Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

66

а

chancellor,-an enlightened man, favorable to reform,—and near him, in a quite independent position, Alfonso Valdés, as Latin secretary to the newly elected emperor. Thus the agents of political corruption were checkmated. The elements of a national patriotic party found a centre of unity. Alfonso followed Charles V. into the Netherlands and Germany. In an interesting letter to Angleria, he describes the manner in which Luther had been aroused to confront the entire system of popery. “The origin and progress of the Lutheran sect

" are traced to those provoking indulgences, Tetzel's swaggering, the famous theses, and the disputes of the monks over the auction of pardons, and the bold serinons of “the anthor of this tragedy,” who dared to discuss the powers of the pope. He fears that the evil will spread so widely as to be absolutely incurable.” For even Cajetan has been worsted at Augsburg. “Luther was disn

“Luther was dismissed with greater glory than that with which he had been received-with a victor's joy." And the pope, "unable by caresses and warnings to secure the punishment of the blasphemous monk, and to prevent the poison from being scattered everywhere, and to cause all to flee him as a heretic and schismatic, launched a most severe bull, as they call it, against Luther and his partisans. Luther, more irritated than dismayed (oh, shame!) proclaimed the pontiff himself a heretic and schismatic, and published his

Babylonish captivity of the church,' and burnt all the books on Roman law that he could find in Wittenberg.” The writer did not think that history consisted in the abuse of men whose conduct he could not altogether approve.

Angleria sends this historical letter to some of his pupils, with the remark, “Enough of the disloyal monk, in refutation of whom many grave and learned men have written much that you can readily get and read.” In the same way he uses other letters from Alfonso. In one of them the correspondent describes the Diet of Worms with commendable accuracy, and says, “ Here you have, as some imagine, the end of this tragedy, but I am persuaded that it is only the beginning of it. . . . . The evil might have been cured, with the greatest advantage to the Christian republic, had not the pontiff refused a General Council.”

[ocr errors]

Such letters, so candidly written, must have helped prepare the way for the writings of Erasmus to enter Spain. To Alfonso he was mainly indebted for various favors and friendships. Letters passed between them. It was not long before several books of Erasmus were honored with the ban of the Inquisition, and he said, “What lot so unfortunate as mine? The Lutherans persecuted me as a papist, and the Catholics as a Lutheran!” One of his Spanish friends, Juan Vives, the Valencian, exclaimed, “What frenzy! We live in difficult times, in which we can neither speak nor be silent without danger.” Secretary Valdés was closely viewing affairs, study. ing, thinking, and coming to his own conclusions. When he returned to Spain his brother seems to have been absent in Rome.

Adrian of Utrecht had been the tutor of Charles V., an admirer of Erasmus, and the intimate friend of Angleria. Ile was a serious man, pious, active, benevolent, the advocate of polite learning, intent upon the peace of Europe, and the reformation of the grosser abuses in the church, and altogether the best material for the making of a pope that his age furnished. As Adrian VI. he filled the papal chair for about one yeartoo short a time to make effective his reformatory schemes. As soon as he was elected, in 1522, he was pitied by Angleria, who described him as "a wretched slave, and so much the more wretched as his flatterers vociferate blessed father'in his ears." Yet he secured for Juan Valdés the honorable position of camanero, probably chamberlain, at the Vatican. Juan had thus a brief opportunity to see the papacy on its fairest side, and at home. In a few months he must have had

a his mind directed to the need of a reformation in manners, morals, and the administration of all ecclesiastical officers and ordinances. He took notice of those special evils which are so vividly portrayed in his “Dialogues.” At a later day he made a touching reference to the papal household, which Adrian had, doubtless, quite thoroughly reformed. In his fiftyfirst “Consideration” he says, when illustrating how God makes himself to be felt as the object of all dependence ; “I bring before the mind what is ordinarily seen in the pope's household, where all those who compose it are dependent

[ocr errors]

upon him, and are maintained by him in the station and dig. nity in which he has placed them. At the pope's decease the whole house is broken up and ceases to exist, so that he who was secretary is so no longer. The same may be affirmed of all other officials of the establishment, all of whom, at the pope's death, lose the position which the pope's life gave them.” In this way, it seems, Juan lost his place, and returned home to use his pen in exposing the hypocrisies and vices of certain dignitaries in the Roman Church.

