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Century XVI, Chapter XII


From The Death Of The Elector Of Saxony, To The Conclusion Ok Luther's ControVersy With Erasmus.

The Marriage Of Luther.
Controversy With Erasmus.
Continuation Of The Controversy.

About the latter part of the year 1524, the monastery of Wittemberg was reduced to almost perfect insignificance, by the death or desertion of the monks, which had taken place in the course of a few years. In the month of October there were left in it only the Prior, and Luther; and the latter availed himself of that opportunity to resign the title and habit of an Augustine Monk, and in future was called merely Doctor or Professor Martin Luther. He had long been desirous of taking this step, but, well knowing the elector's aversion to innovation, he had delayed to press the point. At last he expressed a wish to Spalatinus that he might have the prince's final answer, and he promised never more to importune him on the subject. Frederic with some humour and much good nature, sent him a piece of cloth, and told him he was at liberty to wear it in whatever shape he pleased *.

The character of the Saxon Reformer seems greatly misunderstood. Many persons conceive him, in general, to have been rash and hasty in his conduct; • Comment, de Luth. CLXXVIII.

Chap, mistaking, I think, a few vehement and impetuous , *lL , expressions in his language, for random, indigested decisions of his understanding. On a close examination of his practice, we shall find that few men have been more patient in investigation, or more deliberate in resolution. He was remarkably so in the very delicate and interesting questions which occurred in the earlier part of the Reformation, Fir.t m»r- respecting the celibacy of the clergy. The first riageofa clergyman who married a wife in Saxony, was the iu'suon*" curate of Kemberg, named Bartholomew Bernard, A. D. in the year 1521. Cardinal Albert, archbishop of 1521. Magdeburg, summoned him to appear at Halle, and requested the elector to enjoin episcopal obedience to his subject. But the cautious Frederic, by a dexterous civility, protracted the affair; and in the meantime Melancthon composed for the man a learned defence, addressed to the officials of the ecclesiastical court. The tender conscience of Luther appears to have hesitated longer than even Melancthon himself, respecting the obligation of voluntary monastic vows. At length from his Patmos issued his admirable tract on this subject, which gave a fatal blow to the whole papal system*. He

* See page 6 of this Vol. Luther himself is known to have set a high value on this treatise, and to have considered it as the most unanswerable of all that he had ever written.

In our days there is no need to insist much on arguments against celibacy, but it may be worth while to take notice how this acute Reformer keeps his eye constantly on the popish doctrine of the Merit of works. " There can be no doubt," says he, " but that to break a vow is contrary to the laws of God. We must observe, however, that Only such vows can be meant, as are lawful. Now there is neither in Scripture, nor in the history of the primitive church, any precept or example in favour of monastic vows : they are restraints of mere human invention.

" In regard to works, evangelical faith does not set ihem aside, but directs us not to put our trust in theni: It enlightens the conscience, and teaches men the principle on which they are to perform good works ; namely, from a real love of doing good to our neighbour, and for the sake of keeping the body in subjection ; not from servile fear, or a view to justification. Such

treatise on astic

had sent the manuscript to Spalatinus, for the in- Cknt. spection of the elector and his court, and soon after xx L it was not to be found. The author suspected it was purposely detained, to prevent the publication of it. " You could not have vexed me worse," says he to Spalatinus, " if indeed the papers are secreted by you. The circumstances press for their publication; Luti.er s and if either they are lost, or you will not restore Son " them, my mind will be so irritated, that in future Vows, I shall plead the same cause with more force and A- D* vehemence. You may burn my papers to a cinder, 1522but you cannot extinguish the spirit of the writer*." I find they were not published till January 1522^

Through the labours of Luther and his Wit- Sp»iatint» temberg coadjutors, the understandings of men were u"'TM"m become so much enlightened, and their prejudices ' ' abated, that even Spalatinus himself entered into the married state in the latter part of the year 1525%. However, he did not venture on this bold step till Luther himself had set him the example a few months before.

Luther was about forty years old when he married Luther Catharine Bore, a virtuous nun of noble parentage. cuth.'Bore. It is astonishing how his enemies exulted upon this occasion. They not only condemned the conduct of them both, with as much confidence as if they could allege that Scripture authority for the monastic state, which Protestants can do for the matrimonial, but represented Luther as an infamous, hardened sensualist, who had neither command of his passions, nor regard for his reputation; and his wife as an abandoned strumpet, who had lived in the most licentious manner for more than two years among the young academics.—These foolish and wicked • Ep. I. 253. • t Luth. Op. Jen. II. 477. J Amoen. Lit. IV. 427.

works, strictly speaking, are not wrought under the covenant of the law, but of grace; they are the effect of Christ himself working in us by faith, and are therefore as necessary and indispensable as faith itself." Luth. de Vot. Monast. III.

Chap, accusations are effectually refuted by history, which does abundant justice to the moral character of both the parties.

But several of the very best friends of Luther did not think his marriage well timed*. Justus Jonas was so affected with the idea that the Reformation would suffer materially by this event, that he burst into tears the first time he saw his friend in the character of a husband. So he writes to Spalatinus, and adds, " I pray God to bless him abundantly; he is the best and sincerest of men, and our most inestimable father in the Lordf." Melancthon also was aware that the Reformer's conduct, in this instance, would probably give rise to much profane and ill-natured criticism; and that he would be represented as a man of no feeling, now that Saxony was in tears for the loss of Frederic the Wise, and all Germany covered with the slain in the Rustic War.—" But the taunts and revilings of irreligious men," he said, " were to be disregarded.—The man had done nothing that was reprehensible. He was of a lively, social, generous turn of mind, and by nature itself formed for the married state; no wonder, therefore, that he had given way to his innocent inclinations: for as to certain slanderous reports which were in circulation, it was well known that the whole was unfounded calumny." Melancthon then adds, " that though even an opinion of some degree of indiscretion in Luther should prevail, it might have its uses, because an exceedingly high reputation was always a very dangerous thing." However, upon observing that his friend's change of situation had produced in him some unusual marks of gloom and discomposure, he said he omitted no endeavour to console him. Moreover, granting him to have fallen into an error, that circumstance ought not in the least to affect his doctrine. But, he repeated, there was * Scult. 275. f Aina-nitat. IV. 424.

no room for accusation; for he was in possession Cent. of the most decisive proofs of his piety and love v ■ of God*

Compare these judicious and Christian reflections with the malignant, sarcastic credulity of Erasmus, who acquainted the president of the court of Holland, that " the Lutheran tragedy would end, like the quarrels of princes, in matrimony. A monk has married a nun; and that you may know this marriage was contracted under happy auspices, the lady was brought to bed about fourteen days after the bridal song had been chanted. Now Luther begins to be more mild, and not to write with his accustomed violence. There is nothing which a wife cannot tame." To another person he owned afterwards, that this scandalous report was without foundation; and added, in his usual jocose and sarcastic style, that Luther's wife was now said to be pregnant; but that, in regard to the vulgar notion concerning the birth of Antichrist from the connexion of a monk and a nun, if that were true, the world had at this present time many thousand Antichrists.

After all, Luther's own observations on his marriage are the most satisfactory.

In November 1524, he declares he had then no Lather'* intention to marry; not that he was either a stone or a log of wood, but because, on account of the marriage, reproach of heresy under which he laboured, he expected every day might be his lastf. In the May succeeding, for the first time, as far as is known, he expressed his resolution to marry Catharine Bore J. On the seventeenth of June he writes thus to his friend Stifelius, a clergyman: " Pray for me, that God may bless and sanctify to me this new mode of life. Some of our wise ones are exceedingly irritated. They are however compelled

• July 21, 1525, to Joach. Gamer. IV. -24.
+ Ep. II. 545. t Seck. II. 17.

Chap, to own that marriage is a divine ordinance; but the t Xii' . character* of me and my Catharine is the bug-bear that frightens them out of their senses, and makes them both think and talk profanely. But the Lord lives, and is on my side. He is my helper, and 1 will not fear what man can dof-" The marriage had taken place four days before the date of this letter, and he gives several reasons for the hastiness of the measure J. His!««« i. I have now, says he, stopped the mouths of tinusPon his tne calumniators of me and Catharine Bore. You, marrUge. my Spalatinus, must not only be present at the A. D. wedding-dinner, but also endeavour to procure us 1525- some venison. Pray that God may bless us. In the opinion of some, 1 have made myself contemptible; but nevertheless, I trust, angels smile, and demons weep, at what I have done. How inconsistent are these over-wise men, to call that impious and diabolical in me, which in every one else they allow to be a pious and sacred action! Wittemb. June 16, 1525.

2. Providence, in a wonderful manner, and when I was thinking of other things, has suddenly joined me in marriage to C. Bore. June 20.

3. I could not deny my father's earnest request. He is anxious that I should have children. Besides, I judged it right to confirm, by my own example, the doctrine I have taught; for I observe many are still pusillanimous, notwithstanding this great light of the Gospel. I do not pretend to be violently in love, but I have a sincere affection and esteem for my wife. On Tuesday next my parents will be present at the wedding-dinner, and I do intreat you by all means to come. The poor peasants are cut to pieces in every quarter. It is reported that the duke George is so inflated with the successes against them, that he intends to demand my person

* One a Monk, and the other a Nun. \ Ep. II. 294. I June 13, Amccn Liu

to be given up, conceiving me of the same stamp with Munzer. Christ will defend me*.

4. On the twenty-ninth of the succeeding September, he writes thus to the same Stifelius. " If it was really agreeable to the will of God that I should marry, what wonder is it that my conduct should not harmonize with carnal views and sentiments? If the world were not offended with me, I should have reason to suspect I had not supported the Christian character. Worldly men were offended even with God manifested in the flesh. Our two princes confess and support the Gospel openly f. We have resigned the revenues of the monastery to the elector: I live in it as a private master of a family, while God permits. I conjecture my life will be short, now that I see not only the princes in general, but the people also are enraged against me J. It was therefore by no means in the expectation of a long life that I entered into the married state; but, on the contrary, as I may be taken off suddenly, and as my doctrine respecting the lawfulness of the marriage of the clergy may possibly be treated with contempt after my death, I was desirous of showing my weaker brethren that I acted up to my principles§

5. Lastly, in the latter part of the succeeding year he writes thus: " God of his great goodness hath blessed me with a fine healthy little Luther; and my rib Kate is also in excellent plight, and is in all things courteous and obliging to me, much beyond what I could have ventured to hope. I am thankful to God, and would not change my poverty for the riches of Crossus||."

There are but two points respecting the marriage of Luther, which can at all interest the Protestant

* To Amsdorf, June si, p. 295.
T The new elector John, and his son.

t He means the rustic malecontents, who were highly displeased because he declared himself so strongly against their rebellious spirit.

§ Ep. II. p. 300. || To Stifel. p. 318.

reader. Firstly, what were his own reflections near the time of that event, both before and after ? and 2dly, what effects did it produce on the minds of his most sincere friends? for, in regard to his enemies, their slander and misrepresentation were to be expected, and no further notice needs be taken of them. It was with a view to satisfy these two points, that we have been so minute in this part of the narrative, and marked the dates of the letters with so much precision. Beausobre represents Luther, when he came to reflect coolly on the step he had taken, as repentant, afflicted, excessively low-spirited, and even deeply melancholic*. But the attentive student, having now before him sufficient materials to form his own judgment, will consider whether this colouring is not a great deal too high and unwarranted. Scultetus's statement appears to me both much more candid, and much more agreeable to the facts, when he says; "Luther, on account of his unexpected change of situation, and the various sentiments of mankind, was in some degree discomposed : however, as soon as he had collected himself, he wrote to Stifelius," ' Pray for me,' &c. See above, page 251. Now this letter, as I have observed, was written only four days after the day of his marriage, so that he was not very long in collecting himself. Further, not one syllable appears to have dropped from Luther himself, to excite a suspicion that he repented of his marriage, or was low-spirited afterwards f. On the contrary, a good conscience, confidence in Providence, and resignation to the Divine will, characterize all his letters written upon this subject, without a single exception; and moreover, they are all expressed with his accustomed vigour and precision: yet who sees not that all this may have been perfectly consistent with an

* Vol. III. p. 021.

t He lived twenty years with her in the greatest harmony. Seek. II. 18.

unusual degree of thoughtfulness for some time, and Cent.

even of uneasiness and discomposure in his general *VL

deportment, upon so important a change of life? And this, we have seen, is allowed by Melancthon, and also by Scultetus, resting on his authority.

That several of Luther's good friends were exceedingly alarmed for the consequences, is, however, not to be denied. Justus Jonas, we have seen, wept upon the occasion; and Doctor Scurfius is said to have declared, that if this monk married, he would thereby undo all he had done, and that the World and the Devil would be pleased. Luther, on hearing this speech, concluded directly otherwise, namely, that as the action was lawful and right, his marriage would infallibly vex Both*. Melancthon, also, there is no doubt, is to be reckoned among those who were deeply affected on this occasion t; and Beausobre thinks, it was because Luther had too great an opinion of the prudence of his friend, that he did not trust to him his secret intention to marry. Luther's own intimations are to me more satisfactory. From these I collect, that one reason both for his haste and his secrecy was, that he might be joined in matrimony, as he says, with Catharine, Before He Should Be Compelled To Hear A Tumult Of Vociferous OpposiTion^. Moreover, being perfectly aware of the natural timidity of Melancthon's disposition, he did not invite him to supper on the evening of his marriage ; and I entirely agree with the acute author of the Commentary on Lutheranism, that the omission appears to have given some degree of temporary offence. But Melancthon loved Luther too well to harbour long the slightest alienation of mind. Accordingly, on the fourth day after the marriage, we find M\ writing in the best possible humour to a Distant clergyman, W. Lincus, thus, " Doctor

* Sec. 17. t Vita Melan. Canier.

X Letter to Amsdorf, 295.

Chap. Martin is married. May this prove a happy event!

t xlL , He would have invited you to the marriage-dinner,

but he feared to put you to expense. By our friendship I do intreat you to come. It will afford more ample matter for Doctor Scurfius's declamation*."

On the whole, there is the fullest evidence, that, of all his coadjutors in the business of the Reformation, Luther himself was the slowest to admit the lawfulness of the marriage of monks. In the year 1,521 he expresses his surprise " that his Wittemberg friends now carry the matter so far as to allow even monks to marry. However, says he, they shall not force a wife upon MEf." And during the same year he discusses the question of celibacy, in long letters with Melancthon, to this effect; " What then, am I also at liberty to marry? Am I no longer a monk? It should seem that because I supplied you with a wife, you wish to take your revenge upon me; but depend upon it, I will take effectual care not to be caught in your snares."

All his doubts, however, on this subject were completely done away in a very short time after, and he gave his sentiments to the public without reserve J. Lastly, having thus attained true Scriptural views of the nature of Christian liberty, when the proper moment for his own marriage, as he thought, arrived, he acted according to those views without hesitation, under the full conviction that he was doing right, and in confident expectation of the Divine blessing. In all this there is no inconsistency in Luther. Still, the soundness of his discretion is called in question, for marrying a wife at the melancholy conjuncture of affairs in Germany, the Rustic civil war being scarcely over, and Frederic the Wise lately dead. Those, however, will acquit him of all blame, who think with Seckendorf, " That in time of war, or on

• Amoen. Lit. IV. 425. This clergyman had also been an Augustine monk, and had married a wife. Seek. 214. t Ep. II. 240. to Spalat. ; See page 248.

the decease of princes, men are not bound, either Cent. by law or reason, to abstain from matrimonial . xyij , contracts."

If censure on these accounts had been any where due, one might wonder that it should nothave fallen on so celebrated a reformer as Spalatinus himself, who lived many years with Frederic, as his domestic chaplain and private secretary. Spalatinus not only actually married his wife a few months after the elector's death, but even solicited that prince's leave, during his last illness, to marry and to leave his court; and it does not appear that he thereby gave any offence to his master, or acted inconsistently with the prevalent maxims of the times. I cannot but observe, that the sentiments of the several actors in these scenes would have been better understood, if the dates of their private letters had been more attentively considered by historians, and some expressions contained in them interpreted more agreeably to the meaning of the originals. Melancthon's letter to Camerarius is in Greek ; those of Luther, Spalatinus, and the rest, are in Latin.

It is to me utterly unaccountable that Beausobre Marriage of should positively affirm that Spalatinus and Me- Mc^hou. lancthon married in the year 1524*; whereas all ir"20° the accounts agree that the former was married at J Altenburg in November 1525!, and the latter so Marmgeof

o 1 t \ • 1 . Spalalinus,

early as the year 1,520 J. Luther, in a letter writ- A D ten in 1522, mentions the birth of Hannah, whom 15*25. he calls the elegant daughter of Philip §; and Camerarius his biographer informs us, that Melancthon, not long after the Leipsic disputation, married a very reputable virgin of an ancient family in the city of Wittemberg, and lived with her for thirty-seven years ||. In fact, the marriage took

• III. 136. t Amoen. Lit. IV. 427. Sec. I. 22. 314. II. 3°X S.44- § Ep. II.92. || P. 36.

Chap, place on the 25th of November, 1520, and appears xu' to have been brought about by the interference and advice of Luther *.

Controversy With Erasmus.

Every Student of the history of the Reformation finds both instruction and amusement in observing the conduct of Erasmus. On his merits, as a restorer of learning, though it is scarcely possible to express ourselves too strongly, we need say no more. His well-earned honours in that respect are beyond the reach either of calumny or envy. It is the purity of his Christian principles, and the integrity and conscientiousness of his motives, which are called in question. His writings against monks and friars are allowed to have been of considerable service in abating the attachment of mankind to Popery; yet a most excellent judge f has not scrupled to affirm, that, through an excessive desire to be applauded for politeness, elegance, and moderation, no man had injured the cause of Luther so much as Erasmus. In fact, Erasmus himself boasts of his services in this respect to the Romish cause, and intimates how ill he had been requited J. The real character of this great man may be better known by a judicious selection of a few extracts from his own writings, than the numerous and contradictory accounts of his enemies and his advocates. Several passages, conducive to this purpose, will, I trust, be found in different parts of this History.

The weak side of Erasmus was his disposition at all times to court the favour of persons of rank and distinction; and it was through their incessant importunities that he was at length prevailed on, though with much reluctance, to enter the lists

* Melch. Ad. Vit. Mel. Ep. Luth. I. 278. II. 7.

f Seek. 201. J Ep. Sylv. Prier. et Georg. Due. Sax.

against Luther. The papal advocates who had hitherto appeared in the controversy had done their own cause no good. The reformers were growing more bold and numerous every day. The ancient hierarchy was shaken to its very foundations ; and it was become sufficiently manifest, that neither ecclesiastical menaces, nor ecclesiastical punishments, could retard the progress of the new doctrines. The wisest and most moderate of the Roman Catholics saw plainly that the church had lost much of its credit with the people in general, and that nothing could materially serve their cause, but what tended to regain the Public Opinion-. For the purpose of compassing so important an end, they all, to a man, fixed their eyes on Erasmus. Not very anxious respecting his private sentiments in religion, they were fully convinced of his qualifications for the task they wished him to undertake. An extensive erudition, a perspicuous and eloquent style, and especially an exquisite vein of sarcastic humour, marked this celebrated scholar as the proper champion to engage Luther. Accordingly, neither pains nor artifice were spared to secure his services. Princes, and prelates, and cardinals, and even the pope himself, were most assiduous in touching those strings, the vibrations of which they judged most likely to gratify his pride, stimulate his ambition, and awaken his natural timidity. King Henry VIII. of England is known to have entreated him to commence active hostilities against Luther ; and the pope Adrian himself, in two memorable epistles, condescended to act the same suppliant part. The consummate address, artful flatteries, and lavish praises, used by the pontiff on this occasion, do but little accord with that reputation which some would allow him, for simplicity of manners, and ignorance of mankind*. The duke George

* Append. Adrian to Erasmus,

of Saxony, agreeably to that sincerity and openness, which were indeed parts of his character as well as his violence and bigotry, exhorted Erasmus to take up his pen, and come forward as quickly as possible, and attack Luther openly; or, he said, there would be a general outcry against him, as one who had neglected his duty, and neither cared for the dignity of the church, nor the purity of the Gospel. " He ought to have done this several years ago; when he might very easily have extinguished the little flame, which had since increased to an immense conflagration. Whereas the little skirmishes which he had had with the heretic never looked like serious fighting; and the consequence had been, that many persons considered him as in reality of the same sentiments with the man whom he treated with so much lenity and forbearance*." Erasmus, in his answer to the duke, said he had hitherto not yielded to his highness's solicitations, for two reasons: i. Both his age and his disposition forbade him to engage in so very dangerous a business. He had really a sort of instinctive aversion to religious controversies. 2. He had considered Luther's doctrine, whatever it might be, as a species of " necessary evil, from which he had hoped that, in the present very corrupt state of the church, some good might arise. He had never had the smallest connexion with him, but he could not bear that his own moderation should be at last construed into a dishonourable collusion. He therefore at length came forward into the field. Both the king of England, and pope Clement VII. had urged him to take this step 1f."

