Изображения страниц

Christ died for you, and that he ought to live in you; Third, You will then receive the gift of the Holy Spirit; and, Fourth, When you have received it, beware how you despise the word of God, with the value of which it has made you acquainted. The effect of this discourse can be explained only by the manner in which the faithful express themselves when describing the preaching of the Apostles. It may with truth be said, that there was not a person in the congregation who was not deeply affected. But, whilst some found in it light and life, there were others who discovered only exaggeration, and who had made it a subject of censure. These, on quitting the church, ran to the incumbent, requiring him to dismiss his curate; whilst the friends of the Gospel, on the other hand, entreated him to retain him. The priest hesitated for some time between the two parties: at length, however, he yielded to the most numerous and the most vehement, and dismissed this faithful witness for the truth.

This event was the signal for a violent persecution, from the enemies of the Gospel, against those who openly professed it. They endeavoured to bring these faithful men before the tribunal of justice; but as the judges perceived that they were accused of nothing but believing in Jesus Christ, they soon restored them to liberty-but without always granting them protection against the attacks of which they were the object. The consesequence was, that their adversaries allowed themselves to use every possible licence towards them; accusing them of heresy from the pulpit; and in alehouses taxing them with hypocrisy, and turning them into ridicule. Many of them were, in consequence, obliged to conceal themselves, in order to escape violence: several were compelled to quit the country. It may be added, that the priesthood were the instigators of all these evil deeds. The

neighbouring ecclesiastics were mortified at the praises bestowed on Bos, and at his popularity as a preacher. They accused him of wishing to draw away their parishioners; and were known to say, that the best means of putting an end to his popularity, was publicly to accuse him of holding doctrines opposed to those of the Catholic church, and to designate those who followed him as forming a sect. At length the powers in authority considered themselves compelled to notice these proceedings. They arrested a great number, both of the clergy and the laity, and informations were laid against them. The only thing they could allege to their disparagement, was their constant habit of speaking of the necessity of a living faith in Jesus Christ, and the efforts which they made to impress this on those who did not see it in the same light with themselves. It was not till after an inquiry of two years, that the court which was charged with the commission pronounced them innocent. Bos himself, who had for a second time sought an asylum with the venerable Feneburg, was compelled to present himself, within a month, before the ecclesiastical court at Augsburg. He appeared there on the 10th February 1797, and was immediately put into the house of correction at Goeggingen, situated about a mile from the city, and designed for priests. He went from thence, to appear before his judges, under the escort of a soldier or a keeper; and in the course of eight months, during which his imprisonment lasted, he underwent more than fifty examinations. Two of his judges were very inimical to him: the others appeared more favourably disposed-one even seemed to be attached to his doctrines-but the fear of being themselves decried by their colleagues, caused them to yield to the influence of the two who were most violent.

Notwithstanding all the severity with which he was treated, they

could not discover the reality of those heresies and crimes of which they accused him. But as they saw evident manifestations of piety, and the fruits of a faith of which they were entirely ignorant, they clothed these under unfavourable names, as the Scribes and Pharisees had done before them. Bos, however, proved all he had taught from the Holy Scriptures, from the writings of the Fathers, from the experience of holy men, and sometimes even from the liturgies of the Catholic church.

His sufferings were augmented, on finding that his persecution caused the hatred which they bore to him to recoil on his friends. Feneburg and his curates were cited before an inquisitorial tribunal, the hospitality with which they had received him causing his enemies to imagine that they partook of his sentiments; and they had to expiate this fault by an imprisonment of a week in different monasteries; afterwards they suffered them to go, "commanding that they should not speak in the name of Jesus." Bos, in his detention, found subjects of consolation, and of joy. The Abbe Hoffmann, the governor of the prison, had at first received him as a man who had committed serious faults; but on witnessing his humility, his mildness, and his sincere piety, he learnt to have a different opinion of his character and doctrines. He soon adopted his principles, and, with his whole house, believed from that time, instead of being a severe keeper of his prisoner, he became his disciple and his friend.

A sentence, pronounced on the 11th September 1797, condemned Bos to a year's imprisonment, and to a renewed study of theology, which it was asserted he had misunderstood. He obtained, however, the permission of exchanging the prison-house for a room which he hired in the town. In order to devote himself to the studies which had

been enjoined him, he chose as a tutor Father Ulrich, the dean of the Capuchin monastery, who had himself been persecuted in his youth. He was a venerable old man, of an enlightened piety, and well known by several very remarkable religious works. He understood that doctrine which the judges had not been able to comprehend; and as he openly said that Bos, whom he was to instruct, was a better theologian than himself, he disposed the minds of men in his favour, and at the end of three months he succeeded in procuring his liberty. Bos, although separated from his hearers, had still had opportunity at Augsburg of edifying himself and others by pious conversation. Meeting one day with a book hawker, he asked him what sort of works he was selling; to which the man answered ironically, "They are books in demand by our saints." Bos looked them over, and soon perceived that the persons who could take pleasure in such books could not be ignorant of the true source of holiness. He inquired the addresses of the man's customers; visited some of them; and by this means discovered more than fifty Christians, who, like himself, looked for salvation alone in the expiatory death of Jesus Christ. These persons spoke to him of a great number of brethren animated by the same faith for which he was persecuted. These reports were very consolatory to him in this season of trial.

