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Millennialism

 

Bernard Gui (1261-1331) was a well-known Inquisitor who wrote an influential manual on how to root out heresy. The full text of this document (full section on Benguins) can be found at the Medieval Source Book.

BERNARD GUI: INQUISITOR'S MANUAL

1. The following deals with the sect of those commonly called Beguins or Beguines:

The sect of Beguines, who call themselves "poor brothers" and say they observe and profess the third rule of Saint Francis, sprang up recently in the provinces of Provence and Narbonne. Their erroneous opinions began to be exposed around the year of our Lord 1315, more or less, although they were considered suspect by many even earlier. During the following years, in the provinces of Narbonne, Toulouse and Catalonia, many of them were seized, held in custody and, their errors having been detected, many of both sexes were judged heretical and burned...

2. The following deals with the errors or erroneous opinions of the present-day Beguins and where they got them:

...the Beguins - as are commonly called those of both sexes who refer to themselves poor brothers of penance of the third order of Saint Francis, wearing brown or greyish habits with or without a cloak - were publically exposed and confessed in court to holding many errors and erroneous opinions, exalting themselves in opposition to the Roman Church and apostolic seat, as well as against the apostolic power of the lord pope and prelates of the Roman church. Through lawful questioning and through depositions and confessions by many of their own number who chose to be burned and die rather recant as was canonically required, it has been discovered that they took their pestiferous errors and opinions partly from the books and other writings of Brother Peter John Olivi...

3. The following deals with their way of life:

The aforesaid Beguins, who live in villages and small towns, have little dwellings in which some of them live together. Their own term for these dwellings is "houses of poverty." In these houses, on feast days and Sundays, those who reside in them, other Beguins who dwell privately in their own houses, and intimates or friends of the Beguins all come together to read or hear read the aforesaid books or works from which they suck poison,..

It should also be recognized that there are some among them who beg publicly from door to door because, as they say, they have accepted evangelical poverty. And there are others who do not beg publicly but gain income by working with their hands, and observe a life of poverty...

5. The following deals with the erroneous, schismatic, temerarious or false articles or the aforesaid Beguins and their followers:

In the first, place, those commonly called Beguins -although they call themselves Poor Brothers of Penitence of the Third Order of Saint Francis - believe and affirm that Lord Jesus Christ (insofar as he was man) and his disciples as well owned nothing either individually or in common, because they were perfectly poor in this world. Again, they say that having nothing individually or in common constitutes perfect evangelical poverty. Again, they say that having something in common diminishes the perfection of evangelical poverty. Again, that the apostles could not have owned anything individually or in common without diminution of their perfection or without sin. Again, they say it is heretical to believe and assert anything to the contrary.

...Again, they say that Blessed [Saint] Francis was, after Christ and his mother (and, some add, the apostles), the highest and most eminent observer of the evangelical life and rule, as well as its renewer in this sixth period of the church which they say we are now witnessing. Again, they say that the aforesaid rule of Saint Francis is the gospel of Christ or one and the same with the gospel of Christ.

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Again, they say that prelates and members of religious orders whose clothing is too abundant or too costly violate gospel perfection and Christ's precept, according instead with the precept of Antichrist. Such clerics who go around in pompous fashion are of the family of Antichrist. 

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Again, they say the pope cannot forbid the beguins on pain of excommunication to live by begging, even though they might be capable of working at a trade for their livelihood and even though they do not labor at the gospel, since it is not fitting for them to teach or preach. For, they say, their perfection would thereby be diminished, and thus they are not required to obey the pope on this matter, nor is his sentence binding on them. If, they say, they should be condemned to death on these grounds, they would be glorious martyrs.

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Again, they claim that at the end of the sixth period of church history - that is, the present period which began with Saint Francis - the carnal church, Babylon, the great whore is to be rejected by Christ just as the synagogue of the Jews was rejected because it crucified Christ, for the carnal church is crucifying and persecuting Christ's life by persecuting those brothers in the Franciscan order called the poor and spiritual.  ...once the carnal Roman church has been rejected and destroyed, there will remain a few elect, poor spiritual individuals, the majority of which will be of either the first or third order of Saint Francis, and through these will be founded, in the seventh and last period which begins with the death of Antichrist, a spiritual church which will be humble and benign.

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Again, some of them claim that on those elect spiritual and evangelical individuals through whom a spiritual and benign church will be founded in the seventh and last period, the Holy Spirit will be poured out in greater or at least in equal abundance as on the apostles, the disciples of Jesus Christ, on the day of Pentecost during the time of the primitive church. And they say the Holy Spirit will descend on them like a fiery flame in a furnace, and they take this to mean that, not only will their souls be filled with the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit will live in their bodies as well.

Again, they claim that there is a double Antichrist, one spiritual or mystical and the other the real, greater Antichrist. The first one prepares the way for the second. And they say the first Antichrist is the present pope under whom they are being persecuted and condemned. Again, they have determined the time within which the greater Antichrist - whom they consider already born - should come, begin to preach, and finish his career. Some say it will all have happened by 1325; others say by 1330; and still others say by 1335. Again, they claim that when Antichrist is dead those spiritual individuals mentioned above, whom they call evangelicals and through whom the church will be founded, will preach to the twelve tribes of Israel and will convert twelve thousand from each tribe, thus making a combined group of 144,000. These will make up the militia signed by the angel having the sign of the living God, whom they interpret as the blessed Francis, who had the stigmata of the wounds of Christ. This signed militia will battle with Antichrist and be killed by him before the coming of Elijah and Enoch.

Again, spreading more fables they claim that when the carnal church is destroyed there will be a great war and great slaughter of the Christian people, and a great multitude that defended the carnal church will be destroyed in the war; that, with almost all the men dead, the remaining Christian women will be in such need of men that they will embrace trees...

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Moreover, witnesses - if they are any - can be heard against such an individual. He himself can be constrained in various ways including limitation of food and being held in chains. He can even, on the recommendation of qualified persons, be put to the question in order to get at the truth, as the nature of the business at hand and the condition of the person may require.