Front Page Titles (by Subject) Des. Erasmus of Rotterdam TO THE READER,: Concerning the Profitableness of Colloquies. - The Colloquies vol. 2
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Des. Erasmus of Rotterdam TO THE READER,: Concerning the Profitableness of Colloquies. - Desiderius Erasmus, The Colloquies vol. 2 
The Colloquies of Erasmus. Translated by Nathan Bailey. Edited with Notes, by the Rev. E. Johnson, M.A. (London: Reeves and Turner, 1878). Vol. 2.
Part of: The Colloquies 2 vols.
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Des. Erasmusof Rotterdam TO THE READER,
Concerning the Profitableness of Colloquies.
MALICIOUS Detraction, attended with the Furies, does at this Day so rage throughout the whole World, that it is unsafe to publish any Book, except it be defended by a Guard. Altho’, what indeed can be secure enough from the Sting of a false Accuser, who like the Adder at the Voice of the Charmer, stops his Ear from hearing any one clearing himself, though it be ever so justly? The first Part of this Work, which is mine and not mine, was publish’d by reason of the Rashness of a certain Man: Which when I perceiv’d it was receiv’d by the Students with great Applause, I made use of the Affection of the common People, for the Furtherance of Studies. And so Physicians themselves don’t always administer the most wholsome Things to their Patients, but permit them to take some Things, because they have a very strong Desire for them. So in like Manner, I thought meet to allure tender Youth with Inticements of this Sort, who are more easily attracted with those Things that are pleasant, than those that are serious, or the most exact. Therefore I have again corrected that which was published, and besides have added such Things as may conduce to the forming of good Manners, as it were insinuating into the Minds of young Persons, whom Aristotle accounted not to be fit Auditors of Moral Philosophy, viz. such as is deliver’d in serious Precepts. And if any one shall cry out, that it is an unseemly Thing for an old Man to sport himself thus childishly; I care not how childishly it be, so it be but profitably. And if the antient Teachers of Children are commended, who allur’d them with Wafers, that they might be willing to learn their first Rudiments; I think it ought not to be charg’d as a Fault upon me, that by the like Regard I allure Youths either to the Elegancy of the Latin Tongue, or to Piety. And besides, it is a good Part of Prudence to know the foolish Affections of the common People, and their absurd Opinions. I judge it to be much better to instruct those out of this little Book, than by Experience, the Mistress of Fools. The Rules of Grammar are crabbed Things to many Persons. Aristotle’s Moral Philosophy is not fit for Children. Scotus’s Divinity is less fit, nor is it indeed of any great use to Men, to procure them Understanding. And it is a Matter of great Moment early to disseminate a Taste of the best Things into the tender Minds of Children; and I cannot tell that any Thing is learn’d with better Success than what is learn’d by playing: And this is in Truth a very harmless Sort of Fraud, to trick a Person into his own Profit. Physicians are commended for cheating their Patients after this Manner; and yet if I had done nothing else in this Matter but trifled, they might seem to have borne with me; now, because, besides the Elegancy of the Language, I have inserted some Things that may prepare the Mind for Religion, they accuse me falsely, and as tho’ the Principles of the Christian Religion were here seriously set down, they examine every Syllable exactly. How unjustly they do this, will appear more evidently when I shall have shewn the great Profitableness of some Colloquies. To omit so many Sentences, intermix’d with Jests; so many pleasant Stories, and the Natures of so many Things worthy to be taken Notice of;
In the Colloquy concerning visiting of holy Places, the superstitious and immoderate Affection of some is restrain’d, who think it to be the chiefest Piety to have visited Jerusalem; and thither do old Bishops run over so great Tracts of Land and Sea, leaving their Charge, which they should rather have taken Care of. Thither also do Princes run, leaving their Families and their Dominions. Thither do Husbands run, leaving their Wives and Children at Home, whose Manners and Chastity it were necessary to have been guarded by them. Thither do young Men and Women run, with the Hazard of their Manners and Integrity. And some go the second Time, ay, do nothing else all their Life long; and in the mean Time the Pretence of Religion is made the Excuse for their Superstition, Inconstancy, Folly, and Rashness; and he that deserts his Family contrary to the Doctrine of St. Paul, bears away the Bell for Sanctimony, and thinks himself compleatly religious. Paul, 1 Tim. v. 8. boldly says, But if any provide not for his own, and especially those of his own House; he hath denied the Faith, and is worse than an Infidel. And yet Paul in this Place seems to speak of Widows that neglect their Children and Grand-children, and that under Pretence of Religion, while they give themselves up to the Service of the Church. What would he say of Husbands, who leave their tender Children and young Wives, and that in a poor Condition, to take a Journey to Jerusalem? I will produce but one Example out of many, and not so long ago but that the Grand-children are still living, whom the great Damage they sustain’d does not suffer to forget what was done.
