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David J. (David Josiah) Brewer.

Crowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 10) online

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Richmond in Yorkshire about 1324, and educated at Oxford, where in
1360 he became Master of Baliol College. Leaving Oxford, he became
Rector of a parish in Lincolnshire. After work as a priest in other
country parishes, he went to Bruges with John of Gaunt as an em-
bassador, and, on his return, settled in London, where his oratory made
him at once celebrated among the masses and disliked by the higher
orders of the clergy, whose political power he antagonized. From
this time until his death, December 31st, 1384, he was involved in
constant controversies. In 1425, by order of the synod of Constance,
his bones were dug up and burned. The ashes were cast into the
Swift, a brook which flows into the Avon. "And thus,'* says an
old writer, " this brook did convey his ashes into the Avon, and the
Avon into the Severn, and the Severn into the narrow sea, and this
into the wide ocean; so the ashes of Wyckliffe are the emblem of
his doctrine, — it is now dispersed all over the world.'*



A RULE FOR DECENT LIVING

IF THOU be a lord, look thou live a rightful life in thine own
person, both anent God and man, keeping the bests of God,
doing the works of mercy, ruling well thy five wits, and do-
ing reason and equity and good conscience to all men. The sec-
ond time, govern well thy wife, thy children, and thy homely men
in God's law, and suffer no sin among them, neither in word nor
in deed, upon thy might, that they may be ensample of holiness
and righteousness to all other. For thou shalt be damned for

2^2



JOHN WYCKLIFPE 273,

their evil life and thine evil sufferance, but if thou amend it upon
thy might. The third time, govern well thy tenants, and main-
tain them in right and reason and be merciful to them in their
rents and worldly merriments, and suffer not thy officers to do
them wrong nor extortions, and chastise in good manner them
that be rebel against God's bests and virtuous living, more than
for rebellion against thine own cause or person. And hold with
God's cause, and love, reward, praise, and cherish the true and
virtuous of life more than if they do only thine own profit
and worship; and maintain truly, upon thy cunning and might,
God's law and true preachers thereof, and God's servants in rest;
and peace, for by this reason thou boldest thy lordship of God.
And if thou failest of this, thou forfeitest against God in all th}
lordship, in body and soul; principally if thou maintainest Anti
Christ's disciples in their errors against Christ's life and his teach
ing, for blindness and worldly friendship, and helpest to slandei
and pursue true men that teach Christ's gospel and his life.
And warn the people of their great sins, and of false priests and
hypocrites that deceive Christian men, in faith and virtuous life,
and worldly goods also.

If thou be a laborer, live in meekness, and truly and willfully
do thy labor; that if thy lord or thy master be a heathen man^
that by thy meekness and willful and true service, he have not to
murmur against thee, nor slander thy God nor Christendom. And
serve not Christian lords with murmuring, nor only in theii
presence, but truly and willfully in their absence, not only for
worldly dread nor worldly reward, but for dread of God and
good conscience, and for reward in heaven. For that God that
putteth thee in such service wots what state is best for thee, and
will reward thee more than all earthly lords may, if thou dost it
truly and willfully for his ordinance. And in all things beware
of murmuring against God and his visitation, in great labor and
long, and great sickness and other adversities, and beware of
wrath, of cursing and warying, or banning, of man or of beast.
And ever keep patience and meekness and charity both to God
and to man. And thus each man in these three states oweth to
live, to save himself and help others; and thus should good life,
rest, peace, and charity be among Christian men, and they be
saved, and heathen men soon converted, and God magnified greatly
in all nations and sects that now despise him and his law, for
the wicked living of false Christian men.
10—18



2-,4 JOHN WYCKLIFFE

GOOD LORE FOR SIMPLE FOLK
(From a Sermon on Luke v. i)

THE Story of this Gospel telleth good lore, how prelates should
teach folk under them. The story is plain, how Christ
stood by the river of Gennesaret, and fishers came down
to wash therein their nets; and Christ went up into a boat that
was Simon's and prayed him to move it a little from the land,
and he sat and taught the people out of the boat. And when
Christ ceased to speak, he said to Simon, lead the boat into the
high sea, and let out your nets to taking of fish. And Simon
answering said to him: *< Commander, all the night travailing took
we naught; but in thy word shall I loose the net.^^ And when
they had done this, they took a plenteous multitude of fish, and
their net was broken. But they beckoned to their fellows that
were in the other boat to come and help them; and they came
and filled both boats of fish, so that well nigh were they both
dreynt. And when Peter had seen this wonder, he fell down at
Jesus' knee, and said : ** Lord, go from me for I am a sinful man. '^
For Peter held him not worthy to be with Christ, nor dwell in
his company; for wonder came to them all in taking of these
fishes. And so wondered James and John, Zebedee's sons, that
were Simon's fellows. And Jesus said to Simon, from this time
shalt thou be taking men. And they set their boats to the land,
and forsook all that they had, and sued Christ.

Before we go to spiritual understanding of this Gospel, we
shall wit that the same Christ's Disciple that was first cleped
Simon, was cleped Peter after of Christ, for sadness of belief
that he took of Christ, which Christ is a corner-stone, and
groundeth all truth. Over this we shall understand that the
Apostles were cleped of Christ in many degrees; first they were
cleped and accepted to be Christ's Disciples; and yet they turned
again, as Christ himself ordained, to live in the world. After
they were cleped to see Christ's miracles, and to be more homely
with him than they were before; but yet they turned again to
the world by times, and lived worldly life, to profit of folk that
they dwelt with. And in this wise Peter, James, and John went
now to fish. But the third cleping and the most was this, — that
the Apostles forsook wholly the world and worldly things, and
turned not again to worldly life, as after this miracle Peter and



JOHN WYCKLIFFE 27







his fellows sued Christ continually. It is no need to dip us in
this story more than the Gospel telleth, as it is no need to busy
us what hight Tobies' hound. Hold we us appeased in the
measure that God hath given us, and dream we not about new
points that the Gospel leaveth, for this is a sin of curiosity that
harmeth more than profiteth. The story of this Gospel telleth
us ghostly wit, both of life of the Church and meedful works,
and this should we understand, for it is more precious. Two
fishings that Peter fished betokeneth two takings of men unto
Christ's religion, and from the fiend to God. In this first fishing
was the net broken, to token that many men be converted, and
after break Christ's religion ; but at the second fishing, after the
resurrection, when the net was full of many great fishes, was not
the net broken, as the Gospel saith; for that betokeneth saints
that God chooseth to heaven. And so these nets that fishers
fish with betokeneth God's law, in which virtues and truths be
knitted; and other properties of nets tell properties of God's law;
and void places between knots betokeneth life of kind, that men
have beside virtues. And four cardinal virtues be figured by knit-
ting of the net. The net is broad in the beginning, and after strait
in the end, to teach that men, when they be turned first, live a
broad worldly life; but afterward, when they be dipped in God's
law, they keep them straitlier from sins. These fishers of God
should wash their nets in his river, for Christ's preachers should
chevely tell God's law, and not meddle with man's law, that is
troubled water; for man's law containeth sharp stones and trees, by
which the net of God is broken and fishes wend out to the world.
And this betokeneth Gennesaret, that is, a wonderful birth, for the
birth by which a man is born of water and of the Holy Ghost is
much more wonderful than man's kindly birth. Some nets be
rotten, some have holes, and some be unclean for default of
washing; and thus on three manners faileth the word of preach-
ing. And matter of this net and breaking thereof give men
great matter to speak God's word, for virtues and vices and
truths of the Gospel be matter enough to preach to the people.



^-5 JOHN WYCKLIFFE



MERCY TO DAMNED MEN IN HELL

(From a Sermon on the Text [Vulgate], Simile est regnum coelorum homint,

Matthew 18-23)

THIS Gospel telleth by a parable how by right judgment of God
men should be merciful. The kingdom of heaven, saith
Christ, is like to an earthly king that would reckon with his
servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was offered
unto him that owed him ten thousand besants, and when he had
not to pay of, the Lord bade he should be sold, his wife and his
children and all that he had, and that that he ought the Lord
should be allgates paid. This servant fell down and prayed the
Lord and said : " Have patience with me, and I shall quit thee all. **
The Lord had mercy on him, and forgave him all his debt. This
servant went out and found one of his debtors that ought him a
hundred pence, and took him and strangled him, and bade him
pay his debt. And his servant fell down and prayed him of
patience, and he should by time yield him all that he ought him.
But this man would not, and went out and put him in prison,
till he had paid the debt that he owed him. And other servants
of this man, when they saw this deed, mourned full much, and
told all this to the Lord. And the Lord cleped him, and said
unto him: *^ Wicked servant, all thy debt I forgave thee, for thou
prayedst me; behooved it not thee to have mercy on thy servant,
as I had mercy on thee ? ^^ And the Lord was wroth, and gave
him to tormentors, till he had paid all the debt that he ought
him. On this manner, said Christ, shall my Father of heaven do
to you, but if you forgive, each one to his brother, of your free
heart, the trespass that he hath done him.

The kingdom of heaven is holy church of men that now trav-
ail here; and this church by his head is like to a man king, for
Christ, head of this church, is both God and man. This king
would reckon with his servants, for Christ hath will without end
to reckon with men at three times. First, Christ reckoneth with
men when he teacheth them by reason how much they have had
of him, and how much they owe him; the second time Christ
reckoneth with men, when in the hour of man's death he telleth
them at what point these men shall ever justly stand; the third
reckoning is general, and that shall be at the day of doom, when



JOHN WYCKLIFFE 277

this judgment generally shall be openly done in deed. As anent
the first reckoning, Christ reckoneth with rich men of this world,
and showeth them how much they owe him, and showeth by
righteousness of his law how they and theirs should be sold, and
so make amends by pain of things that they performed not in
deed. But many such men for a time have compunction in heart,
and pray God of his grace to have patience in them, and they
shall in this life serve to Christ truly. And so Christ forgiveth
them upon this condition. But they wend out, and sue not Christ
their Lord in mercy, but oppress their servants that owe them
but a little debt, and put them in prison, and think not on God's
mercy, and other servants of God, both in this life and -'n the
other, tell to God this fellness, and pray him of vengeance. No
doubt, God is wroth at this, and at two reckonings with man he
reasoneth this cruel man, and judgeth him justly to pain.

And therefore Christ biddeth, by Luke, all men to be merci-
ful, for their Father of heaven that shall judge them is merciful.
But we should understand by this that this mercy that Christ
asketh is nothing against reason, and so by this just mercy men
should sometime forgive, and sometime should they punish, but
ever by reason of mercy. The reason of mercy standeth in this;
that which men might do cruelly they (may) do justly for God's
sake to amendment of men; and men may mercifully reprove
men, and punish them, and take of them their just debts for
bettering of these debtors. On this manner doth God that is full
of mercy, and saith that he reproveth and chastiseth his wanton
children that he loveth; and thus Christ reproved Pharisees, and
punished priests with other people, and punisheth mercifully all
damned men in hell, for it standeth not with his right that he
punish but mercifully. God giveth goods of kind by grace to
these men that he damneth, and if he pimished them more, yet
he meddleth mercy. But here men should beware that all the
goods that they have be goods of their God, and they naked
servants of God; and thus should they warily flee to take their
own vengeance, but venge injury of God and intend amendment.
Thus Christ, meekest of all, suffered his own injury in two temp-
tations of the fiend, but in the third he said: ^<Go, Satan, *^ and
proved him sharply by authority of God. Thus Moses, mildest
man of all, killed many thousand of his folk, for they worshiped
a calf as they should worship God. And thus in our works of
mercy lieth much discretion, for oft times our mercy asketh to



^»g JOHN WYCKLIFFE

venge and to punish men, and else justices of man's law should
never punish men to the death, but oft times they do amiss, and
they wit not when they do well, and so religion of priests should
leave such judgments.



CONCERNING A GRAIN OF CORN

(^Nisi gratiutn frumenti. — John xii. 24)

