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Theocratic Aid To Kingdom Publishers

306

Lesson 78

PRELIMINARIES TO THE REFORMATION

The thirteenth century saw the creation of the dreaded Inquisition. By this time the rule of the Hierarchy had become so oppressive and corrupt that many were rebelling or speaking out against this iniquitous system. The Papacy denounced all criticism as "heresy" and set about to stamp out all opposition.

Torture was introduced in the court procedure of the Inquisition for the express purpose of extracting confession, being so authorized by Pope Innocent IV in the bull Ad extirpanda, issued in 1252. Any lawyer defending the accused would be held guilty of heresy. Thus the accused was left at the mercy of a prejudiced court without any assistance from friend or family. The inquiry might last days or even months of grueling, depending upon the discretion of the judges, who determined matters so as to obtain as many confessions as possible. No one was ever acquitted. The sentences were either that of being burned at the stake or otherwise executed or totally dispossessed of property. The judges of the Inquisition were priests appointed by the "holy office" at the Vatican. These priest-judges were very corrupt, many of them being sadists and wholly demonized. Any person, regardless of rank, who might in the slightest be suspected of holding in contempt the wicked oppression of the clergy were objects of prompt inquisitional prosecution and elimination.

The thirteenth century also became famous as the age of monasteries, with the result that scores of these devilish institutions were built up all over western Europe. It was

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in this century that the "holy" crusades were organized to drive out the Mohammedans from the Holy Land. Scores of thousands lost their lives in this crusading racket of the Hierarchy.

Priestcraft becomes unbearable. Unrest and protest against oppressive hierarchical rule rises in France, Italy, and England. The Waldenses rise in opposition, and are sorely persecuted. The Hierarchy knows only one answer, and that is to make the Inquisition more hideous. But it was not able to stamp out the opposition of the Waldenses, and even in the fifteenth century stray supporters of the Waldensian teaching were to be found in Italy, France, and Germany, everywhere keeping alive mistrust of the temporal power of the "Church", or her priesthood and her Hierarchy. In the sixteenth century the French Waldenses became Calvinists, an early name for the Presbyterian sects, the Church of Scotland, and the Dutch Reformed sects of today.

The Waldenses were a group of sincere Christians under the leadership of Petrus Waldus, a merchant of Lyons, France, who in 1179 began to protest against the growing apostasy of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy. These honest people were devoted to Bible reading and public preaching, and sought to revive true worship of Christianity. From the beginning of the thirteenth century they were subjected to fierce persecution and scattered throughout Europe. The Waldenses were the early forerunners of the protestant Reformation. It is quite evident that the early Waldenses were faithful witnesses of Jehovah; and following are some of their leading teachings:

"1. Only the Holy Scripture is to be believed in matters pertaining to salvation. 2. Nothing is to be admitted in religion but only what is commanded in the Word of God. 3. There is one only Mediator; other saints are not necessary. 4. There is no 'purgatory'. 5. That all masses are wicked and ought to be abolished. 6. All men's traditions are to be rejected. 7. The supremacy of the pope is to be

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denied. 8. Communion according to the institution of Christ is necessary. 9. The Church of Rome is the very Babylon spoken of in the Apocalypse (Revelation). 10. The pope's pardons and indulgences are to be rejected. 11. The marriage of priests is godly. 12. Such as hear the word of God and have a right faith are the right church of Christ."  —Foxe's Book of Martyrs, edition of 1850, page 146.

The pre-Reformation movement in England centered around John Wycliffe. He was a teacher at Oxford University, as well as being the rector (a Roman Catholic priest) of Lutterworth. Wycliffe's first work was a treatise justifying the refusal of Parliament to pay the tribute claimed by the pope in 1366; and from 1371 he was in the forefront of the religious and social disturbance which now began to rage in England. His followers were known as Lollards, and they went throughout England with pamphlets published by Wycliffe. They went from house to house and village to village, reading to the people Wycliffe's treatises. Seeing the great thirst on the part of the common people for knowledge of the truth, Wycliffe set about to translate the first English Bible. Many copies of this Bible were copied by hand and circulated throughout England.

Wycliffe's ideas, conveyed to the continent of Europe, precipitated the outbreak of the Hussite storm in Bohemia (Czechoslovakia). The Council of Constance thought to quell it by condemnation of Wycliffe's teaching and by the execution of John Huss in 1415. But in vain. The flame burst forth, not in Bohemia alone, where Huss' death gave the signal for a rising, but also in England among the Lollards, and in Germany among those of Huss' persuasion, who had many points of agreement with the remnant of the Waldenses and the followers of Wycliffe in England. Events were rapidly mounting to a climax. Wycliffe fanned the fire of opposition to the Church of Rome that finally culminated in the great Reformation a century and a half later.

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In the year 1453 Constantinople, the great capital of the eastern part of the old Roman Empire, fell to the Turks, who were not "Christians", but Mohammedans. The power and influence of the Orthodox or Greek Catholic Church as centered at Constantinople was largely overcome by the invasion of the Turks and their non-Christian religion. This removed a great rival of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy but also made real the Turkish threat of their ultimately conquering the West. The Roman Church raised the cry against Mohammedanism throughout Europe, similar to the twentieth-century cry against Communism, by which tactics she further consolidated her secular control over the rulers of the West. In spite of the inroads made by the Mohammedans both through Spain and through the Balkans, the Hierarchy was able to check their advances and emerged more firmly planted in the saddle of the Western nations than ever before.

During the fifteenth century the Roman Catholic Church was at her prime as to unchallenged secular and "spiritual" power in Europe. This entrenched position would now be favorable toward her final grasp of her age-old goal in becoming the universal church in "Christendom", and thus a tool in the Devil's scheme of universal domination. Then something happened. Though externally strong, internally explosive forces were fomenting. As preliminary to the great explosion of the Protestant Reformation, printing from movable type was invented in the middle of the fifteenth century, and various versions and translations of the Bible began to appear in Europe. Thus in the midst of growing unrest and dissatisfaction with the degrading course of the Roman Church and her reign of terror through the Inquisition, printing and Bible distribution were to play an important part in the great jolt the Hierarchy was to receive by the Reformation.


REVIEW: 1. What developments took place during the thirteenth century? 2. Who rose in strong opposition? 3. What was the origin of the Waldenses? 4. Of what were they the forerunners?
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5. What were some of their beliefs? 6. Discuss the pre-Reformation movement in England. 7. What far-reaching effects sprang from Wycliffe's activities? 8. How was the power of a Hierarchy rival largely overcome? 9. What was a final preliminary to the Reformation, and why?



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