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Passing, in his studies, through the subtleties of Aristotle, and the sublimities of Plato, to the divine intuitions in the New Testament Scriptures at a period when a sincere and faithful appeal to them was very rare, he became elevated to the position of the Italian Luther, antecedent in time to the German reformer, and as distinguished above him by more gentleness and nobler poetic tone. In practical tendency of being, the martyred Italian monk was no less eminent than the sturdy German student. The two qualities of divine love and moral action were united in him, without the intervention of a calculating rationality which not unfrequently deadens the holiest emotions. Hence his preference for the Dominican order. For the zeal he brought to that brotherhood could well employ the controversial learning they could teach him; and without an activity in "doing good" his soul could not be satisfied.
At the age of twenty-three years he abruptly quitted his paternal home at Ferrara, and entered the Dominican monastery at Bologna, as lay brother, where his talents and fervor were too justly appreciated to allow him the humble occupations he would have selected, and he was appointed to the highest offices for which nature and learning qualified him. His temperament, described as the "sanguine-choleric," rendered him equally susceptible of "hope and anger;" and such a nature, in connexion with an undefiled conscience and pure piety, aroused in him the highest indignation and energy, when he discovered that the brotherhood were as far estranged from holy principles and practices as the world he had quitted.
He hesitated long before he could accept the priestly office from hands so ill qualified to give it validity. Notwithstanding his poetic feelings, he was not a little opposed to the scientific music introduced into the Church, as he said, "by the devil to prevent mental devotion, and to delight the senses without producing spiritual fruits." He found no gospel commanding that we should keep in the church crosses of gold or silver, or other precious things, but he had found in the gospel, “I was an hungered and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me no drink!" His tendencies were all favorable to a purely personal, rather than a ceremonial religion. And his then unprecedented study of the divine written oracle did not close his soul against the immediate presence of the same divine authority, a fact doctrinally countenanced by every formal church only so long as its priesthood retains the exclusive power of interpreting the Spirit's voice. So far as Savonarola claimed the right of interpretation for himself, he may be considered as essentially a Protestant, and his memory has not remained unassailed on this ground. Contemplating all words
and outward things from inward life, the defections of priests. and people were alike manifest to him. His writings generally partake strongly of this mystic character. Spread over nearly thirty years, they are numerous and varied, chiefly, however, consisting of poems, epistles, sermons, and scripture paraphrases in Italian and Latin, a complete catalogue of which Mr. Heraud has now furnished.
Seven years were passed by Savonarola in his lay noviciate, travelling from place to place by the direction of his order, and teaching from cloister to cloister; thus carrying out the reforming idea with which he was so strongly impressed. He remained unspoiled even in the priestly office; the degradation in the Church having the effect rather of exciting him to firmer speech, than of quelling the truth within him. "Would you have your son a wicked man," he was wont to say, "make him a priest; O, how much poison will he swallow!" On the subject of prayer, he writes, "Those who will always use vocal and not mental prayer, act as if they chose to take medicine perpetually, and never to be cured. If it happen, by the grace of God, that the soul unites itself with him in such love and contemplation, that vocal prayer cannot longer be continued without hindering this contemplation, the suppliant should omit the remainder of his vocal, and continue his mental orisons, the great object of prayer being attained by such converse with God.” — p. 82.
Savonarola continued his literary instructions subsequent to his ordination, his talents rendering him popular, and his lectures successful. In private remonstrance he was no less happy, and instances of conversion by his means are recorded. The monastery having removed to Florence during a war, he was selected to preach; and, although at the outset he entirely failed in the new capacity, he became, by diligent study and deeper inward communion, no less renowned in the pulpit than at the lecture-table. He exposed vices in the highest persons, assailed the wickedness of the most powerful, even in the pulpit of the church itself denouncing the crimes of its rulers with so much sincerity, truth, and eloquence, that the people hailed him as a prophet. This popular attribution, the means by which his fame and influence were spread abroad, he did not so distinctly explain or deny, but that it could be ultimately used, as it was used, for his accusation and death. He seems, indeed, rather to have confirmed the notion; and one of his contemporaries reports, "began to enumerate some mysteries about an impending destruction, although he concealed them under cover of sacred scripture, that impure men might be prevented from perceiving them, fearing lest the holy thing should be given to the dogs. The sword of the Lord," he repeatedly exclaimed, "will soon and suddenly come upon the earth.”
