HAIL & FIRE - a resource for Reformed and Gospel Theology in the works, exhortations, prayers, and apologetics of those who have maintained the Gospel and expounded upon the Scripture as the Eternal Word of God and the sole authority in Christian doctrine.
HOME > Library > Books > Library of Original Sources (1907 Edition), Oliver Thatcher (editor) - John Wycliffe and Pope Gregory XI
JOHN WYCLIFFE AND POPE GREGORY XI
Library of Original Sources
by Oliver Thatcher (editor)
Department of History University of Chicago
HAIL & FIRE REPRINTS 2009
John Wycliffe was born about 1320 in Yorkshire. He was educated at Oxford, and early took the side of the English court against the domination of the papacy; at that time located at Avignon and under the influence of the French kings. He was given a living at court, probably as king's chaplain, then placed in the rectory of Lutterworth, which he still held at the time of his death. Soon after this he was sent to Bruges as one of the delegates of the king to confer with the representatives of the pope. His stand brought him into conflict with the side of the papacy. His conclusions were condemned and he was ordered by the pope to be confined, out of regard for which command the university directed him to remain in his lodgings at Black Hall.
In 1378 he began actively to seek converts as against the papacy by translating the Bible into English and sending forth itinerant preachers to preach his doctrines of what he considered pure doctrine and the separation of the powers of State and Church. He was again brought before the University, and twenty-four of his articles condemned as heretical. This was in 1382 and from this date he seems to have spent most of his time at Lutterworth. He died on the last day of 1384. The vengeance of his enemies, unavailable during his life, followed him in death. The council of Constance in 1415 ordered his remains to be dug up and burned and the order was executed by Bishop Fleming thirteen years later.
Wycliffe started from the theories of the separation of State and Church advanced by Marsilius of Padua included later in this volume under the head of the State, and gradually extended them to cover substantially the ground embraced in the conclusions given below. John Ball, one of the leaders of the Peasant's revolt (also discussed later) claimed to have derived his communistic ideas from Wycliffe. Not long after Wycliffe's death his ideas subsided for a time in England, but they were kept alive in Bohemia through his disciple John Huss, and through him profoundly influenced Luther and the Protestant Reformation.
WYCLIFFE AND GREGORY XI
The following are not Wycliffe's words or own profession but the profession of which he was accused; some portions of the Wycliffite doctrines are stated correctly, some are the misconstructions of men to whom the simplicity of the Gospel was utterely abhorent, and others are confused with purpose, namely, that by mistatements placed upon one, all who adhere to that he spoke or taught might be reviled and abominated by future generations. Jesus was accused upon the same example: respecting the temple - a thing which the people, especially the rulers, understood not, he is accused: "We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands." Mark 14:58; and he was destroyed upon the saying of the high priest who would have him state plainly whether he was "the Christ" and "the Son of God" - a thing to which the priest himself bears witness as both the teaching of scripture and the hope of the people of God, and yet these became the cause itself of the condemnation of him who was the Christ and the Son of God. - EDITOR.
I. That the material substance of bread and of wine remains, after the consecration, in the sacrament of the altar.
II. That the accidents do not remain without the subject, after the consecration, in the same sacrament.
III. That Christ is not in the sacrament of the altar identically, truly and really in his proper corporal presence.
IV. That if a bishop or priest lives in mortal sin he does not ordain, or consecrate, or baptize.
V. That if a man has been truly repentant, all external confession is superfluous to him or useless.
VI. Continually to assert that it is not founded in the gospel that Christ instituted the mass.
VII. That God ought to be obedient to the devil.
VIII. That if the pope is foreordained to destruction and a wicked man, and therefore a member of the devil, no power has been given to him over the faithful of Christ by any one, unless perhaps by the Emperor.
IX. That since Urban the Sixth, no one is to be acknowledged as pope; but all are to live, in the way of the Greeks, under their own laws.
