Reformation. It will be sufficient, therefore, if we glance hastily at
some of the partial and abortive efforts directed toward the reform of
doctrine and manners of which mediæval France was the theatre.
The Cathari and Albigenses.
Foremost among the popular opponents of the papacy were the Cathari and
Albigenses. The accounts of the origin of the sect or sects bearing
these names are vague and unsatisfactory, and the reports of their creed
and worship are inconsistent or incredible. The ruin that overwhelmed
them spared no friendly narrative of their history, and scarcely one
authoritative exposition of the belief for the profession of which their
adherents encountered death with heroic fortitude. Defeat not only
compelled the remnants of the Albigenses to succumb to Simon de Montfort
and his fellow crusaders, but reduced them to the indignity of having
the record of their faith and self-devotion transmitted to posterity
only in the hostile chronicles of Roman ecclesiastics. But even partisan
animosity has not robbed the world of the edifying spectacle of a large
number of men and women, of a quiet and peaceable disposition,
persistently and fearlessly protesting, through a long series of years,
against the worship of saints and
1 See Mézeray's bitter words respecting Cardinal Duprat's
last hours and character, Abrégé chronologique, iv. 584.
2 "Poi me disse che per opera del Reverendissimo di
Granmont non si faria cosa buona in questa cosa, perche et lui et il
Gran Cancellario di Francia erano huomini più disposti a fare quattro
guerre die una pace." Cardinal Campeggio to Cardinal Salviati, apud
H. Laemmer, Monumenta Vaticana hist. ecclés. sæculi XVI. illustrantia,
ex tab. sanctæ sedis Apostolicæ secretis, Frib. Brisg., 1861, 67.
images, resisting the innovations of a corrupt church, and
adhering with constancy to a simple ritual unencumbered
with superstitious observances. Careful investigation establishes
the fact that the Holy Scriptures were read and accepted as the
supreme authority as well in doctrine as in practice, and that the
precepts there inculcated were adorned by lives so pure and exemplary as
to evoke an involuntary expression of admiration from bitter opponents.
There is little doubt that strange doctrinal errors found a foothold in
2 The complicated motives inducing the Council of Constance to acquiesce
in the cruel sentence of Huss were skilfully traced as far back as by the
learned Mosheim, Institutes of Eccles. Hist. (ed. Murdoch), ii. 429, note.
the last of those whose words have come down to us was Jean Bouchet, a
native of Poitiers. In 1512, only five years before the publication of
the theses of the reformer of Wittemberg, he gave to the world a poem
not devoid of historical interest, though possessed of little poetic
merit, entitled "La Déploration de l'Église militante."1 In this
spirited lament it is the church herself that addresses the
hierarchy--pontiff, cardinals, patriarchs, bishops, and others--as well
as kings and secular dignitaries. She complains of the great injuries
and molestations she endures. The practice of simony has converted a
temple into a loathsome stable. Science and learning are no longer
necessary for the candidate for ecclesiastical preferment; a hundred
crowns in hand will serve his purpose much better, no matter how bad his
moral character may be. As for his qualifications, he is full well
provided if he can manage the hounds aright and knows how to hunt with
the falcon. "Cease," cries the church through the poet to the French
princes, "cease to load me down with gewgaws, with chalices, crosses,
and sumptuous ornaments. Furnish me instead with virtuous ministers. The
exquisite beauty of abbeys or of silver images is less pleasing in God's
sight than the holy life of good prelates."2 As it is, the dissolute
ministers of religion are engrossed in forbidden games, in banquets, and
the chase. Decked out with flowers, rings, and trinkets, the bishop in
his dress is more like a soldier or a juggler, than a servant of the
church. He recites his prayers reluctantly, while words of profane
swearing flow freely from his lips. From such disorders as these the
church invokes her worldly protectors to deliver her.
