The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe/Volume 3/The Third Disputation of John Huss, upon the Eighteenth Article of Wickliff

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The Third Disputation of John Huss, upon the Eighteenth Article of Wickliff, made in the third Act, the same Year, after the Feast of St. Vitis, touching Tithes, &c.

"Tithes are pure Alms."

Alms mercy.Upon this article it is to be noted, that forasmuch as alms is a work of mercy, as St. Augustine, St. Chrysostome, and others do jointly affirm, and mercy, according to Lincolniensis' mind, for the present, is a love or desire to help the miserable out of his misery: and forasmuch as the misery of mankind is twofold; that is to say, spiritual and bodily, which is the want or taking away of the goods; and the goods of man are either the goods of the soul or of the body: and the goods of the soul are twofold; that is to say, the enlightening of the mind, and the uprightness of affection: Two kinds of misery. Two kinds of goodness. The miseries of the mind and body.the misery of the soul is also twofold; as the darkness of ignorance, and a froward and wilful swerving from the truth. And both the goods of the soul are wont to be comprehended under one title or name; that is to say, 'wisdom:' and both the miseries of the soul, under the name of 'folly.' Whereupon all the whole goodness of the soul is wisdom, and all the whole misery thereof is ignorance. The miseries of the body are lack of meat; that is to say, hunger; and lack of drink, called thirst: and, briefly, all misery is the want of some thing which is desired. Also these are bodily miseries: nakedness, lack of harbour, sickness, and imprisonment. All the miseries therefore being numbered together, are but one of the soul, which is folly and lack of wisdom, and six of the body, which the Lord, in Matthew xxv., doth plainly rehearse. There are also commonly appointed seven bodily alms; that is to say, to feed the hungry, to give drink unto the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to harbour the stranger or harbourless, to visit the sick, and to bury the dead; which all together are contained in these verses:

"Visito, poto, cibo, redimo, tego, colligo, condo."

Which verse is thus Englished:

Visit the sick, the hungry feed,
Give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked,
Bury the dead, the captive redeem,
The harbourless receive to thy lodging.

There be also seven other spiritual alms appointed, which are these: to teach the ignorant; to counsel him that is in doubt; to comfort him who is in heaviness; to correct the offender; to forgive him who hath offended against thee; to bear with those who are grievous; and to pray for all men: which are also contained in these verses following:

"Consule, castiga, solare, remitte, fer, ora."

Which verse is thus Englished:

Instruct the ignorant, the weak confirm,
Comfort the heavy heart, and correct sin:
Forgive the offender, bear with the rude,
Pray for all men both evil and good.

So that, notwithstanding, under the same, counsel and doctrine be comprehended, as writeth Thomas in the second part of the second question, art. xxxii. par. 2.

Secondly, it is to be noted that in this present article our intent is only to treat of bodily alms: which, as Thomas writeth in his second part, second question (art. xxxii. par. 1), according to some men's minds is thus defined: "Alms is a work whereby anything is given unto the needy, out of compassion, for God's sake." And forasmuch as this definition serveth as well for the spiritual as for the corporal alms, therefore, to the purpose: alms is a work, whereby any thing is given unto the needy in body for compassion, and for God's sake; or that is given of compassion or pity unto the bodily needy for God's sake.[1]

Whereupon it is manifest that alms, as St. Augustine and other holy men say, is a work of mercy, as also to give alms, as it appeareth by the name; for in the Greek it is derived from this word 'elemonia,' which is 'mercy;' for as in the Latin this word 'miseratio,' which signifieth 'pity,' is derived from 'misericordia,' which is 'mercy;' so this word 'eleemosyna,' which signifieth 'alms,' is derived from the Greek word 'elemonia,' which is to say 'mercy,' and from the word 'sina,' which is to say 'commandment,' as it were a commandment of mercy, or otherwise from this word, 'elimonia.' By this letter 'I,' which is to say, 'God,' and this word 'sina,' which is 'commandment:' it is as if it were said, 'the commandment of God;' as Januensis, in his book entitled 'Catholicon,' affirmeth.[2]

For our Saviour doth command, in Luke xi., to give alms, saying, "Give alms, and behold all things are clean unto you:" lest that in this point there may be any equivocation, it is supposed, presently that the alms given by men is a corporal alms, given simply under the name of alms. Tithes.Secondly, it is to be noted, that tithes, in this case, are the tenth part of goods of fortune, given by man simply under the name of alms for God's sake.

