THE HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION

 

TENDENCIES OF EUROPEAN THOUGHT IN THE AGE OF THE REFORMATION.

 by

A. M. Fairbaien

 

WHEN the sixteenth century opens, the West, with the exception of Italy, is still medieval, distinguished by a superficial uniformity of mind, thinking ideas which it has ceased to believe and using a learned tongue which it can hardly be said to understand. When the century closes, the West, with the possible exception of Italy, now fallen as far to the rear as she once stood in the van, has become modern; its States have developed what we may term a personal consciousness and an individual character, have created a vernacular literature and a native art, and have faced new problems which they seek by the help of their new tongues to state and to solve. In Spain, the land of ancestral and undying pride, the humors of a decayed chivalry have been embodied in a tale which moves to laughter without ever provoking to contempt. In Portugal the navigators have created afresh the epic feeling; a new Iliad has been begotten, where swifter ships plough a vaster sea than was known to the ancient Greeks, where braver heroes than Agamemnon do battle against a mightier Troy, while travelers fare to remoter and stranger lands than those visited by Odysseus. In France, where the passion for unity is beginning to work like madness in the brain, Rabelais speaks in his mother tongue the praises of the new learning; Montaigne makes it the vehicle of the new temper and its cultured doubt; Clement Marot uses it to sing the Psalms of the ancient Hebrew race; John Calvin to defend and commend his strenuous faith; while Descartes, born in this century though writing in the next, states his method, defines his problem, and determines the evolution of modern philosophy, in the language of the people as well as in that of the learned.  In England the century began in literary poverty, but it ended in the unapproached wealth of the Elizabethan age. In Germany, where the main intellectual interest was theological and confessional, Martin Luther gave the people hymns that often sound like echoes of the Hebrew Psalter; Kepler, listening to the music which nature reserves for the devout ear, discovered the unity which moves through her apparent disorder; and Jakob Boehme, though but a cobbler, had visions of higher mysteries than the proud can see. The Netherlands proved their heroism in their struggle for independence, and their love of knowledge in the tolerant reasonableness that made them a home for the persecuted of all lands. In Scotland William Dunbar, Gawin Douglas, and David Lindsay shed luster upon the early decades of the century, while in its later years Reformers like Knox and scholars like Andrew Melville trained up a people who had imagination enough to love and achieve liberty without neglecting letters. The thought which at once effected and reflected so immense a revolution can be here traced only in the broadest outlines.

We are met at the threshold by a two-fold difficulty-one which concerns the included thought, and another which concerns the thought excluded. The sixteenth century is great in religion rather than philosophy, and stands in remarkable contrast to its immediate successor, which is great in philosophy rather than religion. With the latter, the great modern intellectual systems may be said to begin; and to it belong such names as Bacon and Descartes, Hobbes and Locke, Spinoza and Leibniz, Gassendi and Malebranche. But without the earlier century the later would have been without its problems and therefore without its thinkers. The preeminence of the one in religion involved the preeminence of the other in thought; for what exercises the spirit tends to emancipate speculation and raises issues that reason must discuss and resolve before it can be at peace with itself and its world. Hence the thought whose course we have to follow is thought in transition, dealing with the old questions, yet waking to the new, quickened by what is behind to enquire into what is within and foreshadow what is before. But, while the thought that is to concern us may thus be described as moving in the realm of our ultimate religious ideas, the thought that is not to concern us moves in the realm of political and social theory. The two realms touch, indeed, and even interpenetrate; yet they are distinct. The ideal of human society is a religious ideal; but it is a consequence or a combination of religious ideas rather than one of the ideas themselves. Hence, though certain of the most potent thinkers of the sixteenth century occupied themselves with the constitution and order of human society, with the actual or ideal State both in itself and in relation to the actual or ideal Church, yet they must here be rigorously excluded, and our view confined to the thought that had to do with the religious interpretation of man and his Universe.

 

Latin and Teuton.

 

It is customary to distinguish the Renaissance, as the revival of letters, from the Reformation as the revival of religion. But the distinction is neither formally correct nor materially exact. The Renaissance was not necessarily secular and classical, it might be, and often was, both religious and Christian; nor was the Reformation essentially religious and moral, it might be and often was political and secular. Of the two revivals the one is indeed in point of time the elder; but the elder is not so much a cause as simply an antecedent of the younger. Both revivals were literary and interpretative, both were imitative and recreative; but they differed in spirit, and they differed also in province and in results. There was a revival of letters which could not possibly become a reformation of religion, and there was a revival which necessarily involved such a reformation; and the two revivals must be distinguished if the consequences are to be understood.

The roots of the difference may be found, partly, in the minds that studied the literatures, and partly in the literatures they studied, though even here the qualities, the interests, and the motives of the minds only stand the more clearly revealed. The difference is better expressed by a racial than by a temporal distinction; the term ‘race’, indeed, as here used does not denote a unity of blood, which can seldom if ever exist, but unities of language, inheritance, association, and ideas. In this sense, the Catholic South was in speech, in custom, in social temper, in political and municipal institutions distinctly Latin; and for similar reasons the Protestant North may be termed Teutonic.  Now of these two the Latin race was in thought the more secular, while the Teutonic was the more religious; but as regards custom and institutions the Latin peoples were the more conservative, while the Teutonic were the more inclined to radical change. And this is a difference which their respective histories may in some measure explain. The Latin race, especially in Italy, was the heir of the Roman Empire, still a vivid memory and a living influence; its monuments survived, its paganism had not utterly perished; its gods were still named in popular speech; customs which it had sanctioned and dreams which it had begotten persisted, having refused, as it were, to undergo Christian baptism. Italy was to the Latins as much a holy land as Palestine had been to the Crusaders, with graves and relics and shrines lying in every valley and looking out from every hill; and these appealed all the more to the imagination since ecclesiastical Rome was a reality and imperial Rome a memory and a dream. The Eternal City was like a desolate widow who yet tarried and yearned for the return of the Caesar who had been her spouse.

And if Rome lived in the dust of her ancient roads and the ruins of her temples, the Italian peoples and States seemed singularly suggestive of Greece. Their republics and tyrants, their civic life and military adventurers, their rich cities with their colonies and commerce, their rapid changes of fortune, their swift oscillations from freedom to bondage and from bondage back to freedom, their love of art and of letters, their mutual jealousies and ambitions were Greek rather than Roman ; indeed at certain moments they might almost make us feel as if ancient Greece had risen from the dead and come to live upon the Italian soil. Here then the Renaissance could not but be classical : not the product of some accident like the capture of a city or the fall of an ancient dynasty, but the inevitable outcome of minds quickened by the Italian air and made creative by the vision of a vast inheritance. The Teutonic mind, on the contrary, had no classical world behind it; its pagan past was remote, dark, infertile, without art or literature, or philosophy, or history, or any dream of a universal empire which had once held sway over civilized man. In a word, its conscious life, its social being, its struggles for empire and towards civilization, its chivalry, its crusades, its mental problems and educational processes, all stood rooted in the Christian religion. Behind this the memory of men did not go, and into the darkness beyond the eye could as little penetrate as the vision of the man can trace the growth of knowledge in his own infant mind.

Now these differing conditions made it as natural that the Teutonic Renaissance should concern itself with the early Christian ideal as that the Latin should with the ancient classical literature; and, where they touched religion, that the one should be more occupied with its intellectual side and the other with its institutional; for where the Roman Empire had lived the Roman Church now governed. The literature which the Teutonic mind mainly loved and studied and edited was patristic and Christian; but the literature which the Latin mind chiefly cultivated was classical and pagan. The Latin taught the Teuton how to read, to edit, and to handle ancient books; but nature taught both of them the logic that binds together letters and life. As a consequence, the Latin Renaissance became an attempt to think again the thoughts, and live again the life, embalmed in the literature of Greece and Rome; while the German Renaissance became an attempt to reincarnate the apostolical mind. The Latin tendency was towards classical Naturalism, but the Teutonic tendency was towards the ideals of the Scriptures, both Hebrew and Greek. Among the Latins almost every philosophical system of antiquity reappeared, though in an instructively inverted order; but among the Teutons the field was occupied by theologies based on Augustine and Paul, while philosophy began as an interpretation, not of literary thought or societies, but of man, individual and social, as he had lived and was living.