Erasmus had sent to this pope his Paraphrase on the Acts of the Apostles; and, at the same time, expressed his inviolable attachment to the Roman See, and boasted of having refused the most pressing solicitations, even of great princes, to join Luther

• Ep. 800. f Ep. 813. 743. t Ep. Clement. 783.

Clement, in return, made him most magnificent pro- Cent. mises, and gave him two hundred florins, which t x^1' Erasmus declares he would not have accepted, unless the pope had particularly specified that the money was merely an acknowledgment for the book*. Cardinal Campeggio also, in three flattering epistles, had requested to have a conference with him at Nuremberg, and afterwards sent express messengers to Basil to receive his advice f- Nothing could be more grateful to Erasmus, than to be thus looked up to by persons in high stations. Princes, he tells us, from all quarters, exhorted him to write against Luther. He sent a trusty servant to England, for the purpose of removing a suspicion, which had been injected into the mind of Henry VIII. that he had assisted Luther in his reply to the king; and he expresses great satisfaction that this step had been attended with much success. His servant was rewarded; his old friends were increased and confirmed in their affections: also Henry and Cardinal Wolsey had even condescended to make their apologies to him J. In fact Henry VIII. had Erasmus solicited him to take the field against Luther in such Henryvin. strong terms, that early in the year 1523 we find A. D. Erasmus declaring he could no longer refuse com- 1523. pliance without absolutely affronting that monarch^. Accordingly, in the September of the same year, he wrote to the King, " I am meditating something against the novel doctrines, but I dare not publish it before I leave Germany, lest I should fall a victim before I should appear in the contest ||."

But of all the bigots who importuned Erasmus to commence an attack on the German Reformer, none was more violent, or used more acrimonious and unchristian language, than Tonstall, Bishop of London. Luther's treatise on the abolition of the

• Ep. Pirck, 803. + Ibid, and 794. \ Ep. i8(io.

* Ep. 744. || Ep. 773

Chap. Mass seems to have particularly offended this angry xy- , prelate. He asks, " What can the heretic do more, unless he means to abolish Christ himself, as indeed I hear the Divine Virgin is rejected by his followers ?" He then proceeds, " By the sufferings and blood of Christ, by the glory which you hope for in heaven, I exhort and conjure you, Erasmus, nay, the Church entreats and conjures you, to encounter this many-headed monster ! You are now advanced in years, and, I pray, how can you conclude your life better than in driving back into his den, by the sword of the Spirit, this Cerberus, who by his dismal barking so insults all the ecclesiastical orders * ?"

These and similar multiplied and reiterated importunities, to which we may probably add the fear of losing the pension which he received from England f, at length determined Erasmus to become an open adversary of the Reformers.

* Ep. 772. T Seck. 309.


1. The Diatribe.

2. Luther's Treatise De Servo Arbitrio.

3. Scriptural Arguments Used In The Con


4. Further Account Of The Same Contro


5. Luther's Arguments From St. Paul And

St. John.

6. The Reply Of Erasmus. Hyperapistes.

7. Scepticism Of Erasmus.

8. Orthodoxy Of Luther Compared With The

Scepticism Of Erasmus. p. Melancthon's Judgment Of The ControVersy Between Luther And Erasmus.

10. Hostility Of Erasmus: His Apologies.

11. Inconsistency And Levity Of Erasmus.

1. The Diatribe.

In the autumn of 1524, this elegant scholar published his dissertation, called Diatribe, on the Freedom of the Will; having first sent a part of the manuscript to Henry VIII. for the approbation of that prince, who always pretended to a considerable degree of theological acumen. Perhaps the author hoped by this flattering attention to induce Henry to engage for the expenses of the publication; as he took care to inform his majesty, that no printer at Basil would dare to undertake his or any wbrk


which contained a word against Luther, and that therefore he must print the book some where else. " We may, however," said he, " write what we please against the pope. Such is the present state of Germany*."

In editing his treatise on Free Will, Erasmus appears to have valued himself very much upon his courage, and to have expected mighty consequences from the publication. " The little book," says he, " is out; and though written with the greatest moderation, will, if I mistake not, excite most prodigious commotions. Already pamphlets fly at my head fAgain, " The die is cast: my little book on Free Will is published : a bold deed, believe me, if the situation of Germany at this time be considered : I expect to be pelted; but I will console myself with the example of your majesty, who has not escaped their outrages J." Very much in the same style he expresses himself to Cardinal Wolsey, and adds, " I have not chosen to dedicate this work to any one, lest my calumniators should instantly say that in this business I had been hired to please the great: otherwise I should have inscribed it to you, or the pope §."

The Reader, whose expectations may have been raised by all this ostentatious parade, will be greatly disappointed on the perusal of the Diatribe of Erasmus. It is evidently the production of a man who has scoured the surface of his question, but by no means penetrated into its substance. The author affects much moderation, and would persuade us that he scarcely undertakes to decide : he pretends only to Confer, or to Inquire. An experienced disputant, however, soon perceives, that, under a garb of modesty and diffidence, there is in this performance a firm attachment in some degree

• Ep. 774. Jortin, 322. + To Tonstall, 813.

J To Henry VIII. 816. § To Wolsey, 809.

at least to the Pelagian tenets*. Close reasoning was not the province of Erasmus, and he constantly betrays a consciousness of being out of his element. He uses plenty of inconclusive argument, but is nevertheless abundantly positive.

The ablest defenders of the Freedom of the Will have owned their entire inability to reconcile the prescience of the Deity with the contingency of human actions, or the responsibility of created intelligent beings; but Erasmus, like a true controversialist who conceived it his chief business to conquer, chooses rather to have recourse to scholastic subtilities and distinctions, than candidly to acknowledge his ignorance in a matter which has hitherto exceeded the skill of philosophy.

In reading the Diatribe, persons will be affected differently, according to circumstances. Those who have not made this contentious question their study, may be pleased with the writer's elegant flow of classical Latinity; but if they are of a religious turn of mind, they will be puzzled and confounded as to the grand points in debate, rather than materially enlightened or consoled. Those who have well digested the arguments on both sides, and are aware of the respective difficulties, and know precisely where in this business all human reasoning and research ought to stop, will be convinced how ill-qualified Erasmus was to elucidate difficulties respecting the volitions of the human mind, especially theological difficulties. These they will find neither cleared up in the Diatribe, which indeed may be impossible in some instances, nor yet distinctly stated, which is the next thing to be aimed at, and is always possible.

* The learned Reader will be aware, that besides Pelagians and Semi-pelagians, strictly so called, there are also numerous shades of distinction included under the term Pelagian. However, with all these sectaries it seems indispensable to deny the Scriptural doctrine of the natural depravity of man, and the Calvinislic sentiment of irresistible Grace.

No man that ever lived, perhaps, was less dis. posed than Martin Luther to temporize with his adversaries in essential points; yet in the instance of Erasmus, it is admitted that he exercised extraordinary patience and forbearance. The reason is, Erasmus, by his writings against monks and friars, had been of considerable service in abating the attachment of mankind to popery. Moreover, he was one of the first literary characters in the world, and well deserves the thanks of all who have a relish for classical learning. No wonder therefore Luther, in the great business of the Reformation, should have been anxious to prevent so much weight from being placed in the opposite scale. But Erasmus grew every day more and more out of humour with the Lutherans. He had repeatedly declared that the Church wanted reformation, but would never run any risk to forward the good cause. Hence the reformers became cold in their regards for him; and he, in return, beheld with pique and jealousy the -rapid progress of the new system. Mutual abuse and accusation was the unavoidable consequence of this state of things. By some, Erasmus was libelled as a deserter of the faith, and a parasite, who paid his court to popes, prelates, and cardinals, and might be hired for a morsel of bread, to any purpose *. This was enough to raise the indignation of a man who had been accustomed all his life to receive commendations and flatteries. The angry scholar took up his pen to chastise the Lutherans, and ceased to be on good terms with them any longer. " They were men of a seditious turn of mind')": some of them neither feared God nor man, insomuch that Luther and Melancthon themselves had judged it necessary to write against themX" IQ the Lutheran faction, said Erasmus, there were persons who were actuated by a spirit widely different from that of the Gospel §. Men,

• Ep. 805. f Id- 78l. I Id. 792. $ Id. 805.

■who stood prepared for every mischief, represented Cent. him as timid, because he acted conscientiously. L xv1' Could he but see Evangelical fruit, he would soon convince them he was no coward*.

For a long time, however, the hostility of Erasmus was confined within the bounds of his epistolary correspondence. But circumstances were every day arising to exasperate the contention, and widen the breach between him and the reformers. Ulric Hutten, an intemperate admirer of Luther, published an acrimonious invective against Erasmus, which drew from him a little tract, called Spongia, sufficiently censorious and peevish f.

Hutten had taken the liberty of blaming Erasmus for paying too much regard to the court of Rome. This was a very tender point; and the more provoking, first, because the fact was undeniable; and, secondly, because the Romish faction really disliked him almost as much as they did Luther^; notwithstanding that the ecclesiastical dignitaries gave him good words and fair promises, for the purpose of persuading him to take a decided part against the great Saxon Reformer §.

The sagacity of Luther pointed out to him dis- Luther tinctly the situation of the mind of Erasmus, thus puzzled and distracted by a contrariety of motives. He viewed him as a man of letters buoyed up with the love of praise and the patronage of the great; also, as flattered and caressed by popes and prelates, and supposed peculiarly qualified to support a fall* Ep. 845.

•f Erasmus, however, boasts of bis lenity towards Hutten, and says he had passed over his scandalous conduct; that he had been a spendthrift, a gamester, and a fornicator, and had extorted money from the Carthusians; that he had attacked some ecclesiastics, and killed some monks. Catal. Lucub.

J Erasmus represents the divines as hating literature, and as accusing him of heresy. Ep. 803. He says, he did not much care for the abuse of the Lutherans, but to be pelted on both tides was hard. Id. 826.

§ Id. 743. 819, 820.

writes to Erasmus.

Chap, ing church. Moreover, he was aware how Erasmus, . , by trimming artfully between the two parties, had lost the confidence and friendship of both; and how, in the present state of irritation, he was disposed to do service to the Romanists, and regain their favour. He was sincerely sorry, therefore, that he had been so roughly treated by Hutten, and other advocates of the Reformation. He would gladly have prevented him from becoming an open enemy, as he had long despaired of ever seeing him a decided friend of pure Christianity. Reflecting on these circumstances, and hearing that Erasmus was about to publish his Diatribe, or some other inimical piece, Luther, in the almost forlorn hope of persuading him to peace and silence, determined however to make his last effort. For this purpose he composed a memorable letter, quite in his own best style, clear, nervous, and ingenuous, and full of life, and fire, and spirit, and sent it to his classical adversary*. It is a specimen of epistolatory writing in perfect contrast to the manner of Erasmus, and must have vexed him not a little. To have been told, that the " affairs of the Reformers were now advanced to such a point that their cause was in no peril, even though Erasmus should attack it with all his might," must have been peculiarly galling to his pride: yet the writer mixed so many handsome and just compliments with his animadversions, that Erasmus was constrained to allow, that Martin Luther had written him a letter sufficiently civil, but that, for fear of his calumniators, he did not dare to answer him with equal civility

But whatever might be the secret inclination of Erasmus, or whatever might have been his wish in other circumstances, he was now too deeply pledged, by numerous declarations and promises, to think of

* See Appendix, Luther's Letter to Erasmus in 1524. Also Ep. 846. t Ep. 803.

retracting his design of appearing in the field against Luther.

He answered Luther briefly to this effect: I cannot admit you to have more Evangelical sincerity than myself, and I trust I do more to promote the Gospel than many who boast of being Evangelical. I fear Satan may delude you; at least, I doubt the truth of your doctrines; and I would never profess what I do not believe, much less what I have not attained. Besides, I dread the ruin of literature.

As yet I have not written a syllable against you: otherwise I might have secured much applause from the great; but I saw I should injure the Gospel. I have only endeavoured to do away the idea that there is a perfect understanding between you and me, and that all your doctrines are to be found in my books. Pains have been taken to instil this sentiment into the minds of the princes, and it is hard even now to convince them it is not so.— Whatever you may write against me gives me no great concern. In a worldly view, nothing could do me more service. But it is my desire to surrender with a good conscience, my soul to Christ; and I would that all were so affected. You profess yourself ready to give an account of the faith that is in you; why then do you take it amiss that any one, with a view to learn, should undertake to debate some points with you? Perhaps Erasmus, by writing against you, may do more good to the cause of the Gospel than some foolish scribblers of your own party, who will not suffer a man to be a quiet spectator of these contentions,—the tragical issue of which I do dread*.

It was the authority of Erasmus, and not his arguments, which determined Luther to publish an answer to the Diatribe. " I will answer him," says • MS. Archiv. 310. S.

Chap, he, " for the sake of those, who, with a view to , XIL . their own glory in opposition to Christ, make a bad use of his authority*." And again, " my dislike of the book is beyond all belief; and it is a pain to me to answer so learned a book, composed by so learned an author")"."

2. Luther's Treatise De Servo Arbitrio.

Luther's Reply did not make its appearance till more than a year after the publication of Erasmus. It is intitled, On the Bondage of the Will. The papal advocate Cocklseus J would intimate that Luther was induced to answer Erasmus, chiefly because Emser and himself had translated the Diatribe into the German language. But whoever peruses the elaborate work De Servo Arbitrio, and reflects on the author's numerous employments, will have no difficulty in accounting for the delay that took place. That he formed the design of confuting the Diatribe very soon after he had read it, appears from The Di«- his letters to private friends. This tract was not published, published till the 1st or 2d of September 1524$: A. D. and about the end of the same month he says, " I 1524. am entirely taken up with Erasmus and his Free Will; and I shall do my best to prove him wrong throughout, as is truly the case ||." And in the suc

* Nic Hausman, II. 243.

f The words are: " Respondere tam erudito libro tam eruditi \iri." Jortin thinks it should be iNerudito libro. But 1 see no reason for suspecting an error in the text. The Diatribe is sufficiently learned, if by learning we understood an acquaintance with numerous writers of repute. But the extensiveness of Erasmus's reading, and the rapidity of his glances, very often did not allow him to think and digest.

Moreover, I find it is Erudito not only in Seckendorf's extract, but also in the original itself by Aurifaber,—a book exceedingly scarce, and which Jortin probably never saw. II. 238.

t Acta Luth. § Ep. Eras. 809 and 810.

|| Georg. Spal. 299.

ceeding October he says to another friend, " Go Cent. on with your labours, my Nicholas, and exercise all t xvl' » the patience you can : at present I am wholly employed in confuting Erasmus*." But afterwards we find him interrupted by the affairs of Carolstadt, and resolving to postpone his answer to Erasmus till he should have done with that turbulent reformer']'.

At length, towards the end of 1525 J, came out Lather's Luther's celebrated treatise De Servo Arbitrio, which p,"^^" provoked Erasmus the more, as it was in some A. D. measure unexpected. The work was received with 1525. avidity. The booksellers of Wittemberg, Augsburg, and Nuremberg, strove who could produce their numerous editions the fastest: and in regard to the merits of the composition, it may not be improper to observe, that Luther himself, many years afterwards, had so good an opinion of it, as to declare, that he could not review any one of his writings with complete satisfaction, unless perhaps his Catechism, and his Bondage of the Will§. The following address to Erasmus was printed by Luther, and placed as a sort of preface to this same treatise on the Bondage of the Will. " Venerable Erasmus,

" Every body wonders that Luther, contrary to his usual practice and the general expectation, should have been so long in replying to your Diatribe. How is it, say they, that a man, who hitherto has appeared rather to seek than to decline public discussions of this sort, should at once exhibit so much patience and forbearance ? Or is fear the cause of his silence? for certainly his enemies triumph. They congratulate Erasmus on having gained a vic

* Nic. Haus. 300. f Amsdorfio, II. 270.

t December, T. III. 165. Jena.

§ At Strasburg there is said to be a MS. letter to Fabricius Capito in 1537, in which Luther expresses this opinion of his Catechism and his Bondage of the Will. Scultet. 34. And Sturmius tells us he himself has seen the letter. Melch. Ad. p. 8a, fol. Vit. Luther.

Chap, tory; and they ask with an airof insult, What,has this . X|L . Maccabaeus, this sturdy dogmatist, at last found an antagonist against whom he dare not open his mouth?

" The palm of genius and eloquence all concede to you;—much more therefore I, who am but a perfect barbarian, and have always been conversant in rude scenes. I confess further, you have broken my spirit, and made me languish before the battle : and this for two reasons :

" 1. You have managed your opposition to me with so much astonishing art and steady moderation, that 1 find it impossible to be angry with you.

" 2. By what fate or fortune it has happened I know not, but certainly you have not said one word new on this most important subject. And therefore it may seem superfluous for me now to tread again the same ground which I have so often gone over before; especially as P. Melancthon, in his invincible theological tracts, has trampled upon and absolutely ground to powder every argument you have produced. To be plain, your book, in my judgment, suffers so exceedingly on being compared with his, that I am much grieved for yourself, that you should pollute your most beautiful and ingenious language with such sordid sentiments: and again, I feelmostindignantto seesuch contemptible materials conveyed in themost precious and ornamental pieces of eloquence. They are like the filth of a dunghill placed in golden dishes. Your extreme backwardness to appear in this contest convinces me that you yourself were aware of this, and that conscience suggested to you, that whatever might be the force of your eloquence, it would be impossible for you so to disguise your notions, that I should not discover their vanity through every false covering. I pretend to no eloquence; but, by the grace of God, I trust I have a little knowledge of the subject; and there you are deficient, notwithstanding your great capacity and extraordinary powers of language.

" In this business I have been inclined to reason Cent. thus : Our side of the question is so fortified by t xyr Scripture, that those who can be shaken by the trifling ob jections of Erasmus, however elegantly expressed, do not deserve that on their account I should write an answer to the Diatribe. Thousands upon thousands of books will do such personsno good. Enough has been done, by my friends and myself, for those who take the Spirit for their guide ; and in regard to those who are not led by the Spirit, it is no wonder if they are shaken by every breath of wind. Wherefore I had almost resolved to be silent; not on account of my numerous engagements, nor the difficulty of the thing, nor yet through the dread of Erasmus and his prodigious eloquence, but most sincerely from the low estimation in which I hold the Diatribe,—not to mention, what is so characteristic of Erasmus, your excessive versatility in it throughout. You exceed Ulysses in caution: one whileyou affirm nothing, at another time you assume an air of positiveness : It is impossible to arrive at any distinct and satisfactory issue with such men,— unless indeed one had the art of catching Proteus.

