An apology for Lollard doctrines, attributed to Wicliffe. Now first printed from a manuscript in the library of Trinity College, Dublin. With an introduction and notes by James Henthorn Todd.
Wycliffe, John, supposed author. d. 1384., Todd, James Henthorn, ed. 1805-1869.

XXVIII. Of vowe.

An oþer is put and is askid þus; þat þe vowe of religioun is aȝen Cristis gospel. To þis I haue seid þus, þat þe name of religioun is takun in mani maneris; os sum tyme for þe trowþ þat rewliþ a man to serue duly his makar. And sum tym for þe act and þe state procedyng of þis religioun. And þe þrid, materialy, for þe personis þus enclinid. And þus þe keping of Cristis lawe is callid religioun, bi holy writ, and holy doctors. In þe secound maner are religious callid þoo þat departun from oþer puple bi sectis foundun, and bi tradicouns, and oþer sensible ritis. And in þis maner wer þer þre sectis among þe Jury, Phariseis, and Esseis, and Saduceis. Eft it be howuiþ to not, þat to a wowe is a resonable creature to obey him to his souereyn, to kep sum hard þing þat is sensible, or vnsible, a bout þing ay lasting or temporel, wise or vnwyse; wise, wan it is acording to God, efter his lawe to þe worschip of God, and profiȝt of þe vowar; vnwise, wan it is only about temporal þingis, or vnhonest, or vnprofitable to soule hele; werfor it be howuiþ þe vowar be in fredam, hauing feruor to do plesing Goddis Page  101 þingis, þat are to soule hele; and þat he entend to fulfil, ellis he synniþ in vowing, and so his vow is synne; as if it be more for lust of flesch, pride of world, or to geit temporel riches, or in to harm of ani man, or swilk oþer, þan for honor and worschip of God. Þerfor it is seid þus, four þingis are requirid to ilk vowe þat oblischiþ: first, principaly, þat it be maad to God, sin it is þe worschipful dede only to be ȝeuen to God. Þe secound, þat is bi þingis only good and profitable to hele of soule, and not iuel þing, nor of filþ, nor vnleful, ne noyes to ani man, ne letting of ani maundment of God, or counseil of Crist, efter þe decre of Isidor,*. [Isidor.] seing þus: In iuel hiȝtis, kut þe filling a wey of þing þat is hiȝt. In fowl vowe, chaunge þi decret, and do not þis þat þu hast vowid unwarly. Þe þrid, þat it be made wiþ deliberacoun, þat þe purpos or entent be not misrewlid, for if it be foly, or vniust, or vndiscret, or letting þing more profitable, it is not to be kepid, but vtterly to be brokin, after þis þat Ecclesiastes seiþ, An vnprofitable and a*. [Eccles. uo.] foul hiȝt displeciþ God. And as he is seid vnfeiþful þat doþ not þis þat he hiȝt, so is he þat doþ not of þe feiþ, þat is of þe ground of God, or not of good in witt or ordre, for ilk þing þat is not of*. [Rom. xiuo.] þe feiþ is synne. And in a oþer place it is seid, þo vowis of foolis are to be broken. And wilk þei are Hugo declariþ, in his book of*. [Hugo.] sacramentis, seying þus, Þo fowl wowis vndirstond al þat are iuel of hem silf, or ellis þof þei be good, þei are not ordinat. Or wan more iuel is of hem þan good is in hem. Þe fourt requirid to a vow is, þat it be wilful. Þan if þe vowe of religioun is circum|staunsid, þan it is plesing to God, and wiþ þe gospel; ellis if it be contrarili be gunne, led, or contenid, who doutiþ þat ne it is synne? Þerfor iuge religiouse men in þer consciens, if þei ground hem þus in her vowis, and ilk feiþful man loking in holy writt, and þe lif of Crist and his apostlis, and her dedis, after þingis þat are seid semyn to be contrary. Certeynly if þe vow of religious men, or of ani man, is not wiþ þe gospel, to þe perfeccoun of þe fredam þer of, Page  102 but in ani maner letting or trobling or tariing þing þat þe gospel biddiþ, or counseiliþ, þan certeynly al so it is aȝen þe gospel; after þe sentens of Crist, þat seiþ, He þat is not wiþ me, he is