Just a Bit O’ History… Psalm 9

Burnt_at_the_stake_by_severeeneI will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High. When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence.

For thou hast maintained my right and my cause; thou satest in the throne judging right. Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever. O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end: and thou hast destroyed cities; their memorial is perished with them.

But the Lord shall endure for ever: he hath prepared his throne for judgment. And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness. The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.

Sing praises to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings. When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble. –Psalm 9: 1-11

Five scholars of Lausanne, devoted to the Reformation, were taken in France, A.D. 1553, and burned in the Place des Terreaux at Lyons.

As they were being carried to execution, they sang with a loud voice this psalm, ‘De tout mon coeur, t’exalterai, Seigneur!’ …I will praise thee, 0 Lord, with my whole heart. . . . When he makes inquisition for blood, he remembers them: he forgets not the cry of the humble.’ –taken from Psalm 9.

At this time, by a decree of Pope Paul IV., began that reign of terror, under the treacherous and cruel guises, which lasted nearly till a different terror, its daughter and Nemesis, took its place.

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Meet and exult in the joy of these 5 young martyrs who are part of your Christian heritage: Long years of sorrow and affliction followed the spring-time of joy that had heralded the French Reformation! Yet through it all they never forgot the sweet savor of that early psalmody. ‘Music’ said Luther, ‘is the best consolation of the afflicted. It refreshes the heart and restores its peace.’

So it was with the early martyrs, who constantly went to the stake singing. Yes, such was the joy of heart in those days, that a chronicler describes the young virgins as going more gaily to execution than they would have done to their nuptials. Such was the enthusiastic strength the new life gave them, that we read of a peasant who met some prisoners on the way to execution, and asked the reason of their sentence. He was told they were heretics; and he at once claimed a place by their side, got into the cart, and went to die with his brethren.

To overflow with joy in affliction, to make the prison, and the scaffold jubilant with songs of praise — what better proof can we have that the kingdom of God had come nigh, that at this moment France was entering into a new life? The martyrs of the primitive Church could not have triumphed over death with more exulting faith than some of these early confessors for the cause of Reform in France. Nothing is more beautiful in martyrology than the story of the five scholars of Lausanne, burnt at Lyons on the 16th of May, 1553. Martial Alba, Pierre Naviheres, Bernard Seguin, Charles Favre, Pierre Escrivain, — these were the names of the young brothers so blessed and honored in their exodus from this world of sin and suffering.

They had returned, towards the end of April, 1552, into France, in order to begin their work as ministers of the Gospel. Betrayed and denounced almost as soon as they entered France, they were arrested at Lyons and thrown into prison. Here they lay for more than a year, notwithstanding the untiring efforts of sympathetic friends. In these dungeons — and what dungeons only those who have descended into such places as the oubliettes still to be seen under the pontifical palace at Avignon can form any idea — in these dungeons joy lit up their hearts, to think that the world counted them accursed, while God had chosen them to maintain the cause of Jesus Christ. But nothing we can say will equal the touching story of their last hours as told by the chronicler.

‘These then are the arms with which these holy persons were provided to maintain their last combat, which took place the sixteenth of the month of May (1553), a whole year having rolled away since they were imprisoned. The sixteenth, say I, brought them deliverance, and was the blessed day for which the crown of immortality was prepared for them by the Lord after so virtuous a fight. About nine o’clock in the morning of the said day, after having received sentence of death in the court of Rouane — the which, in short, was to be led to the place of the Terreaux, and there burned alive until their whole bodies were consumed, — all five were put in the place where criminals waited, after having received sentence, until the appointed time, between one and two o’clock in the
afternoon. These five martyrs betook themselves first to praying to God with great ardor and vehemence of spirit, marvelous to those who beheld them; some prostrating themselves on the ground, others looking upward; and then they commenced to rejoice in the Lord and to sing psalms. And as two o’clock drew nigh, they were led out of the said place clothed in their grey dresses and tied with cords exhorting one another to maintain constancy, since the end of their course was at the stake close at hand, and that the victory there was quite certain.

”Being then placed on a cart, they commenced to sing the 9th Psalm: “I will give thanks unto the Lord with my whole heart….” However, they had not time to finish it, so much were they taken up with invoking God, and uttering several passages of Scripture as they passed along. Among others, as they passed by the Place of the Herberie, at the end of the bridge of the Saone, one of them, turning to the vast crowd, said in a loud voice, “The God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep, our Lord, according to Christ by the blood of the eternal covenant, confirm you in every good work to do His will.” Then commencing the Apostles’ Creed, dividing it by articles, one after the other, they repeated it with a holy harmony, in order to show that they had together one accordant faith in all and through all. He whose turn it was to pronounce the words, “Who was conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary,” raised his voice, in order that the people might know that it was a false calumny which their enemies had spread that they had denied this article, and spoken ill of the Virgin Mary. To the sergeants and satellites who often troubled them, menacing them if they did not hold their peace, they twice answered, “Do not prevent us in the short time we have to live from praising and invoking our God.”

Being come to the place of execution, they mounted with joyful heart on to the heap of wood which was round about the stake. The two youngest among them mounted firsts one after the other, and the executioner having stripped them of their clothes, bound them to the stake. The last who ascended was Martial Alba, the oldest of the five, who had been a long time on his knees upon the wood praying to the Lord. The executioner, having bound the others, came to take him, and having raised him by the armpits, wished to put him down with the others; but he earnestly asked the Lieutenant Tignac to grant him a favor. The lieutenant said to him, ” What wilt thou ?” He said to him, “That I might kiss my brothers before dying.” The lieutenant granted him his request, and then the said Martial, being led up to the wood, kissed and was kissed in turn by all the four standing there tied and bound, saying to each of them, “Adieu, adieu, my brother!” Then the other four there bound kissed each other, turning round their heads and saying one to the other the same words, ” Adieu, my brother!”

‘This done, after the said Martial had recommended his said brothers to God before coming down and being bound, he also kissed the executioner, saying to him these words, “My friend, do not forget what I have said to thee.” Then, after being tied and bound to the same stake, all were inclosed with a chain which went round about the stake. An attempt was then made to hasten their death by strangling them, but it failed, upon which the bystanders heard the five martyrs continually exhorting one another with the words, “Courage, my brothers, courage!” These were the last words heard in the midst of the fire, which soon consumed the bodies of the aforesaid valiant champions and true martyrs of the Lord.’

–Taken from,“The reformation in France, from the dawn of reform to the revocation of the Edict of Nantes”, Translated and Written by Richard Heath, 1886, from an old print in the British Museum.

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Beginning devotional thoughts taken from, THE PSALMS IN HISTORY AND BIOGRAPHY.
Written by the Rev. John Ker, D.D.

Published 1886

2 thoughts on “Just a Bit O’ History… Psalm 9

  1. Terrifying, yet inspiring and up-lifting. A faith worth dying for is one that demands our complete, not conveniently superficial (pensionable), surrender at the foot of the cross.

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