" However, my faithful brethren in Christ Jesus, do now suggest a reason why I ought to answer you ; and there is some weight in it. They tell me a Reply is, in general, expected from me; they say, Erasmus's authority is not to be despised, and that the faith of several is shaken. Therefore I am disposed to own, at length, that I may have carried my silence too far; that I may have been influenced too much by carnal reasonings, and not have sufficiently kept in mind that duty by which I am debtor both to the wise and to the unwise,.

" For, though true religion does notrely onmerely external means, but, besides him who plants and waters, requires the Spirit to give the increase; yet, because the Spirit is free, and in no wise dependent on our wills, the rule of St. Paul should ever be

Vol. v. T

Chap, observed, 1 Be instant in season and out of season.' x*1, , * We know not at what hour our Lord will come.' Be it so, that there are some who in reading my writings have not as yet been led by the Spirit; be it so, that the Diatribe has gained possession of their minds : what does all this prove, except that their hour may not yet be come? And who knows, my excellent Erasmus, but God may be pleased, through the means of such a poor wretched vessel as myself, to visit you?—and I do from my heart beseech the Father of mercies, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that the operation of this little book may be such, that I may thereby gain you as a most dear brother to the cause.

" In conclusion, permit me, my Erasmus, to request you to excuse my defects in eloquence ; as, on the other hand, I have to bear with your want of information in this particular instance. God does not bestow all his gifts on one person."

The controversy between these great men is the same which has appeared in various ages of the Church, and even in our own times. The doctrine maintained by Luther cannot, I think, be comprehended and expressed in fewer or clearer words, than in those of our own Church ; namely, that, as fallen creatures, " We have No Power To Do Good Works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will*." This humiliating sentiment was peculiarly offensive to Erasmus; and so it must ever prove to the pride of every human heart, which is not yet brought, through a sense of its unworthiness, to deep contrition and penitence at the cross of the Saviour.

Erasmus had observed, that he could not but give some weight to the authority of numerous learned

* Tenth Article of Religion.

men, whose judgment had been confirmed by the Cent. consent of ages. Among these, he said, were , XVIexcellent divines and holy martyrs, and many who had wrought miracles. Then, among the modern theologians, and universities, and councils, and bishops, and popes, what a mass of learning, genius, and goodness, all, he said, on his side of the question : and only Wickliff and Laurentius Valla against him #. To this Luther replies, " I own there is a great deal in what you say : I myself, for more than ten years, felt the force of this very argument, and more, I believe, than any person else: insomuch that I thought it impossible for this Troy to be taken. And I call God to witness with my own soul, that I should have remained to this day in the same state, had I not been compelled to yield to the force of evidence, and the pressure of my own conscience f. That Being, who knows the secrets of hearts, knows that my sole object is to magnify His grace, and in no degree to commend myself. But you would reduce me to the dilemma, either of giving up the point, or of boasting of myself, and blaming the fathers. I extricate myself however at once, by owning, that I bow to your judgment in regard to learning, genius, history, and all other things, except three: and in regard to these three; namely, l. What are the evidences of being led by the Spirit; 2. What is the right province of miracles; 3. What the nature and effects of sanctification ;— as far as I know you from your writings, you are so inexperienced and uninformed, that you cannot produce from them a single syllable to the purpose. I repeat it, and press the point close,—that in all the instances on which you place so much stress, there is not one, where there is any clear proof of the operation of the Spirit, or of the existence of miracles, or of a sanctified disposition of the heart.

• Diatribe, 1218, where Erasmus mention* Manichsus also, t Luth. 436.

Chap. You are not aware how much of what you say x*t- j derives its eredit from mere custom and common language; and how all this loses its weight the moment it is called to the bar of conscience."

" Show me," continues Luther, "anyone instance of a man who, through the pure efficacy of Free Will, ever, in the smallest degree, either mortified his appetites, or forgave an injury. On the contrary, I can easily show you, that the very holy men whom you boast of as Free-willers, always in their prayers to God totally laid aside every idea of Free Will, and had recourse to nothing but grace, pure grace. So Augustine often, who is entirely on my side in this dispute : so Bernard also, who, when dying, said, ' I have lost my time, because I have lived to bad purpose.'

" Nevertheless, I grant that these holy men themselves would sometimes, during their disputes, hold a different language concerning the nature of Free Will. And, in general, I observe that good men, when they approach the throne of grace, forget the powers of Free Will, on which they may have written polemically; and despairing of themselves have recourse to grace alone. And though they may have exalted the natural resources of man, yet in prayer they forget all this: that is, in affection and practice they are different from what they were in disputation and argument. But who would not estimate the character both of good and bad men from the former, rather than the latter * ?"

Erasmus had defined Freedom to be that power of the human will, by which a man can either apply himself to those things which lead to his eternal salvation, or turn away from them; for it would be ridiculous, he maintains; to bid a man Choose, who had not the power of turning himself either one way or the other f. Luther, with as much acuteness as if he had studied Mr. Locke's famous • Lutli. 437. f Diatr. 1125.

chapter on power *, replies, that as the expression, Cent. Power of the human will, means that faculty by > XJ'which we choose or refuse, he does not see how this same power can act, or be used, either in the way of applying to any thing or of turning away from it, except by choosing or refusing. For if we should suppose the said power to be a sort of medium between the abstract faculty of the will and its operations, we shall find nothing is gained by such an hypothesis ; nor is it possible to go one step further than simply this, that men do choose and refuse f.

In reading the Diatribe, it is abundantly more difficult to discover the Precise Sentiments of the author, than to perceive a steady intention to discredit the doctrines of Luther. He takes notice, that some, who differ widely from Pelagius, allow very much to the operation of grace, and scarcely any thing to free will; but yet do not take it away entirely. They affirm, that a man can neither begin, carry on, nor finish any thing good, without the continual aid of Divine grace. This opinion, because it leaves a man the power of desiring and endeavouring, and yet takes away every grourtd for ascribing the effect to his own strength, Erasmus pronounces Moderately Probable; yet he seems to think it objectionable. For he goes on to say, There are others whose opinion is More Objectionable^, namely, who contend that the Will can do evil only, and that Grace perforins all the good. These carry too far their fear of ascribing merit to good works. But the most objectionable sentiment of all is §, to call Free Will an empty name; and to say, it is of no avail, either before grace or after it; for that God works both the good and the evil in us, and that all things are absolutely necessary.

* Locke, Hum. Und. t Lutb. 44*- 6

J Diatr. 12124. durior. h Id.durissima.

Chap. " You make three opinions here," replies Luther, t X*L . " when in reality, as far as I am concerned, there is but one. Perhaps, I may not have been able to express myself intelligibly to you, either in the German language, or in my indifferent Latin ; but I call God to witness, that I intended the terms used in the two latter opinions, neither to convey or intimate any sentiment different from what is expressed in the first opinion.—You yourself say, that the human Will, since the fall, is so far depraved, as to have become the servant of sin, and of itself, utterly unable to amend its state*: Then, what is Free Will, when applied to a faculty, where it is granted that all liberty is lost, and that slavery has commenced, under the service of sin, but an empty name ? 1 believe Augustine to have been precisely of the same judgment. It is the Diatribe that is inconsistent. For ifyour Free Will, according to your first opinion, which you call probable, has so lost its liberty, that it cannot choose the good, I would wish to know what is the nature of those desires and endeavours, of which you speak as yet left in men's power: certainly they cannot be good desires, or good endeavours ; for you admit that the Will cannot choose the good. Again, you allow that though desires and endeavours are in a man's power, yet still, there is no room for ascribing any effect to their efficacy. Now, who can comprehend such a position ? If the will really possesses the powers of desire and endeavour, why are not effects proportionate to these powers, to be ascribed to them ? and if there be no effects whatever, then what proof have you that the will possesses the powers you contend for? There is no escape for Proteus here ;—for if these are not monstrous contradictions, what are so ?"

Beausobre undertakes to decide, without ceremony in favour of the very great superiority of Erasmus, compared with Luther, in the articles * Diutr. 1221. Luth. 444 & 5.


Judgment *. It is odd, that the Historian should make such an assertion, when this very controversy on the Will must have been present to his mind.— For though no man, in regard to beauty and elegance of style, will think of pitching Luther against Erasmus in general, yet, in this particular instance, Luther's tract De Servo Arbitrio is abundantly more orderly, perspicuous, and nervous, than any of Erasmus's writings on the same subject; insomuch that Erasmus himself owns it to be a work laboured with the greatest care f- Then, as to the argumentation and general management of the question, whether we think with Luther, or differ from him on the subject-matter in debate, we can scarcely read a page of his treatise, without perceiving the hand of a master conscious of his own strength, and, at the same time, convinced of the weakness of his adversary. In fact, Luther regarded the question concerning the Will, purely as it related to religious doctrines that were near his heart; and therefore his profound knowledge of the Scriptures gave him a great advantage over Erasmus, who was a very superficial theologian, doubtful in his sentiments, and indeterminate in his expressions. Even in the metaphysical niceties, which could not be entirely avoided in this abstruse enquiry, he proved greatly his overmatch. Erasmus's extensive reading enabled him, indeed, to be diffuse and scholastic; but Luther was neither to be frightened nor overborne by quotations and authorities. He swept them away

* Beausob. III. 130.

t "—ingens voluraen diu multoque studio, elaboratuni." 923. To F. Choregat.

"—prater omnem expectationem cmisit librum in me summa cura quidem elaboratum." 911. To F. Sylvius.

"—praster omnem expectationem provolans liber Lutheri - Quicquid EcclesiaWittem. potuit vel eruditione vel maledicentia, id totum in eum librnm collatum est: Volumen est plusqnam justae magnitudinis." 919. To Mich. Episc.

Chap, quickly, like so many cobwebs ; and, by the appli. xl1' , cation of a little plain good sense, pointed out what ought to be the boundaries of every attempt to investigate the nature of human liberty : and lastly, he supported his own sentiments on the question, without disguise, mystery, or ostentation.

Let us hear him briefly on the difficult subjects of Necessity, Contingence, and the Prescience of God.

" A Christian," says he, " should know that nothing is contingent in the mind of the Supreme Being, who foresees and orders all events according to his own eternal unchangeable will."—This is a thunderbolt to the notion of Free Will. For hence, all events, though to our minds contingent, are necessary and unchangeable as they respect the Divine Will. The Divine Will cannot be deceived or disappointed. Contingency implies a changeable will, such as in God does not exist*.

" Nevertheless, I wish we had a better word than Necessity, which is commonly made use of in this dispute. For it conveys to the understanding an idea of restraint, which is totally contrary to the act of choosing. In fact there is no restraint, either on the Divine or the human will : in both cases, the will does what it does, whether good or bad, simply, and as at perfect liberty, in the exercise of its own faculty. This unchangeableness and infallibility in God, is the ground of all our hope and confidence. If His Will were liableto contingencies, what dependence could there be on his promises ? But,' let God be true, and every man a liar.'—Your notions, my Erasmus, destroy peace of conscience, and all the comforts of the Spirit, and lead to impieties and blasphemies almost worse than any thing of Epicurus.—Not that you intend all this: no ; I do not believe you would teach such things designedly. But learn hence, how a man, who undertakes a bad

* De Serv. Arb. 429.

cause, may be led on to advance most dangerous Cent. doctrines *."

Luther proceeds thus : " So long as the operative grace of God is absent from us, every thing we do has in it a mixture of evil; and therefore of necessity, our works avail not to salvation. Here I do not mean a necessity of compulsion, but a necessity as to the certainty of the event. A man who has not the Spirit of God, does evil willingly and spontaneously. He is not violently impelled, Against his will, as a thief is to the gallows. But the man cannot alter his disposition to evil; nay, even though he may be externally restrained from Doing evil, he is averse to the restraint, and his inclination remains still the same. Again, when the Holy Spirit is pleased to change the Avill of a bad man, the new man still acts voluntarily: he is not compelled by the Spirit to determine contrary to his will, but his will itself is changed ; and he cannot now do otherwise than love the good, as before he loved the evilt."

The origin of evil, however, Luther does not attempt to explain; and if Erasmus had seen the difficulties on that head as clearly as Luther did, and had been as candid in owning them, these controversialists would have found themselves much nearer agreed. Erasmus had affirmed, " that to represent God, first as causing evil in men, and secondly, as punishing them on that very account, would have the most pernicious consequences. Who would think God had any love for mankind ? who would not think him a cruel Being, that took pleasure in the sufferings of the wretched; and lastly, who would take any pains to correct their vices, or subdue their passions J V Luther's reply briefly amounts to this: " Wicked men will always harbour wicked and blasphemous thoughts; but pious and good men will

* De Serv. Arb. 430. t lb. 434.

X Diat. 1217.

Chap, adore the Divine Economy, without scrutinizing" y XvIL , into it too nicely, firmly persuaded that God only is just and wise, and never does wrong to any one ; and that, whatever may be the appearances to us, there are always good reasons for what he does. We may not be able to comprehend how it is that he is just and merciful, though many perish, and few are saved ; but it is our duty, nevertheless, to believe that he is so, and that he has no pleasure in the death of him that dieth. God does not punish the wicked, because he delights in the sufferings of the wretched, but because he has wise purposes in view, which call for their punishment. The best of men are content with this account: they pretend not to explain all the difficulties which arise on this subject; they rather repress the risings of pride and discontent, and exercise the graces of humility.

" But still I do not wonder that fallen and depraved creatures should be offended with such notions of the Supreme Being, as that he deserts men, hardens them, condemns them ; and all this from the mere pleasure which he takes in the sins and the eternal punishment of the miserable. Is this the Being who is represented as so abundant in mercy and goodness ? I myself have often been so offended with this view of the Almighty, as to have been brought by it to the very brink of despair, and to have wished I had never been born; till, at length, I learnt how wholesome a thing it is to despair of a man's own powers, and how near he then is to the grace of God *."

3. Scriptural Arguments Used In The


IN this detail, we may be very concise respecting

the Scriptural arguments of the Diatribe ; they are

all so much alike. For example, ' I have set before

* Luth. 434. 461, b. & 462. and in other parts of the De Serv. Arbit.

you this day life and death, therefore choose life.' * Turn ye unto me, and I will turn unto you *.' 4 Whosoever desires life and good days, let him keep his tongue from evil f,' &c. The numerous admonitions, threatenings, and promises, of this sort, appear to have made a great impression on the mind of Erasmus J. However, they had all been well considered by Luther, and he had his answer at hand. " They prove nothing," says he, " as to the human Powers of performance, but are merely imperative as to Our Duties. For, if they prove any thing in Tegard to our powers, they prove too much; they would prove, that our wills, without the assistance of God's grace, are in a condition to keep all the Divine commandments,—a position which Erasmus will not maintain. The use of these scriptural directions and admonitions is, to teach man, who is naturally proud and blind, the nature of his disease; how miserable and impotent he is, and how completely a captive in the chains of sin. It is true, it is written, ' Turn ye to me :' but does it thence follow, that we can turn ourselves ? It is written also, ' Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart;' but will any man say, that fallen creatures can love God with all their hearts ? All such passages point out what the holy law of God requires, but are no proof of our ability to perform it. The Diatribe is a little stupid, or at least rather sleepy here

Erasmus had owned ||, that there were some passages of Scripture, which seem to take away the liberty of the will entirely: and these he had attempted to explain. In answer, Luther says, " You may here observe to what little purpose it is for a human being to raise a smoke, in opposition to the thunder and lightning of God." And then he proceeds to make great use of the ninth chapter of Romans; and,

* Zech. i. 3. T Psalm xxxiv. 12, 13.

X Diat. 1224-6. § Luth.448.

II Id. 1230.

Chap, with an air of triumph, he derides the comments of , x*1- „ Erasmus, who, after Origen and Jerome, had had recourse to tropes and figures in his interpretation of St. Paul. " Mere human reason," continues Luther, " can never comprehend how God is good and merciful; and therefore the Diatribe makes to itself a God of its own fancy, who hardens nobody, condemns nobody; pities every body, saves every body,

. takes away hell, and the fear of death and punish

ment. In this way would the writer excuse and defend the Almighty as just and good.

" But Faith and the Spirit judge otherwise. By them we believe God to be good, though he should visit with destruction even the whole human race. Moreover, to what purpose do we fatigue ourselves with attempts to place the blame of a hard heart on the abuse of Free Will; when, not a single instance can be brought, either where the heart was softened without the help of the Holy Spirit, or where a man obtained mercy while he trusted in his own strength? —Let us stick close to the pure simple word of God * "

The reasonings of St. Paul, respecting the foreknowledge and predetermination of God, appear to have gravelled the author of the Diatribe more than any other arguments contained in the sacred writings.—" Thou wilt say then, Why doth he yet find fault, for who hath resisted his will f V This interrogation is evidently grounded on the idea, that necessity takes away all human responsibility ; and, further, that as the will of God is irresistible, it is unreasonable to find fault. Erasmus admits this to be a great difficulty; and the intelligent Reader will think that he had better have made no attempt to solve it. " God," says he, " who knows what is to come, and has the power of preventing it, and yet does not prevent it, must be considered, in some way, as choosing that the thing should be so. * Luth. 457. & 548. + Rom. Ik.

And this is St. Pauls very argument: ' Who can resist his will,' either when he has mercy on, or when he hardens whom he pleases. Thus, the will of God, which is the chief cause of every event, Appeaus to fix a necessity on all human determinations. Neither does the Apostle untie the knot; but, on the contrary he rebukes the objector. Who art thou ' who repliest against God?'—But observe, it is only the impious murmurer whom he rebukes, just as a master would rebuke a forward servant,—' What have you to do with the reasons of my orders ?—see that you obey them.' Now this same master would have given a different answer to a prudent, well-meaning servant, who modestly, and with a good intention, had asked the question. It was very right that Pharaoh should perish : nevertheless, this king was not compelled by the Divine volitions to continue pertinaciously wicked. God foresaw, and in a certain sense, chose, that he should continue in sin, and should perish, for he had long ago Deserved to suffer for his notorious crimes. But, I ask, at what point in a man's life Does Desert begin, on the supposition that there is no freedom, and that all is necessity from beginning to end 1

" In the same manner," continues Erasmus, " God foreknew, and therefore in a certain sense must have chosen, that Judas should betray his Master. If you consider the prescience of God as infallible, and his will as unchangeable, it must necessarily happen, that Judas would betray his Master; and yet Judas might have changed his mind. Suppose he had changed his mind; you will say, what then? I answer, that still the Divine prescience would neither have failed, nor the Divine will have been obstructed ; for, in that case, God would both have foreknown and chosen that Judas would alter his mind. The schoolmen here make a very nice distinction, between the necessity of a consequence, and a consequence in itself necessary *. They admit the former, but deny the latter." " But, ** says he, " it is not my design to insist on these subtilties."

It was natural that the obscure and indeterminate sentiments of Erasmus, the result of scholastic and theoretical reading, should make little impresssion on the mind of Luther, whose religion was vital, practical, and experimental in the highest degree ; and who had been led, by internal conviction, to feel what nature could Not do, and what grace alone Could effect. Such a character, furnished at the same time with a deep and comprehensive knowledge of Scripture, was conscious of a reasonableness and stability in his faith, which is never to be attained by mere study, acquaintance with books and opinions, or any exertion of natural powers. In this part of the argument, Luther is remarkably nervous and distinct. " You undermine," says he, " at once, all the Divine promises and threatenings ; you destroy faith and the fear of God; in fact, you deny the Deity himself, unless you allow a necessary efficacy to his prescience. The distinction of the necessity of a consequence, and of a consequence in itself necessary, is a mere figment. The Diatribe may invent and re-invent fancy after fancy of this sort, may cavil and re-cavil as much as it pleases; I maintain, if God foreknew that Judas would be a traitor, then it could not be otherwise ; and though Judas certainly committed the act in pursuance of his own will, and without any restraint, yet it was not in his power, or that of any created being, to change his wicked disposition.—The wicked choice here made by Judas was his own act; but that such an Act should exist, is to be ascribed

* Diat. 1233. "—necessitatem consequential consequents nrcessitatem."

to the omnipotence of the Divine agency, precisely as all other things are *. We must never give up this,—that God cannot lie,—that God cannot be deceived. The learned in all ages may have been blind, but there is no obscurity, no ambiguity heref."


