Brethren Archive

Memorial from Echoes of Service 1886


This beloved brother in the Lord fell asleep in Florence, March 23rd, [1886].  He was born in 1808, and his Christian course extended over fifty years.  Like Lord Congleton in this country, he early took a very decided stand for God, and by His grace, maintained an unworldly position to the end.

A brief review of our brother's life will manifest the power of the truth of God and will also remind us what the religion of Rome really is.

About 1832, certain schools were established in Tuscany, and the Count was one of those appointed to superintend them.  He used to visit them once a week and tell the children moral stories, but having exhausted his stock, he asked a noted priest to tell him where he could find more.  The priest replied, "Read the Testament," and supplied him with a copy.  From that moment Count Guicciardini read the Scriptures, telling the children what he learned, and their inquisitive spirit led him to search and meditate more deeply, until the light of salvation dawned upon his soul.  Though still a Roman Catholic, he had some texts engraved in marble and placed in the vestry of the church of Santa Felicita, which belonged to his family.  Subsequently, during his exile, they were all removed but one—"He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord."

In 1833, he made the acquaintance of some Swiss Christians, and read the Bible with them, but it was not till 1846 that he met with an Italian believer.  This was a poor shoemaker, whom he found reading at his door, a copy of the Scriptures which he had received ten years before, and by means of which he had been converted.  Similarly, a few others came to the knowledge of the Lord, and they first met together in the house of Francesco and Rosa Madiai, and afterwards, taught by the Word, they broke bread, like the early Christians, "from house to house," notwithstanding persecution.  During the brief period of political and religious liberty between 1847 and 1849, when thrones were tottering, the number of converts increased, and in 1848, about forty persons used to assemble together in the Lord's name.  In 1849, the Grand Duke returned to Tuscany, followed by an Austrian army, liberty of conscience was again entirely taken away, and on May 18th, 3,000 Testaments were burnt, the printer was heavily fined, and an English gentleman for whom they were printed was banished.  In 1851, Count Guicciardini and others, besides meeting in private houses, went occasionally to the Swiss chapel, and this was prohibited by the government.  As the Count was watched by the police, he determined to leave Tuscany, but the previous evening, (May 7th) he went to the house of a brother, Fedele Betti, to read the Scriptures with four other brethren; two unconverted persons (who were afterwards brought to the Lord) were also unexpectedly present.  As they were meditating on John xv., the gensdarmes entered, and accused them of trying to overthrow the religion of the State.  They were put in prison nine days and then condemned to be removed to another part of the country and kept under police restraint for six months.  All but one offered to leave Tuscany, and were allowed to do so, and were made a blessing in other lands.  In the Bargello, the prison in which they and others were placed, many illustrious men had been beheaded in past times, and there Savonarola, the Italian reformer and martyr, was tortured 350 years before.

The persecution became fiercer after these brethren were exiled.  An English gentleman and two Italian brethren were imprisoned for a short time, and soon afterwards, the Madiai were imprisoned, and, after waiting eight months for trial, were sentenced to imprisonment, the husband for 56 months with hard labour and his wife for 42 months.  This raised an outcry in Europe and America, many appeals were made to the Tuscan government, and after 19 months they were released and banished.

Count Guicciardini meanwhile came to England, and rejoiced to find Christians who, like those in Italy, sought to follow the guidance of God's Word, and among them he made not a few friends.  At Teignmouth, he met with our beloved departed brother T. P. Rossetti, then a young Italian exile, to whom he was made a blessing, and who afterwards became intimately associated with him in the Lord's work in Italy.  Signor Rossetti went in 1857, to preach the gospel at Alessandria in Piedmont, where there was religious liberty, and through his preaching, many were converted, and quite a band of young men were trained by him as evangelists, some of whom still continue their service in the Lord's name, though some were induced to adopt sectarian views.

In 1859, the Grand Duke of Tuscany had to flee, like other rulers, and his dukedom soon formed part of the kingdom of Italy, under the enlightened rule of King Victor Emmanuel.  Count Guicciardini was then free to return from his exile, and wrote thus from Italy, "After eight and a half years' absence, I returned to my paternal home, and found it robbed of my mother, who, during the interval, had departed this life, in the faith, through the grace of God.  Many chords of domestic affection vibrated in my heart, and I met many friends who sympathized and rejoiced with me.  But what a blank I felt!  Out of my country, my friends, my communications, were in the Lord; in my own country, my voice is without an echo.  This is inexpressibly sad."

