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Divorce ; Queen Catherine had been a diligent reader of the writings of Erasmus; she had accepted the dedication of his treatise on Matrimony. But on the Divorce, however it might grieve him, he might maintain a prudent and doubtful silence. Before his death, however, Erasmus must hear the terrible intelligence of the execution of Fisher and of More. If the passionless heart of Erasmus was capable of deep and intense love for any human being, it was for More. Of all his serious writings, nothing approached in beauty, in life, in eloquence, to his character of his two models of every Christian virtue—the recluse Franciscan Abbot of St. Omer, Vitrarius, and Sir Thomas More. Of these, one had been, by what might well be thought in these troubled times, the divine mercy, early released from life. With the other, Erasmus had still maintained close and intimate correspondence : his writings teem with passages bearing testimony to the public, and especially to the domestic, virtues of More. No two men could have had more perfect sympathy in character and in opinion. No man had laughed so heartily at the wit of Erasmus : the ‘Praise of Folly, as it has been said, came from the house of More. More's eyes were as open to the abuses of the Church, to the vulgar superstitions, to the inveterate evils of scholasticism and monkery as those of Erasmus. The biblical studies, the calm reasoning piety of the serious writings of Erasmus were as congenial as his wit to More. More, like Erasmus, had a premature revelation of the wisdom and of the virtue of religious toleration. The reaction seized them both : they were shaken with the same terror ; they recoiled at the same excesses of some among the Reformers; each had the most profound love of peace. But from his position, and from his more firm and resolute character, the Chancellor of England was either driven or drove himself much further back. Erasmus was a reluctant, tardy controversialist; More a willing, a busy, a voluminous one: this is not generally re
o Nullus unquam mortalium ullam syllabam ex me audivit, approbantem aut improbantem hoc factum. Præterea nemo mortalium me super hoc interpellavit negotio.' He gives his reasons, his being counsellor to the Emperor, gratitude to Henry VIII., friendship to Sir Thomas Boleyn,-Epist. 1253.
membered. In his answer to Tyndale and Frith, in his answer to Barnes, above all, in his “Supplication of Souls,' in reply to the celebrated “Supplication of Beggars,' More is the determined thorough-going apologist of all the abuses of the old system, of those at which he had freely laughed with Erasmus--Pilgrimages, Image-worship, Purgatory, the enormous wealth of the clergy, and of the monks. No one can know who has not read the latter work, with what reckless zeal More combated the new opponents, with what feeble arguments he satisfied his perspicuous mind. No one who has not read the “Supplication of Souls' can estimate More's strength and his weakness. No one can even fairly judge how far the native gentleness of his character, that exquisitely Christian disposition, which showed itself with all its tenderness in his domestic relations, and gave to his ordinary life, still more to his death, such irresistible attraction, was proof against that sterner bigotry in defence of their faith, which hardens even the meekest natures, deadens the most sensitive ears to the cries of suffering, makes pitilessness, even cruelty, a sacred duty. We leave to Mr. Froude and to his opponents the difficult, to us unproven, questions of the persecutions, the tortures, which More is accused as having more than sanctioned.? But the general tone, and too many passages in these works, as we must sadly admit in those of Erasmus, show that both had been driven to tamper at least with the milder and more Christian theoretic principles of their youth ; both branded heresy as the worst of offences, worse than murder, worse than parricide; and left the unavoidable inference to be drawn as
. It would be unpardonable to omit the testimony of Erasmus, but we must give the whole on this point. Porro, quod jactant de carceribus an verum sit nescio. Illud constat, virum naturâ mitissimum nulli fuisse molestum qui monitus voluerit a sectarum contagio resipiscere. An illi postulant ut summus tanti regni judex nullos habeat carceres. Odit ille seditiosa dogmata quibus nunc misere concutitur orbis. Hoc ille non dissimulat, nec cupit esse clam sic addictus pietati, ut si in alterutram partem aliquantulum inclinet momentum, superstitioni quam impietati vicinior esse videatur. Illud tamen eximiæ cujusdam clementiæ satis magnum est argumentum quod sub illo Cancellario, nullus ob improbata dogmata capitis pænam dedit, quum in utrâque Germania Galliâque tam multi sunt affecti supplicio.'-Epist. 526, additamenta. All the letter should be read.'
to the justice, righteousness, even duty of suppressing such perilous opinions by any means whatever. Mourn over but refuse not merciful judgment even to the merciless ; obscure not the invaluable services of Erasmus to the cause of intellectual light and of Christian knowledge ; obscure not the inimitable virtues, the martyr death, of More for conscience sake, the life put off even with playfulness, we say not resignation, and in full, we doubt not justifiable, hope of the robes of a glorified saint.
