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Title: History of the Reformation - the Battles of Grandson (1531 — 1532.)
Author: John Calvin
Language: English

 23 00005-0022 The Battles of Grandson (1531 — 1532.)

 (1531 — 1532.)

FAREL’ S zeal was not cooled by the check he had received at Orbe; he saw before him other places that must be evangelized. If he withstood the ambitious demands of the new converts who, like Hollard, fancied themselves more capable than they really were, and indiscreetly sought for consecration to the holy office, he did but seek with more zeal for servants of God, who possessed a spirit of strength, charity, and prudence. Certain men appeared to him to have been ripened in France by persecution. He invited into Switzerland Toussaint, Lecomte, Symphoranus, Andronicus, and others. As soon as these brethren arrived, he sent them into the harvest; and frequently after fervent prayers he seemed to see the whole valley enclosed between the Jura and the Alps filled with the living Waters of the Gospel. ‘Of a truth,’ said he, ‘if we look at the times that have gone before, the work of Christ is glorious now... And yet what roots remain to be torn up before the field is ready to receive the divine seed. What works to be accomplished, what toils to be endured, what enemies to be overcome!... We have need of laborers inured to labor... I can not promise them mountains of gold, but I know that the Father will never abandon His own, and that He will give them an abundant harvest.’

In Farel’s heart overwhelming depression often followed close upon the fairest expectations. One sorrow especially afflicted him: the malady of petty questions seemed threatening to invade the new Church. At all times narrow and ill-balanced minds attach themselves to certain details in the doctrine of baptism, the Lord’s Supper, the ministry, and so forth: they are eager about anise and cummin and by their minutiae encumber the kingdom of Christ. Farel, who with a holy doctrine and unwearied activity combined a wise discernment and a large liberal spirit, trembled lest this weakness of little understandings had crept into the minds of the ministers to whom he addressed his call. There happened to be at Strasburg just then a christian man named Andronicus, whom the reformer desired to attract into Switzerland; but he wished to know whether he was tainted with formalism or fanaticism — two evils which sometimes met on the banks of the Rhine. He resolved to speak frankly to him, and his letter shows us his opinion of the ministry: ‘Dear brother,’ he wrote to Andronicus, ‘do you possess Christ so as to teach Him purely, apart from the empty controversies of bread and water, taxes and tithes, which in the eyes of many constitute Christianity? Are you content to require of all that, renouncing ungodliness and unrighteousness, they should arm themselves with faith, and press to their hearts the heavenly treasure, Christ who sitteth at the right hand of the Father? Are you ready to give to all authorities what is their due — taxes, tithes — to pay them not only to the ungodly, but also to the brethren? Do you seek Christ’s glory only?

Do you propose simply to plant in their hearts the faith that worketh by charity? Are you resolved to bear the cross? for, be assured, the cross awaits you at the door. If you are ready to bear it, then, dear brother, come instantly.’ Such was the wise language of the most ardent of the reformers.
While Farel was thus loudly calling for new workers, he was getting rid of the idle and cowardly, promising to all of them fatigue, insult, and persecution: it was with such promises that the reformer levied his soldiers. ‘Do not look for idleness, but for labor,’ he said; ‘only after fatigue will you find repose, and you will not reap until after you have sown at your own cost. A wide door is opened, but no one can enter except those who desire to feed the sheep and not to devour them, and who are determined to reply with kindness to the insults with which they are assailed. Labor and toil await you. I can promise you nothing but trouble... If you will come with us, know that you are entering into a hard service. You will have to fight not against craven and disheartened adversaries, but against enemies brimful of decision and strength. Be therefore a brave and noble soldier; attack the enemy joyfully, and rush into the hottest of the fight, placing your confidence in God, to whom alone belong the battle and the victory. It is not we who fight, but the Lord. But Farel called to the battle in vain: the timid recruits would not join the army. He received some little help indeed, but what was that for so great a work? Then his appeals grew louder. In the presence of the gigantic Alps, this humble man rose like them: his language swelled and resembled rather the cry of a soldier struggling in the midst of the enemy’s ranks, than the sweet and subtle voice of the Gospel of peace. ‘We are in the thick of the fight,’ he said; ‘the conflict is terrible; we are fighting man to man... but the Lord giveth the victory to his own. Take up the sword, set the helmet on your head, buckle on the breastplate, hang the shield to your arm, gird your loins; and being thus armed with the panoply of God, rush into the midst of the battle, hurl the darts, throw down the enemy on every side, and put all the army to flight. ... But alas! instead of joining the soldiers of Christ, instead of rushing into the Lord’s battles, you fear the cross, and the dangers that lie in wait for you. Preferring your own ease, you refuse to come to the assistance of your brethren... Is that the behavior of a christian?... The Holy Scriptures declare that the Lord will exact a severe reckoning for such cowardice... Beware lest you bury the talent you have received... Call to mind that you must give an account of all those souls, whom tyranny holds captive in its gloomy dungeons. You can set the light before their eyes, you can deliver them from their chains, you must conjure them to throw themselves into the arms of Jesus Christ... Do not hesitate... Christ must be preferred to everything. Do not trouble yourself about what your wife wishes and requires, but about what God asks and commands.’ More powerful solicitations had never been made; there was a new Paul in the world at this time. At last Farel’s earnestness prevailed. Andronicus and others hastened to him, and labored with him in the country that stretches from Basle to Berne as far as Geneva.

