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experience among his followers, that in this lay the secret of his strength; that less than this would not startle mankind from the obstinate torpor, the dull lethargy, the ceremonial servitude, of centuries. This alone would concentrate the whole of Christianity on Christ, or on God through Christ; would make a new religion, not vicarious through the priesthood, but strictly personal; would break for ever the sacerdotal dominion, which had disposed so long, at its despotic arbitrement, of the human soul, and had become a necessity of the religious nature; would inaugurate the manhood of the mind, which must outgrow the period of tuition, and think and act for itself, and bear its own responsibility. Some of the best and most pious of the Romanists, Contarini, Sadolet, even for a time Pole, as Ranke has well shown, had embraced justification by faith, but they could not go farther and so be treacherous to their order; they did not see that this doctrine, to be efficacious, must stand alone, and must be severed from priestly authority. Luther was not a man to shrink from any extreme; he saw his way, as far as it went, clearly, and would not be embarrassed, even by inevitable and most repulsive difficulties, let what would follow even by logical inference. This doctrine magnified the sovereignty of God, therefore to him it was irrefragable ; it was scepticism, impiety, atheism in others to call it in question. Yet even in his own day Melanchthon did not follow him to his stern conclusion. Melanchthon wrote at first with undissembled praise of the treatise of Erasmus. The later Lutherans have in general on this point deserted their master. It was accepted only in a very mitigated form by the Church of England. Wrought out with more fearless and unhesitating logic by his stern Genevan successor, it prevailed among the Puritans. Later, almost all the most learned, very many of the most pious of our Church, including John Wesley and his disciples, repudiated it. Erasmianism, as soon as the
de Papatu, Purgatorio, Indulgentiis ac similibus nugis, potius quam causis in quibus me hactenus omnes fere venati sunt frustra. Unus tu et solus cardinem rerum vidisti et ipsum jugulum petiisti, pro quo ex animo tibi gratias ago.'
religious world calmed down, and so long as it is not in a state of paroxysmal struggle, usually renews its sway.
Erasmus and Luther, therefore, in this controversy were as little likely to come to a mutual understanding, as if each had written in a language unknown to the other. On the ear of Luther and the Lutherans the calm, cool philosophy of Erasmus, the plain and perspicuous but altogether passionless scriptural arguments, fell utterly dead. Even to us it must be acknowledged that there is something cold even to chillness, in the treatise of Erasmus—the nice balance of the periods, the elaborate finish of the style, the very elegance of the Latinity, seem to show that the heart of Erasmus had no part in the momentous question. There is something dubious, too, in the prudence with which he chose the subject, and so eluded all those other questions, indulgences, purgatory, pilgrimages, worship of saints, monkery, the power of the clergy and of the Pope, on which he might have been cited against himself, and in which he was the undoubted forerunner of Luther. And all this contrasts most unfavourably with the bold, the vehement, the honest, the profoundly religious tone of his adversary. With all its coarseness, almost its truculence, with all its contemptuous and arrogant dogmatism, with what might seem the study to present everything in the most alarming, almost repulsive, form, the treatise on the Servitude of the Will, though it leaves us unconvinced, rarely leaves us unmoved; there is an infelt and commanding religiousness which by its power over ourselves reveals the mystery of its wonderful power over his own generation. At all events the cold smooth oil of Erasmus had only made the fire burn more intensely; the intervention of the great scholar, of the first man of letters, of the oracle of Transalpine Christendom, instead of answering the sanguine expectation of the one side, or the awe on the other, was absolutely without effect: many Lutherans may have been exasperated, it may be doubted if one was changed in sentiment by the treatise on the Freedom of the Will. Erasmus, in his · Hyperaspistes,' or rather his two
Treatises, answered Luther. He had lost much of his serene temper, but gained neither fame nor authority. There is a kind of consciousness, which involuntarily betrays itself, that he had not improved his position. In truth he had estranged still further his natural allies, the Reformers; the Papalists, who at first hailed their champion with noisy acclamation, revenged their disappointment at his want of success, by the unmitigated rancour with which they fell upon his former works.
Yet still while Erasmus grew older and more infirm, the world darkened around him. Event after event took place, which threw him back more forcibly upon the tide of reaction. To all who were not yet disenchanted from the ancient, traditionary, almost immemorial majesty of the Papal See, who still honoured the Pope as the successor of St. Peter, as the Vicar of Christ, as the Head of the august unity of the Church and this was the case with Erasmus, the friend of more than one pope—what was the effect of the taking of Rome by the Constable Bourbon, with all its unspeakable horrors 3—the flight, the imprisonment, the abasement of the Pope himself? It is true that in that act of high treason against the spiritual sovereign, with all its insults and cruelties, the Catholic Spaniards of the Constable were as deeply concerned as the Lutheran Germans of George Frondsberg.