A certain great Man took a Resolution to pay a Visit to Jerusalem before he died, with a religious Intent indeed, but not well advis’d. Having set in order the Affairs of his Possessions, he committed the Care and Custody of his Lady, who was big with Child, of his Towns and Castles, to an Archbishop, as to a Father. As soon as the News arriv’d that the Man was dead in his Pilgrimage, the Archbishop, instead of acting the Part of a Father, play’d the Robber, seiz’d all the dead Man’s Possessions, and besieg’d a strong well-defended Castle, into which the Lady great with Child, had fled; and having taken it by Storm, lest any one should survive who might revenge the heinous Fact, the Lady great with Child, together with her Infant, was run thro’ and died. Would it not have been a pious Deed, to have dissuaded this Man from so dangerous and unnecessary a Journey? How many Examples of this Kind there are to be found, I leave others to judge. In the mean Time, to say nothing of the Charges, which tho’ I grant they be not entirely lost, yet there is no wise Man but will confess, that they might have been laid out to far better Purpose: But then as to the Religion of making such Visits, St. Jerome commends Hilarion in that, tho’ he was a Native of Palestine, and dwelt in Palestine, yet he never went to see Jerusalem, tho’ it was so near, but once, lest he might seem to despise holy Places. If Hilarion was deservedly commended, because being so near, he forbore going to visit Jerusalem, lest he should seem to shut up God in a narrow Compass, and went thither but once, and that by Reason of the nearness of the Place, lest he might give Offence to any; what shall we say of those who go to Jerusalem thro’ so many Dangers, and at so great Expence, out of England and Scotland, and especially leaving their nearest and dearest Relations at Home, of whom, according to the Doctrine of the Apostle, they ought to have a continual Care? St. Jerome proclaims aloud, that it is no great Matter to have been at Jerusalem, but it is a great Thing to have lived well. And yet it is probable that in Jerome’s Time there were more evident Footsteps of antient Monuments to be seen, than now. As to the Dispute concerning Vows, I leave that to others. This Colloquy only treats, that none should rashly take such Vows upon them: That this is true, these Words of mine plainly shew; Especially I having a Wife at home, as yet in the flower of her Age, Children, and a Family which depended upon me, and were maintain’d by my daily Labour; and other Words that follow. Therefore I will say nothing of Vows that are made, only this, that if I were Pope, I would not unwillingly discharge those that had bound themselves from them. In undertaking them, as I grant that it is possible for some one to go to Jerusalem with an Advantage to Piety; so I should make no Scruple from many Circumstances of Things, to advise, that they would lay out the Expences, Time, and Pains, to other Purposes, which would more immediately conduce to true Piety. I judge these to be pious Things, and for that Reason considering either the Inconstancy or Ignorance, or Superstition of many, I have thought it proper to give Youth Warning of that Thing; and I do not see whom this Admonition ought to offend, unless perhaps such Persons to whom Gain is preferable to Godliness. Nor do I there condemn the Pope’s Indulgences or Pardons; but that most vain Trifler, who put all his Hope in Mens Pardons, without the least Thought of amending his Life. If any one shall seriously consider with me how great a Destruction of Piety arises among Men, partly by their Vices, who prostitute the Pope’s Indulgences, and partly by the Fault of them who take them otherwise than they ought to do, he will confess that it is worth the while to admonish young Men of this Matter. But some may say, by this Means the Commissioners lose their Gain: Hear me, O honest Man; if they are good Men, they will rejoice that the Simple are thus admonish’d; but if they are such as prefer Gain before Godliness, fare them well.
