Wycliffe's Work for England

L. Laurenson


1 The Most Interesting Book in the World
2 Rome: Mediaeval and Modern
3 Conversion and Conflict
4 Wycliffe and the National Opposition
5 Wycliffe and the Bishops
6 The "Poor Priests".
7 More about the "Poor Priests"
8 Rome attempts to extinguish the light
9 The Wonder of the Book
10 The Oldest Book in the World
11 The Early Christian Centuries
12 The Rise of the Papacy
13 Christianity in Early Britain
14 The First English Bible

Chapter 1

The Most Interesting Book in the World

What is the most interesting book in all the world? Perhaps different people would give different answers to this question. Boys might think of books describing the lives and actions of great men in history: the battles they fought, the brave deeds they did, and the wonderful things they accomplished. And girls might think of the life-story of some noble woman, less prominent on the world's stage but equally brave, and perhaps more useful and helpful to those with whom she came in contact.

But while such books are both interesting and helpful, yet there is ONE BOOK that far surpasses all others, not only as a book of history and narrative, but in every other way. That book is THE BIBLE.

In it are found stories of the very earliest times. The first of all stories and the most wonderful of all stories is found in the first Chapter of Genesis. There we read how God, in six days, prepared this world to be the habitation of men, providing for their use, with gracious care, every tree pleasant to the sight and good for food. Then, when our first parents had sinned and brought ruin and death into the fair scene, God in wonderful grace gave them the promise of a SAVIOUR.

Moreover, we know from the Bible that God will again prepare a new Heaven and a NEW EARTH wherein righteousness will dwell and into which sin cannot enter. Between the accounts of these two most wonderful events we find other stories of great and good men, brave and strong men, wise and noble men; of gentle and loving women, faithful and true women, kind and useful women.

All these stories of men and women who have lived for God are recorded for our example, for only those who are really good can ever be truly great.

But that which makes the Bible the book of supreme interest is that in it we find the wonderful STORY OF LOVE — the story of the Life and Death, the Resurrection, and Ascension to Heaven of our Lord Jesus Christ. All who know the Saviour love the Bible, for everything in it, in some way or other, speaks of Him. The Bible thus becomes to them a very precious possession. H. M. Stanley, the great explorer, when he set out to find Livingstone, took with him one hundred books to read while on his journey. As the difficulties of the march increased, and the loads of the carriers had to be lightened, everything not strictly necessary had to be thrown away. One by one the books followed, until ninety-nine out of the hundred had been left in the swamps of Central Africa, and only ONE remained. Which book do you think that was? It was the Bible. Stanley had selected the hundred most interesting books, but he found that the most interesting of all the hundred was the Word of God.

In our days Bibles are so common and so easily procured that we are apt to think that they have always been so. And while we are deeply thankful for an open Bible in our Protestant land, yet we do well to remember that England has not always been a Protestant country, and the following pages are an endeavour to trace how the Scriptures came to us, and what a noble Englishman did and suffered in order that we might be able to read the Scriptures in our own language.

We shall have much to say in the following pages about the "Church of Rome"; therefore it will be well to remember that the Papacy was only a sect which broke off from the early Church, and introduced a great many unscriptural doctrines and practices in total contradiction to the teaching of the Lord Jesus and His Apostles.

The early centuries of the Christian dispensation were ages of marked intellectual ability. The great names that are mentioned in history confirm this. Tertullian in the second century wrote his famous Apology. Origen manifested his zeal and learning by editing the celebrated Hexapla edition of the Holy Scriptures. Jerome translated the Old Testament from the Hebrew, and the New Testament from the Greek originals into the Latin, then the language of the West. John, called Chrysostom, or the "golden mouthed," was the greatest preacher of his time. Augustine was the greatest teacher. Many others might be mentioned who were not only familiar with the Scriptures but did everything they could to make their contents known to others.

But when the bishop of Rome adopted the blasphemous title of Vicar of Christ and became a temporal sovereign, all this was changed. Rome's motto then became, "We do not want learned men, we want submissive subjects," and of course the more ignorant the subjects were, the more submissive they became.

Private confession to the priests of Rome has been called the foundation stone of popery, and this "stone" was laid as early as the fifth century by Leo I. With audacious blasphemy, priests of Rome, sinful men themselves, and ofttimes both ignorant and wicked, were supposed to be able to "forgive sins." Succeeding popes followed this policy because it increased their revenues, and these men, though living always in luxury, and ofttimes in idleness and vice, were ever on the outlook for fresh fields over which to extend both their temporal and spiritual sovereignty.

Cardinals, archbishops, bishops, and all the multifarious hierarchy of popedom were appointed by the Pope on condition that he was well paid for doing so. These men were under his power, and, even among the sovereigns of the nations, few were found that dared to disobey him.

Every effort was made to keep the people in ignorance and darkness, and at the same time everything that Rome supplied had to be bought with money. One has well said, "Not an article was there in her creed, not a ceremony in her worship, not a department in her government that did not tend to advance her power and increase her gains. Her dogmas, rites, and orders were so many pretexts for extorting money. Images, purgatory, relics, indulgences, pilgrimages, jubilees, canonisations, miracles, and masses were but taxes under another name, so many drains for conveying the substance of the nations to Rome."

A "pall for an archbishop" cost from £1,000 to £10,000, and every new "saint" that was canonised cost the country of his birth 10,000 crowns. "Truly," says another, "Rome takes your gold and gives you nothing in return but words."

In short, nothing could be got from Rome without money, and nearly everything for it

These years are known in history as the "Dark Ages," and one reason among others for this prevailing darkness was the fact that the settled policy of Rome was then, and is yet, to keep the Bible from the people.

And we can well understand why she did so, for in the Scriptures there is the light of Truth which exposes and condemns all the false pretences of the Apostate Church. The people had been taught that there was a series of priests, popes, and "saints" between them and God. From the Bible they would learn that there is One Mediator — the Man Christ Jesus. Rome taught that pardon was to be purchased by paying her priests to say "masses." The Scriptures declare that "we have redemption THROUGH HIS BLOOD, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace" (Eph. 1:7), and that "BY HIM all that believe are justified from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:39).

Rome may well fear an open Bible. The power of the priest is at an end when we learn the pardoning love of a Saviour God through virtue of the finished work of Christ at Calvary. For about nine hundred years from the time that the monk Augustine, in 597, landed with his forty followers, England was more or less under the power of the Pope. Augustine thought that "faith and holiness were less essential to the Church than authority and power, and that its work was not so much to save souls as to collect all the human race under the authority of Rome." This man's character has been summed up as a mixture of ambition, superstition, and zeal. As soon as he got a footing for himself and his attendant monks he began his work of aggression against the British Christians, and he and his successors did not rest until the papal supremacy was established all over the land.

And this is just the attitude of Rome to-day. Her age-long motto is "Semper eadem" (ever the same), and she is working harder to-day than ever before to recapture England. Monasteries and nunneries are more numerous in our land to-day than they were before the Reformation. Priests and Jesuits enter in ever-increasing numbers, and each and all are doing their utmost to overthrow the good work of the Reformation. Romanists are active and awake; Protestants are in many cases half-hearted and asleep.

Chapter 2

"Rome": Medieval and Modern

Carry your mind back for just over six hundred years. It is the year 1324, and at that time was born a man who in the good providence of God did much to deliver England from the thraldom into which she had fallen, both socially and religiously. That man was John Wycliffe. And the England of the fourteenth century was a very different country from what it is to-day. The population numbered only about three millions, and fully one-third of these were slaves or serfs (villeins), who cultivated the ground for the lords of the manor, and were bought and sold with the land whenever it changed owners.

Edward II. was reigning, but his feeble career was drawing to a close. During his reign the nation had lost much of the power and prestige it had acquired under his warlike father. He had applied to the Pope for at the Pope's "shop" you could purchase anything — for "a box of ointment to make him brave" before he set out to conquer Scotland. But in spite of, or because of his "box of ointment," his Scottish wars ended disastrously. He lost both his battles and his courage, and perhaps his "box" as well, and fled back to England to save his life. Then his struggles with the barons further added to his unpopularity. We read of misery and sickness caused by poor harvests. "The dead bodies of the peasants were found by the roadsides. The dead in cities were buried in trenches; the gaols were full of thieves; people were driven to eat the flesh of dogs and horses and even of children."

Amidst all this misery we get a glimpse of some wise men who could make good laws. It was enacted that "less grain be made into beer and more into bread." Our land would be all the better were this ancient policy in force to-day.

But as usual, while the common people suffered so sorely the upper classes were living in luxury, and most of all the monks and friars who were "at no period so splendid in their equipages and households." Again, we read of a "dole" of bread being given out at a rich man's funeral in London, and so great was the need of the starving poor that over fifty people, old and young, were crushed to death in their efforts to secure a portion.

London had already become the headquarters of all the colours of the begging friars. Whatever the good intentions of their founders may have been, corruption and decay soon set in among their followers. They rapidly fell into the besetting sin of everything connected with Rome, and began to "add house to house and field to field."

The Dominicans reached England about 1220 and settled in Holborn. Though vowed to poverty, they soon were able to put up a convent, the most splendid in London. The Franciscans followed a few years later and settled at Cornhill. Within twenty years their brotherhood numbered eighty friars, and a church and convent was built by them far surpassing in splendour those of their rivals.

Following hard upon the Franciscans came the Carmelites in 1240, and still another of the begging orders — the Austin friars — arrived in 1253. Like a cloud of locusts they covered the land, licking up every green thing, so that it was reckoned that in the time of Wycliffe nearly one-third of the nation's wealth belonged to the Church of Rome. These men were directly responsible to the Pope, and were known as the regular clergy in distinction to the parish priests, who were the secular clergy and were under the rule of the bishops.

It is interesting to hear Wycliffe's opinion of these "holy beggars" in his own times, when they had further increased both their wealth and their begging effrontery. From the initials of their names he formed a word which we should call an acrostic — "CAIM." The Carmelites supplied the first letter, the Austins, the Jacobins (or Dominicans), and the Minorites (or Franciscans) completed the fanciful idea. This word he connected with Cain who slew his brother, and he found many analogies wherewith to make vigorous and trenchant exposures of their hypocrisy, greed, and evil deeds. Their so-called poverty, he says, is nothing but a lie, for it is based on the lust for wealth and robbery, and is really an inspiration of the devil.

He shows us also how their practice of entering the parishes of the secular clergy and persuading the people to "confess" to them, led to a fearful increase of licentiousness and sin. "For thus did they whisper to one another, 'Let us follow our pleasures: some friar whom we never saw before and may never see again may come this way. When we have had our will we can confess to him without trouble.'"

Is the system of Rome any better to-day? The poor deluded votary goes to "Confession" and thinks he can procure forgiveness from a "priest," then being "absolved" he is free to go on again in his course of evil.

We can thus see how this unscriptural system sears the conscience, belittles sin, and blinds the mind to the holiness of God who has appointed a day in which HE WILL JUDGE the world in righteousness by that Man whom He hath ordained, whereof He hath given assurance unto all men in that He hath raised Him from the dead.

Thank God, the Lord Jesus Christ to-day is a SAVIOUR, and this is the Day of Salvation. The day is fast approaching when He will take the place of a Judge and then the Day of Salvation will be over.

Chapter 3.

Conversion and Conflict

Let us now return to the early days of Wycliffe, and see how he was prepared for his great work of reformer before the Reformation.

As we have seen, he was born in a Yorkshire village in 1324, where his family had been lords of the manor since the Conquest. No records of his childhood or youth have come down to us; so we cannot tell how his boyhood days were spent, but, as youth is the formative period of life, we may conclude from what we know of his later years that he made the best of whatever opportunities he had.

Character is built up step by step. Single actions repeated, form habits, and habits form character. At an early age his parents sent him to Oxford. In those days boys of fifteen years of age were entered as students, so it is likely that Wycliffe began his career at Oxford about the year 1340.

His habits of diligence and application served him well at the University, for even his enemies bear witness to his proficiency and abilities. One of his bitterest opponents says, "He came to be reckoned inferior to none of his time in philosophy, and incomparable in the performance of school exercises, a man of profound wit, and very strong and powerful in disputation, and who was by the common sort of divines esteemed little less than a god." In later years, after he had taken his degree of doctor of divinity, he came to be known as the "Evangelical Doctor," and he required all his "profound wit," learning, and ability to meet the assaults of his enemies. Doubtless, in the providence of God, he was being prepared in those early years for the service he would be called upon to perform in later life.

So the early years of his scholastic life passed on, and while he was still a young man an event happened — the most important event in the life of any man — Wycliffe was converted to God. About this time Europe was visited by the dreadful pestilence known in history as the "Black Death." Such an awful scourge may well have brought all thinking men to face seriously the issues of life, death, and eternity. Many were led to true repentance towards God. Many others became callously indifferent to all the sorrow and suffering around, or saw in it only the means of enriching themselves at the expense of others. Crossing from Asia to Constantinople, then to Italy, its ravages swept away half of the population. The filthy condition of European cities in those days provided a fruitful soil for contagion, and all suffered alike. It has been estimated that in Europe 25,000,000 human beings perished, though this number is no doubt greatly exaggerated. London had a comparatively small population, but 100,000 of its citizens died. Huge pits were dug to hold the bodies. Rivers were "consecrated" by the priests for the same purpose. Everywhere death stared men in the face. Even ships at sea were attacked, and when all their crews had died, drifted aimlessly until stranded on some shore to spread still further the infection.

In the midst of this convulsion of society the young and learned Oxford student was driven to study the Scriptures, and, like Luther later, in them he found the words of eternal life. At this time he wrote his Commentary on the Apocalypse. With other pious men of his time, he seemed to think that the dreadful woes overspreading the earth, coupled with the moral and spiritual corruption of the Church, pointed to the time of tribulation spoken of in the Apocalypse.

Now we know that this was not so, but Wycliffe used the circumstance as a call to the unconverted, and from this time we can trace his closer application to its study. When in later years he became a professor or lecturer to Oxford students he insisted on the authority of the Scriptures.

It has been said that pagan Greece or Rome never had so many "Gods" and "Goddesses" as had the Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages. Wycliffe had learned much when he boldly announced that "Whosoever entreats a 'saint' should direct his prayer to Christ as God, not to the saint but to Christ. Nor does the celebration or festival of a saint avail anything, except so far as it may tend to the magnifying of Christ. Hence not a few think that it would be well for the Church if all festivals of that nature were abolished. For the Scriptures assure us that Christ is the mediator between God and man. Hence many are of opinion that when prayer was directed only to Him for spiritual help the Church was more flourishing than it is now, when many new intercessors have been found out and introduced."

Words like these were something new to men of that time, but they were also true, and truth was not wanted by the priestly authorities. When warned of his danger Wycliffe replied: "I have learned from experience the truth of what you say. The chief cause beyond doubt of the existing state of things is our want of faith in Holy Scripture. We do not sincerely believe in the Lord Jesus Christ or we should abide by the authority of His word . . . which is of greater weight than any other. . . . It is His pleasure that the books of the Old and New Law (Old and New Testaments) should be both read and studied, and that men should not be taken up with other books, which, true as they may be, and containing even Scripture truth, are not to be confided in without caution and limitation. If we follow this rule the Scriptures will be held in becoming reverence. The papal Bulls will be superseded as they ought to be."

These were bold words to speak in 1372 and were enough if reported to Pope Gregory XI. at Avignon to cause the poor man to gnash his teeth.

That Wycliffe recognised what they might entail we learn from another sermon: "For the believer," says he, "in maintaining the law of Christ should be prepared as His soldier to endure all things at the hands of the satraps of this world; declaring boldly to pope and cardinals, to bishops and prelates how unjustly, according to the teaching of the Gospel, they serve God in their offices; subjecting those committed to their care to great injury and peril, such as must bring on them a speedy destruction one way or another. All this applies indeed to temporal lords, but not in so great a degree as to the clergy, for as the abomination begins with a perverted clergy, so the consolation begins with a converted clergy. Hence we Christians need not visit pagans to convert them by enduring martyrdom on their behalf, we have only to declare with constancy the law of God before Caesarian prelates, and straightway the flower of martyrdom will be at hand."

