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BOOK II. Wycliffe’s Latin Treatise, Trialogus - John Wyclife, Tracts and Treatises of John de Wycliffe 
Tracts and Treatises of John de Wycliffe, D.D. with Selections and Translations from his Manuscripts , and Latin Works. Edited for The Wycliffe Society, with an Introductory Memoir, by the Rev. Robert Vaughan, D.D. (London: Blackburn and Pardon, 1845).
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BEING SOME ACCOUNT OF THE FIRST, SECOND, AND THIRD BOOKS OF THE TRIALOGUS.
The work of our Reformer which bears the name of the Trialogus, is so called because it consists of a series of colloquies between three speakers. The names of these speakers are Alithia, Pseudis, and Phronesis—or Truth, Falsehood, and Wisdom. The opinions and reasonings of Alithia, accordingly, are to be regarded as those of Truth; those of Pseudis as being the contrary of truth; while in the person of Phronesis, Wycliffe himself speaks; and in setting forth his judgment on the points at issue, he generally assigns such reasons for his opinions as tend to expose the sophistry of Pseudis, and to sustain the views of Alithia.
Many of the opinions discussed are not of a nature to interest a modern reader, and the debates relating to such opinions are valuable chiefly as they serve to illustrate the history of theological speculations. In many instances, also, the method of the argumentation is not more to our taste than the matter of it. It was one of the peculiarities of the scholastic process of reasoning, that in attempting to establish any doctrine, full expression should be given to every conceivable form of objection against it; and though it often happened from this cause, that the disputant raised the spirit of the doubter, without being well able to lay it again, the practice itself served to whet the faculties, and to bring them to their office with the greatest degree of circumspection and force. Thus in the Trialogus, the language of Pseudis gives expression to the captious and sceptical spirit of the middle age on the great questions relating to philosophy, morals, and theology; while the speeches of Alithia and Phronesis, embody the sounder views of those times on such subjects, and along with the opinions generally received, come those bolder utterances which distinguish the writings of Wycliffe as those of a Reformer.
But the argument is conducted, especially in the earlier part of the treatise, and as relating to its more obscure topics, in the prescribed scholastic form, the method of reasoning, and the technical expressions frequently recurring in it, being such as have no place even in the most scientific treatises in our own age.a In one respect, indeed, the works of the ancient schoolmen bear a strong resemblance to our later literature, inasmuch as there is very little in the speculations of the modern sceptic which may not be found in the writings of those middle-age churchmen. In some instances the polemic may have secretly sympathised with the freedom of thought which he affected to condemn; but in general, the atheist, the infidel, and the heretic, were imaginary foes, conjured up that the militant ecclesiastic might indulge, as in a species of tournament, in such displays of his skill as should secure to him the honours of a victory.
That there should have been men during the middle age disposed to bestow a laborious attention on such a system of dialectics, is not surprising; but Wycliffe was a man of earnest piety, of an impassioned temperament, and with a mind eminently practical, was intent through life on bringing about great practical reforms. Nevertheless, if we may credit the testimony of enemies in his favour, even that of the most bitter among them, we must believe that no man of his age was more deeply learned, or more thoroughly skilled in the science of the schoolmen. According to Knyghton, a contemporary and an adversary,—“As a theologian, he was the most eminent in his day; as a philosopher, second to none; and as a schoolman, incomparable. He made it his great aim, with learned subtlety, and by the profundity of his own genius, to surpass the genius of other men.”b Instances, indeed, are not wanting, in which the speculative and the practical, the abstract and the impassioned, have been united in strong proportions in the same men. In Pascal, that purely intellectual concentration which is so necessary to success in the exact sciences, was combined with the imagination of the poet, and with the feeling of the saint. But opposites of this nature meet in something like equal apportionments in the weak, much more frequently than in the strong: and among the reformers it is in the genius of Calvin that we see, in this respect, the nearest reflection of the mind of Wycliffe.
The first and second books of the Trialogus, are the least extended, and the least valuable. The third and fourth books embrace more than three-fourths of the whole treatise, and abound in matter more or less interesting to every sincere Protestant.
The first book is wholly occupied with arguments to prove the being of a God, and with other speculations relating to the Divine perfections, and to the mysteries of the Divine nature. The first chapter is designed to show that “God is the first cause of all things;” the second exhibits him as taking necessary precedence of all things; and in the third he is set forth as the great reality, whose nature is such, that our thoughts can never rise to the conception of any higher excellence. The fourth chapter is intended to demonstrate that “God is, whatever it is better to be than not to be;” and this conclusion being established, all the Divine perfections are deduced from it, inasmuch as it is manifestly better that the Divine nature should be just, wise, omnipotent, and the like, than that it should be devoid of such perfections. In the sixth chapter it is maintained that the reasoning which is thus satisfactory as leading to sound conclusions in regard to the Divine perfections, is no less so as serving to show “the Lord of all to be a Trinity:” and in the remaining chapters of this book, an attempt is made to demonstrate the doctrine of the Trinity from the light of nature, and to exhibit the old philosophical doctrine concerning “ideas,” as in harmony with the prevailing notions of the schoolmen in respect to the manner of the Divine existence.
In this preliminary portion of the work, we find none of the opinions peculiar to Wycliffe, as a reformer, except that in two instances he censures the conduct of some men in making an undue use of the authority of tradition; and the following passage on the sufficiency and excellence of the Scriptures, may be regarded as of the same complexion. “It is plain, that all error in the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, by which weak men do so falsify and debase them, proceeds from ignorance of grammar and logic. And unless Go shall assist us in respect to the understanding of these rudiments of faith, the faith of the Scriptures will be too little estimated. The opinion, that if there be any truth, it is in the Scripture, which is often inculcated by Augustine, is manifestly just. Nothing, indeed, is to be named as subtle in grammar, in logic, or in any other science, but the same may be found in more excellence in Scripture.”a
The most curious portion of the metaphysical speculation found in this book, consists in the attempt made in some sense to explain, as well as to prove, the doctrine of the Trinity, by natural reason. Psuedis accounts it “great presumption” in any man to pretend that such articles of faith may be demonstrated by the light of nature. Phronesis maintains that the different opinion of Alithia on that subject is not liable to such a charge; and having spoken at some length on the subordination of the light of nature to the light of faith, and on the agreement of the one with the other, he reminds Psuedis of the doctrine of Plato in respect to a trinity of some kind in the Divine nature, and then endeavours to show, not only that the doctrine of Plato is according to reason, but to show also, and on strictly metaphysical grounds, why the Divine Trinity is described as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In pursuance of this argument it is said, that the “potentia” of the Divine nature, in the sense in which that term is used by the speaker, is God the Father; the “notitia,” or power of self-knowledge in the Divine nature, is God the Son; and the “quietatio”—the repose—the calm rest of the Divine essence, is God the Holy Spirit. Care is taken to explain the purely metaphysical sense in which the term person is used in relation to such a subject; but to the above properties of the Divine existence that name is applied, and these three persons are described as being co-eternal and co-equal. These refinements are pushed so far, that in the sense of “causation” or procession, but not in the sense of “divinity,” God is said to be “the cause of God;” not, however, in any such sense but that it is still true that “these three persons are one first cause, as they are one God, and not three causes, as they are not three Gods.”
In another place, the mind of man is viewed as consisting eminently in “memory, reason, and will;” and these are not only regarded as a kind of trinity in man, but as a species of revelation in man concerning the Trinity in the Divine nature. To the modern metaphysician, reasoning of this nature will appear as singularly open to objection, and many of the objections to which it is exposed were strongly urged against it even in those times; but such is the potency of circumstances and fashion, even in respect to such matters, that this method of treating theological subjects long retained its hold upon the learned, and is only partially superseded even in our own day.
As the discussions in the first book relate principally to the existence and perfections of the Divine nature, those in the second book extend our thoughts from the Deity to his works, and relate both to the origin of the world, and to the constitution of created things generally. In thus passing from the Creator to the created, the elements of nature, the powers of the human mind, and the relation of the human spirit to the body, and to the material world—the nature, the gradations, the fall, and the wars of the angels, and the foreknowledge and predestination of the Almighty as affecting the condition of his works, all come under review. In this book, in common with the one preceding, we find none of the distinctive doctrines of the Reformer; but there is a much greater portion of matter in this part of the treatise, which may be translated so as to be intelligible to a modern reader, and which to many such readers may not be uninteresting. This, however, is more than can be said of the contents of the first seven chapters, which consist of observations and reasonings concerning the office of the senses, the powers of the human intellect, and the history and properties of the material universe. But the following is a translation of the eighth chapter, “On the immortality of the soul as deduced from reason.”
“Alithia, Pray tell me, brother, whether the immortality of the soul, a doctrine you so often assume, may be deduced from reason.
“Phronesis. On this point, we neither of us entertain any doubt but that the soul of man is truly immortal; and consequently, since that soul is identical with the individual man, it follows that the individual in this case will ever remain immortal. And this was the reason why the apostles underwent death with such courage and boldness, well knowing, as they did, that the imprisonment and burden of the flesh was an irksome restraint and oppression to them, and rejoicing that they had met their death in a just cause.
“But philosophers assign many reasons whereby to establish this opinion. In the first place, we learn on the authority of Aristotle, and in fact from common experience, that a certain energy in the mind of man is immortal. But no energy or operation can be more permanent than that which is its subject—that is, the mind, or soul, and therefore we must grant that the soul is immortal. Aristotle gives weight to his assumption on this point, by adducing in its favour the intellect of man, which, so far from being enfeebled, is rather invigorated by the weakness of the body, for there is an increase of keenness in the speculative intellect of the old, even when every corporeal faculty has failed them. This perceptive faculty must have a foundation of some sort to rest upon, of a nature not to require such an instrument as the body, and we must therefore rank the human intellect above all the animal faculties aforesaid. For in those faculties animals surpass man, as saith the poet, who shows it from experience, ‘the boar excels us in hearing, the spider in touch, the vulture in scent, the lynx in sight, the ape in the sense of tasting.’ And thus is it with the five organic interior faculties aforesaid. For since man does not surpass animals in power of body, or in any merely animal sense, we are shut up to the conclusion that he excels them in the operation of his intellect. But what advantage would have been given him, if in the very point which constituted his felicity he had been compelled to part with that felicity at death? For in such case God would seem to cast contempt on his favoured offspring. Man has, therefore, an understanding which he takes away from the body along with himself, and which abides for ever. Furthermore, man has a feeling within himself of natural desire to exist for ever, and the wiser men are, the more do they bear testimony to this truth. Since, then, nature is not to be frustrated in a purpose of such consequence, it appears that there is in man, according to nature, a certain understanding which exists for ever, and so he is immortal.
“In respect to every man we must come to this same conclusion. For if we affirm that immortality belongs to the nature of any one individual, this same property must necessarily be inherent in every individual of a like nature; otherwise, it would not be inherent by nature, but by chance, or from some other adventitious cause, which we cannot describe, because supposing that soul might have been destroyed in the lapse of time by its contrary, or by any other cause, every one would have become liable to destruction; otherwise there would have been in it a liability to destruction, without any cause. For things which come to their termination at the end of certain periods of time, do not last for ever, because if they did, they would become possessed of an infinite power, beyond that belonging to things of a similar species, which endure only for a limited space. Since, then, man has a longing to exist together with God, as the noblest and most natural limit of his desires, no reason can be assigned, apart from his own demerit, which should hinder the accomplishment of such a purpose, especially when we remember that the destruction of the body does not annihilate that soul, but rather gladdens it.
“Hence philosophers and natural reason teach us that it is well to die for the public good, and to avoid what is disgraceful and criminal. But this preference cannot be shown to be rational, unless the man who so dies, can be made possessor of a life after this life. Hence our conclusion follows.
“Our point may be elucidated thus. A man belonging to a community altogether just, may justly consent to die for the salvation of that community, inasmuch as then, greater advantage would accrue both to the individual who died, and to the community; and inasmuch, moreover, as every man ought to desire, as an object of preference, that good which, as belonging to the community, is called the public good. For it appears that a man should, in such an emergency, so choose death, that, according to the law of nature, the possible advantage of the community may be rather chosen. Nor is it to be doubted, but that in many cases, it might be made advantageous to the community that a certain individual should die, than that the same individual should live any longer even virtuously.
“The same reasoning applies to a man who is put to choose between committing a crime, and following the dictates of virtue, and undergoing temporal death. Suppose, then, it were determined, as by a conscience within the man, that it would be virtuous, and more expedient for him so to die, it might be asked, when the advantage, supposed to arise out of death, would accrue to him—whether before death, or after? Now it cannot be before death, for death brings no advantage before it comes; and if it be after death, then it must be the spirit which will, after death, reap that advantage; and it thus follows that the spirit will remain, for that is not dependent on the body.
“Of this sort are the many reasons, amounting almost to demonstration, which have induced the wisest and best-informed to die in this way. In such a cause they have not died in vain, for then would they have been the most wretched and senseless of all men, in common with many beside who persevere in virtue to the end of their days. Another kind of reward, then, must, in the end, be assigned them by an all-bountiful Deity, not in this life, inasmuch as God has determined they should die in the course of virtue, and we are thus obliged to conclude that it will be in a life to come, and, in consequence, that the soul of man will survive the death of the body. For God justly distributes rewards to the virtuous, without respect of persons, as in the case of the two men before mentioned,—one of whom lives virtuously, and the other lives out the full period of his life-time in vice. It is proper, that according to some admeasurement of time, a reward should, in justice, be allotted to each according to his deserts,—not in this life, as is manifest from the fact of the case, and, therefore, necessarily after death.
“And inasmuch as Scripture is full of testimony to this truth, it is most necessary that man should embrace it. It is just as imperative that the Christian should believe that the soul will exist after this life, as that he should believe that God is, and that he is the rewarder of the good.”a
The next four chapters consist of observations, partly scriptural, and partly conjectural, regarding the nature of angels, their different ranks and offices, and their fall, punishment, and conflicts. The fourteenth chapter treats of prescience and predestination, in which an attempt is made to reconcile strong opinions on that subject, with sound doctrine concerning human responsibility. The last chapter in this book consists of some discoursing with respect to the heavens, including observations on the seven planets, the stars, the four elements, and the moon, and her influence on the humid properties of the earth. This chapter, while presenting an outline of the defective philosophy of the age, is chiefly remarkable from the intelligent scepticism with which it touches on the dreams of the astrologer and alchemist; alleging that fancies of that nature had done much to injure the science of medicine, and hardly less to detract from the certainty of the necessary truths proper to the “venerable science of theology.”
The first chapter in this book is “On the Virtues.” Phronesis intimates his intention of stating his views on this subject, both practically and speculatively, and accordingly commences by enumerating the various classes of virtues. He divides them into the created and uncreated. The former are separated into natural and moral. The natural virtues are described as the divisible and indivisible. The moral virtues consist of such as belong to man naturally, and of such as are termed theological,—as faith, hope, and charity. Virtue of the former description is defined by Aristotle as consisting in that disposition, or habit of mind, which chooses the medium most suitable to the individual, according to the dictates of reason. The cardinal virtues are four,—justice, fortitude, prudence, and temperance. The intellectual virtues of which man is capable are five, each of them regulating, according to reason, the moral virtue which corresponds to it. These five virtues, or powers, are—wisdom, intellect, science, art, and prudence. In this class of virtues wisdom holds the highest rank. Intellect is defined as that faculty by which we gain our knowledge of the fundamental principles of science, such as that the same thing cannot be, and not be, at the same time, and that the whole must be greater than its parts. By science, we arrive at the results of scientific investigation. Art consists, not so much in the manual dexterity which enables us to create works of art, as in a theoretic knowledge of the principles on which all such works should be modelled. Lastly, the office of prudence is direct and practical, and is most closely connected with the moral virtues, each one of which may be said to have its special kind of prudence belonging to it.
Aristotle connects the moral virtues with the irrational part of our nature, and calls them elective, because they lead one to choose and delight in the natural end of their being, making it the great object of pursuit; and because these virtuous dispositions maintain a medium between two extremes, which are alike vicious, he defines this kind of virtue as a disposition which makes choice of the mean course. Still we are to guard against considering virtue and vice, and the actions consequent upon them, as things having any independent existence. For the medium, as Aristotle reminds us, must not be confounded with an absolute and invariable, or with an arithmetical mean, but must be regarded as one solely relative to ourselves. The medium, then, must be adapted to the circumstances of the follower of virtue, because various means suit various individuals. Every virtue, accordingly, must be accompanied by an appropriate exercise of prudence, and, in consequence, Aristotle completes his definition by saying, that the choice of this mean is determined by the dictate of reason.
If the reader does not perceive the meaning of this moral analysis, the fault is not so much with the Reformer, as with the distinguished philosopher whose system he is endeavouring to expound. The rest of the chapter is occupied with observations on the conduct of a man who squanders away his property by a profuse generosity; and Phronesis shows that it is not true, as may at first appear, that a virtuous habit has become a vicious one merely by a change of circumstances, but that the man continues to give beyond his means, not from a principle of virtue, but from the force of habit; and that this habit of profusion, while thus unregulated by prudence, is anything but a virtue.
In the second chapter, Phronesis defends his departure from Aristotle, and shows that the cardinal virtues should be assigned to the will, or to the intellect of man, and should thus occupy a higher place than has been assigned to them by that philosopher. “Neither these,” he observes, “nor any of the moral virtues, can dwell in man without the assistance of God’s grace. How, I ask, can man merit happiness by living and acting according to the good pleasure of God, unless God shall, of his abundant grace, accept such service? So whatever man does, or may, as it were, beget in himself by nature, is not called a moral virtue worthy of reward and everlasting praise, unless it shall have come to him from another, and consequently from the grace of God himself: and no man can ascertain whether he be virtuous in this sense or not except by aid of a revelation from God.”
Aristotle, he proceeds to say, maintains that the fact of a man’s finding pleasure in pursuing the dictates of reason, is a sign to him of his having been in the practice of virtue. But this is a sign by no means sufficient to prove the point intended, inasmuch as a man without grace, may feel at times a sincere pleasure in the performance of a virtuous action, and the disbelief of this great fact has been the source of much delusion, disposing many to think “that a man may be absolved from his sins, by the mere form of words, or the laying on of hands in the sacrament.”
Phronesis then discusses the subject of Faith. He remarks, that the term is sometimes used to denote the act of believing, sometimes a believing habit of mind, and sometimes the truth which is believed. There is, according to the schoolmen, a faith which is incomplete, as that of devils who believe and tremble; and another kind of faith which becomes perfect, as being inwrought by charity. This charity belongs necessarily to all who are true believers, and all men destitute of it are in a sense unbelievers. There are three properties belonging to faith. First, that it relates wholly to truth, to the exclusion of all error—truth which the believer should defend, even to the death. Secondly, it is proper to faith, that the object of it should not admit of demonstration, that it should be obscure to the eye of sense, inasmuch as we cannot be said to believe in that which we see. Thirdly, faith is the foundation or substance giving to the pilgrim rest in the objects of his belief—the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.a
The believer is further described as a man who has bestowed upon him by God, a faith which is unmixed with hesitation.a It is added, that every man committing sin must so do as an unbeliever; for had he been mindful of the punishment to be inflicted on the sinner, of the inspection of God as constantly over him, and of the other objects of faith always present to a believer, he would not have so done.
The third chapter treats of Hope and Charity. Hope is said to be distinguished from faith in three respects. First, hope has regard only to the realising of some future good, but faith has respect to truth universally, and simply as such. Secondly, hope falls short of that evidence and knowledge concerning its object which belong to faith, but rests in the medium between doubt and credulity; and so logicians say concerning the objects of hope, that they neither deny, know, nor doubt respecting them, but simply suppose them. Thirdly, hope has reference only to a good which is possible to the person hoping. Faith, on the contrary, has respect to things which may be advantageous or disadvantageous to the person who believes, as well as to things with which he has no concern.
But the virtue especially necessary to the Christian pilgrim is charity. Without charity no man can enter heaven. It is the wedding-garment, the want of which must bring condemnation in the last judgment. True charity consists in loving God with all the heart, and soul, and mind—and these three terms have reference to the love due to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit respectively. This command, though the first and the greatest, is but poorly observed by our fallen and unhappy race. The second command is like the first—that we love all the works of God, and especially that we love our neighbour as ourselves. We all profess to be observant of this mutual charity, but our actions proclaim the contrary, and our actions are intitled to more credence than our words. To love God is the same thing as to love his law. This is plain from the Gospel, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”b
We may test our love to the law of God by three things—by our attention to it, our observance of it, and our readiness to defend it. “Do not the laws of men,” it is observed, “and other created objects, convict us of ignorance and contempt with regard to the law of God? Do we not love other things more, to which we give more attention? Who is there, I ask, who doth not reckon of more importance his own advantage in the pursuit of some branch of knowledge that may bring him money, than his attention to, and sedulous observance of the law of God?—a course of conduct most manifestly repugnant to the spirit of charity, for the apostle tells us that ‘charity seeketh not her own.’—Chap. i. 7.
“Let us see, then, whether the Christian pilgrim is more anxiously concerned about his own private advantage, than about the observance of this law of Christ. Since the opposite is the fact, with the greater portion of mankind, it is plain that they are devoid of charity, being wanting in observance of the first and greatest commandment. But if a man be so rooted in this habit of perversity, who can entertain any doubt about his being a heretic, by reason of his continued failure in attention to, and observance of this law? Again, if we look to the way in which this law is defended among individuals of the higher orders, who can hesitate in saying that not only the laity, but still more the prelates, have a greater regard for the protection of their private interests than for the public defence of the law of Christ? If this were not so, they must have destroyed, as far as they possibly could, all that takes away from or is opposed to that law, and yet in both prelates and civil dignitaries exalting and defending the laws and interests of men, placing them before the law of God. For I see not otherwise how it should happen that the civil law should be executed with such scrupulous accuracy, a trifling amount of evidence being sufficient in respect to whatever violates such enactments, or shall infringe on the good of society. It is plain, therefore, from the far greater pains men take in putting human laws into execution, how great a preponderance they carry with them in general estimation, and how false is the assertion of such men that they love God with all the heart, soul, and mind.
“In fact, all, or the greater number, among our religious orders, will be among the first to be inexcusably condemned in the day of the Son of God, for disobedience of this nature, since they all seek that which is their own, and labour for the interests of their own order, and overlook the defence of the Divine law.
“Thus, then, private sects deprived their members of charity. But Christ, who wished his law to be observed in freedom, that its observance might earn a more happy reward, appointed no infliction of sensible punishment on its transgressors, but has abandoned the person neglecting it to a suffering more severe after the day of judgment. Are these three virtues, then, faith, hope, charity, anything less than banished now-a-days? The fear of the sensible penalty immediately to be inflicted on the violator of human law, makes those laws to be carefully observed; and accordingly, faith, hope, and charity, in obedience to the law of the Lord, are things that slumber. No one can convince us by reason, that when two objects of choice are set before a man, and he pursues the one, letting go, or taking no notice of the other, that he does so from any other motive than from an utter want, or at least an inferior degree of love, for that which he neglects. And thus should we judge of the lovers of the world or the flesh. And in this manner these three theological virtues grow cold.
“Who would not willingly suffer in Scotland in behalf of the law and the privileges of the king of England, if certain of returning alive and unhurt to England, to be rewarded by the king in proportion to what he had undergone? Such a man, I say, would willingly undergo trouble in Scotland, in the hope of obtaining a reward in England. Much more then should a man in trouble in this vale of misery, manfully strive in faith, in hope, and in charity, after the reward of blessedness to be obtained on being translated to his own country.”
The fourth and fifth chapters relate to the nature of sin, viewed generally, and to the distinction commonly made between venial and mortal sins. The terms of this distinction are said to be commonly in the mouth, not of the people only, but of prelates also, men “who know better how to extort money for sins, than how to cleanse any man from his transgressions, or to distinguish between the mortal and the venial, concerning which they babble so much.” It is further stated, that these terms have no express sanction from Scripture, and Phronesis claims a right to limit the signification of them to the sense of Scripture.
“A sin may be called mortal,” says Phronesis, “when, according to the judgment of God, it is worthy of death; and thus it is the sin of final impenitence only, that is, the sin against the Holy Ghost, which is properly mortal. But any other sin, since it is such as may be pardoned, may reasonably be called venial. But inasmuch as those actual sins which quench Divine grace, are not distinguishable by our limited knowledge, and we are thus left in ignorance as to what sin committed in our pilgrimage may be venial, and what mortal, we are bound to fly from all sin whatsoever, since we are aware in a general way of its danger, but are ignorant of its real enormity. Whatever sin men commit, may be traced to the ingratitude of the sinner viewed in respect to the gratitude due to God, against whom all sin is committed; for it is not possible to sin against any other being, without sinning principally against him.
“The believer may judge in respect to the grievous nature of sin, from the fact that he owes to God a debt of infinite gratitude; and the greater the gratitude due, the greater must be the evil of a failure in that respect. So that every sin is infinite in its evil. Just as, the higher the lord against whom a crime is committed, the heavier the penalty inflicted on the criminal. So sin, committed against God, a Lord infinitely great, is infinitely enormous in its evil. In the same manner, the more detestable an evil may be, the more proportionably must it be an evil. But sin is infinitely detestable. It is therefore an infinite evil. The measure in which God should be sought, is the measure in which sin should be avoided; but God is infinitely worthy of being sought, therefore sin is infinitely fit to be avoided, and so must be infinitely evil.”
The speaker proceeds so far as to assert, that “for the sake of no good whatever, not even for the sake of God, should any sin, however small, be committed. God can never enjoin sin on any of his creatures; but were he so to do, a man would not be bound, in such case, even to obey God, for even then he would be acting in a praiseworthy manner, in endeavouring to keep his life free from the stain of guilt.” The metaphysical reader will not be startled by the impossible case thus supposed. Our duties arise out of our relations, and have their fitness or goodness, not so much from the mere will of the Divine Being, as from his whole nature, of which that will is the result.
The sixth chapter is on “The penalty attendant on the evil of sin.” It having been shown that sin is infinite in its evil, it is maintained that the remission of it must be the work of infinite power, and accordingly, that it is God only who can forgive sin. The next chapter is “On Grace;” and Phronesis, speaking of indulgences, says, “It is plain that prelates in granting indulgences, commonly blaspheme the wisdom of God, pretending, in their folly and avarice, that they understand what they know not.” On the subject of grace, the same speaker observes—“It appears to me, that grace, which is called the grace of predestination, or of final perseverance, cannot fall away from any one; for if so, it could not be that grace.” He complains also of some “sensual simonists,” who chatter on this subject, “as though grace were to be bought or sold like an ox or an ass, and thus make merchandise in the buying of pardons, and the taking away sins, the devil having availed himself of an error in the schools to introduce these heresies in morals.”
In the chapter “On Pride,” the hypocrisy imputed to the mendicant orders, is described as the worst form of that evil, particularly as evinced in the value which they attached to their vain traditions, asserting “their private rule of life to be superior to the rule of Christ.” In the following chapter, “On Humility,” this subject is resumed, and the same tone of remark is extended from the religious orders to the regular clergy.
“God chooses no prelate,” says Wycliffe, “except as he shall be more humble than those set under him, for God calls no one to such a station, except as being more skilled than others in the practice of virtue, and in consequence, more humble. The more humble a man is, the more is he like Christ. Thus humility and the other virtues follow each other, and are praiseworthy, not only in their species, but according to their gradation. And this is the reason why before the endowment of the church by the emperors, the rule of the apostle—‘no man should take this honour upon himself,’ was observed. For those who aspire to primacy in the church, or any member of a religious order who is wanting in humility, and consequently in virtue, regard themselves as more worthy than those beneath them, or otherwise are absolutely senseless. Now if it be from the desirableness of honour from man, or for the sake of temporal gain, that men covet such offices, then beyond doubt they are to be blamed, since in such case the love of God and humility are set aside, and worldly good is made of too much weight. It is plain, accordingly, that the choice made by men is in most cases unjust, since if the man chosen be not the more humble, he is chosen unjustly. And this is not the choice made for the greater part, inasmuch as now-a-days, the more humble are accounted the less worthy. Hence in such elections, and in their practice as private religionists, men place themselves in opposition to their Maker; for what he deems fit to be done is set aside as unworthy, and is disposed of by the judgment of men, which God contemns. This is one reason why these religious orders are in such confusion.
“With regard to the objection that the most sagacious man must be the best adapted to rule, and that the man of good presence and great resolution must be most likely to gain possessions for his order from the world, your reasoning is a reproach to such orders, and only shows that the better order of Christ ought to be observed. Moreover, if knowledge, a thing so good in itself, puffeth up, how much more this fox-like cunning! Such men fall, without doubt, under the prophetic woe, uttered by Isaiah—‘Woe unto them who call evil good, and good evil.’ And since the judgment and feeling of the world are opposed to these orders, it would be well for them no longer to exist, and that things should be regulated according to the pure order of Christ.”
The thirteenth chapter is “On Charity,” and contains the following passage concerning the manner in which the law of Christ should be defended:
“To be more particular as to the way in which we ought to do whatever we do to the honour of God. We should look to the law of God, especially to the decalogue and the Gospel, and be observant of them through life, in word and deed. We should defend the Gospel against the disciples of Antichrist, by persuasive exhortations, by words of humility, and by praiseworthy deeds, even to the death. Every Christian is bound to a charity of this nature. But what the Evangelist refers to when he says, ‘The love of many waxeth cold,’ hath appeared in these last days, in which many assail the commandments of the Lord, and few duly defend them, the bulls of the pope, and the pretensions of the religious orders, being deemed of far more weight than they. But since charity is patient and benign, let us, according to the apostle, (1 Cor. xiii.) dispose ourselves to patience even unto death, and ever keep inviolate the kindliness of charity, if haply God shall be found willing to pity the sinner, and turn such from that madness of which they are so full. Let us, also, ever call to mind how the prophets under the old law, and how Christ, and his beloved disciples, under the law of grace, were in that very cause slain, and ask ourselves whether we are better than they, or whether the good which God has provided for his servants is exhausted. Our faith teaches us the reverse of this. And, in short, I see not how any man should die more happily or triumphantly. Since, then, we are sure to die, and if negligent are sure to suffer the penalty of negligence, let us cultivate faith, hope, and charity, while we have the time.”
The fifteenth chapter is “On Patience and Meekness,” and teaches in the following terms that all Christians should be soldiers:
“All Christians, then, should be the soldiers of Christ, and it is plain how many are chargeable with insensibility to this duty, inasmuch as the fear of losing temporal goods, and worldly friendships, and apprehensions of the insecurity of life and fortune, prevent so great a number from being faithful either in setting forth the cause of God, in standing manfully for its defence, or, if need be, suffering death in its behalf. From such a source, also, comes that subterfuge of Lucifer urged by our modern hypocrites, who say, that to suffer martyrdom cannot be a duty now as it was in the primitive church, since in our time all men, or at least the great majority are believers—so that the tyrant is no more who may persecute Christ and his members to the death, and this is the cause why there are not martyrs now, as formerly. But it is certain that this excuse has been devised by Satan, to shield sin; for the believer in maintaining the law of Christ should be prepared, as his soldier, to endure all things at the hands of the proud rulers of this world,a so as to declare boldly to the pope and cardinals, to bishops and prelates, how unjustly, according to the testimony of the Gospel, they serve God in their offices, inflicting perilous injury on those committed to their care, such as must bring on them a speedy destruction, one way or another. All this applies to temporal lords, but not in so great a degree as to the clergy; for as the abomination of desolation begins with a perverted clergy, so the consolation begins with a converted clergy. Hence we Christians need not visit pagans to convert them by enduring martyrdom in their behalf, but have only to declare with constancy the law of Christ even before Cesarean prelates, and straightway the flower of martyrdom will be at hand.”
In the seventeenth chapter, this subject is touched upon in still stronger terms, the pontiff being described as “the great Antichrist.”
“It is supposed, and with much probability, that the Roman pontiff is the great Antichrist, for he falsely asserts that he is in a direct sense the vicar of Christ, most conformed to him in his life, and by consequence the most humble of Christians, the poorest of men, and one separated more than any man beside from the thraldom of secular things. But the falsehood and blasphemy of such assertions are manifest in the fact that his life is the reverse of all this, that he is the most powerful and the most wealthy man in the whole world; and what can be more contrary to the poverty of Him who had nowhere to lay his head? How can such an Antichrist be described as a vicar bearing resemblance to Christ? From the fact of what we see in him, it is clear, that so far from being the most humble of men, he is vicar to the king of pride, set up over us all. The great mart in respect to worldly possessions lies in the hands of the pope, and yet Christ declared that he was not a ruler or divider in a case between two brethren, when the worldly matter in dispute was comparatively small.
“And since the church is so much harmed from this cause, Christ hath said—‘Whosoever readeth let him understand;’ and without doubt, when a man does see this danger he ought in charity to labour in making it known even unto the death, for otherwise he would be guilty of hiding his Lord’s talent, and God would have given him knowledge in vain. After this great Antichrist, come the lesser Antichrists—the prelates, who desert the office which Christ has assigned to them, and take up another office according to another law. The injunction of Christ to Peter was—‘feed my sheep;’ but if you wish to bring this point to a test, look well to the life of Christ and of his apostles, and see how ill they are followed by our spiritual leaders. The duty of preaching is set aside, and the practice of fleecing those committed to their care is introduced in its place. Let a man bestow only slight attention on what is doing in modern times, and on the laws of Antichrist, and he will see that they are contrary in every respect to the laws and the office of Christ.”
The next chapter is on avarice, which Phronesis describes as consisting in an inordinate love of things temporal.
“Learned men teach us that the soul is more pure and sublime in its nature than the heavens we behold above us; and as the heavens are exalted by their position above the earth, so the soul should be exalted in its affections above worldly things. The avaricious man, accordingly, should beware of doing a thing so monstrous as that of making this heaven within him, fashioned after the likeness of God, to adhere unnaturally to the earth, inasmuch as the pure soul is the habitation of God, and by so doing he would wickedly cut himself off from God, and aim to subvert the laws of nature.”
The chapter next in order relates to the virtue opposed to avarice; and Alithia having asked what that virtue is, Phronesis replies—“As avarice is the immoderate desire of possessing temporal things, the virtue opposed to it is the subordinate love of such things, consisting in an observance of the rule that every one should desire that measure of temporal good which may most conduce to his spiritual well-being.” Phronesis then cites 1 Tim. vi. 7, 8: “For we brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content;” and proceeds to say—“Nor can I see why all the clergy should not account themselves as strictly bound by that rule, because whatever is beyond such things must be evil, be tainted with avarice, and expose the man who covets it to great spiritual peril.” Psuedis replies, by describing this doctrine as corrupt and false, since we bring our mental faculties into the world, and carry them with us when we leave it; and inasmuch as it is so ordained that food and clothing should not be our final reward, we ought not to rest content with them before those final rewards have been realised. To which Phronesis answers, by saying, that the apostle refers in the passage quoted to temporal things exclusively, and asks Psuedis if he can affirm that he existed the same wealthy heretic before he was born as he is known to be now; or if he can say what part of his riches it is he means to take hence with him; and adds further, that when the apostle gave this injunction with regard to a moderate apportionment of temporal goods, so far was he from denying, that he in fact implied that we should receive with the liveliest gratitude and joy the gifts of grace and virtue. But the apostles were men who wore their one garment apiece, men who built no sumptuous edifices, while the friars have run into every excess of luxury, making no due return for their possessions either in the way of bodily service, or as ministering to the spiritual edification of the people.
