Charles Buck's Theological Dictionary

183 Lollards


A religious sect, differing in many points from the church of Rome, which arose in Germany about the beginning of the fourteenth century; so called, as many writers have imagined, from Walter Lollard, who began to dogmatize in 1315, and was burnt at Cologne; though others think that Lollard was no surname, but merely a term of reproach applied to all heretics who concealed the poison of error under the appearance of piety.

The monk of Canterbury derives the origin of the word lollard among us from lolium, “a tare,” as if the Lollards were the tares sown in Christ’s vineyard. Abelly says, that the word signifies “praising God,” from the German loben “to praise,” and herr, “lord;” because the Lollards employed themselves in travelling about from place to place, singing psalms and hymns. Others, much to the same purpose, derive lollhard, lullhard, or lollert, lullert, as it was written by the ancient Germans, from the old German word lullen, lollen, or lallen, and the termination hard, with which many of the high Dutch words end. Lollen signifies “to sing with a low voice,” and therefore lollard is a singer, or one who frequently sings; and in the vulgar tongue of the Germans it denotes a person who is continually praising God with a song, or singing hymns to his honour.

The Alexians or Cellites were called Lollard, because they were public singers, who made it their business to inter the bodies of those who died of the plague, and sang a dirge over them, in a mournful and indistinct tone, as they carried them to the grave. The name was afterwards assumed by persons that dishonoured it, for we find among those Lollard who made extraordinary pretences to religion, and spent the greatest part of their time in meditation, prayer, and such acts of piety, there were many abominable hypocrites, who entertained the most ridiculous opinions, and concealed the most enormous vices under the specious mark of this extra-ordinary profession. Many injurious aspersions were therefore propagated against those who assumed this name by the priests and monks; so that, by degrees, any persons who covered heresies or crimes under the appearance of piety was called a Lollard. Thus the name was not used to denote any one particular sect, but was formerly common to all persons or sects who were supposed to be guilty of impiety towards God or the church, under an external profession of great piety. However, many societies, consisting both of men and women, under the name of Lollards, were formed in most parts of Germany and Flanders, and were supported partly by their manual labours, and partly by the charitable donations of pious persons. The magistrates and inhabitants of the towns where these brethren and sisters resided gave them particular marks of favour and protection, on account of their great usefulness to the sick and needy. They were thus supported against their malignant rivals, and obtained many papal constitutions, by which their institute was confirmed, their persons exempted from the cognizance of the inquisitor, and subjected entirely to the jurisdiction of the bishops; but as these measures were insufficient to secure them from molestation, Charles duke of Burgundy, in the year 1472, obtained a solemn bull from Sextus IV. ordering that the Cellites, or Lollards, should be ranked among the religious orders, and delivered from the jurisdiction of the bishops. And pope Julius II. granted them still greater privileges, in the year 1506. Mosheim informs us, that many societies of this kind are still subsisting at Cologne, and in the cities of Flanders, though they have evidently departed from their ancient rules.

Lollard and his followers rejected the sacrifice of the mass, extreme unction, and penances for sin; arguing that Christ’s sufferings were sufficient. He is likewise said to have set aside baptism, as a thing of no effect; and repentance as not absolutely necessary, &c. In England, the followers of Wickliffe were called, by way of reproach, Lollards, from the supposition that there was some affinity between some of their tenets; though others are of opinion that the English Lollards came from Germany.

Charles Buck (1771-1815) was an English Independent minister, best known for the publication of his “Theological Dictionary”. According to the “Dictionary of National Biography”, a Particular Baptist minister named John C. Ryland (1723-1792) assisted Buck by writing many of the articles for the aforementioned publication. One may conclude, based not only Buck’s admiration for his friend Ryland, but also on the entries in his Theological Dictionary, that he stood head and shoulders with the High-Calvinists of his day.

Charles Buck on the Biblical Covenants (Complete)
Charles Buck's Theological Dictionary