78. ANTI-PAPAL WRITERS, 1370-1390
About this time, being the year of our Lord 1370, lived holy Bridget, whom the Church of Rome hath canonized not only for a saint, but also for a prophetess; who, notwithstanding, in her book of revelations, which hath been oftentimes imprinted, was a great rebuker of the pope, and of the filth of his clergy, calling him a murderer of souls, a spiller and a piller of the flock of Christ, more abominable than the Jews, more cruel than Judas, more unjust than Pilate, worse than Lucifer himself. The see of the pope, she prophesieth, shall be thrown down into the deep, like a millstone, and that his assister shall burn with brimstone; affirming that the prelates, bishops, and priests, are the cause why the doctrine of Christ is neglected, and almost extinguished. And that the clergy have turned the ten commandments of God in two words, to wit, Da pecuniam, that is, Give money. It were long and tedious to declare all that she against them writeth. Among the rest which I omit, let this suffice for all; whereas the said Bridget affirmeth in her revelations, that when the holy virgin should say to her Son, how Rome was a fruitful and fertile field; Yea, said he, but of weeds only and cockle, &c.
To this Bridget I will join also Catharina Senensis, a holy virgin, which lived much about the same time, A. D. 1379. This Catharine, having the spirit of prophecy, was wont much to complain of the corrupt state of the church, namely, of the prelates of the court of Rome, and of the pope; prophesying before of the great schism which then followed in the Church of Rome, and dured to the council of Constance, the space of thirty-nine years; also of the great wars and tribulation, which ensued upon the same. And moreover, declared before and foretold of this so excellent reformation for religion in the church now present. The words of Antoninus be these: After this virgin, in her going to Rome, had told her brother of the wars and tumults that should rise in the countries about Rome, after the schism of the two popes; I, then curious to know of things to come, and knowing that she understood by revelation on what should happen, demanded of her; I pray you, (good mother,) said I, and what shall befall after these troubles in the church of God? And she said, "By these tribulations and afflictions, after a secret matter unknown unto man, God shall purge his holy church, and stir up the spirit of his elect. And after these things shall follow such a reformation of the holy church of God, and such a renovation of holy pastors, that the only cogitation and remembrance thereof maketh my spirit to rejoice in the Lord. And, as I have oftentimes told you heretofore, the spouse, which now is all deformed and ragged, shall be adorned and decked with most rich and precious ouches and brooches. And all the faithful shall be glad and rejoice to see themselves so beautified with so holy shepherds. Yea, and also the infidels then, allured by the sweet savour of Christ, shall return to the catholic fold, and be converted to the true Bishop and Shepherd of their souls. Give thanks therefore to God; for after this storm he will give to his a great calm." And after she had thus spoken, she staid, and said no more.
Besides these aforenamed, the Lord, which never ceaseth to work in his church, stirred up against the malignant Church of Rome the spirits of divers other good and godly teachers, as Matthew Paris, a Bohemian born, who, about the year of our Lord 1370, wrote a large book of antichrist, and proveth him to be already come, and noteth the pope to be the same; which book one Illiricus, a writer in these our days, hath, and promiseth to put it in print. In this book he doth greatly inveigh against the wickedness and filthiness of the clergy, and against the neglecting of their duty in governing the church. The locusts mentioned in the Apocalypse, he saith, be the hypocrites reigning in the church. The works of antichrist, he saith, be these, the fables and inventions of men reigning in the church, the images and feigned relics that are worshipped every where. Item, That men do worship every one his proper saint and saviour beside Christ, so that every man and city almost hath his diverse and peculiar Christ. He taught and affirmed, moreover, that godliness and true worship of God are not bound to place, persons, or times, to be heard more in this place than in another, at this time more than at another, &c. He argueth also against the cloisterers, which, leaving the only and true Saviour, set up to themselves their Franciscans, their Dominics, and such other, and have them for their saviours, glorying and triumphing in them, and feigning many forged lies upon them. He was greatly and much offended with monks and friars for neglecting or rather burying the word of Christ, and instead of him, for celebrating and setting up their own rules and canons; affirming it to be much hurtful to true godliness, for that priests, monks, and nuns do account themselves only spiritual, and all other to be lay and secular, attributing only to themselves the opinion of holiness, and contemning other men, with all their politic administration, and the office as profane in comparison of their own. He further writeth that antichrist hath seduced all universities and colleges of learned men, so that they teach no sincere doctrine, neither give any light to the Christians with their teaching. Finally, he forewarneth that it will come to pass, that God yet once again will raise up godly teachers, who, being fervent in the spirit and zeal of Elias, shall disclose and refute the errors of antichrist, and antichrist himself, openly to the whole world. This Matthew, in the said book of antichrist, allegeth the sayings and writings of the university of Paris, also the writings of Gulielmus de Sancto Amore, and of Militzius, afore noted.
