Erastus, Thomas

, an eminent German physician, but perhaps more celebrated as a divine, from being, the reputed founder of the Erastians, or of the opinions so called, for they are not a distinct sect, was born in 1523, or 1524, at Auggenen, a village in the lordship of Badenweiller, which is in the marquisate of Baden Dourlach. His family name was Leiber, or beloved, to which he gave, according to the custom of the times, a Greek turn, and called himself Erastus. In 1540, he was sent to the university of Basil, where he had some difficulties to struggle with, owing to the poverty of his parents; but, according to Melchior Adam, Providence raised him up a patron, who provided for him liberally, and after his studies at Basil, enabled him to travel to S. of Europe, has the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian Seas respectively on the E. and W.,…">Italy for farther improvement. At N. of Florence; has many fine buildings, a university, one of the oldest…">Bologna he studied both philosophy and physic, the latter for nine years under the ablest masters. Returning, with a doctor’s degree, to his own country, he lived for some time at the court of the princes of Henneberg, where he practised physic with great reputation, until the elector palatine Frederick III. invited him to his court, and made him first physician and counsellor. This prince appointed him also professor of physic in the university ‘of Heidelberg. In 1581 be returned to Basil, where he was also chosen professor of physic, and where he made a liberal foundation for the provision and education of poor students in medicine, and after superintending and establishing this, which was long called the Erastian foundation, he died Dec. 31, 1583, or, according to some, Jan. 1, 1584. His medical works were principally, 1. “Disputationum de Medicina nova Philippi Paracelsi,” p. i. Basil, 1572, p. ii. ibid. 1572, p. iii. ibid. 1572, p. iv. et ultima, ibid. 1573, all in 4to. In these volumes he refutes the doctrines which Paracelsus had previously taught at | Basil, and had committed to writing, particularly^) astrology and medicine. 2. “Theses de~Contagio,Heidelberg, 1574, 4to. 3. “De Occult. Pharmacor. Potestatibus,” ibid. 1574, 4to; Francfort, 1611. 4. “Disputat, de Auro Potabili,Basil, 1578, 1594, 4to. 5. “De Putredine Lu ber,” ibid. 1580, 4to; Lipsiae, 1590. 6. “Epistola de Astrologia Divinatrice,Basil, 1580, 4to. 7. “De Pinguedinis in Anhnalibus Generatione et Concretione,” Heidelbergae, 1580, 4to. 8. “Com ids Montani, Vicentini, novi Medicorum censoris, quinque Librorum de Morbis nuper Editorum viva Anatome,Basil, 1581, 4to. 9. “Ad Archangeli Mercenarii Disputationem de Putredine responsioj” ibid. 152, 4to. 10, “Varia Opuscula Medica,Franc. 1590, folio.

His fame, however, chiefly now rests on what he wrote in ecclesiastical controversy. When at Heidelberg, a dispute having arisen respecting the sacrament, chiefly founded on the question, “Whether the terms flesh and blood ought to be understood literally or metaphorically’ he published a book” De crena Domini,“in which he contended for the metaphorical sense. He had indeed all his life paid so much attention to contested points of divinity, that he was reckoned as good a divine as a physician; and for this reason, in 1564, when a conference was held between the divines of the palatinate, and those of Wittemberg, respecting the real presence in the sacrament, Erastus was ordered by the elector Frederic to be present at it. The work, however, which excited most attention, in this country, at least, if not in his own, was his book on ecclesiastical excommunication, in which he denies the power of the church to excommunicate, exclude, absolve, censure, in short, to exert what is called discipline. Denying the power of the keys, he compared a pastor to a professor of any science who can merely instruct his students; he would have all ordinances of the gospel open and free to all, and all offences, whether of a civil or religious nature, to be referred to the civil magistrate, consequently the church with him was merely a creature of the state. Some of our first reformers adopted these sentiments so far as to maintain, that no one form of church government is prescribed in scripture as a rule for future ages, as Cranmer, Redmayn, Cox, &c. and archbishop Whitgift, in his controversy with Cartwright, delivers the same opinion. The Erastians formed a party in the assembly of divines in 1643, | and the chief leaders of it were Dr. Lightfoot, Mr. Colman, Mr. Selden, and Mr. Whitlock; and in the house of cornmons there were, besides Selden and Whitlock, Oliver St. John, esq. sir Thomas Wicldrington, John Crew, esq. sir John Hipsley, and others. In the assembly, the Erastians did not except against the presbyterian government as a” political institution,“proper to be established by the civil magistrate, but they were against the claim of a” divine right.“Accordingly the clause of divine right was lost in the house of commons. It is almost needless to add, however, that after the restoration, these opinions, decayed, and we believe that at this time, there is no sect, however hostile in its opinions to the power of the established church, who has not, and does not assert a power of its own binding on all its members, in one shape or other. In Erastus’s life-time, he was opposed by Ursinus, his friend and colleague; and since has been answered by Hammond,” On the power of the Keys,“1647. But it is necessary to remark that what is called Erastus’s book on this subject was not published in his life-time. During that, indeed, he published his opinions in the form of theses, levelled at Caspar Olevianus and his colleagues, who wanted to introduce ecclesiastical discipline in the churches of the Palatinate; and Beza, who foresaw the mischiefs of this controversy, addressed himself both to Erastus and Olevianus, recommending peace. Having afterwards obtained a copy of the theses which Erastus had written, he determined to answer them; this excited Erastus to draw up a work in reply, but he declined printing it, lest he should disturb the peace of the churches. Six years after his death, however, it was published by one of his disciples, under the title” Explicatio questionis, utrum Excommunicatio, quatenus religionem intelligentes et amplexantes, a sacramentorum usu, propter admissum facinus arcet, mandato nitatur divino, an excogitata sit ab hominibus, &c.“Pesclavii (Puschlaw) apud Baocium Sultaceterum (fictitious names), 1589, 4to. By a letter of his in Goldast’s” Centuria Philologicarum Epistolarum,“it appears that Erastus pronounced his work unanswerable, but Beza very soon performed that task in his” Tractatus pius et moderatus," &c. Geneva, 1690, 4to, and to the general satisfaction of the divines of that period. 1

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