79. JOHN WICKLIFF
Illustration -- Portrait of John Wickliff
Illustration -- Another Portrait of John Wickliff
But to let these things overpass that be uncertain, because neither is it possible to comprehend all them which have withstood the corruption of the pope's see, neither have we any such firm testimony left of their doings, credibly to stay upon, we will now, Christ willing, convert our story to things more certain and undoubted, grounding upon no light reports of feeble credit, nor upon any fabulous legends without authority, but upon the true and substantial copies of the public records of the realm, remaining yet to be seen under the king's most sure and faithful custody: out of the which records such matter appeareth against the popish Church of Rome, and against his usurped authority, such open standing and crying against the said see, and that not privily, but also in open parliament, in the days of this King Edward the Third; that neither will the Romish people of this our age easily think it to be true when they see it, neither yet shall they be able to deny the same, so near standeth the force of those records.
Besides the truths and notes of the king's parliaments, wherein may appear the toward proceedings of this king and all his commons against the pretended Church of Rome; this is, moreover, to be added to the commendation of the king, how in the volumes of the Acts and Rolls of the king it appeareth, that the said King Edward the Third sent also John Wickliff, reader then of divinity lecture in Oxford, with certain other lords and ambassadors, over into the parts of Italy, to treat with the pope's legates concerning affairs betwixt the king and the pope, with full commission; the tenor whereof here followeth expressed.
"The king, to all and singular to whom these presents shall come, greeting. Know ye, that we, reposing assured confidence in the fidelity and wisdom of the reverend father, John, bishop of Bangor, and other our loving and faithful subjects, Master John Wickliff, reader of the divinity lecture, Master John Guntur, dean of Segobyen, and Master Simon Moulton, doctor of the law, Sir William Burton, knight, Master John Belknape, and Master John Honnington, have directed them as our ambassadors and special commissioners to the parts beyond the seas. Giving to the said our ambassadors and commissioners, to six or five of them, of whom I will that the said bishop shall be one, full power and authority, with commandment special, to treat and consult mildly and charitably with the legates and ambassadors of the lord pope, touching certain affairs; whereupon, of late, we sent heretofore the said bishop, and William Ughtred, monk of Durham, and Master John Shepy, to the see apostolical: and hereof to make full relation of all things done and passed in the said assembly, that all such things which may tend to the honour of holy church and the advancement of our crown and this our realm, may, by the assistance of God and the wisdom of the see apostolical, be brought to good effect, and accomplished accordingly. Witness ourselves, &c., at London, dated the twenty-sixth day of July, in the forty-eighth year of our reign."
By the which it is to be noted, what good-will the king then bare to the said Wickliff, and what small regard he had to the sinful see of Rome.
Of the which John Wickliff, because we are now approached to his time, it remaineth consequently for our story to treat of, so as we have heretofore done of other like valiant soldiers of Christ's church before him.
After all these heretofore recited, by whom, as ye have heard, it pleased the Lord something to work against the bishop of Rome, and to weaken the pernicious superstition of the friars, it now remaineth consequently, following the course of years, orderly to enter into the story and tractation of John Wickliff, our countryman, and other more of his time and same country, whom the Lord (with the like zeal and power of spirit) raised up here in England, to detect more fully and amply the poison of the pope's doctrine, and false religion set up by the friars. In whose opinions and assertions, albeit some blemishes perhaps may be noted; yet such blemishes they be, which rather declare him to be a man that might err, than which directly did fight against Christ our Saviour, as the pope's proceedings and the friars' did. And what doctor or learned man hath been from the prime age of the church so perfect, so absolutely sure, in whom no opinion hath sometime swerved awry? And yet be the said articles of his, neither in number so many, nor yet so gross in themselves and so cardinal, as those cardinal enemies of Christ perchance do give them out to be; if his books, which they abolished, were remaining, to be conferred with those blemishes, which they have wrested to the worst, as evil-will never said the best.
This is certain and cannot be denied, but that he, being the public reader of divinity in the university of Oxford, was, for the rude time wherein he lived, famously reputed for a great clerk, a deep school-man, and no less expert in all kind of philosophy; the which doth not only appear by his own most famous and learned writings and monuments, but also by the confession of Walden, his most cruel and bitter enemy, who, in a certain epistle written unto Pope Martin the Fifth, saith, that he was wonderfully astonished at his most strong arguments, with the places of authority which he had gathered, with the vehemency and force of his reasons, &c. And thus much out of Walden. It appeareth by such as have observed the order and course of times, that this Wickliff flourished about the year of our Lord 1371, Edward the Third reigning in England; for thus we do find in the Chronicles of Caxton: "In the year of our Lord 1371, saith he, Edward the Third, king of England, in his parliament was against the pope's clergy: he willingly hearkened and gave ear to the voices and tales of heretics, with certain of his council, conceiving and following sinister opinions against the clergy; wherefore (afterward) he tasted and suffered much adversity and trouble. And not long after, in the year of our Lord (saith he) 1372, he wrote unto the bishop of Rome, that he should not by any means intermeddle any more within his kingdom, as touching the reservation or distribution of benefices; and that all such bishops as were under his dominion should enjoy their former and ancient liberty, and be confirmed of their metropolitans, as hath been accustomed in times past," &c. Thus much writeth Caxton. But as touching the just number of the year and time, we will not be very curious or careful about it at this present. This is out of all doubt, that at what time all the world was in most desperate and vile estate, and that the lamentable ignorance and darkness of God's truth had overshadowed the whole earth, this man steppeth forth like a valiant champion, unto whom it may justly be applied that is spoken in the book called Ecclesiasticus, of one Simon, the son of Onias: Even as the morning star being in the midst of a cloud, and as the moon being full in her course, and as the bright beams of the sun; so doth he shine and glister in the temple and church of God.
Thus doth Almighty God continually succour and help, when all things are in despair: being always (according to the prophecy of the Psalm) a helper in time of need; the which thing never more plainly appeared, than in these latter days and extreme age of the church, whenas the whole state and condition, not only of worldly things, but also of religion, was depraved and corrupted; that, like as the disease named lethargy amongst the physicians, even so the state of religion amongst the divines, was past all men's help and remedy. The name only of Christ remained amongst Christians, but his true and lively doctrine was as far unknown unto the most part, as his name was common unto all men. As touching faith, consolation, the end and use of the law, the office of Christ, of our impotency and weakness, of the Holy Ghost, of the greatness and stength of sin, of true works, of grace and free justification by faith, of liberty of a Christian man, wherein consisteth and resteth the sum and matter of our profession, there was no mention, nor any word almost spoken of Scripture, learning, and divinity, were known but unto a few, and that in the schools only, and there also turned and converted almost all into sophistry. Instead of Peter and Paul, men occupied their time in studying Aquinas and Scotus, and the Master of Sentences. The world, leaving and forsaking the lively power of God's spiritual word and doctrine, was altogether led and blinded with outward ceremonies and human traditions, wherein the whole scope, in a manner, of all Christian perfection did consist and depend. In these was all the hope of obtaining salvation fully fixed; hereunto all things were attributed; insomuch that scarcely any other thing was seen in the temples or churches, taught or spoken of in sermons, or finally intended or gone about in their whole life, but only heaping up of certain shadowy ceremonies upon ceremonies; neither was there any end of their heaping.
The people were taught to worship no other thing but that which they did see; and did see almost nothing which they did not worship.
The church, being degenerated from the true apostolic institution above all measure, reserving only the name of the apostolic church, but far from the truth thereof in very deed, did fall into all kind of extreme tyranny; whereas the poverty and simplicity of Christ was changed into cruelty and abomination of life. Instead of the apostolic gifts and continual labours and travails, slothfulness and ambition had crept in amongst the priests. Beside all this, there arose and sprung up a thousand sorts and fashions of strange religions; being only the root and well-head of all superstition. How great abuses and depravations were crept into the sacraments, at what time they were compelled to worship similitudes and signs of things for the very things themselves, and to adore such things as were instituted and ordained only for memorials! Finally, what thing was there in the whole state of Christian religion so sincere, so sound and pure, which was not defiled and spotted with some kind of superstition? Besides this, with how many bonds and snares of daily newfangled ceremonies were the silly consciences of men, redeemed by Christ to liberty, snared and snarled; insomuch that there could be no great difference almost perceived between Christianity and Jewishness, save only the name of Christ: so that the state and condition of the Jews might seem somewhat more tolerable than ours! There was nothing sought for out of the true fountains, but out of the dirty puddles of the Philistines; the Christian people were wholly carried away as it were by the noses, with mere decrees and constitutions of men, even whither as pleased the bishops to lead them, and not as Christ's will did direct them. All the whole world was filled and overwhelmed with errors and darkness; and no great marvel: for why, the simple and unlearned people, being far from all knowledge of the Holy Scripture, thought it sufficient enough for them to know only these things which were delivered them by their pastors and shepherds, and they on the other part taught in a manner nothing else but such things as came forth of the court of Rome; whereof the most part tended to the profit of their order, more than to the glory of Christ.
