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ALBERTUS MAGNUS (1200–1280)
ALBERT THE GREAT, SCHOLASTIC LECTURER
LBERTUS MAGNUS (or “Albert the Great”), a celebrated proA fessor of Scholasticism—the theological philosophy of the Middle Ages—was born in Bavaria about 1200, the exact year of his birth being in doubt. Becoming a Dominican friar, he lectured on theology for three years at Paris, and for a long period at Cologne. For a few years he was Bishop of Ratisbon, but resigned that office, which he had never desired. Among the theologians and philosophers of his period he stood in the first rank, and was distinguished alike for an ardent love of knowledge, for modesty, and for an earnest and disinterested spirit. His works, which are numerous, treat of logic, theology, physics, and metaphysics, as these were understood in mediaeval times.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CHRIST'S CRUCIFIXION
[From one of the theological discourses of Albertus we make the following selection, which possesses a living interest to-day, in the lessons which are drawn from the incidents of the suffering of the Saviour.]
It was surrounded by the thick wreath of thorns even to the tender brain. Whence in the Prophet,_“the people hath surrounded me with the thorns of sin.” And why was this, save that mine own head might not suffer, thine own conscience might not be wounded ? His eyes grew dark in death ; and those lights, which give light to the world, were for a time extinguished. And when they were clouded, there was darkness over all the earth, and with them the two great lights of the firmament were moved; to the end that thine eyes might be turned away, lest they should behold vanity; or, if they chance to behold it, might for His sake condemn it. Those ears, which in heaven unceasingly hear “Holy, Holy, Holy,” vouchsafed on earth to be filled with : “Thou hast a devil,
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Crucify Him Crucify Him l’’—to the intent that thine ears might not be deaf to the cry of the poor, nor, open to idle tales, should readily receive the poison of distraction or of adulation. That fair face of Him that was fairer than the children of men, yea, than thousands of angels, was bedaubed with spitting, afflicted with blows, given up to mockery, to the end that thy face might be enlightened, and, being enlightened, might be strengthened, so that it might be said of thee, “His countenance is no more changed.” That mouth, which teaches angels and instructs men, “which spake and it was done,” was fed with gall and vinegar, that thy mouth might speak the truth, and might be opened to the praise of the Lord ; and it was silent, lest thou shouldst lightly lend thy tongue to the expression of anger. Those hands, which stretched abroad the heavens, were stretched out on the cross and pierced with most bitter nails; as saith Isaiah, “I have stretched forth my hands all the day to an unbelieving people.” And David, “They pierced my hands and my feet; I may tell all my bones.” And St. Jerome says, “We may, in the stretching forth of His hands, understand the liberality of the giver, who denieth nothing to them that ask lovingly; who restored health to the leper that requested it of Him; enlightened him that was blind from his birth; fed the hungry multitude in the wilderness.” And again he says, “The stretched-out hands denote the kindness of the parent, who desires to receive his children to his breast.” And thus let thy hands be so stretched out to the poor that thou mayest be able to say, “My soul is always in my hand.” For that which is held in the hand is not easily forgotten. So he may be said to call his soul to memory, who carries it, as it were, in his hands through the good opinion that men conceive of it. His hands were fixed, that they may instruct thee to hold back thy hands, with the nails of fear, from unlawful or harmful works. That glorious breast, in which are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, is pierced with the lance of a soldier, to the end that thy heart might be cleansed from evil thoughts, and being cleansed might be sanctified, and being sanctified might be preserved. The feet, whose footstool the prophets commanded to be sanctified, were bitterly nailed to the cross, lest thy feet should sustain evil, or be swift to shed blood; but, running in the way of the Lord, stable in his path, and fixed in his road, might not turn aside to the right hand nor to the left. What could have been done more ?
MARTIN LUTHER (1483–1546)
THE FATHER OF THE REFORMATION
N the year 1521, when Martin Luther agreed to attend the I diet (or national assembly) of the German Empire at Worms, with the safe-conduct of the Emperor Charles V. in his pocket, his friends did their best to dissuade him from entering that city. Luther's reply is significant of the indomitable character of the man : “Were there as many devils in Worms as tiles upon the roofs of the houses, still would I enter.” Fortunately for Luther, Charles was a man of honor, and although Luther defended his position and refused to retract, he was permitted to leave Worms—though the emperor decreed that he should be seized as soon as his safe-conduct had expired. But before that happened he was safely concealed in the solitary castle of Wartburg, under guard of a party of friendly knights. When he left that place of refuge the peril had passed away. Luther was a man of strong zeal and intrepidity. His being called to Worms was due, not to his attacks upon the priesthood, but to his denial of the authority of the pope, whom he had assailed with all the fierce invective and vituperation which were common in the controversies of that age. A provocation of this kind the Church was not likely to let pass, and Luther's visit to Worms was attended with imminent peril. He met it fearlessly, disdainful of death or danger in face of the mission of his life.
