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the guise of great holiness, but without having obtained any episcopal or papal authorization.” * The sermons of Wyclif's preachers were simple presentations of Gospel facts and ethics, especially the latter, which they enforced with great vigor and plainness of speech. They were sent out by Wyclif from Oxford and from Lutterworth, their special field of activity being Leicestershire, though they extended beyond that; and their time was in the last part of Wyclif's life, perhaps 1375–82. Wyclif wrote many tracts, both in English and Latin, in defense of them, one of which, De Graduationibus Scholasticis, is a support of the right to employ men not graduates to preach the Gospel, which he proves from Scripture and the practice of the Church.+
In another of these tracts, Why Poor Priests Have No Benefices, he gives a scathing picture of the state of the Church. In order to obtain a pastoral charge a priest must usually buy his way, presenting to the prelate firstfruits and other unlawful contributions, or he must combine with it some worldly office inconsistent with the life of a priest. Vicious and incompetent men, therefore, may obtain the care of many thousand souls. Says Wyclif:
But if there be any simple man who desireth to live well, or to teach truly the law of God, he shall be deemed a hypocrite, a new teacher, a heretic, and not suffered to come to any benefice. If in any little poor place he shall live a poor life he shall be so persecuted and slandered that he shall be put out by wills, extortions, frauds, or worldly violence, and imprisoned or burnt. Some lay patrons, “to cover their simony, will not take for themselves, but kerchiefs for the lady, or a palfrey, or a tun of wine. And when some lords would present a good man, then some ladies are the means of having a dancer presented, or a tripper on tapits, or a hunter, or a hawker, or a wild player of summer gambols.” It was almost impossible, therefore, for poor priests to accept benefices without contracting the guilt of simony. Another reason why poor priests could not accept benefices was the fear of being compelled to misspend poor men's goods—misspending, that is, the income of the cure on ecclesiastics, patrons, rich entertainments, and the like. Wyclif * Wilkins, Concilia, iii, 158. + This tract is still in manuscript in Vienna.
here mentions a curious custom which shows the depth of infamy to which the Church had descended :
On each holy day these small curates shall commonly have letters from their ordinaries to summon and curse poor men [for not paying more into the coffers of the Church), and for naught except the covetousness of the clerks of Antichrist; and if they refuse to summon and curse them, though they know not why they should, they shall be injured, and summoned from day to day, from one far place to a farther, or be accursed, or lose their benefice, or their profits. Wyclif reprobates in the strongest language these “accursed deceits."
But Wyclif's chief reason for the itinerant life for his helpers is that in this manner they can better “help their brethren heavenward, whether by teaching, praying, or giving example." He adds :
By this they most surely save themselves and help their brethren; and they are free to fly from one city to another when they are persecuted by the clerks of Antichrist, as Christ biddeth and the Gospel. And thus they may best, without any challenging of men, go and dwell among the people where they shall most profit; and for the time convenient, coming and going after the moving of the Holy Ghost, and not being hindered from doing what is best by the jurisdiction of sinful men. Also they follow Christ and the apostles more in taking voluntary alms of the people whom they teach than in taking dimes and offerings by customs which sinful men have ordained in the time of grace. Parish priests who were faithful to their trust are not condemned. On this Wyclif writes:
Nevertheless, they condemn not curates who do well their office, and dwell where they shall most profit, and teach truly and stably the law of God against false prophets and the accursed deceptions of the fiend. Christ, for his endless mercy, help his priests and common people to beware of Antichrist's deceits, and to go even the right way to heaven. Amen, Jesus, for thy endless charity.*
It is the glory of Wyclif that he saw that the true work of the minister was preaching. When one of his preachers, William Thorp, was examined by Archbishop Arundel, the accused itinerant made the following noble confession, fully
• See Vaughan, Life and Opinions of John de Wycliffe, illustrated principally from his unpublished manuscripts, ii, 184-189. Arnold, Wyclif: English Works, iii, p. xx, classes the tract, Why Poor Priests Have No Benefices, as one of the doubtful works of Wyclif, and does not print it.
worthy of Wesley when experiencing like persecutions four hundred years later :
By the authority of the word of God, and also of many saints and doctors, I have been brought to the conviction that it is the office and duty of every priest faithfully, freely, and truly to preach God's word. Without doubt it behooves every priest, in determining to take orders, to do so chiefly with the object of preaching the word of God to the people, to the best of his ability. We are accordingly bound by Christ's command to exercise ourselves in such wise as to fulfill this duty to the best of our knowledge and power. We believe that every priest is commanded by the word of God to make God's will known to the people by faithful labor, and to publish it to them in the spirit of love, where, when, and to whomsoever we may.
