Изображения страниц

Florence, whither the council had been removed, he was assiduous in propagating his sentiments. Among the men of learning and influence, he allured from Aristotle to the faith of Plato, was Cosmo De Medici. This zealous convert founded the Platonic Academy at Florence. He selected Ficino, one of his domestics, and had him trained up with the utmost care, in the new system, that he might be the ornament of the new academy and the champion of Plato. Under the patronage of the family of the Medici, and by the enthusiastic labours of Ficino, the system gained a complete triumph over Aristotle. At the feast ordained in honour of Plato, it was the custom to read or recite out of that philosopher; and all in the assembly were invited to make comments on the passages. Besides the more early translations of Plato by Aretino, those of Ficino appeared first at Florence, without date, and afterwards at Venice in A. D. 1491. His version of Plotinus was published in 1492. He translated the elements of theology by Proclus, and wrote tracts " De opinionibus circa Deum et animam." "De divino furore ;" "De lumine."* This laborious Platonist gave us a practical proof of the natural tendency of his principles; he became a warm disciple and advocate of mysticism.†

This academy flourished under Lorenzo the son of Cosmo, and under Pope Leo X. the son of Lorenzo, a most eminent patron of Plato, and of learned men. From Italy, as a centre, the Platonic doctrines were diffused through Europe by the zeal of the different orders of monks and priests. Among these missionaries of Plato, was Nefo of Padua, who distinguished himself in the cause by his treatise "De intellectu et Demonibus." He held the unity of spiritual existence, and taught that one soul animated all nature. Among the pupils who frequented the Platonic Academy, we find some from England; the most distinguished were Grocin, who afterwards filled a Greek chair in Oxford, and Linacer, who bears the honour of being the founder of the college of physicians of London, and its first president.

Roscoe's Life of Lor. De Medici, i. p. 33, 33, 50, 77, 224, 226, iii. 293, &c.

† Mosh. iii. cent. 15. part 2. c. 3. sec. 11. Roscoe's Life of Leo X. vol. IV. 123. 131.

§ 6. While this philosophy maintained its march for ages, it attached to its standard, men of letters and theologians of every rank. The former, not having devoted much attention to the christian theology, were satisfied merely with speculations on Plato. It was the latter class that became the bold and dangerous innovators. They were better instructed in the Platonism of Saccas than in the pure doctrines of Christ. They borrowed the name of our Lord: they were the zealous and enthusiastic disciples of Saccas: they carried into effect what their master had begun they drew out his principles to their full extent, and lowered the holy truth and institutions of Christ to that impious standard. They soon discovered that their favourite sentiments superseded the doctrines which the church had regarded as fundamental. The rules for the contemplative life, and the cathartic virtues for clarifying the soul, superseded the external ordinances of the church. Their sacrilegious hands spared not even the most solemn ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

[ocr errors]

In different ages individuals arose, who had the resolution to avow their opinions, and though evidently guided by different motives, and combining in their motley system conflicting sentiments, and pursuing forms of argument the most contradictory; they always contrived to arrive at the same height of folly and mysticism.

In the early ages some of them appeared in the Syrian and Greek churches. The most conspicuous of these were the Novatians, or Cathari. They placed religion in internal prayer: and they rejected external forms, and both sacraments. In the days of Tertullian a female preacher declaimed at Carthage against the sacraments.* In the second century the followers of Monta nus yielded themselves up to the demon within, which they ho noured with the title of inspiration; and they substituted something like the Platonic triad for the christian doctrine of the Trinity. The Pepurians, among other extravagances, elected their bishops, under aid of divine impulses, from among their female orators. The Paulicians, who appeared in the East in the ninth century, formed a numerous class of the Mystic Theolo


* Tertul. lib. de Bapt. and Wall in his Hist. of Baptism. † Broughton's Dict. of all Relig. ii. 551.

gians. They passed out of Asia Minor into Thrace: from Greecethey passed into Sicily and Venice; and by the pilgrims of Hungary, in their return from Jerusalem, they were ushered into Germany:* and at the close of this century a band of them, headed by Gerard and Dulcimus, disseminated their opinions in England. They rejected the external means of grace, and particularly the holy sacraments. The followers of Lucopetros, in the twelfth century, were their associates in violence against the holy institutions of Christ. In this century appeared the fanatic Tanquelmus. If ever there was a transmigration of souls, his soul must have passed, in the seventeenth century, into Fox, or into the notorious Naylor: for, like the latter, and from the same gross conceptions respecting the demon, the light, or the Christ within, he fancied himself to be the very Son of God; and rejected, with scorn, the ordinances of the church of Christ. In the thirteenth century Amauri published his reveries. He embraced the fanatical views of Christ in us. He taught, that as there are three in the Godhead, there were to be three grand epochs in the government of the world: the first was the empire of the Father-that expired with the Jewish law. The second was the empire of the Son--that ceased with the gospel, about the year 1260. Then commenced the empire of the Spirit--and under this the abolition of the sacraments, and of all external means of worship took place.§

The repose of ignorance was disturbed also by the brethren and sisters of the True Spirit. Their leading tenet was this; there is something in every man that is neither created nor susceptible of creation. This is the logos, or reason, or word. They advocated perfection, and every perfect man was a Christ. Having this lofty privilege, they felt no need of sacraments, or of any external means of worship. They were also distinguished by "their singular and fantastic apparel."||

The sect of Whippers excited violent tumults in this century.