Loving the book with all the depth of his powerful nature and finding in it truth to meet the conscience and satisfy the heart, he determined to translate it into the common language of the people, so that all might hear the word and understand the message.

But this, he felt, would be a matter of time, and while it was important to translate the Scriptures, his busy mind formed another plan for spreading the truth until his great work of Bible translation could be accomplished.

This plan was no less than to send out men whom we should now call home missionaries, who, travelling from town to town and village to village, would preach to the people in simple language the Gospel of God's free Salvation through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

These men came to be known as Wycliffe's "Poor Priests," and we shall learn more about them in a later chapter.

Chapter 4.

Wycliffe and the National Opposition

So far we have been tracing the history of our Reformer in his work and teaching at Oxford. But events happened about this time which brought him forward in a more public capacity as a champion of national freedom against the usurpation of Rome in the State. Other men had done so before Wycliffe, but he did not stop here; he saw that the Pope's usurped control over the consciences of men was a worse thing than control over their bodies and goods, and so he set himself to oppose both.

To trace the course of these events we must turn back in history for over one hundred years to the time of King John, who, as we all know, had yielded up England and Ireland "to St Peter, St Paul, and Pope Innocent III." John abjectly laid his crown at the feet of the haughty Pandulf, the Pope's legate, who is said to have kicked it and rolled it in the dust of the muddy floor as a worthless bauble. However, he very condescendingly allowed the humbled John to resume it on condition that he would pay the Pope £666. 13s. 4d. per annum and also become his vassal.

This payment had been very irregularly made, and since the majority of Edward III. it had been entirely discontinued. Suddenly Pope Urban V. in 1365 sent in a claim not only for the annual amount, but also for all the accumulated arrears. The papal Court has been famous at all times for its love of money, but at this time the Pope could not help himself. It was the period of the "Babylonish Captivity," when the papal Court had been transferred from Rome to Avignon, and was therefore under the power of France. Charles the Wise of France hoping to humble Edward the Warrior of England had forced the Pope's hand. This situation gave Wycliffe his opportunity and produced events the benefits of which we are reaping to-day.

But Edward III. was no weakling, as was King John. The man who had humbled France at Crecy and Poitiers, and who at that very moment was titular monarch of one-third of its soil was little likely to yield to the insolent demands of Urban, who was but a tool in the hands of Edward's enemy. So Edward wisely said "No," and summoned his Parliament to support him.

The Commons complained that the Church drew five times more money from the nation than did the King's exchequer. Moreover, they were not afraid to criticise the morals of "His holiness," and these were certainly open to criticism, for at this time the Papacy had probably reached its lowest stage of corruption, degradation, and debauchery. At Avignon benefices in every part of Europe were openly put up for sale and handed over to the highest bidder. The purchaser in turn squeezed out of his parish not only enough to repay his outlay, but sufficient to allow him to imitate the luxury of his superiors. So the Commons of even Roman Catholic England might well complain of the simony and corruption of Avignon.

All these evils were coming to a head when it pleased God to raise up His servant Wycliffe to oppose them. At this time he was a King's Chaplain, and his principles influenced both King and Parliament. The prelates were in an unfortunate position. They had either to become traitors to the Pope or traitors to the King. If they disobeyed the Pope they risked their spiritual dignities. If they disobeyed the King they risked their worldly possessions. They were wise in their generation, and submitted to the power nearest at hand.

"With the other dukes, earls, barons, and great men" they answered that neither King John nor anybody else could give away his kingdom and his people without their consent.

But though the prelates had betrayed the interests of their master the Pope, the friars were not so disposed to yield. They declared that, according to the Canon Law, the King, having defied the Pope, ought to be deposed. Then the question arose, what did the Canon Law say, and the Oxford professor was at once appealed to.

But Wycliffe neatly turned the tables on the friars by declaring that the point was not what saith the Canon Law? but WHAT SAITH THE SCRIPTURES? It was language new to the men of that age. "Canon Law," said he, "is of no power when it is opposed to the Word of God."

But God had more important work for Wycliffe than worldly politics. His lectures to his students were those of one "having authority." Other masters taught from the Sentences of Peter Lombard, which Sentences, as their name implies, were a collection of aphorisms compiled from the works of Augustine and other of the early "Fathers" on various points of Christian doctrine. But Wycliffe went direct to his Latin Bible and showed his hearers that in the Word of God there was not only the way of life, but the rule of life, and that both flatly contradicted the doctrines of Rome.

It was about this time no doubt that he began to gather around him many of those friends who became light bearers all over England in later years, and who helped to spread the truth and light God was graciously revealing to the people.

How thankful we should be that, although wicked men, led on by Satan, have often attempted to suppress both truth and light, they have never quite succeeded. Such attempts were made later in the time of Henry VIII. who "broke with the Pope" only to set himself in the Pope's place and measure out, if that were possible, equal cruelties against the saints of God. Again, the Queen who has earned the unenviable title of "Bloody Mary," became an abject slave of the Papacy, and by its instructions condemned to the awful death of fire three hundred of the best men and women in. England. The haughty prelates of the Church of England, at the Restoration, thought themselves vastly in advance of papal Rome, yet they continued the old persecuting spirit and brought in oppression, both sustained and severe, against the Puritans, who were the most godly people in the nation at that time. On Black Bartholomew's day (24th August 1662) over two thousand ministers were ejected from their parishes for refusing to accept the Act of Uniformity, and were "left without house or bread, their people unable to help them and not daring to do so even where they could." Mr Jeremy White compiled a list of 6o,000 persons who between the Restoration in 1660 and the Revolution in 1688 had suffered on account of their religion, 5,000 of whom died in prison. In Scotland during the same period some 28,000 lost their lives under the persecuting monarchs, Charles II. and James II.

The same principles are at work to-day, for Rome never changes. In our country she cannot appear in her true colours just yet, but she has been steadily working ever since the Reformation to undo that great work. The way to defeat the works of darkness is to spread truth and light. Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel or under a bed and not to be set on a candlestick? It is the duty and privilege of all who have the light to "let their light shine."

From exposing the wicked practices of Rome Wycliffe was led on to denounce her evil doctrines, and while the first offence might be ignored, the second must be dealt with and punished without mercy.

We shall see in our next chapter what means Rome adopted to do so and how far she succeeded.

Chapter 5.

Wycliffe and the Bishops

We noticed in a previous chapter that our Reformer was now devoting himself more and more to the study of Scripture, and it was by this means that he was able to deal those resounding blows to the Papacy, the echoes of which reached to Rome itself. So the Pope issued a Bull enjoining the English clergy to crush "this formidable heresy," for such the plain teaching of Scripture was called. The priests needed little incentive.

Courtney, the Bishop of London, "a proud and fierce man," energetic in all he undertook, and "possessed in full the violent manner and overbearing temper of a great noble," roused up the meek old Archbishop Sudbury to persecute the Reformer. "By the report of persons truly worthy of credit," says the papal missive, "it hath become known to us that John Wycliffe, Professor of Divinity, or more properly, a Master of Error, hath proceeded to a degree of madness so detestable as not to fear to assert . . and teach propositions, the most false and erroneous, contrary to the faith, and tending to weaken and subvert the whole Church." As every reader may see, Wycliffe is here falsely accused of doing what the popes for nearly one thousand years had been really doing. They were the men who had laboured to teach and enforce by fire and fagot "propositions, the most false and erroneous," and utterly subversive of the truth of the New Testament.

But with the true spirit of popery the epistle goes on to say, that "means be taken with the said John Wycliffe to commit him to prison and retain him in sure custody."

Sudbury seems to have been a quiet, peaceable old man, more interested in collecting his revenues than in caring for the good of his people, as the people remembered against him in the day of his extremity. His own friends accused him of allowing the "evils" of Wycliffism to go on till it was too late to arrest them. "Too late the bishops roused up their father the arch-bishop, as one from a deep sleep . . . or rather as a hireling drunk with the poison of avarice, to recall the wandering sheep from feeding on the food of perdition, to give him to the keeper of the sheep for cure, or, if need be, for the knife." The last three words express papal policy in short and forcible language.

The "proud and fierce" Courtney cited the "wandering sheep" to appear before "the hireling drunk with the poison of avarice." Poor Sudbury! We could wish that his friends had given him a better character to hand down to posterity, for next time we see him he is deserving of all respect.

Four short years afterwards he had to take refuge in the Tower of London in hopes to escape from the rebels during the Peasants' Revolt. With the mob raging round the doors he calmly celebrated the Lord's Supper, preparing both himself and his fellow-prisoner — the Treasurer Hales — for death. Then, when the ruffian crowd burst in, the brave old man quietly accompanied them across the moat to Tower Hill, there meekly laid down his grey head upon the block, and so finished his course for good or evil.

Meantime Courtney took charge of the proceedings against Wycliffe. He had been cited and he did not fail to appear. "His right hand is raised, clutching his tall white staff. His clothing consists of a dark simple robe, belted about the waist, and dropping in folds to the feet; while above that grey and flowing beard you see a set of features which speak throughout of nobleness, and which a man might do well to travel far even to look upon."

With Wycliffe came his serving man carrying his books, and especially THE BOOK, for he knew that the strongest weapon in the battle of truth was the Sword of the Spirit. But with Wycliffe came two powerful friends. The one was John of Gaunt, the Duke of Lancaster, and the other was Lord Percy, Earl Marshal of England.

An immense crowd thronged the approaches to St Paul's Cathedral. Insults were offered to the old man by some of the ruffian mob, and loud hootings by the partisans of the priests filled the building when he appeared. Courtney ordered that the prisoner should stand to hear his indictment read. Percy ordered him to sit. "You have much to reply to and need a soft seat," said he to Wycliffe. Courtney insisted. The Duke lost his temper and abused the priest, "muttering in his beard that he would drag the bishop out of the church by the hair of his head." Others of the mob now broke in, and a wild melee took place between the citizens and the soldier guards of the noblemen. The assembly broke up in confusion "before nine o'clock," Wycliffe being the most unmoved person in it. What he thought or said we do not know. But next year a new set of papal Bulls arrived from Rome. Three were addressed to the priests, one to the King, and another to the University of Oxford.

It is interesting to look over the shoulders of the writer and see what Gregory XI. thinks of the man about whom he has taken the trouble to write five letters. He is both "surprised and indignant" that the heads of the University, "notwithstanding all the privileges granted to them by the See of Rome, had, through sloth and negligence, allowed tares to spring up among their wheat." Then he seems to have quite forgotten that the Lord Jesus said in the same Scripture from which he quoted (Matt. 13), "Let both grow together till the harvest," for he goes on to root up the tares by "seizing the person of the said John Wycliffe and delivering him a prisoner to the Archbishop." Sudbury, as we have seen, was a man who was willing to have peace at any price, Courtney was a man of a different stamp, but both had to obey the Pope's behests, and Wycliffe was cited to appear before the bishops at Lambeth. This time no powerful earthly friends appeared on his side. His patron, King Edward III., had just died. His previous protector, John of Gaunt, wrote to him beseeching him not to "ruin a fine political career by an insane love of the truth." Whether the opposite course would ensure a "fine political career" we cannot say, but evidently John of Gaunt thought so. Here the two men part company and Wycliffe had to face his enemies alone, and yet not alone for God was with him and gave him grace to witness a good confession.

But the priests had again overreached themselves. No brief from the Pope could have authority in England without the King's consent, and this had not been obtained. In the midst of their proceedings the royal messenger, Sir Henry Clifford, arrived from the Queen Mother to forbid the court. The citizens of London had also veered round from their attitude of the previous year. They were ever jealous of their privileges and would allow no interference with what they considered their rights, and, though papists, they were ready to cry "no popery" when it suited them. So the bishops, as the old writer scornfully says, "became as reeds shaken with the wind. Their words were softer than oil. They made public shipwreck of their dignity. You would have thought that their horns were gone."

Thus a second time Wycliffe was preserved from his enemies to continue his work for God. He produced a paper setting forth his faith in the Word of God, and again protesting against the errors of the Church. In the first place," said he, "I am resolved with my whole heart, by the grace of God, to live as a sincere Christian, and, while my life shall last, to profess and defend the truth of Christ as far as I have power." Sometime shortly after this Wycliffe fell suddenly and dangerously ill. He was now an old man and had lived a life of incessant labour coupled with harassing and persistent persecution which had told seriously upon a constitution never very strong. The priests, and especially the friars, whose vices he had so scathingly exposed, were delighted. They hoped now to get rid of their life-long enemy. But greater far would be their victory if they could induce him to recant. So a deputation was formed. It consisted of a representative from each of the four begging orders of friars and some of the aldermen of Oxford. They proceeded to his lodging and were admitted into his chamber. We can imagine how hypocritically they condoled with him on his illness, and then exhorted him, as a dying man, to do all in his power to atone for the injuries that their society had experienced at his hands.

The old man listened in silence, and then ordered his attendant to raise him up in the bed. Looking sternly at his visitors and gathering up his strength he cried, "I shall not die, but live, and again declare the evil deeds of the friars." They left the room disappointed and in confusion, and the Reformer recovered, as he had prophesied, to go on with his work.

It was at this time that the great papal schism occurred (1378) — an event which greatly helped to free men's minds from the foolish belief that creatures so utterly wicked and fallible could ever be "infallible popes."

Gregory XI., the last of the "Babylonish" popes, returned from Avignon to Rome in 1377. Next year he died and Urban VI. was elected; the first time a pope had been elected at Rome for seventy-five years. Urban was a man of mean birth, so "harsh and offensive in his manners" that thirteen of his cardinals forsook him and elected another "infallible pope," who styled himself Clement VII. The northern nations, including England, supported Urban. The southern countries, including France, Spain, Naples, also Scotland, supported Clement. Immediately Urban issued Bulls of excommunication against his rival, calling him a heretic, a liar, and anti-pope, and every other evil thing he could remember. Clement replied with like vituperation, and who was in the right or who was in the wrong no man knoweth till this day. This dual popery continued for nearly forty years, and all that time "two popish heads were inside one popish crown" and little love lost between them. Then in 1407 all the cardinals of the opposing camps got tired of the game at which the two popes had been playing, and, assembling a Council at Pisa, they deposed both and elected another, whom they called Alexander V. But as both the old popes refused to be deposed and there was now a new one elected, the only result of the celebrated Council of Pisa was that there were now three popish heads inside one popish crown, and no love lost among them at all. Alexander died, and John XXIII., who had been a pirate, reigned in his stead. We shall notice only one event in the five years of his history he condemned all the writings of Wycliffe to be publicly burned on the steps of St Peter's. The popes hated each other well: they hated the truth more.

One pope was bad: two popes were worse: three popes were unendurable. At the Council of Constance (1414-15) all three were deposed: John because of his "evil deeds," and the other two because they refused to attend. So, John of the many numbers stole out of the city "on a sorry nag" and fled. But he was caught and put in prison where, it is hoped, he had time to repent of his "evil deeds."

This digression comes into our story only to show the effects all these events had on Wycliffe. Up till the time of the papal schism he had recognised the Pope and tried hard to reform him. Now with the monstrous spectacle of "two heads" to the Church, and both "infallible," he saw that reformation was impossible. Henceforth he banished both of them from his scheme, and lost no opportunity of exposing the unscriptural, worldly, and wicked character of the whole papal system in spite of its pretensions to sanctity.

He continued to preach at Oxford, and we find him getting access to many pulpits even in London. He wrote tracts, both in Latin for the learned and in English for the common people; but the heaviest blow he inflicted upon the Romish Church was his attack upon and denial of the doctrine of Transubstantiation. This blasphemous doctrine (of which we can use no milder word) was a terrible engine in the hands of Rome, and it was round this doctrine that the battle of the Reformation raged. If this point was gained, the power of the priest over the conscience was gone and he became weak as any other man. So all the armies of the Prince of Darkness were marshalled to defend the citadel. Alas! that in the Church of England to-day so many of her so-called "priests" are going back to the darkness and delusions of Rome, to deliver them from which many of our forefathers suffered imprisonment, torture, and death.

