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against corruption. Florence, having lost
its independence as a republic, was com-
pletely under the sway of the Medici, who
became arraj^ed against Savonarola, who
aimed at establishing an ideal Christian
commonwealth. When he attacked the
Pope Alexander VI. his doom was prac-
tically sealed. In 1495 he was forbidden
to appear in the pulpit, and four years
later was excommunicated. He rebelled
against papal authority, but the people of
Florence grew tired of the strict rule of
conduct imposed by his teaching, and he
was imprisoned and tried for heresy and
sedition. On May 23, 1498, he was
hanged and his body burned. His puri-
tanism, his bold rebuking of vice, his
defiance of every authority excepting that
of his own conscience, seem to anticipate
the efforts made by Calvin to regenerate
Geneva. Both men failed in their splen-
did attempts at social reformation, but
both left an example of heroic altho
somewhat short-sighted unselfishness,
which has borne fruit in history.



SAVONAROLA

1452— 149S
THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST^

While He blessed them, He icas parted from them,
and carried up into heaven. — St. Luke xxiv., 51.

BELOVED in Christ Jesus, the wise men of
this world divide all created things into
two classes; one class they name sub-
stances, the other accidents. The substances
are those things that exist through themselves
without requiring anything else on which to
rest, as the earth, water, air, the heavens, ani-
mals, stones, plants, and similar things. The
accidents can not exist by themselves, but only
by resting on something else, as color, odor,
taste, and other such things. But because
our knowledge is entirely through the senses,
and we are able to know anything only when
its accidents fall upon our senses, we have,
therefore, knowledge of the accidents rather
than of the substances. The eyes are for
colors, the ears for sounds, the nose for scents, .
the tongue for flavors, the touch for heat and
cold, for hard and soft. Each sense has its
own sphere of knowledge and brings what it

1 Eeprinted by permission of Messrs. G. P. Putnam 's
Sons- from ''The World's Orations," the translation
having been copyrighted by Messrs. Putnams.

93



THE WORLD'S GREAT SERMONS

has perceived before the imagination, and this
hands it over to the reason within, which reads
and illuminates the productions of the imag-
ination, judges them, and in this way comes
to a knowledge of the substances. But the
reason has little light if it is separated from
the body, for God has joined soul and body
together ; and so by means of the senses knowl-
edge becomes definite and complete. For if
the soul out of the body were richer in knowl-
edge, it would be in vain that it should be in
the body. God and nature have done nothing
in vain, and therefore the soul's union with
the body ministers to its perfection.

The soul's knowledge, however, will not be
complete so long as it lives in this mortal body.
It does not while here come to the funda-
mental distinctions and causes of the sub-
stances, because it is obliged to know the inner
side of things through their externals. There-
fore man is able only imperfectly to know an
incorporeal substance; how much less can he
know the uncreated infinite being of God?
But if he can not know the being of God, he
will not be able to know many other infinite
things which are in Him. We ought there-
fore not to be surprized that there is much in
God which we can not understand, and that
very many truths of the faith we can not yet
prove since we do not yet know everything.
The great God in His rich mercy saw our poor
knowledge and came into our flesh and as-

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SAVONAROLA



sumed it that He might work for us, die, and
rise again from the dead; until after a life
full of love He raised Himself above the
world of sense into His eternity. But so long
as our Redeemer lived with His apostles they
loved too much that which they saw of Him,
because they were bound down to their senses,
and were therefore unable to rise to the knowl-
edge of His Spirit. It was necessary that He
should disappear in the heavens that He might
lift their souls far above the world of sense
up to Himself. Their natural powers could
not do this; therefore He gave to His elect
a light from above. Ascending on high He
led captivity captive, for ascending into the
heavens He took with Him the prey which
the devil had made of the soul of men ever
since the fall of our parents. The Lord has
given gifts unto men (Eph. iv. 8), inasmuch
as- He has imparted to them the seven gifts
of the Holy Ghost. Now they leave every-
thing of this world, and rise above by follov/-
ing Christ, who gives to them for a light the
light of faith. Let us speak this morning of
this faith which leads to the Savior.