THE objections of Erasmus at bottom were le-> veiled, no doubt, at the doctrine of the total depravity of human nature. Occasionally an expression escapes him, which is full to this point. For example : ' The propensity which is in most men to evil, though it is not to be overcome without the help of Divine grace, yet does not entirely destroy their liberty. If that were so, why is time given for repentance ? why even a hundred and twenty years afforded to the Antediluvians, if no portion of men's repentance depended on their own wills ? Again, the case of Cornelius the centurion proves, that a man, before the reception of grace, may, through God's help, prepare himself, by the performance of good moral actions, for the Divine favour, though he be not yet baptized, nor hath obtained the gift of the Holy Ghost. For if all Cornelius's actions, before this last gift of the Spirit, was bestowed upon him, were bad actions, one might ask, whether bad actions can be the cause of procuring us the favour of God

* Erasmus owns, in Diat. 1232, that there is no denying that the Divine operation must concur in the production of every action; and for this reason, because every action implies a real existence of something, and even of something good. This concession, I conceive, provided Erasmus had been consistent with himself throughout, is the whole of what Luther, or any other person of Luther's sentiments, would or could desire.

t Luth. 461—3. I Diat. H36.

Luther replies,—" The very same objection may be made to all the precepts of God ; namely, why do you issue commands where there is not a power to obey ? whereas, the design of the commands is, to instruct and to admonish ; in order, that men may know their duty, be humbled on account of their defects, and, as I said before, have recourse to grace and mercy. I also, as well as Erasmus, have read the Acts of the Apostles, but not one syllable do I find there, which indicates that Cornelius's actions without the Holy Spirit were morally good. This is a mere dream of the Diatribe : the contrary is the fact. He is called a just man, and one that feared God. Now to say, that there can be, without the Holy Ghost, a just man, and one that fears God, is to say that Belial is Christ Jesus. Be it so, that Cornelius was not then baptized, and had not heard of the resurrection of Christ; does it follow he had not had the gift of the Holy Ghost? you may just as well say, that John the Baptist, and his parents, and the mother of our Lord, and Simeon, had not received the Holy Ghost *."

It may be useful to give a short specimen of the manner in which these theological combatants respectively manage the very difficult and delicate subject of the Divine and human co-operation. " There are passages in St. Paul," says Erasmus, " which appear to take away every particle of freedom : for example, ' Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, as to think any thing of ourselves : our sufficiency is of God.' 2 Cor. iii. But there are two ways of supporting my side of the question, l. Some very orthodox fathers divide human actions into three parts ; thought, choice, and execution. They allow there is no room for liberty in the first and third. Grace alone implants good thoughts, and grace alone finishes the work ; but in the middle

part, namely, the choice, there is a co-operation Cent. of grace and the will; though even in that co-ope- t *VIration, it is allowed, that the principal part of the effect is due to grace. 2. The other way of getting rid of the difficulty, consists in taking notice of the force of the very peculiar expression used by St.

Paul, { as to think aay thing as of ourselves,'

that is, as from ourselves. Surely a man might use such an expression, who allowed the natural powers of the Will to be sufficiently efficacious to choose the good, since these very powers are the gift of God; and so St. Paul frequently checks a disposition to pride and arrogance,—' what hast thou, that thou hast not received V Nay, the declaration that God works in us, both to will and to do, is consistent with freedom; for it is added, according to Our Good Wills ; that is, our good wills co-operating with the grace of God. This is Ambrose's interpretation of the passage*; and is the more probable, because, a little before, we are exhorted to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling; words which undoubtedly teach us, that both God works and man works.—But how can man be said to work, if his will be in the hands of God, what clay is in the hands of the potter f?"

Luther's observations on the same subject merit our particular attention. " I grant," says he, " that Erasmus has proved that the creature co-operates with the Creator in his operations. But what has our present controversy to do with any questions concerning co-operation ? The orator was to have harangued concerning a palm, but his whole discourse has been about a gourd. Or, as Horace

• On looking into Ambrose, I do not perceive the least ground for understanding him in this sense. His words are, " pro bona voiuntate," without the possessive pronoun; and so it is in the original, ixij Ttjj ivimiat, which is very properly translated, "of his good pleasure," Philipp. n. 13.

t Eras. 1238, 1239.

Chap, says, ' the potter began to make a cask, but proX*L „ duced a pitcher in the end.'

" We know very well that St. Paul co-operated with God in teaching the Corinthians, when He preached to them publicly, and when God, at the same time, influenced them eternally by his Spirit. God is the universal agent in every thing : even the wicked are subservient to his will. The difference between the co-operation of the wicked and the good is, that the former are devoid of all spiritual principle, whereas the latter, as St. Paul says, are led by the Holy Ghost.

" Our present inquiry, however, is not concerning what we can do Through God's Help, but what is the extent of our natural powers without the Divine assistance ; and whether we can of ourselves in any measure prepare ourselves for the new creation by the Spirit. To this single point Erasmus ought to have adhered.

" My undisguised sentiments are these.—Man, before he is created, can do nothing in any way to promote his creation. Neither after his creation can he do any thing to preserve his existence. Both his creation and his preservation are the result of the sole pleasure of the omnipotent and gracious energy of God ; nevertheless, God does not operate in us, without making use of us, as beings whom he hath created and preserved for the express purpose of a mutual co-operation; namely, that he should work in us, and we co-operate with him. The very same is to be said of the New creature. The man before he is renewed by the Spirit can do nothing, can attempt nothing, to prepare himself for this newcreation. Neither after he is renewed, can he effect any thing, to insure a perseverance in his new state. The Spirit of God alone doth both these things,— he both renews and preserves the renewed, without any aid on our part; as St. James, speaking of the new creature, says, 4 of his own will he begat us by the word of his power.' But here also it must be Cent. remembered, that he does not operate in the re- t ~~ newed, without using them as beings purposely renewed and preserved, that he should work in them, and they co-operate with him. For example : he makes use of them to preach, to pity the poor, to comfort the afflicted. But what does Erasmus's notion of the Will gain by all this,—except an absolute confutation ?

" I would not," continues he, " attribute malice or bad motives to the author of the Diatribe, but I think he can scarcely be deemed sound and sober, when he attempts to prove the freedom of the Will by magnifying the efficacy of Divine grace. Every action of man, says he, may become good through the assistance of the grace of God *. This is the inference of Erasmus, from a selection out of the Gospels and St. Paul's Epistles, of a number of very beautiful similitudes and parables, which imply the Divine assistance and co-operation f- Far be it from me to deny this ; but then, from the very same passages of Scripture, I infer that though a man with the grace of God may surmount all difficulties, yet without that assistance he can do no good works whatever. He who could undertake to support the notion of Free Will by such Scriptures as speak highly of the efficacy of Divine grace, must surely look upon men as senseless stocks and stones. Yet Erasmus has not only done this, but he also boasts in the most triumphant manner as if he had gained a complete victory. This proceeding, however, of my opponent, has given me some insight into the nature and power of the liberty for which he contends. It is no less than a species of insanity. For what else, I beg, but Free Will could induce a man to talk in this manner J ?

* Eras. 1241. t lb. 1235, 1239, and 1241.

; Luth. 474. 6.

" I would that Erasmus would mark the consequences of his own reasoning: Scripture extols the assistance of Divine grace, therefore Scripture confirms the doctrine of Free Will. By what logic does he argue thus, and not directly the contrary? For example : Divine grace, and the assistance of it, are preached and magnified; therefore there is no room for Free Will. For to what purpose should grace be conferred ? Is it for this, that the pride of a Free-wilier, already sufficiently haughty, should, like a bacchanalian in his riots, boast and exult in the possession of the gift of grace, as if it were to him a superfluous and unnecessary ornament?

" Wherefore, though I am no orator, yet my rhetoric is, in this instance, sounder than that of the Diatribe, when I affirm, that all the passages of Scripture—and they are innumerable—which take notice of Divine help, are so many arguments for the inability of man. For the very reason why grace is necessary, and why Divine help is afforded, is, that the human powers can of themselves do nothing, or, in other words, do not avail to choose the good. An inference this, which the gates of hell can never subvert."

Luther concludes his reply to the Diatribe in the following manner : " The system of Erasmus proceeds upon the principle of allowing some little to the powers of fallen man; and I believe his intention to be good; as he thereby hopes to remove some difficulties and inconveniences, and to reconcile certain apparently contradictory passages in Scripture. But the system entirely fails in its object : for, unless you ascribe a perfect and complete ability to the human will, as the Pelagians do, the appearance of several contradictions in Scripture, and also all the difficulties which are raised respecting reward and merit, and the mercy and justice of God, remain in full force, notwithstanding this petty allowance of power to the wills of men. We must therefore go the full length of denying to fallen creatures the existence of any power to do good works without the grace of God : on this plan, we shall find no contradictions in the sacred pages: and if there should remain some difficulties, in consequence of ascribing all events to God, we shall still know precisely what the difficulties are, and modestly submit to be ignorant of what we cannot understand *.

" But, my Erasmus, never believe that I defend my side of the question from passion rather than from conviction. I cannot bear your insinuation that I think one thing and write another, or, that, in the heat of defence, I contradict my former assertions. My publications prove, that to this hour I have constantly maintained the natural inability of man. The truth has been my only motive. The charge of being vehement I submit to, if indeed I am to be blamed on that account: at the same time, I cannot but rejoice that there is such testimony for me in the cause of God, and I pray God it may be found so at the last day. For well will it be then for Luther to have the full testimony of the age in which he lived, that he defended the cause of truth not indolently nor deceitfully, but with sufficient warmth, or, perhaps, a little too much. Then shall I happily escape the threatening of Jeremiah, ' Cursed is he who doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully.'

" And if you shall judge me too severe upon your Diatribe, you must excuse me. I harbour not the least ill-will towards you. My sole motive is, to prevent you from injuring exceedingly the cause of Christ By Your Authority; though it be vain for you to attempt it, either by your learning, or manner of treating the subject.—Besides, let me

ask, what writer has his pen under such complete dominion that it never breaks out into excess? You yourself, who, by aiming at moderation, have become almost frigid in this little tract, yet frequently shoot bitter and fiery darts ; insomuch, that your reader must be very candid, and very much in your favour, to acquit you of the charge of virulence. However, all this is nothing to the question between us : as men, we ought to be sensible of our infirmities, and mutually to forgive one another *."

5. Luther's Arguments From St. Paui
And St. John.

TO the preceding reply to the objections contained in the Diatribe of Erasmus, Luther thought it expedient to subjoin a few striking passages from the New Testament, with a short comment upon them,— as follows: '

" To produce all those Scriptures which prove the original inability of man, would be almost to transcribe the Sacred Writings. Whole armies are at hand; but I shall confine myself to the production of two Generals, namely, Paul the Apostle, and John the Evangelist.

" The language of the former is, that,' the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth,—to the Jew first, and then to the Gentile.' These words have no ambiguity in them ; they prove that the Gospel is absolutely necessary to save men from the anger of God. Again,' Both Jews and Gentiles are all under sin: there is none that doeth good, no not one : all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.' And, ' The wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness.' Here it is for Erasmus to point out the exceptions,

Luth. 475.

either among the Jews or the Greeks. What! not one among those two excellent nations who endeavoured to obtain the Honestum? Not one who exerted to good purpose those natural powers you contend for ? St. Paul is peremptory, declaring them all under the wrath of God.

" Moreover, experience confirms this account. Produce the best men that ever lived. Is there any one of them who ever dreamt of that wrath of God which is here said by St. Paul to be revealed from heaven against all ungodliness ? Or, who ever suspected that the road to justification and salvation is by believing on the God-man who died for sin, rose again, and now sits at the right hand of God ? Read what the greatest philosophers have thought and written concerning the anger of God against sin, in a future life. Examine what the Jews, who had so many signal advantages, thought of the true way of salvation. They not only rejected it, but have hated it to such a degree, that no nation under heaven has persecuted Christ so atrociously, even until this day. Yet, will any man say, that, among such multitudes, there has not been one who has cultivated his natural ability, or endeavoured to make the best of his Free Will ? How is it, that this most excellent faculty of Free Will should, in no one instance of the very best men, have led to the discovery of the way of justification? How is it, that the very best Free-willers have not only been quite ignorant of it, but, even after that it was revealed to them, have rejected it with the greatest hatred? So St. Paul, ' It became a stumblingblock unto the Jews, and to the Greeks foolishness.' —I say then, this natural ability, or Free Will, which you contend for, as far as it respects religion, is the greatest possible enemy to the salvation of men. It cannot be but that some Jews or Gentiles have endeavoured to make the most of this

boasted faculty, and yet they have been at constant war with the grace of God.

" Let Erasmus now tell me how the wills of natural men can be said to exert some degree of endeavour towards the good, when it thus appears that they esteem the righteousness of God to be either a stumbling-block or foolishness."

Luther makes great use of the important doctrine of justification by faith, as stated by St. Paul; but it would detain us too long, were we to dwell upon all the passages which he produces from this apostle. He argues thus from Romans iii. ig. 4 Every mouth must be stopped, and all the world must become guilty before God.' But not so, if a man by nature possesses a power of discharging in any degree his duty to God. Such a one may say to the Almighty, ' There is a something which you cannot condemn :—you have furnished me with a power to do something; and, as far as this goes, there is no guilt; and my mouth will not be stopped. And certainly, if the human Will be a well-disposed and efficacious faculty, it is not true that the whole world must be reckoned guilty before God ; for this very faculty is by no means a slight matter, or confined to a small part of the world : whereas the Whole world is pronounced guilty before God. The expression is so general, that neither the whole conduct, nor any part of the conduct of a man, of men, or of a number of men, can, by possibility, be here excepted.

On the next verse, ' Therefore by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God.' Luther observes, that Jerome had ignorantly been the cause of introducing into the world a very erroneousand very mischievous idea, namely, that, by the works of the law St. Paul intended only the works of the ceremonial law. " Augustine," says he, " excellently withstood this false

comment: nevertheless, through the prevalence of . Satan, it has spread very much, and keeps its ground to this day."

Here Luther opposes Jerome, and supports Augustine with great perspicuity and strength of argument.

As the Reader of this History is well aware that there is no part of religious truth which was nearer the heart of Luther, or which he had studied more intensely, than the doctrine of justification by faith, he will not be surprised to find this great Reformer, combating with all his might such notions of the natural faculties of man, as he conceived to be utterly subversive of this fundamental article. Erasmus's defence of Free Will he understood to be, in effect a struggle to establish in men's characters some degree of merit, be it more or less : and such an attempt, according to Luther's ideas, militated directly against the important doctrine just mentioned. He asks, therefore, " What can the advocates for the free powers of man say to the declaration of St. Paul, 1 Being justified Freely by his grace?' Freely: what does that word mean? IIow are good endeavours and merit consistent with a gratuitous donation ? Perhaps you do not insist on a merit of condignity, but only of congruity. Empty distinctions! Nay, Erasmus owns, that he defends Free Will in order that he may find some place for merits : and he is perpetually expostulating, that, where there is no liberty, there can be no merit; and where there is no merit, there is no room for reward. To be brief, St. Paul represents justification as a perfectly free gift, without any consideration of merit; and that along with this free gift are bestowed also the kingdom of God and life eternal. Then, where are the desires, the endeavours, the merits of Free Will ? and what are their uses ? Suppose we admit that the advocates of Free Will allow only exceedingly little to

Chap, that faculty; they nevertheless make that little the x"' , foundation of justification, because they represent the grace of God as obtained by that little. Indeed they have no other method of answering the question, Why does God justify one man, and not another ? but by having recourse to the different use which they suppose men to make of their Free Will; namely, that in one case there are exertions, in the other no exertions; and that God approves of one man on account of his exertions, and punishes the other for the neglect of them; not to say that they imagine he would be unjust if he did otherwise. Thus our gracious God is described as a respecter of works, of merits, and of persons; —and thus, whatever may be pretended to the contrary, the dignity of the merits is maintained and inculcated : for, indeed, our opponents do deny that they hold a merit that has any worthiness in it;—all that they hold is, a merit which has the effect of a dignity or worthiness. What a wretched evasion! There is hardly any word one might not play upon in that way. Thus, the thorn is not a bad tree, it only produces the effects ..of a bad tree : The figtree is not a good tree, but has the effects of a good tree:—The Diatribe has nothing in it of the nature of ungodliness; it only speaks and acts as ungodly persons do."

" In my judgment," continues Luther, " my opponents are at bottom worse than the Pelagians. The Pelagians speak plainly and openly: They call a thorn a thorn, and a fig a fig. They ingenuously assert a real worthiness in their merits ; and by this worthiness or dignity of merit they purchase the favour of God. Whereas, those with whom I have to do, imagine that the favour of God is to be bought at a very small price, namely, the meritorious use of that extremely small degree of liberty, which has escaped the wreck of our original depravity. But how does St. Paul, in one word, confound in one mass all the assertors of every species and of every degree of merit! ' All are justified freely, , and without the works of the law.' He who affirms the justification of all men who are justified, to be perfectly free and gratuitous, leaves no place for works, merits, or preparations of any kind ; no place for works either of condignity or of congruity ; and thus, at one blow, he demolishes both the Pelagians with their complete merits, and our Sophists with their petty performances."

Our author then proceeds to take notice,— That St. John, " who makes havoc," he says, " every where, of the doctrine of an innate free propensity to good," at the very outset of his Gospel attributes so great blindness to our natural dispositions, that we do not even see the light, so far are we from making any exertions to come to it. ' The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.' " Let us attend to the case of Nicodemus, who may justly be esteemed an example of the utmost that the mere powers of nature could accomplish.—In what desire, or in what exertion, I pray, does this character appear to have been deficient ? He owned Jesus to be a messenger from God ; he was struck with his miracles, and he applied to him for instruction. Does not He appear, it maybe said, to have sought salvation through the impulse of his natural faculties ? But mark how he blunders. As soon as he learns from Christ the true way of salvation by being born again, he is so far from being pleased with the important information, that he discovers an aversion to it, and thinks the thing impossible. Nor is this any more than an instance of what happens daily. All the human faculties, both of the understanding and the will, nay, the whole world itself, it must be confessed, fell short of the knowledge of Christ before the preaching of the Gospel. Yet Christ is the way,

Chap, the truth, and the life. What insanity, then to x*1- pretend that there remain nevertheless in our fallen nature, sufficient powers to direct our application to the things which concern our eternal salvation !"

" Again, St. John pronounces unbelievers to be in a state of condemnation, because they believe not on the only-begotten Son of God. Now tell me at once, whether the human will can or cannot make a believer. If it can, then there is no need of the grace of God. If it cannot, then the unbeliever, with this very faculty of freedom, is condemned already before God. But God condemns nothing except ungodliness. I may well ask, therefore, what pious efforts towards salvation can ungodliness be supposed to make ? "

Luther concludes his whole treatise with two or three concise observations : thus;

Obs. l. " One of the most invincible arguments in favour of the depravity of the human will is to be found in my former publications, and it has not been noticed by the Diatribe.—St. Paul teaches both the Romans and the Galatians, that there is in holy men a strong contest between the Flesh and the Spirit, so that they cannot do the things which they would. From this statement I argued thus: If the nature of man is so bad, that, even in those who are renewed by the Spirit, it not only makes no effort to do good, but, on the contrary, fights against the gracious affections; how can it be supposed to have, in those who are not born again, but are slaves of Satan, the least tendency whatever to virtuous endeavours or exertions ?

" I could wish Erasmus to try his strength in answering this argument.

