One of the most important figures of the 16th century, Desiderius Erasmus was a leading reformist and Renaissance humanist. Through his works and letters. A book called in Latin Enchiridion militis Christiani, and in English The manual of the Christian knight. by Erasmus, Desiderius, d. Originally published as part of: Lucubratiunculae, Antwerp, First published separately Leipzig,
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Handbook of a Christian Knight
Erasmus of Roterdame sendeth greeting to the reverend father in Christ and lord the lord Paul Wolzius, the most religious abbot of the monastery the which is commonly called Hughes court.
Albeit, most virtuous father, that the little book, to the which I have given this name or title Enchiridion militis christiani, which many a day ago I made for myself only, and for a certain friend of mine being utterly unlearned, hath begun to mislike and displease me the less, forasmuch as I do see that it is allowed of you and other virtuous and learned men such as you be, of whom as ye are indeed endued with godly learning, and also with learned godliness I know nothing to be approved, but that which is both holy and also clerkly: But again there is another thing which oftentimes grieveth me in my mind, that a certain well learned friend of mine long ago said, very properly and sharply checking me, that there was more holiness seen in the little book than in the whole author and maker thereof.
Indeed he spake these words in his jesting bourdyngly, but would to God he had not spoken so truly as he bourded bitterly. And that grieveth me so much christixni more because the same thing hath chanced to come likewise to pass in him, for the changing of whose manners principally I took upon me this labour and travail, for he mulitis not only hath not withdrawn himself from the court, but is daily much deeper drowned therein than he was aforetime, for what good purpose I cannot tell, but as he confesseth himself with much great misery.
Trouble or adversity correcteth some. And yet for all that I do not greatly pity my friend, because that peradventure adversity of fortune may teach him once to repent himself, and to amend, seeing that he would not follow and do after my counsel and admonitions. And verily though I, enforcing me to the same thing and purpose, have been turned and tossed with so many chances and tempests, that Ulixes a man living ever in trouble which Homer speaketh of might be counted in comparison to Edition: I do not utterly repent me of my labour, seeing it hath moved and provoked so many unto the study of godly virtue: It is some part of godliness when one with all his heart enchiridikn and is willing to be made good and virtuous: To this we ought to endeavour ourselves all our life long, and no doubt but by the reason that we so oftentimes shall attempt it, once at the last we shall attain it.
Also he hath dispatched a good piece of a doubtful journey which hath learned well of the journey the way. I do not care if it be not christiai quick, so it be cristiani Let it not be profitable or helping for the disputation in divinity, so it make for a divine life.
For what good should it do to entreat of that thing Edition: Who hath not in handling questions of divinity, or what else do all our swarms of schoolmen?
There be almost as many commentaries upon the Master of the Sentence as be names of divines. There is neither measure nor number of summaries, which after the manner enfhiridion apothecaries mingle oftentimes sundry things together, and make of old things new, of new things old, of one thing many, of many things one. How can it be that these great volumes instruct us to live well and after a christian manner, which a man in all his life cannot have leisure once to look over.
In like manner as if a physician should prescribe unto him that lieth sick in peril of death to read Jacobus de partibus, or such other huge volumes, saying that there he should find remedy for his disease: In such a fugitive life it is necessary to have a ready medicine at the hand. How many volumes have they made of restitution, of confession, of slander, and other things innumerable? Moreover although it were so that they had determined all things well and truly, yet besides this that they handle and treat of these things after a barbarous and unpleasant fashion, there is not one amongst a thousand that can have any leisure to read over these volumes: And yet there is no man but he ought to use a good life, to the which Christ would that the way should be plain and open for every man, and that not by inexplicable crooks of disputations, not able to be resolved, but by a true and sincere faith and charity not feigned, whom hope doth follow which is never ashamed.
The theology appertaineth to few men, but the salvation appertaineth to all. And finally let the great doctors, which must needs be but few in comparison to all other men, study and busy themselves in those great volumes.