^ ' Awake thou that sleepest and Christ shall
give thee light." Be not held captive by
flesh and sense, which hold thee fast in sleep ;
rise to Christ, He will give thee light. See,
His flesh is above. What do ye say to that,
ye wise men of this world? Everything that
has weight tends downward, but His flesh is

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THE WORLD'S GREAT SERMONS

on high above all heavens. This time your
laws have been set at nought. But see what
hope Almighty God rouses in us : if our head
has gone above, we, His members, will follow
Him. In that we hope; of that we preach;
on that we live. Know, man, that if thou
wilt thou canst go to Paradise, for thither has
thy Savior Christ gone; but know this also,
that not by thine own nature, not by means
of silver and gold, not by thy virtue, wilt
thou reach that place. He has given gifts
unto men, and through these thou mayest
reach Paradise, if thou only wilt. He has
given thee the gifts of His Holy Ghost, and
before all the gift of knowledge by which He
enlightens thee and shows thee by that light
thy goal. Thereupon He gives thee the gift
of wisdom, by which thou learnest to love
thy goal, and perceivest how much thou need-
est love. Christ then says to man : Remain in
My love, leave the things of this world, fol-
low Me to heaven. And because it is needful
for thee to know that this world amounts to
nothing. He gives thee experience that it may
say to thee that thou must soon leave this
world in which nothing lasts. Through many
difficulties and doubts, man must get so far
and know what to do; therefore thou hast
the gift of counsel. Hold fast to this counsel,
and follow Christ, who will always give thee
good counsel. He will give thee not the treas-
ures of this world, but eternal glory and

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SAVONAROLA



undying happiness. What wilt thou do, O
child of man? Leave this world, enter the
service of Christ. He is waiting for thee,
and will reward thy service, for He is a boun-
tiful rewarder. Let every one then hasten to
serve Him. But because each one is bound to
care for the salvation of his brother, and to
lead him to Christ, therefore the Lord gives
thee the gift of love, by which thou shouldst
warn thy brother, thy neighbor, thy friend,
thy wife, every one, and with all thy strength
and zeal shouldst lead them to Christ. But
in this world man must go through joy and
sorrow. To oppose the joys of earth, Christ,
gives thee fear, that thou mightest always be
careful lest thou shouldst fall, and not let thy
joyous days separate thee from the grace of
Christ: to oppose unhappiness. He gives thee
strength to resist.

"What do ye want, children of men; will
ye not follow Christ who has gone up on
high and has departed to prepare a place for
you in glory 1 Thou comest not into the serv-
ice of the Lord, because thou art not able to
believe these words. If thou didst but believe
thou wouldst stand no longer indifferent.
Thou art unbelieving, thou art unthankful,
and the Lord will punish t!iy unbelief even as.
on the morning of His ascension He punished
the unbelief of His apostles. Because I have
explained to thee this morning this Gospel, I
must punish the hardness and unthankfulness.



1—7 97



THE WORLD»S GREAT SERMONS

of thy heart. Thou hast refused the service
of the Lord, who has ascended to prepare for
thee the highest glory.

I call upon all men and women, all whose
lives are ruined in sorrows and troubles.
What do ye fear ? He who believes that Christ
is above no longer fears anything. Come then
all ye into His service. Jesus reproved the
unbelief and the hard-heartedness of His dis-
ciples, because they did not believe those who
had seen Him after He had risen. Without
faith it is impossible to please God. No doubt
the apostles said: How can we believe these
women ? But these women were of pure heart
before God, and therefore the Savior reproved
His disciples. Ye deserve still sharper repri-
mands. To the disciples a few women an-
nounced the news that He had risen. -Ye hear
all this, and in addition all the glorious reve-
lations in which the Lord after this manifested
Himself on earth. Why do ye not come to
serve Christ? Ye do not truly believe, be-
cause ye are so full of sin, and despise God's
commandments. Ye do not deserve the gift
of faith. He who has faith should show it
in his deeds, that he may have what he says
he has, and may know what he has; namely,
the certainty of the divine word, which can
not err, the goodness of God, and His guid-
ance into all goodness. On account of thy
sins, thou hast not the true light which would
have enabled thee to see all goodness. Thou

