Page images



“ O how wretched
Is that poor man that hangs on princes' favours !
There is betwixt that smile we would aspire to,
That sweet aspect of princes, and our ruin,
More pangs and fears than wars or women have;
And when he falls, he falls like Lucifer,

Never to hope again."-Shakspere On the accession of Francesco della Rovere to the pontifical throne, A.D. 1471, he took the title of Sixtus IV. Among those who from the various states of Italy attended at Rome, and presented their gratulations on the event, was the illustrious Lorenzo de Medici, the great patron of letters, through whose bounteous encouragement the spread of independent thought, and unshackled expression of that thought, succeeded the iron-bound dynasty that had revelled over the ruins of learning and art.

At first a good understanding existed between this celebrated man and the Pope; his vast wealth and influence, not only as exhibited at his own city (Florence), but as felt and acknowledged throughout the length and breadth of the land, induced Sixtus to confer on Lorenzo the post of treasurer of the holy see, an office which might be of mutual benefit, as the noble Florentine already owned a bank which was established in the seven-hilled city.

But this friendship was an ephemeral thing. Mitres, though girt with the triple-crown, do not ensure or consecrate the bloom of a right-minded attachment, Pope Sixtus IV. was of a very different mould in mental habits and tendencies to his more worthy "treasurer," and their intercourse was arrested first by a scant and lessening communion, then by a rigid taciturnity alike from prelate and philosopher, and at last by a dastardly essay on the part of the successor of St. Peter to crush the house of the Medici and the hopes of Florence, by the deliberate assassination of Lorenzo and his brother.

It is to the last step in this enmity that we now direct our notice. The Pope had been aiming at personal aggrandizement in his temporal broad-lands by dint of illegal tampering with the rights of adjacent proprietors. Niccolo Vitelli was among the latter, and was one of those who had incurred obligations to Lorenzo “the Magnificent,” by the aid which his money and influence had supplied, in defence of private territory against priestly usurpation. Sixtus was roused to vengeance. A tempting field of enterprise seemed open before him. True, there were unsightly concomitants,—there was treachery which might be denounced; there was blood which might be avenged; but treachery and blood were only means to an end, and the brazen

maxim of Jesuitism, that the end sanctifies the means, although not yet canonized on the pandects of their theology, was long since an acknowledged and approved principle in papal casuistry. The Pope thought by one blow to strike off Lorenzo and his brother Guiliano, to master the surrounding small states, and to grasp at the possession of fair Florence itself.

If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly, if the assassination
Could trammes up the consequence, and catch

With his surcease, success. One of the first indications of the winter cloud that marred the summer beauty of his Holiness's serenity of good-will, was illustrated by his depriving Lorenzo of the office of treasurer, and conferring it on the family of the Pazzi. The leader of this family was Giacopo, a man of bold designs and unprincipled libertinism. Sixtus knew his antipathies; with delight he fostered their growth, and, with anxious interest, employed them eventually in his malign purposes. Preliminary arrangements were made, and the hour doomed for the extinction of Medicean renown was rapidly approaching. Mr. Roscoe, in his excellent life of Lorenzo,

which is distinguished rather for a lax indifferentism to the cause of Protestantism, than for any readiness to expose Romish obliquities, for once speaks with warmth on this topic. He calls this conspiracy of the Pazzi “a transaction that has seldom been mentioned without emotions of the strongest horror and detestation; and which, as has justly been observed, is an incontrovertible proof of the PRACTICAL ATHEISM of the times in which it took place,-a transaction in which a pope, a cardinal, an archbishop, and several other ecclesiastics associated themselves with a band of ruffians, to destroy two men who were an honour to their age and country, and purposed to perpetrate their crime at a season of hospitality, in the sanctuary of a Christian church, and at the very moment of the elevation of the host, when the audience bowed down before it, and the assassins were presumed to be in the immediate presence of God." *

The leading members of the murderous crew were, the Pope himself, as premier; his so-called “nephew” Girolamo, (or, as he is commonly called, the Cardinal Riario ;) Raffaello, nephew to Girolamo ; Francesco Salviati, Archbishop of Pisa ; Giacopo, (his brother) Giacopo Poggio; Bernardo Bandini; Montesicco; Maffei, a priest; and Stephano, an apostolic scribe.

The conspirators first intended to assassinate Lorenzo and Guiliano at the residence of the former; he had invited some of them to a sumptuous entertainment, and the blood of their host was to signalize their sense of favour. But, to their disappoint

* Roscoe's Lorenzo de Med. p. 93. Bogue.

ment, Guiliano was not present, and they had therefore to experience that “hope deferred," which, whether honourable or infamous, "maketh the heart sick.” They now hatched another plan ; the frustrated one had been stigmatized by a proposed outrage on hospitality; the anticipated one was by a proposed defiance of all sense of sacredness, or even of Deity. On the following Sunday, in the church of Santa Maria del Fiore, at the moment of the elevation of the host (!!) the daggers of the panting zealots were to quench their thirst in gore.

Montesicco, whom we named above, had been selected to despatch Guiliano, and had readily accepted the terms, when the private house of Lorenzo was to be the stage for the tragedy ; but he, the hardy soldier, shrunk from the idea of perpetrating the crime in the church.* Two churchmen undertook the soldier's leavings.

Cardinal Riario intimated his desire of being present at the church on Sunday, April 26th, 1478. Lorenzo, with characteristic courtesy, invites him to his house in Florence; and the cardinal accepts the offer, attended by a large retinue of followers. Once more, all the conspirators, annoyed by not finding Guiliano present, but determined to lose no more time, they seek the accomplishment of a half assassination, rather than none at all. They burn for a total excision, hip and thigh, root and branch, of the Medici family; but rather than be foiled, they are willing to sing, in the minor key,

“ We've scotched the snake, not killed it." What, then, was their satisfaction on learning that though Guiliano had not appeared at the banquet to be feasted, he would appear at the church to be killed.

