AT five oclock of the morning of the Lords day
I was awakened by the clatter of arms - and the hoofs of a regiment of dragoon
horses ringing on the street under our windows. They were out for drill and
military exercise, as on other days; and returned in about two hours, like so
many "dusty millers," powdered from their spurs to their nodding helmets with
the abominable dust of Italian roads.
Besides this spectacle, what a different aspect the streets of Florence presented to the stillness and solitude of our own on the early Sabbath morn The peasantry in their common working dress were hurrying into town, some with carts drawn by gaily caparisoned mules, and loaded with all kinds of market vegetables! many on foot carrying bouquets and baskets of lovely flowers for sale. By this time the tradesmen were employed throwing open their shops, and the tide of business had begun to set in as on ordinary days - provision stores and cafes driving to the full as brisk a trade as usual. I had for some days observed the window of an entre-sol on the opposite side of the street thrown open very early; and how, with the fresh air blowing on her pallid cheek, a woman sat there, day by day," from early morn to noon, and from noon to dewy eve," with stitch, stitch, stitch - plying her needle as for life. And now I saw that to her, alas, the week brought round no Sabbath, no pause, no rest from toil - unless the afternoon and evening be excepted, when she laid aside her seam to join the crowd who had gone a pleasure-seeking. Her case showed how little they understand or consult the best interests of the working classes, who would substitute Sunday excursion trains, Sunday steamers, and Sunday recreations, as they are called, for their own quiet homes and the house of God. Sabbath rest would have prepared this poor woman for week.day work; but the afternoon and evening Sunday pleasures had the very opposite effect. Instead of recruiting, they exhausted her strength. This was evident from the circumstance that her shutters and window were not opened, nor her needle and seam resumed, till eight oclock on Monday morning, instead of six oclock as on other days. Hers is no solitary case. Masters and manufacturers know right well that the workmen who spend the Lords day in the church, rather than in the beer-house, are not their worst, but their steadiest and most punctual hands; and so the old saying holds true: "Godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come."
While my party were still asleep, I went forth on an exploring expedition - to find out how the Lords day was observed in other parts of the town. Crossing one of the bridges which bestride the Arno, I turned into a close network of streets, near by an exquisitely beautiful marble campanile, or bell-tower, and Florences glorious Duomo. With tradesmen on all hands busy opening their shops, I found myself at length in the public markets. These occupied a scene of open sheds, and extremely narrow streets; and to one familiar from childhood with very different sights, with the decent and devout observance of the Lords day, what a sight was there - the thoroughfares densely thronged with a busy, bustling crowd; the air, not calm and silent, as with the spirit of worship, but resounding with market-cries: poulterers plucking scarecrows of chickens; butchers, with cleaver in hand, cutting up goats and lambs; the moving mass gabbling, joking, laughing, buying, selling, nor so much as dreaming of any offence offered to God, or breach of his holy laws. Such are the Lords days our philosophers and "advanced thinkers," as they call themselves, would give us. Get on their rail, and that is the terminus.
. Dr. Revel informs me how difficult it is in such circumstances to indoctrinate the minds even of Protestants with adequate ideas of the sacredness of the Lords day. Examples of the adage, "Evil communications corrupt good manners," they protest against the errors of Popery, and follow one of the worst of them. The views of the Sabbath which Calvin, and especially Luther entertained, were a not unnatural recoil from the ritualistic services of Rome, and the importance that Church attaches to holidays and outward ordinances. Though thus easily accounted for, they are not the less to be deplored - having been followed on the Continent by disastrous consequences. I would speak tenderly of the faults of these great and good men. Their views were probably more correct than were the terms which they employed to express them. Besides, both Luther and Calvin had been born and bred in the Church of Rome; and no candid person will think it wonderful that, when they left the grave, they should, like Lazarus, have brought some of the grave-clothes along with them - they had been suckled by the wolf, and no wonder that in this, as in their imperfect views of toleration, they learned somewhat of her habits, and displayed somewhat of her nature. Still, the loose views which they expressed regarding the Sabbath-day has proved deeply and widely injurious to the interests of true religion on the Continent; nor do I see how its religious condition is to be changed - much changed to the better - without some extraordinary revival, and such an outpouring of the Holy Spirit as will lead both pastors and people to more scriptural, to higher and holier ideas of the Lords day.
