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Book 18 - The Revival of the Church

A History of the Reformation in the 16th Century

Today, many Christians are turning back to the puritans to, “walk in the old paths,” of God’s word, and to continue to proclaim old truth that glorifies Jesus Christ. There is no new theology. In our electronic age, more and more people are looking to add electronic books (ePubs, mobi and PDF formats) to their library – books from the Reformers and Puritans – in order to become a “digital puritan” themselves. Take a moment to visit Puritan Publications (click the banner below) to find the biggest selection of rare puritan works updated in modern English in both print form and in multiple electronic forms. There are new books published every month. All proceeds go to support A Puritan’s Mind.

For a full treatment of the Reformation, see my work: The Reformation Made Easy – C. Matthew McMahon.

Book 18 – The Revival of the Church

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 18, Chapter 1

The Reformation in England was accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit attesting to the words of the Bible. Scripture changed the nation. It should be obvious to any Christian that a revival that glorifies God will never take place without the Scriptures. England had been more saturated by it than many of the other countries due to the translations distributed in the region. On this account, it would never be reformed by either the papal court or the royal court. God would have to do this work.

The Reformation was about to take a turn for the better in education. Henry VIII decided not to invade France and Italy and turned his attention to his country. What did he find traveling across its border? The Greek New Testament was completed by Erasmus accompanied by a Latin text and it began circulating. Erasmus did not realize the extent to which this work would fly. It was received with enthusiasm, but not by the monks and priests. They saw it is a horrible plague falling into the hands of everyman who desired to read it. It would overthrow the papacy being placed in the hands of all kinds of men all across Europe. Nothing was more important than this translation at the dawn on the Reformation. It was the Gospel of Jesus Christ placed in the hands of scholars and laymen alike. Erasmus was careful in this work and when he needed help in Hebrew he consulted Capito and Oecolampadius.

The adversary of England against Erasmus on this venture was Edward Lee – he was the John Eck of England. Erasmus says he attached himself to everyone that was an enemy of the Bible, wrote up Annotations against the work, and it prospered in Catholic circles.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 18, Chapter 2

The effects of the New Testament in the universities were far reaching. Scholars and students continued to discuss its import and impact on the Reformation. Thomas Bilney, a young doctor who had studied much of canon law, appeared on the scene in Trinity Hall in Cambridge. He was not converted, and placed himself in the hand of the priests for the nurture of his soul. One day he heard of the New Testament in Greek by some of his friends. He bought the Book even though he feared the priests who condemned it, shut himself up in his room, and read it. It was this book, the New Testament of the Lord Jesus Christ, that converted him. Bilney stayed active at Cambridge and was consoled by arrival of the young William Tyndale.

In the valley southwest of Gloucester there lived a family who took on the name of Hutchins, who has a son named William. He was sent to Oxford at an early age where he studied grammar and philosophy. Later he learned the Bible. At first he saw the Greek New Testament simply as something to study, but later it converted him. This was Tyndale. The students gathered with him to read Erasmus’ Greek and Latin New Testament. From the beginning he was a man of learning and study.

John Fryth was also attending King’s College and was distinguished among the students there for his eminent piety. He was well-read in mathematics and a bright student. He was also converted as a result of reading the New Testament.

These three young scholars, Bilney, Tyndale and Fryth adhered to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and rejected the Romish doctrines not found in the Bible.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 18, Chapter 3

The priests and monks of the papacy desired to rid England of the possible Holy Ghost outbreak based on this new revivalism found in the universities. Instead of attacking the scholars, though, they decided to take aim on itinerant preachers. One such martyr was Thomas Man, a monk converted to the truth. He was so well versed in the Bible that they called him Doctor Man. Man went to London to preach, was arrested and burnt alive on March 29, 1519.

The Franciscans went even further, under the direction of Friar Stafford, and gathered up three men, a woman and their children. The men were taken away and the woman and her children were released. In agony she roamed the streets knowing her husband and friends were to be burnt alive soon, and relied on a parchment with the Lord’s Prayer on it for solace. A priest caught her with this and dragged her before the court, condemned her, threw her into prison with the other men and all of them were sentenced to be burned alive. On the 4th of April they all were sent to the flames, and to Christ.

