Kempis, Thomas A

Kempis, Thomas A

(so called from his native place, Kempen, a village in the diocese of Cologne; his family name was Haimerken [Latinized Malleolus, Little Hammer]), one of the most celebrated mystics and forerunners of the Reformation of the 16th century, was born about 1380. Thomas's parents were poor, and could ill afford the aspiring youth any superior advantages of education, but, trained by a pious mother, he had early inclined to the priesthood, and, aware of the advantages afforded young persons by the monastic brotherhood known as the Brethren of the Common Life (q.v.), he quitted his parental roof at the age of thirteen to seek further educational advantages than he had enjoyed at his home, under the instruction of the celebrated John Boehme, then at the head of a school at Deventer, superintended by the " Brethren of the Common Life." While here at school he was brought to the notice of Florentius, one of the principal disciples of Gerhard Groot and the superintendent of the brotherhood, whose protection Thomas was enjoying. Florentius, not slow to discover in Thomas abilities of a high order, embraced every opportunity to draw the pious youth closer to his side, and in 1396 finally offered him a home at his own house, the head-quarters of the brethren, to study and watch more closely the character and inclinations of the youthful stranger. Surrounded by pious comrades, among whom we meet Arnold of Schoonhoven (q.v.), with whom he shared a' little chamber and bed, Thomas was soon inclined to a life of asceticism. "Examples," says Thomas a Kempis himself, " are more instructive than words" (Vall. litior. 24:1, p. 95). Possessed of a boding mind, and animated by a piety so fervent as to presume always the best of others, such was the effect produced upon him by the brethren's whole manner of life, that the seven years he spent in the zealous exercise of piety and the prosecution of his studies at the school and brother-house of Deventer were to him seven years spent in an actual paradise. About 1400 he petitioned father Florentius for a recommendation to admit him into the convent of Mount St. Agnes, near Zwoll, of which his brother John h Kempis (q.v.) was then prior, and with a hearty welcome he entered this monastery as a novice among the regular canons. "Strangely as the mind of Thomas was bent upon his vocation, and although both nature and previous education had perfectly adapted him for it, he did not plunge into it without consideration. Deliberate even in his youthful zeal, he spent five years of novitiate, assumed the monastic dress in the sixth, and did not until the year following take the vow, which he then, however, kept with inviolable fidelity" (Ullmann, ut infra, ii, 124). It was not until about 1413 that he was ordained to the priesthood. Before this ordination he had buried himself, like all worthy disciples of the brotherhood, in the copying of MSS. and in the performance of religious exercises. Now that he was a priest, his chief occupation became the delivery of religious discourses and the duties of the confessional. He continued, however, copying religious MSS. Thomas a Kempis, indeed, applied himself with vigor to this labor, to which he brought a quick eye and a skilful hand. He copied out the whole Bible, a missal, and a multitude of other works, which the monastery of St. Agnes preserved; but, in performing this office, he also practiced the advice of one of the ancients, who, in writing out books, did not only seek by the labor of his hands to gain food for his body, but also to refresh his soul with heavenly nourishment. He was humble, meek, ready to give consolation; fervent in his exhortations and prayers; spiritual, contemplative, and his efforts in this direction finally resulted in the composition of an original treatise, which to this hour remains one of the most perfect compositions in religious literature, by many considered the most beautiful uninspired production-the Imitation of Christ (see below). In 1425 Thomas was appointed subprior, an office which intrusted to his care the spiritual progress of the brethren and the instruction of novices. A difficulty having occurred between the pope on the one side, and the chapter and nobility of Utrecht on the other, about the election of Rudolph of Diephold as archbishop, the diocese was put under interdict, and the canons left Mount St. Agnes in 1429 to retire to Lunekerke, in Friesland, but returned in 1432, when Thomas became procurator of the convent. But, as the duties of this office appeared to abstract him too much from meditation and his more profitable labors as an author, he was, about 1449, reponed in the subpriorate, and continued in this office until his death, July 26, 1471. "From the nature of the case, we have little to say of Thomas's cloisteral life. Without any considerable disturbance, it flowed on like a limpid brook, reflecting on its calm surface the unclouded heavens. Quiet industry, lonely contemplation, and secret prayer filled up the day, and every day was like another." Among his contemporaries Thomas was eminently distinguished for sanctity and ascetic learning.

