Front Page Titles (by Subject) Part III.: A TREATISE OF JOHN WYCLIFFE AGAINST THE ORDERS OF FRIARS. - Tracts and Treatises of John de Wycliffe
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Part III.: A TREATISE OF JOHN WYCLIFFE AGAINST THE ORDERS OF FRIARS. - 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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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 COMPLAINT OF JOHN WYCLIFFE,
Please it to our most noble, and most worthy King Richard, king both of England and of France, and to the noble Duke of Lancaster, and to other great men of the realm; both to seculars and men of holy church, that be gathered in the parliament, to hear, assent, and maintain the few articles, or points that be set within this writing, and proved both by authority and reason, that Christian faith, and Christian religion, be increased, maintained, and made stable; since our Lord Jesus Christ, very God and very man, is Head and Prelate of this religion, and shed his precious heart-blood, and water, out of his side, on the cross, to make this religion perfect and stable, and clean without error.
THE FIRST ARTICLE.
The first article is this:—That all persons, of what kin, private sects, or singular religion, made of sinful men, may freely, without any letting,a or bodily pain, leave that private rule, or new religion, founded of sinful men, and stably hold the rule of Jesus Christ, taken and given by Christ to his apostles, and for more profit than any such new religion, founded of sinful men. The reason of this axingb is showed thus,—The rule of Jesus Christ, youena to his apostles, and kept of them, after Christ’s ascension, is most perfect, to be kept for state of living in this world; and each rule, of what kin, private sect, or singular religion, made of sinful men, is less perfect, than the rule youen of Christ, of his endless wisdom, and his endless charity, to mankind; therefore, it is leavefulb to each man or person of this singular religion and profession, to leave it cleave fast to the rule of Jesus Christ, as more perfect. This rule is plain to each man of wit and discretion, and namely, to clerks; since men of the pope’s law witnesseth plainly, that a man may lawfully, yea, against his sovereign’s will, go from the less perfect religion, to the more perfect. Why, then, may not a man of private religion forsake that, and take Christ’s clean religion, without error of any sinful fool, as most perfect? and that Christ’s rule, in his own cleanness and freedom, is most perfect, is showed by this skill.c For inasmuch as a patron, or a founder, is more perfect, more mighty, more witty, and more holy, and in more charity, than is another patron or founder: in so much is the first patron’s rule better and more perfect, than is the second patron’s rule. But Jesus Christ, patron of Christian religion, youena to apostles, passeth without measure, in might, wit, and good will, or charity, the perfection of every patron, of any private sect or singular; therefore, his rule is more perfect. Also, that Christ’s clean religion, without cloutingd of sinful men’s errors, is most perfect of all, is showed by this skill.c For other, Christ might youee such a rule, most perfect for this life, to be kept, and would not, and then he was envious, as Austin proveth in other matters; or else Christ would ordain such a rule, and might not, and then Christ was unmighty; but it is heresy to affirm that on Christ; or else Christ might, and couth,f and would not, and then he was unwitty; but that is heresy, and no man should suffer to hear. That, therefore, Christ both might, and could, and would, ordain such a rule, most perfect, that ought to be kept for state of this life; and so Christ, of his endless wisdom and charity, ordained such a rule; and so on each side, men be needed, upon pain of heresy and blasphemy, and of damning in hell, to believe and knowledge, that their religion of Jesus Christ to apostles, and kept of them in his own freedom, without cloutingd of sinful men’s error, is most perfect of all, and so to letg no man to forsake private religion, and keep Christ’s clean religion, without new wrong traditions of sinful men, that oft erred in their own life and teaching. Also Christ, in making the rule and order of apostles, was, in this time, and ever before, Almighty, alwitty, all full of good will and charity, to make perfect rule; therefore, he made not only a perfect rule of all, but each patron of private rule was unmighty; and letted,a both in yiftesb of kind and grace, and not alwitty; but in comparison of Christ, an idiot or fool, and not so well willing, to make so good and perfect as Christ; therefore, he made a rule less good, and less perfect, and hereof it suethc plainly, that Christ’s clean religion is most perfect of all.
Also apostles, and their followers, keeping the rule youend to them of Christ, won most merit, and thanks of God, in this keeping, before all other times; therefore, if all Christian men, both in old time and new, had kept the same rule of Christ, in his own cleanness and freedom, should have deserved most thanks of God, in degree, possible to them. Therefore, no new sect of religion, striving from Christ’s sect, should have begun; but that that was first, should have been kept in his cleanness, of such new founder; less of novelties and patrons. Also, it were now as good, and of as much merit, to keep the rule of Jesus Christ, as it was at the beginning; since Christ’s rule is enough, and able for all men on live, of whatever complexion or age they be of; but this rule was kept of Jesus Christ and his apostles; and their best suers,e by five hundred year after his ascension, without any finding of any such new planting, or religion, in which time holy church increased and profited most; for, then, almost all men disposed them to martyrdom, at ensample of Christ; therefore, it were now not only meritory,f or medeful,g but most medeful to the church, to live so in all things, and by all things.
Also both monks and canons forsake the rules of Benet and Austin, and take, without any dispensation, the rule of friars, as most perfect; but the rule of apostles is utterly, and algates,h most perfect; therefore, men may forsake private rules in religion, made of sinful men, and take the clean religion of apostles, that is preached with freedom of the Gospel, without dispensation of worldly clerks, that in case quekei devils, as Christ, Judas Iscariot.
Also the pope may dispense with the rule of each private sect or religion, and hath dispensed, and yet doth, but he may not dispense with Christ’s rule, youend to apostles; therefore, the rule of Christ, ordained to apostles, is more perfect than any rule of private religion, and most perfect of all; and hereof it suethc openly, that men may lawfully forsake private religion, and keep Christ’s religion in his cleanness, since it is most perfect, most easy, and light, for to keep, and most sikerj to bring men to heaven, and to highest degree of bliss.
And if our adversaries of this private religion strive algatsa that the rules be more perfect than the rule of apostles, why then so many persons, as whoso saith without number, of each such private sect, by licence of the Pope been made, some chaplains of households, some chaplains of honour, some bishops dowiedb with secular lordships, some bishops among heathen men, and dare not come to their children; but what profession a friar be of anon, if he be chosen thereto, he accepteth the office of the Pope or Cardinal, of Patriarch, of Archbishop, of Bishop; and forsaketh his own state, since Christ saith in the Gospel, that no man putteth his hand to the plough, and looking backward, is worthy to have the kingdom of God; that is, no man taking perfect state of poverty, meekness, and penance, is able to be saved, if he turned again to worldly life, pomp, and pride, and covetousness, and ease of body, and sloth, and riot, and gay clothing and costly. Therefore they change not the more perfect for the less perfect, for then they were apostates; but they purchase the more perfect for the less perfect; therefore the clean religion and rule of priesthood by form of the Gospel, is more perfect than any rule or religion made of sinful men. Also, nothing that is abominable and reproved of saints, should be brought in of other, by any colour or cauteel;c but those new sects be such, that be of flesh, as St. Paul saith in his Epistles: therefore such sects should not be brought into charging of the church; but all Christian men should cast away, and hold fast the unity, freedom, and cleanness of the rule of Jesus Christ. Peradventure these hypocrites say, to exclude all these reasons, and many more, that the rule to which they make profession, is not strange nor diverse from the rule of apostles, that Christ ordained, but it is utterly the same and none other: but the contrary of this excusing is openly showed by four the last reasons before said. For if these new rules were alone with Christ’s rule youend to apostles, Christ should have taught them both, and ensampled them both in his life and speaking and writing with ceremonies, and rites, and customs thereof; but did not this never in his death, nor after his resurrection, nor to his ascension. And if this excusing were soth,e the sects of friars should not have begotten about a thousand and tweynf hundred years of Christ. But the contrary is open in Chronicles: it suethg also of the same, that Christ’s apostles had both monks, canons, and friars, if men take monks, canons, and friars, for men that profess such private sects; but this is openly false. Also Christ’s rule given to apostles is like and of oh form to all men that make profession thereto, to speak of substance of the rule; but rules of these private sects be full diverse and contrary, as to substance of these rules, since some of them receive dymesa and donations, as do these possessioners; but some forsake all such tithes and possessions, as friars mendicants. But to descend down in speciality, full many articles of rules of such sects be openly contrary to the apostles’ rule; since it is lawful to each true man of Christian religion, to convert a man of wrong faith to Christianity; but this is forbodenb in the rule of friars minors, since only to ministers, and none other, is licence granted to restrain friars, to hear private sects, notwithstanding that evermore friars do the contrary; and Christ received pennies, but they should not by their own rule receive pennies, neither by themselves, nor by menec persons. Also Christ preaching the Gospel, entered into places both of women and men, as the Gospel of Luke telleth; but is forbodend to friars to enter into the abbeys of women, but friars glosse these rules to the contrary; but Francis, their founder, commanded them in article of his death, that they should not receive glossesf upon his rule. Also if Christ’s rule youeng to apostles, and the rule of private sects, were all one without reason, men leave the first, and profess the other, but if it were to show their hypocrisy. Also if this feigning be soth,h it seemeth that it is as perfect and needful to keep Christ’s rule of Francis and Dominic, or any other such man. Also if these rules be all one, and in nothing diverse, then such a rule should not be cleapedi “rule of Francis,” or Dominic, or any such other, but “rule of Christ;” for so it should be of more authority, and more commended. And so the Gospel ought to be kept, without any fouling of all Christian men, without such novelries,k and put nothing thereto, and draw nothing therefrom; and if this thing were done, such private sects should be superfluous and waste, as flies living in the air; and it was no need of Francis, Dominic, or any such other new man beside him, about making of this rule of apostles, that friars feign to be theirs. For that rule was made of Christ, God and man, and kept of apostles, and confirmed by the Holy Ghost, and at the full declared by a thousand years and two hundred, before Francis, Dominic, or any such friar of such private sect, were into this world.
THE SECOND ARTICLE.
The second point or article is this, that though men that unreasonably and wrongfully had damned, and all this counsel be amended of so great an error; and that their error may be published to men dwelling in the realm; the reason of this axinga is showed thus. Nothing ought to be damned as error and false, but if it savour error or unrighteousness against God’s law; but neither the king nor his counsel did unrightfully, forasmuch as he took away the possessions of some prelates that trespassed, whose contrary friars had determined openly; therefore reasonably men should assent to this axing.a For some friars write thus in Coventry, among articles that they damned as heresy and error, that secular lords may lawfully and medefullyb take away temporal goods youenc to men of the church; but since our king hath done so, and other kings, his predecessors, have done so many times, by lawful cause, as pertaining to their regalie,d and of common law, by counsel of peers of the realm, it suethe that not only our king now present, hath erred, but also his predecessors, and generally all his counsellors, as lords, and prelates, and all men of the parliament counselling thereto.
Also if this be error touching the health of man’s soul, then it is against Holy Writ; and then if a man sustain or maintain this error, he is a heretic: but full many kings, lords, and prelates, and other wise men have sustained this, and maintained, and yet done as pertaining to the king’s regalied and of common law; then be these friars, all kings, lords, and prelates, and all wise men of our realm, be heretics. Also since this is an old custom, the which our kings, lords, and prelates, be sworn to sustain and maintain, if this be error, (as friars say openly) it suethf by friars, that all these be foresworn and heretics. Also if this be error, as friars feign, that though an abbot and all his convent be open traitors, conspiring unto the death of the king and queen, and of other lords, and enforce them to destroy all the realm, the king may not take from them a half-penny, nor farthing worth, since all these be temporal goods. Also though other clerks send unto our enemies all the rents that they have in our land, and whatever they may rob or steal of the king’s liege men, yet may not our king punish by og farthing nor farthing worth. Also by this ground of friars, though monks or friars, or other clerks, whatever they be, slay lords’ tenants, the king’s liege men, and defile lords’ wives, yea the queen (that God forbid) or the empress; yet the king may not punish them by one farthing. Also it suetha plainly, that men clepedb men of holy church, may dwell in this land at their liking, and do what kind sin, what kind treason liketh them, and nathelessc the king may not punish, nor in temporal goods, nor in their body: since if he may not punish them in the less, he may not in the more; and also they make one of themselves king, and so no secular lord may letd him to conquer all secular lordship in this earth, and so they may slay all lords and ladies, and their blood and affinity, with any pain in this life, or in body, or in cattle. Ye lords see and understand with what punishing they deserve to be chastised, that thus unwarily and wrongfully have damned you for heretics, forasmuch as you do execution and righteousness by God’s law and man’s, and namely of the king’s regalie.e For the chief lordship in this land of all temporalities, both of secular men and religious, pertain to the king of his general governing; for else he were not king of England, but of a little part thereof. Therefore the men that busienf them to take away this lordship from the king, as do friars, and their fautors,g in this point be sharper enemies and traitors than Frenchmen and all other nations. Also it pertaineth to the king, the while any bishop or abbot’s see is void, to have in his hand all temporalities, and at his own will to youeh them to prelates; therefore the king may take away these temporalities from prelates, when lawful cause exciteth. Also the king ought grant no man freedom to do sin or trespass, but to take away the freedom; but men of the church had free license to trespass, if the king might not bereavei their temporalities, when they sinned grievously. And so Saint Paul teacheth that each man be subject to their potestates,j for there is no power but of God; and though things that be of God be ordained, and so they that withstandeth power withstandeth God’s ordinance. For why? Princes be not a dread of good works, but of evil. But wilt thou not dread a power? do good, and thou shalt have praising thereof, that is of him that is ordained in the high estate, for he is God’s minister or servant to thee in good; but if thou have done evil, then dread, for he beareth the sword not without cause, for he is God’s servant avenger in wrath to him that doth evil, and therefore by need, or of need, be ye subject or underloutk not only for wrath, but also of consciences. All this saith St. Paul, of which authority it is, to know to all men, that clerks owenl to be subject of need to the king’s power. For St. Paul, that putteth all men in subjection to kings, out taketh never ene,a and so secular power oweth, and is bound to punish by just pain of his sword, that is worldly power, tyrants rebelling against God, and trespassing against man, by what kind trespass, and that is more to chastise his subjects by pain and torment of their body, and no dread, much more he may punish them by taken away of their temporalities, that is less than bodily pain; therefore secular lords do this rightfully, since this is done by commandment of the apostle, and by ordinance of God, and therefore it is plain of these reasons and authorities, and secular lords may levefullyb and medefully,c in many cases taken away temporal goods given to men of the church.
THE THIRD ARTICLE.
The third article is this, that both tithes and offerings be youend and paid, and received by that intent, to which intent both God’s law and the pope’s law ordained them to be paid and received; and that they be taken away by the same intent and reason, that both God’s law and the pope’s law ordain that they should be withdrawn. This axinge is reasonable, for many skills:f for the intent of the maker in every law should be kept, and most the intent of God that may not err. Sothlyg thus saith God’s law in the first book of Kings, that the sin of Eli’s children was full great before God, for they withdraw men from sacrifice of God, taking by strength or violence that part of the sacrifice that pertained to the priest; and God saith afterwards, “I speaking have spoken, that thine house and thy father’s house should minister, and serve in my sight evermore; but now,” God saith, “be that thing far from me, but whoever shall worship me, I shall glorify them; but they that despise me,” saith God, “shall be unable, or without honour:” of which authority it is plain and open, that the things that be due to priests, should not be axedh by strength, by violence or cursing, but be youend freely without exaction or constraining: and if the priest be reproved of God for his sins, he should be put out of his office, and the sacrifices should not be youend to him, but taken from him, as God commandeth from the high-priest Eli; and another true man, walking in God’s ways, as did Samuel, should be ordained to receive such sacrifices. Also in beginning of Tobit, men find thus, when priests of the temple went to calves of gold, to honour them for gods of Jeroboam king of Israel made, Tobit offered truly all his first-fruits and tithes. So that in the third year Tobit ministered all his tithes to proselytes, and comelingsa or guests, and withdrew them wholly from the wicked priests, and the book saith that the little child kept these things, and other such after the law of God. Therefore if our prelates or other priests, whatever they be, openly bleckedb by sacrifice of maumetry,c as with covetousness, that is, openly sacrifice of false gods, and other great sins, as pride, simony, and manquelling,d gluttony, drunkenness, and lechery, by the same skille tithes and offerings should be withdrawn from them by God’s law, and be youenf to poor needy men, at ensample of rightful Tobit.
Also St. Paul speaking to Timothy bishop, saith thus; Be we pay with these things, if we have lifelode,g and to be hiledh with. And St. Bernard speaketh thus in this matter; Whatever thou takest to thee of thine entraje, that is, dymesi and offerings beside simple lifelode and straitclothing, it is not thine, it is theft, ravine, and sacrilege. Whereof it suethk plainly, that not only simple priests and curates, but also sovereign curates, as bishops, should not ask their subjects by constraining more than lifelodeg and hiling,l when they do away all manner waste both of money, and worldly array. Also Christ and his apostles lived most poor life, as it is known by all the process of the Gospel, nothing challenging by exactions nor constraining, but lived simply and scarcely enough of alms freely, and wilfully youen;f therefore they that pretend them to be principal followers of Christ’s steps, should walk as Christ did, and so lead full poor life taking of things freely youen as much as need is, for their ghostly office and no more, and therewith be apaid.m Also the pope’s law commandeth in the best part thereof that priests, open lechers,n take no part of portion of goods of the church, therefore it is lawfully to parishioners to withhold their tithes for open fornication of their curates, and turn them into better use, and much more they may and oweno to withdraw their tithes for great sins and open; as for simony, that is heresy, as the pope’s law saith; and for covetousness, that is worshipping of gods, as Holy Writ saith; and for pride, envy, gluttony, and drunkenness, since both by God’s law and man’s law God curseth such men’s blessings and prayings, as St. Austin and St. Gregory teach this in many books by Holy Writ and reason.