" For my part, I freely own, I have not the smallest desire, if the thing could be granted, that my salvation should depend in any degree upon myself; not only because, in contending against many dangers, and difficulties, and evil spirits, I should fail of success, but because, even if there were not these, I should be in a constant state of uncertainty. For, were I to live and labour to eternity, my conscience would never feel sure that I had done enough to secure the favour of God. Whatever I did, there would always be this scruple left; Is this enough, or does not God require something more ? All self-righteous persons know this to be their case; and I also, to my great loss, have sufficiently experienced the same for many years.

" But now that my salvation depends upon a gracious and merciful God, I rest assured that he is faithful, and will never deceive me ; and at the same time, that he is so great and powerful, that neither adversities nor wicked spirits can hurt me. I do not ground my security on the merit of my works, but on the divine promises of mercy."

Obs. 2. " The difficulty which arises in the minds of some, from the consideration of the punishment of the wicked, may be relieved in some measure by such reflections as these : God is to be honoured and adored as evidently most merciful to those ungodly persons whom he justifies and saves: and surely so much credit should be given to the Divine wisdom as that we may believe God to be just, though to us, in some instances, he may appear the contrary : But—you cannot comprehend how a just God can condemn those who are born in sin, and cannot help themselves, but must, by a necessity of their natural constitution, continue in sin, and remain children of wrath. The answer is, God is incomprehensible throughout; and therefore his justice as well as his other attributes must be incomprehensible. It is on this very ground that St. Paul exclaims, ' O the depth of the riches and the knowledge of God ! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!' Now his judgments would not be past finding out, if we could always perceive them to be just.

Chap. " Does not common sense compel us to own, that >. XIL , human wisdom, knowledge, strength, and power, dwindle as it were into nothing, when compared with the corresponding attributes of God ? What folly and perverseness then, to dispute the point with him respecting his justice and judgment, and arrogantly to rejudge his decisions ! What! shall we submit to the Divine Majesty in all matters but one, and call his fidelity in question in the attribute of justice, even when he has absolutely promised that the time shall come when he will reveal his glory, in such a manner, that all may see clearly, and be completely satisfied that he is, and always has been, just and holy in all his ways ? "

Obs. 3. " Again : The Divine administration of the world does not please you. You suspect God to be unjust, or you are tempted to think there is no God. The wicked, in many instances, thrive; and the good are unsuccessful. This consideration very much afflicted Job, David, Jeremiah, Asaph, &c. Yet this great difficulty, perfectly insurmountable by nature and reason, gives way at once to a single ray of evangelical light, which teaches us that there is a future life, in which the wicked will be punished, and the righteous rewarded.—Then I reason thus : If the light of the Gospel, by a single word with Faith, has so very easily resolved a difficulty which has proved distressing to thinking men in all ages, how clear will every thing be, when faith and the written word shall be no more, and the Divine Majesty itself shall be revealed ! Do not you think that the brightness of the glory of God may very easily resolve a doubt which could not be resolved by the light of revelation, when you have an instance of the light of revelation clearing up a difficulty insuperable by the light of nature ? Observe; the common distinction is a good one: there are three lights, one of nature, another of grace, and a third of glory. The light of nature cannot explain why

a good man should suffer, and a bad man should Cent. flourish ; but the light of grace solves the difficulty. v__^L_ Then, the light of grace does not inform us why God should punish an ungodly man, who cannot by any powers of his own, amend his disposition. Nay, I will own that both the light of nature and of grace incline us to excuse the poor wretched man, and to think hardly of God, and as unjust in his judgments; especially as he gives a crown of glory to another, who, by nature, is quite as ungodly, and perhaps more so. But remember, that the light of glory teaches us a different thing; namely, that the ways of God, which are incomprehensible at present, will, at the last day, appear most manifestly to be strictly just, and holy, in the very highest degree.

" I am ready to go farther into this question, if it should be necessary:—but at present I conclude,

" That if we believe the prescience of God, there can be no faculty of contingency in man, or angel, or any creature, whereby the Divine Will can be obstructed.

" That if we believe Satan to be the prince of this world, there can be no deliverance from his slavery but by the power of the Holy Ghost. And this is another proof of the entire depravity of human nature.

" That if the Jews, aiming at righteousness by their own strength, have fallen into a state of ungodliness and condemnation; and if the ungodly Gentiles have, through the free mercy of God, attained to a state of righteousness and justification, it is very plain from experience, that without the grace of God the human will is inclined to evil, and to evil only.

" On the whole, if we believe that Christ has redeemed us by his blood, we are compelled to confess that man was completely in a stale of perdition, otherwise we make Christ of none effect; or, if we do admit his efficiency, still we allow him to be Chai'. the Redeemer only of a very bad part of human _ xn- , nature; and maintain that there is a better part, which stands in need of no redemption,—a supposition too blasphemous to be admitted.

" And now, my Erasmus, I call upon you to fulfil the promise you made,—that you would yield to any one who should teach you better doctrines. Lay aside all respect for persons. You are a great man, I confess, and are furnished by God with many of the noblest accomplishments :—to mention nothing else, you are a miracle in genius, erudition, and eloquence. As to myself, I can say nothing, except that I Almost o Lory in being a Christian.

" I most exceedingly commend you, forasmuch as that you are the only one who, among all my adversaries in this religious cause, has attempted to handle the real matter in dispute : nor have you fatigued me with extraneous matter about the papacy, purgatory, indulgences, and such like trifles, about which I have hitherto been hunted on all sides to no purpose. You and only you have seen the true hinge upon which all turned, and have aimed your blow at the throat. On this account I can sincerely thank you ; for I employ what leisure I have very agreeably on this subject. I wish the wild Anabaptists, who boast of new revelations, were following your example; we should have fewer sectaries and less sedition, and more peace and harmony.

" At the same time I must say, that, unless you could treat your subject in a different manner from what you have done in your Diatribe, I most earnestly wish you had confined yourself to your own peculiar gift, by which you have already done so much good, and gained so much applause : I mean, that you should continue to cultivate, and improve, and adorn polite literature. In this you have been of use to myself; and therefore, while I look up to you with wonder and veneration, I own myself under considerable personal obligation to you.

" But it has not pleased God to qualify you for the great business we have in hand.—I entreat you not to suppose this to be an effusion of pride. I pray that the time may be near, when the Lord shall make you as much superior to me in this concern of the Reformation, as you are already in everything else. However, it is no new thing, if God should teach Moses by Jethro, or Paul by Ananias. You say you have missed your aim, if you have Christ yet to learn ; and I do suspect you begin to think that this may possibly be the case. You are but a man; and it is not very unlikely, but, after all, you may not have rightly apprehended the Scriptures and the Fathers, to which you think you have trusted as sure guides. Your own very doubtful way of speaking leads me to think so. You say, " you assert nothing, but only discourse and argue." A man does not express himself so who has got hold of his subject right, and understands it to the bottom. In this book of mine, I do not merely discourse or dispute, but I have asserted, and do assert, and I submit to nobody's judgment whatever, but exhort every one to obey the Divine truths which I maintain.

" May the Lord, whose cause it is, illuminate you, and make you a vessel of honour and glory! Amen."

The student of the history of Luther has frequent occasion to remark, that, notwithstanding the violence and asperity of the language of this great Reformer on many occasions, he was rarely betrayed into rash and intemperate actions. Is it possible to devise more prudential maxims of conduct, than those by which in the main, he appears to have been directed in his dealings with Erasmus *? Perfectly aware of his influence and reputation as a scholar, and of his defects as a man of practical religion, he See page 267.


Chap, dreaded his opposition and enmity to the Refor, mation, but had little hopes of deriving advantage from his friendship. How then did it become Luther to act on such an occasion? For a longtime he treated him with kindness and respect; and, in attempts to secure his neutrality at least, went quite as far as conscience would permit him : and even on the very eve of a rupture, and after many peevish and inimical declarations on the part of Erasmus, he omitted not to make a wise and animated effort to prevent open hostilities, by writing that celebrated letter, which is already before the Reader in the Appendix *; every line of which displays the spirit of a man who sincerely wished for peace, but who, at the same time, in case of being attacked, was conscious of his own powers of defence and resistance. After the publication of the Diatribe, Luther had nothing left but to consider Erasmus as an avowed adversary, and with all his might to aim at lowering his reputation, by exposing his incompetency in theological inquiries.

6. The Reply Of Erasmus. Hyperaspistes.

Erasmus affected to resent nothing in Luther's Reply, but his uncivil and acrimonious language. How far this was really so, must be left to the Reader's judgment. Certainly he discovered an uncommon anxiety to be esteemed victorious on this occasion; and gave reason to suspect that he had received deeper wounds in his conflict with the Saxon divine, that it is usually in the power of mere hard words or abuse to inflict. He printed his Rejoinder in two parts "f; and in his advertisement to the former of them he tells us, that, through the management of the Lutherans, he had been allowed but ten days before the Fair of Frankfort for the composition of it; and that if any one distrusted

* See page 268. f Called Hyperaspi*tes.

this assertion, there were, at Basil, very positive Cent. witnesses of its truth. He says, he had hastened . XV1the publication to check the triumph of his adversaries ; and then bids his Reader farewell; assuring him, in so many explicit terms, that, in the perusal of his book, he may expect to find an indisputable superiority of argument.

Throughout both the books of the Hyperaspistes, one cannot but notice numerous indications of anger and irritation. The kind and complimentary expressions of Luther, as well as the tribute of praise therein paid to his adversary's talents and attainments, the sincerity of which there could be no good reason to suspect, he represents as the honey of a poisoned cup, or the sting accompanying a serpent's embrace.

On the whole, there can be no doubt but the controversy with Luther was eventually the cause of much pain and vexation to Erasmus. His greatest admirers allow that the Diatribe is a feeble and timid production, and unworthy of its author. Accordingly it gave offence to both parties, was esteemed by neither, and disappointed all the learned. Even Jortin observes, that those who shall carefully peruse the writings of Erasmus on Human Liberty, will see that he had not the clearest and precisest notions. In fact, Erasmus himself was well aware of his unfitness for this business, and, in a letter to the bishop of Rochester, ingenuously owns, that he was not on his own ground while writing on the Freedom of the Will *. And, in another letter to a friend, he goes so far as to say, " But, to confess the truth, we have lost Free Will. There my mind dictated one thing, and my pen wrote another." This is undoubtedly an incautious expression ; and it has been produced as a proof of the insincerity of Erasmus in his dispute

* Beausobre, V. 132, and Jortin, 333.

Chap, with Luther*. It seems, however, uncandid to xu- , construe the preceding declaration of the author of the Diatribe so much to his disadvantage, as to suppose that he wrote against his conscience on that occasion ; especially as it is the constant strain of his letters about that time, that he had written the Diatribe against Luther very unwillingly, yet very sincerely. To Melancthon, on the subject of the Diatribe, he writes, " I have handled the points in dispute with the greatest possible moderation, yet not in any way contrary to my real opinion; though I am ready to give that up, as soon as any one shall convince me that a different opinion is nearer the truth f." To his friend Henry Stromer he describes the state of his mind as follows: " I who have spent all my time among the Muses, am now compelled to engage in this bloody contest. It could not be otherwise. There was a cry that Erasmus and Luther had agreed to preserve mutual silence. Then I dared no longer to disappoint the expectation of the princes. Add, that the Lutherans provoked and threatened me, insomuch that my silence would have been attributed to fear. The die is cast, yet so, that I have not written a single word on Free Will contrary to my real sentiments.—There are many of my countrymen who favour Luther: but if I had foreseen that this new gospel would have given rise to such a set of brawlers, I would have been an avowed enemy of the whole faction from the very beginning."

In the same letter he declares that he had ceased to be a free agent from the moment that he had published a book upon Free Will; and that he had wished to have remained a mere spectator of the new scenes, not from any backwardness to support the church to the utmost, but because the ecclesiastical differences were about paradoxical propositions. " The Christian world," he said, " wras * Jortin, 413; Seek. 310; and Ep. 985. t Ep. 820.

become so excessively corrupt, that even if he had thought very ill of Luther, he almost judged him to be a necessary evil; and that, therefore, to take him away, was to take away what was best in the present circumstances." But now at Basil, says he, " the novel gospel has produced a quite new race of men, who are obstinate, impudent, and abusive; who are cheats, liars, and hypocrites; they quarrel among one another ; they are disobliging and troublesome to the last degree; they are seditious and wild ; they brawl and jangle; and, in short, are so disagreeable to me, that if I knew of any town perfectly free from them, I would certainly go and live there *."

This is one of the numerous passages in the publications of the author of the Diatribe which prove how possible it is for a man so far to bridle his bad passions, as to write on some occasions with extraordinary mildness and diffidence, and yet at the same time overflow internally with a bitter and acrimonious spirit. It appears there was no need of Luther's severe animadversions to excite the enmity of Erasmus against the reformers. His treatise, however, on the Bondage of the Will, certainly had the effect of rendering his hostilities, ever after, more open and irreconcilable.

In general, Luther's st3'le in Latin is far from being correct or polished ; but, on this occasion, he had taken so much pains, as to make Erasmus believe he had been assisted by his learned friends, and especially by Melancthon. He admits, as we observed before, that his performance is an elaborate work, composed with the greatest care; at the same time, he pronounces it virulent, scurrilous, and malicious, and such as no man would have written against a Turk. " All the learning," says he, " and all the abuse, which the church of Wit

temberg could produce, is in this book. Never did Luther rage against any one more like a madman. It is a large volume, and has been translated into German, for the purpose of exasperating ploughmen, coblers, and weavers, against me*. What is become of the pacific Erasmus ? compelled to turn gladiator in his old age, and, what is worse, compelled to fight wild beasts f." Thus it appears that this elegant scholar could sometimes use hard words, as well as Luther; and though it is very true that the latter, in his reply, treated him with a mixture of compliment, praise, scorn, insult, ridicule, and invective,—and all without much ceremony,—the discerning Reader may be allowed to doubt, whether Erasmus, in his heart, was not more provoked at the excellencies of his adversaries conposition, than at any abuse which it contained.

He may doubt, also, whether Erasmus would be more pleased upon finding afterwards that Melancthon had not joined Luther in his attack upon the Diatribe, or vexed to see that Luther, without that assistance, was able to furnish so finished a reply. —Melancthon, both in letters to his own particular friend Camerarius, and to Erasmus himself, denies the charge, To the former he says, " I do not in the least merit the heavy charge he lays upon me; but I have resolved to stifle the affront." To the latter he acknowledges his obligations, and exhorts Erasmus never to give way to such unfriendly suspicions of him, as were to be found in the first part of his Hyperaspistes.—In effect, this latter displays a little of the timid trimming temper of Melancthon, which Naturally resembled in some degree that of Erasmus himself; but—religious principles were lively and efficient in the former. To Camerarius he begins his letter thus: " Did you

* I. Hyper. 1305.

+ To Sylvius. To Reginald Pole. To the bishop of Langres, 918, 919.

ever read a more bitter publication than this of Cent, Erasmus ? " He calls it Hyperaspistes, but " it is t , absolutely aspis," that is, a wasp *.

But that, which more than all the rest demon- Erasmus strates the excessive irritation of the mind of Eras- E^ectoVof' mus, is a letter to John, the new elector of Saxony; Saxony, in which he begs that Luther may be punished, or at least admonished, for having charged him with holding atheistical or Epicurean opinions. The MS. is among the Archives of Weimar, subscribed in the hand-writing of Erasmus; thus : " I, Erasmus of Rotterdam, the most devoted servant of your most serene Electoral Highness, have subscribed this with my own hand." It is said to abound with an incredible bitterness against Luther, whom the author represents as having injured his reputation, by propagating criminal falsehoods.— Among the same papers at Weimar, there is a letter of Luther's, which should seem to have been written to the Elector on that occasion, to the following effect: " That to himself and his colleagues it did not seem wise for the Elector to intermeddle with a business which was purely ecclesiastical, and in which he neither could be, nor wished to be, the judge; and that it was the duty of Erasmus to give him no trouble about it. That, moreover, if the question was really of a political nature, it required the judgment of a greater tribunal than that of any prince whatever, and therefore Erasmus ought to have addressed the whole world in general. And, lastly, That it was unjust to punish any person upon the accusation of a private letter; that an action ought to be instituted, the forms of law observed, and an opportunity of defence afforded f." One may well ask, Where is now

• Ep. 1071. To Camer. lib. iv. 28. p. 636. Eras, et Melan. Ep. Lond.

f Comment, de Luth. 312.

Chap, the mild and gentle spirit of Erasmus, who so conX1L t stantly boasts of having dissuaded princes and prelates from using cruelty and persecution ?

The author of Hyperaspistes, at the time of writing his book, was not in a temper to throw much light upon so difficult a subject as that of the Freedom of the human Will.—Pride, anger, and chagrin, may give rise to severe and satirical criticisms, and even quicken the penetration, but never strengthen the judgment.

Erasmus informs us of his reasons for proceeding to write a second book of the Hyperaspistes. The moderation of his Diatribe was construed by some into a collusion with Luther. They said he had spared his adversary, and they called him timid and frigid. Even after his skirmish in the first book of Hyperaspistes, there were persons who still termed the controversy a collusion. " Then his friends," he added, " pressed him with having promised to go on; and his enemies boasted that he had been beaten."

From this account of Erasmus himself, we cannot be much at a loss to comprehend what were the prevailing sentiments of mankind in his own time, respecting the success of his pen, in the attempt to lower the reputation of Luther*.— Observe what an indirect tribute of praise he unawares pays to his adversary, in the very first page of his second book of Hyperaspistes. " In what remains," says he, " we shall be less interrupted by his calumny and abuse : not that Luther can ever forget himself, but because The Density Of

HIS ARGUMENTATION', and HIS NUMEROUS TESTIMONIES From Scripture, did not allow him so free a field for scurrilous language.

In regard to the Diatribe, it is rather historical than argumentative; and, though in general extremely moderate and inoffensive, yet, in some * Des. Eras, pio Lectori.

places, the writer bites so hard, that even Melancthon ventured to reprove him gently on that account*.

In the Hyperaspistes, the author accuses his adversary repeatedly of savageness, impudence, lying, and blasphemy. Strange! that a man who professed to dislike so very much the asperities of Luther, should abound in language of this sort! ' Let us hear him in a single sentence. " Luther promises himself a wonderful reputation with posterity: whereas I am rather inclined to prophesy that no name under the sun will ever be held in greater execration than the name of Luther The beginnings

of the mischief he has done we have already seen

in the Rustic War." A notable instance this of

the mildness and candour of Erasmus f ! Yet, notwithstanding all this bitterness and acrimony, it is sufficiently plain, from many parts of his writings, that he by no means thought so ill of Luther as one might conclude from such passionate expressions as these. I will select a passage from his letter to the bishop of Lingen. " I am surprised to observe in Luther two distinct characters. Some of his writings appear to breathe the spirit of an Apostle: again, in scurrility and abuse who ever equalled him J?" And it should be observed, that Erasmus, in this very letter, is giving an account of Luther's answer to his Diatribe.

The first book of the Hyperaspistes is a hasty and passionate effusion, in which Erasmus reproaches Luther, times almost without number, for having abused and calumniated him in his reply to the Diatribe. The second book is abundantly more elaborate; and it is here that Erasmus exerted his utmost strength. In the Diatribe he was not a hearty combatant. He apologizes to Melancthon for

* " Perplacuit tua moderatio, tametsi alicubi nigrum salem adsperseris." Ep. 821. f Hyp. II. 1485.

t Ep. 919—See also Vol. IV. Erasmus, Chap. II. Cent. XVI. near the end.

Chap, appearing in the field againstLuther in that instance, t and accounts for the step from the peculiar circumstances in which he found himself entangled ; and, if I mistake not, he would have been delighted if the affair had ended there, without any answer from Luther. In writing the first book of Hyperaspistes, he had no time to think; but, in the second, he was completely unfettered, and completely in earnest ; and if he had been able, he would, without the least mercy, have trampled on Luther, and ground him to powder.

