The Great Controversy (1888)

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The Great Controversy (1888)

Post by Admin on 2012-06-26, 22:28

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Re: The Great Controversy (1888)

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Re: The Great Controversy (1888)

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CONTENTS


Table of Contents

Information about this Book

Publisher’s Preface
Author’s Preface
Table of Contents
Chapter 1—Destruction of Jerusalem
Chapter 2—Persecution in the First Centuries
Chapter 3—The Apostasy
Chapter 4—The Waldenses
Chapter 5—John Wycliffe
Chapter 6—Huss and Jerome
Chapter 7—Luther’s Separation from Rome
Chapter 8—Luther Before the Diet
Chapter 9—The Swiss Reformer
Chapter 10—Progress of Reform in Germany
Chapter 11—Protest of the Princes
Chapter 12—The French Reformation
Chapter 13—In the Netherlands and Scandinavia
Chapter 14—Later English Reformers
Chapter 15—The Bible and the French Revolution
Chapter 16—The Pilgrim Fathers
Chapter 17—Heralds of the Morning
Chapter 18—An American Reformer
Chapter 19—Light Through Darkness
Chapter 20—A Great Religious Awakening
Chapter 21—A Warning Rejected
Chapter 22—Prophecies Fulfilled
Chapter 23—What is the Sanctuary?
Chapter 24—In the Holy of Holies
Chapter 25—God’s Law Immutable
Chapter 26—A Work of Reform
Chapter 27—Modern Revivals
Chapter 28—The Investigative Judgment
Chapter 29—The Origin of Evil
Chapter 30—Enmity Between Man and Satan
Chapter 31—Agency of Evil Spirits
Chapter 32—Snares of Satan
Chapter 33—The First Great Deception
Chapter 34—Spiritualism
Chapter 35—Character and Aims of the Papacy
Chapter 36—The Impending Conflict—Its Causes
Chapter 37—The Scriptures a Safeguard
Chapter 38—The Final Warning
Chapter 39—“The Time of Trouble”
Chapter 40—God’s People Delivered
Chapter 41—Desolation of the Earth
Chapter 42—The Controversy Ended
Appendix

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Re: The Great Controversy (1888)

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Information about this Book

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Re: The Great Controversy (1888)

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Re: The Great Controversy (1888)

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Publisher’s Preface


When the leader of those “angels which kept not their first estate” (Jude 6) fell from his holy and exalted place in heaven, he precipitated upon the universe of God an awful controversy.
 
From the very nature of the case, there must be eternal antagonism between righteousness and sin. Between purity and pollution there can be no coalition; nor could the supreme author of all things, the God in whom inheres every perfection, maintain any other than an attitude of uncompromising hostility to sin and all its fruits, to the author of rebellion and all his followers.
 
Another conclusion is apparent: God, as the foe of all evil, and at the same time omnipotent, could not, consistently with His own nature, suffer rebellion to enter within his realms, and abide forever. The intruder must be cast out; the disturber of the peace must be destroyed. There can be no question as to the issue of this controversy between a holy Creator and the rebellious creature.
 
That sin might make a full revelation of its nature and results to the intelligences of all worlds, this controversy was not arrested in its inception. When sin is finally destroyed, it will have given sufficient evidence to satisfy every mind that it deserves the infliction; and all will joyfully acquiesce in its merited doom.
 
Happily we have no evidence that, outside the apostate angels, any other world than our own has fallen under the influence of this sinful revolt. But this is enough to make it a matter of absorbing interest to us; for Satan and his angels being cast out of heaven, this world has become the sole theater of the struggle between right and wrong. All men have become involved therein. Between them and salvation there lies the problem of recovery from sin, the attainment to a condition of reconciliation and acceptance with God.
 
What theme is therefore entitled to be regarded with more absorbing interest than this great controversy—the stages through which it has passed, its present development, and the outlook for the future. How and under what circumstances will the controversy end? And have we any evidence that the long-wished-for termination is drawing near?
 
To the consideration of these great themes the following pages are devoted; and we have the clearest assurance that the author possesses peculiar qualifications for such a work. From her childhood she has been noted for her reverence and love for the Word of God, and her piety and devotion to His service. Unbounded faith in the promises of the Holy Scriptures has been both an inducement and a means to enable her to live near to the Saviour. The blessing of the Holy Spirit has been vouchsafed to her in large measure. And as one of the offices of this Spirit was declared to be to show unto the followers of Christ “things to Ccome” (John 16:13), working through that prescribed channel which, as one of the endowments of the church, is described as the gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians 12:9, 10; 14:1), so we believe she has been empowered by a divine illumination to speak of some past events which have thus been brought to her attention, with greater minuteness than is set forth in any existing records, and to read the future with more than human foresight. Those who know what it is to hold communion with our Heavenly Father, will, we think, as they read these pages, feel constrained to believe that the writer has drawn from the heavenly fountain, and received help from that throne of grace where Christ sitteth as our merciful High Priest, and whence He is ever ready to send forth assistance to the many sons whom He is bringing unto glory. Hebrews 2:10.
 
Aside from the great volume of inspiration—the Bible—no other book presents a more wonderful and intensely interesting history of the present dispensation, to the complete restitution of all things, than the volume here offered to the public. And as the closing scenes of this world’s history are of the most thrilling and momentous nature, these are more particularly dwelt upon in this work. The reader, as he follows the narrative, beginning with a sketch of our Lord’s great prophecy in Matthew 24, will find himself entering into new sympathy with the church in her warfare and her sufferings, as she passes on to her promised redemption; and the soul of every believer will kindle at the vivid description of the final triumph of the people of God, the destruction of Satan and all his followers, the total and eternal extirpation of evil from the universe, and the renovation of the earth as the everlasting inheritance of the saints, when this great controversy is concluded.
 
While the subjects here presented involve the loftiest imagery, and most wonderful depth, even as the apostle declares, “the deep things of God,” which the Spirit alone is capable of searching into (1 Cor. 2:10), yet they are treated in language chaste, simple, and easy to be understood. And we rejoice to know that the reading of this work leads to greater confidence in, and love for, the Holy Scriptures, to greater sympathy with Christ, in His marvelous work for the redemption of men, and to greater reverence for the God of all grace, in Whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
 
Numerous editions of this work having already been exhausted, we feel a peculiar gratification in sending forth this edition, enlarged and improved, and adapted to circulate in various tongues. The illustrations will add to the interest and value of the work. May it still prove a blessing to all who read, and redound to the glory of the Most High.

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Re: The Great Controversy (1888)

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Author’s Preface
 
 
Before the entrance of sin, Adam enjoyed open communion with his Maker; but since man separated himself from God by transgression, the human race has been cut off from this high privilege. By the plan of redemption, however, a way has been opened whereby the inhabitants of the earth may still have connection with Heaven. God has communicated with men by his Spirit, and divine light has been imparted to the world by revelations to his chosen servants. “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1:21.
 
During the first twenty-five hundred years of human history, there was no written revelation. Those who had been taught of God, communicated their knowledge to others, and it was handed down from father to son, through successive generations. The preparation of the written word began in the time of Moses. Inspired revelations were then embodied in an inspired book. This work continued during the long period of sixteen hundred years, from Moses, the historian of creation and the law, to John, the recorder of the most sublime truths of the gospel.
 
The Bible points to God as its author; yet it was written by human hands; and in the varied style of its different books it presents the characteristics of the several writers. The truths revealed are all “given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16); yet they are expressed in the words of men. The Infinite One by his Holy Spirit has shed light into the minds and hearts of his servants. He has given dreams and visions, symbols and figures; and those to whom the truth was thus revealed, have themselves embodied the thought in human language.
 
The ten commandments were spoken by God himself, and were written by his own hand. They are of divine, and not human composition. But the Bible, with its God-given truths expressed in the language of men, presents a union of the divine and the human. Such a union existed in the nature of Christ, who was the Son of God and the Son of man. Thus it is true of the Bible, as it was of Christ, that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” John 1:14.
 
Written in different ages, by men who differed widely in rank and occupation, and in mental and spiritual endowments, the books of the Bible present a wide contrast in style, as well as a diversity in the nature of the subjects unfolded. Different forms of expression are employed by different writers; often the same truth is more strikingly presented by one than by another. And as several writers present a subject under varied aspects and relations, there may appear, to the superficial, careless, or prejudiced reader, to be discrepancy or contradiction, where the thoughtful, reverent student, with clearer insight, discerns the underlying harmony.
 
As presented through different individuals, the truth is brought out in its varied aspects. One writer is more strongly impressed with one phase of a subject; he grasps those points that harmonize with his experience or with his power of perception and appreciation; another seizes upon a different phase; and each, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, presents what is most forcibly impressed upon his own mind; a different aspect of the truth in each, but a perfect harmony through all. And the truths thus revealed unite to form a perfect whole, adapted to meet the wants of men in all the circumstances and experiences of life.
 
God has been pleased to communicate his truth to the world by human agencies, and he himself, by his Holy Spirit, qualified men and enabled them to do this work. He guided the mind in the selection of what to speak and what to write. The treasure was intrusted to earthen vessels, yet it is, none the less, from Heaven. The testimony is conveyed through the imperfect expression of human language; yet it is the testimony of God; and the obedient, believing child of God beholds in it the glory of a divine power, full of grace and truth.
 
In his Word, God has committed to men the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are to be accepted as an authoritative, infallible revelation of his will. They are the standard of character, the revealer of doctrines, and the test of experience. “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, Revised Version.
 
Yet the fact that God has revealed his will to men through his Word, has not rendered needless the continued presence and guiding of the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, the Spirit was promised by our Saviour, to open the Word to his servants, to illuminate and apply its teachings. And since it was the Spirit of God that inspired the Bible, it is impossible that the teaching of the Spirit should ever be contrary to that of the Word.
 
The Spirit was not given—nor can it ever be bestowed—to supersede the Bible; for the Scriptures explicitly state that the Word of God is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested. Says the apostle John, “Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1. And Isaiah declares, “To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”Isaiah 8:20.
 
Great reproach has been cast upon the work of the Holy Spirit, by the errors of a class that, claiming its enlightenment, profess to have no further need of guidance from the Word of God. They are governed by impressions which they regard as the voice of God in the soul. But the spirit that controls them is not the Spirit of God. This following of impressions, to the neglect of the Scriptures, can lead only to confusion, to deception and ruin. It serves only to further the designs of the evil one. Since the ministry of the Holy Spirit is of vital importance to the church of Christ, it is one of the devices of Satan, through the errors of extremists and fanatics to cast contempt upon the work of the Spirit, and cause the people of God to neglect this source of strength which our Lord himself has provided.
 
In harmony with the Word of God, his Spirit was to continue its work throughout the entire period of the gospel dispensation. During the ages while the Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testament were being given, the Holy Spirit did not cease to communicate light to individual minds, apart from the revelations to be embodied in the sacred canon. The Bible itself relates how, through the Holy Spirit, men received warning, reproof, counsel, and instruction, in matters in no way relating to the giving of the Scriptures. And mention is made of prophets in different ages, of whose utterances nothing is recorded. In like manner, after the close of the canon of Scripture, the Holy Spirit was still to continue its work, to enlighten, warn, and comfort the children of God.
 
Jesus promised his disciples, “The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth; ... and he will show you things to come.” John 14:26; 16:13. Scripture plainly teaches that these promises, so far from being limited to apostolic days, extend to the church of Christ in all ages. The Saviour assures his followers, “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20. And Paul declares that the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit were set in the church “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:12, 13.
 
For the believers at Ephesus the apostle prayed, “That the God of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what ... is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe.” Ephesians 1:17-19. The ministry of the divine Spirit in enlightening the understanding and opening to the mind the deep things of God’s holy Word, was the blessing which Paul thus besought for the Ephesian church.
 
After the wonderful manifestation of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, Peter exhorted the people to repentance and baptism in the name of Christ, for the remission of their sins; and he said, “Ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Acts 2:38, 39.
 
In immediate connection with the scenes of the great day of God, the Lord by the prophet Joel has promised a special manifestation of his Spirit. Joel 2:28. This prophecy received a partial fulfillment in the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost; but it will reach its full accomplishment in the manifestation of divine grace which will attend the closing work of the gospel.
 
The great controversy between good and evil will increase in intensity to the very close of time. In all ages the wrath of Satan has been manifested against the church of Christ; and God has bestowed his grace and Spirit upon his people to strengthen them to stand against the power of the evil one. When the apostles of Christ were to bear his gospel to the world and to record it for all future ages, they were especially endowed with the enlightenment of the Spirit. But as the church approaches her final deliverance, Satan is to work with greater power. He comes down “having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” Revelation 12:12. He will work “with all power and signs and lying wonders.” 2 Thessalonians 2:9. For six thousand years that master-mind that once was highest among the angels of God, has been wholly bent to the work of deception and ruin. And all the depths of Satanic skill and subtlety acquired, all the cruelty developed, during these struggles of the ages, will be brought to bear against God’s people in the final conflict. And in this time of peril the followers of Christ are to bear to the world the warning of the Lord’s second advent; and a people are to be prepared to stand before him at his coming, “without spot, and blameless.” 2 Peter 3:14. At this time the special endowment of divine grace and power is not less needful to the church than in apostolic days.
 
Through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, the scenes of the long-continued conflict between good and evil have been opened to the writer of these pages. From time to time I have been permitted to behold the working, in different ages, of the great controversy between Christ, the Prince of life, the author of our salvation, and Satan, the prince of evil, the author of sin, the first transgressor of God’s holy law. Satan’s enmity against Christ has been manifested against his followers. The same hatred of the principles of God’s law, the same policy of deception, by which error is made to appear as truth, by which human laws are substituted for the law of God, and men are led to worship the creature rather than the Creator, may be traced in all the history of the past. Satan’s efforts to misrepresent the character of God, to cause men to cherish a false conception of the Creator, and thus to regard him with fear and hate rather than with love, his endeavors to set aside the divine law, leading the people to think themselves free from its requirements, and his persecution of those who dare to resist his deceptions, have been steadfastly pursued in all ages. They may be traced in the history of patriarchs, prophets, and apostles, of martyrs and reformers.
 
In the great final conflict, Satan will employ the same policy, manifest the same spirit, and work for the same end, as in all preceding ages. That which has been, will be, except that the coming struggle will be marked with a terrible intensity such as the world has never witnessed. Satan’s deceptions will be more subtle, his assaults more determined. If it were possible, he would lead astray the elect. Mark 13:22, Reevised Version.
 
As the Spirit of God has opened to my mind the great truths of his Word, and the scenes of the past and the future, I have been bidden to make known to others what has thus been revealed,—to trace the history of the controversy in past ages, and especially to so present it as to shed a light on the fast-approaching struggle of the future. In pursuance of this purpose, I have endeavored to select and group together events in the history of the church in such a manner as to trace the unfolding of the great testing truths that at different periods have been given to the world, that have excited the wrath of Satan, and the enmity of a world-loving church, and that have been maintained by the witness of those who “loved not their lives unto the death.”
 
In these records we may see a foreshadowing of the conflict before us. Regarding them in the light of God’s Word, and by the illumination of his Spirit, we may see unveiled the devices of the wicked one, and the dangers which they must shun who would be found “without fault” before the Lord at his coming.
 
The great events which have marked the progress of reform in past ages, are matters of history, well known and universally acknowledged by the Protestant world; they are facts which none can gainsay. This history I have presented briefly, in accordance with the scope of the book, and the brevity which must necessarily be observed, the facts having been condensed into as little space as seemed consistent with a proper understanding of their application. In some cases where a historian has so grouped together events as to afford, in brief, a comprehensive view of the subject, or has summarized details in a convenient manner, his words have been quoted; but except in a few instances no specific credit has been given, since they are not quoted for the purpose of citing that writer as authority, but because his statement affords a ready and forcible presentation of the subject. In narrating the experience and views of those carrying forward the work of reform in our own time, similar use has occasionally been made of their published works.
 
It is not so much the object of this book to present new truths concerning the struggles of former times, as to bring out facts and principles which have a bearing upon coming events. Yet viewed as a part of the controversy between the forces of light and darkness, all these records of the past are seen to have a new significance; and through them a light is cast upon the future, illumining the pathway of those who, like the reformers of past ages, will be called, even at the peril of all earthly good, to witness “for the Word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
 
To unfold the scenes of the great controversy between truth and error; to reveal the wiles of Satan, and the means by which he may be successfully resisted; to present a satisfactory solution of the great problem of evil, shedding such a light upon the origin and the final disposition of sin as to fully make manifest the justice and benevolence of God in all his dealings with his creatures; and to show the holy, unchanging nature of his law, is the object of this book. That through its influence souls may be delivered from the power of darkness, and become “partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light,” to the praise of Him who loved us, and gave himself for us, is the earnest prayer of the writer.
 
E. G. W.
Healdsburg, Cal.,
May, 1888.

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Re: The Great Controversy (1888)

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Chapter 1—Destruction of Jerusalem
 
 
“If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one Stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.” [Luke 19:42-44.]
 
From the crest of Olivet, Jesus looked upon Jerusalem. Fair and peaceful was the scene spread out before him. It was the season of the Passover, and from all lands the children of Jacob had gathered there to celebrate the great national festival. In the midst of gardens and vineyards, and green slopes studded with pilgrims’ tents, rose the terraced hills, the stately palaces, and massive bulwarks of Israel’s capital. The daughter of Zion seemed in her pride to say, “I sit a queen, and shall see no sorrow;” as lovely then, and deeming herself as secure in Heaven’s favor, as when, ages before, the royal minstrel sung, “Beautiful of situation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion,” “the city of the great King.” [Psalm 48:2.] In full view were the magnificent buildings of the temple. The rays of the setting sun lighted up the snowy whiteness of its marble walls, and gleamed from golden gate and tower and pinnacle. “The perfection of beauty” it stood, the pride of the Jewish nation. What child of Israel could gaze upon the scene without a thrill of joy and admiration! But far other thoughts occupied the mind of Jesus. “When he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it.” [Luke 19:41.] Amid the universal rejoicing of the triumphal entry, while palm branches waved, while glad hosannas awoke the echoes of the hills, and thousands of voices declared him king, the world’s Redeemer was overwhelmed with a sudden and mysterious sorrow. He, the Son of God, the Promised One of Israel, whose power had conquered death, and called its captives from the grave, was in tears, not of ordinary grief, but of intense, irrepressible agony.
 
His tears were not for himself, though he well knew whither his feet were tending. Before him lay Gethsemane, the scene of his approaching agony. The sheep gate also was in sight, through which for centuries the victims for sacrifice had been led, and which was to open for him when he should be “brought as a lamb to the slaughter.” [Isaiah 53:7.] Not far distant was Calvary, the place of crucifixion. Upon the path which Christ was soon to tread must fall the horror of great darkness as he should make his soul an offering for sin. Yet it was not the contemplation of these scenes that cast the shadow upon him in this hour of gladness. No foreboding of his own superhuman anguish clouded that unselfish spirit. He wept for the doomed thousands of Jerusalem—because of the blindness and impenitence of those whom he came to bless and to save.
 
