John Wyclif, eminent as scholar, preacher, and translator, was born in 1324 in Spresswel, near Richmond, Yorkshire, England. Known as the "Morning Star of the Reformation" he was a vigorous and argumentative speaker, exemplifying his own definition of preaching as something which should be "apt, apparent, full of true feeling, fearless in rebuking sins, and so addrest to the heart as to enlighten the spirit and subdue the will." On these lines he organized a band of Bible preachers who worked largely among the common people.
Much of Wyclif's popularity was due to his clear and simple style. While not a great orator, he introduced a popular method of preaching that was widely copied. He died at Lutterworth in 1384. The Church considered him a heretic, for he taught the right of the individual to form his own opinions after personal study of the Scriptures. He was the first Englishman to translate the Bible systematically into his native Anglo-Saxon. In 1428, by order of Pope Martin V, his bones were exhumed and burned, and the ashes thrown into the river Swale.
CHRIST'S REAL BODY NOT IN THE EUCHARIST
This is my body. -- Matt. xxvi., 26.
Now understand ye the words of our Savior Christ, as He spake them one after another -- as Christ spake them. For He took bread and blest, and yet what blest He? The Scripture saith not that Christ took the bread and blest it, or that He blest the bread which He had taken. Therefore it seemeth more that He blest His disciples and apostles, whom He had ordained witnesses of His passion; and in them He left His blest word, which is the bread of life, as it is written, "Not only in bread liveth man, but in every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." Also Christ saith, "I am the bread of life that came down from heaven." And Christ saith also in John, "The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life." Therefore it seemeth more that He blest His disciples, and also His apostles, in whom the bread of life was left more than in material bread, for the material bread hath an end. As it is written in the Gospel of Matthew xv. that Christ said, "All things that a man eateth go down into the belly, and are sent down into the draught;" but the blessing of Christ kept His disciples and apostles, both bodily and [ghostly] spiritual. As it is written, that none of them perished but the son of perdition, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, and often the Scripture saith that Jesus took bread and brake it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, "Take ye, eat ye, this is my body that shall be given for you." But He said not this bread is my body, or that bread should be given for the life of the world. For Christ saith, What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before? "It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing." Also Christ saith in the Gospel, "Verily, verily I say unto you except the wheat corn fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit"
Here men may see by the words of Christ that it behooved that He died in the flesh, and that in His death was made the fruit of everlasting life for all them that believe on Him, as it is written "For as by Adam they all die, even so by Christ shall all live, and every man in his own order; for as one clearness is in the sun, another in the moon, and a star in clearness is nothing in comparison to the sun; even so is the rising again of the dead for we are sown in corruption and shall rise again incorruptible, we are sown in infirmity, and shall rise again in strength; we are sown in natural bodies, and shall rise again spiritual bodies." Then if Christ shall change thus our deadly bodies by death, and God the Father spared not his own Son, as it is written, but that death should reign in him as in us, and that he should be translated into a spiritual body, as the first rising again of dead men; then how say the hypocrites that take on them to make our Lord's body? Make they the glorified body? Either make they again the spiritual body which is risen from death to life or make they the fleshy body as it was before he suffered death? And if they say also that they make the spiritual body of Christ, it may not be so, for what Christ said and did, He did as He was at supper before He suffered His passion; as it is written that the spiritual body of Christ rose again from death to life. Also that He ascended up to heaven, and that He will abide there till He come to judge the quick and the dead. And if they say that they make Christ's body as it was before He had suffered His passion, then must they needs grant that Christ is to die yet. For by all Holy Scriptures He was promised to die, and that He should give lordship of everlasting life.
