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thou such vaine reasons to me? Asketh not saint Paul, how should priests preach, except they be sent? But I sent thee never to preach. For thy venomous doctrin is so known throughout England, that no bishop will admit thee to preach, by witnessing of their letters. Why then leaud idiot, wilt thou presume to preach, since thou art not sent nor licensed of thy soveraigne to preach? Saith not saint Paul, that subjects & ought to obey their soveraignes, and not onely good and vertuous, but also tyrants that are vitious ?
And I said to the archbishop, Sir, as touching your letter of licence or that of other bishops, which, yee say, wee should have to witnesse that we were able to be sent for to preach; we know well that neither you sir, nor any other bishop of this land, will grant to us any such letters of licence, but if we should oblige us to you, and to other bishops by unlefull othes, for to passe not the bounds and termes which ye sir, or other bishops, will limit to us. And since in this matter your termes bee some too large, and some too strait, wee dare not oblige us thus to be bounden to you for to keepe the termes, which you will limit to us, as you doe to friers and such other preachers : and therefore, though we have not your letter sir, nor letters of any other bishops written with inke upon parchment; wee dare not therefore leave the office of preaching, to which preaching, all priests after their cunning and power are bound, by divers testimonies of Gods law, and great doctors, without any mention making of bishops letters. For as mikle as wee have taken upon us the office of priesthood (though we are unworthy thereto) we claim and purpose to fulfill it with the help of God, by authoritie of his owne law, and by witnesse of great doctors and saints, according hereto trusting stedfastly in the mercie of God. For, in that he commandeth us to doe the office of priesthood, he will be our sufficient letters and witnesse, if we by example of his holy living and teaching, speciallie occupie us faithfullie to doe our office justlie: yea the people to whom we preach (be they faithfull or unfaithfull) shall be our letters, that is, our witnes-bearers; for the truth where it is sowne, may not be unwitnessed. For all that are converted and saved by learning of Gods word, and by
8 That subjects.] The relative terms subject and sovereign were in ese times very frequently used in the sense of inferior minister and prelate; or of layman and clerk; and it is in this ecclesiastical meaning that the archbishop understands and applies the text of St. Paul.
working thereafter, are witnesse-bearers, that the truth and soothfastnes which they heard and did after, is cause of their salvation. And again, all unfaithfull men and women which heard the truth told out to them, and would not doe thereafter ; also all they that might have heard the truth, and would not heare it because that they would not doe thereafter: all these shall beare witnes against themselves; and the truth which they would not heare, or else heard it, and despised to doe thereafter, through their unfaithfulnesse, is and shall be cause of their damnation. Therefore sir, since this aforesaid witnessing of God, and of divers saints and doctors, and of all the people good and evill, sufficeth to all true preachers, we think that we do not the office of priesthood, if that we leave our preaching, because that we have not, or may not have duly bishops letters, to witnesse that wee are sent of them to preach. This sentence approveth saint Paul, where he speaketh of himselfe and of faithfull apostles and disciples, saying thus, We need no letters of commendations as some preachers doe, which preach for covetousnesse of temporall goods, and for mens praysing.–And where ye say sir, that Paul biddeth subjects obey their soveraignes, that is sooth, and may not be denied. But there is two manner of soveraignes, vertuous soveraignes and vitious tyrants. Therefore, to these last soveraignes, neither men nor women that be subject, owe to obey in two maners. To vertuous soveraignes and charitable, subjects owe to obey wilfully and gladlie, in hearing of their good counsell, in consenting to their charitable biddings, and in working after their fruitfull works. This sentence Paul approveth, where he saith to subjects, Be yee mindful of your soveraignes, that speake to you the word of God, and follow you the faith of them, whose conversation you know to be vertuous. For as Paul saith after, these soveraignes, to whom subjects owe to obey in following of their maners, worke busilie in holy studying, how they may withstand and destroy vices, first in themselves, and after in all their subjects, and how they may best plant in them vertues. Also these soveraignes make devout and fervent prayers, for to purchase grace of God, that they and their subjects may over all things dread to offend him, and love for to please him. Also those souveraignes to whom Paul biddeth us obey, as it is said before, live so vertuouslie, that all they that will live well, may take of them good example, to know and to keepe the commandements of God. But in this foresaid wise, subjects ought not to obey nor to be obedient to tyrants, while they are vitious tyrants, since their will, their counsell, their biddings, and their workes are so vitious, that they ought to be hated and left. And though such tyrants be masterfull and cruell in boasting and menacing, in oppressions and divers punishings, saint Peter biddeth the servants of such tyrants, to obey meekely such tyrants, (in) suffering patiently their malicious cruelnesse. But Peter counselleth not any servant or subject, to obey to any lord or prince, or soveraigne in any thing that is not pleasing to God.
