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THE NONCONFORMIST. No. XXIII. On the Attempts that were made towards the Reformution of Religion in Italy
in the Sixteenth Century. T has been disputed, between the object. Individuals had, in some
lius, to which of those eminent persons ings, animadverted upon what they ought to be ascribed the honour of deemed its false doctrines and superoriginating the great work of the Re- stitious rites : whilst others had assoformation from Popery. In whatever ciated, in considerable numbers, for way this controversy inay be decided, the public celebration of the ordinances it is not possible that the reputation of religion upon principles which they of either of the illustrious individuals, deemed more accordant with Christian whose credit is thought to be staked truth and evangelical simplicity.* The upon the issue of it, can be at all Roman Pontiffs had, in fact, been affected. The history of the proceed themselves, for several ages, gradually ings of both, in their manly stand preparing the instruments which were against spiritual nsurpation and ty- to subvert their spiritual empire. ranny, is now well known; the value Their insolence and their excesses had of their services, in their respective disgusted and alienated their best theatres of action, is properly inder- friends and warmest partizans, and stood, and their merits are rightly and had excited an universal desire for some fully appreciated by a gratefál poste, change that should curb their ambirity. It is, however, due to cach of tion, effect the improvement of the them to bear in mind, that their la- religious orders, relieve from the burbours in the cause of Christian truth and liberty commenced about the same period in different countries ; * This statement is abundantly justithat they were independent actors; fied by what is detailed in the commou and had at first, and for a conside- compilations of Ecclesiastical History rerable period, no knowledge of each specting those numerous and, in some other's designs and proceedings in re- instances, discordant sects which passed spect to their common object.
It under the general name of Albigenses, follows, therefore, from these facts, and which so frequently exposed themthat neither of them can substantiate selves to the thunderbolts of the Vatican. a just claim to priority of service on condemned so early as the year 1176 by
Their heretical opinions were publicly the score of time, or pretend to the a Council held at 'Albi, in the South of merit of having been the first to set France. In 1179 they were cruelly perthe example to the other.
secuted by Pope Alexander; in the early But whatever meed of praise may part of the thirteenth century a crusade be awarded to Luther and to Zwing- was proclaimed against them by Pope lius, there is good reason to question Innocent the Third, whose name conthe right of either of them to be, in tained the bitterest 'satire upon his chastrict propriety, regarded as the father racter, at least in this instance ; and of the Reformation. Long antece- about this period the infernal tribunal of dently to their day, men's minds had, the Inquisition was created with an exin various countries of Europe, been press view to thcir estirpation. The
result of these violent measures might drawn to the consideration of the An- have taught the Roman Pontiffs and their ti-Christian spirit of the Church of ministers, how inappropriate and unavailRoine, and of the licentiousness and ing are such iøstruments of conversion, profligacy of its rulers and ministers.
as dungeons and torture, fire and gibbets, To its religious tenets and worship, to act upon the reason of men who will also, some persons had been led to think before they believe.
den of the Romish ritual those who followed by no very extensive or lastdisapproved of it, and leave men more ing benefits to the common cause. at liberty in the choice, and in the Whilst the doctrines and pretensions outward profession and exercises of of the Church of Rome were thus their religion. By the time that Lu- freely canvassed and opposed in Gerther and Zwinglius appeared in the many and Switzerland, it was scarcely field against the Roman power, there possible that in Italy, where men were existed a very general, and, in some placed within a nearer view, and under places, a very decided disposition to the more immediate influence of the enter into their views of reform, and system, its follies and excesses should to aid their exertions to carry them have escaped notice and animadverinto execution. This fact will sufi- sion. Indeed, at a period long anteciently account for the kind of recep- rior to that which is at present under tion they experienced from those who consideration, we meet with occasional were the first witnesses of their pro- memorials of individuals who had ceedings, as well as for the success, openly impugned the papal authority: so far exceeding, probably, their own Amongst these may be here mentioned most sanguine expectations, which Cecco d'Ascoli, who wrote a poem on ultimately crowned their efforts in the Nature of the Universe. Crescim. their honourable but arduous under- beni, the historian of the Vernacular taking. For whilst their labours were, Poetry of Italy, calls himn Astrologo in soine instances, needed to awaken del Duca di Calavria, “the Astrothe spirit of religious inquiry and in- loger of the Duke of Calabria." He dependence in minds in which it had says of him that he was the advocate become torpid and inert under the or defender of emperors, of kings, and chilling influence of a long and oppres- of the laws agaiust the clergy and the sive spiritual thraldoin, it is perfectly pope : and states that he was burnt evident that, in a great number of at Florence on the 16th of September, other cases, they had little more to 1327, for “ his wicked opinions." do than to encourage its workings, Some other names might be here inand to direct and apply its energies, troduced of persons who are known where it had already broken its slum- to have borne a public testimony bers, and burst forth in active life and against the corruptions of the Roman vigour.