The history of more than a thousand years of God’s special favor and guardian care, manifested to the chosen people, was open to the eye of Jesus. There was Mount Moriah, where the son of promise, an unresisting victim, had been bound to the altar,—emblem of the offering of the Son of God. [Genesis 22:9.] There, the covenant of blessing, the glorious Messianic promise, had been confirmed to the father of the faithful. [Genesis 22:16-18.] There the flames of the sacrifice ascending to heaven from the threshing-floor of Ornan had turned aside the sword of the destroying angel [1 Chronicles 21.]—fitting symbol of the Saviour’s sacrifice and mediation for guilty men. Jerusalem had been honored of God above all the earth. The Lord had “chosen Zion,” he had “desired it for his habitation.” [Psalm 132:13.] There, for ages, holy prophets had uttered their messages of warning. There, priests had waved their censers, and the cloud of incense, with the prayers of the worshipers, had ascended before God. There daily the blood of slain lambs had been offered, pointing forward to the Lamb of God. There, Jehovah had revealed his presence in the cloud of glory above the mercy-seat. There rested the base of that mystic ladder connecting earth with Heaven, [Genesis 28:12; John 1:51.]—that ladder upon which angels of God descended and ascended, and which opened to the world the way into the holiest of all. Had Israel as a nation preserved her allegiance to Heaven, Jerusalem would have stood forever, the elect of God. [Jeremiah 17:21-25.] But the history of that favored people was a record of backsliding and rebellion. They had resisted Heaven’s grace, abused their privileges, and slighted their opportunities.
 
Although Israel had “mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets,” [2 Chronicles 36:15, 16.] he had still manifested himself to them, as “the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth;” [Exodus 34:6.] notwithstanding repeated rejections, his mercy had continued its pleadings. With more than a father’s pitying love for the son of his care, God had “sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling-place.” [2 Chronicles 36:15, 16.] When remonstrance, entreaty, and rebuke had failed, he sent to them the best gift of Heaven; nay, he poured out all Heaven in that one gift.
 
The Son of God himself was sent to plead with the impenitent city. It was Christ that had brought Israel as a goodly vine out of Egypt. [Psalm 80:8.] His own hand had cast out the heathen before it. He had planted it “in a very fruitful hill.” [Isaiah 5:1-4.] His guardian care had hedged it about. His servants had been sent to nurture it. “What could have been done more to my vineyard,” he exclaims, “that I have not done in it?” [Isaiah 5:1-4.] Though when he “looked that it should bring forth grapes, it brought forth wild grapes,” [Isaiah 5:1-4.] yet with a still yearning hope of fruitfulness he came in person to his vineyard, if haply it might be saved from destruction. He digged about his vine; he pruned and cherished it. He was unwearied in his efforts to save this vine of his own planting.
 
For three years the Lord of light and glory had gone in and out among his people. “He went about doing good,” “healing all that were oppressed of the devil,” [Acts 10:38; Luke 4:18; Matthew 11:5.] binding up the broken-hearted, setting at liberty them that were bound, restoring sight to the blind, causing the lame to walk and deaf to hear, cleansing the lepers, raising the dead, and preaching the gospel to the poor. [Acts 10:38; Luke 4:18; Matthew 11:5.] To all classes alike was addressed the gracious call, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” [Matthew 11:28.]
 
Though rewarded with evil for good, and hatred for his love, [Psalm 109:5.] he had steadfastly pursued his mission of mercy. Never were those repelled that sought his grace. A homeless wanderer, reproach and penury his daily lot, he lived to minister to the needs and lighten the woes of men, to plead with them to accept the gift of life. The waves of mercy, beaten back by those stubborn hearts, returned in a stronger tide of pitying, inexpressible love. But Israel had turned from her best friend and only helper. The pleadings of his love had been despised, his counsels spurned, his warnings ridiculed.
 
The hour of hope and pardon was fast passing; the cup of God’s long-deferred wrath was almost full. The cloud that had been gathering through ages of apostasy and rebellion, now black with woe, was about to burst upon a guilty people, and He who alone could save them from their impending fate had been slighted, abused, rejected, and was soon to be crucified. When Christ should hang upon the cross of Calvary, Israel’s day as a nation favored and blessed of God would be ended. The loss of even one soul is a calamity, infinitely outweighing the gains and treasures of a world; but as Christ looked upon Jerusalem, the doom of a whole city, a whole nation, was before him; that city, that nation which had once been the chosen of God,—his peculiar treasure.
 
Prophets had wept over the apostasy of Israel, and the terrible desolations by which their sins were visited. Jeremiah wished that his eyes were a fountain of tears, that he might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of his people, for the Lord’s flock that was carried away captive. [Jeremiah 9:1; 13:17.] What, then, was the grief of Him whose prophetic glance took in, not years, but ages! He beheld the destroying angel with sword uplifted against the city which had so long been Jehovah’s dwelling-place. From the ridge of Olivet, the very spot afterward occupied by Titus and his army, he looked across the valley upon the sacred courts and porticoes, and with tear-dimmed eyes he saw, in awful perspective, the walls surrounded by alien hosts. He heard the tread of armies marshaling for war. He heard the voice of mothers and children crying for bread in the besieged city. He saw her holy and beautiful house, her palaces and towers, given to the flames, and where once they stood, only a heap of smouldering ruins.
 
Looking down the ages, he saw the covenant people scattered in every land, “like wrecks on a desert shore.” In the temporal retribution about to fall upon her children, he saw but the first draught from that cup of wrath which at the final Judgment she must drain to its dregs. Divine pity, yearning love, found utterance in the mournful words: “‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!’ [Matthew 23:37.] Oh that thou, a nation favored above every other, hadst known the time of thy visitation, and the things that belong unto thy peace! I have stayed the angel of justice, I have called thee to repentance, but in vain. It is not merely servants, delegates, and prophets, whom thou hast refused and rejected, but the Holy One of Israel, thy Redeemer. If thou art destroyed, thou alone art responsible. ‘Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.’” [John 5:40.]
 
Christ saw in Jerusalem a symbol of the world hardened in unbelief and rebellion, and hastening on to meet the retributive judgments of God. The woes of a fallen race, pressing upon his soul, forced from his lips that exceeding bitter cry. He saw the record of sin traced in human misery, tears, and blood; his heart was moved with infinite pity for the afflicted and suffering ones of earth; he yearned to relieve them all. But even his hand might not turn back the tide of human woe; few would seek their only source of help. He was willing to pour out his soul unto death, to bring salvation within their reach; but few would come to him that they might have life.
 
The Majesty of Heaven in tears! the Son of the infinite God troubled in spirit, bowed down with anguish! The scene filled all Heaven with wonder. That scene reveals to us the exceeding sinfulness of sin; it shows how hard a task it is, even for infinite power, to save the guilty from the consequences of transgressing the law of God. Jesus, looking down to the last generation, saw the world involved in a deception similar to that which caused the destruction of Jerusalem. The great sin of the Jews was their rejection of Christ; the great sin of the Christian world would be their rejection of the law of God, the foundation of his government in Heaven and earth. The precepts of Jehovah would be despised and set at naught. Millions in bondage to sin, slaves of Satan, doomed to suffer the second death, would refuse to listen to the words of truth in their day of visitation. Terrible blindness! strange infatuation!
 
Two days before the Passover, when Christ had for the last time departed from the temple, after denouncing the hypocrisy of the Jewish rulers, he again went out with his disciples to the Mount of Olives, and seated himself with them upon a grassy slope overlooking the city. Once more he gazed upon its walls, its towers, and its palaces. Once more he beheld the temple in its dazzling splendor, a diadem of beauty crowning the sacred mount.
 
A thousand years before, the psalmist had magnified God’s favor to Israel in making her holy house his dwelling-place: “In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling-place in Zion.” [Psalm 76:2.] He “chose the tribe of Judah, the Mount Zion which he loved. And he built his sanctuary like high palaces.” [Psalm 78:68, 69.] The first temple had been erected during the most prosperous period of Israel’s history. Vast stores of treasure for this purpose had been collected by King David, and the plans for its construction were made by divine inspiration. [1 Chronicles 28:12, 19.] Solomon, the wisest of Israel’s monarchs, had completed the work. This temple was the most magnificent building which the world ever saw. Yet the Lord had declared by the prophet Haggai, concerning the second temple, “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former.” “I will shake all nations, and the Desire of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts.” [Haggai 2:9, 7.]
 
After the destruction of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar, it was rebuilt about five hundred years before the birth of Christ, by a people who from a life-long captivity had returned to a wasted and almost deserted country. There were then among them aged men who had seen the glory of Solomon’s temple, and who wept at the foundation of the new building, that it must be so inferior to the former. The feeling that prevailed is forcibly described by the prophet: “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” [Haggai 2:3.] Then was given the promise that the glory of this latter house should be greater than that of the former.
 
But the second temple had not equaled the first in magnificence; nor was it hallowed by those visible tokens of the divine presence which pertained to the first temple. There was no manifestation of supernatural power to mark its dedication. No cloud of glory was seen to fill the newly erected sanctuary. No fire from Heaven descended to consume the sacrifice upon its altar. The shekinah no longer abode between the cherubim in the most holy place; the ark, the mercy-seat, and the tables of the testimony were not to be found therein. No voice sounded from Heaven to make known to the inquiring priest the will of Jehovah.
 
For centuries the Jews had vainly endeavored to show wherein the promise of God given by Haggai, had been fulfilled; yet pride and unbelief blinded their minds to the true meaning of the prophet’s words. The second temple was not honored with the cloud of Jehovah’s glory, but with the living presence of One in whom dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily,—who was God himself manifest in the flesh. The “Desire of all nations” had indeed come to his temple when the Man of Nazareth taught and healed in the sacred courts. In the presence of Christ, and in this only, did the second temple exceed the first in glory. But Israel had put from her the proffered gift of Heaven. With the humble Teacher who had that day passed out from its golden gate, the glory had forever departed from the temple. Already were the Saviour’s words fulfilled, “Your house is left unto you desolate.” [Matthew 23:38.]
 
The disciples had been filled with awe and wonder at Christ’s prediction of the overthrow of the temple, and they desired to understand more fully the meaning of his words. Wealth, labor, and architectural skill had for more than forty years been freely expended to enhance its splendors. Herod the Great had lavished upon it both Roman wealth and Jewish treasure, and even the emperor of the world had enriched it with his gifts. Massive blocks of white marble, of almost fabulous size, forwarded from Rome for this purpose, formed a part of its structure; and to these the disciples had called the attention of their Master, saying, “See what manner of stones and what buildings are here!” [Mark 13:1.]
 
To these words, Jesus made the solemn and startling reply, “Verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” [Matthew 24:2.]
 
With the overthrow of Jerusalem the disciples associated the events of Christ’s personal coming in temporal glory to take the throne of universal empire, to punish the impenitent Jews, and to break from off the nation the Roman yoke. The Lord had told them that he would come the second time. Hence at the mention of judgments upon Jerusalem, their minds reverted to that coming, and as they were gathered about the Saviour upon the Mount of Olives, they asked, “When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” [Matthew 24:3.]
 
The future was mercifully veiled from the disciples. Had they at that time fully comprehended the two awful facts,—the Redeemer’s sufferings and death and the destruction of their city and temple,—they would have been overwhelmed with horror. Christ presented before them an outline of the prominent events to take place before the close of time. His words were not then fully understood; but their meaning was to be unfolded as his people should need the instruction therein given. The prophecy which he uttered was twofold in its meaning: while foreshadowing the destruction of Jerusalem, it prefigured also the terrors of the last great day.
 
Jesus declared to the listening disciples the judgments that were to fall upon apostate Israel, and especially the retributive vengeance that would come upon them for their rejection and crucifixion of the Messiah. Unmistakable signs would precede the awful climax. The dreaded hour would come suddenly and swiftly. And the Saviour warned his followers: “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (whoso readeth, let him understand), then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains.” [Matthew 24:15, 16; Luke 21:20.] When the idolatrous standards of the Romans should be set up in the holy ground, which extended some furlongs outside the city walls, then the followers of Christ were to find safety in flight. When the warning sign should be seen, those who would escape must make no delay. Throughout the land of Judea, as well as in Jerusalem itself, the signal for flight must be immediately obeyed. He who chanced to be upon the housetop must not go down into his house, even to save his most valued treasures. Those who were working in the fields or vineyards must not take time to return for the outer garment laid aside while they should be toiling in the heat of the day. They must not hesitate a moment, lest they be involved in the general destruction.
 
In the reign of Herod, Jerusalem had not only been greatly beautified, but by the erection of towers, walls, and fortresses, adding to the natural strength of its situation, it had been rendered apparently impregnable. He who would at this time have foretold publicly its destruction, would, like Noah in his day, have been called a crazed alarmist. But Christ had said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” [Matthew 24:35.] Because of her sins, wrath had been denounced against Jerusalem, and her stubborn unbelief rendered her doom certain.
 
The Lord had declared by the prophet Micah: “Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money; yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us.” [Micah 3:9-11.]
 
These words faithfully described the corrupt and self-righteous inhabitants of Jerusalem. While claiming to rigidly observe the precepts of God’s law, they were transgressing all its principles. They hated Christ because his purity and holiness revealed their iniquity; and they accused him of being the cause of all the troubles which had come upon them in consequence of their sins. Though they knew him to be sinless, they had declared that his death was necessary to their safety as a nation. “If we let him thus alone,” said the Jewish leaders, “all men will believe on him; and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.” [John 11:48.] If Christ were sacrificed, they might once more become a strong, united people. Thus they reasoned, and they concurred in the decision of their high priest, that it would be better for one man to die than for the whole nation to perish.
 
Thus the Jewish leaders had “built up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity.” And yet, while they slew their Saviour because he reproved their sins, such was their self-righteousness that they regarded themselves as God’s favored people, and expected the Lord to deliver them from their enemies. “Therefore,” continued the prophet, “shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.” [Micah 3:12.]
 
For forty years after the doom of Jerusalem had been pronounced by Christ himself, the Lord delayed his judgments upon the city and the nation. Wonderful was the long-suffering of God toward the rejecters of his gospel and the murderers of his Son. The parable of the unfruitful tree represented God’s dealings with the Jewish nation. The command had gone forth, “Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?” [Luke 13:7.] but divine mercy had spared it yet a little longer. There were still many among the Jews who were ignorant of the character and the work of Christ. And the children had not enjoyed the opportunities or received the light which their parents had spurned. Through the preaching of the apostles and their associates, God would cause light to shine upon them; they would be permitted to see how prophecy had been fulfilled, not only in the birth and life of Christ, but in his death and resurrection. The children were not condemned for the sins of the parents; but when, with a knowledge of all the light given to their parents, the children rejected the additional light granted to themselves, they became partakers of the parents’ sins, and filled up the measure of their iniquity.
 
The long-suffering of God toward Jerusalem only confirmed the Jews in their stubborn impenitence. In their hatred and cruelty toward the disciples of Jesus, they rejected the last offer of mercy. Then God withdrew his protection from them, and removed his restraining power from Satan and his angels, and the nation was left to the control of the leader she had chosen. Her children had spurned the grace of Christ, which would have enabled them to subdue their evil impulses, and now these became the conquerors. Satan aroused the fiercest and most debased passions of the soul. Men did not reason; they were beyond reason,—controlled by impulse and blind rage. They became Satanic in their cruelty. In the family and in the nation, among the highest and the lowest classes alike, there was suspicion, envy, hatred, strife, rebellion, murder. There was no safety anywhere. Friends and kindred betrayed one another. Parents slew their children, and children their parents. The rulers of the people had no power to rule themselves. Uncontrolled passions made them tyrants. The Jews had accepted false testimony to condemn the innocent Son of God. Now false accusations made their own lives uncertain. By their actions they had long been saying, “Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” [Isaiah 30:11.] Now their desire was granted. The fear of God no longer disturbed them. Satan was at the head of the nation, and the highest civil and religious authorities were under his sway.
 
The leaders of the opposing factions at times united to plunder and torture their wretched victims, and again they fell upon each other’s forces, and slaughtered without mercy. Even the sanctity of the temple could not restrain their horrible ferocity. The worshipers were stricken down before the altar, and the sanctuary was polluted with the bodies of the slain. Yet in their blind and blasphemous presumption the instigators of this hellish work publicly declared that they had no fear that Jerusalem would be destroyed, for it was God’s own city. To establish their power more firmly, they bribed false prophets to proclaim, even while Roman legions were besieging the temple, that the people were to wait for deliverance from God. To the last, multitudes held fast to the belief that the Most High would interpose for the defeat of their adversaries. But Israel had spurned the divine protection, and now she had no defense. Unhappy Jerusalem! rent by internal dissensions, the blood of her children slain by one another’s hands crimsoning her streets, while alien armies beat down her fortifications and slew her men of war!
 
All the predictions given by Christ concerning the destruction of Jerusalem were fulfilled to the letter. The Jews experienced the truth of his words of warning, “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” [Matthew 7:2.]
 
Signs and wonders appeared, foreboding disaster and doom. In the midst of the night an unnatural light shone over the temple and the altar. Upon the clouds at sunset were pictured chariots and men of war gathering for battle. The priests ministering by night in the sanctuary were terrified by mysterious sounds; the earth trembled, and a multitude of voices were heard crying, “Let us depart hence.” The great eastern gate, which was so heavy that it could hardly be shut by a score of men, and which was secured by immense bars of iron fastened deep in the pavement of solid stone, opened at midnight, without visible agency.
 
For seven years a man continued to go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, declaring the woes that were to come upon the city. By day and by night he chanted the wild dirge, “A voice from the east; a voice from the west; a voice from the four winds; a voice against Jerusalem and the temple; a voice against the bridegroom and the bride; and a voice against all the people.” This strange being was imprisoned and scourged; but no complaint escaped his lips. To insult and abuse he answered only, “Woe to Jerusalem! woe, woe to the inhabitants thereof!” His warning cry ceased not until he was slain in the siege he had foretold.
 
Not one Christian perished in the destruction of Jerusalem. Christ had given his disciples warning, and all who believed his words watched for the promised sign. “When ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies,” said Jesus, “then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out.” [Luke 21:20, 21.] After the Romans under Cestius had surrounded the city, they unexpectedly abandoned the siege when everything seemed favorable for an immediate attack. The besieged, despairing of successful resistance, were on the point of surrender, when the Roman general withdrew his forces, without the least apparent reason. But God’s merciful providence was directing events for the good of his own people. The promised sign had been given to the waiting Christians, and now an opportunity was afforded for all who would to obey the Saviour’s warning. Events were so overruled that neither Jews nor Romans should hinder the flight of the Christians. Upon the retreat of Cestius, the Jews, sallying from Jerusalem, pursued after his retiring army, and while both forces were thus fully engaged, the Christians had an opportunity to leave the city. At this time the country also had been cleared of enemies who might have endeavored to intercept them. At the time of the siege, the Jews were assembled at Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Tabernacles, and thus the Christians throughout the land were able to make their escape unmolested. Without delay they fled to a place of safety,—the city of Pella, in the land of Perea, beyond Jordan.
 
The Jewish forces, pursuing after Cestius and his army, fell upon their rear with such fierceness as to threaten them with total destruction. It was with great difficulty that the Romans succeeded in making their retreat. The Jews escaped almost without loss, and with their spoils returned in triumph to Jerusalem. Yet this apparent success brought them only evil. It inspired them with that spirit of stubborn resistance to the Romans which speedily brought unutterable woe upon the doomed city.
 
