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Tracts and treatises of John de Wycliffe : with selections and translations from his manuscripts, and Latin works online

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teaches. For they cast and imagine the death of true men, that desire
and travail to deUver them from the fiend's mouth, and everlasting
death, and to bring them to that state in which Christ ordained priests
to live in. And they proffer friars this condition, if they will teach by
Holy Writ or reason, that fi'iars order and living is best for priests,

» helpful. » hinder.



AGAINST THE ORDERS OF FRIARS. 247

they will gladly be professed to the friars' order ; and if priests may
teach, both by Holy Writ and reason, that their order is better than
friars, since Christ himself made their order, and not friars, they
pray friars, for love of God, to take that order, and to leave their
singular order, inasmuch as it draws them from the freedom of the
Gospel. And thus they pursue priests, for they reprove their sins
as God bids, both to bren" them, and the Gospel of Christ, written
in English, to most learning of our nation. And thus for the great
alms that men give to friars, they let men to con* God's law, and
to let" them to be saved, for they may not be saved without conning'*
and keeping of God's law, and so friars need our land to be damned
with fiends in hell.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

FRIARS, UNDER THE HABIT OF HOLINESS, LEAD MEN INTO SIN.

Friars also be worse enemies, and slayers of men's soul, than is the
cruel fiend of hell by himself For they, under the habit of holiness, lead
men, and nourish them in sin, and be special helpers of the fiend
to strangle men's souls. For the name of hohness, and of great clerks
in reputation of the people, that the people trust not to few true men
preaching against their covetousness, hypocrisy, and false deceit ; and
the friars, for love of a little stinking muck, and welfare of their foul
belly, spare to reprove the cursed sin of the people. For commonly, if
there be any cursed juror, extortioner, or avowterer,* he will not be
shriven-^ at his own ciurate, but go to a flattering fnar, that will assoiK
him falsely, for a little money, by year, though he be not in will to
make restitution, and leave his cursed sin. And thus, if the foul fiend
might be showed in his shape to the people, as men say he was in time
of St. Bartholomew, the people would be feared to dwell in his service,
that is sin ; but the cursedness of sin is hid, and the people is made
sicker* by false pardons, and letters of fraternity, though they all break
the bests* of God, and keep not charity ; and certain, then, is the devil
sicker of both parties.



" burn. * know or leain. ' hinder. "' learning. ' adulterer,

/confessed to obtain absolution. r absolve. * well or sure, 'commandments.



248 A TREATISE OF JOHN WYCLIFFE



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THEY PERSUADE JiIEN TO RECKON MORE OF THEIR ANATHEMAS, THAN OF
god's CURSE.

Also fi'iaj's lead, and nourish oiir prelates, our lords and commons, in
great blasphemy against God. For they teach all this people to
reck " less of the most rightfid curse of God, than by the wrong curse of
sinful man, though he be a damned devil ; for they call the curse of
God, the less curse ; and the curse of sinful man, the more curse. For
though a man be never so cursed of God for pi-ide, envy, covetousness,
or avowtery,* or any other, this is not charged, nor pursued, neither of
prelate, nor lord, nor commons ; but if a man withstand once the
citation of a sinful prelate, yea, after the commandment of God, then he
shall be cursed, and prisoned, after forty days ; and all men shall go
upon him, though they may be pursued for truth of the Gospel, and
be blessed of God. And thus sinful men's doom,'' and in case of the
fiends, is more di'ead and magnified, than is the rightful doom'' of God
Almighty.



CHAPTER XXXIX.



friars' heresy in affirming THE WICKED TO BE JIEMBERS OF CHEIST'S

CHURCH.

Friars also destroy this article of Christian men's faith ; I beHeve one
common or general chui'ch. For they teach, that those men that shall
be damned, be members of holy chmxh, and thus they wed Christ and
the devil together. For Christ is ghostly wedded with each member of
holy church, and some of these, as they say, shall be damned ; and
then, as Christ says, they be friends ; therefore, by them, Christ and
the devil be wedded together. But God says, by Paul^ that there is no
comming,'' nor consent, to Christ and to Belial, and then may there
no wedding be betwixt them ; but this general holy church is the con-
gregation of Christ, that is head, and all good angels in heaven, and

" reckon.: ' adultery. '■judgment. - uniting.