A few more years pass. It is 1381, and the "proud and fierce man" Courtney is now Archbishop. He had marched to the archiepiscopal throne over the dead body of Sudbury, murdered, as we have seen, during the Peasants' Revolt. With the proud title of "Primate of all England" he would see if he could not do what he had failed to do as Bishop of London. Assembling a Convocation at Oxford, Wycliffe was again summoned to appear.

The indictment was read and he rose to reply. As of old, he repelled their charges and challenged them to convince him of error before they condemned him. "Ye are the heretics," he cried, "who teach your foolish traditions instead of the truth of Scripture. Why do ye propagate such errors? Why? Because, like the priests of Baal, ye want to vend your masses. With whom think ye that ye are contending? With a frail old man on the brink of the grave? No, with truth, which is stronger than you and will overcome you."

His judges were astounded at his bold words which they knew to be true. They had no legal power to detain him, so he left the court unmolested. Though now an old man, "on the brink of the grave" as he said, yet the greatest of all his works was yet to be done. We shall see later what that work was and how he accomplished it.

Chapter 6.

The "Poor Priests".

We have already seen that Wycliffe's progress as a Reformer began with his attacks upon the wicked practices of the priests of Rome. From the Pope downward he unsparingly exposed the hypocrisy of men who professed to be followers of the meek and lowly Jesus, and yet lived in pride, luxury, and sin. But by and by he came to see that not only were the deeds wrong, but that many of her doctrines were wrong also. And as he had now learned, in everything, to refer to the Word of God as the sole authority, he saw the importance not only of denying what was false but of affirming what was true.

To do so, he was led to turn to that great plan first practised by the Lord Himself on the green hillsides of Galilee, and enjoined by Him upon His disciples in all ages. Wycliffe's plan was to PREACH THE WORD. But how could one man, and that man advanced in years, hope to reach many with the sound of the Gospel? If he could not do it single-handed he could induce others to help. Sometime, then, between the years 1375 and 1380, that band of men were gathered together who were known as Wycliffe's "Poor Priests." Rome, too, had her preachers, and they were found mostly among the friars. But they were by no means poor priests. They invaded the parishes of the secular clergy, who hated them just as bitterly as both combined hated the Reformer. Under their wide flowing robes they carried large bags into which they put the gold, silver, or provisions they succeeded in begging from hall or hut wherever they went. They well deserved the name of Mendicants, for their principal business was filling their wallets. Their "preaching" consisted in telling stupid, foolish, and fabulous stories of the "lives of the saints," too silly to repeat in our pages, or legends from the Siege of Troy. Afterwards, they spent their time in the alehouses or at the gaming-table.

When they came into a town they proclaimed to all that they had power from the Pope to pardon all sin. Relics of wonderful virtue were produced from among their other treasures capable of performing all kinds of cures, either upon man or beast. These relics usually consisted of old sheep's bones or other similar rubbish. But though easily procured and easily carried, they were parted with for one commodity only — money, and still more money. And one of the curious things about them was that if you purchased your old bone for silver your crops increased only twofold, but if you gave the rascal friar gold for his old bone, then, in some way which neither he nor we can explain, your crops increased fourfold. So the wily friar defrauded the poor people, enriched his greedy order, and offended a holy God.

In all this we see but a baptized paganism, much worse than even that of heathen Rome. In the "good old days of Rome" the priest believed what he preached. Here we find men who knew that they were deceiving the simple people, yet deliberately continuing to do so in order that they themselves might amass wealth by robbing the poor.

Wycliffe's "Poor Priests" seem to have been friends like-minded with himself who had gathered round him while he was at Oxford. We get a glimpse of them as "men travelling barefoot." Their clothing usually consisted of a "long russet gown reaching down to the heels, without pockets." The last two words remind us of our Lord's instructions to the seventy disciples sent out to preach the Gospel (Luke 10), "Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house." This seems to have been the model on which the Wycliffe preachers were formed, and it might truly be said that they went forth as "lambs among wolves."

The bishops had recourse to their usual weapon persecution, and had a law passed for any King's officer to arrest the preachers and commit them to prison. The parish priests and friars, though they agreed on little else, agreed on this and acted as policemen. When the humble evangelist began to preach, they set off for assistance. But the Gospel was a sweet sound in the ears of the people, and they at least had a welcome for the preacher, so that ofttimes when the King's officer appeared to arrest him, a "body of stout men stood forth, surrounded their preacher, and bore him off in safety."

When persecuted in one place the devoted missionaries fled to another, and, whether seated in castle hall or beside cottage hearth, whether preaching to the crowd at the cross-way or to the merchant in the busy mart, they spoke of full and free salvation by grace alone, not of works lest any man should boast.

It was hardly to be expected that seeing all the corruptions both of life and doctrine which Rome had introduced they would abstain from attacking her errors. And here indeed there was scope and matter for all their fiery indignation. There was the hypocrisy of the friars, who pretended to be poor men, but who were bent only on enriching their order. There was the worldliness of the higher clergy, who were more interested in State preferment than in performing their spiritual duties. There was the pollution and degradation of the papal Court itself, which instead of setting a standard of righteousness was at that time sunk in the lowest depth of infamy.

Then it became their duty to warn the ignorant people that payment of money to a priest or friar could not put away sin; and that the worship of images was no part of Christianity, but only a pagan practice introduced by Rome. How very true this charge was can easily be verified. Rome taught then, and teaches now, that without baptism there can be no salvation. She thus makes the way of salvation baptism instead of the Lord Jesus, who alone could say, "I AM THE WAY." So far is this false doctrine pressed that even infants are included, in express denial of the beautiful words, "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matt. 19:14).

Rome's fond deceit is "justification by works," but the Scriptures say, "BY HIM all that BELIEVE ARE JUSTIFIED from all things from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:39). The heathen nations of old were required by their priests to do works of penance and self-mortification, even cutting their flesh with knives like the priests of Baal, whom we read about in 1 Kings 18:28. So Rome teaches that God is not satisfied without tortures of the body and penances without number. But this is a denial of the value of the FINISHED WORK of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the PRECIOUS BLOOD that alone cleanses from ALL sin.

Again, we read that just as there is One God, so there is "ONE MEDIATOR between God and men, the man CHRIST JESUS" (1 Tim. 2:5); but Rome puts the Virgin Mary in a higher place than the Lord Himself. A well-known Romanist tells his readers that the sinner who ventures to come directly to Christ may come with dread and apprehension of His wrath, but that if he comes through Mary, the wrath of "her Son" will be at once appeased.

In the days of Jeremiah (Jer. 44:19) the paganism of the heathen nations had invaded Judea, and women were seen offering cakes to the Queen of Heaven. The same Scripture gives us the origin of Rome's blasphemous "Mass." The "cakes" that were offered to the "Queen of Heaven" were small, round, thin wafers, the pattern of which we have with us to-day in Rome's "wafer god."

The doctrine of purgatory and prayers for the dead comes from the same heathen source. Neither the one nor the other is found in the Bible, but both go hand in hand with Rome, for they are two of her best money-making devices. For no prayers are of any value except the priests' prayers, but "no pay no prayer," so that unless the priest be well paid, purgatory holds the victim.

It is difficult to write calmly about this atrocious system of deliberately making merchandise of the tenderest feelings of the human heart sorrowing over departed loved ones. Priests of paganism in Egypt or in Greece, priests of the Jews, or priests of papal Rome have all alike been adepts at "devouring widows' houses."

Again, the idol worship of Rome might well arouse the indignation of men who had learned the truth of Scripture for themselves. A Romish procession, bearing a figure either of the Virgin Mary or some other saint, might well remind us of what Isaiah says: "They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god; they fall down, yea, they worship. They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place he shall not remove."

Pagan idolatry in principle has been deliberately annexed by Rome.

Now, all these things were the recognised order of things in papal England in the fourteenth century, and we have to thank God that we are in some measure delivered from it, and think ourselves too wise to go back to it; yet Rome to-day is making an insidious, determined, and untiring effort to reintroduce the same conditions into this Protestant land.

Alas for men's poor man-made religion in contrast to the glorious Gospel of the blessed God concerning His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. His finished work on Calvary settles every question of sin, both to the glory of God and the blessing of men, and He is to-day the Only Saviour of Sinners. From the glory He is saying to-day, "Come unto ME and I will give you rest."

Chapter 7.

More about the "Poor Priests"

It is interesting to trace further what the men of that day, whether friends or enemies, thought of Wycliffe's "Poor Priests," and we will begin with our old acquaintance, the proud, fierce man," Courtney.

He had reached the lofty position of Archbishop, as we have seen, over the headless body of the murdered Sudbury. One of his first efforts to extinguish the new movement was to call a council at the Convent of the Blackfriars in London, which then stood where the offices of The Times newspaper stand to-day. So these great men assembled — eight bishops, twenty doctors, fifteen friars, and four monks — and their object was to put down the new opinions and prosecute all who were suspected of holding them, especially John Wycliffe. Here Wycliffe's doctrines were examined and, of course, condemned by all present. But an event happened on the very day of the council meeting which completely destroyed the effect of the council's decision. "About two o'clock that afternoon, while the Churchmen were sitting round the table at their pious work, a terrible earthquake took place which struck all with panic except the zealous Archbishop."

These things were not looked upon as accidents in those days, and the friends of Wycliffe loudly proclaimed that "their Master had been condemned by the bishops, but that the bishops had been condemned by God."

Courtney was not content with mere councils, however. King Richard II. was no statesman like his grandfather Edward III., and he foolishly allowed Rome more power than was good for either his kingdom, his people, or himself. Courtney saw his opportunity and had an Act passed, in spite of the opposition of the Commons, to make persecution legal.

But Englishmen as a nation are not a bloodthirsty race. Torturing, maiming, and burning to ashes living men and women were strange sights to them, and sights at which the native character revolted.

This policy of fiendish cruelty had its origin at Rome. For the century and a half it existed in our country, during which its tracks were marked by bigotry and blood, the councils, both of the Church and of the nation, were swayed by the agents of Rome. When the last popish King and humble servant of the Pope stole out of his palace and fled secretly, with no man pursuing him, then men began to breathe freely. They awoke, as it were, from a hideous nightmare and determined that as far as in them lay, they would take steps to prevent such chains ever again being riveted either on their own necks or on the necks of their children.

We may well be thankful for the liberty we enjoy to-day, and we should ever be thankful to the brave men and women who won that liberty for us. Many of them loved the Lord Jesus more than they loved their own lives. May we be as true to the truth we know as they were!

So Courtney's Act read that: "Sentence being duly pronounced, the Magistrate shall take into hand the persons so offending and any of their supporters and cause them openly to be burned in the sight of all the people, to the intent that this kind of punishment may be a terror unto others, that the like wicked doctrine . . . be no more maintained within this realm."

Courtney had triumphed for the moment, but his triumph was short-lived. The Commons returned to the matter next session. "Whatever was done," say they, "was done without our consent. Let it now be annulled, for it is not our intention to be tried for heresy or to bind over ourselves or our descendants to the priests more than our ancestors have been in the past."

There is a ring of sturdy independence about this deliverance which later Parliaments might have copied with profit. So the Commons rescinded Courtney's Act, and not till 1401, in the reign of Henry IV., was the infamous "burning statute" passed. History will ever record it as a disgrace on the reign of a king whose father was a friend to the great Reformer.

But Henry IV. had arrived at the throne by the defeat and murder of the rightful King and the help of the priests. To maintain his usurpation he had to bind himself to "support the Church." The priests were overjoyed. They seemed like bloodthirsty animals let loose, and for the next hundred years and more they literally revelled in the blood of the saints of God.

We may here look forward to an incident which illustrates the above remarks, and which shows both the savage cruelty of men calling themselves priests and the bigoted folly of a man calling himself a king. The event to which we refer took place in 1413. Henry V. was reigning. Sir John Oldcastle, who had been the King's companion before he came to the throne, and one too who had fought bravely in the King's service, had become obnoxious to the priests because he had embraced the reformed doctrines. The "fierce and cruel man" Courtney had died in 1396 and gone to his own place, and the "crafty Arundel" was now Archbishop. He had been banished as a traitor by Richard II., but made himself useful as a tool of the Duke of Lancaster who effected the revolution of 1399. The priest having helped the King, the King's son will oblige the priest. Sir John was arrested and lodged in the Tower. His good confession is worth recording, but first the King in person will try to induce him to abjure his faith.

To the King he said, "I am, as I have always been, most willing to obey your majesty, as the minister of God appointed to bear the sword of justice for the punishment of evildoers, and the protection of them that do well. . . . But as to the Pope and the spiritual dominion which he claims, I owe him no service that I know of, nor will I pay him any, for as sure as God's Word is true, to me it is fully evident that he is the great Antichrist and son of perdition."

Before the priests his words were of no uncertain sound. He declared in plain language his denial of Transubstantiation, the idolatry of image worship, and the folly of pilgrimages. Then turning to the people, he cried, "Look, good people, for the breaking of God's law these men never cursed me, but for the sake of their own law and tradition most cruelly do they use both me and other men."

Such opinions Rome could only meet in one way. When reason failed, force might succeed. He was condemned, but escaped from the Tower. Four years afterwards he was recaptured and the original sentence carried out. He was hanged (as a traitor) over a slow fire, in order that he might at the same time be burned as a heretic. Truly the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel.

Chapter 8.

Rome Attempts to Extinguish the Light

We saw in a previous chapter that the Commons had repealed Courtney's persecuting edict, but with the deceit to which Rome often descends, the bishops concealed and denied the fact. There were no Parliamentary Reports in those days, and no daily newspapers: few would have been able to read them even had they existed. So Courtney determined to use his present authority to purge Oxford if he could.

This brings before us some glimpses of others of Wycliffe's friends and followers at Oxford who became his helpers in the work of the Gospel. Dr Nicholas Hereford had learned much from his master at Oxford, and was so ardently convinced of the truths of Scripture which Wycliffe had opened up to him that he thought all men would believe the truth of the Gospel as soon as it was put before them. His faith took in even the Pope himself, and he promptly set off to Rome to show him a better way.

Alas, he did not know the Pope. Urban VI. was no better, and he could hardly be much worse than some of his predecessors. He promptly thrust into a Roman dungeon for life the man who should dare to question Rome's best money-making conceit of Transubstantiation. And life with Hereford, if left to the Pope's tender mercies would have been short indeed. But the city that was governed by the "Successor of St Peter" and the "Vicar of Christ," as the "Holy Father" loved to call himself, was possibly the worst governed city upon the face of the earth. The miserable inhabitants, goaded ofttimes to fury, made periodical risings against their "Holy Father," stormed his castles and emptied his prisons. Such a rising took place after Hereford had been two years in captivity, and he having escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowler, wended his way back to England, a sadder and a wiser man. But he could not now go back to his lecture room at Oxford, so he joined Aston and some others of the brethren in the west.

We are grieved to find that this man, who in his early zeal aimed at converting the Pope himself, after preaching the Reformed doctrines for some years, "made his peace with the Church and rose to high preferment." Do these last four words convey the reason of his falling away from the truth? Only grace can keep anyone. Let us not judge him. The paths of these early confessors were spread with thorns, and to all is not given the courage to resist unto blood striving against sin.

John Aston, Master of Arts, was another of those who were brought up before Courtney as "one who troubled Israel," and one who had "cost the Bishop of Lincoln many a sleepless night." Now if the good bishop had been as anxious to put the truth before the people as he was to keep it from them he would have had our sympathy, but this was far from being the case. Dr Aston is described by his enemies as "a man of great scholarship and of ardent zeal and earnest effort," but his efforts in preaching the Gospel to the People were not at all to the liking of his enemies. They said he was "like a bee, always on the wing," or "like a hound, ever ready to start up from his repose and bark." And the bishops did not like Aston's "bark," There was a menacing ring in it that spelled the downfall of their power and pride. There was an echo to it that made the walls of their princely palaces to shake.

The question against him was again the old fable of Transubstantiation. This was the key-stone of their arch on which all their power over men's consciences was built. Were this knocked down, many other things would follow. So Aston was called upon to answer to certain questions in relation to this doctrine, and he replied that his faith on this subject was the faith of the Church, meaning the true faith of the true Church. Then, speaking no longer to his judges, but to the great congregation of people who had crowded in to watch the proceedings, he declared what the true faith of the true Church was, until he was hastily called to order, and "commanded to speak in Latin that the people might not understand him."

