GROSSETESTE. Page 57.
A HE honest and intrepid spirit, with which this excellent prelate opposed the scandalous practices of pope Innocent IV. sufficiently appears from the seventh chapter of this volume. But the christian reader may not be displeased to see additional proofs of the genuine humility of his mind. Sclfrighteousness and selfconfidence seem to have been his aversion in the extreme. Dependence on God as a reconciled father in Christ Jesus was his grand practical principle. The following passages are translated from the Latin Opuscula of Grosseteste.*
While he was archdeacon of Leicester, in one of his letters he writes thus: " Nothing that occurs in your letters ought to give me more pain than your styling me a person invested with authority, and indued with the lustre of knowledge. So far am I from thinking as you do, that I feel myself unfit even to be the disciple of a person of authority; moreover in innumerable matters which are objects of knowledge, I perceive myself enveloped in the darkness of ignorance. But did I really possess the great qualities you ascribe to me, H E alone would be worthy of the praise; and the whole of it ought to be referred unto Him, to whom we daily say, Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to thy name give the glory."
The same modesty and selfabasement accompanied him to the episcopal chair. In his subsequent letters, he usually styled himself, " Robert, by divine permission, the poor minister of the church of Lincoln."
* Vol. ii. Fascic. rer.
Vol. IV. 48
On the important subject of divine grace, he expresses himself in the following manner. " Grace is that good pleasure of God, whereby he is pleased to bestow upon us what we have not deserved; and the gift is for our advantage, not his. Wherefore it is very clear, that all the good we possess, whether it be natural, or freely conferred afterwards, proceeds from the "grace of God; because there is no good thing, the existence of which he does not will; and for God to will any thing, is to do it; therefore there can be no good of which he is not the author. He it is, who turns the human will from evil, and converts it to good, and also causes it to persevere in the same. Nevertheless, man's freewill operates in this matter, as the grain shoots by an external germinative power, and by the heat of the sun and the moisture of the earth. For if it was impossible that we should turn from the evil and be converted to the good, we should not be commendable in so doing, nor should we be ordered in scripture to do so. And again, if we could do this without the grace of God, there would be no propriety in praying to God for it, nor would our success depend upon his will A will to do good,
by which a man becomes conformed to the will of God, is grace freely given. The divine will is grace; and grace is then said to be infused, when the divine will begins to operate upon our will."
This extract contains a fair representation of Grosseteste's sentiments; and may be thought the more expedient, because some authors, in their accounts of the faith of this good*prelate, seem to have suppressed such expressions as did not well accord with their own views. The historian endeavours to avoid controversy; yet he may be allowed to remark, that on the subjects of grace, freewill, and justification, bishop Grosseteste does not always preserve an invariable consistency. The wonder however, as hath been justly observed, ought to be, that he should have seen " so well as he did. In general, he was eloquent, and mighty in the scriptures; fervent in spirit, speaking and teaching boldly the things of the Lord; though, like Apollos, he sometimes needed an Aquila and Priscilla to expound to him the way of God more perfectly."
BRADWARDINE. Page 89.
Sir Henry Savile, the learned editor of the princi. pal work of Bradwardine, informs us, that this extraordinary man devoted his main application to the study of theology and mathematics; and that particularly in the latter he distanced, perhaps the most skilful of his contemporaries. In proof of these assertions the editor refers to several of Bradwardine's mathematical tracts, and to a large manuscript volume of astronomical tables, which sir Henry had then in his own possession, and considered as a very elaborate and valuable performance. " But in divinity," says he, " this single treatise which I now publish, will be a lasting monument of his superior talents. It was written in support of the cause of God against the pelagian heresy, which experience shows to be a growing evil in every age. The substance of the' work had been delivered in lectures at Oxford; and the author, at the request of the students of Mertonjj|ollege, arranged, enlarged, and polished them, while he was chancellor of the diocese of London. No sooner was this performance given to the public, than it was received with the greatest applause of all learned doctors, and found its way into almost every library throughout Europe. As Bradwardine was a very excellent mathematician, he endeavoured to treat theological subjects with a mathematical accuracy; and was the first divine, as far as I know, who pursued that method. Hence this book against pelagianism is one regular, connected series of reasoning, from principles or conclusions which have been demonstrated before.
"If, in the several lemmas and propositions, a mathematical accuracy is not on all occasions completely preserved, the reader must remember to ascribe the defect to the nature of the subject, rather than to the author."
This account of the extreme singularity of Bradwardine's taste appeared worthy of notice.
Mr. Milner, in p. 89, has concisely observed, that Bradwardine attended king Edward the third in his French wars, and that he often preached before the army. His biographer, sir Henry, is more particular: he tells us, that some writers of that time attributed the signal victories of Edward, rather to the virtues and holy character of his chaplain and confessor Bradwardine, than to the bravery or prudence of the monarch or of any other person. " He made it his business to calm and mitigate the fierceness of his master's temper when he saw him either immoderately fired with warlike rage, or improperly flushed with the advantages of victory. He also often addressed the army; and with so much meekness, and persuasive discretion, as to restrain them from those insolent excesses Which are too frequently the attendants of military success."
Bradwardine's treatise against the pelagians, which is so much^xtolled by sir H. Savile, is a folio of almost nine ^Jpidred pages. It may not be disagreeable to the reader to peruse a few additional extracts, on account of, 1. the important matter they contain, and 2. the mathematical accuracy of manner which this author constantly endeavours to support, and which is, in general, so unusual in the treating of such subjects.
OF THE DIVINE BEING. Amoi » the first positions, which he undertakes to prove, « hese, that God is not contingently, but necessarily pet ect. That he is incapable of changing; that he is not liable, for example, to the emotions of joy, sorrow, anger; or, in any respect passive. Since if he was, he would be changeable; whereas God is always the same, and never varies. He cannot change, for the better, because he is already perfectly good. Neither can he change for the worse, because he is necessarily perfect, and therefore cannot cease to be so. Lastly, he cannotchange to a state equally good, because such an alteration could answer no end, and would in reality imply some defect.*
He observes, that the Divine Will is universally efficacious, which, he contends, is a mark of much higher perfection, than if his will could be frustrated, hindered, or miss of its intent. If it were possible for God to wish any thing, and yet not bring it to pass, he would and must from that moment cease to be perfectly happy; especially as it is impossible that he. should choose any thing but what is right.
Most powerfully he beats down the doctrine of HuMan Merit. He will not allow that men can merit at the hand of God, either antecedently or subsequently, that is, either prior to grace received, or after it. Is it not more bountiful to give than to barter? to bestow a thing freely, and for nothing, than for the sake of any preceding or subsequent desert, which would be a sort of price? Even a generous man often confers benefits on others without any view to the previous or succeeding merit of the object. Much more does God do this, who is infinitely richer in bounty, than the most liberal of his creatures.f
Has not Truth itself declared, " my Father worketh hitherto, and I work." And does not the apostle of truth use the words, " in him we live, move, and have our being?" I therefore repeat, that it must be manifest to every one, who has a sound understanding, 1. that no thing whatever can put any other thing into motion, unless God himself, by his own proper influence, give motion to the thing so moved: 2. that no thing whatever can put any other into motion, without God's being the immediate mover of it. And even, 3. that whatsoever is put in motion by any thing else, is more immediately moved by God himself than by the instrument which sets it in motion, be that instrument what it will. Now if any person should cavil at this doctrine, and say, that this argument would make the supreme Being the author of many actions, even wicked actions, which are not fit to be named, the answer is, the words which express those actions are not to be taken strictly or absolutely, but only as they relate to the creature; not as descriptive of the real essence of the actions, but only of their nature
* Lib. I. cap. i. f Lib. I. bap. i
when viewed as the effects of human powers In
every formation and in every motion there must be some unoriginated former; else the process would be endless.*
It should be remembered, that the historian never
Eretends to dictate to his reader, nor even to explain is own opinion on these intricate subjects. He only ventures to lay before him the judgment of an excellent christian, and a most acute metaphysician of the fifteenth century.
OF THE DIVINE KNOWLEDGE.
What Bradwardine delivers concerning the KnowLedge of God, is worthy of the utmost attention.