Terrible were the calamities that fell upon Jerusalem when the siege was resumed by Titus. The city was invested at the time of the Passover, when millions of Jews were assembled within its walls. Their stores of provision, which if carefully preserved would have supplied the inhabitants for years, had previously been destroyed through the jealousy and revenge of the contending factions, and now all the horrors of starvation were experienced. A measure of wheat was sold for a talent. So fierce were the pangs of hunger that men would gnaw the leather of their belts and sandals and the covering of their shields. Great numbers of the people would steal out at night to gather wild plants growing outside the city walls, though many were seized and put to death with cruel torture, and often those who returned in safety were robbed of what they had gleaned at so great peril. The most inhuman tortures were inflicted by those in power, to force from the want-stricken people the last scanty supplies which they might have concealed. And these cruelties were not infrequently practiced by men who were themselves well fed, and who were merely desirous of laying up a store of provision for the future.
 
Thousands perished from famine and pestilence. Natural affection seemed to have been destroyed. Husbands robbed their wives, and wives their husbands. Children would be seen snatching the food from the mouths of their aged parents. The question of the prophet, “Can a woman forget her sucking child?” [Isaiah 49:15.] received the answer within the walls of that doomed city, “The hands of the pitiful women have sodden their own children; they were their meat in the destruction of the daughter of my people.” [Lamentations 4:10.] Again was fulfilled the warning prophecy given fourteen centuries before: “The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter; ... and toward her children which she shall bear; for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates.” [Deuteronomy 28:56, 57.]
 
The Roman leaders endeavored to strike terror to the Jews, and thus cause them to surrender. Those prisoners who resisted when taken, were scourged, tortured, and crucified before the wall of the city. Hundreds were daily put to death in this manner, and the dreadful work continued until, along the valley of Jehoshaphat and at Calvary, crosses were erected in so great numbers that there was scarcely room to move among them. So terribly was visited that awful imprecation uttered before the judgment-seat of Pilate: “His blood be on us, and on our children.” [Matthew 27:25.]
 
Titus would willingly have put an end to the fearful scene, and thus have spared Jerusalem the full measure of her doom. He was filled with horror as he saw the bodies of the dead lying in heaps in the valleys. Like one entranced, he looked from the crest of Olivet upon the magnificent temple, and gave command that not one stone of it be touched. Before attempting to gain possession of this stronghold, he made an earnest appeal to the Jewish leaders not to force him to defile the sacred place with blood. If they would come forth and fight in any other place, no Roman should violate the sanctity of the temple. Josephus himself, in a most eloquent appeal, entreated them to surrender, to save themselves, their city, and their place of worship. But his words were answered with bitter curses. Darts were hurled at him, their last human mediator, as he stood pleading with them. The Jews had rejected the entreaties of the Son of God, and now expostulation and entreaty only made them more determined to resist to the last. In vain were the efforts of Titus to save the temple; One greater than he had declared that not one stone was to be left upon another.
 
The blind obstinacy of the Jewish leaders, and the detestable crimes perpetrated within the besieged city, excited the horror and indignation of the Romans, and Titus at last decided to take the temple by storm. He determined, however, that if possible it should be saved from destruction. But his commands were disregarded. After he had retired to his tent at night, the Jews, sallying from the temple, attacked the soldiers without. In the struggle, a firebrand was flung by a soldier through an opening in the porch, and immediately the cedar-lined chambers about the holy house were in a blaze. Titus rushed to the place, followed by his generals and legionaries, and commanded the soldiers to quench the flames. His words were unheeded. In their fury the soldiers hurled blazing brands into the chambers adjoining the temple, and then with their swords they slaughtered in great numbers those who had found shelter there. Blood flowed down the temple steps like water. Thousands upon thousands of Jews perished. Above the sound of battle, voices were heard shouting, “Ichabod!”—the glory is departed.
 
“Titus found it impossible to check the rage of the soldiery; he entered with his officers, and surveyed the interior of the sacred edifice. The splendor filled them with wonder; and as the flames had not yet penetrated to the holy place, he made a last effort to save it, and springing forth, again exhorted the soldiers to stay the progress of the conflagration. The centurion Liberalis endeavored to enforce obedience with his staff of office; but even respect for the emperor gave way to the furious animosity against the Jews, to the fierce excitement of battle, and to the insatiable hope of plunder. The soldiers saw everything around them radiant with gold, which shone dazzlingly in the wild light of the flames; they supposed that incalculable treasures were laid up in the sanctuary. A soldier, unperceived, thrust a lighted torch between the hinges of the door; the whole building was in flames in an instant. The blinding smoke and fire forced the officers to retreat, and the noble edifice was left to its fate.
 
“It was an appalling spectacle to the Roman; what was it to the Jew? The whole summit of the hill which commanded the city blazed like a volcano. One after another the buildings fell in, with a tremendous crash, and were swallowed up in the fiery abyss. The roofs of cedar were like sheets of flame; the gilded pinnacles shone like spikes of red light; the gate towers sent up tall columns of flame and smoke. The neighboring hills were lighted up; and dark groups of people were seen watching in horrible anxiety the progress of the destruction; the walls and heights of the upper city were crowded with faces, some pale with the agony of despair, others scowling unavailing vengeance. The shouts of the Roman soldiery as they ran to the fro, and the howlings of the insurgents who were perishing in the flames, mingled with the roaring of the conflagration and the thundering sound of falling timbers. The echoes of the mountains replied or brought back the shrieks of the people on the heights; all along the walls resounded screams and wailings; men who were expiring with famine rallied their remaining strength to utter a cry of anguish and desolation.
 
“The slaughter within was even more dreadful than the spectacle from without. Men and women, old and young, insurgents and priests, those who fought and those who entreated mercy, were hewn down in indiscriminate carnage. The number of the slain exceeded that of the slayers. The legionaries had to clamber over heaps of dead to carry on the work of extermination.”
 
After the destruction of the temple, the whole city soon fell into the hands of the Romans. The leaders of the Jews forsook their impregnable towers, and Titus found them solitary. He gazed upon them with amazement, and declared that God had given them into his hands; for no engines, however powerful, could have prevailed against those stupendous battlements. Both the city and the temple were razed to their foundations, and the ground upon which the holy house had stood was “plowed like a field.” [Jeremiah 26:18.] In the siege and the slaughter that followed, more than a million of the people perished; the survivors were carried away as captives, sold as slaves, dragged to Rome to grace the conqueror’s triumph, thrown to wild beasts in the amphitheaters, or scattered as homeless wanderers throughout the earth.
 
The Jews had forged their own fetters; they had filled for themselves the cup of vengeance. In the utter destruction that befell them as a nation, and in all the woes that followed them in their dispersion, they were but reaping the harvest which their own hands had sown. Says the prophet, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself;” “for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.” [Hosea 13:9; 14:1.] Their sufferings are often represented as a punishment visited upon them by the direct decree of God. It is thus that the great deceiver seeks to conceal his own work. By stubborn rejection of divine love and mercy, the Jews had caused the protection of God to be withdrawn from them, and Satan was permitted to rule them according to his will. The horrible cruelties enacted in the destruction of Jerusalem are a demonstration of Satan’s vindictive power over those who yield to his control.
 
We cannot know how much we owe to Christ for the peace and protection which we enjoy. It is the restraining power of God that prevents mankind from passing fully under the control of Satan. The disobedient and unthankful have great reason for gratitude for God’s mercy and long-suffering in holding in check the cruel, malignant power of the evil one. But when men pass the limits of divine forbearance, that restraint is removed. God does not stand toward the sinner as an executioner of the sentence against transgression; but he leaves the rejecters of his mercy to themselves, to reap that which they have sown. Every ray of light rejected, every warning despised or unheeded, every passion indulged, every transgression of the law of God, is a seed sown, which yields its unfailing harvest. The Spirit of God, persistently resisted, is at last withdrawn from the sinner, and then there is left no power to control the evil passions of the soul, and no protection from the malice and enmity of Satan. The destruction of Jerusalem is a fearful and solemn warning to all who are trifling with the offers of divine grace, and resisting the pleadings of divine mercy. Never was there given a more decisive testimony to God’s hatred of sin, and to the certain punishment that will fall upon the guilty.
 
The Saviour’s prophecy concerning the visitation of judgments upon Jerusalem is to have another fulfillment, of which that terrible desolation was but a faint shadow. In the fate of the chosen city we may behold the doom of a world that has rejected God’s mercy and trampled upon his law. Dark are the records of human misery that earth has witnessed during its long centuries of crime. The heart sickens and the mind grows faint in contemplation. Terrible have been the results of rejecting the authority of Heaven. But a scene yet darker is presented in the revelations of the future. The records of the past,—the long procession of tumults, conflicts, and revolutions, the “battle of the warrior, with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood,” [Isaiah 9:5.]—what are these, in contrast with the terrors of that day when the restraining Spirit of God shall be wholly withdrawn from the wicked, no longer to hold in check the outburst of human passion and Satanic wrath! The world will then behold, as never before, the results of Satan’s rule.
 
But in that day, as in the time of Jerusalem’s destruction, God’s people will be delivered, “every one that shall be found written among the living.” Christ has declared that he will come the second time, to gather his faithful ones to himself: “Then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” [Matthew 24:30, 31.] Then shall they that obey not the gospel be consumed with the spirit of his mouth, and be destroyed with the brightness of his coming. [2 Thessalonians 2:8.] Like Israel of old, the wicked destroy themselves; they fall by their iniquity. By a life of sin, they have placed themselves so out of harmony with God, their natures have become so debased with evil, that the manifestation of his glory is to them a consuming fire.
 
Let men beware lest they neglect the lesson conveyed to them in the words of Christ. As he warned his disciples of Jerusalem’s destruction, giving them a sign of the approaching ruin, that they might make their escape, so he has warned the world of the day of final destruction, and has given them tokens of its approach, that all who will may flee from the wrath to come. Jesus declares, “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations.” [Luke 21:25; Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24-26; Revelation 6:12-17.] Those who behold these harbingers of his coming are to “know that it is near, even at the doors.” [Matthew 24:33.] “Watch ye therefore,” [Mark 13:35.] are his words of admonition. They that heed the warning shall not be left in darkness, that that day should overtake them unawares. But to them that will not watch, “the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.” [1 Thessalonians 5:2-5.]
 
The world is no more ready to credit the message for this time than were the Jews to receive the Saviour’s warning concerning Jerusalem. Come when it may, the day of God will come unawares to the ungodly. When life is going on in its unvarying round; when men are absorbed in pleasure, in business, in traffic, in money-making; when religious leaders are magnifying the world’s progress and enlightenment, and the people are lulled in a false security,—then, as the midnight thief steals within the unguarded dwelling, so shall sudden destruction come upon the careless and ungodly, “and they shall not escape.” [1 Thessalonians 5:2-5.]

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Re: The Great Controversy (1888)

Post by Admin on 2013-02-27, 14:38

Chapter 2—Persecution in the First Centuries
 
 
When Jesus revealed to his disciples the fate of Jerusalem and the scenes of the second advent, he foretold also the experience of his people from the time when he should be taken from them, to his return in power and glory for their deliverance. From Olivet the Saviour beheld the storms about to fall upon the apostolic church, and, penetrating deeper into the future, his eye discerned the fierce, wasting tempests that were to beat upon his followers in the coming ages of darkness and persecution. In a few brief utterances, of awful significance, he foretold the portion which the rulers of this world would mete out to the church of God. [Matthew 24:9, 21, 22.] The followers of Christ must tread the same path of humiliation, reproach, and suffering which their Master trod. The enmity that burst forth against the world’s Redeemer, would be manifested against all who should believe on his name.
 
The history of the early church testified to the fulfillment of the Saviour’s words. The powers of earth and hell arrayed themselves against Christ in the person of his followers. Paganism foresaw that should the gospel triumph, her temples and altars would be swept away; therefore she summoned her forces to destroy Christianity. The fires of persecution were kindled. Christians were stripped of their possessions, and driven from their homes. They “endured a great fight of afflictions.” [Hebrews 10:32.] They “had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment.” [Hebrews 11:36, 37, 38.] Great numbers sealed their testimony with their blood. Noble and slave, rich and poor, learned and ignorant, were alike slain without mercy.
 
These persecutions, beginning under Nero about the time of the martyrdom of Paul, continued with greater or less fury for centuries. Christians were falsely accused of the most dreadful crimes, and declared to be the cause of great calamities—famine, pestilence, and earthquake. As they became the objects of popular hatred and suspicion, informers stood ready, for the sake of gain, to betray the innocent. They were condemned as rebels against the empire, as foes of religion, and pests to society. Great numbers were thrown to wild beasts or burned alive in the amphitheaters. Some were crucified; others were covered with the skins of wild animals, and thrust into the arena to be torn by dogs. Their punishment was often made the chief entertainment at public fetes. Vast multitudes assembled to enjoy the sight, and greeted their dying agonies with laughter and applause.
 
Wherever they sought refuge, the followers of Christ were hunted like beasts of prey. They were forced to seek concealment in desolate and solitary places. “Destitute, afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy; they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” [Hebrews 11:36, 37, 38.] The catacombs afforded shelter for thousands. Beneath the hills outside the city of Rome, long galleries had been tunneled through earth and rock; the dark and intricate network of passages extended for miles beyond the city walls. In these underground retreats, the followers of Christ buried their dead; and here also, when suspected and proscribed, they found a home. When the Lifegiver shall awaken those who have fought the good fight, many a martyr for Christ’s sake will come forth from those gloomy caverns.
 
Under the fiercest persecution, these witnesses for Jesus kept their faith unsullied. Though deprived of every comfort, shut away from the light of the sun, making their home in the dark but friendly bosom of the earth, they uttered no complaint. With words of faith, patience, and hope, they encouraged one another to endure privation and distress. The loss of every earthly blessing could not force them to renounce their belief in Christ. Trials and persecution were but steps bringing them nearer their rest and their reward.
 
Like God’s servants of old, many were “tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.” [Hebrews 11:35.] These called to mind the words of their Master, that when persecuted for Christ’s sake they were to be exceeding glad; for great would be their reward in Heaven; for so the prophets had been persecuted before them. They rejoiced that they were accounted worthy to suffer for the truth, and songs of triumph ascended from the midst of crackling flames. Looking upward by faith, they saw Christ and angels leaning over the battlements of Heaven, gazing upon them with the deepest interest, and regarding their steadfastness with approval. A voice came down to them from the throne of God, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” [Revelation 2:10.]
 
In vain were Satan’s efforts to destroy the church of Christ by violence. The great controversy in which the disciples of Jesus yielded up their lives, did not cease when these faithful standard-bearers fell at their post. By defeat they conquered. God’s workmen were slain, but his work went steadily forward. The gospel continued to spread, and the number of its adherents to increase. It penetrated into regions that were inaccessible, even to the eagles of Rome. Said a Christian, expostulating with the heathen rulers who were urging forward the persecution: “You may torment, afflict, and vex us. Your wickedness puts our weakness to the test, but your cruelty is of no avail. It is but a stronger invitation to bring others to our persuasion. The more we are mowed down, the more we spring up again. The blood of the Christians is seed.”
 
Thousands were imprisoned and slain; but others sprung up to fill their places. And those who were martyred for their faith were secured to Christ, and accounted of him as conquerors. They had fought the good fight, and they were to receive the crown of glory when Christ should come. The sufferings which they endured brought Christians nearer to one another and to their Redeemer. Their living example and dying testimony were a constant witness for the truth; and, where least expected, the subjects of Satan were leaving his service, and enlisting under the banner of Christ.
 
Satan therefore laid his plans to war more successfully against the government of God, by planting his banner in the Christian church. If the followers of Christ could be deceived, and led to displease God, then their strength, fortitude, and firmness would fail, and they would fall an easy prey.
 
The great adversary now endeavored to gain by artifice what he had failed to secure by force. Persecution ceased, and in its stead were substituted the dangerous allurements of temporal prosperity and worldly honor. Idolaters were led to receive a part of the Christian faith, while they rejected other essential truths. They professed to accept Jesus as the Son of God, and to believe in his death and resurrection; but they had no conviction of sin, and felt no need of repentance or of a change of heart. With some concessions on their part, they proposed that Christians should make concessions, that all might unite on the platform of belief in Christ.
 
Now the church was in fearful peril. Prison, torture, fire, and sword were blessings in comparison with this. Some of the Christians stood firm, declaring that they could make no compromise. Others were in favor of yielding or modifying some features of their faith, and uniting with those who had accepted a part of Christianity, urging that this might be the means of their full conversion. That was a time of deep anguish to the faithful followers of Christ. Under a cloak of pretended Christianity, Satan was insinuating himself into the church, to corrupt their faith, and turn their minds from the Word of truth.
 
Most of the Christians at last consented to lower their standard, and a union was formed between Christianity and paganism. Although the worshipers of idols professed to be converted, and united with the church, they still clung to their idolatry, only changing the objects of their worship to images of Jesus, and even of Mary and the saints. The foul leaven of idolatry, thus brought into the church, continued its baleful work. Unsound doctrines, superstitious rites, and idolatrous ceremonies were incorporated into her faith, and worship. As the followers of Christ united with idolaters, the Christian religion became corrupted, and the church lost her purity and power. There were some, however, who were not misled by these delusions. They still maintained their fidelity to the Author of truth, and worshiped God alone.
 
There have ever been two classes among those who profess to be followers of Christ. While one class study the Saviour’s life, and earnestly seek to correct their defects and to conform to the Pattern, the other class shun the plain, practical truths which expose their errors. Even in her best estate, and church was not composed wholly of the true, pure, and sincere. Our Saviour taught that those who willfully indulge in sin are not to be received into the church; yet he connected with himself men who are faulty in character, and granted them the benefits of his teachings and example, that they might have an opportunity to see their errors and correct them. Among the twelve apostles was a traitor. Judas was accepted not because of his defects of character, but notwithstanding them. He was connected with the disciples, that, through the instruction and example of Christ, he might learn what constitutes Christian character, and thus be led to see his errors, to repent, and, by the aid of divine grace, to purify his soul “in obeying the truth.” But Judas did not walk in the light so graciously permitted to shine upon him. By indulgence in sin, he invited the temptations of Satan. His evil traits of character became predominant. He yielded his mind to the control of the powers of darkness, he became angry when his faults were reproved, and thus he was led to commit the fearful crime of betraying his Master. So do all who cherish evil under a profession of godliness hate those who disturb their peace by condemning their course of sin. When a favorable opportunity is presented, they will, like Judas, betray those who for their good have sought to reprove them.
 
The apostles encountered those in the church who professed godliness while they were secretly cherishing iniquity. Ananias and Sapphira acted the part of deceivers, pretending to make an entire sacrifice for God, when they were covetously withholding a portion for themselves. The Spirit of truth revealed to the apostles the real character of these pretenders, and the judgments of God rid the church of this foul blot upon its purity. This signal evidence of the discerning Spirit of Christ in the church was a terror to hypocrites and evil-doers. They could not long remain in connection with those who were, in habit and disposition, constant representatives of Christ; and as trials and persecution came upon his followers, those only who were willing to forsake all for the truth’s sake desired to become his disciples. Thus, as long as persecution continued, the church remained comparatively pure. But as it ceased, converts were added who were less sincere and devoted, and the way was opened for Satan to obtain a foot-hold.
 
