Page images
PDF
EPUB

creatures only, but of men, both living and dead; yea, even of the good angels themselves *.

It were easy to write volumes, of their dreadful and illusive apparitions : others have done it before me: my pen is for other use. The times are not past the ken of our memory, since the frequent, and in some part true, reports of those familiar devils, fairies, and goblins, wherewith many places were commonly haunted: the rarity whereof, in these latter times, is sufficient to descry the difference, betwist the state of ignorant superstition, and the clear light of the Gospel. I doubt not, but there were many frauds intermixed, both in the acting and relating divers of these occurrences; but he, that shall detract from the truth of all, may as well deny there were men living in those ages before us. Neither can I make question of the authentic records of the examinations + and confessions of witches and sorcerers, in several regions of the world, agreeing in the truth of their horrible pacts with Satan, of their set meetings with evil spirits, their beastly homages and conversations. I should hate to be guilty of so much incredulity, as to charge so many grave judges and credible historians with lies.

Amongst such fastidious choice of whole dry-fats of voluminous relations, I cannot forbear to single out that one famous story I of Magdalen de la Croix, in the year of our Lord Christ, 1545: who, being born at Cordova in Spain, whether for the indigence or devotion of her parents, was, at five years' age, put into a convent of nuns. At that age, an evil spirit presented himself to her, in the form of a blackinoor, foul and hideous : she startled at the sight, not without much horror; but, with fair speeches and promises of all those gay toys wherewith children are wont to be delighted, she was wont to hold society with him ; not without strong charges of silence and secrecy : in the mean time, giving proof of a notable quick wit, and more than the ordinary ability incident into her age; so as she was highly esteemed, both of the young novices, and of the aged nuns. No sooner was she come to the age of twelve or thirteen years, than the Devil solicits her to marry with him; and, for her dowry, promises her, that, for the space of thirty years, she shall live in such fame and honour for the opinion of her sanctity, as that she shall be for that time the wonder of all Spain. While this wicked spirit held his unclean conversation with her in her chamber, he delegates another of his hellish complices, to supply the place and form of his Magdalen, in the church, in the cloister, in all their meetings; not without marvellous appearance of gravity and devotion : disclosing unto her also the affairs of the world

* Diabolus, gloriosa formú, diademate gemmeo et aureo redimitus, veste regiú indutus, apparuit Martin precanti ; se Christum dicit : cui, post silentium aliquod, Sanctus : Ego Christum, nisi in illo habitu formáque quá passus est, nisi crucis stigmalu proferentem, venisse non credam : hini evanuit. Hoc nar. ravil Sulpitio Martinus ipse; d rcfert idem Sever. Sulp. in vita Martini, + Bodin "Damonomania; ubique. Sim. Goul. Hist. admirables, Casside Reney en ses Relations. Zuinger, Theatre de vie Human Bodin. Dæmonomania; 1. ä.

abroad; and furnishing her with such advertisements, as made her wondered at, and won her the reputation, not of a holy virgin only, but of a prophetess. Out of which height of estimation, although: she was not, for years, capable of that diguity, she was, by the general votes of the sisterhood, chosen unanimously, to be the abbess of that convent. Wonderful were the feats, which she then did : the priest cries out in bis celebration, that he missed one of the holy host, which he had consecrated ; and, lo, that was, by her wonted angel, invisibly conveyed to holy Magdalen: the wall, that was betwixt her lodging and the quire, at the elevation of the host, clave asunder, that holy Magdalen might see that sacred act : and, which was yet more notorious, on so.emn festivals, when the nuns made their procession, Magdalen was, in the sight of the beholders, lift up from the earth, the height of three cubits, as if she should have been rapt up to heaven : and, sometimes, while she bore in her arms a little image of the child Jesus, new born and naked, weeping, like a true Magdalen, abundantly over the babe ; her hair seemed, by miracle, suddenly lengthened so low as to reach unto her ankles, for the covering of the naked child; which, so soon as she had laid aside that dear burden, returned suddenly to the wonted length. These, and many other the like miracles, made her so famous, that Popes, Emperors, the Grandees of Spain wrote to her, beseeching her in their letters to recommend their affairs to God in her powerful devotions, and in requiring her advice and advertisements in matters of high importance; as appeared afterwards, by the letters found in her cabinet. And the great ladies of Spain, and other parts, would not wrap their newborn infants in any clouts or swaddling-bands, but such as the sacred hands of abbess Magdalen had first touched and blessed. All the nuns of Spain were proud of so great an honour of their order, and such miraculous proofs of their sanctity. At last, it pleased God to lay open this notable fraud of the Devil : for Magdalen, after thirty years' acquaintance with this paramour, having been abbess now twelve years, began to receive some remorse of her former practices; and, growing to a detestation of her horrible society with that evil spirit, found means freely to discover to the Visitors of her Order, all the whole carriage of this abominable and prodigious wickedness : although some credible, wise, and learned persons have reported, that she, perceiving the nuns to have taken secret notice of her foul pranks, lest she should run into a deserved condemnation, did, under the favour of those laws which give pardon to self-accusing offenders, voluntarily confess her monstrous villainy and impiety. This confession blanked many of her favourers and admirers ; and seemed so strange, that it was held fit not to believe it, without strict and legal examinations and proceed. ings. Magdalen was close imprisoned in her convent; and, being called to question, confessed all this mystery of iniquity. Yet still her Moor continued his illusions : for, while sbe was fast locked up in her cell, with a strong guard upon her doors; the nuns were ng

