By Charles Chiniquy
"Out of the Church of Rome there is no salvation," is one of the doctrines which the priests of Rome have to believe and teach to the people. That dogma, once accepted, caused me to devote all my energies to the conversion of Protestants. To prevent one of those immortal and precious souls from going into hell seemed to me more important and glorious than the conquest of a kingdom. In view of showing them their errors, I filled my library with the best controversial books which could be got in Quebec, and I studied the Holy Scriptures with the utmost attention. In the Marine Hospital, as well as in my intercourse with the people ofthe city, I had several occasions of meeting Protestants and talking to them; but I found at once that, with very few exceptions, they avoided speaking with me on religion. This distressed me. Having been told one day that the Rev. Mr. Anthony Parent, superior of the Seminary of Quebec, had converted several hundred Protestants during his long ministry, I went to ask him if this were true. For answer he showed me the list of his converts, which numbered more than two hundred, among whom were some of the most respectable English and Scotch families of the city. I looked upon that list with amazement; and from that day I considered him the most blessed priest of Canada. He was a perfect gentleman in his manners, and was considered our best champion on all points of controversy with Protestants. He could have been classed also among the handsomest men in his time, had he not been so fat. But, when the high classes called him by the respectable name of "Mr. Superior of the Seminary," the common people used to name him Pere Cocassier ("Cock-fighting Father"), on account of his long-cherished habit of having the bravest and strongest fighting-cocks of the country. In vain had the Rev. Mr. Renvoyze, curate of the "Good St. Anne," that greatest miracle-working saint of Canada, expended fabulous sums of money in ransacking the whole country to get a cock who would take away the palm of victory from the hands of the Superior of the Seminary of Quebec. He had almost invariably failed; with very few exception his cocks had fallen bruised, bleeding, and dead on the many battlefields chosen by those two priests. However, I feel happy in acknowledging that, since the terrible epidemic of cholera, that cruel and ignominious passe temps has been entirely given up by the Roman Catholic clergy of this country. Playing cards and checkers is now the most usual way the majority of curates and vicars have recourse to spend their long and many idle hours, both of the week and Sabbath days.
After reading over and over again that long list of converts, I said to Mr. Parent: "Please tell me how you have been able to persuade these Protestant converts to consent to speak with you on the errors of their religion. Many times I have tried to show the Protestants whom I met that they would be lost if they do not submit to our holy church, but, with few exceptions, they laughed at me as politely as possible, and turned the conversation to other matters. You must have some secret way of attracting their attention and winning their confidence. Would you not be kind enough to give me that secret, that I may be able also to prevent some of those precious souls from perishing?"
"You are right when you think that I have a secret to open the doors of the Protestants, and conquer and tame their haughty minds," answered Mr. Parent. "But that secret is of such a delicate nature, that I have never revealed it to anybody except my confessor. Nevertheless, I see that you are so in earnest for the conversion of Protestants, and I have such a confidence in your discretion and honour, that for the sake of our holy church I consent to give you my secret; only you must promise that you will never reveal it, during my lifetime, to anybody—and even after my death you will not mention it, except when you are sure it is for the greatest glory of God. You know that I was the most intimate friend your father ever had; I had no secret from him, and he had none from me. But God knows that the friendly feelings and the confidence I had in him are now bestowed upon you, his worthy son. If you had not in my heart and esteem the same high position your father occupied, I would not trust you with my secret."
He then continued: "The majority of Protestants in Quebec have Irish Roman Catholic servant girls; these, particularly before the last few years, used to come to confess to me, as I was almost the only priest who spoke English. The first thing I used to ask them, when they were confessing, was if their masters and mistresses were truly devoted and pious Protestants, or if they were indifferent and cold in performing their duties. The second thing I wanted to know was if they were on good terms with their ministers? whether or not they were visited by them? From the answers of the girls I knew both the moral and immoral, the religious or irreligious habits of their masters as perfectly as if I had been an inmate of their households. It is thus that I learned that many Protestants have no more religion and faith than our dogs. They awake in the morning and go to bed at night without praying to God any more than the horses in their stables. Many of them go to church on the Sabbath day more to laugh at their ministers and criticize their sermons than for anything else. A part of the week is passed in turning them into ridicule; nay, through the confessions of these honest girls, I learned that many Protestants liked the fine ceremonies of our Church; that they often favourably contrasted them with the cold performances of their own, and expressed their views in glowing terms about the superiority of our educational institutions, nunneries, ect., over their own high schools or colleges. Besides, you know that a great number of our most respectable and wealthy Protestants trust their daughters to our good nuns for their education. I took notes of all these things, and formed my plans of battle against Protestantism, as a general who knows his ground and weak point of his adversaries, and I fought as a man who is sure of an easy victory. The glorious result you have under your eyes is the proof that I was correct in my plans. My first step with the Protestants whom I knew to be without any religion, or even already well disposed towards us, was to go to them with sometimes $5, or even $25, which I presented to them as being theirs. They, at first, looked at me with amazement, as a being coming from a superior world. The following conversation then almost invariable took place between them and me:
"'Are you positive, sir, that this money is mine?'
"'Yes, sir,' I answered, 'I am certain that this money is yours.'
"'But,' they replied, 'please tell me how you know that it belongs to me? It is the first time I have the honour of talking with you, and we are perfect strangers to each other.'
"I answered: 'I cannot say, sir, how I know that this money is yours, except by telling you that the person who deposited it in my hands for you has given me your name and your address so correctly that there is no possibility of any mistake.'
"'But can I not know the name of the one who has put that money into your hands for me?' rejoined the Protestant.
"'No, sir; the secret of confession is inviolable,' I replied. 'We have no example that it has ever been broken; and I, with every priest in our Church, would prefer to die rather than betray our penitents and reveal their confession. We cannot even act from what we have learned through their confession, except at their own request.'
"'But this auricular confession must then be a most admirable thing,' added the Protestant; 'I had no idea of it before this day.'
"'Yes, sir, auricular confession is a most admirable thing,' I used to reply, 'because it is a divine institution. But, sir, please excuse me; my ministry calls me to another place. I must take leave of you, to go where my duty calls me.'
"'I am very sorry that you go so quickly,' generally answered the Protestant. 'Can I have another visit from you? Please do me the honour of coming again. I would be so happy to present you to my wife; and I know she would be happy also, and much honoured to make your acquaintance.'
"'Yes, sir, I accept with gratitude your invitation. I will feel much pleased and honoured to make the acquaintance of the family of a gentleman whose praises are in the mouth of everyone, and whose industry and honesty are an honour to our city. If you allow me, next week, at the same hour, I will have the honour of presenting my respectful homage to your lady.'
