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spade and hoe with the same alacrity as the poorest, the same uncleanliness prevails; their apartments are unswept, their woollen garments unwashed, and their hands and faces as little accustomed to cold water, as if there was a perpetual drought in the land. I should fear that the excellent Neff, with all the improvements which he introduced into his parish, either omitted, or failed to convince the folks there, that cleanliness is not a forbidden luxury, but one of the necessary duties of life.
• But though their habitations and their persons are, thus far, likely to leave some disagreeable impressions on those whose sensations have been rendered quick and impatient by English habits, yet the simplicity, amiability, and good manners which prevail among these children of nature, are so winning, and the images and associations that rise up in the mind, in this retreat of Protestantism in France, supply such profuse enjoyment, and give such a grace, as well as a charm, to any intercourse with them, that it is impossible not to write down the time that may be spent in San Veran and in its contiguous hamlets, among the most interesting of one's life. To those who understand the patois, or to whom it is accurately translated, as it was to us, the poetical and elegant turn which is given to conversation, by the constant use of figures and metaphors derived from mountain scenery, and from the accidents and exposures of Alpine life, enhance the pleasure, and send the traveller home well satistied with his excursion. In short, it is the moral and intellectual refinement about these mountaineers, which renders their society interesting in a high degree, and furnishes matter for reflection long afterwards. pp. 124–6.
The rock on which Dormilleuse stands, is almost inaccessible even in the finest months in the year. From the village of La Roche, where the Durance is crossed by a long timber bridge, it is one continued ascent of five hours, the latter part steep and dangerous, to this bleak and gloomy spot. Nature is there
stern and terrible, without offering any boon but that of per'sonal security from the fury of the oppressor.' When the sun shines brightest, the side of the mountain opposite to the village, and on the same level, is covered with snow; nor is any thing seen that relieves the forlorn prospect. Yet, in this wretched place, Neff, relinquishing the scanty comforts of his station at La Chalp, took up his head-quarters from November to April, because there his services seemed to be most requisite, and because he had every thing to teach the poor inhabitants, even to the planting of a potato. But his whole life was a sacrifice. The population consisted of forty families, every one Protestant, and, though sunk in ignorance and degeneracy, interesting to him, as
of the unmixed race of the ancient Waldenses, who never bowed their knee before an idol, even when all the Protestants of the valley of Queyras dissembled their faith.'
« « The aspect of this desert,” (writes Neff, “both terrible and sublime, which served as the asylum of truth, when almost all the
world lay in darkness; the recollection of the faithful martyrs of old, the deep caverns into which they retired to read the Bible in secret, and to worship the Father of Light in spirit and in truth ;-every thing tends to elevate my soul, and to inspire it with sentiments difficult to describe. But with what grief do I reflect upon the present state of the unhappy descendants of those ancient witnesses to the crucified Redeemer! A miserable and degenerate race, whose moral and physical aspect reminds the Christian, that sin and death are the only true inheritance of the children of Adam. Now you can scarcely find one among them who lias any true knowledge of the Saviour, although they almost all testify the greatest veneration for the Holy Scriptures. 'But, though they are nothing in themselves, let us hope that they are well beloved for their fathers' sakes, and that the Lord will once more permit the light of his countenance and the rays of his grace to shine upon those places, which he fornierly chose for his sanctuary.”' p. 134.
