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place the name of the Pope, and that Pope Leo X., on the front of his work; and under that protecting ægis fought manfully, and with no want of controversial bitterness on his side, against his bigoted antagonists. The names of these adversaries have sunk into obscurity, though Lee became Archbishop of York, and was, according to his epitaph-we fear his sole testimony—a good and generous man. But to the latest times theological learning acknowledges the inestimable debt of gratitude which it owes to Erasmus.
But it was not only as editor, it was as interpreter also, of the New Testament that Erasmus was a benefactor to the world. In his Notes, and, in his invaluable Paraphrases, he opened the sense, as well as the letter, of the long-secluded, if not long-sealed, volume of the New Testament. He was the parent also of the sound, and simple, and historical exposition of the sacred writings. He struck boldly down through the layers of mystic, allegoric, scholastic, traditional lore, which had been accumulating for ages over the holy volume, and laid open the vein of pure gold—the plain, obvious, literal meaning of the Apostolic writings. Suffice it for us to say, that Erasmus is, in a certain sense, or rather was in his day, to the Church of England the recognised and authenticated expositor of the New Testament. The Translation of the Paraphrases, it is well known, was ordered to be placed in all our churches with the vernacular Scriptures. Nor was there anything of the jealousy or exclusiveness of the proud scholar in Erasmus. His biblical studies and labours were directed to the general diffusion, and to the universal acceptance of the Scriptures as the rule of Faith. Neither Luther nor the English Reformers expressed themselves more strongly or emphatically on this subject than Erasmus --the sun itself should not be more common than Christ's doctrines.
i Compare More's letters to Lee upon his attack on Erasmus. More had known Lee's family, and Lee himself in his youth ; but he scrupled not to castigate the presumption of Lee in measuring himself against the great Scholar. In the last letter, after alluding to Pope Leo's approbation of the New Testament, he adds, • Quod ex arce religionis summus ille Christiani orbis princeps suo testimonio cohonestat, id tu Monachulus et indoctus et obscurus ex antro cellulæ tuæ putulentâ linguâ conspurcas.'—Jortin, Appendix, ii. p. 689.
I altogether and utterly dissent from those who are unwilling that the Holy Scriptures, translated into the vulgar tongue, should be read by private persons (idiotis), as though the teachings of Christ were so abstruse as to be intelligible only to a very few theologians, or as though the safety of the Scripture rested on man's ignorance of it. It may be well to conceal the mysteries of kings; but Christ willed that his mysteries should be published as widely as possible. I should wish that simple women (mulierculæ) should read the Gospels, should read the Epistles of St. Paul. Would that the Scripture were translated into all languages, that it might be read and known, not only by Scots and Irishmen, but even by Turks and Saracens.—(Paraclesis in Nov. Testamentum.)
IV. If the amazement was great with which we surveyed the labours of Erasmus as editor of the classical authors, as compared with those of the most industrious of scholars in our degenerate days, what is it when we add his editions of the early Fathers ? It is enough to recite only the names of these publications, and to bear in mind the number and the size of their massy and close-printed folios, some of them filled to the very margin. They were—St Jerome, his first and favourite author ; Cyprian ; the pseudo-Arnobius ; Hilary, to which was affixed a preface of great learning, which excited strong animadversion; Irenæus, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine; some works of Epiphanius, Lactantius; some treatises of St. Athanasius, St. Chrysostom, and others; St. Chrysostom, St. Basil (not the complete works). At his death Erasmus had advanced far in the preparation for the press of the whole works of Origen.
But in the fatal year of 1520–21 the awful disruption was inevitable: from the smouldering embers of the Papal Bull burned at Wittemberg, arose the Reformation. The great Teutonic revolt, which at that time seemed likely to draw with it even some nations of Latin descent, France, with Italy and Spain, was now inevitable; the irreconcilable estrangement between the two realms of Western Christendom was to become antagonism, hostility, war. On which side was Erasmus, on which side was the vast Erasmian party to be found that multitude of all orders, especially of the more enlightened, whose allegiance to the established order of things, to Papal despotism, to scholasticism, to monkery, to mediæval superstition, had been shaken by his serious protestations, by his satires, by his biblical studies ? Both parties acknowledged his invaluable importance by their strenuous efforts to enrol him among their followers; both used every means of flattery
-one of bribery—of persuasion, of menace, of compulsion, to compass the invaluable proselyte. Could he maintain a stately neutrality ? approve each party so far as it seemed right, condemn it where it seemed wrong? Could he offer a friendly mediation, soften off the fierce asperities, mitigate the violence of the collision ? Alas ! such days were passed. Those terrible texts, “Who is on the Lord's side, who ?' Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully,' were become the battle words on either banner. On the application of that other text, “Thou canst not serve Christ and Belial, there was perfect agreement; the two parties only differed as to which cause was Christ's, which Belial's. There was no escape from the conscription, exercised with as little scruple or mercy on one side as the other; he must take up arms; he must provoke fierce unforgiving hostility; he must break ties of friendship; he must embrace a cause, while he was firmly convinced that neither cause had full justice on its side—that, according to his views, there were errors, faults, sins on both, that neither was in possession of the full, sincere, unalloyed truth. And this terrible alternative was forced upon Erasmus in the decline of life, when the mind usually, especially a mind vigorously exercised, yearns for repose ; and when a constitution naturally feeble had been tried by a painful, wasting, in those days irremediable, malady. The man of books, who had thought to devote the rest of his days to his books, must be dragged forth, like a gladiator, to exhibit his powers, himself with no hearty interest on either side. It is true that he had been involved in much controversy, and was not wanting in the gall of con
troversy, but it had been in self-defence; his was personal resentment for personal attacks. He had not spared the Lees and the Stunicas, or the Louvain divines, who had set upon him with malignant rancour—rançour which he retorted without measure and without scruple.