It is certain, that God hath a knowledge of all things present, of all things past, and of all things to come; which knowledge is, in the highest sense, actual, particular, distinct, and infallible. It may be considered as either simple, or approbative. His simple or absolute knowledge extends to every thing. His knowledge of approbation, over and above the former, includes his good pleasure and complacency of will. He produces scripture in support of this distinction of the divine knowledge, as Matthew xxv. 12. Verily I say unto you, I Know you not. And 1 Cor. viii. 3. If any man love God, he is Known of him.f
The fifteenth chapter of the first book is wholly taken up in proving, That Things Known are not the foundation of the knowledge of God. Knowledge is a principal perfection in God. If therefore His knowledge were derived from the objects with which it is conversant, it would follow that a part of the perfection of God was derived from some other source than himself, in which case He must cease to be selfperfect. He would moreover cease to be all sufficient: he would stand in need of created help to render his knowledge complete. And how could his glory be unrivaled, if any portion of it was suspended on borrowed assistance? Add to this, if the things that are known by God, are verily the producing cause of his knowing them, they must be antecedent to his knowledge, either in the order of time, or of nature. But they are not prior to his knowledge in either of these respects; for they are all created in time; whereas God and his knowledge are eternal. Besides, if the Deity received any degree of his intelligence from the beings he has made, he would cease to be purely active; he would be passive in that reception. Whence it would also follow that he must be susceptible of change- Nay, he would degenerate into a sort of inferiority to the things known, and being dependent on them for his knowledge, he would, so far, be less noble than they. The divine understanding would, like ours, be occasionally in a state of suspense and fluctuation. God might be said to possess rather the power or capability of knowing, than knowledge itself. He would only be disposed to know either this or that indifferently as the thing might turn, and would be actuated and determined by agencies and causalities extraneous to himself. And thus he would neither be the highest nor the first. For these reasons Aristotle and Averroes were right in affirming that the divine knowledge is perfect as it exists in God himself, and neither is nor can be improved by any things that are known. In a similar manner, also, argues Peter Lombard. If the things, says he, which God knows, were the basis of the divine knowledge, it would follow, that creatures contributed to improve their Maker's wisdom; and thus foolish man, or even the meanest beast of the field, would be exalted into an assistant, a counsellor, and a teacher of the all wise God. Lastly, the testimony of Augustin is very much in point: God, says he, knows all his creatures both corporeal and incorporeal, not because they exist; for he was not ignorant of what he intended tc create; but they therefore exist, because he foreknew them. Amidst the innumerable revolutions of advancing and departing ages, the knowledge of God is neither lessened nor augmented. No incident can possibly arise, which Thou, Thou, who knowest all things, didst not expect and foresee; and every created nature is what it is, in consequence of thy knowing it as such.
• Ibid. cap. 4 & 5. f Ibid. cap. 5 k 7.
Neither are we to understand our profound scholar, as though he were contending for the mere Abstract Knowledge of God as a principle of causation. No: according to him the efficacy of the divine knowledge depends on the sovereign irresistibility of the divine will. The will of God, says he, in his tenth chapter, is universally efficacious, and invincible, and necessitates as a cause. It cannot be impeded, much less defeated by any means whatever.
The following argument is expressed in terms remarkably concise and nervous.
If you allow, 1. that God is Able to do a thing, and 2. that he is Willing to do a thing, then 3. I affirm That thing will not, cannot go unaccomplished. God either does it now, or will certainly do it at the destined season, otherwise he must either lose his power or change his mind. He is in want of nothing to carry his purposes into execution. Hence the remark of the philosopher, Si potuit et voluit, egit. He that hath will and power to do a thing, certainly doth that thing. Again, if the will of God may be frustrated, the defeat would arise from the created wills of men or angels; but we can never allow any created will, angelic or human, to be superior to the will of the Creator. Both the divine knowledge and the divine will are altogether unchangeable, since if either one or the other were to undergo an alteration, a change must take place-in God himself.
These maxims induced Bradwardine to conclude, that whatever things come to pass, are brought about by the providence of God.* Even a prudent master of a family, says he, takes care of every thing that belongs to him, and makes provision beforehand, according to the best of his knowledge and power; and leaves nothing unregulated in his house, but exactly appoints the due time and place for every thing.
The sentiments of Bradwardine respecting Fate are evidently the result of profound thinking.
Many persons affirm the existence of fate; and many, particularly of the catholic doctors, deny there is any such thing. The stoics are advocates for fate; on the contrary, Augustin reprobates the idea of it as inconsistent with a sound faith. The truth seems to be this. If by fate is to be understood an inevitable, coercive necessity, arising from the influence of the heavenly bodies, such a notion is not to be maintained: but if the word be taken in a lower sense, as implying, for example, only a disposition, or propensity in men to certain actions, this sentiment with certain explanations may be supported; and most certainly the idea of a divine fate must be admitted, whether we consider the word as derived from Fiat or from Fan Do. Is it not written that in the beginning of the creation God said, fiat lux, let there be light, and there was light? Is it not written again, He Spake and it was done? Now this divine fate is chiefly a branch of the divine will which is the efficacious cause of all things. Augustin was of the same mind. " All that connexion," says he, " and that train of causes, whereby every thing is what it is, are by the stoics called fate; the
* Ibid- cap 27
Vol. IV. 49
whole of which fate is to be ascribed to the will and power of the supreme Being, who most justly is believed to foreknow all things, and to leave nothing unordained. The energy of the divine will is unconquerably extended through all things We never
reject that train of causes, wherein the will of God has the grand sway. We avoid however giving it the name of fate; unless indeed you derive the word from fando, that is, from Speaking. For vye cannot but acknowledge, that it is written in the scriptures, God hath Once spoken, and these two things have I heard, that power belongeth unto God; and that mercy is with thee, for thou wilt render unto every man according to his works. Now when it is said, God hath Spoken Once, the meaning is, that he hath spoken unchangeably, and irreversibly, even as he foreknew all things that should come to pass. The kingdoms of men are absolutely appointed by divine providence; which if any one is desirous for that reason to attribute to fate, meaning by that word, the will and power of God, let him hold fast the Sentiment and only correct the Phrase." Bradwardine concludes his chapter on fate with the following remarkable quotation from Augustin. " But though the supreme Being is the undoubted origin of every determined train of causes, it by no means follows that nothing is in the power of the human will. For our wills themselves belong to those trains of causes, which are definitively fixed and arranged in the divine mind; and it is in that way that they become the causes of human actions. Our wills have just so much power as God willed and foreknew they should have; and consequently whatever be the precise degree of the power which they possess, that they absolutely must possess, and that they inevitably, must exert; for both their powers and their operations were foreknown of God, whose foreknowledge cannot be deceived."*
These examples may be sufficient to convey some idea of the acuteness of the reasoning powers of Bradwardine; and the intelligent reader will be at no loss to understand in what manner the conclusions of this celebrated theologian bear upon certain controverted points in divinity, and particularly upon the pelagian system! Our author closely follows the advocates of that heresy through all their intricate windings; and exposes their antichristian sophisms and subterfuges with infinite patience and address. Of course his subject leads him to examine and discuss in a very copious manner that most difficult of all inquiries, the nature of the human will, and of liberty and necessity. Large and instructive extracts might easily be produced on these points from his second book; but as they would detain us too long, it will be more expedient to take our leave of the treatise after having selected a passage or two, which are more of a practical nature, and yet altogether related to the pelagian dispute.
The human will, without a supply of the special assistance of God, cannot conquer so much as a single temptation. And this special assistance, Bradwardine expressly says is not freewill, but the UnconQuerable will of God. " Armed with this, his tempted children get the better of every temptation; destitute of this, they are constantly defeated. Besides, if man eould overcome temptation by his own power, it would be vain and idle in him to pray to God for victory over it, or to give him thanks for victory obtained." Lib. ii. cap. v.
i ON GRACE.
Every creature is indebted to Almighty God for various gifts; and these gifts may with sufficient propriety be called the grace of God, grace freely given. But, with very great thankfulness, we ought further to observe, that there is such a thing as a peculiar species of this free grace, which makes a man accepted of God, makes him a friend of God, and dear to him; makes him his child for the present, and a partaker of his glory in heaven. Now, continues he, the mischievous pelagians maintain that this sort of grace is not given freely by God, but is to be obtained by preceding merits. I myself was once so foolish and empty, when I first applied myself to the study of philosophy, as to be seduced by this error. For whenever I attended to the manner in which the divines handled this point, I own the pelagian hypothesis appeared to me the more likely to be true. In the schools of the philosophers I rarely heard a single word said concerning grace; unless indeed sometimes an equivocal expression might drop from the disputants, but nothing farther. Whereas my ears were assailed, the day through, with such assertions as, " We are the masters of our own free actions; it is in our own power to do well or ill, and to have virtues or vices." And when I heard those parts of the scriptures read in the church, which extol the grace of God and lower the freewill of man; for example, " It is not of him that willeth, or of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy," and many similar passages; this doctrine of grace was very disagreeable to my ungrateful mind. But afterwards, when I reflected on the nature of the divine character, on the knowledge of God, and his prescience', I began to perceive some few distant rays of light respecting this matter, even before I became a regular attendant of the lectures in divinity. I seemed to see, but by no means clearly, that the grace of God is prior, both in nature and in time, to any good actions that men can possibly perform; and I return thanks to God, from whom proceeds every good thing, for thus freely enlightening my understanding. St. Augustin confesses that he himself had been formerly in a similar mistake. " I was once," says he, " a pelagian in my principles. I thought that faith towards God was not the gift of God, but that we procured it by our own powers, and that then, through the use of it, we obtained the gifts of God; I never supposed that the preventing grace of God was the proper cause of our faith, till my mind was struck in a particular manner by the apostle's ar
gument and testimony, What hast thou that thou hast not received? and if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it? My mind had been puffed up with worldly books, worldly wisdom, and worldly knowledge; but after that my heart was visited with the influences of divine grace, I grasped with the greatest eagerness the sacred writings which were dictated by the holy Spirit; and above the rest, those of the apostle Paul. Then fell to the ground all my objections, and all the apparent contradictions in the scriptures. The bible spoke to my mind one simple language of pure truth, and with this additional praise of divine grace constantly inculcated, that no man should glory as though he had not received." Bradwardine then proceeds to say,
In this whole business I follow the steps of Augustin as closely as I can, for he alone appears to me to be both the true apostolic logician and philosopher; and certainly he is very different from many learned doctors. The great point to be maintained is, that God gives his grace Freely in the strictest sense of the word, and without merit on the part of man. For if God did not bestow his grace in this perfectly gratuitous manner, but on account of some subordinate contingent uncertain cause, he could not possibly foresee how he should bestow his free gifts. The word grace evidently implies that there is no antecedent merit: And in this way the apostle to the Romans appears to argue, when he says :" And if by grace then it is no more of works. Otherwise grace is no more grace. Now to him that worketh, is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt." All this is perfectly intelligible even in the conduct of liberal and magnificent Human characters. They frequently bestow their gifts from a pure spirit of liberality without the smallest previous claim on the score of merit. And shall not God, whose perfections are infinite, do more than this? St. Paul says, that God commended his love to us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us: and that when we were enemies, we were reconciled to'God by the death of his Son. St. Paul was in a peculiar manner a child of grace: with gratitude therefore he honours and extols its efficacy in all his epistles; and particularly in his epistle to the Romans throughout he defends his doctrines with great precision and copiousness. " Every mouth," says he, " must be stopped and all the world become guilty before God. By the deeds of the law no flesh can be justified: men must be justified freely by his grace. By grace ye are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast." Pelagius objects in the following manner; if grace be perfectly free, and if all men be alike, why is grace given to this man and not to that? Augustin, on a similar occasion, exposes the wildness of such reasoning thus: " You might as well say, I am a man; Christ was a man; why am not I the same as he? We have a common nature; and with God there is no respect of persons; why then are his gifts so different? Would any christian, nay would any madman argue so; and yet the principles of Pelagius would carry us this length?" Again, the pelagians produce such scriptures as these; " The Lord is with you while ye be with him, and if ye seek him he
will be found of you."* " Turn ye, and I will turn
unto you."t From which they would infier, that the grace of God is proportioned to the merits of men. But all this would be to no purpose, if they would but compare one scripture with another: for example: " Turn us, O God of our salvation; J and after that I was turned, I repented:§ And, turn us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned."|| Undoubtedly such
expressions as turn yourselves, Sec relate to the free
power which every man has to Will; but if Pelagius had half an eye, he might see, that God, in giving the precept which directs us to turn unto him, influences also the human will and excites it to action, not indeed in opposition to our free choice, but the reverse, as I have all along maintained. Hence it is written: Without me ye can do nothing. And again, I have laboured more abundantly than you all, yet not I but the grace of God within me. And lastly, I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; and I will cleanse you from your idols. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart, and will give you a heart of flesh. Lib. i. cap. 35.
