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France and Germany, and seduced into its bosom multitudes of persons of both sexes, by the striking appearance of piety that was observed in the conduct of the members that composed it. How far the councils of this century proceeded against this new sect, we cannot say with any certainty ; because we have upon record but a few of the decrees that were issued out upon that occasion. Perhaps the obscurity of the rising faction screened it, in a great measure, from public view. But this was not the case in the following age; the brethren and sisters above mentioned came forth from their retreats in proportion as their numbers increased; they drew upon them the eyes of the world, and particularly those of the inquisitors, who committed to the flames such of these unhappy enthusiasts as fell into their hands; while the councils, held in Germany and other nations, loaded them with excommunications and damnatory edicts.
This new sect took their denomination from the words of St. Paul,' and maintained that the true children of God were invested with the privilege of a full and perfect free,dom from the jurisdiction of the law.! They were called by the Germans and Flemish Beghards and Beguttes, which, as we have seen already, was a name usually given to those who made an extraordinary profession of piety and devotion. They received from others, the reproachful denomination of Bicorni, i. e. idiots. In France, they were known by the appellation of Beghins and Beghines, while the multitude distinguished them by that of Turlupins, the origin and reason of which title I have not been able to learn.' Nothing carried a more shocking air of
r Romans viii. 2, 14.
s The accounts we hore give of these wretched fanatics are, for the most part, taken from authentic records, which have not been as yet published, from the decrees of synods and councils held in France and Germany, from the diplomas of the Roman pontiffs, the sentences pronounced by the inquisitors, and the other sources of information to which I have had access. I have also a collection of extracts from certain books of these enthusiasts, and more especially froin that which treated of the nine spiritual rocks, and which was in the highest esteem among the free brethren, who considered it as a treasure of divine wisdom and doctrine, As I cannot expose here these records to the examinatiou of the curious reader, I beg leave to refer him to a long and ample edict issued out against these brethren by Henry I. archbishop of Cologne, and published in the Statuta Celoniensia, A. 1554, p. 58. This edict is, in every respect, conformable to those published on the same occasion, at Mentz, Aschaffenburg, Paderborn, Beziers, Triers, and other places.
t Many have written, but none with accuracy and precision, concerning the Turlupins. See Beau sobre's Disserlations sur les Adamites, part ii. p. 384, where that learned author has fallen into several errors, as usually happens to him when he treats subjects of this kind. I know not the origin of the word turlupin, but I am able to demon
lunacy and distraction than their external aspect and manners. They ran from place to place clothed in the most singular and fantastic apparel, and begged their bread with wild shouts and clamours, rejecting with horror every kind of industry and labour, as an obstacle to divine contemplation, and to the ascent of the soul towards the Father of spirits. In all their excursions they were followed by women, with whom they lived in the most intimate familiarity." They distributed among the people books which contained the substance of their doctrine, held nocturnal assemblies in places remote from public view, and seduced many from frequenting the ordinary institutions of divine worship. x. These brethren, who gloried in the freedom which
they pretended to have obtained, through the doctrines of spirit, from the dominion and obligation of the
law, adopted a certain rigid and fantastic system of mystic theology, built upon pretended philosophical principles, which carried a striking resemblance of the impious doctrines of the pantheists. For they held,“ That all things flowed by emanation from God, and were finally to return to their divine source; that rational souls were so many portions of the Supreme Deity, and that the universe, considered as one great whole, was God; that every man by the power of contemplation, and by calling off his mind from sensible and terrestrial objects, might be united to the Deity in an ineffable manner, and become one with the source and Parent of all things ; and that they, who, by long and assiduous meditation, had plunged themselves, as it were, into the abyss of the Divinity, acquired thereby a most glorious and sublime liberty, and were not only delivered from the violence of sinful lusts, but even from the common instincts of nature.” From these and such like doctrines, the brethren under consideration drew this impious and horrid conclusion, “That the person who had ascended to God in this manner, and was absorbed by contemplation into the abyss of Deity, became thus a part of the godhead, commenced God, was the son of God, in the same sense and manner that Christ was, and was
strate by the most authentic records, that the persons so called, who were burnt at Paris and in other parts of France, were no other than the brethren of the free spirit, who were condemned by the Roman pontiffs, and also by various councils.