PHILOSOPHERS doubt whether (the) seed loseth his form when it
is made a new thing, as the Gospel speaketh here ; and some
men think nay, for sith the same quantity or quality or vir-
tue that was first in seed, liveth after in the fruit, as a child is
often like to his father or his mother, or else to his eld father,
after that the virtue lasteth, — and sith all these be accidents,
that may not dwell without subject, — it seemeth that the same
body is first seed and after fruit, and thus it may oft change
from seed to fruit and again. Here many, cleped philosophers,
glaver diversely; but in this matter God's law speaketh thus, as
did eld clerks, that the substance of a body is before that it be
seed, and now fruit and now seed, and now quick and now dead.
And thus many forms must be together in one thing, and spe-
cially when the parts of that thing be meddled together; and
thus the substance of a body is now of one kind and now of an-
other. And so both these accidents, quality and quantity, must
dwell in the same substance, all if it be changed in kinds, and
thus this same thing that is now a wheat corn shall be dead and
turn to grass, and after to many corns. But variance in words
in this matter falleth to clerks, and showing of equivocation the
which is more ready in Latin; but it is enough to us to put,
that the same substance is now quick and now dead, and now
seed and now fruit; and so that substance that is now a wheat
corn must needs die before that it is made grass, and sith be
made a whole ear. And thus speaketh Holy Writ and no man
can disprove it. Error of freres in this matter is not here to
rehearse, for it is enough to tell how they err in belief.




SIR WILLIAM WYNDHAM

(1 687- 1 740)

^iR William Wyndham's attack on Sir Robert Walpole, made
during the debate on the repeal of the Septennial Act, was
celebrated during the eighteenth century as one of the best
examples of skillful political invective. Wyndham was leader of the
opposition to Walpole in the House of Commons, and he made, by in-
direction, charges which neither he nor his partisans were prepared to
prove. Wyndham was born in Somersetshire, England, in 1687. Edu-
cated at Eton and at Christ Church, Oxford, he entered Parliament in
1710; became Secretary at War in 1711, and Chancellor of the Ex-
chequer in 17 13. On the accession of George I. in 17 14, he was dis-
missed from office, and in 17 15 he was sent to the Tower on suspicion
of being concerned in a Jacobite plot. There was no real evidence
against him, however, and he was released. Returning to the House
of Commons, he became an opposition leader, and acquired celebrity
for his eloquence. He died July 17th, 1740. He must not be con-
founded with William Windham (1750-1810), who was Secretary of
State for War and the Colonies in the ^< Ministry of all the Talents,'^
under Lord Grenville.



ATTACK ON SIR ROBERT WALPOLE

(Delivered in the House of Commons on a Motion for the Repeal of the
Septennial Act, March 13th, 1734)

WE HAVE been told, sir, in this House, that no faith is to be
given to prophecies. Therefore I shall not pretend to
prophesy; but I may suppose a case, which, though it has
not yet happened, may possibly happen. Let us then suppose,
sir, a man abandoned to all notions of virtue or honor, of no
great family, and of but a mean fortune, raised to be Chief Min-
ister of State by the concurrence of many whimsical events;
afraid or unwilling to trust any but creatures of his own mak-
ing, and most of them equally abandoned to all notions of virtue
or honor; ignorant of the true interest of his country, and con-
sulting nothing but that of enriching and aggrandizing himself

279



o SIR WILLIAM WYNDHAM

280

and his favorites; in foreign affairs, trusting none but those
whose education makes it impossible for them to have such
knowledge or such qualifications as can either be of service to
their country or give any weight or credit to their negotiations.
Let us suppose the true interest of the nation, by such means,
neglected or misunderstood; her honor and credit lost; her trade
insulted; her merchants plundered; and her sailors murdered; and
all these things overlooked, only for fear his administration should
be endangered. Suppose him next possessed of great wealth, the
plunder of the nation, with a Parliament of his own choosing,
most of their seats purchased, and their votes bought at the ex-
pense of the public treasure. In such a Parliament, let us sup-
pose attempts made to inquire into his conduct, or to relieve the
nation from the distress he has brought upon it; and when lights
proper for attaining those ends are called for, not perhaps for
the information of the particular gentlemen who call for them,
but because nothing can be done in a parliamentary way till
these things be in a proper way laid before Parliament; suppose
these lights refused, these reasonable requests rejected by a cor-
rupt majority of his creatures, whom he retains in daily pay, or
engages in his particular interest, by granting them those posts
and places which ought never to be given to any but for the
good of the public. Upon this scandalous victory let us suppose
this chief minister pluming himself in defiance, because he finds
he has got a Parliament, like a packed jury, ready to acquit him
at all adventures. Let us further suppose him arrived to that
degree of insolence and arrogance, as to domineer over all men
of ancient families, all the men of sense, figure, or fortune in the
nation, and, as he had no virtue of his own, ridiculing it in others
and endeavoring to destroy or corrupt it in all.