AGAINST THE ORDERS OF FRIARS. 249

all men and women in earth, or in purgatory, that shall be saved, and
no more. For Christ says, that none of his members shall perish ; for
no man shall take them out of his hands. And John Evangelist says,
of false teachers, that They went out from iis, but they were not of us.
And, therefore, Chrysostom says, that those that keep not God's law,
but die out of charity, were never Christ's body, the which shall not
reign with him ; and since each part of Christ's ghostly body, of which
Austin speaks, as Holy "Writ does, shall reign with him in bhss, then no
man that shall be damned, is part of Christ's ghostly body, and so part
of member of holy church ; but friars said thus, — for men should give
them much money to pray for all, both good and evil ; and also to
please bishops and possessioners.



CHAPTER XL.



ARROGATING UNTO THEMSELVES GLORY DUE UNTO OTHER MEN, AND SOMETIMES
UNTO GOD HBISELF.

Also friars seek busily their own worldly worship, and put the
worship of God behind, against the teaching of Jesus Christ, and St.
Paul; yea, that is worse, they take upon themselves glory that is
appropried " to God, and so make them even with God ; for they seek
fast by great gifts, and vain costs, to be called masters of divinity, and
speak before lords, and sit at the meat with them, and not to teach
truly the Gospel to all manner of men by meek life, and freely as Christ
bids. Also to be confessors of lords and ladies algats,* to be much told
by, and fare well, and not seek poor men, though they have more need.
And so of other business of friars whoso takes good sight to them.
For a a, friar do little weU, that shall be praised algats :* but if another
man do much better, that shall be lacked or despised. Also they shall
swear by him that they call patron of their order, and leave God behind,
and yet they do so for worship of their own patron, and their own sect,
and natheless*' God teaches to swear by him in need, and not by his
creatures, but for their proud swearing and idle, they despise God and
their patron also.

» appropriated. ' always. ' nevertheless.



260 A TREATISE OF JOHN WYCLIFFE



CHAPTER XLI.

EXALTING THEMSELVES ABOVE CHRIST HIMSELF.

Friars yet highen, " yet falsely, themselves above Christ. For where
Christ bids that men trow* not to him, but if he do the works of the
Father of heaven, friars challenge that men trust and obey to them, as
needful to souls' health, when they do not the works of God. For else
they may not ask that men do after them when they wit" not whether
the thing that they command is against God's doom'' or their wit.
And thus no man should do after them, but when they teach certainly
the bests* of God or his counsels, lest men doing after their teaching, in
this do against the wiU of God, but farewell then this new feigned
obedience, Avith this new profession.



CHAPTER XLII.
Christ's rule no sufficient warrant for them to be ruled by.

Also friars falsely enhance themselves above Christ and his apostles.
For they wiU not be payed-^ with Christ's rule in the Gospel to teach
truly the Gospel, and have meat and drink freely of a good man and
devout to God, nor be assayed^ with food and hylling* as Christ and his
apostles were, but they rob curates of their ofEce and ghostly worship,
and let' them to know God's law, by holding books fi'om them, and
withdrawing of their vantages,* by which they should have books and
learn. And also they rob lords of their rents, and some by more
hypocrisy take free annual rents of lords' coffers, and they rob the
commons of their lifelode ' by hypocrisy and false begging, damned by
God's law. And thus at the beginning they feign them most poor of
all clerks, but at the last they pass all other in great houses, and costly
libraries, and great feasts, and many other prides and covetousnesses,

• exalt or extol. * esteem. <^ know. '' judgment.

' commandments. /contented. e contented or satisfied. * apparel.

' hinder. * advantages. ' living.



AGAINST THE ORDERS OF FRIARS. 251

and ever they pass foul Christ and his apostles. For where Christ had
not to rest in his head, friars feigned beggars have lordly places, that
almost through England they may each night lie on their own.



CHAPTER XLIII.

friars' policy in binding their novices to unknown things.

Friars also of great cantele" binding novices to unknown things.
For they will not suffer them to know their privities of their rule and
their hfe till they have been professed, and then they shall not be
suffered to leave their rule, though they wit* well that they may not
keep it ; and this is openly against Christ's teaching and John's Gospel.
For Christ says that he spake openly to the world, and in hiddenness"
nothing, and friars do here fully the contrary. For first they show
great devotion and sweetness of holy Hfe to young children, tiU they be
professed, and then master them by tyrantrie'' to do many things
against their conscience, and so need them to go to hell or to prison, or
sometimes to cruel death.



CHAPTER XLIV.

MISSPENDERS OF THE TREASURE OF THIS LAND.