* Gibbon's Rome, vii. chap. 54.

† Wall's Hist. Bap. by Fuiler, p. 120, &c.

Mosh. ii. c. ix. p. 2. chap. 5. and cent. xi. p. 2. c. 5. sec. 4.

Mosh iii. cent. xiii. p. 2. ch. 1. sec. 7. Lemp. Biog. Dict. art. Amauri. The Joachimites held the same.

Mosh.iii. cent. xiii. part 2. ch. 2. sec. 9, 10, 11.

They had adopted the Platonic rules for purifying the soul by mortifying the body, and carried them into a most rigorous execution. They put on sackcloth: they assumed melancholy looks they laid aside all music and musical instruments: they avoided pleasures, and even innocent amusements, as hostile to piety: they held that bodily mortifications possessed equal merit and efficacy as baptism, or any other christian rite: and they subjected their bodies to severe macerations. This sect spread its fury over Germany, France, and Italy. It found its way into kings palaces. The king of France marched in one of their processions, half naked, and armed with his whip; and the cardinal of Lorraine, pious soul! gave up the ghost, in consequence of cold caught in his undress, while under the whip.* History traces them down as far as the year 1601.†

In the fourteenth century Taulerus was himself a host in extending the power of mysticism. The following is the sum of his doctrine. In every man there are three men: the outward, which must be mortified; the inward, or the soul, which "becomes divine, and is wholly like God;" and there is the fund of the soul, or the most inward spirit. In this fund God has founded himself, He lies there hid. It is there that he begets his only begotten Song this Son is the light within. When one is moved to introvert he must lay aside his outward powers; he must lay aside singing and reading, and other good works; he must sink down into the fund, and follow the divine drawings with all his heart. He will soon feel the power of God, the Father; his spirit will be so re formed by God's spirit, that he will take the right and pure way. God pours himself forth into his spirits, and he is filled with light as the air with the beams of the sun. There is such a union formed in him that he cannot discern between the created and the uncreated spirit; his soul is made perfect; it is swallowed up in the essence of God; it loses itself, and swims in him as in an abyss.‡

His sermons contain perhaps the most complete system extant of the Platonism of Saccas. They were preached at Cologne in A. D. 1346, and poured forth a deluge of fanaticism among the

• Boileau's Hist. of Flagellantes, chap. 23.

† De Thou's Hist. of his own times.

Tauler's Sermons, passim, and Browne's "Quakerism," p. 431, &c. 4to. edit. A. D. 1678.

common people. They were published in Dutch, at Antwerp, în A. D. 1647; and Cressy, a Catholic priest of England, embodied their sentiments into his "Sancta Sophia," and published a translation of them in England, in A. D. 1657.*


Paracelsus, the fine philosopher in the fifteenth century, and Postello, in the sixteenth, laboured in the same cause. To this list we may add the names of Wigelius, and D. George, and the family of Love; but the most active at this period was Behmen, of Gorlitz. This fanatic commenced his career in 1600. Like Fox, he was a cordwainer, and possessed a mind gloomy and illiterate. He claimed the honours of inspiration. He was entranced," (I use his own account of it,)" by the light of God; and the astral spirit of his soul by the sudden glance of his eye on a bright pewter plate." This flash entered the fund of his soul, and roused up the light within to such a degree, that “he could look into the heart, and the intimate nature of all creatures." Being thus constituted a prophet, by the help "of a pewter plate," he laboured, after the manner of Taulerus, to bring the degenerate world back to the paths of mysticism.

Taulerus and Behmen are not a little indebted to their English disciples. These have scattered some rays of light over a system enveloped in Egyptian darkness. To Cressy, and to Sir Harry Vane, and, long after them, to William Law, the modern mystics owe their sincere gratitude. These, with others of inferior name, certainly reduced the system to something of a tangible form, and put it into extensive circulation in England. On the continent of Europe they had also distinguished advocates. They had Kotter and Hiel; and, in Germany, Labadie. The latter stood high among his visionary compatriots. After many years faithful services, the Society of Friends in England did, by their deputies, Barclay and Penn, offer him the right hand of fellowship. And in this list of their authors we should deserve blame if we omitted the name of Molinos. He was a Spanish priest, By his book, the "Spiritu Alguide,"§ he did much to sub

Stillingfleet's Idol. and Superst. of the Roman Church, 2d edit. p. 285, &c.

Post. Absenditosum. See. No. 642, dued. Phil. Library.
Memoirs of Behmen, translated by Okely, p, 8, &c.
Published in Spanish and other languages. Lempr. Biog. Dict.

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »