Friday, February 06, 2009

Luther Meets His Match, Part I: Correspondence Between and Concerning Erasmus and Luther: 1517 to 1534

.
.

[ErasmusHolbein1523.jpg]

Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1523

[ see the index of topics at the end ]

[Erasmus's words are in black, Luther's in blue; those of others are in green]

For a general overview of Erasmus, see the Wikipedia entry.

Erasmus: Greek scholar and Christian humanist, is widely regarded as the greatest man of letters and intellect of the 16th century. He was highly critical of corruption in the Church and was initially somewhat favorable to the Protestant cause, but soon (after 1521 or so) turned against it after he saw the direction it was going, and remained a lifelong Catholic. He engaged in a famous written debate with Luther on the issue of free will.

Protestant Church historian Philip Schaff glowingly described Erasmus:
Desiderius Erasmus . . . was the king among scholars in the early part of the sixteenth century. He combined native genius, classical and biblical learning, lively imagination, keen wit, and refined taste. He was the most cultivated man of his age, and the admired leader of scholastic Europe from Germany to Italy and Spain, from England to Hungary . . . No man before or since acquired such undisputed sovereignty in the republic of letters . . . Erasmus shines in the front rank of the humanists . . . on the dividing line between the middle ages and modern times. His great mission was to revive the spirit of classical and Christian antiquity, and to make it a reforming power within the church. . . . he gave [impulse] to classical, biblical, and patristic studies, and [reformed] by his satirical exposures of ecclesiastical abuses and monastic ignorance and bigotry.

. . . Protestants should never forget the immense debt of gratitude which they owe to the first editor of the Greek Testament . . . His exegetical opinions still receive and deserve the attention of commentators. To him we owe also the first scholarly editions of the Fathers, especially of Jerome, with whom he was most in sympathy . . . he cannot be charged with apostasy or even with inconsistency. He never was a Protestant, and never meant to be one.

. . . Erasmus was, like most of the German and English humanists, a sincere and enlightened believer in Christianity, . . . He devoted his brilliant genius and classical lore to the service of religion. He revered the Bible as a divine revelation, and zealously promoted its study. . . . as the true source of theology and piety . . . He had a sharp eye to the abuses of the Church, and endeavored to reform them in a peaceful way. He wished to lead theology back . . . to Scriptural simplicity, and to promote an inward, spiritual piety.

(The History of the Christian Church, Volume VII: History of Modern Christianity, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910, Chapter IV, section 71)

(1) I am at present reading our Erasmus, but my heart recoils more and more from him. But one thing I admire is, that he constantly and learnedly accuses not only the monks, but the priests, of a lazy, deep-rooted ignorance. Only, I fear, he does not spread Christ and God's grace sufficiently abroad, of which he knows very little. The human is to him of more importance than the divine.

(Luther to John Lange, 1 March 1517, in Margaret A. Currie, editor and translator, The Letters of Martin Luther, London: Macmillan & Co., 1908, 13-14)

(2) . . . the dialogue with Erasmus . . . was so delightful, so full of humour, so clever, and I would almost say, so woven together in such an Erasmus-like manner, that the reader is tempted to laugh and enjoy the failings in the Church of Christ, which ought, rather, to grieve all Christians, and be borne before the Lord in prayer.

(Luther to Georg Spalatin, November 1517, in Margaret A. Currie, editor and translator, The Letters of Martin Luther, London: Macmillan & Co., 1908, 19)

(3) But among those who either passionately hate or slothfully neglect good letters (that is, among all men), I always praise and defend Erasmus as much as I can, and I am very careful not to ventilate my disagreement with him lest perchance I should thus confirm them in their hatred of him. Yet, if I may speak as a theologian rather than as a grammarian, there are many things in Erasmus which seem to me to be far from the knowledge of Christ; otherwise there is no man more learned or ingenious than he, not even Jerome, whom he so much extols. But if you communicate this opinion of mine to others, you will violate the laws of friendship.

(Luther to Georg Spalatin, 18 January 1518, in Theodore G. Tappert, translator, Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel, Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 2003, 111-113)

(4) Luther had said many things excellently well. I could wish, however, that he would be less rude in his manner. He would have stronger support behind him, and might do real good. But, at any rate, unless we stand by him when he is right, no one hereafter will dare to speak the truth. I can give no opinion about his positive doctrines; but one good thing he has done, and has been a public benefactor by doing it -- he has forced the controversialists to examine the early Fathers for themselves.

(Erasmus to the "rector of the school at Erfurt," July? 1518, in James Anthony Froude, translator and editor, Life and Letters of Erasmus, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1894, 215)

(5) Martin Luther, who is a keen supporter of your reputation, desires your good opinion on all points.

(Melanchthon to Erasmus, 5 January 1519, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, xxxi)

(6) . . . having heard . . . that my name is known to you through the slight piece I wrote about indulgences, and learning . . . that you have not only seen but approved the stuff I have written, I feel bound to acknowledge, even in a very barbarous letter, that wonderful spirit of yours which has so much enriched me and all of us.

(Luther to Erasmus, 28 March 1519, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, xxxii)

(7) . . . there are many persons of distinction who wish equally well to both Erasmus and Luther. There is nothing his enemies wish more than to see you indignant with him. He himself and his party are devoted to you.

(Wolfgang Capito to Erasmus, 8 April 1519, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, xxxi)

(8) These cunning fellows mix allusions to the ancient tongues and good writing and humane culture, as though Luther trusted to these for his defence, or these were the sources whence heresies were born. . . . I know as little of Luther as I do of any man, so that I cannot be suspected of bias towards a friend. His works it is not for me to defend or criticize, as hitherto I have not read them except in snatches. His life, at least, is highly spoken of by all who know him.

(Erasmus to Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, 14 April 1519, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, xxxii)

(9) Martin Luther's way of life wins all men's approval here [in Louvain], but opinions vary about his teaching. I myself have not yet read his books. He has made some justified criticisms, but I wish they had been as happily expressed as they were outspoken.

(Erasmus to Melanchthon, 22 April 1519, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, xxxi)

(10) I think one gets further by courtesy and moderation than by clamour. That was how Christ brought the world under his sway . . . It is more expedient to protest against those who misuse the authority of bishops than against the bishops themselves . . . Things which are of such wide acceptance that they cannot be torn out of men's minds all at once should be met with argument, close-reasoned forcible argument, rather than bare assertion. . . . Everywhere, we must take pains to do and say nothing out of arrogance or faction; for I think the spirit of Christ would have it so. Meanwhile we must keep our minds above the corruption of anger or hatred, or of ambition; for it is this that lies in wait for us when our religious zeal is in full course. . . . I am not instructing you to do this, only to do what you do always.

(Erasmus to Luther, May 1519, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, xxxiii)

(11) Permit me to say that I have never had any thing to do . . . with the cause of Luther. . . . Luther is a perfect stranger to me, and I have never had time to read his books beyond merely glancing over a few pages. . . . Luther had written to me in a very Christian tone, as I thought; and I replied, advising him incidentally not to write any thing against the Roman Pontiff, nor to encourage a proud or intolerant spirit, but to preach the gospel out of a pure heart .... I am neither Luther’s accuser, nor advocate, nor judge; his heart I would not presume to judge—for that is always a matter of extreme difficulty—still less would I condemn. And yet if I were to defend him, as a good man, which even his enemies admit him to be; as one put upon his trial, a duty which the laws permit even to sworn judges; as one persecuted—which would be only in accordance with the dictates of humanity—and trampled on by the bounden enemies of learning, who merely use him as a handle for the accomplishment of their designs, where would be the blame, so long as I abstained from mixing myself up with his cause? In short, I think it is my duty as a Christian to support Luther in this sense, that, if he is innocent, I should not wish him to be crushed by a set of malignant villains; if he is in error, I would rather see him put right than destroyed: for thus I should be acting in accordance with the example of Christ, who, as the prophet witnesseth, quencheth not the smoking flax, nor breaketh the bruised reed.

