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thinking it an idle thing."1 And, to take an example of the view taken in such documents as to the priest's duty: "If you are a priest be a true lantern to the people both in speaking and in living, and faithfully and truly do all things which pertain to a priest. Seek wisely the ground of truth and the true office of the priesthood, and be not ruled blindly by the lewd customs of the world. Read God's law and the Expositions of the Holy Doctors, and study and learn and keep it, and when thou knowest it, preach and teach it to those that are unlearned."2
Richard Whitford, the Monk of Sion, in his Work for Householders, published first in 1530, lays great stress upon the obligation of parents and masters to see that those under their charge attended the instructions given in the parish church. Some may perhaps regard his greater anxiety for their presence at sermons rather than at Mass, when it was not possible for them to be at both, as doubtful advice. In this, however, he agrees with the author of what was the most popular book of instructions at this period, and the advice itself is proof that the obligation of attending instructions was regarded as sufficiently serious to be contrasted with that of hearing Mass. Speaking of the Sunday duties, Whitford says: "At church on Sundays see after those who are under your care. And charge them also to keep their sight in the church close upon their book and beads. And whilst they are young accustom them always to kneel, stand, and sit, and never walk in the church. And let them hear the Mass quietly and devoutly, much part kneeling. But at the Gospel, the Preface, and at the Paternoster teach them to stand and to make curtsey at the word Jesus, as the priest does. . . . If there be a sermon any time of the day let them be present, all that are not occupied in needful and lawful business; all other (occupations) laid aside let them ever keep the preachings, rather than the Mass, if, perchance, they may not hear both."
Nothing could possibly be more definite or explicit upon the necessity of popular instructions and upon the duty incumbent upon the clergy of giving proper vernacular teaching to their flocks than the author of Dives et Pauper, the most popular of the fifteenth-century books of religious instruction. In fact, on this point his language is as strong and uncompromising as that which writers have too long been accustomed to associate with the name of Wycliffe. No more unwarranted assumption has ever been made in the name of history than that which classed under the head of Lollard productions almost every fifteenth-century tract in English, especially such as dealt openly with abuses needing correction, and pleaded for simple vernacular teaching of religion. This is what the author of Dives et Pauper says about preaching: "Since God's word is life and salvation of man's soul, all those who hinder them that have authority of God, and by Orders taken, to preach and teach, from preaching and teaching God's word and God's law, are manslayers ghostly. They are guilty of as many souls that perish by the hindering of God's word, and namely those proud, covetous priests and curates who can neither teach, nor will teach, nor suffer others that both can and will and have authority to teach and preach of God and of the bishop who gave them Orders, but prevent them for fear lest they should get less from their subjects, or else the less be thought of, or else that their sins should be known by the preaching of God's word. Therefore, they prefer to leave their own sins openly reproved generally, among other men's sins. As St. Anselm saith God's word ought to be worshipped as much as Christ's body, and he sins as much who hindereth God's word and despiseth God's word, or taketh it recklessly as he that despiseth God's body, or through his negligence letteth it fall to the ground. On this place the gloss showeth that it is more profitable to hear God's word in preaching than to hear a Mass, and that a man should rather forbear his Mass than his sermon. For, by preaching, folks are stirred to contrition, and to forsake sin and the fiend, and to love God and goodness, and (by it) they be illumined to know their God, and virtue from vice, truth from falsehood, and to forsake errors and heresies. By the Mass they are not so, but if they come to Mass in sin they go away in sin, and shrews they come and shrews they wend away. . . . Nevertheless, the Mass profiteth them that are in grace to get grace and forgiveness of sin. . . . Both are good, but the preaching of God's word ought to be more discharged and more desired than the hearing of Mass." 1
In the same way the author of a little book named The Interpretatyon and Sygnyfycacyon of the Masse, printed by Robert Wyer in 1532, insists on the obligation of attending the Sunday instruction. "On each Sunday," he says, "he shall also hear a sermon, if it be possible, for if a man did lose or omit it through contempt or custom, he would sin greatly."2 And in The Myrrour of the Church, the author tells those who desire "to see the Will of God in Holy Scripture," but being of "simple learning" and "no cunning " cannot read, that they may do so "in open sermon, or in secret collation " with those who can. And in speaking of the Sunday duties he tells his readers not to lie in bed, "but rising promptly you shall go to the church, and with devotion say your matins without jangling. Also sweetly hear your Mass and all the hours of the day. And then if there is any preacher in the church who proposes to make a sermon, you shall sweetly hear the Word of God and keep it in remembrance."' And lastly, to take one more example, in Wynkyn de Worde's Exornatorium
1 In speaking of the third Commandment, The art of good lyvyng and good deyng (1503) warns people of their obligation to "Layr the holy prechyngys, that ys the word of God et the good techyngys, and shoold not go from the seyd prechyngs " (fol. 8. 2).
