The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe/Volume 3/Substance of the Decree of the Synod of Constance, touching the taking up of the Body and Bones of John Wickliff, to be burned fourty-one Years after he was buried in his own Parish at Lutterworth

The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe, Volume 3 by John Foxe, edited by Stephen Reed Cattley
Substance of the Decree of the Synod of Constance, touching the taking up of the Body and Bones of John Wickliff, to be burned fourty-one Years after he was buried in his own Parish at Lutterworth


"Forasmuch as by the authority of the sentence and decree of the council of Rome, and by the commandment of the church and the apostolic see, after due delays being given, they proceeded unto the condemnation of the said John Wickliff and his memory, having first made proclamation, and given commandment to call forth whosoever would defend the said WicklifF or his memory, if there were any such (but there did none appear, who would either defend him or his memory): and, moreover, witnesses being examined, by commissioners appointed by pope John and his council, upon the impenitency and final obstinacy and stubbornness of the said John Wickliff (reserving that which is to be reserved, as in such business the order of the law requireth), and his impenitency and obstinacy, even unto his end, being sufficiently proved by evident signs and tokens, and also by lawful witnesses, of credit lawfully given thereunto: wherefore, at the instance of the steward of the treasury, proclamation being made to hear and understand the sentence against this day, the sacred synod declareth, determineth, and giveth sentence, that the said John Wickliff was a notorious obstinate heretic, and that he died in his heresy: cursing and condemning both him and his memory.

"This synod also decreeth and ordaineth, that the body and bones of the said John Wickliff, if it might be discerned and known from the bodies of other faithful people, should be taken out of the ground, and thrown away far from the burial of any church, according to the canon laws and decrees. Which determination and sentence definitive being read and pronounced, and it being demanded and asked of the lord president, and the aforesaid presidents of the four nations, whether it did please them or no, they all answered, and first, Hostiensis, the president, and after him the other presidents of the nations, that it pleased them very well: and so they allowed and confirmed all the premises." 🞼This[2] wicked and malicious sentence of the bishop, would require here a diligent apology, but that it is so foolish and vain, and no less barbarous, that it seemeth more worthy of derision and disdain, than by any argument, to be confuted. For what will it prevail to talk with reasons and arguments, against him who followeth neither reason nor argument? except, perad venture, thou wouldst seem to play Parmenio's part in the comedy, that is, to join perfect reason and mad folly together. First, under many glorious and bragging words, they pretend here a great colour of the catholic faith, and yet bring no reason at all to declare the catholic faith. If the catholic faith consist in men's seats, and not in the men; in words and not in deeds, then would I grant that the see of Rome might seem catholic. Next, they pretend here, the authority of the holy synod; and that, in the name of our Lord, when they bring forth no Scripture of our Lord. "Lawfully" say they "congregated together:" I hear it very well! and to the intent that this authority may be of greater force and effect, the consent also of the synod of Rome is annexed and joined unto this council; for these be their words: " As it was decreed," say they, "in the synod of Rome," &c. Which synod of Rome, how lawfully it was gathered together, The council of Rome began by the good sign or token of an owl.the owl did sufficiently declare, which oftentimes (as Clemagis doth witness), flying into the council of Rome where pope John did sit, she could sooner put him out from his catholic seat (and so did), than she could be driven away from him with kind of weapon. Hereof, Christ so willing, more shall be declared, when we come to the place severally to speak of the council of Constance. In this synod, being thus gathered together, the works, and forty-five articles of Wickliff, were condemned, and he himself, forty-one years after his death, was taken out of his grave and burned. And what was the cause? Only for that he, with most firm and strong reasons, enterprised and went about to control and rebuke their life, errors, filthiness, and pride, which was now grown unto that point, that it was not any longer to be suffered. But how much rather ought they in this behalf to have rendered thanks unto Wickliff, for his most godly and wholesome admonition, unto whose good counsel, if they had any thing framed themselves, much more truly had that seat seemed catholic. Now, if it shall be sufficient to condemn men or their books, whatsoever the pope's treasurer, or the four presidents of the four nations shall say, or pleasure is, and so we, standing upon the same, will defend the liberty of sin, that we will neither amend ourselves, nor yet will suffer ourselves to be controlled or corrected by others, to what end then faith, godliness, conscience, learning, or the knowledge of holy Scripture doth serve, I do not greatly perceive. Wherefore, seeing the decree of this council hath nothing in it that can be revinced with argument, beside only bare names and authority of cardinals, archbishops, abbots, masters of divinity, and doctors of the law, we have, on the contrary part, against the witness of these seditious persons, alleged the testimonies of certain good men; first of all the testimonial of the whole university of Oxford, and afterwards the testimony of John Huss, which, if it hath been read, with equal and indifferent ears or the readers, I doubt not, but that it hath made as much for the defence of Wickliff, as these men's witnesses shall do to the contrary.🞼