In the Colloquy concerning hunting after Benefices, I blame those who frequently run to Rome and hunt after Benefices, oftentimes with the corrupting their Manners, and loss of their Money; and for that Reason I carry on my Discourse, that a Priest should delight himself in reading good Authors, instead of a Concubine.
In the Soldier’s Confession, I tax the Villanies of Soldiers, and their wicked Confessions; that young Men may detest such Manners.
In the Schoolmaster’s Admonitions, I teach a Boy Shamefacedness, and Manners becoming his Age.
In the Child’s Piety, do I not furnish a childish Mind with godly Precepts, for the Study of Piety? As for that which some have snarl’d at concerning Confession, it is a mere Calumny, to which I have answer’d long ago. I teach that Confession is to be perform’d, just as it was ordain’d for us by Christ: But whether it be so done, I have neither a Mind to disprove nor affirm, because I am not thoroughly satisfied of it myself: nor am I able to prove it to others. And whereas I advise to deliberate about chusing a Kind of Life, and to make choice of a Priest to whom you may commit your Secrets, I judg’d it to be necessary for young Men; nor do I see any Reason why I should repent of it. But if so, there will be fewer Monks and Priests: It may be so; but then perhaps they will be better, and whosoever is a Monk indeed, will prove it so. And besides, they who endeavour to make Men be of their own Persuasion, either for the Sake of their own Gain or Superstition, do very well deserve to be defam’d by the Writings of all Men, that they may be brought to Repentance.
In the Profane Feast, I condemn not the Ordinances of the Church concerning Fasts and choice of Meats; but I point out the Superstition of some Men, who lay more Stress on these Things than they ought to do, and neglect those Things that are more conducive to Piety. And I condemn the Cruelty of them, who require strictly these Things of those Persons from whom the Meaning of the Church does not exact them; and also the preposterous Holiness of those Persons who condemn their Neighbour for such Things. Here, if any one shall consider how great a Mischief among Men accrues hence to Godliness, he will confess that scarce any other Admonition is more necessary. But in another Place I shall give a fuller Answer to this Matter.
In the Religious Feast, altho’ I make them all Lay-Men, and all married Men, yet I sufficiently shew what Sort of Feast that of all Christians ought to be. With which Pattern, if some Monks and Priests compare their Feasts, they will perceive how far short they fall of that Perfection, in which they ought to exceed Lay-Men.
In the Canonization, I shew what Honour is due to Men of Excellency, who have well deserv’d by their Studies of the Liberal Arts.
They are foolish who think that the Colloquy between the Maid and her Sweetheart is lascivious, whereas nothing can be imagin’d more chaste, if Wedlock be an honest Thing, and it be honest to be a Woer. And I could wish that all Woers were such as I suppose one in this Colloquy to be, and that Marriages were contracted with no other Discourses. What can you do with those of a sour Disposition, and averse to all pleasant Discourse, who think all that is friendly and merry, is unchaste? This young Maid refuses to give her Sweetheart a Kiss at his Departure, that she may preserve her Virginity for him entire. But what do not Maids now-a-Days grant to their Sweethearts? Besides, they don’t perceive how many Philosophical Sayings are intermix’d with Jests, concerning Marriages so hastily made up; concerning the choice of Bodies, but much more of Minds; concerning the firmness of Matrimony; concerning not contracting Marriages without the Consent of Parents, and of keeping them chastly; of the religious Education of Children: And in the last Place, the young Maid prays, that Christ by his Favour would make their Marriage happy. Is it not fit that young Men and Maids should know those Things? And Persons who think that this Lesson is hurtful to Children, by reason of the Wantonness of it, suffer Plautus and the Jests of Poggius to be read to them. O excellent Judgment!