Works. — The reputation of a Kempis, however, rests not upon his ascetic character, but rather on the productions of his pen — his sermons, ascetical treatises, pious biographies, letters, and hymns-and from these only one need be selected to claim for him the mastery as a religious writer-his De Imitatione Christi — standing, as no one doubts, and as even its effects have demonstrated it to do, in point of excellence far above all the rest, the purest and most finished production of Thomas;" a work which, next to the sacred Scriptures only, has had the largest number of readers of which sacred literature, ancient or modern, can furnish an example. In its pages, says Milman (Latin Christianity, 6:482), " are gathered and concentred all that is elevating, passionate, profoundly pious in all the older mystics. No book, after the holy Scripture, has been so often reprinted; none translated into so many languages, ancient and modern," extending even to Greek and Hebrew, or so often retranslated. Sixty distinct versions are enumerated in French alone, and a single collection, formed at Cologne within the present century, comprised, although confessedly incomplete, no fewer than 500 distinct editions. Indeed, it may be somewhat of a surprise to some to learn that this book has had an important influence on the mind of John Wesley and on the origin of Methodism. Wesley published a translation of it, entitled The Christian's Pattern. It was one of the earliest volumes issued by the Methodist Book Concern, and is still on their catalogue. "It should be," says one of the most distinguished American Methodists, " in the hands of every Methodist." Strange, indeed, it seems that the authorship of a work so popular and so widely noted, and of comparatively recent origin, should ever have been a subject of doubt and long controversy. Shortly after the decease of' Thomas h Kempis a violent dispute arose between the Canons Regular of St. Augustine and the Benedictines, the former claiming De Inmitatione Christi as the work of Thomas a Kempis, the latter asserting it to have been the production of the celebrated John Gerson (q.v.), chancellor of the University of Paris, who died in 1429. These two persons were generally cited as its authors until the beginning of the 17th century, when the Spanish Jesuit Manriquez discovered a MS. which credited it to John Gersen, or Gesen, abbe of Verceil in the early part of the 13th century. Since that time (1604) three competitors have divided the voices of the learned-not alone individuals, but public bodies, universities, religious orders, the Congregation of the Index, the Parliament of Paris, and even the French Academy; and the assertors of these respective claims have carried into the controversy no trifling amount of polemical acrimony. So much has been written on the theme, especially by French and Netherland antiquaries, that its pamphlets and books would make up quite a little library. Among the French writers the tendency of opinion has been to give the merit of this celebrated production to John Gerson. "Kempis," argued Iessieurs Barbier and Leroy, "was an excellent copyist; his copy of the Bible-the labor of fifteen years was thought a masterpiece of calligraphic art; and so he was merely employed in transcribing the work of Gerson," basing their inference mainly on the name and date of an ancient MS. of the De Initatione preserved in the library at Valenciennes. German writers, on the other hand, have always been decidedly in favor of assigning the work to Thomas a Kempis, and since the discovery by bishop Malon of a MS. in the library at Brussels, bearing the name of Thomas a Kempis as author, the Belgians have joined the Germans. The proofs in favor of Thomas a Kempis are thuis stated by M. Ernest Gregoire (in Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Genesis 27:545 sq.).

A. The direct Testimony of his Contemporaries.

1. John Buschius, canon regular of the monastery of Windesheim (1420- 79), positively declares in his Chronicle of that convent that Thomas wrote the Imitation.' As he: knew him intimately, and had often occasion to see him, his testimony is important. They were of the same congregation, and Buschius was in the principal convent, where was held the general chapter, in which Thomas, as subprior, took part. Moreover, he resided there for fifty-one years, only one league and a half from Mount St. Agnes, where Thomas lived at the same time. It was said by some that the passage referring to Thomas was afterwards added in the chronicle; but a well- authenticated deed, drawn up in 1760, testifies that the MS. of the chronicle written by Buschius's own hand contains the passage written in the same hand, with the same ink, and in full, without erasure, insertion, or parenthesis. The same has been proved concerning a MS. copy of the Chronicle of Windesheim, written in 1477, and another written in 1478, which was sold at Cologne in 1823.

2. Hermann ofRyd,who wrote in 1454 a description of the convents belonging to the Canons Regular of Windesheim, states as positively as Buschius that Thomas, with whom he was personally acquainted, wrote the Imitation.