This chapter is followed by one intitled “On Gluttony,” in which Alithia expresses surprise that Phronesis should so unhesitatingly declare the church to have been guilty of a fault in accepting an endowment, and deserting, in this particular, the rule of Christ, seeing that it is possible for a man to possess dominion of the most extended description, and still live devoutly, using all temporal things with moderation. Phronesis answers, That his expressions have been taken up somewhat too loosely by Alithia, but that Sylvester, or whoever it was that first accepted the perpetual imperial endowment, was by no means free from blame: his sin, as an individual, might be light, but he gave occasion to his weak successors to sin in a far greater degree; for before the time of that endowment, when apostolic men were more humble, men were regarded as deserving in proportion as they were found useful to the church.a “But now, by reason of endowments, while they are bound to be more humble, they are less so; foolishly undertaking to serve the church beyond their powers of service, and in this very way they incapacitate themselves for being useful to the church, and become negligent of the counsel and command of Christ in respect to temporal things, and dominion over them.” In the remaining part of the chapter, the degrading nature of the vice to which it relates, is strongly set forth; and the saying of Constantine, “That gluttony destroys more men than the sword,” is cited against it. Wycliffe concludes by advising the practice of moderate fasting as alike beneficial to mind and body.
The twenty-fourth chapter, “On the Proneness of Man to Sin,” contains some curious thoughts in respect to the connexion which is supposed to subsist between sin as pertaining to the soul, and mortality as affecting the body. Alithia, speaking of the condition of man in paradise, says, it was, as relating to the body, a state of mortality; but as the well-being of the body is dependent on the influence of the mind, man, through the innocence of his spiritual nature, was immortal. Hence, of necessity, when the soul drew back from God, through sin, and man became wanting in the full influence of God, so far as the soul was concerned, his body, from that cause, became subject to suffering, and being in the lowest grade of the existences endowed with immortality, man sunk necessarily below that grade, and became subject to death, and corporeal suffering.
In concluding, Phronesis expresses his conviction, that through the infinite compassion of God, the fall of man from a state of innocence, has been made to subserve the introduction of a greater amount of good than would have resulted from his continuance in that state.
The next chapter is on the question, “Why the Sin of Satan is not to be forgiven?” and contains some speculations still further removed from the range of the comprehensible. “In order to the forgiveness of sin,” it is said, “there must be an active virtue in the agent, and some disposition toward penitence. But this is not the case with Satan, and so his sins are not forgiven. Again, the sin of Satan is the sin against the Holy Ghost, the sin of final impenitence; and as Adam committed sin against the wisdom of God the Father, whose wisdom became on that account incarnate, so for the salvation of Satan, it would be necessary that the third person in the Trinity should become incarnate; and as that cannot be, the sin of Satan cannot be forgiven.” In this manner did the greatest geniuses of the middle age meddle with questions which were “too high” for them.
On “the Incarnation,” the Reformer discourses as follows:—
“As we discern the uncreated Trinity, by reasoning à posteriori from the trinity of the soul, so from the union of the soul and body we become acquainted with the incarnation of our Lord. For as the created spirit, united to the animated body, makes one human person, the same as to the spirit, however the corporeal nature may vary, so we must, in great part, form our conception in regard to the person of the Word; because he assumed in the unity of his person, a complete humanity, becoming that human person which had an eternal pre-existence, inasmuch as according to his nature, as the Word, he had existed from eternity. We are not to understand, that the created spirit in man has any perception which it does not communicate to the compound person of man, but whatever the human spirit perceives, that the compound person perceives, and vice versâ. We must consider in the same light the person of the Word, and the manhood assumed, so that the compound divine person perceives whatever the person of the Word perceives. And whatever the assumed humanity suffers, that compound person suffers. We are not to understand that the person of the Word, or the Deity, is part of that man, just as the aforesaid spirit is not an integral part of man, but in reality the whole man. Hence we see, that as in the matter of the Trinity, three persons are the same divine nature, so in the matter of the incarnation, three natures, namely,—body, soul, and the Divine nature, are each the same person of the Word.”
The twenty-eighth chapter is “On the Number of the Saved.” Phronesis thinks, that as many of the human race will be finally saved, as there were angels that fell, or as many as would have been created, supposing our race to have remained in innocence; so that by the grace of God, the fall of angels, and the fall of man, have been made productive of good.
The next chapter touches on one of the most conspicuous elements in the false religion of the times—the worship offered to saints. Phronesis states, that the Divine perfection of Christ is far beyond the reach of any human attainment, and absolutely necessary to the salvation of mankind; and proceeds to observe, that in consequence of this acknowledged principle, holy men are to be praised only in so far as they have been followers of Christ.
“This custom is, with reason, observed by our church, that whosoever entreats a saint, should direct his prayer to Christ as God, not to the saint especially, but to Christ. Nor doth the celebration or festival of such a saint avail anything, except so far as it tends to the magnifying of Christ, inciting us to honour him, and provoking and inflaming our love to him. And, accordingly, if there be any celebration of the saints, which is not retained within these limits, it is not to be doubted that cupidity, or some other evil, is the cause of such services. Hence many think it would be profitable to the church, were all festivals of that nature to be abolished, and those which have relation to Christ alone retained; because, say they, the memory of Christ would be kept more freshly in the mind, and the devotion of the common people would not be unduly distributed among the members of Christ. But however this may be, it is certain that the solemn services, and the devotion paid to any such saint, is of no use, except in so far as it incites to love of Christ, and is such as may tend to procure his advocacy. For our faith assures us, that Christ is the mediator between God and man. Hence many are of opinion, that when prayer was directed only to that middle person of the Trinity for spiritual help, the church was more flourishing, and made greater advances than it does now, when many new intercessors have been found out and introduced.”
The closing chapter of this book is meant to show, “How the Law of Christ is infinitely superior to all other Laws.” Alithia opens the dialogue on this subject by expressing apprehension that Phronesis will obtain small thanks from the “Satraps” of the age, for the opinions broached in the last chapter; adding, that so many are the assailants of the authority of Scripture on such subjects, that few seem to be capable of estimating it at its just value. “I have learnt from experience,” replies Phronesis, “the truth of your observation, and the chief cause of this state of things is, I doubt not, our unbelief. We do not sincerely believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, or we should hold the authority of the Scripture, and especially that of the evangelists, as of infinitely greater weight than any other.
“Inasmuch as it is the desire of the Holy Spirit,” he proceeds to say, “that our attention should not be dispersed over a large number of objects, but be concentrated on one necessary matter, it is his will that the books of the old and new law should be read and studied; and that men should not be taken up with other books, which, true as they may be, and containing Scripture truth as they may by implication, are not to be confided in explicitly. Hence Augustine (Book II. De Ordine Rerum) often enjoins it on his readers, that none should give credit to his writings or his words, except in so far as they have their foundation in Scripture, wherein, as he often saith, is contained all truth, either explicitly or implicitly. Of course, we should judge in the same manner concerning the writings of other holy doctors; and much more so concerning the writings of the Romish church, and doctors of a later date.
“Accordingly, that the Holy Scriptures may be more duly estimated, every truth which is not manifest to the Christian from the simple evidence of his senses, should be deduced from Scripture, at least if the faithful are to place credence in it. And then the Scriptures would be held in reverence, and the papal bulls superseded, as they ought to be, and the veneration of men for the laws of the papacy, as well as for the doctrines of our modern doctors, promulgated since the loosing of Satan, would be kept within due bounds. How do writings of this sort concern the faithful, save as they are honestly deduced from the fountain of Scripture? By such a course, we should not only reduce the mandates of the popes, and of other prelates, to their just place, but the errors of the new orders would be corrected, and the worship of Christ would be purified and elevated. In this view, those upstart doctors are to be accounted as especially worthy of all detestation, who endeavour to maintain, that Holy Writ, of all writings or sayings, is the most false, and especially the words of Christ in the Gospel of John, which they think they can clearly demonstrate by their logic. In truth, of all heretical doctrines, I know of none more damnable than this, of none more fit for the purposes of Antichrist, none more hurtful to the faith of Christ. All the sophistries of Antichrist on this subject, lie concealed under this foul covering—‘I understand Holy Writ in this way, and according to my logic it ought so to be understood; but the sense which I attach to it amounts to an impossibility; therefore Scripture, if logically interpreted, and by consequence the Author of Scripture, must be accounted false, and most unworthy of credit.’ ”
It is by reasoning, which, pushed to its results, must lead to impiety of this complexion, that the anti-scripturalists have generally endeavoured to vindicate their conduct, when substituting some other authority in place of the immediate authority of the Divine word. Phronesis meets this argument by saying—
“It is no fault of the Scripture, if the heretic be found understanding it in a wrong sense. It is not subject to his judgment. On the contrary, it condemns him. The error of his understanding lies mainly in his pride, in his foolish confidence in his own logic; whereas the logic of Scripture itself is the most correct, the most subtle, and to be most followed.”
It is expedient, he adds, to the obtaining of such a complete acquaintance with the Scriptures, that the believer should be instructed in sound logic, and by a philosophy chastened from the Lord. Then follows a reference to the “manifold armour” with which the disciple of truth should be provided, when opposed to “the disciples of Antichrist.” The modern reader will probably smile, when he finds among the requisites enumerated, such matters as the following—just views in respect to “universals;” such an acquaintance with “the metaphysics of the schools” as may include a knowledge of “the quiddity of time, and other accidents, and how it is that accidents are nothing but dispositions formally inherent in their subjects;” such an acquaintance, moreover, with the nature of the Creator and the created, and the relations between them, as to see that God is an “everlasting ideal,” an “eternal existence in his own genus, and a necessary antecedent;” and to see that “the essence of matter is everlasting, and material forms only so many arrangements of it, though they are quiddities of species and genera!” But we must concede much in this form to the tastes of a man who—“In philosophia nulli reputabatur secundus: in scholasticis disciplinis incomparabilis.”
CHAPTERS TRANSLATED FROM THE FOURTH BOOK OF THE TRIALOGUS RELATING TO THE DOCTRINE OF THE SACRAMENTS, THE HIERARCHY, AND THE RELIGIOUS ORDERS.
ON THE EUCHARIST.
I wish, brother Phronesis, you would speak of the Eucharist, the last sacrament but one, because it is regarded with greater reverence than the other sacraments, and appears to have most foundation in Scripture, especially as in our own day this matter has been the subject of so much intricate discussion. And to prevent our being entangled in equivocal terms, it will be necessary to specify the quiddity of this venerable sacrament.a
We must be aware by the ordinary testimony of our senses that the priest approaches the altar, and makes or consecrates out of the bread and wine a something that remains, and is cognisable by the senses, which the common people understand to be the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, let us speak first of the round white wafer, to all appearance like a host which has not been hallowed by a consecrated presbyter, which the priest afterwards breaks and eats, and which undergoes changes like those to which an unconsecrated host is subject; as, for instance, it may be eaten by a mouse, may grow mouldy with time, and such like.
Let us speak first of this. Now there are certain modern heretics, who declare that this is not a sacrament, that they may escape the inconsistencies which follow from their errors. These men, opposed as much to the ancient as to the modern divines, must be assailed with caution, by asking at the outset what the ordinary sacrament of the eucharist strictly is, and they will either be driven to equivocate or be unable to escape, since this consecrated host must be a sacrament of some kind. The same holds of the other sin sacraments; they are plainly of a modical entity and permanence like this. No reason can be adduced to show that this is not a sacrament of the church in the same sense with the other sacraments. This is plain from a cursory examination of the quiddity of baptism, confirmation, and the other four above mentioned. We must adopt the common language here also, but the church in her prayers commonly calls this thing a sacrament, while the papal enactments call it a sacrament and not a thing, and the doctors generally say it is sacramentally the body of Christ. Since, then, the sacrament of the eucharist is a thing of some kind, and the body of Christ is not therein visible, we are shut up to the conclusion that the sensible sign, the sacrament, does not remain in it, except what is signified by the differentia of the accidens.
There is, however, a threefold distinctive mode in this sacrament, in common with the others, namely, that of the sacrament, and the thing; the thing and not the sacrament; the sacrament and not the thing: these terms should be clearly understood. The body of the Lord, which is above, is called the sacrament and the thing. It is called a sacrament because it is the sensible sign of the soul, the deity, and the grace of Christ; and since it is itself signified by the host which we consecrate, it is called, in this respect, the thing of this same sacrament; and this thing, which is naturally the body of Christ, is called the eucharist, the host consecrated before the death of our Lord, and a multitude of other names, which have supplied matter for many tedious arguments. Again, this sensible thing, commonly called the consecrated bread, is called a sacrament and not a thing, not in the sense of its not being anything, since, as we see, it is obvious enough to the senses, but in the sense of its not being that holy thing primarily signified by the sensible sign which we see, because it is not naturally the body of Christ. As to the third member of the devisers, making it a thing and not a sacrament, the term has reference to the union of Christ with the church, which is designated necessarily by this sensible sacrament.
Many are the errors into which men have fallen with regard to the quiddity of this sensible sacrament. Some, for instance, say, that it is an accident without a subject; others, that it is nothing, since it is an aggregate of many accidents not all of one genus, against which I have many a time inveighed, both in the language of the schools and of the common people; for of all the heresies that have ever sprung up in the church, I think there is not one more artfully introduced by hypocrites, or a more manifold fraud upon the people. It wrongs the people, and causes them to commit idolatry. It denies Scripture, and by its unbelief often provokes the truth to wrath.a
In this place I shall briefly set forth the doctrine as supported by the testimony of Scripture. In the first place, this sacrament is the body of Christ in the form of bread. And whereas many heretics oppose this statement, and say that this sacrament is an accident, or nothing, and cannot be the body of Christ, even though the body of Christ were every particle hidden in it, they are all of them manifestly wily heretics,—I say wily, because they are aware that the majority hold the doctrine I have stated, and these men will not, know not how, or else are afraid to make known their belief. Since this article of catholic belief is so broadly expressed in Scripture, the doctrine contrary to it is manifestly heretical. Can any one thing, I ask, be more contrary to another than the doctrine which affirms this sacrament to be sacramentally the body of Christ, and the self-contradictory doctrine maintaining that this sacrament cannot be in any sense the body of Christ?
Again, in regard to the second part, what can be more opposed than the doctrine which says that this sacrament is naturally real bread, and that which contradicts itself, and holds that this sacrament cannot be bread, because it is a mere accident—or nothing? It would be well for the church universal to attend to this matter, and anxiously to examine what it is they should believe on the ground of Scripture, because this matter is decided with greater completeness, authority, and moderation, in the Gospel of Christ than in the court of Rome. This very court, before the loosing of Satan, was plainly in agreement with the ancient doctrine aforesaid, as is evident from Con. Dis. II. c. Ego Berengarius, and so were all the holy doctors who treated of the subject prior to that time.a After that time, however, the Scriptures were neglected, and many heresies were circulated on this subject, especially among the friars, and the disciples of that school—as, in fact, the two errors mentioned above sufficiently show. The friars especially maintain these errors, and defend them with obstinacy, not only blaspheming Christ, and the commandments of his holy word, but slandering the pope, and the court of Rome, in defence of their nest, as well as prelates, secular lords, simple priests, and the whole mass of the common people. Thus saith the Scripture, Matt. xxvi., “And as they were eating Jesus took bread,” &c. and the same in Mark xiv.; Luke xxii.; and 1 Cor. xi. Accordingly our church uses this form at the consecration of the host, Qui pridie pateretur, &c. Corpus meum, &c. In all these places the meaning is the same, though there is a slight difference in the terms employed. From a faith so authoritatively promulgated, I would argue as follows with heretics:—Christ, who cannot lie, said—that the bread he took in his hands was really his body; in this he did not err, he did not assert what was false, accordingly it was truly so. This reasoning gives every believer full warrant to abominate the aforesaid heresies, and whereby to convict the friars and their accomplices of heresy. Hence, prior to the loosing of Satan, Jerome, that distinguished student of Scripture, in treating of this subject in a letter to Helvidius, concludes in the following terms: “We may hear,” saith he, “that the bread he brake and gave to his disciples to eat, is the body of our Lord and Saviour by his own words—‘this is my body.’ ”
WHAT IS DENOTED BY THE PRONOUN “THIS” IN THE WORDS OF CONSECRATION.
I am delighted, brother, with your clear statement in regard to the faith of the church, which has been only too long hidden. I see not how the friars, or others, can escape your reasoning, without either inventing a sense for this passage of Scripture, or actually refusing to believe it.
Neither we ourselves, nor any one besides, can deny the force of this reasoning, and the good catholic should cherish it with care, as very dear to him. But heretics have assigned various significations to this Scripture. In the first place, they say, that the pronoun “this,” in the proposition of the sacrament, “this is my body,” denotes simply the body of our Lord, and not the bread, for otherwise, according to them, the proposition would be falser. As to what John, “On God,” and other illiterate heretics maintain, that the pronoun denotes nothing, I pass it over, as not worthy to be mentioned, and proceed to bring argument in full against the first heresy. The former of these pronouns denotes the bread which Christ took in his hands, and the pronoun following it, the same thing which was before denoted by the other. The subject, therefore, of the sacramental proposition, refers to this same bread. How is the believer to comprehend that Christ took bread in his hands, blessed, brake it, and gave it his disciples to eat, unless he understands by the former pronoun, “bread?” For the sacramental words had not yet been uttered, that it should cease to be bread. Our opinion is confirmed by Matt. xxvi., where Christ bids all his apostles drink of that cup, which they did. Also Mark xiv., “And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank of it,” and in the same way, concerning the bread; whence the apostle’s words, in 1 Cor. xi. are “For as often as ye eat this bread,” &c.: and from all this it appears, either that the Author of Scripture gives us a false representation, or that the apostles ate of the bread offered them by Christ. From the same source it is also plain, that the second pronoun denotes the same bread which is made the subject of the sacramental proposition,—“this is my body,” for, otherwise, the causal would be in every view absurd; and, besides, Christ would have been deluding his church.
This reasoning, founded on the object denoted by the pronoun, ought to give the faithful abundant confidence. The words of Christ point out the object of which the apostles took cognisance; but it is inconsistent to make them denote the mere body of Christ in its proper nature. Our Lord’s words, then, must denote something else; and nothing can they denote pertinently, more than the bread which Christ had held out to them in his hand. If the mere natural body of our Lord is meant, then the signification of these words of Christ would be, “This my body is my body.” But with this the apostles were acquainted before; and it would be out of place, in connexion with the injunction, that they should each eat of the bread.
Again, if the reference of the pronoun to bread be out of place in this connexion, how can it consistently be taught that the transubstantiation of the bread, by virtue of the words pronounced at the sacrament, is an accident without a subject, and an innovation of Christ’s body in place of the sacramental bread? This fictitious reference, which they ascribe to these pronouns, does away with the entire meaning of the sacrament.
Again, in the second sacramental clause concerning the wine, that wine in the cup is meant; therefore, by the connexion from a sufficient resemblance between this clause about the wine, and the former one in which the bread is consecrated, it appears plainly, that this same bread must be referred to, because no catholic would deny that the contents of the cup are meant, by metonymy; for Christ, in Mark xiv. speaks thus—“This is my blood of the new testament.” There is no catholic in existence, who believes that cup of metal to be, sacramentally, the blood of Christ, but understands the term as referring to the wine contained in it. Further, to lay bare the wily turnings of this sophistry, the Holy Spirit ordained that it should be written in the masculine gender, Hic est sanguis meus, (this is my blood;) wherefore, among the many significations of scriptural passages, concerning which we are certain, this is one of the most certain, that in this, the proposition of the sacrament, bread, or wine, is meant.
This being admitted, the catholic must pass over to the complex signification of the sacramental proposition, “this is my body,” abandoning, as the height of heresy, the opinion that the Gospel, especially the words of Christ, can contain anything impossible or inappropriate. But since every word of Christ’s is true, and, in the highest sense of the term, catholic, and Christ has said that this bread is his body, it follows, manifestly, that this is true. It is about this point, however, that heretics maintain their struggle; they cannot deny that the pronoun denotes bread, and so they assign an extremely heretical compound, threefold signification. They say, first, that this,—namely, the bread,—is not the body of Christ, but that, by virtue of the sacramental words, it will be, in a certain way, the body of Christ. The second method appears more heretical still, for the opinion, that the bread will afterward become the body of Christ, is as inadmissible as the heretic’s own error; for, according to his showing, that bread would then be turned into, or identified with, the body of Christ, and, consequently, it would end in transubstantiation, and hence be the veritable body of Christ. Thus, in the second interpretation, we correct the first,—that this bread will become, in a certain manner, the body of Christ. The third course, again, (it being evident that nothing of that bread will remain in the body of Christ,) consists in denying any prior sense at all, saying, that the Author of Scripture means that this accident, per se, without any subject, is the sacramental sign of the body of Christ. And this is the signification of the proposition,—“This is my body.” The heretic sees that neither the matter, nor the form of bread, is transmuted into the body of Christ. In fact, the things themselves do not agree in subject; accordingly, he regards it as evident, that the catholic should not admit, that out of this bread will be made the body of Christ, as a statue is made out of bronze, or day is made out of night, (for they are both incongruous in subject,) but because these accidents, per se, without a subject, are sacramentally the figures of the body of Christ. Oh, how abominable is that figment, which would make it appear, that it is not bread which is denoted by that pronoun,—as is shown above!
An impossibility, according to our modern doctors, is incomprehensible; and according to Augustine, and other saints, it cannot be included even in the Divine Omnipotence, and so concerning the whole affair, these men are at a loss to express the genus of the accident to which this venerable sacrament should be referred. They speak falsely, therefore, when they say, that it might be meaner than horse-food, or than anything that may be named. So then, as these heretics, subsequent to the time of the loosing of Satan, have had no more understanding of this term than magpies, and as they falsely assert that neither Christ nor his apostles understood it, and so, of course, none of the fathers who came after them; we need not directly refute this error, for believers well know how constantly the body of Christ is made anew by an idiotic and unworthy priest; and it is not until these sacramental words have been duly uttered, that the accident without a subject is created; so that the demonstrative pronoun of the sacramental proposition may remain for ever without denoting an accident without a subject, so long as the bread continues bread.
It is this doctrine of the saints, that whosoever imposes upon Scripture a sense foreign to it, such as the Holy Spirit requireth not, such a man must be a heretic. This sense given to the above terms, by the persons alluded to, neither Scripture, revelation, nor reason can establish. No one of the saints, prior to the loosing of Satan, was acquainted with it. Jerome, Augustine, and other saints, and a vigorous reason, all totally contradict it. The doctrine, then, must be wholly abandoned, as one of special falsehood. These men must amend Holy Writ, and make it say, not that the accident without a subject, which they cannot comprehend, is the body of Christ, but that it is the sign of the body of Christ. But how then, by virtue of this sentence, comes transubstantiation, or the accident without a subject? Since this accident without a subject, may equally signify the body of Christ, these heretics cannot state at what instant transubstantiation, or the accident without a subject, really takes place.
Thus, then, is this three-fold doctrine annihilated, a doctrine contemptible and erroneous, after the manner of all other heresies which affect to be the doctrine of Christ. We must abide, then, by the opinion of the learned and acute Jerome, who says, that the bread, by virtue of Christ’s word, is, sacramentally, the body of our Saviour. Of what sort that bread is, and of what it is in its own nature, the true theologian can see by observation of other hosts, not consecrated.
SHOWING THAT THE BREAD REMAINS BREAD AFTER CONSECRATION.
I am delighted with your stringent and lucid replies to the heretics in this matter, and the more so, because so great a multitude of friars, and others, who call themselves Christians, exclaim against your doctrine, and plot in various ways against your life. According to your former statements, these men are, of necessity, manifest heretics, and, consequently, should be expelled the church, or, at least, excluded from every grade of ecclesiastical dignity, and so from all holding of temporalities and receiving of alms. I pray you, now, to explain how it is that the bread remains bread after consecration, for many declare that if they had believed thus, they would never have observed the ceremony as they have done.
On a subject of this nature, we must attend to the words of Scripture, and give them absolute credence. And the words of Scripture tell us that this sacrament is the body of Christ, not that it will be, or that it is sacramentally a figure of the body of Christ. Accordingly we must, on this authority, admit, without reserve, that the bread, which is this sacrament, is veritably the body of Christ. But the simplest layman will see that it follows, that inasmuch as this bread is the body of Christ, it is therefore bread, and remains bread, and is at once both bread and the body of Christ. Again, the point may be illustrated by examples of the most palpable description. It is not necessary, but, on the contrary, repugnant to truth, that a man, when raised to the dignity of lordship or prelacy, should cease to be the same person. The man, or the same substance, would remain, in all respects, though in a certain degree elevated. So we must believe that this bread, by virtue of the sacramental words, becomes, by the consecration of the priest, veritably the body of Christ, and no more ceases to be bread, than humanity ceases, in the instance before supposed; for the nature of bread is not destroyed by this, but is exalted to a substance more honoured. Do we believe that John the Baptist, who was made by the word of Christ to be Elias, (Matt. xi.) ceased to be John, or ceased to be anything which he was substantially before? In the same manner, accordingly, though the bread becometh the body of Christ, by virtue of his words, it need not cease to be bread. For it is bread substantially, after it has begun to be sacramentally the body of Christ. For thus saith Christ, “This is my body,” and in consequence of these words, this must be admitted, like the assertion in the eleventh chapter of the gospel of Matthew, about the Baptist: “And if ye will receive it, this is Elias.” And Christ doth not, to avoid equivocation, contradict the Baptist, when he declares, “I am not Elias.” The one meaning that he was Elias figuratively, the other, that he was not Elias personally. And in the same manner it is merely a double meaning, and not a contradiction, in those who admit that this sacrament is not naturally the body of Christ, but that this same sacrament is Christ’s body figuratively.
Concerning the assertion made by some hardened heretics, that they would never have celebrated the ordinance had they believed this, it would, indeed, have been well for the church, and have contributed much to the honour of God, if such apostates had never consecrated their accident, for in so doing they blaspheme God in many ways, and make Him the author of falsehood. For the world God created they straightway destroy, inasmuch as they destroy what God ordained should be perpetual—primary matter—and introduce nothing new into the world, save the mendacious assertion, that it pertains to them to perform unheard of miracles, in which God himself certainly may have no share. In fact, according to their representations, they make a new world. What loss would it have been, then, if heretics, so foolish, had never celebrated an ordinance, the proper terms of which they so little understand, and who are so ignorant of the quiddity of the sacrament they observe and worship?
With regard to the points touching the truth of the belief, that this sacrament is bread, let heretics be on the watch, and summon up all their powers; for He who is called Truth, teaches us (Matt. vi.) to pray that he would give us our daily, or supersubstantial bread. And according to Augustine, on this passage in our Lord’s sermon on the mount, by daily bread, Christ intends, among other happy significations, this venerable sacrament. Are we not, then, to believe, what would follow, viz. that if the sacrament for which we pray is our daily bread, then in the sacrament there must be bread? In the same manner the apostles recognised Christ with breaking of bread, as we are told in Luke xxiv. And Augustine, with the papal enactment, De Con. Dist. III. non omnes, tells us that this bread is this venerable sacrament. Or are we to doubt its following, that the apostles having known Christ in the breaking of this bread, therefore that seeming bread must have been bread? Our apostle, likewise, who takes his meaning from our Lord, calls this sacrament the bread which we break, as is manifest in 1 Cor. x., and often again in the following chapter. Who then would venture to blaspheme God, by maintaining that so chosen a vessel could apply erroneous terms to the chief of the sacraments,—especially with the foreknowledge that heresies would take their rise from that very subject? It is impossible to believe that Paul would have been so careless of the church, the spouse of Christ, as so frequently to have called this sacrament bread, and not by its real name, had he known that it was not bread, but an accident without a subject; and when he was besides aware, by the gift of prophecy, of all the future heresies which men would entertain on the matter. Let these idiot heretics say, and bring sufficient reason to prove their statements, what this sacrament, which their falsehoods desecrate, really is, if not the holy bread. As was said above, Christ, who is the first Truth, saith, according to the testimonies of the four evangelists, that this bread is his body. What heretic ought not to blush, then, to deny that it is bread?
We are thus shut up, either to destroy the verity of Scripture, or to go along with the senses and the judgment of mankind, and admit that it is bread. Mice, and other creatures, are aware of this fact; for according to philosophers, they have the power of discerning what is good for them to eat. Oh, if believers in the Lord will look on, and see Antichrist and his accomplices so strong as to have power to condemn and persecute even unto death, those sons of the church who thus yield their belief to the Gospel, yet certain I am, that though the truth of the Gospel may for a time be cast down in the streets, and be kept under in a measure by the threats of Antichrist, yet extinguished it cannot be, since he who is the Truth has said, that “heaven and earth shall pass away, but that his words shall not pass away!” Let the believer, then, rouse himself, and demand strictly from our heretics, what the nature of this venerable sacrament is, if it be not bread; since the language of the Gospel, the evidence of our senses, and arguments that have in their favour every probability, say, that so it is. For I am certain, that even heathens, who make their own gods, are perfectly aware of what they are in their own proper nature, though they pretend that a portion of divinity is bestowed upon them supernaturally by the highest God of all. The believer, therefore, hesitates not to affirm, that these heretics are more ignorant, not only than mice and other animals, but than pagans themselves; while on the other hand, our aforementioned conclusion, that this venerable sacrament is, in its own nature, veritable bread, and sacramentally Christ’s body, is shown to be the true one.
THE PRECEDING STATEMENTS CONFIRMED BY ARGUMENT.
I am pleased to find that a man must be shut up, as it seems, to one of two courses,—denying the evangelist, as an archheretic, or admitting what you require concerning this sacrament. Will you now add a few arguments to the authorities you have brought forward, for we all admit that God can do nothing without good reason, that he cannot destroy a guiltless existence, or put confusion on that intelligence which he has implanted in our nature, unless some greater good, or better reason shall induce him?
I am pleased with your manner of expressing confidence in God. We must, in order to the end now proposed, proceed in the way which the arguments on this topic require, that the truth of our faith may the more clearly appear. Let us lay it down, then, that of all the external senses which God has bestowed upon man, touch and taste are least liable to error in the judgments they give. But this heresy would overturn the evidence of those senses without cause; and the sacrament which does that must be a sacrament of Antichrist. With regard to the evidence of touch in the sacrament, the certainty of experiment, which the heretic will not deny, shows us that this consecrated bread, when but newly baked, differs in its manner of breaking, in the degree of brittleness, and the sort of sound produced in breaking it, from bread that is stale, and which is of greatest toughness in damp weather. Now accidents of this sort, hardness, softness, brittleness, toughness, cannot exist per se; nor can they be the subjects of other accidents: it remains, therefore, that there must be some subject, as bread, or some thing by which they are made subjects. For since this sacrament, which is always the same, is found at one time hard, at another soft; at one time brittle, at another tough; the philosopher plainly sees, that there must be a subject of some sort besides, as the seat of qualities, which undergoes these respective changes, (for, otherwise, all distinction between such accidents must be denied,) or else, in such a transmutation, a new sacrament is continually created. But if the first be granted, then no accident is distinguished from a material substance; and since those accidents remain, they would then become the material substance, as in the first instance.
In the same way in the sacrament of the cup, the same applies to the sense of taste, since it may happen that the wine, though retaining at first its taste and sweetness, might, by remaining in the vessel a day, lose its taste and become sour. Now according to the judgment of our taste, and our reason, we must supply a subject of some sort, whose qualities are thus changed. For quantity, such as length, breadth, and thickness, does not admit of the predication of qualities of this sort concerning them. We must therefore admit a subject besides quantity, which is changed by qualities of this sort, since the quantity must always be existing whenever the substance is rarified or condensed.
But I have argued at length on this point elsewhere, and brought against this error the testimony of Augustine in many places. I proceed, therefore, to remark, in the third place, on the great perplexity consequent on the delusion to which our internal faculties are subject, since when the knowledge obtained by our external senses is insufficient, the inward senses must be subject to delusion; and no heretic of this sort will affirm, in the terms of the schools, that he is acquainted with the quiddity, or the differentia of sensible substances. On the contrary, he will admit, with ignorant philosophers, that of such sensible existences, he knows nothing; so that, it being admitted that many hosts consecrated and unconsecrated, may be mingled together by men who are not aware of it, then the heretic cannot distinguish his accident from bread, just as we cannot distinguish between consecrated and unconsecrated hosts, inasmuch as the effect of consecration is not sensible, but beyond the perception of the senses. Mice, however, have an innate knowledge of the fact, that the substance of bread is retained, as at first; but these unbelievers have no such knowledge, since they know not what bread or what wine are consecrated, except as they have seen the act of consecration performed. That which is consecrated does not admit of a second consecration, because, if so, an accident, per se, without bread or wine, may be consecrated. It is plain, accordingly, that they must ever be in doubt as to whether they do truly consecrate. What, I ask, could move our Lord Jesus Christ, thus to take away the power of judgment from his worshippers? In no way doth it redound to their good, nor can it be established by reason or Scripture, that it is necessary for men to be so deceived; for bread and wine, retaining their old form, would be a fitter representation of the body and blood of Christ, than an accident without a subject; and the body and blood of Christ can be as well in any part whatever of such a body, as in any particle of such a most monstrous accident; and then would Scripture faith be preserved, the advantage on all sides more, and the reverence for God greater. In like manner, such blasphemers convict the prelates, beyond escape, of a culpable negligence as regards the duties of the grammarian. For the schoolmaster teaches the translation of the aforesaid Latin words, according to the common understanding of them; but to avoid the danger of heresy, it should be enjoined upon such persons to teach their boys to translate them in accordance with that blasphemous absurdity. The apostles knew the Lord in the breaking of bread, i.e., in the breaking of an accident without a subject; for otherwise a boy of capacity might imagine that the bread had been substantially broken by God—a most perilous notion according to these heretics. The schoolmaster would be culpable who did not explain such an equivocation as—the dog shines in the sky, but were to teach, according to the ordinary meaning of the word, that a barking animal and not a star shone there. Much more culpable would he be, then, if he should fail to explain an equivocal expression in a matter involving such an injury to the faith. But blessed be the Lord of goodness, that he hath so confounded the wisdom of these heretics, that to this very day they know not how to construe the aforesaid words of the Gospel, so as to make them yield the sense they affix to them. For neither in construing nor in preaching do they themselves understand their own words, when they say that the apostles knew Christ in the breaking of bread, i.e., of an accident without a subject. And so Antichrist, in this heresy, overturns grammar, logic, and natural science; and, what is more lamentable, destroys the meaning of the Gospel. But God, as he always preserveth a natural understanding among the laity, so he hath always kept the catholic sense among some of the clergy, as in Greece, or elsewhere, according to his pleasure. Oh who can excuse the friars, and other apostates, in that they know not how, or do not dare, or through jealousy do not wish, to instruct the people on these points, from whom, to say nothing of their obligation to love the brethren, they receive so great emolument? Verily the natural understanding of man would condemn false brethren of this sort, for like foes at home, they would do more than idolaters abroad, to perplex the simple populace. What greater blasphemy than to assert that Christ, who is God, and the Lord of truth, hath given special authority to errors of this sort among his people? Without a doubt the chief cause is a departure from the commandments of the Gospel. Thus these false followers of Antichrist show themselves more ignorant than brutes or pagans.
