Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 35.djvu/393

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Major
Major
387

Buchanan. He freely discusses the character of rulers in church and state, and points out, the moral lessons to be drawn from their conduct, The history sheds much light upon the manners and customs of the people. While Major writes as a patriotic Scot, and often refers to the scenes of his youth, he does full justice to England and the English, and strongly advocates the union of the two kingdoms. The book is written in 'the Sorbonne style,' i.e. in the cramped Latin of the schoolmen, but it is always clear and vigorous. In 1522 Major removed to the university of St. Andrews, where he taught logic and theology. This change was probably brought about by his friend Archbishop Beaton, who about that time was promoted from the diocese of Glasgow to that of St. Andrews. Patrick Hamilton followed him to St. Andrews, and George Buchanan became a student there, that 'he might sit at his feet.'

In 1525 Major returned to the university of Paris, and on his journey through England stayed with Cardinal Wolsey, who offered him a post, with 'splendid remuneration,' in the college of Christ Church, which he was then founding at Oxford. For the next six years, besides lecturing at Montaigu, Major was very busy in preparing books for the press. Besides new editions of his former works he published in 1529 eight 'Books of Physics,' 'Logical Questions,' and the 'Ethics of Aristotle,' thus completing his exposition of the philosophy of that great master, for whom he had the profoundest reverence. This work was dedicated to Wolsey, then fallen from his high estate, in token of Major's gratitude for the offer made him four years before, and of the hospitality he had always received from the English. In 1529 he published (Paris, fol.) a commentary on the four gospels, the object of which was to show the armony between them, and to defend the doctrines of the Roman church against the errors of the Wycliffites, Hussites, and Lutherans. In the dedication of 'St. Matthew' to the Archbishop of St. Andrews he commends him for his zeal against Lutheranism, and for 'manfully removing, not without the ill-will of many, a man of noble birth, but an unhappy follower of that perfidious heresy.' The reference is to the martyrdom of his old pupil Patrick Hamilton, who was burnt at St. Andrews in 1527.

During his second sojourn in France, Major taught with the most distinguished reputation, and had come to he regarded as 'the veritable chief of the scholastic philosophy' and 'the prince of Paris divines,' and this at a time when there were many men connected with the forty colleges of the university who have attained a lasting name. But the order of things to which he had devoted the best energies of his life was doomed, and changes had begun which were destined to eclipse his fame. Before finally leaving Paris he published a new edition of his 'Commentary on the First Book of Sentences,' which he dedicated to his namesake, John Major of Eck, and in the preface he again speaks of the 'execrable heresy of Luther.'

He returned to St. Andrews in 153, and was made provost of St. Salvator's College in 1533, an office which he held till his death. He lectured for a time in theology, but his busy pen was at rest, and he took little or no part in the stirring events that preceded the Scottish reformation. In 1534 he pronounced the doctrine of a friar who had been accused of heresy unobjectionable, and Knox, who relates the incident, says that Major's 'word was then holden as an oracle in matters of religion.' In 1539 he (along with William Manderston [q. v.]) founded and endowed a chaplaincy in St. Andrews; in 1545 he had a coadjutor appointed; in 1547 he was present when Knox preached his first the parish church of St. Andrews. As dean of the provincial council of the church which met in 1549, but being 'annosus grandævus et debilis,' he was represented by a procurator. He died in 1550, when many of his pupils and clerical friends were preparing to accept the doctrines of the Reformation.

Like Duns Scotus and other of the schoolmen, Major was a liberal in politics, and taught that the people were the sole source of civil power. As a churchman he strongly maintained Gallican principles, and urged the reform of ecclesiastical abuses, but while speculating freely in the region of the undefined, he held fast to the doctrinal system of Rome, and was a stout defender of such tenets as transubstantiation and the immaculate conception. A schoolman to the last, he was adverse to the educational reforms proposed by his contemporaries, and hostile to theological change. Of immense industry, he became a 'storehouse of all the learning of the middle ages.' If not a man of original genius, he possessed enough force of mind and character to impress his contemporaries, and his students regarded him with the highest admiration. Among the latter there was, however, one discordant voice, that of George Buchanan, who had followed him from St. Andrews to Paris. In the preface of a book published in 1527, as in some former treatises. Major described himself as 'Solo