3. Gaspard Pforzheim, at the end of his German translation of the first three books of the Imitation, written in 1448, declares that it' was the work of Kempis.

4. The author of an anonymous biography of Kempis, written before the year 1488, counts: the Imitation among the works of Thomas. His testimony is the more valuable, as he had expressly gone to Mount St. Agnes to learn all the particulars concerning Kempis from those who had lived with him.

5. Albert of Hardenberg,. a disciple of the celebrated Wessel, who was himself a disciple of Thomas, wrote the following decisive passages: "The reputation of the excellent brother Thomas a Kempis attracted many people to him. About that time he was writing the book of the Imitation of Christ, commencing Qui sequitur me. Wessel used to say that this book first rendered him zealously. pious, and decided him to become better acquainted, and even familiar, with master Thomas, so that he actually embraced monastic life in the same convent of St. Agnes;" again: "The monks of Mount St. Agnes have shown me several writings of the very pious Thomas i Kempis, of whom they have preserved, among others, the truly estimable work of the Imitation of Jesus Christ, to which Wessel owed his taste for theology. The reading of this work had decided him, while yet quite young, to go to Zwoll to study belleslettres, and to enjoy the friendship of the pious Thomas a Kempis, who was then canon of St. Agnes. Wessel had the highest regard for him, and preferred dwelling there rather than anywhere else."

6. John Mauburne, a canon regular, who was a novice of Mount St. Agnes under Renier, which latter had lived there six years with Thomas a Kempis, quotes, in his Rosetum spiritlalium exercitiorum, printed in 1491, three passages of the Imitation, naming Kempis as its author. In his Catalogue des homnes illustres de la congregation de Windesem (Windesheim) he names three books of the Imitation, separately, as the work of Thomas.

These various testimonies are all derived from learned and trustworthy men, all of whom with the exception of one, were personally acquainted with Thomas a Kempis, or with persons who lived with him. They are, moreover, given with a simplicity which shows that they did not consider the question as one at all likely to give rise to controversy. They appear so, conclusive that it is hardly necessary to mention other writers of the 15th century who testified-to the same effect. Trithemius (De Script. Eccles. c. 707) informs us that in his. day Kempis was universally considered. as the author of the Imitation; and though after 1441 some MSS. and subsequently some editions bore' the name of John Gerson, every time the question as to the authorship arose in the 15th century it was decided in favor of Kempis. Thus Peter Schott, canon regular of Strasburg, in the preface to his edition of the works of John Gerson in 1488, says:" Some treatises are attributed to John Gerson, though well known to have been written by other parties; such, for instance, is the work De Contemptu Mundi, which is proved to have been written by a canon regular called Thomas a Kempis." The publisher of the French translation of the Imitation (Paris, 1493) expressly states that Thomas a Kempis was the author. The publisher of the Nuremberg edition, 1494, does the same. Finally, Francis of Tholen, successor of Thomas as subprior of Mount St. Agnes, gives the MS. copies of the Imitation in Thomas's own handwriting as a proof against Gerson.