The Christian faith was esteemed or counted none other thing then, but that every man should know that Christ once suffered, that is to say, that all men should know and understand that thing which the devils themselves also knew. Hypocrisy was counted for wonderful holiness. All men were so addict unto outward shows, that even they themselves, which professed the most absolute and singular knowledge of the Scriptures, scarcely did understand or know any other thing. And this did evidently appear, not only in the common sort of doctors and teachers, but also in the very heads and captains of the church, whose whole religion and holiness consisted, in a manner, in the observing of days, meats, and garments, and such like rhetorical circumstances, as of place, time, person, &c. Hereof sprang so many sorts and fashions of vestures and garments; so many differences of colours and meats, with so many pilgrimages to several places, as though St. James at Compostella could do that, which Christ could not do at Canterbury; or else that God were not of like power and strength in every place, or could not be found but being sought for by running and gadding hither and thither. Thus the holiness of the whole year was transported and put off unto the Lent season. No country or land was counted holy, but only Palestine, where Christ had walked himself with his corporal feet. Such was the blindness of that time, that men did strive and fight for the cross at Jerusalem, as it had been for the chief and only force and strength of our faith. It is a wonder to read the monuments of the former times, to see and understand what great troubles and calamities this cross hath caused almost in every Christian commonwealth; for the Romish champions never ceased by writing, admonishing, and counselling, yea, and by quarrelling, to move and stir up princes' minds to war and battle, even as though the faith and belief of the gospel were of small force or little effect, without that wooden cross. This was the cause of the expedition of the most noble prince King Richard unto Jerusalem; who, being taken in the same journey, and delivered unto the emperor, could scarcely be ransomed home again for thirty thousand marks. In the same enterprise or journey, Frederic, the emperor of Rome, a man of most excellent virtue, was much endamaged, A. D. 1179; and also Philip, the king of France, scarcely returned home again in safety, and not without great losses: so much did they esteem the recovery of the holy city and cross.
Upon this alone all men's eyes, minds, and devotions were so set and bent; as though either there were no other cross but that, or that the cross of Christ were in no other place but only at Jerusalem. Such was the blindness and superstition of those days, which understood or knew nothing but such as were outwardly seen; whereas the profession of our religion standeth in much other higher matters and greater mysteries. What is the cause why that Urban did so vex and torment himself? Because that Antioch, with the holy cross, was lost out of the hands of the Christians; for so we do find it in the chronicles, at what time as Jerusalem with King Guido and the cross of our Lord was taken, and under the power of the sultan, Urban took the matter so grievously, that for very sorrow he died. In whose place succeeded Lambert, which was called Gregory the Eighth, by whose motion it was decreed by the cardinals, that (setting apart all riches and voluptuousness) they should preach the cross of Christ, and by their poverty and humility first of all should take the cross upon them, and go before others into the land of Jerusalem. These are the words of the history, whereby it is evident unto the vigilant reader, unto what grossness the true knowledge of the spiritual doctrine of the gospel was degenerate and grown in those days; how great blindness and darkness was in those days, even in the first primacy and supremacy of the bishop of Rome; as though the outward succession of Peter and the apostles had been of greater force and effect to the matter. What doth it force in what place Peter did rule or not rule? It is much more to be regarded that every man should labour and study with all their endeavour to follow the life and confession of Peter; and that man seemeth unto me to be true successor of Peter against whom the gates of hell shall not prevail. For if that Peter in the Gospel do bear the type and figure of the Christian church, as all men in a manner do affirm, what more foolish or vain thing can there be, than through private usurpation to restrain and to bind that unto one man, which by the appointment of the Lord is of itself free and open to so many?
Thus, in these so great and troublous times and horrible darkness of ignorance, what time there seemed in a manner to be no one so little a spark of pure doctrine left or remaining, this aforesaid Wickliff, by God's providence, sprang and rose up, through whom the Lord would first waken and raise up again the world, which was overmuch drowned and whelmed in the deep streams of human traditions. Thus you have here the time of Wickliff's original.
Which Wickliff, after he had now a long time professed divinity in the university of Oxford, and perceiving the true doctrine of Christ's gospel to be adulterate and defiled with so many filthy inventions of bishops, sects of monks, and dark errors; and that he, after long debating and deliberating with himself, (with many secret sighs, and bewailing in his mind the general ignorance of the whole world,) could no longer suffer or abide the same; he at the last determined with himself to help and to remedy such things as he saw to be wide, and out of the way. But, forasmuch as he saw that this dangerous meddling could not be attempted or stirred without great trouble, neither that these things, which had been so long time with use and custom rooted and grafted in men's minds, could be suddenly plucked up or taken away, he thought with himself that this matter should be done by little and little. Wherefore he, taking his original at small occasions, thereby opened himself a way or mean to greater matters. And first he assailed his adversaries in logical and metaphysical questions, disputing with them of the first form and fashion of things, of the increase of time, and of the intelligible substance of a creature, with other such-like sophisms of no great effect; but yet, notwithstanding, it did not a little help and furnish him, which minded to dispute of greater matters. So in these matters first began Keningham (a Carmelite) to dispute and argue against John Wickliff.
By these originals the way was made unto greater points, so that at the length he came to touch the matters of the sacraments, and other abuses of the church; touching which things this holy man took great pains, protesting (as they said) openly in the schools, that it was his chief and principal purpose and intent, to revoke and call back the church from her idolatry, to some better amendment, especially in the matter of the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ. But this boil or sore could not be touched without the great grief and pain of the whole world; for first of all, the whole glut of monks and Begging Friars were set on a rage or madness, which (even as hornets with their sharp stings) did assail this good man on every side; fighting (as is said) for their altars, paunches, and bellies. After them the priests, and then after them the archbishop,took the matter in hand, being then Simon Sudbury; who, for the same cause, deprived him of his benefice, which then he had in Oxford.
Notwithstanding, he being somewhat friended and supported by the king, as appeareth, continued and bare out the malice of the friars, and of the archbishop, all this while of his first beginning, till about the year of our Lord 1377; after which time, now to prosecute likewise of his troubles and conflicts, first I must fetch about a little compass, as requisite is, to infer some mention of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, the king's son, Lord Henry Percy, which were his special maintainers.
As years and time grew on, King Edward the Third, which had reigned now about fifty-one years, after the decease of Prince Edward his son, who departed the year before, was stricken in great age, and in such feebleness withal, that he was unwieldy through lack of strength, to govern the affairs of the realm. Wherefore, a parliament being called the year before his death, it was there put up by the knights and other the burgesses of the parliament, because of the misgovernment of the realm, (by certain greedy persons about the king, raking all to themselves, without seeing any justice done,) that twelve sage and discreet lords and peers, such as were free from note of all avarice, should be placed as tutors about the king, to have the doing and disposing under him (six at one time, and in their absence, six at another) of matters pertinent to the public regiment. Here, by the way, I omit to speak of Alice Perris, the wicked harlot which, as the story reporteth, had bewitched the king's heart, and governed all, and sat upon causes herself, through the devilish help of a friar Dominic; who by the duke of Lancaster was caused to be taken, and was convicted, and should have suffered for the same, had not the archbishop of Canterbury and the friars (more regarding the liberty of their church than the punishing of vice) reclaimed him for their own prisoner. This Alice Perris, notwithstanding she was banished by this parliament from the king, yet afterward she came again, and left him not, till at his death she took all his rings upon his fingers and other jewels from him, and so fled away like a harlot. But this of her by the way.
These twelve governors, by parliament aforesaid being appointed to have the tuition of the king, and to attend to the public affairs of the realm, remained for a certain space about him; till afterward it so fell out, that they being again removed, all the regiment of the rcalm, next under the king, was committed to the duke of Lancaster, the king's son For as yet Richard, the son of Prince Edward lately departed, was very young and under age.
