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THE MODERATE REFORMER.
Alsace, in 1491, and died at Cambridge in 1551. He was one of the ablest ministers of that century, and there were but few ecclesiastical negociations in which he was not employed. He wrote several books, and composed many lectures, in which he laboured with great zeal, and much dexterity, to pacify the differences between the Lutherans and Zuinglians. He wished that both parties had been less rigid ; and that great affair might have happily succeeded, if all the heads had been persons of a reconciling temper like himself.
Bucer was a man of immense learning. From his earliest youth he applied himself to acquire a thorough knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew. He read Erasmus's books with great attention. Meeting afterwards with some of Luther's treatises, and comparing the doctrine there delivered with the scripture, he began to doubt of his Romish principles. His uncommon learning and eloquence, which was assisted by a strong and musical voice, recommended him to the elector palatine, who made him one of his chaplains.
Bucer met Luther at the diet of Worms in 1521, when they passed several days in familiar conversation; after which Bucer embraced the doctrine of Luther, and openly professed it from that time. Two years after, he was admitted into the number of the reformed preachers in Strasburgh; and he subscribed a book with them, which they published in 1524, setting forth the reasons that induced them to renounce popery: But he wrote some tracts in 1527, in defence of the Zuinglians against Breneius and Pomeranus, who were Lutherans. He assisted,
in 1529, as deputy of the church of Strasburgh, in the conferences of Marpurg, where they endeavoured to pacify the dissentions between the Lutherans and the Zuinglians : But it was false, that he begun by being a Sacramentarian, for he followed Luther as the instrument of his conversion from the beginning.
The bishop of Meaux endeavours to make Bucer pass for a dissembler, and alleges the testimony of Calvin for it. " Whether Bucer had a formal design to trifle with the (world by affected equivocations, or whether any con
fused idea of reality made him believe, that he might (sincerely subscribe to expressions so evidently contrary • to the figurative sense, is left to the judgment of the
protestants. It is certain that Calvin, his friend, and « in some measure his disciple, when he would express a o blameable obsurity in a profession of faith, said, that o there was nothing so perplexed, so obscure, so ambigu
ous, so winding in Bucer himself. It was said by Justus Jonas, that there was in Zuinglius something rustic, and a little arrogant : In Oecolampadius a wonderful good nature and clemency : In Hedio, no less humanity and good nature : In Bucer, a fox-like cunning, imi.. tating prudence and sagacity. But the bishop of Meaux, would not rely on the disadvantageous judgment that this divine of Saxony made of Bucer, after the conferences of Marpurg in 1529.
All the works of Bucer were very moderate : But, it is said, by one who was an Arminian in his heart, that Calvin castrated some of them at his pleasure at Geneva. However, we are told, that · Bucer used, as often hap
pens among learned men as long as they live, to revise
his lucubrations, to add, or take away, and even to 6 retract some things.? Bucer declares this concerning himself, in his preface to his commentaries on the gospels, in these words : « This disturbs some, because they niake « no doubt but many will be offended, that I now seem “ not very consistent with myself. Because the Lord “ has given me to understand some places more fully " than I formerly did, which as it is so bountifully given " to me, why should I not impart it liberally to my « brethren, and ingeniously declare the goodness of the " Lord ? What inconsistency is there in profiting in the “ work of salvation ? And who in this age, or in the « last, has treated of the scripture, and has not experi“ enced, that, even in this study, one day is the scholar “ of another ?” Afterwards he produces the example of
Augustine in his retractions, and wishes that more books of retractions were published. If Bucer himself declares that he retracted many things of his former meditations, by what consequence, or even with what conscience, can any one assert, that the latter editions of his works are corrupted; if every thing, in some places of them, is not found expressed in the very same words ? David Paræus made a confession like this of Bucer; for which he was insulted by a jesuit of Mentz.
Luther did not admire Bucer; and yet Bucer has been ranked with Luther, Zuinglius, Calvin, and Cranmer, as one of the promoters of the Reformation, to whom the protestants are more obliged than to Erasmus, whose timidity offended the Reformers, by his obstinately, adhering to the interpretations of the church, upon whose authority he founded his faith and belief of the canonical
riptures. In a civil letter to Bucer, in 1527, Erasmus sets forth his reasons why he could not join with the reformed; and gives them a very bad character; though he declares his esteem for Bucer, who, like Erasmus, endeavoured to pacify the religious disputants, and bring things to an accommodation ; and, like Erasmus, was insulted by both parties.
Bishop Burnet says, that " Bucer was a very learned * judicious, pious, and moderate person. Perhaps, he
was inferior to none of all the Reformers for learning : • But for zeal, true piety, and a most tender care of
preserving unity among the foreign churches, Me
Iancthon and he, without any injury done to the rest, ' may be ranked apart by themselves. At Ratisbon, he « had a conference with Gardiner, who was then Ambas• sador from king Henry VIII. in which Gardiner broke « out into such a violent passion, that, as he spared no
reproachful words, so the company thought he would « have fallen on Bucer and beat him. He was in such • disorder, that the little vein between his thumb and
fore-finger did swell and palpitate, which Bucer said he
had never before that observed in any person in his life.' Even Cochlæus acknowledged, that Bucer and Melancthon were very learned men. And cardinal Contarene, on his return out of Germany from the disputation at Ratisbon, being asked his judgment of the German divines, answered ; 'I hey have, among others, Martin Bucer,
endowed with that excellency of learning both in the • ology and philosophy, and, besides, of that subtlety
and happiness in disputation, that he alone may