"The very next day all the papers reported that Mr. So-and-So had received $5, or $10, or even $25 as a restitution, through auricular confession, and even the staunch Protestant editors of those papers could not find words sufficiently eloquent to praise me and our sacrament of penance.
"Three or four days later I was sure that the faithful servant girls were in the confessional box, glowing with joy to tell me that now their masters and mistresses could not speak of anything else than the amiability and honesty of the priests of Rome. They raised them a thousand miles over the heads of their own ministers. From those pious girls they invariably learned that they had not been visited by a single friend without making the eulogium of auricular confession, and even sometimes expressing the regret that the reformers had swept away such a useful institution.
"Now, my dear young friend, you see how, by the blessing of God, the little sacrifice of a few pounds brought down and destroyed all the prejudices of those poor heretics against auricular confession and our holy church in general. You understand how the doors were opened to me, and how their hearts and intelligences were like fields prepared to receive the good seed. At the appointed hour I never failed from paying the requested visit, and I was invariably received like a Messiah. Not only the gentlemen, but the ladies overwhelmed me with marks of the most sincere gratitude and respect; even the dear little children petted me, and threw their arms around my neck to give their sweetly angelic kisses. The only topic on which we could speak, of course, was the great good done by auricular confession. I easily showed them how it words as a check to all the evil passions of the heart; how it is admirably adapted to all the wants of the poor sinners, who find a friend, a counselor, a guide, a father, a real saviour in their confessor.
"We had not talked half an hour in that way, when it was generally evident to me that they were more than half way out of their Protestant errors. I very seldom left those houses without being sure of a new, glorious victory for our holy religion over its enemies. It is very seldom that I do not succeed in bringing that family to our holy church before one or two years; and if I fail from gaining the father or mother, I am nearly sure to persuade them to send their daughters to our good nuns and their boys to our colleges, where they sooner or later become our most devoted Catholics. So you see that the few dollars I spend every year for that holy cause are the best investments ever made. They do more to catch the Protestants of Quebec than the baits of the fishermen do to secure the cod fishes of the Newfoundland banks."
In ending this last sentence, Mr. Parent filled his room with laughter.
I thanked him for these interesting details. But I told him: "Though I cannot but admire your perfect skill and shrewdness in breaking the barriers which prevent Protestants from understanding the divine institution of auricular confession, will you allow me to ask you if you do not fear to be guilty of an imposture and a gross imposition in the way you make them believe that the money you hand they has come to you through auricular confession?"
"I have not the least fear of that," promptly answered the old priest, "for the good reason, that if you had paid attention to what I have told you, you must acknowledge that I have not said positively that the money was coming from auricular confession. If those Protestants have been deceived, it is only due to their own want of a more perfect attention to what I said. I know that there were things that I kept in my mind which would have made them understand the matter in a very different way if I had said them. But Liguori and all our theologians, among the most approved of our holy church, tell us that these reservations of the mind (mentis reservationes) are allowed, when they are for the good of souls and the glory of God."
"Yes," answered I, "I know that such is the doctrine of Liguori, and it is approved by the popes. I must confess that this seems to me entirely opposed to what we read in the sublime gospel. The simple and sublime 'Yea, yea' and 'Nay, nay' of our Saviour seems to me in contradiction with the art of deceiving, even when not saying absolute and direct falsehoods; and if I submit myself to those doctrines, it is always with a secret protest in my inmost soul."
In an angry manner, Mr. Parent replied: "Now, my dear young friend, I understand the truth of what the Rev. Messrs. Perras and Bedard told me lately about you. Though these remarkable priests are full of esteem for you, they see a dark cloud on your horizon; they say that you spend too much time in reading the Bible, and not enough in studying the doctrines and holy traditions of the Church. You are too much inclined also to interpret the Word of God according to your own fallible intelligence, instead of going to the Church alone for that interpretation. This is the dangerous rock on which Luther and Calvin were wrecked. Take my advice. Do not try to be wiser than the Church. Obey her voice when she speaks to you through her holy theologians. This is your only safeguard. The bishop would suspend you at once were he aware of your want of faith in the Church."
These last words were said with such emphasis, that they seemed more like a sentence of condemnation from the lips of an irritated judge than anything else. I felt that I had again seriously compromised myself in his mind; and the only way of preventing him from denouncing me to the bishop as a heretic and a Protestant was to make an apology, and withdraw from the dangerous ground on which I had again so imprudently put myself. He accepted my explanation, but I saw that he bitterly regretted having trusted me with his secret. I withdrew from his presence, much humiliated by my want of prudence and wisdom. However, though I could not approve of all the modus operandi of the Superior of Quebec, I could not but admire then the glorious results of his efforts in converting Protestants; and I took the resolution of devoting myself more than ever to show them their errors and make them good Catholics. In this I was too successful; for during my twenty-five years of priesthood I have persuaded ninety-three Protestants to give up their gospel light and truth in order to follow the dark and lying traditions of Rome. I cannot enter into the details of their conversions, or rather perversions; suffice to say that I soon found that my only chance of success in that proselytizing work was among the Ritualists. I saw at first that Calvin and Knox had dug a really impassable abyss between the Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and the Church of Rome. If these Ritualists remain Protestants, and do not make the very short step which separates them from Rome, it is a most astonishing fact, when they are logical men. Some people are surprised that so many eminent and learned men, in Great Britain and America, give up their Protestantism to submit to the Church of Rome; but my wonder is that there are so few among them who fall into that bottomless abyss of idolatry and folly, when they are their whole life on the very brink of the chasm. Put millions of men on the very brink of the Falls of Niagara, force them to cross to and from in small canoes between both shores, and you will see that, every day, some of them will be dragged, in spite of themselves, into the yawning abyss. Nay, you will see that, sooner or later, those millions of people will be in danger of being dragged in a whole body, by the irresistible force of the dashing waters, into the fathomless gulf. Through a sublime effort the English people helped by the mighty and merciful hand of God, has come out from the abyss of folly, impurity, ignorance, slavery, and idolatry, called the Church of Rome. But many, alas! in the present day, instead of marching up to the high regions of unsullied Gospel truth and light—instead of going up to the high mountains where true Christian simplicity and liberty have for ever planted their glorious banners—have been induced to walk only a few steps out of the pestiferous regions of Popery. They have remained so near the estilential atmosphere of the stagnant waters of death which flow from Rome, that the atmosphere they breathe is still filled with the deadly emanations of that modern Sodom. Who, without shedding tears of sorrow, can look at those misguided ministers of the Gospel who believe and teach in the Episcopal Church that they have the power to make their God with a wafer, and who bow down before that wafer God and adore him! Who can refrain from indignation at the sight of so many Episcopal ministers who consent to have their ears, minds, and souls polluted at the confessional by the stories of their penitents, whom in their turn they destroy by their infamous and unmentionable questions? When I was lecturing in England in 1860, the late Archbishop of Canterbury, then Bishop of London, invited me to his table, in company with Rev. Mr. Thomas, now Bishop of Goulburn, Australia, and put to me the following questions, in the presence of his numerous and noble guests:-
"Father Chiniquy, when you left the Church of Rome, why did you not join the Episcopalian rather than the Presbyterian Church?"
