TERMS of reproach have, in all ages, been applied to real christians. Lollard, the name given to the followers of Wickliff, is to be considered as one of them. My chief reason for using it is, that the persons, whose story is the subject of this chapter, may be more distinctly defined.
That same "Courtney, bishop of London, whose examination of Wickliff, together with the extraordinary circumstances, which attended that examination, has been laid before the reader, afterwards became archbishop of Canterbury; and, in that exalted station, employed himself with great vehemence and asperity against the disciples of the man who, by the protection of the duke of Lancaster, had escaped his vengeance. King Richard II. also, was induced to patronise this persecution, though it does not appear that during his reign, any of the lollards were actually put to death. That the blind fury of ambitious and unprincipled men was thus, for a time, restrained from committing the last acts of injustice and barbarity, is to be ascribed, partly to the power of the duke of Lancaster, who may be called the political father of the lollards; and partly to the influence of Anne, the consort of Richard II. and sister of Wenceslaus, king of Bohemia. The accounts of this princess, in regard to religion, are brief; yet they merit our particular attention, because they seem to illustrate the course of divine providence, in paving the way for that conncxion between England and Bohemia, by which the labours of Wickliff became so serviceable in propagating the gospel in the latter country. She lived with king Richard about eleven years; and died in the year 1394, in the seventeenth year of his reign.* It is remarked of her, that she had in her possession the gospels in the English language, with four learned commentators upon them. At her funeral, Arundel, archbishop of York, in his sermon adverted to this circumstance, and expressed much surprise at it, as she was born an alien. The prelate added, that she had sent to him, for his inspection and judgment, her four English translations of the gospel, and that he had found them true and faithful. He confessed, that it appeared to him a marvellous instance of godliness, that so great a lady would humbly condescend to study such excellent books: and he completed his encomium by declaring that he never knew a woman of such extraordinary piety. In the same sermon, he sharply rebuked the negligence of bishops and of others.
This relation may probably induce the reader to conjecture that Arundel himself must have been almost a lollard. At least he cannot but be both surprised and mortified to find, that shortly after the death of the good queen Anne, this same prelate, to the utmost of his power, stirred up the king to harass, throughout the whole kingdom, the very persons who should dare, in their native language to read and study the gospels of Jesus Christ.
Such inconsistencies are not uncommon in the annals of human nature.
About the same time, I find that several persons, who were accused of holding those speculative tenets of Wickliff, which I have allowed to be indefensible, did however, in their examinations, perfectly clear themselves of every reasonable suspicion of factious innovation.f In fact, the whole body of the lollards
* Fox, p. 578. f F°x» P- 499&c.
in general were, in practice, so perfectly void of offence, that speculative errors formed the only charge that could be brought against them; and, even in regard to these errors, there seems reason to apprehend that the followers of Wickliff very much meliorated the sentiments of their master and leader. Only for the gospel's sake they suffered; whatever might be the pretences of their enemies.
In the year 1397 died, John De Trevisa, a gentleman born at Crocadon in Cornwall; a secular priest, and vicar of Berkeley; a man, who translated many voluminous writings, and particularly the bible in the English language. Thomas, lord Berkeley, his patron, induced him to undertake the last mentioned work. This nobleman appears to have had a regard for the written word of God, which was little read or known in that age. He had the apocalypse, in Latin and French, inscribed on the walls of his chapel at Berkeley. Trevisa was, also, distinguished for his aversion to the monastic system. " Christ," said he, " sent apostles and presbyters, not monks and mendicant friars." He died in peace, almost ninety years old. Though neither this clergyman nor his patron are usually ranked among lollards, yet do they seem to be sufficiently distinguished by their piety and veneration for the scriptures to deserve a place in these memoirs. The period of history we are reviewing, is not so fruitful in godliness as to require us to pass over in silence such examples as these.*
Richard II. being deposed, Henry of Lancaster, the son of that same John of Gaunt, who had patronised Wickliff, usurped the throne in the year 1399; and, shortly after, was crowned by Arundel, then archbishop of Canterbury. Both the king and the archbishop had demonstrated by their conduct, that they were ready to sacrifice every thing to their ambition. It is not therefore matter of surprise, either that the murderer of king Richard should proceed to perse cute, with extreme barbarity, the lollards, whom his father had so zealously protected; or, that the archbishop, who had supported the usurper in his iniquitous pretensions to the crown, should also concur with him in his plan to crush those reformers. The power of the hierarchy was formidable to all men; and every one, who thirsted after secular greatness, found himself obliged, by political necessity, which is the primary law of unprincipled men, to court that power, and to obey its most unreasonable commands. Thus influenced, Henry IV. and Arundel commenced a persecution more terrible than any, which had ever been known under the English kings. William Sawtre was the first man who was burnt in England for opposing the abominations of popery. He was a clergyman in London, who openly taught the doctrines of Wickliff. And, though, through the weakness of human nature, he had revoked and abjured those docrines before the bishop of Norwich, he afterwards recovered so much strength of mind, as to incur a second prosecution for his open confession of evangelical truth before the archbishop. Among other charges, which it would be tedious to recount, this was one; " he had declared, that a priest was more bound to preach the word of God, than to recite particular services at certain canonical hours."* Such was the genius of the reigning superstition! The exposition of the word of God was looked on as a small matter, in comparison of the customary formalities. Sawtre, glorying in the cross of Christ, and strengthened by divine grace, suffered the flames of martyrdom in the year of our Lord, fourteen hundred.f
* Fuller's Church History, p. 151.
The name of John Badby, a low and illiterate workman, well deserves to be recorded for the honour of divine truth. Arundel took serious pains to persuade him, that the consecrated bread was really and properly the body of Christ. " After the consecration, it remaineth,"* saidBadby," the same material bread, which it was before; nevertheless it is a sign, or sacrament of the living God. I believe the omnipotent God in trinity to be One. But if every consecrated host be the Lord's body, then there are twenty thousand gods in England." After he had been delivered to the secular power by the bishops, he was, by the king's writ, condemned to be burned. The prince of Wales, happening to be present, very earnestly exhorted him to recant, adding the most terrible menaces, of the vengeance, which would overtake him, if he should continue in his obstinacy. Badby, however, was inflexible. As soon as he felt the fire, he cried, Mercy! The prince, supposing that he was intreating1 the mercy of his judges, ordered the fire to be quenched. " Will you forsake heresy," said young Henry; " and will you conform to the faith of the holy church? If you will, you shall have a yearly stipend out of the king's treasury." The martyr was unmoved; and Henry, in a rage, declared, that he might now look for no favour. Badby gloriously finished his course in the flames.
* Fox, page 587- t Wilkins, Convoc. page 254—260.
It was a marvellous instance of the strength of Christ made perfect in weakness, and a striking proof that God hath chosen the good things of the world to confound the wise, that a simple artificer should sustain the most cruel torments with patience and serenity, not only in defence of divine truth, but also of common sense; while the most dignified characters in the kingdom, and among these, the prince of Wales, afterwards the renowned Henry V. gloried in defending one of the most egregious absurdities that ever disgraced the human understanding. What are all His victories and triumphs, of which English history is so proud, compared with the grace which appeared in Badby? The man suffered in the year 1409.