HOW AND FROM WHAT CAUSE THE HERESY CONCERNING THE SACRAMENT OF THE EUCHARIST HATH GROWN UP.
I am pleased to hear you express yourself so boldly in behalf of evangelical truths, and that you have so far unfolded them by argument. But I would fain know how, and from what cause it was, that this heresy took its rise, even supposing it to have been introduced by Satan and his followers into the church.
I should be worse than an infidel were I not to defend unto the death the law of Christ; and certain I am, that all the heretics and disciples of Antichrist can never impugn this evangelic doctrine. On the contrary, I trust, through our Lord’s mercy, to be superabundantly rewarded by him after this short and miserable life for this lawful contention which I wage. I know from the Gospel, that Antichrist, with all his devices, can only kill the body, but Christ, in whose cause I contend, can cast both soul and body into hell-fire. Certain I am, that he will not suffer his servants to be destitute of what is needful, since he freely exposed himself to a dreadful death, and has ordained that all his more beloved disciples shall undergo severe suffering with a view to their profiting.
The reason why men fall into this heresy, is that they disbelieve the Gospel, and embrace in preference the papal laws and apocryphal sayings. And of all the kinds of infidelity that ever grew up in the church of God, this draws men down deeper and more imperceptibly into the vortices of error, and causes more to apostatise from our Lord Jesus Christ. And be it granted that Innocent III. was led away by this madness, though the friars take upon themselves to say that it is not my place to discuss this point, yet I am sure from the faith of Christ, that whatever he (Innocent III.) has laid down in this matter, should not be received by believers, except in as far as it is founded on the commandments of the Gospel, for the same faith of Christ makes me confident that all truth is contained therein, and especially all truth relating to faith, and most in harmony with its design. Since these things are not from Christ or his law, but, on the contrary, it is contained in his law, as is plain from what is said before, that this sacrament is the body of Christ and bread, every believer ought accordingly to obey his Lord herein. But herein it is manifestly inferred, that the sacrament is not an accident without a subject, since it cannot be shown that God has raised an accident to be his body. Accordingly, adhering to the faith, I will deny this as the greatest heresy, and with this view I have elsewhere sent the satraps the following conclusions thereupon, with a protest agreeably thereto. The first is:—If by virtue of these sacramental words an accident is matter without a subject in the sacrament of the altar, that accident is itself the sacrament. It is plain from this that the said sacrament, according to the concurrent acknowledgment of these heretics, is not a substance, so that the sacramental words leave nothing remaining in the sacrament save this sort of accident. The second conclusion is, that—Of all the heresies that have ever grown up in the holy church of God, none is more abominable than that which makes this venerable sacrament an accident without a subject:—it being plain, that by this heresy, the very words of Christ are made to be heretical, so far as in it lies, and heresy is introduced over the greater part of the church. The third conclusion is, that this sacrament is, on the testimony of the Gospel, true bread naturally, and the body of Christ veritably and sacramentally, as the above-mentioned passages from the Gospels show.
With regard to your second question, it appears to me that Christ, who is head over all devils, teaches us figuratively by this, how the kingdom of the evil one is divided against itself, and must finally be made desolate, showing that its principal supporters in their very blessing are divided against themselves—as in the matter of the sect of the friars, so that each one of them is opposed to all the rest, and no one can efficiently maintain its own sentiments. And inasmuch as their prelates presume to bless, for the payment of money, those whom the Lord hath cursed, so they often curse those whom the Lord hath blessed; accordingly the Lord signifies to us, in that passage of Malachi, that their benediction after their own pleasure, should often be called the malediction of God. For they say that in the consecration of their host, they bless the bread and wine so that it becomes nothing, since according to their doctrine no part of it remains in the body of Christ, or in his sacrament, but taking annihilation in its proper sense, it is annihilated and turned into nothing. But Christ, though he was called an austere man by the slothful servant, never cursed anything whatever with a severity like this, for when he cursed the fig-tree (Mark xi.) the substance of the tree remained, since Christ destroyeth not utterly his creatures on account of sin, or the appearance of sin, and since no creature can do anything unless without the previous act of God. Hence it is plain, that though they may bless the bread (as they falsely say) so as to cause it to become nothing, yet Christ, since it is his own workmanship, preserves it. Nor must we pass over what is said by John, in his treatise “On God,” that the bread remains bread, but that where it is unknown, since believers are well assured that the bread, by virtue of the blessing of Christ, is turned into a something better, because it is turned into the body of our Lord, and remains bread because the body itself remains sacramentally; and if they say it is transubstantiated, by virtue of the sacramental words, it is enough for me, since that substance cannot pass into another which has no existence in the passage. Let us praise Jesus Christ, then, in that the author of this lie is not He who spake and it was done, but rather that liar who spake and it was not done, who commanded and it was brought to nought. But if you reply that it follows from this, that the pope and his cardinals have many times erred from the faith, and often deceive both themselves and their churches, the conclusion is true, though lamentable. Whether, however, they died penitent for such heresy, or remained heretics after death, it is not for us rashly to decide. Yet God who knoweth things secret knoweth the truth in this matter, as do those to whom it is his pleasure himself to reveal it. For we are not bound to proclaim or believe that any pope, as such, is a father in the greatest blessedness after death, as his greedy flatterers during his lifetime clamorously assert, but the more he departed in life, even to the last, from the pattern of Christ, the more deep will be his condemnation in hell. But I believe many have been led into this heresy who finally repented, as was the case, in my opinion, with the Bishop of Lincoln and others, who have left behind them in their writings the opinion, that an accident cannot exist without its subject, and yet the aforesaid Bishop of Lincoln, in his “Glossa de Divinis Nominibus,” thus writes—“An accident may perhaps (forte) exist without a subject.” I believe this subtle doctor to have meant that such an accident in the sacrament must exist in the act of our mind, since we have sensation actually to admonish us. But the consideration of the quiddity of its substance must be put in abeyance, and our consideration of the created substance must be employed about that which is signified by it—as a man entering a church does not set himself to consider the quiddity of the wood of the image, or the cross, but worshippeth it in respect of that of which it is the sign. So it is in the matter of the consecrated host; and because this is sometimes the case and sometimes not, I repeat what the Bishop of Lincoln says, “there may perhaps be an accident without a subject.” It is in this way that those philosophers speak, who hold that time has its existence in the mind, and that it is rendered sensible by the act of attention. For the existence of time is known to us because it is the measure of sensible motion, by the actual consideration of the mind; just as that which is perceptible to the senses, has this passive power reduced to act, during the time that it is actually being perceived. I think it very probable that great philosophers have been secretly of this opinion on the matter. But it would be useless to inquire into the intention of the author of this error. So I leave the discussion and contention with regard to this gloss to be carried on by theologians, being certain always of the faith of the Gospel, whereupon I rest without the smallest fear.
IN WHAT WAY THE BREAD IS THE BODY OF OUR LORD, AND NOT THE IDENTICAL BODY ITSELF.
I am pleased again with the acute and lucid explanation of your sentiments, and in my opinion, the truth of Scripture is of infinitely greater authority than that of any person now living, or of any community that could be named; so that if there had been a hundred popes, and all the friars had been turned into cardinals, no concession ought to have been made to their opinion in a matter of faith, save in so far as they rest upon Scripture. I see farther, that you do not condemn the pope, or any one, on account of this error, because you are ignorant in what way they died; but it is far more likely in your eyes that doctors have erred from the faith, or been slothfully silent, than that a single word of the Gospel may possibly be false.
But there is one thing I would fain know, and that is, in what sense the bread is the body of the Lord, and yet not identically the very body.
I see that you discern the truth on many points; and as to the mode in which that bread is the body of our Lord, such it surely is,—believe this firmly, for Christ, who cannot lie, hath so said. Now you know there are three methods of predication—the formal, the essential, and the figurative. Passing by the two former, let us here attend to the third. It is according to the third mode that Christ, as I have before observed to you, calls John the Baptist Elias, (Matt. xi.) The apostle says of Christ, (2 Cor. x., when deducing a moral from the acts of the old law,) that he was a rock. And in Gen. xii., the Scripture asserts, that seven ears of corn, and seven fat kine, are the seven years of fertility. And as Augustine observes, the Scripture does not say—are the signs of those years, but that they are the years themselves. And you will meet with such modes of expression constantly in Scripture. And in these expressions, without a doubt, the predication is made figuratively, and is not the predication essential, or the predication formal. Now all such expressions show that the thing (res) of the subject, is ordained by God to be the figure of the thing of the predicate. So again it is said, that the sacramental bread is, after that mode, specially the body of the Lord, since Christ has so declared authoritatively. Yet I am ready to believe in a more subtle meaning, should I be taught it, either by Scripture or by reason. But of this meaning I am confident, nor have heretics, who would oppose me, any means of resistance on this point, since according to appearance, this accident without a subject, as they teach, which is the sacrament, is the body of Christ, that is, sacramentally the sign and figure of the body itself. Then there is a greater relation between bread and the body of Christ, (as Augustine shows,) than between it and an accident of this sort; wherefore it is no mere colouring to say that the bread is figuratively the body of Christ. For, as Augustine teaches, in what he says on John—corn is collected of a multitude of grain, and ground; secondly, water is poured on it, and it is kneaded; and thirdly, it is taken as the food of the body for nourishment. In a similar way believers receive the sacramental bread in fragments; it is afterwards watered by evangelical faith, and kneaded in the heart; and when baked by the fire of charity, is spiritually eaten. Accordingly, Augustine says, on John, “Believe with a faith moulded by charity, and thou hast eaten;” and this must be understood of eating spiritually.
Furthermore, those heretics are not to be listened to, who endeavour to do away with the meaning thus assigned, by the false objection, that such a figurative mode of expression is not used on any other occasion in the Gospel. For in Luke xxii. it is immediately subjoined, “Do this in remembrance of me;” as if it had been said—This sacramental bread should be taken as an efficient memorial of me. Paul (1 Cor. xi.) speaks in a similar manner—“this cup,” &c., where there can be no doubt of its being a figurative expression; since in Mark xiv. Christ saith, “This is my blood,” &c., where the words show the same thing; for the mind of the Catholic cannot comprehend that the bread is the body of Christ, except by a figurative understanding of these words; inasmuch as to identify these two things is impossible. Beyond all doubt, then, the expression “this is my body,” is figurative, as are those in the Gospel of John: “unless ye eat the flesh of the Son of man,” with many like them, which Christ spake in another sense. Nevertheless, there are some expressions in Scripture which must be understood plainly and without figure, as we grant in the matter of the incarnation, that our Jesus is God and man, which is plain from collated passages, as John i., Eph. i., and Heb. i. Whence it is thought that the cunning of the fiend hath long been busy about this fallacy, to lead the church into that heresy. And the cause of it is that the church prelates are not preferred according to Christ’s ordaining, nor does the law of Antichrist suffer them to be zealous for the law of the Lord. As if the devil had been devising to this effect, saying, “If I can, by my vicar Antichrist, so far seduce the believers of the church, as to bring them to deny that this sacrament is bread, and to believe it a most abominable accident, I may in the same manner lead them, after that, to believe whatever I shall have a mind, inasmuch as Scripture language, and the senses of men, plainly teach the opposite of that dogma; and doubtless, after a space, by the same means, these simple-hearted believers may be brought to say, that however a prelate shall live, be he effeminate, a homicide, a simonist, or stained with any other vice, this must never be believed concerning him by the obedient people.”
Nevertheless, from motives of gain, such exemption must not be suffered to extend to the inferior clergy. And of the pope, it must be believed, as though it were a matter of faith, that he falls into no error, especially in regard to the faith of the church, but that he is a most blessed father, because he sins not. Thus it would appear, that the passage explained above, in Matt. xxiv.,—“When ye shall see the abomination of desolation,” refers to this heresy about the host.
ON THE IDENTIFICATION OF THE BREAD WITH THE BODY OF CHRIST.
I must request you, brother, to show still farther, from reason or Scripture, that there is no identification of the bread with the body of Christ, and no impanation. For I am by no means pleased with the spurious writings which the moderns use, to prove an accident without a subject, because the church so teaches. Such evidence should satisfy no one.
As to identification, we must, in the first place, agree on what you mean by the term. It signifies, God’s making natures, which are distinct in species or number, one and the same—as though, for instance, he should make the person of Peter to be one with Paul. I recollect having adduced many reasons to show the impossibility of such identity. For according to this visionary theory, every quantitive part of a permanent quantity, as of time, could be identified with any other, which is immediately shown to be impossible. For if this were true of A, supposing A to represent a line of a foot in length, then every quantitive part of that line is a foot in length. Even the very smallest must be so, which is a manifest contradiction. So this opinion is shown to be identical with an impossible and heretical one; and the same reasoning is applicable to time, or anything that may be named. For if A is identical with B, then both of them remain; since a thing which is destroyed is not made identical, but is annihilated, or ceases to be. And if both of them remain, then they differ as much as at first, and differ consequently in number, and so are not, in the sense given, the same. For it is plain, by the mere force of the language—“if both of them remain”—the pronoun “them” being in the plural, points to them as numerically distinct. In like manner, supposing there were any identification in the sense here meant, then all their differences would be made identical also. Every difference is repugnant to such identification. By the same consequence, they would be identical in their differences, and a thing of one species identical with a thing of another species, an assertion which we know involves a contradiction in terms.
This threefold reason satisfies me that the identification you mention cannot exist. But let me request you to destroy the doctrine of impanation held by some false brethren.
I am certain that this doctrine of impanation is impossible and heretical. In the first place, I oppose it by saying, that in that case the body of Christ, and so Christ made glorious in the body,—would undergo all the transmutations which bread could undergo, and so the body of Christ would not only be made by the presbyter who celebrates the service, but by the baker, and ere now be so multiplied, that Christ would have many bodies at once; and all that could be predicated of bread, would be applicable to the body of Christ. So a mouse would eat the body of Christ, and that very body would putrefy, and turn into worms, and a priest, in celebrating this ordinance, would commonly break the neck, and all the limbs of Christ! But what could be more hateful, more savouring of the infidel, more disastrous to the catholic pilgrim? The consequence is plain, because when two natures are identified in the same person, as is plain in the case of the incarnation, all that is predicated of either nature is applicable to the one person. For in this sense we truly grant, not only that Christ, but that God, was crucified, dead, and buried, as before he had been temporally begotten and made of a woman. But if, in the same way, that bread is so made to be the identical body of Christ, and that body is really Christ himself, that bread is in reality made Christ as God. But what idolatry could be more odious? For so every church would have its own God, to whom would be applicable all the degrading predications we have mentioned; and so the Deity would become the basest thing in the universe! On the same ground, adopting the doctrine of impanation, as above set forth, the festival of the impanation ought to be solemnly celebrated like that of the incarnation. And Christ ought, after the same sense, to be made Peter, a lamb, a sheep, a kid, a ram, a serpent, &c. But what more absurd? Wherefore it is certain, that the expression, “This is my body,” with others like it, should be understood as predicated figuratively.
We must notice one difference between the predication identical, and the predication figurative, for when two natures are identified in the same person, as in the case of the incarnation, each of them is numerically the same; but in the case of the sacrament of the altar it is otherwise, because, though the bread be broken in three, or any number of parts, each one of them is not really, but figuratively the body of the Lord, as in looking into different mirrors, you see the same face as regards the likeness in every one of them. Wherefore, there is no necessity that a thing made by God thus symbolically, should stand in any need of the presence of the thing of which it is the figure, or that the thing itself, of which it is the figure, should be locally approximated to it, or on this account be really changed. So it is not to be understood that the body of Christ descends to the host, in any church where it is being consecrated, but remains above in the skies, stable and unmoved, so that it has a spiritual existence in the host, but not of the dimensions, nor according to the other accidents appertaining thereunto in heaven. Hence it seems to me that the body of Christ, and so Christ in his humanity, may extend spiritually to every part of the world. But according to Augustine, and the other doctors, he is king spiritually, potentially, and virtually, even unto every part of his kingdom. The body of Christ, therefore, extends to every part of this world, since by virtue from that body every part of the world is pervaded, beyond any power an earthly king has of pervading the parts of his kingdom. Nevertheless we must believe, that the body of Christ is far otherwise present in the consecrated host, since it is the host itself figuratively: and, according to the nature of spiritual and virtual existence, it is different in every part of it.
SHOWING THAT THE BODY OF CHRIST DOTH NOT CORRUPT.
The follies to which you have been giving vent, have sent me into a long nap; but now I must awake a little, and confute them. In the first place, you cannot escape from this expository syllogism:—First, This bread becomes corrupt, or is eaten by a mouse. Second, The same bread is the body of Christ. Third, Therefore the body of Christ does thus become corrupt, and is thus eaten;—and thus you are involved in inconsistency.
It hath been a false sleep in which you have indulged, methinks, with but too much of the sophist and the fox in it. Think of what has been said before concerning the Trinity, and the incarnation, and concerning universals, and then you will blush in the midst of your subtleties. I deny, then, the argument which you call an expository syllogism. It is a deceptive paralogism. For, if in the matter of the Trinity it follows, not that this essence is the Father, and this same essence the Son, much more clearly, then, doth it not follow in the syllogising resorted to in your obscure reasoning? In the same manner, it doth not follow in the matter of the incarnation, that because this person is this humanity, and this same person is this Divinity, that, therefore, this humanity is this Divinity. And in the matter of universals, there is no need for quarrelling about examples, for though a human species may include Peter, and the same species may include Paul, it doth not hence follow that Peter is Paul, but only that they are the same in species. And so, you can only prove, by means of your proposition, that if this bread is eaten by a mouse, and this bread is the body of Christ, then that which is the body of Christ is eaten by a mouse, &c.a And thus must the conclusion be adapted to all other paralogisms. An example of this is found in Scripture. It doth not follow because the Baptist is Elias, and this Baptist was at that time born of Zacharias and Elizabeth, that Elias was, therefore, so born. Accordingly, we must not, by reason of this word of Christ, true as it is, apply to the Baptist all that may be formally predicated of Elias, or the contrary. This becomes obvious, whenever we resolve propositions into their general signification. How can it be shown, that if that bread is sacramentally the figure of the body of Christ, and that bread has been baked, that the body of Christ was at that time baked?
Still will your heretical evasions be manifest, for according to your meaning, it must be granted, that writing, utterance, and anything that might be laid down as a sign of the body of Christ, would be so figuratively, and so really the very body of Christ. But who could ever enumerate all the incongruities that would follow from such a doctrine, for as regards the principle of symbolic predication, reason is in as much agreement with the one side as with the other?
The believer will yet escape many such arguments, because, unless you can prove that the being imposing the sign or term to be a sign of the body of Christ, or to be a sign of anything else, is He who spake and it was done, and cannot lie, your seeming argument must be defective. Accordingly, there is nothing you can identify with any other thing, until this paramount authority has been communicated to your ally, whoever he be, who imposes it; and since you cannot avail yourself of this power, you may blush at the baseness of your sophistry. Accordingly, I admit the authority of these words of Scripture, not because they are of human imposition, but because the Scripture in the first place so speaks. Thus, in consequence of maintaining this special reverence for Scripture, I humbly admit the aforesaid conclusion without reserve, being certain that no part of the Holy Writings can be false. What, therefore, is it to me, that signs or terms have been imposed with such a designation? I shall not, on that account, change my reply as to the doctrine on such subjects which I have learned from Scripture.
WHETHER TWO BODIES MAY BE AT ONCE IN THE SAME PLACE.
I see that you blush not to oppose both philosophers and theologians, by propositions which carry their own refutation along with them; for all men of sound mind suppose that it is impossible for two bodies to be in the same place, which you, nevertheless, intimate as possible, in what you say about the body of the bread, and the body of Christ.
The body of Christ is not co-extensive with the body of the bread, as was shown to you before, in the distinction between formal, essential, and figurative predication. With regard to your second instance, it hath been stated already that the body of Christ is there spiritually, in the same manner in which it is distinguished essentially from the body of the bread. Accordingly, when you say, that we know not whether to say that the body of Christ be there essentially, corporeally, or dimensionally, it seems to me, that we can say with probability, the body of Christ is there a body, because the same body that is extended in heaven. But is it there corporeally or dimensionally? It seems to me that many labour vainly and equivocally on this subject. For by understanding this adverb in a reduplicative sense, it appears to me that the body of Christ is in that same place as a body, but not corporeally; but, with the analogous adverbs, it should be granted, that the body of Christ is there, beautifully, and really. Yet I dare not say, that it is there dimensionally, or in extent, though it may be bread which is there dimensionally, and in extent.
But the second equivocation of the adverbs is of this sort, that they are understood sometimes simply, as a thing is said to be corporeally elsewhere, when it is there after the manner of the body. And so some understand that the body of Christ is, in the host, corporeally, substantially, and essentially. This mode of expression can be confirmed by the apostle (Col. ii.) who says, that “in Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily;”—not that the Godhead could exist bodily, but because many heretics shrink from the idea that Christ should be himself the Godhead, since he is body, the apostle tells us, that in Christ, existing bodily, that is, after the manner of the body, dwells the Godhead himself identically; and so the Godhead, though not in its nature a bodily existence, is yet a body, existing bodily in Christ. Let no one suppose, that by taking this reduplicatively, that Christ is corporeally the Godhead, since he is body, because, then, in as far as he was body, by consequence, the whole of his body would be the Godhead itself.
It seems to me, that you depart alike from the church and from Scripture, since, according to your statements, a layman might officiate in this sacrament as well as a priest, and the church would then be in doubt which host to worship.
I see that you do not apprehend the ulterior arguments in this matter, and thus you introduce difficulties foreign to the subject. For the church, owing to the great subtlety of the subject, and her zeal after temporal things, has given but too little attention to this point, the pope and all his cardinals having but a very imperfect notion concerning it. But, by the grace of Christ, I will maintain the sense of Scripture, and keep clear of the heresy which teaches, that “if the pope and cardinals assert them to be the sense of Scripture, therefore so it is,” because then they would be set up above the apostles. But, further, in regard to your logic, it seems probable, from many reasons, that for a layman to have the power of celebrating, and for a layman to have the power of rightly celebrating, are much the same thing. In the first place, this admission, according to your logic, must be conceded. And, again, many men consecrated as presbyters are imbecile; and so, at the pleasure of some, even the laity themselves often celebrate it. And, again, in the equivocation about the consecrating, it must, it seems, be granted, that the laity can officiate, and even consecrate, as the blessed Cecilia consecrated a house for her church. Nay, I believe you cannot show, that when the Christians brake bread from house to house, as we read, Acts ii., that the bread broken was not the body of Christ, and that the apostles or elders were the only persons who so did. But leaving this uncertain, it appears to me that this office becomes consecrated priests, since Christ specially enjoined upon them so to do, when he said, “As often as ye eat this bread,” &c. So, then, wherever Christ operateth with a man, then, and then only, doth he consummate the sacrament; and this should ever be admitted and remembered by our priests. Nevertheless, because this is not an article of faith, there is no necessity for its being believed by the church: but it may be left as a probable supposition, and there is no need of quarrelling, therefore, inasmuch as there are a number of things which may be proposed to the Christian, which he should neither admit, deny, nor doubt,—as, if I were asked whether I am destined to be saved; or about one who has sinned grievously, whether he will be damned, as finally obstinate,—about such things, I neither admit, deny, nor doubt. And so, on seeing the host, I worship it conditionally, and the body of the Lord above, I adore fully. And, so, my answer to the six preceding arguments may be used as a means of doing away with similar ones.
Let us indulge no more in these vexatious disputes with Pseudis, but pass at once to the other six sacraments. And as you do not discuss them according to the order before-mentioned, but according to their comparative authority in Scripture, next to the eucharist you must treat of baptism.
I agree with you; and in the first place let us observe where the institution of baptism is established in Scripture. In the last chapter of Matthew Christ commands his disciples, saying, “Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” And accordingly Philip, when about to baptize the eunuch, Acts viii., first instructed him in the faith, as did the apostles, Acts ii., when they baptized the people. John the Baptist, however, had no need to instruct Christ, Luke iii., but, on the contrary, was instructed in humility and other virtues by our Lord. On account of the words in the last chapter of Matthew, our church introduces believers, who answer for the infant which has not yet arrived at years of discretion. Those who have attained years of discretion, while yet under instruction, are called, before baptism, catechumens.
How necessary this sacrament is to the believer may be seen by the words of Christ to Nicodemus, John iii., “Unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” And such, accordingly, is the authority from Scripture, on which believers are customarily baptized. The church requires for baptism, pure water—no other liquid: nor is it of moment whether the baptized be immersed once, or thrice, or whether the water be poured on the head; but the ceremony must be performed according to the usage of the place, and is as legitimate in one way as another, for it is certain that bodily baptism or washing is of little avail, unless there goes with it the washing of the mind by the Holy Spirit, from original or actual sin. For herein it is a fundamental article of belief, that whenever a man is duly baptized, baptism destroys whatever sin was found in the man.a Now inasmuch as before sin can be taken away, satisfaction is required, and satisfaction for sin cannot be made save by the death of Christ, so therefore the apostle saith, (Rom. vi.) “We who are baptized into Christ Jesus, are baptized into his death.”
What you say of the outward appearance pleases me; but tell me clearly, I pray you, how it is that Christ, who was so greatly opposed to sensible signs, has made a washing of this nature necessary to salvation? For it seems to derogate from the Divine munificence and power, that God, with all his merit and passion, should not be able to save an infant, or an adult believer, unless an old woman, or some one else, shall perform the ceremony of baptism, just as for an unbeliever. In the same manner the child of a believer is carried into the church to be baptized, according to the rule of Christ, and in failure of water, or some requisite, (the whole people retaining their pious intent,) the child is not baptized, and meanwhile dies by the visitation of God; it seems hard, in this case, to assert that this infant will be lost, especially since neither the child nor the people sinned, so as to be the cause of its condemnation. Where is the compassionate bounty of the Divine Christ, if such an offspring of believers is from this cause to be lost, when God, according to the common principles of theology, is more ready to reward than condemn men, both through the obedience and passion of Christ, and his own long-suffering?
You have urged this point with much subtlety and acuteness. But you must attend to the distinction of terms on this subject. Some things I state as absolute assertions, others as suppositions; and in this last sense I regard the holy doctors of the church to have spoken, even the greatest of them, who came after the writers of Scripture. But I state those things as absolute assertions, which are either testified by my own senses, or plain from faith in Scripture; while others, of which, though lacking of argument, I feel persuaded as probable, those I suppose to be true. And it is in this way of supposition that I speak on this subject.
With regard to your first instance, in respect to signs, it appears to me that Christ approves of the use of signs, though he condemns their abuse. Thus I understand Matthew xii., “An adulterous generation seeketh after a sign,” &c. For Christ, in his own person, is a sensible sign, and as it seems to me, the sacrament of sacraments, since the definition of a sacrament applies to him in the highest degree: for as Moses lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, and all who had been stung by the serpents were healed on looking up to that serpent, as is said, Num. xxi., so Jesus our living serpent, having the likeness of sin upon him, though he could not possibly sin, was suspended on the cross, that those who are stung by the poison of the old serpent, sin, may become spiritually whole. Christ therefore approves of signs, both under the new law and in the old, but is opposed to their abuse. You must mark, then, that the mystical body of Christ, during the time of the old law, was like a child, to be instructed in many ways by such sensible signs; but as the church grew in age under the law of grace, signs of this nature are not so much to be regarded. Accordingly I think there is in the present day a threefold abuse of these signs.
In the first place, because the signs of the old law are observed, which, according to the decision of the apostles, should now cease, as appears from Acts xv. and the epistle to the Galatians. And especially is this the case with regard to signs denoting objects which have passed away; for consistency would require that those who observe the signs should look to the objects of which they are significant.
The second abuse with regard to signs consists in the undue importance attached to them. Many attend so much to the observance of such signs, which are not according to the law of God, but have been improvidently ordained from human fancy, that they would sooner transgress the decalogue than neglect such observances.
The third abuse is, the burthening of the church with such signs which Christ hath declared should be free from them, so that the yoke is even greater than was endured by the church under the old dispensation.
Of these two abuses, our religious generally are guilty. It is plain that signs, especially those instituted by Christ, may be lawfully used with moderation, these three abuses being guarded against. Since, then, Christ himself instituted the sign of baptism, why should we not in a prudent manner observe it, especially as we are still only pilgrims, and have not yet attained to clear knowledge; and seeing that it is necessary that we should be led in this way by some signs of this nature?
ON THE THREEFOLD BAPTISM.
I am pleased that you have touched on the subject of signs, for I think you have treated the matter with acuteness, though your statements imply that it would be better for our religious to abandon those superfluous signs which they have invented. But reply I pray you to my two other objections.
The task you impose is a pleasure. you must mark afresh the distinction between the two kinds of statement to which I have before adverted. With regard to your first objection, I think it probable, that Christ might without any such washing, spiritually baptize, and by consequence save infants. Accordingly, it is commonly said that the church hath a threefold baptism,—the baptism of water, of blood, and of fire. The baptism of water, is the baptism with that material element, of which mention is most frequently made. The baptism of blood is the washing wherewith the souls of the martyrs are cleansed. Nor do I dare assert that the infants slain for Christ (Matt. ii.) who, not having reached the eighth day, had not been circumcised, are lost. And I believe the Bishop of Armagh spoke on supposition only, not positively, when he said that this was the case. The baptism of fire is the baptism of the Holy Ghost, which is absolutely necessary to every man if he is to be saved. Accordingly, the two former baptisms are antecedent signs, and supposed necessary to this third baptism. So then, without doubt, if this unseen baptism be performed, the man so baptized is cleansed from guilt: and if this be wanting, however the others may be present, the baptism availeth not to save the soul. And since this third baptism is not perceptible by the senses, and is so far unknown to us, it appears to me presumptuous and unwise to decide thus on the salvation or damnation of men simply from the circumstance of their baptism. Our conclusion, then, without a doubt is, that infants duly baptized with water, are baptized with the third kind of baptism, inasmuch as they are made partakers of baptismal grace. The above argument holds also concerning the martyrs who were slain for Christ, as it manifestly was with the Theban legion, many of whom were not baptized with water.a
With regard to the language of Scripture, (John iii.) “Unless a man be born again of water and of the Spirit,” &c. it is probable that Christ there speaks of the water which flowed from his side, and of the third kind of baptism, because it appears indubitable that a man who suffers martyrdom for Christ will be saved even though he may not have been baptized with water. So it seems probable that the words of Christ have this negative meaning—viz. that no man can enter the kingdom of heaven except he be baptized with the baptism of the water that flowed from the side of Christ, (i. e. cleansing from guilt by his passion,) and with the baptism of fire, (i. e. from the influence of the Holy Spirit,) since the Trinity could not save the fallen by receiving them into happiness, unless the second and the third persons remove their sins. Accordingly, Christ taught that the first baptism should be celebrated in the above words of the Gospel. Yet must it not be imagined by believers that the baptism of the Spirit altogether supersedes the baptism of water, but that it is necessary wherever circumstances permit, to become recipients thereof. When an infidel baptizes a child, not supposing that baptism to be of any avail for his salvation, such a baptism we are not to regard as serviceable to the baptized.
Yet we believe that when any old woman or despised person duly baptizes with water, that God completes the baptism of the Spirit along with the words of the sacrament. For our signs are but of small avail unless God shall graciously accept them. Thus I reply to your objection, by admitting that God, if he will, may condemn such an infant, without wrong done to himself; and if he will, can save it. Nor dare I determine on the other side, or strive for the sake of mere opinion, or for the gaining of evidence in this matter, but I hold my peace as one dumb, and humbly confess my ignorance, making use of conditional expressions, because it doth not seem clear to me whether such an infant would be saved or lost. But I know that whatever God doth in the matter will be just, and a work of compassion, to be praised by all the faithful. But those, who relying on their own authority, or their learning, come to any decision hereupon, cannot establish what they are so foolish and presumptuous as to assume.a
Pray inform me in the next place about the third sacrament, which is generally named Confirmation; and first concerning the authority which may be adduced for it from Scripture. It has not, I conceive, a sufficient warrant from Acts viii. “Now, when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (for as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.” This is the text from which it is generally concluded, that beside the baptism wherewith men are baptized, apostolic confirmation should be added, since such was the practice of the apostles. Yet this passage is not adequate to sustain the doctrine; for it might be urged with probability that though baptism in the name of Jesus Christ was for the time valid, since up to that time this institute had not been sufficiently promulgated, yet such promulgation having taken place, a return should accordingly be made to the evangelical formula. Thus those who were baptized in Samaria only in the name of the Lord Jesus, might be lawfully re-baptized; as those who had been baptized with the baptism of John, or any other illegitimate baptism, may be again baptized without danger. That this text fails to establish such a doctrine is manifest from the fact, that we constantly say—that the baptized have received the Holy Spirit in virtue of being duly baptized. Much more then must this have been the case in the primitive church. But in this passage it is said, that “Peter and John laid hands on them,” &c. Now if they had not received the Holy Ghost before, how could they have been legitimately baptized? It is not incongruous for the baptizer to lay hands on the baptized; in the same way as the passage in Acts viii. shows Peter and John to have laid their hands on them. If then it is justly proved from this text that confirmation should be appropriated to the bishops, they themselves must lay their own hands on the confirmed, that they may receive the Holy Spirit. But such a mode of receiving the Holy Spirit is neither taught us by any sensible sign, nor by the dictates of our reason. How then can it be shown that bishops administer this sacrament to the youth whom they confirm? As regards the oil wherewith they anoint them, and the linen peplus with which they bind their head, it seems a dangerous rite, quite unsanctioned by Scripture.