I answered: "Is it the desire of your lordship that I should speak my mind on that delicate subject?"
"Yes, yes," said the noble lord bishop.
"Then, my lord, I must tell you that my only reason is that I find in your Church several doctrines which I have to condemn in the Church of Rome."
"How is that?" replied his lordship.
"Please," I answered, "let me have one of your Common Prayer Books."
Taking the book, I read slowly the article on the visitation of the sick: "Here shall the sick person be moved to make a special confession of his sins, if he feel his conscience troubled with any weighty matter. After which confession the priest shall absolve him if he humbly and heartily desire it after this sort: 'Our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power to His Church to absolve all sinners who repent and believe in Him, of His great mercy forgive thee thine offenses: and, by His authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins, in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.'" I then added: "Now, my Lord, where is the difference between the errors of Rome and your Church on this subject?"
"The difference is very great," he answered. "The Church of Rome is constantly pressing the sinners to come to her priests all their life-time, when we subject the sinner to this humiliation only once in his life, when he is near his last hour."
"But, my lord, let me tell you that it seems to me the Church of Rome is much more logical and consistent in this than the Episcopal Church. Both churches believe and teach that they have received from Christ the power to forgive the sins of those who confess to their priests, and you think yourself wiser because you invite the sinner to confess and receive His pardon only when he is tied to a bed of suffering, at the last hour before his death. But will your lordship be kind enough to tell me when I am in danger of death? If I am constantly in danger of death, must you not, with the Church of Rome, induce me constantly to confess to your priests, and get my pardon and make my peace with God? Has our Saviour said anywhere that it was only for the dying, at the last extremity of life, that He gave the power to forgive my sins? Has He not warned me many times to be always ready; to have always our peace made with God, and not to wait till the last day, to the last hour?" The noble bishop did not think fit to give me any other answer than these very words: "We all agree that this doctrine ought never to have been put in our Common Prayer Book. But you know that we are at work to revise that book, and we hope that this clause, with several others, will be taken away."
"Then," I answered in a jocose way, "my lord, when this obnoxious clause has been removed from your Common Prayer Book it will be time for me to have the honour of belonging to your great and noble Church."
When the Church of England went out of the Church of Rome, she did as Rachel, the wife of Jacob, who left the house of her father Laban and took his gods with her. So the Episcopal Church of England, unfortunately, when she left Rome, concealed in the folds of her mantle some of the false gods of Rome; she kept to her bosom some vipers engendered in the marshes of the modern Sodom. Those vipers, if not soon destroyed, will kill her. They are already eating up her vitals. They are covering her with most ugly and mortal wounds. They are rapidly taking away her life. May the Holy Ghost rebaptize and purify that noble Church of England, that she may be worthy to march at the head of the armies of the Lord to the conquest of the world, under the banners of the great Captain of our Salvation.
The three years which followed the cholera will be long remembered in Quebec for the number of audacious thefts and the murders which kept the whole population in constant terror. Almost every week the public press had to give us the account of the robbery of the houses of some of our rich merchants or old wealthy widows.
Many times the blood was chilled in our veins by the cruel and savage assassinations which had been committed by the thieves when resistance had been offered. The number of these crimes, the audacity with which they were perpetrated, the ability with which the guilty parties escaped from all the researches of the police, indicated that they were well organized, and had a leader of uncommon shrewdness.
But in the eyes of the religious population of Quebec, the thefts of the 10th February, 1835, surpassed all the others by its sacrilegious character. That night the chapel dedicated to the blessed Virgin Mary was entered, a silver statue of the Virgin—the gift of the King of France—a massive lamp, a silver candlestick, and the silver vases which contained the bread which the Roman Catholics believe to be the body, blood, and divinity of Jesus Christ, were stolen, and the holy sacrament impiously thrown and scattered on the floor.
Nothing can express the horror and indignation of the whole Catholic population at this last outrage. Large sums of money were offered in order that the brigands might be detected. At last five of them—Chambers, Mathieu, Gagnon, Waterworth, and Lemonie, were caught in 1836, tried, found guilty, and condemned to death in the month of March, 1837.
During the trial, and when public attention was most intensely fixed on its different aspects, in a damp, chilly, dark night, I was called to visit a sick man. I was soon ready, and asked the name of the sick from the messenger. He answered that it was Francis Oregon. As a matter of course, I said that the sick man was a perfect stranger to me, and that I had never heard that there was even such a man in the world. But when I was near the carriage which was to take me, I was not a little surprised to see that the first messenger left abruptly and disappeared. Looking with attention, then, at the faces of the two men who had come for me in the carriage, it seemed that they both wore masks.
"What does this mean?" I said; "each of you wear a mask. Do you mean to murder me?"
"Dear Father Chiniquy," answered one of them, in a low, trembling voice, and in a supplicating tone, "fear not. We swear before God that no evil will be done to you. On the contrary, God and man will, to the end of the world, praise and bless you if you come to our help and save our souls, as well as our mortal bodies. We have in our hands a great part of the silver articles stolen these last three years. The police are on our track, and we are in great danger of being caught. For God's sake come with us. We will put all those stolen things in your hands, that you may give them back to those who have lost them. We will then immediately leave the country, and lead a better life. We are Protestants, and the Bible tell us that we cannot be saved if we keep in our hands what is not ours. You do not know us, but we know you well. You are the only man in Quebec to whom we can so trust our lives and this terrible secret. We have worn these masks that you may not know us, and that you may not be compromised if you are ever called before a court of justice."
My first thought was to leave them and run back to the door of the parsonage; but such an act of cowardice seemed to me, after a moment's reflection, unworthy of a man. I said to myself, these two men cannot come to steal from me: it is well known in Quebec that I keep myself as poor as a church mouse, by giving all I have to the poor. I have never offended any man in my life, that I know. They cannot come to punish or murder me. They are Protestants, and they trust me. Well, well, they will not regret to have put their trust in a Catholic priest."
I then answered them: "what you ask from me is of a very delicate, and even dangerous nature. Before I do it, I want to take the advice of one whom I consider the wisest man of Quebec—the old Rev. Mr. Demars, ex-president of the seminary of Quebec. Please drive me as quickly as possible to the seminary. If that venerable man advises me to go with you I will go; but I cannot promise to grant you your request if he tells me not to go."