B. Indirect Proofs from the various MSS. and Editions. — The oldest MS. of the Imitation we now possess is that known as Kirchheim's (in the Bourgogne Library, Brussels, as No. 15,137); it contains only the first three books. At the bottom of the first page is a note saying, "Be it remarked that this treatise is the work of a pious and learned man, master Thomas of Mount St. Agnes, and canon regular of Utrecht, called Thomas a Kempis. It was copied from the author's autograph in the diocese of Utrecht in the year 1425, in the central house of the province." Another MS. of the same period was discovered in 1852 [by. bishop Muller, of Munster], in the gymnasium of Gadesdonk, near Goch: it contains the first four books of the Imitation: the first he copied in 1425, and the last in 1427. It does not give the name of the author, but a very significant fact is that it belonged originally to the Canons Regular of .Bethlehem, near Dottingheim, in the neighborhood of Mount St. Agnes. Among the other MSS. we notice, in the first place, that belonging to the Jesuits of Anvers, which played an important part in the controversy respecting the authorship. It is now in the Bourgogne Library, Brussels, as No. 5855- 5861. It is all in Thomas's own handwriting, and, besides the first four books of the- Imitation, it contains some other treatises of Kempis. It closes with these words: "Finitus et completus Anno Domini' 1441 per manus fratris Thomae Kempensis in Monte S. Agnetis prope Zwollas." :Some have considered this as a proof that he only copied it, for he used the same formula concerning the. copies of the missal aild Bible which he wrote in 1417 and 1438; but ῥit has been ascertained that he used it also in all copies of his own original works. The Bourgogne Library, Brussels, preserves as No. 4585-4587 a MS. of Thomas ia Kempis containing a collection of his essays, and which ends as follows: "Anno 1446 finitus et scriptus per manus fratris Thomae Campensis," without otherwise naming Thomas as. the author. This formula, therefore, proves nothing either for or against the claims of Kempis. But it is worthy of notice that the authorship of the ascetic treatises contained in the Anvers MS. after the four books of the Imitation has always been unanimously ascribed to Kempis, and he would certainly not have put at the head of them the work of another which he had merely copied, or he would be open to the charge of deception. There are other MSS., dated 1441,1442,144.5, 1447, and 1451, as also seven between 1463 and 1488, which name Kempis as the author of the Imitation. Among the many MSS. of the 15th century which bear no precise date, but testify to this authorship, we shall mention only that of Dalhem, copied by a priest who said a mass for Kempis two months after the latter's death, and that of the canons of St. Martin of Louvain, which they received in 1570 from the last remaining members of the congregation of Mount St. Agnes., It is in Kempis's own handwriting, and contains the first draft of the fourth book of the Imitation the first he prepared in composing the work. Among the many editions of the

Imitation published in the 15th century, twenty-three at least consider Kempis as the author; and among these we find the oldest of all, published by Zainer (Augsb. 1468-1472).

C. Proofs drawn from the Doctrines held and the Expressions used in the Imitation. — The principles advanced in the Imitation are in perfect accordance with those held by the founders of the congregation of the Brethren of the Common Life, Gerhard Groot, Florentius Radewins, and John van Heusden. It may even be considered only as a commentary or exposition of their doctrines. In judging it thus, criticism, however, does not detract from. the value of this masterpiece of the second half of the fourteenth century. Buschius said of its author, "Verus his novissimis temporibus hujus nostrae terrae apostolus, primus hujus. nostrae reformationis et totius modernae devotionis origo." The word devotio came to be used to designate the kind of piety Groot sought to develop among his disciples, and the latter took the name of devoti. Now, in the Imitation we find some ten passages where the expression devotus is used to designate a particular class of persons, who applied themselves zealously and ceaselessly to the practice of religious exercises, and to which the. author himself belonged. Some eleven other passages, and a whole chapter even, show, moreover, that the book was written for a religious community of which the author was also a member, a fact quite incompatible with the opinion which considers Gerson as the author. We can quote here only three of the most conclusive passages:." Saepe sentimus, ut meliores et puriores in initio conversionis nos fuisse inveniamus, quam post multos annos professionis" (lib. i, ch. 11). '"O quantus fervor omnium religiosorum in principiis suae sancte institutionis!... temporis et negligentiae status nostri, quod tam cito declinamus a pristino fervore" (lib. i, ch. 18). "Suscepi, suscepi de manu tua crucem; portabo et portabo: earn usque ad mortem, sicut imposuisti mihi. Vere vita boni monachi crux est; sed dux paradisi. Eia fratres, pergamus simul; Jesus erit nobiscum. Propter Jesum suscepimus hanc crucem; propter Jesum perseveremus in cruce" (lib. iii,.ch. 56). Another and strong proof in favor of Kempis is the fact that the principles advanced in those of his treatises the authorship of which has not been contested are precisely the same as are advocated in the Imitation. More than twenty chapters in these various treatises have almost the identical headings of some of the Imitation. Some have accounted for this on the ground of his familiarity with De Imitatione by copying; but this theory falls to the ground when we consider that in all his other treatises, more than forty in number, he nowhere refers to or quotes the Imitation, which. he would not have failed to do if it were the production of some .other writer. Next to the general resemblance of these productions with regard to their tenor and tone, we must notice their similarity of style. The Imitation consists wholly of a series of separate maxims, pious reflections, advice, axioms, without any special connection of the several parts. 'A number of MS. copies bore the title Liber sententiarum de Imitatione Christi, or Admonitiones ad spiritualia trahentes. But this is exactly Thomas a Kempis's style. The writer's own description of his manner of writing is evidently that of the author of the Imitation: "Vario.etiam sermonum genere, nunc loquens, nunc disputans, nunc orans, nunc colloquens,.nulc in propriapersona, nunc in peregrina, placido stylo textum praesentem circum flexi" (Prolog. Solilouiti Anirma). Some object to Kempis on the ground that he was a mere copyist, who spent his life peaceably in a convent, and could not have known so intimately and accurately the yearnings, the sublime outbursts of the human heart which fill every page of the Imitation. We must remark, however, that the Canons Regular were not mere copyists, as the word is understood in our time, but rather intelligent publishers of the works they copied, and often men of great learning. They compared and corrected the works which came out of their hands by the aid of the best authorities, and, according to Thomas, their principal occupations were orare, meditare, studere, scribere. Thomas, as we have seen, was especially intrusted with the instruction of the novices, and, it seems, preached on all special occasions, drawing large crowds by his eloquence. He who seriously studies his own heart, moreover, does not need to go abroad in the world to become thoroughly acquainted with human nature, with its varied struggles, emotions, and yearnings. "I have,". says Kempis himself, "everywhere sought rest, and found it only in .solitude and among books" (De Imitat. Christi, i, 22, 6; 23, 1 sq.; 3:54, 1-8). "The Imitation," says a writer in the Revue Chretienne (Feb. 1861) " is a great and good book.. One breathes in it the most perfect love of God. The author, whoever he may be, has sounded the depths of this abyss of love, and the abyss attracts instead of frightening him. In this faith resting on God one feels a passionate casting aside of the 'things of this world, and a fervent yearning for the realities of a future life." Another great reason for assigning the work directly to German ground, and therefore also to Kempis, are the many Germanisms occurring in the Imitation. We shall mention only five, but these are sufficient to show that the writer was thoroughly conversant with German idioms:

