Miller's Church History

Chapter 52

The Waldenses

Having brought down the history of this interesting people to the year 1560,* when they suffered so severely in their own valleys, and on the plains of Calabria, we shall now briefly notice their history from that period. Yet we must not expect to find in this remarkable people the grace that should characterize the followers of the blessed Lord and His apostles. Not that they did not believe in the Lord Jesus as their Saviour, and in His precious blood as the only and all-sufficient remedy for sin. And had they been left unmolested in their beautiful valleys, they would have been as harmless as their flocks and herds; but when assailed and persecuted by the Catholics, they looked upon Joshua Gideon, and David as their models, not the Lord and His apostles. And being sincere and honest, and believing that their God was the God of battles, they fought under His banner, and believed that nothing was impossible to Him. It is no doubt from this principle that their persecutions form one of the most heroic pages in the church's history. Like many in our own day, they did not see the difference between law and grace; but being a God-fearing people, He graciously heard and answered their prayers. Allegiance to Christ ruled in their hearts, which, after all, is the chief thing. The Scotch covenanters who fought for the crown and kingdom of Emmanuel resemble them in this.

{*See p. 634.}

Such were "the poor men of the valleys." They believed the Bible to be a revelation from God, and were governed by it, so far as they understood it. Their neighbours, the Catholics, on the other hand, believed that God had given to the church of Rome and its head, dominion over the whole christian world, and that all who refuse subjection to her authority are not only heretics, but rebellious subjects, whom the sovereign has a right to punish according to his pleasure. This was and is the established belief of Rome; and, seeing it remains so, there could be no security for life or liberty to any who dared to question her claims, had she the power to execute her arrogant assumption. Sometimes the magistrate refused to obey the priest, and the people were thereby spared; but the reader will see how easily Rome could find a plausible pretext for persecution when it suited her purpose, and how constantly the mitre prevailed over the crown.

For some time after the desolating wars of 1560 the remnant of the Waldenses were allowed to re-enter their native valleys rebuild their houses, and replant their vineyards. Their fruit trees had been cut down, their hamlets and villages made a heap of ruins, and their fields left uncultivated and unsown. Starvation stared them in the face; but a deeper grief weighed on the hearts of many. Where are our parents, husbands, sons, pastors, and many whom the enemy hath trodden down? They were now with the Lord and the Lord in His unfailing mercy, was with them; and from the nature of the country, it was not difficult to exist for a time.

"Chestnut trees of luxuriant growth," says Dr. Beattie, speaking of the valley of Rora, "shade the inferior acclivities, and from these, in seasons of scarcity, a wholesome bread is prepared, which, with the luxury of new milk, furnishes a repast which the daintiest appetite might partake of with a relish. Over the higher grounds nature has spread a rich carpet of vegetation; and thither, as the pastoral season arrives, the inhabitants repair with their families and cattle. After spending their summer on the hills, in a life of patriarchal simplicity, they again descend to the valley as symptoms of winter set in, and there prosecute those branches of industry by which they may best satisfy the state, and minister to their own mutual necessities." Speaking of the valley of Angrogna, the same poetical writer says, "When we describe it as a picture in miniature of Switzerland, the reader will form a just conception of its general features. All the ingredients of Alpine landscape, torrents, rocks, precipices, gloomy ravines, and gushing fountains, forests that at once afford shelter and sustenance verdant meadows to which the meandering streams carry freshness and fertility, fields and gardens containing the produce of different climates clinging to the very precipices, and evincing that unwearied industry on the part of the inhabitants which has purchased the means of life under the most unfavourable circumstances."*

{*History of the Waldenses, and Graphic Descriptions of the Protestant Valleys of Piedmont, by Wm. Beattie, M.D.}

Reflecting on the primitive simplicity of the natives of these valleys, their peaceful lives, their industrious habits their rigid morality, their strict observance of the sabbath day, their exactness in paying their rents and all claims, and the absence of drinking, swearing, and all such vices, we may well inquire, Why should their prince and landlord seek to exterminate the race? The answer will be found in what follows.

The Wars of Extermination

The brief periods of apparent peace which the Waldenses sometimes enjoyed, were by no means intervals of security and repose; but rather, of painful reflection and fearful anticipation. True peace, with security as to their persons, their property, and liberty of conscience-the inalienable rights of man, they knew not for hundreds of years.

