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THE

POOR CAITIFF.*

BY

JOHN WICKLIFF, D.D.

The word caitiff signifies a captive, or a man in a wretched state. The Rev. H. Baber says, “ Pauper Rusticus; Confessio derelicti Pau. peris; and the Pore Caitif, are various titles of the same book, which may with propriety be called, The Poor Man's Library. It is a volume of small tracts, written in English, for the purpose of instructing the lower orders of the community in the most useful precepts of the christian religion.'

There are several copies of this work in existence in the British Mu. seum and other public libraries. It appears to have been widely circulated, although the invention of printing was not then known. The present attempt is the first that has been made to give any portion of it to the public, excepting a few detached sentences. The whole is here given except that the object and limits of the present work rendered some compression necessary. Several quotations from the fathers, occasional repetitions, and some other passages, have therefore been omitted.

The tracts contained in this collection are, Of the Belief;-On the Ten Commandments ;-On the Lord's Prayer ;-Of Perfect Life, or the Counsel of Christ ;-Of Temptation, or, of Virtuous Patience ; The Charter of our Heavenly Heritage ; –The Armour of Heaven, or, Of Ghostly Battle ; -To Love Jesus ;—Of the Love of Jesus ;-Of Meekness ;-Of Man's Will;-Of Active Life and Contemplative Life. There is another piece, On Chastity, which is omitted; it contains several Romish legends, and is not suitable for the present collection,

WICKLIFF.

THE PROLOGUE.

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This treatise, compiled of a poor caitiff needing the spiritual help of all christian people, by the great mercy and help of God, shall teach simple men and women of good will, the right way to heaven, without multiplication of many books, if they will busy themselves to have it in mind, and work thereafter. And as a child desiring to be a learned man, begins first at the ground, that is, at his A, B, C; so he thus desiring to speed, begins at the ground of health,* that is, christian man's belief ; for without belief,t it is impossible, as St. Paul saith, that any man please God. But as belief by itself is not sufficient to men's salvation, without good works, as Christ saith by his apostle St. James, he proposes with God's help, to speak upon each of the commandments of God, in which are contained charitable works,g that belong to belief. And since it is hard to obtain aught of God in prayer till the man truly believes, and lives after his commands, as he saith in the gospel, Whereto say ye to me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things that I say? Therefore after going through the commandments, he thinks, with the help and mercy of God, to show forth the prayer that Christ Jesus taught his disciples, that is, the paternoster; and after these, some short sentences exciting men to heavenly desire ; for thus it behoves to climb, as by a ladder of divers steps, from the ground of belief, into the keeping of God's commands; and so up from virtue to virtue till he see the God of Zion, reigning in everlasting bliss. Which may he grant to us, who liveth and reigneth, without end, merciful God. Amen.

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* Salvation. + Faith.

James ii. 19-20. From the pages that follow, the reader will find that Wickliff had no intention to teach that justification cometh by works, but to show the inseparable connection of faith and works, the latter being the fruits and evidences of the former, and a proof that it is not mere empty credence like that of devils, James ii. 19.

The works of charity or love.

THE

POOR CAITIFF.

ON THE BELIEF.

The ground of all goodness is stedfast faith, or belief. This, through grace and mercy, is obtained of God. Faith was the principal ground that enabled the woman of Canaan to obtain health of soul and of body of Christ, for her daughter, who was evil treated of a devil

, as the gospel witnesseth. And the centurion was much praised of Christ for the stedfast belief that he had in the power of his Godhead. Faith is likened to the loadstar,* for it showeth the haven of grace to men rowing in the sea of this world. Faith is the eastern star that leads spiritual kingst to worship Jesus Christ, through withstanding of sin, as the east star led three kings when Christ was born. Faith or belief is as a stone lying in the foundation of a strong building, that beareth up all the work. For as the building standeth stiffly that is well grounded upon a stone, so each virtuous deed is strong when it is grounded upon the solidity of belief. For upon this stone, that is, solid faith, Christ said that he would build his church, that is, man's soul. A man that hath lost his right eye is unable to defend himself in battle, for his shield hides his left eye, and so he has no sight to defend himself from his enemy; even so he that has lost the right eye of true faith, is unable to withstand or fight against his spiritual enemy, the devil. Saints, as St. Paul saith, through stedfastness and true faith, overcame kingdoms, Heb. xi. They overcame the kingdom of their flesh through holiness of soul and body; and the kingdom of the world by setting at nought riches; and the kingdom of the fiend through patience and meekness.