It was formerly believed that Wyclif's poor priests were priests, but Lechler and Buddensieg have both proved by an examination of the Vienna manuscripts that later in the history of this itinerancy laymen were also employed. In one place Wyclif insists that a simple unlearned preacher, “ydiota," can do far more good for the building up of the Church than
many graduates in schools and colleges,” because he scatters the seed of the law of Christ more humbly and copiously both in word and deed; and in a sermon the reformer lays down the scriptural and Protestant doctrine that for a ministry in the Church the divine call and commission are perfectly sufficient, that God installs himself, even though there has been no imposition of hands by the bishop.I Wyclif is an illustration of the oft-proved fact that whenever a reformer goes back of Church tradition to Scripture, whenever he emphasizes the spiritual and ethical over against the formal and ceremonial, he is bound to return to a nonprelatic theory of the ministry. It is the greatness of Wyclif that in the fourteenth century he clearly grasped this principle, and acted on it in his effort to evangelize England by preaching. In the sixteenth century, with the flood of new light which came in with the printed Bible, it is not strange if the reformers returned to the original * Foxe, Acts and Monuments, iii, 260; Lechler, p. 194. † Lechler, p. 195; Buddepsieg, Wiclif, Patriot and Reformer, p. 65.
" Videtur ergo, quod ad esse talis ministerii ecclesiæ requiritur auctoritas ao ceptationis divinice, et per consequens potestas ac notitia data a Deo ad tale minis terium peragendum, quibus habitis, licit Episcopus secundum traditiones suas non imposuit illi manus, Deus per se instituit." - Sermons for Saints' Days, No. 8, fol. 17 col. i; Lechler, p. 196.
constitution of the Church; but the clear and satisfying insistence on a Christian theory of the ministry two hundred years before is a proof of the clearness, boldness, and accuracy of Wyclif's mind in its simple and unaided studies of the truth.
It is for this reason that Episcopal scholars are inclined to belittle Wyclif's work.* They resent his spiritual views of the ministry and his destructive attitude, and also deny his originality. There were, indeed, noble men to protest against the abuses of mediæval times, but there was not one who in his protests sought also to lay again “the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone,” and in a large and practical way to build for Christ and country. In Wyclifs emphasis on preaching and on the study of Scripture, and in his effort to use these for popular evangelization, he is entirely unique in the Middle Ages. His itinerancy was to work within ecclesiastical limitations so far as possible, and Shirley states that it was at first employed under episcopal sanction;t but, where the work was needed and consent was withheld, the work of God must not thereby be hin. dered.
• See article “Cardinal Repyngdon and the Followers of Wycliffe,” in Church Quarterly Review, Oct., 1884, especially pp. 60-63.
| Pas. Zizan., p. xl.
See, also, “Wiclif and his Works,” in the quarterly Review, London, clxviii, 626, 527, April, 1889.
Art. II.—THE PLACE OF CHRIST IN MODERN
THOUGHT. I. 1. Our age has been the age of developing democracy. “We must educate our masters," said the statesmen who saw the coronation of the people. The schoolmaster shall be the saviour of our newer commonwealth. Knowledge, or what was counted knowledge, was diffused with enthusiasm—which went well enough until knowledge disappeared in speculation and skepticism, leaving the startled multitudes to amuse themselves, if they could, in carnivals of doubt. We in America were slow to feel the movement, but we feel it now. We were isolated by our situation, busy with the conquest of our frontiers, taught chiefly by men and women of devout faith, who rejoiced in the traditional creeds. But the tremendous inventions of our age reunited us to Europe. They made us sharers of European ideas and tendencies; they brought about an immigration of thought more potent than the immigration of people. The doubts of learned Germany, the desperate dreams of socialistic France, the serious skepticism of England and Scotland began to operate upon 118. Strauss and Goethe, Fourier and Comte, Carlyle and Spencer, Colenso and Darwin, Renan and Victor Hugo began their sway, and signs of religions dissolution soon appeared. Here, as in Europe, the masses began to imbibe, often unconsciously, the opinion that science, philosophy, history were all combined to shake and overturn the throne of Jesus Christ. Now the people are to be the sovereigns of the future, and the Christ of the future must be the Christ of the multitude. The question to be decided is this, Can the Christ of the New Testament satisfy the necessities and the aspirations of the masters of the modern world? If he cannot satisfy them as they now are, can he enlarge, transfigure, and then realize their expectations ? The reign of democracy may be brief, but it is inevitable; and no saviour will be accepted, while it lasts, whose victory does not include the triumph of the poor.
2. Coincident with the democratic movement of our century, the movement of the masses into power and into knowl