When I was almost twelve years old, the Lord appeared to me in a vision and told me to study the lives of great preachers so I could learn the reasons for their successes and failures. In that quest, I learned the importance of history. History is a blueprint of our past. With all of its mistakes and triumphs, it tells a story that is always repeated somewhere else in time, some place in every generation, but many times under a different disguise or a different method. I’ve appropriately entitled my second book in the God’s Generals series,
The Roaring Reformers. I believe it is vital that we understand the past history of the Reformation and the character of those who brought it to pass. Every generation needs a reformation, because when we forget our history or our reason for living, then our reliance upon the Holy Spirit can grow dormant, and the heavens close and become brazen. This second book is more detailed than the first because the volume of study was more expansive. It includes methods of thinking and doctrines that might seem foreign to us.
That’s mainly because we are living in and enjoying what these great men had to pioneer. We live in the benefits of what these men gave their lives for. Today, we can hear in one service what took them years and years to understand! I also wrote this book because I want you to understand the process of the Reformation and the spirit behind it. Reformation brings a complete upheaval to a dark situation and, through great physical and spiritual strength, creates an atmosphere of freedom and relationship between God and His people. As you read, you will see how each of these men built upon the work of his predecessor to accomplish reformation in his generation.
Although the actual period of the Reformation is historically recognized in the sixteenth century, the workings of it began generations before-and that’s why I’ve included John Wycliffe and Jon Hus as primary figures. Each of the six men I’ve chosen was different in personality and method-but their goals were the same. They each had an assignment from heaven. They each gave their lives in hopes of seeing it come to pass, and some died as martyrs. And each of them (except Fox) had the hypocrisy and blasphemy of the medieval Catholic Church to conquer. Chapters 1-5 have the same religious setting.
Let me briefly summarize the situation. Before the fourteenth century, if one was deemed a Christian, then that person belonged to the Catholic Church. You were either Catholic or a pagan. As early as the fourteenth century, the Catholic Church had become delirious with power, and the abuses began to show up in extreme hypocrisy and blasphemy. It had set itself up as the absolute voice and judgment of God throughout the known world. It controlled secular governments and royalty, unseating whomever it wished at any time it wished, especially if there was a threat to its own prosperity and power.
Even though some kings had an inherited throne, they were charged a “rent” by the pope to keep their crown-they had to pay or suffer the consequences. To keep this dictatorship, the Catholic Church made sure that the Bible was translated into Latin only. The common people couldn’t read or understand Latin, so they were victims of whatever the Church taught them. The common person was forbidden to own a Bible because it was believed that only the priests could have that honor. But the clergy seldom-if ever-read the Bible, and many priests had no idea what it said.
They made up stories and fables, all clouded with a sense of mysticism. The unknown kept them in a position of prestige among the people. It was made clear that the common person could never know God-much less please Him-so the people were left to serve under whatever whimsical bondage the religious hierarchy created. They invented purgatory and the infallibility of the pope. They created indulgences and sold them as a means to pay off the excessive debt that one pope had incurred. The people were taught that if they spent enough money for an indulgence, then the clergy could grant them entrance into heaven.
If a child died before its parents could pay for the baptism, legend said the child was doomed to roam the earth as a firefly or some other bug or beast. Since religious politics was the dominant spirit behind it all, the Catholic clergy sought after riches and prominence more than the welfare of the people. The Catholic Church and clergy were draped in wealth while the common man suffered. Every doctrine they created, every system of worship they instituted, all had the lust for money behind it.
They made whatever laws they felt necessary to insure more money, more land, and more power for themselves. In the fifteenth century, the papacy itself was shrouded with murder and the “sudden deaths” of those who tried to gain power. Immorality was rampant as priests had numerous mistresses as well as homosexual or adulterous affairs. Since the priests didn’t know the Bible, they didn’t have any revelation of its contents. The blood of Jesus wasn’t enough for them, so they invented the reconciling power of dead saints like Anne (mother of Mary), Joseph, Mary, and countless others.
By the sixteenth century, if anyone challenged this system, the person was put on trial amid a torrent of lies, and either excommunicated or killed. In the midst of these dark times, men such as John Wycliffe, Jon Hus, Martin Luther, John Knox, and John Calvin arose. By the seventeenth century, the Reformation was in full swing. George Fox challenged the cold, religious lethargy and civil discrimination in another way; he stayed in the Catholic Church and sparked life back into the Church through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Each of these six men rose to meet the voice of God within them. Through unflinching spirit and determination, they stood for the truth and became reformers for God. Each of them slowly began to penetrate the darkness around them with the truth of Jesus Christ and the surety of His Word.
Now it’s our turn. History is still being made and the eyes of heaven are upon us. Take your place. Take the stand for your generation and for your nations as we continue to turn the world to the light and truth found in Jesus Christ. Refuse to allow any fear or any torment to cloud your vision for God. Refuse to cower or allow evil to silence His voice through you. May reformation come again in our generation-and may it come through you.