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CHAP. III. tation of the character to whom they refer. It would seem PART II indeed that, during the greater part of his life, Wyclif was
chiefly known as the most eminent schoolman of his day; even his memorable citation before the archbishop of Canterbury, at St. Paul's, was the result of his political rather than of his religious tenets, and the measure was probably aimed at his patron rather than at himself'; while his general acceptance of the doctrinal teaching of the Church is sufficiently indicated by the fact that it was not until within a few years of his death that his bold revival of the doctrine held by Berengar exposed him to the charge of heresy. That doctrine again was one which related to a controversy that had agitated both the eastern and the western Churches, and which was peculiarly calculated to attract the ingenuity of the schoolman; and whatever of mistrust the name of a refuted heretic might awaken, there were not a few at Oxford who could remind those around them that the arguments of Berengar had been those of the true logician, and who could recognise in their illustrious contemporary the same or even yet greater mastery over the acknowledged weapons of Wyelif not debate. While finally, if we carefully examine the origin of hostile to the his hostility to the Mendicants, we shall find good reason for inferring that had they suffered his teachings in the schools to pass unchallenged, the fiercest passages and the heaviest indictments that proceeded from his pen would never have been written. A highly competent critic, the most recent editor of the Trialogus, is even of opinion that Wyclif's
5 If Wyclif had confined his teaching to the schools, he would probably have remained unmolested. Considerable latitude in speculation was allowed to the schoolmen; and the heads of the Church of England at that time cared little for theological discussions. The university was, itself, vehemently antipapal, long before Wyclif was matriculated; and his antipathy to the Church of Rome was an inheritance on the part of an Oxonian. In opposing the pope, a creature of France, Wyclif only did what every patriot was
doing, so long as the popes remained at Avignon. In exposing the hypocrisy of the monks, he acted with the applause of the bishops, whose jurisdiction they rejected or despised. He had not only the two universities, but all the clergy, regular and secular, with him when he attacked the Mendicants. Fitz-Ralph, who preceded him, and was equally vio lent in his attacks upon the mendicant orders, had been rewarded with the archiepiscopal mitre of Armagh.' Hook, Lives of the Archbishops, 111 83.
original sentiments towards those orders were certainly not CHAP. III of a hostile character'.
his subseciation of
It was undoubtedly an evil day for the Mendicants when Fierceness of the great schoolman at last put on the armour of William of quent denunSt. Amour. The class hostility of the Benedictine historian, their vices. the honest aversion of Roger Bacon, the sarcasm and contempt of Langlande and Chaucer, even the hot anger of Armachanus, seem tame and feeble when compared with the glowing diatribes of the Oxford schoolman. They had but denounced the abuses of those orders of whom he demanded the extinction; whoever in fact wishes to know the worst that could be said against the Mendicants in the fourteenth century, unmodified by any palliating circumstances or counter considerations, will find it in the scholastic pages of the Trialogus and the simpler diction of the English tracts. With much of exaggeration in detail but with undeniable fidelity of outline, the faults, vices, inconsistencies, and shortcomings of his adversaries are there held up to view, and it is difficult indeed to believe that we have before us the representatives of those whose heroism and self-devotion had won
1 The late Dr. Robt. Vaughan, in his work entitled John de Wycliffe, D.D., a Monograph, says From what we know of the controversy as conducted by others, and from all that we find bearing upon it in the later works of the reformer, it is not difficult to judge of the manner in which he acquitted himself in relation to it at this earlier period.' (See p. 88.) How far the inference here made is justified by the facts may be seen from the following words of Dr. Lechler:-'Sed Wiclifum non a primo initio de fratribus minoribus,' prædicatoribus,' reliquis, ita sensisse, potius magni eos æstimavisse, nec antequam coepisset doctrinæ de 'transsubstantiatione' censuram agere, mendicantes impugnasse, ipsius opera testantur. Cum enim theologi illis ordinibus adscripti præ ceteris ipsi adversarentur de doctrina illa agenti, Wiclifus sibi persuadere cœpit, fratres mendicantes omnium errorum atque malorum in ecclesia Romana vigen
tium acerrimos esse patronos et
CHAP. III. the admiration of St. Louis and of Robert Grosseteste. The vow of poverty had long been disregarded; the residences of the orders were among the most magnificent structures of the time, so thickly scattered too throughout the country that a contemporary poet was scarcely guilty of exaggeration when he declared that the friar might make a tour of the realm and sleep each night under the shelter of some one or other of these palatial abodes'. To Wyclif they appeared little better than those ancient strongholds where lawless barons were wont to set law and order at defiance, issuing forth at intervals only to spread terror among the quiet homesteads of their neighbours; he termed them 'Caim's Castles". As for the mendicancy which supplied the place of force, he declared that begging was damned by God both in the Old Testament and the New;' while the proselytism of the orders, he described as habitually carried on by 'hypocrisie, lesings and steling.' In short, after making all allowance for the plain speaking of the period, it is difficult to conceive that the resources of our Middle English could have supplied the vocabulary for a much heavier indictment than that wherein he stigmatises his antagonists as 'irregular procurators of the fende, to make and maintain warrs of Christen men, and enemies of peace and charity,' 'Scariot's children,' 'a swallow of simony, of usury, extortion, of raveynes and of theft, and so as a nest or hord of Mammon's tresour,' 'both night thieves and day thieves, entering into the Church not by the door that is Christ,' 'worse enemies and sleers of man's soule than is the cruel fende of hell by himself,' 'envenymed with gostly sin of Sodom,' 'perilous enemies to holy Church and all our lond. We need scarcely wonder that charges
1 For ye now wenden through the realme, and ech night will lig in your owne courtes, and so mow but right few lords do.' Jack Upland (quoted by Lewis).