What Heraclitus would not laugh, or what Democritus would not weep, to see these so sage and reverend Catos occupying their heads to take up a poor man's body, so long dead and buried before, by the space of forty-one years; and yet, peradventure, they were not able to find his right bones, but took up some other body, and so of a catholic made a heretic! Albeit herein Wickliff had some cause to give them thanks, that they would at least spare him so long till he was dead, and also give him so long respite after his death, forty-one years to rest in his sepulchre before they ungraved him, and turned him from earth to ashes; which ashes they also took and threw into the river. And so was he resolved into three elements, earth, fire, and water, thinking thereby utterly to extinguish and abolish both the name and doctrine of Wickliff for ever.[3] Not much unlike the example of the old Pharisees and sepulchre-knights, who, when they had brought the Lord unto the grave, thought to make him sure never to rise again. But these and all others must know, that as there is no counsel against the Lord, so there is no keeping down of verity, but it will spring up and come out of dust and ashes, as appeared right well in this man; for though they digged up his body, burnt his bones, and drowned his ashes, yet the word of God, and the truth of his doctrine, with the fruit and success thereof, they could not burn, which yet to this day, for the most part of his articles, doth remain: notwithstanding the transitory body and bones of the man were thus consumed and dispersed, as by this picture here set forth to thine eyes (gentle reader), may appear.

These things thus finished and accomplished, which pertain to the story and time of Wickliff, let us now, by the supportation of the Lord, proceed to treat and write of the rest, who either in his time or after his time, springing out of the same university, and raised up, as ye would say, out of his ashes, were partakers of the same persecution; of whom speaketh Thomas Walden in his book, "{{lang|la|De Sacramentis et Sacramentalibus," cap. liii. where he saith, that after Wickliff many suffered most cruel death, and many more did forsake the realm;Martyrs and exiles. in the number of whom were William Swinderby, Walter Brute, John Purvey, Richard White, William Thorpe, and Reynold Peacock, bishop of St. Asaph, and afterwards of Chichester.

To this catalogue also pertaineth (mentioned in ancient writers) Lawrence Redman, master of arts; David Sautre, a divine; John Ashwarby, vicar, as they call him, of St. Mary's church at Oxford; William James, an excellent young man, well learned; Thomas Brightwell, and William Hawlam, a civilian; Rafe Greenhurst, John Scut, and Philip Norise; who, being excommunicated by pope Eugene IV., a. d. 1446, appealed unto a general or œcumenical council. 🞼Many[4] more did forsake the realm, but what they were, or what kind of punishment they suffered, Walden left no mention. But we will not suffer their names to be blotted out with silence, which we might by any means pick out; but sure we are greatly sorry that there came nothing else into our hands but only their bare names. Would to God that the constant diligence of our

Exhumation of Wickliff.


predecessors had preserved in memory for us the whole order of their life, the form of their process and judgment, and what was to be observed in their adversaries, or to be commended in them. Albeit that matter were not greatly for our purpose, forsomuch as all those things could not be contained in a few volumes; and that also, by those few, it were easy to be judged what a man may think as touching the cruelty of the papists against all men.🞼

Peter Paine also, who flying from Oxford unto Bohemia, did stoutly contend against the sophisters, as touching both kinds of the sacrament of the last supper; who, afterwards, among the rest of the orators, was one of the fourteen that were sent unto the council of Basil; where, by the space of three days, he disputed upon the fourth article, which was touching the civil dominion of the clergy, A. D. 1438. Also the lord Cobham, with divers others besides, whose names are mentioned in the king's writ, sent to the sheriff of Northampton, the tenor of which writ of the king here followeth:

The king to the sheriffs of Northampton, health. Forasmuch as John Attyate of Chepingwarden, John Warryner, R. Brewood, &c. being receivers and favourers of heretics, and especially of one John Woodward, priest, publicly defamed and condemned of heresy, will not be justified by the censures of the church, as the reverend father John, bishop of Lincoln, hath certified us: We, therefore, willing to withstand all defenders and favourers of such heresies, do will and command as well the beforenamed, as namely, the aforesaid John Woodward to be apprehended, straitly charging the same to be imprisoned by their bodies, or otherwise punished as shall seem good to the justices, until they and every of them shall submit themselves to the obedience of the aforesaid bishop in that behalf accordingly. Whereof fail you not, under pain of a hundred pounds. Witness ourselves: Given at our manor of Langley, the eighth day of March, the twelfth year of our reign.

To these above rehearsed, and other favourers of Wickliff, within this our country of England, we may add also the Bohemians; forasmuch as the propagation of the said doctrine of Wickliff in that country also took root, coming from England to Bohemia by this occasion, as in story here followeth.

How the doctrine of Wickliff came to Bohemia.There chanced at that time a certain student of the country of Bohemia to be at Oxford, one of a wealthy house, and also of a noble stock; who returning home from the university of Oxford to the university of Prague, carried with him certain books of Wickliff, 'De Realibus Universalibus,' 'De Civili Jure, et Divino,' 'De Ecclesia,' 'De Quæstionibus Variis contra Clerum,' &c. It chanced that at the same time a certain nobleman in the city of Prague had founded and built a great church of Matthias and Matthew, which church was called Bethlehem, giving to it great lands, and finding in it two preachers every day, to preach both on holy days and working-days to the people. The great affection of John Huss to John Wickliff.Of these two preachers this John Huss was one; a man of great knowledge, of a pregnant wit, and excellently favoured for his worthy life amongst them. This John Huss having familiarity with this young man in reading and perusing these books of Wickliff, took such pleasure and fruit in reading thereof, that not only he began Wicklevus vir bonus sanctus cœlo defend this author openly in the schools, but also in his sermons, commending him for a good man, a holy man and a heavenly man, wishing himself, when he should die, to be there placed, where the soul of Wickliff should be. And thus for the spreading of Wickliff's doctrine enough, and thus much briefly concerning the favourers and adherents of John Wickliff in general. 🞼Amongst[5] whom, I have only, as yet, rehearsed such, unto whom the profession of the gospel was perilous, and a heavy burden ; whom, notwithstanding, I thought not worthy to be defrauded of their praise: but now, we will convert our style unto those, who, continuing unto the end, have followed the Lamb whithersoever he went, even unto the loss of their lives. And here I am minded first of all, if the brevity of the matter would suffer it, somewhat to expostulate with the cruelty of the world.

Forasmuch as all mankind, having put apart all use of humanity, have so far degenerated even unto the iron age, or rather unto a brutal cruelty, that never, as I think, since the beginning of the world was Plautus' proverb more verified, "one man is a wolf unto another;" but amongst all the wolves, they are most cruel which are clothed in lambs' skins, which also do most profess peace.

In times past among the Israelites, and in the time of Christ and his apostles, the worshipping and religion of God began to be altered unto Pharisaical superstition; but now, the same pharisaical superstition, I know not by what means, amongst Christians, is grown into extreme tyranny. Albeit that a small portion of this incommodity or evil doth fall upon those, who, for the love of Christ, do suffer violence. For whereas all others are dead, they only do verily live again who die in Christ. This therefore is a most rare dignity which happeneth but unto a few, insomuch that if we do diligently weigh the matter, this only happiness hath our miserable life, if that it may happen to any man to suffer for Christ's sake. Again I do repeat the same: nothing truly can be esteemed in this world, but only the name of Christ, and to suffer for his name.

Wherefore St. Paul doth not unworthily command, that we should not only have steadfast hope through him, but also suffer affliction for his sake. For howsoever the judgments of men do esteem it, there is no truer life than that which is laid up in Christ as a gage, none more absolute renown than to be slain for the Son of God. But this glory doth not yet appear unto our human senses, which are overwhelmed with the filth of this world. But at the length it shall appear, and peradventure sooner than shall be expedient for some, except with speedy repentance they do wax wise and amend, which, that it may the better be brought to pass, suffer me a little by your license, gentle reader, to talk with these cruel blood-suckers; whereby they, being admonished, may repent; or if they will not, that they may behold, to their great shame and rebuke, whether they will or no, their wicked cruelty and great slaughters, laid before them, as it were upon a stage. Surely it was a worthy saying of a jester, who was but a profane man," that it is as unseemly for a prince to abound in tyranny, as for a physician to have many corpses." What shall we then say unto these reverend prelates of the church: if they be princes, why do they bring in so great torments into the poor cottages of Christ ; if they be physicians, how happeneth so great death amongst the sheep? But before I will take this quarrel in hand, I do once again admonish thee, gentle reader, of that which I must oftentimes repeat in this argument. First of all, that you do not interpret any thing which shall be here spoken, in such a manner as though I would maintain any unproved doctrine: for, as I do not favour heretics, who are heretics indeed, even so much less do I favour false bishops. And again, as I do give license unto neither of these, neither to the one, to use his tyranny, nor to the other, to proceed in his errors, so like-wise do I not go about here, to take away the power of the civil sword, because it is not borne by the magistrate in vain. For they have their laws, their judges, and their punishments, necessary in a commonwealth, without which there should be no society, neither any discipline amongst men. But this my complaint doth only touch them, who professing a perfectness of spiritual life above all the rest of the common sort of the people, and who ought to be the masters of all pity and godliness, yet shall you scarcely find any men more venomous in hatred, anger, malice, avenging, and all kind of tyranny. Who was the first that brought in amongst Christians these recantations, faggots, and fire, and these lamentable funerals by burning of the live bodies of men, under the name of heretics? who, but only this flock of religious men and the clergy, whose part it had been rather to help those that had erred, and not to kill them, according to the example of their High Master, who came not to destroy, but to save all men. For it is never so certain amongst men's opinions, but that oftentimes some error will intermeddle itself: the first purity of the church always excepted. Neither doth every error, by and by, make a man a heretic, except it have joined therewith an obstinate and froward will; neither do I know whether, in this point also, the extremities are to be attempted or no; but the quality of the heresy is to be marked, and the rule of the gospel is to be considered, what it doth require, and what is convenient for every man's profession: the profession of a secular judge is one, the condition of an evangelical minister is another. As St. Augustine writeth in the psalm, "Aliud est sella terrena, aliud tribunal cœleste," &c.

