for Germany and Switzerland to have agreed; but it was of still greater importance that Germany and Switzerland should have each its original Reform. If the Swiss Reformation had been only a feeble copy of the German, there would have been uniformity, but no duration. The tree, transplanted into Switzerland, without having taken deep root, would soon have been torn up by the vigorous hand that was erelong about to seize upon it. The regeneration of Christianity in these mountains proceeded from forces peculiar to the Helvetic Church, and received an organization in conformity with the ecclesiastical and political condition of that country. By this very originality it communicated a particular energy to the principles of the Reformation, of much greater consequence to the common cause than a servile uniformity. The strength of an army arises in great measure from its being composed of soldiers of different arms.HRSCV4 596.1

    The military and political influence of Switzerland was declining. The new developments of the European nations, subsequent to the sixteenth century, were about to banish to their native mountains those proud Helvetians, who for so long a period had placed their two-handed swords in the balance in which the destinies of nations were weighed. The Reformation communicated a new influence in exchange for that which was departing. Switzerland, where the Gospel appeared in its simplest and purest form, was destined to give in these new times to many nations of the two worlds a more salutary and glorious impulse than that which had hitherto proceeded from its halberds and its arquebuses.HRSCV4 596.2

    The history of the Swiss Reformation is divided into three periods, in which the light of the Gospel is seen spreading successively over three different zones. From 1519 to 1526 Zurich was the center of the Reformation, which was then entirely German, and was propagated in the eastern and northern parts of the confederation. Between 1526 and 1532 the movement was communicated from Berne: it was at once German and French, and extended to the center of Switzerland from the gorges of the Jura to the deepest valleys of the Alps. In 1532 Geneva became the focus of the light; and the Reformation, which was here essentially French, was established on the shores of the Leman lake, and gained strength in every quarter. It is of the second of these periods—that of Berne—of which we are now to treat.HRSCV4 596.3

    Although the Swiss Reformation is not yet essentially French, still the most active part in it is taken by Frenchmen. Switzerland Romande is yoked to the chariot of Reform, and communicates to it an accelerated motion. In the period we are about to treat of, there is a mixture of races, of forces, and of characters from which proceeds a greater commotion. In no part of the christian world will the resistance be so stubborn; but nowhere will the assailants display so much courage. This petty country of Switzerland Romande, enclosed within the collosal arms of the Jura and the Alps, was for centuries one of the strongest fortresses of the Papacy. It is about to be carried by storm; it is going to turn its arms against its ancient masters; and from these few hillocks, scattered at the foot of the highest mountains in Europe, will proceed the reiterated shocks that will overthrow, even in the most distant countries, the sanctuaries of Rome, their images and their altars.HRSCV4 596.4

    There are two movements in the Church: one is effected inwardly, and its object is its preservation; the other is effected outwardly, and the object aimed at is its propagation. There is thus a doctrinal Church and a missionary Church. These two movements ought never to be separated, and whenever they are disunited, it is because the spirit of man, and not the Spirit of God prevails. In the apostolic ages these two tendencies were evolved at the same time and with equal power. In the second and third centuries the external tendency prevailed; after the Council of Nice (325) the doctrinal movement resumed the superiority; at the epoch of the irruption of the northern tribes the missionary spirit revived; but erelong came the times of the hierarchy and of the schoolmen, in which all doctrinal powers warred within the Church to found therein a despotic government and an impure doctrine—the Papacy. The revival of Christianity in the sixteenth century, which emanated from God, was destined to renovate these two movements, but by purifying them. Then indeed the Spirit of God acted at once externally and internally. In the days of the Reformation there were tranquil and internal developments; but there was also a more powerful and aggressive action. Men of God had for ages studied the Word, and had peacefully explained its salutary lessons. Such had been the work of Vesalia, Goch, Groot, Radewin, Ruybrook, Tauler, Thomas a Kempis, and John Wessel; now, something more was required. The power of action was to be combined with the power of thought. The Papacy had been allowed all necessary time for laying aside its errors; for ages men had been in expectation; it had been warned, it had been entreated; all had been unavailing. Popery being unwilling to reform itself, it became necessary for men of God to take its accomplishment upon themselves. The calm and moderate influence of the precursors of the Reform was succeeded by the heroic and holy revolutionary work of the Reformers; and the revolution they effected consisted in overthrowing the usurping power to re-establish the legitimate authority. “To everything there is a season,” says the preacher, “and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to plant, and a time to pluck up than which is planted; a time to break down, and a time to build up.” Of all Reformers, those who carried the aggressive spirit to its highest degree were the men who came from France, and more especially Farel, whose labors we have now to consider.HRSCV4 597.1

