School of Music
University of Nebraska--Lincoln
Lincoln, NE 68588-0100
(phone: [402] 472-2507; Internet: plefferts1@unl.edu)

Data entry: Peter M. Lefferts
Checked by: Peter Slemon
Approved by: Peter M. Lefferts

Author: Wycliffe, John
Title: Of Prelates (two excerpts)
Source: Frederic D. Matthews, ed., The English Works of Wyclif Hitherto Unprinted, Early English Text Society, orig. ser. 74 (London: Trübner, 1880), 52-107 at 76-77, 90-91.

[-76-] Capitulum undecimum.

Also prelatis disceyuen lordis and alle cristene men bi veyn preieris of mouth, and veyn knackyng of newe song and costy, for bi title of preire thei han many worldly lordschipis and many parische chirchis approprid to hem, and don neither office of prelatis as cristis disciplis diden, neither office of lordis as thei owen to do bi goddis lawe, neither the office of parsones ne vekeris to here parischenes; but lyuen in pompe and pride, coueitise, and in wraththe, slouthe and in ydelnesse, and stenkynge lecherie, glotonye and drounkenesse, and gret ypocrisie, and so techen the fendis armys of synne and distroien the clennesse of cristis lif as moche as thei may. preiere stondith principaly in good lif, and of this preiere spekith crist whanne he seith in the gospel that we mosten euere preie; for austyn and othere seyntis seyn as longe as a man dwelleth in charite so longe he preieth wel.

Also preiere stondith in holy desir to do goddis wille, and of this spekith goddis lawe and seyntis ful myche.

Also preiere stondith in word, as comunly men speken, and this is nouzt worth but zif it be don with deuocion and clennesse and holynesse of lif.

For holy writt seith that his preynge is abhomynable that turneth awey and herith nouzt the lawe; that is to seie, that fulfillith not goddis lawe in his lif. And of siche vikede men seith god bi his prophete: whanne ze schulle multiplie zoure preieris y schal not here zou.

And god seith bi the prophete to suche men: y schal warrie or curse to zoure blissynges, and god seith bi salamon that the sacrafices of wicked men ben abhomynable, and austyn seith in many placis that zif thou lyuest in glotonye and dronkenesse, what euere thi tonge [-77-] sowneth, thi lif blasphemeth god; and gregory seith whanne he that displeseth is sent for to preie, with-outen doute the herte of him that is wroth is stirid to werse wraththe. A lord, sith prelatis ben so fer fro goddis lawe that thei wolen not preche hem-self ne suffre othere men to preche the gospel trewely and frely, hou abhominable is here preire bi-fore god almyztty. lord, sith prelatis witte not where here preiere be acceptable or dampnable, whi magnyfien thei it so moche and sillen it so dere? for a lewid mannus preiere that schal be sauyd is withouten mesure betre than that prelat that schal be dampnyd, and sith no prelat whot where he schal be dampnyd, whi sillith he his cursed preiere to the lewid man so dere?

And ther-fore god kepith to his owne knowynge the worthynesse of mannes preiere, for men schulden not vse marchaundise of symonye therby; for god techith vs be seynt poul zif a man resceyue vnworthily the sacrament of the auter that man resceyueth his dampnacion. And sith prelatis hondis ben ful of blood, bothe of quellyng of men with here owen hondis sumtyme, and bi wille and fals conseilynge to wronge werris, and ful of synne, as symonye, extorsions and robberie, and of meyntenyng in synne for zer to zer for money, hou schal god here hem? sith he seith nay hym-self bi the prophete: foule ben oure lordis blent to meyntenen open traitours of god, bi gret cost of rentis and lordischipis and zifte of grete benefices, for here stynkynge and abhomynable blastis and lowd criynge; for bi ther grete criyng of song, as deschaunt, countre note and orgene, thei ben lettid fro studynge and prechynge of the gospel; and here owene fyndynge vp, that crist and apostlis spoken not of, as is this newe song, thei clepen it goddis seruyce, and magnyfien it at the fulle, but good lif and techynge of the gospel thei setten at nouzt.

[ . . . ]

[-90-] Capitulum 23m.

Prelatis also ben enemys of pees, conseilouris and meyntenouris of werris, and irreguler anemtis god, and here preieris ben cursed; for thei dreden zif lordis weren in reste and pees that thei schulden perceyue the cursednesse of here symonye, [-91-] ypocrisie, coueitise, and robberie of here pore tenauntis, and suffre not prelatis be worldly lordis and tirauntis, as thei ben now, and ther-fore thei casten to occupie lordis in werris, and conseilen ther-to vnder colour of wisdom and charite that thei may regne in here lustis and coueitise as hem lyketh. for zif thei weren trewe procuratouris of pees, thei schulden gladly and ioiefully coste alle here worldly lordschipis and here flesch and blood and bodily lif to make pees and charite amongis cristene men, and techen lordis and comunes in open sermons and confessions and priue conseillynge the peryl of werris, and namely of wrongful werris, and hou harde it is to fiztten in charite, and tellen openly and priuely the goodnesse and profit of pees and reste, and hou men schulden not haue verray pees but bi holy lif and meyntenynge of treuthe and riztwisnesse and distroiynge of wrong and synnes. but now thes worldly prelates ben cheef conseilours to werris for pride and coueitise, and ben present in here owene persones in costy array as kyngis, and meyntene many men of armes to slee cristene men in body, and thei hem self killen many thousand in soule and bodi be cursed ensaumple of euyl lif and meytenynge in synne for money, and bi cursed conseil priue and apert; and ther-fore thei ben cursed of god and irreguler, and whanne thei preien to god and holden vp here hondis ful of cristene blood, god seith bi the prophete ysaie that he wole not here hem ne resceyue here sacrifices, and bi the prophete malachie god curseth to here blissyngis, and in many places of holy writt. for thei don not here sacrifices bi mekenesse of herte and mornynge and compunccion for here synnes and the peplis, but with knackynge of newe song, as orgen or deschant and motetis of holouris, and with worldly pride of costy vestymentis and othere ornementis bouzt with pore mennus goodis, and suffren hem perische for meschef and laten pore men haue nakid sidis and dede wallis haue grete plente of wast gold.

Return to 14th-Century File List

Return to the TME Home