About the same time, or shortly after, A. D. 1384, we read also of Johannes of Mountziger, rector of the university of Ulm, who openly in the schools, in his oration, propounded that the body of Christ was not God, and therefore not to be worshipped as God with that kind of worship called Latria, as the sophister termeth it, meaning thereby the sacrament not to be adored, which afterward he also defended by writing; affirming also, that Christ in his resurrection took to him again all his blood which in his passion he had shed. Meaning thereby to infer, that the blood of Christ, which in many places is worshipped, neither can be called the blood of Christ, neither ought to be worshipped. But by and by he was resisted and withstood by the monks and friars, who by this kind of idolatry were greatly enriched, till at length the senate and council of the city was fain to take up the matter between them.
Nilus was archbishop of Thessalonica, and lived much about this time. He wrote a long work against the Latins; that is, against such as took part and held with the Church of Rome. His first book being written in Greek was afterward translated into Latin, and lately now into English, in this our time. In the first chapter of this book, he layeth all the blame and fault of the dissension and schism between the East and the West Church upon the pope. He affirmed that the pope only would command what him listed, were it never so contrary to all the old and ancient canons; that he would hear and follow no man's advice; that he would not permit any free councils to be assembled, &c. And that therefore it was not possible that the controversies between the Greek Church and Latin Church should be decided and determined.
In the second chapter of his book, he purposely maketh a very learned disputation. For first, he declareth that he no whit at all by God's commandment, but only by human law, hath any dignity, more than hath other bishops; which dignity the councils, the fathers, and emperors, have granted unto him: neither did they grant the same for any other consideration more, or greater ordinance, than for that the same city then had the empire of all the whole world, and not at all for that Peter ever was there, or not there.
Secondarily he declareth, that the same primacy or prerogative is not such and so great as he and his sycophants do usurp unto themselves. Also he refuteth the chiefest propositions of the papists one after another. He declareth that the pope hath no dominion more than other patriarchs have, and that he himself may err as well as other mortal men; and that he is subject both to laws and councils as well as other bishops. That it belonged not to him, but to the emperor, to call general councils; and that in ecclesiastical causes he could establish and ordain no more than all other bishops might. And lastly, that he getteth no more by Peter's succession, than that he is a bishop, as all other bishops after the apostles be, &c.
I cannot, among other, following here the occasion of this matter offered, leave out the memory of Jacobus Misuensis, who also wrote of the coming of antichrist. In the same he maketh mention of a certain learned man, whose name was Militzius, which Militzius, saith he, was a famous and worthy preacher in Prague. He lived about the year 1366, long before Huss, and before Wickliff also. In the same his writings he declareth, how the same good man Militzius was by the Holy Spirit of God incited, and vehemently moved, to search out of the Holy Scriptures the manncr and coming of antichrist, and found that now in his time he was already come. And the same Jacobus saith, that the said Militzius was constrained by the Spirit of God to go up to Rome, and there publicly to preach. And that afterward, before the inquisitor, he affirmed the same; that the same mighty and great antichrist, the which the Scriptures made mention of, was already come.
He affirmed also, that the church, by the negligence of the pastors, should become desolate; and that iniquity should abound, that is, by reason of Mammon, master of iniquity. Also, he said that there were in the church of Christ idols, which should destroy Jerusalem, and make the temple desolate, but were cloaked by hypocrisy. Further, that there be many which deny Christ, for that they keep silence; neither do they hear Christ, whom all the world should know, and confess his verity before men; which also wittingly do detain the verity and justice of God.
