The Book of Conclusions and Reformations 1395.
The Book of Conclusions or Reformations, exhibited to the Parliament holden at London, and set up at Paul’s door and other places, in the eighteenth year of the reign of King Richard II, and in the year of our Lord 1395. [They were exhibited by Sir Thomas Latimer and Sir Richard Stury in the Parliament held at Westminster 29 January 1394-5, before Edward Duke of York, Regent in the absence of King Richard in Ireland.]
Reproduced from The Acts and Monuments of John Foxe, ed Rev Geo. Townsend. Seeley, Burnside & Seeley, London 1844. Vol 3 p 203-6.
The first conclusion —When the church of England began first to dote in temporalties after her stepmother the great church of Rome, and the churches were authorised by appropriations; faith, hope, and charity began in divers places to fly away from our church, forasmuch as pride, with her dolorous genealogy of mortal sins, did challenge that place by title of heritage. And this conclusion is genera!, and approved by experience, custom, and manner, as ye shall hereafter hear.
The second conclusion ;—That our usual priesthood, which took its original at Rome, and is feigned to be a power higher than angels, is not that priesthood which Christ ordained unto his apostles. This conclusion is thus proved, forsomuch as the Romish priesthood is executed with signs, and rites, and pontifical benedictions, of little virtue, neither having any ground in holy Scripture, forsomuch as the bishop’s ordinal and the New Testament do little agree; neither do we see that the holy Ghost doth give any good gift on account of any such signs, because He, together with all his noble gifts cannot stand with deadly sin in any person. The corollary of this conclusion is, That it is a lamentable mockery unto wise men, to see the bishops sport with the Holy Ghost in the giving of their orders; because they give crowns* for their characters instead of white harts [ a male deer or stag ]; and this is the character [or, mark] of Antichrist, introduced into holy church to give colour to idleness.
The third conclusion —‘that the law of chastity enjoined unto priesthood, whIch was first ordained to the prejudice of women, induceth sodomy throughout holy church; but we do excuse us [in the mention of this crime] by the Bible, whereas the suspect decree doth say that we are not to name it. Both reason and experience prove this conclusion. Reason thus, forsomuch as the delicate fare of ecclesiastical men will have either a natural purgation, or something worse. Experience thus, forsomuch as lhe secret proof of such men is, that they do delight in women; and, whensoever thou dost prove a man to be such, mark him well, for he is one of that number. The corollary of this conclusion is, That private religions, with the beginners thereof, ought most chiefly to be disannulled, as the original of that sin: but God of his might doth for privy sin in his church send open vengeance.
The fourth conclusion [that most harmeth the innocent people] is this:- That the feigned miracle of the sacrament of bread induceth all men, except it be a few, into idolatry; forsomuch as they think that the body of Christ, which is never out of heaven, is by virtue of the priest’s words essentially included in the little bread, the which they do show unto the people. But would to God they would believe that which the Evangelical Doctor [meaning Wyckcliffe] teacheth us in his Trialogue, Quod panis altaris est accidentaliter corpus Christi’ [that is, That the bread of the altar is the body of Christ accidentally] : forsomuch as we suppose that by that means every faithful man and woman in the law of God may make the sacrament of that bread without any such miracle. The corollary of this conclusion is, That albeit the body of Christ be endowed with eternal joy, the service of Corpus Christi, made by friar Thomas, is not true, but painted, full of false miracles; neither is it any marvel, forsosomuch as friar Thomas, at that time holding with the pope, would have made a miracle of a hen’s egg; and we know well, that every lie openly preached, doth turn to the opprobrium of Him, who is always true and without any defect.
