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THE VILLAGE IN THE MOUNTAINS;

CONVERSION OF PETER BAYSSIERE;

AND

HISTORY OF A BIBLE.

* * * * *




THE VILLAGE IN THE MOUNTAINS.


M. - - , a merchant, at the head of one of the first commercial houses
in Paris,[1] had occasion to visit the manufactories established in
the mountainous tracts of the Departments of the Loire and the Puy de
Dôme. The road that conducted him back to Lyons traversed a country
rich in natural productions, and glowing with all the charms of
an advanced and promising spring. The nearer view was unusually
diversified; not only by the fantastic forms of mountains, the
uncertain course of small and tributary streams, and the varying
hues of fields of pasture, corn, vines, and vegetables, but by the
combinations and contrasts of nature and of art, and the occupations
of rural and commercial industry. Factories and furnaces were seen
rising amidst barns and sheep-cotes, peasants were digging, and
ploughs gliding amidst forges and foundries; verdant slopes and
graceful clumps of trees were scattered amidst the black and ugly
mouths of exhausted coal-pits; and the gentle murmur of the stream
was subdued by the loud rattle of the loom. Sometimes M. - - and his
friend halted amidst all that is delightful and soothing; and after
a short advance, found themselves amidst barrenness, deformity, and
confusion. The remoter scenery was not less impressive. Behind them
were the rugged mountains of Puy de Dôme; the lofty Tarare lifted
its majestic head beside them, and far before appeared the brilliant
summit of Mont Blanc.

[Footnote 1: An American gentleman then residing in that capital.]

In this state of mind he arrived at the skirts of a hamlet placed on
the declivity of a mountain; and being desirous of finding a shorter
and more retired track, he stopped at a decent-looking dwelling-house
to inquire the way. From the windows several females were watching the
movements of a little child; and just as M. - - inquired for a road
across the mountains, the infant was in danger of being crushed by a
coal-cart which had entered the street. The cries and alarms of the
females were met by the activity of the travellers, and the companion
of M. - - set off to snatch the infant from danger, and place him in
security. An elderly female from the second story, gave M. - - , who
was still on his horse, the directions he desired; and, at the same
time, expressed her uneasiness that the gentleman should have had the
trouble to seek the child.

"Madam," interrupted M. - - , "my friend is only performing his duty:
we ought to do to another as we would that another should do to us;
and in this wretched world we are bound to assist each other. You are
kind enough to direct us travellers in the right road, and surely
the least we can do is to rescue your child from danger. The Holy
Scriptures teach us these duties, and the Gospel presents us the
example of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, when we were in ignorance and
danger, came to our world to seek and to save that which was lost."

"Ah! sir," replied the good woman, "you are very condescending, and
what you say is very true; but your language surprises me: it is
so many years since in this village we have heard such truths, and
especially from the lips of a stranger."

"Madam," resumed M. - - , "we are all strangers here, and sojourners
bound to eternity; there is but one road, one guide, one Saviour, who
can conduct us safely; if we feel this, young or old, rich or poor,
we are all one in Christ; and however scattered on earth, shall all
arrive at the heavenly city, to which he is gone to prepare mansions
for us."

"These doctrines, sir," exclaimed the female, "support the hearts of
many of us, who have scarcely travelled beyond our own neighbourhood;
and it is so rare and so delightful to hear them from others, that, if
it will not be an abuse of your Christian politeness, I would request
you to alight and visit my humble apartment."

"I shall comply most cheerfully with your request," replied M. - - ;
"for though time is precious, I shall be thankful to spend a few
minutes in these mountains, among those with whom I hope to dwell for
ever on Mount Sion."

M. - - mounted to the second story, followed by his companion.
He found the female with whom he had conversed, surrounded by her
daughters and her grand-daughters, all busily employed in five looms,
filled with galloons and ribbons, destined for the capital and the
most distant cities of the world. The good widow was between sixty and
seventy years of age; her appearance was neat and clean; and all the
arrangements of her apartment bespoke industry, frugality, and piety.

"Ah! sir," she exclaimed, as M. - - entered, "how happy am I to
receive such a visitor!"

