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Into the question of the political bearings of Wyclif's CHAP. III. doctrines we are not called upon to enter. They appear to Extravahave been carried to dangerous excesses by the fanatics who, gancies of under the general designation of Lollards, represented not Lollards. merely, as Professor Shirley observes, 'every species of religious malcontent,' but designs inconsistent with the then existing form of government. Against these the statute De Hæretico Comburendo was really aimed; but the ecclesiastical authorities subsequently found their advantage in confusing the theological and political aspects of the movement, and representing them as inseparable. Under both, the followers of Wyclif strained his teachings to conclusions that could scarcely fail, at any time, to excite alarm, and call forth vigorous measures of repression'; and while we honour the integrity, the vigour of thought, and the untiring zeal of their leader, we shall not the less lament the extravagancies which obscured the original lustre of his design, and contributed in no small degree to the defeat of a noble purpose. It is certain that, in this country, measures like those which Arundel, Chicheley, and Beaufort successively carried out were attended with almost complete success; and the oft-quoted simile of Foxe typifies with singular felicity the history of Wyclif's influence. As the ashes of the great reformer were borne by the Avon and the Severn far from the spot where they were first consigned to rest, even so his Lollardism doctrines, well-nigh extinguished in England, rose again in England to new purity and vigour in a distant land. Amid a Sclavonic Bolemia. race, in the cities of Bohemia, the son of John of Gaunt' directed the persecuting sword against the tenets of which
1 'Another class, as truly alien from his spirit as any, and who began in the next generation to appear in considerable number, were the men who rejected, as unworthy of the Christian religion, whatever did not appear patent at once to the intelligence of the most ordinary learner. For them human nature had no hidden depths, religion no mysteries; yet of the Christian ordinances, that which alone seems to
have thoroughly approved itself to
2 Cardinal Beaufort.
not the com
CHAP. IIL his illustrious father had been a foremost protector1. But at home, Lollardism, if it lived at all, survived rather by its Mr Gaird secondary effects than as a direct tradition. Notwithstanding,' says a writer who has studied this period with special care, the darkness that surrounds all subjects connected with the history of the 15th century, we may venture pretty Lollardism safely to affirm that Lollardy was not the beginning of momencement dern Protestantism. Plausible as it seems to regard Wyclif as "the morning star of the Reformation," the figure conveys an impression which is altogether erroneous. Wyclif's real influence did not long survive his own day, and so far from Lollardy having taken any deep root among the English people, the traces of it had wholly disappeared long before the great revolution of which it is thought the forerunner. At all events in the rich historical material for the beginning of Henry the Eighth's reign, supplied by the correspondence of the time, we look in vain for a single indication that any such thing as a Lollard sect existed. The movement had died a natural death; from the time of Oldcastle it sank into insignificance. Though still for a while considerable in point of numbers, it no longer counted among its adherents any man of note; and when another generation had passed away, the serious action of civil war left no place for the crotchets of fanaticism. Yet doubtless Lollardy did not exist in vain. A strong popular faith does not entirely die, because it never can be altogether unsound. The leaven of the Lollard doctrines remained after the sect had disappeared. It leavened the whole mass of English thought, and may be traced in the theology of the Anglican Church itself. Ball and Swynderby were forgotten, as they deserved to be; extravagance effervesced and was no more; but there still remained, and
1 Antony Wood states, I have been unable to ascertain on what grounds, that Huss studied at Oxford, where he 'made it his whole employment' 'to collect and transcribe' Wyclif's doctrines. The generally received account is that Huss became acquainted with those doctrines through writings brought by one of his scholars who had been studying at Oxford.
The number of students from Bohemia at the English university at this period is a noticeable feature, and is probably attributable to the increased intercourse between the two countries that followed upon the marriage of king Wenzel's sister to Richard II. Wood-Gutch, 1 585, 586. Milman, Latin Christianity, Bk, xIII c. 8.
to this day continues, much that is far more sound than CHAP. III. unsound'.'
