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HOME > Classical Novels > History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin > CHAPTER V.
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(June to August 1535.)
Rome had set up, beside the Bible and even above it, the word and the traditions of men. The Reformation demanded that the Holy Scriptures should be read by all and preached from the pulpits. The written Word and oral teaching were to displace that pretended infallible chair, which alone was authorized (they said) to set forth the will of God.
One fact of great importance was being accomplished at this time. The discussion maintained at Geneva by Farel, Bernard, Chapuis, and Caroli was but a musketry skirmish; but at a little distance from that city—at Neuchâtel—thanks to the labors of Calvin and Olivetan, a tradesman, a Picard like themselves, was preparing that great artillery, whose formidable volleys were to break down the walls of error, on the ruins of which a divine hand was to establish the truth of Jesus Christ.
Pierre Robert of Noyon, called Olivetan, had finished the work the Church had intrusted to him. On the 4th of June, 1535, appeared the first French Bible of the Reformation.[546] 'Possessing a keen and penetrating mind,' said one of its readers who was thoroughly capable of appreciating the work, 'the translator is not deficient in learning; he has spared neither labor, research, nor care, and has ably discharged the duties of a translator of the Bible.'[547] 'I have done the best I could,' said the translator himself, on presenting the book to his brethren; 'I have labored and searched as deeply as I possibly could into the living mine of pure truth; but I do not pretend to have entirely exhausted it.'[548] Some people have asserted that Olivetan's Bible was only a copy of that by Le Fevre of Etaples. The translation of the Old Testament, probably begun before Olivetan's journey to the Valleys, is the best part of his work, and it may be said to be original.[549] Calvin's cousin no doubt had his predecessor's translation before him; but the latter does not contain three consecutive verses in which Olivetan has not changed something. His New Testament is more like Le Fevre's; still numerous changes were introduced into it. It has been calculated that the new translator had corrected the biblical text of the Sorbonne doctor in twenty-three thousand five hundred places, and in more than sixty thousand, if account be taken of all the minutiæ of style.[550] Calvin's share has reference particularly to the later editions of this Bible. With regard to the mechanical part, the two cousins had found a distinguished auxiliary.
Pierre de Wingle (called also Pérot Picard) was one
of the good printers of the sixteenth century. The episcopal court of Lyons, where he lived, had prosecuted him for printing 'certain writings come from Germany;' he then took refuge at Geneva, but the impression of the New Testament and various pamphlets had compelled him, in 1532, to flee to Neuchâtel—a reformed city since 1530—which behaved more hospitably, and shortly after made him a citizen. About half an hour's walk from Neuchâtel, is the little village of Serrière; here Wingle set up his presses, and this modest but happy locality, which first had heard the Gospel preached by Farel, was destined also to be the first to witness the birth of Olivetan's Bible. The latter had dated his dedication,
Des Alpes, ce XIIᵉ de feburier 1535,
as if he wished to confound the Vaudois valleys of the Cottian Alps, where the idea had been conceived, with the parts of Switzerland where it had been carried out. The Vaudois had collected for this publication five hundred golden crowns, a sum equivalent to about 2,400l. sterling.
The volume had scarcely left the press, when Wingle and his friends sent it wherever the French language was spoken. 'Has not the King of kings proclaimed,' they thought, 'that His Word should go forth to the ends of the world?' 'The people who make thee this present,' said Olivetan to the Church, 'are the true people of patience who, in silence and hope, have overcome all assaults. For a long time they have seen thee maltreated, seeming rather a poor slave than the daughter and heiress of the universal Ruler. But now that thou beginnest to recognize thy origin, these people, thy brothers, come forward and lovingly offer thee their all. Cheer up then, poor little Church! go and cleanse thy spattered rags; go and wash thy befouled hands. Desirest thou to be always subject to masters? Is it not
time to think of the Bridegroom? Here is a precious jewel He sends thee as a wedding-gift and pledge of a loyal marriage.[551] Art thou afraid that He will some day leave thee a widow, He who lives for evermore? Courage! bid farewell to that traitorous hag whom thou hast so long called mother. It is true that thou canst bring to thy husband nothing of any value; but come, come boldly with all the nobles and titled ones of thy court, with thy insulted, excommunicated, imprisoned, banished, and plundered ones! Come with thy tortured, branded, crop-eared, dismembered ones![552] Such are those whom Christ calls to triumph with him in his heavenly court.'[553]
If the fruits of the Bible published at Neuchâtel were more numerous, those of the discussion at Geneva were more prompt. The most candid catholics were struck at seeing the men who were on the side of the Reform giving an account of their faith, while those on the other side stood dumb. There was eloquence in this contrast. Accordingly priests, laymen, and women, stripped of their prejudices, declared that the truth of God, brought forward during the discussion, had opened their eyes. No doubt many simply quitted the forms of popery for the forms of protestantism. To put aside superstitions, to break images, and to reject the authority of the pope was in their eyes the Reform: their chief was Ami Perrin. But with a great number of Genevans, the movement within, the conversion of the heart, corresponded with the movement without. There were
rivers of running water in that city which no man could stop, and at which many quenched their thirst.