"Madam," replied M. - - , "I am not worthy to enter under this roof."

"Why, sir," exclaimed the widow, "you talked to us of Jesus Christ
and - "

"Yes, madam, but I am a poor guilty sinner and hope only for salvation
through the cross. I was yesterday at St. - - , where they were
planting a cross with great ceremony; were you there?"

"No, sir; for it is of little use to erect crosses in the streets, if
we do not carry the cross in our hearts, and are not crucified to the
world. But, sir, if you will not he offended, may I ask what you are
called?"

M. - - , giving a general sense to the French phraseology, answered,
"My name, madam, is M - - ."

"Thank you, sir, I shall not forget; but this is not what I meant; I
wished to know whether you are protestant or catholic, a pastor or a
priest?"

"Madam, I have not the honour to be either; I am a merchant; I desire
to be a Christian, and to have no other title but a disciple of
Christ."

"That is exactly as we are here, sir," exclaimed the good widow,
and added, "but, as you are so frank, are you, sir, catholic, or
protestant?"

"Catholic," replied M. - - .

Madam looked confused, and observed, "that it was rare for the
catholics to talk as her visitor had done."

"I am a catholic," resumed M. - - , "but not a member of the _Roman_
Catholic church. I love all that love our Lord Jesus in sincerity.
I do not ask in what fold they feed, so that they are guided and
nourished by the good Shepherd and Bishop of souls."

"O what a favour the Lord has granted us to meet with a Christian like
ourselves," said the affected widow, looking round her: "we desire to
live in charity with all mankind; but, to be frank also, sir, we
do not go to mass, nor to confession, for we do not learn from our
Testament, which is indeed almost worn out, that we are required to
confess to sinners like ourselves, nor to worship the host, nor to
perform penance for the salvation of our souls; and we believe we can
serve God acceptably in a cave, or in a chamber, or on a mountain."

"I confess, madam, in my turn," said M. - - , "that I am exceedingly
astonished to find such persons on such a spot; pray how many may
there be of your sentiments?"

"Here, sir, and scattered over the mountains, there are from three to
four hundred. We meet on Sabbath evenings, and as often as we can,
to pray to Jesus, to read the Testament, and to converse about the
salvation of our souls. We are so much persecuted by the clergy, that
we cannot appear as publicly as we wish. We are called _beguines_[2]
and fools; but I can bear this, and I hope a great deal more, for Him
who has suffered so much for us."

[Footnote 2: Religious enthusiasts.]

While the conversation, of which this is a sketch; was passing, the
rooms had filled; the neighbours had been informed and introduced, at
the request of the worthy hostess, and as many as could quit their
occupations pressed to hear of the things of the kingdom of God. M.
- - desired to see the New Testament. It was presented. The title
page was gone, the leaves were almost worn to shreds by the fingers of
the weavers and labourers, and M. - - could not discover the edition.
A female of respectable appearance approached M. - - , and said, "Sir,
for several years I have sought every where a New Testament, and I
have offered any price for one in all the neighbouring villages, but
in vain. Could you, sir, possibly procure me a copy, I will gladly pay
you any sum you demand - "

"Madam, I will not only procure you _one_," replied M. - - eagerly,
"but, in forty-eight hours I will send you half a dozen."

"Is it possible?" exclaimed the astonished villagers. "May we, sir,
believe the good news? May we rely on your promise? It appears too
great - too good - we will pay for them now, sir, if you please."

"You may depend on receiving them," said M. - - , "if God prolongs my
life. But I entreat you to do me the favour to accept them, as a
proof of my Christian regard, and an expression of my gratitude for
having been permitted to enjoy, in this unpromising spot, the
refreshing company of the followers of Christ."

The conversation then turned on the value of the sacred volume, and
the sinfulness of those who withhold it from perishing and dejected
sinners. After some time, the hostess inquired, "Pray, sir, can you
tell us if any thing extraordinary is passing in the world? We are
shut out from all intercourse; but we have an impression that God is
commencing a great work in the earth, and that wonderful events are
coming to pass."

