Wesselus, John

, one of the most learned men of the fifteenth century, was born at Groningen about 1419, and having lost his friends in his infancy, was sent by a benevolent lady, along with her only son, to be educated at a college at Swoll, which at that time happened to be in greater estimation than that of Groningen. This college was superintended by a community of monks, and Wesselus had at one time an inclination to have embraced the order, but was disgusted by some superstitious practices. After having studied here with great diligence, he removed to Cologne, where he was much admired for his proficiency, but already betrayed a dislike to the sentiments of the schoolmen. Being invited to teach theology at Heidelberg, it was objected that he had not received his doctor’s degree; and when he offered to be examined for that degree, he was told that the canons did not permit that it should be bestowed on a layman. Having therefore a repugnance to take orders, he confined his services to the reading of some lectures in philosophy; after which he returned to Cologne; and afterwards visited Louvain and Paris. The philosophical disputes being carried on then with great warmth between the realists, the formalists, and the nominalists, he endeavoured to bring over the principal champions of the formalists to the sect of the realists, but at lasthimself sided with the nominalists. He appears, however, to have set little value on any of the sects into which philosophy was at that time divided; and to a young man who consulted him concerning the best method of prosecuting his studies, he said, “You, young man, will live to see the day when the doctrines of Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, and other modern disputants of the same stamp, will be exploded by all true Christian ditines, and when the irrefragable doctors themselves will be little regarded.” A prediction, says Brucker, which discovers so much good sense and liberality, that Wessel ought to be immortalized under the appellation of the Wise Doctor. Brucker admits him in his History of Philosophy, from the penetration which, in the midst of the scholastic phrenzy of his age, enabled him to discover the futility of the controversies which agitated the followers of Thomas, Scotus, and Occam. | Some say that Wesseltis travelled into Greece, to acquire a more perfect acquaintance with the Greek and Hebrew languages than was then to be found in Europe. It is certain that he gained the esteem and patronage of Francis della Rovera, afterwards pope Sixtus IV. who, in an interview at Rome, offered him preferment. Wesselus desired only a copy of the Bible in Hebrew and Greek; and when the pope asked why he did not solicit for a bishopric, our philosopher replied, “Because I do not want one,” On his return he taught philosophy and philology at Groningen with great approbation, and died here Oct. 4, 1489. On his death-bed he was perplexed with doubts, which were soon relieved. His biographer says, that, “Being visited, in the sickness which brought him to his end, by a friend, who inquired after his health, he replied, that ‘he was pretty well, considering his advanced age, and the nature of his indisposition but that one thing made him very uneasy, viz. that being greatly perplexed with various thoughts and arguments, he began to entertain some little doubts with respect to the truth of the Christian religion.’ His friend was much surprised, and immediately exhorted him to direct all his thoughts to Christ the only Saviour; but, finding that such an admonition was displeasing, he went away deeply afflicted. But an hour or two after, Wesselus seeing his friend come back to him, he said, with an air of as much satisfaction and joy as one in his weak condition cpuld discover, < God be praised all those vain doubts are fled and now, all I know is Jesus Christ, and Rim crucified' after which confession he resigned his soul to God.” It appears that his religious sentiments were in many respects contrary to those of the Romish church, and some even called him the forerunner of Luther. Many of his Mss. were burnrd after his death by the contrivance of the monks, but what his friends saved were published at Groningen in 1614, consisting of “Tractatus de Oratione -r- de cohibendis cogitationibus de causis incarnationis de sacramento euchanstiae Farrago rerum Theologicarum epistolsp,” &c. Foppens, however, mentions an edition prior to this, published by Luther in 1525, and another at Marpurg in 1617, 4to. 1


Vitae Profess. Groningae, fol. 1654, p. 12. Freheri Theatrum. Gen. Dict.*­—Foppen Bibl. BelgSaxii Onomast. Heussenii Hist. Episcopal. Belgii Fcederati, vol. II.