Delighted at receiving such helpers, the reformer hastened to fresh combats. Every parish, village, and town was to be won to Christ by an obstinate struggle. There is no soldier that has fought more battles. We can only find a parallel to Farel in the convert of Damascus. He took with him De Glautinis, minister of Tavannes, in the Bernese Jura, who had come to his help, and quitted Orbe, leaving on his left the picturesque gorge of the Jura, where the village of St. Croix lies hid, and over which soar the lofty tops of the Chasseron, and turned his steps towards Grandson. Ere long he came in sight of the celebrated walls of the old castle which stood near the extremity of the lake of Neuchatel. This place, which was about to become an evangelical battle-field, had witnessed a far different struggle.

Here, in 1476, the Swiss had rushed from the heights of Champagne and Bonvillars, while the terrible roaring of the bull of Uri portended death, and the cow of Underwald uttered its warning sound. Here they bent the knee in presence of the hostile columns, and rising with shouts of ‘Grandson!’ playing their fearful music, unfurling their ancient banners, and guarding them with their long and formidable spears, they charged the Burgundians with the rush of the tempest. Vainly did the commander of the cavalry, Sire Louis of Chateau-Guyon, brother of the Prince of Orange and of the Lord of Orbe and Grandson, — vainly did he spur his large warhorse and charge impetuously at the head of six thousand horsemen; vainly did he seize the banner of Schwytz, In der Gruob of Berne had given him a death-blow, and the Burgundians, as they saw the gigantic warrior fall, were struck with terror. Grandson as well as Orbe were lost to the family of that hero, and the sovereignty of the two towns passed to the cantons of Berne and Friburg. A panic spread through the ranks, and Charles the Bold was forced to fly, leaving behind him four hundred silk tents embroidered with gold and pearls, six hundred standards, and an immense quantity of plate, money, jewels, and precious stones. This vigorous attack and glorious victory, the fame of which still remained in that peaceful country, was a type of the work that Farel was to accomplish.

By his means, Berne was about to strike at Grandson as well as Orbe a more formidable enemy than the Lord of Chateau-Guyon. On the shore of the lake at the entrance of the town stood the vast convent of the Gray Friars. Farel and his friend De Glautinis, who accompanied him, stopped before its walls and said to each other that to this place doubtless the Lord had first directed their steps. They rang, entered the parlor, and the superior of the monastery, Friar Guy Regis, having asked them what they wanted, they begged him very coolly ‘in the name of the Lords of Berne,’ to grant them the use of the church. But Guy Regis, a resolute man and earnest priest, who knew all that had happened at Orbe, was offended at such insolence. ‘Heretic!’ said he to Farel. ‘Son of a Jew!’ exclaimed another monk. The reception was not encouraging. The two ministers discussed with some friends of the Word of God, what was to be done. ‘Go to the priory on the hill,’ said the latter. ‘As you bear a letter from Messieurs of Berne for the prior, the monks will not dare refuse you.’

