Imagine you are the Pope in the fourteenth century (just work with me), when one of your priests suggests that you are the Antichrist.
It is understandable that you would be annoyed, but would you dig up that priest’s bones and burn them to ashes? That is exactly what happened to John Wycliffe, the Morning Star of the Reformation.
John Wycliffe is generally considered the first great English reformer for his desire to see the Bible translated into the language of the people. For his troubles, he earned himself a Papal Bull (commanding him to stop). What was Wycliffe’s response to the Pope?
“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? It is you who place the Church in jeopardy.”
Wycliffe didn’t stop there; he attacked many cherished doctrines of the Catholic Church.
> Selling salvation (indulgences) is a sin.
> The Catholic view of communion (transubstantiation) is not in the Bible.
> Scripture is our supreme authority, not tradition.
> Infant baptism is not a means of salvation.
> “It is supposed, and with much probability, that the Roman pontiff is the great Antichrist.”
In 1381 Wycliffe was expelled from his post at Oxford. He died after a stroke in 1384 and was buried, but not for long. At the Council of Constance of 1415, Wycliffe was condemned by the Pope and his bones were ordered dug up and burned.
One commenter described the scene, “Wycliffe’s bones were exhumed and burned and the ashes scattered in the Swift River. What sight could be more unscriptural, more pagan, more wicked, than these Catholic leaders digging up old bones in a grave yard so they can publicly desecrate the long-dead Bible translator and preacher of the Gospel of Grace?”
But it was Wycliffe who had the last laugh. As The British historian Thomas Fuller wrote:
“To the city of Lutterworth they came, to take what was left out of the grave, and burned them to ashes, and cast them into Swift River. Thus this brook carried his ashes into the Avon River; Avon into the Severn River; Severn into the narrow Seas; they, into the main Ocean. And thus the Ashes of Wycliffe are the Emblem of his Doctrine, which now, is dispersed all the World over.”
Thanks to men like John Wycliffe, you and I have a Bible in our language that teaches us that we are saved by grace alone. May we too take that good news “all the World over.”