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This appeal naturally excited a more general desire of acquaintance with the writings themselves in which those sentiments were contained. And this desire as naturally contributed to the still further wish for a more intimate knowledge of the actual situations in which those illustrious individuals were placed, to whom their successors owed such immense obligation. In the latter proposition is contained the secret of that interest which was soon felt, and continues to be taken, in the lives and memoirs of those holy men who protested from time to time against the errors and tyranny of the See of Rome, in the darker ages; of those who were more immediately aided by certain powers in Christendom in the purification of particular creeds; or of those, who in a still later period have continued to build on their foundation, and maintained the cause of Protestantism in sincerity and godly simplicity.

+

Biography is a department in literature which has been found to possess a peculiar charm, in every age of learning, and under every variety of public taste. It is well known that when Theodore Gaza, no mean judge of such matters, was asked what single writer he would desire to preserve, in preference to all other, in a supposed general wreck of ancient learning, he emphatically replied," Plutarch." But, if, in the estimation of this critic, an author ranked so high, whose province it was to record the actions and sayings of heathen warriors and philosophers; how much more valuable the memorial of that prowess with which Christian heroes combated the enemies of their faith, or of that eloquence with which Christian preachers persuaded their fellow-sinners to come out and be separate from an ungodly world!

Britons, so justly celebrated for the love of their country, may find

a sacred halo thrown round that honourable sentiment, and the affection itself in a measure sanctified by reflecting, that their native land has produced some of the most striking instances of Christian devotedness and Protestant zeal. The very first portrait in the picturegallery of the reformers exhibits the head of an Englishman. Good sense appears resident on his manly brow; a heavenly lustre seems to beam from his eye, while his features present the general aspect of judgment and penetration. His full and silvery beard bespeaks a patriarch of the middle ages, as his habit and cap denote him of the clerical order.

John Wickliffe has been truly styled, "the glory of our nation, as well as the honour of our mother Oxford, the first discoverer and guide in our blessed Reformation." He was indeed a morning star, that rose over the dark mountains of superstition, shedding his twinkling and solitary glory through the rent clouds of error, as they strove to cross his disk, and obscure his ray with their thickening volumes. He was born in 1324 at Spreswell, in the parish of Wickliffe, near Richmond in Yorkshire; and though the soil of his nativity has changed its name in the lapse of ages, there is presumption of his descent from a family, who were in remote times lords of the estate of Wickliffe*. He was sent early to Oxford, and was first admitted commoner of Queen's College; but was soon removed to Merton, where it appears he was probationer. His connexion with this seminary introdu

* Kennet; Leland; Lewis, Life of Wick

liffe, p. 815. There are sixteen different ways of spelling the name, of which Wiclif is probably the most pure. Wic is Saxon for creek of a river; and the hamlet from which the family drew their appellation, seems to have been on the banks of a stream. It is

said that the race became extinct, so lately as November 1821, by the decease of

Thomas Wycliffe, Esq.-St. James's Chronicle, No. 9900.

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ced him to some of the greatest and most learned men of his day*.

He soon became conspicuous for his genius, application, and critical knowledge of the scholastic theology. He was an acute reasoner upon the Aristotelian basis; and though the logical forms were hampering, and abused by perverse ingenuity to the maintaining of error, he showed himself as adroit in pressing them into the service of -truth. "Such were his labours on the week-days, proving to the learn-ed the doctrine, concerning which he intended to preach; and on the Sundays he addressed the common people on the points which he -had proved beforet." He also made considerable attainment in the study of the canon, civil, and English municipal law; was well read in the theology of the Fathers, especially Augustine, Jerome, Andrew, and Gregory, who rank next to the apostolical; and studied, translated, illustrated, or wrote homilies on the sacred Scriptures.

But whatever respect this might obtain for him from the academical circle in which he more immediately moved, he became more known to the University and the country, by the stand which he made, when about thirty-six years of age, against the encroachments and artifices of the mendicant friars. At the period in question, this body of ecclesiastics were notorious for arrogant pretension, low cunning, and dronish sensuality. They were the pest of judicatories, and the nuisance of universities. History affords few examples of a community so widely extended, at

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taining so quickly to influence and consideration, and so promptly and shamelessly departing from the regulations of their own institute. For the reasons of this sudden rise and characteristic insolence we have not however far to seek. One is founded on the adaptation of their establishment to the circumstances of the more papistical part of the clergy; and the other in the native audacity and assurance of impunity of the majority of their own members.