кк

sooner come into the quire, towards morning, to say their matins, than this deputy-apparition of Magdalen took up her wonted stall, and was seen devoutly tossing her beads amongst her sisters; so as they thought the Visitors had surely freed her of the crimes objected, upon her vehement penitence: but, bearing that Magdalen was still fast caged in her prison, they acquainted the Visitors with what they had seen, the morning before; who, upon full examination, found, that she had never looked out of the doors of her gaol. The process was at last sent up to Rome; whence, since the confession was voluntary, she had her absolution.

A story of great note and use, for many occasions; and too well known to the world, to admit of either denial or doubt, and ratified, as by the known consent of the time, so by the faithful records of Zuingerus, Bodin, Reney, Goulartius. Lord God, what cunning conveyances are here of the foul spirit! what subtle hypocrisy ! what powerful illusions ! enough to make sanctity itself suspected ; enough to shame the pretence of miracles. He can, for an advantage, be a holy Nun, as well as an ugly Moor: he can be as devout at Matins, Sacraments, Processions, as the best : what wonder? when he can, at pleasure counterfeit, an Angel of Light ? In that glorious form, did he appear to Simon Stylites of old; to Gertrude of Westphalia, not without the entertainment of her joy and devotion : till Hermanus of Arnsburgh descried the fraud; and taught her to avoid it, by a means no less advantageous to that ill spirit, than her former devotion. Yea, yet higher, to Pachomius, and to Valens the monk, as Palladius reports, he durst appear and call for adoration; and had it, under the form of the Lord of Life, blessed for ever,

How vain is the observation of those authors, who make this the difference, betwixt the apparitions of good angels and evil : That the good make choice of the shapes, either of beautiful persons, or of those creatures which are clean and hurtless; as of the shape of a lamb to Clement, or a hart to Eustace, or a dove to Gummarus : whereas the evil put themselves into the forms of deformed men, or of harmful and filthy beasts; as of a goat to the assembly of witches, of hogs in the churches of Agatha profaned by the Arians; of serpents, dragons, toads, and other loathsome and terrible creatures, to St. Hilary and Anthony, as Athanasius and Jerome, in their suppositious relations, have reported; and that, if at any time he take upon him the shape of a man, yet it is with some notable defect and incongruity of limbs *; as with a right-foot cloven, or with a whole hoof; never entirely hunian: when we see that the very glory of angels escapes not their counterfeisance. We know how easy it is for the Almighty to ordain some such mark to be set upon the false shapes of evil spirits, for their better discovery ; but why should we rather suppose this to be done, in the case of human bodies, than of heavenly angels ? why more, in the resem

* Est hæc res mirabilis, nunquam visos esse dæmonęs utroque pede humano ullibi apparuisse. Forner, de Ang. Ser, ix,

blance of men, than of all other creatures; since their deceit may be no less dangerous, in either ?

But as for these visible devils, they are, in these days, very rare ; and, where they have appeared, have wont to work more affright, than spiritual prejudice. Evil spirits are commonly most pernicious to the soul, when they are least seen; not caring so much for our terror, as our seduction.

O God, they are crafty ; but thou art wisdom itself: they are malicious; but thou art goodness. Let thy goodness and wisdom ever protect and safeguard us : so shall we be, not more wretched and unsafe in ourselves, than we shall be in thee secure and happy.

