Fifteenth Century Prose and Verse
Author: Various
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"But, at the last, when, in this matter, they would no longer suffer mine excusations; but either I should consent to them, or I should ever bear their indignation; yea, 'their curse,' as they said. Then I seeing this, prayed them that they would give me license for to go to them that were named wise priests and of virtuous conversation, to have their counsel, and to know of them the office and the charge of priesthood.

"And hereto my father and my mother consented full gladly, and gave me their blessing and good leave to go, and also money to spend in this journey.


"And so then I went to those priests whom I heard to be of best name and of most holy living, and best learned and most wise of heavenly wisdom: and so I communed with them unto the time that I perceived, by their virtuous and continual occupations, that their honest and charitable works [sur]passed their fame, which I heard before of them. Wherefore, sir, by the example of the doctrine of them, and specially for the godly and innocent works which I perceived of them and in them; after my cunning and power I have exercised me then, and in this time, to know perfectly GOD's Law: having a will and desire to live thereafter, willing that all men and women exercised themselves faithfully thereabout.

"If then, Sir, either for pleasure or displeasure of them that are neither so wise, nor of so virtuous conversation (to my knowledge, nor by common fame of other men's knowledge in this land) as these men were, of whom I took my counsel and information; I should now forsake, thus suddenly and shortly, and unwarned, all the learning that I have exercised myself in, this thirty winter [i.e., from 1377] and more, my conscience should ever be herewith out of measure unquieted. And as, Sir, I know well that many men and women should be therethrough greatly troubled and slandered; and (as I said, Sir, to you before) for mine untruth and false cowardness many a one should be put into full great reprefe [reproof]. Yea, Sir, I dread that many a one, as they might then justly, would curse me full bitterly: and, Sir, I fear not but the curse of GOD (which I should deserve herein) would bring me to a full evil end, if I continued thus.

"And if through remorse of conscience, I repented me at any time, returning into the Way which you do your diligence to constrain me now to forsake; yea, Sir, all the Bishops of this land, with full many other priests, would defame me, and pursue me as a Relapse: and they that now have (though I be unworthy) some confidence in me, hereafter would never trust to me, though I could teach and live never so virtuously more that I can or may.

"For if, after your counsel, I left utterly all my Learning: I should hereby, first wound and defile mine own soul; and also I should herethrough give occasion to many men and women of full sore hurting. Yea, Sir, it is likely to me, if I consented to your will, I should herein by mine evil example in it, as far as in me were, slay many folk ghostly, that I should never deserve for to have grace of GOD to the edifying of His Church, neither of myself, nor of none other man's life, and [be] undone both before GOD and man.

"But, Sir, by example chiefly of some, whose names I will not now rehearse, [NICHOLAS DE] H[EREFORD], of J[OHN] P[URVEY], and B[OWLAND]; and also by the present doing of PHILIP of REPINGTON that [after being a Lollard] is now become Bishop of LINCOLN [consecrated on March 28, 1405; and about a year following this Examination was made, on September 19, 1408, a Cardinal]: I am now learned, as many more hereafter through GOD's grace shall be learned, to hate and to flee all such slander that these foresaid men chiefly hath defiled principally themselves with. And in it that in them is, they have envenomed all the Church of GOD; for the slanderous revoking at the Cross of Paul's, of H[EREFORD], P[URVEY], and of B[OWLAND], and how now PHILIP REPINGTON pursueth CHRIST's people. And the feigning that these men dissemble by worldly prudence, keeping them cowardly in their preaching and communing, within the bonds and terms, which, without blame, may be spoken and shewed out to the most worldly livers, will not be unpunished of GOD. For to the point of truth that these men shewed out some time, they not will now stretch forth their lives: but by example, each one of them, as their words and works shew, they busy them, through their feigning, for to slander and to pursue CHRIST in his members, rather than they will be pursued."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "These men the which thou speakest of now, were fools and heretics, when they were counted wise men of thee and other such losells: but now they are wise men, though thou and such others deem them unwise. Nevertheless, I wist never none, that right said; that any while were envenomed with your contagiousness, that is contaminated and spotted doctrine."

William. And I said to the Archbishop, "Sir, I think well that these men and such others are now wise as to this world, but as their words sounded sometime and their works shewed outwardly, it was likely to move me that they had earnest of the wisdom of GOD, and that they should have deserved mickle grace of GOD to have saved their own souls and many other men's, if they had continued faithful in wilful poverty and in other simple virtuous living; and specially if they had with these foresaid virtues, continued in their busy fruitful sowing of GOD's Word, as, to many men's knowledge, they occupied them a season in all their wits full busily to know the pleasant Will of GOD, travailing all their members full busily for to do thereafter purely, and chiefly to the praising of the most holy name of GOD and for grace of edification and salvation of Christian people. But woe worth false covetise! and evil counsel! and tyranny! by which they and many men and women are led blindly into an evil end."


Archbishop. Then the Archbishop said to me, "Thou and such other losells of thy sect would shave your beards full near, for to have a benefice! For, by Jesu! I know none more covetous shrews than ye are, when that ye have a benefice. For, lo, I gave to JOHN PURVEY a benefice but a mile out of this Castle [i.e., the vicarage of West Hythe, near Saltwood Castle in Kent, which PURVEY held from August 11, 1401, till he resigned it on October 8, 1403], and I heard more complaints about his covetousness for tithes and other misdoings, than I did of all men that were advanced within my diocese."

William. And I said to the Archbishop, "Sir, PURVEY is neither with you now for the benefice that ye gave him, nor holdeth he faithfully with the learning that he taught and writ before time; and thus he sheweth himself neither to be hot nor cold: and therefore he and his fellows may sore[ly] dread that if they turn not hastily to the Way that they have forsaken, peradventure they be put out of the number of CHRIST's chosen people."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said, "Though PURVEY be now a false harlot [debased man. This term was at this time applied also to men], I quite me [absolve myself in respect] to him: but come he more for such cause before me, ere we depart, I shall know with whom he holdeth! But I say to thee, Which are these holy men and wise of whom thou hast taken thine information?"


William. And I said, "Sir, Master JOHN WYCLIFFE was holden of full many men, the greatest Clerk [Divine] that they knew then living; and therewith he was named a passing ruely man and an innocent in his living: and herefore great many commoned [communed] oft with him, and they loved so much his learning that they writ it, and busily enforced them to rule themselves thereafter. Therefore, Sir, this foresaid learning of Master JOHN WYCLIFFE is yet holden of full many men and women, the most agreeable learning unto the living and teaching of CHRIST and his Apostles, and most openly shewing and declaring how the Church of CHRIST hath been, and yet should be, ruled and governed. Therefore so many men and women covet this learning, and purpose, through GOD's grace, to conform their living like to this learning of WYCLIFFE.

"Master JOHN AISTON taught and writ accordingly, and full busily, where, and when, and to whom that he might: and he used it himself right perfectly, unto his life's end.

"And also PHILIP of REPINGTON, while he was a Canon of Leicester [He was Chancellor of Oxford in 1397, and again in 1400]; NICHOLAS HER[E]FORD; DAVID GOTRAY of Pakring, Monk of Bylande and a Master of Divinity; and JOHN PURVEY, and many others, which were holden right wise men and prudent, taught and writ busily this foresaid learning, and conformed them thereto. And with all these men I was oft right homely [quite at home], and communed with them long time and oft: and so, before all other men, I choose wilfully to be informed of them and by them, and especially of WYCLIFFE himself; as of the most virtuous and godly wise men that I heard of or knew. And therefore of him specially, and of these men I took my learning, that I have taught; and purpose to live thereafter, if GOD will! to my life's end.

"For though some of these men be contrary to the learning that they taught before, I wot well that their learning was true which they taught; and therefore, with the help of GOD, I purpose to hold and to use the learning which I heard of them while they sat on MOSES' chair, and specially while they sat on the chair of CHRIST. But after the works that they now do, I will not do! with GOD's help. For they feign and hide and contrary the Truth which before they taught out plainly and truly. For as I know well, when some of these men hath been blamed for their slanderous doing, they grant not that they have taught amiss, or erred before time; but that they were constrained by pain[s] to leave to tell out the Sooth: and thus they choose now rather to blaspheme GOD than to suffer awhile here bodily persecution for Soothfastness that CHRIST shed out his heart-blood for."


Archbishop. And the Archbishop said, "That learning that thou callest Truth and Soothfastness is open slander to Holy Church, as it is proved of Holy Church. For albeit that WYCLIFFE your author [founder] was a great Clerk, and though that many men held him a perfect liver: yet his doctrine is not approved of Holy Church, but many Sentences of his learning are damned [condemned] as they are well worthy.

