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BOSSUET'S EXTRAVAGANT CREDULITY.
When her unhappy condition became known to her spiritual guides, a remedy was found. She was called back to the belief, and not the belief only, but to the love, of its ineffable verities by two visions. The first was a dream in which a man, born blind, told her that he had no idea of light, and that, as he did, she was to take the word of others as to things you cannot conceive yourself. The other was a violent concussion of the brain in an attack of fever. She saw a barndoor fowl running after one of her chickens which a dog held in his mouth. The princess tore the chicken out of the dog's jaws. A voice cried out, "Give him back his fowl; if you rob him of his fowl, he will be a poor guard for you.” "No!" exclaimed the princess, "I will never give it him back." That chicken was the soul of the princess Palatine herself, Anne de Gonzague; the fowl was the Church; the dog was the devil; Anne de Gonzague, who would not give the chicken back to the dog, was effectual grace.
Bossuet delivered the sermon in which this is found to the Carmelite nuns of the Faubourg Saint-Jacques in Paris, before the whole house of Condé, riveting his words by this remarkable sentence:
"Listen! Take special care not to despise divine admonitions and the guiding hand of Almighty Goodness."
The Lord Jesus appeared to Saint Catharine of Sienna and made her his wife, giving her a ring as a token of the marriage. This apparition is described as credible, because it is attested by Raimond of Capua, general of the Dominicans, who was the lady's confessor. It has also the attestation of Pope Urban
The apparition of La Mère Angelique, abbess of Port Royal, to sister Dorothy, is reported "by a man of great weight among the Jansenists," namely, Sieur Dufossé, author of "Les Mémoires de Pontis." According to his averment, La Mère Angelique, long after her decease, came and took her old place in the Port Royal church, with her cross in her hand.
SATAN THE CHURCH'S FLAGELLATOR.
She ordered her sister Dorothy to be sent for, to whom she communicated terrible secrets. *
Among the memorials of credulity and superstition of those who nourished me into a bloated personality, few surpass, and very few equal, the abuses connected with the flagellations inflicted by the sufferer's own hand, or that of an executioner, as a punishment for misconduct or misbelief and a discipline for spiritual growth and elevation. The instruments employed are scourges, rods, or whip-cords. The parts chastised are the bare back or the posteriors. The former method is called the upper discipline; the latter, the lower. The delicate nature of the subject compels me to be very particular in the selection of my materials; lest, in trying to expose extravagance, I compromise the interests of modesty. Moreover, my words must be few.
Saint Hilarion was often exposed to the same chastisement of the scourge, administered by me, as the traditionalists affirm; though why I should be anxious to promote the religious improvement of such unsparing foes of mine as are the saints and the monks, I cannot imagine. Saint Jerome, however, is as good an authority as most other ecclesiastical reporters, and he, speaking of St. Anthony, declares: "This wanton gladiator (myself) bestrides him, beating his sides with his heels and his head with a scourge." A great many other Saints (if we may believe the legends) were exposed to similar treatment. The priest Grimlaïcus, the author of an ancient Monastic Rule, declares that devils often insolently lay hold on men and lash them, in the same manner as they used to serve the blessed Anthony. Saint Francis d'Assisi, as is related in the Legenda Aurea (the Golden Legend), received a dreadful flagellation from me the first night he was in Rome.
In the Life of Saint Anthony, written by Saint Athanasius,
* Langlet sur les Apparitions, 4 vols. Voltaire, Dic. Philos. I. 469; Ed. 1785.
THE MONK AND THE MAGPIE.
you may read how that holy man was frequently lashed in his cell by myself. Some time, however (so calumny says), I employed temptations of a different kind in order to seduce him. Once, for instance, I appeared before the Saint in the shape of a beautiful young woman unclad. The celebrated engraver Calot has made one of my alleged visits to Saint Anthony the subject of a print, which is inscribed, "The Temptation of Saint Anthony." In it he represents a numerous swarm of devils pouring at once into the Saint's cavern, most various in size, countenance, posture, and armed with squirts, bellows, and other ludicrous weapons, illustrative of the religious taste of the age.