I have been in no town where the streets by night are so noisy as they are in Florence. Our landlady, Signora Jandelli - an Englishwoman who continues, after forty years residence there, to aspirate her vowels like a Cockney - says you would think that the Florentines never sleep. Through all hours of the night they are pursuing their pleasures: and, though not drunk, sing and shout at the top of their voice. According to Signora Jandelli, they all sleep more or less during the day. - The employees of Government, ceasing work at four oclock, take a nap after dinner; and the labourers, who have two hours for that meal, spend most of them in sleep. So all come out in the evening fresh as larks. But of all nights in the week the Sabbath is the most noisy; the shouting and singing on the streets, as I can certify, not having ceased for hours after midnight. Looking out at that time, I saw numbers within and without the door of a café that stood opposite to our lodgings; and any one unacquainted with the habits of the people would have set them down for drunk - they sung, they yelled, they shouted so. But they were not drunk; not even one who, shouting loud enough, so to speak, to waken the dead, drew me from my bed to the window. There he stood in the middle of the street yelling like a maniac; calling to some one apparently miles away. I thought to myself, now I have seen one man drunk in Florence. But no, for I remarked how, on his cap falling off he bent, as only a sober man could do, to take it up, and then walked steadily back to a group of companions sipping their wine outside the café. It is due to the people to say that we have been up and down their streets at late hours, and in many parts of the town, yet, amid all their fun, frivolity, and uproarious clamour - their singing, shouting, their drinking and gambling in the cafes, which they frequent in vast numbers, and where they spend, I have no doubt, a very great deal of their money - we have not seen during our seven days stay in Florence a single case of intoxication. They put our boasted Protestantism and piety to shame. On returning, indeed, one night from a reception at Dr. Van Esss with Dr. Revel, between eleven and twelve oclock, I thought I saw a woman drunk; but the good Doctor - happily for him and for his country, less familiar with the symptoms of intoxication than I am - pronounced her sick. But grant it to have been as I supposed, refuse to the accused in this instance the benefit of a doubt, that solitary case does not touch facts so very creditable to the people of Florence. My excellent friend, the Rev. Mr. Macnab, who resides in this city, has not seen more than one person drunk here for the last five years. He was a sailor - shame to tell, one of our own countrymen; and a tipsy man was such a rare phenomenon in this capital of Italy that he was followed by a tail of some forty boys, greatly amused by the tacks he made to go ahead and get along the streets.
We had a choice of services on the Lords day. There are two English Episcopalian congregations in Florence. My friend Dr. Van Ess, an American minister, who was at one time settled in Rome, has been preaching here for some years. His is what another friend of mine calls a composite chapel, for he reads the English Church Service in the forenoon, and conducts worship in the evening according to the Presbyterian form. Some, perhaps, will call this a "damnable neutrality." There are Episcopalians so narrow-minded as would condemn such a compromise or conjunction - I myself having heard a clergyman declare from his pulpit that none but read prayers could be acceptable to God; thereby suggesting the question, who held the candle to Jonah when he read his in the whales belly? On the other hand, there are Scotch Presbyterians equally bigoted, who dont seem to know that many Presbyterian churches abroad use a liturgy, and that John Knox himself - felt free in conscience to officiate for years in a church belonging to the Church of England in London. The most perfect form of public worship would be, I think, something between the forms of the Churches of England and Scotland; but of that more hereafter. I shall only observe in the meantime that Dr. Van Esss plan might be adopted with advantage in many of those foreign parts where the whole number of Episcopalians and Presbyterians would form, after all, but a small congregation. There is a plethora of ministers - a waste of power - in some places; in others the people are left as sheep without a shepherd. Van Esss system would provide a remedy for such evils, and may be commended to the favourable consideration of such as care less for churches than for Christ, for the form than for the power of godliness.
