John Wickliffe — from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs

As mentioned in my last post on this subject, Constantine the Great stopped the persecutions for 1,000 years until John Wickliffe. However, it was through the doings of Constantine that the church became corrupted by the Romans as they successfully mixed the church with the evil Roman government (as they were corrupted by Babylonian influence by which much idolatry was introduced).

So it was, with this background, John Wickliffe came on the scene. This biblical scholar from England, the Lord raised up to detect and combat all the Pope’s false doctrine. Indeed, he had a challenge since the Pope managed to keep the true gospel and all of the bible out of the hands of the people. They did know the name of Christ, but they knew nothing of the apostle’s doctrine, such as justification by faith, the liberty of the Christian, the strength of sin, etc. Instead, the Pope’s main teaching was of ceremonies and traditions.

So it was, seemingly, that John Wickliffe alone took great pains to protest this false teaching of the Pope openly in the schools. And he was somewhat supported by the King—at least at first.

Oh, Wickliffe was a bold fellow, not afraid of the Papacy in the least. Here are a few points of Wickliffe’s sermons:

  • The holy eucharist is not the very body of Christ.
  • The church of Rome is not the head of all churches.
  • The Gospel is a rule sufficient of itself, without any other rule.
  • The Pope ought not to have prisons to punish transgressors.

Wickliffe, for his sermons, was commanded by the bishops to keep silence, but it was written that “he burst out afterward much more fiercely.” And he for his boldness got “the goodwill and favour of certain noblemen… [and] the common people.”

Then, in 1377, Pope Gregory, sent a letter (a bull) to the university of Oxford (where Wickliffe arrived from and taught at) and rebuked them for putting up with the teachings of Wickliffe. His words were quite fierce against Wickliffe: that he made “erroneous and false propositions…savoring even of heretical pravity, tending to weaken and overthrow the status of the whole church…” So, they were told, “By our authority you seize or cause to be seized the said John.” And then another letter was sent that he should be warned by public citation to appear before the Pope to be admonished.

Well, as it happened, by the miraculous grace of God, John Wickliffe managed to escape out of the bishops’ hands, by the aid one time of a great earthquake, and a second time by a lightning strike.

But yet, the Archbishop of Canterbury ordered a mandate against John Wickliffe that he was forbidden to preach “his heresies” against the church. But at the same time the chancellor in Oxford favoured Wickliffe and said that he was a good and innocent man. And so, it went like that back and forth.

Well, as it happened Wickliffe was secretly kept safe from the Pope and he died an old man. Yet he was declared a heretic and was cursed by the holy catholic church. And they set out to find his body and to burn his bones, but they could not find him; so they burned the bones of another man instead and said it was John Wickliffe.

Wickliffe became the father and leader of all those true Christians who would follow him. And though he was not martyred, all that followed him were martyred, as the Popes became more and more evil and not willing that any would escape from their grasp.