The worst persecutor of the church was not Standish or Lee but Henry VIII’s own chief ecclesiastical steward, Cardinal Wolsey. d’Aubigne says that it is difficult to know exactly when Wolsey was prepared to destroy the Gospel of truth, but it appeared in 1518. Wolsey even attempted to work political ploys in order to gain king Henry a further empire in France, and at the same time, the Pope’s crown for himself. He was bent on destroying the Gospel and sustaining his own self-imposed right to the papacy.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 18, Chapter 4

Tyndale’s work in attempting to disseminate the Gospel over England was the key to the Reformation beginning well in England. Wolsey desired to tear this down, but Tyndale, and God, were bent on building it up. Tyndale went to the home of his birth after leaving Oxford and Cambridge to tutor Sir John’s children and upon the invitation he accepted the post.

Sir John and Lady Walsh continually invited Tyndale to dinner where lively conversations took place. Sir John fancied watching Tyndale shred the arguments of the priests. Tyndale was never satisfied with simple debate, and the express laying out of the doctrine of the Christian faith – rather, he continued to search for the “sweet marrow within;” the words he defended all his life. His adversaries simply boasted on the papacy and Tyndale boasted on Jesus Christ.

Tyndale was also invited by Sir John to preach at the church on his property. The priests, who often came on Sundays to hear him in order to trap him in heretical teachings, despised his doctrines. His popularity grew and the chapel was not the only place he preached. He went from town to town, and preached in the streets both about the Gospel of Christ, and the abuses of the Romish church. He decided to translate the New Testament from Greek into English, creating a more faithful translation than Wycliffe who relied on Jerome’s work, and copied many of the same errors Jerome had made in his translation into Latin. He spent a great amount of time in seclusion and in the library away from those who desired to arrest him, in order to work on the translation.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 18, Chapter 5

While Tyndale was working on his translation of the New Testament in English, Luther’s works made it to England. They were translated from the German and circulated throughout all the country. The laity received them with eagerness, especially being prepared by the works of Wycliffe on many of the same subjects, and were strengthened by the Gospel found within his works. The papacy was active in attempting to suppress the black market infiltration of Luther’s works. They had caused enough trouble in Germany. They certainly did not want them distributed in England. The English “Pope,” Wolsey, as the Italian Pope had done, issued a bull against Luther from England.

The Cardinal saw that the bull itself was not working and something further needed to be done in order to suppress the distribution of the German monk’s heresies. He appealed to King Henry and convinced him through subtle conversation that Luther was a heretic. Henry stated that if Luther was ever caught, that he should be burned at the stake. It was not hard for Wolsey to caused Henry to take a formidable step, and Henry wrote his work against Luther’s and attempted to save the pontificate by defending Rome.

As a result of his work against Luther, Henry’s fame grew with the Pope and the alliance between them strengthened. Certain Catholic theologians asked if Henry would make certain changes and amends to his work in order to appease them, but he refused. He was crowned defender of the faith by the Pope and the sword of England was now formally against the Reformation.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 18, Chapter 6

Wolsey was obsessed with obtaining the pontificate. He would do anything to get the ecclesiastical crown of power. The only way he would attain this position would be through the King of France, and so he aligned himself with Francis I instead of Charles V. This could look like betrayal. Charles requested Henry’s help in making war. He asked for 4000 men and Henry upped the number to six thousand. In order to gain political expediency, Wolsey desire the station of leading those men, actually becoming a soldier, but it was refused to him and given to the earl of Essex. Wolsey, instead, positioned himself in Bruges next to the king, but the people spied out his intention – he wants the tiara for himself and wants to give the king of England the crown of France.

The political coo that Wolsey had attempted was not working out. He wrote a letter to king Henry that he was preparing France for him, and that Henry would soon be the king and that he should come. He told him that the affairs here were going well, but they were not. As a matter of fact, it was quite the opposite. Francis I did not trust Wolsey and the affairs of the country caused him to flee for a time. Wolsey wrote to him but Francis rejected any offer that Wolsey made; his mind was set on Charles V and the outcome of possible war.