Furthermore, if they say that Christ made His body of bread, I ask, With what words made He it? Not with these words, Hoc est corpus meum; that is to say in English, "This is my body," for they are the words of giving, and not of making, which He said after that He brake the bread; then parting it among His disciples and apostles. Therefore if Christ had made of that bread His body, [He] had made it in His blessing, or else in giving of thanks, and not in the words of giving; for if Christ had spoken of the material bread that He had in His hands when He said, Hoc est corpus meum, "This is my body," it was made before, or else the word had been a lie. For if I say, This is my hand, and if it be not a hand, then am I a liar; therefore seek carefully if ye can find two words of blessing, or of giving of thanks, wherewith Christ made his body and blood of the bread and wine. And that all the clerks of the earth know not, for if ye might find or know those words, then should ye wax great masters above Christ, and then ye might be givers of His substance, and as fathers and makers of Him, and that He should worship you, as it is written, Thou shalt worship thy father and mother. Of such as desire such worship against God's law, speaketh St. Paul of the man of sin, that enhanceth himself as if he were God. And he is worshiped over all things as God, and showeth himself as he were God. Where our clergy are guilty in this, judge ye or they that know most, for they say that when ye have said, Hoc est corpus meum, that is to say, "This is my body;" which ye call the words of consecration, or else of making; and when they are said over the bread, ye say that there is left no bread, but it is the body of the Lord. So that in the bread there remaineth nothing but a heap of accidents, as witness ruggedness, roundness, savor, touching, and tasting, and such other accidents. Then, if thou sayest that the flesh and blood of Christ, that is to say, his manhood, is made more, or increased by so much as the ministration of bread and wine is, the which ye minister -- if ye say it is so -- then thou must needs consent that the thing which is not God today shall be God tomorrow; yea, and that the thing which is without spirit of life, but groweth in the field by kind, shall be God at another time. And we all ought to believe that He was without beginning, and without ending; and not made, for if the manhood of Christ were increased every day by so much as the bread and wine draweth to that ye minister, He should increase more in one day by cart-loads than He did in thirty-two years when He was here in earth.
And if thou makest the body of the Lord in those words, Hoc est corpus meum; that is to say, "This is my body"; and if thou mayest make the body of the Lord in those words, "This is my body," thou thyself must be the person of Christ, or else there is a false God; for if it be thy body as thou sayest, then it is the body of a false knave or of a drunken man, or of a thief, or of a lecherer, or full of other sins, and then there is an unclean body for any man to worship for God! For even if Christ had made there His body of material bread in the said words, as I know they are not the words of making, what earthly man had power to do as He did? For in all Holy Scripture, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of the Apocalypse, there are no words written of the making of Christ's body; but there are written that Christ was the Son of the Father, and that He was conceived of the Holy Ghost, and that he took flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary, and that He was dead, and that He rose again from death on the third day, and that He ascended to heaven very God and man, and that we should believe in all Scriptures that are written of Him, and that He is to come to judge the quick and the dead, and that the same Christ Jesus, King and Savior, was at the beginning with the Father and the Holy Ghost, making all things of naught, both heaven and earth, and all things that are therein; working by word of His virtue, for He said, Be it done, and it was done, whose works never earthly man might comprehend, either make. And yet the words of the making of these things are written in the beginning of Genesis, even as God spake them; and if ye can not make the work that He made, and have the word by which He made it, how shall ye make Him that made the works? You have no words of authority or power left you on earth by which ye should do this, but ye have feigned this craft of your false errors, which some of you understand not; for it is prophesied, "They shall have eyes and see not, and ears and hear not; and shall see prophesies, and shall not understand, less they be converted; for I hide them from the hearts of those people; their hearts are greatly fatted." And this thing is done to you for the wickedness of your errors in unbelief; therefore be ye converted from the worst sin, as it is written, "When Moses was in the hill with God," the people made a calf and worshiped it as God. And God spake to Moses, "Go, for the people have done the worst sin to make and worship alien gods."
But now I shall ask you a word; answer ye me, Whether is the body of the Lord made at once or at twice? Is it both the flesh and the blood in the host of the bread; or else is the flesh made at one time, and the blood made at another time; that is to say, the wine in the chalice? If thou wilt say it is full and wholly the manhood of Christ in the host of bread, both flesh and blood, skin, hair, and bones, then makest thou us to worship a false god in the chalice, which is unconjured when ye worship the bread; and if ye say the flesh is in the bread, and the blood in the wine, then thou must grant, if thy craft be true, as it is not indeed, that the manhood of Christ is parted, and that He is made at two times. For first thou takest the host of bread, or a piece of bread, and makest it as ye say, and the innocent people worship it. And then thou takest to thee the chalice, and likewise marrest, makest, I would have said, the blood in it, and then they worship it also, and if it be so as I am sure that the flesh and blood of Christ ascended, then are ye false harlots to God and to us; for when we shall be houselled ye bring to us the dry flesh, and let the blood be away; for ye give us after the bread, wine and water, and sometimes clean water unblest, or rather conjured, by the virtue of your craft; and yet ye say, under the host of bread is the full manhood of Christ. Then by your own confession must it needs be that we worship a false god in the chalice, which is unconjured when we worship the bread, and worship the one as the other; but where find ye that ever Christ or any of His disciples taught any man to worship this bread or wine?