(Erasmus to Albrecht, Cardinal-Archbishop of Mainz, 1 November 1519, in Philip Schaff, The History of the Christian Church, Vol. VII: History of Modern Christianity, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910, Chapter IV, section 72)

(12) Luther's party have urged me to join him, and Luther's enemies have done their best to drive me to it by their furious attacks on me in their sermons. Neither have succeeded. Christ I know: Luther I know not. The Roman Church I know, and death will not part me from it till the Church departs from Christ. I abhor sedition. Would that Luther and the Germans abhorred it equally.. . . Luther has hurt himself more than he has hurt his opponents by his last effusions, while the attacks on him are so absurd that many think the Pope wrong in spite of themselves. I approve of those who stand by the Pope, but I could wish them to be wiser than they are. . . . they mistake in linking him and me together . . .

They pretend that Luther has borrowed from me. No lie can be more impudent. He may have borrowed from me as heretics borrow from Evangelists and Apostles, but not a syllable else. . . . I have said nothing except that Luther ought to be answered and not crushed. . . .

I would have the Church purified of evil,
lest the good in it suffer by connection with what is indefensible; but in avoiding the Scylla of Luther I would have us also avoid Charybdis. . . . I have not defended Luther even in jest. . . . But be assured of this, if any movement is in progress injurious to the Christian religion, or dangerous to the public peace or to the supremacy of the Holy See, it does not proceed from Erasmus. Time will show it. I have not deviated in what I have written one hair's breadth from the Church's teaching. . . .

Many great persons have entreated me to support Luther. I have answered always that I will support him when he is on the Catholic side. . . . I advise everyone who consults me to submit to the Pope. I was the first to oppose the publication of Luther's books. I recommended Luther himself to publish nothing revolutionary.

(
Erasmus to Louis Marlianus, 25 March 1520, in James Anthony Froude, translator and editor, Life and Letters of Erasmus, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1894, 261-163)

(13) May Christ direct Luther's actions to God's glory, and confound those who are seeking their own interests. In Luther's enemies I perceive more of the spirit of this world than of the Spirit of God. I wish Luther himself would be quiet for a while. He injures learning, and does himself no good, while morals and manners grow worse and worse. What he says may be true, but there are times and seasons. Truth need not always be proclaimed on the house-top.

(Erasmus to Georg Spalatin, 6 July 1520, in James Anthony Froude, translator and editor, Life and Letters of Erasmus, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1894, 267)

(14) It is a serious matter to challenge men who cannot be overthrown without a major upheaval. And I fear upheavals of that kind all the more, because they so often burst out in a different direction from what was intended.

(Erasmus to Luther, 1 August 1520, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, xxxix)

(15) I am filled with forebodings about that wretched Luther; the conspiracy against him is strong everywhere . . . If only he had followed my advice and refrained from that offensive and seditious stuff! He would have done more good, and been much less unpopular. One man's undoing would be a small matter; but if they are successful in this campaign, their insolence will be past all bearing. They will not rest until they have overthrown all knowledge of languages and all humane studies. . . . I am having nothing to do with this miserable business . . . There is actually a bishopric waiting for me, if I will attack Luther in print.

(Erasmus to the Bishop of Utrecht, Gerhard Geldenhouwer, 9 September 1520, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, xxxix)

(16) No one has been more distressed at this Luther business than I have been. Would that I could have stopped it at the outset. . . . But it has been ill-managed from the first. It rose from the avarice of a party of monks, and has grown step by step to the present fury. The Pope's dignity must, of course, be supported, but I wish he knew how that dignity suffers from officious fools who imagine they are defending him. Their stupid screams have more recommended Luther to the multitude than any other thing. I told them they must answer him and no one has done it. There have been a few replies, but too mild to satisfy his accusers, who have only been more furious. Some of them hate me more than they hate him, because I have tried to bring them back to primitive Christianity. . . . Luther's revilers . . . call themselves champions of the Holy See. If the Pope could hear them he would shut their mouths in disgust. . . . Curses and threats may beat the fire down for the moment, but it will burst out worse than ever.

(Erasmus to Francis Chisigat, 11 September 1520, in James Anthony Froude, translator and editor, Life and Letters of Erasmus, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1894, 269-270)
(17) I have no acquaintance with Luther, nor have I ever read his books, except perhaps ten or twelve pages, and that only by snatches. From what I then saw, I judged him to be well qualified for expounding the Scriptures in the manner of the Fathers,—a work greatly needed in an age like this, which is so excessively given to mere subtleties, to the neglect of really important questions. Accordingly, I have favored his good, but not his bad, qualities, or rather I have favored Christ’s glory in him. I was among the first to foresee the danger there was of this matter ending in violence, and no one ever hated violence more than I do. Indeed, I even went so far as to threaten John Froben the printer, to prevent him publishing his books. I wrote frequently and industriously to my friends, begging that they would admonish this man to observe Christian meekness in his writings, and do nothing to disturb the peace of the church. And when he himself wrote to me two years ago, I lovingly admonished him what I wished him to avoid; and I would he had followed my advice. This letter, I am informed, has been shown to your Holiness, I suppose in order to prejudice me, whereas it ought rather to conciliate your Holiness’s favor towards me.
(Erasmus to Pope Leo X, 13 September 1520, in Philip Schaff, The History of the Christian Church, Vol. VII: History of Modern Christianity, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910, Chapter IV, section 72)

(18) Nicolas Egmond . . . turned on me and called me Luther's ally. It is false. I had seen gifts in Luther which, if rightly used, might make him an ornament to Christ's Church; and when infamous libels were spread about him I said I would sooner see him corrected than destroyed. If this is to be his ally, I am his ally still, and so is the Pope, and so are you if you are a Christian. But this Carmelite tells the people that I defend Luther on the points on which he is condemned . . .

An ally of Luther? I have never been an ally of Luther. There are good and learned men who maintain that Luther has written nothing for which there is not sound authority; and I neither approve nor ever will approve of crushing a man before he has been confuted by reason and Scripture, and offered an opportunity of recanting. . . . The clergy are told to preach against him, but they need not call him Antichrist or a monster of wickedness. I advised that he should be read and answered, and that there should be no appealing to the mob. . . . By burning Luther's books you may rid him off your bookshelves, but you will not rid him out of the minds of mankind.

(Erasmus to Godschalk, moderator of the University of Louvain, 18 October 1520, in James Anthony Froude, translator and editor, Life and Letters of Erasmus, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1894, 273-275)

(19) Even if every word Luther wrote were true, he has written in such a way as to prevent the truth from doing any good. On the other side, those who have rushed into this business headlong have behaved before the public so badly, that even if they had an excellent case, they could only do it harm by the clumsiness of their support . . . In short, these stormy times need some great master of exceptional skill to guide the course of the affair . . . who can cut down this monster in such a way that it does not grow afresh hydra-headed.

(Erasmus to Konrad Peutinger, 9 November 1520, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, xlv)

(20) His De captivitate Babylonica alienates many people, and he is proposing something more frightful every day . . . Luther destroys himself with his own weapons.

