91. WILLIAM THORPE.
Thus much briefly being signified by the way, touching these which have been forced in time of this king to open abjuration, next cometh to our hands the worthy history of Master William Thorpe, a valiant warrior under the triumphant banner of Christ, with the process of his examinations before the aforesaid Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, written by the said Thorpe, and storied by his own pen, at the request of his friends, as by his own words, in the process hereof, may appear; in whose examination, which seemeth first to begin, A. D. 1407, thou shalt have, good reader, both to learn and to marvel: to learn, in that thou shalt hear truth discoursed and discussed, with the contrary reasons of the adversary dissolved; to marvel, for that thou shalt behold here in this man, the marvellous force and strength of the Lord's might, Spirit, and grace, working and fighting in his soldiers, and also speaking in their mouths, according to the word of his promise, Luke xxi. To the text of the story we have neither added nor diminished, but, as we have received, copied out and corrected by Master William Tindal, who had his own hand writing, so we have here sent it, and set it out abroad. Athough for the more credit of the matter, I rather wished it in his own natural speech, wherein it was first written; notwithstanding, to put away all doubt and scruple herein, this I thought before to premonish and testify to the reader, touching the certainty hereof, that they be yet alive which have seen the self-same copy in his own old English, resembling the true antiquity both of the speech and of the time, the name of whom, as for record of the same to avouch, is Master Whitehead; who, as he hath seen the true ancient copy in the hands of George Constantine, so hath he given credible relation of the same, both to the printer, and to me. Furthermore, the said Master Tindal, albeit he did somewhat alter and amend the English thereof, and frame it after our manner, yet not fully in all words but that something doth remain, savouring of the old speech of that time. What the causes were, why this good man and servant of Christ, William Thorpe, did write it, and pen it out himself, it is sufficiently declared in his own preface, set before his book, which here is prefixed in manner as followeth:
The preface of William Thorpe.
The Lord God that knoweth all things, wotteth well that I am right sorrowful to write to make known this sentence beneath written: whereby of mine even Christian, set in high state and dignity, so great blindness and malice may be known, that they which do presume of themselves to destroy vices, and to plant in men virtues, neither dread to offend God, nor lust to please him, as their works do show. For certes the bidding of God and his law, which, in the praising of his most holy name, he commandeth to be known and kept of all men and women, young and old, after the cunning and power that he hath given to them, the prelates of this land and their ministers, with the convent of priests chiefly consenting to them, enforce them most busily to withstand and destroy the holy ordinance of God. And therethrough God is greatly wroth, and moved to take hard vengeance, not only upon them that do the evil, but also on them that consent to these antichrist's limbs; which know, or might know, their malice and falsehood, and dress them not to withstand their malice and their great pride. Nevertheless, four things move me to write this sentence beneath.
"The first thing that moveth me hereto is this, that whereas it was known to certain friends, that I came from the prison of Shrewsbury, and as it befell indeed that I should to the prison of Canterbury, then divers friends in divers places spake to me full heartily and full tenderly, and commanded me then if it so were that I should be examined before the archbishop of Canterbury, that if I might in any wise, I should write mine apposing, and mine answering. And I promised to my special friends, that if I might, I would gladly do their bidding as I might.
"The second thing that moveth me to write this sentence is this: divers friends, which have heard that I have been examined before the archbishop, have come to me in prison, and counselled me busily, and coveted greatly that I should do the same thing. And other brethren have sent to me, and required on God's behalf, that I should write out and make known, both mine apposing and mine aswering, for the profit that (as they say) upon my knowledging may come thereof. But this they bade me, that I should be busy in all my wits, to go as near the sentence and the words as I could, both that were spoken to me, and that I spake: peradventure this writing may come another time before the archbishop and his council. And of this counselling I was right glad: for in my conscience I was moved to do this thing, and to ask hitherto the special help of God. And so then I, considering the great desire of divers friends of sundry places, according all in one, I occupied all my mind and my wits so busily, that through God's grace I perceived, by their meaning and their charitable desire, some profit might come therethrough. For soothfastness and truth hath these conditions, wherever it is impugned, it hath a sweet smell, and thereof cometh a sweet savour. And the more violently the enemies dress themselves to oppress and to withstand the truth, the greater and the sweeter smell cometh thereof. And therefore this heavenly smell of God's word, will not, as a smoke, pass away with the wind; but it will descend and rest in some clean soul that thirsteth thereafter. And thus some deal by this writing may be perceived through God's grace, how that the enemies of the truth (standing boldly in their malice) enforce them to withstand the freedom of Christ's gospel, for which freedom Christ became man and shed his heart-blood. And therefore it is great pity and sorrow, that many men and women do their own wayward will, and busy them not to know nor to do the pleasant will of God. "The men and women that hear the truth and soothfastness, and hear or know of this, (perceiving what is now in the church,) ought herethrough to be the more moved in all their wits to able them to grace, and to set lesser price by themselves; that they, without tarrying, forsake wilfully and bodily all the wretchedness of this life, since they know not how soon, nor when, nor where, nor by whom God will teach them and essay their patience. For no doubt, whoever will live piteously, that is, charitably in Christ Jesus, shall suffer now here in this life persecution, in one wise or another: that is, if we shall be saved, it behoveth us to imagine full busily the vility and foulness of sin, and how the Lord God is displeased therefore; and because of this vility and hideousness of sin, it behoveth us to busy us in all our wits, to abhor and hold in our mind a great shame of sin ever, and so then we ought to sorrow heartily therefore, and ever fleeing all occasion thereof. And then it behoveth us to take upon us sharp penance, continuing therein, to obtain of the Lord forgiveness of our fore-done sins, and grace to abstain hereafter from sin. And if we force ourselves not to do this wilfully, and in convenient time, the Lord (if he will not utterly destroy and cast us away) will in divers manners move tyrants against us; to constrain us violently to do penance, which we would not do wilfully. And trust that this doing is a special grace of the Lord, and a great token of life and mercy. And no doubt whoever will not apply himself (as is said before) to punish himself wilfully, neither will suffer patiently, meekly, and gladly the rod of the Lord, howsoever that he will punish him; their wayward wills and their impatience are unto them earnest of everlasting damnation. But because there are but few in number that do able them thus faithfully to grace, to live here so simply and purely, and without gall of malice and of grudging; therefore the lovers of this world hate and pursue them that they know patient, meek, chaste, and wilfully poor, hating and fleeing all worldly vanities and fleshly lusts. For surely their virtuous conditions are even contrary to the manners of this world.
"The third thing that moveth me to write this sentence is this: I thought I shall busy me in myself to do faithfully, that all men and women (occupying all their business in knowing and in keeping of God's commandments) able them so to grace, that they might understand truly the truth, and have and use virtue and prudence, and so deserve to be lightened from above with heavenly wisdom; so that all their words and their works may be hereby made pleasant sacrifices unto the Lord God; and not only for help of their own souls, but also for edification of holy church. For I doubt not, but all they thatwill apply them to have this aforesaid business shall profit full mickle both to friends and foes. For some enemies of the truth, through the grace of God, shall through charitable folks be made astonied in their conscience, and peradventure converted from vices to virtues; and also, they that labour to know and to keep faithfully the biddings of God, and to suffer patiently all adversities, shall hereby comfort many friends.
"And the fourth thing that moveth me to write this sentence is this: I know by my sudden and unwarned apposing and answering, that all they that will of good heart without feigning able themselves wilfully and gladly, after their cunning and their power, to follow Christ patiently, travailing busily, privily, and openly in work and in word, to withdraw whomsoever that they may from vices, planting in them (if they may) virtues, comforting them and furthering them that stand in grace; so that therewith they be not borne up in vain-glory through presumption of their wisdom, nor inflamed with any worldly prosperity, but ever meek and patient; purposing to continue stedfastly in the will of God, suffering wilfully and gladly, without any grudging, whatsoever rod the Lord will chastise them with; that then this good Lord will not forget to comfort all such men and women in all their tribulations, and at every point of temptation that any enemy purposed for to do against them. To such faithful lovers specially, and patient followers of Christ, the Lord sendeth by his wisdom from above them which the adversaries of the truth may not know nor understand. But through their old and new unshamefast sins, those tyrants and enemies of soothfastness shall be so blinded and obstinate in evil, that they shall ween themselves to do pleasant sacrifices unto the Lord God in their malicious and wrongful pursuing and destroying of innocent men's and women's bodies; which men and women, for their virtuous living, and for their true knowledging of the truth, and their patient, wilful, and glad suffering of persecution for righteousness, deserve through the grace of God, to be heirs of the endless bliss of heaven. And for the fervent desire and great love that these men have, as to stand in soothfastness and witness of it, though they be suddenly and unwarnedly brought forth to be apposed of their adversaries; the Holy Ghost yet, that moveth and ruleth them through his charity, will in that hour of their answering speak in them, and show his wisdom, that all their encmies shall not gainsay, nor gainstand, lawfully.
"And therefore all they that are stedfast in the faith of God, yea, which through diligently keeping of his commandments, and for their patient suffering of whatsoever adversity that cometh to them, hope surely in his mercy, purposing to stand continually in perfect charity; for those men and women dread not so the adversities of this life, that they will fear (after their cunning and their power) to knowledge prudently the truth of God's word, when, where, and to whom they think their knowledging may profit. Yea, and though therefore persecution come to them in one wise or another, certes they patiently take it, knowing their conversation to be in heaven. It is a high reward and a special grace of God to have and enjoy the everlasting inheritance of heaven, for the suffering of one persecution in so short time as is the term of this life. For, lo, this heavenly heritage and endless reward, is the Lord God himself, which is the best thing that may be. This sentence witnesseth the Lord God himself, whereas he said to Abraham, I am thy meed: and as the Lord said, he was and is the meed of Abraham, so he is of all other his saints. This most blessed and best meed, he grant to us all for his holy name that made us of nought, and sent his only most dear worthy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to redeem us with his most precious heart-blood. Amen."
Illustration -- The examination of William Thorpe
The examination of William Thorpe, penned with his own hand.
"Known be it to all men that read or hear this writing, that on the Sunday next after the feast of St. Peter, that we call Lammas, in the year of our Lord 1407, I, William Thorpe, being in prison in the castle of Saltwood, was brought before Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, and chancellor then of England. And when that I came to him, he stood in a great chamber and much people about him; and when that he saw me, he went fast into a closet, bidding all secular men that followed him to go forth from him soon, so that no man was left then in that closet but the archbishop himself, and a physician that was called Malveren, parson of St. Dunstan's in London, and other two persons unknown to me, which were ministers of the law. And I standing before them, by and by the archbishop said to me, William, I know well that thou hast this twenty winters and more, travelled about busily in the north country, and in divers other countries of England, sowing about false doctrine, having great business if thou might, with thine untrue teaching and shrewd will to infect and poison all this land. But through the grace of God thou art now withstanded and brought into my ward, so that I shall now sequester thee from thine evil purpose, and let thee to envenom the sheep of my province. Nevertheless, St. Paul saith, If it may be, as much as in us is, we ought to have peace with all men: therefore, William, if thou wilt now meekly and of good heart, without any feigning, kneel down, and lay thy hand upon a book and kiss it, promising faithfully as I shall here charge thee, that thou wilt submit thee to my correction, and stand to mine ordinance, and fulfil it duly by all thy cunning and power, thou shalt yet find me gracious unto thee. Then said I to the archbishop, Sir, since ye deem me a heretic, and out of belief, will you give me here audience to tell my belief? And he said, Yea, tell on. And I said, I believe that there is not but one God Almighty, and in this Godhead, and of this Godhead, are three persons, that is, the Father, the Son, and the soothfast, Holy Ghost. And I believe that all these three persons are even in power, and in wisdom, and in might, full of grace and of all goodness. For whatsoever that the Father doth, or can, or will, that thing also the Son doth, and can, and will; and in all their power, cunning, and will, the Holy Ghost is equal to the Father, and to the Son.
"Over this, I believe that through counsel of this most blessed Trinity, in most convenient time before ordained for the salvation of mankind, the second person of this Trinity was ordained to take the form of man, that is, the kind of man. And I believe, that this second person, our Lord Jesus Christ, was conceived through the Holy Ghost in the womb of the most blessed Virgin Mary, without man's seed. And I believe that after nine months Christ was born of this most blessed Virgin, without any pain or breaking of the closter of her womb, and without filth of her virginity.
"And I believe that Christ our Saviour was circumcised in the eighth day after his birth, in fulfilling of the law, and his name was called Jesus, which was so called of the angel, before that he was conceived in the womb of Mary his mother.
"And I believe that Christ, as he was about thirty years old, was baptized in the flood of Jordan of John Baptist; and in the likeness of a dove the Holy Ghost descended there upon him, and a voice was heard from heaven, saying, Thou art my well-beloved Son, in thee I am full pleased.
"And I believe that Christ was moved then by the Holy Ghost to go into the desert, and there he fasted forty days and forty nights, without bodily meat and drink. And I believe that by and by after his fasting, when the manhood of Christ hungered, the fiend came to him, and tempted him in gluttony, in vain-glory, and in covetise; but in all those temptations Christ concluded the fiend, and withstood him. And then without tarrying Jesus began to preach, and say unto the people, Do ye penance, for the realm of heaven is now at hand.
"I believe that Christ in all his time here lived most holily, and taught the will of his Father most truly: and I believe that he suffered therefore most wrongfully greatest reproofs and despisings.
" And after this, when Christ would make an end here of this temporal life, I believe that in the day next before that he would suffer passion in the morn, in form of bread and of wine he ordained the sacrament of his flesh and his blood, that is, his own precious body, and gave it to his apostles to eat; commanding them, and by them all their after-comers, that they should do it in this form that he showed to them, use themselves, and teach and commune forth to other men and women this most worshipful and holiest sacrament, in mindfulness of his holiest living, and of his most true preaching, and of his wilful and patient suffering of the most painful passion.
