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opinions he was twice summoned to appear before a council convened to examine his views. But here public opinion—that potent influence before which all despotism and tyranny must give way—stepped in to his help, and his judges, awed by fear of the nobility and people, with whom Wycliffe was in high esteem, dared not to proceed against him. He returned home to his parish, translated the Bible into English, and wrote several important treatises, by which his doctrines rapidly spread not only in England, but on the continent of Europe. He died in peace at bis own house in the year 1384.
Thus were sown the first seeds of the English Reformation. The writings of Wycliffe were eagerly bought up by the people, and thus light broke in upon the multitude. The morning sun arose, and brightly did it shine, foretelling the near approach of the glorious day of religious and intellectual freedom. His doctrines made a deep impression on the minds of many of the nobility, clergy, and people. His followers who were branded with the name of Lollards, daily multiplied; and many of them went about from place to place, making known the doctrines of the Gospel. Nor were his opinions confined to England; they rapidly spread into other countries, and everywhere obtained disciples and defenders. In the kingdom of Bohemia especially, they were warmly espoused by John Huas, and Jerome of Prague, both of whom were intimately acquainted with his writings. They laboured most zealously to promote his views, and being condemned, they were both consigned to the flames, and burned. "Henry the Fourth" says Ferguson, "in his earlier years, was rather in favour of the principles of this now hated and hunted party; but so precarious was his title to the throne, that he deemed it politic to pay all court to the clergy, and therefore, sacrificing his principles to his interest, enacted that any heretic who refused to abjure his opinions, should be held obnoxious to the secular power, and be committed to the flames in the presence of the people. A London Rector, William Santre was the first to suffer. But the fire once kindled, continued to burn, till it had consumed its thousands of victims. What an outrage on truth, and conscience, and the genius of Christianity! The church seeking to immolate the free thoughts of man! What a mockery—what an absurdity to attempt to produce mental conviction, by subjecting the body to seveie suffering! The church? No! we cannot dignify it with that name. It was a State religion which could not otherwise live than by proscription, and blood, and death. The red fires which were now kindled, sent up their lurid flame till the whole canopy became darkened, and the heavens sickened, and the universe echoed with the groans of death, and the souls from under the altar, cried. Oh Lord! How long?"
Thirty years had not finished their rounds, since the spirit of Wycliffe, full of blessedness, and peace, had passed to its reward, before the Romish Church in the heat of its displeasure against schism, and the bitterness ot malignity against reform and reformers, in council assembled, condemned both his memory and his writings; and at a little later period, his bones were dug up and burned, and the ashes thrown into a brook, which as has been beautifully said, "conveyed his ashes into the Avon; Avon into the Severn; Severn into the narrow seas ; they into the main ocean; and thus the ashes of Wycliffe are the emblems of his doctrines, which are now dispersed all the world over." The reign of Henry the Fourth, closed amidst the kindlings and wide-spreading flames of religious persecution; but God's living truth, was not to be burned out of the conscience, or out of the world by material fire. The followers of Wycliffe multiplied, and every day became more formidable to the church. Sir John Oldcastle, Lord
* This name seems, originally to have designated a sect in Germany, which the Wycliffites were supposed to resemble, both in sentiment and practice.—Editor.
Cobham, (who was afterwards burned,) stood at the head of this noble band, and at no small expense, distributed Wycliffe's writings, and for years maintained a number of his followers, who went from place to place preaching the Gospel to the people. The truth fell as heaven's inspiration upon their hearts. Their spirits struggled to be free. Men rose to assert their liberty; and for this, and for no crime against the Commonwealth, -were many of them called to suffer death.
One hundred and thirty years after the "morning star of the Reformation" had ceased to shine, the light of divine truth shone upon the mind of the great leader of the Reformation in Germany. Martin Luther, who, with his Bible in his hand, exposed before the masses of the people, the errors of the papacy, and preached the glorious doctrine of jus'tification by faith alone, denied the authority of the Pope, and the priests, and held forth the Bible as God's great gift to every man. The doctrines of the Reformation seemed to travel on the wings of the wind, so rapidly, and so widely did they spread. Their sound went out into all Europe, and Romanism was shaken to its very foundations. The influence of the Reformation was felt powerfully in England, where its first principles were already in the hearts of the people, and the movement received an impulse, which neither the opposition of the State, nor the persecutions of the clergy, were able to resist or to check. New life was infused into the English Reformers, and fresh and more vigorous efforts were put forth to spread the knowledge of the truth. Preachers of the Gospel went about the country, attired in humble garb, instructing from cottage to cottage, assembling peasants in the dead of the night, or venturing to tend by day in a secluded wood, or on a village green, while the emissaries of the Romish clergy, thirsting for their blood, tracked them from place to place, nor stayed till they brought them to the dungeon, or the fiery pile. Amongst the number of those who left their homes, and devoted themselves to the propagation of the truth as it is in Jesus, not counting their lives dear to them ; honourable mention may be made of the name of Mann, Tyball, Maxwell, and Stacey; characters despised of men, but who doubtless now enjoy the fulfilment of the declaration of the prophet Daniel, "They that turn many to righteousness, shall shine as the stars for ever and ever." Dr. afterwards Archbishop Cranmer acquired distinction about this time, by asserting the supremacy of the Scriptures. The king and the Pope being at variance on matrimonial affairs, Cranmer suggested that the best divines in Europe should examine the subject, and determine it according to the word of God. This might be ascertained by consulting the principal universities on the continent. When furnished with their opinions, the king could proceed without reference to the Pope.