Church; † and there can be no doubt For soine time the visible progress that many more of a similar character of the Reformation, so far as this was manifested by the open renunciation of the authority of the Roman Church, • L'Istoria della Volgar Poesia, scritta and the institution of a different form da Giovanni Mario de'Crescimbeni, 4to. of religious worship and discipline, 1698, p: 47,“ Il quale per le sue mal. was restricted to Switzerland,' and rage opinioui fu arso in firenze,” &c. some districts of Germany. But though
+ Many of the Italian writers of the its public triumphs were limited to 13th and 14th centuries abound with
animadversions, more or less direct and those places, its friends, in other parts of Europe, did not remain passive of religion, the licentiousness of the
serere, upon the prevailing corruptions spectators of the great drama which priesthood, and the pride and tyrauny of was tben acting. Occasional cfforts the head of the church. Dante, who were made in other quarters, at least flourished towards the end of the 13th, by individuals, to break the Roman aud in the beginning of the 14th century, yoke. But, owing, perhaps, to the sometimes makes himself merry at the want of union and co-operation ainong expense of the religious orders, in the those who were agreed in their views situations he assigns them in the other and object; owing, too, in all proba- world. Boccacio, a writer of the genebility, to the want of an active and ratiou immediately following, has enintrepid leader, like Luther or Zwing- ployed his Decameron to convey his cenlius,' to whom all could look with incidents of his tales being drawn from
sures of the same body, many of the confidence; and, in some cases, owing, their corrupt practices. And Petrarch, no doubt, to the determined opposi- who wrote only a few years later, is tion of the civil power, and the ex- known to have occasionally directed his treme vigilance of the agents of the pen in the same way, and to have inInquisition ; their proceedings were curred the displeasure of his ecclesiastical would have appeared in the history of vigilance and caution of the agents of this period, had not the extraordinary the ecclesiastical authorities led thein
to consign every writing, which could superiors by the freedom of his animad. transmit to posterity the names and versions.
opinions of such persons, to the same The conspicuous part which was acted fires that terminated the lives and by Jeroine Savonarola, towards the close consumed the bodies of the authors. of the 15th century, might seem to entitle That numerous individuals, in Italy, him to be ranked among the early Italian distinguished alike by their stations, Reformers. But there is much difficulty their talents and their acquirements, in forming any thing like a satisfactory viewed with approbation what was opinion, concerning his character and pretensions, from the very contradictory transacting on the other side of the accounts of his life, which have been Alps, in the early part of the 16th drawn up by his friends and his enemies. century, is well known. Some of these By Catholics he was considered a turbu- acted upon their convictions, and in lent fauatic, who pretended to divine public discourses, and by their writcommunications and the spirit of pro- ings, advocated the principles of the phecy, in order to delude the populace, Swiss or the Saxon Reformers. But, and dispose them to aid his scheines of in the end, they found all their efforts seditiou against the Florentine govern- to be unavailing as to any permanent ment. Protestants, on the contrary, have honoured his memory as a martyr. Ga. the ministers of the Inquisition, sought regarded him as a pious Reformer, and practical good. and those of them
who were fortunate enough to escape briel Naudé, in his Apologie des grans hommes accusez de Magie, (Bayle, art.
their personal security in flight and Savonarola, note L,) enumerates the fol- exile. lowing Protestant testimonies in his fa. Among the earliest attempts to invour : “ Beza, Vigner, Cappel, du Plessis troduce the Reformation into Italy, Morai, and all the Lutherans of Ger- must be placed those which were made many, generally style Savonarola in their at Naples, about the year 1535. The books, the faithful witness of the truth, merit of being the original mover in the forerunner of the Evangelical Refor these proceedings seems to be justly mation, the scourge of the great Babylon, due to John Valdesius, or Valdesso, the sworn enemy of the Roman Antichrist; and to conclude, in one word, with Jessenius a Jessen, the Luther of doctrines had created, a friar of his Italy; and I am surprised they do not coorent offered to prove their truth, by call him the John Huss of that country, submitting, in company with any of his since they both were put to death in the adversaries, to the ordeal of fire, not same manner, were both Heresiarchs, doubting that he should, by an evident and are both marked with great letters miracle, come out of it uuinjured. The in the Register and Journal of their Mar- challenge was accepted by a Franciscan tyrs, as appears from the following verses, monk. But Savonarola's champion rewhich they placed under his picture :- fusing to enter the fire without being • En Monachus solers ; rerum scrutator consecrated wafer,-a proposal which
permitted to carry with him the host, or acului,
was deemed sacrilegious and profane, Martyrio ornatus, Savonarola pius.
the populace became incensed, seized • Behold the laborious monk, the acute Savonarola, and conveyed him to prison. inquirer into things, the pious Savona- He was afterwards put to the torture, rola, who was honoured with martyr- and being condemned to death, was, dom.'"