u Hence they were called in Germany, Schwestriones, as appears by the decrees of several councils.
thereby raised to a glorious independence, and freed from the obligation of all laws human and divine.” It was in consequence of all this, that they treated with contempt the ordinances of the gospel, and every external act of religious worship, looking upon prayer, fasting, baptism, and the sacrament of the Lord's supper, as the first elements of piety adapted to the state and capacity of children, and as of no sort of use to the perfect man, whom long meditation had raised above all external things, and carried into the bosom and essence of the Deity.
xi. Among these fanatics there were several persons of eminent probity, who had entered into this sect with the most upright intentions, and who ex- herenies Sere tended that liberty of the spirit, which they look over een promedat ed upon as the privilege of true believers, no far- lentelis by ther than to an exemption from the duties of ex- personer ternal worship, and an immunity from the positive laws of the church. The whole of religion degree. was placed by this class of men in internal devotion, and they treated with the utmost contempt the rules of monastic discipline, and all other external rites and institutions, as infinitely beneath the attention of the perfect. Nor were their exhortations and their examples without effect; for
probity, and others that were licentious in an infamous
w It may not be improper to place here a certain number of sentences translated faithfully from several of the more secret books of these heretics. The following will be sufficient to give the curious reader a full idea of their impiety.
" Every pious and good man is the only begotten son of God, whom God engendered from all eternity;" for these heretics maintained, that what the Scriptures taught concerning the distinction of three persons in the divine nature, is by no means to be understood literally, and therefore explained it according to the principles of their mystical and fantastical system.
.“ All created things are nonentities or nothing ; I do not say that they are small or minute ; but that they are absolutely nothing.
“ There is in the soul of man something that is neither created, nor susceptible of creation, and that is, rationality, or the power of reasoning.
“God is neither good, nor better, nor best ; whosoever therefore calls the Deity good, does as foolishly as he who calls an object black, which he knows to be white.
“ God still engenders his only begotten son, and begets still the same son, whom he had begotten from eternity. For every operation of the Diety is uniform and one ; and therefore be engenders his son without any division.
“What the Scriptures say concerning Christ is true of every good, of every divine man. And every quality of the divine nature belongs equally to every person, whose piety is genuine and sincere.”.
To these horrid passages we may add the following sentences, in which John, bishop of Strasbourg, in an edict he published against the brethren of the free spirit, or Beghards, in the year 1317, the Sunday before the feast of the assumption of the Virgin Mary, discovers farther the blasphemous doctrine of this impious sect.
“ Deus," say these heretics, est formaliter omne quod est. Quilibet homo perfectus est Christus per naturam. Homo perfectus est liber in totum, nec tenetur ad servandum præcepta ecclesiæ data a Deo. Multa sunt poetica in evangelio, quæ non sunt vera, et homines credere magis debent conceptibus ex anima sua Deo juncta profectis, quam evan
about the middle of this century they persuaded a considerable number of monks and devout persons in Swabia to live without any rule, and to serve God in the liberty of the spirit, which was the most acceptable service that could be presented to the Deity." The inquisitors however stopped these poor enthusiasts in the midst of their career, and committed several of them to the flames, in which they expired, not only with the most unclouded serenity, but even with the most triumphant feelings of cheerfulness and joy.
But there were among these brethren of the free spirit, another class of fanatics very different from these now mentioned, and much more extravagant, whose system of religion was as dangerous, as it was ridiculous and absurd, since it opened a door to the most licentious manners. These wretched enthusiasts maintained that, by continual contemplation, it was possible to eradicate all the instincts of nature out of the heaven-born mind, and to introduce into the soul a certain divine stupor, and holy apathy, which they looked upon as the great characteristics of Čhristian perfection. The persons who adopted these sentiments, took strange liberties in consequence of their pretended sanctity, and showed indeed by their conduct, that they had little regard to external appearances ; for they held their secret assemblies stark naked, and lay in the same beds with their spiritual sisters, or indiscriminately, with other women, without the smallest scruple or hesitation. This shocking violation of decency was a consequence of their pernicious system. They looked upon decency and modesty as marks of inward corruption, as the characters of a soul that was still under the dominion of the sensual, animal, and lascivious spirit, and that was not, as yet, reunited to the divine nature, its centre and source. And they considered, as at a fatal distance from the Deity, all such as either felt the carnal suggestions of nature, or were penetrated with warm emotions at the view or approach of persons of a different sex, or were incapable of vanquishing and suppressing the rising fervour of lust and intemperance.
