In l598 Henry IV issued the Edict of Nantes. This document gave French Protestants the freedom to worship and to hold political office. His grandson, Louis XIV, revoked this edict in l685. Five hundred thousand Protestants fled France for safe havens offered by other countries.
The true accounts brought together and reprinted in this volume focus on some of those godly individuals who were unable to flee or who were arrested attempting to flee. These recollections take the reader into homes, galleys, and dungeons and reveal some of the suffering encountered by these godly people for their beloved Lord, Jesus Christ. Since these accounts are written for youth, the graphic nature of many of the tortures is not described. The daily sadness and suffering that many experienced is concisely and compassionately conveyed. A variety of methods were used to force individuals and families to recant their faith.
In the first account, Blanche Gamond writes of the persecutions that began in her family when French soldiers were forcibly boarded in their home. The family was reduced to selling off their furniture to support the intruders. This requirement of forced boarding and lodging for the military was often used to impoverish families. This imposition was only the beginning of godly Gamond’s griefs. Captured while attempting to flee France, she endured months of torture and trial. Throughout her incarceration she remained a faithful witness to God and bore her testimony to those around her. By God’s grace, she lived to record her story in this insightful and engrossing autobiography.
The next entry turns the reader’s attention to the plight of the galley slaves. This narrative recounts the experience of a young teenager who refused to renounce his Protestant beliefs and was sentenced to row on one of the vessels in the French fleet. There he served as a slave for many years.
The final portion of this volume includes short accounts of others who willingly suffered, knowing that they had been redeemed by the high cost of the shed blood of Jesus. Included is the story of one who repented of having recanted the faith. After he repented, he maintained his steadfastness until his death. Also in this section is the page-turning account of a Protestant father who agonized over how to keep his wife and eleven children together in their home and in flight as they faced persecution and peril for long years.
Although these true accounts are written for youth, adults can equally appreciate the content. These stories reminded me of the great suffering that was endured to maintain the Protestant tenets that we often take for granted. The suffering of past Christians who loved Gospel truth more than they loved their own lives needs to be known in our own day when the name of Christ is facing increasing public hatred. In my reading, I was also reminded that God sanctifies and strengthens His people in the midst of trials and horrible suffering. One prisoner aptly described the ongoing suffering of the Christians when he expressed his thoughts that the fear of a long life was greater than the fear of soon dying.
These well-written accounts breathe authenticity. Many quotations from those persecuted are included. Although there is much focus on individuals, there is a greater focus on God’s faithfulness and prevailing providence. This is a good book for parents and their youth to read and ponder.
This is the third and final volume in the trilogy on martyrs that the publisher has reprinted for today’s youth. The first two volumes are entitled Stories of the Reformation and Stories of the Covenanters.
- Byron Snapp
Byron Snapp is a graduate of King College (B.A.) and Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He was Associate Pastor at Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church, Hampton, Virginia, from 1994 until his retirement in December 2014. He is a native of Marion, Virginia. He has had pastorates in Leakesville, Mississippi, and Gaffney, South Carolina. He served as Assistant Pastor in Cedar Bluff, Virginia prior to his ministry at Calvary Reformed. He has served as editor of the Presbyterian Witness and was a contributor to A Comprehensive Faith and Election Day Sermons. He is currently a member of Westminster Presbytery in the PCA. He and his wife Janey have 3 children and several grandchildren.