And yet nevertheless the unlearned and rude multitude which Christ died for ought to be provided for: The wise king, when he did teach his son true wisdom, took much more pain in exhorting him thereunto than in teaching him Those be noted that of purpose make the faculty which they profess obscure and hard.
It is a great shame and rebuke both for lawyers and physicians that they have of a set purpose, and for the nonce, made their art Edition: The war against the Turks.
Enchiridion militis Christiani,
Preparation and ordinance is made now for war to be made against the Turks, which for whatsoever purpose it is begun, we ought to pray not that it may turn to the profit of a few certain persons, but that it may be to the common and general profit of all men. What shall they imagine and think in their minds for surely even they, though they be naught else, are men and have wit and reason when they shall hear those thorny and cumbrous inextricable subtle imaginations of instances, of formalities, of quiddities, of relation: When they shall see christiain black friars fight and scold for their Thomas, and then the grey friars matched with them, defending one the other party their subtle and fervent enchiridin doctors, which they call Seraphicos, some speaking as Reals, some as Enchhiridion.
When they shall also see the christuani to be of so great difficulty that they can never discuss sufficiently with what words they may speak of Christ: I beseech thee for the love of God shew me what shall we bring about with all these reckonings, specially if our manners and our life be like to the proud doctrine and learning?
The life used amongst christian people. And if they shall see and well perceive our ambition and desirousness militsi honour by our gorgeousness, more than ever any tyrant did use: With what face or how for shame shall we offer to them the doctrine of Christ which is far away contrary to all these things. With what artillery chiefly the Turks ought to be overcome.
The best way and most effectual to overcome and win the Turks, should be if they shall perceive that thing which Christ taught and expressed in his living to shine in us. This is that right true and effectuous divinity, the which in time past subdued unto Christ arrogant and proud philosophers, and also the mighty and invincible princes: The part of a christian man is to save and not to destroy.
For truly it is not meet nor convenient to declare ourselves christian men by this proof or token, if we kill very many, but rather if we save very many: If this be not our intent it shall sooner come to pass that we shall degenerate and turn into Turks ourselves, than that we shall cause them to become christian men.
And although the chance of war, which is ever encbiridion and uncertain, should fall so luckily to us that we Edition: Christ doth profess to be primate and head himself in the heavenly kingdom, which never doth flourish but when celestial things be advanced. Nor Christ did not die for this purpose that goods of the enchifidion, that riches, that armour, and the rest of ruffling fashion of the world, be now in the hands and rule of certain priests, which things were wont to be in the hands of the gentiles, or at least amongst lay princes, not much differing from gentiles.
But in my mind it were the best, before we should try with them in battle to attempt them with epistles and some little books: Not with threatening epistles, or with books full of tyranny, but with those which might shew fatherly charity, and resemble the very heart and mind milihis Peter and of Paul, and which should not chrostiani pretend and shew outwardly the title of the apostles, but which also should savour and taste of the efficacy and strength of Edition: The difficulty of holy scripture.
Those things which concern faith or belief, let them be contained in a few articles. Those also that appertain to the manner of living let them be shewed and taught in few words, and that after such fashion that they may perceive the yoke of Christ to be pleasant and easy, and not grievous and painful: Undoubted they also be men The Turks be men. And the most effectuous thing is the true verity of Christ.
But let the Pope also command them whom he appointeth to this business, that they never swerve nor go from the true pattern and example of Christ, nor in any place have any respect to the carnal affections and desires of men.
And enchirivion a thing my mind was about to bring to pass as well as I could, when I made this book of Enchiridion. The corruptness of the world.
Handbook of a Christian Knight | work by Erasmus |
I did see the common people of Christendom, not only in effect, but also in opinions to be corrupted. I considered the most part of those which profess themselves to be pastors and doctors to abuse the titles of Christ to their proper advantage. And yet will I make no mention of those chrietiani after whose will and pleasure the world is ruled and turned up and down, whose vices though they be never so manifest, a man may scarcely once wince.
