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BY THE VAUDOIS OF THEIR VALLEYS.
To Her Sacred Majesty Anne, Queen Of Great Britain, France, Scotland, And Ireland, Protectress Of The Faith.
One of the most striking events in history is the cause why this book has not sooner seen the light. This event consists in the fact, that his royal highness the Duke of Savoy was seen, in the same campaign, at the head of the allied army in Piemont, and of the army of France in Italy. It was easy to perceive in this, a stroke of fine policy on the part of that prince, rather than the result of his inclination. Time has made this known to all Europe.
Europe knows too that France shamefully disarmed the troops which this prince had in her service in the Milanese, and at that period the second book 1 of this history will commence. The first, which I now take the liberty of presenting to your majesty, has been composed from the memoirs of two men of letters, the one a Vaudois and the other a Frenchman, who had orders to note down, from day to day, the most remarkable events with respect to the Vaudois, while they were traversing the highest mountains of Savoy to return into their own country. It is true that some essential facts are added which men, while running, could not commit to writing; but they will be remembered by French, Italians, Savoyards, Swiss, and Spaniards; for not one circumstance is advanced which is not supported by thousands of living witnesses. All those nations have been employed by France and the Duke of Savoy for the utter destruction of the poor Vaudois, who have, nevertheless, by the marvellous mercy of the God of armies, always maintained themselves since their return into their valleys.
The histories of Morland, Perrin, Gilles, Leger, etc. prove to the world, that in these valleys of Luzerne, Perouse, St. Martin, and Valcluson or Prajelas, the purity and simplicity of the holy gospel has been preserved from time immemorial. And it is also to be seen that they have suffered thirty-three wars or persecutions for the sake of this gospel, an instance not to be found among the other nations of the earth. France, which has had a design upon Piemont for two hundred years, had taken her measures so justly, that she already said, it is finished. In fact, if the omnipotent hand of the great God had not checked the rapid progress of this terrible crown, republics, kingdoms, religion itself, all would have been destroyed by this nation, who carried the terror of her arms to the end of the world.
Bear witness of it Messina and Gygery 2 ; bear witness the bombardment of Algiers, the burning of Genoa, the conquest of the greater part of Holland, the betraying of Strasburg and Bri-sac, the sale of Pignerol 3 and Casal, the excitement of dark conspiracies in England, Ireland, and Scotland 4 , the intrigues and the spies in all courts of the world, and the gold and silver profusely distributed; France having descended to bestow pensions even on the wives of counsellors. These intrigues with cabinets, and with commanders of armies, by sea and land, have made your majesty see clearly that France already held the kingdom of Spain and all Europe in her hand. But the pride of titles is often the precursor of their fall. Pharaoh is cast into the sea; Moab the all-haughty is destroyed; and Herod stricken and devoured by vermin. This lofty, wide, and strong tree of France spread too broad an umbrage over the earth. God has sent not one angel, but three, to lop its branches. Great and incomparable queen, these three angels are the King William and the Queen Mary, of glorious and immortal memory, and in the present time your majesty, reigning with the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Samson, and the firmness and heart of King David. Your majesty is, in this happy age, the only Esther opposed to this cruel and proud Haman, who had every where ordered the destruction of the people of the living God. The orders of your majesty from your cabinet to those two incomparable heroes of our age, the Prince and Duke of Marlborough, and his most Serene Highness the Prince Eugene, are given with so much wisdom, and executed with such fidelity, courage, and promptitude, that they are the admiration of all the world. And these two incomparable princes will be ever blessed on earth, and their names will never die. I have the honor to know the latter, and each is worthy of the finest principality in Italy, Germany, or France. I leave to more sublime spirits the glory of displaying their brilliancy in history. For my part, I can praise in your majesty no single virtue; but can only say that you possess all in a sovereign degree, and above all, that which God has called the greatest, charity. This your majesty diffuses secretly in your kingdom, and universally over the pastors in the valleys of Piemont, and the seven exiles who exercise their ministry in the duchy of Wirtemberg and neighborhood of Francfort. I am delighted, also, in making known to the public that your majesty, of your own self, has deigned to honor my family with your royal pension, and that you have always the goodness to remember a servant of God who has lived sixty years, and forty of them as a minister persecuted from his youth upwards; who has run from one adventure to another, from mountain to mountain, and from rock to rock, while resisting for months together, with a handful of men, the arms of France and of the Duke of Savoy. This history has rolled over precipices, and sprang from valley to valley: it will then be rude and rough, but not the less true; and if it has not the polished language expected in this age, yet it shall possess pure sincerity and truth. Before I finish this epistle, your majesty, all good, all wise, and all charitable, will permit me to