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CHAP. far accommodated, as to admit of his returning to III.

his scholastic exercises. But in 1387, Hereford was generally believed to be a disciple of Wycliffe, and so late as the year 1392, he solicited and obtained the protection of the court against the machinations of his enemies which had arisen from that cause.

25

25 It is from Knighton, (2657) that we learn the fact of Hereford's

escape from the bitterness of death” through the influence of the duke of Lancaster. But in 1391 we find him with the clergy who sat in judgment on the celebrated lollard, Walter Brute. By his indecision he appears to have forfeited the confidence both of the orthodox and of their opponents, and probably his own peace of mind. The firmness of the martyr is not the possession of every good man. Fox, i. 654. Mr. God. win describes him as “ the most refined and virtuous of the adherents of “ Wycliffe.” It may be that the lollards did not possess his superior as a scholar, but in the virtues of firmness and consistency he was surpassed by many of that class. Life of Chaucer, ii. 336. Ashton is said to have died as he lived. Thorp's Examination. Wals. 328. Lewis, c. x.

CHAPTER IV.

PERSECUTION --SKETCH OF ITS HISTORY--WYCLIFFE's DEVOTIONAL ALLU.

SION TO THE EVILS OF HIS TIME--SUMMARY OF HIS COMPLAINT ADDRESSED

TO THE KING AND PARLIAMENT-EFFECT OF THAT APPEAL-THE RE

FORMER IS FORSAKEN BY LANCASTER HIS PURPOSES UNALTERED BY THAT

EVENTHIS VIGOROUS PERCEPTION OF THE BEARINGS OF THE CONTRO

VERSY RESPECTING THE EUCHARIST, AND HIS CONFIDENCE OF ULTIMATE SUC-
CESSO-HE APPEARS BEFORE THE CONVOCATION AT OXFORD-SUBSTANCE

OF

HIS CONFESSIONS PERPLEXITY

OF

HIS JUDGES ---HE RETIRES TO

LUTTERWORTH HIS LETTER TO THE PONTIFF.

Persecu

The history of persecution is a continued illus- CHAP. tration of its inefficacy, and of its turpitude; and a the fact is not a little humiliating, that it should tion. still have pervaded the nations of Christendom A sketch so entirely, and through so long a' period. The tory. civil penalties, by which the religious obedience of the ancient Israelite was enforced, are sufficiently explained by the circumstance that such were the peculiar features of the hebrew government, that to yield to the practice of idolatry, was to incur the guilt of treason. But no second theocracy has been established. The power accordingly, both of the sovereign and of the priest, may be presumed to have been materially affected by the departure of the mosaic economy. The limits now assigned to the authority of each, is a subject deserving the most severe and cautious attention, whether viewed in connexion with its many preliminary questions, or in its practical importance. The consequences which have arisen from opposite decisions respecting it, have ever

IV.

CHAP. been fraught with a large amount of good or evil

to mankind.

Among the heathen states of antiquity, toleration was scarcely a virtue, as the local aspect of their idolatry left the province of every existing deity undisturbed, even while new objects of worship were introduced. But the gospel was not of a character to enter into any such partnership with human inventions. On the contrary, as being alone true, it claimed an undivided empire. By primitive believers, its pretensions in this respect were fearlessly urged; nor were their descendants concerned, either to deny or to conceal this peculiarity, though but too well apprised of the loathing which it had brought upon them from all the votaries of gentile worship. In some instances, the unearthly devotedness which not unfrequently distinguished the professors of christianity at that period, was augmented and purified by the external sufferings thus produced. But in others, the ascendancy of the doctrines of the cross over the turbulence of the passions was less complete, and the violence employed to suppress the truths of the gospel excited a re-action of the same temper in their support. These inflammable materials had been for some time increasing in the church, when under Constantine, christianity was announced as the religion of the empire. As the consequence of that event, these dangerous elements became so far dominant among the nominal adherents of the gospel, as to leave the partisans of the ancient idolatry, to deplore the severity of the weapons which they had recently wielded with

IV.

so much freedom against its opponents. But CHAP. when attempts to convince the understanding of its errors, by means of confiscations and torture and exile, were not only considered as rational; but when to be zealous in the application of this species of logic, was to secure the reputation of unusual sanctity; it was not the grosser forms of heathenism merely, which would feel the disastrous influence of this strange delusion. The diversities of opinion observable among the avowed disciples of the same master, soon attracted the critical attention of churchmen. These differences were found to be of a most obstinate mould ; and no little artifice was employed, to clothe the peculiarities of dissentients with almost every feature of impiety; as the best method of vindicating the infliction of penalties which had been awarded to idolatry, on such as dissented either less or more from the established crecds.. Nor is it to be doubted, that the guilt of transferring the maxims of persecution from the policy of pagan Rome, to that of the papal hierarchy, so as to render them the law both of its head and of its members, chiefly belongs to the higher orders of the clergy. Amid the declining civilization of the empire, the power of that class of men steadily increased, until their supremacy over the conscience of their victims was completed. It is, however, a stubborn, and a most disgraceful fact, that with every step of their progress, persecution became more systematic and relentless. The notion of divine right, was by degrees connected with the regal office to the exclusion of every subordinate authority; and while monarchs, if obedient to the will

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IV.

CHAP. of the church, were placed on a level with the

sovereigns of Judah ; ecclesiastics claimed to be the representatives of Deity, and to an extent greatly surpassing any thing to which the jewish priesthood had aspired. The ministers of the christian sanctuary, being once acknowledged as the unerring interpreters of the will of Heaven ; to dissent from the church, whether its judgment were interposed to enforce the claims of princes, or to determine articles of faith, was to resist the Almighty, and to fall under the double censure of the rebel and the impious. Monarchs, indeed, were sometimes slow to act on the suggestions of their pastors, as to the best mode of subduing the heresies of their people; but such as were solicitous to hold the sceptre with a steady hand,were usually induced to become the instruments of almost any scheme, which promised to the church the reverence claimed for her supposed infallibility.

It is true the civil authorities of England, previous to the age of Wycliffe, are less stained with the blood which was so freely shed for the protection of orthodoxy than were the rulers of almost every state upon the continent.

the continent. But this peculiarity arose simply from the circumstance, that until the former half of the fourteenth century had passed, certain encroachments in discipline formed the only matters of serious complaint, either with the people or with the civil power. The honor of first attempting to render it a part of our statute law, that on all questions of heresy, the magistrate should become the executioner of the will of the church, belongs to the zeal of the primate Courtney. Nor was the effort

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