« PoprzedniaDalej »
firmation of this truth, and fulfilment of these promises, in the lives of those who in subsequent times have committed themselves to God by faith and prayer.
PERIODS OF PERSECUTION have singularly illustrated this providential care of God for his people. In such times his hand has been as it were visibly stretched out, protecting them from the fury of their enemies, and rescuing them when all hope of deliverance from man seemed to have terminated. Instead of ranging over the wide field of illustration presented by ecclesiastical history, we shall confine ourselves to some incidents connected with the long and cruel severities practised by the Roman Catholics of France upon the Protestants in that kingdom.
On one occasion the prince of Condé and admiral Coligny—the leaders of the Huguenot party—had been driven from their homes by their opponents, who had attempted cruelly to massacre them ; they took to flight accordingly with their helpless and terrified families. “ The prince of Condé set out silently,” says Matthieu, an eye-witness of the events he narrates, “but his situation touched all hearts with pity, when they saw the first prince of the blood setting
forward in the intensest and extremest heat, with his wife on the point of giving birth to a child, and three little children borne after them, followed by the now motherless family of Coligny, of whom only one was able to walk. The wife of D'Andelot, too, was there with her little girl only two years old, and several other ladies. The only escort for this troop of helpless women and children was one hundred and fifty soldiers, headed by the two brave and affectionate fathers.
“ They journeyed on as rapidly as possible, for their only hope of safety lay in crossing the Loire before they could be overtaken, and then seeking shelter in Rochelle ; but the whole country was filled with hostile troops, and the bridges over the Loire were already occupied. They therefore determined to attempt a ford not commonly known, and arrived at it when the river, usually broad and furious, was so far diminished by the long drought that they crossed without difficulty, the prince carrying his youngest infant on his arm, clasped to his bosom. But scarcely had they reached the southern bank, when turning round they discovered the cavalry of their enemies in full pursuit, crowding rapidly upon the opposite side.
An event now happened certainly very remarkable. Without any apparent cause, a sudden swell of waters came foaming and rushing down the stream, and in an instant filling the channel, rendered the ford impassable, and the defenceless company were thus rescued from the jaws of their destroyer.
Can we wonder that men taught to rest upon Providence, and discern the Almighty hand in the events of their agitated lives, should have regarded this as a signal interposition in their favour, and an undoubted sign that his arm was extended for their preservation ?" *
This fact rests not upon the Protestant historians alone. In its main features it is abundantly confirmed by contemporary Roman Catholic writers ; among the rest by the Jesuit Davila.
On several occasions the life of admiral Coligny was attempted by assassination, but it was as marvellously preserved as it had been in the above instance. Once a servant in his employ was tempted by the offer of a large reward by Catherine, the infamous queenmother, to poison his master. The plot was on the very point of succeeding, when the pertur
* Mrs. Marsh's “ History of the Huguenots."
bation and agitation evinced in the man's countenance excited suspicion of treachery. He was seized, and confessed the intended crime just in time to save the admiral's life. It is true that Coligny did at last fall under the hand of assassins at the massacre of St. Bartholomew; yet his days were lengthened out until his work was done.
During the siege of Rochelle, the Protestant party were reduced to the utmost straits by famine. “They had eaten," says a contemporary, “first the asses, then the mules; horses, cats, rats, and moles, and the flesh of dogs, were sold in the open market. When there was nothing more of that sort to be got, they boiled leather, the skins of dogs and horses; then emptied the tanners' and curriers' yards, using leather and the hoofs and horns of oxen and horses." After their faith and endurance had been thus severely tested by the horrors of famine, and when it was impossible that they could hold out much longer, a supply came scarcely less marvellous and abundant than that of the quails in the wilderness. The most extraordinary quantities of fish which had ever been known within the memory of man poured into the harbour. At low water, the people went down
to the beach with their weapons in their hands, and baskets slung to their sides, which they filled with the utmost ease. Abundance took the place of famine, and a sufficiency of food was enjoyed during the whole time the siege lasted. It will not be wondered at that the ministers, during the continuance of the siege, constantly appealed to this fact as a proof that God was with them, and availed themselves of it as an argument to induce in their flocks a more resolute and strenuous determination not to yield. “To this day,” says D'Aubigné, writing a few years after the event, " the people of Rochelle keep pictures in their houses in memory of this fact." *
Merivault records the following incident as having happened at a subsequent siege of the same city :-"During the extremity of hunger among the Rochellois, some charitable individuals, who had previously formed secret magazines, relieved their starving. brethren without blazing abroad their good deeds. The widow of a merchant named Prosni, who was left
* A similar incident is recorded of some of the Puritan emigrants to America in the seventeenth century, who, disappointed of receiving the expected supplies, were maintained and preserved from starvation in a like mode, till their long looked-for vessel arrived,