* 2 Chron. xv. 2. \ Zecli. iii. 3- \ Psalm lxxxv. 4- § Jer. xxxi. 19. |i Lam. v. 21.
LOVE, PATIENCE, HUMILITY, AND THANKSGIVING,
Are the subjects of the thirty-fourth chapter of the second book. And these are handled with great force and eloquence. A short specimen is given in page 99 of this history. It may be worth while to subjoin a few sentences more, for the purpose of showing how steadily the author keeps his eye on the mischiefs of pelagianism.
I know, says he, O Lord, I know, and with grief I relate, that there are certain proud pelagians, who choose rather to trust in themselves than in God. They think that if they have but freewill, and are the sole masters of their own actions, they are sufficiently safe, and have a good foundation for hope. O ye Vain children of men, why will ye iise a false balance? Why will ye trust in yourselves, who are covered with sins, miseries, and defects, rather than in Him, who is infinitely good and compassionate, and plenteous in his inestimable donations? Why will ye not place your hopes on His happy government, who cannot err; and no longer on yourselves, who continually err and stray like lost sheep? Why rely on your own diminutive, infirm, and fragile powers; and not on his almighty help, whose strength is boundless and irresistible? Beware of the prophet's curse: " Thus saith the Lord, cursed be the man, that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord." " I am astonished," says St. Augustin, " that, notwithstanding the apostleNleclares, u is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure, men can choose rather to rely on their own debility than on the strength of the divine promise. But you will tell me, that in regard to myself, the divine promise is altogether uncertain. Be it so: What then? Can you depend upon your own will so as to be assured of your future salvation? What, have you no fears on that head? Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall. Since then there may be uncertainty in either way, why not place your faith, hope, and charity, where there is stability and good ground for dependence? Strange doctrine of the pelagians! Tell men, say they, of the greatness of their own natural powers, and such preaching will excite them to virtue; but when you inform them that nothing is to be done without the compassion, the help, and the grace, of God, you break their spirits and drive them to despair. Thus have they that confidence in their own insignificant powers, which all holy men have in the boundless mercy of God; and thus do the former declare war against those very free gifts of God, by the assistance of which, the latter successfully fight against their innate corruptions O
pelagians, how is it that ye, who fancy yourselves so acute, do not see the dilemma into which your opinions necessarily bring you. Either you rob the Almighty of his prescience, or if you admit that attribute, ye must at the same time admit the conclusiveness of this reasoning. You desire to have ground for hope; it is my prayer that you should, but let your hope be in the Lord. For my part, it is good for me to draw near to God, and to put my trust in the Lord God. " Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, whose hope the Lord is." It is this perfect confidence in God, which fortifies the mind of a good man against every species of adversity. He knows that God is most wise, just, and compassionate, and that He never falls into error; and he knows also that all things work together for good to them that love God. He learns therefore^with the apostles and many other holy men, even to rejoice in sufferings.
A genuine love of God requires us to employ every faculty we possess, mental and corporeal, for the praise, honour, and glory of God; moreover, we ought freely to submit to every inconvenience and disadvantage, even to the irrecoverable loss of ourselves, rather than offend his divine Majesty in the slightest degree.
Grant, I beseech thee, good Lord, that as I thus pronounce my duty with my lips, I may efficaciously perform the same, and persevere unto the end: and do thou, I humbly beg, of thy great compassion, deign to accept this bounden service which thou hast prepared me to perform, as being the only recompense I can possibly make. More than this 1 neither have, nor ever shall have; unless, perhaps, it may be thought more, most earnestly to wish both to know and to do, under all circumstances, what is altogether agreeable to Thy Will. Grant that This also may be my heart's desire; and I humbly ask these things, as a poor, miserable, mendicant sinner. Is there any thing further than this for which I can ask. I do not see that there is, though I turn my thoughts every way: but if there be, I entreat thee, O Lord, with the most devout supplication, to answer my prayer in this respect also; that so, for thy unspeakable benefits bestowed freely upon me, I may make the most grateful return in my power, and manifest the feelings of my heart by incessant thanksgiving.
St. Augustin, one of thy most grateful children observes, that whether we would use our minds in contemplation, or our mouths in speaking, or our pens in writing, we cannot be better employed than )n giving thanks to God. It is- not easy to produce a sentiment more concise in the expression, more pleasant to the ear, more grateful to the understanding, or more useful in practice. The same author was, no doubt, taught by thee to say, that there is true wisdom in the worship of God, which very materially consists in gratitude. Hence" we are particularlv ad
Vol. rv. 50
monished in the communion service " to give thanks to our Lord God." Let us therefore humbly acknowledge that every good thing we possess is from above and cometh down from the Father of lights; and with our whole heart let us give thanks to our Lord God continually.
WICKLIFF. Page 101—137.
It is observed in the history, page 110, that the distinguishing tenet of Wickliff was, undoubtedly, the election of grace. He calls the church an assembly of predestinated persons. Much more might be produced to the same effect. On some occasions he speaks in such strong terms on this subject, that he has been understood to lean even to the doctrines of absolute necessity and fatalism. The student of ecclesiastical history may be pleased to have some of the evidence, relative to this matter, laid before him, that he may have the opportunity of judging for himself.
In our account of the proceedings of the council of Constance, p. 199, it appears that the heretical opinions of Wickliff were digested into forty-five specific articles, and unanimously condemned by that assembly. Two of those articles were, viz.
Article 26. The prayer of the reprobate is of no avail: and
Article 27. All things happen from absolute necessity.* '
The manner in which this great man defended the latter, proves him to have been a deep thinker and a skilful disputant.
Our Lord, says he in his Trialogus, affirmed, that such or such an event should come to pass. Its accomplishment therefore was unavoidable. The antecedent is necessary: by parity of argument the consequent is so too. The consequent is not in the power of any
according to Wickliff's ideas, is given, I think, in the translation above. He never meant to say that Christ was not a free agent, but merely that it was absolutely Certain, and could not be otherwise, that Christ Had Made such or such declarations. I am confirmed in this opinion by three reasons, 1. From having very diligently considered the passage itself as it stands in the ninth chapter of the third book of the Trialogus. 2. From observing that some of those who have thought differently, have probably never seen the Trialogus itself. The book is very scarce, and they do not refer to it, but only to certain extracts from it by Widtfort, who was an enemy and gives them unfairly: And 3. by attending to Wickliff's sentiments as they are delivered in other parts of that work. In book the second, chapter the fourteenth, he says;*l If you ask, what is the real cause of the eternal decrees of God before they are made, the answer is, the Will Of God, or God Himself: and again in the tenth chapter of the first book, where the author is treating particularly of the wisdom and power of God, he expressly affirms, that the divine energy acts with the most perfect freedom, though the effects produced by it must necessarily happen. " Quantum ad libertatem divinae potential, patet quod est summe libera, et tamen quicquid facit, necessario eveniat."