Therefore, what shall we say of the apostles that were so much with Christ, and were called by the Holy Ghost; had they forgotten to set it in the creed when they made it, which is Christian men's belief? Or else we might say that they knew no such God, for they believe in no more gods but in Him that was at the beginning, and made of naught all things visible and invisible, which Lord took flesh and blood, being in the Virgin, the same God. But ye have many false ways, to beguile the innocent people with sleights of the fiend.
For ye say that in every host each piece is the whole manhood of Christ, or full substance of Him. For ye say as a man may take a glass, and break the glass into many pieces, and in every piece properly thou mayest see thy face, and yet thy face is not parted; so ye say the Lord's body is in each host or piece, and His body is not parted. And this is a full subtle question to beguile an innocent fool, but will ye take heed of this subtle question, how a man may take a glass and behold the very likeness of his own face, and yet it is not his face, but the likeness of his face; for if it were his very face, then he must needs have two faces, one on his body and another in the glass. And if the glass were broken in many places, so there should be many faces more by the glass than by the body, and each man shall make as many faces to them as they would; but as ye may see the mind or likeness of your face, which is not the very face; but the figure thereof, so the bread is the figure or mind of Christ's body in earth, and therefore Christ said, As oft as ye do this thing do it in mind of me.
Also ye say this, As a man may light many candles at one candle, and yet the light of that candle is never the more nor ever the less; so ye say that the manhood of Christ descendeth into each part of every host, and the manhood of Christ is never the more nor less. Where then becometh your ministrations? For if a man light many candles at one candle, as long as they burn there will be many candles lighted, and as well the last candle as the first; and so by this reason, if ye shall fetch your word at God, and make God, there must needs be many gods, and that is forbidden in the first commandment, Exod. xx. And as for making more, either making less, of Christ's manhood, it lieth not in your power to come there nigh, neither to touch it, for it is ascended into heaven in a spiritual body, which He suffered not Mary Magdalen to touch, when her sins were forgiven to her.
Therefore all the sacraments that are left here in earth are but minds of the body of Christ, for a sacrament is no more to say but a sign or mind of a thing passed, or a thing to come; for when Jesus spake of the bread, and said to His disciples, As ye do this thing, do it in mind of me, it was set for a mind of good things passed of Christ's body; but when the angel showed to John the sacraments of the woman and of the beast that bare her, it was set for a mind of evil things to come on the face of the earth, and great destroying of the people of God. And in the old law there were many figures or minds of things to come. For before Christ, circumcision was commanded by a law; and he that kept not the law was slain. And yet St. Paul saith, "And neither is it circumcision that is openly in the flesh, but he that is circumcised of heart in spirit, not the letter whose praising is not of men, but of God." Peter saith in the third chapter of his epistle, "And so baptism of like form maketh not us safe, but the putting away of the filthiness of the flesh, and the having of good conscience in God by the rising again of our Lord Jesus Christ from death, that we should be made heirs of everlasting life, He went up into heaven, and angels, and powers, and virtues, are made subjects to Him."
And also the Scripture saith of John Baptist, that he preached in the wilderness and said, "A stronger than I shall come after me, and I am not worthy to kneel down and unlace His shoe;" and yet Christ said that he was more than a prophet. See also Isaiah xl., Matt. xi. How may ye then say that ye are worthy to make His body, and yet your works bear witness that ye are less than the prophets? for if ye were not, ye should not teach the people to worship the sacraments or minds of Christ for Christ himself; which sacraments or figures are lawful as God taught them and left them unto us, as the sacrifices or minds of the old law were full good. As it is written, "They that kept them should live in them." And so the bread that Christ brake was left to us for mind of things passed for the body of Christ, that we should believe He was a very man in kind as we are, but as God in power, and that His manhood was sustained by food as ours. For St. Paul saith He was very man, and in form he was found as man. And so we must believe that He was very God and very man together, and that He ascended up very God and very man to heaven, and that He shall be there till He come to doom the world. And we may not see him bodily, being in this life, as it is written, Peter i., for he saith, "Whom ye have not seen ye love, into whom ye now not seeing believe." And John saith in the first chapter of his Gospel, "No man saw God; none but the only begotten Son that is in the bosom of the Father, He hath told it out." And John saith in his first epistle, the third chapter, "Every man that sinneth seeth not him, neither knoweth him." By what reason then say ye that are sinners that ye make God? truly this must needs be the worst sin, to say that ye make God, and it is the abomination of discomfort that is said in Daniel the prophet to be standing in the holy place; he that readeth let him understand.