Hence, in the region of belief the Latins were the more critical and the Teutons the more positive. The thought which the Latins studied was that of a world into which Christ had not entered, though it was one in which Caesar had reigned; but the thought which the Teutons cultivated had Christ as its source and God as its supreme object. The Latin Renaissance thus produced two most dissimilar yet cognate phenomena : intellectual systems affecting mainly the notion of Deity, and Orders like the Society of Jesus, organized for the work of conservation and reaction. On the other hand, the parallel phenomena produced by the Teutonic Renaissance were attempts either to revive the religion of the apostolic literature, or to found the Protestant Churches and States. What concerns us here is the new thought, and not the new organizations; and these preliminary distinctions and discussions will enable us to set the Latin, or Classical Renaissance, in its true relation to the Teutonic or religious.

 

Influence of Lorenzo Valla on the Reformers.

 

We begin with the most obvious of the influences exercised by the Revival of Letters upon the thought of the sixteenth century, viz., those concerned with grammar and what it signified, and with language as the creation and the interpreter of thought. It has often been said that the Church preserved the knowledge of Latin as a living tongue; but Lorenzo Valla (1406-57) would have said, if the tongue were still alive it were better dead. As a grammarian Valla held grammar to be higher than dialectic, for it took as many years to learn as dialectic took months; and he may be said to have discovered literary and historical criticism by executing with its help judgment on three famous documents, viz., the Vulgate, which he condemned as faulty in style and incorrect in translation; the Donation of Constantine, which he proved by its anachronisms to be late and false and forged; and the Apostolic Symbol, whose terms and clauses he showed could not be of apostolic origin. His criticism of these documents (we omit all reference to that of the pseudo-Dionysius) was prophetic and more potent in a later generation than in his own. Erasmus published in 1505 the Annotationes on the Vulgate, and in a dedication which served as a preface he compared Valla as a grammarian and Nicolas of Lyra as a theologian; and he argued from the errors which had been proved to exist in the version which the Church had in a sense canonized by use, in a way that was at once an apology and a call for his own edition of the Greek New Testament nine years before it appeared. In 1517 a copy of the De Donatione Constantini Magni came into the hands of Ulrich von Hütten, who published it, and with his usual careless audacity dedicated it to the Pope, whom he straightway proceeded to denounce as a usurper and robber. Later this was sent to Luther just as he was meditating his De Captivitate Babylonien Ecclesiae; and it strengthened his trust in the German people, confirmed him in the belief that the Pope was Antichrist, and fortified him for the daring deed of burning the Pope’s Bull. The criticism of the Apostles’ Creed indicated a method of discussing dogma which only needed to be applied to become a theory of development capable of dissolving the vast systems of the traditional schools. We need not be surprised that Calvin speaks of Valla as “an acute and judicious man, and an instrument of the Divine Will”.

The Italian mind was simple in spite of all its subtle complexity, and in the Renaissance it was like the explorer who set out to find a new way to India and found a new world instead. It had no more typical son than Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. He was, if we are to believe his nephew and biographer, chivalrous, beautiful, radiant, a man it was impossible to see without loving, an artist who loved art, a thinker who delighted in thought, a seeker whose passion it was to find the truth, and who would gladly have sold all he possessed to buy it. Born in 1463, he studied Canon Law at Bologna; then, first at Padua, and later at Paris, he cultivated philosophy. When only twenty-one he returned to Italy and read Plato in Florence under Ficino; three years later he travelled to Rome, where he drew up nine hundred theses, philosophical and theological, which he offered to discuss with the scholars of all lands, promising, if they came, to bear the cost of their journey. But heresy was discovered in some of the theses, and the disputation was prohibited. Later he devoted himself to a contemplative life, renounced the world, divided his goods between his nephew and the poor, saying that, once he had finished the studies which he had undertaken, he should wander barefoot round the world in order that he might preach Christ. He was a mystic; nature was to him a parable, history was an allegory, and every sensuous thing an emblem of the Divine. He magnified man, though he distrusted self; and as he believed that truth came only by revelation he felt bound to seek it from those who had thus received it from God. Hence he searched for truth, successively in Aristotle, in Plato, in Plotinus, and in the pseudo-Dionysius, who seemed to many, even after Valla had written, the source of the highest and purest truth. But as Pico said, philosophy seeks truth, theology finds it, but religion possesses it ; and the truth which religion possesses is God's. Man can best discover it in the place where God has been pleased to set it.

Now, in his quest for truth and its purest sources, Pico heard of the Cabbala, and conceived it to be the depository of the most ancient wisdom, the tradition of the aboriginal revelation granted to man. And just then John Reuchlin, German mystic and scholar, found Pico. He was older in years but younger in mind. He had studied philology in Paris, law in Orleans, and he had lectured on Greek in Tübingen; he was then on his second visit to Italy, with all the mystic in him alive and unsatisfied. The God whom he wanted, the logic of the Schools could not give him; by their help he might transcend created existence, though even then what they led him to was only the boundless sea of negation. In Aristotle the impossible, in Plato the incredible, was emphasized; but in the region of spirit things were necessary which thought found impossible or reason pronounced incredible. The Neo-Pythagorean School saved Reuchlin from the tyranny of the syllogism and restored his faith. In this mood he came to Pico, and to his mood the Cabbala appealed; its philosophy was a symbolical theology which invested words and numbers, letters and names, things and persons, with a divine sense. But Reuchlin was more than a mystic with a passion for fantastic mysteries; he was also a scholar; and the idea that there were truths locked up in Hebrew, the tongue which God Himself had spoken at the Creation and which He had then given to man, compelled him to learn the language that he might read the thought in the words of Deity. So he put himself to school under a Jewish physician, acquired enough Hebrew to pursue his studies independently, and, as a result, published in 1506 his De Rudimentis Hebraicis. He himself named this book a monumentum aere perennius, and history has justified the name. It helped to define and determine the religious tendencies in Teutonic humanism, to change the fanciful mysticism that had begotten the book into a spirit at once historical, critical, and sane. It practically made the Hebrew Scriptures Christian, an original text which could be used as a Court of appeal for the correction of the translation and of the canon which the usage of the Church had accepted and endorsed. Knowledge of the language thus made the interpretation of the Old Testament more historical and more ethical; it could now be read as little through the Gnosticism of the Cabbala as through the Roman associations of the Vulgate.

The event which took the Old Testament out of the hand of phantasy turned it into an instrument of reform; for if it is doubtful whether Protestantism could have arisen without the knowledge of the Old Testament, it is certain that without it the Reformed Church could not have assumed the shape it took. In all this, of course, specific dangers might lie for the scholar who could no longer freely use the allegorism of Alexandria to convey the New Testament into the most impossible places of the Old, and who was therefore tempted to reverse the process and employ the language and spirit of the Old Testament in the interpretation of the New. But these dangers were still in the future; for the present it will be enough to recall the story, told in an earlier volume, of the controversy between Reuchlin and Pfefferkorn, and of the burning of Reuchlin’s books by the Inquisition. In consequence of this unjust treatment, the humanists addressed a series of letters, at once eulogistic and apologetic, to Reuchlin, which were published in 1514 under the title Epistolae clarorum Virorum. (The second edition in 1519 substituted ‘illustrium’ for ‘clarorum’.)

This book suggested to one of the younger and brighter humanists, John Jäger, better known as Crotus Rubeanus, Luther’s ‘Crotus noster suavissimus’, a professor at Erfurt, a series of imaginary epistles written by vagrant students in the execrable dog-Latin of the Schools, to Ortwinus Gratius, otherwise Ortwin de Graes, professor of belles lettres at Cologne, a man whom Luther in his most emphatic and plain-spoken style described as ‘poetistam asinum, lupum rapacem, si non potiuscrocodilum’. The Epistolae, while describing the experiences or adventures of their supposed authors, and it is here where the characters so humorously reveal themselves, praise Gratius as well as the divines and divinity of the Schools, and censure the ‘poetae seculares’ or ‘juristae’ who had eulogized Reuchlin. In their composition various scholars collaborated, notably Ulrich von Hutten, then ablaze with the enthusiasm for Germany and the passion against Rome which made the strife a joy to his soul. “The prison is broken”, he cried, “the captive is free and will return no more to bondage. O century when studies bloom and spirits awake, it is happiness to live in thee!”.

Strauss thought the Epistolae a supreme work of art, and placed them alongside Don Quixote, since they were pervaded by so excellent a humor as to be higher and better than any merely satirical production. There is here ground for ample and radical differences, but on one point there is none, the success of the satire. It deceived the very elect; the friars who were satirized saw the truth of the portrait and did not feel its shame, even though the men of serious mind, who could not be deceived, were offended. Erasmus did not love it; nor did Luther, who said “Votum probo, opus non probo” and named the author “einen Hanswurst”; but it made the Schoolmen ridiculous, and while they were laughed at Reuchlin was applauded. He died in 1522, six years after the Epistolae had appeared, the same year in which Luther published his New Testament, sorrowing over the lapse from the Church and from letters of his young kinsman, Melanchthon, and over the coming revolution which yet had in him a plain prophet and a main cause.

 

Erasmus.

 

In 1516, two years after the first volume of the Epistolae, Erasmus’ Novum Instrumentum appeared. The man himself we need neither discuss nor describe. He was a humanist, that is, his main interest was literature; but his humanism was German; that is, the literature which mainly interested him was religious. In an age of great editors he was the most famous; but he was not a thinker, nor a man who could seize or be seized by large ideas and turn them into living and creative forces. His greatest editorial achievements were connected not with the classics, where his haste and his agility of mind made him often a faithless guide, but with the New Testament and the Fathers of the Church. Religion he loved for the sake of letters rather than letters for the sake of religion. He had a quick eye, a sharp pen, a fine humor, and could hold up to man and society a mirror which showed them as they were. He was fastidious and disliked discomfort, yet he could make it picturesque and amusing. His letters are like a crowded stage on which his time lives forever; and we can hear and see even as his ear heard and as his eye saw. We are, indeed, never allowed to forget that he is a rather too self-conscious spectator; and that while all around him men differ and he is a main cause of their differences, yet there is nothing he more desires than to be left alone to live as untroubled as if he had no mind. He is ‘so thin-skinned that a fly would draw blood’; yet, or possibly therefore, he is a good hater, especially of the ignorant mob, the obtuse and vulgar men who could not see or feel the satire within the compliment or the irony hidden in an ambiguous phrase.

He is one of the men whose unconscious revelations of himself have a nameless charm; we see him as a student whose very circumstances remind him of his origin, ortus a scorto as his enemies said, impecunious, forced into an Order he did not love, thirsting for a knowledge hard to obtain, seeking it at home or in Paris, where life is fast while his clerical guardian is suspicious and his own temper self-indulgent. Then we are touched by the early struggles of a scholar who loved learning and good living, and neither liked nor acquiesced in the poverty which seemed his destined lot, though we may be offended by his complaints, which are too frequent to be dignified, and his appeals for help, which are too urgent to be compatible with self-respect as we understand it. His pictures of our gracious and spacious England, loved because it is so kind to the stranger, the seclusion and erudition of Oxford, the repose and learned activity of Cambridge, the regal Henry, the magnificent Wolsey, the devout Colet, the genial More, the statesmanlike yet thoughtful Warham, who can rule the Church and yet remember the scholars who serve it, are of a sort which pleases the reader and which he loves to read. And if he desires first-hand knowledge of the manners and morals of a picturesque day, the miseries of the sea and the comforts of the shore, or the discomforts of continental travel with its strange bedfellows, crowded inns, dirty linen, and unsavory food; or of the dignified society and refined art of living to be then found in the great Italian cities; or of Rome and Roman society under Julius II, where a warlike Pontiff and cultured Cardinals, the spirit of the Borgia and the temper of the Renaissance, make the capital of Christendom an epitome of the world; or of the hopes, the disappointments, and the sorrows of an editor with a zeal for letters and a passion for praise, who negotiates now with mean and now with open-handed publishers, and stands between three publics, one sympathetic and appreciative, a second suspicious and sore and critical, fearful lest he go too far, and a third exacting and insatiable, determined to compel him to go much further than he wishes; or of the Reforming men and movements, the strange and tempestuous Luther, the audacious and restless Hütten, the moderate and scholarly Pirkheimer, the conciliatory and reasonable Melanchthon, the heroic and magnanimous Zwingli, the learned and large-minded Oecolampadius,-then he will find this knowledge superabundantly in this vivid and entertaining correspondence.

Yet, if we would know Erasmus, he must be studied in his more serious works, as well as in his letters. There we shall find the clergy of all grades from the friar and the parish priest to the Pope, the superstitions and ceremonies, the pilgrimages and fastings, the distinctions in dress and food, the worship of relics and of Saints,-pilloried and satirized and killed, at least so far as ridicule can kill. And his lighter moods express his graver mind; and unless this mind be known there is no person in history to whom we shall find it harder to be just. He is a proud and a strong man, when questions are at issue for which he supremely cares; but he will seem to us indifferent or vain or weak where the question is one for which he did not care, however much we may wish he had. And, curiously, where his strength as well as his weakness most appears is in his edition of the New Testament. The inaccuracies of his text, the few and the poor authorities he consulted, the haste of the editor, the hurry of the publisher, the carelessness of the printer, and the facility with which he inserted in the third and later editions a text like 1 John V. 7, which he had omitted in the first and second, are all instances of weakness familiar even to the unlearned.

But the sagacity, which saw in the Epistle to the Hebrews a work instinct with the spirit but without the style of Paul, which doubted whether John the Apostle were the author of the Apocalypse, which discerned in Luke the Greek of a writer skilled in literature, which perceived in the Gospels quotations from a memory which could be at fault, or which inferred textual errors even where the authorities were agreed, is characteristic of the honest scholar and indicative of the courageous man. What is still more significant, is the deliberate way in which as an editor and exegete he repeats the views and reaffirms the arguments of his more occasional works. Stunica charged him with the impiety of casting doubt on the claims and the authority of the Roman See and of denying the primacy of Peter. The Church, Erasmus said, was the congregation of all men throughout the whole world who agreed in the faith of the Gospel. As to the Lord’s Supper, he saw neither good nor use in a body imperceptible to the senses; and he found no place in Scripture which said that the Apostles had consecrated bread and wine into the body and blood of the Lord. Heathenism of life and Judaism of worship had come upon the Church from the neglect of the Gospel. Ceremonies were positive laws made by Bishops or Councils, Popes or Orders which could not supersede the laws of nature or of God. The priest who wore a lay habit or let his hair grow was punished; but if he became a debauchee he might yet remain a pillar of the Church.

These were brave things for a man so timid as Erasmus and so desirous of standing well with the authorities of the Church to say; and in saying them he was governed by this historical idea : things unknown to the New Testament were unnecessary to the Christian religion; what contradicted the mind of Christ or hindered the realization of His ends was injurious to His Church. This idea determined the attitude of Erasmus both to Rome and to Protestantism. He, indeed, honestly believed that where Lutheranism reigned there literature perished; and that to restore the knowledge of the New Testament was to bring back the mind of Christ, who was the one teacher God had appointed, and therefore the sole and supreme authority in His Church. Hence, his difference from Luther was as inevitable as his difference from Rome, and more absolute, for in the one case he differed from a man, in the other from a system. It has often been said that his De libero arbitrio enabled him to express his difference from Luther without expressing his agreement with Rome, or recanting ‘his earlier criticism of ecclesiastical abuses’. This judgment is both prejudiced and unjust. It is indeed certain that the book was written in the desire to dissociate himself from Luther, as well as in response to the appeal to write something against the new heresy; but it is no less certain that the book expressed a point on which Luther’s scholasticism offended the humanism of Erasmus. The saying “liberum arbitrium esse nomen inane” seemed to him an “aenigma absurdum” and for this reason it was unknown to the New Testament and the Apostolic Church. It might be Augustinian, it certainly was scholastic; but it was neither Biblical nor primitive. Erasmus, in short, wrote as a Greek and not as a Latin theologian, as a classical scholar and not as a Western divine. He could not have selected a point more characteristic of his own position. He would have the Christian religion known through its creative literature; he would not have it identified with the philosophy or theology of any school.

 

Spirit of the Latin Renaissance.

 

So far we have been occupied with the formal rather than the material side of thought; now we must consider the latter, or thought in its objective expression as at once evolved, governed, and served by the critical method.

We begin with the Latin Renaissance. Its thought grew out of the study of Classical literature, though it reversed rather than followed the sequences of the Classical mind. The one began where the other ended, in an eclectic Neo-Platonism, or a multitude of borrowed principles reduced by a speculation, more or less arbitrary, to a reasoned unity which was yet superficial; but it ended where the other began, in attempts to interpret the nature within which man lived, with a view to the better interpretation of man. Though the order of evolution was inverted, it was yet in the circumstances the only order possible. For the mind which the voice of literature awakened could only respond to a voice which was articulate and intelligible. The mind was old in speculation, though its problems were new, and its age was reflected in the solutions it successively attempted or accepted. It had been educated in schools where theology reigned while Aristotle governed; and it revolted from the governing minister out of loyalty to the reigning sovereign, whose authority extended over regions of too infinite variety to be administered by his narrow and rigid methods.

