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the Divine secret? I confess that it is upon that point I am constrained to regard them as worthy of all honour. Their knowledge was superhuman, and must have come in a supernatural manner. I do not want to be dogmatic, but I believe that upon no other hypothesis can the facts be accounted for."
" That is to say, Lester, you believe the Hebrew books to contain clearer ideas of God -of His power, wisdom, and goodness, than can be found in any other. But while deeply regretting that you are unacquainted with the Asiatic languages and literature, I must firmly deny that there is any truth in your assumption. The reverse of your proposition is nearer the truth. They who spake the Sanscrit, who were well-read in the Hindoo pbilosophy, must have had a training in such matters, which raised them far above the Hebrew, and gave them nobler ideas of the Supreme Being. He who dwelt upon the banks of the Ganges could not have adopted the God of Jerusalem. The Jew was only satisfied with a God who walked, talked, and debated like a man; a God who was a sort of magnified mortal; a God who would dwell in a tabernacle, to make His presence known by means of smoke and fire ; who would go in and out, and up and down with them, and while wielding the carnal sword, would march forth at their head to give them the victory over their enemies. They believed in a God who was amenable to human control, who could be as much the slave of human passions as themselves; who grew angry and relented; who delighted in pleasant odours and sounds, or who was ever ready to accept the hecatomb of victims which intolerance would offer up; but in such a belief there is nothing so very noble or elevating. The Hindoo was not led so far astray. He believed in a God wlio surpassed human comprehension, but who was alike the Creator and Sustainer of all animated nature ;-a God who never failed to mark the conduct of His creatures, or to deal out rewards and punishments according to their deserts. And if we can hope to find in any ancient works, language which can be rightly spoken of as conveying the soul's thought of God, then it is in the works of the Hindoo philosopher alone that we can fairly hope to succeed in making that discovery.”
“I have heard much of those works,” said Lester, “and were I skilled in the Sanscrit, I would give them a careful reading.”
"Your want of knowledge of the language need be no bar to their study, for many of them have been translated by competent hands. The BhagavadGítá, as translated by Thompson, with its copious references and scholarly notes, will be quite sufficient to satisfy you how great is the error of supposing that the Hebrews had surpassed the other nations in their inquiries and knowledge upon those points. But even if the nations of India are omitted, still the same argument must be used in relation to the Egyptians; as a people they excelled the Hebrews alike in religious and moral philosophy. It is a mistake to suppose them to have worshipped many Gods, for they believed in One, and one only. It is true that He was known unto them by many names—was called upon by many names, but the peeple never understood that there were several Gods. Unless in the same sense that the Christian does, when he speaks of three Gods, · Father, Son, and Spirit. So also with the Persians, who were Monotheists, and in whose Sacred Books are as pure and noble passages as the finest in modern religious literature.”
"But how comes it,” inquired Ella, “that we always hear of those people as wretched Pagans, as · benighted heathens '-why are they spoken of in such contemptuous language ?"
“Because,” replied Barrington, “it is a human weakness to fasten upon
the lower points in that wlhich we disaprove, and upon the stronger and higher in that which we advocate. He who praises Shakspeare omits Pericles. If a Christian sits down to read the Vedas, he rather hunts after, and hopes to find objectionable passages, than reads the whole in order to discover its true spirit. Whereas, in reading the Bible, the same man looks only after the best, and tries to persuade himself, although lying open before his eyes, that in the Bible there are none to be ranked with the objectionable. While his daughter is reading, he rises, and bids her turn away to another chapter ! He fastens upon some passages in the Psalms, but is silent about the coarseness of passages in Genesis, in Judges, in Samuel, the Kings, and in sundry other books. The truth-seeking man cannot do this-he reads them all as perfect wholes, and endeavours to estimate them as such. But by keeping his attention fixed only upon the worst parts, the Christian has managed to get up convictions that the ancient nations were without any true ideas of religion, and literally without God in the world, whereas, the truth is, that they were not a whit behind the Hebrews, and if we had become acquainted with the Indian literature at an earlier date, it is pretty certain that our modern theology would have been quite other than it is at present.”
“ Then you mean to say, Barrington, that the Bible ranks no higher than the other Sacred Books, and you will not allow it to be called a much superior authority ?"
“Yes, that is exactly what I do mean. It is a grand old book, as all the others are grand; but so far as its intrinsic moral and religious value is concerned, that is not to be estimated by its antiquity. The oldest writing is not necessarily the truest. There are true words in it which I have not seen elsewhere, and in other books there are true things which it does not contain; but if we draw out from each the good and evil, the true and the untrue, there will be little left to boast of in favour of the Hebrew books. This, however, is not a truth which the people of Europe will be likely to accept. They do not know what the ' Pagan books are, except by hearsay, and that is little likely to supply them with the means of forming a sound opinion; they believe as their fathers did; and upon the same principle that the Turks believe the Koran-they are afraid to read farther. By-and-bye the truth will leak out, and then woe betide the unhappy descendants of Melchisedek, and priests of all orders.”