So long as no great or immediate danger threatened the authorities from such preaching, the talents and solemnity of the preacher ensured him respect and even promotion. He was chosen Prior of the Dominican monastery of San Marco at Florence, erected by Cosmo di Medici at great expense, and favored by a rich library. The great Lorenzo di Medici in vain endeavored to seduce him by acts of courtesy and munificence. He remained faithful to conscience, and even proceeded so far as to put himself in opposition to him, on account of the social evils resulting from aristocratic privileges which no benevolence can gloss.
"In person he was of middling stature, rather small than large, but erect and easy; fair, almost florid in complexion, with a high, bold forehead remarkably furrowed; his eyes were brilliant, and of such a blue as the ancients called glauci, shadowed by long, reddish, eyelashes; his nose was prominent and aquiline, which added much to his beauty; his face was rather plump than thin; his cheeks somewhat rounded, and a full underlip gave sweetness to his countenance; the face was well placed, and every other part of his person proportioned and firmly knit, exhibiting in all his gestures and movements an air of gentleness and gracefulness. His hands were bony, and so little cov ered with flesh, that when held against the light they seemed almost transparent; his long spreading fingers ended in very pointed nails. His carriage was upright; his manners grave, equal, resolute, tempered by humble courtesy, polished and agreeable in every action."— p. 141.
On the death of Lorenzo, political events succeeded, in which Savonarola bore an important part, and was enabled to carry some of his reformatory ideas into practice, at least as respected monasteries. Practical measures roused up enemies at Rome; accusations were brought against him, and after various vicissitudes he was cited to Rome for having predicted future events. Sickness and some apology to the Pope purchased his excuse, and on recovery he again entered the pulpit. The Pope, like Lorenzo, tried, without success, to attract him from his duty, by offer of a cardinalate, but he would have "no other red hat than that of martyrdom covered with his own blood." In every successive sermon his principles were developed in opposition to the vices of authority. His preaching was suspended, he was again cited to Rome, and put upon his defence. He vindicated himself, was again ordered to preach. Proceeding in his reforming career, he proposed a council of the Church, and brought himself into such antagonism with the papal authority, that he was excommunicated. Again he was permitted to preach, and penned warm remonstrances to the Pope. He attacked more unsparingly than ever the depravity of the clergy. He declares,
"The scandal begins at Rome, and goes through the whole; they are worse than Turks and Moors. Begin only with Rome, and you will find that they have won all their spiritual benefices by simony. Many seek them for their children and brothers, who enter them with inso
lence and a thousand sins. Their covetousness is monstrous; "they will do any thing for money. Their bells sound avarice, call to nothing else but money and ease."-p. 322.
Conduct like this necessarily brought affairs to a crisis. He was committed to the merciless inquisition, and underwent the most cruel tortures, constantly refusing, in his restored moments, to sanction any doubtful expression like recantation, which might have escaped in the extremity of physical anguish, peculiarly painful in his case from mental sensibility and sanguine temperament.
Failing to obtain a genuine recantation, his persecutors fabricated one. His condemnation being determined on, sentence was pronounced, and with two of the fraternity, he was burnt to death in Florence, on the 22d of May, 1498.
