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those two friends kept a constant correspondence. In one of his letters Master Colet had kindly reproved Erasmus for some fault and omission in him, which though not mentioned by Erasmus, yet we find how well it worked with him, and that he thought these kind monitions were rather an establishment than a breach of friendship, and without which plain dealing it was impossible it should subsist long. Then he freely expressed his great dislike of that new theology, which was unhapplily brought into the church by the modern schoolmen, and was in effect nothing but the art of trifling and wrangling, telling him that he bad set himself against those scholastical divines, and would, if possible, restore the theological studies that were founded upon the Scriptures and the primitive fathers. That it was upon this view he had publicly in Oxford expounded the Epistles of St. Paul, and should be glad of a partner in that labor of searching the Scriptures. And he earnestly pressed Erasmus to join with him, and to undertake a like public exposition of some part of the Old Testament, (while he himself was employed in the New,) either a book of Moses, or the eloquent Isaiah, that he might so warm the minds and affections of the students in those cold winter months that were now coming on.
This excellent letter of Mr. Colet is lost, but the answer of Erasmus shows the contents of it. Wherein, among the excuses made for not complying with the advice of it, the best excuse of Erasmus was, that he must soon return to Paris. In the meantime, while he was detained in England, partly by the win ter season, and partly by an embargo laid on shipping, upon the flight of a cer tain commander, [i. e., an escape out of the Tower, made by the pretender, Perkin Warbeck,] he had retired for a few months to that famous university, to converse with scholars and divines, rather than with courtiers. He would have Colet go on with his laudable endeavors of reforming the studies of divinity, and says:-"As soon as I am conscious to myself of strength and ability sufficient, I will readily come in to your assistance, and be diligent at least, if not useful, in that excellent work. In the meantime, nothing can be a greater pleasure, than either in discourse, or by letter, to inquire into the sense and right meaning of the Holy Scriptures. Farewell, my Colet. The most courteous prelate, [all heads of religious houses were so called,] Richard Charnock, my host, and our common friend, bids me give you his wishes of health and happiness. Oxford-from the convent of canons of the order of St. Augustine, commonly called St. Mary's."
In this epistolary intercourse, Colet and Erasmus, like true Christians and divines, consulted and instructed one another. And their conversation, while together in England, was to promote their mutual studies and endeavors for the public good, which they continued to do many years after this, for when Erasmus was here preparing his immortal work, the New Testament in its original, and a new Latin version, he was very much assisted by Dr. Colet, who lent him two very authentic Latin copies, of great antiquity.
While at Cambridge, Erasmus writes to his friend Colet, that he was forced to fight for him with the Thomists and Scotists of that place, being the more angry with those fellows, for hindering the progress of learning, especially of the Greek language, at that time making its way into the world, which they were so mad at, that they could not forbear Aying out against it even in their pulpits, and endeavored to run it down, under the notion of heresy, as hath been before hinted.
Though the knowledge of the Greek tongue was at this time very low, yet there was a comment on Aristotle ventured upon for the sake of the schoolmen, wherein, (as ill-luck would have it,) by the mistake (or rather ignorance) of the commentator, instead of luxń dotu avos, anima est immaterialis, was read yout totiv aúlds, and so it was rendered anima est tibia, instead of immaterialis. This put the good man's brains, while reading upon that author, on the tenters to clear his text; but at last be thought he had done notably, when he brought no less than fifteen reasons (such as they were) to prove that odd assertion, that the soul was a pipe, which Aristotle never so much as dreamt of.
This was the case with all of them, as to their ignorance in the Greek tongue. But yet they hugged themselves under this venerable mantle, and proclaimed every one an heretic, who understood that tongue, especially if be made use of his skill in translating or criticising upon the New Testament. And this aver sion to good literature remained all the reign of Henry VII. and the beginning of Henry VIII. About which time, even at Oxford, a preacher declaimed openly at St. Mary's againgt the pernicious innovation of the Greek tongue, and raised such a ferment about it among the students, that the king, then at Woodstock, (having bad the matter rightly stated to him by Mr. Thomas More and Richard Pace,) sent his royal letters to the university, to allow and commend that study among the young men.