They were first established in the thirteenth century, and were designed as a practical answer to the censures of luxurious monasticism. The convents and priories hitherto dispersed over Christendom, having for the most part acquired opulence by a multiplicity of grants, legacies, and offerings, had become indolent and secure. They violated their religious vows, opposed superior authority, and were negligent of the inroads of reputed heresy and schism. On the other hand, the world could not but see among many of the sectaries a certain austerity of manners and purity of morals, which strongly contrasted to the vices and corruptions of the religious orders. Hence the necessity, as it appeared to the shrewder reasoners of the day, of finding a new class of professors, who, by the plainness of their demeanour, contempt of riches, and gravity of conduct, might render monasticism respectable in the eyes of the public; and who, being kept at a distance from affluence and grandeur, might not be so exposed to the promises or threats of kings and magistrates, or so likely to be seduced from their allegiance to the Romish tiara. Innocent III. gave such monastic societies as made a profession of poverty the most distinguishing marks of his protection and favour. These were followed by the encouragement and patron

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* Cave says, " Oxonii in Collegio Mertonensi educatus, cujus primum scholaris, dein socius:" but he cautiously subjoins in a note, "Wiclefum nec fuisse socium istius domus, nec annum probationis in eadem habuisse narrat Leland. Collect. Tom. 3, p. 55." He was Probationer, but never Fellow. Tanner's Biblioth. P. 767, not. b.

+ Milner's Hist. of Church of Christ, age of succeeding pontiffs. But

vol. iv. p. 108.

when it became evident that asso

This appeal naturally excited a more general desire of acquaintance with the writings themselves in which those sentiments were contained. And this desire as naturally contributed to the still further wish for a more intimate knowledge of the actual situations in which those illustrious individuals were placed, to whom their successors owed such immense obligation. In the latter proposition is contained the secret of that interest which was soon felt, and continues to be taken, in the lives and memoirs of those holy men who protested from time to time against the errors and tyranny of the See of Rome, in the darker ages; of those who were more iminediately aided by certain powers in Christendom in the purification of particular creeds; or of those, who in a still later period have continued to build on their foundation, and maintained the cause of Protestantism in sincerity and godly simplicity.

Biography is a department in literature which has been found to possess a peculiar charm, in every age of learning, and under every variety of public taste. It is well known that when Theodore Gaza, no mean judge of such matters, was asked what single writer he would desire to preserve, in preference to all other, in a supposed general wreck of ancient learning, he emphatically replied," Plutarch." But, if, in the estimation of this critic, an author ranked so high, whose province it was to record the actions and sayings of heathen warriors and philosophers; how much more valuable the memorial of that prowess with which Christian heroes combated the enemies of their faith, or of that eloquence with which Christian preachers persuaded their fellow-sinners to come out and be separate from an ungodly world!

Britons, so justly celebrated for the love of their country, may find

a sacred halo thrown round that honourable sentiment, and the affection itself in a measure sanctified by reflecting, that their native land has produced some of the most striking instances of Christian devotedness and Protestant zeal. The very first portrait in the picturegallery of the reformers exhibits the head of an Englishman. Good sense appears resident on his manly brow; a heavenly lustre seems to beam from his eye, while his features present the general aspect of judgment and penetration. His full and silvery beard bespeaks a patriarch of the middle ages, as his habit and cap denote him of the clerical order.

John Wickliffe has been truly styled, "the glory of our nation," as well as the honour of our mother Oxford, the first discoverer and guide in our blessed Reformation." He was indeed a morning star, that rose over the dark mountains of superstition, shedding his twinkling and solitary glory through the rent clouds of error, as they strove to cross his disk, and obscure his ray with their thickening volumes. He was born in 1324 at Spreswell, in the parish of Wickliffe, near Richmond in Yorkshire; and though the soil of his nativity has changed its name in the lapse of ages, there is presumption of his descent from a family, who were in remote times lords of the estate of Wickliffe*. He was sent early to Oxford, and was first admitted commoner of Queen's College; but was soon removed to Merton, where it appears he was probationer. His connexion with this seminary introdu

* Kennet; Leland; Lewis, Life of Wick

liffe, p. 815. There are sixteen different ways probably the most pure. of spelling the name, of which Wiclif is Wic is Saxon for creek of a river; and the hamlet from which the family drew their appellation, seems to have been on the banks of a stream. It is

said that the race became extinct, so lately as November 1821, by the decease of

Thomas Wycliffe, Esq.-St. James's Chronicle, No. 9900.

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younger students, and gain their attention by a thousand arts; promising the studious greater advantages, and the idle greater indulgences, if they would enter their convents; encouraging such were disaffected through any real or presumed injury to break off their collegiate connexion; and persuading such as had tender minds or tender consciences that their salvation would be better secured by putting on the monastic garment. To such an extent had this evil grown, that parents feared to send their children to the University, lest they should fall into the hands of the mendicants. Owing to this cause, the number of students, from having been thirty thousand, was reduced in the year 1357 to six thousand.

