|Our microcosm of the Body of Christ|
Cheryl really needed a break (and a sainthood, in my opinion) so after our morning full of Gutenberg, Bucer, Calvin and the rest, visiting Gutenberg Square, the cathedral, St Nicholas Church where Calvin primarily preached, and St Thomas Church where Bucer primarily (we sang I Greet Thee Who My Sure Redeemer Art here), I came back to the hotel, read to Gillian until she fell asleep, then did, no, check that, am doing this.
...As the days of our flight passed, I grew, if not skillful, at least more proficient in the riding of a horse. We made our way due east, traversing through such places as Epernay, Verdun, and Metz. Passing into German lands, Cauvin seeming loathe to his leave of France. When we finally arrived in the grand city of Strasbourg, as with other places through which we had passed, many flocked to greet Cauvin in that city. Notably one called Martin Bucer warmly welcomed Cauvin, urging him to remain in Strasbourg, there to preach and minister in the city.
“There is much good for you to do in this place,” said the kindly Bucer. “Preach in the public square, in the grand cathedral itself—you need not fear the sword or fire here in Strasbourg. God has granted great freedom for his cause in this place. And there is good food and leisure—here you may relax from your work; here you may recreate yourself. Do remain among us.”
“The demands of God’s beleaguered church,” said Cauvin, “do not allow for thoughts of food and leisure.”
“I know of your dedication to the work of God,” said Martin Bucer. “It is unrivaled. But human nature has that weakness by which it cannot always concentrate on grave and serious matters. There must also be provision made for certain relaxations from work and useful studies and a certain recreation of the strength both of the spirit and of the body in play and games. Such you may enjoy here in Strasbourg.”
|Giles and his buddies|
I knew Cauvin better than almost anyone, and I knew that, well-intentioned as Bucer’s urgings were, they would not be received with favor by Cauvin. What is more, in Strasbourg Cauvin was accosted on every side by enthusiastic reformers who wanted him to preach, to teach, to debate, and to take pastoral duties among them. These were all things Cauvin was reluctant so to do, and I knew this. Hence, I knew that our stay in Strasbourg would not be a long one.
“Tell no one of where we plan to go,” I heard him telling du Tillet one evening. “I shall assume the name Lucanius, and thereby shall I be enabled to find a quiet place for study and writing. Bucer and the rest are well-meaning and faithful men, but there is too much activity in this place. We must be away.”
I had had my suspicions of du Tillet’s servant. There had been nothing of substance, but the man was reserved and surly—as I often had been. Perhaps this was the manner of the servant. In any event what transpired next was nearly to our ruin. We took our leave of kindly Martin Bucer, and Cauvin asked him to tell no one of our departure until a full day had elapsed. He arranged for us to board at his home and place of birth in the small village of Selestat, a comfortable day’s journey on horseback south of Strasbourg.
It was there that du Tillet’s servant showed his evil side. I know it is hypocritical in the extreme for one such as I to record the petty guilt of one such as he, but, nevertheless, did the man do us a great wrong.
It fell out after this fashion. I awoke with a start early next morning. It must have been a sound in the narrow hallway of the Bucer family house. Rising from my bed, I moved with stealth, unlatching my door and straining to see in the predawn darkness. I could make out the barest outline of a man’s shape as a light from a lantern in the narrow street shone faintly through a window, partially revealing him to my sight. I followed, but not knowing his intentions, I followed far too slowly.
He had apparently already made his horse ready, for within an instant I heard a racket of hooves on the cobbles in the street. They clattered, echoing against the narrow timbered houses that enclosed the street. Boldly did I attempt to saddle my steed and give pursuit, but by the time I managed to secure the bridle in its place, the man was gone. Certain it was du Tillet’s servant, I rode as best and as fast as I could in the direction he had traveled, but if it was du Tillet’s servant, I knew his riding, and I knew mine. It was a vain pursuit.
Fearing the worst, I at last reined my steed in and returned. “What has he taken?” I inquired as I came back into the house. All were awake by now.
“I have been robbed!” cried du Tillet. “That worthless servant has robbed me of my purse! They are all the same. That scoundrel servant! He has run off with every piece of gold, every piece of silver. We are destitute!”
As we breakfasted, du Tillet fumed in his agitation, cursing his servant, bemoaning how expenses would now be covered, and generally lamenting as if disaster had fallen from the heavens.
I remained quiet, though I frequently fingered the hidden stash within my pouch, concealed deep within my tunic. For some time now I had spent nothing from it. I was loathe to handle it, as if the pouch and its contents were a poison, transmitted merely by touch or by look. I cannot explain my feelings fully on the matter, but looking back, I suppose it had become a sort of blood money to me. There was so much I had not been able to arrange in my thinking; perhaps I never would fully be able to do so.
After we had finished our little meal, du Tillet said, “How can such a one as he, after all of his privileges, most especially hearing the gospel these number of months, how can such as he act so wickedly? It is unthinkable.”
Cauvin said nothing but opened his Greek New Testament. After reading silently for a moment, he closed the book and said, though I believe he was actually reciting from his instantaneous translation,
“‘For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth,’” he paused, looking at each of us, but I felt that he lingered longer when looking into my eyes, “‘there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries,’ this from the epistle to the Hebrews.”
Again he paused, the weight of which pausing seemed to bear down upon my soul as if to crush me under its insupportable burden.
“To whom God has granted much,” said Cauvin, “he will demand far more on the judgment day. Your servant, Master du Tillet, for spurning the grace of God, the many opportunities for repentance, for sinning against the light of the Word of God which he has repeatedly heard, for these your servant, should he persist in his stony-hearted rebellion, must expect fearful judgment and fiery indignation from the Almighty.”
Again he looked at me, his piercing eyes, as I felt them, penetrating into my very soul, and continued. “Let us, each one, examine our hearts, and put off the hardness therein. Let us resist the devil, mortify sin, humble ourselves before the grace of God, confess and forsake our sinning. And then let us put on the righteousness of Jesus Christ, mercifully imputed to our unworthy hearts.”
I felt his words were for me, and for me alone. I shuddered, and I believe it was such a shuddering as even I could not conceal by my art. If Cauvin could say such things about the petty stealing of du Tillet’s servant, what would he have to say to one such as I, I alone who was responsible for the great evil of condemning the innocent, of betraying the faithful, of exchanging for money—again I fingered the pouch within my tunic—if he knew that I had for these few glittering coins denounced his friend Etienne and many others, would he so cheerfully extend to me this gospel of grace? Could there be such a grace capable of covering such crimes as I alone had committed? I believed there was not. How could there be?
His words pounded like hammer blows on an anvil in my head: If we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
In the days that followed, I liberally spent the remains of my purse on our needs, though I made every attempt to conceal my liberality in doing so. It was a small matter for me to make my way to the market alone and secure food, even lodging and fodder for our horses, now reduced to but three. All of which generosity I credited to others.