This duke of Lancaster had in his heart of long time conceived a certain displeasure against the popish clergy; whether for corrupt and impure doctrine joined with like abominable excess of life, or for what other cause, it is not precisely expressed; only by story the cause thereof may be guessed to rise by William Wickham, bishop of Winchester. The matter is this:
The bishop of Winchester, as the saying went then, was reported to affirm, that the aforesaid John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, was not the son of King Edward, nor of the queen; who, being in travail at Gaunt, had no son (as he said) but a daughter, which the same time, by lying upon of the mother in the bed, was there smothered. Whereupon the queen, fearing the king's displeasure, caused a certain man-child of a woman of Flanders (born the very same time) to be conveyed, and brought unto her instead of her daughter aforesaid; and so she brought up the child whom she bare not, who now is called duke of Lancaster. And this, said the bishop, did the queen tell him, lying in extremes on her death-bed under seal of confession; charging him, if the said duke should ever aspire to get the crown, or if the kingdom by any means should fall unto him, he then should manifest the same, and declare it to the world, that the said duke of Lancaster was no part of the king's blood, but a false heir of the king. This slanderous report of the wicked bishop, as it savoureth of a contumelious lie, so seemeth it to proceed of a subtle zeal toward the pope's religion, meaning falsehood. For the aforesaid duke, by favouring of Wickliff, declared himself to be a professed enemy against the pope's profession; which thing was then not unknown, neither unmarked of the prelates and bishops then in England. But the sequel of the story thus followed:
This slanderous villany of the bishop's report being blazed abroad, and coming to the duke's ear; he therewith not being a little discontented (as no marvel was) sought again, by what means he could, to be revenged of this forenamed bishop. In conclusion the duke, having now all the government of the realm under the king his father, in his own hands, so pursued the bishop of Winchester, that by act of parliament he was condemned and deprived of all his temporal goods; which goods were assigned to Prince Richard of Bourdeaux, the next inheritor of the crown after the king; and furthermore he inhibited the said bishop not to approach near to the court by twenty miles. Further as touching this bishop, the story thus proceedeth: Not long after, in the year of our Lord 1377, a parliament was called by the means of the duke of Lancaster, upon certain causes and respects; in which parliament great request and suit was made by the clergy for the deliverance of the bishop of Winchester. At length, when a subsidy was asked in the king's name of the clergy, and request also made in the king's behalf, for speedy expedition to be made for the dissolving of the parliament, the archbishop therefore accordingly convented the bishops for the tractation thereof. To whom the bishops with great lamentation complaining for lack of their fellow and brother, the bishop of Winchester, whose injury, said they, did derogate from the liberties of the whole church; and therefore denied to join themselves in tractation of any such matters, before all the members together were united with the head; and (seeing the matter touched them all together in common, as well him as them) they would not otherwise do. And seemed, moreover, to be moved against the archbishop for that he was not more stout in the cause, but suffered himself so to be cited of the duke.
The archbishop, although having sufficient cause to excuse himself, wherefore not to send for him, as also he did, because of the perils which might ensue thereof, yet being enforced and persuaded thereunto by the importunity of the bishops, directed down his letters to the aforesaid bishop of Winchester, willing him to resort unto the convocation of the clergy; who being glad to obey the same, was received with great joy of the other bishops. And at length, by the means of Alice Perris, the king's paramour above mentioned, giving to her a good quantity of money, the said Winchester was restored to his own temporalities again.
As the bishops had thus sent for Winchester, the duke in the mean time had sent for John Wickliff, who, as is said, was then the divinity reader in Oxford, and had commenced in sundry acts and disputations, contrary to the form and teaching of the pope's church in many things; who also for the same had been deprived of his benefice, as hath been afore touched. The opinions which he began in Oxford, in his lectures and sermons, first to treat of, and wherefore he was deprived, were these: That the pope had no more power to excommunicate any man, than hath another. That if it be given by any person to the pope to excommunicate, yet to absolve the same is as much in the power of another priest, as in his. He affirmed, moreover, that neither the king nor any temporal lord could give any perpetuity to the church, or to any ecclesiastical person; for that when such ecclesiastical persons do sin, habitualiter, continuing in the same still, the temporal powers ought and may meritoriously take away from them that before hath been bestowed upon them. And that he proved to have been practised before here in England by William Rufus; which thing, said he, if he did lawfully, why may not the same also be practised now? if he did it unlawfully, then doth the church err, saith he, and doth unlawfully in praying for him. But of his assertions more shall follow, Christ willing, hereafter. The story which ascribeth to him these assertions, being taken out, as I take it, of the monastery of St. Alban's, addeth withal: That in his teaching and preaching he was very eloquent, but a dissembler, saith he, and a hypocrite. Why he surmiseth him to be a hypocrite, the cause was this:
First, Because he resorted much to the orders of the Begging Friars, frequenting and extolling the perfection of their poverty.
Secondly, Because he and his fellows usually accustomed in their preaching to go barefoot, and in simple russet gowns.
By this, I suppose, may efficiently appear to the indifferent, the nature and condition of Wickliff, how far it was from the ambition and pride, which the slanderous pen of Polydore Virgil reporteth in his 19th book of him, that because he was not preferred to higher honours and dignities of the church, (conceiving therefore indignation against the clergy,) he became their mortal enemy. How true was this, He only knoweth best, that rightly shall judge both the one and the other.
In the mean time, by other circumstances and parts of his life, we may also partly conjecture what is to be thought of the man. But howsoever it was in him either true or false, yet it had been Polydore's part, either not so intemperately to have abused his pen, or at least to have showed some greater authority and ground of that his report. For to follow nothing else but flying fame, so rashly to defame a man whose life he knoweth not, is not the part of a faithful story-writer.
But to return from whence we digressed. Beside these his opinions and assertions above recited, with other more, which are hereafter to be brought in order, he began also then something nearly to touch the matter of the sacrament, proving that in the said sacrament the accidents of bread remained not without the subject of substance; both by the Holy Scriptures, and also by the authority of the doctors, but specially by such as were most ancient. As for the later writers, that is to say, such as have written upon that argument under the thousand years since Christ's time, he utterly refused, saying, That after these years Satan was loosed and set at liberty; and that since that time the life of man hath been most subject, and in danger of errors; and that the simple and plain truth doth appear and conlist in the Scriptures, whereunto all human traditions, whatsoever they be, must be referred, and specially such as are set forth and published now of late years. This was the cause why he refused the later writers of decretals, leaning only to the Scriptures and ancient doctors; most stoutly affirming out of them, that in the sacrament of the body which is celebrate with bread, the accidents not to be present without the substance; that is to say, that the body of Christ is not present without the bread, as the common sort of priests in those days did dream. As for his arguments, what they were, we will shortly, at more opportunity, by God's grace, declare them in another place. But herein the truth, as the poet speaketh very truly, had gotten John Wickliff great displeasure and hatred at many men's hands; and specially of the monks and richest sort of priests.
Albeit through the favour and supportation of the duke of Lancaster and Lord Henry Percy, he persisted hitherto in some mean quiet against their wolfish violence and cruelty: till at last, about the year of our Lord 1376, the bishops still urging and inciting their archbishop Simon Sudbury, who before had deprived him, and afterward prohibited him also not to stir any more in those sorts of matters, had obtained, by process and order of citation, to have him brought before them; whereunto both place and time for him to appear, after their usual form, was to him assigned.
The duke, having intelligence that Wickliff his client should come before the bishops, fearing that he, being but one, was too weak against such a multitude, calleth to him, out of the orders of friars, four bachelors of divinity, out of every order one, to join them with Wickliff also, for more surety. When the day was come, assigned to the said Wickliff to appear, which day was Thursday, the nineteenth of February, John Wickliff went, accompanied with the four friars aforesaid, and with them also the duke of Lancaster, and Lord Henry Percy, lord marshal of England; the said Lord Percy also going before them to make room and way where Wickliff should come.
Thus Wickliff (through the providence of God) being sufficiently guarded, was coming to the place where the bishops sat; whom, by the way, they animated and exhorted not to fear nor shrink a whit at the company of the bishops there present, who were all unlearned, said they, in respect of him; for so proceed the words of my aforesaid author, whom I follow in this narration; neither that he should dread the concourse of the people, whom they would themselves assist and defend, in such sort as he should take no harm. With these words, and with the assistance of the nobles, Wickliff, in heart encouraged, approached to the church of St. Paul in London, where a main press of people was gathered to hear what should be said and done. Such was there the frequency and throng of the multitude, that the lords, notwithstanding all the puissance of the high marshal, and only with great difficulty could get way through; insomuch that the bishop of London, whose name was William Courtney, seeing the stir that the lord marshal kept in the church among the people, speaking to the Lord Percy, said, That if he had known before what masteries he would have kept in the church, he would have stopped him out from coming there; at which words of the bishop, the duke, disdaining not a little, answered to the bishop again, and said, That he would keep such mastery there, though he said nay.
At last, after much wrestling, they pierced through and came to our Lady's chapel, where the dukes and barons were sitting together with the archbishops and other bishops; before whom the aforesaid John Wickliff, according to the manner, stood to know what should be laid unto him. To whom first spake the Lord Percy, bidding him to sit down, saying, that he had many things to answer to, and therefore had need of some softer seat. But the bishop of London, cast eftsoons into a fumish chafe with those words, said, He should not sit there. Neither was it, said he, according to law or reason, that he, which was cited there to appear to answer before his ordinary, should sit down during the time of his answer, but should stand. Upon these words a fire began to heat and kindle between them; insomuch that they began so to rate and revile one the other, that the whole multitude, therewith disquieted, began to be set on a hurry.
