Five hundred years and more ago John Wycliffe wrote a...

The Christian Science Monitor

Five hundred years and more ago John Wycliffe wrote a famous tract which, in the polite language and after the fashion of the day, he named "De Dominio," which being translated means "Concerning Dominion." Now never since the great Lollard's words set Fourteenth Century England ablaze has there been such a necessity for a clear understanding of what dominion truly means as there is to-day. The passion of self-exaltation, the frenzy of temporal power which set kings and popes by the ears while the influence of the last of the schoolmen was dominating Oxford, is sweeping like a hurricane across the world to-day, for evil knows its hour to be short. And in this hour the influence which is again speaking to humanity, in the still, small voice of Truth, is that of a book written by a New England woman, whose ancestors came out of that old England, the England of Wycliffe and of Tyndale, of Latimer and Wesley, into the great breathing spaces of the west, where men might work out their own salvation untrammeled by interference, tradition, or convention.

Wycliffe's theory of dominion exalted the idea from a material to a spiritual function as spirituality was understood in his day. Popes and kings still regarded dominion as the right to do as they chose, as David did with Bath-sheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite; as Ahab and Jezebel did with Naboth the Jezreelite; and as Pilate insisted he could do with Jesus of Nazareth, "Knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?" To all this Wycliffe replied, in effect, that dominion was every man's, but inasmuch as man was fallen, his dominion was necessarily limited by the consequences of the fall, and his redemption therefore lay in a future life through the sacrifice of Christ Jesus. This theory of dominion or of salvation by grace would have swept away, of course, the entire foundations of a social order built on the theocracy of Rome and the feudalism of western Europe. But it was, in turn, vitiated by the limitations it imposed on itself by the enthronement, above even the material dominion of popes and kings, of the dominion of evil as manifested in the fall.

February 23, 1918

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