But there is no union between the Prince of light and the prince of darkness, and there can be no union between their followers. When Christians consented to unite with those who were but half converted from paganism, they entered upon a path which led farther and farther from the truth. Satan exulted that he had succeeded in deceiving so large a number of the followers of Christ. He then brought his power to bear more fully upon these, and inspired them to persecute those who remained true to God. None understood so well how to oppose the true Christian faith as did those who had once been its defenders; and these apostate Christians, uniting with their half-pagan companions, directed their warfare against the most essential features of the doctrines of Christ.
 
It required a desperate struggle for those who would be faithful to stand firm against the deceptions and abominations which were disguised in sacerdotal garments and introduced into the church. The Bible was not accepted as the standard of faith. The doctrine of religious freedom was termed heresy, and its upholders were hated and proscribed.
 
After a long and severe conflict, the faithful few decided to dissolve all union with the apostate church if she still refused to free herself from falsehood and idolatry. They saw that separation was an absolute necessity if they would obey the Word of God. They dared not tolerate errors fatal to their own souls, and set an example which would imperil the faith of their children and children’s children. To secure peace and unity they were ready to make any concession consistent with fidelity to God; but they felt that even peace would be too dearly purchased at the sacrifice of principle. If unity could be secured only by the compromise of truth and righteousness, then let there be difference, and even war.
 
Well would it be for the church and the world if the principles that actuated those steadfast souls were revived in the hearts of God’s professed people. There is an alarming indifference in regard to the doctrines which are the pillars of the Christian faith. The opinion is gaining ground, that, after all, these are not of vital importance. This degeneracy is strengthening the hands of the agents of Satan, so that false theories and fatal delusions which the faithful in ages past imperiled their lives to resist and expose, are now regarded with favor by thousands who claim to be followers of Christ.
 
The early Christians were indeed a peculiar people. Their blameless deportment and unswerving faith were a continual reproof that disturbed the sinner’s peace. Though few in numbers, without wealth, position, or honorary titles, they were a terror to evil-doers wherever their character and doctrines were known. Therefore they were hated by the wicked, even as Abel was hated by the ungodly Cain. For the same reason that Cain slew Abel did those who sought to throw off the restraint of the Holy Spirit, put to death God’s people. It was for the same reason that the Jews rejected and crucified the Saviour,—because the purity and holiness of this character was a constant rebuke to their selfishness and corruption. From the days of Christ until now, his faithful disciples have excited the hatred and opposition of those who love and follow the ways of sin.
 
How, then, can the gospel be called a message of peace? When Isaiah foretold the birth of the Messiah, he ascribed to him the title, “Prince of peace.” When angels announced to the shepherds that Christ was born, they sung above the plains of Bethlehem, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” [Luke 2:14.] There is a seeming contradiction between these prophetic declarations and the words of Christ, “I came not to send peace, but a sword.” [Matthew 10:34.] But rightly understood, the two are in perfect harmony. The gospel is a message of peace. Christianity is a system, which, received and obeyed, would spread peace, harmony, and happiness throughout the earth. The religion of Christ will unite in close brotherhood all who accept its teachings. It was the mission of Jesus to reconcile men to God, and thus to one another. But the world at large are under the control of Satan, Christ’s bitterest foe. The gospel presents to them principles of life which are wholly at variance with their habits and desires, and they rise in rebellion against it. They hate the purity which reveals and condemns their sins, and they persecute and destroy those who would urge upon them its just and holy claims. It is in this sense—because the exalted truths it brings, occasion hatred and strife—that the gospel is called a sword.
 
The mysterious providence which permits the righteous to suffer persecution at the hand of the wicked, has been a cause of great perplexity to many who are weak in faith. Some are even ready to cast away their confidence in God, because he suffers the basest of men to prosper, while the best and purest are afflicted and tormented by their cruel power. How, it is asked, can One who is just and merciful, and who is also infinite in power, tolerate such injustice and oppression? This is a question with which we have nothing to do. God has given us sufficient evidence of his love, and we are not to doubt his goodness because we cannot understand the workings of his providence. Said the Saviour to his disciples, foreseeing the doubts that would press upon their souls in days of trial and darkness, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” [John 15:20.] Jesus suffered for us more than any of his followers can be made to suffer through the cruelty of wicked men. Those who are called to endure torture and martyrdom, are but following in the steps of God’s dear Son.
 
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise.” [2 Peter 3:9.] He does not forget or neglect his children; but he permits the wicked to reveal their true character, that none who desire to do his will may be deceived concerning them. Again, the righteous are placed in the furnace of affliction, that they themselves may be purified; that their example may convince others of the reality of faith and godliness; and also that their consistent course may condemn the ungodly and unbelieving.
God permits the wicked to prosper, and to reveal their enmity against him, that when they shall have filled up the measure of their iniquity, all may see his justice and mercy in their utter destruction. The day of his vengeance hastens, when all who have transgressed his law and oppressed his people will meet the just recompense of their deeds; when every act of cruelty or injustice toward God’s faithful ones will be punished as though done to Christ himself.
 
There is another and more important question that should engage the attention of the churches of today. The apostle Paul declares that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” [2 Timothy 3:12.] Why is it, then, that persecution seems in a great degree to slumber?—The only reason is, that the church has conformed to the world’s standard, and therefore awakens no opposition. The religion which is current in our day is not of the pure and holy character that marked the Christian faith in the days of Christ and his apostles. It is only because of the spirit of compromise with sin, because the great truths of the Word of God are so indifferently regarded, because there is so little vital godliness in the church, that Christianity is apparently so popular with the world. Let there be a revival of the faith and power of the early church, and the spirit of persecution will be revived, and the fires of persecution will be rekindled.


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Re: The Great Controversy (1888)

Post by Admin on 2013-02-27, 14:39

Chapter 3—The Apostasy
 
 
The apostle Paul, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, foretold the great apostasy which would result in the establishment of the papal power. He declared that the day of Christ should not come, “except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” [2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4, 7.] And furthermore, the apostle warns his brethren that “the mystery of iniquity doth already work.” [2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4, 7.] Even at that early date he saw, creeping into the church, errors that would prepare the way for the development of the papacy.
 
Little by little, at first in stealth and silence, and then more openly as it increased in strength and gained control of the minds of men, the mystery of iniquity carried forward its deceptive and blasphemous work. Almost imperceptibly the customs of heathenism found their way into the Christian church. The spirit of compromise and conformity was restrained for a time by the fierce persecutions which the church endured under paganism. But as persecution ceased, and Christianity entered the courts and palaces of kings, she laid aside the humble simplicity of Christ and his apostles for the pomp and pride of pagan priests and rulers; and in place of the requirements of God, she substituted human theories and traditions. The nominal conversion of Constantine, in the early part of the fourth century, caused great rejoicing; and the world, cloaked with a form of righteousness, walked into the church. Now the work of corruption rapidly progressed. Paganism, while appearing to be vanquished, became the conqueror. Her spirit controlled the church. Her doctrines, ceremonies, and superstitions were incorporated into the faith and worship of the professed followers of Christ.
 
This compromise between paganism and Christianity resulted in the development of the “man of sin” foretold in prophecy as opposing and exalting himself above God. That gigantic system of false religion is a masterpiece of Satan’s power,—a monument of his efforts to seat himself upon the throne to rule the earth according to his will.
 
Satan once endeavored to form a compromise with Christ. He came to the Son of God in the wilderness of temptation, and, showing him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, offered to give all into his hands if he would but acknowledge the supremacy of the prince of darkness. Christ rebuked the presumptuous tempter, and forced him to depart. But Satan meets with greater success in presenting the same temptations to man. To secure worldly gains and honors, the church was led to seek the favor and support of the great men of earth, and having thus rejected Christ, she was induced to yield allegiance to the representative of Satan,—the bishop of Rome.
 
It is one of the leading doctrines of Romanism that the pope is the visible head of the universal church of Christ, invested with supreme authority over bishops and pastors in all parts of the world. More than this, the pope has arrogated the very titles of Deity. He styles himself “Lord God the Pope,” assumes infallibility, and demands that all men pay him homage. Thus the same claim urged by Satan in the wilderness of temptation is still urged by him through the Church of Rome, and vast numbers are ready to yield him homage.
 
But those who fear and reverence God meet this Heaven-daring assumption as Christ met the solicitations of the wily foe: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” [Luke 4:8.] God has never given a hint in his Word that he has appointed any man to be the head of the church. The doctrine of papal supremacy is directly opposed to the teachings of the Scriptures. The pope can have no power over Christ’s church except by usurpation.
 
Romanists have persisted in bringing against Protestants the charge of heresy, and willful separation from the true church. But these accusations apply rather to themselves. They are the ones who laid down the banner of Christ, and departed from “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” [Jude 3.]
 
Satan well knew that the Holy Scriptures would enable men to discern his deceptions and withstand his power. It was by the Word that even the Saviour of the world had resisted his attacks. At every assault, Christ presented the shield of eternal truth, saying, “It is written.” To every suggestion of the adversary, he opposed the wisdom and power of the Word. In order for Satan to maintain his sway over men, and establish the authority of the papal usurper, he must keep them in ignorance of the Scriptures. The Bible would exalt God, and place finite men in their true position; therefore its sacred truths must be concealed and suppressed. This logic was adopted by the Roman Church. For hundreds of years the circulation of the Bible was prohibited. The people were forbidden to read it or to have it in their houses, and unprincipled priests and prelates interpreted its teachings to sustain their pretensions. Thus the pope came to be almost universally acknowledged as the vicegerent of God on earth, endowed with authority over Church and State.
 
The detector of error having been removed, Satan worked according to his will. Prophecy had declared that the papacy was to “think to change times and laws.” [Daniel 7:25.] This work it was not slow to attempt. To afford converts from heathenism a substitute for the worship of idols, and thus to promote their nominal acceptance of Christianity, the adoration of images and relics was gradually introduced into the Christian worship. The decree of a general council [Second Council of Nice, A.D. 787.] finally established this system of idolatry. To complete the sacrilegious work, Rome presumed to expunge from the law of God the second commandment, forbidding image worship, and to divide the tenth commandment, in order to preserve the number.
 
The spirit of concession to paganism opened the way for a still further disregard of Heaven’s authority. Satan tampered with the fourth commandment also, and essayed to set aside the ancient Sabbath, the day which God had blessed and sanctified, [Genesis 2:2, 3.] and in its stead to exalt the festival observed by the heathen as “the venerable day of the sun.” This change was not at first attempted openly. In the first centuries the true Sabbath had been kept by all Christians. They were jealous for the honor of God, and, believing that his law is immutable, they zealously guarded the sacredness of its precepts. But with great subtlety, Satan worked through his agents to bring about his object. That the attention of the people might be called to the Sunday, it was made a festival in honor of the resurrection of Christ. Religious services were held upon it; yet it was regarded as a day of recreation, the Sabbath being still sacredly observed.
 
To prepare the way for the work which he designed to accomplish, Satan had led the Jews, before the advent of Christ, to load down the Sabbath with the most rigorous exactions, making its observance a burden. Now, taking advantage of the false light in which he had thus caused it to be regarded, he cast contempt upon it as a Jewish institution. While Christians continued to observe the Sunday as a joyous festival, he led them, in order to show their hatred of Judaism, to make the Sabbath a fast, a day of sadness and gloom.
 
In the early part of the fourth century, the emperor Constantine issued a decree making Sunday a public festival throughout the Roman Empire. [See Appendix, note 1.] The day of the sun was reverenced by his pagan subjects, and was honored by Christians; it was the emperor’s policy to unite the conflicting interests of heathenism and Christianity. He was urged to do this by the bishops of the church, who, inspired by ambition, and thirst for power, perceived that if the same day was observed by both Christians and the heathen, it would promote the nominal acceptance of Christianity by pagans, and thus advance the power and glory of the church. But while Christians were gradually led to regard Sunday as possessing a degree of sacredness, they still held the true Sabbath as the holy of the Lord, and observed it in obedience to the fourth commandment.
 
The arch-deceiver had not completed his work. He was resolved to gather the Christian world under his banner, and to exercise his power through his vicegerent, the proud pontiff who claimed to be the representative of Christ. Through half-converted pagans, ambitious prelates, and world-loving churchmen, he accomplished his purpose. Vast councils were held, from time to time, in which the dignitaries of the church were convened from all the world. In nearly every council the Sabbath which God had instituted was pressed down a little lower, while the Sunday was correspondingly exalted. Thus the pagan festival came finally to be honored as a divine institution, while the Bible Sabbath was pronounced a relic of Judaism, and its observers were declared to be accursed.
 
The great apostate had succeeded in exalting himself “above all that is called God, or that is worshiped.” [2 Thessalonians 2:4.] He had dared to change the only precept of the divine law that unmistakably points all mankind to the true and living God. In the fourth commandment, God is revealed as the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and is thereby distinguished from all false gods. It was as a memorial of the work of creation that the seventh day was sanctified as a rest-day for man. It was designed to keep the living God ever before the minds of men as the source of being and the object of reverence and worship. Satan strives to turn men from their allegiance to God, and from rendering obedience to his law; therefore he directs his efforts especially against that commandment which points to God as the Creator.
 
Protestants now urge that the resurrection of Christ on Sunday made it the Christian Sabbath. But Scripture evidence is lacking. No such honor was given to the day by Christ or his apostles. The observance of Sunday as a Christian institution had its origin in that “mystery of lawlessness” [2 Thessalonians 2:7, Revised Version.] which, even in Paul’s day, had begun its work. Where and when did the Lord adopt this child of the papacy? What valid reason can be given for a change which the Scriptures do not sanction?
 
In the sixth century the papacy had become firmly established. Its seat of power was fixed in the imperial city, and the bishop of Rome was declared to be the head over the entire church. Paganism had given place to the papacy. The dragon had given to the beast “his power, and his seat, and great authority.” [Revelation 13:2; See Appendix, note 2.] And now began the 1260 years of papal oppression foretold in the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation. [Daniel 7:25; Revelation 13:5-7.] Christians were forced to choose, either to yield their integrity and accept the papal ceremonies and worship, or to wear away their lives in dungeons or suffer death by the rack, the fagot, or the headsman’s ax. Now were fulfilled the words of Jesus, “Ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.” [Luke 21:16, 17.] Persecution opened upon the faithful with greater fury than ever before, and the world became a vast battle-field. For hundreds of years the church of Christ found refuge in seclusion and obscurity. Thus says the prophet: “The woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” [Revelation 12:6.]
 
The accession of the Roman Church to power marked the beginning of the Dark Ages. As her power increased, the darkness deepened. Faith was transferred from Christ, the true foundation, to the pope of Rome. Instead of trusting in the Son of God for forgiveness of sins and for eternal salvation, the people looked to the pope, and to the priests and prelates to whom he delegated authority. They were taught that the pope was their earthly mediator, and that none could approach God except through him, and, further, that he stood in the place of God to them, and was therefore to be implicitly obeyed. A deviation from his requirements was sufficient cause for the severest punishment to be visited upon the bodies and souls of the offenders. Thus the minds of the people were turned away from God to fallible, erring, and cruel men, nay more, to the prince of darkness himself, who exercised his power through them. Sin was disguised in a garb of sanctity. When the Scriptures are suppressed, and man comes to regard himself as supreme, we need look only for fraud, deception, and debasing iniquity. With the elevation of human laws and traditions, was manifest the corruption that ever results from setting aside the law of God.
 
Those were days of peril for the church of Christ. The faithful standard-bearers were few indeed. Though the truth was not left without witnesses, yet at times it seemed that error and superstition would wholly prevail, and true religion would be banished from the earth. The gospel was lost sight of, but the forms of religion were multiplied, and the people were burdened with rigorous exactions.
 
They were taught not only to look to the pope as their mediator, but to trust to works of their own to atone for sin. Long pilgrimages, acts of penance, the worship of relics, the erection of churches, shrines, and altars, the payment of large sums to the church,—these and many similar acts were enjoined to appease the wrath of God or to secure his favor; as if God were like men, to be angered at trifles, or pacified by gifts or acts of penance!
 
Notwithstanding that vice prevailed, even among the leaders of the Romish Church, her influence seemed steadily to increase. About the close of the eighth century, papists put forth the claim that in the first ages of the church the bishops of Rome had possessed the same spiritual power which they now assumed. To establish this claim, some means must be employed to give it a show of authority; and this was readily suggested by the father of lies. Ancient writings were forged by monks. Decrees of councils before unheard of were discovered, establishing the universal supremacy of the pope from the earliest times. And a church that had rejected the truth, greedily accepted these deceptions.
 
The few faithful builders upon the true foundation [1 Corinthians 3:10, 11.] were perplexed and hindered, as the rubbish of false doctrine obstructed the work. Like the builders upon the wall of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day, some were ready to say, “The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed, and there is much rubbish, so that we are not able to build.” [Nehemiah 4:10.] Wearied with the constant struggle against persecution, fraud, iniquity, and every other obstacle that Satan could devise to hinder their progress, some who had been faithful builders became disheartened; and for the sake of peace and security for their property and their lives they turned away from the true foundation. Others, undaunted by the opposition of their enemies, fearlessly declared, “Be not ye afraid of them; remember the Lord, which is great and terrible; [Nehemiah 4:14.] and they proceeded with the work, every one with his sword girded by his side. [Ephesians 6:17.]
 
The same spirit of hatred and opposition to the truth has inspired the enemies of God in every age, and the same vigilance and fidelity have been required in his servants. The words of Christ to the first disciples are applicable to his followers to the close of time: “What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.” [Mark 13:37.]
 
The darkness seemed to grow more dense. Image worship became more general. Candles were burned before images, and prayers were offered to them. The most absurd and superstitious customs prevailed. The minds of men were so completely controlled by superstition that reason itself seemed to have lost her sway. While priests and bishops were themselves pleasure-loving, sensual, and corrupt, it could only be expected that the people who looked to them for guidance would be sunken in ignorance and vice.
 
Another step in papal assumption was taken, when, in the eleventh century, Pope Gregory VII. proclaimed the perfection of the Romish Church. Among the propositions which he put forth, was one declaring that the church had never erred, nor would it ever err, according to the Scriptures. But the Scripture proofs did not accompany the assertion. The proud pontiff next claimed the power to depose emperors, and declared that no sentence which he pronounced could be reversed by any one, but that it was his prerogative to reverse the decisions of all others.
 
A striking illustration of the tyrannical character of this advocate of infallibility was given in his treatment of the German emperor, Henry IV. For presuming to disregard the pope’s authority, this monarch was declared to be excommunicated and dethroned. Terrified by the desertion and threats of his own princes, who were encouraged in rebellion against him by the papal mandate, Henry felt the necessity of making his peace with Rome. In company with his wife and a faithful servant, he crossed the Alps in midwinter, that he might humble himself before the pope. Upon reaching the castle whither Gregory had withdrawn, he was conducted, without his guards, into an outer court, and there, in the severe cold of winter, with uncovered head and naked feet, and in a miserable dress, he awaited the pope’s permission to come into his presence. Not until he had continued three days fasting and making confession, did the pontiff condescend to grant him pardon. Even then it was only upon condition that the emperor should await the sanction of the pope before resuming the insignia or exercising the power of royalty. And Gregory, elated with his triumph, boasted that it was his duty “to pull down the pride of kings.”
 