Then the duke, taking the Lord Percy's part, with hasty words began also to take up the bishop. To whom the bishop again, nothing inferior in reproachful checks and rebukes, did render and requite not only to him as good as he brought, but also did so far excel him in this railing art of scolding, that the duke blushed and was ashamed, because he could not overpass the bishop in brawling and railing, and therefore fell to plain threatening; menacing the bishop, that he would bring down the pride not only of him, but also of all the prelacy of England. And speaking, moreover, unto him: Thou, said he, bearest thyself so brag upon thy parents, which shall not be able to help thee; they shall have enough to do to help themselves; for his parents were the earl and countess of Devonshire. To whom the bishop again answered, that to be bold to tell truth, his confidence was not in his parents, nor in any man else, but only in God in whom he trusted. Then the duke softly whispering in the ear of him next by him, said, That he would rather pluck the bishop by the hair of his head out of the church, than he would take this at his hand. This was not spoken so secretly, but that the Londoners overheard him. Whereupon, being set in a rage, they cried out, saying, that they would not suffer their bishop so contemptuously to be abused. But rather they would lose their lives than that he should so be drawn out by the hair. Thus that council, being broken with scolding and brawling for that day, was dissolved before nine of the clock; and the duke, with the Lord Percy, went to the parliament, where the same day, before dinner, a bill was put up in the name of the king by the Lord Thomas Woodstock and Lord Henry Percy, that the city of London should no more be governed by a mayor, but by a captain, as in times before; and that the marshal of England should have all the ado in taking the arrests within the said city, as in other cities besides, with other petitions more, tending to the like derogation of the liberties of London. Which bill being read, John Philpot, burgess then for the city, standeth up, saying to them which read the bill, that that was never seen so before; and adding, moreover, that the mayor would never suffer any such things, or other arrest to be brought into the city, with more such words of like stoutness.
The next day following the Londoners assembled themselves in a council, to consider among them upon the bill for changing the mayor, and about the office of the marshal, also concerning the injuries done the day before to their bishop.
In which mean time, they being busy in long consultation of this matter, suddenly and unawares entered in the place two certain lords, whether to come to spy, or for what other cause, the author leaveth it uncertain, the one called Lord Fitz-Walter, the other Lord Guy Bryan. At the first coming in of them the vulgar sort was ready forthwith to fly upon them as spies, had not they made their protestation with an oath, declaring that their coming in was for no harm toward them. And so they were compelled by the citizens to swear to the city their truth and fidelity; contrary to the which oath, if they should rebel, they would be contented to forfeit whatsoever goods and possessions they had within the city.
This done, then began the Lord Fitz-Walter, in this wise, to persuade and exhort the citizens, first declaring how he was bound and obliged to them and to their city, not for the oath only now newly received, but of old and ancient good-will from his great-grandfather's time. Besides other divers duties, for the which he was chiefly bound to be one of their principal favourers; forasmuch as whatsoever tendeth to their damage and detriment, redounded also no less unto his own, for which cause he could not otherwise choose, but that what he did understand to be attempted against the public profit and liberties of the city, he must needs communicate the same to them; who, unless they, with speedy circumspection, do occur, and prevent perils that may and are like to ensue, it would turn in the end to their no small incommodity. And as there were many other things which required their vigilant care and diligence, so one thing there was which he could in no wise but admonish them of; which was this, necessary to be considered of them all, how the lord marshal Henry Percy, in his place within himself, had one in ward and custody, whether with the knowledge or without the knowledge of them, he could not tell: this he could tell, that the said lord marshal was not allowed any such ward or prison in his house, within the liberties of the city; which thing, if it be not seen to in time, the example thereof being suffered, would, in fine, breed to such a prejudice unto their customs and liberties, as they should not hereafter, when they would, reform the injury thereof.
These words of the Lord Fitz-Walter were not so soon spoken, but they were as soon taken of the rash citizens; who, in all hasty fury, running to their armour and weapons, went incontinently to the house of the Lord Percy, where, breaking up the gates, by violence they took out the prisoner, and burned the stocks wherein he sat, in the midst of London. Then was the Lord Percy sought for, whom, saith the story, they would doubtless have slain if they might have found him. With their bills and javelins, all corners and privy chambers were searched, beds and hangings torn asunder. But the Lord Percy, as God would, was then with the duke, whom one John Yper the same day, with great instance, had desired to dinner.
The Londoners not finding him at home, and supposing that he was with the duke at Savoy, in all hasty heat turned their power thither, running as fast as they could to the duke's house; where also in like manner they were disappointed of their cruel purpose. In the mean while, as this was doing, cometh one of the duke's men running in post haste to the duke and to the Lord Percy, declaring what was done. The duke, being then at his oysters, without any further tarrying, and also breaking both his shins at the form for haste, took boat with the Lord Percy, and by water went to Kingston, where then the princess, with Richard the young prince, did lie; who there declared unto the princess all the whole matter concerning the outrage of the Londoners, as it was. To whom she promised again, that such an order should be taken in the matter, as should be to his contentation. At what time the commons of London thus, as is said, were about the duke's house at Savoy, there meeteth with them a certain priest, who, marvelling at the sudden rage and concourse, asked what they sought. To whom answer was given again of some, that they sought for the duke and the lord marshal, to have of them the Lord Peter de la Mare, whom they wrongfully had detained in prison. To this the priest answered again more boldly than opportunely: That Peter (said he) is a false traitor to the king, and worthy long since to be hanged. At the hearing of these words, the furious people, with a terrible shout, cried out upon him, that he was a traitor, and one that took the duke's part, and so falling upon him with their weapons, strove who might first strike him; who, after they had wounded him very sore, so being wounded they had him into prison; where, within few days, upon the soreness of his wounds, he died.
Neither would the rage of the people thus have ceased, had not the bishop of London, leaving his dinner, come to them at Savoy, and putting them in remembrance of the blessed time, as they term it, of Lent, had persuaded them to cease and to be quiet.
The Londoners, seeing that they could get no advantage against the duke, who was without their reach, to wreak their anger they took his arms, which in most despiteful ways they hanged up in the open places of the city, in sign of reproach, as for a traitor. Insomuch that when one of his gentlemen came through the city, with a plate containing the duke's arms hanging by a lace about his neck, the citizens not abiding the sight thereof, cast him from his horse, and plucked his escutcheon from him, and were about to work the extremity against him, had not the mayor rescued him out of their hands, and sent him home safe unto the duke his master. In such hatred was then the duke among the vulgar people of London.
After this the princess, understanding the hearts and broil of the Londoners, set against the aforesaid duke, sent unto London three knights, Sir Albred Lewer, Sir Simon Burley, and Sir Lewis Clifford, to entreat the citizens to be reconciled with the duke. The Londoners answered, that they, for the honour of the princess, would obey and do with all reverence what she would require; but this they required and enjoined the messengers to say to the duke by word of mouth: that he should suffer the bishop of Winchester afore mentioned, and also the Lord Peter de la Mare, to come to their answer, and to be judged by their peers; whereby either they might be quit, if they were guiltless; or otherwise, if they be found culpable, they might receive, according to their deserts after the laws of the realm, what grief and displeasure the duke conceived and retained in his mind hereof. Again, what means and suit the Londoners for their part made to the old king for their liberties; what rhymes and songs in London were made against the duke; how the bishops, at the duke's request, were moved to excommunicate those malicious slanderers; and, moreover, how the duke at last was revenged of those contumelies and injuries; how he caused them to be brought before the king; how sharply they were rebuked for their misdemeanour by the worthy oration of the lord chamberlain, Robert Aston, in the presence of the king, archbishops, bishops, with divers other states, the king's children, and other nobilities of the realm; in conclusion, how the Londoners were compelled to this at length, by the common assent and public charges of the city, to make a great taper of wax, which, with the duke's arms set upon it, should be brought with solemn procession to the church of St. Paul, there to burn continually before the image of our Lady; and, at last, how both the said duke and the Londoners were reconciled together, in the beginning of the new king, with the kiss of peace, and the same reconcilement publicly announced in the church of Westminster, and what joy was in the whole city thereof: these, because they are impertinent and make too long a digression from the matter of Wickliff, I cut off with brevity, referring the reader to other histories, namely, of St. Alban's, where they are to be found at large.
As these aforesaid, for brevity' sake, I pass over, so will I not be long, and yet cannot omit that which happened the same time and year to the bishop of Norwich, to the intent that this posterity now may see to what pride the clergy of the pope's church was then grown. The same time as this broil was at London, the bishop of Norwich, a little after the time of Easter, coming to the town of Lennam, belonging to his lordship; being not contented with the old accustomed honour due unto him, and used of his predecessors before in the same town, required, moreover, with a new and unused kind of magnificence to be exalted: insomuch that when he saw the chief magistrate or mayor of that town to go in the streets with his officer going before him, holding a certain wand in his hand tipped at both ends with black horn, as the manner was, he, reputing himself to be lord of that town, as he was, and thinking to be higher than the highest, commanded the honour of that staff due to the mayor, to be yielded and borne before his lordly personage. The mayor or bailiff, with other the townsmen, courteously answered to him again, that they were right willing and contented with all their hearts to exhibit that reverence unto him; and would so do, if he first of the king and council could obtain that custom, and if the same might be induced, after any peaceable way, with the good-wills of the commons and body of the town; otherwise, said they, as the matter was dangerous, so they durst not take in hand any such new alteration of ancient customs and liberties, lest the people, (which is always inclinable and prone to evil,) do fall upon them with stones, and drive them out of the town. Wherefore, kneeling on their knees before him, there humbly they besought him that he would require no such thing of them; that he would save his own honour and their lives, who, otherwise, if he intended that way, were in great danger. But the bishop, youthful and haughty, taking occasion, by their humbleness, to swell the more in himself, answered, that he would not be taught by their council, but that he would have it done, though all the commons (whom he named ribalds) said nay. Also he rebuked the mayor and his brethren for mecocks and dastards, for so fearing the vulgar sort of people.