Thus had the unworthy professors of a religion inculcating diligence and self-examination, acted directly opposite to its plainest injunctions, and violated as it were on system the apostolical maxims. In the very earliest age of the Church, some characters were found of a similar description abusing their high privileges, and disgracing their holy vocation. "For we hear," said St. Paul in his second letter to the church of Thessalonica, "that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busy bodies. Now, them that are such, we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread." It was no wonder that the penetrating judgment of Wickliffe, enlightened by the beams, and warmed with the fire of divine truth, should perceive the flagrant departure from true religion exhibited in these proceedings; or that, when perceived, his honest zeal should have determined him to set his face as a flint against one of the_grossest corruptions of Popery. The fellows and tutors of colleges, whose authority had

been despised, and whose revenues had been diminished, had found but little relief in a statute which passed the Parliament in 1366, enacting that no youths should be received by the friars till they had attained the age of eighteen years. This statute, with their usual insolence, they dared to disregard.

When, therefore, Wickliffe was constrained to stand boldly forward as the champion of the University, though the honour of God, and a reverence for Scripture, were his leading motives, yet he could not fail but render an acceptable service to his fellow collegians. He opposed their justification of mendicity, founded on the shallow argument, that the poverty of Christ and his Apostles made them possess all things in common, and beg for a livelihood; an argument which had before been proved to be absurd by Richard Kilmyngton, Dean of St. Paul's, and Richard Fitz-Ralph, Archbishop of Armagh. He addressed a complaint to the King and Parliament. The complaint consists of four articles; the first is, that the rule laid down by Christ in the Gospel for the attainment of salvation, is more perfect than that invented by St. Francis, St. Benedict, or any other; the second asserts, that the King has power to punish ecclesiastical persons convicted of certain crimes; the third treats of tithes and offerings; and in the last he shows how Christ and his Apostles despised every worldly advantage which presented itself to them, and sought only the spiritual welfare of those to whom they were sent. He issued also another tract, exposing fifty errors maintained by the mendicants, in as many chapters*.

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*Dr. James published these works at Oxford in 1608, in English, entitled, "Two short Treatises against the Orders of the begging Friars." The complaint is in Eng

lish in C. C. Coll. Cam.-Thirty-seven of the fifty errors are preserved in MS. Cott. under Tit. D. I.

ciation with such bodies was to be procured on easy terms, and that it required no pre-eminence of talent or acquisition to gain distinction in the community, if not notice from the conclave itself, many idle characters, who had as little conscience as information, joined the mendicant friars. The great inconvenience which at length arose from their excessive multiplication was remedied by Gregory X. in a general council which he assembled at Lyons in 1272. By a solemn decree, all the orders which had sprung up after the council held at Rome, in 1215, under Innocent III. were suppressed; and the extravagant multitude of mendicants, as Gregory called them, were reduced to four distinct denominations; the Dominicans, the Franciscans, the Carmelites, and the Augustines.

Uniting the character of itinerant preachers and sanctimonious beggars, they were regarded with veneration throughout all the countries in Europe. The more artful or the better informed, improving such opportunities as occurred in the course of their peregrinations, ingratiated themselves with persons of rank or fortune, undertook the charge of youth, or cajoled the multitude with tales and lying wonders. The Dominican and Franciscan divisions played their part so well, with the Pope on one side, and the different courts on the other, that they were frequently employed in composing the disputes of princes, concluding treaties of peace, presiding in cabinets, levying taxes, and other occupations inconsistent with their character and profession. They were in general very obnoxious to the ordinary episcopal clergy. They claimed many immunities and exemptions; maintained the authority of the pontiffs against princes and diocesans; and affecting superior sanctity, gained such credit with the commonalty, that many parishioners left their regular church

to receive the sacrament from the hands of these devouter brethren, and were desirous that their remains after death should be deposited in the sanctuaries of their order.

But their intrigues were sometimes troublesome to the Popes themselves. After the decease of their respective leaders, the Dominicans and Franciscans, as if they had entered into no obligations about poverty and humility, engaged in violent contests about precedency. Besides this, the Franciscans were early divided among themselves, and split into several factions. Some of the Popes, and especially Benedict XII. endeavoured to rectify their scandalous conduct, and correct the immoralities which were known to have crept into their communities, but found it difficult to apply an effectual remedy. Some men of talent among the mendicants were at the head of monastic orders and in high ecclesiastical situations; while the generality were still in such favour with the ignorant vulgar, that great numbers of both sexes, some in health, others in a state of infirmity, others at the point of death, earnestly entreated to be admitted into their fraternities; and many directed that their corpses should be wrapped in some old Dominican or Franciscan habits, believing that they would prove good passports to the kingdom of heaven.

Such was the influence obtained over the public mind by the worst species of ecclesiastics.. In the University of Oxford their proceedings were peculiarly obnoxious. They annoyed the academical rulers by claiming a distinct jurisdiction within their very precincts. While some of this cowled and walletted fraternity went down the streets of the city, soliciting contributions from door to door of the honest burgesses or industrious mechanics, the more shrewd and disputatious would waylay the

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