"And I believe that this Christ our Saviour, after that he had ordained this most worthy sacrament of his own precious body, went forth wilfully against his enemies, and he suffered them most patiently to lay their hands most violently upon him, and to bind him, and to lead him forth as a thief, and to scorn him and buffet him, and all to blow or defile him with their spittings. Over this, I believe that Christ suffered most meekly and patiently his enemies, to ding out with sharp scourges the blood that was between his skin and his flesh; yea, without grudging, Christ suffered the cruel Jews to crown him with most sharp thorns, and to strike him with a reed. And after, Christ suffered wicked Jews to draw him out upon the cross, and to nail him thereupon hand and foot. And so through his pitiful nailing, Christ shed out wilfully for man's blood the blood that was in his veins. And then Christ gave wilfully his spirit into the hands or power of his Father, and so, as he would, and when he would, Christ died wilfully for man's sake upon the cross. And notwithstanding that Christ was wilfully, painfully, and most shamefully put to death, as to the world, there was left blood and water in his heart, as before ordained, that he would shed out this blood and this water for man's salvation. And therefore he suffered the Jews to make a blind knight to thrust him in the heart with a spear, and this blood and water that was in his heart, Christ would shed out for man's love: and after this, I believe that Christ was taken down from the cross and buried. And I believe that on the third day, by the power of his Godhead, Christ rose again from death to life. And the fortieth day thereafter, I believe that Christ ascended up into heaven, and that he there sitteth on the right hand of the Father Almighty. And the fiftieth day after his up-going, he sent to his apostles the Holy Ghost that he had promised them before. And I believe that Christ shall come and judge all mankind, some to everlasting peace, and some to everlasting pains.
"And as I believe in the Father, and in the Son, that they are one God Almighty, so I believe in the Holy Ghost that he is also with them the same God Almighty.
"And I believe a holy church; that is, all they that have been, and that now are, and always to the end of the world shall be, a people the which shall endeavour them to know and to keep the commandments of God, dreading over all things to offend God, and loving and seeking most to please him: and I believe that all they that have had, and yet have, and all they that yet shall have, the aforesaid virtues, surely standing in the belief of God, hoping stedfastly in his merciful doings, continuing to their end in perfect charity, wilfully, patiently, and gladly suffering persecutions, by the example of Christ chiefly, and his apostles, all these have their names written in the book of life.
"Therefore, I believe that the gathering together of this people, living now here in this life, is the holy church of God, fighting here on earth against the fiend, the prosperity of the world, and their filthy lusts. Wherefore, seeing that all the gathering together of this church beforesaid, and every part thereof, neither coveteth, nor willeth, nor loveth, nor seeketh any thing but to eschew the offence of God, and to do his pleasing will; meekly, gladly, and wilfully, with all mine heart, I submit myself unto this holy church of Christ, to be ever buxom and obedient to the ordinance of it, and of every member thereof, after my knowledge and power, by the help of God. Therefore I knowledge now, and evermore shall, if God will, that with all my heart, and with all my might, I will submit me only to the rule and governance of them, whom after my knowledge I may perceive by the having and using of the beforesaid virtues, to be members of the holy church. Wherefore these articles of belief and all other (both of the old law, and of the new, which after the commandment of God any man ought to believe) I believe verily in my soul, as a sinful, deadly wretch, of my cunning and power, ought to believe; praying the Lord God for his holy name, to increase my belief, and to help my unbelief.
"And because, to the praising of God's name, I desire above all things to be a faithful member of holy church, I make this protestation before you all four that are now here present, coveting that all men and women that now be absent knew the same; that is, what thing soever before this time I have said or done, or what thing here I shall do or say at any time hereafter, I believe; that all the old law and new law, given and ordained by counsel of the three persons of the Trinity, were given and written to the salvation of mankind. And I believe that these laws are sufficient for man's salvation. And I believe every article of these laws, to the intent that these articles ordained and commanded of these three persons of the most blessed Trinity are to be believed.
"And therefore to the rule and the ordinance of these God's laws, meekly, gladly, and wilfully, I submit me with all mine heart; that whosoever can or will, by authority of God's law, or by open reason, tell me that I have erred, or now err, or any time hereafter shall err, in any article of belief, (from which inconvenience God keep me for his goodness;) I submit me to be reconciled, and to be buxom and obedient unto those laws of God, and to every article of them. For by authority specially of these laws I will, through the grace of God, be united charitably unto these laws. Yea, sir, and over this, I believe and admit all the sentences, authorities, and reasons of the saints and doctors according unto Holy Scripture, and declaring it truly.
"I submit me wilfully and meekly to be ever obedient, after my cunning and power, to all these saints and doctors, as they are obedient in work and in word to God and to his law, and further not, (to my knowledge,) not for any earthly power, dignity, or state, through the help of God. But, sir, I pray you tell me, if after your bidding I shall lay my hand upon the book, to what intent; to swear thereby? And the archbishop said to me, Yea, wherefore else? And I said to him, Sir, a book is nothing else but a thing coupled together of divers creatures, and to swear by any creature, both God's law and man's law is against it.
"But, sir, this thing I say here to you before these your clerks, with my aforesaid protestation, that how, where, when, and to whom, men are bound to swear or to obey in any wise after God's law, and saints, and true doctors, according with God's law, I will through God's grace be ever ready thereto, with all my cunning and power. But I pray you, sir, for the charity of God, that ye will, before that I swear, (as I have rehearsed to you,) tell me how or whereto that I shall submit me; and show me that whereof ye will correct me, and what is the ordinance that ye will thus oblige me to fulfil.
And the archbishop said unto me, I will shortly that now thou swear here to me, that thou shalt forsake all the opinions which the sect of Lollards hold, and is slandered with; so that after this time, neither privily nor apertly, thou hold any opinion which I shall (after thou hast sworn) rehearse to thee here. Nor shalt thou favour any man or woman, young or old, that holdeth any these aforesaid opinions; but after thy knowledge and power thou shalt force thee to withstand all such distroublers of holy church in every diocese that thou comest in; and them that will not leave their false and damnable opinions, thou shalt put them up, publishing them and their names, and make them known to the bishop of the diocese that they are in, or to the bishop's ministers. And over this, I will that thou preach no more unto the time that I know by good witness and true, that thy conversation be such, that thy heart and thy mouth accord truly in one, contrarying all the lewd learning that thou hast taught here before.
"And I, hearing these words, thought in my heart that this was an unlawful asking; and deemed myself cursed of God if I consented hereto, and I thought how Susan said, Anguish is to me on every side. And in that I stood still and spake not, the archbishop said to me, Answer one way or other. And I said, Sir, if I consented to you thus as ye have here-before rehearsed to me, I should become an appealer, or every bishop's espie, somoner of all England. For if I should thus put up and publish the names of men and women, I should herein deceive full many persons; yea, sir, as it is likely by the doom of my conscience, I should herein be cause of the death both of men and women, yea, both bodily and ghostly. For many men and women that stand now in the way of salvation, if I should, for the learning and reading of their belief, publish them therefore up to the bishops or to their unpiteous ministers, I know some deal by experience that they should be so distroubled and diseased with persecution or otherwise, that many of them (I think) would rather choose to forsake the way of truth than to be travelled, scorned, slandered, or punished as bishops and their ministers now use to constrain men and women to consent to them.
"But I find in no place in Holy Scripture, that this office, that ye would now enfeoff me with, accordeth to any priest of Christ's sect, nor to any other Christian man: and therefore to do this were to me a full noyous bond to be bounden with, and over grievous charge. For I suppose, that if I thus did, many men and women would, yea, sir, might justly, to my confusion, say to men, that I were a traitor to God and to them: since (as I think in mine heart) many men and women trust so mickle in this case, that I would not for saving of my life do thus to them. For if I thus should do, full many men and women would (as they might full truly) say that I had falsely and cowardly forsaken the truth, and slandered shamefully the word of God. For if I consented to you to do here after your will, for bonchief or mischief that may befall unto me in this life, I deem in my conscience, that I were worthy heretofore to be cursed of God and also of all his saints: from which inconvenience keep me and all Christian people, Almighty God, now and ever for his holy name.
"And then the archbishop said unto me, Oh, thine heart is full hard indurate, as was the heart of Pharaoh, and the devil hath overcome thee, and perverted thee, and he hath so blinded thee in all thy wit, that thou hast no grace to know the truth, nor the measure of mercy that I have proffered to thee. Therefore, as I perceive now by thy foolish answer, thou hast no will to leave thine old errors.
"But I say to thee, lewd losel, either quickly consent thou to mine ordinance, and submit thee to stand to my decrees, or by St. Thomas thou shalt be degraded, and follow thy fellow into Smithfield. And at this saying I stood still and spake not, but I thought in mine heart, that God did to me great grace, if he would of his great mercy bring me to such an end. And in mine heart I was nothing afraid with this menacing of the archbishop. And I considered there two things in him. One, that he was not yet sorrowful that he had made William Sautre wrongfully to be burnt: and as I considered, that the archbishop thirsted yet after more shedding out of innocent blood. And fast therefore I was moved in all my wits, to hold the archbishop neither for prelate nor for priest of God. And for that mine inward man was thus altogether departed from the archbishop, methought I should not have any dread of him. But I was right heavy and sorrowful, for that there was no audience of secular men by; but in my heart I prayed the Lord God to comfort me and strengthen me against them that there were against the soothfastness. And I purposed to speak no more to the archbishop and his clerks than me need behoved: and all thus I prayed God for his goodness to give me then and alway grace to speak with a meek and an easy spirit: and whatsoever thing that I should speak, that I might thereto have true authorities of the Scriptures or open reason. And for that I stood thus still and nothing spake, one of the archbishop's clerks said unto me, What thing musest thou? Do thou as my lord hath now commanded to thee here.
"And yet I stood still and answered him not: and then soon after the archbishop said to me, Art thou not yet bethought whether thou wilt do as I have said to thee? And I said then to him, Sir, my father and my mother, on whose souls God have mercy, (if it be his will,) spent mickle money in divers places about my learning, for the intent to have made me a priest to God. But when I came to years of discretion, I had no will to be priest, and therefore my friends were right heavy to me, and then methought their grudging against me was so painful to me, that I purposed therefore to have left their company. And when they perceived this in me, they spake sometime full fair and pleasant words to me; but for that they might not make me to consent of good heart to be a priest, they spake to me full oftentimes very grievous words, and menaced me in divers manners, showing to me full heavy cheer. And thus one while in fair manner, another while in grievous, they were long time (as methought) full busy about me, ere I consented to them to be a priest.
"But at the last, when in this matter they would no longer suffer mine excusations, but either I should consent to them, or I should ever bear their indignation, yea their curse (as they said); then I, seeing this, prayed them that they should give me licence to go to them that were named wise priests, and of virtuous conversation, to have their counsel, and to know of them the office and the charge of priesthood. And hereto my father and my mother consented full gladly, and gave me their blessing and good leave to go, and also money to spend in this journey. And so I went to those priests whom I heard to be of best name, and of most holy living, and best learned, and most wise of heavenly wisdom; and so I communed with them unto the time, that I perceived by their virtuous and continual occupations, that their honest and charitable works passed their fame which I had heard before of them.
"Wherefore, sir, by the example of the doctrine of them, and specially for the godly and innocent works which I perceived then of them, and in them, after my cunning and power, I have exercised me then and in this time, to know perfectly God's law, having a will and desire to live thereafter, which willeth that all men and women should exercise themselves faithfully thereabout. If then, sir, either for pleasure of them that are neither so wise nor of so virtuous conversation, to my knowledge, nor, by common fame, to any other men's knowledge in this land, as these men were of whom I took my counsel and information, I should now forsake thus suddenly and shortly, and unwarned, all the learning that I have exercised myself in these thirty winters and more, my conscience should ever be herewith out of measure unquieted: and, sir, I know well, that many men and women should be therethrough greatly troubled and slandered. And as I said, sir, to you before, for mine untruth and false cowardliness, many a one should be put into full great reproof: yea, sir, I dread that many a one (as they might then justly) would curse me full bitterly; and, sir, I fear not, but the curse of God, which I should deserve herein, would bring me to a full evil end, if I continued thus. And if, through remorse of conscience, I repented me any time, returning into the way, which you do your diligence to constrain me now to forsake; yea, sir, all the bishops of this land, with full many other priests, would defame me, and pursue me as a relapse: and they that now have (though I be unworthy) some confidence in me, hereafter would never trust to me, though I could teach and live never so virtuously, more than I can or may. For if after your counsel I left utterly all my learning, I should hereby first wound and defile mine own soul, and also I should herethrough give occasion to many men and women of full sore hurting; yea, sir, as it is likely to me, if I consented to your will, I should herein by mine evil example in it, as far as in me were, slay many folk ghostly, that I should never deserve to have grace of God to the edifying of his church, neither of myself, nor of any other man's life, and should be undone both before God and man.
"But, sir, by example chiefly of some whose names I will not now rehearse, of H., of I. P., and B. and also by the present doing of Philip Rampington, that now is become bishop of Lincoln, I am now learned (as many more hereafter through God's grace shall be learned) to hate and to flee all such slander that these aforesaid men chiefly have defiled principally themselves with. And in it that in them is, they have envenomed all the church of God, for the slanderous revoking at the cross of Paul's, of H. P., and of B., and how now Philip Ram-pington pursueth Christ's people. And the feigning that these men dissemble by worldly prudence, keeping them cowardly in their preaching and communing within the bonds and terms (which without blame may be spoken and showed out of the most worldly livers) will not be unpunished of God. For to the point of truth, that these men showed out sometime, they will not now stretch forth their lives. But by example each one of them, as their words and their works show, busy them through their feigning to slander and to pursue Christ in his members, rather than they will be pursued.
"And the archbishop said to me, These men, the which thou speakest of now, were fools and heretics, when they were counted wise men of thee and other such losels; but now they are wise men, though thou and other such deem them unwise. Nevertheless, I never wilt any that right said, that any while were envenomed with your contagiousness, that is, contaminated and spotted doctrine.
"And I said to the archbishop, Sir, I think well that these men and other such are now wise as to this world; but as their words sounded sometime, and their works showed outwardly, it was like to move me that they had earnest of the wisdom of God, and that they should have deserved mickle grace of God to have saved their own souls and many other men's, if they had continued faithfully in wilful poverty, and in other simple virtuous living; and specially if they had with these aforesaid virtues continued in their bust fruitful sowing of God's word: as to many men's knowledge they occupied them a season in all their wits, full busily to know the pleasant will of God, travailing all their members full busily to do thereafter, purely and chiefly to the praising of the most holy name of God, and for grace of edification and salvation of Christian people. But woe worth false covetise, and evil counsel and tyranny, by which they and many men and women are led blindly into an evil end.
