of the institution of which an account will be given in another
chapter.1 To this secret investigation Briçonnet objected, and
begged to be tried in open court by the entire body of parliament;2
but his petition was rejected, and his examination proceeded before the
inquisitorial commission. What measures were there taken to influence
him is not known. To Martial Mazurier, lately an enthusiastic preacher
of the "Lutheran" doctrines, who had himself, through fear, receded from
his advanced position, the doubtful honor is ascribed of having been
prominent in exertions to overcome the prelate's lingering scruples.
However this may be, when Briçonnet had given sufficient guarantees to
satisfy the Sorbonne that no apprehension need be entertained of a
repetition in Meaux of the dangerous experiment of the public
instruction of the people in the Holy Scriptures, there was nothing to
be gained by his condemnation. He was accordingly acquitted of all
charge of heresy, although condemned to pay the sum of two hundred
livres as the expense of bringing to trial the "heretics" whom he had
himself helped to make such.3 Hereupon he is said to have
1 Registres du parlement, Oct. 3, 1525, Preuves des Libertez de l'Église gallicane, iv. 102.
2 "Et supplie la Cour qu'il soit interrogé en pleine cour,
et non par Commissaires." Registres du parlement, Oct. 20, 1525, ibid., iv. 103.
3 Registres du parlement, Nov. 29, 1525, where the Bishop
of Meaux is ordered to pay 200 livres parisis for the trial of the
heretics, prisoners from Meaux (Preuves des Libertez, iii. 166), and the
receipt for the same (Ibid., ubi supra). This was, however, merely an
application of the general prescription of Nov. 24, 1525, requiring all
prelates to defray the expenses of the trial of any heretics discovered in their dioceses, with the right to indemnify themselves from the property of the convicted heretics (Ibid., iii. 165).
So the Archbishop of Tours contributed to the expenses incurred in the trial of Jean
Papillon, Feb. 5, 1526 (Ibid., iii. 167).
returned to his diocese, and, having convened a synod, to have prohibited, as we
have seen, the circulation of Luther's writings, reintroduced the
ecclesiastical practices that had been condemned or discarded, and given
to the persecution now set on foot his unequivocal sanction.1
Dispersion of the reformed teachers.
The teachers whom Briçonnet had so cordially invited to assist him were
compelled one by one to abandon Meaux. Among the earliest to leave was
Farel.2 His was no faint heart. If he gave up his activity in Brie,
it was only to return to his native Dauphiny, where a young nobleman,
Anemond de Coct, and a preacher, Pierre de Sebeville, were among the
leading men whose conversion was the fruit of his indefatigable
exertions. After a visit to Guyenne, of which little is known, he passed
into German Switzerland, and labored successively in Basle, Strasbourg,
Annoyances of those who remain.
Lefèvre and Roussel were among the last to withdraw; but, beset with
watchful enemies, they found their position neither safe nor
comfortable. It was as difficult to maintain a semblance of friendship
with an ecclesiastical system which they detested in their hearts, as to
refuse their sympathy and support to the persecuted whose opinions they
shared without possessing the courage necessary to suffer in attestation
of the common faith. Busy informers at one time found evidence, more
than warranting the suspicion that Roussel's manuscripts had furnished
the material of which scandalous placards defamatory of the Pope were
framed.4 A little later the proctor of the cathedral drew attention to the
1 Daniel, x. 23, 24; Gaillard, vi. 409-411.
2 Neither the reason nor the precise time of his departure
is known. It was apparently as early as 1523.
3 See Haag, La France protestante, art. Farel; Dr. E.
Schmidt, Wilhelm Farel, in Hagenbach, Leben d. Väter und Begründer der
Reformirten Kirche, vii. 3, etc. A brief but very accurate sketch in
Herminjard, i. 178, etc.
4 MS. Seminary of Meaux, January 11, 1524/5, Bulletin, x. 220.
irregular conventicles held in the church itself, every Sunday
and feast-day, after Roussel had preached. These "combers, carders, and
other persons of the same stamp, unlettered folk,"1brought with
them books containing the Epistles of St. Paul, the Gospels, and the
Psalms, in flagrant disregard of the prohibitions they had heard
respecting the discussion of such topics as faith, the sacraments, the
privileges of Rome, and the use of pictures in the churches. It was made
the occasion of "charitable rebuke" and then of formal complaint against
Roussel by his fellow canons, that he failed to repeat the angelic
salutation, according to the orthodox practice, after the exordium of
his sermon. To the combined exhortations and threats of his accusers
Roussel replied in the chapter that, if he had done wrong, it belonged
to the bishop to reprove him, but that as to himself he esteemed the
repetition of the Lord's Prayer quite as efficacious as the recital of
the Ave Maria.2
Lefèvre and Roussel take refuge in Strasbourg. Excessive caution of Roussel.
At last danger thickened, and Lefèvre and Roussel found themselves
forced to leave Meaux (October, 1525), and sought refuge within the
hospitable walls of Strasbourg; for the persecuting measures adopted by
the regent, Louise de Savoie, and the Parliament of Paris, during the
king's captivity, as we shall shortly see, had placed the lives of even
such prudent reformers in peril.3 In the free city on the banks of
the Rhine, Lefèvre met his pupil Farel, and in the midst of cordial
greetings was reminded by him that the day of "renovation" which he had
long since predicted and desired had really come.4 But the contrast
between the two men had become sharply drawn. The fearless athlete, soon
to measure his strength with no puny antagonists at Neufchâtel,
Lausanne, Geneva, and so many other places in French
1 "Plusieurs peigneurs, cardeurs et autres gens de même trempe, non lettrés."
2 MS. Seminary of Meaux, February 6, 1524/5, Bulletin, x.220.
3 Compare for the date, Herminjard, i. 378, 389, 401.
Gérard Roussel was ordered by parliament to be seized wherever found,
etiam in loco sacro. So, too, were Caroli and Prévost. Jacques Lefèvre
was cited to appear. Régistres du parlement, Oct. 3, 1525, Preuves des
Libertez de l'Égl. gall., iii. 102, 103.
4 Farel to Pellican, 1556, Herminjard, i. 481.
Switzerland, whose course was to be a succession of rough encounters,
discovered that the master from whom he had received the impulse that
shaped his entire life, shrank from sundering the last link binding him to the
Roman church. And Gérard Roussel was even more timid. The elegant preacher,
with fair prospects of preferment, could not bring himself openly to
espouse the quarrel of oppressed truth. A mysticism investing his entire
belief, and perverting his moral perceptions, led him to imagine that
the heart might be kept pure in the midst of many external corruptions,
and that the enlightened could worship the Almighty acceptably in spite
of superstitious observances, which, while countenancing by apparent
acquiescence, they rejected in their hearts. The excellence of the
reformation already inaugurated at Strasbourg made a deep and very
favorable impression upon Roussel. He wrote to Bishop Briçonnet that the
daily preaching of a pure doctrine, "without dross or leaven of the
Pharisees,"1 the crowds of attentive hearers, the schools presided
over by men as illustrious for piety as for letters, and the careful
provision for the poor, would delight his correspondent were he to see
them. He did not dissemble his own great satisfaction that the
monasteries had been changed into educational establishments, the
pictures taken away from the churches, and every altar removed except
one, on which the communion was celebrated, as nearly as possible,
according to the plan of its institution.2 At the same time he
renounced none of his excessive caution. His words were still those he
had uttered when urged, a twelvemonth earlier, by Farel,
Œcolampadius, and Zwingle, to strike out boldly and by an open
dispute on religion compel the attention of the thoughtless world. "The
flesh is weak! As my friends, Lefèvre and others, urge, the convenient