Trialogus. Chapter 30. Whether Temporal Lords May and Should Assist and Defend Their People Against the Friars
7 min read
7 min read
It appears to me that you have exposed the malicious proceedings of the mendicants with sufficient clearness. But tell me, I pray you, whether temporal lords have the power, and are bound to assist and defend the humbler members of the church, consisting of their tenants and the common people, against the friars. To me it appears certain that the friars are heretics, for I see not in what way they can more openly condemn Christ and individual Christians, as heretics, than by condemning this article in their council as heretical,—viz. that special prayers, offered by prelates or the religious for an individual, are of no more benefit to that individual than general prayers, other things being equal. For we believe, on the faith and authority of Christ, that the Lord’s prayer in the sixth of Matthew, is far superior to any special prayer; and so we believe in consequence, that this prayer, devoutly poured forth for the people, does them more service than any prayer which friars or prelates can utter, or have invented, in later times. Is not a supplication, made through Christ, better than the blasphemous supplication which the friars pretend to offer in behalf of such as are willing to give them money? And since the blessed, as the litany leads us to believe, pray for the church militant, it is to be supposed that the prayers of those blessed spirits are far more to be desired by us than the prayers of these friars or prelates. And inasmuch as the blessed, after the manner of Christ, love the people more than any private person, and cannot be turned aside by any such impure influence, it appears to me sufficiently plain that their general prayers avail the church militant more than the special prayers of the friars; for the friars cannot presume to extol themselves above the saints. In this their unbelief, therefore, it appears to me that the friars have condemned, as much as in them lies, both Christ and all the citizens of heaven, and, in consequence, the whole church militant, which sets more value on the Lord’s prayer than on these special prayers and frivolous inventions of the mendicants.
I am pleased to find that you expose this undoubted heresy by so shrewd a scrutiny of the conduct of the friars. Nor do I doubt that the decision to which you refer savours of manifest heresy. And the reason why this heresy has thus shot up is obvious; for the friars, by means of such prayers, delude the people as regards God, and despoil them as regards the world. Hence it is that they so greatly magnify these prayers; and that their doctrine may possess the greater weight, and be less open to suspicion of selfish views, they unite themselves with the other religious orders and the bishops. But Christ, and the saints in heaven, these fraudulent personages have forgotten.
On giving further attention to the question you propose, I do not hesitate to affirm, that the temporal lords are bound to assist the humbler members of the church against these false brethren, just as they are bound to defend themselves against the clerks possessioners, as I have before said; for God could not receive from his subject, or confer anything upon him, without the return of a greater blessing. How, then, is it allowable for prelates or lords to receive anything from their subjects, without affording them, in their assistance, an equivalent recompense? For they ought, as far as possible, to follow Christ; but in this respect the false prophets, and all the vicars of Antichrist, boast, diabolically, that they are more free, as regards those subject to them, than is Christ himself. In fact, I see not in what way any one could be a secular tyrant, except by exercising tyranny in the withdrawing or withholding of such assistance; for it is not possible that Christ should withdraw assistance and defence for his people: and how then can these men be said to follow God, who refuse to assist and defend their dependants against their greatest enemy? I do not hesitate to affirm, that a just defence of these men would conduce to the worldly prosperity, the merit, and the everlasting glory of such temporal lords. But if temporal lords are bound to protect their dependants against thieves, robbers, and marauders, yea, and against public enemies, invading the realm in which they dwell, much more are they so bound against false brethren, inasmuch as the evils to be feared in the latter case are the greater. The friars should be especially opposed in that respect, in which they more directly oppose themselves to Christ, and in which temporal lords might, with most ease, moderate the abuse. For there is no necessity, and I do not advise it, that they should fight with, or kill the friars; but this I certainly do advise,—that men should not foster them in their temporal possessions, under the false pretence of alms, because they will thus, without doubt, occasion the condemnation both of the offenders and themselves. Lords, then, will do well to call to mind, how weighty is their own share of guilt, even though they make not themselves partakers with these hypocrites in their crimes, inasmuch as, according to the Gospel, it is most dangerous thus to have their lot with these deceivers. If it be urged that the temporal lords ought to put faith in them, as in the more holy members of the church militant, I reply with the apostle, that they should not too readily believe every spirit, but should try them, whether they be of God, which a secular man may easily do, since he might easily demand from a friar, on the testimony of his whole sect, under their common seal, what the sacred host is; whereupon, when the friar utters a falsehood, as in such case he is compelled to do, it follows, that having convicted the friar of falsehood, in a matter of faith, he ought wholly to reject him as a man not to be trusted. For they have decreed in their general council, as have their doctors, ever since the time when they first stole their way into Christianity, that this consecrated host is an accident without a subject—in fact, without anything; but if this is the thing they consecrate, they make their heresy obvious at once to the aforesaid lord, since they ought not only to assert, in consequence, that this host cannot be bread, but that it cannot even be the body of Christ.