"Great events have taken place, and news is arriving every day," said
M. - - , "from all parts of the world, of the progress of the Gospel,
and the fulfilment of the Holy Scriptures. He then gave to his
attentive and enraptured auditory an outline of the moral changes
accomplished by the diffusion of the Bible, the labours of
missionaries and the establishment of schools; but only such an
outline as was suited to their general ignorance of the state of what
is called the religious world. And when he had concluded, they all
joined in the prayer: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth, as
it is done in heaven."

Anxious as was M. - - to pursue his journey, he devoted three hours
to this interview. He exhorted them to receive and practise only what
they found in the Scriptures, and to cleave to the Lord with full
purpose of heart.

The termination of this extraordinary meeting was most affecting:
tears of pleasure, gratitude, and regret streamed from the eyes of the
mountaineers; and the traveller, though more deeply moved by having
seen the grace of God than by all the scenes through which he had
passed, went on his way rejoicing, and following the directions of
the good widow, he arrived at the town of S - - . In this town he had
correspondents among the principal inhabitants and authorities, and
under the impression of all he had witnessed, he inquired, as if with
the curiosity of a traveller, the name of the hamlet he had passed on
the mountains, and the nature of the employments, and the character of
its inhabitants.

"The men," said the mayor, "work in the mines, drive the teams, and
labour in the fields; and the women and children weave. They are a very
curious people, _ou rés illuminés_, (new lights,) but the most honest
work-people in the country - probity itself. We have no occasion to
weigh our silk, either when we give it out or take it in, for we are
sure not to lose the value of a farthing; and the kindest creatures in
the world: they will take their clothes off their backs to give to any
one in distress: indeed, there is no wretchedness among them, for,
though poor, they are industrious, temperate, charitable, and always
assist each other; but touch them on their religion, and they are
almost idiots. They never go to mass nor confession - in fact, they are
not christians, though the most worthy people in the world; and so
droll: imagine those poor people, after working all the week, instead
of enjoying the Sunday, and going to a fête or a ball to amuse
themselves, meeting in each other's houses, and sometimes in the
mountains, to read some book, and pray, and sing hymns. They are very
clever work-people, but they pass their Sundays and holidays stupidly
enough."

This testimony, so honourable to his new acquaintance, was confirmed
to M. - - from several quarters; and he learned from others, what
he had not been told by themselves, that, besides their honesty and
charity, so great is their zeal, that they flock from the different
hamlets, and meet in the mountains, in cold and bad weather, at eight
or nine o'clock at night, to avoid the interruption of their enemies,
and to sing and pray.

These accounts were not calculated to lessen the interest excited in
the breast of M. - - , and immediately on his arrival at Lyons, he
dispatched six copies of the New Testament, and some copies of the
Tract entitled, "_Les Deux Vieillards_," (The Two Old Men.) Some
time after his return to Paris, M. - - received, through one of his
correspondents at Lyons, a letter from the excellent widow with whom
he had conversed. Of this letter a literal translation is subjoined,
the modesty, dignity, and piety of which not only evince the influence
of true religion, but will satisfy the reader, that in this narration
no exaggerated statement has been made of the character of these
mountaineers.


"Sir, - I have the honour to write you, to assure you of my very humble
respects, and at the same time to acknowledge the reception of the
six copies of the New Testament which you had the goodness and the
generosity to send us. My family, myself, and my neighbours know not
how, adequately, to express our sincere gratitude; for we have nothing
in the world so precious as that sacred volume, which is the best food
of our souls, and our certain guide to the heavenly Jerusalem.

"As we believe and are assured that the Spirit of our Lord Jesus
Christ could alone have inspired you with the desire to distribute
the sacred Scriptures to those who are disposed to make a holy use of
them, we hope and believe that the Divine Saviour will be himself your
recompense; and that he will give to you, as well as to all of us,
the grace to understand and to seek a part in his second coming; for
this ought to be our only and constant desire in the times of darkness
and tribulation in which we live.