In the year 1560 two events occurred which are sufficient to account for the exterminating wars which followed that period. 1. The throne of Savoy was then filled by Charles Emmanuel II., a youth of fifteen. He was a prince of a mild and humane disposition; but, like Charles IX. of France, he was counselled by his mother, and she was of the house of Medici, and granddaughter to that Catherine whose deeds of blood have justly merited the execrations of mankind. The boy-sovereign was ruled by his mother, who was regent during his minority, and she was ruled by the Vatican. 2. The Society for the "Propagation of the Faith" was established in the same year at Turin. Noble lords, ladies, laymen, priests, and people, pressed to join the society, the inducement being a plenary indulgence to all who should take part in the good work: the watchword reveals its character-"The conversion or the extermination of heretics."

The propagandists commenced their ruinous work under the fair pretext of conversion. Ladies of the court, and others of inferior rank, with swarms of monks, became zealous supporters of the society, visiting from house to house. About this time convents were established in the valleys, and the schools and colleges of the Vaudois were suppressed. The abduction of males under twelve and of females under fourteen years of age, for the purpose of conversion, was sanctioned by law. But these nefarious means were soon followed by a violent persecution similar to that of 1560.

"The bloody edict of Gastaldo"-so named from its consequences-appeared in January, 1655. In vain did the threatened inhabitants, by every means of appeal and supplication to the different members of the government, seek to avert the impending storm. More than a thousand families, in the depth of winter, were driven from their homes and properties to the shelterless heights of their ice-covered mountains. And this they were commanded to do within three days on pain of death. Anything more inhuman, more barbarous, under the circumstances, cannot be imagined. A whole population, including little children, old men, the sick, the feeble, and the bed-ridden, must leave their homes amidst the terrors of an Alpine winter. Their journey lay through valleys buried deep in snow, across rivers swollen with the flood, and over mountains covered with ice. True an alternative was offered them: they might go to mass. The historian Leger informs us that he had a congregation of well-nigh two thousand persons, and that not a man of them all accepted the alternative. "I can well bear them this testimony," he observes, "seeing I was their pastor for eleven years, and I knew every one of them by name; judge, reader whether I had not cause to weep for joy, as well as for sorrow, when I saw that all the fury of these wolves was not able to influence one of these lambs, and that no earthly advantage could shake their constancy. And when I marked the traces of their blood on the snow and ice over which they had dragged their lacerated limbs, had I not cause to bless God that I had seen accomplished in their poor bodies what remained of the measure of the sufferings of Christ, and especially when I beheld this heavy cross borne by them with a fortitude so noble?"*

{*Quoted by Wylie, vol. 2, p. 482.}

The Treachery of Pianessa

"Had the persecution ended here," says Mr. Hugh Acland, "humanity would yet have been saved from an indelible stain. The marquess of Pianessa entered the valleys at the head of fifteen thousand men; the consequent massacre is too horrible for detailed narration." Only a part of the Waldenses had suffered from the decree of Gastaldo, but the fixed object of the propaganda was the extirpation of the entire race. The marquess, being well aware of the desperate resistance he must encounter if the Vaudois should flee and unite in the mountains, betook himself to the old weapon of Jezebel-treachery. He feigned a wish for conciliation, and invited deputies to confer on the necessary terms. The wiles of the enemy alas! were successful. Well skilled in craftiness, he thoroughly deceived the simple honest-hearted Vaudois, after treating them with great kindness, and assuring them that all would be amicably settled, if they would receive as a token of fidelity on their part, a small company of soldiers in the different villages. Some of the more sagacious, especially the pastor Leger, suspected treachery; but the people in general, willing to hope for a time of peace, opened the doors of their houses to the soldiers of Pianessa. Two days were spent in great friendliness; the soldiers and the villagers eating at the same table, sleeping under the same roof and conversing freely together. These two days were employed by the enemy in making preparations for the general massacre. The villages and roads throughout the valleys were occupied by the soldiers.