Still further it appears, that this confirmation, thus unauthorised by the apostles, is a blasphemy against God, since it stoutly asserts that the bishops confer the Holy Ghost anew, or that they strengthen and confirm that gift. But this is to do more than give the Holy Spirit. The apostles dared not so to teach, but prayed for themselves that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Has the Cæsarean endowment exalted our bishops to such a pitch of dignity that they are thus endowed with the singular power of conferring the Holy Ghost?
Your replies are, in my judgment, acute and satisfactory, nor do I at present perceive any obvious method of replying to them, either from reason or Scripture. But supposing the bishops to pray for the baptized that they may be confirmed in the gift of that Holy Spirit which they have before received, and that for this reason they add to this service the sensible signs which it is their practice to observe, I do not see what there is to prevent their duly celebrating this third sacrament, supposing that the same result ensues which followed the action of the apostles; but if they fail in attaining the end of the apostles, I see not how they can show from this text that they really confirm. So long as they fail in regard to this end, it would seem useless further to discuss the subject.
This sacrament does not appear to me necessary to the believer’s salvation, nor do I believe that those who pretend to confirm youths, do rightly confirm them, nor that this sacrament should be restricted exclusively to the Cæsarean bishops. Further, I think it would be more devout, and more in accordance with Scripture language, to say, that our bishops do not confer the Holy Ghost, or confirm the previous bestowment of the Holy Ghost; for such expressions, however glossed by our doctors, are still liable, if once admitted, to misconstruction, while, at the same time, they want authority to sanction them.
Hence some are of opinion, that this slight and brief confirmation performed by the bishop, with the rites which are attached to it with so much solemnity, was introduced at the suggestion of the devil, with a view to delude the people concerning the faith of the church, and to give more credence to the solemnity, or as to the necessity of bishops. For according to the common opinion, while our bishops administer this sacrament of confirmation, retaining it in common with many other things exclusively in their own hands, and while there is no salvation for believers apart from the reception of these solemn sacraments, how could the church preserve her station uninjured without such bishops? But one thing appears to hold, in the greater part, that for any bishop whatever, baptizing in such a way, to bestow the Holy Spirit, according to God’s covenant, implies a blasphemy. But I leave to others the more subtle discussion of this topic.
ON THE SACRAMENT OF ORDERS.
I do not see that anything can be done by treating further of this matter, or that any great advantage attends it, though the custom of the court of Rome, or the ancient custom of the church, may hold it proper; since this is no more a sufficient evidence in favour of this sacrament, than would be the antiquity of the abuses of the prelates, if adduced to justify their faults. But I pray you, discuss simply the sacrament of orders, and the manner in which it should be defined; and, in the first place, what order is.
In my opinion, this sacrament of order is sufficiently analogous, and its sign accordingly is very equivocal.a For since order is the state or position of a creature, according to the Divine ordinance, it appears that, as there are many orders among angels, so there are among every created sublunary multitude. Moreover, those who break Christ’s order, are to be punished, it is said, without end. Secondarily, the term order is used to express, by a kind of antonomasia, the state or possession of a new religion, as if Antichrist were before the ordinance and rule of Jesus Christ. Thirdly, with greater strictness, and more to the purpose, that power given to the priest by God, through the ministry of the bishop, in order to his due ministering in the church, is called order. This ordination is commonly conferred at a holy time, with a solemn fast, and accompanied by masses and other ceremonies: whence it is commonly said, that ordination is not conferred on a priest, save when the bishop imparts to him the Holy Ghost, and impresses the priestly character on his mind. And so indelible is this last, that be the priest degraded, or happen what may to him, this character is inseparably attached to him. Similar is the opinion concerning the character impressed in baptism.b
One thing I confidently assert, that in the primitive church, or the time of Paul, two orders were held sufficient,—those of priests and deacons. No less certain am I, that in the time of Paul, presbyter and bishop were the same, as is shown in 1 Tim. iii. and Tit. i. That profound theologian Jerome attests the same fact, see lxxxvii. Dis. ca. Olim. For there were not then the distinctions of pope and cardinals, patriarchs and archbishops, bishops, archdeacons, officials, and deacons, with other officers and religious bodies, without number or rule. As to all the disputes which have arisen about these functionaries, I shall say nothing; it is enough for me, that, according to Scripture, the presbyters and the deacons retain that office and standing which Christ appointed them, because I am convinced that Cæsarean pride has introduced these orders and gradations. If they had been necessary to the church, Christ and his apostles would not have held their peace about them. So that those blaspheme who extol the rights of the pope above Christ. But the office of the clergy, the catholic may best learn from Scripture, in the epistles to Timothy and Peter. Nor must he, on pain of incurring serious guilt, allow admission to Cæsarean innovations. But here I doubt not vast numbers are guilty.
The root of this blasphemy, which hath turned the church upside down, is found in this, that the clergy, shrinking from the poverty of Christ, entangle themselves thus with the world. Hence it is plainly seen of what sort is their order, inasmuch as when they should beget sons like Christ and the apostles, they adulterously beget sons of Antichrist. And by this means is the kingdom of Antichrist fenced about, and the kingdom of their master the devil set above that of Christ. I have brought forward many proofs elsewhere to make plain the duty of the king and of the military order in such case. As Augustine saith, “As the pope is the vicar of Christ, so the king is the vicar of God;” which I understand as follows: As the pope ought to follow the humanity of Christ, living like him and his apostles, in poverty and reproach, and enduring contempt with a patience surpassing other men; so the king ought to be the vicar of the Deity, restraining with severity, by his coercive power, the rebellious, and the violators of God’s commandments. So speaks the apostle, Rom. xiii.
I have elsewhere brought forward many reasons to show that the clergy ought to live a life of poverty after the manner of Christ. In the first place this appears from the old law, Numb. xviii. 20, 21: “And the Lord spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel. And behold I have given the children of Levi all the tenth for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.”a
If then a prelate, and such as live on tithes, strengthen themselves by means of the second part of this Divine authority, to seize tithes greedily for their own gain, why do they not as eagerly embrace the first, out of love to Christ, who was poor? To the same effect, in Deut. xviii. it reads thus: “The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel: they shall eat the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and his inheritance. Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their brethren: the Lord is their inheritance, as he hath said unto them.” If these commandments of the Lord under the old law are so strict in forbidding the clergy to hold possessions; and Christ and his apostles, in the time of the law of grace observed this same command more strictly still, who can be a greater heretic or Antichrist than that clerk, who shall contradict these lessons more than the men who lived under the old law? To the same effect, Ezek. xliv.—“I am their inheritance: and ye shall give them no possession in Israel; I am their possession, and they shall eat the meat-offering, and the sin-offering, and the trespass-offering; and every dedicated thing in Israel shall be theirs, and the first of all the first-fruits of all things, and every oblation of all, of every sort of your oblations, shall be the priests: ye shall also give unto the priests the first of your dough, that he may cause the blessing to rest in thine house.” If then in the time of the old law, when the people were more earthly in every respect, as being young, and not wise as yet in heavenly things, the clergy were so restricted in things temporal, by the command of the Lord, how much more ought it to be observed, since Christ has followed, both God and man, living a life of the greatest poverty; and since the lives of apostles have repeated the same lesson in work and example? It is plain, then, that if any men have become, by violation of the law of the Lord, heretical apostates or blasphemers, these clergy are they, even the bishops who so notably offend herein. Two other laws are proclaimed in Gen. ii. and Ezek. xvi. If therefore the bishop be horned with a mitre, to denote that he knows and observes both testaments, who can be said to belie Christ more in blasphemy than the prelate who is endowed and enriched with worldly possessions, even above kings?
Brother, you have shrewdly fed our bishops with five barley loaves, the Pentateuch of Moses, as figured in John vi. But inasmuch as our prelates pretend that these commandments of the old law were ceremonial, and should be terminated by the law of grace, I pray you confirm your opinion, if you can, by a reference to the law of grace.
It appears to me, that bishops instructed in the faith need no further confirmation in regard to this doctrine, since it follows by position from the major—if the bishops did so under the old law, then the bishops under the law of grace should observe the same rule: especially since Christ and his apostles have observed it, in deed (which teaches more forcibly,) as well as in word, which is sufficiently binding. As Christ on the second occasion of feeding the multitude fed four thousand with seven loaves and a few small fishes, as appears from Matt. xv. and Mark viii., so, out of my abundance I will adduce a sevenfold testimony from the law of grace in favour of this same doctrine. In Luke xiv., after the parable of the Lord, he adds, “So every one of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”
What Christ meant in these words, by “forsaking,” he and his apostles have sufficiently shown by the poverty of their lives; for the actions of Christ and his disciples are the best interpreters of his law. To the same effect is the passage—“The servant is not greater than his Lord.”—Matt. x. Since Christ is the best Master, and the Lord of lords, and all prelates should be servants and disciples of this Lord, it is clear that they ought not to be raised above Christ in secular dominion. But Christ saith, (Matt. viii.,) that “the Son of man hath not where to lay his head,” that is, that in his humanity, he had not any such place; in a worldly sense, in his own proper right of possession. How, then, have our Cæsarean bishops the boldness to extol themselves above Christ in civil dominion? Our Lord, on a dispute arising between his disciples, (Luke xxii.) as to who of them should be the greatest, said, manifestly with reference to the sensible superiority of the world, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them,” &c. He distinguishes, clearly as noonday, between the superiority of the world, and superiority in regard to God—denoting the former by the lordship of the kings of the Gentiles. They are especially called “benefactors,” because they confer temporal favours on their subjects, and abate the wrongs to which they are exposed, though they are themselves too often tyrants. The second, or apostolic superiority, our Lord explains, when he absolutely forbids the followers of the Gospel to seek after the former, adding, “But ye shall not be so.” To this prohibition, accordingly, Berenger often directed the attention of Pope Eugenius. Christ afterwards sets forth the attributes of the apostolic superiority, which is a superiority simply in regard to God, and shows that whoever among them is the most humble in Spirit, possessed of the greatest charity, and the most diligent in his ministry, is the greatest.
But after the clergy were given to the world, and learnt to despise the commandments of the Lord, and gave little heed to Christ’s decision hereupon, the disciples of Antichrist said in their hearts, “Christ is contrary to our practice. He taught nothing of that refinement, so necessary for the world, but lived in misery and dishonour, like a beggar. Who, then, would follow in his footsteps, unless he were a fool?” From this threefold testimony in the Gospel the aforesaid doctrine is educed, and it is confirmed by the Old Testament.
Passages from the writings of the apostles attest the same truth, for the apostle who was snatched up into the third heaven delivered to prelates this rule,—“Having food and raiment be therewith content.”—1 Tim. vi. And he says food simply, not delicacies; and for covering, he does not speak of scarlet, nor of dwelling in sumptuous apartments. And by teaching us to be content with such things, he prohibits superfluity therein, which tends to the burden of the church, and the abandoning of our office. To the same effect Peter, the chief of the apostles, enjoins upon us, that we be not as “lords over God’s heritage,” but that we should be willingly abased for the service of the flock, not studying how we may play the lord over those put under us. Now I ask, whether the prelates, in grasping at castles and estates, lord it over God’s heritage or not; and do they so or not, when they are contriving how they may adorn themselves in the most splendid and imposing manner, without ever thinking of the burdens they lay on the church? But the life of Christ and his apostles shows in what sense they understood that language.
To the same effect speaks the apostle, (2 Cor. viii.,) saying, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, how he was rich, yet for your sakes became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” Since, then, all believers are, undeniably, to follow Christ in their character, the clergy must of necessity follow him in their own order, especially in his humble poverty; whence our religious orders in their confession, (would it were not a false one!) unite in regarding as the substance of their religion, the obedience paid to Christ, the poverty and chastity which they maintain for the cause of him.
In the sixth chapter of the Acts, we find that seven deacons were ordained, because, according to the decree of the apostles, sent forth after the descent of the Holy Spirit, it was not fit for them to leave the service of the living God, to serve tables. But who can doubt that the prelate gives himself too much to worldly affairs, who abandons Christ’s office, and entangles himself in the sort of life required by the world? Yet the apostle saith, (2 Tim. ii.,) that “no man that warreth, entangleth himself with the affairs of this life.” Accordingly, since no one takes this honour unto himself, but he who is called of God, it is plain that the worldly prelate hath this honour from the devil, unto whom he hath approved himself. Then, at the commencement of Luke xiv., we are taught that such a man cannot be the disciple of Christ, but is the disciple of Antichrist; and so since he presumes to be greater than his Lord, Jesus Christ, it is plain that he is not his disciple or his servant, but rather the disciple of Antichrist. And now with these seven loaves, not barley ones indeed, but unpalateable enough, the people may have their fill of prelates, and the aforesaid doctrine be confirmed. Other fragments from the doctors, and arguments which some multiply on this subject, we need not collect, for these complete testimonies, adduced from the old and new law, are sufficient to confirm this doctrine in the eyes of believers.
ON THE AVARICE OF THE CLERGY.
Though you have often taught after this manner, at the peril of your life, yet it is evident that both reason, and the grounds on which the saints have been canonised, contradict your doctrine. For who can entertain any doubt, but that the law of Christ not only permits, but requires that the man who is especially his servant, should be duly ministered unto in things temporal? For God, who is not wanting to his servants in greater things, as in the blessings of grace and of nature, does not withhold from them wealth, or the goods of fortune in any form. In like manner, though your argument would deny the prelate the right, by reason of his clergy, to require these things, and declares that he should be content with little temporal possession, yet you dare not assert that it is unlawful for temporal lords to make such offerings to their clergy, under the title of alms, since you would, by so doing, put an end to temporal alms of every kind. On this ground the clergy may possess these temporal things, and yet live sparingly as did the apostle. Such, we believe, was the case with Sylvester, and many others whom the church has canonised. For since, then, temporal things are from God, and, by consequence, eminently good, what harm can there be in our possessing the things themselves, along with the higher blessings before mentioned, since the gifts of nature and grace may derive much good, incidentally, from the gifts of fortune?
In my view, it is plain, from the Scriptures before alleged, which we believe the mouth of the Lord hath spoken, that our clergy, especially under the law of grace, are bound to live in the manner which I have set forth. And since this is an injunction, laid on us by the God-man, Christ, it is clear that he who manifestly despiseth it cannot love Christ, and, therefore, must fall under the sentence of a most fearful excommunication; for the apostle saith, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maranatha.” And this excommunication, inflicted by the Holy Spirit, does not admit of being evaded by the precautions of men, but is sure to be inflicted where guilt is incurred, and is a matter greatly more to be feared, than any damnation or condemnation for heresy, which Cæsarean prelates are wont to send forth. And since to love Christ, and to keep his commandments, are the same thing, it is plain that those prelates especially, who are so disobedient to the law of the Lord, incur a more heavy anathema.
In reply to your first objection, I admit that I have often hazarded my life, and my worldly prosperity, by the promulgation of this doctrine; but since Christ and his apostles did so, and we believe that they are now glorified in heaven for so doing, what believer should hesitate to promulgate and defend the words of Christ; especially when he himself saith, “Whoever shall be ashamed of me, and of my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed before the angels of God?”
With regard to the canonisation of Sylvester, Gregory, and others, who received the church endowment, I must say, without any wish to scandalise those saints, that I do not make it a matter of faith to believe, that by God’s grace, they passed through life unstained in any way by the pollution of things temporal. But who would be so senseless as to disregard the admonitions and counsel of Christ hereupon, because one transgressor was saved by the grace of God? For if one offender has been rescued from so dangerous a precipice, by some cause to us unknown, who, on that account, would be so audacious as to expose himself to a greater danger? For numbers of prelates now grasp these temporalities in a way far more illegal and infamous than their predecessors above named. And therefore I grant you, that both reason and the law of God require, that one who is a chief servant of God, should be duly ministered unto in things temporal; but both reason, and the real good of God’s servant, require that he be not too much laden with these temporalities, since they serve their possessor only in so far as they facilitate his duty towards God.
It is plain that the man imbibing the spirit of the Gospel pleases Christ the more, other things being equal, the greater the poverty in which he fulfils his office. Just as it is of no use for travellers to carry their ship after they have crossed the sea in it, so it doth not advantage us to carry temporal things in our hearts, more than is requisite for our voyage. During our infancy and decrepitude, we must perform our journey on board-ship; while in middle age, to signify that we should aspire after things celestial, we must travel by dry land. In the early part of our voyage we are sustained by our parents, and in the last by the goods we have accumulated, or by the charity of our brethren; but in middle age we should live by our own efforts, or on those temporal things which we have virtuously made our own. And this mode of life we regard as an approach to the state of innocence, to which the apostles conformed themselves. Thus some understand the words of Christ, “And ye shall carry nothing on your journey, neither scrip,” &c.; for apostolic men should not be delayed by anything temporal that may impede their affections or their efforts in the discharge of duty.
But the scanty and moderate nature of their possession is indicated by the staff carried in the hand. As one overburdened with a multiplicity of clothing is thereby oftentimes rendered unfit for travel, so the man who is burdened with things temporal, is often made less capable of serving the church. In this sense Christ said, “Neither have two coats,” and this law of Christ is founded on the law of nature, with which no man can dispense. As to your second objection, your assumption is plainly false, since lords temporal ought so to moderate the alms they bestow, that the ordinance of Christ shall in no respect be destroyed; for they would then not be alms, but a traitorous and accursed presumption. For Christ, in Luke xiv., shows us how we should bestow temporal relief on the poor, who are blind, halt, and infirm, and how, accordingly, to compel sturdy mendicants to labour.
In the rule of Christ, poverty must be understood in the following threefold manner, because Christ teaches us not to bestow alms on the rich in the world, though they be blind, halt, or infirm, but he teaches us to bestow alms on these three classes of the poor. But how doth the perpetual and universal endowment of the church agree with this rule of Christ? This doctrine, therefore, implies and teaches how such alms may be given with profit and foresight, and how a wrong done to these three classes of the needy should be amended.
As to your third objection, it has often been said that man holdeth things temporal under a twofold title, namely, that of original justice, and that of mundane justice. Now under the title of original justice, Christ possessed all the goods in the universe; as Augustine often declares—under that title, or the title of grace, all things belong to the just. But civil possession differs widely from such title. Accordingly, Christ and his apostles, despising civil dominion, were content with possession according to that title; and hence it is the rule of Christ, that none of his disciples presume to contend for his temporal goods, as appears, Matt. vi., “If any man take thy coat,” &c. But the laws of the state, and the custom of secular rulers, are far removed from this. And this is the reason why these mundane laws, and the eager execution thereof, have been so wrongfully introduced, even among the clergy. The conclusion you draw must be admitted, but the mode of possession should be distinguished; for possession in a civil sense, since it necessitates a carefulness about temporal things, and the observance of human laws, ought to be strictly forbidden to the clergy. With regard to Sylvester and others, it appears to me probable, that in accepting such endowment they sinned grievously. We may entertain the supposition, however, that they afterwards repented of this to some purpose. So I grant you, then, that the clergy may possess temporal things, but after that title and mode of possession which God instituted, and not after that covetous fashion which the institution of Cain hath invented.
ON THE CULPABILITY OF THE LAITY IN RESPECT TO ENDOWMENTS.
I am pleased, brother, with your doctrine, because it appears to me, that you inveigh with clearness and force against the avarice of the priests; and as, according to the apostle, 1 Tim. i., covetousness is the root of all evil, and priests should be the root of all goodness, conveying the laity to heaven, you appear to direct your censures against the source of all sin in the church. But tell me, I pray you, whether secular men are justly liable to rebuke on account of such endowments.
I am pleased to find that you thus introduce this subject. I have often been hindered from rebuking the sins of temporal lords; and to make amends for such omission, I will state to you the belief I entertain in this matter. And, if God will, it shall come to the ears of such men.
Believe firmly, and in no way doubt, that herein temporal lords have grievously sinned. And for this cause, I doubt not, many have been suitably punished, in the righteous judgment of God, by the loss of their worldly wealth; for this endowment has given rise to wars, strife, and has brought many secular lords to poverty. And it is only just that they should be made to pay a penalty having respect to that very thing which was the means by which they committed their crime. My reason for so thinking is this, that those who are accessory to a crime, are guilty, as well as those who commit it. But the temporal powers have not only united to confer this endowment, but have consented to it in very many ways; and since such endowment is contrary to the ordinance of Christ, they are herein guilty.
For if there are six methods of consenting, as enumerated by the poet—
—it is clear as light, that temporal lords are manifestly guilty, in respect to these six modes, and especially in regard to the last two, inasmuch as they indolently withhold the assistance and rebuke by means of which this injury done to Christ and his church might be rectified. Nevertheless, it devolves on them, for many reasons, to amend this injury done to Christ. In the first place, because they are those who have sinned by the commission of this injury, therefore it is for them to make satisfaction for the sin. In the second place, because God gave the power they possess that they might regulate the affairs of his church, as appears in Romans xiii. Therefore, that they be not negligent in respect to the use of this power, nor guilty of an abuse of it, they should exercise it in the instance of so great an injury done to Christ, after his own example; for Christ, in rebuking the priests of the temple, made use often of this kingly power, ejecting, in person, the buyers and sellers. And on many occasions, by his sufferings and his reproofs, Christ condemned the conduct of the priests, as may be seen at the time of his seizure and passion. And he afterwards awfully chastised that priesthood, by the hand of Titus and Vespasian his servants, as Luke had prophesied. Isodorus, also, admirably declares this doctrine, as may be seen in the twenty-third decree, q. v. c. Principes Seculi. For if they hold their temporal possessions on condition of service rendered, what service, I ask, could better befit them, than that of vindicating the wrongs done to Christ, and defending so reasonable an ordinance? Forasmuch as it is the same thing to love Christ, and to keep his law and commandments, as is shown in John xiv., it is manifest that if the temporal lords love Christ above all things, it is their duty to exert their power in defending his chief ordinance. What temporal lord, I ask, would not be offended beyond measure on seeing his own decree reversed? Still more would this be the case, if that reversing were to dishonour his betrothed, and to break up his kingdom. But much more is all this true in respect to the primitive justice of Jesus Christ. Let temporal lords remember, then, how distinguished was the favour which our Lord showed them in his lifetime, without doubt intending that they should make him a return of their service.
Now I have collected from the Scripture account six instances of kindness shown by Christ to temporal lords; First, because Christ, who is the Lord of time, and who might have been born at whatever period he chose, selected that interval in which secular dominion was most flourishing; for in Luke ii. it is said, that a decree went forth that the whole world should be taxed. Second, because Christ might have had dominion, had he been so disposed, over all the kingdoms of the world; but was unwilling to detract, in the smallest degree, from the secular power of the earth—as in Matt. viii. it is written, “The Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” In the third place, because Christ, that he might restore the secular authority undiminished to secular lords, caused the old priesthood to be despoiled of their possessions, as was foretold by Luke, when predicting the destruction of the temple, chap. xix. Fourth, because Christ paid tribute to Cæsar for himself and his little flock, as may be seen in Matt. xviii. Fifth, because Christ pronounced a most decisive judgment, when he said that the goods of Cæsar should be rendered to Cæsar, Matt. xxii. And in the sixth place, because Christ fed the poor tenants of secular lords, and healed them, and taught them in many ways obedience, so that the Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles, show how servants ought to obey their lords. And what is infinitely more than any of these considerations, though the men of the world place such things first, Christ is the Creator, Redeemer, and finally the Rewarder of temporal lords.
What then could he do that he hath not done? On all these accounts temporal lords should remember that counsel of the apostle in Colossians iii.—“Be ye thankful.” But let the believer mark, I pray, with what manifest ingratitude they have repaid the Lord. For soon after his ascension, within the four hundredth year, they reversed his chief ordinance, by endowing the church, and, by consequence, did beget Antichrist, to the dishonour of his spouse. Hence chronicles relate that at the time of the endowment of the church, an angelic voice was heard in the air, saying, “To-day is poison poured into the holy church of God.” Whence, from the time of Constantine, who so endowed the church, the Roman empire decreased, and with it secular dominion. Nor is it of any avail to allege, in defence of this sin, that the emperor and others who endowed the church, thought that by a devotion of this nature they should secure to themselves a manifold merit, because the apostle, from a less culpable blindness, under the same persuasion, persecuted the church; and when this ignorance was no longer in his way, and he had drawn evidence from the Old Testament, he sincerely confesses that he was herein guilty of blasphemy, and sinned grievously against Christ: how then should it be that the emperor and other lords, in their grosser ignorance, could be anything but sinners against Christ, after such a showing of goodness on his part? Wherefore I warn them, that it is too hard for them to kick against the pricks.
Accordingly, if they would have their dominion kept entire, and not fiendishly torn piecemeal, and the peace of the church restored, and their tenants, according to the law of the Lord, powerful but not rebellious, let them have a proper zeal for the ordinance of Christ, to the end that they may reform the church, as much as may be, seeing that our faith gives us reason to believe that it would be ruled most prosperously under that ordinance. For then would be done away the simoniacal entanglement of the clergy in things temporal, the most scandalous ignorance, and the sloth and heresy which now disgrace the heritage of Christ. And by reason of this also, wars would come to an end, and the changing of kingdoms by conquests, and the iniquitous spoiling of the poor dwellers therein, since the lordship of the world would then be wholly in the power of the secular arm. And what is best of all, as Christ’s word would run to and fro freely everywhere, many more would wing their way to heaven. For then too would come to an end those blasphemies about the spiritual power of popes, in respect to absolution from sin and punishment, and the unwarranted granting of indulgences,—things which Christ and his apostles never granted,—with an infinite number of other blasphemies. Nor can Pseudis, or any other disciple of Antichrist, adduce perfunctory evidence to show that temporal lords have no license to correct these abuses, inasmuch as that would be the same thing as to say that, seeing they have no power to repair the mischief they have done, they must of necessity perish under the guilt of it. We, however, tell them, that not only have they the power to deprive a church habitually delinquent of its temporalities, but that they are bound, on pain of the condemnation of hell, so to do, since they ought to repent of their folly, and make satisfaction for their sin in having thus defiled the church of Christ.
You have said enough, brother, on this doctrine concerning the clergy, a doctrine especially hateful to our superiors; and the more, inasmuch as you do not show how your doctrine may be acted upon, without making too great a disturbance in the church. Pass on, I pray you, to the subject of the sacrament of matrimony, observing the same order.
No scholastic matter have I ever had more at heart than that on which I have now dwelt, forasmuch as it appears to me that it would tend above all things to the honour of God and the advantages of the universal church. Wherefore, it seems to me, that he is notably deficient in respect to perfect charity, and the love of his king and kingdom, who, from fear of losing temporal things, and the friendship of great men, nay, who even to save his life, neglects this duty. I doubt not that the apostles, and other discreet disciples of Christ, would have defended this doctrine, even to the death. But the king and kingdom are worthy of condemnation on account of this sin, to which they have given their consent. What faithful servant of the king, therefore, may remain silent with regard to this great crime? For the sovereign authorises, by such conduct, the greatest transgression on the part of his clergy, and gives his sanction to the root of that evil by which the kingdom under him is cut to pieces. And since it is necessary to true secular dominion, that the holder of it should rule justly, and so be opposed to this crime, it appears that the king, and the nobles of his kingdom, in this case, govern without the care proper to their office. For according to the law of England, if a tenant shall withhold his service from his chief lord during two years, the said chief lord, by the authority of the king of England, may seize, in his own behoof, the land which his subject had unworthily occupied to his own purposes. How much more, then, should the King of kings confiscate the property of kingdoms, if the service they owe has been neglected for many times two years, it being plain that they ought to serve Christ, by refusing all treacherous consent to the claims of Antichrist, and by opposing his works as contrary to Christ, to the extent of their power! We see clearly how long has been the time through which the service so due to God has been neglected. And as it seems to me, that liege man of the king, who should fail to expose such misdoing, would be a slothful traitor to his king, his country, and his God.
And with regard to your objection, touching the fear of disturbance to the kingdom that would ensue on the carrying out of this doctrine, consider well how Antichrist has herein blinded our military men by his chief agents. For they are bold to invade other kingdoms, either on just grounds, or on such as are doubtful, but they are slothful in respect to the discharge of a small duty, and in charitably assisting the inhabitants of their own country, whom they ought to love in a high degree, for the sake of their Lord. Nor do we hesitate to say, that Antichrist, with his principal agents, has introduced this slothfulness. That there is a facility for performing this duty, may be thus shown. It is well known that the king of England, by virtue of his regalia, on the death of a bishop or abbot, or any one possessing large endowments, takes possession of those endowments, as the sovereign; and that a new election is not entered upon without the royal assent, nor will the temporalities, in such case, pass from their last occupant to his successor, without that assent. Let the king, therefore, refuse to continue the innovation which has been the great delinquency of his predecessors, and in a short time the whole kingdom will be freed from the mischiefs which have flowed from this source. Who, I ask, would dare to seize on such temporalities, without license obtained from the king? Nor need the king, or his kingdom, to do themselves justice in this matter, smite with the sword, kill any man, or exercise their authority presumptuously. But as nature abhors sudden changes, and as this great transgression made progress by little and little, so if it were made to decrease by successive steps, as the death of the occupants succeed each other, with a small amount of prudence, the result would be anything but hurtful, either to king or people. But those who among the clergy or elsewhere oppose this doctrine, are falsifiers of the law of Scripture, and thus traitors in the worst sense to God and the king.
From all that has been said, we conclude that the king and his kingdom ought to protect poor priests who promulgate this doctrine, against their own brethren, and all enemies whomsoever, for otherwise they are born of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, and not of God, and so are not by birth sons of God, or of the kingdom of heaven, but children of the king of hell, forasmuch as they are lovers of the sons of the father of lies. It may be that false brethren, and other potentates among the clergy of the kingdom, will conspire against those who spread this opinion, contriving their death by the most unfounded falsehoods. But where is the believer who would apprehend the destruction of this veritable doctrine? Whence came the daring to proclaim these Gospel truths, if not from the hope in Christ’s defending and God’s protecting? For whoever opposes these views of things, must be ranked, without a doubt, as Antichrist,—as one contrary to the words of Christ. Woe, then, unto those who impugn this catholic doctrine, so salutary to the whole body of true believers.a
You would oblige me now by stating your views of the sacrament of penance. To define it seems difficult, for it is said that penitence hath three parts, like a harp, namely, contrition of heart, confession with the mouth, and satisfaction by deeds,—and its genus, accordingly, is not easily specified,—these three things being diverse in genus.
It appears to me that penitence consists in the condition of the mind, and that these other things, which are called the parts of penitence, are its accidents, which go together to form its completeness. Contrition belongs to the mind alone, and is not an object of sense, inasmuch as the contrite confess to the Lord. And this department of penitence, though little esteemed, is yet of the greatest virtue, so that without it the rest avail nothing. Confession is made up of this feeling, and of oral utterance made to God alone. And thus the fathers under the old law, in common with those of the New Testament, were accustomed to confess. Penitence, in the sense of satisfaction by works, is made up of the two former, together with a confession made to the priest in private.
Now from a regard to gain, it is to this last view of penitence that we give most attention. But whether this third kind is necessary to salvation, or on what authority it was introduced, is with many a matter of dispute. But we must confide on this point in John, who, in his gloss on the decrees, says, after stating many opinions which he censures, that Innocent III. invented it, and to confirm it, established the law “Omnis utrusque sexus,” which is set forth in the fifth decretal. But in my opinion, as I have explained more at length, it would be better for the church did she content herself with the first and second kinds of penitence as above mentioned. But though the third form (confession to a priest) is injurious to many, and is the cause of many evils to both parties, (the priest and the confessing,) nevertheless it brings many good results to the church, and since it might possibly be well conducted, it appears to me that it may be, by supposition, necessary, and so really necessary, forasmuch as many, through shame of being obliged to confess the sin, and of submitting to the penance enjoined, and from the fear of being obliged to make confession of what they have done elsewhere, are deterred from repeating their sin.
No one can believe that a man may not be saved without confession of this kind, for, otherwise, all the dead from Christ’s ascension to the time of Innocent III. are lost—a horrible thing to believe. Rather do we think, that a much greater number are lost under the law of that pope on this subject, than would ever have been lost for the want of it. Besides, it generally happens, that he who absolves, is not acquainted with the magnitude of the sin confessed, just as he knows not if the man who is confessing be contrite; though he is well aware that unless he be so, his sin is not removed. How, then, can he utter falsehoods in the name of Christ, and so impudently absolve sin, and enjoin a penance which he cannot know as being proportioned to the transgression? Neither is it lawful to burden the church with new traditions, especially such as are of a suspicious character, for what we have is already sufficient. And the laws about confession in the Scripture, have served us well enough for more than a thousand years. On what ground, then, is it that without a law, a third kind of penitence has been introduced in a manner so unlikely? It appears to me, that this papal law is to be admitted as far as the discretion of the person who confesses may deem profitable.
I see, brother, that you allow but little weight to this papal law; and it seems to me, that for the same reason, you would make light of the absolution from penalty and guilt, and the full remission of sin granted by the pope, and of that burden of sin which the prelate often aggravates by fulminating his horrible excommunications, and so the decision of the court of Rome, on such matters, would fall to the ground.
The observations you make seem to involve much truth, inasmuch as in the Scriptures, without any additions on the part of the Roman court, it is sufficiently set forth how every man should regulate his life. And if the injunctions of Scripture are attended to, it follows that the man who lives to the end the life so prescribed, will be saved. Hence all these fictitious dogmas are generally promulgated to keep the people in subjection, and to detain them in a fallacious obedience; and a blasphemous covetousness is the damnable root of the whole of them.
Let us look, then, and see what is enjoined and commanded by the Lord, in the law of perfect liberty, and observe it, and abstain from what is forbidden, and from giving attention to laws newly ordained, and this will be enough. Accordingly, what is over and above, is not only evil in its origin, but is itself evil, and blinds numbers. Concerning all vows, promises, and other private observances, let the believer look up to the almighty power of Jesus Christ; let him bend all the strength of his soul to living henceforth in more perfectness, so as to be serviceable to the church; let him repent of his past evil life, strengthen within him the purpose of so sinning no more; and this, in my opinion, sufficeth to destroy his guilt, and to save him, whatever our superiors may say to the contrary. But in all this, let the believer beware of any insincerity toward God. With regard to the words in Matthew xvi., “Whatsoever ye bind,” &c., let the believer demand from the false bishop when he alleges this saying of our Lord’s, if his own life of holiness, by its resemblance to the life of Peter, is such as to make him a true vicar of Peter. If the presumptuous hypocrite shall impudently affirm that it is so, ask him to show the similarity of his life to that of Peter, more especially in the grace given him to work miracles, and in the lowliness of his poverty. Peter presumed not on the possession of such power, how then can this hypocrite claim it? And since he cannot prove himself a true vicar of Christ, or a member of the church of Christ, what is it to him that Christ promised this power to the blessed Peter, seeing he is neither Peter, nor by the lowness and holiness of his life the vicar of Peter?