Also commonly when parish churches be appropredp to men of singular religion, since appropriation is made by false suggestion that such religious men have not enough for lifelodea and hiling;b but in truth they have overmuch. Also commonly such churches be appropredc by simony, as they know better themselves, paying a great sum of money for such appropriation, if the benefice be fat. But what man led by reason and good conscience should pay to such religious men tithes and offerings gotten by falseness, leasings,d and simony? But suppose that such parish churches were lawfully gotten, yet since they be superfluous to such men, the tithes and offerings should be youene to poor needy men, as St. Jerome and the pope’s law teach; and therefore the true great clerk, Robert Grosted, bishop of Lincoln, writeth to the pope, that when appropriation of parish churches is made to men of religion, of fourteen great sins and defects that come of evil curates, is made a perpetuation, that is endless confirmation; also by God and his laws curates be michelf more bound to teach their subjects charitably the Gospel and God’s hests,g both by open preaching and ensample of good life for to save their souls, than their subjects be holden to pay them tithes and offerings: and of these sueh two things. The first, if curates do not their office in word and in example, that God commandeth that their subjects be not bound to pay them tithes and offerings, since the principal cause for which tithes and offerings should be paid is away, the paying of tithes should cease. Also curates be more cursed in withdrawing this teaching in word and ensample, than be parishioners withdrawing tithes and offerings, though curates duddeni well their office.
A!j Lord God, where this be reason to constrain the poor people to find a worldly priest, sometimes unable both of life, and cunning in pomp and pride, covetousness, and envy, gluttony, drunkenness, and lechery, in simony and heresy, with fat horse, and jolly and gay saddles and bridles ringing by the way, and himself in costly clothes and pelure,k and to suffer their wives and children, and their poor neighbours perish for hunger, thirst, and cold, and other mischiefs of the world. A! Lord Jesus Christ, since within few years men paid their tithes and offerings at their own free will to good men, and able to great worship of God to profit and fairness of holy church fighting in earth. Where it were lawful and needful that a worldly priest should destroy this holy and approved custom, constraining men to leave this freedom, turning tithes and offerings into wicked uses, or not so good as they were done before times?
THE FOURTH ARTICLE.
The fourth article is this, that Christ’s teaching and belief of the sacrament of his own body, that is plainly taught by Christ and his apostles, in Gospels and Epistles, may be taught openly in churches of Christian people; and the contrary teaching and false belief is brought up by cursed hypocrites, and heretics, and worldly priests uncunninga in God’s law, which seem that they are apostles of Christ, but are fools. Also Christ would not take the kingdom when the people would have made him king, as John’s Gospel telleth, but if it had been a priest’s office, to deal about thus bodily alms, Christ, that could best have done this office, would have taken these temporal goods to deal them among poor men; but he would not do thus, but fly and took no man of the apostles with him, so fast he hied. Lord, where then worldly priests cunning better do this parting of worldly goods of Jesus Christ; and if they say that Christ fed the people in desert with bodily alms, many thousand, as the Gospel saith, that did Christ by miracle, to show his Godhead and to teach priests how they feed ghostly Christian men by God’s word, for so did Christ’s apostles, and had not whereof to do bodily alms, when they might have treasure and meals enough of kings and lords. Also Peter saith, in Deeds of Apostles, to a poor man, that to him neither was gold, nor silver, yet he performeth well the office of a true priest. But our priests be so busy about worldly occupation, that they seem better bailiffs, or reves,b than ghostly priests of Jesus Christ. For what man is so busy about merchandise and other worldly doings, as be priests that should be light of heavenly life to all men about them? but certesc they should be as busy about studying of God’s law and holy prayer; not of famulorum but of holy desire and clean meditation of God, and true teaching of the Gospel, as be labourers about worldly labour for their sustenance; and much more busy if they might. For they be more holden for to live well and ensample of holy life to the people, and true teaching of Holy Writ, than the people is holden to give the dymesd or offerings, or any bodily alms; and therefore priests should not leave ensamples of good life and studying of Holy Writ, and true teaching thereof, nor for bodily alms, nor for worldly goods, nor for saving of their bodily life. And as Christ saved the world by writing and teaching of four evangelists, so the fiend casteth to damn the world and priests; for lettinga to preach the Gospel by these four; by feigned contemplation, by songs, by Salisbury use, and by worldly business of priests!
God, for his mercy, stir these priests to preach the Gospel in word, in life, and beware of Satan’s deceits. Amen.
“I am the living bread which came down from heaven: whose eateth of this bread shall live for ever. And the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
A VERY BRIEF DEFINITION OF THESE WORDS: HOC EST CORPUS MEUM.
“I beseech ye, brethren, in the Lord Christ Jesus, and for the love of his Spirit, to pray with me, that we may be vessels to his laud and praise, what time so ever it pleaseth him to call upon us.”
Forasmuch as our Saviour Jesus Christ, when that he walked here on earth with the prophets which were presently before him, and the apostles which were presently with him, whom also he left after him, whose hearts were mollified with the Holy Ghost, and warned us, and gave us knowledge that there was two manner of ways, the one to life, the other to death, as Christ saith, (Matt. vii. Luke xiii.) “How strait and narrow is the way that leadeth to life, and there be few that findeth it. But how large and broad is the way that leadeth to damnation, and there be many that go into it.” Therefore pray we heartily to God, that he of his mere mercy will so strengthen us with the grace and stedfastness [of] his Holy Spirit, to make us strong in spiritual living after the evangelical Gospel, so that the world, no not the very infidels, papists, and apostates, can gather none occasion to speak evil of us, whereby we may enter into that strait gate, as Christ our Saviour and all that follow him have done, that is not in idle living, but in diligent labouring, yea in great sufferance of persecution even to the death, and that we find the way of everlasting life, as he hath promised where he saith,—“He that seeketh findeth, and he that axetha receiveth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” (Matt. vii.)
[II.] Also Christ saith, “If thy son axeb thee bread, wilt thou give him a stone? or if he axeb thee fish, wilt thou give him a serpent? if ye which are evil can give good things to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give a good Spirit to them that axeb it of him?” (Luke xi.) Saint James saith, “If any man lack wisdom, let him axeb it of God, which giveth to all men if they axeb it in faith, and upbraideth none; for he that doubteth is like to the waves of the sea, that is borne about with every blast of wind. Think not that such shall receive anything of the Lord. For a man double in soul is unstable in all his ways,” as it is written. (James i.) Wherefore let us pray to God that he “keep us in the hour of temptation, that is coming in all the world.” (Rev. iii.) For as our Saviour Christ saith, “When ye see that abomination of desolation that is spoken of by the prophet Daniel standing in the holy place,” as Christ saith, “he that readeth let him understand.” (Dan. xii. Matt. xxiv.) But for because that every man cannot have the book of Daniel to know what his prophecy is, Daniel said, “Towards the last days the king of the north shall come, and the arms of him shall stand, and shall defile the sanctuary, and he shall take away the continual sacrifice, and he shall give abomination into desolation, and wicked men shall find a testament guilefully, but ye that know your God shall hold and do, and untaught men in the people shall teach full many men, and they shall fall on the sword and in the flame, and into captivity many days.”
[III.] “And when they shall fall down they shall be araised by a little help, and many shall be applied to them guilefully, and of learned men should fall to them that they build together. And the chosen shall be together, and shall be made white till a time determined. For yet another time shall be, and the king shall do his will, and then he shall be raised, and magnified at each god; and against the God of gods shall speak great things, and he shall be raised till the wrathfulness before determined is perfectly made, and he shall not inherit the God of his fathers, and he shall be in the companies of women, and he shall not change anything of God’s, for he shall raise again all things.—Forsooth he shall honour god of mason in his place, and he shall worship a god whom his fathers know not, not with gold, silver, precious stones, nor with precious things, but he shall do make strong the god of mason with thalyent or strange god which he knew not, and he shall multiply glory, and he shall give to him power in many things, and he shall depart the land at his will.” (Dan. xi. 31.) Hitherto be they the words of Daniel, who may see a greater abomination than to see the people to be led away from God, and they be taught to worship for God that thing that is not God nor Saviour of the world? For though it be their god, as it is written by a prophet, saying, “The Lord’s going shall make low the god of the earth, for it is their gods that they believe in them which may make them safe,” (Zeph. ii. 11,) as it is written.
[IV.] Whereas Saint Paul saith, “Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things I see you as vain worshippers of idols, for I passed by and saw your mawmetes,a and found an altar in the which was written, To the unknown god. Therefore the thing which you know not ye worship as God. This thing show I unto you: God which made the world and all things that be in it. This forsooth, he is Lord of heaven and earth, and he dwelleth not in the temple made with hands, neither hath he need of anything, for he giveth life to all men, and breath everywhere, and he made of one, all kinds of men to inhabit on all the face of the earth, determining times ordained and terms of the dwelling of them to seek out God: if peradventure they might find him, although he be not far from each of you.” And again he saith, “Ye shall not think that God living is not like to gold, silver, either any graven thing, or painted by craft, either taught of man; for God despiseth the time of the unknown things. And he showeth every where that all men should do penance.” (Acts xvii.) And hereof the clerks of the law have great need, which have been ever against God the Lord, both in the old law, and in the new, to slay the prophets that spake to them the Word of God. (Matt. xxiii. 27.) Ye see that they spared not the Son of God when that the temporal judge would have delivered him, (Matt. xxvii.) and so forth of the apostles and martyrs that hath spoken truly to the word God to them, and they say it is heresy to speak of the holy Scripture in English, and so they would condemn the Holy Ghost that gave it in tongues to the apostles of Christ, as it is written to speak the Word of God in all languages that were ordained of God under heaven, as it is written.