These things being thus noted and supposed, the article is thus proved: Every gift of fortune, or temporal gift simply given under the name of alms, is alms. But some tithes are the gift of fortune, or a temporal gift under the name of alms; therefore some tithes are alms. This consequent is manifest of itself. The major appeareth by the first supposition; and the minor by the second.

Item, Every gift given by a man, even of love, to relieve and help the miserable out of his misery, is an alms. The tenth part of the goods of fortune given by a man, simply under the name of alms for God's sake, is given by the same man even of love, to help the miserable out of his misery; therefore, the tenth part of the goods of fortune, being given by any man simply under the name of alms for God's sake, is alms. The consequent is manifest. The major appeareth by this, that every such gift is either a spiritual or bodily alms. The minor seemeth hereby true, forasmuch as many holy men have given, and do give, even for love, to relieve the miserable out of his misery; neither is it to be doubted but that such kind of tithes are alms. St. Augustine proveth tithes to be pure alms.For St. Augustine, upon these words of the Lord in the Gospel, "Woe be unto you Pharisees, which do tithe the mint and anise," writeth thus: " If they cannot be cleansed without they believe in him who doth cleanse the heart by faith, to what purpose is it that He saith, 'Give alms, and behold, all things are clean unto you?' Let us give ear, and peradventure He doth expound it himself. They did take out the tenth part of all their fruits, and give it for alms; which any christian man doth not willingly. Then they mocked Him, when He spake these words to them, as unto men who would do no alms. This the Lord foreknowing said, 'Woe be unto you Pharisees, which tithe mint and rue, and all kind of herbs, and pass over the judgment and charity of God;' for this it is to do alms, if thou dost understand it, begin with thyself; for how canst thou be merciful unto another, who art unmerciful unto thyself?" This writeth St. Augustine, plainly saying, that "tithes are alms."

Also in his Enchiridion, chap. lxxvi., upon these words of St. Luke, chap, xi., "Notwithstanding that which is more than sufficient, give in alms, and all things shall be clean unto you," he saith thus: "When he had rebuked them, that they washed themselves outwardly, and inwardly were full of iniquity and abomination, admonishing them in what, and how, a man ought first to bestow alms upon himself, and first to cleanse himself inwardly, he saith, 'That which doth remain, give in alms; and behold, all things are clean unto you.' Afterwards, that he might the better declare what he had given them warning of, and what they had neglected to do, that they should not judge him ignorant of their alms, he saith, 'Woe be unto you Pharisees;' as though he should say, 'I verily gave you warning that you should give such alms, whereby all things might be clean unto you; but woe be unto you who tithe the mint, rue, and all kind of herbs, for I do know these your alms, that you should not think with yourselves that you had given me warning thereof, and neglect and pass over the judgment and charity of God, by which alms ye might be cleansed from all your inward filthiness, and your bodies also, which you do wash, should be clean, and all these things, both inward and also outward;' as it is said in another place, 'Cleanse that which is within, and the outward tilings shall be also clean' But lest he should seem to refuse those alms which are given of the fruits of the earth, he saith, 'You ought to have done these things;' that is to say, the judgment and love of God; and not to neglect the other, that is to say, the alms of the fruit of the earth." This writeth St. Augustine, expressly calling the tithes, 'alms.'

