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woman " confessed” that her husband and daughter were leagued with her in witchcraft, and the result was that all three were tried at Huntingdon and executed.
The great mass of Englishmen believed in their guilt, neither can the fact be wondered at when it is remembered that the most learned prelates maintained that the land was full of wizards, witches, and demons. Bishop Jewell generally concluded his services before Queen Elizabeth with praying, that she might be preserved from unholy spells. In 1598 he said, “It may
please your Grace to understand that witches and sorcerers within these last “ four years are marvellously increased within this your Grace's realm. Your “ Grace's subjects pine away even unto the death ; their colour fadeth--their “ flesh rotteth-their speech is benumbed—their senses are bereft! “God they may never practise farther than upon the subject.”*
” It has been boasted that in England this witch mania was less powerful than in other countries; and there is truth in the boast, although even here no less than 40,000 persons were put to death for this imaginary crime during the seventeenth century.
On the Continent the butcheries were far more numerous. In the city of Geneva above 500 persons were burnt in two years, and in Como, in 1524, above 1000 suffered death in the same manner. One Inquisitor, Remegius, took credit to himself for that, during fifteen year's
he had convicted and sent 900 to the fire. Springer, in Germany, sent 500 to the flames in one year, and for many years he was engaged in discovering and dooming new victims.
In modern times the would-be leaders of the people have discovered that the period of the end draweth nigh;" one of the proofs of which they
“ say "lies in the spread of infidelity.' Such men are sure to find proof, or : to imagine it, if they have any opinion to support. In the Dark Ages the proof of the times of Antichrist being nigh was supposed to lie in the spread of witchcraft. Florimund says:
“ All who have afforded us signs of the coming Antichrist agree that the increase of sorcery and witchcraft is to “ distinguish the melancholy period of his advent; and was ever any age " afflicted as ours is ? The seats destined for criminals - in our courts of “ justice are blackened with persons accused of this crime, and there are not
judges enough to try them. Our dungeons are gorged with them. No.: day passes that we do not render our tribunals bloody by the dooms which
we pronounce, or in which we do not return to our homes discountenanced “and terrified at the horrible confessions which we have heard. And the “ devil is accounted so good a master, that we cannot commit so great a “ number of his slaves to the flames, but what there shall arise from their “ ashes a sufficient number to supply their places.”
That was not always the case, for it sometimes happened that whole villages and districts were depopulated. In the early part of the thirteenth century there was a considerable body of people known as the Stedingers, who inhabited the country districts from the Weser to the Zuydersee, who had maintained free institutions. They admitted the supremacy neither of bishops nor nobles, but managed their own affairs by the aid of elected deputies, who voted taxes and attended to all matters of national importance. They were hateful in the eyes of their clerical superiors, who could not tamely submit to see a body of freemen conduct their own affairs without the aid either of bishop or noble. Various means of an infamously oppressive character were vainly resorted to for their reduction to a condition of servitude; but having * Maokay's Mems. of Extraordinary Delusions, vol. ii. p. 124.
enjoyed freedom they fought bravely in its defence. It was at length found necessary to denounce them as wizards, as children of the devil, so that all Europe should be induced to take up arms against them, and by this means they were destroyed.
The Pope was appealed to, and he issued his exhortation to all Europe to take up arms against them. In his letters he said : “ The Stedingers, seduced
by the devil, have abjured all the laws of God and man, slandered the
Church, insulted the holy sacraments, consulted witches to raise evil spirits, "shed blood like water, taken the lives of priests, and concocted an infernal “ scheme to propagate the worship of the devil, whom they adore under the
name of Asmodi. The devil appears to them in different shapes --some“ times as a goose or a duck, and at others in the figure of a pale black-eyed “ youth, with a melancholy aspect, whose embrace fills their hearts with eter“ nal hatred against the holy Church of Christ. This devil presides at their
sabbaths, when they all kiss bim and dance around him. He then enre. lopes them in total darkness, and they all
, male and female, give themselves up to the grossest and most disgusting debauchery."*
The result was that an army of " forty thousand crusaders ” marched agaiust them, against which they could only oppose ten thousand. The battle, fought at Altenesch, A.D. 1234, was fierce, but it ended disastrously for the Stedingers, who left above eight thousand dead upon the field.t After the battle the villages were handed over to the noble crusaders, who, in the name of God, slew all the inhabitants, old and young, male and female, and then "gave God thanks for the victory.” Thus, under the charge of demonism, these free men were slain, and it was under the same charge that the once mighty Knights Templars fell. Philip of France urged that charge against them, and rejoiced on one occasion when seventy of their number were roasted by a slow fire outside of Paris. When the Reformation commenced this charge was frequently preferred, in order to get rid of those who had forsaken the Church. Scores of thousands of Protestants were burnt as wizards and witches; but in their turn they measured out the same to the Catholics. Thus, the belief in demons was employed by men of all sects, in order to get rid of their enemies, and equally so in order to blot out civil freedom. They spread the mantle of fear over all, and what we have to marvel at is this, that while there was so much to deter them, our ancestors should have been brave enough to do battle with an enemy so strongly entrenched and so unscrupulous. Their valour and spirit of self-sacrifice has no fair parallel in ancient history, and none will be furnished in the modern days of enlightenment.
