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OF

FEIGNED CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE.

(From the MS. in the Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.)

When true men teach by God's law, understanding, and reason, that each priest ought to do his might, his understanding, and his will, to preach Christ's gospel, the fiend blindeth hypocrites to excuse themselves by feigned contemplative life; and to say that since it is the best, and they may not do both together, they need for the charity* of God, to leave the preaching of the gospel, and to live in contemplation! See now the hypocrisy of this false saying. Christ taught and didt the best life for priests, as our faith teaches, since he was God, and might not err. Christ preached the gospel, and charged all his apostles and disciples to go and preach the gospel to all men ; then it is the best life for priests in this world, to preach the gospel.

Also God teacheth in the old law, that the office of a prophet is to show to the people their foul sins, and each priest is a prophet, as Gregory saith upon the gospels. Then it is the office of each priest to preach and tell the sins of the people, and in this manner shall each priest be an angel of God, as holy writ saith.

Also Christ and John Baptist left the desert, and preached the gospel till their death, therefore this was the greatest charity, for else they were out of charity, or feigned charity; which could not be in either of them, since the one was God, and no man, after Christ, was holier than the Baptist, and he sinned not by preaching thus. Also the holy prophet Jeremiah might not be excused from preaching by his contemplation, but was charged of God to preach the sins of the people, and to suffer pain therefore, and so were all the prophets of God.

Since Christ and John Baptist, and all the prophets of God, were compelled by charity to come out of the desert to preach to the people, and to leave their solitary prayer, how dare we foolish heretics say that it is better to be still, and to pray our own foolish ordinanee, than to preach Christ's

• Love. + Showed by his example. # Messenger

gospel ? What accursed spirit of lies stirreth priests to close themselves in stones or walls for all their lives? Since Christ commanded all his apostles and priests to go into all the world and preach the gospel, certainly they are open fools, and plainly act against Christ's gospel. And if they maintain this error, they are cursed of him, and are perilous hypocrites and heretics.

Men are accounted heretics who act against the pope's law, and it saith plainly that each who cometh to the priesthood, takes the office of a beadle or crier, to go before doomsday, to proclaim to the people their sills and the vengeance of God. Why then are not the priests heretics who leave to preach Christ's gospel, and compel true men to leave preaching the gospel ? since this law is St. Gregory's law, grounded openly on God's law, and reason, and charity ; and the other law is contrary to holy writ, and reason and charity, for to maintain pride and covetousness of antichrist's worldly clerks.

But hypocrites allege from the gospel, that Mary chose to herself the best part when she sat beside Christ's feet, and heard his word. Truth it is that meek sitting, and devout hearing of Christ's word was best for Mary; for she had not the duty of preaching as priests have, since she was a woman that had not authority of God's law to teach and preach openly. But what is this to priests who have the express commandment of God and men to preach the gospel? whereas they would all be women in idleness, and follow not Jesus Christ in life and preaching of the gospel, which he himself commandeth both in the old law and the new.

Also, this peaceable hearing of Christ's word, and the burning love that Mary had, was the best part, for it shall end in living in godly life in this world. But in this life, the best life for priests is holy life, in keeping God's commands, and true preaching of the gospel, as Christ did, and charged all his priests to do. And these hypocrites suppose that their dreams and fantasies are contemplation, and that preaching of the gospel is active life, and so they mean that Christ took the worst life for this world, and required all his priests to leave the better, and take the worst life! Thus these foolish hypocrites put error upon Jesus Christ, but who are greater heretics ?

Also these blind hypocrites allege that Christ bids us pray evermore, and that Paul bids that we pray without eeasing, and then, as they falsely feign, we priests may not preach. But these hypocrites should know that Christ and Paul understood by this, prayer of holy life, which each man does as long as he dwells in charity; and not babbling of lips, which no man can ever do without ceasing; för else no man in this world might fulfil the commandment of Christ. Augustine and other saints teach this ; and men that fulfil not God's law, and are out of charity, are not accepted in their lip preaching ; for their prayer in lips is abominable, as holy writ saith by Solomon. These priests who preach not the gospel, as Christ biddeth, are not ‘able to pray for mercy, but deceive themselves and the people, and despise God, and stir him to wrath and vengeance, as Augustine, Gregory, and other saints teach. And principally these hypocrites that have rents and worldly lordships, and parish churches appropriated to them by simony and falsities, against holy writ both old and new, and against Christ and his apostles, for pretended holiness, destroying of God's ordinance, and for profession made to fools, and perchance to fiends of hell.

