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revelation, is threefold. 1. By flashing things directly upon the mind ; 2ndly, by visions ; 3rdly, by the intermediation of angels. In all these ways he, Savonarola, had known future events. He relates his first predictions, when interpreting the Apocalypse, in 1489. In 1490, his misgivings were solemnly rebuked ; in consequence of which he made a terrible sermon (una spaventosa predica). He seems utterly unconscious of the vagueness of his own predictions ; he was preaching on the Ark of Noah, on the words “the waters shall cover the earth.' This, by his awestruck hearers, and by himself, was supposed to foreshow the descent of Charles VIII. on Italy, though uttered when Charles had already passed the Alps. But Savonarola was too absolutely convinced of his divine inspiration, to suspect that these things were within the range of mere human conjecture.
The extraordinary part of the treatise is the argumentative. In a visionary dialogue with the Tempter (under the form of a holy hermit), he suggests every possible rationalistic objection to his own supernatural gift, and, to his own satisfaction, disdainfully refutes them all. He has simulated nothing, as some supposed, with the holy purpose of deceiving mankind to their good. 'If I ever used simulation in my preaching, may God deprive me of Paradise !' Nor did his visions proceed from a spirit of melancholy, or a disordered imagination. This,' he replies, 'was belied by his profound knowledge of philosophy, and of the Scriptures, inconsistent with a bewildered phantasy. It could not be from astrology or divination, which he denies, and abhors as condemned by Holy Writ. It is no deception of the Devil : the Devil knows not future effects; the Devil would not wish the good wrought by his preaching. How can the Devil know the times and seasons?' The Tempter appeals to the prophets of old! Why should God have chosen him (Fra Girolamo) as his prophet, when there were so many better than he in the Church ?? Why did God elect Peter, Paul, Luke, and Mark rather than others as Apostles and Evangelists ? Even sinners have been gifted
with prophecy, as Balaam.' The Tempter goes on : he received it all from foolish dreaming women.' He rarely conversed with women. Though there have been prophetesses named in Holy Writ, women are ignorant, fickle, vain, liable to be misled by the Evil One. “Some say that you are in the secret of the councils of princes. It would be folly to rest the truth of prophecies on such changeable and insecure foundations ; so especially, he asserts, of the rulers of Florence. He had learned these things by astuteness and political wisdom ; he had learned them from the old prophecies of Joachim and S. Bridget. He ought to suppress such perilous truths in silence.' 'Did Moses, Isaiah, or the saints of old, or S. Benedict, S. Victor, or S. Catherine of Sienna suppress their oracles?' He ought to prove his divine mission by miracles.' Did Jeremiah, did John the Baptist work miracles?' He was an heretic ;' he believed, he replied, the whole doctrine of the Roman Church. “Many great men, many of the wisest, laughed his prophecies to scorn.' "The wise of the world always scorn the words of heaven.' "The believers are few in comparison with the unbelievers.' Many are called, but few chosen. Few heard Christ and his apostles. The many persecuted them.' 'He had prophesied many things not true.' This he denies; all that he had prophesied had turned out true to an iota ; but he drew subtle distinctions. • Sometimes he spoke as a man! The Holy Spirit did not always dwell in the prophet!' The Tempter then argues with him at length upon the unreasonableness of his mingling in politics, and examines his whole conduct both as political leader and as Prior of St. Mark. Savonarola justifies himself at still greater length and in every particular. “He ought to preach like other preachers, on virtues and vices. Savonarola triumphantly appeals to the fruits of his preaching.
In our summary whole pages have shrunk into sentences. The rest of this remarkable work is occupied by a Vision as purely poetic as those of Dante, in which the Virgin takes her place, as it were, as the Divine protectress, the tutelar Saint
of Florence. This will show how entirely southern and Italian was the mind of Savonarola ; how little kindred it was with those of whom he has been considerd the harbinger, the German and English Reformers. We may add that, though in prose, it approaches nearer to that less read part of Dante, the * Paradiso,' than anything in Italian literature since the · Divina Commedia.'
If the imagery of the Old Testament predominates in the preaching of Fra Girolamo, so does the tone: the terrible judgment of God was its burthen; its promises, bright as they were, were seen only in remote distance, on the faint horizon, behind long and heavy-looming banks of clouds, which must first burst and overwhelm. The denunciations were against all orders, especially the clergy and the monks.