"Then the archbishop said unto me, Thou, and such other losels of thy sect, would shave your beards full near to have a benefice. For, by Jesus, I know none more covetous shrews than ye are, when that ye have a benefice; for lo, I gave to John Purvey a benefice but a mile from this castle, and I heard more complaints about his covetousness for tithes, and other misdoings, than I did of all men that were advanced within my diocese.
"And I said to the bishop, Sir, Purvey is neither with you now for the benefice you gave him, nor holdethe he faithfully with the learning that he taught and wrote wrote beforetime; and thus he showeth himself to be neither hot nor cold, and therefore he and his fellows may sore dread, that if they turn not hastily to the way that they have forsaken, peradventure they be put out of the number of God's chosen people.
"And the archbishop said, Though Purvey be now a false harlot, I quit me now to him; but come he more for such a cause before me, (ere we part,) I shall know with whom he holdeth. But I say to thee, which are these holy men and wise, of whom thou hat taken thine information?
"And I said, Sir, Master John Wickliffe was holden of many men the greatest clerk that they knew then living, and therewith he was named a passing ruly man and an innocent in his living; and therefore great men communed of with him, and they loved so his learning, that they wrote itand busily enforced them to rule themselves thereafter. Therefore, sir, this aforesaid learning of Master John Wickliff is yet holden of full many men and women the most agreeable learning unto the living and teaching of Christ, and of his apostles, and most openly showing and declaring how the church of Christ hath been, and yet should be, ruled and governed. Therefore so many men and women covet this learning, and purpose, through God's grace, to conform their living like to this learning of Wickliff. Master John Ashton taught and wrote accordingly and full busily, where, and when, and to whom that he might, and he used it himself right perfectly unto his life's end. And also Philip of Rampington, while he was a canon of Leicester, Nicholas Herford, Davy Gotray of Pakring, monk of Byland, and a master of divinity, and John Purvey, and many other which were holden right wise men and prudent, taught and wrote busily this aforesaid learning, and conformed them thereto. And with all these men I was right homely, and communed with them long time and oft; and so before all other men I chose willingly to be informed of them and by them, and specially of Wickliff himself, as of the most virtuous and godly wise man that I heard of or knew. And therefore of him specially, and of these men, I took the learning that I have taught, and purpose to live thereafter (if God will) to my life's end. For though some of those men be contrary to the learning that they taught before, I wot well that their learning was true which they taught; and therefore with the help of God I purpose to hold and to use the learning which I heard of them, while they sat on Moses's chair, and specially while that they sat on the chair of Christ. But after the works that they now do, I will not do with God's help; for they feign and hide, and contrary the truth, which before they taught out plainly and truly. For as I know well, when some of those men have been blamed for their slanderous doing, they grant not that they have taught amiss or erred beforetime, but that they were constrained by pain to leave to tell out the sooth, and thus they choose now rather to blaspheme God, than to suffer a while here persecution bodily, for soothfastness that Christ shed out his heart-blood for.
"And the archbishop said, That learning, that thou callest truth and soothfastness, is open slander to holy church, as it is proved of holy church. For albeit that Wickliff, your author, was a great clerk, and though that many men held him a perfect liver, yet his doctrine is not approved of holy church, but many sentences of his learning are damned as they well worthy are. But as touching Philip of Rampington, that was first canon, and after abbot of Leicester, which is now bishop of Lincoln, I tell thee, that the day is coming, for which he fasted the even. For neither he holdeth now, nor will hold, the learning that he taught when he was a canon of Leicester. For no bishop of this land pursueth now more sharply them that hold thy way, than he doth.
"And I said, Sir, full many men and women wondereth upon him, and speaketh him mickle shame, and holdeth him for a cursed enemy of the truth.
"And the archbishop said to me, Wherefore tarriest thou me thus here with such fables, wilt thou shortly (as I have said to thee) submit thee to me or no?
"And I said, Sir, I tell you at one word, I dare not, for the dread of God, submit me to you, after the tenor and sentence that ye have above rehearsed to me.
"And thus, as if he had been wroth, he said to one of his clerks, Fetch hither quickly the certification that came to me from Shrewsbury under the bailiff's seal, witnessing the errors and heresies which this losel hath venomously sown there.
"Then hastily the clerk took out, and laid forth on a cupboard, divers rules and writings, among which there was a little one, which the clerk delivered to the archbishop. And by and by the archbishop read this roll containing this sentence:
"The third Sunday after Easter, the year of our Lord 1407, William Thorpe came unto the town of Shrewsbury, and through leave granted unto him to preach, he said openly in St. Chad's church in his sermon, that the sacrament of the altar, after the consecration, was material bread. And that images should in no wise be worshipped. And that men should not go on pilgrimages. And that priests have no title to tithes. And that it is not lawful to swear in any wise.
"And when the archbishop had read thus this roll, he rolled it up again, and said to me, Is this wholesome learning to be among the people?
"And I said, Sir, I am both ashamed on their behalf, and right sorrowful for them that have certified you these things thus untruly, for I never preached nor taught thus privily nor apertly.
"And the archbishop said to me, I will give credence to these worshipful men which have written to me, and witnessed under their seals there among them. Though now thou deniest this, weenest thou that I will give credence to thee? Thou, losel, hast troubled the worshipful commonalty of Shrewsbury, so that the bailiffs and commonalty of that town have written to me, praying me that am archbishop of Canterbury, primate and chancellor of England, that I will vouchsafe to grant them, that if thou shalt be made (as thou art worthy) to suffer open jouresse for thine heresies, that thou may have thy jouresse openly there among them; so that all they whom thou and such other losels have there perverted, may, through fear of thy deed, be reconciled again to the unity of holy church. And also they that stand in true faith of holy church, may, through thy deed, be more established therein. And as if this asking well pleased the archbishop, he said, By my thrift this hearty prayer and fervent request shall be thought on.
"But certainly, neither the prayer of the men of Shrewsbury, nor the menacing of the archbishop, made me any thing afraid; but in rehearsing of this malice, and in the hearing of it, my heart greatly rejoiced, and yet doth I thank God for the grace that I then thought, and yet think shall come to all the church of God herethrough, by the special merciful doing of the Lord. And as having no dread of the malice of tyrants, by trusting stedfastly in the help of the Lord, with full purpose to knowledge the soothfastness, and to stand thereby after my cunning and power, I said to the archbishop, Sir, if the truth of God's word might now be accepted as it should be, I doubt not to prove by likely evidence, that they that are feigned to be out of the faith of holy church in Shrewsbury, and in other places also, are in the true faith of holy church. For as their words sound, and their works show to man's judgment, (dreading and loving faithfully God,) their will, their desire, their love, and their business are most set to dread to offend God, and to love to please him in true and faithful keeping of his commandments. And again, they that are said to be in the faith of holy church in Shrewsbury and in other places, by open evidence of their proud, envious, malicious, covetous, lecherous, and other foul words and works, neither know, nor have will to know, nor to occupy their wits truly and effectually in the right faith of holy church. Wherefore neither all these, nor any that follow their manners, shall any time come verily in the faith of holy church, except they enforce them more truly to come in the way which now they despise. For these men and women, that are now called faithful and holden just, neither know, nor will exercise themselves to know (of faithfulness) commandment of God.
"And thus full many men and women now, and especially men that are named to be principal limbs of holy church, stir God to great wrath, and deserve his curse for that they call or hold them just men, which are full unjust, as their vicious words, their great customable swearing, and their slanderous and shameful works, show openly and witness. And therefore such vicious men and unjust in their own confession call them unjust men and women, which after their power and cunning busy themselves to live justly after the commandment of God. And where, sir, ye say that I have distroubled the commonalty of Shrewsbury, and many other men and women with my teaching; if it thus be, it is not to be wondered of wise men, since all the commonalty of the city of Jerusalem was distroubled of Christ's own person, that was very God and man, and the most prudent preacher that ever was or shall be. And also all the synagogue of Nazareth was moved against Christ, and so fulfilled with ire towards him for his preaching, that the men of the synagogue rose up and cast Christ out of their city, and led him up to the top of a mountain to cast him down there headlong; also accordingly hereto the Lord witnesseth by Moses, that he shall put dissensions betwixt his people, and the people that contrarieth and pursueth his people. Who, sir, is he that shall preach the truth of God's word to the unfaithful people, and shall let the soothfastness of the gospel, and the prophecy of God Almighty to be fulfilled?
"And the archbishop said to me, It followeth of these thy words, that thou and such other thinkest that ye do right well to preach and teach as ye do, without authority of any bishop. For you presume that the Lord hath chosen you only to preach, as faithful disciples, and special followers of Christ.
"And I said, Sir, by authority of God's law, and also of saints and doctors, I am learned to deem, that it is every priest's office and duty to preach busily, freely, and truly the word of God. For no doubt every priest should purpose first in his soul, and covet to take the order of priesthood, chiefly to make known to the people the word of God, after his cunning and power; approving his words ever to be true by his virtuous works: and for this intent we suppose that bishops and other prelates of holy church should chiefly take and use their prelacy, and for the same cause bishops should give to priests their orders. For bishops should accept no man to priesthood, except that he had good will and full purpose, and were well disposed, and well learned to preach. Wherefore, sir, by the bidding of Christ, and by the example of his most holy living, and also by the witnessing of his holy apostles and prophets, we are bound under full great pain, to exercise us after our cunning and power (as every priest is likewise charged of God) to fulfil duly the office of priesthood. We presume not here of ourselves to be esteemed (neither in our own reputation, nor in none other man's) faithful disciples, and special followers of Christ. But, sir, as I said to you before, we deem this, by authority chiefly of God's word, that it is the chief duty of every priest to busy him faithfully to make the law of God known to his people; and so to commune the commandment of God charitably, how that we may best, where, when, and to whom that ever we may, is our very duty: and for the will and business that we owe of due debt to do justly our office through the stirring and special help, as we trust, of God, hoping stedfastly in his mercy, we desire to be the faithful disciples of Christ, and we pray this gracious Lord for his holy name, that he make us able to please him with devout prayers, and charitable priestly works, that we may obtain of him to follow him thankfully.
"And the archbishop said to me, Lewd losel, whereto makest thou such vain reasons to me? Asketh not St. Paul, How should priests preach except they be sent? But I sent thee never to preach. For thy venomous doctrine is so known throughout England, that no bishop will admit thee to preach by witnessing of their letters. Why then, lewd idiot, wilt thou presume to preach, since thou art not sent nor licensed of thy sovereign to preach? Saith St. Paul, that subjects ought to obey their sovereigns, and not only good and virtuous, but also tyrants that are vicious.
"And I said to the archbishop, Sir, as touching your letter of licence, or other bishop's, which, ye say, we should have to witness that we are able to be sent to preach; we know well that neither you, sir, nor any other bishop of this land, will grant to us any such letters of licence, but if we should oblige us to you and to other bishops, by unlefull oaths, not to pass the bounds and terms which ye, sir, or other bishops, will limit to us. And since in this matter your terms be some too large, and some too strait; we dare not oblige us thus to be bounden to you to keep the terms, which you will limit to us, as you do to friars and such other preachers; and therefore, though we have not your letter, sir, nor letters of any other bishops written with ink upon parchment, we dare not therefore leave the office of preaching (to which preaching all priests after their cunning and power are bound, by divers testimonies of God's law, and great doctors) without any mention making of bishops' letters. For as mickle as we have taken upon us the order of priesthood, though we are unworthy thereto, we came and purpose to fulfil it with the help of God, by authority of his own law, and by witness of great doctors and saints, accordingly hereto trusting stedfastly in the mercy of God. For that he commandeth us to do the office of priesthood, he will be our sufficient letters and witness, if we, by example of his holy living and teaching, specially occupy us faithfully to do our office justly: yea, the people to whom we preach, be they faithful or unfaithful, shall be our letters, that is, our witness-bearers: for the truth where it is sown may not be unwitnessed. For all that are converted and saved by learning of God's word, and by working thereafter, are witness-bearers, that the truth and soothfastness, which they heard and did after, is cause of their salvation: and again, all unfaithful men and women which heard the truth told out to them, and would not do thereafter; also all they that might have heard the truth, and would not hear it, because that they would not do thereafter; all these shall bear witness against themselves, and the truth which they would not hear, or else heard it and despised to do thereafter through their unfaithfulness, is and shall be cause of their damnation. Therefore, sir, since this aforesaid witnessing of God, and of divers saints and doctors, and of all the people good and evil, sufficeth to all true preachers; we think that we do not the office of priesthood, if that we leave our preaching, because that we have not, or may not have duly, bishops' letters, to witness that we are sent of them to preach. This sentence approveth St. Paul, where he speaketh of himself and of faithful apostles and disciples, saying thus: We need no letters of commendations as some preachers do, which preach for covetousness of temporal goods, and for men's praising. And where ye say, sir, that Paul biddeth subjects obey their sovereigns, that is sooth, and may not be denied. But there be two manner of sovereigns, virtuous sovereigns, and vicious tyrants. Therefore to these last sovereigns neither men nor women, that be subject, owe to obey in two manners. To virtuous sovereigns and charitable subjects they owe to obey wilfully and gladly, in hearing of their good counsel, in consenting to their charitable biddings, and in working after their fruitful works.
"This sentence Paul approveth, where he saith to subjects, Be ye mindful of your sovereigns, that speak to you the word of God, and follow you the faith of them, whose conversation you know to be virtuous. For, as Paul saith after, these sovereigns to whom subjects ought to obey in following of their manners, work busily in holy studying, how they may withstand and destroy vices, first in themselves and after in all their subjects, and how they may best plant in them virtues. Also these sovereigns make devout and fervent prayers to purchase grace of God, that they and their subjects may over all things dread to offend him, and to love to please him. Also these sovereigns to whom Paul biddeth us obey, as it is said before, live so virtuously, that all they that will live well, may take of them good example, to know and to keep the commandments of God., But in this aforesaid wise, subjects ought not to obey nor to be obedient to tyrants, while they are vicious tyrants, since their will, their counsel, their biddings, and their works are so vicious, that they ought to be hated and left. And though such tyrants be masterful and cruel in boasting and menacing, in oppressions and divers punishings, St. Peter biddeth the servants of such tyrants to obey meekly such tyrants, suffering patiently their malicious cruelness; but Peter counselleth not any servant or subject to obey any lord, or prince, or sovereign, in any thing that is not pleasing to God.
