I want to look with you at a man I suspect most us no very little about. Why not look at a more popular figure from Church history? Say Tyndale or Luther. Didn't these men play the real parts when it comes to the development of a Bible for the common people. Yes that is true but I believe there is much to be learnt from a study a man like John Wyclif because he lived in pre reformation times and laid a mighty foundation on which these other men built and by the power of God a mighty reformation came about. What possible relevance does the life of a man who lived over 500 years ago have for us tonight as a small auxiliary of God's people committed to the translation, publication and circulation of what is justifiably the most accurate and trustworthy English translation of the Bible.
I would like to suggest to you that we could well be living in pre- reformation or revival times and there are reports available constantly from many parts of the World of not only Christians returning to the great timeless and fundamental doctrines on which this society was formed and stands for. But also as the Word of God is being heard and read multitudes they are coming to saving faith in Christ. Add to this that over the last 150 years there's been a return to the Bible as the sole, supreme and infallible rule of faith and conduct that has not seen since the days of the Evangelical awaking. I trust then that by looking briefly at the life of John Wyclif we as an auxiliary might be encouraged, exhorted and given an example of the astonishing power and influence which one man can possess if he comes forward boldly for Christ.
John Wyclif was born on the banks of the Tees in north Yorkshire in 1324 during the reign of Edward II. Of His early life we know little save that his descendants were Norman's and His Father was a land owner, they lived at Wyclif Manor which had it's own Chapel, called Wycliff Church. The area was known for its coalmining. He probably gained the first rudiments of schooling at Eggleston Biory on the Tees, in Yorkshire it was one of the few places of learning in those days
He attended Oxford beginning there in 1324. It is said he profited so much by the instruction he received that he obtained such a reputation and he was considered indisputably one of the most learned men of His day. Very little is known about how he came to faith in Christ but it idul ana was arterwaras connectea with Queens,Merton and Canterbury Halls. Debate and controversy seem to have been the diet of his life.
What where the times like in which Wyclif lived. This was the end of the dark ages or the end of the middle ages. The Church was completely Roman Catholic, everybody was a Roman Catholic. Christianity was vertually buried under a mass of ignorance, sperstition, priestcraft and immorality. He lived during the reigns of Edward II and Richard II and was born at least 100 years before the inventing of the printing press and died about lO0 years before Martin Luther In order that we might see how Wyclif's life developed and unfolding. Beginning as a bud then a bloom and then a beutiful blosom to God's Grace.
Balliol college was controlled by two rectors, one was a secular master of arts, the other a Franciscan. Among the duties given them was the care of the poorer students and so Wyclif came into close touch with poverty for it was the daily practice of the Rectors to nominate a poor scholar to whom the other scholars gave every day the leavings or broken meats of their tables '. So it was at Balliol that Wyclif was first brought in contact with Franciscan influences. In 1380 Wyclif was elected master of the college. Up to 1340 members of the college only where able to study arts. But during that year six theological fellowships were founded at the behest of Sir Philip Somervile. As a master, Wyclif recieved a pittance his income was forty shillings anually for his necessary expenses. A chamber was assigned to him, with a boy to wait on him. In it would be a chair, a bed, a trestle table, and a shelf for books. master there.
In 1349 the Black death struck the alleys, crowed halls and colleges of Oxford. The university did not resume it's normal role until 1353. The Black death halved the popualatian of England and left it's mark on the universities. Wyclif's whole coarse of study from Bachelor to Docorate took him about sixteen years not counting the break he had between his arts course and theology course. For the first three years of the course he attended lectures on the Vulgate text, with no discussion on theology. This was followed by two years study of the medieval text-book, Peter Lombard's Sentences. In the seventh year he began to lecture on the Sentences swearing that he would not teach anything contary to the Catholic faith. It was i n 1370 that Wyclif first put forward a debatable doctrine of the Euchrist,, which he would be called upon to dispute with every Doctor of Divinity. He had a natural bent for mathmatics and physics and this is evident in his early writings. Wyclif made no effort to study Greek prinipally because the idea of translating the Bible only came to when his Oxford days were over, and then only as a linear paraphrase of the Latin Vulgate. He had a greater knowlege of Hebrew which he may have learned from Adam Easton a Oxford contemporary who was a Hebrew scholar. Wyclif early writings are full of references to law books and canon and civil law, but these became fewer as he ceased to publish works on church government and turned to works on doctrine.
True Christian thought burnt very low during the dark ages, though it never completely petered out. God kept alive the flame of truth and handed it down from Paul and John to men like Athanasius, Augustine, and to mediaeval minds like Bradwardine. He was infuenced by Aquinas and this resulted in Wyclif's movement back to Augustine. His disciples called him by the famous and distinguished name of John, son of Augustine'. An earleir Oxford man, Thomas Bradwardine of Canterbury (129e-1349) rejected the increasing Pelagianism and scholasticism by appealing back to the greatest of all early Christian philosophers and theologians, Augustine of Hippo. Re-establishing the truths of unregenerate man's total inablity and the soverignity of God, Bradwardine thought largely in biblical terms. He had a great influence on Wyclif and Hus.
Shortly before obtaining his doctor's degree Wyclif entered the service of the crown. The tansition was natural, he believed that he could best help the cause of the church, stopping the church and her priests from stripping the people of what little money they may have. If he desired that this should remain not just theory it was imperitive that he become more than a schoolman.He became the Kings Chaplain, and he campioned the right of a government to take away the ill-gotten property of unrighteous priests. what where the main political movements that formed the background to Wyclif's public life? Wycliff left Oxford three issues stood out clearly: the humilation of England; the rise of John of Gaunt; and the continued friction with the papacy. Lets look at the third, the friction with the papacy. The relationship between England and the papacy had been strained for some years. Time after time the attention of the Parliamnet and crown was given over to ecclesiastical abuses, papal provisions, the pope's claim to exercise jurisdiction over English subjects and to excomminicate English judges, the receipt of papal bulls, and the drain of gold to the papal curia. In 1365 things came to a head with a demand from Urban V the pope? who demanded a tribute to be paid of ieee marks. The matter was discussed between the two parliaments and the claim to payment of the tribute rejected. Rome not accustomed to lightly relinquish her claims. In 1374 they where once more