Chapter XVIII He examines the Christian religion
Seeing my fright, my guide said to me:
“Let us go then. I will show you the Christian religion, which, being founded upon reliable divine relevations, beautifully agrees with itself and benefits both the simplest and the most learned. It exhibits clearly and lucidly the heavenly truth and refutes all opposing erroneous fictions. Its ornaments are concord and love. And having overcome innumerable tribulations, it has remained and shall ever remain unconquered. From this you may readily understand that its origin must be from God, and consequently you shall be able to find in it true solace.” Hearing such a speech, I was filled with joy. Thus we went on.
When we approached nearer, I perceived a gate through which all who wished to enter were obliged to pass. This gate stood in water, through which every applicant must wade and in which he must washe himself, receiving thereupon a badge, white and red in color. Moreover, he must take an oath to observe their laws and regulations, to believe as they do, pray as they do, and keep their ordinances as they do. I was much pleased with this; for it seemed like the beginning of a noble order.
Preaching the Gospel
Having passed through the gate, I beheld a great multitude of people among whom some were distinguished by their garb from the rest; they were standing on platforms here and there, exhibiting a picture so artistically painted that the more one observed it the more the he found to note. But since the picture was not highly embellished with gold and brilliant colors, it was not clearly visible from a distance. Hence, I noticed that those who stood afar were not greatly allured by its beauty, while those standing nearer could never look at if sufficiently.
The image of Christ
4 Those who exhibited this portrait extolled it exceedingly, calling it the Son of God. They professed to find all the most excellent virtues depicted in it; they said that it had been sent into the world from heaven that men might know how to order their own virtues by following it as an example. Thereupon, there arose great rejoicing and exultation among the multitude who, falling on their knees, lifted up their hands to heaven and praised God for it. Seeing this, I also united my voice with theirs and praised the Almighty God for having brought me to this place.
Spiritual feasts of Christians
5 In the meantime I heard many and various exhortations, urging all to conform themselves to the portraits. I also observed that those who had been entrusted with the care of the picture gathered themselves at several places and making a small likeness of it, distributed it to all in a kind of wrapping. People then reverently placed it in their mouths. I inquired what this ritual meant and was told that it was not sufficient to look upon the picture outwardly, but that it must likewise be received internally in order that one might be transformed into its beauty. For this heavenly medicine was said to remove sins. Being satisfied with this explanation, I extolled the Christians within myself as blessed among men for possessing such means and aids for the banishing of evil.
Licentiousness of Christians
But in the meantime, observing a few who had just a short time before received their god into themselves (as they expressed it), I saw that one after another they gave themselves up to drinking bouts, brawls, uncleanness, and robbery. Not believing my eyes, I watched them more closely and saw in very truth that they got drunk and vomited, quarrelled and fought, defrauded and stole from one another by might and main, neighed and leaped into their license, screamed and shouted, indulged in adultery and fornificatio even worse than any other group I have ever observed. In short, they did everything contrary to the exhortations they had received and the promises they had made. I was deeply grieved by this and exclaimed sorrowfully:
“In God’s name, what is happening here? I sought here better things!” —
“Do not express your astonishment so rudely,” my interpreter reproved me,
“that which is presented to men for imitation is a degree of perfection that human frailty does not allow every one to attain; the leaders are more perfect; the ordinary man, however, being held back by his evil propensities, is not able to keep up with them.” —
“Let us go among the leaders, then,” I suggested,
“that I may see them.”
Barrenness of preachers
7 Thereuponn, they led me to those who were standing on the platform, exhorting people to admire the beauty of the picture. Nevertheless, they acted somewhat feebly, it seemed to me: for if anyone obeyed them and followed, well and good; if not, it did not matter. A few among them jingled some keys, claiming the power of locking the gate to God to those who would refuse to obey, but as a matter of fact locking it to none; and if they did, it was done in jest. I saw, indeed, that they dared not to do it freely; for if any of the preachers assumed a sharper tone, he was immediately loudly denounced as preaching against individuals. Thus when they could not rebuke sins by the word of mouth, some attempted to do it in writing. But they were dencounced as broadcasting lampoons. People either turned away from them so as not to hear them or threw them down from the platform, setting up more moderate preachers in their stead. Seeing this, I exclaimed:
“What a folly to make mere followers and flatteres of their leaders and counsellors!” —
“Such is the course of the world,” replied my interpreter;
“and it does no harm. If those howlers had full liberty, who knows what they would not dare. Even they must be shown where the limits are.”