[V.] And the Holy Ghost descended upon the heathen, as he did upon the apostles in Jerusalem, as it is written (Joel ii.); and Christ were so merciful to send the Holy Ghost to the heathen men (Acts viii. x.), and he made them partakers of his blessed word; why should it then be taken from us in this land that be Christian men? Consider you whether it is not all one to deny Christ’s words for heresy, and Christ for an heretic? for if my word be a lie, then I am a liar that speaketh the word; therefore if my words be heresy, then am I a heretic that speaketh the word; therefore it is all one to condemn the word of God in any language for heresy, and God for an heretic that spake the word; for he and his word is all one, and they may not be separated; and if the word of him is the life of the world, as it is written, (Matt. ii.) “Not only by bread liveth man, but in every word that cometh out of the mouth of God;” and every word of God is the life of the soul of man, as saith St. John, (1 John ii. 27) “that thou have anointing of the Holy Ghost, and thou have no need of any man, but teach thou in all things,” which is his blessed word, in whom is all wisdom and cunning, and yet ye be always to learn as well as we. How may any antichrist for dread of God take it away from us that be Christian men, and thus suffer the people to die for hunger in heresy and blasphemy of man’s law that corrupteth and slayeth the soul, as pestilence slayeth the body? As David beareth witness, where he speaketh of the chain of pestilence; and most of all they make us believe a false law that they have made upon the secret host, for the most falsest belief is taught in it.
[VI.] For where find ye that ever Christ or any of his disciples or apostles taught any man to worship it? For in the mass creed it is said, “I believe in one God only, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, only begotten and born of the Father, before all the world: he is God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten and not made, and of one substance, even with the Father, by whom all things be made;” and the Psalm, “Quicunque vult,” there it is said, “God is the Father, God is the Son, and God is the Holy Ghost; unmade is the Father, unmade is the Son, and unmade is the Holy Ghost.” And thou then, that art an earthly man, by what reason mayest thou say that thou makest thy Maker? Whether may the made thing say to the maker, “Why hast thou made me thus?” or may it turn again, and make him that made it? God forbid! Now answerest thou that sayest every day that thou makest of bread the body of the Lord, flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, God and man; forsooth, thou answerest greatly against reason, by these words that Christ spake at his supper, on Serethur’s day,a at night, (Matt. xxvi.) that Christ “took bread, and blessed it, and gave it to his disciples and apostles, and said, (Mark xiv.) “Take ye, and eat ye, this is my body which shall be given for you. And also he taking the cup, and did give thanks, and gave to them, and said, Drink ye all hereof; this is my blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed out for many into the remission of sins;” as saith Luke, (Luke xxii. 19) “When Jesus had taken bread, he gave thanks, and brake it to them, and said, Take ye, eat ye; this is my body that shall be given for you: do ye this in remembrance of me.”
[VII.] Now understand ye the words of our Saviour Christ, as he spake them one after another, as Christ spake them. For he took bread and blessed; and yet what blessed he? The Scripture saith not that Christ took bread and blessed it, or that he blessed the bread which he had taken. Therefore it seemeth more that he blessed his disciples and apostles, whom he had ordained witnesses of his passion, and in them he left his blessed word, which is the bread of life, as it is written, “Not only in bread lived man, but in every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matt. iv.) Also Christ saith, “I am the bread of life, that came down from heaven.” (John vi.) And Christ saith often in Matthew, “The words that I have spoken to you be spirit and life.” (John vi. 63.) Therefore it seemeth more that he blessed his disciples, and also his apostles, in whom the bread of life was left more than in material bread; for the material bread hath an end, as it is written in the Gospel of Matthew xv., that Christ said, “All things that a man eateth goeth down into the draught away,” (Matt. xv.) and it hath an end of rooting; but the blessing of Christ kept his disciples and apostles both bodily and ghostly. As it is written, that “none of them perished, but the son of perdition, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.” (John xvii.) And often the Scripture saith that “Jesus took bread, and brake it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, Take ye, eat ye; this is my body, that shall be given for you.” But he said not, “This bread is my body,” or that “the bread should be given for the life of the world.” For Christ saith, “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing.” (John vi.)
[VIII.] Also Christ saith in the Gospel, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except the wheat corn fall into the ground and die, it bideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” (John xii.) Here men may see by the words of Christ, that it behoved that he died in the flesh, and that in his death was made the fruit of everlasting life for all them that believe on him; as it is written, “For as by Adam all die, even so by Christ shall all live, and every man in his own order; for as one clearness is in the sun, another in the moon, and a star in clearness [is] nothing in comparison to the sun, even so is the again rising of the dead men. For we be sown in corruption, and shall rise again incorruptible; we are sown in infirmity, and shall rise again in virtue; we are sown in natural bodies, and shall rise again spiritual bodies.” (1 Cor. xv.) Then if Christ shall change thus our deadly bodies by death, and God the Father spared not his own Son, as it is written, (Matt. Mark, Luke,) but that death should reign in him as in us, and that he should be translated into a spiritual body, the first again rising of dead men; then how saith hypocrites that take on them to make our Lord’s body too, whether make they the glorified body, either make they again the spiritual body, which is risen from death to life, either make they the fleshly body, as it was before he suffered death? and if they say, also, that they make the spiritual body of Christ, it may not be so, for that thing that Christ said and did, he did it as he was at supper, before he suffered his passion, as it is written that the spiritual body of Christ rose again from death to life. (Matt. xxviii.)
[IX.] Also he ascended up to heaven, and he will abide there till he come to judge the quick and the dead: and if they say that they make Christ’s body as it was before he had suffered his passion, then must they needs grant that Christ is to die yet: for by all Scriptures he was promised to die, and that he gave lordship of everlasting life.
Furthermore, if they say that Christ made his body of bread, with what words made he it? not with these words, (Hoc est corpus meum) that is to say, in English, “This is my body;” for they be words of giving, and not of making, which he said after that he brake the bread, then departing it among the disciples and apostles. Therefore if Christ had made of that bread his body, [he] had made it in his blessing, or else in giving of thanks, and not in the words of giving; for if Christ had spoken of the material bread that he had in his hand, as when he said, (Hoc est corpus meum) “This is my body,” and it was made before, or else the word had been a lie; for if ye say, “This is my hand,” and if it be not a hand, then am I a liar: therefore seek it busily, if ye can find two words of blessing, or of giving of thanks, the which Christ did, and that a [ll] the clerks of the earth knoweth not, for if ye might find or know it those words, then should you wax great masters above Christ, and then ye might be givers of his substance, and as father and maker of him, and that he should worship you, as it is written, “Thou shalt worship thy father and mother.” (Exod. xx.) Of such as desire such worship against God’s law, speaketh St. Paul of the “man of sin that enhanceth himself as he were God. And he is worshipped over all things as God, and showeth himself as he were God.” (2 Thess. ii.)
[X.] Where our charge be guilty in this, deema ye or they that know most, for they say that when ye have said, Hoc est corpus meum, that is to say, “This is my body,” the which ye call “the words of consecration,” or else of making; and when they be said over the bread, ye say that there is left no bread, but it is the body of the Lord; but truly there is nothing but a heap of accidents, as whiteness, ruggedness, roundness, savoury, touching, and tasting, and such other accidents. Then if thou sayest that flesh and blood of Christ, that is to say, his manhood, is made more, or increased by so much as the ministration of bread and wine is, then thou must needs consent that that thing that is not God to-day, shall be God to-morrow; yea, and that thing which is without spirit or life, but groweth in the field by kind, shall be God another time. And we all ought to believe that he was without beginning, and without ending, and in his manhood begotten and not made: (Matt. i. Luke i. Psa. xvi.) for if the manhood of Christ were increased every day, by so much as the bread and wine draweth that ye minister, he should wax more in one day by cart-loads than he did in xxxii. years when he was here in earth. And if thou makest the body of the Lord in those words, Hoc est corpus meum, that is to say, “This is my body,” and if thou mayest make the body of the Lord in those words, “This is my body,” thou thyself must be the person of Christ, or else there is a false God.
[XI.] For if it is thy body, as thou sayest, then it is the body of a false knave, or of a drunken man, or of a lecherer, or full of other sins; and then is an unclean body for any man to worship for God. For and Christ had made there his body of material bread in the said words, as I know they be not the words of making, what earthly man had power to do as he did? for in all Holy Scripture, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of the Apocalypse, there be no words written of the making of Christ’s body; but there be written that Christ was the Son of the Father, and that he was conceived of the Holy Ghost, and that he took flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary, and that he was dead on the third day, and that he ascended to heaven very God and man, and that we should believe in all Scripture that be written of him, and that he is to come to judge the quick and the dead, and the same Christ Jesus, King and Saviour, (Heb. i.) was at the beginning with the Father and the Holy Ghost, making all things of nought, both heaven and earth, and all things that be in it, working by word of his virtue; for he said, “Be it do,” and it was done, (Gen. i.) as whose works never earthly man might comprehend, either make. And yet the words of the making of these things by me, written in the beginning of Genesis, even as God spake them, and if ye cannot make the work that he made, and have the words by which he made it, how shall he make him that made the works? and you have no words of authority, either power left you on earth, by which ye should do this, but as ye have feigned this craft of your false errors, which some of you understand not.