In the end his opinions were condemned, as we should expect, but as yet the bishops had no power to arrest his person, so "this long lean man" went forth again to travel on foot from one part of England to another preaching with the zeal of an apostle," and "like a bee ever on the wing." Like a bee, also, he carried a sweet message of truth and grace to many a heart tired of the penances, pilgrimages, and works of merit, which could give neither peace to the conscience nor rest to the heart. It was a new and a joyful sound to hear of ONE who could say, "Come unto ME and I will give you REST."

And there were many who received and rejoiced in the new-found truths. Beginning at Lutterworth, which was Wycliffe's parish, as a centre, we find the new doctrines extending north through Leicester, Loughborough, and Nottingham; going west there were many of Wycliffe's followers found in Coventry; in Worcester — where the poor bishop had "so many sleepless nights," and in Hereford. Further south the light spread to Gloucester, Berkshire, Wiltshire, and in the extreme south Sussex also came under its influence. Even in the Archbishop's own town of Canterbury were found many who had passed out of the darkness of Rome into the light of the Gospel.

Nor must we overlook the life and work of Dr John Purvey, who was one of Wycliffe's closest friends, and who rendered valuable help with Bible translation as we shall see later.

Possibly Purvey was one of the most able and learned men among the early Reformers, and when Wycliffe and his friends were finally expelled from Oxford, Purvey resided at Lutterworth and helped in the publication — if not even in the writing--of the many books and tracts issued during the closing years of Wycliffe's life. The efforts of the latter during these closing years must have been incessant and untiring. Over ninety tracts and pamphlets were issued in Latin for the learned, and some sixty five in English for the common people. Some were written as instruction for his "poor priests," some dealing with the way of Salvation; many, as we should expect, attacking the manifold errors both of the Pope and of the papacy.

After Wycliffe's death Purvey joined some others of the company of "poor priests" in the west, and continued the work of Evangelisation. The little community were residing in an old disused chapel, where there still remained a wooden image of "St Catherine" standing in a corner. Finding themselves short of fuel one cold evening, they pulled down the image and promptly split it up for firewood. When knowledge of this "terrible act of sacrilege" came abroad it caused a great sensation, as we might have expected. But it also led people to think. Why should they worship stocks and stones as pagans do? Were they not, in name at least, Christians? So the fire lighted by the broken fragments of St Catherine helped to shed additional light, both on the errors of Rome and into the minds of the people.

We meet with Purvey again nearly twenty years later. There is another fire before him this time, more fierce than that kindled by St Catherine. At this time, 1401, the "crafty Arundel" had succeeded in getting the Act, "de Haeritico Comburendo," placed on the Statute Book, and William Sawtre, the first of England's modern martyrs, was wrapt to glory in a chariot of flame. He had dared to say to the priests, "I will worship Christ who died on the Cross, but I will not worship the Cross on which Christ died."

Three days after Sawtre had gained the martyr's crown, we listen sadly to Dr John Purvey reading a recantation, at St Paul's Cross, of all he had said and done. And so the old man passes into the shadows.

As far as we can trace he was the last of the Oxford scholars that had originally gathered round the Reformer, but they had done their work. The seeds of truth they had sown bore fruit in the next generation. The banner of truth had been raised, and though many standard-bearers fell on the field of conflict, others were found to grasp what soon became indeed a bloodstained banner and bear it on to victory. The death fires which were first lighted in 1401 continued to burn till 1558, and never more fiercely than during the last six years of that period. Men and women, even boys and girls, sealed their testimony with their blood. To read the Scriptures or even to possess a Bible was considered a crime only to be expiated at the dreadful stake. Tortures, conceivable only by men inspired by the devil himself, were inflicted on delicate women until their poor bodies were so maimed and broken that they had to be carried to the death fire and chained erect to the post. Men had their feet burned to the bone, and were then put in the stocks the night before they were to die, in order to add to their sufferings. All these things were done by the priests of Rome, and all these things were suffered by the martyrs of Jesus. We, to day, have our liberties as the result.

Chapter 9.

The Wonder of the Book

It is a day in summer in the year A.D. 33. A large crowd of excited people are gathered together in an Eastern city. They have come from many parts of the world and speak many languages. Some have travelled from Parthia, Media, and Elam in the north; others from the far east of Mesopotamia; many from the west of Asia; and some from the distant south of Egypt and Cyrene.

But the remarkable thing about their meeting to-day is that they are listening to men otherwise uneducated, who yet are able to speak to their audience, to each man "in his own tongue wherein he was born." Then the subject of which they speak is of the deepest importance, for they are declaring to the assembled multitudes the "wonderful works of God."

We all recognise this as a story found in Acts 2, and we repeat it here because it was to this most interesting chapter that Wycliffe trenchantly appealed when he began to assert the rights of the common people to have the Word of God in their own tongue.

"Those who call it heresy to speak of the Holy Scriptures in English must be prepared," says he, "to condemn the Holy Ghost who gave it in tongues to the Apostles of Christ to speak the Word of God in all languages that were ordained of God under heaven."

Then, growing bolder, he challenged the priests as being the real heretics. "Those heretics are not to be heard," he says, "who fancy that secular men ought not to know the law of God . . . for Scripture is the faith of the Church, and the more it is known the better. Therefore, as secular men ought to know the faith, so it is to be taught them in whatever language is best known to them."

These words carry us back to the words of a greater man than even John Wycliffe — even the words of the great Apostle of the Gentiles, Paul. When writing his inspired Epistle to the Colossians, he said, "When this epistle is read among you, cause it to be read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that ye also read the epistle from Laodicea."

In the days of the Apostle there were no recognised orders of "clergy" and "laity." The scriptural simplicity of the early faith was held by all. They recognised, according to the Lord's own teaching, that all were brethren in Christ, and they "called no man father," much less "Holy father," a title applied only to God Himself.

In Wycliffe's opinion there were still the "clergy" and the "laity," but he had made a great advance on the teaching and practice of Rome when he boldly advocated that the "laity" ought to have the liberty to read the Bible in their own language.

We may gather something of the determined opposition he had to encounter from the bishops when we see what they said about his work when completed.

One says, "This Master John Wycliffe has translated the Gospel which Christ gave to the clergy and doctors of the Church to be by them communicated to the weaker sort and the laity according to their need, and has thus made it more accessible to the laity and to women who are able to read than it was before to the well educated and intelligent clergy."

Another says, "He has completed his malice by devising a translation of the Scriptures into the mother tongue."

In the year 1408, when the priests had more political power, they issued a very stringent order, drawn up by the persecuting Archbishop, the "crafty Arundel," that "no unauthorised person should hereafter translate any portion of holy Scripture into English or any other language by way of book or tract, and that no such book or tract should be read, either in whole or in part, publicly or privately, that was composed lately in the time of John Wycliffe or since, under the penalty of the Greater Excommunication, until such translation shall be approved by the bishop of the diocese." But the bishops were more anxious to burn the Bible than to approve it, and in very many cases they burned the possessors of the Bible with the book hung round their necks.

But before we look at Wycliffe's translation, let us turn back and trace shortly how this wonderful Book of God came to men, and also notice some things about it which make it so different from all other books that it has become known now as THE Book.

In 2 Peter 1:21 we read that "prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." God, the Holy Spirit, was the Author of the Scriptures. He used "holy men of God" to write what He inspired. Therefore the Word of God is perfect. It could not, as the Word of God, be otherwise. When men say that the Bible is only a textbook of morals and not a textbook of science, thereby inferring that its science is not "up to date," they involve themselves in a glaring contradiction, for the Spirit of God, who is the "Spirit of Truth" (John 14:17), could not surely inspire men to write what was not true. Much of the so-called science of fifty years ago flatly contradicted the Bible. Much of the science of fifty years ago has been proved to be wrong. Much of the so-called "assured conclusions" of modern science rest on nothing more solid than a basis of unproved theories which future scientists may discard and disown. If the so-called science of to-day contradicts the Bible, so much the worse for the science. The Bible is the Judge. We may confidently rely upon this: as men approach nearer to the truth in their study of the works of God, so in proportion will they draw nearer to the Bible, the Words of God; and both are PERFECT. True science can never contradict Scripture.

Not only is God the Holy Spirit the Author of the Holy Scriptures, but God the Son is the great Subject of this wonderful revelation from Heaven.

He was the promised Seed spoken of in Genesis 3:15 who would bruise the serpent's head. He was the One of whom Adam or Abraham, Isaac or Joseph, David or Solomon were but types. He was the One to whom the paschal lamb in Egypt and every sacrifice in Israel's temple pointed. Psalm and prophecy, and parable, all spoke of Hint. Kings and conquerors were only dim shadows of the One who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Judges of Israel and saviours of the people were but faint shadows of the One whose name was called JESUS, for "He shall save His people from their sins."

Then, when He is born into this world as the Babe in Bethlehem's manger, all Heaven is interested in the wonderful event, and a multitude of the heavenly hosts chant the words which mean so much to every one of us: —
"Glory to God in the highest,
 And on earth peace,
 Goodwill towards men."

Four separate accounts are given to us in the four Gospels of His life on earth.

MATTHEW speaks of Him as the King of Israel and the One who will yet sway the sceptre of the universe of God in righteousness, power, and glory. To Him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

MARK tells of Him as the One who in grace became the Prophet of God and the Servant of Men. The Psalmist had said, "Grace is poured into Thy lips: therefore God hath blessed Thee for ever" (Psalm 45:2); and in Luke 4:22 we read that all the people wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And well they might, for "He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God" (John 3:24), and "never man spake like this Man" (John 7:46).

LUKE, the beloved physician, tells of One who was a more skilled physician still — the wonderful Man of God's counsels who came into the world
To preach the Gospel to the poor.
To heal the broken-hearted.
To preach deliverance to the captives.
And recovering of sight to the blind.
To set at liberty them that are bruised.
To preach the acceptable year of the Lord . . . (Luke 4:18-19).

And that "acceptable year" of grace, first announced in the synagogue of Nazareth, is still being proclaimed: blessing is still flowing forth to sinners, and the Lord Jesus Christ, now at God's right hand, is still saying, "Come unto Me and I will give you rest."

When we come to JOHN'S Gospel we learn that the Man Christ Jesus, who became the Servant of God and men, though He was the King of Israel, is no less a Person than the One of whom Isaiah's glowing page foretold: "Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end" (Isa. 9:6-7).

The ACTS OF THE APOSTLES and the twenty-one EPISTLES continue the theme and tell us from every varying standpoint what Christ is to God and what Christ is for His people.

In the BOOK OF REVELATION we are carried on to a time when time shall be no longer; when the mystery of God shall be finished and the Lord Jesus will rise up to purge the earth, deliver His people, and introduce the reign of righteousness and world-wide blessing.

Then this Book of God speaks to the conscience. It deals with men as sinners. It brings them, as it were, into the presence of a holy God and convinces them that by nature they are unfit to be there. But it also tells of the Way of Salvation, and points to the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.

Another thing, among many, that makes the Bible different from all other books is the prophecies of Scripture. If we confine ourselves to one theme alone — that of the promised Messiah — we find that 4,000 years before He was born it was prophesied that He would come. Micah foretold the place where He would be born (Micah 5:2). Daniel told of the time when He would appear, and named the very day when He would present Himself to the nation as their King, and also indicated how the nation would reject Him (Dan. 9:26). Isaiah portrays the remarkable way in which He would enter into this world (Isa. 7:14); then that He would be despised and rejected, and finally that His death would be the great propitiatory offering for the sin of the world.

All these things are spoken with exactness of detail, and all have come to pass exactly as foretold, proving conclusively that the writers spake by the Word of the Lord, who alone knows the end from the beginning.

Chapter 10.

The Oldest Book in the World

We have seen in a previous chapter that the Bible is the best book in the world: it is also the oldest. No other book can compare with it in this respect. Herodotus, who is known as the "father of history," dates back only to 480 B.C., shortly before the closing book in our Old Testament was written. The ancient poets Homer and Hesiod are supposed to have flourished — for no one really knows — about the time of Hezekiah, King of Judah. But 75o years before that time Moses had written the five books which we know as the Pentateuch. So that the Bible presents to us the oldest authentic records of the history of the human race. Egyptian history cannot be traced farther back than 270o B.C. The Chinese records go nearly as far. Babylonish history begins about 2450 B.C. Greek history dates from the Trojan War — if that war ever was fought — I200 B.C. Rome was busy founding its capital about 758 B.C., and Persian history begins 200 years later still. But Bible history carries us back for 4,000 years before the Cross, and gives us in the words of Inspiration the history of the very beginning of our present ordered earth and all that it is necessary for us to know about the story of man's creation to inhabit it.

The oldest vestiges of human construction are the Pyramids of Egypt, and the oldest of these is supposed to have been built shortly after the Flood. A French engineer has estimated that there are materials in this vast erection to build a wall one foot thick and ten feet high right round France, or about 1,800 miles.

For 2,500 years or thereby the world had no Bible — no written word of revelation from God. But it is remarkable that this long space of time was bridged by the lives of but three men. Methuselah, the oldest man that ever lived, is one of the links that connect with Adam on the one side and on the other with Noah, who passed through the Flood and lived for 300 years after it.

Adam lived for 965 years, and during that time he would be able to teach his descendants all the wonderful revelations which God had made to him both before and after sin came into the world. Generation after generation would hear from his lips the story of Eden, the fail, the promised Deliverer, and the way of approach to God.

If we turn back to 1 Chronicles 1, the opening three verses give us one of the wonderful sentences of Inspiration. It is a sentence containing ten proper names and not a single verb. The names are these: Adam, Sheth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalaleel, Jered, Henoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah. Dr Kitto has pointed out that these ten names literally translated in order form the following most remarkable sentence in English: Man, Appointed [or Replaced], Miserable, Lamenting, The God of Glory, Shall descend, To instruct, His death sends, To the afflicted, Consolation. Thus the very names of the antediluvian patriarchs would be a standing testimony to the world. Methuselah's name in particular was a warning message to the sinners of old. The prophet Enoch, whose own name marked him out as one able "to instruct," named his son in words prophetic of coming judgment that would "descend" after his death. The very year in which Methuselah died, the Flood came. One cannot help noting that after the name of the oldest man this world ever saw, God wrote "and he died."

How interesting it would be for us now if any person was alive who had come over with William the Conqueror. Such a person would be able to tell us, for example, about the various dynasties who had ruled in England — the Normans, the Plantagenets, the Yorkists, the Tudors, the Stuarts, and the Hanoverians. We should also be able to provide much interesting information about the laws and customs during the various periods of his life, and to hear such an account from his lips would be as interesting as to read it from a book. So during Adam's long life many people of the ancient world would learn from him all that God had been pleased to make known of Himself at that time.

Methuselah, the grandfather of Noah, lived with Adam for over 240 years and nearly boo with his grandson Noah. To Noah he would doubtless communicate all that he him- self had learned from his ancestors. Shem, the son of Noah, lived after the Flood for 500 years until the days of Abraham, who was called out from his country and kindred to become the father of the faithful and the repository of all the promises of grace to the nation of Israel.

Five hundred years later we come to Moses, the man of God, and the first of the illustrious men who were chosen by God to write for us the "Scripture of Truth."

And so the good work went on; the various revelations extending over a period of some 1,600 years, until the Apostle John, in Patmos, wrote the last book in our New Testament, "The Revelation of Jesus Christ," telling us about the solemn events that will usher in the closing days of men in responsibility upon the earth and of the time when "time shall be no longer."

Kings and nobles, priests and prophets, physicians and fishermen, tentmakers and tax collectors are found among the writers (over forty in all, and all inspired by God Himself, so that "the law of the Lord is perfect").

We may well pause here and ask, How has this wonderful Book been received, and how have these sacred writings been treated by the men to whom they have been sent? And in trying to answer this question we shall see that the Bible, not unlike the Person of the Lord Himself when on earth, sharply divided men into two classes — those who loved the Book and those who hated it.