The citizens perceiving the wilful stoutness of the bishop, meekly answering again, said, They minded not to resist him, but to let him do therein what he thought good: only they desired him that he would license them to depart, and hold them excused for not waiting upon him, and conducting him out of the town with that reverence which he required; for if they should be seen in his company, all the suspicion thereof would be upon them, and so should they be all in danger, so much as their lives were worth. The bishop, not regarding their advice and counsel, commanded one of his men to take the rod borne before the mayor, and to carry the same before him. Which being done, and perceived of the commons, the bishop after that manner went not far, but the rude people running to shut the gates, came out with their bows, some with clubs and staves, some with other instruments, some with stones, and let drive at the bishop and his men as fast as they might, in such sort, that both the bishop and his horse under him, with most part of his men, were hurt and wounded. And thus the glorious pride of this jolly prelate, ruffling in his new sceptre, was received and welcomed there. That is, he was so pelted with bats and stones, so wounded with arrows and other instruments fit for such a skirmish, that the most part of his men, with his mace-bearer, all running away from him, the poor wounded bishop was there left alone, not able to keep his old power, which went about to usurp a new power more than to him belonged. Thus, as it is commonly true in all, so is it well exemplified here, which is commonly said, and as it is commonly seen, that pride will have a fall, and power usurped will never stand. In like manner, if the citizens of Rome, following the example of these Lennam men, as they have the like cause, and greater, to do by the usurped power of their bishop, would after the same sauce handle the pope, and unsceptre him of his mace and regality, which nothing pertaineth to him; they, in so doing, both should recover their own liberties, with more honour at home, and also win much more commendation abroad.
This tragedy, with all the parts thereof, being thus ended at Lennam, which was a little after Easter, as is said, about the month of April, A. D. 1377, the same year, upon the twelfth day of the month of June next after, died the worthy and victorious prince, King Edward the Third, after he had reigned fifty-one years; a prince not more aged in years than renowned for many singular and heroical virtues, but principally noted and lauded for his singular meekness and clemency towards his subjects and inferiors, ruling them by gentleness and mercy, without all rigour or austere severity. Among other noble and royal ornaments of his nature, worthily and copiously set forth of many, thus he is described by some, which may briefly suffice for the comprehension of all the rest: to the orphans he was a father, compassionate to the afflicted, mourning with the miserable, relieving the oppressed, and to all them that wanted a helper in time of need, &c. But chiefly, above all other things in this prince, in my mind, to be commemorate is this, that he above all other kings of this realm, unto the time of King Henry the Eighth, was the greatest bridler of the pope's usurped power and outrageous oppressions: during all the time of which king, neither the pope could greatly prevail in this realm, and also John Wickliff was maintained with favour and aid sufficient.
Illustration -- Portrait of Edward III.
Illustration -- Seal of Edward III.
Illustration -- Tomb of Edward III.
But before we close up the story of this king, there cometh to hand that which I thought good not to omit, a noble purpose of the king in requiring a view to be taken in all his dominions of all benefices and dignities ecclesiastical remaining in the hands of Italians and aliens, with the true valuation of the same, directed down by commission; whereof the like also is to be found in the time of King Richard the Second, the tenor of which commission of King Edward I thought hereunder to set down for worthy memory.
The king directed writs unto all the bishops of England in this form.
"Edward, by the grace of God, king, &c. To the reverend father in Christ N., by the same grace bishop L., greeting. Being willing upon certain causes to be certified what and how many benefices, as well archdeaconries and other dignities, as vicarages, parsonages, prebends, and chapels, within your diocese, be at this present in the hands of Italians and other strangers, what they be, of what value, and how every of the said benefices be called by name; and how much every of the same is worth by the year, not as by way of tax or extent, but according to the true value of the same; and likewise of the names of all and singular such strangers being now incumbents or occupying the same and every of them; moreover, the names of all them, whether Englishmen or strangers, of what state or condition soever they be, which have the occupation or disposition of any such benefices with the fruits and profits of the same, in the behalf, or by the authority, of any the aforesaid strangers, by way of farm, or title, or procuration, or by any other ways or means whatsoever, and how long they have occupied or disposed the same; and withal if any the said strangers be now residents upon any benefices: we command you, as heretofore commanded you, that you send us a true certificate of all and singular the premises, into our high court of chancery under your seal distinctly and openly, on this side the feast of the Ascension of our Lord next coming, without further delay: returning unto us this our writ withal. Witness ourself at Westminster the 16th day of April in the 48th year of our reign of England, and over France the 35th year." A. D. 1375.
By virtue hereof, certificate was sent up to the king into his chancery, out of every diocese of England, of all such spiritual livings as were then in the occupation either of priors aliens, or of other strangers; whereof the number was so great, that being all set down, it would fill almost half a quire of paper. Whereby may appear that it was high time for the king to seek remedy herein, either by treaty with the pope or otherwise; considering so great a portion of the revenues of his realm was by this means conveyed away, and employed either to the relief of his enemies, or maintenance of the foreigners; amongst which number the cardinals of the court of Rome lacked not their share.
[Fox subjoins to this statement a long list of the rich and numerous preferments enjoyed by the cardinals of Rome. In fact the chief part of the church revenues was reaped, by men who had no connexion whatever with the country.]
Illustration -- John Wicliff defending himself.fter King Edward the Third, succeeded his grandson, Richard the Second, being yet but young, of the age of eleven years: who, in the same year of his father's decease, with great pomp and solemnity was crowned at Westminster, A. D. 1377, who, following his father's steps, was no great disfavourer of the way and doctrine of Wickliff: albeit at the first beginning, partly through the iniquity of time, partly through the pope's letters, he could not do that he would. Notwithstanding something he did in that behalf, more perhaps than in the end he had thank for from the papists, as more (by the grace of Christ) shall appear. But as times do change, so changeth commonly the cause and state of man. The bishops now seeing the aged king to be taken away, during the time of whose old age all the government of the realm depended upon the duke of Lancaster; and now the said bishops again seeing the said duke, with the Lord Percy, the lord marshal, to give over their offices, and to remain in their private houses without intermeddling, thought now the time to serve them, to have some advantage against John Wickliff; who hitherto, under the protection of the aforesaid duke and lord marshal, had some rest and quiet. Concerning the story of this Wickliff, I trust, gentle reader, it is not out of thy memory what went before, how he being brought before the bishops, by the means of the duke and of Lord Henry Percy, the council was interrupted, and brake before nine of the clock. By reason whereof Wickliff at that time escaped without any further trouble. Who, notwithstanding his being by the bishops forbidden to deal in that doctrine any more, continued yet with his fellows, going barefoot and in long frieze gowns, preaching diligently unto the people. Out of his sermons these articles most chiefly at that time were collected.
"That the holy eucharist, after the consecration, is not the very body of Christ, but figuratively.
"That the Church of Rome is not the head of all churches more than any other church is; nor that Peter hath any more power given of Christ, than any other apostle hath.
"Item, That the pope of Rome hath no more part in the keys of the church, than hath any other within the order of priesthood.
"Item, If God be, the lords temporal may lawfully and meritoriously take away their temporalties from the churchmen offending habitualiter.
"Item, If any temporal lord do know the church so offending, he is bound, under pain of damnation, to take the temporalties from the same.
"Item, That the gospel is a rule sufficient of itself to rule the life of every Christian man here, without any other rule.
"Item, That all other rules, under whose observances divers religious persons be governed, do add no more perfection to the gospel, than doth the white colour to the wall.
"Item, That neither the pope, nor any other prelate of the church, ought to have prisons wherein to punish transgressors."
Besides these articles, divers other conclusions afterward were gathered out of his writings and preachings by the bishops of England, which they sent diligently to Pope Gregory at Rome; where the said articles being read and perused, were condemned for heretical and erroneous by three and twenty cardinals.
In the mean time the archbishop of Canterbury, sendeth forth his citations, as is aforesaid, called before him the said John Wickliff in the presence of the duke of Lancaster and Lord Percy; who, upon the declaration of the pope's letters made, bound him in silence, forbidding him not to treat any more of those matters. But then, through the disturbance of the bishop of London, and the duke, and Lord Percy, that matter was soon despatched, as hath been above recorded. And all this was done in the days and last year of King Edward the Third, and Pope Gregory the Eleventh.
In the year following, A. D. 1378, being the first year of King Richard the Second, the said Pope Gregory taking his time, after the death of King Edward, sendeth his bull by the hands and means, peradventure, of one Master Edmund Stafford, directed unto the university of Oxford, rebuking them sharply, imperiously, and like a pope, for suffering so long the doctrine of John Wickliff to take root, and not plucking it up with the crooked sickle of their catholic doctrine. When the bull came to be delivered into their hands by the pope's messenger aforesaid, the proctors and masters of the university, joining together in consultation, stood long in doubt, deliberating with themselves whether to receive the pope's bull with honour, or to refuse and reject it with shame.