* See Mart. Crusius, Annal. Suevicorum, part iii. lib. ii. cap. xiv. ad A. 1261, p. 99, edit. Vet. This author has taken his materials from Felix Faber, an impartial writer.
y Certain writers, whose principal zeal is employed in the defence of these heretics, and who have accustomed themselves to entertain a high idea of the sanctity of all those who, in the middle age, separated themselves from the communion of the church
There were moreover, in this fanatical troop, certain enthusiasts, who far surpassed in impiety the two classes we have been now mentioning, who abused the system and doctrines of the sect, so as to draw from them an apology for all kinds of wickedness, and who audaciously maintained, that the divine man, or the believer, who was intimately united to God, could not sin, let his conduct be ever so horrible and atrocious. This execrable doctrine was not indeed explained in the same manner by all the brethren of the free spirit that were so outrageous as to adopt it. Some held, that the motions and actions of the body had no relation at all to the soul, which, by its union with God, was blended with the divine nature; others fell into a notion infinitely injurious to the Supreme Being, and maintained, that the propensities and passions that arose in thesoul of the divine man after his union with the Deity,were the propensities and affections of God himself, and were, therefore, notwithstanding their apparent deformity and opposition to the law, holy and good, seeing that the Supreme Being is infinitely exalted above all law and all obligation,
of Rome, suspect the inquisitors of having attributed falsely those impious doctrines to the brethren of the free spirit, with a view to blacken these pious men, and to render them odious. But this suspicion is entirely groundless ; and the account of this matter, which we have given in the text, is conformable to the strictest truth. The inquisitors have been less fabulous in their accusations of these heretics, than many are apt to imagine. They acknowledge that the Beghards, though destitute of shame, were not chargeable, generally speaking, with a breach of the duties of chastity and abstinence. They were indeed of opinion, that this firmness and insensibility of heart, which rendered them proof against female charms, and deaf to the voice of nature, was a privilege granted them by the devil. For they adopted the opinion of honest Nieder, Formicar, lib. iii. cap. v. p. 346, and affirmed, that ii was in the power of that evil spirit to render men cold, and to extinguish the warm and lascivious solicitations of nature ; and that Satan wrought this miracle upon his friends and adherents, in order to procure them high reputation of sanctity, and make them appear superior in virtue to the rest of mankind. “Credo,” said Nieder, who was both a Dominican and an inquisitor, quosdam ex eis dæmonis opere affectos fuisse, ne moverentur ad naturales actus incontinentiæ.... Facillimum enim est dæmonibus infrigidare."
z This account will be confirmed by the following passage faithfully translated from the famous book of the Nine Rocks, written originally in German; “Moreover the divine man operates and engenders whatever the Deity operates and engenders. For in God he produced and formed the heavens and the earth. He is also the father of the eternal world. Neither could God produce any thing without this divine man, who is therefore obliged to render his will conformable to the will of God, that so whatsoever may be agreeable to the Deity, may be agreeable to him also. If therefore it be the will of God that I should commit sin, my will must be the same, and I must not even desire to abstain from sin. This is true contrition. And although a man, who is well and truly united to God, may have committed a thousand mortal sins, he ought not even to wish that he had not committed them ; nay, he should rather die a thousand deaths than omit one of these mortal sins.” Hence the accusa. tion brought by the inquisitors against this impious sect, whom they reproach with maintaining that the “sin of a man united to God, is not sin, since God works in him and with him whatever he does.” Henry Suso, a Dominican monk, and one of the most celebrated mystic writers, composed, in the following century, another book concerning the Nine Rocks, which is to be found in the edition of his work published by VOI, II.