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with the envoys of Gregory XI. he gained new light as to the policy and maxims of the church of Rome; and on his return the year following, he began to expose the whole system of the Romish hierarchy; openly declaring that the pope was Anti-Christ and that Man of Sin of whom St Paul and St. John prophesied; and proceeded to combat the various superstitious doctrines of the papal church. For this strenuous opposition to the pope, he was cited, in 1377, before the upper house of convocation, to answer to a charge of heresy; though he was protected from catholic fury by the generous interference of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, who had before procured for him the living of Lutterworth, in Leicestershire. As this prince, however, had patronised Wicliffe from political motives, he subsequently withdrew his patronage on finding that the reformer contended against errors and usurpations purely religious.
Wicliffe laboured zealously and incessantly to disseminate his doctrines, and his success was wonderful. It is affirmed by the monkish historian Knighton, his cotemporary and inveterate enemy, that more than one half of the people of England became his followers. And such was the persecuting enmity which actuated the catholics at this almost miraculous effect of his preaching, that in 1382, through the instrumentality of Courtney, archbishop of Canterbury, letters patent were obtained from the king, addressed to the university of Oxford, requiring them within seven days from the receipt of this order, to banish him and his adherents from the university, and to suppress all books and writings which favoured the new heresy. He survived his expulsion only two years, when he died at his living at Lutterworth, by a stroke of the palsy, in the year 1384.
His inveterate enemies, the catholic clergy, betrayed an indecent joy at his death, and the council of Constance, thirty years after, decreed that his bones should be taken up and thrown on a dunghill--an act of impotent malice, which was not executed till 1428, on occasion of a bull for that purpose from pope Martin V.
The writings of Wicliffe, which are chiefly in MS. were very voluminous. After his death they were condemned by various councils, and burnt wherever they could be found. It is said by Joh. Coccles, (Hist. Hussit.) that Subynco Lepus, archbishop of Prague, in Bohemia, where his doctrines made great progress, pub
licly burnt more than 200 volumes of them, adorned with costly covers and gold bosses. About the same time many of his books were likewise burnt at Oxford. But the works of Wicliffe were so multiplied, that all these attempts of bigotted malice were impotent to annihilate perhaps any one of his numerous compositions. Bishop Bale, who flourished in the 16th century, affirmed that he had seen about 150 treatises of Dr. Wicliffe, some of them in Latin, and others in English, besides many translations of several books. Many of his tracts were first published in Latin, and afterward in English. To give even a catalogue of his works, would far exceed the bounds proper to allot to this article; but the curious reader is referred to the 9th chapter of Lewis's Life of of Wicliffe, from which work this account has chiefly been drawn. The fullest catalogue, however, of his writings, is that of bishop Tanner, in his Bibliotheca Hibernica.
It has been already observed, that the first objects of his religious censures, were the mendicant friars, whose numbers and encroachments had increased at this period to an alarming degree. That the uninformed reader may form a more correct idea of the justice of these censures, I shall extract the following brief account of these orders of friars from Mr. Ellis:
“ In consequence of the many abuses which had gradually perverted the monastic institutions, it became necessary, about the beginning of the thirteenth century, to establish a new class of friars, who, possessing no regular revenues, and relying for a subsistence on the general reverence which they should attract by superior talent, or severer sanctity of manners, should become the effectual and permanent support of the papal authority against those heresies which were beginning to infect the church, as well as against the jealousy of the civil power. The new institution consisted of four mendicant orders: the Franciscans, who were also called friars-minors, or minorities, or grey-friars : the Augustine, or Austin-friars : the Dominicans, or friars-preachers, or blackfriars : and the Carmelites, or white-friars.
For the purpose of quickening their zeal, the popes bestowed on them many new and uncommon privileges; the right of travelling where they pleased, of conversing with persons of all descriptions, of instructing youth, and of hearing confessions, and bestowing absolution without reserve: and as these advantages na
tarally attracted to the privileged orders all the novices who were distinguised by zeal or talent, excited their emulation, and ensured the respect of the people, they quickly eclipsed all their rivals, and realised the most sanguine hopes that had been entertained from their establishment.
“ The mendicant orders of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but particularly the Do, minicans, very nearly reseinbled the "Jesuits of modern times. In these orders were found the most learned men, and the most popular preachers of the age. The almost exclusive charge of the national education enabled them to direct the public taste and opinions; the confessional chair placed the consciences of their penitents at their disposal; and their leading members, having discovered that an association in which individual talents are systematically directed to some general purpose is nearly irresistible, soon insinuated themselves into the most importánt offices of church and state, and guided at their will the religion and politics of Europe. But prosperity, as usual, made them indolent and impudent. They had long been envied and hated, and the progress of general civilization raised up numberless ri