Select English works of John Wyclif; edited from original mss. by Thomas Arnold.
Wycliffe, John, d. 1384., Arnold, Thomas, ed. 1823-1900.
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ÞE GOSPEL ON OCTAVE OF TWELEÞE DAI, AND IT FALLIÞ SUMTYME ON SUNDAI.

[SERMON XXXI.]

Venit Jesus Galilea.
—MATT. iii. [13.]

ÞIS gospel telliþ how Crist tauȝte Baptist boþe bi word and myracle how he shulde be meke. Þe storye telliþ þat Jesus cam fro Galilee to Jordan to Joon Baptist, to be baptisid of him. And þis was greet mekenesse, þat þe Lord wolde come so fer to his servaunt, and to take of him baptym, and Johan forfen|dide him, for woundringe of þe dede, and seide þat Y shal be baptisid of þee, and þou comest to me: to be þus baptisid. But Jesus answeride to Joon, and seide to him wiseli, Suffre now þis, for it falliþ to us to fulfille al riȝt. It is opyn riȝt þat þe lasse be suget to þe more, and it is more privy riȝt þat þe evene obeishe to þe evene; but most privy riȝt of alle stondiþ in þis, þat þe hiȝeste of alle obeishe to his servaunt, as Crist priour of us alle obeishide to Baptist; and so was it sittinge Crist to teche þis mekenesse. And here schulen we wite, as men in comyn speche seien sum wordis rehersid hem of oþer, and sum wordis þei seien in her owne persone, (and þis may be varied after þre maneris; sum þing men seien, witinge þat it is soþ, affermynge þe sentence wiþouten ony condicioun, as trewe men seien þat God is in hevene; sum þing men seien, proposinge to fulfille it, but undirstonden, if God wole ȝyve hem grace, as men seyen þat þei shulen holde Goddis comandementis, and þus techiþ James, þat whan we speken of oure dedes þat we shulden do, we shulden undirstonde, 'if þat God wole;' but ȝit on þe þridde maner we supposen þat it shulde be þus, and neiþer we witen it ne trowen it;) and wiþ þis we undirstonden a condicioun, 'if God wole;' and þus spake Baptist whan he forfendide Crist to be baptisid of him, and herwiþ he heeld obedience. But over þis we shulde wite, þat þere is greet diversite bitwixe servise of a þing and obedience þerof, for God obeishide to mannis vois, and servede not to him; but in Page  81 mannis persone þei rennen boþe togidere, for þe more obeishiþ to þe lesse, and eke serveþ to him, for þe more is erþ, and þe lesse is spirit, and so he is boþe more and lesse to his servaunt. And þus Crist fulfillide al manere of riȝtwisnesse, for riȝtwis|nesse is comounly callid al manere of vertue, and so riȝtwisnesse is al manere of mekenesse.

And þus John suffride Crist to tak þis servise of him, and ȝit he seide soiþ in wordis þat he spake, for Johun was baptisid of Crist as he shulde, siþ he was baptisid of the Holy Goost; and werkes of þe Trinite ben undepartid wiþoutenforþ. And wiþ þis cam Crist to be baptisid in water of John, as he shulde for many enchesouns. First to teche þis moost degree of mekenesse. Siþ, for to halowe þe water of baptym, for vertue of touchinge of Crist streechide ful fer. Þe þridde cause is to ȝyve us ensaumple to take mekely baptem, siþ Crist was baptisid þus. And herfore John leet Crist to be baptisid of him, for Joon was tauȝt in his soule þat it was Goddis wille. And here takiþ men wel þat if a man avowe a þinge, and he wite after þat it were betere to leve it, þanne he shal leve it, and have sorewe of his foly biheste, but him nediþ not to go to Rome to perfourme þis medeful dede. And here manye ben disseyved in power of þer sovereynes; þei wenen þat hem nediþ to have leve of hem to do as þei shulden do; þis lore shulden men taken of þer prelatis above, and not traveilen in veyn, ne dispende more þan þei shulden. And whan Jesus was þus baptisid, he wente anoon out of þe water, to teche us þat in siche meenes we shulden not dwelle more þan nede is*. [This clause is rightly written in B; in A and C it appears as a quotation.], and to confermen al þis þing, hevenes weren opened, to Crist, and he siȝ þe spirit of God comynge down as a dowve and comynge upon Crist. And þis þing þat he siȝ wiþ his eye was a dowfe, and þis þing þat he siþ wiþ his soule was God; and þus þe spirit of God cam doun in a dowve, and þere was a vois comynge doun from hevene, and seide in þe persone of þe Fadir, Þis is my Sone, ȝhe, þat Y kyndely love, in whiche Y pleside to my silfe, and þerfore, heere ȝe him.

And so bi autorite of þe Fadir of hevene and eke bi autorite of þe Holy Goost, and also bi autorite of Goddis kyndeli Sone, was þe manhede of Crist here shewid wiþ his dedes. Bi autorite of Crist shulden Cristene men trowe, þat he is þe Page  82 best man, þe wiseste, and þe beste willid, þat mai be in þe world; siþ he is boþe God and man. And herof wole it sue þat Cristis owne ordre is beter þan ony newe ordre founde of synful men, for ellis hadde Crist failid in power, in witt, or in wille; and, for þis is aȝens bileve, þerfore þei feilen in feiþ þat trowen þat þes newe religious passen Cristis religioun. And herfore he ordeynede his ordre to stonde in vertues of mannis soule and not in sensible signes. And as þe holy Trinite approvede Crist here, so it approveþ þe ordre þat he made, and putte it in þes þree þingis, in obedience to God, in poverte, and chastite wel undirstonden. Men may undirstonden amys þis obedience to Crist, and trowe þat it stondiþ in doinge of ech þinge þat þi privat priour biddiþ þee do; and certis þanne þou puttest him to be unsynful above Crist, or ellis þat þou shuldist do his wille aȝens Crist. Certis Crist haþ no power to lyve as þis prelat doiþ, but if Crist hadde fredom to falle in synne, and þus þis pryour were more free þan Crist. And her|fore shulde we trowe þat ech obedience to man is as myche worþ as it techiþ obedience to God; and if it faile herfro bi unobedience, men shulden leve þis as venym contrarie to obe|dience; for ech verry obedience is obedience to God, and men shulden more obeishe to God þan to ony creature. And so unobedience brouȝt yn bi þes newe ordres fouliþ many heepis of men bi foly of her prelatis. Soþeli in þes newe ordres men shulden obeishe to ech þing þat techiþ more obedience to God þan done siche prelatis. And it is not bileve þat þei techen betere obedience to God þan doiþ ony oþer lawe or þingis þat speken to þes ordris. And þis movede Poul and oþer Apostlis to holden hem to Cristis ordre, siþ þe abbot is betere, þe reule, and þe knyȝtis; and algatis it is more free to holde Goddis comandementis. For þis feyned obedience lettiþ ofte to serve Crist, and herfore men shulden lerne obedience, to aȝenstonde. Whan ony creature of God biddiþ þee do contrarie to þat þat þi prelat þiddiþ þee do bi expresse signes, and God bi his creature biddiþ þee do þe contrarie, þanne þou shuldist aȝenstonde þi prelate in þis, and obeishe to God in what signe þat he usiþ. On þis maner Petre and oþer apostlis seiden þat men moten more obeishe to God þan to man, and Goddis lawe seiþ þat Page  83 God obeishide to mannis vois; for to ech þing men shulden obeishe in þat þat it sowneþ obedience to God. And if þis bileve were kept wel, þis newe obedience shulde gone aweie.