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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

Farel and Viret were the orators


began his work by giving lectures daily in St. Peter's on the Epistles of St. Paul. They were soon felt to be both powerful and attractive. Calvin soon made a strong impression on the people of the city. An occasion arose which revealed him in a way that his friends had never before known. Bern had conquered the greater part of the Pays de Vaud in the late war. Its Council was determined to instruct the people of its newly acquired territory in Evangelical principles by means of a public Disputation, to be held at Lausanne during the first week of October.[109] The three hundred and thirty-seven priests of the newly conquered lands, the inmates of the thirteen abbeys and convents, of the twenty-five priories, of the two chapters of canons, were invited to come to Lausanne to refute if they could the ten Evangelical _Theses_ arranged by Farel and Viret.[110] The Council of Bern pledged itself that there would be the utmost freedom of debate, not only for its own subjects, but "for all comers, to whatever land they belonged." Farel insisted on this freedom in his own trenchant way: "You may speak here as boldly as you please; _our_ arguments are neither faggot, fire, nor sword, prison nor torture; public executioners are not our doctors of divinity.... Truth is strong enough to outweigh falsehood; if you have it, bring it forward." The Romanists were by no means eager to accept the challenge. Out of the three hundred and thirty-seven priests invited, only one hundred and seventy-four
appeared, and of these only four attempted to take part. Two who had promised to discuss did not show themselves. Only ten of the forty religious houses sent representatives, and only one of them ventured to meet the Evangelicals in argument.[111] As at Bern in 1528, as at Geneva in May 1535, so here at Lausanne in October 1536, the Romanists showed themselves unable to meet their opponents, and the policy of Bern in insisting on public Disputations was abundantly justified.

Farel and Viret were the Protestant champions. Farel preached the opening sermon in the cathedral on Oct. 1st, and closed the conference by another sermon on Oct. 8th. The discussion began on the Monday, when the huge cathedral was thronged by the inhabitants of the city and of the surrounding villages. In the middle of the church a space was reserved for the disputants. There sat the four secretaries, the two presidents, and five commissioners representing _les Princes Chretiens Messieurs de Berne_, distinguished by their black doublets and shoulder-knots faced with red, and by their broad-brimmed hats ornamented with great bunches of feathers,--hats kept stiffly on heads as befitting the representatives of such potent lords.

Calvin had not meant to speak; Farel and Viret were the orators; he was only there in attendance. But on the Thursday, when the question of the Real Presence was discussed, one of the Romanists read a carefully prepared paper, in the course of which he said that the Protestants despised and neglected the ancient Fathers, fearing their authority, which was against their views. Then Calvin rose. He began with the sarcastic remark that the people who reverenced the Fathers might spend some little time in turning over their pages before they spoke about them. He quoted from one Father after another,--"Cyprian, discussing the subject now under review in the third epistle of his second book of Epistles, says ... Tertullian, refuting the error of Marcion, says ... The author of some imperfect commentaries on St. Matthew, which some have attributed to St. John Chrysostom, in the 11th homily about the middle, says ... St. Augustine, in his 23rd Epistle, near the end, says ... Augustine, in one of his homilies on St. John's Gospel, the 8th or the 9th, I am not sure at this moment which, says ...";[112] and so on. He knew the ancient Fathers as no one else in the century. He had not taken their opinions second-hand from Peter of Lombardy's _Sententiae_ as did most of the Schoolmen and contemporary Romanist theologians. It was the first time that he displayed, almost accidentally, his marvellous patristic knowledge,--a knowledge for which Melanchthon could never sufficiently admire him.

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