On this suggestion the king acted, and went from stop to step, until he entirely threw off the papal yoke. But whilst he did this from private feeling, it was from no love for the Reformation, it was that he himself might be supreme, and though used by the great disposer of events, as an instrument of good; Henry was no reformer himself, as is abundantly proved by his allowing the persecution of the Protestants, he had no desire to throw off the doctrines of Popery, though he was at war with the Pope. The Reformation was not in England as in some other countries, an effort chiefly confined to the learned, and higher or middle ranks; the people had in many districts, long known scriptural truth. They prized the humble, written copies of Wycliffe's translation, many of which still exist in our public libraries, showing by their style that they were written for the people. But when the printed testament of Tyndal appeared, copies were eagerly bought np, and being cheaper than written ones, their price was within reach of the working classes; they were more easily read and understood, as a friar who sold them secretly, is reported to have told some Essex labourers, "they were clever Englyshe." They were prized by thousands, even apprentices possessed themselves of the words of their Saviour, and concealed the book in their bedding, to read it in secret.
The king seeing the necessity of separating entirely from the Pope, not only resisted the attempts of the Romish clergy to stop the translation of the Scriptures, but directed a copy in English to be set up in each of the churches, and the rites and ceremonies of the church, to be reformed by its standard. But the Reformation was no political work, and this, the conduct of the rulers of the people, sufficiently proves. The movement was principally amongst the masses; and Henry finding his political measures strengthened by listening to the public voice, conceded many points; though in heart he clung to many of the most deadly errors of popery. But everything was not bright with the Reformers. When Catharine Howard became queen, clouds and darkness arose, the fires of Smithfield burned, and several martyrs and the Word of truth were there consumed. Terrible times were those, hundreds of substantial citizens of London were imprisoned on the charge of heresy, Latimer resigned his bishopric, Cranmer sent his wife abroad, and others retired to the continent, or went to parts of England where they were unknown.
Having thus spoken of Henrv, we must, before parting with him, again notice him as an instrument m the hands of God, for effecting a most important purpose. Bishop Burnet well observes, "while we see the folly and weakness of man in all Henry's personal failings, which were very many and very enormous, we at the same time see the justice, the wisdom, and goodness of God, in making him, who was once the pride and glory of Popery become its scourge and destruction."
It was not until the reign of Edward the Sixth, that the English StateChurch was anything like radically reformed; but then its reformation began in earnest. Commissioners attended by able preachers, were sent to visit the different parts of England. The Act of six articles and two statutes against the Lollards were repealed. Private masses were forbidden, and that leading falsehood, the great source of power and profit to the Church of Rome, expiatory sacrifice for the dead, was thus done away. The true "sacrament of the altar," was discountenanced, as a common but unscriptural name for the Lord's Supper, of which all the congregation were now to partake. This was important, for by the use of the term "altar," the notion of a sacrifice as taught by the Church of Rome in its mass service, was kept up with all the unscriptural views respecting the priesthood and idolatries of popery. The "Lord's Supper" is the scriptural term, 1 Cor. x. 21. This has been adopted by the reformed church, and it involves considerations of importance. Superstitious processions were forbidden, images were to be removed, and texts of Scripture were inscribed on the walls. The latin mass service and prayers in an unknown tongue, were done away, and an English service was set forth in 1549, very nearly resembling the liturgy as it now stands. One important feature in the Reformation was the encouragement given to the preaching of the Gospel, The importance of attending to "God's word opened" instead of trusting to the services of others, or the observance of superstitious ceremonials was strongly urged by all the leading Reformers.
