A Yorkshireman Delivers a Blow to Rome and a Bible to England – Part 2

Wycliffe's Bible

Having rebuked the religious corruptions, and preached the gospel amongst the ordinary folk of England, John Wycliffe’s most significant attainment was the translation of the whole Bible into the English language so that all could freely read it.  He translated from the Latin version, the only text available to him.

Despite the obvious limitations of his translation, for the first time people could read the Scriptures for themselves.  At long last the Bible was out!

Although his relationship with Oxford University ended unhappily, he was forced to leave in 1381, surely John Wycliffe is that University’s greatest bestowal to the modern world.

He died peacefully after a stroke in 1384

Alas! The story doesn’t quite end there. Dr. Donald Roberts, writing for Christian History Magazine, tells us, ‘In 1415 the Council of Constance burned John Hus at the stake, and also condemned John Wycliffe on 260 different counts.

The Council ordered that his writings be burned and directed that his bones be exhumed and cast out of consecrated ground. Finally, in 1428, at papal command, the remains of Wycliffe were dug up, burned, and scattered into the little river Swift.’ (Donald Roberts, John Wycliffe and the Dawn of the Reformation, CH Mag Issue.3)

But it was too late – the Bible, the Living Word of God was out. The Bible was confidently declared to be the only infallible guide for faith and practice. Wycliffe and his Lollards declared the Bible to be above church, popes and priests and what a change was about to break over Europe!

© 2008 Lex Loizides

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Radical Forerunners to the Reformation: The Waldensians

The Persecuted Waldensians


Unrest and a desire for change

Increasing unrest and desire for both political and spiritual liberty grew throughout the so-called ‘Dark Ages’, and the prayers of God’s children were finally and astonishingly answered in what has come to be called the Protestant Reformation.

J.H.Merle d’Aubigne in his moving and powerful work on the Reformation in England, in a chapter entitled ‘Christ Mightier than Druid Altars and Roman Swords’, writes:

‘Those heavenly powers which had lain dormant in the church since the first ages of Christianity, awoke from their slumber in the sixteenth century, and this awakening called the modern times into existence.’
(J.H. Merle d’Aubigne – The Reformation in England (Banner of Truth) Vol. 1 p.23)

The Waldensians (12th Century on)

About 1170 Peter Waldo (or, Valdes) employed a priest to translate the gospels into French.  As he and many others read the Scriptures they were converted and a great evangelising force was raised up by God.  They taught about the Christ of the Bible and planted many churches, quickly spreading from France to Italy and Germany.

The Waldensian church planters believed they were genuine apostles, and renounced lavish living for a life of devotion to Christ, evangelism and church planting. They rejected Roman Catholic superstitions. Essentially they became a mediaeval apostolic church planting movement!

At first the Roman church tolerated them but as their numbers and influence grew they were first pressurised to not read and teach the Bible privately, then savagely persecuted and executed.

In 1229, at the Council of Valencia, the Bible was forbidden to be read by any except priests and then only in Latin.  The notorious Inquisition began hunting the Waldensians down from the 1230’s onwards. Some of the Inquisitors report that illiterate poor Waldenses were able to recite large parts of the New Testament accurately from memory. They were a Bible people. (see Churchill, The Age of Knights, Authentic p.240)

The Waldensians were in deep trouble right up until the Reformation.  And even as late as the 17th century a cruel persecution overtook them in Western Piedmont in the Southern Alps.  It was only through the courageous and vigorous intervention of Oliver Cromwell and his threat of naval and military action that brought the persecution to a close. Cromwell also championed fund raising on their behalf, personally donating £2000 for their support.  (See S.M. Houghton – Sketches from Church History (Banner of Truth) p.64)

The dominant religious and political organisation of the day was seeking to suppress the Christian faith. Yet when ordinary people discovered the truth of the Bible in their own language lives were changed and churches were planted. The word of God is powerful and can have true and redemptive impact even in the most difficult situations.

You can purchase ‘The Reformation in England’ here

© 2008 Lex Loizides