In the forenoon of Sunday we worshipped with the Presbyterian congregation, which meets in an excellent building that occupies a conspicuous position on one of the quays of the Arno. It has the name "Free Church of Scotland" blazoned on its front. The ground story - rez-de-chaussée, as the French call it - forms the church; an elegant hall, very tastefully ornamented, with a ceiling divided by massive beams into compartments which are coloured a bright azure, and touched up with gold. We had an excellent sermon from the Rev. Mr. Lewis, whose usual station is Rome. He was officiating in Florence during our visit in place of Mr. Macdougal, the stated minister of the charge, who, through the Claudian Press and otherwise, has rendered important, and indeed invaluable, services to the cause of truth in Italy. The upper stories of this building are let to tenants; and, in connection with that circumstance, something presents itself in the hall of this Free Kirk which, were they ignorant, as probably they are, of Italian, would startle and "vex the righteous souls" of some of its doctors. The first thing that meets the eye on entering is three pianos. These, however, are not musical instruments, but notices on the bell-pulls of the different stories - the word for a story, or flat, in Italian being piano. The psalmody of the Church, like the other parts of the worship, is conducted according to the Scotch fashion. There is no instrumental music; in regard to which it appears to me that it were hard to say, whether most nonsense is talked by its advocates or its opponents. The subject is quite unworthy of the zeal wasted on it, and the large space it now occupies in many public discussions. For myself I agree with the Pope, who, adhering to the probably most ancient customs of the Church in this, and in his manner of taking and dispensing the communion, observes, as Dean Stanley has shown, forms more consonant to those of Presbyterian than to those of either Popish or Episcopalian churches. He has neither fiddle nor French horn, nor bagpipes, nor organ-pipes, nor anything but vocal music in his own chapel at Rome. But to denounce the use of the organ as un-Presbyterian, as opening the door to the ingress of Popery, betrays on the part of those who do so the blindest prejudice or the grossest ignorance - the number of Presbyterian churches in Christendom which use instrumental music in the service of God being very much greater than that of those who do not.
In the evening we directed our steps to the Palace of Salviati, where a terrible tragedy was acted some three hundred years ago. In the days of this man, the Archbishop of Florence, an enemy of the Medici, named Pazzi, proposed their assassination to the Pope - an act of which "his Holiness" is said to have approved. To carry this scheme into execution, the Cardinal Riario was despatched to Florence to direct the conspiracy, while Salviati was charged with the arrangement of the details of the projected murder. The Feast of St. Stephen was chosen as the day-, and the church of the Reparata as the place for the assassination. The bloody work was committed to the hands of two priests. The attempt was made. Julian Medici was murdered, but his brother Lorenzo escaped, to wreak terrible vengeance on the perpetrators of this crime. Cardinal Riario was seized at the altar, and only preserved from death by the interference of Lorenzo; and while the followers of Francesco Pazzi were slaughtered, he himself was dragged naked from his uncles house, and hanged; a punishment immediately followed by that of Salviati, whom they hung through a window of his own palace, clothed in his prelatical robes. The palace that witnessed these scenes of violence and bloodshed - such changes do time and Providence bring round - is now the Theological College of the Waldensian Church. Those students of the college at La Tour who are to enter the ministry, after having passed through their literary and philosophical curriculum in the Valleys, come to Florence to study theology under the charge of Dr. Revel, Dr. De Sanctis, and M. Geymonet. By this arrangement they are placed in circumstances favourable to their acquiring the purest Italian pronunciation; and they are thereby the better equipped to go forth as missionaries of the Cross, and preach the Gospel with effect through the length and breadth of Italy. A very wise scheme this; one which owed its birth chiefly to the sagacity, and its accomplishment to the exertions of that warm, able friend of the Waldensian Church, the Rev. Dr. Stewart, of Leghorn.
It was in the chapel of this college we went to worship in the evening. A good congregation was present, consisting chiefly of men; almost all of whom were converted from Popery. Many of these Italians had remarkably fine voices; and bringing the hearts and zeal of new converts and fervent worshippers, of a first love, to the service of Gods house, the singing was grand. They sang, I was told, with great taste, and certainly, as I could - observe, with great vigour; rolling up such volumes of sound to the ceiling of that old palazzo as reminded me of the singing of a congregation of old Seceders on a communion Sabbath evening in my early days, and in my native town of Brechin. If in point of glorious voices and fine music there was little resemblance between the Tuscans of Florence and the weavers of the Tenements, they were like in this, that both praised God "with all their might."
