A History of the Christian Church
Part Thirteen, by Denis Jenkins
compiled by Denis Jenkins
Title A History of the Christian Church
Theme When Christians Used Worldly Strategies for A Godly Cause.
The unwise use of public militant protest as a means of promoting God's cause had reverberating effects throughout France for years to come. The French people watching this struggle for change observed both the behaviour of the Protestants in rising up publicly, in a militant fashion, for their cause and the effect that terror had in controlling the public as Francis I successfully regained his power over the impact of Protestant influence. The French people now felt justified in rising up against royalty in retaliation for such hard treatment. Taking the public militant approach of the Protestants and combining it with the terror tactics of Francis I, the French people brought discipline on royalty of the most horrific kind on the 21 January 1793. This reign of terror brought about the French Revolution and saw many thousands perish. In an indirect way, the unwise actions of people claiming to uphold God but using ungodly means to achieve this end in effect closed France to receiving the Gospel and so God's work was thwarted in this country.
Due to this unrest in France, Farel had been forced to flee to Switerland to escape the annihilation of the religious reformers. He continued to spread the Gospel to those people living on the French border. With other reformers in exile from France, Farel translated many articles from German reformers into French. These writngs with the French Bible were printed in large quantities. A group of people known as "colporters", sold the Bibles and writings. They bought the books at low prices and sold them for a higher figure. The profits from these sales supported the colporters so that they could dedicate their entire working day spreading God's word in a land that had been closed to the public proclamation of the Gospel.
Meanwhile, Farel in the guise of a schoolmaster, continued his work of spreading the Gospel in Switzerland. While teaching the expected subjects at school, Farel cautiously introduced Bible subjects hoping the children would reach the parents with the Gospel. Soon priests in the area opposed Farrel's work in the school and so Farel was forced to flee to another town. Where ever he went, Farel preached in market places, churches and in peoples' homes and as a result, Farel was continually pursued by the authorities and representatives of Rome.
Despite the problems the reformers had brought upon themselves in France, soon cities and towns both in France and Switzerland began to embrace the reformers' faith. The people began to remove images from the churches and many of the churches embraced Bible study to replace the rites and rituals of the Roman church.
The spreading of the Gospel in Switzerland gained popularity and momentum. Farel was summonsed to Geneva for a council of reformers. The Roman Church believing that they were losing ground organised a furious mob to challenge Farel. Farel was warned not to enter the city and once again he fled.
God always creates ways around the obstacles of spreading the Good news of salvation. If He cannot succeed with bold and direct means of spreading the Gospel through mighty talented characters, God will raise up people whom you would never think could be used in a mighty way. In human terms we would dismiss such a person but in God's view He can see that he can educate, mould and direct minds of people who live in true humility and take no particular position in society or even in their own fellowship of believers. Froment was such a person. Froment was born in Mens, a town in the Dauphiné, and received a typical Christian education. He spent a few years as deacon of a town outside of Geneva, and then at the age of 33 was made a pastor. He and his wife, Marie Dentière remained active in the Genevan church despite their residency outside the city. Like her husband, Dentiere was a vocal reformer and theologian with fiery, outspoken views. Soon a great many people in Geneva embraced the reform doctrine. This encouraged Farel and Calvin to return to Geneva to help Froment consolidate the fast growing congregations. (Émile G. Léonard (1968). A History of Protestantism, Volume One: The Reformation. Great Britain: Bobbs-Merrill Company Inc)
Farel and Froment together convinced the Government in Geneva to officially support the reformation movement. The reformation congregations continued to grow. The success of the reformers was outstanding. So since the devil could not succeed in hindering the spreading of the Gospel by working through the authority of the Roman Church, the powers of evil attacked at the very reformers themselves.
By the early 1540s Froment had abandoned his involvement in the Protestant movement on a fulltime basis and opened a small shop. By that time, Calvin and Farel had begun to show feelings of bitter animosity and vexation towards him, and more especially towards his wife Marie. Calvin's words show a particular dislike towards Froment's career duality as shopkeeper and preacher. A month before his death, Calvin wrote a letter to his colleagues recounting his first arrival at Geneva, writing:
- "...In addition, there was Master Antoine Saunier, and that superb preacher Froment who, having taken off his apron, would ascend the pulpit, and would afterwards go back to his shop, where he gossiped away and so preached twice over."
In 1548, Froment was again forced to flee after delivering an inflammatory sermon, this time criticizing local reformed church leaders for making profits and lacking Reformation fervor. . For the next decade or so, Froment lived as a notary, until in 1561, after marrying a second time following the death of his wife, he was convicted of adultery with a servant and imprisoned for 10 years. (Émile G. Léonard (1968). A History of Protestantism, Volume One: The Reformation. Great Britain: Bobbs-Merrill Company Inc)
As can be seen above in the example of Calvin, Farel and Froment, the very people God uses to spread his Gospel fail at various times in their lives. Martin Luther had his failure in life. Calvin and Farel as it can be seen, fell into the sin of feelings of bitter animosity against a fellow worker for God. Froment failed to use tack and diplomacy thus allienating reformation church leaders. The reformation church leaders in the new environment of acceptance under the Geneva Government, began to let ease of life tempt them to profiteer from the advantage and privilege of leadership in which they found themselves. Then the devil attacks the very character of the humble servant, Antione Froment, who had done so much for the cause of God in Geneva burdened with the accusation of adultery and a prison sentence of ten years. Does this mean these so called holy men, on fire for God, who stood mightily against the deceptions of counterfeit religion during the reformation, were frauds? No, the Bible makes it clear that is the human condition. Not one of us until the coming of the new earth at the return of Christ will be able to reflect the perfect character of God. These men demonstrated the Gospel in action; forgiveness and grace.
The scripture is so true when it says, No there is none righteous. We have all at some time and will until Christ comes again fall short of the glory of God; or fall short of perfectly reflecting the character of God. Does human failure take away from the validity of the people who lead God's movements of seeking God's truth? The Bible gives us this answer. Peter denied Christ at Christ's trial and tried to take the heat off himself by even swearing like a common man that he was not a follower of Christ. Christ forgave him because Peter asked for forgiveness. Christ tells us that so long as we recognise and confess our wrong doing, we continue to be his people and to be his servants of the Gospel. For this is the Gospel in action, we do not have to be perfect to be sons and daughters of God. We must be directed in the Holy Spirit.
Despite all of their failure and wrong doing, the reformers recognised their failures, seeking forgiveness, accepting the reality of God's grace and redirecting their lives in the Holy Spirit; pressing on through the leadership of God's spirit to greater heights of spiritual experience.
The conversion of the people of Geneva to the reformation, did not make the Pope happy and thus the Roman Church thundered threats at the People of Geneva. Both through the excesses of the Roman Church and the Failure in the lives of the reformers satan in his war against righteousness seeks to discredit Christ and all that He stands for in imperfect human actions. Thus, Satan tries to separate the entire human race from a desire to serve God by making God's people look like Hypocrites to a world that does not understand the Gospel; a Gospel that covers imperfect men and women with the Grace of God's forgiveness.
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