These are the main incidents in a life which "could not fail, under any circumstances, of being deeply influential, but whose fame has not until now acquired a place in English literature, although within the last six years no fewer than three elaborate biographies have appeared in Germany from the pens of Rudelbach, Maier, and Rapp. In the design of introducing to a further portion of the reading public a character so distinguished, we are indebted to Mr. Heraud for this work, the general reception of which, we hope, will induce further efforts in bringing out the spirit-chosen minds. The present volume, though in its pains-taking erudition it grows occasionally discursive, and in needless efforts to prove that the Roman Catholic Church is really the protestant establishment, becomes somewhat controversial, is yet a valuable addition to our standard literature. In his summary Mr. Heraud observes that,
"Religion with Savonarola was love, commenced, contiued, ended in love. He was of the seraphic, rather than cherubic, nature. He was ever kindled and consumed with the zeal and energy of the affections; he unavoidably exhibits the soaring and glowing fire of an erotic spirit. He began life with an affair of the heart, in which he was disappointed, and commenced poet by composing amorous lyrics, which perished with the destruction of his hopes, and their elevation to celestial attachment, - then, too, his muse became devout, but still the lyre was attuned to lays of love. Virtue, truthfully severe, and benevolently active, was then the beauty he turned to woo; and he pursued it, under all circumstances, even to suffering and death. Hence it was, that his precepts and example became so attractive and generative. Multitudes caught the magnetic influence, the flame spread from heart to heart,-enthusiasm was communicated from soul to soul." - p. 337.
"In his last perplexity, Savonarola conducted himself nobly, not retracting, as is pretended, though still distinguishing, willing to submit to constituted right; yet protesting against misconstituted wrong, obedient to authority, but resisting its abuse. Savonarola, though weak in body, strong in spirit, manifested a dignity which compels us to confess, that his imitation of Jesus of Nazareth was so perfect, as scarcely to want any of the attributes which accredit the messengers of divine truth, except that of miraculous power." - p. 338.
HEIDELBERG, Jan. 5, 1843.
I Do not learn that Schelling is to give a course of lectures in Berlin this winter. Pamphlets and articles upon the points of difference between him and Hegel continue to make their appearance, and to find readers; among others, one by J. H. Fichte "Ueber die Christliche und Antichristliche Speculation der Gegenwart." A pamphlet entitled "Shelling's Vorlesungen in Berlin, Darstellung und Kritik der Hauptpunkte derselben, mit besonderer Beziehung auf das Verhältniss zwischen Christenthum und Philosophie, von Dr. J. Frauenstädt." This last will give you as good an idea as any of the world-famous philosopher, as he is actually talked about, and his first course of lectures in Berlin. On the 10th of August last, he concluded his lectures on the Philosophy of Mythology, in words like the following; "I conclude these lectures with satisfaction and inmost content. I have found in you, my hearers, during the last half year, no casual or unknown throng. In the great majority of you, gentlemen, I could see friends whom I had won by my previous lectures, the confidants of my real thoughts, as well as of my peculiar methods of unfolding philosophical subjects. Thus much I could gather from the particular attention and uninterrupted interest with which you have attended these lectures; to which I have been so fortunate as to attract gentlemen of superior attainments in science, and whom I prize in the highest degree. And now, at their conclusion, I present you all with my heartiest thanks for such interest; and you will allow me to add an expression of the wish which I cannot help cherishing, that I may further enjoy so beautiful a relation. Farewell."
The first article of the second volume of the " Jahrbuch der Deutschen Universitaten" contains a vindication of Schelling against all and sundry by G. Heine, from which I translate the following paragraphs.
"What Schelling taught in 1800, he still teaches. Man is the end and aim of creation, the spirit which moves in all, that to which all tends. But Schelling, who takes the history in its particulars, and does not attempt a solution by generalization, acknowledges, at the same time, that at the end of the Creation, the rest, which should be the result of this motion, did not by any means obtain; on the contrary, he sees a new process start up, and to understand this, is his next task. It would be more convenient indeed to deny the fact of this unrest; for it appears so absurd that the world should topple together like a cardhouse, by the capricious blow of man's folly.' Yet such a fall has taken place, and therefore nothing but ignorance of History and Revelation, or caprice, can elude it. A conscientious inquirer will seek to explain it. It was in relation to His Son that God permitted this fall. Man had by his own fault fallen under the power of that principle which he ought to keep at rest and in subjection within him. But in this estrangement from God he is followed by the second of the three poten