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ENGLAND, that long happily escaped the scourge of heresy and theological disputes, gave birth to John Wickliffe, the celebrated precursor of John Hus, one of the reformers of the 16th century. He was born at Wickliffe, in Yorkshire, about the year 1324. Having completed his studies at Oxford, he embraced the ecclesiastical profession, and distinguished himself by his talents, and the austerity of his manners. In 1361 he procured the mastership of Baliol college; and was afterwards made warden of Canterbury hall, then founded by archbishop Isless, whose successor, Langham, displaced him at the instigation of the monks, the sworn foes to Wickliffe, for exposing their corrupt errors, and abominable practices.
The motives that rendered Wickliffe inimical to the court of Rome, were nearly the same which provoked the indignation of Luther. In 1874 he was sent with some others, on an ambassy to Rome, to complain of the number of benefices enjoyed by foreigners. This mission confirmed Wickliffe in his sentiments of the papal tyranny. After his return, he preached with greater violence against the corruption of the Romish church. Although Wickliffe in a degree revived the doctrines of Berenger and Vaudois, he may still be regarded as the first who ventured publicly, and methodically, to combat principles that had long been established throughout Europe. He maintained that the Bible was the only rule of faith, opposed the practice of confession and indulgencies, attacked the supremacy of the pope, and the privileges of
the church, rejected the real presence, established fatality and predestination, and required, to restore religion to its premature purity, that worship should be deprived of all its ceremonies, and the clergy of all their estates. Circumstances favoured these opinions, and in spite of the severity of the laws, he had in a little time numerous partizans. England was weary of seeing herself treated as a Roman province. The great schism in the west, at that time, divided the church, and the spectacle of two, nay, three popes, disputing the authority, and reciprocally excommunicating each other, but too forcibly justified the declamations of Wickliffe. Pope Gregory XI. informed of his conduct, issued several bulls against him, charging him with numerous heresies. But whatever were the errors of Wickliffe, he was certainly right when, upon the occasion of the croisade published in England against France, he expressed himself with much indignation to "C see the Cross of our Saviour, the emblem of peace, of mercy, and charity, serve as a standard and signal of war among christians, to promote the interests of two ambitious prelates."
It was under the reign of Edward III. that Wickliffe began to spread his doctrine. He suffered great persecution under Richard II. but he found a zealous protector in the Duke of Lancaster, father of Henry IV. Courtney, bishop of London, cited Wickliffe to appear before him at Paul's, to give him some account of the new opinions which he held. Wickliffe came attended by the Duke of Lancaster, and the Earl Marshal. The crowd was so great, that the Lord Marshal was obliged to make use of his authority to get Wickliffe through it. The bishop, displeased at seeing him so honourably attended, told the Lord Marshal, "that if he had known before hand what maestries he would have kept in the church-he would