alone, a scholarly monk nailed a notice to the door of Castle Church in
Wittenberg, Germany, on October 31, 1517.
Katherine returned his glowing admiration. When Martin died, in bereavement she said: "If I had a principality or an empire and lost it, it would not have been as painful as it is now that the dear Lord God has taken from me this precious and beloved man, and not from me alone, but from the whole world."
John Flavel 1630-1691
|The Life of the late Rev. Mr. John Flavel, minister of Dartmouth. Those of the name of Flavel derive their pedigree from one who was the third great officer that came over with William the Conqueror; but this worthy Divine was far from that weakness and vanity to boast of any thing of that nature, being of the poet's mind, who said, Et genus, et proavos, et quae non fecimus ipsi, Vix ea nostra voco --- His father was Mr. Richard Flavel, a faithful and eminent minister. He was first minister at Broomsgrove, in Worcestershire, then at Hasler, and removed from thence to Willersey, in Gloucestershire, where he continued to 1660, whence he was outed upon the restoration of King Charles II because it was a sequestered living, and the incumbent then alive: this did not so much affect Mr. Flavel, as that he wanted a fixed place for the exercise of his pastoral function. He was a person of such extraordinary piety, that those who conversed with him, said, They never heard one vain word drop from his mouth. A little before the turning out of the Nonconformist ministers, being near Totness, in Devon, he preached from Hosea 7: 6. "The days of visitation are come, the days of recompence are come, Israel shall know it". His application was so close, that it offended some people, and occasioned his being carried before some Justices of the Peace; but they could not reach him, so that he was discharged. He afterwards quitted that country, and his son's house, which was his retiring place, and came to London, where he continued in a faithful and acceptable discharge of his office, till the time of the dreadful plague in 1665, that he was taken and imprisoned in the manner following. He was at Mr. Blake's house in Covent-Garden, where some people had met privately for worship: whilst he was at prayer, a party of soldiers brake in upon them, with their swords drawn and demanded their preacher, threatening some, and flattering others to discover him, but in vain. Some of the company threw a coloured cloak over him, and in this disguise he was, together with his hearers, carried to Whitehall; the women were dismissed, but the men were detained and forced to lie all that night upon the bare floor; and, because they would not pay five pounds each, were sent to Newgate, where the pestilence raged most violently, as in other places of the city. Here Mr. Flavel and his wife were shut up, and seized with the sickness: they were bailed out, but died of the contagion; of which their son John had a divine monition given him by a dream, as we shall observe in its proper place. Mr. Richard Flavel left two sons behind him, both ministers of the gospel, viz. John and Phinehas. John the eldest was born in Worcestershire. It was observable, that whilst his mother lay in with him, a nightingale made her nest in the out-side of the chamber-window, where she used to sing most sweetly. He was religiously educated by his father, and having profiled well at the grammar schools, was sent early to Oxford, and settled a commoner in University College. He plied his studies hard, and exceeded many of his contemporaries in university learning. Soon after his commencing bachelor of arts, Mr. Walplate, the minister of Diptford, in the county of Devon, was rendered incapable of performing his office by reason of his age and infirmity, and sent to Oxford for an assistant; Mr. Flavel, though but young, was commended to him as a son duly qualified, and was accordingly settled there by the standing committee of Devon, April 27, 1650, to preach as a probationer and assistant to Mr. Walplate. Mr. Flavel considering the weight of his charge, applied himself to the work of his calling with great diligence; and being assiduous in reading, meditation and prayer, he increased in ministerial knowledge daily, (for he found himself that he came raw enough in that respect from the university) so that he attained to an high degree of eminency and reputation for his useful labours in the church. About six months after his settling at Diptford, he heard of an ordination to be at Salisbury, and therefore went thither with his testimonials, and offered himself to be examined and ordained by the presbyters there: they appointed him a text, upon which he preached to their general satisfaction; and having afterwards examined him as to his learning, &c. they set him apart to the work of the ministry, with prayer and imposition of hands, on the 17th day of October, 1650. Mr. Flavel being thus ordained, returned to Diptford, and after Mr. Walplate's death succeeded in the rectory. To avoid all encumbrances from the world, and avocations from his studies and ministerial work, he chose a person of worth and reputation in the parish (of whom he had a good assurance that he would be faithful to himself, and kind to his parishioners) and let him the whole tithes much below the real value, which was very pleasing to his people. By this means he was the better able to deal with them in private, since the hire of his labours was no way a hindrance to the success of them. Whilst he was at Diptford he married one Mrs. Jane Randal, a pious gentlewoman, of a good family, who died in travail of her first child without being delivered. His year of mourning being expired, his acquaintance and intimate friends advised him to marry a second time, wherein he was again very happy. Sometime after this second marriage, the people of Dartmouth (a great and noted sea-port in the county of Devon, formerly under the charge of the Reverend Mr. Anthony Hartford, deceased) unanimously chose Mr. Flavel to succeed him. They urged him to accept their call, (1.) Because there were exceptions made against all the other candidates, but none against him. (2.) Because, being acceptable to the whole town, he was the more like to be an instrument of healing the breaches among the good people there. (3.) Because Dartmouth, being a considerable and populous town, required an able and eminent minister, which was not so necessary for a country-parish, that might besides be more easily supplied with another pastor than Dartmouth. That which made them more pressing and earnest with Mr. Flavel, was this; at a provincial synod in that county, Mr. Flavel, though but a young man, was voted into the chair as moderator, where he opened the assembly with a most devout and pertinent prayer; he examined the candidates who offered themselves to their trials for the ministry with great learning, stated the cases and questions proposed to them with much acuteness and judgement, and in the whole demeaned himself with that gravity, piety, and seriousness, during his presidency, that all the ministers of the assembly admired and loved him. The Reverend Mr. Hartford, his predecessor at Dartmouth, took particular notice of him, from that time forward contracted a strict friendship with him, and spoke of him among the magistrates and people of Dartmouth, as an extraordinary person, who was like to be a great light in the church. This, with their having several times heard him preach, occasioned their importunity with Mr. Flavel to come and be their minister; upon which, having spread his case before the Lord, and submitted to the decision of his neighbouring ministers, he was prevailed upon to remove to Dartmouth, to his great loss in temporals, the rectory of Diptford being a much greater benefice. Mr. Flavel being settled at Dartmouth by the election of people, and an order from Whitehall by the commissioners for approbation of public preachers, of the 10th of December, 1656, he was associated with Mr. Allein Geere, a very worthy, but sickly, man. The ministerial work was thus divided betwixt them; Mr. Flavel was to preach on the Lord's-day at Townstall, the mother-church standing upon a hill without the town; and every fortnight in his turn at the Wednesday's Lecture in Dartmouth. Here God crowned his labours with many conversions. One of his judicious hearers expressed himself thus concerning him; "I could say much, though not enough, of the excellency of his preaching; of his seasonable, suitable and spiritual matter; of his plain expositions of scripture, his taking method, his genuine and natural deductions, his convincing arguments, his clear and powerful demonstrations, his heart searching applications, and his comfortable supports to those that were afflicted in conscience. In short that person must have a very soft head, or a very hard heart, or both, that could sit under his ministry unaffected." By his unwearied application to study, he had acquired a great stock both of divine and human learning. He was master of the controversies betwixt the Jews and Christians, Papists and Protestants, Lutherans and Calvinists, and betwixt the Orthodox, and the Armenians and Socinians: he was likewise well read in the Controversies about Church-discipline, Infant-Baptism, and Antinomianism. He was well acquainted with the School-divinity, and drew up a judicious and ingenious scheme of the whole body of that Theology in good Latin, which he presented to a person of quality, but it was never printed. He had one way of improving his knowledge, which is very proper for young divines; whatever remarkable passage he heard in private conference, if he was familiar with the relator, he would desire him to repeat it again, and insert it into his Aversaria: by these methods he acquired a vast stock of proper materials for his popular sermons in the pulpit, and his more elaborate works for the press. He had an excellent gift of prayer, and was never at a loss in all his various occasions for suitable matter and words; and, which was the most remarkable of all, he always brought with him a broken heart and moving affections: his tongue and spirit were touched with a live coal from the altar, and he was evidently assisted by the holy Spirit of grace and supplication in that divine ordinance. Those who lived in his family, say, that he was always full and copious in prayer, seemed constantly to exceed himself, and rarely made use twice of the same expressions. When the act of uniformity turned him out with the rest of his nonconforming brethren, he did not thereupon quit his relation to his church, he thought the souls of his flock to be more precious than to be so tamely neglected; he took all opportunities of ministering the word and sacraments to them in private meetings, and joined with other ministers in solemn days of fasting and humiliation, to pray that God would once more restore the ark of his covenant unto his afflicted Israel. About four months after that fatal Bartholomew day, his reverend colleague, Mr. Allein Geere, died; so that the whole care of the flock devolved upon Mr. Flavel, which, though a heavy and pressing burden, he undertook very cheerfully. Upon the execution of the Oxford act, which banished all nonconformist ministers five miles from any towns which sent members to parliament, he was forced to leave Dartmouth, to the great sorrow of his people, who followed him out of town; and at Townstall church-yard they took such a mournful farewell of one another as the place might very well have been called Bochim. He removed to Slapton, a parish five miles from Dartmouth, or any other corporation, which put him out of the legal reach of his adversaries. Here he met with signal instances of God's fatherly care and protection, and preached twice every Lord's-day to such as durst adventure to hear him, which many of his own people and others did, not withstanding the rigour and severity of the act against conventicles. He many times slipped privately into Dartmouth, where by preaching and conversation he edified his flock, to the great refreshment of his own soul and theirs, though with very much danger, because of his watchful adversaries, who constantly laid wait for him, so that he could not make any long stay in the town. In those times Mr. Flavel being at Exeter, was invited to preach by many good people of that city, who for safety chose a wood about three miles from the city to be the place of their assembly, where they were broke up by their enemies by that time the sermon was well begun. Mr. Flavel, by the care of the people, made his escape through the middle of his enraging enemies; and though many of his hearers were taken, carried before Justice Tuckfield, and fined; yet the rest, being nothing discouraged, reassembled, and carrying Mr. Flavel to another wood, he preached to them without any disturbance; and, after he had concluded, rode to a gentleman's house near the wood, who, though an absolute stranger to Mr. Flavel, entertained him with great civility that night, and next day he returned to Exeter in safety. Amongst those taken at this time, there was a Tanner who had a numerous family, and but a small stock; he was fined notwithstanding in forty pounds; at which he was nothing discouraged, but told a friend, who asked him how he bore up under his loss, "That he took the spoiling of his goods joyfully, for the sake of his Lord Jesus for whom his life and all that he had was too little. As soon as the Nonconformists had any respite from their trouble, Mr. Flavel laid hold of the opportunity, and returned to Dartmouth, where, during the first indulgence granted by King Charles II he kept open doors, and preached freely to all that would come and hear him; and when that liberty was revoked, he made it his business notwithstanding to preach in season and out of season, and seldom missed of an opportunity of preaching on the Lord's-day. During this time, God was pleased to deprive him of his second wife, which was a great affliction, she having been a help meet for him, and such an one he stood much in need of, as being a man of an infirm and weak constitution, who laboured under many infirmities. In convenient time he married a third wife, Mrs. Ann Downs, daughter of Mr. Thomas Downs, minister of Exeter, who lived very happy with him eleven years, and left him two sons, who are youths of great hopes. The persecution against the Nonconformists being renewed, Mr. Flavel found it unsafe to stay at Dartmouth, and therefore resolved to go to London, where he hoped to be in less danger, and to have more liberty to exercise his function. The night before he embarked for that end, he had the following premonition by a dream; he thought he was on board the ship, and that a storm arose which exceedingly terrified the passengers, during their consternation there sat writing at the table a person of admirable sagacity and gravity, who had a child in a cradle by him that was very froward; he thought he saw the father take up a little whip, and give the child a lash, saying, "Child be quiet, I will discipline, but not hurt thee". Upon this Mr. Flavel awaked, and musing on his dream, he concluded, that he should meet with some trouble in his passage: his friends being at dinner with him, assured him of a pleasant passage, because the wind and weather were very fair; Mr. Flavel replied, "That he was not of their mind, but expected much trouble because of his dream", adding, "that when he had such representations made to him in his sleep, they seldom or never failed. Accordingly, when they were advanced within five leagues of Portland in their voyage, they were overtaken by a dreadful tempest insomuch that betwixt one and two in the morning, the master and seamen concluded, that, unless God changed the wind, there was no hope of life; it was impossible for them to weather Portland, so that they must of necessity be wrecked on the rocks or on the shore. Upon this Mr. Flavel called all the hands that could be spared into the cabin to prayer; but the violence of the tempest was such, that they could not prevent themselves from being thrown from the one side unto the other as the ship was tossed; and not only so, but mighty seas broke in upon them, as if they would have drowned them in the very cabin. Mr. Flavel in this danger took hold of the two pillars of the cabin bed, and calling upon God, begged mercy for himself and the rest in the ship. Amongst other arguments in prayer, he made use of this, that if he and his company perished in that storm, the name of God would be blasphemed, the enemies of religion would say, that though he escaped their hands on shore, yet divine vengeance had overtaken him at sea. In the midst of prayer his faith and hope were raised, insomuch that he expected a gracious answer; so that, committing himself and his company to the mercy of God, he concluded the duty. No sooner was prayer ended, but one came down from the deck, crying, "Deliverance! Deliverance! God is a God hearing prayer! In a moment the wind is coming fair west!" And so sailing before it, they were brought safely to London. Mr. Flavel found many of his old friends there; and God raised him new ones, with abundance of work, and extraordinary encouragement in it. During his stay in London, he married his fourth wife, a widow gentlewoman, (daughter to Mr. George Jeffries, formerly minister of King's Bridge) but now his sorrowful relict. Mr. Flavel, while he was in London, narrowly escaped being taken, with the reverend Mr. Jenkins, at Mr. Fox's in Moorfields, where they were keeping a day of fasting and prayer. He was so near, that he heard the insolence of the officers and soldiers to Mr. Jenkins when they had taken him; and observed it in his diary, that Mr. Jenkins might have escaped as well as himself, had it not been for a piece of vanity in a lady, whose long train hindered his going down stairs, Mr. Jenkins, out of his too great civility having let her pass before him. Mr. Flavel after this, returned to Dartmouth, where with his family and dear people he blessed God for his mercies towards him. He was in a little time after confined close prisoner to his house, where many of his dear flock stole in over night, or betimes on the Lord's day in the morning, to enjoy the benefit of his labours, and spend the sabbath in hearing, praying, singing of psalms, and holy discourses. Mr. Jenkins, above mentioned, dying in prison, his people gave Mr. Flavel a call to the pastoral office among them, and Mr. Reeve's people did the like. Mr. Flavel communicated these calls unto his flock, and kept a day of prayer with them to beg direction of God in this important affair; he was graciously pleased to answer them by fixing Mr. Flavel's resolution to stay with his flock at Dartmouth. Many arguments were made use of to persuade him to come to London, as, that since he was turned out by the act of uniformity, he had had but very little maintenance from his church; that those at London were rich and numerous congregations; that he had a family and children to provide for; and that the city was a theatre of honour and reputation. But none of these things could prevail with him to leave his poor people at Dartmouth. In 1687, when it pleased God so to over-rule affairs, that King James II thought it his interest to dispense with the penal laws against them, Mr. Flavel, who had formerly been confined to a corner, shone brightly, as a flaming beacon upon the top of an hill. His affectionate people prepared a large place for him, where God blessed his labours to the conviction of many people, by his sermons on Rev. 3: 20. "Behold I stand at the door and knock". This encouraged him to print those sermons, under the title of England's Duty, &c. hoping that it might do good abroad, as well as in his own congregation. He made a vow to the Lord under his confinement, that if he should be once more entrusted with public liberty, he would improve it to the advantage of the gospel; this he performed in a most conscientious manner, preached twice every Lord's-day, and lectured every Wednesday, in which he went over most of the 3d chapter of St John's gospel, shewing the indispensable necessity of regeneration. He preached likewise every Thursday before the sacrament, and then after examination admitted communicants. He had no assistance on sacrament-days, so that he was many times almost spent before he distributed the elements. When the duty of the day was over, he would often complain of a sore breast, an aking head, and a pained back; yet he would be early at study again next Monday. He allowed himself very little recreation, accounting time a precious jewel that ought to be improved at any rate. He was not only a zealous preacher in the pulpit, but a sincere Christian in his closet, frequent in self-examination, as well as in pressing it upon others; being afraid, lest while he preached to others he himself should be a cast-away. To prove this, I shall transcribe what follows from his own diary. "To make sure of eternal life, (said he) is the great business which the sons of death have to do in this world. Whether a man consider the immortality of his own soul, the ineffable joys and glory of heaven, the extreme and endless torments of hell, the inconceivable sweetness of peace of conscience, or the misery of being subject to the terrors thereof; all these put a necessity, a solemnity, a glory upon this work. But, Oh! the difficulties and dangers attending it! How many, and how great are these? What judgement, faithfulness, resolution, and watchfulness does it require? Such is the deceitfulness, darkness, and inconstancy of our hearts, and such the malice, policy and diligence of Satan to manage and improve it, that he who attempts this work had need both to watch his seasons for it, and frequently look up to God for his guidance and illumination, and to spend many sad and serious thoughts before he adventure upon a determination and conclusion of the state of his soul. To the end therefore that this most important work may not miscarry in my hands, I have collected, with all the care I can, the best and soundest characters I can find in the writings of our modern divines, taken out of the scripture, and by their labours illustrated and prepared for use, that I might make a right application of them. 1. I have earnestly sought the Lord for the assistance of his Spirit, which can only manifest my own heart unto me, and show me the true state thereof, which is that thing my soul does most earnestly desire to know; and I hope the Lord will answer my desire therein, according to his promises, Luke 11: 13. John 14: 26. 