The conflict was now grown serious, and it behooved Henry to exercise the most rigorous measures of prevention, if he intended to repress all in
• Fox, page 594, and Wilkins,page32fi.
Vol. IV. 19
novation, and to protect the established ecclesiastical system. Accordingly, he published a severe statute, by which grievous pains and penalties were to be inflicted on all, who should dare to defend or encourage the tenets of Wickliff; and this, in conjunction with a constitution of Arundel, too tedious* to be recited, seemed to threaten the total extinction of the heresy so called. The persecutors were extremely active, and many persons through fear recanted; .but worthies were still found, who continued faithful unto death.
In the year 1413 died Henry IV. His successor Henry V. trode in his steps, and countenanced Arundel, in his plans of extirpating the lollards, and of supporting the existing hierarchy by penal coercions. In the first year of the new king's reign, this archbishop collected in St. Paul's Church at London, a uersal synod of all the bishops and clergy of England. The principal object of the assembly was to repress the growing sect; and, as sir John Oldcastle, lord Cobham, had on all occasions, discovered a partiality for these reformers, the resentment of the archbishop and of the whole body of the clergy, were particularly levelled at this nobleman. Certainly at that time, no man in England was more obnoxious to the ecclesiastics. For he made no secret of his opinions. He had very much distinguished himself in opposing the abuses of popery. At a great expense, he had collected, transcribed, and dispersed the works of Wickliff among the common people without reserve; and it was well known that he maintained a great number of itinerant preachers in many parts of the country, particularly in the dioceses of Canterbury, Rochester, London, and Hereford.f
But lord Cobham was a favourite both of the king and of the people; and therefore to effect his destruction was an undertaking that required much caution. The archbishop however was in earnest, and he concerted his measures with prudence.
* Wilkins, p. 314. Constit. Arundel ex M. S. Lamb. f Fox, p. 635. Walden contra Wiclev. Goodwin's Henry V * Fox, page 636. Collier, page 632. Wilkins Concilia, page 352.
His first step was to procure the royal mandate for sending commissioners to Oxford, whose business it should be to examine and report the progress of heresy. These commissioners are, by Mr. Fox, not improperly called, " the twelve inquisitors of heresies." The issue of their inquiries proved highly ungrateful to the hierarchy. They found Oxford overrun with heretics: they were, indeed, respectfully received by the rulers of the uersity, but the opinions of Wickliff had made their way among the junior students; and the talents and integrity of their master were held in high esteem and admiration by his disciples. This information, with many other minute particulars, Arundel laid before the grand convocation, who, after long debates, determined that, without delay, the lord Cobham should be prosecuted as a heretic. Him they considered as the great offender: to his influence they ascribed the growth of heresy: he was not only, they said, an avowed heretic himself; but, by stipends encouraged scholars from Oxford, to propagate his opinions, many of which were in direct opposition to the sentiments of the holy church of Rome; and lastly, he employed the disciples of Wickliff in preaching, though they had not obtained the licences of their respective bishops for that purpose. With great solemnity, a copy of each of Wickliff 's works was publicly burnt, by the enraged archbishop, in the presence of the nobility, clergy, and people; and it happened that one of the books burnt on this occasion, had belonged to lord Cobham. This circumstance tended much to confirm the assembly in their belief, that that nobleman was a great encourager of the lollards.*
A.t the moment when the convocation seemed almost in a flame, and were vowing vengeance against lord Cobham, some of the more cool and discreet members are said to have suggested the propriety of sounding how the young king would relish the measures they had in view, before they should proceed any further. Arundel instantly saw the wisdom of this advice, and he resolved to follow it.
For the purpose of giving weight to his proceedings, this artful primate, at the head of a great number of dignified ecclesiastics, complained most grievously to Henry, of the heretical practices of his favorite servant lord Cobham, and intreated his majesty to consent to the prosecution of so incorrigible an offender.
The affections of the king appear to have been, in some measure, already alienated from this unfortunate nobleman: Mr. Fox observes,* that he gently listened to those " blood thirsty prelates, and far otherwise than became his princely dignity." But there is a circumstance, which seems to have escaped the notice of this diligent searcher into ancient records. Through the management of the archbishop, the king's mind was previously impressed with strong suspicions of lord Cobham's heresy and enmity to the church. That very book above mentioned, which was said to belong to this excellent man, and which the convocation condemned to the flames, was read aloud before the king, the bishops and the temporal peers of the realm: and the fragment of the account of these proceedings informs us, that Henry was exceedingly shocked at the recital; and declared that, in his life, he never heard such horrid heresy.f However, in consideration of the high birth, military rank, and good services of sir John Oldcastle, the king enjoined the convocation to deal favourably with him, and to desist from all further process for some days: he wished to restore him to the unity of the church without rigour or disgrace; and he promised, that he himself in the mean time, would send privately for the honourable knight, and endeavour to persuade him to renounce his errors.
* Fox, ibid.
f Fragmentum Convoc. Centuar. Arundel.
The king kept his promise, and is said to have used every argument he could think of, to convince him of the high offence of separating from the church; and at last, to have pathetically exhorted him to retract and submit, as an obedient child to his holy mother. The answer of the knight is very expressive of the frank and open intrepidity which distinguished his character. " You I am always most ready to obey," said he, " because you are the appointed minister of God, and bear the sword for the punishment of evil doers. But, as to the pope and his spiritual dominion, I owe them no obedience, nor will I pay them any; for as sure as God's word is true, to me it is fully evident, that the pope of Rome is the great antichrist, foretold in holy writ, the son of perdition, the open adversary of God, and the abomination standing in the holy place." The extreme ignorance of Henry in matters of religion, by no means disposed him to relish such an answer as this: he immediately turned away from him in visible displeasure, and gave up the disciple of Wickliff to the malice of his enemies.*
Arundel, supported by the sovereign power, sent a citation to the castle of Cowling, where lord Cobham then resided. But feudal ideas were at that time no less fashionable than those of ecclesiastical domination. The high spirited nobleman availed himself of his privileges, and refused admission to the messenger. The archbishop then cited him,f by letters affixed to the great gates of the cathedral of Rochester; but lord Cobham still disregarded the mandate. Arundel, in a rage, excommunicated him for contumacy, and demanded the aid of the civil power to apprehend him.
Cobham, alarmed at length at the approaching storm, put in writing a confession of his faith, delivered it to the king, and intreated his majesty to judge for himself, whether he had merited all this rough treatment. The king coldly ordered the written confession to be delivered to the archbishop. Lord Cobham then offered to bring a hundred knights, who would bear testimony to the innocence of his life and opinions. When these expedients had failed, he assumed a higher strain, and begged that he might be permitted, as was usual in less matters, to vindicate his innocence by the law of arms. He said he was ready, " in the quarrel of his faith," to fight for life or death, with any man living, the king and the lords of his council being excepted.