On his being restored to liberty, Bos was appointed curate at Langeneifnach, a town about seventeen miles distant from Augsburg. He was there under the superintendence of another ecclesiastic. Notwithstanding this precaution, his enemies lamented having slackened the rigour which had been employed against him. The priests, who had been the cause of his imprisonment, demanded of the Bishop that he should be confined for life, on ac count of his being a most dangerous man; and making a pretext of a letter which they had intercepted, in

which he had exhorted his former persecuted parishioners to persevere in the profession of truth, caused him to be again cited to appear at Augsburg. Some friends, whom he consulted as to what he ought to do, having reminded him of our Lord's direction to his disciples, "If they will not receive you in one town, flee to another;" he resolved upon taking flight, and concealed himself in different places in the houses of his friends. The greater part of them could afford him only a temporary shelter, because his enemies were not long in tracing his steps. Some, in order not to expose themselves, refused to receive him; and more than once he was compelled to sleep in the open air, and with great difficulty to procure a supply for his urgent wants. Not knowing any longer how to conceal himself from pursuit, he thought of entering into the service of a peasant, and went to a farm-house with this intention; but the farmer immediately perceived that he was an ecclesiastic, which prevented him from executing this plan. A friend at length procured an asylum for him with the manager of a nobleman's estate, with whom he was for some time concealed, under the name of Zobo; his host himself not knowing whom he had entertained. But at length, wearied with the constant precautions he was obliged to use, and grieved at the few opportunities he had of preaching the Gospel, he determined upon putting an end to this painful state; and, at the risk of exchanging it for a worse, he voluntarily presented himself, on the 7th December 1798, before his judges. After having been detained four months in Augsburg, he was convinced that he should not find any further opportunity of exercising his ministry in Bavaria, and he asked permission to be admitted into a foreign diocese; and, by the assistance of a friend, he obtained an admission into that of Lintz in Austria.

The Bishop, Joseph Anthony Gall, received him very favourably; and

often said afterwards, that he should wish to have twenty such priests in his diocese. After having been some time assistant preacher at Leonding, Bos was placed first at Waldneukirchen, and then at Penerbach, where he was five years curate to the pastor Bertgen, who was the friend of the Bishop, and who filled several high ecclesiastical offices. At length, in 1806, he was appointed incumbent, first at Poestlingberg, and then at Gallneukirchen, one of the most considerable parishes in the neighbourhood. He owed this advancement to Bertgen. He fulfilled his duties with zeal, but he was grieved at not seeing more marked fruits of his ministry: during four years and a half no instance of real conversion of heart to God had taken place among his flock. Bos fervently prayed the Lord to grant him the aid of his Holy Spirit, and to accompany his labours with His grace. An afflicting event made him feel in a more lively manner how essential it was to preach and make known the Saviour. A peasant who, during forty years, had lived in complete indifference, and without having thought of his soul, became, in 1810, sensible of the magnitude of his sins, and of his state of condemnation before God. This was the only subject of his thoughts. He told every person who would listen to him, that he was lost, that God could not pardon a sinner like him. He often spoke of putting a period to his existence, and even attempted to do so, but help was brought to him before it was too late. From that time he fell into a kind of melancholy, which he never lost. He died shortly after. Besides this man, there were in the parish many persons who, at the confessional, declared the anguish of their souls, and who, notwithstanding their alleged numerous good works, dreaded the judgments of the Almighty. They felt that they had not accomplished that ALL which the Law demands, and acknowledged that their sins could not be effaced or compensated for by their own

merits, since it would still ever be impossible for them to exceed what is required. Bos made use of these circumstances in order to point out to Rehberger, his curate, the necessity of shewing to all these heavyladen souls to whom they must go, if they would find peace and relief. They both began to preach, with new energy, salvation through faith in Jesus Christ; and their preaching was attended with the success which they desired. Bos generally felt most deeply his own sinfulness and insufficiency when he was about to deliver a discourse intended to affect the consciences of others. On these occasions he would often forget the sermon which he had studiously composed, and learned by memory, and would acknowledge with tears to his parishioners, that he had nothing to say to them: but he would feel himself led on, by the contemplation of their wants and his own insufficiency, to urge upon them that which the Holy Spirit gave him at that moment for their edification. Several discourses, uttered thus from the abundance of his heart, were the instruments of a religious awakening which took place at this time at Gallneukirchen. We may consider as the first of this

class of his discourses, one delivered on the 8th September 1810. After having shewn what is that faith which Jesus Christ requires of his disciples, he had said, among other things, that he did not hesitate to declare, that his church contained so few true Christians that the sacristy would contain them all.