There is also a certain bull of Pope Gregory the Eleventh to the archbishop of Prague; wherein he is commanded to excommunicate and persecute Militzius and his auditors. The same bull declareth that he was once a canon of Prague, but afterward he renounced his canonship, and began to preach; who also, for that he so manifestly preached of antichrist to be already come, was of John, archbishop of Prague, put in prison, declaring what his error was; to wit, how he had his company or congregation to whom he preached, and that amongst the same were certain converted harlots, which had forsaken their evil life, and did live godly and well, which harlots he accustomed in his sermons to prefer before all the blessed virgins that never offended. He taught also openly, that in the pope, cardinals, bishops, prelates, priests, and other religious men, was no truth, neither that they taught the way of truth, but that only he, and such as held with him, taught the true way of salvation. His postil in some places is yet to be seen. They allege unto him certain other inconvenient articles, which, notwithstanding, I think the adversaries, to deprave him withal, have slanderously invented against him. He had, as appeared by the aforesaid bull, very many of every state and condition, as well rich as poor, that cleaved unto him.
About the year of our Lord 1371, lived Henricus de Iota, whom Gerson doth much commend, and also his companion Henricus de Hassia, an excellent learned and famous man. An epistle of this Henricus de Hassia, which he wrote to the bishop of Normacia, Jacobus Cartsiensis inserted in his book De Erroribus Christianorum. In the same epistle the author doth greatly accuse the spiritual men of every order, yea, and the most holy of all other, the pope himself, of many and great vices. He said, that the ecclesiastical governors in the primitive church were compared to the sun shining in the day time; and the political governors, to the moon shining in the night. But the spiritual men, he said, that now are, do neither shine in the day time, nor yet in the night time, but rather with their darkness do obscure both the day and the night; that is, with their filthy living, ignorance, and impiety. He citeth also out of the prophecy of Hildegard these words: "Therefore doth the devil in himself speak of you priests: Dainty banquets and feasts, wherein is all voluptuousness, do I find amongst these men; insomuch that mine eyes, mine ears, my belly, and my veins be even filled with the froth of them, and my breasts stand astrut with the riches of them, &c. Lastly, saith he, they every day more and more, as Lucifer did, seek to climb higher and higher; till that every day with him, more and more, they fall deeper and deeper."
About the year of our Lord 1390, there were burned at Bringa thirty-six citizens of Moguntina, for the doctrine of Waldensis, as Brussius affirmeth; which opinion was nothing contrary to that they held before, wherein they affirmed the pope to be that great antichrist which should come; unless, peradventure, the pope seemed then to be more evidently convicted of antichristianity, than at any other time before he was revealed to be.
For the like cause, many other beside these are to be found in stories, which sustained the like persecutions by the pope, if leisure would serve to peruse all that might be searched. As where Masseus recordeth of divers to the number of one hundred and forty, which in the province of Narbonne chose rather to suffer whatsoever grievous punishment by fire, than to receive the decretals of the Romish church, contrary to the upright truth of the Scripture.
What should I here speak of the twenty-four which suffered at Paris, A. D. 1210? Also in the same author is testified that, A. D. 1211, there were four hundred under the name of heretics burned, eighty beheaded, Prince Americus hanged, and the lady of the castle stoned to death.
Moreover, in the chronicles of Hoveden, and of other writers, be recited a marvellous number, which in the countries of France were burned for heretics; of whom, some were called Publicans, some Catharites, some Paterines, and other by other names. What their assertions were, I find no certain report worthy of credit.
In Trithemius it is signified of one Eckhard, a Dominican friar, who, not long before Wickliff's time, was condemned and suffered for heresy at Heidelburgh, A. D. 1330, who as he differeth not much in name, so may he be supposed to be the same, whom other do name Beghard, and is said to be burned at Erphord.
Of Albigenses, because sufficient mention is made before, of whom a great number were burned about the time of King John, I pass them over.
Likewise, I let pass the hermit, of whom John Bacon maketh relation, who, disputing in Paul's church, affirmed that those sacraments, which were then used in the church, were not instituted by Christ, A. D. 1306. Peradventure, it was the same Ranulphus, mentioned in the Flower of Histories, and is said to die in prison; for the time of them doth not much differ.
In Boetius, why the pope should so much commend a certain king, because for one man he had slain four hundred, cutting away the genitals from the rest, I cannot judge, except the cause were that which the pope calleth heresy.