Cadere super, in the sense of caring for a thing; jacere in, for to depend on; gravitas, for difficulty; leviter, for easily; and, finally, scire exterius, for to know by heart. This last is a literal translation of the German idiom (unintelligible in any other), and should have been memoriter scire. Some have, on the other hand, pointed to several Gallicisms in the Imitation, but the University of Paris was at that time the .centre of theological knowledge; and it is no wonder if some French idioms became current expressions in the schools, while this could not be the case with German. SEE GERSON.

The other works of Thomas a Kempis, which are all of an ascetic character with the exception of two, have been collected in several editions, none of which, however; is quite complete. Among the most important editions are those of Ketelaer, published at Utrecht a few years after Kempis's death; of Paris (1493. 1520, 1521, 1523, 1549), Nuremberg (1494),Venice (1535, 1568, 1576), Antwerp (1574). That published at the same place in 1600 by the Jesuit Sommalius is considered the best, though it is not complete; it was reprinted at Antwerp (in 1607 and 1615), at Douay (1635), Cologne (1660, 1728, 1754), etc. A German translation of Kempis's complete works was published by Silbert (Vienna, 1834, 4 vols. 8vo). One of the latest editions was prepared by Krans, Opera Omnia (Treves,.1868, 16mo), but the most remarkable modern edition is a Heptaglot, printed at Sulzbach (1837), containing, besides the original, later versions in Italian, Spanish, French, German, English, and Greek. As for the De Imitatione, it has continued in print to the present time in nearly all the languages of the civilized world.

