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prisoner. Yet now that he was there as a poacher, their bowels of compassion were closed against him, and their passion as game preservers caused them to view him rather as a personal enemy than as a poor suffering man. The chairman, Ralph Poinder, whispered into the ears of those nearest to him, and it was evidently their intention to deal with the case very severely. Lester saw this, and leaning over to the man said some few words in a tone so low that they were not heard by the court. But the prisoner heard them, for he turned suddenly round and cried out:
“ Yes do, Mr. Lester, for God's sake do get me out of this, and I'll swear never to touch another hare, not if she lays dead at my feet.”
« Gentlemen,” said Lester, “the prisoner has placed his defence in my hands, and, although unused to the forms of a court, I cannot doubt of your listening to my observations, neither can I doubt that you will make every possible allowance for the difficulty of my position, should I violate your usages. I ask you to give me a hearing, because I could not rest in peaceI could not ask God in my nightly prayer to protect me, were I to leave this court without trying to win the prisoner's discharge. He is one of my flock, and, as an English clergyman, as a Christian man, I feel bound to make an appeal in his favour. Will you permit me to address you ?
" It is entirely out of order," said the Chairman, “ because you are not in the legal profession. Yet, out of respect for your position, we will suppose that you are speaking as a witness to character. You may proceed.”
" Then, Sir," said Lester, “I shall not venture to touch the legal side of the question ; that I leave entirely in your hands, merely soliciting you to read the law as leniently for the prisoner as the performance of your duty will permit. I shall merely appeal to you as men, to remember the weakness of our common human nature, and, as true Christians, to bear in mind that charity and forgiveness of injuries belong to our daily duties. That man, as I have discovered, has suffered much through ill health, and probably there is not another in Crosswood who has endured more. Frequently, when we sat before the well-covered board, he with his wife and children crept with empty stomachs into bed, hoping to sleep away the painful sense of hunger. It is true that the Union gates were opened for him, but had he entered, his wife and children would have been parted from him ; and if the feelings of the husband and the father rose into rebellion against the separation, we will not judge him unkindly for his error. But if it be granted that he violated the law by killing the hare, must we not grant, also, the greatness of the temptation ? Which of us, placed in his circumstances, as I have made them known to you, could have resisted it ? Did he break God's law when carrying the slain beast home for his family? If we are to ask of heaven forgiveness of our sins, must we not all desire them to be as light as that for which he now seeks forgiveness from this Court?”
“We sit here,” interposed Bezley, “ to administer the laws of the land, and ought not to permit you to insinuate aught against them.”
“I do not argue against the law of the land, neither is it my desire to lead men to violate it, but I cannot avoid perceiving, that when our poor human laws clash with those of Heaven, it becomes a positive duty on our part to side with the latter; and if you send this man unpunished away, then will you be acting in accordance with the law of God. Unto whom much is given, from him much shall be expected; but what has been given unto that man? Nothing save the promise of rest when he sinks into the grave !"
(The chapter to be continued.)
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE REFORMATION.-XLI.
THE VOICE OF REFORM IN ITALY. SAVONAROLA commenced his mission of Reform as a preacher. His first attempt was a failure, but of this we say nothing ; for he was one of those men to whom failure is but the road to success. We look at him, therefore, in the full tide of his popularity at Brescia, where, even as an Arnold had done ages before, he has undertaken to raise his voice against the vice and corruption of priests and people, and to denounce woe to a Church that has forgotten its mission. An earnest purpose and an unconquerable will have triumphed over physical incapacity, over sneers and opposition, and he now stands before the people as the orator whose fire-winged words enter into their very souls, and as the prophet who sees a coming judgment, and foretells a day of woe. Let us take a passage from one of his sermons, which, while it furnishes an example of the mingled strain of reproach and prophetic denunciation in which he indulged, shows, also, the boldness with which he attacked spiritual wickedness in high places.
"From the beginning of the world (so spake Savonarola) a wonderful and “inscrutable series of Divine judgments has appeared, wherein have been “revealed, not only the fearful anger, but, also, the patient loving-kindness of “God. Not otherwise will it be in our corrupt times, from which all the “ virtues have vanished, and in which all the vices are rampant. Those sunk “ in vice will be invited to conversion, and mercy will be offered if they turn “to virtue, but justice will be, at length, executed on them if they persist “and persevere in vice. The popes have attained, through the most shameful “simony and subtlety, to the highest priestly dignities; and, even then, when “ seated in the holy chair, surrender themselves to a shamefully voluptuous “ life, and an insatiable avarice. The cardinals and bishops follow their “example, No discipline, no fear of God, is in them. Many of them believe “in no God. The chastity of the cloister is slain, and they who should serve “ God with holy zeal have become cold, or lukewarm, or worse. The princes “openly exercise tyranny. Their subjects encourage them in their evil “ propensities, their robberies, adulteries, and sacrileges. But, after the “ corrupted human race has abused for so many centuries the long-suffering of “God, then, at last, the justice of God appears, demanding that the rulers of “the people, who, with base examples, corrupt all the rest, should be brought “ to heavy punishment. And let them not think to escape it.” Here, then, was a man who dared to speak the truth, with a voice of power, without fear, and without favour; and to prophesy that evil and oppression should not last, but that a due and just punishment should overtake those who wrought evil, however high their station, or great their seeming power.