Only a few words more, after this last fatal blow, may close the life of Erasmus. He had already, on the legal establishment of the Reformation at Basil, not altogether without contention which had been overawed by the firmness of the Senate, taken up his residence at Friburg in the Brisgau, in the territories of Ferdinand of Austria. Before the death of More he had returned to Basil. After More's execution he lived for nearly a year; his books were his only true and inseparable friends, and in his books he found his consolation. To the last his unwearied industry pursued the labour of love. He was employed as editor of Origen when he was summoned to his account, we trust to his reward. So passed away a man with many faults, many weaknesses, with much vanity, with a want of independence of character; faults surely venial considering the circumstances of his birth, his loneliness in the world, his want of natural friends, and even of country, and his physical infirmities: but a man who, in the great period of dawning intellect, stood forth the foremost; who in the scholar never forgot the Christian-he was strongly opposed to the new Paganism, which in Italy accompanied the revival of classical studies o—whose avowed object it was to associate the cultivation of letters with a simpler Christianity, a Christianity of life as of doctrine; who in influence at least was the greatest of the “Reformers before the Reformation.'
8 A.D. 1529. See Epist. 1048.
9 • Unus adhuc scrupulus habet animum meum, ne sub obtentu priscæ literaturæ renascentis caput erigere conetur Paganismus; ut sunt inter Christianos, qui titulo pene duntaxat Christum agnoscunt, cæterum intus Gentilitatem spirant.' - From an early Letter (207), but he maintained the same jealousy to the end.
THE POPES OF THE SIXTEENTH AND
We envy the dispassionate and philosophical serenity with which the German historian may contemplate the most remarkable and characteristic portion of the annals of modern Europe—the rise, progress, and influence of the Papal power. In this country, the still-reviving, and it is almost to be feared, unextinguishable animosity between the conflicting religious parties, the unfortunate connection with the political feuds and hostilities of our own days, would almost inevitably, even if involuntarily, colour the page of the writer; while perfect and unimpassioned equability would provoke the suspicious and sensitive jealousy of the reader, to whichever party he might belong. On one side there is an awful and sacred reverence for the chair of St. Peter, which would shrink from examining too closely even the political iniquities, which the most zealous Roman Catholic cannot altogether veil from his reluctant and half-averted gaze ; while, on the other, the whole Papal history is looked upon as one vast and unvarying system of fraud, superstition, and tyranny. In truth — notwithstanding the apparently uniform plan of the Papal policy-notwithstanding the rapid succession of ecclesiastics, who, elected in general at a late period of life, occupied the spiritual throne of the Vatican—the annals of few kingdoms, when more profoundly
Die Römische Päpste, ihre Kirche und ihre Staat im sechszehnten und siebzehn ten Jahrhundert. Von Leopold Ranke. Erster band. Berlin. 1835.
considered, possess greater variety, are more strongly modified by the genius of successive ages, or are more influenced by the personal character of the reigning sovereign. Yet, in all times, to the Roman Catholic the dazzling halo of sanctity, to the Protestant the thick darkness which has gathered round the pontifical tiara, has obscured the peculiar and distinctive lineaments of the Gregories, and Innocents, and Alexanders. As a whole, the Papal history has been by no means deeply studied, or distinctly understood ; in no country has the modern spiritual empire of Rome found its Livy or its Polybius; no masterly hand has traced the changes in its political relations to the rest of Europe from the real date of its temporal power, its alliance with the Frankish monarchs—nor the vicissitudes of its fortunes during its long struggle for supremacy. Almost at the same time the slave of the turbulent barons of Romagna, or of the ferocious populace of the city, and the powerful protector of the freedom of the young Italian republics—the unwearied and at length victorious antagonist of the German emperors—the dictator of transalpine Europe ;—now an exile from the imperial and Holy City, yet in exile swaying the destinies of kingdoms—triumphing even over its own civil dissensions, and concentrating its power, after it had been split asunder by schisms almost of centuries, not merely unenfeebled, but apparently with increased energy and ambition : -no subject would offer a more imposing or more noble theme for a great historian than that of the Papacy; none would demand higher qualifications—the most laborious inquiry, the most profound knowledge of human nature, the most vivid and picturesque powers of description, the most dignified superiority to all the prepossessions of age, of country, and of creed.
Of all periods in the Papal history, none perhaps is less known to the ordinary reader, in this country at least, than that comprehended within the work of Mr. Ranke, the centuries which immediately followed the Reformation. Just about the time of that great æra in the religious and civil