« AnteriorContinuar »
THE BAPTISM OF FIRE.
The more you mow us down, the thicker we rise; the Christian blood you spill is like the seed you sow, it springs
TERTULLIAN. from the earth again and fructifies the more.
As day was drawing to a close, and the rays of the setting sun climbed slowly up the dungeon wall, the prisoner sat and read in a tome with silver clasps. He was a man in the vigor of his days, with a pale and noble countenance, that wore less the marks of worldly care than of high and holy thought. His temples were already bald; but a thick and curling beard bespoke the strength of manhood; and his eye, dark, full, and eloquent, beamed with all the enthusiasm of a martyr.
The book before him was a volume of the early Christian Fathers. He was reading the Apologetic of the eloquent Tertullian, the oldest and ablest writer of the Latin Church. At times he paused, and raised his eyes to heaven as if in prayer, and then read on again in silence. At length a passage seemed to touch his inmost soul. He read aloud :
“Give us, then, what names you please; from the instruments of cruelty you torture us by, call us Sarmenticians and Semaxians, because you fasten us to trunks of trees, and stick us about with fagots to set us on fire; yet let me tell you, when we are thus begirt and dressed about with fire, we are then in our most illustrious apparel. These are our victorious palms and robes of glory; and, mounted on our funeral pile, we look upon ourselves as in our triumphal chariot. No wonder, then, such passive heroes please not those they vanquish with such conquering sufferings. And therefore we pass for men of despair, and violently bent upon our own destruction. However, what you are pleased to call madness and despair in us are the very actions which, under virtue's standard, lift up your sons of fame and glory, and emblazon them to future ages.”
He arose and paced the dungeon to and fro, with folded arms and a firm step. His thoughts held communion with eternity.
Father which art in heaven!” he exclaimed, “ give me strength to die like those
holy men of old, who scorned to purchase life at the expense of truth. That truth has made me free; and though condemned on earth, I know that I am absolved in heaven!”
He again seated himself at his table, and read in that tome with silver clasps.
This solitary prisoner was Anne Du Bourg, a man who feared not man ; once a merciful judge in that august tribunal upon whose voice hung the life and death of those who were persecuted for conscience sake, he was now himself an accused, a convicted heretic, condemned to the Baptism of Fire, because he would not unrighteously condemn others. He had dared to plead the cause of suffering humanity before that dread tribunal, and, in the presence of the king himself, to declare that it was an offence to the majesty of God to shed man's blood in his name. Six weary months
from June to December he had lain a prisoner in that dungeon, from which a death by fire was soon to set him free. Such was the clemency of Henry the Second !
As the prisoner read, his eyes were filled with tears. He still gazed upon the printed page, but it was a blank before his
His thoughts were far away amid the scenes of his childhood, amid the green valleys of Riom and the Golden Mountains of Auvergne.
Some simple word had called up the vision of the past. He was a child again. He was playing with the pebbles of the brook, — he was shouting to the echo of the hills, — he was praying at his mother's knee, with his little hands clasped in hers.
This dream of childhood was broken by the grating of bolts and bars, as the jailer opened his prison door. A moment afterward, his former colleague, De Harley, stood at his side.
"Thou here !” exclaimed the prisoner, surprised at the visit. “ Thou in the dungeon of a heretic ! On what errand hast thou come?"
“ On an errand of mercy,” replied De Harley. “I come to tell thee “ That the hour of
death draws near ? “ That thou mayst still be saved.”
“ Yes; if I will bear false witness against my God, - barter heaven for earth, — an eternity for a few brief days of worldly existence. Lost, thou shouldst say, — lost, not saved!”
“No! saved !” cried De Harley with warmth; “ saved from a death of shame and an eternity of woe! Renounce this false doctrine, - this abominable heresy, — and return again to the bosom of the church which thou dost rend with strife and dissension.”
“God judge between thee and me, which has embraced the truth."
“ His hand already smites thee.”