The service was in Italian, and the preacher Dr. De Sanctis. He was originally a Roman Catholic priest, and is now not only a Protestant minister, but a professor, as I have already mentioned, in a Protestant college. He is a man of singular piety and ability. His oratory on the occasion owed nothing to its accessories. He wore no official dress, not even bands; and, instead of a flowing gown, appeared in the pulpit in his ordinary attire. Then, instead of occupying a platform, which Roman Catholic orators have often the sagacity to do, he was, after our senseless Protestant fashion, stuck into a pulpit. This, though open behind, was after all no better than a big barrel, showing nothing of the preacher but his head, chest, and arms. Notwithstanding these disadvantages, Dr. De Sanctis appeared a great orator. His sermon, as all sermons are by continental preachers, whether Protestant or Popish, was spoken without paper. Looking the congregation face to face, and free from the fetters of a manuscript, they never read their discourses On this occasion De Sanctis addressed us on the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, and notwithstanding my very imperfect knowledge of Italian, I was able, by help of his appropriate and animated gesticulations, his well-modulated tones, and the expression he threw into his face, to follow the thread of his discourse to some extent at least. I was sorry when he brought it to a close; and quite sympathised with Dr. Elliot, a Professor of Theology in Chicago, who, no less than myself charmed by the orator, came up to me when the service was over, saying, "That is preaching!"
Dr. De Sanctis probably owes not a little of his lively and effective pulpit oratory to his having been trained as a preacher in the Church of Rome. It is but few of its ecclesiastics who either can or do preach; but among those who appear in the pulpit they have some preachers of extraordinary power. These men spare no pains in cultivating the art of popular and pulpit oratory; and Protestant ministers would do well to follow their example. I had heard much of their preaching friars, and how they could move their hearers as the wind does a field of corn; and I was fortunate enough one evening, in Florence, to have my wish to hear one of them fully gratified.
On returning in the twilight from a visit to the Duomo, we saw people entering a church; and, joining the stream, we found ourselves inside on the outskirts of a great crowd. Some sitting, others standing, they were gathered in front of one of the side chapels, under the arch of which stood a platform, raised some five or six feet above the floor. The whole interior was wrapped in gloom, save where the fading twilight, and the lamps of various "holy shrines," and a single candle fastened to one of the pillars, showed us an imposing figure in possession of the platform. The speaker, a preaching friar, was seen from head to heel. He was tall, erect, vigorous, full of power. His under dress was a white robe, and over it, sweeping down his back, hung a long black cloak. There stood a great orator, not stuck into a barrel; not reading a MS. spectacles on nose; but now pacing in freedom up and down the platform; now standing on its edge; now bending over the crowd below; now erect ith outstretched arms and glowing face raised to heaven; now putting a question with the tones and accents of an interrogaor, and now answering his own questions with a complete change of voice. He was discoursing on - not a very suitable topic, some may think, for a celibate, a Roman Catholic priest - domestic duties, and our relationship to God as our common Father and Friend. And such - though I followed him but imperfectly - was the charm - of his oratory that I could have sat there, under an image and on the steps of an altar, long enough to hear him; as, alive to the importance in preaching of the three Ps, as they have been called, he proved, painted, and persuaded. No doubt his gesticulations, which were thoroughly Italian, seemed occasionally outré but it was real oratory, effective and affecting preaching; and I thought it were well if some of our narrow-minded ecclesiastics, instead of indulging in unmeasured denunciations of the Church of Rome and shutting their eyes to everything good out of their own denomination, would go themselves, and use their influence to send out students, to see such specimens of pulpit preaching. I saw no wandering eyes - none asleep, or even holding down their heads.
