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Art. V. The Christian's Monual, compiled from the Enchiridion
Militis Christiani of Erasmus, with copious Scripture Notes, and Com. ments on several fatal Errors in Religion and Morality. Prefixed is some Account of the Author, his Reception in England, and Correspondence. By Philip Wyatt Crowther, Esq. London, Evo. pp. xliv. 231. Price 8s. THE combination of causes in which signal and interesting which they have been carried forward to their crisis, it is the business of the philosophic historian to detail and investigate; not only for the purpose of ascertaining the springs of buman conduct in the several actors who have operated great changes in the political and moral relations of mankind, but that the portion of censure or applause to which they may be respectively entitled, may attach to their names, in the estimation of those for whose instruction and benefit their deeds may be recorded. Distinctly to point out the share which each individual may claim in promoting the improvement of bis species, that, wliile the most eminent leaders of heroic and virtuous enterprize shall occupy the s:ation to which their conduct entities them, the subordinate agents may not be overlooked, or their merit underrated, is a demand which the writers of history should endeavour scrupulously to satisfy. Honour to whom honour, in the requisite proportions which may be fairly challenged as due to men whose names posterity has taken under its projection and rewarding care, for the good they effected in their life-time, is a maxim sanctioned by Scripture and approved by reason. Now, it may so have happened, iliat in the page of bistory, and especially in the knowledge of our contemporaries, the great and primary agents in important transactious may be so distinguished, and so regarded, that others, worthy of no mean place in the contemplation of the virtuous, !nay be reduced to such comparative insignificance as may involve the greatest injustice to their meinories. Many persons, it is possible, who have exerted a beneficial influence on the events of their own times, the effect of which may be interminable, may have been the objects of grateful remembrance only to a few of their contemporaries. The praise-worthiness of others may be concealed from those who only wait for the occasion of its being declared to them that they may do it justice. In this latter predicament we are disposed to place the illustrious name of Erasmus; a name wbich maintains its honours in the recollections of the scholar, but which is by no means so familiar to the eyes and ears of mankind as it deserves to be.
Flow-much-soever it may be regretted that Erasmus did not unile witb the leaders of the Protestant cause, justice exacts the acknowledgement, that to bim the Reformation is iodebted for a
part of that influence to which its origin and progress must be ascribed. If he is not seen combating as a fellow-soldier by the side of Luther, or aiding the cause which that intrepid leader was maintaining, by direct co-operation in the literary part of the warfare, le at least facilitated the victory of the Reformers, by that severe exposure of the corruptions of the Romish Hierarchy, to which lie devoted the labours of his per. The service which he performed in first publishing the Greek New Testa- . ment, and aiding the diffusion of Scriptural knowledge, should not he forgoiten.
The “ Enchiridion Militis Cliristiani,” of which, with some omnissions and alterations, the present publication is a translation, was written about the end of the fifteenth century, in the castle of Tourneboult, at the request of a devout lady who had solicited from Erasmus some treatise that might reform her husband. It was revised and finished at St. Omer's in 1501, and was printed at Louvain in 1502. A translation of it was published liy the celebrated Williain Tyndale, during his residence in the fainily of Sir John Welch, as tutor to that gentleman's children. To the second edition of the original, a copious epistle was prefixed by Erasmus, addressed to Paulus Volzius, who afterwards embraced the reformed doctrine. From this preface Mr. Crowther has extracted some interesting passages in the account of the Author's life. The following reflections are quite Erasmian. Our readers may, if they please, indulge their fancy by attempting to provide other applications for them than the one to which they are immediately directed.
• We are preparing for a war against the Turks, and with whatever view it may have been undertaken, we should
be ad. vantageous not to a few, but to all of us. If we conquer them, by what means shall we convert them to Christianity for I do not suppose we shall cut all their throats.