* Fox, ibid. Goodwin, Henry V. f Citatio Arund. Wilkins, page 329.
Nothing can be said by way of extenuating so gross an absurdity, except that he had been educated in the military habits of the fourteenth century. And such was the wretched state of society in the reign of Henry V., whose history we are accustomed to read with so much pride and admiration, that no .method of defence remained for this christian hero, but what was as contrary to all ideas of justice and equity, as that by which he was persecuted. In the issue, Cobham was arrested by the king's express order, and lodged in the tower of London. The very zealous and honest Mr. Fox,* gives the following account of his first examination.
On the day appointed, Thomas Arundel, the archbishop, " sitting in Caiaphas' room, in the chapterhouse at St. Pauls" with the bishops of London and Winchester, sir Robert Morley brought personally before him lord Cobham, and left him there for the time. Sir, said the primate, you stand here, both detected of heresies, and also excommunicated for contumacy. Notwithstanding we have, as yet, neither shown ourselves unwilling to give you absolution, nor yet do to this hour, provided you would meekly ask for it.
Lord Cobham took no notice of this offer, but desired permission to read an account of his faith, which had long been settled, and which he intended
• Page 638 and 639.
to stand to. He then took out of his bosom a certain writing respecting the articles whereof he was accused, and when he had read it, he delivered the same to the archbishop.
The contents of the paper were, in substance, these:
1. That the most worshipful sacrament of the altar is Christ's body in the form of bread.
2. That every man, who would be saved, must forsake sin, and do penance for sins already committed, with true and very sincere contrition.
3. That images might be allowable to represent and give men lively ideas of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of the martyrdom and good lives of saints; but, that if any man gave that worship to dead images which was due only to God, or put such hope or trust in the help of them as he should do in God, he became a grievous idolater.
4. That the matter of pilgrimages might be settled in few words. A man may spend all his days in pilgrimages, and lose his soul at last: but he, that knows the holy commandments of God and keepeth them to the end, shall be saved, though he never visited the shrines of saints, as men now do in their pilgrimages to Canterbury, Rome, and other places.
Then the archbishop informed the prisoner, that, though there were many good things contained in his paper, he had not been sufficiently explicit respecting several other articles of belief; and that upon these also his opinion would be expected. As a direction to his faith, he promised to send him, in writing, the clear determinations of the church; and he warned him very particularly, to attend to this point; namely whether, in the sacrament of the altar, the material bread did, or did not, remain, after the words of consecration.
The gross superstition and unscriptural notions of the church at that time, are strikingly exhibited in this authentic determination of the primate and clergy. which, according to promise, was sent to the lord Cobham in the tower.
1. The faith and determination of the holy church, touching the blissful sacrament of the altar is this, that after the sacramental words be once spoken, by a priest in his mass, " the material bread, that was before bread, is turned into Christ's very body; and the material wine, that was before wine, is turned into Christ's very blood." And so there remaineth, thenceforth, neither material bread, nor material wine, which were there before the sacramental words were spoken.
2. Every christian man living here bodily on earth, ought to confess to a priest ordained by the church if he can come to him.
3. Christ ordained St. Peter to be his vicar here on earth, whose see is the holy church of Rome: And he granted that the same power, which he gave to Peter, should succeed to all Peter's successors; whom
we now call popes of Rome and whom christian
men ought to obey, after the laws of the church of Rome.
4. Lastly, holy church had determined, that it is meritorious to a christian man to go on a pilgrimage to holy places; and there to worship holy reliques, and images of saints, apostles, martyrs, and confessors, approved by the church of Rome.
On Monday, the day appointed for the next examination, Arundel accosted lord Cobham with an appearance of great mildness, and put him in mind that, on the preceding Saturday, he had informed him, he was, " accursed for contumacy and disobedience to the holy church;" and had expected he would at that time have meekly requested absolution. The archbishop then declared, that even now it was not too late to make the same request, provided it was made m due form, as the church had ordained.*
Amidst this very interesting narrative, let not my reader for a moment forget, that his historian is always in quest of evidences of the true faith of the gospel, exemplified in practice. The trial of lord Cobham, though in many points of view, a gloomy tale, affords a remarkable and a very satisfactory evidence of this sort. This exemplary knight appears to have possessed the humility of a christian, as well as the spirit of a soldier: for, he not only faithfully protested against the idolatry of the times, the fictitious absolutions, and various corruptions of popery, by which the creatures of the pope extorted the greatest part of the wealth of the kingdom; but, he also openly made such penitential declarations, and affecting acknowledgments of having personally broken God's commandments, as imply much salutary selfknowledge and selfabasement, strong convictions of sin, and bitter sorrow for the same, together with a firm reliance on the mercy of God through the mediation of Jesus Christ. J2JT never yet trespassed against you, said this intrepid servant of God; and therefore I do not feel the want of Tour absolution." He then kneeled down on the pavement; and lifting up his hands to heaven, he said, " I confess myself here unto thee, my eternal living God, that I have been a grievous sinner. How often in my frail youth have I offended thee by ungoverned passions, pride, concupiscence, intemperance! How often have I been drawn into horrible sin by anger, and how many of my fellow creatures have I injured from this cause? Good Lord, I humbly ask thee mercy: here I need absolution."
• Fox, ibid. Wilkins, p. 356.
With tears in his eyes, he then stood up, and with aloud voice cried out, " Lo! these are your guides, good people. Take notice; for the violation of God's holy law and his great commandments they never cursed me: but, for their own arbitrary appointments and traditions, they most cruelly treat me and other men. Let them, however, remember, that Christ's denunciations against the pharisees, shall all be fulfilled."
The dignity of his manner, and the vehemence of his expression, threw the court into some confusion.
Vol. IV. 20
After the primate iiad recovered himself, he proceeded to examine the prisoner respecting the doctrine of transubstantiation.* " Do you believe, that after the words of consecration, there remains any Material bread?" " The scriptures, said Cobham, make no mention of Material bread; I believe, that Christ's body remains in the Form of bread. In the sacrament there is both Christ's body and the bread: the bread is the thing that we see with our eyes; but the body of Christ is hid, and only to be seen by faith." Upon which, with one voice, they cried Heresy! Heresy! One of the bishops in particular said vehemently, " That it was a foul heresy to call it bread." Cobham answered smartly, " St. Paul, the apostle, was as wise a man as you, and perhaps as good a christian; and yet he calls it Bread. The bread, saith he, that we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? To be short with you; I believe the scriptures most cordially, but I have no belief in your lordly laws and idle determinations: ye are no part of Christ's holy church, as your deeds do plainly show." Doctor Walden, the prior of the Carmelites, and VVickliff's great enemy, now lost all patience; and exclaimed, " What rash and desperate people are these followers of Wickliff!"
Before God and man, replied Cobham, I solemnly here profess, that till I knew Wickliff, whose judgment ye so highly disdain, I never abstained from sin; but after I became acquainted with that virtuous man and his despised doctrines, it hath been otherwise with me; so much grace could I never find in all your pompous instructions."
