Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/718

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

gradually in the disputations forced upon him in defence of his first step; but this protest against the established sacerdotalism brought no persecution on Lefèvre until the progress of the Reformation in Germany aroused the authorities to the danger lurking in such utterances, when the Sorbonne, in 1521, had no difficulty in defining twenty-five heretical propositions in the Commentaries. Proceedings were commenced against him, but he was saved by the favour of Francis I and Marguerite of Navarre.

There were other humanists, less spiritual than Lefevre, who exercised enormous influence in breaking down reverence for tradition and authority and asserting the right of private judgment, without giving in their adhesion to the Reformation. They had a narrow and a perilous path to tread. Wilibald Pirckheimer was no Lutheran, but his name stood first on the list of those selected for excommunication by Eck when he returned from Rome as the bearer of the portentous bull Exsurge Domine. More fortunate was the foremost humanist, Erasmus, whose unrivalled intellect rendered him a power to be courted by Popes and princes, though he was secretly held responsible as the primary cause of the revolt. In 1522 Adrian VI adjured him to come to the rescue of the bark of the Church, struggling in the tempest sent by God in consequence mainly of the sins of the clergy, and assured him that this was a province reserved to him by God. Yet, in 1527, Edward Lee, then English ambassador to Spain and subsequently Archbishop of York, drew up a list of twenty-one heresies extracted from the writings of Erasmus, ranging from Arianism to the repudiation of indulgences, the veneration of saints, pilgrimages, and relics. At this very moment, however, Erasmus, frightened at the violence of the reformers, was writing to Pirckheimer that he held the authority of the Church so high that at her bidding he would accept Arianism and Pelagianism, for the words of Christ were not of themselves sufficient for him.

Luther himself had in some sort a humanistic pedigree. The Franciscan Paul Scriptoris, professor at Tübingen, learned in Greek and mathematics, used confidentially to predict that a reformation was at hand in which the Church would be forced to reject the scholastic theology and return to the simplicity of primitive belief, but when he permitted these views to find expression in his sermons the chapter of his Order took steps to discipline him, and he fled, in 1502, to Italy where he died. He was the teacher of Johann von Staupitz, Conrad Pellican, and others subsequently prominent in the movement; Staupitz became the Vicar of Luther’s Augustinian Order and was warmly esteemed by the Elector Frederick of Saxony; so that he was enabled to afford to Luther efficient protection during the earlier years of the revolt. He was a humanist, strongly imbued with the views of the German mystics of the fourteenth century, and all mysticism is, in