(Erasmus to Nicolaas Everaerts, 25 February 1521, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, xlvi-xlvii)

(21) I greatly wonder, my dear Jonas, what god has stirred up the heart of Luther, in so far as he assails with such license of pen the Roman pontiff, all the universities, philosophy, and the mendicant orders . . . Perhaps there were some who out of honest zeal favored calling the orders and princes of the Church to better things. But I do not know if they are those who under this pretext covet the wealth of the churchmen. I judge nothing to be more wicked and destructive of public tranquility than this . . . This certainly is a fine turn of affairs, if property is wickedly taken away from priests so that soldiers may make use of it in worse fashion; and the latter squander their own wealth, and sometimes that of others, so that no one benefits. I do not even agree with those men, my dear Jonas, who say that Luther, provoked by the intolerable shamelessness of his adversaries, could not maintain a Christian moderation. Regardless of how others conduct themselves, he who had undertaken such a role ought to be faithful to himself and disregard all other matters. Finally, a way out should have been provided before he descended into that pit . . . We see the affair brought to that point that I reasonably see no good outcome, unless Christ through His own skill turn the rashness of these men into a public good . . . How great a swarm of evils this foolhardiness now yields! And ill will greatly weighs down the study of letters as well as many good men who in the beginning were not particularly hostile to Luther, either because they hoped he would handle the matter differently or on account of the enemies they had in common . . . And here, my dear Jonas, I have been forced at times to wish for evidence of the evangelical spirit when I saw Luther, but especially his supporters, strive with skill, as it were, to involve others in a hateful and dangerous affair. . . . So far am I from ever having wished to be involved in a faction as dangerous as this! . . . Moreover, I am desperately afraid lest among the other nations this affair bring a great disgrace to our Germany, as the great mass of men are accustomed to impute the foolishness of a few to the entire nation. What else has been accomplished, therefore I ask, by so many harsh little books, by so much foolish talk, by so many formidable threats, and by so much bombast . . . ? . . . Luther could have taught the evangelical philosophy with great profit to the Christian flock, he could have benefited the world by bringing forth books, if he had restrained from those things which could only end in disturbance. . . . Above all, I am of the opinion that discord, ruinous for all, must be avoided. And that thus by what I might call a holy artfulness the needs of the time must be served, that by no means the treasury of the Gospel truth be betrayed, whence can come the reformation of corrupt public morals. Perhaps someone will ask whether I have another mind regarding Luther than I had formerly. No, indeed, I have the same mind. I have always wished that, with changes made of certain things which were displeasing to me, he discuss purely the Gospel philosophy, from which the morals of our age have departed, alas, too far. I have always preferred that he be corrected rather than suppressed. I desired him to carry on the work of Christ in such a way that the leaders of the Church either approved or certainly not disapproved.

(Erasmus to Justus Jonas, 10 May 1521, in Christian Humanism and the Reformation, [selections from Erasmus], edited and translated by John C. Olin, New York: Harper & Row, 1965, 152, 157-159, 161-163)

(22) By the bitterness of the Lutherans, and the stupidity of some who show more zeal than wisdom in their endeavors to heal the present disorders, things have been brought to such a pass, that I, for one, can see no issue but in the turning upside down of the whole world. What evil spirit can have sown this poisonous seed in human affairs? When I was at Cologne, I made every effort that Luther might have the glory of obedience and the Pope of clemency, and some of the sovereigns approved of this advice. But, lo and behold! the burning of the Decretals, the Babylonish Captivity, those propositions of Luther, so much stronger than they need be, have made the evil, it seems, incurable . . . The only thing that remains to us, my dear Berus, is to pray that Christ, supreme in goodness and in power, may turn all to good; for he alone can do so.

(Erasmus to Louis Berus, 14 May 1521, in Philip Schaff, The History of the Christian Church, Vol. VII: History of Modern Christianity, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910, Chapter IV,
section 72
)

(23) If Luther had written more moderately, even though he had written freely, he would both have been more honored himself, and done more good to the world; but fate has decreed otherwise. I only wonder that the man is still alive .... They say that an edict is in readiness far more severe than the Pope’s bull; but from fear, or some other reason, it has not yet been published. I am surprised that the Pope should employ such agents, some of them illiterate men, and all of them headstrong and haughty, for the transaction of such affairs. Nothing can exceed the pride or violent temper of Cardinal Cajetan, of Charles Miltitz, of Marinus, of Aleander. . . . As to Aleander, he is a complete maniac,—a bad, foolish man.

(Erasmus to Nicolaas Everaerts, May 1521, in Philip Schaff, The History of the Christian Church, Vol. VII: History of Modern Christianity, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910, Chapter IV, section 72)

(24) I was accused on one side from the pulpits of being in a conspiracy with Luther, on the other I was entreated to join him. I saw the peril of neutrality, but I cannot and will not be a rebel. . . . Of course the Church requires reform, but violence is not the way to it. Both parties behaved like maniacs. You may ask me why I have not written against Luther. Because I had no leisure, because I was not qualified, because I would sooner face the lances of the Switzers than the pens of enraged theologians. . . . it is not true that I have done nothing. Luther's friends (who were once mine also) do not think so. They have deserted me and call me a Pelagian. . . . In Flanders I am abused as a Lutheran. In Germany I am cried out against as an anti-Lutheran.

(Erasmus to Peter Barbirius, 13 August 1521, in James Anthony Froude, translator and editor, Life and Letters of Erasmus, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1894, 293-295)

(25) Luther's movement was not connected with learning, but it has brought learning into ill-repute . . . I suppose I must write something about him.

(Erasmus to Archbishop Warham, 24 August 1521, in James Anthony Froude, translator and editor, Life and Letters of Erasmus, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1894, 295)

(26) Neither Capito's nor Erasmus' opinion moves me in the least. They are only doing what I suspected. Indeed I have been afraid that some day I should have some trouble with one or the other of them. For I saw that Erasmus was far from the knowledge of grace, since in all his writings he is not concerned for the cross but for peace. He thinks that everything should be handled in a civil manner and with a certain benevolent kindness. But Behemoth [Satan] pays no attention and nothing improves by this.

(Luther to Georg Spalatin, 9 September 1521, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, lvi)

(27) I cannot help wondering what god swayed Luther's mind so that, while so many friends tried to deter him from provoking the pope, he has written always with more and more asperity . . . But see what results they have achieved! They have distorted humane studies with a burden of unpopularity . . . They have opened up a great rift which divides the world everywhere, which will last maybe for many years and get steadily worse. In return for a clumsy attempt at liberty, slavery is redoubled to such a degree that it is forbidden even to maintain the truth.

(Erasmus to Willibald Pirckheimer, 29 November 1521, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, li)

(28) For a long time now I have been waiting to see what will be the upshot of this sorry business over Luther. Unquestionably some spirit is at work in this affair; whether it be of God, I do not know. I, who have never supported Luther, except in so far as one supports a man by urging him towards better things, am a heretic to both sides. Among our own people, a few who have other reasons to dislike me are actually trying to persuade the emperor that I am a leader of the rebels, for no better reason than my failure to publish against Luther. Luther's party in their public utterance tear me to pieces as a Pelagian, because they think I give more weight than they do to free will.

(Erasmus to Willibald Pirckheimer, 12 February 1522, in R.A.B. Mynors, translator, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. IX, Correspondence: Letters 1252-1355 [1522-1523], Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, 22-23)

(29) Now the evil must be rooted out, the contagion is so widely spread.

(Erasmus to Bishop Thomas Wolsey, 7 March 1522, in Preserved Smith and Charles Michael Jacobs, translators and editors, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. II: 1521-1530, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1918, 98)

(30) I would sooner meet death ten times over than start or encourage a perilous schism.

(Erasmus to Luis Nunez Coronel, 21 April 1522, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, lii)

(31) I . . . think that Erasmus knows less, or seems to know less, about predestination than the schools of the sophists have known . . . Erasmus is not to be feared either in this or in almost any other really important subject that pertains to Christian doctrine. Truth is mightier than eloquence, the spirit stronger than genius, faith greater than learning . . . I think it unwise . . . for him to array the power of his eloquence against me . . . But if he casts the die, he will see that Christ fears neither the gates of hell nor the powers of the air . . . I know what is in this man just as I know the plots of Satan . . .

(Luther to Duke George of Saxony ?, 28 May 1522, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, lvii)

(32) If your Holiness instructs me, I will make so bold as to give you an outline in a secret letter of my own proposal . . . for putting an end to this evil in such a way that it will not easily sprout again.

(Erasmus to Pope Adrian VI, 22 December 1522, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, liii)

(33) . . . many think this trouble should be healed by severity; but I fear the outcome shows that this plan has long been a mistake . . . This cancer has gone too far to be curable by the knife or cautery . . . if it has been decided to overwhelm this evil by imprisonment and scourging, by confiscation, exile, excommunication, and death, there will be no need of any plan from me.