" That the supreme Being acts in the most exact conformity to his own decrees is a truth which scripture again and again asserts; but that He was and is absolutely free in decreeing, is no less asserted by the inspired writers; who with one voice declare that the disposals and appointments of the Almighty do not depend on any antecedent and fatal necessity, but on his own free choice directed by infinite wisdom." If Wickliff could be shown to go further than this, he ought not, I think, to be defended.
Thomas Netter, commonly called Thomas of Walden, a learned roman catholic of the Carmelite order, was one of the greatest adversaries of Wickliff. In his four folio volumes we find sixty dangerous, heretical, articles enumerated against the English reformer. The following are among them.
1. That God gives no good things to his enemies.
2. That God is not more willing to reward the good tlian to punish the wicked.
3. That all things come to pass by fatal necessity.
4. That God could not make the world otherwise than it is made. •
5. That God cannot do any thing which he doth not do.
6. That God cannot bring to pass that something should return into nothing.
In perusing the distinct and pious argumentations of Bradwardine, we every where meet with much entertainment and instruction. Not so, in traversing the abstruse, thorny, metaphysical, subtilities of Wickliff and his adversaries. No one need be surprised if some inconsistencies and even contradictions should be found in his writings. We have seen, that in himself he was not a very consistent character, whether we regard his words or his actions. Then his insight into christian truths was gradual; so that he may be expected not to hold the same language at different periods of his life. There can, however, be no doubt, but that he loved light and truth; and the real wonder is that in his circumstances he attained so much of them. Lastly, his writings have come down to us very imperfect; many of them are intirely lost, and we are obliged to take the accounts of his enemies. With no little need for patience I have examined Walden's evidence against him respecting the fatalism contained in the third, fourth, and fifth articles above mentioned; and am convinced that he misrepresents the sentiments of the excellent man, whom he so much disliked. Wickliff, on several occasions, for argument's sake, appears to grant that there would be a contradiction in supposing any thing to be producible, which God does not actually produce; but in one place he expressly informs us that it was an usual thing with him to guard concessions of that sort by
limiting them in such a manner that they should be no restraint on the divine will; every thing, according to him, is producible, Which God Pleases To ProDuce. I know very well, says Wickliff, that in pretending to treat of the wisdom and power of God I am plunging into an ocean of difficulties, where I may be apt to prate concerning many things without having a good foundation for what I say. I know that it is a very hard matter to preserve the due course, especially as on many points I think differently from what I formerly did. However, as I was then ready to own my error, so I trust I always shall be, whenever I am shown that I have advanced any thing contrary to truth.*
If Thomas of Walden had properly attended to this candid concession, and honest protestation, which are to be found at a very little distance from the passages that he thought so objectionable, he would probably have treated Wickliff with less severity.
I cannot dismiss this head in better terms than those of a very useful memorialist,f who speaks of Wickliff, in substance as follows.
" I intend neither to deny, dissemble, defend, nor excuse any of his faults. We have this treasure, says the apostle, in Earthen vessels; and he that shall endeavour to prove a pitcher of clay to be a pot of gold, will take great pains to small purpose. Yea, should I be over officious to retain myself to plead for Wickliff's faults, that glorious saint would sooner chide than thank me. He was a man and so subject to error; he lived in a dark age, and was vexed with opposition; and it is therefore unreasonable that the constitution of his positive opinions should be Guessed by his polemical heat, when he was chafed in disputation. Besides, envy has falsely fathered many foul aspersions upon him. What a pity it is that we have not his works to hear him speak in his own behalf! Were they all extant, we might know the occasion, intention and connexion of what he spake, together with the limitations, restrictions, distinctions, and qualifications of what he maintained. There we might see what was overplus of passion, and what the just measure of his judgment. Many phrases, heretical in sound, would appear orthodox in sense. Some of his poisonous passages, dressed with due caution, would prove wholesome, and even cordial truths: many of his expressions wanting, not Granumponderis, but Salis, no weight of truth, but some grains of discretion. But alas! two hundred of his books are burnt; and we are fain to borrow the bare titles of them from his adversaries, who have winnowed his works, as Satan did Peter, not to find Corn, but Chaff."
* Lib. i. cap. 10. and iii. c. 8: f Fuller.
SICKNESS OF WICKLIFF. Page 104. The prodigious exertions of Wickliff, and the harassing persecutions he underwent in 1378, are said to have been the occasion of a dangerous fit of sickness, which brought him almost to the point of death in the beginning of the year 1379. The mendicantfriars hearing of this, immediately selected a committee of grave doctors, and instructed them in what they were to say to the sick man who had so grievously offended them. And that the message might be the more solemn, they joined with them four of the most respectable citizens, whom they termed aldermen of the wards. These commissioners found Wickliff lying in his bed; and they are said first of all to have wished him health, and a recovery from his distemper. After some time they put him in mind of the many and great injuries which he had done to the begging friars by his sermons and writings, and exhorted him, that as he had now very little time to live, he would, like a true penitent, bewail and revoke, in their presence, whatever things he had said to their disparagement. But Dr. Wickliff, immediately recovering strength, called his servants to him, and ordered them to raise him a little on his pillows. Which when they had done, he said with a loud voice, " I Shall Not Die. BUT LIVE AND DECLARE THE EVIL DEEDS OE THE
Friars. On which the doctors, and the other deputies departed from him in no little confusion.*
ANECDOTES RELATIVE TO WICKLIFF.
S. Sudbury, archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered in the insurrection by Wat Tyler; and was succeeded in the primacy by William Courtney,f who had always shown himself one of Wickliff's most active adversaries. The new archbishop highly approved of the proceedings of the university of Oxford, mentioned in page 113; and he determined to use all the authority of his high office to crush Wickliff and his followers. He was not duly invested with the consecrated pall from Rome, till the sixth of May, 1382; and on the seventeenth of the same month he called together a court of select bishops and doctors.
The memorandumJ in the archbishop's register states, that the court having met in the monastery of the friars' preachers, certain conclusions repugnant to the determinations of the church were laid before them; and that after good deliberation, they met again, and pronounced ten of the conclusions heretical, and fourteen erroneous and repugnant to the church.
It does not appear by the records that Wickliff himself was cited to appear before the archbishop; only the names of a few persons who espoused his opinions are mentioned. Wickliff is said to have claimed the privilege of being exempted from episcopal jurisdiction, on the ground of being a member of the university, and holding an office therein.
There cannot be the smallest doubt but that these proceedings were levelled chiefly at the obnoxious reformer. But till with my own eyes I read the seventh heretical article in the page above referred to in Wilkins' Concilia, I could scarce believe it possible that one of the charges against either Wickliff or his followers, should be, Deus debet obedire diabolo, " God ought to obey the devil." This single fact shows to what a length calumny and credulity may go, when men are heated by passion and prejudice.
* Bale, Appendix, p. 469. f A- D. 1381. $ Wilkins, vol. iii. p. 157.
However, such violence and misrepresentation served but in the end to promote the cause of truth. Wickliff defended his opinions with spirit, took particular notice of this charge, and gained many new friends. " Such things," says he, "do they invent of catholic men that they may blacken their reputation, as if they held this impious opinion, that God is a devil; or any other open heretical tenet; and they are prepared by false and slanderous witnesses to fix such heresies on good men as if they had invented them."*
An extraordinary, but well authenticated circumstance proves the ability and address of Courtney. At the instant when the extracts from the writings of Wickliff were produced, and the court was going to enter upon business on the seventeenth of May, a violent earthquake shook the monastery. The affrighted bishops and doctors threw down their papers, and cried out, " the business is displeasing to God." The firm and intrepid archbishop, coolly and quietly chid their superstitious fears; and with great promptitude gave the matter a different turn. " If this earthquake," said he, " means any thing, it portends the downfal of heresy. For as noxious vapors are confined in the bowels of the earth, and are expelled by these violent concussions, so through our strenuous endeavours the kingdom must be purified from the pestilential opinions of reprobate men. But this is not to be done without great commotion."f
Wickliff in his writings often alluded to this accident, calling it the council of the herydene, which is the old English word for earthquake.
When the archbishop and his court had condemned Wickliff's doctrines, and had finished the business for which they had met together, a sermon was preached at the church of the gray friars by John Cunninghams
• MS. Bodl. f MS. Bodl. & Chion. Mon. Alban.
Vol. IV. • 51
a distinguished adversary of Wickliff. At this sermon we are told there was present among others a knight named Cornelius Cloune, who was a great favourer of the conclusions then condemned, and one of those who held and taught them; nor would he believe otherwise of the sacrament than that the real and true bread was present, according to Wickliff's opinion.
The next day, being the vigil of the holy Trinity, the knight went to the same convent to hear mass. Behold! at the breaking of the host, upon casting his eye towards the friar who happened to celebrate mass, he saw in his hands, very flesh, raw and bloody, and divided into three parts. Full of wonder and amazement, he called his squire that he might see it; but the squire saw nothing more than usual. Moreover, in the middle of the third piece, which was to be put into the chalice, the knight saw this name JESUS written in letters of flesh, all raw and bloody; which Was very wonderful to behold. "On the next day, namely, the feast of the holy Trinity, the same friar, preaching at Paul's cross, told this story to all the people, and the knight attested the truth of it, and promised that he would fight and die in that cause; for that in the sacrament of the altar there was the very body of Christ, and not bread only as he had formerly believed.*
Such were the artifices of those who, at that time, zealously defended the popish doctrines.
