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EVANGELICAL MAGAZINE

AND

MISSIONARY CHRONICLE.

FOR JANUARY, 1858.

WICLIFFE.

HAVING completed our sketches of mother—reverent at church-at night the Fathers, we intend to present our time devoutly folding his hands to pray. readers with a series of the Reformers. | There were many schools in England In point of theological opinion, the when the Edwards were on the throne. latter appear in marked difference from | Not only the large cities and towns, many of the former. Errors which had but the castles and abbeys of the rural slowly grown up came to be detected and districts had these appendages. Some exposed ; but deep vital truths, which ecclesiastic, priest, or monk taught the had been the spring of spiritual life in lads of those days Latin and grammar, earlier times, now prized more than ever, and a little rhetoric and logic, and a and separated from corrupting influence, | little music and arithmetic, and a little produced fruits more healthy and abun- something more-probably even lessdant than they had done before. covered under the high-sounding námes

We begin with Wicliffe. The inci- of geometry and astronomy. The pupils dents of his history and the tenor of were carried round a circle of sevenhis works illustrate his religious cha- fold study, for the sake of its mystic racter. He was " as a tree planted by meaning, but grammar was by far the the rivers of water, which bringeth chief accomplishment acquired by the forth its fruit in its season." From cleverest and most favoured of the then afar we see the golden clusters, from rising generation. The village of Wicwhich we know well that the river of liffe had, no doubt, in or near it, some life must have nourished the roots from school of this sort, where John was which they sprang.

pupil, and as he surely never could have First we shall look at Wicliffe the been a dull or idle lad, we may safely boy. Born in 1324, in a little York | suppose that he learnt his lessons well, shire village, six miles from Richmond, , and that when he went to Oxford at whence he derived his name; he comes seventeen, he knew as much as most before our imagination as a child in his youths of his age. mother's arms, or as playing by her At Oxford we see Wycliffe the man. side-she dressed in the quaint fashion He entered at Queen's, then in its inof the fourteenth century, and he in fancy; perhaps on that account he rechildhood's simple garb—not, perhaps, | moved to Merton, singularly renowned judging from his after character and among the university establishments. habits, frolicking about in childhood's Bradwardine had been one of its ornabrightest glee. We fancy John dements, so had Ockham, so had Duns Wicliffe a thoughtful, grave little fel- Scotus. There were some thousands low-liking to be alone-loving his then flocking the streets and Halls of

VOL. XXXVI.

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pears under a

the good city of Oxford-predecessors with the sins of mankind; saw in it of our modern gownsmen. There had the judgment of God, and dwelt on cerbeen thirty thousand, but the number tain speculations of his times about the had fallen off. Wicliffe applied him- downfall of Roman power, the estabself in earnest to his studies-canon lishment of a purer Church, and the law, civil law, municipal law engaged speedy approach of the world's endhis time and thoughts. He became all of which gave a character to this familiar with the schoolmen. With his first production. But he could rest logical formularies he was at home. in faith on the Redeemer's love. The The real treasury of truth and wisdom, book indicates his devout spirit, and the as well as the idle subtleties contained germinant formation of opinions which in the books of Aquinas and the rest, were destined to unfold in later life. He would be mastered by the young man had evidently begun to see something from Yorkshire. In scholastic dispu- of the ecclesiastical corruptions of his tations he excelled. Indeed, Henry age, and had begun, too, to form that Knighton, who hated his opinions, and acquaintance with Scripture truth which denounced the effects of his teaching, | ultimately made him so true a reformer. was forced to confess that he was most Four years afterwards Wicliffe apeminently learned in theology, was