It was not long after this, that a divine, preaching at court, presumed to rail plentifully at Greek learning, and new interpretations of the Scripture. Dr. Pace cast his eyes upon the king, to observe how his majesty was affected with such stuff. The king smiled upon Pace by way of contempt of the preacher, and after sermon sent for him, and appointed a solemn disputation, wherein he himself would be present, to debate the matter between the preacher opposing, and Mr. Thomas More defending the use of the Greek tongue. When the time eame, Mr. More began an eloquent apology in favor of that ancient language. The divine, instead of answering to the purpose, fell down upon his knees, and only begged pardon for giving any offense in the pulpit. And excusing him. self, that what he did, was by. the impulse of the Spirit; “not the spirit of Christ," says the king, “but the spirit of infatuation." His majesty then asked him, whether he had read any thing of Erasmus? He said "No." "Why then," says the king, "you are a very foolish fellow, to censure what you never read." "I have read," says he, "something they call Moira." "Yes," says Pace, “may it please your highness, such a subject is fit for such a reader." At last the preacher, to bring himself the better off, declared, that he was now better reconciled to the Greek tongue, because it was derived from the Hebrew. The king, amazed at the ignorance of the man, dismissed bim, with a charge that he should never again preach at court.
In 1501 Mr. Colet was permitted "to proceed in. divinity to the reading of the Sentences;" in 1502 he became Prebendary of Durnesford ; in 1504 he commenced Doctor of Divinity, and in 1505 he was advanced to the deanery of St. Paul's, which was hailed with great satisfaction by his friends at home and abroad. Here he at once entered on a course of labors which restored the decayed discipline of his cathedral church, and brought in a new practice of preaching himself upon Sundays, and all solemn festivals. He had always a full auditory, and amongst others, the chief magistrate of the city. He instituted a course of divinity lectures, in which he secured the assistance of William Grocyne, (the Greek scholar,) John Major, (a learned Scot,) John Sowle, (a Carmelite,) and even the learned Erasmus.
Of Dean Colet's way of living in London we have a faithful picture in a letter of Erasmus to one of his continental friends.
There is at London, Dr. John Colet, Dean of St. Paul's a man who has happily conjoined the deepest learning with the greatest piety, and therefore is of the highest esteem and authority among all sorts of people. * * The Dean's table, which, under the name of hospitality, had before served too much to pomp and luxury, he contracted to a more frugal and temperate way of entertaining. And it having been his custom, for many years, to eat but one meal, that of dinner, he had always the evening to himself. When he dined privately with his own family, he had always some strangers for his guests, but the fewer, because his provision was frugal, which yet was neat and genteel. The sittings were short, and the discourses such as pleased only the learned and the good. As soon as grace, before meat, was said, some boy, with a good voice, read distinctly a chapter out of one of St. Paul's Epistles, or out of the Proverbs of Solomon, When he had done reading, the Dean would pitch upon some particalar part of it, and thence frame a subject-matter of discourse, asking either the learned, or such as were otherwise of good understanding, what was the meaning of this or that expression, and he would so adapt and temper his discourse, that though it was grave and serious, yet it never tired, or gave any distasto, Again, toward the end of dinner, when the company was rather satisfied than satiated, he would throw in another subject of discourse, and thus he dismissed his guests with a double repast, refreshed in their minds as well as bodies, so that they always went away better than they came, and were not oppressed with what they had eat and drunk. He was mightily delighted with the conversation of his friends, which he would sometimes protract till very late in the evening, but all his discourse was either of learning or religion. If he could not get an agreeable companion, (for it was not every body he did like,) one of his servants read some part of the Holy Scriptures to him. In his journeys 10 would sometimes make me his companion, and he was as easy and pleasani us any man living, yet he always carried a book with him, and all his discourse was seasoned with religion. He was so impatient of whatsoever was foul and sordid, that he could not bear with any indecent or improper way of speaking, He loved to be neat and clean in his goods, furniture, entertainment, apparel, and books, and whatever belonged to him, and yet he despised all state and magnificence. His habit was only black, though it was then common for the higher clergy to be clad in purple. His upper garment was always of woolen cloth, and plain, which, if the weather was cold and required it, he lined with fur. Whatever came in by his ecclesiastical preferments, he delivered to his steward, to be laid out on family occasions or hospitality, and all that arose from his own proper estate (which was very large) he gave away for pious and charitable uses.
The Dean's labors in fulfilling all the duties of his position, in discharging faithfully all charitable bequests to the cathedral, and enforcing discipline and regulations on the clergy, as well as in his pulpit discourses, made some private enemies among the dignitaries, and exposed him to the imputation of heresy. Of one of the most formidable of these attacks, Erasmus gives an account in a letter to one of his Paris correspondents.