If the Church of Rome cultivates preaching, she employs other and less commendable means of attracting notice, and maintaining her hold of the people - using dramatic as well as preaching arts; and with affected humility arid sanctity flaying, as I might say, at religion. Of this we had an example one day in the strange spectacle of a funeral conducted by masked mourners. Anything more horrible than their appearance it would be difficult to imagine. Each is shrouded from the shoulders to the heels in a long black cloak; the head is covered with a cowl, which drops down over the face, entirely concealing it, and having two holes cut in front for the eyes to look through. The wearer of this vizor, whom his own mother in such guise would not know, presents a frightful figure - looks like a dead man, or rather a demon, walking the streets in sunlight. These mummers, who recall the words of Shakespeare -
"Thy gown? why, ay; come, tailor, let us see
- What masking stuff is here?" -
are members of a burying brotherhood; and among them - are enrolled persons belonging to the highest classes of society. This institution, like many things else belonging to Popery, sprung probably from commendable motives. The aim of its founders was charity and kindness, to be expressed in rendering the last offices to the poor. That this may be done without ostentation, it is required that the attenders at the funeral shall be masked; and thus - as never a word is spoken, all being conducted in solemn silence - no man knows who - whether son or brother, priest, peer, or prince - walks by his side, at the burying perhaps of a beggar. But, as with all those monastic institutions that stand, tripod-like, on the three vows of "poverty, chastity, and obedience," the institution fails of its original purpose. It has sunk into an empty parade; it is a mere affectation of humility, an apology and excuse for something better. How much better it were for these nobles, grandees, and people of wealth, to show kindness to the living poor, than foster their own selfrighteousness, and lay up, as they fancy, stores of merit, by honouring with their presence the funerals of the dead!
It was my good fortune when in Florence to have an opportunity of seeing one whose name filled all the religious world some twenty years ago. I refer to Signora Madiai, whose story, as illustrative of the unaltered and unalterable character of Popery, it may be well in these days to recall to the recollection of my older, and set forth to the attention of my younger, readers. Before visiting this remarkable woman, I went to see the Bargello, where she and her husband, with others, were imprisoned for no other crime but meeting to read the Word of God. The Bargello was built for the Podestas, or those who were Presidents of the Republic, before the Medici family seized the sovereign power. A vast and lofty pile, its walls are richly adorned with the shields and coats of arms of the leading statesmen and chiefs of the old republic. It was used for many years as a state prison; but now, save for one or two remaining cells, it has lost every vestige of having ever been a prison, and its noble halls, cleared of the cells that once disfigured and divided them, are used as a museum of interesting and valuable antiques. Among shields, helmets, breast-plates, swords, spears, and battle-axes, sufficient, I suppose, for the equipment of a thousand men - the most interesting object to me was a head of Oliver Cromwell. It is made apparently of wax, and was presented, it is said, by the Protector himself - to the Duke of that time - with whom Oliver was on good terms. Down to the closely-shaven chin, it is carefully coloured to the life; and is so life-like that you feel half afraid that the eyes will roll round, and look you through. None who know the character of the man can doubt that it is his perfect image. What firmness in that mouth! What penetration in those eyes! It is just such a head as one would have expected to see on the shoulders of a man who put a king in the dock, who struck terror into Ireland, who made his country more respected by foreign powers than she ever was before, or has been since; who told the Duke of Savoy, when, tool of Rome, he was murdering the Waldenses, that unless he took his hand off these saints of God, he, Cromwell, would send the British fleet to blow his house about his ears.
On repairing to the lodgings of Signora Madiai - for, though once an inhabitant of Florence, she was now, like ourselves, but a casual visitor - we made our way through streets remarkable for their narrowness, for the great height of all, and the princely character of some of, the houses. They rise to the height of four or five stories, with roofs that project so far beyond the walls as to leave but a small stripe of blue sky above. They thus afford a grateful shade, unless when the sun happens to be blazing right overhead; which leads me to remark, that they only who have travelled southward to a burning sun and transparent skies, can aright appreciate the force of the figure that sets our Saviour forth as "the Shadow of a Great Rock in a weary land." In coats-of arms, in coronets, in the vast doors, in the strong iron trellis-work - which protects the lower windows, in the spacious courts that are seen, when the gates stand open, adorned with beautiful plants, gushing fountains, and marble statues - one sees many evidences of fine taste, affluence, and ancient grandeur; and also of those troublous times that saw many a tragic and terrible scene acted in these proud palazzos. These streets indeed bear evidence of something better; showing, whatever our country is, that Florence- is not unmindful of her famous men. Marble tablets, that have been erected at the expense of the municipality, point out the house of Dante, the house of Machiavelli, the house of Amerigo Vespucci, the celebrated voyager, who gave his name to the New World. And still more to her credit, Florence now takes pride in showing the relics of the best of all her citizens the greatest man of the fifteenth century, Fra Girolamo Savonarola - a reformer before the Reformation, a witness for Christ and against antichrist who sealed his testimony with his blood. Of him more by-and-by.