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SAVONAROLA



art sunk in vice, drunken with greed and
luxury, and all the works of this world.
Thou seekest only power and glory. And
wherefore ? If thou hadst faith, thou wouldst
not seek such things, for thou wouldst know
that faith would give thee a much higher
crown. From these sins have come thy unbe-
lief and thy hardness of heart. Therefore
the words of faith do not touch thy heart:
it is a heart of stone and iron. Throw off
thy load of sin and give thy will to righteous-
ness; then will thy hard-heartedness end, and
God will bestow on thee the gift of faith.
What wilt thou? Why standest thou so un-
certain and irresolute? Why dost thou not
hasten to Him, and see how He leaves thy
life, how He goes into the heavens, to which
He bids thee come up. Leave at length thy
sensual life and enter the pathway of Christ.
Hesitate no longer, begin to-day, put it not
off until to-morrow. If thou hast faith, thou
canst not delay longer, and if thy heart is
right before God, He will give thee the light
of faith which will enable thee to distinguish
the false from the true faith, and so when on
the right road not to fall into error. Then
wilt thou know for thyself that the Gospel
makes good men out of those who truly be-
lieve, and thine experience will tell thee that
thou hast no occasion to doubt.

A story from the Old Testament might per-
haps serve as a parable and make clearer what



^99



620468A



THE WORLD'S GREAT SERMONS

I mean. When Balak heard of Israel 's march,
he was afraid and sent to call Balaam to curse
Israel for him. Balaam set out on his way
with his ass, accompanied by an angel of the
Lord, because Balaam was going to Balak
w^ith an evil intention. The beast sought in
vain to turn into the field, and finally fell
down between two w^alls, and suffered under
blows and curses, until the prophet saw the
angel and perceived his sin. Balak is the
devil who would ruin the people of God; by
Balaam we can understand the nobles, the
prelates, the preachers, the learned, who are
held captive by their arrogance. The two
servants are those who follow the proud, serve
them, and flatter them, especially the lazy
clergy and monks, who so far as outward
show goes live a virtuous life, but who live
for ceremonies and take care not to speak the
truth. To these belong many citizens who live
apparently virtuously and hide their pride.
Because they commit no sins of the flesh
which can be noticed, they are full of piety
in their outward ceremonies, but within full
of arrogance. These are the members of the
devil, for the devil neither eats, drinks, nor
sleeps, he is neither a miser nor a wanton,
but is within full of pride as are these. By
the ass we are to understand the simple peo-
ple. They are led in the way of sin by the
ceremonies of the lazy, since they are not
thought fit for the worship of the heart, and

100



SAVONAROLA



must be led by masses, penance, and indul-
gences, and they throw away what might be
of profit for money and for candles. The
lazy give them council in their sermons:
Give some vestment, build a chapel, and thou
wilt be freed from any danger of going to
hell. Do not believe these mountebanks; no
outward act can bring you to Paradise, not
even miracles and prophecy, but only the
grace of God, if you have humility and love
.... Before the ass stood an angel with
a sword. This is Christ, who speaks to the
ass: Walk no longer in the path of sin, for
I have ready for you a great scourge. The
ass alone saw the angel ; for the simple first
hear the word of the Lord, but Balaam and
such as are with him will hear nothing of it.
The ass left the path of captivity and went
out into the field, into the way of the Lord.
"For the kingdom of heaven is like treasure
hid in a field; which when a man found he
sold all that he had and bought that field.''
So the simple go into the holy field of the
Scriptures and say: "Let me look around a
little, for the flowers of this field bear fruit. ' *
Yea, our fathers, the prophets, apostles, and
martyrs bore fruit, they who died with joy
for the truth. These are they who go into the
field and speak the truth in the face of death.
Come into the city, where the nobles and the
masters taken captive by sin crowd together,
cry the lazy troop of monks: fathers,

101



THE WORLD'S GREAT SERMONS

it would be well if when you spoke of these
things, you touched not this string, by which
you allow yourselves to fall into disgrace and
disfavor. They have said that already to me.
Our persecution begins if we begin to preach.
But Jesus was willing to die for the truth of
what He said; should we forsake the truth
in order not to displease men? No, we will
say it in every way, and with Balaam's ass go
into the field.