"It is with this view, sir, that I entreat you to have the goodness to
send six more copies of the sacred volume for several of my friends,
who are delighted, not only with the beauty of the type, but
especially with the purity of the edition; for it is sufficient to
see the name of Monsieur le Maitre de Sacy, to be assured that this
edition is strictly conformable to the sacred text. Sir, as the
persons who have charged me to entreat you to send six more copies of
the New Testament would be sorry to abuse your generosity, they also
charge me to say, that if you accomplish their wishes, as your truly
Christian kindness induces them to hope, and will mark the price on
the books, they shall feel it to be a pleasure and duty to remit you
the amount, when I acknowledge the arrival of the parcel. Could
you also add six copies of the little Tract, entitled _'Les Deux
Vieillards'_?

"I entreat you, sir, to excuse the liberty I have taken, and to
believe that, while life remains, I am, in the Spirit of our Lord
Jesus Christ,"

"Your very humble servant,"

"The Widow - - ."

The reception of this letter revived in M. - - that lively interest
which he had been constrained to feel for the prosperity of these
happy villagers. Often had he called to mind the Christian kindness
with which they received him, and often had he presented his ardent
prayer to the God of grace, that he who "had begun a good work in
them," would carry it on to "the day of Jesus Christ."

Instead of complying with the request of this venerable woman to send
her six copies of the New Testament, he sent her twenty, authorizing
her to sell them to such as were able to pay; but to present them, at
her own discretion, to those who were desirous of obtaining them, and
had not the means to purchase, "without money and without price."
With these he also presented to the widow, as a mark of his Christian
affection, a Bible for her own use, together with a dozen copies of
the Tract which she had requested, and several other religious books.
In acknowledging this unexpected bounty, she thus replied, in a
letter, dated July 17, 1821:

"Respected friend and brother in our Lord Jesus Christ, - It is
impossible to describe the satisfaction that my heart experienced on
the arrival of the kind communications which you have been pleased
to send me. I could not help reading over and over again the letters
enclosed, which afford fresh proof of the desire of yourself and your
friends to contribute to the advancement of the reign of the Divine
Redeemer. I cannot find words to express the happiness I have derived
from perusing the entire copy of the Old and New Testament, which you
beg me to accept as an expression of your christian affection. I was
more gratified and edified by this mark of your regard, as it was my
intention to have requested, in my last letter, some copies of the Old
Testament; but I dared not execute my design, for fear of abusing your
Christian kindness and charity. The Old and New Testament, properly
understood, are but one Testament; such is the connection of the
sacred books - for the New Testament is the key to the Old, and the Old
the same to the New. In innumerable passages of the Old Testament, the
birth, death, and glory of our Divine Redeemer are announced, in terms
more or less distinct. In reading the prophecies of Jeremiah and
Isaiah, we perceive that those prophets spoke of our Saviour almost as
though they had lived with him on the earth. His second coming is also
foretold in many passages, especially in the prophecies of Ezekiel and
Daniel.

"The box which your christian generosity has sent, has excited
universal joy in the hearts of all our friends in this district.
Immediately after they learned the agreeable news, they flocked to see
me, and to have the happiness and advantage of procuring the Testament
of our Redeemer; and in less than _five days_ the box was emptied.
I gave copies of the Gospel of St. Matthew to those who had not
the satisfaction and consolation to procure a complete copy of the
Testament. The whole was so soon distributed that many could have
nothing; and there are also many who do not yet know of the arrival
of the second box. I intend to lend the copy of the Bible, and of
the books which I have reserved for myself, among our friends in the
neighbourhood, in order that the books we have may be as useful as
possible.

"As I hope you will do me the honour and the christian kindness to
acknowledge the receipt of this, I request you to inform me how I can
remit you sixty francs, which I have received for fifteen of the New
Testaments. As our brethren and sisters in Jesus Christ, who, through
his grace altogether free and unmerited, look for his second coming to
salvation, are delighted and edified by the truly Christian salutation
which you have sent through me, they desire me to express their
gratitude, and to request you to accept theirs in the same spirit. I
unite with them in beseeching you and your respectable friend - - ,
and all your friends, not to forget us in your prayers to the Father
of Lights, that he may give us grace to persevere in the same
sentiments, and grant us all the mercy to join the general assembly,
the heavenly Jerusalem. Amen. Expecting that happy day, I entreat you
to believe me your very humble servant and friend in Jesus Christ,"

"The Widow - - ."