2. I have endeavoured to cast out and lay aside self-love, lest my heart being prepossessed therewith, my judgement should be perverted, and become partial on passing sentence on my estate. I have, in some measure, brought my heart to be willing to judge and condemn myself for an hypocrite, if such I shall be found on trial, as to approve myself for sincere and upright. Yea, I would have it so far from being grievous to me so to do, that if I have been all this while mistaken and deceived, I shall rejoice and bless the Lord with my soul, that now at last it may be discovered to me, and I may be set right, though I lay the foundation new again. This I have laboured to bring my heart to, knowing that thousands have dashed and split to pieces upon this rock. And indeed he that will own the person of a judge, must put off the person of a friend. 3. It has been my endeavour to keep upon my heart a deep sense of that great judgement-day throughout this work as knowing by experience what a potent influence this has on the conscience, to make it deliberate, serious and faithful in its work, and therefore I have demanded of my sun conscience, before the resolution of each question, O my conscience, deal faithfully with me in this particular, and say no more to me than thou wilt own and stand to in the great day, when the counsels of all hearts shall be made manifest. 4. Having seriously weighed each mark, and considered where in the weight and substance of it lieth, I have gone to the Lord in prayer for his assistance, ere I have drawn up the answer of my conscience, and as my heart has been persuaded therein, so have I determined and resolved: what has been clear to my experience, I have so set down; and what has been dubious, I have here left it so. 5. I have made choice of the fittest seasons I had for this work, and set to it when I have found my heart in the most quiet and serious frame. For as he that would see his face in a glass, must be fixed, not in motion, or in water, must make no commotion in it; so it is in this case. 6. Lastly, To the end I may be successful in this work, I have laboured all along carefully to distinguish betwixt such sins as are grounds of doubting, and such as are only grounds of humiliation; knowing that not every evil is a ground of doubting, though all, even the smallest infirmities, administer matter of humiliation; and thus I have desired to enterprise this great business. O Lord, assist thy servant, that he may not mistake herein; but, if his conscience do now condemn him, he may lay a better foundation whilst he has time; and if it shall now acquit him, he may also have boldness in the day of judgement." These things being previously dispatched, he tried himself by the scripture marks of sincerity and regeneration; by this means he attained to a well-grounded assurance, the ravishing comforts of which were many times shed abroad in his soul; this made him a powerful and successful preacher, as one who spoke from his own heart to those of others. He preached what he felt, what he had handled, what he had seen and tasted of the word of life, and they felt it also. We may guess what a sweet and blessed intercourse he had with heaven, from that history we meet with in his "Pneumatologia", p. 323, which I refer to, and likewise of that revelation he had of his father and mother's death, p. 339. He was a mighty wrestler with God in secret prayer, and particularly begged of him to crown his sermons, printed books and private discourses, with the conversion of poor sinners, a work which his heart was much set upon. It pleased God to answer him by many instances, of which the two that follow deserve peculiar notice. In 1673, there came into Dartmouth port a ship of Pool, in her return from Virginia; the Surgeon of this ship, a lusty young man of 23 years of age, fell into a deep melancholy, which the Devil improved to make him murder himself. This he attempted on the Lord's-day, early in the morning, when he was in bed with his brother; he first cut his own throat with a knife he had prepared on purpose, and leaping out of the bed, thrust it likewise into his stomach, and so lay wallowing in his own blood, till his brother awaked and cried for help. A Physician and Surgeon were brought, who concluded the wound in his throat mortal; they stitched it up however, and applied a plaister, but without hopes of cure, because he already breathed through the wound, and his voice was become inarticulate. Mr. Flavel came to visit him in this condition, and apprehending him to be within a few minutes of eternity, laboured to prepare him for it; he asked him his own apprehensions of his condition, and the young man answered, that he hoped in God for eternal life. Mr. Flavel replied, that he feared his hopes were ill grounded: the scripture tells us, that "no murderer has eternal life abiding in him: self-murder was the grossest of all murder, &c. Mr. Flavel insisted so much on the aggravations of the crime, that the young man's conscience began to fail, his heart began to melt, and then he broke out into tears, bewailing his sin and misery, and asked Mr. Flavel, If there might yet be any hope for him? he told him there might; and finding him altogether unacquainted with the nature of faith and repentance, he opened them to him. The poor man sucked in this doctrine greedily, prayed with great vehemence to God, that he would work them on his soul, and entreated Mr. Flavel to pray with him, and for him, that he might be, though late, a sincere gospel penitent, and sound believer. Mr. Flavel prayed with him accordingly, and it pleased God exceedingly to melt the young man's heart, during the performance of that duty. He was very loth to part with Mr. Flavel, but the duty of the day obliging him to be gone, in a few words he summed up those counsels that he thought most necessary, and so took his farewell of him, never expecting to see him any more in this world. But it pleased God to order it otherwise; the young man continued alive contrary to all expectation, panted earnestly after the Lord Jesus, and no discourse was pleasing to him, but that of Christ and faith. In this frame Mr. Flavel found him in the evening; he rejoiced greatly when he saw him come again, intreated him to continue his discourse upon those subjects, and told him, Sir, the Lord has given me repentance for this and for all my other sins; I see the evil of them now, so as I never saw them before! O I loathe myself! I do also believe, Lord, help my unbelief. I am heartily willing to take Christ upon his own terms; hut one thing troubles me, I doubt this bloody sin will not be pardoned. Will Jesus Christ, said he, apply his blood to one, who has shed his own blood? Mr. Flavel told him that the Lord Jesus shad his blood for them who with wicked hands had shed his own blood, which was a greater sin then shedding the blood of his; to which the wounded man replied, I will cast myself upon Christ, let him do what he will. In this condition Mr. Flavel left him that night. Next morning his wounds were to be opened, and the Surgeon's opinion was, that he would immediately expire: Mr. Flavel was again requested to give him a visit, which he did, found him in a very serious frame, and prayed with him. The wound in his stomach was afterwards opened, when the ventricle was so much swollen, that it came out at the orifice of the wound, and lay like a livid discoloured tripe upon his body, and was also cut through; every one thought it impossible for him to live; however, the Surgeon enlarged the orifice of the wound, fomented it, and wrought the ventricle again into his body, and, stitching up the wound, left his patient to the disposal of providence. It pleased God that he was cured of those dangerous wounds in his body; and, upon solid grounds of a rational charity, there was ground to believe that he was also cured of that more dangerous wound which sin had made in his soul. Mr. Flavel spent many hours with him during his sickness; and when the Surgeon returned to Pool, after his recovery, Mr. Samuel Hardy, that worthy minister there, thanked Mr. Flavel in a letter, for the great pains he had taken with that young man, and congratulated his success, assuring him, that if ever a great and thorough work was wrought, it was upon that man. The second instance is this: Mr. Flavel being in London in 1673, his old bookseller, Mr. Boulder, gave him this following relation, viz. That some time before, there came into his shop a sparkish gentle man to enquire for some play-books; Mr. Boulder told him he had none, but shewed him Mr. Flavel's little treatise of "Keeping the Heart", intreated him to read it, and assured him it would do him more good than play books. The gentleman read the title, and glancing upon several pages here and there, broke out into these and such other expressions, What a damnable Fanatic was he who made this book? Mr. Boulter begged of him to buy and read it, and told him he had no cause to censure it so bitterly; at last he bought it, but told him he would not read it. What will you do with it then, said Mr. Boulter? I will tear and burn it, said he, and send it to the Devil. Mr. Boulder told him, that he should not have it. Upon this the gentleman promised to read it; and Mr. Boulder told him, if he disliked it upon reading, he would return him his money. About a month after, the gentleman came to the shop again in a very modest habit, and with a serious countenance, bespoke Mr. Boulder thus; Sir, I most heartily thank you for putting this book into my hands; I bless God that moved you to do it, it has saved my soul; blessed be God that ever I came into your shop. And then he bought a hundred more of those books of him, and told him he would give them to the poor who could not buy them, and so left him, praising and admiring the goodness of God. Thus it pleased God to bless the sermons, discourses and writings of Mr. Flavel. He never delighted in controversies, but was obliged, contrary to his inclination, to write against Mr. Cary, the principal Anabaptist in Dartmouth, with whom, however, he maintained a friendly and Christian correspondence. When he wrote his "Planelogia", or, "Blow at the Root", he declared to his friends, that though those studies were very necessary, he took no pleasure in them, but had rather be employed in practical divinity. When he composed his "Reasonableness of Personal Reformation", he told an intimate acquaintance of his, that he seldom had a vain thought to interrupt him, which made him hope it would do the more good in the world. He purposed to have enlarged his book of "Sacramental Meditations", and had most judiciously stated and handled several cases of conscience on that occasion, which he designed to have inserted in the next edition, but lived not to finish them for the press. Many times, when he preached abroad, he has had letters sent him from unknown persons, informing him how God had blessed his ministry to their souls, and converted them from being bitter enemies to religion. This encouraged him when he rode abroad, not only to accept of invitations to preach, but many times to offer his labours unto those that would be pleased to hear him; though for this he had no occasion where he was known, the people being generally importunate with him. One day after a long and hard journey, an intimate friend of his, out of a tender regard to him, pressed him with cogent arguments to forbear preaching at that season, but could not prevail with him; his bowels of compassion to needy and perishing souls made him overlook all considerations of himself: he preached an excellent sermons by which there was one converted, as he declared himself afterwards upon his admission to the Lord's table. The last sermon that he preached to his people at Dartmouth, was on a public day of fasting and humiliations; in the close of which he was enlarged in such an extraordinary manner, when offering up praises to God for mercies received, that he seemed to be in ecstasy. This happened about a week before his death, and may justly be accounted a foretaste of those heavenly raptures that he now enjoys among the blessed spirits above. The last sermon he preached was on the 21st of June, 1691, at Ashburton, from 1 Cor. 10: 12. "Wherefore let him that standeth take heed lest he fall". It was a very pathetical discourse, tending to awaken careless professors, and to stir them up to be solicitous about their souls. After having preached this sermon, he went to Exeter; and at Topsham, within three miles of that city, he presided as moderator in an assembly of the Nonconformist ministers of Devonshire, who unanimously voted him into the chair: the occasion of the meeting was about an union betwixt the Presbyterian and Independents, which Mr. Flavel was very zealous to promote, and brought to so great an issue in those parts, that the ministers declared their satisfaction with the heads of agreement concluded on by the London ministers of those denominations. Mr. Flavel closed the work of the day with prayer and praises, in which his spirit was carried out with wonderful enlargement and affection. He wrote a letter to an eminent minister in London, with an account of their proceedings, that same day that he died; providence ordering it so, that he should finish that good work his heart was so intent upon, before he finished his course. The manner of his death was sudden and surprising, his friends thought him as well that day in the evening of which he died, as he had been for many years: towards the end of supper he complained of a deadness in one of his hands, that he could not lift it to his head. This struck his wife and his friends about him with astonishment, they used some means to recover it to its former strength, but instead thereof, to their great grief the distemper seized all upon one side of his body. They put him to bed with all speed, and sent for physicians, but to no purpose; his distemper prevailed upon him so fast, that in a short time it made him speechless. He was sensible of his approaching death, and when they carried him upstairs, expressed his opinion that it would be the last time; but added, I know that it will be well with me; which were some of his last words. Thus died this holy man of God suddenly, and without pain, not giving so much as one groan. He exchanged this life for a better, on the 26th day of June, 1691, in the 64th year of his age. His corpse was carried from Exeter to Dartmouth, attended by several ministers, and a great many other persons of good quality; abundance of people rode out from Dartmouth, Totness, Newton, Ashburton, and other places, to meet the corpse; when it was taken out of the hearse at the water side, his people and other friends could not forbear expressing the sense of their great loss, by floods of tears, and a bitter lamentation. It was interred the same night in Dartmouth church, and next day Mr. George Trosse, a minister of Exeter, preached his funeral-sermon from Elisha's lamentation upon the translation of Elijah, 2 Kings 2: 12. "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof. We shall conclude with a character of Mr. Flavel. He was a man of a middle stature, and full of life and activity: he was very thoughtful, and when not discoursing or reading, much taken up in meditation, which made him digest his notions well. He was ready to learn from every body, and as free to communicate what he knew. He was bountiful to his own relations, and very charitable to the poor, but especially to the household of faith, and the necessitous members of his own church, to whom, during their sickness, he always sent suitable supplies. He freely taught academical learning to four young men whom he bred to the ministry, and one of them he maintained all the while at his own charge. He was exceedingly affectionate to all the people of Dartmouth, of which we shall give one remarkable instance. When our fleet was first engaged with the French, he called his people together to a solemn fast, and, like a man in an agony, wrestled with God in prayer for the church and nation, and particularly for the poor seamen of Dartmouth, that they might obtain mercy; the Lord heard and answered him, for not one of that town was killed in the fight, though many of them were in the engagement. As he was a faithful ambassador to his Master, he made his example the rule of his own practice, and was so far from reviling again, those that reviled him, that he prayed for those that despitefully used him: one remarkable instance of which is as follows: In 1685, some of the people of Dartmouth, accompanied too by some of the magistrates, made up his effigy, carried it through the streets in derision, with the covenant and bill of exclusion pinned to it, and set it upon a bonefire, and burnt it; some of the spectators were so much affected with the reproach and ignominy done to this reverend and pious minister, that they wept, and others scored and jeered: it was observable, that at the very same time, though he knew nothing of the matter, he was heaping coals of fire of another nature upon the heads of those wicked men, for he was then praying for the town of Dartmouth, its magistrates and inhabitants; and when news was brought him, upon the conclusion of his prayer, what they had been doing, he lifted up his prayer unto God for them in our Saviour's words, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.|
John Calvin 1509-1564
The subject of this address is "John Calvin the Theologian," and I take it that what will be expected of me is to convey some idea of what manner of theologian John Calvin was, and of his quality as a theological thinker.
