תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

employed in stigmatizing, with the opprobrious mark of keresy, numbers of learned and pious men, in encroaching upon the rights and properties of others to augment their possessions, and in laying the most iniquitous snares and

was admired as a saint by the multitudes that crowded about the convent, while the four friars that managed the imposture, magnified in the most pompous manner, the miracle of this apparition, in their sermons and in their discourse. The night alter, the apparition was renewed with the addition of two impostors, dressed like devils, and Jetzer's faith was augmented by hearing from the spectre all the secrets of his life and thoughts, which the impostors had learned from his confessor. In this and some subsequent scenes, the detail of whose enormities, for the sake of brevity, we shall here omit, the impostor talked much to Jetzer of the Dominican order, which he said was peculiarly dear to the Blessed Virgin; be added, that the Virgin knew herself to be conceived in original sin; that the doctors who taught the contrary were in purgatory; that the Blessed Virgin abborred the Franciscans for making her equal with her son ; and that the town of Berne would be destroyed for harbouring such plagues within her walls, In one of these apparitions, Jetzer imagined that the voice of the spectre resembled that of the prior of the convent, and he was not mistaken; but not suspecting a fraud, he gave little attention to this. The prior appeared in various forms, sometimes in that of St. Barbara, at others in that of St. Bernard; at length be assumed that of the Virgin Mary, and, for that purpose, clothed himself in the liabits that were employed to adorn the statue of the Virgin in the great festivals ; the little images, that on these days are set on the altars, were made use of for angels, which being tied to a cord that passed through a pulley over Jetzer's head, rose up and down, and danced about the pretended Virgin to increase the delusion. The Virgin, thus equipped, addressed a long discourse to Jetzer, in which, among other things, she told him that she was conceived in original sin, though she had remained but a short tiine under that blemish. She gave him as a miraculous proof of her presence, a host, or consecrated wafer, which turned from white to red in a moment; and after various visits, in which the greatest enormities were transacted, the virgin prior told Jetzer, that she would give him the most affecting and undoubted marks of her son's love, by imprinting on him the five wounds that pierced Jesus . on the cross, as she had done before to St. Lucia and St. Catharine. Accordingly, she

took his hand by force, and struck a large nail through it, which threw the poor dupe into the greatest torment. The next night this masculine virgin brought as she pretended, some of the linen in which Christ had been buried, to soften the wound, and gave Jetzer a soporific draught, which had in it the blood of an unbaptized child, some grains of incense and of consecrated salt, some quicksilver, the hairs of the eyebrows of a child, all which, with some stupifying and poisonous ingredients, were mingled together by the prior with magic ceremonies, and a solemn dedication of himself to the devil in hope of his succour. This draught threw the poor wretch into a sort of lethargy, during which the monks imprinted on his body the other four wounds of Christ in such a manner that he felt no pain. When he awakened, he found, to his unspeakable joy, thesc impressions on his body, and came at last to fancy himself a representative of Christ in the various parts of his passion. He was, in this state, exposed to the admiring multitude en the principal altar of the convent, to the great mortification of the Franciscans. The Dominicans gave him some other draughts, that threw him into convulsions, which were followed by a voice conveyed through a pipe into the mouths of two images, one of Mary and another of the child Jesus; the former of which had tears painted upon its cheeks in a lively manner. The little Jesus asked his mother by means of this voice, which was that of the prior, why she wept; and she answered, that her tears were owing to the impious manner in which the Franciscans attributed to her the honour that was due to him, in saying that she was conceived and born without sin.

The apparitions, false prodigies, and abominable stratagems, of these Dominicans, were repeated every night ; and the matter was at length so grossly overacted, that, as simple as Jetzer was, he at last discovered it, and bad almost killed the prior, who appeared to him one night in the form of the Virgin with a crown on her head. The Dominicans, fearing by this discovery to lose the fruits of their imposture, thought the best method would be to own the whole matter to Jetzer, and to engage him, by the most seducing promises of opulence and glory, to carry on the cheat. Jetzer was persuaded, or at least appeared to be so. But the Dominicans, suspecting that he was not entirely gained over, resolved to poison him; but his constitution was so vigorous, that though

stratagems for the destruction of their adversaries.' And they were the principal counsellors, by whose instigation and advice Leo X. was determined to that most rash and imprudent measure, even the public condemnation of Luther.