'•" It were hard," said Walden, " that in an age of so many learned instructors, you should have had no grace to amend your life, till you heard the devil preach."
" Your fathers," said Cobham, " the old pharisees, ascribed Christ's miracles to Beelzebub, and his doctrines to the devil. Go on, and like them ascribe every good thing to the devil. Go on, and pronounce every man a heretic, who rebukes your vicious lives. Pray, what warrant have you from scripture for this very act you are now about? Where is it written in all God's law that you may thus sit in judgment upon the life of man? Hold! perhaps you will quote Annas and Caiaphas, who sat upon Christ and his apostles!"
* The learned reader cannot fail to observe, that both Wickliff and his followers, seem sometimes to lean to the notion of eonsubstantiation.
" Yes, sir," said one of the doctors of law, " and Christ too, for he judged Judas."
" I never heard that he did," said lord Cobham. " Judas judged himself, and thereupon went out and hanged himself. Indeed Christ pronounced a wo against him, for his covetousness, as he does still against you, who follow Judas' steps."
The examinations of lord Cobham are unmeasurably prolix. 1 have, therefore, chosen to select such passages from the tedious accounts,* as might best indicate the real dispositions of this Defender Of The Faith. Though intrepid and high spirited to the last, he appears not to have given his enemies any advantage over him, by using rude and coarse language, or by bursts of passion. The proud and ferocious spirit of an ill educated soldier seems to have been melted down into the meekness and humility of the christian. His reproof of his judges was severe, but perfectly just. His deep and animated confession of his sins is both affecting and instructive; and his bold testimony, in those trying moments, to the virtues and excellencies of a character so obnoxious to his ecclesiastical judges as that of Wickliff, is exceedingly honourable to the memory both of the master and the scholar. I need not add, the same testimony covers their cruel and relentless adversaries with shame and disgrace.
We have seen, that lord Cobham, in the process of his trial, hinted at the lessons of divine grace, which he had learnt in the school of Wickliff. The intimation is by no means obscure; yet every pious reader, at the same time that he is delighted with finding this evidence of the sound christianity of Cobham, will lament with me, that there is not, on record, a larger and more distinct account both of his conversion and of his private life and conversation. Such an account would give us a clearer insight into the religious character of this disciple of Wickliff, and might probably throw more light also on the practical tenets of that early reformer.
* I generally give the very words; though sometimes, for the sake of brevity, only the substance: and sometimes I put a modern phrase in the place of one now antiquated.
But we must be thankful for the documents we have. That distinct and impressive declaration of lord Cobham, concerning the change in his life from sin to the service of the living God, when we reflect on the awful and peculiar circumstances in which it was made, is in itself an inestimable fragment of ecclesiastical biography. This is that testimony of experience, which invincibly confirms every real christian in the belief of the truth of the doctrine, which he has been taught. He may be baffled in argument by men more acute and sagacious than himself; he may be erroneous in many less matters; he may want both learning and eloquence to defend that which he believes; but the doctrines of grace he knows to be of God, by the change which they have wrought in his soul. In this proof he knows all other views of religion, whether nominally christian or not, do totally fail.
At the conclusion of this long and iniquitous trial, the behaviour of lord Cobham was perfectly consistent with the temper he had exhibited during the course of it. There remained the same undaunted courage and resolution, and the same christian serenity and resignation. Some of the last questions which were put to him, respected the worship of the Cross; and his answers prove that neither the acuteness of his genius was blunted, nor the solidity of his judgment impaired.
One of the friars asked him, whether he was ready to worship the cross upon which Christ died.
Where is it, said lord Cobham?
But suppose it was here at this moment? said the friar?
A wise man indeed, said Cobham, to put me such a question; and"1 yet he himself does not know where the thing is! But, tell me, I pray, what sort of worship do I owe to it?
One of the conclave answered; such worship as St Paul speaks of, when he says, " God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Right, replied Cobham, and stretched out his arms, That is the true and the very cross; far better than your cross of wood.
Sir, said the bishop of London, you know very well that Christ died upon a Material cross.
True, said Cobham; and I know also that our salvation did not come by that material cross; but by him who died thereupon. Further, I know well that St. Paul rejoiced in no other cross, but in Christ's passion and death Only, and in his own sufferings and persecutions, for the same truth which Christ had died for before.*
Mr. Fox's account of these transactions, collected from ancient manuscripts, does not, in general, differ materially from the archbishop's own registers of the proceedings of the convocation. But there are some circumstances noted by Mr. Fox, which we may well suppose to have been designedly omitted in the registers last mentioned. For example, Mr. Fox informs us that the court were so amazed at the spirit and resolution of the lord Cobham, as well as at the quickness and pertinence of his answers, that they were reduced to a stand, " their wits and sophistry so failed them that day."
From Arundel's own reports it is sufficiently clear, that it was the custom of that artful primate to make, on these occasions, a great external show of lenity and kindness to the prisoners, at the very moment in which
* Fox, p. 642. Convoc. pradat. Wilkins, p. 356.
said, " Though ye condemn my body which is but a wretched thing, yet I am well assured ye can do* no harm to my soul, any more than could Satan to the soul of Job. He, that created it, will of his infinite mercy save it. Of this I have no manner of doubt. And in regard to the articles of my belief, I will stand to them, even to my very death, By The Grace Of The Eternal God." He then turned to the people, and stretching out his hands, cried with a very loud voice, " Good christian people! for God's love, be well aware of these men; else, they will beguile you, and lead you blindfold into hell with themselves." Having said these words, he fell down upon his knees, and lifting up his hands and eyes to heaven, he prayed for his enemies in the following words, " Lord God Eternal! I beseech thee of thy great mercy to forgive my persecutors, if it be thy blessed will!"
He was then sent back to the tower under the care of sir Robert Morley.
