SIXTEEN POINTS ON WHICH THE BISHOPS ACCUSE THE LOLLARDS

 

(late 14th c. From Anne Hudson, Selections from English Wycliffite Writings [Cambridge, 1978], 19-24, trans. F.G.)

 

            These are the points that are put by bishops' ordinaries to men who they call Lollards:

 

            The first: the bread or the host on the altar, consecrated by the priest, is truly God's body, but it is the same bread in nature that it was before.

            The second: that shrift [confession] of mouth is not necessary for the health of the soul, but rather sorrow of heart [contrition] does away every sin.

            The third: that no one is bound to tithe in the manner now used by the church; rather such tithes and offerings by the law of God should be dealt to poor needy folk.

            The fourth: that there is no pope, nor has there been one since the time of Saint Peter the pope.

            The fifth: that neither the bishop's nor the pope's curse [i.e., excommunication] binds any man, unless he be first cursed by God.

            The sixth: that neither pope nor bishop may grant any pardon, but the least priest has as much power to grant such pardon as the pope.

            The seventh: that there should be but one degree alone of priesthood in the church of God, and every good man is a priest and has the power to preach the word of God.

            The eighth: that neither the pope may make laws, nor the bishops constitutions, and that no one is bound to keep such laws and constitutions made by bishops or popes.

            The ninth is that it is against the law of God that bishops and other prelates of the church should have temporal possessions, for by God's law they should go on foot preaching the word of God.

            The tenth: that is that priests were not ordained to say masses or matins, but only to teach and preach the word of God.

            The eleventh: that it is not lawful to pray to Saint Mary or other saints, saying the litany or other prayers, but only to God ought men to pray.

            The twelfth: that neither cross nor images painted or graven in the worship of God or any other saints in the church should be worshipped, and, though a man saw before him the same cross whereon Christ suffered death, he should not worship it, for, as it is said, all who worship the cross or images are cursed and do idolatry.

            The thirteenth: that it is not rewarding or lawful to go on pilgrimage.

            The fourteenth: that it is not lawful to maintain lights in the church before the crucifix, nor before any other image.

            The fifteenth: that it is not lawful to slay any man, neither in judgment nor out of judgment, neither Saracens nor pagans, by battle as knights do when they assail the holy land, for it is said in the gospel that thou shalt not kill.

            The sixteenth: that exorcisms done in the church, such as the hallowing of the water, bread and salt, and ashes and such other things, is simply the craft of necromancy, which is the worshipping of the fiend.

           

            Whoever shall see these sixteen points, let him be well aware that in each of them is hidden truth and falsehood, and whoever grants all, grants much falsehood, and whoever denies all, denies many truths. Therefore know well this that, when a conjunction is made, though there be many truths, if it affirm a falsehood, it shall be denied altogether; falseness is so venomous.

 

            True Christian men should answer here advisedly, truly and meekly to the points and articles that are put against them: advisedly so that they speak not unknowingly, truly that they speak not falsely, and meekly that they speak not proudly in their answer, and then there shall be grace in their speaking or answering by the help of Christ. For Christian men should believe that the sacrament on the altar is truly Christ's body sacramentally and spiritually, and in more manners than any earthly man can say among us.  For Christ who may not lie said, showing the bread that he held in his hand, "This is my body." And therefore says Jerome in his epistle to Hedibiam, "Hear we, the bread that Christ broke and gave to his disciples to eat was his own body, for he said 'This is my body,' and so by our belief it is both Christ's body and bread of life." An so God forbade that we should say that this blessed sacrament were only bread, for that would be a heresy, as it would to say that Christ is man and not God. But we say that it is both bread and Christ's body, right as Christ is both God and man, as Saint Austin says. And Saint Hillary says, "The body of Christ that is taken from the altar is figural since bread and wine are seen without, and it is true and literal since Christ's body and blood are believed to be within."

            2. Also we grant that confession of mouth is needful to all who have been counseled by God to make it meekly.  But yet true contrition is more needful, because without confession of mouth may a sinful man be saved in many a case, but without true contrition of heart may no sinful man of discretion be saved. Therefore the common law says, as authority witnesses, "The will of a man is rewarded, not the work: will is in contrition of heart, and work is in shrift of mouth.  Therefore it is certain, clearer than light, that sins are forgiven by contrition of heart." Therefore true contrition is the essential part of penance, and confession of mouth is the accidental part.  But nevertheless confession of heart done to the high priest Christ is as needful as contrition.

            3. Also we grant that men may be held and bound, by the bond of man's law and counsel not contrary to God's law, to pay tithes and offerings to curates in the true manner now used, for the end that the curates do their office as God has commanded them.  And if they live as curates should, and spend the goods of the church for God's worship in themselves and other poor people, then are the tithes paid to the poor men and the needy, for they themselves are poor.

            4. Also we believe that our lord Jesus Christ was and is chief bishop of his church, as Saint Peter says, and shall be unto the day of doom.  And we suppose that there have been many holy fathers, since Saint Peter's time--although this name "pope" is not mentioned in God's law--as Saint Clement, Saint Cletus, and many others.  And so we grant that the pope of Rome should follow Christ and Saint Peter in manner of living, and, if he does so, he is worthily pope, and if he contradicts them most of all others, he is most [like] antichrist.