In the Virgin that is averse to Marriage, I abhor those that by their Allurements draw young Men and Maids into Monasteries, contrary to the Minds of their Parents; making a Handle either of their Simplicity or Superstition, persuading them there is no Hope of Salvation out of a Monastery. I should not have given this Counsel, if the World were not full of such Fishermen, and a great many excellent Wits were not unhappily smother’d and buried alive by these Fellows, which otherwise, if they had judiciously taken upon them a Course of Life suitable to their Inclinations, might have been choice Vessels of the Lord. But if at any Time I shall be constrain’d to speak my Mind upon this Subject, I will both so paint out these Kidnappers, and the Heinousness of the Evil itself, that every one shall own that I have not given this Advice without a Cause; altho’ I have done it civilly too, lest I should give Occasion of Offence to ill Men.
In the next Colloquy, I don’t bring in a Virgin that has changed her Course of Life after she has profess’d herself; but before she has compleatly enter’d upon the Profession, she returns to her Parents, who are very loving to her.
In the Colloquy blaming Marriage, how many Philosophical Sayings are there relating to concealing the Faults of Husbands; relating to the hearty good Will of married Persons, not to be broken off; relating to the making up Breaches, and reforming the Manners of Husbands; of the pliable Manners of Wives towards their Husbands? What else do Plutarch, Aristotle, and Xenophon teach? But that here the Persons add a Kind of Life to the Discourse.
In the Colloquy of the Soldier and Carthusian, I at once do lively describe both the Madness of young Men who run into the Army, and the Life of a pious Carthusian, which, without Delight in his Studies, cannot but be melancholy and unpleasant.
In the Notable Lyar I lively set forth the Dispositions of some Persons who are born to lying, than which Kind of Persons there is nothing more abominable: I wish they were more rare.
In the Colloquy of the Young Man and the Harlot, do I not make Bawdy-houses chaste? And what could be imagin’d more effectual, either to implant the Care of Chastity in the Minds of young Men, or to reclaim young Maids who are set to Sale for Gain, from a Course of Life that is as wretched as it is beastly? There is one Word only that has offended some Persons, because the immodest Girl, soothing the young Man, calls him her Cocky; whereas this is a very common Expression among us, with honest Matrons. He that can’t away with this, instead of my Cocky, let him read my Delight, or any Thing else as he pleases.
In the Poetical Feast, I shew what Kind of Feasts Students ought to keep, viz. a frugal, but a jocose and merry one, season’d with learned Stories, without Contentions, Backbiting, and obscene Discourse.
In the Enquiry concerning Faith, I set forth the Sum of the Catholick Religion, and that too something more lively and clearly than it is taught by some Divines of great Fame; among which I reckon Gerson, whom, in the mean Time, I mention by Name for Honour’s Sake. And besides, I bring in the Person of a Lutheran, that there may be a more easy Agreement betwixt them, in that they agree in the chief Articles of the Orthodox Religion; altho’ I have not added the remaining Part of the Enquiry, because of the Malice of the Times.
In the Old Mens Discourse, how many Things are there that are shewn as it were in a Looking-Glass, which either should be avoided in Life, or may render it comfortable. It is better for young Persons to learn these Things by pleasant Colloquies, than by Experience. Socrates brought Philosophy down even from Heaven to Earth, and I have made it a Diversion, brought it into familiar Conversation, and to the Table: For even the Divertisements of Christians ought to savour of Philosophy.
In the Rich Beggars, how many Things are there by which Country-Parsons that are ignorant and illiterate, and no Way deserving the Name of Pastors, may be enabled to amend their Lives? And besides, to take away the glorying in Garments, and to restrain the Madness of those who hate a Monk’s Attire, as if a Garment were evil of itself? And by the Way, there is a Pattern set down, what Sort of Persons those Monks ought to be, who walk to and fro through the Villages; for there are not many such as I here describe.