In Deut. 31:24-26 we read, "And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee." And, again (ver. 10), "And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, When all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law."

It is very clear from these words that God intended everybody to hear and understand His Word. Even the children are not left out, so that when Rome says that the Bible is for the priests only, she is flatly contradicting the words of God Himself.

But let us follow the history of the Book. Placed in the side of the ark, as we have seen, it entered the land with the nation and was with them in all the wars of Canaan. It abode with the ark in Shiloh for 400 years, went with it on that strange pilgrimage when the ark was taken by the Philistines, and with the ark returned again to Kirjath-jearim, whence David removed it on his "new cart." Three years afterwards, when David had learned his lesson, the ark was brought into the tent prepared for it in the City of David.

We know from 2 Chron. 6:11 that the same autograph copy which Moses wrote was still in the ark in the palmy days of King Solomon, when he finished the first temple and put the ark in the holy of holies. And it is just possible that it is the same roll we hear of 400 years later in the darker days of Josiah. This pious King was one of those who loved the Book, for, after it had been found among the rubbish in the neglected temple, we read that, just as Moses commanded, he gathered the people together and "read in their ears all the words of the book of the covenant which was found in the house of the Lord." It is always good to read the Bible. God honours in His providence both men and nations who honour His Word. The history of our own country abundantly proves this. Compare England's greatness under Cromwell with its abject condition under Charles II. Queen Victoria rightly called the Word of God "the secret of England's greatness." Only comparatively few years have passed since the good Queen died, but we may well ask, Does the Bible hold the same place in the nation to-day as it did then?

But succeeding Kings of Judah were not all so pious as the good King Josiah. We have a sharp contrast in the actions of his son Jehoiakim. Let us pay a visit, unasked, to this King's palace. We find him in his "winterhouse" with a fire burning before him. Another portion of God's Word is being read in his presence, but taking the roll out of the hands of the reader, "he cut it with the penknife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed" (Jer. 36:26). He was the first person we know of who ever dared to destroy any portion of God's written Word, and short and sharp came his judgment. "God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap."

Pagan Rome and papal Rome have only too well followed this wicked King's example, but the Word of God is indestructible; it liveth and abideth for ever.

Soon Judah was carried captive to Babylon, but during the long years of captivity God watched over His Word, and provided men to preserve it. It was copied and re-copied with the most meticulous care. Jewish scribes knew the Scriptures so well that they could tell how many words were in each book. They reckoned up even the number of individual letters, so that they knew, for instance, that the letter Aleph occurred 42,377 times, the letter Beth 38,218 times, and so on, right through all the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

So God used this scrupulous care in order that His Word might be faithfully preserved through all time.

The seventy years of the Babylonish Captivity came to an end at last. The pride of Babylon was humbled before the might of Persia. King Cyrus, who had been mentioned by name by the prophet Isaiah 176 years before he was born, issued a proclamation enjoining the Jews to go up to Jerusalem and rebuild the house of the Lord. We learn from the book of Ezra that "forty-two thousand three hundred and three score" (Ezra 2:34) led by Zerubbabel formed the first company of returning exiles that reached Jerusalem to set about the task of restoring the fortunes of their overthrown country.

The first thing they did was to set up the altar and offer burnt offerings upon it. They thus declared their faith in the words, "God is our refuge and our strength"; and then, when the second modest temple was founded, very touching it is indeed to be present, in fancy, at the ceremony of laying the foundation stone. Old and grey-headed men are here who can remember Solomon's temple with all its magnificent architecture and golden furniture, and the present building which they are so painfully rearing up in the midst of their poverty and distress seems to them so insignificant that they weep as they think of what once was and of what now is.

On the other hand, the young men who had been born in exile, when they saw the work so far advanced, shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people. Twenty years afterwards this second temple was completed, and later, when the energetic Governor, Nehemiah, arrived at Jerusalem, the city wall was built and prosperity began again to smile upon the long-desolate land.

But what concerns us most in our present inquiry is the work that Ezra the scribe did when he came. He was the Religious Reformer of the day, just as Nehemiah, who came after him, was the Righteous Ruler.

Passing over many of his drastic reforms, both among the priests and the people, let us hasten down to Watergate Street, on the east side of the temple, for Ezra is to hold a great open-air reading meeting there to-day. A great pulpit of wood "made for the purpose" has been erected here, and the "ready scribe in the law of Moses" climbs up into it, with six men on his right hand and seven at his left, and opens the BOOK in the sight of all the people. From the time that it was light until midday the reading went on, "and all the, people were attentive unto the book of the law" (Neh. 8).

We note with pleasure the attention of the people to the words of the Book, for dark days are coming soon both for it and them. They had returned to a land not yet recovered from the desolation of the great overthrow. Jerusalem, the "holy city" towards which their hearts had yearned with such intense longing during the weary years of the captivity, was a mass of ruins. Their old enemies the Philistines were pressing in from the west. The Edomites — foes of a thousand year feuds — had pushed north as far as Hebron, the ancient capital. Moab and Ammon, on the east, are again contracting alliances with the Arabians to the further hindrance of the work of restoration.

We cannot linger longer to hear Ezra, however much we should like to do so, for we have still a long way to travel before we come to the times of John Wycliffe. But one other thing it is interesting to notice before we pass on, and that is that Ezra is believed to have compiled and arranged all the books of our Old Testament as we have them to-day (including, we believe, even Malachi), so that those who came after him had a complete copy of "The Law," "The Psalms," and "The Prophets," according to the three great divisions of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Leaving the Jews to meet and conquer their many foes as best they may, we must take a glance at the blank leaf between our Old Testament and the New.

It was a period of stirring times for the land of Israel. Systematic and diabolical persecution, such as perhaps no other nation could have survived, occupied part of this period. Remarkable victories, gained by a few patriotic men over multiplied enemies, followed. Finally, corruption and decay set in, until all that was good and noble disappeared; and we open our New Testament to find Herod, an Idumean usurper, reigning in the Lord's land: the "sceptre has departed from Judah."

But to return. It is the year 277 B.C. Alexander the Great has met and overthrown the might of Persia more than fifty years before, only to be himself overthrown soon after by his own passions. But in the great city of Alexandria, which he built to keep his memory green, and colonised with many races, there is now a population of 100,000 Jews. We pause here to take a glimpse at some seventy learned Rabbis engaged upon the first complete translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into another tongue. This translation into Greek is known as the Septuagint Version, and was the Bible read in the time of our Lord and the Apostles. Many of the quotations from the Old Testament found in the New are from this version; hence the slight textual differences which sometimes appear. There are 275 Old Testament passages quoted in the New Testament, and about forty are from the Septuagint. The Apostle Paul quotes from the earlier Scriptures about one hundred and twenty times.

Another step of about one hundred years and we find that the domination of Babylon, of Persia, and of Greece is a thing of the past, and Palestine finds itself in the power of a more bitter foe than any of these had been. Antiochus Epiphanes (the Illustrious), or some would call him Epimanes (the Madman), is ruler of Syria, and Judea lies at his mercy. He has determined that he will destroy the race of the Jews and banish the name of the God of Israel from the earth. To do so, Antiochus saw that he must first get rid of the "Law of Moses." Perhaps never, either before or since, has the BOOK passed through such an extreme crisis. Copies of it, laboriously written by hand, could be but few. Those who possessed them were weak and their enemies were strong, but God was over all.

We read that "Antiochus went up to Jerusalem with a great multitude and proudly entered into the sanctuary, and took away the golden altar, and the candlestick of light, and all the vessels thereof . . . and there was great mourning in Israel. And he commanded the holy place to be profaned . . . and he set up the abominable idol before the altar of God, and cut in pieces and burned with fire the books of the Law of God. And every one with whom the books of the Testament of the Lord was found, and whosoever observed the Law of the Lord, they put to death according to the Edict of the King . . . and there was great wrath upon the people."

Just let us take a glance at one of the dreadful things which were frequently taking place in Jerusalem under the rule of this wicked King. We shall not linger, neither shall we return, for the sight is too appalling to witness. If we were to linger, many such dreadful spectacles of suffering should we encounter.

A mother and seven sons are led, bound, before the King, accused of "faithfulness to the law of God." One by one they are scourged, the woman being no exception. Then they are commanded to eat swine's flesh and sacrifice to idols. When all refuse to obey, the eldest son is first brought forward to the torture. A sharp knife is drawn round his head, cutting in to the bone, and skin and hair are torn from the living scalp. Again he is ordered to sacrifice in order to save his life. Still refusing, his tongue is cut out, part of his hands and feet are chopped off, and, while still alive, he is cast into a red-hot brazen cauldron to be slowly roasted to death.

One by one the heroic little band of witnesses passes through the same dreadful ordeal till only the youngest is left. Then the King promises with an oath that he will make him a rich and happy man if he will only disobey the law and sacrifice to idols. But he, refusing, as the others did, "the King rages against him more cruelly than all the rest." Last of all the woman dies also. "And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection." And Antiochus, what of him?

"The murderer and blasphemer, being grievously struck, died a miserable death, being eaten up of worms, in a strange country" (2 Macc. 9).

A dark day this indeed for the ancient people of God, but man's extremity is God's opportunity, and the very wickedness of the King brought to the front a hero and a man.

Judas Maccabees, the chief of five brethren, was used by God to punish many of the proud oppressors of the land, recover possession of the temple, and restore the worship of Jehovah. The Feast of the Dedication, instituted by Judas in 165 B.C., which we read of in John 10, was intended to keep in remembrance this great national event. The feast began on the twenty-fifth of the month Chesleu (our December). The nations around them were celebrating the heathen Festival of the Sun. The Jews were joining in praise to Jehovah, the only true God.

Just 196 years afterwards we read, "And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And JESUS walked in the temple in Solomon's porch" ( John 10:22-23). This brings us to the central point of all the revelation of the ways of God in grace. In the Old Testament we read what men ought to be. In the New we find out what God is, and what God is to men. Two sentences in the first Epistle of John convey to us in the fewest possible words the two grandest truths of Scripture "God is light" and "God is love" (Chaps. 1:5 and 4:8, 16). This love has so wrought for His own that every stain of sin that light could detect love has found means to put away. "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."

In our next chapter we shall follow the fortunes of the Book during the early Christian centuries.

Chapter 11.

The Early Christian Centuries

In this and the following chapters we must trace the Book for a period of some 1,300 years, or from the time that the New Testament was completed until the time comes that we can look into Wycliffe's study at Lutterworth and see him busily translating his Vulgate copy into the then spoken language of England.

And just as we found in our rapid survey of the history of the Old Testament Scriptures that at various times enemies had striven to destroy them, so we shall find the same thing repeated with the New Testament in an even more determined and bitterly hostile way.

We know that all the twenty-seven books of our New Testament were written before the close of the first century. When and by whom were these various books of the New Testament completed and arranged in one volume as we now have them? Of all the various opinions that have been expressed, it seems most probable that the beloved disciple John was used by God not only to write the closing words of inspiration, but also to collect together those already written. Whether this be so or no, we know from many testimonies that by the middle of the second century all the books of the New Testament were known and read in the Christian assemblies. The Apostle's life was lengthened out for about one hundred years, and during that time he had seen the Church in its pristine freshness and unity, as described in Acts 2, and seen also the corruption, declension, and decay which set in when, even at Ephesus, believers "left their first love."

The letters to the "seven churches" in Rev. 2 and 3 describe the departure from the truth of "all in Asia," and also supply the needed correction, not only for them, but for believers in all time, "till He come." If we divide the 1,300 years before us into two periods we shall better understand the methods of opposition given to the Book.

The first period would last from Apostolic days down to the time of Constantine the Great. These were the years of the great Pagan persecutions.

Church historians have usually divided these into ten, reasoning that the prophetic word in Rev. 2:10, "ye shall have tribulation ten days," foretells in a mystic way the long period of sufferings under the savage rulers of heathen Rome.

Different authorities give different dates for these persecutions, but the most common reckoning is as follows:
1 Under Nero, A.D. 64.
2 Under Domitian, A.D. 95.
3 Under Trajan, A.D. 107.
4 Under Hadrian, A.D. 125.
5 Under Marcus Aurelius, A.D. 165.
6 Under Septimus Severus, A.D. 202.
7 Under Maximinus, A.D. 235.
8 Under Decius, A.D. 249.
9 Under Valerian, A.D. 257.
10 Under Diocletian, A.D. 303.

But indeed the whole period of Early Christianity was one of persecution in some part of the Empire. The dates given above only indicate times of special outbreaks of the latent hatred shown to the followers of the Lord Jesus.

We find the beginning of this opposition in the Book of Acts. A few short weeks, or months at the most, after the Lord ascended to Heaven, we read of Stephen, the first martyr, being stoned to death. Saul, the persecutor, being, as he says himself, "exceedingly mad" against the believers, was making so close a search for them that he was entering into every house and committing men and women to prison and to death.

Ten years afterwards, Herod the King took up the work so dear to the hearts of the Jewish priests and "slew James the brother of John with the sword; and, when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to take Peter also" (Acts 12:3). But Peter's work was not finished, and Herod's chains were but cobwebs when they resisted God's purposes.

Space permits but a passing glance here and there as we hasten forwards.

Saul the persecutor was changed into Paul the Apostle, and by his ceaseless labours, ardent zeal, and tireless activity the Gospel had been preached in every quarter of the Roman Empire before his death, somewhere about the year A.D. 66.

At this time Rome was ruled by possibly the most wicked man this world has ever seen. Nero had murdered his brother, his sister, his two wives, and his mother. His hands were red with the blood of assassination and murder. His morals were such as we may not describe. To his many misdeeds he added the burning of Rome, and then laid the blame on the Christians.

And so began the first pagan persecution.

Now the Book and its followers are no longer confronted only by the Jewish priests in Palestine and elsewhere. They are face to face with the formidable power of the Roman Empire. So far, the imperial laws had been in their favour, impartially protecting those who were freemen from mob violence, as we see in Acts 18:12. But if there is "another King, one Jesus," Rome will take steps to protect herself by dooming to death all who confess His name. For to confess the name of Jesus was to be in the eyes of the authorities an enemy to Caesar. If they refused to worship Nero they were counted atheists. If the Alexandrian corn ships were delayed by contrary winds, the Christians were to blame. If it did not rain, or if it rained too much, it was they who had offended the gods. "If the Tiber overflowed its banks," says Tertullian, "or if the Nile did not, the cry was raised, 'The Christians to the lions.'" In addition to all this, the trade interests of the image makers, and all the craftsmen connected with the idol temples, were in danger if Christianity prevailed. Truly, it was no small undertaking to turn the ancient pagan Roman Empire "upside down," but Christianity did it. Not by force of arms was this accomplished, but by the power of the gospel of peace, and by the efforts of men and women who loved the Lord more than they loved their own lives. When the persecutors had done their worst, friends lovingly gathered the mangled bodies or scattered bones from the blood-stained sands of the arena, and conveyed them to those wonderful places of interment known as the Catacombs, which became, during the early days of Christianity, both the meeting places and the burying ground of the believers at Rome. It has been estimated that over three millions of graves exist in its vast galleries, whose intricate network of passages is believed to extend some 587 miles — a distance equal to the entire length of Italy.

We cannot trace in detail all the records of those early years. If we did, we should see exposed on the one hand the hatred of the human heart to the name of Jesus, and on the other we should be amazed at the numbers of men and women who fearlessly suffered and overcame all the cruelty that barbarous and savage persecutors could inflict. But if we look below the surface we shall see that the chief actor was Satan himself. After all, he has but two methods of opposition to the things of God. The one is violence. The other is corruption.

For the first 300 years he tried the first method, and stirred up his servants to exterminate the Book of God and the followers of Jesus. But the blood of the martyrs has ever been the Seed of the Church, and like Israel of old, the more they were afflicted the more they multiplied and grew.

So the 300 years of pagan persecution drag their leaden feet along the track of history. But we notice that the Christians are winning. All the tower of the Empire, backed by all the will of the rulers and supported by every effort of the governors in every province is unable to stamp out either the Book or the followers of the Book. On the other hand, the numbers of the believers are increasing so fast that Tertullian (A.D. 200) can challenge the oppressors by telling them, "We are but of yesterday and we have filled everything that is yours: cities, islands, castles, factories. . . . We have left you nothing but your temples."

