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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume II. The End of the Middle Ages.

II. Religious Movements in the Fourteenth Century

§ 4. The Pricke of Conscience

Of his attitude towards the church little need be said; he is a faithful and loyal son, although he keeps some freedom of speech. In one of his latest works, the lengthy poem Pricke of Conscience—a popular summary, in 9624 lines, of current medieval theology borrowed form Grosseteste and others, strong in its sense of awe and terror of sin, and firm in its application of ecclesiastical rules to the restraint and the pardon of sins—the abuses he condemns most strongly are those of individual licence and social life. If he had any quarrel with the church, it was rather with some of its theologians who did not share his philosophy than with it system or its existing development. When he spoke of God’s “loving-kindness in the gates of the daughter of Zion” he interpreted the gates as being the church, under whose shadow he dwelt.

His doctrine of “love” was thus not purely mystical or remote from life: it overflowed into teachings of social righteousness, and the dignity of labour as a service before God; it made injustice and offences against love (charity) peculiarly hateful in his eyes. Yet he had no hatred of the rich or of riches, and, indeed, he had, at times, been even blamed for his friendship with the rich; it was merely against the abuse and misuse of riches he protested. Three things he held needful in daily life: that work should be honest without waste of time, that is should be done in freedom of spirit and that a man’s whole behaviour should be honest and fair. There was thus in his teaching much that strengthened the democracy of the times, much that condemned the social and ecclesiastical conditions of the day. If, on the one hand, his judgment was magna igitur est vita solitaria si magnifice agatur, on the other hand, he realised for himself and taught to others the living power of Christian fellowship. He is as significant in the history of popular medieval religion as in that of medieval letters.