"But as touching PHILIP of REPINGTON that was first Canon, and after Abbot of Leicester, which is now Bishop of LINCOLN; I tell thee that the Day is now comen for which he fasted the Even! For neither he holdeth now, nor will hold the learning that he thought when he was Canon of Leicester; for no Bishop of this land pursueth now more sharply them that hold thy Way than he doth."

William. And I said, "Sir, full many men and women wondereth upon him, and speaketh him mickle shame, and holdeth him for a cursed enemy of the Truth."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "Wherefore tarriest thou me thus here, with such fables? Wilt thou shortly, as I said to thee, submit thee to me or no?"

William. And I said, "Sir, I tell you at one word. I dare not, for the dread of GOD, submit me to you after the tenour and Sentence that ye have above rehearsed to me."

* * * * *

Archbishop. And then, as if he had been wroth, he said to one of his Clerks, "Fetch hither quickly the Certification that came to me from Shrewsbury, under the Bailiff's seal, witnessing the errors and heresies which this losell hath venemously witnessed there!"

Then hastily the Clerk took out and laid forth on a cupboard divers rolls and writings; among which there was a little one, which the Clerk delivered to the Archbishop.


And by and by the Archbishop read this roll containing this sentence.

The third Sunday [April 17th] after Easter [March 27th], the year of our Lord 1407, WILLIAM THORPE came unto the town of Shrewsbury, and, through leave granted to him to preach, he said openly in St. Chad's Church, in his sermon,

That the Sacrament of the Altar after the consecration was material bread. And that images should in no wise be worshipped. And that men should not go on any pilgrimages. And that priests have no title to tithes. And that it is not lawful to swear in any wise.

Archbishop. And when the Archbishop had read thus this roll, he rolled it up again, and said to me, "Is this wholesome learning to be among the people?"

William. And I said to him, "Sir, I am both ashamed on their behalf, and right sorrowful for them that have certified you these things thus untruly: for I never preached nor taught thus, privily nor apertly."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "I will give credence to these worshipful men which have written to me and witnessed under their seals there among them. Though thou now deniest this, weenest thou that I will credence to thee! Thou, losell! hast troubled the worshipful comminalty of Shrewsbury, so that the Bailiffs and comminalty of that town have written to me, praying me, that am Archbishop of CANTERBURY, Primate, and Chancellor of England, that I will vouchsafe to grant them, that if thou shalt be made, as thou art worthy! to suffer open jouresse [? penance or pillory] for thine heresies, that thou may have thy jouresse openly there among them; so that all they whom thou and such like losells have there perverted, may, through fear of thy deed [i.e., martyrdom] be reconciled again to the unity of Holy Church; and also they that stand in true faith of Holy Church may through thy deed be more stablished therein." And as if this asking had pleased the Archbishop, he said, "By my thrift! this hearty prayer and fervent request shall be thought on!"

But certainly neither the prayer of the men of Shrewsbury, nor the menacing of the Archbishop made me anything afraid: but, in the rehearsing of this malice, and in the hearing of it, my heart greatly rejoiced, and yet doth. I thank GOD, for the grace that I then thought, and yet think, shall come to all the Church of GOD herethrough, by the special merciful doing of the LORD.


William. And as having no dread of the malice of tyrants, by trusting stedfastly in the help of the LORD, with full purpose for to [ac]knowledge the Soothfastness, and to stand thereby after my cunning and power, I said to the Archbishop, "Sir, if the truth of GOD's Word might now be accepted as it should be, I doubt not to prove by likely evidence, that they that are famed to be out of the faith of Holy Church in Shrewsbury and in other places also, are in the true faith of Holy Church. For as their words sound and their works shew to man's judgement, dreading and loving faithfully GOD; their will, their desire, their love, and their business, are most set to dread to offend GOD and to love for to please Him in true and faithful keeping of His commandments.

"And again, they that are said to be in the faith of Holy Church at Shrewsbury and in other places, by open evidence of their proud, envious, malicious, covetous, lecherous, and other foul words and works, neither know nor have will to know nor to occupy their wits truly and effectuously in the right faith of Holy Church. Wherefore [none of] all these, nor none that follow their manners, shall any time come verily in the faith of Holy Church, except they enforce them more truly to come in the way which now they despise. For these men and women that are now called Faithful and holden Just, neither know, nor will exercise themselves to know, of faithfulness, one commandment of GOD. And thus full many men and women now, and specially men that are named to be "principal limbs of Holy Church," stir GOD to great wrath; and deserve His curse for that they call or hold them "just men" which are full unjust, as their vicious words, their great customable swearing, and their slanderous and shameful works shew openly and witness. And herefore such vicious men and unjust in their own confusion call them "unjust men and women," which after their power and cunning, busy themselves to live justly after the commandment of GOD.

"And where, Sir, ye say, that I have distroubled the comminalty of Shrewsbury and many other men and women with my teaching; if it thus be, it is not to be wondered [at] of wise men, since all the comminalty of the city of Jerusalem was distroubled of CHRIST's own person, that was Very GOD and Man, and [the] most prudent preacher that ever was or shall be. And also all the Synagogue of Nazareth was moved against CHRIST, and so full-filled with ire towards him for his preaching, that the men of the Synagogue rose up and cast CHRIST out of their city, and led him up to the top of a mountain for to cast him down there headlong. Also according hereto, the LORD witnesseth by MOSES, that He shall put dissension betwixt His people, and the people that contrarieth and pursueth His people. Who, Sir, is he that shall preach the truth of GOD's Word to that unfaithful people, and shall let [hinder] the Soothfastness of the gospel, and the prophecy of GOD Almighty to be fulfilled?"

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "It followeth of these thy words, that thou, and such other, thinkest that ye do right well for to preach and teach as ye do, without authority of any Bishop. For ye presume that the LORD hath chosen you only, for to preach as faithful disciples and special followers of CHRIST!"


William. And I said, "Sir, by authority of GOD's law, and also of Saints and Doctors, I am learned to deem that it is every priest's office and duty for to preach busily, freely, and truly the Word of GOD.

"For, no doubt, every priest should purpose first in his soul and covet to take the order of priesthood chiefly for to make known to the people the Word of GOD, after his cunning and power, approving his words ever to be true by his virtuous works; and for this intent we suppose that Bishops and other prelates of Holy Church should chiefly take and use their prelacy. And for the same cause, Bishops should give to priests their orders. For Bishops should accept no man to priesthood, except that he had good will and full purpose, and were well disposed and well learned to preach. Wherefore, Sir, by the bidding of CHRIST, and by example of His most holy living, and also by the witnessing of His holy apostles and prophets, we are bound under full great pain to exercise us after our cunning and power (as every priest is likewise charged of GOD), to fulfil duly the office of priesthood. We presume not hereof, ourselves, for to be esteemed, neither in our own reputation nor in none other man's, faithful disciples and special followers of CHRIST: but, Sir, as I said to you before, we deem this, by authority chiefly of GOD's Word, that it is the chief duty of every priest to busy him faithfully to make the law of GOD known to His people; and so to comune [communicate] the commandment of GOD charitably, how that we best, where, when, and to whom that ever we may, is our very duty. And for the will and business that we owe of due debt to do justly our office, through the stirring and special help, as we trust, of GOD, hoping stedfastly in His mercy, we desire to be the faithful disciples of CHRIST: and we pray this gracious LORD, for His holy name! that He make us able for to please Him with devout prayers and charitable priestly works, that we may obtain of Him to follow Him thankfully."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "Lewd losell! whereto makest thou such vain reasons to me? Asketh not Saint PAUL, How should priests preach, except they be sent? But I sent thee never to preach! For thy venomous doctrine is so known throughout England, that no Bishop will admit thee for to preach, by witnessing of their Letters! Why then, lewd idiot! willst thou presume to preach, since thou art not sent nor licensed of thy Sovereign to preach? Saith not Saint PAUL that Subjects owe [ought] to obey their Sovereigns; and not only good and virtuous, but also tyrants that are vicious!"


William. And I said to the Archbishop, "Sir, as touching your Letter of License or other Bishops', which, ye say, we should have to witness that we were able to be sent for to preach; we know well that neither you, Sir, nor any other Bishop of this land will grant to us any such Letters of License but [except] we should oblige [bind] us to you and to other Bishops by unlawful oaths for to pass not the bounds and terms which ye, Sir, or other Bishops will limit to us. And since in this matter, your terms be some too large, and some too strait; we dare not oblige us thus to be bound to you for to keep the terms which you will limit to us, as ye do to Friars and such other preachers: and therefore, though we have not your Letter, Sir, nor Letters of other Bishops written with ink upon parchment; we dare not herefore leave the office of preaching; to which preaching, all priests, after their cunning and power are bound, by divers testimonies of GOD's Law and of great Doctors, without any mention making of Bishops' Letters.


