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Napoleon—when he conquered Europe took his family and he sat them every one in great places over the many kingdoms and states and nations of Europe that he’d conquered. Whenever he’d conquered a country, he’d put his relative over it to be ruler. He took his entire family and spread them around over all of those conquered nations of Europe. Well, in the days of his glory, Napoleon heard of an uncle that he had never known. He was a humble preacher of little church miles from Florence and the town in which he ministered had less than a hundred people in it.

And when Napoleon heard of that humble preacher, his uncle, in that little place, he called his general in and sent him, with twenty men, to that little town and said, “When you see him, you tell him that no kinsmen of Napoleon Bonaparte ever is to be in a humble ministry, but he’s to be the leader, to walk in aristocracy and in pride and in glory. And when you see my uncle, you bring him to Paris and you tell him we will make of him a bishop. In time we will make of him a cardinal in the church.”

So the general went, with his twenty men, and came up to this humble place, this humble cottage where that preacher lived in a little town of a hundred people, and said to him, “The great Napoleon has asked me to come to you and to bring you to Paris. You can be a bishop of any diocese that you choose. In time we shall make you a cardinal and give you a cardinal’s hat.”

And the humble preacher replied, “No. These are my people and I am their shepherd and I’ll not leave them.”

The general pressed it upon him and the humble preacher said, “No. These are my people, my sheep, and I’m their shepherd.”

And the great general said, “Then I shall take you by force. We’ll take you to Paris and make you a bishop or a cardinal against your will.”

And the humble man replied, “Sir, if you do that, what would these dear people think and what would the Lord think? That against my will you forced me into this exalted place when the Lord wants me to be a shepherd with these people?”

Crestfallen, the general returned to Paris and made his report to Napoleon. Napoleon thought him a fool but that humble uncle stayed at that church until he died.

(Adapted from a sermon by W.A. Criswell)

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