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Upon the execution of John Hus in 1415, a revolution against the Roman Church and government broke out, which led to an all out war.  There was an uprising of those in favor of reform in the Church known as Hussite’s (aka Wycliffites) that defended the teachings of John Hus following his martyrdom.  Those in favor wrote Roman authorities accusing the Council for ill practices only to receive a letter back stating to attack all of Hus’ followers.

Things escalated rather quickly and attack did break out across the Bohemian and Moravian land. By 1420 the Roman authorities had actually organized an anti-hussite crusade, to fully wipe out all Wycliffites, Hussites, and “heretics” as previously promised.

By this time there was a conservative fraction of Hussites, known as the Utraquist that focused on the Eucharist and how it was administered.  And there was the “radicals” or Taborites that esteemed the divine law (the Bible) to be the rule and standard for society as well as in the religious and political spheres.

These main camps of hussites joined together resulting in great military feats.  The hussites (in the broader definition) had four main decrees that they demanded from the Roman Church:

 

1. The word of God shall be preached and made known in the kingdom of Bohemia freely and in an orderly manner by the priests of the Lord.

2. The sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist shall be freely administered in the two kinds, which are bread and wine, to all the faithful in Christ who are not precluded by mortal sin – according to the word and disposition of Our Saviour.

3. The secular power over riches and worldly goods which the clergy possesses in contradiction to Christ’s precept, to the prejudice of its office and to the detriment of the secular arm, shall be taken and withdrawn from it, and the clergy itself shall be brought back to the evangelical rule and an apostolic life such as that which Christ and his apostles led.

4. All mortal sins, and in particular all public and other disorders, which are contrary to God’s law shall in every rank of life be duly and judiciously prohibited and destroyed by those whose office it is

 

However, the “mess” of reformation continued as the Church declined these requests.  The hussites, mainly under class man, held their own against a total of 3 crusades that the Roman authority brought against them.  The stumbling block to their victories was the bickering, bashing, and wild fire that broke out between the sects mainly due to their theological differences.  This disjointing caused a civil war between the two camps, ending with the Taborites beating out the Utraquists resulting in a temporary truce.

The hussites continued in victory against all attacks up to the Council of Basel in 1433.  Peace treaties were negotiated but nothing landed until the Utraquists eventually made a deal or “compact” (which was later voided) with the Roman Church allowing them to attain some of their goals while remaining under the Roman rule.  By 1434 the Utraquists along with Roman authorities attacked the Taborites and   came close to annihilating them.  This time many of the “radicals” either joined the Utraquists or went underground being apart of the Unity of Brethren, which was independently formed in 1457.

 

* NEXT the Unity of Brethren

•••

In no way do I think this approach was done perfectly or that every person had good intentions.  But I wonder where we would be today with out this revolution.  What would cause so many believers to literally fight for the Word of God to be preached and made known to all?  Yes, it got messy, political, and selfish…but I believe that there were many men who believed that the Word of God was the only thing that was going to bring true freedom to the Church of their day.  These men had seen and heard the Truth for themselves and they could no longer live under a religious system that distorted it for profit and gain.

Now, today we can read the Bible when and where we want, but do we spiritually fight for these truths revealed in His Word that lead us into the experiential knowledge of God?  Is it worth fighting for everyday to read and mediate on with the guiding of Holy Spirit or is it better left alone on the shelf collecting dust?  It is sad to see that so many believers in our day have written off the Bible as an historic document or simply poetic imagery.  The Bible is the very word of God and is not something to be taken lightly!  I see too many people picking apart the Word and using its substance for a food fight instead of actually eating the Word and allowing it to cause growth, strength,  and maturity in ones spirit.  I am not putting the Bible above the Holy Trinity but I believe that the Body of Christ needs a renewed spiritual tenacity to fight for and seek out the unending worth found in the Bible.

1“Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;
And you who have no money come, buy and eat
Come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without cost.
2“Why do you spend money for what is not bread,
And your wages for what does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good,
And delight yourself in abundance.
3“Incline your ear and come to Me
Listen, that you may live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
According to the faithful mercies shown to David.

Isaiah 55:1-3

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John Hus, born in 1369 to a poor Bohemian family, grew up singing and serving in the church to make a living.  He was educated at Prague University, where he received his Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Theology and Master of Arts from 1393-96.  Then being ordained as a Catholic priest he started preaching in 1403 at Bethlehem chapel.  It was said that John sought after these religious practices in the Church for peace and security rather than out of the deep desire of his heart.