The magistrates, however, far from reforming the Roman worship, remained motionless and silent. The friends of the Gospel took the initiative. Claude Bernard, the brother of Jacques, one of the captains of the city, a man full of zeal for the truth, went before the council on June 28th, accompanied by the ministers and several notables, and represented that the mass, images, and other inventions and idolatries,[554] being contrary to Holy Scripture, as the disputation had showed, it was time they were suppressed. The law of conscience ought to become the law of the State also. Bernard said: 'Ought a father to permit the children whose guardianship God has intrusted to him, to become attached to errors opposed to the truth of God? Magistrates, act like fathers. It will be to the glory of God and the salvation of the people.'[555]
The syndics and councils could not come to a decision. The step they were asked to take was that of a giant. They feared to excite the catholics to take up arms, and the duke of Savoy to surround Geneva with his artillery. To cross definitively the line which separated the old times from the new was too much for them. St. Paul and the Apostles had done it in their day, and the reformers were doing it now; but the syndics of Geneva were neither Pauls nor Farels. They feared civil war and escalades; they preferred waiting for the Reform to be accomplished without them, for everything to be changed without any one's observing it. The council, therefore, procrastinated and did
nothing.[556] 'The minutes of the discussion take a long time arranging,' answered the premier syndic to Claude Bernard; 'as soon as they are drawn out, we will see what is to be done.' The great evolution of the Reformation was metamorphosed by these worthy ediles into a question of drawing up minutes. To show their love for the status quo, they condemned to three days' imprisonment, on bread and water and the strappado, a huguenot who had destroyed the images placed in front of the chapel of Notre Dame.
Farel's friends determined to wait; but no measure of reform appeared, although they waited ten times the space required to examine the minutes. The huguenots thought that the council was taking refuge in 'tortuous hiding-places,' when it ought to act boldly in the light of day. The evangelicals thought that 'as God gives us everything openly, the secrets of our hearts ought also to be open and displayed.'
Never had courage and firmness been more necessary. Great miseries were beginning. Since the disputation not a sack of wheat or a load of wood had entered the city, while previously they used to enter in great numbers twice a week. There were no eggs, or butter, or cheese, or cattle. One day, however, a cow was brought by a man from a neighboring village; what a supply for a whole city! But the man had scarcely got out of the city, when the enemy seized him roughly and made him pay three times the price he had received. If friends wanted to bring some trifling stores from the nearest farms, they dared not do it by daylight.[557] Finding themselves reduced to such extremities, a few citizens on one or two occasions went out of the city to procure bread: they were insulted and beaten. 'Alas!' said the poor creatures, 'we
have only to move the tips of our fingers, or go a nail's breadth out of the city, to make our enemies cry out that we are upsetting heaven and earth.'[558]
Seeing that no progress was made, the evangelicals determined to assert the free publication of the Word of God. It was not enough for them to have it printed, they wanted it preached,—not only in their own houses or in the great hall of Rive, but in the churches. They had within their walls one of the most powerful preachers of the age—Farel: they believed that their duty towards God and their fellow-citizens called upon them to make his eloquent voice heard by the multitude.
The 22d of July was the feast of Mary Magdalen. The bells had been solemnly rung to call worshippers to the church of that name, and already a great number of catholics and even evangelicals had gathered within its walls. Was it by a Latin mass that the memory of that Magdalen ought to be commemorated to whom Jesus had said: Th............
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