I have taken much pains to reconcile the inconsistencies and obscurities which are to be found in the accounts of the latter part of Wickliff's life. Even in consulting such authorities as Spelman, and Wilkins, I find erroneous and contradictory dates of one of the most material original records. I believe the following brief account does not differ essentially from the truth.
In the former part of the summer of 1381, Dr. Barton, the vicechancellor, or chancellor, as he is called in the instrument of the university of Oxford, appeared in the public schools while Dr. Wickliff was sitting in the chair; and, with the unanimous consent of twelve doctors his assessors, pronounced the professor's doctrines respecting the sacrament, heretical. Wickliff, upon the first hearing of this sentence, is said to have been put to some confusion; but he soon recovered himself, and told the vicechancellor, that neither he nor his assistants, could confute the opinions they had ventured to condemn.
* Kivyghton de Event Angl. 2651.
From this sentence the professor appealed to king Richard; but the duke of Lancaster, who in the manuscripts is styled a wise counsellor and a faithful son of the sacred church, came expressly to Oxford, and, as is hinted in page 114 of this volume, ordered Wickliff* to harangue no more on that subject.* But he did not choose to obey.
At length, Courtney, a more active and determined primate than his predecessor Sudbury, finding that neither the strong measures which had been taken at Oxford, nor his own subsequent proceedings at the earthquake council, availed to the silencing of the audacious heretic, devised the following expedients, which enabled him at least to rid the university of the man whose person had hitherto been sheltered under academical immunities.
1. He obtained the king's patent, empowering the archbishop and his suffragans to arrest and imprison all persons who privately or publicly should maintain the heresies in question.
2. He also obtained the king's patent directed to the chancellor and proctors at Oxford, appointing them inquisitors general, and ordering them to banish and expel from the university and town of Oxford all who were advocates of Wickliff's heresies, and even all who should dare to receive into their inns or houses Wickliff himself, or any other of his friends, suspected of the like.f
From this storm Wickliff thought proper to retire,
* Wilkins, vol. iii. p. 171. f tt>'«"» p. 156 & 166.
and the haughty archbishop had the satisfaction of seeing the man he so much disliked, compelled to retreat before his power, to Lutterworth, an obscure part of the kingdom.
DEATH OF WICKLIFF. Page 109.
I have followed Mosheim in the history, who says that this event took place in the year 1387. On more accurate inquiry, I find that soon after his removal to his parsonage, he was seized with the palsy, from which, however, he recovered so as to resume his studies and pastoral exertions. It was, I believe, on the 28th of December, 1384, when he was attending divine service, in his church at Lutterworth, that he was attacked by a second and fatal stroke of the palsy. His tongue in particular was so much affected, that he never spoke again.
The bigoted papists gloried in his death, and one of them has insulted his memory unmercifully. "It was reported," says Walsingham, " that he had prepared accusations and blasphemies, which he had intended on the day he was taken ill, to have uttered in his pulpit against Thomas a Becket, the saint and martyr of the day; but by the judgment of God he was suddenly struck, and the palsy seized his limbs; and that mouth, which was to have spoken huge things against God, and his saint, and the holy church, was miserably drawn aside and afforded a frightful spectacle to the beholders. His tongue was speechless, and his head shook, showing plainly that the curse of God was upon him."
The reader will be beforehand with me in any remarks I could make on this account.
It was in the year 1415 that the council of Constance declared that Wickliff had died an obstinate heretic; and ordered his bones, if they could be distinguished from the bones of the faithful, to be dug up and thrown upon a dunghil. This sentence was not executed till thirteen years after, when orders for that purpose were sent by pope Martin V. to R. Fleming, bishop of Lincoln and diocesan of Lutterworth. Accordingly, the bishop's officers took the bones out of the grave, where they had lain undisturbed forty-four years, burnt them, and cast the remaining ashes into an adjoining brook.*
Among the forty-five articles of Wickliff's doctrinesf condemned at Constance in J 415, I observe the sixth to be the very same with that which stands the seventh among those pronounced heretical by Courtney and his council in 1382. " God ought to obey the devil." I have allowed in general that the council of Constance did not misrepresent the opinions of Wickliff. But this article certainly ought to be excepted; and a diligent examination, were it worth while, might probably discover others in the same predicament.
TRANSLATION OF THE BIBLE. Page 109.
Wickliff, in one place, defines the Church to be the congregation of just men for whom Christ shed his blood. And in others he speaks thus: " Scripture is the faith of the church, and the more it is known in an orthodox sense, the better; therefore as secular men ought to know the faith, the divine word is to be taught them in whatever language is best known to them. The truth of the faith is clearer and more exact in the scripture than the priests know how to express it; and if one may say so, there are many prelates who are ignorant of scripture, and others who conceal things contained in it. It seems useful therefore that the faithful should themselves search and discover the sense of the faith by having the scriptures in a language which they know and understand. Christ and his apostles converted men by making known to them the scriptures in that language which was familiar to them. Why then ought not the modern disciples of Christ to collect fragments from the loaf; and, as they did, clearly open the scriptures to the people that they may
• L'Enfant, 231. Fuller, 171. t V. 199 of this vol.
know them? The apostle teaches, that we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and be answerable for all the goods intrusted to us; it is necessary therefore the faithful should know these goods and the use of them, that they may give a proper answer. For the answer by a prelate or an attorney will not Then avail, but every one Must answer in his Own person."*
And in this manner did our zealous reformer argue for the propriety of a translation of the bible into the English language.
In his prologue, to the translation, he informs us of the method in which he proceeded, notwithstanding the opposition he met with, and the clamors that were raised against him on the account. 1. He, with several who assisted him, got together all the Latin bibles they could, which they diligently collated and corrected, in order that they might have one Latin bible near the truth. In the next place they collected the ordinary comments, with which they studied the text so as to make themselves masters of its sense and meaning. Lastly they consulted the old grammarians and ancient divines respecting the hard words and sentences. After all this was done, Wickliff then set about the translation, which, he resolved, should Not be a literal one, but so as to express the meaning as clearly as he could.
A specimen or two of Wickliff's new testament, in the old English of his time, may not be displeasing to the reader.
" Matth. xi. 25, 26. In thilke tyme Jhesus answeride & seid, I knowleche to thee, Fadir, Lord of Hevene 8c of earthe, for thou hast hid these thingis fro wise men and redy, & hast schewid hem to litil children. So, Fadir; for so it was plesynge to fore thee.
" John x. 26—30. Ye beleven not, for ye ben not of my scheep. My scheep heren my vois, and I knowe hem, and thei suen me. And I gyve to hem everlastynge life, & thei schulen not perische, withouten end; 8c noon schal rauysche hem fro myn hond. That thing that my Fadir gaf to me, is more than alle thingis: & no man may rauysche from my Fadris hond. I & the Fadir ben oon.
* Great Sentence. Spec. Secul. Doctr. Christ.
" Rom. ix. 12. It was seid to him, that the more schulde serve the lesse: as it is writun, I louyde Jacob, but I hatide Esau. What therefore schulen we seie? wher wickidnesse be anentis God? God forbede. For he seith to Moises, I schal have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I schal ghy ve mercy on whom I have mercy. Therefore, it is not neither of man willynge, neither rennynge; but of God hauynge mercy. And the scripture seith to Farao, For to this thing have I styrrid thee, that I schewe in thee my vertu, and that my name be teeld in all erthe. Therefore, of whom God wole, he hath mercy: & whom he wole, he endurith. Thanne seith thou to me, what is sought ghit, for who withstondith his will? Oo man, what art thou that answerist to God! Wher a maad thing seith to him that made it, What hast thou maad me so? Wher a pottere of cley hath not power to make, of the same gobet, oo vessel into onour, a nothir into dispyt!"*
Persecution for reading the scriptures in English. P. 169.
In this page are briefly mentioned the grievous persecutions by bishop Langland or Longland. Mr. Collier in his Ecclesiastical History, after allowing that several abjured, and that six actually suffered, observes, that these men were accused for reading the new testament in English; and why, says he, was this so great a crime? Because it was Wickliff's translation and condemned by the church. The English clergy did not believe this translator had reached the original, and rightly expressed the mind of the Holyghost
* N. B. This being a passage frequently quoted im controversy, it is supposed, that very particular pams were taken with it hy the translator. * The same. f Fox, vol. ii. p. 182.
They were careful to prevent the spreading of lollardism, and we need not wonder....... P. 11. vol. ii.
It is quite painful to see so valuable a writer undertake to speak thus in mitigation of the abominable cruelties of the papists in those times.
Further; he does not believe that " six men and a woman were burnt at Coventry for teaching their children the Lord's prayer, the ten commandments, and the creed in the vulgar tongue;" and he expresses a hope that bishop Burnet, who mentions the fact in his History of the Reformation, was misinformed. " The learned historian," says he, " cites Fox for his authority. But this looks like a lame story, for Fox cites no other authority than one Mother Hall."*
On reading the above I was curious to see what Fox actually Does Say: and here I shall transcribe his very words without making any observation on them. " The Witnesses of this history," says he, " be yet alive, which both Saw Them and Knew Them. Of Whom ONE is mother Hall, dwelling Now in Baginton, two miles from Coventry. By whom also this is testified of them, that they above all other in Coventry pretended most show and worship of devotion at the holding up of the sacrament; whether to colour the matter or no, it is not known."f
Mr. Fox speaks of the zeal of the holy men in those times of persecution in the most glowing terms; " To see their travels, their earnest seeking, their burning zeal, their readings, watchings, their sweet assemblies, their love and concord, their godly living, their faithful marrying with the faithful, may make us now in these our days of free profession to blush for shame." P. 23. Vol. II. Fox.