ON THE SIGNS OF CONTRITION.
Tell me, I pray you, brother Phronesis, what the signs are which denote true contrition, inasmuch as you have exposed the craft of Antichrist, acutely though obscurely, and say, do the Cæsarean sects, and new orders, which set aside the rules of Christ, and observe and value the new regulations they have devised, sin herein; or is there true penitence in their earnest and bold observance of such rules?
Not only the true believers among us, but the disciples of Antichrist, unite in confessing, that to remove sin, men must experience true contrition of heart. Accordingly, the first tendency to sorrow, what is not sufficient to remove sin, they call attrition; and the grief which follows, and is adequate, they call contrition. But still they are not able to distinguish between them, or to say where contrition really exists. But I have spoken of contrition in the third part of my sixty-four sermons.a I have there said, that sorrow is sufficient to take away sin, but that it must be more on account of the loss of grace, than on account of any temporal good whatsoever. And so long as sorrow of this nature shall be wanting to the sinner, he does not grieve in contrition for the loss of the husband of the church. Nor is the quantity of grief to be looked to as regards its intensity, or its duration merely; but as regards both taken together. Wherefore it appears, that so long as we are in this life, we ought to be the subjects of grief for sin, in act or habits, since we protract our grief for temporal calamities to a great length. From all this, it further appears, that the true penitent does not return to his past sin; so that the doctors say, with truth, that to be penitent, is to mourn over past sins, and not to commit again the sins so regarded. Hence it further appears, that it is only the man who is contrite, that will be saved from his sin; the reprobate, by the sudden termination of his sorrow, shows that there is in him no contrition. Hence it follows further, that as the pope and others who administer confession, know not who will be saved, and who is reprobate, so they know not who is contrite. Hence it is a satanic presumption for men falsely to pretend that they will absolutely absolve this man or that from sin by laying their hands on his head. What avails, I ask, this sensible sign, the leaden seal, or the giving of money, to awaken contrition in the heart of the sinner? Verily nothing; and such administrators of confession deceive with their falsehoods, both themselves and those whom they confess.
But it is manifest that the Christian, by his trust in the compassion of Jesus Christ, and in his pain and holy purpose, may know from within himself that his sin is removed, and that he is contrite in spirit. Again, as to further conclusions, be firmly convinced that these new sects sin grievously against Christ, in thus contemning his ordinance, and delighting rather in their own frivolous observances.
Our possessioners ought to know, both from the life of Christ and his apostles, and from the commandments of Scripture, that such endowments as they thus obtain, are repugnant to that state which, in name at least, though falsely, and with a fraudulent intention, they profess. Yet along with these deceitful professions, they are ever plotting to increase their possessions, to defend them, and to destroy those who would impair them. It is repugnant to the Divine justice that such men should go unpunished. The same is true, also, of the friars, who blaspheme God, and defend most anxiously what is in their possession, and bitterly prosecute those who, in the name of the Lord, expose their fraud. The same is true, also, concerning their love of state, or of the Cæsarean or papal law, neglecting the state or law of the land.
This weightiest of sins is not to be taken away by flourishing pompous words, or displaying sensible signs, or by absolutions, or by the invention of indulgences—more especially when the power and opportunity of making satisfaction are within reach, and the sinner remains obstinate in his sin. God discerneth the hearts and intents of men, the condition and circumstances of their passions. It is ill, then, for a man to blaspheme Him, and say that he himself, by a sensible sign he has invented, can absolutely blot out the pollutions of such as are reprobate. Could there be a more presumptuous blasphemy, than for God’s enemy falsely to profess that he can so reconcile God, though God’s everlasting law and clear justice contradict him? Satan has suggested to these possessioners, that should they have such lordship in worldly things, it would be well, for the establishing of their false dominion, to invest themselves, by means of such blasphemies, with an imaginary spiritual power, a power which cannot be assailed, because not palpable to the senses, and thus procure to themselves authority from kings to burn all their opponents as heretics. Thus was the pretended power of Antichrist artfully introduced.
OF EXTREME UNCTION.
You have said quite enough on this subject, brother Phronesis; but inform me, I pray you, somewhat concerning the last sacrament, which is called extreme unction. It has its foundation in the passage, James v., “Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.”
This foundation for that sacrament does not appear to be adequate. For the faithful might urge with sufficient reason, that this holy apostle does not specify the last sickness, but merely says that consolation should be administered by the presbyter when any one is sick; and as it is in the nature of oil, in those parts of the world, to promote the health of the body, so he mentions this anointing; not that the oil affects the soul, but the prayer of a devout priest poured forth, hath a healing effect, so that God helps the sickness of the soul. If that bodily anointing had been a sacrament in the sense in which it is now represented, Christ and his apostles would not have been silent respecting its promulgation and due administration. Nevertheless, I grant you that this corporal anointing is to some a sacrament, other things being equal; but it is then necessary that the presbyters should heal the sick with their own devout prayers. Still, beware, lest through too light a temper, you understand the words of the apostle imperfectly.
You may possibly err so far as to believe, that the mere fact that a priest has prayed for a sick man will be sufficient to remit any guilt that may attach to the latter. But many have been sick, and been anointed, who have, nevertheless, been doomed to everlasting condemnation. For it is not to be believed, that, insomuch as a priest so doth, his prayer of faith will save the sick, for then it would be a part of the faith of the church to believe, that whoever in his last moments should receive the sacrament, would be saved by faith in Christ, and this sacrament would then be the most necessary of all, for the recipient of the others may be finally impenitent, and be lost,—but so, without a doubt, may he be who receives this sacrament.
Thus in the sacrament of baptism, in that of confirmation, and in all the rest, hath Antichrist invented unauthorised ceremonies; and to the burden of the church, without warrant from Scripture, hath heaped them on subjected believers. But other necessary sacraments he has overlooked, as is seen in respect to the seven works of spiritual mercy, which ought to be a sacrament in the esteem of believers, and especially of priests. But this sacrament, though very necessary, inasmuch as it has no temporal gain going along with it, and is irksome to those in high places, is faithlessly neglected.
Whence it appears to me, that those who institute such private orders, and send forth such general rules, to cause sacraments of this nature to be universally received by those who are subject to them, blaspheme God, especially when God is pleased to save many without their receiving this sacrament. How like Antichrist is this presumption, for a prelate to assert, and without foundation maintain, that no one will be saved without partaking of a sacrament of this sort!
But whether a rich man, thus anointed, is permitted subsequently to recover, and whether the priest ought to have a certain knowledge, that the man so anointed will not survive, and whether this sacrament of extreme unction can be repeated, is a matter of doubt with many. But I leave it to the weak, uselessly to protract difficult questions of this nature. I merely state one thing as probable,—that a man thus sick, and thus anointed, and afterwards convalescent, cannot again receive the sacrament of extreme unction.
OF THE VARIOUS KINDS OF MINISTERS.
Pray inform me, brother, concerning the various kinds of ministers in the church, for you consume our time needlessly in deriding the doctrine of extreme unction.
Derision, I am satisfied, is a lawful weapon, and may be laudably employed on occasion, for Christ, Elias, and the apostles, have all availed themselves of it. And why should we not bring it into use against heretics? Nevertheless, as the excellence of ridicule lies in the moderate use of it, and is of rare and difficult attainment, I will abstain from it, and speak of the kinds of ministers in the church. Now Christ was the highest minister in the church, since, according to the apostle, he was the minister of the circumcision, and, in my opinion, no one of the ministers of our mother is worthy of praise, except as in his conversation he is a follower of Christ. Hence I think it a matter of great difficulty to establish, on sufficient authority, the institution of our new orders.
There are three kinds of ministers acknowledged in the church, each kind including many subordinate gradations. Of these the first and lowest are simple labourers. The second and intermediate class is composed of potentates, the defenders of the ordinances of Christ in the church; but the last and highest are the priests of Christ, who rightly preach his Gospel. This portion should be as the soul unto the body of our mother the church. Among these, however, there is most deception, for Antichrist hath, in the guise of clergy, twelve agents, who machinate against Christ’s church, commonly called popes, cardinals, patriarchs, archpræsuls, bishops, archdeacons, officials, deacons, monks, canons, false brethren lately introduced, and questors. Now all these twelve, especially the Cæsarean prelates and the friars, thus unwarrantably admitted, are plainly the disciples of Antichrist, because they do away with the liberty of Christ, burden holy church, and hinder the Gospel from having free course as of old.
As the last and greatest danger among those enumerated by Paul, is that incurred from false brethren, something should be said concerning these; and as they falsely assert that they were introduced before the incarnation of our Lord, we must see in what way they should be generally defined. The Bishop of Lincoln, in one of his sermons, saith of the private orders of monks in general, but of the friar in particular, that he is a dead body come out of the tomb, wrapped in funeral weeds, and set in motion among men by the fiend. A dead body, he continues, because, vigorous as his bodily life may be, yet his soul is dead—a death far more truly such than the death of our earthly man, as 1 Tim. v., “But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.” He is a putrid and stinking corpse, because the natural life of the body should be derived from the spiritual life of the soul, by God’s law; secondly, he cometh out of the grave, because, as he saith, his four walls shut him in, as one dead to the world, and shut up and buried therein. But inasmuch as the shutting up of the soul is far more excellent than the bodily shutting up of the man, let us mark the four cardinal virtues—justice, fortitude, prudence, and temperance—and mark, also, how the friars tear away, almost asunder, these four walls, and so break out from the confinement of the soul, and treacherously pollute believers in the church. Christ and his apostles, accordingly, denounced them as hypocrites; and hence, to deceive the church, they dress themselves in funeral vestments, which the religion of Christ requires not.
Some wear russet above, as a sign of their labours, and a white garment under, to signify the purity of their mind. Others wear over all, black funeral vestments, as a sign, they say, of their continual sorrow and pain on account of sin, and wear white clothes underneath, as the former. A third class are clad in white, both without and within, wearing russet to denote the labour they undergo for the church. The fourth order dress like the second, in black and white, but in the fashion of their dress, and their form of burial, they differ from the two following, as do the first. The deformity of their appearance, they say, shows the utility of their body, and the girdle they so tie round them in a knot, that they endure a constant and distressing bodily penance. But we see not the reality of what is thus signified, since they are no prophets, but hypocrites who seduce the people, and give their attention more to the shutting up of the body than of the soul. They pretend, that by thus shutting up the body, they have presented to their view heaven and things heavenly. The plants that grow in the cloister signify the vigour of those virtues wherein they surpass all, and the tree in the midst of it denotes a ladder along which they mount by the steps of virtue to things heavenly. But was there ever a more hypocritical lie? For they eat of the forbidden fruit in the midst of their paradise, and make drunken to the uttermost all men who follow after them. As to the Bishop of Lincoln’s fourth particular, that every such corpse hath been set in motion among men by the devil, the believer cannot doubt that men of this sort, who break out from the cloister of the soul, are set in motion by fiends, since the fiends, who most love hypocrisy, and such deceiving of the human race, run of course to the support of such heretical fallacies; for the sin of hypocrisy, as it is most contrary to the first principles of truth, and most seduces the people, is carefully promoted by the fiend. Thus this description of the fourfold member, set forth by that holy bishop, is made good, and the blessed Hildegard makes the same statement more expressly in her prophecy before these friars were introduced.a
ON THE BEGGING FRIARS.
I could wish that you would make some statement of your opinion concerning the begging of the friars; for many are of opinion that Christ so begged, and certain it is that on this assumption the friars found their system. This opinion has the more colour, from the fact that in the Psalms it is said that Iscariot persecuted a man who was poor and a beggar. And as the blessed Peter says, Acts i., that this prophecy was spoken by David concerning Christ and Iscariot, it is no sufficient reply to say that Christ begged only in the person of his members, for certainly the psalm refers to the person of Christ, which Iscariot persecuted.
I have affirmed elsewhere in many ways, that the term mendicancy, like the term prayer, is to be understood in different senses. For there is one kind of mendicancy innuitive, another insinuative, and a third declamatory. One kind of begging comes of God alone, another of man; accordingly I have elsewhere defined begging, as the petition of a needy man for bodily alms, purely on the ground of compassion, for the relief of his need. In this sense Christ in his humanity begged of the Trinity, and consequently of himself, when saying the Lord’s prayer, which he had established; and as Augustine often asserts, every one in repeating that prayer must necessarily beg of the Lord. Now we may say that Christ begged in his humanity, but only innuitively, of his brethren, since he tells them, in fact, how for love of them he became so poor and needy, as saith the apostle in 2 Cor. viii. Now such real begging, without insinuative petition, offered in words, is a faultless and most noble begging, for it became Christ thus to beg, for the interests of his church. But if the friars make a sophistical use of such begging, and beg stoutly from the people with clamour and annoyance, who can doubt that this begging is a diabolical and sophistical perversion of this act of Christ’s, so full of goodness, and so serviceable to his church? Beyond this the friars defend their falsehood, by adding, that it is not only proper, but absolutely meritorious thus to embrace a life of voluntary poverty. I have assailed this position by many arguments in the vulgar tongue. In the first place, from Matt. v., that Christ, who came, “not to destroy the law and the prophets,” says in Deut. xv., “There shall be no needy man nor beggar among you.” Why then should Christ violate this law by thus begging of his own people? In the same manner, Prov. xxx., Solomon saith, “Give me neither poverty nor riches.” Christ, therefore, was not compelled to do away with the virtue that is thus said to exist in a medium between the two, since the believers supplied him with all such necessaries.
Job saith, (c. xxix.) “Oh that it were with me as in the months past, as in the days when God preserved me; when his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness; as I was in the days of my youth.” Here it is clear as noon-day that this pious man piously prayeth that he might possess the prosperity he had in times past, which, according to their doctrine, would be a blame-worthy petition. To the same effect speaks Paul, (Acts xx.) “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel: yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities”—whence it appears that bodily labour is indirectly enjoined, and mendicity forbidden. Also 2 Thess. iii., “For even when we were with you this we commanded you, that if any would not work neither should he eat; for we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busy bodies”—whence it is shown, as clearly as before, that the apostle forbids begging of this sort. Again, 1 Thess. iv., “But we beseech you, brethren, that ye increase more and more; and that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you”—which likewise shows that the friars in begging violate the injunction of the apostle, and so of our Lord. Also Eph. iv., “Let him that stole steal no more”—but we may see how directly this command is disobeyed by the friars, for oftentimes by their knavery, contrary to the will of our Lord, they delude men, and seize the property of others by the foulest means, and neglect to labour with their own hands. Yet the apostle (as appears from Acts xviii.) laboured as a tentmaker that the church might not be burdened. God enjoined corporeal labour on the first sinner, Gen. iii.: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” Are we to regard the sect of the friars as more excellent than the first man, or as a better example than the apostle Paul? Likewise, 2 Cor. vi., the apostle lays down the following injunction: “We beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” Do not the friars receive the grace of God in vain, who are endowed by God with bodily strength, and have the opportunity, and yet will not work—to the great burden of the church? Again, when Christ prohibits such public begging, inasmuch as he who so begs is burthensome to the community, a course of life which Christ through Paul repeatedly forbids, how can the new orders have the effrontery to proclaim such open mendicancy in the case of able-bodied men, and found a new form of devotion on-such an ordinance? Do not Francis, and other idiot trafficers, depart from the faith of the church, and from the Lord Jesus Christ? Furthermore, when paupers, the blind, the sick, and the infirm, ought, according to God’s commandment, to receive such alms, (Luke xiv.) the robust mendicant taking the relief away from them, wrongs this class of men; and what robbery can be more infamous? Such beggary is contrary to the law of nature: what blasphemous necessity, then, could impose it upon our Lord Jesus Christ, especially when it neither became him so to beg, nor have the Gospel commandments, wherein is involved all truth, expressed anything of the sort? How dare the friars, then, thus blaspheme the Lord Christ Jesus? For Christ and his disciples, in abstaining from such medicancy, obeyed the tenth commandment in the decalogue, the law of nature, and the bidding of the Old Testament.
FURTHER SHOWING THAT THE MENDICANCY OF THE FRIARS IS NOT CONSISTENT WITH SCRIPTURE.
I see clearly, from the reasons adduced, and from many others that might be brought forward, if need were, that this mendicancy of the friars is not only without scriptural authority, but a manifest blasphemy. Yet it may be well to go briefly over the poor evidence adduced by the friars in its support. In John iv. it is written that Christ asked drink of a Samaritan woman; who can refuse, they argue, to attribute such mendicancy to Christ, when he was thus poor? But in weighing this argument we should define clearly what is meant by begging, one man of another. For, when a creditor or his agent seeks a debt, he does not, in so doing, beg; and much less does a lord, when he claims to be served with what is his own. Accordingly, though Christ, as Lord, received gifts of his people, it does not thence follow that he begged of them, but rather that he required a ministering of goods that were his own for the common benefit of those so ministering to him. Thus some students of the Gospel are of opinion that Christ asked the drink of faith and devotion from the woman; for it is not likely that Christ when hungry would have asked water to drink, especially as it was the sixth hour of the day, and the disciples had gone into the village to buy food. Moreover, if Christ had asked for material water, he would probably have drunk it at once, without delay; but when the woman was ready to give him water, he deferring drinking, and said some time after to his disciples, when they exhorted him to eat—“I have meat which ye know not of,” &c. The friars, therefore, are herein more foolish than this woman, who mistook the meaning of Christ through an excusable ignorance, while they equivocate damnably by nefarious falsehoods concerning the Holy Spirit. I wish they were doomed to beg nothing of the people but water, until they have made satisfaction for the error of so heretical a lie against God.
In the second place, the friars endeavour to establish their falsehood by that passage in Luke xix. where Christ saith—“Zaccheus, make haste, and come down, for to-day I must abide at thy house.” From which words these ignorant men conclude that Christ begged food and lodging of Zaccheus. Let these untaught grammarians acquire some knowledge of the use of terms, before they utter such blasphemies, and neither lie, nor avail themselves of lies, to defend their begging,—for Christ perceiving the piety of Zaccheus, spake these words, on account of the charity that was in him, and not from being himself in misery or destitution. So let friars mark these terms, and blush to ascribe beggary thus falsely to Christ, when they should rather regard him in the light of a supreme and most generous Physician, who is pleased of his surpassing charity to abide with men.
In the third place, these blasphemers argue from Matt. xxi., where Christ sent two disciples to Jerusalem for an ass and her colt, whereon he might go up thither,—Did he not then beg from the city of Jerusalem? Now let these heretics blush to say, that it is after the example of the Lord that they beg of men without leave sought or obtained; for Christ the Lord of all needed not thus to mount a colt and an ass, save to fulfil the Scripture, (Zech. ix.) and to prefigure how he should ride over the Gentiles as colts, and the Jews (stupidly continuing under the burdens of the law) as asses, and still more when his disciples laid their garments on those beasts, that is to say, while the apostles taught the virtues, and principally the virtue of humility, by the efficacy of their example. Nay, I repeat, Christ mounted these animals to condemn the riding of pope and cardinals, and of the inferior bishops too, who are wont to ride in superfluous pomp on war-horses decked out with gold and silk.
In the fourth place, these blind heretics argue, that Christ begged lodging and bread for his last supper in Jerusalem, which they rest on Matthew xxvi. But let these shameless heretics know that the words of the Gospel plainly condemn their heresy. For the words of Christ are—“Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.” Where it appears clearer than light that Christ speaks as Lord, and not as a mendicant. For as in Matthew xxi. this Lord taught his disciples, saying, “If any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them,” so he speaks in this instance as Lord and Master.—Let the heretic mark this consequence—“The Lord hath need of them,”—and it follows, “straightway they will let them go:”—therefore the Truth, uttering those words, begged the animals referred to; for in both these cases they attribute to Christ robbery of the poor. Christ, therefore, in addressing these words to his disciples, “Go into the city,” &c., and especially in giving fulfilment to those words in a manner consistent with justice, shows the extent of his dominion, because John, in the twelfth chapter, says, “Ye call me Master and Lord,” &c. Hence, according to the evangelical doctrine, Christ’s disciples dare not call themselves masters and lords, but servants of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let heretics, then, compare these three sayings of Christ; in the first place, how he enjoined upon his disciples, in general terms, that they were to go into a certain city, as if he had said,—By reason of the universality of my dominion, whatever I shall ask of any one in my name is provided by him. In the second place, they should mark the expression—“The Master saith;” for Christ who speaks is greater in station than any other man that can be named. Whence to denote the certainty of what he says, and to denote that teachers are worthy of their maintenance, he subjoins distinctly these words, “The Master saith,” &c. But let the same men mark the third expression also—“My time is at hand;” for other men whom Christ does not illuminate in so high a degree, withdraw their help even when they suppose their dearest friends are near death; so when Christ speaks with such certainty and authority, he shows that he makes it imperative on the part of that citizen to do as required. Therefore, to conclude, it is manifest to believers, that the Gospel, so far from teaching that Christ practised such mendicancy, condemns the custom as the height of heresy.
ON THE LETTERS OF THE FRATERNITIES.
You have argued with sufficient shrewdness in regard to this second blasphemy of the friars. But touch, I pray you, a little on a third—that relating to their letters of fraternity, for by that means the church is too commonly deceived.
I am willing to say of them in Latin what I have formerly expressed in English, but I am apprehensive that Pseudis will charge me with losing my labour in so doing, both because I often repeat the same doctrine, and also, since the malevolence of the friars increases, I am imprudent enough to speak of their last doings as worse than the former. Nevertheless, this is not the end, God willing, at which I aim. I suppose, on the contrary, that some friars, whom God shall see fit to teach, will be converted, and devoutly embrace the religion of Christ in its primitive purity; and abandoning their perfidy, shall seek or obtain freedom from Antichrist, and return of their own accord to the primeval religion of our Lord. And then, like Paul, they will build up the church.
But in proceeding to deal with these false letters of the friars, it is important to know something of their history; and this being understood, their simoniacal heresy will be immediately manifest, for they do not issue such rules except with the expectation of realising gain, and of giving strength to their unlawful confederacy. How then, I ask, can they be other in character than simoniacal heretics? In confirmation of this showing, when help is denied them as regards temporal things, or the defence of them, straightway they murmur. Beyond doubt, there is implied in this practice a fraudulent buying and selling; and it is equally certain that God must hate this hypocritical traffic.
The friars must also beware not to give occasion to the faithful to discover their fallacies, or to introduce unauthorised novelties, since they ought to know that Christ meant his church should be free from such things; and inasmuch as the friars do not thus act, they fraudulently diminish the liberty of the church of Christ. On many grounds it appears that the friars have fallen into a radical heresy, for they pretend expressly in these letters, that the individuals to whom they grant them, shall be made partakers of merits from themselves after death. But where can you find a more presumptuous blasphemy? For neither they themselves, nor the men with whom they carry on this traffic, can know, whether they may not be condemned in hell. How blind is their folly, then, in making assertions on a subject of which they know so little! But they have, it seems, such an innate tendency to falsehood, that they hesitate not to assert, contrary to eternal judgment, that they can do the things they cannot do.
Again, no man should be, by withdrawing his help, the means of another man’s damnation. But as the friars give us to understand in this matter, it is in their power to save both themselves and others from condemnation; so that supposing any man to be lost, they are to be blamed for withholding their assistance. For if they promise to another that after death he shall be a partaker of their merits, then they manifestly imply next, both that the man himself will after death be worthy of such participation, and that they themselves at present merit future happiness; because, if each party should be a foredoomed member of Satan, then such a granting must be beyond the power of these friars.
Moreover, the friars, by following the manner of the hypocrites, flatly condemn themselves herein; for according to the evangelical doctrine in Matt. vi., such alms should be given secretly, so that their right hand should not know what the left hand doth. But the friars, by the letters which they so assiduously display to the people, give plain indication that they say unto my people that they themselves are holy and grave men in the church, and, what is more than the sounding of a trumpet before them, they send forth letters to confirm the impression of their sanctity, which men are to preserve constantly in their chests.
Inasmuch, also, as it is among the provisions of all law, that no man should deceive his neighbour in any worldly matter, much more should he not so do in respect to spiritual things, concerning a man’s everlasting heritage. Since, therefore, those who trade in temporal goods require some security for their merchandise, much more is this requisite in so precious a commerce as that relating to the salvation of souls. But since the friars have no certainty in regard to themselves, of the blessings hoped for, they have spread on all sides childish fraud. Are we to believe that God will turn from his own course of justice, because such maniac concessions have been made by friars? I have heard indeed some madmen rave about temporal good, and secular dominion, but never did I hear any so horribly blaspheme as these men, in thus presuming themselves to be as God. Doctors have demonstrated, from the faith of Scripture, that no one can properly grant anything to another, except as God shall first have granted it: and it would follow therefore that whatever the friars grant men, God hath first granted; but since grants from God depend not on friars, nor on their seals and parchment, it appears a more than devilish presumption to affect to grant a share in the merits of men who themselves are hypocrites.
Many simple people, however, confide as much in these frivolous letters as in an article of faith like that of the communion of saints, or salvation by Jesus Christ. How then can such a heresy fail to place an occasion of falling in the way of the believer? Will a man shrink from acts of licentiousness and fraud, if he believes that soon after, by the aid of a little money bestowed on friars, an entire absolution from the crime he has committed may be obtained? Accordingly, this heresy is supposed to be the cause why the faith of the laity is found to be so wavering.
HOW THE FRIARS FALSELY SELL THEIR PRAYERS AND MERITS.
Since the subtle evasions of the friars are so many, I pray you strike at their root, that this evil may be altogether rooted out from the church; because I see clearly that the mendicants affect to dispense more of merit from their communion than they have power to bestow, or than they really possess.
I am pleased to find that you have formed such conceptions in regard to the errors of the false brethren; and you will see yet more to this effect in their crafty excuses and fraudulent replies. For they say, in the first place, though falsely, that it is true they cannot grant any one of these things to any one, unless it be supposed that he shall make himself worthy of it in the eyes of God: and, accordingly, they grant such things subject to the good pleasure of God. But let these heretics blush, and know that they cannot grant to any one that he should be as God, and that God should cease to be in order that the creature may come into the place of God. What can be more foolish?
In the second place, they say that the men to whom they make such grants are in many respects meritorious, because of the assistance they render to the friars. But, on the contrary, it appears to me probable that the men thus described are in many respects worthy of punishment more than of reward. In the first place, because they have become unstable in the faith, casting off the catholic belief for the sake of the frivolous falsehoods of these friars. Secondly, because men thus blind nourish friars, the disciples of Antichrist, and reject the poor, the blind, the halt, and the sick, to whom they ought, by the law of the Gospel, to be bountiful. And thirdly, because the hypocritical fraud of the friars destroys alike the one and the other; and accordingly, since the supposition should be on the side of the more certain and better part, we ought to suppose that the faith, religion, and ancient usage inculcated by Christ, is far preferable to the usage or religion of late brought in by the friars. Thus should we arrive at the supposition, that had all the friars been destroyed, or consigned to perdition, it would have been better for the church than it is now; and had no such letters ever been dispensed, and had men depended simply on the graciousness of Christ, it would have been better than at present. Accordingly, these absurdities which the friars chatter forth return on their own head.
Thirdly, the friars argue falsely, that as it is lawful for temporal lords to make free grants of the possessions which they hold, so it is allowable for them, possessing, as they do, a dominion quite as absolute over the stock of their merits, to make free grants from that source to whomsoever they will, and so to render such persons participant of their merits. This absurd analogy appears to have led Simonists to a trafficing with those possessions of the church which pass under the name of ecclesiastical benefices, but which are in fact malefices. But there is no just similarity between the two cases, so as to afford a plea to the friars in thus dispensing their merits, since merit of no kind may be possessed except by the special grace of God. In the case of a just man, accordingly, it is ridiculous to be told that the friars can communicate the nature of those works which they call merits; since, in truth, prayers, fastings, preachings, and the six works which friars commonly set forth in their letters, are not within their power, so that they can observe them, and communicate them to others as they please. And the merit remaining after these works, in the formal acceptation of the term merit, has no existence, except in the man to whom the works themselves properly belong. And so every man has his own merit or demerit.
If, therefore, it is not lawful for a man to commute any temporal possession without leave obtained from his chief lord, much more is it not lawful for friars to communicate their merits without special licence from the Lord of lords. But certain it is that God never grants licence of this nature unless there be worthiness in the person claiming such merit, in which view those who heap temporalities on the friars commonly make themselves unworthy, inasmuch as they often nourish and protect the enemies of Christ. If, therefore, God alone can impart virtues, so as not to abuse them by communicating them on wrong principles, God will distribute the principle of merit only according to what the person meriting shall have deserved from his own life. It is, therefore, a manifest blasphemy to presume, that any power which is not Divine can distribute merits according to pleasure.
But, in the fourth place, the friars argue from an analogy, as before, that the saints in heaven bestow on those who had formerly rendered them service in this life, good measures, pressed down, shaken together and running over, Luke vi.; and that, therefore, it should be lawful to friars to give to their benefactors in an inferior degree. But the saints bestow such good objectively, not subjectively or efficiently, like God, who, as it were, enters into the saints; and that is good measure, because it is a supernatural good.
In the fifth place, the friars argue by analogy, as before, and say that the popes distribute the merits of the saints in heaven, as appears in the matter of indulgences: and since the friars are the equals of the pope in respect to priesthood, it follows that they may distribute their own merits at their pleasure. But mark here, in the first place, how the friars accuse the popes; secondly, how they usurp equality with them; and thirdly, how they contend for superiority over them; for the popes do not grant such indulgences, except on the express condition that the men to whom they grant them have, in truth, confessed, and are contrite. But the friars make no mention of penitence as a condition. Yet we know that God cannot remove the guilt of the sinner unless he be truly contrite. What sect, then, is this, which raises itself so greatly above God, and above every vicar of God?
We have here touched on the subject of indulgences; and as the granting of these appears to me quite in accordance with this blasphemous presumption of the friars, I could wish that you would say something on this topic.
As the pride of those who hate God ever tends upward, so although the fountain head of heresy and sin takes its rise in the very beginning of darkness, the rivulet of the friars strives unnaturally to raise itself above its source. I confess that the indulgences of the pope, if they are what they are said to be, are a manifest blasphemy, inasmuch as he claims a power to save men almost without limit, and not only to mitigate the penalties of those who have sinned, by granting them the aid of absolutions and indulgences, that they may never come to purgatory, but to give command to the holy angels, that when the soul is separated from the body, they may carry it without delay to its everlasting rest.
The friars give a colour to this blasphemy, by saying that Christ is omnipotent, and excels all his good angels, and that the pope is his plenary vicar on earth, and so possesses in every thing the same power as Christ in his humanity. It is here that lawyers, in common with the friars, cry as wolves, and, contradicting themselves, say, that when they consider the power of this God upon earth they cannot lift up their face to heaven. Whence, to declare the power of the pope, the false brethren, according to the secrets of their faith, proceed as follows:
They suppose, in the first place, that there is an infinite number of supererogatory merits, belonging to the saints, laid up in heaven, and above all, the merit of our Lord Jesus Christ, which would be sufficient to save an infinite number of other worlds, and that, over all this treasure, Christ hath set the pope. Secondly, that it is his pleasure to distribute it, and, accordingly, he may distribute therefrom to an infinite extent, since the remainder will still be infinite. Against this rude blasphemy I have elsewhere inveighed. Neither the pope, nor the Lord Jesus Christ, can grant dispensations, or give indulgences to any man, except as the Deity has eternally determined by his just counsel. But we are not taught to believe that the pope, or any other man, can have any colour of justice to adduce for so doing; therefore, we are not taught that the pope has any such power.
Again, I inquire, concerning these supererogatory eternal merits, what member of the church is the subject of them? If in Christ and his members, it appears wonderful, on many accounts, that the pope should be able to subtract them from their proper subjects. First, because an accident cannot exist without a subject; secondly, because no one of them is in any need of it, their hour of probation being passed. In the third place, because he is rewarded fully, according to his own merit. How, therefore, can the pope, by such imaginary rapine, do both God and them an injury? Also, by a reductio ad impossibile, it is made plain, that if any mortal shall be finally condemned during the time of any pope, the pope himself will be guilty of his destruction, because he has neglected to save him; for he has power enough to accomplish the salvation of such a man, nor is there any obstacle in the way of his so doing, except, perhaps, his own sloth; and accordingly, for such sloth, he is to be blamed. But who can be equal to such a dispensation, except God alone? But since God may not recall the office, by reason of the absolute agreement which he has made therewith, it appears to unbelievers that as long as that office remains, the pope cannot err, or be condemned, inasmuch as his mind, like that of Christ, is not liable to sin. But where is there a greater blasphemy, than that by reason of the mere Cæsarean power, which is contrary to the law of Christ, Antichrist should be possessed of such authority? Whence it appears to many, that of all the sufferings endured by Christ from the hand of man, this is one of the greatest—the suffering arising from the permission given to Antichrist to reign so long, and so widely to deceive the people!
Moreover, it appears that this doctrine is a manifold blasphemy against Christ, inasmuch as the pope is extolled above his humanity and deity, and so above all that is called God,—pretensions which, according to the declarations of the apostle, agree with the character of Antichrist; for he possesses Cæsarean power above Christ, who had not where to lay his head. In regard to spiritual power, so far as the humanity of Christ is concerned, it would seem that the pope is superior to our Lord Jesus Christ; for it behoved Christ to suffer the most bitter passion for the salvation of man; and we believe, that on the ground of the Divine justice, men attain to whatever happiness may be theirs, by virtue of Christ’s passion. But this renegade says, that it is allowable, that he should live as luxuriously as he may choose, and that, by the bare writing of one of his scribes, he can introduce wonders, without limit, into the church militant! Who, then, can deny his being extolled above the Lord Jesus Christ, in whose life we read not that Christ, or any one of his apostles, granted such absolutions or indulgences? Yet had such power been at their command, it is on many grounds probable that they would not have been absolutely idle in the use of it, especially when Christ condemns the slothful servant, for not trafficing with the talent entrusted to him; and he requires at the hand of the prelate the souls committed to his care, and lost through his negligence, as appears from the third chapter of Ezekiel. Which alternative, then, should we maintain,—that Christ and his apostles possessed no such power, or that they were culpable in hoarding such treasure, in place of bringing it forth for the good of the church? But what greater insanity than to adopt such a conclusion!
Similar in its folly is the doctrine which teaches, that the pope dispenses these same merits of the saints, for the service of men, to any extent, according to his pleasure. For it behoves Christ to do more, both on his own part, to fulfil the claims of justice; and on that of the sinner, whom it becomes him to affect, imparting grace to him, that he may prove worthy of the Divine assistance.