I cannot here but laugh in my mind to behold the authors of this story whom I follow; what exclamations, what wonderings and marvels, they make at these Oxford men, for so doubting at a matter so plain, so manifest of itself, as they say, whether the pope's bull sent to them from Rome was to be received or not; which thing to our monkish writers seemed then such a prodigious wonder, that they with blushing cheeks are fain to cut off the matter in the midst with silence.
The copy of this wild bull, sent to them from the pope, was this:
"Gregory the bishop, the servant of God's servants, to his well-beloved sons, the chancellor and university of Oxford, in the diocese of Lincoln, greeting and apostolical benediction.
"We are compelled not only to marvel, but also to lament, that you, considering the apostolical seat hath given unto your university of Oxford so great favour and privilege, and also for that you flow, as in a large sea, in the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, and ought to be champions and defenders of the ancient and catholic faith, without the which there is no salvation, by your great negligence and sloth will suffer wild cockle, not only to grow up among the pure wheat of the flourishing field of your university, but also to wax strong and choke the corn. Neither have ye any care, as we are informed, to extirpate and pluck the same up by the roots, to the great blemishing of your renowned name, the peril of your souls, the contempt of the Church of Rome, and to the great decay of the ancient faith. And further, which grieveth us, the increase of that filthy weed was more sharply rebuked and judged of in Rome, than in England where it sprang. Wherefore let there be means sought, by the help of the faithful, to root out the same. Grievously it is come to our ears, that one John Wickliff, parson of Lutterworth, in Lincoln diocese, a professor of divinity, (would God he were not rather a master of errors,) is run into a kind of detestable wickedness, not only and openly publishing, but also vomiting out of the filthy dungeon of his breast, divers professions, false and erroneous conclusions, and most wicked and damnable heresies; whereby he might defile the faithful sort, and bring them from the right path headlong into the way of perdition, overthrow the state of the church, and utterly subvert the secular policy. Of which his mischievous heresies some seem to agree, certain names and terms only being changed, with the perverse opinions and unlearned doctrine of Marsilius of Padua, and of John of Ganduno, of unworthy memory, whose books were utterly abolished in the realm of England, by our predecessor of happy memory, John the Twenty-second, which kingdom doth not only flourish in power, and abundance of faculties, but is much more glorious and shining in pureness of faith; accustomed always to bring forth men excellently learned in the true knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, ripe in gravity of manners, men notable in devotion, and defenders of the catholic faith. Wherefore we will and command you, by our writing apostolical, in the name of your obedience, and upon pain of privation of our favour, indulgences and privileges granted unto you and your university from the said see apostolical; that hereafter ye suffer not those pestilent heresies, and those subtle and false conclusions and propositions, misconstruing the right sense of faith and good works, (howsoever they term it, or what curious implication of words soever they use,) any longer to be disputed of, or brought in question; lest if it be not withstood at the first, and plucked up by the roots, it might perhaps be too late hereafter to prepare medicines, when a greater number is infected with the contagion. And further, that ye apprehend immediately, or cause to be apprehended, the said John Wickliff, and deliver him to be detained in the safe custody of our well-beloved brethren, the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of London, or either of them. And if you shall find any gainsayers corrupted with the said doctrine, which God forbid, in your said university within your jurisdiction, that shall obstinately stand in the said errors, that then in like manner ye apprehend them, and commit them to safe custody, and otherwise to do in this case as it shall appertain unto you; so as by your careful proceedings herein, your negligence past concerning the premises may now fully be supplied and recompensed with present diligence. Whereby you shall not only purchase unto you the favour and benevolence of the seat apostolical, but also great reward and merit of Almighty God.
"Given at Rome, at St. Mary's the Greater, xi. kalends of June, and in the 7th year of our consecration."
Beside this bull sent to the university of Oxford, the said Pope Gregory directed moreover his letters the same time to the archbishop of Canterbury, Simon Sudbury, to the bishop of London, named William Courtney, with the conclusions of John Wickliff therein enclosed, commanding them, by virtue of those his letters apostolical, and straitly enjoining them to cause the said John Wickliff to be apprehended and cast into prison, and that the king and the nobles of England should be admonished by them, not to give any credit to the said John Wickliff, or to his doctrine in any wise.
Beside this bill or bull of the pope, sent unto the archbishop of Canterbury and to the bishop of London, bearing the date, 11th kal. June, and the seventh year of the reign of the pope; I find, moreover, in the said story two other letters of the pope concerning the same matter, but differing in form, sent unto the same bishops, and all bearing the same date, both of the day, year, and month of the reign of the said Pope Gregory. Whereby it is to be supposed, that .the pope either was very exquisite and solicitous about the matter, to have Wickliff to be apprehended, which wrote three divers letters to one person, and all in one day, about one business; or else that he did suspect the bearers thereof; the solution whereof I leave to the judgment of the reader.
Furthermore, beside these letters written to the university, and to the bishops, he directeth also another epistle bearing the same date unto King Edward, as one of my stories saith, but as another saith, to King Richard, which soundeth more near to the truth, forasmuch as in the seventh year of Pope Gregory the Eleventh, which was A. D. 1378, King Edward was not alive.
The copy of the epistle sent by the bishop of Rome to Richard, king of England, to persecute John Wicliff:
"Unto his well-beloved son in Christ, Richard the most noble king of England, health, &c.
The kingdom of England, which the Most Highest hath put under your power and governance, being so famous and renowned in valiancy and strength, so abundant and flowing in all kind of wealth and riches, but much more glorious, resplendent, and shining through the brightness and clearness of all godliness and faith, hath been accustomed always to bring forth men endued with the true knowledge and understanding of the Holy Scriptures, grave in years, fervent in devotion, and defenders of the catholic faith: the which have not only directed and instructed their own people through their wholesome doctrine and precepts into the true path of God's commandments, but also we have heard by the report and information of many credible persons, to our great grief and heart sorrow, that John Wickliff, parson of Lutterworth, in the diocese of Lincoln, professor of divinity, (I would to God he were no author of heresy,) hath fallen into such a detestable and abominable madness, that he hath propounded and set forth diverse and sundry conclusions full of errors, and containing most manifest heresy, which do tend utterly to subvert and overthrow the state of the whole church. Of the which, some of them (albeit under coloured phrase and meech) seem to smell and savour of perverse opinions, the foolish doctrine of condemned memory of Marsilius of Padua, and John of Ganduno, whose books were by Pope John the Twenty-second, our predecessor, a man of a most happy memory, reproved and condemned," &c.
itherto, gentle reader, thou hast heard how Wickliff was accused by the bishop. Now you shall also hear the pope's mighty reasons and arguments, by the which he did confute him, to the king. It followeth:
"Therefore, forasmuch as our reverend brethren, the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of London, have received a special commandment from us, by our authority to apprehend and commit the forenamed John Wickliff unto prison, and to transport his confession unto us; if they shall seem in the prosecution of this their business to lack your favour or help, we require and most earnestly desire your Majesty, even as your most noble predecessors have always been most earnest lovers of the catholic faith, (whose case or quarrel in this matter is chiefly handled,) that you would vouchsafe, even for the reverence of God, and the faith aforesaid, and also of the apostolic seat, and of our person, with your help and favour to assist the said archbishop and all other that go about to execute the said business. Whereby, besides the praise of men, you shall obtain a heavenly reward and great favour and good will at our hand, and of the see aforesaid. Dated at Rome, at St. Mary the Greater, the 11th kal. of June, in the 7th year of our bishopric, A. D. 1378."
The articles included in the pope's letters, which he sent to the bishops and to the king against Wickliff, were these which in order do follow.
The conclusions of John Wickliff, exhibited in the convocation of certain bishops at Lambeth.
"1. All the whole race of mankind here on earth, besides Christ, hath no power simply to ordain that Peter and all his offspring should politically rule over the world for ever.
"2. God cannot give to any man for him and his heirs any civil dominion for ever.
"3. All writings invented by men, as touching perpetual heritage, are impossible.
"4. Every man, being in grace justifying, hath not only right unto the thing, but also for his time hath right indeed above all the good things of God.
"5. A man cannot only ministratoriously give any temporal or continual gift, either as well to his natural son, or to his son by imitation.
"6. If God be, the temporal lords may lawfully and meritoriously take away the riches from the church when delinquent.We know that Christ's vicar cannot, neither is able by his bulls, neither by his own will and consent, neither by the consent of his college, either to enable or disable any man.
"7. A man cannot be excommunicated to his hurt or undoing, except he be first principally excommunicate by himself.
"8. No man ought, but in God's cause alone, to excommunicate, suspend, or forbid, or otherwise to proceed to revenge, by any ecclesiastical censure.
"9. A curse or excommunication doth not simply bind, but in case it be pronounced and given out against the adversary of God's law.
"10. There is no power given by any example of Christ or his apostles to excommunicate any subject, specially for denying of any temporalties, but rather contrariwise.
"11. The disciples of Christ have no power to exact, by any civil authority, temporalties by censures.
"12. It is not possible by the absolute power of God, that if the pope or any other Christian do pretend by any means to bind or to loose, that thereby he doth so bind and loose.
"13. We ought to believe that the vicar of Christ doth only bind and loose, when he worketh conformably to the law and ordinance of Christ.
