The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe/Volume 3/The Sentence given by the Council of Constance, in condemnation of the Doctrine, and Five and Forty Articles of John Wickliff
We are taught by the acts and histories of the holy fathers, that the catholic faith, without which, as the holy apostle St. Paul saith, it is impossible to please God, hath been always defended by the faithful and spiritual soldiers of the church, by the shield of faith, against the false worshippers of the same faith, or rather perverse impugners; who, through their proud curiosity, will seem to know more, and to be wiser than they ought to be, and for The spiritual wars of holy church pre-figured by the carnal wars of the Israelites.the desire of the glory of the world, have gone about oftentimes to overthrow the same. These kinds of wars and battles have been prefigured to us before in those carnal wars of the Israelites against the idolatrous people. For in those spiritual wars the holy catholic church, through the virtue and power of faith, being illustrated with the beams of the heavenly light by the providence of God, and being holpen by the help and defence of the saints and holy men, hath always continued immaculate, and, the darkness of errors, as her most cruel enemies, being put to flight, she hath most gloriously triumphed over all. But in these our days, the old and unclean enemy hath raised up new contentions and strifes, that the elect of this world might be known, whose prince and captain in time past was one John Wickliff, a false christian; who, during his lifetime, taught and sowed very obstinately many articles contrary to and against the christian religion, and the catholic faith. Dialogue and Trialogue of Wickliff.And the same John Wickliff wrote certain books which he called a Dialogue, and a Trialogue, besides many other treatises and works, which he both wrote and taught, in which he wrote the aforesaid, and many other damnable and execrable articles; which his books for the publication and advancement of his perverse doctrine, he did set forth openly for every man to read, whereby, besides many offences, great hurt and damage of soul hath ensued in divers regions and countries, but, especially in the kingdoms of England and Bohemia. Against whom the masters and doctors of the universities of Oxford and Prague, rising up in the truth and verity of God, according to the order of the schools, within a while after did reprove and condemn the said articles.His books condemned to be burnedMoreover, the most reverend fathers, the archbishops and bishops, at that time present, of Canterbury, York, and Prague, legates of the apostolic see, in the kingdoms of England and Bohemia, did condemn the books of the said Wickliff to be burnt. And the said archbishop of Prague, commissary of the apostolic see, did, likewise, in this behalf, determine and judge. And, moreover, he did forbid that any of those books, which did remain unburned, should be hereafter any more read. And again, those things being brought to the knowledge and understanding of the apostolic see, and in the general coimcil, the bishop of Rome, in his last council, condemned the said books, treatises, and volumes, commanding them to be openly burned: most straitly forbidding that any men who should bear the name of Christ should be so hardy either to keep, read, or expound any of the said books or treatises, volumes, or works, or by any means to use or occupy them; or else to allege them openly or privily but to their reproof and infamy. And, to the intent that this most dangerous and filthy doctrine should be utterly wiped away out of the church, he gaveWords of authority without due probation. commandment throughout all places, that the ordinaries should diligently inquire and seek out, by the apostolic authority and ecclesiastical censure, for all such books, treatises, volumes, and works; and the same so being found, to burn and consume them with fire; providing withal, that if there be any such found who will not obey, the same process to be made against them, as against the favourers and maintainers of heresies. And this most holy synod hath caused the said forty-five articles to be examined, and oftentimes perused, by many most reverend fathers of the church of Rome, cardinals, bishops, abbots, masters of divinity, and doctors of both laws, besides a great number of other learned men;
Ask my fellow if I be a thief.
So we hear you. which articles being so examined, it was found (as in truth it was no less) that many, yea and a great number of them be notoriously, for heretical, reproved and condemned by the holy fathers; others not to be catholic, but erroneous; some full of offence and blasphemy; certain of them offensive unto godly ears, and many of them to be rashful and seditious. It is found, also, that his books do contain many articles of like effect and quality, and that they do induce and bring into the church unsound and unwholesome doctrine, contrary unto the faith and ordinance of the churchSo thought the soldiers perpetually to keep down Christ from rising. O marvelous sacred synod! Though the sepulchre be watched, Christ will rise.Wherefore, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, this sacred synod, ratifying and approving the sentences and judgments of the archbishops and council of Rome, do, by this their decree and ordinance perpetually, for evermore, condemn and reprove the said articles, and every one of them, his books which he entitled his "Dialogue" and "Trialogue," and all other books of the same author, volumes, treatises, and works, by what name soever they be entitled or called, which we will here to be sufficiently expressed and named. Also, we forbid the reading, learning, exposition, or alleging of any of the said books unto all faithful Christians, but so far forth as shall tend to the reproof of the same; forbidding all and singular catholic persons, under the pain of curse, that from henceforth they be not so hardy openly to preach, teach, or hold, or by any means to allege the said articles, or any of them, except, as is aforesaid, that it do tend unto the reproof of them; commanding all those books, treatises, works, and volumes aforesaid, to be openly burned, as it was decreed in the synod at Rome, as is before expressed: for the execution whereof duly to be observed and done, the said sacred synod doth straitly charge and command the ordinaries of the place diligently to attend and look to the matter, according as it appertaineth to every man's duty by the canonical laws and ordinances.
What these articles were, here condemned by the council, collected out of all his works, and exhibited to that council, to the number of forty-five, the copy of them here following declareth.
- "Unwholesome," because they teach against the pomp of the pope.
- Because this "trialogue" teareth the pope's triple crown. [The ancient crown or "tiara" (mentioned at page 172 of vol. ii.) was a round high cap. Pope John XXIII. first encircled it with a crown; Boniface added to it a second crown, and Benedict XII. added the third. This covering for the head of the pope, which has increased in splendour, as his church has increased in pride, is the badge of his civil right, as the keys are of his spiritual jurisdiction; for as soon as the pope is dead, his arms are represented with the tiara alone, without the keys.—Ed.]
- Upon this injunction against Wicklitff's works, Foxe observes, "Rub a galled horse on the back, and he will wince." By which he means, that the church of Rome, having been once made to smart under the attacks of Wickliff, was anxious that old wounds should not be reopened and therefore condemned and reprobated his writings.—Ed.
- "At Rome," nether barrel, better herring.