SECT. VII. THE VEHEMENCE OF SATAN'S LAST CONFLICTS. These spirits, because such are neither capable of sleep or weariness; as they are therefore ever busy and restless in their assaults, so their last conflicts use to be most vehement: whether it be, for that, now, the soul is passing out of their reach, as we find they did most tear and torture the demoniac, when they saw themselves upon the point of their ejection; or, whether it be, for that the painful agonies of death yield them more hopes of advantage, since the soul, while it is struggling with those last pangs, must needs have her powers distracted in her resistances. Cruelty, where it would prevail, will be sure to lay most load upon the weakest.

Hereupon it is, that holy men have been most careful to arm themselves strongliest, against those last onsets; and to bend all the forces of their souls, upon their safe dissolution. The holy sister of St. Basil, and Melania, whom St. Jerome magnifies for their sanctity, beseech God, with great fervency, that those envious spirits may not hinder them in their last passage : and devout Bernard, to the same purpose, when he drew near his end, sues to his friend for his earnest prayers, that the heel of his life might be kept safe from the Serpent; so as he might not find where to fix his sting.

Hence it is, that, in former times, good souls have been so provident to hearten themselves against the faint pulse of their death, beds, with that vitiacum sacrum, the strongest spiritual cordial of the Blessed Eucharist : which hath yielded them such vigour of heavenly consolation, that they have boldly defied all the powers of darkness; and, in spite of all those assaults, have laid themselves down in peace.

O God, I know Satan can want no malice nor will to hurt. I should be his, if I looked for favour from him. He must and will do so much of his worst to me, as thou wilt permit. Whether thou wilt be pleased to restrain him, or strengthen me, thy will be done. Oh, lead me not into temptation; and, when thou doest so, shew thyself strong in my weakness : arm me, for iny last brunt : stand by me, in my last combat ; make me faithful to the death, that thou mayest give me a crown of life.

SECT. VII.

OF OUR CARRIAGE TOWARD WICKED SPIRITS; AND THE WAYS OF OUR

PREVALENCE AGAINST THEM. We have seen what the carriage of the Evil Spirits is to us : it were fit, we should ask in what terms we must stand towards them.

That we must maintain a perpetual hostility against them, cannot be doubted; and, whatever acts may tend toward the securing of ourselves, and the abating of the kingdom and power of darkness, those must be exercised by us, to the uttermost. Justly, do we scorn to be beholden to that deadly enemy, in receiving courtesies from him. Favours from such hands, are both sins and curses.

He, that can so easily transform himself, will seem to do good. What cures doth he ofien work! what discoveries of thefts! what remedies of diabolical operations and possessions, by the agency of witches, wizards, magicians ! what an ordinary traffic doth he hold of charms, spells, amulets ! Jgnorance and superstition are willing enough to be befriended by such pernicious helps; whereby that subtle spirit both wins and kills the soul, while he cures the body.

It is not easy for a man, where he receives a benefit to suspect an enmity : bút, withal, it is no less than stupidity, when we find a good turn done us, not to enquire whence it came; and, if we find it to proceed from a mischievous intent of further hurt, not to refuse it.

That there have been diseases remedied, wounds healed, blood stanched, thorns plucked out, serpents stupified, winds procured, by charms, is so notorious, that whoso would doubt of it should make himself a wonder of incredulity: now then, by what power do we think these things done?

Natural, it cannot be : for there is no such efficacy in words or characters, being but of mere device and arbitrary imposition, as may produce real effects.

Preternatural then, it must be; and if so, then either divine or diabolical. Of God, it cannot be: where hath he given warrant to any such practice? where any promise to concur with it? nay, how oft hath he testified his prohibitions and detestation of these courses! Needs must it therefore be, by devilish operation; whose agent, witches and sorcerers are; and whose means of working, are these superstitious inventions, which, by a secret compact, receive their force and success from those infernal powers.

Let those then, that have given to Satan their souls, take favours from him for their bodies : let us, that defy the author, abhor the courtesy. Minę enemy offers me a rich garment: I know it is poisoned; else, he would not give it me: shall I take it, because it is rich ; or refuse it, because it is infectious ? Let me be sick, rather than receive help from such hands : let my goods be lost, rather than my soul hazarded : let me die, rather than owe my life to my Maker's enemy.

« PreviousContinue »