THE BOGOMILS NOT UTTERLY
INFLUENCE ON SOCIETY, LITERATURE, AND PROGRESS IN THE
As to the Bogomils, there is little reason to suppose that any considerable portion of the adult population embraced Mohammedanism. Of the two hundred thousand slaves, a partperhaps the larger partmay have done so, but those who were left wifeless and childless could do little to maintain their faith. The Roman Catholics are to this day weak there, and mainly made up of Italian and Austrian immigrants into the country; the main portion of the Christian population is Sclavonic and attached to the Greek Church, and have come in from the adjacent states.
But Bogomilism did not entirely die out. In the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries we find traces of the Bogomils, sometimes as objects of persecution, and both Gardiner and Blunt, ecclesiastical Cyclopaedists, say that for many years past they have had churches in the vicinity of Philippopolis. In the insurrection of 1875 among the refugees from Turkish cruelty and outrage who fled to the adjacent Austrian provinces, they were found in considerable numbers. Mr. W. J. Stillman, our consul at Ragusa, ascertained that there were about two thousand of them in that city alone, and mostly from Popovo and its vicinity, and learned that they were still numerous in the valley of the Narenta and near Crescevo.
Mr. D. Mackenzie Wallace, in his recent very able work on Russia (Am. ed., New York, 1877, pp. 293-305), gives a very full account of the Molokani and Stundisti, two Protestant sects holding nearly the same views, whom he found in Southern and Central Russia, and whose tenets he studied with great care and impartiality, visiting and conferring with their elders in regard to their views.
This narrative of Wallace shows beyond question that these South Russian sects are the legitimate spiritual descendants of the Bogomils. Mr. Wallace, who is, at least in sympathy, a Presbyterian of the Kirk of Scotland, says that he was attracted to the Molokani (Hepworth Dixon says the name means "milk-drinkers") because he had discovered that their doctrines had at least a superficial resemblance to Scotch Presbyterianism. After some interviews with their leading men he found that, though some of their doctrines had a strong resemblance to Presbyterianism (especially, it would what may be considered their Calvinism, though they never had heard of Calvin), yet there were these differences: Presbyterianism has an ecclesiastical organization and a written creed, and its doctrines have long since become clearly defined by means of public discussion, polemical literature, and general assemblies. "The Molokani," he says, "hold that Holy Writ is the only rule of faith and conduct, but that it must be taken in the spiritual, and not in the literal, sense. For their ecclesiastical organization the Molokani take as their model the early apostolic church as depicted in the New Testament, and uncompromisingly reject all later authorities. In accordance with this model, they have no hierarchy and no paid clergy, but choose from among themselves a presbyter (or elder) and two assistantsmen well known among the brethren for their exemplary life and their knowledge of the Scriptureswhose duty it is to watch over the religious and moral welfare of the flock. On Sundays they hold meetings in private housesthey are not allowed to build churchesand spend two or three hours in psalm-singing, prayer, reading the Scriptures, and friendly conversation on religious subjects."
Mr. Wallace declares, after the most intimate intercourse with them, that their knowledge of the Scriptures (atlthough they were all peasants) left nothing to be desired. Some of them seemed to know the whole of the New Testament by heart, and they were exceedingly familiar with the Old Testament. They are Sclaves, and their Bibles, like those of the Bogomils, are in the Sclavonic tongue. "Never have I met," he says, "men more honest and courteous in debate, more earnest in the search after truth, and more careless of dialectical triumphs than these simple uneducated peasants."
There exists among the Molokani a system of severe moral supervision. If a member has been guilty of drunkenness or any act unbecoming a Christian, he is first admonished by the presbyter (or elder) in private or before the congregation; and if this does not produce the desired effect, he is excluded for a longer or shorter period from the meetings and from all intercourse with the members. In extreme cases expulsion is resorted to. On the other hand, if any one of the members happens to be, from no fault of his own, in pecuniary difficulties, the others will assist him. This system of mutual control and mutual assistance has no doubt something to do with the fact that the Molokani are always distinguished from the surrounding population by their sobriety, uprightness, and material prosperity. The testimony from all quarters was that they were a quiet, decent, sober people. Their doctrines were in general those of evangelical Protestant churches, but, as they had no creed but the Bible, Mr. Wallace believed that there was room for considerable diversity of theological views, though he acknowledged that he was unable to recognize any evidence of that diversity. "One gentle. man," he says, "ventured to assure me that their doctrine was a modified form of Manichaeism" (the old charge), "but I did not put much confidence in his opinion, for I found on questioning him that he knew of Manicheism nothing but the name." The prevalent opinion, which they did not controvert, was "that they were the last remnant of a curious heretical sect which existed in the early Christian church." They are persecuted by the Greek Church and the government, though not so bitterly now as formerly. They are said to be loyal and patriotic toward the emperor, but all the efforts of the Greek Patriarchs or the government to convert them to the views of the orthodox Greek Church have proved utterly unavailing. Mr. Wallace estimates their numbers at several hundred thousand.