The second book is very long, and very tedious; but as it appears to me, the tediousness, of which every reader must complain, is not owing so much to the length of the performance, as to the confusion which pervades it throughout. The Writer is kept sufficiently alive, amidst great prolixity, by the unceasing irritation of his hostility and resentment; but the Reader is fatigued and bewildered, by being led through obscure paths one after another, and never arriving at any distinct and satisfactory conclusion. A close attention of the mind to a long series of confused and jumbled propositions, wearies the intellect, as infallibly as a continued exertion in looking at objects difficult to be distinguised, exhausts the powers of the most perfect organs of vision.

It is agreed, that on the subject of the Freedom of the Will, there are parts of the inquiry absolutely beyond all human comprehension. On these Luther scarcely touches, owning at once their difficulty. But not so Erasmus: and this is a remarkable distinction between the two writers.

Moreover, there is in Erasmus an ostentatious affectation of a superiority of scholastic knowledge, at the very time that he affects to dislike and despise it. For example, " I have either no eyes," says he, " or Luther does not understand the difference between a necessity of a consequence, and a necessary consequence." And then, after having, with much parade, exposed, as he thinks, Luther's ignorance of the scholastic distinctions, and also having shown—what nobody ever can show—the manner by which the prescience of God may be consistent with the contingency of events, he contemptuously concludes thus: "I was conversant, when a boy, with these logical subtilties, though I neither liked, nor had much talent for them; but I had almost forgotten what I had learnt, and for that reason I did not much trouble the Reader about such things in my Diatribe. On the other hand, Luther, who has spent a great part of his life in these inquiries, never reasoned less to the purpose, or more like a madman, than in the use which he has made of this sort of knowledge*."

7. Scepticism Of Erasmus.

Luther, in various parts of his Bondage Of The Will, had more than insinuated, that Erasmus was unsound, not only in some of the great articles of the Christian faith, but even in the leading truths of Natural Religion. Erasmus took fire at this, and repeatedly declared the accusation to be the greatest of all possible calumnies. In particular, at the conclusion of the first book of his Hyperaspistes, he makes a declaration, with all imaginary solemnity, of his most entire and sincere faith in God and the Holy Scriptures.—However, as this great and learned man certainly stands in the early history of the Reformation as a very prominent character, it will be proper, before we conclude this detail, to lay briefly before the Reader, from his own writings, as well as from those of others, some additional testimonies, which have had weight with many orthodox divines, in inducing them to deny the soundness, and to suspect the sincerity, of this

* II. Hyp. 1427.

eminent scholar. And here I would again suggest, what the discerning Reader cannot but already have collected from the intimations dispersed throughout this narrative, that the dispute between Luther and Erasmus is in reality not so much about the nature of human liberty, as the true Scriptural doctrine of Original Sin, and the efficacy of Divine Grace. These are properly the fundamental points of discussion; and it is only indirectly, and as it were by consequence, that the nature of the human Will becomes an object of inquiry.—This single observation is the key to a right understanding of many things which are advanced on both sides in this controversy.

i. In his Diatribe, Erasmus, with great coolness and deliberation, speaks of the Lutheran, and other divines of the same class, in the following terms. " They exaggerate Original Sin to such a prodigious degree, as to maintain, that men by nature can do nothing but express their ignorance and hatred of God; and that the works even of a justified man are sinful. Moreover, that propensity to evil, which is derived from our first parents, they consider both as a sinful and an invincible propensity. They appear to me, in describing salvation as all of grace without works, to narrow the mercy of God in one way, while they extend it in another; as if a host should furnish his guests with a slender dinner, for the purpose of making a splendid show at supper; or as painters, who cast a shade over some objects, with an intention to make others look bright. Further, when according to them, God lays on men the heavy load of so many commandments, which have no other effect but to make them hate him, and increase their own condemnation;—what is this, but to represent the Deity as more cruel than the tyrant Dionysius, who first enacted many laws which he foresaw would probably be broken, and then connived at the defaulters for a time; and when Cent. almost all his subjects were become obnoxious to . XVI' his penalties, began at length to inflict his punishments*?"

2. In the Hyperaspistes, on the same subject of Original Sin, he expresses himself thus: " I have shown that Paul, when he says we are children of wrath, may be understood to speak, not of men's condition by nature, but of the depraved state of their morals, into which they have voluntarily brought themselves. But grant that all men are children of wrath; still, it will not follow that sin predominates to such a degree as to have left no seeds of piety and virtue in mankind. Even in brute-animals we perceive some marks of goodness. Doves and turtles are chaste in their connexions; elephants are modest and religious; dogs are grateful; apes are pious towards their young; and bees and ants exhibit a political economy. Again, all men allow that they have derived from their first parents a propensity to sin, yet not in the same degree. Who goes so far ever as to charge with impiety, either infants, or even boys of a good disposition, that have not yet been spoiled by intercourse with the world? Every fault does not amount to impiety: even baptism does not entirely take away the propensity to sin; it only lessens iff."

3. How far Luther was justified in representing the author of the Diatribe as in reality a favourer of the sentiments of Lucian, Epicurus, and Porphyry, those will be the best judges who are most acquainted with the circumstances of the life of Erasmus, and the contents of his voluminous writings. From these, many passages may certainly be produced, which prove, that at least his religious faith was extremely loose and desultory, and his profession of certain doctrines the effect of custom and

Chap, convenience, rather than of judgment and decision.

i Xl1- | —Even in his controversy with Luther, he scruples not to admit that the point in dispute between them was not very near his heart: " If," says he, " you had overcome my Diatribe with strong arguments, you would not have offended me in the smallest degree; nay, you might perhaps have drawn me over to your opinion, for my mind is not so very averse to your sentiment, provided the schools only, and not the dogmas of the church also, stood in the way*."

A Letter of 4. There is a short Epistle of Erasmus, written

Ecoiarapa'° *n january I525, to tne very learned and excellent dim, ' Reformer Ecolampadius, which throws more light A. n. on the real character and the secret motives of 1525. the writer, than many hundreds of pages from his voluminous publications. Erasmus and Ecolampadius had professed a regard for each other; and the former, it seems, had cautioned the latter not to injure the reputation of Erasmus by representing him as connected with the Reformers.—Now, Ecolampadius, in a preface to his Commentary on Isaiah, happened to use the expression, Our Great Erasmus"!"- This was a mighty offence; as leading to a suspicion that he and Erasmus were of the same opinion. He tells Ecolampadius plainly, that he would rather have been Ill treated by him, than brought forward in this way, as a friend of his party. His letter begins in this strain: " I pretend not to pass sentence on you ; I leave that to the Lord; to whom ye must stand t3- or fall. But this I reflect upon; namely, What do several great men think of you? the Emperor, the Pope, Ferdinand, the king of England, the bishop of Rochester, Cardinal Wolsey, and many others, whose authority it is not safe for me to contemn, neither is it prudent to despise their favour? You know very well there are some who look upon you * I. Hyp. 1317. t Magnus Erasmus noster.

Reformers as heresiarchs and schismatics. Now Cent. what will such persons say, upon reading in your ,, XVI- . Preface the words, " Our Great Erasmus?" Will not the consequence be, that the dangerous suspicions of powerful princes, or implacable enemies, who had begun to think a little better of me since the publication of my Diatribe, will be all revived?"

The biographer and great admirer of Erasmus was much shocked with this letter*. Indeed, we here learn the reason why Erasmus was always so much provoked at the Reformers, whenever they intimated that his conduct was influenced by the fear of losing his pensions, or, in general, the patronage of the great.—From his own mouth he is convicted of the charge. In secret, he honoured and valued Ecolampadius; but dreaded to be commended by him. And wherefore? Lest he should thereby offend those very persons whom he despised in his heart.—What a wretched state of Bondage!!

Erasmus appears to have been under the influence of the same timid worldly spirit, soon after he had received from Luther that very animated letter, mentioned in page 268, which constrained him to confess to his friend Pirckeimer, that " Martin Luther had written to him in a strain sufficiently civil, but that he did not dare to answer him with equal civility, on account of his calumniators." He adds, See tins an" However, I did give him a short answerf." "a" 269 ■

But there is another letter of Erasmus to the same friend, which one cannot read without astonishment. " I never maintained," says he, " that the opinion of Ecolampadius on the Eucharist was by far the soundest. It is true, that among some friends I went so far as to say that I could adopt that sentiment, if the authority of the church had

* Jortin, I. 369.

+ Ep. 803, to Bilib. Pirckeimer, a Counsellor of Charles V.

Chap, approved it; but I added, that I could by no means xlu J dissent from the church. By the church, I mean the consent of the body of Christian people. I know not how the hypocrites, whom you speak of, have represented my words. For my part, I certainly speak sincerely; nor have I ever doubted of the truth of the Eucharist. What weight the authority Of the church may have with others, I cannot say; but with me it weighs so much, that I could be of the same opinion with the Arians and Pelagians, if the church had supported their doctrines. It is not that the words of Christ are not to me sufficient; but no one should be surprised if I follow the interpretation of the church, upon whose authority my belief of the Canonical Scriptures is founded. Others, perhaps, may have more genius and more courage than I have: but there is nothing in which I acquiesce more securely than in the decisive judgment of the church. Of


This language, as it certainly needs no comment, so neither does it need much addition to be made to it, to show the real character of the writer*. It is this sort of language, repeatedly made use of, which has induced both many Protestants and many Roman Catholics to consider this eminent scholar either as a sceptic or a dissembler; notwithstanding his reiterated complaints of being calumniated, and his solemn declarations of the soundness of his faith |.

* Ep. 1029 & 941.

f Erasmus, in a letter to Pet. Barbirius, speaks in the highest terras of Ecolampadius's book; saying, " It is so accurately written, and contains so many arguments and testimonies, that it might deceive the very elect." Ep. 894.—We have already, in the Note to p. 240, referred to Erasmus's expostulations with the German reformer Conrad Pelican. They are contained in three letters, which show the writer to have been very much out of humour with this Reformer. He gives an account of a conversation they had had together, and accuses Pelican of

8. Orthodoxy Of Luther Compared With ( *VI

The Scepticism Of Erasmus.

THE curiosity of a merely speculative student of history may be much gratified in examining so extraordinary a character as that of Erasmus ; but a sincere and zealous Christian will turn with pleasure from this ambiguous and versatile genius, to contemplate the contrast, which his honest adversary affords to the mind weary and disgusted with multiplied instances of insincerity and tergiversation. Luther's opinions never sit loose on his mind ; they are always near his heart; and whatever may be his faults of excessive vehemence or asperity, he is perfectly free from fickleness and indifference. The inexhaustible levity of Erasmus seems to have been peculiarly offensive to Luther. " I could wish," Luther lo says he, in a letter to Amsdorf, that the writings of AlU!,dorfErasmus were entirely exploded from our schools: for even if they were not hurtful, they could do no good. It is not expedient to accustom Christian youths to the diction of Erasmus. From him they will never learn to speak or think seriously and gravely on any subject whatever; but only, like a jackdaw, to peck and laugh at every body, and play the part of a fool. By this levity and this vanity their minds will become gradually so much disused to religion, that they will at length dislike it, and become absolutely profane.*"

In the same letter he observes, " that he thinks it more advisable not to answer Erasmus in future. For his own sake, however," he adds, " I will leave on record my decisive testimony, which will acquit him of a charge which he complains of as most miserably distressing to his mind; namely, that

♦ Op. Luth. Witt. II. 491.

grievously misrepresenting what had passed—963-966. He appears also, by a letter to a Polish baron, to have suspected Pelican of having informed Luther of that conversation. 917. VOL. V. Y

Chap, he is reckoned a Lutheran. Now, I am a most sure t , and faithful witness that he is still the same Erasmus only, and no Lutheran.—Christ lives; and it is my business to defend him against his enemies: and those do Him great injury who accuse Erasmus of being a Lutheran."

No circumstance in this contest with Luther proved so vexatious and even galling to the mind of Erasmus, as the decisive and avowed judgment of Melancthon. Every tongue confessed the Talents, the Learning, the Moderation of Melancthon. To complain therefore of the heat and asperity of Luther, appeared but a feeble confutation of the doctrines which Melancthon approved and defended. For, in the first place, all men of sober reflection could easily separate the substance of an article of faith from the warmth of the polemical language by which it might happen to be supported; and, secondly, even the multitude, whose sentiments are generally directed, in the main, by the opinion and authority of others, opposed in this instance the reputation of Melancthon to that of Erasmus, aided by an impression on their minds of the indisputable superiority of the former in religious knowledge, in the integrity of his life and in the practice of piety. Melancthon addressed Erasmus in the following MeUno Strain : " You seem out of humour with the cause thon to of religion, on account of the faults of certain indivirasmus. duals. Luther is of a very different stamp from these. The proofs are decisive : for, to say nothing of his controversy with the Roman pontiff, his opposition at this moment to a novel faction of sanguinary teachers *, at great hazard of his life, shows how thoroughly he dislikes ambition, cruelty, and rebellion. For my part, I cannot, with a safe conscience, condemn Luther's sentiments, however I may be charged with folly or superstition: That does not weigh with me.—Yet I would oppose them * The Prophets, together with the Rustics.

earnestly, if the Scriptures were on the other side. Cent. But most assuredly I shall never change my senti- t xv1, ments from a regard to human authority, nor the dread of disgrace. The discussion of the question of Free Will may prove useful to many. It will be your duty, my Erasmus, to be very cautious not to bring still greater odium upon the cause which the holy Scriptures so evidently favour. Moreover, as you have not yet condemned it, beware, lest, in attacking it with vehemence, you should wound your own conscience*."

These sentiments and declarations do great honour to Melancthon, especially as they are the substance of his reply to a long and very artful complimentary letter written to him by Erasmus only a few weeks before. Erasmus had then just published his Diatribe, and was evidently trembling for the consequences.—" If Wittemberg," says he, " had not been so far off, I would have gone there for a few days, on purpose to communicate with you and Lutherf. I have read all Your Common-places or theological propositions; and I both love and admire, more than ever, your candid and happy genius; though I did stumble at some points, on which I should be glad to converse with you J." Then, after relating how ill he had been used by many of the. reformers, and had had the nick-name of Balaam given to him; also what good advice he had given to the Pope Adrian, and refused both money and a deanery offered to him by that pontiff, he whispers into the ear of Melancthon these words: " Cardinal Campeggio, a man certainly of singular humanity, sent one of his agents to treat with me

« Ep. 821.

t Jortin observes, that his whole conduct shows he had no thoughts of paying such a visit; and that these were mere compliments, to pacify Melancthon and Luther. 340.

J This is the very book to which Luther refers, page 272, when he speaks of Mclancthon's invincible theological tracts.

Chap, on many subjects, and, among- other things, on the x11 expedience of removing you to some other place. My answer was, that I most sincerely wished such a genius as yours to be perfectly free from all these contentions, but that I despaired of your recantation.—I open this secret to you, in the entire confidence, that you will be candid enough not to divulge it among the wicked ones*." Melancthon condescended to take no further notice of this bait, than barely that Erasmus might depend on his good faith in whatever he should entrust to his secrecy. ; f The reply of Erasmus is penned in an angry Ensnius. spirit, though considerably bridled, as far as Melancthon himself is personally concerned. He tells him, he had taken no great pains to induce him to forsake the Reformers, because he had foreseen he should lose his labour. He could have wished that a genius, born to improve literature, had been dedicated entirely to that service. There would still have been no want of actors in the present religious tragedy. He was far from being out of humour with Gospel doctrine, but there was a great deal in Luther that offended him; and especially his disposition to carry every thing too far. " He had no doubt," he said, " of the sincerity of Melancthon; but he could not say the same of Luther."—He concludes, " If 1 had an opportunity of conversing with you, I would open my heart to you much more freely "f."

The indisputable inference from all this is, that Erasmus, had it been in his power, would most gladly have withdrawn from the Reformers that credit which they derived from the reputation of Melancthon, as a coadjutor possessed of learning, moderation and integrity. He would have liked those excellent men better either if they had been stronger as a party, or if they had flattered him more. He saw many excellencies in them, but they were * Ep. 820. t W. 833

neither courtly nor docile ; and as a body of men PF?1"

systematically connected together, he supposed they > J

might soon crumble to pieces. On the contrary, in the existing hierarchy, though Erasmus acknowledged there was much to blame, yet he judged it both wiser and safer to adhere to a system in which there was so great a preponderancy of wealth and power, and which therefore would probably in the end prevail.—Add to this, though the ecclesiastical dignity had lately experienced a violent shock, yet that very circumstance had much contributed to render the rulers of the church less haughty and presumptuous, and more affable and condescending, especially towards such a character as Erasmus, whom, we have seen, they were most anxious to engage, as a supporter of their cause in the Lutheran controversy. Still further ; Erasmus not only believed the Roman Catholics to be the stronger party, but judged it necessary, in his circumstances, to keep on good terms with their ecclesiastical rulers. Sensible that, by his satirical publications and freethinking he had brought on himself many enemies among the clergy, he lost no opportunity of securing the good-will and protection of the Pope and his cardinals. Thus; when Clement VII. was first raised to the papal throne, he congratulated him in the most flattering, submissive, and artful strain *. He said, he could not express the satisfaction it had given him to hear of his advancement to the popedom. He was precisely the man, who was possessed of the qualities, mental and bodily, which the very turbulent times required. He therefore augured something of a new felicity.—In regard to himself, Erasmus said, " he could venture to swear, with Christ as witness to his sincerity, that if his holiness did but know how he had been solicited by great princes, and enticed by his friends, to join the Lutheran conspiracy against the Roman see ; also, • Ep. to Ciement VII. p. 788.

how he had been provoked to do the same by certain monks and divines, and how stedfastly he had resisted motives of every sort; he would not think him undeserving of his protection, but would punish the author who had so often libelled him at Rome in the most scandalous manner*. " This author," he said, " had picked out of his works a number of half sentences, and most impudently misrepresented them. Undoubtedly, if he could have foreseen the sectarians of the present day, he would have either suppressed many things which he had said, or written the same in a different manner. In the later editions he had left out many things, for the purpose of not giving a handle to ill-disposed persons ; and would readily have altered other expressions, if any one had given him a friendly hint. On all occasions he submitted himself and his writings to the Roman see; and never should oppose its determination, even if he thought it wrong. For he would suffer any thing rather than be guilty of sedition."

One cannot but deeply lament how little solicitous, throughout the whole course of these ecclesiastical dissensions, this very eminent scholar appears to have been, respecting what was true or not true. Indeed, he scrupled not to declare to his friend Botzem, that though truth was a thing efficacious and invincible, it ought to be dispensed with Evangelical prudence. " For myself," says he, " I so abhor divisions, and so love concord, that I fear, if an occasion presented itself, I should sooner give up a part of truth than disturb the public peace f."

Erasmus had dedicated to this same friend Botzem an elaborate catalogue of all his works; which he positively affirms, in a letter to cardinal Sadolet, he would by no means have done, if he had had the slightest suspicion that he had taken part with that

* Stunica, a Spanish divine, who went to Rome, and there published a book, intitled, The Blasphemies and Impieties of Erasmus. See Du Pin, p. 333.

t lip-739

faction which the Church had condemned*. But Cent. the accusation, he says, was unfounded. .. .

What prodigious anxiety is here shown to be acquitted of the least imputation of any heretical connexion!

In another letter, he says, " What connexion Er«»mu$ to have I with Luther, or what prospect of recom- c«»^io. pense from him, that I should join him in opposing Evangelical doctrine; or that I should take part against the Church of Rome, which I believe is not different from the true Church Catholic; or that I should oppose the Roman pontiff, who is the head of the Catholic Church—I, who should be sorry to resist the bishop of my own diocese ? I am not so impious as to separate from the Catholic Church, nor so ungrateful as to dissent from Pope Leo, from whom I have experienced extraordinary favour and indulgence. Knowingly, I never have, nor ever will teach any erroneous doctrine; neither will I take the lead, or join in any tumult. Let others affect martyrdom : for my part, I do not hold myself worthy of that honour.—Do not suffer any calumnious reports, which you may hear, to render me suspected by you : Remain most perfectly assured, that nothing can be more certain, than that Erasmus always has been, and always will be, a supporter of the Roman See, to which I am under the greatest obligations on many accounts, and to whose adversaries I am particularly studious to show my aversion "f"."