You who write to Rome (of Rome more hereafter), and say that I have spoken evil of this man and that, write this—that I say
the of this visitation is the evil life of the prelates and of the clergy; and the bad example of the heads of the clergy is that which brings down this visitation. .. I tell you to repent, and if you do not repent I announce to you two most terrible chastisements (flagelli) One in this world which you cannot escape; that is the tribulations which are at hand, for the Lord God cometh in haste and instantly. I tell you that it is coming. The other chastisement shall be that they shall go down into hell. Did they but know what I know, for this chastisement will reach a vast multitude in Italy and beyond Italy, but I will confine myself to Italy in which I
The Lord says, by the mouth of Malachi the prophet, that the priest ought to know the law, for he is an angel of God, and now ye know nothing of the Scripture : you do not even know grammar; and this would be tolerable, if you were of good life, and did set good example. For this cause says the Lord God, I have given you up to the scorn of the people for your wicked doings. Ye keep concubines, ye
ye are notorious gamblers; ye lead lives more flagitious than the seculars; and it is an awful shame that the people should be better than the clergy. I speak not of the good but of the bad. Give up your mules, give up your hounds and your slaves ; waste not the things of Christ, the gains of your benefices, on hounds and mules. And the same have I to say to the bishops. If you do not yield up your superfluous benefices which you hold, I tell you, and I proclaim to you (and this is the word of the Lord), you will lose your lives, your benefices, and all your wealth,
to the mansion of the devil; every way ye must lose them—and this ye shall know by experience. And now to the religious -the monks and friars.?— These fare no better.-Predica, p. 499.
This is the perpetual tone; the burthen is their simony, concubinage, nameless vices; the country clergy had everywhere their concubines; as to the cardinals, we must revert to a passage in one of the older sermons to illustrate the frightful state of morals. He is insisting on the universal curse upon the earth-quia maledicta terra in operibus eorum-on the universal misery of mankind. Kings are not exempt from this misery. There are ever those who would kill and betray them, they are ever in straitness and sadness of mind.
You will say, perhaps, ecclesiastical persons, cardinals, and prelates, who have great possessions and revenues, enjoy profound peace, for they have not to think of wives and children. They go out hunting and riding every day, and suffer not the least trouble; they are served by all, held in reverence and gratitude by all. It seems indeed that they have perfect peace. But I tell you, ' maledicta terra in operibus eorum' - for the higher the rank the greater the danger: they have no peace, for they are always in fear lest they should be killed or poisoned. Look, when they eat how many buffets must there be-quante credenze bisogna fare; [here is the origin of the credence table or closet in private and in the church], lest the common food, lest the spiritual food of the holy Eucharist should be poisoned. If they travel to any place they must take everything with them. This seems to me a miserable life, a life full of death. I had rather eat bread and onions, like peasants who labour all the day, and eat that bread and those onions with a good appetite, than eat as you do snipes, partridges, and pheasants.Sopra il Salmo, c. viii. p. 313.
The vices which Savonarola denounces as the shame and disgrace of Florence are luxury, usury, and covetousness, splendid and immodest apparel, sensuality in its most degrading and repulsive form, incest, promiscuous intercourse, and gambling. Fully to illustrate this we must have quoted page
? See a curious passage on Zechariah, "Predica,' xxxiv., in which he treats on St. Augustine, St. Basil, St. Dominic, St. Francis, bastinadoing their degenerate disciples.-- Amos, Prediche, p. 352.
& See in his earlier volume, p. 293, his invectives against adulterated medicine, false weights, tricks of attorneys, &c.
In a terrible sermon (on Psalm xxvi.) he is not content with his own maledictions, awful as they were ; but he calls the magistrates to execute punishments more stern than those in the Mosaic law. For one nameless crime, he will have no secret fine or penalty, he would light a fire to burn the guilty, whose lurid glare should affright all Italy. Thus he goes
Shall a thousand, ten thousand perish for one wretch ? those poems are the cause of God's wrath. Fathers, keep your sons from poems (poesie). Bring out all the harlots into the public place with the sound of trumpets. Fathers, there are enough to throw any city into confusion. Well then begin with one, then another. Punish gaming, prohibit it in the streets. If you find only one man staking fifty ducats, tell him the State has need of a thousand. Pay up on the spot. Pierce the tongues of blasphemers! St. Louis of France ordered a blasphemer's lips to be cauterised, and said, 'I should be happy if they would do the same by me, if I could clear my realm of blasphemers.' Put down balls, it is not time for dancing, put them down in town and country. Have your eyes everywhere, punish all offenders. Have all taverns shut up at six o'clock. This has been ordered again and again. Shut your eyes awhile, and then catch them in the fact, and exact the penalty. Let all shops be shut, even apothecaries, on festival days. If your tooth aches have it drawn on a festival, there is no harm in that; but stand not buying boxes and toys. Let debtors leave their houses to go to church on week days without fear of arrest.
His audience was not only all Florence and the country around, but people came from the neighbouring cities, Pisa and Leghorn. The seats in the cathedral were built up in an amphitheatre to accommodate the crowds; and even the piazza was full.
The wonderful change which his preaching wrought is the boast of his admirers, the sullen but implicit admission of his enemies. Half the year was devoted to abstinence. It was scandalous to purchase meat on a day assigned as a fast by Savonarola. The tax on butchers was lowered. On the days when the Prior of St. Mark preached, the streets were almost a desert; houses, schools, and shops closed. No obscene songs were heard in the streets, but low or loud chants of lauds,