The literature which enlarged the outlook changed the mind; it could not think as it had thought before or believe as it had believed concerning the darkness and error of pagan antiquity. The light which dwelt in ancient philosophy broke upon it like an unexpected sunrise, which it saw with eyes that had been accustomed to a grey and creeping dawn. And this means, that Classical thought was seized at the point where it stood nearest to living experience, and yet formed the most expressive contrast to it. This point was where philosophy had done its best to become a religion, and had tried out of its school to make a Church. Hence, the new mind in the first flush of its awaking turned from its ancient master, Aristotle, and threw itself into the arms of the Neo-Platonists. Gemistos Plethon, who took part in the Council of Florence, 1439, was intellectually the most potent of the Greeks who helped in the Renaissance. He regarded Aristotle as a westernised Mohammadan rather than as a Greek, a man who had indeed once lived on the Hellenic soil, but who had become an alien in race and an enemy in religion, speaking in the Latin schools ideas which he owed to a Moorish interpreter. So Plethon expounded to the awakening West Plato as the Neo-Platonists understood him, ‘the Attic Moses’, the transmitter of a golden tradition which the secular Aristotle had tried to break and which ran back through Pythagoras to Zoroaster on the one hand and Abraham on the other. His philosophy was at once monotheistic and polytheistic; God was one and infinite, but He acted by means of ideas or spirits, or minor deities who filled the space between us and Him. As first and final cause He ordered all things for the best, and left no room for chance or accident. Providence was necessity and fate providence, the world in all its parts and life in all its elements were vehicles of a divine purpose. The soul of man was immortal ; the doctrine of reminiscence proved that it had lived before birth and so could live after death.

Plethon emphasized in every possible way the differences between Plato and Aristotle, refusing to allow them to be reduced to a mere question of terminology. This teaching lifted men above the arid syllogisms of the schools, enriched their view of themselves and nature, of God and history, and gave reality to the ancient saying ‘ex oriente lux’. For it came more as a religion than as a philosophy; even the apparatus of worship was mimicked; ceremonies were instituted, holy or feast days were observed; celebrities became saints, before the bust of Plato a taper was ceremoniously burned. The neophytes underwent a species of conversion; Marsilio Ficino (1433-99) was said to have been called in his youth to be a physician of souls, and designated as the translator of the two great masters, Plato and Plotinus. Man was conceived as like unto God, and was named divine; his destiny was to seek eternal union with the God from whom he came. That God was the archetype of the universe, its unmoved mover and orderer, the ground of all our reasoning, the light of all our seeing. He knew the world from within when He knew Himself, for creation was only the expression of the divine thought, God as it were speaking with Himself, and man overhearing His speech.

The circle of those devoted to the study of this philosophy contained the most distinguished scholars of the day. Besides Ficino there stood his friends or converts, Angelo Poliziano, though his fame is mainly philological; Cristoforo Landino, the exponent of Horace, of Virgil, and of Dante, who has given us a picture of Florentine society which recalls Plato’s Symposium; Girolamo Benivieni, the poet who sang in praise of Platonic love; the architect, painter and man of letters, Leo Battista Alberti; Pico della Mirandola, of whose faith and fame and achievements we have already spoken; and above all the men of the Medicean House who founded the so-called Platonic Academy of Florence. This was rather a Society than a School, not an equipped and organized college, but an association of like-minded men who cultivated philosophy and professed to live according to the philosophy they cultivated. It added lustre to the reign of the Medici, helped to define its character, to fix upon it name and distinction. Under Cosmo and his son Piero, and especially under his grandson Lorenzo, it became the centre and sum and even source of Florentine culture. But the patronage of the House proved fatal to the thought for which the Academy stood; with the House it rose, lived in its smile, fell in its fall. Yet it did not fall before it had accomplished things that could not die. It revealed the world which the Church had extinguished and the Schoolmen superseded; it raised the reason that could speculate concerning truth above the authority that would legislate in its behalf; it taught men to believe that the truth lived in the soul rather than in books, that nature was beautiful and man was good, and that truth existed before Church or Councils and stood outside them both, and that man attains to the larger humanity by the study of that literature in which the truth adapted to his nature is best expressed. These were indeed notable contributions to the thought of the century.

But though Plato lived in the New Academy, Aristotle still reigned in the older Schools. He had been too efficient an instrument in education to be easily pushed aside; but the thought which is to shape living mind must not itself be dead. Hence the men, who were by birth as well as by discipline Aristotelians, set themselves to rejuvenate the ancient Master and change his obsolete speech into the language of the day. Three tendencies at once showed themselves, one which interpreted Aristotle in the sense and manner of Averroes; a second which construed him by the help of the Greek commentators, especially Alexander of Aphrodisia; and a third which labored to reconcile him with Plato, some of the last-named going to Aristotle for their physics, but to Plato for their metaphysics. It soon became evident that the philosophical questions involved theology and raised issues affecting certain dogmas of the Church. These issues were more sharply defined in the Aristotelian than in the Neo-Platonic Schools and seriously alarmed the Church. How this was and with what reason, Pomponazzi (1462-1524)-Peretto, or little Peter, as he was affectionately named-will help us to understand.

Reverence for Aristotle had become in him a second nature; and though he writes poor Latin and knows no Greek, and is, as he said, in comparison with his master but an insect beside an elephant, yet he desires to serve truth by interpreting his philosophy. He frankly emphasized its opposition to faith; and narrowly escaped being burned for his pains, though his books were not so fortunate. He said : “The thinker, who inquires into the divine mysteries, is like Proteus. In face of consequences he neither hungers nor thirsts, eats or sleeps; the Inquisition persecutes him as a heretic; the multitude mocks him as a fool”. Doubt is native to him, and like Descartes he doubts that he may know; but, unlike Descartes, his doubt is more critical than speculative, more literary than philosophical. And if he has a doubt to express he dearly loves to express it in another name than his own, or shield himself behind some noted authority. Religions he conceives as laws instituted by lawgivers, like Christ or Mohammad, for the regulation of life. They are governed in their coming and going, in their bloom and decay, by time and space; and their horoscope can be cast just as if they were mortal beings. Christianity is proved true by its miracles, which are not impossible, though they have now ceased to happen and fictitious marvels have taken their place. Since religions are laws, they must promise to reward the righteous and threaten to punish the wicked; and as conduct rather than knowledge is their end they may use parables and myths, which, of course, need not be true. Man is like the ass which must be beaten that it may carry its burden; to teach him deep mysteries would be but to waste our breath. Nor are we to esteem him too highly or exhort him to become godlike, for how can man resemble a God whom he cannot know? As it is impossible to have natural grounds for a supernatural faith we must be content to hold it without reason, though it may be a gift of grace. If religion be moral then man must be free. And though his freedom may be incapable of rational proof yet it is a matter of conscious experience. This, indeed, may seem incompatible with Providence, which Aristotle conceived as general rather than particular, though we conceive it as a general made up of all particulars; but where philosophy is blind revelation may see, and it is better to trust it than to walk in darkness. The God who governs has created, and creation was willed in eternity, but happens in time, for Aristotle's idea of an eternal creation is sophistical. As the workman loves his handiwork so God loves all His creatures and wills their good. He has given to every being, not perhaps the absolutely best, but the best for it and for the universe, viewed in their complementary and reciprocal relations. For men supplement each other; what seems in and by itself a defect may become an excellency when seen from the standpoint of the collective whole. Man lives in humanity, humanity within nature, nature in God; and we ought to know all together before we judge any separately.