"And the archbishop said unto me, If a sovereign bid his subject do that thing that is vicious, this sovereign herein is to blame, but the subject for his obedience deserveth meed of God; for obedience more pleaseth God than any sacrifice.
"And I said, Samuel the prophet said to Saul the wicked king, that God was more pleased with the obedience of his commandments than with any sacrifice of beasts. But David saith, and St. Paul, and St. Gregory accordingly together, that not only they that do evil are worthy of death and damnation, but also they that consent to evil-doers. And, sir, the law of the holy church teacheth in the decrees, that no servant to his lord, nor child to the father or mother, nor wife to her husband, nor monk to his abbot, ought to obey, except in lefull things, and lawful.
"And the archbishop said to me, All these allegings that thou bringest forth, are not else but proud presumptuousness. For hereby thou enforcest thee to prove, that thou and such other are so just, that ye ought not to obey to prelates. And thus, against the learning of St. Paul, that teacheth you not to preach but if ye were sent, of your own authority ye will go forth and preach, and do what ye list.
"And I said, Sir, presenteth not every priest the office of the apostles, or the office of the disciples of Christ? And the archbishop said, Yea. And I said, Sir, as the 10th chapter of Matthew and the last chapter of Mark witnesseth, Christ sent his apostles to preach. And the 10th chapter of Luke witnesseth, that Christ sent his two and seventy disciples to preach in every place that Christ was to come to. And St. Gregory in the common law saith, that every man that goeth to priesthood, taketh upon him the office of preaching: for, as he saith, that priest stirreth God to great wrath, of whose mouth is not heard the voice of preaching. And as other more glosses upon Ezekiel witness, that the priest that preacheth not busily to the people, shall be partaker of their damnation that perish through his default. And though the people be saved by other special grace of God, than by the priests' preaching, yet the priests, in that they are ordained to preach, and preach not, as before God they are manslayers. For as far as on them is, such priests as preach not busily and truly, slay all the people ghostly; in that they withhold from them the word of God, that is the life and substance of men's souls. And St. Isidore said, Priests shall be damned for wickedness of the people, if they teach not them that are ignorant, or blame not them that are sinners: for all the work or business of priests standeth in preaching and teaching, that they edify all men as well by cunning of faith, as by discipline of works, that is, virtuous teaching; and as the Gospel witnesseth, Christ said in his teaching, I am born and come into this world, to bear witness to the truth, and he that is of the truth heareth my voice.
"Then, sir, since by the word of Christ specially, that is, his voice, priests are commanded to preach, whatsoever priest that it be, that hath not good will and full purpose to do thus, and ableth not himself after his cunning and power to do his office by the example of Christ and of his apostles, whatsoever other thing that he doth, displeaseth God. For, lo, St. Gregory saith, that thing left that a man is bound chiefly to do, whatsoever other thing that a man doth, it is unthankful to the Holy Ghost; and therefore saith Lincoln, The priest that preacheth not the word of God, though he be seen to have none other default, he is antichrist and Satan's, a night thief, and a day thief, a slayer of souls, and an angel of light turned into darkness. Wherefore, sir, these authorities and other well considered, I deem myself damnable, if I, either for pleasure or displeasure of any creature, apply me not diligently to preach the word of God. And in the same damnation I deem all those priests, which of good purpose and will enforce them not busily to do thus, and also all them that have purpose or will to let any priest of this business.
"And the archbishop said to those three clerks that stood before him, Lo, sirs, this is the manner and business of this losel and such other, to pick out such sharp sentences of Holy Scripture and doctors, to maintain their sect and lore against the ordinance of holy church. And therefore, losel, it is thou that covetest to have again the Psalter that I made to be taken from thee at Canterbury, to record sharp verses against us. But thou shalt never have that Psalter nor any other book, till that I know that thy heart and thy mouth accord fully to be governed by holy church.
"And I said, Sir, all my will and power is, and ever shall be, (I trust to God,) to be governed by holy church.
"And the archbishop asked me, what was holy church.
"And I said, Sir, I told you before what was holy church. But since ye ask me this demand, I call Christ and his saints holy church.
"And the archbishop said unto me, I wot well that Christ and his saints are holy church in heaven, but what is holy church in earth?
"And I said, Sir, though holy church be every one in charity, yet it hath two parts: the first and principal part hath overcome perfectly all the wretchedness of this life, and reigneth joyfully in heaven with Christ. And the other part is here yet in earth, busily and continually fighting day and night against temptations of the fiend; forsaking and hating the prosperity of this world, despising and withstanding their fleshly lusts, which only are the pilgrims of Christ, wandering toward heaven by stedfast faith, and grounded hope, and by perfect charity. For these heavenly pilgrims may not nor will not be letted of their good purpose, by the reason of any doctors discording from Holy Scripture, nor by the floods of any tribulation temporal, nor by the wind of any pride, of boast, or of menacing of any creature; for they are all fast grounded upon the sure stone, Christ; hearing his word and loving it, exercising them faithfully and continually in all their wits to do thereafter.
"And the archbishop said to his clerks, See ye not how his heart is indurate, and how he is travailed with the devil, occupying him thus busily to inedge such sentences to maintain his errors and heresies. Certain, thus he would occupy us here all day, if we would suffer him.
"One of the clerks answered, Sir, he said right now, that this certification, that came to you from Shrewsbury, is untruly forged against him. Therefore, sir, appose you him now here in all the points which are certified against him, and so we shall hear of his own mouth his answers, and witness them.
"And the archbishop took the certification in his hand, and looked thereon awhile, and then he said to me,
"Lo here it is certified against thee by worthy men and faithful of Shrewsbury, that thou preachedst there openly in St. Chad's church, that the sacrament of the altar was material bread after the consecration; what sayest thou? Was this truly preached?
"And I said, Sir, I tell you truly that I touched nothing there of the sacrament of the altar, but in this wise as I will, with God's grace, tell you here. As I stood there in the pulpit, busying me to teach the commandment of God, there knelled a sacred bell, and therefore mickle people turned away hastily, and with noise ran from towards me. And I, seeing this, said to them thus, Good men, ye were better to stand here still and to hear God's word. For certes the virtue and the meed of the most holy sacrament of the altar standeth mickle more in the belief thereof that you ought to have in your soul, than it doth in the outward sight thereof; and therefore ye were better to stand still quietly to hear God's word, because that through the hearing thereof men come to very true belief. And otherwise, sir, I am certain I spake not there of the worthy sacrament of the altar.
"And the archbishop said to me, I believe thee not, whatsoever thou sayest, since so worshipful men have witnessed thus against thee; but since thou deniest that thou saidst thus there, what sayest thou now? Resteth there, after the consecration in the host, material bread or no?
"And I said, Sir, I know in no place in Holy Scripture where this term material bread is written; and therefore, sir, when I speak of this matter, I use not to speak of material bread.
"Then the archbishop said to me, How teachest thou men to believe in this sacrament?
"And I said, Sir, as I believe myself, so I teach other men.
"He said, Tell out plainly thy belief thereof.
"And I said with my protestation, Sir, I believe that the night before that Christ Jesus would suffer (wilfully) passion for mankind on the morn after, he took bread in his holy and most worshipful hands, lifting up his eyes, and giving thanks to God his Father, blessed this bread, and brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saying to them, Take and eat of this all you, this is my body. And that this is, and ought to be, all men's belief, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul witnesseth. Other belief, sir, I have none, nor will have, nor teach; for I believe that this sufficeth in this matter. For in this belief with God's grace I purpose to live and die, knowledging, as I believe, and teach other men to believe, that the worshipful sacrament of the altar is the sacrament of Christ's flesh and blood in the form of bread and wine.
"And the archbishop said to me, It is sooth that this sacrament is very Christ's body in form of bread, but thou and thy sect teachest it to be substance of bread. Think you this true teaching?
"And I said, Neither I, nor any other of the sect that ye damn, teach any otherwise than I have told you, nor believe otherwise to my knowing. Nevertheless, sir, I ask of you for charity, that you will tell me here plainly, how ye shall understand the text of St. Paul, where he saith thus, This thing feel you in yourself that is in Christ Jesus, while he was in the form of God. Sir, calleth not Paul here the form of God, the substance or kind of God? Also, sir, saith not the church, in the hours of the most blessed Virgin accordingly hereto, where it is written thus, Thou author of health, remember that sometime thou took of the undefiled virgin the form of our body? Tell me for charity, therefore, whether the form of our bodies be called here the kind of our body or no?
"And the archbishop said to me, Wouldst thou make me to declare this text after thy purpose, since the church now hath determined that there abideth no substance of bread, after the consecration, in the sacrament of the altar? Believest thou not this ordinance of the church?
"And I said, Sir, whatsoever prelates have ordained in the church, our belief standeth ever whole. I have not heard that the ordinance of men under belief should be put into belief.
"And the archbishop said to me, If thou hast not learned this before, learn now to know that thou art out of belief, if in this matter and other thou believest not as the holy church believeth. What say doctors treating of this sacrament?
"And I said, Sir, St. Paul, that was a great doctor of holy church, speaking to the people, and teaching them in the right belief of this most holy sacrament, calleth it bread that we break. And also in the canon of the mass, after the consecration, this most worthy sacrament is called holy bread. And every priest in this land, after that he hath received this sacrament, saith in this wise, That thing that we have taken with our mouth, we pray God that we may take it with a pure and clean mind; that is, as I understand, We pray God that we may receive, through very belief, this holy sacrament worthily. And, sir, St. Augustine saith, That thing that is seen is bread, but that men's faith asketh to be informed of is very Christ's body. And also Fulgence, an ententive doctor, saith, As it were an error to say that Christ was but a substance, that is, very man, and not very God, or to say that Christ was very God and not very man; so is it, this doctor saith, an error to say, that the sacrament of the altar is but a substance. And also, sir, accordingly hereto, in the secret of the mid mass on Christmas day, it is written thus, Idem refulsit Deus, sic terrena substantia nobis conferat quod divinum est; which sentence, sir, with the secret of the fourth ferie, quatuor temporum Septembris, I pray you, sir, declare here openly in English.
"And the archbishop said to me, I perceive well enough whereabout thou art, and how the devil blindeth thee, that thou may not understand the ordinance of holy church, nor consent thereto; but I command thee now, answer me shortly, believest thou that, after the consecration of this aforesaid sacrament, there abideth substance of bread or not?
"And I said, Sir, as I understand, it is all one to grant or believe that there dwelleth substance of bread, and to grant and to believe that this most worthy sacrament of Christ's own body is accident without subject. But, sir, for as mickle as your asking passeth my understanding, I dare neither deny it, nor grant it; for it is school matter, about which I busied me never to know; and, therefore, I commit this term, accidens sine subjecto, to those clerks which delight them so in curious and subtle sophistry, because they determine oft so difficult and strange matters, and wade and wander so in them from argument to argument, with pro et contra, till that they wot not where they are, and understand not themselves. But the shame that these proud sophisters have to yield them to men, and before men, maketh them oft fools, and to be concluded shamefully before God.
"And the archbishop said to me, I purpose not to oblige thee to the subtle arguments of clerks, since thou art unable thereto; but I purpose to make thee obey to the determination of holy church.
"And I said, Sir, by open evidence and great witness, a thousand years after the incarnation of Christ, the determination which I have here before you rehearsed, was accept of holy church, as sufficient to the salvation of all them that would believe it faithfully, and work thereafter charitably. But, sir, the determination of this matter was brought in, since the fiend was loosed, by Friar Thomas again, especially calling the most worshipful sacrament of Christ's own body an accident without subject: which term, since I know not that God's law approveth it in this matter, I dare not grant, but utterly I deny to make this friar's sentence, or any such other, my belief; do with me God what thou wilt.
"And the archbishop said to me, Well, well, thou shalt say otherwise ere that I leave thee. But what sayest thou to this second point that is recorded against thee by worthy men of Shrewsbury, saying that thou preachedst there, that images ought not to be worshipped in any wise?
"And I said, Sir, I preached never thus, nor through God's grace will I at any time consent to think, or to say thus, either privily or apertly. For lo, the Lord witnesseth by Moses, that the things which he made were right good, and so then they were, and yet they are and shall be good and worshipful in their kind. And therefore, to the end that God made them so, they are all praiseable and worshipful, and specially man, that was made after the image and likeness of God, is full worshipful in his kind, yea, this holy image, that is man, God worshippeth. And therefore every man should worship other, in kind, and also for heavenly virtues that men use charitably. And also I say, wood, tin, gold, silver, or any other matter that images are made of, all these creatures are worshipful in their kind, and to the end that God made them for. But the carving, casting, and painting of an imagery, made within man's hand, albeit that this doing be accept of man of highest state and dignity, and ordained of them to be a calendar to lewd men, that neither can nor will be learned to know God in his word, neither by his creatures, nor by his wonderful and divers workings; yet this imagery ought not to be worshipped in form, nor in the likeness of man's craft. Nevertheless, that every matter the painters paint with, since it is God's creature, ought to be worshipped in the kind, and to that end that God made and ordained it to serve man.
"Then the archbishop said to me, I grant well that nobody ought to do worship to any such images for themselves. But a crucifix ought to be worshipped for the passion of Christ that is painted therein, and so brought therethrough to man's mind; and thus the images of the blessed Trinity, and of the Virgin Mary, Christ's mother, and other images of saints, ought to be worshipped. For lo, earthly kings and lords which use to send their letters ensealed with their arms, or with their privy signet, to them that are with them, are worshipped of these men. For when these men receive their lords' letters, in which they see and know the wills and biddings of the lords, in worship of their lords, they doff their caps to these letters. Why not then, since in images made with man's hand, we may read and know many and divers things of God, and of his saints, shall we not worship their images?
"And I said, Within my aforesaid protestation I say, that these worldly usages of temporal laws that ye speak now of, may be done in case without sin. But this is no similitude to worship images, made by man's hand, since that Moses, David, Solomon, Baruch, and other saints in the Bible, forbid so plainly the worshipping of such images.