(Erasmus to Pope Adrian VI, 22 March 1523, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, lv-lvi)

(34) . . . what Luther writes about the tyranny and the greed and the immorality of the Roman curia -- I wish, my dear Barbier, that there were no truth in it! I am still made wretched by the fear that things will end in open conflict. We hear a great deal about the liberty of the gospel; but they have different things in view. Under this screen some seek a frenzied freedom to become the slaves of their own carnal appetites; some cast envious eyes at the resources of the priesthood; and some bravely lavish their own wealth on drinking, wenching, and gambling and are agape for the chance to plunder others. . . . When things are in such confusion, it is like a house on fire: everyone will seize what he had set his heart on.

(Erasmus to Pierre Barbier, 17 April 1523, in R.A.B. Mynors and Alexander Dalzell, translators; annotated by James M. Estes, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. X, Correspondence: Letters 1356-1534 [1523-1524], Univ. of Toronto Press, 1992, 5-7)

(35) What Erasmus thinks, or pretends to think, in judging things spiritual, is abundantly shown in his books, from the first to the last. I note the pricks he gives me now and then, but as he does it without openly declaring himself my foe, I act as if I was unaware of his sly attacks, though I understand him better than he thinks. He has done what he was called to do; he has brought us from godless studies to a knowledge of the languages; perhaps he will die with Moses in the plains of Moab, for he does not go forward to the better studies -- those that pertain to godliness. I greatly wish he would stop commenting on the Holy Scriptures and writing his Paraphrases, for he is not equal to this task . . . He has done enough in showing us the evil; to show us the good and to lead us into the promised land, he is, I see, unable. . . . he is a man who neither can nor will have a right judgment about them [the Scriptures], as almost all the world is now beginning to perceive.

(Luther to Oecolampadius, 20 June 1523, in Preserved Smith and Charles Michael Jacobs, translators and editors, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. II: 1521-1530, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1918, 190-191)

(36) The so-called Anabaptists have been muttering anarchy for some time now, and other monstrosities are hatching in the way of doctrine which if they once break out into the open could make Luther look almost orthodox.

(Erasmus to Cuthbert Tunstall, bishop of London, end of June 1523, in R.A.B. Mynors and Alexander Dalzell, translators; annotated by James M. Estes, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. X, Correspondence: Letters 1356-1534 [1523-1524], Univ. of Toronto Press, 1992, 30-34)

(37) . . . the man is so far from any knowledge of things Christian . . . Let him learn Christ and bid farewell to human wisdom . . . I have no hard feeling for him, but only true pity . . .

(Luther to Conrad Pellican, 1 October 1523, in Preserved Smith and Charles Michael Jacobs, translators and editors, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. II: 1521-1530, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1918, 204 ff.)

(38) For since we see that the Lord has not given you courage or sense to assail those monsters openly and confidently with us, we are not the men to exact what is beyond your power and measure. . . . The whole world knows your services to letters and how you have made them flourish and thus prepared a path for the direct study of the Bible. For this glorious and splendid gift in you we ought to thank God. . . . For although you will not side with us, and although you injure or make sceptical many pious persons by your impiety and hypocrisy, yet I cannot and do not accuse you of willful obstinacy. . . . I beg that meanwhile, if you can do nothing else, you will remain a spectator of the conflict, and not join our enemies, and especially that you publish no book against me, as I shall write none against you. . . . We have fought long enough, we must take care not to eat each other up. This would be a terrible catastrophe, as neither one of us really wishes harm to religion, and without judging each other, both may do good.

(Luther to Erasmus, around 15 April 1524, in Preserved Smith and Charles Michael Jacobs, translators and editors, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. II: 1521-1530, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1918, 228 ff.)

(39) No, I do not concede that you passion for the purity of the gospel is more sincere than my own . . . What you describe as weakness and ignorance is partly conscience and partly conviction. When I look at certain passages in your work, I am much afraid that Satan is using his wiles to lead you astray; but there are other passages which so delight me that I wish my fears were groundless . . . why should it upset you if someone wants to argue with you in the hope of deepening his understanding? Perhaps Erasmus' opposition will do more for the gospel than all the support you receive from dullards . . . I only hope it does not have a tragic ending!

(Erasmus to Luther, 8 May 1524, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, lxvii)

(40) I thought Luther and his doctrine, such as it is, to be a sort of necessary evil in the corrupt state of the Church, and although the medicine was somewhat bitter and violent, I hoped that it would produce some health in the body of the people of Christ. Now, however, since I find that many people are interpreting my moderation as collusion with Luther -- with whom I have never had any secret agreement -- and since I see, besides, that under cover of the Gospel, a new people is growing up, wordy, shameless and intractable, such people, in a word, as Luther himself cannot endure (though, to be sure, they revile Luther as much as they despise the bishops and princes), I have gone into the arena . . .

(Erasmus to Duke George of Saxony, 6 September 1524, in Preserved Smith and Charles Michael Jacobs, translators and editors, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. II: 1521-1530, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1918, 250-251)

(41) . . . there are some people in your camp who cry to heaven that the gospel is overthrown if anyone resists their mad conduct. The value of the gospel? not in liberty to sin without penalty, but in keeping us from sin even when no penalty exists.

(Erasmus to Melanchthon, 6 September 1524, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, lxxi)

(42) Erasmus has written on the free will. We have sent you the book. He seems to have treated us without abuse . . . I greatly wish that this subject, which is surely the chief thing in the Christian religion, may be threshed out diligently, and for this reason I am almost glad that Erasmus has taken up the battle. I have long hoped that Luther might have some wise antagonist in this matter, and if Erasmus is not that, I am greatly deceived . . .

(Melanchthon to Georg Spalatin, September 1524, in Preserved Smith and Charles Michael Jacobs, translators and editors, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. II: 1521-1530, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1918, 255)

(43) So far as the Diatribe on the Freedom of the Will is concerned, it has been received her very calmly. . . . Your moderation has given great pleasure, though here and there you do sprinkle in some pepper, but Luther is not so irritable that he can swallow nothing. Moreover, he promises that in his answer he will use equal moderation. . . . I observe that Luther is well disposed toward you . . . I wish to convince you also that we honor you and love you. . . . Luther reverently salutes you.

(Melanchthon to Erasmus, 30 September 1524, in Preserved Smith and Charles Michael Jacobs, translators and editors, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. II: 1521-1530, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1918, 253 ff.)

(44) Last but not least, when I surveyed the excessively corrupt life led by Christians everywhere, even had I had the lowest possible opinion of Luther, I should almost have judged him to be a necessary evil that could not be removed without removing the best thing we had in the present state of affairs. . . . There was a constant clamor from the sophisters: 'Erasmus and Luther are in league; neither attacks the other.' The princes expected something, and it was not safe to disappoint them much longer. There were offensive challenges from some of Luther's friends (though they bring Luther nothing but misfortune), so that had I held my peace it would have looked as though it was fear of their threats that had silenced me. . . . And as for Luther's feelings towards me, as it is the faith that is at stake, I attach very little importance to them. That his opinion of me is nothing very special he makes clear in many letters he has written to my friends, in which he makes me out to be blind, pitiful, . . . What Luther is like as a person, I do not know. In these parts our new gospel provides us with a new sort of men: headstrong, impudent, deceitful, foul-mouthed, liars, scandalmongers, quarrelsome among themselves, no good to anyone, and a nuisance to all -- subversive, noisy, crazy rascals; I dislike them so much that if I knew any city that was free of these gentry, I would move there. . . . And those idiots keep saying that I agree with Luther but am too frightened to say so. I should indeed make a wonderful martyr if to please worthless rogues like them I were to tell lies that would lead to my destruction. In my native country there are a great many who support Luther; had I forseen that such wretches would be forthcoming, I would have professed myself from the very beginning an enemy of this faction.

