The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe/Volume 3/The Public Testimony given by the University of Oxford, touching the great Learning and good Life of John Wickliff

The Public Testimony given by the University of Oxford, touching the great Learning and good Life of John Wickliff.[1]

Unto all and singular the children of our holy mother the church, to whom this present letter shall come, the vice-chancellor of the university of Oxford, with the whole congregation of the masters, wish perpetual health in the Lord. Forasmuch as it is not commonly seen, that the acts and monuments of valiant men, nor the praise and merits of good men should be passed over and hidden with perpetual silence, but that true report and fame should continually spread abroad the same in strange and far distant places, both for the witness of the same, and the example of others; forasmuch also as the provident discretion of man's nature, being recompensed with cruelty, hath devised and ordained this buckler and defence against such as do blaspheme and slander other men's doings, that whensoever witness, by word of mouth, cannot be present, the pen, by writing, may supply the same:

Hereupon it followeth, that the special good will and care which we bear, unto John Wickliff, sometime child of this our university, and professor of divinity, moving and stirring our minds (as his manners and conditions required no less), with one mind, voice, and testimony, we do witness all his conditions and doings, throughout his whole life to have been most sincere and Great learning joined with good life and godliness. commendable; whose honest manners and conditions, profoundness of learning, and most redolent renown and fame, we desire the more earnestly to be notified and known unto all the faithful, for that we understand the maturity and ripeness of his conversation, his diligent labours and travails, to tend to the praise of God, the help and safeguard of others, and the profit of the church.

Wherefore we signify unto you by these presents, that his conversation, even from his youth upward, unto the time of his death, was so praiseworthy and honest, that never at any time was there any note or spot of suspicion reported of him. But, in his answering, reading, preaching, and determining, he behaved himself laudably, and as a stout and valiant champion of the faith; vanquishing by the force of the Scriptures, all those, who, by their wilful beggary, blasphemed and slandered Christ's religion. Neither was this doctor convicted of any heresy, nor burned of our prelates after his burial.[2] God forbid, that our prelates should have condemned a man of such honesty, as a heretic; who, amongst all the rest of the university, had written in logic, philosophy (divinity, morality, and the speculative arts, without his peer. The knowledge of which all and singular things, we do desire to testify and deliver forth; to the intent that the fame and renown of this said doctor may be the more evident and had in reputation amongst them unto whose hands these present letters of testimonial shall come. In witness whereof, we have caused these our letters testimonial to be sealed with our common seal.

Dated at Oxford in our congregation-house, the fifth day of October, in the year of our Lord, 1406.[3]

  1. The enemies of Wickliff have endeavoured to overthrow the authenticity of this valuable document: for the particulars of this controversy the reader is referred to Lewis's History, p. 183 to 192. Dr. Wordsworth remarks upon this subject (Ecc. Hist. Vol. I. p. 94 in the note): "As to the practical value and importance of this testimonial, we have ample evidence of the popularity at Oxford of Wickliffe's person and his cause, in the concessions and the complaints of his adversaries." Foxe gives the writings of John Huss, as the source from whence he derived this document, and it stands at p. 24, in the Latin edition of his Acts and Monuments.—Ed.
  2. The bones of Wickliff were not yet commanded by the council of Constance to be burned.
  3. Ex. 2. tomo operum Joa. Huss. fol. ult.