Who being a good man in deed, doth not see and lament this marvellous corrupt world?
When was there ever more tyranny? When did avarice reign more largely and less punished? When were ceremonies at any time more in estimation?
The Manual of a Christian Knight – Online Library of Liberty
When enchirifion our iniquity so largely flow with more liberty? When was ever charity so cold? What is brought, what is read, what is decreed or Edition: Oh how unfortunate were we if Christ had not left some sparks of his doctrine unto us, and as it were lively and everlasting veins of his godly mind.
In things confused we must have recourse to the Evangels. We delve and dig the ground marvellously deep for to pluck out riches, which nourisheth vice: There was never no storm of vices that did so overcome and quench the heat of charity, but it might be restored again at this flint stone. Christ is a stone, but this stone hath sparks of celestial fire, and veins of lively water. In time past Abraham in every land did dig pits and holes, fetching in every place the veins of lively water: But then the Philistyans did scold and chide, yet he did not cease from digging.
The Phylistyans of our time. And if now any Isaac or any of his family should dig and find some true and pure vein, by and by they brable and cry against him, perceiving right well that that vein should hurt their advantage, should hurt their ambition, although it make never so much for the glory of Christ: They will not that those that thirst and desire righteousness do drink of the pure liquor, but they bring them unto their old worn and all too trodden cisterns, which have broken stones and mortar, but water they have none.
But yet for all this the very true children of Isaac that be the true worshippers of Christ, must not be wearied and driven away from this labour: And these they do so much more perilously because they cloke their covetousness with the titles and names of great princes, of the Pope of Rome, yea of Christ also Himself.
There is no man that doth more good to princes or deserveth more of them, than he which endeavoureth himself that the people may be wealthy and in prosperity. But some of the flock of schoolmen will here speak against me, saying it is easy to any man to give general precepts what is to be desired and what is to be eschewed: First I answer that there be more divers kinds of such worldly business than that any living person can give direct and sure answer to each one of them.
A man can make no certain answer to everything.
Secondarily there is such diversity of circumstances, which if a man do not know, it is not well possible to make an answer. In conclusion, I doubt greatly whether they themselves emchiridion any sure answer that they may make, seeing they differ in so many things amongst themselves. And those also which amongst them be more wise than other do not thus answer: This ye shall do, this ye shall not do; but of this manner: The light of faith.
But if we christixni that simple and bright eye which the gospel speaketh of, if the house of our mind have in it the candle of pure faith set upon a candlestick, all these trifles shall easily be put away and avoided as it were clouds or mists.
But what will ye do when this rule doth not agree with those things which hath been commonly used so many hundred years, and which be ordained and stablished by the laws of princes, for this thing chanceth very oft?
Christ is the centre. Let Christ continue and abide, as he is indeed, a very centre or middle point unmoved, having certain circles going round about him: The first of men of the Church. Those which be in the first circle next to the centre that is to say next to Christ as priests, bishops, cardinals, popes, and such to whom it belongeth to follow the Lamb whithersoever miliris shall go, let them embrace and hold fast that most pure part, and so far forth as they may let them communicate christianl plenteously give the same unto their next neighbours.
The second of princes. In chriwtiani second circle all temporal and lay princes be, which in keeping war and miljtis laws, after a certain manner do service Edition: And yet because they cannot choose but of enchirridion be occupied and busied in such things as be joined with the most vile dregs and filth of the earth, and with the business of the world, it is jeopardous lest they do fall further from the centre and mark, as lest they should make sometimes war for their own pleasure, and not for the commonwealth: And enchiridionn as Christ like the fountain of everlasting fire, doth draw next unto him the order of priests The office of sacerdotes.
And if it fortune at any time that war do rise suddenly in any place, let the bishops endeavour themselves so much as in them is, either to end the strifes and variances without shedding of blood: