The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe/Volume 3/The Testimony and Judgment of Master John Huss, touching Master John Wickliff

The Testimony and Judgment of Master John Huss, touching Master John Wickliff.

Verily, as I do not believe, neither grant, that Master John Wickliff is a heretic, so do I not deny, but firmly hope that he is no heretic; forasmuch as in all matters of doubt, I ought, as near as I can, to choose the best part. Wherefore I surely trust, that Master John Wickliff is one of the number of them who are saved. The words of Christ move me thereunto, saying [Matt, vii.] "Do ye not judge, that ye be not judged," and [Luke vi.] "Do not condemn, and ye shall not be condenmed;" and the words of the apostle [1 Cor. iv.]Motives of John Huss to undertake Wickliff's defence. "Do ye not judge before the Lord himself do come, who shall open those things that are hid in darkness, to manifest the secrets of all hearts."

Secondly, The love and charity which I ought to bear unto my neighbour, loving him as myself, doth move me thereunto. [Luke x.]

Thirdly, His good fame and report moveth me, v.'hich he bath of the good priests of the university of Oxford, and not of the wicked, and commonly of the vulgar sort; although not of the covetous, proud, and luxurious priests and prelates.[1]

Fourthly, His own works and writings do stir me thereunto, by which he goeth about with his whole endeavour to reduce all men unto the law of Christ, and especially the clergy, that they should forsake the pomp and dominion of this world, and, with the apostles, lead the life of Christ.

Fifthly, His own protestations, which he doth often times use in his sentences, often repeating the same, do not a little move me.

Sixthly, His earnest desire and aftection which he hath unto the law of Christ, doth not a little allure me thereunto, disputing of the verity thereof, which cannot fail in any one jot or tittle. Whereupon he made a book of the verity of the holy Scripture, approving, even unto the uttermost, the truth of God's law.[2]

Therefore, it were too foolish a consequence to say that because the multitude of the prelates and clergy in England, France and Bohemia, do count John Wickliff a heretic, that therefore he is a heretic, &c. Like as is the Burning of books no proof of his being heretical. reason for burning the books; for it is written in the first book of Maccabees, the first chapter, that "They did burn the books of the Lord, tearing them in pieces, and whosoever was found to have kept any books of the Testament of the Lord, or which observed and kept the law of the Lord, he was, by the king's commandment, put to death." If then the burning of the books by wicked men, did argue or prove the evil of these books, then was the law of God evil and naught.

So likewise the burning of St. Gregory's books, and those of divers other saints and good men, should argue and prove that they were evil and naughty men. Whereupon as it doth not follow, that because the bishops, scribes, and pharisees, with the elders of the people, condemned Christ Jesus as a heretic, that therefore he is a heretic; so likewise doth it not follow, of any other man, False consequence reproved by Chrysostome. that because the bishops, masters of divinity, monks, and prelates, condemned that man as a heretic, ergo, he is a heretic. For this consequent is reproved by the blessed John Chrysostome, who was twice condemned as a heretic by the bishops and the whole of he clergy. Likewise St. Gregory, in his books, was condemned by the cardinals.

By like proof also, as they affirm Master John Wickliff to be a heretic,Duke of Lancaster a defender of Wickliff. John duke of Lancaster, a man of worthy memory, and progenitor of Henry, king of England, should be a heretic. Because the said duke defended, favoured, and greatly loved Master John Wickliff: ergo, the said duke is or was a heretic; the consequent is good. The minor is well known to Englishmen. The major appeareth in the canon, where it is said, "He who defendeth a heretic," &c. But, these things set apart, I demand of the adversary, whether Master JohnWickliff proved no heretic. Wickliff be damned for ever or no? If he say, that he is damned because he is a heretic, I propound this unto him: whether Master John Wickliff, whilst he lived, held any false doctrine contrary to the holy Scriptures? If he do affirm it, let him then show what doctrine it is, and afterwards declare that he held it obstinately. But he shall find that in his books, he always wrote most commendable protestations against obstinacy and stiff-neckedness. And, by and by, afterwards. Master John Stokes in his "Intimation" saith, that Master John Wickliff, in England, is counted for a heretic.

This seemeth also false by the letter testimonial of the university of Oxford, to which there is more credit to be given than unto him. And this shall suffice for the present.

Now as we have declared the testimony of the university of Oxford, and of John Huss, concerning the praise of John Wickliff, it followeth, likewise, that we set forth and express the contrary censures and judgments of his enemies, blinded with malicious hatred and corrupt affections against him, especially of the pope's council gathered at Constance; proceeding, first, in condemning his books, then his articles, afterwards burning his bones. The copy of the sentence driven against him by that council here followeth.

  1. "Prelatis et sacerdotibus." Lat. edition, p. 24.
  2. Lib. de sensu et Veritate Scripturæ per J. Wicklev