Page images

a Protestant, pervading the narrative with congenial thoughts and images ; yet have they passed over, as things unknown or unworthy to be remembered, all that related to the “ slaughtered saints” of old. We read the familiar names of Toulouse and Foix, of Bezieres and Carcassone, and perhaps feast our eyes on some spirited sketch of their general outlines, and venerable remains : but in vain do we seek for a passing allusion to what invests them with an interest so deep and dear. This is one of the worst signs of that indifferentism which is eating out the very life of our national religion, and smoothing the way of approach for an enemy as insidiously noiseless now, as formerly he was terrific in the broad display of his unbridled ferocity.

However, with so many sources of local information open to all, we need merely to glance at the outline map of those territories through which the sword of bitter persecution cut its sanguinary way. This lay within the Duchies of Aquitaine, Gascoigne and Narbonne ; the Marquisates of Toulouse and Provence, with a small portion of Bearn, and of Basse Navarre. It included the petty sovereignties of Saintonge, Limosin, Perigord, Auvergne, Velay, Agen, Quercy, Rouergue, Gevaudan, and Alby, in Aquitaine ; Bourdelois, Armagnac, Fezensac, Astarac, Bigorre, Comminges, and Conserans, in Gascoigne ; Uzês, Nismes, Lodeve, Maguelonne, Beziers, Agde, Narbonne, Fenouilledes, and Roussillon, in Narbonne ; Toulouse, Carcassonne, Rozes, and Foix, in Toulouse ; and in Provence, Viennois, Valentinois, Vivarois, and Arles. The southern boundary of this memorable district is lost among the mountain masses of the Pyrennees, and the waters of the Golf de Lion : clusters of those majestic heights also stretching along the eastern borders of Toulouse and Aquitaine, and cutting across the latter towards the northwest, in a wild, irregular ridge : Narbonne, and the eastern side of the boundaries in Provence, are likewise mountainous: the remaining, and by far the larger portion, of the scene of war, is comparatively a level.

Although these lands all lay within the limits of France, the powerful lords who divided them among themselves yielded allegiance, some to England, but the greater number to the Spanish king of Arragon. This, however, matters little to our purpose : the contest was not between rival monarchs, nor was its object the occasion of territorial dominion. Not the king of France, but the bishop of Rome, unfurled the standard of exterminating war; and although it ended in establishing the rule of the former over à desolate, depopulated country, it opened with no other purpose than to hunt and destroy the scattered sheep of Christ's fold; in scriptural language, “ the beast made war with the saints, to overcome them.”

Fertile, beautiful, and undisturbed by internal dissentions ; the land was as the garden of Eden, compared with what its destroyers made it. There was, indeed, too much of outward peace, too much of carnal security, and of the luxurious indulgences that always prove inimical to the spiritual welfare of those who long recline in the sunshine of cloudless prosperity. The Provençals had become famous throughout Europe for the refinement of their taste, and their unrivalled attainments in all that art and literature could boast in an age of overspreading darkness, the natural result of monkish superstition and prostration of intellect beneath the despotism of ecclesiastical usurpation. This enlightenment had spread into surrounding districts, and blended as it was with higher, purer rays of spiritual brightness, unknown in other lands, we cannot marvel that its brilliancy attracted the frowning gaze of those who hated every light that emanated not from the sparks of their own kindling : sparks of a fire that burns, but cannot illumine either the spirit or the mind.

The various nobles among whom the land was partitioned, though they did homage to a monarch, each reigned as a king over his own portion. His palace was a castle, generally in a fortified town, the capital of his little state. He marshalled an army of disciplined vassals, and free citizens, with their knightly commanders, and officers ; exercising alike in military and in civil matters an authority that scarcely brooked the intervention of any higher power, save that terrible engine of universal tyranny, the Church, as it was falsely called. Neither before the sceptre of France, nor that of England, nor of Arragon, nor of imperial Germany, did the spirits of those princely nobles quail : allegiance they owned, and each was ready, on demand, to head an armed force, and march to his sovereign's aid ; or to assist in his councils, or promote in any way his royal interests. But to cow them into trembling submission, to herd them together like frighted deer, or to intimidate them severally into the surrender of their just rights, and the abandonment of their lawful heritages to a foreign spoiler, it was needful to unfurl the banner of the cross against them : to invade their territories by a company of cowled priests ; or to address to them a pastoral exhortation from one who called himself servant of the servants of God. There were few, if any, among them, who feared man ; there were few, it is to be apprehended, who feared God; but if there

was one who caused it to be surmised that he feared not the bishop of Rome, we shall presently read his name and history in characters traced by his own warm lifeblood.

In this characteristic feature of the chiefs, their people participated just in proportion as the light of the Gospel had failed to penetrate their homes and hearts. They were all attached by duty, and the majority of them by grateful affection to the reigning nobles, who allowed them a degree of religious freedom unknown in other countries. The higher classes, conscious of their intellectual superiority, viewed with disdain the ignorant and lazy monks who droned away their lives ; or saw with indignation the riotous waste in which the enormous ecclesiastical revenues of the bishops and superior clergy were squandered, while the natural in dependence of a cultivated mind rose against their assumptions of a superiority, that on no grounds whatever they could justly claim. The lower orders, where the knowledge of God had not enabled them spiritually to discern the utterly anti-Christian character of the whole system, were yet shocked and disgusted by the scandalous profligacy of life that seemed to cleave as a badge to that order of men who, on the plea of peculiar sanctity arrogated to themselves the right of lording it over their faith and consciences. None among them were so universally, or so deservedly despised as the Romish clergy: it passed into a proverb : ‘I would rather be a priest than do such a thing,' was the most indignant form of denial on the part of any person accused of a criminal or disgraceful action.

This gave the clergy no trouble : their revenues were safe, and all that money could command was within their grasp. A due measure of outward respect was, of course, accorded to the bishop or priest, monk or friar, when he appeared ; its object being the office, not the man. When the Popes were fighting men, and open, unvarnished debauchees, it could not be expected that those who formed the subordinate members where they were the head, should strike into a different path. It could not be expected that the harlot, in the pride of her power, glorying in her shame, her head crowned with universal dominion, her forehead branded with blasphemous mystery, her eyes glaring with drunken rage, her cheeks burning with unholy fires, and her hand lifting high the golden cup of abominations, should divest some of her limbs of their purple and scarlet, and

gems, to clothe them in linen, outwardly white, if not pure, and by such contrast to heighten the horrors of her general aspect. The inhabitants of those provinces had light enough to see her as she was, and hated if they did not fear her.

Oh for a record, a sketch, a fragment of history pertaining to the Church of Christ in those days, and in that region, unblotted by the foul pen of calumny and triumphant revenge! In vain do we sigh for such a

the besom of destruction swept too effectually over the devoted tract; and we have no archives to search—nothing but the book which an enemy hath written, to guide us in tracing the footsteps of the flock through that dark valley of the shadow of death.

Yet imagination can conceive without overstepping the bounds of sober probability, what was the daily life of a Christian family under the nominal sway of Antichrist. Long neglect on the part of the Roman Pontiffs, who were usually engaged in more important conquests, or immersed in sensuality beyond the power of rousing themselves, had permitted the Gospel to take


« PreviousContinue »