As yet, there was only toleration of any other religion than that of Rome, and the Count was enabled to obtain from the government, permission for the free introduction of the Scriptures and the preaching of the gospel, though for a time, through Romish influence, this was afterwards withdrawn.

During the years of persecution, the little church at Florence had been scattered, and some had fallen asleep.  Now, however, the work began to revive and spread, and Count Guicciardini consecrated his life to care for it.  Only those who knew him in Italy, could have a just idea of the deep interest he took in the work of evangelization.  Until prevented by the infirmities of age, he went about alternately with Signor Rossetti among the little gatherings of simple Italian Christians, exhorting and encouraging them by word and holy example, and interesting himself in the trials and difficulties of the humblest among them.

In 1866, Signor Rossetti removed to Florence to assist Count Guicciardini in arranging the valuable library of Scriptures and books of the reformation period, which he presented to the municipality of Florence.  When, after seventeen years of fellowship in service, Signor Rossetti was called up higher, from the Lord's table, on June 3rd, 1883, the Count felt his loss like that of an only son.

We cannot attempt to describe the spread of the gospel in Italy.  Several denominations from this country or America established themselves there; and the Vaudois, aided especially by Scotch Presbyterians, greatly extended their organization.  The early work which we have referred to, though not making great strides, and confined chiefly to northern Italy, has however, notwithstanding shortcomings, exercised a wide influence, especially by giving prominence to the teachings of Scripture.

After Signor Rossetti's departure, Count Guicciardini's health failed, and since last May, he was unable to lie down in bed.  His fortitude and patience struck the unconverted, and his trust in the Lord and faithfulness will be cherished as a bright example by the Christians who were with him.

On the morning of March 23rd, he had dictated letters to the evangelists (as he was wont to do every month), which were full of affectionate counsel.  At six in the evening, he said he felt oppressed and asked his attendant to open the window.  She did so, and turning round, observed that his head was bowed.  He had peacefully entered into rest.

Three days previously, he dictated a letter to us, acknowledging a sum sent, which was smaller than usual, and said, "It will be sorrowful if this shortness occurs often, while 17 or 18 evangelists, some with large families, need daily bread.  Thank God, I doubt not that their need will be supplied.  Generally, the work of the Lord in Italy is being established and is producing fruits of holiness.  There is but one meeting which is not doing well and is not an example to other Christians.  However, it seems as if there would soon be repentance in that meeting.  We commend them all to the Lord and pray that heavenly blessings may be renewed to them."

Our brother's remains were interred at Cusona, where he had a villa.  A service was held in Florence, attended by Christians of all denominations, and fitting words were spoken by several evangelists.  Besides his nephew and heir, other relatives, and some public authorities, as well as many believers, followed the body as far as the gate of the city.  At Cusona, about a thousand persons gathered round the grave, and according to the Count's desire, several evangelists testified to the faith in which he lived and died, and which had so long afforded joy to his soul.

The only member of his family like-minded was his sister, the Countess Giulia Morocchi, who shared with him the reproach of the Cross, and fell asleep before him.

The above sketch, which has been compiled from old letters, and from recent information kindly supplied by Mrs. Lionel Cole, will, we trust, lead to a better understanding of the Lord's work in Italy and to a more constant remembrance of it at the throne of grace.
"Echoes of Service" 1886

Timothy Stunt said ...

Although this account acknowledges information supplied by Teodorico Rossetti's widow, several of its details are questionable. The biblical texts engraved in marble were not placed in the vestry of Santa Felicità (where few people would have seen them) but in the church's cloister (chiostro) where they were visible to the public. Strangely, the Echoes account makes no mention of Guicciardini's conversion in 1836 and it claims that he never knew an Italian believer until 1846 when he met a 'poor shoemaker' at the door of his palace. This sounds like a confused account of the incident in the 1830s when he found his porter surreptitiously reading the Bible, as recounted by John Shaw Anderson in Pickering's Chief Men among the Brethren. It also misleadingly implies that the Abbot Lambruschini who, in the 1830s, recommended Guicciardini to use the New Testament as a source for infant education, was not a believer, which he undoubtedly was.  Timothy Stunt

Monday, Apr 26, 2021 : 01:55

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