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It is necessary to observe, before we leave this subject, that flagitious and impious impostors mingled themselves sometimes with this sect, and took the name of Beghards, that by a feigned piety they might impose upon the multitude, and deceive the simple into their snares." xi. The famous Amalric, native of Bene, and professor
of logic and theology at Paris, whose bones were
dug up and publicly burnt in the year 1209, although he had abjured his errors before his death, and a considerable number of whose disciples and followers were committed to the flames on account of their absurd and pernicious doctrine, was undoubtedly of the same way of thinking with the sect whose opinions we have been now considering. For though the writers of this barba
Laurent, Surius. But this book is entirely different from that which was in such high esteem among the Beghards, though it bears the same title. The latter is of much older date, and was in vogue in Germany, among the brethren of the free spirit, long before Suso was born. There fell some time ago into my hands an ancient manuscript, composed in Alsace, during the fifteenth century, and containing an account of various revelations and visions of that age. In this manuscript I found a piece 'entitled, Declaratio Religiosi cujusdam super revelatione. Carthusiano cuidam de Ecclesiæ per gladium reformalione, Leodii, A. 1453, facta ; and almost in the beginning of this declaration the following passage relating to the book of the Nine Rocks ; " Homo quidam devotissimus, licet Laicus, Librum de novem Rupibus conscripsit a Deo compulsus, ubi multa ad præsens pertinentia continentur de Ecclesiæ renovatione et prævia gravi persecutione.” These Nine Rocks signified, according to the fanatical doctrine of this wrong-beaded sect, the different steps by which the divine man ascended to the Deity.
a The founder of this famous sect, the place of its origin, and the precise state of its first appearance, are not known with any degree of certainty.. I have actually in my possession, “ Eighty-Nine Sentences of the Beghards, vulgarly called Schwestrones but who style themselves brethren of the sect of the free spirit and of voluntary poverty, with a Refutation of the said Sentences," written ai Worms toward the conclusion of this century by some one or other of the inquisitors. The seventy-ninth of these sentences runs thus ; “To say that the truth is in Rhetia, is to fall into the heresy of Donatus, who said, that God was in Africa, and not elsewhere." From these words it appears evident, that Rhetia was the place where the church of the brethren of the free spirit was fixed and established, and that from this province they passed into Germany. I am not, bowever, of opinion, that this sect had its first rise in that province; but am rather inclined to think, that Italy was its country, and that being driven from thence, it took refuge in Rhetia, Nor is it at all improbable, that Italy, which saw so many religious factions arise in its bosom, was also the nursing mnother of this blasphemous sect. We shall be almost fully confirmed in this opinion when we consider that, in a long letter from Clement 1. to Raimier, bishop of Cromona, published by Odor. Raynaldus, Innc'. tom. XV. A. 1311, n. 66. p. 90, lhe zealous pontiff exhorts that prelate to suppress and extirpate, with all his might, the sect of the brethren of the free spirit, which was settled in several parts of Italy, and particularly in the province of Spoleto and the countries adjacent. Such are the terms of the pontiff's letter; “in nonnullis Italiæ partibus, tam Spoletanæ provinciæ, quam circumjacentiam regionum."
b This did not escape the notice of the enemies of the Beghards, or brelhren of the free spirit, in Germany, much less that of the inquisitors, who, in their Refutation of The Eighty-Nine Sentences of the Beghards mentioned in the preceding note, express themselves thus : Sententia 68. “ Dicere quod omnis creatura est Deus, hæresis Ales. andri* est, qui dixit, materiam primam et Deum et Hominem, hoc est mentes, esse in
* The person here mentioned is Alexander, the Epicurean, of whom Plutarch speaks in his Symposium
rous age have given very different and confused accounts of this man's opinions, and even attributed some doctrines to him which he never maintained, it is nevertheless certain, that he taught, that all things were the parts of
one substance, or in other words, that the universe was God, and that not only the forms of all things, but also their matter or substance, proceeded from the Deity, and must return to the source from whence they were derived. From these absurd and blasphemous principles he deduced that chimerical system of fanatical devotion, which we have already exposed to the view of the reader, pretended to demonstrate the possibility of incorporating or translating the human nature into the divine, and rejected all kinds of external worship as insignificant and useless. The disciples of this enthusiast were men of exemplary piety, were distinguished by the gravity and austerity of their lives and manners, and suffered death in the most dreadful forms with the utmost resolution and constancy. One of the most eminent among these was David of Dinant, a Parisian doctor, who usually expressed the fundamental principle of his master in the following proposition; “ God is the primary matter or substance of all things.” He composed a work entitled Quaternarii, with several other productions, which were chiefly designed to affect and gain the multitude; but after all, was obliged to save himself by flight. The bishops, assembled in council at Paris
substantia, quod postea quidam David de Dinanto sequutus est, qui temporibus nostris de hac bæresi de Francia fugatus est, et punitus fuisset, si deprehensus fuisset.”