"All right," they both said, and in a very short time I was knocking at the door of the seminary. A few moments after I was alone in the room of Mr. Demars. It was just half-past twelve at night.
"Our little Father Chiniquy here on this dark night, at half-past twelve! What does this mean? What do you want from me?" said the venerable old priest.
"I come to ask your advice," I answered, "on a very strange thing. Two Protestant thieves have in their hands a great quantity of the silver ware stolen these last three years. They want to deposit them in my hands, that I may give them back to those from whom they have been stolen, before they leave the country and lead a better life. I cannot know them, for they both wear masks. I cannot even know where they take me, for the carriage is so completely wrapped up by curtains that it is impossible to see outside. Now, my dear Mr. Demars, I come to ask your advice. Shall I go with them or not? But remember that I trust you with these things under the seal of confession, that neither you nor I may be compromised."
Before answering me the venerable priest said: "I am very old, but I have never heard of such a strange thing in my life. Are you not afraid to go alone with these two thieves in that covered carriage?"
"No, sir," I answered; "I do not see any reason to fear anything from these two men."
"Well! well," rejoined Mr. Demars, "If you are not afraid under such circumstances, your mother has given you a brain of diamond and nerves of steel."
"Now, my dear sir," I answered, "time flies, and I may have a long way to travel with these two men. Please, in the shortest possible way, tell me your mind? Do you advise me to go with them?"
He replied, "You consult me on a very difficult matter; there are so many considerations to make, that it is impossible to weigh them all. The only thing we have to do is to pray God and His Holy Mother for wisdom. Let us pray."
We knelt and said the "Veni Sancte Spiritus;" "Come Holy Spirit," ect., which prayer ends by an invocation to Mary as Mother of God.
After the prayer Mr. Demars again asked me: "Are you not afraid?"
"No, sir, I do not see any reason to be afraid. But, please, for God's sake, hurry on, tell me if you advise me to go and accept this message of mercy and peace."
"Yes! go! go! If you are not afraid," answered the old priest, with a voice full of emotion, and tears in his eyes.
I fell on my knees and said, "Before I start, please, give me your blessing, and pray for me, when I shall be on the way to that strange, but, I hope, good work."
I left the seminary and took my seat at the right hand of one of my unknown companions, while the other was on the front seat driving the horse.
Not a word was said by any of us on the way. But I perceived that the stranger who was at my left, was praying to God; though in such a low voice that I understood only these words twice repeated: "O Lord! have mercy upon me—such a sinner!" These words touched me to the heart, and brought to my mind the dear Saviour's words: "The publicans and harlots shall go into the kingdom of God before you," and I also prayed for that poor repenting sinner and for myself, by repeating the sublime 50th psalm:
"Have mercy upon me, O Lord!"
It took about half an hour to reach the house. But, there, again, it was impossible for me to understand where I was. For the carriage was brought so near the door that there was no possibility of seeing anything beyond the carriage and the house through the terrible darkness of that night.
The only person I saw, when in the house, was a tall woman covered with a long black veil, whom I took to be a disguised man, on account of her size and her strength; for she was carrying very heavy bags with as much ease as if they had been a handful of straw.
There was only a small candle behind a screen, which gave so little light that everything looked like phantoms around us. Pictures and mirrors were all turned to the wall, and presented the wrong side to view. The sofa and the chairs were also upset in such a way that it was impossible to identify anything of what I had seen. In fact, I could see nothing in that house. Not a word was said, except by one of my companions, who whispered in a very low voice, "Please, look at the tickets which are on every bundle; they will indicate to whom these things belong."
There were eight bundles.The heaviest of which was composed of the melted silver of the statue of the virgin, the candlesticks, the lamp of the chapel, the ciborium, a couple of chalices, and some dozens of spoons and forks. The other bundles were made up of silver plates, fruit baskets, tea, coffee, cream and sugar pots, silver spoons and forks, ect.
As soon as these bundles were put into the carriage we left for the parsonage, where we arrived a little before the dawn of day. Not a word was exchanged between us on the way, and my impression was, that my penitent companions were sending their silent prayers, like myself, to the feet of that merciful God who has said to all sinners, "Come unto Me, all ye who are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
They carried the bundles into my trunk, which I locked with peculiar attention. When all was over I accompanied them to the door to take leave of them. Then, each seizing one of my hands, by a spontaneous movement of gratitude and joy, they pressed them on their lips, shedding tears, and saying in a low voice: "God bless you a thousand times for the good work you have just performed. After Christ, you are our saviour."
As these two men were speaking, it pleased God to send forth into my soul one of those rays of happiness which He gives us only at great intervals.
I believe our fragile existence would soon be broken up were we by such joys incessantly inundated. These two men had ceased to be robbers in my eyes. They were dear brethren, precious friends, such as are seldom to be seen. The narrow and shameful prejudices of my religion were silent before the fervent prayers that I had heard from their lips; they disappeared in those tears of repentance, gratitude and love, which fell from their eyes on my hands. Night surrounded us with its deepest shades; but our souls were illuminated by a light purer than the rays of the sun. The air that we breathed was cold and damp; but one of these sparks brought down from heaven by Jesus to warm the earth, had fallen into our hearts, and we were all penetrated by its glow. I pressed their hands in mine, saying to them:
"I thank and bless you for choosing me as the confident of your misfortunes and repentance. To you I owe three of the most precious hours of my life. Adieu! We shall see one another no more on this earth; but we shall meet in heaven. Adieu!"
It is unnecessary to add that it was impossible to sleep the remainder of that memorable night. Besides, I had in my possession more stolen articles than would have caused fifty men to be hanged. I said to myself: "What would become of me if the police were to break in on me, and find all that I have in my hands. What could I answer if I were asked, how all these had reached me?"
Did I not go beyond the bounds of prudence in what I have just done? Have I not, indeed, slipped a rope around my neck?
Though my conscience did not reproach me with anything, especially when I had acted on the advice of a man as wise as Mr. Demars, yet was I not without some anxiety, and I longed to get rid of all the things I had by giving them to their legitimate owners.
At ten o'clock in the morning I was at Mr. Amiot's, the wealthiest goldsmith of Quebec, with my heavy satchel of melted silver. After obtaining from him the promise of secrecy, I handed it over to him, giving him at the same time its history. I asked him to weigh it, keep its contents, and let me have its value, which I was to distribute according to its label.
He told me that there was in it a thousand dollars worth of melted silver, which amount he immediately gave me. I went down directly to give about half of it to Rev. Mr. Cazeault, chaplain of the congregation which had been robbed, and who was then the secretary of the Archbishop of Quebec; and I distributed the remainder to the parties indicated on the labels attached to this enormous ingot.