The want of stedfast faith is the chief cause why men

• The pole star, by which mariners used to steer their course at night before the invention of the compass. + Rav. i. 6. v. 10.

fall into deadly sin. For if a man truly believed that soon after he committed a sin, he should lose one of his limbs, he would through that belief keep himself, and flee from that sin. How much more if he believed that God would punish him in body and soul for evermore, if he died in that sin ? If man's belief and trust were firmly set in God, all fear of man, fantasies, and fear of this world, would grieve him but little, or not at all. Christ said to his disciples, that if their faith were as great as the seed of mustard, and they should say to this hill, Pass hence, it should pass; and nothing should be impossible to them. St. Jerome saith that faith is likened to the corn of seed. If the corn of seed be not broken, the virtue thereof is not known; but the more it is pounded, even the stronger it smelleth ; even so a man who is firmly grounded in the faith, the more he is pounded by persecution, the greater and the more fervent is his belief. Thus if man's faith were as great as the mustard seed, he should remove from himself the hill of pride, and all other false deceits of the fiend.

This faith maketh our souls so able to receive heavenly gifts, that we may get whatever we desire of the faithful Lord. Oh, blessed is the soul that believeth right and liveth well, and in well living keepeth true faith. While Peter had true faith, he went upon the sea as upon dry land; but when the firmness of his faith failed, he began to sink, and therefore Christ reproved him as of little faith. Thus it fares with us, who are staggering and unstedfast with the wind of each temptation or fear. Therefore, brethren, let us set all our belief and full trust on Him who is almighty, and not in any vain thing that may fail in any time. Trust we stedfastly that nothing may grieve us farther than He will suffer it, and all things which he sendeth come for the best. And let no wealth of this failing world, neither tribulation, draw our hearts from firm belief in God. Let us not put our belief or trust in charms, or in dreams, or any other fantasies; but only in Almighty God. For it is full perilous, as holy doctors say, to scatter man's belief about any such. And let each man and woman take heed to themselves, for good living makes man to have firm belief and trust in God, and evil works draw him into despair, as John Chrysostom saith.

After the ascension of Christ, the Holy Ghost taught his apostles all truth needful to the soul; and by his teaching they twelve settled together twelve articles, which all that will be saved must believe.* The first article of belief St. Peter put into the creed, saying, I believe in God, Father almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. To believe to God, is one thing; to believe in God, is another. The first both evil men and good men have ; but the second none but good men have. The fiends believe to God, that is, that he is true, and that his words are truth: and yet some men and women fail of this point! For if they truly believed that the words of God are true, which he speaketh in holy writ, against their sinful living, they would amend their defaults, either for dread or for love. To believe in God, as St. Augustine saith, is, in belief to cleave to God through love, and to seek busily to fulfil his will; for no man truly believeth in God, but he that loveth God, and by his good living believeth to have bliss of God, as a great doctor saith. And no man sinneth against God but he fails in belief, which is the ground of all good works. As the same doctor saith, In that he is Father, he will mildly do mercy to men forsaking sin; and in that he is almighty, he is ready and of power to punish all those who will not leave their sin. We should believe that God the Father, being almighty, without beginning and ending, made heaven, earth, and all creatures, of nought, through his word.

St. Andrew said, I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. This article pertains to the Godhead of the Son, the second person in the Holy Trinity. We should believe that Jesus Christ the Son, is equal with the Father, without beginning and ending, equal in might, and all one in might, equal in goodness, and all one in goodness; and that the Son doeth nothing without the Father; and these two persons are one almighty God, without beginning and ending. Jesus Christ, God's Son, and in like manner mighty with God the Father, is said plainly to be our Lord by double right; for he bought us with his precious blood, and because he shall be our Judge, and pronounce our sentence.

* This account of the twelve apostles having united to compose the creed which goes by their name, is given by Ambrose, also by Ruffinus, and other ancient ecclesiastical historians. The ascribing of each article to a particular apostle, is mentioned in a sermon attributed to Augustine. The tradition has been justly questioned, and although this symbol of christian doctrine was of high antiquity in the primitive church, it received additions and alterations at different periods. See lord King's history of the Apostle's Creed, and bishop Pearson on the Creed. This legend, however, does not involve any erroneous doctrine.

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