This is what would be called today a system of philosophical agnosticism, where man's ignorance becomes a plea, if not a reason for faith; but what it signified to Pomponazzi we shall best understand by turning to his famous treatise on the Immortality of the Soul. The treatise is at once an attempt at the historical interpretation of Aristotle and a serious independent discussion. It is practically concerned with the question : How did Aristotle conceive immortality, as personal or as collective? It is as little soluble by the natural reason as the cognate question whether the world is eternal or created; in each case the problem as to the beginning holds the key of the problem as to the end. The Aristotelian Schoolmen had argued that the capacity of the soul to think the eternal and will the universal implied its immortality. But what is the soul? We cannot define it as thought percipient of the universal reason, for there can be no thought without ideas and no ideas without sense. The soul which lives within nature must develop according to natural law and in obedience to it. Now, we never find soul without body; and hence we must ask : how are these related? Not as mover and moved, else their proper analogies would be the ox and the wagon it draws, but as matter and form, i.e. without the body the soul could not be, for only through the body does man take his place in nature and realize his rational activity. Hence the human soul cannot exist without the human body, and must therefore be liable to the same mortality. And this conclusion is worked out in connection with the moral doctrine that man is bound to act from love of virtue and horror of vice, and not from any hope of reward or fear of punishment, and so to act as to make all nature the better for his action. Reason, then, must conclude that the soul is mortal; but religion comes to our aid, and by teaching us to believe in the resurrection of the body resolves our doubts. Of this doctrine philosophy knows nothing, and so we can hold it only as an article of faith. This is in effect all Pomponazzi can teach us; religion and reason occupy opposite camps; neither can hold intercourse with the other. The truths of religion are the contradictions of the reason; the processes of the reason cannot serve the cause of religion. The new scholasticism was a philosophy of reasoned ignorance where the cardinal verities of religion were the inconceivabilities of thought.

But here certain new forces which seriously affected the course and the development of Latin thought must be referred to and analyzed. The ecclesiastical situation began to change, and the temper of the Renaissance changed with it. Thought had revived without conscious antagonism to the Church, though with the clear sense of opposition to the Schools and their methods. Churchmen had been forward in cultivating the new spirit, had encouraged and studied its literature, appreciated and promoted its art. But the Reformation, with its attendant incidents, made the Church suspicious of movements which might contain the seeds of revolt, while the Renaissance, always sensitive to outer conditions, lost its spontaneity, becoming self-conscious and critical. Italy after 1525 became what the Moorish wars had made Spain, sullen in temper and jealous in disposition; she imitated Spanish methods and developed the Inquisition; in Rome, once careless and happy, the Holy Office was founded.

One of the earliest fruits of this change of feeling was the revival of Scholasticism and the increased influence of the Spanish mind upon the Italian. This revived Scholasticism, which was bred mainly in two Orders, both of Spanish origin, the Dominican and the Jesuit, and introduced by them into schools and universities, pulpits and Courts, learning and literature, was used to prove the necessity of the Church to religion, of the Pope to the Church, and of all three to society and the State. It had the learning which the Renaissance created, but was without its knowledge of antiquity, its sympathy with it, or its belief in finding there virtue and truth. Its purpose was indeed quite specific : to prove not that the Church was the mother of culture or mistress of art, but that she was the sole possessor of truth, the one authority by which it could be defined, authenticated, and guaranteed. The line of defence was bold : the Church was the creation of God, its government His express design, its rulers instituted by His immediate act. Secular rulers were but mediate creatures of God, appointed through the people and responsible to them; but spiritual rulers were His immediate creation and responsible to Him alone. And since the Church was the sole custodian of truth, it was not permissible to seek it without her or outside her; to profess to have found it independently was to be heretical; to obey what had been so found was to fall into the deadliest schism. The argument may have been narrow, but it was clear and strenuous; it may not have converted opponents, but it convinced friends. The Church became conscious of her mission; she was the guardian of thought, the guide of mind. She alone could judge what was truth and what error, what men ought to do or ought not to know. And as she believed so she acted, with results that are broadly written upon the face of history. The new Scholastics converted their own Church from the Catholicity which encouraged the Renaissance to the Romanism which suppressed its thought.

Bernardino Telesio.

This, then, is what we have now to see; and so we resume our discussion of the thought which, as it faced the second quarter of the sixteenth century, began to feel the creeping shadow of the future. The change came slowly, for mind loves a violent catastrophe as little as nature, still it came and was marked by the rise of physical in succession to metaphysical speculation. The Neo-Platonic school had tended to a mystical and allegorical conception of the world, which implied a doctrine of the divine immanence and looked towards Pantheism. The Aristotelians, on the other hand, emphasized the ideas of cause and Creator, conceived the universe as manufactured and limited, and God as transcendent, the two being correlated in the manner of the later deism. The one school was inclined to read nature through Deity, the other Deity through nature; but in each case nature took its meaning from the temper and fundamental postulates of the school. The traditional ideas were Aristotelian; the universe was geocentric; its main fact was the opposition of heaven and earth, with the involved antithesis of the higher or celestial element, and the four lower elements, earth, air, fire, water, all movement being explained from their attempts to effect a change of place.

This theory could not satisfy men who believe in a philosophy of immanence; and efforts were soon made to dislodge it. One of the earliest and most notable of these stands associated with the name of Bernardino Telesio (1508-80). He was a devout son of the Church as well as a zealous student of nature, and he disliked Aristotle for two reasons : first, because his philosophy knows neither piety nor a Creator; and, secondly, because he tried to interpret nature without questioning herself. Telesio’s fundamental principle was this : nature must be explained in her own terms according to the method of experience and by the instrument of the senses. He conceived matter as a substance incapable of increase or decrease, more or less passive, yet susceptible of being acted upon by two forces, heat and cold, which, as causes, respectively, of expansion and contraction, produce all motion and all change. The heavens are the home of heat, and the earth of cold; and the constant effort of heat to illumine the dark and quicken the cold issue in a conflict whence come all the movement and variety of nature. The whole proceeds according to immanent laws and without the intervention of God. Nature is self-contained and self-sufficient; which however did not mean that she is without intelligence; on the contrary, there is a soul in things; each supplements and serves the other; mind lives in each, and works through the whole. Bacon saw in Telesio a return to Parmenides; others have seen in him an anticipation of Kant; others again have construed his principle ‘non ratione sed sensu’ as if he were the first of modern empiricists, the forerunner of the sensuous philosophy, both English and French. In all these views there is a measure of truth. He clothed his doctrines in a guise more or less mythical ; he could best conceive natural forces as personal, and he was never so ideal as when he meant to be most realistic. But he intended to be true to his principle, to construe nature not through metaphysics or theology, but from herself alone. It is this that makes him so significant in the history of thought, anticipating so much of what Bacon achieved, and places him, in spite of his crude and allegorical nomenclature, amid the forefathers of modern physics.

The speculations of Telesio did not stand alone; they were characteristic of his race and time. Italy, during what remained of the century, seemed to forsake philosophy for science, but the science she cultivated was only disguised philosophy. A distinguished contemporary, a critic and a Platonist, was Francesco Patrizzi (1529-97), who agreed with the Telesian physics, but differed in his metaphysics : arguing that, as both the corporeal and spiritual light emanated from one source, each was the kin and correlate of the other, the effects being reduced to unity by the unity of the cause. Another and younger contemporary, who loved to think and speak of himself as Telesio’s disciple, though he only saw the master after death, was Tommaso Campanella (1568-1639). His career has something of the tragedy which belongs to another and even more distinguished contemporary, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), for whom he wrote while suffering imprisonment a noble though unsuccessful Apology. Like Galilei, Campanella lived after Copernicus, and was attracted by his sublimer and vaster view of the universe; and, like Copernicus, he was accused of heresy in consequence, spending, partly on account of his religious and partly on account of his political views, twenty-seven years of his life in prison. He was at first, and he probably remained, in spite of all the persecutions he endured, a faithful Catholic. While he followed Telesio, he was yet a most independent disciple. His science evolved into a philosophy of existence, whose highest truth is the Deity, and whose fixed first principle is the thought, the ‘Notio abdita innata’ which is man. He was praised by Leibniz as one who soared to heaven, in contrast to Hobbes who groveled upon the earth. Then as Telesio anticipated Bacon, Campanella anticipated Descartes. Though he does not use the formula he holds the principle of the ‘cogito ergo sum’. Both are rooted in Augustine who said : “As for me, the most certain of all things is that I exist. Even if you deny this and say that I deceive myself, yet you do confess that I am, for if I do not live how could I deceive myself”. One of the strangest things in connection with the Catholic Campanella is the State, as described by him in his Civitas Solis. It is an echo of the Platonic Republic, without private property or family, with sexual intercourse publicly regulated and children owned and educated by the State, without a priesthood or public and positive religion, with philosophers as rulers and workmen as the true nobility. It was a noble dream, and shows how little physical speculation had killed ethical passion; the best interpreted earth was empty till it was made the home of happy and contented men.

Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) is of all the thinkers of the Latin Renaissance the most modern; in him science becomes philosophical, and philosophy speaks the language of science, confronts, defines, and enlarges its problems. As a man he is passionate, explosive, impetuous, vain, intolerant, and indomitable; and where these qualities are allowed freely to mix and express themselves it is very difficult indeed to be just. He himself says that “if the first button of one’s coat is wrongly buttoned all the rest will be crooked”; and the event which set his whole life awry happened when, as a lad of sixteen, he entered the Dominican Order. He early thought himself into heresy, and in his nature were fires which “all the snows of Caucasus” could not quench. In the effort to unfrock himself he became a wanderer, tried Rome, roamed over Northern Italy, crossed the Alps, and settled at Geneva, where he found neither the discipline nor the doctrine of the Reformed Church to his mind. He then emigrated to Toulouse, where he studied the New Astronomy, tried to be at home and to teach the fanatical Catholics of southern France in a city where the Inquisition had an ancient history. He next moved to Paris, where he attempted to instruct the doctors of the Sorbonne and to make his peace with the Church; and, failing, he crossed to England, where he lived for a while, wrote and published in London, and at Oxford claimed with much literary extravagance the right to lecture. To his Italian soul England was an uncongenial clime; he praised Elizabeth, as the Inquisition remembered later to his hurt; but he despised the barbarians over whom she ruled, and the ostentatious wealth and intellectual impotence of Oxford in her day.

From England he wandered back to France and thence to Germany, where he lectured at Wittenberg and eulogized Luther, who had “like a modern Hercules fought with Cerberus and his triple crown”. He was elected to a professorship at Helmstedt; which he soon forsook for Frankfort. But the home-sickness which would not be denied was on him, and he turned back to Italy where bloomed the culture which was to him the finest flower of humanity, where dwelt the men who moved him to love and not to hate, whose speech and thought threw over him a spell he could not resist. He was denounced to the Inquisition; spent eight years in prison, first in Venice and then in Rome; and, finally, on February 17, 1600, he was sent to the stake. Caspar Scioppius, a German who had passed from the Protestant to the Roman Church, and who loved neither Bruno nor his views, tells us that when the prisoner heard his sentence he only said, “You who condemn me perhaps hear the judgment with greater fear than myself”. And he adds that at the stake Bruno put aside a crucifix which was held out to him, and so entered heaven proclaiming how the Romans dealt with “blasphemous and godless men”. A modern admirer sees, in the eyes uplifted to the blue, a spirit that would have no dark image stand between him and the living God.

It is customary now to describe Bruno’s system as a form of pantheism. The term was not known then, or indeed for more than a hundred years after his death, which means that the idea is as modern as the term. Bruno was roundly named, just as Spinoza was later, an atheist, for men thought it was all one to identify God with nature and to deny His independent existence. The systems were indeed radically unlike; for while the one was a theophantism or apotheosis of nature, the other was an akosmism or a naturalization of God : in other words, Bruno started with nature and ended with Deity, but Spinoza began with Deity, his causa sui, substantia, or ens absolute infinitum, and reasoned down to nature. The antecedents of the one system were classical and philosophical but those of the other Semitic and religious. The historical factors of Bruno’s thought were two, ancient or Neo-Platonic, and modern or scientific. His system, if system it can be called, may be described as an attempt to state and to articulate the ideas inherited by him in the terms of the universe which Copernicus had revealed.

He conceived this universe as infinite, and so rejected the ancient scholastic idea of a limited nature with its distinctions and divisions of place, its here and there, its above and below, its cycles and epicycles. But the universe, which has no centre and therefore no circumference, has yet a unity for consciousness, and wherever consciousness is its unity appears. And this unity signifies that order reigns in the universe; that its phenomena are connected; that individual things are yet not insulated; and this coherence implies that all are animated by a common life and moved by a common cause. And this cause must be as infinite as the universe; for an infinite effect can proceed only from an infinite cause, and such a cause can be worthily expressed only in such an effect. But there is no room for two infinities to exist at the same moment in the same place; and so the effect must be simply the body of the cause, the cause the soul of the effect. Hence the cause is immanent, not transcendent; matter is animated, the pregnant mother who bears and brings forth all forms and varieties of being. And the soul which animates matter and energizes the whole is God; He is the natura naturans, Who is not above and not outside, but within and through, all things. He is the monad of monads, the spirit of spirits, carried so within that we cannot think ourselves without thinking Him.

There are, indeed, other expressions in Bruno; God is described as ‘the supersubstantial substance’, as ‘the supernatural first principle’, exalted far above nature, which is only a shadow of divine truth, speaking to us in parables. And this is possible, because in every single thing the whole is manifested, just as one picture reveals the artist’s power and promise. But these things signify that he refused to conceive God as a mere physical force or material energy, and held, on the contrary, that He must be interpreted in the terms of mind or spirit. He hates, indeed, the notion that nature is an accident, or the result of voluntary action ; and he labors to represent it as a necessity, seeking by a theory of emanation or instinctive action to reconcile the notions of necessity and God. Yet he does not conceive the best as already attained. Everything in nature strives to become better; everywhere instinct feels after the good, though higher than instinct is that which it seeks to become, the rational action that wills the best. Thought rises, like sense and instinct, from lower to higher forms. Heroic love, which desires the intuition of the truth, drives us ever upwards, that we may attain the perfect rest where understanding and will are unified.

Bruno’s speculations were those of a poet as well as a philosopher; and were in various ways prophetic. His death by fire at Rome signified that Italy had neither the wit nor the will to understand men of his kind; that for her the Renaissance had run its course, so that men must pursue its problems elsewhere in the hope of a more satisfactory solution. Descartes’ de omnibus dubitandum est was but the negative expression of Bruno’s positive effort after emancipation from authority, the freedom without which thought can accomplish nothing. Spinoza’s substantia, with its twin attributes of thought and extension on the one hand, and Leibniz' monadology on the other, carried into more perfect forms the quest on which he had embarked. But to us he has an even higher significance ; he is the leader of the noble army of thinkers who have tried at once to justify and to develop into a compléter system of the universe the dreams and the doctrines of modern science. It is this which makes him the fit close of the movement, which began by waking the old world from its grave and ended by saluting the birth of the thought that made the whole world new.

 

The French Renaissance. Rabelais and Montaigne.

 

We have not as yet approached the French Renaissance, which has indeed an interest and character of its own. It was, while less philosophical, more strictly educational, literary, and juristic than the Italian; and may be described as both Teutonic and Latin in origin. It entered the north and penetrated as far as Paris with the Adagia of Erasmus, published in 1500; but it reached the south from Italy, crossing the Alps with the gentlemen of France who accompanied their Kings on those incursions which had, as Montaigne tells us, so fateful an influence on the French morals and mind. Correspondent to this difference in origin was a difference in spirit and in the field of activity. In the north the Renaissance made its home in the schools, and worked for the improvement of the education, the amelioration of the laws, and the reform of religion, as names like Bude, Pierre de la Ramée, and Beza, may help us to realize; but in the south it was more personal and less localized, its learning was nearer akin to culture than to education, and it loved literature more than philosophy. Hence the forms it assumed in France can hardly be said to call for separate discussion here. Especially is this true of its more northern form; a better case might be made out for the southern. To it belong the great names of Rabelais and Montaigne; but their place is in a history of literature rather than of thought, though both affected the course of the latter too profoundly to be left unmentioned here.

Coleridge has said that Rabelais was “among the deepest as well as boldest thinkers of his age”; that the rough stick he used yet “contained a rod of gold” ; and that a treatise could be written “in praise of the moral elevation of his work which would make the Church stare and the conventicle groan, and yet would be the truth, and nothing but the truth”. These may seem hard sayings, utterly incredible if portions of his work are alone regarded, but accurate enough if the purpose and drift of his teaching as a whole be considered. It has been well said that the confession of faith of the curé of Meudon has far more moral reality than that which Rousseau puts into the mouth of his Savoyard vicar. He believes that the universe needs no other governor than its Creator, whose word guides the whole and determines the nature, properties, and condition of each several thing. Pascal’s famous definition of Deity, “a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere”, is but an echo from Rabelais. And he can, with the wisest of the ancients and the best of the moderns, speak of the “great Soul of the universe which quickens all things”. La Bruyère described his work as “a chimera; it has the face of a beautiful woman, but the tail of a serpent”. Yet surely the man who had to wear the mask of a buffoon that he might preach the wisdom of truth and love to his age, well deserves the epigram which Beza wrote in his honor :

 

“Qui sic nugatur, tractantem ut seria vincat,

Seria cum faciet din, rogo, quantus erit?”

