Imagens das páginas

You are not a believer, and I am astonished that you do not advise me to do what will injure the cause to which you are opposed.”

“Why, you see, Sir, it's so very uncommon for us to find anybody who will try to understand workin' folks, that we don't like to lose 'em when they turn up. I know you can do a deal of good for poor people in Crosswood if you keeps clear of our society. I know you won't speak wrong about us; but if you take our part, then none of the people will listen to anythin' you say. They never inquired, and won't listen to 'em as does. And the best way for a man to lose his character is to join our society, for it doesn't matter what wicked things are said about him, if he is one of us everybody believes it. If somebody was to say that I get drunk and beat my wife, half · the people in this place 'ud say it was just like me, and, o' course, it was all along o'what they call my infidelity. But if the same thing was said o' some o' the church or chapel people, it wouldn't be believed.”

“That is easily accounted for by this, that we expect unbelievers to be bad men, believers to be good ones.”

“Yes, Sir, you expect it, I dare say, but it don't turn out that way. I don't find that it's mostly atheists that gets into debt and cheats their neighbours; the fact is, that all the bad fellows profess to be Christians, just so as the better to get on a-cheatin' their neighbours; so that our party keeps pretty clear o'the rogues. And most o' 'em as gets into prison calls 'emselves believers. But, depend upon it, Sir, now that you have gone about to do the workin' people good, and have flung some hard words at the heads of the rulers hereabouts, it would ruin all your plans if it was to be known that you attended our meetin', unless, perhaps, if it was thought that you came to put us down, which, o' course, can't be done."

“Why are you so positive about what cannot be done? How do you know that I am not prepared openly to refute every objection which was urged the other evening ?”

“No offence, Sir, but I am sure you can't do it. I have read enough to know that the objections ain't to be got rid of. If they were, why, then, Christian people wouldn't get so angry about it. The truth is, that they knows the thing isn't to be done ; that's why they gets to be so peppery about it. But, Sir, I do hope as you'll take my advice, not to come to our meetin'. I know, as it'll be the best in the end for all parties."

" Well, Sam, I shall consider the subject before deciding. Of course, for the sake of those who are there, I ought to attend; while, for the sake of others who never attend such 'meetings, I should remain away. And yet, perhaps, so far as the practical Christian virtues are concerned, they who attend are little, if any, inferior to those who remain away. I believe in many senses you are a better Christian than they are who denounce you."

By this time they had reached the rectory gate, and Sam went his way, leaving the Rector to tell the story of the day to Ella and Barrington, who was there to dinner.

That night he was closely occupied in endeavouring to solve the problem how it happened that the unbeliever, Sam Stokes, acted with far more Christian charity in judging of his doings and speeches than was exhibited by the chief members of his own church. It was not without help that he achieved his wish, but in what way that help came, must be left at present, so that more pressing matters may be attended to.


SAVONAROLA AND THE FLORENTINE REVOLUTION. It is significant of the state of public feeling in Italy in the latter part of the fifteenth century, and forms a key to many of the after-events, that such a man as Savonarola should receive, as he did, invitations from many of the towns to visit them and preach there. We have seen, in the course of these papers, how widespread the spirit of reform had become in various parts of Europe. In the success of Savonarola, and the readiness and desire to hear him evinced on the part of the Italian people, we have proof that the same spirit was abroad in Italy. If the Reformation of the sixteenth century extended not to that unhappy land, it was not the fault of the people, it was the fault of their rulers and the people's misfortune. Thus the strange anomaly stands recorded on the historic page, that the country which did more for the revival of learning and literature in Europe than any other, the land from whence came that spirit of intellectual freedom of which the Reformation was the expression, remained in priestly bondage, and subject to all the evils of priestly supremacy. And this was so, not because the people would have it so; but because the Church was there supported by the State, because a cruel tyranny composed of the alliance of statecraft and priestcraft bound the people in fetters which they could not burst. Let us not, therefore, wonder that Italian Reformers, and Savonarola in common with the rest, have been political as well as religious Reformers. We may reasonably hope, however, that now an era of welldeserved freedom and political and religious regeneration is dawning upon this land devoted so long to the powers of evil.

One, and one only, of the invitations to leave Florence for a time was accepted by Savonarola, and that was to Bologna, where he had passed his noviciate and the early years of his monk-life. It was this recollection, probably, which induced him on this occasion to break through his established rule of refusing these invitations. One incident in connection with his course of sermons there is worthy of mention, as showing that lie carried the same bold free spirit with him wherever he went. Among those who came to hear him was the princess Bentivoglio, whose husband condncted the affairs of the city, holding there a somewhat similar position to that of Lorenzo in Florence. She, however, with all her attendants, made a practice of not arriving until the commencement of the sermon, to the great disturbance of the congregation and annoyance of the preacher. Savonarola finding this continue, made a public request that all persons would be present in due time. With that vulgar pride, found frequently among the so-called noble, the princess paid no heed whatever to the admonition, and after Savonarola had waited some time to give her an opportunity of altering her practice, he determined to administer a reproof, and, accordingly, when she next arrived, stopped his discourse and exclaimed,"Behold, here comes the Evil Spirit to disturb the Word of God!” She never came again. Such was the man ; there was nothing of the sycophant in him : no truckling to money or rank on his part.

