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schoolmen, or fanatical friars, were revolting to the good sense of mankind, and therefore it is not matter for surprise, that when Gregory's contemporary, the illustrious Wickliffe, once more introduced to men in superior life the Eucharistic belief of their ancestors", the calumniated priest should have been credited by many competent judges in preference to the tri-crowned pontiff.
The tremendous powers of persecution with which the ruling ecclesiastics contrived to arm themselves after Wickliffe's death, soon banished his opinions from those classes where much of worldly goods may be lost or gained. Nor, as at that period the supply of books was comparatively scanty, were men, divided by a few generations from the contemporaries of our celebrated early Reformer, easily enabled to judge as to the real state of religious opinion at the time of his appearance. The traditional knowledge of man is confined within very narrow limits, and unless he possesses ample means of consulting written documents, he cannot hope for any thing more than a vague idea of that which occurred even a century before his own time. Hence it happened, that at the beginning of the Reformation so few men of learning possessed any acquaintance with the real history of transubstantiation. The century which preceded them was one of fierce per
• “ Johannem Wycliff hæresiarcham magnum qui multas hæreses antiquas resuscitavit in Anglia tempore suo." Lindwood, 205.
secution against all who denied that doctrine; and as the materials for understanding the ecclesiastical history of the middle ages were mouldering in oblivion, the frightful cruelties of the fifteenth century effected their intended object. Scholars examined not the progress of those doctrines which they were called upon to believe. They heard with implicit faith that the church of Rome then professed no other tenets than those which she had entertained from the first. If, therefore, a denial of the carnal presence became the subject of attention, it was not doubted that this was a heresy broached by Berenger and revived by Wickliffe. No scholar, probably, suspected, that something like transubstantiation first attracted notice in the ninth century, and was immediately opposed by divines of the highest reputation; that the Roman Church did not venture to commit as herself to this doctrine until the eleventh century; that she did not embody it in her formularies until the thirteenth ; that it was warmly opposed during that and the following age; that it was at length established in superior life by dint of sanguinary persecutions; and that its authority was wholly derived from lying wonders, the interested assertions of popes, and the equivocating sophisms of schoolmen. In consequence of their reliance upon Luther's authority, English divines of eminence attached to the Reformation were particularly late in acquiring a knowledge of these facts. From Saxony were communicated very imperfect materials for forming a correct
judgment upon transubstantiation, and from the same quarter was inculcated a violent prejudice against the labours of the Swiss divines upon this subject. Hence the writings of these polemics were announced in vain to the majority of the English Reformers; who were anxious to shun the perusal of works, rashly pronounced alike unsound in their principles, and injurious to the cause of scriptural Christianity. At length, however, Ratramn's treatise * found its way into England,
Before this treatise is dismissed from notice it may be desirable to mention a mode of evading its testimony adopted by some of the more cautious Romanists. “ Cardinal Perron tells us, that the adversaries whom Ratramnus encounters, were the Stercoranists, a sort of heretics that rose up in the ninth century, and Mauguin followeth him, with divers others. They are said to believe that Christ's body is corruptible, passible, and subject to digestion and the draught, and that the accidents were hypostatically united to Christ's body. But we read of no such errors censured by any council in that age, we do not find any person of that time branding any body with that infamous hard name. The persons whom some late writers have accused as authors of that heresy, viz. Rabanus, Archbishop of Mentz, and Heribaldus, Bishop of Auxerre, lived and died with the repute of learned, orthodox, and holy men, and are not accused by any of their own time of those foul doctrines. The first I can learn of the name is, that Humbertus, Bishop of Silva Candida, calls Nicetas, Stercoranist. And Algerus likewise calls the Greeks so, for holding that the Sacrament broke an ecclesiastical fast: which is nothing to the Gallican Church in the ninth century.” (Introd. to the Book of Bertram, 97.) Both Humbert and Alger were among Berenger's opponents in the 11th century. Accordingly “F. Mabillon waives this pretence of the Stercoranists, and makes Bertram to have, through mistake, opposed an error he thought Haymo guilty of, viz, that the consecrated bread and cup are not