Carnality of the clergy
“Let us go among them, then,” I said,
“that I may see how they manage their affairs at home, out of their pulpits. I know that there at leaset no one domineers over them or interferes with them.” We entered a building occupied exclusively by priests. I expected to find them at prayers or delving into the mysteries; but on the contrary, I found them lying on feather beds and snoring, or seated behind tables and feasting, gorging themselves with food and drink to speechlessness; some were dancing and skipping about; others were engaged in stuffing their purses, coffers, and treasure-chambers; some indulged in lechery and wantonness; others spent their time in putting on spurs, daggers, rapiers, and muskets; yet others in hunting hares with dogs. They spent the least of their time with the Bible, some scarcely ever taking it into their hands, and yet called themselves teachers of the Word! Seeing this, I exclaimed:
“O my grief! Are these supposed to be the leaders to heaven and the examples of virtue? Shall I ever find an; ything in the world free from falsehood and deceit?” Hearing my exclamation, some of the priests perceived my criticism of their irregularities and began to look askance at me and to grumble: that if I were looking for hypocrites and a show of sanctimoniousness, I must look elsewhere; that they knew how to perform their duty both i church and at home, and how to conduct themselves among men manfully. Thus I was reduced to silence, plainly perceiving, however, that to wear a coat of mail over the surplice and a helmet over the biretta was a monstrosity; the Law in one hand, a sword in the other; Peter’s keys in front, Judas' bag behind; the mind trained in Scripture, the heart practiced in fraud; the tongue full of piety, the eyes full of wantonness.
With heavenly gifts, they help others but not themselves
9 I noticed particularly that some whose sermons were extremely eloquent and full of piety, who were regardedby others as well as by themselves with as great a regard as if they were angels fallen from heaven, yet lived dissolutely as the rest. I could not restrain myself from exclaiming:
“Behold, pipes through which good things are conducted, but to which none of the good adheres!” —
“Even that is a gift of God to be able to preach eloquently about the things of God,” remarked by interpreter.
“Indeed it is a gift of God,” I retorted;
“but should a man stop with words?”
Trangressions of the bishops
Meanwhile, perceiving that all these priests had elders above them, called bishops, archbishops, abbots, priors, deans, superintendents, inspectors, etc., who were men of a serious mien and distinction, and who enjoyed general esteem, I thought to myself: Why do they not keep those in the lower ranks in order? Desiring to discover the reason, I followed one of these men into his room, and then a second, a third, a fourth, and so on. I saw that they were so overburdened with work that they could not spare time for supervision. Their occupation, not to mention all the work which they had in common with their clergy, consisted of keeping account of the revenues and the ecclesiastical treasures (as they called it).
“I suppose that it is by mistake that they are not called fathers of profits, rather than of +59prophets,” I remarked.
“Somebody must take care of the goods which God has bestowed upon the Church, so that they and the endowments of pious forefathers would not be dissipated,” my interpreter answered.
Just then one of their number, a man with two keys suspended from his belt — they called him Peter — stepped out and said:
“Men and brethren, it is not seemly that we should forsake the Word of God and serve tables and coffers. Let us select, therefore, men of good report, and appoint them over this business: but let us be diligent in prayers and the ministration of the +60Word.” Hearing this, I rejoiced, for according to my notion this was good advice. But none of those addressed was willing thus to understand it: all persisted in counting, receiving, and disbursing, while the prayers and the ministry of the Word were either entrusted to others or attended to only perfunctorily.