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OPINIONS OF JOHN WYCLIFFE, D.D.
DESIGN OF THE CHAPTER ---THE DOCTRINE OP WYCLIFFE RESPECTING THE
POPE'S TEMPORAL POWER—THE SECULAR EXEMPTIONS OF THE CLERGY
ASUMMARY OF HIS DOCTRINE RELATING TO THE CIVIL ESTABLISHMENT OF
CHRISTIANITY AND CLERICAL REVENUE---HIS OPINIONS RELATING TO SIMONY
THE SPIRITUAL POWER OF THE POPE-THE HIERARCHY-THE RE
LIGIOUS ORDERS-THE NATURE OF A CHRISTIAN CHURCH-THE POWER
OF THE KEYS---PURGATORY AND MASSES FOR THE DEAD-THE INVOCA
ENCY OF THE SCRIPTURES, AND THE RIGHT OF PRIVATE JUDGMENT
Many of the doctrines peculiar to the creed of CHAP. Wycliffe, have been introduced in the preceding to chapters, and in the order in which they appear Design of in his writings. But in some instances they have ter. obtained a passing notice only; and in every case, they admit of a more complete illustration from the Wycliffe manuscripts, and of a more advantageous exhibition as connected with the reformer's general doctrine. There are also certain of his opinions, relating both to doctrine and dis
Doctrine of Wycliffe on
CHAP. cipline, which have not obtained any place in our
The parties who, during the middle ages, were
most offended by the false doctrines, or by the the pope's political encroachments of the papacy; and whose
efforts were to issue, in so great a diminution of its opulence and power; are found, in general, directing their first and most vigorous attacks, against its latest corruptions. These could not be readily shielded by the plea of ancient custom. Forming also, as they did, the more recent measures of a power, which had long dispensed with the restraints of modesty in urging its demands, both their origin and their character, were commonly such, as to admit of being easily exposed. Among the assumptions of this class, those which relate to the doctrine of the pope's temporal power, claim our first attention. It is not surprising, that the modern catholic, whose creed has been so materially affected by the progress of society, should regret the prominence conferred by protestant historians on this feature in the history of the Romish church. The facts, however, which it includes, afford those illustrations of human character, and of the necessary tendencies of the system producing them, which are too instructive to be wholly forgotten. The avowed successors of the Galilean fisherman, have gravely assumed an authority over all worlds ; disposing at pleasure of the crowns and kingdoms of the present, and of the weal or woe pertaining to the future! To prevent the return of any similar tyranny, it is important that this scheme of successful ambition, should be frequently de
picted in its native colours. That every political CHAP. . government is, and ought to be subject to the dominion of the spiritual church, is taught by Baronius as a verity that should never have been questioned. Nor is there any real difference between this opinion, and that expressed by Bellarmine, as the general doctrine of catholics in his day. From Wycliffe's defence of the english parliament, in abolishing the census which had been extorted from king John, it appears, that previous to the year 1366, he had learnt to discard this preposterous claim as novel, fraudulent, and impious. It was in consequence of his political interferences founded on this doctrine, that the bishop of Rome became, in the language of our reformer, “ the evil man-slayer, poisoner, and “ burner of the servants of Christ.” He complains indignantly of the men who profess to regard this root of all the misgovernance in “ the church, as the head of holy church, and as “ the most holy father who may not sin. With equal regret he observes, “ that if men foolishly “ make a vow to go to Rome, Jerusalem, or
Canterbury, or on any other pilgrimage, that
they will value more than the great vow to keep “ God's commandments, and to forsake the fiend “ and all his works, which was made at their “christening. And if a man break the highest
commands of God, the rudest parish priest “ shall absolve him anon; but of the vows made “ from our own head, though many times against “ the will of God, no man shall absolve, except
1 Apologia. c. 13. Barrow on the Pope's Supremacy, p. 6.
a great worldly bishop, or the most worldly “priest of Rome—the master of the emperor“ the fellow of God—the Deity on earth !" While the reformer thus applied his rebukes, to the monarch of that worldly kingdom which had been introduced into the church; it is in the following language, that he adverts to the conduct of its subordinate partisans. Commonly, the new “ laws which the clergy have made, are cunningly “ devised to bring down the power of lords “ and kings which God ordained, and to make “ themselves lords, and to have all things at their “ doom. Certainly it seemeth, that these worldly
prelates, would more completely destroy the
power of kings and lords which God ordained “ for the government of christian men, than God
destroyeth the power even of the fiend. For
God, in setting a term which Satan may do “ and no more, still suffereth his power to last “ for the profit of christian men, and the just
punishment of evil doers. But these worldly clerks, would never cease if unchecked, until they had destroyed kings and lords with their regalia and power.
It was not unusual, however, in the
Luther, for ecclesiastics who denied the authority the cler- of the popes as extending immediately over the
monarchs and the kingdoms of the world, to admit its validity in relation to the property of their own order. To escape the exactions of princes, churchmen had frequently ventured to plead this claim of their spiritual sovereign. But it was
On the secular exemptions of
9 MS. Sentence of the Curse Expounded. c. 3. 6. 11. See also Vol. I.