Leaving him who died a martyr for the truth in Florence three hundred years ago to a succeeding chapter, which he will be found large enough to fill, let me introduce my readers to a modern martyr in Signora Madiai, - to a living proof that, if the Pope is not infallible in his decrees, Popery is unchangeable in its spirit. On the Signora entering the salon, where we waited for her, she struck me as one of the grandest women I had ever seen. , With a finely-formed head, features beautifully chiselled, eyes full of intellect and feeling, and a bearing and air truly noble, she looked the very stuff the metal of which martyrs may be made. She spoke English, though imperfectly, having acquired some knowledge of our tongue, as well as of Protestant truth, in the family of a General Cumming, where, as a superior domestic I suppose, she spent some years. She is a native of Rome, but it was in Florence she first met Madiai, to whom she was afterwards married.
Years before her conversion to Protestantism, she had received an English Bible from some one; but had never so much as looked into it. At length a lady, who lodged in the house which she and Madiai had by this time opened in Florence as a pension, presented her with an Italian Bible. It may have been one of those which an excellent lady friend of mine used to carry into Tuscany - where the circulation of the Scriptures was forbidden - quilted in her petticoat. It may have been one I myself helped to smuggle into Italy long years ago, in connection with a society which, working quietly, carried on there a contraband trade in Bibles - a very lawful kind of smuggling. This copy of the Scriptures, anyhow, she and her husband, from curiosity, but probably under a higher impulse, began to read. The more they reads the more their interest grew in what was to them a new revelation from the skies, where they saw neither mass nor the worship of Mary or saint.
This happened at a providential crisis. The Revolution of 1848, that swept over Europe, rolled south on Tuscany, hurling away both the duke and his throne - for a while at least. In this bright, but too brief time of religious liberty, unions were formed for the reading of - the Word of God; and one of these was held in the house of the Madiai. Many came there; and of these not a few were seriously impressed, indeed savingly awakened; Signora Madiai herself being among the number. Through the grace of God she became a true, decided, resolute Christian ; not only, along with her husband, turning her back on priests and Popery, but openly resorting to the Swiss Protestant Church. But while the number of believers and inquirers was increasing, the tide turned. Italys hour was not yet come. The Grand Duke was restored to his throne, and with him came back the reign of darkness, priests, and persecution. In these circumstances prudence on the part of the converts was counselled, and they acted on the advice; making themselves as little as possible obnoxious to the authorities. But when something like cowardice was recommended, and recommended by Count Guiccardini, who advised that they should cease going to the Swiss Protestant Church, Signora Madiai, like a heroine, stepped forward to oppose the trimming policy. How her face beamed, and her eyes flashed fire, and her form, bent under sickness, rose into dignity, as she told me her brave reply to Guiccardini, - " Though I am a woman, I am not afraid!" The result was what they anticipated. So soon as the duke sat secure in his seat, she and her husband, with Geymonet, now one of the professors of the Waldensian College, and a young man, then a clerk, but now a banker in the city, and others besides, were seized, thrown into jail, and, on being tried, were condemned.
