Weekly Church Devotion from Pastor Haydn Sennitt –
“Hero of the Pre-Reformation: John Wycliffe“
John Wycliffe has been called “The Morning Star of the Reformation” … Darkness dominated the horizon in the fourteenth century, the century of Wycliffe, who was born in 1330 and died in 1384, almost exactly one hundred years before Luther was born. By his teenage years, Wycliffe was at Oxford … [Eventually] the tug of biblical studies pulled on him. He applied himself rigorously to the study of theology and Scripture. As he did, he realised how much the church had veered off in so many wrong directions.
He produced three significant works [attacking] the church’s corruption. [He] took aim at papal authority … targeted the Roman Catholic Church’s assertion of authority over the English crown and nobility, [and] further developed the doctrine of the authority of Scripture … Yet, as important as these works are, they pale in comparison to his most important contribution, the Wycliffe Bible.
In On the Truth of Sacred Scripture, Wycliffe called for the Bible to be translated into English. According to Roman Catholic law, translating the Bible into a vulgar, common language was a heresy punishable by death. It is almost impossible to imagine why a church would want to keep God’s word from people, unless that church wanted to hold power over the people … Not only did the Bible need to be translated; it also had to be copied and distributed. This was before the printing press so copies had to be made painstakingly by hand. Despite the challenges, hundreds of the Bibles were produced and distributed to Wycliffe’s troop of pastors, who preached across England as the word of God made its way to the people.
These efforts in translating, copying, and proclaiming the Bible in English were driven by a singular motive, expressed by Wycliffe this way: “It helps Christian men to study the Gospel in that tongue which they know best.” In his final years, Wycliffe endured falling out of favour with the church and nobility in England [and] the pope. He remained convinced of the authority and centrality of Scripture and devoted to his life’s calling to help Christians study the Bible. [He] died on December 30, 1384. In 1415, the Council of Constance … declared Wycliffe a heretic. But the reforming efforts of Wycliffe could not be quenched by the flames or stopped by a council’s declarations.
~ God bless, Pastor Haydn.