2 Caymes Castelis. "That is Cain's Castles; for in Wyclyffe's time the proper name Cain appears to have been commonly corrupted into Caim. So in his New Testament: "Abel offered a myche more sacrifice thann Caim to God." The word is used
by Wyclif as a term of reproach, as
and epithets such as these, made moreover by no obscure CHAP. III parish priest but by the most eminent English schoolman of his day, should have called up the undying hatred of the four orders. Wyclif's enemies could say no worse of him than he had said of them. Netter and Kynyngham are models of courtesy by comparison1.
carried on at
It is scarcely necessary to point out the relevancy of The struggle these leading features in Wyclif's teaching and influence, Pope chiefly to the developement of thought and education in the the universi universities; but we may observe that we have here decisive evidence that the systematic opposition to the corruptions of the Church, which had begun to manifest itself in Occam and was carried out by Wyclif, was essentially a university movement. While conservatism found its chief support in the superstitious zeal of the provinces, the spirit of reform was agitating Oxford and Cambridge; having its origin indeed in a widespread sense of grave abuses, but mainly indebted for its chief success to the advocacy of the most distinguished schoolman of his day, whose arguments were enforced with all the subtleties of the scholastic logic, as well as with the simple rhetoric of his native tongue. The universities thus The universibecame the strongholds of Wyclifism; of Lollardism, that strongholds is to say, free for the most part from those abuses and extra- ism. vagancies which brought discredit upon the cause, as seen in socialists like John Ball, and fanatics like Swynderby, but firmly holding to the right of private judgement in the acceptance of theological dogmas. The views of Berengar were
versity to reside on his own living.
2 Of its presence at Oxford we have
CHAP. III. reasserted by Wyclif, not simply in connexion with a specific tenet but with the whole field of religious enquiry; and it was this spirit that, far more than the latter's opinions concerning Church and State, began, soon after his death, to spread with such rapidity at Oxford and Cambridge. The preamble to archbishop Arundel's Constitutions, published in 1408, indicates very clearly the gravamen of the offence Constitutions given by the party of reform to the ecclesiastical authorities; Arundel, 'He does an injury to the most reverend synod, who examines its determinations: and since he who disputes the supreme earthly judgment is liable to the punishment of sacrilege, as the authority of the civil law teaches us; much more grievously are they to be punished, and to be cut off as putrid members from the Church militant, who, leaning on their own wisdom, violate, oppose, and despise, by various doctrines, words, and deeds, the laws and canons made by the key-keeper of eternal life and death......when they have been published according to form and cause, and observed by the holy fathers our predecessors, even to the glorious effusion of their blood, and dissipating their brains'. In the same Constitutions it is provided (1) that no master of arts or grammar shall instruct his pupils upon any theological point, contrary to the determination of the Church, or expound any text of Scripture in other manner than it hath been of old expounded, or permit his pupils either publicly or privately to dispute concerning the Catholic faith or the sacraments of the Church; (2) that no book or tract compiled by John Wyclif, or any one else in his time or since, or to be compiled hereafter, shall be read or taught in the schools, hostels, or other places in the province, until it has first been examined by the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, or, at least by twelve persons to be elected by each of these bodies, and afterwards expressly approved by the archbishop or his successors; (3) that whoever shall read or teach any book or treatise contrary to the form aforesaid, shall be 'punished as a sower of schism and favourer of heresy, according to the quality of his offence?
1 Quoted by Dean Hook, Lives, III
2 Cooper, Annals, 1 153. Wilkins, Concilia, III 316.