Chrysostome.Also Chrysostome, upon the same words, in Luke xi., "That which remaineth give in alms," saith thus: "Whereas it was spoken of the Jewish kind of cleansing, it is wholly passed; but forasmuch as tithes is a certain alms, and the time was not yet expressly come to kill the sacrifices of the law, for this cause," he saith, "Ye ought to do those things, and not omit the other." St. Thomas allegeth the same in his gloss upon St. Luke. And Chrysostome himself doth touch two points: first, that tithes are alms; secondly, that tithes are in a manner lawful, forasmuch as the gift thereof unto the priests did not cease in the time of Christ.

Also St. Augustine, in a certain sermon on giving alms, saith thus: "What is it to say, 'Give alms, and behold, all things are clean unto you?' Let us give ear, and peradventure he doth expound it himself. When he had spoken these words, without doubt they thought within themselves, Who do give alms, and how do they give it? They tithed all that they had, and took out the tenth part of all their fruits, and gave it for alms: which no Christian readily doth. Mark what the Jews did: they tithed, not only their wheat, but their wine and oil; and not that only, but also vile things, at the commandment of the Lord, as cummin, rue, and anise; of which they took the tenth part, and gave it for alms. I think, therefore, forasmuch as they called to mind, and thought within themselves, that our Lord Christ spake in vain unto them that they did no alms, when they knew their own works, that they tithed the smallest and worst of all their fruits, and gave alms thereof, they mocked him amongst themselves, because he did speak in such sort luito them, as unto men that did no alms. This the Lord foreseeing, by and by added notwithstanding, 'Woe be unto you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, who tithe your mint, cummin, and rue, and all kind of herbs; for be assured that I do understand your alms. Truly, these are your tithes, these are your alms; you tithe out the least and worst of all your fruits, and have left the weighty matters of the law undone.'" Here St. Augustine often expoundeth that tithes are alms; also he writeth the like in his book of Homilies, in his sixth homily.

Item, For the proof of this article. That tithes are pure alms, it is thus argued. For this proposition. Tithes are pure alms, is infinite; taking the truth for many of its particularities. It is most certain that it is not damnable, but most catholic, that God is something; which being false in all particulars, it is only true for that alone which doth surmount all kind. Ergo, by like reason, this particular[3] is true, tenths are pure alms: for it is thus proved. These tenths of a good layman being wholly distributed by a faithful minister unto a needy layman, according to a good intent, how can they be but pure alms, yea, and more pure than any alms given by any of the clergy who may be a fornicator? The whole antecedent I suppose as possible, and doubtful unto the condemners, if it be true.

Item, It is also thus proved; These tithes, and all other goods of fortune, are pure alms in respect of God, forasmuch as every man, emperor and king, is a beggar of God, as St. Augustine doth oftentimes affirm ; and, consequently, if he do receive fruitfully any such goodness at the hand of God, the same is pure alms in respect of God; neither is there any faithful man who will deny the same, but that it simply followeth that the same is pure alms before God: ergo, it is pure alms.

It is also thus argued; All tithes are by themselves, and every part of them, alms; neither is there any reason contrary to this, that they are alms: ergo, they are pure alms; for they are by no other means or reason other than alms, if they be altogether themselves alms; forasmuch as it followeth, if they be by any other means or otherwise than alms, then they are otherwise than some alms, and forasmuch as they themselves are some alms, it followeth that they are otherwise than they are indeed; which is false.

