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Wyclif As Anti-mason

John Wyclif was born in 1320, and died in 1384. His name is spelled in a score of forms; the one here used was adopted by the Wyelif Society. He was a power in his own day and has been famous since, because he was the great English scholar of his period; because he opposed the financial rapacity of the Church; because he sent out "humble men" to preach to the rank and file not in Latin but in their own language; because he made two translations of the Bible in English, the "literal" one (from the Latin Vulgate) in 1382 (circa), the "free" translation in a version published after his death in 1395; because his example inspired John Hus of Bohemia; and because he stood up manfully against the wrath of the Pope for having made "the Bible available for the vulgar"--that is, common people.

But Wyclif held as tenaciously as any other Fourteenth Century theologian to the notion that work is a curse and that workmen belong to the lower orders, are less than men, and have no rights as compared with "the gentry," therefore it infuriated him when Freemasons "congregated" to demand better wages and against them he let loose with the counterblast quoted below. Other clergymen afterwards were to follow him; indeed, clerical antipathy to Freemasonry has never ceased in some quarters. The fact that Wyclif and his Lollard movement ("the reformation before the Reformation") were contemporary with the first permanent Lodges of Freemasons is of significance in the history of the Craft. The paragraph herewith is from page 332, in Cap. XXVIII, entitled "The Grete Sentens of Curs," in Vol. III, of Selected English Works, edited by T. Arnold; 1871.

"Able false conspirators ben cursed of God and man. Conspirators ben tho that by eomyn assent don wrong or ony falsenesse to here neighboris. Here it semeth openly that able freris, worldly elerkis, and possessioneris, ben openly cursed; for thei eonspiren falsely aghenst the gospel and Christis pore prestis.

"Also alle newe fraternytes or gildis maad of men semen openly to renne in in this curs. For thei conspiren many false errours aghenst the comyn fratero nyte of Crist, that alle Cristene men token in here cristendom, and aghenst eomyn eharite and comyn profit of Cristene men. And thereto thei conspiren to bere up eche other, ye, in wrong, and oppresse othere men in here right bi here witt and power. And alle the goodness that is in these gildes eche man owith for to do bi corny fraternyte of Cristendom, bi Goddis eomaundement . . . Also men of sutel craft, as fre masons and othere, semen openly cursed bi this sentence. For thei conspiren togidere that no man of here craft what take lesse on a day than thei setten though he schulde bi good conscience take moche lesse, and that noon of hem schal make sade trewe werk to lette othere mennus wynnyng of the craft, and that non of hem schal do ought but only hewe stone, though he myght profit his maistir twenti pound bit o daies werk bi leggyng on a wal without en harm of penyng himself. See how this wickid peple conspireth aghenst treuthe and charity and comyn profit of the lond and ponyschith hem that helpen frely here neigheboris!"

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