Accordingly Farel, De Glautinis, and a few of the brethren, proceeded to the Benedictine convent. They knocked and the door was opened; several monks appeared. As they knew already something about the arrival of the missionaries, they looked at them from head to foot, and Farel had scarcely asked permission to preach, when a loud uproar arose in the cloister. The sacristan hid a pistol under his frock, another friar armed himself with a knife, and both came forward stealthily to lay hands upon the heretic who (according to them) was disturbing all the churches. The sacristan arrived first; pointing the pistol at Farel with one hand, he seized him with the other, and pulling him along, endeavored to drag him into the convent, where a prison awaited him. De Glautinis observing this, sprang forward to rescue his friend, but, the other monk, arriving at the scene of combat, fell upon him, flourishing his knife. Alarmed by the noise within the cloister, the friends of the evangelists, who had remained at the door, waiting to know whether they could hear Farel or not, rushed in and tore both him and his comrade from the stout arms of the monks. The gates of the monastery were closed immediately, and they remained so for a whole fortnight, so great was the terror inspired by the reformers.

Farel seeing there was nothing to be done at Grandson just then, departed for Morat, beseeching De Glautinus, whom he left behind him, to take advantage of every opportunity to proclaim the gospel. The monks entrenched within their walls, trembled, deliberated, kept watch, and armed themselves against this one man as if they had an army before them.
Convent gates and church doors were all close shut. De Glautinus, finding that he could not preach in the churches, determined to preach in the streets and in private houses; but he had hardly begun when the monks, informed by the signals of their agents whom they had instructed not to lose sight of the evangelist, made a vigorous sally. Guy Regis, the valiant superior of the Gray Friars, the precentor, and all the monks came to the place where De Glautinis was preaching, and boldly placed themselves between him and his hearers: ‘Come,’ said the superior, ‘come, if you dare, before the king or the emperor. Come to Besancon, to Dole, or to Paris; I will show you and all the world that your preaching is mere witchcraft.

Begone, we have had enough of you. You shall not enter the churches.’ As soon as this harangue was over, the monks capped it by roaring out: ‘Heretic, son of a Jew, apostate!’ The troop having thus fired their volley, hastily retreated within their walls. Some Bernese deputies, who chanced to be at Neuchatel, hearing what was going on at Grandson, went thither without delay. They did not wish to force the people to be converted, but they desired that all under their rule should hear the gospel without hindrance, and thus have liberty to decide with full knowledge for Rome or for the Reformation. When the Bernese lords arrived at Grandson, which is not far from Neuchatel, they ordered the conventual churches to be thrown open to the reformers. A messenger was sent to Farel, who returned immediately, bringing Viret with him, and from the 12th May the three evangelists began to preach Sundays and week-days. The monks, surprised, irritated, and yet restrained by fear of their dread lords, looked with gloomy eyes on the crowd that came to hear the heresy. The superior of the Gray Friars, who had a great reputation for learning, thought himself called upon to resist the reformers. They had hardly left the pulpit when he entered it, and thus Farel and Guy Regis attacked and refuted each other, struggling, so to say, hand to hand. The evangelist preached grace, the monk prescribed works; the former reproached his opponent with disobeying Scripture, the latter reproached the other with disobeying the Church. The monks went further still: they conjured the magistrates to come to the defense of the faith, and the latter outlawed the ministers, while the sergeants arrested them. The populace, seeing them in the hands of the officers, followed them and covered them with abuse, and they were shut up in prison. Thus the struggle descended to the people and grew all the warmer. Parties were formed, bands were organized. The catholics, in order to distinguish themselves, stuck fir-cones in their caps, and thus adorned stalked proudly through the streets. Their adversaries said to them as they passed: ‘You insult Messieurs of Berne;’ to which they arrogantly answered: ‘You shall not prevent us.’

The inhabitants of Yverdun, a neighboring town, which eagerly espoused the cause defended by Guy Regis, organized, not a troop of soldiers, but a procession. It quitted the town and passed along the shore of the lake; clerical banners instead of military colors waved above their heads, sacred chants instead of drums and trumpets filled the air. At last this curious reinforcement reached the city where such a fierce struggle was going on.