And now the cardinal was seated at church, and the service had begun. Still Guiliano was absent. To hasten his coming, two of the conspirators left the church, to meet and conduct him thither. He accompanied the fawning traitors with simple trustfulness, little thinking that their real purpose, when they twined their arms so lovingly about his shoulders and waist,+ was to discover what armour he might have been accoutred withal.

And now the sacred roof covers them. The bell rings—the wafer is upraised—and instantaneously the dagger of Bandini is plunged into Guiliano's breast. He staggers a few steps forward, and falls exhausted. Another conspirator rushes to make assurance doubly sure, and stabs him again and again, even after the pallor of death had preached peace to the infuriate ruffian. Lorenzo was not thus to die. As soon as Bandini had reeked

“ He said he never could find courage enough to perpetrate such a deed in a church, adding sacrilege to treachery; and this was the beginning of the failure of the enterprise.”Machiavelli.

† A facta

his hatred on Guiliano, he made for his elder brother; and in his way stabbed a faithful servant of the Medici. Meanwhile, the partisans of the intended victim had time to encircle him about, and in the midst of the fell tumult, to hurry him into the sacristy, till opportunity and increasing numbers of friends allowed them to conduct him safely home.

The rage of the populace against the conspirators was extreme. “ The streets,” says Roscoe, “ were polluted with the dead bodies and mangled limbs of the slaughtered.” The family of the Pazzi were brought to ruin and disgrace, and the utmost sympathy expressed for Lorenzo and his cause, while triumph at his escape found vent in universal congratulations.*

Pope Sixtus might have had the decency, as well as common sense, to have hid his diminished head behind the arras of the Vatican after this exposé, and the ill odour that must needs be affixed to the name of the immaculate Vicar. But his temper was too hot to allow a disgraceful defeat to soothe its bubblings. The Babylonian furnace was heated seven times more than hitherto, because the golden idol of the papal wishes had not met due adulation and success. “Confiscate the goods of the Medici !” he cries in impotent malice. “Confiscate the goods of all the Florentines ! Nay, imprison all the Florentines !” He had been vile, and he would yet be more vile; he anathematized Lorenzo and the whole posse comitatus of the corporation of Florence. Lorenzo he called “the child of iniquity, and the nursling of perdition.” And in his published manifesto he, after dilating on the eminent gentleness of his own disposition, declared that, “ according to the example of our Saviour, he (the Pope) had long suffered in peace the insults and injuries of his enemies, and that he should still have continued to exercise his forbearance, had not Lorenzo de Medici, with the magistrates of Florence and their abettors, discarding the fear of God, inflamed with fury, and instigated by diabolical suggestions, laid violent hands on ecclesiastical persons, proh dolor et inauditum scelus! hung up the archbishop, imprisoned the cardinal, and by various means destroyed and slaughtered their followers.”

The ecclesiastics and civilians, not only of Florence, but also of other places, retorted with severity on the Pope, charging him with accumulated guilt in the business which he was agitating only to his own confusion. We have no space left for continuing any narration of the consequent tumults and war which distracted Italy at the close of the fifteenth century. What

we have cited is, at any rate, a historical memorandum of Popery,

CANTABRIGIENSIS. * "At sunt attonito dare pectori

Solamen valeant plurima, nam super
Est, qui vel gremio creverit in tuo,

LAURENS Etruriæ caput."-Ode by Politiano.




No. IV. HAVING pointed out, in what we have written before upon this subject, the evils connected with the present system (or, should we rather say, the present want of system ?), in the bestowal of the patronage of the Church of England, -having called attention to the lamentable manner in which that which ought to be encouraged is too often discouraged by those who have the patronage of the Church in their hands, it remains to say something of the remedy for these evils, or, at least, to give some suggestions, in conclusion, as to what ought to be done.

And, in the first instance, first in order, as first in importance, we would look to the Lord, and call upon all our fellow-Christians to do the same.

The Lord Jesus Christ, who was delivered for our offences, was raised again for our justification ; he ascended up on high, gloriously

triumphantly, leading captivity captive, and received gifts for men ; he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is his body, and to him is given all power, authority, and dominion in heaven and in earth. This is no matter of speculation—no mere doctrine ; it is a blessed truth,-a glorious fact-of daily practical importance ; full of encouragement, full of consolation to the believer. He is especially exalted to give pastors and teachers ; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Church, which is his body. He walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks ; He holds the seven stars in his right hand; He has the seven spirits of God. All this may be neglected or forgotten, even by a large proportion of his people ; it is, nevertheless, indisputably and immutably true, and the inevitable inference is, that all appointments in the Church are ultimately in his hand ; they are ordered and over-ruled by him in righteous judgment, or in sovereign grace and tender mercy.

When he himself, in regard to his most important and glorious office, is neglected and despised by his people, what can we expect but that he will exercise his power and authority in righteous judgment? When we return to him, with deep humiliation, confessing our past sins, and humbly giving unto him the glory which is due unto his name, then may we, with scriptural reason, expect that he will exercise his power in tender mercy, and every believer will rejoice to know, and to remember, that in spite of all that we may have to confess and bewail, in spite of all human imperfections -in spite of all the opposition both of earth and hell-all hearts are in his hand, and all events under his control. He can do, and will do, according to his sovereign will and glorious power, and none can stay his hand.

But what is the fact, in regard to the acknowledgment of Christ in His glorious office as the Head of His Church ? Has he been duly honoured, or has he been neglected-practically neglected and despised ? It is highly important that his whole Church, and every individual among his people, should search out and confess their sins

« PreviousContinue »