"Then the archbishop said to me, Lewd losel, in the old law before that Christ took mankind, was no likeness of any person of the Trinity neither showed to man, nor known of man: but now since Christ became man, it is lefull to have images to show his manhood, yea, though many men which are right great clerks, and other also, held it an error to paint the Trinity; I say, it is well done to make and to paint the Trinity in images. For it is great moving of devotion to men, to have and to behold the Trinity and other images of saints carved, cast, and painted. For beyond the sea are the best painters that ever I saw. And, sirs, I tell you, this is their manner, and it is a good manner; when that an image-maker shall carve, cast in mould, or paint any images, he shall go to a priest, and shrive him as clean as if he should then die and take penance, and make some certain vow of fasting or of praying, or pilgrimages doing, praying the priest specially to pray for him, that he may have grace to make a fair and a devout image.
"And I said, Sir, I doubt not if these painters that ye speak of, or any other painters, understood truly the text of Moses, of David, of the wise man, of Baruch, and of other saints and doctors; these painters should be moved to shrive them to God with full inward sorrow of heart, taking upon them to do right sharp penance for the sinful and vain craft of painting, carving, or casting they had used: promising God faithfully never to do so after: knowledging openly before all men their reprovable learning. And also, sir, these priests that shrive (as you do say) painters, and enjoin them to do penance, and pray for their speed, promising to them help of their prayers to be curious in their sinful crafts, sin herein more grievously than the painters. For these priests do comfort and give them counsel to do that thing, which of great pain, yea, under the pain of God's curse, they should utterly forbid them. For certes, sir, if the wonderful working of God, and the holy living and teaching of Christ, and of his apostles and prophets, were made known to the people by holy living, and true and busy teaching of priests; these things (sir) were sufficient books and calendars to know God by, and his saints, without any images made with man's hand. But certes, the vicious living of priests and their covetousness are chief cause of this error, and all other viciousness that reigneth among the people.
"Then the archbishop said unto me, I hold thee a vicious priest and accurst, and all they that are of thy sect; for all priests of holy church, and all images that move men to devotion, thou and such other go about to destroy. Losel, were it a fair thing to come into the church, and see therein none image?
"And I said, Sir, they that come to the church, to pray devoutly to the Lord God, may in their inward wits be the more fervent, that all their outward wits be close from all outward seeing and hearing, and from all disturbance and lettings. And since Christ blessed them that saw him not bodily, and have believed faithfully in him; it sufficeth then to all men, through hearing and knowing God's word, and doing thereafter; to believe in God, though they never see images made with man's hand after any person of the Trinity, or of any other saint.
"And the archbishop said to me with a fervent spirit, I say to thee, losel, that it is right well done to make and to have an image of the Trinity: yea, what sayest thou? is it not a stirring thing to behold such an image?
"And I said, Sir, ye said right now, that in the old law, ere Christ took mankind, no likeness of any person of the Trinity was showed to men: wherefore, sir, ye said it was not then lefull to have images, but now ye say, since Christ is become man, it is lefull to have and to make an image of the Trinity, and also of other saints. But, sir, this thing would I learn of you: since the Father of heaven, yea, and every person of Trinity, was without beginning God Almighty, and many holy prophets that were deadly men, were martyred violently in the old law, and also many men and women then died confessors; why was it not then as lefull and necessary as now, to have made an image of the Father of heaven, and to have made and had other images of martyrs, prophets, and holy confessors, to have been calendars to advise men and move them to devotion, as ye say that images now do?
"And the archbishop said, The synagogue of the Jews had not authority to approve those things as the church of Christ hath now.
"And I said, Sir, St. Gregory was a great man in the new law, and of great dignity, and, as the common law witnesseth, he commended greatly a bishop, in that he forbade utterly the images made with man's hand should be worshipped.
"And the archbishop said, Ungracious losel, thou savourest no more truth than a hound. Since at the rood at the north door at London, at our Lady at Walsingham, and many other places in England, are many great and praiseable miracles done: should not the images of such holy saints and places at the reverence of God, and of our Lady, and other saints, be more worshipped than other places and images, where no miracles are done?
"And I said, Sir, there is no such virtue in any imagery, that any image should heretofore be worshipped; wherefore I am certain that there is no miracle done of God in any place in earth, because that any images made with man's hand should be worshipped. And therefore, sir, as I preached openly at Shrewsbury and other places, I say now here before you, That nobody should trust that there were any virtue in imagery made with man's hand; and therefore no body should vow to them, nor seek them, nor kneel to them, nor bow to them, nor pray to them, nor offer any thing to them, nor kiss them, nor incense them. For, lo, the most worthy of such images, the brazen serpent, by Moses made, at God's bidding, the good king Hezekiah worthily and thankfully, and all because it was incensed. Therefore, sir, if men take good heed to the writing and the learning of St. Augustine, of St. Gregory, and of St. John Chrysostom, and of other saints and doctors, how they spake and wrote of miracles, that shall be done now in the last end of the world; it is to be dreaded, that for the unfaithfulness of men and women, the fiend hath great power to work many of the miracles that now are done in such places. For both men and women delight now more to hear and know miracles, than they do to know God's word, or to hear it effectually. Wherefore, to the great confusion of all them that thus do, Christ saith, The generation of adulterers requireth tokens, miracles, and wonders. Nevertheless, as divers saints say, now when the faith of God is published in Christendom, the word of God sufficeth to man's salvation, without such miracles; and thus also the word of God sufficeth to all faithful men and women without any such images. But, good sir, since the Father of heaven, that is God in his Godhead, is the most unknown thing that may be, and the most wonderful Spirit, having in it no shape nor likeness and members of any deadly creature; in what likeness, or what image, may God the Father be showed or painted?
"And the archbishop said, As holy church hath suffered the images of the Trinity, and all other images, to be painted and showed, it sufficeth to them that are members of holy church. But since thou art a rotten member, cut away from holy church, thou savourest not the ordinance thereof. But since the day passeth, leave we this matter.
"And then he said to me, What sayest thou to the third point that is certified against thee, preaching openly in Shrewsbury, that pilgrimage is not lefull? And over this thou saidst that those men and women that go on pilgrimages to Canterbury, to Beverley, to Karlington, to Walsingham, and to any other such places, are accursed and made foolish, spending their goods in waste.
"And I said, Sir, by this certification I am accused to you that I should teach, that no pilgrimage is lefull. But I never said thus. For I know that there be true pilgrimages and lefull, and full pleasant to God; and therefore, sir, howsoever mine enemies have certified you of me, I told at Shrewsbury of two manner of pilgrimages.
"And the archbishop said to me, Whom callest thou true pilgrims?
"And I said, Sir, with my protestation I call them true pilgrims travelling toward the bliss of heaven, which, in the state, degree, or order that God calleth them to, do busy them faithfully to occupy all their wits, bodily and ghostly, to know truly and to keep faithfully the biddings of God, hating and fleeing all the seven deadly sins, and every branch of them: ruling them virtuously (as it is said before) with their wits, doing discreetly, wilfully, and gladly, all the works of mercy, bodily and ghostly, after their cunning and power, abling them to the gifts of the Holy Ghost, disposing them to receive them in their souls, and to hold therein the right blessings of Christ; busying them to know and to keep the seven principal virtues, and so then they shall obtain herethrough grace, to use thankfully to God all the conditions of charity. And then they shall be moved with the good Spirit of God, to examine oft and diligently their conscience, that neither wilfully nor wittingly they err in any article of belief, having continually, as frailty will suffer, all their business to dread and to fly the offence of God, and to love over all, and to seek ever to do his pleasant will. Of these pilgrimages I said, whatsoever good thought that they at any time think, what virtuous word that they speak, and what fruitful work that they work; every such thought, word, and work is a step numbered of God toward him into heaven. These aforesaid pilgrims of God, delight sore when they hear of saints, or of virtuous men and women, how they forsook wilfully the prosperity of this life, how they withstood the suggestion of the fiend, how they restrained their fleshly lusts, how discreet they were in their penance doing, how patient they were in all their adversities, how prudent they were in counselling of men and women, moving them to hate all sins, and to fly them, and to shame ever greatly thereof, and to love all virtues, and to draw to them; imagining how Christ, and his followers by example of him, suffered scorns and slanders, and how patiently they abode and took the wrongful menacing of tyrants; how homely they were, and serviceable to poor men, to relieve and to comfort them, bodily and ghostly, after their power and cunning; and how devout they were in prayers, how fervent they were in heavenly desires, and how they absented them from spectacles of vain sayings and hearings; and how stable they were to let and destroy all vices, and how laborious and joyful they were to sow and to plant virtues. These heavenly conditions and such other have pilgrims, or endeavour to have them, whose pilgrimage God accepteth.
"And again, I said, As their works show, the most part of men and women that go now on pilgrimages, have not these aforesaid conditions, nor love to busy them faithfully to have. For as I well know, since I have full oft essayed, examine whosoever will twenty of these pilgrims, and he shall not find three men or women that know surely a commandment of God, nor can say their Pater Noster and Ave Maria, nor their creed, readily in any manner of language. And as I have learned, and also know somewhat by experience, of these same pilgrims, telling the cause why that many men and women go hither and thither now on pilgrimage, it is more for the health of their bodies than of their souls; more to have riches and prosperity of this world, than to be enriched with virtues in their souls; more to have here worldly and fleshly friendship, than to have friendship of God and of his saints in heaven; for whatsoever thing man or woman doth, the friendship of God, or of any other saint, cannot be had, without keeping of God's commandments. Further with my protestation, I say now, as I said in Shrewsbury, though they that have fleshly wills, travel far their bodies, and spend mickle money, to seek and to visit the bones or images (as they say they do) of this saint or of that, such pilgrimage-going is neither praiseable nor thankful to God, nor to any saint of God, since, in effect, all such pilgrims despise God and all his commandments and saints; for the commandments of God they will neither know, nor keep, nor conform them to live virtuously by example of Christ and of his saints. Wherefore, sir, I have preached and taught openly, and so I purpose all my lifetime to do with God's help, saying that such fond people waste blamefully God's goods in their vain pilgrimages, spending their goods upon vicious hostelars, which are oft unclean women of their bodies; and, at the least, those goods with the which they should do works of mercy, after God's bidding, to poor needy men and women.
"These poor men's goods, and their livelode, these runners about offer to rich priests, which have mickle more livelode than they need; and thus those goods they waste wilfully, and spend them unjustly against God's bidding upon strangers, with which they should help and relieve, after God's will, their poor needy neighbours at home; yea, and over this folly, oftentimes divers men and women, of these runners thus madly hither and thither into pilgrimage, borrow hereto other men's goods, yea, and sometimes they steal men's goods hereto, and they pay them never again. Also, sir, I know well that when divers men and women will go thus after their own wills, and finding out one pilgrimage, they will ordain with them before, to have with them both men and women, that can well sing wanton songs, and some other pilgrims will have with them bagpipes, so that every town that they come through, what with the noise of their singing, and with the sound of their piping, and with the jangling of their Canterbury bells, and with the barking out of dogs after them, they make more noise than if the king came there away with all his clarions, and many other minstrels. And if these men and women be a month out in their pilgrimage, many of them shall be an half year after great janglers, tale-tellers, and liars.
"And the archbishop said to me, Lewd losel, thou seest not far enough in this matter, for thou considerest not the great travail of pilgrims, therefore thou blamest that thing that is praiseable. I say to thee, that it is right well done, that pilgrims have with them both singers and also pipers; that when one of them that goeth barefoot striketh his toe upon a stone, and hurteth him sore, and maketh him to bleed, it is well done that he or his fellow begin then a song, or else take out of his bosom a bagpipe, to drive away with such mirth the hurt of his fellow: for with such solace the travail and weariness of pilgrims is lightly and merrily borne out.
"And I said, Sir, St. Paul teacheth men to weep with them that weep.
"And the archbishop said, What janglest thou against men's devotion? Whatsoever thou or such other say, I say that the pilgrimage that now is used, is to them that do it a praiseable and a good mean to come the rather to grace. But I hold thee unable to know this grace, for thou enforcest thee to let the devotion of the people, since by authority of Holy Scripture men may lefully have and use such solace as thou reprovest: for David, in his last psalm, teacheth men to have divers instruments of music to praise God therewith.
"And I said, Sir, by the sentence of divers doctors, expounding the Psalms of David, that music and minstrelsy that David and other saints of the old law spake of, ought now neither to be taken nor used by the letter; but these instruments with their music ought to be interpreted ghostly, for all those figures are called virtues and grace, with which virtues men should please God, and praise his name. For St. Paul saith, all such things befell to them in figure. Therefore, sir, I understand that the letter of this psalm of David, and such other psalms and sentences, doth slay them that take them now literally; this sentence, as I understand, sir, Christ himself approveth, putting out the minstrels, that he would quicken the dead damsel.
"And the archbishop said to me, Lewd losel, is it not lefull to us to have organs in the church to worship therewithal God? And I said, Yea, sir, by man's ordinance; but by the ordinance of God, a good sermon, to the people's understanding, were mickle more pleasant to God.
"And the archbishop said, that organs and good delectable songs quickened and sharpened more men's wits, than should any sermon.
"But I said, Sir, lusty men and worldly lovers delight, and covet, and travail to have all their wits quickened and sharpened with divers sensible solace, but all the faithful lovers and followers of Christ, have all their delight to hear God's word, and to understand it truly, and to work thereafter faithfully and continually. For no doubt, to dread to offend God, and to love to please him in all things, quickeneth and sharpeneth all the wits of Christ's chosen people; and ableth them so to grace, that they joy greatly to withdraw their ears and all their wits and members from all worldly delight, and from all fleshly solace. For St. Jerome (as I think) saith, Nobody may joy with this world and reign with Christ.
"And the archbishop (as if he had been displeased with my answer) said to his clerks, What guess ye that this idiot will speak there where he hath no dread, since he speaketh thus now here in my presence? Well, well, by God, thou shalt be ordained for. And then he spake to me all angerly.hat sayest thou to this fourth point, that is certified against thee, preaching openly and boldly in Shrewsbury, that priests have no title to tithes?