“It has fallen more heavily upon those who so unjustly persecute me. Where is the king? - he who said that with his
he would behold me perish at the stake ? — he to whom the undaunted Du Faur cried, like Elijah to Ahab, • It is thou who troublest Israel!! Where is the king ? Called, through a sudden and violent death, to the judgment- seat of Heaven! - Where is Minard, the persecutor of the just ? Slain by the hand of an assassin ! It was not without reason that I said to him, when standing before my accusers, Tremble ! believe the word of one who is about to appear before God; thou likewise shalt stand there soon, thou that sheddest the blood of the children of peace.' He has gone to his account before me.”
“ And that menace has hastened thine own condemnation. Minard was slain by the Huguenots, and it is whispered that thou wast privy to his death."
This, at least, might have been spared a dying man!” replied the prisoner, much agitated by so unjust and so unexpected an accusation. “ As I hope for mercy hereafter, I am innocent of the blood of this man, and of all knowledge of so foul a crime. But, tell me, hast thou come here only to embitter my last hours with such an accusation as this ? If so, I pray thee, leave me. My moments are pre
I would be alone.” “ I came to offer thee life, freedom, and happiness.”
“ Life, - freedom, — happiness ! At the price thou hast set upon them, I scorn them all! Had the apostles and martyrs of the early Christian Church listened to such paltry bribes as these, where were now the faith in which we trust ? These holy men of old shall answer for me. Hear what Justin Martyr says, in his earnest appeal to Antonine the Pious, in behalf of the Christians who in his day were unjustly loaded with public odium and oppression.'
He opened the volume before him and read:
“I could wish you would take this also into consideration, that what we say is really for your own good; for it is in our power at any time to escape your torments by denying the faith, when you question us about it: but we scorn to purchase life at the expense of a lie; for our souls are winged with a desire of a life of eternal duration and purity, of an immediate conversation with God, the Father and Maker of all things. We are in haste to be confessing and finishing our faith ; being fully persuaded that we shall arrive at this blessed state, if we approve ourselves to God by our works, and by our obedience express our passion for that divine life which is never interrupted by any clashing evil.”
The Catholic and the Huguenot reasoned long and earnestly together; but they reasoned in vain. Each was firm in his belief; and they parted to meet no more on earth.
On the following day, Du Bourg was summoned before his judges to receive his final sentence. He heard it unmoved, and with a prayer to God that he would pardon those who had condemned him according to their consciences. He then addressed his judges in an oration full of power and eloquence. It closed with these words:
" And now, ye judges, if, indeed, you hold the sword of God as ministers of his wrath, to take vengeance upon those who do evil, beware, I charge you, beware how you condemn
Consider well what evil we have done, and, before all things, decide whether it be just that we should listen unto you rather than unto God. Are you so drunken with the winecup of the great sorceress, that you drink poison for nourishment? Are you not those who
make the people sin by turning them away from the service of God? And if you regard more the opinion of men than that of Heaven, in what esteem are you held by other nations, and principalities, and powers, for the martyrdoms you have caused in obedience to this blood-stained Phalaris ? God grant, thou cruel tyrant, that by thy miserable death thou mayst put an end to our groans !
Why weep ye? What means this delay ? Your hearts are heavy within you, — your consciences are haunted by the judgment of God. And thus it is that the condemned rejoice in the fires you have kindled, and think they never live better than in the midst of consuming flames. Torments affright them not, — insults enfeeble them not; their honor is redeemed by death, — he that 'dies is the conqueror, and the conquered he that mourns.
“ No! whatever snares are spread for us, whatever suffering we endure, you cannot separate us from the love of Christ. Strike, then,
- slay, - grind us to powder! Those that die in the Lord shall live again ; we shall all be raised together. Condemn me as you will, — I am a Christian ; yes, I am a Christian, and am ready to die for the glory of our Lord, — for the truth of the Evangelists.
“Quench, then, your fires! Let the wicked abandon his way, and return unto the Lord, and he will have compassion on him. Live, be happy, — and meditate on God, ye judges ! As for me, I go rejoicing to my death.
death. What wait
for? Lead me to the scaffold !” They bound the prisoner's hands, and, leading him forth from the council-chamber, placed him upon
the cart that was to bear him to the Place de Grève. Before and behind marched a guard of five hundred soldiers; for Du Bourg was beloved by the people, and a popular tumult was apprehended. The day was overcast and sad; and ever and anon the sound of the tolling bell mingled its dismal clang with the solemn notes of the funeral march. They soon reached the place of execution, which was already filled with a dense and silent crowd. In the centre stood the gallows, with a pile of fagots beneath it, and the executioner with a
burning torch in his hand. But this funeral apparel inspired no terror in the heart of Du Bourg. A look of triumph beamed from his eye,
and bis countenance shone like that of an angel. With his own hands he divested himself of his outer garments, and, gazing round upon the breathless and sympathizing crowd, exclaimed, —
“My friends, I come not hither as a thief or a murderer ; but it is for the Gospel's sake!”