XI. That no prelate ought to excommunicate any one unless he first knows that the man is excommunicated by God.
XII. That a person thus excommunicating is thereby a heretic or excommunicate.
XIII. That a prelate excommunicating a clerk who has appealed to the king, or to a council of the kingdom, on that very account is a traitor to God, the king and the kingdom.
XIV. That those who neglect to preach, or to hear the word of God, or the gospel that is preached, because of the excommunication of men, are excommunicate, and in the day of judgment will be considered as traitors to God.
XV. To assert that it is allowed to any one, whether a deacon or a priest, to preach the word of God, without the authority of the apostolic see, or of a Catholic bishop, or of some other which is sufficiently acknowledged.
XVI. To assert that no one is a civil lord, no one is a bishop, no one is a prelate, so long as he is in mortal sin.
XVII. That temporal lords may, at their own judgment, take away temporal goods from churchmen who are habitually delinquent; or that the people may, at their own judgment, correct delinquent lords.
XVIII. That tithes are purely charity, and that parishoners may, on account of the sins of their curates, detain these and confer them on others at their will.
XIX. That special prayers applied to one person by prelates or religious persons, are of no more value to the same person than general prayers for others in a like position are to him.
XX. That the very fact that any one enters upon any private religion whatever, renders him more unfitted and more incapable of observing the commandments of God.
XXI. That saints who have instituted any private religions whatever, as well of those having possessions as of mendicants, have sinned in thus instituting them.
XXII. That religious persons living in private religions are not of the Christian religion.
XXIII. That friars should be required to gain their living by the labor of their hands and not by mendicancy.
XXIV. That a person giving alms to friars, or to a preaching friar, is excommunicate; also the one receiving.
BULL OF POPE GREGORY XL, AGAINST JOHN WYCLIFFE
Gregory, bishop, servant of the servants of God, to his beloved sons the Chancellor and University of Oxford, in the diocese of Lincoln, grace and apostolic benediction.
We are compelled to wonder and grieve that you, who, in consideration of the favors and privileges conceded to your University of Oxford by the apostolic see, and on account of your familiarity with the Scriptures, in whose sea you navigate, by the gift of God, with auspicious oar, you, who ought to be, as it were, warriors and champions of the orthodox faith, without which there is no salvation of souls, - that you through a certain sloth and neglect allow tares to spring up amidst the pure wheat in the fields of your glorious University aforesaid; and what is still more pernicious, even continue to grow to maturity. And you are quite careless, as has been lately reported to us, as to the extirpation of these tares; with no little clouding of a bright name, danger to your souls, contempt of the Roman church, and injury to the faith above mentioned. And what pains us the more, is that this increase of the tares aforesaid is known in Rome before the remedy of extirpation has been applied in England where they sprang up. By the insinuation of many, if they are indeed worthy of belief, deploring it deeply, it has come to our ears that John deWycliffe, rector of the church of Lutterworth, in the diocese of Lincoln, Professor of the Sacred Scriptures, (would that he were not also Master of Errors,) has fallen into such a detestable madness that he does not hesitate to dogmatize and publicly preach, or rather vomit forth from the recesses of his breast certain propositions and conclusions which are erroneous and false. He has cast himself also into the depravity of preaching heretical dogmas which strive to subvert and weaken the state of the whole church and even secular polity, some of which doctrines, in changed terms, it is true, seem to express the perverse opinions and unlearned learning of Marsilio of Padua of cursed memory, and of John of Jandun, whose book is extant, rejected and cursed by our predecessor, Pope John XXII, of happy memory. This he has done in the kingdom of England, lately glorious in its power and in the abundance of its resources, but more glorious still in the glistening piety of its faith, and in the distinction of its sacred learning; producing also many men illustrious for their exact knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, mature in the gravity of their character, conspicuous in devotion, defenders of the Catholic church. He has polluted certain of the faithful of Christ by sprinkling them with these doctrines, and led them away from the right paths of the aforesaid faith to the brink of perdition.