mate of the results that upon the supLollardism at
followed sup- pression of
The the uni
But while it would seem indisputable that the doctrines Huber's esti of Wyclif were effectually suppressed in this country, it is necessary to guard against a tendency to refer to their pression consequences which demand a wider solution. following passage from Huber, for example, is exaggerated in its conception and erroneous as a statement of fact: 'One might have expected,' he says, 'that this great battle should be fought out at the universities, and that the emergency would have called out the most brilliant talents on both sides. It might have been so, had not the higher powers from without, both temporal and spiritual, at each successive crisis crushed the adverse party in the universities; thus entailing intellectual imbecility on the other side likewise, when a battle essentially intellectual and spiritual was never allowed to be fairly fought out. This has ever been the effect everywhere, but especially at the English universities; and it explains the extreme languor and torpor which prevailed in them at that time......Almost a century passed after the suppression of the Wykliffite outburst, before classical studies were adopted in England: and during this whole period the universities took no such prominent part in the great ecclesiastical questions as might have been expected from their ancient reputation. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the university of Oxford had reared and sent forth sons who attracted European regard: but in the great Councils of the Church of the fifteenth century, she was nowhere to be found"? A more careful consideration His stateof the phenomena of the Sæculum Synodale, and a more facts errointimate acquaintance with our university history, would probably have led the writer considerably to modify if not
1 Fortnightly Review, vol. 11, Bible Thought in the Fifteenth Century, by James Gairdner. Milton, long after, noted and commented on this sudden extinction of reform in England:'Wickliffe's preaching,' he says, 'at which all the succeeding reformers more effectually lighted their tapers,
was to his countrymen but a short
2 Huber, English Universities, 1
ment of the
of the univer
sities in in
CHAP. III. altogether to cancel this passage. In the first place it is certain that both Oxford and Cambridge were represented only a partial at the council of Pisa'; and when the deputation from of the decine Oxford was passing through Paris, it was addressed by Gerson, then chancellor of the university of Paris, and complimented on the spirited interest in the welfare of the Church, which the body it represented had displayed at so important a juncture. At Constance, where the suppression of Wyclifism, as that heresy had reappeared in the movement led by John Huss, occupied a prominent place in the deliberations of the council, Cambridge was represented by its chancellor and other delegates, and Oxford by some of her most distinguished sons. Both universities, again, were addressed by the university of Paris with a view to concerted action at the council of Basel'; and the fact that neither would seem to have so far responded to the invitation as to send delegates, is satisfactorily accounted for by the comparatively languid interest which the whole country, on the eve of political disturbance at home, appears to have taken in the lengthened proceedings of that council.
That the suppression of Lollardism acted as a check upon free thought at the universities is probable enough, but it is far from supplying an adequate explanation of the 'torpor' and 'languor' to which Huber refers, and which undoubtedly prevailed. Between heresy of the most uncompromising character and complete subserviency to mere tradition, there was yet an interval that afforded sufficient scope for vigorous speculation and active organic developement; of this the position occupied by the university of Paris during the earlier part of the fifteenth century is incontestible evidence. The foriner pre- centre of intellectual activity had again been shifted; and during that period Paris was again what she had been in the
The university of Paris re
1 Labbe and Cossart, XI 2221; Wood-Gutch, 544, 545.
2 Ecce quid præclara universitas Oxoniensis, unde sibi meruit congratulari, pridem ad hoc Concilium petendum determinavit se et misit in Franciam, scio qui præsens interfui dum proponeretur hæc conclusio.'
Propositio facta a J. Gersonio ex parte
3 Cooper, Annals, 1 158.
4 MS. Lambethiani, No. 447, fo. 143 (quoted by Cooper).
days of Albertus and Aquinas. Never, declares Crevier, had CHAP. III. she been consulted and listened to with greater deference; never had she taken so conspicuous a part in the decision of affairs of such importance; while the names of Nicholas de Clamangis, Pierre d'Ailli, and Jean Gerson might vie with any that had yet adorned her academic annals'. It was the era of the great councils; and had the views advocated by the two last-named illustrious scholars of the College of Navarre obtained a permanent triumph over papal obstinacy, it is not improbable that the fierce convulsion of the sixteenth century might have been anticipated by more moderate measures in the fifteenth. A reformed and educated
clergy, and the admitted right of synods œcumenical to overrule the authority of the pope himself, might have floated the Romish system over the two fatal rocks on which, in Germany and in England, it went to pieces".
Of Gerson himself it has been truly said that 'he does Jean Charmore than almost any other man to link the thoughts of Gerson, different periods together;' for, though essentially a repre- d. 1429. sentative of medieval thought, he presents a union of some of its most dissimilar phases and tendencies. The nominalist and yet the mystic; full of contempt for the fine spun cobwebs' that occupied the ingenuity of the schools, full of reverence for Dionysius, 'the holy and the divine;' intent on reformation in the Church, yet consenting to the death of the noblest reformer of the age; ever yearning for peace, and yet ever foremost in the controversial fight, he adds to the anomalies of a transitional period the features of an individual eclecticism. It is foreign to our purpose to enter here upon any discussion of the views which find expression in the
1 Crevier, III 3.
Similarly, of a somewhat earlier period in England, Mr Froude observes, 'If the Black Prince had lived, or if Richard II had inherited the temper of the Plantagenets, the ecclesiastical system would have been spared the misfortune of a longer reprieve. Its worst abuses would then have terminated, and the refor mation of doctrine in the 16th century would have been left to fight its
independent way unsupported by the
3 Prof. Maur ce, Modern Philo-