Front Page Titles (by Subject) WHY POOR PRIESTS HAVE NO BENEFICES. - Tracts and Treatises of John de Wycliffe
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WHY POOR PRIESTS HAVE NO BENEFICES. - 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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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!
[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.