Thus, wheu Erasmus writes to a Cardinal, the Papists are the Catholic Church; but when he writes to a Reformer, as Melancthon, he calls them the Popish sect, and observes, that he should dislike cruelty, even if he were the most bigoted Papist J.

This species of tergiversation throws an indelible

* Ep. 854. t To Card. Campeggio, 601.

t To Melancth. 820. " Si Papisticie sects essem addictissimus."

stain on the memory of this great man ; who, with a firmer temper, and purer religious motives, or in seasons of less temptation, might certainly have been much happier in his own mind, and abundantly more useful to the community.

He talked in the manner above described, endeavouring to steer between the dissentients, till nobody believed him ; and till he himself would have been puzzled, I conceive, to have written a clear account of his own faith.—Yet, in one respect, he was most eminently qualified for the part which he had chosen to act: No man that ever lived, perhaps, possessed a superior neatness of expression, or a more masterly flexibility of language, when reducing to practice all the various arts of ambiguity and evasion.

It has been confidently asserted, that Luther, notwithstanding the high estimation in which he held his treatise on the Bondage of the Will *, departed afterwards from the sentiments maintained in that treatise, and embraced others less rigid, and less offensive to common sense and the ordinary feelings of mankind.—A diligent and careful examination of this matter has convinced me, that there is no foundation for this opinion ; certainly none in that passage of his Commentary on Genesis, chap. xxvi. which has been produced in proof.— It may, however, be not improbable, that experience had taught Luther, in the latter part of his life, the expediency of being more careful to guard the pure doctrines of the Gospel against the abuses to which they are exposed from " curious and carnal persons lacking the Spirit of Christ." So in his Commentary on Genesis, treating of the doctrine of Predestination, he makes the usual distinction between the secret and the revealed will of God, and observes, that that will of God is to be followed which we have expressly declared to us by the • See page 271, and also the note (§) and SculteU 34.

ministry of the word of God *. " I am the more Cent. desirous," says he, " to state this accurately, because . XV1- , I know that after my death many will make a bad use of what 1 have written, and thereby establish their erroneous and wild fancies of every kind. To be brief, they will take no notice of my repeated cautions, and will lay hold only of what I may have dropped concerning the secret will of God. Remember, then, what I now say; that with that

secret will ye have nothing to do If you

shall hear the call of Jesus Christ, and be baptized in his name, and shall Love his word, you may assuredly reckon yourself among the predestinated, and have no doubt of your salvation f." How completely do these ideas accord with the spirit of our seventeenth article !

It is abundantly evident that Luther is here pleading against the abuse of the doctrine of the Divine prescience and predestination. For even persons of rank and distinction, he said would talk in this wicked manner; namely, " if I am predestinated to be saved, then I shall be saved, whether I do good or evil. But if not, I shall be condemned without any regard to my works." Now if this be true, he contended, there would be no use in all that Christ had done for the salvation of mankind ; no use in his incarnation, his passion, his resurrection ; no use in the Prophets, the Sacraments, or in all the sacred volumes. The argument was mischievous, nay diabolical in its nature, and would lead men either into despair, or the contempt of God and his revelation. They would soon say with the Epicureans, Let us enjoy life, let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die. But to all such imaginations the antidote was, a true knowledge of God and his Christ. God is faithful, who hath promised. If God were not faithful to his promises,

* See Art. 17 of Church of England,
t Luth. Op. VI. 354.

Chap, there would be an end of all our hopes of salvation. . " Thus," says he, " in my treatise on the Bondage of the Will, and in other places, I have observed that questions may be put concerning the secret or the revealed will of God. Now we know nothing of God any farther than he has been pleased to reveal himself. Moreover, what is above our comprehension is nothing to us. Deep speculations and pryings into matters not revealed, can do no good: they serve the devil's purpose, and may prove our utter ruin*."

9. Melancthon's Judgment Of The ControVersy Between Luther And Erasmus.

IN regard to Melancthon's judgment of this controversy, we have seen that Luther appealed to his Theological tracts, as containing an invincible answer to the Diatribe of Erasmus f : nor can there be the smallest doubt, but that the former edition of those tracts maintained the complete inability of man, in full as strong terms as Luther himself on any occasion had supported that doctrine. " The divine predestination," said Melancthon, " takes away the liberty of man. For both the external actions, and the internal thoughts, of all created beings whatever, take place agreeably to the Divine predestination. The judgment of a carnal man resists this sentiment; but a man of spiritual understanding approves it. Moreover, the mind which is deeply affected with a sense of the Divine predeterminations will always have the profoundest reverence for God, as well as the most steady dependence on him J."

Some alterations in the expressions which took place in the later editions of these tracts have given rise to an opinion that Melancthon, partly

* Luth. Op. VI. 353. Also Scultet, 34.
t See page 371. J Scultet, 38.

moved by the arguments of Erasmus, and partly Cent. disgusted with Luther's rigid doctrines of the i X^L Will, changed his sentiments on the important subject of the Freedom of the human Will *. To assist our judgments in this matter, several observations may be made. And first, Melancthon, in a letter to Erasmus himself, written more than three years after the publication of the Diatribe, and more than two years after the publication of Luther's answer, and lastly, after he had read both the first and the second part of the Hyperapistes, very clearly intimates that he still continued in the same sentiments with Luther. For he says, " Though


Think Of The Controversy which you have had with Luther, yet I never loved him to such a degree as to wish to increase his vehemence in a dispute. I wish this bitter contest between you had not happened.—Perhaps he has not treated you with sufficient respect; but then, on the other hand, you have reviled him to an astonishing degree f."

Secondly; More than twenty years after the date of the last mentioned letter, Melancthon writes thus in his defence against Flacius, who had accused him of having altered the Protestant doctrines. " I am still of the same opinion that I was when I wrote my Theological tracts ; a book now in the hands of many persons; and which is, in fact, a summary of those doctrines of Luther which had been delivered by him in various commentaries and in volumes of sermons. I submitted every part of my manuscript to the judgment of our Church, and of Luther himself; and on many points I consulted him very particularly \.n

* Scultet. 37. Also Brandt. f Ep. 1072.

I Defens. contra Flac. lib. I. Ep. Melan. 133. As the first edition of Melancthon's Common places, or Theological tracts, is exceedingly scarce, I have given in the Appendix a fuller account of its contents, so far as they relate to the difficult Subject of the Divine decrees. See Appendix, Melancthon's Common-places.

Ch\p. Thirdly; An attentive reader of the later edi. *Ji , tions of Melancthon's Theological tracts will observe, that the author has inserted cautions against the dangerous Stoical notion of fate and necessity; and also certain distinctions respecting that degree of freedom of will which remains even in fallen and unrenewed men, who nevertheless, by mere nature, do certain external works of the law, and also exercise a discretion in regulating their ordinary concerns. Luther makes a concession nearly to the very same purpose in his Bondage of the Will *. But both these eminent Reformers are uniformly steady in asserting the great practical doctrine of original sin, and the natural enmity of the human heart to the holy law of God. " In that point," says Melancthon expressly in his chapter on Free Will, " the human will is Captive, And Not


Fourthly; Though it must be owned there are some passages in Melancthon's Theological tracts, both in the chapter on Free Will, and on the Cause of Sin, which appear so obscure and contradictory, that they may well give rise to a degree of doubt and hesitation respecting the real sentiments of the writer; yet there exists a letter of this good man to Calvin himself, which in my judgment has cleared up this point as effectually as a matter of this kind admits of illustration from history. " My hypothesis," says Melancthon to Calvin, " is this ; that God is neither the cause of sin, nor approves of sin. In the next place, I admit a contingency in our present weak condition of the judgment, that the unlearned may know that David rushed into sin by his * 435. b. t Melancth. De Lib. Arbitrio, 166. b.

own voluntary act: and I think that the same Cent. David, when he had the Spirit of God, might have . x^1- , retained it; and, moreover, that in that struggle there was some action of the Will. Now though these points May be stated with greater subtilty, yet this mode of expressing them appears to me suited to practical purposes. Whenever we sin, we should blame our own wills; and not set up ourselves against God by seeking for the cause of our sin in his counsels." .... He then proceeds to say, " We should make the word of God our foundation; and not oppose the promises, but believe them; and not say, We will believe, as soon as we know what are the secret decrees of God. God helps the believer; and it is through his own word that he helps effectually."—Melancthon concludes with these remarkable words : " I do not write these things to you in a dictatorial spirit; it is not for me to dictate to so very learned a person, and so very well skilled in the exercises of piety; and indeed I am satisfied that these Views Of Mine Agree With Yours, but they are stated in a ruder or less refined manner, and are adapted to use*."

The pious reader will not be at a loss to draw for himself the legitimate conclusion from these facts. He will see, that in the grand Christian article of original sin, and the total inability of man, and the necessity of the renovating grace of Christ, Melancthon was as sound and as steady as Luther himself; though, perhaps, he did not on all occasions grasp his objects with the force and the distinctness of his master.—If he had altered his sentiments materially on the Bondage of the Will, or, what is the very same thing, on the propensity of human nature to evil, it is impossible he could have written in this manner to a man who entertained the sentiments

* Calv. IX. Ep. and Respons, 174.

Chap, of Calvin : and we are to remember, that the letter xu- , was written so late as the year 1543.

Still, there is nothing in all this inconsistent with a conscientious dislike of the fatalism of the Stoics ; or a disapprobation either of certain peculiar expressions written many years ago by Melanctlion himself, or of the Stoical tendency of some of the writings of the divines of Geneva. We may add, that the animadversions of Melancthon on the Calvinistic divines, in some instances, domanifestly respecttheir bigotry and intolerance,rather than any want of orthodoxy in their principles. Thus when he complains to his friend Camerarius of the violence of the contests respectingthe Stoical doctrines of necessity, and tells him that a person had been actually imprisoned because he dissented in opinion From Zeno *, we are at no loss to comprehend why he should have been understood by some persons to have had his eye on the followersof Calvin, and perhaps on Calvin himself, and to have represented them as introducing the heathen notions of fate and predestination f: nor need we wonder that he should have thought proper to soften, or totally expunge, in his later Theological tracts, all expressions on the subject of predestination, like those mentioned in page 330, which certainly are more exceptionable, because less guarded, and more liable to abuse than any thing advanced by Luther on this difficult article of religion.

When the diligent and impartial student has well considered all these things, he will see what little reason there is to represent Melancthon as having greatly disliked Luther's treatise on the Bondage of the Will, and judged it a dangerous and hurtful book, in which every thing is carried too far, and in which invincible arms are furnished to libertines and unbelievers for the rejection of Revelation. As little reason will he find for the insinuation, that Melanc

thon, in consequence of this publication of Luther Cent. began to separate himself from the system of that , *vl- , great Reformer *. How careful ought historians to be, in leaving on record concise, equivocal, and incautious remarks, which perhaps at first were intended to mean but little : but which, afterwards having been exaggerated without warrant, and often copied by writers succeeding one another, at length acquire a degree of currency, capable of deceiving posterity,—and this almost without leaving a possibility of detecting the imposture.

The learned biographer of Erasmus allows that Luther's sentiments were at bottom the same with those of Augustine ; but that Erasmus was unacquainted with that circumstance f, and imagined that he was only disputing against Luther, while in reality he was as much opposing Thomas Aquinas and his followers as the Reformer of Wittemberg. The same author tells us, that Luther had learnt his notions of fatalism from Augustine, and also from him had leamt to think ill of the Pelagians; and moreover, that Luther misunderstood and misapplied some passages in St. Paul's epistles, which in those days were not so fully cleared up as they have been since J.

The intelligent Reader probably knows enough of the sentiments of Jortin to be aware of the manner in which that author would be disposed to clear up certain doctrinal passages in the writings of St. Paul; and therefore no more need be said on this head.

* See Beausobre, III. 258, who, however, allows that there is no proof that Luther himself abandoned his system, whatever may have been said to the contrary. It is true enough, that in no very great length of time after Luther's decease, many of his followers, who still preserved the denomination of Lutheran, departed materially from the principles of their master; and I wish that in so doing it might be found they did not also lose the spirit of the Gospel.

f Jortin, 335 & 403. J Id. 336.

The evidence, however, of such a writer and such a scholar may well deserve our notice, when he speaks positively to the following important fact.

Luther's " favourite doctrine was justification by faith; and not by works, moral, legal, or evangelical: but we must do him the justice to observe, that he perpetually inculcated the absolute necessity of good works. According to him, a man is justified only by faith ; but he cannot be justified without works ; and where those works are not to be found, there is assuredly no true faith *."

10. Hostility Of Erasmus: His Apologies.

THE publication of the treatise on the Bondage of the Will produced an irreparable breach between Erasmus and Luther. Even Beausobre admits, that the former became the irreconcilable enemy of the Lutherans, and lost no opportunity of speaking ill of them f. Erasmus, in one of his letters, says, " Luther has written in such a way as to have left no room for friendship, and yet he thinks he has most wonderfully bridled his passion J."

Luther, however, with a more Christian spirit, and with the hope of preventing the mischief which, through the exasperated pen of Erasmus, might happen either to the Reformation in general, or to individuals who were disposed to befriend it, ventured once more to write a conciliatory letter to the man whom he had irritated so much by his answer to the Diatribe. In this letter he confessed the infirmity of a violent temper, which was apt to carry him too far; but, in return, he received nothing from Erasmus but reproaches and reviling language. " You have written against no person," says he, " more savagely or more maliciously : and

* Jortin, 120 t III. 260.

t To Bilibald, 940.

I am not so much of a child as to be easily wheedled Cent. and cajoled into good humour." Erasmus con- , x^1 eludes his letter thus : " I could wish you a better disposition, unless you are mightily pleased with your own. To me you may wish whatever you will, only do not wish me to have your disposition, unless indeed God should change it for you."

It is painful to see to what lengths of calumny the resentment of Erasmus could carry him, all the while professing himself to be actuated by pure Christian motives. Had he confined the operation of his ill humour to Luther only, whose treatment of him was certainly sufficiently provoking to a proud man accustomed to hear little except his own praises, he would have been much more excusable. But what shall we think of such declarations, as, " I hate these Gospellers ; as for many other reasons, so particularly for this, that through them literature declines every where, and is on the point of perishing; and without letters, what is life ? They love money and a wife, and care not a rush for any thing else. We have been stunned long enough with the cry of Gospel, Gospel, Gospel: we want Gospel morals *." The angry writer here alludes to those priests and monks who embraced the Reformation, and, along with that, a state of matrimony.

Erasmus had sense enough to see that the Church stood in need of reformation: moreover, his satirical wit was of infinite use in exposing the immoralities of the clergy, and in lowering their credit. But he had neither the courage to stand forward himself as a reformer, nor the honesty to join those who ventured their lives in the good cause. As long as the success of these heroes seemed entirely doubtful, he appears to have treated

Chap, them with considerable candour and respect*, and , to do him justice, always exclaimed against attempts to extirpate them by cruelty and persecution. But, when they were become strong and numerous, and could do without his help, his pride was so deeply wounded, that he constantly showed himself their determined adversary. Yet, in his opposition to them, he found himself miserably fettered by his former and even his present connexions, and also by many things which, both in his letters and his publications, he had advanced in harmony with the sentiments of the Reformers. Hence that timidity, double-dealing, chagrin and resentment, which one laments in the conduct of this great man during the latter part of his life. We are never, I think, so much disposed to to Conrad be out of humour with Erasmus, as when he apPeiican. pears to triumph in the unhappy dissensions of the first Reformers.—" Fight," says he, in a letter to Conrad Pelican, " among yourselves: Zuingle and Ecolampadius against Luther and Pomeranus; and again, Balthasar against the former; and Farel against you. Shall I, at the hazard of my life, nay of my salvation, connect myself with such a discordant faction ? Whatever mischief happen to you, impute it to yourselves: I always foretold that no good could come of such proceedings f." In another place he says, " When Luther first appeared in this new character, I augured but too truly that matters would come to this pass ; but I was not believed. Now, as is the case with fools, he has learnt by experience to be so moderate in his measures that he almost publishes a recantation And again : " This Gospel fever, for so I choose to

• " I fear," says Erasmus, " exceedingly for poor Luther; so much does the conspiracy work on all sides. The great men also, especially pope Leo, are irritated against hini."— To Gerard Novium. 577, in the year 1530. t To Conrad Pelican, 964. J Id. 1137.

call it, begins to remit, and to afford a prospect of Cent. returning health. What comes from Luther now, is of . x\1' such a kind, that he seems to recant his former doctrines ; and thus his very disciples are out of humour with him, and are inclined to call him a heretic, and a man destitute of the spirit of the Gospel, and grown crazy by giving way to human reasonings*!!"

What a bad spirit manifests itself in all this miserable misrepresentation!!

It was not unusual for the Protestants to select from the writings of Erasmus, and circulate among the people, such passages as favoured themselves and their cause. This procedure, while it weakened the authority of their adversary, was apt to inflame his resentment to the highest pitch. Gerard Noviomagus, who had formerly been an intimate of Erasmus, affords an instance of this sort. This reformer, disgusted with the unmanly conduct of his friend in the business of religion, exposed, in several small publications, his inconsistency and want of principle; and, in particular, charged him with having formerly maintained the unlawfulness of putting heretics to death.

The Apology of Erasmus upon this occasion is Apology one of the most exceptionable pieces among all his Era5mu*voluminous writings. He calls it a letter against certain professors of the Gospel falsely so named.— Under pretence of criticising the bad practices of some, " he defamed during this year," says a very candid Annalist, " all the friends of the Reformation to a man; and this to please the Emperor, who was coming from Italy into Germany f." He himself, to avoid suspicion, had left Basil, where a reformation of the church had taken place, and was gone to Friburg J. It is not worth while to trouble the Reader with many extracts from this most peevish and acrimonious treatise. He now began to maintain, that there were certain heresies, which

* To Sadolet, 1125. t Scultet XXIX. i<50.

: Sleidan, VI. 169.

had the nature of blasphemy and sedition ; and he asked, Whether, in such cases, the sword was to be withheld from princes? It was a fault, he owned, to drag men to the fire for Every Error; but it was also wrong to contend, that No Heretic whatever ought to be put to death by the civil magistrate*. " Then as to the corrupt state of the Church," he said, " there was in ecclesiastical institutions, as in other human affairs, a beginning, a progress, and a completion: and to pretend to reduce the Church to its first and original principles, was as absurd as to put an adult back again into his cradle f." To be brief, he was of opinion that if St. Paul were then alive, he would not disapprove of the present state of the Church, but would declaim against the vices of men J.

He makes an invidious comparison between the primitive Christians and these novel evangelists, calumniating thelatter in every way he couli devise. " The former recommended their doctrine by mildness and simplicity of manners, and by patience in bearing injuries ; whereas the societies of the latter abounded with adulterers, drunkards, gamesters,and spendthrifts." He said, " It had been his misfortune not to know a single person who had not been made a worse character by joining the Gospellers. Luther's cause was not of the very worst kind at first, but he had raised such disturbances, that Melancthon was at this very time following him wherever he had been, as Lite follows Ate, endeavouring to restore peace and harmony

One might here be allowed to ask,—How Coui.d Erasmus here forget the numerous encomiums on the virtues and piety of the Reformers, which are to be found dispersed through his writings ?—Also, how is it that he was not aware, that if he himself had been

• Op. Eras. X. 1576. t Id. X. 1585. J Id. X. 1587. $ Id. 1578 to 1582. Ate is the goddess of mischief; Lite the goddess of entreaty

seized as a heretic, he would infallibly have been condemned at a tribunal of Monks, and probably would have met with the same fate from the Pope and his Cardinals if he had been caught at Rome; unless indeed the unparalleled dexterity of his address, and the flexibility of his language, might have saved him?—The answer is, Erasmus was then in a passion.