The same may be said concerning the fiction of the keys of Antichrist, for it is not necessary that the believer should insist on the foundation of this pretension, since the argument will be found to be one without sequence. Christ, they say, granted to Peter, the apostle in the nearest degree following his own example, such power over the keys, and therefore we ought, in the same manner, to concede to Antichrist, who, in word and deed, is still more pre-eminently his opposite, as great, or even greater, power in the church! Christ gave to Peter, and to others possessing a knowledge of the law of God, power of judging according to the law of that knowledge, both in binding and loosing, agreeably to the church triumphant. But, now, this renegade will not be regulated by the mind of the church above, nor by any authority; but, as might be expected from Antichrist, he sets forth new laws, and insists, under pain of the heaviest censure, that the whole church militant shall believe in them; so that anything determined therein, shall stand as though it were a part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In such infinite blasphemies is the infatuated church involved, especially by the means of the tail of this dragon, that is the sects of the friars, who labour in the cause of this illusion, and of other Luciferian seductions of the church. But arise, O soldiers of Christ! be wise to fling away these things, along with the other fictions of the prince of darkness, and put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and confide, undoubtedly, in your own weapons, and sever from the church such frauds of Antichrist, and teach the people that in Christ alone, and in his law, and in his members, they should trust; that in so doing, they may be saved through his goodness, and learn above all things honestly to detect the devices of Antichrist!
HOW THE ORDERS OF FRIARS WERE INTRODUCED.
Inform me, brother, how these orders, which, according to your account, so greatly disturb the church, were introduced; for it appears to many of the people that they are the safety of the church, since in them, in a special degree, the life and poverty of Christ are retained; while the pope, the bishops, and other prelates have notoriously declined from that life. Four orders so numerous, and of such a character, must therefore, it is thought, have a stable foundation.
The matter you touch upon is in part historical, and since it has no authority from the law of Christ, some, among the many who have written upon it, have, without doubt, stated what is false. To me, however, it seems probable, that subsequent to the loosing of Satan, which took place after the first thousand years since the ascension of Christ, the church notoriously departed from the pattern of her Lord. Hence, holy and devout men, not wanting in prudence, endeavoured to revive in themselves the model which was thus lost. So Dominic, and Francis, and the other friars, began to do some things good in their nature, but through the art of the devil were made to rest on many hypocritical falsehoods. According to the common opinion, Dominic, seeing the corruption of the regular clergy, who, being too intent upon the world, had departed unreasonably from the discipline of the canons, founded the order of preaching friars. He was succeeded by Francis, who, though at first a cunning and covetous merchant, founded his order in a blind spirit of devotion, utterly devoid of prudence. And then other sects, seeing that antiquity carried great weight with it, laid false claim to an antiquity superior to that of these orders, and declared Augustine to be their founder, pretending that they lived four hundred years or more unknown in a desert place, before the introduction of the preaching friars. But the fourth sect (the Carmelites) go still further, and assert that they were founded before the incarnation of our Lord, on Mount Carmel, by Elias, in honour of the blessed Virgin Mary.
These fictions, false as the shape and colour of their habit, and every thread carrying a falsehood, show with what care and labour they follow the father of lies. These appear to be the apostates described by Solomon in the sixth chapter of Proverbs: “A wicked man walketh with a froward mouth: he winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers; frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord.” This I have elsewhere set forth in detail.
Some men, seeing the reins of falsehood thus thrown loose, pretend that these four saints had their beginning in Caym;a and thus the voice of his brethren, representing the malice of these friars, cries from the earth to the Lord: and, in fact, the four letters of this word Caym, are the initials of these four orders, in the succession in which the friars pretend they rose,—thus C denotes the Carmelites; A, the Augustines; I, the Jacobites (Dominicans); and M, the Minors.
But passing by these fictions, there are many things we must observe respecting these men as affecting the interests of the church militant. In the first place, that the order of the truly catholic religion which Christ instituted, transcends infinitely all these private orders; for as one patron is to another patron, so is one order to another; but Christ our patron infinitely exceeds the patrons of these orders, and therefore our order infinitely exceeds theirs. For this reason the holy apostle dared not introduce such sects, as appears from 1 Cor. i. and iii. Accordingly, although the friars may little relish the conclusion that our religion thus exceeds theirs, because then their own ought in reason to be destroyed, they stoutly maintain the confirmation of their order by the Roman court, and prove by such means, that a man may pass from a secular religion to the possessionate religious orders in their various gradations, and from these to the orders of the friars. From this it follows, that the orders of these sects are of the highest authority in the church, and thus spiritually elevated above all other orders whatsoever. If the man who favours, or mainly supports these orders, should be called their peculiar patron or founder, these four sects of mendicants should be called papal friars, rather than Dominican or Franciscan; for Dominic is said to have apostatised from his own altar, or he holds the rule of Augustine unchanged. Francis, again, is said to have compiled sermons so incongruous, that his disciples are ashamed to exhibit his rules. But it is particularly by collecting the rules of their sect from the popes, as jesters obtain their mantle, that these men give disposition to their order, which has been so often changed.
Concerning the two other sects, it appears still more plainly, that by often changing their customs, they have made but unsteady progress, like boats driven to and fro in a shoreless sea. This feeble attempt, then, to establish their orders is a failure, and accordingly we need not be surprised to find them deceiving the church. Hence, these friars, seeing the defective grounds of their institution, declare that they hold no other than the religion and ordinance of Christ, but that they hold that religion in far more perfection than we seculars, and so observe the law of Christ more perfectly.
But it is natural to ask them how it is that there should be four distinct orders of mendicants, or how it is that they ask the pope to confirm their orders and corrections? And since the novel institution, which they are so singular in observing, is no special ordinance or religion, they are asked why they retain it so pertinaciously, and in what consists its advantage, or what is still their special authority for it? Since according to Scripture, men may not introduce such unfounded novelties beyond the religion instituted by Christ, and they are bound to consider such orders as far inferior to that of Christ; inasmuch as Christ our Abbot is more worthy than their patron, our Gospel rule is far more perfect, and its company of saints militant far more noble—nay, if the excellence of an order be estimated by these marks, the military order far surpasses that of the friars.
Who, I ask, will find in this order of mendicants, such a collection of men as were in Greece in the holy Theban legion? The same is true of Mauritius and his comrades; and of the two hundred soldiers, who, in the time of Saint Catherine, followed Popherius; and so many bodies of soldiers in the world, who, in antiquity, authority, and sanctity, far exceed these orders of the mendicants.
The sort of reply proper to the argument with which we began on this subject, is now manifest, for what is assumed in this case is not valid; though hypocrites, by their false pretences, deceive and blind many men, giving attention to the surface of life, and not to the foundation of their order. They follow not the poverty of Christ, and his mode of life, since that best of masters would not be the holder of such sumptuous dwelling-places as belong to them, nor lay such a tax on the poor, nor collect together such thieves and plunderers as are the accomplices of Antichrist. But the patron of these men seems to influence them in this opposite direction. Nor is it any argument in their favour, that this patron himself hath appointed them the law, and given them the privilege to beg, since the blessed Clement forbade his people so to do.
IN WHAT RESPECT THE FRIARS ARE CONTRARY TO CHRIST.
The majority of men think that the friars, as they say mass, and preach and pray so much, are necessary to the holy mother church. Therefore, pray tell me wherein they are contrary to the law of Christ, because they are then doubtless heretics, and ought especially to be stoned by the clergy.a
It is evident that they do all these works merely for outward show; and because of the hidden malice within their hearts, they not only hurt themselves to a considerable extent, but also other people. Yet I do not deny, on the contrary I suppose, that there are some good men among them. As for the mass, it is evident, that if they are heretics in regard to first principles, in denying that the bread is the real body of Christ, and only an accident above their comprehension, then they sacrifice unto idols. It is further certain, that their saying mass is a sin unto them, even more than the sacrifices of the priests of Baal, and those of the worst kind among the idolatrous nations. And with regard to their preaching, the result shows its tendency to deteriorate the church, for they give all their attention to ritual, flattery, detraction, and falsehood, rejecting Scripture, and neglecting to rebuke sin.
Who can doubt that their frivolous mode of preaching is pernicious to the church, or that the same remark applies to their hypocritical prayers? For according to Gregory, when the man who is sent forth to intercede, is a person on his own account unacceptable, the anger of the offended party is only more provoked. But I shall now proceed to speak of the twelve abuses among the friars.
The first, is that blasphemous heresy among them, whereby they deceive the church in the sacrament of the altar, so that, as they have deviated from the faith of the Scriptures, there are now more than four heretical schisms among the four orders. And the fact that they hold opinions so diversified, is a manifest proof that their doctrines are erroneous. If, therefore, the knight-templars were dissolved on account of some erroneousness in their belief which is unknown to us, how much more should it be thus with these orders, on the ground of their well-known heresy! For they send annually many living souls into hell, to their master and patron the devil. I pass by the fact that they really kill many of their brethren. If we take, therefore, their whole occupation into consideration, it is evident that they are useless persons in the church; for the introduction of their heresy, as wanting in the authority of Scripture, can be of no value, except we concede to it importance ironically, as made up of subtle conclusions, by means of which they disturb the peace of the church. For they imagine that they devour daily the entire body of Christ in its very substance, and that they swallow it through their mouth in the same quantity in which it exists in heaven, because, as they say, the body of Christ is naturally entire as regards every particle of the accident which they so consecrate. Thus the friars, disseminating their falsehood, walk with a froward mouth; for they lie not only against those whom they hate, or those who do them a service, but concerning themselves and the Lord Jesus Christ. The truth of this is manifest in the history of many believers, who suffer with much humility under their falsehood, when they so blaspheme the Lord of lords. If therefore the retainer of a secular lord would be offended by the promulgation of a falsehood respecting that lord, much more ought every believer to testify his displeasure, when a blasphemy is circulated concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.
Such a friar, then, beyond doubt, winks with covetous eyes, full of many vices, and tramples down many seeds of virtues which would otherwise grow up in the church militant. Such an apostate has a mind stored to the full with lies, and contrives evil in his depraved heart to the damage of the church. And since nothing can be more to the occasion of strife in the church than the dissemination of such falsehood, it is plain that they constantly sow strife in the church, since they are thus wrapped up in lies, body and soul.
A second abuse of the friars is the crime of blasphemy, because they impute to Christ that he publicly begged of men, as the friars beg of the poor. The third abuse consists in the blasphemy of the letters of fraternity. The fourth abuse consists in their damnable assumptions of superiority over Christ, since Christ, who is the best and most powerful Master, had only twelve apostles, whom he sent into the world to preach the Gospel, after he had perfectly instructed them in the faith; while these gather themselves together, and steal many thousands of our youth into their convents, and preach a doctrine which is the sign of their father, by which, as above stated, they are bound for ever to the cloister. The fifth abuse is, the false pretence of the friars to be most like Christ in his poverty, and in the possession of temporalities, houses, incomes, and whatever of such things belong to them.
But certain it is, that herein they are guilty of a blasphemous falsehood against Christ; for Christ in his humanity never built any such a mansion, nay, it was repugnant to his state of innocence thus to heap together books, and money, and such things. The sixth abuse is their simoniacal accumulation of things temporal, by virtue of their office, as false preachers; for Christ taught his disciples, in the tenth of Matthew, since they had freely received from above the teaching which enabled them to preach the Gospel, and the power also of working miracles, that they should freely extend the benefit of such endowments to all who might be benefited by them, just as God and good angels bestow their gifts most freely. Thus these sealed commodities of the friars involve them in many ways in the guilt of simony and heresy.
OF THE OTHER SIX ABUSES OF THE FRIARS.
Pray, brother Phronesis, inform me of the other six abuses of the friars, as you have promised, for I do not clearly see how they can avoid the guilt you impute to them, without returning to the free law of Jesus Christ, inasmuch as their rule and religion, as it appears to me, compel them to the commission of the evils you condemn.
I am pleased to see that you discern so clearly the root of the malice which is in these men. But if you will advance a little further, you will behold the chains of Satan, and see in what numbers they are linked together.
The first of these six abuses is the burdensomeness with which they oppress believers, contrary to the teaching of Christ and of his apostles. Certain it is, that many thousands of friars, scattered throughout one small province, are covertly more burdensome to that province, than would be a thousand freebooters, who should publicly plunder it. For let it be granted, that there are in England four thousand such friars, and that every one of them annually consumes in his own person a hundred solidia of the goods of the realm, and the same amount in buildings, repairs, and decorations for their cloisters, and it is evident that this sect expends sixty thousand marks of the goods of the realm every year! But what English lord could afford to spend so much as is spent by these friars, who creep into the houses or chambers of the rich, and feast on delicacies? They consume too much of the goods of the realm, who thus obtain their food by robbery; for since their expenses do not fall upon themselves, it is plain that whatever temporal goods they have consumed in our realm belong to the realm. How, therefore, should the retainers of secular lords be other than so poor, and unable to pay them their dues so readily as before, while the friars receive so much from them every year?
In fact, the whole nation would have murmured loudly, if it had been taxed by the kingly power to such an amount, even for a large levy, or for the defence of the kingdom. And it appears wonderful to many, that so great a number of the disciples of Antichrist should thus cunningly subtract the goods of the realm, and obtain, with the consent of the people, a larger sum than the king could obtain in the same time for the defence of the kingdom. Let then the observant concerning the state of the people first consider how it is that the common people, who should give themselves to labour, are of a more feeble complexion, more infirm in health, and more short-lived than formerly. Heaven looks down more sadly on this condition of earthly things, disturbing the seasons, retarding and destroying in every direction the fruits of the earth. Beyond all this, those who serve demand a higher price, are more luxurious, and less trustworthy than they once were. Is not then this scourge, inflicted by God, a punishment sufficiently great for kingdoms, without the addition of a new infliction from the secret fraud of Antichrist? How then can it be said that they follow Christ and his apostles in life and doctrine, by sparing the church?
The second abuse of the friars is, that they shut themselves up, and despising, as we have shown above, the labour enjoined by Paul, live at ease. This appears to be the reason why there are so many more sterile tracts of country in England than in time past.
The third abuse of the friars is their preference of the frivolous inventions belonging to their order to the law and ordinance of Christ. This is a great crime, to the hurt of the church, since it is really no less than blasphemy, to make their own follies, which the devil hath invented, of more weight than the revealed will of Christ. For since the friars are limited in their powers of action and observation, as were also the apostles, it is plain, that in fulfilling in its purity the law and ordinance of Christ, they would be far better occupied than at present. This, therefore, is an inexcusable fault in them, that in letting go the evangelical ordinance they do blasphemously prefer the inventions which have proceeded from their own stupidity; as if they felt disgraced, and would blush to be found following Christ as their patron; and deserting the rule of Christ’s order, set up some liar or notorious delinquent in his room. But Christ saith, “He who shall be ashamed of me and my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed before the angels of God.”
The fourth abuse consists in their abandoning the law of the Gospel, concerning brotherly reproof, and faithlessly favouring the devil and the world. For when Christ saith, “Whosoever loveth father, or mother, or brother, or sister, or even his own life, more than me, he is not worthy of me;” the friars nevertheless, on account of their love of themselves, of a corrupt order, or from a regard for individuals, dare not rebuke their brethren, however manifestly they may have sinned against the Gospel; nor do they, on finding a man obstinate in sin, forsake him as a publican, as Christ enjoins, Matt. xviii. Yet they set up a rule, expressly for themselves, that the Gospel commands them, when the interests of their diabolical society are concerned, to correct, or, in the language of the church, to chastise their brethren, often shutting them up, contrary to the law of Christ, in a foul dungeon, and even secretly killing them. Since it is the same thing to love a person, and to love the commandment or law approved by that person, it is plain that the friars, in setting up their beggarly and leprous custom before the law of the Lord, prefer loving these wretched patrons to the love of Christ; where then, I ask, is the rule of charity among the friars?
The fifth abuse is seen in their entire subversion of the order of charity, and in their desiring honours and worldly wealth, more than men themselves; striving after worldly distinctions by such means, and mingling with the world, contrary to the law of Christ: “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life.” 2 Tim. ii. For if they flatter men for the sake of honours and worldly gains; are sparing in the inculcation of catholic truth, not setting forth the verity of the Gospel, without deceit, and this both in prosperity and adversity; who can doubt that they are secretly and imperceptibly descending to the infernal lake, as the consequence of looking to exaltation in the world? For the Gospel teaches us not to covet such mastery and preeminence; and that a man should not entangle himself with the affairs of this life. But if the friars act in direct opposition to these commands, and suffer no worldly business to be transacted without their taking part in it, on some pretence or other, who can doubt that the devil works in them, and by their instrumentality involves the whole world in his evil deeds?
The sixth and the worst abuse of the friars consists in their pretended confessions, by means of which they affect, with numberless artifices of blasphemy, that they can purify those whom they confess, and make them clean from all pollution in the eyes of God, through this assumed power of Antichrist,—setting aside the commandments and satisfaction of our Lord. Thus, in their eagerness to participate in the gain of their master the devil, they drag but too many down to hell. For if the conversation of the just is seen to be in heaven, by the uprightness of their rule of life, the contrary shows, beyond a doubt, that the conversation of these friars is in hell—so that they may be said not so much to send men to hell, as to drag them thither. And what is worst of all, they seduce to their ruin in spiritual things those of the people who rashly put faith in them.
SHOWING HOW THE FRIARS SEDUCE THE KINGDOMS THEY INHABIT.
In my opinion you have exposed the artifices of the false brethren satisfactorily, and without undue harshness; but describe more particularly the way in which they seduce the countries they inhabit; for it appears to me, that since they have not leave from their own sovereign to bring ruin on the place wherein they dwell, and do not recognise the king as liege lord of their temporal possessions, they have another lord, namely, Antichrist.
Methinks, in overlooking the pith of the matter,—the good of the soul, you may exert yourself unfaithfully about a merely temporal offscouring.a Yet I am certain that these sects of the friars carry on their machinations to the hurt and prejudice of kingdoms, as though it were their intent to destroy them. For it would amount to the same thing for the friars, if they should, without leave asked or obtained of their respective sovereigns, set up Antichrist, as lord over all the property they possess, both houses and moveables, and make him sovereign of the kingdoms they inhabit. Because, if some iniquitous Antichrist should chance to have under him more friars than a good pope, what is there, except the grace of God, and the strength of the kingdom, to hinder his seizing on the realm of England as his own? For it is said that he has in England treasure ample enough for that purpose. And, as the friars pretend, it would be altogether contrary to reason to put a check upon the power of such an one, so as to prevent his turning to his own purposes those possessions which are made his own by the occupation of the friars. Now this is only an artful introduction to prepare the way for a claim on all the residue of the kingdom.
The believer, therefore, should prudently counsel our sovereign to resist these insidious beginnings. This acting of Satan is seen more plainly in the fact, that the friars are aware that it is against the logic of Scripture they thus utter their falsehoods. For they pretend, in order to make an appearance of sanctity, that they can hold nothing, either as their own individually, or as common property—a ground they cannot defend with effect, unless they admit, at the same time, that they are heretics, and members of the devil—for it is certain, that as they have natural existence, and the goods of nature, so they have in possession many of the goods of fortune. Therefore, if they in truth are possessed of nothing themselves, and yet to so large an extent abuse the possession of others, then they must be plainly members of Satan, on the ground of their possessing, by the pretended grace of Christ, what belongs to others. But if they say that they possess nothing in particular, or in common, in a civil, but only in a gospel sense, it is then certain, cæteris paribus, that they imply the civil dominion of the pope, the vicar of Peter, and so that of Christ. And since it is allowable (as they say) for them to exercise dominion in whatever way Christ in his humanity exercised dominion, it is allowable for them to exercise civil dominion. But why do they impose on the vicar of Peter, and so on Peter himself, such dominion, when neither Peter nor Christ could, in such circumstances, exercise such dominion? Are we to believe that these friars excel Christ, that they thus set Antichrist over kingdoms, and make him lord of lords? If then these friars in words only exclude themselves from this dominion, and confer the thing itself on their father, who they say is next to Christ, of necessity they must either blaspheme Christ, or assert that, in so doing, they subject their father to a spiritual stain and poison.
But leaving this ancient archery,a which we pass by because of its folly, it appears that the friars have in general intoxicated the kingdom, particularly since the year of our Lord 1072, and especially in their own recent council, held in the time of the earthquake in London.b For it is credibly reported, and the friars maintain and defend their conduct in this particular, that the more artful among them, and the heads of these orders, by their common council, so successfully drew over many bishops, as to induce them to agree to what implied that our Lord Jesus Christ, and many of his saints now in the highest blessedness, died heretics. Into a greater blasphemy these heretics could not have precipitated themselves. Previously, our bishops are said to have hated the false brethren as they hated Satan, when in the time of the lord bishop of Armagh, we are told they defended that prelate in his controversy with these false orders. But now Herod and Pilate, who were before at variance, are made friends. From this I predict two consequences. First, that inasmuch as this alliance is not founded on the law of our Lord Jesus Christ, it will not stand, but come to an end, to the hurt of one party or the other, since the Christian can have no profitable fellowship with Belial. Secondly, I predict that our bishops and nobles must either desert the doctrines of these false brethren herein, or be involved with them in heresy. For in their first article the friars have determined (as in opposition to heresy) that no part of the substance of the material bread or wine remains after consecration in the sacrament of the altar. Opposed to this (say they) is the manifest heresy—for heresy it is—that the accidents do not remain without the subject, after consecration in this same sacrament. Although I have determined that out of the schools I will not use these terms,—the substance of the material bread or wine, yet my faith compels me to admit the convertibility of the terms in this proposition; for as St. Jerome saith—the bread which Christ took in his hands and brake, is the body of the Lord our Saviour. But I ask, what was that bread? Was it the substance of material bread, or something else unknown? When therefore Christ said that this bread was his body, and these friars deny the same as the height of heresy, it is plain, that, as far as in them lies, they condemn Christ as the worst of heretics. Now since the conditions of such condemnation make it necessary that the party condemning should be the heretical one, it follows plainly, since Christ could not possibly be a heretic, that this sect of the friars is utterly heretical, either in express terms, or by tacit consent. Again, the substance of the body of Christ remains after consecration in the sacrament of the altar, as it behoves the friars to believe; and wheresoever is the substance of the body of Christ, there is the most general genus of substance, and therefore the thing itself remains, after consecration in the sacrament of the altar. And since the thing itself is the substance and quiddity of every special substance whatsoever, it follows, that it is the substance of any material bread or wine whatever; and thus the folly of the condemnation they pronounce is manifest. For it is not inconsistent with this sacrament, that a crumb of material bread, or a drop of wine, should be received within the pores of this venerable sacrament. Again, as we have often observed, if, according to the definition of these blasphemers, there be in this sacrament an accident without a subject, they should admit that this accident is the sacrament itself; and since an accident cannot be the body of the Lord, they are shut up to the conclusion that the sacrament itself cannot be the body of the Lord. Since Christ says, “This is my body,” and displays the bread, as is shown above, it follows that these heretics, in being so expressly contrary to Christ, are blasphemers. Hence it is that many of the faithful devoutly believe, that, as in that other condemnation of Christ by the priests of the old law, (which was less to be reprobated) so in this condemnation of him, there was an unusual shaking of the earth, to expose the deficiency of human testimony against such guilt; for when the members of Christ fail to exclaim against such idiot heretics, the very earth cries out.a My advice, then, to our bishops, and our seculars, without exception, is, that they expel such men, since these devils would fain seduce by their heresy others who stand firm in the faith.
OF THE FRAUD AND MALICE OF THE FRIARS
You have said enough on this subject; you would oblige me, therefore, by proceeding to handle another topic.
The whole body of the faithful should be earnest, both in word and work, for the exposure of this evil, and faithful catholics should destroy it, even to the death, considering, according to the ancient doctrine, that there are three laws to be attended to herein, namely, the law of Christ and his members, the law of the world and of worldly men, and the law of the devil and his sons. The law and practice of the first principle is to return good for evil; the law and practice of the second is to return good for good, and evil for evil; but the law of the third principle, contrary to the law of God, is systematically to return evil for good. Accordingly, these sons of Belial, inasmuch as they so injuriously instruct the bishops and other believers, as a return for the benefits conferred upon them, show themselves manifestly to be devils. Thus it would have been better for them, ere they fell into such idiotic heresies, carefully to have considered what that sacrament is, and what is referred to by the pronoun in the sacramental proposition. But herein their father has bound up his intimations on this subject.
Since, therefore, in this council held on the occasion of the earthquake, they condemned Christ as a heretic, together with the principal doctors of the church, for a thousand years and more approved by the church, it is manifest that they include individual Christians under their sentence of heresy. In the second place, they labour specially, in this same council, to condemn the king of England, his nobles, and realm, as heretics, and by consequence to dispossess all these lords, and bring into England, Robert Gilbonensis, with his knot of heretical friars. As a means to this end, they artfully assume that it is a most perilous error to assert that temporal lords may at their discretion deprive a delinquent church of temporal possessions, and that subjects may at their discretion correct delinquent lords. Although this second particular is an invention of the friars, they labour assiduously to establish it by sophistry. God, I say, can teach the people so to do—his power is not so weak, but that he could move the people to such a course of conduct; therefore it is possible for subjects to do so. The very persons now subjects, may, by the event of war, and a thousand other chances, become the most powerful of conquerors; while, on the other side, temporal lords may become the most wretched of beggars. How then can it be denied that subjects may inflict correction on guilty lords? Since the commonalty are the creatures of God, as well as friars, and possess in common more efficient words of exhortation, why may they not themselves, with the help of God’s grace, rebuke and correct temporal lords? Are the friars desirous of so hardening the lords, that since they themselves are prevented by their father from correcting these lords, and rather make them worse, therefore all their subjects should be compelled to give the poison of the devil to these lords, just as the friars do? Accordingly I have said elsewhere, as to the first part of this doctrine, that the lords temporal have power granted them by God (as appears from Rom. xiii.) to chastise ecclesiastics. It would be a strange thing if lords temporal should have power to change the life of ecclesiastics, by depriving it of its conformity to the poverty of Christ, and not have power to chastise the folly of their delinquency against God?
But supposing the truth of the first part of the conclusion condemned by the friars, and leaving them the solution of that threefold argument with which in their folly they have incumbered the former truth, let us ascertain further in what way they determine that this error is so dangerous. They appear to decide thus without pertinency concerning the whole copulative proposition, unless they have detected error and danger in both parts, and, consequently, have ascertained that both are false. And since temporal lords have commonly to do with the first part, as a matter affecting the safety of their soul, and inasmuch as the supposition of the friars makes such doing an error, they teach herein by implication, that their lords are in this respect commonly guilty of ill-doing: such exercise of power being at the hazard of their soul, and to the hurt of the commonwealth, and peculiar to the sovereignty of the king, it is manifest that the friars impute this error to the king, and to all who assist him in such doing. And since all truth is contained in Holy Writ, this supposed error, which they describe as a falsehood, must of necessity be contrary to some part of Holy Scripture, at least by implication. And since it is so obstinately defended, it is manifest that the friars ought to declare this error an heretical one, and thus pronounce the king and his nobles, in so defending it, to be heretics. In this manner does the folly of these friars, which they account as great prudence, break forth; because, in a matter of faith, they stigmatise one kind of falsity as erroneous, and another as heretical, while the one is as obstinately defended as the other. Let these foolish disciples of Antichrist know, that every dangerous error in a matter of faith is so much clear heresy. Let them know, in the second place, that they cannot refute, and, by consequence, cannot condemn, the first part of this conclusion, which pertains to the regalia of the sovereign; nay, a careful study of their own principles would have taught them not to deny that temporal lords should be suffered to inflict punishment in such cases. But it is supposed that the friars conceive that there is much danger in conceding such corrective power to them, because in that case they would be loosened from their relation to Satan, and cut off from that brotherhood in which the friars are united with the sons of Belial. This is the result which the friars apprehend as dangerous. It plainly appears, then, in what manner the friars aim treacherously to destroy secular dominion, the king’s prerogative, and the whole kingdom.
In what relates to gain, though it may savour of manifest heresy, these men labour without ceasing. But, by the grace of God, the counsel of Ahithophel is brought to nought; for, as members of Satan, the thing which they thought would serve them, they have turned to their own injury both in body and soul: since their diabolical fraud is made the more manifest in every direction by their malice. And especially in this, that they have laboured assiduously, both in London and in Lincoln, to effect the destruction of true priests and poor men, mainly in revenge for their having charitably exposed their artifices to the people. In my opinion, God will not rest until he has inflicted a full penalty on this iniquity. For they say that they follow Christ, especially in his manner of life; but how can Christ, who loved and prayed for his enemies, endeavour to effect the destruction of those faithful men, just because they labour in charity of spirit to be of service to his members? In such conduct, therefore, the friars manifestly show their parentage, and how they endeavour to fulfil the commands of their father, by returning evil for good. Of a truth, of all the sins I have ever marked in the friars, this appears to me, on many grounds, the most iniquitous, for it has proceeded entirely from the unanimous consent and counsel of the friars. With regard to a man seizing the wife of another, and other such sins which men commit, they are of moderate guilt compared with this conduct.
WHETHER TEMPORAL LORDS MAY AND SHOULD ASSIST AND DEFEND THEIR PEOPLE AGAINST THE FRIARS.
It appears to me that you have exposed the malicious proceedings of the mendicants with sufficient clearness. But tell me, I pray you, whether temporal lords have the power, and are bound to assist and defend the humbler members of the church, consisting of their tenants and the common people, against the friars. To me it appears certain that the friars are heretics, for I see not in what way they can more openly condemn Christ and individual Christians, as heretics, than by condemning this article in their council as heretical,—viz. that special prayers, offered by prelates or the religious for an individual, are of no more benefit to that individual than general prayers, other things being equal. For we believe, on the faith and authority of Christ, that the Lord’s prayer in the sixth of Matthew, is far superior to any special prayer; and so we believe in consequence, that this prayer, devoutly poured forth for the people, does them more service than any prayer which friars or prelates can utter, or have invented, in later times. Is not a supplication, made through Christ, better than the blasphemous supplication which the friars pretend to offer in behalf of such as are willing to give them money? And since the blessed, as the litany leads us to believe, pray for the church militant, it is to be supposed that the prayers of those blessed spirits are far more to be desired by us than the prayers of these friars or prelates. And inasmuch as the blessed, after the manner of Christ, love the people more than any private person, and cannot be turned aside by any such impure influence, it appears to me sufficiently plain that their general prayers avail the church militant more than the special prayers of the friars; for the friars cannot presume to extol themselves above the saints. In this their unbelief, therefore, it appears to me that the friars have condemned, as much as in them lies, both Christ and all the citizens of heaven, and, in consequence, the whole church militant, which sets more value on the Lord’s prayer than on these special prayers and frivolous inventions of the mendicants.
I am pleased to find that you expose this undoubted heresy by so shrewd a scrutiny of the conduct of the friars. Nor do I doubt that the decision to which you refer savours of manifest heresy. And the reason why this heresy has thus shot up is obvious; for the friars, by means of such prayers, delude the people as regards God, and despoil them as regards the world. Hence it is that they so greatly magnify these prayers; and that their doctrine may possess the greater weight, and be less open to suspicion of selfish views, they unite themselves with the other religious orders and the bishops. But Christ, and the saints in heaven, these fraudulent personages have forgotten.
On giving further attention to the question you propose, I do not hesitate to affirm, that the temporal lords are bound to assist the humbler members of the church against these false brethren, just as they are bound to defend themselves against the clerks possessioners, as I have before said; for God could not receive from his subject, or confer anything upon him, without the return of a greater blessing. How, then, is it allowable for prelates or lords to receive anything from their subjects, without affording them, in their assistance, an equivalent recompense? For they ought, as far as possible, to follow Christ; but in this respect the false prophets, and all the vicars of Antichrist, boast, diabolically, that they are more free, as regards those subject to them, than is Christ himself. In fact, I see not in what way any one could be a secular tyrant, except by exercising tyranny in the withdrawing or withholding of such assistance; for it is not possible that Christ should withdraw assistance and defence for his people: and how then can these men be said to follow God, who refuse to assist and defend their dependants against their greatest enemy? I do not hesitate to affirm, that a just defence of these men would conduce to the worldly prosperity, the merit, and the everlasting glory of such temporal lords. But if temporal lords are bound to protect their dependants against thieves, robbers, and marauders, yea, and against public enemies, invading the realm in which they dwell, much more are they so bound against false brethren, inasmuch as the evils to be feared in the latter case are the greater. The friars should be especially opposed in that respect, in which they more directly oppose themselves to Christ, and in which temporal lords might, with most ease, moderate the abuse. For there is no necessity, and I do not advise it, that they should fight with, or kill the friars; but this I certainly do advise,—that men should not foster them in their temporal possessions, under the false pretence of alms, because they will thus, without doubt, occasion the condemnation both of the offenders and themselves. Lords, then, will do well to call to mind, how weighty is their own share of guilt, even though they make not themselves partakers with these hypocrites in their crimes, inasmuch as, according to the Gospel, it is most dangerous thus to have their lot with these deceivers. If it be urged that the temporal lords ought to put faith in them, as in the more holy members of the church militant, I reply with the apostle, that they should not too readily believe every spirit, but should try them, whether they be of God, which a secular man may easily do, since he might easily demand from a friar, on the testimony of his whole sect, under their common seal, what the sacred host is; whereupon, when the friar utters a falsehood, as in such case he is compelled to do, it follows, that having convicted the friar of falsehood, in a matter of faith, he ought wholly to reject him as a man not to be trusted. For they have decreed in their general council, as have their doctors, ever since the time when they first stole their way into Christianity, that this consecrated host is an accident without a subject—in fact, without anything; but if this is the thing they consecrate, they make their heresy obvious at once to the aforesaid lord, since they ought not only to assert, in consequence, that this host cannot be bread, but that it cannot even be the body of Christ.
As I am confident that all the friars in the world cannot show any man, no nor even themselves, what this accident without a subject is, which they thus consecrate and worship, let these lords consider that psalm, wherein the Holy Spirit, through the sainted David, declares that they shall dwell as members in the tabernacle of the church militant, and shall rest after awhile in the church triumphant, on the hill of the church triumphant. In them, the following conditions are fulfilled by reason of their order. First, that they should enter, without spot, on their allotted state of warfare; herein the friars and all simonists are manifestly found wanting. In the second place, that the pilgrim, after his entrance on the state, should carefully execute justice; and among other acts of justice, that of rendering his neighbour spiritual aid is one of the principal, since it is the one work of mercy obligatory on all men. Thirdly, that he be true not in word only, but in thought, as one who speaks truth in his heart; and fourthly, that his tongue be not deceitful in outward conversation. In the fifth place, that he do no wrong to his neighbour, by withholding bodily, or the more important spiritual aid. Sixthly, that he should not receive or believe calumnies uttered against others, whatever be the nature of the accusation; herein those who do not receive calumnies against their neighbours, are such as do not foster such as are in the habit of detraction; and since this is a sin of which the friars are in general guilty, all believers should beware, lest they become partakers with them in such guilt. In the seventh place, this lord, or faithful Christian, whoever he may be, is acquainted with the times, and aware that he should, as far as requisite, bring to nought every malignant in his convent;a for in doing the things he does, that man is a traitor to God. In the eighth place, he should duly extol and honour his brother, who doeth justice fearlessly and constantly, and who hath a filial fear of God.
