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account Margaret's heart was the more deeply touched by the consolations he addressed to her, and she replied to them with tenderest sympathy. “If in anything,” she writes, “you think I can be of service to you or yours, I would have you believe that any trouble this might give me would only be a comfort to me. May eternal peace be your portion after your fight for the faith, in which conflict you desire to die. Wholly your daughter Margaret.”
Philiberta, of Nemours, esteemed by all on account of her genuine piety, her liberality towards the poor, and the purity of her life, continued to study with ever-growing interest the evangelical writings sent to her by the Bishop of Meaux. “I have read (writes Margaret to Briconnet) all the tracts you have sent me. My aunt Nemours has had her share in these, and I will forward her this last, for she is now in Savoy at her brother's wedding, which is a great loss to me. Wherefore, I pray you, take pity on my loneliness." Life on earth was not granted to Philiberta long enough to allow of her declaring herself openly for the Reformation. She died when only twenty-six years old, in the year 1524, at the Castle of Virieu le Grand. This was a heavy blow to Margaret. She lost in her the one friend of her own sex, who understood and sympathized with her. Never before had she known so great a sorrow. Referring to it, she says
« Such floods of tears fall from my eyes,
They hide from view both earth and skies." Overwhelmed with grief, and feeling her great weakness, she again turns to Briconnet and entreats his sympathy and help. The bishop thus humbly replied :-“ May the mild and gentle Jesus who wills, and who alone is able to effect what He mightily wills, in His infinite mercy visit your heart, constraining you to love Him with your whole being. None other but Himself has power to do this; you must not seek light from darkness, or warmth from cold. By attracting He kindles, and by warmth He attracts to follow Him, enlarging the heart. You write to me, gracious lady, to have pity on you, because you are so alone. I do not understand that word. She who lives in the world and has her heart there, is indeed alone; but she whose heart sleeps to the world and is awake to the meek and gentle Jesus, is truly alone, for she lives on the one thing needful, and yet she is not alone, for He who fills and preserves all things is with her and forsakes her not. I cannot, must not pity such loneliness, for it is more precious than anything in the world, from which I am persuaded God has saved you, and that you are no longer the child of this world. Only abide in your Only One, who has for us endured shameful suffering and death. . . . Lady, in commending myself to your kindness, I entreat you to use no more such words as those in your last letter. You are the daughter and bride of God alone. Seek no other Father. I exhort and admonish you that you be such and so good a daughter to Him as He is a good Father to you; and forasmuch as you cannot of yourself attain to this, because the finite cannot correspond to infinity, I pray that He will strengthen you with His strength, that you may love and serve Him with your whole being."
Margaret, however, was not consoled by these admonitions. She missed sadly the spiritual guides who had been withdrawn from her. Those new pastors who had been forced on her to bring her back to the old faith did not possess her confidence, and everything around her appeared dark and desolate. “ As a sheep in a strange country (she writes again to Briconnet), who, not knowing its new shepherd, cannot find its pasture, and lifts its head to catch the breeze from that quarter whence the chief shepherd was wont to give her sweet nourishment, in such sort am I constrained to pray for your help. Come down from your high mountain, and in pity regard among this benighted people, the blindest of all thy fold, Margaret.” The bishop in his reply teaches her the road by which the soul inquiring after God surmounts all these difficulties; he shows how the sheep in the midst of the hirelings finds the cabin of the Great Shepherd, and enters on the wings of meditation by faith ; all is made smooth, all is explained, and she begins to sing, “ I have found Him whom my soul loveth.” “ Gracious lady," he writes to her again, “I humbly ask of God that it may please Him in His goodness to kindle a fire in the hearts of the king, of his mother, and in your own, so that from you there may go forth a light burning and shining on the rest of the nation, and particularly on that class by whose coldness all the others are frozen.” Margaret was unable to share these hopes. She speaks neither of her mother nor of her brother, they were subjects on which she dared not touch ; but in replying to the bishop in January, 1522, with a heart full of grief at the indifference of those around her, she says, “ The times are cold, and my own heart so icy," and signs her letter, “ Your frozen, thirsty, and hungry daughter, Margaret.” This letter did not discourage Briconnet, but it made him ponder, and feeling how much he who desired to reanimate others needed himself to be animated, he commended himself to the prayers of Margaret and Madame de Nemours. “Lady (he says with great simplicity), I beseech you awaken the poor slumberer with your prayers.”
