صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

renouncing all his reputation, and leaving his station,—his long period of cloudy darkness and bitterness of soul; and, finally, the instantaneous burst of light and joy which followed. All this is so characteristically told in the life, that a translation of it (it is short) would make a curious and interesting article for the British Magazine. If it shews nothing else, it shews, at least, that there is nothing new under the sun. I think it may be useful in other ways, but I prefer leaving it to speak for itself. The person in question, by the way, was clearly not wanting in one Christian grace in an eminent degree when the layman undertook to reprove him. I mean humility; as will be seen as the tale goes on. Even in these days of ultra-protestantism, when learners are, by common consent, I believe, allowed to be as wise (at least) as their teachers, it is not every renowned preacher who would submit to be told by one of his hearers that he has nothing of a spiritual character about him, and that he is wrong, not in small things, but in the whole of his system of Christianity.

Thauler was a Dominican monk. He became, after his conversion, quite mystical. It is a sad pity that he was not a Franciscan; for the mysticism of that set of monks is a curious subject, and Mosheim has written on it con amore for once. By dint of his book one might have made a good show of learning of church history. But as to Dominican Mysticism, I do not know where to look at this moment.

History and Relation of the Life of that sublime and illuminated Divine, Dr.

John Thauler, who was converted at Cologne in a murvellous manner, from his vain life to a wonderful sanctity.

In the year of our Lord 1346, a certain Doctor of Divinity frequently preached in a certain city, and almost everybody went with pleasure to hear him, as the fame of his learning was spread far and wide. Among others, a layman, abundantly endowed with Divine grace, heard of him, and was likewise thrice admonished in his sleep to go to the city where this teacher lived. It was situated in another country, and distant about thirty miles* from the place of the layman's residence. Thus warned, he resolved with himself to set out, in order to see if God's grace wished to perform any work in the city pointed out to him. On his arrival in this place, he attended five times at the preaching of the celebrated teacher. In the meantime, he learnt in the spirit that this teacher was, by nature, a good, mild, and very benevolent man, and that he had a great knowledge of scripture, but yet in an obscure way, and without the light of Divine grace.

Feeling, therefore, the greatest pity for his blindness, he went to him, and addressed him thus,—“Sir, I have travelled more than thirty miles on your account, because I heard much at home about your learning, and I have now been present five times at your sermons ; I therefore entreat you that while I remain here you will not, for God's sake, refuse to receive my confessions." On the preacher's consenting, the layman frequently confessed to him with simplicity

Thirty German milcs, or about 150 English miles.

[ocr errors]

and humility; and if he ever received the holy Sacrament, it was at the hands of Thauler. After the space of twelve weeks, the layman addressed him in this manner,-" I beseech you, Sir, my master, that, for the love of God, you will teach us, in a public sermon, how any one can arrive, as nearly as may be, at the highest degree of perfection, as far as it is possible in this life.” The preacher replied—“What end can it answer, that such sublime knowledge should be set before you, when, in my judgment, you will scarcely understand any part of it?" The layman replied, “ Although, venerable Sir, I should not understand it, I shall at least long after it, and desire it with every wish of my heart. See what a multitude of persons come to hear your sermons; now, if even one of these should understand what you are about to say, your labour will not be in vain.” The doctor rejoined, “If I must do this, my beloved son, I must first apply to my studies; and the matter which belongs to this subject must be sought for and collected with much labour.” In fine, the layman never gave over asking, until the doctor promised that he would preach a sermon of this kind. It happened, in consequence, that at the end of a sermon which he preached in a certain monastery, he gave this notice_“If any persons here have it in their power, let them return hither on the third day from this, for I have been asked to preach a sermon in which I am to teach in what way any one may come, as nearly as may be, at the highest degree of perfection, as far as it is possible in this life.”

On the third day, therefore, a great concourse of people came to the appointed place; and the layman hastened thither very early, in order that he might get a good place for rightly hearing and understanding his master. On the doctor's arrival, he began to speak in these words,-[It is not necessary here to give Thauler's sermon at length; suffice it to say, that although he was then, as the layman thought, unconverted, the substance of his discourse is very much the same with the matter of those which he afterwards preached—that is to say, it is entirely mystical. It commences with some reflections on the imperfection of that knowledge of God which is gained only by the intellect, with an obvious reference to the scholastic philosophy, as all such knowledge produces pride, and then the Spirit of God will not work in the heart. True perfection is only to be found in those who entirely renounce themselves, and the might of their own faculties, and give themselves up wholly to God. He then proceeds to set forth twenty-four heads, each of which contains some duty set forth in scripture as necessary to be practised by those who would arrive at perfection. Each of these, however, is an article of mystic, rather than of scriptural, divinity. Take, as examples, the 4th and 8th :-"He who aims at perfection, must entirely put off and deny both himself and all things in which he formerly shewed inordinate love for himself, sought and intended his own good, whether those things are in time or eternity.” The 8th Article is—" That he must so strongly and strenuously exercise himself in God, and must so bind and unitė himself to God, by an immense power of love, that God cannot work anything in him without himself, and that he, in the


to you,

same way, cannot work anything without God.” These specimens will suffice. It need only be added, that Thauler's sermon does not run to the marvellous length it might be expected from its containing twenty-four heads; the Latin translation of it is contained in something less than three closely-printed pages of no very large sized quarto.]

When this sermon was ended, the layman returned to his inn, and wrote it out word for word as it had been preached. Having finished his task, he went to the doctor, and said, “Venerable Sir, I have reduced your discourse to writing, and if it would not be troublesome

I would read it to you from my copy.” The doctor said, “I shall be very glad to hear it.” The layman then read the whole sermon to him ; and when it was finished, said to the master, “ Tell me, Sir, I beseech you, if I have omitted anything, that I may insert it.” The Doctor answered, “ Be assured, my beloved son, that you have written this sermon out quite right, and if a large sum of money were offered me I could not write it out as exactly as you have done, unless I bestowed the same time in the examination of scripture which I did in composing it; and I now wonder at the happiness of your genius, and that I never observed it in you, though you have confessed to me so often.” Then the layman, making a pretence that he wished to go away, said to the master, “If it shall please God, my wish is now to return to my own home.”

THAULER. “What compels you to return home, when you have neither wife nor children to take care of? or why, as this is the case, can you not as well live here as there? By God's help, I shall soon preach another sermon on spiritual perfection."

LAYMAN. “ Be assured, master, that I did not come here for your sermons, but because I hoped that, by the aid of God's grace, I might be of some use.”

THAULER. “Of what rise could you hope to be, when you are a simple layman, and do not know the scriptures, nor can be allowed to preach? Stay here, I beg of you, for a time, and perhaps, by God's help, I may preach so excellent a sermon as you may be delighted to

I hear."

LAYMAN. “ There is a something which I should much wish, master, to say

but I fear you would not hear it with patience.” THAULER. “Say whatever you please, my son, with good confidence. I trust in God that I shall bear it placidly.”

LAYMAN. “Sir, you shine in the glory of the priesthood, and you have preached to us a sermon full of good instruction, but you do not practise it in your life. And then, quite in a childish way, you say, that if I will stay here, you will preach a sermon which will please

Be assured, master, that neither your sermons, nor almost any words which can be uttered in this life,* could do me any good. Indeed, men's sermons have oftener done me harm than good; because they presented some images to me which, on my return home, I could

to you,


* This is another characteristic trait worth remarking. The layman's assurance and modesty are equal.

hardly get rid of and forget. Now, you yourself said, in your sermon, that that mind should be free of all images to which the great Teacher, Jesus Christ, was to come. When that Teacher comes to me, he teaches me more in the space of one little hour than you, Mr. Doctor, and all the other doctors in the world, could teach me to the day of judgment." THAULER. “My beloved son, I beg and adjure you, by our Lord's

I passion, to stay longer with me."

LAYMAN. “ Your adjuration is weighty; and if, in obedience to God's will, I must stay here, I still will not do so unless you promise that all which I have said, or shall say, shall be kept hidden by you under the secrecy of confession.”

THAULER. “ This I will willingly do, my dear son, if you will stay with me."