The Dean had never stood right with the bishop, who was a very rigid Scotist, and the more jealous of the Dean, because his lectures and sermons were chiefly employed in opening the sense of the Scriptures, which being in the new way of learning, was called heresy. And in truth, at that time, any divine that bad more learning or piety than the grosser part of his order, or did touch or talk of any thing out of the common road of the Church of Rome, was counted a perverse heretic, or at least suspected of the crime of heretical pravity. The bishop, upon this score, accuses the Dean to the archbishop as a dangerous man, and calling in the assistance of two other bishops of equal bigotry and no less virulency, he began to create bim a great deal of trouble and vexation, using no other weapon but that of the charge of heresy, which was then reckoned the most fatal engine for the destruction of their enemies. So the bishop drew up certain articles against the Dean. One was, that the said Dr. Colet had taught that images were not to be worshiped. A second was, that he had preached against the temporal possessions of the bishops, by denying that the repeated exhortation of Christ to Peter, to feed his sheep, could be at all meant of hospitality, or the worldly ways of entertainment, because the apostles were then poor, and unable to give any such reception. A tbird was, that he had preached against some men's reading their sermons in a cold, unaffected manner, wbereby he must needs mean to reflect upon the bishop himself, who, by reason of his old age, had taken up that idler way of preaching. But Archbishop Warham, who knew the integrity and worth of Dr. Colet, undertook to defend the innocent party, and from a judge became his advocate and patron, and dismissed him without giving him the trouble of putting in any formal answer. And yet the old bishop did not cool in his spirit of persecution, but in effect appealed from the archbishop to the king, by endeavoring, all that was possible, to incense his highness and the whole court against him.
As it was, he was for a time under censure, and was obliged to suspend his labors in the pulpit.
Bishop Latimer, who was at that time a young student at Cambridge, remembered the noise that the prosecution of Dean Colet for heresy then made, and says expressly, that he was not only in trouble, but should have been burnt, if God had not turned the king's heart to the contrary."
The Dean was charitable to those who differed from him in opinion, if they were honest and industrions in their lives, and he had frequent occasion to interpose his influence both with magistrates and the king in behalf of individuals of a class known as Lollards, who resided in the neighborhood of the cathedral. His own troubles and persecutions only made him more devout and charitable, veaning him from the world, and bringing him in mind and soul much nearer to heaven. In this frame of mind, he conceived the project of consecrating his worldly goods to some perpetual benefaction, which was consummated by the founding of St. Paul's School in London in 1508–10, some ten years before his death, which occurred in 1519. Of this enterprise his biographer, Dr. Knight, gives a particular account, which we shall transfer to our pages as the best memorial of his services to good learning, and the evidence of the teaching of his day.
Of the excellencies of Dean's Colet's life and character, Erasmus has left numerous mention in letters written from Louvain on receiving tidings of his death.
To Mr. Dancaster he writes:-"How deplorable is your case and mine, who have lost such a teacher, such a patron, such a friend! It is said to a proverb, that the loss of money is bewailed with the truest sorrow, but I am sure this is a loss of more inestimable treasure, and ought to be infinitely more lamented. But alas! what signify all our sighs and tears? He can not be recalled to us, but we shall soon follow him. We should rather, in the meantime, congratulate our late friend, that he is now in better company; he securely enjoys his Saviour Christ, whom he always had in his lips and at his heart."
To Bishop Fisher:-"I write now in tears for the decease of Dr. Coleta less and affliction to me greater than I have suffered these thirty years. I know his state is happy; he is now delivered from a troublesome and wicked world, and enjoys the presence of his Redeemer Jesus, whom he loved so affectionately in his life; but in the name of the world, I can not but deplore the loss of such an admirable example of Christian piety, such an excellent preacher of the gospel of Christ, and even in my own name, I must bewail the loss of a constant friend and incomparable patron. All that I can do is, to pay my just duty to his name and memory, and not to suffer them to die, if any thing I write can live to posterity."
And tenderly and faithfully did he perform this duty in his epis tle addressed to Justus Jonas, Rector of the University of Erfurt, in which he has embalmed for posterity the principal incidents and characteristic features of the life and character of his two friends, John Colet and John Vitrier.
Truly, my dear friend, though I have conversed with very many whose in. tegrity and goodness I have heartily approved, yet hitherto I never saw the man in whose morals I did not discover somewhat of the Christian simplicity and purity to be wanting when compared with these two excellent persons whom I am now going to describe. I became acquainted with one of them at St. Omers, when the plague (so far happy to me) drove me from Paris to that town, and with the other in England, when I was first drawn thither out of love and respect to my young pupil, the Lord Mountjoy. You will reckon it your advantage, I know, if, instead of one, I give you two. The first, namely John Vitrier, was a monk of the order of St. Francis. He fell into that way of life while very young, and was in no other respect behind Dr. Colet, save only