But now to pass beyond the bounds of logic, it is to be demanded, whether before the church was endowed, or sustenance and clothing were given to the apostles, there was any pure alms, or whether alms were given by any other means by bond of debt amongst men.Sustenance and clothing given to the apostles, was alms, ergo also tithes. And, forasmuch as the reason is not to be feigned, but that they were pure alms, so, afterwards, the custom of the same thing according unto like reason doth not alter the kind of the reason; for so might beggars challenge by custom, beyond the purity of alms, the temporalties which they do beg. Neither doth debt utterly exclude the purity of alms before God; for every man duly giving alms, doth as he ought to do: as every man duly receiving his alms, ought so to receive it as according to God's will; and simply to establish any human title upon the continuance of any such alms, it is altogether contrary unto the reason of alms. Therefore, they do continually observe and keep the reason of the purity of alms, which they had from the beginning, when the bond conditioned doth not destroy the purity thereof: wherefore, there is ho cause why it should be denied that tithes are pure alms, except that the proud should be marvellously extolled, contrary to the humility of Christ; for they do challenge, by the title of their lack or want, so to be pleased for their tithes: for so might the begging friar, by the continuance of his daily begging, challenge according to the like quantity or circumstance. But it is no argument, that if the curate do perform his coqjoral ministry, that he ought, therefore, to challenge tithes by any civil title; because that as well on the behalf of him who giveth the tithe, as also on the behalf of the curate, every such ministry ought freely to be given, and not by any civil exchange; forasmuch as it is not required, but that rather the comparison of such exchanges is repugnant; for so much also as no man freely giveth any alms, except he do look for the duty of recompense, by the law of conscience.

Item, All temporal goods bestowed upon the clergy by the lay-people under condition, as the goods of the church, are the alms of them who give them: it is proved thus, forasmuch as all those goods are the goods of the poor; as it appeareth by many sayings of holy men and by the laws. But they were not the goods of the poor, after they were mere secular goods, but only by means of the work of mercy, whereby they were bestowed upon the poor: ergo, they were pure alms. The consequent dependeth upon the definition of pure alms.

Item, All things changed to the use and power of another, either by civil exchange or evangelical, are changed; but the church goods are so changed by one of these ministries. But the evangelical exchange is not to be feigned, because it is not done either by buying or selling, or any other civil exchange. Therefore there doth only remain a pure gift, for hope of a heavenly reward, which is mercy, and so pure alms. The clergy beggars.And it seemeth to follow, consequently, that all the clergy receiving such alms are not only in respect of God, as all other men, but in respect of men, beggars. For they would not so instantly require those alms except they had need of them: neither ought we to be ashamed thereof, or to be proud beggars; forasmuch as Christ, touching his humanity, became a beggar for us, because he declared his need unto his Father, saying, &c.

Item, When any king, prince, knight, citizen, or any other man, doth give unto the clergy, or to any priest for his stipend, he giveth the same imto the church of God, and to the private party, as a perpetual alms, that he should attend to his vocation, preaching, praying, and studying. But this kind of giving doth not suffice to ground any secular dominion amongst the clergy: it followeth that the bare use remaineth in them, or the secular use without any secular power.

Tithes are to be given of the ninth part of goods.The major appeareth hereby, forasmuch as, otherwise, alms should not be a work of mercy. Whereby it may also appear, that tenths are pure alms given to the church, to the use of the poor. And hereupon the holy men do say, that part of tenths are the tributes of the needy souls. Whereupon St. Augustine, in a sermon made upon the restoring of tithes, saith, "The giving of tithes, most dear brethren, is the tribute of poor souls therefore pay your tribute unto the poor." And by and by afterwards he saith, "Therefore whoso desireth either to get any reward, or to have any remission of sins by giving his tenths, let him study to give alms even of the ninth part: so that whatsoever shall remain more than a competent living and decent clothing, it be not reserved for riot, but that it be laid up in the heavenly treasury, by giving it in alms to the poor. For whatsoever God doth give to us more than we have need of, he doth not give it us specially for ourselves; but doth send it us to be bestowed upon others by our hands: if we do not give it, we invade another man's possessions."

Thus much writeth St. Augustine, and it is repeated in the 16 question, 1. "Decimæ."

Also St. Jerome in an epistle, and it is put in the sixteenth question, chap. ii. "Quiquid." " Whatsoever the clergy have, it is the goods of the poor."

Also St. Augustine in his thirty-third epistle to Boniface; and it is alleged in the first question, and 12.

Also in the twenty-third question, 7. "If we do possess any things privately which do suffice us, they are not ours, but the goods of the poor, whose stewards we are, except we do challenge to ourselves a property by some damnable usurpation." The Gloss upon that part of the twenty-third question, 7. saith, "The prelates are only the stewards of the church-goods, and not lords thereof."