1 This rare poem has been reprinted, with the unimportant
passages omitted, in the Bulletin de la Soc. de l'hist. du prot. franç.,
rising from the Belgian coast to dissipate the fogs and darkness
investing his native land and pour upon its youth the full beams of a
purer teaching.1 Lefèvre confined his attention to no single branch
of learning. He was equally proficient in mathematics, in astronomy, and
in Biblical literature and criticism.2 Brilliant attainments in so
many departments were commended yet more to the admiration of beholders
by a modest and unassuming deportment, by morals above reproach, and by
a disinterested nature in which there was no taint of avarice. The
sincerity of his unselfish love of knowledge was said to be attested by
the liberality with which he renounced the entire income of his small
patrimony in favor of his needy relations.3 His pupil, Guillaume Farel.
Enjoying a reputation for profound and exact learning which had spread
to foreign countries, and admired even by the great humanist Erasmus,
Lefèvre had drawn to him a small band of the most promising of the
scholars in attendance upon the university. Prominent among these for
brilliancy and fiery zeal was a student more than thirty years younger
than his teacher, Guillaume Farel, destined to fill an important place in the
annals of the French reformation, and to play a leading role in the history
of Geneva and Neufchâtel. Farel was born in 1489, near Gap, in Dauphiny,
1 Sc. Sammarthani Elog., ubi supra.
2 Lefèvre's scientific works were numerous, and some of
them passed through many editions during the early years of the
sixteenth century. See Haag, La France protestante, art. Lefèvre. I have
before me his edition of the Arithmetic of Boëtius, with introduction
and commentary, of the year 1510, and copies of his Astronomical
Treatises of 1510 and 1516, the last of these published at Cologne.
3 Sc. Sammarth. Elog., ubi supra.
and his childhood was spent at the foot of the Alps. Unlike Lefèvre, he
belonged to a family of considerable importance in the provincial nobility.
The contrast was still more marked between the mild and timid professor
and the pupil in whose nature courage was so prominent an element that
it often assumed the appearance of imprudent contempt of danger.
Devotion of scholar and pupil.
But, in spite of dissimilarity of character, Lefèvre and Farel lived
together in close friendship. Together they frequented the churches, and
united in the pious work, as they regarded it, of decking out with
pilgrimages. Lefèvre was scrupulously exact in the performance of his
religious duties, and was especially punctual in attendance on the mass.
In his zeal for the church, he had even undertaken as a meritorious task
to compile the lives of the saints whose names appear on the Roman
calendar, and had actually committed to the press an account of those
whose feast-days fell within the months of January and February.1 On
the other hand, Farel was so sincere an adherent of the current faith,
that, to employ his own forcible description, he had become "a very
Pantheon, full of intercessors, saviors and gods, of whom his heart
might have passed for a complete register." The papacy had so entrenched
itself in his heart, that even the Pope and papal church were not so papal as he.
The man who came to him with the Pope's endorsement appeared to him like a god, while he would gladly have overwhelmed in ruin the sacrilegious wretch that
dared to say a word against the Roman pontiff and his authority.2
1 Epistre à tons Seigneurs et Peuples (Edit. J. G. Fick),172.
2 The passage in which Farel describes his former
superstition is so characteristic, that I quote a few sentences: "Pour
vray la papauté n'estoit et n'est tant papale que mon cœur l'a
esté.... Car tellement il avoit aveuglé mes yeux et perverti tout en
moy, que s'il y avoit personnage qui fut approuvé selon le pape, il
m'estoit comme Dieu; si quelqu'un faisoit ou disoit quelque chose, d'ou
le pape et son estat en fut en quelque mespris, j'eusse voulu qu'un tel
... fut du tout abbatu, ruiné et destruit.... Ainsy Satan avoit logé le
pape, sa papauté, tout ce qui est de luy en mon cœur, de sorte que
le pape mesme, comme je croy, n'en avoit point tant en soy ne [ni]
les siens aussy, comme il y en avoit en moy.... Et ainsy je persevere,
ayant mon panteon en mon cœur, et tant d'advocats, tant de sauveurs,
tant de dieux que rien plus ... tellement que je pouvoye bien estre tenu
pour un registre papal, pour martyrologe," etc. Epistre à tous Seigneurs