In the Learned Woman, I refresh the Memory of the old Example of Paula, Eustochium, and Marcella, who added the Study of Learning to the Integrity of Manners: And I incite Monks and Abbots, who are Haters of sacred Studies, and give themselves up to Luxury, Idleness, Hunting, and Gaming, to other Kind of Studies more becoming them, by the Example of a young married Woman.
In the Apparition I detect the Wiles of Impostors, who are wont to impose upon well-meaning credulous People, by feigning Apparitions of Devils, and Souls, and Voices from Heaven: And what a great deal of Mischief have these juggling Tricks done to Christian Piety? And because an ignorant and simple Age is in an especial Manner liable to be impos’d upon by these Deceptions, I thought it proper to set forth the Manner of the Imposture to the Life by a facetious Example. Pope Celestine himself was impos’d upon by such Tricks; and a young Man of Berne deluded by Monks; and even at this very Day, many are thus impos’d upon by devised Oracles.
Nor are the least Part of human Miseries owing to Alchymy, by which even learned and wise Men are impos’d upon; it being so pleasing a Disease, if once any one be seiz’d with it. To this Magick is also a-kin, being the same in Name, but flattering them with the Sirname of Natural. I charge Horse-Coursers with the same cheating Tricks, and in the Beggars Dialogue; and again in the Fabulous Feast. If Boys should, from these Colloquies, learn nothing else but to speak Latin; of how much greater Commendations are my Labours worthy, who by that Way of Play and Divertisement effect that, than theirs who enforc’d upon Youth the Mammotrecti, Brachylogi, Catholicontae, and the Methods of signifying.
In the Lying-in Woman, besides the Knowledge of natural Things, there are a great many good Morals concerning the Care of Mothers towards their Children; first while they are Infants, and again after they are grown up.
In the Religious Pilgrimage, I reprehend those who have tumultuously cast all Images out of Churches, and also those that are mad upon going on Pilgrimage under Pretence of Religion, from whence also now-a-Days Societies are formed. They who have been at Jerusalem arrogate to themselves the Title of Knights, and call themselves Brothers; and on Palm-Sunday devoutly perform a ridiculous Action, and drag an Ass by a Rope, making themselves at most as mere Asses, as the wooden Ass they drag along. They also, that have gone on Pilgrimage to Compostella, have imitated them in this. Let these Practices be allow’d, let them be allow’d to gratify the Humours of Men; but it is an unsufferable Thing, that they should make it a Part of Piety. Those Persons also are remark’d upon, who shew uncertain Reliques for certain ones, and attribute more to them than ought to be, and basely make a Gain of them.
In the Ichthyophagia, or Fish-eating, I treat of human Constitutions, which some wholly reject, deviating much from right Reason: And on the other Hand, some in a Manner prefer them before divine Laws: And some again abuse Institutions both human and divine, to Gain and Tyranny. I therefore endeavour to temper both Parties to Moderation, by enquiring from whence human Constitutions have had their Original; and by what Steps they have advanc’d till this Time; on what Persons, and how far they are obligatory; to what Ends they are useful, how far they differ from divine; shewing by the Way the preposterous Judgments of Men, of which the World is now full, and from whence this Uproar in the World proceeded. And I have treated of these Things more at large for this Reason, that I might give occasion to the Learned, to write more accurately of them; for those that have written of them hitherto have not given Satisfaction to the Curious. It was not so much to the Purpose to write against Whoring, Drunkenness, and Adultery, because none are deceiv’d by these Things; but true Piety is endanger’d by the other, which either are not perceiv’d, or do allure by a deceitful show of Sanctity.