COUNCIL OF CONSTANCE. P. 175—243,
JOHN HUSS, AND JEROM OF PRAGUE.
Learned men of a speculative turn, and of the. most impartial and dispassionate temper, have been puzzled to account for the treatment these good men met with from the council of Constance. Jerom suffered as an associate and supporter of Huss; and in regard to the latter, the sentence of the council is express, that he was a notorious, scandalous, obstinate, incorrigible, heretic. L'Enfant, after a most careful and judicious review of all the circumstances relative to this sentence, is decidedly of opinion that the accusers failed in making out their charges; and that the council therefore were not justified in passing so severe and cruel a sentence. There is no doubt that both Hussand Jerom were victims to the rage and injustice of their unrelenting enemies. But still, in public transactions, even the most abandoned of mankind do not usually lay aside all regard to principles or to the judgment of others.
Several motives, not openly avowed by the council, have been supposed to influence their minds in the condemnation of John Huss.
1. He always refused to subscribe to the condemnation of Wickliff; and, on many occasions, he had spoken of him as of a holy man. And though he did not agree with the English reformer respecting the eucharist, he appears to have been a thorough wickliffite in all those matters which related to the prevailing abuses of ecclesiastical power. Hence it is easy to understand how obnoxious he must have been to corrupt pontiffs and cardinals; and in general, to ambitious and domineering dignitaries of the established hierarchy. L'Enfant speaks out when he says " the Soundest part of the council of Constance were not materially different from so many wickliffites and hussites." The sound part, however, it is to be feared, was but a small part of the whole; and every one must see that by far the greater part of that assembly would
Vol. IV. * 52
concur in thinking it high time to silence a man who was continually exclaiming against the tyranny and irregularities of the clergy.
2. John Huss, by his sermons, his writings and his conversation, had Certainly contributed to render the clergy of Bohemia odious and contemptible in the eyes of the people. The bishops, therefore, together with the sacerdotal and monastic orders, were sensible that their honours and advantages, their credit and authority would be in the greatest danger, if this zealous reformer should be allowed to return into his own country, and declaim with his usual freedom. The true cause of the commotions, which existed in Bohemia, is allowed by all the authors of that time, without a single exception, to have been the scandalous conduct of the popes, the subversion of discipline, and the intire corruption of the whole ecclesiastical state. A complete reformation therefore was the only adequate remedy. But this, as the event proved, was not to be expected from a corrupt hierarchy. It was far more probable that the indignant interested ecclesiastics should unite to accomplish the ruin of the man who exposed their ambition, tyranny, and avarice. For this very purpose, we are told, the wicked clergy of Bohemia and Moravia, and especially the bishops and abbots, combined together, and even contributed sums of money to be employed in procuring the condemnation and death of Huss; and all this, because they could not bear his faithful honest advice and admonition, and because he detected their abominable pride, simony, avarice, and debauchery.*
3. That some persons of the greatest weight in the council were actually influenced by these motives, is not a matter of mere conjecture. L'Enfant has given us the very words, in Latin, spoken by the emperor to the council, after the examination of Huss. The translation of them is as follows:
" You have heard the articles laid to the charge of
* L'Enfant. Mosheim. Diar. Hussit.
John Huss. They are grievous, numerous, and proved not only by credible witnesses, but by his own confes sion. In my opinion, there is not a single one among them which does not call for the punishment of fire. If therefore he do not retract all, I am for having him burnt. And even-though he should obey the council, I am of opinion, that he should be forbid to preach and instruct, or ever to set foot again in the kingdom of Bohemia. For if he be suffered to preach, and especially in Bohemia where he has a strong party, he will not fail to return to his natural bent, and even to sow new errors worse than the former. Moreover, I am of opinion, that the condemnation of his errors in Bohemia, ought to be sent to my brother the king of Bohemia, to Poland and to other countries where this doctrine prevails, with orders to cause all those who shall continue to believe and teach it, to be punished by the ecclesiastical authority and by the secular arm jointly. There is no remedy for this evil, but by thus cutting the branches as well as pulling up the root. Moreover, it is absolutely necessary that the bishops and other prelates, who have laboured here for the extirpation of this heresy, be recommended by the suffrages of the whole council to their sovereigns. Lastly, says the emperor, if there are any of John Huss's friends here at Constance, they ought to be restrained with all due severity, but especially his disciple Jerom." Whereupon some said that Jerom of Prague might perhaps be brought to reason by the punishment of his MASTER.
This lays open the true reason of that treatment, p. 213, which Huss was to have experienced in case he had retracted. The council dreaded his return in Bohemia. Even in the iniquitous sentence which they passed against him, they had the incautious effrontery to declare John Huss not a true preacher of the gospel of Christ according to the exposition of holy doctors, but rather one who in his public discourses seduced the christian people of Bohemia By His CompilaTions from the Scriptures.*
* Vid. Fascicul. rer. Sententia defin contra Huss. p. 302.
4. It is a lamentable truth that, in those days the disputes concerning the most abstract metaphysical subtilities were carried to such a height by the contending parties as to produce the greatest bitterness and animosity. Huss was attached to the party of the Realists as they were then called; and opposed with great warmth his adversaries the Nominalists. This circumstance is supposed to have contributed not 5 little to the unhappy fate of this pious Bohemian. For the tribunal at Constance was principally composed of nominalists, with the famous John Gerson at their head, who was the zealous patron of the faction and the mortal enemy of Huss. In the report which the popish writers sent to the king of France respecting the transactions at Constance, there is the following passage, " God raised up the catholic doctors Peter Allyaco and John Gerson, and many other learned Nominalists, who disputed, during forty days, at the council of Constance, with the heretics Jerom and John Huss, and vanquished them."*
Happy would it have been if these opposite sects of philosophers had confined themselves within the bounds of reason and argument, or even of mutual invectives; but they were accustomed to accuse each other of heresy and impiety, and had constantly recourse to penal laws and corporal punishments. Thus the leading Nominalists at Constance looked on themselves as personally offended with Huss, and would be satisfied with nothing short of the death of their powerful adversary. On the other hand, in 1479, the realists had sufficient weight and influence to procure the condemnation of John de Wesalia, a nominalist, of whose sufferings we shall presently give a brief account.f
It is needless to detain the reader with a minute detail of the distinctions between the realists and nominalists. Their principal point of contention seems to have been the existence or nonexistence of abstract or universal ideas. Strange infatuation! that a differ-ence of opinion in such abstruse and obscure subjects as these should ever have been supposed to amount to the sin against the Holyghost, or to a mortal offence against God, the christian religion, justice, and the commonwealth. " Can this blindness proceed from any other cause than the influence of Satan, who diverts us from good things and makes us apply to vain speculations, which neither inspire us with devotion towards God, nor with love and charity towards our neighbour." Such is the fine reflection of the anonymous author of the examination of John de Wesalia.* The angry disputations of these discordant sects continued till the appearance of Luther, who, by introducing more important subjects, soon put an end to the mutual wranglings of the scholastic divines.
* Baluz. Miscell. torn. iv. p. 534. f P. 411. of this volume.
There is a tradition, that John Huss, alluding to his own name which signifies a goose, predicted before his judges the reformation by Luther in the following terms. " This day ye roast a goose, but a hundred years hence a white swan will come which ye will never be able to put to death." This pretended prophecy, like many others, was probably made after the event.
L'Enfant mentions several medals which appear to have been struck for the purpose of commemorating the virtues of Huss. Two were preserved at Magdeburg, which have on one side the image of John Huss with his beard and mitre, with a book in his right hand, which Luther in a priest's habit, bareheaded and clasping the bible with both hands, looks on with pleasure. A third was in the private cabinet of a German count. On one side it represents Huss,-with these words, Sola Deo acceptos nos facit esse fides; faith alone renders us acceptable to God; and on the other side Luther with these words, Pestis eram vivus; moriens. ero mors tua, papa; I was a plague to thee,
0 pope, whilst living, and will be thy death when
* Fascicul. rer. exp.
The encomium passed by the same very impartial historian, on the private letters of Huss, is well worthy of notice.
" There is not a papist nor a protestant, I will venture to say, not a Turk, nor a pagan, who notwithstanding the hasty expressions dropped now and then in his letters, does not admire them for the dignity and piety of his sentiments, the tenderness of his conscience, his charity towards his enemies, his affection and fidelity to his friends, his gratitude to his benefactors, and above all his constancy of mind, accompanied with the most extraordinary modesty and humility."
After all, a very learned and profound ecclesiastical historian admits that there did appear in the conduct of Huss One Mark Of He Re Sy, which according to the maxims of the age, might expose him to condemnation with some appearance of justice; namely, His Inflexible Obstinacy; which the church of Rome always considered as a grievous heresy, even in those whose errors were of little moment.* Huss refused to abjure his errors; and in so doing he resisted that council which was supposed to represent the catholic church. Moreover he intimated with sufficient plainness that the church was fallible. All this was, certainly, highly criminal and intolerably heretical. For it became a dutiful son of the church to submit, without any exception, his own judgment to the judgment of his holy mother, and to believe firmly in her infallibility. The Roman church for many years had observed the rule of Pliny;f " in case of obstinate perseverance, I ordered them to be executed. For of this I had no doubt, that a sullen and obstinate inflexibility called for the vengeance of the magistrate." The discerning reader will determine for himself, how far Dr. Mosheim, in making these observations, is to be considered as speaking ironically.