    Never were such mighty effects accomplished by so puny a force. In the government of God we pass in an instant from the greatest to the least of things. We now quit the haughty Charles V and all that court of princes over which he presides, to follow the steps of a schoolmaster; and leave the palaces of Augsburg to take our seats in the lowly cottages of Switzerland.HRSCV4 597.2

    The Rhone, after issuing, near St. Gothard, from the mountains of the Furka, from beneath an immense sea of eternal ice, rolls its noisy waters through a rugged valley separating the two great chains of the Alps; then issuing from the gorge of St. Maurice, it wanders through a more smiling and fertile country. The sublime Dent du Midi on the south, the proud Dent de Morcles on the north, picturesquely situated opposite each other, point out from afar to the traveller’s eye the beginning of this latter basin. On the tops of these mountains are vast glaciers and threatening peaks, near which the shepherds in the midst of summer lead their numerous flocks to pasture: while, in the plain, the flowers and fruits of southern climes grow luxuriantly, and the laurel blooms beside the most exquisite grapes.HRSCV4 597.3

    At the opening of one of the lateral valleys that lead into the Northern Alps, on the banks of the Grande Eau that falls in thunder from the glaciers of the Diablerets, is situated the small town of Aigle, one of the most southern in Switzerland. For about fifty years it had belonged to Berne, with the four parishes (mandemens) which are under its jurisdiction, namely, Aigle, Bex, Ollon, and the chalets scattered in the lofty valleys of the Ormonds. It is in this country that the second epoch of the Swiss Reformation was destined to begin.HRSCV4 597.4

    In the winter of 1526-1527, a foreign schoolmaster, named Ursinus, arrived in this humble district. He was a man of middle stature, with red beard and quick eyes, and who, with a voice of thunder (says Beza) combined the feelings of a hero: his modest lessons were intermingled with new and strange doctrines. The benefices being abandoned by their titularies to ignorant curates, the people, who were naturally of rude and turbulent habits, had remained without any cultivation. Thus did this stranger, who was no other than Farel, meet with new obstacles at every step.HRSCV4 597.5

    While Lefevre and most of his friends had quitted Strasburg to re-enter France, after the deliverance of Francis I, Farel had turned his steps towards Switzerland; and on the very first day of his journey, he received a lesson that he frequently recalled to mind.HRSCV4 597.6

    He was on foot, accompanied by a single friend. Night had closed around them, the rain fell in torrents, and the travellers, in despair of finding their road, had sat down midway, drenched with rain. “Ah!” said Farel, “God, by showing me my helplessness in these little things, has willed to teach me how weak I am in the greatest, without Jesus Christ!” At last Farel, springing up, plunged into the marshes, waded through the waters, crossed vineyards, fields, hills, forests, and valleys, and at length reached his destination, covered with mud and soaked to the skin.HRSCV4 597.7

    In this night of desolation, Farel had received a new baptism. His natural energy had been quelled; he became, for some time at least, wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove; and, as not unfrequently happens to men of such disposition, he at first overstepped his aim. Believing that he was following the example of the apostles, he sought, in the words of Oecolampadius, “by pious frauds to circumvent the old serpent that was hissing around him.” He represented himself to be a schoolmaster, and waited until a door should be opened to him to appear as a reformer.HRSCV4 598.1