Also Luke saith that Christ took the cup after that He had supped, and gave thanks and said, "This cup is the new testament in my blood that shall be shed unto the remission of sins for man." Now, what say ye; the cup which He said was the new testament in His blood, was it a material cup in which the wine was that He gave his disciples wine of, or was it His most blest body in which the blest blood was kept till it was shed out for the sins of them that should be made safe by His passion? Needs must we say that He spake of His holy body, as He did when He called His passion or suffering in body a cup, when He prayed to His father, before He went to His passion, and said, "If it be possible that this cup pass from me, but if thou wilt that I drink it, thy will be done?" He spake not here of the material cup in which He had given His disciples drink; for it troubled not Him, but He prayed for His great sufferance and bitter death, the which He suffered for our sins and not for His own. And if He spake of His holy body and passion when He said, "This cup is the new testament in my blood," so He spake of His holy body when He said, "This is my body which shall be given for you," and not of the material bread which He had in His hand. Also in another place He called His passion a cup, where the mother of Zebedee's sons came to Him, and asked of Him that her two sons, when He came to His kingdom, might sit one on His right, and one at His left side. And He answered and said, "Woman, thou wottest not what thou asketh; then He said to them, May ye drink of the cup that I shall drink? and they said, Yea, Lord. And He said, Ye shall drink of my cup, but to sit on my right hand or left hand it is not mine to give, but to the Father it is proper." But in that He said, Ye shall drink of my cup, He promised them to suffer tribulation of this world as He did, by the which they should enter into life everlasting, and to be both on his right hand. And thus ye may see that Christ spake not of the material cup, neither of himself, nor of his apostles, neither of material bread, neither of material wine. Therefore let every man wisely, with meek prayers, and great study, and also charity, read the words of God and holy Scriptures; but many of you are like the mother of Zebedee's sons to whom Christ said, "Thou knowest not what thou askest." So, many of you know not what ye ask, nor what you do; for if ye did, ye would not blaspheme God as ye do, to set an alien God instead of the living God. Also Christ saith, "I am a very vine; wherefore then worship ye not the vine God, as ye do the bread? Wherein was Christ a very vine, or wherein was the bread Christ's body, in figurative speech, which is hidden to the understanding? Then if Christ became not a material or an earthly vine, neither did a material vine become His body. So neither the bread, material bread, was changed from its substance to the flesh and blood of Christ."
Have ye not read in John the second, when Christ came into the temple, they asked of Him what token He would show, that they might believe Him. And He answered them, "Cast down this temple, and in three days I shall raise it again;" which words were fulfilled in His rising again from death; but when He said, "Undo this temple," in that that He said this, they were in error, for they understood it fleshly, and had supposed that He had spoken of the temple of Jerusalem, because He stood in it. And therefore they accused Him at His passion full falsely. For He spake of the temple of His blest body, which rose again in the third day. And right so Christ spake of His holy body when He said, "This is my body which shall be given for you," which was given to death, and to rising again to bliss, for all that shall be saved by him. But like as they accused him falsely of the temple of Jerusalem, so now a days they accuse falsely against Christ, and say that Christ spake of the bread that He brake among His apostles; for in that Christ said this, they are deceived, take it fleshly, and turn it to the material bread, as the Jews did to the temple; and on this false understanding they make abomination of discomfort, as is said by Daniel the prophet, and in Matthew xxiv., to be standing in the holy place; he that readeth let him understand.
Now, therefore, pray we heartily to God, that this evil may be made short for the chosen men, as He hath promised in His blest Gospel; and the large and broad way that leadeth to perdition may be stopt, and the straight and narrow way that leadeth to bliss may be made open by Holy Scriptures, that we may know which is the will of God, to serve Him in truth and holiness in the dread of God, that we may find by Him a way of bliss everlasting. So be it.