I HAVE already offered a few remarks on the reply of the publishers, which came to my hands just as I was about to send off my third letter, and it was not my intention to have taken further notice of them; but, on reflection, it seems best, before I proceed to any other point, to say a few words on a state of opinion and feeling which is avowed by some persons, and seems to exist in a good many others.* As I sincerely differ with them, it may be as well briefly to say how and why, that we may fully understand one another.

In this and similar cases some would say, • What is the general tendency of the book? What is its practical effect? Is it likely, on the whole, to do good ? If it is, ought we to mind, should we notice, should we not rather conceal, any defects which may be discovered, at least if they are such as are not likely to lead the reader into dangerous error ? If they are mere blunders, mere mistakes of wellmeaning ignorance and incompetence, is it not better to say nothing about them, lest we should lower the credit of a good man, and lessen his authority in matters of more importance ? A reader who is not told of the mistakes inay read the book without finding them out, and be much the better for it. In the present case, for instance, a man may imbibe a very salutary conviction of the idolatries, superstitions, and cruelties of popery, and of the reality and power of the faith which sustained the martyrs, even though there should be a thousand errors in the chronology, geography, philosophy, and grammar, of the historian.”

It might, perhaps, be answered that, granting all this, yet a good book would not be the worse for the correction even of errors which were deemed unimportant; though, of course, our right to expect accuracy or correction in any given case, must be in proportion to the pledges of those who undertake it; and according as it is done, or

* I do not wish to write either ambiguously or personally; perhaps I shall avoid both by a general reference to the controversy respecting Milner's Church History,

VOL. XII.-Sept. 1837.

2 .

do so.

neglected, will be the place which the book will take in the literature of the country. But, instead of any such reply as this, I feel bound to express what I believe to be the truth on the subject, though I am aware that by such a course I may give offence where I am sorry to

I believe that all such feeling, and such argument, as I have attempted to describe, arises from incorrect views on the nature of truth in general, and particularly from an idea that truth has no intrinsic value whatever, but that any particular truth derives such value as it may at any time possess, merely from circumstances. If a matter of fact is not, in the estimation of such persons, of some probable use for some effect which they think that it may produce, they not only consider it of little or no consequence whether it is correctly or incorrectly (in plain terms, truly or falsely) stated; but if, through ignorance or inadvertence, it has been falsely stated by a writer whose credit they wish to keep up, they are prepared to do everything in their power to excuse, to conceal, and so to perpetuate, the falsehood, and to deter others from exposing it. The correction of a falsehood is, in their view, a mere matter of expediency. If it is to be set right, it is not because it is wrong, but because it may do mischief; and the question as to acknowledging and amending a fault, is a mere calculation of probabilities. I repeat, that all this is grounded on an 'idea that truth has no intrinsic value, and derives importance only from its consequences or probable results. Holding a totally different opinion, I am quite aware that I may be

I misunderstood if I express myself very differently because I feel very differently) respecting books which they admire. For instance, when Fox tells me that our King Richard in his way to the Holy Land sent for the Abbot Joachim, and adds, “ this abbot was in the year of our Lord 1290," iii. 105, I should say, “ You had better not affirm that, unless you are quite sure that he survived his interview with King Richard a whole century;" and I should, perhaps, be answered, “Never mind-probably it is only a misprint for 1190—what does it matter ?". On the same page, again, “There is also the prophecy of Hildegard, of whom we have spoken before,) in the 29th book of Vincentius. In the year,' says she, “after the incarnation of Christ, 1200, the doctrine of the apostles, and the fervent justice which God had appointed among the spiritual Christians, began to wax slack and doubtfu).'" I should again venture to suggest, As you have spoken before,' at p. 88, of her having flourished about the year of our Lord, 1110,' does it not seem rather odd to make her talk in this retrospective way of the period since the year 1200?" I might be told, “ Never mind, the reader is expected to remember what he read at p. 354 of the preceding volume, where the thing itself most evidently declareth a great iniquity of time;' but what does it matter?” Why, I should answer, if in this case of Hildegard either of the two could be considered as of much importance, one might say that there is some difference between testimony and prophecy—but never mind. Still on the same page, we are told that Fluentius the bishop did not “ doubt openly to preach that Antichrist was born in his days, as it appeareth by Sabellicus. Also before these days, (most readers would

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »