November 7, 2010 – November 13, 2010
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.” Psalm 111:10.
Study Help: The Great Controversy, 79–96; Education, 123–127.
“The great movement that Wycliffe inaugurated, which was to liberate the conscience and the intellect, and set free the nations so long bound to the triumphal car of Rome, had its spring in the Bible.” The Great Controversy, 93.
1 During the Dark Ages, what hope did the people of God have? Romans 13:12.
Note: “In the fourteenth century arose in England the ‘morning star of the Reformation.’ John Wycliffe was the herald of reform, not for England alone, but for all Christendom. The great protest against Rome which it was permitted him to utter was never to be silenced. That protest opened the struggle which was to result in the emancipation of individuals, of churches, and of nations.” The Great Controversy, 80.
2 Although Wycliffe received a liberal education as did others, what made the difference in his case? Psalms 111:10; 119:99.
Note: “Wycliffe received a liberal education, and with him the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom. He was noted at college for his fervent piety as well as for his remarkable talents and sound scholarship. In his thirst for knowledge he sought to become acquainted with every branch of learning. … While he could wield the weapons drawn from the word of God, he had acquired the intellectual discipline of the schools, and he understood the tactics of the schoolmen.” The Great Controversy, 80.
3 In the time of Wycliffe, what were the languages in which the Scriptures were available?
Note: “While Wycliffe was still at college, he entered upon the study of the Scriptures. In those early times, when the Bible existed only in the ancient languages, scholars were enabled to find their way to the fountain of truth, which was closed to the uneducated classes. Thus already the way had been prepared for Wycliffe’s future work as a Reformer.” The Great Controversy, 80.
4 How did Wycliffe repeat the experience of Jeremiah and the psalmist when he investigated the Word of God? Jeremiah 15:16; Psalm 119:130.
Note: “When Wycliffe’s attention was directed to the Scriptures, he entered upon their investigation with the same thoroughness which had enabled him to master the learning of the schools. Heretofore he had felt a great want, which neither his scholastic studies nor the teaching of the church could satisfy. In the word of God he found that which he had before sought in vain. Here he saw the plan of salvation revealed and Christ set forth as the only advocate for man. He gave himself to the service of Christ and determined to proclaim the truths he had discovered.” The Great Controversy, 81.
5 After a period overseas to defend the English crown against the encroachments of Rome, what gave Wycliffe confidence to continue his plain speaking? John 5:39; Genesis 15:1.
Note: “Wycliffe was called to defend the rights of the English crown against the encroachments of Rome; and being appointed a royal ambassador, he spent two years in the Netherlands, in conference with the commissioners of the pope. Here he was brought into communication with ecclesiastics from France, Italy, and Spain, and he had an opportunity to look behind the scenes and gain a knowledge of many things which would have remained hidden from him in England. He learned much that was to give point to his after labors. In these representatives from the papal court he read the true character and aims of the hierarchy. He returned to England to repeat his former teachings more openly and with greater zeal, declaring that covetousness, pride, and deception were the gods of Rome. …
“Soon after his return to England, Wycliffe received from the king the appointment to the rectory of Lutterworth. This was an assurance that the monarch at least had not been displeased by his plain speaking. Wycliffe’s influence was felt in shaping the action of the court, as well as in molding the belief of the nation.
“The papal thunders were soon hurled against him. Three bulls were dispatched to England—to the university, to the king, and to the prelates—all commanding immediate and decisive measures to silence the teacher of heresy.” The Great Controversy, 84, 85.
6 In what way did the Lord fulfill His promise to protect His servant and open the way for the development of the Reformation? Isaiah 54:17.
Note: “The arrival of the papal bulls laid upon all England a peremptory command for the arrest and imprisonment of the heretic. These measures pointed directly to the stake. It appeared certain that Wycliffe must soon fall a prey to the vengeance of Rome. But He who declared to one of old, ‘Fear not: … I am thy shield’ (Genesis 15:1), again stretched out His hand to protect His servant. Death came, not to the Reformer, but to the pontiff who had decreed his destruction. Gregory XI died, and the ecclesiastics who had assembled for Wycliffe’s trial, dispersed.” The Great Controversy, 86.
7 How did the death of Pope Gregory XI aid the work of the Reformation, and what was revealed to the people about the papacy in the events that followed? Isaiah 57:19–21.
Note: “God’s providence still further overruled events to give opportunity for the growth of the Reformation. The death of Gregory was followed by the election of two rival popes. Two conflicting powers, each professedly infallible, now claimed obedience. …
“The schism, with all the strife and corruption which it caused, prepared the way for the Reformation by enabling the people to see what the papacy really was. In a tract which he published, On the Schism of the Popes, Wycliffe called upon the people to consider whether these two priests were not speaking the truth in condemning each other as the anti-christ.” The Great Controversy, 86, 87.
