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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Paul Rabaut preached in the desert


and managed to keep up by means

of alms from Protestant Europe. It was there that the most illustrious of the pastors of the desert, Paul Rabaut, already married and father of one child, went to seek the instruction necessary for the apostolic vocation which he was to exercise for so many years in the midst of so many and such formidable perils. "On determining to exercise the ministry in this kingdom," he wrote, in 1746, to the superintendent of Languedoc, Lenain d'Asfeldt, "I was not ignorant of what I exposed myself to; so I regarded myself as a victim doomed to death. I thought I was doing the greatest good of which I was capable in devoting myself to the condition of a pastor. Protestants, being deprived of the free exercise of their own religion, not seeing their way to taking part in the exercises of the Roman religion, not being able to get the books they would require for their instruction, consider, my lord, what--might be their condition if they were absolutely deprived of pastors. They would be ignorant of their most essential duties, and would fall either into fanaticism, the fruitful source of extravagances and irregularities, or into indifference and contempt for all religion." The firm moderation, the courageous and simple devotion, breathed by this letter, were the distinctive traits of the career of Paul Rabaut, as well as of Antony Court; throughout a persecution which lasted nearly forty years, with alternations of severity and clemency, the chiefs of French Protestantism managed to control
the often recurring desperation of their flocks. On the occasion of a temporary rising on the borders of the Gardon, Paul Rabaut wrote to the governor of Languedoc, "When I desired to know whence this evil proceeded, it was reported to me that divers persons, finding themselves liable to lose their goods and their liberty, or to have to do acts contrary to their conscience, in respect of their marriages or the baptism of their children, and knowing no way of getting out of the kingdom and setting their conscience free, abandoned themselves to despair, and attacked certain priests, because they regarded them as the primal and principal cause of the vexations done to them. Once more, I blame those people; but I thought it my duty to explain to you the cause of their despair. If it be thought that my ministry is necessary to calm the ruffled spirits, I shall comply with pleasure. Above all, if I might assure the Protestants of that district that they shall not be vexed in their conscience, I would pledge myself to bind over the greater number to stop those who would make a disturbance, supposing that there should be any." At a word from Paul Rabaut calmness returned to the most ruffled spirits; sometimes his audience was composed of ten or twelve thousand of the faithful; his voice was so resonant and so distinct, that in the open air it would reach the most remote. He prayed with a fervor and an unction which penetrated all hearts, and disposed them to hear, with fruits following, the word of God. Simple, grave, penetrating rather than eloquent, his preaching, like his life, bears the impress of his character. As moderate as fervent, as judicious as heroic in spirit, Paul Rabaut preached in the desert, at the peril of his life, sermons which he had composed in a cavern. "During more than thirty years," says one of his biographers, "he had no dwelling-place but grottoes, hovels, and cabins, whither men went to draw him like a ferocious beast. He lived a long while in a hiding-place, which one of his faithful guides had contrived for him under a heap of stones and blackberry bushes. It was discovered by a shepherd; and such was the wretchedness of his condition, that, when forced to abandon it, he regretted that asylum, more fitted for wild beasts than for men."


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