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CHARACTERISTICS OF THE REFORMATION.--XX.
FANATICISM, SUPERSTITION, AND SPIRITUAL BEGGARY. We have now rapidly travelled over the history of the Mendicant Monks; it was necessary so to do, in order that we might understand the age in which they flourished, being, as it was, an epoch in the history of the Reformation, of the Church, and of European Civilisation. A century which produced a Francis of Assissi, a Sagarelli, a Dolcino, in which so strange a theory as that upon which the Mendicant Orders were based could find such wide acceptance, and presenting the many other strange characteristics we have noticed, must have been exceptional and extraordinary. We feel, therefore, that it is necessary to find, if we can, the key by which to unfold its mystery, and explain these characteristics. In order to do this, we must look a little further at the phenomena of the time.
It is noticeable, that this was the age in which the worship of the Virgin Mary became the mark of the religious devotee---it was, in fact, the passion of the time. The Dominicans were under her especial patronage, and the legends told of her interviews with Dominic and Francis were of a character too disgusting to render their repetition possible in these days. Woman, indeed, played a distinguished part in the entire religious history of this period. This was the age of St. Clare, St. Bridget, St. Catherine of Sienna, and St. Elizabeth of Hungary. It is recorded in the Book of the Conformities of St. Francis, that at the time of the establishment of the second Order of St. Francis, that of the Minorite Nuns, or Clarisses,“ many daughters " of dukes, counts, barons, and other nobles of Germany, deserting the world, “ after the example of the blessed Clara and Agnes, were united to a heavenly “bridegroom." * Agnes of Bohemia was the means of its establishment in Germany. Many of the heretics, too, of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries were women. The Beguines of Liege, and other societies of women, bound by vows of poverty and chastity, took their rise at this time. probably from among them that certain female heretics arose, and about the year 1310 commenced preaching in Germany the doctrine " that the soul, 5 annihilated in the love of the Creator, may leave the body to do as it “pleases.” About the same time, also, an Englishwoman visited France, teaching that the Holy Ghost had become incarnate in her, for the redemp56 tion of women.' Was all this religion, or was it sensuality ? A question difficult to answer. But that there was sensuality in these strange superstitions, which formed so large a part of the religion of this epoch, there cannot be a doubt. Apart from that, however, these things are to be noted as one side of the religious phenomena of that time; even as Johanna Southcotes, and Irvingites, and others belong to those of this age. Perhaps, by comparing present circumstances with past, we may unriddle the mystery.
We turn to another side of the religious phenomena of those centuries. It was about the middle of this thirteenth century that the sect of the Flagellants first made their appearance in Italy. The authorities, temporal and spiritual, sought to extinguish this strange sect, but about the year 1340 they re-appear on the scene of history, in the shape of a multitude of above 10,000 persons, who issued from the towns and villages of Italy, with "whips, “ whose lashes are pointed with iron, and naked from the loins upwards, “ their bodies marked with red crosses. This strange body soon separated into smaller companies, and spread themselves over Europe, living by mendicancy,
and plying their strange ceremonies on their way. Their manner of proceeding was this : starting out in the early morning they commenced their march, singing a monotonous strain, of which Dr. Lingard has given a free translation, as follows:-
“Through love of man the Saviour came,
Through love of man he died;
Was scourged and crucified.
And lash, thee sinner, lash again.' Then the scourging would commence. Ranging themselves in two lines, on either side of the street, all but the last of each line would throw themselves on their faces, still singing; then would those left standing give a lash on the naked shoulders of each of the line as he passed, he himself lying down as soon as he reached the end. Each one rose after receiving the lash, and followed after, doing the like. So they passed on for hours together, lashing and being lashed in succession, the blood flowing from their wounds. Sometimes, even in the night, amid the glare of torches, they would carry on this work. Three-and-thirty days and a half each Flagellant thought it necessary to undergo this penance; but in spite of the constant departures, their numbers never decreased, but continually increased. During ten years this extraordinary epidemic fanaticism continued. The only country not affected by it throughout Europe was England. Was this religion or sheer madness ? As difficult a question to answer as the other that we asked. Let us not forget, however, that revivals in modern days have presented religious madness equally great; not many months ago in Ireland, for instance.