Now let not the friars longer declare us wanting in charity, because we take up such language against these sects, for Christ, I am certain, was not wanting in charity; and yet he himself, as appears in Matt. xxiii., rebuked the sect of the Pharisees with the utmost sharpness, and not only imprecated upon them an eightfold woe or prophecy, but brought about its effectual fulfilment against them. For Christ, to magnify his own sect, which he purposed to make sufficient in himself, resolved to destroy all those sects of a private religion,—the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. And hence Christ, through his apostle, in Titus i., thus teaches us to love ourselves: “There are,” saith he, “many unruly and vain talkers, and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision; whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.” It follows, for this reason, then, that as many as are sound in the faith, should severely rebuke them. I have no doubt but that our private religious, in their unbelief, put as high a value on their own adulterous signs, as on the fruit of the faith set forth in the Gospel commandments. Nor doubt I, but that they are, systematically, vain talkers, seducers of the simple people. These men are wedded to their signs, as the unbelievers, at the time of the introduction of the law of grace, were wedded to their circumcision. I am sure, too, that these friars subvert both the temporal and spiritual houses of the temporal lords, teaching things apocryphal and ridiculous, for the sake of gain. Therefore, since their mouths must be stopped, they ought, according to the apostolic command, to be sternly refuted; and since they fluctuate so greatly in their faith, we ought to endeavour, by our rebukes, to establish them in it. If we slothfully refrain from doing these things, we fail to exercise Christian charity towards the church, nay, towards these sects themselves,—in my view, a damnable neglect, and an open betrayal of the ordinance of Christ.
A TREATISE OF JOHN WYCLIFFE
The following Treatise “Against the Orders of Begging Friars,” and the next, intitled “A Complaint to the King and Parliament,” were printed in Oxford in 1608, edited by Dr. James; and they are now reprinted from that volume.
AGAINST THE ORDERS OF FRIARS.
FRIARS’ ORDERS PERFECTER THAN CHRIST’S.
Firstfriars say, that their religion, founded of sinful men, is more perfect than that religion or order the which Christ himself made, that is both God and man. For they say, that each bishop and priest may lawfully leave their first dignity, and after be a friar; but when he is once a friar, he may in no manner leave that, and live as a bishop, or a priest, by the form of the Gospel. But this heresy says, that Christ lacked wit, might, or charity, to teach apostles and his disciples the best religion. But what man may suffer this foul heresy to be put on Jesus Christ? Christian men say, that the religion and order that Christ made for his disciples and priests is most perfect, most easy, and most siker.a Most perfect, for this reason, for the patron or founder thereof is most perfect, for he is very God and very man, that of most wit, and most charity, gave this religion to his dear worth friends. Also the rule thereof is most perfect, sinceb the Gospel in his freedom, without error of man, is rule of this religion. Also knightsc of this religion be most holy, and most perfect. For Jesus Christ and his apostles be chief knights thereof, and after them, holy martyrs and confessors. It is most easy and light; for Christ himself says, that “his yoke is soft, and his charge is light,” since it stands all in love and freedom of heart, and bids nothing but reasonable thing, and profitable for the keeper thereof. It is most siker;a for it is confirmed of God, and not of sinful men, and no man may destroy it, or dispense there against; but if the pope, or any man, shall be saved, he must be confirmed thereby, and else he shall be damned. But men say, that other new orders and rules be nought worth but if they be confirmed of the pope, and other sinful men, and then they be not worth but if they be confirmed of the devil, and in case the pope shall be damned, for then he is a devil, as the Gospel says of Judas; and thus men say, that Christ’s religion, in his own cleanness and freedom, is more perfect than any sinful man’s religion, by as much as Christ is more perfect than is any sinful man. And if new religious say, that they keep all that Christ’s religion bids, they spare the soth,b for they lack the freedom and measure of Christ’s religion, and be bound to errors of sinful men, and thereby be lettedc to profit to Christian men’s souls, and not suffered to teach freely God’s law, nor keep it in themselves. For by the first and mostd commandment of God, they be holden to love God of all their heart, and all their life, of all their mind, and all their strength, and their neighbours as themselves; but who may do more than this? then may no man keep more than Christ’s religion bids. And so if this new religion of friars be more perfect than Christ’s religion, then, if friars keep well this religion, they be more perfect than Christ’s apostles, and else they be apostates; and if men be apostates, they leave the better order, and take another less perfect. And the order of Christ in his cleanness and freedom is most perfect, and so it seems that all these friars be apostates.
FRIARS HINDER THE FREE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL.
Also friars say, plainly, that it is apostasy and heresy for a priest to live as Christ ordained a priest to live by form of the Gospel. For if there be any friar that is a priest, cunning in God’s law, and able to travel to sow God’s word among the people; if he do this office freely, going from country to country, where he may most profit, and cease not, for prior nor any other satrap,a and charge not singular habit, and beg not, but be paid with common meat and drink, as Christ and his apostles were, they will pursue him as apostate, and draw him to prison and say, that he is cursed for this deed. For if this free going about, and free preaching, is lawful to such a friar, since it is ensampled and commanded of Christ, and not to be closed in a cloister, as it were Caym’sb castle; and so friars should be needed to leave this living of cloister, and feigned obedience, by singular profession, and to dwell among the people to whom they may most profit ghostly. For charity should drive friars to come out amongst the people, and leave Caym’s castle, that be so needless and chargeousc to the people; since they cannot occupy themselves so well in such solitary life and contemplation, as couthend Christ and John Baptist. And to this same Christ ordained all his apostles and disciples, to live an open good life, in meekness and wilful poverty, and discreet penance, to teach busily his Gospel to the people, and not to be closed in great cloisters, and costly as Caym’s castles. And it seems an open doing of Antichrist, not to suffer priests freely to do this office of Christ, but need them, upon pain of prisoning, to be ruled in this, after the will of a simple idiot, and, in case, a damned devil of hell; and so there leaves no means to hold these sects together; but if it be this blasphemy to prison a man for as much as he does after the will of God. And thus this new profession is harmful for many skilles.e For it is not ensampled of Christ, nor any of his apostles, and so taught us all that was needful and profitable. Also this profession serves of nought; but if it be to make fools do more after the errors of sinful men, than after the commandment of God; for by virtue of Christ’s teaching, each man is holden to do after each other, inasmuch as he teacheth Christ’s commandment or counsel, and more may no man bind another. Also Christ gave his disciples power of each work, that turns to profit of their souls, and help of other men; and this freedom is lettedf by this profession made to sinful men, and, in case, to fiends of hell. But here men will not destroy friars, nor flee them, nor curse them, but destroy their errors, and save the persons, and bring them to that living that Christ ordained priests to live in; for that is algatsg the best, to the most worship of God, to most profit of holy church, and to friars also. But what man should not help thereto upon all his power, wit, and will?
A MAN ONCE PROFESSED TO THEIR RELIGION MAY NEVER LEAVE IT.
Also friars say, that if a man be once professed to their religion, he may never leave it, and be saved; though he be never so unable thereto, for all the time of his life; and they will need him to live in such a state ever more, to which God makes him ever unable; and so need him to be damned. Alas! out on such heresy, that man’s ordinance is holden to be stronger than is the ordinance of God. For if a man enter into the new religion against man’s ordinance, he may lawfully forsake it; but if he enter against God’s ordinance, when God makes him unable thereto, he shall not be suffered by Antichrist’s power to leave it. And if this reason were well declared, since no man wotea which man is able to this new religion by God’s donee,b and which is not able, no man should be constrained to hold forth this new sect: and thus this new religion may not last, but if it be by this blasphemy to constrain a man unable by God’s doneeb to hold this new sect, and suffer him not to come to freedom of Christ’s order.
NO PREACHING WITHOUT LICENCE OF THEIR SOVEREIGN, HOW BAD SOEVER.
Also friars say, if a man be professed to their holy order, he shall not preach freely and generally the Gospel of Christian men, without licence of his sovereign, for virtue of obedience, be his sovereign never so cursed a man of life, and uncunningc of God’s law, and enemy to Christian men’s souls, and, in case, a foul devil of hell; though this man professed having received of God never so much cunning of God’s law, and power, and will to work after this cunning—and so this man shall needs be damned for misspending of God’s treasure. For since God’s law says, that he is out of charity that helps not his brother with bodily alms, if he may be in his need; much more is he out of charity that helps not his brother’s soul with teaching of God’s law, when he sees him run to hell, yea, by ignorance. And thus to magnify and maintain these rotten sects, they nedena a man by hypocrisy, false teaching, and strong pains, to break God’s hests,b and leasec charity. Out on this false heresy, and tyranny of Antichrist, that men be needed strongly to keep more his laws, and obey more to them than to Christ’s commandments ever rightful!
THE LAWFULNESS OF BEGGING MAINTAINED BY FRIARS.
Also friars say and maintain that begging is lawful, the which is damned both in the Old Testament and in the New. For in the fifth book of Holy Writ, God says to his people, Algatsda needy man and beggar shall not be amongst you. Also the Holy Ghost taught Solomon to pray these two things of God: God make vanity and leasingewords far from me, and give not to me begging or beggingness: but give only things that beenefneedfull for my livelode;ginanterhlest I fulfilled be drawn to renaye, and say, Who is the Lord? as who say, I know no Lord: and lest I be compelled, and made of force by neediness to steal and to forswear the name of my God. Also the wise man says, It is a wicked or wayward life, to seek these berowghifrom house to house; and he shall not do trustily, there he shall be harboured, and he shall not open his mouth. Also Christ bids his apostles and disciples, that they should not bear a satchel, nor scrip, but look what meyneskis able to hear the Gospel, and eat and drink therein, and pass not thence, and not pass from house to house. Luke ix. x. Also S. Paul laboured or travailed with his hands for him, and for men that were with him, (Acts Apostles), and coveted neither gold, nor silver, nor clothes, of men that he taught, to give other teachers ensample to do the same in time of need; and S. Peter fished after Christ’s resurrection. (John xxi.) Also S. Paul bids that men that will live in idleness and curiosity, and not travail, should not eat. (2 Thess.) Also S. Clement ordained that Christians should not beg openly. And for to put away this begging, S. Austin makes two books how monks ought to travail with their hands for their livehode.a And the same teaches Benet to his monks, and S. Bernard to his friars. And Jerome says, that monks should travail with their hands, not only for need, but rather to exclude idleness and vanity. For in state of innocency God ordained man to travail, and afterward in the state of sin, God gave this labour to man for his penance. Then since each open begging is thus sharply damned in Holy Writ, it is a foul error to maintain it; but it is more error to say that Christ was such a beggar; for then he must have been contrary to his own law: but it is most error to continue in this damned begging, and rob thus against charity the poor people, and make them to believe that Christ was such a beggar, and that this begging is well done.
FRIARS DRAW ALL ALMS FROM POOR AND NEEDY MEN, TO MAINTENANCE OF THEIR SINFUL AND SUPERFLUOUS ORDER.
Also friars say, that it is needful to leave the commandment of Christ, of giving alms to poor feeble men, to poor crooked men, to poor blind men, and to bed-ridden men, and give alms to hypocrites, that fain them holy and needy, when they be strong in body, and have over much riches, both in great waste houses, and precious clothes, in great feasts and many jewels and treasure; and thus they slay poor men with their false begging, since they take falsely from their worldly goods, by which they should sustain their bodily life, and deceive rich men in their alms, and maintain or comfort them to live in falseness against Jesus Christ. For since there were poor men enough to take men’s alms, before that friars came in, and the earth is now more barren than it was, our friars or poor men moughtb want of this alms: but friars, by subtle hypocrisy get to themselves and letc the poor men to have this alms.
TRADITIONS OF FRIARS PREFERRED BEFORE CHRIST’S COMMANDMENTS.
Also friars charge more breaking of their own traditions, than the breaking of the commandments of God. For a friar shall more be punished for breaking of one of them, than for breaking of God’s hests.a For breaking of God’s hests is not charged of them, and in this they show how they love their own worship more than God’s, and thus they take to themselves the worship that is appropriate to God, and so be blasphemers and heretics, and so they charge more their bodily habit than charity and other virtues. For if a friar leave bodily habit to the which he is not bound by God’s law, he is holden apostate, and sharply pursued, sometime to prison, and sometime to the death, although he serve better God without his habit, than therein: but though he trespass against charity by impatiency, and false leasings, or pride, or covetousness, it is little or nought charged; but rather praised, if it bring them worldly muck.
FRIARS GREAT HYPOCRITES, AS POOR AS CHRIST IN SHOW, AS SUMPTUOUS AS LORDS AND PRELATES IN DEED.
Also friars feign them as hypocrites, to keep straitly the Gospel and poverty of Christ and his apostles; and yet they are most contrary to Christ and his apostles, in hypocrisy, pride, and covetousness. For they show more holiness in bodily habit, and other signs, than did Christ and his apostles, and for their singular habit or holiness, they presume to be even with prelates and lords, and more worthy than other clerks; and in covetousness they can never make an end, but by begging, by queething,a by burying, by salaries, and trentals,b and by shriving,c by absolutions and other false means, cry ever after worldly goods, where Christ used none of all these; and thus for this stinking covetousness, they worship the fiend as their God.
THEIR STEALING OF CHILDREN AND ENTICING OF THEM TO THEIR ORDER.
Also friars draw children from Christ’s religion into their private order, by hypocrisy, leasings,d and stealing. For they tell that their order is more holy than any other, and that they shall have higher degree in bliss, than other men that be not therein, and say that men of their order shall never come to hell, but shall deeme other men with Christ at dooms-day: and so they steal children from father and mother, sometimes such as be unable to the order, and sometimes such as should sustain their father and mother by commandment of God. And thus they be blasphemers, taking upon them full counsel in doutousef things, that be not expressly commanded nor forbidden in Holy Writ; since such counsel is appropriedg to the Holy Ghost. And thus they be therefore cursed of God, as the Pharisees were cursed of Christ, to whom he says thus: Woe be to you, scribes and Pharisees, that be writers of law, and men of singular religion, that compass about the water and the land to make a man of your religion, and when he is made of your religion, ye make him double more a child of hell. And since he that steals an ox or a cow is damnable by God’s law and man’s also: much more he that steals a man’s child, that is better than all earthly goods, and draws him to the less perfect order. And though this singular order were more perfect than Christ’s, yet he wrote never whether it be to damnation of the child, for he wot not to what state God hath ordained him, and so blindly they did against Christ’s ordinance.
CURATES DEFRAUDED OF THEIR DUTIES BY MEANS OF FRIARS.
Also friars, for pride and covetousness, draw from curates their office and sacraments, in which lie winninga or worship, and so make dissension betwixt curates and their ghostly children. Friars draw to them confession and burying of rich men by many subtil means, and masspence, and trentals;b but they will not come to poor men’s dirge, nor receive them to be buried amongst them. And they cry fast that they have more power in confession than other curates; for they may shrivec all that come to them. But curates may no farther than their own parishes. But curates say, that since they shall answer before God for the souls of their sogettis,d they will know their life; and friars say it is no need, for they have more power than the curate; and thus dissension and hate is made betwixt curates and their children, and pride and covetousness of friars is cause of all this and many other sins: and thus, for they make discord among Christian men, they be hated and cursed of God Almighty.
FRIARS COME IN UNDER THE NAME OF SAINTS, AND FORSAKE THE RULE.
Also friars come in under the name of saints, and forsake the saints’ rule, and live and put their own errors to the saints; and so slander both them and God. For if men speak of Francis, he used and taught much meekness, poverty, and penance: and Minors now use the contrary. For they make statutes of their own will, and them they keep fast, and make men to weene that Francis made them. But preachers say that Dominic founded them, and then he kept Austin’s rule, since he was a canon before; for else he was apostate, if Austin’s rule were good. But Austin would algatsa sueb the apostles’ living, and preachers do even the contrary. And friar Austin’s founded then on Austin the great doctor; but his rule speaks not of friars, and so they be grounded on leasings,c for they have no patron saint. And of the Carmesd know men neither founder nor rule, and so the friars that have founders do against their founders’ teaching, and Christ’s also, and colour their own wicked laws under name of these saints, and so be grounded on leasings, and slander their patrons and Christ also. And other friars that have no patrons live after themselves, and put their errors on saints, and so slander them and Christ; and so hypocrisy reigns, and sin is maintained by colour of holiness.
PERSECUTION OF TRUE PRIESTS BY FALSE FRIARS.
Also friars pursue true priests, and lettene them to preach the Gospel, notwithstanding that Christ enjoined priesthood and preaching of the Gospel, and so they depart that thing that God joined together, and so (as much as in them is) they foredenef God’s ordinance, and so they harm Christian men more cruelly than the sultan of Saracens, for they be near and more malicious. For since Christ charges all his priests to preach truly the Gospel, and they pursue them for this deed, yea to the fire, they will slay priests, for they do God’s bidding, and therefore they be man-slayers, and irregular, and cursed of God. For they letteng his people to be saved, and so need them to be damned. And since the principal point and end of Christ’s dying and his passion, was to save man’s soul, and the principal work of Satan is to leeseh man’s soul, they be traitors to Christ, and angels of Satan transformed into angels of light, and cruel traitors of all men.
CAPPED FRIARS SERVED AS LORDS OR KINGS AT TABLE.
Also capped friars, that be called masters of divinity, have their chamber and service as lords or kings, and send out idiots full of covetousness, to preach not the Gospel, but chronicles, fables, and leesings,a to please the people, and to rob them. Ab what cursedness is this, to a dead man, as to the world, and pride and vanity thereof, to get him a cap of masterdom by prayer of lords, and great gifts, and making of huge feasts, of a hundred and many hundred pounds, and then be idle from teaching of God’s law; but if it be seldom before lords and ladies, or great gatherings, for name of the world, and then to leave their poverty and simpleness that he is bound to, and devour poor men’s alms in waste, and feasting of lords and great men, and so give slander to his brother, and other men to live in pride and covetousness, gluttony and idleness, and leave the service of God as though they were exempt from all gods; and yet forfendingc of these covetous fools, that become limitors, go much simony, envy, and much foul merchandise; and who can best rob the poor people by false begging, and other deceits, shall have this Judas’ office; and so a nest of Antichrist’s clerks is maintained by subtle cautelesd of the fiend.
GREAT FLATTERERS OF THE PEOPLE, NEITHER REPROVING NOR REMOVING THEIR SINS FROM AMONG THEM.
Also friars show not to the people their great sins stably, as God bids, and namely to mighty men of the world, but flatter them, and glozen,e and nourish them in sin. And since it is the office of a preacher to show men their foul sins and pains therefore, and friars take this office, and do it not, they be cause of damnation of the people. For in this they be foul traitors to God and ekea to the people, and they be nurses of the fiend of hell. For by flattering and false behestsb they let men live in their lusts, and comfort them therein, and sometimes they pursue other true preachers, for they will not glozec mighty men, and comfort them in their sins, but will sharply tell them the sothe;d and thus mighty men hire by great costs a false traitor, to lead them to hell. And ensample men may take how friars suffer mighty men, from year to year, to live in avowtrie,e and covetousness, and extortious doing, and many other sins. And when men be hardened in such great sins, and will not amend them, friars should flee their homely company; but they do not thus, lest they lose worldly friendship, favour, or winning; and thus for the money they sell men’s souls to Satan.
HOW MUCH AND HOW OFT THEY DECEIVE AND COZEN THE LAY PEOPLE BY THEIR LETTERS OF FRATERNITY.
Also friars, by letters of fraternity, deceive the people in faith, rob them of temporal goods, and make the people to trust more in dead parchment, sealed with leasings,f and in vain prayers of hypocrites, that in case be damned devils, than in the help of God, and in their own good living. Commonly these letters be powdered with hypocrisy, covetousness, simony, blasphemy, and other leasings.f With hypocrisy; for therein be told without end many good deeds, and sometimes be false, and more to show them holy to get worldly goods, than to save men’s souls. With covetousness; for they do this to win the penny, for a poor man that may not give them, be he never so true to God, shall not have them; but a rich, be he never so cursed, shall have such letters; and weansg that he is sickerh enough thereby, do he never so much wrong to poor men. With simony; for they sell this supernal good for temporal goods, and that unskilfully for such chaffering and granting of letters was never ensampled of Christ, nor his apostles, and yet they loved best men’s souls. With blasphemy; for these sinful wretches take upon them the dealing of good deeds, but this thing is appropriate to God, and so they be blasphemers; for they pass bishops, popes, and ekea God himself. For they grant no pardon, but if men be contrite and shriven,b and of merit of Christ’s passion, and other saints, but friars make no mention neither of contrition, nor shrift;c nor of merit of Christ’s passion, but only of their own good deeds. And so Christ grants to no sinful man continuing in his sin such part; but friars grant rather to cursed men for worship or winning than to good poor men. And thus falsely they pass Christ. For Christ would not grant to his cousins part of his kingdom, but if they would suffer passion as Christ did; but friars will make men heirs in the bliss of heaven, since they grant men part of their good deeds after this life, and they may not have their part, but if they should be saved. But Christian belief teaches, that all men in charity be procurers by grant of God of all meedfuld deeds. Why then grant friars this part, for they will have property of ghostly goods where no property may be, and leave property of worldly goods where Christian men may have property? And thus they teach the people that it is more meedfuld to give such hypocrites bodily alms, than to give it to poor needy men after the Gospel. And thus they deceive the people in belief, and rob them of temporal goods, and make them too reckless of their own good living for trust of these false letters.
FRIARS PERVERT THE RIGHT FAITH OF THE SACRAMENT OF THE ALTAR, BY MAKING IT TO BE AN ACCIDENT WITHOUT SUBJECT.
Also friars pervert the right faith of the sacrament of the altar, and bring in a new heresy. For when Christ says that the bread that he brake and blessed is his body, they say it is an accident without subject, or nought. And when Holy Writ says openly that this sacrament is bread that we break, and God’s body; they say that it is neither bread, nor God’s body, but accident without subject, and nought. And thus they leave Holy Writ, and take new heresy on Christ and his apostles, and on Austin, Jerome, Ambrose, Isidore, and other saints, and the court of Rome, and all true Christ-men, that hold the faith of the Gospel. For Christ says, that “This bread is my body.” And St. Paul says, The bread that we break is the communication of the Lord’s body; and St. Austin says, that that thing that we see is bread; but as to faith fully taught, the bread is Christ’s body. Ambrose says that thing that is bread, shall be Christ’s body. Jerome says, that that bread which Christ brake and gave to his disciples, is the body of our Saviour; for Christ says, “This is my body.” Berengary, by approving of the court of Rome, says thus: “I acknowledge with heart and with mouth, that the bread that is laid on the altar is not only the sacrament but very Christ’s body.” Ah, Lord! what hardy devil durst teach these friars to deny thus openly Holy Writ, and all these saints, and the court of Rome, and all true Christian men, and to find this heresy, that this sacred host is accident without subject or nought? Since this is not taught openly in Holy Writ, and reason and wit is against this, and Austin in three or four great books says expressly, that none accident may be without subject; and all wise philosophers accord here with Austin; Lord, what would move Christ all-mighty, all-witty, and well willing, to hide this belief of friars by a thousand years, and never to teach his apostles, and so many saints the right belief; but to teach first these hypocrites, that come never into the church, till the foul fiend Satan was unbound? Hereby should all Christian men know the friars’ heresy, and not receive them into their houses, before that they confessed under their general seal, the right belief of Christian men, and had forsaken their old heresy.
THEIR EXCESS IN BUILDING OF GREAT CHURCHES AND COSTLY HOUSES AND CLOISTERS.
Also friars build many great churches, and costly waste houses and cloisters, as it were castles, and that without need, where thorough parish churches, and common ways be paired, and in many places undone. And so they teach in deed that men should have heritage and dwelling city in earth, and forget heaven against St. Paul. For by this new housing of friars, though it rain on the altar of the parish church, the blind people are so deceived, that they will rather give to waste houses of friars than to parish churches, or to common ways, though men, cattle, and beasts, be perished therein. Before that friars came in, there were more people, and the earth more plenteous, and there were churches enough. What skilla is it now to make so much cost in new building, and let old parish churches fall down? And if men say that in these great churches God is fair served; certesb great houses make not men holy, and only by holiness is God well served. For in heaven that was so fair Lucifer served God untruly, and so did Adam in paradise. And Jesus says, that the great temple of Jerusalem, that was a house of prayer, and sometimes God’s house, was made a den of thieves, for covetous preachers dwelt therein. But Job served God full well on the dunghill, and so did Adam out of paradise, and Christ before when he prayed in hills and deserts, and baptized eke.c And therefore Christ and his apostles made no great churches nor cloisters; but went from country to country, preaching the Gospel and teaching men to do their alms to poor men, and not to waste houses. For Christ taught men to pray in spirit and truth, that is in good-will, and devotion, and holy living. And to destroy this hypocrisy, he ordained the temple of Jerusalem should be destroyed for sin done therein.
FRIARS TEACHING THE VOW OF OBEDIENCE CONTRARY TO GOD’S LAW.
Friars also destroy obedience of God’s law, and magnify singular obedience made to sinful men, and in case to devils, which obedience Christ ensampled never, neither in himself nor in his apostles. For by teaching of St. Paul, each man ought to be subject to other in the dread of Christ, that is, inasmuch as he teaches them God’s will, and no man should obey more to any man. And ever the more that a man were, the more should he thus meekd himself, as Christ did, to all his apostles. But friars tell nought by this obedience; but if they make singular profession to sinful fools, that many times teach and command them against God’s will, and say that in such things as be not expressly commanded, nor forfendede in God’s law, they should algatsf do after their sovereigns; yea, though it be unwittingly against God’s will: and since it is appropriedg to the Holy Ghost to give full counsel in such points, they make their sinful priars even with the Holy Ghost. And where they should be governed in such doubtyh points by the Holy Ghost, they leave his counsel and ruling many times and take them to the ruling of a sinful fool, and in case a damned fiend in hell. And thus they leave obedience that Christ taught and ensampled as imperfect and not sufficient, and praise more feigned obedience to sinful fools, that they take of their own presumption, as if such fools had found more perfect obedience than ever did Christ, God and man.
HOW THEY FORSAKE THE PERFECTION OF THEIR ORDER FOR WORLDLY RESPECTS.
Also friars forsake perfection of their order for worship of the world, and covetousness, and be not suffered to take the freedom of the Gospel for to preach God’s word to the people. For friars be made bishops, yea, many times by simony, and swear strongly to go and preach and convert heathen men, and leave this ghostly office, and be suffragans in England and rob men by extortions, as in punishing of sin for money, and suffering men to lie in sin, from year to year, for an annual rent; and so in hallowing of churches and churchyards and altars; and commonly all other sacraments for money. And thus these friars bishops live commonly ever after in simony, pride, and robbery, and thus they be exempt by Caiaphas’ bishopric from all good observances of God’s law, and of their own order, and be free to live in sin, and to rob our land and envenom it with many cursings. And so they bear out first the gold of our land to aliens, and sometimes to our enemies, to get of Antichrist this false exemption, and ever after live in robbing of poor men, and maintain much sin, cursing, and simony, that is passing heresy. And other bishops of them that have dioceses in this land, forsake poverty, and penance, and obedience: for they look to be masters of all friars of that order in this land, and to live in pride, lusts of their flesh, idleness, and spoiling of the people, more subtilly than other. And thus a friar shall dwell in courts of lords and ladies to be their confessor, and not displease them for nothing, though they live in never so cursed sins, for to live in his lusts and to get falsely muck to Antichrist’s convent, and leta poor men of their alms, and thereto he shall have leave and commandment upon virtue of obedience: but he shall no leave have to go generally about in the world, and preach truly the Gospel without begging, and live an open, poor, and just life as Christ and his apostles did. For this were destroying of their feigned order; and therefore they love more pride, covetousness, and lusts of their own flesh, than the worship of God and healea of man’s soul. And thus they make sacrifice to Lucifer, to mammon, and to their own stinking belly.
THEIR ROTTEN HABIT ESTEEMED ABOVE CHRIST’S BODY.
Also friars praise more their rotten habit, than the worshipful body of our Lord Jesus Christ. For they teach lords, and namely ladies, that if they die in Francis’ habit they shall never come in hell for virtue thereof; and certesb this is an open heresy damning all that trust thus into their lives’ end. But a man may have the sacrament of the altar, and that is very God’s body, in his mouth, and straight flee to hell without end; and the more be damned for the evil taking of this sacrament. Such heretics be unable to be amongst Christian men.
FRIARS BEG WITHOUT NEED, WHEN THE POOR WANT, WITHOUT REMORSE.
Also friars beg without need for their own rich sect, and not for their poor bed-ridden men that may not go and have no man to send for their lifelode;c but rather draw rich men’s alms from such poor men. And therefore charity is outlawed among them, and so is God: and leasings,d and covetousness and fiends be inhabited among them; for they deceive men in their alms to make costly houses, not to harbour poor men, but lords and mighty men; and teach men to suffer God’s temple, that be poor men, to perish for default; and thus they be traitors to God, and his rich people whom they deceive in their alms, and manquellersa of poor men, whose lifelode they take away from them by false leasings, and therefore they be irregular before God, and despise him, and harm the people when they say mass or matins in this cursed life, as Holy Writ teaches, and Austin and Gregory declare fully.
FRIARS REPROVE NOT THEIR BRETHREN AS THE GOSPEL WILLETH, BUT AS THEMSELVES WILL.
Friars also keep not correptionb of the Gospel against their brethren that trespass, but cruelly doom them to painful prison; but this is not the meek suingc of Jesus Christ; for he and his apostles imprisoned not sinful men in this life, but sharply reproved their sin, and at the last, when they would not amend them, taught good men not to commune with them. But these friars show their tyranny at the full: who so knew well their pains and torments: and it seems no wisdom, nor profit, to give friars power to prison men. For when the king by his officers prisons a man, that is commonly done for great and open trespass, and that is good warning to other misdoers, and some profit comes of the king’s ministers; but when friars prison their brethren, the pain is not known to men, though the sin were never so open and slanderous, and that does harm to other liege men, and profit of king’s ministers is away. And when the potestatesd of friars be proud, covetous, and sinful, and hate the truth, they will soon prison true men that reprove their sins, and spare other shrewse that they may flatter them and maintain them in their sin; and so beside the king’s leave torment true men, for they would do God’s hests:f and since the king grants occasion thereto, the king is holden to revoke and letgfriars prisoning, lest he be guilty of the sin that comes thereby, since he may destroy it, and does not: and thus did beggars friars leap up to king’s power, and many times more than the kings dare do, and make the king the fiend’s tormentor to prison true men, for they say the truth. And so the king stops God’s law to be known in his land, and nourishes evil men, and prisons good. For this dread and many more should the king revoke this prisoning, and make clerks be ruled after the Gospel by simpleness and holy living.
FRIARS LAWLESS BEGGING THE KING AND THE MIGHTY ONES OF THE LAND TO MAINTAIN THEIR SECT, BEGGING THEIR ALMS, AND BEGGARING THE WHOLE LAND.
Also friars make our land lawless; for they lead clerks and namely rule prelates, and lords, and ladies, and commons also; and they be not ruled by God’s law, nor laws of the church, nor laws of the king. For they glozea God’s law as they like, and be exempt from bishops and other ordinaries, and lead the bishops of Rome as they like. And men say they be not liege men to the king, nor subject to his laws. For though they steal men’s children, it is said there goes no law upon them, and that seems well; for they rob the king’s liege men by false begging of sixty thousand marks by year, as men doubt reasonably, and yet they be not punished therefore. And the lawless friars, by their false ruling, make our land lawless; for they letb clerks, lords, and commons, to know the truth of Holy Writ, and make them to pursue true men to the death, for they teach the commandments of God, and cry to the people the foul sins of false friars. And thus falseness is maintained, and false men be raised to great estates, and truth is put on back, and true men be pursued, yea to prisoning, to loss of all their goods, and to sharp judgment, for as much as they would destroy sin that was openly and cursedly done, and in point for to foredoc our land. And of this ruling be friars most guilty, for they lead prelates, lords, and ladies, justices, and other men by confession, and tell them not speedily their sins. For if they tell them their sins, and they would not amend them, the friars that be their confessors should lead them up as Christ and Paul teach; but they do not thus, for then they should leesed winning and favour of the world. And thus for love of money and welfare of their body, they lead our land out of the law of God and all righteousness.
FRIARS NO PEACE-MAKERS, BUT MAKE-BATES, STRIVERS THEMSELVES, AND STIRRERS UP OF OTHERS TO WARS AND DISSENSIONS.
Also friars be irregular procurators of the fiend, to make and maintain wars on Christian men, and enemies of peace and charity. For friars counsel and openly preach that men should flee to heaven without pain, if they would go and slay in their own person, or maintain and find one at their cost, to slay Christian men. And the end was to make Christ’s vicar most rich to the world; the which vicar should be most poor, suinga in this most highly Christ and his apostles: but Christ died to make peace and charity, and if men might thus freely grant pardon, they should, yea to leeseb their own life, grant pardon to make peace. Yet they preach not pardon nor meedc to make peace and charity; and yet they be bound of God to make men sikerd to have the bliss of heaven if they will truly procure for peace and charity. But of the pardon that men used to gain from the court of Rome, they have no sikernesse by Holy Writ, nor reason, nor ensample of Christ, of his apostles. And so of other wars and debates that friars might let,f if they would; and since they do not, but rather counsel thereto, and comfort men therein, and tell not the perils of them, they be cause and procurators of all wars, and specially of this war in Flanders; for they preached that and had it forth against the king, the duke, and other lords and clerks, and sharply pursued priests that stood by charity, and profit of the realm. And so they were then above the king, lords, and true priests, and robbed the king’s liege men by false leasingsg of many thousand pounds, that though the king should now be taken, and our land now conquered or destroyed, the king might not raise so much to help himself and his land. And certesh there was treason to God and the king, and false deceit of all men, both of cattle and of fowl, and lettingi and destroying of peace and of charity.
JUDAS’S CHILDREN SELLING CHRIST, AND ALL FOR MONEY.