represent that it has been said of Europe, “If England breaks not Europe’s chains, Europe must become a slave.” Blessed be for ever the God of Heaven, who has taken your majesty by his good right hand, to place you on the throne where you reign so gloriously. The chains of Europe are broken. The same great God wills not that your majesty should forget the Sion of his Son, nor that you should make peace, unless the lamp of Christ be rekindled where persecution had extinguished it; as, for example, in Hungary, France, and the valleys of Perouse, etc. May your majesty, also, have at heart the deliverance of the poor galleyslaves, as well French as Vaudois; some of whom have been loaded with chains for more than twenty years, on account only of their religion. The good offices which Christians presume to hope from the natural goodness and charity of your majesty will bring blessings from heaven and earth on your sacred person, and will incline the Omnipotent to prolong your life; to render your reign glorious and happy; to cause your arms and armies to flourish by sea and land; to bless your wise, penetrating, and enlightened council; and to grant increasing prosperity to the great, intrepid, and warlike nation of your kingdoms, till the time shall come, marked by the finger of God, who will change the crown of this world into a crown eternal, glorious, and immortal, according to his irrevocable promises. And to this purpose do I pray continually to the God of heaven from the bottom of my heart, being always with the most lively gratitude, profound submission, and the greatest respect, to the last moment of my life,
Madam, Your majesty’s most humble, Most obedient, and most obliged servant, HENRY ARNAUD, Pastor and Colonel of the Vaudois.
PREFACE BY THE AUTHOR PICTURE:
La Tour & Lucere The extraordinary courage displayed by the Vaudois in the late war between France and Savoy, as testified by report, by private letters, and public despatches, is such as to compel a recognition of the hand of the Almighty, and of his pleasure that the magnificence of his power should be illustrated by this little band of the faithful.
Report, however, speaks only for a time; and as Europe may be anxious to be more intimately acquainted with this people—their origin—their religion—the persecutions they have suffered—and the firmness with which they have adhered to the genuine faith during the general apostasy of the western churches, it has been thought proper to present this little history to the public. Doubtless, reader, you will feel surprised that events so remarkable should not have been sooner made public. You will conceive that the notoriety of such illustrious examples of disinterested martyrdom would have been a stimulus to the reformers, and have increased their love and respect for the pure religion they profess. But do not suffer this seemingly unaccountable silence to perplex your mind. Be content to know that it was the result of sound policy, and that the reasons for it have now ceased to exist.
Were I to attempt to satisfy the curiosity which every where exists, but especially in England and Holland, concerning every thing connected with the Vaudois, I should write a much longer history than will now be produced. Their origin, antiquity, creed, mode of worship; the persecutions and massacres undergone at the instigation of idolatrous Rome; their constancy and courage; the inviolable attachment shewn by their poor church to the purity and simplicity of the gospel; and the almost miraculous means by which it has pleased God to preserve them through many wars, and especially those of the latest date: these are, indeed, all of them matters worthy of attention, but, I repeat, beyond the limits of the present work.
I must content myself with remarking, that the Vaudois inhabit three valleys at the northern extremity of Piemont, viz., those of Luzerne, St.
Martin, and Perouse, under the dominion of the Duke of Savoy.
Their proper name, Vallenses, is derived from the Latin word vallis, and not, as has been insinuated, from Valdo, a merchant of Lyons, who sold all his substance to purchase the pearl of great price. The valley of Prajelas, or the Clusone, is also inhabited by Vaudois, but subject to the King of France 1 .
That their religion is as primitive as their name is venerable, is attested even by their adversaries. Regnerus the inquisitor, in a report made by him to the pope on the subject of their faith, expresses himself in these words, “Che sono da tempo immemoriabile,” that they have existed from time immemorial. It would not be difficult to prove, that this poor band of the faithful were in the valleys of Piemont more than four centuries before the appearance of those extraordinary personages, Luther, Calvin, and the subsequent lights of the reformation. Neither has their church been ever reformed, whence arises its title of Evangelic. The Vaudois are, in fact, descended from those refugees from Italy who, after St. Paul had there preached the gospel, abandoned their beautiful country and fled, like the woman mentioned in the Apocalypse, to these wild mountains, where they have to this day handed down the gospel from father to son in the same purity and simplicity as it was preached by St. Paul.
Their sufferings surpass the power of imagination, as well on account of their duration as their individual cruelty. They are related by Jean Leger in his history, published at Leyden, and are such, that it may be truly said, that were the demons let loose from hell their fury and rage against Christians could not exceed the cruelty of the papists to the Vaudois. But it is of later events that I am to treat. They who wish for more ample information concerning the earlier history of this little flock, may obtain it from Leger, Gilles, and Perrin.