    Scarcely had Magister Ursinus quitted the schoolroom and his primers, than, taking refuge in his modest chamber, he became absorbed in the Greek and Hebrew Scriptures, and the most learned treatises of the theologians. The struggle between Luther and Zwingle was commencing. To which of these two chiefs should the French Reform attach itself? Luther had been known in France for a much longer time than Zwingle; yet Farel decided in favor of the latter. Mysticism had characterized the Germanic nations during the Middle Ages, and scholasticism those of Roman descent. The French were in closer relation with the dialectician Zwingle than with the mystic Luther; or rather they were the mediators between the two great tendencies of the Middle Ages; and, while giving to the christian thought that correct form which seems to be the province of southern nations, they became the instruments of God to spread through the Church the fullness of life and of the Spirit of Christ.HRSCV4 598.2

    It was in his little chamber at Aigle that Farel read the first publication addressed to the German by the Swiss reformer. “With what learning,” cries he, “does Zwingle scatter the darkness! with what holy ingenuity he gains over the wise, and what captivating meekness he unites with deep erudition! Oh, that by the grace of God this work may win over Luther, so that the Church of Christ, trembling from such violent shocks, may at length find peace!”HRSCV4 598.3

    The schoolmaster Ursinus, excited by so noble an example, gradually set about instructing the parents as well as the children. He at first attacked the doctrine of purgatory, and next the Invocation of Saints. “As for the pope, he is nothing,” said he, “or almost nothing, in these parts; and as for the priests, provided they annoy the people with all that nonsense, which Erasmus knows so well how to turn into ridicule, that is enough for them.”HRSCV4 598.4

    Ursinus had been some months at Aigle: a door was opened to him; a flock had been collected there, and he believed the looked-for moment had arrived.HRSCV4 598.5

    Accordingly, one day the prudent schoolmaster disappears. “I am William Farel,” said he, “minister of the Word of God.” The terror of the priests and magistrates was great, when they saw in the midst of them that very man whose name had already become so formidable. The schoolmaster quitted his humble study; he ascended the pulpit, and openly preached Jesus Christ to the astonished multitude. The work of Ursinus was over: Farel was himself again. It was then about the month of March or April 1527, and in that beautiful valley, whose slopes were brightening in the warm rays of the sun, all was fermenting at the same time, the flowers, the vineyards, and the hearts of this sensible but rude people.HRSCV4 598.6

    Yet the rocks that the torrent meets as it issues from the Diablerets, and against which it dashes at every step as it falls from eternal snows, are more trifling obstacles than the prejudice and hatred that were shown erelong in this populous valley to the Word of God.HRSCV4 598.7

    The Council of Berne, by a license of the 9th of March, had commissioned Farel to explain the Holy Scriptures to the people of Aigle and its neighborhood. But the arm of the civil magistrate, by thus mingling in religious affairs, served only to increase the irritation of men’s minds. The rich and lazy incumbents, the poor and ignorant curates, were the first to cry out. “If this man,” said they one to another, “continues preaching, it is all over with our benefices and our Church.”HRSCV4 598.8

    In the midst of this agitation, the bailiff of Aigle and the governor of the four mandemens, Jacques de Roverea, instead of supporting the minister of their excellencies of Berne, eagerly embraced the cause of the priests. “The emperor,” said they, “is about to declare war against all innovators. A great army will shortly arrive from Spain to assist the Archduke Ferdinand.” Farel stood firm. Upon this the bailiff and Roverea, exasperated by such boldness, interdicted the heretic from every kind of instruction, whether as minister or schoolmaster. But Berne caused to be posted on the doors of all the churches in the four mandemens a new decree, dated the 3rd of July, in which their excellencies, manifesting great displeasure at this interdiction “of the very learned Farel from the propagation of the Divine Word, ordered all the officers of the state to allow him to preach publicly the doctrines of the Lord.”HRSCV4 598.9