Doctrines. — Supposing, then, that Thomas a Kempis, of whose life 'and principal work we have just treated, actually flourished in the 14th century, it remains to be seen in how far his doctrinal views entitle him to prominence in the Christian Church, and to a place among the forerunners of the great Reformation. " It is true .that with him (Kempis), in common with all eminent men, a few governing thoughts constitute the kernel of his intellectual being... but then... what we find in him is practical wisdom . .. sustained by a determinate general tendency of life and spirit." It must be confessed, also, that Thomas's whole theory of Christian .life and faith, in so far as we see it developed in his writings, cannot be properly called original, for "he draws continually from the great traditionary stream." "But," says Ullmann (ii, 132),' "even though the material be not to any great extent original, it yet acquires through the individuality of Thomas, compacting it into a beautiful unity, a new soul, something peculiarly lovely, amiable, and fresh, a tone of truth, a cheerfulness, and gentle warmth of heart, by virtue of which it produces quite a peculiar effect." For a decided inclination to asceticism we always look in characters of the age to which Thomas a Kempis belonged; we do not, therefore, make room here for a delineation of this part of his character, but will treat hastily only his peculiar views on fellowship with God. " Where," asks he, "can man find that which is truly good, and which enduringly satisfies? Not in the multitude of things which distract, but in the One which collects and unites. For the one does not proceed out of the many, but the many out of the one. That one is the one thing needful, the chief good, and nothing better and higher either exists or can even be conceived. ... Compared with him the creature is nothing. and only be-: comes anything when in fellowship with him. Whatever is not God is nothing, and should be counted as nothing" (De Imit. Christi, 3:32, 1). Here we find Thomas agreeing in words with Eckart of the Brethren of the Free Spirit. Both say God is all and man nothing. But with what difference. of meaning! Eckart understands the proposition metaphysically; Thomas understands it morally. "According to Eckart, man only requires to bear in mind his true and eternal nature in order to be himself God; according to Thomas, God, as himself the most perfect person, in the exercise of free grace, and from fulness of the blessings that reside in him, is pleased to impart personality to men in order that, although,. morally considered, they are themselves nothing, they may through him, and in voluntary fellowship with him, attain to true existence and eternal life. To enter into fellowship with God, the chief good and fountain of blessedness, and to become one with him, is the basis of all true contentment. But how can two such parties, God and man, the Creator and the creature, be brought together ? God is in heaven and man on earth; God is perfect, and man sensual, vain, and sinful. There must, therefore, be mediation-some way in which God comes to man, and man to God, and both unite. This union of man with God depends upon a twofold condition, one negative and the other positive. The negative is that man shall wholly renounce what can give him no true peace. He must forsake the world, which offers to him such hardship and distress, and whose very pleasures turn into pains; he must detach himself from the creatures, for nothing defiles and entangles the heart so much as impure love of them; and only when a man has advanced so far as no longer to seek consolation from any creature does he enjoy God, and find consolation in him; he must, in fine, deny himself, and wholly renounce be dead to selfishness and self-love, for whoever loves himself will find, wherever he seeks, only his own little, mean, sinful self, without being able to find God. This last is the hardest of all tasks, and can only be attained by deep and earnest self-acquaintance. But whosoever strictly exercises self- examination will infallibly come to recognise himself in his meanness, littleness, and nonentity, and will be led to the most perfect humility, entire contrition, and ardent longing after God. For only when man has become little and nothing in his own eyes can God become great to him; only when he has emptied himself of all created things can God replenish him with his grace.... Having condensed his whole doctrine into the short rule, 'Part with all, and then find all,' he immediately subjoins, 'Lord, this is not the work of a day, nor a game for children. These few words include all perfection.' Here, accordingly, an efficacy must intervene which is superior to human strength. This efficacy is divine love imparting itself to man, and becoming the mediatrix between God and him, between heaven and earth. Love brings together the holy God who dwells in heaven and the sinful creature upon earth, uniting that which is most humble with that which is most exalted. It is the truth that makes man free, but the highest truth is love. Divine love, imparting and manifesting itself to man, is grace. God sheds forth his love into the heart of man, who thereby acquires liberty, peace, and ability for all good things; and, made partaker of this love, man reckons as worthless all that is less than God, loving God only, and loving himself no more, or, if at all, only for God's sakeHe who has true and perfect love does not seek himself in anything, but only desires that God may be glorified. He cares not to have joy in himself, but refers all to God, from whom, as their source, all blessings flow, and in whom, as their final end, all saints find a blissful repose'" (Ullmann, ii, 140 sq.).