Louis XIV. having driven his most faithful subjects, i.e. the protestants, out of his kingdom, resolved that his neighbors should do so also, or rather, perhaps, thus sought a pretext for extending his frontiers. He therefore intimated to the Duke of Savoy that his own example was worthy of imitation, and that it was the duty of his royal highness to abolish the church of the Vaudois, and compel them to embrace the Roman catholic religion.
This prince, who was young, and endowed with discernment and prudence, was unwilling to take such measures against subjects who served him loyally; and he strenuously opposed their adoption, till Mons. de Feuquieres hinted that his master would undertake this measure himself with 14,000 men, and would retain the valleys inhabited by these heretics as a recompense for his trouble. This menace produced its effect; for his royal highness, fearful of the interference in his dominions of so powerful a neighbor, issued an edict to the following effect.
The Vaudois were commanded, under pain of death, to raze their churches, and submit their children to the Romish priests for baptism. This poor flock, in their first surprise at so cruel a decree, attempted by repeated supplication to avert its execution. Finding this measure ineffectual, they resolved, in case of any attack on their lives and liberties for conscience sake, neither to abandon their country, nor desert their worship, but to defend themselves after the example of their forefathers.
Their prince, who neither expected such a resolution, nor was prepared for resistance, and feeling a point of honor at stake, accepted the aid which had been offered by France. The Vaudois put themselves on the defensive, and were attacked on the 23d of April, 1686.
The French, commanded by Mons. de Catinat, were desirous of the honor of striking the first blow; and did so on the side of St. Germain: they had also the honor of being well beaten; for they were dislodged with so much spirit from the positions they had taken up, that they were compelled to seek their safety in flight, pass the Clusone in confusion, without gaining the bridge, and retreat to Pignerol. The number of killed and wounded lost by them in this first action was never known, for they took care to conceal it, and to carry the wounded into the town during the night. It was discovered, however, within a few days, that the regiments of Provence, of Dauphiny, of Plessis, and Clerambaud, with the dragoons of Provence and Lalande, had been severely handled. Yet the Vaudois had only two wounded, and these at the church of St. Germain, into which Mons. de Villevielle had thrown himself with a strong detachment. He knows what that affair cost him, of which there is some account, though it was never published. People may, therefore, be glad to hear that, after the French had been driven from their positions above St. Germain, Mons. de Villevielle saved himself in the church, where he was invested by the Vaudois. Mons.
Arnaud, arriving at this moment with a small detachment, gave orders that the church should be scaled, and the tiles from the roof thrown down on the enemy within, while, at the same time, they encompassed it with trenches to conduct water in to drown them. This order was instantly obeyed; but those employed in it being overtaken by the night, its execution was checked, and Mons. de Villevielle and his party made their escape from a window under favor of the darkness.
One would have thought that two such brilliant days would have raised the courage of the victors; but, unhappily, and by a fatality altogether unaccountable, these people, who at first so intrepidly followed the example of their forefathers, who had surmounted thirty-two wars for the sake of the same religion, became suddenly enervated, and with frozen hearts laid down their arms on the third day. Thus was the war at once extinguished, not by the blood of the Vaudois, but by their unexpected submission.
No sooner had these unfortunate people laid down their arms, than they recognised their error. Fourteen thousand persons were thrown into prison, of whom a greater number was destroyed than would have fallen in the rudest war. Eleven thousand souls perished in thirteen prisons from cold or heat, hunger or thirst. Such a destruction may appear incredible; but it is indisputable, that only 3000 saw the light again, and these only to be banished from their property and country.
Yet did this remnant from the fury of their persecutors become the seed which God, in his mercy, used to replant his truth in the valleys. Their history will here be related from their arrival and refuge in Switzerland to the time when peace was happily re-established between them and their prince. In its progress, reader, you will be made acquainted with events so infinitely admirable that you cannot but believe that the hand of God was with the Vaudois, as with David, Gideon, and Joshua. You will see in how surprising a manner these sheep, scattered and dispersed in every quarter, reunite, as if by divine inspiration, for the purpose of returning to their heritage in opposition to the powerful of the earth. But, lest you hesitate to believe that so wonderful an enterprise could have been undertaken by persons ruined, poor, and in every way destitute, know that in England, Holland, Germany, and Geneva, there exist pious and zealous souls, who, thinking it a service to God and a prop to his true church, contributed out of their riches towards this attempt. And though I know that by publishing his name I shall offend his modesty, yet so vast is the debt of gratitude from the Vaudois to Mons. Clignet, postmaster at Leyden, that I cannot refrain from acknowledging, that without his assistance the affair had been altogether impossible.
