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CHAP. template them through the medium of scholastic
abstractions ; a circumstance which may be regretted, but which at the same time serves to render the work, a more faithful disclosure of the modes of thinking, familiar to the devout and the educated among our ancestors, in the fourteenth century. It should be stated, also, that the native obscurity of many things contained in this book, is rendered still more perplexing by a style which partakes considerably of the barbarism of the age, and by numerous errors which appear to have been those of transcribers or of the press. Still, passing over these defects, and the obsolete character of the learning which it frequently displays; the lucid statements of the most important doctrines, which are constantly occurring in the Trialogus, confer upon it a value to which no second production of the same period is entitled.
The work consists of four books, and these are subdivided into numerous chapters. Nearly the whole of the first book is occupied, in discussing a series of questions, relating to the existence and perfections of the Deity. All excellencies that may possibly exist, are considered as having their place in the divine nature; and while those diffused over creation proceed alone from him, every thing in man opposed to the nature of God, considered in his spiritual attributes, is affirmed to be depravity, founded in weakness and error. The doctrine of the Trinity, is of course discussed, CHAP. and some attention is bestowed on certain natural appearances which was supposed to illustrate that mysterious truth. After some remarks on the theories of Plato and Aristotle, respecting ideas, the writer concludes with a censure on the papal authority; as by sanctioning the doctrine which declared the sacred host to be an accident without a subject, it had affirmed that to be true, which no mind may possibly comprehend. In a previous conversation relating to the mystery of the Trinity, the reformer had observed ; “Some men
? Mr. Turner observes, “ Its attractive merit was, that it combined the new opinions with the scholastic style of thinking and deductions. It was not the mere illiterate reformer, teaching novelties, whom the man “ of education disdained and derided; it was the respected academician
reasoning with the ideas of the reformer.” Hist. v. 177. Lenfant discovered a copy of this work, in the library of the university of Frankfort on the Oder. Council of Constance I. 532.
are so strangely mistaken in judging on this
subject, as to suppose that the light of faith is . “ contrary to that of nature; and accordingly, “that what may seem impossible to the latter, “ should be implicitly received upon the testimony “ of the former. But the truth is, men call their “ own darkness the light of nature, and hence
weakly suppose, that the light of reason and “ of scripture are at variance with each other." Thus also, in concluding the above observation on the eucharist, it is remarked, that “God teaches us the “ truth, and nothing but the truth, and what may be “known by us to be such.” This doctrine is inculcated, for the immediate purpose of exposing the necessary falsehood of transubstantiation ; but it is also urged in this, and in other instances, to secure to the reason of man its due influence with respect to religious faith in general ; and the ingenuity of the writer is successfully employed, to vindicate his assent to the doctrine of the Trinity, while rejecting the dogmas which had corrupted the eucharist.
A large portion of the second book is devoted, to the speculations of the day on the elements and revolutions of the visible universe; and as a whole, it is chiefly remarkable as opposing the materialism of Avenoes respecting the human soul : as stating the old series of philosophical arguments in proof of the soul's immortality : as containing the doctrine of the reformer on predestination and grace: and as treating the pretensions of the astrologer with contempt, and every thing in natural philosophy as yet in its infancy. The two last conclusions are truths of which men are now fully aware, but which some of the most enlightened in the fourteenth century would have been slow to acknowledge.
The third book relates more immediately to moral and theological opinions. The power to act virtuously and devoutly wherever possessed, is said to be derived from the grace of God; and · hence, it is inferred, that no excellence of mind or conduct can be justly regarded as meriting eternal life. Faith is defined as an assent of the reason, referring exclusively to the truth, and to things unseen; as forming the basis of all christian enjoyment; and as that principle, the declension of which must necessarily precede each gradation in apostacy. The love of God, is beautifully inculcated as the only secure foundation of morals, and of social happiness. He is described as in all things worthy of supreme affection; and the love of his nature is declared to be inseparable from that of his laws, which are truly the expression of his character, the revelation of himself. Hence, philanthropy, and whatever is included in faith,
hope, or charity, is viewed as comprehended in what CHAP. the laws of the Creator require. The portions of this book which relate to the evil of sin; to the Saviour's incarnation and sacrifice, as necessary to procure its remission; to the excellencies of the Redeemer's character, and to the doctrines of grace; are distinguished from passages referring to the same matters, and inserted in some other pages of this work, but as being more strongly marked by the scholastic method of treating them ; a peculiarity which would not add to their attraction with a modern reader. In the seventh and eighth chapters the disciples of Pelagius, and those who but partially adopt his system, are assailed as " weak simonists,” who conceive that grace is to be bought or sold as an article of merchandise ; and the writer states his own doctrine, respecting the necessity of future events in strong and somewhat perplexing language. But the thirtieth and the thirty-first chapters are the most important in the series. In these, the authority of the church, the invocation of saints, and many other errors are exposed ; and the sufficiency of the scriptures, and of the aids of the One Me. diator, together with some other articles of
protestant doctrine, are boldly taught.
It is, however, in the last book of the Trialogus, that the peculiar doctrines of its author become most conspicuous; and to this, his opponents directed their chief attention. While considering what are called the seven sacraments, as possessing different measures of importance, and all as more or less disfigured by human inventions, the validity of each is still left unquestioned. The doctrine of the eucharist is treated pre
CHAP. cisely as in his Wicket, and his Confessions. In
its nature, it is verily bread, sacramentally, it
christ, a number of consecrated hosts, all ex
posed to the adoration of the people, though “ naturally, they are merely bread, and the " body of Christ, but in figure? Nor is it at “ all to the purpose to say, that they do not
worship the host, but that they reverence it for “ the sake of the body of Christ which is in it; “ for the uncreated Trinity is a nobler object « than the mere body and blood of Christ, and “ as there is no creature wherein the Trinity is “not, all creatures should for the same reason be " adored.” Baptism, he describes as removing the stain of original sin; and it is even asserted, that no man may be saved, while refusing to submit to it. Confirmation, is also viewed, as placing the soul under the immediate influences of the Holy Spirit; and ordination, as far as it was connected with the appointment of priests and deacons, is viewed as of divine origin; but the application of that rite to men, distinguished by other names, or sustaining other offices, is described as an innovation, and as of very doubtful propriety. His subsequent remarks on the sacramental services,