We must not forget to notice the encouragement given to foreign Reformers. Peter Martyn was settled at Oxford as Professor of Divinity, and Bonner and Fagins were placed at Cambridge. The attention of the foreigners was especially directed to the national ritual. Another edition of the Liturgy was set forth in 1541. In several respects it was freed from Popish errors; but Strype states, that in some instances, particularly as to the sacrament of baptism, undefined expressions were used, chiefly at the instance of Ponier, and contrary to the recommendation of Melancthon and others. Unhappily our Reformers had been educated in the school of popery, and unfortunately for the true interests of religion, some bad lessons which they had learned under that tuition they applied for the establishment of the Reformation, and the suppression of all that was deemed heresy. They forgot the peaceable and gentle lessons taught by our blessed Saviour of love and forgiveness. They forgot the declaration of Jesus "that if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive yours," and the instruction of the holy Book that all Jesus' followers in such circumstances, are to "overcome evil with good." The coercive measures, however, used in this reign, were returned with fearful addition of interest in Mary's, when the fires of Smithfield burned fierce as the bigotry which enkindled them, and the prison houses were crowded with sincere disciples of Christ, men of whom the world was not worthy.
But blessed be God, notwithstanding the machinations of the " Evil One," aided by the persecuting spirit of his emissaries and faithful adherents, the truth was not extinguished, the Reformation was not destroyed, and the fires of the martyr's pile only served to kindle a flame which by the grace of God has never been put out.
The Reformation! Whence was it? From heaven or of men? It never could have been planned and achieved by men, for they were altogether gone astray, there was none that did good, no not one. The masses were sunk in hopeless ignorance, the darkness of intellectual night overshadowed them, and the "God of this world" had blinded them; and as for their rulers, they had made common cause with the great enemy of our race, and united their power to keep the people in the dust, they heaped up abuses, and continually fattened on the proceeds. No! had men been left to themselves, they would have sunk lower and lower, down, down to the regions of death and despair. No! It was from God! It was the bursting forth anew of God's truth in the minds of men; it was a fresh exhibition of the Cross, it was the triumphing of the Redeemer in the fulfilment of his declaration, "And I if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." "The Lutheran Reformation," as a certain writer has remarked, "with its wondrous changes, was not Luther's Reformation. It was not the impatience of the human mind to rid itself of an intellectual thraldom; it was not the machinations of princes and nobles to snatch for themselves the good of the Church; it was not a natural product of the revival of learnmg; it was not the work of the press. It was the proclamation anew of Heaven's own truth, breaking the slumbers of conscience, and reanimating palsied hope in the soul of man."
When we think of the Reformers, and the Reformation j the feeling of national pride, and the glow of patriotism, rise higher in our bosoms j ours is a noble lineage, our fathers have passed into the skies to shine for ever and ever, and we are the children of the Reformation.
"Our boast is not that we deduce our birth
From loins enthroned, and rulers of the earth;
But higher far our proud pretensions rise,
The sons of Fathers passed into the skies."
Ages have rolled on: the truth has continued to shine brighter and brighter, and brighter still it will shine until it shall have penetrated every dark corner of the earth, and enlightened every soul of man, until all shall know the truth, and the truth shall make them free. Ages rolled on rolling nges,
Letting gifts of gladness fall,
Brought the highest gift of all.
Since have sped their holier way,
And when we in dust shall moulder,
And eternal years behold her,
"it Was Mt Child."
A poor African mother was seen holding a dead infant in her arms. She was asked—" Is that your child 1" The mourning mother replied— "It was my child; but it is the Lord's now."
Why clasp that little faded form
In such a fond caress,
The lifeless infant press 1
E'en now, on pallid lips and brow,
Like dew thy tear-drops shine,
Sad mother, it is thine.
Yes, it was mine; but yesterday
I watched its fleeting breath,
I closed its eyes in death.
A Mother's Peaceful Death.
At early dawn we stood by the dying bed of the young mother. It was the Sabbath morning. The noisy world was hushed and still. Life was ebbing fast. It was a solemn hour. It is a solemn thing to die. The mysterious messenger had betokened his approach—had hung out the pale insignia of his coming. He was near at hand—was at the door to sunder life's enfeebled string, and set the panting spirit free from its frail tenement, for its final flight to the spirit-land. The closing scene was sudden and unexpected. The first knell of life was struck on the bell of time but a week before. The sound fell heavily on the hearts of family and friends. Some crimson vessels, of delicate construction, had burst near the seat of life, which no medical skill could reach or remedy. Nature struggled to repair the breach, but in vam. Her hour had come. It was a summons to her heavenly home.
The sufferer was calm, composed, and trustful in her Redeemer's strength and atoning blood. She knew in whom she had believed. He was near and precious in that dying hour. Her piety was retiring and unobtrusive ; but it bore the trial, and held fast within the vail, like an anchor in the storm. Her last feeble utterances of maternal love were, that her children might find a refuge and safety in the bosom of her Redeemer. "Choose Him, choose Him, for your friend and portion !" breathed faintly from her faltering lips, as her dying eyes of fond affection looked out feebly, for the last time on earth, upon the children of her love. This mother was enabled, by Divine grace, to look the pale messenger in the face, to meet the last dread enemy with entire composure, and go down into the dark valley with a good hope of heaven.