In the Funeral, inasmuch as Death commonly tries the Hope of a Christian, I have represented a different Kind of Death in two private Persons, as it were by a lively Image, representing the different Departure of those that put their Trust in Fictions, and of those who have plac’d the Hope of their Salvation in the Lord’s Mercy; by the Way reproving the foolish Ambition of rich Men, who extend their Pride and Luxury even beyond their Death, which Death at least ought to take away: Also reprehending the Error of those who abuse the Folly of those Men to their own Profit, when it is their Business in an especial Manner to correct it. For who is he that shall presume to admonish, with Freedom, Men of Power and Wealth, if Monks, who profess themselves dead to the World, sooth their Vices? If there are not any such as I have describ’d, yet I have produc’d an Example that ought to be avoided; but if more accursed Things than I have set forth, are reported to be commonly practis’d, then those that are just, ought to acknowledge my Civility, and amend that in which they are to blame; and if they are blameless themselves, let them either reform, or restrain those who do offend. I have reviled no Order, unless he shall be accounted to defame all Christendom, that by Way of Admonition shall say any Thing against the corrupt Manners of Christians. Those that are so concern’d for the Honour of the Order, ought to be hinder’d from finding fault with me, especially by those who by their Actions do openly disgrace the Order. And since they own, cherish and defend such as are Brother-Companions, with what Face can they pretend that the Honour of the Order is lessen’d by one that faithfully admonishes? Altho’, what Reason is there which dictates, that this or that Fraternity should be so respected, that the common Profit of Christians should be neglected? And if any take it ill that I have placed this theological Disputation in the Mouths of sordid Persons, these Things are now discussed by such Persons in all Companies, whose Habit it is to treat of them in a more familiar and homely Fashion.
In the Colloquy of the Difference of Names and Things, I find fault with the preposterous Judgment of some.
In the Unequal Feast, I shew what is agreeable to Civility.
In Charon I shew my Abhorrence of War among Christians.
In the Assembly of Grammarians I deride the Study of a certain Carthusian, very learned in his own Opinion, who, whereas it was his Custom foolishly to rail against the Greek Tongue, hath now put a Greek Title to his Book; but ridiculously calling them Anticomaritæ, whom he should have call’d Antemarians, or Antidicomarians.
In the Cyclops I reprove such as have the Gospel in their Mouth, when nothing like the Gospel appears in their Lives.
In the Unequal Marriage I set forth the Folly of People in common, when in matching their Daughters they have regard to the Wealth, but disregard the Pox of the Bride-Groom, which is worse than any Leprosy. And that now-a-Days is so common a Practice, that no Body wonders at it; altho’ nothing can be more cruel against their Children.
In the Feigned Nobility, I describe a Sort of Men, who under the Cloak of Nobility, think they may do any Thing; which is a very great Plague to Germany.
In the Parliament of Women, I was about to reprehend some of the Vices of Women; but civilly, that no Body might expect any Thing like what is in Juvenal. But while I was about this, the Knight without a Horse presented itself, according to the old Saying, Talk of the Devil, and he appears.
The rest are in a Manner all compos’d for Diversion, and that not dishonest; which is not to defame the Orders but to instruct them. Wherefore it would be more to the Advantage of all the Orders, both privately and publickly, if they all would lay aside the Rage of Reviling, and would with Candour of Mind embrace whatsoever is offer’d with an honest Intention for the publick Good. One has one Gift, and another has another; some are taken with one Thing, and some with another; and there are a thousand Ways by which Men are attracted to Piety. The Study of Juvencus is commended who publish’d the History of the sacred Gospels in Verse. And Arator is not without his Praises, who did the same by the Acts of the Apostles. Hilary blew the Trumpet against Hereticks. Augustin argues sharply. Jerome argues by way of Dialogue. Prudentius maintains the Combat in a various Kind of Verse. Thomas and Scotus fight with the Auxiliaries of Logick and Philosophy. Their Studies have the same Tendency, but the Method of each is different. That Diversity is not to be blamed that tends to the same End. Peter the Spaniard is read to Boys, that they may be the better prepar’d to read Aristotle; for he hath set them a good Step forwards, that hath given them a Relish. But this Book, if it be first read by Youth, will introduce them to many useful Parts of Science, to Poetry, Rhetorick, Physicks, and Ethicks; and lastly, to those Things that appertain to Christian Piety. I have taken upon me to sustain the Person of a Fool, in blazoning my own Merit; but I have been induc’d to it, partly by the Malice of some who reproach every Thing, and partly for the Advantage of Christian Youth, the Benefit of whom all ought with their utmost Endeavour to further.