Wolsey decided to go back to England, as dissatisfied as he was, and when he arrived he found something that changed his attitude rather quickly. Leo X had died. The pontificate was open, and his desire for it grew insatiably.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 18, Chapter 7

Wolsey did not wait until he was Pope in order to execute decrees against the Protestants spreading the Gospel. He set to the task immediately. In the country of Lincoln dwelt many peaceable Christians. These people spent their time reading the Bible and fulfilling charitable deeds among the town. Agnes, a theologically adept woman, began teaching neophytes true religion. They set up a small itinerant library and John Scrivener carried volumes from one library in one town to another. One day, while he was coming to the town, the priests arrived and the peasants would have to hide him and the books in a barn. However, persecution was about to break out under Wolsey.

Wolsey had created John Longland, the bishop of Lincoln. He was a fanatical priest that asked Henry for a warrant to persecute these people severely. Wolsey and Longland knew how to press the buttons of the king and house their language in a way that made these people out to be wretches. Henry, persuaded by their speech, issued the warrant and it was executed with fervor by both Wolsey and Longland. These peasants were gathered up, and interrogated in such a way as to pit them against one another and accuse them to accuse one another. Four of the brethren were chosen to be put to death, and among them was John Scrivener.

Having such exploits under his belt, Wolsey turned to Rome. He invited king Charles under pretence to London, which he did come, in order to negotiate the pontificate on his own behalf. At the same time he contacting Francis I again in order to strengthen in whatever way he would, his relationship there. All he saw was the throne of the Pope which was not far from his greedy grip.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 18, Chapter 8

While Wolsey was involved in selfish ambition, Tyndale was working away in order to give England the Bible in their own language. He was a simple man, teeming with love for the brethren and a desire to see them grow into the fullness of Jesus Christ. He was profoundly intelligent, knew numerous languages and desired nothing more than to set to this task uninterrupted so that his skills may be put to good use. However, though he was bent on translation, he could not give up preaching. Sir John recommended him to Sir Harry Guildford and began preaching at St. Dunstan’s. He began with justification by faith alone, and as a result was marked as a reformer by the priests who already knew of Zwingli’s and Luther’s positions.

Translation was Tyndale’s chief business though he loved to preach. He desired to become Tonstall’s chaplain, a bishop, hoping to procure a copying status and a license so that the translation could be printed. He knew the answer that the bishop gave him would change the whole course of his life and work. He was invited to come and believed that Tonstall would grant his wishes. Tonstall did not give him his wish and told him he had enough employees already. Tyndale pressed him but he would not budge. Tyndale would never compromise his position if he had him as an employee and the Pope would certainly not like an English Bible roaming the country when Wickliffe’s was outlawed.

Humphrey Monmouth, a rich tradesman, gave Tyndale secretly what Tonstall did not. He lived at Monmouth’s home and worked for him. John Fryth arrived at this time and became good friends. Tyndale decided, for safety, to go to Germany to work, and so he left for a time in order to gain solitude on this venture of translating the Bible.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 18, Chapter 9

Tyndale was not the only one who would reform England. Bilney was the center of attention at Cambridge. At this same time Hugh Latimer, a zealous Catholic at this time, spent his time ridiculing the enemies of Rome and became like a Saul to the early church in persecution.

Hugh Latimer was raised in superstition by an old cousin. He was steeped in Roman Catholicism when he became a Fellow of Clare Hall in 1509 and in 1514 he received his master’s degree. He saw others as mildly pious, where he was zealous. He also saw many of the students forsaking the doctors of the university and turning tp the Holy Scriptures to study them. One day he walked in on a group of these students and told them to stop reading the Bible, but they silenced him by the Word. It enraged him all the more and he decided to write against Philip Melancthon. His writing made a great impression, but Bilney stepped in after watching him for a time.

Bilney set a plan in motion for Latimer; for his good. He went to Latimer and asked him to hear his confession. This was indeed strange for the Protestant to go to a Catholic. Bilney explained how he has desired to follow the church, and found Jesus Christ. He explained to him the adoption he had and the wonders of it. So the confessional turned into the preaching box, and Latimer listened with interest. God opened his heart and the words of Bilney were used to convert Latimer to the faith. Latimer now followed the course of the Reformation the zeal of Bilney for the truth. They often contemplated how to reach Oxford with the truth and prayed for God’s intervention.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 18, Chapter 10

Adrian VI died and Wolsey again thought he would get the papacy for his own. However, Julio de’ Medici also tried for the position and his eighteen cardinals were behind him. Julio was elected and again Wolsey was foiled. He was angry that he had missed his chance again. King Charles discovered Wolsey’s pain his under his cloak of cordiality and decided to retain Henry’s alliance in any case. He wanted Henry to send an envoy to Italy to mediate the political matter at hand and Wolsey knew Henry would send him, and was exasperated.