I was not surprised to find that, in Arundel's own report of this sad transaction, lord Cobham's prayer for his enemies is entirely omitted.* But the preceding address of this nobleman to the people, and his caution to them to beware of their blind guides, is, by the primate, placed immediately Before the passing of the definitive sentence of condemnation. Mr. Fox, in his account, places that address immediately After the sentence, and seems to have thought Arundel's representation of this circumstance incorrect, for he pointedly tells us that, respecting this very matter, his own two copies of these proceedings agreed with each other, f
Though the ecclesiastical judges of lord Cobham, by condemning him as a heretic, and delivering him to the secular power for the execution of their sentence, appear to have done their utmost to complete the destruction of the man whom they feared and hated, there is yet reason to believe that both the king and the archbishop remained in some perplexity respecting this business. In religious concerns, this able monarch seems to have entirely resigned his understanding to the direction of the clergy; and therefore we need not wonder that he was highly provoked with lord Cobham for his opposition to the church, and still more for his incurable obstinacy, in adhering to heretical sentiments, after that his sovereign had personally condescended to persuade him to recant. Yet, after all, it is not improbable that such a prince as Henry V. should still retain some esteem for the character of the prisoner in the tower, who on many occasions had formerly distinguished himself by his valour and military talents. Though the memory of Henry is by no means free from the imputation of cruelty, it must at least be admitted, that the present situation of Cobham was likely to soften animosity, and to revive in the king's mind any latent affection for his favourite. Even Walsingham, a bigoted papist, and bitter enemy of the lollards, though in many respects a very useful historian, says, that Cobham, " for his integrity, was dearly beloved by the king."*
* Acta Convoc. prov. Cantuar. Arundel, 18. f Fox, P- 643.*
This same ancient historian informs us, that the archbishop in person went to the king and requested his majesty to postpone, for the space of fifty days, the punishment of lord Cobham.f If this be true, the motives of Arundel can be no great mystery. The persecution of this virtuous knight was a most unpopular step. His rank and character, and his zeal for the doctrines of Wickliff, had pointed him out to the primate as a proper victim of ecclesiastical severity; but his condemnation involved, in a general odium, the rulers of the church who had been his judges. It was necessary therefore to temporize a little; and before the whole sect of the lollards were to be terrified by the public execution of a person so highly esteemed as lord Cobham, it was thought expedient to employ a few weeks in lessening his credit among the people by a variety of scandalous aspersions. Mr. Fox assures us, that his adversaries scrupled not to publish a recantation in his name; and that lord Cobham directed a paper to be posted up in his own defence, and in contradiction to the slander.
* Regi propter probitatem charus' et acceptus. Walsingham, Henry V. f Page 385.
But, whether the lenity of the king, or the politic caution of the clergy, was the true cause of the delay, it is certain, that lord Cobham was not put to death immediately after being condemned for a heretic. He remained some weeks in the tower, and at length by unknown means made his escape: so that it is now impossible to say, whether the clergy would ultimately have pressed the sovereign to proceed to extremities in this instance, or, whether Henry could have been induced to commit to the flames, for heresy, a favourite of such exalted rank and high reputation. For as yet, there had not been any instance of a nobleman suffering in that ignominious manner.
After lord Cobham had escaped out of the tower, he is said to have taken the advantage of a dark night, evaded pursuit, and arrived, safe in Wales, where he concealed himself more than four years.* If he had remained in prison, he would have effectually prevented the calumny, with which the papists have endeavoured to load his memory; nevertheless, when we reflect on the intrepid spirit of the man, his unshaken resolution, and the cruel, unjust treatment he met with, we cannot wonder at his eagerness to fly from those flames, which his persecutors ardently longed to kindle. It seems as easy to comprehend lord Cobham's motives for wishing to escape, as it is difficult to censure them.
The clergy were not a little mortified to find, that this grand heretic and destined victim, had slipped out of their hands; and their uneasiness was increased, by observing that the king discovered no anxiety to have
* Bale. Gilpin.
Vol. IV. 21
lord Cobham retaken. Soon after this event, however, a very remarkable transaction afforded them every advantage they could wish to gratify their resentment against the Noble Chief of the lollards. These peaceable and truly christian subjects had been accustomed to assemble in companies for the purposes of devotion; but the bishops represented their meetings as of a seditious tendency, and they found no great difficulty in obtaining a royal proclamation* for suppressing the conventicles of persons who were supposed to be ill inclined to the government. Historians have observed that " jealousy was the ruling foible of the house of Lancaster;" and though Henry V. was, naturally, of a noble and magnanimous temper, he could never forget that he was an usurper. His suspicions of the evil designs of the lollards increased to a high degree: he thought it necessary to watch them as his greatest enemies; and he appears to have listened to every calumny, which the zeal and hatred of the hierarchy could invent or propagate against the unfortunate followers of Wickliff.
The royal proclamation, however, did not put an end to the assemblies of-the lollards. Like the primitive christians, they met in Smaller companies, and more privately, and often in the dead of night. St. Giles's fields, then a thicket, was a place of frequent resort on these occasions. And here a number of them assembled in the evening of January the 6th, 1414; with an intention, as was usual, of continuing together to a very late hour.
The king was then at Eltham, a few miles from London. He received intelligence, that lord Cobham, at the head of twenty thousand of his party, was stationed in St. Giles's fields, for the purpose of seizing the person of the king, putting their persecutors to the sword, and making himself the regent of the realm.
The mind of Henry, we have seen, had been prepared, by the diligent and artful representations of the clergy, to receive any impressions agaiitst the lollards,
* Rymer, vol. ix.
lord Cobham, I was astonished at the positiveness of our elegant historian Mr. Hume, in this matter. The martyrologist, with great diligence and judgment, has examined all the authentic documents, and argued most powerfully against the supposition of any conspiracy. Mr. Hume, on the contrary, gives implicit credit to the most improbable accounts;* and he could not but know that the lollards had not then a friend on earth.
Though the entire combination of church and state, in the reign of Henry V. against this religious sect, prevents us from being furnished with positive and direct proof of their innocence, the reader, after what has been stated, will be disposed, no doubt, to acquit them of all treasonable views in the affair of St. Giles's fields. And this persuasion will be strengthened by considering that this is the only instance on record, in which they have been accused of turbulent or seditious behaviour. The lollards are described, in general, as having been always peaceable and submissive to authority.
Rapin observes,t that the persons assembled on that occasion, " had unhappily brought arms with them for their defence, in case they should be attacked by their persecutors." If we regulate our judgments according to modern notions and habits, this circumstance must appear very suspicious; not so, if we recollect that the practice of providing arms for the purpose of selfdefence, was by no means ah unusual precaution in those violent times.
Neither ought much stress to be laid on the confession of several, who were made prisoners by the king. Among those that were taken, says the historian lastmentioned, there were some, who, " gained by promises, or awed by threats, confessed whatever their enemies desired." Besides, it is extremely probable, that popish emissaries mixed themselves among the lollards, for the express purpose of being brought to
* Such are the accounts of Hall, &c. t History of England, Henry V.
confession; and it has been well observed, that most likely, the very persons, who pretended to find arms on the field, could have best pointed out the original concealers of them.
Nothing can be more judicious than Rap in's observations on this whole transaction. " It is hardly to be conceived," says this historian, " that a prince so wise as Henry, could suffer himself to be imposed on by so gross a fiction. Had he found, indeed, as he was made to believe, twenty thousand men in arms in St. Giles's fields, it would have been very suspicious; but, that fourscore or a hundred men, among whom there was not a single person of rank, should have formed such a project, is extremely improbable. Besides he himself knew sir John Oldcastle to be a man of sense; and yet nothing could be more wild than the project fathered upon him; a project, which it was supposed he was to execute with a handful of men, without being present himself, and without its being known where he was, or that there was any other leader in his room. Notwithstanding the strictest search made through the kingdom to discover the accomplices of this pretended conspiracy, not a Sincle person could be found besides those taken at St. Giles's. Lastly, the principles of the lollards were very far from allowing such barbarities. It is therefore more than probable, that the accusation was forged, to render the lollards odious to the king, with a view to gain his licence for their persecution."