XIII. The principal places in the public schools of learnThe state of ing were filled very frequently by monks of the

mendicant orders. This unhappy circumstance ols. prevented their emerging from that ignorance and darkness, which had so long enveloped them; and it also rendered them inaccessible to that auspicious light of improved science, whose salutary beams had already been felt in several of the European provinces. The instructers of youth, dignified with the venerable titles of artists, grammarians, physicians, and dialecticians, loaded the memories of their laborious pupils with a certain quantity of barbarous terms, arid and senseless distinctions, and scholastic precepts delivered in the most inelegant style ; and all such as could repeat this jargon with a certain readiness and rapidity, were considered as men of uncommon eloquence and erudition. The whole body of the philosophers extolled Aristotle beyond all measure; while scarcely any studied him, and none understood him. For what was now exhibited, as the philosophy of that famous Grecian sage, was really nothing more than a confused and motley heap of obscure notions,sentences, and divisions, which even the public doctors and heads of schools were unable to comprehend. And if among these thorns of

learning, and
of the publicuicuuial VIUCIS.
scbools.

they gave him poison five several times, he was not destroyed by it. One day they
sent him a loaf prepared with some spices, which growing green in a day or two, he
threw a piece of it to a wolf's whelps that were in the monastery, and it killed them im-
mediately. At another time they poisoned the host, or consecrated wafer, but as he
vomited it up soon after he swallowed it, he escaped once more. In short there were
no means of securing bim, which the most detestable impiety and barbarity could in-
vent, that they did not put in practice, till, finding at last an opportunity of getting out
of the convent, he threw himself into the hands of the magistrates, to whom he made a '
full discovery of this infernal plot. The affair being brought to Rome, commissaries
were sent from thence to examine the matter; and the whole cheat being fully proved,
the four friars were solemnly degraded from their priesthood, and were burut alive, on
the last day of May, 1509. Jetzer died some time after at Constance, having poisoned
himsell, as was believed by some. Had his life been taken away before he had found
an opportunity of making the discovery already mentioned, this execrable and horrid
plot, which, in many of its circumstances was conducted with art, would have been
handed down to posterity as a stupendous miracle. This is a very brief account of the
matter; such as are desirous of a more circumstantial relation of this famous imposture
may consult the authors mentioned in the beginning of this note.

I See Bilib. Pirkheimeri Epistola ad Hadrianum Pontif. Maxim, de Dominicanorum flagitiis, in opp. ejus, p. 372. This letter is also to be found in Gerdesii Introd. ad Histor. Renovati Evangelii, tom. i. p. 170. Append.

scholastic wisdom, there was any thing that had the appearance of fruit, it was crushed and blasted by the furious wranglings and disputes of the Scotists and Thomists, the Realists and Nominalists, whose clamours and contentions were unhappily heard in all the European academies.

xiv. The wretched and senseless manner of teaching theology in this century, may be learned from the state of many books yet extant, which were wrote by the theology. divines it produced, and which in reality have no other merit than their enormous bulk. The expositors of the holy Scriptures were very few in number, during this century; and there were scarcely any of the Christian doctors that had a critical knowledge of the sacred oracles. This kind of knowledge was so rare, that when Luther arose, there could not be found, even in the university of Paris,

the public schools of learning, a single person qualified to dispute with him, or oppose his doctrine, upon a Scripture foundation. Any commentators, that were at this time to be found, were such as, laying aside all attention to the true meaning and force of the words of Scripture, which their profound ignorance of the original languages and of the rules of criticism rendered them incapable of investigating, gave a loose to their vain and irregular fancies, in the pursuit of mysterious significations. The greatest part of the public teachers belonged to these classes of divines, which we have formerly mentioned under the titles of Positivi and Sententiarii, who were extremely fond, the former of loading their accounts, both of the truths and precepts of religion, with multiplied quotations and authorities from the writings of the ancient doctors; the latter of explaining the doctrines of the gospel by the rules of a subtile and intricate philosophy.