Think not that I am such a fool as to
undertake these things without good reason.
I call heaven and earth to witness against me
if I do not speak the truth. For against all
the world is my sermon; every one contra-
dicts it. If I go about with lies, then I have
Christ against me; therefore I have heaven
and earth against me, and how then could I
stand ? As such a trifler with holy things how
should I dare rise up? Believe me, I speak
the truth, I have seen it with my eyes, and
touched it with my hands. Believe it ! If I
speak not the truth, I consign myself body
and soul to destruction; buT I tell you I am
certain of the truth, and I would that all
were as I am. I say that of the truth on
which I stand, not as tho I wished that
others had my failings as well. So come then
into the service of Jesus; come to the truth,
come here, I bid you. Do ye not know how
I explained the revelation of St. John?
There were many who said that I spoke too

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SAVONAROLA



much in detail, and went too deep into it.
There stood the angel before the ass, and
wanted it to go out into the field, but Balaam
smote it; and ye know not how much oppo-
sition I must yet undergo. The lazy monks
were the first who called me a fool and revo-
lutionist, and on the other side stood the
weak and the simple, who said in their inno-
cent faith: ''Oh, if we could only do what
He teaches ! ' ' Then I had war with the citi-
zens and the great judges of this time, whom
my manner of preaching did not please. I
was between two walls; the angel warned me,
threatening eternal death from this road, and
I received Balaam's blows. Ye know my
persecution and my danger; but I knew that
I was on the way to victory and said always :
No human being can drive my cause from
the world. Balaam, thou leanest thy foot
against the walls, but do as thou wilt, I will
crush thy foot ; I leaned on the wall, on Christ,
I leaned on His grace, I hoped; leave off
thine anger and threatening, thou canst not
get me away from the wall. I say to all of
you: Come to the truth, forsake your vice
and your malice, that I may not have to tell
you of your grief. I say it to you, Italy,
I say it to you, Rome, I say it to all of
you; return and do penance. There stands
before you the holy truth; she can not fall;
she can not bend or give way ; wait not until
the blows fall.



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THE WORLD'S GREAT SERMONS

In everything am I opprest; even the
spiritual power is against me with Peter's
mighty key. Narrow is my path and full of
trouble; like Balaam's ass, I must throw my-
self on the ground and cry: *'See, here I
am; I am ready to die for the truth." But
when Balaam beat his fallen beast, it said
to him: '^What have I done to thee?" So
I say to you : ' ' Come here and tell me : what
have I done to you? Why do you beat me?
I have spoken the truth to you ; I have warned
you to choose a virtuous life ; I have led many
souls to Christ." But you answer: "Thou
hast spoken evil of us, therefore, thou
shouldst suffer the stripes thou deservest."
But I named no one, I only blamed your
vices in general. If you have sinned, be angry
with yourselves, not with me. I name none
of you, but if the sins I have mentioned are
without question yours, then they and not I
make you known. As the smitten beast asked
Balaam, so I ask you: ''Tell me, am I not
your ass? and do you not know that I have
been obedient to you up to this very moment,
that I have even done what my superiors have
commanded, and have always behaved myself
peaceably?" You know this, and because
I am now so entirely different, you may well
believe that a great cause drives me to it.
Many knew me as I was at first ; if I remained
so I could have had as much honor as I
wanted. I lived six years among you, and

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SAVONAROLA



now I speak otherwise, nevertheless I an-
nounce to you the truth that is well known.
You see in what sorrows and what opposition
I must now live, and I can say with
Jeremiah: "0, my mother, that thou hast
borne me a man of strife and contention to
the whole earth!" But where is a father or
a mother that can say I have led their son
into sin; one that can say I have ruined her
husband or his wife? Everybody knows my
manner of life, therefore it is right for you
to believe that I speak the truth which every-
body knows. You think that it is impossible
for a man to do what the faith I have
preached tells him to do: with God it would
be easy for you.

The ass alone saw the angel, the others did
not; so open your eyes. Thank God, many
have them open. You have seen many learned
men whom you thought wise, and they have
withstood our cause : now they believe ; many
noted masters who were hard and proud
against us: now humility casts them down.
You have also seen many women turn from
their vanity to simplicity ; vicious youths who
are now improved and conduct themselves in
a new way. Many, indeed, have received this
doctrine with humility. That doctrine has
stood firm, no matter how attacked with the
intention of showing that it was a doctrine
opposed to Christ. God does that to mani-
fest His wisdom, to show how it finally over-

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THE WORLD'S GREAT SERMONS

comes all other wisdorr. And He is willing
that His servants be spoken against that they
may show their patience and humility, and for
the sake of His love not be afraid of
martyrdom.