aȝen me,*. [Luc. xio.] and he þat gedreþ not wiþ me, he scateriþ. As if ani person obeyed him wiþ wickid stering, or onordinatly, to do ani þing þat is forbedun bi þe law of God, or to lef þing þat God biddiþ do, as sum wil mak her awowe þat þei wil not do þe dedis of mercy, oiþer þat þey wil not ehyt flesch, tul þei be vengid of sum man, but if he ouer tak, þei wille oþer mak a vow to fast, or to go pilgrimage, for to do þer lechery, or veniaunce of sum man. Also þoo þat byndun hem to kepe ani staat or degre, or rewle more for cause of hiȝnes of þe world, or worldly riches, or lust of flesch, or to do ani þing, oiþer bi her causis, or ellis wan he is lettid bi þe vow to do þe ded þat God wold him to do, as þus his vowe is aȝen þe gospel. And ilk þat vowiþ ani þing to do in any maner for ani cause, wiþ out mening of þe Holy Gost to do so, he synniþ in þat vowing; þerfor if religious vowen in þis maner, doutles þer vow is synne, and aȝen þe gospel; as if possessioneris to kep þe religioun of monk, or chanouns, more to be partiners of temporal goodis, and to lif in delitis, and hiȝnes of þe world, þan to lif in wilful pouert, dewe obediens, and chastite. Who doutiþ þat ne as þus þey synne aȝen þe gospel? And if þei do not þat þei hiȝt, it is þe more aȝen þe gospel, and þe biddingis of God, seying, Wan þu hast vowid a vow*. [Eccles. uo.] to þe Lord, þu schalt not mak it void, but fil þis þat þu hast hiȝt, for an vnfeiþful man and a foole hiȝt displeciþ God; as if freris obeyid hem þat þei beg, for al þer tyme is in begging, þat is aȝen þe gospel, as it is seid in oþer placis, or wan þey obey hem to absteyn from meytis, aȝen Cristis fredam, þat biddiþ his disciplis*. [Luc. xo.] eyte swilk as men settun to hem. If þey bynd hem in þe con|trary, þat þey be not in fredam to do þus, but if Crist had for bedun it hem, ellis it is aȝen þe gospel, for swilk are reprouid of þe apostil seying þus, Þe spirit seiþ opunly, þat in þe last tyme*. [1 Thi. iuo.]Page  103 sum schal depart fro þe feiþ, tenting to spiritis of error, and to kening of fendis, speking lesing in ypocrisy, and hauing þer con|sciens iren brondit; forbeding men to be weddid, and abstening fro metis, þat God haþ maad to be tan of feiþfulmen, and þoo þat knowun þe soþ, wiþ doing of gracis, for it is halowid wiþ þe word of God and by prayoris; for ilk creater of God is good, and no þing to be castun a wey, þat is hawid bi þe doing of grace. And neuerþeles þe meyt comendiþ vs not to God, nor filiþ vs not, but frely it may be tan, and frely left. Also if þei vow hem to hold an abit, or oþer ritis, and God behitiþ no meed for þe keping, but raþer reproue, as he dede sum tyme þe Phariseis, doutles þat is aȝen þe gospel. It semiþ þus, wan it is not groundid þere, and is wiþ out med aylasting; for þis is pleinly aȝen þe gospel bidding, Þu schalt not tak þe name of þi Lord God in veyn, and þis bidding he brekiþ þat doþ ani þing wiþ out God ordeyning it, or þat lefiþ his bidding, or doþ ani þing for wilk he is not to be medid in blisses for euer. And if religiouse men bindun þus to be obedient, and puttun þer will under mannis will, more þan under þe will of God, so þat it behowuiþ to do þe will of man, be it hout worþ or nout, and wat þat God biddiþ hem do þey may not do it, if þer ouer|man bid hem cerse, or to do þe contrari, certis þis is aȝen þe gospel; and þat we axe in our pr. nr. Our fader þat art in heuen,*. [Luc. ujo.] þi wyl be it don, in ȝerþ as it is in heuen. And þus wan religiouse men are lettun bi þer vow fro þer preching of Goddis word, and fro filling of þe dedis of mercy, and fro riȝtwisnes manifold, as þei knowlech, and are nedid bi al þer tyme to comyn wiþ þer breþer, þow þei be symonientis and synnars, þat God forbediþ tak meyt wiþ, or hald felischip wiþ; it is certeyn þat in swilk casis her