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112

LEFEVRE AT MEAUX.

Christ part of France, Neuchâtel, Lausanne, and lastly, Geneva.*

In the same school, and, probably, under the same teacher, was young Robert Pierre Olivetan, a native of Noyon. To him we owe the first translation of the Scriptures into French Swiss. It was he also who first brought the gospel under the attention of his relative and fellowtownsman, Jolin Calvin, one of the most illustrious labourers in the work of reforn.

Of course, this state of things could not be suffered to continue. In Paris, the members of the Sorbonne cried out, “Heresy!” and appealed to the king. The disciples of Luther had, in the meantime, reached the university of that city, though not his writings. “Multitudes insolently assumed the liberty of interpreting the Bible for themselves," says

the Jesuit Maimbourg, quoted by Merle D'Aubigné. To protect their pupils, the faculty compelled Lefèvre to quit Paris. On leaving it, he moved to Meaux, and there, about the year 1523, he published the New Testament, boldly proclaiming “the sufficiency of Scripture," and the great doctrine of "justification by faith.” The preachers in the national church caught his spirit, and the very bishop warned the people, that, “though an angel from heaven were to announce to them another gospel, they were not to listen to him, even," added he, though I, your bishop, should change my language and my doctrine; beware then of changing like me."

* Merle D'Aubigné, book xii. 9 2.

GATHERING AT BASLE.

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While Luther was preparing his theses, and Lefèvre was teaching the gospel at Meaux, Basle in Switzerland was the scene of a remarkable gathering. There might be seen, in the year 1514, a man of about forty years of age, of a

small, slender frame, of delicate appearance, but of most winning and graceful manners.” This was Erasmus, the friend of sir Thomas More, and the first scholar at that time in Europe. He had come to Basle to carry through the press the first edition of the New Testament in Greek, and had been received by all classes with great distinction. One of the ministers of the city was a young man of mild disposition, slow and circumspect in business, fond of study, and of a loving heart. John Hausschein (House-light) was his Swiss name ; now better known under its Greek form, Ecolampadius. Though still in communion with the church of Rome, he taught boldly and effectually, as Erasmus also held, “ that in Scripture there was but one theme--that is, Jesus Christ.” In the neighbourhood of Basle was also residing a man of a very different temperament, earnest even to a fault; a profound scholar, and, at the same time, a powerful preacher ; not indisposed, if the truth must be known, to wield either sword, the spiritual or the secular, for liberty and truth—the impetuous Zwingle. How strange the histories of these three men—the last two the leaders in the Swiss reformation, the first honoured by them both, but a halting, inconsistent Romanist to the close.

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ZWINGLE. Of these men Zwingle was chief. After a history very like Luther's, he became a reformer. Like him he visited Italy, and rebuked the corruptions of the church. Like him, he had from the first a profound conviction of the doctrine of salvation by grace, and through Christ. Like him, he appealed constantly to the Scriptures, even while still a Romanist; and, like him, he. was the father, in one sense, of an extensive reform. Hediffered, however, from Lutherin some qualities. Possessed of the same faith as Luther, it was better ordered. The German reformer. was a man of beart, the Swiss of intellect. The first was more impassioned in his expositions of the faith, the second more philosophic. Their enemies called the one a mystic, and the other a rationalist; names which, though used with a colour of reason, are really unjust. Both, however, held substantially the same views. "If Luther," says Zwingle, "preaches Christ, he does what I do. Those who have been led to Christ by him exceed in number those who have been led by me. It matters not. I will bear no other name than that of Christ, whose soldier I am, and who alone is my chief. Never has one tittle been written by Luther to me, nor by me to Luther : and why ?-In order to manifest to every one how consistent the Spirit of God is with itself, since without having ever consorted together, we teach the doctrine of Christ with such harmony.' Under this preaching thousands were

* Merle D'Aubigné, book yiii. chap. 9.

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converted. Churches were formed by him at Zurich, and by his disciples at Berne, Lausanne, and in other places. In a little time bitter persecution arose, but it ended in the establishment, in most of the cantons, of the reformed faith.

Ten years after the visit of Erasmus, and the meeting between him and Zwingle, Farel and other Frenchmen had

tted their country, and settled at Basle. There they found many of the same belief; and among them some of the descendants of the “poor men of Lyons," who, like themselves, had been driven out of France. All began to look wistfully to the land of their fathers. She had expelled the gospel from her borders, but they were unwilling that she should be left to perish. Wanderers on a foreign soil themselves, they ceased not to make mention of her in prayer every day (it is their own testimony,) in silence and seclusion.” They invoked God's aid on their behalf, thus using the mightiest instrument ever employed in diffusing the gospel, the great means of conquest to the Reformation itself.*

Nor were they men of prayer only. They felt the importance of largely circulating the Scriptures. Bentin, one of their number, proposed establishing a printing-press at Basle ; and another, Vaugris, was sent to Lyons, where many rich members of their fraternity resided, to ask their help. To this appeal there was a liberal response, and Farel printed a considerable number of tracts and books, and sent them

* Ranke, book xii, chap. 12.

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THE BASLE BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY.

into the different districts of France. Their plan was, to deliver the books to pious hawkers or pedlars, who went with their respective burdens from city to city, and from house to house, These hawkers were instructed to knock at every door, and to sell as many as they could ; and, “that they might have an appetite for selling them,” the books were delivered to them at a low price. They were also to speak of the doctrines their books contained, and to commend them in every possible way to the hearts of the people. In the meantime, Lefèvre's Bible had been printed in France. A friend sent a copy of it to Basle, with the suggestion, “Have it printed with all speed; for I have no doubt that a great number will go off.” Thus, from the year 1524, there existed in Switzerland a French society for the publication of Bibles and religious books, and for their itinerant sale. Three hundred years before, Waldo had adopted the same agency, and with kindred

Such efforts belong, in truth, not to our day exclusively, but to the Reforination, and even to the first ages of the church. To such efforts France owed the prevalence within her boundaries, in the sixteenth century, of the principles of the gospel.

What was still wanting to complete the work which Zwingle had begun, was a version of the Scriptures thoroughly adapted to the language f the people, and some master-mind to give onsistency and system to the teaching and octrines of the reformers and fellow-labourers

success.

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