Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Spanish Brothers, by Deborah Alcock

The Spanish Brothers, A Tale of the Sixteenth Century, by Deborah Alcock

(A tale of the growth and suppression of the Gospel in Spain.)

Juan and Carlos are brothers.  They love each other very dearly, and build many castles in the air together.  Juan is bold, strong, and dominant- an excellent military man.  Carlos is thoughtful, sensitive, and extremely intelligent- perfect material for a distinguished churchman.  They are left to the wardship of their uncle, for their mother died at Carlos' birth, and their father had mysteriously disappeared some time before.  One of their favorite plans is to buy a ship and go in search of him, for it is rumored that he went to the Indies, and there was killed.  With the hopefulness of youth, though, they do not believe the story, for he left a message behind for them, inscribed on a window:

"El Dorado Yo hé trovado."
"I have found El Dorado."


 Someday, they determine, they will go together and find both their father, and El Dorado.


Juan goes off to the army, and Carlos is studying to become a priest in Seville, when he is thrown into great turmoil of soul.  When he meets a humble muleteer, who daily risks his life to carry the Bible, in the common language, to Spanish believers, he "finds El Dorado".  Juan, returning, is angry at first with his "heretic" brother, but soon accepts the truth also.  Not long afterward, a terrible persecution begins, as the Inquisition all over Spain seizes the reformed believers.  They are tortured, humiliated and killed, but give great testimonies to the grace of God through it all.
Juan is nearly frantic when Carlos is taken, but the lady he loves forces him to hide his true opinions, and gradually, he relapses back into the Roman Catholic religion, outwardly at least.  Eventually, he marries her and moves out of the dangerous city.
Carlos, in prison, finds that he has never had such peace and joy before, and joyfully meets all that his Lord sees fit to send him.  After many weary months, he is transferred to a more comfortable prison, and there finds a most unexpected blessing, in the last days of his life.

Juan, and his wife are finally forced to flee the country, but now Juan has come back to the truth, though grieved by his defection from it in times of peril.

This is an excellent look at Spanish church history, and has sound theology throughout.  Deborah Alcock also believed strongly in the doctrines of grace, and portrays how comforting they were to the persecuted believers.  She also does not go into too many details regarding the physical pain and discomfort endured by the faithful believers, thus softening it a good deal for younger or more sensitive readers.  As with any book dealing with persecution, please use wisdom in determining who should read this book.
I'll end with her historical note at the end of the book:

"It may be asked by some thoughtful reader who has followed the narrative of the foregoing pages, How much is fact, how much fiction? As the writer's sole object is to reveal, to enforce, and to illustrate Truth, an answer to the question is gladly supplied. All is fact, except what concerns the personal history of the Brothers and their family. Whatever relates to the rise, progress, and downfall of the Protestant Church in Spain, is strictly historical. Especially may be mentioned the story of the two great Autos at Seville. But much of interest on the subject remains untold, as nothing was taken up but what would naturally amalgamate with the narrative and it was not designed to supersede history, only to stimulate to its study. Except in the instance of a conversation with Juliano Hernandez, another with Don Carlos de Seso, and a few words required by the exigencies of the tale from Losada, the glorious martyr names have been left untouched by the hand of fiction. It was a sense of their sacredness which led the writer to choose for hero a character not historical, but typical and illustrative. But nothing is told of him which did not occur over and over again, if we except the act of mercy which is supposed to have shed a brightness over his last days. He is merely a given example, a specimen of the ordinary fate of such prisoners of the Inquisition as were enabled to remain faithful to the end; and, thank God, these were numerous. He is even a favourable specimen; for the conditions of art require that in a work of fiction a veil should be thrown over some of the worst horrors of persecution. Those who accuse Protestant writers of exaggeration in these matters, little know what they say. Easily could we show greater abominations than these; but we forbear.
As for the joy and triumph ascribed to the steadfast martyr at the close of his career, we have a thousand well-authenticated instances that such has been really given. These embrace all classes and ages, and all varieties of character, and range throughout all time, from the day that Stephen saw Christ sitting on the right hand of God, until the martyrs of Madagascar sang hymns in the fire, and "prayed as long as they had any life; and then they died, softly, gently."
It is not fiction, but truest truth, that He repays his faithful servants an hundred-fold, even in this life, for anything they do or suffer for his name's sake."

Links:
The Spanish Brothers on Internet Archive
The Spanish Brothers on Google Book
(There is also a very good book review at this link.)
The Spanish Brothers on Gutenberg

The Spanish Brothers is in the process of being recorded for Librivox!  I'll post the link here when it is finished.  (If you want to volunteer to read a chapter, please visit the project page.) 

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