* Mosh. Historia Eccl. p. 616. not. (a). f Page 167. vol, i. edit. 2. of this history.
JOHN DE WESALIA, Page 256,
Was a doctor of divinity of the fifteenth century. He might have been mentioned, p. 256, after Bernardin.
1. He taught doctrines which much displeased the catholics.
2. The archbishop of Mentz prosecuted him. John was imprisoned, and an assembly of popish doctors were convened to sit in judgment upon him in 1479.
3. He made a public recantation of his doctrines; but nevertheless was condemned to a perpetual penance in a monastery of the augustin friars, where he died soon after.
The protestants have certainly ranked him in the catalogue of the witnesses to the truth; but there may be a question whether his principles and his practice, taken together, entitle him to a place in this history. Very little is known concerning him, except from his examination before the German inquisitors, who most undoubtedly treated him with great harshness and severity.
By one author he appears to have been considered as an eminent christian; but this is the judgment of a person who shows himself on all occasions extremely attached to calvinistic tenets, and who has no mercy on arminians. And, if for the sake of brevity, I may be allowed the use of the words calvinist and arminian, as being terms well understood at this day, John de Wesalia was certainly a most rigid calvinist.
A long catalogue of charges were brought against him, from which it may be proper to select a few for the reader's perusal.
1. From everlasting, God hath written a book wherein he hath inscribed all his elect; and whosoever is not already written there, will never be written there at all. Moreover,
2. He that is written therein will never be blotted out
3. The elect are saved by the grace of God alone: and what man soever God willeth to save, by induing him with grace, if all the priests in the world were desirous to damn and excommunicate that man, he would still be saved. Whomsoever likewise God willeth to damn, he would still be damned, though the presbyters, the pope and others were willing to save him.
4. If there had never been any pope in the world, they who are saved, would have been saved. The pope, and bishops and priests contribute nothing to salvation: concord alone, and peace among men, and a peaceable way of living are sufficient.
5. Christ never appointed any particular fasts, nor forbade the use of flesh meat on any day.
6. If St. Peter appointed fasts, perhaps he did so for the purpose of having a better sale for his fish.
7. The holy oil is the very same as the oil which you eat at home.
8. The scriptures do not say that the holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.
9. Those who undertake pilgrimages to Rome are fools.
10. I consider nothing as sinful, which the scriptures have not declared to be so.
11. I despise the pope and his councils. I love Christ; and may his word dwell in us abundantly!
12. It is a difficult thing to be a christian.
13. Indulgences are nothing.
It was further objected to him in the course of his examination, that he had given it as his opinion, that St. Paul contributed nothing towards his conversion by his own freewill.
This account might lead us to" suspect, that there was something of a spirit of levity in the disposition of John de Wesalia. He seems to have seen clearly through several of the popish superstitions, and to have exposed them with zeal and freedom. Charity will certainly incline us to hope the best; nevertheless the christian reader cannot but wish there had been greater marks of personal contrition of soul, and of true humility at the cross of Christ. However, it ought not to be omitted, that John was an old man and bowed down with infirmities and disorders of long standing; and therefore he was probably not able to recollect what he had formerly advanced, or to express his thoughts distinctly before such a formidable tribunal of inquisitors. Fear compelled him at last to retract; but in the course of his trial, he had the spirit to say to the court, " If Christ were now present, and ye were to treat him as ye do me, H E might be condemned by you as a heretic. However," (the old man added with a smile,) "he would get the better of you by his acuteness."*
LUTHER. Page 273—296.
Though this chapter contains the most material circumstances relative to the earlier part of Luther's life, the reader may not be displeased to peruse the following passages, the substance of which is taken from the preface to the second volume of Luther's works. This preface is sometimes called the life of Luther, and is particularly valuable, because it was written by the pious Melancthon after Luther's decease, and because it is wanting in some of the copies of the Wittemberg Latin editions.f
The excellent writer begins thus:
The rev. Martin Luther had given reason to hope, that in the preface to this part of his writings he would have favoured us with some account of his own life, and of the occasion of those contests in which he was so much concerned. And no doubt he would have done so, if, before this volume was printed, he had
* Fascic. rer. vol. i. & Bayle. Crit. Diet.
f It has been published separately; but it is not easy to be met with.
Vol.. IV. 53
not been called from the present mortal life, to the eternal enjoyment of God and the heavenly church. A luminous review of his private life would have been peculiarly useful: the narrative must have been full of lessons for the admonition of posterity, and also full of examples for the encouragement of piety: moreover it would have confuted the slanderous fictions of his enemies; who insinuate, that he was stirred up by princes or others to undermine the dignity of bishops, or that he was induced, through the violence of private ambition, to break the bonds of monastic slavery.
It were much to be wished that such a narrative had been executed by himself with a copiousness of detail. For though the malevolent might have objected, that the author was trumpeting his own praise, we know very well, that H E was too grave a character, to have allowed the smallest deviation from truth. Besides, as many good and wise men are yet alive, who, he must have known, were well acquainted with all the transactions,—to have devised falsehoods under such circumstances must have been perfectly ridiculous.
I now proceed to recite, with the strictest regard to truth, such matters relative to his life, as I either actually saw or was told of by himself.
The parents of Luther took especial care in their daily instructions to educate their son in the knowledge and fear of God, and in a sense of his duty. The youth soon displayed very great talents, and particularly in an inclination to eloquence. With great ease he surpassed his schoolfellows in copiousness of language, both in prose and verse; and if he had been so fortunate as to have met with suitable teachers, his great capacity would have enabled him to go through all the sciences; neither is it improbable but the milder studies of a sound philosophy and a careful habit of elaborate composition might have been useful in moderating the vehemence of his natural temper: but at Erfurt he was introduced to the dry, thorny logic of the age; and his penetrating genius quickly made him master of all that was valuable in that subject.
His capacious mind, eager for knowledge, was not content with this. He proceeded to Cicero, Virgil, Livy, and the rest. Nor did he read these authors, as boys do, for the sake of the words, but for the instruction they furnish. He entered into the spirit of the writers; and as his memory was in an extraordinary degree tenacious, almost every thing he had read, was at hand for practice. Hence the superior genius of Luther became the admiration of the whole university.
His parents had intended these great powers of eloquence, and this vast strength of genius, to be employed in public business for the advantage of the state; but Luther, contrary to their judgment, suddenly left the study of the law, and entered the augustin monastery at Erfurt. There he not only gave the closest attention to ecclesiastical learning, but also personally submitted to the severest discipline. He far exceeded every one in all kinds of religious exercises, in reading, in arguing, in fasting, in praying. And as he was neither a little, nor a weak man, I have often been astonished to observe how little meat or drink he seemed to require. I have seen him, when he was in perfect health, absolutely neither eat nor drink during four days together; at other times I have seen him, for many days be content with the slight allowance of a very little bread and a herring on each day.
The immediate occasion of his commencing that course of life which he judged most adapted to sacred duties and the promotion of piety, was this, as he himself told me, and as many persons well knew. While he was deeply reflecting on the astonishing instances of the divine vengeance, so great alarm would suddenly affect his whole frame, as almost to frighten him to death. I was once present, when through intense exertion of mind in the course of an argument respecting some point of doctrine, he was so terrified, as to retire to a neighbour's chamber, place himself on the bed, and pray aloud, frequently repeating these words,
" He hath concluded all under sin, that he might have mercy upon all." These alarming agitations came upon him either for the first time, or, certainly, they were the severest in that year when he lost an intimate companion, Avho was killed, but I know not by what accident.
It was not. therefore, poverty, but the love of a pious life, which induced Luther to enter the monastery. And as this was his grand object, he was not content with the usual scholastic learning, though his proficiency in it was surprising. He was not in quest of fame, but of religious improvement. He soon comprehended the subtile processes of the schools, but his heart was not in those things. The fountains of SaCred And Heavenly Learning, that is, the writings of the prophets and the apostles, were more suited to his taste; and these he studied with the greatest avidity. The anxieties and terrors above mentioned had increased this turn of mind. He wished to know the Will Of God, to build his faith on the firmest foundations, and to cultivate an habitual reverence for the divine commands.
He used to say, that an elderly priest in the monastery, to whom he had opened the distresses of his conscience, had been of great use to him, by his discourses on the nature of faith, and by drawing his attention to that expression in the creed, " I believe in the remission of sins." The elderly priest interpreted this article as implying not merely a General BeLief, for the devils had a faith of that sort, but, that it was the command of God that each particular person should apply this doctrine of the remission of sins to his own particular case: and this interpretation, he said, was confirmed by a reference to a passage of St. Bernard, in one of his sermons, who maintains the same sentiment, and also produces the apostle Paul in support of the doctrine of free justification by faith.
This conversation proved a great comfort to the mind of Luther. He was led to attend to St. Paul's doctrine of justification by faith, which is so often inculcated by that apostle. By reading and comparing together different parts of the old and new testament, and by an increased dependence on God in daily prayer, he gradually acquired more light, and saw the emptiness of the usual interpretations of scripture.