It was the wretchedness of these poor mountaineers in the three highest villages of Val Fressinière, that induced Neff to devote more of his time to them than to any other quarter of his parish: seeing them deprived of almost every temporal enjoyment, he determined to give them all the spiritual comfort he
could impart.' Nor were his labours bestowed upon an ungrateful soil
. For the details of his proceedings and their results, we must refer our readers to the Memoir. In emulation of the example of Oberlin, he became for their sakes, mason, carpenter, architect, engineer, agriculturist; working with his own hands at the head of his reluctant parishioners, and by this means shaming them into exertions for the common benefit. In order to qualify himself to become their schoolmaster also, he determined to make himself master of the patois of Dauphiné; and in this he succeeded. In a miserable stable, the only schoolroom, this admirable man was to be seen patiently teaching his young parishioners the elements of the French language; and then, to vary the dull routine of reading and spelling, and to keep his pupils in good humour, giving them lessons in music. The happy result of his experiments made him fecl anxious to have a better accommodation for his school; and having persuaded each family in Dormilleuse to furnish a man to work under his directions, the good Pastor undertook to build a schoolroom, which was speedily completed. His crowning work was the institution of a normal (or model) school for training adults to become teachers. It was the most difficult and irksome, but the most important of all his labours. And it was his last; for, the unremitted attention which it required, added to the severity of the winter of 1826, 7, broke up his shattered constitution. He has left an interesting record of the motives which induced him to undertake this drudgery, and of the difficulties he had to surmount. Dormilleuse was the spot which he chose for his scene
of action, on account of its seclusion, and because its whole population was Protestant; and he had sufficient influence to induce those who offered themselves as students, to commit themselves to a five-months' rigid confinement within a prison-house walled up with ice and snow.
• Nothing can be compared', remarks Mr. Gilly, to the resolution and self-denial of the volunteers who enrolled their names under Netf for this service, but the similar qualities which were called into action by our gallant officers and seamen who embarked in the polar expeditions, with the certainty before them of being snowed or iced up during many months of privation. In their case, the hope of promotion and of reputation, and the ardour of scientific research, were the moving inducement. In that of the pastor and his young friends, a sense of duty, and thoughts fixed on heavenly things, constituted the impulse. To Neff himself, it was a season of incessant toil, and that of the most irksome kind. He did violence to his natural inclination every way. His mind and body were kept in subjection. He was devoted to his profession, as a minister and preacher of the Gospel; and yet he suspended the pursuits which were more congenial to his tastes and habits, and went back to first principles, and consented to teach the simplest rudiments, and meekly sunk down to the practice of the humblest elementary drudgery, when he saw the necessity of laying a foundation for a system of instruction different to that which had hitherto prevailed in this neglected region. His patience, his humility, his good-humour and perseverance, his numberless expedients to expand the intellect of his pupils, to store their minds, and to keep up a good understanding among them, are all subjects of admiration, which it is beyond the power of language to express. pp. 262, 3.
· The young men who submitted to their pastor's system of discipline at Dormilleuse, must have their share also of our admiration. We cannot but feel respect for students who willingly shut themselves up amidst the most comfortless scenes in nature, and submitted to the severity of not less than fourteen hours of hard study a day, where the only recreation was to go from dryer lessons to lectures in geography and music. It was a long probation of hardship. Their fare was in strict accordance with the rest of their situation. It consisted of a store of salted meat, and rye bread, which had been baked in autumn, and when they came to use it, was so hard, that it required to be chopped up with hatchets, and to be moistened with hot water. Meal and Aour will not keep in this mountain atmosphere, but would become mouldy ;—they are, therefore, obliged to bake it soon after the corn is threshed out. Our youthful anchorites were lodged gratuitously by the people of Dormilleuse, who also liberally supplied them with wood for fuel, scarce as it was; but if the pastor had not laid in a stock of provisions, the scanty resources of the village could not have met the demands of so many mouths, in addition to its native population. The party consisted of five from Val Queyras, one from Vars, five from Champsaur, two from Chancelas, four from the lower part of the valley of Fressinière, and eight from the immediate neighbourhood of Dormilleuse.
pp. 264, 5.
• Neff had the satisfaction to find that his plan answered well, and this was reward enough. “I never”, said he, “ can be sufficiently thankful to Almighty God for the blessing which he has vouchsafed to shed upon this undertaking, and for the strength he has given me to enable me to bear the fatigue of it. Oh! may he continue to extend his gracious protection, and to support me under my infirmities, or rather, to deliver me from them, that I may be able to devote myself to his service and glory, to my
life's end! Among other novel studies to which Neff introduced his pupils, was Geography. This was made a matter of recreation after dinner, and they pored over the maps with a feeling of delight and amusement which was quite new to them.