And the archbishop said unto me, if a soveraigne bid his subject doe that thing that is vitious, this soveraigne herein is to blame; but the subject for his obedience, deserveth meedo of God. For obedience pleaseth more to God, then any sacrifice.
9 Deserveth meed.] The archbishop here speaks precisely according to the doctrine afterward inforced by bishop Pecock, who though himself a severe sufferer in the cause of reformation, was a very zealous, and a most able and learned adversary of many tenets of the followers of Wickliffe.
“If a parish priest should teach his parishioner some grosse heresy instead of an article of faith, it were his duty to receive it, and would not only be excusable before God, but would be as meritorious, and equally rewarded, with the belief of any true article. Nay, if that man should lay down his life for defence of this heresy, imagining all this while that it is the doctrine of the church, he would be a true and undoubted martyr.” Rule of Faith, p. 4, written a.d. 1450, and published by Henry Wharton, A.D. 1688, from a MS. in the library of Trinity college, Cambridge. Compare below,
This doctrine of implicit submission to the authority of the church leads, by a species of inevitable necessity, to conclusions and consequences in the highest degree appalling and awful.
For example, an advocate for popery ventures to express himself thus, on its restoration by queen Mary, in a popular address in behalf of the queen's proceedings :
“Therefore yf thys be a false fayth and belefe that we now have, then God both is, and hath bene most unkynde, not onlye to us, but to all Christendome besyde, whiche is in the same belefe, that we be: seeing that he hath not before these seven yeares laste passed, revealed and opened his trueth unto us, but hath suffered bothe us, and all our progenitours and elders too, yea and all Christendome, ever synce Christes incarnation even to these latter dayes, to lyve in blyndnes, and to let us continue styll in daunger of damnation. But God forbydde, that any man myght justly eyther thynke or saye thus. For then myght we, commynge before our Saviour Christ at the day of judgment, yf wee should for our belefe be there condemned, aunswere that we were nor to blame, not worthie of damnation therefore: because that hys blessed spouse the Catholike church hadde from tyme to tyme taught us thys belefe, and that he hadde promised to be with his churche to the worldes
And I said, Samuel the prophet said to Saul the wicked king, that God was more pleased with the obedience of his commandement, than with any sacrifice of beasts. But David saith, and S. Paul, and S. Gregorie accordinglie together, that not only they that doe evill, are worthy of death and damnation ; but also they that consent to evill doers. And sir, the law of holy church teacheth in the decrees ", that no servant to his lord, nor child to the father or mother, nor wife to her husband, nor monke to his abbat, ought to obey, except in lefull things, and lawfull'.
ende; whyche promyse caused us alwaye to give credence to hys holye churche, whiche we thought could not erre, nor be deceaved in anye matter concerning our fayth.” Christopherson's Exhortation against Rebellion, A.D. 1554. Signat. X 7, 8.