Back again at San Marco, and at his old work, it is not long before Savonarola hears that Lorenzo lies smitten with his death-sickness, at his princely villa at Careggi. Every appliance that the medical quackery (not worthy of the name of science) of that time knows has been tried in vain. In vain has . Lazzaro da Ficino, the Abernethy of his age, come all the way from Pavia, and prescribed his “costly and marvellous medicament," composed of "dis,

“ tilled gems.” Lorenzo, like meaner mortals, must die. Death came with all his terrors to the dying tyrant. Religion offered no consolation to him, a scoffer and sceptic; a thing hardly to be wondered at considering the character of its ministers. In his extremity, however, he remembered that there was at least one true man in Florence, one who had never yielded to his threats or his flatteries-hiin he would fain see, and confess his sins. Savonarola at least, he knows, will tell him the truth, he doubts all others. The especial sins he desired to confess were, the cruel proscription which followed the Pazzi conspiracy; the sacking of Polterra, and the forcible appropriation of the moneys belonging to the charitable fund for poor girls, by reason of which many of them had fallen into evil courses. A message was despatched to San Marco for Savonarola. “I deem it useless to go,” said he, - for I have no words to speak which can be pleasing to Lorenzo.” But on being informed that he wished to confess to him, he went. As the dying tyrant called up in confession all his evil past, his agitation was fearful, and, to quiet him, Savonarola went on repeating, “ God is good, God is merciful!” “But,” added he, as soon as Lorenzo had finished speaking, “there are three things needful “to that end.” “Which be they, Father ?” asked Lorenzo. Savonarola's countenance, always stern, grew dark and awful, as he replied—"In the first “ place you must have a strong and living faith in God's mercy.“I have the “ strongest.” “In the second place you must restore all your ill-gotten gains, “ or depute your sons to restore them in your stead.” At these words Lorenzo started, but by a strong effort over himself he nodded his assent. Then Savonarola rose to his feet, and lifting up his hands, he sternly regarded the dying tyrant, and in a solemn voice said, “In the last place you must give "back freedom to the Florentines.” For a moment Lorenzo cowered before that stern and piercing glance, and that terrible voice, then turning his back indignantly, he spake no word more. Tortured by remorse he breathed his last soon after, and Savonarola departed without granting him the absolution he sought. Hard and cruel-say some, but Savonarola believed not in the value of absolution where no repentance was. On the 8th of April, 1492, occurred this terrible scene.*

With the death of Lorenzo the spell of the Medician rule in Florence was broken. Pazzi conspiracies and other signs of discontent had preceded the death of Lorenzo, but were held in check by him with the strong hand of a despot. His son Pietro, who succeeded to his place and power, was a weak but, perhaps, a well-meaning man, who found himself unable to cope with the contending factions, and Florence was thus for a time delivered up a prey to civil discord. It was to prevent this that Savonarola now put himself prominently forward on the political arena. Not alone in the churches did he preach in the spirit of the patriot, but in the public squares, day by day, and frequently several times a day, he harangued assembled thousands, calling thern to a sense of their duty as men and citizens. Let them be united and they might be free, and re-establish their ancient liberties. Many, in their hatred for liberty, have taken occasion to libel the character of Savonarola in reference to this matter, and have represented him as stirring up the people to revolt against an established government with which they were satisfied, thus seeking to place this great and good man in the same category with the vulgar and ambitious demagogue who stirs up revolution to satisfy his own ambition. This is altogether a false view of the case. Savonarola was a true patriot in the matter.

* As so different an account of this matter is given by Roscoe in his life of Lorenzo, a book which Signor Villari, the latest biographer of Savonarola, is responsible, is fully attested by im. portant existing documeuts quoted by him,

which is so generally read, it is necessary to remark that the truth of the account above given, for

We have already seen that Savonarola's hate of the Medician rule arose from the fact that it was a degrading tyranny, which sought to rivet itself on the people by ministering to their vices and undermining their self-respect. He felt, and wisely felt, that the elevation of the people, their moral and social reform, was impossible until this tyranny were destroyed. Alike as the reformer and the patriot, it was hateful to him. Still would he not have been justified in stirring up revolt unless in the last resort. But what are the facts of the case? The Medician tyranny had become weak as well as hateful. Opposed to the continuance of Pietro's government was an aristocratic party, as well as the people ; the aim of this party was to establish their own authority, and with their success the people would have groaned under a worse tyranny than before. It was the duty of Savonarola to put the people on their guard, to establish their unity, so that now, that the overthrow of the Medici was imminent, they might regain their freedom, and not exchange their golden fetters for chains of iron. Not as an ambitious and selfish demagogue, but as the true patriot and lover of the people, it was that Savonarola worked. He looked at this matter not as a political adventurer, but in the light of a religious duty. And as to risking bloodshed, it was owing to him that scarce any blood was shed on the occasion of the expulsion of the Medici from Florence that the revolution by which the Florentines regained their liberties was a bloodless one. Would that the people had been worthy of the man who thus worked for them!