“I never said I was a prophet, yet this I say, that God sent me to "prophesy a scourge to Italy; which, if I do, I lose my body; if I do not, I “lose my soul.” Such was Savonarola's own account of his prophetic mission, about which there has been more said in depreciation of him as a charlatan and a quack, than in respect of anything else he did or said. Was he a prophet? Only in the sense that many others, who have seen clearly that sin necessarily ends in misery, that departure from obedience to God's laws is sure to bring a compensatory punishment, can be said to be prophets. Savonarola clearly saw that the social state was such that it could not possibly continue, and he prophesied no more than this. But,' say some, he represented himself as God's messenger, in this matter.' He did so; nor needs he any excuse for this. He was God's messenger, and he firmly believed himself to be no less. He was God's messenger, we say, as is every man who brings a new truth home to the common apprehension, or who, with a voice of earnestness, denounces the evil thing, and clears a way for men's acceptance of the Good and the Truc.
Shall we not say that all such men are really inspired by God? There are some who start with horror at the idea of attributing inspiration to Savonarola, and there are many more who deny inspiration to any who have lived since a given date—who speak as though God's spiritual treasury was exhausted some centuries ago. We are not among those; we can as well believe in the inspiration of men in the present day as in that of the men of the past. If Paul were inspired, why not Savonarola? But, say some, Do you, then, believe that all that Savonarola did and said was the work of God? Nay, not so; neither do we believe that all that Paul did and said was God's work. We can see serious defects in both, we recognize falsity in much that was said, written, and believed by each of them ; while we cannot be blind to the fact that, as earnest workers out of good for man, as men who sought to spread God's truth abroad (so far as they saw it), they were literally inspired by the Spirit of God. Every man who earnestly strives to obey His Will ever is so. God is ever near to the soul of the man who seeks to do His Will, and perform His Laws. Why, then, it may be asked, do such men ever make mistakes ? why, being inspired, are some of their actions absurd, some of their sayings folly ? This is a question which, until we have arrived at a more perfect knowledge of the relations between the Divine and human, cannot be fully answered. Thus ipuch, however, we may say, that by Inspiration is not to be understood a process of education, but a spirit imparted by the Deity to His child; and when the soul is properly attuned for the purpose, finding expression in various ways, here creating the great poet-teacher, there the earnest worker for Truth and Goodness.
In the year 1487, when Savonarola was at the height of his popularity and success at Brescia, he received an invitation to assume the office of Prior of the Dominican Convent of San Marco, at Florence, from Lorenzo "the “Magnificent." The motives of Lorenzo in giving this invitation were doubtless derived from the celebrity which had now attached itself to Savonarola's name; he wished to add one more to the notabilities whom, as the patron of art and literature, he had gathered together in Florence. Savonarola accepted the invitation, hoping that, as prior of San Marco, his voice would be more powerful in achieving that reform which he had already sought to bring about in the monasteries of the Dominicans--at least, he knew he would have the opportunity of working out a reform in San Marco itself. Thus much he afterwards accomplished, leading thereby to the secession of the monks under his governance from the main body of the order, a thing which had much to do with the enmity displayed towards him by the Dominican body in the latter part of his career.
Other motives, there can be no doubt, also, led to his decision in this matter. Florence had become, under the government of the Medici, one of the most powerful of the Italian States, but, at the same time, one of the most depraved. The luxury, which had come as the result of its wealth, brought its never-failing fruit, in the shape of depraved morals among the citizens. If, therefore, Savonarola could do aught to reform Florentine manners, he would not alone do a good work there, but one which would stand conspicuous to all the world, and would affect all Italy. He had no thought of becoming
the sycophant and partizan of the Medician house–he accepted the office, the invitation having come unsought, because he thought that his means of doing good would be thereby enlarged. It is necessary to bear these considerations in mind in judging of the after-conduct of this man, so much censured by Roscoe, and others, on the ground of base ingratitude. In Florence, at this time, the tone of society was entirely corrupt. The people were not alone immoral, but servile, too. The wealth and magnificence of Lorenzo had become objects of worship to the degraded Florentines, and, while flattering their vanity, and ministering to their vices, he had succeeded in overthrowing the ancient republican constitution, and establishing himself as a despot. Savonarola looked upon this state of things with sorrow, and felt that, before he could hope to do aught in reforming the social state of Florence, it would be necessary to exorcise this evil spirit of servility to wealth and magnificent vice. At least, he would set an example to the people in so far that he himself would not truckle to the Medician despot-of this he was determined. If, as the preacher, he were to be successful in his aims, at least, he must not begin by paying court to the idol of this degraded people. Thus it will be easily understood that the state of mind in which Savonarola assumed his office and duties at San Marco was one of opposition to the spiritual and political condition of things in Florence. As the teacher of truth, as the pioneer of a better condition of things, he felt bound in every way to protest, both by word and action, against all that he viewed as the predisposing causes of the evils existent among the people there.