Naturally enough, Thomas a Kempis shares the notion of his day of almost the whole mediaeval period in reckoning monachism the highest stage of the Christian life, and the monk the perfect Christian. But this is due, first of all, to the high ideal which Thomas had of monachism, and of which he was himself no mean example. Asceticism, therefore, characterizes all he writes. Indeed, even a taint of the Pelagianism of the medieval theology fastens also upon him, and is especially manifest in those of his writings which are devoted to the delineation and recommendation of the monastic life, where the notion of merit plays a not unimportant part, and the centre of Thomas's whole religious system constitutes, not justification by faith, but reconciliation by love. It is even true that "Thomas was a strict Catholic, and directly impugned nothing which had received the sanction of the Church," and that "he practiced with great zeal the whole divine worship as it then obtained, and which, as such, appeared to him just what it ought to be. He insists with particular urgency upon what is so characteristically Romish, prayers for the dead offered through the medium of the mass, especially the adoration of the saints, among whom he chiefly worships the patron saints of his own monastery, and, most of all, the service of Mary, to whom he ascribes so important a share, in the divine government of the world as to say of her, ' How could a world which is so full of sin endure unless Mary, with the saints in heaven, were daily praying for it ?' (De Discip. Claustr. cap. xiv ;: comp. Sermon. ad Novit. 3:4, p.,$4; and see also Trithemius, )e Script. eccl. c. 707, p. 164; Specul. Exemplar. Dist. 10:§ 7). He no less acknowledges the existing hierarchy and ecclesiastical constitution in their whole extent, together with the priesthood in its function of mediating between God and man;" but, if he does not attack, neither does he defend or establish any, while, in many respects, he may be said, by his negative position, to have not only actually destroyed the influence of the Church, but really to have paved the way for reform. However true it be that " Thomas is not intentionally a reformer... he nevertheless is a reformer, for he desired the selfsame objects as Luther;" for the former, like the latter, everywhere insists upon the Christian principles of spirituality and freedom which formed the very basis of the Lutheran Reformation. In the 12th century mysticism was the defender of the Church, but not so the practical mysticism of the 15th century, as exhibited by the Brethren of the Common Life, and especially by Thomas. By this time the tables had turned completely. The position once occupied by scholasticism was now assumed, in a measure, by mysticism, and it became, though perhaps only covertly and unintentionally, the opponent of the Church; it founded or gave life to the institutions which sent forth the most influential precursors-the very leaders of the great German reform-and in many other respects "directly or indirectly exercised a positive influence upon the Reformation." For did not the Brethren of the Common Life labor in many new ways to prepare the way for the great reforms of the 16th century? Who but they afforded religious instruction to the people in their mother tongue, and sought their improvement by every means-educated the young, and circulated the Bible? "And, inasmuch as a Kempis also belongs to that side, inasmuch as he is manifestly antischolastical, gives prominence to the religious and moral import of the dogma, and applies it almost exclusively to the use of the mystical and ascetical life, we must, from a regard for his edifying character, ascribe to him a real, although an indirect influence on the dissolution of the creed" (Ullmann, ii, 158).

See Brewer, Thomas a Kempis Biographia; Ullmann, Reformers before the Reformation, ii, 114 sq.; Bahring, Thomas a Kempis nach seinem ausseren u. imneren Leben dargestellt (Berlin, 1854, 8vo); Mooren, Nachrichten ii. Thomas a Kenmpis (Crefeld, 1855, 12mo); Rosweyde, Vindicice Kempenses; J. Fronteau, Kempis Vindicatus!; Heser, Dioptra Kempensis; Th. Carre, Thomne a Kempis a seipso restitutus; Eus. Amort, Plena Informatio de statu. controversice quae de auctore libelli de Imitatione Christi agitatur, etc.; Delprat, Verhandeling over het Brooderschap van G. Groot (Leyden, 1856); Scholz, Dissertatio qua Thomae a Kempis sententia de re Christiana exponitur, etc. (Groning. 1839); Malou, Recherches historiques et critiques sur le veritable auteur du livre de l'Imitation de Jesus Christ (Louvain, 1849)-the most recent and best account of the details of the discussion on the authorship of the Imitation; Herzog, Real-Encyklopadie; Schrockh, Kirchengesch. 34:302; Erhard, Gesch. des Wiederaufbliihens, i, 263; Gieseler, Kirchengesch. ii, 4, p. 347; Hodgson (William), Reformers before the Reformation (Philada. 1867, 12mo), chap. x; Kuhn, in the Rev. Chret. Aug. 1857; Contemp. Rev. Sept. 1866; Meth. Quart. Rev. Oct. 1856, p. 642; Am. Presb. Review, Jan. 1863, p. 164; Jahrb. deutsch. Theol. 10:1. (J. H. W.)

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Verse reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.