DEFENCE BEFORE THE DIET AT WORMS
[The charge against Luther was that he had written and disseminated false doctrines and virulent attacks on the Church, the priesthood, and the pope, and he was summoned to Worms with the demand that he should retract his heretical writings. He defended himself with tact and prudence, but with no yielding.]
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Most SERENE EMPEROR, ILLUSTRIOUS PRINCEs, GRAcroUS LORDs: In obedience to your commands given me yesterday, I stand here, beseeching you, as God is merciful, so to deign mercifully to listen to this cause; which is, as I believe, the cause of justice and of truth. And if, through inexperience, I should fail to apply to any his proper title, or offend in any way against the manners of courts, I entreat you to pardon me as one not conversant with courts, but rather with the cells of monks, and claiming no other merit than that of having spoken and written with that simplicity of mind which regards nothing but the glory of God and the pure instruction of the people of Christ, Two questions have been proposed to me: Whether I acknowledge the books which are published in my name, and whether I am determined to defend or disposed to recall them. To the first of these I have given a direct answer, in which I shall ever persist, that these books are mine and published by me, except in so far as they may have been altered or interpolated by the craft or officiousness of rivals. To the other I am now about to reply; and I must first entreat your Majesty and your Highnesses to deign to consider that my books are not all of the same description. For there are some in which I have treated the piety of faith and morals with simplicity so evangelical that my very adversaries confess them to be profitable and harmless, and deserving the perusal of a Christian. Even the pope's bull, fierce and cruel as it is, admits some of my books to be innocent; though even those, with a monstrous perversity of judgment, it includes in the same sentence. If, then, I should think of retracting these, should I not stand alone in my condemnation of that truth which is acknowledged by the unanimous confession of all, whether friends or foes? The second species of my publications is that in which I have inveighed against the papacy and the doctrine of the papists, as of men who by their iniquitous tenets and examples have desolated the Christian world, both with spiritual and temporal calamities. No man can deny or dissemble this. The sufferings and complaints of all men are my witnesses that, through the laws of the pope and the doctrines of men, the consciences of the faithful have been ensnared, tortured, and torn in pieces; while, at the same time, their property and substance have been devoured by an intolerable tyranny, and are still devoured without end and by degrading means; and that too, most of all, in this noble nation of Germany. Yet it is with them a perpetual statute, that the laws and doctrines of the pope be held erroneous and reprobate when they are contrary to the Gospel and the opinions of the Fathers. If, then, I shall retract these books, I shall do no other than add
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strength to tyranny, and throw open doors to this great impiety, which will then stride forth more widely and licentiously than it hath dared hitherto; so that the reign of iniquity will proceed with entire impunity, and, notwithstanding its intolerable oppression upon the suffering vulgar, be further still fortified and established ; especially when it shall be proclaimed that I have been driven to this act by the authority of your serene Majesty and the whole Roman Empire. What a cloak, blessed Lord, should I then become for wickedness and despotism In a third description of my writings are those which I have published against individuals, against the defenders of the Roman tyranny and the subverters of the piety taught by men. Against these I do freely confess that I have written with more bitterness than was becoming either my religion or my profession ; for, indeed, I lay no claim to any special sanctity, and argue not respecting my own life, but respecting the doctrine of Christ. Yet even these writings it is impossible for me to retract, seeing that through such retraction despotism and impiety would reign under my patronage, and rage with more than their former ferocity against the people of God. Yet since I am but man and not God, it would not become me to go farther in defence of my tracts than my Lord Jesus went in defence of His doctrine; who, when he was interrogated before Annas, and received a blow from one of the officers, answered : “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil ; but if well, why smitest thou me?” If, then, the Lord himself, who knew His own infallibility, did not disdain to require arguments against His doctrine even from a person of low condition, how much rather ought I, who am the dregs of the earth and the very slave of error, to inquire and search if there be any to bear witness against my doctrine ! Wherefore, I entreat you, by the mercies of God, that if there be any one of any condition who has that ability, let him overpower me by the sacred writings, prophetical and evangelical. And for my own part, as soon as I shall be better instructed I will retract my errors and be the first to cast my books into the flames.
[It being demanded that he should return a simple answer to a simple question, whether he would retract or not, he said:]
I cannot but choose to adhere to the Word of God, which has possession of my conscience ; nor can I possibly, nor will I, ever make any recantation, since it is neither safe nor honest to act contrary to conscience. Here I stand ; I cannot do otherwise; so help me God I Amen I