Persecution: John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, and Pilgrim’s Progress

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By the 1300’s, it was becoming increasingly clear that Roman Catholicism had become corrupt. It took strong, brave people to go against the Church. One such person was John Wycliffe who was born in 1324 in Yorkshire, England. He lived during the reign of King Edward III and King Richard II of England. In 1376, he wrote the Civil Dominion which called for a reformation in the church. He began to attract followers as people were drawn to his cause. He and his followers rejected wealth, believing that it was better for the church to be poor as was shown by the churches initiated by the apostles after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” - Acts 4:32-35 NIV “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” - Matthew 19:24 NIV In the book Pilgrim’s Progress, written by John Bunyan, the protagonist left all he had, including his family and worldly possessions, to find a way to rid himself of his burden. Christian then begins his long and sometimes hazardous journey to the Celestial City where he is rewarded for his courage and persistence. One of Christian's companions, Faithful, had been detained on his journey by Adam the First. Adam had offered Faithful his three daughters and a place in his household as his heir. At first, Faithful was tempted to accept the man’s offer but thought better of it. He continued on, passing on the promise of worldly wealth to gain an eternal wealth that could not be matched by anything of earth.

John Wycliffe continued to attract the attention of people but not always in friendly ways. The church naturally disagreed with him, and in 1377 he was forced to give an account of his doctrine to the bishops. The bishops relayed the information they had gathered and appealed to Pope Gregory XI. The pope was horrified and issued five papal edicts against John Wycliffe, but, John Wycliffe was protected. He had the support of both the Duke of Lancaster and Queen Joan, the wife of King Edward III. In 1380, he began to translate the first Bible into English. It had formerly only been written in Latin and had previously never been disclosed to the general public. The hoarding of the exact phrasing of the Bible put the common people at the mercy of the church. The church was free to add and subtract things as they saw fit and the people were forced to comply out of ignorance. This way of teaching also made the people susceptible to being lead astray by others who were seeking to gain control or money by manipulating Roman Catholicism to fit their own needs and desires. John Wycliffe believed that anyone, no matter their social status, who took the time to learn how to read should have access to God’s Word. “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” - Acts 17:11 “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”-1 John 4:1 The Bible clearly states that we should listen to our elders, but we also need to double check that what someone says is really in God’s word. We should not blindly follow those who might lead us astray if they are given the opportunity. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in...
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