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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
G. W. Hervey, 1884
Impartial history demands that we should not attribute these persecutions to the Jesuits and their emissaries alone. Unhappily those French Protestant churches which were authorized by the Government, and known as “National Churches,” that is, those of the Calvinists and Lutherans, often instigated, or openly sanctioned, these intolerant proceedings.
To no French Protestant of note is more censure due than to Guizot. His father was a Calvinist, and he had been educated at Geneva in the principles of the Protestant faith; and yet when, in 1840, he became a member of the cabinet of Louis Philippe, he showed himself the enemy of liberty, both civil and religious.
His unwise and heartless policy it was that contributed to the second revolution. Mr. Cretin said to the Rev. Dr. S. P. Smith, while in Lyons in 1876, that he could not give away a religious tract in that city without danger of arrest.
Many petitions for religious freedom were preselected to the Government by the Baptists-one of them a few years later, to Napoleon III. The response of the Emperor was that he desired that all his subjects might enjoy perfect religious toleration. But the reign of intolerance and oppression were still maintained.
Not a few have been the examples of self-denial and devotedness among the French Baptists. At La Fere, a sister who was very poor used to walk nine miles every Sunday in order to attend the little church which met on the ground floor of a barn. At St. Etienne the constituent members were all poor, and hired for their chapel an attic room. A man and woman, between sixty and seventy years of age, were in the habit of walking a distance of ten miles to attend the public service in this upper room. Dr. Devan commenced public worship in an apartment, and when the church was reconstituted in 1850, it worshipped in a schoolroom, which was small, dark and inconvenient. Here the church worshipped for thirteen years. The only baptistery was a large bathing-tub. The candidate sat down in this tub and was submerged by the administrator, who stood outside.
During the Franco-German war, almost all the male members of the churches performed military duties, and therefore all our mission stations suffered from absence. But still the same number were received by baptism as in the preceding year. None of the members in Paris suffered for lack of food, their brethren having sent provisions sufficient to support them throughout the siege. The young soldiers belonging to the Baptist churches, who were in every battle, numbered from thirty to forty. Though exposed to the deadly fire of guns that were never before equaled, yet only one was killed. In the cities bombarded by the Germans, where there were Baptist families, not one received the smallest harm, although the bombs fell upon and into their houses.
Nor did one of them have his house burned or his cattle driven away by the soldiers.