D. The account given by Fleury, in his Ecclesiastical History, of the opinions of Amalric, is very different from that which is here given by Dr. Mosheim. The former observes that Amalric, or Amauri, taught that every Christian was obliged to believe himself a member of Jesus Christ, and that without this belief none could be saved," and he observes also, that his disciples introduced errors still more pernicious, such as the following ; "that the power of the Father bad continued only during the Mosaic dispensation, that of the Son twelve hundred years after his entrance upon earth, and that in the thirteenth century, the age of the Holy Spirit commenced, in which the sacraments and all external worship were to be abolished : that there would be no resurrection; that heaven and hell were mere fictions ;" and many more sentiments of that nature, which, as the learned Spanheim* imagines, were falsely imputed to Amalric, in order to render his memory odious, because be had opposed the worship of saints and images. See Fleury, Hist. Eccles. livr. Ixxvi. S hix. Dr. Mosbeim looks upon Amalric to have been a pantheist, and many men of eminent learning are of this opinion. See among others Joh. Gerson apud Jac. Thomasium, and also Brucker's Hist. Philosoph. tom. iii. p. 688.
d See Martene, Thesaur. Anecdolor. tom. iv. p. 163, where there is an account of the heresies, for which several priests were burnt at Paris in the year 1209. Natal. Alexander, Hist. Eccl. Sæc. xiii. cap. iii. art. ii. p. 76. Du Bois, Historia Eccles. Paris. tom. ji. p. 244. Boulay, Histor. Acail. Paris. tom. iii. p. 24, 48, 53. Jac. Thomasius, De Exustione mundi Sloica, p. 199.
* See Spanhemii Hist. Eccles. Sec. xxii. p. 1694.
in the year 1209, considered the philosophy of Aristotle as the source of all these impious doctrines, and on that account, prohibited the reading, or explaining, either in public or private, the metaphysical, and other productions of the Grecian sage.”
X. If we may depend upon the accounts given by Jorchim, Wil certain writers, Amalric and his followers re
ceived with the utmost docility and faith the predictions, attributed to Joachim, abbot of Flora, concerning the reformation that was soon to be brought about in the church by the power of the sword; the approaching age of the Holy Ghost that was to succeed those of the Father and the Son, and other things of that nature, which raised the hopes and occupied the thoughts of the spiritual Francis
Whether these accounts may be depended upon or not, we shall not determine. To us they appear extremely doubtful. It is however true, that certain persons were so far deluded by these pretended prophecies, as to form new sects with a view to their accomplishment, and to declare war against the established church, its system of doctrine, and its fornis of worship. Among other fanatical sectaries, there arose one of a most extraordinary kind, a Bohemian woman named Wilhelmina, who resided in the territory of Milan. This delirious and wrong-headed woman, having studied with attention the predictions concerning the age of the Holy Ghost, was extravagant enough to persuade herself
, and what is still more amazing, had influence enough to persuade others, that the Holy Ghost was become incarnate in her person, for the salvation of a great part of mankind. According to her doctrine, “None were saved by the blood of Jesus, but true and pious Christians; while the Jews, Saracens, and unworthy Christians, were to obtain salvation through the Holy Spirit, which dwelt in her, and that, in consequence thereof, all that had happened to Christ, during his appearance upon
earth in the human nature, was to be exactly renewed in her person, or rather in that of the Holy Ghost, which was united to her. This mad woman died at Milan in the year 1281, in the most fragrant odour of sanctity, and her memory was not only held in the highest veneration by her numerous followers and the ignorant multi
e Launois, De varia Aristol. fortuna in Acad. Paris. p. 127.