Also friars be wasters of treasure of our land by many blind and
unskilfiil manners. For first they blind them bhndly from freedom of
the Gospel, and then spend much gold to get them dispensation, and
many times bring vain pardons, convienales, ^ and other vain privileges,
and in all this the gold of our land goes out, and simony, and curse, and
boldness in sin comes again. And God wote.^ where privities of our
land be thus showed to our enemies. And God wote where matrimony
be thus departed for money, by such friars making false suggestions and
false pursuit after. Also it seems that in this they magnify a sinful

« caution or cunning. * know. ' secresy.

* tyranny. ' privileges of the convent. ' knew.



252 A TREATISE OF JOHN WYCLIFFE

caitiff, " and in case a damned fiend, more than God Almighty ; for they
dare not by free grant of God do a good thing to please him therewith,
but if they have leave of such a sinfid caitiff : "■ and if they have leave
of such an unwitty caitiff, they dare do against God's pleasing an
unreasonable thing, and sinful and slanderous to all Christian men.



CHAPTER XLV.

FEIARS HOLIER THAN OTHER MEN.



Friars also by Lucifer's pride highen*" themselves, and hold them
holier than all other out of their sect ; forasmuch as they bind them to
new traditions of sinful men, the which be full of error, over the most
sufficient rule of Jesus Christ, that left no profitable nor needful thing
out of this rule. For though a priest or bishop do never so tridy the
office that God bade priests do, yet they say he is more holy if he come
to their new feigned religion and obedience. But since boasting and
rejoicing of sin is one of the greatest sins of all, and these friars boast so
much of their sinful error, how they have found a better religion than
Christ made for his apostles and priests, it seems they be most sinful
and cursedly proud over all other wicked men. For it seems that they
make themselves wiser than Christ, more witty and more full of charity,
since they teach better way to heaven, than did Christ, as they feign.



CHAPTER XLVI.
FRIARS ALTOGETHER SET UPON COVETOUSNESS.

Also friars set more by stinking dirt of AvorldJy goods, than they do
by virtues and goods of bliss. For if a Cayn's castle of friars has much
dirt of worldly goods, though the friars therein be full of pride, covet-
ousness, simony, and false robbery by false begging and flattering, yet
they say that that rich house is better than a poor house off?'iars, though

« wretch or contemptible jierson. ' elevate or extol.



AGAINST THE ORDERS OF FRIARS. 253

they live in meekness, poverty, and penance, and much holiness. And
they travail more to get dirt of this world than to get the bliss of heaven,
and they commend more a friar that can snbtilly and thick get this
worldly dirt, than another, that can do and teach much virtuous Hfe.
And thus these friars make sacrifice to false gods for their covetousness,
and forsake God Almighty, since they love more worldly muck than
virtues and the love of Jesus Christ.



CHAPTER XLVII.



FRIARS DEAD UNTO THE WORLD, BUT RAISED BY ANTICHRIST TO PRIDE,
COVETOUSNESS, AND AL\INTENANCE OF SIN.

Friars also show and witness in themselves Antichrist's miracles, right
as Lazarus and others raised by Christ showed and witnessed Christ's
miracles. For as Lazarus and others were verily dead and verily raised
by Christ to live of kind and grace : so these friars feign them dead to
pride of the world and other sins, but they be raised by Antichrist's
doing to pi'ide of states, covetousness, and subtle maintaining or colour-
ing of sin. For though men be ciu-sed avowterers," extortioners, and
wrongful maintainers of falseness, and debates ; yet friars will colour
these sins, and undertake for these sinful men ; if they will give them
much dirt, and maintain their vain sect, and commend it more than
Christ's own religion. And they be quick to strive, pleet,* and fight
bodily for worships and states of this world : and so they be dead to
meekness, charity, and good rehgion, and be raised to cursed life of sin ;
and this is Antichrist's miracle.



plead.



^54 A TREATISE OF JOHN WVCLIFFE



CHAPTER XLVIII.
SPIRITUAL IMPURITY OF FRIARS.

Friars also be foully envenomed witli ghostly sin of Sodom, and so be
more cursed than the bodily Sodomites that were suddenly dead by hard
vengeance of God ; for they do ghostly lechery by God's word, when
they preach more their own findings for worldly muck, than Christ's
Gospel for saving of men's souls, and when they leave to preach the seed
of God's word and leesen" it, by which men should by ghostly gendure*
be made God's sons, they do more sin than though they lost man's seed,
by which the body of man should be gendered. For the misusing of the
better virtue is more sin, but the seed of God's word is better than the
seed of man, therefore it is worse to misspend that than to miswaste
man's seed. And Robert Grosted declares this reason well against cruel
curates.



CHAPTER XLIX.