At four o'clock on the morning of the third day, April 24th, a signal was given from the castle, and the assassins began their work of death. But with the exception of pastor Leger, no historian attempts to give details; and he did it as a matter of duty, being an eyewitness, and had his narrative verified by others. A priest and a monk accompanied each party of soldiers, to set fire to the houses as soon as the inmates had been despatched. "Our valley of Lucerne," exclaims Leger, "which was like a Goshen, was now converted into a Mount Etna, darting forth cinders, and fire, and flames. The earth resembled a furnace, and the air was filled with a darkness like that of Egypt, which might be felt, from the smoke of towns, villages, temples, mansions, granges, and buildings, all burning in the flames of the Vatican." But here, it was not as in the St. Bartholomew massacre, the instant despatch of their victims but the deliberate invention of barbarities and cruelties hitherto unknown. As many of the strongest escaped by their knowledge of the hills, tiny children, their mothers, the sick, and the aged were the chief victims of the soldiers of the propaganda. But we would not subject our readers to the heart-sickening details of Leger's awful narrative.

The Faith and Heroism of Gianavello

During this terrible persecution which carried fire and sword into so many of the valleys, Rora had its full proportion of calamity; but it called forth one of those ardent spirits which from time to time God raises up to exhibit those virtues which are seldom brought into action but in moments of great emergency. We allude to Joshua Gianavello, a native of the valley of Rora, but truly a mighty man of valour, whose genius and intrepidity are the subject of unqualified admiration. On the morning of the 24th, which witnessed the merciless slaughter in the valleys of Lucerne, Angrogna, La Torre, Villar, St. John, and others, a similar doom was intended for Rora, and Count Christovel, with four hundred soldiers, was charged with its execution.

Gianavello had narrowly watched their movements, and, seconded by a small determined band, seven in all, he threw himself into the defile by which the enemy was advancing upon Rora. There was not a moment to lose. The soldiers-naturally thinking that the ruthless proceedings on the other side of the Pelice had paralysed all further resistance, and ensured them an easy entrance into Rora-advanced with little attention to order. Under cover of the rocks and trees Gianavello and his band could hear the conversation, and as one of the soldiers, counting on their work being easy observed, that the people of Rora would only be waiting to bid us welcome. "We do!" exclaimed a voice of thunder when a volley of musketry from right and left carried death into the advancing column. Seven of the troop were killed. Then, reloading their pieces, and quickly changing their ground, they fired again with a like effect. No enemy was visible; but the volume of curling smoke that rolled down the rocks, convinced them that they were caught between two fires. Thrown into utter confusion by this unexpected salutation, they began to retreat in terror and precipitation. But Gianavello and his men bounding from cover to cover kept up a deadly fire, until the superstitious soldiers began to feel as if every tree discharged a bullet. Fifty-four of their number were left dead behind them, and Rora was saved from the meditated destruction.

The disgrace which attached to this enterprise Pianessa resolved to retrieve by a fresh attempt. He organized a battalion of nearly a thousand men to cross the mountain. Fully aware that such would be the case, Gianavello was on the watch and saw the enemy enter. His band was now increased to seventeen men-eleven good marksmen and six expert slingers. When the invaders had advanced to a certain point, this invisible army opened so galling a fire upon them that they were again driven back to their quarters with great loss.

The news of this second defeat was the signal for vengeance. To increase his host, Pianessa ordered detachments from the neighbouring stations, and having completed his muster, sent them once more on the pass to Rora. The numbers were so overwhelming on this occasion that the patriot and his band waited for a favourable moment. Meanwhile they knelt down in prayer and gave thanks to God who had twice by their hands saved the people, and prayed that their hearts and arms might be strengthened to work yet another deliverance. A company of soldiers, laden with booty, were immediately attacked; and, as if possessed by a superstitious terror, endeavoured to make their escape, throwing away their plunder. Their flight became most disastrous; great pieces of rock were rolled down upon them, mingled with deadly bullets; and many in their haste fell over the precipices, so that only a few survived.

But in place of the blinded bigot, Pianessa, seeing in these events the finger of God, he was only the more inflamed with rage, and jealous for his own military character. He assembled all the royal troops-to the number of eight or ten thousand men-and calling his officers together, he held a council of war. What was to be done? A mere handful of peasants had foiled the tactics of a disciplined army; and the troops were charged with cowardice and incapacity. It was resolved that the whole army should be divided into three separate companies, and, by a simultaneous movement from every accessible avenue, secure the destruction of Rora. To meet this overwhelming force, Gianavello was compelled to take up his position on the summit of the pass, and while bravely combating with the first troop of three thousand, the other divisions forced a passage in the opposite direction.