“I had thought to become a priest quickly in order to secure a good livelihood and dress and to be held in esteem by men.”

But a big shift took place around the 1400’s when the teachings of John Wycliffe made it into Bohemia.  Much of this is attributed to Queen Anne, the wife of Richard II.  She was the sister of Wenceslaus, the king of Bohemia.  It is said that she sent copies of Wycliffe’s work into Bohemia through her servants.  Jerome of Prague, who later became a great friend and follower of Hus, also brought in Wycliffe’s writings around the same time frame.

When John Hus took hold of Wycliffe’s teachings as well as the Scriptures translated in his own language, a drastic change took place in his heart.  The writings fueled John, causing his eyes to be opened to the errors of the Church. John started preaching and sharing this new passion and as he continued to  read in the Bible for himself his heart for the true Bride of Christ exploded.  His teachings and doctrine in opposition to the Roman Church were spreading like wild fire throughout the country and he became the sought after preacher in the land.  The university disapproved of these new beliefs that Hus was teaching, even though Hus had become the rector. The archbishop also was displeased with the racket, leading him to complain to the pope!

This of course caused the Roman Church to be more infuriated with the works of Wycliffe. In 1410 the pope banned all of Wycliffe’s material, doctrines, and the right to preach it!  John was not easily shut down and continued preaching, even under this ban.  Like Wycliffe, Hus was now seen as an outcast and heretic, even though his followers continued to grow.  Johns continued grounding in the Good News and calling out the contradictions of the Church was adored by the people and hated by the clergy.  I would like to call this a time of revival in the Bible.  Peoples eyes were being opened and their hearts were being radically changed by the reading and hearing of Truth for themselves!

The freedom from legalism that John experienced from the Scriptures was,

“When the Lord gave me knowledge of Scriptures, I discharged that kind of stupidity from my foolish mind.”

Referring to his past religious duties in the Church.  Hus, found Life in the Scriptures,

“Desiring to hold, believe, and assert whatever is contained in them as long as I have breath in me.”

John was well received by the commoners but could only go so far with his influence.  The political and religious leaders eventually shut him down causing him to remove himself from the area.  He spent time in the Word and in study, leading him to write several influential pieces.

It was at the end of 1415 when the Council of Constance invited John with “safe” pretenses only to prosecute and detain him.  John was held in the in prison for 73 days; chained, tortured, and fed poorly.  Things did not get any better after being put on trial in June 1415.  He was quickly found guilty with heresy and errors against the Church brought on by false witnesses of elite clergy members.  John Hus stood his ground, using the Bible as his defense but when he asked for chance to explain, there was no grace or mercy.  The trial ended rather quickly with it’s injustices and John was condemned to be burned at the stake.  On July 6, 1415, he was stripped, tied, chained to a stake and burned.  They used the writings of Wycliffe to fuel the wood beneath him.  It was said that he was singing psalms and that he spoke a prophecy before he went.

The prophecy was along the lines of,

“In 100 years, God will raise up a man whose calls for reform cannot be suppressed.”…or...”You are now going to burn a goose, but in a century you will have a swan whom you can neither roast nor boil.” (I’ve seen it both ways)

The term, “your goose is cooked” was coined during the martyrdom of John Hus.  Hus meant “goose” in the old German language.


...Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses of Contention on the church at Wittenberg almost exactly a 100 years later! Luther stumble upon some of John’s sermons and said,

“I was overwhelmed with astonishment. I could not understand for what cause they had hurt so great a man who explained the Scriptures with so much gravity and skill.”

It is hard for me to grasp such cruelty against believers, even though the disciples were all faced with it and continued to tell us to persevere and overcome!  Does the western church have the courage and boldness to stand like this when it is attacked?  Do we as individuals have the boldness to stand on the Word of God and proclaim the goodness of Jesus?  Within my lifetime I have already witnessed blatant attacks against Christianity and the Word of God and it has only intensified!  I am thankful to live in a time where I still have the freedom to read His Word, to worship Him with freedom, and to share the Gospel with others and I’m praying that I will continue to do so even if it is banned.