[XII.] For it is prophesied, Isaiah vi. and xlii., chapter of Matthew xiii., and Luke viii., Mark iv., “Ye shall have eyes and see not, and ears and hear not, and ye shall see prophecies and ye shall not understand, lest they were converted, for I hide them from the hearts of those people; their hearts are greatly fatted, and this thing is done to you for the wickedness of your errors in unbelief; therefore be ye converted from your worst sin;” as it is written, when Moses was in the hill with God, (Exodus xx.) the people made a calf, and worshipped it as God, “And God spake to Moses, Go, for the people have done the worst sin to make and worship alien gods.” (Exod. xxxii.) But now I shall ask you a word, answer ye me; Whether is the body of the Lord made at once or at twice? is both the flesh and the blood in the host of the bread? or else is the flesh made at one time, and the blood made at other time, that is to say, the wine in the chalice? If thou wilt say, “It is full and whole the manhood of Christ in the host of bread, both flesh and blood, skin, hair, and bones;” then makest thou to worship a false god in the chalice, which is unconjured when ye worship the bread; and if ye say, “The flesh is in the bread, and the blood in the wine,” then thou must grant, if thy craft be true, as it is not in deed, that the manhood of Christ is departed, and that he is made two times: for first thou takest the host of bread, other a piece of bread, and make it, as ye say, and the innocent people worship it. And then thou takest to thee the chalice, and likewise marrest, makest I would have said, the blood [XIII.] in it, and then worship it also; and if it be so, as I am assured, that the flesh and blood of Christ ascended, then be ye false harlotsa to God and to us; for when we shall be household,b ye bring to us the dry flesh, and let the blood be away; for ye give us after the bread wine and water, and sometimes clean water unblessed, rather conjured, by virtue of your craft; and yet ye say, “Under the host of bread is the full manhood of Christ.” Then by your own confession must it needs be that we worship a false god in the chalice which is unconjured when we worship the bread, and worship the one as the other; but where find ye that ever Christ or any of his disciples taught any man to worship this bread or wine?
Therefore what shall we say of the apostles that were so much with Christ, and were called by the Holy Ghost? had they forgot it to set it in the creed when they made it, that is, Christian men’s belief? or else we might say that they knew no such God: for they believe in no more gods but in Him that was at the beginning, and made of nought all things, Hebrews the first, Psalm cii., visible and invisible; which Lord took flesh and blood, being in the virgin the same God. But ye have many false ways to beguile the innocent people, and sleights of the fiend.
For ye say that in every host either piece is the whole manhood of Christ, either full substance of him. For ye say, “As a man may take a glass, and break the glass into many pieces, and in every piece properly thou mayest see thy face, and thy face not parted; so,” ye say, “the Lord’s body is in each host either piece, and his body not parted.” And this is a foul subtil question to beguile an innocent fool.
[XIV.] But will ye take heed of this subtil question, how a man may take a glass and behold the very likeness of his own face, and yet it is not his face, but the likeness of his face? for and it were his very face, then he must needs have two faces, one on his body, and another in the glass. And if the glass were broken in many places, so there should be many faces, more by the glass than by the body, and each man shall make as many faces to them as they would: but as ye may see the mind or likeness of your face, and it is not the very face, but the figure thereof, so the bread is the figure or mind of Christ’s body in earth; and therefore Christ said, “As oft as ye do this thing, do it in mind of me.” (Luke xxii.) Also ye say, “As a man may light many candles at one candle, and the light of that candle never the more nor never the less; so,” ye say, “that the manhood of Christ descendeth into each part of every host, and the manhood of Christ never the more nor less,”—where then becometh your ministrations? For if a man light many candles at one candle, as long as they burn there will be many candles lighted, and as well the last candle as the first; and so by this reason, if ye shall fetch your word at God, of god make god, there must be many gods, and that is forbidden in the first commandment. (Exod. xx.) And as for making more, either making less of Christ’s manhood, it lieth not in your power to come there nigh, neither touch it, for it is ascended into heaven in a spiritual body, (Matthew xxviii.) which he suffered not Magdalene to touch, when her sins were forgiven to her. (John xx. 17.)
[XV.] Therefore all the sacraments that be left here in earth be but minds of the body of Christ; for a sacrament is no more to say, but a sign or mind of a thing passed or a thing to come: for when Jesus spake of the bread, and said to his disciples, Luke the xxii., “As ye do this thing, do it in mind of me,” it was set for a mind of good things of Christ’s body. But when the angel showed to John (Apocalypse xvii.) the sacraments of the woman, and of the beast that bare her, it was set for a mind of evil things to come on the face of the earth, and great stroyinga of the people of God. (Luke xxii. 19.) And in the old law there were many figures or minds of things to come. For the body of Christ and circumcision was commanded unto a law, (Gen. xvii. 12) and he that kept not the law was slain. And yet St. Paul saith, (Romans ii.) “And neither it is circumcision that is openly in the flesh, but he that is circumcised of heart in spirit, not in letter, whose praising is not of men, but of God.” Peter saith, the third chapter, “And so baptism of like form maketh not us safe, but the putting away of filthiness of the flesh, and the axing of good conscience in God, by the again rising of our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, that we should be made heirs of everlasting life, he yeadea into heaven, and angels, and powers, and virtues being made subjects to him.” And also the Scriptures say of John Baptist, Matthew the third chapter, that he “preached in wilderness and said: A stronger than I shall come after me, and I am not worthy to kneel down and unlace his shoe.” And yet Christ said that he was more than a prophet.
[XVI.] Isaiah saith, the xl. chapter, Matthew xi. How many say ye be worthy to make his body and yet your works beareth witness that ye be no less the prophets; for if ye did ye should not teach the people to worship the sacraments or minds of Christ, for Christ himself, which sacraments or figures be lawful that God taught them and left them unto us, as the sacrifices other minds of the old law was full good, as it is written, “They that keep them should live in those.” Paul, Romans x.: and so the bread that Christ brake was left to us for mind of things passed for the body of Christ, that we should believe he was a very man in kind as we, as God in our virtue, and that his manhood was sustained in food as ours be; for Saint Paul saith, “He was very man, and in habit he was found as man.” (Phil. ii. 7.) And so we must believe that he was very God and man together, and that he styedb up very God and man to heaven, and that he shall be there till he come to deemc the world. And that we may not see him bodily being in this life, as it is written, Peter i.: for he saith, “Whom ye have not ye love, into whom ye now not seeing believe.” And John saith in the first Gospel, “No man saw God, no but the only begotten Son that is in the Father he hath told out.” (John i. 18.) And John saith in his Epistle, the iii. chapter, “Every man that sinneth seeth not him, neither knows him.” By what reason, then, say ye, that be sinners, that ye make God? Truly this must needs be the worst sin, to say that ye make God; and it is the “abomination of discomfort,” that is said in Daniel the prophet, “standing in the holy place; he that readeth let him understand.” (Dan. xi. 32.) Also Luke saith, xxii., that Christ “took the cup after that he had supped, and did give thanks and said, This cup is the new testament in my blood that shall be shed into the remission of sins for man.”
[XVII.] Now what say ye,—the cup which he said is the new testament in my blood, was it a material cup in which the wine was that he gave his disciples wine of, or was it his most blessed body in which the blessed blood was kept till it were shed out for the sins of them that should be made safe by his passion? Needs we must say that he spake of his holy body, as he did when he called his passion either suffering in body a cup when he prayed to his Father, or he went to his passion, Matthew xxvi., and said, “If it be possible that this cup pass from me, but if thou wilt that I drink it, thy will be done?” He spake not here of the material cup in which he had given his disciples drink, for it troubled not him; but he prayed for his great sufferance and bitter, the which he suffered for our sins and not for his. And if he spake of his holy body and passion when he said, “This cup is the new testament in my blood,” so he spake of his holy body, when he said, “This is my body that shall be given for you,” and not of the material bread which he had in his hand. Also, in another place, he calleth his passion a cup, Matthew xx., where the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to him, and axeda of him that her two sons, when he came to his kingdom, might sit one of his right side and one at his left side. And he answered and said, “Woman, thou wottestb not what thou axest.”c Then he said to them: May ye drink the cup that I shall drink? and they said, Yea, Lord. And he said, “Ye shall drink of my cup, but to sit on my right hand, it is not mine to give, but to the Father it is proper.” But in that he said, “Ye shall drink of my cup,” he promised them to suffer tribulation of this world as he did, by the which they should enter into life everlasting, and to be both on his right hand.
[XVIII.] And thus ye may see that Christ spake not of the material cup, neither of himself nor of his apostles, neither of material bread, neither of material wine. Therefore let every man wisely with meek prayers and great study, and also charity, read the words of God and Holy Scripture: but many of you be like the mother of Zebedee’s sons, to whom Christ said, “Thou wottest not what thou axest.” So many of you wot not what ye axe or what ye do; for if ye did, ye would not blaspheme God as ye do, to set an alien god instead of the living God. Also Christ saith, John xv., “I am a very vine!” Wherefore worship ye not the vine for God as ye do the bread? Wherein was Christ a very vine? or wherein was the bread Christ’s body? in figurative speech, which is hid to the understanding of sinners. Then if Christ became not a material, neither an earthly vine, neither material vine became the body of Christ; so neither the bread, material bread, was not changed from his substance to flesh and blood of Christ.
Have ye not read John ii., when Christ came into the temple, they axed of him what token he would show, that they might believe him? And he answered unto them, “Cast down this temple, and in three days I shall raise it again;” which words were fulfilled in his rising again from death. But when he said, “Undo this temple,” in that, that he said this, they were deceived, for they understood it fleshly, and had wenta that he had spoken of the temple of Jerusalem, for because he stood in it. And hereof they accused him at his passion, full falsely, Matt. xxvi.; for he spake of the temple of his blessed body, which rose again in the third day. And right so Christ spake of his holy body, when he said, “This is my body, which shall be given for you,” Luke xxii., which was given to death, and into rising again, to bliss for all that shall be saved by him. But like as they accused him falsely of the temple of Jerusalem, right now-a-days they accuse falsely against Christ, and say, that Christ spake of the bread that he brake among his apostles; for in that Christ said this, they be deceived, take it fleshly, and turn it to the material bread, as the Jews did to the temple; and on this false understanding, they make abomination of discomfort, that is said Daniel the prophet xi., and Matthew xxiv., standing in the holy place, “He that readeth, let him understand.” Now, therefore, pray we heartily to God, that this evil time may be made short for the chosen men, as he hath promised in his blessed Gospel, Matt. xxiv. And the large and broad way, that leadeth to perdition, may be stopped; and the strait and narrow way, that leadeth to bliss, may be made open by Holy Scriptures, that we may know which is the will of God, to serve him in syckernessb and holiness, in the dread of God, that we may find by him a way of bliss everlasting. So be it.
[Note.] The Roman numerals in the margin, show the commencement of the several pages in the edition of 1546; the Scripture references, which are similarly marked, have been added in the present edition.
WHY POOR PRIESTS HAVE NO BENEFICES.
CHAPTER THE FIRST.
Some causes menena some poor priests to receive not benefices. The first for dread of simony: the second for dread of misspending poor men’s goods: the third for dread of lettingb of better occupation that is more light or easy, more certain, and more profitable on every side. For if men should come to benefices by gift of prelates, there is dread of simony; for, commonly, they take the first-fruits or other pensions, or hold curates in office in their courts or chapels, or other vain offices, far from priests taught and ensampled of Christ and his apostles. So that commonly such benefices come not freely, as Christ commandeth, but rather for worldly winning,c or flattery, or praising, and thank of mighty men and lords, and not for ableness or cunningd of God’s law, and true preaching of the Gospel, and ensample of holy life; and therefore commonly these prelates and receivers be fouled with simony, that is cursed heresy, as God’s law and man’s law teacheth openly, and many saints. And great marvel it is so now, that since St. Gregory saith, in plain law of the church and other books, that such men as desire benefices should not have them, but men that flee them for dread of unableness of themselves, and great charge, as did Moses, Jerom, Austin, Gregory, and holy saints. And now who can fast run to Rome, and bear gold out of the land, and pay it for dead lead, and a little writing, and strive and plead and curse for tithes, and other temporal profits, that be clepede with Antichrist’s clerks rights of holy church, shall have great benefices of cure of many thousands souls, though he be unable of cunninga of Holy Writ, nor in will to teach and preach to his subjects but of cursed life, and wicked ensample of pride, of covetousness, gluttony, lechery, and other great sins. But if there be any simple man that desireth to live well, and teach truly God’s law, and despise pride and other sins, both of prelates and other men, he shall be holden a hypocrite, a new teacher, a heretic, and not suffered to come to any benefice. But if in any little poor place to live a poor life, he shall be so pursued and slandered, that he shall be put out by wiles, cautels,b frauds and worldly violence, and imprisoned, disgraced, or burnt, if Antichrist’s clerks may for any gold and cursed leasings.c And if lords shall present clerks to benefices, they will have commonly gold in great quantity, and hold these curates in their worldly office, and suffer the wolves of hell to strangle men’s souls, so that they have much gold, and their office done for nought, and their chapels holden up for vain glory or hypocrisy, and yet they will not present a clerk able of cunninga of God’s law, and good life, and holy ensample to the people, but a kitchen clerk, or a penny clerk, or wise in building of castles, or worldly doing, though he cannot read well his psalter, and knoweth not the commandments of God, nor the sacraments of holy church. And yet some lords, to colour their simony, will not take for themselves, but kenerchiefsd for the lady, or a palfrey,e or a tun of wine. And when some lords would present a good man, and able for love of God and Christian souls, then some ladies be means to have a dancer, a tripper on tapis,f or hunter, or hawker, or a wild player of summer’s games, for flattering and gifts going betwixt; and if it be for dancing in bed, so much the worse. And thus it seemeth that both prelates and lords commonly make a cursed Antichrist, and a quick fiend to be master of Christ’s people, for to lead to hell to Satan their master; and suffer not Christ’s disciples to teach Christ’s Gospel to his children, for to save their souls. And so travail to exile Christ and his law out of his heritage, that is Christian souls, that he bought not with rotten gold nor silver, but with his precious heart-blood that he shed on the cross by most burning charity. But in this presenting of evil curates, and holding of curates in worldly office, lettingg them from their ghostly cure, be three degrees of traiteryh against God and his people. The first is in prelates and lords that thus hold curates in their worldly office: for they have their high states in the church, and lordships, for to purveyi true curates to the people, and to maintain them in God’s law, and punish them if they fail in their ghostly cure, and by this they hold their lordships of God. Then if they make evil curates, and hold them in their worldly office, and leta them to lead God’s people the rightful way to heaven, but help them and constrain them to lead the people to hell-ward, by withdrawing of God’s word, and by evil ensample giving, they be wayward traitors to God and his people, and vicars and procurators of Satan. Yet mere traiteryb is in false curates that give medec or hire, to come into such worldly offices, for to spare their muck and lay it in treasure, and to get lordship and maintenance against ordinances, that they dare not cleped them to residence, and save their souls, but couche in lords’ courts, and lusts, and ease of their flesh, for to get more fat benefices, and purpose not speedily to do their ghostly office. More is to the lords that be led with such cursed heretics, Antichrists, traitors to God and his people, namely, traitors to lords themselves: where lords might not find in all their lordship true worldly men to rule their household and worldly offices, but if they take thereto curates that be openly false traitors to God and his people: where lords be so blinded, that they perceive not that such traitors that openly be false to God, that they will much more be false to them. But the most traiteryb is in false confessors, that should by their office warn prelates and lords of this great peril, and clerks also that they hold none such curates in their worldly offices, for they do not this lest they should lessen lordship and friendship and gifts, and welfare of their stinking belly, and so they sillenf Christian souls to Satan, for to have likings of their stinking belly, and make prelates and lords and curates to live in sin and traiteryb against God and his people, and so against the hire that lords give their confessors, they deceive them in their souls’ health, and maintain them in cursed traiteryb of God and his people: and thus almost all the world goeth to hell for this cursed simony and false confessors. For commonly prelates, lords, and curates, be envenomed with this heresy of simony, and never do veryg repentance and satisfaction therefore. For when they have a fat benefice, gotten by simony, they forsake it not, as they be bound by their own law, but wittinglyh use forth that simony, and live in riot, covetousness, pride, and do not their office, neither in good ensample, nor in true teaching. And thus Antichrist’s clerks, enemies of Christ and his people, by money and flattery and fleshly love, gathering to them leading of the people, and forbarei true priests to teach them God’s law; and therefore the blind leadeth the blind, and both parts run into sin, and full many to hell; and it is huge wonder that God of his righteousness destroyeth not the houses of prelates and lords and curates, as Sodom and Gomorrah, for this heresy, extortion, and other cursedness that they havest.j
CHAPTER THE SECOND.