How striking the contrast between the overbearing pride of this haughty pontiff and the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who represents himself as pleading at the door of the heart for admittance, that he may come in to bring pardon and peace, and who taught his disciples, “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.”
 
The advancing centuries witnessed a constant increase of error in the doctrines put forth from Rome. Even before the establishment of the papacy, the teachings of heathen philosophers had received attention and exerted an influence in the church. Many who professed conversion still clung to the tenets of their pagan philosophy, and not only continued its study themselves, but urged it upon others as a means of extending their influence among the heathen. Serious errors were thus introduced into the Christian faith. Prominent among these was the belief in man’s natural immortality and his consciousness in death. This doctrine laid the foundation upon which Rome established the invocation of saints and the adoration of the virgin Mary. From this sprung also the heresy of eternal torment for the finally impenitent, which was early incorporated into the papal faith.
 
Then the way was prepared for the introduction of still another invention of paganism, which Rome named purgatory, and employed to terrify the credulous and superstitious multitudes. By this heresy is affirmed the existence of a place of torment, in which the souls of such as have not merited eternal damnation are to suffer punishment for their sins, and from which, when freed from impurity, they are admitted to Heaven.
 
Still another fabrication was needed to enable Rome to profit by the fears and the vices of her adherents. This was supplied by the doctrine of indulgences. Full remission of sins, past, present, and future, and release from all the pains and penalties incurred, were promised to all who would enlist in the pontiff’s wars to extend his temporal dominion, to punish his enemies, or to exterminate those who dared deny his spiritual supremacy. The people were also taught that by the payment of money to the church they might free themselves from sin, and also release the souls of their deceased friends who were confined in the tormenting flames. By such means did Rome fill her coffers, and sustain the magnificence, luxury, and vice of the pretended representatives of Him who had not where to lay his head.
 
The scriptural ordinance of the Lord’s supper had been supplanted by the idolatrous sacrifice of the mass. Papist priests pretended, by their senseless mummery, to convert the simple bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Christ. With blasphemous presumption, they openly claimed the power of “creating God, the Creator of all things.” All Christians were required, on pain of death, to avow their faith in this horrible, Heaven-insulting heresy. Multitudes who refused were given to the flames.
 
In the thirteenth century was established that most terrible of all the engines of the papacy,—the Inquisition. The prince of darkness wrought with the leaders of the papal hierarchy. In their secret councils, Satan and his angels controlled the minds of evil men, while unseen in the midst stood an angel of God, taking the fearful record of their iniquitous decrees, and writing the history of deeds too horrible to appear to human eyes. “Babylon the great” was “drunken with the blood of the saints.” The mangled forms of millions of martyrs cried to God for vengeance upon that apostate power.
 
Popery had become the world’s despot. Kings and emperors bowed to the decrees of the Roman pontiff. The destinies of men, both for time and for eternity, seemed under his control. For hundreds of years the doctrines of Rome had been extensively and implicitly received, its rites reverently performed, its festivals generally observed. Its clergy were honored and liberally sustained. Never since has the Roman Church attained to greater dignity, magnificence, or power.
 
The noontide of the papacy was the world’s moral midnight. The Holy Scriptures were almost unknown, not only to the people, but to the priests. Like the Pharisees of old, the papist leaders hated the light which would reveal their sins. God’s law, the standard of righteousness, having been removed, they exercised power without limit, and practiced vice without restraint. Fraud, avarice, and profligacy prevailed. Men shrank from no crime by which they could gain wealth or position. The palaces of popes and prelates were scenes of the vilest debauchery. Some of the reigning pontiffs were guilty of crimes so revolting that secular rulers endeavored to depose these dignitaries of the church as monsters too vile to be tolerated. For centuries Europe had made no progress in learning, arts, or civilization. A moral and intellectual paralysis had fallen upon Christendom.
 
The condition of the world under the Romish power presented a fearful and striking fulfillment of the words of the prophet Hosea: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee; ... seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” “There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.” [Hosea 4:6, 1, 2.] Such were the results of banishing the Word of God.

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Re: The Great Controversy (1888)

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Chapter 4—The Waldenses


Amid the gloom that settled upon the earth during the long period of papal supremacy, the light of truth could not be wholly extinguished. In every age there were witnesses for God,—men who cherished faith in Christ as the only mediator between God and man, who held the Bible as the only rule of life, and who hallowed the true Sabbath. How much the world owes to these men, posterity will never know. They were branded as heretics, their motives impugned, their characters maligned, their writings suppressed, misrepresented, or mutilated. Yet they stood firm, and from age to age maintained their faith in its purity, as a sacred heritage for the generations to come.

The history of God’s people during the ages of darkness that followed upon Rome’s supremacy, is written in Heaven. But they have little place in human records. Few traces of their existence can be found, except in the accusations of their persecutors. It was the policy of Rome to obliterate every trace of dissent from her doctrines or decrees. Everything heretical, whether persons or writings, was destroyed. A single expression of doubt, a question as to the authority of papal dogmas, was enough to forfeit the life of rich or poor, high or low. Rome endeavored also to destroy every record of her cruelty toward dissenters. Papal councils decreed that books and writings containing such records should be committed to the flames. Before the invention of printing, books were few in number, and in a form not favorable for preservation; therefore there was little to prevent the Romanists from carrying out their purpose.

No church within the limits of Romish jurisdiction was long left undisturbed in the enjoyment of freedom of conscience. No sooner had the papacy obtained power than she stretched out her arms to crush all that refused to acknowledge her sway; and one after another, the churches submitted to her dominion.

In Great Britain, primitive Christianity had very early taken root. The gospel received by the Britons in the first centuries, was then uncorrupted by Romish apostasy. Persecution from pagan emperors, which extended even to these far-off shores, was the only gift that the first churches of Britain received from Rome. Many of the Christians, fleeing from persecution in England, found refuge in Scotland; thence the truth was carried to Ireland, and in all these countries it was received with gladness.

When the Saxons invaded Britain, heathenism gained control. The conquerors disdained to be instructed by their slaves, and the Christians were forced to retreat to the mountains and the wild moors. Yet the light, hidden for a time, continued to burn. In Scotland, a century later, it shone out with a brightness that extended to far-distant lands. From Ireland came the pious Columba and his colaborers, who, gathering about them the scattered believers on the lonely island of Iona, made this the center of their missionary labors. Among these evangelists was an observer of the Bible Sabbath, and thus this truth was introduced among the people. A school was established at Iona, from which missionaries went out, not only to Scotland and England, but to Germany, Switzerland, and even Italy.

But Rome had fixed her eyes on Britain, and resolved to bring it under her supremacy. In the sixth century her missionaries undertook the conversion of the heathen Saxons. They were received with favor by the proud barbarians, and they induced many thousands to profess the Romish faith. As the work progressed, the papal leaders and their converts encountered the primitive Christians. A striking contrast was presented. The latter were simple, humble, and scriptural in character, doctrine, and manners, while the former manifested the superstition, pomp, and arrogance of popery. The emissary of Rome demanded that these Christian churches acknowledge the supremacy of the sovereign pontiff. The Britons meekly replied that they desired to love all men, but that the pope was not entitled to supremacy in the church, and they could render to him only that submission which was due to every follower of Christ. Repeated attempts were made to secure their allegiance to Rome; but these humble Christians, amazed at the pride displayed by her emissaries, steadfastly replied that they knew no other master than Christ. Now the true spirit of the papacy was revealed. Said the Romish leader, “If you will not receive brethren who bring you peace, you shall receive enemies who will bring you war. If you will not unite with us in showing the Saxons the way of life, you shall receive from them the stroke of death.” These were no idle threats. War, intrigue, and deception were employed against these witnesses for a Bible faith, until the churches of Britain were destroyed, or forced to submit to the authority of the pope.

In lands beyond the jurisdiction of Rome, there existed for many centuries bodies of Christians who remained almost wholly free from papal corruption. They were surrounded by heathenism, and in the lapse of ages were affected by its errors; but they continued to regard the Bible as the only rule of faith, and adhered to many of its truths. These Christians believed in the perpetuity of the law of God, and observed the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. Churches that held to this faith and practice, existed in Central Africa and among the Armenians of Asia.

But of those who resisted the encroachments of the papal power, the Waldenses stood foremost. In the very land where popery had fixed its seat, there its falsehood and corruption were most steadfastly resisted. For centuries the churches of Piedmont maintained their independence; but the time came at last when Rome insisted upon their submission. After ineffectual struggles against her tyranny, the leaders of these churches reluctantly acknowledged the supremacy of the power to which the whole world seemed to pay homage. There were some, however, who refused to yield to the authority of pope or prelate. They were determined to maintain their allegiance to God, and to preserve the purity and simplicity of their faith. A separation took place. Those who adhered to the ancient faith now withdrew; some, forsaking their native Alps, raised the banner of truth in foreign lands; others retreated to the secluded glens and rocky fastnesses of the mountains, and there preserved their freedom to worship God.

The faith which for many centuries was held and taught by the Waldensian Christians was in marked contrast to the false doctrines put forth from Rome. Their religious belief was founded upon the written word of God, the true system of Christianity. But those humble peasants, in their obscure retreats, shut away from the world, and bound to daily toil among their flocks and their vineyards, had not themselves arrived at the truth in opposition to the dogmas and heresies of the apostate church. Theirs was not a faith newly received. Their religious belief was their inheritance from their fathers. They contended for the faith of the apostolic church,—“the faith which was once delivered to the saints.” “The church in the wilderness,” and not the proud hierarchy enthroned in the world’s great capital, was the true church of Christ, the guardian of the treasures of truth which God has committed to his people to be given to the world.

Among the leading causes that had led to the separation of the true church from Rome, was the hatred of the latter toward the Bible Sabbath. As foretold by prophecy, the papal power cast down the truth to the ground. The law of God was trampled in the dust, while the traditions and customs of men were exalted. The churches that were under the rule of the papacy were early compelled to honor the Sunday as a holy day. Amid the prevailing error and superstition, many, even of the true people of God, became so bewildered that while they observed the Sabbath they refrained from labor also on the Sunday. But this did not satisfy the papal leaders. They demanded not only that Sunday be hallowed, but that the Sabbath be profaned; and they denounced in the strongest language those who dared to show it honor. It was only by fleeing from the power of Rome that any could obey God’s law in peace.

The Waldenses were the first of all the peoples of Europe to obtain a translation of the Holy Scriptures. Hundreds of years before the Reformation, they possessed the Bible in manuscript in their native tongue. They had the truth unadulterated, and this rendered them the special objects of hatred and persecution. They declared the Church of Rome to be the apostate Babylon of the Apocalypse, and at the peril of their lives they stood up to resist her corruptions. While, under the pressure of long-continued persecution, some compromised their faith, little by little yielding its distinctive principles, others held fast the truth. Through ages of darkness and apostasy, there were Waldenses who denied the supremacy of Rome, who rejected image worship as idolatry, and who kept the true Sabbath. Under the fiercest tempests of opposition they maintained their faith. Though gashed by the Savoyard spear, and scorched by the Romish fagot, they stood unflinchingly for God’s Word and his honor.

Behind the lofty bulwarks of the mountains,—in all ages the refuge of the persecuted and oppressed,—the Waldenses found a hiding-place. Here the light of truth was kept burning amid the darkness of the Middle Ages. Here, for a thousand years, witnesses for the truth maintained the ancient faith.

God had provided for his people a sanctuary of awful grandeur, befitting the mighty truths committed to their trust. To those faithful exiles the mountains were an emblem of the immutable righteousness of Jehovah. They pointed their children to the heights towering above them in unchanging majesty, and spoke to them of Him with whom there is no variableness nor shadow of turning, whose word is as enduring as the everlasting hills. God had set fast the mountains, and girded them with strength; no arm but that of infinite power could move them out of their place. In like manner he had established his law, the foundation of his government in Heaven and upon earth. The arm of man might reach his fellow-men and destroy their lives; but that arm could as readily uproot the mountains from their foundations, and hurl them into the sea, as it could change one precept of the law of Jehovah, or blot out one of his promises to those who do his will. In their fidelity to his law, God’s servants should be as firm as the unchanging hills.

The mountains that girded their lowly valleys were a constant witness to God’s creative power, and a never-failing assurance of his protecting care. Those pilgrims learned to love the silent symbols of Jehovah’s presence. They indulged no repining because of the hardships of their lot; they were never lonely amid the mountain solitudes. They thanked God that he had provided for them an asylum from the wrath and cruelty of men. They rejoiced in their freedom to worship before him. Often when pursued by their enemies, the strength of the hills proved a sure defense. From many a lofty cliff they chanted the praise of God, and the armies of Rome could not silence their songs of thanksgiving.

Pure, simple, and fervent was the piety of these followers of Christ. The principles of truth they valued above houses and lands, friends, kindred, even life itself. These principles they earnestly sought to impress upon the hearts of the young. From earliest childhood the youth were instructed in the Scriptures, and taught to sacredly regard the claims of the law of God. Copies of the Bible were rare; therefore its precious words were committed to memory. Many were able to repeat large portions of both the Old and the New Testament. Thoughts of God were associated alike with the sublime scenery of nature and with the humble blessings of daily life. Little children learned to look with gratitude to God as the giver of every favor and every comfort.

Parents, tender and affectionate as they were, loved their children too wisely to accustom them to self-indulgence. Before them was a life of trial and hardship, perhaps a martyr’s death. They were educated from childhood to endure hardness, to submit to control, and yet to think and act for themselves. Very early they were taught to bear responsibilities, to be guarded in speech, and to understand the wisdom of silence. One indiscreet word let fall in the hearing of their enemies, might imperil not only the life of the speaker, but the lives of hundreds of his brethren; for as wolves hunting their prey did the enemies of truth pursue those who dared to claim freedom of religious faith.

The Waldenses had sacrificed their worldly prosperity for the truth’s sake, and with persevering patience they toiled for their bread. Every spot of tillable land among the mountains was carefully improved; the valleys and the less fertile hillsides were made to yield their increase. Economy and severe self-denial formed a part of the education which the children received as their only legacy. They were taught that God designs life to be a discipline, and that their wants could be supplied only by personal labor, by forethought, care, and faith. The process was laborious and wearisome, but it was wholesome, just what man needs in his fallen state, the school which God has provided for his training and development.

While the youth were inured to toil and hardship, the culture of the intellect was not neglected. They were taught that all their powers belonged to God, and that all were to be improved and developed for his service.

The Vaudois churches, in their purity and simplicity, resembled the church of apostolic times. Rejecting the supremacy of pope and prelate, they held the Bible as the only supreme, infallible authority. Their pastors, unlike the lordly priests of Rome, followed the example of their Master, who “came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” They fed the flock of God, leading them to the green pastures and living fountains of his holy Word. Far from the monuments of human pomp and pride, the people assembled, not in magnificent churches or grand cathedrals, but beneath the shadow of the mountains, in the Alpine valleys, or, in time of danger, in some rocky stronghold, to listen to the words of truth from the servants of Christ. The pastors not only preached the gospel, but they visited the sick, catechized the children, admonished the erring, and labored to settle disputes and promote harmony and brotherly love. In times of peace they were sustained by the free-will offerings of the people; but, like Paul the tent-maker, each learned some trade or profession by which, if necessary, to provide for his own support.

From their pastors the youth received instruction. While attention was given to branches of general learning, the Bible was made the chief study. The Gospels of Matthew and John they committed to memory, with many of the Epistles. They were employed also in copying the Scriptures. Some manuscripts contained the whole Bible, others only brief selections, to which some simple explanations of the text were added by those who were able to expound the Scriptures. Thus were brought forth the treasures of truth so long concealed by those who sought to exalt themselves above God.

By patient, untiring labor, sometimes in the deep, dark caverns of the earth, by the light of torches, the sacred Scriptures were written out, verse by verse, chapter by chapter. Thus the work went on, the revealed will of God shining out like pure gold; how much brighter, clearer, and more powerful because of the trials undergone for its sake, only those could realize who were engaged in the work. Angels from Heaven surrounded these faithful workers.

Satan had urged on the papal priests and prelates to bury the Word of truth beneath the rubbish of error, heresy, and superstition, but in a most wonderful manner it was preserved uncorrupted through all the ages of darkness. It bore not the stamp of man, but the impress of God. Men have been unwearied in their efforts to obscure the plain, simple meaning of the Scriptures, and to make them contradict their own testimony; but, like the ark upon the billowy deep, the Word of God outrides the storms that threaten it with destruction. As the mine has rich veins of gold and silver hidden beneath the surface, so that all must dig who would discover its precious stores, so the Holy Scriptures have treasures of truth that are revealed only to the earnest, humble, prayerful seeker. God designed the Bible to be a lesson-book to all mankind, in childhood, youth, and manhood, and to be studied through all time. He gave his Word to men as a revelation of himself. Every new truth discerned is a fresh disclosure of the character of its Author. The study of the Scriptures is the means divinely ordained to bring men into closer connection with their Creator, and to give them a clearer knowledge of his will. It is the medium of communication between God and man.

While the Waldenses regarded the fear of the Lord as the beginning of wisdom, they were not blind to the importance of a contact with the world, a knowledge of men and of active life, in expanding the mind and quickening the perceptions. From their schools in the mountains some of the youth were sent to institutions of learning in the cities of France or Italy, where was a more extended field for study, thought, and observation that in their native Alps. The youth thus sent forth were exposed to temptation, they witnessed vice, they encountered Satan’s wily agents, who urged upon them the most subtle heresies and the most dangerous deceptions. But their education from childhood had been of a character to prepare them for all this.

In the schools whither they went, they were not to make confidants of any. Their garments were so prepared as to conceal their greatest treasure,—the precious manuscripts of the Scriptures. These, the fruit of months and years of toil, they carried with them, and, whenever they could do so without exciting suspicion, they cautiously placed some portion in the way of those whose hearts seemed open to receive the truth. From their mother’s knee the Waldensian youth had been trained with this purpose in view; they understood their work, and faithfully performed it. Converts to the true faith were won in these institutions of learning, and frequently its principles were found to be permeating the entire school; yet the papist leaders could not, by the closest inquiry, trace the so-called corrupting heresy to its source.

The spirit of Christ is a missionary spirit. The very first impulse of the renewed heart is to bring others also to the Saviour. Such was the spirit of the Vaudois Christians. They felt that God required more of them than merely to preserve the truth in its purity in their own churches; that a solemn responsibility rested upon them to let their light shine forth to those who were in darkness; by the mighty power of God’s Word they sought to break the bondage which Rome had imposed. The Vaudois ministers were trained as missionaries, every one who expected to enter the ministry being required first to gain an experience as an evangelist. Each was to serve three years in some mission field before taking charge of a church at home. This service, requiring at the outset self-denial and sacrifice, was a fitting introduction to the pastor’s life in those times that tried men’s souls. The youth who received ordination to the sacred office saw before them, not the prospect of earthly wealth and glory, but a life of toil and danger, and possibly a martyr’s fate. The missionaries went out two and two, as Jesus sent forth his disciples. With every young man was usually associated a man of age and experience, the youth being under the guidance of his companion, who was held responsible for his training, and whose instruction he was required to heed. These co-laborers were not always together, but often met for prayer and counsel, thus strengthening each other in the faith.

To have made known the object of their mission would have insured its defeat; therefore they carefully concealed their real character. Every minister possessed a knowledge of some trade or profession, and the missionaries prosecuted their work under cover of a secular calling. Usually they chose that of merchant or peddler. They dealt in choice and costly articles, such as silks, laces, and jewels, which in those times could not be readily procured, and thus they found entrance where they would otherwise have been repulsed. All the while their hearts were uplifted to God for wisdom to present a treasure more precious than gold or gems. They secretly carried about with them copies of the Bible, in whole or in part, and whenever an opportunity was presented, they called the attention of their customers to these manuscripts. Often an interest to read God’s Word was thus awakened, and some portion was gladly left with those who desired to receive it.

The work of these missionaries began in the plains and valleys at the foot of their own mountains, but it extended far beyond these limits. With naked feet and in garments coarse and travel-stained as were those of their Master, they passed through great cities, and penetrated to distant lands. Everywhere they scattered the precious seed. Churches sprung up in their path, and the blood of martyrs witnessed for the truth. The day of God will reveal a rich harvest of souls garnered by the labors of these faithful men. Veiled and silent, the Word of God was making its way through Christendom, and meeting a glad reception in the homes and hearts of men.

To the Waldenses the Scriptures were not merely a record of God’s dealings with men in the past, and a revelation of the responsibilities and duties of the present, but an unfolding of the perils and glories of the future. They believed that the end of all things was not far distant; and as they studied the Bible with prayer and tears, they were the more deeply impressed with its precious utterances, and with their duty to make known to others its saving truths. They saw the plan of salvation clearly revealed in the sacred pages, and they found comfort, hope, and peace in believing in Jesus. As the light illuminated their understanding and made glad their hearts, they longed to shed its beams upon those who were in the darkness of papal error.

They saw that under the guidance of pope and priests, multitudes were vainly endeavoring to obtain pardon by afflicting their bodies for the sin of their souls. Taught to trust to their good works to save them, they were ever looking to themselves, their minds dwelling upon their sinful condition, seeing themselves exposed to the wrath of God, afflicting soul and body, yet finding no relief. Thus conscientious souls were bound by the doctrines of Rome. Thousands abandoned friends and kindred, and spent their lives in convent cells. By oft-repeated fasts and cruel scourgings, by midnight vigils, by prostration for weary hours upon the cold, damp stones of their dreary abode, by long pilgrimages, by humiliating penance and fearful torture, thousands vainly sought to obtain peace of conscience. Oppressed with a sense of sin, and haunted with the fear of God’s avenging wrath, many suffered on, until exhausted nature gave way, and without one ray of light or hope, they sank into the tomb.

The Waldenses longed to break to these starving souls the bread of life, to open to them the messages of peace in the promises of God, and to point them to Christ as their only hope of salvation. The doctrine that good works can atone for the transgression of God’s law, they held to be based upon falsehood. Reliance upon human merit intercepts the view of Christ’s infinite love. Jesus died as a sacrifice for man because the fallen race can do nothing to recommend themselves to God. The merits of a crucified and risen Saviour are the foundation of the Christian’s faith. The dependence of the soul upon Christ is as real, and its connection with him must be as close, as that of a limb to the body, or of a branch to the vine.

The teachings of popes and priests had led men to look upon the character of God, and even of Christ, as stern, gloomy, and forbidding. The Saviour was represented as so far devoid of all sympathy with man in his fallen state that the mediation of priests and saints must be invoked. Those whose minds had been enlightened by the Word of God longed to point these souls to Jesus as their compassionate, loving Saviour, standing with outstretched arms inviting all to come to him with their burden of sin, their care and weariness. They longed to clear away the obstructions which Satan had piled up that men might not see the promises, and come directly to God, confessing their sins, and obtaining pardon and peace.

Eagerly did the Vaudois missionary unfold to the inquiring mind the precious truths of the gospel. Cautiously he produced the carefully written portions of the Holy Scriptures. It was his greatest joy to give hope to the conscientious, sin-stricken soul, who could see only a God of vengeance, waiting to execute justice. With quivering lip and tearful eye did he, often on bended knees, open to his brethren the precious promises that reveal the sinner’s only hope. Thus the light of truth penetrated many a darkened mind, rolling back the cloud of gloom, until the Sun of Righteousness shone into the heart with healing in his beams. It was often the case that some portion of Scripture was read again and again, the hearer desiring it to be repeated, as if he would assure himself that he had heard aright. Especially was the repetition of these words eagerly desired: “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” [1 John 1:7.] “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” [John 3:14, 15.]

Many were undeceived in regard to the claims of Rome. They saw how vain is the mediation of men or angels in behalf of the sinner. As the true light dawned upon their minds, they exclaimed with rejoicing, “Christ is my priest; his blood is my sacrifice; his altar is my confessional.” They cast themselves wholly upon the merits of Jesus, repeating the words, “Without faith it is impossible to please him.” [Hebrews 11:6.] “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” [Acts 4:12.]

The assurance of a Saviour’s love seemed too much for some of these poor tempest-tossed souls to realize. So great was the relief which it brought, such a flood of light was shed upon them, that they seemed transported to Heaven. Their hand was laid confidingly in the hand of Christ; their feet were planted upon the Rock of Ages. All fear of death was banished. They could now covet the prison and the fagot if they might thereby honor the name of their Redeemer.

In secret places the Word of God was thus brought forth and read, sometimes to a single soul, sometimes to a little company who were longing for light and truth. Often the entire night was spent in this manner. So great would be the wonder and admiration of the listeners that the messenger of mercy was not infrequently compelled to cease his reading until the understanding could grasp the tidings of salvation. Often would words like these be uttered: “Will God indeed accept my offering? Will he smile upon me? Will he pardon me?” The answer was read, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” [Matthew 11:28.]

Faith grasped the promise, and the glad response was heard, “No more long pilgrimages to make; no more painful journeys to holy shrines. I may come to Jesus just as I am, sinful and unholy, and he will not spurn the penitential prayer. ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee.’ Mine, even mine, may be forgiven!”

A tide of sacred joy would fill the heart, and the name of Jesus would be magnified by praise and thanksgiving. Those happy souls returned to their homes to diffuse light, to repeat to others, as well as they could, their new experience; that they had found the true and living Way. There was a strange and solemn power in the words of Scripture that spoke directly to the hearts of those who were longing for the truth. It was the voice of God, and it carried conviction to those who heard.

The messenger of truth went on his way; but his appearance of humility, his sincerity, his earnestness and deep fervor, were subjects of frequent remark. In many instances his hearers had not asked him whence he came, or whither he went. They had been so overwhelmed, at first with surprise, and afterward with gratitude and joy, that they had not thought to question him. When they had urged him to accompany them to their homes, he had replied that he must visit the lost sheep of the flock. Could he have been an angel from Heaven? they queried.

In many cases the messenger of truth was seen no more. He had made his way to other lands, he was wearing out his life in some unknown dungeon, or perhaps his bones were whitening on the spot where he had witnessed for the truth. But the words he had left behind could not be destroyed. They were doing their work in the hearts of men; the blessed results will be fully known only in the Judgment.

The Waldensian missionaries were invading the kingdom of Satan, and the powers of darkness aroused to greater vigilance. Every effort to advance the truth was watched by the prince of evil, and he excited the fears of his agents. The papal leaders saw a portent of danger to their cause from the labors of these humble itinerants. If the light of truth were allowed to shine unobstructed, it would sweep away the heavy clouds of error that enveloped the people; it would direct the minds of men to God alone, and would eventually destroy the supremacy of Rome.

The very existence of this people, holding the faith of the ancient church, was a constant testimony to Rome’s apostasy, and therefore excited the most bitter hatred and persecution. Their refusal to surrender the Scriptures was also an offense that Rome could not tolerate. She determined to blot them from the earth. Now began the most terrible crusades against God’s people in their mountain homes. Inquisitors were put upon their track, and the scene of innocent Abel falling before the murderous Cain was often repeated.

Again and again were their fertile lands laid waste, their dwellings and chapels swept away, so that where once were flourishing fields and the homes of an innocent, industrious people, there remained only a desert. As the ravenous beast is rendered more furious by the taste of blood, so the rage of the papists was kindled to greater intensity by the sufferings of their victims. Many of these witnesses for a pure faith were pursued across the mountains, and hunted down in the valleys where they were hidden, shut in by mighty forests, and pinnacles of rock.

No charge could be brought against the moral character of this proscribed class. Even their enemies declared them to be a peaceable, quiet, pious people. Their grand offense was that they would not worship God according to the will of the pope. For this crime, every humiliation, insult, and torture that men or devils could invent was heaped upon them.

When Rome at one time determined to exterminate the hated sect, a bull was issued by the pope [Innocent VIII., A. D. 1487.] condemning them as heretics, and delivering them to slaughter. They were not accused as idlers, or dishonest, or disorderly; but it was declared that they had an appearance of piety and sanctity that seduced “the sheep of the true fold.” Therefore the pope ordered “that the malicious and abominable sect of malignants,” if they refuse to abjure, “be crushed like venomous snakes.” Did this haughty potentate expect to meet those words again? Did he know that they were registered in the books of Heaven, to confront him at the Judgment? “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,” said Jesus, “ye have done it unto me.” [Matthew 25:40.]

This bull called upon all members of the church to join the crusade against the heretics. As an incentive to engage in this cruel work, it “absolved from all ecclesiastical pains and penalties, general and particular; it released all who joined the crusade from any oaths they might have taken; it legitimatized their title to any property which they might have illegally acquired, and promised remission of all their sins to such as should kill any heretic. It annulled all contracts made in favor of the Vaudois, ordered their domestics to abandon them, forbade all persons to give them any aid whatever, and empowered all persons to take possession of their property.” This document clearly reveals the masterspirit behind the scenes. It is the roar of the dragon, and not the voice of Christ, that is heard therein.

The papal leaders would not conform their characters to the great standard of God’s law, but erected a standard to suit themselves, and determined to compel all to conform to this because Rome willed it. The most horrible tragedies were enacted. Corrupt and blasphemous priests and popes were doing the work which Satan appointed them. Mercy had no place in their natures. The same spirit that crucified Christ, and that slew the apostles, the same that moved the blood-thirsty Nero against the faithful in his day, was at work to rid the earth of those who were beloved of God.

The persecutions visited for many centuries upon this God-fearing people were endured by them with a patience and constancy that honored their Redeemer. Notwithstanding the crusades against them, and the inhuman butchery to which they were subjected, they continued to send out their missionaries to scatter the precious truth. They were hunted to the death; yet their blood watered the seed sown, and it failed not of yielding fruit. Thus the Waldenses witnessed for God, centuries before the birth of Luther. Scattered over many lands, they planted the seeds of the Reformation that began in the time of Wycliffe, grew broad and deep in the days of Luther, and is to be carried forward to the close of time by those who also are willing to suffer all things for “the Word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.” [Revelation 1:9.]

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Re: The Great Controversy (1888)

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Chapter 5—John Wycliffe


Before the Reformation there were at times but very few copies of the Bible in existence; but God had not suffered his Word to be wholly destroyed. Its truths were not to be forever hidden. He could as easily unchain the words of life as he could open prison doors and unbolt iron gates to set his servants free. In the different countries of Europe, men were moved by the Spirit of God to search for the truth as for hid treasures. Providentially guided to the Holy Scriptures, they studied the sacred pages with intense interest. They were willing to accept the light, at any cost to themselves. Though they did not see all things clearly, they were enabled to perceive many long-buried truths. As Heaven-sent messengers they went forth, rending asunder the chains of error and superstition, and calling upon those who had been so long enslaved to arise and assert their liberty.

Except among the Waldenses, the Word of God had for ages been locked up in languages known only to the learned; but the time had come for the Scriptures to be translated, and given to the people of different lands in their native tongue. The world had passed its midnight. The hours of darkness were wearing away, and in many lands appeared tokens of the coming dawn.

In the fourteenth century arose in England the “morning-star of the Reformation.” John Wycliffe was the herald of reform, not for England alone, but for all Christendom. The great protest against Rome which it was permitted him to utter, was never to be silenced. That protest opened the struggle which was to result in the emancipation of individuals, of churches, and of nations.

Wycliffe received a liberal education, and with him the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom. He was noted at college for his fervent piety as well as for his remarkable talents and sound scholarship. In his thirst for knowledge he sought to become acquainted with every branch of learning. He was educated in the scholastic philosophy, in the canons of the church, and in the civil law, especially that of his own country. In his after-labors the value of this early training was apparent. A thorough acquaintance with the speculative philosophy of his time enabled him to expose its errors; and by his study of national and ecclesiastical law he was prepared to engage in the great struggle for civil and religious liberty. While he could wield the weapons drawn from the Word of God, he had acquired the intellectual discipline of the schools, and he understood the tactics of the schoolmen. The power of his genius and the extent and thoroughness of his knowledge commanded the respect of both friends and foes. His adherents saw with satisfaction that their champion stood foremost among the leading minds of the nation; and his enemies were prevented from casting contempt upon the cause of reform by exposing the ignorance or weakness of its supporter.

While Wycliffe was still at college, he entered upon the study of the Scriptures. In those early times, when the Bible existed only in the ancient languages, scholars were enabled to find their way to the fountain of truth, which was closed to the uneducated classes. Thus already the way had been prepared for Wycliffe’s future work as a reformer. Men of learning had studied the Word of God, and had found the great truth of his free grace there revealed. In their teachings they had spread a knowledge of this truth, and had led others to turn to the Living Oracles.

When Wycliffe’s attention was directed to the Scriptures, he entered upon their investigation with the same thoroughness which had enabled him to master the learning of the schools. Heretofore he had felt a great want, which neither his scholastic studies nor the teaching of the church could satisfy. In the Word of God he found that which he had before sought in vain. Here he saw the plan of salvation revealed, and Christ set forth as the only advocate for man. He gave himself to the service of Christ, and determined to proclaim the truths he had discovered.

Like after-reformers, Wycliffe did not, at the opening of his work, foresee whither it would lead him. He did not set himself deliberately in opposition to Rome. But devotion to truth could not but bring him in conflict with falsehood. The more clearly he discerned the errors of the papacy, the more earnestly he presented the teaching of the Bible. He saw that Rome had forsaken the Word of God for human tradition; he fearlessly accused the priesthood of having banished the Scriptures, and demanded that the Bible be restored to the people, and that its authority be again established in the church. He was an able and earnest teacher, and an eloquent preacher, and his daily life was a demonstration of the truths he preached. His knowledge of the Scriptures, the force of his reasoning, the purity of his life, and his unbending courage and integrity, won for him general esteem and confidence. Many of the people had become dissatisfied with their former faith, as they saw the iniquity that prevailed in the Roman Church, and they hailed with unconcealed joy the truths brought to view by Wycliffe; but the papist leaders were filled with rage when they perceived that this reformer was gaining an influence greater than their own.

Wycliffe was a keen detector of error, and he struck fearlessly against many of the abuses sanctioned by the authority of Rome. While acting as chaplain for the king, he took a bold stand against the payment of tribute claimed by the pope from the English monarch, and showed that the papal assumption of authority over secular rulers was contrary to both reason and revelation. The demands of the pope had excited great indignation, and Wycliffe’s teachings exerted an influence upon the leading minds of the nation. The king and the nobles united in denying the pontiff’s claim to temporal authority, and in refusing the payment of the tribute. Thus an effectual blow was struck against the papal supremacy in England.

Another evil against which the reformer waged long and resolute battle, was the institution of the orders of mendicant friars. These friars swarmed in England, casting a blight upon the greatness and prosperity of the nation. Industry, education, morals, all felt the withering influence. The monks’ life of idleness and beggary was not only a heavy drain upon the resources of the people, but it brought useful labor into contempt. The youth were demoralized and corrupted. By the influence of the friars many were induced to enter a cloister and devote themselves to a monastic life, and this not only without the consent of their parents, but even without their knowledge, and contrary to their commands. One of the early fathers of the Romish Church, urging the claims of monasticism above the obligations of filial love and duty, had declared: “Though thy father should lie before thy door, weeping and lamenting, and thy mother should show thee the body that bare thee and the breasts that nursed thee, see that thou trample them under foot, and go onward straightway to Christ.” “By this monstrous inhumanity,” as Luther afterward styled it, “savoring more of the wolf and the tyrant than of the Christian and the man,” were the hearts of children steeled against their parents. Thus did the papal leaders, like the Pharisees of old, make the commandment of God of none effect by their tradition. Thus homes were made desolate, and parents were deprived of the society of their sons and daughters.

Even the students in the universities were deceived by the false representations of the monks, and induced to join their orders. Many afterward repented this step, seeing that they had blighted their own lives, and had brought sorrow upon their parents; but once fast in the snare, it was impossible for them to obtain their freedom. Many parents, fearing the influence of the monks, refused to send their sons to the universities. There was a marked falling off in the number of students in attendance at the great centers of learning. The schools languished, and ignorance prevailed.

The pope had bestowed on these monks the power to hear confessions and to grant pardon. This became a source of great evil. Bent on enhancing their gains, the friars were so ready to grant absolution that criminals of all descriptions resorted to them, and as a result, the worst vices rapidly increased. The sick and the poor were left to suffer, while the gifts that should have relieved their wants went to the monks, who with threats demanded the alms of the people, denouncing the impiety of those who should withhold gifts from their orders. Notwithstanding their profession of poverty, the wealth of the friars was constantly increasing, and their magnificent edifices and luxurious tables made more apparent the growing poverty of the nation. And while spending their time in luxury and pleasure, they sent out in their stead ignorant men, who could only recount marvelous tales, legends, and jests to amuse the people, and make them still more completely the dupes of the monks. Yet the friars continued to maintain their hold on the superstitious multitudes, and led them to believe that all religious duty was comprised in acknowledging the supremacy of the pope, adoring the saints, and making gifts to the monks, and that this was sufficient to secure them a place in Heaven.

Men of learning and piety had labored in vain to bring about a reform in these monastic orders; but Wycliffe, with clearer insight, struck at the root of the evil, declaring that the system itself was false, and that it should be abolished. Discussion and inquiry were awakening. As the monks traversed the country, vending the pope’s pardons, many were led to doubt the possibility of purchasing forgiveness with money, and they questioned whether they should not seek pardon from God rather than from the pontiff of Rome. Not a few were alarmed at the rapacity of the friars, whose greed seemed never to be satisfied. “The monks and priests of Rome,” said they, “are eating us away like a cancer. God must deliver us, or the people will perish.” To cover their avarice, these begging monks claimed that they were following the Saviour’s example, declaring that Jesus and his disciples had been supported by the charities of the people. This claim resulted in injury to their cause, for it led many to the Bible to learn the truth for themselves,—a result which of all others was least desired by Rome. The minds of men were directed to the Source of truth, which it was her object to conceal.

Wycliffe began to write and publish tracts against the friars, not, however, seeking so much to enter into dispute with them as to call the minds of the people to the teachings of the Bible and its Author. He declared that the power of pardon or of excommunication is possessed by the pope in no greater degree than by common priests, and that no man can be truly excommunicated unless he has first brought upon himself the condemnation of God. In no more effectual way could he have undertaken the overthrow of that mammoth fabric of spiritual and temporal dominion which the pope had erected, and in which the souls and bodies of millions were held captive.

