Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/661

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first cousins, so to speak, of the English, which has done such notable things for science, religion, and government, by its tenacious grasp of realities, its silent thought and moderation of speech, its energetic action that scorns the trammels of paper logic. Dwelling along the rivers of Germany and on the edge of the North Sea, this trading people had amassed riches, cultivated a Fine Art of its own which vies with the Italian, created a network of municipal liberties, and lived a deep religious life, sometimes haunted by visions, which might be open to the suspicion of unsoundness when the formal Inquisitor from Cologne looked into it with his spying-glass.

Yet no one has ventured to brand with that suspicion Thomas ä Kempis. From this Low-Dutch people we have received the Imitation of Christ; when a Catholic Reformation is spoken of, that little volume, all gold and light, will furnish its leaders with a standard not only of spiritual illumination but of piety towards the Sacrament of the Altar which took for granted the whole Catholic system. Since it was finally given to the world in 1441 it has been the recognised guide of every generation in the Western Church. But with its author we must associate Cusanus and Erasmus, both of the same stock; these three fill the spaces of transition between the decadent luxury of Avignon and the stern reaction which followed hard upon Trent. By their side appears Cardinal Ximenes, who attempted among Spaniards the same work of renovation that Cusanus set on foot among Germans and Netherlander s. To the Imitation corresponds, almost as an art to its theory, the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola. And if Erasmus left no successor equal to himself, he trained a host of disciples or plagiarists in the Company of Jesus, where his memory has always evoked a fierce antagonism, and his writings have been put to the ban.

Spain and the Netherlands thus became rival centres in a movement which was profoundly Catholic. It sprang up in Northern Europe under the influence of the Dominican Friars; south of the Pyrenees it was due to the Benedictines and Franciscans. A third element, derived from the writings of St Augustine and the Rule called after his name, is more difficult to estimate. St Augustine had ever been the chief Western authority in the Schools as in the Councils. He, though no infallible teacher, formed the intellect of medieval Europe. But the Cathari or Waldensians were fond of quoting him as the patron of their anti-sacerdotal principles, and in the vehement polemics of Luther he is set up against Aquinas. From Deventer, then, we may trace the origin of a reforming tendency which, passing by Alcalä and Toledo, takes us on to the Council of Trent. In that assembly Spanish divines, Laynez or Salmeron, vindicated the scholastic tradition, while Popes under Spanish protection tightened discipline and recovered, though late, their lost moral dignity. But from Deventer