As I am confident that all the friars in the world cannot show any man, no nor even themselves, what this accident without a subject is, which they thus consecrate and worship, let these lords consider that psalm, wherein the Holy Spirit, through the sainted David, declares that they shall dwell as members in the tabernacle of the church militant, and shall rest after awhile in the church triumphant, on the hill of the church triumphant. In them, the following conditions are fulfilled by reason of their order. First, that they should enter, without spot, on their allotted state of warfare; herein the friars and all simonists are manifestly found wanting. In the second place, that the pilgrim, after his entrance on the state, should carefully execute justice; and among other acts of justice, that of rendering his neighbour spiritual aid is one of the principal, since it is the one work of mercy obligatory on all men. Thirdly, that he be true not in word only, but in thought, as one who speaks truth in his heart; and fourthly, that his tongue be not deceitful in outward conversation. In the fifth place, that he do no wrong to his neighbour, by withholding bodily, or the more important spiritual aid. Sixthly, that he should not receive or believe calumnies uttered against others, whatever be the nature of the accusation; herein those who do not receive calumnies against their neighbours, are such as do not foster such as are in the habit of detraction; and since this is a sin of which the friars are in general guilty, all believers should beware, lest they become partakers with them in such guilt. In the seventh place, this lord, or faithful Christian, whoever he may be, is acquainted with the times, and aware that he should, as far as requisite, bring to nought every malignant in his convent; for in doing the things he does, that man is a traitor to God. In the eighth place, he should duly extol and honour his brother, who doeth justice fearlessly and constantly, and who hath a filial fear of God.
Now let not the friars longer declare us wanting in charity, because we take up such language against these sects, for Christ, I am certain, was not wanting in charity; and yet he himself, as appears in Matt. xxiii., rebuked the sect of the Pharisees with the utmost sharpness, and not only imprecated upon them an eightfold woe or prophecy, but brought about its effectual fulfilment against them. For Christ, to magnify his own sect, which he purposed to make sufficient in himself, resolved to destroy all those sects of a private religion,—the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. And hence Christ, through his apostle, in Titus i., thus teaches us to love ourselves: “There are,” saith he, “many unruly and vain talkers, and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision; whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.” It follows, for this reason, then, that as many as are sound in the faith, should severely rebuke them. I have no doubt but that our private religious, in their unbelief, put as high a value on their own adulterous signs, as on the fruit of the faith set forth in the Gospel commandments. Nor doubt I, but that they are, systematically, vain talkers, seducers of the simple people. These men are wedded to their signs, as the unbelievers, at the time of the introduction of the law of grace, were wedded to their circumcision. I am sure, too, that these friars subvert both the temporal and spiritual houses of the temporal lords, teaching things apocryphal and ridiculous, for the sake of gain. Therefore, since their mouths must be stopped, they ought, according to the apostolic command, to be sternly refuted; and since they fluctuate so greatly in their faith, we ought to endeavour, by our rebukes, to establish them in it. If we slothfully refrain from doing these things, we fail to exercise Christian charity towards the church, nay, towards these sects themselves,—in my view, a damnable neglect, and an open betrayal of the ordinance of Christ.