Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
The Clergy subject to the Civil Magistrate
By John Wycliffe (c. 1324–1384)
WORLDLY clerks and feigned religious 1 break and disturb much the king’s peace and his realm’s. For the prelates of this world, with priests less and more, write in their laws that the king hath no jurisdiction nor power of their persons, nor the goods of holy Church. And yet Christ and His Apostles were most obedient to kings and lords, and taught all men to be subject to them and serve them, truly and wilfully, in bodily works and tribute, and dread them and worship them before all other men. First, the wise King Solomon put down an high bishop that was false to him and his realm, and exiled him, and ordained a good priest for him, as the third book of Kings telleth. And Jesus Christ paid tribute to the emperor, and commanded men to pay him tribute. And Saint Peter commandeth in God’s name Christian men to be subject to every creature of man, either to the king, as more high than other, or to dukes, as sent of him to the vengeance of misdoers, and praising of good men. Also Saint Paul commandeth by authority of God that every soul be subject to higher powers, for there is no power but of God; princes be not to the dread of good work, but of evil work. Wilt thou not dread the potestate? 2 Do good and thou shalt have praising thereof, for he is God’s minister to thee unto good. Soothly, if thou hast done evil, dread thou, for he beareth not the sword without cause, for he is God’s minister, avenger unto wrath to him that doth evil. Therefore be ye subject, not only for wrath but for conscience. Pay to all men debts, both tribute and custom, and dread and honour and love. And our Saviour Jesus Christ suffered meekly painful death of Pilate, not excusing him from his jurisdiction by his clergy. And Saint Paul proferred him ready to suffer death by doom of the emperor’s justice, if he were worthy to death, as Deeds of Apostles teach. And Paul appealed to the heathen emperor from the priests of the Jews, for to be under his jurisdiction and to save his life. Lord! who hath made our worldly clerks exempt from kings’ jurisdiction and chastising, sith God giveth kings this office on all misdoers? Certes no man but Anti-Christ, Christ’s enemy; sith clerks, and namely 3 high priests, should be most meek and obedient to lords of this world, as were Christ and His Apostles, and teach other men both in word and deed to be mirror of all men, to give this meekness and obedience to the king and his rightful laws. How strong thieves and traitors be they now to kings and lords, in denying this obedience, and in giving ensample to all men in the land for to be rebel against the king and lords! For in this they teach lewd men and commons of the land, both in words and laws and open deed, to be false and rebel against the king and other lords. And this seemeth well by their new law of decretals, where the proud clerks have ordained this,—that our clergy shall pay no subsidy nor tax, nor helping of our king and our realm, without leave and assent of the worldly priest of Rome; and yet many times this proud worldly priest is enemy of our land, and privily maintaineth our enemies, to war against us with our own gold. And thus they make this alien proudest priest of all other to be chief lord of all goods that clerks have in the realm, and that is of the most part thereof. Where be more traitors both to God and holy Church, and namely to their liege lord and his realm; to make an alien worldly priest, enemy to us, chief lord of the most part of our realm?  1
Note 1. religious = priests of the various orders. [back]
Note 2. potestate = magistrate. [back]
Note 3. namely = especially. [back]

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