The conduct of those in power in the church at that time was so completely flagitious and unprincipled, that it is impossible to review their usual mode of proceeding against those, whom they termed heretics, without entertaining suspicions similar to those, which have occurred to Rapin; suspicions of forged accusations and of pretended or extorted confessions. This consideration adds much weight to the solid reasonings of this very candid and upright historian.
It has been supposed that, in process of time, the king disbelieved the report of any actual conspiracy, in this transaction: and it must be confessed, that when we reflect on the great understanding and military skill of this prince, it seems extraordinary, that he should not at the first have reflected, that the very marshalling of such a number of soldiers, and the furnishing of them with necessaries, could never have been managed with secrecy. He appears, however, to have given sufficient credit to the calumny to answer all the designs of the ecclesiastical rulers. He became thoroughly incensed against the lollards, and particularly against the lord Cobham. A bill of attainder against that unfortunate nobleman, passed the commons, through the royal influence:* the king set a price of a thousand marks upon his head, and promised a perpetual exemption from taxes to any town, that should secure him.f
It was to be expected that these strong measures, aided by the active zeal and unrelenting hatred of his enemies, should be effective to the discovery of lord Cobham; and, it is matter of some surprize, how he was able, for several years, to elude the vigilance of the many, who narrowly watched him. Wales was his asylum; and he is supposed to have frequently changed the scene of his retreat. Through the diligence of lord Powis, and his dependents, he was at length discovered and taken. It was on the tenth of October, 1413, that lord Cobham was, by Arundel, condemned as a heretic and sent to the tower: the affair of St. Giles's happened on the evening of the sixth of January, 1414; and it was not till nearly the end of the year, 1417, that this persecuted christian was apprehended and brought to London.
His fate was soon determined. He was dragged into St. Giles's fields with all the insult and barbarity of enraged superstition; and there, both as a traitor and a heretic, he was suspended alive in chains, upon a gallows, and burnt to death.
This excellent man, by a slight degree of dissimu
• Gilpin. + Rapin. Rymer.
lation, might have softened his adversaries, and have escaped a troublesome persecution and a cruel death. But, sincerity is essential to a true servant of Jesus Christ; and lord Cobham died, as he had lived, in the faith and hope of the gospel; and bearing, to the end, a noble testimony to its genuine doctrines; and '' choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season."*
One of lord Cobham's very great admirers has said, that the novelty of Wick lift's opinions first engaged his curiosity; that he examined them as a philosopher, and in the course of his examination became a christian. ' I know not upon what ground this is affirmed; but, it might be so; nevertheless 1 feel assured that if we had lord Cobham's own account of his conversion, this representation of the matter would appear, at least, very defective. Moreover, from the little which he did say, on his trial, respecting Wickliff's doctrines, and from the very feeling manner in which he appears to have delivered that little,11 think it extremely probable, that the preaching and expounding of the true gospel of Christ, by WicklhT and his disciples, had been the means of affecting the Conscience of this worthy personage, and of convincing him of sin. This has been found the usual way in which the spirit of God operates salutary changes on the minds of fallen creatures. The philosophical method has a plausible appearance, but fails in practice.
Lord Cobham is allowed to have been a man of learning: and his knowledge of the holy scriptures is incontestable. The aptness of his quotations, and his promptitude in producing scriptural arguments, were displayed in a very striking manner, through the whole course of his examination before the bishops. At the time when he was seized and made prisoner in Wales, Henry V. was making conquests in Normandy; and a parliament was then sitting in London, for the purpose of supplying the sovereign with money to carry on his wars. The records of that parliament inform us, that on the eighteenth of December, 1417, sir John Oldcastle was brought before the lords, and that he made no answer to the crimes laid to his charge.* No doubt he was thoroughly convinced, that all attempts to exculpate himself would be vain and fruitless. The clergy, during the last three or four years, had gained a complete ascendancy both in parliament and in the cabinet; Arundel died in 1414, and was succeeded by Chicheley, who soon showed himself to be a primate, both of more art and ability, and also of more zeal and courage than his predecessor. Ecclesiastical tyranny and superstition seemed now at their height; and it required much less sagacity than that of lord Cobham to see two things distinctly; 1st, that in the present circumstances any witnesses which he could produce would be overawed or disregarded amidst the imprecations of the priests and monks; and 2dly, that a close and cruel confederacy of power, prejudice and resentment, would be impenetrable to argument and eloquence.
* Heb. xiv. 25. f Page 150, *• of this vol.
It was now, therefore, become the duty of lord Cobham, patiently to resign himself to the will of his Maker, and to seek for comfort by meditations on the sacred scriptures. That he did so, I collect with no small satisfaction, from a single expression of the ancient memorialist, Walsingham, which does not appear to have been taken notice of by succeeding writers. This author informs us that, the prisoner was examined in the presence of the duke of Bedford, then regent of England; and being pressed closely to give answers respecting the insurrection in St. Giles's fields, and his other treasonable offences, his reply, after a short pause, was, " With me it is a very small thing, that I should be judged of you, or of man's judgment:"f and then, says the scornful annalist, he again proceeded to Prate Impertinently.J
* Cotton's Abridgment, f 1 Cor. iv. 3d verse.
X Et iterum impertinenter garrulare c<cpit, donee Walsingham.
Yet this, the reader should remember, is the very author, on whose assertions principally, Mr. Hume grounded his belief, that lord Cobham was guilty of treason. We have before observed* that, on that question our elegant historian appears to have been credulous in the extreme; and, as he had no great taste for scriptural quotations, it is by no means improbable, that he also further agreed with Walsingham in blaming the prisoner for his " impertinent garrulity." Serious persons, however, who listen with reverence to the written word of God, will view the matter in a different light. That such a passage of scripture should have been actually quoted by lord Cobham, then in the power of enraged and merciless adversaries, seems to be extremely likely; and not the less so, because recorded by Walsingham, a violent and prejudiced enemy of all the lollards. In regard to the quotation itself, by suggesting the littleness and insignificance of all Human judgments and determinations, in comparison of the Divine, it conveyed a wise and salutary admonition to the existing hierarchy, who, at that moment, were uncommonly inflated with dominion and " drunken with the blood of the saints: "f and at the same tim^, it must have produced in the minds of all, Who Had Ears To Hear, a strong conviction of this important truth, that the knight, who was thus persecuted for righteousness' sake, had made no rash choice in renouncing the love of the world, and thereby demonstrating that the love of the Father was in him.% Every pious christian will, I doubt not, accord with me in" these ideas; and be gratified to find, that " Man's Judgment," however severe and cruel, was "a very small thing," in lord Cobham's estimation; and that when all earthly supports must have failed, this martyr for the gospel of Christ, steadily fixed his eye on God's Judgme N T, and derived all his hope and comfort from that single source.
At the time of his execution, many persons of rank
* Page 159. t Rev. xvii. &. J John,ii. 15.