P. W. P.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE REFORMATION.-XT.
ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISSI, Of all the Saints of the Romish Calendar, there is none whose memory remains more vividly impressed upon the common mind of those countries where the ancient faith is still generally confessed, or more noteworthy as having left his mark upon the world, than St. Francis of Assissi, the founder of the Order of Franciscan Mendicants. In judging him, it is necessary to guard against starting with any foregone conclusion by reason of his having
* Maokay's Moms, of Extraordinary Dolusions, vol, il. p, 111,
+ Mepzol's Hist, of Germany, c. 157.
attained the very equivocal honour of canonization, and to remember that a man may have a large mixture of fanaticism in the nature of him, and yet be something more than a mere fanatic; may be an abnormal man, without being a madman ; a saint,” yet not a rogue; a monkish mendicant, and yet a good
Born in Assissi, in the year 1182, the son of a wealthy merchant there, Peter Bernadone by name, he was early in life led by religious enthusiasm to relinquish the immense inheritance which his father had spent a lifetime in amassing ; renouncing all worldly wealth, to his father's great disgust, he embraced poverty in her most abject form, and determined to live by mendicancy. In doing this he had a purpose to fulfil, from which nor fear of father, nor love of mother, nor reproaches of friends, nor jibes nor sneers, nor insults of divers kinds, which he had to suffer, could cause him to swerve. There was within him an iron will which nought could conquer ; but there was a tender conscience, a depth of love, and a capacity of self-sacrifice, seldom, perhaps never, equalled, in which lay the secret of his action.
Young Francis Bernadone had, from the comfort and luxury of his father's dwelling, looked forth upon the dirt and squalor, the misery and wretchedness, of the very poor in the cities and towns of his time; he had seen, or fancied he had seen, that they no longer believed in the Church, whose ministers were too lofty to visit them, and whose luxury and wealth seemed to place a bar between them and these poor ones. It must be remembered, in order that we may understand the position of the poorer
classes amongst those who dwelt in the cities of that age, that, while the country was allotted into parishes, and pastors found subsistence from the living attached to their office, in the towns, which had but lately grown up, this was not the case. The town-guilds and trade societies had their chaplains, but the class who belonged to no guilds was left immersed in poverty and filth ; no kind word was spoken to them, and they were without those consolations which, reasonably or unreasonably, men find in religion. And Francis asked himself, Is this right ? He looked, too, and saw thousands of miserable lepers, outcast and excommunicate; no one to assist their distress, punished for approaching the habitations of men, and literally treated worse than dogs, because they were diseased; and again Francis asked, Is this the charity Christ taught? The idea then took possession of him, that if he divested himself of his wealth, and went amongst these outcast wretched ones, as one of themselves, he might be able, by kindly word and deed, to do somewhat for them. It was not, however, without a natural abhorrence that Francis undertook this work; but, having arrived at the conclusion that it was right that it should be done, his will was strong enough to carry him through in doing it. One day he met a leper, and feeling a natural disgust, we are told that he schooled bimself by kissing the wounds. Fanaticism and folly ! cry some. Perhaps 80, but something more.
The monkish chroniclers tell of how the man was made whole by that kiss. 66 Whether shall we most admire the miraculous
power, or the courageous humility of that kiss ? ” asks Bonaventura. True. The moral miracle of the kiss is greater than the fabled miracle of the cure, even though it were a reality, and no fable.
Yes! St. Francis undertook to do a work that the Church had failed to do. The Church had been seeking after riches, its bishops and its priests were lapped in luxury ; the great idea of Hildebrand had been travestied in the creation of a Church powerful for evil, not as he would have hąd itpowerful for good. The Crusades had been preached in the interests of Priestcraft, and had produced results far other than the Church had anticipated-had roused the intelligence of Europe, and set it in opposition to the Church; had set men thinking, and, as a consequence, asking strange questions. It was at this juncture that the Waldensian and Albigensian heresies grew strong, and were met by the attempt, on the part of the Church, to crush them out; Dominic was the first to see that the better way to meet the advance of heresy would be to preach against it, and create a class of preachers who should, in their purity of life and eloquence, rival the heretic preachers. As yet, however, the idea of creating an Order had not been entertained by him ; Francis preceded him in the foundation of his Order ; the Franciscans dating from 1209, the Dominicans from 1215.
