Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

citie and so apparently dissimuled, that God would take vengeance upon them and destroy their citie. Wherefore they said, that they could do no lesse than to purge the same ; lest by the sufferance thereof, God would bring a plague upon them, or destroy them with the sword, or cause the earth to swallow up both them and their citie.

This storie (gentle reader) albeit the author thereof whom I follow, doth give it out in reprochfull wise, to the great discommendation of the Londoners for so doing; yet I thought not to omit, but to commit the same to memorie ; which seemeth to me rather to tend unto the worthie commendation both of the Londoners that so did, and to the necessarie example of all other cities to follow the same.

After these things thus declared, let us now adjoine the testimoniall of the universitie of Oxford, of John Wickliffe.

The publike testimonie given out by the university of Oxford,

touching the commendation of the great learning and good life of John Wickliffe.

“Unto all and singuler the children of our holy mother the church, to whom this present letter shall come ; the vicechancellor of the universitie of Oxford, with the whole congregation of the masters, wish perpetual health in the Lord. Forsomuch as it is not commonly seene, that the acts and monuments of valiant men, nor the praise and merits of good men should be passed over and hidden with perpetuall silence, but that true report and fame should continually spread abrode the same in strange and farre distant places, both for the witnesse of the same, and example of others : Forasmuch also as the provident discretion of mans nature being recompensed with cruelty, hath devised and ordained this buckler and defence, against such as doe blaspheme and slander other mens doings, that whensoever witnesse by word of mouth cannot be present, the pen by writing may supply the same :

“Hereupon it followeth, that the special good will and care which we bear unto John Wickliffe, sometime child of this our universitie, and professour of divinitie, moving and stirring our minds (as his manners and conditions required no lesse) with

5 The testimoniall.] See Lewis's Records, No. 28.

one mind, voice, and testimonie, wee doe witnesse, all his conditions and doings throughout his whole life, to have been most sincere and commendable: whose honest maners and conditions, profoundnesse of learning, and most redolent renoune and fame, wee desire the more earnestly to bee notified and knowne unto all faithfull, for that we understand the maturitie and ripenesse of his conversation, his diligent labours and travels to tend to the praise of God, the helpe and safegard of others, and the profit of the church.

“ Wherefore we signifie unto you by these presents, that his conversation (even from his youth upwards, unto the time of his death) was so praiseworthie and honest, that never at any time was there any note or spot of suspicion noysed of him. But in his answering, reading, preaching and determining, he behaved himselfe laudably, and as a stout and valiant champion of the faith ; vanquishing by the force of the Scriptures, all such who by their wilful beggery blasphemed and slandered Christs religion. Neither was this said doctor convict of any heresie, either burned of our prelats after his buriall. God forbid that our prelats should have condemned a man of such honestie, for an heretike: who amongst all the rest of the universitie, had written in logicke, philosophie, divinitie, moralitie, and the speculative art without peere. The knowledge of which all and singuler things, wee doe desire to testifie and deliver forth; to the intent, that the fame and renoune of this said doctor, may be the more evident and had in reputation, amongst them, unto whose hands these present letters testimoniall shall come o.

“In witnes whereof, we have caused these our letters

testimoniall to bee sealed with our common seale. Dated at Oxford in our congregation house, the 5 day of October, in the yeare of our Lord, 1406."

Shall come.] It must not be concealed, that the authenticity of this important document is disputed, upon the authority of Dr. Thomas Gascoigne ; who affirms, that “ Peter Paine, an heretic, stole the common seal of the university, under which he wrote to the hereticks at Prague in Bohemia, that Oxford and all England were of the same belief with those of Prague, except the false friers mendicants.”—This Paine was a zealous reformer : he died A. D. 1433. With regard to Gascoigne's authority, it is plain that he misrepresents the testimonial to such a degree, as to make it probable that he had never seen it. Jeremy Collier, who is very unfavourably disposed towards the memory of Wickliffe, does not hesitate to affirm positively, “that the testimonial was counterfeited ;” and “has apparent marks of a counter

Now as we have declared the testimony of the universitie of Oxford concerning the praise of John Wicliffe, it followeth likewise, that wee set forth and expresse the contrary censure and judgements of his enemies, blinded with malicious hatred and corrupt affections against him, especially of the popes councell gathered at Constance, proceeding first in condemning his bookes, then of his articles, and afterward burning of his bones.

The Decree of the Synode of Constance, touching the taking up of

the bodie and bones of John Wickliffe to be burned, 41 yeeres after he was buried in his owne parish at Lutterworth.

“Forasmuch as by the authoritie of the sentence and decree of the councell of Rome, and by the commandment of the church and the apostolicall see, after due delayes being given, they proceeded unto the condemnation of the said John Wickliffe, and his memorie; having first made proclamation, and given commandment to call forth whosoever would defend the said Wickliffe, or his memorie (if there were any such), but there did none appeare, which would either defend him or his memorie. And moreover, witnesses being examined by commissioners appointed by pope John and his councell, upon the impenitencie and finall obstinacie and stubbornnesse of the said John Wickliffe (reserving that which is to be reserved, as in such busines the order of the law requireth) and his impenitencie and obstinacy even unto his end, being sufficiently proved by evident signs and tokens, and also by lawful witnesses, and credit lawfullie given thereunto : Wherefore at the instance of the steward of the treasurie, proclamation being made to heare and understand the sentence

[ocr errors]

feit recommendation.” Eccles. Hist. vol. i. p. 624. The question is examined at full length by Lewis in his History, p. 183. 192. He is by no means disposed to give up the authenticity; but maintains it, as it should seem, upon very good grounds. The utmost concession, he thinks, which can be made to the adversary, is to admit as a conjecture, that it is possible Wickliffe's party might take advantage of the vacation, and the absence of his enemies from the university, and get this testimonial passed by the majority of those who came thither for that purpose.