The twin brothers were again together in 1523, and during five years they seem to have been in retirement, except that Alfonso was a gentleman or knight in the emperor's train. Three events had agitated Europe: the papal treatment of Luther; the vigorous captivity of Francis I., at Madrid; and the sack of “the Eternal City.” Popery and Protestantism had entered upon their warfare, and the Emperor Charles had fonght against the pope and his “ most Christian son” of France. The public mind was severe upon Charles, for the scandal of holding the so-called vicar of Christ in captivity. The Spanish court issued a series of documents in his defence. These passed through the hands of Alfonso, as the Latin secretary. The controversy suggested to him and his brother a bold literary project. They composed and published two Dialogues, each political and religious. While defending the emperor, they lash the corruptions of the age with keen and subtle irony, and set in bold contrast the hypocrites and the honest Christians of every rank and grade in the church. One is the “Dialogue between Mercury and Charon," who discnss the affairs of Europe from 1521 to 1528, and make deceased ecclesiastics tell the story of their lives. The other is a “Dialogue which treats of the events that happened at Rome in 1527.” The capture and pillage of that city is not so much the real theme, as is the moral state of the papacy.

Tbese treatises have been pronounced among the best in Spanish literature, not merely for their general scope, but for their elegance of style, their graceful turns of wit and argument, their purity of sentiment, their bearing in favor of reform, and their truthful illustration of contemporary history. Cervantes appears to bave made good use of them in his

a

famous burlesque upon chivalry. Juan probably wrote most of them, while his brother supplied the materials, apd took on himself the responsibility of the declarations made therein, for his high official position was his shield. When accused, Alfonso defended himself as if he were the author of the first mentioned Dialogue.

We present a few specimens : Mercury is made to say, that in his world-wide travels he did not find among nations called Christians the pure morality that he expected. Even in the highest sphere, Rome itself, he found earthly desires and cares taking the place of heavenly aspirations. The hopes of men, instead of being fixed on Christ, were all placed on certain kinds of dresses, different sorts of food, paternosters, pilgrimages, and wax candles. Some hoped to get to heaven by building monasteries and churches; others imagined that the discipline of the whip, fasting to inanition, and going barefoot were services acceptable to God. Very small was the number of those who put their trust in Jesus Christ.

A haughty man appears, supposed at first to be some Persian satrap, but found to be a famous preacher, who says: “I put on an air of sanctity to get credit with the public. In the pulpit I took care never to reprove those who were present. If I had, they might have been converted and live like Christians, and then for very shame I should have been obliged to perform good actions." When accused by Charon of preaching Satan's kingdom rather than Christ, he replies: “I know not what you mean by preaching Christ. I had one object, , to satisfy all my desires and live like a pope.”

A lordly bishop comes, and, “ though alone, he asks if we can pass ? This manner of speaking is suitable to his dignity.” When asked what it is to be a bishop, he makes it to consist in fine dress, ritualistic services, large revenues to spend, plenty of clergy to do the work, and benefices to give away. Charon replies: “Neither Peter nor any of the Apostles were bishops, nor had they any of these things. The little that belonged to them they gave to follow Christ. I will tell you what it is to be a bishop. It is to be solicitous for the souls under your eare, and willing if need be to sacrifice your life for them to preach faithfully to your flock, and set them a good example; hence it is necessary to have a complete knowledge of the Holy Scriptures; to live free from worldliness, and much in prayer for your people; to see that holy persons administer the sacraments, and to relieve the poor.” All this is news to the poor soul of the bishop. The cardinal, who presents bimself, is very disconsolate, but wary and not disposed to make any avowals. A scholastic, expert in his art, admits that he never heard of the Gospels, nor the Epistles of Paul, except at mass. He has read Scotus, Thomas, Nicholas Lyra, Durando, and above all Aristotle, for these have more acuteness than the inspired writers and the fathers. Charon answers : "As the eggs so are the chickens."

These bad characters are offset by those which are good, and several of the descriptions are admirable. The true preacher does not even wish to lose the time required in telling his name or office. Being pressed, he says, “In my youth I sought not only to learn, but to have the experience of Christian doctrine. My studies were always attended with prayer for God's grace. Not confiding in my own abilities, I gave my whole heart to the Holy Scriptures First among my friends, and then in the pulpit, I began to publish abroad what God had done for me .... I did not try to make my sermons elegant nor elevated, but Christian, and I was indifferent about being called stupid, or having my sermons called unworthy of a literary man, if they were only acknowledged to be Christian. I thought it a very evil thing to be found guilty of what I reproved in others."

Juan seems in part to have drawn his own portrait in this reply of a soul:.“You know that when a youth I loathed vice, and yet through bad companions I was a slave to it for many years. At the age of twenty I began to know myself,

I and learn what it is to be a Christian. I laid aside ambition, and the desire for great wealth, for these are opposed to the teachings of the New Testainent. I ridiculed the superstitions which some Christians practised, but still held to some bad habits. At twenty-five I grew more serious, and reasoned thus: Either the doctrines of the New Testament are true, or they are not: if true, it is gross folly for me to live as I am now doing; if false, why do I impose on myself the

[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »