Imágenes de páginas



reformer's life, fully makes know the grounds of his opposition: apparent, that "while other t tants sought to reform Wicliffe saw the institute iter commanded, and of evil tenore an instead of supposing,

[ocr errors]

men had done, that the intrucu
such agents formed the mos en
means by which to elevate the cON
ter of the more authorized

he inculcated strongly, the MET
short of a removal of t

could restore the Church te

order and prosperity."

A year later, A.D. 15 T in academic office. He warden of Baliol Coleg wards of Canterbury Hall a of his appointment was Bos the case was submitted to ra While it was sub judice, the revived certain claims in the torr tribute on the English nation, wa Edward III. was determined to rese Wicliffe in the dispute took part agale the pope, a proof of his disinterese. ness, while his own official p. was at the mercy of the cour: . Nor can his attacks on the papag the cause had been decided aga be ascribed to resentment, inaME.S his battle with the papacy before. In 1372 he took Doctor in Divinity, and was theological lecturer. A wur wrote on the Decalogue time, illustrates the grow... : gious views; with a fer a there is nothing in the could offend any Prote say thee for certain." "Ahanh thou have thee, an


[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

s points, at his ntiments which rotestant Church. he was a lover of y Ghost the Comot without gracious Beautifully did he a great sin not to ow open our windows, light is ready to shine who will open to receive sculine understanding he objects of his faith, and ng will maintained them ersaries, and pressed them its of all. He had none of stical habits of thought which prevalent in his time among ere weary of the formalities enerate Christendom, and were for the freedom wherewith makes his people free. He was of the Anglo-Saxon Christian, nguished from spiritual brethren German stock. There was somemelancholy in his cast of mind, he ever looked on the solemn side ife, and death, and all things. But ngh not what would be called a

[blocks in formation]

followed a fierce contention betwixt | raged that such an affront be offered to

them; and, lest their interlocutions should hinder the entireness of our discourse, take them verbatim in a dialogue, omitting only their mutual railing; which, as it little became persons of honour to bring, so it was flat against the profession of a bishop to return; who, by the apostle's precept, must be patient, not a brawler.'

[ocr errors]

"Bishop Courtenay: Lord Percy, if I had known beforehand what masteries you would have kept in the church, I would have stopped you out from coming hither.'

"Duke of Lancaster: He shall keep such masteries here, though you say “ nay.


"Lord Percy: Wickliffe, sit down, you have many things to answer to, and you need to repose yourself on a soft seat.

"Bishop Courtenay: It is unreasonable, that one, cited before his ordinary, should sit down during his answer. He must and shall stand.

"Duke of Lancaster: The Lord Percy's motion for Wickliffe is but reasonable. And as for you, my Lord Bishop, who are grown so proud and arrogant, I will bring down the pride, not of you alone, but of all the prelacy in England.

[blocks in formation]

"Duke of Lancaster: Thou bearest thyself to brag upon thy parents, which shall not be able to help thee; they shall have enough to do to help them selves.

"Bishop Courtenay: My confidence is not in my parents, nor in any man else, but only in God, in whom I trust, by whose assistance I will be bold to speak the truth.

"Duke of Lancaster: Rather than I will take these words at his hands, I will pluck the bishop by the hair out of the church.

"These last words, though but softly whispered by the duke in the ear of one next unto him, were notwithstanding overheard by the Londoners; who, on

their bishop, fell furiously on the lords, who were fain to depart for the present, and for a while by flight and secresy to secure themselves; whilst what outrages were offered to the duke's palace and his servants, historians of the State do relate."

Proceedings were suspended, but the pope renewed the charges. In 1377 four bulls were issued against the reformer. Wicliffe had to appear before a Synod at Lambeth, but through the influence of the widow of the Black Prince, the prelates were forbidden to injure the object of their dislike.

We now come to Wicliffe's greatest work. In 1378 he began his work as translator-he was the first to present to his countrymen a vernacular translation of the whole Bible. Only parts of the sacred volume had before been placed within the reach of those who could read nothing but their mother tongue. Anxiously and earnestly must he have wrought at this holy task-when -where-how exactly we know not; and its completion must have been to him a source of higher satisfaction than the renowned Gibbon is described as feeling when he had written the last sentence of his "Decline and Fall." The convictions under which Wicliffe executed the translation are indicated in his "Truth and Meaning of Scripture;" where he maintains that "Christ's law sufficeth; that a Christian man well understanding it, may gather sufficient knowledge during his pilgrimage upon earth; that all truth is contained in Scripture; that we should admit of no conclusion not approved there; that there is no court beside the court of heaven; that though there were a hundred popes, and all the friars in the world were turned into cardinals, yet should we learn more from the Gospel than we should from all that multitude; and that true sons will in no wise go about to infringe the will and testament of their heavenly Father." Henry Knighton, the historian, vividly brings before us the popular effect of

Wicliffe's great achievement in his mournful wail: "And so the Gospel pearl is cast abroad, and trodden under foot of swine, and what was dear to clergy and laity is now rendered, as it were, the common jest of both: so that the gem of the Church becomes the derision of laymen, and that is now theirs for ever, which before was the special property of the clergy and doctors."

While the translation was in progress, Wicliffe was smitten with paralysis; his old antagonists, the Mendicants, came to warn the dying man, as they supposed; when, lifting himself up in his bed, he replied: "I shall not die, but live, and again declare the evil deeds of the friars." He did not die, but lived to do what he threatened.

Again we are at Oxford, in the spring of 1381. Wicliffe was then a decided opponent of transubstantiation. He published twelve conclusions against it, maintaining that the bread and wine remain unchanged after the words of consecration, and that the body and blood are only figuratively in the sacrament. He was lecturing in the hall of the school of the Augustines-a messenger entered. Solemnly in the name of the chancellor and doctors he was forbidden to proceed, and those who listened to him were threatened with excommunication and imprisonment. There was a pause-the venerable professor rose from his chair, and challenged a refutation of his doctrines; of course, the challenge was in vain. He forthwith appealed to the civil power for protection, and again he thwarted the malice of his foes. The Duke of Lancaster sheltered him for awhile, but at length the faithful champion of truth was banished the university.

In his last days we see him simply Rector of Lutterworth, fulfilling the duties of a parish minister, preaching to his people the truths he had learned from God's word, and writing treatises on religious subjects. Cited to appear before Urban VI. at Rome, he declared

he was willing to comply, but Christ had "needed him to the contrary. A stroke of paralysis had rendered obedience impracticable. Still, however, he could quietly pursue his pastoral labours till a fresh attack on the 23rd December, 1384, as he was administering the Eucharist, rendered him insensible. Two days afterwards, and Wicliffe found his home in heaven. Tradition still lingers round the neighbourhood, telling of the famous rector's zeal in the discharge of his parochial duty, how he relieved the poor, and comforted the aged and the sick.

Looking at the age in which Wicliffe lived, at the current of opinion in his time, at the few helps for the attainment of pure Scripture truth he had; one is astonished at the clear views he formed on many religious points, at his approximation to sentiments which now distinguish the Protestant Church. His heart was right, he was a lover of truth, and the Holy Ghost the Comforter left him not without gracious helps in learning. Beautifully did he say " It is now a great sin not to arise and to throw open our windows, for this spiritual light is ready to shine unto all men who will open to receive it." With masculine understanding he grasped the objects of his faith, and with a strong will maintained them against adversaries, and pressed them on the hearts of all. He had none of those mystical habits of thought which were so prevalent in his time among all who were weary of the formalities of a degenerate Christendom, and were sighing for the freedom wherewith Christ makes his people free. He was a type of the Anglo-Saxon Christian, as distinguished from spiritual brethren of the German stock. There was something melancholy in his cast of mind, for he ever looked on the solemn side of life, and death, and all things. But though not what would be called a genial man, there was in his soul that deep fountain of strong and quiet love, which makes the patriot, the reformer, and the benefactor of mankind. "This

is out of all doubt, that at what time all the world was in most desperate and vile estate, and that the lamentable ignorance and darkness of God his truth had overshadowed the whole earth; this man stepped out like a valiant champion, unto whom it may justly be applied, that is spoken in the

book called Ecclesiasticus, of one Simon the son of Onias: 'Even as the morning star being in the midst of a cloud, and as the moon being full in her course, and as the bright beams of the sun, so doth he shine and glisten in the temple and church of God.' "*

John Foxe.


THE following brief narrative of a long and very active life will show how much may be accomplished by one individual in whom "the zeal of God" is united with industry and perseverance; and may stimulate some, who, like the subject of this memoir, are engaged in secular pursuits, to attempt something in the service of Christ.

Edward Miller, Chiswick, was born at Atherstone, Warwickshire, in the year 1785. At the age of eleven he was bereaved of his mother, and three years later he lost his father, a surgeon in the Military Hospital at Gosport, who was carried off in the prime of life. From his earliest years he was under the restraints of a religious education, residing for a time at Northampton with his grandfather, a clergyman of the Church of England, and afterwards receiving his education at Christ's Hospital. Neither early trials nor early religious advantages led him at first to decision. He says of himself: "For some time I was as diligent in sin as in hearing the Gospel." But at the age of seventeen a considerable change of character took place. About that time he became a constant hearer of the Rev. Rowland Hill, at Surrey Chapel; and at twentyone years of age was admitted a member there.