"For as mickle as we have taken upon us the office of priesthood, though we are unworthy thereto, we come and purpose to fulfil it, with the help of GOD, by authority of His own law, and by witness of great Doctors and Saints according hereto, trusting stedfastly in the mercy of GOD. For that [because] He commandeth us to do the office of priesthood, He will be our sufficient Letters and witness, if we, by the example of his living and teaching specially occupy us faithfully to do our office justly: yea, that people to whom we preach, be they faithful or unfaithful, shall be our Letters, that is, our witness bearers; for that Truth where it is sown may not be unwitnessed. For all that are converted and saved by learning of GOD's Word and by working thereafter are witness bearers, that the Truth and Soothfastness which they heard and did after, is cause of their salvation. And again, all unfaithful men and women which heard the Truth told out to them and would not do thereafter, also all they that might have heard the Truth and would not hear it, because that they would not do thereafter, all these shall bear witness against themselves, and the Truth (which they would not hear, or else heard it and despised to do thereafter through their unfaithfulness) is and shall be cause of their damnation.

"Therefore, Sir, since this foresaid witnessing of GOD, and of divers Saints and Doctors, and of all the people good and evil sufficeth to all true preachers: we think that we do not the office of the priesthood, if that we leave our preaching because that we have not or may not have duly Bishops' Letters to witness that we are sent of them to preach. This Sentence approveth Saint PAUL where he speaketh of himself and of faithful Apostles and disciples, saying thus, We need no letters of commendation as some other preachers do; which preach for covetousness of temporal goods, and for men's praising.

"And where ye say, Sir, Saint PAUL biddeth subjects obey their Sovereigns; this is Sooth, and may not be denied. But there are two manner of Sovereigns; virtuous sovereigns and vicious tyrants. Therefore to these last Sovereigns, neither men nor women that be subject owe [ought] to obey. In two manners. To virtuous Sovereigns and charitable, subjects owe to obey wilfully and gladly in hearing of their good counsel, in consenting to their charitable biddings, and in working after their fruitful works. This Sentence, PAUL approveth where he saith thus to subjects, Be ye mindful of your Sovereigns that speak to you the Word of GOD; and follow you the faith of them, whose conversation you know to be virtuous.


"For as PAUL saith after, These Sovereigns to whom subjects owe to obey in following of their manners, work busily in holy studying how they may withstand and destroy vices, first in themselves and after in all their subjects, and how they may best plant in them virtues. Also these Sovereigns make devout and fervent prayers for to purchase [obtain] grace of GOD, that they and their subjects may, over all things, dread to offend Him, and to love for to please Him. Also these Sovereigns to whom PAUL biddeth us obey, as it is said before, live so virtuously that all they that will live well may take of them good example to know and to keep the commandments of GOD.

"But, in this foresaid wise, subjects owe [ought] not to obey nor to be obedient to tyrants, while they are vicious tyrants; since their will, their counsel, their biddings, and their works are so vicious that they owe [ought] to be hated and left. And though such tyrants be masterful and cruel in boasting and menacing, in oppressions and divers punishings; Saint PETER biddeth the servants of such tyrants to obey meekly to such tyrants, suffering patiently their malicious cruelness. But PETER counselleth not any servant or subject to obey to any Lord, or Prince, or Sovereign, in anything that is not pleasing to GOD."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said unto me, "If the Sovereign bid his subject do that thing that is vicious, this Sovereign herein is to blame: but the subject, for his obedience, deserveth meed of GOD. For obedience pleaseth more to GOD than any sacrifice."

William. And I said, "SAMUEL the Prophet said to SAUL the wicked King, that GOD was more pleased with the obedience of His commandment, than with any sacrifice of beasts: but DAVID saith, and Saint PAUL and Saint GREGORY accordingly together, that not only they that do evil are worthy of death and damnation; but also all they that consent to evil doers. And, Sir, the law of Holy Church teacheth, in the Decrees, that no servant to his Lord, nor child to the father or mother, nor wife to her husband, nor monk to his abbot, ought to obey, except in lefull [loyal] things and lawful."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "All these allegings that thou bringest forth are nought else but proud presumptuousness. For hereby thou enforcest [endeavourest] thee to prove, that thou and such others are so just, that ye owe [ought] not to obey to Prelates: and thus against the learning of Saint PAUL that telleth you not to preach, but if ye were sent, of your own authority, ye will go forth and preach, and do what ye list!"

William. And I said, "Sir, [re]presenteth not every priest the office of the Apostles or the office of the disciples of CHRIST?"

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said, "Yea!"


William. And I said, "Sir, as the 10th Chapter of Matthew and the last Chapter of Mark witnesseth, CHRIST sent his Apostles for to preach. And the 10th Chapter of Luke witnesseth CHRIST sent his two and seventy disciples for to preach in every place that CHRIST was to come to. And Saint GREGORY in the Common Law saith, that every man that goeth to priesthood taketh upon him the office of preaching: for as he saith, that priest stirreth GOD to great wrath, of whose mouth is not heard the voice of preaching. And as other more glosses upon EZEKIEL witness, that the priest that preacheth not busily to the people shall be partaker of their damnation, that perish through his default: and though the people be saved by other special grace of GOD than by the priest's preaching; yet the priests (in that they are ordained to preach, and preach not) as before GOD, they are man-slayers. For as far as in them is, such priests as preach not busily and truly, slayeth all the people ghostly, in that they withhold from them the Word of GOD, that is [the] life and sustenance of men's souls. And Saint ISIDORE saith, Priests shall be damned for [the] wickedness of the people, if they teach not them that are ignorant, and condemn them that are sinners. For all the work and witness of priests standeth in preaching and teaching; that they edify all men, as well by cunning of faith, as by discipline of works, that is virtuous teaching. And, as the gospel witnesseth, CHRIST said in his teaching, I am born and come into this world to bear witness to the Truth, and he that is of the Truth heareth my voice.

" Then, Sir, since by the word of Christ specially, that is his voice, priests are commanded to preach; whatsoever priest that it be, that hath not goodwill and full purpose to do thus, and ableth not himself after his cunning and power to do his office, by the example of Christ and his Apostles: whatsoever other thing that he doeth, displeaseth GOD. For, lo, Saint GREGORY saith, That thing left, that a man is bound chiefly to do; whatsoever other thing that a man doeth, it is unthankful to the HOLY GHOST. And therefore saith [ROBERT GROSSETETE, Bishop of] LINCOLN, That priest that preacheth not the Word of GOD, though he be seen to have none other default, he is Antichrist and Sathanas, a night-thief and a day-thief, a slayer of souls, and an angel of light turned into darkness.

"Wherefore, Sir, these authorities and others well considered, I deem myself damnable, if I, either for pleasure or displeasure of any creature, apply me not diligently to preach the Word of GOD: and in the same damnation, I deem all those priests which, of good purpose and will, enforce them not busily to do thus, and also all them that have purpose or will to let [hinder] any priest of this business."


Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to those three Clerks that stood before him, "Lo, Sirs, this is the manner and business of this losell and such others, to pick out such sharp sentences of Holy Scripture and of Doctors to maintain their sect and lore [teaching] against the ordinance of Holy Church. And therefore, losell! is it, that thou covetest to have again the Psalter that I made to be taken from thee at Canterbury, to record sharp verses against us! But thou shalt never have that Psalter, nor none other book, till that I know that thy heart and thy mouth accord fully to be governed by Holy Church."

William. And I said, "Sir, all my will and power is, and ever shall be, I trust to GOD! to be governed by Holy Church."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop asked me, "What was Holy Church?"

William. And I said, "Sir, I told you before, what was Holy Church: but since ye ask me this demand, I call CHRIST and his saints, Holy Church."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said unto me, "I wot well that CHRIST and his saints are Holy Church in heaven; but what is Holy Church in earth?"

William. And I said, "Sir, though Holy Church be every one in charity; yet it hath two parts. The first and principal part hath overcomen perfectly all the wretchedness of this life, and reigneth joyfully in heaven with CHRIST. And the other part is here yet in earth, busily and continually fighting, day and night, against temptations of the Fiend, forsaking and hating the prosperity of this world, despising and withstanding their fleshly lusts; which only are the pilgrims of CHRIST, wandering towards heaven by steadfast faith, and grounded hope, and by perfect charity. For these heavenly pilgrims may not, nor will not, be letted [hindered] of their good purpose by reason of any Doctors discording from Holy Scripture, nor by the floods of any tribulation temporal, nor by the wind of any pride of boast, or of menacing of any creature; for they are all fast grounded upon the sure stone CHRIST, hearing his word and loving it, exercising them faithfully and continually in all their wits to do thereafter."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to his Clerks, "See ye not how his heart is endured [hardened], and how he is travailled with the Devil, occupying him thus busily to allege such Sentences to maintain his errors and heresies! Certain, thus, he would occupy us here all day, if we would suffer him!"

