Reformers Before The Reformation -- By: B. Sears

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 002:6 (May 1845)
Article: Reformers Before The Reformation
Author: B. Sears

Reformers Before The Reformation

B. Sears

D. D. President of Newton Theological Institution

Brethren of the Life in Common; An account of the Origin and Progress of the Institution, and its influence upon Literature and Religion.1

Like all institutions of a solid character and of a permanent influence upon society, that of the Brethren of the Life in Common, was called into being by the wants of the age and of the country in which it originated. So helpless was the condition of multitudes of individuals in the middle ages, and so destitute of life the scholastic theology, the religion, or rather the superstitions of the church, that associations for mutual relief, and for spiritual edification among the people were certainly altogether natural, if not absolutely necessary. The communities of the Beguins, Beghards and Lollards, which were the first essays to satisfy those necessities, had originally so many defects, and had, moreover, so far degenerated in their character since their establishment, that they either went to decay of themselves, or were suppressed by authority. And yet both the physical and the moral causes which, in that age of political disorder and of ecclesiastical corruption, had awakened a desire for such fraternities, continued in their unabated strength. Nowhere did the civil disorders, and, at

the same time, the means of establishing charitable foundations, exist to a greater extent than in the north of Holland, particularly in the self-protected, but flourishing cities of Deventer, Kampen and Zwoll; and it is in these very places that we see the institutions of which we are to treat, under the generous support of wealthy Dutch merchants, spring into existence and flourish. An additional circumstance which gave these establishments importance and power, was that they supplied a third necessity of the times, which proved ultimately to be of more account than mere physical want and stood side by side in importance with the demand for the religion of the heart, I mean the necessity for a more unsophisticated and sound intellectual culture. The service done to humanity in the schools founded by this Christian fraternity is now beginning to be acknowledged by all those who are acquainted with their influence upon the learning and intelligence of the succeeding age, and upon the moral and religious condition of the people at large, preparing them for the reformation of Luther and Zuingle.

The founder of the institution of the Life in Common was Gerard Groot, a man of ardent piety, and popular eloquence, who felt a special interest in the education of the young. He was not a man of great literary...

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