I am afraid I shall have to ask you at the outset to disabuse your minds of a very common impression, namely, that Calvin's chief characteristics as a theologian were on the one hand, audacity--perhaps I might even say effrontery--of speculation; and on the other hand, pitilessness of logical development, cold and heartless scholasticism. We have been told, for example, that he reasons on the attributes of God precisely as he would reason on the properties of a triangle. No misconception could be more gross. The speculative theologian of the Reformation was Zwingli, not Calvin. The scholastic theologian among the early Reformers was Peter Martyr, not Calvin. This was thoroughly understood by their contemporaries. "The two most excellent theologians of our times." remarks Joseph Scaliger, "are John Calvin and Peter Martyr, the former of whom has dealt with the Holy Scriptures as they ought to be dealt with--with sincerity, I mean, and purity and simplicity, without any scholastic subtleties....Peter Martyr, because it seemed to fall to him to engage the Sophists, has overcome them sophistically, and struck them down with their own weapons."
It is not to be denied, of course, that Calvin was a speculative genius of the first order, and in the cogency of his logical analysis he possessed a weapon which made him terrible to his adversaries. But it was not on these gifts that he depended in forming and developing his theological ideas. His theological method was persistently, rigorously, some may even say exaggeratedly, a posteriori. All a priori reasoning here he not only eschewed but vigorously repelled. His instrument of research was not logical amplification, but exegetical investigation. In one word, he was distinctly a Biblical theologian, or, let us say it frankly, by way of eminence "the Biblical theologian of his age." Whither the Bible took him, thither he went:where scriptural declarations failed him, there he stopped short. It is this which imparts to Calvin's theological teaching the quality which is its prime characteristic and its real offence in the eyes of his critics--I mean its positiveness. There is no mistaking the note of confidence in his teaching, and it is perhaps not surprising that this note of confidence irritates his critics. They resent the air of finality he gives to his declarations, not staying to consider that he gives them this air of finality because he presents them, not as his teachings, but as the teachings of the Holy Spirit in His inspired Word. Calvin's positiveness of tone is thus the mark not of extravagance but of sobriety and restraint. He even speaks with impatience of speculative, and what we may call inferential theology, and he is accordingly himself spoken of with impatience by modern historians of thought as a "merely Biblical theologian," who is, therefore, without any real doctrine of God, such as Zwingli has. The reproach, if it be a reproach, is just. Calvin refused to go beyond "what is written"--written plainly in the book of nature or in the book of revelation. He insisted that we can know nothing of God, for example, except what He has chosen to make known to us in His works and Word; all beyond this is but empty fancy, which merely "flutters" in the brain. And it was just because he refused to go one step beyond what is written that he felt so sure of his steps. He could not present the dictates of the Holy Ghost as a series of debatable propositions.
Such an attitude towards the Scriptures might conceivably consist with a thoroughgoing intellectualism, and Calvin certainly is very widely thought of as an intellectualist a outrance. But this again is an entire misapprehension. The positiveness of Calvin's teaching has a far deeper root than merely the conviction of his understanding. When Ernest Renan characterised him as the most Christian man of his generation he did not mean it for very high praise, but he made a truer and much more profound remark than he intended. The fundamental trait of Calvin's nature was precisely--religion. It is not merely that all his thinking is coloured by a deep religious sentiment; it is that the whole substance of his thinking is determined by the religious motive. Thus his theology, if ever there was a theology of the heart, was distinctively a theology of the heart, and in him the maxim that "It is the heart that makes the theologian" finds perhaps its most eminent illustration.
His active and powerful intelligence, of course, penetrated to the depths of every subject which he touched, but he was incapable of dealing with any religious subject after a fashion which would minister only to what would seem to him the idle curiosity of the mind. It was not that he restrained himself from such merely intellectual exercises upon the themes of religion, the force of his religious interest itself instinctively inhibited them.
Calvin marked an epoch in the history of the doctrine of the Trinity, but of all great theologians who have occupied themselves with this soaring topic, none have been more determined than he not to lose themselves in the intellectual subtleties to which it invites the inquiring mind; and he marked an epoch in the development of the doctrine precisely because his interest in it was vital and not merely or mainly speculative. Or take the great doctrine of predestination which has become identified with his name, and with respect to which he is perhaps, most commonly of all things, supposed to have given the reins to speculative construction and to have pushed logical development to unwarrantable extremes. Calvin, of course, in the lucid clearness and incorruptible honesty of his thought and in the faithfulness of his reflection of the Biblical teaching, fully grasped and strongly held the doctrine of the will of God as the prima causa rerum, and this too was a religious conception with him and was constantly affirmed just because it was a religious conception--yes, in a high and true sense, the most fundamental of all religious conceptions. But even so, it was not to this cosmical predestination that Calvin's thought most persistently turned, but rather to that soterlological predestination on which, as a helpless sinner needing salvation from the free grace of God, he must rest. And therefore Ebrard is so far quite right when he says that predestination appears in Calvin's system not as the decretum Dei but as the electio Dei.
It is not merely controversial skill which leads Calvin to pass predestination by when he is speaking of the doctrine of God and providence, and to reserve it for the point where he is speaking of salvation. This is where his deepest interest lay. What was suffusing his heart and flowing in full flood into all the chambers of his soul was a profound sense of his indebtedness as a lost sinner to the free grace of God his Saviour. His zeal in asserting the doctrine of two-fold predestination is grounded in the clearness with which he perceived--as was indeed perceived with him by all the Reformers--that only so can the evil leaven of "synergism" be eliminated and the free grace of God be preserved in its purity in the saving process. The roots of his zeal are planted, in a word, in his consciousness of absolute dependence as a sinner on the free mercy of a saving God. The sovereignty of God in grace was an essential constituent of his deepest religious consciousness. Like his great master, Augustine--like Luther, Zwingli and Butzer (Bucer), and all the rest of those high spirits who brought about that great revival of religion which we call the Reformation--he could not endure that the grace of God should not receive all the glory of the rescue of sinners from the destruction in which they are involved, and from which, just because they are involved in it, they are unable to do anything towards their own recovery.
The fundamental interest of Calvin as a theologian lay, it is clear, in the region broadly designated soteriological. Perhaps we may go further and add that, within this broad field, his interest was most intense in the application to the sinful soul of the salvation wrought out by Christ,--in a word in what is technically known as the ordo salutis. This has even been made his reproach in some quarters, and we have been told that the main fault of the Institutes as a treatise in theological science, lies in its too subjective character. Its effect, at all events, has been to constitute Calvin pre-eminently the theologian of the Holy Spirit.
Calvin has made contributions of the first importance to other departments of theological thought. It has already been observed that he marks an epoch in the history of the doctrine of the Trinity. He also marks an epoch in the mode of presenting the work of Christ. The presentation of Christ's work under the rubrics of the three-fold office of Prophet, Priest and King was introduced by him; and from him it was taken over by the entirety of Christendom, not always, it is true, in his spirit or with his completeness of development, but yet with large advantage. In Christian ethics, too, his impulse proved epoch-making, and this great science was for a generation cultivated only by his followers.
It is probable however that Calvin's greatest contribution to theological science lies in the rich development which he gives--and which he was the first to give--to the doctrine of the work of the Holy Spirit. No doubt, from the origin of Christianity, everyone who has been even slightly imbued with the Christian spirit has believed in the Holy Spirit as the author and giver of life, and has attributed all that is good in the world, and particularly in himself, to His holy offices. And, of course, in treating of grace, Augustine worked out the doctrine of salvation as a subjective experience with great vividness and in great detail, and the whole course of this salvation was fully understood, no doubt, to be the work of the Holy Spirit. But in the same sense in which we may say that the doctrine of sin and grace dates from Augustine, the doctrine of satisfaction from Anselm, the doctrine of justification by faith from Luther,--we must say that the doctrine of the work of the Holy Spirit is a gift from Calvin to the Church. It was he who first related the whole experience of salvation specifically to the working of the Holy Spirit, worked it out into its details, and contemplated its several steps and stages in orderly progress as the product of the Holy Spirit's specific work in applying salvation to the soul. Thus he gave systematic and adequate expression to the whole doctrine of the Holy Spirit and made it the assured possession of the Church of God.
It has been common to say that Calvin's entire theological work may be summed up in this--that he emancipated the soul from the tyranny of human authority and delivered it from the uncertainties of human intermediation in religious things: that he brought the soul into the immediate presence of God and cast it for its spiritual health upon the free grace of God alone. Where the Romanist placed the Church, it is said, Calvin set the Deity. The saying is true, and perhaps, when rightly understood and filled with its appropriate content, it may sufficiently characterise the effect of his theological teaching. But it is expressed too generally to be adequate. What Calvin did was, specifically, to replace the doctrine of the Church as sole source of assured knowledge of God and sole institute of salvation, by the Holy Spirit. Previously, men had looked to the Church for all the trustworthy knowledge of God obtainable, and as well for all the communications of grace accessible. Calvin taught them that neither function has been committed to the Church, but God the Holy Spirit has retained both in His own hands and confers both knowledge of God and communion with God on whom He will.
The Institutes is, accordingly, just a treatise on the work of God the Holy Spirit in making God savingly known to sinful man, and bringing sinful man into holy communion with God. Therefore it opens with the great doctrine of the testimonium Spiritus Sancti--another of the fruitful doctrines which the Church owes to Calvin--in which he teaches that the only vital and vitalizing knowledge of God which a sinner can attain, is communicated to him through the inner working of the Spirit of God in his heart, without which there is spread in vain before his eyes the revelation of God's glory in the heavens, and the revelation of His grace in the perspicuous pages of the Word. And therefore, it centres in the great doctrine of Regeneration,--the term is broad enough in Calvin to cover the whole process of the subjective recovery of man to God--in which he teaches that the only power which can ever awake in a sinful heart the motions of a living faith, is the power of this same Spirit of God moving with a truly creative operation on the deadened soul. When these great ideas are developed in their full expression--with explication of all their presuppositions in the love of God and the redemption of Christ, and of all their relations and consequents--we have Calvin's theology.
Now of course, a theology which commits everything to the operations of that Spirit of God who "worketh when and where and how He pleases," hangs everything on the sovereign good--pleasure of God. Calvin's theology is therefore, predestination to the core, and he does not fail, in faithfulness to the teachings of Scripture and with clear-eyed systematizing genius, to develop its predestinarianism with fulness and with emphasis; to see in all that comes to pass the will of God fulfilling itself, and to vindicate to God the glory that is His due as the Lord and disposer of all things. But this is not the peculiarity of his theology. Augustine had taught all this a thousand years before him. Luther and Zwingli and Martin Butzer, his own teacher in these high mysteries, were teaching it all while he was learning it. The whole body of the leaders of the Reformation movement were teaching it along with him. What is special to himself is the clearness and emphasis of his reference of all that God brings to pass, especially in the processes of the new creation, to God the Holy Spirit, and the development from this point of view of a rich and full doctrine of the work of the Holy Spirit.
Here then is probably Calvin's greatest contribution to theological development. In his hands, for the first time in the history of the Church, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit comes to its rights. Into the heart of none more than into his did the vision of the glory of God shine, and no one has been more determined than he not to give the glory of God to another. Who has been more devoted than he to the Saviour, by whose blood he has been bought? But, above everything else, it is the sense of the sovereign working of salvation by the almighty power of the Holy Spirit which characterizes all Calvin's thought of God. And above everything else he deserves, therefore, the great name of the theologian of the Holy Spirit.
John Huss 1369-1414
It would seem that after a time Wyclif's opinions almost died out in England. But meanwhile they, or opinions very like them, were eagerly taken up in Bohemia. If we look at the map of Europe, we might think that no country was less likely than Bohemia to have anything to do with England; for it lies in the midst of other countries, far away from all seas, and with no harbours to which English ships could make their way. And besides this, the people are of a different race from any that have ever settled in this country, or have helped to make the English nation, and their language has no likeness to ours. But it so happened that Richard II of England married the Princess Anne, granddaughter of the blind king who fell at Cressy, and daughter of the emperor Charles IV, who usually lived in Bohemia. And when Queen Anne of England died, and the Bohemian ladies and servants of her court went back to their own country, they took with them some of Wyclif's writings, which were readily welcomed there; for some of the Bohemian clergy had already begun a reform in the Church, and Wyclif's name was well known on account of his writings of another kind.
Among those who thus became acquainted with Wyclif's opinions was a young man named John Huss. He had been an admirer of Wyclif's philosophical works; but when he first met with his reforming books, he was so little taken with them that he wished they were thrown into the Moldau, the river which runs through Prague, the chief city of Bohemia. But Huss soon came to think differently, and heartily took up almost all Wyclif's doctrines.
Huss made many enemies among the clergy by attacking their faults from the pulpit of a chapel called Bethlehem, where he was preacher. He was, however, still so far in favour with the archbishop of Prague, that he was employed by him, together with some others, to inquire into a pretended miracle, which drew crowds of pilgrims to seek for cures at a place called Wilsnack, in the north of Germany. But he afterwards fell out of favour with the archbishop who had appointed him to this work, and he was still less liked by later archbishops.
From time to time some doctrines which were said to be Wyclif's were condemned at Prague. Huss usually declared that Wyclif had been wrongly understood, and that his real meaning was true and innocent. But at length a decree was passed that all Wyclif's books should be burnt (AD 1410), and thereupon a grand bonfire was made in the courtyard of the archbishop's palace, while all the church bells of the city were tolled as at a funeral. But as some copies of the books escaped the flames, it was easy to make new copies from these.
Huss was excommunicated, but he still went on teaching. In 1412, Pope John XXIII proclaimed a crusade against Ladislaus, King of Naples, with whom he had quarrelled, and ordered that it should be preached, and that money should be collected for it all through Latin Christendom. Huss and his chief friend, whose name was Jerome, set themselves against this with all their might. They declared it to be unchristian that a crusade should be proclaimed against a Christian prince, and that the favours of the Church should be held out as a reward for paying money or for shedding of blood. One day, as a preacher was inviting people to buy his indulgences (as they were called) for the forgiveness of sins, he was interrupted by three young men, who told him that what he said was untrue, and that Master Huss had taught them better. The three were seized, and were condemned to die; and, although it would seem that a promise was afterwards given that their lives should be spared, the sentence of death was carried into effect. The people were greatly provoked by this, and when the executioner, after having cut off the heads of the three, proclaimed (as was usual), "Whosoever shall do the like, let him look for the like!" a cry burst forth from the multitude around, "We are ready to do and to suffer the like." Women dipped their handkerchiefs in the blood of the victims, and treasured it up as a precious relic. Some of the crowd even licked the blood. The bodies were carried off by the people, and were buried in Bethlehem chapel; and Huss and others spoke of the three as martyrs.
By this affair his enemies were greatly provoked. Fresh orders were sent from Rome for the destruction of Wyclif's books, and for uttering all the heaviest sentences of the Church against Huss himself. He therefore left Prague for a time, and lived chiefly in the castles of Bohemian noblemen who were friendly to him, writing busily as well as preaching against what he believed to be the errors of the Roman Church.
Ulrich Zwingli 1484-1531
The most accomplished musician of the Reformation era, he trashed the grand organ in Zurich's cathedral when he discovered that the music there was nothing more than "high-brow" entertainment devoid of gospel-significance. Superbly educated in Renaissance humanism (including the glories of fine art), he directed the demolition of priceless icons as soon as he saw that they were superstitiously venerated as magic. Sickened at the slaughter of Swiss youth in foreign wars, he helped mobilize military forces in defense of his native land and perished in battle himself.