He then began to read the works of Augustin, where he found many decisive passages which confirmed his idea of faith, and gave him much satisfaction. He read other divines, but stuck close to Augustin.
Frederic, the elector of Saxony, heard him preach; and much admired the excellent matter of his sermons, as well as the nervous language and genius of the preacher.*
Afterwards Luther undertook to expound the psalms and the epistle to the Romans. He showed the difference between the law and the gospel: he refuted the ancient pharisaical error, at that time prevalent both in the schools and the pulpit, that men by their own works may merit the remission of their sins, and be accounted righteous before God. Thus he recalled men's minds to the office of the Son of God; and, like John the Baptist, showed them the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world. Moreover, he taught them, that remission of their sins is freely for Christ's sake, and that this benefit is to be received by faith.
This revival of most excellent doctrine procured him a great and extensive authority; especially as the Life of the man harmonized with his professions. His language was not merely that of the lips, but proceeded from the heart. The proverb was remarkably verified in this case: " The pious conduct of a man maketh his speech persuasive." It was this circumstance, namely, the sanctity of his life, that induced some excellent characters to comply with the plans which he afterwards proposed of changing certain established ceremonies.
* Page 277.
Not that Luther, at this time, meditated the smallest innovation on the customary observances. On the contrary, he was a most rigid disciplinarian; and had broached nothing to alarm. But he was illustrating more and more those doctrines of which All stand in need, the doctrines of repentance, remission of sins, faith, and the true consolations of the cross. Pious christians were delighted with these things; and even learned men were much pleased to see Christ, the prophets, and the apostles, brought, as it were, out of darkness and prison; and to hear of the difference between law and gospel, and their promises, and between philosophy and the word of God; concerning which important matters, not a line was to be found in Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and such like. Add to this, the writings of Erasmus proved great incitements to the cultivation of the Greek and Latin languages. Luther himself diligently studied Hebrew and Greek for the purpose of obtaining a more perfect knowledge of the scriptures.
Such were the employments of Luther at the time when those prostitute indulgences were first proclaimed by that most impudent dominican Tetzel. Burning with the love of every thing that was godly, and irritated by Tetzel's shameful discourses, he published some propositions concerning the nature of indulgences. The dominican, in return, publicly burnt Luther's propositions, and menaced the heretic himself with the flames. In a word, the outrageous conduct of Tetzel and his associates absolutely compelled Luther to discuss the subject at length, in support of the cause of truth.
In this manner began the controversy between the reformers and the papists. As yet Luther never dreamt of changing any one of the rites of the church, nor even of intirely rejecting indulgences. They, therefore, charge him falsely, who say that he made use of the affair of the indulgences as a plausible pretext for subverting the establishment, or for increasing either his own power or that of others.
Frederic of Saxony, in particular, conducted himself agreeably to the known character of that prince. He neither incited nor applauded Luther: he was ever distinguished as a lover of peace; and it was with a painful concern that he beheld the prospect of still greater dissensions.
But he was a wise man, and was influenced not merely by worldly maxims, which always direct us to crush as quickly as possible the slightest beginnings of every innovation: he reverenced the Divine commands, which enjoin attention to the gospel, and forbid an obstinate resistance to the truth. Thus this prince submitted to God, read his word with diligence, and never discouraged whatever his judgment pointed out to him as sound doctrine. Moreover, I know that he often asked wise and learned men to give him their sentiments freely on the disputed points; and in particular at Cologne he besought Erasmus to open his mind to him respecting the controversies in which Luther was engaged. There Erasmus spoke without disguise: " The man is right; but there is a want of mildness i» him."*
On this head duke Frederic afterwards wrote to Luther, and exhorted him in the most serious manner, to moderate the asperity of his style.
It is also well known that Luther promised cardinal Cajetan to be silent, provided his adversaries were also enjoined silence. From which it most clearly appears that he had, at that time, formed no purpose of raising contests in the church, but wished for peace; till ignorant writers provoked him on all sides, and drew him into fresh disputes.
The grand question concerning the supremacy of the Roman see was raised by Eckius for the purpose of inflaming the hatred of the pope and of princes against Luther.
Our reformer, not only in the beginning of the contest, undertook the cause of truth, without the leas* motive of private ambition, but also remained, throughout the course of it, always mindful of his own peculiar department; so that though he was naturally of an ardent and passionate temper, yet he constantly disclaimed the use of force, or of any other arms but those of argument and instruction. He wisely distinguished between things that were totally different in every way; for example, the duties of a bishop instructing the church of God, and of a magistrate holding the sword as a restraint on the licentious multitude.
* Pajje 293
Accordingly, when Satan, who loves to disgrace religion by the ruinous errors of poor miserable men, raised up several seditious characters to excite tumults and irregularities, Luther was ever the man to condemn such outrages in the strongest language; and, both by his precept and example, to adorn and strengthen the bonds of social order and polity. When I SeRiously Reflect On This Matter, and consider how many great men in the church have failed in this very point, I do not hesitate to affirm distinctly, that no human care or diligence alone could have been equal to this effect; but that there must also have been a divine principle which illumined and directed his mind, and preserved him so constantly within the proper limits of his duty.
" Render unto Cesar the things that are Cesar's, and unto God the things that are God's," was his constant exhortation: in other words, worship God in true penitence and in an open avowal of the truth, in true prayer and in a conscientious discharge of duties: and obey with reverence and in the fear of God all the civil regulations of the community to which you belong. These were the very rules to which Luther himself adhered in his practice. He gave to God the things which are God's. He taught the truth, and he offered up his prayers to God on right principles; he likewise possessed the other virtues which are pleasing to God. Lastly, as a citizen, he avoided every thing that had the smallest tendency to sedition. These virtues rank so high in my estimation, that in this life, I think, greater accomplishments cannot be desired.
■ But while we praise the excellencies of the man who made so becoming a use of his heavenly gifts, it is our bounden duty to give particular thanks to God, that he hath been pleased, through Luther's means, to restore to us the light of the gospel; and it is also our duty to preserve and spread the doctrine which he taught. It is this doctrine which must guide our prayers, and even our whole lives. It is this doctrine, of which the Son of God says, " If any man love me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him."
In fact, a false philosophy, and the succeeding errors of Pelagius, had exceedingly corrupted the pure faith of the scriptures. St. Augustin was raised up by God to restore it in a measure; and I doubt not but if he could now judge of the controversies of the present age, he would be decidedly with us.
With my whole heart, I pray to the eternal God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that for his own and his Son's glory, he would collect together the eternal church by the voice of his gospel: and may he direct our wills by his holy Spirit, and preserve in its purity that doctrine which he hath revived among us through the ministry of Martin Luther!
The Son of God himself prayed, " Father, sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." To this prayer of our Highpriest we would add our own petitions, that true religion may ever shine among us and direct our lives. These were the daily prayers of Luther, and continued to be so till his soul was called from his mortal body, which took place without struggle in the sixty-third year of his age.
The reader has now before him the Substance of a considerable part of Melancthon's account of Luther, written very soon after the death of that reformer. The known integrity, piety, and moderation of the writer render his preface to the second volume of Luther's works peculiarly valuable. An exact translation was deemed unnecessary. It was thought best
Vol. IV. 54
to condense the Matter into as little room as possible, and not to interrupt the detail of the biographer by introducing any particulars from other authorities. The facts, which were already mentioned in the preceding history, are in general omitted in these extracts. A trifling repetition sometimes could not well be avoided, and will be excused by the indulgent reader, on account of the instructive remark or opinion which accompanies it. The positive judgment and declaration of Melancthon, whenever they can be had, respecting the circumstances or events in which he himself was immediately concerned, cannot fail to be instructive.
But in this instance, as in many others, it has unfortunately happened that those passages of this little tract, which are most deeply practical, and which peculiarly relate to Luther's penitential convictions, and to his progress in spiritual understanding, during the earlier years of his religious course, have been almost intirely overlooked by historians and memorialists. The consequence has been, that certain precious fragments of the secret thoughts and practice of the reformer, though authentic beyond all dispute, are scarcely known among protestants in general. The pious and enlightened reader of every denomination will, no doubt, be gratified in seeing them brought forward and recorded here.
Melancthon, in another place, has given a very decided testimony to the talents of Luther.
" Pomeranus," says he, " is a grammarian, and explains the force of words; I profess logic, and teach both the management of the matter, and the nature of argumentation. Justus Jonas is an orator, and discourses with copiousness and elegance; but Luther is Omnia In Omnibus, complete in every thing; a very miracle among men; whatever he says, whatever he writes, penetrates their minds, and leaves the most astonishing stings in their hearts."
The same author assures us that he often found Luther at prayer, with vehemence and tears imploring God for the whole church. He daily set apart a portion of time for reading psalms, and for earnest supplication; and would often say, he was not pleased with those, who through indolence or a multiplicity of employment, contented themselves with mere sighs instead of actual prayers. Forms of prayer, he said, were prescribed to us by the will of God; that the reading of them might warm our affections, and that our voices might profess aloud the God whom we serve and implore.*
The religious student of ecclesiastical history naturally finds himself interested in every event where Luther is materially concerned. This does not arise from curiosity alone. Much light is often thrown on the characters of eminent men, from a knowledge of their conduct under peculiar or extraordinary circumstances, provided the facts be but stated with accuracy.