Wherefore, since we are not willing, nay, indeed, ought not to be willing, that so deadly a pestilence should continue to exist with our connivance, a pestilence which, if it is not opposed in its beginnings, and torn out by the roots in its entirety, will be reached too late by medicines when it has infected very many with its contagion; we command your University with strict admonition, by the apostolic authority, in virtue of your sacred obedience, and under penalty of the deprivation of all the favors, indulgences, and privileges granted to you and your University by the said see, for the future not to permit to be asserted or proposed to any extent whatever, the opinions, conclusions, and propositions which are in variance with good morals and faith, even when those proposing strive to defend them under a certain fanciful wresting of words or of terms. Moreover, you are on our authority to arrest the said John, or cause him to be arrested and to send him under a trustworthy guard to our venerable brother, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Bishop of London, or to one of them.
Besides, if there should be, which God forbid, in your University, subject to your jurisdiction, opponents stained with these errors, and if they should obstinately persist in them, proceed vigorously and earnestly to a similar arrest and removal of them, and otherwise as shall seem good to you. Be vigilant to repair your negligence which you have hitherto shown in the premises, and so obtain our gratitude and favor, and that of the said see, besides the honor and reward of the divine recompense.
Given at Rome, at Santa Maria Maggiore, on the 31st of May, the sixth year of our pontificate.
REPLY OF WYCLIFFE TO HIS SUMMONS BY THE POPE TO COME TO ROME, 1384
I have joy fully to tell to all true men that believe what I hold, and algates to the pope; for I suppose that if my faith be rightful and given of God, the pope will gladly confirm it; and if my faith be error, the Pope will wisely amend it.
I suppose over this that the gospel of Christ be heart of the corps of God's law; for I believe that Jesus Christ, that gave in His own person this gospel, is very God and very man, and by this heart passes all other laws.
I suppose over this that the pope be most obliged to the keeping of the gospel among all men that live here; for the pope is highest vicar that Christ has here in earth. For moreness of Christ's vicar is not measured by worldly moreness, but by this, that this vicar sues more Christ by virtuous living; for thus teacheth the gospel, that this is the sentence of Christ.
And of this gospel I take as believe, that Christ for time that He walked here, was most poor man of all, both in spirit and in having; for Christ says that He had nought for to rest His head on. And Paul says that He was made needy for our love. And more poor might no man be, neither bodily nor in spirit. And thus Christ put from Him all manner of worldly lordship. For the gospel of John telleth that when they would have made Christ king, He fled and hid Him from them, for He would none such worldly highness.
And over this I take it as believe, that no man should sue the pope, nor no saint that now is in heaven, but in as much as he sues Christ. For John and James erred when they coveted worldly highness; and Peter and Paul sinned also when they denied and blasphemed in Christ; but men should not sue them in this, for then they went from Jesus Christ. And this I take as wholesome counsel, that the pope leave his worldly lordship to worldly lords, as Christ gave them, - and move speedily all his clerks to do so. For thus did Christ, and taught thus his disciples, till the fiend had blinded this world. And it seems to some men that clerks that dwell lastingly in this error against God's law, and flee to sue Christ in this, been open heretics, and their fautors been partners.
And if I err in this sentence, I will meekly be amended, yea, by the death, if it be skilful, for that I hope were good to me. And if I might travel in mine own person, I would with good will go to the pope. But God has needed me to the contrary, and taught me more obedience to God than to men. And I suppose of our pope that he will not be Antichrist, and reverse Christ in this working, to the contrary of Christ's will; for if he summon against reason, by him or by any of his, and pursue this unskilful summoning, he is an open Antichrist. And merciful intent excused not Peter, that Christ should not clepe him Satan; so blind intent and wicked counsel excuses not the pope here; but if he ask of true priests that they travel more than they may, he is not excused by reason of God, that he should not be Antichrist. For our belief teaches us that our blessed God suffers us not to be tempted more than we may; how should a man ask such service? And therefore pray we to God for our Pope Urban the Sixth, that his old holy intent be not quenched by his enemies. And Christ, that may not lie, says that the enemies of a man been especially his home family; and this is sooth of men and fiends. - Translation and Reprints published by the Univiversity of Pennsylvania.
"And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." Revelation 13:15-17 KJV