The Massacre

The village of Rora is now in the hands of the pope's soldiers, who, meeting with little resistance, abandoned themselves to the work of destruction. The inhabitants consisted of old men, women and children; the effective members of the community were now expanding their patriotic efforts on the frontier. A general massacre followed. Nearly ten thousand assassins fell upon the helpless and unoffending peasants with all the impetuosity of wolves rushing upon a fold. No distinction was made of age or sex. Happy they who were slain at once, and thus escaped indignities and barbarities, to which we cannot give utterance. "Every soldier," says Dr. Beattie, "took upon himself the office of an executioner, till the devoted hamlet presented the spectacle of a vast scaffold strewn with victims, and streaming with blood. When the morning sun rose upon the village, not a voice was heard, nor a hearth left standing; but a mass of smouldering ashes, through which protruded at intervals the ghastly features of the slain, carried its appeal to the gates of heaven"-page 56.

The wife and three daughters of Gianavello, Pianessa spared from the sword that he might work on the feelings of the father and husband. He threatened to burn them alive unless he surrendered himself a prisoner and abjured his religion. Gianavello nobly replied: "As for the first condition, my wife and children are in thy hands, and if such be God's will, thou mayest accomplish thy threat; but this barbarous act can only affect their bodies, for which their religion teaches them not to be over-solicitous. If brought to the stake, they will be supported in the hour of trial. Their faith is proof against terror, and enables the innocent to look with complacent eye upon what is terrible only to the guilty. What was once said to Pilate, I now say to Pianessa:-'Thou couldest have no power at all against me except it were given thee from above.' As to the question of apostasy, shall I abjure these principles I have so long defended with my blood-principles unchangeable as the word of God? Shall I desert His cause for the hopes of a renegade? No! in that cause which I have thus feebly espoused, I am ready to perish. The terrors of the Inquisition are mild, compared with the upbraidings of conscience; and I shall never incur the one by shrinking from the other." He escaped to Geneva.

What could Pianessa do? What could the papal armies do? What could the legions of hell do against a religion that produced such faith in God, and such champions for His truth? They might crush for a time the feeble few, "the poor of the flock," and seem to triumph; but God is in the midst of them, and in the most wonderful manner preserves a remnant for Himself, a seed to serve Him, the silver link in the unbroken chain of witnesses; and the happy day will come when He will vindicate their cause in the presence of an assembled universe, and lifting up their heads on high, He will honour them with the martyr's crown, while their enemies, covered with shame and branded with eternal infamy, will seek the darkest regions of the lost that they may conceal the enormity of their guilt, and the undying agonies of hopeless despair. Those shrieks and groans of the dying which echoed and re-echoed among the Alpine hills shall be heard again; and those quivering limbs of frightened children for whom there was no pity shall be seen again, but in awful frightful vision. Haunted by such sights and sounds, with a load of guilt which now oppresses the imagination, what must that place of torment be? What vitality to the worm that never dies, what vehemence to the flame that shall never be quenched, must the recollection of such deeds for ever give! Still the grand truth remains, that, by a timely repentance and a genuine faith in the Lord Jesus, our sins, however many, are all washed away; but the soul that dies impenitent is lost for ever!

The Sympathy of England

The Protestant states of Europe were horror-struck when they heard of these massacres. But nowhere did the cry from the valleys awaken a deeper sympathy, or draw forth a stronger expression of indignation, than in England. "Cromwell, who was then at the head of the state, proclaimed a fast, ordered a collection for the sufferers, and wrote to all the Protestant princes, and to the king of France, with the intent of enlisting their sympathy and aid on behalf of the Vaudois. Milton, the Protector's Latin secretary, wrote the letters, and in token of the deep interest Cromwell took in this affair, he sent Sir Samuel Morland with a letter to the duke of Savoy."*

{*History of Protestantism, vol. 2, p. 486.}

The ambassador wisely visited the valleys on his way to Turin, and saw with his own eyes the frightful desolations which they still presented. After a partial allusion to the cruelties he was sent by the Protector to complain of, he, with great plainness and fervour of speech, proceeded: "Why should I mention more? Though I could enumerate infinitely more, did not my mind altogether revolt from them. If all the tyrants of all times and ages were alive again-I speak without offence to your royal highness, as convinced that none of these things are to be attributed to your highness- they would doubtless be ashamed to find that nothing barbarous, nor inhuman, in comparison of these deeds, had ever been invented by them. In the meantime the angels are stricken with horror! Men are dizzy with amazement! Heaven itself appears astonished by the cries of the dying, and the very earth to blush with the gore of so many innocent persons! Avenge not Thyself, O God, for this mighty wickedness, this parricidal slaughter. Let Thy blood, O Christ, wash out this blood!"