• What will they imagine, when they shall perceive it so difficult to know how to speak of Christ ? just as if you were concerned with some sulky devil, whom you were invoking to your destruction if you used a wrong word; and not with a most merciful Saviour, who exacts nothing from us beyond a pure and simple life. Telline, I conjure you, what is to be done if they shall see our manners no better than our doctrine. If from our tyrannical noise and contention they shall discover our ambition; our avarice from our rapacity; our lust from our adulteries; our cruelty from our oppressions; with what face shall we recommend them the doctrine of Christ so directly opposite to these things, and so widely removed from them? The - most efficacious mode of fighting with the Turks, would be to exhibit in our lives Christian manners, to convince them that we do not covet their territories or gold, but only seek their welfare and the glory of Christ! This is the true and efficacious theology, which formerly subjected to Christ the pride of philosophy and the sceptre of princes.
When we act thus we need never despair that Christ will assist us. But it will l't le avail us to call ourselves Christians if we slay thousands, and enslave tens of thousands; it' we exterminate the profane, or merely denounce anathemas against them, instead of attempting to convert them from their impiety. In short, unless such are our intentions, it is more probable that we shall degenerate into Infidels, than to make the Turks Christians.'
The “ Enchiridion” is an illustration of the sentiment that life is a warfare, it describes the enemies of the Christian, and the manner in which he must fight the “ good fight of faith “ that he may lay hold on eternal life.” It is a valuable and useful treatise, adapted to promote the edification of Christians, and the interests of practical religion ; qualifications which entitle it to our recommendation. The Editor bas perhaps made rather too free a use of the contents of his port-folio, in the very copious notes and illastrations wbich he has subjoined to the text of his author. They are however instructive, and contain many interesting anecdotes of men and things
In the following reflections on the use of Scripture, the Author, we suppose, desigos to caution his readers against the formal reading of the Divine word, as a means of satisfying the conscience, apart from the application of its principles to the moral culture of the heart and life, without affording countenance to the practice of allegorical and mystical interpretation.
• Perhaps you confide in the number of Psalms you mutter, and think the spirit of prayer consists in multiplying words; which is the error of those that stick to the letter, and are so childish as to overlook the spiritual meaning-In reading the Holy Scriptures, there is this caution to be observed, namely, that you do not take them in hand without the greatest purity of intention*, lest the remedy should, by your fault, become worse than the disease. The Scripture has a style and language which should diligently be considered. The divine wisdom stoops to the level of our capacities, as a fond mother lisps to her children. It tenders milk to babes in Christt, strong meal to the adult. It condescends to our weakness, and we should rise to its sublimity. It would be absurd to be always a child, and idle to make no proficiencyš. Now the meditating upon, and understanding of one verse, will profil more than the being able to repeat the whole book of l'salms, but without knowing the meaning of one word it is a very great error that some men fall into, who think it sufficient to read or repeat such a portion of Scripture, the literal sense of which they scarce understand, and neglect to discover and apply the spiritual meaning, which is one great cause of the decay of Christian piety. St. Paul says, the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth lifeg. Again : We know that the law is
+ I Cor. ii. 1, 2.
* 1 Pet. ii. 2.
spiritual*. And spiritual things must be compared with spiritualt. Formerly they worshipped on such a mountaint, but now the Father of spirits must be worshipped " in spirit and in truthý.”' We must quit the literal for the moral meaningk.' Ch. II, pp. 27-31.
We feel pleasure in recording that both Erasmus and his present Editor give their voice in condemnation of war. From the annotations of tbe latter we quote an anecdote of one of those vain-glorious persons whom millions of murders make heroes.
William the Conqueror was extremely alarmed on his death bed, and entreated the clergy to intercede for mercy, exclaiming, “ Being laden with many and grievous sins, (O Christ) I tremble; and being ready to be taken (by and by) u: to the terrible examination of God, I am ignorant what I should do: for I have been brought up in feats of arins even from my childhood, I am greatly polluted with effusion of much blood; I can by no means number the evils which I have done for this sixty-four years, wherein I have lived in this troublesome life, for the which I am now constrained without stay, to render an account to the just judge.” -Hands red with buinan blood, and the terrible examination • of God!'