Yet though poor priests might freely get presentation of lords to have benefices with cure of souls, they dread of misspending of poor men’s goods. And this is more dread than the first anemptisa their own persons. For priests owenb to hold them paid with food and hiling,c and as St. Paul teacheth: and if they have more it is poor men’s good, as their own law, and Jerom and God’s law say, and they be keepers thereof and procurators of poor men. But for institution and induction he shall give much of this good that is poor men’s to bishops’ offices, archdeacons, and officials that be too rich, and not freely come thereof. And when bishops and their officers come and feign to visit, though they nourish men in open sin for annual rent, and do not their office, but sell souls to Satan for money, wretched curates be needed to feast them richly, and give procuracy and synage,d yea, against God’s law and man’s, and reason, and against their conscience, and also they should not be suffered to teach truly God’s law to their own subjects, and warn them of false prophets, who deceive them both in belief and teaching and good life, and earthly goods, as Christ doth in the Gospel, and commandeth curates to do the same upon pain of their damnation. For then they must cry to the people the great sins of prelates, and other new feigned religious, as God biddeth; but they deem that such sad reprovings of sin is envy, slandering of prelates, and destroying of holy church. And they shullene not be suffered to do sharp executions of God’s law against their subjects, be they never so openly cursed of God and slandered of Christian religion, if the high clerks of Antichrist have gifts and pensions by year to suffer cursed men in open avowteryf and other sins. For when they be falsely amended by officials and deans, no man be hardy to waken them out of their lusts of sin, for that should destroy jurisdiction, and winningg of prelates; and their cursed extortion is called ‘the great alms of Antichrist.’ But hereby they make large kitchens, hold fat horse and hounds, and hawks, and strumpets gaily arrayed, and suffer poor men to starve for mischief, and yet suffer and constrain them to go the broad way to hell. Also many times their patrons getters of country and idle shaveldoosh will look to be feasted of such curates, and else make them lose that little thing that they and poor men shall live by. So that they shall not spend the dymesa and offerings after good conscience and God’s law, but waste them on such mighty and rich men, and idle, and else for travail, cost and enmity, and despising that they shall suffer; and on the other side, for dread of conscience therein, is better to forsake all than hold it forth. Also each good day commonly these small curates shall have letters from their ordinaries to summon, and to curse poor men for nought, but for covetousness of Antichrist’s clerks, and but if they not summon and curse them though they know no cause why anemptisb God’s law, they shall be hurled and summoned from day to day, from far place to farther, or cursed, or lose their benefice or profits thereof. For else as prelates feign they by their revelry shall soon destroy prelates’ jurisdiction, power, and winning.c Also, when poor priests first holy of life, and devout in their prayers, be beneficed; but if they be not worldly and busy about the world, to make great feasts to rich parsons and vicars, and rich men, and costly and gaily arrayed, and their state axeth,d by false doome of the world, they shall be hated and haynedf on as hounds, and each man to peirg them in name and worldly goods, and so many cursed deceits hath Antichrist brought up by his worldly clerks to make curates to misspend poor men’s goods, and not truly do their office, or else to forsake all, and let Antichrist’s clerks as lords of this world, yea, more cruelly than other tyrants, rob the poor people by feigned censures, and teach the fiend’s lore,h both by open preaching and ensample of their cursed life. Also, if such curates be stirred to go learn God’s law, and teach their parishioners the Gospel, commonly they shall get no leave of bishops but for gold; and when they shall most profit in their learning, then shall they be clepidi home at the bishop’s will. And if they shall have any high sacraments, or points of the high prelates, commonly they shall buy them with poor men’s goods, both against high prelates, anemptisb rich men of country, as patrons, parsons, and other getters of country, and their own kin, for fame of the world, and for shame, and evil deemingk of men. And certesl it is a great wonder that God suffereth so long this sin unpunished openly; namely, of prelates’ courts that be dens of thieves, and larders of hell: and so of their officers that be subtle in malice and covetousness, and of lords and mighty men that shall destroy this wrong and other, and maintain truth and God’s servants, and now maintain Antichrist’s falseness and his clerks for part of the winning.a And how simple priests durst take such benefices. But if they were mighty of cunningb a good life, and hearty agenstondc these wrongs, and more that we may now touch for the multiplicity and subtle colouring by hypocrisy. But certesd God suffereth such hypocrites and tyrants to have name of prelates for great sins of the people and unworthiness thereof, that each part lead other to hell by blindness of the fiend. And this is a thousand-fold more vengeance that if God destroy both parts and all their goods, and earth therewith, as he did by Sodom and Gomorrah. For the longer that they live thus in sin, the greater pains shall they have in hell, but if they amend them. And this dread and many more, maketh some poor priests to receive more benefices.
CHAPTER THE THIRD.
But yet though poor priests might have freely presentation of lords, and be helped by maintaining of kings, and help of good commons from extortions of prelates and other misspending of these goods that is full hard in this reign of Antichrist’s clerks; yet they dread sore that by singular cure ordained of sinful men they should be lettede from better occupation, and from more profit of holy church. And this is the most dread of all as anemptisf their persons; for they have cure and charge at the full of God to help their brethren to heavenward, both by teaching, praying, and ensample giving. And it seemeth that they shall most easily fulfil this by general cure of charity as did Christ and his apostles, though they bind them not to our singular place as a teyg dog. And by this they most sickerlyh save themselves, and help their brethren: for now they be free to flee from one city to another, when they be pursued of Antichrist’s clerks, as biddeth Christ in the Gospel. Also now they may best without challenging of men go and dwell among the people where they shall most profit, and in convenablei time come and go after stirring of the Holy Ghost, and not be bound by sinful men’s jurisdiction from the better doing. Also now they suek Christ and his apostles near, in thus taking alms wilfully and freely of the people that they teach, than in taking dymesl and offerings by custom that sinful men ordain, and use now in the time of grace. Also this is more meedfula in both sides as they understand by Christ’s life, and his apostles: for thus the people giveth them alms more wilfully and devoutly, and they take it more meekly, and be more busy to have, keep, and teach God’s law; and so it is the better for both sides. Also by this manner might and should the people give freely their alms to true priests that truly keep their order and freely and openly taught the Gospel, and withdraw from wicked priests, and not to be constrained to pay their tithes and offerings to open cursed men, and not maintain them in their open cursedness. And thus should simony, covetousness, and idleness of worldly clerks be laid down, and holiness and true teaching and knowing of God’s law be brought in both in clerks and lewdb men: also thus should striving, pleading, and cursing for dymesc and offerings, and hate and discord among priests and lewd men be ended, and unity, peace, and charity be maintained and kept. Also these benefices by this course that men use now bringeth in worldliness and needless business about worldly offices that Christ and his apostles would never take upon them, and yet they were more mighty, more witty, and more burning in charity to God and to the people, both to live the best manner in themselves, and to teach other men. Also covetousness and worldly sickernessd of clerks, and occasion of covetousness and worldliness of the people, should be done away, and Christ’s poverty and his apostles’, by ensample of poor life of clerks, and trust in God, and desiring of heavenly bliss, should reign in Christian people. Also then should priests study Holy Writ, and be devout in their prayers tarried with new offices as new songs, and more sacraments than Christ used and his apostles that taught us all truth, and speedily saving of Christian people. Also mochile blasphemy of prelates and other men of feigned obedience, and needless swearings made to worldly prelates, should then cease, and sovereign obedience to God and his law, and eschewing of needless oaths should reign among Christian men; also then should men eschew commonly all the perils said before in the first chapter and second, and many thousand more, and live in cleanness and sickernessd of conscience. Also then should priests be busy to seek God’s worship, and saving of men’s souls, and not their own worldly glory, and winningf of worldly dirt. Also then should priests live like to an angel, as they be angels of office, where they live now as swine in fleshly lusts, and turn again to their former sins as hounds to their spuing, for abundance of worldly goods, and idleness in their ghostly office, and overmuch business about this wretched life. For these dreads and many thousand more, and for to be more like to Christ’s life and his apostles, and for to profit more to their own souls and other men’s, some poor priests think with God to travail about where they should most profit, by evidence that God giveth them, the while that they have time, and little bodily strength and youth. Nethlessa they damnb not curates that do well their office, so that they keep liberty of the Gospel, and dwell where they shall most profit, and that they teach truly and stably God’s law against false prophets, and cursed fiends’ lymes.c
Christ for his endless mercy help his priests and common people to beware of Antichrist’s deceits, and go even the right way to heaven. Amen, Jesus, for thy endless charity!
ANSWER OF WYCLIFFE TO RICHARD THE SECOND,
In relation to the following document, Fox, the martyrologist,a writes:—
“It was demanded, whether the kingdom of England may lawfully, in case of necessity, for its own defence, detain and keep back the treasure of the kingdom, that it be not carried away to foreign and strange nations, the pope himself demanding and requiring the same, under pain of censure, and by virtue of obedience.”
Wycliffe thus answers:—
Setting apart the minds of learned men, and what might be said in the matter, either by the canon law, or by the law of England, or the civil law; it resteth now only to persuade and prove the affirmative part of this doubt, by the principles of Christ’s law. And first I prove it thus:—
Every natural body hath power given of God to resist against its contrary, and to preserve itself in due estate, as philosophers know very well. Insomuch, that bodies without life are endued with such kind of power (as it is evident) unto whom hardness is given, to resist those things that would break them, and coldness, to withstand the heat that dissolveth them. Forasmuch then, as the kingdom of England (after the manner and phrase of the Scriptures) ought to be one body, and the clergy with the commonalty the members thereof, it seemeth that the same kingdom hath such power given it of God; and so much the more apparently, by how much the same body is more precious unto God, adorned with virtue and knowledge. Forsomuch then as there is no power given of God unto any creature, for any end or purpose, but that he may lawfully use the same to that end and purpose, it followeth that our kingdom may lawfully keep back and detain their treasure for the defence of itself, in what case soever necessity do require the same.
Secondly, the same is proved by the law of the Gospel; for the pope cannot challenge the treasure of this kingdom, but under the title of alms, and consequently under the pretence of the works of mercy, according to the rule of charity.
But in the case aforesaid the title of alms ought utterly to cease: ergo, the right and title of challenging the treasure of our realm shall cease also in the presupposed necessity. Forsomuch as all charity hath his beginning of himself, it were no work of charity, but of mere madness, to send away the treasures of the realm into foreign nations, whereby the realm itself may fall into ruin, under the pretence of such charity.