"And I said, Sir, I named there no word of tithes in my preaching. But more than a month after that I was arrested there in prison, a man came to me into the prison, asking me what I said of tithes; and I said to him, Sir, in this town are many clerks and priests, of which some are called religious men, though many of them be seculars, therefore ask ye of them this question. And this man said to me, Sir, our prelates say, that we also are obliged to pay our tithes of all things that renew to us; and that they are accursed that withdraw any part wittingly from them of their tithes. And I said, sir, to that man, as with my protestation I say now before you, that I wonder that any priest dare say man to be accursed, without any ground of God's word. And the man said, Sir, our priests say, that they curse men thus by the authority of God's law. And I said, Sir, I know not where this sentence of cursing is authorized now in the Bible. And therefore, sir, I pray ye that ye will ask the most cunning clerk of this town, that ye may know where this sentence of cursing them that tithe not, is now written in God's law; for if it were written there, I would right gladly be learned where. But, shortly, this man would not go from me to ask this question of another body, but required me there, as I would answer before God, if in this case that cursing of priests were lawful and approved of God? And shortly herewith came to my mind the learning of St. Peter, teaching priests specially to hallow the Lord Christ in their hearts, being evermore ready, as far as in them is, to answer through faith and hope to them that ask of them a reason. And this lesson Peter teacheth men to use with a meek spirit, and with dread of the Lord. Wherefore, sir, I said to this man in this wise, In the old law, which ended not fully till the time that Christ rose up again from death to life, God commanded tithes to be given to the Levites, for the great business and daily travail that pertained to their office. But priests, because their travail was mickle more easy and light, than was the office of the Levites, God ordained the priests should take for their livelihood to do their office, the tenth part of those tithes that were given to the Levites. But now, I said, in the new law, neither Christ nor any of his apostles took tithes of the people, nor commanded the people to pay tithes, neither to priests, nor to deacons. But Christ taught the people to do alms, that is, works of mercy, to poor needy men, (of surplus, that is, superfluous of their temporal goods,) which they had more than them needed reasonably to their necessary livelihood. And thus, I said, not of tithes, but of pure alms of the people, Christ lived and his apostles, when they were so busy in preaching of the word of God to the people, that they might not travail otherwise to get their livelihood. But after Christ's ascension, and when the apostles had received the Holy Ghost, they travailed with their hands to get their livelihood, when that they might thus do for busy preaching. Therefore, by example of himself, St. Paul teacheth all the priests of Christ to travail with their hand, when for busy teaching of the people they might thus do. And thus all these priests, whose priesthood God accepteth now, or will accept, or did in the apostles' time, and after their decease, will do to the world's end. But, as Cisterciensis telleth, in the thousand year of our Lord Jesus Christ, 211 year, one Pope Gregory the Tenth ordained new tithes first to be given to priests now in the new law. But St. Paul in his time, whose trace or trample all priests of God enforce them to follow, seeing the covetousness that was among the people, desiring to destroy that foul sin through the grace of God and true virtuous living and example of himself, wrought and taught all priests to follow him as he followed Christ, patiently, willingly, and gladly in high poverty: wherefore Paul saith thus, The Lord hath ordained that they that preach the gospel, shall live of the gospel. But we, saith Paul, that covet and busy us to be faithful followers of Christ, use not this power. For lo, (as Paul witnesseth afterward,) when he was full poor and needy, preaching among the people, he was not chargeous unto them, but with his hands he travailed not only to get his own living, but also the living of other poor and needy creatures; and since the people was never so covetous nor so avaricious, I guess, as they are now, it were good counsel that all priests took good heed to this heavenly learning of Paul, following him here in wilful poverty, nothing charging the people for their bodily livelihood. But because that many priests do contrary to Paul in this aforesaid doctrine, Paul biddeth the people take heed to those priests that follow him as he had given them example. As if Paul would say thus to the people; Accept ye none other priests than they, that live after the form that I have taught you. For certain, in whatsoever dignity or order that any priest is in, if he conform him not to follow Christ and his apostles in wilful poverty, and in other heavenly virtues, and specially in true preaching of God's word; though such a one be named a priest, yet he is no more but a priest in name, for the work of a very priest in such a one wanteth. This sentence approveth Augustine, Gregory, Chrysostom, and Lincoln, plainly.
"And the archbishop said to me, Thinkest thou this wholesome learning to sow openly, or yet privily among the people? Certain this doctrine contrarieth plainly the ordinance of holy fathers, which have ordained, granted, and licensed priests to be in divers degrees, and to live by tithes and offerings of the people, and by other duties.
"And I said, Sir, if priests were now in measurable measure and number, and lived virtuously, and taught busily and truly the word of God, by example of Christ and of his apostles, without tithes, offerings, and other duties that priests now challenge and take, the people would give them freely sufficient livelihood.
"And a clerk said to me, How wilt thou make this good, that the people will give freely to priests their livelihood; since that now by the law every priest can scarcely constrain the people to give them their livelihood?
"And I said, Sir, it is now no wonder though the people grudge to give priests the livelihood that they ask; mickle people know now, how that priests should live, and how that they live contrary to Christ and to his apostles. And therefore the people is full heavy to pay, as they do, their temporal goods to parsons, and to other vicars and priests, which should be faithful dispensators of the parish'sgoods; taking to themselves no more but a scarce living of tithes, nor of offerings, by the ordinance of the common law. For whatsoever priests take of the people (be it tithe or offering, or any other duty or service) the priests ought to have thereof no more but a bare living; and to depart the residue to the poor men and women, specially of the parish of whom they take this temporal living. But the most deal of priests now wasteth their parishes' goods, and spendeth them at their own will after the world, in their vain lusts: so that in few places poor men have duly, as they should have, their own sustenance, neither of tithes, nor of offerings, nor of other large wages and foundations that priests take of the people in divers manners above that they need for needful sustenance of meat and clothing: but the poor needy people are forsaken and left of priests to be sustained of the parishioners, as if the priests took nothing of the parishioners to help the people with.
"And thus, sir, into over-great charges of the parishioners they pay their temporal goods twice, where once might suffice, if priests were true dispensators. Also, sir, the parishioners that pay their temporal goods, be they tithes or offerings, to priests that do not their office among them justly, are partners of every sin of those priests; because that they sustain those priests' folly in their sin, with their temporal goods. If these things be well considered, what wonder is it then, sir, if the parishioners grudge against these dispensators?
"Then the archbishop said to me, Thou that shouldst be judged and ruled by holy church, presumptuously thou deemest holy church to have erred in the ordinance of tithes and other duties to be paid to priests. It shall be long ere thou thrive, losel, that thou despisest thy ghostly mother. How darest thou speak this, losel, among the people? Are not tithes given to priests to live by?
"And I said, Sir, St. Paul saith, that tithes were given in the old law to Levites and to priests, that came of the lineage of Levi. But our priests, he saith, came not of the lineage of Levi, but of the lineage of Judah, to which Judah no tithes were promised to be given. And therefore Paul saith, since the priesthood is changed from the generation of Levi to the generation of Judah, it is necessary that changing also be made of the law. So that priests live now without tithes and other duties that they claim, following Christ and his apostles in wilful poverty, as they have given them example. For since Christ lived, all the time of his preaching, by pure alms of the people; and by example of him his apostles lived in the same wise, or else by the travail of their hands, as it is said above: every priest, whose priesthood Christ approveth, knoweth well, and confesseth in word and work, that a disciple ought not to be above his master; but it sufficeth to a disciple to be as his master, simple and pure, meek and patient; and by example specially of his Master Christ, every priest should rule him in all his living; and so, after his cunning and power, a priest should busy him to inform and to rule whomsoever he might charitably.
"And the archbishop said to me with a great spirit, God's curse have thou and mine for this teaching; for thou wouldst hereby make the old law more free and perfect than the new law. For thou sayest that it is lefull to Levites and to priests to take tithes in the old law, and so to enjoy their privileges: but to us priests in the new law, thou sayest it is not lawful to take tithes; and thus thou givest to Levites of old law more freedom than to priests of the new law.
"And I said, Sir, I marvel that ye understand this plain text of Paul thus. Ye wot well, that the Levites and priests in the old law that took tithes, were not so free nor so perfect as Christ and his apostles that took no tithes. And, sir, there is a doctor (I think that it is St. Hierome) that saith thus, The priests that challenge now in the new law tithes, say, in effect, that Christ is not become man, nor that he hath yet suffered death for man's love. Wherefore this doctor saith this sentence: Since tithes were the heirs and wages limited to Levites and to priests of the old law for bearing about of the tabernacle, and for slaying and flaying of beasts, and for burning of sacrifice, and for keeping of the temple, and for trumping of battle before the host of Israel, and other divers observances that pertained to their office; those priests that will challenge or take tithes, deny that Christ is come in the flesh, and do the priests' office of the old law, for whom tithes were granted, for else, as this doctor saith, priests now take tithes wrongfully.
"And the archbishop said to his clerks, Heard you ever losel speak thus? Certain this is the learning of them all, that wheresoever they come, and they may be suffered, they enforce them to expugn the freedom of holy church.
"And I said, Sir, why call ye the taking of tithes and of such other duties that priests challenge now, wrongfully, the freedom of holy church, since neither Christ nor his apostles challenged nor took such duties? Therefore these takings of priests now are not called justly the freedom of holy church, but all such giving and taking ought to be called and holden, the slanderous covetousness of men of the holy church.
"And the archbishop said to me, Why, losel, wilt not thou, and other that are confederate with thee, seek out of Holy Scripture and of the sense of doctors, all sharp authorities against lords, knights, and squires, and against other secular men, as thou dost against priests?
"And I said, Sir, whatsoever men or women, lords or ladies, or any other that are present in our preaching specially, or in our communing, after our cunning, we tell out to them their office and their charges; but, sir, since Chrysostom saith, that priests are the stomach of the people, it is needful in preaching, and also in communing, to be most busy about this priesthood: since by the viciousness of priests both lords and commons are most sinfully infected and led into the worst. And because that the covetousness of priests and pride, and the boast that they have and make of their dignity and power, destroyeth not only the virtues of priesthood in priests themselves, but also over this, it stirreth God to take great vengeance both upon the lords, and upon the commons, which suffer these priests charitably.
"And the archbishop said to me, Thou judgest every priest proud that will not go arrayed as thou doest: by God, I deem him to be more meek that goeth every day in a scarlet gown, than thou in thy threadbare blue gown. Whereby knowest thou a proud man?
"And I said, Sir, a proud priest may be known, when he denieth to follow Christ and his apostles in wilful poverty and other virtues; and coveteth worldly worship, and taketh it gladly, and gathereth together, with pleading, menacing, or with flattering, or with simony, any worldly goods; and most, if a priest busy him not chiefly in himself, and after in all other men and women after his cunning and power, to withstand sin.
"And the archbishop said to me, Though thou knewest a priest to have all these vices, and though thou sawest a priest a fornicator, wouldst thou therefore damn this priest damnable? I say to thee, that in the turning about of thy hand, such a sinner may be verily repented.
"And I said, Sir, I will not damn any man for any sin that I know done or may be done, so that the sinner leaveth his sin. But by authority of Holy Scripture, he that sinneth thus openly as you show here, is damnable for doing of such a sin; and most specially a priest, that should be example to all other to hate and flee sin. And in how short time soever ye say that such a sinner may be repented, he ought not of him that knoweth his sinning, to be judged verily repentant, without open evidence of great shame and hearty sorrow for sin. For whosoever (and specially a priest) that useth pride, envy, covetousness, lechery, simony, or any other vices, showeth not as open evidence of repentance as he hath given evil example and occasion of sinning, if he continue in any such sin as long as he may, it is likely that sin leaveth him, and he not sin. And, as I understand, such a one sinneth unto death, for whom nobody oweth to pray, as St. John saith.
"And a clerk said then to the archbishop, Sir, the longer that ye oppose him, the worse he is; and the more you busy you to amend him, the waywarder he is. For he is of so shrewd a kind, that he shameth not only to be himself a foul nest, but without shame he busieth him to make his nest fouler.
"And then the archbishop said to his clerk, Suffer a while, for I am at an end with him, for there is another point certifled against him, and I will hear what he saith thereto.
"And so then he said to me, Lo, it is here certified against thee, that thou preachedst openly at Shrewsbury, that it is not lawful to swear in any case.
"And I said, Sir, I never preached so openly, nor have I taught in this wise in any place. But, sir, as I preached in Shrewsbury, with my protestation I say to you now here, that by the authority of the Epistle of St. James, and by witness of divers saints and doctors, I have preached openly in one place or other, that it is not lefull in any case to swear by any creature. And over this, sir, I have also preached and taught by the aforesaid authorities, that nobody should swear in any case, if that without oath in any wise he that is charged to swear might excuse him to them that have power to compel him to swear in lefull thing and lawful. But if a man may not excuse him, without oath, to them that have power to compel him to swear, then he ought to swear only by God, taking him only, that is soothfastness, to witness to soothfastness.
"And then a clerk asked me, If it were not lefull to a subject, at the bidding of his prelate, to kneel down and touch the holy gospel book, and kiss it, saying, So help me God and this holy dame? for he should after his cunning and power do all things that his prelate commandeth him.
"And I said to them, Sirs, ye speak here full generally or largely. What if a prelate commanded his subject to do an unlawful thing, should he obey thereto?
"And the archbishop said to me, A subject ought not to suppose that his prelate will bid him do an unlawful thing. For a subject ought to think that his prelate will bid him do nothing but that he will answer for before God, that it is lefull: and then, though the bidding of the prelate be unlawful, the subject hath no peril to fulfil it, since that he thinketh and judgeth, that whatsoever thing his prelate biddeth him to do, that it is lefull to him for to do it.
"And I said, Sir, I trust not thereto. But to our purpose: sir, I tell you that I was once in a gentleman's house, and there were then two clerks there, a master of divinity, and a man of law, which man of law was also communing in divinity. And among other things, these men spake of oaths; and the man of law said, At the bidding of his sovereign which had power to charge him to swear, he would lay his hand upon a book, and hear his charge; and if his charge to his understanding were unlefull, he would hastily withdraw his hand upon the book, taking there only God to witness, that he would fulfil that lefull charge, after his power. And the master of divinity said then to him thus, Certain, he that layeth his hand upon a book in this wise, and maketh there a promise to do that thing that he is commanded, is obliged thereby by book-oath, then to fulfil his charge. For no doubt, he that chargeth him to lay his hand thus upon a book (touching the book, and swearing by it, and kissing it, promising in this form to do this thing or that) will say and witness that he that toucheth thus a book, and kisseth it, hath sworn upon that book. And all other men that see that man thus do, and also all those that hear hereof, in the same wise will say and witness, that this man hath sworn upon a book. Wherefore, the master of divinity said, it was not lefull either to give or to take any such charge upon a book; for every book is nothing else, but divers creatures of which it is made of. Therefore to swear upon a book, is to swear by creatures, and this swearing is ever unlefull. This sentence witnesseth Chrysostom plainly, blaming them greatly that bring forth a book to swear upon, charging clerks that in nowise they constrain any body to swear, whether they think a man to swear true or false.