The Utopian vision of Erasmus, no doubt, had been a peaceful Reformation. He had fondly hoped that the progress of polite letters would soften and enlighten the general mind; that the superstitions of the Middle Ages would gradually be exploded by the diffusion of knowledge; that biblical studies would of themselves promote a pure and simpler religion; that obstinate monkhood would shrink into its proper sphere, the monasteries become retreats for literary leisure. He had imagined that Leo X., the patron of arts, letters, and whose reign of peace had not yet yielded to the inextinguishable Medicean passion for political intrigue, whose golden age had not yet become an age of brass, an age of fierce and bloody warfare, would be the great reformer of Christendom. One of his bitterest complaints of the progress of Lutheranism was its fatal influence on the cultivation of polite letters. They are weighing down polite letters by the jealousy which they are exciting against them. What has the cause of letters to do with Reuchlin and Luther, but they are artfully mingled together by man's jealousy, that both may be oppressed.'3
Up to this time he had stood well with the heads of both parties. The Pope (Leo X.), the Cardinals, the most distinguished prelates, still treated him with honour and respect. His enemies—those who cared not to disguise their suspicions, their jealousies, their animosities--who assailed him as a covert, if not an open heretic, who called for the proscription of his books, who branded him as an Arian, a profane scoffer—were men of a lower class, some manifestly eager to make themselves a fame for orthodoxy by detecting his latent heterodoxy, some moved by sheer bigotry, into which the general mind had not been frightened back; monks and friars who were still obstinate Thomists or Scotists. The pulpits were chiefly filled by Dominicans and Carmelites; and from the pulpits there was a continual thunder of denunciation, imprecation, anathematisation of Erasmus.
2 Read the splendid passage in the Adagia, where he contrasts the Italy and Rome of Leo with Italy and Rome under Julius II., under the title, ' Dulce Bellum Inexpertis.
3• Bonas literas degravarunt invidia.'-- Epist. ad Bilibald. Quid rei bonis studiis cum fidei negotio ? Deinde quid mihi cum causa Capnionis et Lutheri ? Sed hæc arte commiscuerunt, ut communi invidia gravarent omnes bonarum literarum cultores.- Alberto, Episc. Mogunt.'
Of Luther he had hitherto spoken, if with cautious reserve (he professed not to have read his writings, and had no personal knowledge of him), yet with respect of his motives and of his character. Of him Luther still wrote with deference for the universal scholar, of respect for the man. In Luther's letters up to 1520 there are many phrases of honour, esteem, almost of friendship, hardly one even of mistrust or suspicion.
Even after this time Erasmus ventured more than once on the perilous office of mediation. In his famous letter to the Archbishop of Mentz, which was published by the Lutherans before his signature had been affixed to it, there were sentences which made them rashly conclude that he was entirely on their side. In a letter to Wolsey he asserted the truth of many of Luther's opinions, and deprecated the unyielding severity with which they had been proscribed at Rome. But the most full, distinct, and manly avowal of his opinions is comprised in a letter addressed to Cardinal Campegius. It contains some remarkable admissions :
He had himself, he said, not read twelve pages of Luther's writings, and those hastily, but even in that hasty reading he had discerned rare
4 Epist, ad Campegium.
5 De Wette, i. p. 247, 396. Where he speaks of the letter to the Archbishop of Mentz: • Egregia epistola Erasmi ad Cardinalem Moguntinum, de me multum solicita . ... ubi egregie me tutatur, ita tamen ut nihil minus quam me tutari rideatur, sicut solet pro dexteritate sua.'-ii. 196. He has discovered hostility in Erasmus, but this is in 1522. See also Melanchthon's Letter, 378.
6 Not the less did Wolsey proceed to prohibit them in England. Erasmus eren then protested against burning Luther's books.- Epist. 513.