It had been the constant custom for the new Priors of San Marco, on their induction into the office, to pay a formal visit to the palace of the Medici, as a mark of respect to the reigning family, who also were the patrons of the cloister. Here, then, was an opportunity for Savonarola to mark his sense of the servility which had allowed the Medici to become masters in Florence ; moreover, he felt that he could not consistently do this and pursue the path he had marked out for himself as the right one. He accordingly omitted to comply with the custom. On being remonstrated with, Savonarola asked, “Who has raised me to this diguity, Lorenzo or “God ?" Like many other religious enthusiasts, Savonarola believed that all that befell him was the work of special providence on the part of the Deity. If, however, it was not God, it could not be said to be Lorenzo, consistently with the rules of the Church, which allowed not of lay patronage. Savonarola believed it was God, and no one could say it was not. “Let us, “ then," he said, “ render thanks to God, to whom they are due, and not to “mortal man!”
Lorenzo felt that Savonarola was no common antagonist; and, being a wary man, he thought it well to seek by any means to enlist him in his service. But Lorenzo little knew the man he had to deal with. In pursuance of his design, however, he determined to visit the Prior, as the Prior would not visit him. Lorenzo accordingly made frequent visits to the Church of San Marco, where Savonarola preached, and by what he heard felt only the more convinced that it was necessary to bind this man to his interests. Lorenzo will therefore visit the cloister itself; of course, dignity forbade his doing so ostensibly to see the Prior. He accordingly made a point of walking in the garden more than once in the hope of meeting Savonarola, who, however, carefully avoided him. One day the brethren inform the Prior, “Lorenzo is in the garden !” “Has he desired my presence?” “No!" “Be it so! let him tarry and continue his devotions!” The monks look aghast ; but Lorenzo has to depart without seeing the Prior. So, as courtesy fails, he will try bribes. Savonarola's answer to his bribe was a public one, delivered from his pulpit : “A good dog barks always, in order to defend his “master's house, and if a robber offers him a bone or the like, he pushes it “ aside, and ceases not therefore to bark.” Lorenzo now feels that he is beaten. Here, at least, is a man whom flattery cannot cajole, nor bribes divert from his path.
Savonarola pursued his path, careless of the frowns of those in power, or the censure of the servile flatterers who had gathered round them. He had it in hand to raise this Florentine people from their degradation, and he would do it, come what might. He had no personal enmity to Lorenzo; on the contrary, he recognised the intellectual gifts of the man, but was not disposed on that account to shut his eyes to the moral evils arising out of the luxurious slavery into which it had led the Florentines. Savonarola had his mind open to the fact, that the political servility which had forgotten the ancient freedom of the republic, was but the expression of a moral degeneration on the part of the people ; he felt that they had forgotten their rights as citizens, because they had become bad men. He saw no hope for them until the servile spirit which led them to bow to the Medician rule could be changed for the spirit of freedom. His political views were thus the effluence of his religious spirit. And so in burning words, day after day, he preached to the people of their duties as men and their rights as citizens. He not only preached but practised ; and the pure life of the man lent force to the words of the preacher. Such a man never speaks in vain ; all that was left of worth and high-mindedness in the State of Florence gathered round him. Even Lorenzo himself was constrained to say, “Besides this man I “have never seen a true monk.” Thousands hung upon his words ; people came from far and near to listen ; so general was the desire to hear that the shops in Florence were shut until after the morning preaching, and night after night the Church of San Marco was besieged by persons desirous to gain admission, and who were willing to wait all night in the street that they might be sure of an entrance in the morning ; hundreds were turned away day by day, who could find no admission, for no sooner was the Church opened than it filled. No wonder that Lorenzo and the Medician party began to fear that Savonarola's success boded no good to them.
Flatteries and bribes having failed him, what shall the Medician despot do? He had long been hoping to rivet his chain on the Florentine people, and shall he be thwarted by this mere monk ? But what shall he do? Well, he will appeal to Savonarola's patriotism. And so five “prudent and noble” citizens are commissioned by him to expostulate with Savonarola, and persuade him to preach in a different manner, “ for the sake of the public weal and “peace.” “You say you have come to me for the public welfare,” was Savonarola's reply, “I tell you it is not so: LORENZO DE MEDICI has sent “ you unto me. Tell him, in my name, he is a Florentine, and the first in the “ State, I, a foreigner and a poor brother, yet will it happen that he must go “ hence, and I remain here.” He spake as a prophet, and yet with certainty ; for he spake in that faith which fills the souls of all true men, that righteousness and truth must in the end prevail. He knew that he must be victor ; as yet, however, he saw not that he would be victim too. It is ever so with such as he. Such men look only at the great end in view. With eye and heart fixed on that, they press on, oblivious of what lies between.
JAS. L. GOODING.