But while at Basil Erasmus was sacrificing his peace at the bidding of the Papalists, at Paris his books were proscribed, his followers burned at the stake. Of all the martyrs who suffered for the Reformation, none was more blameless, more noble, more calm and devout in his death, than Louis Berquin, The crime of Berquin was the translation, the dissemination, the earnest recommendation of the writings of Erasmus. His powerful adversary was the enemy of Erasmus—Noel Bedier, or, as he affected to call himself after our venerable bishop, Beda. Berquin was arrested, cast into prison, and the Sorbonne proceeded to issue an edict condemnatory of the writings of Erasmus. But the Queen-Mother, Louisa of Savoy, protected Berquin, and on the return of the King to Paris a royal mandate was issued for his release. He remained in Paris for three years (from 1526 to 1529), still openly disseminating the works of Erasmus. It was another of his crimes that he boldly asserted the duty of publishing the Scriptures in the vulgar tongue, also a tenet of Erasmus, to whom he was personally unknown, but to whom he wrote, and received a reply urging him to prudence, to flight, and this not only on his own account, for it must be confessed that the selfish fear of Erasmus, lest he too should be imperilled by his manly disciple, seems to be his ruling motive. Unfortunately the profane mutilation of an image of the Virgin, in which Berquin was not even charged as in any way concerned, exasperated the impetuous and versatile Francis. Berquin was abandoned to his persecutors. He was scourged, condemned to see his books publicly burned, to make an abjuration in the Place de Grève, to have his tongue pierced with a hot iron, and to imprisonment for life. Berquin refused to abjure; he aggravated his offence by an appeal to the Pope and to the King. A vain appeal! He was sentenced to the flames. Nothing could surpass the holy serenity of his martyrdom. He seemed, as was reported by an eye-witness to Erasmus, as he marched to the stake, like one in his library absorbed in his studies, or in a church meditating on heavenly things. His mien and gestures, when he went to his death, were easy and quick, with nothing of defiance or sullen obstinacy. Six hundred soldiers were ordered out to prevent tumult, and, by the noise they made, to prevent his dying words being heard by the populace. No one dared murmur the name of Jesus as he was suffocated by the flames. We wish that there had been more generous sympathy at his fate, more righteous indignation against his persecutors, in the cold letter of Erasmus which describes his death. It is sad to see the growing perplexity of the gentle scholar, as age and infirmities more and more enfeeble him, in those distracted times. He still shrinks with natural and conscientious abhorrence from the burning of heretics, but he has begun to draw nice distinctions between the forms of heresy. He cannot, after the death of Berquin, quite approve of the stern severity of the French government, and their subservience to the Papal See. But perhaps it is better to err in this way, than to permit the unbridled licence, which prevails in some German cities, in which the Pope is Antichrist, the cardinals the creatures of Antichrist, the bishops monsters, the clergy swine, monasteries conventicles of Satan, princes tyrants. The Evangelical populace were in arms, more ready to fight than to be instructed.
• The Lutherans bitterly complained of its tone ; they called it the Aspis, for its venom ; but its wearisome prolixity must, even in its own day, have checked its malice,
1 There is a most remarkable admission in a late Letter of Erasmus-all these questions ought only to be discussed, and temperately, by learned mem-'et quæ Lutherus urget, si moderatè tractentur, med sententiâ propius accedunt ad vigorem Erangelicum.'—Epist. 1053, June 1, 1529.
2 How deeply this awe was rooted in the mind of Christendom, may be best conjectured from the profoundly-reverent tone with which Luther himself wrote of the Pope, but a year or two before his final revolt. See his two letters in De Wette, in 1518 (p. 1119) and 1519 (p. 233).
* See Epist. 988. Among all its horrors (this is characteristic) Erasmus is most wrathful at the destruction of Sadolet's noble library: O barbariem inauditam! Quæ fuit unquam tanta Scytharum, Quadorum, Wandalorum, Hunnorum, Gothorum immanitas, ut non contenta quicquid erat opum diri pere, in libros, rem sacratissimam, sæviret incendio.'
But still worse days were to come. While France was thus recoiling towards the Papacy, England, Erasmian England, was making rapid strides in the opposite direction. Nowhere had the writings of Erasmus met with such universal acceptance as in England. The King, the Queen, even Wolsey, Archbishop Warham, as we have seen, Fisher, More, were his patrons or dear friends. Lee had been almost his only English assailant, and Lee was then an obscure man: but he had been growing into favour, and was suspected by Luther as having a chief hand in the King's attack upon him. First came the
• Epist. mtx. p. 1206. Si non commeruit supplicium doleo, si commeruit bis doleo : satius est enim innocentem mori quam nocentem!!!' Erasmus rather softens away how much his own works had to do with the fate of Berquin. Compare Berquin's letter, cccxxy. p. 1712. Erasmus concludes with this : Qui si decessit cum bonâ conscientiâ, quod admodum spero, quid eo felicius? . . . Varia sunt hominum judicia. Ille felix qui, judice Deo, absolvitur.'
5 He complains, in 1527, that he had been preached against at Paul's Cross, before the Lord Mayor.- Epist. 882.