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been seen on the earth; the model to Rome, to Italy, to the world. It was to enjoy an age of peace and prosperity. Therefore it was that the preacher plunged headlong into politics. Whom were the Christian people to consult in all things but their Christian teacher, him who had the divine mission to preach, which not even the Pope could annul? Who was to guide the Lord's people but the prophet of the Lord ? It is idle to judge, as we might now judge, of the incongruity of religious men mingling themselves in the turmoil and strife of the ringhiera, of making the pulpit a rostrum, instead of keeping the faith of Christ in holy and peaceful seclusion from the passions of men, and preserving the clear, definite distinction between the citizen and the Christian. For centuries the priesthood had been the rulers of the secular as well as the spiritual affairs of men. Bishops had been lords of cities, though latterly in Italy they had shrunk into a more peaceful sphere before the terrible tyrants, the condottieri captains, the hereditary podestàs. Preachers, saints, even female saints (at Florence S. Catherine of Sienna), had mingled in matters of state. The Popes had been the demagogues of Christendom; and if they had shown a tithe of the zeal for the liberties of mankind, which they did for what they called their own liberties, but which in fact was an iron spiritual tyranny, they had been demagogues to whom history might pay the highest honour. Yet was not Savonarola himself without some apprehension of this unnatural position of the Christian teacher; but with his characteristic boldness he resolved it into the manifest will of God:
I have spoken to God in my own language. And what, Friar, hast thou said unto the Lord ?' I have said, Lord, I confess that thou art just, good, almighty, and that thou art my God; that thou hast created me out of nothing, and I am dust and ashes; yet will I speak to thee with confidence, for thou hast been crucified for me. Pardon me if I am presumptuous and too familiar in my speech. Thou, Lord, who doest all things well, thou hast deceived me; thou hast betrayed me, worse than man was ever betrayed. For though I have prayed long time that thou wouldst grant me such grace, that I might never
be compelled to the government of others, thou hast made me just the reverse; thou hast drawn me little by little to this port ere I was aware. My highest delight was peace-you have drawn me forth with your lure as a bird is drawn into the snare; if I had seen the snare perhaps I had not been where I am. I have done as the moth, which desires the light when it sees the candle burning; not knowing that it burns, it singes its wings. Thou hast shown me thy light, in which I rejoiced greatly, and having told me that it was well to make manifest that light for the salvation of men's souls, I have plunged into the fire, and burned the wings of contemplation. I have entered into a vast sea, and with great desire I long for the haven, and I see no way to return. Oh my sweet haven, shall I ever find thee more? Oh my heart, how hast thou suffered thyself to be taken away from so sweet a haven ! Oh my soul, look where thou art ; surely we are in the midst of a deep sea, and the winds are adverse on every side ! Lord, I say unto thee, as Jeremiah said — Lord thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived ; thou art stronger than 1, and hast prevailed; I am in derision daily; every one mocketh me. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil, because the word of the Lord was made a reproach unto me, and a derision daily.'' And again I will say with Jeremiah• Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast borne me, a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth.'! I would go to the haven and I find not the way; I sought rest, but found no place of rest; I would be in peace and speak no more, but I cannot, for the word of the Lord is as a fire in my heart. His word, if I uiter it not forth, burns my marrow and my bones. Well then, Lord, if thou wilt that I navigate this deep sea, thy will be done.'?
The pulpit was the throne of Savonarola : for nearly three years he held the sway over Florence with as rigid a despotism as the Medici of old. His sermons are, to the Florentine history of his brief period, what the orations of Demosthenes are to that of Athens, of Cicero to that of Rome. Now it is that his eloquence swells to its full diapason. His triumphant career began with the Advent of 1494 on Haggai and the Psalms. But it is in the Carême of 1496, on Amos and Zechariah, that the preacher girds himself to his full strength, when he had attained his full authority, and could not but be conscious that there was a deep and dangerous rebellion brooding in the hearts of the hostile factions at
• Jer. xx. 7, 8.
I Jer xv. 10.
? On Amos, Predic. i. p. 9.
Florence, and when already ominous murmurs began to be heard from Rome. He that would know the power, the daring, the oratory of Savonarola, must study this volume. Nor do the discourses on the Festivals of the same year, on Ruth and Micah, fall much below this height. The Advent of 1496, the Lent of 1497 on Ezekiel, and above all, the last series, during the Lent of 1498, on Exodus, are those of a haughty mind struggling bravely with his inevitable destiny; they are gloomy and solemn with his approaching end.
The sermons of Savonarola may be read even now with curious interest, and not seldom with admiration. What must they have been, poured forth without check, by the excited teacher to a most excitable audience, by a man fully possessed with the conviction that he was an inspired prophet, to those who implicitly believed his prophetic gift!