FRIARS NOTABLE FACTORS FOR THE POPE HEREIN IN ENGLAND.

Friars also be most privy and subtle prociu'ators of simony and foul
winning and begging of benefices of indulgences, and travails, pardons,
and vain privileges. For men say, they will get a great thing of the
pope, or of cardinals in England better cheap than other procurators,
and they be more wily, and more pleasantly can flatter the pope and his
coui't, and most privily make lords to maintain the pope and his, in
robbing our land of treasure by his pardons, privileges, and the first
fruits of benefices in our land, and dimes'^ and subsidies to war on
Christian men, for stinking worldly lordship that God has forbidden to
him and all priests ; and in false confession they stir lords much thereto,
and need to destroy the land when they maintain the pope and this false
robbing.

« lose. ' generation. ' tenths.



AGAINST THE ORDERS OF FRIARS. 255



CHAPTER L.

FRIARS MOST PERILOUS ENEMES TO HOLY CHURCH AND TO ALL OUR LAND.

Yet friars be most perilous enemies to holy churcli and all our land ;
for they let" curates of their office, and spend commonly and needless
sixty thousand marks by year, that they rob falsely of the poor people.
For if curates did their office in good life and true preaching as they
be holden upon pain of damning in hell, there were clerks enough
of bishops, parsons, and other priests ; and in case over money to the
people ; and yet not two hundred years agone, there was no friar,
and then was our land plenteous of cattle and men, and they were
then stronger of complexion to labour than now, and then were clerks
enough. And now be many thousand of friars in England, and the old
ciu'ates stand still unamended, and among all sin is more increased, and
the people charged by sixty thousand marks by year, and therefore it
must needs fail, and so friars suffer curates to live in sin so that they
may rob the people and live in their lusts. For if curates did well their
office, friars Avere superfluous, and our land should be discharged of
many thousand marks, and then the people should better pay their rents
to loi'ds, and dimes* and offerings to curates, and much flattering and
nourishing of sin should be destroyed, and good life and peace and
charity should reign among Christian men : and so when all the ground
is sought friars say thus indeed, Let old curates wax rotten in sin, and
let them not do their office by God's law, and we will live in lusts so
long, and waste vainly and needlessly sixty thousand marks by year
of the' poor commons of the land, and so at the last make dissension
between them, and their children for dimes* and offerings that we will
get privily to us by hypocrisy, and make dissension between lords and
their commons. For we will maintain lords to live in their lusts, extor-
tions, and other sins, and the commons in covetousness, lechery, and
other deceits, with false swearing and many guiles. And also the
curates in their damnation for leaving of their ghostly office, and so
be procurators of the fiend, for to draw all men to hell ; thus they do
indeed, however they feign in hypocrisy of pleasing of words.

Of these fifty heresies and errors, and many more if men will seek
them well out, they may know that friars be cause, beginning, well, and

« hinder. >> tenths or tithes.



256 A TREATISE OF JOHN WYCLIFFE, ETC,

maintaining of perturbation in Christendom, and of all evils of tliis
world, and these errors shall never be amended till friars be brought to
freedom of the Gospel, and clean religion of Jesus Christ.



God for his endless meraj and charity make very peace and charity
among Christian men, and bring all priests to Chrisfs clean religion with-
out error of ivrong by-laws. Amen.



A COMPLAINT OF JOHN WYCLIFFE,



EXHIBITED TO THE KING AND PARLIAMENT.



A COMPLAINT OF JOHN WYCLIFFE, EXHIBITED TO
THE KING AND PARLIAMENT.



Please it to our most noble, and most worthy King Richard., king
both of England and of France, and to the noble Duke of Lancaster, and
to other great men of the realm ; both to seculars and men of holy
chiu-ch, that be gathered in the parliament, to hear, assent, and main-
tain the few articles, or points that be set within this writing, and
proved both by authority and reason, that Christian faith, and
Christian religion, be increased, maintained, and made stable ; since
our Lord Jesus Christ, very God and very man, is Head and Prelate
of this religion, and shed his precious heart-blood, and water, out
of his side, on the cross, to make this religion, perfect and stable,
and clean without error.



THE FIKST ARTICLE.



