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" It would be vain and idle in a man to pray to God for victory over temptation, or to give him thanks for victory obtained" (1).” When free-willers kneel down to petition God for any spiritual blessing, what is such conduct, but a virtual renunciation of their own distinguishing tenet ? And, on the footing of that tenet, what an unmeaning service is the ascription of praise !
Quesitum meritus sume superbiam. Away with prayer. Away with thanksgiving. Neither the one, nor the other, has any reasonable pretext to keep it in countenance, on the principles of Pelagius and Arminius. The whole lower creation cannot exhibit a more glaring example of human inconsistency, than a free-willer on his knees.
Bradwardin was not less clear on the important article of final perseverance. According to him, this crowning grace is the gift of God alone : “ When David prayed thus for his devout subjects, O Lord God, preserve this will of their heart for ever, and grant that their inclination to thy fear may continue in them (m); what was this, but a prayer for their ultimate perseverance ? and why did he ask it of God, if it is not the gift of God, but acquirable by every man's own powers (n)?” To which the evangelical prelate adds: “ As David besought God, for the perseverance of his own religious subjects; so also the Lord Christ, our mystic David, besought
(1) Vanum esset orare Deum, ut tentationem aliquam superaret: vanum esset, pro tentationis victoriâ, gratias agere Domino Deo nostro.” Ibid.
(m) 1 Chron. xxix. 18. Our English translation renders it thus : O Lord God-keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare (the margin reads, stablish] their hearts unto thee.
(n) “ Sanctus quoque David, 1 paralip. ult. sic orans Dominum pro populo sibi devoto, Domine Deus, custodi in æternum banc voJuntatem cordis eorum, et semper in venerationem tui mens ista permaneat; quid aliud petit, quâm perseverantiam consummatam ? Et cur eam petebat à Deo, si non daretur ab eo, sed unusquisque propriis viribus illam posset habere?” Lib. ii. cap. viii. p. 492.
God the Father in behalf of his own people, saying, holy Father, preserve in my own name those whom thou hast given unto me (o).” Quoting that passage, Jer. xxxii. 37–10. he thus descants : “ Hence it is evident, that both a departure from evil, and a final continuance in good to the end of our days, by virtue of that everlasting covenant which secures us against revolting from the Lord, which is what we mean by the phrase of perseverance to the end; neither takes its rise from, nor is carried on by man: but from and by God himself. For which reason,
St. Austin, in his Treatise concerning the Blessing of Perseverance, observes, that, in the above passage
of scripture, God promises perseverance to his people, saying, I will put my fear into their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. What is this (saith Austin), but to affirm, The fear which I will put into their hearts, shall be such, and so great, that they shall preservingly adhere to me (p)?”
It is now time for me to take my unwilling leave of Bradwardin, and put an end to this long section, by just dropping a word,
V. Concerning that illustrious nobleman and martyr, sir John Oldcastle, the good lord Cobham. No one, who is at all acquainted with English bistory, need be informed, that this great and excel
(o) “ Sicut ille David, pro perseverantiâ populi sui, Deum oravit: sic et David noster Dominus Christus pro populo suo Deum Patrem oravit: Pater, inquiens, serva eos in nomine tuo, quos dedisti mihi.” Ibid.
(p)“ Unde claret, quòd tàm reditio à malo, quàm permansie in bono finalitèr, scilicèt, universis Diebus; pacto sempiterno ut nunquam recedatur à Domino, quæ est perseverantia usque in finem; non est sufficientèr nec antecedentèr ab homine, sed à Deo. Unde et Augustinus, de bono perseverantia, 2. eandem conclusionem per eandem autoritatem ostendit: banc enim, inquiens, scilicèt, perseverantiam promisit Deus, dicens, timorem meum dabo in cor eorum, ut a me non recedant. Quod quid est aliud, quàm quod talis ac tantus erit timor meus, quem dabo in cor eorum, ut mihi perseverantèr adhæreant ?” Ibid. p. 493.
lent person fell a sacrifice, in reality, to the rage of · the Romish ecclesiastics; whose hatred he had incurred, by the purity of his religious principles, and by the honest boldness with which he asserted them. King Henry V. notwithstanding his political maxim, of keeping fair with the church, at all events, would probably never have gratified her with a victim of such high rank, and for whom he had a great personal regard, if some churchmen of that age had not trumped up a charge of treason against lord Cobham: when, all the while, his real crime, in * their eye, was heresy. The princes of the House of Lancaster could not but be perfectly conscious that their possession of the throne was founded on manifest usurpation. This rendered them extremely suspicious of their subjects; and induced them to avenge, with severity, every measure that seemed to threaten the smallest approaches of a revolution. The papists availed themselves of this circumstance, in the case of lord Cobham. The king, though displeased at this nobleman's abhorrence of popery, was not, perhaps, sorry to hear of his escape from the Tower: as that incident extricated his majesty from the painful alternative of either offending the church, by pardoning Cobham in form; or of resigning a victorious general and faithful subject to the flames, in order to satisfy a set of men who were, in reality, but so many dead weights on the wheel of civil government. But the ecclesiastics would not quit their prey so easily. Some time after lord Cobham's escape from the Tower, about 100 Wickliffites (or, as they were then called, Lollards) were assembled, for the purposes of devotion, in St. Giles' Fields; at that time, an uncultivated tract of ground, overgrown with bushes and trees (9). The good people were then obliged by persecution either entirely to
(p) Complete Hist. of Engl. vol. i. p. 311.
forego all religious meetings, or to hold them in such sequestered places as those.
This innocent assembly was not conducted with the intended secresy. The papists gained intelligence of it, and alarmed the king (who was keeping Christmas at Eltham) with information, that a number of Lollards, to the amount of at least 20,000, with lord Cobham at their head, were rendezvoused in St. Giles' Fields, with a view to exterminate the reigning family. The jealous king gave implicit credit to the false representation : and, repairing, at midnight, to the place, with such forces as he could hastily collect, found about 80 persons met together. Some were immediately slaughtered by the soldiers. About 60 were taken prisoners; of whom, 34 were afterwards hanged, and seven hanged and burned.
I mention this pretended conspiracy, because it sealed the doom of lord Cobham. Though he was not so much as present at the above meeting, “A Bill of Attainder passed against him, a reward of a thousand marks was set on his head, and a perpetual exemption from taxes promised to any town that should secure him (r). After a concealment of nigh four years, the attainted peer was apprehended in Montgomeryshire, and conveyed to London; where he received sentence of death. He was executed in St. Giles' Fields, on Christmas-day, December 25, 1417. Nothing could be more cruel than the mode of his sufferings. All historians agree, that he was burned hanging. Echard says, that he was suspended over the fire, by an iron chain, fastened round his middle (s). The plate, in Mr. Fox, represents him as hanging with his back downward, by three chains: the first fastened to
(r) Biograph. Dict. vol. xii. p. 278.
his middle, by an iron hoop; the second, to his right thigh ; the other to his neck (t).
We have very little remaining of what was written by the noble martyr. His two confessions of faith, which occur in Fox, were evidently so worded, as to give no more offence to the times, than was absolutely necessary: a precaution, which, however, did not save the life of their author. I. therefore rest the evidence of his probable Calvinism, on the known Calvinism of Wickliff. I have already proved, that Wickliff carried the doctrines of predestination and grace to a very great length: nor is it likely, that lord Cobham should have been so devoted an admirer of Wickliff, as he certainly was; nor have put himself to the labour, expence, and danger, of transcribing and dispersing the writings of that reformer, with such zeal and industry, as he certainly did; had he differed from Wickliff on points which so materially affect the whole system of protestantism. A very judicious writer affirms, that lord Cobham “caused all the works of Wickliff to be wrote out and dispersed in Bohemia, France, Spain, Portugal, and other parts of Europe (u).” Which, I should imagine, he would no more bave done, had he not adopted Wickliff's plan of doctrine, than the vicar of Broad Hembury, would be at the pains and cost of reprinting and dispersing the lucubrations of Mr. John Wesley.
Indeed, the principles of all Wickliff's disciples appear, so far as I have been able to find, highly Calvinistical. Take one specimen in lieu of many.
About the year 13G1, during the reign of Richard II. a letter of expostulation, written, by a Lollard, to one Nicholas Hereford (who had apostatized from Wickliffism to popery), has the two following paragraphs: “No perversion of any reprobate,”
(t) Acts and Mon. vol. i. p. 731.