 

Montaigne is of all Frenchmen most thoroughly a son of the Renaissance. He loves books, especially the solid and sensible and well-flavored books written in the ancient classic tongues, the men who made and those who read them, and he loved to study man. He says : ‘Je suis moi même la matière de mon livre’ (I am, myself, the subject of my book). And he does not understand himself in any little or narrow sense, but rather as the epitome and mirror of mankind. The world in which he lived was not friendly to the freedom of thought which was expressed in affirmative speech or creative conduct, and so he learned to be silent-or skeptical. He had seen men hate each other, willingly burn or be burned, out of love to God; and he was moved by pity to moralize on the behavior of those who were so positive where they could not know, and so little understood the God in whom they professed to believe that they never saw what the love of Him bound them to be and to do. The man that he studied and described was not abstract but concrete man, with all his foibles and failings, limited in his nature but infinite in his views, differing without ceasing from his fellows, and not always able to agree with himself. And man, so conceived, dwells amid mystery, has it within him, and confronts it without. Custom may guide him but not reason; for reason builds on arguments, whose every position depends on another, in a series infinitely regressive. “Les hommes sont tourmentés par les opinions qu'ils ont des choses, non par les choses mêmes” (Men are afraid of their own opinions about the things, not of the self of the things). Where man is so ignorant he ought not to be dogmatic; where truth is what all seek and no one can be sure that he finds, i.e. where it is nothing but a mere probability, it is a folly to spill human blood for it.

God is unknown even in religion; as many as the nations of men so many are the forms under which He is worshipped. And when they try to conceive and name Him, they degrade Him to their own level. God is made in the image of man rather than man in the image of God; to the Ethiopian He is black, to the Greek He is white, and lithe and graceful; to the brute He would be bestial and to the triangle triangular. Man, then, is so surrounded with contradictions that he cannot say what is or is not true. Wisdom was with Sextus Empiricus when he said : “Il n'y a nulle raison qui n'en ait une contraire, dit le plus sage parti des philosophes” (every single thing has its contrary, say the philosophers). Where man so doubts he is too paralyzed to fight or to affirm. Montaigne’s sympathies might be with those who worked and suffered for a new heaven and a new earth; but his egoism inclined to the conventional and followed the consuetudinary. Prevost-Paradol termed him “une perpétuelle leçon de tempérance et de modération” (always searching for moderation and fortitude). But this is a lesson which men of culture may read contentedly; while those who struggle to live or to make life worth living will hardly find in it the Gospel they need.

 

The Teutonic Renaissance.

 

We turn now to the Teutonic Renaissance. Like the Latin, it began as a revolt against the sovereignty of Aristotle; but, unlike the Latin, its literary antecedents were patristic and Biblical rather than classical. They were, indeed, so far as patristic, specifically Augustinian, and, so far as Biblical, Pauline. With Augustine, the underlying philosophy was Neo-Platonic, with a tendency to theosophy and mysticism; with Paul, the theology involved a philosophy of human nature and human history. This does not mean that other Fathers or other Scriptures were ignored, but rather that Paul was interpreted through Augustine, and Christ through Paul. This fundamental difference involved two others. In the first place, a more religious and more democratic temper, the religious being seen in the attempt to realize the new ideals, and the democratic in the strenuous and combatant spirit by which alone this could be accomplished. The thought which lived in the Schools could not resist the authority that spoke in the name of the Church and was enforced by the penalties of the State; but the thought which interpreted God to the conscience was one that bowed to no authority lower than His. In the second place, Teutonic was more theological than Latin thought. The categories, which the past had formulated for the interpretation of being, it declined to accept; and so it had to discover and define those which it meant to use in their stead. The God with whom it started was not an abstract and isolated but a living and related Deity; and man it conceived sub specie aeternitatis, as a being whom God had made and ruled. The very limitation of its field was an enlargement of its scope; its primary datum was the Eternal God, and its secondary was the created universe, especially the man who bore the image of his Maker. This man was no mere individual or insulated unit, but a race, a connected, coherent, organic unity. The human being was local, but human nature was universal; before the individual could be, the whole must exist; and so man must be interpreted in terms of mankind rather than mankind in the terms of the single and local man. And this signified that in character, as well as in nature, the race was a unity; the past made the present, the heir became as his inheritance; and so any change in man had to be effected by the Maker and not by those He had made. And here Augustine pointed the way to the goal which Paul had reached : the will of God had never ceased to be active, for it was infinite; and it could not cease to be gracious, for it was holy and perfect; therefore, from this will, since man’s nature was by his corporate being and his inevitable inheritance evil, all the good he could ever be or achieve must come.

This fundamental idea was common to the types most characteristic of the Teutonic Renaissance. It was expressed in Luther’s Servum Arbitrium, in Zwingli’s Providentia Actuosa, in Calvin’s Decretum Absolutum. These all signified that the sole causality of good belonged to God, that grace was of the essence of His will, and that where He so willed, man could not but be saved, and, where He did not so will, no amelioration of state was possible. But this must not be interpreted to mean that man had been created and constituted of God for darkness rather than light; on the contrary, these thinkers all agree in affirming a universal light of nature, i.e. ideas implanted in us by the Creator, or, as Melanchthon phrased it, “Notitiae nobiscum nascentes divinitus sparsae in mentibus nostris”. In this position they were more influenced by Paul than by Augustine; with the Apostle, they argued that the moral law had been written in the heart before it was printed on tables of stone, and that without the one the other could neither possess authority nor be understood. But they also argued that knowledge without obedience was insufficient; and therefore they held God’s will to be needed to enable man both to will and to do the good. But their differences of statement and standpoint were as instructive as their agreements. When Luther affirmed the absolute bondage of the will and Calvin the absolute decree of God, the one looked at the matter as a question of man’s need, the other as a question of God’s power; and so they agreed in idea though they differed in standpoint. Yet the difference proved to be more radical than the agreement. And so, when Zwingli said “he would rather share the eternal lot of a Socrates or a Seneca than that of the Pope”, he meant that God willed good to men who were outside the Church or the covenants, without willing the means which both Luther and Calvin conceived to be necessary to salvation. It is through such differences as these that the types and tendencies of Teutonic thought must be conceived and explained.

Jakob Boehme.

Luther’s Article of a Standing or Failing Church, Justification by Faith alone, is the positive side of the idea which is negatively expressed as the bondage of the will; and the idea in both its positive and negative forms implies a philosophy of existence which may be stated as a question thus : How is God, as the source of all good, related to man as the seat and servant of evil? God and man, good as identical with God and evil as inseparable from man, are recognized, and the problem is : how is the good to overcome the evil? The man who frames the problem is a mystic; God is the supreme desire and delight of his soul; and he conceives sin as a sort of inverted capacity for God, the dust which has stifled a thirst and turned it into an infinite misery. Now, Luther has two forms under which he conceives God’s relation to man, a juristic denoted by the term “justification”, and a vital denoted by the term “faith”. Justification is the acquittal of the guilty : faith is nothing else than the true life realized in God. The one term thus describes the universe as ethically governed, while the other describes man as capable of participating in the eternal life; and the two together mean that he can realize his happiness or his end only as he shares the life of God and lives in harmony with His law. The philosophy here implied is large and sublime, though its intrinsic worth may be hidden by the crudity of its earliest forms. The Lutheran doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum attempts, for example, to establish a kind of equation between the ideas of God and man. The person of Christ is a symbol of humanity; in it man can so participate as to share its perfections and dignity. Christ's humanity is capable of deity; God lives in Him now openly, now cryptically, but ever really ; and His humanity so penetrates the Deity as to touch Him with a feeling of our infirmities and make Him participant in our lot as we are in His life.

This is the very root and essence of German mysticism, which gives to the German hymns their beauty and their pathos, which inspired the speculations of Brenz and Chemnitz, and which later determined Schelling’s doctrine of “indifference” or the “identity of subject and object”, and Hegel's “absolute idealism”. If we read Boehme from this point of view, how splendid his dreams and how reasonable his very extravagances become! We are not surprised to hear him speak of the necessity of antitheses to all being, and especially to the life and thought of God, of evil being as necessary as good, or wrath as essential as love in God, who is the fundament of hell as well as of heaven, both the everlasting No, and the eternal Yes. He dwells in nature as the soul dwells in the body; there is no point in the body where the soul is not, no spot in space and no atom in nature where we can say, “God is not here”. The man who is His image, who is holy as He is holy, good as He is good, is of no other matter than God. This may be Pantheism, but it is not rational and reasoned like Bruno’s; it is emotional and felt, a thing of imagination all compact. It is born of the love that loses the sense of personal distinctness and identity in the joy, not of absolute possession, but of being possessed. Boehme says that the processes of nature conceal God, but the spirit of man reveals Him; and how can it reveal a God it does not know? But the spirit that has never seen and touched Deity has never known Him or been so one with Him as to know Him as he knows himself. Here lives the very soul of Luther and the essence of all his thought. Boehme’s friend and biographer describes him as a little man of mean aspect, thin voice, snub nose, but eyes blue as heaven, bright and gleaming like the windows of Solomon’s temple. And he lived in harmony with lines which he wrote with his own toil-stained hand :

Wem Zeit ist wie

Ewigkeit Und Ewigkeit wie Zeit,

Der ist befreit

Von allem Streit.