Tho’ Matters stand thus, and are manifestly so to all Persons of Understanding, yet there is a stupid Generation of Men, whom the French call Deputati; and for this Reason, as I suppose, because they are but diminutively polite, who speak thus of my Colloquies, They are a Work to be shunn’d, especially by Monks, whom they term the Religious, and by young Men, because the Fasts and Abstinences of the Church are therein set light by, and the Intercession of the blessed Virgin Mary droll’d upon; and that Virginity is not comparable to a Marriage-State, and because all are dissuaded from entring upon Religion, and because in it the hard and difficult Questions of Divinity are propounded to weak Grammarians, contrary to the Orders sworn to by the Masters of Arts. Candid Reader, you are not unacquainted with the Athenian Eloquence. I shall first give an Answer to the last of these Objections. As to what the Masters of Art propound to their Pupils, I know not: The Matters treated of in my Colloquies concerning the Creed, the Mass, Fasting, Vows, and Confession, contain nothing of theological Difficulty; but they are of that Kind, that every one ought to be acquainted with. And besides, seeing the Epistles of St. Paul are read to Boys, what Danger is there in giving them a Taste of Theological Disputations? And further, whereas they know, that the intricate Questions of greatest Difficulty (I do not say of vain Subtilty) concerning the divine Persons, are very early propounded to young Students in Sophistry, why are they not willing that Boys should learn that which concerns common Life? And now if this be their Opinion, it is no Matter what is said in the Person of such or such a one; then they must suppose, that there are many Things in the Writings of the Evangelists, and of the Apostles, which, according to this Rule, are downright Blasphemy. In many places I approve of Fasting, and no where condemn it. He that shall assert the contrary, I will declare him to be an impudent Liar. But, say they, in the childish Piety there are these Words I have nothing to do with Fasting. Suppose these Words were spoken in the Person of a Soldier, or a Drunkard; does Erasmus of Necessity condemn Fasting? I think not. Now they are spoken by a Youth, not yet arriv’d at that Age, from which the Law requires the Observation of Fasts; and yet that Youth prepares himself for fasting rightly; for he proceeds thus, But yet if I find occasion, I dine and sup sparingly, that I may be more lively for spiritual Exercises on Holy-days.
And how I condemn Abstinency, these Words in the profane Feast declare; In a great many Circumstances, it is not the Thing, but the Mind, that distinguishes us from Jews; they held their Hands from certain Meats, as unclean Things, that would pollute the Mind; but we understanding, that to the Pure all Things are pure, yet take away Food from the wanton Flesh, as we do Hay from a pamper’d Horse, that it may be more ready to hearken to the Spirit. We sometimes chastise the immoderate Use of pleasant Things, by the Pain of Abstinence. And a little after he gives a Reason why the Church has forbidden the eating of certain Meats. To the Question, To whom does the Injunction do good? Says he, To all; for poor Folks may eat Cockles or Frogs, or gnaw upon Onions or Leeks. The middle Sort of People will make some Abatement in their usual Provision: And tho’ the Rich do make it an Occasion of their living deliciously, they ought to impute that to their Gluttony, and not blame the Constitution of the Church. And again I speak thus, I know Doctors do very much find fault with the eating of Fish; but our Ancestors thought otherwise, and it is our Duty to obey them. And presently, in the same place, I teach, But the Offence of the Weak ought to be avoided.
It is as false, that the Favour of the blessed Virgin, and other Saints are droll’d upon in my Colloquies; but I deride those who beg those things of the Saints, which they dare not ask of a good Man; or pray to certain Saints with this Notion, as if this or that Saint either could, or would sooner grant this or that Thing, than another Saint, or Christ himself would do. Yea, and in the Child’s Piety, the Lad speaks thus, I salute Jesus again in three Words, and all the Saints, either Men or Women; but the Virgin Mary by Name, and especially that I account most peculiarly my own. And afterwards he mentions by Name, what Saint he salutes daily.