"14. This ought universally to be believed, that every priest rightly and duly ordered, according unto the law of grace, hath power according to his vocation, whereby he may minister the sacraments, and consequently absolve any man confessing his fault, he being contrite for the same.
"15. It is lawful for kings, in causes licensed by the law, to take away the temporalties from the spiritualty, sinning habitualiter, that is, which continue in the custom of sin, and will not amend.
"16. Whether they be temporal lords, or any other men whatsoever they be, which have endowed any church with temporalties, it is lawful for them to take away the same temporalties, as it were by way of medicine, to avoid sin, notwithstanding any excommunication or other ecclesiastical censure; forasmuch as they are not given but under a condition.
"17. An ecclesiastical minister, and also the bishop of Rome, may lawfully be rebuked of his subjects, and for the profit of the church be accused either of the clergy or of the laity."
These letters, with the articles enclosed, being received from the pope, the bishops took them no little to heart, thinking and fully determining with themselves, and that in open profession before their provincial council, that, all manner respects of fear or favour set apart, no person neither high nor low should hinder them, neither would they be seduced by the entreaty of any man, nor by any threatenings or rewards, but that in this cause they would execute most surely upright justice and equity; yea, albeit even if danger of life should follow thereupon. But these so fierce brags and stout promises, with the subtle practices of these bishops, who thought them so sure before, the Lord, against whom no determination of man's counsel can prevail, by a small occasion, did lightly confound and overthrow. For the day of the examination being come, a certain personage of the prince's court, and yet of no great noble birth, named Lewis Clifford, entering in among the bishops, commanded them that they should not proceed with any definitive sentence against John Wickliff. With which words all they were so amazed, and their combs so cut, that (as in the story is mentioned) they became mute and speechless, as men having not one word in their mouths to answer. And thus, by the wondrous work of God's providence, escaped John Wickliff the second time out of the bishops' hands, and was by them clearly dismissed upon this declaration made of his articles, as anon shall follow.
Moreover, here is not to be passed over, how, at the same time, and in the said chapel of the archbishop at Lambeth, where the bishops were sitting upon John Wickliff, the historian, writing of the doing thereof, addeth these words, saying, "I say not only that the citizens of London, but also the vile abjects of the city, presumed to be so bold in the same chapel at Lambeth, where the bishops were sitting upon John Wickliff, as both to entreat for him, and also to let and stop the said matter; trusting, as I suppose, to the negligence which they saw before in the bishops," &c.ohn Wickliff, by giving his exposition unto his aforesaid propositions and conclusions, unto the bishops in writing at the time of his examination, either shifted off the bishops, or else satisfied them so, that for that time he was dismissed and escaped clearly away, only being charged and commanded by them, that he should not teach or preach any such doctrine any more, for the offence of the lay people.
Thus this good man, being escaped from the bishops with this charge, yet, notwithstanding, ceased not to proceed in his godly purpose, labouring and profiting still in the church as he had begun.
Unto whom also, as it happened by the providence of God, this was likewise a great help and stay, for that in the same year, or in the beginning of the next year following, the aforesaid Pope Gregory the Eleventh, which was the stirrer up of all this trouble against him, turned up his heels and died. After him ensued such a schism in Rome, between two popes, and other succeeding after them, one striving against another, that it endured the space of thirty-nine years, until the time of the council of Constance.
The first occasioner of which schism was Pope Urban the Sixth, who, in the beginning of his popedom, was so proud and insolent to his cardinals, and other, as to dukes, princes, and queens, and so set to advance his nephews and kindred, with injuries to other princes, that the greatest number of his cardinals and courtiers by little and little shrunk from him, and set up another French pope against him, named Clement, who reigned eleven years. And after him Benedict the Thirteenth, who reigned twenty-six years. Again, on the contrary side, after Urban the Sixth succeeded Boniface the Ninth, Innocent the Eighth, Gregory the Twelfth, Alexander the Fifth, John the Twenty-third.
As touching this pestilent and most miserable schism, it would require here another Iliad to comprehend in order all the circumstances and tragical parts thereof, what trouble in the whole church, what parts taking in every country, what apprehending and imprisoning of priests and prelates taken by land and sea, what shedding of blood did follow thereof. How Otho, duke of Brunswick and prince of Tarentum, was taken and murdered. How Joan his wife, queen of Jerusalem and Sicily, who before had sent to Pope Urban, beside other gifts at his coronation, forty thousand ducats in pure gold, was after by the said Urban committed to prison, and in the same prison strangled. What cardinals were racked, and miserably, without all mercy, tormented on gibbets to death; what slaughter of men, what battles were fought between the two popes, whereof five thousand on one side were slain, beside the number of them which were taken prisoners. Of the beheading of five cardinals together after long torments, and how the bishop of Aquilonensis, being suspected of Pope Urban, for not riding faster with the pope, his horse being not good, was there slain by the pope's commandment, sending his soldiers unto him to slay him, and cut him in pieces. All which things, with divers other more acts of horrible cruelty, happening in the time of this abominable schism, because they are abundantly discoursed at full by Theodricus Niemus, who was near to the said Pope Urban, and present at all his doings; therefore, as a thing needless, I here omit; referring them who covet to be certified more amply herein, unto the three books of the said Theodric, above mentioned.
About the same time also, about three years after, there arose a cruel dissension in England, between the common people and the nobility, which did not a little disturb and trouble the commonwealth. In this tumult Simon of Sudbury, archbishop of Canterbury, was taken by the rustic and rude people, and was beheaded. In whose place succeeded William Courtney, which was no less diligent than his predecessor had been before him, in doing his diligence to root out heretics. Notwithstanding, in the mean season Wickliff's sect increased privily, and daily drew to greater force, until the time that William Barton, vice-chancellor of Oxford, about A. D. 1380, had the whole rule of that university; who calling together eight monastical doctors, and four other, with the consent of the rest of his affinity, putting the common seal of the university unto certain writings, set forth an edict, declaring unto every man, and threatening them under a grievous penalty, that no man should be so hardy hereafter to associate themselves with any of Wickliff's fautors or favourers; and unto Wickliff himself he threatened the greater excommunication and further imprisonment, and to all his abettors, unless that they, after three days canonical admonition or warning, or, as they call it, peremptory, did repent and amend. When Wickliff understood this, forsaking the pope and all the clergy, he thought to appeal unto the king's majesty; but the duke of Lancaster coming between, forbade him, that he should not hereafter attempt or begin any such matters, but rather submit himself unto the censure and judgment of his ordinary. Whereby Wickliff being beset with troubles and vexations, as it were in the midst of the waves, he was forced once again to make confession of his doctrine; in which his confession, to avoid the rigour of things, he answered as is aforesaid, making his declaration, and qualifying his assertions after such a sort, that he did mitigate and assuage the rigour of his enemies.
The year after, A. D. 1382, by the commandment of William, archbishop of Canterbury, there was a convocation holden at London, where John Wickliff was also commanded to be present. But whether he there appeared personally or not, I find it not in story certainly affirmed. The mandate of the archbishop, William Courtney, (sent abroad for the conventing together of this council,) here followeth underwritten, truly copied out of his own registers.
"Memorandum -- Whereas amongst the nobles as well as commons of this realm of England, there hath a certain bruit been spread of divers conclusions, both erroneous, and also repugnant to the determination of the church, which tend to the subversion of the whole church, and to our province of Canterbury, and also to the subversion of the whole realm, being preached in divers and sundry places of our said province, generally, commonly, and publicly: We William, by God's permission archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and legate of the see apostolical, being minded to execute our office and duty herein, have convocated or called together certain of our fellow brethren and others a great many, as well doctors and bachelors of divinity, as doctors of the canon and civil law, and those whom we thought to be the most famous men, skilfullest men, and men of soundest judgment in religion, that were in all the realm, whose names hereunder ensue. And the same being (the seventh day of the month of May) in the year of our Lord 1382, in a certain chamber within the territories of the priory of the Friars Preachers of London, before us and our foresaid fellow brethren assembled, then and there personally present: after that the said conclusions (the tenor whereof hereunder ensueth) were openly put forth, and distinctly and plainly read, we burdened our aforesaid fellow brethren, doctors and bachelors, in the faith wherein they stood bound to our Lord Jesus Christ, and as they would answer before the high Judge in the day of judgment, that they should speak their opinions touching the said conclusions, and what each of them thinketh therein.
"And at length, after good deliberation had upon the premises, the aforesaid our brethren the bishops, doctors, and bachelors reassembled before us the twenty-first day of the same month in the aforesaid chamber, the aforesaid conclusions being again and again repeated and plainly read; by us, and by the common consent of us all, it remaineth published and declared, that some of the said conclusions are heretical, and other erroneous and contrary to the determination of the church, as hereafter most manifestly shall appear. And forasmuch as by sufficient information we find and perceive, that the said conclusions in many places of our said province have been, as is said, both taught and preached; and that divers other persons do hold and maintain the same, and be of heresy vehemently and notoriously suspected; we have thought good, as well generally as specially, to send out this process underwritten." The names of the jurors were these:-- Eight bishops, Canterbury, Winchester, Durham, Exeter, Hereford, Sarum, Rochester, and Friar Botlesham, bishop: three Friars Preachers; Siward, Paris, Langley: four Minorites; Folvile, Carlel, Frisly, Bernwell: Augustine friars four; Ashborne, Bowkin, Woldley, Hornington: Carmelites four; Glanvile, Dis, Loney, Kiningham: monks four; Wells, Ramsey, Bloxam, Marton: doctors of the canon and civil law fourteen; Appelby, Waltram, Baketon, Chadesden, Tregision, Stow, Blanchard, Rocombey, Lidford, Welbourne, Flainburgh, Motrum, Brandon, and Prophet: bachelors of divinity six; Humbleton, Pickwech, Lindlow, Wich, Chiselden, Tomson.