The Protestant Clergy of Strasburg thought proper to reply to the indiscriminate slander of Erasmus. But as this tract is not before us, all we can say of it is, that the Reformers had very just cause for complaint. Erasmus considered his old friend Noviomagus as the real author of the work ; and, in an illhumoured epistle toMelancthon, speaks thus of him: " Formerly, one Noviomagus had a most extraordinary affection for me ; but being a little intoxicated, he travelled to Strasburg, and is now there raging as violently against me as if I had murdered his father, his mother, his grandfather, and grandmother. He has subscribed his own name to four pamphlets;— and the fifth comes out under the name of the ministers of Strasburg, and is as seditious a publication as can exist *." Upon reading the last-mentioned treatise, Erasmus became so outrageous, that he published an answer to it, addressed to the Brethren of the Lower Germany, which is infinitely more violent and slanderous than his preceding Apology against the pretended Gospellers. The following is a specimen of the spirit which pervades this performance. " I knew a certain person whom for more than ten years I loved as if he had been my own son ; and, in return, the youth was as dutiful to me as to a father. There was in him every appearance of a good disposition. But as soon as he had had a draught of this evangelical spirit, he began, contrary to all expectation, to be a good player at dice, a sitter up all night at cards, and a man of an elegant taste for lewd women. By and by, he • Ep. Melancthon, 1301.

began to wear a long sword in a slovenly dissolute manner, and to think of matrimony.—Lastly, he took offence at half a word, and, from being my friend, suddenly changed into a viper against me, and became as greedy of revenge as if I had murdered his mother.

" I could mention another, who is strongly attached to the same party; a man, against whom I never said a word, but have often commended him both in my conversation and my writings; a man to whom I have done some good turns ; who, though he never expostulated with me, yet since his departure, has discovered the most bitter enmity towards me; and not content with wounding my character in conversation, has written a pamphlet towards me, which he reads to his pot-companions. And all this because I refused to act the part of a madman like himself. Further, I was no restraint to the man; I even pleaded his excuse with the bishop: I warned him, in a letter, of the danger he had to apprehend from a magistrate. He profited by the advice; and, upon receiving a summons, chose rather to quit the place. Now, this man is one of the heads of the Gospel party!"

Thus the author goes on with one story after another*.

" In matters of business," he says, " he had found the Gospellers more unfeeling, and less to be trusted, than other people;" and adds, " that he was acquainted with some of the Roman Catholic bishops, whose sanctity he preferred to that of a thousand of the new sectaries." He then tells us, " that he never went into their churches, but had often seen with his own eyes individuals coming from the service, and had often inquired of them very particularly what had been doing there, and whether, for example, when Ecolampadius preached, they had ever seen a single person sighing or shedding a tear on account of his sins : that the answer was, Not one; * Op. Eras. X. 1607 to 1609. .

—but that they had seen many yawning and half asleep *."

Erasmus proceeds to ask, Why the Evangelic sectaries should shrink so much at the charge of sedition, when Luther himself had maintained in his writings, that it was the peculiar nature of the Gospel to excite seditions f?—Yet this is the same man, a large portion of whose voluminous writings consists of complaints against heat and violence, misrepresentation, and want of candour!'.!

We must not deprive the reader of a few sentences towards the conclusion of this memorable Apology of Erasmus. He addresses the brethren thus: " I shall say nothing of the author of the book, because I am not perfectly sure who he is. But certainly it is a most empty, slanderous, and seditious publication, and as foolish as it is deficient in learning J. You, ray dear friends, I conjure not to suffer the appearance of false religion to impose on your simplicity, neither to let any one bewitch you to quit the communion of the Church.—In regard to a complete reform of the ecclesiastical state, the Princes will take care of that; and the thing may be done by them without tumult. In the mean time, do ye preserve the unity of the Church, and turn neither to the right hand nor to the left. Beware diligently of those, whose speech is mild but contagious, creeping like a cancer. Objections are made to the bad lives of the priests : the tyranny of the papal decrees is exaggerated : the evil practices of the monks are exposed, and promises of liberty are held forth : This is the bait; but do ye take care, lest there should be found lurking under it a steel hook, which may entangle you, and prove your destruction. What greater folly than to show your hatred to priests and wicked monks, in such a manner as to render them no better, and to make yourselves worse than they are! For there is no * Op. Eras. X. 1611. + Id. X. 1617. I Id. 1627.

Chap, fault worse than heresy or schism. Be it granted, . X'L , that luxury, lewdness, ambition, avarice, and every other crime, may all be found in one single priest; heresy is, however, worse than this whole aggregate of vices. In all ages, there have been many complaints as well against priests and princes, as against the morals of the people. In different periods, different vices have predominated; but vices there always have been. In our anger against ecclesiastics, let us not forget that they are but men. Practices, which are not to be borne, will be corrected by the authority of the princes much more efficaciously than by inexperienced Upstarts, who exasperate the evils by the bad methods in which they undertake to remove them. Let Christ make the reform through the medium of Charles V. an emperor eminent for his power, eminent for his clemency, and equally eminent for his religion. The co-operation of the German princes may be depended upon ; and there are many circumstances which induce us to entertain a good hope that the thoughts of the Pope are turned the same way. — No reformation of the Church will succeed but what originates with our rulers. The Pope alone, with the Emperor, can do the business; and unless appearances deceive us, Christ hath actually influenced our minds to this good work*."

It is impossible for any one, who is conversant with the writings of Erasmus, to read these passages, without feeling a disagreeable mixture of indignation and contempt.

11. Inconsistency And Levity Of Erasmus.

Nor a month before he had vented his spleen in this manner against the German protestants; and, at the same time, with so much candour, had formed these sanguine expectations, from the laudable * Op. Eras. 1629,

exertions of the Pope and the Emperor, I find the Cent. very flexible Erasmus could write as follows to a . *vl~ . learned and eminent Reformer, whose good opinion he did not wish to lose. " God alone, my dearest Philip, can unravel the confused plot of the tragedy which is now acting every where. Ten councils may assemble together, and yet not do it; much less I.—


is instantly Accused Of Lutheuanism, aud he has no other recompense*."

The mild and affectionate temper of Melancthon could not fail to feel the influence of kind and artful expressions; and there was reason to fear, lest sometimes a bad use should be made of the answers which might be drawn from him by the insinuating address and management of Erasmus in his letters. The excellent Camerarius saw the danger; and as the breach between the Reformers and Erasmus was every day growing wider, he ventured to caution his friend Melancthon not to write any more to a man whose unfriendly disposition was no longer doubtful.

Melancthon, though naturally timid and pacific, was yet always conscientious, and often proved him- . self capable of vigour and activity, as soon as the line of his duty appeared distinct, and called for courage and decision. Accordingly, he not only profited by the friendly suggestions of Camerarius, but opened his mind on that occasion respecting Erasmus with less reserve than I remember him to have done in any other part of his writings. " I will follow your advice," says Melancthon ingenuously, in his reply to Camerarius : " moreover, you know very well that I never much courted his friendship. What little penetration have our adversaries! They are fond of the man, who has dispersed throughout his writings the seeds of many opinions, which, if Luther had not arisen, would perhaps at * To Philip Melancth. 1296.

Chap, length have produced farmoregrievousdisturbances, t XII. and have drawn men's attention another way. All this bitter contention concerning the Lord's Supper appears to owe its origin to him. Then, in some places, how far does he seem from disliking Arius and his party, to which we here are most firm in our opposition ! Lastly, is there, in all his writings, a syllable on the subject of justification, or on the rights of governors, which is truly worthy of a Christian man? I would gladly see these topics fully handled by great writers; but let those extol


Such had been the tergiversation and versatility of Erasmus, such the most solemn protestations of the sincerity of his faith, and so many the ambiguous and satirical effusions of his wit on occasions which could not but give offence to serious and pious minds, that it is not easy to point out the person who really loved and respected this otherwise great and venerable character. At the end of the year 1527, The Empe- we find the Emperor himself writing to Erasmus, to'Erumui, telling him how great was his satisfaction to have A. D. been informed, by Erasmus's own letters, that the 1530. madness of the Lutherans began to decline. " The whole Christian world," he said, " was indebted to him for having effected that which neither emperors, nor popes, nor princes, nor universities, nor numbers of learned men had been able to bring about." Notwithstanding all this gross flattery, the Emperor, in the same letter tells him, that he had allowed the Spanish Inquisition to examine his books—but that he had nothing to fear. The Emperor was fully convinced of his orthodoxy. However, if it should appear that he had made any slip, or had advanced any thing ambiguous, he would certainly, upon

* Melancthon to Camerarius, IV. 676; where, for the sake of caution, he calls Erasmus Pothinus; which, in Greek, answers to Desiderius, one of the names of Erasmus. See also Scultct. XXIX. 250.

receiving a friendly admonition, clear it up, and, by Cent. thus removing every thing that could give offence to . xv1, weak minds, secure immortality to his writings*.

We need not observe, that, in this letter, there was quite as much bitter as sweet for Erasmus.

It added not a little to his mortification, that, about the same time, the Faculty of Divines of the University of Paris extracted upwards of thirty propositions from his writings, and censured them in very strong termsf. His letters and his defence on this occasion, are inimitable specimens of the author's great powers of evasion and address. There is in them an artful mixture of submission, sarcasm, and menace. Yet, after all, the situation of Erasmus was such as exposed him rather to ridicule than envy.—Perpetually calling heaven and earth to witness how good a Catholic he was, till nobody believed him; despising in his heart, and even hating the Parisian theologians, he yet condescended to make an ungracious sort of submission to them, and to own his having said things in his writings without sufficient caution; and, lastly, magnifying his own merits for having always been stanch to the Church, and vilifying the Reformers for their heresy, he could not however deny, but that, in arguing against impieties, he himself might have, in some instances, fallen into errors of an impious nature J.

Erasmus, in the.preface to his Declarations, expresses, in sarcastic language, sufficiently intelligible, his very great anxiety for the dignity and reputation for the divines of the Sorbonne. In his reply to their conclusion, he complains of the injury they had done to him, by representing him and Luther of the same class, when, in fact, not any one of his

* Erasmo, 1047.

+ Du Pin, III. 240 & 335. Also Op. Eras. JX. 819. t Ep. Coll. Sorb. Theol. Hisp. Sorbon. Senat. Par. Beddx, 1031 to 1044.

Chap, propositions entirely agreed with those of Luther* r xn- , and, in his letter to Bedda, who was the principal instigator of the processes against him at Paris, he strongly intimates, that he might be so provoked by ill usage as to revolt to the enemies of the Church. Let the Reader determine his meaning; his words are these : " If I should be overcome with injuries, and revolt to the enemies of the Church, of whom will God require my poor soul, but of you? That I have hitherto persevered, it is not by my own strength, but through the Divine assistance; and, by the same assistance, I hope to persevere to the end. But who may not be worn out by such atrocious and such perpetual abuse? If that should happen, do you not see what a disturbance it may be in my power to raise? and do you never consider what an extensive mischief may be the consequence of your present measures? Erasmus is not so devoid of friends as you suppose "f."

Almost two years before this remonstrance, he had addressed the same Parisian divine in a very long exculpatory epistle, composed in a most truly Erasmian style. " What can I do with all the suspicions of mankind ? There are so many myriads of condemned articles; so many battalions of scholastic dogmas; so many connexions, partialities, and hatreds; so many sects, and so many mad brains, that it is impossible to please all. Hitherto I have endeavoured to act an upright part; and you would say so, were you here. If I were so fond of glory as some suppose; nay, if I did not throroughly, from the bottom of my heart, abhor factions and heresies, I might have been either allured by numerous flatteries, or entangled by the various snares that have been laid for me; or again, I might have been driven either by the furious threats and pamphlets of the

* Eras. IX. 922.

T Beddae, 1039. Erasmus wished to have prevented the publication of the censure of his works.

Lutherans, or by the no less furious publications, detractions, and slanders of the opposite faction, to take the field on the side of the Reformers, with whom, if I had connected myself, matters would have been by this time in such a state, that the censures of divines would have had no great weight. I know you will say, I make myself of vast consequence. I answer, I could speak of myself in a much higher style if I pleased, and very truly too. I do not repent of the part I have acted in thus keeping clear of the sectarians; and I hope, through God's help, to continue in the same mind; but if ye think that 1 deserve to be hunted thus by a set of wicked cavillers, you must take the consequences*."

There is no end of the contradictory declarations of Erasmus. The following is a remarkable instance.—Little more than half a year had elapsed since his address to the brethren of the Lower Germany, in which he attempts to mitigate the charges against the clergy, thinks very favourably of the religion of Charles V. and expresses good hopes of the Pope's concurrence in the work of reformation f, when he writes to Matthias Kretzer in substance to this effect: " That the Emperor was in a state of most violent irritation : and that there were those who were throwing oil into the fire J. That some who wore purple gowns did much mischief by their conduct; for though they could not but know that the luxury and pride of the clergy had been the chief cause of the present dissensions, yet they lived in incredible pomp, revelling, and sometimes playing at dice all night; and not even taking care to keep their practices from the knowledge of the people. That the haughtiness, not to say the tyranny, of the ecclesiastics, was on the increase :

* Beddas, 873. t See page 344.

X Meaning the Pope, who, with the Emperor's assistance, was endeavouring to crush the reformers. See Jortin, I. 506.


Erasmus's account ot" the revolution at Basil,

A. D. 1520

The levity of Erasmus so earl; as

A. D.


Their wealth and their luxury were also on the increase, but there was not the least diminution of their thirst after these things." " It was not for him," Erasmus said, " to judge of the Pope, but those who came from Italy told things which he could not hear without sorrow. How harshly had he treated Florence! As far as he could judge, the Pope, by the help of the princes, and by augmenting the number of his cardinals, was aiming at the extinction of every attempt at reformation. And what was all this but to provoke God more and more*?"

The writings of Erasmus abound with humorous levitiest, which, by persons of piety and religion, were not always deemed inoffensive. For example, in describing the revolution which took place at Basil in 1529, he says, " Not a particle of an image is left in the churches, so exceedingly hot is the war against idols in the midst of this cold weather. The images of the saints, and even of the crucifix, have been treated with so much ludicrous insult, that it may be thought extraordinary no miracle should have been wrought on the occasion, especially as the saints of former times were very touchy, and performed plenty of them in consequence of slight affronts. They tell horrid stories of saints, who, in many instances, punished persons for using profane expressions; insomuch, that I cannot but wonder that not one out of so many should revenge himself on the authors of this prodigious devastation. As TO THE MILDNESS OF Chkist AND

The Blessed Virgin, That I Am Not SurPrised AT J.

Even so early as the year 1521, we find Erasmus expressing himself on religious subjects in a manner inconsistent with that gravity of character which became his age and reputation for learning;

* Ep. 1361. t See Luther's observation, in page 321. t Ep. 1171. 1188. 1223.

insomuch, that, for many years past, the articles of his creed had been judged both scanty and uncertain.

Let the following confession to his friend Richard Pace be attentively considered. —" At length I perceive the intention of the Germans is to involve me, whether I will or not, in the business of Luther. In so doing, they have acted unwisely, and have rather alienated me from their cause. What good could I have done Luther by sharing the danger with him, except that, instead of one man, two might have perished ? I cannot conceive why he writes with such a spirit: I am sure he brings an odium on the lovers of literature. There is no doubt but he has taught many excellent doctrines, and also given much excellent advice; and I wish he had not spoiled the good by intolerable faults. But if every syllable he had written were unexceptionable, it was not my disposition to run the hazard of my life for the sake of truth. It is not every man who has sufficient courage to be a martyr; and I am afraid, that, in case of trial or persecution, I should follow Peter's example. I follow the decisions of the Pope and the Emperor when they are right, which is acting like a religious man ; and when they are wrong, I submit, which is taking the safe side.—And I am of opinion that even good men may conduct themselves thus, when there is no hope of obtaining redress*."

Here, at once, from his own mouth, is the solution of all the enigmatical conduct of Erasmus.—■ Many sincere and excellent Christians have, I believe, been as timid and irresolute as he was, but their timidity and irresolution was their pain and their burthen. They prayed for grace to help in time of need ; they never made light of their infirmities or besetting sins; but, on the contrary, viewed them as the enemies to their spiritual • Ep. 651.

Citap. improvement, and struggled to obtain victory over XIL , them, constantly fighting like faithful soldiers of Christ, and diligently avoiding the snares of temptation. It was the gradual unfolding of the motives which governed Erasmus, and their practical consequences, which alienated from him, in their turns, the minds of the most eminent reformers; for example, of Luther first, and of Melancthon, more slowly, afterwards.—Luther freely confesses, that his most affectionate friend Justus Jonas incessantly solicited him to treat Erasmus with respect, and to avoid all harshness and asperities in his controversies with him. " You cannot think," he used to say, " how excellent and venerable a character the old man is*." But he had the satisfaction to find that Jonas altered his mind upon reading the first part of the Hyperaspistes. " I congratulate you," said he, " my excellent friend, on your recantation in regard to Erasmus, in whose praise you used formerly to have so much to say. You now paint him in his true colours, namely, as a viper full of deadly stings. I rejoice that the perusal of one of his Hyperaspistes has so effectually opened your eyesf."

This long detail of the controversy between Erasmus and Luther, and of the circumstances connected with it, will not be deemed uninteresting by any student of the history of the Church of Christ, who wishes to become acquainted with the real motives of the principal actors in those scenes which, under Divine Providence, brought about the blessed Reformation.—Erasmus, Luther, and Melancthon, are unquestionably to be reckoned among those principal actors, though by no means so as to exclude several others from their right to a substantial share of the praise. The unhappy inconsistencies which we have remarked in the character of Erasmus,

* Seek. II. 81 Luth. Respons. Hen. VIII. 495.

t Ep. by Aurifab. II. 353.

though extremely derogatory to his personal worth, in no wise weaken the proofs we have given of the great advantages which the causeof Christian liberty derived from certain parts of his labours. As these contributed much to unveil the tyranny, corruptions, and iniquitous lives of the clergy, they prepared men's minds for that shock which the Papacy was soon to receive; a shock however of which Erasmus neither foresaw the probability, nor wished to be the author.—His memorable interview at Cologne with the Elector Frederic, and his account of a number of propositions, which he considered as axioms in the affair of Luther, took place at a most important and critical juncture*. In regard to Luther, there can be no necessity to repeat often what nobody denies; namely, that his eye was always single and steady. The frequent insinuations of the operation of ambitious motives, may, perhaps, have produced unfavourable impressions on some minds; nevertheless, all such impressions are without warrant; and cannot fail to vanish on the mere inspection of the decisive documents, both public and private, which are contained in this History.

Of Melancthon we may truly say, that integrity, piety, and discretion, were parts of his character; for these virtues posterity do him ample justice : at the same time, nobody," I think, who knows him well, considers him as a model either of unusual firmness or extraordinary penetration. The characters both of Luther and of Erasmus appear to me to have been very much misunderstood; and that labour is well employed which contributes to rectify erroneous judgments of this sort. The asperity and positiveness of Luther have had the effect of lowering him too much : The politeness and civility of Erasmus have contributed to raise him too high ; and it is with no little concern that I am * See the Elector's interview with Erasmus, Ch. VI. Vol. VI.


constrained to add, that the propensity of his reli-
gious sentiments—to make the very best of them—
towards the Pelagian, or half Pelagian heresy, se-
cures him but too favourable a reception with many
modern divines. The Church of England repro-
bates Pelagianism expressly ; and therefore such of
its members as are disposed to applaud the com-
ments and interpretations of Erasmus and his ad-
mirers, would do well to examine, whether, in so
doing, they act consistently with their own confes-
sions of Faith*.


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