(Erasmus to Heinrich Stromer, 10 December 1524, in R.A.B. Mynors and Alexander Dalzell, translators; annotated by James M. Estes, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. X, Correspondence: Letters 1356-1534 [1523-1524], Univ. of Toronto Press, 1992, 437-441)

(45) If you were here [Basel], my dear Phillipus, and could see for yourself the tragedy which is unfolding, you would be more ready to admit that it is not without reason that I complain about the behaviour of those who are stirring up trouble in the name of the gospel . . . their reckless conduct obstructs the progress of the humanities and ruins the cause of the gospel. I have no doubt that Luther is offended by these dreadful people. . . . No one has done more harm to the pope than those who are the most ardent champions of the papal cause, and no one has caused greater injury to Luther than those who desperately want to be seen as Lutherans. . . . Far be it from me to be upset by the teaching of the gospel, but there is much in Luther's views which I find offensive. I dislike particularly the extraordinary vehemence with which he treats whatever doctrine he decides to defend and that he never stops until he is carried to extremes. He was warned about this, but far from toning down his invective, he goes even further than before. . . . to be honest, the general corruption of Christian morals called out for bitter reproof. But my preference was for a temperate frankness so that we might induce even bishops and rulers to share in the endeavour. . . . the gospel has made fine progress if a few monks divest themselves of their cowls . . . or if a few priests are on the lookout for a wife or if images have been thrown out of a couple of churches . . . Is there anything which is less likely to foster Christian piety than for ordinary, uneducated people to hear, and for young people to have it drummed into their ears, that the pope is Antichrist, that bishops and priests are demons, that the constitutions of men are heretical, that confession is a pernicious practice, that works, merit, human effort are heretical ideas, that there is no freedom of the will but all is governed by necessity, and that it makes no difference what works a man performs? Some people spread such ideas abroad without qualifying them in any way, and wicked men take them up and turn them to evil ends. . . . these monsters are encouraged by men whom Luther embraces as the leading exponents of evangelical teaching. In the past the gospel produced a new race of men in the world. What kind of men this gospel is producing, I do not like to think. . . . I could wish that Luther were as successful at turning the minds of princes and prelates towards the religion of the gospel as he is at raising a storm against their vices. I do not greatly care what he thinks of me, especially in a matter like this, where private feelings should not be allowed to count for much. . . . just as your own judgment of me has not made me any less appreciative of your abilities. I am prepared for any insults, however cruel, provided the gospel of Christ can flourish. . . . With regard to the honesty of your motives, I have no doubt that you are conscientious in what you are doing. But as for Luther's intentions, there is much which makes me hesitate; and if I do not dare to trust my own judgment absolutely, I think, nevertheless, that I can plumb a man's mind as well from his writings as from his company. Luther has a fiery and impetuous temperament. In everything he does you can recognize the "anger of Peleus' son [ie Achilles] who knows not how to yield."

(Erasmus to Melanchthon, 10 December 1524, in R.A.B. Mynors and Alexander Dalzell, translators; annotated by James M. Estes, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. X, Correspondence: Letters 1356-1534 [1523-1524], Univ. of Toronto Press, 1992, 441 ff.)

(46) I am sending to you Erasmus' bitter letter to me . . . He has written even more bitterly to Stromer.

(Melanchthon to Joachim Camerarius, 22 January 1525, in R.A.B. Mynors and Alexander Dalzell, translators; annotated by James M. Estes, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. X, Correspondence: Letters 1356-1534 [1523-1524], Univ. of Toronto Press, 1992, 441)

(47) I did not move a finger's breadth from the teaching of the Roman Church. . . . You ask me why I did not speak out at once. Because I regarded Luther as a good man, raised up by Providence to correct the depravity of the age. Whence have all these trouble risen? From the audacious and open immorality of the priesthood, from the arrogance of the theologians and the tyranny of the monks. They began the battle by attacking learning. I did not wish to expel the old studies. I wished only to give Greek and Hebrew a place among them which I thought would minister to the glory of Christ. . . . up sprang Luther, and the object thenceforward was to entangle the friends of literature in the Lutheran business so as to destroy both them and him together.

(Erasmus to Albert Pio, 10 October 1525 , in James Anthony Froude, translator and editor, Life and Letters of Erasmus, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1894, 340-341)

(48) On the one side I had the theologians, who, because of their hatred of the humanities, were doing everything possible to push me into a sect which they themselves believed should be condemned out of hand; on the other side I had the Lutherans, who were working in the same direction through wheedling, trickery, threats, and abuse, though their ultimate aim was different from that of the theologians. Yet in spite of this no one has yet been able to move me one finger's breadth from membership in the church of Rome.

(Erasmus to Albert Pio, 10 October 1525, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, lxxviii)

(49) Luther himself is not so cowardly as to hope, or so wicked as to wish, that you should be silent. I cannot say how foolish and inflated I think his letter to you. He knows well how the wretched glosses with which he has darkened Scripture turn to ice at your touch. They were cold enough already.

(St. Thomas More to Erasmus, 18 December 1525, in James Anthony Froude, translator and editor, Life and Letters of Erasmus, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1894, 342)

(50) I expect the same or worse from Erasmus as from Duke George. That reptile will feel himself taken by the throat and will not be moved by my moderation. God grant that I be mistaken, but I know the man's nature; he is an instrument of Satan unless God change him.

(Luther to Nicholas Hausmann, 20 January 1526, in Preserved Smith and Charles Michael Jacobs, translators and editors, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. II: 1521-1530, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1918, 362-363)

(51) The true Christian must grieve in his heart when he considers how far the morals of those who profess the name of Christ have sunk, how close we have come to rejecting the gospel, how almost nothing remains of faith and charity except the name and title, and how desperate the state to which our religion has been brought . . . All the abusive rhetoric -- about the Roman curia, the insufferable tyranny of monks, worldly bishops, and sophistical theologians whose learning left no place for Christ -- was received with repeated cheers. The fearless courage of the man [Luther] in attacking those who are venerated like gods was interpreted as proof of a good conscience. . . . The idea was touted that if a few were burned at the stake, that would put an end to the whole trouble. . . . Caught between those who applauded and those who hissed, I guessed the business would end in public disorder. . . . in fact the evils we have witnessed are greater than I feared. . . . five years ago I warned Luther in a private letter that, if he was relying on the inspiration of his own spirit, he should see to it that he brought to so perilous a task a mind free from any taint of corruption. . . . but then volume after volume flowed from his pen, each more violent than the one before. I found these deeply offensive, not just for the arrogance of the man, but for his insatiable love of argument, which descends sometimes into scurrilous abuse. . . . he takes out his insolent pen and attacks kings and men whose only desire is to serve the public good. . . . The man's lack of moderation is such that I begin to be seriously worried about the spirit that animates him and to congratulate myself for not being enticed into his sect by flattery or driven there by bitterness . . . now we see a general neglect of languages and the humanities, which he has saddled with an intolerable weight of enmity. The ancient writers lie neglected. Scholastic philosophy, which I wished to see reformed, not eliminated, is in decline. Almost all liberal studies are dying. The very name of the gospel is hated by many . . . The liberty we hoped for has not appeared; on the contrary, good men must bear a heavier yoke, and evil men are being allowed a looser rein. One hope still remains. . . . If the impiety of the world deserved to be treated by such men as these and by such a cruel surgeon (for no healing could come from drugs, poultices, and plasters), I hope that those whom God chastised when they rebelled will be comforted by him when they come to their senses. For sometimes he corrects the sins of his people by sending the Philistines . . . or a Nebuchadnezzar and, since he is the all-powerful master of the world, he makes the wickedness of evil men redound to his glory and to the good of the church. So on occasion a dose of poison has turned out to be a cure, and sometimes, when the doctors have given up in despair, the enemy's sword that caused the wound has provided the remedy. . . . As for the scurrilous attack that Luther made on me recently -- and without cause, too, since the argument in my Diatribe was courteous and free from abuse --I shall bear the personal insult lightly, provided the public cause of the Christian faith prospers as we would wish, and the gospel of Christ reigns truly in the hearts of men . . .

(Erasmus to Johann Henckel, 7 March 1526, in Alexander Dalzell, translator; annotated by Charles G. Nauert, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. XII, Correspondence: Letters 1658-1801 [1526-1527], Univ. of Toronto Press, 2003, 55 ff.)