Friars also be Iscariot’s children, betraying true men of the Gospel, and so Christ for money; and for money they send souls to Satan, by example of their evil living, by counsel to wars, and nourishing and comforting men in sin, for lusts of their flesh. For in pleasing of bishops and other men, they preach against poverty of Christ, and say that preachers of the Gospel and Christ’s life be heretics, worthy to be burned. And so for gifts of bishops and other men, and worldly favour, they sell truth of the Gospel, and so Christ, as Judas did. For St. Bede and St. Ambrose say, since Christ is truth, he that for money says falseness and leaves the sooth,a does such sin as Judas did; and so they counsel to wars, for they win much thereby; and for default of charity they send souls to hell, when men by their counsel take false wars, and end in them, weeningb that they do well, and therefore die without sorrow of them. And for to heart men in this cursed warring, they go with them into war, and be their confessors, and sometimes slay men in their own person; and thus they be Antichrist’s martyrs, and flee to hell, to draw other men thither after them:
THEY SLANDER TRUE PRIESTS, AND FLATTER WICKED MEN.
Also friars destroy this world most of all cursed men; for they backbite good clerks, and say that they distourblec the world, and flatter evil clerks in their sin: and so they praise lords that be tyrants, extortioners, and evil livers; and ladies also. And they despise lords and ladies that be given to leave pride and vanity of the world; and say it was not merry sithend lords and ladies took reward to the Gospel; and left their ancestors’ manners, that were worshipful to the world. And so of rich men and other, they praise them that bring them much money, with wrong and many deceits, and say that they be holy: but other men that give not friars much more than enough, they lack at the full, though they do their alms much better to their poor neighbours. And since God says that evil teachers be cause of destruction of the people, and Grosted declares it well, and friars be principal evil teachers, they be principal cause of destroying of this world. For they be confessors, preachers, and rulers commonly of all men; and they teach them not their foul sins, and perils of them; but suffer them in their sins, for winning of stinking muck, and lusts of their own belly, that is foul worms’ meat, and a sack of dirt.
FRIARS MOST IMPATIENT OF ALL MEN LIVING IN BEARING REPROOF.
Also friars be most rebel against the teaching of Christ’s Gospel, and most out of patience and pity; for they be most impatient against reproving sin, and destroying thereof. For a lord will more meekly suffer sharp despising of his little sin, than they will suffer meek and soft reproving of their great heresies. For they be wooda that men’s alms should be rightly parted among poor needy men, feeble, crooked, and blind; for then they say they be undone; but they be of vain religion, as St. James says: For this is a clean religion, without spot anentisbGod the Father, to visit the fatherless and motherless children, and widows in their tribulation, and to keep a man unfouled from this world, that is, from pride, covetousness, and vanities. But friars do all the contrary; for they visit rich men, and by hypocrisy get falsely their alms, and withdraw it from poor men; but they visit rich widows for their muck, and make them to be buried at the friars’; but poor men come in not there. And wilful poverty they forsake, and most covetous of all men, and boast more of their holiness, and be most dislanyc of their vain speech and worldly, and as true men tell. Friars say apertly,d If the king, and lords, and other men, stand thus against their false begging, and will not suffer friars to rob their tenants, but give their alms to their poor neighbours, friars will go out of the land, and come again with bright heads. And look whether this be treason or none.
THE HOLY SCRIPTURES ACCUSED BY THESE UNHOLY MEN OF FALSEHOOD.
Also friars teach and maintain, that Holy Writ is false; and so they put falseness upon our Lord Jesus Christ, and on the Holy Ghost, and on all the blessed Trinity. For since God Almighty taught, confirms, and maintains Holy Writ, if this writing be false, then God is false, and maintainer of error and falseness; but certesa then he is no God: yet know we never that any sect would say that laws of their God were false, and therewith believe on the same God: but this despite do these blasphemers to the Holy Trinity. Alas! who may suffer this blasphemy, that Christ, in whom is all treasure of wit, wisdom, and truth, could not, or would not, say true words and sentence; but sinful fools have true manner of speaking, contrary to the speech of our Lord Jesus Christ? For if this be, sinful fools, yea in case devils of hell, be wiser and truer than is Jesus Christ. And when this cursed ground is sought, it stands in this error,—For I am master of vanity and of heresy, misunderstand the words of God, therefore they be false. But these heretics should know, that it suesb of their cursed ground, that God is the most false thing in earth or heaven or in hell! Why? for men falsely understand most falseness of him. And thus might each pagan or Saracen make our God false, as he liked. But why say they that Holy Writ is false? for they be wont so much to leasingsc and falseness, that they take falseness for truth. As men say, a man may so long be nourished little and little by venom, that he weensd it be wholesome, meet, and good. Also Holy Writ damns their foul hypocrisy, begging covetousness, and other sins, and therefore they say that it is false, to colour by their falseness. Also Holy Writ praises much Christ’s religion, and tells how new sects, full of hypocrisy and covetousness, shall come and deceive Christian men, and bids them know them by their covetousness and hypocrisy; and therefore they say, as Satan’s clerks, that Holy Writ is false.
HOW STRONGLY WEDDED TO THEIR ROTTEN HABIT.
Friars also be stronglier wedded with their rotten habit against the freedom of the Gospel, than the husband is with his wife by ordinance of God. For the husband may lawfully be absent from his wife by a month, a half-year, and sometimes seven years, and by common consent of them both, by all their life; but if a friar be out of his rotten habit, yea an hour, he is apostate, though he love more God, and serve him better, and profit more to Christian men. And they put more holiness in their rotten habit than ever did Christ or his apostles in their clothes. For Christ was thrice on a day out of his clothes, and yet he was not apostate. But they charge so much this rotten habit, for thereby the people weena that they be holy, and give them more dirt than is needful or profitable. And therefore each party draws another to hell. So friars, for their false taking of alms when no need is, nor have they leave of God’s law thereto, blind the people; for they draw their alms from their poor and needy neighbours, where they should do it by the hestb of God, and maintain friars in their false begging, hypocrisy, and other sins many.
THE POPE’S DISPENSATION, OR COMMANDMENT OF THE SUPERIOR, MORE REGARDED THAN CHRIST’S COMMANDMENT.
Also friars teach that it is not lawful to a priest or any other man to keep the Gospel in his bounds and cleanness, without error of sinful men, but if he have leave thereto of Antichrist. And thus they say it is not lawful to a Christian man to do God’s commandment, but if a fiend give them leave thereto: as if the leave and commandment of God be not enough thereto. For they say that a priest that has bound himself to errors of sinful men by new profession, may not go to the freedom of the Gospel, and live thereafter as Christ taught priests, but if they have the dispensation of the pope. And I suppose that he be Judas, and shall be damned, then he is a devil, as Christ says: and then it is plain, since this priest may not keep the Gospel in his freedom without his leave, and he is in this case a devil, then a priest may not keep the commandments of God without leave of a fiend. But for to get this leave, is our gold given to aliens, and sometimes our enemies; and yet the priest shall be bound commonly to the rotten habit, and be exempt from goodness, and bold in sin.
THEIR USURY, SIMONY, COVETOUSNESS, EXTORTION, RAPINE, AND THEFT.
Also friars be receita and a swallow of simony, of usury, of extortions, of ravines,b and of theft, and a nest or hoard of mammon’s treasure. For though men live in simony, they will not counsel them, and charge them in shriftc to resign their benefice, but comfort them to hold it still, and bring them much dirt thereof, and they will undertake for their sin. And so of usurers they charge them not speedily to make restitution, but rather colour this sin to be partner of this winning; and so of other robbery, they receive it privily, and so maintain and colour thefts in their theft, where other liege men should be punished therefore, and so they be more covetous than the wicked Jews that bought Christ; for they would not take the money of Judas and do it to their money nor treasure, for it was the price of Christ’s blood; for Christ was sold and trayedd to death for that money. But friars will receive money gotten by as great sins or more, to make great houses and great feasts to lords, and not buy a field to bury in pilgrims as the Jews did; but rather lay it up in their treasure, to maintain wrongs against their curates and other poor men, by false plea at Rome, and merchandise in England.
FRIARS CANNOT ENDURE TO HEAR OF CHRIST’S POVERTY PREACHED.
Friars also cry loud that poor priests be heretics; for they teach by God’s law how clerks should keep wilful poverty and Christ’s Gospel, and the kings and the lords owena to compel them thereto. And thus they damn Holy Writ, and the king’s regalie.b For since poor priests have taught both in English and in Latin, how many open laws both in the Old Testament and in the New, forfendc all priests and deacons to have secular lordship, and these laws be confirmed by Christ’s life and his apostles, and friars say that this is heresy, they damn openly Holy Writ: and since the king’s regalie asks by old statute, that the king may in many in case take temporalties from clerks, and friars say that this taking is error against God’s law, they damn this rightful regalie of our king, and also our kings and lords, as heretics, if they maintain this rightful law to stable peace of our realm. And since by God’s law the office of the king and lords is to praise, reward, and maintain good and rightful men, and to chastise sharply wicked men, and constrain clerks to hold the state that Christ put them in, and algatesd wilful poverty: friars say if the king and lords do their office of God’s law, that they be foul heretics. But why should the king maintain in his land such traitors both to God and him, and cruel enemies of all Christian men?
FRIARS LIKE THIEVES COMING INTO THE CHURCH BY THE WINDOW, NOT BY THE DOOR.
Also friars be thieves, both night thieves and day thieves, entering into the church, not by the door, that is Christ. For without authority of God, they make new religions of errors of sinful men, and yet they make worse rules ever the longer that they last, and they seek not meekly the worship of God, and profit of Christian men’s souls; and this thing they must do, if they come in by Christ; but they choose, and find a new order less perfect and profitable, than is that that Christ made himself; and so they make division in priesthood against the commandment of God; and since they be not grounded on Christ and his law, they must needs be drawn up, and the ordinance of Christ must stand in his cleanness and perfection.
BIND THEIR NOVICES TO IMPOSSIBLE THINGS.
Also friars, by hypocrisy, bind them to impossible things, that they may not do; for they bind them over the commandments of God, as they say themselves, but they may do no more than the commandment of God; for God bids, in his most commandment, that thou shalt love the Lord thy God, of all thy heart, of all thy mind, and of all thy strength and mights; but who may do more than this? No man. Then they bind them to more than they may do; and since it is not counsel of Christ, to make singular profession to a sinful idiot, and in case a devil, and they bid them to such one, that they do over the counsel of Christ; but all that is over the counsel of Christ is algatsa evil, since Christ counsels to each good things; and thus may blind fools blind them to the high counsels of Christ, that cannot keep the least commandment: but see hypocrisy of them; since each counsel of Christ is commandment for some time, and some circumstances, how bind they them to more than the commandments? Not by the counsels, for they be commandments; but they feign this, to draw young children into their rotten habit, and other fools that know not the perfection of Christ’s order.
THE NECESSITY AND MULTITUDE OF THEIR VAIN AND CHANGEABLE CEREMONIES.
Friars also be worse heretics than were Jews, that would keep ceremonies of the old law with freedom of Christ’s Gospel. For the Jews kept reasonable laws made of God, and meedfula for time, that God ordained them; but friars keep new laws, feigned of errors of men, more than God ordained in the old law, and more uncertain; for to-day this law is holden among them, and to-morrow destroyed; but this uncertain was not God’s law, and these laws of friars be more against the Gospel. For the laws of the Old Testament were figure of Christ’s coming and passion, and led men to the Gospel; but new laws of friars be not such figure, and letb men to hold freedom of the Gospel. Ah, Lord, since good laws, ordained of God, must need cease for freedom of the Gospel, much more must evil laws, ordained of error, of sinful men, and worldly, cease, and letb not men to keep the Gospel in his freedom.
FRIARS RETURN EVIL FOR GOOD.
Also friars be adversaries of Christ, and disciples of Satan; not yielding good for evil, as God’s law teaches; nor good for good, as kind and man’s law teaches; but yielding evil for good, as the fiend’s law teaches. For they cast and imagine the death of true men, that desire and travail to deliver them from the fiend’s mouth, and everlasting death, and to bring them to that state in which Christ ordained priests to live in. And they proffer friars this condition, if they will teach by Holy Writ or reason, that friars order and living is best for priests, they will gladly be professed to the friars’ order; and if priests may teach, both by Holy Writ and reason, that their order is better than friars, since Christ himself made their order, and not friars, they pray friars, for love of God, to take that order, and to leave their singular order, inasmuch as it draws them from the freedom of the Gospel. And thus they pursue priests, for they reprove their sins as God bids, both to brena them, and the Gospel of Christ, written in English, to most learning of our nation. And thus for the great alms that men give to friars, they let men to conb God’s law, and to letc them to be saved, for they may not be saved without conningd and keeping of God’s law, and so friars need our land to be damned with fiends in hell.
FRIARS, UNDER THE HABIT OF HOLINESS, LEAD MEN INTO SIN.
Friars also be worse enemies, and slayers of men’s soul, than is the cruel fiend of hell by himself. For they, under the habit of holiness, lead men, and nourish them in sin, and be special helpers of the fiend to strangle men’s souls. For the name of holiness, and of great clerks in reputation of the people, that the people trust not to few true men preaching against their covetousness, hypocrisy, and false deceit; and the friars, for love of a little stinking muck, and welfare of their foul belly, spare to reprove the cursed sin of the people. For commonly, if there be any cursed juror, extortioner, or avowterer,e he will not be shrivenf at his own curate, but go to a flattering friar, that will assoilg him falsely, for a little money, by year, though he be not in will to make restitution, and leave his cursed sin. And thus, if the foul fiend might be showed in his shape to the people, as men say he was in time of St. Bartholomew, the people would be feared to dwell in his service, that is sin; but the cursedness of sin is hid, and the people is made sickerh by false pardons, and letters of fraternity, though they all break the hestsi of God, and keep not charity; and certain, then, is the devil sicker of both parties.
THEY PERSUADE MEN TO RECKON MORE OF THEIR ANATHEMAS, THAN OF GOD’S CURSE.
Also friars lead, and nourish our prelates, our lords and commons, in great blasphemy against God. For they teach all this people to recka less of the most rightful curse of God, than by the wrong curse of sinful man, though he be a damned devil; for they call the curse of God, the less curse; and the curse of sinful man, the more curse. For though a man be never so cursed of God for pride, envy, covetousness, or avowtery,b or any other, this is not charged, nor pursued, neither of prelate, nor lord, nor commons; but if a man withstand once the citation of a sinful prelate, yea, after the commandment of God, then he shall be cursed, and prisoned, after forty days; and all men shall go upon him, though they may be pursued for truth of the Gospel, and be blessed of God. And thus sinful men’s doom,c and in case of the fiends, is more dread and magnified, than is the rightful doomc of God Almighty.
FRIARS’ HERESY IN AFFIRMING THE WICKED TO BE MEMBERS OF CHRIST’S CHURCH.
Friars also destroy this article of Christian men’s faith; I believe one common or general church. For they teach, that those men that shall be damned, be members of holy church, and thus they wed Christ and the devil together. For Christ is ghostly wedded with each member of holy church, and some of these, as they say, shall be damned; and then, as Christ says, they be friends; therefore, by them, Christ and the devil be wedded together. But God says, by Paul, that there is no comming,d nor consent, to Christ and to Belial, and then may there no wedding be betwixt them; but this general holy church is the congregation of Christ, that is head, and all good angels in heaven, and all men and women in earth, or in purgatory, that shall be saved, and no more. For Christ says, that none of his members shall perish; for no man shall take them out of his hands. And John Evangelist says, of false teachers, that They went out from us, but they were not of us. And, therefore, Chrysostom says, that those that keep not God’s law, but die out of charity, were never Christ’s body, the which shall not reign with him; and since each part of Christ’s ghostly body, of which Austin speaks, as Holy Writ does, shall reign with him in bliss, then no man that shall be damned, is part of Christ’s ghostly body, and so part of member of holy church; but friars said thus,—for men should give them much money to pray for all, both good and evil; and also to please bishops and possessioners.
ARROGATING UNTO THEMSELVES GLORY DUE UNTO OTHER MEN, AND SOMETIMES UNTO GOD HIMSELF.
Also friars seek busily their own worldly worship, and put the worship of God behind, against the teaching of Jesus Christ, and St. Paul; yea, that is worse, they take upon themselves glory that is approprieda to God, and so make them even with God; for they seek fast by great gifts, and vain costs, to be called masters of divinity, and speak before lords, and sit at the meat with them, and not to teach truly the Gospel to all manner of men by meek life, and freely as Christ bids. Also to be confessors of lords and ladies algats,b to be much told by, and fare well, and not seek poor men, though they have more need. And so of other business of friars whoso takes good sight to them. For if a friar do little well, that shall be praised algats:b but if another man do much better, that shall be lacked or despised. Also they shall swear by him that they call patron of their order, and leave God behind, and yet they do so for worship of their own patron, and their own sect, and nathelessc God teaches to swear by him in need, and not by his creatures, but for their proud swearing and idle, they despise God and their patron also.
EXALTING THEMSELVES ABOVE CHRIST HIMSELF.
Friars yet highen,a yet falsely, themselves above Christ. For where Christ bids that men trowb not to him, but if he do the works of the Father of heaven, friars challenge that men trust and obey to them, as needful to souls’ health, when they do not the works of God. For else they may not ask that men do after them when they witc not whether the thing that they command is against God’s doomd or their wit. And thus no man should do after them, but when they teach certainly the hestse of God or his counsels, lest men doing after their teaching, in this do against the will of God, but farewell then this new feigned obedience, with this new profession.
CHRIST’S RULE NO SUFFICIENT WARRANT FOR THEM TO BE RULED BY.
Also friars falsely enhance themselves above Christ and his apostles. For they will not be payedf with Christ’s rule in the Gospel to teach truly the Gospel, and have meat and drink freely of a good man and devout to God, nor be assayedg with food and hyllingh as Christ and his apostles were, but they rob curates of their office and ghostly worship, and leti them to know God’s law, by holding books from them, and withdrawing of their vantages,k by which they should have books and learn. And also they rob lords of their rents, and some by more hypocrisy take free annual rents of lords’ coffers, and they rob the commons of their lifelodel by hypocrisy and false begging, damned by God’s law. And thus at the beginning they feign them most poor of all clerks, but at the last they pass all other in great houses, and costly libraries, and great feasts, and many other prides and covetousnesses, and ever they pass foul Christ and his apostles. For where Christ had not to rest in his head, friars feigned beggars have lordly places, that almost through England they may each night lie on their own.
FRIARS’ POLICY IN BINDING THEIR NOVICES TO UNKNOWN THINGS.
Friars also of great cantelea binding novices to unknown things. For they will not suffer them to know their privities of their rule and their life till they have been professed, and then they shall not be suffered to leave their rule, though they witb well that they may not keep it; and this is openly against Christ’s teaching and John’s Gospel. For Christ says that he spake openly to the world, and in hiddennessc nothing, and friars do here fully the contrary. For first they show great devotion and sweetness of holy life to young children, till they be professed, and then master them by tyrantried to do many things against their conscience, and so need them to go to hell or to prison, or sometimes to cruel death.
MISSPENDERS OF THE TREASURE OF THIS LAND.
Also friars be wasters of treasure of our land by many blind and unskilful manners. For first they blind them blindly from freedom of the Gospel, and then spend much gold to get them dispensation, and many times bring vain pardons, convienales,e and other vain privileges, and in all this the gold of our land goes out, and simony, and curse, and boldness in sin comes again. And God wotef where privities of our land be thus showed to our enemies. And God wote where matrimony be thus departed for money, by such friars making false suggestions and false pursuit after. Also it seems that in this they magnify a sinful caitiff,a and in case a damned fiend, more than God Almighty; for they dare not by free grant of God do a good thing to please him therewith, but if they have leave of such a sinful caitiff:a and if they have leave of such an unwitty caitiff, they dare do against God’s pleasing an unreasonable thing, and sinful and slanderous to all Christian men.
FRIARS HOLIER THAN OTHER MEN.
Friars also by Lucifer’s pride highenb themselves, and hold them holier than all other out of their sect; forasmuch as they bind them to new traditions of sinful men, the which be full of error, over the most sufficient rule of Jesus Christ, that left no profitable nor needful thing out of this rule. For though a priest or bishop do never so truly the office that God bade priests do, yet they say he is more holy if he come to their new feigned religion and obedience. But since boasting and rejoicing of sin is one of the greatest sins of all, and these friars boast so much of their sinful error, how they have found a better religion than Christ made for his apostles and priests, it seems they be most sinful and cursedly proud over all other wicked men. For it seems that they make themselves wiser than Christ, more witty and more full of charity, since they teach better way to heaven, than did Christ, as they feign.
FRIARS ALTOGETHER SET UPON COVETOUSNESS.
Also friars set more by stinking dirt of worldly goods, than they do by virtues and goods of bliss. For if a Cayn’s castle of friars has much dirt of worldly goods, though the friars therein be full of pride, covetousness, simony, and false robbery by false begging and flattering, yet they say that that rich house is better than a poor house of friars, though they live in meekness, poverty, and penance, and much holiness. And they travail more to get dirt of this world than to get the bliss of heaven, and they commend more a friar that can subtilly and thick get this worldly dirt, than another, that can do and teach much virtuous life. And thus these friars make sacrifice to false gods for their covetousness, and forsake God Almighty, since they love more worldly muck than virtues and the love of Jesus Christ.
FRIARS DEAD UNTO THE WORLD, BUT RAISED BY ANTICHRIST TO PRIDE, COVETOUSNESS, AND MAINTENANCE OF SIN.
Friars also show and witness in themselves Antichrist’s miracles, right as Lazarus and others raised by Christ showed and witnessed Christ’s miracles. For as Lazarus and others were verily dead and verily raised by Christ to live of kind and grace: so these friars feign them dead to pride of the world and other sins, but they be raised by Antichrist’s doing to pride of states, covetousness, and subtle maintaining or colouring of sin. For though men be cursed avowterers,a extortioners, and wrongful maintainers of falseness, and debates: yet friars will colour these sins, and undertake for these sinful men; if they will give them much dirt, and maintain their vain sect, and commend it more than Christ’s own religion. And they be quick to strive, pleet,b and fight bodily for worships and states of this world: and so they be dead to meekness, charity, and good religion, and be raised to cursed life of sin; and this is Antichrist’s miracle.
SPIRITUAL IMPURITY OF FRIARS.
Friars also be foully envenomed with ghostly sin of Sodom, and so be more cursed than the bodily Sodomites that were suddenly dead by hard vengeance of God; for they do ghostly lechery by God’s word, when they preach more their own findings for worldly muck, than Christ’s Gospel for saving of men’s souls, and when they leave to preach the seed of God’s word and leesena it, by which men should by ghostly gendureb be made God’s sons, they do more sin than though they lost man’s seed, by which the body of man should be gendered. For the misusing of the better virtue is more sin, but the seed of God’s word is better than the seed of man, therefore it is worse to misspend that than to miswaste man’s seed. And Robert Grosted declares this reason well against cruel curates.
FRIARS NOTABLE FACTORS FOR THE POPE HEREIN IN ENGLAND.
Friars also be most privy and subtle procurators of simony and foul winning and begging of benefices of indulgences, and travails, pardons, and vain privileges. For men say, they will get a great thing of the pope, or of cardinals in England better cheap than other procurators, and they be more wily, and more pleasantly can flatter the pope and his court, and most privily make lords to maintain the pope and his, in robbing our land of treasure by his pardons, privileges, and the first fruits of benefices in our land, and dimesc and subsidies to war on Christian men, for stinking worldly lordship that God has forbidden to him and all priests; and in false confession they stir lords much thereto, and need to destroy the land when they maintain the pope and this false robbing.
FRIARS MOST PERILOUS ENEMIES TO HOLY CHURCH AND TO ALL OUR LAND.
Yet friars be most perilous enemies to holy church and all our land; for they leta curates of their office, and spend commonly and needless sixty thousand marks by year, that they rob falsely of the poor people. For if curates did their office in good life and true preaching as they be holden upon pain of damning in hell, there were clerks enough of bishops, parsons, and other priests; and in case over money to the people; and yet not two hundred years agone, there was no friar, and then was our land plenteous of cattle and men, and they were then stronger of complexion to labour than now, and then were clerks enough. And now be many thousand of friars in England, and the old curates stand still unamended, and among all sin is more increased, and the people charged by sixty thousand marks by year, and therefore it must needs fail, and so friars suffer curates to live in sin so that they may rob the people and live in their lusts. For if curates did well their office, friars were superfluous, and our land should be discharged of many thousand marks, and then the people should better pay their rents to lords, and dimesb and offerings to curates, and much flattering and nourishing of sin should be destroyed, and good life and peace and charity should reign among Christian men: and so when all the ground is sought friars say thus indeed, Let old curates wax rotten in sin, and let them not do their office by God’s law, and we will live in lusts so long, and waste vainly and needlessly sixty thousand marks by year of the poor commons of the land, and so at the last make dissension between them, and their children for dimesb and offerings that we will get privily to us by hypocrisy, and make dissension between lords and their commons. For we will maintain lords to live in their lusts, extortions, and other sins, and the commons in covetousness, lechery, and other deceits, with false swearing and many guiles. And also the curates in their damnation for leaving of their ghostly office, and so be procurators of the fiend, for to draw all men to hell; thus they do indeed, however they feign in hypocrisy of pleasing of words.
Of these fifty heresies and errors, and many more if men will seek them well out, they may know that friars be cause, beginning, well, and maintaining of perturbation in Christendom, and of all evils of this world, and these errors shall never be amended till friars be brought to freedom of the Gospel, and clean religion of Jesus Christ.
God for his endless mercy and charity make very peace and charity among Christian men, and bring all priests to Christ’s clean religion without error of wrong by-laws. Amen.
[a]The following passage is the first in the treatise, and may be taken as a specimen of the obscurity which attaches very generally to the metaphysical portion of the work—an obscurity which renders it impossible that a literal translation should convey to a modern reader any intelligible meaning.
[b]“Doctor in theologia eminentissimus in diebus illis. In philosophia nulli reputabatur secundus: in scholasticis disciplinis incomparabilis. Hic maxime nitebatur aliorum ingenia subtilitate scientiæ et profunditate ingenii sui transcendere.”—Knyghton, p. 2644.
[a]Chap. viii. 23.
[a]“Quamvis autem fidelis noscat confuse omnes articulos fidei, et habeat evidentiam, etiam demonstrationem, ad aliquos articulos fidei cognoscendum, non tamen oportet ipsam ex hinc, a merito suo excidere. Licet viator non ut sic habeat rationem meriti, et crediderit veritatem sensibilem. Et sic intelligi potest Grego. in Omilia de octava paschæ, quod fides non habet meritum et cet. Nec video quomodo viator posset in statu isto peregrinando proficere ad beatitudinem promerendam, nisi primo omnium sit fidelis.”—pp. 84, 85.
[a]“Fidelis autem est, qui habet fidem a Deo infusam sine aliqua trepidatione fidei contraria, quæ suæ fidei sit commixta.”—Ibid.
[b]John xiv. 15.
[a]Dante, who appeared about half a century earlier than Wycliffe, makes repeated mention of this supposed endowment of the church by Constantine, in the time of Sylvester, bishop of Rome.
The following is a further reference to the same fact:—
In his treatise De Monarchiâ, Dante thus expresses himself.—Dicunt quidam adhuc, quod Constantinus Imperator, mundatus a leprâ intercessione Sylvestri, tunc summi pontificis, imperii sedem, silicet Romam, donavit ecclesiæ, cum multis aliis, imperii dignitatibus. “There are those who still say that the Emperor Constantine, having been healed of a leprosy, through the intercession of Sylvester, then supreme pontiff, gave Rome, the seat of the empire, to the church, along with many other imperial dignities.”—Lib. iii. In the same book Dante further touches on this subject.—Ergo scindere imperium, imperatori non licet. Si ergo aliquæ dignitates per Constantinum essent alienata (ut dicunt) ab imperio, &c.—“Therefore to make a rent in the empire, exceeds the lawful power of the emperor himself. If then some dignities were alienated by Constantine (as they say) from the empire,” &c.
[a]Many ecclesiastics of the time wrote in refutation of the doctrine of Wycliffe, especially as set forth in this treatise. The most distinguished person in this class was the friar William Wodeford, or Woodford. Woodford wrote several pieces opposed to the doctrine of the Reformer, but the piece best known is on the eighteen articles from the Trialogus condemned in the Synod of London is 1396. This work was written at the command of Arundal, Archbishop of Canterbury. It was first printed in 1535, and was reprinted in 1690 in the Fasciculus Rerum edited by Brown. The work extends to seventy-five closely-printed folio pages.
[a]Sic—“ad iracundiam provocat veritatem.”
[a]On the doctrine of Berenger, as opposed to the notion of transubstantiation, and on the unfixed state of that doctrine in the church of Rome, until the age to which Wycliffe refers, see Mosheim, ii. 465, 466, 548—569.
[a]That is, the bread so eaten is, in a sense, or figuratively, the body of Christ.
[a]This language points to a kind of baptismal regeneration, but the reader will find that this doctrine is considerably modified and guarded by the language of the Reformer when taken largely.
[a]The reader will observe the mixture of light and obscurity in these statements and allusions, and will form his own conclusion from them. The story of the Theban Legion belongs to the close of the third century. It is for the most part an uncertain tradition. The authorities relating to it may be seen in Gieseler’s Ecclesiastical History, i. 117.
[a]The following translated passage may be taken as a specimen of the manner in which Woodford replies to Wycliffe, and will show that, obscure as the views of the Reformer may have been in some respects on this subject, they were greatly in advance of the views which characterised his times:—
[a]Significant in more than one sense.
[b]To the above paragraph, succeeds the following passage, on the “quiddity” of the sacrament of orders, which I must be allowed to give as it stands. “Sed de quidditate characteres illius est dissentio apud multos, cum quidam dicunt quod est qualitas, et de facto gratia licet steterit cum motali, sed concedet nobis Deus aliam gratiam, cum ista in multis pominibus damnandis et salvandibus viantibus nihil valet. Aliis autem videtur, quod character sit signum insensibile, quo fidelis ab alio convivente discernitur, et ad speciale officium in ecclesia limitatur, et satis est ad esse talis characteris, constantia subjecti et preteritio officii præaccepti, quæ cum sint perpetua et indelibilia, character manet indelibiliter impressus in anima. Baptismi enim character fidelis ab infideli distinquitur, ac si ad Christi militiam sit signatus, et character ordinis clericus separatur a laico, ac si ex ordinatione Christi ad officium singulare supra laicum in ecclesia sit signatus. Et sic multiplicant quidam in ordinibus et sacramentis multis characteres. Sed istorum fundationem vel fructum nec in scriptura considero.”
[a]Wodeford opposes to the argument deduced from this passage, the language of the following:—“And the Lord spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying, Command the children of Israel, that they give unto the Levites, of the inheritance of their possession, cities to dwell in; and ye shall give also unto the Levites suburbs for the cities round about them. And the cities shall they have to dwell in: and the suburbs of them shall be for their cattle, and for their goods, and for all their beasts. And the suburbs of the cities which ye shall give unto the Levites, shall reach from the wall of the city and outward, a thousand cubits round about. And ye shall measure from without the city on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits; and the city shall be in the midst; this shall be to them the suburbs of their cities.”—Num. xxxv. 1—5. Fasciculus Rerum, i. 218. It is plain that the inference of Wycliffe, from the fact that the Levites had not a share, after the manner of the other tribes, in the land of promise, is of greater extent than the facts of the case would warrant. But within certain limits the fact appealed to was justly available for the purposes of his argument.
[a]Chapters xx. xxi. xxiii. contain some remarks on the subject of matrimony. Phronesis adduces the authority for this “venerable sacrament” from Matt. xix. He inveighs against the encouragement given by the clergy to frequent divorces. “I am anything but pleased,” he says, “with such a multitude of causes for divorce, founded as they are on merely human ordinances, as is especially the case with that of consanguinity.” He objects to the present form, “I take thee as my wife,” (capio te in uxorem,) because it is not true that the rite of matrimony is performed by, or consists in these words. The consent of the parties, and the approval of God, would be sufficient to make this contract regular in the absence of all sensible signs whatsoever. He then passes on to the mystic union of Christ with the church, in its three parts,—“militant, sleeping, and triumphant:—the militant, is the believers on their way to heaven; the sleeping, those destined to salvation, but suffering* for a while in purgatory; the triumphant, the blessed at rest in heaven. Of these, one vast church will be made in the day of judgment.”
[a]This reference shows that the above number of the Reformer’s sermons were published at this time.
[a]For some account of this pretended prophetess see Mosheim, iii. 83.
[a]An obsolete manner of writing Cain.
[a]Wycliffe, who speaks in the person of Phronesis, when urging his severest measures against the mendicants, always speaks of “sparing their persons.”
[a]A solidus was equal to forty denarii, and in value about five and twenty shillings.—Du Cange.
[b]May 17, 1382.
[a]Synod at the Grey Friars, May 17, 1832.
[a]Quantum sufficit ut malignum quemcunque in conventu suo deducat ad nihilum.
[b]The word “sith” for since, and the word “ne” for nor, which are of very frequent occurrence, are not retained; all the remaining obsolete words are retained.
[c]disciples or followers.
[c]hindered, or prevented.
[a]a great man, either of the laity or clergy.
[b]Cain’s, see p. 200.
[c]hinder or prevent.
[b]triginta, or, thirty masses.
[f]undo, or break.
[b]oh! or alas!
[b]confessed for absolution by a priest.
[b]certainly or truly.
[h]high or deep.
[c]livelihood or living.
[d]powers or great men.
[e]obstinate or perverse persons.
[d]true or well.
[e]truth or certainty.
[g]lies or pretences.
[c]trouble or disturb.
[b]spoils or oppressions.
[b]crown and dignity.
[b]know or learn.
[f]confessed to obtain absolution.
[h]well or sure.
[a]exalt or extol.
[g]contented or satisfied.
[a]caution or cunning.
[e]privileges of the convent.
[a]wretch or contemptible person.
[b]elevate or extol.
[b]tenths or tithes.
[a]Chapters xx. xxi. xxiii. contain some remarks on the subject of matrimony. Phronesis adduces the authority for this “venerable sacrament” from Matt. xix. He inveighs against the encouragement given by the clergy to frequent divorces. “I am anything but pleased,” he says, “with such a multitude of causes for divorce, founded as they are on merely human ordinances, as is especially the case with that of consanguinity.” He objects to the present form, “I take thee as my wife,” (capio te in uxorem,) because it is not true that the rite of matrimony is performed by, or consists in these words. The consent of the parties, and the approval of God, would be sufficient to make this contract regular in the absence of all sensible signs whatsoever. He then passes on to the mystic union of Christ with the church, in its three parts,—“militant, sleeping, and triumphant:—the militant, is the believers on their way to heaven; the sleeping, those destined to salvation, but suffering* for a while in purgatory; the triumphant, the blessed at rest in heaven. Of these, one vast church will be made in the day of judgment.”
[*]Patientes.—This word seems to be used in this connexion more in a negative than a positive sense.