As to the practical value and importance of this testimonial, we have without it ample direct evidence of the popularity at Oxford of Wickliffe's person and his cause, besides the indirect testimony of the complaints of his adversaries. See Wilkins's Concilia, iii. p. 318. 336. Lewis's History, p. 191. also above, p. 230, 1.

against this day; the sacred synod declareth, determineth, and giveth sentence, that the said John Wickliffe was a notorious obstinate heretike, and that he died in his heresie, cursing and condemning both him and his memorie.

“ This synod also decreeth and ordaineth, that the body and bones of the said John Wickliffe, if it might be discerned and knowne from the bodies of other faithfull people, bee taken out of the ground, and throwne away farre from the buriall of any church, according unto the canon lawes' and decrees.

Which determination and sentence definitive being read and pronounced, the lord president, and the foresaid presidents of the 4 nations, being demanded and asked whether it did please them or no? They all answered (and first Hostiensis & the president, and after him the other presidents of the nations) that it pleased them very well, and so they allowed and confirmed all the premisses.

What Heraclitus would not laugh, or what Democritus would not weepe, to see these so sage and reverend Catoes, to occupie their heades to take up a poore mans bodie, so long dead and buried before, by the space of 41 yeeres? and yet peradventure they were not able to find his right bones, but tooke up some other bodie, and so of a catholicke made an hereticke. Albeit, herein Wickliffe had some cause to give them thanks that they would at least spare him so long till hee was dead, and also to

8

[ocr errors]

7 According unto the canon lawes.] If after death any one shall be found to have been an heretic, his body must be digged up, and his bones burnt. Concil. Albiense, canon 52.

Seldom shall ye see a knowen heretyke buried, but most commonly burned. Example of this hath bene lately sene here in England, by Thomas Hytton, Thomas Bylney, &c. The body of Formosus was first taken up by Steven yi. bishop of Rome, and disgraded. The bones of master John WickJiffe were taken up and burned forty years after his death. So of late years, in Worcester diocese, the body of master William Tracy, Esq., and in London, the body of Richard Hunn, merchant-taylor. Moreover, John Colet, dean of Paul's in London, also was not far from the same, for reading Paul's Epistles.” Bale’s Image of both churches. Revelation, chap. xi.

Several other accounts of similar proceedings against the bones of declared heretics may be found during the progress of the English Reformation. See Fox, p. 1438. (John Tooly) p. 1556. (John and William Glover) p. 1777. (Martin Bucer and Paulus Fagius at Cambridge) p. 1785. (Peter Martyr's wife at Oxford), &c.

8 Hostiensis.] John of Brognier or Broniar (near Annecy in Savoy) Cardinal Archbishop of Ostia, afterwards of Arles. He was Dean of the College of Cardinals, and attended as such at the Council. He died in 1426.

[ocr errors]

give him so long respite after his death, 41 yeeres to rest in his sepulchre before they ungraved him, and turned him from earth to ashes: which ashes also, they tooke and threw into the river'. And so was he resolved into three elements, earth, fire, and water, they thinking thereby utterly to extinct and abolish both the name and doctrine of Wickliffe for ever. Not much unlike to the example of the old Pharisies and sepulcher-knights, which when they had brought the Lord unto the grave, thought to make him sure never to rise againe. But these and all other must know, that as there is no councell against the Lord; so there is no keeping down of veritie, but it will spring and come out of dust and ashes, as appeared right well in this man.

For though they digged up his bodie, burnt his bones, and drowned his ashes; yet the word of God and truth of his doctrine with the fruite and successe thereof they could not burne, which yet to this day, for the most part of his articles, doe remaine, notwithstanding the transitorie bodie and bones of the man was thus consumed and dispersed.

These things thus finished and accomplished, which pertain to the storie and time of Wickliffe: let us now (by the supportation of the Lord) proceed to intreate and write of the rest, which either in his time or after his time, springing out of the same

9 Into the river.) “ This river,” (the Soar) says Fuller beautifully, "conveyed his ashes into Avon, Avon into Severn, Severn into the narrow seas, they into the main ocean; and thus the ashes of Wickliffe are the emblem of his doctrine, which now is dispersed all the world over.”

10 Which either in his time.] The progress of Wickliffe's opinions, both among the clergy and laity, was exceedingly rapid and extensive. “ The number of those who believed in his doctrine” (says Knyghton, a contemporary historian)“ very much increased, and, like suckers growing out of the root of a tree, were multiplied; and every where filled the circuit of the kingdom. You could not meet two people in the way, but one of them was a disciple of Wickliffe.” De Eventih. Angliæ, p. 2663. Walsingham is full of similar complainings. Hist. Angliæ, pp. 304. 256. 281. Wickliffe himself declares, that a third part of the clergy entertained the same opinions as he did respecting the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. “ I am certaine of the thirdde parte of the clergie that defendes thise doutes that is here said, that they will defende it on paine of her lyfe.” Knyghton, p. 2650. Lewis's Hist. p. 88. And in another place he thus speaks of the nobility: “But one coumfort is of knyghtes, that they saveren muche the gospell, and have wylle to rede in Englysche the gospel of Crist's Lyfe.” Lewis on the Translations of the Bible, p. 22. The persecution of his followers helped, if we may believe Fox, only to increase their number. “Such be the workes of the Lord, passing all mens admiration: all this notwithstanding, so far was it off, that the number and courage of these good men was vanquished, that rather they

10

« ForrigeFortsæt »