Stories of Old Retold: No. 3: Jean Faber

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 9
THOUGH, as we shall remember, French Huguenots were forbidden by the laws of France to hold meetings, and many had been able to leave the country, great numbers remained in France who, choosing to obey God rather than man, continued to meet for Bible-reading, prayer and preaching in lonely, out-of-the-way places, often in woods and caves among the rocks. The meetings were usually held at night, and though the time and place of meeting were kept as secret as possible, it was no uncommon thing for the Huguenots to find themselves surprised and surrounded by soldiers, who fired alike upon men, women and children. The men when taken prisoners were sent to the galleys, the women and children to convents or prisons.
On New Year's Day, 1756, it had been arranged to hold one of their meetings in a cave not far from Neames. The meeting had only just been opened by prayer, when a warning was given that the soldiers were upon them. The meeting closed at once, and those present tried to escape by climbing the rocks. Among those who succeeded in doing so was a young silk merchant, Jean Faber. He was beyond the reach of danger, but on hearing that his father, who was seventy-eight years of age, and too feeble to climb as the younger and strong had done, had been arrested and was being taken to prison, he returned, and going boldly up to the soldiers who were leading the old man away, offered himself in exchange.
At first the officer in charge refused, but though he does not seem to have been a man much used to pity, after some time he was so touched by the tears and prayers of the son that he gave a half-unwilling consent. The aged father was set at liberty, and Jean under a strong guard of soldiers led away to prison. While awaiting his trial, he was not allowed to see his father, or the young lady to whom for some time he had been engaged, and to whom he had hoped very shortly to be married.
When tried he was, as he expected to be, sent to the galleys for life. In company with and chained to thieves, murderers and criminals, a long and weary march lay before him. When the coast was reached the gang, as they were called, were drafted on board the royal galleys, care being taken that the Huguenot prisoners should be placed as far as possible from each other. Their sufferings were very great, as they were often employed by night as well as by day in rowing, and never allowed to leave the bench to which each man was chained, even to lie down. They were treated with great cruelty, the only food given them being a soup made of boiled beans, with a little black bread. For some weeks Faber was not even able to eat this untempting food. He lost strength and was so seriously ill that he did not think he could recover. A friend hearing of his illness sent him better food, but for some days he was so weak that he could not eat it. After a time, though very slowly, he began to recover, and his daily and nightly toil went on.
A fresh trial, however, awaited him. A succession of heavy losses had reduced the, father of the young lady, who had remained faithful to him, to poverty; his health too was broken, and another lover sought his daughter's hand in marriage. The father, who believed that she would never see Faber again, urged her to accept the new lover, as he felt he had not long to live, and wished to see his daughter comfortably provided for before his death.
Other friends joined their pleadings to his. For a time she refused firmly, but at last said that if Faber was willing to release her from her engagement she might consider the subject. He was applied to, and though it was an added drop of bitterness in his cup replied, that while for himself he saw no brighter prospect than being a galley slave for life, he would not spoil her life, but released her, and bade her be happy as the wife of another, if she could.
She at last consented to the marriage, and the day was fixed; but almost at the last moment she withdrew, saying that she could not act against her conscience, and be untrue to one who had already suffered so much.
For six years Jean Faber toiled in the galleys, then through the influence of a gentleman who now and then visited the Huguenot prisoners, he was able to send a petition, asking only for a leave of absence, to a duke who was known to be a just man, and on the whole not unfriendly to the Huguenots. This was granted, and he was allowed to leave the galley, and begin business, though in a small way, as a silk stocking weaver. But as he was not a free man, and might be recalled any day, he could not marry. His father had been dead for some years. The day of Jean's freedom was not far off. His story had become known to some who were in high places; its truth was confirmed by the officer who had allowed him to take his father's place, and after some delay he received a full pardon, the only crime laid to his charge being that he was a Huguenot. He was shortly afterward united in marriage to the one who had waited so long and patiently.
I do not need to ask, dear young reader, if you have not admired the courage and devotion of the young man whose story you have just read. Jean Faber cheerfully accepted the toil and sufferings of a galley slave that his aged father might be a free man; but I want in closing to remind you of a still greater love, that of the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave His own life that He might be a Savior; who suffered the death of the cross for sinners who did not love Him at all; whose hearts were just as sinful as the hearts of those who cried, "Away with him! crucify him.”
Has the story of His love won your heart? Are you trusting Him as your own Savior?
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13.) "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom. 5:8.)
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