« AnteriorContinuar »
IN contemplating the lives and
characters of the Reformers, there are few if any individuals to whom the mind reverts with greater satisfaction than the subject of the present Memoir. We may, indeed,
hesitate to concur with Mr. Boswell in pronouncing him the worthiest of all the Reformers, and may seriously disapprove of the particular instance in which his mildness is by that gentleman commended, the advising his aged mother to continue in the old religion; but we must ever maintain, that the cause of the Reformation was most deeply indebted to the piety, learning, and peaceable disposition of Philip Melancthon.
This great and good man was born at Bretten, in the Lower Palatinate, on the sixteenth of February, 1497*. His father, George Swartzard †, was a native of Heidelberg, who settled at Bretten after his marriage with Barbara, the amiable daughter of John Reuter (several years mayor of that small but respectable town), and who became the mother of the subject of our Memoir. This gentleman bore a character for integrity, prudence, and fidelity, and is de
* Camerarius, vit. Melancth., not. ap. Stobelium.
+ Græcè, Melancthon; Anglicè, Blackland.
scribed as a man of piety and grave manners. He had a remarkable
turn for the invention of warlike in
struments, which attracted the notice of Maximilian, son of the Emperor Frederick III. and other august personages, as the palatines Philip and Rupert, to whom he was Engineer of Artillery. He died on the 27th of October, 1508, in consequence of having drunk water from a poisoned well in time of war. Two days before his decease he called Philip to his bedside, and blessing him, said," I have seen many changes, but there will yet be greater, in which I pray God to keep thee safe. And, Ŏ my son, I charge thee, fear thy God, and lead a virtuous life?" The sorrowing child was then removed to Spires, about eighteen miles distant, that he might not witness the last agonies of his revered parent.
Losing his maternal grandfather about the same time, and having attained the rudiments of learning, with his younger brother George, at the school in their native town,
allusive of his name and office, viz. Sable, * Maximilian granted him coat-armour a Lion sejant, crowned or, holding in dexter foot a mallet, and in sinister a forceps. Philip preferred using for his device, a Serpent banging on a cross; on which Gretser, the Jesuit, made an ill-natured epigram; intimating, that it suited him well; for he was a viper by nature, and deserved to be crucified.
he was sent to the academy of Pfortsheim, where he lodged at the house of a relation, who was sister to the famous Reuchlin. His tutor in Latin was John Hungarus, an excellent grammarian, who became afterwards a zealous preacher." He used to make me construe," says Melancthon, "from twenty to thirty lines of Virgil, without allowing any omission; and as often as I blundered he moderately chastised me. To him I owe my acquaintance with grammar. He was a worthy man, and loved me as a child, while I loved him as a father, and I hope we shall both soon meet in heaven*." The writer of this testimony was a docile lad, who generally excelled his seniors in their little grammatical contests. He had a slight hesitation in his speech, probably from timidity, as in after-life it was scarcely if at all perceptible. His Greek preceptor was George Simler, who was subsequently a distinguished lawyer at Tubingen. Reuchlin came occasionally to visit his sister, and was so much pleased with her young inmate, that he gave him an enlarged Greek grammar, and a Greek and Latin lexicon, jocosely dubbing him doctor, and putting on him his own cap, with which the boy was not a little flattered. It appears, that he wrote a comedy at the early age of thirteen, which his schoolfellows acted in the presence of Reuchlin, to whom it was dedicated.
refused a Master's degree in the following year on account of his youth, and thinking moreover that the air of the place did not agree with his delicate constitution, he became a member of the scholastic body of Tubingen, in September, 1512. Here he diligently studied mathematics, jurisprudence, logic, medicine, and theology; cultivated the intimacy of the first scholars; was created Doctor in Philosophy, or Master of Arts, before he was seventeen; and became a public lecturer. It was at this period that Erasmus spoke of him in such an exalted manner : "What hopes may we not conceive of Philip Melancthon, though as yet very young, and almost a boy, but equally to be admired for his proficiency in both languages! What quickness of invention? What purity of diction! What extent of memory! What variety of reading! What modesty and gracefulness of behaviour!" At this early period, Melancthon discovered at once erudition and benignity, in joining with some other scholars to defend Reuchlin against the Cologne divines. These ignorant and bigoted characters obtained an edict from the Emperor to burn all Hebrew works, except the Bible, as heretical; but on the earnest supplication of the Jews, that its execution might be stayed till the books had been examined, Reuchlin was nominated by the Elector of Mentz to make the necessary report. This distinguished scholar, knowing how much the interests of learning were concerned, performed his task with fidelity, and recommended the preservation of all the writings which were not expressly antichristian. The divines immediately calumniated him with the grossest invective; but Melancthon aided him with his counsel, and succeeded in rescuing him from the impending vengeance of the Roman see.
The office of advocate, always pleasant, is doubly so when exer