But our pseudo-evangelical papists, neither marking the quality of the one, nor the condition of the other, nor their own profession, neither looking upon one thing nor upon another, without all respect or difference, like furious Donatists, or homicides rather, under the cloak of religion, of every little word spoken against their pomp and ambitious pre-eminence, make a matter of heresy, whereby to murder and make havoc of Christ's people. What did the heart of Bonner, and of such of his affinity, differ from the heart of the strongest pirate, or homicide, murdering by the highway? yea insomuch that the very pirates themselves (if it be true that is reported of Bonner's receiving into prison), be ashamed of his comparison, and to be counted of his society. And yet, neither pity can stay him from cruel bloodshed, nor shame can drive him to repent such horrible tyranny. Wherein the case of these sicares and thieves yet may seem better, than of these catholics. For they, at the execution of God's judgment, as they cannot dissemble their trespass, so are they sooner touched with repentance. The others, either with ignorance drowned, or choked with malice, as they have spoiled the life of many more than ever did any thief; so much more be they further of repenting their iniquity, but think that, good service done to God, which they have done to the devil, who is a murderer from the beginning: and think themselves good pastors, when they devoured the poor flock, and played the wolves. So dangerous a thing it is, to have an ignorant zeal, where true knowledge is wanting. Of these did Christ premonish us before, declaring the blind ignorance of such, who, of their preposterous zeal, should turn iniquity and cruelty to God's service; and under the title of the church, should impugn the church, and of sincere verity, should make heresy.

But such as these never reigned more, or raged further, than in these latter days of the church, as the monuments of this history will declare: as who, having no regard of man's life, make every matter spoken against their private commodity to be 'heresy! heresy!' In times past it was not accounted as a heresy, except it did contain blasphemy, and did bring in some great peril to the faith, or where the majesty of Christ was hurt: such as were the Donatists, Manichees, Appolinatists, and Arians.

And notwithstanding the moderation of the bishops was such in those days, that they would not implore the emperor's aid in this case, except the wickedness of those heretics, who filled all places full of slaughter and schism, did even of necessity force them thereunto. As it doth evidently appear by St. Augustine and divers others, who thought the requiring of the profane power not so necessary in such business; insomuch that he became an advocate unto Dulcitius the tribune, that he should put none of them to death. The like thing, as I suppose, did he unto Macedonius the president, considering with himself that they ought to use no other kind of weapon, in this kind of contention, than only the word of God, prayer, and doctrine; or if the evil were past remedy, then they used to exclude them out of the church. And if the said Austin afterward altered his mind, being led thereunto, rather by the success ensuing than by his own judgment: that helpeth little or nothing the cruelty of our men now-a-days. For first of all, with what success the Babylonical firemakers have exercised their tyranny upon the members of Christ, the matter itself doth sufficiently testify: then let us behold those against whom they did then so rage, what manner of Manichees and Donatists they were; of whom no man is ignorant, that although they were called heretics, yet they were indeed furious robbers, and thieves, so that the matter now seemed no more to belong unto the office of the church, but rather to appertain to the tribunal power, albeit the church would wink thereat.