(52) . . . that enraged reptile, Erasmus of Rotterdam. How much eloquence will this vainglorious beast exercise in trying to destroy Luther?

(Luther to Georg Spalatin, 27 March 1526, in Preserved Smith and Charles Michael Jacobs, translators and editors, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. II: 1521-1530, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1918, 365 ff.)

(53) The whole world knows your nature; truly you have so guided your pen that you have written against no one more rabidly, and (what is more detestable) more maliciously than against me. . . . that same admirable ferocity which you formerly used against [Bishop John] Fisher and against Cochlaeus, who challenged you to it and provoked you by their reviling, you now use against my book On the Free Will, which argued politely. How do your scurrilous reproaches and mendacious charges that I am atheist, an Epicurean, a skeptic about Christianity, besides many other things which you say you pass over, help the argument one way or the other? I bear your accusations with tolerable calmness because my conscience does not charge me with one of them. Did I not believe in God, Christianity and revealed religion, I should not wish to live a day longer. If you plead your cause with your customary vehemence but without your furious reviling, you would provoke fewer men to come out against you; more than a third part of your book is taken up with such invective since you give rein to your temper. Your rage itself shows that you have the worst of the argument . . . what does terribly pain me, and all good men, is that your arrogant, insolent, rebellious nature has cast the world into deadly strife, that you have opposed good men and lovers of letters with a set of malignant Pharisees, and that you have armed the wicked and turbulent to rebel; in short, that you so treat the evangelical cause as to confound all things, sacred and profane, together, as if it were your chief aim to prevent the tempest from ever becoming calm, whereas it is my greatest desire that it should. . . . what grieves me is the public calamity: all this incurable confusion which we owe to nothing but to your barren genius, not amenable to the counsels of your best friends but easily turned in any direction by the most foolish swindlers. I know not whom you have saved from the power of darkness; whoever the ingrates are you ought to turn your dagger-pen against them rather than against the men who argue so temperately against you.

(Erasmus to Luther, 11 April 1526, in Preserved Smith and Charles Michael Jacobs, translators and editors, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. II: 1521-1530, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1918, 368-370)

(54) Have you ever read anything more bitterly written than Erasmus's Hyperaspistes? He is certainly a viper. . . . I think that in the second part of his work Erasmus has been the more vulgar. He loads me with undeserved reproach, ascribing the more odious part of Luther's work to me, but I have decided to take no notice of this injustice . . . The matter causes me great anguish of mind. Unless God shall take note of this tumult and preserve us, I fear that we shall not be able to get out of these contentions.

(Melanchthon to Joachim Camerarius, 11 April 1526, in Preserved Smith and Charles Michael Jacobs, translators and editors, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. II: 1521-1530, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1918, 370-371)

(55) You see the hostility with which Luther attacked me, though provoked by no insults from me. What would he do if he were truly roiled? . . . Can you imagine the abuse Luther would hurl at my head if he were seriously provoked, when, in a treatise written in what he considers a friendly and conciliatory manner, he did not scruple to fire accusation after accusation at me, charging that, like Lucian, I do not believe in the existence of God, that, like Epicurus, I believe that God takes no interest in human affairs, that I mock the Holy Scriptures, and that I am an enemy of the Christian religion? And yet he himself in a letter, a copy of which I am sending you, comes close to demanding my gratitude for showing unwonted and uncharacteristic restraint when he took up his pen against me. I think a good man should be concerned about slander, even if the slander is without foundation. . . . No conceivable charge is so horrible that this crew would be reluctant to approve it. They are highly skilled at making their calumnies seem credible. No one can ever completely clear himself of a serious charge: some trace of suspicion always lingers in the minds of men, and the more serious and shameless the invention, the more readily it is believed. . . . I wrote the Diatribe simply to please the princes and to leave no one in any doubt of my antipathy towards the Lutheran faction. . . . Let me point out the strategies on which the Lutheran faction mainly relies. Sermons are preached to attract people to the cause and hold them there. . . . For the common people the bait is their love of liberty. The printing-press, too, plays no small role. In addition to all this the Lutherans are greatly assisted by the almost universal hatred of bad monks, pleasure-loving priests, and hare-brained theologians (I am not referring to the honest ones among them). Many of the nobility, especially the lower nobility, are inclined to support them, because they covet the church's wealth. . . . But if we continue to make things worse by barbed tracts, imprisonments, and executions, the painful result, I am afraid, will be total anarchy. . . . We know the sort of books with which the Lutherans are flooding the world; and the stuff that is written in reply by some of our theologians is not much better. What is achieved by this battle of the books except to make the fire spread? It is the same with sermons from both sides: fierce insults are traded by both parties, and the rope of controversy is pulled tighter.

(Erasmus to Johannes Fabri, c. 16 April 1526, in Alexander Dalzell, translator; annotated by Charles G. Nauert, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. XII, Correspondence: Letters 1658-1801 [1526-1527], Univ. of Toronto Press, 2003, 141-147)

(56) . . . the viper . . .

(Luther to the Elector John of Saxony, 23 April 1526, in Preserved Smith and Charles Michael Jacobs, translators and editors, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. II: 1521-1530, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1918, 372)

(57) The angry noises that the Lutherans are making about me show the absolute truth of what I am saying. Among others Hutten, Otto Brunfels, and recently Luther himself have made their opposition clear by publishing savage attacks upon me. Luther replied to my Diatribe in a full-length volume, revealing greater animosity than he has shown towards anyone before; he says that no one has been a greater obstacle than I to the spread of the gospel (for that is the name they give to their heresy) . . .

Whoever is now fighting against Erasmus is fighting for Luther. Our leaders should take care that the glory of crushing that faction redounds to the general good of the church and not to the advantage of those who serve their own ends. We shall help the church only if we correct the faults that are responsible for the present turmoil. . . .

In all my many writings it is impossible to point to a single doctrine that is condemned by the church . . .

(Erasmus to Mercurino Gattinara, 29 April 1526, in Alexander Dalzell, translator; annotated by Charles G. Nauert, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. XII, Correspondence: Letters 1658-1801 [1526-1527], Univ. of Toronto Press, 2003, 176-180)

(58) Luther in his book has adopted such a tone that he has left no room for friendship between us; in spite of this he is under the impression that he has kept a firm grip on his temper.

(Erasmus to Willibald Pirckheimer, 6 June 1526, in Alexander Dalzell, translator; annotated by Charles G. Nauert, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. XII, Correspondence: Letters 1658-1801 [1526-1527], Univ. of Toronto Press, 2003, 219 ff.)

(59) What torments me, and any decent person with me, is that because of that arrogant, insolent, seditious temperament of yours you throw the whole world into deadly hostile camps; you make good men and lovers of the humanities vulnerable to certain raving Pharisees; you arm wicked men and those eager for revolt; in short, you treat the cause of the gospel in such a way as to reduce everything, holy or unholy, to utter confusion, as if you deliberately intended that this storm should never reach a pleasant outcome, which is the goal at which I have always aimed. . . . It is the public calamity that torments me and the total and inextricable confusion which derives solely from your uncontrollable personality.

(Erasmus to Luther, March 1527, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, lxxix)

(60) But what weapons can you use to dispossess someone who will not accept anything except Holy Scripture interpreted according to his own rules?

(Erasmus to St. Thomas More, 30 March 1527, in Peter Macardle and Clarence H. Miller, translators, Charles Trinkhaus, editor, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 76: Controversies: De Libero Arbitrio / Hyperaspistes I, Univ. of Toronto Press, 1999, lxxx)

(61) Luther amazes me. If the spirit which is in him be an evil one, no more fatal monster was ever born. If it be a good spirit, much of the fruit of the Gospel is wanting in him. If a mixed one, how can two spirits so strong exist in the same person?

(Erasmus to Duke George of Saxony, 2 September 1527, in James Anthony Froude, translator and editor, Life and Letters of Erasmus, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1894, 352)

(62) At last you paint that Erasmus of yours in his true colors, and recognize him as a viper with deadly stings, though you used formerly to speak of him in many terms of praise. I am glad that the reading of this one book, the Hyperaspistes, has brought you so far and changed your opinion of him.