new character. He second to none in his philosophical is a controversialist. The Mendicant knowledge, quite incomparable in all Orders—the friars black and grey—had school learning, and in his power of acquired a wonderful ascendency in vigorous and acute debate, almost many parts of Christendom. Their superhuman. But in Wicliffe's cell at popularity was felt at Oxford. Their Merton was there not one book above existence and power had arisen out of all others he loved to search into and the condition of the Church, which repray over? Had he a Bible of his quired reform. The founders of the own, or only one, or a part of one, bor- Mendicant Orders had sought to meet rowed from the shelves of the college the want, but they had proved in the library? Be that as it may, he made long run poor reformers. Being ignorant good use of such access as he had to of the root of the evil, never thinking Holy Scripture, pondering often and to dig below the surface, their efforts deeply the words of prophets, of apostles, to cure the priesthood of the pride of and of Christ in the Latin Vulgate wealth, and to make the Church spidress.

ritually efficient, had totally failed. In 1356, Wicliffe comes before us as. The priesthood had become prouder, the author. We find him writing and pub- Church more secular than ever; and the lishing a book called “The Last Age of Mendicants, after all their porerty and the Church.” It of a melancholy zeal, had themselves been made richer cast, as its title indicates. It was and more idle than others of the conwritten at a melancholy time-pestilence ventual brotherhoods. Wicliffe saw was sweeping away multitudes—all this—saw much of the mischief the Europe was ravaged. In England the friars had done, and charged them with plague began at Dorchester, travelled their offence. He refuted their pretenup to London, and in a few months sions from Scripture. They had appealed greatly reduced the population of the to Christ's poverty, to the teaching of city. In a few hours the infected Scripture as a pattern and authority. perished. Fear magnified the calamity; To the Holy Gospels and Epistles, the and in a frenzy of horror, men said clear-sighted controversialist followed nine-tenths of the race had perished. his antagonists, and showed that no Wicliffe probably believed that one-half valid defence of their assumptions could of the population had been hurried into be discovered there. “The Objections to eternity. He connected the visitation Friars," the work of a later period of the

reformer's life, fully makes known to us The scene changes to Bruges. Wicthe grounds of his opposition; and it is liffe is commissioner, to treat with a apparent, that “while other dispu- papal embassy respecting the reservatants sought to reform particulars, tion of ecclesiastical benefices. Rome Wicliffe saw the institute itself as un- had been growing in rapacity. Statutes commanded, and of evil tendency; and of "provisors" and "premunire" had instead of supposing, as some good been passed to curb its covetousness of men had done, that the introduction of wealth and power. Further interference such agents formed the most efficient was necessary. So a meeting was apmeans by which to elevate the charac- pointed between the ministers of the ter of the more authorized priesthood, pope and the messengers of the king. he inculcated strongly, that nothing Wicliffe was among the latter. The short of a removal of the intruders city was then in the height of its comcould restore the Church to its long-lost mercial splendour and civic freedom. order and prosperity."

The English commissioner would see A year later, A.D. 1361, Wicliffe is much of quaint architecture, sumpin academic office. He was appointed tuously furnished dwellings, gay and Warden of Baliol College, and after- glittering attire, processions and pawards of Canterbury Hall. Areversal geants; and something too he would disof his appointment was sought, and cover of a stern, indomitable, resistful the case was submitted to Urban V. will in merchant princes, who could While it was sub judice, the pontiff beard even despotic monarchs. The revived certain claims in the form of former would only impress him with tribute on the English nation, which the world's vanity; the latter, in which Edward III. was determined to resist. he could sympathise, might strengthen Wicliffe in the dispute took part against his own strong individuality and force of the pope, a proof of his disinterested independent purpose. Perhaps, too, the Dess, while his own official position reformer might at Bruges hear somewas at the mercy of the court of Rome. thing of men who along the Rhine, and Nor can his attacks on the papacy, when in German and Flemish cities, were, the cause had been decided against him, under the name of “friends of God," be ascribed to resentment, inasmuch as promoting spiritual religion-underhis battle with the papacy had begun mining formalism and priestcraftbefore. In 1372 he took his degree as and preparing for changes they little Doctor in Divinity, and was chosen a dreamt of. Moreover, at Bruges, we theological lecturer. A work which he know, he learnt so much of the corrupwrote on the Decalogue, about this tion of the Roman court as made him time, illustrates the growth of his reli- more its enemy than ever. gions views; with a few exceptions, We must now visit old St. Paul's. there is nothing in the treatise which There Wicliffe stands forth in his procould offend any Protestant reader. "I per character as Reformer. He was say thee for certain,” he boldly writes, cited to meet charges of heresy. John “ though thou have priests and friars of Gaunt—whom he had known on the to sing for thee, and though thou each Continent-accompanied him to the day hear many masses, and found tribunal, where the scene took place so chauntries and colleges, and go on pil- graphically described by Foxe and grimages all thy life, and give all thy Fuller. The Lord Percy, Lord Margoods to pardoners ; all this shall not shal of England, had much ado to bring thy soul to heaven. While, if the break through the crowd in the commandments of God are revered to church; so that the bustle he kept with the end, though neither penny nor half- the people highly offended the Bishop penny be possessed, there shall be ever- of London, as profaning the place, and lasting pardon, and the bliss of heaven.” disturbing the assembly. Whereon

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1:39-4130 zsident I gurar hari. and the ar 17. v. 1:1 come at ansi menim mro of the words endhis rule aus aong Es secame there i corseter to this karat * the sceerinen Whis first production. But he could rest na kuliares e *is at home i forth on the Redeemer's love. The The res traxity one and wisdom, book inbestes lois de tout spirit, and the 23 ye.. aa tietee mkeies contained germisst formation of opnions which in the briks of Arzi:23 and the rest, were destined to unfold in later life. He word be mastered by the young man had evidently begee to see something fresh Yorkshire. In sctunastic dispa- of the ecclesiastical corruptions of his ta:is he ezeies. Indeed, Henry age, and had begun, too, to form that Knighean, who ha:ed his opinions, and acquaintance with Scripture truth which densined the eficts of his teaching, ultimately made him so true a reformer. was forced to confess that he was most Four years afterwards Wicliffe apeminently learned in theology, was pears under a new character. He second to none in his philosophical is a controversialist. The Mendicant knowledge, quite incomparable in all Orders—the friars black and grey—had school learning, and in his power of acquired a wonderful ascendency in vigorous and acute debate, almost many parts of Christendom. Their superhuman. But in Wicliffe's cell at popularity was felt at Oxford. Their Merton was there not one book above existence and power had arisen out of all others he loved to search into and the condition of the Church, which repray over? Had he a Bible of his quired reform. The founders of the own, or only one, or a part of one, bor- Mendicant Orders had sought to meet rowed from the shelves of the college the want, but they had proved in the library? Be that as it may, he made long run poor reformers. Being ignorant good use of such access as he had to of the root of the evil, never thinking Holy Scripture, pondering often and to dig below the surface, their efforts deeply the words of prophets, of apostles, to cure the priesthood of the pride of and of Christ in the Latin Vulgate wealth, and to make the Church spi dress.

ritually efficient, had totally failed In 1356, Wicliffe comes before us as. The priesthood had become prouder, author. We find him writing and pub- Church more secular than ever; and lishing a book called "The Last Age of Mendicants, after all their poverty the Church." It is of a melancholy zeal, had themselves been made i cast, as its title indicates. It was and more idle than others of the written at a melancholy time--pestilence ventual brotherhoods. Wielito was swooping away multitudes—all this-saw much of the misch Europo was ravaged. In England the friars had done, and plaguo began at Dorchester, travelled their offence. Her up to London, and in a few months sions from Scrat greatly reduced the population of the to Christ's city. In a few hours the infected Scriptura perished. Fear magnified the calamity; To the and in a frenzy of horror, men said clear wowe ponths of the race had perished his Wielite probably believed that one-halfval of the population had been hurried into eternity: Me connected the visitation

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