Imatges de pÓgina

the barriers of Jewish exclusiveness are removed; in Christianity a new and absolute principle, the world-creating Word of God, has revealed itself; and the obligation rests upon every man, hampered by no bonds of any narrow form of the religious life, to surrender himself entirely to this divine being, to unite himself in love with the Son of God, and through him with God himself. This ideal representation is no longer disturbed by any of the conflicts through which Christianity had to work its earlier way. As the founder of Christianity is here raised to divinity, so is Christianity here presented as endowed with an endless life. Christian consciousness has at last reached a restingplace, and left behind the clouds which at a lower point had veiled its field of vision."

In prosecuting the inquiries and reaching the results above stated and illustrated, the critics of the Tübingen school claim to have exercised the strictest historic impartiality towards the Christian church and Christianity, and to have aimed to gain a picture of its origin and development, as true as possible, corresponding with actual facts, and in harmony with historical possibilities and probabilities. In doing this, they must assume the position of critics, attack many almost universal assumptions, and do violence to many fondly cherished convictions. Their final aim is, they assert, the purely positive one of the acquirement of accurate historical knowledge; and however much opinions may differ in respect to the individual results reached by them, it cannot be denied, they say, that their leading principles are the same which, in another field than that of theology, have controlled all historical studies since the inquiries of Niebuhr and of Ranke.

1 Our limits will not permit us to present the reviewer's further development of Baur's views respecting the later history of the church. He shows that in the presence of Gnosticism, which rejected a large portion of the sacred volume, and of Montanism, which substituted for its teachings the revelations of a prophetic ecstasy, it sought to give greater weight to its traditions by exalting the authority of its teachers, and strengthened itself by preparing and promulgating precise statements of its faith. Thus arose Episcopacy, and, in due time, the Papacy, and thus, too, was the catholicity of the church firmly and finally established.





SEVERAL memoirs of Erasmus were written within a century after his death, as those of Rhenanus, Merula, Mercier, Birardiere, Bayle, in his Dictionary, and Du Pin, in the fifth volume of his Ecclesiastical History. At later periods, his life has been written by Knight, Beaurigny, Le Clerc, Jortin, Hess, and Adolph Müller. The memoir by Le Clerc is prefixed to his complete edition of the works of Erasmus, and of this the volumes of Jortin are little more than a translation. They are written in the form of annals, showing where Erasmus was, and what he did, and what befel him from year to year. Large portions of them consist of extracts from his letters, interspersed with explanatory and critical remarks. The memoir proper is followed by a copious appendix, and by an extended review of Erasmus's character and works. The work of Jortin is called by Johnson "a dull book," but we have not found it

To be sure, it is not written in an easy, flowing style, - the plan of the author forbade it; but it is agreeable, instructive, full of anecdote and interest, touching upon the characters and works of the friends and correspondents of Erasmus, who were the most distinguished men of his age. It can hardly be called, however, a life of Erasmus. It is rather remarks upon his life, than a continuous biography. In the following sketch, we shall be guided chiefly by the volumes of Jortin, assisted occasionally by other writers, and especially by a very instructive monograph in the London Quarterly Review for July 1859.

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1 The Life of Erasmus. By the late Rev. John Jortin, D.D., Archdeacon of London, etc. Three vols. 8vo. London. 1808.

Erasmus lived at a most exciting and critical period of the world's history. He preceded the Reformation by almost half a century, and was one of those learned, gifted, laborious men who, without knowing exactly what they were doing, prepared the way for it. It was continually in the mouths of the monks, while the Reformation was in progress, “Erasmus laid the egg, and Luther hatched it." To this Erasmus, who did not quite like the compliment, replied: "I laid a hen's egg, but Luther hatched some other kind of brood.”

Not only did Erasmus prepare the way for the Reformation, he lived through the most tumultuous and critical period of it. The Reformation may be said to have commenced in the year 1517, when Luther published his theses against indulgences; Erasmus died almost twenty years later, in 1536.