Again Wycliffe was called to defend the rights of the English crown against the encroachments of Rome; and being appointed a royal ambassador, he spent two years in the Netherlands, in conference with the commissioners of the pope. Here he was brought into communication with ecclesiastics from France, Italy, and Spain, and he had an opportunity to look behind the scenes, and gain a knowledge of many things which would have remained hidden from him in England. He learned much that was to give point to his after-labors. In these representatives from the papal court he read the true character and aims of the hierarchy. He returned to England to repeat his former teachings more openly and with greater zeal, declaring that covetousness, pride, and deception were the gods of Rome.

In one of his tracts he said, speaking of the pope and his collectors: “They draw out of our land poor men’s livelihood, and many thousand marks by the year, of the king’s money, for sacraments and spiritual things, that is cursed heresy of simony, and maketh all Christendom assert and maintain his heresy. And certes though our realm had a huge hill of gold, and never other man took thereof but only this proud, worldly priest’s collector, by process of time this hill must be spended; for he taketh ever money out of our land, and sendeth naught again but God’s curse for his simony.”

Soon after his return to England, Wycliffe received from the king the appointment to the rectory of Lutterworth. This was an assurance that the monarch at least had not been displeased by his plain speaking. Wycliffe’s influence was felt in shaping the action of the court, as well as in moulding the belief of the nation.

The papal thunders were soon hurled against him. Three bulls were dispatched to England,—to the university, to the king, and to the prelates,—all commanding immediate and decisive measures to silence the teacher of heresy. Before the arrival of the bulls, however, the bishops, in their zeal, had summoned Wycliffe before them for trial. But two of the most powerful princes in the kingdom accompanied him to the tribunal; and the people, surrounding the building and rushing in, so intimidated the judges that the proceedings were for the time suspended, and he was allowed to go his way in peace. A little later, Edward III., whom in his old age the prelates were seeking to influence against the reformer, died, and Wycliffe’s former protector became regent of the kingdom.

But the arrival of the papal bulls laid upon all England a peremptory command for the arrest and imprisonment of the heretic. These measures pointed directly to the stake. It appeared certain that Wycliffe must soon fall a prey to the vengeance of Rome. But He who declared to one of old, “Fear not; I am thy shield,” [Genesis 15:1.] again stretched out his hand to protect his servant. Death came, not to the reformer, but to the pontiff who had decreed his destruction. Gregory XI. died, and the ecclesiastics who had assembled for Wycliffe’s trial, dispersed.

God’s providence still further overruled events to give opportunity for the growth of the Reformation. The death of Gregory was followed by the election of two rival popes. Two conflicting powers, each professedly infallible, now claimed obedience. Each called upon the faithful to assist him in making war upon the other, enforcing his demands by terrible anathemas against his adversaries, and promises of rewards in Heaven to his supporters. This occurrence greatly weakened the power of the papacy. The rival factions had all they could do to attack each other, and Wycliffe for a time had rest. Anathemas and recriminations were flying from pope to pope, and torrents of blood were poured out to support their conflicting claims. Crimes and scandals flooded the church. Meanwhile the reformer, in the quiet retirement of his parish of Lutterworth, was laboring diligently to point men from the contending popes to Jesus, the Prince of peace.

The schism, with all the strife and corruption which it caused, prepared the way for the Reformation, by enabling the people to see what the papacy really was. In a tract which he published, “On the Schism of the Popes,” Wycliffe called upon the people to consider whether these two priests were not speaking the truth in condemning each other as the antichrist. “The fiend,” said he, “no longer reigns in one but in two priests, that men may the more easily, in Christ’s name, overcome them both.”

Wycliffe, like his Master, preached the gospel to the poor. Not content with spreading the light in their humble homes in his own parish of Lutterworth, he determined that it should be carried to every part of England. To accomplish this he organized a body of preachers, simple, devout men, who loved the truth and desired nothing so much as to extend it. These men went everywhere, teaching in the market-places, in the streets of the great cities, and in the country lanes. They sought out the aged, the sick, and the poor, and opened to them the glad tidings of the grace of God.

As a professor of theology at Oxford, Wycliffe preached the Word of God in the halls of the university. So faithfully did he present the truth to the students under his instruction, that he received the title of “The Gospel Doctor.” But the greatest work of his life was to be the translation of the Scriptures into the English language. In a work on “The Truth and Meaning of Scripture,” he expressed his intention to translate the Bible, so that every man in England might read, in the language in which he was born, the wonderful works of God.

But suddenly his labors were stopped. Though not yet sixty years of age, unceasing toil, study, and the assaults of his enemies, had told upon his strength, and made him prematurely old. He was attacked by a dangerous illness. The tidings brought great joy to the friars. Now they thought he would bitterly repent the evil he had done the church, and they hurried to his chamber to listen to his confession. Representatives from the four religious orders, with four civil officers, gathered about the supposed dying man. “You have death on your lips,” they said; “be touched by your faults, and retract in our presence all you have said to our injury.” The reformer listened in silence; then he bade his attendant raise him in his bed, and gazing steadily upon them as they stood waiting for his recantation, he said, in the firm, strong voice which had so often caused them to tremble, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the evil deeds of the friars.” Astonished and abashed, the monks hurried from the room.

Wycliffe’s words were fulfilled. He lived to place in the hands of his countrymen the most powerful of all weapons against Rome; to give them the Bible, the Heaven-appointed agent to liberate, enlighten, and evangelize the people. There were many and great obstacles to surmount in the accomplishment of this work. Wycliffe was weighed down with infirmities, he knew that only a few years for labor remained for him, he saw the opposition which he must meet; but, encouraged by the promises of God’s Word, he went forward nothing daunted. In the full vigor of his intellectual powers, rich in experience, he had been preserved and prepared by God’s special providence for this, the greatest of his labors. While all Christendom was filled with tumult, the reformer, in his rectory at Lutterworth, unheeding the storm that raged without, applied himself to his chosen task.

At last the work was completed,—the first English translation of the Bible ever made. The Word of God was opened to England. The reformer feared not now the prison or the stake. He had placed in the hands of the English people a light which should never be extinguished. In giving the Bible to his countrymen, he had done more to break the fetters of ignorance and vice, more to liberate and elevate his country, than was ever achieved by the most brilliant victories on fields of battle.

The art of printing being still unknown, it was only by slow and wearisome labor that copies of the Bible could be multiplied. So great was the interest to obtain the book, that many willingly engaged in the work of transcribing it, but it was with difficulty that the copyists could supply the demand. Some of the more wealthy purchasers desired the whole Bible. Others bought only a portion. In many cases, several families united to purchase a copy. Thus Wycliffe’s Bible soon found its way to the homes of the people.

The appeal to men’s reason aroused them from their passive submission to papal dogmas. Wycliffe now taught the distinctive doctrines of Protestantism,—salvation through faith in Christ, and the sole infallibility of the Scriptures. The preachers whom he had sent out circulated the Bible, together with the reformer’s writings, and with such success that the new faith was accepted by nearly one-half of the people of England.

The appearance of the Scriptures brought dismay to the authorities of the church. They had now to meet an agency more powerful than Wycliffe,—an agency against which their weapons would avail little. There was at this time no law in England prohibiting the Bible, for it had never before been published in the language of the people. Such laws were afterward enacted and rigorously enforced. Meanwhile, notwithstanding the efforts of the priest, there was for a season opportunity for the circulation of the Word of God.

Again the papist leaders plotted to silence the reformer’s voice. Before three tribunals he was successively summoned for trial, but without avail. First a synod of bishops declared his writings heretical, and, winning the young king, Richard II., to their side, they obtained a royal decree consigning to prison all who should hold the condemned doctrines.

Wycliffe appealed from the synod to Parliament; he fearlessly arraigned the hierarchy before the national council, and demanded a reform of the enormous abuses sanctioned by the church. With convincing power he portrayed the usurpations and corruptions of the papal see. His enemies were brought to confusion. The friends and supporters of Wycliffe had been forced to yield, and it had been confidently expected that the reformer himself, in his old age, alone and friendless, would bow to the combined authority of the crown and the mitre. But instead of this the papists saw themselves defeated. Parliament, roused by the stirring appeals of Wycliffe, repealed the persecuting edict, and the reformer was again at liberty.

A third time he was brought to trial, and now before the highest ecclesiastical tribunal in the kingdom. Here no favor would be shown to heresy. Here at last Rome would triumph, and the reformer’s work would be stopped. So thought the papists. If they could but accomplish their purpose, Wycliffe would be forced to abjure his doctrines, or would leave the court only for the flames.

But Wycliffe did not retract; he would not dissemble. He fearlessly maintained his teachings, and repelled the accusations of his persecutors. Losing sight of himself, of his position, of the occasion, he summoned his hearers before the divine tribunal, and weighed their sophistries and deceptions in the balances of eternal truth. The power of the Holy Spirit was felt in the council room. A spell from God was upon the hearers. They seemed to have no power to leave the place. As arrows from the Lord’s quiver, the reformer’s words pierced their hearts. The charge of heresy, which they had brought against him, he with convincing power threw back upon themselves. Why, he demanded, did they dare to spread their errors?—For the sake of gain, to make merchandise of the grace of God.

“With whom, think you,” he finally said, “are you contending? With an old man on the brink of the grave?—No! with truth,—truth which is stronger than you, and will overcome you.” So saying, he withdrew from the assembly, and not one of his adversaries attempted to prevent him.

Wycliffe’s work was almost done, the banner of truth which he had so long borne was soon to fall from his hand; but once more he was to bear witness for the gospel. The truth was to be proclaimed from the very stronghold of the kingdom of error. Wycliffe was summoned for trial before the papal tribunal at Rome, which had so often shed the blood of the saints. He was not blind to the danger that threatened him, yet he would have obeyed the summons, had not a shock of palsy made it impossible for him to perform the journey. But though his voice was not to be heard at Rome, he could speak by letter, and this he determined to do.

From his rectory the reformer wrote to the pope a letter, which, while respectful in tone and Christian in spirit, was a keen rebuke to the pomp and pride of the papal see. “Verily I do rejoice,” he said, “to open and declare unto every man the faith which I do hold, and specially unto the bishop of Rome; the which forasmuch as I do suppose to be sound and true, he will most willingly confirm my said faith, or if it be erroneous, amend the same. First, I believe that the gospel of Christ is the whole body of God’s law.... I do give and hold the bishop of Rome, forasmuch as he be the vicar of Christ here on earth, to be bound most of all men unto that law of the gospel. For the greatness among Christ’s disciples did not consist in worldly dignity or honors, but in the near and exact following of Christ in his life and manners.... Christ for the time of his pilgrimage here was a most poor man, abjecting and casting off all worldly rule and honor.

“No faithful man ought to follow either the pope himself, or any of the holy men, but in such points as he hath followed the Lord Jesus Christ. For Peter and the sons of Zebedee, by desiring worldly honor, contrary to the following of Christ’s steps, did offend, and therefore in those errors they are not to be followed.

“The pope ought to leave unto the secular power all temporal dominion and rule, and thereunto effectually move and exhort his whole clergy; for so did Christ, and especially by his apostles.

“If I have erred in any of these points, I will most humbly submit myself unto correction even by death, if necessity so require. If I could labor according to my will and desire in mine own person, I would surely present myself before the bishop of Rome. But the Lord hath otherwise visited me to the contrary, and hath taught me to obey God rather than men.”

In closing he said: “Let us pray unto our God, that he will so stir up our pope, Urban the Sixth, as he began, that he with his clergy may follow the Lord Jesus Christ in life and manners, and that they may teach the people effectually, and that they likewise may faithfully follow them in the same.”

Thus Wycliffe presented to the pope and his cardinals the meekness and humility of Christ, exhibiting not only to themselves but to all Christendom the contrast between them and the Master whose representatives they professed to be.

Wycliffe fully expected that his life would be the price of his fidelity. The king, the pope, and the bishops were united to accomplish his ruin, and it seemed certain that a few months at most would bring him to the stake. But his courage was unshaken. “Why do you talk of seeking the crown of martyrdom afar?” he said. “Preach the gospel of Christ to haughty prelates, and martyrdom will not fail you. What! I should live and be silent? ... Never! Let the blow fall. I await its coming.”

But God’s providence still shielded his servant. The man who for a whole lifetime had stood boldly in defense of the truth, in daily peril of his life, was not to fall a victim to the hatred of its foes. Wycliffe had never sought to shield himself, but the Lord had been his protector; and now, when his enemies felt sure of their prey, God’s hand removed him beyond their reach. In his church at Lutterworth, as he was about to dispense the communion, he fell stricken with palsy, and in a short time yielded up his life.

God had appointed to Wycliffe his work. He had put the word of truth in his mouth, and he set a guard about him that this word might come to the people. His life was protected, and his labors prolonged, until a foundation was laid for the great work of the Reformation.

Wycliffe came from the obscurity of the Dark Ages. There were none who went before him from whose work he could shape his system of reform. Raised up like John the Baptist to accomplish a special mission, he was the herald of a new era. Yet in the system of truth which he presented there was a unity and completeness which reformers who followed him did not exceed, and which some did not reach, even a hundred years later. So broad and deep was laid the foundation, so firm and true was the framework, that it needed not to be reconstructed by those who came after him.

The great movement which Wycliffe inaugurated, which was to liberate the conscience and the intellect, and set free the nations so long bound to the triumphal car of Rome, had its spring in the Bible. Here was the source of that stream of blessing, which, like the water of life, has flowed down the ages since the fourteenth century. Wycliffe accepted the Holy Scriptures with implicit faith as the inspired revelation of God’s will, a sufficient rule of faith and practice. He had been educated to regard the Church of Rome as the divine, infallible authority, and to accept with unquestioning reverence the established teachings and customs of a thousand years; but he turned away from all these to listen to God’s holy Word. This was the authority which he urged the people to acknowledge. Instead of the church speaking through the pope, he declared the only true authority to be the voice of God speaking through his Word. And he taught not only that the Bible is a perfect revelation of God’s will, but that the Holy Spirit is its only interpreter, and that every man is, by the study of its teachings, to learn his duty for himself. Thus he turned the minds of men from the pope and the Church of Rome to the Word of God.

Wycliffe was one of the greatest of the reformers. In breadth of intellect, in clearness of thought, in firmness to maintain the truth, and boldness to defend it, he was equaled by few who came after him. Purity of life, unwearying diligence in study and in labor, incorruptible integrity, and Christ-like love and faithfulness in his ministry, characterized the first of the reformers. And this notwithstanding the intellectual darkness and moral corruption of the age from which he emerged.

The character of Wycliffe is a testimony to the educating, transforming power of the Holy Scriptures. It was the Bible that made him what he was. The effort to grasp the great truths of revelation imparts freshness and vigor to all the faculties. It expands the mind, sharpens the perceptions, and ripens the judgment. The study of the Bible will ennoble every thought, feeling, and aspiration as no other study can. It gives stability of purpose, patience, courage, and fortitude; it refines the character, and sanctifies the soul. An earnest, reverent study of the Scriptures—bringing the mind of the student in direct contact with the infinite mind—would give to the world men of stronger and more active intellect, as well as of nobler principle, than has ever resulted from the ablest training that human philosophy affords. “The entrance of Thy words,” says the psalmist, “giveth light; it giveth understanding.” [Psalm 119:130.]

The doctrines which had been taught by Wycliffe continued for a time to spread; his followers, known as Wycliffites and Lollards, not only traversed England, but scattered to other lands, carrying the knowledge of the gospel. Now that their leader was removed, the preachers labored with even greater zeal than before, and multitudes flocked to listen to their teachings. Some of the nobility, and even the wife of the king, were among the converts. In many places there was a marked reform in the manners of the people, and the idolatrous symbols of Romanism were removed from the churches. But soon the pitiless storm of persecution burst upon those who had dared to accept the Bible as their guide. The English monarchs, eager to strengthen their power by securing the support of Rome, did not hesitate to sacrifice the reformers. For the first time in the history of England, the stake was decreed against the disciples of the gospel. Martyrdom succeeded martyrdom. The advocates of truth, proscribed and tortured, could only pour their cries into the ear of the Lord of Sabaoth. Hunted as foes of the church and traitors to the realm, they continued to preach in secret places, finding shelter as best they could in the humble homes of the poor, and often hiding away even in dens and caves.

Notwithstanding the rage of persecution, a calm, devout, earnest, patient protest against the prevailing corruption of religious faith continued for centuries to be uttered. The Christians of that early time had only a partial knowledge of the truth, but they had learned to love and obey God’s Word, and they patiently suffered for its sake. Like the disciples in apostolic days, many sacrificed their worldly possessions for the cause of Christ. Those who were permitted to dwell in their homes, gladly sheltered their banished brethren, and when they too were driven forth, they cheerfully accepted the lot of the outcast. Thousands, it is true, terrified by the fury of their persecutors, purchased their freedom at the sacrifice of their faith, and went out of their prisons, clothed in penitents’ robes, to publish their recantation. But the number was not small—and among them were men of noble birth as well as the humble and lowly—who bore fearless testimony to the truth in dungeon cells, in “Lollard towers,” and in the midst of torture and flame, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to know “the fellowship of His sufferings.”

The papists had failed to work their will with Wycliffe during his life, and their hatred could not be satisfied while his body rested quietly in the grave. By the decree of the Council of Constance, more than forty years after his death his bones were exhumed and publicly burned, and the ashes were thrown into a neighboring brook. “The brook,” says an old writer, “did convey his ashes into Avon, Avon into Severn, Severn into the narrow seas, and 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.” Little did his enemies realize the significance of their malicious act.

It was through the writings of Wycliffe that John Huss, of Bohemia, was led to renounce many of the errors of Romanism, and to enter upon the work of reform. Thus in these two countries, so widely separated, the seed of truth was sown. From Bohemia the work extended to other lands. The minds of men were directed to the long-forgotten Word of God. A divine hand was preparing the way for the Great Reformation.

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Re: The Great Controversy (1888)

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Chapter 6—Huss and Jerome


The gospel had been planted in Bohemia as early as the ninth century. The Bible was translated, and public worship was conducted in the language of the people. But as the power of the pope increased, so the Word of God was obscured. Gregory VII., who had taken it upon him “to pull down the pride of kings,” was no less intent upon enslaving the people, and accordingly a bull was issued forbidding public worship to be conducted in the Bohemian tongue. The pope declared that “God was pleased that his worship should be celebrated in an unknown tongue, and that a neglect of this rule had given rise to many evils and heresies.” Thus Rome decreed that the light of God’s Word should be extinguished, and the people should be shut up in darkness. But Heaven had provided other agencies for the preservation of the church. Many of the Waldenses and Albigenses, driven by persecution from their homes in France and Italy, came to Bohemia. Though they dared not teach openly, they labored zealously in secret. Thus the true faith was preserved from century to century.