The celebrated French printer, Henri Etienne, wrote his "Apologie pour Herodote " (Apology for Herodotus) in order to shew that those who reject certain facts related by the Greek historian, on account of their incredibility, treat him with too much rigour, since a number of facts daily happen which are altogether as surprising as those that are found in that author. One of his instances follows :-A certain monk of Saint Anthony used on Sunday to preach in public in different villages within an easy walk from his monastery. One day he assembled his congregation under a tree on which a magpie had built her nest, in order to produce an overwhelming effect in favour of himself and his order in the not easily moved hearts of his hearers. In preparation for this decisive blow, he placed in the nest a small box filled with gunpowder. To this he attached a long, thin, pendent match. As soon as the end of the slowly burning match was set on fire by his assistant, he began his sermon. Meanwhile the magpie had returned to her nest, and finding in it a strange body which she could not eject, she fell into a passion and began to scratch with her feet and to chatter insufferably. The friar affected to hear her without being disturbed, and continued his sermon with full composure; only he would now and then lift his eyes toward the top of the tree, as if he wanted to see what was the matter. At last, when he
"SAINT ANTHONY'S FIRE."
judged that the fire was near reaching the gunpowder, he pretended to be quite out of patience, and, as if bent on punishing the temerity of the disturber, he uttered a solemn anathema on the unfortunate bird. This done, he resumed his discourse. Scarcely, however, had he uttered three or four periods when the match, on a sudden, produced its effect, blowing up the magpie together with her nest. The astounded crowd fell on their knees before the monk in acknowledgment of his miraculous power. Another result was an immediate and long-continued influx of wealth into the coffers of the convent.
A word or two of archæological explanation will give point to the story. Saint Anthony was held to have the power of curing erysipelas, as Saint Hubert cured hydrophobia, Saint John epilepsy, and other Saints other disorders. The skill of Saint Anthony was denoted, in portraits of the Saint and pictures of his doings, by the not inappropriate symbol of fire. Hence the notion of "Saint Anthony's fire," and the great repute of his saintship in these particulars. The repute went so far as to give him wonderful command over fire in general, and in particular the power of destroying, by flashes of that element, those who incurred his displeasure.
Credulity so extreme may now wear an appearance of impossibility. Yet still have we stone statues that shed tears, and painted idols that roll their eyes. In order, however, to see how exactly such facts as I have now mentioned fit in the historical framework of the middle ages, you have only to study their manners and habits a little closely. In this matter of flagellation, for instance, the universality of the custom made it almost natural as well as proper. The superiors of convents and nunneries exercised the power of flagellation simply as a matter of course. Bishops, too, punished by the same means unfortunate defaulters in ascetic practices or sound doctrine. Of this a remarkable proof may be deduced from the 59th Epistle of Augustin, which he wrote to the tribune Marcellinus concerning the Donatists. The
SATAN A CREATION OF THE IMAGINATION.
Saint (to give him his usual title) expresses himself in the following words: "Do not recede from that paternal diligence you have manifested in your researches after offenders, in which you have succeeded in procuring confessions of such great crimes, not by using racks and red-hot blades of iron, but only by the application of rods. This is a method of coercion which is frequently practised by teachers of the fine arts upon their pupils, by parents upon their children, and often also by bishops upon those whom they find to have been guilty of offences." Another instance of the same practice is found in the words in which Cyprian speaks of the moderation observed in such punishments by Cesarius, bishop of Arles "This holy man took constant care that those who were subjected to his authority, whether they were bond or free, when they were to be whipped for some offence they had committed, should not receive more than thirty-nine stripes. If any of them, however, had been guilty of a grievous fault, then, indeed, he permitted them to be again lashed a few days afterwards, though with a smaller number of stripes."*
THE CREATIVE POWER OF THE IMAGINATION HAS CONTRIBUTED TO BELIEF IN A PERSONAL DEVIL; THE FACT ILLUSTRATED FROM DANTE AND MILTON.
The human imagination is capable of giving birth to distortions the most grotesque and to figments the most unreal. What but its freaks are monstrosities such as the mermaid and the griffin? Already intelligence confesses that vampires, ghosts and spectres are nothing more substantial than rank products of turbid dreams or diseased fancy. And under the control of ignorance and barbarism, fancy is ever diseased, and dreams are no less turbid than monstrous. The state of mind which begot the unicorn begot me. I am simply a
* Historia Flagellantium, by one who is not a Doctor of the Sorbonne (De Llome?); third English Edition. 8vo. London, 1785.