But even in our own days, the same daring representation is still habitually propounded to the Roman Catholic students in the sister kingdom. “One can scarcely imagine,” says the protestant annotator on the Digest of Evidence taken before Parliament, on the State of Ireland, 1824, 1825. Part II. p. 248. “One can scarcely imagine a condition of greater horror to a sensitive mind than that of a young priest, who, for the first time, became privy (in confession) to a design of murder; it would be an incident for Shakespeare or the author of Waverley. Nothing could quiet the mind in such dreadful circumstances, but the principle, which is so deeply impressed upon the youth destined for the ministry, that obedience to the church, though it should lead to error, is the first of all duties. The Maynooth Class Book, in a passage given in evidence by the archbishop of Dublin, contrasts the state of a Protestant, and that of a Roman Catholic, at the last day: “The Protestant,' it says, 'can plead no other principle of faith and action than his private judgment, with which he has searched the Scriptures for himself. How different the lot of the Catholic, although (which, yet God forbid that we should believe) he should have fallen into error through his obedience to the decrees of the church; can he not, when interrogated on this head, confidently say to the Supreme Judge, Lord, if that which we have followed be an error, Thou, even Thou hast deceived us, by thy clear and reiterated precept that, unless we wished to have our part with the heathen, we should hear the church as we hear Thee. Thou thyself hast deceived us, by the Apostles, by the Pastors and Doctors, whom thou hast ordained in the church for the perfecting of the saints, and the building up of thy body. Thou thyself hast deceived us, by thy church, which is called by the apostle the pillar and ground of truth. For she has always exacted from her children a firm assent, in heart and mind, to her decrees; in thy name denouncing an eternal anal hema against the rebellious. . . . . Confidently then we say, O Lord, if it be an error which we have followed, Thou THYSELF HAST Deceived us, AND WE ARE EXcused.'"
10 In the decrees.] Corp. Juris Canonici, vol. i. 2306.
* In lefull things and lawfull.] We have the same two words again made use of together in this examination; "to compell him to sweare, in lefull VOL. I.
And the archbishop said to mee. All these alleagings that thou bringest forth, are not else but proud presumptuousnesse. For hereby thou inforcest thee to proove, that thou and such other are so just, that ye ought not to obey to prelats. And thus against the learning of St. Paul that teacheth you not to preach, but if yee were sent of your own authoritie, ye will go forth and preach, and doe what yee list.
And I said, Sir, presenteth not every priest the office of the apostles, or the office of the disciples of Christ? And the archbishop said, Yea. And I said, Sir, as the x. chapter of Matthew, and the last chapter of Marke witnesseth, Christ sent his apostles for to preach. And the x. chapter of Luke witnesseth, that Christ sent his two and seventy disciples for to preach, in every place that Christ was to come to; and S. Gregorie in the Common Law saith, that every man that goeth to priesthood, taketh upon him the office of preaching. For as hee saith, that priest stirreth God to great wrath, of whose mouth is not heard the voice of preaching. And as other more glosses upon Ezekiel witnesse, the priest that preacheth not busilie to the people, shall be partaker of their damnation that perish through his default. And though the people be saved by other speciall grace of God, than by the priests preaching, yet the priests, in that they are ordained to preach, and preach not, as before God, they are manslayers. For as farre as in them is, such priests as preach not busilie and truely, slay all the people ghostly, in that they withhold from them the word of God, that is, the life and substance of mens soules. And S. Isidore said, priests shall be damned, for wickednesse of the people, if they teach not them that are ignorant, or blame not them that are sinners. For all the worke or businesse of priests standeth in preaching and teaching: that they edifie all men, as well by cunning of faith, as by discipline of works, that is, vertuous teaching. And as the gospel witnesseth, Christ said in his teaching, I am borne and comen into this world, to bear witnesse to the truth; and he that is of the truth, heareth my voice. things and lawfull.” Fox, p. 495. The former occurs not unfrequently by itself, and seemingly in the sense of lawful. “Rich men sayen, that it is both lefull and needfull to them to gather riches together.” Fox, p. 372. Also, p. 431, and p. 434. Perhaps it is no other than the word “ leave-full," allowable, permissable. * Therefore, it is leveful to each man or person of this singular religion and profession to leave it (to) cleave fast to the rule of Jesu Christ, as more perfect.” Wickliffe's Complaint, p. 2, A.D. 1608.