The first article is this: — That all persons, of what kin, private sects,
or singular religion, made of sinful men, may freely, without any
letting," or bodily pain, leave that private rule, or new religion, founded
of sinful men, and stably hold the rule of Jesus Christ, taken and given
by Christ to his apostles, and for more profit than any such new
reUgion, founded of sinful men. The reason of this axing * is showed

• hinderance. » demand.

s 2



260 A COMPLAINT OF JOHN WYCLIFFE,

thus, — The rule of Jesus Christ, youen'' to his apostles, and kept
of them, after Christ's ascension, is most perfect, to be kept for state of
living in this world ; and each rule, of what kin, private sect, or
singular religion, made of sinful men, is less perfect, than the rule
jouen of Christ, of his endless wisdom, and his endless charity, to
mankind ; therefore, it is leaveful* to each man or person of this
singular religion and profession, to leave it cleave fast to the rule of
Jesus Christ, as more perfect. This rule is plain to each man of wit
and discretion, and namely, to clerks ; since men of the pope's law
witnesseth plainly, that a man may lawfully, yea, against his sove-
reign's will, go from the less perfect religion, to the more perfect.
Why, then, may not a man of private religion forsake that, and take
Christ's clean reHgion, without error of any sinfiil fool, as most perfect ?
•and that Christ's rule, in his own cleanness and freedom, is most
perfect, is showed by this skill.*' For inasmuch as a patron, or a
founder, is more perfect, more mighty, more witty, and more holy, and
in more charity, than is another patron or founder : in so much is the
first patron's rule better and more perfect, than is the second patron's
rule. But Jesus Christ, patron of Christian religion, youen" to
apostles, passeth -without measure, in might, wit, and good will, or
charity, the perfection of every patron, of any private sect or singular ;
therefore, his rule is more perfect. Also, that Christ's clean reHgion,
without clouting ^ of sinful men's errors, is most perfect of all, is
showed by this skill." For other, Christ might youe^ such a rule,
most perfect for this life, to be kept, and would not, and then he
was envious, as Atistin proveth in other matters ; or else Christ would
ordain such a rule, and might not, and then Christ was unmighty ; but
it is heresy to affirm that on Christ ; or else Christ might, and couth,-^
and would not, and then he was unwitty ; but that is heresy, and
no man should suffer to hear. That, therefore, Christ both might, and
could, and wovild, ordain such a rule, most perfect, that ought to be
kept for state of this life ; and so Christ, of his endless wisdom and
charity, ordained such a rule ; and so on each side, men be needed,
upon pain of heresy and blasphemy, and of damning in hell, to beUeve
and knowledge, that their reHgion of Jesus Christ to apostles, and kept
of them in his own freedom, without clouting'' of sinful men's error,
is most perfect of all, and so to let^ no man to forsake private religion,
and keep Christ's clean reHgion, without new wrong traditions of sinful
men, that oft erred in their own Hfe and teaching. Also Christ, in
making the rule and order of apostles, was, in this time, and ever



" given. * lawful. ' reason. '' patching.

' give. / could. s liinder.



EXHIBITED TO THE KING AND PARLIAMENT. 2G1

before, Almighty, alwitty, all full of good will and charity, to make
perfect rule ; therefore, he made not only a perfect ride of all, but each
patron of private rule was unmighty ; and letted, " both in yiftes * of
kind and grace, and not alwitty ; but in comparison of Christ, an idiot
or fool, and not so well willing, to make so good and perfect as Christ ;
therefore, he made a rule less good, and less perfect, and hereof it
sueth '^ plainly, that Christ's clean religion is most perfect of all.

Also apostles, and their followers, keeping the rule youen*^ to them
of Christ, won most merit, and thanks of God, in this keeping, before
all other times ; therefore, if all Christian men, both in old time and
new, had kept the same rule of Christ, in his own cleanness and free-
dom, should have deserved most thanks of God, in degree, possible
to them. Therefore, no new sect of religion, striving from Christ's
sect, should have begun ; but that that was first, shoiild have been kept
in his cleanness, of such new foimder ; less of novelties and patrons.
Also, it were now as good, and of as much merit, to keep the ride
of Jesus Christ, as it was at the beginning ; since Christ's rule is
enough, and able for all men on live, of whatever complexion or age
they be of ; but this rule was kept of Jesus Christ and his apostles ;
and their best suers,* by five hundred year after his ascension, without
any finding of any such new planting, or religion, in which time
holy church increased and profited most ; for, then, almost all men
disposed them to martyrdom, at ensample of Christ ; therefore, it were
now not only meritory,/ or medefnljS" but most medeful to the church,
to Uve so in all things, and by all things.

Also both monks and canons forsake the rules of Benet and Austviy
and take, without any dispensation, the rule of friars, as most perfect y



Online LibraryJohn WycliffeTracts and treatises of John de Wycliffe : with selections and translations from his manuscripts, and Latin works → online text (page 38 of 45)