Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/644

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set so much store by authors of this class, that they think it necessary to protest against the providential revival of good literature all over the world. There are many kinds of genius: each age has its different gifts. Let every man contribute what he can, and let none envy another who does his best to make some useful addition to the common stock of knowledge."

"To the ancients reverence is due, and in particular to those who are commended by holiness of life as well as by learning and eloquence; yet they are to be read with discretion. The moderns have a right to fair play. Read them without prejudice, but not without discrimination. In any case let us avoid heated contention, the bane of peace and concord."

Such was the spirit in which Erasmus strove to work: and some words of his good friend and fellow-worker, Beatus Rhenanus, tell us something of the effect of his work on his own age. "He was sufficiently outspoken on the subject of sacred learning: for, to use his own words in a letter to a friend, he saw that more than enough was made of scholastic theology, and that the ancient learning was quite set at nought. Theologians were so much occupied with the subtleties of Scotus that the fountain-head of Divine wisdom was never reached by them....We begin, God be thanked, to see the fruit of these warnings. Instead of Hales and Holcot, the pages of Cyprian, Augustine, Ambrose, and Jerome are studied by our divines in their due season."

Only the briefest allusion has so far been made to the development of one great department of Christian learning-ecclesiastical history. The men of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries had in their hands not a few of the authorities which we account as of capital importance. They had the History of Eusebius in a Latin version: they had the Tripartite History, embodying Socrates, Sozomen, and Evagrius: they had Baeda, Gregory of Tours, and the Speculum HiMoriale of Vincent; and they had innumerable biographies of Saints. In spite of this, it will not be contended that a true and discriminating view of Church history, based on the best sources, was a possession of the Middle Ages. It is clear that highly incorrect views were current as to the development of doctrine, ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and liturgical usage. This could not fail to be the case when such documents as the False Decretals and the Donation of Constantine passed as genuine. And, on the other hand, when their spuriousness became an accepted fact, a reaction was inevitable. We have seen that the first attacks on them did not come from men who had broken with the Roman Church. It was Lorenzo Valla who exposed the Donation of Constantine; and Roman Catholics did not scruple to impugn the Decretals. Cusanus rejects the Epistles of Clement and Anacletus: