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life described above, hoping to kill time and cure their dulness by such things.
He then goes on to exhort the young to implant in their hearts a strong desire to study deeply in the books ot God's Law rather than to be tainted thus by the stains and vanities of the world which they were supposed to have left. "It is," he continues, "impossible that such a holy desire should possess you, unless you have made progress in such studies before taking Holy Orders, and are so advanced in your literary studies that the reading of many books is both easy and pleasant to you, and the construction of the meaning of a passage no longer difficult, but whilst reading you may quickly and easily follow at least the literal sense of the sentence."
This interesting tract then goes on to warn sub-deacons not to take upon themselves the perpetual obligations of Sacred Orders unless they are conscious to themselves of no reason or objection, however secret and hidden, which may stand in the way of their faithfully keeping their promises. They must feel that they enter the ranks of the clergy only from the motive of serving God. Then, after warning the clergy against the vices which specially detract from the sacred character of the priesthood, the author continues, " Let us therefore turn to study, reading, and meditation of the Holy Scriptures as the best remedy against unworthy sloth and foolish desires. Let us not consume the time given us uselessly and fruitlessly." A priest should say his Hours and Mass daily. He should spend the morning till mid-day in choir and other works, and even then not think he has fulfilled the whole duty of the priesthood. A priest is bound to serious studies and meditation. "Constant reading and meditation of the books of God's Law and the writings of the Holy Fathers and Doctors are the best remedy for slothful habits," and these have been put at the disposition of all through the printing-press. Just as a workman has besides his shop a workroom where he has to spend hours preparing the wares that he offers for sale, so the priest, who in the church on Sunday offers his people the things necessary for salvation, should spend days and nights in holy reading and study in order to make them his own before he hands them on to others. "Wherefore, my dearest brethren, let us think ourselves proper priests only when we find our delight and joy in the constant study of Holy Scripture."
So much for the important advice given to priests or those intending to be priests as to the necessity of acquiring previous habits of study. Not infrequently the fact that in 1532 Parliament did actually transfer the power of ecclesiastical legislation hitherto possessed by Convocation to the Crown, is adduced as proof that to the nation at large the powers of the clergy, for a long time resented, had at length become a yoke not to be borne. Yet it is clear that the policy of the king to crush the clergy in this way was by no means heartily supported by the Commons. There can be no doubt whatever that the petition of the Commons against the spirituality really emanated from the Court, and that the Lower House was compelled by direct royal influence to take the course indicated by royal will. Four drafts of the petition existing among the State papers in the Record Office put this beyond doubt, as they are all corrected in the well-known hand of Henry's adviser at this time, Thomas Crumwell. The substance of the petition states that on account of the diffusion of heretical books, and the action of the bishops in spiritual courts, "much discord had arisen between the clergy and the laity at large." The answer of the bishops denies all knowledge of this discord, at least on their parts. The ordinaries, they said, exercised spiritual jurisdiction, and no one might interfere in that, as their right to make laws in this sphere was from God, and could be proved by Scripture. The two jurisdictions could not clash as they were derived from the same source, namely, the authority given by God. Finally, they practically refused to consider the possibility of any just royal interference in
matters the purely ecclesiastical domain. Their resist'ance was, of course, as we know, of no avail; but the incident shows that up to the very eve of the changes the clergy had no notion of any surrender of their spiritual prerogatives, and that it was the Crown and not the Commons that was hostile to them.1
1 Gairdner, Calendar of Papers Foreign and Domestic, v., preface, ix.
CHAPTER VI. ERASMUS.
During the first portion of the sixteenth century Erasmus occupied a unique position in Europe. He was beyond question the most remarkable outcome of the renaissance in its literary aspect: and he may fairly be taken as a type of the critical attitude of mind in which many even of the best and the most loyal Catholics of the day approached the consideration of the serious religious problems which were, at that time, forcing themselves upon the notice of the ecclesiastical authorities. Such men held that the best service a true son of the Church could give to religion was the service of a trained mind, ready to face facts as they were, convinced that the Christian faith had nothing to lose by the fullest light and the freest investigation, but at the same time protesting that they would suffer no suspicion to rest on their entire loyalty of heart to the authority of the teaching Church.
Keenly alive to the spiritual wants of the age, and to what he, in common with many others of the time, considered crying abuses in the government of the Church, resulting from the excessive temporal grandeur of ecclesiastics engaged in secular sovereignty and government, Erasmus, like many of his contemporaries, was often perhaps injudicious in the manner in which he advocated reforms. But when the matter is sifted to the bottom, it will commonly be found that his ideas are just. He clamoured loudly and fearlessly for the proper enforcing of ecclesiastical discipline, and for a complete change in the stereotyped modes of teaching; and he proclaimed the need of a thorough literary education for Churchmen as the best corrective of what he held to be the narrowing formalism of mediaeval scholastic training. It is, perhaps, hardly wonderful that his general attitude in these matters should have been misunderstood and exaggerated. By many of his Catholic contemporaries he was looked upon as a secret rebel against received authority, and in truth as the real intellectual force of the whole Lutheran movement. By the Reformers themselves, regarded as at heart belonging to them, he was upbraided as a coward, and spoken of as one who had not the courage of his convictions. Posterity has represented him now in the one aspect, now in the other, now as at best a lukewarm Catholic, now as a secret and dangerous heretic By most Catholics probably he has been regarded as a Reformer, as pronounced even as Luther himself; or to use the familiar phrase founded upon an expression of his own, they considered that "his was the egg which Luther hatched." Few writers have endeavoured to read any meaning into his seemingly paradoxical position by reference to his own explanations, or by viewing it in the light of the peculiar circumstances of the times in which he lived, and which are, to some extent at least, responsible for it.
Desiderius Erasmus was born at Rotterdam, in the year 1467. His father's Christian name was Gerhard, of which Desiderius was intended for the Latin, and Erasmus for the Greek, equivalent. Other surname he had none, as he was born out of wedlock; but his father adopted the responsibility of his education, for which he provided by placing him first as a chorister in the cathedral of Utrecht, and subsequently by sending him to Deventer, then one of the best schools in Northern Europe. Deventer was at that time presided over by the learned scholar and teacher Alexander Hegius, and amongst his fellow-students there, Erasmus found several youths who subsequently, as men, won for themselves renown in the learned world. One of