Zwingli was born on New Year's Day, 1484, seven weeks after Luther. University studies at Berne and Basel equipped him with the "new learning" then capturing younger scholars throughout Europe. When Erasmus, a gifted linguist, sifted and sorted and finally assembled several manuscript-fragments to form a usable Greek testament (without which there would have been no Reformation), Zwingli hand-copied Erasmus's entire Greek text and memorized all of Paul's epistles.
Luther had come to gospel-conviction when tormented by his conscience: "How can an unrighteous sinner get right with the all-holy God?" Zwingli, on the other hand, came to the core of scripture when distressed not at himself but at the plight of his people, defenceless as they were on all life's fronts. Ordained to the priesthood in 1506, he was sent as assistant to a church in the province of Glarus, where he continued his humanist studies and produced his first book, a biblical critique of the social distresses prevalent in Switzerland.
The year 1513 found him accompanying Swiss soldiers-for-hire to Italy. Sickened at the carnage of Switzerland's most able-bodied, and appalled at the greed, coarseness and cruelty fostered in young men who pillaged civilians remorselessly, Zwingli determined that the iniquitous practice of mercenaries would end. He remained undeterred despite opponents who protested that the mountainous regions of Switzerland had to export soldiers in order to acquire the money needed to purchase grain and avert starvation.
Now Zingli's preaching took on a decided gospel-flavour as Luther's influence seeped into him. Soon his bishop transferred him to Zurich, the city where he would remain for the rest of his life and to which his name would be fixed as surely as Luther's was to Wittenberg and Calvin's to Geneva. As there grew in Zwingli the conviction that scripture is the normative witness to Jesus Christ and the primary source of Christian understanding and discipleship, he put aside the mediaeval practice of delivering snippet-sermons from a few prescribed texts (the lectionary) and instead preached straight through the New Testament -- in the course of seven years!
His preaching bore much fruit. One aspect of it was the gospel-freedom that led several parishioners to reject Rome's prohibition of meat during Lent. These people embodied their convictions by eating sausages immediately prior to Easter. Zwingli's bishop, formerly a supporter, now denounced him. Zwingli in turn petitioned a nation-wide church conference to authorize unimpeded preaching of the gospel together with all the implications of the gospel -- chief among which now wasn't sausages but clergy marriages. When the conference dawdled over the last point Zwingli sought to move it along by reminding delegates of what they could expect if the clergy weren't allowed to marry: another 1500 children born to "celibate" priests in one year in one province of Switzerland! (Frustrated at the conference's slowness, Zwingli secretly married Anna Reinhart, a widow with three children. Subsequently Anna and Ulrich had another four. They were publicly "married" several years later.) The city council, long nurtured by the ferment of reform effervescing everywhere in Europe, officially declared Zurich to be Protestant. In yet another of his political victories at this time the city council decreed that none of its citizens could be mercenaries under any flag.
A huge controversy exploded over the nature of Christ's presence in the Lord's Supper. Summoned to the castle in Marburg (1529) Luther and Zwingli squared off in a formidable debate that settled nothing. Luther foamed, "Before I drink mere wine with the Swiss I shall drink blood with the pope." Little did he know that Zwingli never advocated "mere wine". Luther feared having the living person of Jesus Christ disappear from the Lord's Supper. Zwingli feared the superstition of suggesting that Christ's people bite their Lord and chew on him during the communion service. Luther accused Zwingli of an empty celebration. Zwingli accused Luther of cannibalism. They simply talked past each other. In addition, Luther failed utterly to appreciate the ecclesial dimension of Zwingli's eucharistic understanding: the Lord's Supper bespeaks not only the presence and power of Jesus Christ but also the transformed fellowship of believers, a fellowship characterized by love, mutual concern and service.
When Emperor Charles V, supported by Austrian troops, threatened Protestant Switzerland, Zwingli rescinded his condemnation of war and insisted that the citizens of Zurich be protected. He helped organize the defensive forces, even accompanying them into the conflict. Wounded terribly at the battle of Capel, an enemy soldier recognized him as Zurich's leader and leapt to impale him with a sword-thrust.
The 47-year old had spent his life on behalf of the people he loved, much more involved politically than the other Reformers. No aspect of the city's communal life had escaped him. He worked as tirelessly to procure foodstuffs as he did to have divorces granted on the grounds of wife-beating, desertion, mental cruelty and sheer incompatibility.
His love for his people shone most brightly when plague overtook the city and he spent himself self-forgetfully on behalf of the sick and the dying, only to be plague-infested himself. When he had survived the pestilence he wrote his "plague-hymn", with its first stanza,
When death knocked at his door in 1531 his memorable watchword was still on his lips: "Not to fear is the armour!"
Heinrich Bullinger 1504-1575
An Answer Given To A Certain Scotsman, In Reply To Some Questions Concerning The Kingdom Of Scotland And England
By Heinrich Bullinger
Whether the Son of a King, upon his father's death, though unable by reason of his tender age to conduct the government of the kingdom, is nevertheless by right of inheritance to be regarded as a lawful magistrate, and as such to be obeyed as of divine right?
That person is, in my opinion, to be esteemed as a lawful King, who is ordained according to the just laws of the country. And thus it is clear that Edward VI of happy memory was ordained. For his father on his death-bed appointed him King, and so claimed for him the right of sovereignty, which they say is hereditary. The States of the kingdom acknowledged him, as they testified by his coronation. They provided him with counselors, endued as he was with great gifts of God: nor was anything wanting to that kingdom, which is wont to be looked for in the most prosperous kingdom elsewhere. He was therefore a lawful Sovereign, and his laws and ordinances demanded obedience; and he ruled the kingdom after a more godly manner than the three most wise and prosperous kings of that country who immediately preceded him.
Whether a Female can preside over, and rule a kingdom by divine right, and so transfer the right of sovereignty to her Husband?
The Law of God ordains the woman to be in subjection, and not to rule; which is clear from the writings of both the Old and the New Testament. But if a woman in compliance with, or in obedience to the laws and customs of the realm, is acknowledged as Queen, and, in maintenance of the hereditary right of government, is married to a Husband, or in the meantime holds the reins of government by means of her counselors, it is a hazardous thing for godly persons to set themselves in opposition to political regulations; especially as the Gospel does not seem to unsettle or abrogate hereditary rights, and the political laws of kingdoms; nor do we read that Philip the eunuch, by right of the Gospel, drove out Candace from the kingdom of Ethiopia. And if the reigning Sovereign be not a Deborah, but an ungodly and tyrannous ruler of the kingdom, godly persons have an example and consolation in the case of Athaliah. The Lord will in His own time destroy unjust governments by His own people, to whom He will supply proper qualifications for this purpose, as He formerly did to Jerubbaal, and the Maccabees, and Jehoiada. With respect, however, to her right of transferring the power of government to her Husband, those persons who are acquainted with the laws and customs of the realm can furnish the proper answer.
Whether obedience is to be rendered to a Magistrate who enforces idolatry and condemns true religion; and whether those authorities, who are still in military occupation of towns and fortresses, are permitted to repel this ungodly violence from themselves and their friends.
The history of Daniel, and the express command of God, Matthew x., and the examples of the Apostles in Acts IV. and v., as also that of many of the martyrs in ecclesiastical history, teach us that we must not obey the king or magistrate when their commands are opposed to God and His lawful worship; but rather that we should expose our persons, and lives, and fortunes to danger. This power is the power of darkness, as the Lord says in the Gospel. And Eusebius records, in the ninth book and eighth chapter of his Ecclesiastical History, that the Armenians took arms against their lawful sovereigns, the Roman emperors, who desired to force them to idolatry. And this conduct of theirs is not reproved. Those very Armenians, many years after, by reason of the ungodliness of the kings of Persian, slew their ungodly commanders, and revolted to the Emperor Justin, as is recorded by Evagrius (Eccl. Hist. v.8). For the Holy Scripture not only permits, but even enjoins upon the magistrate a just and necessary defense.
But as other objects are often aimed at under the pretext of a just and necessary assertion or maintenance of right, and the worst characters mix themselves with the good, and the times too are full of danger; it is very difficult to pronounce upon every particular case. For an accurate knowledge of the circumstances is here of great importance; and as I do not possess such knowledge, it would be very foolish in me to recommend or determine anything specific upon the subject. For even Paul, we read, made use of the Roman soldiery against those who plotted against him, and was right in doing so: yet at another time, though under almost the same or similar circumstances, he is recorded to have used only the arms of patience, and none else. There is need, therefore, in cases of this kind of much prayer, and much wisdom, lest by precipitance and corrupt affections we should so act as to occasion mischief to may worthy persons. Meanwhile, however, death itself is far preferable to the admission of idolatry.
To which party must godly persons attach themselves, in the case of a religious Nobility resisting an idolatrous Sovereign?
I leave this to be decided by the judgment of godly persons, who are well acquainted with all the circumstances, who look up in all things to the word of God, who attempt nothing contrary to the Laws of God, who obey the impulses of the Holy Ghost, and who are guided by circumstances of place, time, opportunity, persons, and things, without making any rash attempt, and who can therefore be directed more safely by their own sense of duty than by the consciences of others. But I would advise them, above all things, that those causes may be removed, on account of which hypocrites are predominant; iniquities, I mean, that we may become reconciled to God by a true repentance, and implore His counsel and assistance. He is the only and the true deliverer; and, as we read in the books of Judges and Kings, and the Ecclesiastical histories, has never been wanting to His Church. Let us lift up our eyes to Him, waiting for His deliverance, abstaining in the meantime from all superstition and idolatry, and doing what He reveals to us in His word.
Phillip Melanchthon 1497-1560
Melanchthon participated in numerous visitations. These resulted in a growing concern with the poor educational system of his time. Melanchthon was not only active in educational reforms in his function as a university professor, but he also wrote numerous textbooks and founded schools and universities. He developed the concept of higher Latin schools, which are precursors of the contemporary German high school (Gymnasien). His suggestions for educational reform were influenced by the humanist ideal of education and Luther's as well as his own Reformation ideas.
The Reformation thus cannot be imagined without Melanchthon. This is also true with respect to the numerous functions he executed during Congresses and the Religious Dialogues of the 1520s-1540s, in which Melanchthon often served as the leading negotiator of the Reformation movement.
so highly of Melanchthon that he wanted to appoint him the leader of the
Reformation in case he would not return alive from the Congress in Worms,
which, in fact, ended in Luther's banishment. Indeed, Melanchthon would
take over this function after Luther's death and would remain the not
entirely undisputed head of the Reformation until his own death in 1560.
Jacob Boehme 1575-1624
The Protestant mystic Jacob Boehme was born in Altseidenberg, Silesia. He received only an elementary education but was an enthusiastic student of the Bible and the works of the alchemist Paracelsus. Apprenticed to a cobbler in his youth, Boehme later opened his own shop in Görlitz, Saxony.
From an early age he saw visions, and throughout his life he claimed to be divinely inspired. In his manuscript The Morning Redness Arising, written in 1612, he recorded his visions and expounded the attributes of God. The work was condemned as heretical by local ecclesiastical and civil authorities, and Boehme was forced to flee to Dresden, Saxony. There he was cleared of charges of heresy and allowed to return to Görlitz. His best-known treatises include Of the Three Principles of the Nature of God, (1619) and The Way to Christ, (1624), The Signature of all Things, and Mysterium Magnum.
As well as alchemical themes his writings contain Kabbalistic concepts. Boehme describes the absolute nature of God as the abyss, the nothing and the all, the primordial depths from which the creative will struggles forth to find manifestation and self-consciousness. The Father, who is groundless Will (c.f. Kabbalah - Keter the first principle is identified with Will), issues forth the Son, who is Love.
Boehme held that everything exists and is intelligible only through its opposite. Thus, he believed, evil is a necessary element in goodness, for without evil the will would become inert and progress would be impossible. Evil is a result of the striving of single elements of Deity to become the whole; conflict ensues as man and nature strive to achieve God. God himself, according to Boehme, contains conflicting elements and antithetical principles within His nature. (c.f. Sri Aurobindo - the Supermind (Godhead Truth-Consciousness) contains and reconciles all opposites wthin Itself
Although Boehme's style is very turgid and heavy, his works were widely read and popular in Germany, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. His English followers called themselves Behmenists. Many of them later were absorbed into the Quaker movement. Boehme's writings have influenced modern Western thought in both philosophy and theology. He exerted a profound influence on the philosophies of Baader, Schelling, Hegel, and Schopenhauer. His ideas have also had a formative influence on Theosophy.
John Bunyan 1628-1688
English Baptist preacher and writer, John Bunyan was born in Elstow, England near Bedford where he spent most of his life. Although today he is regarded as a literary genius, he had little formal education. At the age of 16, this rough and profane young man enlisted in the army of Parliament and saw active duty during the English civil war. In 1647 at the age of 19, he married a young woman who persuaded him to attend church with her regularly where he heard the Gospel. After deep and prolonged soul struggle he made a complete surrender to Christ and was converted, after which he was baptized and joined the Baptist church of Bedford.
Soon he began to preach there and also in the surrounding villages which caused the people to recognize in him elements of leadership as well as ability as an expositor of the scriptures. Continuing in his trade as a tinker, he witnessed wherever he went. He spent his holidays and Sundays preaching in barns, shops, village greens, as well as in the open air. Such great crowds began to follow him that it led to his arrest and imprisonment in 1660 for conducting a "conventicle," a religious meeting without the permission of the state church. When offered his freedom if he would promise not to preach, he refused and chose jail. While imprisoned he studied, preached, wrote, and supported his family by making and selling shoe laces.
It was while a prisoner that he wrote his immortal "Pilgrim's Progress." In 1672 he was released and immediately resumed his ministry. During the last sixteen years of his life he was active as pastor, writer, helper, counselor, organizer, administrator, and pastor-in-chief to a multitude of churches and young ministers. Bunyan was a champion for the cause of religious liberty and freedom of conscience in spiritual matters. One who knew him well wrote, "The grace of God was magnified in him and by him, and a rich anointing of the Spirit was upon him; and yet this great saint was always in his own eyes the chiefest of sinners and the poorest of saints." He died in 1688 after riding forty miles in a driving rain on horseback to London to preach. He was always a poor man, yet through his example, his ministry, and especially his pen, he bequeathed inestimable riches to posterity.
George Fox 1624-1691
Fox, founder of the Society of Friends (Quakers), was born at Drayton-In-The-Clay,
Leicestershire, England, the son of Puritan parents. Little is known of
his early life apart from what he wrote in his journal:
In my very young
years I had a gravity and stayedness of mind and spirit not usual in young
children: insomuch that when I saw old men behave lightly and wantonly
toward each other, I had a dislike thereof raise in my heart, and I said
within myself, "If ever I come to be a man, surely I shall not do
so, nor be so wanton."
Fox was persecuted almost daily, yet his power of endurance was phenomenal. He was beaten with dogwhips, knocked down with fists and stones, brutally struck with pike staves, hard beset by mobs, incarcerated eight times in the pestilential jails, prisons, castles and dungeons: yet he went straight forward with his mission as though he had discovered some fresh courage which made him impervious to man's inhumanity.
He undertook as far as possible to let the new life in Christ take its own free course of development in his ministry. He shunned rigid forms and static systems and for that reason he refused to head a new sect, or to start a new denomination, or to begin a new church. He would not build an organization of any kind. His followers at first called themselves, "Children of the Light" and later adopted the name, "The Society (or Fellowship) of Friends."
Fox preached and travelled for forty years throughout England, Scotland, Holland, and America. His life demonstrated the truth of his famous saying, "One man raised by God's power to stand and live in the same spirit as the apostles and prophets can shake the country for ten miles around."
Richard Hooker 1553-1600
On any list of great English theologians, the name of Richard Hooker would appear at or near the top. His masterpiece is The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. Its philosophical base is Aristotelian, with a strong emphasis on natural law eternally planted by God in creation. On this foundation, all positive laws of Church and State are developed from Scriptural revelation, ancient tradition, reason, and experience.
The occasion of his writing was the demand of English Puritans for a reformation of Church government. Calvin had established in Geneva a system whereby each congregation was ruled by a commission comprising two thirds laymen elected annually by the congregation and one third clergy serving for life. The English Puritans (by arguments more curious than convincing) held that no church not so governed could claim to be Christian.
Hooker replies to this assertion, but in the process he raises and considers fundamental questions about the authority and legitimacy of government (religious and secular), about the nature of law, and about various kinds of law, including the laws of physics as well as the laws of England. In the course of his book he sets forth the Anglican view of the Church, and the Anglican approach to the discovery of religious truth (the so-called via media, or middle road), and explains how this differs from the position of the Puritans, on the one hand, and the adherents of the Pope, on the other. He is very heavy reading, but well worth it. (He says, on the first page of Chapter I: "Those unto whom we shall seem tedious are in no wise injuried by us, seeing that it lies in their own hands to spare themselves the labor they are unwilling to endure." This translates into modern English as: "If you can't take the intellectual heat, get out of the kitchen. If you can't stand a book that makes you think, go read the funny papers.")
The effect of the book has been considerable. Hooker greatly influenced John Locke, and (both directly and through Locke), American political philosophy in the late 1700's. Although Hooker is unsparing in his censure of what he believes to be the errors of Rome, his contemporary, Pope Clement VIII (died 1605), said of the book: "It has in it such seeds of eternity that it will abide until the last fire shall consume all learning."
Hooker's best short work is his sermon, "A Learned discourse of Justification." In an earlier sermon, Hooker had expressed the hope of seeing in Heaven many who had been Romanists on earth. A Puritan preacher took him to task for this, saying that since the Romanists did not believe the doctrine of Justification by Faith, they could not be justified. Hooker replied at length in this sermon, in which he sets forth the Doctrine of Justification by Faith, and agrees with his opponent that the official theology of Rome is defective on this point; he defends his assertion that those who do not rightly understand the means that God has provided for our salvation may nonetheless be saved by it, in which connection he says (I quote from memory): "God is no captious sophister, eager to trip us up whenever we say amiss, but a courteous tutor, ready to amend what, in our weakness or our ignorance, we say ill, and to make the most of what we say aright." His sermon is often bound with the Laws, and is also available in the paperback volume Faith and Works (ed. Philip Edgecumbe Hughes, Morehouse-Barlow, Wilton CN 06897, ISBN 0-8192-1315-2)
John Wesley 1703-1791
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, certainly would have concurred. In his Journal entry for August 15, 1750, he wrote, "I was fully convinced of what I had long suspected, 1. That the Montanists, in the second and third centuries, were real, scriptural Christians; and, 2. that the grand reason why the miraculous gifts were so soon withdrawn, was not only that faith and holiness were well nigh lost; but that dry, formal, orthodox men began even then to ridicule whatever gifts they had not themselves, and to decry them all as either madness or imposture."
Wesley clearly believed that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were relevant for the church in any age. He defined them. He described them. He experienced them. He defended them.
Although Wesley never emphasized certain gifts such as predictive prophecy or tongues and their interpretation, he did regret their loss to Christians in general. In his sermon, "The More Excellent Way," he writes, "The cause of this [decline of spiritual gifts following Constantine] was not, (as has been vulgarly supposed,) `because there was no more occasion for them,' because all the world was become Christians. This is a miserable mistake; not a twentieth part of it was then nominally Christian. The real cause was, `the love of many,' almost of all Christians, so called, was `waxed cold.' The Christians had no more of the Spirit of Christ than the other Heathens. The Son of Man, when he came to examine his Church, could hardly `find faith upon earth.' This was the real cause why the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghost were no longer to be found in the Christian Church; because the Christians were turned Heathens again, and had only a dead form left."
Obviously the implication here is that when the church recovers its first love, the gifts of the Holy Spirit will be available to enable its several parts to minister effectively within their own spheres of influence. Although the "more excellent way" is the way of love, Wesley still insisted that we may "covet earnestly" such gifts as evangelism to "sound the unbelieving heart," or the gift of knowledge to understand both the providence and the grace of God, or the gift of faith "which on particular occasions,...goes far beyond the power of natural causes" (Works, 7:27).
Some argue that Wesley sounded somewhat ambivalent at times with regard to some of the more "extraordinary" gifts as they surfaced within the 18th century Evangelical Revival (no doubt concerned about the charges of "enthusiasm" against the people called Methodist). However, on at least one occasion Wesley defended the gifts of the Spirit. In a letter to Conyers Middleton (Works, 10:1-79), Wesley defined, described, and defended a whole host of spiritual gifts, including: "1. Casting out devils; 2. Speaking with new tongues; 3. Escaping dangers, in which otherwise they must have perished; 4. Healing the sick; 5. Prophecy, foretelling things to come; 6. Visions; 7. Divine dreams; And, 8. Discerning of spirits" (Works, 10:16). Although the order and even the mention of some "gifts" not normally associated with the biblical accounts (such as visions and dreams) may seem a bit strange, the fact remains that Wesley believed that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were not only important but also were active during the 18th century Evangelical Revival.
When Middleton charged "that the silence of all the apostolic writers on the subject of the gifts, must dispose us to conclude they were then withdrawn," Wesley immediately responded: "O Sir, mention this no more. I entreat you, never name their silence again. They speak loud enough to shame you as long as you live" (Works 10:23).
Let us examine the gift of healing. I have frequently said that it is not a sin to be sick or to die. It is, however, a sin for sickness and death to go unchallenged because there is no one to pray.
Wesley clearly believed that the gift of healing tapped the supernatural power of God. Again, in response to Middleton's insistence that no "miraculous healing" had ever been proved, Wesley responded, "Sir, I understand you well. The drift of the argument is easily seen. It points at the Master, as well as his servants; and tends to prove that, after all this talk about miraculous cures, we are not sure there were ever any in the world. But it will do no harm. For although we grant, (1) That some recover, even in seemingly desperate cases; and, (2) That we do not know, in any case, the precise bounds between nature and miracle; yet it does not follow, Therefore, I cannot be assured there ever was a miracle of healing in the world. To explain this by instance: I do not precisely know how far nature may go in healing, that is restoring sight of the blind; yet this I assuredly know, that if a man born blind is restored to sight by a word, this is not nature, but miracle" (Works, 10:22).
James 5:14-16 exhorts Christians to pray for and anoint the sick with oil. Surely it is good to know that both Wesley and the Scriptures are on the side of those whose only hope for earthly ministry is in securing "weapons with divine power for demolishing strongholds" (2 Cor. 10:4).
"Casting out devils"
In a sermon preached from the lectionary text (Mark 1:21-28) at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary a few years ago, I reminded the students that it was not my task to convince anyone of the existence of demons; their first appointment usually took care of that. Instead, it was my task to be faithful to the biblical accounts of a power available for "demolishing strongholds," demonic or otherwise. Wesley might well have been pleased.
The letter written to Conyers Middleton is Wesley's most definitive statement on the gifts of the Holy Spirit (although written in the sometimes confusing style of rebuttal and controversy). As with the gift of healing, Wesley makes reference both to Scripture and experience.
In his sermon, "A Caution Against Bigotry," Wesley attempts to set the biblical and theological stage for "casting out devils." He writes, "In order to have the clearest view of this, we should remember, that (according to the scriptural account) as God dwells and works in the children of light, so the devil dwells and works in the children of darkness. As the Holy Spirit possesses the souls of good men, so the evil spirit possesses the souls of the wicked."
As he does with regard to all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Wesley responds to Middleton on the subject of "deliverance" openly and plainly: "The testimonies concerning this are out of number, and as plain as words can make them. To show, therefore, that all these signify nothing, and that there were never any devils cast out at all, neither by the Apostles, nor since the Apostles, (for the argument proves both or neither,) is a task worthy of you" (Works, 10:41).
Middleton then claims that "those who were said to be possessed of the devil, may have been ill of the falling sickness...the ordinary symptoms of an epilepsy." As for the "evidence of devils speaking and answering to all questions," Middleton simply shrugs. He accounts for these "by the arts of imposture, and contrivance between the persons concerned in the act." Wesley's reply is straightforward: "Is not this something extraordinary, that men in epileptic fits should be capable of so much art and contrivance?" (Works, 10:41-42).
To Middleton's charge that even the Church Fathers "were either induced by their prejudices to give too hasty credit to these pretended possessions, or carried away by their zeal to support a delusion which was useful to the Christian cause" (a sentiment not unheard of today), Wesley insists that "not one of these Fathers made any scruple of using the hyperbolical style, (that is, in plain English, of lying,) as the eminent writer declares" (Works, 10:42).
As to how these "demons" might be overcome, Wesley is adamant: "All this is indeed the work of God. It is God alone who can cast out Satan. But he is generally pleased to do this by man, as an instrument in his hand; who is then said to cast out devils in his name, by his power and authority. And he sends whom he will send upon this great work; but usually such as man would never have thought of: For `his ways are not as our ways, neither his thoughts as our thoughts.' Accordingly, he chooses the weak to confound the mighty; the foolish to confound the wise; for this plain reason, that he may secure the glory to himself; that `no flesh may glory in his sight'" (Works, 5:484).
Speaking in tongues
Although there is no record that Wesley himself ever spoke in tongues, there is evidence that he believed that this gift of the Holy Spirit was a legitimate gift for the Church of any age. I offer but two quotations from his letter to Middleton.
In response to Middleton, Wesley writes: "Since the Reformation, you say, `This gift has never once been heard of, or pretended to, by the Romanists themselves.' But has it been pretended to (whether justly or not) by no others, though not by the Romanists? Has it `never once been heard of' since that time? Sir, your memory fails you again: It has undoubtedly been pretended to, and that at no great distance either from our time or country. It has been heard of more than once, no farther off than the valleys of Dauphiny. Nor is it yet fifty years ago since the Protestant inhabitants of those valleys so loudly pretended to this and other miraculous powers, as to give much disturbance to Paris itself. And how did the King of France confute that pretense, and prevent its being heard any more? Not by the pen of his scholars, but by (a truly heathen way) the swords and bayonets of his dragoons" (Works, 10:55-56).
As for the relevance of the gift of tongues for the church of any age Wesley once more responds to Middleton: "`All these [spiritual gifts] worketh by one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will;' and as to every man, so to every Church, every collective body of men;...seeing He who worketh as He will, may, with your [Middleton's] good leave, give the gift of tongues, where He gives no other; and may see abundant reasons so to do, whether you and I see them or not. For perhaps we have not always known the mind of the Lord; not being of the number of his counselors" (Works, 10:56).
We may conclude this examination of Wesley's views on the gifts of the Holy Spirit with mention of his defense of "raising the dead." Wesley objects to Middleton's insistence that "there is not an instance of this [raising the dead] to be found in the three first centuries." Wesley quotes Irenaeus, the influential 2nd century Bishop of Lyons: "This was frequently performed on necessary occasions; when by great fastings and the joint supplication of the Church, the spirit of the dead person returned into him, and the man was given back to the prayers of the saints." Wesley then concludes himself: "I presume you mean, no heathen historian has mentioned it; for Christian historians were not. I answer, (1) It is not probable a heathen historian would have related such a fact, had he known it. (2) It is equally improbable, he should know it;...especially considering. Thirdly, that it was not designed for the conversion of the Heathens; but `on occasions necessary' for the good of the Church, of the Christian community. Lastly: It was a miracle proper, above all others, to support and confirm the Christians, who were daily tortured and slain, but sustained by the hope of obtaining a better resurrection" (Works, 10:39).
Again and again, the writings of John Wesley remind us that God has more invested in our ministry than we do. God makes power available (there must be thousands of spiritual gifts) to each of us that we might minister effectively within our own spheres of influence. Since our spheres are different, our gifts will be different. I do not covet your gift and you do not covet mine; but, together we are the body of Christ. Let God arise!
Johannes Bugenhagen 1485-1558
Born in East Pomeranian, Johannes Bugenhagen studied humanistics in Greifswald and was ordained as priest before taking up diverse positions as a teacher of the Scriptures and as Father of the Church. Initially Bugenhagen categorically disapproved of Luther's anti-Roman paper "The Babylonian imprisonment of the church" published in 1521.
After more intensive study of this hypothesis, he did however become a firm supporter of the Reformation Movement and moved to Wittenberg. "Doctor Pommer", as Luther called him, became one of the most effective reformers.
He was not only active as Wittenberg's town priest from 1523 onwards, Luther`s personal spiritual adviser and theology lecturer at the Wittenberg University, but also an exceptionally good organizer and indispensable for the Reformation in northern Germany and Scandinavia.
He founded a church polity for Braunschweig, Hambur, Luebeck, Pomeranian, Schleswig-Holstein, Hildesheim, Braunschweig-Wolfenbuettel and Denmark. He even helped in their initiation and realization. They regulated not only the divine service, but also worldly such as the educational system and social matters.
Bugenhagen was made superintendent general of the Electorate of Saxony in 1539.
After Martin Luther's death Bugenhagen attended to his widow and children.
Johannes Bugenhagen died in Wittenberg in 1558. His tombstone can be seen in the City Church.
Jakob Andreae 1528 -1590
This page tries to go behind some of the myths about J.V. Andreæ.
For example, Andreæ is regularly listed as an 'alchemist'. Although Andreæ's father had a serious interest in alchemy, I know of no evidence that Johann Valentin ever engaged in this branch of chemistry. There are numerous points in Andreæ's work where he makes fun of alchemists, and in general he places them alongside charlatans or self-deceiving fools. On the other hand, Andreæ distinguishes between the disreputable, worldly form of activities (e.g. music, art, theatre, alchemy, astrology), and their commendable versions which are spiritually or morally beneficial. His early works do include the Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreuz, but there are many conflicting interpretations of this work.
So if we want to know what Andreæ is about, I think we need to go behind the secondary literature, which is often unreliable or inaccurate, and back to the primary sources. The problem is that these are often inaccessible - the texts are rare, and the language in which they are written is difficult. This page will try to help here, by assembling relevant passages and putting them into their context.
for Johann Valentin Andreæ
(1528-1590) Jakob Andreæ made a career in the church; known as the 'Luther of Württemberg' helped develop the Formula of Concord (1577) and became Chancellor of the University of Tübingen.
Martin Bucer 1491-1551
|Bucer or Butzer, Martin , 14911551, German Protestant reformer born Martin Kuhhorn. At 14 years of age he joined the Dominican order, and he studied at Heidelberg, where he heard (1518) Luther in his public disputation on the doctrine of free will. Influenced by the reformist thought, Bucer left the order and accepted a pastorate at Landstuhl. In 1523 he entered upon the work of the Reformation in Strasbourg, where he helped to lay the foundations of the Protestant educational system. Many of his activities were attempts to reconcile the differences in regard to the Eucharist that divided the Lutherans from the Swiss and S German reformers. Bucer's position was closer to that of the Swiss leader, Zwingli, and in this, as in other doctrinal matters, he is credited with a spiritual kinship to Calvin. In spite of his desire for unity, Bucer rejected the Augsburg Confession drawn up in 1530 in the hope of achieving religious peace. It was not until a personal meeting with Luther in 1536 that, in the Wittenberg Concord, Bucer was successful in securing agreement on the Eucharist among himself, Luther, and the reformers of S Germany. When Bucer failed to subscribe to the Augsburg Interim (1548)a compromise between Roman Catholics and Protestants proposed by Holy Roman Emperor Charles Vhe found it expedient to accept the invitation of Cranmer and moved to England. There, highly honored, he taught at Cambridge and tutored Edward VI, at whose request he wrote De regno Christi.|
Theodore Beza 1519-1605
|Beza, Theodore (1519-1605), French theologian and educator, who assisted, then succeeded, John Calvin as head of the Protestant Reformation in Geneva. Born in Vézelay, Burgundy, on June 24, 1519, Beza studied law and letters at Orléans (1535-39), Bourges, and Paris. In 1548, after recovering from a serious illness, he converted to Protestantism, then joined Calvin in Geneva. A year later he began teaching Greek at Lausanne. In 1559 he founded the Genevan Academy with Calvin and became its first rector. As Calvin's successor Beza upheld the reformer's views, emphasizing God's eternal decrees and the centrality of predestination in the divine plan. In addition, he espoused supralapsarianism, the doctrine that God's determination of the saved and the damned had preceded Adam's fall. Beza contributed two Greek editions (1565, 1582) and an annotated Latin translation (1556) of the New Testament; these texts were used by Protestants for more than a century. Both the Geneva Bible (1560) and the King James Version (1611) were based on Beza's works. In 1581 he gave to the University of Cambridge the Codex D or Codex Bezae, a 5th-century manuscript containing Greek and Latin texts of the Gospels and Acts, which he claimed to have discovered in a monastery in Lyon. Among Beza's own writings are a biography of Calvin and the Histoire ecclésiastique des églises réformées au royaume de France (Ecclesiastical History of the Reformed Church in the Kingdom of France, 1580). He died in Geneva on October 13, 1605.|
Martin Chemnitz 1522-1586
Martin Luther is considered the greatest theologian of the Lutheran Church,
then Martin Chemnitz is without a doubt our second greatest Lutheran Father.
Chemnitz is certainly deserving of the title the Second Martin,
and was the primary bulwark of orthodox Lutheran theology in the latter
part of the sixteenth century.
Born in Treuenbrietzen, in 1522, he was the last of three children given to Paul and Euphemia Chemnitz. Chemnitz life of education was varied and marked by constant moving (because of financial difficulties). He studied at Wittenberg (1536-1538), Magdeburg (1539-42), Calbe (1542), Frankfurt on the Oder (1543-44), where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree, again at Wittenberg (1545-47) under the tutelage of Melancthon, and Königsberg (1547-53). At Königsberg he was able to obtain his Master of Arts degree, and began his study of theology (from 1550-1553) in the Dukes personal library. From there he again returned to Wittenberg, and was made a member of the faculty in 1554. Later that year, he accepted a call as coadjutor of Braunschweig to his friend Joachim Morlin and pastor of Martin Church, where he would remain until his death in 1586. During his time in Braunchweig he received his doctorate at the University of Rostock (1568), and took over the office of the superintendent (1567).
It was the latter part of the sixteenth century that proved to be one of the greatest battlegrounds for orthodox Lutheranism, which found itself facing many opponents and varied controversies. The Catholic Church, newly revitalized from the council of Trent (1545-1563), was now ready to take a decisive stand against the Protestants. John Calvin had come onto the scene, along with his corrupt theology. It was in the doctrines of the Lords Supper and the Person of Christ that Calvinism posed its greatest threat to Lutheranism, with proponents of these errors masking their heterodoxy under the supposed title of Lutheran (these men were named Crypto-Calvinists because they hid their Calvinistic inclinations). Under the unsteady hand of Melancthon, Wittenberg itself became a hotbed for Crypto-Calvinists. Add to this the Osiandrian controversy, the Synergists and the Anabaptists, and one can clearly see that Satan was again hard at work trying to destroy the Gospel, which had been snuffed out in medieval theology, but God had again brought to light through Luther.
It was in these turbulent times that God graced our Church with the second Martin, who, using Scripture as his guide, soundly defeated the errorists in turn. In response to the Catholics he wrote his famous, four-volume work Examination of the Council of Trent, one of the great masterpieces of Lutheran theology. Against the Crypto-Calvinists he worked tirelessly, writing De Coena Domini (The Lords Supper) in 1560, and De Duabus Naturis in Christo (the Two Natures in Christ) published in 1570, and expanded in 1578. But his greatest contribution to Lutheranism is his work in producing the Formula of Concord. In collaboration with Jacob Andreae, Phillip Selnecker, David Chytraeus, Andrew Musculus, and Christopher Korner, the Bergic Book was produced in 1577, which we today call the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord.
This was the flag under which orthodox Lutheranism rallied. Unbiased, it simply reproduced the Scriptural positions of the doctrines in question, taking its stance on the Bible and Luther. The doctrines of the Lords supper and of the Person of Christ were hammered out, so that there was no place for the Crypto-Calvinists to hide. The work itself, written primarily by Chemnitz, was ascribed to by most of the Lutheran parts of the empire (Chemnitzs home town, Braunschweig, did not subscribe to it until years later, not because of doctrinal differences, but because of a personal quarrel between Duke Julius and Chemnitz).
We in the WELS would do well to better
acquaint ourselves with Martin Chemnitz, both his life and his works.
Our second greatest Father, he stands out as a theologian and pastor in
the truest sense, following in the footsteps of the first Martin and taking
an uncompromising stand on Scripture. The 17th century saying is certainly
true (written above in Latin), If the second Martin (Chemnitz) had
not come, the first Martin (Luther) would not have stood.
Thomas Cranmer 1489-1556
A dithering ecclesiastical Hamlet, an heretical schismatic, and an heroic defender of reformed Christianity, Thomas Cranmer has been vilified and praised with such words by his own and every succeeding generation.
Born in 1489 in Aslacton, Nottingham, the son of a village squire, he was educated there and afterwards entered Jesus College at Cambridge University, where he received an M.A. and married his first wife, Joan. After her death during childbirth he became a fellow of the same college and was ordained and went on to earn both a B.D. and a D.D. His intense study put him in contact with continental reformed theology that emphasized the strong role of both the Bible and secular authority over against the authority of the Pope in governing the Church.
When, in 1529, the divorce proceedings between the King, Henry VIII, and the Queen, Catherine of Aragon, were on the point of breaking down in a way the King didn't much like, Cranmer suggested that the question of the King's marriage be considered by the universities of Europe. This idea was so warmly received by the King when he heard about it that he quickly put Cranmer in his pay to help carry this out.
In 1532 while on an embassy to the Emperor, Charles V, about the King's marriage, Cranmer married his second wife, Margaret, the daughter of a Lutheran theologian. After his consecration as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1533 she disappeared from public view to conform to the King's opinions of clerical marriage until King Henry's death and the reforms of his son, Edward VI, formally allowed the clergy to marry.
But Cranmer was moved by more than his King's opinions on every issue. In the reign of Henry VIII he worked to publish an officially authorized translation of the English Bible, beginning at a time when owning even a part of the Bible in English carried a death sentence.
He did not participate in the official government policy of dissolving the monasteries and he openly opposed some laws that limited the Church's authority including those that forced him to banish his wife whom he had already sent into hiding.
In the brief years of Henry's son, Edward's reign (1547-1553) he dramatically carried forward the project of reform in his own terms. He promoted Biblical preaching in a Book of Homilies and, what he argued was, more Biblical worship in the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 and 1552.
The Eucharist in the first book has been regarded as more catholic' than the second. Often cited are the words of administration: in the first book. "The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your Body and soul unto everlasting life, The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve your body and soul unto everlasting life"; in the second book beginning with Jesus' own words at the Last Supper: "Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving, Drink this in remembrance that Christ's Blood was shed for thee, and be thankful".
Cranmer is criticized as a receptionist [not the kind you meet in a dentist's office] for teaching here and elsewhere that Christ is received by the faithful Christian in Communion in a way that does not depend on the bread and wine by themselves but on the heart of the believer. [Elizabeth I in restoring the Prayer Book in 1559 printed both forms of administration, and both have been printed together ever since.] Exactly, he would say, to say more would be "to overthrow the nature of a sacrament". The sign would be confused with the thing that it signifies. Moreover, both of Cranmer's Prayer Books represent a profound and mystical theology of incorporation and transformation into Christ by Christ. He does not speak of a dead Christ or an absent Christ.
The Bible is to be read through by the whole congregation, heard and received as the nourishment of the new life in the risen Christ. The Gospel Sacraments are celebrated as "mysteries and tokens of his love", baptism, "to make us like unto him", the Eucharist, "to enable us to dwell in him and He in us".)
Sentenced for that offense and publicly degraded, Cranmer recanted almost his whole position, affirmed transubstantiation (a more physical belief in the presence of Christ in the bread and wine an Communion) and the supreme authority of the Pope in the English Church.
Nonetheless he was sentenced to death, when finally given the opportunity to speak before and during his execution (at Oxford on March 21st, 1556, by burning at the stake, a form of execution restored by Mary that he had abolished) he renounced his recantations and his cowardice, holding the hand with which he had signed the documents outlining his recantation into the flames.
That final apparent indecision and weakness is in fact, I think, the result of his deep consistency. He genuinely trusted in the role of lay authority, represented by the King or Prince, in the Church's life.
The final difficulty of Cranmer's life was that Mary, the Prince whom he obeyed, was obedient to the Pope.
We must honour Thomas Cranmer and be grateful to him, for in the English Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, the Book of Homilies, he helped translate and reform the faith and worship of the English speaking world, recalling it to a simpler more direct proclamation of Christ and the Gospel. His faith enriches ours day by day and week by week whenever we pick up the scriptures, open the Prayer Book, and indeed, whenever we open our mouths, for along with Shakespeare, the English Bible (revised again in 1611, admittedly) and the Book of Common Prayer are as formative of our very language as they are of our faith.
Nicholas Ridley 1500-1555
English Protestant prelate, reformer, and martyr, born near Willimoteswyke, Northumberland, and educated at Pembroke Hall, University of Cambridge, and the universities of Paris and Leuven. He returned to Cambridge as junior treasurer of his college, thereafter becoming university proctor and, finally, chaplain to the university. In 1537, having shown leanings toward the Reformation, he was made chaplain to Thomas Cranmer, then archbishop of Canterbury, and received other ecclesiastical preferences. He became chaplain to King Henry VIII in 1541. During the reign of Edward VI Ridley rose to prominence. He had by this time renounced the doctrine of transubstantiation. In 1547 he was named bishop of Rochester. Ridley helped Cranmer to compile the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-nine Articles and was appointed to help establish Protestantism in the University of Cambridge. In 1550 he became bishop of London. After the death of Edward, Ridley supported Lady Jane Grey as successor to the throne and publicly pronounced both of King Henry VIII's daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, illegitimate. When Mary, a Roman Catholic, was proclaimed queen he was imprisoned in the Tower of London, where he wrote statements defending his religious opinions. In 1554, refusing to recant, he was declared a heretic and excommunicated, and in 1555 he was tried under the penal laws instituted by the Catholic queen, which provided for the execution of heretics. Ridley was burned at the stake with the English prelate and reformer Hugh Latimer. His writings (Works) were published in 1841.
Hugh Latimer 1485-1555
Born 1485, in Thurcaston, Leicestershire, Hugh Latimer greatly advanced the cause of the Reformation in England through his vigorous preaching and through the inspiration of martyrdom.
Latimer was the son of a prosperous yeoman farmer.. Educated at Cambridge University, he was ordained a priest around 1510. In the two decades before 1530 he gradually acquired a reputation as a preacher at Cambridge. At first he subscribed to orthodox Roman Catholicism, but in 1525 he came into contact with a group of young Cambridge divines who were influenced by Martin Luther's Biblical, Reformed doctrines. He attributed his conversion by God's grace to the ministrations of Thomas Bilney.
After gaining royal favour by speaking out in support of the efforts of King Henry VIII to obtain an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Latimer received the benefice of West Kingston, Wiltshire, in1531. He soon befriended two rising Reformers: Thomas Cromwell, who was to become the King's chief minister, and the future Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer.
Accusations of heretical preachings were made against him and he refused in January 1532 to subscribe to certain articles of faith such as the existence of purgatory and the need to venerate saints. Consequently, he was excommunicated and imprisoned until he made a complete submission (April 1532).
Nevertheless, thanks to Cromwell's influence, Latimer was elevated in 1535 to the bishopric of Worcester. By 1536 he was generally regarded as one of the Reform leaders, even though there is no sign that he played any part in the various attempts of those years to introduce changes in church doctrine. As a result of a temporary return in England to a favouring of Roman Catholicism, Latimer was forced to resign his See in 1539, and upon the sudden fall of Thomas Cromwell in July 1540, he lost his main support at Court.
For the remainder of Henry's reign Latimer existed in the shadows. Apparently he incurred suspicion of heresy at intervals and spent some time in the Tower of London, where he was incarcerated during the last few months before the accession of the boy king Edward VI in January 1547. The new reign, with its rapid advance of Biblical Protestantism, gave Latimer the opportunity to exercise his great talents. He refused to resume his bishopric, because he wanted to be free to preach without fear or favour. His sermons attracted large crowds and were often patronized by the Court.
With other Commonwealthmen, he attacked enclosure as a cause of depopulation and poverty. Because of his great contribution, under God's blessing, in the spread and establishment of the Reformation, Latimer was a marked man when the catholic Mary Tudor ascended the throne. In September 1553 he was arrested on charges of treason; taken to Oxford for trial, he was burned there with the Reformer Nicholas Ridley on October 16, 1555. At the stake Latimer immortalized himself by exhorting Ridley with the words: "...we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England as I trust shall never be put out."
During the reign of Edward VI Latimer preached the Gospel in many places. Frequently his voice was heard at St. Paul's Cross. In 1548 Latimer commenced a series of sermons from the pulpit at St. Paul's raising his voice in protest at the injustice of the wealthy toward the poor. Rich and poor, high and low came and heard him protest at oppression of every kind.
"You landlords, you rent-raisers, you have for your possession too much...and thus is caused such dearth, that poor men that live on their labour cannot with the sweat of their faces have their living. I tell you my lords and masters, this is not for the King's honour; it is to the King's honour that his subjects be led in true religion. It is to the King's honour that the commonwealth be advanced, that the dearth be provided for, and the commodities of this realm so employed as it may be to the setting of his subjects at work, and keeping them from idleness...The enhancing and bearing goes all to your private commodity and wealth. Ye had a single too much, and now ye have a double too much; but let the preacher preach till his tongue be worn to a stump, nothing is amended. This one thing I tell you, from whom it cometh, I know, even from the Devil...".
Preaching his famous sermon on "The Plough" he said to a number of bishops standing before him, "Who is the most diligent prelate in all England, that passeth all the rest in the doing of his office? I will tell you. It is the Devil!...Therefore, you unpreaching prelates, learn of the devil to be diligent in your office. If you will not learn of God, for shame learn of the Devil!"