We go a little further, and we find other aspects of the age equally remarkable. It was a time in which superstition put on its darkest and most terrible form. Crime assumed new and unexampled shapes. The historic atmosphere seems charged with signs and portents, and the light is lurid by which we read its events. Secret poisoning, dark and mysterious murders, astrology, sorcery, and magic, all betoken a diseased and terrible imagination, which made terror, in its various forms, to rule the popular mind of the time. This, too, was the age in which the Templars fell, victims not more of the cupidity and tyranny of King Philip than of the popular horror created by their supposed crimes. One of the most terrible facts in history, if we consider the
worse than Dantean hell of horrors" by which it was surrounded. This, also, was the age of Alchemy; the age, too, in which men believed that the Jews crucified little children and drank their blood. It was the age which created the story of a conspiracy between the lepers and the Jews the terrible details of which form a fit counterpart to the process against the Templars. The report was spread abroad that the Jews and lepers had poisoned the springs, and the composition attributed to the drugs with which this was done, shews the horrible imaginings of this time, in which men's minds had become a very charnel-house of horrors. It was said that human blood and urine were mixed with the body of Christ (i.e. the Host), dried and pounded, to form the fearful poison. Men were found to declare that they had seen the mixture, and that lepers and Jews had confessed to making it. Leper-houses, those merciful institutions of St. Francis, and one outcome of the spirit of self-sacrifice he inculcated, were now viewed with suspicion and hatred; and the Church excommunicated the lepers. Many of these wretched outcasts were burnt, and thousands driven out into the wilds to
live as they might; while wholesale burnings of the Jews took place. This, moreover, was the age in which the belief in Witchcraft reached its height, and thousands of witches fell a sacrifice to popular hatred and superstition. Foul diseased imaginings took possession of men, life was surrounded with horror, earth became a hell. “ The suspicious spirit of the time,” says Michelet, was startled at all mystery, like a child who is frightened by “night, and who strikes all th harder at whatever meets his hands." There was discord everywhere, maledictions and curses were the blessings of the period, everyone mistrusted, and everyone was mistrusted. In short, it was a time in which man had lost man's nature; and evil passions, phrenzy, and madness, were let loose and dark, boding superstition ruled over all. Truly we cannot, thank God! parallel that time in these its aspects, but we should remember that with its Mormonisms, its spirit-rappings, and other phenomena of the kind, this age presents some points of contact with that even in these respects.
We have drawn attention to several points of comparison between the Age of the Mendicant Monks, the age which saw the publication of the Everlasting Gospel, and produced the other strange phenomena we have just been looking at, and the present age, because we think that in the similarity which exists we may find the explanation we are seeking. That age, like the present, was an Age of Transition, an Age of Doubt. The foundations of the old Faith had fallen away. The Church no longer supplied the spiritual necessities of the people. Now, if there be one thing more certain than another in the teachings of history, it is that humanity cannot remain in such a state. The soul of man stands in the same need of spiritual aliment as the body does 'of food. If it cannot find a wholesome diet it will prey on garbage. Doubt, negation, scepticism, atheism, are simply conditions impossible to mankind at large. If true Religion be wanting, superstition will supply its place. The spirit of liberty created by the Crusaders and the spread of commerce, the wider spread of intelligence, the philosophy of Aristotle, the contest of reason and authority occasioned by the spread of the scholastic philosophy, had all undermined the ancient foundations on which the Church of the Middle Ages rested. The Church had sought to compel belief by a spiritual terrorism on the one hand, and to woo adherence by cultivating a fanatical mysticism on the other. The results were what we have seen. We
say there is much in the circumstances of the present time like unto those of that age. It is true our higher civilization, our wider knowledge, our science, and, above all, our liberty of thought, prevent the same extent of fanaticism and extravagance now as then. But if it be asked why the Dr. Cummings and the Spurgeons of to-day find so many followers, why spiritrappings and Irish Revivals, are existent amongst us, we answer it is because there is a wide-spread feeling that the old creeds and theologies are false, because people are no longer satisfied with the spiritual food administered to them by the appointed pastors and masters. As a consequence, Superstition has taken the place in many minds which Religion should supply. And there are not wanting men amongst us who, like the Mendicants of old, with far less excuse than they, undertake to do the dirty work of the Churches, to prop up the old theologies, and lead the people astray. We
with less excuse, because there is reason to believe the Mendicants were, to a great extent, self-deceived; but these are conscious charlatans.
Those Mendicants of old represented an Age of Spiritual Beggary: Religion had taken to attitudinising, to dressing itself in grey tunics and black copes, to simulating humility and self-sacrifice, and had got to disbelieve in its own reality. We can believe in the earnestness of a Francis of Assissi ; but in the Mendicant of Wycliffe's time, the mere actor of a part, the beggar who lived better than a lord, in him we cannot believe. Something real, something earnest, something that was not a sham, needed to be substituted for him. And is not this, too, an age of spiritual beggary? What earnestness is there in our Churches and Chapels ? People go to them, not as believing what is taught there, but because it is fashionable, because it is respectable, because it brings custom to their shop-for any reason but because they are religious. This is ever the case when the religious ideas taught in the pulpit are behind the age; when the religious forın no longer covers a fact.
