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studied and commented upon the sacred writings, but he afterwards translated them into his native language, (the first translation ever made) and wrote homilies on several parts of them. He also read, with accuracy, the writings of St. Austin, St. Jerom, St. Andrew, and St. Gregory, the four fathers of the Latin church." And thus furnished,. he was well adapted to the display of his talents, which were called into exertion about the 36th year of his age; when they attracted the notice not only of the university, but of the whole kingdom.
Enough has been said, by almost every writer of the miserable state of the church in this age, of the scandalous vices and more scandalous ignorance of the ecclesiastics, who were in possession of the principal power and wealth of the kingdom. But the mendicant Friars were now become extremely troublesome, as well to the university, as to the kingdom in general; under a false shew of extraordinary sanctity and poverty, they cloaked the most encroaching pride, and exorbitant covetousness. By their means the number of students in the university of Oxford had been reduced from thirty to six thousand: parents were afraid to send their chidren thither, lest the friars should entice them into their convents.
Wickliffe nobly and boldly opposed these dangerous enemies to society; other men of learning and worth joined with him to refute their prime doctrine, "that the po verty of Christ and his Apostles was a sufficient foundation for their begging trade and possessing all things in common." Wickliffe wrote with great spirit against them; and his language is extraordinary considering the times. "Freres," says he in one of his tracts, "drawen children fro' Christ's religion into their private order by hypocrisie, lesings, and steling. For they tellen that their order is more holie than any other: that they shullen have higher degree in the bliss of heaven, than other men, that been not therein; and seyn that men of their order shullen never come to hell, but shullen dome other men, with Christ, at domesday."And here, by the way, we cannot but observe as a comment upon Wickliffe's words, that so great was the ignorance and superstition of mankind in those times, and so much had the begging friars insinuated themselves into the good opinion of people, that dying men, even the richest and greatest, would in their last hours, send to beg an old cloak or covering of one of these friars, that they might be buried in it-hoping, that
Christ would take them for friars, at the general Resurrection, when.appearing in these old cloaks, and so send them to Heaven, where otherwise they had little hope of arriving.
The reputation which Wickliffe gained by opposing these miscreants, could only be equalled by the malice with which they pursued him: In consequence of the former, he was advanced to be master of Baliol college, in 1361; and four years after, he was made Warden of Canterbury hall, then founded by Simon de Islip, Archbishop of Canterbury, but now swallowed up in Christchurch. This worthy prelate seems to have been very desirous to place men of distinguished worth in his new seminary; and the letters of institution, whereby he appointed Wickliffe to the Wardenship, do equal honour to the patron and his warden: In these, he speaks of him "as a person in whose fidelity, circumspection, aud industry, his grace very much confided; and one on whom he had fixed his eyes for that place, on account of the honesty of his life, his laudable conversation and knowledge of letters."
Wickliffe conducted himself, in his Headship, with great approbation, till the death of Archbishop Islip, when his successor, Archbishop Langham turned him out, in favour of one Henry de Wodehall, at the instigation of the monks of Canterbury, sworn foes to Wickliffe. It was in vain, that the University interfered, or that an appeal was made to the Pope. The Pope confirmed the Archbishop's choice: Wodehall and his Monks kept possession, and perpetual silence was imposed upon Wickliffe and his associates. It cannot be supposed, that so arbitrary and unfair a sentence could diminish Wickliffe's just contempt of the monks and the Pope.
An affair of a more public nature now made him more conspicuous. Pope Urban threatened to cite King Edward to his Court at Avignon, for omitting to pay the tribute of 700 Marks, which the Pope unjustly arrogated, in consequence of King John's pusillanimity. Some of the Monks ventured to defend this claim; and against them Wickliffe opposed himself: This rendered him odious to the Pope, who could ill-brook any opposition; but it gained him favour at Court: he was made King's Chaplain, and the Duke of Lancaster, in particular, took him into his patronage, and procured for him the living of Lutterworth in Leicestershire, which he held to his death.
death. Though he had from the beginning, freely declared his sentiments, (as appears, particularly from his tract "of the last age of the Church," published in 1356) respecting the Monks, the corruptions, and disorders of the religious, the exactions, and usurpations of the Pope;Yet now he began more freely to deliver his doctrines, which were judged novel, because, contrary to the received opinions of those times, heretical and pernicious, -for a very substantial reason, because they struck at the root of that spiritual tyranny which the corruptions of the Romish Church had raised over the consciences and properties of men.
In 1372, he took his degree as Doctor in divinity, which he publickly professed, and read lectures in it, with great applause: In these he strongly opposed the follies and superstitions of the friars: He charged them with holding fifty errors and heresies; he shewed their 'corruptions, and detected their practice. This was striking at the root of all the abuses, which had crept into the Church; at a time, when the greater and more necessary articles of faith, and all genuine and rational knowledge of religion, had generally given place to fabulous legends and romantic stories.
A shameful abuse prevailed here at this time. The Pope disposed of all ecclesiastical benefices and dignities, which he generally conferred upon foreigners; by which means, all the revenues of them went out of the land. In 1374, the king issued out a commission for taking a survey of all ecclesiastical benefices in the hands of Aliens. The number and value of them astonished him; and it was resolved to send an embassy upon this subject, to the Pope. Dr. Wickliffe was the second person inentioned in this commission. Two years were employed in the treaty; when it was concluded that the Pope should cease from this practice But treaties were vain; the parliament complained the very next year, that the treaty was infringed; and a long bill was brought into Parliament against the papal usurpations; in which they remonstrated, that the tax paid to the Pope amounted to five times as much as that paid to the King; and that God had given his sheep to the Pope to be pastured, not fleeced. Wickliffe, during this embassy, was made more sensible of the pride, avarice, ambition, and tyranny, of the Pope; whom there fore, he boldly exposed in his public lectures and private conversation:he as freely reproved the corruptions,
which prevailed among the prelates and inferior clergy, observing, that "the abomination of desolation had its beginning from a perverse clergy, as comfort rose from a converted clergy!" Of the prelates, he says, "O Lord, what token of meekness and forsaking of worldly riches is this! a prelate, (as an Abbot or Prior that is dead to the world, the pride and vanity thereof:) to ride with fourscore horses, with harness of silver and gold! and to spend with Earls and Barons, and their poor tenants, both thousand marcs and pounds, to maintain a false plea of the world, and forbeare men of their right."
The reader will not wonder, that this freedom exposed him to the resentment of those, whose vices he so severely reprehended. The Monks complained to the Pope; the Pope already enraged at Wickliffe, heard them with sufficient readiness. Nineteen articles were drawn up against him, taken as they pretended from his lectures and sermons; and Pope Gregory the XIth, issued out several bulls against him, all dated May the 22d, 1377. The articles, which they objected to, as held by him, were principally as follow: That the " Eucharist, after the consecration, was not the real body of Christ, but only an emblem or sign of it. That the Church of Rome was no more the head of the universal Church, than any other Church; and that St. Peter had no greater authority given him, than the rest of the Apostles :-That the Pope had no more jurisdiction, in the exercise of the keys, than any other priest:-That if the Church misbehaved, it was not only lawful, but meritorious, to dispossess her of her temporalities:That when a Prince or temporal Lord was convinced, that the Church made an ill use of her endowments, he was bound under pain of damnation, to take them away. That the gospel was sufficient to direct a christian in the conduct of his life:-That neither the Pope nor any other prelate ought to have prisons for the punishing offenders against the discipline of the Church; but that every person ought to be left at liberty in the conduct of his life."
Now, though perhaps, in our better days of liberty, we shall not be able to discern any thing very criminal and heretical, in the greater part of these opinions of Wickliffe; yet it is easy to see how offensive they must have been to the Pope and his clergy, as they struck at the foundation of their usurpations. Let it also be remembered, that these articles were drawn up by his enemies, and are pre
sented, all of them, without any of those restrictions and qualifications, with which so wise and sensible a man must unquestionably have delivered them.
Upon the force of these, bulls were sent to the King, to the university of Oxford, and to two bishops, Simon Sudbury of Canterbury, and William Courtney of London, empowering them to examine into the matter of complaint, the University delivering up Wickliffe, and the King aiding in the trial.-Before the bulls arrived, Edward the IIId. died; and in the first parliament of Rich ard the Ist. it was debated, whether they might lawfully refuse to send the treasure out of the kingdom, after the Pope required it, on pain of censures, &c."--The resolution of this doubt was referred by the King and Parliament to Wickliffe, (as high an honour as could be done him) and he not only declared it lawful to refuse, but undertook to prove it so by the principles of the law of Christ.
Thus honoured, and powerfully supported by the Duke of Lancaster, and the Lord Henry Piercy, Earl Marshall, who took him into their protection, Wickliffe had no great cause to fear the trial, to which he was summoned by the two prelates, at St. Paul's. He came attended by the two nobles; and the concourse of people was so great, that it was with some difficulty, he and his two patrons got admittance into the church. A warm altercation ensued between the Bishop of London, and the Duke of Lancaster, indecent and unseemly on the Duke's side especially: a tumult came on, no business could be done; the court broke up, when the two noblemen carried off Wickliffe in triumph, and the mob, enraged at the Duke of Lancaster, for insulting their Bishop, plundered his palace in the Savoy. "The bishop of London, hearing of the disorder, says Collier, leaves his dinner, and coming hastily down to the Savoy, desired the people to desist from such violent courses, and consider it was the holy time of Lent, assuring them that care should be taken of the interest and privileges of the city,-(for a bill was brought into the house, to put down the office of Lord Mayor of London :) The Londoners somewhat satisfied, let the palace stand, and contented themselves with the revenge of hanging up the Duke's arms reversed, in the principal streets of the city." This instance of generosity and moderation, adds much dignity to the character of the bishop of London.' Another bull from the Pope, instigating the univer