            5. Also we grant that neither bishop's curse nor pope's may bind any man in the reckoning of God, unless that binding accord with the bond of God.  And if a man is unrightfully cursed by the pope or the bishop for God's cause, if he suffer it patiently, he shall fare much better because of the curse, and those that curse shall fare much worse, for, as Saint Austin says, "I say not this foolhardily, that if any man is cursed wrongfully, it shall sooner harm him that curses, than him who suffers this curse, for the Holy Ghost does not put the pain of such a curse to any man undeserved.

            6. Also we grant that the pope and bishops may lawfully and meritoriously grant such pardons and indulgences as are grounded in holy writ, and that in three manners.  One is that they may by their office pronounce or show the will of God, how he forgives sin, and that true pronouncing is forgiving by their office of priesthood. In the second manner they may forgive and release penance foolishly enjoined to men and foolish oaths and bonds that men have bound themselves with, and that is called indulgence or dispensation. And in the third manner they may forgive trespass that men have done against them as much as lies in them, an so it is understood that Christ says in the gospel, "Forgive, and it shall be forgiven to you"; and thus whatever sins they shall forgive, they are forgiven, and whatever they loose upon the earth, it shall be loosed in heaven.  Nevertheless sale-pardons that smack of simony make both the granter and him who buys it accursed of God.

            7. Also we grant that the state of priests should be one in true unity, and the order is all one regarding the substance both in the pope and bishops and simple priests, but their degrees are diverse, both higher and lower. And as God has granted them the keys of power and of knowledge of his law, so all priests in office have the same power of the order of priesthood.  But some exceed in power of jurisdiction and in excellence of the keys of knowledge. And although unlearned men may live well and be and wise men, yet they are not priests in office, nor are they bound to preach in office, although they are priests spiritually, as say Chrysostom and Lincoln, and so they may teach their wives, their children and their servants to be of good manners.

            8. Also we grant that popes may meritoriously make laws and decrees, and bishops constitutions, and kings statutes, so that the same laws and ordinances assist men to keep the law of God, and then men may be held to keep them.  And if they make any laws contrary to Christ's law, men are as greatly bound to stand against those wicked laws as they are bound to keep their good laws.  And therefore God says through Ezekiel the prophet, "Go not in the commandments of your fathers, nor keep your judgments, nor be defouled in their idolatry; but keep my commandments and my laws and my judgments."

            9. Also we grant that bishops accordingly with God's law may have temporal goods and possessions in reasonable measure, so that they spend them as God's almoners, and not hold them as worldly lords. For Christ says in the gospel, "You shall not have lordships, as lords and kings of the people." And Saint Peter says, "Do not have lordship in the clergy," and so, whether bishops ride or walk, so long as they do well their office, they are excused.

            10. Also we grant that priests were ordained by Christ to teach and preach to the people, and not only that, but also to pray and to administer the sacraments of God, and live well.  And by good ordinance of holy church they have been ordained by men to say both matins and masses, in which are contained gospel and epistle and other books of holy writ, for the end that they should after their reading declare it to the people in the mother tongue.  For Saint Paul says, "I wish that all priests might speak in tongues," as are prayers and lessons in Latin, "but more I wish that they would preach."

            11. Also we grant that it is both lawful and rewarding to pray to our Lady and to all the saints, as long as the intent of our prayer be done principally for the worship of God. And in our prayer we should not think that our Lady or other saints may grant anything of themselves, but they know God's will and pray that it full be done, and so their prayer is heard.  And likewise the litany is right good, if it be well used; but when priests or religious sing the litany for pride, for hypocrisy or for covetousness then they do not please God, but the fiend and the world, who are they masters that they serve.

            12. Also we believe that neither the cross that Christ was done in upon, nor any rood nor image made by man's hand should be worshipped as God, nor as reasonable creatures, for whosoever worships them so does idolatry and is cursed. But nevertheless the making of images truly painted is lawful, and men may lawfully worship them in some manner, as signs of tokens; and that worship men [may] do to them, if they love them and use them to that end that they are ordained for, as clerks do with their books, without the oaths, prayers and sacrifices and misbeliefs unlawfully done to them.

            13. Also we grant that it is lawful and rewarding to go on pilgrimage heavenward, doing works of penance, works of righteousness and works of mercy, and to such pilgrimage all men are bound according to their power while they live here.  For the prophet says in the Psalter, "Lord be thou not silent, for I am a stranger and a pilgrim as all my fathers were." Such pilgrimage may we well do without seeking dead images and shrines.

            14. Also we grant that it is lawful in measure to have lights before images, and to hold torches before the altar, so that it be done principally for the worship of God and not to the images, and other works of righteousness and mercy be not omitted because of it.  For Chrysostom says, "Those who honor churches do a good work if they keep to other works of righteousness." But men should just as well set such light in the church though the images were not there, as though they were there, or else the love that they give to images smacks of idolatry.

            15. Also we grant that it is lawful to slay men in judgment and in battles, if those that do it have authority and permission of God. And if they slay any man, christian or heathen, against the will of God, they are accursed and break the law of God.  And so it is likely that few or none are now slain by the authority of God.

            16. Also we grant that hallowing of holy water, of bread, salt and ashes is lawful, for they are devout prayers and blessings, and therto is no exorcism done on holy bread but a prayer as good as our grace, and not all exorcisms are craft of necromancy and working of the fiend; for Christ and his apostles used the office of an exorcist in the casting out of fiends for man's salvation.  And nevertheless, those that set their belief that every drop of holy water does away a sin, and take no heed how holy water is a token that we have evermore need of repentance in holy church all the while we live, are foully beguiled.