Vol. IV. 22
and distinction were present; and the ecclesiastics are said to have laboured to the utmost to prevent the people from praying for him. Cord Cobham, however, resigned himself to a painful and ignominious death " with the utmost bravery and most triumphant joy, exhorting the people to follow the instructions which God had given them in the scriptures; and to disclaim those false teachers, whose lives and conversation were so contrary to Christ and his religion, "f
Henry Chicheley, now archbishop of Canterbury, continued at the head of that see, from February, 1414, to April 1443.J This man deserves to be called the firebrand of the age in which he lived. To subserve the purposes of his own pride and tyranny, he engaged king Henry in his famous contest with France, by which a prodigious carnage was made of the human race, and the most dreadful miseries were brought upon both kingdoms. But Henry was a soldier, and understood the art of war, though perfectly ignorant of religion; and that ardour of spirit, which, in youth, had spent itself in vicious excesses, was now employed, under the management of Chicheley, in desolating France, by one of the most unjust wars ever waged by ambition, and in furnishing for vulgar minds matter of declamation on the valour of the English nation. While this scene was carrying on in France, the archbishop at home, partly by exile, partly by forced abjurations, and partly by the flames, domineered over the lollards; and almost effaced the vestiges of godliness in the kingdom.
This was one of the most gloomy seasons, which the church ever experienced. The doctrines of Wickliff, indeed, had travelled into Bohemia; but, as we shall afterwards see, the fires of persecution were also lighted up in that country, at the same time that in England, no quarter was given to any professors of the pure religion of Christ. Even the duke of Bedford. the brother of the king,* one of the wisest men of his age, thought it no dishonour to be the minister of Chicheley's cruelties. A chaplain of lord Cobham, through terror of punishment, was induced to recant his creed: the strictest search was made after lollards and their books; and while a few souls, dispersed through various parts, sighed in secret; and detesting the reigning idolatry, worshipped God in spirit and in truth, they yet found no Human consolation or support whatever. The principal use to be made of these scenes is to excite a spirit of thankfulness for the superior privileges of the times in which we live. i
t Lewis's account of Wickliff's followers. i Biograph. Britan. Henry's Hist- book v. * Fox, page 729.
The diocese of Kent, was particularly exposed to the bloody activity of Chicheley. Whole families were obliged to relinquish their places of abode, for the sake of the gospel.
In the midst of these tragedies, and in the year 1422, died Henry V. whose military greatness is known to most readers: his vast capacity and talents for government, have been also justly celebrated. But what is man without the genuine fear of God? This monarch, in the former part of his life, was remarkable for dissipation and extravagance of conduct; in the latter, he became the slave of the popedom; and, for that reason, was called the Prince Of Priests. Voluptuousness, ambition, superstition, each in their turn, had the ascendant in this extraordinary character. Such, however, is the dazzling nature of personal bravery and of prosperity, that even the ignorance and folly of the bigot, and the barbarities of the persecutor, are lost or forgotten amidst the enterprises of the hero, and the successes of the conqueror. Reason and justice lift up their voice in vain. The great and substantial defects of Henry V. must hardly be touched on by Englishmen. The battle of Agincourt throws a delusive splendor around the name of this victorious king.
The persecution of the lollards continued during the minority of Henry VI. William Taylor» a priest, was burnt, because he had asserted, that every prayer, which is a petition for some supernatural gift, is to be directed only to God.* The four orders of friars were directed by the archbishop to examine the man; and they convicted him of heresy for asserting a maxim, which peculiarly distinguishes true religion from idolatry. Not to dwell on the cases of many persons of less note, who suffered much vexation in this calamitous period of the church, it may be proper to mention William White, who, by reading, writing, and^preaching,f exerted himself in Norfolk so vigorously, that he was condemned to the stake in 1424. His holy life and blameless manners had rendered him highly venerable in that country. He attempted to speak to the people before his execution, but was prevented. It is remarkable, that his widow, following her husband's footsteps in purity of life and in zeal for the gospel, confirmed many persons in evangelical truth; on which account she was exposed to much trouble from the bishop of Norwich.
Nor did the civil wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, which filled the whole kingdom with confusion, put an end to the persecution of the lollards. A person, named John Gooze, was burnt at the Towerhill, in the reign of Edward IV. in the year 1473.J This victim was delivered to one of the sheriffs with an order to have him executed in the afternoon. The officer, compassionating the case of his prisoner, took him to, his own house, and endeavoured to prevail on him to retract. But the martyr, after listening to a long exhortation, desired him to forbear: and then, in strong terms, requested something to eat, declaring, he was become very hungry. The sheriff complied with his request. " I eat now a good dinner," said the man very cheerfully, " for 1 shall have a brisk storm to pass through before supper." After he had dined, he gave thanks to God, and desired to be led to the place, where he should give up his soul to his Creator and Redeemer.
* Fox, page 749. \ Id. p. 752T. % Id. p. 814.
The civil contests, with which the kingdom were convulsed, were at lertgth terminated by the union of the two houses of York and Lancaster, at the accession of Henry VII. But the church of God continued still an unremitted object of persecution. The sufferings of the lollards were even greater during the established governments of Henry VII. and Henry VIII., than they had been during the civil wars. To give a minute detail of. all the horrid cruelties, that were inflicted on those who were condemned as heretics for reading the scriptures, and for denying popish superstitions, is not the object of these memoirs. It may be sufficient to remark, that all, who were convicted of what was then called heresy, and adhered to their opinions, were first condemned as obstinate heretics, afterwards delivered to the secular arm, and lastly, burnt to ashes, without mercy, and without exception.* Neither age nor sex were spared. Mr. Fox has collected, from the registers of the diocese of Lincoln, for the year 1521, a most shocking catalogue, both of the victims and of their accusers, who suffered under the grievous and cruel persecution of bishop Langland, the king's confessor. He has also, with singular industry, recorded the particular names of many who, through fear of a painful death, renounced their faith during the memorable persecution of that same year. Upon these unfortunate persons, various penances, and many very severe and ignominious punishments were inflicted: several, who were found to have abjured before, were condemned for relapse and committed to the flames.
A concise account of a person named John Brown, of Ashford in Kent, shall conclude this distressing detail of the sufferings of the lollards.
This martyr suffered in the year 1511, under the persecution of William Warham, archbishop of Canterbury. He was discovered to be a heretic as follows.* A slight altercation had taken place between him and a priest, as they were both passing down to Gravesend, in the common barge. The priest perceived symptoms of heresy; and immediately upon landing, lodged, with the archbishop, an information against Brown. The man was suddenly apprehended by two of the archbishop's servants, who, by means of assistants, placed him on his own horse, bound his feet under the horse's belly, and carried him to Canterbury, where he remained in confinement forty days; during which time neither his wife, nor any of his friends, could receive the smallest intimation concerning him.
* Henry's Hist- of Britain.