tude, but was also honoured with religious worship both in public and in private. Her sect, nevertheless, was discovered by the curious eye of persecution in the year 1300, and fell into the clutches of the inquisitors, who destroyed the magnificent monument that had been erected in her honour, had her bones raised and committed to the flames, and in the same fire consumed the chief leaders of this wretched faction, among which there were persons of both sexes."
xiv. It was upon predictions similar to those mentioned in the preceding section, that the sect of the apos. The sect called tles founded its discipline. The members of this aposties. sect made little or no alterations in the doctrinal part of the public religion; what they principally aimed at was, to introduce among Christians the simplicity of the primitive times, and more especially the manner of life that
! was observed by the apostles. Gerhard Sagarelli, the founder of this sect, obliged his followers to go from place to place as the apostles did, to wander about clothed in white, with long beards, dishevelled hair, and bare heads, accompanied with women, whom they called their sisters. They were also obliged to renounce all kinds of property and possessions, and to preach in public the necessity of į repentance, while in their more private assemblies they declared the approaching destruction of the corrupt church of Rome, and the establishment of a purer service, and a more glorious church, that according to the prophecies of the abbot Joachim, was to arise from its 'ruins. No sooner was the unhappy leader of this faction committed to the flames, than he was succeeded in that character by a bold and enterprising fanatic, named Dulcinus, a native of Novara, who published his predictions with more courage, and maintained them with more zeal, than his predecessor had done, and who did not hesitate to declare that, in a short time, the Roman pontiff, Boniface VIII. with the corrupt priests and the licentious monks, were to
f The Milanese historians, such as Bernard, Corius, and others, have related the adventures of this odd woman; but their accounts are very different from those given by the learned Muratori, in his Antiq. Italicæ medii ævi, tom. v. p. 91, and which he has drawn from the judicial proceedings of the court, where the extraordinary case of this female fanatic was examined. We are informed by the same excellent author, that a learned writer, named Puricelli, composed a history of Wilhelmina, and of her
g This unhappy man was burnt alive at Parma, in the year 1300.
perish by the hand of the emperor Frederic III. son of Peter, king of Arragon, and that a new and most holy pontiff was to be raised to the head of the church. These visionary predictions were, no doubt, drawn from the dreams of the abbot Joachim, who is said to have declared, among other things, that an emperor called Frederic III. was to bring to perfection what Frederic II, had left unfinished. Be that as it may, Dulcinus appeared with intrepid assurance at the head of the apostles ; and acting, not only in the character of a prophet, but also in that of a general, he assembled an army, to maintain his cause, and perhaps to accomplish, at least in part, his predictions. He was opposed by Raynerius, bishop of Vercelli
, who defended the interests of the Roman pontiff, and carried on, during the space of two years and more, a most bloody and dreadful war against this chief of the apostles. The issue of this contest was fatal to the latter, who, after several battles, fought with obstinate courage, was at length taken prisoner, and put to death at Vercelli in the most barbarous manner in the year 1307, together with Margaret, whom he had chosen for his spiritual sister, according to the custom of his sect. The terrible end of Dulcinus was not immediately followed by the downfal of his sect, which still subsisted in France, Germany, and in other countries, and stood firm against the most vehement efforts of its enemies until the beginning of the fifteenth century, when, under the pontificate of Boniface IX. it was totally extirpated." xv. This famous Joachim, abbot of Flora, whose fana
tical predictions turned the heads of so many wellof the heroynt meaning people, and excited them to attempt reputed to you forming the church by the sword, and to declare
open war against the Roman pontiffs, did not fall
h I composed in the German language an accurate history, in three books, of this famous sect, which is very little known in our times, and I have in my hands materials, that will furnish an interesting addition to that history. That this sect subsisted in Germany, and in some other countries, until the pontificate of Boniface IX, is evident from the Chronicle of Herman Cornerus, published by Jo. George Echard, in his car pus Historicum medii ævi, tom ii. p. 906, and may be sufficiently demonstrated by other authentic testimonies. In the year 1402, a certain member of this apostolical sect, whose name was William, or Wilhelmus, was burnt alive at Lubeck. See Corners loc. cit. p. 1185. The Germans, who were accustomed to distinguish by the name si Beghards all those who pretended to extraordinary piety, and sought by poverty od begging, an eminent reputation for sanctity and virtue, gave this title also to the sert of the Apostles.