A Precious Bramble Bush
A law was passed in France in 1598 that granted French Protestants (called Huguenots) freedom from persecution. This is referred to as the Edict of Nantes. However, in the year 1685, the law was revoked, and the Huguenots were once again persecuted, as the government tried to force them to convert to Roman Catholicism. Although they were forbidden by law to leave France, many of them did escape to other countries.
Two men, an old man and a young one, were walking in a quaint, old-fashioned garden, enjoying the morning air and the beauty of their surroundings. They were uncle and nephew.
The older man was the son of a French Protestant refugee. Although born in England, he kept up many of the habits and customs of his fatherland; his nephew, having mingled in English school life and business, had scarcely anything left of French origin, except his name and a certain courtesy of manner that was inherited.
“I do like this old garden, uncle,” he exclaimed, as they sauntered along. “It seems almost a bit out of an old world, and you keep it in such beautiful order.”
“Ah, I love it. It was my father’s planning, and everywhere in it I seem to recognise a touch of his hands. He used to say it carried him back to his dear France, so I keep it just as he left it.”
“There is one thing I cannot understand,” said the nephew, as he stood in front of a circular piece of stonework in which a bramble was growing luxuriantly. “Why do you keep this bramble here, trimmed and tended as though it were the most precious thing in the garden?”
“Ah!” replied the old man. “That is just what it is – the most precious thing in all the garden. That bramble was brought from our dear France by my mother and planted there. When the edict was revoked by the king, my father could not believe that the old days of persecution were to be revived. He thought the world had grown wiser. But it had not. Terrible stories began to come in day by day of suffering and oppression, and even of death. Your grandfather was a brave Christian, who could have died for his faith, but your grandmother, whom he had just married, was a tender, gentle little woman, who trembled lest she should be false to her Saviour, whom she dearly loved; and they determined to flee from the country for her sake. Already he had made considerable provision by sending his money out of the land, and now secretly he made his arrangements to escape. Suddenly he received notice from a friend that a warrant was out for his arrest. Not a moment was to be lost! In an hour or two, at the most, the dear old home would be searched and themselves dragged to prison. Hurriedly they got away in disguise, accompanied by an old and faithful servant. The pursuit after them was eager, but my dear mother, who had been tenderly brought up and could not endure the fatigue of so rapid and rough a journey, could go no farther.
And where could she be taken?
The homes of our people were broken up. Many, for the love of God, would have helped them, but they could not even help themselves; others were in prison, others fugitives as they were.
My father was at his wits’ end. He stood for a moment in agony, and he lifted up his heart to our good God and Father for direction and help. In a moment, he made up his mind that he would go into the wood at the side of the road and hide behind a great bramble that he saw sending its streamers down to the ground. There they lay resting until their pursuers came up. They were so near the road they could hear them talking as they passed.
‘Ought we not to have taken that other road?’ said one of them, drawing his rein as they rode up. ‘If they are on this, we should have overtaken them before now.’ ‘No, no!’ answered his companion, ‘we shall have them directly. We know they are in front of us. If they had only known it, the other road is the clearest, though; but they are always fools’ – and the man laughed. The other man pulled up his horse, and turning, looked full at the clump of trees behind which they were hidden. ‘I wish,’ he said, ‘that they were in that clump, and I would soon settle them’; and pulling out his pistol, he fired it into the midst. Laughing, he turned around and they all rode away.
The bullet grazed my father’s arm, but he never moved a muscle until they were gone, nor did any of them. Then they kneeled down and thanked the good Lord for His protection and care. Surely, God hid them. They were ‘in the secret place of the most High,’ and were abiding ‘under the shadow of the Almighty’ (Psalm 91:1). When they came out, my mother found that a piece of the bramble had been cut off by the man’s bullet, and picking it up, she brought it away with her as a memorial of God’s mercy. They turned back to take the other road, which they found vastly more clear, and at last got safely across the frontier. And when they settled down here, that bramble, which had been carefully preserved, was planted in that place.
You will not wonder now when I say it is the most precious thing in this dear old place, and that we guard it as one of our choice treasures.”
Friendly Companion – 1904