Friday, May 4, 2012

A Lollard and a Wickliffite


"Verily, daughter," answered the priest, "what you say seems truth; and
yet, nearly viewed, too much of the comfort you describe will be found
delusive. It is true, there was a period in the Christian world when
good men, maintaining themselves by the work of their hands, assembled
together, not that they might live easily or sleep softly, but that
they might strengthen each other in the Christian faith, and qualify
themselves to be teachers of the Word to the people. Doubtless there are
still such to be found in the holy edifices on which we now look. But it
is to be feared that the love of many has waxed cold. Our churchmen have
become wealthy, as well by the gifts of pious persons as by the bribes
which wicked men have given in their ignorance, imagining that they can
purchase that pardon by endowments to the church which Heaven has only
offered to sincere penitents. And thus, as the church waxeth rich, her
doctrines have unhappily become dim and obscure, as a light is less
seen if placed in a lamp of chased gold than beheld through a screen
of glass. God knows, if I see these things and mark them, it is from no
wish of singularity or desire to make myself a teacher in Israel; but
because the fire burns in my bosom, and will not permit me to be
silent. I obey the rules of my order, and withdraw not myself from
its austerities. Be they essential to our salvation, or be they mere
formalities, adopted to supply the want of real penitence and sincere
devotion, I have promised, nay, vowed, to observe them; and they shall
be respected by me the more, that otherwise I might be charged with
regarding my bodily ease, when Heaven is my witness how lightly I value
what I may be called on to act or suffer, if the purity of the church
could be restored, or the discipline of the priesthood replaced in its
primitive simplicity."

"But, my father," said Catharine, "even for these opinions men term
you a Lollard and a Wickliffite, and say it is your desire to destroy
churches and cloisters, and restore the religion of heathenesse."

The text above is from Walter Scott’s “The Fair Maid of Perth”.  Catherine Glover’s favorite priest has much to be concerned about, if he is considered a Lollard and a Wickliffite.  On May 4th, 1415, John Wycliffe was condemned by the Council of Constance as a heretic.  Wycliffe is remembered partly for his focus on introducing the Bible in the vernacular. 

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