vow is aȝen þe gospel. And wan þe vow of religious is to wilful bodily pouert, and obediens, and chastite, to be kepid, but now our religious lifiþ and flowiþ among all men most in delitis, and ha|bundiþ in worldly riches, and takiþ to hem worldly honoris: Page  104 certeynly oiþer þey han feynidly and falsly a noþer vow aȝen þe*. [Nota.] gospel, or ellis þey brek þer vow. And weþer it be so or so, þe toon or þe toþer, þe vow is aȝen þe gospel, and dampnable; werfor Prosper, in his book of contemplatif lif, seiþ þus, It is to sarow he*. [Prosper.] seiþ, þat þer sum in þeis daies þat wel be ooneris, but in express maneris þei kast no þing a wey, þei chaunge not þe mynde but þe cloþ, þei are þat forsakun þe world only in word, but not in werk, þei lifen worldly, and hidun þer bicis wiþ a veyn hiȝt of better lif, and mantel it wiþ a name of ymaginid religioun, þey tak for vertu, þe opiniun of vertu, þey wil be seen a mong men dredy and just, þei diuerse fro þe puple, not in mynd, but in cloþ, not in lifing, but in habit only, in liknes, but not in effect, þei study to be seen gret, but not to be, þei preeche gret þingis but þei do hem not, þei accuse vices, but þey do not a wey, þei ben in wordis, but þei do not in dedis. In opun þei feyn hem to be displecid of þingis þat þei don in hid; þei knowlech to know and luf God, but in dedis þey deney. In habite and lifing þei han þe form of pite, but þei deney þe vertu þer of. And for þis þei disseyue þe moo, for þei transfiger hem in to an aungel of liȝt, and wiþ face and tonsur pretendun a schadowe peyntid of religioun. Werfor it is don þat þei are maad desseyuable ypocritis, and lurkyng woluis of ref under a schepis flees; of wam it is seid bi þe prophet, Þe dred of*. [Ps. xxxuo.] God is not bi forn þer een. Alien sonis han liȝed to me, alien sonis han ȝeldid and crokid fro þi pathis, arett þu þer lifing damp|nacoun, þat lufun þe maner of þe world for þe cloyster, and dispice for Crist a fewe facultes, and couetun moo aȝen Crist, and inword coueyteis restiþ or lurkiþ under dispicyng of temporal þingis. Of þeis seiþ Bernard to Eugeny þe pope, Þei are þat suffur not to be*. [Bernard.] vnder lowtid, þei kan not be abouen, þei are vnfeiþful to þer soue|reyns, vneuyn to þer lowar, vnschamful to axe, bolde to denay, vnrestful tul þei tak, vnkynd wan þei han tane, þei ken þer tongis for to spek gret þingis, wan þei do but litil þingis; þei are largist Page  105 bihiȝtars, and scarsist geuars; glosandist flaterars, and bitandist bacbitars; simplist glosars, and warst willid traytoris. And Lin|*. [Lincoln.] coln seiþ þus, A cloystrer of priuat ordre, and specialy a frere wandring voyd in the world, is a ded careyn, gon out of þe graue, woundun in dedly cloþis, schaken of þe fend a mong men: þei are tokunid bi þe wif of Loth, þat, after þe going out of Sodom, loking*. [Gen. xixo.] aȝen, was turnid in to an image of salt. An image haþ þe similitud of a man, but not þe trowþ. So swilk similitudis of religious efter habit, and ypocrit signis, and neuerþeles not hauing þe vertu of Cristis religioun; werfor þe messangeris of Saul, seking Dauid in*. [1 Reg. xixo.] þe bed, fond a simulacre and geyt skinnis. And Peter and Jon*. [Joh. xxo.] seking þe graue, fond but a sudary. And of wilk seiþ þe Lord, No*. [Luc. ixo.] man leying hand to þe plowe, and loking aȝen, is able to þe kyn|dam of God. And þe epistil of Jude, Erring sternis, to þe wam*. [Jude.] wirlwynd of mirknes is kepid vn to wiþ outen ende; þus seiþ he. Weþer þe vow of religioun is not veyn, Seynt Jam seiþ, If ani wen hem to be religious, not refreyning his tong, but disseyuing his hert, his religioun is veyn. Religioun clene at God, and at þe Fader, is þis, to visite þe fadirles and madirles, and wydowis, in þer tribula|coun, and kep hem silf vnfilid of þis world.