Trialogus. Chapter 29. Of the Fraud and Malice of the Friars
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You have said enough on this subject; you would oblige me, therefore, by proceeding to handle another topic.
The whole body of the faithful should be earnest, both in word and work, for the exposure of this evil, and faithful catholics should destroy it, even to the death, considering, according to the ancient doctrine, that there are three laws to be attended to herein, namely, the law of Christ and his members, the law of the world and of worldly men, and the law of the devil and his sons. The law and practice of the first principle is to return good for evil; the law and practice of the second is to return good for good, and evil for evil; but the law of the third principle, contrary to the law of God, is systematically to return evil for good. Accordingly, these sons of Belial, inasmuch as they so injuriously instruct the bishops and other believers, as a return for the benefits conferred upon them, show themselves manifestly to be devils. Thus it would have been better for them, ere they fell into such idiotic heresies, carefully to have considered what that sacrament is, and what is referred to by the pronoun in the sacramental proposition. But herein their father has bound up his intimations on this subject.
Since, therefore, in this council held on the occasion of the earthquake, they condemned Christ as a heretic, together with the principal doctors of the church, for a thousand years and more approved by the church, it is manifest that they include individual Christians under their sentence of heresy. In the second place, they labour specially, in this same council, to condemn the king of England, his nobles, and realm, as heretics, and by consequence to dispossess all these lords, and bring into England, Robert Gilbonensis, with his knot of heretical friars. As a means to this end, they artfully assume that it is a most perilous error to assert that temporal lords may at their discretion deprive a delinquent church of temporal possessions, and that subjects may at their discretion correct delinquent lords. Although this second particular is an invention of the friars, they labour assiduously to establish it by sophistry. God, I say, can teach the people so to do—his power is not so weak, but that he could move the people to such a course of conduct; therefore it is possible for subjects to do so. The very persons now subjects, may, by the event of war, and a thousand other chances, become the most powerful of conquerors; while, on the other side, temporal lords may become the most wretched of beggars. How then can it be denied that subjects may inflict correction on guilty lords? Since the commonalty are the creatures of God, as well as friars, and possess in common more efficient words of exhortation, why may they not themselves, with the help of God’s grace, rebuke and correct temporal lords? Are the friars desirous of so hardening the lords, that since they themselves are prevented by their father from correcting these lords, and rather make them worse, therefore all their subjects should be compelled to give the poison of the devil to these lords, just as the friars do? Accordingly I have said elsewhere, as to the first part of this doctrine, that the lords temporal have power granted them by God (as appears from Rom. xiii.) to chastise ecclesiastics. It would be a strange thing if lords temporal should have power to change the life of ecclesiastics, by depriving it of its conformity to the poverty of Christ, and not have power to chastise the folly of their delinquency against God?
But supposing the truth of the first part of the conclusion condemned by the friars, and leaving them the solution of that threefold argument with which in their folly they have incumbered the former truth, let us ascertain further in what way they determine that this error is so dangerous. They appear to decide thus without pertinency concerning the whole copulative proposition, unless they have detected error and danger in both parts, and, consequently, have ascertained that both are false. And since temporal lords have commonly to do with the first part, as a matter affecting the safety of their soul, and inasmuch as the supposition of the friars makes such doing an error, they teach herein by implication, that their lords are in this respect commonly guilty of ill-doing: such exercise of power being at the hazard of their soul, and to the hurt of the commonwealth, and peculiar to the sovereignty of the king, it is manifest that the friars impute this error to the king, and to all who assist him in such doing. And since all truth is contained in Holy Writ, this supposed error, which they describe as a falsehood, must of necessity be contrary to some part of Holy Scripture, at least by implication. And since it is so obstinately defended, it is manifest that the friars ought to declare this error an heretical one, and thus pronounce the king and his nobles, in so defending it, to be heretics. In this manner does the folly of these friars, which they account as great prudence, break forth; because, in a matter of faith, they stigmatise one kind of falsity as erroneous, and another as heretical, while the one is as obstinately defended as the other. Let these foolish disciples of Antichrist know, that every dangerous error in a matter of faith is so much clear heresy. Let them know, in the second place, that they cannot refute, and, by consequence, cannot condemn, the first part of this conclusion, which pertains to the regalia of the sovereign; nay, a careful study of their own principles would have taught them not to deny that temporal lords should be suffered to inflict punishment in such cases. But it is supposed that the friars conceive that there is much danger in conceding such corrective power to them, because in that case they would be loosened from their relation to Satan, and cut off from that brotherhood in which the friars are united with the sons of Belial. This is the result which the friars apprehend as dangerous. It plainly appears, then, in what manner the friars aim treacherously to destroy secular dominion, the king’s prerogative, and the whole kingdom.
In what relates to gain, though it may savour of manifest heresy, these men labour without ceasing. But, by the grace of God, the counsel of Ahithophel is brought to nought; for, as members of Satan, the thing which they thought would serve them, they have turned to their own injury both in body and soul: since their diabolical fraud is made the more manifest in every direction by their malice. And especially in this, that they have laboured assiduously, both in London and in Lincoln, to effect the destruction of true priests and poor men, mainly in revenge for their having charitably exposed their artifices to the people. In my opinion, God will not rest until he has inflicted a full penalty on this iniquity. For they say that they follow Christ, especially in his manner of life; but how can Christ, who loved and prayed for his enemies, endeavour to effect the destruction of those faithful men, just because they labour in charity of spirit to be of service to his members? In such conduct, therefore, the friars manifestly show their parentage, and how they endeavour to fulfil the commands of their father, by returning evil for good. Of a truth, of all the sins I have ever marked in the friars, this appears to me, on many grounds, the most iniquitous, for it has proceeded entirely from the unanimous consent and counsel of the friars. With regard to a man seizing the wife of another, and other such sins which men commit, they are of moderate guilt compared with this conduct.