8 What precious heritage was Wycliff able to bequeath to the English-speaking people? II Timothy 3:16, 17; II Peter 1:19–21.
Note: “He [Wycliffe] lived to place in the hands of his countrymen the most powerful of all weapons against Rome—to give them the Bible, the Heaven-appointed agent to liberate, enlighten, and evangelize the people. There were many and great obstacles to surmount in the accomplishment of this work. Wycliffe was weighed down with infirmities; he knew that only a few years for labor remained for him. …
“At last the work was completed—the first English translation of the Bible ever made. The word of God was opened to England. The Reformer feared not now the prison or the stake. He had placed in the hands of the English people a light which should never be extinguished. In giving the Bible to his countrymen, he had done more to break the fetters of ignorance and vice, more to liberate and elevate his country, than was ever achieved by the most brilliant victories on fields of battle.” The Great Controversy, 88.
9 Why is Wycliffe called the “morning star?” In what way did he herald the light of the Reformation? Psalm 119:105.
Note: “Wycliffe came from the obscurity of the Dark Ages. There were none who went before him from whose work he could shape his system of reform. Raised up like John the Baptist to accomplish a special mission, he was the herald of a new era. Yet in the system of truth which he presented there was a unity and completeness which Reformers who followed him did not exceed, and which some did not reach, even a hundred years later. So broad and deep was laid the foundation, so firm and true was the framework, that it needed not to be reconstructed by those who came after him.” The Great Controversy, 93.
10 How was Divine providence working to break the shackles of papal darkness in the minds of the common people? Isaiah 55:10, 11.
Note: “The great movement that Wycliffe inaugurated, which was to liberate the conscience and the intellect, and set free the nations so long bound to the triumphal car of Rome, had its spring in the Bible. Here was the source of that stream of blessing, which, like the water of life, has flowed down the ages since the fourteenth century. Wycliffe accepted the Holy Scriptures with implicit faith as the inspired revelation of God’s will, a sufficient rule of faith and practice.” The Great Controversy, 93.
“It was through the writings of Wycliffe that John Huss, of Bohemia, was led to renounce many of the errors of Romanism and to enter upon the work of reform. … A divine hand was preparing the way for the Great Reformation.” Ibid., 96.
Personal Review Questions
1 What was the first point that turned Wycliffe in the way of God?
2 What was Wycliffe’s desire as he realized the truth in the Scriptures?
3 What particularly did he attack in the light of the Word of God?
4 What was his great bequest to the English people?
5 How far did the work of his influence extend?
“A third time he was brought to trial, and now before the highest ecclesiastical tribunal in the kingdom. Here no favor would be shown to heresy. Here at last Rome would triumph, and the Reformer’s work would be stopped. So thought the papists. If they could but accomplish their purpose, Wycliffe would be forced to abjure his doctrines, or would leave the court only for the flames.
“But Wycliffe did not retract; he would not dissemble. He fearlessly maintained his teachings and repelled the accusations of his persecutors. Losing sight of himself, of his position, of the occasion, he summoned his hearers before the divine tribunal, and weighed their sophistries and deceptions in the balances of eternal truth. The power of the Holy Spirit was felt in the council room. A spell from God was upon the hearers. They seemed to have no power to leave the place. As arrows from the Lord’s quiver, the Reformer’s words pierced their hearts. The charge of heresy, which they had brought against him, he with convincing power threw back upon themselves. Why, he demanded, did they dare to spread their errors? For the sake of gain, to make merchandise of the grace of God?
“ ‘With whom, think you,’ he finally said, ‘are ye contending? with an old man on the brink of the grave? No! with Truth—Truth which is stronger than you, and will overcome you.’—Wylie, b. 2, ch. 13. So saying, he withdrew from the assembly, and not one of his adversaries attempted to prevent him.
“Wycliffe’s work was almost done; the banner of truth which he had so long borne was soon to fall from his hand; but once more he was to bear witness for the gospel. The truth was to be proclaimed from the very stronghold of the kingdom of error. Wycliffe was summoned for trial before the papal tribunal at Rome, which had so often shed the blood of the saints. He was not blind to the danger that threatened him, yet he would have obeyed the summons had not a shock of palsy made it impossible for him to perform the journey. But though his voice was not to be heard at Rome, he could speak by letter, and this he determined to do. From his rectory the Reformer wrote to the pope a letter, which, while respectful in tone and Christian in spirit, was a keen rebuke to the pomp and pride of the papal see.
“ ‘Verily I do rejoice,’ he said, ‘to open and declare unto every man the faith which I do hold, and especially unto the bishop of Rome: which, forasmuch as I do suppose to be sound and true, he will most willingly confirm my said faith, or if it be erroneous, amend the same.’ ” The Great Controversy, 90, 91.
©2003 Reformation Herald Publishing Association, Roanoke, Virginia. Reprinted by permission