It may well be supposed that the reception of this interesting letter
produced an effect on the mind of M. - - , as well as on the minds of
many of his Christian friends at Paris, of the happiest kind. M. - -
informed the widow of the great satisfaction with which he had learned
the eagerness of the villagers to obtain the word of God, and that
he had directed his friend, the publisher of the New Testament of De
Sacy, to send her fifty copies more; at the same time promising her a
fresh supply, if they should be needed. He also expressed to her the
hope, that, as he expected his business would, within a few months,
call him again to S - - , he should be able, Providence permitting, to
avail himself of that opportunity and enjoy the happiness of another
visit at her residence. To this communication she some time afterwards
returned the following reply:

"Dear sir, and brother in our Lord Jesus Christ, - May the grace and
unmerited mercy of our Divine Saviour be our single and only hope in
our pilgrimage here below. I beseech you and your dear friends to pray
for us, that the celestial Comforter promised in the Scriptures, would
vouchsafe to visit our hearts and warm them with his love; for without
the aid of this Divine Light, even though we should commit to memory
the Old and New Testament, it would avail us nothing; but rather tend
to our greater condemnation in the sight of our Sovereign Judge.

"I am now able to acknowledge the receipt of the box which you had the
goodness and christian charity to send me, containing fifty copies of
the Testament of our blessed Saviour, which did not arrive until the
25th of last month, on account of its having been detained in the
public store at S - - for several days without my knowledge. As soon
as I learned it was there, I sent one of my daughters to inquire for
it, as I was then so ill as to keep my bed, and to induce a belief
that I was about to quit this land of exile. I have felt myself
so much better for a few days past, that I begin to think that my
pilgrimage will be prolonged for some time, and that I may yet have
the pleasure and consolation of again seeing you, and conversing with
you upon the things which regard our eternal peace. It is with such
feelings that I would beg an interest in your prayers, that the
precious blood which the Divine Saviour has been willing to shed for
us and other sinners, may be found efficacious to me in that moment
when I shall depart from this vale of tears; for my age admonishes
that this time is not far distant. Believe me, my dear brother in
Christ, that I shall never forget you in my prayers, however feeble
they may be; for I can never forget the day when, urged by Christian
friendship, you entered my house, and imparted that truly spiritual
nourishment which serves for time and eternity, and we discoursed
together upon the second coming of our Divine Redeemer, and the
restoration of the covenant people.

"I look forward to the happy moment when I shall have the honour and
pleasure of seeing you again; and in the meantime beg you to believe
me your very humble and affectionate friend and servant in Jesus
Christ,

"The Widow - - ."

In a letter received soon after the above, M. - - was informed that
the Bibles and Testaments had all been disposed of within _two days_
from the time of their arrival, and that many, who earnestly desired
a copy, were yet unsupplied: the distribution having only created an
increased demand. M. - - resolved not to neglect their wants, as
long as it was in his power to supply them; and the day being not far
distant, when he proposed to repair to S - - , and to make a second
visit to the Village in the Mountains, he prepared a case of a hundred
New Testaments and a hundred octavo Bibles, which he forwarded to
Lyons by the _roulage accéléré_, or baggage wagon, to meet his arrival
there; and soon after took his departure from Paris.

There were some interesting incidents in the progress of this tour,
which so delightfully point to the hand of God, that the reader may be
gratified in becoming acquainted with them. On his arrival at Lyons,
M. - - , finding no other way of transportation except the common
_Diligence_, a public stage-coach, was obliged to resort to this
conveyance. The case of Bibles and Testaments which he had forwarded
was so large, that the only method by which it could be carried was to
set it up on end in the basket attached to the back of the Diligence;
and such was the weight and size of the box, that it was with no small
difficulty, and by the assistance of several men, that it was safely
adjusted. At first the passengers objected to taking their seats with
such a weight behind, lest they should meet with some accident, or be
impeded in their progress. After much persuasion, however, and after
presenting a number of Religious Tracts to each passenger, and
requesting the conductor to drive slow, they were prevailed on to


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