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Up-D kavine Oxford. WyeBfe recrsd S: i» Lrcihf at LcirerwoctL. in. Liioesoascirit. wi«r* Sk rKmLUfi during- the rest of Els day?; c«s if wis mc anr xsilence by aovriikie tha£ had passed. His health, indeed, suffered from riw- sprc:w* im» wxk at latt been thrown, and a paralyse a&eriua s*e*i£ inn some time before bis Last i^znsii. wiiidi was a more serious attack of the same disorder. He continued, however, to preach, and to fcabcer. bock cy iis Wtczihs and his nstruetKcs. onril nsacd wirii 2ie> Shout* which proved fatal to his life. He was stricken with apoplexy on St. Thomas's Day, whfle preparing: Ot prea^a □. hm dxorei: ami, after lying paralyzed for a week, he expired on. ait last day of the year.
When we consider due carry period as wiiin. ie appeared, and how strong a baud riae doctrines which he assailed had universally obtained over zzit sixiis of men. Wveime Ckec be ranked acinar riae 2u^C remarkable of those who are ecsrded *:- riie *iinst of all fame, that of beics zivariy it adrazce of their age. The tenets of the Waiienses in. :ie eieT»cit century, and their persecudecs k. sb* tweifii. j.ai neither shaken the general belief in the errors of Rome, nor lessened the homage yielded to the Pose; asd indeed those well meaning enriiasiasts rajirr iiir^i in their practice than in their opmiocs froc riie sorounding nations. Lolhard some time after had suffered for heresy in Bohemia, and had manr fcLLuwrers who dissented from the orthodox fahh. mak^r^r a> stand, however, against the abuses of Rome. But when Wycliffe began his spiritual and political warfare, he found the successor of St. Peter universally acknowledged as the delegate of Heaven, with absolute dominion over the opinions and consciences of mankind; endowed by common consent with ample prerogatives, even of a secular description; and exercising no very limited jurisdiction over the temporal princes of the world. The dogmas most cherished by the Holy See, those most connected with its political usurpation, and those most conducive to the power of its priesthood, had never been assailed, or even questioned, unless by recluse men of learning, who ventured not to communicate their doubts; or, if one had attacked the abuses of the mendicant friars, another the imposition of indulgences, the stride was prodigious from such unconnected inroads to that general invasion of the whole system, its doctrines and its practice, its authority and its hierarchy, the title of its chief and the life of its ministers, which has made the name of Wycliffe so illustrious among the teachers of mankind.
Even if we compare him with Luther, in one only particular can he be said to fall short of that great Reformer—his success was more limited. But this only renders his merit the more signal; for he failed, because he lived in a comparatively dark age; while Luther, coming later by a century and a half, had for his allies the general cultivators of learning, and the powerful agency of the press, beside profiting by the previous labours of Wycliffe and his followers. It is indeed to be borne in mind, that Zuinglius had planted the Reformation in Switzerland before Luther began his work in Germany; and had at this early period even shaken off many Romish errors, which clung by Luther to the end of his life.
If in other respects we compare Wycliffe with his illustrious successor, we shall find in both the same fixed determination to suffer no intrusion of any human authority between man and his Maker. This is the grand principle of the Reformation, the distinguishing mark of dissent from the Romish church; and it at once emancipates from all religious thraldom, severs the clerical from the political office, confines the priest within the natural limits of his functions, and, by introducing Scripture as sole arbiter in religious controversy, secures the entire system from theological err. r. But in following this great doctrine into its consequences, the two Reformers so far differed, that Luther chiefly attacked the polity of Rome and the various devices of her priestcraft; while Wycliffe, without neglecting that branch of the subject, carried his inquiries more largely into the corruptions of the faith. In discharging the duty of preaching, and in furthering the study of the Scriptures, both were alike exemplary; but Wycliffe composed more discourses, and he completed himself the translation of the Bible, parts cnly of which Luther attempted.1 In their possession of great 'Note XTV.
learning, in their acquaintance with polemical divinity, in their skilful management of all controversial weapons, these great men were equally eminent; but it is remarkable, that he who lived in the earlier age, and in the ruder state of society, was the less coarse and vulgar in the language of his invective, and the more guarded and dignified in his demeanour as a disputant.1 He also showed less intolerance of any difference in theological opinion. Luther even made up his mind to risk the failure of his_ whole enterprise rather than receive into his fellowship Zuinglius, who had cast off errors of Romanism, to which himself still adhered.
The courage that inspired both Reformers to break loose from the papacy, supported them in sustaining long continued conflicts with the secular arm. But Wycliffe, though he never made any recantation, yet showed a disposition to reconcile his doctrines with those of orthodox believers, when he was abandoned by his patron, Lancaster; whereas Luther never betrayed the least desire to soften the shades of his dissent: a merit of the highest order, though rendered somewhat easier by the advantage which he enjoyed above his predecessor, of steady support from the Elector of Saxony. The temporal lot of the two men differed accordingly. Luther gave up all preferment, and indeed surrendered entirely his station in the church which he opposed. Wycliffe retained both his parochial and cathedral benefices to the end of his life.
1 Robertson (ch. v. 11) excuses the coarseness of Luther by referring to the unpolished age he lived in. But clearly the chivalrous spirit, then more powerful and more general than in our day, would rather have tended to restrain the licence of abuse in controversy, unless we suppose that churchmen were without the pale of those rules; and if so, they were, more than even in later times, within the pale of a peaceful and self-denying rule.
In their private character both were without a stain: the sanctity of their lives attested the purity of their doctrine. The utmost rancour of controversy never gave rise to a charge against Wycliffe's morals; and if Luther's were attacked, the accusation imagined by bigotry, or fabricated by fraud, passed harmless over his head. In this, however, Wycliffe was the more happy of the two, that never having bound himself by any vows, he could not be taunted with moulding his belief so as to escape from their obligation; while Luther, a monk, could with truth be alleged to have married a nun in violation of that celibacy which both had solemnly, though unlawfully sworn to maintain.1
The loss of their great leader did not relax the efforts of his disciples; but the jealousy of the government had joined itself to that of the clergy, and there were so many attempts made to harass the sect, that it probably would have been extinguished, had not its principles taken too deep root, and spread too widely, to render their extirpation possible. The name of Lollard was now given to those who embraced the new opinions, either from the word so often used by the clergy, indeed, by the Pope, too,
1 Note XV.