« AnteriorContinuar »
extraordinary thing, that the bishop should persuade two fugitive ministers of the Vaudois to return to their country, and furnish them with twenty pounds towards their journey ; at that very time when nothing but universal destruction was to be expected, assuring them and shewing them from the Apocalypse that their countrymen should be returned safely to their country before they arrived.'
In the journals of an earlier date there are many entries, describing the terrible persecutions endared by the French Protestants, under the date Nov. 3, 1685, Evelyn says, “The French persecution of the Protestants, raging with the utmost barbarity, exceeded even what the very heathens used. Innumerable persons of the greatest birth and riches leaving all their earthly substance, and hardly escaping with their lives, dispersed through all the countries of Europe. However deeply we may sympathize with the fate of those who thus were driven, -to use the words of one of their own Laments,
From the bloom of their gardens, the hum of their bees.
and still more with those who remained to suffer the rage of persecution, it seems too much to say, the French exceeded the barbarity of the heathen. After a still further description of the persecution, Evelyn goes on to remark, .There had now been numbered to pass through Geneva only, (and that by stealth, for all the usual passages were strictly guarded by sea and land,) 40,000 towards Swisserland. In Holland, Denmark, and all about Germany, were dispersed some hundred thousands, besides those in England, where, though multitudes of all degrees
sought for shelter and welcome, as distressed Christians and confessors, they found less encouragement, by a fatality of the times we have fallen into, and the uncharitable indifference of such as should have embraced them; and I pray it be not laid to our charge.'
But all these violent and cruel means resorted to by Louis, to root out and utterly extirpate Protestantism from his dominions, were completely vain; while the witnessing church, preserved by the Lord in the strong citadels of the mountain rocks, yet continued to profess unaltered the faith of the primitive Christians: and although this church refused to call itself Reformed, declaring that it had kept the faith, and needed no reformation, it yet joined itself to the French Protestants, and sent delegates to their synods; and we cannot - but look upon it as the strong hold of Protestantism in France. Driven from the towns, the vallies, and the plains, and almost from all the habitable parts of the land, it yet existed in the mountain fastnesses; and though the storm of persecution rolled even to their remotest depths, depriving the mountain flock of their churches, their bibles, their pastors, and every ordinance of their religion, yet still this fair olive-tree (Rev. xi. 4) continued to flourish, nurtured by the Lord, who had planted and preserved it from the earliest ages of His church, protected it during the times of darkness, driven back as a flood the followers of the false prophet, as soon as their victories carried his banner to the foot of those mountains, and kept it under the shadow of his providential
1 Faber observes, in his Sacred Calendar of Prophecy, that as soon as the Mahommedans approached these countries, they were defeated by Charles Martel.
care to the present hour, where it still exists among the Alpine heights, separate from its sister church of the Waldenses, yet owning with her “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”
The dispensations of the Lord towards his church, both in providence and grace, often contain rich lessons of instruction to individual Christians; may such be drawn from the history of the witnessing churches. They are to us, in the first place, a lesson of patience. Wait-is the constant exhortation addressed to us in the scripture. Passion and Patience, a beautiful sketch in Pilgrim's Progress, well illustrates this subject: Passion is the spirit of worldliness, looking for its enjoyment now,—Patience the spirit of Christianity, waiting for its happiness hereafter. “Behold,” says the apostle, “ we count them happy which endure." And they are happy : the soul which, calm, contented, and resigned, has 'patience,' is not-cannot be ruffled, by the thousand storms which blow so often from the opposing points of human wishes and human events. Afiction all must endure; but when it meets a spirit rebellious against the will of the Lord, its strength seems to deepen as the blast of the tempest rises louder when it strikes against the lofty battlement.
They are to us an example of faith, which lives not for that which is seen, but for that which is not seen, and which trusts the Lord, although its sight cannot penetrate in the least degree through the thick darkness around. “ They are no gods, they have not fulfilled our desires !” is the passionate exclamation of the disappointed heathen. • Oh! what means this ? and why should these things be?' is but too often the lamentation of the Christian. Then, shutting his eyes against the terrors of sense, and the tribulations of time, he endeavours to realize the presence and the love of Christ, and to trust him to the uttermost, while all things seem unintelligible. • Remove from us this temporal evil, is often the Christian's prayer. Child of God! if you are really such-trouble may have been allotted you ; sorrow may have taken hold of you; correction may have fallen upon you; but evil - surely it cannot be !
The witnessing churches are also an example to us of self-denial. Taking the promises of God for their rich heritage, they were willing to let go their portion of this world's inheritance. Exiles from the luxuries, the arts, the refinements of life, they were, even during the years of peace and security which they were permitted to enjoy, disqualified by their religion, from taking any share in the usual objects of human pursuit. The path of a Christian is ever a narrow path, nor should he be tempted to outstep its boundaries, though they be not fenced in with the lines of persecution. The love of praise, the desire of applause, the wish for pre-eminence, the thought of self-aggrandizement, the hunting after riches, the spirit troubled with this world's gain,-all, all is forbidden. “ Thou art my portion, O Lord,” is the Christian's thought; “ my hope is in thee.”
May He whose love bas preserved his people of old, through so many ages of trouble, suffering, and woe, preserve us also through all the trials of this our mortal life, until it shall be given unto us to hear like them “ the great voice from heaven," saying to us, “ Come up hither!” and the words of our Lord be accomplished, in which He said, “ Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am.”
LETTER FROM REV. RICHARD BAXTER TO
REV. J. THORNTON.
ON THE DEATH OF LADY BEDFORD.
May 17, 1684. I RECEIVED yours, with the expressions of my Lord of Bedford's kindness, for which I pray you return bim my humble thanks. I understand that since then God has taken away his lady. If the everlasting habitations were not better than this wicked miserable world, who could forbear wishing that he had never been born? But with this flesh the faithful lay by their imperfections; and bad as we are, there is so much pleasure in the entire love and society of good men on earth, that a little tells us what it will be to live with perfectly loving saints, in the perfected heavenly church for ever. If we had a world of men on earth as good as some of my acquaintance are in sincere love, humility, and good works, I doubt it would make us loath to die, and ready to say with Peter, “ It is good to be here." And if all the whole world were as bad as the malicious serpent's seed, it would tempt us to think that man was never made for any better. But (for all our weakness) the conspicuous difference between the holy and the serpent's seed doth greatly tend to confirm our faith that there is a beaven and a hell, when we see