The circumstances of Erasmus's birth and early education, and indeed we may say of his whole life, were against him, and yet, to his credit it should be said, he so grappled with them and rose above them as to be justly regarded the most distinguished literary character of his age, and perhaps of any age. His favor was courted by popes and prelates, emperors and kings. He corresponded familiarly with all the distinguished men, both of church and state, at the period in which he lived; and his letters, which were all in Latin, fill one of the folios of his works.

The year of Erasmus's birth is not certainly known. He did not know it himself, and his biographers are not agreed respecting it. It is quite certain, however, that he was born at Rotterdam, on the twenty-eighth day of October, in the year

1465 or 1467. His father, whose name was Gerard, resided in Torgau, and made proposals of marriage to Margaret, the daughter of a physician of Sevenbergen. The relatives of Gerard, who intended him for a priest, were so violently opposed to the connection, that the young couple concluded to marry themselves. They solemnly plighted their faith to each other, and lived together for some years as husband and

wife. The result of their union was two sons, the young. est of whom was the personage of whom we write. He took the name of his father Gerard, which in Dutch signinifies desirable, amiable. In Latin, this is equivalent to Desiderius, and in Greek to Erasmus. Hence, in subsequent life he chose to be called Desiderius Erasmus.

After the birth of the youngest son, the father was sent away by his relatives to Rome, where he employed himself in transcribing ancient authors. Ere long they informed him that Margaret was dead, which so deeply affected him, that he concluded to take orders and become a priest. Upon his return to Holland he found that he had been imposed upon, and that his beloved Margaret was yet alive. Still, he dared not violate his vow of celibacy, nor .could Margaret think of marrying any other person. Henceforth they lived separate, and devoted themselves to the care of their children.

Little Gerard was sent to school when only four years of age, and soon after became a singer in the cathedral church of Utrecht. At the age of nine he went to Daventer, where he had for a school-fellow Adrianus Florentius, afterwards Pope Adrian VI. Here his progress in knowledge was surprising. He went rapidly through the whole course of scholastic training, — logic, physics, metaphysics, morals, as taught at that period, seeming to apprehend almost intuitively whatever was taught him; and so remarkable was his memory that he could repeat verbatim the greater part of Terence and Horace. Zinthius, one of the masters of the school, is said to have predicted at this time that Gerard would one day become the envy and the wonder of Germany.

At Daventer Gerard boarded in the same house with his mother, who followed him there that she might be near him. After about four or five years, she died suddenly of the plague, and he who should have been her husband was so much affected by her death, that he soon followed her to the grave; leaving his son and his property to the care of three executors, by whom the boy was hardly used.

Erasmus was now of an age to be sent to the university; but to this his guardians would not consent. Their plan was to thrust him into a convent, and share his patrimony among themselves. They first placed him in a convent school at Balduk in Brabant, where he passed, or as he says, lost, three years of his life. As he utterly refused to renounce his liberty, and take upon himself the vows of the order, he was removed by his guardians to another religious house near Delft; and afterwards to a third at Stein, near Torgau.

It may help to illustrate the spirit and practices of the age, to show how much solicitude was manifested, and what artifices were resorted to, to induce young men, and even boys, to commit themselves to conventual life. Even at Daventer, says Erasmus, "the master of the school used every endeavor to induce me to become a monk. Though of a pious disposition, I was wise enough to plead my youth, and the anger of my parents if I should do anything without their knowledge. When the good man saw that nothing else would prevail, he brought forth a crucifix, and, while I burst into tears, he said with the look of one inspired: “Do you not acknowledge that Christ suffered for you?' I told him that I did most fervently acknowledge it. “By him, then, I adjure you that you suffer him not to have died for you in vain. Obey my counsels, and seek the good of your soul, lest in the world to come you perish everlastingly.'”

The same course of measures, and even severer ones, were pursued at Balduk. The slightest breach of discipline was threatened with, and often followed by, a cruel punishment. The young Erasmus was once flogged for an offence of which he was not guilty, which threw him into a fever, and permanently injured his health. The most frightful stories were told him of the wickedness of the world, and the lamentable fate of young men who had withstood the admonitions of pious monks, and left the safe seclusion of the cloister. One had sat down on what seemed to be the root of a tree, but proved to be a huge serpent, which

VOL. XIX. No. 73.


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