    This new proclamation was the signal of revolt. On the 25th July, great crowds assembled at Aigle, at Bex, at Ollon, and in the Ormonds, crying out, “No more submission to Berne! down with Farel!” From words they soon proceeded to actions. At Aigle the insurgents, headed by the fiery syndic, tore down the edict, and prepared to fall upon the reformed. These, promptly uniting and surrounding Farel, resolved to defend him. The two parties met face to face, and blood was near flowing. The firm countenance of the friends of the Gospel checked the partisans of the priests, who dispersed, and Farel, quitting Aigle for a few days, carried his views farther.HRSCV4 599.1

    In the middle of the beautiful valley of the Leman, on hills which overlook the lake, stands Lausanne, the city of the bishop and of the Virgin, placed under the patronage of the Dukes of Savoy. A host of pilgrims, assembling from all the surrounding places, knelt devoutly before the image of Our Lady, and made costly purchases at the great fair of indulgences that was held in its precincts. Lausanne, extending its episcopal crosier from its lofty towers, pretended to keep the whole country at the feet of the pope. But owing to the dissolute life of the canons and priests, the eyes of many began to be opened. The ministers of the Virgin were seen in public playing at games of chance, which they seasoned with mockery and blasphemy. They fought in the churches; disguised as soldiers, they descended by night from the cathedral hill, and roaming through the streets, sword in hand and in liquor, surprised, wounded, and sometimes even killed the worthy citizens; they debauched married women, seduced young girls, changed their residences into houses of ill-fame, and heartlessly turned out their young children to beg their bread. Nowhere, perhaps, was better exemplified the description of the clergy given us by one of the most venerable prelates at the beginning of the sixteenth century: “Instead of training up youth by their learning and holiness of life, the priests train birds and dogs; instead of books, they have children; they sit with topers in the taverns, and give way to drunkenness.”HRSCV4 599.2

    Among the theologians in the court of the Bishop Sebastian of Montfaucon, was Natalis Galeotto, a man of elevated rank and great urbanity, fond of the society of scholars, and himself a man of learning, but nevertheless very zealous about fasts and all the ordinances of the Church. Farel thought that, if this man could be gained over to the Gospel, Lausanne, “slumbering at the foot of its steeples,” would perhaps awaken, and all the country with it. He therefore addressed himself to him. “Alas! alas!” said Farel, “religion is now little better than an empty mockery, since people who think only of their appetites are the kings of the Church. Christian people, instead of celebrating in the sacrament the death of the Lord, live as if they commemorated Mercury, the god of fraud. Instead of imitating the love of Christ, they emulate the lewdness of Venus; and, when they do evil, they fear more the presence of a wretched swineherd than of God Almighty.”HRSCV4 599.3

    But Galeotto made no reply, and Farel persevered. “Knock; cry out with all your might,” wrote he in a second letter; “redouble your attacks upon our Lord.” Still there was no answer. Farel returned to the charge a third time, and Natalis, fearing perhaps to reply in person, commissioned his secretary, who forwarded a letter to Farel full of abusive language. For a season Lausanne was inaccessible.HRSCV4 599.4

    After having thus contended with a priest, Farel was destined to struggle with a monk. The two arms of the hierarchy by which the Middle Ages had been governed were chivalry and monachism. The latter still remained for the service of the Papacy, although falling into decay. “Alas!” exclaimed a celebrated Carthusian, “what an obstinate devil would fear to do, a reprobate and arrogant monk will commit without hesitation.”HRSCV4 599.5

