Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/216

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had spoken against charity he too was broken iron. "If, O Lord," he cried, "I should seek to be absolved from this excommunication, let me be sent to hell; I should shrink from seeking absolution as from mortal sin." This sermon contains a summary of his correspondence with the Pope; Alexander, he concludes, resembled a podesta of Brescia who always agreed with the last speaker; he was like the king at chess, who moved backwards and forwards from square to square whenever check was called.

These utterances, followed by others fully as audacious, forced Alexander to a resolution. He demanded, under pain of interdict, that either the government must place Savonarola in his custody, subject to a promise that he should not be hurt, or at least confine him to his convent and prevent his preaching. The envoys assured the Signoria that the Pope was now in earnest, and after much debate Savonarola was ordered not to preach. On receiving this decision, the Friar preached his farewell sermon; he was willing to obey the State, for he could not force virtue upon the city against its will. This sermon contained his fiercest diatribe against the Roman Court; none could misunderstand the allusions to Alexander's concubines and children. It was time now, cried the preacher, to appeal from the Pope to Christ; the Power ecclesiastic was ruining the Church, it was therefore no longer Power ecclesiastic, but Power infernal, Power of Satan. Henceforth, if Savonarola was silent, he was not idle. In his seclusion he prepared an appeal to a General Council, and drafted letters calling upon the European princes to depose the Pope, who was no Pope, for his election was simoniacal, he was a heretic and unbeliever, since he disbelieved in the existence of God- the deepest depth of unbelief. Had his cause been as strong in Florence as of yore, had succeeding Signorie been as bold as that of January, 1498, a formal Schism must have followed; and who can say that the revolt would have been limited to Florence, or that it would not have overstepped the frontier of discipline and doctrine? But the issue was to be decided by internal rather than by external politics, and the final conflict was provoked by circumstances almost accidental.

Savonarola's brethren were still preaching, and perhaps exaggerating, the apocalyptic features of his doctrine. From prophecy to miracle was but a step; an appeal to supernatural agency became almost a form of speech; it was boldly asserted that miracle, if necessary, would support prophecy. At length, on March 25, 1498, a Franciscan in Santa Croce threw down the challenge; he would pass through fire if Savonarola would do likewise: he knew that he should himself be burnt, but the Dominican would also perish, and the people would be freed from its delusion. Savonarola was averse to forcing a miracle from God; the Court of Rome expressed its abhorrence at this tempting of the Divine Power. The government, however, yielded to popular clamour; it was willing to clutch at any remedy for the civil conflict, which was wasting