« ÖncekiDevam »
meat, and of sleep, and of exercise, is one of the best precepts of long lasting.” “As for the passions and studies of the mind, avoid envy, anxious fears, anger, fretting inwards, subtile and knotty inquisitions, joys and exhilarations in excess, sadness not communicated." He understood well the action of thought upon the mortal system,but Sir Thomas More had an instinct for spiritual wellbeing, and an inward conviction that moral conditions, and a poised and balanced mind, together with wit and humour, were the natural promoters of health and joy. So that, even though he never beheld clearly the vision of man, a divine idea in the image and likeness of God, yet the desire to improve the human concept, and to enrich it with better laws, peaceful industry, justice and general good cheer, was a great step forward in the line of benevolent purpose.
We cannot yet afford to erase the word “Utopian” from the dictionary, even though it be defined as “one who advocates impracticable reforms, or who expects an impossible state of perfection in society.” The very
” suggestion of perfection is in itself a balm. The world loves the quaint little island of dreams, lying like a crescent moon in her quiet waters "ful of havens," for it hints at a still greater promise of the reign of Good upon earth, which every longing heart hopes to see fulfilled in still richer measure. "More sweet than odours caught by him who sails, Near spicy shores of Araby the blest, A thousand times more exquisitely sweet The freight of holy feeling which we meet In thoughtful moments wasted by the gales From fields where good men walk, or bowers wherein they rest.”
WORDSWORTH. CHAPTER XII
N the opinion of the historian Froude, we shall best
understand the period of the Reformation as it really
was, if we "will look at it through the eyes of Erasmus." It would certainly be impossible to make any study of the Reformation without Erasmus! a great scholar, a whimsical genius, and the most brilliant, most fascinating figure in Europe. We may also add that he was most shrewdly wise, most liberty loving, and in his inmost heart most deeply Christian despite the world's tumultuous staging of that century. Indeed Erasmus cannot fail to grip our attention from the very beginning, because of the strange duality of his nature, the way in which his selfish human passions and antipathies struggled with noble impulses and celestial visions. His intellectual judgment, clear and sharp as his keen grey eyes, brought him back time and again to naked truth, a divine instinct causing him to renounce the world's most alluring favours even after he had almost bartered his holiest convictions to obtain them.
Erasmus was great in spite of himself, with the greatness of the eagle who from his eyrie far above the aspirations of ordinary creatures can survey the wide plateau of life as a whole, and see the forces and counter-forces in human conflict meeting and receding in the ebb and flow of destiny.
He was born at Rotterdam, in 1467, of well-educated
parents, and Charles Reade's great novel, The Cloister and the Hearth, is supposed to be a true record of their lovestory. Erasmus was unquestionably a great genius, and it is authenticated that he was left an orphan at an early age, and neglected by both his guardians, who wasted his slender means, and who then forced him, sorely against his will, into an Augustinian Monastery. From this prison house of misery, bad food and coarse company, he was rescued by the Bishop of Cambray, who had no particular love for the Friars since these orders lay outside his episcopal rule and dispossessed the clergy of half their functions. The Bishop allowed Erasmus his liberty, gave him a small allowance and let him go to the University at Paris. With all the attributes of a scholar, a gentleman, and a genius, together with indifferent health, and a hearty dislike of physical work of any kind, Erasmus was always short of money! He made friends of his pupils at Paris, among them two distinguished young Englishmen, Lord Mountjoy's eldest son, and a younger son of the Marquis of Dorset. It was with Mountjoy that he first visited England, about 1497, where he met the finest scholars and most thoughtful men of that time-Colet, who afterwards founded St. Paul's School in London, Sir Thomas More, Grocyn, Charnock and Linacre, who always remained his good friends. It was to Colet that Erasmus wrote before his departure for England:
"Theology is the Mother of Sciences, but nowadays the good and the wise keep clear of it, and leave the field to the dull and sordid who think themselves omniscient. You have taken arms against these people. You are trying to bring back the Christianity of the apostles and clear away the thorns and briars with which it is overgrown; a noble undertaking.”
The Mountjoys had a country seat near Eltham where there was also a royal palace, and here, as a young man, Erasmus first met the boy-prince who was to be Henry VIII. That meeting was destined to bear fruit in after years. Henry never forgot it, and reminded him of the occasion at a very important crisis in Erasmus' affairs.
Meanwhile, returning to Paris, Erasmus wrote and published his Adagia. It was a compilation from his common-place book, a collection of popular sayings, quotations, epigrams, proverbs, anecdotes, anything amusing or interesting which came to hand, with his own reflections upon them.
Warham, soon to be Archbishop of Canterbury, was delighted with it, sent him money and offered him a benefice if he would return to England; but Erasmus felt more attracted to the beauty and elasticity of Italy and his ambitions aspired to a degree at Bologna. For awhile then he remained in Paris, leading a dual kind of existence; mixing with fashionable society on the one hand, and working early and late at Greek on the other. It must be remembered that there were probably fewer students of Greek in those days than there are of Sanskrit in these. Yet in Greek lay locked and sealed the New Testament in the original language in which the Gospels and Epistles were written. Erasmus was fired with the ambition to translate the works of Jerome, and also to translate the Greek New Testament into Latin! In the course of his studies he came upon the early Greek Christian Fathers. He found-Origen!
We can just imagine the effect of this discovery upon a keen logical mind, and can well sympathise with a letter he wrote to Colet when he was made Dean of St. Paul's in which he says: “I am rushing at full speed into sacred literature, and look at nothing which keeps me back from it ... I have also read a great part of Origen, who opens out new fountains of thought and furnishes a complete key to theology.”
Instead of going to Italy, he was in England again in 1501 or 1502. He was lecturing on Greek at Cambridge in 1506. It must have been between these two visits to England that he went to Bologna and saw Julius II there. At Rome he met with more than kindness. The city was in the height of her glory. It was the Rome of Perugino, Raphael, and Michael Angelo, and it was ready to welcome him with open arms, and thither he went again, the guest of Cardinal Raphael. There he might have stayed, might even have accepted ecclesiastical office, but ... at this crucial hour in his career it is once more England who calls and claims him, and this time the appeal comes from no less a person than Henry VIII himself!
“Our acquaintance began when I was a boy,” the letter opens: “The regard which I then learnt to feel for you has been increased by the honourable mention which you have made of me in your writings, and by the use to which you have applied your talents in the advancement of Christian truth. So far you have borne your burden alone; give me the pleasure of assisting and protecting you as far as my power extends. It has been, and is, my earnest wish to restore Christ's religion to its primitive purity, and to employ whatever talents and means I have in extinguishing heresy and giving free course to the Word of God. We live in evil times, and the world grows worse instead of better
your welfare is precious to us all. . . Come to England and assure yourself of a hearty welcome. You shall name your own terms. They shall be as liberal and honourable as you please ... nowhere in the world will