 

Next post, leading up to the Unity of Brethren

IF YOU MISSED THE FIRST PARTS OF THIS SERIES CLICK HERE

 

 

 

 

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John Wycliffe
“MORNINGSTAR OF THE REFORMATION”

(Moravian Move Series)

John Wycliffe, Born in 1328, is most well known for being the first to translate the Bible into the English language, or common language.  He grew up in the Middle Ages, a time when the Roman Church prohibited the Bible to be written in anything other than Latin (since 400 AD Beginning the Dark and Middle Ages) so that only the priests could read it.  It was considered a crime punishable by death to even own a copy of the Bible.  Even though the majority of the common people could not even read Latin or English!  The Church was deceiving the people by withholding the Truth, the Word of God, the Bible and instituting their own doctrines and tradition in order to make them the ultimate powerhouse.

Wycliffe was very well studied at Oxford in politics, religion, and theology.  His passions led him to become an illustrious teacher, preacher, and patriot.  Not too long into his career he started teaching to his students his very strong disagreements with the Roman Church.  His student’s class notes started being copied and passed around and Wycliffe himself started writing up his oppositions to share publicly.

  • He opposed indulgences (Killing a man $1.75, Robbery $3.00 etc..)
  • He opposed purgatory (a place of purification, after death)
  • He opposed transubstantiation (bread and wine actually become substance of the body and blood of Jesus,)
  • He opposed the temporal wealth of the church (extravagant buildings)
  • He opposed the “holy war” (killing of innocent people to plunder)
  • He strongly opposed calling the pope the head of the church (went as far as saying the pope is an antichrist and not fit for heaven)
  • Most of all he opposed the withholding of the Bible (Without knowledge of the Bible there can be no peace in the life of the Church)

Wycliffe strongly believed in the inerrancy and authority of the Bible and understood that it was for all believers, which led him to start translating the Latin Bible into English. Wycliffe said,

“Believers should ascertain for themselves what are the true matters of their faith, by having the Scriptures in a language which all may understand.”

The Pope and Roman clergy were outraged, to say the least, against this translating because they felt that the Holy Scriptures should be prohibited from the laity and “un-churched” in means to control them.  When the Pope caught wind of Wycliffe’s work, he issued a letter against Wycliffe.  In response to the Pope, Wycliffe said,

“You say it is heresy to speak of the Holy Scriptures in English. You call me a heretic because I have translated the Bible into the common tongue of the people. Do you know whom you blaspheme? Did not the Holy Ghost give the Word of God at first in the mother-tongue of the nations to whom it was addressed? Why do you speak against the Holy Ghost? You say that the Church of God is in danger from this book. How can that be? Is it not from the Bible only that we learn that God has set up such a society as a Church on the earth? Is it not the Bible that gives all her authority to the Church? Is it not from the Bible that we learn who is the Builder and Sovereign of the Church, what are the laws by which she is to be governed, and the rights and privileges of her members? Without the Bible, what charter has the Church to show for all these? It is you who place the Church in jeopardy by hiding the Divine warrant, the missive royal of her King, for the authority she wields and the faith she enjoins”

After coming against the Roman Church with his writings, teachings and translation of the Bible, Wycliffe’s days were filled with trials and heat from the clergy. There was some Divine favor upon his head as he was not martyred but allowed to finish this good work.  Wycliffe’s greatest feat was the translation of The New Testament, which was completed in 1380 as well as the Old Testament in 1382.  This was a huge accomplishment for the spreading of the Gospel as well as encouraging the common people to learn how to read the Bible for themselves.  For this John was condemned and charged with multiple heresies and errors and all of his writings were forbidden and any followers of his teachings were to be imprisoned.

John died two years later, December 31, 1384.  He would later be known as the, “Morningstar of the Reformation”, because his forerunner message against the “organized” church opened up the door for what later became known as the Reformation.

It is hard to picture an age that prohibited the Bible from the common man and woman!  We are so blessed to be able to have Bibles in our common language so that we may see and hear the Truth of God’s Word for ourselves.  This has sobered me up to the importance of having a personal Bible for myself and actually reading it.  I hope that none of us take for granted the beauty of being able to read and share the Word of God in this day and age.  Now is the time to read and feed from this Book that brings us into a greater experiential knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ…before a day comes when the Bible is again forbidden and those that are caught reading from it are burned at the stake!…

To be continued…John Hus, Martyr, burned at the stake for following Wycliffe’s teachings about having the Bible in their own language!

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