Two years previously, permanent occupation had been obtained in the Commissary-General's office. This position was retained for thirty years; and

it was during this period of secular duty -as well as subsequently to it—that many works of Christian usefulness were accomplished.

Being of an active turn of mind, the subject of this notice had been, at an early period, accustomed to visit the sick, and to write to persons upon their religious condition. But his full activity was called forth by a question proposed by the Rev. Rowland Hill, in a sermon in which he spoke of the death of an eminently useful Christian. He asked, "What shall I say to those who do nothing for the cause of Christ ?" This question determined Mr. Miller to new efforts in the service of Christ. He became connected with several religious societies, amongst the most important of which were, the Home Missionary Society, of which he was also Secretary from 1823 to 1826-the Religious Tract Society, the Committee of which he joined in 1826, and the same year he wrote several of its handbills. He was also on the Committee of Cheshunt College, and subsequently assisted in the formation of the London City Mission, and for a time edited the Magazine. In these several positions, and first as a manager of Kennington Chapel, and afterwards as a deacon of Buckingham Chapel, Pimlico, he found much scope for usefulness. During this period, the pen was not allowed to lie idle. Several minor pieces were contributed to newspapers and magazines, and a work of

some magnitude was published—“ A Scripture History for the Young." It came out in parts, and was illustrated. This work met with favour. It was first written and published in 1815, and was republished, in one volume, in 1833. In 1824, Mr. Miller, still dissatisfied with what he was accomplishing, began to preach at village stations, in workhouses, and wherever an opening could be found. Putney was one of the places often visited. There, in 1827, he was invited to become the pastor. On the 26th of July in that year he was ordained to the work. For the eight following years, his labours for the village and neighbourhood were abundant and successful. The congregation increased, the chapel was twice enlarged, and many members were added to the church.

On leaving Putney, Mr. Miller became assistant preacher with Rev. G. Browne, at Clapham. There he continued his labours, with marked success, for two years. But a state of nervous debility and depression which followed rendered cessation from preaching necessary for a time.

Visiting, in August, 1838, in the neighbourhood of Chiswick, he was directed to a small congregation of Dissenters worshipping there. At their request, he attempted to resume his labours amongst them, and found on making the effort that his strength was restored. In November of that year he became their pastor. The blessing of God attended his labours. The church, which consisted of fourteen members in 1838, had increased to sixty in 1845, and afterwards was still further augmented. As a new chapel was needed, this subject engaged his earnest attention; and in 1841 a suitable chapel, with schoolroom, was erected at a cost of more than 8007. This sum was, through his persevering efforts, soon paid. After labouring faithfully at Chiswick for twelve years, Mr. Miller was at length, in November, 1850, compelled, by increasing bodily affliction, to resign his charge.

[ocr errors]

When unable any longer to preach, Mr. Miller occupied himself with writing hymns, little books for the young, and religious tracts. Many hundreds of excellent hymns were composed. Some were written on ornamental cards, and given as presents, proving in many cases acceptable and useful. Of the tracts and handbills written not less than five millions were circulated during the writer's life, chiefly by the Religious Tract Society. His last years of suffering were spent in writing tracts for the "Stirling Tract Enterprise," and in getting them circulated amongst his friends. By this means, more than 50,000 were put in circulation.

In addition to such efforts, there were in his life instances of usefulness to individuals that deserve mention. One gentleman, now an excellent clergyman of the Established Church, was supported during his whole course at Cambridge, at a cost of several hundred pounds, by money Mr. Miller raised; and was thus prepared for the important work in which he is now engaged. And there were other similar instances.

Even to the end, notwithstanding his acute sufferings, his days were consecrated to works of Christian usefulness. His last effort was to raise a good sum for the church which has been erected at Dorchester for the congregation under the ministry of the Rev. J. Miller, M.A., his son.

After several years of affliction, the fatal attack began on the 19th of June, 1857. For a few days, body and mind were greatly distressed. Then followed a happy time of composure. During this, he said, "All fear gone,"-repeating it with emphasis; "I know my safety;" and, "I am a wonder of redeeming grace;" and also the words, "Where the weary are at rest." Then followed a state in which he had not strength to communicate his thoughts, but appeared at times to be lifting up devout aspirations to God; and at length, on Sunday the 28th, just as the rest-day began, he entered into rest.

His diary, which was kept for many

« AnteriorContinuar »