(Luther to Justus Jonas, 19 October 1527, in Preserved Smith and Charles Michael Jacobs, translators and editors, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. II: 1521-1530, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1918, 416 ff.)

(63) I believe Zwingli is worthy of holy hatred, so insolently and unworthily does he deal with the holy Word of God. The Hyperaspistes I have not yet read, and why should I read it . . . ?

(Luther to Melanchthon, 27 October 1527, in Preserved Smith and Charles Michael Jacobs, translators and editors, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. II: 1521-1530, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1918, 418-419)

(64) I have not yet read Erasmus or the sacramentarians except about three-quarters of Zwingli's book. Judases as they are . . . Would that Erasmus and the sacramentarians might feel the anguish of my heart for a quarter of an hour; I can safely say that they would be converted and saved thereby . . .

(Luther to Justus Jonas, 11? November 1527, in Preserved Smith and Charles Michael Jacobs, translators and editors, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. II: 1521-1530, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1918, 420 ff.)

(65) Where Lutheranism reigns, learning dies. . . . They seek only two things: good pay and a wife. The gospel offers them the rest -- that is, the power of living as they please.

(Erasmus to Willibald Pirckheimer, about 21 February 1529, in Preserved Smith and Charles Michael Jacobs, translators and editors, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. II: 1521-1530, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1918, 469)

(66) It is like Erasmus thus to persecute the Lutheran name when he cannot live in safety except under its protection . . . If the Lutherans had hated him as he hates them, he would, indeed, be in peril of his life at Basle. But Christ will judge this atheist and Epicurean Lucian.

(Luther to Wenzel Link, 7 March 1529, in Preserved Smith and Charles Michael Jacobs, translators and editors, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. II: 1521-1530, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1918, 469-470)

(67) . . . although I find it annoying to be praised in Luther's company, it is more distressing by far to be accused along with him, the accusation being, in effect, that I paved the way for the attack he launched on the church. . . .

. . . as I reread my works . . . I find no teaching that agrees with the condemned positions of Luther, but instead countless teachings that explicitly disagree with his. . . . Of so many slanderers there has not yet been one who could prove agreement on even a single doctrinal teaching. . . . they are absolutely shameless liars who noise it about that what Luther and I write differs not in substance but only in style. . . .

I was the first one of all to sniff out the fact that the fellow's spirit had been corrupted by ambition. Since I thought he could still be cured, I warned him about this, but even then only when challenged by his letters. . . . I never approved of Luther's performance. . . .

So the charge that I condemn nothing in Luther except his rebellion is plainly false. . . .

. . . in a great many writings, I assign to the Roman pontiff primacy over the entire church . . .

(Erasmus to Albert Pio [Responsio], March 1529 , in Daniel J. Sheerin, translator and editor, and Nelson H. Minnich, editor and annotation, Collected Works of Erasmus, Vol. 84, Controversies: Albert Pio, Univ. of Toronto Press, 2004, 10, 21-23, 34, 40)

(68) God knows what the end will be. Like enough He is punishing us for our sins. . . . But never will I be tempted or exasperated into deserting the true communion. . . . The ill-will of some wretched fellow-creature shall not tempt me to lay hands on the mother who washed me at the font, fed me with the word of God, and quickened me with the sacraments. I will not lose my immortal soul to avenge a worldly wrong. . . . I understand now how Arius and Tertullian and Wickliff were driven into schism by malicious clergy and wicked monks. I will not forsake the Church myself, I would forfeit life and reputation sooner; but how unprovoked was the conspiracy to ruin me! My crime was my effort to promote learning. That was the whole of it. . . . There may be arguments about the Real Presence, but I will never believe that Christ would have allowed His Church to remain so long in such an error (if error it be) as to worship a wafer for God. The Lutheran notion that any Christian may consecrate or ordain I think pure insanity. But if monks fancy that by screaming and shrieking they can recover their old tyranny, or that popes and prelates can put the fire out with a high hand, they are greatly mistaken. It may be smothered for a moment, but surely it will break out again. A disease can only be cured by removing the causes of it. We need not give up our belief in the Church because men are wicked.

(Erasmus to Louis Berus, 1 April 1529, in James Anthony Froude, translator and editor, Life and Letters of Erasmus, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1894, 365-366)

(69) He does not publish a single book without showing the impotence of his mind, or, rather, the pain of the wounds he has received. But I despise him, nor shall I honor the fellow by arguing with him any more . . . I shall mention Erasmus only as one speaks of a third person, condemning rather than refuting his ideas. He is a light-minded man, scoffing at all religion, after the fashion of his own dear Lucian does, and never writes seriously unless he is setting down calumnies and slanders.

(Luther to James Montanus, 28 May 1529, in Preserved Smith and Charles Michael Jacobs, translators and editors, Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. II: 1521-1530, Philadelphia: The Lutheran Publication Society, 1918, 481-482)

(70) I will not forsake the one Church . . . Theologians, schoolmen, and monks fancy that in what they are doing they strengthen the Church. They are mistaken. Fire is not quenched by fire. The tyranny of the Court of Rome and a set of scandalous friars set the pile alight, and they are pouring on oil to put it out. . . . The clergy are thinking only of revenge, and not the least of amending their lives.

(
Erasmus to Cuthbert Tunstall, 31 January 1530, in James Anthony Froude, translator and editor, Life and Letters of Erasmus, London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1894, 384)

(71) Your judgment of Erasmus I much admire: wherein you say plainly, that he has no other basis wherein to build his doctrine but the favour of men; and attribute to him, moreover, ignorance and malice. And if you could but convey this judgment of yours with conviction to the minds of men in general, you would in truth, like another stripling David, by this one blow, lay our boasting Goliath prostrate, and at the same time, eradicate the whole of his sect. For what is more vain, more fallacious, in all things, than the applause of men, especially in things spiritual! For, as the Psalms testify, "There is no help in them:" again, "All men are liars." I at one time attributed to him a singular kind of inconsistency and vain-talking, for he seemed to treat on sacred and serious things with the greatest unconcern; and on the contrary, to pursue baubles, vanities, and things laughable and ridiculous with the utmost avidity; though an old man, and a theologian; and that, in an age, the most industrious and laborious. So that I really thought, that what I had heard many men of wisdom and gravity say, was true -- that Erasmus was actually mad. When I first wrote against his Diatribe, and was compelled to weigh his words, (as John says "try the Spirits,") being disgusted at his inconsiderateness in a subject of so much importance; in order that I might rouse up the cold and doltish disputer, I goaded him as if in a snoring sleep; calling him a disciple, at one time, of Epicurus, at another, of Lucian, and then again, declaring him to be of the opinion of the sceptics; supposing, that by these means he might, perhaps, be roused up to enter upon the subject with more feeling. But all was in vain. I only irritated the viper, . . . But the truth is, he hates all the doctrines together. Nay, there can be no doubt in the mind of a true believer, who has the Spirit in his nostrils, that his mind is alienated from, and utterly hates all religion together; and especially, the religion of Christ. Many proofs of this are scattered here and there . . . He published lately, among his other works, his Catechism, a production evidently of Satanic subtlety. For, with a purpose full of craft, he designs to take children and youths at the outset, and to infect them with his poisons, that they might not afterwards be eradicated from them; just as he himself, in Italy and at Rome, so sucked in his doctrines of sorcerers and of devils that now all remedy is too late . . . he does nothing but set before them those heresies and offences of opinions, by which the Church has been troubled from the beginning. So that in fact, he would make it appear, that there has been nothing certain in the Christian religion . . . I began to suspect him of being a plain Democritus or Epicurus, and a crafty derider of Christ: for he everywhere intimates to his fellow Epicureans, his hatred against Christ: though he does it in words so figurative and insidious, . . . This observation fixes in me a determination (let others do as they please) not to believe Erasmus, even if he should openly confess in plain words, -- that Christ is God. But I would address to him that sophistical saying of Chrysippus, 'If you lie, you lie even when you speak the truth.' . . . Our king of ambiguity, however, sits upon his ambiguous throne in security, and destroys us stupid Christians with a double destruction. First, it is his will, and it is a great pleasure to him, to offend us by his ambiguous words: and indeed he would not like it, if we stupid blocks were not offended. And next, when he sees that we are offended, and have run against his insidious figures of speech, and begin to exclaim against him, he then begins to triumph and rejoice that the desired prey has been caught in his snares. For now, having found an opportunity of displaying his rhetoric, he rushes upon us with all his powers and all his noise, tearing us, flogging us, crucifying us, and sending us farther than hell itself; saying, that we have understood his words calumniously, virulently, satanically; (using the worst terms he can find;) whereas, he never meant them to be so understood.

