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his consistency, that his confession was declared by his enemies to be not a recantation of his heresy, but a vindication of it.
But even upon the point of transubstantiation his opinions gained ground; for his translation of the Bible was now eagerly read by all who could obtain it, and it was perceived that his doctrine bore the test. His proselytes became very numerous ; and obtained the name of Lollards, which had been given, in the Low Countries, to the persecuted Franciscans and other enthusiasts, from their practice of singing hymns, ... lollen or lullen, in one of the old German dialects, signifying to sing, as a mother when she lulls her babe. Upon the death of Sudbury, who was murdered by the rabble in Wat Tyler's insurrection, Courtney succeeded to the primacy; he was a man of ability and decision, and lost no time in citing Wicliffe before him. Wicliffe refused to appear, pleading that, by his office in the university, he was exempted from episcopal jurisdiction. Articles, however, were preferred against him, as drawn from his writings, some being fair statements of the opinions which he taught, and others gross and malicious distortions of his meaning. Just as the assembly began their deliberations, the monastery in which they met was shaken by an earthquake; they interpreted it as a mark of Divine displeasure, probably because many who were there to sit in judgement upon Wicliffe, were secretly conscious that his cause was good, ... and in that fear they would have fain broken up the meeting, if Courtney had not, with great presence of mind, given the earthquake a different interpretation ;... if it portended any thing, he said, it was the purging of the kingdom from heresies; for as the air and noxious spirits in the bowels of the earth were expelled by this convulsion, so was the kingdom, not without commotion, to be cleared of noxious opinions, which were in the hearts of reprobate men. The Synod therefore proceeded with their business; and the propositions, such as they appeared by the accuser's statement, when there was no one to explain or defend them, were censured, some as erroneous, and others condemned as heretical.
The sentence was published at Oxford ; but its effect there was invalidated, by the spirit with which Wicliffe vindicated himself, and exposed the malice or the ignorance with which his opinions had been misrepresented. Courtney then brought a
Bill into Parliament, for imprisoning all persons who should preach heresies and notorious errors; and as soon as the Bill had passed the Lords, he acted upon it; upon which the House of Commons, which had now become an efficient part of the Constitution, petitioned that it should be annulled, as not having had their consent. Baffled by his own precipitance in this measure, Courtney obtained letters from the King to the Chancellor of Oxford, requiring him to banish Wicliffe from the university, and seize all writings in which his doctrines were maintained. The Chancellor represented that the peace of the university and his own life would be in danger were he to obey ; ... in fact, the partisans of the new doctrines were bold as well as numerous, and carried arms under their gowns, to make their cause good if they were offended. This temper, which fatally accompanied the Reformation, Wicliffe discouraged; and when Courtney insisted with the Chancellor upon obedience, he withdrew to his living of Lutterworth, where the Primate left him unmolested, for the fiery days of persecution had not yet commenced in England. Our great reformer, undaunted in his retirement, and faithful to the last, still wielded the pen; and when Urban VI. endeavoured to raise men and money here for a crusade against the rival Pope, he wrote against the wickedness of exciting war in Christendom, upon a dispute between two false priests, insisting that the Pope was plainly Antichrist. Urban summoned him for this to Rome ; he replied that an attack of palsy rendered him incapable of performing the journey. A second attack, which seized him in his church, proved fatal, when he was about sixty years of age. It is a reproach to this country that no statue has been erected in his honour,... and that his translation of the Old Testament should never have been printed.
Wicliffe held some erroneous opinions, some fantastic ones, and some which, in their moral and political consequences, are most dangerous. Considering the intrepidity and ardour of his mind, it is surprising that his errors were not more and greater. A' great and admirable man he was; his fame, high as it is, is not above his deserts; and it suffers no abatement upon comparison with the most illustrious of those who have followed in the path
1 My authorities are Lewis's Life of Wicliffe ; Baber's, prefixed to his Translation of the New Testament, and Fox.
which he opened. His writings were carried into Bohemia by one of the natives of that country, whom the marriage of their princess with Richard II. brought into England. From the perusal of them, John Huss imbibed those opinions concerning the Papal Church, for which he suffered heroically at the stake, to his own eternal honour, and to the perpetual infamy of the Council which condemned him, and of the Emperor, who suffered the safe-conduct which he had given him to be broken ; and Huss prepared the way for Luther.