Francis Turretin 1623-1687
|Although various enemies have always harassed the militant Church on earth, enemies by whom it has suffered countless evils (some open and disclosed, publicly presenting themselves enemies of the Christian name, others hidden and disguised, attacking Christ under the name of Christ Himself). Nevertheless, that implacable Satan, the well known adversary of our salvation, has stirred up no one more lethal and ever more horrible than the Antichrist himself, who, by joining cunning to the art of deceit practiced by his disciples, was destined to attack the doctrine and kingdom of Christ in a revolt against Christ through infamous apostasy. Hence it follows, that of all the controversies engaged between us and the Pontiffs, none presents itself to be of greater importance in confirming the necessity and righteousness of our separation. Nor is there a point of debate more profitable than that which centers on the identity of the Antichrist, since, indeed, it is without doubt quite certain that he himself is diametrically set in opposition to Christ so that no communion is permitted with him. Therefore, if we can establish once and for all that the Pope, (who is thrust upon the universal Church as the judge of all controversies, the presider over Councils, the administrator of Kingdoms, the bridegroom of the Church and the Vicar of Christ), is that renowned Antichrist whom Scripture describes and in whom the prophecies are synchronous, then it will be apparent to anyone to conclude in agreement with us that we had by necessity separated from him and his fellowship and that no reconciliation can henceforth be permitted with him. And it should be noted that the more diligently we pursue this subject, the greater the zeal and effort of our busy adversaries in spreading darkness around us hereupon, depicting the Antichrist with traits and characteristics foreign to the Pope, in a feigned attempt to distance the Pontiff from appearing the only likely suspect. Hence, false marks have been attributed to the Antichrist by which Christians are led into error, just as the Jews attribute false qualities to the Messiah in order to lead the people away from saving knowledge of Christ. However, if we sincerely and carefully direct our attention to the subject at hand, it will prove to be an easy matter to drive away the darkness which our adversaries bring forward disguised as truth. For it is out of the light of the divine Word that we shall expose their works of darkness, laying claim to the true solution to this mystery of iniquity. That this goal may be attained more satisfactorily, we deem it necessary to prove two critical hypotheses. First, we will prove in thesis what sort of person the Antichrist should be, whom we seek to identity; secondly, we will prove just who it is that Scripture points to with an eager finger. To support the first thesis, we will reveal, for all eyes to see, the true marks and characteristics of the Antichrist. Subsequently, we will exhibit their application in their proper context, that the Antichrist may be detected. The former will have to be sought from Scripture, the latter from fulfilled events and experience. All Agree Antichrist is to be Found in the Temple of God. Lest we seem to assert these facts for no reason, it must, indeed, now be shown that all the marks by which the Antichrist is described in Scripture converge only on the Roman Pontiff. By our so doing, no honest person will be able to examine these marks closely without easily observing them reflecting, as if in a mirror, the Pope himself. Moreover, although a variety of marks are frequently enumerated, nevertheless, they can all be traced back to these three unique marks: Place, Time and Person. In certain passages of Scripture the Holy Spirit designates the place or seat in which the Antichrist was to sit. In other verses the Holy Spirit indicates the time in which the Antichrist ought to appear. In several passages, the Holy Spirit describes various traits and actions of the person, by which he ought to be clearly recognisable. Pertaining to the Place, it may be indicated in one of two ways, general and specific. General, in that, according to Paul, the man of sin will sit in the temple of God (II Thess. 2:4) as God. It is clearly apparent that this is to be understood in no other way than the mystical temple, that is, the Church, which appears throughout Scripture by this name (Eph. 2:21; 1 Cor. 3:16; 2 Cor. 6:16; 1 Tim. 3:15-16). I know the temple of God is frequently taken to mean the Jerusalem temple, as considered by the Jews sacred to God (Matt. 23:16; Luke 1:9). But whatever the Pontiffs babble to support their view of a fictitious Antichrist who will supposedly arise from among the Jews, it cannot be applicable here in that sense. Agreeing with this error is Grotius, who tries with the worst exegesis to distort the words of Paul to mean something contrary, in order to placate and flatter the Roman Pontiff. But Paul speaks of the aforementioned temple's profanation [i.e., that of the profanation of the Christian Church] as one to be feared and avoided by Christians, not the desecration of the Jewish temple, which, for Christians, held a different relevance. More precisely, its desolation was to be viewed by Christians not as an event to be feared (even though it was falsely rumoured to represent the end of the world], but rather as an event proving the prophecy of Christ had its fulfillment, for the ordinances of the Law were now entirely repealed. Nor were they to mourn the fact of the Jerusalem temple's profanation, inasmuch as these Christians knew the abomination of desolation must take place [i.e., the continual offering of animal sacrifices after the perfect, acceptable sacrifice of Christ] according to the prophecies of Daniel and Christ, and that the Jerusalem temple must [as a result of this abomination] be destroyed within a short time. Thus, their attitude was to be one of anticipation [not sorrow]. Secondly, it is obvious that the Jerusalem temple cannot be referred to by Paul [in II Thess. 2:4] because from the prophecy of Christ (Matt. 24:2), we learn it was to be entirely destroyed by the Romans so that not even one stone was to be left upon another, inferring that the Jewish temple was to be perpetually forsaken, not ever to be restored. When Julian the Apostate tried to accomplish a rebuilding of it for the Jews, in compliance with his hatred of Christianity, they all paid the penalty for the rashness and impiety of their Titanic work, begun with wicked daring. They were forced to abandon their efforts because of an earthquake and avenging flames, as Socrates notes (book 3, chapter 20), Sozomen (book 5, last chapter), and others. Thirdly, although it is true the Jerusalem edifice is frequently called the temple of God in the Old Testament, nevertheless, after the death of Christ, which annulled the need for any further performance of temple rites and ordinances, it could no longer truthfully retain the name or nature of the temple of God. Fourthly, in this verse the Antichrist, (whom the Pontiffs by no means deny is meant in this passage of Scripture), is not understood to reside at Jerusalem, but at Rome, as will be seen presently. Nor is he understood to reside among the Jews, but rather to sit in the Christian Church, inasmuch as he is prophesied to attack Christ, not openly, but hypocritically and covertly. So therefore, it is said that the Antichrist would dwell in the temple of God because it was in the Church where he would be a usurper, claiming both dominion and absolute rule (as Thomas notes), because he was to take the first seat (as Theodoret notes). Truly, we understand that for God to sit is for God to rule. And the Apostle himself so indicates that Antichrist would exercise, by his own authority, complete dominion. But this dominion is not one described as that of a pagan tyrant who openly wages war against the Church of God, that is, against all those who profess to be Christians, regardless of their orthodoxy or lack thereof. Rather, the prophecy speaks of one who would rule in the Church itself, that is, within the professing universal Church, so that the warfare which rages will be internal, as in a civil war, not external. Nor should the observation of Augustine be ignored from The City of God, (book 20, chapter 19), who wished it said that the Antichrist was not only understood to sit in the temple, but, as is expressed in the Greek, for or as the temple of God, as if Antichrist himself were the temple of God, the Church. In much the same way today we say that 'he sits for' or 'as a friend,' that is, 'just as though the friend,' etc. Certainly, there are times when that particular meaning of Eis may be substituted for that of Ev, as they are frequently synonymous. Nevertheless, nothing prevents us from not retaining its real and primary meaning, especially when expressed regarding the tyranny of the Antichrist, which he is prophesied to exercise not only in the Church, but against the Church. The real life fulfillment of this prophecy shouts as it converges on the Roman Pontiff. For when the Pope confesses himself Christian, nay, rather calls his own body the Christian Church, universal and apostolic, thus is it truly stated that he resides in the temple of God. First, because: *The Pope has set his seat in the Christian Church, *The Pope appropriates to himself the primacy over the whole Church, *The Pope takes for himself not only the name of the Church, but with its name its privileges and all authority, as if he alone (with his faithful) were the temple of God, which is the Church (the Christians outside his belief system being viewed as heretics and schismatics). Secondly, the Pope reigns in the Church in order to destroy and attack the Church itself. And in order that the fulfillment of the prophecy might correspond to its prediction, the Pontiffs retain the very word sitting to designate their reign. For to sit in the Church is an idiom peculiar to the Pontiffs. As long as any of them are said to have sat, it may be interpreted to mean as long as he has held the honor of the papal office, which is still identified by the epithet, Holy See. Although we, indeed, say the Pontiff sits in the Church of God, it does not then follow that the Roman Church is the true Church. For here the general and specific sense must be distinguised, as must its corresponding antecedent and subsequent name. When the seat of Antichrist is said to be the Church, this must not be understood in a general, composite sense, as if by the term Church we are to understand it to mean that it is at one and the same time the Church of Christ and of Antichrist, which is inconsistent. Rather, we are to understand it in a specific, particular sense, whereby we are to look to a seat which had once been the Church of Christ, but which has now been made the seat of Antichrist. It is stated in this manner by Isaiah (1:21), The faithful city is now called a harlot, because what had once been faithful became a prostitute through apostasy. Thus, it is said, the blind are said to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, describing the cured souls by their prior condition before the Lord miraculously healed them. Likewise, the Roman Church, which is necessarily the seat of the Antichrist, was before, at one time, true, announcing its faith throughout the world. It continued faithful for centuries as long as it held to sound doctrine and attacked heresies. It is during this period that we deny it had been the seat of the Antichrist. Indeed, but when it defected from the truth with the passage of time, introducing strange, alien doctrine, we also say it is then that it deserted being the Church of Christ, instead becoming the seat of the Antichrist. Seat of the Antichrist is Babylon Rome The specific place is Babylon, the great seven-hilled city, which in John's day held power over the kings of the earth, and which, by her cup of fornications, was destined to inebriate all people, intoxicating them with the blood of the saints. By using the preceding argument this is proved to be a fitting description for Rome alone - not Pagan Rome (which could not slide back into heathenism), but for Christian Rome, which fell into Apostasy - therefore it is not necessary we delay in proving this any further. Only one question remains to be settled, one which has been brought forward by Bellarmine in his Lessio, and others, namely that the seat of the Antichrist would not be Rome, but Jerusalem, because in the streets of the great city the bodies of two witnesses are said to lie, which are spiritually called Sodom and Egypt, and where, in fact, their Lord was crucified (Rev.11:8). But Christ was crucified not at Rome, rather at Jerusalem, our adversaries say. Additionally, they tell us, by that great city Jerusalem must be understood because it is nowhere stated in the Revelation as the great city in a different or less sense. But we, on the other hand, believe the great city is most suitably consistent with the city of Rome, (which is mystically called Babylon elsewhere), as it is here spiritually called Sodom due to the abominable filthiness raging there, an Egypt, because of its moral blindness, idolatry and cruelty. Nor does any opposition stand which argues Scripture states the Lord to have been crucified there, for this can be understood in threefold manner: *Specifically, concerning Christ himself because he was crucified under Roman sovereignty and authority, including the auspices of the Roman state. Certainly The Roman state is not bound by the walls of the city Rome, but is extended to all provinces subjected to its rule. *Mystically, in Christ's members, whose sufferings Christ considers his own (Acts 9:4-5; Col.1:24). *Spiritually, by reason of sins are called impious apostates by the Apostle (Heb.6:6), for they willfully crucified the Son of God afresh, that is, insofar as they could possibly do so.|
Augustus Toplady 1740-1778
It has long been a settled point, that the Scriptures make a wide distinction between faith, the assurance of faith, and the full assurance of faith.
1. Faith is the hand by which we embrace or touch, or reach toward, the garment of Christ's righteousness, for our own justification.-Such a soul is undoubtedly safe.
2. Assurance I consider as the ring which God puts, upon faith's finger.-Such a soul is not only safe, but also comfortable and happy.
Nevertheless, as a finger may exist without wearing a ring, so faith may be real without the superadded gift of assurance. We must either admit this, or set down the late excellent Mr. Hervey (among a multitude of others) for an unbeliever. No man, perhaps, ever contended more earnestly for the doctrine of assurance than he, and yet I find him expressly declaring as follows: "What I wrote, concerning a firm faith in God's most precious promises, and a humble trust that we are the objects of his tender love, is what I desire to feel, rather than what I actually experience." The truth is, as another good man expresses it, "A weak hand may tie the marriageknot; and a feeble faith may lay bold on a strong Christ.
Moreover, assurance after it has been vouchsafed to the soul may be lost. Peter no doubt lost his assurance, and sinned it away, when he denied Christ. He did not, however, lose the principle of faith; for Christ had before-hand prayed, concerning him, that his faith itself might not fail: and Christ could not possibly pray in vain. -- A wife may lose her wedding-ring. But that does not dissolve her marriage relation She continues a lawful wife still. And yet she is not easy until she find her ring again.
3. Full assurance I consider as the brilliant, or cluster of brilliants, which adorns the ring, and renders it incomparably more beautiful and valuable. Where the diamond of full assurance is thus set in the gold of faith, it diffuses its rays of love, joy, peace, and holiness, with a lustre which leaves no room for doubt or darkness.While these high and unclouded consolations remain, the believer's felicity is only inferior to that of angels, or of saints made perfect above.
4. After all, I apprehend that the very essence of assurance lies in communion with God. While we feel the sweetness of his inward presence, we cannot doubt of our interest in his tender mercies. So long as the Lord speaks comfortably to our hearts, our affections are on fire, our views are clear, and our faces shine. It is when we come down from the mount, and when we mix with the world again, that we are in danger of losing that precious sense of his love, which is the strength of saints militant, and the joy of souls triumphant.
But let not trembling believers forget that faith, strictly so called, is neither more nor less than a receiving of Christ, for ourselves in particular, as our only possible propitiation, righteousness, and Saviour: John i. 12. -- Hast thou so received Christ? Thou art a believer, to all the purposes of safety. -- And it deserves special notice that our Lord calls the centurion's faith "great faith;" though it rose no higher than to make him say "Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.'.' Matt. viii. 8-10.
The case likewise of the Canaanitish woman is full to the present point. Her cry was, "Have mercy on me, 0 Lord, thou Son of David!" And, a little after, -Lord, help me!" Jesus at first gave her a seeming repulse: but her importunity continued, and she requested only the privilege of a dog, viz., to eat of the crumbs which fell from the master's table. What were our Saviour's answer and our Saviour's remark? An answer and a remark which ought to make every broken sinner take down his harp from the willows: -- "O woman, great is thy faith." Matt. x. 22-28.
5. The graces which the blessed Spirit implants in our hearts (and the grace of faith among the rest) resemble a sun-dial; which is of little service except when the sun shines upon it. The Holy Ghost must shine upon the graces he has given, or they will leave us at a loss (in point of spiritual comfort), and be unable to tell us where-abouts we are. May he, day by day, rise upon our souls with healing in his beams! Then shall we be filled with all joy and peace in believing, and abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. Rom. xv. 13.
6. Are there any weak in faith who come under the denomination of bruised reeds and smoking flax? Let them know that God will take care of them. The former will not be broken: the latter shall not be quenched. Bless God for any degree of faith; even though it be as the smallest of all seeds, sooner or later it will surely expand into a large and fruitful tree.However, stop not here; but, as the apostle advises, covet earnestly the best gifts: and the gift of assurance, yea, of fullest assurance among the rest. The stronger you are in faith, the more glory you will give to God, both in lip and life. Lord, increase our faith! Amen.
John Newton 1725-1807
John Newton was the son of an English sea captain. His mother, a deeply pious woman, gave him spiritual instruction until she died when he was only 7 years old. At the age of 11, John went to sea and spent the next twenty years as a sailor engaged in slave trading. His life was spent in the lowest sort of wickedness. At one time he himself was the property of an African woman who fed him only that which she threw under her table. He was nearly killed several times during terrible storms at sea. During one of those storms his wicked life passed before him and deep conviction caused him to cry out to God for salvation. The next several years were spent in preparation for the ministry. He learned Latin, Greek, and Hebrew; and studied the scriptures intensively. In 1764 he was appointed pastor in the parish of Olney, England, where he served for sixteen years before moving to St. Mary Woolnoth in the city of London. In addition to his pastoral duties, Newton was an ardent writer. His works included Omicron, Narrative, Review of Ecclesiastical History, and Cardiphonia. His greatest fame came from his work as a writer of hymns, the most familiar was "Amazing Grace" which depicts in its verses the life story of John Newton.
Ralph Erskine 1685-1752
|When Mr. McMillan of Aberdeen published Ralph Erskine's writings under the title The Beauties of Ralph Erskine, he was not thinking of the appearance of the man he admired but of the spiritual gems revealed in his fine sermons and poetry. Gentle James Hervey gave most of his books away but he kept Erskine's Gospel Sonnets on his writing desk for constant study throughout his Christian life. Though too weak to write, one of Hervey's last dying tasks was to dictate a preface to a new edition of Erskine as he had found during his life no human works "more evangelical, more comfortable, or more useful." Ralph Erskine (1685-1752) was born in Monilaws, Northumberland where his Scottish father, Henry Erskine, ministered. Ralph's early life was full of disruption as his father refused to renounce the Solemn League and Covenant which caused his expulsion from the Church of England, and the Scottish Assembly looked down their noses at him as he "kept conventicles." Thomas Boston, famous for his Human Nature in its Fourfold State, was one of Henry Erskine's converts. Ralph experienced marvelous answers to prayer as a small child and penned in his exercise book, "Lord, put Thy fear in my heart. Let my thoughts be holy, and let me do for Thy glory, all that I do. Bless me in my lawful work. Give a good judgment and memory a firm belief in Jesus Christ, and an assured token of Thy love." With this background, Ralph made excellent progress at school and entered Edinburgh University at the age of fifteen to study theology. During his holidays, Ralph stayed with his brother Ebenezer who ministered at Portmoak, though unconverted. In old age, the more famous Ebenezer spoke of the two advantages his younger brother had over him. He came to know the Lord earlier and went to be with the Lord earlier. After qualifying, Ralph worked as a private chaplain to his relative, Colonel John Erskine. The Colonel wrote to Ralph, saying, "I beg earnestly, that the Lord may bless your good designs to my children; and am fully persuaded, that the right impressions that children get of God and the ways of God, when they are young, is a great help to them in life." By 1709 Ralph was old enough to be licensed as a preacher but he felt unworthy of the task. The Colonel did all in his power to persuade him and after Ebenezer had secretly heard Ralph practice preaching, he gave his brother every encouragement to enter the ministry. The Dunfermline Presbytery put Erskine "on trial" and became convinced that he was a man sent by God to preach the gospel. It was in Dunfermline that Charles I of England was born and it was in this town that Ralph pastored his first flock. Once Erskine was called to the ministry, he was filled with grave doubts as to his Christian witness and calling, and scoured the works of godly men to find comfort. On reading Boston on the covenant, he was able to plead the promises of God and regain peace of heart. He now went through a period of great energy. So intent was he on studying the Word, praying, and preaching, that he ignored sleep and could be still found at his desk long after midnight. His motto became, "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength." Erskine's view of himself, as shown by his diary at this time, is highly instructive. He writes, "This morning, after reading, I went to prayer, under a sense of my nothingness and naughtiness, vileness and corruption, and acknowledged myself 'a beast before God."' He could nevertheless add, "Yet looking to God as an infinite, eternal and unchangeable Spirit, who from everlasting to everlasting is God, and always the same, and who manifests Himself in Christ . . . I think He allowed me some communion with Him in a way of believing, and I was made to cry with tears, 'Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief.' I was led, in some suitable manner, under a view of my nothingness, and of God's all-sufficiency to renounce all confidence in the flesh, and to betake myself solely to the name of the Lord, and there to rest and repose myself." Erskine was united in marriage to Margaret Dewer, a gentleman's daughter, in 1714. Margaret was noted for her kindness and care, and served at Ralph's side for sixteen years, bearing him ten children, five of whom died in infancy. Telling a friend how Margaret died, Erskine said, "Her last words expressed the deepest humiliation, and greatest submission to the sovereign will of God, that words could manifest, and thereafter, she concluded all with 'O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord!' which she repeated two or three times over. And yet even at this time, I knew not that they were her dying words, till instantly I perceived the evident symptoms of death; in view whereof I was plunged, as it were, into a sea of confusion, when she, less than an hour after, in a most soft and easy manner, departed this life." Some two years later Erskine was married to Margaret Simson of Edinburgh and in June 1732 we find him writing, "I was made to bless the Lord for His goodness in providing me a wife whose character was so pleasant and peaceable." Erskine experienced great blessing as he and his wife taught their children of the mercies of God in Christ, but their faith was tried many a time as one child after another died. Erskine's ministry was so blessed that revival broke out and the worshippers filled the church and churchyard. After the service, prayer and thanksgiving went on in small groups, sometimes all night long. One seeker arose at two in the morning to pray in secret and found the whole town on its knees so that the entire countryside hummed like a gigantic hive of bees as hundreds of penitent sinners poured out their petitions to God under the dome of heaven. The seeker marvels that he could hardly find a place to pray though it was raining steadily. Professions were so numerous and the Lord's Table so crowded that Erskine and his brother pastors began to soundly catechize the people to remove the chaff from the wheat, only to find the former hardly present. Erskine's sermons are extant in which he portrayed hell so that his hearers felt they were already there, and then he portrayed heaven's open doors in Christ and admonished his hearers to flee from the wrath to come. This method produced genuine conversions. All was not plain sailing for Erskine. The error prevailed that all men receive a common grace to be improved on. This could develop into saving grace which, in turn, could be neglected and rendered ineffectual. This view was coupled with Neonomianism, the teaching that faith became savingly effective through keeping the New Law of "sincere obedience." When Edward Fisher's Marrow of Modern Divinity was republished, men such as Hog, Boston, Wilson, and the Erskines saw in it a refutation of these errors. The Scottish Assembly regarded the book as a plea for Antinomianism and branded those who support its teaching, popularly called the Marrow Men, as heretics. Then the Assembly legalized the appointment of ministers via patrons rather than the vote of church members, and as the Marrow Men protested against this move they were gently but firmly thrust out of the denomination. Both sides accused the other of acting contrary to the church confessions. The Assembly genuinely thought the Marrow Men were making justification the goal of faith rather than Christ, and showing disrespect to those placed in authority. They, in turn, felt that the Assembly mistook anti-Baxterism and anti-Neonomianism for Antinomianism and showed too much respect for "persons of quality." After much inner conflict, Ralph Erskine believed he ought to identify himself with the Secession and entered into his diary on Wednesday, 16th February, 1737, "I gave in an adherence to the Secession, explaining what I meant by it. May the Lord pity and lead." The great majority of Erskine's congregation wasted no time in leaving the Established Church with Erskine and erecting a new place of worship. The next unhappy chapter in the Erskines's lives was the quarrel with George Whitefield. Most likely because of the difficulties the Erskines had with the Assembly, they began to develop most rigid views of church government so that when Whitefield came to preach around 1742, the Seceders refused to support him because of his supposed laxity in matters of church order. Whitefield's biographer, Middleton, comments, "Most certainly, he did not care for all the outward church government in the world, if men were not brought really to the knowledge of God and themselves. Prelacy and presbytery were indeed matters of indifference to a man, who wished 'the whole world to be his diocese' and that men of all denominations might be brought to a real acquaintance with Jesus Christ." Sadly however, in campaigning for their own right to Dissent, the Erskines refused Episcopalian Dissenters any right to that same freedom. Such times of controversy were seldom, as most of Ralph Erskine's life was taken up with winning souls and training young ministers. His literary works were so treasured that as late as 1879 they were still the best selling religious books in London. Typical of Erskine's exposition is that of Luke 14:23 on the compelling duty of ministers. "Their work is not only driving work, while they preach the law as the schoolmaster to lead to Christ; but it is also drawing work, while they preach the Gospel of Christ, who was lifted up to draw men to Him by His love and grace. Their work is winning work, seeking to win souls to Christ, compelling them to come in; and their work is filling work, that their Master's house may be filled; and that every corner, every seat, every chamber, every storey of His house may be filled. As long as the Gospel is preached, His house is filling; and as long as there is room in His house, there is work for the minister; his work is never over, so long as His Master's house is empty; compel them to come in, that my house may be filled." In the autumn of 1752 Erskine's wife begged him to slow down his pace of work and spend more time with the family. He promised to do so and in October received a strong conviction from God that his work was at an end and he could prepare himself to depart in peace. That departure came very quickly. Death struck Erskine in November of the same year while carrying out his duties though suffering from a heavy fever. His death-bed message was difficult to understand as it was spoken in great weakness. Those around him caught the words, "I will be for ever a debtor to free grace." As God called him home, Erskine's last utterance rang out crystal clear for all to hear, "Victory victory, victory!"|
John Owen 1616-1683
|(b. 1616, Stadhampton, Oxfordshire, Eng. a.d. Aug. 24, 1683, London), "English Puritan minister, prolific writer, and controversialist. He was an advocate of Congregationalism and an aide to Oliver Cromwell, the lord protector of England from 1653 to 1658. Appointed rector of Fordham, Essex, in 1642, Owen was made vicar at nearby Coggeshall in 1646 after preaching a notable sermon before Parliament the same year. At Coggeshall he came out in favour of Congregational autonomy in church government; his compendium of principles of church polity was published as Eschol: . . . or Rules of Direction for the Walking of the Saints in Fellowship (1648). His frequent preaching before Parliament led to his attachment to Cromwell, whose policies against the monarchy Owen began to support. After the execution of King Charles I by Cromwell's partisans in January 1649, Owen accompanied Cromwell on his military ventures to Ireland and Scotland (1649-50). As chancellor of Oxford, Cromwell appointed Owen vice chancellor in 1652, a post he held until 1657. He was also dean of Christ Church Cathedral (1651-60) and was elected in 1654 to represent Oxford in Parliament, but he was later disqualified because of his clerical vocation. Reserved in his support of Cromwell, Owen opposed plans to offer the English crown to him and avoided participation in Cromwell's installation in the office of lord protector in 1653. Owen abandoned politics on the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, when the House of Commons removed him from his position as Christ Church dean. Among his works are historical treatises on religion, several studies of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and defenses of Nonconformist, or Puritan, views. An edition of his Works, edited by W.H. Goold, fills 24 volumes (1850-55)." (BCD) His Works are available from the BOT. Volume 3, on the Holy Spirit, and volume 6, on temptation and sin, are particularly valuable. Several important shorter works are available in paperback, including Communion with God, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, and The Glory of Christ.|
John Knox 1505-1572
|John Knox was ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland at the time when John Calvin began the Reformation of Geneva. The flames of the Reformation began to be kindled in Scotland in the heart and mind of Knox's close friend George Wiseheart. Being on familiar terms with Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, Wiseheart was chosen by King Henry the Eighth for going to Scotland and interceding for the hand in marriage of Mary Stuart, the infant "Queen of Scots," with Edward, the infant son of the King of England. Wiseheart was an unwilling tool of King Henry in this matter and his action set Catholic Scotland against him. When Wiseheart was burned at the stake by Cardinal Beaton, the fires that consumed his body fired the heart of John Knox. From that hour he was the enemy of the Roman Catholic Church. Two years later, Beaton was assassinated by "parties unknown." Shortly after the death of Beaton, John Knox came to Edinburgh as a newly ordained priest, having been accused of "hatching the plot" against the cardinal even though he did not personally take a hand in executing it. Soon Knox had a growing group of followers. He accused the Catholic clergy of Scotland of being "gluttons, wantons and licentious revelers, but who yet regularly and meekly partook of the sacrament." Knox traveled to Geneva three times to study under Calvin who had a high regard for the young Scotsman. Knox returned to Scotland, was married at age 38, and was widowed a few years afterward. Then hell sent a close call for the Reformer in the person of Mary Queen of Scots. Mary's mother was Mary of Guise, a French woman married to King James of Scotland. Knox bore a terrible hatred toward Mary of Guise. His book, The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, had Mary Tudor, Mary of Guise, and Mary Queen of Scots, in mind. As soon as Mary Queen of Scots had landed on Scottish soil, Knox fled fearing for his life. Before long he returned to Scotland and sought a personal interview with the queen, then 20-years-old, "with intent to bring her heart to Jesus." Mary then tried her hand at converting Knox back to Roman Catholicism - or the "Mother Church" - with bribes of political power. Stormy interviews followed, punctuated by "covenantal lawsuits" served up by Knox and his followers. In response to Knox's imprecatory prayers, Mary Queen of Scots is reputed to have said: "I fear the prayers of John Knox more than all the assembled armies of Europe." In response to the rising resistance of the Scottish Reformers, Mary fled Scotland and was later put to death by a court of English who had accused her of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth I. Knox was survived by the Scottish Covenanters, who drew up a compact in 1638 asserting their right, under God, to national sovereignty.|
William Tyndale 1494-1536
Bible translator and reformer, Tyndale was ordained as a priest in 1521, having studied Greek diligently at Oxford and Cambridge universities Following his studies he joined Sir John Walsh's household, with duties not easy to define. Some accounts describe him as a tutor to Sir John's children; some make him chaplain to the household; while another suggests he acted as secretary to Sir John.
One day Tyndale was engaged in a discussion with a learned man who told him it was better to be without God's law than that of the Pope. To this Tyndale retorted that he defied the Pope and all his laws, adding that if God were to spare his life, before many years passed he would cause a boy who drove the plough to know more of the Scriptures than this learned man. Tyndale had found his vocation: translation of the Bible into English.
Tyndale conferred with Luther in Germany and stayed on the continent translating the Bible from Greek into English. The printing of the translation was begun at Cologne in 1525, but was stopped by an injunction obtained by Johann Dobeneck, a vain and conceited man who hated the Reformation and opposed it in every possible way. Tyndale fled to Worms, where the book was printed. Copies were smuggled into England, where Archbishop Warham and Bishop Tonstall ordered them seized and burned.
Eventually Tyndale was betrayed by a friend and arrested in Brussels, Belgium. Despite the efforts of Thomas Cromwell and others to save him, he was tried for treason and heresy against the Church. He was condemned, degraded from holy orders, strangled, and his body burned. His last words were a prayer, "Lord, open the king of England's eyes."
Tyndale's influence upon English literature was great, chiefly through the use made of his renderings in the King James Version of the Bible (1611). It is estimated that 60 percent of this translation is derived from that of Tyndale.
John Wycliffe 1320-1384
Wycliffe was a saxon, born in Hipswell, England. From Oxford University he received the doctor of theology degree in 1372. After serving as envoy to France, representing England in a dispute with the Pope, he returned to England and wrote against the secular power of the Papacy. In spite of attempts by the Church to have Wycliffe arrested and assassinated, he continued to write and preach. He maintained that no Pope or council was infallible, and that if their views contradicted the Bible, those views were wrong. He taught that the clergy should not rule as "princes of the church," but should help the people and "lead them to Christ."
No preacher ever regarded the condition of the people more sincerely or set about to help them more persistently than did John Wycliffe. Mingling among the common people, he developed an understanding for the poor. In a day when monks and friars were neglecting the ministry to the poor, Wycliffe's attitude was one of a shepherd rather than a hireling. Like Jesus in Galilee, John Wycliffe preached to the poor and lost the favor of those in high places. He opposed their blind worship of something they did not understand while the priests made their understanding darker and their ignorance greater.
Wycliffe's purpose was to bring to the common people the truth that the way of salvation lay through an understanding of spiritual light. In his preaching, he sought to develop an understanding of the Bible and its message of salvation through Jesus Christ. Convincingly he confronted his listeners with the demands of the Christian life. John Wycliffe's message was one of hope and salvation in the midst of poverty, corruption, and misery.
In answer to the question, "How must the Word of God be preached?" Wycliffe once answered, "Appropriately, simply, directly, and from a devout, sincere heart."
Finally prohibited by the Bishop of London from preaching, Wycliffe confined himself to writing and translating the Bible from Latin to English. Thirty-one years after his death, the Church ordered all his books burned, his bones dug up and burned, and his ashes scattered on the Thames River.