Ambassadors from the cantons of Switzerland, Geneva, Holland, and the Protestants of France, all denounced the late cruelties in the strongest terms. "So deep an interest was perhaps never displayed on any other occasion, neither as to the number of potentates partaking in it, nor as to the vast sums contributed to relieve the greatly afflicted Waldenses."*

{*History of the Vaudois, by Hugh Dyke Acland, p. 69.}

The duke of Savoy, pretending to listen to such remonstrances, was induced to propose peace to the "men of the valleys." The youthful prince found himself completely deceived by his mother and her advisers. He had lost thousands of his best subjects, the best tillers of the ground, the best rent-payers, the most faithful to his throne; but more- he had lost the best of his army, and spent his treasure. He declared that "to kill one Vaudois cost him fifteen soldiers." But what was his advantage? It was all loss in this life, but the priests assured him that he had secured the favour of heaven.

When the "Grand Monarch," Louis XIV. of France, was dying, he asked his confessor, father Le Chaise, "By what good deed as a king, he might atone for his many sins as a man." "Extirpate Protestantism from France," was the Jesuit's ready reply. He speedily complied, and revoked the edict of Nantes, which led to the slaughter and banishment of tens-we may say, of hundreds-of thousands of God's witnesses in France. In this way was the humane duke of Savoy influenced to send an armed force into the valleys, in order to reduce the inhabitants to the Romish obedience, or to exterminate them. But he saw his mistake, and we have no doubt was willing enough to conclude a peace, such as it was. The death of Cromwell, which took place in 1658, deprived the Waldenses of their sincerest friend and most powerful intercessor. He had sanctioned a collection for them, and contributed from his own purse two thousand pounds. The whole amount collected at that time was thirty-eight thousand pounds.

The Peace of 1655

The peace which followed the great massacre of 1655 lasted about thirty years; but history speaks of this period as rest only, when contrasted with the storms that preceded it. The Catholics still found many ways in which to annoy and oppress those whom they could neither conquer nor convert. The condition of the Vaudois, after the treaty of peace was signed, is thus described by Sir Samuel Morland, the English ambassador: "To this very day, they labour under most heavy burdens, which are laid on their shoulders by those rigid task-masters of the church of Rome.... Those very valleys which they inhabit are no other than a prison or dungeon, to which the fort of La Torre serves as a door. To all this I must add, that, notwithstanding those large supplies which have been sent them from England or foreign states, yet so great is the number of hungry creatures, and so grievous the oppressions of their popish enemies, who lie in wait to bereave them of whatsoever is given them, and snatch at every morsel of meat that goes into their mouths, that verily ever and anon they are ready to eat their own flesh for want of bread. The tongue of the suckling cleaves to the roof of its mouth, and the young children ask bread and no man gives it to them. The young and the old lie on the ground in the streets. Their miseries are more sore. and grievous than words can express-they are in a manner dying while they yet live. No grapes in their vineyards, no cattle in their fields, no herds in their stalls, no corn in their garners, no meal in their barrels, no oil in their cruse."*

{*Acland, p. 71.}

The Persecution and Expulsion of the Waldenses

Thus the inhabitants of the valleys struggled on until the year 1686, when a fresh war broke out under the sovereignty of Victor Amadeus II., but chiefly through the influence of Louis XIV. of France. When joined by the French auxiliaries, the united force amounted to between fifteen and twenty thousand men. Though vast numbers of the invaders were killed, the peasants were overpowered, and those who escaped the exterminating vengeance of the sword were dragged to prison, and the valleys were quite depopulated. We have no space for details but would just add, that treachery and atrocity, as usual, on the one side, and heroic devotedness on the other, marked the progress of the war; but treachery accomplished its end, and atrocities followed. "Fourteen thousand healthy mountaineers," says Henri Arnaud, "were thrust into the dungeons of Piedmont. But when, at the intercession of the Swiss deputies, their prisons were opened, three thousand skeletons only crawled out." Such were the tender mercies of Holy Mother Church; and such would be her tender mercies today, were her opportunities the same. At a distance of nearly two hundred years, the heart sickens, the imagination is oppressed, recoiling from the contemplation of such cold-blooded heartless cruelties. Eleven thousand perished in a few months from fetid air, cold, hunger, disease, inhumanity and utter neglect. What must have been the state of the atmosphere with such fearful mortality! But we cannot proceed further.