That will be when your great book comes out, in which I presume all these knotty problems are to be finally solved."
“Yes, then, if you please; but, joking aside, Lester, we must not overlook the fact that the Bible is no longer either the household book or the guide of life; clergymen instruct their flocks that it is to be read in that light, but themselves are the first to decline its authority. In a theoretical sense they accept and are bound by it, but not practically, and the consequence is that their flocks refuse to believe a theory which the teacher will not reduce to practice. Moreover, in the present condition of Western Europe, it is absurd to ask them to do so. If a set of men were to itinerate through England as Jesus and his disciples itinerated about in Judea, depending upon alms as a means of subsistence, there can be no doubt they would be committed to the treadmill as rogues and vagabonds. Why, then, should we insist upon the same measure of obedience, when there is no longer the same measure of freedom ?"
The entrance of Jane with coffee put an end to the discussion.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE REFORMATION.-XLIV.
THE FINAL ISSUE. The fanatical folly of one of Savonarola's followers became the immediate cause of ruin to the New Republic, and of martyrdom for him. Fra Domenico, one of the monks of San Marco, smarting under the taunts of a Franciscan friar, undertook to prove the sacredness of Sayonarola's mission by undergoing the fiery ordeal, if the Franciscan would do thc same. The ignorant multitude gladly caught at the chance of a spectacle, while the disaffected parties promised themselves by this means a victory, and the Pope's adherents were overjoyed at the chance tbus offered for ruining Savonarola. He deplored his follower's folly, but knew that to refuse the ordeal was certain ruin. He seems, however, to have hoped to evade it. He could not believe in its success, as it was part of his theological system to reject miracles—a signal proof how far he was before his age. The appointed day has arrived (April 7th, 1498). The huge pile of faggots and brushwood, eighty feet long, four feet thick, and six feet high, covered with oil and pitch, and sprinkled with gunpowder, is ready to be fired. Domenico has arrived, but requires to be allowed to carry a crucifix into the fire. “What would you burn Christ ? ” Such is the cry. The Franciscans see their opportunity, and object to this. Domenico refuses to undertake the ordeal without it. And so the crowd are disappointed. The Franciscans eagerly embrace the chance of accusing Savonarola of having wished to burn Christ. The superstition of the crowd, combining with their rage at the disappointment, fomented by the disaffected, led them now to insult Savonarola, so lately their idol, and it is with difficulty that he and his monks escape with their lives back to San Marco.
On the morning of the 8th April, 1498, Savonarola entered the Church of San Marco, to preach for the last time. He preached briefly; and declared his readiness to die if need were in the cause of Truth. During the day the Franciscans lost no time in working upon the passions of the rabble, and the result of their work was scen in a riot which arose in the Cathedral of the Duomo in the afternoon. Brother Mariano, one of Savonarola's monks, had been in the habit of conducting the vesper service there, and as the hour approached the Cathedral was filled with the lowest of the populace, emissarics of the Pope, and adherents of the Medici. The vesper service was prolonged late into the evening, and then Mariano ascended the pulpit to preach. This was the signal. The cry arose on all sides, “ To San
Marco ! To San Marco !” And the hostile crowd, ever increasing, flowed on its way towards the church and cloister of Savonarola : their path was marked with blood.
The people of the cloister are singing vespers, and Savonarola is at the altar, occupied in devotion. Nearer and nearer come the noise and clamour of the crowd. Presently the attack begins, by stones being cast into the church through the windows. Many of the brothers provided themselves with weapons, but Savonarola begged them not to resort to violence. They, however, determined on vigorous measures. The church doors are closed and barricaded. And now the siege begins. The monks fought bravely, and several of the besiegers were killed. At last the cry is raised, “ Set fire to the - doors !” The outer door being at length burned, an entrance was soon effected by the crowd. Now the fight within the church grows fast and furious. All night the fight continued, the mob of assailants constantly increasing, armed with cross-bows, axes, and burning torches. Such as failed to find an entrance into the church began now to lay siege to the cloister. Large numbers of persons had already perished on both sides. Their want of success rendered the mob desperate, and, hounded on by the Franciscans and other enemies of Savonarola, many of them left the church and cloister in order to besiege and plunder the houses of such of the citizens as were known to be friends of Savonarola. It was now time for the government to interfere, which they did by summoning Savonarola to deliver himself up, under the promise of safe conduct to the Seignory. Savonarola willingly obeyed, and he was led away guarded by soldiers. The infuriated mob tried to stone him, but a roof of lances over his head protected him. Bitter jibes and insults of every sort were levelled at him. And Savonarola, had lie been capable of a selfish feeling, must have felt how little worthy these wretches were of the sacrifices he had made in their bebalf.