The good Lady Montgomery could scarcely believe her eyes when, after obtaining also from her the promise of the most inviolable secrecy on what I was going to show her, I displayed on her table the magnificent dishes of massive silver, fruit baskets, tea and coffee pots, sugar bowls, cream jugs, and a great quantity of spoons and forks of the finest silver, which had been taken from her in 1835. It seemed to her a dream which brought before her eyes these precious family relics.
She then related in a most touching manner what a terrible moment she had passed, when the thieves, having seized her, with her maid and a young man, rolled them in carpets to stifle their cries, whilst they were breaking locks, opening chests and cupboards to carry off their rich contents. She had told me how nearly she had been stifled with her faithful servants under the enormous weight of carpets heaped upon them by the robbers.
This excellent lady was a Protestant, and it was the first time in my life that I met a Protestant whose piety seemed so enlightened and sincere. I could not help admiring her.
When she had most sincerely thanked and blessed me for the service I had done for her, she asked if I would have any objection to pray with her, and to aid her in thanking God for the favour He had just shown her. I told her, I should be happy in uniting with her to bless the Lord for His mercies. Upon this she gave me a Bible, magnificently bound, and we read each in turn a verse, slowly and on our knees the sublime Psalm 103: "Bless the Lord, O my soul," ect.
As I was about to take leave of her she offered me a purse containing one hundred dollars in gold, which I refused, telling her that I would rather lose my two hands than receive a cent for what I had done.
"You are," said she, "surrounded with poor people. Give them this that I offer to the Lord as a feeble testimony of my gratitude, and be assured that as long as I live I will pray God to pour His most abounding favours upon you."
In leaving that house I could not hide from myself that my soul had been embalmed with the true perfume of a piety that I had never seen in my own church.
Before the day closed I had given back to their rightful owners the effects left in my hands, whose value amounted to more than 7,000 dollars, and had my receipts in good form.
I am glad to say here, that the persons, most of whom were Protestants, to whom I made these restitutions, were perfectly honourable, and that not a single one of them ever said anything to compromise me in this matter, nor was I ever troubled on this subject.
I thought it my duty to give my venerable friend, the Grand Vicar Demars, a detailed account of what had just happened. He heard me with the deepest interest, and could not retain his tears when I related the touching scene of my separation from my two new friends that night, one of the darkest—which, nevertheless, has remained one of the brightest of my life.
My story ended, he said: "I am, indeed, very old, but I must confess that never did I hear anything so strange and so beautiful as this story. I repeat, however, that your mother must have given you a brain harder than diamond and nerves more solid than brass, not to have been afraid during this very singular adventure in the night."
After the fatigues and incidents of the last twenty-four hours, I was in great need of rest, but it was impossible for me to sleep a single instant during the night which followed. For the first time I stood face to face with that Protestantism which my Church had taught me to hate and fight with all the energy that heaven had bestowed on me, and when that faith had been, by the hand of Almighty God, placed in the scale against my own religion, it appeared to me as a heap of pure gold opposite a pile of rotten rags. In spite of myself, I could hear incessantly the cries of grief of that penitent thief: "Lord, have mercy on me, so great a sinner!"
Then, the sublime piety of Lady Montgomery, the blessings she had asked God to pour on me, His unprofitable servant, seemed, as so many coals of fire heaped upon my head by God, to punish me for having said so much evil of Protestants, and so often decried their religion.
A secret voice arose within me: "Seest thou not how these Protestants, whom thou wishest to crush with thy disdain, know how to pray, repent, and make amends for their faults much more nobly than the unfortunate wretches whom thou holdest as so many slaves at thy feet by means of the confessional?
"Understandest thou not that the Spirit of God, the grace and love of Jesus Christ, produces effectually in the hearts and minds of these Protestants a work much more durable than thy auricular confession? Compare the miserable wiles of Mr. Parent, who makes false restitutions, to cast dust into the eyes of the unsuspecting multitude, with the straightforwardness, noble sincerity, and admirable wisdom of these Protestants, in making amends for their wrongs before God and men, and judge for thyself which of those two religions raise, in order to save, and which degrades, in order to destroy the guilty.
"Has ever auricular confession worked as efficiently on sinners as the Bible on these thieves to change their hearts?
"Judge, this day, by their fruits, which of the two religions is led by the spirit of darkness, or the Holy Ghost?"
Not wishing to condemn my religion, nor allow my heart to be attracted by Protestantism during the long hours of that restless night, I remained anxious, humiliated, and uneasy.
It is thus, O my God, that Thou madest use of everything, even these thieves, to shake the wonderful fabric of errors, superstitions, and falsehoods that Rome had raised in my soul. May Thy name be for ever blessed for Thy mercies towards me, Thy unproffitable servant.
A few days after the strange and providential night spent with the repentant thieves, I received the following letter signed by Chambers and his unfortunate criminal friends:
"Dear Father Chiniquy:- We are condemned to death. Please come and help us to meet our sentence as Christians."
I will not attempt to say what I felt when I entered the damp and dark cells where the culprits were enchained. No human words can express those things. Their tears and their sobs were going through my heart as a two-edged sword. Only one of them had, at first, his eyes dried, and kept silent: Chambers, the most guilty of all.
After the others had requested me to hear the confession of their sins, and prepare them for death, Chambers said: "You know that I am a Protestant. But I am married to a Roman Catholic, who is your penitent. You have persuaded my two so dear sisters to give up their Protestantism and become Catholics. I have many times desired to follow them. My criminal life alone has prevented me from doing so. But now I am determined to do what I consider to be the will of God in this important matter. Please, tell me what I must do to become a Catholic."
I was a sincere Roman Catholic priest, believing that out of the Church of Rome there was no salvation. The conversion of that great sinner seemed to me a miracle of the grace of God; it was for me a happy distraction in the desolation I felt in that dungeon.
I spent the next eight days in hearing their confessions, reading the lives of some saints, with several chapters of the Bible, as the Seven Penitential Psalms, the sufferings and death of Christ, the history of the Prodigal Son, ect. And I instructed Chambers, as well as the shortness of the time allowed me, in the faith of the Church of Rome. I usually entered the cells at about 9 a.m., and left them only at 9 p.m.
After I had spent much time in exhorting them, reading and praying, several times, I asked them to tell me some of the details of the murders and thefts they had committed, which might be to me as a lesson of human depravity, which would help me when preaching on the natural corruption and malice of the human heart, when once the fear and the love, or even the faith in God, were completely set aside.
The facts I then heard very soon convinced me of the need we have of a religion, and what would become of the world if the atheists could succeed in sweeping away the notions of a future punishment after death, or the fear and the love of God from among men.