and few candid readers could arise from a perusal of it, without doubting the assertions of both Ro
signs of Christ's body and blood.” (Ibid. 99.) Ratramn, however, was not a man to write a book under a palpable mistake, and besides, let his opponents have been whom they may, what he has written is plainly at variance with transubstantiation; which is all that English Protestants have to do with it. Hence Turrian observes, to ate Bertram, what is it else but to say that Calvin's heresy is not new ?" (Bp. Jer. Taylor's Real Pres. 266.) The candid Du Pin vindicates the genuineness of Ratramn, and gives some account of the Eucharistic controversy which agitated liis time. He then mentions the Stercoranists as known in the ninth century, but cites no authority. Afterwards he says, “Ratramne soutient que le corps invisible de Jesus Christ ne peut être sujet à la condition des autres alimens ; mais il croit que les especes y sont sujettes. Amalarius propose la question, mais ne la decide pas, et laisse à penser si le corps de Jesus Christ est enlevé dans le ciel, ou reservé dans notre corps jusqu'au jour de la sepulture, ou exhalé en l'air, s'il sort du corps avec le sang, ou par les pores ; enfin s'il est sujet aux accidens des autres alimens. Raban decide affirmativement que les especes de l’Eucharistie sont sujettes à la condition des autres alimens. Mais d'autres auteurs se sont imaginés que cela n'etait pas convenable à la dignité du mystere, et qu'il étoit plus raisonnable de penser, ou que les especes etoit aneanties, ou qu'elles etoient conservées à perpetuité, ou qu'elles se changeoient en sang et en chair, et non en humeurs ou en excremens. C'est le sentiment de l'anonyme cité par Eriger, et Eriger le soutient comme un dogme certain. Guitmond et Alger poussent encore la chose plus loin, et pretendent que les especes de l'Eucharistie ne sont jamais ni pourries, ni alterées, quoiqu'elles le paroissent; qu'en cas que des rats les rongeassent, ou qu'un homme voulut s'en nourir, elles sont enlevées miraculeusement, et que du pain non consacré est mis en leur place. Sur ce fondement, Alger fait un procés aux Grecs, et les accuse d'être Stercoranistes, comme avoit fait Humbert à Nicetas Pectoratus, parce qu'ils croient que le jeûne etoit
manists and Lutherans as to the antiquity of a belief in the corporal presence.
The first Englishman of eminence thus affected by Ratramn's piece was Dr. Nicholas Ridley. In 1544, appeared the last, and perhaps the most violent attack made by Luther upon the Swiss Reformers'. In the following year these injured Christians replied to their Saxon assailant in a full statement of his opinions, and of their own. During a great part of that year, Ridley lived retired upon his vicarage of Herne, in Kent", engaged no doubt, according to his usual habit, in theological research. It is known, that he then became acquainted with Ratramn, and it appears probable, that he was induced to study that author in consequence of perusing the controversy then raging between Switzerland and Saxony. He now became convinced that those who believe that transubstantiation has ever been maintained by the Catholic Church, proceed upon an assump
rompu par la communion ; cependant Nicetas et les autres Grecs ne fondoient point leur usage sur cette raison ; mais sur ce que recevoir l'Eucharistie etant une action de solemnité et de joie, il ne faut pas la recevoir pendant la tristesse et le jeûne. Humbert n'imputoit pas cette erreur à Nicetas que par consequence, et l'on ne voit point qu'il y ait eu depuis de dispute là dessus entre les Grecs et les Latins.” (Du Pin, III. 53.) Thus, after asserting that the Stercoranists were known in the ninth century, but not mentioning to whom, the historian slips insensibly, as it were, into the eleventh century, and there he finds two of Berenger's opponents using this term in some controversy with the Greeks.
Lavather, 32. ? Life of Bishop Ridley, 162. VOL. III.