The New Zealand Evangelist
France—Progress of the Gospel
France—Progress of the Gospel.
The following extract is from a speech of M. Audebez, of Paris, in May last, at Edinburgh.—After stating how much the Evangelical Society had been crippled for want of funds, he said:
However we have been, as it were, constrained to add to our former stations two new and very important ones. And I think it will interest you to know this. Each of the stations comprehended five villages, and the population of both stations together amounts to no less than 10,000 souls. Taingy is the chief place of one of the stations into which the gospel has been introduced, including four other neighbouring villages. The Mayor of the place is a rich man, and as he desired to be married to a cousin of his own, he went to the priest and asked him to celebrate his marriage according to the Romish ritual. The priest told the Mayor that he could not be married to his cousin without previously paying one thousand francs, which is £40 pounds of your money, for a dispensations page 183 to be obtained from the Pope, because of the relationship which existed between himself and his fair bride. The Mayor was astonished at this demand, and said that he could not understand the meaning of such a demand being made. “Let me,” he said, “put before you this question. Is it lawful or not for a man to marry his cousin? If it be lawful, why demand my money; and if it be not lawful, how can money make it lawful?” The priest insisting upon the 1000 francs, the Mayor retired, and actually applied to our evangelical missionary to marry him. Our missionary agreed to do so, and the fact having become known, upon the day of the ceremony it was attended by an immense majority of the people of the district; and an impression was produced which proved so powerful and decided, that general protestations were made against Popery, and from that day the inhabitants of the whole district did not cease to petition the Committee of the Society to give them a minister and a school-master. Such was their earnestness to have the gospel preached amongst them, that they agreed to raise money to purchase a large building, which they are at present having appropriated so as to furnish a chapel, two school-rooms, a manse, and a lodging for each of the teachers. You can imagine that the priest would not see with very great pleasure the Protestants invading his territory. And what was to be done? Wherever he went, from time to time, he could not refrain from showing his bad humour. Not long ago, the priest, knowing that the Protestants had assembled to read the Bible, he determined to disturb them, and caused the church-bell to be rung in a very strange manner. Two young men were appointed to do this; and instead of using the rope to shake the bell, they provided themselves with two large smith's hammers, with which they struck the bell, at each stroke crying out,” Here goes a Protestant.” At last, however, they went so far that the bell got a stroke in consequence of which it emitted a rather curious sound—it was cracked. The two bell-ringers, as you may suppose, immediately became very confused; but they were much more so, when the Mayor, who had guessed the cause of the ringing, and heard the discordant sounds, went up the spire, and addressing the two lads, said, “Well my dear fellows, you have been amusing yourselves, and making a great noise, but all is not pleasure here below; you know well that those who break the glass must pay for it, so make ready to supply the bell which you have cracked.” I cane assure you there was great consternation. St. Saviour is the othor new station. It is a very fine small town. The gospel was introduced here in this way. A young girl, about twelve years of age, purchased a New Testament, which she delighted in reading. She took her dear book, as she called it, every Sunday to the ohapel, and instead of paying any attention to the sermons of the mass, she preferred to read some parable, or some of the circumstances attending the birth, and sufferings, and death, and resurrection of Christ. I must tell you that it is customary in the country in the parishes of Burgundy, after mass, to form into procession and walk round the chapel. The priest, the vicar, and other office-page 184bearers walk first, carrying crosses, and banners, and signs, and are followed by the people. However attractive such a scene might be for a young girl of twelve years of age, the young reader of the Bible absolutely paid no attention to it; she thought it was better to continue seated reading the Word of God. But the priest at the return of the procession towards the altar, did not fail to perceive her, and the book which she had in her hand. At that view he was startled. He understood what book it was, and he was fearful of the mischief which such a volume would produce if generally possessed by the people, and thus read in the chapels.—Accordingly, he gave an order to the beadle to go and take the book from the hands of the girl. The young girl continued as long as possible to retain the treasure; but at last she was overcome by the beadle; she was dispossessed of the book, and burst into tears. The people, as soon as they knew what sort of book it was, and could comprehend the secret motive of the priest, were indignant, and the following week was a good one for our colporteurs. Every body went to buy a New Testament. Next Sunday the chapel was crammed; and when the procession took place, the people remained seated, each with a New Testament in his hand, and curiously watching the countenance of the priest. From this the priest understood that the mummeries of Rome were to be at an end. The people agreed in great numbers to raise money among themselves. They hired a house for a place of worship; and, about five weeks after, the gospel was faithfully preached at St. Saviour. The example of the inhabitants of this village was followed by those of four adjoining villages; and thirty more might be in the same position, did the peeuniary resources of the Society permit of the sending them ministers and colporteurs.—The facilities which we now have for preaching the gospel in France is very great, compared with that under the former Government. That Government was completely against the liberty of religious worship; and it was to have been feared that ere long we would have been persecuted more and more. In January last, I was in the southern part of the country, and attended the pleadings in two religious causes. It was held by the Court that we had a good plea; but in spite of that good plea, the Procureur sustained the pledaings against us. And would you know what a commentary he gave on the Constitution of the Charter, which says that every one professing religion in France, shall have the same liberty and enjoy the same protection. He said, “that means a man who professes in his heart.” We were not permitted to cry out against this assertion, but the people were very indignant, and they made a great noise with their feet. The Judge cried silence; but the people would not be silent. Now, my friends, all restriction on that precious liberty is over. Now a large and wide door is open in France for all those who are desirous to take their life in their hand and go forth to proclaim that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is the only Mediator, the only Saviour. It is no more necessary to make declarations, and to be exposed to the frowns of a mayor or a judge; for every one may go throughout France, and page 185 errect a church, and preach the gospel without difficulty. What ever may be the result of the labours of the Committee appointed in Paris to draw up a constitution, and whatever may be its character, I have no doubt that we shall have liberty for ever. The time is come. All these overturnings, so wonderful, are not from man, but from God. There will be a completion of the work, and we are but at its commencement. But if it be a time of great overturnings, it is also a time for great reedification. Not only are the people in France quite disposed to hear the gospel, but they are exceedingly disposed to read it. In the month of March, at the very time when the excitement was greatest, 10,000 copies of the New Testament were circulated in France—not given away, but actually sold. And this was at a time when money was any thing but plentiful. Blessed be God, it is a proof of a secret and deep disposition in the people of France to receive something new.—The Word of God is a new thing to them. Many of them are violent; but in the midst of all the violence which has been exhibited, there is in the bottom of their minds a disposition for which I have been led many and many times to bless my God. There is a secret want of something; they know not what, but I know, and you know too. They want something—they have a feeling that it is necessary for them to find out something—something better than revolutions—they want something, and oh! no doubt it is the gospel.