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(From April To Whitsuntide, 1535.)
Jacques Bernard and the Reformers had a meeting for the purpose of drawing up their propositions. The justifying power of faith was to hold the first place, for, according to the Gospel, man must, before everything, condemn the selfish existence he has lived until the moment of his awakening, and place all his confidence in the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ alone. The theses drawn up by the Reformers were as follows:—
I. Man must seek justification for his sins in Jesus Christ ALONE.[509]
II. Religious worship must be paid to God ALONE.
III. The constitution of the Church must be regulated by the Word of God ALONE.
IV. The atonement for sins must be ascribed to Christ's sacrifice, offered up ONCE, and which procures full and entire remission.
V. We must acknowledge ONE ONLY Mediator between God and man—Jesus Christ.
The fault of Rome had been to add to the Gospel many strange dogmas and ceremonies, and place them above the primitive edifice, stage after stage, pile after pile, thus crushing it: this is indeed the proper meaning conveyed by the word superstition. The Reformers aspired
to pull down this framework, and liberate Christian truth from all the fables by which it was disfigured. Hence, as we see, the word alone plays a great part in this disputation. Its object was to exclude all human additions and to exalt God alone, Christ alone, the Gospel alone. These propositions, however, did not entirely satisfy Farel. In his opinion it was necessary, after laying down truths, to point out errors. Five negative theses were, therefore, added to the five positive theses:—
VI. It is wrong to put our trust in good works and look for our justification in them.
VII. To worship saints and images is to be guilty of idolatry.
VIII. Hence our traditions and ecclesiastical (or rather Roman) constitutions are not only useless but pernicious.
IX. The sacrifice of the mass, and prayers to the dead or for them, are a sin against the Word of God, and men are wrong to look to them for salvation.
X. The intercession of saints was introduced into the Church by the authority of men and not of God.
These propositions seem to us now mere theological formulæ: they were more than that. There was the true spirit in them. 'There are different ways of speaking,' said the friend[510] to whom Farel wrote an account of this disputation; 'the roaring of a lion is different from the braying of an ass.' There was indeed in these theses, destined to throw down a whole world of errors, the formidable 'roaring of a lion.'
On the 23d of April Jacques Bernard went to the hôtel-de-ville and presented his propositions to the council, who authorized him to defend them, and desired him to inform the members of the chapter of St. Pierre and other priests, monks, and doctors.[511] At Constance, freedom of discussion had been suppressed; and that
assembly, therefore, had produced no other light than the flames of the scaffold. It was not thus that the Reformation was to advance. 'Let the truth appear and triumph!'
The theses were immediately distributed in all the churches and monasteries of the city. No worshipper crossed the threshold of the sanctuary without receiving one of the printed handbills. The superior of the Franciscans waited personally upon the canons and presented each of them with a copy of the propositions. He gave them to every member of the government, lay and clerical: there was no shop or refectory in which the ten propositions were not read and commented upon. They were posted on the church doors and in the public places, not only in Geneva, but in the allied and neighboring cities. They were even sent to gentlemen at their châteaux. In its very infancy, the Reformation proclaimed and practised the widest publicity. The trumpet sounded in every quarter of the city, and the herald announced that a discussion would take place on the 30th of May in the great hall of the Cordeliers of Rive, and that scholars of all classes, Genevese or foreigners, clerks or laymen, were invited with full liberty of speaking, and the offer of a safe-conduct. 'Ah!' said Froment, one of the champions, 'if such a license were given by every prince, the business would be soon settled, without burning so many poor Christians. But the pope and his cardinals forbid all discussion of this or that, except it be with fire and sword: a fashion they have learnt no doubt from the Grand Seignor.'[512]
The remark was but too true. The news of the discussion had no sooner reached the bishop than a feeling of horror came over him. 'What!' he said, 'convoke a council in my own city! nobody has the right to do it but myself.' And he immediately published
throughout his diocese a proclamation 'forbidding the faithful to be present at the assembly under pain of excommunication.' The duke of Savoy also forbade his subjects to attend it, and the Franciscans, at that time assembled in general chapter at Grenoble, having received the invitation, declared they would not come.[513] There were, no doubt, capable men among them; but to discuss the truths taught by the Church was, in their eyes, aiming a blow at its authority. The result was a universal silence on the part of the priests. They were very clever in making the most of miraculous appearances, of dead children restored to life; but of discussion, not a word. One or two fervent Catholics would, however, have willingly broken a lance with Farel, but the orders of their chiefs held them back. The army of the pope, summoned by the voice of the trumpet, was wanting on the day of combat.
Still Roman-catholicism did something. Monsignor de Bonmont went to the council on the 25th of May, and begged the syndics to take part in a torchlight procession and other ceremonies which were to take place on the 27th of the month, the festival of Corpus Christi. That procession, however brilliant it might be, was very displeasing to the zealous Reformers: they did not like that the Word of God should be supplanted by millinery, lace, and all the empty glitter which dazzles the eye in sacerdotal costumes. The answer of the council was judicious: 'We have appointed a discussion,' said the premier syndic to the vicar-episcopal; 'that will decide whether the procession is holy or not. Wait a little, then; if the conference is in favor of the procession, it shall be proclaimed with sound of trumpet.'[514]
At the same time the council resolved to send a
deputation to all the convents to invite the monks, who answered, 'We have no learned men among us; it is impossible for us to take part in the discussion.'[515]
One convent, however, displayed resolution: it was that of the nuns of Ste. Claire. The mother-vicar, Mademoiselle de Montluet de Château-Fort, a woman of warm and fiery temperament, answered the invitation: 'Begone! you are wicked people who want to vex the servants of God.' The deputies replied, 'It is said, madam, that certain of your nuns remain only by force under your instruction, and would like to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd.'... At these words the mother-vicar burst out. 'Satan has no part among us,' she cried; and turning towards the nuns, added, 'My sisters, speak, speak!' Almost all exclaimed at the top of their voices, 'We will live and die in our holy calling.' The clamor was so great that the deputies could not make themselves heard. 'Do not be afraid, gentlemen,' said the mother, 'this is nothing. You will hear something very different if you take us to your synagogue. When we are there, we will make such an uproar, that we shall remain mistresses of the place.' 'Dame vicar,' said a deputy, 'you are very arrogant.' Thereupon the gentlemen retired, acknowledging however that they had not witnessed such courage in the convents of the monks.[516]
Farel, who was distressed at seeing the priests of Geneva refuse the discussion, would have supplied their place by distinguished athletes belonging to one party or the other. He wrote to Lefèvre of Etaples, the celebrated doctor of the Sorbonne, and invited him to the combat in which liberty and truth were about to engage in Geneva.[517] The aged and venerable doctor shed tears,
and returned thanks to God for what he heard.[518] But he was too old to take part in a disputation; perhaps, too, his faith was not bold enough; he declined the invitation. Farel turned his eyes in............
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