* * * * *


One of the Clerks answered, "Sir, he said, right now, that this Certification that came to you from Shrewsbury is untruly forged against him. Therefore, Sir, appose you him now here, in all the points which are certified against him; and so we shall hear of his own mouth his answers, and witness them."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop took the Certification in his hand, and looked thereon awhile; and then he said to me, "Lo, herein is certified against thee, by worthy men and faithful of Shrewsbury, that thou preachedst there openly in Saint Chad's Church, that the Sacrament of the Altar was material bread after the consecration. What sayest thou? Was this truly preached?"


William. And I said, "Sir, I tell you truly that I touched nothing there of the Sacrament of the Altar, but in this wise, as I will, with GOD's grace, tell you here.

"As I stood there in the pulpit, busying me to teach the commandment of GOD, there knelled a sacring-bell; and therefore mickle people turned away hastily, and with great noise ran from towards me. And I seeing this, say to them thus, 'Good men! ye were better to stand here full still and to hear GOD's Word. For, certes, the virtue and the mede of the most holy Sacrament of the Altar standeth much more in the Belief thereof that ye ought to have in your soul, than it doth in the outward Sight thereof. And therefore ye were better to stand quietly to hear GOD's Word, because that through the hearing thereof, men come to very true belief.' And otherwise, Sir, I am certain I spake not there, of the worthy Sacrament of the Altar."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "I believe thee not! whatsoever thou sayest, since so worshipful men have witnessed against thee. But since thou deniest that thou saidest thus there, what sayest thou now? Resteth there, after the consecration, in the [h]ost, material bread or no?"

William. And I said, "Sir, I know of no place in Holy Scripture, where this term, material bread, is written: and therefore, Sir, when I speak of this matter, I use not [am not accustomed] to speak of material bread."

Archbishop. Then the Archbishop said to me, "How teachest thou men to believe in this Sacrament?"

William. And I said, "Sir, as I believe myself, so I teach other men."

Archbishop. He said, "Tell out plainly thy belief hereof!"

William. And I said, with my Protestation, "Sir, I believe that the night before that CHRIST JESU would suffer wilfully Passion for mankind on the morn after, he took bread in his holy and most worshipful hands, lifting up his eyes, and giving thanks to GOD his Father, blessed this bread and brake it, and gave it to his disciples, saying to them, Take, and eat of this, all of you! This is my body!

"And that this is, and ought to be all men's belief, MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE, and PAUL witnesseth.

"Other belief, Sir, have I none, nor will have, nor teach: for I believe that this sufficeth in this matter. For in this belief, with GOD's grace, I purpose to live and die: [ac]knowledging as I believe and teach other men to believe, that the worshipful Sacrament of the Altar is the Sacrament of CHRIST's flesh and his blood, in form of bread and wine."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "It is sooth, that this Sacrament is very CHRIST's body in form of bread: but thou and thy sect teachest it to be the substance of bread! Think you this true teaching?"

William. And I said, "Neither I nor any other of the sect that ye damn [condemn], teach any otherwise than I have told you, nor believe otherwise, to my knowing.


"Nevertheless, Sir, I ask of you, for charity! that will ye tell me plainly, how ye shall understand this text of Saint PAUL, where he saith thus, This thing feel you in yourselves, that is, in CHRIST JESU, while he was in the form of GOD. Sir, calleth not PAUL here, the form of GOD, the substance or kind of GOD? Also, Sir, saith not the Church, in the Hours of the most blessed Virgin, accordingly hereto, where it is written thus, Thou Author of Health! remember that some time thou took, of the undefiled Virgin, the form of our body! Tell me, for charity! therefore, Whether the form of our body be called here, the kind of our body, or no?"

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "Wouldst thou make me declare this text after thy purpose, since the Church hath now determined that 'there abideth no substance of bread after the consecration in the Sacrament of the Altar!' Believest thou not, on this Ordinance of the Church?"

William. And I said, "Sir, whatsoever Prelates have ordained in the Church, our Belief standeth ever whole. I have not heard that the ordinance of men under Belief, should be put into Belief."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "If thou hast not learned this before, learn now, to know that thou art out of belief, if, in this matter, and others, thou believest not as Holy Church believeth! What say Doctors treating of this Sacrament?"


William. And I said, "Sir, Saint PAUL, that was a great Doctor of Holy Church, speaking to the people and teaching the right belief of this most holy Sacrament, calleth it bread that we break. And also in the Canon of the Masse, after the consecration, this most worthy Sacrament is called holy bread. And every priest in this land, after he hath received this Sacrament, saith to this wise, That thing which we have taken with our mouth, we pray GOD, that we may take it with a pure and clean mind: that is, as I understand, 'We pray GOD, that we may receive, through very belief, this holy Sacrament worthily.' And, Sir, Saint AUGUSTINE saith, That thing that is sense is bread, but that men's faith asketh to be informed of, is very CHRIST's body. And also FULGENTIUS, an ententif Doctor, saith, As it were an error to say that CHRIST was but a substance, that is Very Man and not Very GOD, or to say that CHRIST was Very GOD and not Very Man; so is it, this Doctor saith, an error to say that the Sacrament of the Altar is but a substance. And also, Sir, accordingly hereto, in the Secret of the mid-Mass of Christmas day, it is written thus, Idem refulsit DEUS, sic terrena substantia nobis conferat quod divinum est; which sentence, with the Secret of the fourth ferye quatuor temporum Septembris, I pray you, Sir, declare here openly in English!"

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "I perceive well enough whereabout thou art! and how the Devil blindeth thee, that thou maist not understand the ordinance of Holy Church, nor consent thereto! But I command thee now, answer me shortly, 'Believest thou that, after the consecration of this foresaid Sacrament, there abideth substance of bread or not?'"

William. And I said, "Sir, as I understand, it is all one to grant or to believe that there dwelleth substance of bread, and to grant or to believe that this most worthy Sacrament of CHRIST's own body is one Accident without Subject. But, Sir, for as mickle as your asking passeth mine understanding, I dare neither deny it nor grant it, for it is a School matter [a subject for debate in the University Schools], about which I busied me never for to know it: and therefore I commit this term accidens sine subjecto, to those Clerks which delight them so in curious and subtle sophistry, because they determine oft so difficult and strange matters, and wade and wander so in them, from argument to argument, with pro and contra, till they wot not where they are! nor understand not themselves! But the shame that these proud sophisters have to yield them to men and before men, maketh them oft fools, and to be concluded shamefully before GOD."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "I purpose not to oblige thee to the subtle arguments of Clerks, since thou art unable thereto! but I purpose to make thee obey to the determination of Holy Church."

William. And I said, "Sir, by open evidence and great witness, a thousand years after the Incarnation of CHRIST, that determination which I have, here before you, rehearsed was accepted of Holy Church, as sufficient to the salvation of all them that would believe it faithfully, and work thereafter charitably. But, Sir, the determination of this matter, which was brought in since the Fiend was loosed by Friar THOMAS [ACQUINAS, d. 1274] again, specially calling the most worshipful Sacrament of CHRIST's own body, an Accident without Subject; which term, since I know not that GOD's law approveth it in this matter, I dare not grant: but utterly I deny to make this friar's sentence [enunciation] or any such other my belief; do with me, GOD! what Thou wilt!"

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "Well, well! thou shalt say otherwise ere that I leave thee!"

* * * * *


"But what sayest thou to this second point that is recorded against thee, by worthy men of Shrewsbury, saying that thou preachedst openly there that the images ought not to be worshipped in any wise?"

William. And I said, "Sir, I preached never thus, nor, through GOD's grace, I will not, any time, consent to think nor to say thus; neither privily, nor apertly. For, lo, the LORD witnesseth by Moses, that the things which He made were right good, and so then they were, and yet are, and shall be good and worshipful in their kind. And thereto, to the end that GOD made them to, they are all preisable [valuable] and worshipful; and specially man that was made after the image and likeness of GOD is full worshipful in his kind: yea, this holy image, that is man, GOD worshippeth [respecteth]. And herefore every man should worship others in kind, and also for heavenly virtues that men use charitably. Also I say, wood, tin, gold, silver, or any other matter that images are made of; all these creatures [created things] are worshipful in their kind, and to the end that GOD made them for.


"But the carving, casting, nor painting of any imagery made with man's hands (albeit that this doing be accepted of men of highest state and dignity, and ordained of them to be a calendar [horn book] to lewd men that neither can nor will be learned to know GOD in His Word, neither by His creatures, nor by His wonderful and divers workings); yet this imagery ought not to be worshipped in the form, nor in the likeness of man's craft: nevertheless that every matter that painters paint with, since it is GOD's creature, ought to be worshipped in the kind and to the end that GOD made and ordained it to serve man."

Archbishop. Then the Archbishop said to me, "I grant well that nobody oweth [ought] to do worship to any such images for themselves; but a crucifix ought to be worshipped for the Passion of CHRIST that is painted therein, and so brought therethrough to man's mind: and thus the images of the blessed Trinity and of [the] Virgin MARY, CHRIST's mother, and other images of the saints ought to be worshipped. For, lo, earthly kings and lords, which use to send their letters ensealed with their arms or with their privy signet, to men that are with them, are worshipped of these men. For when these men receive their lord's letters, in which they see and know the wills and biddings of their lords, in worship of their lords, they do off their caps to these letters: why not, then, since in images made with man's hands, we may read and know many divers things of GOD and of His saints, shall we not worship their images?"

William. And I said, with my foresaid Protestation, "I say that these worldly usages of temporal lords that ye speak now of, may be done in case without sin: but this is no similitude to worship images made by man's hand, since that MOSES, DAVID, SOLOMON, BARUCH, and other saints in the Bible, forbid so plainly the worshipping of all such images."

Archbishop. Then the Archbishop said to me, "Lewd losell! In the Old Law, before that CHRIST took mankind [human nature], was no likeness of any person of the Trinity neither shewed to man nor known of man; but now since CHRIST became man, it is lawful to have images to shew His manhood. Yea, though many men which are right great Clerks, and others also, hold it an error to paint the Trinity; I say, it is well done to make and to paint the Trinity in images. For it is a great moving of devotion to men, to have and to behold the Trinity and other images of Saints carved, cast, and painted. For beyond the sea, are the best painters that ever I saw. And, sirs! I tell you, this is their manner; and it is a good manner! When that an image-maker shall carve, cast in mould, or paint any images; he shall go to a priest, and shrive him as clean as if he should die, and take penance, and make some certain vow of fasting, or of praying, or of pilgrimages doing: praying the priest specially to pray for him, that he may have grace to make a fair and a devout image."


William. And I said, "Sir, I doubt not, if these painters that ye speak of, or any other painters understood truly the text of MOSES, of DAVID, of the Wise Man [i.e., SOLOMON], of BARUCH, and of other Saints and Doctors, these painters should be moved to shrive them to GOD, with full inward sorrow of heart; taking upon them to do right sharp penance for the sinful and vain craft of painting, carving, or casting that they had used; promising GOD faithfully never to do so after, [ac]knowledging openly before all men, their reprovable earning. And also, sir, these priests, that shrive, as ye do say, painters, and enjoin them to do penance, and pray for their speed, promising to them help of their prayers for to be curious [cunning] in their sinful crafts, sin herein more grievously than the painters. For these priests do comfort and give them counsel to do that thing, which of great pain (yea, under the pain of GOD's curse!) they should utterly forbid them. For, certes, Sir, if the wonderful working of GOD, and the holy living and teaching of CHRIST and of his Apostles and Prophets were made known to the people by holy living and true and busy teaching of priests; these things, Sir, were sufficient books and kalendars to know GOD by, and His Saints: without any images made with man's hand: but, certes, the vicious living of priests and their covetousness are [the] chief cause of this error and all other viciousness that reigneth among the people."

Archbishop. Then the Archbishop said to me, "I hold thee a vicious priest, and a curst! and all them that are of thy sect! for all priests of Holy Church and all images that move men to devotion; thou and such others go about to destroy! Losell! were it a fair thing to come into a church, and see therein none image?"


William. And I said, "Sir, they that come to the church, for to pray devoutly to the LORD GOD, may in their inward wits be the more fervent [when] that all their outward wits be closed from all outward seeing and hearing and from all distroublance and lettings [hindrances]. And since CHRIST blessed them that saw him not bodily, and have believed faithfully in him: it sufficeth then, to all men, through hearing and knowing of GOD's Word, and to do thereafter, for to believe in GOD, though they see never images made with man's hands, after any Person of the Trinity, or of any other Saint."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me with a fervent spirit, "I say to thee, losell! that it is right well done to make and to have an image of the Trinity! Yea, what sayest thou? Is it not a stirring thing to behold such an image?"

William. And I said, "Sir, ye said, right now, that in the Old Law, ere Christ took mankind, no likeness of any Person of the Trinity was shewed to men; wherefore, Sir, ye said it was not then lawful to have images: but now ye say, since CHRIST is become man, it is lawful to make and to have an image of the Trinity, and also of other saints. But, sir, this thing would I learn of you! Since the Father of heaven, yea, and every Person of the Trinity was, without beginning, GOD Almighty, and many holy prophets, that were dedely [deathly, i.e., liable to death] men, were martyrized violently in the Old Law, and also many men and women then died holy Confessors: why was it not then, as lawful and necessary as now, to have made an image of the Father of heaven, and to have made and had other images of martyrs, prophets, and holy confessors to have been kalendars to advise men and move them to devotion, as ye say that images now do?"

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said, "The Synagogue of Jews had not authority to approve these things, as the Church of Christ hath now."

William. And I said, "Sir, Saint GREGORY was a great man in the New Law, and of great dignity; and as the Common [? Canon] Law witnesseth, he commended greatly a Bishop, in that he forbade utterly the images made with man's hand, should be worshipped."


Archbishop. And the Archbishop said, "Ungracious losell! thou favourest no more the truth, than a hound! Since at the Rood[s] at the North Door [of Saint Paul's Church] at London, at our Lady at Walsingham, and many other divers places in England, are many great and preisable [precious] miracles done: should not the images of such holy saints and places, at [on account of] the reverence of GOD, and our Lady, and other saints, be more worshipped, than other places and images where no such miracles are done?"

William. And I said, "Sir, there is no such virtue in any imagery, that any images should herefore be worshipped; wherefore I am certain that there is no miracle done of GOD in any place in earth, because that any images made with man's hand, should be worshipped. And herefore, Sir, as I preached openly at Shrewsbury and other places, I say now here before you: that nobody should trust that there were any virtue in imagery made with man's hand, and herefore nobody should vow to them, nor seek them, nor kneel to them, nor bow to them, nor pray to them, nor offer anything to them, nor kiss them, nor incense them. For, lo, the most worthy of such images, the Brazen Serpent, by MOSES made, at GOD's bidding! the good King HEZEKIAH destroyed worthily and thankfully; for because it was incensed. Therefore, Sir, if men take good heed to the writing and to the learning of Saint AUGUSTINE, of Saint GREGORY, and of Saint John CHRYSOSTOM, and of other Saints and Doctors, how they speak and write of miracles that shall be done now in the last end of the world; it is to dread that, for the unfaithfulness of men and women, the Fiend hath great power for to work many of the miracles that now are done in such places. For both men and women delight now, more for to hear and know miracles, than they do to know GOD's Word or to hear it effectuously. Wherefore, to the great confusion of all them that thus do, Christ saith, The generation of adulterers requireth tokens, miracles, and wonders. Nevertheless, as divers Saints say, now, when the faith of GOD is published in Christendom, the Word of God sufficeth to man's salvation, without such miracles; and thus also the Word of GOD sufficeth to all faithful men and women, without any such images.

"But, good Sir, since the Father of heaven, that is GOD in His Godhead, is the most unknown thing that may be, and the most wonderful Spirit, having in it no shape or likeness of any members of any dedely [deadly, i.e., liable to death] creature: in what likeness, or what image, may GOD the Father be shewed or painted?"

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said, "As Holy Church hath suffered, and yet suffereth the images of all the Trinity, and other images to be painted and shewed, sufficeth to them that are members of Holy Church. But since thou art a rotten member cut away from Holy Church, thou favourest not the ordinance thereof! But since the day passeth, leave we this matter!"

* * * * *


Archbishop. And then he said to me, "What sayest thou, to the third point that is certified against thee, preaching openly in Shrewsbury that Pilgrimage is not lawful? And, over this, thou saidest that those men and women that go on pilgrimages to Canterbury, to Beverley, to Carlington, to Walsingham, and to any such other places, are accursed; and made foolish, spending their goods in waste."