• Ibid., f. I.
• The Myrrour of the Church (1527). Sig. B4.
Curatorum, printed to enable those having the cure of souls to perform the duties of instruction laid down by Archbishop Peckham's Provincial Constitution, whilst setting forth a form of examination of conscience under the head of the deadly sins, the author bids the curate teach his people to ask themselves: "Whether you have been slothful in God's service, and specially upon the Sunday and the holy day whether you have been slothful to come to church, slothful to pray when you have been there, and slothful to hear the Word of God preached. Furthermore, whether you have been negligent to learn your Pater Noster, your Ave Maria, or your Creed, or whether you have been negligent to teach the same to your own children or to your god-children. Examine yourself also whether you have taught your children good manners, and guarded them from danger and bad company." The same book insists on the need of such examination of conscience daily, or at least weekly.1
The following in this connection is of interest as being a daily rule of life recommended to laymen in the English Prymer printed at Rouen in 1538: "First rise up at six o'clock in the morning at all seasons, and in rising do as follows: "Thank our Lord who has brought us to the beginning of the day. Commend yourself to God, to Our Lady Saint Mary, and to the saint whose feast is kept that day, and to all the saints in heaven. When you have arrayed yourself say in your chamber or lodging, Matins, Prime, and Hours, if you may. Then go to the church before you do any worldly works if you have no needful business, and abide in the church the space of a low mass time, where you shall think on God and thank Him for His benefits. Think awhile on the goodness of God, on
1 Exomatorium Curatorum. W. de Worde. In 1518 the Synod of Ely ordered that all having the cure of souls should have a copy of this book, and four times a year should explain it in English to their people. (Wilkins, Concilia, III., p. 712.)
His divine might and virtue. ... If you cannot be so long in the church on account of necessary business, take some time in the day in your house in which to think of these things." . . . Take your meal "reasonably without excess or overmuch forbearing of your meat, for there is as much danger in too little as in too much. If you fast once in a week it is enough, besides Vigils and Ember days out of Lent." After dinner rest "an hour or half-an-hour, praying God that in that rest He will accept your health to the end, that after it you may serve Him the more devoutly."
". . . As touching your service, say up to Tierce before dinner, and make an end of all before supper. And when you are able say the Dirge and Commendations for all Christian souls, at least on holy days, and if you have leisure say them on other days, at least with three lessons. Shrive yourself every week to your curate, except you have some great hindrance. And beware that you do not pass a fortnight unless you have a very great hindrance. If you have the means refuse not your alms to the first poor body that asketh it of you that day. Take care to hear and keep the Word of God. Confess you every day to God without fail of such sins you know you have done that day." Think often of our Lord's Passion, and at night when you wake turn your thoughts to what our Lord was doing at that hour in His Passion. In your life look for a faithful friend to whom you may open " your secrets," and when found follow his advice. No doubt this "manner to live well" will perhaps hardly represent what people at this time ordinarily did. But the mere fact that it could be printed as a Christian's daily rule of life as late as 1538, is evidence at any rate that people took at the least as serious a view of their obligations in religious matters as we should.1 In the same way The art of good lyvyng, quoted above, suggests as the proper way to
1 The Prynur of Salisbury Use. Rouen: Nicholas le Rour, f. b. vij.