This declaration produced a powerful effect: many were led to see the nullity of their faith, and to pray to God to remove their unbelief. But others, detaching from the remainder of the discourse that sentence which seemed to exclude them from the number of the righteous, were much irritated at the faithful severity of their pastor, and accused him of opposing, in former sermons, confessions, fastings, and good works whereas, instead of reject

[ocr errors]

ing these things, be had only exhorted them not to make them the end, instead of considering them only a means. They would not comprehend that all external churches are composed of three classes of persons, of which far the smallest is that of truly spiritual Christians; whilst the others either only bear the name, and are so, as it were, mechanically, or by habit; or they make Christianity a study or science for the head, instead of an inward sentiment and conviction of the heart.

In spite of opposition, Bos succeeded, by the grace of God, in effecting results similar to those which he had formerly produced at Wiggensbach. Great numbers of conversions occurred. The most remarkable of these are mentioned in a little work which he published on this subject, at the request of Bishop Sailer. Pastors might, perhaps, find in this work some useful suggestions upon the manner of presenting the truth, and of affecting the hearts of men. This astonishing success excited the jealousy of several of the neighbouring pastors, and particularly that of Brunner, the pastor of Poestlingberg, who was suspected of envying Bos his preferment, and who was indeed his successor. He did not cease to pronounce both him and his curate to be heretics; and he endeavoured to deprive him of the confidence of his parishioners. Some persons, and especially two weavers, lodged a complaint against Bos at the consistory of Lintz, accusing him of having affirmed of them that they had not the true faith. The Bishop, who occupied the place of the venerable Gall, but who was not in the least like him, wrote, and requested the pastor not to reproach these good people so severely; as if it were not the duty of a pastor to notice boldly whatever is amiss in his flock. Things took such a turn, that Bertgen, under whom Bos had formerly been curate, was charged with an inquiry into his conduct. During the five years which Bos

had passed with him, Bertgen had always had occasion to speak in his praise; but he had not become acquainted with the grounds of his doctrine. Bos having been to visit him at Lintz, openly expressed to him his sentiments; and in proportion as he unfolded before him his motives for believing, the eyes of his inquisitor appeared to open, and in a few hours he adopted those truths which he had so long heard him preach without understanding them. Bos passed the evening in the dwelling of a pious family, and related to the religious persons who were there assembled the occurrences of the morning. They earnestly prayed to God that it might be with Bertgen as it had been with St. Paul, and that he might arrive at Gallneukirchen in the same frame of mind as the Apostle had done at Damascus. And so indeed it happened: on the 7th of February Bertgen went to the parish of Bos; but although he held a severe commission, he soon shewed how much he was united in heart and spirit with the man whom he was to examine. He held a long conversation with him, questioned him as to his doctrines, read the sermons which he had written; and on all these points made to the Consistory a report which clearly exhibited his innocence. Bos's adversaries had not expected this result; and, on being informed of it, they accused Bertgen himself of partiality and heresy. But Bertgen had power on his side; and it is possible that the matter might not have gone any further, had not some new complaints been raised. Bos was cited to appear at Lintz on the 12th March 1811, at the instigation of Brunner. After having been asked many questions, he was forbidden by the Consistory to speak in future of a living faith in. Christ, this expression being pronounced to be mystical and incomprehensible to the people. Bos, grieved at their blindness, felt himself impelled boldly to confess his whole belief, deCHRIST. OBSERV. No. 309.

claring to the Consistory that he knew of no other hope of salvation for himself or for his parishioners ; and entreated with tears that he might not be deprived of this support, this only means of consolation. Sailer, whose spiritual pupil Bos had been, and who enjoyed a high degree of estimation, thought himself, under these circumstances, called upon to declare his opinion on this subject. He expressed himself as follows, in a letter which he wrote to one of the judges:-" I am today entering into my sixtieth year, and I should tremble to appear before the tribunal of God, if I did not openly acknowledge before my death that the doctrines of Bos are those of God; for they consist in the following: First, that no man is justified unless he has faith operating through love; Secondly, that faith cannot operate through love, unless it be living; and, Thirdly, that faith is only made living by God, by Christ, by the Holy Spirit. These three propositions are Christian and Catholic; and they form the substance of Bos's doctrine."

Whilst so honourable a testimony was afforded him by one of the pillars of the Catholic Church in Germany, he experienced a no less affecting one from his parishioners, who, far from complaining that he had wished to exercise an injurious influence over them, declared, that, if it were necessary, they would go by hundreds and thousands to Lintz, to oppose every measure which might be taken against him.

The agitation was extreme at Gallneukirchen, and there were continual meetings in the marketplace to discuss the doctrines which he taught. One peasant was remarkable above the others for the zeal with which he reproached him with rejecting good works; but before long this man was led, together with many others, to declare in his favour. One of Bos's sermons, on Matt. xxviii. 18-20, produced about this time an astonishing effect: not only did those who were favour

3 Y

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »