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The Popish emissaries boast that Popery is as ancient as Christianity. So far is this from being true, that during the first six hundred years after Christ there was no such thing as Popery in the world. Nay, Doctor Wickliffe maintained, that it had no being until after the loosing of Satan in the second millenary.
As for John Wickliffe, John Huss, Valdo, and the rest, for aught I know, and I believe, setting malice aside, for aught you know, they were godly men. Their greatest heresie was this, that they complained of the dissolute and vicious lives of the clergy, of worshipping images, of fained miracles, of the tyrannical pride of the pope, of monks, friers, pardons, pilgrimages, and purgatory, and other like deceiving and mocking of the people ; and that they wished a reformation of the church. Bishop Jewel.
AFTER al these heretofore recited', by whom (as ye have heard) it pleased the Lord something to worke against the bishop of Rome, and to weaken the pernicious superstition of the friers; it now remaineth consequently, following the course of yeares, orderly to enter into the storie and tractation of John Wickliffe our countriman, and other more of his time, and same countrie, whom the Lord (with the like zeale and power of spirit) raised up here in England, to detect more fully and amplie the poison of the pope's doctrine, and false religion set up by the friers. In whose opinions and assertions, albeit some blemishes perhaps may be noted; yet such blemishes they be which rather declare him to be a man that might erre, than which directly did fight against Christ our saviour, as the pope's proceedings and the friers did. —And what doctor or learned man hath been from the prime age of the church, so perfect, so absolutely sure, in whom no opinion hath sometime swerved awrie? And yet be the said articles of his, neither in number so many, nor yet so grosse in themselves and so cardinall, as those cardinall enemies of Christ perchance do give them out to be; if his books, which they
1 John Wickliffe.] On the history of Wickliffe, and his opinions, the reader may consult Harpsfield's Historia Heresis Wicleviana, fol. 1622. James's Apologie for John Wickliffe, shewing his conformitie with the now Church of England, 4to. 1608; Tanner's Bibliotheca, p. 767—772; Wharton's Appendix to Care's Historia Literuria, vol. ii. p. 60—65; Lewis's History of the Life and Sufferings of John Wickliffe, 8vo. 1723, and 1820: and the Life of Reynold Pecock, Bishop of St. Asaph, 8vo. 1744, and 1820, by the same author.
? Heretofore recited.] Robert Grosthed, bishop of Lincoln; Richard Fitzralph, archbishop of Armagh; Nicolas Orem; the author of the Prayer and Complaint of the Plowman and others.
abolished, were remaining to be conferred with those blemishes, which they have wrested to the worst, as evil will never said the best.
This is certaine, that he being the publike reader of divinitie in the universitie of Oxford, was for the rude time wherein he
3 His books, which they abolished.] These endeavours to abolish were by a constitution of archbishop Arundel (A.D. 1408), and by other expedients of a like nature, of which we shall hear more in the course of this life. Bishop Burnet having, in his History of the Reformation, made a reflection similar to this of Fox, is animadverted upon by the severe pen of Henry Wharton, in the following terms:
It seeins the historian knew not any certain means of gaining information of Wickliffe's true opinions; but when he would include all others in the same ignorance of them, we must desire to be excused. We have as many of the works of Wickliffe yet extant, as, if printed together, would make four or five volumes in folio. And whether so many books be not sufficient to teach us his opinions, let the reader judge.”-Specimen of Errors and Defects in the History of the Reformation, by Anth. Harmer. P. 16.
Nor is there indeed now much occasion that we should have recourse even to manuscripts, to enable us to distinguish the real from the imputed doctrines of Wickliffe. The following works have been printed: Dialogorum, lib. 4. 1525 and 1753; Wickliffe's Wicket, 1546, &c.; Prologue to the Bible, under the title, Pathway to perfect Knowledge (if this be indeed Wickliffe's), 1550; Aphorismi Wicleviani, 1554 ; Complaint to the King and Parliament, with a Treatise against the Friars, 1608; Translation of the New Testament, 1731, fol. These, with the addition of the books mentioned in note ("), p. 167, and the third volume of Wilkins's Concilia, leave no longer much room to complain of deficiency of materials for information respecting the sentiments which he entertained in the principal heads of religion. Still, it is greatly to be wished, that much more of works, at once both so extraordinarily valuable and so curious, might be given to the world, carefully printed, from manuscripts still extant: and that, from among his Latin works, particularly the extensive treatise, “ De Veritate Scripturæ,” so often referred to by Dr. Thomas James in his Apology for Wickliffe, might be one of the first. Of this work, a copy, perhaps the only perfect one, exists in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. A full account of the famous MS. of Wicliffe in Trinity College, which once belonged to Sir Robert Cotton, has been given by Dr. J. H. Todd, Senior Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, in the preface to Wicliffe's “ Apology for Lollard Doctrines,” printed for the Camden Society, in 1842. Dr. Todd had previously printed, in 1840, “The Last Age of the Church,” and has recently printed, in 1851, “Three Treatises : I. Of the Church and her Members: II. Of the Apostacy of the Church: III. Of Antichrist and his Meynee.” Dublin. sm. 4to. All of these are taken from the same MS. A complete edition of the Wicliffite version of the Old and New Testament was published by the University of Oxford in 1850, 4 vols. 4to.