William. And I said, "Sir, by this Certification, I am accused to you, that I should teach that no pilgrimage is lawful. But I never said thus. For I know that there be true pilgrimages, and lawful and full pleasant to GOD; and therefore, Sir, howsoever mine enemies have certified you of me, I told at Shrewsbury of two manner of pilgrimages."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "Whom callest thou true pilgrims?"


William. And I said, "Sir, with my Protestation, I call them true pilgrims travelling towards the bliss of heaven, which (in the state, degree, or order that GOD calleth them) do busy them faithfully for to occupy all their wits bodily and ghostly, to know truly and keep faithfully the biddings of GOD, hating and fleeing all the seven deadly sins and every branch of them, ruling them virtuously, as it is said before, with all their wits, doing discreetly wilfully and gladly all the works of mercy, bodily and ghostly, after their cunning and power abling them to the gifts of the HOLY GHOST, disposing them to receive in their souls, and to hold therein the right blessings of CHRIST; busying them to know and to keep the seven principal virtues: and so then they shall obtain herethrough grace for to use thankfully to GOD all the conditions of charity; and then they shall be moved with the good Spirit of GOD for to examine oft and diligently their conscience, that neither wilfully nor wittingly they err in any Article of Belief, having continually (as frailty will suffer) all their business to dread and to flee the offence of GOD, and to love over all things and to seek ever to do His pleasant will.

"Of these pilgrims, I said, 'Whatsoever good thought that they any time think, what virtuous word that they speak, and what fruitful work that they work; every such thought, word, and work is a step numbered of GOD towards Him into heaven. These foresaid pilgrims of GOD delight sore, when they hear of saints or of virtuous men and women, how they forsook wilfully the prosperity of this life, how they withstood the suggestion of the Fiend, how they restrained their fleshly lusts, how discreet they were in their penance doing, how patient they were in all their adversities, how prudent they were in counselling of men and women, moving them to hate all sin and to flee them and to shame ever greatly thereof, and to love all virtues and to draw to them, imagining how CHRIST and his followers (by example of him) suffered scorns and slanders, and how patiently they abode and took the wrongful menacing of tyrants, how homely they were and serviceable to poor men to relieve and comfort them bodily and ghostly after their power and cunning, and how devout they were in prayers, how fervent they were in heavenly desires, and how they absented them from spectacles of vain seeings and hearings, and how stable they were to let [hinder] and to destroy all vices, and how laborious and joyful they were to sow and plant virtues. These heavenly conditions and such others, have the pilgrims, or endeavour them for to have, whose pilgrimage GOD accepteth.'


"And again I said, 'As their works shew, the most part of men or women that go now on pilgrimages have not these foresaid conditions; nor loveth to busy them faithfully for to have. For (as I well know, since I have full oft assayed) examine, whosoever will, twenty of these pilgrims! and he shall not find three men or women that know surely a Commandment of GOD [i.e., one of the Ten Commandments], nor can say their Pater noster and Ave MARIA! nor their Credo, readily in any manner of language. And as I have learned, and also know somewhat by experience of these same pilgrims, telling the cause why that many men and women go hither and thither now on pilgrimages, it is more for the health of their bodies, than of their souls! more for to have richesse and prosperity of this world, than for to be enriched with virtues in their souls! more to have here worldly and fleshly friendship, than for to have friendship of GOD and of His saints in heaven. For whatsoever thing a man or woman doth, the friendship of GOD, nor of any other Saint, cannot be had without keeping of GOD's commandments.'

"For with my Protestation, I say now, as I said at Shrewsbury, 'though they that have fleshly wills, travel for their bodies, and spend mickle money to seek and to visit the bones or images, as they say they do, of this saint and of that: such pilgrimage-going is neither praisable nor thankful to GOD, nor to any Saint of GOD; since, in effect, all such pilgrims despise GOD and all His commandments and Saints. For the commandments of GOD they will neither know nor keep, nor conform them to live virtuously by example of CHRIST and of his Saints.'

"Wherefore, Sir, I have preached and taught openly, and so I purpose all my lifetime to do, with GOD's help, saying that 'such fond people waste blamefully GOD's goods in their vain pilgrimages, spending their goods upon vicious hostelars [innkeepers], which are oft unclean women of their bodies; and at the least, those goods with the which, they should do works of mercy, after GOD's bidding, to poor needy men and women.'

" These poor men's goods and their livelihood, these runners about offer to rich priests! which have mickle more livelihood than they need: and thus those goods, they waste wilfully, and spend them unjustly, against GOD's bidding, upon strangers; with which they should help and relieve, after GOD's will, their poor needy neighbours at home. Yea, and over this folly, ofttimes divers men and women of these runners thus madly hither and thither into pilgrimage, borrow hereto other men's goods (yea, and sometimes they steal men's goods hereto), and they pay them never again.

"Also, Sir, I know well, that when divers men and women will go thus after their own wills, and finding out one pilgrimage, they will ordain with them before[hand] to have with them both men and women that can well sing wanton songs; and some other pilgrims will have with them bagpipes: so that every town that they come through, what with the noise of their singing, and with the sound of their piping, and with the jangling of their Canterbury bells, and with the barking out of dogs after them, they make more noise than if the King came there away, with all his clarions and many other minstrels. And if these men and women be a month out in their pilgrimage, many of them shall be, a half year after, great janglers, tale-tellers, and liars."


Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "Lewd losell! thou seest not far enough in this matter! for thou considerest not the great travail of pilgrims; therefore thou blamest that thing that is praisable! I say to thee, that it is right well done; that pilgrims have with them both singers and also pipers: that when one of them that goeth barefoot striketh his toe upon a stone and hurteth him sore and maketh him to bleed; it is well done, that he or his fellow, begin then a song or else take out of his bosom a bagpipe for to drive away with such mirth, the hurt of his fellow. For with such solace, the travail and weariness of pilgrims is lightly and merrily brought forth."

William. And I said, "Sir, Saint PAUL teacheth men, to weep with them that weep."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said, "What janglest thou against men's devotion? Whatsoever thou or such other say, I say, that the pilgrimage that now is used, is to them that do it, a praisable and a good mean[s] to come the rather to grace. But I hold thee unable to know this grace! for thou enforcest thee to let [hinder] the devotion of the people, since by authority of Holy Scripture, men may lawfully have and use such solace as thou reprovest! For DAVID in his last Psalm, teacheth me to have divers instruments of music for to praise therewith GOD."

William. And I said, "Sir, by the sentence [opinions] of divers Doctors expounding the Psalms of DAVID, the music and minstrelsy that DAVID and other Saints of the Old Law spake of, owe [ought], now, neither to be taken nor used by the letter; but these instruments with their music ought to be interpreted ghostly [spiritually]: for all those figures are called Virtues and Grace, with which virtues men should please GOD and praise His name. For Saint PAUL saith, All such things befell to them in figure. Therefore, Sir, I understand that the letter of this Psalm of DAVID and of such other Psalms and sentences, doth slay them that taken them now literally. This sentence, I understand, Sir, CHRIST approveth himself, putting out the minstrels, ere that he would quicken the dead damsel."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "Lewd losell! is it not lawful for us to have organs in the church, for to worship therewithal GOD?"

William. And I said, "Yea, Sir, by man's ordinance; but, by the ordinance of GOD, a good sermon to the people's understanding, were mickle more pleasant to GOD!"

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said that "organs and good delectable songs quickened and sharpened more men's wits, than should any sermon!"

William. But I said, "Sir, lusty men and worldly lovers delight and covet and travail to have all their wits quickened and sharpened with divers sensible solace: but all the faithful lovers and followers of CHRIST have all their delight to hear GOD's Word, and to understand it truly, and to work thereafter faithfully and continually. For, no doubt, to dread to offend GOD, and to love to please Him in all things, quickeneth and sharpeneth all the wits of CHRIST's chosen people, and ableth them so to grace, that they joy greatly to withdraw their ears, and all their wits and members from all worldly delight, and from all fleshly solace. For Saint JEROME, as I think, saith, Nobody may joy with this world, and reign with CHRIST."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop, as if he had been displeased with mine answer, said to his Clerks, "What guess ye this idiot will speak there, where he hath none dread; since he spaketh thus now, here in my presence? Well, well, by God! thou shalt be ordained for!"

* * * * *


And then he spake to me, all angerly, "What sayest thou to this fourth point that is certified against thee, preaching openly and boldly in Shrewsbury, That priests have no title to tithes?"


William. And I said, "Sir, I named there no word of tithes in my preaching. But, more than a month after [? June, 1407] that I was arrested, there in prison [at Shrewsbury], a man came to me into the prison, asking me 'What I said of tithes?'

"And I said to him, 'Sir, in this town, are many Clerks and Priests; of which some of them are called Religious Men, though many of them be Seculars. Therefore, ask ye of them this question!'