A cord was then fastened round his waist, and he was drawn up into the air. At the same moment the burning torch of the executioner was applied to the fagots beneath, and the thick volumes of smoke concealed the martyr from the horror - stricken crowd. One stified groan arose from all that vast multitude, like the moan of the sea, and all was hushed again ; save the crackling of the fagots, and at intervals the funeral knell, that smote the very soul. The quivering flames darted upward and around ; and an agonizing cry broke from the murky cloud,
· My God! my God! forsake me not, that I forsake not thee!"
The wind lifted the reddening smoke like a veil, and the form of the martyr was seen to fall into the fire beneath. In a moment it rose again, its garments all in flame; and again the faint, half-smothered cry of agony was heard,
“My God! my God! forsake me not, that I forsake not thee!"
Once more the quivering body descended into the flames; and once more it was lifted into the air, a blackened, burning cinder. Again and again this fiendish mockery of baptism was repeated ; till the martyr, with a despairing, suffocating voice, exclaimed,
“() God! I cannot die!”
The executioner came forward, and, either in mercy to the dying man or through fear of the populace, threw a noose over his neck, and strangled the almost lifeless victim. At the same moment the cord which held the body was loosened, and it fell into the fire to rise no more. And thus was consummated the martyrdom of the Baptism of Fire.
My brain, methinks, is like an hour-glass,
A RAINY and gloomy winter was just drawing to its close, when I left Paris for the South of France. We started at sunrise ; and as we passed along the solitary streets of the vast and silent metropolis, drowsily one by one its clanging horologes chimed the hour of six. Beyond the city gates the wide landscape was covered with a silvery network of frost; a wreath of vapor overhung the windings of the Seine ; and every twig and shrub, with its sheath of crystal, flashed in the level rays of the rising sun. The sharp, frosty air seemed to quicken the sluggish blood of the old postilion and his horses; - a fresh team stood ready in harness at each stage; and notwithstanding the slippery pavement of the causeway, the long and tedious climbing of the hillside, and the equally long and tedious descent with chained wheels and the drag, just after nightfall the lumbering vehicle of Vincent Caillard stopped at the gateway of the “ Three Emperors,” in the famous city of Orléans.
I cannot pride myself much upon being a good travelling-companion, for the rocking of a coach always lulls me into forgetfulness of the present; and no sooner does the hollow, monotonous rumbling of the wheels reach my ear, than, like Nick Bottom, “ I have an exposition of sleep come upon me.” It is not, hov: ever, the deep, sonorous slumber of a laborer, “ stuffed with distressful bread,” but a kind of day-dream, wherein the creations of fancy seem realities, and the real world, which swims dizzily before the half-shut, drowsy eye, becomes mingled with the imaginary world within. This is doubtless a very great failing in a traveller ; and I confess, with all humility, that at times the line of demarcation between truth and fiction is rendered thereby so indefi
nite and indistinct, that I cannot always determine, with unerring certainty, whether an event really happened to me, or whether I only dreamed it.
On this account I shall not attempt a de, tailed description of my journey from Paris to Bordeaux. I was travelling like a bird of passage; and five weary days and four weary nights I was on the way. The diligence stopped only to change horses, and for the travellers to take their meals; and by night I slept with my head under my wing in a snug corner of the coach.
