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to admit in favour of an enemy, that the "sect was held in the greatest honour;"' and we have added to this testimony a plain indication of the importance which it had acquired, in the known fact that the two most powerful lords in the beginning of Richard the Second's reign, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, his uncle and chief minister, and Percy the Earl Marshah were Wycliffe's openly declared partisans, appearing by his side when put on his trial before the Primate and Bishop of London, and exposing themselves in his behalf to great personal risk from a mob unfavourable to the Reformer's doctrine.
That this rapid progress of Wycliffe's sect early arrested the attention of the clergy and of their spiritual head, may easily be supposed. Courtney, Bishop of London, a prelate of extraordinary zeal, and holding the loftiest notions of clerical discipline as well as of the clergy's authority, received a bull from Pope Gregory XL, directed to the Primate and himself, and dated in the last year of Edward's reign, to whom a similar bull was likewise addressed, but neither arrived before that prince's death. The Pope charged them all to proceed strenuously against Wycliffe, whose opinions he pronounced to be damnable heresies; required them to cast him into prison, and to examine him strictly, reporting his answers; and desired that, should he escape, they might summon him to appear before his Holiness himself, wheresoever he might happen to be, within three months.
1 H. Knighton, 2664. See note VII.
In compliance with the exigency of these rescripts, Wycliffe was examined before the Bishop of London in the winter of 1377-8, when the Duke of Lancaster and Lord Percy, as has been related, appeared by his side, and even took an active part in his behalf. They had a sharp dispute with Bishop Courtney upon their demanding that Wycliffe should be allowed a chair during his examination. The duke, in his altercation with the prelate, waxed warm, and taunted him with trusting to the influence of his family, who might, peradventure, he said, find it all they could do to maintain their own ground. The populace, who were no friends either of Wycliffe or the duke, rose to revenge the insult which they thought had been put upon their diocesan; they sacked Lancaster's palace, in the Savoy; and he and Percy so narrowly escaped, that a man was killed, being taken for the latter. Nor could the tumult be appeased until the bishop himself, who may well be supposed to have had some hand in exciting it, interposed and besought the multitude to disperse.1 The result of the inquiry was, an order of the prelate's, putting Wycliffe to silence. He was afterwards cited to appear before the Primate and other prelates, at Lambeth; but the humour of the populace now took a different direction, when led on by the citizens of London, always attached to the new doctrine. They broke into the council-chamber, and occasioned so great an interruption to the proceedings, that the bishop 1 Note VIII.
yielded to a message from the Dowager Princess of Wales, and affected to be satisfied with Wycliffe's explanations: so that the inquiry dropped altogether during the remainder of Gregory's pontificate. He died in the following spring, and Urban VI, his successor, had not filled the chair of St. Peter six months, when his seat was contested by the election of Clement VII, and the famous schism began, which for forty years split the church into two parties, headed by two pontiffs, of whom one was established at Avignon, and the other at Rome.1
This important event naturally exercised a great influence upon the persecution which had been commenced against Wycliffe and his followers. The English clergy no longer had the undivided authority of the Holy See to support their pretensions; and the existence of two rival popes, each claiming the same prerogative over the faith, the same authority over the discipline of the church, nay, each pretending to the same attribute of infallible judgment, and each deriving his title as sole successor to Saint Peter from the immediate operation of the Holy Ghost upon the minds of the same electors, had a direct and powerful tendency to weaken the hold hitherto maintained by that proud hierarchy over men's minds, and mightily aided the attacks of all its enemies.
1 Gregory had restored the papal residence to Rome after it had been for seventy years fixed at Avignon. Urban VI. continued at Rome, Clement VII. at Avignon.
It should seem that these considerations encouraged Wycliffe in his course; for we find his adversaries complaining that, during the next two years, his assaults upon the established faith were carried on with less reserve. He is accused of treating the doctrine of the real presence not merely with open and peremptory denial, but even with unseemly ridicule, describing the priest's power of consecration as incapable of rendering inanimate matter more worthy of adoration than the meanest animal.1 It is, however, important to remark, that nine of the contemporary authorities intimate the least suspicion of any connexion whatever between his doctrines, or his manner of preaching them, and the great insurrection of the common people which broke out about this period. This accusation was reserved for the zeal of the Romanists in our own times,2 and we may here stop for a moment to show how entirely it is destitute of support.
Whatever tendency may be ascribed to the invectives of the Reformers, whether it be that they were addressed to the upper and middle classes, or that the common people remained wholly indifferent to them, certain it is that no attempt was made by the churchmen of the day to connect the new doctrine with the seditious movements, or to represent its professors as having endangered the public peace by their preaching. Had there been the least pretence for bringing such a charge against them, we may be 1 Note IX. « Ling. iii. 236 (Ric. II.).
well assured that adversaries so zealous as Walsingham and Knighton would eagerly have caught hold of the topic, more especially when we find them dwelling en the wickedness of the people as having called down the judgments of Heaven.1 Their silence affords a conclusive argument in favour of the Reformers; but it is not the only ground on which their defence may be rested. The proceedings of the multitude proved them to be actuated by views and feelings the very reverse of those which guided the followers of Wycliffe. The insurgents made the schoolmasters whom they captured swear never to teach the children.2 The oath by which they bound themselves was directed against the Duke of Lancaster by name ;3 and they murdered a Franciscan friar merely because he was the duke's favourite.4 The confessions of the original leaders declared that their plan was to spare the mendicant friars in the massacre.5 The complaints which the Lords made to the Parliament afford the last proof which I shall give of the same position. These complaints were directed against the villeins some time before the tumults, and show that the gathering storm had been observed. Reference is made to similar outbreaks which had taken place in France; but not a word is said of the new doctrine oi- its preachers.6 In truth, the insurrection was confined to the lower
1 Note X. t Hoi., ii. 746.
* They swore never to have a king called John (Lancaster's name). —T. Wals., 258.
4 T. Wals., 263. » Hoi., ii. 751. • Note XI.