This wife of Richard's, whose memory was so dear to the people, that long after her death she was called the good Queen Anne, protected the followers of Wicliffe while she lived, and was herself a diligent reader of the Scriptures in the English tongue; there can be little doubt, therefore, that it was in Wicliffe's translation. She was particularly commended for this by Archbishop Arundel, the successor of Courtney in the primacy, when he preached her funeral sermon. But the prelate, , who thus commended her, is branded in history as a persecutor and a traitor : becoming a traitor, and taking an active part in deposing Richard, that he might no longer be withheld from persecuting a sect, whose numbers were now formidable. It was by the aid of the Clergy that Henry IV. succeeded in usurping the throne, this being the only instance in English history wherein their conduct as a body was disloyal. To prove himself as sincere in their cause as they had been in his, and as little restrained by humanity or justice in supporting it, he passed å statute whereby all persons, who propagated the new doctrine by preaching, writing, teaching, or discourse, were required to renounce their heresies, and deliver in all their heretical books, and submit themselves to the Church, on pain of being delivered over to the secular arm, and burnt alive.
Undoubtedly the Lollards were highly dangerous at this time; if there were some among them whose views and wishes did not go beyond a just and salutary reformation, the greater number were eager for havoc, and held opinions which are incompatible with the peace of society. They would have stripped the churches, destroyed the monasteries, confiscated the church lands, and proclaimed the principle that the Saints should possess the earth. The public safety required that such opinions should be repressed ; and founded as they were in gross error, and leading
to direct and enormous evil, the Church would have deserved the approbation of impartial posterity, if it had proceeded temperately and justly in repressing them. But the course which the Clergy pursued was equally impolitic and iniquitous ; by making transubstantiation the test of heresy, and insisting, on pain of the stake, upon the belief of a proposition which no man could believe unless he disregarded the evidence of his senses, they gave the Lollards all the advantage which men derive from the reputation and the merit of suffering in defence of the truth.
William Sautre, the parish priest of St. Osithes, in London, and formerly of St. Margaret's, at Lynn in Norfolk, was the first victim under the new statute, and the first martyr for the Reformation in England. He had been questioned for his opinions by the Bishop of Norwich, and, under the fear of death, had formally abjured them. “Let those,” says the excellent Fuller, “who severely censure him for once denying the truth, and do know who it was that denied his Master thrice, take heed they do not as bad a deed more than four times themselves. May Sautre's final constancy be as surely practised by men, as his former cowardliness, no doubt, is pardoned by God.” On his removal to London, he petitioned Parliament that he might be heard before them for the commodity of the whole realm; ... an act to which he must have been induced less by the hope of effecting any public good, than by the desire of recovering his own peace of mind. In consequence of this, he was convented before Archbishop Arundel, in the Convocation, and charged with affirming that he would not worship the Cross on which Christ suffered, but only Christ who suffered on the Cross; .. that if any man had vowed to make a distant pilgrimage, he would do better to disburse the expense of such a journey in alms, than to perform it ; that it was more the duty of the Clergy to preach the word of God, than to say the canonical hours; and finally, that the sacramental bread continued to be bread after it was consecrated. He desired time to answer the charges, and on the sixth day delivered in a scroll, explicitly declaring that these were the opinions which he held. Being then asked, if he had not formally abjured such opinions the preceding year ? he is said to have denied it. The imperfect record of these proceedings has left this denial unexplained; it may have been that
sort of denial, which a court of justice requires as preliminary to a trial; this however is certain, that it would not be less preposterous than unjust, did we impute falsehood to one who was about to give the last extreme proof of sincerity, and was actually at that time presenting himself for martyrdom. The single question with which he was pressed was, whether the Sacrament of the altar, after the pronouncing of the sacramental words, remained material bread or not? It was not sufficient for him to declare a firm belief that it was that bread of life which came down from Heaven ; he was required to acknowledge, that it ceased to be bread. “Thus,” in the words of Fuller, “their cruelty made God's table a snare to his servants ; when their other nets broke, this held; what they pretended a sacrifice for the living and the dead, proved indeed the cause of the sacrificing of many innocents; and cavils about the corporal presence, was the most compendious way to despatch them.” Finding it vain to protest that he attempted not to explain what is inexplicable, his final answer was, that the bread, after consecration, remained very bread as it was before. He was then pronounced to be judicially and lawfully convicted as a heretic, and as a heretic to be punished ; and being moreover a relapsed heretic, to be degraded, deposed, and delivered over to the secular arm.
This being the first condemnation of the kind in England, Arundel was punctual in all its forms, that they might serve for an exact precedent in future. They were probably derived from the practice of the accursed Inquisitors in Languedoc; and they were well devised for prolonging an impression of horror upon the expectant and awed spectators. Sautre was brought before the Primate and six other Bishops in the cathedral of St. Paul's; they were in their pontifical attire, and he appeared in priestly vestments, with the paten and chalice in his hands. Arundel stood up, and, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, (thus profaned in this inhuman process,) degraded him, first from his priestly order, and in sign of that degradation, took from him the paten and chalice, and plucked the priestly casule from his back. The New Testament was then put into his hands, and taken from him; the stole being at the same time pulled off, to degrade him from the office of deacon. By depriving him of the alb and maniple, his deprivation from