The remark which he makes on the moral influence of such studies, deserves attention. We have long been persuaded that the ignorance that prevails in Christian congregations upon such topics, is very unfavourable to an intelligent zeal for the spread of the Gospel, or a sympathy with Missionary exertions.
Up to this time, I had been astonished by the little interest they took, Christian-minded as they were, in the subject of Christian missions. But, when they began to have some idea of geography, I discovered that their former ignorance of this science, and of the very existence of many foreign nations in distant quarters of the globe, was the cause of such indifference. As soon as they began to learn who the people are, who require to have the Gospel preached to them, and in what part of the globe they dwell, they felt the same concern for the circulation of the Gospel that other Christians entertain. These new acquirements, in fact, enlarged their spirit, made new creatures of them, and seemed to triple their very existence.”
Poor as the district was, Neff was successful in raising some small contributions in aid of religious societies. He understood too well the beneficial influence of a sympathetic concern in the religious interests of others, to neglect to encourage it in his little flock; and though the sum raised was very small, he had the gratification of being able to inform the committees of the Bible Society and the Missionary Society, “that such feeble support as
they could render to the cause, was cheerfully proffered by the shepherds and goatherds of the High Alps. In concert with the principal inhabitants of the Protestant hamlets, he organized a Bible Association, by means of which every family was enabled to become possessed of a copy of the Scriptures.
Some very interesting details are given of Neft"s method of dealing with the Roman Catholics of his parish. The priests had the mortification to see many of their respective flocks become proselytes to the Protestant teacher; yet it was some time before they resented his exertions; and even then, his meekness and conciliatory deportment took the sting out of their indignation. What might not a few such men do for poor Ireland !
The winter of 1825, followed by the cold spring of 1826, had shaken Neft"s constitution; and an accidental sprain of his knee contributed to weaken his frame. He struggled pretty well through the summer; but, during the winter of 1826, 7, his strength rapidly diminished, and he became conscious that it was time to seek for medical succour, and to submit to a removal to his native climate. On the 17th of April, 1827, he took a final farewell of his presbytery at La Chalp. On his arrival at Geneva, his native air produced a temporary improvement; but in a short time, the symptoms of his malady returned with aggravated violence, and he found himself unable to digest any solid food. For a whole year, his only nourishment was milk.' In June 1828, he was advised by his physicians to try the effect of the baths of Plombiéres, which seemed at first to be beneficial; but it soon became evident that nothing could arrest the progress of his disorder. His last days were worthy of his life. Having returned to Geneva, he lingered in extreme weakness and suffering till the 12th of April, 1829, when, at the early age of thirty-one, he entered into the joy of his Lord. His last letter, traced at intervals, when he was almost blind, a few days before his death, is exquisitely touching and apostolic.
«« Adieu, dear friend, André Blanc, Antoine Blanc, all my friends the Pelissiers, whom I love tenderly ; Francis Dumont and his wife ; Isaac and his wife; beloved Deslois, Emilie Bonnet, &c. &c.; Alexandrine and her mother; all, all the brethren and sisters of Mens, adieu, adieu. I ascend to Our Father in entire peace! Victory! victory! victory! through Jesus Christ.
FELIX Neff.” During his residence at Geneva, Neff composed a number of religious meditations, which have been printed, and are held in deserved estimation throughout Switzerland * His character was every way highly extraordinary. Rarely, indeed, have so much ardour and zeal, so much vivacity and warmth, been tempered, directed, and enhanced by so much practical wisdom, meekness, and unaffected humility. His singular freedom from any ambitious views, his striking disinterestedness and singleness of purpose, were in him the fruit, not of natural disposition, but of the triumphant ascendancy of principles peculiar to the faith he had embraced. It is ascribed to his extreme humility, but indicated rather his entire sincerity, that he even regarded his own energy and activity as something that partook of the nature of sin; as being an obstacle in the way of his more frequent communion with God; as distracting his thoughts from himself
* They are stated to have gone through several editions. Cong. Mag. April, 1832, p. 200. It is singular that Mr. Gilly should not have become acquainted with this fact. He appears not to have met with the work.