The catholics no longer doubted of victory. Men’s minds grew heated and their passions were inflamed. Farel and his friends, having been set at liberty, a black friar named Claude de Boneto stuck to the reformer and loaded him with abuse. The latter undismayed said: ‘Christians, withdraw from the pope who has laid insupportable burdens on your back, which he will not touch with the tip of his finger. Come to Him who has taken all your burden and placed it on his own shoulders. Do not trust in the priests or in Rome. Have confidence in Jesus Christ.’ The council of Berne took up the defense of the evangelist, and condemned friar Boneto. As the support of Yverdun had produced no effect, help was sent from Lausanne. On St. John’s day (28th June) a cordelier arrived at Grandson to preach in honor of the saint. The church of the Franciscans was soon crowded, and Farel and De Glautinis were in the midst of the throng. The strange things which the preacher said filled them with sorrow; presently the reformer stood up, and (as was the custom of the times) began to refute the monk. The latter stopped, and the eyes of the assembly were turned upon the minister with signs of anger. The bailiff, John Reyff of Friburg, a good catholic, unable to restrain himself, raised his hand and struck Farel. This was the signal for a battle. Judges, gray friars, and burgesses of Grandson, who had come armed to the church, fell upon the two ministers, threw them to the ground, and showered blows and kicks upon them. Their friends hastened to their help, flung themselves into the midst of the fray, and succeeded in rescuing the reformers from the hands of the riotous crowd; but not before they had been ‘grievously maltreated in the face and other parts.’ The grand banneret of Orbe saw it, and it is he who tells the story. The evangelicals lost no time: one of them started off at once to see the Sieur de Watteville, the avoyer of Berne, who chanced to be at his estate of Colombier, three leagues from Grandson. That magistrate went to the town, and wishing to put the inhabitants in a position to exercise the right of free inquiry, according to the principles of Berne, he ordered the cordelier and Farel to preach by turns, and then went to the church, attended by his servant, with the view of hearing both preachers. But there was something else to be done first. The people were still agitated with the emotions of the preceding day, and pretended that the reformers wanted to pull down the great crucifix, which was much respected by all the city.

Two monks, Tissot and Gondoz, were distinguished by their zeal for the doctrines of the pope; sincere but fanatical, they would have thought they were doing God a service by murdering Farel. They had been posted as sentinels to defend the image supposed to be threatened. Armed with axes hidden under their frocks, they paced backwards and forwards, silent and watchful, at the foot of the stairs which led to the gallery where the famous crucifix stood. When the Lord of Berne appeared, one of the sentinels, seeing a strange face, which had an heretical look about it, stopped him abruptly. ‘Stand back, you can not pass this way,’ he said, while his comrade rudely pushed the Sieur de Watteville. ‘Gently,’ said the avoyer in a grave tone; ‘you should not get in such a heat.’ The patrician’s serving-man, exasperated at this want of respect to his master, and less calm than he was, caught the cowled sentinel round the body, and feeling the axe under his frock, took it away and was about to strike him with it, when the Bernese lord checked him. All the monks fled in alarm, and De Watteville remaining master of the ground, placed his servant there on guard. The latter, stalking up and down with the axe on his shoulder, kept watch instead of the monks.

He had been there only a few minutes, when about thirty women, with flashing eyes and sullen air, each holding her serge apron gathered up in front, made their appearance and endeavored to get into the gallery. Some had filled their aprons with mould from their gardens, and others with ashes from their kitchens, and with these weapons they were marching to battle. Their plan was not, indeed, to engage in a regular fight, but to lie in ambush in the gallery near the pulpit; and then as soon as Farel appeared, to throw the ashes into his eyes and the earth into his mouth, and so silence the fearless preacher of the Gospel. This was their notion of controversy. The troop approached: the avoyer’s serving-man, firm as became a servant of my lord of Berne, was still pacing to and fro, axe in hand. He perceived the feminine battalion, immediately saw what was their intention, and advanced brandishing the weapon he had taken from the monks. The devotees of Grandson, seeing a Bernese instead of a gray friar, were alarmed; they shrieked, let go their aprons, suffered the mould and ashes to fall upon the floor of the church, and ran off to their homes.