Whereby it is brought to pass, that through the perilous wickedness of the time, the bishops are driven to this point; that of force the emperor's laws are to be received for help, and then these laws did threaten none other thing, but only death unto the captains of them, as it appeareth, in the book of the laws upon the Manichees and Samaritans. The disciples were punished by the purse; and such as, neglecting the laws of the princes, did obstinately persevere in their wickedness, banishment was appointed for them: besides that at that time, there were no university-schools (as we call them) erected, to resist those mischiefs, whereas contrariwise now, there is almost no religion, which is not armed and adorned with universities, whereby there may speedy remedy be had, if we be so greatly afraid of heretics; but what is now-a-days come in men's minds, that setting apart the universities and all kind of arguments, whereby they might the more better, so also more easily, convince all errors, and finally forgetting all kind of meekness, which Christ himself and his apostles do so greatly commend unto us, using no kind of reason, do think that heretics must be entreated by no other means, than with torments, faggots, and fire. What profit cometh of the universities, when we do think that the truth is to be defended by no other means, than with bonds, stripes, chains, and torments, &c.? Thus we have alleged, as touching heretics, as though they were the very same indeed, which they are now falsely accused to be.

But now let us see what manner of things they are, whereabout these greedy papists make so much ado, with so many tragedies and fires. Amongst so many, who, in these our days, have been burned, who is it that can show me only three, who cither have wickedly taught, or openly spoken of God; who have detracted or taken away one so small a part of the divine nature of Christ; who have taught any blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, or, finally, who have untruly dissented in any article of the faith? but all this filthy sink is troubled about certain circumstances of places, times, and persons, and of men's traditions.

What doth it so much make matter, if any man do truly worship Christ in heaven, although he do not worship him in the sacrament? What great importance is it, if with Christ and Paul, we do call the bread the body of Christ, if we do not conceive with the school-men, the accident to be there without the subject? What if we do not disclose unto the priest the number of our sins, if that we, confessing ourselves truly unto Christ, do turn unto repentance? What if that we do forsake the trust of our works? What if that we do contemn the pardon of bishops, and repose our whole righteousness and redemption in Christ, our only bishop? Is our faith therefore the less agreeable and conformable unto the articles given us by the apostles? What if that we, contemning the image of saints, do worship one only Christ in spirit and truth; shall we be any deal the less Christians therefore, or is not Christ alone sufficient for us all? The gospel teacheth only two sacraments, which alone, if a man do reverently embrace, setting apart all the others, which are sprung up by men's institutions, what hurt shall Christianity sustain thereby? So likewise the Scripture of God doth not permit a concubine; but it doth license every man to have a wife, so that he have but one—whether then do you think doth bind most strictly, the will of God, or the vow of men? Or if that a priest, breaking his unlawful vow, had rather call her, with whom he had a long time accompanied, 'wife,' than 'concubine;' what! doth this deserve either punishment or prisonment? Neither do I think that thereby the regiment of the church or the order of the clergy, should come to ruin, if that one bishop of Italy setting apart his primacy, which no Scripture doth allow, were reduced unto the order of other bishops. And these are those great offences of blasphemy, for the which one Christian is so exasperated against another, with so great fury and cruelty. Here again is the admonition to be renewed, which hath been so often before repeated, that we neither speak nor think any thing against the politic laws; but only against such, to whom it were convenient, for their profession, to be most meek of all men, and yet by nature they are most fierce and cruel. Their own constitutions declare the same in the fifth book of their Decretals, where it is commanded, that a heretic, convicted in any error (but how convicted? by authority rather than by the Scriptures!), should be delivered unto the secular power: neither is that yet sufficient that they do so imbrue the secular sword with blood, but that also, with their malice, they do sharpen and whet the same, which of itself is already sharp enough. The writers of the Gloss do also add this unto it, "to be burned." And these are they who will represent Christ unto us here upon earth, crying out oftentimes that all Christ's doings are for our instruction. But if that all our life be to be directed unto Christ's institutions; what thing less do his examples teach us, than such kind of cruelty, and especially in ministers, in whom he doth, with so great zeal, commend humility and meekness with mutual love, as the only knot of his gospel: wisely forbidding them, that in pulling up of the cockle, they should not be too rash, fearing lest peradventure that might come to pass, which now indeed hath happened: lest together with the cockle they pull up the good wheat also. Then what is there to be said, where, not only together with the cockle, but, instead of the cockle, the very wheat itself is plucked out of the floor of the Lord? How well that is correspondent unto Christ's doings let they themselves judge.

I surely am greatly afraid that they will deserve, no great thanks at the hands of the Lord of the harvest, when he shall come to reward every man according to his doings. But in this point I do not plead as the advocate of the heretics, if there be any who are heretics indeed. Neither do I go about here to discuss how far the power of the civil sword doth extend, or what is lawful to be done by the civil constitutions. But truly, whatsoever the necessary severity of the civil power doth, yet the priests and rulers of the church ought always to use humility and gentleness, according to the example of Him, who would not compel any man to his religion. What saith he? "He that hath ears to hear let him hear," yet doth he not by and by threaten death unto him that will not hear; neither doth he grievously threaten those who do depart away from him, as St. Cyprian witnesseth; but turning unto his disciples he said, will you also depart from me? He came not to occupy any civil authority, and as he did not possess any civil authority, so neither did he deliver any man over unto the civil power. Albeit it is not to be doubted but that it may happen sometimes, that the christian hierarchy shall need to call for the help of the magistrates (like as against the Donatists the help of the laws were very necessary), especially if the heresy do once grow on to tumult, schism, sedition, robbery, or to the ruin of the commonwealth; in such case I suppose the foreign magistrate ought to foresee that the commonwealth suffer no detriment. Otherwise, if the heresy be such that it do contain itself within some private error, without passing any further, that same doth seem to pertain only unto the bishops and universities, neither do I greatly see what the civil power should meddle herein: for so heresies are more easily trodden down, being convicted rather by reason, than oppressed by violence. But now, these many years, they have raged against heretics with great hatred and extreme torments.

But that they have profited thereby, every man doth perceive. How much more circumspect and worthy of a christian man were it, if that they would walk in the footsteps, and follow the examples, of our forefathers, for our fathers in Christ desired rather to excel in learning, in tongues, in godliness, in the power of the word and Spirit, rather than in any worldly authority. So did Paul, Peter, and the apostles; so did the martyrs of the primitive age; so did the learned doctors and writers after them, whose learning and labour were great in the church, although their authority was but little, after the manner of this world. For such is the nature of the church, that as it is a spiritual regiment, so by spiritual means it is maintained. But now-a-days you shall see many who think there is no other means for defending the church against heretics, than the force and majesty of the bishops only: whereby it is come to pass that the ecclesiastical ministration is far alienated from that, which, in times past, was begun in the world by Christ and his apostles; for now it is grown, as it were, to an image and form of a secular empire, and almost unto a kingly power and riches, and, in a manner, unto most extreme tyranny. But if our desire be so great to dissipate heresies, I see no speedier way or remedy, than that if the fathers of the church would diligently take heed that the church of Christ be not overwhelmed with such a number of articles; so should it soon be brought to pass, that not only the young branches of heresy should be easily cut off, wheresoever they begin to spring, but also, that in short time, there should no more spring or rise up. For, if we should say the truth, whereupon cometh it that the world is so full of dissension, but only that all things are so intricate, with so many articles, so many censures, cautions, and school pleas, neither is there any article which hath not its heresy annexed unto it, as the shadow unto a body; insomuch that the matter is now come unto this point, that nothing can now be spoken so circumspectly, but that it shall tend to some snare of heresy, or, at the least, suspicion. There are so many snares of constitutions and decrees, so many titles of reprehension and caption, specially where hitherto, instead of love and charity, which now is banished, I know not into what strange and far distant place, the fury Erynnys is come in place, the depraver of all things, filling all the world with her reproaches and slanders, even for a small occasion, and oftentimes for none at all. Wherefore, since all things are at this point, nothing in mine opinion is to be preferred to this, that we, being reconciled together with a mutual conjunction of our minds, do take away all occasion (as much as may be) of brotherly offence. Whereupon especially this mischief doth grow: if we do commit any heresy, whatsoever doth resist against men's decrees, it were better that there were fewer articles in the world, and then the heresies would cease of their own accord. For hereupon began the first spring of all mischief, and at this point again, must the method of remedy be sought for. What if that the pope's decrees did extend no further than Italy? What if there were nothing received into our necessary faith, which is contained in very few words, but only the articles of the apostolical symbols, as they were set forth by the most approved councils, what should the church, the spouse of Christ, be hindered thereby? Yet notwithstanding, for these trifles, we do see in every place old men, young men, and also women burnt, neither do they spare kindred, stock, nor age, insomuch that it is almost less danger to offend against the majesty even of the most mighty princes, than to violate the sanctions of any so mean a bishop. Whereof the storm and tempest of persecution hath been so vehement in these our days, that there is almost no part of Europe, which is not imbrued with the blood of the martyrs which hath been shed. And, albeit that their decrees do most consonantly agree unto the Scriptures (let us also grant them that), yet were it the part of divines to teach, and of tyrants to compel. Now what is this by violence to be carried unto the fire, for certain doubtful articles of controversy, some not greatly sound, or peradventure disagreeing unto the Scriptures, not only heretics, but, instead of heretics, the guiltless and innocents. Oh what marvellous folly is this of men, that while these tyrants daily do exercise this tyranny in the cottages of Christ, englutting themselves with men's blood, they do triumphantly rejoice, as though they had done a high service unto God, and wrought a very good deed. Even in like sort, as in foreign wars of princes, it is counted great valiantness, whosoever can kill most of his enemies; so likewise this is the only renown and praise amongst the heads of the church, which of them hath shed most heretics' blood. As we have heard report of John Stocksley, sometime bishop of London, that he did boast himself, even when he was at the point of death, giving thanks unto God with a loud voice, that he had sent thirty-one heretics unto the infernal fire! Verily these were words more fitted for a beast than for a man.

But let these men take heed that while they go about, by their own fantasies rather than by any just judgment, to put heretics to death, that the same thing do not happen unto them which in times past happened unto the Jews, who when they would have entered upon Christ as a seditious man, they stumbled upon the Son of God.

The which for that it may not come to pass, wisdom and learning chiefly in bishops, diminution of articles, judgment, an evangelical mind, gentleness, a zeal joined with knowledge, a care to save rather than to destroy men, a mind which attributeth nothing unto affection, but submitteth itself wholly unto the rule and governance of equity and the Scriptures, shall principally perform.

But heresy is altogether to be suppressed truJy, neither shall heresy find any maintenance at my hands. This only do I require in these catholics, that if they will not use the apostolic moderation, yet they would use some civil modesty, and rather choose to try their matters by some reasonable means, than with such clamours and seditious rashness. I do require some moderation which will lawfully convince those whom it is wished to oppress, I require doctrine which should rather bridle the heresies, than the heretics. Let them rage so much as they will against the name of heretics, truly I think if these days which do seem scarcely christian, had six Jeromes, and as many Augustines, although it had no other help besides, I think the church should want no sufficient aid to put to flight the great heaps of heretics. But forasmuch as in this extreme cruelty of the world, when all charity is waxed so cold, I am not ignorant how small credit these things shall find at many men's hands, like as also other counsels of moderations before mine have been neglected: wherefore it should be the best for me to leave these kind of men to their own will, rather than to sing unto such as are deaf, and so to lose both time and labour.

But now let us return unto the martyrs; but before we do enter into that lamentable story, we do think it worth our labour, to show first certain prophecies of sundry men, whereby so many great persecutions of the world were prefigui-ed. And first to begin with Joiachun the abbot, we will rehearse what was found of him in an old monument of Hoveden: Thus he saith, "Richard, the king of England, in his expedition unto Jerusalem, hearing tell of the great fame of Joiachim of Calabria, abbot of Curacon, who, by the spirit of prophecy, did foreshow things to come. What time as he sojourned at Sicily he caused the said abbot to be sent for to him, to hear of him, amongst other things more, what he could declare as touching Antichrist: he then, expounding the mystery of the seven kings in the Revelation, whereof five were fallen, &c. said "The seven kings are seven persecutors, Herod, Nero, Constantinus, Mahomet, Melsemutus, Saladinus, and Antichrist." But as touching Antichrist, he said thus. That even at that present he should be bred in Rome, and should be exalted in the apostolic see, of whom the apostle speaketh, he is exalted above all things that is called God.'"

Thus much writeth Hoveden; and this abbot was in the year of our Lord 1290. There is also the prophecy of Hildegard (of whom we have spoken before), in the 29th book of Vincentius. " In the year," says she, "after the incarnation of Christ, 1200, the doctrine of the apostles, and the fervent justice which God had appointed amongst the spiritual Christians, began to wax slack and doubtful, but this womanly time shall not so long continue as it hath hitherto continued." Thus much writeth he; neither did Fluentius, the bishop, doubt openly to preach that Antichrist was born in his days, as it appeareth by Sabellicus. Also before these days, A. D. 1239, Gerardus, bishop of Laodicea, in his book entitled "Of the Preservation of the Servants of God," doth conjecture Antichrist to be even at hand, by the rarity of prophesying and the gift of curing. There is also a certain prophecy of Jerome Savonarola, evident (if it be worthy credit) 69 years before, wherein he doth affirm in this manner, "that Italy should be plagued with the scourge of God, for the manifold sins thereof, even amongst the princes, as well ecclesiastical as secular; and when the cities of Rome and Florence are overthrown then should the church be renewed, the which should happen very shortly; and that the Turks, and Mauritanians, in these our days, should be converted unto the true knowledge of Christ." He foreshowed also, that "there should one pass the Alps, like unto Cyrus,[6] who should subvert all Italy." Thus much have we found in the book of Caspar Hedio, entitled the "Paralipomena."

I think also it lacketh not his prophecy which happened A. D. 1501, that throughout all Germany there was seen upon men's garments, crosses, crowns of thorn, the similitude of nails and drops of blood fallen from heaven: and oftentimes these fell within the houses, insomuch that many women wore the same long time upon their garments: if that be true which Gaspar doth report. Hereunto also is to be annexed that which we read in our countryman Froysard, as touching one John of Rochetaylada, a Franciscan friar; not that we have any certainty thereof, but that ve do only show what is there written. He, in the year of our Lord 1346, is said to have foreshowed, that the ecclesiastical order should suffer much through the ambitious avarice and pride; whereupon, he was by pope Clement VI cast into prison. Neither is it to be passed over with silence, that which is reported, that Manfridus, a Dominic friar of Vercellos, is said to have foreshowed that Antichrist should rise up in his time, as it is written by Antoninus.

And Arnoldus de Villa Nova, Catalanus, a singular mathematician and physician, did affirm out of Daniel and Sibil, that Antichrist, after the year of our Lord 1300, should fully rage over the godly, and that there should be persecution in the church. He said moreover, that these cloister monks did falsify the doctrine of Christ. That the sacrifice of the altar was not profitable to the quick nor to the dead, neither that there was any knowledge in the pope's consolations, but only of men's works. At the last he was sent by Frederic, king of Sicily, to the bishop of Rome, where by the way upon the sea he died, and was buried at Genoa. I might also have repeated the testimony of Peter John Aquitane, a Franciscan friar in Vasconia, who, after all the rest, prophesied that in the latter days the law of liberty should appear; who after his burial was by pope Clement IV, declared a heretic, and his dead corpse taken up and burned, if that we may credit Guido of Parpinian. Then we may also repeat those things which so many years before were pronounced of divers, as touching the birth of Luther, and gathered out of Melancthos' commentaries upon Daniel. These things thus presupposed, and those also remembered, whom this miserable storm of persecution hath afflicted, and driven unto recantation and the uttermost terror of death, now our story shall return to them, unto whom God hath given a greater constancy of heart, and steadfastness of faith, to persevere even unto the death; albeit I cannot promise the whole catalogue of them, forsomuch as there were so many christian martps in all parts of the world, whereof a great number were compassed in with craft and deceit, some were poisoned, others were tormented with open torments, many were oppressed with private and unknown murder and death, others died in prison, some by famine, and some, by other means, were openly and privately destroyed; that it is scarcely possible to attain to the knowledge of a small number of them, or if that it happen that I obtain the knowledge of the names of them, yet can I not by any means find out the manner of their execution, and the causes of all them who have suffered in so many and far distant places; neither do I think that one man is able to do it; albeit this one thing is most certain in them all, and may be as perpetual: that whatsoever thing hath happened unto any one of them, by the example thereof, you may easily judge what hath happened unto them all: forsomuch as the cruelty of all the bishops towards them hath been in a manner, all alike, the form of their judgments all one, the reason of their condemnation agreeing, and the order and kind of their death nothing different, neither were their causes greatly diverse, when, as in a manner from the superstition of the sacrament only, and a few other ceremonies, and the ambition of the clergy, the whole principal cause and occasion of this trouble, did spring and grow.🞼

Now particularly and in order let us, by Christ's grace, prosecute the stories and persecutions of the parties aforenamed as the course of their times shall require, first beginning with the valiant champions William Swinderby and Walter Brute.

  1. Ex actis concilii Constan.
  2. See the edition of 1563, p. 105, and the Latin edition of 1559, p. 23.—Ed.
  3. Upon this subject a modern Romish writer observes, "A spirit of candour, would have led you to the discovery of something like toleration, in the conduct of your illustrious founder Wickeham, and his brethren; who, whilst they condemned Wickliff's errors, left his person unpunished and unmolested during the whole of his life; and an impartial view of the dreadful effects of his doctrine, in this and other countries, would have made you see, in the ordinance of the council against his memory and remains, not an act of vengeance, but a wise and salutary instruction to mankind."— See Letters to a Prebendary; p. 74; by the Rt. Rev. J. Milner, D. D. The reader may judge by these remarks, how far the church of Rome that now is, differs from the church of Rome in 1425.—Ed.
  4. See edition 1563, p. 137.—Ed.
  5. The contents of the next few pages are from the edition 1563, pp. 130—136. See also the Latin edition, pp. 53, 58.Ed.
  6. Like Cyrus, in the greatness of his achievements, but like Hannibal rather, in his passage of the Alps.—Ed.