The articles of John Wickliff here above specified, whereof there were ten which were by these friars condemned as heretical, the rest as erroneous, here in order follow, and are these: although it may be thought, that some of them were made worse by their sinister collecting, than he meant them in his own works and writings.
The articles of John Wickliff condemned as heretical.
1. That the substance of material bread and wine doth remain in the sacrament of the altar after the consecration.
2. That the accidents do not remain without the subject in the same sacrament, after the consecration.
3 That Christ is not in the sacrament of the altar truly and really, in his proper and corporal person.
4. That if a bishop or a priest be in deadly sin, he doth not order, consecrate, nor baptize.
5. That if a man be duly and truly contrite and penitent, all exterior and outer confession is but superfluous and unprofitable unto him.
6. That God ought to obey the devil.
7. That it is not found or established by the gospel, that Christ did make or ordain mass.
8. That if the pope be a reprobate and evil man, and consequently a member of the devil, he hath no power by any manner of means given unto him over faithful Christians, except peradventure it be given him from the emperor.
9. That since the time of Urban the Sixth, there is none to be received for pope, but every man is to live after the manner of the Greeks, under his own law.
10. That it is against the Scripture, that ecclesiastical ministers should have any temporal possessions.
Other articles of John Wickliff, condemned as erroneous.
11. That no prelate ought to excommunicate any man, except he know him first to be excommunicate of God.
12. That he who doth so excommunicate any man, is thereby himself either a heretic or excommunicated.
13. That a prelate or bishop excommunicating any of the clergy, which hath appealed to the king or the council, is thereby himself a traitor to the king and realm.
14. That all who do leave off preaching or hearing the word of God, or preaching the gospel, for fear of excommunication, are already excommunicated, and in the day of judgment shall be counted as traitors unto God.
15. That it is lawful for any man, either deacon or priest, to preach the word of God without the authority or licence of the apostolical see or any other of his Catholics.
16. That so long as the man is in deadly sin, he is neither bishop nor prelate in the church of God.
17. Also that the temporal lords may, according to their own will and discretion, take away the temporal goods from the churchmen whensoever they do offend.
18. That tenths are pure alms, and that the parishioners may, for offence of their curates, detain and keep them back, and bestow them upon others, at their own will and pleasure.
19. Also, that all special prayers applied to any private or particular person, by any prelate or religious man, do no more profit the same person, than general or universal prayers do profit others, which be in like case or state unto him.
20. Moreover, in that any man doth enter into any private religion, whatsoever it be, he is thereby made the more unapt and unable to observe and keep the commandments of God.
21. That holy men, which have instituted private religions, whatsoever they be, (as well such as are endued and possessed, as also the order of Begging Friars having no possessions,) in so doing have grievously offended.
22. That religious men, being in their private religion, are not of the Christian religion.
23. That friars are bound to get their living by the labour of their hands, and not by begging.
24. That whosoever doth give any alms unto friars, or to any begging observant, is accursed, or in danger thereof.
The letter of William Courtney, archbishop of Canterbury, directed to the bishop of London, against John Wickliff and his adherents.
"William, by God's permission, archbishop of Canterbury, metropolitan of all England, and of the apostolical see legate; to our reverend brother, by the grace of God, bishop of London, salutation. The prelates of the church ought to be so much the more vigilant and attentive about the charge of the Lord's flock committed unto them; how much the more they shall understand the wolves, being clothed in sheep's apparel, fraudulently to go about to worry and scatter the sheep. Truly by the continual cry and public fame, which it grieveth me to report, it is come to our knowledge, that although by the canonical sanctions no man, being forbidden, or not admitted, should either publicly or privily, without the authority of the apostolical see or bishop of that place, usurp or take upon him the office of a preacher; some, notwithstanding, such as are the children of damnation, being under the veil of blind ignorance, are brought into such a doting mind, that they take upon them to preach, and are not afraid to affirm and teach divers and sundry propositions and conclusions here-under recited, both heretical, erroneous, and false, condemned by the church of God, and repugnant to the decree of holy church, which tend to the subverting of the whole state of the same, of our province of Canterbury, and to the destruction and weakening of the tranquillity of the same; and that as well in the churches as in the streets, as also in many other profane places of our said province, generally, commonly, and publicly, they do preach the same, infecting very many good Christians, causing them lamentably to wander out of the way, and from the catholic church, without which there is no salvation. We therefore, considering that so pernicious a mischief, which may creep amongst many, we ought not to suffer, and by dissimulation to pass over, which may with deadly contagion slay the souls of men, lest their blood be required at our hands; are willing, so much as God will permit us to do, to extirpate the same. Wherefore, by the counsel and consent of many of our brethren and suffragans, we have convented divers and sundry doctors of divinity, as also professors and other clerks of the canon and civil laws, the most learned within the realm, and of the soundest opinion and judgment in the catholic faith, to give their opinions and judgments concerning the aforesaid conclusions. But forasmuch as the said conclusions and assertions, being in the presence of us, and our fellow brethren and other convocates, openly expounded, and diligently examined, were in the end found by common counsel and consent, as well of them as of us, and so declared, that some of those conclusions were heretical, and some of them erroneous, and repugnant to the determination of the church, as hereunder are described: we will and command your brotherhood, and, by virtue of holy obedience, straitly enjoin all and singular our brethren, and suffragans of our body and church of Canterbury, that with all speedy diligence you possibly can, you likewise enjoin them, as we have enjoined you, and each of them; and that every one of them, in their churches and other places of their city and diocese, do admonish and warn, and that you, in your church and other churches of your city and diocese, do admonish and warn, as we, by the tenor of these presents, do admonish and warn the first time, the second time, and the third time; and yet more straitly do warn, assigning for the first admonition one day, for the second admonition another day, and for the third admonition canonical and peremptory, another day: That no man from henceforth, of what estate or condition soever, do hold, preach, or defend the aforesaid heresies and errors, or any of them; nor that he admit to preach any one that is prohibited, or not sent to preach; nor that he hear or hearken to the heresies or errors of him or any of them, nor that he favour or lean unto him either publicly or privately; but that immediately he shun him, as he would avoid a serpent putting forth most pestiferous poison, under pain of the greater curse, which we command to be thundered against all and every one which shall be disobedient in this behalf, and not regarding these our monitions, after those three days be past which are assigned for the canonical monition, and that their delay, fault, or offence committed require the same: and then, according to the tenor of these writings, we command both by every one of our fellow brethren and our suffragans in their cities and dioceses, and by you in your city and diocese, (so much as belongeth both to you and them,) that to the uttermost both ye and they cause the same excommunications to be pronounced. And, furthermore, we will and command our aforesaid fellow brethren, and all and singular of you apart by yourselves, to be admonished, and by the aspersion of the blood of Jesus Christ we likewise admonish you; that according to the institution of the sacred canons, every one of them, in their cities and dioceses, be a diligent inquisitor of this heretical pravity; and that every one of you also in your cities and dioceses be the like inquisitor of the aforesaid heretical pravity and that of such like presumption they and you carefully and diligently inquire, and that both they and you (according to your duties and office in this behalf) with effect do proceed against the same, to the honour and praise of his name that was crucified, and for the preservation of the Christian faith and religion."
Here is not to be passed over the great miracle of God's divine admonition or warning; for when the archbishop and suffragans, with the other doctors of divinity and lawyers, with a great company of babbling friars and religious persons, were gathered together to consult as touching John Wickliff's books, and that whole sect; when, as I say, they were gathered together at the Grey Friars in London, to begin their business, upon St. Dunstan's day after dinner, about two of the clock, the very hour and instant that they should go forward withtheir business, a wonderful and terrible earthquake fell throughout all England; whereupon divers of the suffragans, being feared by the strange and wonderful demonstration, doubting what it should mean, thought it good to leave off from their determinate purpose. But the archbishop, (as chief captain of that army, more rash and bold than wise,) interpreting the chance which had happened clean contrary to another meaning or purpose, did confirm and strengthen their hearts and minds, which were almost daunted with fear, stoutly to procced and go forward in their attempted enterprise. Who then discoursing Wickliff's articles, not according unto the sacred canons of the Holy Scriptures, but unto their own private affections and traditions, pronounced and gave sentence, that some of them were simply and plainly heretical, some half erroneous, other irreligious, some seditious, and not consonant to the Church of Rome.
Illustration -- The convocation thrown into confusion by an earthquake