And is it any strange Thing, that a Suitor to a young Maid, should commend a married Life, and says, That chaste Wedlock does not come far short of Virginity? Especially when St. Austin himself prefers the Polygamy of the Patriarchs before our single Life.
As to what they object concerning the entring into a religious Life, my Words declare how plainly vain it is, in the Virgin hating Marriage; for the Maid speaks thus, Are you then in the main against the Institution of a monastick Life? The young Man answers, No, by no Means; but as I will not persuade any Body against it, that is already engag’d in this Sort of Life, to endeavour to get out of it; so I would most undoubtedly caution all young Women, especially those of generous Tempers, not to precipitate themselves unadvisedly into that State, from whence there is no getting out afterwards. This is the Conclusion of that Colloquy, however they had disputed before. Pray, does this dissuade from entring upon a religious Life? The entring into it is not condemn’d, but the unadvis’d Rashness of it: Therefore they maliciously wrest my Words, in order to reproach me. But, at the same Time, they do not animadvert, how many Things young Students thence learn, that oppugn the Opinions of the Lutherans.
In the childish Piety, the Way of hearing the Mass well and profitably is taught, and the true and effectual Way of Confession is shown. Young Students are there instructed, that those Things that are us’d by Christians, tho’ they are not found in the Scriptures, must nevertheless be observ’d, lest we give Occasion of Offence to any Person.
In the Profane Feast they are instructed, that they ought rather to obey the Institutions of Popes, than the Prescriptions of Physicians; only they are given to understand, that in case of Necessity the Force of a human Law ceases, and the Intention of the Law-Giver. There a certain Person approves of Liberality towards the Colleges of Monks, if Men give for real Use, and not to support Luxury; and especially if given to those that observe the Discipline of Religion.
In the Colloquy concerning Eating of Fish, this is said concerning human Institutions; Well, let them fight that love fighting; I think we ought with Reverence to receive the Laws of our Superiours, and religiously observe them, as coming from God; nor is it either safe or religious, either to conceive in Mind or sow among others any sinister Suspicion concerning them; and if there is any Superstition in them, that does not compel us to Impiety, it is better to bear it, than seditiously to resist.
Young Students may learn many such Things out of my Colloquies, against which these Men make such a Murmuring: But, say they, it does not become a Divine to jest; but let them grant me to do this, at least among Boys, which they themselves take the Liberty to do among Men, in their Vesperiae, as they call them, a foolish Thing by a foolish Name.
As for those foolish Calumnies that some Spaniards have cast upon me, I have shown that they are mere Dreams of Men, that are neither Sober, nor well understanding the Latin Tongue; nor has that less of Learning in it, where one has said, that it is an heretical Expression, that in the Creed the Father is call’d simply, the Author of all Things; for he being deceiv’d by his Ignorance of the Latin Tongue, thinks that Author signifies nothing else but Creator or Framer. But if he shall consult those that are well skill’d in the Latin Tongue, if he shall read Hilary, and other antient Authors, he will find that Authority is taken for that which the School-Men call the most perfect Cause of the Beginning; and therefore they attribute it peculiarly to the Father; and by the Name of Author often mean the Father, when they compare the Persons among themselves. Whether the Father can rightly be call’d the Cause of the Son, does not concern me, seeing I have never us’d the Word Son; unless that this is most true, that we can’t speak of God, but in improper Words; nor are the Fountain, or Beginning, or Original, more proper Words than the Cause.
Now, Reader, consider with me what Sort of Persons sometimes they are, who by their Notions bring Men to the Stake. There is nothing more base than to find fault with that thou dost not understand. But that Vice of vilifying every Thing, what does it produce but Bitterness and Discord? Therefore let us rather candidly interpret other Mens Works, and not esteem our own as Oracles, nor look upon the Judgments of those Men as Oracles, who don’t understand what they read. Where there is Hatred in judging, Judgment is blind. May that Spirit, which is the Pacifier of all, who uses his Instruments various ways, make us all agree and consent in sound Doctrine, and holy Manners, that we may all come to the Fellowship of the new Jerusalem, that knows no Discords. Amen.
In the Year 1526. at Basil.