When absolutely left to his own depravity, without any religion to stop him on the rapid declivity of his uncontrollable passions, man is more cruel than the wild beasts. The existence of society would be impossible without a religion and a God to protect it.
Though I am in favour of liberty of conscience in its highest sense, I think that the atheist ought to be punished like the murderer and the thief—for his doctrines tend to make a murderer and a thief of every man. No law, no society is possible if there is no God to sanction and protect them.
But the more we were approaching the fatal day, when I had to go on the scaffold with those unfortunate men, and to see them launched into eternity, the more I felt horrified. The tears, the sobs, and the cries of those unfortunate men had so melted my heart, my soul, and my strong nerves, they had so subdued my unconquerable will, and that stern determination to do my duty at any cost, which had been my character till then, that I was shaking from head to feet, when thinking of that awful hour.
Besides that, my constant intercourse with those criminals these last few days, their unbounded confidence in me, their gratitude for my devotedness to them, their desolation, and their cries when speaking of their fathers or mothers, wives or children, had filled my heart with a measure of sympathy which I would vainly try to express. They were no more thieves and murderers to me, whose bloody deeds had at first chilled the blood in my veins; they were the friends of my bosom—the beloved children whom cruel beasts had wounded. They were dearer to me than my own life—not only I felt happy to mix my tears with theirs, and unite my ardent prayers to God for mercy with them, but I would have felt happy to shed my blood in order to save their lives. As several of them belonged to the most reputable families of Quebec and vicinity, I thought I could easily interest the clergy and the most respectable citizens to sign a petition to the governor, Lord Gosford, asking him to change their sentence of death into one of perpetual exile to the distant penal colony of Botany Bay in Australia. The governor was my friend. Colonel Vassal, who was my uncle, and the adjutant-general of the militia of the whole country, had introduced me to his Excellency, who many times had overloaded me with the marks of his interest and kindness, and my hope was that he would not refuse me the favour I was to ask him, when the petition would be signed by the Bishop, the Catholic priests, the ministers of the different Protestant denominations of the city, and hundreds of the principal citizens of Quebec. I presented the petition myself, accompanied by the secretary of the Archbishop. But to my great distress the Governor answered me that those men had committed so many murders, and kept the country in terror for so many years, that it was absolutely necessary they should be punished according to the sentence of the court. Who can tell the desolation of those unfortunate men, when, with a voice choked by my sobs and my tears, I told them that the governor had refused to grant the favour I had asked him for them. They fell on the ground and filled their cells with cries which would have broken the hardest heart. From those very cells we were hearing the noise of the men who were preparing the scaffold where they were to be hanged the next day. I tried to pray and read, but I was unable to do so. My desolation was too great to utter a single word. I felt as if I were to be hanged with them—and to say the whole truth, I think I would have been glad to hear that I was to be hanged the next day to save their lives. For there was a fear in me, which was haunting me as a phantom from hell, the last three days. It seemed that, in spite of all my efforts, prayers, confessions, absolutions, and sacraments, these men were not converted, and that they were to be launched into eternity with all their sins.
When I was comparing the calm and true repentance of the two thieves, with whom I spent the night a few weeks before in the carriage, with the noisy expressions of sorrow of those newly converted sinners, I could not help finding an immeasurable distance between the first and second of those penitents. No doubt had remained in my mind about the first, but I had serious apprehensions about the last. Several circumstances, which it would be too long and useless to mention here, were distressing me by the fear that all my chaplets, indulgences, medals, scapulars, holy waters, signs of the cross, prayers to the Virgin, auricular confession, absolutions, used in the conversion of these sinners, had not the divine and perfect power of a simple book to the dying Saviour on the cross. I was saying to myself with anxiety: "Would it be possible that those Protestants, who were with me in the carriage, had the true ways of repentance, pardon, peace, and life eternal in that simple look to the great victim, and that we Roman Catholics with our signs of the cross and holy waters, our crucifixes and prayers to the saints, our scapulars and medals, our so humiliating auricular confession, were only distracting the mind, the soul, and the heart of the sinner from the true and only source of salvation, Christ!" In the midst of those distressing thoughts I almost regretting having helped Chambers in giving up his Protestantism for my Romanism.
At about 4 p.m. I made a supreme effort to shake off my desolation, and nerve myself for the solemn duties God had entrusted to me. I put a few questions to those desolated men, to see if they were really repentant and converted. Their answers added to my fear that I had spoken too much of the virgins and the saints, the indulgences, medals and scapulars, integrity of confession, and not enough of Christ dying on the cross for them. It is true I had spoken of Christ and His death to them, but this had been so much mixed up with exhortation to trust in Mary, put their confidence in their medals, scapulars, confessions, etc., that it became almost evident to me that in our religion Christ was like a precious pearl lost in a mountain of sand and dust. This fear soon caused my distress to be unbearable.
I then went to the private, neat little room, which the gaoler had kindly allotted to me, and I fell on my knees to pray God for myself and for my poor convicts. Though this prayer brought some calm to my mind, my distress was still very great. It was then that the thought came again to my mind to go the governor and make a new and supreme effort to have the sentence of death changed into that of perpetual exile to Botany Bay, and without a moment of delay I went to his palace.
It was about 7 p.m. when he reluctantly admitted me to his presence, telling me, when shaking hands, "I hope, Mr. Chiniquy, you are not coming to renew your request of the morning, for I cannot grant it."
Without a word to answer I fell on my knees, and for more than ten minutes I spoke as I had never spoken before. I spoke as we speak when we are the ambassadors of God in a message of mercy. I spoke with my lips. I spoke with my tears. I spoke with my sobs and my cries. I spoke with my supplicating hands lifted to heaven. For some time the governor was mute and as if stunned. He was not only a noble-minded man, but he had a most tender, affectionate, and kind heart. His tears soon began to flow with mine, and his sobs mixed with my sobs; with a voice half-suffocated by his emotion, he extended his friendly hand and said:
"Father Chiniquy, you ask me a favour which I ought not to give, but I cannot resist your arguments, when your tears, your sobs, and your cries are like arrows which pierce and break my heart. I will give you the favour you ask."
It was nearly 10 p.m. when I knocked at the door of the gaoler, asking his permission to see my dear friends in their cells, to tell them that I had obtained their pardon, that they would not die. That gentleman could hardly believe me. It was only after reading twice the document I had in my hands that he saw that I told him the truth.
Looking at that parchment again, he said: "Have you noticed that it is covered and almost spoiled by the spots evidently made with the tears of the governor. You must be a kind of sorcerer to have melted the heart of such a man, and have wrenched from his hands the pardon of such convicts; for I know he was absolutely unwilling to grant the pardon."
