Edited by William Byron Forbush This is a book that will never die — one of the great English classics. . . . Reprinted here in its most complete form, it brings to life the days when “a noble army, men and boys, the matron and the maid,” “climbed the steep ascent of heaven, ‘mid peril, toil, and pain.” “After the Bible itself, no book so profoundly influenced early Protestant sentiment as the Book of Martyrs. Even in our time, it is still a living force. It is more than a record of persecution. It is an arsenal of controversy, a storehouse of romance, as well as a source of edification.”
Fox’s Book of Martyrs is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
An Account of the Persecutions of Michael de Molinos, a Native of Spain part 4
The Count Vespiniani and his lady, Don Paulo Rocchi, confessor to the prince Borghese, and some of his family, with several others, (in all seventy persons) were put into the Inquisition, among whom many were highly esteemed for their learning and piety. The accusation laid against the clergy was their neglecting to say the breviary; and the rest were accused of going to the Communion without first attending confession. In a word, it was said, they neglected all the exterior parts of religion, and gave themselves up wholly to solitude and inward prayer.
The Countess Vespiniani exerted herself in a very particular manner on her examination before the inquisitors. She said she had never revealed her method of devotion to any mortal but her confessor, and that it was impossible they should know it without his discovering the secret; that, therefore it was time to give over going to confession, if priests made this use of it, to discover the most secret thoughts intrusted to them; and that, for the future, she would only make her confession to God.
From this spirited speech, and the great noise made in consequence of the countess’s situation, the inquisitors thought it most prudent to dismiss both her and her husband, lest the people might be incensed, and what she said might lessen the credit of confession. They were, therefore, both discharged, but bound to appear whenever they should be called upon.
Besides those already mentioned, such was the inveteracy of the Jesuits against the Quietists, that, within the space of a month, upwards of two hundred persons were put into the Inquisition; and that method of devotion which had passed in Italy as the most elevated to which mortals could aspire, was deemed heretical, and the chief promoters of it confined in a wretched dungeon.
In order, if possible, to extirpate Quietism, the inquisitors sent a circular letter to Cardinal Cibo, as the chief minister, to disperse it through Italy. It was addressed to all prelates, informed them, that whereas many schools and fraternities were established in several parts of Italy, in which some persons, under the pretence of leading people into the ways of the Spirit, and to the prayer of quietness, instilled into them many abominable heresies, therefore a strict charge was given to dissolve all those societies, and to oblige the spiritual guide to tread in the known paths; and, in particular, to take care that none of that sort should be suffered to have the direction of the nunneries. Orders were likewise given to proceed, in the way of justice, against those who should be found guilty of these abominable errors.
After this a strict inquiry was made into all the nunneries of Rome, when most of their directors and confessors were discovered to be engaged in this new method. It was found that the Carmelites, the nuns of the Conception, and those of several other convents, were wholly given up to prayer and contemplation, and that, instead of their beads, and the other devotions to saints, or images, they were much alone, and often in the exercise of mental prayer; that when they were asked why they had laid aside the use of their beads and their ancient forms, their answer was that their directors had advised them so to do. Information of this being given to the Inquisition, they sent orders that all books written in the same strain with those of Molinos and Petrucci should be taken from them, and that they should be compelled to return to their original form of devotion.
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