I am still not prophesying, sir; I am only supposing; and
the case I am going to suppose I hope never will happen. But
with such a minister and such a Parliament, let us suppose a
prince upon the throne, either for want of true information, or
for some other reason, ignorant and unacquainted with the incli-
nations and the interest of his people; weak and hurried away
by unbounded ambition and insatiable avarice. This case, sir,
has never yet happened in this nation. I hope, I say, it will
never exist. But as it is possible it may, could there any greater
curse happen to a nation than such a prince on the throne, ad-
vised, and solely advised, by such a minister, and that minister



SIR WILLIAM WYNDHAM 28 1

supported by such a Parliament ? The nature of mankind can-
not be altered by human laws; the existence of such a Parlia-
ment I think we may suppose. And as such a Parliament is
much more likely to exist, and may do more mischief while the
Septennial Law remains in force, than if it were repealed, there-
fore I am most heartily for the repeal of it.



ROYAL PREROGATIVE DELEGATED FROM THE PEOPLE
(Delivered in Parliament on the Army Bill in 1734)

THE gentlemen who have been pleased to speak against this
proposition have all of them asserted, I find, sir, that should
it take place, it would alter the very being of our Constitu-
tion; from whence we must conclude that these gentlemen think
that the very being of our Constitution consists, not only in hav-
ing a standing army, but in having that army absolutely and en-
tirely dependent on the Crown, which is an opinion so directly
contrary to that which every man ought to have about our Con-
stitution, that I am sorry to hear of its being entertained by any
gentleman who has the honor of being a Member of this House.
I wish those gentlemen would consider a little better the nature
or the being of our Constitution, and the many alterations that
have, from time to time, crept into it; if they do, they will find
no greater novelty, nor can they find one more dangerous than
that of a standing army. It is not as yet, I hope, a part of our
Constitution, and, therefore, what is now proposed cannot be an
alteration of our Constitution; it is, indeed, so far otherwise, that
the very design of it is to prevent our Constitution's being altered
by a standing army's being hereafter made a part of it ; or at least
to make that army less dangerous in case it should become abso-
lutely necessary for us always to keep up a standing army.

We have likewise been told, sir, that the prerogative of the
Crown is a part of our Constitution, and the lessening the power
of the Crown, or robbing the Crown of its prerogative (as gentle-
men have been pleased to call it), is an alteration of our Consti-
tution. For my own part, sir, I have no notion of any legal
power or prerogative but what is for the benefit of the commu-
nity; nor do I think that any power can be legal but what is
originally derived from the community, and it is certain that all
the power that is or can be given by the people must be given



«^ SIR WILLIAM WYNDHAM

for their own protection and defense. Therefore, if the people
should afterwards find that they have given too much; if they
should begin to foresee that the power they have given may come
to be of dangerous consequence to themselves, have not they
reason, have not they a right to take back what part of it they
think necessary for their own safety ? This, sir, is the proper
footing upon which the present debate ought to be put, and, tak-
ing it upon this footing, suppose that this power of removing the
officers of the army were a part of the ancient prerogative of the
Crown; if the Parliament should foresee that this power might
be made a bad use of, that it might easily be turned towards en-
slaving the people, would not the people have a right to take it
from the Crown; would it not be their duty to do so; nay, ought
not the Crown willingly and freely to give it up ?

Gentlemen have next endeavored to frighten us with the ef-
fects of this proposition, should it be passed into a law; they say
we would soon see what such an independence in the army would
turn to; but, for God's sake, sir, is not the army to be still as
much dependent upon King and Parliament as ever they were
before ? If it should be but suspected that any officer, or any
number of officers, were going to attempt anything against King
and Parliament, could not the King immediately suspend them,
or even put them under arrest; and could not the Parliament, as
soon as they met, address his Majesty to remove them ? Upon
this occasion, I shall beg leave, sir, to state the difference of
the two cases: In the one case, an army entirely dependent on
the Crown, so much at the mercy of the Crown, that, let the
merit of those gentlemen in their military capacity be never so
great; let their fidelity to their King and country be never so
conspicuous; let their past services be never so meritorious; yet,



Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 10) → online text (page 27 of 56)