"I am not a sorcerer," I answered. "But you remember that our Saviour Jesus Christ had said, somewhere, that He had brought a fire from heaven—well, it is evident that He has thrown some sparks of that fire into my poor heart, for it was so fiercely burning when I was at the feet of the governor, that I think I would have died at his feet, had he not granted me that favour. No doubt that some sparks of that fire have also fallen on his soul and in his heart when I was speaking, for his cries, his tears, and his sobs were filling his room, and showing that he was suffering as much as myself. It was that he might not be consumed by that fire that he granted my request. I am now the most happy man under heaven. Please, make haste. Come with me and open the cells of those unfortunate men that I may tell what our merciful God has done for them." When entering their desolated cells I was unable to contain myself; I cried out: "Rejoice and bless the Lord, my dear friends! You will not die to-morrow!I bring you your pardon with me!"
Two of them fainted, and came very near dying from excess of surprise and joy. The others, unable to contain their emotions, were crying and weeping for joy. They threw their arms around me to press me to their bosom, kiss my hands and cover them with their tears of joy. I knelt with them and thanked God, after which I told them how they must promise to God to serve Him faithfully after such a manifestation of His mercies. I read to them the 100th, 101st, 102nd, and 103rd Psalms, and I left them after twelve o'clock at night to go and take some rest. I was in need of it after a whole day of such work and emotions.
The next day I wanted to see my dear prisoners early, and I was with them before 7 a.m. As the whole country had been glad to hear that they were to be hanged that very day, the crowds were beginning to gather at that early hour to witness the death of those great culprits. The feelings of indignation were almost unmanageable when they heard that they were not to be hanged, but only to be exiled for their life to Botany Bay. For a time it was feared that the mob would break the doors of the gaol and lynch the culprits. Though very few priests were more respected and loved by the people, they would have probably torn me to pieces when they heard that it was I who had deprived the gibbet of its victims that day. The chief of police had to take extraordinary measures to prevent the wrath of the mob from doing mischief. He advised me not to show myself for a few days in the streets.
More than a month passed before all the thieves and murderers in Canada, to the number of about seventy, who had been sentenced to be exiled to Botany Bay, could be gathered into the ship which was to take them into that distant land. I thought it was my duty during that interval to visit my penitents in gaol every day, and instruct them on the duties of the new life they were called upon to live. When the day of their departure arrived I gave a Roman Catholic New Testament, translated by De Sacy, to each of them to read and meditate on their long and tedious journey, and I bade them adieu, recommending them to the mercy of God, and the protection of the Virgin Mary and all the Saints. Some months later I heard, that on the sea Chambers had broken his chains and those of some of his companions, with the intention of taking possession of the ship, and escaping on some distant shore. But he had been betrayed, and was hanged on his arrival at Liverpool.
I had almost lost sight of those emotional days of my young years of priesthood. Those facts were silently lying among the big piles of the daily records which I had faithfully kept since the very days of my collegiate life at Nicolet, when, in 1878, I was called by the grand English colony of Australia, formerly known by me only as the penal colony of Botany Bay.
Some time after my arrival, when I was lecturing in one of the young and thriving cities of that country, whose future destinies promise to be so great, a rich carross, drawn by two splendid English horses, with two men in livery, stopped before the house where I had put up for a few days. A venerable gentleman alighted from the carriage and knocked at the door as I was looking at him from the window. I went to the door, to save trouble to my host, and I opened it. In saluting me, the stranger said: "Is Father Chiniquy here?"
"Yes, sir," I answered. "Father Chiniquy is the guest of this family."
"Could I have the honour of a few minutes' conversation with him?" replied the old gentleman.
"As I am Father Chiniquy, I can at once answer you that I will feel much pleasure in granting your request."
"Oh, dear Father Chiniquy," quickly replied the stranger, "is it possible that it is you? Can I be absolutely alone with you for half an hour, without any one to see and hear us?"
"Certainly," I said; "my comfortable rooms are upstairs, and I am absolutely alone there.Please, sir, come and follow me."
When alone with me the stranger said:
"Do you not know me?"
"How can I know you, sir?" I answered. "I do not even remember ever having seen you?"
"You have not only seen me, but you have heard the confession of my sins many times; and you have spent many hours in the same room with me," replied the old gentleman.
"Please tell me where and when I have seen you, and also be kind enough to give me your name; for all those things have escaped from my memory."
"Do you remember the murderer and thief, Chambers, who was condemned to death in Quebec, in 1837, with eight of his accomplices?" asked the stranger.
"Yes, sir; I remember well Chambers and the unfortunate men he was leading in the ways of iniquity," I replied.
"Well, dear Father Chiniquy, I am one of the criminals who filled Canada with terror for several years, and who were caught and rightly condemned to death. When condemned, we selected you for our father confessor, with the hope that through your influence we might escape the gallows; and we were not disappointed. You obtained our pardon; the sentence of death was commuted into a life of exile to Botany Bay. My name in Canada was A - - , but here they call me B - - . God has blessed me since in many ways; but it is to you I owe my life, and all the privileges of my present existence. After God, you are my saviour. I come to thank and bless you for what you have done for me."
In saying that, he threw himself into my arms, pressed me to his heart, and bathed my face and my hands with his tears of joy and gratitude.
But his joy did not exceed mine, and my surprise was equal to my joy to find him apparently in such good circumstances. After I had knelt with him to thank and bless God for what I had heard, I asked him to relate to me the details of his strange and marvelous story. Here is a short resume of his answer:
"After you had given us your last benediction when on board the ship which was to take us from Quebec to Botany Bay, the first thing I did was to open the New Testament you had given me and the other culprits, with the advice to read it with a praying heart. It was the first time in my life I had that book in my hand. You were the only priest in Canada who would put such a book in the hands of common people. But I must confess that its first reading did not do me much good, for I read it more to amuse myself and satisfy my curiosity than through any good and Christian motive. The only good I received from that first reading was that I clearly understood, for the first time, why the priests of Rome fear and hate that book, and why they take it out of the hands of their parishioners when they hear that they have it. It was in vain that I looked for mass, indulgences, chaplets, purgatory, auricular confession, Lent, holy water, the worship of Mary, or prayers in an unknown tongue. I concluded from my first reading of the Gospel that our priests were very wise to prevent us from reading a book which was really demolishing our Roman Catholic Church, and felt surprised that you had put in our hands a book which seemed to me so opposed to the belief and practice of our religion as you taught it to us when in gaol, and my confidence in your good judgment was much shaken. To tell you the truth, the first reading of the Gospel went far to demolish my Roman Catholic faith, and to make a wreck of the religion taught me by my parents and at the college, and even by you. For a few weeks I became more of a skeptic than anything else. The only good that first reading of the Holy Book did me was to give me more serious thoughts, and prevent me from uniting myself to Chambers and his conspirators in their foolish plot for taking possession of the ship and escaping to some unknown and distant shore. He had been shrewd enough to conceal a very small but exceedingly sharp saw between his toes before coming to the ship, with which he had already cut the chains of eighteen of the prisoners, when he was betrayed, and hanged on his arrival at Liverpool.