 

Of course, such a change as Luther instituted could not but powerfully affect the minds of men. But certain concomitants must not be set down as effects; and the Peasants’ War had its causes in centuries of German history, though among its occasions must be reckoned the ideas which the Reformation had thrown as it were into the air. But quite otherwise was it with the Anabaptist movement. While it sprang up and flourished in provinces and cities where Zwingli was potent as well as in places more expressly Lutheran, yet it belonged more specifically to the Lutheran than to the Reformed Church. To discuss its causes and forms would carry us far beyond our available space. It is enough to say : the principle of parity which it emphasised was more antagonistic to the one Church than to the other. Luther created his Church by the help of Princes; Calvin founded his on the goodwill of the people. The system that claimed fullest freedom for the individual could find less fault with the latter than with the former. And it is significant that the heresies which troubled the Lutherans were largely political and social, while those that afflicted the Reformed were mainly intellectual and moral. In nothing is the character of a Society more revealed than in the heresies to which it is most liable.

Zwingli and Calvin alike conceived God under the category of will, and construed man and history through it. Both held faith to be a consequence of, rather than a condition for, election; man believed because God had so decreed, and into His will every step in their upward or downward progress was resolved. Now, this emphasis on the will of God necessarily threw into prominence the ideas of God and will, with the result that the main varieties of opinion in the Reformed Church concerned these two ideas. If the will of God was the supreme and sole causality in all human affairs, and if the will always was as the nature was, it became a matter of primary consequence to know what kind of being God was, and what His nature and character. This question was early and potently raised, and in a most significant quarter. Zanchius, himself an Italian, who so emphasized the will of God as to anticipate Spinoza and represent God as the only free Being in nature and the sole cause in history, wrote in 1565 to Bullinger warning him against being too easy in the matter of credentials of orthodoxy, as he had many heretical compatriots. And it is curious that the attempts to find a simpler conception of God than Calvin’s, or to modify his notion of the will by the notion of the Deity whose will it was, came mainly from men of Latin stock. Servetus was the son of a Spanish father and a French mother; Lelio and Fausto Sozzini, uncle and nephew, the one the father of the doctrine, the other of the sect, which respectively bear their name, were Italians, as were also Bernardino Ochino, who wrote a once famous book concerning the freedom and bondage of the will, “the Labyrinth”, in which he argued that man ought to act as if he were free, but when he did good he was to give all the glory to God as if he were necessitated, and Celio Secondo Curione, who desired to enlarge the number of the elect till it should comprehend Cicero as well as Paul; while Sebastian Castellio, who is described by some contemporaries as French, though by others as Italian, as a matter of fact he was born in a Savoyard village not far from Geneva, argued that as God is good His will must be the same, and if all had happened according to it there could have been no sin. These views may be regarded as the recrudescence of the Latin Renaissance in the Reformed Church, and are marked as attempts to bring in a humaner and sweeter conception of God. They failed, possibly because of the severity and efficiency of the Reformed legislation, or possibly because they did not reckon with the Augustinian sense of sin, or most probably for reasons which were both political and intellectual. It is indeed strange, that positions so strongly rational and so well and powerfully argued should not have been maintained and crystallized into important religious societies; but as Boehme helps us to see, the man who knows himself to be evil expects and appreciates wrath as well as mercy in God. This may be the reason why the attempts made by some of the finest minds in the sixteenth century to soften the severer ideas of Deity seemed to their contemporaries heresies, and seem to the student of history ineffective failures.

The problem was soon attacked from another side. The field in which the will of God was exercised was the soul of man. That will concerned, therefore, him and his acts; if these acts were done because God had so determined, then two consequences followed; the acts would show the quality of the will, and the man would not be consciously free, would know himself an instrument rather than an agent. The criticism from these points of view was mainly northern; those who urged it did so in the interests of man and morality. In Calvin’s own lifetime the doctrine of foreordination, or of the operation of the Divine will in its relation to human affairs, was assailed by two men, Albert Pighius, a Catholic from the Netherlands, and Jerome Hermes Boisée, a Parisian, an unfrocked Carmelite monk, who had turned physician, and had for a time been closely attached to Calvin. The former argued that if God was the absolute cause of all events and acts, then to Him we owed, not only the goodness of the good, but the wickedness of the wicked; the second, that if faith is made the consequence rather than the condition of election, then God must be charged with partiality. But towards the end of the century a more serious movement took place. The question of the Divine will had exercised the Reformed theologians, especially as criticism had compelled them to consider it in relation to sin as well as to salvation, i.e. both as to the causation of the state from which man was to be saved, and as to his deliverance from it. Certain of the more vigorous Reformed divines, including Beza himself, said that the decree in date precedes the Fall, for what was first in the Divine intention is last in execution; the first thing was the decree to save, but if man is to be saved he must first be lost; hence the Fall is decreed as a consequence of the decreed Salvation. But the milder divines said that the decree of God takes the existence of sin for granted, deals with man as fallen, and elects or rejects him for reasons we cannot perceive, though it clearly knows and regards. The former were known by the name of supralapsarians, and the latter by the name of sublapsarians. In the seventeenth century an acute and effective criticism was directed against both forms of the belief, which, although it falls beyond our scope, must receive passing notice here. Jacobus Arminius (Jakob Herman), a Dutch preacher and professor, declined to recognize the doctrine as either Scriptural or rational. He held that it made God the author of sin, that it restricted His grace, that it left the multitudes outside without hope, that it condemned multitudes for believing the truth, viz. that for them no salvation was either intended or provided in Christ, and it gave an absolutely false security to those who believed themselves to be the elect of God. The criticism was too rational to be cogent, for it was, as it were, an assertion of the rights of man over against the sovereignty of God. And it involved the men who pursued it in the political controversies and conflicts of the time. The Arminians were most successful when the argument proceeded on principles supplied by the conscience and the consciousness of man; and the Calvinists when they argued from the majesty and the might of God. But if the Arminians were dialectically victors, they were politically vanquished. The men who organized authority in Holland proved stronger than those who pleaded and suffered for freedom.

There are still large fields of thought to be traversed before we can do even approximate justice to the mind of Protestantism; but our space is exhausted. All we can now do is to drop a hint as to what was intended; we should have wished to sketch the Renaissance that followed the Reformation as fully as the literary Revival which preceded it. Theodore Beza is a man whose fame as a Genevan legislator and divine has eclipsed his name as a scholar and educator; but it ought not to be forgotten that he was an elegant humanist before he became a convinced reformer and his most fruitful work was done in the provinces of sacred learning and exegesis. The Estiennes, Robert and Henry, are potent names in the history of Greek and Roman letters; they accomplished much for the languages and the literatures which they loved; Robert, in particular, standing out as a devoted friend of religion and of science, for both of which he made immense sacrifices. Our textus receptus and its division into verses are witnesses to his zeal. Joseph Scaliger and Isaac Casaubon had the merit of awakening the envy, which was but inverted admiration, and the supple hate, which was like the regret of the forsaken, of the society whose mission it was to roll back the advancing tide of the freer thought that had come to quicken interest in letters; while Gerard Jan Vossius construed the classical mythology through religion, and both through Old Testament history in a way that contributed to form comparative science in the regions of thought, religion, and language. Protestant scholars had a larger and more realistic way of looking at classical problems than the men of the earlier Renaissance, and by its dissociation from polity and custom Teutonic thought even while it seems narrower in scope, is yet far wider in outlook and interest than Latin. It goes into a more distant past, and rises to higher altitudes. It came as a revolt, but it grew into a development; it continued free from the authority that would have suppressed it, and used its freedom to achieve results which the more fettered Latin mind panted after in vain. France continued in the seventeenth century the literary activity of Italy in the sixteenth; but speculation loves freedom, and refused to live where it could not be free. The events, which emancipated England from monotonous uniformity in religion, set the problems that have been the main factors in her historical development, and the chief causes of her philosophical activity and her literary greatness, Modern thought is the achievement of Northern and Central Europe, but it is the possession of universal man.