King Henri IV’s librairian shares a spiritual application

samedi 12 avril 2014
popularité : 45%

Between 1598 and 1685, Parisian Protestants were allowed to worship, but only in one place outside the city, in Charenton. King Henri IV’s personal librarian, Isaac Casaubon, kept a well furnished diary that allows us to discover one of his experiences on the way to the Temple and a spiritual lesson he learned that day.

“We started out this morning, my wife and I, accompanied by our eldest son Jean, second son, Méric, and my sister, to go hear two sermons in Charenton, and right away return home by boat. We had also planned to go by means of water. Arriving at the port, although it wasn’t yet seven o’clock, we couldn’t find anything but a little boat in bad shape, not even having a canvas shelter like they usually do. We hesitated on what we would do, but the desire to perform our religious duties prevailed and we got on the boat, or rather the dinghy, the only one left.

“The boatman took the rope and began walking along the shore, hauling our frail boat with us inside. We had gone most of the way when a boat of a greater size yet similar to ours led by two strong towing horses, reached our boat, hit it, and made it violently rock side to side.

“How much your powerful assistance O God we needed and how much we proved it ! The front of the boat that came toward us, touched and at the same time submerged our boat, in such a way that it started to fill with water and sink to the bottom. That was the end of all of us, if divine providence hadn’t saved us. My sister and my son got into the larger boat, yet not without difficulty, helped by those who witnessed our peril. My wife and I were sitting together and were also surprised by this sudden accident. I saw her immediately in the midst of the agitation, half of her body in the flooded boat and the other half in the Seine : I admit that the danger threatening my poor wife caused me strong emotion, as much as my state of mind could bear. I held out my hand and, pulling together all my physical and moral strength, I managed, with God’s help, to raise her enough so that those in the larger boat could grasp and take her in.

“Thus this delicate friend escaped peril, but we feared for the child in her womb, as the efforts we had made to save her in pulling her into the boat, forced her to press on her belly. Let’s hope, O God that our fears will not be justified.

“However, to save my wife, I, who had needed both hands to hang onto the larger boat myself, had let go. All in saving her, I exposed myself to the greatest danger, and thought to drown, but God didn’t abandon me either. Driven by the screams of my wife, all those who were present and already by themselves full of zeal, didn’t stop until they had taken me in safe and sound. Thus, on the point of perishing shipwrecked, we were all saved, and didn’t lose much, outside of a book of Psalms that was precious to me, since it had been a present to my dear wife, and had served for almost 22 years. I had been holding it in my hand when the accident arrived, for (I like to remember) my wife, as always, had started singing two psalms shortly after getting onto the boat. We had finished the 91st and were beginning the 92nd, when the shock hit. The precious book fell from my hands as well as a Greek New Testament that I recovered shortly later soaked.

"Since I was occupied in giving aid to my wife I couldn’t attend the first service but at least I attended the second. We sang, as usual, a psalm before the sermon. I usually participated in the singing of the faithful, and the earlier events of the day induced me all the more to glorify the name of the Lord in all things. Preparing to sing I reached into my pocket for my psalter and then realized the loss I had suffered. Already the congregation had started singing before I could take part. I looked around for a neighbor whose book would enable me to follow, and having cast my eyes on that of a young man in front of me I was able to sing along. However, the psalm being sung was the 86th and my eyes fell first on these two lines of the 7th verse :

"In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee : for thou wilt answer me.

"I thought immediately of this word by Saint Ambrose : This is the very book of Psalms that each one who listens or reads it is impressed and sees its applications as though they had been written especially for themselves !

August 1608" (English translation by Miff Crommelin)


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