The fifth conclusion is this :—That the exorcisms and benedictions practised over wine, bread, water, oil, salt, war, incense, altar stones, and church walls, over vestments, chalices, mitres, crosses, and the staves of pilgrims, are truly the practices of necromancy rather than of sacred divinity. This conclusion may be thus proved: because that by such exorcism, the creatures are honoured to be of higher virtue than in their own proper nature they are; and we do not see any change in any creature so exorcised, except by false faith, which is the principle of the diabolic art. The corollary of this is, That if the book of exorcising [or, conjuring) holy water, which is read in the church, were altogether faithful and true; we think certainly that the holy water, used in she church, were the best medicine for all kind of sicknesses and sores: Cujus contrarium indies experimur, that is, ‘ The contrary whereof we daily experience.’
The sixth conclusion [which maintaineth much pride] is, That the union in the same person of king and bishop, prelate and judge in temporal causes, curate and officer in worldly office, doth make every kingdom out of good order. This conclusion is manifest, because the temporalty and the spiritualty are two parts of the entire holy church and, therefore, he who addicteth himself to the one part, let him not intermeddle with the other, ‘ Quia nemo potest duobus dominis servire.’ It seemeth that “ hermaphrodite-” [ ie. e. a man of both sexes], or ‘ `ambidexter” [i.e.a man who can play with both hands], were good names for such men of double estates. The corollary of this conclusion is, That therefore we, as the proctors of God, do in this case sue unto the parllament, that it may be enacted that all curates (as well of the higher degrees as of the lower) may be fully excused, and occupy themselves with their own cure, and with no other.
The seventh conclusion [that we mightily affirm] is, That special’ prayers made in our church for the souls of the dead, preferring any one man by name more than another, is a false foundation of alms, whereupon alt the houses of alms in England are falsely founded. This conclusion maybe proved by two reasons: the one is that a prayer to be meritorious and of any value ought to be a work proceeding from mere charity, and perfect charity excepteth no person, because “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Wherefore it appeareth to us, that the gift of some temporal good, bestowed on priests and houses of alms, is the principal motive of special prayer; which is not far removed from simony. The other reason is, that a special prayer, made for men condemned to eternal punishment, is very displeasing to God; and albeit it be doubtful, yet it seemeth unto faithful christian people likely, that the founders of every house of alms, for their mischievous endowing of the same, for the most part have passed by the broad way. The corollary is, That prayer of any value, proceeding of perfect charity, would comprehend generally all such whom God would have saved, and would give up that common trade in special prayers which is now carried on by mendicant possessioners and other hireling priests (who, otherwise, were strong enough to work and to serve the whole realm) and houses maintaineth the same in idleness to the great charge of the realm, because it was was proved in a certain book which the king hath, that a hundred houses of alms are sufficient for the whole realm, and thereby, peradventure, greater increase and profit might come unto the temporalty.
The eighth conclusion [needful to tell to the people beguiled] is:- That pilgrimages, prayers, and oblations made unto blind crosses or roods, and to deaf images of wood and stone, are very near of kin unto idolatry, and far removed alms: and, albeit these fanciful things he all forbidden and be a book of error unto the common people, notwithstanding the usual image of the Trinity is most abominable. This conclusion God himself doth openly manifest, when commanding alms to be given to the needy man; because he is the image of God, in a more perfect similitude than wood or stone; for God did not say, Let us make a block or stone after our image and likness, but, Let us make man; forsomuch as the supreme honour, which the clergy call ‘ Latria,’ pertaineth only to the Godhead, and the inferior honour, which the clergy call `Dulia,’ pertaineth unto men and angels, and to none other inferior creature. The corollary is, That the service of the cross, celebrated twice every year in our church, is full of idolatry: for if the rood, tree, nails, and spear, ought so profoundly to be honoured, then were Judas’ lips, if any man could get them, a marvellous goodly relic. But we pray thee, pilgrim, tell us, when thou dost offer to the bones of the saints which are laid up in any place, whether thou dost relieve thereby the saint who is in joy, or that alms-house for the poor which is so well endowed, on account of which they are canonized, the Lord knoweth how ! And to speak more plainly, every faithful Christian supposeth that the wounds of that noble man, whom they call St. Thomas [ a Becket ], were no matter of martyrdom.
The ninth conclusion [that keepeth the people low] is, That auricular confession which is said to be so necessary for a man’s salvat!on, and the feigned power of absolution, exalt the pride of priests, and give them opportunity of other secret talks, which we will not at this time talk of; forsomuch as both of lords and ladies attest, that for fear of their confessors they dare not speak the truth: and in time of confession is good opportunity ministered of wooing,’ or to play the bawd, or to make other secret conventions to deadly sins. They themselves say, that they are Gods commissaries to judge of all manner of sin, to pardon and cleanse whomsoever it shall please them. They say that they have the keys of heaven and hell, and can excommunicate and bless, bind and, loose, at their will: insomuch that for a small reward, or for twelve pence, they will sell the blessing of heaven by charter and clause of warranty, sealed with their common seal. This conclusion is so commonly in use, that it needeth not any probation. The corollary hereof is, That the pope of Rome, who is feigned to be the high treasurer of the whole church, having that same worthy jewel, i. e the treasure of the passion of Christ in his keeping, together with the merits of all the saints in heaven, whereby be giveth feigned indulgence a peana et culpa` is a treasurer almost banished out of charity, since he can deliver all the prisoners who are in purgatory at his pleasure, and make that they never come thither. But thus every faithful Christian may well see, that there is much secret falsehood lurking in our church.
The tenth conclusion is, That manslaughter, either by war or by any pretended law of justice, for any temporal cause without a spiritual revelation, is expressly contrary unto the New Testament, which is a law full of grace and mercy. This conclusion is evidently proved by examples of the preaching of Christ here in earth, who specially taught man to love his enemies, and to have compassion upon them, and not to kill them. The reason is this, that for the most part when men do fight, after the first stroke charity is broken; and whosoever dieth without charity, goeth straightway to hell. And beside that, we well know, that none of the clergy can by Scripture or by any legitimate means deliver any from the punishment of death for one deadly sin, and not for another: but the law of mercy, which is the New Testament, forbiddeth all manner of manslaughter. For in the gospel it is said to the fathers, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ The corollary is, It is a very robbing of the people, when lords purchase indulgences ‘a pena et culpa’ for those who do help their armies to kill christian people in foreign countries for temporal gain; as also we have seen certain soldiers running among the heathen people, to get themselves a name by the slaughter of men. Much rather do they deserve evil thanks at the hands of the King of Peace, forsomuch as it was by humility and patience that our faith was propagated; but fighters and murderers Christ Jesus doth hate and menace, saying, “He that striketh with the sword, shall perish with the sword.”
The eleventh conclusion is [which is shame to tell], That the vow of chastity made in our church by women that are frail and imperfect in nature, is the cause of bringing in the most horrible sins possible to human nature: for, albeit the murder of their children born before their time, and before they are christened, and the destruction of nature by medicine, be foul sins; yet intercourse among themselves, or irrational beasts, or inanimate creature,, is such transcendent vileness, that they might to be punished by hell torments. The corollary is, That widows, and such as take the mantle and the ring, delicately fed, we would that they were married, because we cannot excuse them from private sins.
The twelfth conclusion is, That the multitude of arts not necessary, used in our realm, nourisheth much sin and offence in waste, curiosity, and disguise in curious apparel. Experience and reason partly do show the same, forsomuch as nature, with a few arts, is sufficient for man’s necessity.
This is the whole tenor of our ambassade, which Christ hath commanded us to prosecute at this time, most fit and convenient for many causes. And, albeit these matters be here briefly noted, yet, notwithstanding, they are more at large declared in another book, with many other more, wholly in our own proper tongue, which we would should he common to all Christian people. Wherefore we pray God, of his great goodness, that he would wholly reform our church, now altogether out of frame, unto the perfection of her first beginning.
* It was custom and practice to place a paper crown on the head of heretics before they were burnt at the stake see execution of Jan Hus