Other events turned the king’s eyes to another part of the kingdom. Two armies, one of France one of the empire was set before Pavia. On February 24, 1525 the battle was fought. The imperialists found letters to the king of France in his tent, along with Wolsey’s gold that had been given to him by bribe. Wolsey, of hearing of this, was pleased to see his enemy, Francis I, in such dire straights. He would have simply loved to see his defeat altogether, but this little victory may prove useful to him in further blackmail. He pressed Henry to make peace between France and England, opposing king Charles V whom Wolsey detested. The king did this. The eastern countries rose in protest, and Henry was under duress. He had to be guarded by his royal guard for four thousand men instantly rose up against him for making this alliance.

What then was the outcome thus far? Wolsey did not have his pontificate, and Charles did not back down to his conquest of Pavia. Henry was lured into a wrong decision, and Francis I was found to be a conspirator of sorts.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 18, Chapter 11

Tyndale arrived at Hamburg. The Gospel had been flourishing there since1521 so Tyndale was among friends and a safe port. He took up a humble lodging and began working again on the translation of the text. Some monks now converted to Protestantism, one by the name of William Roye, aided Tyndale in the work.

Tyndale could not afford to pay both for his own lodging and that of men like Roye, and decided to move to another city. Foxe recalls that at this time Tyndale went and visited Luther in 1525. After this he traveled to Cologne where there were some English printers that could help him in the printing of the New Testament in English. He took Roye and his manuscripts and traveled there. Tyndale kept himself relatively hidden and required of the printer six thousand copies, and then trimmed this to three thousand in case of being caught. Cochloeus arrived in that city. It is interesting that two of the most adverse kind of men resided in the same place for very different reasons. He learned Tyndale was there, but not by name. He simply found out that two Englishmen were there translating the Bible but could not pinpoint their location.

Cochloeus hired the craftiness of Herman Rincke to help him catch Tyndale and then turn him over to him. Cochloeus thought that putting the reformer away would earn him points. Tyndale gained news of Cochloeus, not Rincke, and gathered his papers with Roye from the printer and fled to England. On his way in fleeing he traveled through to Worms and arrived in the city where he knew the Gospel was preached. When Luther arrived, he arrived known and in throng. Tyndale, though arrived in obscurity and in hiding.

History Of The Reformation Of The Sixteenth Century: Book 18, Chapter 12

Cambridge was being sorely agitated by the Gospel, and Bilney, who one may call the father of the English reformation, prayed fervently for the Reformation to advance through his work there, as well as Latimer’s. Bilney was not the only man tending to reformation in the academic circles or across England. Stafford was taking up remarkable advances for the Gospel. He taught the finished work of Christ was all one needed in order to be saved. The Cambridge students were impressed with such teaching from their learned doctor and encouraged him in the same. Above both Bilney and Stafford, though, rose Latimer.

Latimer learned that Tyndale was working on a translation in English and so pressed that every pulpit in Cambridge should read for their “vulgar tongue.” Huge crowds listen to Latimer preach and one young student was specially affected by him named Thomas Becon. Becon would later become archbishop of Canterbury and chaplain to Cranmer. When Latimer left his pulpit and descended into the crowd, he practiced what he preached. The priests on hearing his preaching, seeing the affect of such preaching, and watching his life closely, had to overcome this reformer and silence him. They discoursed with him but Latimer overpowered them with his knowledge of the Bible. The only weapon left for the papacy to stop Latimer’s preaching or Bilney’s visitation to the poor, or Stafford’s doctrinal teaching, was persecution.

Barnes, another Catholic teacher, also came to the faith, and men crowded around him to hear his oratory in the universities. He was very powerful. Barnes came to Cambridge and stood with Latimer, Fryth, Stafford and the others against the papacy.

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