"And the archbishop and his clerks scorned me, and blamed me greatly for this saying. And the archbishop menaced me with great punishment and sharp, except I left this opinion of swearing.
"And I said, Sir, this is not my opinion, but it is the opinion of Christ our Saviour, and of St. James, and of Chrysostom, and of other divers saints and doctors.
"Then the archbishop had a clerk read this homily of Chrysostom, which homily this clerk held in his hand written in a roll, which roll the archbishop caused to be taken from my fellow at Canterbury. And so then this clerk read this roll, till he came to a clause where Chrysostom saith, That it is sin to swear well.
"And then a clerk (Malveren, as I guess) said to the archbishop, Sir, I pray you wete of him, how he understandeth Chrysostom here, saying it to be sin to swear well.
"And so the archbishop asked me, how I understood here Chrysostom.
"And certain, I was somewhat afraid to answer hereto. For I had busied me to study about the sense thereof, but lifting up my mind to God, I prayed him of grace. And as fast as I thought how Christ said to his apostles, When for my name ye shall be brought before judges, I shall give into your mouth wisdom that your adversaries shall not against say. And trusting faithfully in the word of God, I said, Sir, I know well that many men and women have now swearing so in custom, that they neither know, or will know, that they do evil to swear as they do: but they think and say, that they do well to swear as they do, though they know well that they swear untruly. For they say, they may by their swearing, though it be false, void blame or temporal harm, which they should have if they swear not thus. And, sir, many men and women maintain strongly that they swear well, when that thing is sooth that they swear for. Also full many men and women say now, that it is well done to swear by creatures, when they may not, as they say, otherwise be believed. And also, full many men and women now say, that it is well done to swear by God, and by our Lady, and by other saints, to have them in mind. But since all these sayings are but excusations, and sin; methinketh, sir, that this sense of Chrysostom may be alleged well against all such swearers: witnessing that all these sin grievously, though they think themselves to swear in this aforesaid wise well: for it is evil done, and great sin, to swear truth, when in any manner a man may excuse himself without oath.
"And the archbishop said, that Chrysostom might be thus understood.
"And then a clerk said to me, Wilt thou tarry my lord no longer, but submit thee here meekly to the ordinance of holy church, and lay thy hand upon a book, touching the holy gospel of God, promising not only with thy mouth, but also with thine heart, to stand to my lord's ordinance?
"And I said, Sir, have I not told you here, how that I heard a master of divinity say, that in such case it is all one to touch a book, and to swear by a book?
"And the archbishop said, There is no master of divinity in England so great, but if he hold thisopinion before me, I shall punish him as I shall do thee, except thou swear as I shall charge thee.
"And I said, Sir, is not Chrysostom an ententive doctor?
"And the archbishop said, Yea.
"And I said, If Chrysostom proveth him worthy great blame, that bringeth forth a book to swear upon; it must needs follow, that he is more to blame that sweareth on that book.
"And the archbishop said, If Chrysostom meant accordingly to the ordinance of holy church, we will accept him.
"And then said a clerk to me, Is not the word of God and God himself equipollent, that is, of one authority.
"And I said, Yea.
"Then he said to me, Why wilt thou not swear then by the gospel of God, that is, God's word, since it is all one to swear by the word of God and by God himself?
"And I said, Sir, since I may not now otherwise be believed but by swearing, I perceive (as Augustine saith) that it is not speedful that ye that should be my brethren, should not believe me; therefore I am ready by the word of God (as the Lord commanded me by his word) to swear.
"Then the clerk said to me, Lay then thine hand upon the book, touching the holy gospel of God, and take thy charge.
"And I said, Sir, I understand that the holy gospel of God may not be touched with man's hand.
"And the clerk said I fonded, and that I said not truth.
"And I asked this clerk, whether it were more to read the gospel than to touch the gospel.
"And he said, It was more to read the gospel.
"Then I said, Sir, by authority of St. Hierome, the gospel is not the gospel for reading of the letter, but for the belief that men have in the word of God. That it is the gospel that we believe, and not the letter that we read; because the letter that is touched with man's hand, is not the gospel, but the sentence that is verily believed in man's heart, is the gospel. For so Hierome saith, The gospel, that is the virtue of God's word, is not in the leaves of the book, but it is in the root of reason. Neither the gospel, he saith, is in the writing alone of the letters, but the gospel is in the marking of the sentence of Scriptures. This sentence approveth St. Paul, saying thus, The kingdom of God is not in word, but in virtue. And David saith, The voice of the Lord, that is, his word, is in virtue. And after David saith, Through the word of God the heavens were formed, and in the spirit of his mouth is all the virtue of them. And I pray you, sir, understand ye well how David saith then, In the spirit of the mouth of the Lord is all the virtue of angels and of men.
"And the clerk said to me, Thou wouldst make us too fond with thee. Say we not that the gospel is written in the mass book?
"And I said, Sir, though men use to say thus, yet it is an imperfect speech, for the principal part of a thing is properly the whole thing; for lo, man's soul, that may not now be seen here, nor touched with any sensible thing, is properly man. And all the virtue of a tree is in the root thereof that may not be seen; for do away the root, and the tree is destroyed. And, sir, as ye said to me right now, God and his word are of one authority; and, sir, St. Hierome witnesseth that Christ, very God and very man, is hid in the letter of the law; thus, also, sir, the gospel is hid in the letter. For, sir, as it is full likely, many and divers men and women, here in the earth, touched Christ and saw him, and knew his bodily person, which neither touched, nor saw, nor knew ghostly his Godhead; right thus, sir, many men now touch, and see, and write, and read the Scriptures of God's law, which neither see, touch, nor read effectually the gospel. For as the Godhead of Christ, that is, the virtue of God, is known by the virtue of belief, so is the gospel, that is, Christ's word.
"And a clerk said to me, These be full misty matters and unsavoury, that thou showest here to us.
"And I said, Sir, if ye that are masters know not plainly this sentence, ye may sore dread that the kingdom of heaven be taken from you, as it was from the princes of priests, and from the elders of the Jews.
"And then a clerk (as I guess, Malveren) said to me, Thou knowest not thine equivocations; for the kingdom of heaven hath divers understandings. What callest thou the kingdom of heaven in this sentence that thou showest here?
"And I said, Sir, by good reason and sentence of doctors, the realm of heaven is called here the understanding of God's word.
"And a clerk said to me, From whom thinkest thou that this understanding is taken away?
"And I said, Sir, (by authority of Christ himself,) the effectual understanding of Christ's word is taken away from all them chiefly, which are great lettered men, and presume to understand high things, and will be holden wise men, and desire mastership and high state and dignity, but they will not conform them to the living and teaching of Christ and of his apostles.
"Then the archbishop said, Well, well, thou wilt judge thy sovereigns. By God, the king doth not his duty, unless he suffer thee to be condemned.
"And then another clerk said to me, Why (on Friday that last was) counselledst thou a man of my lord's that he should not shrive him to no man, but only to God?
"And with this asking I was abashed; and then by and by I knew that I was subtlely betrayed of a man that came to me in prison on the Friday before, communing with me in this matter of confession: and certain, by his words I thought that this man came then to me of full fervent and charitable will, but now I know he came to tempt me and to accuse me; God forgive him if it be his will. And with all my heart when I had thought thus, I said to this clerk, Sir, I pray you that you would fetch this man hither, and all the words, as near as I can repeat them, which I spake to him on Friday in the prison, I will rehearse now here before you all, and before him.
"And, as I guess, the archbishop said then to me, They that are now here suffice to repeat them. How saidst thou to him?
"And I said, Sir, that man came and asked me in divers things, and after his asking, I answered him (as I understood) that good was. And as he showed to me by his words, he was sorry of his living in court, and right heavy for his own vicious living, and also for the viciousness of other men, and specially of priests' evil living, and therefore he said to me, with a sorrowful heart, as I guessed, that he purposed fully within short time to leave the court, and to busy him to know God's law, and to conform all his life thereafter. And when he had said to me these words, and more other which I would rehearse if he were present, he prayed me to hear his confession. And I said to him, Sir, wherefore come ye to me to be confessed of me? Ye wot well that the archbishop putteth and holdeth me here, as one unworthy either to give or to take any sacrament of holy church.
"And he said unto me, Brother, I wot well, and so wot many other more, that you and such other are wrongfully vexed, and therefore I commune with you the more gladly. And I said to him, Certain I wot well that many men of this court, and specially the priests of this household, would be full evil apaid both with you and me, if they wist that ye were confessed of me. And he said, that he cared not therefore, for he had full little affection in them. And, as methought, he spake these words and many other of a good will, and of a high desire to have known and done the pleasant will of God; and I said to him, as with my aforesaid protestation I say to you now here, Sir, I counsel you to absent you from all evil company, and to draw you to them that love and busy them to know and to keep the precepts of God, and then the good Spirit of God will move you to occupy busily all your wits in gathering together of all your sins, as far as ye can bethink you, shaming greatly of them and sorrowing heartily for them; yea, sir, the Holy Ghost will then put in your heart a good will and a fervent desire to take and to hold a good purpose, to hate ever and to flee, after your cunning and power, all occasion of sin: and so then wisdom shall come to you from above, lightening, with divers beams of grace and of heavenly desire, all your wits, informing you how ye shall trust stedfastly in the mercy of the Lord, knowledging to him only all your vicious living, praying to him ever devoutly of charitable counsel and continuance, hoping without doubt, that if ye continue thus, busying you faithfully to know and to keep his biddings, he will, for he only may, forgive you all your sins. And this man said to me, Though God forgive men their sins, yet it behoveth men to be assoiled of priests, and to do the penance that they enjoin them.
"And I said to him, Sir, it is all one to assoil men of their sins, and to forgive men their sins. Wherefore, since it pertaineth only to God to forgive sin, it sufficeth in this case, to counsel men and women to leave their sin, and to comfort them that busy them thus to do, to hope stedfastly in the mercy of God. And again, priests ought to tell sharply to customable sinners, that if they will not make an end of their sin, but continue in divers sins while that they may sin, all such deserve pain without any end. And therefore, priests should ever busy them to live well and holily, and to teach the people busily and truly the word of God, showing to all folk, in open preaching and in privy counselling, that the Lord God only forgiveth sin. And, therefore, those priests that take upon them to assoil men of their sins, blaspheme God; since that it pertaineth only to the Lord to assoil men of all their sins. For no doubt a thousand years after that Christ was man, no priest of Christ durst take upon him to teach the people, neither privily nor apertly, that they behoved needs to come to be assoiled of them as priests now do. But by authority of Christ's word priests bound indurate customable sinners to everlasting pains, which in no time of their living would busy them faithfully to know the biddings of God, nor to keep them. And again, all they that would occupy all their wits to hate and to flee all occasion of sin, dreading over all things to offend God, and loving to please him continually; to these men and women priests showed how the Lord assoiled men of all their sins; and thus Christ promised to confirm in heaven all the binding and loosing that priests by authority of his word bind men in sin that are indurate therein, or loose them out of sin here upon earth that are verily repentant. And this man hearing these words said, that he might well in conscience consent to this sentence. But he said, Is it not needful to the lay-people that cannot thus do, to go shrive them to priests? And I said, If a man feel himself so distroubled with any sin, that he cannot by his own wit avoid this sin without counsel of them that are herein wiser than he; in such a case the counsel of a good priest is full necessary. And if a good priest fail, as they do now commonly, in such a case, St. Augustine saith, that a man may lawfully commune and take counsel of a virtuous secular man. But certain, that man or woman is overladen and too beastly, which cannot bring their own sins into their mind, busying them night and day to hate and to forsake all their sins, doing a sigh for them after their cunning and power. And, sir, full accordingly to this sentence upon Mid-lent Sunday, two years, as I guess, now agone, I heard a monk of Feversham, that men called Borden, preach at Canterbury at the cross within Christ-church abbey, saying thus of confession, That as through the suggestion of the fiend, without counsel of any other body, of themselves many men and women can imagine and find means and ways enough to come to pride, to theft, to lechery, and other divers vices; in contrariwise this monk said, since the Lord God is more ready to forgive sin than the fiend is or may be of power to move any body to sin, then whosoever will shame and sorrow heartily for their sins, knowledging them faithfully to God, amending them after their power and cunning, without counsel of any other body than of God and of himself, through the grace of God, all such men and women may find sufficient means to come to God's mercy, and so to be clean assoiled of all their sins. This sentence I said, sir, to this man of yours, and the self words as near as I can guess.
"And the archbishop said, Holy church approveth not this learning.
"And I said, Sir, holy church, of which Christ is Head, in heaven and in earth, must needs approve this sentence. For lo, hereby all men and women may, if they will, be sufficiently taught to know and keep the commandments of God, and to hate and to fly continually all occasion of sin, and to love and to seek virtues busily, and to believe in God stably, and to trust in his mercy stedfastly, and so to come to perfect charity and continue therein perseverantly. And more the Lord asketh not of any man here now in this life. And certain, since Jesus Christ died upon the cross wilfully, to make men free; men of the church are too bold and too busy to make men thrall, binding them under the pain of endless curse (as they say) to do many observances and ordinances, which neither the living nor teaching of Christ nor of his apostles approveth.
"And a clerk said then to me, Thou showest plainly here thy deceit, which thou hast learned of them that travailed to sow the popple among the wheat; but I counsel thee to go away clean from this learning, and submit thee lowly to my lord, and thou shalt find him yet to be gracious to thee.
"And as fast then another clerk said to me, How wast thou so bold at Paul's Cross in London, to stand there hard with thy tippet bounden about thine head, and to reprove in his sermon the worthy clerk Alkerton, drawing away all that thou mightest? yea, and the same day at afternoon, thou, meeting the worthy doctor in Watling Street, calledst him false flatterer and hypocrite.
And I said, Sir, I think certainly that there was no man nor woman that hated verily sin and loved virtues, hearing the sermon of the clerk at Oxford, and also Alkerton's sermon, but they said, or might justly say, that Alkerton reproved that clerk untruly, and slandered him wrongfully and uncharitably. For, no doubt, if the living and teaching of Christ chiefly and of his apostles be true, nobody that loveth God and his law will blame any sentence that the clerk then preached there, since by authority of God's word, and by approved saints and doctors, and by open reason, this clerk approved all things clearly that he preached there.