The deliverance of the Madiai from their prison is not the least interesting, and by much the most marvellous, part of the story. Its full and true history has never yet, I think, been published. I heard it first from Dr. Frazer, and afterwards from the Signoras own lips. It is well fitted to encourage Gods people to commit their way to Him who works by many or by few - never to despond, still less to despair; "casting all their care upon Him, for He careth for them." When the Protestant world had its eyes turned on the Madiai and their fellow-sufferers, and when, while prayers were offered up by many families, and churches also, to move heaven, Lord Shaftesbury, Lord Roden, Sir Eardley Culling, Colonel Tronchin, and such men, were moving earth on their behalf there was living in London a man who was by birth a German, and by business a livery-stable keeper; a respectable man in his own calling. He had a devout and pious woman for his wife. One morning as she rose from bed, she heard - and here, to say the least of it, is a very marvellous circumstance - a voice saying, "Plead for the Madiai!" She started, and looked round; but found herself alone in the bed-room. None had entered, or left it. She was amazed, as she well might be; struck indeed with awe. What this voice was it is hard to say. Vocal are rare compared with optical illusions; there being, for one case of an impression made without sound on the ear, a hundred made without substance on the eye. I remember a remarkable example of the first, which occurred in my old country parish, and was related to me by James D - , the subject of it, and one of the best of my people. Occupying a humble position in life, he was a man of genius and of a vivid imagination, which he had nursed amid the solitudes of the moor where his cottage stood. On the morning of a communion Sunday, as he told me, he rose in a state of mental darkness - so cast down, indeed, by a sense of his sins, that he hesitated about approaching the Lords table. In the language of Holy Scripture, he was "tossed, and not comforted." While in this state, as he was preparing himself to go to church, there came a voice to him, as the voice of our Lord himself, saying, "Cannot my blood wash away your sins as easily as that water washes your hands ?" "I do not say," he said to me, "there was an actual voice; but I seemed to hear one as distinct and loud as you now hear mine; and I took courage, and went forward to the table."
Without settling, any more than I attempt to do, how the voice came to her, this good woman in London resolved to obey it. However, before she could do anything in the matter, the tide of business set in, and occupied all the day. On retiring to bed at night, conscience upbraided her for the neglect of what she was now inclined to regard as a special message from heaven. She could not sleep - explaining to her husband, on his asking her if she was ill, the reason of her restlssness. He treated the matter lightly; and seeking to persuade her that it was all - a delusion, and the voice she heard but a trick of fancy, he asked, "What have you or I to do with the Madiai ?" However, like the importunate woman of the parable, she prevailed at last, not only getting his attention, but securing his services.
He had been a coachman to the Prince of Moskwa, a grandson, I suppose, of Marshal Ney, and such satisfaction had he given that his master, when he left his service, promised to grant him afterwards any favour he could. Of this his wife reminded her husband, and got him to apply to the prince on behalf of the Madiai. The prince was astonished at such an application coming from his old coachman, asking in his turn, "What have you or I to do with the Madiai ?" However, he yielded to their entreaties, giving them a letter of introduction to one who had great influence with Napoleon. I do not remember whether this person was, or was not, the French ambassador, but he resided at that time in London. The wife of the livery-stable keeper waited on him, having, by perseverance and a resolution not to be daunted, fought her way to the great mans presence. She was met with the old question, What had he or the emperor to do with the Madiai ? - he would certainly not ask Napoleon to interfere with the Grand Duke in the matter. But, with the strange voice in her ear and strong faith in her heart, denied the woman would not be. With Gods blessing importunity once more carried the day. He applied to the emperor; the emperor applied to the duke; and the telegraph flashed the news to London, The Madiai are free! Thus, in Gods wonderful providence, neither the churches, nor the great men of the earth, but an obscure woman, like the angel of God who delivered Peter, brought them out of prison and of bonds. At the touch of a womans hand their chains fell off. "The Lord doth build up Jerusalem; He gathereth together the outcasts of Israel: He healeth the broken in heart, He bindeth up their wounds. Great is our Lord, and of great power.; his understanding is infinite."
I wish my readers had seen the Signora, and heard from her own lips the story of her own and her husbands sufferings, imprisonment, and deliverance. It was quite a scene; a grand and affecting scene. Of humble birth, but one of "natures nobility," and more ennobled still by grace, she displayed throughout all the interview the demeanour of a heaven-born Christian, and a high-born English lady; only she gesticulated like an Italian, and, "to the manner born," intonated like an accomplished orator. I thanked God that I had seen such a noble specimen of humanity and Christian heroism. Farewell to this, I trust, last of Italys martyrs. The name of Signora Madiai will stand not the least conspicuous in that long and honourable roll of witnesses and confessors, which began to be written in the days of St. Paul under the empire of paganism, and which papal, more cruel than pagan, Rome has swelled during centuries of bloody persecution. Heathen emperors slew their thousands, but popes have slain their tens of thousands. And God be praised that the old man who now fills that tottering throne is likely, through his Ecumenical Council, to precipitate the doom of Antichrist, and himself suffer the fate of the engineer who was "hoist on his own petard." Amen - so let it be!
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