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OR SOME ACCOUNT OF THB
WITNESSES FOR THE TRUTH IN ENGLAND,
Between the Years 1400 and 1546.
Brudwurdine.- Wicklif's Translation of the Bible.-The Lollards.
Martyrdom of John Badby, A. D. 1409. (See p. 12.)
In the fourteenth century, true religion scarcely existed in England, and it may justly be said that the days were evil, The Papal usurpation of power over the consciences of men was then at its beight, for error and superstition had been advancing during the preceding centuries, till both the doctrines and the precepts of our Lord, as declared in the Scriptures, were no longer taught by those who professed to be his followers; and the little that remained of the truth was corrupted and concealed [Lollards, Part 1, 2d Edit.]
(Entered at Stationers' Hull.)
from view, by the superstitions and vain traditions of
The Scriptures were almost unknown both to the Laity and the Clergy; in a word, darkness covered the land, and gross darkness the people. Complaints, however, of the abuses' of Popery began to be heard ; and a few individuals, eminent for their abilities, ventured to bear testimony against the errors which prevailed. Adiong these, Thomas Bradwardine was conspicuous: he did not, it is true, stand forth like Grosseteste in the preceding century, and personally oppose the usurpations and errors of the Church of Ronie; but esaniining calmly into the truths of the Gospel, he wrote fully upon the subject of divine grace, pointing out the helplessness and unworthiness of man by nature, and his need of a better righteousness than his own; deriving his knowledge of these truths from the Scriptures, and the writings of the Fathers. Au emiment historian of the Church of Christ says~" Bradwardine bad observed how very few in his days appeared to be conscious of their need of the Holy Spirit to renew their natures; and being himself deeply sensible of the desperate wickedness of the human heart, (Jer. xvii. 9.) and of the preciousness of the grace of Christ, he seems to have overlooked, or little regarded, the fashionable superstitions of his time, and to have applied the whole vigour and vehemence of his spirit to the defence of the foundations of the Gospel." He publicly stated the views of divine truth which he had learned, and may be considered as having prepared the way for the more general diffusion of light which speedily followed. He has been called "The Morning Star of the Reformation." One sentence, extracted from his works, will convey to the reader an idea of bis humility of spirit, and the manner in which lie looked to God for direction.
Arise, O Lord, judge thy own cause. Sụsta iu bim who undertakes to defend thy truth; protect, strengthen, and comfort me; for thou knowest that no where relying on my own strength, but trusting in thine, I, a weak worm, attempt to maintain so great a cause." Let every one wlio advocates the cause of truth, endeavour to proceed in a like spirit.
Shortly after the death of Bradwardine, Wickliff
became conspicuous as a bold opposer of the errors and corruptions of the Church of Rome. He lived in turbu. lent times; and his proceedings were much connected with the secular or worldly events of that day. God was pleased, in a remarkable manner, to raise up persons of rank and influence, who protected bim from the malice of his enemies, and he died at his living of Lutterworth, in the
Wickliff is frequently styled “ The Morning Sun of the Reformation;" and will ever be remembered in history as the first that in England openly opposed the errors of Popery. But there is another view in which Wickliff is far more dear to the real Christian, namely, as a preacher of the pure Gospel of Christ, anxious to rescue ihe souls of men from the power of sin, as well as to deliver their consciences from Papal tyranny. The historian above mentioned has well remarked, that “ in the formes case he met with few to oppose him, except those who were immeiliately interested in supporting vice or the usurpations of the Papal power; but in regard to the latter, the greater part of mankind did, as they have often done in far more enlightened times; they either suspected that he carried his notions too far; or they kept aloof from him with a profane and indolent negligence; or, lastly, they wavered between the religion in which they had been educated, and the doctrines advanced by the Re-, former, and by immersing themselves in business or in pleasure, they stifled the convictions of conscience, and escaped the dangers of persecution.”
To forward the progress of truth, Wickliff translated the Bible into the English language, which was one of the inost useful steps he could have taken. The Romish Clergy loudly objected to this measure ; and the historian already mentioned gives the following curious specimen of the manner in which the Ecclesiastics of that day, reasoned on this subject. “ Christ" (says one of them), “ committed the Gospel to the Clergy and Doctors of the Church, that they might minister it to the laity and weaker persons, according as the times and people's wants might require ; but this Master John Wickliff translated it out of Latin into English, and by that means laid it more open to the laity and to wonien who could