Savonarola's hope was to establish in Florence a Theocratic Republic; a government founded on obedience to the will of God. His views on this subject are left on record. We quote his own words : “As in everything, so, " likewise, in the State, spiritual force is the best and worthiest of ruling "powers. Hence it is that, even from the beginning, a still imperfect state of government will flourish in complete security, and, in time, acquire "perfection, if it be always therein universally acknowledged that the end of “the State is the improvement of the morals of the citizens by the withdrawing s of all obscenity and all wickedness, and that the truly Christian life subsists “ in the fear (say, rather, love of God-if, moreover, the Law of the Gospel “ (and it must be remembered that Savonarola looked upon the Gospel as "embodying the entire and perfect law of God] be esteemed as the rule and “ measure of civil life, and of all laws that are made ; if, further, all citizens "shew a true love of their country, which, as pure, uncorrupted, self-love, “subjects its own interests to the general good ; if, finally, a general peace “shall have been concluded among the citizens, all past injustice forgiven, and “all elder hatred forgotten—such a unity will make strong within, secure and “feared without.” Ah, visionary and absurd, ridiculous and impossible ! says the self-sufficient politician. What practical results could follow from such views ? asks the so-called statesman. But, in truth, is the theory of a Theocratic Republic so very absurd ? Is “government by God” altogether visionary? Is statesmanship based upon God's laws a ridiculous impossibility? These are questions it is worth our while to answer.

“I have always maintained,” said Savonarola, “that a kingdom is so “much the stronger, the more spiritual it is; and so much the more spiritual, " the nearer it relates itself with God.” And he was right. A republic, in the true sense of the term, that is to say, the highest form of government of which we can conceive, in which every man shall be a king and priest unto himself,

will never be a possibility among men, until the theocratic idea, which recognizes that God is the true governor of this world, and that none other is, has become an acceptul belief-until a religious sanction is given to the performance of citizen duties. Does any man think the world would not have been better off, if, instead of submitting to kingly despotism, men had recognized the Eternal Father as their true king, had sought to obey His laws in their national life, and looked upon the performance of their functions as citizens in a religious light ? A time will come, we doubt not, when it will be perceived that the social state, national life and progress, are governed by God-created laws, as unerring and as perfect as those which govern the physical universe ; and when nations will see, not only that it is their duty, but, also, the highest political wisdom, to learn and obey those laws.

But it may be objected to these views that, by the connection of the State with religion, all sorts of evils have resulted to mankind. There is an apparent truth in the statement. It is necessary, therefore, to examine it. We ask, therefore, whether, in any correct sense, there has ever existed a connection between the State and religion ? And we answer, emphatically-No! Priestcraft and Statecraft have entered into alliance. Kingcraft has used the superstition of men in order to rivet its fetters on them. But we deny that either Priestcraft or superstition is religion; we deny that Kingcraft or Statecraft have ever represented the true functions of the State. We have never yet had any real religious statesmanship, but is that a reason that we never should have any ? True statesmanship would necessarily be religious. We say, therefore, that Savonarola, in enunciating the principle that politics and religion, statesmanship and morality, have an intimate connection, gave utterance to a truth the world has yet to learn; a truth which must form one of the fundamental principles of any real religious reform ; and one which, as Religious Reformers, we have to teach.

It is the want of religion in our politics, which has led to so many of the evils we have to deplore. Can it be supposed that, if politics were religious, as they and everything else which pertains to man should be, much of the misery which attends bad government would not be swept away? If statesmanship were based upon morality, how much of the deplorable legislation which disgraces our statute-books, and oppresses the people, would be swept away, and how much yet to be enacted would be avoided! It appears to us, therefore, that the idea of divorcing politics from religion, of banishing all reference to the State and its functions, to government and its duties, from the pulpit, is one of the most egregious mistakes ever made. The true religious teacher will, on the contrary, find in these subjects a field for the exercise of his higliest powers. If these truths had been generally acknowledged, and our politics had been governed by religious considerations, would thousands, nay, tens of thousands, of our people have been left to perish in ignorance-would our laws have taken no cognizance of vice and immorality, as is now the case? No, our statesmen would have seen, and practically used, the truth so long ago enunciated by Savonarola, as a necessary corollary from his theocratic principles, that "it is the business of the State to provide for the best possible "education of all children, and to form good citizens of them.” Recognizing these things, we, as Religious Reformers, then, would teach that religion and politics are intimately related with each other; we would have our legislation and our statesmanship the expression of God's truth and justice ; and not, as now, of man's error, bigotry, prejudice, and injustice.


« AnteriorContinuar »