At length he was brought to Ashford, the town where he lived, and placed in the stocks. It was now almost night; but, one of his own female domestics, in passing by the place, happened to become acquainted with his situation; and she instantly carried home to her mistress the afflicting news. His mournful wife sat near her husband all the night, and heard him relate the melancholy story of every thing that had happened to him. The treatment this good man had met with, from Warham, the archbishop of Canterbury and from Fisher, t bishop of Rochester, was infamous in the extreme. With unparalleled barbarity, the} had directed his bare feet to be placed upon hot burn
* Fox, p. 551.
t Fisher was born at Beverley in Yorkshire, in 1459. He was educated at Cambridge, and became master, or president of Queen's College in that uersity. He was made bishop of Rochester in 1504. It was during the time of his presidentship that Erasmus came to study at Cambridge, and took up his residence at Queen's College. This prelate was beheaded, by Henry VIII. in 1535, for denying the king's supremacy, and for speaking with freedom in behalf of the queen. The pope was so pleased with his conduct, that, even while Fisher was confined in the tower and attainted of high treason, he made him a cardinal, and sent him the proper hat belonging to that dignity. Henry was so much provoked, that he would not permit the hat to be brought into the kingdom: he also sent Cromwell to sound bishop Fisher, whether he intended to accept it. " Yes," said Fisher. The king then exclaimed with an oath, " Well; let the pope send him the hat when he pleases, he shall wear it on his shoulders, for I will leave him never a head to set it on." The tyrant was as good as his word. Erasmus speaks of Fisher in strong terms of commendation.
ing coals; and to be kept there, till they were burnt to the bones. Notwithstanding all this, Brown would not deny his faith, but patiently endured the pain, and continued immoveable, fighting manfully the " good fight." To his wife he then ' said, " The bishops, good Elizabeth, have burnt my feet, till I cannot set them on the ground: they have done so to make me deny my Lord; but, I thank God, they will never be able to make me do that; for, if I should deny Him in this world, he would deny me hereafter. Therefore, I pray thee, continue, as thou hast begun, and bring up thy children in the fear of God. Thy husband is to be consumed at the stake to-morrow."
He was burnt, on Whitsuneven, lifting up his hands, and uttering the most fervent prayers, particularly the words of the psalmist, " Into thy hands I commend my spirit; for thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, thou God of truth."*
Such were the sanguinary methods by which the prelates of England attempted to extirpate lollardism and heresy. And they so far succeeded, that the few disciples of Wickliff, who still remained alive, seem to have been afterwards confounded with the favourers of the Grand Reformation: but, in their main object of strengthening the roman catholic religion, they utterly failed. The burning of heretics was found to be not the way to extinguish heresy. On the contrary, both in England and on the continent, such detestable cruelty increased the compassion of the people for the sufferers, excited their indignation against the persecutors, and roused a spirit of inquiry and of opposition to the existing hierarchy, which at length, under the direction of a kind, overruling providence, proved fatal both to papal corruptions of sound doctrine, and also to papal usurpation of dominion.
When the human mind has been thus fatigued and disgusted with a review of the cruelties of popish per»•<••••■•••
* Mr Fox tells us, he had this account from Brown's own daughter.
secutors, it is disposed to pronounce the Roman religion wholly a pretence, and all the ecclesiastical judges and rulers of those times, barbarous hypocrites and deceivers. " It is impossible," we are apt to say, " but that natural conscience should have informed them they were doing wrong, in committing to the flames, for slight differences of opinion, so many innocent victims; nay, often, persons of the most exemplary life and conversation.'.' However,
A more cool and sedate reflection may convince us, that though, in all ages, there have existed wicked men of great ability, who have shown themselves ever ready to sacrifice principle and conscience to their ambition and avarice, and even to wade through much blood in support of their darling objects, yet All tormenters of the human race have not been precisely of this class. These are of the first magnitude, and we suppose them to have had their eyes open. But there are others, who knew not what they did;* and towards such therefore, though we are never to defend their faults, much less to palliate their enormities, yet are we bound to exercise an equitable discrimination. The reader will understand me to have in view, those deluded votaries, who have had the misfortune to be taught, and the weakness to believe, that the favour of God is to be obtained, chiefly by paying a scrupulous regard to external forms and observances. The following remarkable paragraph is extracted from a popish writer;! and will serve to explain my meaning still further.
" The disciples of Wickliff are men of a serious, modest deportment; avoiding all ostentation in dress, mixing little with the busy world, and complaining of the debauchery of mankind. They maintain themselves wholly by their own labour, and utterly despise wealth; being fully content with bare necessaries. They are chaste and temperate; are never seen in taverns, or amused by the trifling gaieties of life* Yet you find them always employed; either learning or teaching. They are concise and devout in their prayers; blaming an unanimated prolixity. They never swear; speak little; and in their public preaching, they lay the chief stress on charity." This passage is not produced as a proof of the candour of a roman catholic, but of his wretched standard of virtue and holiness. For these excellencies of character in the followers of Wickliff are not here mentioned by the author in terms of approbation, but, on the contrary, are with great simplicity noted by him, as the distinguishing marks of a heretical people. So little, in the times of Wickliff and his followers, had the prevailing religion to do with morals and with the heart.
* Luke, xxiii. 34. f Reinher. quoted by Gilpin.
Though this and many other similar testimonies, which might be adduced, from popish authors, in proof of the innocence and virtues of the heretics, may satisfy us, that by no means all the persecutors of the godly, were deceivers and hypocrites in the gross sense of those terms, yet we must remember, as indeed has already7 been intimated, that the distinctions we would establish, still only serve to show that the sufferings of the righteous, during the period we are reviewing, are, probably, to be ascribed to very different degrees of guilt and wickedness in the hearts of those, who inflicted those sufferings. Far be it from us to pretend to exculpate, in the smallest degree, the perpetrators of any of the various and horrid crimes related in this chapter. Rather let St. Peter's example direct our judgments. That apostle thought it right to suggest to the Jews, that their case would have been worse, if, what they did, had not been done in ignorance, yet, he in nowise excuses them: he tells them plainly, that they had denied the holy One and killed the Prince of life, and had preferred a murderer to him;* and in the preceding chapter, he directly accuses them of having taken Jesus of Nazareth, and. by Wicked Hands, crucified and slain him.
* Acts, iii. 14.
Vol. IV. 23
Our Saviour's remarkable prediction* naturally occurs on this occasion. For, even on the supposition that it ought to be taken literally, and not extended to all succeeding ages of the church, it most decidedly proves, that persons may be persecutors " Unto Blood," without being gross hypocrites. " The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth God service." And here it deserves to be noted that, though it is said these murderers would think they were doing God service, in killing his faithful servants, yet not one word is added in extenuation of their crimes. For ought we know, therefore, such men might be in a state of judicial hardness and impenitence of heart, on account of long continued habits of sin, and long opposition to light and truth. After all the candid concessions and reasonable conjectures that can be made, respecting the Measure of the wickedness of the various papal persecutions, it must be owned, both that the subject is delicate, and also that We have not much to do with it. When we are wearied and astonished with the contemplation of the barbarous, and bloody scenes of this century, one of the most profitable, and most certain conclusions we can arrive at, is, that the human " heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked."
, * John, xvi. 2