* Reader of divinitie.] Wickliffe was born, probably, about the year 1324 ; and he began to deliver Theological Lectures in 1372, in the reign of Edward III. Lewis's History, p. 1 and 18.
lived, famously reputed for a great clerke, a deepe schooleman, and no lesse expert in all kind of philosophie. The which doth not only appeare by his owne most famous and learned writings and monuments, but also by the confession of Walden, his most cruell and bitter enemie ; who, in a certaine epistle written unto pope Martin the fift', saith that “ he was wonderfully astonished at his most strong arguments, with the places of authoritie which he had gathered, and with the vehemencie and force of his reasons.
It appeareth by such as have observed the order and course of times, that this Wickliffe flourished about the yeare of our Lord 1371, Edward the third raigning in England : for thus we do find in the chronicles of Caxton: “In the yeare of our Lord 1371, Edward the third, king of England, in his parliament, was against the pope's clergie. He willingly harkened and gave eare to the voices and tales of heretikes, with certaine of his counsell, conceiving and following sinister opinions against the clergie. Wherefore, afterward, he tasted and suffered much adversity and trouble.
5 Martin the fift.] Thomas Netter, called Waldenus from his native place in Essex, who dedicated to Martin V. his work, called Doctrinale Antiquitatum Fidei Ecclesie Catholicæ. It has been printed at Paris, in 1521—3, and 1532; at Salamanca, in 1556 ; and at Venice, in 1571.
* Of his reasons.] The following extract I borrow from a short Life of Wickliffe, subjoined to James's Apology for John Wickliffe, shewing his conformity with the now Church of England. 1608. 4to.
“ He was beloved of all good men for his good life, and greatly admired of his greatest adversaries, for his learning and knowledge, both in divinity and humanity. He writ so many large volumes in both, as it is almost incredible. He seemed to follow, in the whole course of his studies, the method of the schoolmen : and amongst them he was a professed follower of Ocham; by reading of whose learned books, and sundry others which lived about the same time, or not long before; such as were Bradwardine, Marsilius, Guido de Sancto Amore, Abelardus, Armachanus, and that true great clerk Robert Grosthead, God gave him grace to see the truth of his gospel, and by seeing of it to loathe all superstition and popery. Of Ocham and Marsilius (see p. 199, post) he was informed of the pope's intrusions and usurpations upon kings, their crowns and dignities: of G. de S. Amore and Armachanus he learned the sundry abuses of monks and friers in upholding this usurped power : by Abelard and others he was grounded in the right faith of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper : by Bradwardine, in the nature of a true soul-justifying faith against merit-mongers and pardoners : finally, by reading Grosthead's works, in whom he seemed to be most conversant, he descried the pope to be open antichrist, by letting the gospel to be preached, and by placing unable and unfit men in the church of God. He passed through all degrees in this famous university very commendably.”
And not long after, in the yeare of our Lord 1372, he wrote unto the bishop of Rome, that he should not by any meanes intermeddle any more within his kingdome, as touching the reservation, or distribution of benefices?: and that all such bishops as were under his dominion, should injoy their former and ancient libertie, and be confirmed of their metropolitanes, as hath been accustomed in times past.” Thus much writeth Caxton in chap. ccxxxvi. of the Cronicles of England, printed in 1480. But as touching the just number of the yeare and time, we will not be very curious or carefull about it at this present. This is out of all doubt, that at what time all the world was in most desperate and vile estate, and that the lamentable ignorance and darknesse of God's truth had overshadowed the whole earth ; this man, Wickliffe, stepped forth like a valiant champion, unto whom it may justly be applied that is spoken in the booke called Ecclesiasticus °, of one Simon the sonne of Onias : “ Even as the morning star being in the middest of a cloud, and as the moone being full
7 The reservation ... of benefices.] This refers to a power gradually usurped by the
popes to a very great extent; whereby, before any ecclesiastical promotion became vacant the see of Rome reserved the future nomination to itself, provided a successor to the bishopric or benefice, and declared that if any presentation was made, it should be null and void.
In one of these letters of the king and his parliament to Pope Clement VI. they thus solemnly expostulate against this grievous evil.
“We have thought meet to signifie unto your holiness, that divers reservations, provisions, and collations, hy your predecessours apostolike of Rome, and by you, most holy father, in your time have been granted (and that more largely than they have beene accustomed to be) unto divers persons, as wel strangers and of sundry nations, as unto some such as are our enemies; having no understanding at all of the tongue and conditions of them, of whom they have the government and cure : whereby a great number of soules are in perill, a great many of their parishioners in danger, the service of God destroyed, the almes and devotion of all men diminished, the hospitals perished, the churches with their appurtenances decayed, charitie withdrawne, the good and honest persons of our realme unadvanced, the charge and government of soules not regarded, the devotion of the people restrained, many poore scholars unpreferred, and the treasure of the realme carried out, against the minds and intents of the founders. All which errors, defaults, and slanders, most holy father, wee neither can nor ought to suffer or endure.” Fox's Acts, p. 353. Edit. 1610. This was in the year 1343. An act was passed in parliament the year following to annul these reservations; but the effect produced was slight. The dispute was several times revived. About the
year 1376, they were, on agreement, relinquished formally by the pope: but even this seems not to have been effectual. Wilkins's Concilia, vol. iii. p. 97.
$ Called Ecclesiasticus.] Chap. 1. ver. 6.