xv. It must at the same time be observed, that the divines of this century disputed with a good deal of freedom upon religious subjects, and even upon of the those that were looked upon as most essential to ligious subjects. salvation. There were several points of doctrine, which had not been as yet fixed and determined by the authority of the church; nor did the pontiffs, without some very urgent reason, restrain the rights of private judgment, or force the consciences of men, except in those cases where doctrines were adopted that seemed detrimental to the su

The liberty

The nature of religious worship as it was celebrated at

1

more

premacy of the apostolic see, or to the temporal interests of the sacerdotal and monastic orders. Hence it is, that we could mention many Christian doctors before Luther, who inculcated not only with impunity, but even with applause, the very same tenets that afterward drew upon him such heavy accusations and such bitter reproaches. And it is beyond all doubt, that this great reformer might have propagated these opinions without any danger of molestation, had he not pointed his warm remonstrances against the opulence of Rome, the overgrown fortunes of the bishops, the majesty of the pontiffs, and the towering ambition of the Dominicans. xvI. The public worship of the Deity was now no more

than a pompous round of external ceremonies, the

greatest part of which were insignificant and sensesbiebera le mis less, and much more adapted to dazzle the eyes this time. than to touch the heart. The number of those who were at all qualified to administer public instruction to the people, was not very considerable; and their discourses, which contained little else than fictitious reports of miracles and prodigies, insipid fables, wretched quibbles, and illiterate jargon, deceived the multitude instead of instructing them. Several of these sermons are yet extant, which it is impossible to read without the highest indignation and contempt. Those who, on account of their gravity of manners, or their supposed superiority in point of wisdom and knowledge, held the most distinguished rank among these vain declaimers, had a commonplace set of subjects allotted to them, on which they were constantly exercising the force of their lungs, and the power of their eloquence. These subjects were, the authority of the holy mother church, and the obligations of obedience to her decisions; the virtues and merits of the saints, and their credit in the court of heaven; the dignity, glory, and love of the Blessed Virgin ; the efficacy of relics; the duty of adorning churches, and endowing monasteries; the necessity of good works, as that phrase was then understood, to salvation ; the intolerable burnings of purgatory, and the utility of indulgences. Such were the subjects that employed the zeal and labours of the most eminent doctors of this century ; and they were indeed the only subjects that could tend to fill the coffers of the good old mother church, and advance her temporal interests. A ministry, who would have taken

The corrupt and miserable cundition of the people in

it into their heads to inculcate the doctrines and precepts of the gospel, to exhibit the example of its divine author, and the efficacy of his mediation, as the most powerful motives to righteousness and virtue, and to represent the love of God and mankind as the great duties of the Christian life, such a ministry would have been very unprofitable servants to the church and to the papacy, however they might have promoted the cause of virtue, and the salvation of souls.

xvi. The state of things, that we have been now describing, exhibits to our view the true causes of that incredible ignorance in religious matters, an which reigned universally in all countries, and i among all ranks and orders of men; an ignorance general. accompanied with the vilest forms of superstition, and the greatest corruption of manners. The clergy, who presided over the rights and ceremonies of the church, were far from showing the least disposition to enlighten the ignorance, or to check the superstition of the times ; nay, instead of opposing, they rather nourished and promoted them, as conducive to their safety, and favourable to their interests. Nor was there more zeal shown in stemming the torrent of immorality and licentiousness, than in dispelling the clouds of superstition and ignorance. For the prudence of the church had easily foreseen, that the traffic of indulgences could not but suffer from a diminution of the crimes and vices of mankind; and that, in proportion as virtue gained an ascendant upon the manners of the multitude, the profits arising from expiations, satisfactions, and such like ecclesiastical contrivances, must necessarily decrease.

XVIII. Such then was the dismal condition of the church. Its corruption was complete, and the abuses that a reformation it permitted were gone to the greatest height of indehely chaleco enormity. But in proportion to the greatness of sired. this corruption was the ardour and impatience with which all, who were endowed with any tolerable portion of solid learning, genuine piety, or even good sense, desired to see the church reformed and purged from these shocking abuses. And the number of those who were affected in this manner was very considerable in all parts of the western world. The greatest part of them indeed, were per

in the church

« הקודםהמשך »