Many standard-bearers fell in the battle front. If we may rely on history, all the Apostles but John died violent deaths. Ignatius, one of John's disciples, was brought from Antioch to Rome to be thrown to the lions to make a Roman holiday in the year A.D. 107. Justin Martyr, with six companions, was beheaded in A.D. 163. Polycarp, with eleven fellow-sufferers, was burned alive at Smyrna in A.D. 167.

The Emperor Marcus Aurelius, A.D. 161-180, has been much admired as a philosopher, but evidently he had not wisdom enough to see that, when he unjustly condemned to death men like Justin Martyr and Polycarp, he was destroying the noblest and most loyal of his subjects. In spite of his "philosophy," or because of it, he was one of the most cruel oppressors of the Early Church. Every year of his long reign was defiled with innocent blood. The Church at Lyons in France produced many faithful witnesses.

The old writer says, Then were we all much alarmed because of the uncertain event of confession, not that we dreaded the torments with which we were threatened, but because we looked forward unto the end and feared the danger of apostacy."

Attalus, Maturus, and Sanctus sustained "tortures which exceed the power of description." Blandina, a female slave girl, shared in their sufferings and triumphs. After a whole day of tortures too terrible to narrate, she could only be compelled to say, "I am a Christian and there is no evil done among us." She was scourged, seated in a red-hot iron chair, then, still alive, thrown to the beasts, and so she won the crown of life.

Under Septimus Severus (A.D. 193-211) the stern edict was issued against the Christians, "It is not lawful for you to live," and the military despot who had marched to the throne over the murdered bodies of his nearest friends was not likely to allow such a law to remain a dead letter.

From Lyons we must cross over to Carthage and listen to the touching words of the young and noble Perpetua, who with many others suffered at this time. "After a few days we were cast into prison. I was terrified, for I had never before been in such darkness. O miserable day! — from the heat of the crowded prisoners and the insults of the soldiers. But I was wrung with solicitude for my infant."

Later on in these affecting memoirs we read: "And the prison became to me like a palace, and I was happier there than anywhere else." "When the day of trial came," she proceeds, "we were placed at the bar, and my father came with my child, and said in a beseeching tone, 'Have compassion on your infant,' and the procurator said, 'Spare the grey hairs of your parent; spare your infant; offer sacrifice for the Emperor.' And I answered, I will not sacrifice.'

"'Art thou a Christian?' said he.

"I answered, 'I am a Christian.'"

Hung up in a net, she was exposed to wild beasts to amuse the populace, and, when gored and torn, a gladiator was sent to put her to death. He added to her sufferings by clumsily wounding her in the side, and she herself finally guided the sword to her throat, thereby setting her free from further suffering.

But it is in the closing years of the third century and the opening of the next that we see the most determined efforts put forth that ever were made to extinguish Christianity.

At this time the Roman world was divided under four Emperors — Diocletian, Maximian, Constantius, and Galerius. We must take a glimpse at these before passing on. Two men are sitting alone in secret serious conference in the palace of Nicomedia. One of them is the old Emperor Diocletian, the other is his son-in-law Galerius. The younger is urging his proposals with vehemence. The elder is listening with apparent reluctance to what might well be, even to him, a revolting proposal. Galerius is insisting that the whole Christian community should be put outside of the laws, and that all who will not worship the Roman gods shall be burned alive.

The winter of A.D. 302 was spent in frequent conferences. The prudent Diocletian proposing milder measures, Galerius urging on his scheme of fire and blood, until the old man finally gave away and allowed the storm to break.

"It was in the ninth year of Diocletian, in the month Xanticus, which one would call April, according to the Romans, about the time when the Paschal festival of our Saviour took place, that suddenly the Edicts were published — everywhere to raze the churches to the ground — to destroy the Sacred Scripture in the flames — to strip those that were in honour of their dignities — and to deprive freedmen of their liberty if any persisted in the Christian profession."

The first Edict ordered the Sacred Books to be everywhere destroyed and the churches to be demolished. By a second Edict all bishops and ministers of churches were cast into prison. Shortly afterwards a more fearful act came into force. Magistrates were empowered to compel by torture all their prisoners to renounce Christianity and worship idols. New and hitherto unheard of torments were to be invented for this purpose. It was thought that if the shepherds yielded their flocks would follow.

The next step was to extend this order so that it included every follower of Jesus, without distinction of rank, age, or sex. Multitudes were immediately imprisoned in every place, and the dungeons "formerly filled with criminals and murderers were now filled with bishops and presbyters, and deacons, readers and exorcists, so that there was no room left for the real criminals."

This dreadful persecution extended to nearly every city and town of the Roman world. Even far away Britain had its confessors and martyrs. In Gaul alone, where ruled Constantius Chlorus (father of Constantine the Great), was there any respite.

It is a pleasure to contrast the life of this man with his three compeers. Many Christians were found in his own household, and when the first Edict was issued he ordered all who would not retract to quit his service. Then, contrary to all expectations, he dismissed the apostates and reinstated all who had held true to their faith, remarking that men who were faithful to God would be true to their Prince. "Neither did he demolish the churches, nor devise any other mischief against us, but protected pious persons under him from harm. At length he enjoyed a most happy and blessed death, being the only one of the four Emperors] who at his death did peaceably and gloriously leave the government to his own son."

Constantius Chlorus died at York in A.D. 306. It would be impossible to arrive at any estimate of the numbers who perished during the ten years that this persecution lasted. In one province alone 150,000 are said to have been put to death. Some villages entirely Christian were surrounded by soldiers and totally consumed by fire. In some cities the executions reached one hundred daily. Magistrates vied with each other in inventing new and excruciating forms of torture; but all to no purpose: the Christians would rather give up their lives than give up the Book of God.

Wearied at last with murder, the authorities authorised a more "humane" policy. Maiming was resorted to: many had their right hands cut off, and yet others one of their legs. But we must complete this sad story in the words of the old historian and eyewitness, who says: "To mention each name would be a long and tedious work, not to say impossible."

The enemy had launched his master stroke and failed. God, who overrules all things, now laid His hand on the savage monster of cruelty, who so far had appeared to have all things his own way. "Galerius was smitten of God," Eusebius says, and some of his physicians, because they could not give him relief, were "slain without mercy."

"Then, struggling with so many miseries, he began to have compunction for the crimes he had committed against the pious . . . First of all he confessed his sin to the supreme God . . . then ordered that without delay they should stop the persecutions and hasten to rebuild the churches . . . and offer up prayers for the Emperor's safety."

The Christians might well hail this new Edict like a trump of liberty. It struck the fetters from those in the dungeons. It released the captives from the mines. Those still hiding in the dismal Catacombs were able once again to appear in the light of day, but above all, it was no longer death to be found reading the Book.

But God is not mocked. Galerius died. Died as only few men in this world have died. It had to be said of him, as of Herod of old (Acts 12:23), "He was eaten of worms and gave up the ghost." History records the same fate of Antiochus Epiphanes, Herod the Great, Philip II. of Spain, and Lauderdale of the killing times in Scotland — all opposers of God and oppressors of His people.

Meantime Constantine was marching from far distant Britain. Slowly but surely his iron legions were closing in on the heart of the Empire. From Milan he issued the great decree of universal toleration. "We give," said he, "to the Christians, and to all, the free choice to follow whatever mode of worship they wish." Maxentius (son of Maximian), now ruler of Italy, was defeated at Turin, then again at Verona, and finally at the battle of Milvian Bridge near Rome, A.D. 312. Fleeing from the stricken field, the last of the oppressors, endeavouring to force his way across the crowded bridge, fell into the river and was smothered in Tiber mud. Next day Constantine entered Rome and became sole Emperor of the West. His brother-in-law, Licinius, was ruler of the East. With the supremacy of these two men, though both were pagans, pagan persecution ceased. Satan had endeavoured in vain to burn the Book. We shall see in our next chapter how he tried to banish it, and we shall see that he failed in this also.

Chapter 12.

The Rise of the Papacy

We have reached a period in history when we might expect that the fortunes of the Book and the followers of the Book would enter upon a time of peace and prosperity. The reign of Constantine certainly forms a remarkable era in the history of the world. In matters both political and social there was a great advance on what had gone before. But the same cannot be said of that which concerns the Church. We have now reached the time spoken of by the Lord Jesus in Matt. 13:32, when the "grain of mustard seed" had become "a tree," with the "birds of the air" lodging in its branches. Evil men, who before had "crept in unawares," now found that the professing Church was the best place for earthly preferment. The company of believers at Rome soon ceased to be known as "the Church in Rome," and became "the Church of Rome." Two little words, but how great the difference in meaning. The Christian religion was legalised, and became a State-aided institution, as paganism had been before it.

This period saw also a marked distinction among the Christians themselves. In Apostolic days all believers were looked upon as God's Kleros (clergy or lot, 1 Peter 5:2). Now sharp and very distinctive lines were drawn between the "clergy" and the "laity" (the people). Next the "clergy" began to be divided among themselves into ranks of greater or lesser precedence. Deacons considered themselves greater than readers; presbyters considered themselves greater than deacons; bishops assumed authority over presbyters, and soon there was a strife among bishops themselves as to "who should he the greatest." This unscriptural supremacy was sought for, assumed, and finally asserted by the Bishop of Rome. The finished product was the "popes," and everything that bishops should not be they have been. All alike would seem to have forgotten the divine word, "One is your Master even Christ and all ye are brethren" (Matt. 23:8). Instead of seeking in love to serve one another, they soon began to "beat" and abuse their fellow-servants and "eat and drink with the drunken" (Matt. 24:49). Not only so, but so great became their pride and assumption that they impiously declared that all who would not bow to the rule of Rome were on the sure road to hell. Outside of the Roman Church there is no Salvation. And such folly and impiety is still taught among the sect of the Roman Catholics to-day. It is folly, because the Apostles were "outside of the Roman Church." It is impiety, because it transfers the way of Salvation from the Lord Jesus, the alone Saviour of Sinners, to a perverted sect calling itself Christian, but which has both in its history and doctrines manifested everything that is unchristian and of the world.

At this period, too, the bones and relics of the martyrs became articles of great importance and high mercantile value. Not only so, but in a most remarkable way the supply was always equal to the demand. Peter's chains multiplied as fast as credulity could purchase, and blacksmiths have been making chains for Peter ever since. Even Joseph's "latest breath" received in Nicodemus's glove could be had for a consideration.

In all this we see that the Prince of Darkness was beginning to build up a new system of opposition to the truth out of the debris of his former cruelties. From pagan persecution came papal superstition. Thus the Church gave up entirely the truth of the "heavenly calling" and adopted all the principles of the world. Even the cruelties she had suffered in the early days she, in turn, inflicted in the Middle Ages on all who truly witnessed for Christ.

Constantine now began to fashion the Church after the pattern of the State. The "priests" were made princes of the Church. (Alas! the Church had forgotten that all believers are priests.) They wore splendid robes similar to the Emperor's. Now, also, we read of them sitting upon "Episcopal thrones" and wearing "mitres." Half-pagan and half-Jewish millinery also began to play some part, for we get a glimpse of "sacred gowns" and other trumpery ill-suited for men who were "not of the world." The bishopric became an office of dignity and influence, and, in the natural course of things, only palaces could be suitable accommodation for such magnificence. These followed next.

Thus the men who had been the mark for Satan's keenest shafts now found themselves patronised by the Emperor and fawned upon by the world. The Church had given up its heavenly calling. We have difficulty in recognising these men as followers of the meek and lowly Jesus, who had to say when on earth, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Matt. 8:20). In the first century the Church turned the world upside down; now the world had turned the Church upside down.

From this time the Church rapidly fell away from Apostolic teaching and practice, and the results were manifest to all when the Christians began to quarrel among themselves. From quarrelling they came to fighting, and as usual the victors persecuted the vanquished.

Constantine called himself the bishop of the bishops, and in order to settle their differences summoned the first Great Council to meet at Nicea. It is said that a "golden altar" was erected in the centre of the hall, and the Book, which for 30o years had been the object of the world's fiercest enmity, placed upon it. Constantine also ordered fifty copies to be specially bound and sent to the principal Christian assemblies. Three hundred and eighteen bishops met on this occasion, and men who, a few short years before, had lived in danger of their lives found themselves now treated as guests and friends of the Emperor. Many of these men bore in their bodies the marks of the sufferings they had endured. Some were twisted out of human shape, their bones had been broken by torture and badly set afterwards. Some could not sit erect, the muscles of their sides and shoulders all drawn together after having been seared with hot irons. Others walked lame, with legs and sinews torn and burnt. When they were all invited to the splendid banquet given them by Constantine, they must have gone greatly wondering.

One result of this Council was that Christendom, for the first time in its history, found itself in the possession of a Creed. But however Scriptural this may be, we are better with the words of the Book itself than with any definitions therefrom made by men.

Another thing we must notice here before we leave. The Emperor had been besieged with petitions from all the discordant parties accusing each other. Before the debate began he called for a brazier and, declaring he would not read one of them, cast them all into the fire, adding, "It is the command of Christ that he who would be forgiven must first forgive his brother."

The years that lie before us are rapidly shading down to the Dark Ages. Dark deeds took place in the Emperor's own family, which finally led Constantine to transfer the seat of Empire to his new city on the Bosphorus, which, through the munificence of the Emperor, soon became greater and more populous than Rome itself.

The departure of the Emperor saw the arrival of the "pope." The bishops of Rome from this time began to seek a place of power and influence both in things spiritual and in things temporal. When the break-up of the Western Empire took place about one hundred years later, they aspired to become earthly princes and rule over this world, forgetting alike both the words and the spirit of Him who said, "My Kingdom is not of this world."

But amid all these dark clouds there were in many places silver linings; and instead of dwelling longer on the evils that everywhere abounded, we shall look at a young man who lived in Constantinople somewhere between the years A.D. 335 and 345. He was a Goth from the region of the Danube who had come to Rome as a hostage, and while there he had been converted. He conceived the purpose of preaching the Gospel among his heathen countrymen, and to this end very wisely decided to begin by giving them a translation of the Book. But as their native language had not yet been reduced to writing, he had to form an alphabet as well as make a translation of the Scriptures. Both of these things he accomplished with great success, and a MS. of this version, written in silver letters on purple vellum, is preserved at Upsala in Sweden.

Ulphilus is known as the "Apostle of the Goths." He laboured among them with much success for nearly forty years.

Another devoted servant was Severinus, the "Apostle of Noricum." He travelled through the district barefooted, "fasting and praying, and calling upon men to repent."

Prisoners of war in those days met a hard fate. If not massacred on the field of battle, they were condemned to the harshest form of slavery. Severinus interceded with King Flethus and the barbarian chiefs in their favour, collected money, redeemed many, and sent them to their homes — enriched himself by their gratitude and blessings.

When the old man lay dying he sent for the King and Queen. Gisa, the Queen, was a wicked woman, who had been harsh to the captives and severe in the terms of their redemption. Stretching out his hand to her, he said, "Which lovest thou best, O Queen, thy husband, or gold and silver?"

"I love my husband better than all treasure," she replied.

"Beware, then," said the dying man, "of oppressing the innocent, lest their oppressions bring your destruction. Abstain from evil deeds and adorn your life with good works."

When his royal visitors had departed, he asked his attendants to sing Psalm 150. He feebly joined with them in the closing verse, and with the words on his lips, "Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord," he passed home to his reward.

We may pass over in a few words the reputed "conversion" of Clovis, King of the Franks, in A.D. 496. The Bishop of Rheims was a different type of man from the Apostle of Noricum. What he looked for was change of profession; change of life and nature might, or might not, follow. That they did not is shown by the complaint of his neighbour, the King of Burgundy, who said of Clovis, "A cruel and covetous mind is not the symptom of a sincere conversion; let him show his faith by his works." Already a "Cathedral Church" had been erected at Rheims. We read of "costly tapestries," "sweet strains of music," "wafted perfumes," and "numberless candles."

When the barbarian King, about to be baptized, entered the large building, he asked in an awestruck whisper, "Is this the kingdom of heaven?" We are inclined to question the truth of the bishop's reply when he answered, "No, but it is the way to it." Rome was too anxious to number a king among her vassals to make the gate either strait or narrow. Clovis was baptized and became "The Eldest Son of the Church." His warlike Franks, nothing loth, changed their religion to please their master.

We notice this here only to show that Roman missionary methods now aimed only at conversion en bloc. When a king or chief was "converted" by these methods, his followers had to obey or be put to the sword. This, we know, was far from the Apostolic method, but the Christianity of the sixth century was very different from the Christianity of the first. In many cases it was merely paganism with new titles. The methods of the Book were no longer followed. We may notice here that so far it had not been forbidden, it had only been forgotten. The neglect of the Book, however, was the secret of all the errors, both in doctrine and in practice, we have been noticing.

But God has ever had in this world a testimony to His Name and His truth. This we must now seek for outside the Roman Church. Or shall we say Rome was careful to try to extinguish that testimony in fire and blood as soon as she discovered it.

We now take a long step forward in history, and find ourselves in the year 1172 or thereby. Much has taken place in the interval, and Rome now has become, in type at least, "that great city which ruleth over the kings of the earth." Not only the King of the Franks, but all the Kings of Europe, Russia alone excepted, have bowed their necks to her yoke. She is now at the height of her power and pride and glory outwardly. Morally she is at the lowest depth of vice and degradation and infamy.

We are in the sunny south of France, and when things can be no darker, God is about to kindle a light that all the power and cruelty of the Pope will not be able to completely extinguish.

A rich merchant of Lyons has been truly converted, and by the study of Scripture he has conceived the desire to bring back the Church to the teaching and practice of the days of the Apostles.

His first thought, like that of every true Evangelist, was that the people should read the Book for themselves. At that time the only version of the Bible in Western Europe was Jerome's Latin Vulgate, but Latin was now a dead language, and even the priests, who by this time were alone expected to possess it, were ignorant of the truths it contained. So Peter Waldo succeeded in making a translation into what was called the "Romaunt" tongue. He then gave his money and goods to the poor, and not only began to preach the Gospel himself, but collected round him other helpers like-minded to assist. Just as those who helped our English Reformers were called "Wycliffe's Poor Priests," so Waldo's assistants came to he known as the "Poor Men of Lyons."

Soon Waldo's Testament spread widely through the Waldensian valleys, but as copies had to be written out by hand, and were thus expensive to produce, the young people were taught to commit large portions to memory so as to be able to repeat them in their assemblies when there was no Bible present. Many could repeat complete Gospels without an error. We wonder if even one out of the many readers of this book could do so!

These men hoped to reform the Church, and reform was long overdue. Pride and luxury marked the higher clergy; ignorance and sensuality characterised the lower. But reform was the last thing in the mind of the Pope. He sent instead a company of friars to find out the state of affairs, and take note of who should be burned when opportunity came.

Now for the first time we come across this dread word — Inquisition. It speaks of torture and tears, of suffering and blood. Inside its dark chambers of hellish cruelty we get glimpses of men wholly given over to the devil, and left free to work out their diabolical delights on the sensitive bodies of men and women by inflicting the most acute and protracted forms of suffering that Satan himself could inspire.

But the result of the Inquisition made by Dominic and his fellow-friars was that a "holy war" was preached against the Waldenses. Rewards, both temporal and spiritual, were offered to the ruffian crowd to induce them to join the Pope's army. They were told that the men, women, and children they were called upon to slay were "accursed of God and the Church" — that to shed their blood was to wash away their own sins. The Pope pledged his word that at the moment of death the angels would be in attendance to carry them to Paradise. And for all this they had only to serve a campaign of forty days. Truly the Pope made Paradise cheap. Such were the blasphemous teachings and the bloodthirsty instructions of that which professed to be the Church of Jesus Christ. But enough — here we see Romanism undisguised, Satan's agent and counterfeit of true Christianity.

At last the ruffian army marched. The three divisions were led, one by the Arch- bishop of Bordeaux, one by the Abbot of Citeaux, and the third by the Bishop of Puy. And these Churchmen were more keen for blood than even their rascal followers. The city of Beziers was their first objective. Inside its walls many had fled for refuge. The gates were forced and the city was taken. The Abbot, instead of showing mercy as we might have expected, urged on the work of death. "Kill all," he cried, "the Lord will find out His own." Seven thousand of the women and children fled to the churches. Seven thousand dead corpses lay there at night. Fired in various places, the once flourishing city became a vast funeral pile. Not one house was left standing, not one human soul left alive. Sixty thousand human beings had perished. Mohammed himself never perpetrated deeds such as these. He offered "death or the Koran." Rome's cry was "death" without option.

There is a day coming when the Archbishop, the Abbot, and the Bishop will stand before the Judge of all the Earth, and when "He makes inquisition for blood," the blood of Beziers will not be forgotten.

And so the work of extermination began, and continued in the various Alpine valleys for nearly five hundred years.

We have selected one example out of many, and that not one of the worst. The record of the sufferings and tortures inflicted on the Waldensian Christians was of such a nature that the details may not be printed in the English language. And these things were done with the full approbation of the Romish Church. The leaders were honoured, the rank and file were rewarded. And these deeds have the approval of the Roman Church to-day, for Rome never changes. What she has done in the past she would do again did opportunity offer and her policy require it. Whatever Rome may profess, we do well to remember what Rome is.

But Peter Waldo in translating the New Testament had done a work mighty in its results. The thirteenth century saw but the faint shimmering of the dawn. The fourteenth was destined, in the good providence of God, to see the Book translated into the language of a people that would ultimately carry its message of life and peace, pure and unadulterated, to the utmost ends of the earth.

In the fourteenth century, as we have already seen, was born John Wycliffe. In the fourteenth century, for the first time in their history, the people of England had the Book of God in their own language.

Chapter 13.

Christianity in Early Britain

Romanism in England was not indigenous. It was, if we may say so, an imported religion. Many, if not all, of its dogmas were foreign to the native mind. Compulsion is the first thing Rome has to offer, and it is the last thing to which a Briton is willing to submit. Our country, though apparently under the sway of the Pope from the seventh to the sixteenth century, yet produced many men who refused his supremacy and spurned his teaching.

The true light had reached Britain long before Augustine and his forty monks landed in A.D. 597.

Let us go back to the beginning of the two thousand years of our island's authenticated history. We have no reason to be ashamed of the men who then inhabited Britain and became the foundation strata of a strong and virile race.

The earliest Roman invader, with his "twelve thousand warriors," was so roughly handled that he had to hie him to his ships before the first wild winds of winter and flee to safer quarters. Learning wisdom by experience, Caesar next year appeared with "thirty thousand infantry and two thousand cavalry, conveyed in eight hundred transports." The size of his new armament was a tribute to the courage of the islanders he was striving in vain to subdue.

The danger was great, but, as ever in our island history, with the hour came the man. Looking back over the years, Cassivellaunus is to us now but a name. Emerging out of the darkness on the one side, we see him striking his many bold blows at the haughty Roman, and then he disappears into the darkness again. We know little of the social life of the period, and less of the religious, save that Druidism, with its Egyptian lore, its stern doctrines, its gloomy rites, and its blood-stained altars, held sway over the minds of men. So far, the glorious Gospel of Peace was unknown.

Another hundred years, and again we see through the mists of time another hero letting loose the British lion against the Roman eagles. But Caractacus's nine years' struggle ends in disaster, and we sadly watch the fettered chief, "with his weeping wife and children," transported as captives to Rome. Step by step the natives are forced back. The last refuge of the Druids in Anglesey is invaded, and the heathen worship is extinguished in fire and blood. The "sacrifice to devils" (1 Cor. 10:20) is coming to an end. The knowledge of the True God will soon find entrance, and to men who have lived in darkness and the shadow of death, the light of life is about to arise. But that, though soon to be, was not just yet. Another startling figure now emerges. Stung to hatred and madness by insult and suffering, the "British Warrior Queen" once again arouses the spirits of this fighting race. Fear and terror marched before: carnage and death accompanied her, and 70,000 Romans lay dead in and around London as the result of that stern campaign. But with a pertinacity worthy of a better cause, Suetonius again gathers his scattered legions, and after the next clash of arms, Boadicea, at the close of a lost battle, perishes by her own hand. And so passes another leader worthy to be remembered — noble men and women all.

But we come now to what interests us more than warfare or battles. We catch glimpses, for the first time, of some of those noble Britons who proudly refused to bow to imperial Rome, and see them now bowing in faith and worship at the name of the Lord Jesus. What missionary company first found their way to our shores? Did they bring the Book? Neither question can be answered, but it is almost certain that Roman Christians would follow Roman conquest. Indeed, many soldiers in the imperial armies were believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Another thing we know is that books at this time were comparatively cheap. Bookselling in the first century was a flourishing trade, and Rome then was to literary men what Athens had been before, or what London or Edinburgh is to-day. Publishers employed a staff of girls to copy out, in neat characters, the works of their clients, and so expeditiously was this done that a book of over 200 verses could be sold for about one penny. In later years, as the power of the Empire declined, learning was neglected, and ultimately found a home in the monasteries, where pious men, fleeing — mistakenly perhaps — from the evils of the world, spent their time in copying the Scriptures. Much evil sprang from the monastic system of the Early Church. This is one of the good things: let us not overlook it. It has been estimated that at the close of the second century there would be three millions of Christians and some 60,000 copies of the Scriptures. We may well conclude, then, that the early Christians in Britain were possessed of many copies of the Gospels in the original language, for Greek was still the literary language of the day.

After the coming of the Romans, the next important event in our island history was their departure. Paganism in the Empire came to an end, as we have seen, early in the fourth century. Thus British Christians were free to carry the Gospel to the Picts and Scots in the North, which we know they did. And well it was so, for here the light continued to shine when it had been almost extinguished in the South.

Ninian, who built the first church in Scotland, was born about 360. He laboured in Strathclyde. Then we read of one "Calpurnius, a deacon of the church at Bonavern," near Glasgow. To him was born about 372 a son named Succat. His mother's name was Conchessa, and she must have been a very superior woman, to judge by her son's career. When only sixteen years of age, young Succat, while playing on the shore, was captured by pirates, carried to Ireland and sold as a slave. Here the lessons of his Christian home came back to his mind and led him to faith in Christ. Succat was converted. Some years afterwards he escaped and rejoined his family. But the desire now filled his heart to return to Ireland and preach the Gospel. He did so, and his labours were greatly blessed. From Scotland Ireland first received the Gospel. Two hundred years later Scotland was to receive in return a missionary who did much, not only for Scotland, but for other parts of Europe as well. Columba reached Iona in 563.

But before we notice the labours of Columba, we must look at other and less welcome visitors who landed in the South in 449. The departure of the Romans left the nation to struggle unaided against their ancient foes, the Picts of the North and the Scots from Ireland. In an evil moment for his race, Vortigern, the British King, sought help from the Saxon rovers, Hengist and Horsa. With them landed at Ebbsfleet another conqueror, with flaxen hair and blue eyes, and never a shield or spear. But the fair Rowena soon had the British ruler at her feet. The heathen bride was married to the Christian King, who from love for a fair face plunged his kingdom into misery. This much of good we may trace in her tragic story: that through all his troubled life she was true to her husband. And whether her friends or his friends were losers in the many fights, hers was ever the sorrow, for she had relations in both camps. At last she perished with him in the flames that destroyed the fortress in which they had taken refuge after his last lost battle. Poor Rowena! Did she continue to cling to the worship of her father's war gods, or did she open her heart to the sweet influence of the love of Christ? Who shall say. Anyway, in that little Welsh fortress, firmly facing the greedy flames thirsting for her life, beside the husband of her youth, Rowena bravely met her doom.

And so the wild welter of war went on for some sixty years, until nearly every vestige of Christianity had been swept from the land. For it was against Christianity that the rage of the heathen Saxons most fiercely burned. They destroyed the churches, or turned them into idol temples. They slew the clergy. Above all, they burned the Scriptures wherever found, for as of old the Book was the object of men's fiercest hate. The powers of darkness were putting forth another effort to retain the land under the sway of the Prince of Darkness. It reminds us of the tenth persecution, only acted upon a smaller field, but with even more effective results.

But just as Diocletian failed, so failed the present reaction in Britain. By many and various agents God continues to work out His purposes of grace, and these go ever forward until the day comes when angelic hosts will chant the song of final victory. "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever (Rev. 11:15).

Chapter 14.

The First English Bible

We shall not trouble to trace how the many companies of Saxon invaders quarrelled and fiercely fought among themselves, shaping out the various kingdoms of the Saxon Heptarchy. Let us look rather for the brave men who were willing to risk everything in the endeavour to relight the lamp of truth in eastern Britain.

As we have seen, Columba formed a Christian community at Iona in 563. From this centre Evangelists went forth all over the north of Europe. Burgundy, France, and Switzerland were reached by these earnest men. The islands of Orkney, Shetland, and Faroe were not neglected, and we read that even Iceland was visited, though we may well doubt if their frail boats could possibly navigate such dangerous waters.

Kentigern was labouring meantime in Cumberland. Had he received more support from the Iona brethren, England might have been saved from the Romish invasion. Columba died in 597: in 597 Augustine landed in Kent. Here begins the Italian mission: it is going on still.

But much of the apparent success of the sixth century has to be greatly discounted if we are to arrive at a true estimate of its real worth, as we shall see later.

Kent was chosen for a landing-place because here reigned the Christian Queen Bertha, with her pagan husband Ethelbert.

Royal ladies fill a large place in life, and just as Rowena, unintentionally perhaps, had brought evil, so Bertha brought good. In the first place she induced the King to receive the missionaries kindly. Next year he professed to be converted, and 10,000 of his people followed. If we are to believe Augustine's report, all were baptized in one day. We hear nothing, alas! of the vital essentials of repentance towards God and faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ. The 3,000 converted on the Day of Pentecost were pricked in their heart and said, "What shall we do?"

Augustine then "converted" the temples by washing them with "holy water," and instead of heathen idols he substituted popish idols, with relics of the saints. Soon, alas! the savage worshippers of Odin saw little difference between the old religion and the new.

We read of one, King Redwald, who had been baptized, but who had "an altar to Christ, and another on which he immolated victims to the devil."

Pope Gregory was overjoyed at the success of the mission. He made Augustine an Archbishop, and wrote to him: "All the bishops of Britain we comit to your charge, that the unlearned may be instructed, the weak be strengthened, and the perverse be corrected by your authority."

But the British churches refused the authority of the monk, and very rightly said: "We will have no master but Christ." Conferences were arranged at which the proud Archbishop, "seated upon his throne," tried to bring them to subjection without success. Losing patience, it seems, in face of their devotedness, he threatened that if they would not receive the papal agents as friends they would find them to be enemies.

Augustine died. Ethelbert died. The good Queen Bertha died. Eanbald succeeded to the throne. Soon the priests quarrelled with the new King. Then the King went back to his heathen rites, "and a great portion of his subjects changed their religion with him." The "success" of the Romish mission had been more apparent than real. It is one thing to profess a religion it is quite another to see ourselves as lost sinners needing a Saviour. In the kingdom of Essex the same events took place, and the priests had to flee. Then King Eanbald "became a Christian again." Let us hope that this time it was more than mere profession. Anyway, he hurled down his heathen idols and pagan altars; he forbade sacrifices to Odin, and invited the priests from Essex to take refuge in his kingdom. Very right, too, were the scruples he urged when the young King Edwine of Northumbria sent to demand his sister in marriage "It is wrong," said he, "for a Christian maiden to become the wife of a pagan husband; of one who would neither share with her in the holy sacrament nor kneel down with her to worship the same holy God."

The Scriptures say, "Be not unequally yoked together," and this erstwhile pagan King had learned the lesson yet to be learned by many today who profess to call Jesus, Lord.

King Edwine, however, solemnly promised to give every freedom, both to his young bride and to all the Christians who might come with her. So, like her mother before, the royal lady set forth to sojourn among strangers. Like her mother, also, her influence was for good in the end.