It appeareth also by this, that Christ the head of the church, whom all Christian priests ought to follow, lived by the alms of devout women, Luke vii. 8. He hungered and thirsted, he was a stranger, and many other miseries he sustained, not only in his members, but also in his own body, as the apostle witnesseth, 2 Cor. viii., “He was made poor for your sakes, that through his poverty you might be rich.” Whereby in the first endowing of the church, whatsoever he were of the clergy that had any temporal possessions, he had the same by form of a perpetual alms, as both writings and chronicles do witness.
Whereupon St. Bernard, declaring in his second book to Eugenius, that he could not challenge any secular dominion by right of succession, as being the vicar of St. Peter, writeth thus: “That if Saint John should speak unto the pope himself as St. Bernard doth unto Eugenius, were it to be thought that he would take it patiently? But let it be so, that you do challenge it unto you by some other ways or means; but truly by any right or title apostolical, you cannot so do; for how could he give unto you that which he had not himself? That which he had he gave you, that is to say, care over the church; but did he give you any lordship or rule? Hark what he saith: ‘Not bearing rule (saith he) as lords over the clergy, but behaving yourselves as examples to the flock.’ And because thou shalt not think it to be spoken only in humility, and not in verity, mark the word of the Lord himself in the Gospel: ‘The kings of the people do rule over them, but you shall not do so.’ ”
Here lordship and dominion is plainly forbidden to the apostles, and darest thou then usurp the same? If thou wilt be a lord, thou shalt lose thine apostleship: or if thou wilt be an apostle, thou shalt lose thy lordship: for truly thou shalt depart from the one of them. If thou wilt have both, thou shalt lose both, or else think thyself to be of that number, of whom God doth so greatly complain, saying, “They have reigned, but not through me; they are become princes, and I have not known it.” Now if it doth suffice thee to rule with the Lord, thou hast thy glory, but not with God. But if we will keep that which is forbidden us, let us hear what is said: “He that is the greatest amongst you (saith Christ) shall be made as the least; and he which is the highest, shall be as the minister;” and for example, he set a child in the midst of them.
So this then is the true form and institution of the apostles’ trade: lordship and rule is forbidden, ministration and service commanded.a
LETTER OF WYCLIFFE
I have joyfully to tell all true men the belief that I hold, and algaesb to the pope. For I suppose, that if any faith be rightful and given of God, the pope will gladly conserve it; and if my faith be error, the pope will wisely amend it. I suppose over this, that the Gospel of Christ be part of the corpsc of God’s law. For I believe that Jesus Christ, that gave in his own person this Gospel, is very God and very man, and by this it passes all other laws. I suppose over this, that the pope be most oblishid to the keeping of the Gospel among all men that live here. For the pope is highest vicar that Christ hath here in earth. For morenessd of Christ’s vicars is not measured by worldly moreness but by this,—that this vicar suese more Christ by virtuous living, for this teaches the Gospel. That this the sentence of Christ and of his Gospel I take as belief; that Christ for time that he walked here was most poor man of all, both in spirit and in haveing;f for Christ says that he had not thing for to rest his head on. And over this I take as belief, that no man schulde sue the pope, nor no saint that now is in heaven, but in alsmycheg as he suedh Christ: for James and John erred, and Peter and Paul sinned. Of this I take as wholesome counsel, that the pope leave his worldly lordship to worldly lords, as Christ gave him, and more speedily all his clerks to do so, for thus did Christ, and taught thus his disciples, till the fiend had blinded this world. And if I err in this sentence, I will meekly be amended, if by the death, it be skilful, for that I hope were good to me. And if I might travel in my own person, I would with God’s will go to the pope. But Christ has needed me to the contrary, and taught me more obeishea to God, than to man.b And I suppose of our pope that he will not be Antichrist, and reverse Christ in this working, to the contrary of Christ’s will. For if he summons against reason, by him or any of his, and pursue this unskilful summoning, he is an open Antichrist. And merciful intent exused not Peter that not Christ clepidc him Sathan: so blind intent and wicked counsel exuses not the pope here, but if he ask of true priests that they travel more than they may, ’tis not exused by reason of God that nor he is Antichrist. For our belief teaches us that our blessed God suffers us not to be tempted more than we may; how should a man ask such service? And therefore pray we to God for our pope Urban the Sixth, that his holy intent be not quenched by his enemies. And Christ, that may not lie, says that the enemies of a man be especially his homely emeinth,d and that this is sothe of men and fiends.
CONFESSION OF WYCLIFFE
I acknowledge that the sacrament of the autar is very God’s body in form of bread; but it is in another manner God’s body than it is in heaven. For in heaven it is senea fote, in form and figure of flesh and blood: but in the sacrament, God’s body is the miracle of God in form of bread: and is he noutherb of sense fote, nor in man’s figure, but as a man leevesc for to think the kind of an image, whether it be of oak or of ash, and sets his thought in him in whom is the image: so much more should a man leave to think on the kind of bread but think upon Christ; for his body is the same bread that is the sacrament of the autar, and with all cleness,d all devotion, and all charity that God would give him worship he Christ, and then he receives God ghostly more meedfullye than the priest, that sings the mass in less charity. For the bodily eating profits not to the soul, but inasmuch as the soul is fed with charity. This sentence is proved by Christ that may not lie. For, as the Gospel says, Christ, that night that he was betrayed of Judas Iscariot, he took bread in his hands, and blessed it, brake it, and gave it to his disciples to eat. For he says, and may not lie,—“This is my body.”
CONFESSION ON THE EUCHARIST,
We believe, as Christ and his apostles have taught us, that the sacrament of the alter, white and rande, and like to our bread or host unsacred is very God’s body in form of bread, and if it be broken in three parties, as the church uses, or else in a thousand, every one of these parties is the same God’s body, and rythb so as the person of Christ is very God and very man, very Godhead, and very manhead, ryth so as holy kirke many hundred winters has trowyde,c the same sacrament is very God’s body, and very bread; as it is form of God’s body, and form of bread, as teacheth Christ and his apostles. And therefore Saint Paul nameth it never, but when he calls it bread, and he by our belief took his wit of God in this: and the argument of hereties against this sentence, is easy to a Christian man to assolve. And right as it is heresy to believe that Christ is a spirit and no body, so it is heresy for to trowe that this sacrament is God’s body, and no bread; for it is both together. But the most heresy that God suffered to come to his kyrke is to trowe that this sacrament is an accident without a substance, and may on no wise be God’s body: for Christ said by witness of John that “This bread is my body.” And if they say that be this skylle that holy kyrke had been in heresy many hundred winters, so it is specially since the fiend was loosed that was bewitnessed of the angel to John Evangelist after a thousand winters that Christ was ascended to heaven. But it is to suppose that many saints that died in the mean time before their death were pured of this error. Oh how great diversity is between us that trowes that this sacrament is very bread in its kind, and between heretics that tell us that this is an accident without a subject! For before that the fiend, the father of lesyngesa was loosened, was never this gabbyingb contrived. And how great diversity is between us that trowes that this sacrament that in its kind it is very bread, and sacramentally God’s body, and between heretics that trowes and tells that this sacrament may on none wise be God’s body! For I dare surely say that if this were truth, Christ and his saints died heretics, and the more part of holy kyrke believeth now heresy, and therefore devout men supposed that this council of friars in London, was with the herydene.c For they put an heresy upon Christ and saints in heaven, wherefore the earth trembled. In truth, landman’s voice answered for God as it did in time of his passion, when he was dampnyde to bodily death. Christ and his modur that in ground had destroyed all heresies, keep his kyrke in right belief of this sacrament, and move the king and his realm to ask sharply of his clerks this office that all his possessioners, on pain of losing all their temporalities, tell the king and his realm with sufficient grounding what is this sacrament; and all the orders of friars on pain of losing their allegiance tell the king and his realm with good grounding what is the sacrament: for I am certain of the thridde part of clergy that defends these doubts that is here said, that they will defend it on pain of their life.
blackburn and pardon printers
[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.
[j]true, or secure.
[c]low, or unofficial.
[f]interpretation, or addition.
[d]the king’s right.
[e]the king’s right.
[f]busy or labour.
[j]powers or rulers.
[k]submissive or obedient.
[b]spotted or defiled.
[c]Mahometry or idolatry.
[g]livelihood or living.
[a]livelihood or living.
[a]Thursday before Easter.
[a]cheats, vile persons.
[b]assemb’ed for worship.
[a]lead or constrain.
[d]kerchief or mantle.
[d]synodal rent paid to the bishop.
[d]asketh or requireth.
[g]impair or injure.
[h]learning or lesson.
[c]resist or withstand.
[b]ignorant or lay.
[c]lymbs or deceits.
[a]Fox’s Acts and Monuments, i. 584.
[a]The reply of Wycliffe extends thus far, and does not end, as the use of a different type in Fox might lead one to suppose, with the preceding paragraph. Nor does the MS. end here. It is much more extended. Bodleran MSS. Fasciculus Zizaniorum.
[a]Lewis, Ap. No. 23. Fox, Acts and Monuments, i. 581.
[b]This sentence points to the impaired health of the Reformer. He died two years later.
[a]Knighton de Event. Angl. apud X. Scriptores, Coll. 2649, 2650.