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CHAP.
VII.

have nothing peculiar in them. They are connected, however, as usual, with complaints respecting the vices of the mendicants, and the worldliness of the secular clergy; and it is repeatedly affirmed to be an act of weakness, to concede any portion of that supremacy which the pontiffs had so long claimed. In the concluding chapters, the writer anticipates the event of death, the resurrection, the judgment, and the character of the opposite allotments awaiting the human race, after the dissolution of all things. In this part of the work, amid much that is speculative, there is much that is distinguished by its serious. ness and devotion."

Among the reformer's manuscripts still extant, tise one are many pieces which were evidently produced obe

His trea

dience to prelates.

66

• The following passage has been adduced, to show the consciousness of danger with which the writer pursued his plans as a reformer, We shall meet with many such in his other works relating to the same period. “ As all ought to be the soldiers of Christ, it is evident how many

are condemned by their sloth, who allow the fear of losing temporal “ benefits, or of worldly friendships, or of the welfare of the body, to “make them unfaithful to God's cause, or averse to stand manfully for “ it, even to death if necessary. Modern hypocrites say, through the “ device of Satan, that it is not necessary now to suffer martyrdom, as it

was in the primitive church, because now all, or the greater part of

living men are believers, and that there are now no tyrants to put “ christians to death. This excuse comes of satan; for if the faithful now “ would stand firm for the law of Christ, and as his soldiers endure “ bravely any sufferings, they might tell the pope, the cardinals, the

bishops, and other prelates how departing from the faith of the gos"pel, they minister improperly to God, and commit perilous injury

against his people.” Trial. The conduct thus adverted to, as leading to martyrdom, will be remembered as that which the reformer was steadily pursuing. Again, he powerfully adds, “ visit not pagans to “ convert them by martyrdom, but rather preach constantly the law of “ Christ, even to the princely prelates, and if we persevere in faith and

patience, martyrdom will come with sufficient speed.” Ibid. Turner. Hist. v. 181, 182. For some further notices of this work, see the chapter on the opinions of Wycliffe, and that on his writings.

VII.

CHAP. about the same period with the work now de

scribed. His treatise intitled “On Obedience to “ Prelates," was written subsequent to the spring of 1382. It commences with stating that “prelates “slander poor priests, and other christian men,

saying that they will not obey their sovereign, nor “ fear the curse, nor dread, nor keep the law, but

despise all things which are against their liking ; “ and that they ought in consequence to be de“stroyed, lest they prove the destruction of holy

church, and of Christendom.” In his attempt to refute this calumny, and to counteract the malignant purposes to which it was applied, he avows his readiness, and that of his followers, to honor the prelates in all particulars, where their doctrine and their life, shall be found conformable to the lessons of scripture. To demand more than this, it is argued, must be to require a degree of submission, which neither apostles nor the Lord himself exacted, though evidently possessing the gifts of inspiration and miracles, and exhibiting a life of unsullied devotion. If the injunctions of the word of God, and the laws of the jurisdiction exercised by the prelates, be found opposed to each other, reason and piety are said to suggest, that the authority of the greater should be preferred to that of the less. Let bishops emulate the zeal of apostles, and the homage of the priesthood and of the people will not be wanting. And let the same regard for the will of the supreme Lord, as it is contained in the scriptures, regulate their application of spiritual

* MS. C. C. Cambridge, Trinity College, Dublin, class c. tab. 3. No. 12.

CHAP.
VII.

censures; or be observable in the laws of

any christian community; and true men will be the last to despise the one or the other. But modern prelates, it is asserted, are too frequently the enemies of all piety; and their ceaseless efforts to assimilate the maxims of the gospel to their character, is the source to which every religious and moral disorder must be traced. The vigour with which these topics are discussed, will appear from extracts to be inserted in the next chapter. It is thus the writer concludes the defence of himself and of his disciples : “ Let worldly “prelates, then, cease to slander poor priests,

saying, that they will not obey their sovereigns, “nor dread the curse, but despise the law; for “ in all these three, they are clear before God and “ man, if right, and reason, and charity be well

sought.”

Another composition, bearing upon the same His tract evils, is described by its author as shewing “how deceits of “ Satan, and his priests, and his feigned religions,

study by their cursed heresies to destroy all priests.

good living, and to maintain all manner of “ sin."'5 The allusions in this tract to the controversy respecting the vernacular scriptures, and to the existing persecutions, determine its date. The writer complains indignantly, of the efforts which were made to diminish the authority of holy writ; and to raise man's interpretation of its meaning, into the place that should be peculiar to the volume itself. This policy he defines as a feign

ing to be wiser than God.” He also censures

satan and

5 MS. C. C. Cambridge.

VII,

CHAP. the artifices, by which the religious were fre

quently known, to induce the young to adopt the
vows of their fraternities; and to the charge of
malevolence as preferred by the clergy while suf-
fering under his rebuke, it is replied that if such
reproofs are inconsistent with charity, the life of
Christ, of his apostles, and of the prophets who
preceded them, must form a dangerous example
to the church. Almighty God,” he observes,
“who is full of charity, commandeth the prophet

Isaiah, to cry, and cease not; and to shew to the

people their great sins. The sin of the com“mons is great, the sin of lords, of mighty men, “ and of wise men is more; but the sin of prelates is most of all, and most blindeth the people. “ True men are bound therefore, by God's com

mand, to cry most against the sins of prelates, “ since it is in itself the most, and harmeth most “ the people.” It was particularly objected, that the censures adverted to, were generally uttered in the absence of the parties concerned. But it is remarked of these same parties, that

antichrist maketh them so mighty, that in their presence no man dare speak against their open

sins, unless he would be dead anon.” To limit freedom of speech, therefore, to such occasions, it was well known, was to proscribe it entirely. The writer concludes, by devoutly praying that God, himself, would divest the clerks of antichrist; of their power to impede the progress of his truth, and that “ he would strengthen all manner of

men to maintain the truth of holy writ, and to “ destroy all falsehood, and openly to oppose both in word and deed all hypocrisy, and heresy,

VII.

duty of

" and covetousness in all prelates and priests : CHAP. “ for thus shall good life and truth, and peace, “and charity reign among christian men! Jesus “ Christ! for thine endless mercy, grant us this ! " Amen.”

Connected with this reproof of the temper On the and maxims of the clergy, was a renewed appeal lords. to the secular authorities, stating three “skills” or reasons which would induce lords “ to con“ strain clerks to live in meekness, wilful poverty, “and discreet penance, and ghostly travail.”' The first argument employed is deduced from the penalties of scripture, as certainly awaiting the persons addressed, should they continue to neglect this momentous duty. The second is deduced, from the happiness which must be diffused, by extending the influence of an enlightened piety; and the last is founded on the political benefits, which must result from a correction of religious abuses. From this spirited production, some extracts will also be given in the chapter devoted to the fuller statement of the reformer's opinions.

In aid of these appeals to the magistrate, Of serWycliffe, also published his treatise intitled, lords. “Of Servants and Lords, how each should keep his degree.” In this work, the author asserts the legitimate authority of the civil power; and largely quotes from the New Testament scriptures, to demonstrate that the principles which induce some devout men to discard the guidance of a vicious clergy in religion, are not such as to

6 Ibid.

7 Ibid.

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