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Alesius
Alesius
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long before this chosen his part and that of his subjects. In 1534 the Act of Supremacy had been passed, and the influence of Cromwell and Cranmer upon the religious policy of the crown was near its height. Cromwell's ‘call to better understanding’ is attributed by Foxe to his study of the New Testament text on his way to and from Rome; and it is under the year 1535 that the archbishop's mind is described by Strype (Memorials of Cranmer (1812), i. 48) as ‘running very much upon bringing in the use of the holy Scripture in English among the people.’ Alesius therefore arrived as a welcome guest, when he came to England in August 1535, the bearer of a letter to King Henry from Melanchthon, with a book which stated ‘most of the controversies,’ and endeavoured as much as possible ‘to mitigate them.’ (The book is supposed to have been the ‘Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans,’ as Melanchthon's ‘Colloquies’ were not published till a year later.) Melanchthon sent the same gift by Alesius to Cranmer, with a letter commending the bearer ‘for his learning, probity, and diligence in every good office’ (Strype, bk. iii. chap, xxiii.). The archbishop detained Alesius for some time at Lambeth, where a close relation seems to have sprung up between the pair. No estimate of Cranmer should leave out of sight the enthusiastic tribute paid to his memory in after days by the much-travelled Alesius, who speaks of him in terms which cannot be those of flattery and do not seem to be those of mere rhetoric (see the letter of Alesius to Bale, cited by the latter in the appendix to his notice of the former in his Scriptores Brytanniæ). Alesius was also very warmly received by Latimer. In 1535 Alesius was sent to lecture in divinity at Cambridge, where in this year Cromwell succeeded Fisher as chancellor and as visitor introduced the memorable royal injunctions. In a letter afterwards written by him from Germany to Bucer at Cambridge, he refers to the pleasant society he had formerly enjoyed at King's College there (MS. at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, cited in art. ‘Ales’ in the Biographical Dictionary of the S.D.U.K.); but notwithstanding the favourable circumstances of the times he appears to have given offence to those of a different way of thinking. Hence he very soon left Cambridge to settle in London, where after studying medicine, a science to which he had already in earlier years given attention, under an eminent physician of the name of Nicholas or Nicol, he commenced a not unsuccessful practice on his own account. It was during this period of his residence in England that, in the year 1537, Alesius was accidentally called upon to take part in a discussion in convocation presided over by Cromwell as vicar-general. Cromwell, having on his way to the meeting chanced upon Alesius, introduced him to the bishops' notice as the king's scholar—a title given to young scholars patronised and to some extent supported by the king with a view to their subsequent employment as ‘orators’ or otherwise in his service. The subject of discussion was the number of the sacraments, and Alesius's speech roused the ire of the Bishop of London (Stokesley), who made an appeal to tradition. Alesius hereupon declared himself willing to let the argument in favour of two sacraments only rest upon the proof of the proposition ‘that our Christian faith and religion doth leane onely upon the worde of God, which is written in the Bible;’ and this was accepted by his adversary. Cromwell, however, on the next day bade Alesius take no further part in the discussion of the bishops, but reduce his argument to writing instead; which he accordingly did in the treatise ‘Of the Auctorite of the Word of God concerning the Number of the Sacraments’ (see the life of Cromwell by Foxe in Wordsworth's Ecclesiastical Biography, ii. 247–258, with notes partly based on the treatise just mentioned). After this episode, Alesius continued to be held in esteem by the reforming party in London, and is mentioned together with Bucer as discussing with Gardiner, when the latter went on a mission to Germany, the fundamental principles on which all religious controversies should be conducted. On the fall of Cromwell in 1540, however, or as that event cast its shadow before, it became advisable for Alesius to leave England. His name was well known in Germany (whence on his departure Johannes Stigelius had ‘pursued him with an elegy’), both by reason of his previous sojourn there, and through his treatise ‘De Schismate,’ which professed to ‘purge the protestants from the charge’ of having produced it. Melanchthon had supplied him with ‘the substance and arguments’ of this apology, which Alesius sent from England to George of Anhalt, a prince on terms of special amity with Luther (Strype, bk. iii. chap. iii.). To Germany he accordingly betook himself, accompanied, according to Spotiswoode, by his old Scottish companions in exile, Fife and Macdougal. In 1540 he was appointed by the Elector Joachim II of Brandenburg professor of theology at Frankfort-on-the-Oder; in which capacity, besides delivering a species of inaugural address which possesses great biographical value, he bore part in a unique