• Oh that all possessed of power would reflect upon the desolation and misery their mad ambition causes, and the solenn account they must render to God. Let them descend from their gilded thrones, and view the horrors of the ensanguined field ; the agonies of the expiring victims to their vain-glory; the lacerated limbs, the widow's tears, the aged parent bereft of the only prop of declining years, the tender relation or friend weeping over the mangled corpse, and hear the orphan's cries ! But I must restrain these feelin, s. What is history but a tragedy? How few benefactors appear on the stage !
• If rulers, deaf to the weeping voice of injured humanity, and dazzled by false glory, resolve to pursue their blood-stained career, will not self interest check them? for let them turn over the page of history, trace the decline of empires, and weigh the prophetic words ; yet what occasion to consult antiquity ? The recent events in France are sufficient to demonstrate the fatal policy of ambition.
Oppressed liberty, like an elastic power freed from confinement, forcibly rebounds and knocks ambition and tyranny from their seat.' Notes, pp. 16, 17.
“ Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth."
By the freedom of his spirit and the poignancy of his wit, Erasmus gave mortal offence to the supporters of the Romislı Church, engaged in the attempt to perpetuate its gross superstitions and corrupt practices. The manner in which he could
* 1 Rom. vii. 14. + 1 Cor. ii. 13. f 1 John, iv. 20. § John, iy. 21.
# 1 Pet. iii. 15,
assail these, may be estimated from the extract which follows. A Protestant could not have more keenly or more forcibly directed his arguments against the errors which it exposes.
· Some Romanists worship certain deceased religious men they call saints with particular ceremonies. One daily pays his respects to Christopher; with what view? why because he is persuaded, that he shall not die a violent death on that day. Another prostrates himself before one Roch; why? because he believes he can drive away the plague. A third mutters a few prayers to George or Barbara, that he may not fall into the enemy's hands. This man keeps a fast to Apollonia, to prevent the tooth-ache. That goes to visit Job's images, to cure himself of a cutaneous disease. Some dedicate a portion of their gains to the poor, that their ship and cargo may not be cast away. Others burn a taper in honour of Jerom, to recover lost goods. In a word, there is not a single object of men's hopes and fears, but they have made a God to preside orer. And these are different in various nations. This is a sort of service, which, as it terminates in bodily pains or pleasures, without the least connexion with Christ, is so far from being Christian, that it is the same superstition with theirs, who offered a tithe of their goods to Hercules, in hopes of growing rich ; a cock to Asculapius, that they might recover from a disease ; a bull to Neptune, to obtain a happy voyage. The names are altered, but men's intentions are the same. I pity their blindness and infirmity, and would shew them a more excellent way*. They had much better pray that their love of virtue, and hatred of vice, may be increased, and let them leave it to God whether they shall live or die, and say with St. Paul, “ Wheiher we live, we live unto the Lord; 'and whether we die, wvė die unto the Lordt.” Against this it will be urged by certain devotees, who think“ gain is godlinesst,” and “ who serve not the Lord Jesus Christ but their own beltyg,” dare you then decry the honour paid to the saints, in whom God himself is honoured? În answer, I declare, I do condemn such gross superstitions and idolatry, originating from the worldly views of the Romish Church, and contrary to true Christianity.” p. 95, &c.
Art. VI. Rcligio Clerici, a Churchman's Epistle. 8vo. pp. 36. 1818. T’IIS poetical confession of faith bas very much of the ap
pearance of an advertisement for a good living. It seems to proceed froso some University prize poet, who having succeeded in carrying off the Seatonian wreath, is disposed to turn his talents to still better account than the acquisition of empty praise, and with the prescience which poets lay claim to, aclopts this as the most likely road to preferinent. Ile has thought it
his duty (he says) to express firmly, though he hopes not uncharitably, his opinion of the perils to which the Established
* 1 Cor, xii. 31. † Rom. xiv. 8. I 1 Tim. vi. 5. Rom. xvi. 8.