    A mendicant friar, who dared not oppose the reformer in a direct manner at Aigle, ventured into the village of Noville, situated on the low grounds deposited by the Rhone as it falls into the Lake of Geneva. The friar, ascending the pulpit, exclaimed, “It is the devil himself who preaches by the mouth of the minister, and all those who listen to him will be damned.” Then, taking courage, he slunk along the bank of the Rhone, and arrived at Aigle with a meek and humble look, not to appear there against Farel, whose powerful eloquence terribly alarmed him, but to beg in behalf of his convent a few barrels of the most exquisite wine in all Switzerland. He had not advanced many steps into the town before he met the minster. At this sight he trembled in every limb. “Why did you preach in such a manner at Noville?” demanded Farel. The monk, fearful that the dispute would attract public attention, and yet desirous of replying to the point, whispered in his ear, “I have heard say that you are a heretic and misleader of the people.” “Prove it,” said Farel. Then the monk “began to storm,” says Farel, and, hastening down the street, endeavoured to shake off his disagreeable companion, “turning now this way, now that, like a troubled conscience.” A few citizens beginning to collect around them, Farel said to them, pointing to the monk, “You see this fine father; he has said from the pulpit that I preach nothing but lies.” Then the monk, blushing and stammering, began to speak of the offerings of the faithful (the precious wine of Yvorne for which he had come begging), and accused Farel of opposing them. The crowd had now increased in number, and Farel, who only sought an opportunity of proclaiming the true worship of God, exclaimed with a loud voice, “It is no man’s business to ordain any other way of serving God than that which He has commanded. We must keep his commandments without turning either to the right hand or to the left. Let us worship God alone in spirit and in truth, offering to him a broken and a contrite heart.”HRSCV4 599.6

    The eyes of all the spectators were fixed on the two actors in this scene, the monk with his wallet, and the reformer with his glistening eye. Confounded by Farel’s daring to speak of any other worship than that which the holy Roman Church prescribed, the friar “was out of his senses; he trembled, and was agitated, becoming pale and red by turns. At last, taking his cap off his head, from under his hood, he flung it on the ground, trampling it under foot and crying: `I am surprised that the earth does not gape and swallow us up!’” Farel wished to reply, but in vain. The friar with downcast eyes kept stamping on his cap, “bawling like one out of his wits;” and his cries resounding through the streets of Aigle, drowned the voice of the reformer. At length one of the spectators, who stood beside him, plucked him by the sleeve, and said, “listen to the minister, as he is listening to you.” The affrighted monk, believing himself already half-dead, started violently and cried out: “Oh, thou excommunicate! layest thou thy hand upon me?”HRSCV4 600.1

    The little town was in an uproar; the friar at once furious and trembling, Farel following up his attack with vigor, and the people confused and amazed. At length the magistrate appeared, ordered the monk and Farel to follow him, and shut them up, “one in one tower and one in another.”HRSCV4 600.2

    On the Saturday morning Farel was liberated from his prison, and conducted to the castle before the officers of justice, where the monk had arrived before him. The minister began to address them: “My lords, to whom our Saviour enjoins obedience without any exception, this friar has said that the doctrine which I preach is against God. Let him make good his words, or, if he cannot, permit your people to be edified.” The violence of the monk was over. The tribunal before which he was standing, the courage of his adversary, the power of the movement which he could not resist, the weakness of his cause,—all alarmed him, and he was now ready to make matters up. “Then the friar fell upon his knees, saying: My lords, I entreat forgiveness of you and of God. Next turning to Farel: And also, Magister, what I preached against you was grounded on false reports. I have found you to be a good man, and your doctrine good, and I am prepared to recall my words.”HRSCV4 600.3

    Farel was touched by this appeal, and said: “My friend, do not ask forgiveness of me, for I am a poor sinner like other men, putting my trust not in my own righteousness, but in the death of Jesus.”HRSCV4 600.4

    One of the lords of Berne coming up at this time, the friar, who already imagined himself on the brink of martyrdom, began to wring his hands, and to turn now towards the Bernese councillors, now towards the tribunal, and then to Farel, crying, “Pardon, pardon!”—“Ask pardon of our Saviour,” replied Farel. The lord of Berne added; “Come tomorrow and hear the minister’s sermon; if he appears to you to preach the truth, you shall confess it openly before all; if not, you will declare your opinion: this promise in my hand.” The monk held out his hand, and the judges retired. “Then the friar went away, and I have not seen him since, and no promises or oaths were able to make him stay.” Thus the Reformation advanced in Switzerland Romande.HRSCV4 600.5