"And this man said to me, 'Sir, our prelates say that we are also obliged to pay our tithes of all things that renew to us; and that they are accursed that withdraw any part wittingly from them of their tithes.'

"And I said, Sir, to that man, as with my Protestation, I say now here before you, that 'I had wonder[ed] that any priest dare say men to be accursed, without ground of GOD's Word.'

"And the man said, 'Sir, our priests say that they curse men thus, by authority of GOD's Law.'

"And I said, 'Sir, I know not where this sentence of cursing is authorized now in the Bible. And therefore, Sir, I pray you that ye will ask the most cunning Clerk of this town, that ye may know where this sentence, "cursing them that tythe not now," is written in GOD's Law: for if it were written there, I would right gladly be learned [informed] where.'

"But, shortly, this man would not go from me, to ask this question of another body; but required me, there, as I would answer before GOD! if, in this case, the cursing of priests were lawful and approved of GOD?

"And, shortly, therewith came to my mind the learning of Saint PETER, teaching priests especially, to hallow the LORD CHRIST in their hearts, being evermore ready, as far as in them is, to answer through faith and hope, to them that ask of them a reason. And this lesson PETER teacheth me to use, with a meek spirit, and with dread of the LORD.

"Wherefore, Sir, I said to this man, in this wise, 'In the Old Law, which ended not fully till the time that CHRIST rose up again from death to life, GOD commanded tithes to be given to the Levites for the great business and daily travail that pertained to their office: but Priests, because their travail was mickle more easy and light than was the office of the Levites, GOD ordained that Priests should take for their lifelode [livelihood] to do their office, the tenth part of those tithes that were given to the Levites.


"'But now,' I said, 'in the New Law, neither CHRIST nor any of his Apostles took tithes of the people, nor commanded the people to pay tithes, neither to Priests nor to Deacons. But CHRIST taught the people to do almesse [alms], that is, works of mercy to poor needy men, of surplus that is superfluouse [superfluity] of their temporal goods which they had more than them needed reasonably to their necessary livelihood. And thus,' I said, 'not of tithes, but of pure alms of the people CHRIST lived and his Apostles, when they were so busy in teaching of the Word of GOD to the people, that they might not travail otherwise for to get their livelihood. But after CHRIST's Ascension, and when the Apostles had received the HOLY GHOST, they travailed with their hands for to get their livelihood when that they might thus do for [on account of] busy preaching. Therefore, by example of himself, St. PAUL teacheth all the priests of CHRIST for to travail with their hands, when for busy teaching of the people, they might thus do. And thus all these priests (whose priesthood GOD accepteth now, or will accept; or did [accept] in the Apostles' time, and after their decease) will do, to the world's end.

"'But as Cisterciensis telleth, in the thousand year of our Lord JESUS CHRIST, two hundred and eleventh year, one Pope, the tenth GREGORY, ordained new tithes first to be given to priests now in the New Law. But Saint PAUL in his time (whose trace or example, all priests of GOD enforce them to follow), seeing the covetousness that was among the people (desiring to destroy this foul sin, through the grace of GOD, and true virtuous living and example of himself) wrote and taught all priests for to follow him, as he followed CHRIST, patiently, willingly, and gladly in high poverty. Wherefore PAUL saith this, The LORD hath ordained, that they that preach the Gospel shall live by the Gospel. But we, saith PAUL, that covet and busy us to be faithful followers of CHRIST, use not this power. For, lo, as PAUL witnessed afterward, when he was full poor and needy, preaching among the people, he was not chargeous [chargeable] unto them, but with his hands he travailed, not only to get his own living, but also the living of other poor and needy creatures. And since the people were never so covetous nor so avarous [avaricious], I guess, as they are now; it were good counsel that all priests took good heed to this heavenly learning of PAUL: following him here, in wilful poverty, nothing charging the people for their bodily livelihood.


"'But because that many priests do contrary PAUL in this foresaid doctrine, PAUL biddeth the people take heed to those priests, that follow him, as he had given them example: as if PAUL would say thus to the people, "Accept ye none other priests, than they that live after the form that I have taught you!" For, certain, in whatsoever dignity or order that any priest is in, if he conform him not to follow CHRIST and his Apostles in wilful poverty and in other heavenly virtues, and specially in true preaching of GOD's Word; though such a one be named a Priest, yet he is no more but a Priest in name: for the work of a very Priest such a one wanteth! This sentence [opinion] approveth AUGUSTINE, GREGORY, CHRYSOSTOM, and [GROSSETETE, Bishop of] LINCOLN plainly.'"

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "Thinkest thou this wholesome learning for to sow openly, or yet privily among the people! Certain, this doctrine contrarieth plainly the ordinance of Holy Fathers: which have ordained, granted, and licensed priests to be in divers degrees; and to live by tithes and offerings of the people, and by other duties."

William. And I said, "Sir, if priests were now in measurable measure and number; and lived virtuously, and taught busily and truly the Word by the example of CHRIST and of his Apostles, without tithes offerings and other duties that priests now challenge and take: the people would give them freely sufficient livelihood."

A Clerk. And a Clerk said to me, "How wilt thou make this good, that the people will give freely to priests their livelihood; since that now, by the law, every priest can scarcely constrain the people to give them their livelihood?"


William. And I said, "Sir, it is now no wonder, though the people grudge to give the priests the livelihood that they ask! for mickle people know, now, how that priests should live; and how that they live contrary to CHRIST and His Apostles. And therefore the people are full heavy to pay, as they do, their temporal goods to Parsons and to other Vicars and Priests; which should be faithful dispensators of the parish's goods, taking to themselves no more but a scarce living of tithes nor of offerings by the Ordinance of the Common Law. For whatsoever priests take of the people, be it tithes or offering, or any other duty or service, the priests ought not to have thereof no more but a bare living: and to depart [give away] the residue to the poor men and women, specially of the parish of whom they take this temporal living. But the most deal [greater portion] of priests now waste their parish's goods, and spendeth them at their own will, after the world in their vain lusts: so that in few places poor men have duly, as they should have, their own sustenance, neither of tithes nor of offerings, nor of other large wages and foundations that priests take of the people in divers manners, above that they need for needful sustenance of meat and clothing. But the poor needy people are forsaken and left of priests, to be sustained of the paroshenis [parishioners]; as if the priests took nothing of the parishioners, for to help the poor people with. And thus, Sir, into over great charges of the parishioners, they pay their temporal goods twice; where once might suffice, if priests were true dispensators.

"Also, Sir, the parishioners that pay their temporal goods, be they tithes or offerings, to priests that do not their office among them justly, are partners of every sin of those priests: because that they sustain those priests' folly in their sin, with their temporal goods. If these things be well considered, what wonder is it then, Sir, if the parishioners grudge against these dispensators?"

Archbishop. Then the Archbishop said to me, "Thou that shouldest be judged and ruled by Holy Church, presumptuously, thou deemest Holy Church to have erred in the ordinance of tithes and other duties to be paid to priests! It shall be long ere thou thrive, losell! that thou despisest thy ghostly Mother! How darest thou speak this, losell! among the people? Are not tithes given to priests for to live by?"

William. And I said, "Sir, Saint PAUL saith that tithes were given in the Old Law to Levites and to Priests, that came of the lineage of LEVI. But our priest, he saith, came not of the lineage of LEVI, but of the lineage of JUDAH; to which JUDAH, no tithes were promised to be given. And therefore PAUL saith, Since the priesthood is changed from the generation of LEVI to the generation of JUDAH, it is necessary that changing also be made of the Law. So that priests live now without tithes and other duties that they now claim; following CHRIST and his Apostles in wilful poverty, as they have given them example. For since CHRIST lived all the time of His preaching by pure [the simple] alms of the people, and (by example of him) his Apostles lived in the same wise, or else by the travail of their hands, as it is said above; every priest, whose priesthood CHRIST approveth, knoweth well, and confesseth in word and in work that a disciple oweth [ought] not to be above his Master, but it sufficeth to a disciple to be as his Master, simple and pure, meek and patient: and by example specially of his Master CHRIST, every priest should rule him in all his living; and so, after his cunning and power, a priest should busy him to inform and to rule whomsoever he might charitably."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, with a great spirit, "GOD's curse have thou and thine for this teaching! for thou wouldest hereby make the Old Law more free and perfect than the New Law! For thou sayest it is lawful for Levites and to Priests to take tithes in the Old Law, and so to enjoy their privileges; but to us priests in the New Law, thou sayest it is not lawful to take tithes! And thus, thou givest the Levites of the Old Law more freedom, than to priests of the New Law!"