(Luther to Nikolaus von Amsdorf, 11 March? 1534, available online)

INDEX OF TOPICS

(Erasmus and Luther letters only)

Letters of Erasmus

Compliments of Luther

Bold and courageous, 4, 51
Cordial, 11
Fathers, commendable emphasis on, 4, 17
Followers not worthy of him, 45
Good, L's potential for much, 4, 15, 17, 18, 21, 23, 39, 47, 61, 67
Life and reputation highly regarded ("good man"), 8, 9, 10, 47
Morals, condemnation of Catholic corruption commendable, 34, 45, 47, 51
"Necessary evil" in order to reform corrupt morals, 40, 44
Right in many ways, 4, 9
Scriptural exegete, good, 17

Negative Criticisms of Luther

Ambitious, overly, 10, 67
Arrogant, 10, 51, 53, 59
Bishops, attacks on, 10
Courtesy, lack of, 10
Dogmatic and unable to be disagreed with, 9, 10, 39
Hatred, tendency to, 10
Humanism and learning: Luther's injury to, 13, 21, 25, 27, 51, 59, 65
Intentions and motives somewhat questionable, 45
Outspoken and needlessly, recklessly provocative and immoderate, 4, 9, 10, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 21, 23, 40, 45, 51, 67
Rebellious; destroyer of tradition, schismatic, 10, 15, 17, 21, 27, 45, 51, 53, 59, 67
Satan leading astray in some respects, 39, 51, 61
Tempestuous and fiery, angry, maliciousness, slanderous, 10, 45, 51, 53, 55, 57, 58
"Uncontrollable personality", 59

Catholic Churchmen (many) / Erasmus' Catholic Critics

Humanistic learning and languages, aversion or opposition to, 8, 15, 21, 47, 48, 68
Persecution & arguments against L & Protestantism unjust, stupid, ineffective (tolerance), 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 33, 45, 47, 51, 55, 57, 68, 70
Persecution and hatred of E, 16, 24, 28, 44, 48, 51, 67, 68

Protestant movement, descriptions of the whole and of individuals

Avarice and greed, 34, 65
"Bitterness", 22
Calumnious, 55
Carnality, 34
"Contagion", 229
Covetousness and plunder, 21, 34, 55
"Crazy rascals", 44
"Deceitful", 44
Drinking, 34
"Evil", 22, 29, 32
"Faction", 55
Factionalism and sectarianism, 27, 28, 40, 44
"Foul-mouthed", 44
Gambling, 34
"Gospel": false identification with, 40, 41, 44, 45, 51, 57, 59, 65
"Headstrong", 44
"Heresy", 57
Humanistic learning and languages, aversion and opposition to, 25, 27, 45, 51, 59, 65
Iconoclasm, 45
"Impudent", 44
"Liars", 44
Liberty, false notions of, 27, 34, 41, 51, 55, 65
Monks and Priests forsaking vows and getting married, 45, 65
"Monster" (the whole movement), 19
"Monsters", 45
"No good to anyone", 44
"Nuisance to all", 44
Oppressive, 27
Rebelliousness, 27, 28, 44, 45, 59
"Reckless conduct", 45
"Scandalmongers", 44
Sexual immorality, 34
"Shameless and intractable", 40
Sinfulness, 41, 65
"Stirring up trouble", 45
"Subversive", 44
"Tragedy", 45
"Wicked men", 59
"Wretches", 44

* * *

Anabaptists, 36
Church, Catholic: will never leave or split from (eternal loyalty), 12, 24, 48, 68, 70
Conscience and conviction (not weakness), 39
Gospel, love of, 39, 45, 51, 59
Luther: E not associated with (and oppose) his condemned or heretical doctrines or overall cause, 11, 12, 17, 18, 21, 24, 28, 30, 40, 44, 45, 48, 55, 57, 67
Luther's books: opposed publication of, 12, 17
Orthodoxy and obedience to Catholic Church, 12, 47, 57, 67, 68
Papacy, strong advocate of traditional Catholic notion of, 12, 16, 67
Providence, God's, in the midst of the turmoil, 22, 51, 68
Persecution and false accusations, from Protestants, 12, 24, 28, 44, 51, 57
Reformer, of Catholic Church and Catholic morals (corruptions of the time), 8, 12, 13, 15, 16, 21, 23, 24, 40, 44, 45, 47, 51, 55, 57, 68, 70
Sedition, rebellion, revolt, schism, conflict, violence: detestation of, 12, 14, 16, 17, 21, 24, 30, 32, 34, 36, 44, 45, 51, 68
Sola Scriptura, 60


Letters of Luther

Compliments of Erasmus

Appreciation of agreements & taking notice of L's writings, 6
Clever writer, 2
Corruption in the Church, criticism of, 2
Delightful writer, 2
Funny writer, 2
Ingenious, 3
Learned (surpassing St. Jerome), 3
Letters, great man of, 3, 35, 38
Monks & priests, criticism of, 1
Reformer of morals, 35
Religion: E doesn't wish to harm, 38
Spirit, "wonderful" and enriching, 6

Negative Criticisms and Insults of Erasmus

Affection for, less and less, 1
Ambiguity, deliberate, 71
Arrogant know-it-all, 71
"Atheist", 66
"Boasting Goliath", 71
Christ, denies divinity of, 71
Christ, knows little of, 1, 3, 26, 27
Christianity and spirituality, ignorance and hatred of, 31, 35, 37, 71
Civility, overemphasis on, 26
Cold, 71
Conversion, need of, 64
Craftiness, 71
Damned (strongly implied), 66, 71
"Democritus", 71
"Derider of Christ", 71
Despised by L, 69
"Doltish", 71
Eloquence and rhetoric: more concern for than truth, 31, 52, 71
Enemy of L ("destroy" L), 52
"Epicurean", 66, 71
Exegete, scriptural, inadequate, 35
Grace, knows little of, 1, 26
Hates Lutherans, 66
"Hatred against Christ", 71
Heretic, 71
Humanism and learning emphasized more than God, 1, 31, 37
Hypocritical, 38
Ignorant (not worth arguing with), 69, 71
Immoderate, 50
Impious, 38
Inconsiderate, 71
Indifference as to his opinions, 26
Insincere (liar), 71
"Instrument of Satan", 50
"Judas", 64
Kindness, overemphasis on, 26
"Light-minded", 69
"Lucian", 66, 69, 71
Malicious, 71
Mad (out of his mind), 71
Men, seeks approval of, over God, 71
Mind, impotent, 69
Pitied, 37
Peace, overly concerned with, 26
"Plots of Satan" (comparison to E), 31
Predestination, ignorance of, 31
"Reptile", 50, 52
Ridiculous, 71
"Satanic subtlety", 71
Sense, lack of, 38
Sensitive, overly, 69
Seriousness, lacks, 69
Skeptic and scoffer against religion, 38, 69, 71
Slanderer, 66, 69
Sly, 35
Unsaved, 64
"Vainglorious beast", 52
Vanity, 71
"Viper", 56, 62, 71
Weakness; lack of courage and resolve, 38

* * *

Erasmus urged to not publish against L, 38
Erasmus' Hyperaspistes not read by L, 63, 64
Zwingli should be hated, 63

No comments: