صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

abasement, and adoring the power and grace of God in restoring and pardoving his backsliding servant.

Jerom, though again remanded to prisoil, was liberated from his fetters. But the load was only transferred from his body to his mind, whilst the caresses of those around him served only to increase his sorrow. But although a backslider, he was not an apostate. The God whom he served compassionated his weakness, and rendered his latter end triumphant.

Notwithstanding the recantation of Jerom, he was still detained a close prisoner for fall half a year, when he was again summoned before the council. This event, liowever, he rejoiced in, as it afforded him a most favourable opportunity for publicly acknowledging his grieť on account of his backsliding, which had a long time hung so heavy upon him.

When among other charges he was accused of defaming the pope and the whole body of the clergy, with outstretched hands and in a most modest accept he exclaimed, “ On which side, reverend fathers, shall I tura me for redress ? Whom shall I implore ? Whose assistance can I expect? Which of you hath not this malicious charge entirely alienated from me? Which of you hath it not changed from a judge into an inveterate enemy ? It was artfully alledged indeed! Though other parts of my charge were of less moment, my accusers might well imagine, that if this were fastened on me, it could not fail of drawing upon me the united indignation of my judges.”

On a subsequent day, Jerom having obtained liberty, though with some difficulty, to speak, he began by in. voking the Divine assistance so to govern his heart and his lips, that he might advance nothing that was inconsistent with his character as a Christian. He then ob served that many excellent men had been oppressed by false witnesses, and condemned by unjust judges. “Moses," said he, was often scandalized by his brethren : Joseph was sold through envy, and afterwards imprisoned upon false reports. Isaiah, Daniel, and almost all the prophets were unjustly persecuted. And was not Jolin tlie Baptist, Jesus Christ himself, and most of his apostles, put to death as ungodly, seditious persons 2 In other books as well as the Bible, we have similar instan



[ocr errors][ocr errors]


Socrates was most unjustly condemneil by his countrymen : he might indeed have saved his life by doing violence to his conscience, but he preferred death to a disengenuous recantation. Plato, Anaxagoras, Zeno, and many others, were evil-treated in various ways. An unjust sentence," continued he,“ from a layman is bad, from a priest worse, and from a general council, a college of priests, superlatively bad.” He added that he came uncompelled to the concil; and that neither his life nor doctrive had been such, as gave him the least reason to dread his appearance before then.-- Difter. ence of opinion in religion," he continued,“ has continue ally arisen amoug learned men ; and has always been esteemed as productive rather of truth than of error, where bigotry was laid aside. Such was the difference between St. Augustine and his contemporary, St. Je. rome: but though their opinions were dissimilar, the imputation of heresy was never affixed to either. I shall make no apology for my sentiments, because I am not conscious of maintaining any error; nor shall I retract, because it becomes not me lo retract the false accusations of my enemies.

This intrepid martyr now raised his voice, and with considerable emotion declared before the whole assem. bly, that the fear of death only had before induced him to retract opinions, which from his heart he approved of; that he had done injustice to the memory of ihose excollent

men, Wickliff and Huss, whose examples he rever. ed, and in whose doctrine he was resolved to die. “I came," said he, " to Constance, to defend John Huss, because I bad advised him to go thither, and had promised to come to his assistance, in case he should be oppressed. Nor am I ashamed here to make public confession of my cowardice. I confess and tremble while I think of it, that through fear of punishment by fire, I basely consented against my conscience, to the condemdation of the doctrine of Wickliff and Huss. perjured witnesses,” continued he,“ who have appeareil against me, have won their cause; but let them remeinber they have their evidence once more to give before a tribunal, where falsehood can be no disguise."

Whilst Jerom was speaking, so irresistible and commanding was- his eloquence, that his hearers in spite of

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

themselves, listened with rivetted attention. Once or twice, indeed, some of the most malignant of them at. tempted to interrupt him, for which they paid dearly by the keenness of his replies. Whilst several of them became so deeply interested in his behalf, as alterwately to long fog his acquittal, and to dread lest he should utter any thing which should cast him be. youd the possibility of mercy. Careless howerer of huis own fate, and only anxious to vindicate the actions and principles of his martyred friend, the intrepid Bohemian continued,” If that holy man, (alluding to 'Huss,) used the clergy with disrespect, his censures were not levelled at them as priests, but as wicked men. Ile saw with indigoation those revenues, which had been designed for the maintenance of the poor and other works of liberality, expended on barlots, banquetings, hounds, costly furaiture and apparel, and other luxuries disgracefal to Christianity."