These should learn what is active life and contemplative life, according to God's law, and then they might know that they have neither the one nor the other, since they consider more vain statutes of sinful men, and perchance of devils, than the commands of God, works of mercy, and points of charity. And the fiend blinds them so much, that they say in fact that they must never pray to please God, since they disable themselves to do the office of priests by God's law, and propose to end in their feigned devotion, which is blasphemy to God. *

* The following definitions of active and contemplative life, are given by Walter Hilton, a pious monk who lived soon after the death of Wickliff.

“ The active life consists in love and charity exercised outwardly, by good corporeal works, in fulfilling of God's commandments, and of the seven works of mercy, bodily and spiritual, towards our christian brethren. This life pertains to all, be they learned or unlearned, laymen or spiritual persons, that are in office or state to govern, or have care of others; and generally all worldly men are bound to the practice of this kind of life, according to their best knowledge or ability, and as reason and discretion shall require.-Contemplative life consists in perfect love and charity, felt inwardly by spiritual virtues, and in a true and certain sight and knowledge of God, and spiritual matters. This life belongs to those especially, who for the love of God forsake all worldly riches, honours, worships, and outward businesses, and wholly give themselves, soul and body, according to all the knowledge and ability that is in them, to the service of God by exercises of the soul.”

This inistaken, though well designed preference of the contemplative to the active life, led to the abuses prevalent among the monastic orders, which are so strongly depictured by Wickliff and others.

ON PRAYER.

HOW PRAYER OF GOOD MEN HELPETH MUCH, AND HOW PRAYER OF SINFUL MEN DISPLEASETH GOD, AND

HARMS THEMSELVES AND OTHER MEN.

(From the MS. in the Library of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.)

CHAPTER I. Our Lord Jesus Christ teacheth us to pray evermore for all needful things, both for body and soul; for in the gospel of St. Luke Christ saith it is needful to pray evermore, and St. Paul bids christian men pray without ceasing or hinderance. (And this is understood of prayer of charity, * and not of men's vows, as Augustine well declares, for else no man could fulfil this command to pray evermore. For as long as a man lives a just life, keeping God's commands and charity, so long he prayeth well, whatever he do; and whoever liveth best, he prayeth best. Also St. James saith, that the fervent and lasting prayer of a just man is of much worth. And while Moses was in the mount, and held up his hands, and prayed for his people, his people had victory over their enemies ; and when he ceased to pray thus, his people were overcome, as the second book of holy writ teaches. So if priests dwell in the mount of high spiritual life, and espy deceits of the devil, and show them to the people by true preaching, and hold up their hands, that is open good works, and continue in them; and pray by fervent desire to perform righteousness of God's law and ordinance—then christian people shall have victory over the devil and cursed sin, then shall rest, and peace, and charity, dwell among them. And if priests cease this holy life and good example, and this desire of righteousness, then christian people shall be much overcome by sin, and have pestilence and wars, and wo enough; and unless God help, more endless wo in hell.

* Christian love.

King Hezekiah, hy holy prayer and weeping and sorrow, got forgiveness of his sin, and fifteen years of his life ; and the sun went back, or returned again ten lines on the dial, as Isaiah's book witnesses. Also by the prayer of the holy leader Joshua, the sun and moon stood still all day, to give light to pursue God's enemies, who desired to quench God's name, his law, and his people.

Therefore Christ saith to his disciples, If ye ask my Father any thing in my name, he shall give it to you ; but we ask in the name of Jesus, when we ask any thing needful or profitable for the saving of men's souls, so that we ask this devoutly, of great desire, and wisely or humbly and lastingly,* by firm faith, true hope, and lasting charity, and whatever we ask thus, we shall have of the Father of heaven.

Also Christ saith thus in the gospel, evil men have wisdom. If ye give good things to your children, which good things are given you, how much more shall your Father, of heaven, give a good Spirit to men that ask him. Then, since kindt teaches sinful men to give goods to their children, how much more will God, author of goodness and charity, give spiritual goods, profitable to the soul, to his children whom he loves so much! Therefore ask of God heavenly things, as grace, will, wisdom, and power to serve God, to please him; and not for worldly goods, except as much as is needful to sustain thy life in truth and service of thy God.

Therefore, Christ teaches us that whatever we pray and ask for, we should believe and trust without any doubt, to have it, and it shall be given us; and if two or three of you consent together of any thing on earth that they should ask, it shall be given to them. Therefore, Christ taught and commanded us to pray the Lord's prayer, which is the best and plainest, and most sure prayer of all; for it contains all things needful and profitable for body and soul, and no error or singularity against God's will. And Jesus Christ made it, and commanded it in short words, that men should not be weary or heavy to say it, nor cumbered to learn it. And hereof a holy man blames men that leave the Lord's prayer which is taught and commanded of God, and choose singular prayers made of sinful men. And hereby it is plain that holy men, dwelling in love to God, and all men living on earth, both friends and enemies, christians and Perseveringly.

Nature, natural affection.

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