O ye men and women, I bid you to this
truth; let those who are in captivity contra-
dict you as much as they will, God will come
and oppose their pride. Ye proud, however,
if you do not turn about and become better,
then will the sword and the pestilence fall
upon you ; with famine and war will Italy be
turned upside down. I foretell you this be-
cause I am sure of it: if I were not, I would
not mention it. Open your eyes as Balaam
opened his eyes when the angel said to him:
*'Had it not been for thine ass, I would
have slain thee." So I say to you, ye cap-
tives : Had it not been for the good and their
preaching, it would have been wo unto you.
Balaam said: "If this way is not good, I
will return." You say likewise, you would
turn back to '^od, if your way is not good.
And to the angel you say as Balaam said:
''What wilt thou that we should do?" The
angel answers thee as he answered Balaam:
"Thou shalt not curse this people, but shalt
say what I put in thy mouth." But in thy
mouth he puts the warning that thou shouldst
do good, convince one another of the divine
truth, and bear evil manfully. For it is the
life of a Christian to do good and to bear

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SAVONAROLA



wrong and to continue stedfast unto death,
and this is the Gospel, which we, according to
the text of the Gospel for to-day, shall preach
in all the world.

What wilt thou have of us, brother? you
ask. I desire that you serve Christ with zeal
and not with sloth and indifference. I desire
that you do not mourn, but in thankfulness
raise your hands to heaven, whenever your
brother or your son enters the service of
Christ. The time is come when Christ will
work not only in you but through you and
in others ; whoever hears, let him say : ' ' Come
brother. Let one draw the other. Turn
about, thou who thinkest that thou art of a
superior mind and therefore canst not accept
the faith." If I could only explain this
whole Gospel to thee word for word, I would
then scourge thy forehead and prove to thee
that the faith could not be false and that
Christ is thy God who is enthroned in heaven,
and waits for thee. Or dost thou believe?
Where are thy works? Why dost thou delay
about them ? Hear this : There was once
a monk who spoke to a distinguished man
about the faith, and got him to answer why
he did not believe. He answered thus : ' ' You
yourself do not believe, for if you believed
you would show other works. ' ' Therefore, to
you also I say: If you believe, where are
your works? Your faith is something every
one knows, for every one knows that Christ

1Q7



THE WORLD'S GREAT SERMONS

was put to death by the Jews, and that every-
where men pray to Him. The whole world
knows that His glory has not been spread by
force and weapons, but by poor fishermen.

wise man, do you think the poor fishermen
were not clever enough for this ? Where they
worked, there they made hearts better ; where
they could not work, there men remained bad ;
and therefore was the faith true and from
God. The signs which the Lord had prom-
ised followed their teaching: in His name
they drove out the devil; they spoke in new
tongues ; if they drank any deadly drink, they
received therefrom no harm. Even if these
wonders had not occurred, there would have
been the wonder of wonders, that poor fish-
ermen without any miracle could accomplish
so great a work as the faith. It came from
God, and so is Christ true and Christ is thy
God, who is in heaven and awaits thee.

You say you believe the Gospel, but you
do not believe me. But the purer anything
is, so much the nearer it stands to its end
and purpose. The Christian life purifies the
heart, and places it very near to the truth.
To the Christian life will I lead you, if you
would have the knowledge of the truth. If

1 had wished to deceive you, why should I
have given you as the chief of my gifts the
means of discovering my fraud? I would
be verily a fool to try to impose upon you
with a falsehood which you would soon de-

lOS



SAVONAROLA



tect ; only because I offered you the truth, did
I call you. Come here, I fear you not; the
closer you examine, the clearer the truth will
become to you.

There are some, however, who are asham^ed
of the cross of Jesus Christ, and say: If
we should believe that, we should be despised
everywhere, especially by the wisest. But
if you would know the truth, look only on
the lives of those who would have to cry wo
on their unbelief if they should be measured
by deeds. If you are ashamed of the cross,
the Lord was not ashamed to bear that cross
for 3^ou, and to die on that cross for you.
Be not ashamed of His service and of the
defense of the truth. Look at the servants
of the devil, who are not ashamed in the
open places, in the palaces, and everywhere
to speak evil and to revile us. Bear then a
little shame only for your Lord; for whoever
follows Him will, accordinof to our gospel,
in His name drive out the de\TLl; that is, he
will drive out his sins, and lead a virtuous


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