The conspiracies of the monks and of the women being thus baffled, the Bernese magistrate did not take advantage of it to make Farel preach alone.

He wished the balance to be even. The gray friar therefore and the reformer quietly took their turns. Tissot and Gondoz, who had stopped De Watteville, were imprisoned for a fortnight. The two monks, recovering from their passion, began to consider what this Lutheran doctrine could be which possessed such stanch adherents. The reformers visited them, and showed them much affection. The monks were touched, they saw that the heresy of which they had been so afraid was simply the all-merciful Gospel of Jesus Christ. They left the prison with new thoughts, and two years later, says the banneret, ‘they received the Lutheran law, were made preachers, one at Fontaines, the other at Chavornay, married, and had a large family of children.’ In the days of the Reformation, as in those of the apostles, it was often seen that those who ‘kicked against the pricks’ obtained mercy and became heralds of the faith. A last tumult was to cause the principles of religious liberty to be proclaimed in Switzerland. It occurred at Orbe during the Christmas holidays. The catholics, proud of the midnight devotions customary among them at that season of the year, insulted the reformed: ‘Go to bed,’ they said; ‘while we are singing the praises of God in the church you will be sleeping in your beds like swine.’... The reformers, who did not like midnight masses with all their profanations, desired to take advantage of the evening hours, when the cessation of labor gave an opportunity of collecting a large congregation. At seven o’clock on Christmas eve they asked the governor for the keys of the church: ‘It is not sermon time,’ he answered, ‘and you shall not have them.’ They rejoined that every hour, except at night, was sermon time; and being determined to begin the evening services, they went to the church, opened the doors, the preacher got up into the pulpit, and in a moment the place was crowded. A few priests or bigots, peeping into the building, exclaimed in surprise at the crowd: ‘The devil must have sent a good many there!’ The minister (it may have been Viret) explained the great mystery of faith, the coming of the Savior, and asked his hearers if they would not receive him into their hearts. The sermon had lasted some time, and the clock struck nine.

Immediately the bells rang, and the catholics crowded into the church, although there was no service at that hour.

The reformed being unwilling to quarrel, retired home quietly; but a mischievous fellow, who had crept into the assembly with the intention of exciting the people, began to whisper to his neighbors that the heretics were going to destroy everything at St. Claire. This was false, but they believed it; the crowd deserted the altars, and, meeting with a few reformers in the streets, knocked some down, and broke the heads of others; the best known among them had already reached home, but the catholic population assembled in front of their houses, and threw stones at their windows. Viret departed for Berne with ten of the reformed, in order to make his complaint. A few days later, on the 9th January 1532, two hundred and thirty ministers assembled at Berne, among whom was the wise Capito, and formed a sort of council. Having most of them left the Romish church, they desired liberty not only for themselves, but also for their adversaries.
The laymen were of the same opinion. Berne, the representative of protestantism, agreed with Friburg, the champion of popery, on this subject. ‘We desire,’ said the Bernese, ‘that every one should have free choice to go to the preaching or to mass.’ ‘And we also,’ said the Friburgers. ‘We desire that all should live in peace together, and that neither priests nor preachers should call their adversaries heretics or murderers. ‘And we also,’ said the Friburgers. ‘Nevertheless, we do not wish to hinder the priests and preachers from conferring amicably and fraternally concerning the faith.’ ‘Quite right,’ said the Friburgers. These articles, and others like them — the first monument of religious liberty in Switzerland — were published on the 30th January 1532. It is to be regretted that this proclamation of the sixteenth century was ‘not henceforward taken as a pattern in all christian countries, and in Switzerland, where it was drawn up. The order did not for long prevent violent collisions.

We shall now leave this quarter, and follow elsewhere the great champion of the Word of God, Farel; but we shall return here later. The evangelical seed was to be sown still more abundantly in the Pays de Vaud, and that soil, which appeared adverse at first, will produce and has produced, in our days especially, the finest of fruits.