Amongst others who were present at this afflicting scene, was Poggiue, a celebrated Florentine. This man had been educated at the court of Rome, and having been secretary under two popes, was well instucted in its designs. As he was an adversary to the cause of Jeroni, an extract from a letter to his friend, which he wrote on this oecasion, will be interesting, as an une. quivocal testimony to the fortitude and eloquence of Je.

“ It was impossible,” remarks this elegant and candid pupist, “ to hear this pathetic orator without emotion. Every ear was captivated; and egery heart was touched. Throughout the whole oration he displayed an amazing strength of memory. 'He had been confined almost a year in a dungeon; the severity of which usage he complained of, but in the language of a great and good man. In this horrid place he was deprived of books and paper; yet notwithstanding this, and the constant anxiety which must have hung over him, he was no more at a loss for proper anthorities and quotations, than if he had spent his intermediate time at leisure in his study.

56 His voiee was harmonious, distinct, and full; his action every way the most proper either for expressing indignation, or exciting pity; though he made no affect. ed application to the passions of his audience. Firma


and intrepid, he stood before the council; collected in himself, and not ooly contemning, but seeming even desirous of death. The greatest character in ancient history could not possibly have exceeded him. If there be any justice in historians, this man will be admired by posterity.--I speak not of his errors ; let these rest with him. What I admired was his learning, bis eloquence, and unerring acuteness. God knows whether these things were not the ground work of his ruin."

When Jerom had concluded his address, the council urged him to retract, and allowed him two days for his rerantation; during which tiine several persons of coile sequence, and especially the cardinal of Florence, Used every argument to effect it.

But all their attempts were in vain. He was now resolved, through the divine as. sistance, to remain faithful unto death. · You have de. termined,” said he, " to condemn me unjustly; but after my death I will leave a stins in your consciences, and a worm that shall never die. I appeal to the sovereign Judge of all the earth, in whose presence ye must ap. pear to answer me.

At length, sentence was passed upon bim, by which lia was condemned for liaving held the errors of Wicklift, and for apostatizing. He was then in the usual style of popish affectation, delivered over to the secular power, and treated with scorn and insult tearly resembling that experienced by his friend Huss; exeept that as he was not in orders, he did not undergo the ceremony of degra. dation. With his own hand he put on his head a paper coronet that was offered him, painted with devils, remarking with a placid countenance, that he gladly wore it for the sake of him who was crowned with one of thorns. He was then led to the place of executinil, sings ing hymns used by the Chiurch, and the apostle's creed, as he walked along, with a loud voice and a cheerful. mie.

On his arrival at the spot, lie beheld a fresh and rim diculous exhibition of the malice of his enemies. "The post to which lie was to be chained, was hewn out into å grotesque likeness of Huss, and dressed out in apparel similar to wbat he had woro.

Jerom, having been allowed to offer up a short prayer, was bounil 10 the stake with wet cords and an iron chaing's

2d Edit. 1**

and enclosed as high as his breast with faggots. He then: raised his voice, and sung a paschal hymm at that time much in vogue in the Church, beginning with the following stanza:

“ Hail happy day, and ever be ador'd
“When hell was conquer'd by great heaven's Lord.”


The executioner at length approaching the pile behind hiin. Jerom exclaimed, “ Bring thy torch hither. Perform thy office before my face. Had I feared death, I might have avoided it."

The wood now beginning to blaze, he resumed his hymn, till at length, being dreadfully scorched, and almost smothered with the flame, he was heard to cry out, “O Lord God, have mercy upon me! have mercy, npon me !" And shortly afterwards,“ Thou knowest how I have loved thy truth."

Some little time after, the wind parting the flames, bis body full of large blisters exhibited a dreadful spectacle to ihe beholders, aud his lips still moving as in fervent devotion, seemed to manifest the ardent piety of the expiring martyr. In this state le lingered a quarter of an hour, and ai length expired, leaving his enemies to indulge a pitiful triumph over his coverlet and other miserable articles found in his prison. These they consumed at the same fire with him, and then cast bis ashes, as they had those of Huss, into the Rhine.

" Thus died” to resume the language of Poggius; " this prodigious man. The epithet is not extravagant. I was myself an eye-witness of his whole behaviour, and could easily be more prolix on a subject so eopioas."

Such was the honourable testimony borne to the Bohemian reformer by the learned Poggius. His friend to whom he wrote the account, thought that he had expres. sed bimself too strongly. “You attribute,” says Le,“ to this man more than I could wish. You ought at least to write with greater caution.”. And indeed it is probable, that if be had deferred writing a few days, he would have written more cautiously. But his letier dated on The very day of Jerom's martyrdom, came warm from the writer's heart, and strikingly exhibited what were bis

« السابقةمتابعة »