St. Ambrose, also, upon this saying of the gospel (Luke xvi.), "Give account of your bailiship or stewardship:" "Hereby then do we learn, that they are not lords, but rather stewards and bailiffs of other men's substance."

The clergy are stewards of the church-goods, and not lords thereof.And St. Jerome, writing to Nepotianus, saith, "How can they be of the clergy, who are commanded to contemn and despise their own substance? To take away from a friend is theft; to deceive the church is sacrilege, and to take away that which should be given unto the poor."

And St. Bernard, in his sermon upon these words, "Simon Peter said unto Jesus" (John xix.), said "Truly, the goods of the church, are the patrimony of the poor: and whatsoever thing the ministers and stewards of the same, not lords or possessors, do take unto themselves more than sufficient for a competent living, the same is taken away from the poor by a sacrilegious cruelty."

And Eusebius, in his treatise upon the pilgrimage of St. Jerome, writeth thus: "If thou dost possess a garment, or any other thing more than extreme necessity doth require, and dost not help the needy, thou art a thief and a robber. Wherefore, dearly beloved children, let us be stewards of our temporalties, and not possessors."

And Isidore, in his treatise, "De summo bono," chap, xlii., saith, "Let the bishop know that he is the servant of the people, and not lord over them."

Also in the fifth book of Decretals, "Extra de donationibus," sub auctoritate Alexandri tertii, episcopi Parisiensis.' He saith, "We believe that it is not unknown unto your brotherhood, that a bishop, and every other prelate, is but a steward of the church-goods, and not lord thereof." By these sayings of these holy men it is evidently declared, that not only tithes, but also all other substance which the clergy have by gift or work of mercy, are pure alms, which, after the necessity of the clergy is once satisfied, ought to be transported unto the poor.

Secondly, it is declared how the clergy are not lords and possessors of those goods, but ministers and stewards thereof.

Thirdly, it is showed, that if the clergy do abuse the same, they are thieves, robbers, and sacrilegious persons, and, except they do repent, by the just judgment of God they are to be condemned.

And thus, hitherto, I may peradventure seem to have made sufficiently long recital out of John Huss, but so notwithstanding, that the commodity of those things may abundantly recompense the prolixity thereof. Wherefore, if I shall seem unto any man, in the rehearsal of this disputation, to have passed very far the bounds of the history, let him think thus of me, that at what time I took in hand to write of these ecclesiastical matters, I could not omit these things which were so straitly joined with the cause of the church. Not that I make more account of the history which I had taken in hand, than of the common utility whereunto I had chief respect.

There were besides these, certain other articles whereupon the said John Huss had very wisely and learnedly disputed; but these shall suffice us for the present. And for the residue, we will pass them over to the intent we may the more speedily return to where our story left off, declaring what cruelty they used not only against the books and articles of John Wickliff, but also in burning his body and bones, commanding them to be taken up forty-one years after he was buried; as appeareth by the decree of the said synod, the form whereof we thought hereunto to annex.

  1. "Eleemosyna est opus, quo datur aliquid indigenti in corpore, ex compassione propter Deum, vel quod datur, vel datum est ex compassione, indigenti corporaliter propter Deum."—See the Latin edition, 1559, p. 48.—Ed.
  2. An extract from the Latin is here subjoined. "Et hoc apparet ex ipso nomine. Nam in Græco misericordia derivatur, sicut Latinè miseratio a mlsericordia: sic eleemosyna ab elemonia, quod est misericordia: et sina, quod est mandatum, id est, mandatum misericordiæ, vel elimonia, per 'I' melius. Et tune dicitur ab 'eli' quod est 'Deus,' et 'sina,' quod est 'mandatum,' quasi mandatum Dei, ut dicit Januensis in suo Catholicon." Pp. 48, 49.—Ed.
  3. "Hæc indefinita." See the Latin edition, p. 50.—Ed.