"But if my first reading of the Gospel did not do me much good, I cannot say the same thing of the second. I remember that, when handing to us that holy book, you had told us never to read it except after a fervent prayer to God for help and light to understand it. I was really tired of my former life. In giving up the fear and the love of God I had fallen into the deepest abyss of human depravity and misery, till I had come very near ending my life on the scaffold. I felt the need of a change. You had often repeated to us the words of our Saviour, 'Come unto Me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest;' but, with all the other priests, you had always mixed those admirable and saving words with the invocation to Mary, the confidence in our medals, scapulars, signs of the cross, holy waters, indulgences, auricular confessions, that the sublime appeal of Christ had always been, as it always will be, drowned in the Church of Rome by those absurd and impious superstitions and practices.
"One morning, after I had spent a sleepless night, and feeling as pressed down under the weight of my sins, I opened my Gospel book, after an ardent prayer for light and guidance, and my eyes fell on these words of John, 'Behold, the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world!' (John i. 29). These words fell upon my poor guilty soul with a divine, irresistible power. With tears and cries of an unspeakable desolation I spent the day in crying, 'O Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world, have mercy on me! Take away my sins!' The day was not over when I felt and knew that my cries had been heard at the mercy-seat. The Lamb of God had taken away my sins! He had changed my heart and made quite a new man of me. From that day the reading of the Gospel was to my soul what bread is to the poor hungry man, and what pure and refreshing waters are to the thirsty traveler. My joy, my unspeakable joy, was to read the holy book and speak with my companions in chains of the dear Saviour's love for the poor sinners; and, thanks be to God, a good number of them have found Him altogether precious, having been sincerely converted in the dark holes of that ship. When working hard at Sydney with the other culprits, I felt my chains to be as light as feathers when I was sure that the heavy chains of my sins were gone; and though working hard under a burning sun from morning till night, I felt happy, and my heart was full of joy when I was sure that my Saviour had prepared a throne for me in His kingdom, and that He had bought a crown of eternal glory for me by dying on the cross to redeem my guilty soul.
"I had hardly spent a year in Australia, in the midst of the convicts, when a minister of the Gospel, accompanied by another gentleman, came to me and said: 'Your perfectly good behavoiur and your Christian life have attracted the attention and admiration of the authorities, and the governor sends us to hand you this document, which says that you are no more a criminal before the law, but that you have your pardon, and you can live the life of an honourable citizen, by continuing to walk in the ways of God.' After speaking so, the gentleman put one hundred dollars in my hands, and added: 'Go and be a faithful follower of the Lord Jesus, and God Almighty will bless you and make you prosper in all your ways.' All this seemed to me as a dream or vision from heaven. I would hardly believe my ears or my eyes. But it was not a dream, it was a reality. My merciful Heavenly Father had again heard my humble supplications; after having taken away the heavy chains of my sins, He had mercifully taken away the chains which wounded my feet and my hands. I spent several days and nights in weeping and crying for joy, and in blessing the God of my salvation, Jesus the Redeemer of my soul and my body.
"Some years after that we heard of the discoveries of the rich gold mines in several parts of Australia. "After having prayed God to guide me, I bought a bag of hard crackers, a ham and cheese, and started for the mines in company with several who were going, like myself, in search of gold. But I soon preferred to be alone. For I wanted to pray and to be united to my God, even when walking. After a long march, I reached a beautiful spot, between three small hills, at the foot of which a little brook was running down towards the plain below. The sun was scorching, there was no shade, and I was much tired, I sat on a flat stone to take my dinner, and quenching my thirst with the water of the brook, I was eating and blessing my God at the same time for His mercies, when suddenly my eyes fell on a stone by the brook, which was about the size of a goose egg. But the rays of the sun was dancing on the stone, as if it had been a mirror. I went and picked it up. The stone was almost all gold of the purest kind! It was almost enough to make me rich. I knelt to thank and bless God for this new token of His mercy toward me, and I began to look around and see if I would not find some new piece of the precious metal, and you may imagine my joy when I found that the ground was not only literally covered with pieces of gold of every size from half an inch to the smallest dimensions, but that the very sand was in great part composed of gold. In a very short time it was the will of God that I could carry to the bank particles of gold to the value of several thousand pounds. I continued to cover myself with rags, and have old boots on in order not to excite the suspicion of any one of the fortune which I was accumulating so rapidly. When I had about $80,000 deposited in the banks, a gentleman offered me $80,000 more for my claim, and I sold it. The money was invested by me on a piece of land which soon became the site of an important city, and I soon became one of the wealthy men of Australia. I then begun to study hard and improve the little education I had received in Canada. I married, and my God has made me father of several children. The people where I settled with my fortune and wife, not knowing my antecedents, have raised me to the first dignities of the place. Please, dear Mr. Chiniquy, come and take dinner with me to-morrow, that I may show you my house and some of my other properties, and also that I may introduce you to my wife and children. Let me ask the favour not to make them suspect that you have known me in Canada, for they think that I am an European." When telling me his marvelous adventures, which I am obliged to condense and abridge, his voice was many times choked by his emotion, his tears and sobs, and more than once he had to stop. As for me, I was absolutely beside myself with admiration at the mysterious ways through which God leads His elect in all ages. "Now, I understood why my God had given me such a marvelous power over the Governor of Canada when I wrenched your pardon from his hands almost in spite of himself." I said: "That merciful God willed to save you, and you are saved! May His name be for ever blessed."
The next day, it was my privilege to be with his family, at dinner. And never in my life, have I seen a more happy mother, and a more interesting family. The long table was actually surrounded by them. After dinner he showed me his beautiful garden and his rich palace, after which, throwing himself into my arms, he said: "Dear Father Chiniquy, all those things belong to you. It is to you after God that I owe my wife, all the blessings of a large and Christian family, and the honour of the high position I have in this country. May the God of heaven for ever bless you for what you have done for me." I answered him: "Dear friend, you owe me nothing, I have been nothing but a feeble instrument of the mercies of God towards you. To that great merciful God alone be the praise and the glory. Please ask your family to come here and join with us in singing to the praise of God the 103rd Psalm." And we sang together: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; not rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath Here moved our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him." After the singing of that Psalm, I bade him adieu for the second time, never to meet him again except in that Promised Land, where we shall sing the eternal Hallelujah around the throne of the Lamb, who was slain for us, and who redeemed us in His blood. 50year12.htm