The prisons were thrown open in the beginning of October; but only on condition that the prisoners should immediately leave the country and embrace perpetual exile. Winter was already advancing in all its terrors, but no mercy could be shown to such heretics, and the famished band, the same evening, was driven forth to the Alps. They commenced their dreary march towards Mount Cenis; darkness soon overtook them, and before sunrise, more than one hundred and fifty had perished on the road. But the most afflicting spectacle in this harrowing procession, was that of the poor mothers and their infants. They turned their backs to the storm, so as to protect the child in arms, but many of them dropped with fatigue, and were wrapped in the stern winding-sheet of the Alps. The distressed exiles earnestly entreated the officer in command to let them rest for a day, especially as the weather showed signs of an approaching hurricane. The officer, however, had no authority to grant their prayer, and the dreary march was resumed. "During the hurricane," says Dr. Beattie, "the snow, resembling pounded ice, is tossed furiously around-like waves of sea-foam carried into the air-and deposited in overwhelming masses along the traveller's path. In its effect the snow-storm of the Alps is like the sand-storm in the Great Desert, saturating the air with its particles, and when blowing in the face, produced blindness and blistering of the skin. Under such circumstances, every hour must have been marked by some distressing incident- some new disaster that rapidly diminished their number, and sickened their hearts."*

{*For details and illustrations, see Dr. Beattie's Waldenses. Wylie's History of Protestantism-Waldenses.}

The Arrival of the Exiles at Geneva

About the middle of December the survivors of this wayworn band arrived at the gates of Geneva; but so exhausted, that several of them died between the outer and the inner gates of the city, "finding," as one has said, "the end of their life at the beginning of their liberty." Some could not speak from their tongues being swollen, and others could not hold out their hands to receive the kindness of their new friends, from their arms being frost-bitten. All, however, that humanity could suggest, all that a christian brotherhood could supply, was brought to their relief. But Geneva could not contain them all, and arrangements were made for distributing the exiles among the Reformed cantons. And the inhabitants of these cantons-to their praise be it recorded-vied with one another in offering them the most cordial sympathy, united with the most friendly ministries of brotherly love. But neither present comforts nor future prospects could make them forget their ancestral homes. As they wandered by the banks of the Rhine, they were like the Jews of old by the rivers of Babylon-they hung their harps upon the willows, and sat down and wept as they remembered their much loved valleys with all their tender recollections and cherished associations.

For the attainment of this grand object they made several attempts which proved unsuccessful. The enterprise being discovered, the senates of the different cantons in which the exiles resided, foreseeing that their departure might compromise them with the papal powers, took measures to prevent their embarkation. This was a great disappointment to the yearning heart of the Vaudois, and though they returned to their different communes, and resumed their industrious occupations, they were secretly engaged in devising measures for renewing the enterprise under more favourable circumstances. In the meantime the duke of Savoy, being made acquainted with the intention of the exiles, caught the alarm, and kindling his signals along the frontier, placed everything in a warlike attitude. He also ordered two regiments of one thousand strong, commanded by officers of high birth and merit, to take possession of the roads, bridges, and passes. While yet deliberating on the best measure to be adopted in this painful dilemma, their pastor and captain Henri Arnaud, addressed them from the words in Luke 12 "Fear not, little flock," etc., which greatly revived their spirits and their patriotism.