And, reader, after having contemplated the many wonders related in this history, you will behold the Vaudois not only in glorious possession of their inheritance and at peace with their sovereign, but nobly defending their prince against France 2 .
I am anxious, respected reader, to remove from you all suspicions on this head. Know then, that as long as his royal highness felt himself in want of the services of the Vaudois, he overwhelmed them with fair promises, but that as soon as he could dispense with them, he dispensed also with the appearance of kindness to them.
Thus Mons. le Comte de Martianne, governor of Pignerol 3 , was directed to tender to them all the oath of allegiance, and a promise of perfect tranquillity in their valleys, while, at the same moment, he had in his pocket an order for the banishment of a part of this small body.
In fact, the Duke of Savoy, aware that his honor would be compromised by abruptly driving out of his dominions people who had performed so gallant and important service, and yet jealous of the valor which he had well estimated both in opposition and alliance, sought for some pretext to weaken this little nation. Accordingly he published an edict through the valleys, ordering, on pain of death, all those who were not born within them, to remove from his dominions within two months. Thus did a great prince reward his devoted servants. Exile was their recompense for having repelled his enemies, and for having prevented his own expulsion. Such, I say, is the conduct of the papists towards the faithful in Christ. They use their attachment, fidelity, lives, blood, and property, while they can devote them to their own interest, and afterwards they glory in not keeping good faith with them. In the face of heaven and earth they openly violate both justice and honor, and consider the faithtful as dogs, who, when wearied for their pleasure by the chase, may be turned out to a handful of straw. Beware, then, all you who read this history, of confiding in the promises or flatteries of the papists; since there is nothing so solemn, nothing so sacred, but they will trample it under foot in the course of their ambition or interest. Remember that a thousand years and more, during which the papal arts have been practiced against genuine Christianity, are so many loud and piercing trumpets which sound to you a warning whom to distrust.
The Duke of Savoy was resolved on the rigid execution of the edict which I just now mentioned, viz., that these proscribed Vaudois, who had now been domiciliated for forty years in the valleys, and all the inhabitants, of their faith, of the valley of Clusone, who were now become genuine Vaudois by the attachment of Pignerol to his royal highness’s dominions, should immediately depart from his territories. Affecting, however, to soften this measure, he gave an order for provisions to these exiles on their march through Savoy. But no sooner did they, in number of 3000, approach the boundary of Savoy, than they were overtaken by courier upon courier, who demanding to see the order alluded to, carried it back with them from the top of the dreary Mont Cenis.
These, reader, are the Vaudois whom you still see scattered over foreign countries. In the first place, they obtained refuge in the evangelical cantons, by whose charity and that of England and Holland, they for some time subsisted. At last, through the mediation of Mons. Valkenier, envoy at Zurich from the United Provinces, they obtained grants of land, with certain privileges, from some of the German princes. The principal colony thus formed settled in the duchy of Wirternberg, the others in the states of the Margraves of Durlach 4 and Hesse Darmstadt, and of the Count of Hanau, where there still remain fourteen Vaudois churches, which, together with the reformed French church at Canstatt, in Wir-temberg, form a synod.
Seven of the ministers of these churches, and as many schoolmasters, are paid by her Britannic majesty 5 , to whose generosity Mons. Arnaud owes also a pension, that he may bring up his family with honor. Four others receive salaries from the United Provinces, and the remaining three from their princes and flocks. All the colonies, loaded with benefits, and under the influence of mild legislations, live peaceably, in constant prayer for their benefactors.
Having thus attempted to gratify the curiosity which the mere title of this book may occasion, let us now proceed to the circumstances of the glorious return of these exiles to their valleys. It is trusted, reader, that you will then agree with Mons. Jurieux, the professor at Rotterdam, in his belief, that the two witnesses mentioned in the eleventh chapter of the Apocalypse, as overcome and slain by the beast, are typical of these very Vaudois, who contended against the Roman beast for more than 1,100 years. If, indeed, it is affirmed that the woman who fled into the wilderness to avoid the fury of the dragon is the type of this poor church, who has dwelt in the mountains, and there been nourished of God for a time, and times, and half a time, it may equally be typified in the two resuscitated witnesses. For it was at the end of three years and a half, the just time interpreted from the eastern and scriptural allegory of three days and a half, that this church having been as it were dead, and its doctrines and services extinct in the valleys, its professors again entered on their native soil and re-established the gospel in its purity.