Thomas Cartwright Contra Lent

RHEMI. [ 1. Desert.] As John the Baptist, so our Saviour by going into the desert and there living in contemplation even among brute beasts, and subject to the assaults of the Devil for our sins, gives a warrant and example to such holy men as have lived in wilderness for penance and contemplation, called Eremites.

CARTW. 1. [1. Desert] We have learned that every action of Christ is our instruction, but that every action of his is our imitation (which must be proved to maintain this conclusion) is a strange voice which our ears were never acquainted with: the untruth whereof (as in many other cases) is manifest in this. And first of all, in the working cause, which was the holy Ghost, that led him into the Desert; whereby his immediate and extraordinary sending into the wilderness is signified by the power of his own Spirit rapt in the body to the Desert. And as his calling was this way extraordinary: so the means to prove this extraordinary calling was suitable. For it appears as Elias was often time, and Philip once taken up by the Angel of the Lord, or otherwise taken up, and miraculously transported: so also was our Saviour Christ. This is first noted in the composition of the word, which signifying either to bring again, or else to carry up: the former signification not framing with the place, the latter must be received, and so it is used of S. Paul. Secondly, this is confirmed by the word which S. Mark uses, that notes a powerable and sudden transport of his person into the wilderness. Thirdly, this is evident by his return from the wilderness, which S. Luke affirmed to have been in the power and virtue of the same Spirit, wherewith he had been anointed and carried up into the Wilderness, and therefore not in the common natural power of a man. Lastly, the Evangelist seems to have left some mark hereof in that he closes up this story of his carriage and re-carriage to and fro the Wilderness, whereof when your Eremites are utterly destitute; and that (unless you be marvelously impudent) by your own confession: the Eremites can have no other guide of their voluntary leaping into the Wilderness then the spirit of Satan, contrary to that Spirit which led our Saviour Christ thither. Secondly, of the end of his going, partly to testify his Divine Glory in abstinence from meat the space of forty days, which hath no place in your Eremites: partly to be tempted of the Devil, which ought to have as little place in them, if they knew the meaning of the last petition in the Lords prayer: for our Saviour Christ herein sought the fittest place of temptation, as the Stories of the possessed by devils do declare, whom the devils to greater terror and horror; drove into the solitary and fearful places: Unless therefore the Jesuits dare say that we may lay our selves open, yea seek the occasion of most dangerous temptation, it is evident that this example of our Saviour Christ, seals no warrant of an Eremetical life. Where the folly of the Jesuits is yet more manifestly decried, for having no ground here but of Christs example, yet have they clean altered the end of their Eremites flight into the Wilderness: assigning it to be penance, whereof they have no shadow in his example of going thither, yet were it meet that they should profess their penance among men, rather then among beasts, that they might have the same witnesses of their repentance, whom they had beholders of their fall. Again, if the warrant of Eremetical life be fetched from this example. it must of necessity be shut up within the space of forty days, and as many nights, after which time our Saviour returning from his temptations, lived the rest of his life in the common society of men. Further, if both John which lived in great austerity of life, and our Saviour Christ who lived in a more liberal sort, after the accustomed manner of men, be examples of Eremetical life; it follows that the Eremites may at their choice, either live austerely by the example of John, or in great freedom of meats and drinks by the example of our Saviour Christ; contrary to your doctrine of Eremetical life, And here you put me in remembrance of the notable injury you do to our Saviour Christ, who making him an Eremite, make John Baptist his Prince, whose shoe-latchets notwithstanding he was not worthy to loose. Verily these fables were not well put together: wherein if you would salve the matter, by expounding Prince for the first Eremite, you have barred your selves from this answer, with a double bar: First, in that otherwhere you make Elias an Eremite, who was before John: Secondly, in that you cannot bear the Princedom sometime of the Fathers ascribed to Peter over the Apostles, to be interpreted, the first either in time, or in order, but will needs have it first in dignity: which interpretation if you will so stiffly stand unto, then have you made a fair hand, which by the same construction lift up John above our Saviour Christ? that is to say, the servant above his Master. We see not therefore; but you must fetch the warrant of your Eremetical profession from the tempter himself, who is a greater haunter of the Wildernesses then either of those personages which you have yet named. And although there be no ground of your Eremetical profession, yet there is a law of leprosy, which casting both you and your Eremites out of Cities and Towns, will make you field-men, least the infection of your manifold hypocrisy and superstition should spread it self among God’s people.

Thomas Cartwright, A Confutation of the Rhemists’ Translation, Glosses and Annotations on the New Testament… (Leiden, 1618), 16–17. [spelling and punctuation modernized]

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  1. NOTES

    1. The “Rhemists” were “The authors of the Rhemish translation of the New Testament and its commentary…” (OED). What Cartwright and others called the “Rhemist” translation we know as the Rheims or now the Douay-Rheims Bible, a Romanist translation of the [Latin] Vulgate, the NT portion of which first appeared in 1582.

    2. Thomas Cartwright (c. 1535–1603) was an early English Presbyterian minister and theologian, who was exiled to the Netherlands by Anglican authorities because of his Presbyterian convictions.

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