The Embarkation of the Exiles

At length, however, many circumstances combined to lead the Vaudois to believe that the hand of the Lord was opening the way for their return. Their place of appointed rendezvous was a large forest, in the Pays du Vaud, near the town of Neon, on the northern shore of the Leman. When all was ready, their chief offered up prayer to God in the midst of his devoted followers, and committed the expedition to Him. They embarked between ten and eleven o'clock, August 16th, 1689, and crossed the lake by starlight. When all had arrived on the southern shore of the lake, they numbered between eight and nine hundred. M. Arnaud-a man spoken of in the highest terms for his piety, patriotism, courage, and skill in military tactics-divided the whole into three bodies- advance-guard, rear-guard, and center, according to the system of regular troops, which the Vaudois always pursued. Thus they commenced their march back to their native valleys, supposed by some historians to be one of the most wonderful exploits ever performed by any people. Besides the natural difficulties of the way, such as the height of the mountains, the depth of the snow, the treachery of the glaciers, and the heavy rain, the roads were covered, and the passes guarded by the duke's soldiers, aided by the French; so that every inch of the way was disputed, and they had to fight their way right through to the valleys.

The feelings which sprung up in their hearts, when their native mountains first burst upon their sight, will be more easily imagined than described. Some could, no doubt, individualize the very peaks under whose shadow they had spent their infancy and youth, with a thousand other tender recollections, and for the recovery of which they had exposed themselves these thirty-one days to every danger, hardship, and privation, which could afflict the body or depress the mind.

"But now with that blest landscape in their view

No fears could daunt them, and no foes subdue.

A voice still whispered in their ear-Advance!

So heaven restores you your inheritance!

Beneath your mountains, where the sun goes down

Your sires have bled, and martyrs won their crown

But henceforth, at their hearths, and on their tombs,

Peace shall preside-the olive branch shall bloom

And they who now lay watch to shed their blood

Shall own at last one cause-one brotherhood!"*

{*Dr. Beattie, p. 211.}

The march of the Vaudois from the borders of the Lake of Geneva to their native valleys, not only was signalised by incidents unsurpassed in the history of events, but was crowned with success. As the Lord would have it, a quarrel arose about this time between the king of France and Victor Amadeus, which induced the latter to take this heroic band into favour. "Hitherto," said he, to the scattered remnant of his Piedmontese subjects, "we have been enemies; but from henceforth we must be friends; others are to blame more than myself for the evils you have suffered." This happy turn in their affairs was followed by treaties between the English and the Piedmontese governments, in the reigns of William III. and queen Anne. From that period to the present Great Britain has been empowered, by virtue of these solemn compacts, to interpose for their protection, and their churches ought to have had rest. But again and again, under false pretences, these oppressed people have had to contend against petty injuries and harassing grievances.*

{*See a most interesting book entitled, The Glorious Recovery by the Vaudois of their Native Valleys, by Henry Arnaud, their Commander and Pastor, with a Compendious History of that People by Hugh Dyke Acland. The march lasted thirty-one days, and there the reader will find the particulars of each day. Our space forbids even a sketch of these interesting days.}

During the French empire of Napoleon, when the iron crown of Italy was placed upon the head of "the Corsican," the Waldenses enjoyed equal rights and privileges in common with the rest of their countrymen. But, at the restoration of the House of Savoy to the kingdom of Sardinia, they were replaced under their former disabilities. This was the effect of evil counsel, for the restored prince acknowledged, on more occasions than one, "the constant and distinguished proof which the Waldenses had ever given to his predecessors of attachment and fidelity. I know," he added, "that I have faithful subjects in the Waldenses, and that they will never dishonour their character." But evil counsellors prevailed, and the yoke was again placed upon their necks.

The chief difficulty with which the Waldenses have now to contend is poverty, which need excite no surprise. But the Protestants of England have not been inattentive to the condition of their brethren in the valleys of Piedmont. Public collections have on several occasions been made throughout the kingdom; and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts is the trustee of considerable funds raised on their behalf.

Thus the Lord has watched over, preserved, and maintained a witness and a testimony for Himself in these valleys from time immemorial. And still the oil of His grace flows, and the lamp of His truth burns, while the thrones of their oppressors have been cast to the ground, and their dynasties extinguished for ever. Even the gates of Rome have been thrown open, so that we leave the Waldensian church, through the wonderful providence of God, in a wide and open field, for the exercise of their christian zeal and missionary labours.*

{*Encycl. Brit., vol. 11, p. 543. History of Protestantism, vol. 2, p. 511. For details of the creeds, confessions, catechisms, etc. of the Waldenses, see Gilly's First and Second Visits to the Valleys of Piedmont.}