William. And I said, "Sir, I marvel, that ye understand this plain text of PAUL thus! Ye wot well, that the Levites and Priests in the Old Law, that took tithes, were not so free nor so perfect as CHRIST and his Apostles that took no tithes! And, Sir, there is a Doctor, I think that it is Saint JEROME, that saith thus, The priests that challenge now in the New Law, tithes, say, in effect that CHRIST is not become Man, nor that he hath yet suffered death for man's love. Whereupon, this Doctor saith this sentence, Since tithes were the hires and wages limited to Levites and to Priests of the Old Law, for bearing about of the Tabernacle, and for slaying and flaying of beasts, and for burning of sacrifice, and for keeping of the Temple, and for trumping of battle before the host of Israel, and other divers observances that pertained to their office; those priests, that will challenge or take tithes, deny that CHRIST is comen in flesh, and do the Priest's office of the Old Law, for whom tithes were granted: for else, as the Doctor saith, priests take now tithes wrongfully."


Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to his Clerks, "Heard ye ever losell speak thus! Certain, this is the learning of them all, that wheresoever they come, and they may be suffered, they enforce them to expugn the freedom of Holy Church!"

William. And I said, "Sir, why call you the taking of tithes and of such other duties that priests challenge now wrongfully 'the freedom of Holy Church'; since neither CHRIST nor his Apostles challenged nor took such duties? Herefore these takings of priests now, are not called justly 'the freedom of Holy Church': but all such giving and taking ought to be called and holden 'the slanderous covetousness of men of the Holy Church.'"

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "Why, losell! wilt not thou and others that are confedered [confederated] with thee, seek out of Holy Scripture and of the sentence of Doctors, all sharp authorities against Lords and Knights and Squires, and against other secular men, as thou dost against priests?"


William. And I said, "Sir, whatsoever men or women, Lords or Ladies, or any others that are present in our preaching specially, or in our communing, after our cunning, we to tell to them their office and their charges: but, Sir, since CHRYSOSTOM saith the priests are the stomach of the people, it is needful in preaching and also in communing, to be most busy about this priesthood, since by the viciousness of priests, both Lords and Commons are most sinfully infected and led into the worst. And because that the covetousness of priests, and pride and the boast that they have and make, of their dignity and power, destroyeth not only the virtues of priesthood in priests themselves: but also, over this, it stirreth GOD to take great vengeance both upon Lords and Commons, which suffer these priests charitably."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "Thou judgest every priest proud that will not go arrayed as thou dost! By God! I deem him to be more meek that goeth every day in a scarlet gown, than thou, in that threadbare blue gown! Whereby knowest thou a proud man?"

William. And I said, "Sir, a proud priest may be known when he denieth to follow CHRIST and his Apostles in wilful poverty and other virtues; and coveteth worldly worship, and taketh it gladly, and gathereth together with pleting [? pleading] menacing or with flattering, or with simony, any worldly goods: and most if a priest busy him not chiefly in himself, and after in all other men and women, after his cunning and power, to withstand sin."

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "Though thou knewest a priest to have all these vices, and though thou sawest a priest, lovely, lie now by a woman, knowing her fleshly; wouldest thou herefore deem this priest damnable? I say to thee, that in the turning about of thy hand, such a sinner may be verily repented!"

William. And I said, "Sir, I will not damn any man for any sin that I know done or may be done; so that the sinner leaveth his sin! But, by authority of Holy Scripture, he that sinneth thus openly, as ye shew here, is damnable for doing of such a sin; and most specially a priest that should be [an] example to all others for to hate and fly sin: and in how short time that ever ye say, that such a sinner may be repented, he oweth [ought] not, of him that knoweth his sinning, to be judged verily repentant, without open evidence of great shame and hearty sorrow for his sin. For whosoever, and specially a priest, that useth pride, envy, covetousness, lechery, simony, or any other vices; and sheweth not, as open evidence of repentance, as he hath given evil example and occasion of sinning: if he continue in any such sin as long as he may, it is likely that sin leaveth him and he not sin; and, as I understand, such a one sinneth unto death, for whom nobody oweth [ought] to pay, as Saint JOHN saith."

A Clerk. And a Clerk said to the Archbishop, "Sir, the longer that ye appose him, the worse he is! and the more that ye busy you to amend him, the waywarder he is! for he is of so shrewd a kind, that he shameth not only to be himself a foul nest; but, without shame, he busieth him to make his nest fouler!"

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to his Clerk, "Suffer a while, for I am at an end with him! for there is one other point certified against him; and I will hear what he saith thereto."

* * * * *


And so then, he said to me, "Lo, it is here certified against thee, that thou preachedst openly at Shrewsbury that it is not lawful to swear in any case."

William. And I said, "Sir, I preached never so openly, nor I have not taught in this wise, in any place. But, Sir, as I preached in Shrewsbury, with my Protestation I say to you now here, That by the authority of the Gospel and of Saint JAMES, and by witness of divers Saints and Doctors, I have preached openly, in one place or other, that it is not lawful in any case to swear by any creature. And, over this, Sir, have also preached and taught, by the foresaid authorities, that nobody should swear in any case, if that without oath, in any wise, he that is charged to swear, might excuse him to them that have power to compel him to swear in leful things and lawful: but if a man may not excuse him without oath to them that have power to compel him to swear, then he ought to swear only by GOD, taking Him only, that is Soothfastness, for to witness the soothfastness."

A Clerk. And then a Clerk asked me, "If it were not leful [lawful] to a subject, at the bidding of his Prelate, for to kneel down and touch the Holy Gospel book, and kiss it saying, So help me, GOD! and this holy doom! for he should, after his cunning and power, do all things, that his Prelate commandeth him?"

William. And I said to them, "Sirs, ye speak here full generally and largely! What, if a Prelate commanded his subject to do an unlawful thing, should he obey thereto?"

Archbishop. And the Archbishop said to me, "A subject ought not to suppose that his Prelate will bid him do an unlawful thing. For a subject ought to think that his Prelate will bid him do nothing but that he will answer for before GOD, that it is lefull [lawful]: and then, though the bidding of the Prelate be unlawful, the subject hath no peril to fulfil it; since that he thinketh and judgeth that whatsoever thing his Prelate biddeth him do, that is leful to him for to do it."


William. And I said, "Sir, I trust not hereto! But to our first purpose! Sir, I tell you that I was once in a gentleman's house, and there were then two Clerks there, a Master of Divinity and a Man of Law; which Man of Law was also communing in divinity. And among other things, these men spake of oaths. And the Man of Law said, 'At the bidding of his Sovereign which had power to charge him to swear, he would lay his hand upon a book, and hear his charge; and if his charge, to his understanding were unlawful, he would hastily withdraw his hand from the book; and if he perceived his charge to be leful he would hold still his hand upon the book, taking there only GOD to witness that he would fulfil that leful charge after his power.' And the Master of Divinity said then to him thus, 'Certain, he that layeth his hand upon a book in this wise, and maketh there a promise to do that thing that he is commanded, is obliged there, by book oath, then, to fulfil his charge. For, no doubt, he that chargeth him to lay his hand thus upon a book, touching the book and swearing by it, and kissing it, promising in this form, to do this thing or that, will say and witness, that he that toucheth thus a book and kisseth it, hath sworn upon that book; and all other men that see that men thus do, and also all those that hear thereof in the same wise, will say and witness that this man hath sworn upon a book! Wherefore,' the Master of Divinity said, 'it was not leful, neither to give nor to take any such charge upon a book! for every book is nothing else but divers creatures [created things], of which it is made of: therefore to swear upon a book, is to swear by creatures! and this swearing is ever unleful.'

"This sentence witnesseth CHRYSOSTOM, plainly blaming them greatly, that bring forth a book for to swear upon, charging Clerks that in nowise they constrain anybody to swear, whether they think a man to swear true or false."

And the Archbishop and his Clerks scorned me, and blamed me greatly for this saying. And the Archbishop menaced me with great punishment and sharp, except I left this opinion of swearing.

William. And I said, "Sir, this is not mine opinion; but it is the opinion of CHRIST our Saviour! and of Saint JAMES! and of CHRYSOSTOM! and of other divers Saints and Doctors!"

Then the Archbishop bad a Clerk read this Homily of CHRYSOSTOM, which Homily this Clerk held in his hand written in a roll; which roll the Archbishop caused to be taken from my fellow at Canterbury: and so then this Clerk read this roll, till he came to a clause where CHRYSOSTOM saith that it is sin, to swear well.

A Clerk (? Malveren). And then a Clerk, MALVEREN as I guess, said to the Archbishop, "Sir, I pray you wit of him, how that he understandeth CHRYSOSTOM here, saying it to be sin, to swear well."

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