In the darkest hour of the night Joseph Schaitberger wiped the tears from his eyes as memories flooded his soul. How heavy was his heart! He can still hear his wife's final plea from her deathbed whispering for him to rescue their two daughters. Exiled. Removed from their homeland of Salzburg in 1679 by the harsh edict signed by Archbishop Max Gandolph. All because they were protestants. A people yearning for the light of truth. Inspired by Martin Luther and his 95 Theses the fire was lit, igniting the eternal flames of faith. That Gospel torch now burned brightly in the hearts of so many families.
Yet, the Archbishop embarked on a campaign of religious “cleanliness” to rid the country of heretics. Those deemed leaders of the movement were promptly arrested and forced into hard labor for 45 days. Many were sent to be re-educated to Catholicism. Many were investigated by Jesuits. A thousand protestants would be exiled before this event was over. At this point Joseph recalled standing before the Archbishop who demanded he recant his faith or face exile. For added emphasis Joseph's two daughters were taken away under threats he would never see them again unless he recant.
Yet the answer was clear and sure.
No compromise. No recant. The decision was costly and bittersweet. Exiled. He never forgot his wife's deathbed plea. Three perilous attempts to rescue his daughters were foiled by the authorities. Faith demands a heavy price. Yet, God’s word never comes back void.
With trembling hand Joseph pens the conclusion of his song “Hymn of Comfort for an Exile”:
“Though I go forth to poverty, For Christ's sake, I am going,
And see in heaven, reserved for me, A crown with glory glowing.
Forth from my home I now must go: My children! Must I leave them?
0 God! my tears in anguish flow—Shall I no more receive them?
My God conduct me to a place, Though in some distant nation,
Where I may have thy glorious word, And learn thy great salvation.
And though in this dark vale of tears, I yet awhile must tarry,
I know that thou to heaven, at length, My ransomed soul will carry!”
After researching the above history of my ancestors, the Salzburgers, I am reminded of a people willing to face exile, moved by the eternal flames of faith. In fact, 50/60 years later Leopold Anton Eleutherius Freiherr von Firmian signs the Edict of Expulsion giving protestants a choice to recant their faith or be exiled. Close to 30,000 were uprooted from their homeland.
They were unwilling to compromise.
We live in a world today that is hostile in many ways to Jesus and his followers. China, Iran, North Korea and in other areas of the world faith in Jesus Christ invites hatred, persecution and injustices. Threads of this hostility are felt even here in America. Will I cave? Will I compromise? What will I, what will you do to keep your family intact? Will you do anything to keep from being scorned or branded a heretic or worse?
So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.” Mark 10:29-30
My ancestors left a message in time captured in the beginning of the "Hymn of Comfort for an Exile": “All a wretched exile here—Thus mast my name be given—
From native land and all's that dear, For God's word, I am driven.
Full well I know, Lord Jesus Christ, Thy treatment was no better:
Thy follower I now will be; To do thy will I'm debtor.”
The eternal flames of faith still burn brightly.