Such were the sentiments interchanged at the Court of France in 1521. "A strange correspondence indeed," as D'Aubigné remarks, “which after more than three centuries a manuscript in the royal library has revealed to us.”
The time was approaching when the storm should burst on the Reformation, but it was first to scatter a few more seeds, and gather in a few more sheaves. The city of Meaux, renowned a century later by being the home of Bossuet, the great defender of the Gallican system against the pretensions of Rome, was called to be the first town in France where regenerated Christianity should establish her dominion. Briconnet animated, inspected, and directed everything. His fortune equalled his zeal, and never did man devote his wealth to nobler purposes. The evangelical teachers, removed now from Paris to Meaux, acted from that time with greater liberty. The Word of God was no longer bound, and from that time the Reformation in France made a great stride. Lefevere taught openly that Gospel with which he would gladly have filled the world. “Kings, princes, nobles, people, all nations (he exclaimed), should think and aspire after Christ alone. Every priest should be like that archangel whom John saw in the Apocalypse, flying through heaven, having in
hand the everlasting Gospel, and carrying it to every people, nation, and language. Come near, ye pontiffs ; come, ye kings; come, ye generous hearts ! Nations, awake to the light of the Gospel, and inhale the heavenly light. The Word of God is all-sufficient."
This indeed was the watchword of the school in Meaux. “God's word is all-sufficient.” In this device the whole Reformation is embodied. “To know Christ and His word,” said Lefevere, Roussel, and Farel, “is the only living and universal theology. He who knows that knows everything."
The truth was making a deep impression at Meaux. Private meetings were first held, then conferences; at last the Gospel was preached in the churches. But a new effort inflicted a still more formidable blow against Rome. Lefevere desired that the Christians of France should have it in their power to read the Holy Scriptures for themselves. Accordingly on the 30th October, 1522, he published a French translation of the four Gospels, and on the 6th of November the remaining books of the New Testament; on the 12th of October, 1524, all these books together; and in 1525 a French version of the Psalms. Thus was begun in France almost at the same time as in Germany, that printing and dissemination of the Scriptures in the vulgar tongue, which three centuries later was to be so wonderfully developed throughout the world. In France, as on the other side of the Rhine, the influence of the Bible was very striking. Numbers who had been eagerly longing after a light in whose guidance they might trust, received with joy the sacred writings from the hands of Lefevere. They were read in their families and in private. Conversations on Scripture passages became frequent, Christ appeared to those souls so long mis-led as the sun and centre of all reve. lation. They needed no other proof that the Scriptures were from God. They were assured of it by the witness of their own hearts, for by the Word of God they had been brought out of darkness into Christ's marvellous light. Such was the course by which many men of deep thought and culture in France were led to the knowledge of truth as it is in Christ. But the common people also began to enquire not less eagerly after the way of salvation. The city of of Meaux was almost wholly inhabited by artisans and dealers of wool. “In many of these," says a chronicler of the 16th century, “there was engendered so ardent a desire of knowing the way of salvation, that artisans, fullers, and wool-combers, took no other recreation as they worked with their hands, than to talk with each other of the Word of God and to comfort themselves with the same. Sundays and holidays especially were devoted to the reading of the Scripture and enquiring into the good pleasure of the Lord. Briconnet rejoiced to see true religion taking the place of superstition in his diocese. Meaux had become a focus of light. Persons called hither by business heard the Gospel and carried it back to their homes. It was not in the city alone that men were examining the Scripture. “Many of the villages did the same,” says a chronicler, “so that in this diocese an image of the renovated church was seen to shine forth.” “ Thus was the word of God offered to France in opposition to the traditions of the church.” “How can we,” said the reformers, “how can we distinguish what is of man in your traditions and what is of God, except by the Scriptures of God? The maxims of the Fathers, the decretals of the pontiffs, cannot be the rule of our faith. They show us what was the opinion of these old doctors; but the word of God alone teaches us what is the judgment of God. He must submit everything to the 'rule of Scripture.'”