The manner in which an Italian -a Dominican-preaches, I cannot convey to you; so fervid, so forcible, so full of action and of passion ; often as if he would pour out his very soul with his speech, and if not attended to would expire on the spot. But this is the kind of sermon with which Savonarola wrought upon the mind of the people at Florence. Day after day, an outpouring of mixed doctrine and emotion, of exhortation and prayer; speech full of force, though not of grace ; surging up, as it were, from hot-springs in his heart, and flowing forth from his eyes, his hands, his features, as well as from his lips, rendering him unmindful of all but his subject, and his audience unmindful of all but himself.3
We read after this with much less wonder Burlamacchi's bold assertion, that his more fervent hearers beheld angels hovering over him while he preached, the Virgin herself uttering with him his benedictions; palms of martyrdom upon his head; blood welling from his side. One noble
• We quote this from Lectures on Great Men, by the late Frederick Myers, the remarkable book of a remarkable man, of raro abilities and more rare virtues. The life forms one of a course of lectures, delivered as parochial instruction in the school of a small district in the north of England, part of Keswick. It is a popular life from popular materials, with somewhat too much of Mr. Carlyle, but of his better part. The idol of Mr. Myers is not Force, but Goodness; and it has also this peculiarity, that it is written in sound and racy English.
lady declared that he never preached without some of these celestial signs.
His sermons address alike the fears, the hopes, the imagination, the affections. Nor do they less appeal to the republican Florentine pride, for if the burthen of woe was ever denounced on Florence, to Florence were made all the ennobling promises of prosperity and peace. There was even the fierce factious spirit and invective against political enemies. In place of the old battle-cries of Guelf and Ghibelline, White and Grey, Palleschi (Medicean), or popular, had grown up new names of religious partisanship, the Piagnoni, who with Savonarola mourned over the sins of the city; the Tiepidi, the lukewarm, among the monks and clergy, whom he hated with the greatest cordiality; the Arrabbiati, the infuriated at his doctrines; the Compagnacci, the young libertines, who detested his austerities, and looked back to the free and gay times of Lorenzo and his
He is himself a Florentine, even in their animosities. For subject, for oppressed Pisa, the lover of Florentine liberty has no word of sympathy or of mercy. Pisa, on whom Charles VIII. in his rashness or his ignorance had bestowed its freedom, must be brought again under the detested yoke of Florence; and that triumph Savonarola promises as the heaven-appointed reward of the fidelity of Florence to God their Lawgiver and the Head of their republic.
The chief characteristic of his eloquence was that it was still more and more biblical. Every image, every word, every event in the Old Testament, was not merely a remote sign, a figure, a type, but a direct, undeniable presignification of the state of things around him. It was all as plainly and intentionally spoken of Florence, of Italy, of Rome, as it had been of Israel and Judah. It was the gift, the mission of Savo
Apud Baluzium (Mansi), p. 539. See, too, the chapters on his affability, humility, his singular and edifying amusements with the young friars.
5. E. g. hanno scritto che questo Amos ha ribellato contro la Italia, et che egli ha fatto lega con questo e con quell' altro gran maostro, et che gli ha acquistato molte migliaia di ducati, e che egli ha fatto ricchi i suoi, e che egli e l'huomo che guasta la Italia, e che dice mal del Papa, de' Cardinali, et de' episcopi e de'
narola, to interpret, with the authority of God himself, all this vast adumbration of things to come, to unfold these phrases of terror, these pregnant, awful metaphors, which were not applicable by a moral affinity to present persons and events, but, by the profound counsels of God, had been endowed with those endless inexhaustible meanings. From one who read off the visions of the older seers into their modern signification, the step was easy to the authority of a prophet. The more limited sense of prophesying,' usual in the New Testament, belonging to the commissioned preacher of the new revelation, was lost in the wider mission of the Hebrew
Nor was this a paroxysm to which he was now and then wrought up by the excess of zeal; a temporary hallucination, which gave way to more calm and sober views. It was his deliberate, repeated, printed assertion.
can know Savonarola who has not read and studied the Compendium Revelationum, in which he offered to the world, as it were, the credentials of his prophetic mission.
This book was published in the midst of his career; it opened with the distinct avowal of his power of predicting future events by divine inspiration. This gift he had exercised rarely on account of the hardness of men's hearts. He will not scatter pearls before swine. His prophetic gift is from God alone, for God alone beholds future and contingent things. He indignantly rejects all arts of divination, especially astrology, against which he wrote a treatise. God reveals futurity to his chosen servants, either by supernatural light infused into the soul, by which man becomes in a certain sense participant in the eternity of God: he sees intuitively, and with certainty, that particular things are true, and that they are of God, as the philosopher perceives that two and two make four. The second more specific, and more ordinary mode of divine
e che dice questo Amos (he himself is Amos), che Hieroboam a morire in gladio ?' &c. &c.— Predic. xxiii. p. 231.
6 The Latin may be read at the end of the Life by Pico de Mirandola. We always prefer the Italian of the friar to his Latin.