The rejoicings were great in Rome on hearing of these doings in Florence. The Pope wrote expressing his thanks to the Seignory for having captured and imprisoned that " godless son of perdition,” who had troubled the Church so long, and requested them to deliver him alive into his hands. They, however, seem to have thought it a point of honour to keep Savonarola in their own custody, but declared themselves willing to deal with him as the Pope might desire. What the tender mercies of Alexander VI. would be may be easily guessed. A mock trial took place. We will pass over the revolting details of the torture, to which, day after day, Savonarola was subjected : merely remarking that, as his biographer has justly said, to a man like Savonarola, of an ardent imagination, a sanguine temperament, with the irritability of extraordinary genius, of a singularly sensitive frame, his nerves violently excitable, and health extremely delicate, the torture must have been more than commonly terrible. His fortitude was, however, cqual to the occasion; and, in spite of his excruciating sufferings, he would recant nothing, but bore witness to the Truth in spite of all. The end was that he was condemned to be burnt.
· The last scene of all took place on the 22nd of May, 1498. On the Piazza are prepared the stakes and faggots which are to form the funeral piles of Savonarola and the two brother monks who are to suffer with him. The eager crowd are gathered, ready to witness, with fiendish joy, the death-agony of him who has so often spoken in words of love to them, and who would fain have instilled into their souls some of his own noble spirit. And yet blame them not; a people whom the priest has fettered in the bonds of superstition are hardly to be looked upon as responsible for their acts, and we say, with the noble-souled Savonarola, “Alas, poor souls, they know not “what they do!” But some were there whose hearts sickened at the thought that so base a deed as was that day done before the face of High Heaven should still be possible in that Florence for which, and amongst the people for whom, their master had done so much, and worked so long. Savonarola mounted the ladder, the pile is fired, high mount the flames. But, at this moment, a violent wind drove the flames so strongly on one side that they would not touch his body. The superstitious multitude are seized with panic-fear at this strange incident, and many hasten away. The flames mount higher and stronger, and, ere long, all that remains of Savonarola is a heap of ashes. His ashes were afterwards thrown from the old bridge of Florence into the river Arno.
“A dead man causes no war," such was the answer given by Savonarola's
judges to one amongst them who would fain have saved him. A greater mistake than this was never made, but the Church who did to death Savonarola, and so many other noble souls in those ages of spiritual terrorism, saw it not. Such as Savonarola never become dead men. The witnesses for the Truth, and more especially those who have scaled their testimony with their blood, live ever. Wycliffe lived again in Huss, Huss in Savonarola, and Savonarola in Luther. “At Naumberg,” so stands the record, “on his way to “ the Diet of Worms, Luther made the acquaintance of a certain zealous priest, “ who carefully and reverentially preserved in his closet the portrait of Savona“ rola, though more as a martyr to liberty and morality than as a religious " confessor. The good priest, however, perceived enough resemblance between “ the Italian and the German to draw the attention of the latter to his sacred “ memento. Silently producing the cherished painting, he held it awhile “ before the eyes of Luther, who as silently perused it; but, nothing daunted, " conceived rather courage than fear from the lesson it presented.” It was in consequence of this event that the great German Reformer obtained, and carefully studied, the works of Savonarola, some of which he afterwards translated and published in German. There was a great difference between the men, but they were both workers in the same great cause of storming the citadel of error and superstition; both valiant soldiers of God, ready to fight to the death in defence of the truth as they saw it.
Is has often been that men-good men, too-have hesitated to do anything towards destroying the evils of their time—have hesitated even to speak out fairly their hatred of injustice, or to join those who have been willing to make the attempt to do somewhat in the direction of Reform, because they have thought to themselves, these things, this evil, this injustice, are too strong to
be destroyed in our time, and what is the use of beginning a work we can ' never finish? To do so would be to bring odium on ourselves and
create enemies, without serving any purpose.' We make no doubt that such is the feeling of many who hesitate to join our ranks as Religious Reformers. But the past history of the progress of humanity is fertile in proofs of the folly of such a thought. The true Reformer, the man who works in the cause of truth and righteousness, never dies. The work he has begun will as certainly be carried to its completion as if he himself had completed it; and so Savonarola dead, was living still. His blood spake from the ground. His ashes became living men; and the Church found that a dead man may cause war after all.
There is, however, another consideration connected with the career of Savonarola worthy of our attention ; this, namely, that Superstition is incompatible with Liberty. The Spirit of Liberty spoke aloud in this man, and the superstition of the people crushed it. The superstitious man is essentially a slave. And it is on this account that the Churches have ever been so ready, and still remain so desirous, to foster and keep alive the spirit of superstition in the people. Destroy this, and priestcraft is destroyed. Destroy this, and man is spiritually and intellectually free. And, depend upon it, until the freedom of the individual is achieved, true citizen-liberty is impossible for the majority of the nations. Looking through history we find that kingcraft and priestcraft have ever been in close alliance. Even here in England, it was not until men began to lose their faith in the Churches that Political Reform became possible. And until the remaining superstitions which are preached from our pulpits are rooted out, perfect liberty for all classes will be impossible. The Churches have ever been drag-chains on the wheels of