The country surrounding Meaux is exceedingly fertile and was covered with rich crops, to which during the harvest season labourers flocked from the neighbouring countries. And while they rested from toil in the middle of the day, the people of Meaux spoke to them of other seed-times and other harvests. Many peasants from other districts, particularly from Landouzy, continued after their return home in the doctrines they had been taught, and in this manner there was formed in that district an evangelical Church, which is one of the oldest in the kingdom. Briconnet himself proclaimed the Gospel from the pulpit, “that infinite, sweet, mild, true, and only light,” (to use his own words) " which enlightens every creature capable of receiving it, and while it enlightens him, raises him by adoption to the dignity of a son of God." He besought his flock to lend no ear to those who would turn them aside from the word of God. “ Though an angel from heaven," said he, “should preach any other gospel, do not listen to him.” Sometimes gloomy thoughts oppressed his soul. He was not sure of himself, and he shrunk , back in alarm as he dwelt on the fatal consequences of his own unfaithfulness, and he forewarned his hearers in these words, “Even should I, your bishop, change my language and my doctrine, beware of changing like me.” Such a change seemed very unlikely then. “Not only,” says the chronicler, “was the word of God preached, it was followed ; all works of charity and love were practised there, morals were reformed and superstitions laid low.”
The bishop still clung to the hope of gaining over the king and his mother to the cause of the Gospel, and sent to Margaret a translation of St. Paul's epistles splendidly illuminated, entreating her to present the gift to the king. "They are,” he said, “ a royal dish, strengthening without corrupting, and healing all manner of sickness. The more we taste of them, the more we long after them with hunger insatiable and desire that never cloys.” Margaret would have preferred that Briconnet himself should present this book to her brother. “You would do well to come here,” she wrote, “for you know the confidence the king and his mother repose in you.” At this time Michael Aranda was in Paris engaged in translating portions of Scripture for the king's mother, by her own command. Thus in the years 1522, 1523, the word of God was placed before Francis I. and Louisa of Savoy. It does not appear to have produced any salutary impression on their hearts. An impulse of curiosity led them to look into the book which was then making so much noise ; but it does not seem to have awakened any feeling of permanent
all mannepaid a royal dicating her i
Margaret felt it very hard to stem the tide of worldliness which surrounded her. Her tender love towards her brother, the obedience she owed her mother, and the flatteries lavished on her at court, all seemed to conspire against the allegiance she had vowed to Christ. Christ was alone against many, and there were times when the heart turned aside from Him whom yet she loved more than all the world. Then overwhelmed with penitence she would shut herself up in her solitary chamber, and give expression to the penitential emotions of her soul in such words as the following :-"Thee have I forsaken, following my own desires. Thee have I forsaken, and chosen that which is evil. Thee have I forsaken, and alas ! whither have I fallen ?-into a place where only misery awaits me. Thee have I forsaken, my only true friend, and leaving thee I have left my own true welfare.” Then turning towards Meaux, she wrote, “I return to you, M. Lefevere and all your friends, beseeching you by your prayers to obtain of the unspeakable mercy an alarum for the poor weak and sleepy one to arouse her from her heavy and deadly slumber.”
Meanwhile the friends of Rome were beginning to feel serious alarm at the progress of the Gospel in France. Both the priests and the civil power, the Sorbonne and the parliament were roused to oppose it. Briconnet had not courage to meet their opposition; he was not prepared to give up wealth and position and reputation for the sake of Christ. He allowed himself to be led astray by timid and treacherous advisers, and in October, 1523, he issued an order forbidding the parish priests and their curates to permit the Lutherans to preach. He would not yield everything, but he did what he could to conciliate Rome. “We may well do without Luther's writings,” he thought,
if we keep the Gospel; we may easily accede to a certain invocation of the Virgin if we add that it is only by the mediation of Jesus Christ that she possesses any influence.” It was thus that the wisdom of the world prevailed in the timid soul of Briconnet, and he consented to publish three mandates, the first of which enjoined prayers for the dead and the invocation of the Virgin ; the second forbade any one to buy, borrow, read, possess, or carry about with him Luther's works, and ordered these to be torn, scattered to the winds, or burnt; and the last established in express terms the doctrine of purgatory. This was Briconnet's first fall.
A MAY-DAY LECTURE.
“The life which I now live in the flesh.” (Gal. ii. 20.) “The life which I live" is something the midday sun. The life which I very different from the life which is live has something in common with bursting out at this season all around these forms of life, but is not to be us in green leaf and gay blossom; confounded with them. Mark the from the life which roams in the reck- expression: “the life which I live in lessness of its strength through the the flesh;” not the life which the flesh forests and over the deserts of the lives, but which I live in the flesh. earth; from the life which fills the The life which the flesh liyes is itself sweetest of songsters, pouring forth a very mysterious and wonderful the sweetest of songs in the night, and thing, and baffles all attempts to find which fills its rival, the lark, pouring out its secret. But the life which we forth its ceaseless and jubilant song in live in the flesh is the subject of my