To the thinking man there is nothing sadder than this; in an age which might be rich in spiritual blessings, in which the secrets of God's Universe are yielding themselves up at the bidding of Science for the instruction and improvement of men, our spiritual pastors offer us, in lieu of the grand Revelation God has given, and is daily giving us, of Himself, some miserable Jewish tradition or theological absurdity. With a glorious Past behind us, and a more glorions Future possible to us, with a Present full of life and struggles, hopes and aspirations, those who call themselves religious teachers altogether ignore, or are ignorant of history, nature, and man. The superstitions and follies of men dead fifteen hundred years ago are no fit pabulum wherewith to feed the souls of men in this nineteenth century; nor can the God of a barbarous age fit the conceptions of men enlightened by Science and the accumulated wisdom of the centuries. We starve in the midst of plenty, we are beggars where we might be owners of priceless blessings. We hear much from some people of the spiritual destitution of the times; and there is need of the complaint, only not in the sense they mean. are spiritually destitute, and shall be so until our Teachers learn their Duty; or, rather, until we ourselves declare that these who arrogate the position of Teachers shall hold that position no longer, until we require that the pulpits of the land shall hold men who teach truth and not falsehood, who will not shut their eyes to the facts of history and science, but who will look out into the l'niverse around and shew men the God who is there, and teach them how to worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.
JAS. L. GOODING.
TIIE LIFE AND TEACHINGS OF SAKYA (BUDDHA).
§ 7.----SAKYA AND HIS SERMON STYLE. Sakya frequently discoursed with the crowds of people who gathered together desiring to hear him. They appear to have been very anxious in most places to hear all he had got to say, nor was he unwilling to speak ; and of these speeches many have been preserved. A great man once asked him how he could keep himself out of evil, and the following passage contains the
“Know thou, that to keep from the company of the ignorant, and choose that of learned men : to give honour to whom it is due; to choose a residence proper to our station, and adapted for procuring the common wants of life ;
and to maintain a prudent carriage, --are means of preserving a man from evil doings. The comprehension of all things that are not evil, the exert knowledge of the duties of our station, and the observance of modesty and piety in our speech, are four excellent modes of renouncing wickedness.
“ By ministering a proper support to parents, wife, and family; by purity and honesty in every action; by alms-deeds; by observing the Divine precepts; and by succouring relations, —we may be preserved from evil
. By such a freedom from faults, that not even the inferior part of our nature manifests any affection for them; by abstinence from all intoxicating drink; by the continual practice of works of piety; by showing respectfulness, humility, and sobriety before all; and gratitude to our benefactors; and finally, by listening often to the preaching of the word of God, we overcome evil inclinations, and keep ourselves far from sin. Docility in receiving the admonitions of good men; frequent visits to priests; spiritual conferences on the Divine laws; patience, frugality, modesty; the literal observance of the law; keeping before our eyes the four states into which living creatures pass after death; and meditation on the happy repose of Nicban ;-these are distinguished rules for preserving man from wickedness.
* That intrepidity and serenity which good men preserve amid the eight evils of life ; (abundance and want, joy and sorrow, popularity and abandonment, censure and praise ;) their freedom from fear and inquietude ; from the dark mists of concupiscence; and, finally, their insensibility to suffering ;these are four rare gifts, that remove men far from evil. Therefore, O sir ! imprint well upon your heart the thirty-eight precepts I have just delivered. Let them be deeply rooted there, and see that you put them in practice.” *
It will be observed that Sakya, in the language of English Divines, sets forth" the frequent listening to the preaching of the Word of God," as a means of overcoming evil inclinations. So that the people evidently believed themselves to be in actual possession of a revealed word of the Holy One. But lest, as there was grave danger, it be imagined that in the rendering the original language has been strained, so as to make it carry more extended meanings, we mention the fact that, avoiding other translations, we have here used that of a very zealous Christian Missionary-a man who will scarcely be considered open to that charge. The truth seems to be that, although a very fair man as a whole, Malcolm was still operated upon by priestly influence; in place of giving it any undue warmth, he has rather toned it down, a practice rather common with his class, as it is but too much so with others to furnish a freer translation. The Missionaries have been alarmed by what they heard from Buddhists respecting their general belief; they had nothing to teach them in the way of morals or in that of verbal religion ; all their efforts have been directed to the doctrinal, as if it were the be-all and end-all of the subject. Malcolm, writing from his missionary point of view, very candidly says :
No false religion, ancient or modern, is comparable to this. Its philosophy is, indeed, not exceeded in folly by any other ; but its doctrines and practical piety bear a strong resemblance to those of holy Scripture. There is scarcely a principle or precept in the Bedagat which is not found * in the Bible. Did the people but act up to its principles of peace and love,
oppression and injury would be known no more within their borders. Its ' deeds of merit are in all cases either really beneficial to mankind, or harmless. It has no mythology of obscene and ferocious deities; no sanguinary
* Malcolm. Travels in Hindustan, &0, vol. 1, pp. 298, 299