"And a clerk of the archbishop said to me, His sermon was false, and that he showed openly, since he dare not stand forth and defend his preaching that he then preached there.
"And I said, Sir, I think that he purposeth to stand stedfastly thereby, or else he slandereth foully himself, and also many other that have great trust that he will stand by the truth of the gospel. For I wot well, this sermon is written both in Latin and English, and many men have it, and they set great price thereby. And, sir, if ye were present with the archbishop at Lambeth when this clerk appeared and was at his answer before the archbishop, ye wot well that this clerk denied not there his sermon, but two days he maintained it before the archbishop and his clerks.
"And then the archbishop or one of his clerks said, I wot not which of them, That harlot shall be met with for that sermon; for no man but he and thou, and such other false harlots, praiseth any such preaching.
"And then the archbishop said, Your cursed sect is busy, and it joyeth right greatly, to contrary and to destroy the privilege and freedom of holy church.
"And I said, Sir, I know no men that travail so busily as this sect doth, which you reprove, to make rest and peace in holy church; for pride, covetous.ness, and simony, which distrouble holy church, this sect hateth and fleeth, and travaileth busily to move all other men in like manner, unto meekness, and wilful poverty, and charity, and free ministering of the sacrament; this sect loveth and useth, and is full busy to move all other folks thus to do. For these virtues owe all members of holy church to their Head, Christ.
"Then a clerk said to the archbishop, Sir, it is far day, and ye have far to ride to-night, therefore make an end with him, for he will none make; but the more, sir, that ye busy you to draw him toward you, the more contumacious he is made and the further from you.
"And then Malveren said to me, William, kneel down, and pray my lord's grace, and leave all thy fantasies, and become a child of holy church.
"And I said, Sir, I have prayed the archbishop oft, and yet I pray him for the love of Christ, that he will leave his indignation that he hath against me, and that he will suffer me, after my cunning and power, to do mine office of priesthood, as I am charged of God to do it; for I covet nought else but to serve my God to his pleasing in the state that I stand in, and have taken me to.
"And the archbishop said to me, If of good heart thou wilt submit thee now here meekly, to be ruled from this time forth by my counsel, obeying meekly and wilfully to my ordinance, thou shalt find it most profitable and best to thee to do thus: therefore tarry thou me no longer, grant to do this that I have said to thee now here shortly, or deny it utterly.
"And I said to the archbishop, Sir, owe we to believe that Jesus Christ was and is very God and very man?
"And the archbishop said, Yea.
"And I said, Sir, owe we to believe that all Christ's living and his teaching is true in every point? "And he said, Yea.
"And I said, Sir, owe we to believe that the living of the apostles, and the teaching of Christ and all the prophets, are true, which are written in the Bible for the health and salvation of good people?
"And he said, Yea.
"And I said, Sir, owe all Christian men and women, after their cunning and power, to conform all their living to the teaching specially of Christ, and also to the teaching and living of his apostles and of prophets, in things that are pleasant to God, and edification of his church?
"And he said, Yea.
"And I said, Sir, ought the doctrine, the bidding, or the counsel of any body to be accepted or obeyed unto, except this doctrine, these biddings, or this counsel may be granted and affirmed by Christ's living and his teaching specially, or by the living and teaching of his apostles and prophets?
"And the archbishop said to me, Other doctrines ought not to be accepted, nor owe we to obey to any man's bidding or counsel, except we can perceive that this bidding or counsel accordeth with the life and teaching of Christ, and of his apostles and prophets.
"And I said, Sir, is not all the learning, and biddings, and counsels of holy church, means and healing remedies, to know and understand the privy suggestions and the apert temptations of the fiend? and also ways and healing remedies to slay pride and all other deadly sins, and the branches of them, and sovereign means to procure grace to withstand and overcome all the fleshly lusts and movings?
"And the archbishop said, Yea.
"And I said, Sir, whatsoever thing ye or any other body bid or counsel me to do, accordingly to this aforesaid learning, after my cunning and power, through the help of God, I will meekly with all my heart obey thereto.
"And the archbishop said to me, Submit thee then now here meekly and wilfully to the ordinance of holy church, which I shall show to thee.
"And I said, Sir, accordingly as I have here now before you rehearsed, I will now be ready to obey full gladly to Christ the Head of the holy church, and to the learnings, and biddings, and counsels of every pleasing member of him.
"Then the archbishop, striking with his hand fiercely upon a cupboard, spake to me with a great spirit, saying, By Jesus, but if thou leave not such additions, obliging thee now here without any exception to mine ordinance, or that I go out of this place, I shall make thee as sure, as any thief that is in the prison of Lanterne; advise thee now what thou wilt do. And then, as if he had been angered, he went from the cupboard where he stood, to a window.
"And then Malveren and another clerk came nearer me, and they spake to me many words full pleasantly; and another while they menaced me, and counselled full busily to submit me, or else they said I should not escape punishing over measure; for they said I should be degraded, cursed, and burned, and so then damned. But now they said, Thou mayst eschew all these mischiefs, if thou wilt submit thee wilfully and meekly to this worthy prelate, that hath cure of thy soul. And for the pity of Christ (said they) bethink thee, how great clerks the bishop of Lincoln, Herford, and Purvey were, and yet are, and also B., that is a well understanding man; which also have forsaken and revoked all the learning and opinions that thou and such other hold. Wherefore since each of them is mickle wiser than thou art, we counsel thee for the best; that by the example of these four clerks, thou follow them, submitting thee as they did.
"And one of the bishop's clerks said then there, that he heard Nicholas Herford, say, that since he forsook and revoked all the learning and Lollards' opinions, he hath had mickle greater favour and more delight to hold against them, than ever he had to hold with them, while he held with them.
"And therefore Malveren said to me, I understand and thou wilt take thee to a priest, and shrive thee clean, forsake all such opinions, and take the penance of my lord here for the holding and teaching of them, within short time thou shalt be greatly comforted in this doing.
"And I said to the clerks, that thus busily counselled me to follow these aforesaid men, Sirs, if these men, of whom ye counsel me to take example, had forsaken benefices of temporal profit, and of worldly worship, so that they had absented them, and eschewed from all occasions of covetousness and of fleshly lust, and had taken upon them simple living and wilful poverty, they had herein given good example to me and to many other to have followed them. But now since all these four men have slanderously and shamefully done the contrary, consenting to receive and to have and to hold temporal benefices, living now more worldly and more fleshly than they did before, conforming them to the manners of this world; I forsake them herein, and in all their aforesaid slanderous doing. For I purpose, with the help of God, into remission of my sins, and of my foul, cursed living, to hate and to flee privily and apertly to follow these men, teaching and counselling whomsoever that I may, to flee and to eschew the way that they have chosen to go in, which will lead them to the worst end, if in convenient time they repent them not, verily forsaking and revoking openly the slander that they have put, and every day yet put to Christ's church. For certain, so open blasphemy and slander as they have spoken and done in their revoking and forsaking of the truth, ought not, nor may not, privily be amended duly. Wherefore, sirs, I pray you that you busy not to move me to follow these men, in revoking and forsaking the truth, soothfastness as they have done, and yet do; wherein by open evidence they stir God to great wrath, and not only against themselves, but also against all them that favour them, or consent to them herein, or that commune with them, except it be to their amendment. For whereas these men first were pursued of enemies, now they have obliged them by oath to slander and pursue Christ in his members. Wherefore, as I trust stedfastly in the goodness of God, the worldly covetousness, and the lusty living, and the sliding from the truth, of these runagates, shall be to me and to many other men and women an example and an evidence to stand more stiffly by the truth of Christ.
"For certain, right many men and women do mark and abhor the foulness and cowardness of these aforesaid untrue men, how that they are overcome and stopped with benefices, and withdrawn from the truth of God's word, forsaking utterly to suffer therefore bodily persecution. For by this unfaithful doing and apostacy of them, specially, that are great lettered men, and have knowledged openly the truth, and now, either for pleasure or displeasure of tyrants, have taken hire and temporal wages to forsake the truth, and to hold against it, slandering and pursuing them that covet to follow Christ in the way of righteousness; many men and women therefore are now moved. But many more, through the grace of God, shall be moved hereby to lcarn the truth of God to do thereafter, and to stand boldly thereby.
"Then the archbishop said to his clerks, Busy you no longer about him, for he, and other such as he is, are confederate together that they will not swear to be obedient, and to submit them to prelates of holy church. For now since I stood here, his fellow also sent me word that he will not swear, and that this fellow counselled him that he should not swear to me. And, losel, in that thing that in thee is, thou hast busied thee to loose this young man; but blessed be God, thou shalt not have thy purpose of him. For he hath forsaken all thy learning, submitting him to be buxom and obedient to the ordinance of holy church, and weepeth full bitterly, and curseth thee full heartily, for the venomous teaching which thou hadst showed to him, counselling him to do thereafter.
"And for thy false counselling of many other and him, thou hast great cause to be sorry. For long time thou hast busied thee to pervert whomsoever thou mightest. Therefore, as many deaths thou art worthy of, as thou hast given evil counsels. And therefore, by Jesus, thou shalt go thither where Nicholas Herford and Thomas Purvey were harboured. And I undertake ere this day eight days, thou shalt be right glad to do what thing that ever I bid thee to do. And, losel, I shall essay if I can make thee there as sorrowful as (it was told me) thou wast glad at my last going out of England. By St. Thomas, I shall turn thy joy into sorrow.
"And I said, Sir, there can nobody prove lawfully that I joyed ever of the manner of your going out of this land.
"But, sir, to say the sooth, I was joyful when ye were gone; for the bishop of London, in whose prison ye left me, found in me no cause to hold me longer in his prison, but at the request of my friends, he delivered me to them, asking of me no manner of submitting.
"Then the archbishop said to me, Wherefore that I yede out of England, is unknown to thee; but be this thing well known to thee, that God (as I wot well) hath called me again, and brought me into this land, to destroy thee and the false sect that thou art of; as, by God, I shall pursue you so narrowly, that I shall not leave a slip of you in this land.
"And I said to the archbishop, Sir, the holy prophet Jeremy said to the false prophet Anany, When the word, that is, the prophecy, of a prophet is known or fulfilled, then it shall be known, that the Lord sent the prophet in truth.
"And the archbishop, as if he had not been pleased with my saying, turned him awayward hither and thither, and said, By God, I shall set upon thy shins a pair of pearls, that thou shalt be glad to change thy voice.
"These and many more wonders and convincing words were spoken to me, menacing me and all other of the same sect to be punished and destroyed unto the uttermost.
"And the archbishop called then to him a clerk, and rowned with him; and that clerk went forth, and soon he brought in the constable of Saltwood castle, and the archbishop rowned a good while with him; and then the constable went forth, and then came in divers seculars, and they scorned me on every side, and menaced me greatly, and some counselled the archbishop to burn me by and by, and some other counselled him to drown me in the sea, for it is near hand there.
"And a clerk standing beside me, there kneeled down to the archbishop, praying him that he would deliver me to him to say matins with him, and he would undertake, that within three days I should not resist any thing that were commanded me to do of my prelate.
"And the archbishop said, that he would ordain for me himself.
"And then after came again the constable and spake privily to the archbishop; and the archbishop commanded the constable to lead me forth thence with him, and so he did. And when we were gone forth thence, we were sent after again. And when I came in again before the archbishop, a clerk had me kneel down and ask grace, and submit me lowly, and I should find it for the best.
"And I said then to the archbishop, Sir, as I have said to you divers times to-day, I will wilfully and lowly obey and submit me to be ordained ever, after my cunning and power, to God and to his law, and to every member of holy church, as far forth as I can perceive that these members accord with their Head, Christ, and will teach me, rule me, or chastise me by authority specially of God's law.
"And the archbishop said, I wist well he would not without such additions submit him.
"And then I was rebuked, scorned, and menaced on every side; and yet after this divers persons cried upon me to kneel down and submit me; but I stood still, and spake no word. And then there was spoken of me, and to me, many great words, and I stood and heard them menace, curse, and scorn me: but I said nothing.
"Then awhile after the archbishop said to me, Wilt thou not submit thee to the ordinance of holy church?
"And I said, Sir, I will full gladly submit me, as I have showed you before.
"And then the archbishop bade the constable to have me forth thence in haste.
"And so then I was led forth, and brought into a foul, unhonest prison, where I came never before. But thanked be God, when all men were gone forth then from me, and had sparred fast the prison door after them; by and by after, I therein by myself busied me to think on God, and to thank him for his goodness. And I was then greatly comforted in all my wits, not only for that I was then delivered for a time from the sight, from the hearing, from the presence, from the scorning, and from the menacing of mine enemies; but much more I rejoiced in the Lord, because that through his grace he kept me so, both among the flattering especially, and among the menacing of mine adversaries, that without heaviness and anguish of my conscience I passed away from them. For as a tree laid upon another tree overthwart or cross-wise, so was the archbishop and his three clerks always contrary to me, and I to them.
"Now, good God, for thine holy name, and to the praising of thy most blessed name, make us one together, if it be thy will, by authority of thy word, that is true perfect charity, and else not. And that it may thus be, all that this writing read or hear, pray heartily to the Lord God, that he for his great goodness, that cannot be with tongue expressed,grant to us, and to all other which in the same wise, and for the same cause specially, or for any other cause, be at distance, to be knit and made one in true faith, in stedfast hope, and in perfect charity. Amen."
Illustration -- William Thorpe in prison
What was the end of this good man, and blessed servant of God, William Thorpe, I find as yet in no story specified. By all conjectures it is to be thought that the archbishop, Thomas Arundel, being so hard an adversary against those men, would not let him go; much less it is to be supposed, that he would ever retract his sentence and opinion, which he so valiantly maintained before the bishop; neither doth it seem that he had any such recanting spirit. Again, neither is it found that he was burned; wherefore it remaineth most like to be true, that he, being committed to some strait prison, (according as the archbishop in his examination before did threaten him,) there, (as Thorpe confesseth himself,) was so straitly kept, that either he was secretly made away with, or else there he died by sickness.
The like end also I find to happen to John Ashton, another good follower of Wickliff, who, for the same doctrine of the sacrament, was condemned by the bishops; and, because he would not recant, he was committed to perpetual prison, wherein the good man continued till his death, A. D. 1382.