Johannes Tauler.

The history and life of the Reverend Doctor John Tauler of Strasbourg : with twenty-five of his sermons (temp. 1340) online

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S I S^ focial conditions fo remote from our own as
5^^g^g^ thofe of a German Dominican monk of the
SFI H^^ fourteenth century, it feems right to ftate at
the outfet whether the aim which has governed the felec-
tion is chiefly hiftorical or devotional. The prefent work
was undertaken, in the firft inftance, with a fimply pradical
object. My earheft acquaintance with Tauler's Sermons
was made while hearing them read in a family fervice ;
and believing, from further ftudy, that they contained
elements of truth not often brought into fufficient promi-
nence in thefe days, yet poflefling a moft direft and
valuable influence on Chriftian life, I wiflied to compile a
volume of fermons for the Sundays and Holydays of the
year, fuch as any head of a family might read to his
houfehold, or any diftrid viiitor among the poor.

To have carried out this idea completely would, how-
ever, have involved the omiflion, in many of the fermons,
of paflages either too abftrufe for eafy comprehenfion, or
too much imbued with references to the Romifli ritual
and difcipline, to be fuitable for the Proteftant common
people. But fuch a mutilation feemed to be fcarcely
honeft in the cafe of a writer now to be prefented for the
firft time in a foreign language, and it appeared better
therefore to reconcile hiftorical truthfulnefs with pradical
ufefulnefs, by reftriding the feledion, but giving all the

xviii Translator's Preface.

fermons included in it in their complete form. Had it
been my objed merely to prefent an interefting pifture of
a remarkable man, the feleftion would pofTibly have been
fomewhat different, — certainly much wider. As it is I
have chofen the pradical rather than the more metaphyseal
fermons, and have included none which feemed to me, in
my confcientious judgment, open to objeftions as to their
moral tendency.

Among fuch I fliould reckon fome tinftured with an
afceticifm throwing contempt on the affeäions of ordinary
life. Of the duties of ordinary life Tauler never fpeaks
difparagingly. When he fays that the inward work in
the foul is more than all outward good works, it is always
the outward praftices of religion of which he is fpeaking —
attendance in church, failing, the repeating of prayers,
&c. ; never of the exercife of adive benevolence, or even
the performance of minor houfehold duties. It is one
good feature of the fchool to which he belonged, that
thefe things are reftored to their due honour, fo far as that
is compatible with the whole fyftem of conventual life.
But Tauler does teach that repreffion of the natural
AFFECTIONS which is inevitable fo long as the vital idea
of monafticifm, — viz., the feverance of the religious from
the fecular in life, — is retained. That this feverance is
falfe and mifchievous, Tauler no more perceived than did
the whole body of his contemporaries ; but while we have
no right to cenfure him for errors which he fliared with
all the men of his age (and which he often diverted for
his own hearers of much of their baneful influence),
it is equally unneceffary to place fuch dodrine before
people at the prefent time. So, too, the fermons on the
Mafs and on the Virgin Mary, while containing many
excellent pradical remarks, are of courfe bafed on beliefs
that would render them unprofitable to the great multi-
tude of Englifli Proteftants now-a-days, and I did not
deem it needful to infert them merely for the fake of

Tranilator's Preface. xix

prefenting a full view of all that Tauler believed or taught.
But neither did it feem effential to practical ufefulnefs to
eliminate from fermons whofe general fcope is rich in
Chriftian inftrudion, all fuch paffages as might contain
paffing allulions to purgatory, tranfubftantiation, the invo-
cation of faints, &c. ; myttical and figurative interpreta-
tions of Scripture, or queftionable philofophical fpecula-
tions, in order that nothing might be left but what
Proteftant Chriftians at the prefent day actually believe.
For private reading it is the lefs neceffary, as it is often
curious and inlbuctive to obferve how Tauler, in many
cafes, fupplies the practical antidote to the hurtful effeds
of a Romifli doctrine without in the leaft feeing through
the doärine itfelf ; while, fliould thefe Sermons be ufed,
as I earnettly wifli they may be, for family reading, it will
be very eafy to omit anything which it might be unde-
firable to read to uneducated perfons.

With regard to thofe not included, the greater number
have been rejected fimply becaufe many of their ideas
occurred in the fermons which I have chofen, and I was
anxious to avoid repetition ; and among thefe many were
fo good as to render the talk of felection very difficult.
A very fmall proportion have been omitted on account
of their Romifli doftrine ; more becaufe of their obfcure
myfticifm, and a few becaufe they contained figures that
would found coarfe, or at leaft grotefque and unfuitable
for the pulpit, to our modern ears. I believe that thofe
I have given may be regarded, from the abfence of
omiffions and the variety of their fcope, as furnifliing, on
the whole, a correct picture of the mind and faith of their
author. The edition of Tauler's Sermons which I have
ufed for my Tranflation is that publiflied at Frankfort in
1826. Among the numerous ancient and modern editions
of thefe Sermons, that publiflied at Leipfic, in 1498, holds
the higheft rank as an authority ; but of this, now very
rare work, it has not been in my power to confult a copy;

XX Tranflator's Preface.

and of the later editions that of Frankfort is the beft. It
is bafed upon an edition publiflied at Cologne in 1543,
and contains one hundred and fifty-three fermons ; only
eighty-four of thefe, however, are to be found in the MSS.
now extant. Many of the MSS. have, indeed, only por^

Online LibraryJohannes TaulerThe history and life of the Reverend Doctor John Tauler of Strasbourg : with twenty-five of his sermons (temp. 1340) → online text (page 1 of 30)