Queen Edilburga listened to the preaching of the Bishop Paulinus who had accompanied her, and her gentle spirit was strengthened by the truth of the Gospel. To Edwine the stormy halls of Odin were, as yet, more congenial than the grace and peace of Christ. When his little daughter was born he "gave solemn thanks to Odin," but he also allowed her to "be baptized as a Christian."

We see in King Edwine a true-hearted man in dark days seeking after light. He next called a conference of his ealdormen and pagan priests to discuss the new religion. We must pause a moment here and listen to their interesting conversation. Coifu, the chief priest, spoke first, and spoke well.

"Not one of your whole Court, O King," said he, "has been more attentive to the worship of your gods than I myself, although many have received richer benefits and prospered more than I have done. Now, if these gods had been of any real use, would they not have assisted me? And in the new preaching, I freely confess, I seem to find the truth I sought, for it promises us the gifts of life, salvation, and eternal bliss."

Coifu sits down, and no one seems able to refute his able argument. We look into the dark faces of the priests of Odin and the stern countenances of the Saxon warriors gathered round their King to see who will rise next. An aged councillor, with a faraway look in his eyes, makes answer: "The soul of man, O King, is like a sparrow which, in a dark and dreary night, passes for a moment through the door of your hall. Entering, it is surrounded by light and warmth and is safe from the wintry storm. But after a short spell of brightness and quiet, it flies out through another door into the dark from whence it came. Such, O King, is the life of man: for a moment it is visible, but what was before or what comes after we know not. If this new religion can tell us anything about these mysteries, by all means let us follow it."

After this they went to Godmundham (the house of gods), destroyed the idols, and levelled the buildings with the ground.

We trust Paulinus was able to teach them clearly about the life and immortality brought to light through the Gospel, and we are sure that both he and his fellow-labourers were faithful to the truth they knew, or else they could never have made the good impression they did among the fierce idol worshippers of Saxon England. Edwine used his powerful influence to support the missionary efforts in various directions, and extend his own power as well, for it seems he had ambitious dreams. His rule reached to the sea on the west, and extended north as far as Edwinsburgh, where "he built for himself a great castle on the rock," and there it is until this day. So he went on and prospered.

But Edwine's greatness came to a sad end. The fierce pagan King Penda of Mercia, "a man who could no more live without fighting than he could without food," came against him with a great army, and Edwine was slain. On that dark battlefield he laid him down to sleep the sleep no dreams disturb, and men began again to think that the "new religion," which taught peace and goodwill, was not good enough for kings.

And so nearly all the land became pagan as before. The gentle Edilburga, with her children, fled to Kent, and Paulinus fled with her. Her brother received her kindly and sorrowfully, and she afterwards retired to a convent. Such was the ending to a lifetime of dramatic events. As a little girl, forty years before, she had no doubt learned the Gospel at her mother's knee. Then she had seen the strange procession of monks that visited her father's Court. She had looked with childish awe and wonder on the figure of the Redeemer exhibited on the missionaries' banners. She had seen her father throw down his blood-stained altars at the call of the true faith, and had witnessed the same experience in her husband's history.

But all the good work had not come to an end. We read much in the Book of Acts about the influence of devout women, and we find many similar cases in Saxon history. Edwine's little girl, who had been "baptized as a Christian," grew up to be the wife of another Christian King of Northumbria, and Queen Eanflaed, like her mother and grand-mother before her, used her influence in a right way.

But meantime one King after another stepped on to Edwine's vacant throne. We seem to see mere phantoms lifting a crown on to their brows, only to be hurled down in a moment, and they themselves passing to an untimely grave. But what we are most interested in is the sad fact that during these civil commotions it seemed as if a wet sponge had been drawn across the face of the land and had wiped Christianity entirely out of Northumbria. "It was a time that was hateful to all good men."

But when heathenism seemed about to close in once more, a young heir to the throne appeared in the person of Oswald, the "Saint King," who had been an exile in Iona. Oswald set himself to recover his people to the faith of the Gospel. The Latin missionaries had fled from the land when Edwine was slain. Oswald, therefore, turned to Iona, and from Iona came the man who has been called the "Apostle of England," St Aidan. For the eight years of Oswald's reign these two men, with their fellow-helpers, worked nobly together. No sanction from Rome was asked for. They had learned the Gospel of Christ, and in His Name they went forth to proclaim it. The King often acted as interpreter to the missionary until Aidan acquired the language.

Aidan's headquarters were at Lindisfarne, a short distance from Bamborough, the royal residence. Here a school was established, and young men trained for the mission field.

But the heathen King Penda was again on the march, and after eight short years all Oswald's good work had to be laid down. But the javelin that transfixed him on his last fatal field did not overthrow the work so well done during his life.

Oswy, his younger brother, came to the throne, and once again the old heathen King appeared. Oswy retreated as far north as the Firth of Forth, and offered large gifts. But Penda declared that he came to make an end of Oswy and not to take tribute. In the battle which followed, the last champion of the heathen gods fell on the field, and with the death of Penda the most powerful opponent of Christianity passed from the scene. Never again did the land revert to the heathenism introduced by the Anglo-Saxons.

Two other events we must notice about this time, and then we shall cease to follow the fortunes of the followers of the Book and come back to the Book itself.

The first of these events introduces us to another devout woman of the period. The Abbess Hilda was of the royal house of Edwine, who was her grand-uncle. She had been baptized when a girl of thirteen, and was one of the educated women of the time who gave themselves and their possessions to the cause of the Gospel. With the help of Aidan she had founded a monastery and school at Whitby, and from it many missionaries went forth not only through Northumbria but as far south as Essex. Here lived Caedmon, who has been called the father of English poetry. His verse had this recommendation, that it put the words of Scripture in simple language before the people. Here is a sample.


"Go thou, with utmost haste, Abraham, journeying set thy steps, and with thee lead thine own child. Thou shalt Isaac to me sacrifice, thy son, thyself as an offering, after thou mountest the steep downs (the ring of the high land which I from hence will show thee) up with thine own feet: there thou shalt prepare a pile, a bale-fire for thy child, and thyself sacrifice thy son, with the sword's edge, and then with swart flame burn the beloved's body, and offer it to me as a gift."

Soon the controversy between the Romish mission and the Evangelicals became acute. It was no longer merely the time of keeping Easter or the shape of the tonsure that was at issue. What Rome demanded now was subjection to the fiction of the "Supremacy of Peter," or in other words, to the authority of the Pope, apostolic succession, and the adoption of all her other rites and ceremonies.

So King Oswy summoned the famous "Synod of Whitby" in 664 to settle their differences. Colman of Lindisfarne, successor to Aidan, with Hilda and others, supported the cause of the Gospel. They held that every Christian ought to be a preacher according to his ability. The Romish doctors declared that Peter was the "prince of the Apostles," that all authority must come from him, and that to him all must submit. We have met this word — submit — before. It is Rome's only argument. Now King Oswy had married the "little girl who had been baptized as a Christian," and, unfortunately, Queen Eanflaed was in the Roman interest. She persuaded her husband to submit. He submitted and declared himself on the side of the Pope. Colman and the others refused. Leaving their all in Lindisfarne they went back to Scotland, and the "Romans" took possession.

We may sum up in a few words the results of the last hundred years by saying that Scottish missionaries Christianised England. Augustine and his followers Romanised it.

We come now to the second event we purposed to notice, and that is the birth of Baeda, or the Venerable Bede, as he came to be called later in life. And this brings us back to the Book, for Bede was the first who endeavoured to translate a portion of Scripture into the native tongue. He had spent his life in the monastery of Jarrow, and was one of the most accomplished men of the age. Six hundred scholars attended his lectures, and his last days were occupied in translating the Gospel of John. Some say he died when he had reached the ninth verse of chapter six, others that he completed the book; then, with the words "Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost" on his lips, passed to his rest. Anyhow, we know that he was the first Englishman who really set himself to this good work.

Let us now, in a single step, pass to the year 848, when Alfred the Great was born. In him we again find a man fitted for the great work that lay before him. Just as the heathen Anglo-Saxons in the fifth century swept away nearly every vestige of Christianity, so the Danish Invasion seemed to threaten a like result in the ninth. It was the last effort of the Prince of Darkness to heathenise England and it failed. Everywhere the Scriptures were destroyed. Great monasteries, such as Croyland and Peterborough, with all their books, treasures, and manuscripts, were given to the flames, while hundreds of priests were massacred in cold blood. But Alfred contended unflinchingly and successfully with all his foes. He not only delivered his kingdom from foreign invasion, but he set himself to rule his subjects in the fear of God. Not content with having learned men among the clergy, he endeavoured to teach the people also to read, and many of the nobles, encouraged by his example, were to be seen conning their alphabet. He founded schools, both for English and Latin, and books of various kinds were translated into the language of the people. But valuable as all these things were, we may well conclude that his greatest work was the translation of some parts of the Bible. He is said to have died while engaged on an English version of the Psalms.

Let us now pass on to the year 1324. Many things have taken place in that long interval. One of these things has been the steadily rising power of the popes, who were seeking to bring all the nations of Europe under their sway, and drain the wealth of the people into the coffers of the Church. Another has been the Norman Conquest, and with it has come a race of Kings who offered unvarying opposition to papal encroachments. When Gregory VII. wrote to Norman William to "do him fealty" for the realm of England, the King replied, "Fealty I have never willed to do to thee, neither do I will to do it now." It required a strong man to speak thus to the greatest of the popes, but William was strong. The people of England, too, were beginning to resent the frequent visits of Roman tax-gatherers. One such was told, "If you stay three days longer, you and your company shall be cut to pieces." A papal legate was hunted out of Oxford amid cries of "Usurer" and "Simoniac." "Where is the gaper for money who enriches foreigners with our spoils?"

And so legate Otho "is fain to put off his official robes and escape in the night as best he may." An anti-Roman spirit was rising in the nation, and even bishops of the Church, such as Robert Grosseteste, were among the leaders. When two friars came from Rome to demand from him 6,000 merks, he refused to accede to their extortionate demands. In the end the Pope excommunicated the bishop, and the bishop excommunicated the Pope. Then the bishop appealed from the tribunal of the Pope to the tribunal of Christ. "After which he troubled himself no more about the matter, but died quietly in his bed."

Such a man was no unworthy forerunner to John Wycliffe, who may well be called the "Morning Star of the Reformation." Seventy years after Grosseteste died, Wycliffe was born. To him belongs the honour of producing the first complete translation of the Bible into our language. To Rome belongs the shame of ordering — after that noble work was issued — that "all who read the Scriptures in their mother tongue shall forfeit lands, cattle, life, and goods from their heirs forever." Rome's vengeance stayed not even at death. She dared to prejudge the cause of her victims and consign their souls to Satan.

And now we reach the time when we can look into the quiet little study at Lutterworth and see Wycliffe and his helpers busy in penning the Words of Life in language understandable by the people. Busy and willing must have been the many hands at work, for it requires sixty hours even to read through the Bible. How many it would take to write it we do not know. Earnest and faithful, too, must have been these helpers, for Rome was determined the people should not read the Book, and soon was coming that dreadful statute condemning men and women to the flames for daring to read the Word of God. But the good work went on. Neither the labour of production nor the cost of purchase hindered it. Latin had been a dead language in Europe since the break up of the. Empire, but all MSS. of the Scriptures had been copied in that language ever since Jerome's Latin Vulgate had been issued nearly eight centuries before. Now, clothed in the language of the people, it came home to the hearts of the people. Men were so eager for the Words of Life that they risked their lives to procure them. Soon it could be said that every third person in England was a Lollard.

Here is a sample of Wycliffe's translation. Can you read it?

"Yan whan He was borne in bethleem of Jude, in ye dais of Herod kinge: Se ye maistres come from ye est to jerusalem, and saiden, Where is he yat is born ye kinge of Jues, For whi we sen his sterre in ye est and we come to adore him: And Herod ye kinge whan he herd yis is greteliche troubled, and al ierlm wiy hi. And he gadred alle princes of prestes and maisters of ye folk, and asked of hem where yt crist was borne: And hy saide to him In bethleem of Jude: For so is it writen yom ye prophete. And you bethleem lond of jude you nart nouzt lest in ye princes of Jude: For of ye schal corn out aduk yat gouerney mi puple of isrl."

The Pope summoned Wycliffe to Rome to answer for his errors, but Wycliffe replied by "giving the Pope some good advice."

With the completion of his English Bible, Wycliffe's work was done. He was stricken down with paralysis on the last Lord's Day of 1384, and on 31st December passed home to his reward.

Let us take another short step, this time of forty years only, and again we are back at Lutterworth. Is it a public holiday, or have all these churchmen come out to do honour to the memory of Wycliffe? Archbishop Chichele is here, dressed up in all the gaudy show of Romish pomp, with many other priests and bishops as well. And all are marching to the grave of Wycliffe, but, alas! it is not to do honour to the Reformer. They have come to burn his bones. And yet may it not be that Rome, in basely desecrating the grave of the dead, has done him more honour than she intended. She was unable to reply to him when in life. She now shows her fear of his work by revenging herself on his body when dead. Many of the inhabitants of the village would be able to remember the good old man who had counselled them, and preached to them, and pointed them to the One Way of Salvation. Now they are silent but not indifferent witnesses to the ceremony of to-day. A bonfire is lighted near the bridge, the grave forced open, and with childish spite the bones are flung into the fire, burned to ashes, and the ashes cast into the river. The spectators that day received a lesson as to what Rome is.

But Wycliffe had done a work Romish intolerance, spite of its utmost efforts, has never since been able to undo. She hates, and also fears, an Open Bible. He was a sage counsellor who said to the priests later, when Tyndale's printed Testament appeared, "We must get rid of printing, or printing will get rid of us." So far Rome has not "got rid of printing," but in every place where the Bible is read and believed men are "getting rid of Rome." And to-day there are more Bibles than ever before. It has been estimated, from the records of the three great Bible Societies, that over six hundred millions of Bibles have been produced since the art of printing was discovered. The Bible has been translated into over eight hundred different languages, and in embossed printing it can be read even by the blind. To all it brings the true light; to all it offers life and salvation through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ alone.

We may well say with the Psalmist, "The entrance of thy word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple."


In the preparation of this book the following works have been consulted, and the help received is herewith gratefully acknowledged by the Author.
GREEN: "A Short History of the English People."
TREVELYAN: "England in the Age of Wycliffe."
PENNINGTON: "John Wyclif: His Life, Times, and Teaching."
HOOK: "Ecclesiastical Biography." 6 Vols.
NEAL: "History of the Puritans."
SHORT: "History of the Church of England."
RANKE: "History of the Popes." 3 Vols.
VAUGHAN: "John de Wycliffe, D.D."
ROBERTSON: "The Roman Catholic Church in Italy."
HISLOP: "Two Babylons."
M'KILLIAM "A Chronicle of the Popes."
SYDNEY: "Modern Rome in Modern England."
O'DONNOGHUE: "The Peculiar Doctrines of the Church of Rome."
EUSEBIUS: "Ecclesiastical History." Cruse's Trans.
MILMAN: "History of Christianity." 4 Vols.
WITHROW: "The Catacombs at Rome."
MUSTON: "Israel of the Alps." Hazlit Trans.

By the same author

"Four Points about a Wonderful Book,"
"The Inspiration of the Book,"
"The Vital Importance of the Book,"
"Britain's Open Bible,"
"A Bright Sunset,"
"Those 37000 Children,"
"The Story of Rebekah,"
"The Story of Ruth,"
"The Story of Christianity in Britain."
"Messiah the Prince."
"My Class for Jesus."
"The Great Prophetic Outline." An Exposition of Matthew 24, 25.
"The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ."
"The Man Who Did His Best."
The Captain's Heroism."
"How Young Hislop Died for the Truth."
"Maggie's Resting Place."
"John Wycliffe's Great Work."
"Bonfires of Bibles."
"The Boy Martyr of Brentwood."
"Mason's Mistake."
"Trying to be a Christian."
The Sailor's Devotion."
"The Sailor's Folly."
"Outline of the Book of Exodus."
"What Saith the Scriptures?" (A Reply to Dr Black.)
"Seven Wonderful Gifts."