The Stundisti, whom we know to be Baptists, are a sect of more recent origin, but agree generally in their doctrines and practices with the Molokani.
There comes to us also, since the conclusion of the war between Russia and Turkey, cheering evidence that four hundred years of Moslem sway and the profession of the Moslem faith have not utterly driven out from the hearts of these descendants of Bogomil nobles the recollection of the faith of their fathers. Several recent writers on Turkey and Bosnia have intimated that these Sclavonic Mohammedans were not so strongly opposed to Christianity as has been supposed; and Mr. A. J. Evans, who has been travelling in Bosnia again in 1877 and 1878, thus writes in his Illyrian Letters: "An active leader among the Begs (Sclavonic Mohammedan nobles) answered as follows the question whether he would imitate some of his associates, who were already receiving baptism from Bishop Strossmeyer (the Austrian Roman Catholic bishop) and his priests: 'Not yet, but when the time comes and the hour of fate strikes, I will do so in another style. I will call together my kinsmen, and we will return to the faith of our ancestors as one man. We would choose to be Protestants, as are you English; but if need be, we will join the Serbian Church. Latin we will never be. If we go into a Roman church, what do we understand? My family has never forgotten that they were once of your faith and were made Moslems by force. In my castle there is a secret vault in which there are kept the ancient Christian books and vessels that they had before the Turks took Bosnia. My father once looked into it, then closed it up, and said, 'Let them be; they may serve their turn yet.' How many of these secret vaults in Bosnia may yet be opened and their Christian books brought out?"
But though thus apparently stamped out in the land of its birth and its greatest triumphs, under the heel of the fanatic Turk, the doctrine of these martyrs of the faith survived and in more western lands pervaded and influenced the religious life, the social condition, and the literature of the subsequent centuries.
It seems to be conclusively demonstrated that in his early life the greatest of Italian poets, Dante Alighieri, was a mender of the sect of Patarenes, one of the names by which the Bogomils of Italy were designated; and though later in life he probably gave in his adhesion to the Romish faith, the evidence of his early doctrinal beliefs is manifest in the "Heaven" and "Hell" of the Divina Commedia. That the same views had taken full possession of the mind of John Milton two hundred years later, whose Paradise Lost might, so far as its theology and demonology are concerned, have been written by a Bogomil djed, or elder, is equally certain. Nor is this surprising. Milton had passed some years in Italy and in close association with the Waldenses the representatives of the Bogomils in Italy and Piedmont, and as Cromwell's secretary of state he nobly interfered in their behalf. The later Puritan writers, and notably Baxter, Howe, Alleine, and others, give unconscious evidence in their writings of the sources from which their doctrines and teachings were drawn. Even if there were no other evidence of the affiliation of the Puritans, both of earlier and later times, with the Bogomils, the doctrine of a personal devil, as now held by all the Puritan churches, would be sufficient to demonstrate it.
The great movements of the Reformation under Luther, Melancthon, Calvin, and Zwinglius, though absorbing considerable numbers of the Bogomil or Catharist churches in Southern and Central Europe, were in some respects for them a retrogression. Their Protestantism
was purer than that of the Reformers; they had never bowed the knee to Baal, and their mouths had never kissed him; they had never held any allegiance to the Romish pope or the Greek patriarch; they had never accepted any of the erroneous doctrines of these corrupt churches; and neither the paedo-baptism nor the transubstantiation of the Church of Rome, nor the consubstantiation of the Greek and Lutheran churches, had any advocates among them. They were "Christians" pure and simple, yielding nothing to conciliate any of those who had a lingering affection for Romanism.
It is not wonderful, then, that the Waldenses in Italy and Piedmont should have maintained their independent position, nor that in Englandwhere the original Reformation was deficient in thoroughness, and where there were in the country many of the descendants of the Publicani of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries*there should have been a revolt from the partial Reformation in the shape of that Puritanism which established a purer Protestantism there, and has been the corner-stone of free institutions in our own country.
The spiritual lineage which we have thus briefly and imperfectly traced through the ages from the tenth century to our own time is one of which every true Protestant may well be proud. Though no gorgeous temples, no stately cathedrals, have made their worship conspicuous and attractive; though no historian has described, with vivid and touching pathos, those scenes of martyrdom where scores of thousands yielded up their lives rather than deny their faith; though no troubadour has given immortality to their paeans of victory, as the flames enwrapped them in a glorious winding-sheet,yet their record is on high, and He whose approval is worth infinitely more than all the applause of men, has inscribed on the banner of His love, which surrounds and protects the humblest of those who suffered for His sake, the legend, " BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART; for they shall see God."
*In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries these confessor" to the truth were often 'known as " Hot Gospellers."
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