    But violent storms threatened to destroy the work that was hardly begun. Romish agents from the Valais and from Savoy had crossed the Rhone at St. Maurice, and were exciting the people to energetic resistance. Tumultuous assemblages took place, in which dangerous projects were discussed; the proclamations of the government were torn down from the church-doors; troops of citizens paraded the city; the drum beat in the streets of excite the populace against the reformer: everywhere prevailed riot and sedition. And hence, when Farel ascended the pulpit on the 16th February, for the first time after a short absence, some papist bands collected round the gate of the church, raised their hands in tumult, uttered savage cries, and compelled the minister to break off his sermon.HRSCV4 600.6

    The council of Berne thereupon decreed that the parishioners of the four mandemens should assemble. Those of Bex declared for the Reform; Aigle followed their example, but with indecision; and in the mountains above Ollon, the peasants, not daring to maltreat Farel, excited their wives, who rushed upon him with their fulling-clubs. But it was especially the parish of the Ormonds which, calm and proud at the foot of its glaciers, signalized itself by its resistance. A companion of Farel’s labors, named Claude (probably Claude de Gloutinis), when preaching there one day with great animation, was suddenly interrupted by the ringing of the bells, whose noise was such that one might have said all hell was busy pulling them. “In fact,” says another herald of the Gospel, Jacques Camralis, who chanced to be present, “it was Satan himself, who, breathing his anger into some of his agents, filled the ears of the auditors with all this uproar.” At another time, some zealous reformers having thrown down the altars of Baal, according to the language of the times, the evil spirit began to blow with violence in all the chalets scattered over the sides of the mountains; the shepherds issued precipitously like avalanches, and fell upon the church and the evangelicals. “Let us only find these sacrilegious wretches,” cried the furious Ormondines; “we will hang them,—we will cut off their heads,—we will burn them,—we will throw their ashes into the Great Water.” Thus were these mountaineers agitated, like the wind that roars in their lofty valleys with a fury unknown to the inhabitants of the plains.HRSCV4 601.1

    Other difficulties overwhelmed Farel. His fellow-laborers were not all of them blameless. One Christopher Ballista, formerly a monk of Paris, had written to Zwingle: “I am but a Gaul, a barbarian, but you will find me pure as snow, without any guile, of open heart, through whose windows all the world may see.” Zwingle sent Ballista to Farel, who was loudly calling for laborers in Christ’s vineyard. The fine language of the Parisian at first charmed the multitude; but it was soon found necessary to beware of these priests and monks disgusted with popery. “Brought up in the slothfulness of the cloister, gluttonous and lazy,” says Farel, “Ballista could not conform to the abstemiousness and rude labors of the evangelists, and soon began to regret his monk’s hood. When he perceived the people beginning to distrust him, he became like a furious monster, vomiting wagon-loads of threats.” Thus ended his labors.HRSCV4 601.2

    Notwithstanding all these trials, Farel was not discouraged. The greater the difficulties, the more his energy increased. let us scatter the seed everywhere,” said he, “and let civilized France, provoked to jealousy by this barbarous nation, embrace piety at last. Let there not be in Christ’s body either fingers, or hands, or feet, or eyes, or ears, or arms, existing separately and working each for itself, but let there be only one heart that nothing can divide. Let not variety in secondary things divide into many separate members that vital principle which is one and simple. Alas! the pastures of the Church are trodden under foot, and its waters are troubled! Let us set our minds to concord and peace. When the Lord shall have opened heaven, there will not by so many disputes about bread and water. A fervent charity—that is the powerful battering-ram with which we shall beat down those proud walls, those material elements, with which men would confine us.”HRSCV4 601.3

    Thus wrote the most impetuous of the reformers. These words of Farel, preserved for three centuries in the city where he died, disclose to us more clearly the intimate nature of the Great Revolution of the sixteenth century, than all the venturesome assertions of its popish interpreters. Christian unity thus from these earliest moments found a zealous apostle. The nineteenth century is called to resume the work which the sixteenth century was unable to accomplish.HRSCV4 601.4

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