Nail, Nicholas

Nail, Nicholas a French martyr to the Protestant cause, was born at Mans in the first quarter of the 16th century. He was of humble origin, and earned his daily bread on the shoemaker's bench. He was working in Lausanne, Switzerland, when the Reformed doctrines began to gain the attention of the people, and Nail became himself interested, and finally embraced the new views. Determined that his countrymen should share the great blessing he had come to enjoy, he quitted Lausanne for Paris with a pack of books and tracts. In the French capital he was discovered circulating these heretical productions, and was seized by the police February 14, 1553; and though he openly confessed to have freely circulated these books, because they contained the truth he espoused, he yet refused to make known his friends and assistants even after he had been put to the torture. Refusing also to point out the people who had bought his books or had become his disciples, he was finally tried, sentenced to death, and led to the Place Maubert, from which a crowd of witnesses had passed to heaven in the smoke and flames of the funeral pile. In order to prevent Nail from speaking to any one on the way, a new torture was devised. A large wooden gag was put into his mouth, by which his jaws were burst asunder, and the blood streamed down his neck. Yet, though his mouth was stopped, by gesticulations and motions, and by lifting his eyes heavenward, he still made known his firm trust in the presence of his Savior.

As he passed before a hospital on which an image of the Virgin was placed: an effort was made to compel him to show reverence to it by crossing himself and bowing his head, but he turned from it with indignation. This threw the rabble into a wild rage. Having arrived at the place of execution, Nail was bound with a rope to a roller over the funeral pile, divested of his apparel, and daubed all over with fat and powder. Next the entire mass was set on fire with bundles of straw, so that his whole body began to burn. Then he was drawn up and down on the roller over the woodfire, which was burning under him. But he remained true to all his pledges, and was enabled to endure patiently this torture. He was heard to call continually on the name of the Lord after he began to burn, the string which tied the gag in his mouth having been burned, and his lacerated mouth being again set free. With prayers and praises his spirit passed from his suffering body into the presence of the Lord. See Hurst, Martyrs to the Tract Cause, pages 117, 118.

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