As the opposers of heresy, Dominic and his order naturally became the great agents of persecution. For Francis and his, a nobler task was open ; his idea was not to preach against heresy, but to go into the polluted dens of the great cities, and preach a knowledge of God to them who knew Him not to rescue from their abject misery that portion of mankind which hitherto had been neglected. He started single-handed in this work, but soon gained several companions; although it should be understood that the entire scheme afterwards worked out by him was gradually formed. Many sneers have been passed on Francis, both in his own time and since, by priests and theologians, for that he, without any book-learning, without any knowledge of theology, should presume to undertake the task of preaching ; perhaps, if those who sneered had not neglected their duty, he would not have begun a work which none but himself would do. But to sneerers of that class let it ever be said, and the careers of such men as Francis Bernadone in the mediæval times, and George Fox at a later period, show the saying to be true, that earnestness is the true means of success, and that without it the greatest erudition will not avail to rouse the sluggish souls of men to a sense of God and duty. The Church, with all its learning, had failed, and now the "ignorant layman,” Francis, was to try what he could do.
It was not long before Francis had companions in the work he had undertaken; the first who joined him was Bernard de Quintavelle, a fellowtownsman of Francis, and a man of wealth and distinction. Led by his admiration of the sublime self-sacrifice of Francis in giving up all wordly wealth, and devoting himself to the spiritual elevation and physical amelioration of the wretched and outcast, Bernard determined to assist him in his work. “ Tell me," said Bernard to Francis, on meeting him after having formed this resolution, “if a slave should receive from his master a treasure “ which he finds to be useless to him, what should he do with it?” “Let 6 him restore it to his master." “ Lo! then,” said Bernard, " I render back
to God the earthly goods with which he has enriched me.'
together to church," said Francis, " and after hearing Mass we will ascertain “ His will.” On their way there, Peter of Catania, one of the canons of the Cathedral Church of Assissi joined their company. These three (who must be looked upon as the first Franciscans) knelt before the altar, and then, proceeding after the superstitious manner of the age, went to the Bible to inquire of it as to the will of God. Francis opened it, and read, as the answer of the oracle thus consulted : "If ye will be perfect, go and sell all that
ye have.” A remarkable coincidence, if the tale be true. The determination of Bernard was thus confirmed, and Peter was accepted as their companion. No companionship was perfect in the Middle Age without a rule, and for the rule the Gospels were again consulted, and, in honour of the “Holy “ Trinity,” they were opened three times. The first text read by Francis was
• We will go
the same as before: “If ye will be perfect, go and sell all that ye have;" again the book is opened, and he reads : " Take nothing for your journey ;' and once more opening, he reads : “ He that would come after me, let him
deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me. You have heard, my “ brothers,” says Francis, “ what must be our rule of life, and the rule of all “ who join us.
Let us obey the Divine command." Bernard and Peter accordingly fitted themselves for their vocation by selling all that they had; and, clothing themselves in a coarse dress, similar to that of Francis, they retired with him to a hut on the plain of Rivo Torto. Six centuries have fled, but the work commenced by those three men still survives, as one of the elements of life, if not of progress, in the great Christian Commonwealth.*
Once, and once only in their lives, did Francis and Dominic meet; it was in Rome, whither they had both bent their steps in order to obtain the written approbation of the Pope for their Orders. An attempt was made by the Papal party to consolidate the two, and the two enthusiasts met on that business. “My brother, my companion,” exclaimed the Spaniard, “ let us
unite our powers, and nothing shall prevail against us.” But this was not to be, and it was well; for the mission and aim of Francis were very different to those of Dominic. We believe them both to have been honest, earnest, sincere men, to the extent of the light which they possessed; but beyond this they and their objects had nothing in common. Dominic represented the repressive spirit of the Church, the tendency to hold by the old and prevent the success of the new. If he advocated preaching, and established an order of preaching friars, it was solely with a fully expressed determination to prevent the spread of heresy, and to preach into the common mind a hate of heretics and a fear of the Pope. St. Francis represented a spirit which had grown up independent of the Church; he recalled to life an element in Christianity which the Church and Theology had long buried out of sight-the spirit of love and self-sacrifice; he had nothing to do with the Pope, and preached not so much the Papal idea, as the duty of brotherly love and Christian charity. Both Dominic and Francis would have died to save a heretic from damnation; but Dominic would have burned him first, while Francis would have poured burning words of love into his ear, and let him live. Both had the martyr-spirit ; but with Dominic this arose from a logical perception of duty, or supposed duty, while with Francis it was the effluence of a soul filled with love and charity. The spirit of the two men, and the differences in them, may be seen in their careers. While Dominic was preaching and burning heretics in Languedoc, Francis was washing lepers and ministering to the spiritual and physical necessities of the poor and outcast in Assissi; both were working, as they thought, in the service of religion, and both committed grave mistakes, and took radically false views as to what religion is; but there is this great difference, that while Dominic had seized upon a lie, pure and simple, Francis had a half-truth-one, moreover, which his age needed to know more than any other. With these vast differences between the men, yet having some points of similarity, we understand how it was they parted, with mutual esteem, but unable to work together.
Though a Romish Saint, Francis of Assissi must be regarded in the light of a Reformer. He taught his age a noble truth, which it needed very much to learn. The pride of the hierarchy had created a great gulf between the Church and the common people ; as a consequence, a spirit completely
* Stephens's Eccles. Biographies. St. Francis.