conformably to his sentence, strangled Savonarola was, no doubt, in one re- and burnt at Florence on the 23d of May, spect, “the scourge of the great Babylon, 1498. änd the sworn enemy of the Roman * Antonio Caraccioli, (Collectanea HisAntichrist ;" since, in direct defiance of torica de Vita Pauli lý, Colon. 1612, the Pope's commands, he publicly preach- 4to. p. 239,) assigos a somewhat earlier ed against the doctrines of Popery, and origin to the attempt at Reformation at the pretensions of the Roman clergy. Naples ; ascribing it to the arrival in that But he continued in communion with city of a body of Germau soldiers, who that Church which he so vehemently de. had been engaged in the siege of Rome. nounced as Antichristian, and wore his In other respects his account agrees with mopkish habit to the last. The circum- the statement given in the text. “ Hæstances which led to his death are curious. retici homines,” he writes, “ regiam In the fervour of the disputes which his urbem Neapolim, à Petro ipso, Aposto
a Spanish civilian, who had been for their having organized themselves into some time attached to the Court of a distinct church for religious worship, Charles the Fifth, having acted in the or withdrawn themselves from the capacity of private Secretary to that service of the mass. monarch, and received from him, as a A most important accession was testimony of his approbation and made to this little band of Reformers esteem, 'the honour of knighthood. by the conversion of the celebrated In his travels into Germany in the Peter Martyr Vermilius, who was afemperor's suite, it is conjectured that terwards professor of divinity in the he became acquainted with some of University of Oxford. Martyr was a the heads of the Reformation, and native of Florence, where he was born imbibed their opinions. After quitting in the year 1500. At the age of sixGermany, he fixed his residence at teen, he became, unknown to his Naples, with the view of passing there friends, a monk of the order of St. the remainder of his days in the retire. Augustine, and at the time now under ment of private life. Here he devoted consideration held the office of Princihis leisure to the prosecution of his pal of the College of St. Peter's at religious inquiries, and employed him- the Altar at Naples. Valdesso had self in dispensing to others, the light carried with him from Germany some which he had received into his own of the works of Luther, Bucer and mind. It appears that in a short pe- Zwingliuz; these he submitted to the riod he succeeded in gaining over a inspection and perusal of Martyr, who considerable number of converts to yielded to the force of their reasonings, his new principles ; and as the station and embraced the principles which he had occupied at court led him to they advocated. After Martyr had mix principally in the first circles, his joined himself to Valdesso's society, proselytes were chiefly from this class, he took an active and prominent part and included several individuals of the in its deliberations; and, indeed, from highest rank and distinction in the this period, as may well be supposed place. The persons who had thus from his superior learning and talents, become his disciples he is stated to he became the real head and leader of have formed into a society; by which the party. Sometimes he employed we are, probably, to understand that himself in reading lectures on partithey occasionally met together for the cular portions of the New Testainent, amicable discussion of religious sub- which he interpreted in a sense that jects. For there is no evidence of was at variance with the doctrines of
the Church of Rome. Strangers, or
persons who were not considered as lorum Principe fidei documentis insti- belonging to the society, were freely tutam, Lutheriana labe inficere studue. admitted to these lectures; and, on runt. Nam primd, Germani equites ad some occasions, the reader had to duo mille, et sex millia peditum, qui post reckon among his auditors many of direptam Romam ed convolaverant, ut the nobility, and some of the bishops Lauthrecum ohsidentem repellerent, impii of the place. On one occasion of this biberant, multa et nefaria exempla pas kind, in lecturing on the 13th and 14th sim ediderunt. His posted alid amandatis, verses of the third chapter of the first uius Joannes Valdesius Hispanus, qui Epistle to the Corinthians, wherein anno 1535 Neapolim venit, longè inajo- the apostle speaks of men's works rem mentium stragem dedit, quam multa being to be tried by fire, having comilla Hæreticorum militum millia. Hic batted the application of the passage enim literis tinctus, iis, quæ ad compa- by the Church of Rome to the docrandam eruditi opinionem satis vulgo trine of purgatory, some of his zealous essent, placido aspectu, quique innocen- Catholic hearers took the alarm, and tiam præ se ferret, comitate, suavita- reported their suspicions of his heresy teque sermonis, teterrimam impietatem, to the public authorities. He was incredibili vaframento occultabat. Itaque brevi ad se traxit multos, his artibus immediately interdicted from proceedillectos, deceptosque. In his duo fuêre, ing with his lectures ; but he turned a ceteris omnibus insigniores, et digno corvó deaf ear to the order, and appealed ova, Bernardinus Ochinus et Petrus Mar- against it to the Court of Rome, tyr Vermilius, ambo hæreticorum posteà where, through the interest of some Antesignani."
powerful friends, he carried his cause