Strange as it may appear to some of my readers, this night-travelling is at times far from being disagreeable; nay, if the country is flat and uninteresting, and you are favored with a moon, it may be very pleasant. As the night advances, the conversation around you gradually dies away, and is imperceptibly given up to some garrulous traveller who finds himself belated in the midst of a long story ; and when at length he puts out his feelers in the form of a question, discovers, by the silence around him, that the breathless attention of his audience is owing to their being asleep. All is now silent. You let down the window of the carriage, and the fresh night-air cools. your flushed and burning cheek. The landscape, though in reality dull and uninteresting, seems beautiful as it floats by in the soft moonshine. Every ruined hovel is changed by the magic of night to a trim cottage, every straggling and dilapidated hamlet becomes as beautiful as those we read of in poetry and ro
Over the lowland hangs a silver mist; over the hills peep the twinkling stars. The keen night-air is a spur to the postilion and his horses. In the words of the German ballad,
“ Halloo ! halloo ! away they go,
Unheeding wet or dry, And horse and rider snort and blow,
And sparkling pebbles fly. And all on which the moon doth shine
Behind them flees afar, And backward sped, scud overhead,
The sky and every star.”
Anon you stop at the relay.
The drowsy hostler crawls out of the stable-yard ; a few gruff words and strange oaths pass between him and the postilion,
then there is a coarse joke in patois, of which you understand the ribaldry only, and which is followed by a husky laugh, a sound between a hiss and a growl; - and then you are off again in a crack. Occasionally a way-traveller is uncaged, and a new-comer takes the vacant perch at your elbow. Meanwhile your busy fancy speculates upon all these things, and you fall asleep amid its thousand vagaries. Soon you wake again and snuff the morning air. It was but a moment, and yet the night is gone. The gray of twilight steals into the window, and gives a ghastly look to the countenances of the sleeping group around you. One sits bolt upright in a corner, offending none, and stiff and motionless as an Egyptian mummy; another sits equally straight and immovable, but snores like a priest; the head of a third is dangling over his shoulder, and the tassel of his nightcap tickles his neighbor's ear; a fourth has lost his hat, — his wig is awry, and his under-lip hangs lolling about like an idiot's. The whole scene is a living caricature of man, presenting human nature in some of the grotesque attitudes she assumes when that pragmatical schoolmaster, Propriety, has fallen asleep in his chair, and the unruly members of his charge are freed from the thraldom of the rod.
On leaving Orléans, instead of following the great western mail-route through Tours, Poitiers, and Angoulême, and thence on to Bordeaux, I struck across the departments of the Indre, Haute-Vienne, and the Dordogne, passing through the provincial capitals of Châteauroux, Limoges, and Périgueux. South of the Loire the country assumes a more mountainous aspect, and the landscape is broken by long sweeping hills and fertile valleys. Many a
fair scene invites the traveller's foot to pause ; and his eye roves with delight over the picturesque landscape of the valley of the Creuse, and the beautiful highland scenery near Périgueux. There are also many objects of art and antiquity which arrest his attention. Argenton boasts its Roman amphitheatre, and the ruins of an old castle built by King Pepin ; at Chalus the tower beneath which Richard Ceurde-Lion was slain is still pointed out to the curious traveller ; and Périgueux is full of crumbling monuments of the Middle Ages.
Scenes like these, and the constant chatter of my fellow-travellers, served to enliven the tedium of a long and fatiguing journey. The French are preëminently a talking people; and every new object afforded a topic for light and animated discussion. The affairs of church and state were, however, the themes oftenest touched upon. The bill for the suppression of the liberty of the press was then under discussion in the Chamber of Peers, and excited the most lively interest through the whole kingdom. Of course it was a subject not likely to be forgotten in a stage-coach.
“Ah! mon Dieu !” said a brisk little man, with snow-white hair and a blazing red face, at the same time drawing up his shoulders to a level with his ears; “ the ministry are determined to carry their point at all events. They mean to break down the liberty of the press, cost what it will.".
“ If they succeed,” added the person who sat opposite, “ we may thank the Jesuits for it. It is all their work. They rule the mind of our imbecile monarch, and it is their miserable policy to keep the people in darkness.”
“ No doubt of that,” rejoined the first speaker. “Why, no longer ago than yesterday I read in the · Figaro ' that a printer had been prosecuted for publishing the moral lessons of the Evangelists without the miracles.”
“ Is it possible? ” said I. 66 And are the people so stupid as thus patiently to offer their shoulders to the pack-saddle ?"
“ Most certainly not ! We shall have another revolution.”
“ If history speaks true, you have had revolutions enough, during the last century or two, to satisfy the most mercurial nation on earth.