Before the days of Huss, there were men in Bohemia who rose up to condemn openly the corruption in the church and the profligacy of the people. Their labors excited widespread interest. The fears of the hierarchy were roused, and persecution was opened against the disciples of the gospel. Driven to worship in the forests and the mountains, they were hunted by soldiers, and many were put to death. After a time it was decreed that all who departed from the Romish worship should be burned. But while the Christians yielded up their lives, they looked forward to the triumph of their cause. One of those who taught that “salvation was only to be found by faith in the crucified Saviour,” declared when dying, “The rage of the enemies of truth now prevails against us, but it will not be forever; there shall arise one from among the common people, without sword or authority, and against him they shall not be able to prevail.” Luther’s time was yet far distant; but already one was rising, whose testimony against Rome would stir the nations.

John Huss was of humble birth, and was early left an orphan by the death of his father. His pious mother, regarding education and the fear of God as the most valuable of possessions, sought to secure this heritage for her son. Huss studied at the provincial school, and then repaired to the university at Prague, receiving admission as a charity scholar. He was accompanied on the journey to Prague by his mother; widowed and poor, she had no gift of worldly wealth to bestow upon her son, but as they drew near to the great city, she kneeled down beside the fatherless youth, and invoked for him the blessing of their Father in Heaven. Little did that mother realize how her prayer was to be answered.

At the university, Huss soon distinguished himself by his untiring application and rapid progress, while his blameless life and gentle, winning deportment gained him universal esteem. He was a sincere adherent of the Romish Church, and an earnest seeker for the spiritual blessings which it professes to bestow. On the occasion of a jubilee, he went to confession, paid the last few coins in his scanty store, and joined in the processions, that he might share in the absolution promised. After completing his college course, he entered the priesthood, and, rapidly attaining to eminence, he soon became attached to the court of the king. He was also made professor and afterward rector of the university where he had received his education. In a few years the humble charity scholar had become the pride of his country, and his name was renowned throughout Europe.

But it was in another field that Huss began the work of reform. Several years after taking priest’s orders he was appointed preacher of the chapel of Bethlehem. The founder of this chapel had advocated, as a matter of great importance, the preaching of the Scriptures in the language of the people. Notwithstanding Rome’s opposition to this practice, it had not been wholly discontinued in Bohemia. But there was great ignorance of the Bible, and the worst vices prevailed among the people of all ranks. These evils Huss unsparingly denounced, appealing to the Word of God to enforce the principles of truth and purity which he inculcated.

A citizen of Prague, Jerome, who afterward became so closely associated with Huss, had, on returning from England, brought with him the writings of Wycliffe. The queen of England, who had been a convert to Wycliffe’s teachings, was a Bohemian princess, and through her influence also the reformer’s works were widely circulated in her native country. These works Huss read with interest; he believed their author to be a sincere Christian, and was inclined to regard with favor the reforms which he advocated. Already, though he knew it not, Huss had entered upon a path which was to lead him far away from Rome.

About this time there arrived in Prague two strangers from England, men of learning, who had received the light, and had come to spread it in this distant land. Beginning with an open attack on the pope’s supremacy, they were soon silenced by the authorities; but being unwilling to relinquish their purpose, they had recourse to other measures. Being artists as well as preachers, they proceeded to exercise their skill. In a place open to the public they drew two pictures. One represented the entrance of Christ into Jerusalem, “meek, and sitting upon an ass” [Matthew 21:5.] and followed by his disciples in travel-worn garments and with naked feet. The other picture portrayed a pontifical procession,—the pope arrayed in his rich robes and triple crown, mounted upon a horse magnificently adorned, preceded by trumpeters, and followed by cardinals and prelates in dazzling array.

Here was a sermon which arrested the attention of all classes. Crowds came to gaze upon the drawings. None could fail to read the moral, and many were deeply impressed by the contrast between the meekness and humility of Christ the Master, and the pride and arrogance of the pope, his professed servant. There was great commotion in Prague, and the strangers after a time found it necessary, for their own safety, to depart. But the lesson they had taught was not forgotten. The pictures made a deep impression on the mind of Huss, and led him to a closer study of the Bible and of Wycliffe’s writings. Though he was not prepared, even yet, to accept all the reforms advocated by Wycliffe, he saw more clearly the true character of the papacy, and with greater zeal denounced the pride, the ambition, and the corruption of the hierarchy.

From Bohemia the light extended to Germany; for disturbances in the University of Prague caused the withdrawal of hundreds of German students. Many of them had received from Huss their first knowledge of the Bible, and on their return they spread the gospel in their fatherland.

Tidings of the work at Prague were carried to Rome, and Huss was soon summoned to appear before the pope. To obey would be to expose himself to certain death. The king and queen of Bohemia, the university, members of the nobility, and officers of the government, united in an appeal to the pontiff that Huss be permitted to remain at Prague, and to answer at Rome by deputy. Instead of granting this request, the pope proceeded to the trial and condemnation of Huss, and then declared the city of Prague to be under interdict.

In that age this sentence, whenever pronounced, created widespread alarm. The ceremonies by which it was accompanied were well adapted to strike terror to a people who looked upon the pope as the representative of God himself, holding the keys of Heaven and hell, and possessing power to invoke temporal as well as spiritual judgments. It was believed that the gates of Heaven were closed against the region smitten with interdict; that until it should please the pope to remove the ban, the dead were shut out from the abodes of bliss. In token of this terrible calamity, all the services of religion were suspended. The churches were closed. Marriages were solemnized in the church-yard. The dead, denied burial in consecrated ground, were interred, without the rites of sepulture, in the ditches or the fields. Thus by measures which appealed to the imagination, Rome essayed to control the consciences of men.

The city of Prague was filled with tumult. A large class denounced Huss as the cause of all their calamities, and demanded that he be given up to the vengeance of Rome. To quiet the storm, the reformer withdrew for a time to his native village. Writing to the friends whom he had left at Prague, he said: “If I have withdrawn from the midst of you, it is to follow the precept and example of Jesus Christ, in order not to give room to the ill-minded to draw on themselves eternal condemnation, and in order not to be to the pious a cause of affliction and persecution. I have retired also through an apprehension that impious priests might continue for a longer time to prohibit the preaching of the Word of God amongst you; but I have not quitted you to deny the divine truth, for which, with God’s assistance, I am willing to die.” Huss did not cease his labors, but traveled through the surrounding country, preaching to eager crowds. Thus the measures to which the pope resorted to suppress the gospel, were causing it to be the more widely extended. “We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” [2 Corinthians 13:8.]

“The mind of Huss, at this stage of his career, would seem to have been the scene of a painful conflict. Although the church was seeking to overwhelm him by her thunder-bolts, he had not renounced her authority. The Roman Church was still to him the spouse of Christ, and the pope was the representative and vicar of God. What Huss was warring against was the abuse of authority, not the principle itself. This brought on a terrible conflict between the convictions of his understanding and the claims of his conscience. If the authority was just and infallible, as he believed it to be, how came it that he felt compelled to disobey it? To obey, he saw, was to sin; but why should obedience to an infallible church lead to such an issue? This was the problem he could not solve; this was the doubt that tortured him from hour to hour. The nearest approximation to a solution, which he was able to make, was that it had happened again, as once before in the days of the Saviour, that the priests of the church had become wicked persons, and were using their lawful authority for unlawful ends. This led him to adopt for his own guidance, and to preach to others for theirs, the maxim that the precepts of Scripture, conveyed through the understanding, are to rule the conscience; in other words, that God speaking in the Bible, and not the church speaking through the priesthood, is the one infallible guide.”

When after a time the excitement in Prague subsided, Huss returned to his chapel of Bethlehem, to continue with greater zeal and courage the preaching of the Word of God. His enemies were active and powerful, but the queen and many of the nobles were his friends, and the people in great numbers sided with him. Comparing his pure and elevating teachings and holy life with the degrading dogmas which the Romanists preached, and the avarice and debauchery which they practiced, many regarded it an honor to be on his side.

Hitherto Huss had stood alone in his labors; but now Jerome, who while in England had accepted the teachings of Wycliffe, joined in the work of reform. The two were hereafter united in their lives, and in death they were not to be divided.

Brilliancy of genius, eloquence and learning—gifts that win popular favor—were possessed in a pre-eminent degree by Jerome; but in those qualities which constitute real strength of character, Huss was the greater. His calm judgment served as a restraint upon the impulsive spirit of Jerome, who, with true humility, perceived his worth, and yielded to his counsels. Under their united labors the reform was more rapidly extended.

God permitted great light to shine upon the minds of these chosen men, revealing to them many of the errors of Rome; but they did not receive all the light that was to be given to the world. Through these, his servants, God was leading the people out of the darkness of Romanism; but there were many and great obstacles for them to meet, and he led them on, step by step, as they could bear it. They were not prepared to receive all the light at once. Like the full glory of the noontide sun to those who have long dwelt in darkness, it would, if presented, have caused them to turn away. Therefore he revealed it to the leaders, little by little, as it could be received by the people. From century to century other faithful workers were to follow, to lead the people on still farther in the path of reform.

The schism in the church still continued. Three popes were now contending for the supremacy, and their strife filled Christendom with crime and tumult. Not content with hurling anathemas, they resorted to temporal weapons. Each cast about him to purchase arms and to obtain soldiers. Of course money must be had; and to procure this, all the gifts, offices, and blessings of the church were offered for sale. The priests also, imitating their superiors, resorted to simony and war to humble their rivals, and strengthen their own power. With daily increasing boldness, Huss thundered against the abominations which were tolerated in the name of religion; and the people openly accused the Romish leaders as the cause of the miseries that overwhelmed Christendom.

Again the city of Prague seemed on the verge of a bloody conflict. As in former ages, God’s servant was accused as “he that troubleth Israel” [1 Kings 18:17.] The city was again placed under interdict, and Huss withdrew to his native village. The testimony so faithfully borne from his loved chapel of Bethlehem was ended. He was to speak from a wider stage, to all Christendom, before laying down his life as a witness for the truth.

To cure the evils that were distracting Europe, a general council was summoned to meet at Constance. The council was called, at the desire of the emperor Sigismund, by one of the three rival popes, John XXIII. The demand for a council had been far from welcome to Pope John, whose character and policy could ill bear investigation, even by prelates as lax in morals as were the churchmen of those times. He dared not, however, oppose the will of Sigismund.

The chief objects to be accomplished by the council were to heal the schism in the church, and to root out heresy. Hence the two anti-popes were summoned to appear before it, as well as the leading propagator of the new opinions, John Huss. The former, having regard to their own safety, did not attend in person, but were represented by their delegates. Pope John, while ostensibly the convoker of the council, came to it with many misgivings, suspecting the emperor’s secret purpose to depose him, and fearing to be brought to account for the vices which had disgraced the tiara, as well as for the crimes which had secured it. Yet he made his entry into the city of Constance with great pomp, attended by ecclesiastics of the highest rank, and followed by a train of courtiers. All the clergy and dignitaries of the city, with an immense crowd of citizens, went out to welcome him. Above his head was a golden canopy, borne by four of the chief magistrates. The host was carried before him, and the rich dresses of the cardinals and nobles made an imposing display.

Meanwhile another traveler was approaching Constance. Huss was conscious of the dangers which threatened him. He parted from his friends as if he were never to meet them again, and went on his journey feeling that it was leading him to the stake. Notwithstanding he had obtained a safe-conduct from the king of Bohemia, and received one also from the emperor Sigismund while on his journey, he made all his arrangements in view of the probability of his death.

In a letter addressed to his friends at Prague he said: “I am departing, my brethren, with a safe-conduct from the king, to meet my numerous and mortal enemies.... I confide altogether in the all-powerful God, in my Saviour; I trust that he will listen to your ardent prayers, that he will infuse his prudence and his wisdom into my mouth, in order that I may resist them; and that he will accord me his Holy Spirit to fortify me in his truth, so that I may face with courage, temptations, prison, and, if necessary, a cruel death. Jesus Christ suffered for his well-beloved; and therefore ought we to be astonished that he has left us his example, in order that we may ourselves endure with patience all things for our own salvation? He is God, and we are his creatures; he is the Lord, and we are his servants; he is Master of the world, and we are contemptible mortals;—yet he suffered! Why, then, should we not suffer, also, particularly when suffering is for us a purification? Therefore, beloved, if my death ought to contribute to his glory, pray that it may come quickly, and that he may enable me to support all my calamities with constancy. But if it be better that I return amongst you, let us pray to God that I may return without stain,—that is, that I may not suppress one tittle of the truth of the gospel, in order to leave my brethren an excellent example to follow. Probably, therefore, you will never more behold my face at Prague; but should the will of the all-powerful God deign to restore me to you, let us then advance with a firmer heart in the knowledge and the love of his law.”

In another letter, to a priest who had become a disciple of the gospel, Huss spoke with deep humility of his own errors, accusing himself of having felt pleasure in wearing rich apparel, and of having wasted hours in trifling occupations. He then added these touching admonitions: “May the glory of God and the salvation of souls occupy thy mind, and not the possession of benefices and estates. Beware of adorning thy house more than thy soul; and above all, give thy care to the spiritual edifice. Be pious and humble with the poor, and consume not thy substance in feasting. Shouldst thou not amend thy life and refrain from superfluities, I fear that thou wilt be severely chastened, as I am myself.... Thou knowest my doctrine, for thou hast received my instructions from thy childhood; it is therefore useless for me to write to thee any further. But I conjure thee, by the mercy of our Lord, not to imitate me in any of the vanities into which thou hast seen me fall.” On the cover of the letter he added: “I conjure thee, my friend, not to break this seal, until thou shalt have acquired the certitude that I am dead,“

On his journey, Huss everywhere beheld indications of the spread of his doctrines, and the favor with which his cause was regarded. The people thronged to meet him, and in some towns the magistrates attended him through their streets.

Upon arriving at Constance, Huss was granted full liberty. To the emperor’s safe-conduct was added a personal assurance of protection by the pope. But in violation of these solemn and repeated declarations, the reformer was in a short time arrested, by order of the pope and cardinals, and thrust into a loathsome dungeon.

The pope, however, profiting little by his perfidy, was soon after committed to the same prison. He had been proved before the council to be guilty of the basest crimes, besides murder, simony, and adultery, “sins not fit to be named.” So the council itself declared; and he was finally deprived of the tiara, and thrown into prison. The anti-popes also were deposed, and a new pontiff was chosen.

Though the pope himself had been guilty of greater crimes than Huss had ever charged upon the priests, and for which he had demanded a reformation, yet the same council which degraded the pontiff proceeded to crush the reformer. The imprisonment of Huss excited great indignation in Bohemia. Powerful noblemen addressed to the council earnest protests against this outrage. The emperor, who was loth to permit the violation of a safe-conduct, opposed the proceedings against him. But the enemies of the reformer were malignant and determined. They appealed to the emperor’s prejudices, to his fears, to his zeal for the church. They brought forward arguments of great length to prove that he was “perfectly at liberty not to keep faith with a heretic,“ and that the council, being above the emperor, “could free him from his word.” Thus they prevailed.

Enfeebled by illness and imprisonment—for the damp, foul air of his dungeon had brought on a fever which nearly ended his life—Huss was at last brought before the council. Loaded with chains he stood in the presence of the emperor, whose honor and good faith had been pledged to protect him. During his long trial he firmly maintained the truth, and in the presence of the assembled dignitaries of Church and State, he uttered a solemn and faithful protest against the corruptions of the hierarchy. When required to choose whether he would recant his doctrines or suffer death, he accepted the martyr’s fate.

The grace of God sustained him. During the weeks of suffering that passed before his final sentence, Heaven’s peace filled his soul. “I write this letter,” he said to a friend, “in prison, and with my fettered hand, expecting my sentence of death tomorrow.... When, with the assistance of Jesus Christ, we shall meet again in the delicious peace of the future life, you will learn how merciful God has shown himself toward me—how effectually he has supported me in the midst of my temptations and trials.”

In the gloom of his dungeon he foresaw the triumph of the true faith. Returning in his dreams to the chapel at Prague where he had preached the gospel, he saw the pope and his bishops effacing the pictures of Christ which he had painted on its walls. He was deeply troubled at the sight; but the next day his grief was changed to joy, as he beheld many artists come to replace the figures in greater numbers and brighter colors. Their work ended, the painters exclaimed to the crowd gathered eagerly about them, “Now let the popes and bishops come! They shall never efface them more!” Said the reformer, as he related his dream, “I am certain that the image of Christ will never be effaced. They have wished to destroy it, but it will be imprinted anew on the hearts of men by much better preachers than myself.”

For the last time, Huss was brought before the council. It was a vast and brilliant assembly,—the emperor, the princes of the empire, the royal deputies, the cardinals, bishops, and priests, and an immense crowd who had come as spectators of the events of the day. From all parts of Christendom had been gathered the witnesses of this first great sacrifice in the long struggle by which liberty of conscience was to be secured.

Being called upon for his final decision, Huss declared his refusal to abjure, and fixing his penetrating glance upon the monarch whose plighted word had been so shamelessly violated, he declared that of his own free will he had appeared before the council, “under the public faith and protection of the emperor here present.” A deep flush crimsoned the face of Sigismund as the eyes of all in the assembly turned upon him.

Sentence having been pronounced, the ceremony of degradation began. The bishops clothed their prisoner in the sacerdotal habit, and as he took the priestly robe, he said, “Our Lord Jesus Christ was covered with a white robe by way of insult, when Herod had him conducted before Pilate.” Being again exhorted to retract, he replied, turning toward the people, “With what face, then, should I behold the heavens? How should I look on those multitudes of men to whom I have preached the pure gospel? No; I esteem their salvation more than this poor body, now appointed unto death.” The vestments were removed one by one, each bishop pronouncing a curse as he performed his part of the ceremony. Finally a crown or mitre, on which were painted frightful figures of demons, and bearing the inscription, “The Arch-Heretic,” was placed upon his head. “Most joyfully,” he said, “will I wear this crown of shame for thy sake, O Lord Jesus, who for me didst wear a crown of thorns.”

When he was thus arrayed, the prelates devoted his soul to Satan. Huss, looking heavenward, exclaimed, “I do commend my spirit into thy hands, O Lord Jesus, for thou hast redeemed me.”

He was now delivered up to the secular authorities, and led away to the place of execution. An immense procession followed, hundreds of men at arms, priests and bishops in their costly robes, and the inhabitants of Constance. When he had been fastened to the stake, and all was ready for the fire to be lighted, the martyr was once more exhorted to save himself by renouncing his errors. “What errors,” said Huss, “shall I renounce? I know myself guilty of none. I call God to witness that all that I have written or preached has been with the view of rescuing souls from sin and perdition; and, therefore, most joyfully will I confirm with my blood that truth which I have written and preached.”

When the flames kindled about him, he began to sing, “Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me,” and so continued till his voice was silenced forever.

Even his enemies were struck with his heroic bearing. A zealous papist, describing the martyrdom of Huss, and of Jerome, who died soon after, said: “Both bore themselves with constant mind when their last hour approached. They prepared for the fire as if they were going to a marriage feast. They uttered no cry of pain. When the flames rose, they began to sing hymns; and scarce could the vehemence of the fire stop their singing.”

When the body of Huss had been wholly consumed, his ashes, with the soil upon which they rested, were gathered up and cast into the Rhine, and thus borne onward to the ocean. His persecutors vainly imagined that they had rooted out the truths he preached. Little did they dream that the ashes that day borne away to the sea were to be as seed scattered in all the countries of the earth; that in lands yet unknown it would yield abundant fruit in witnesses for the truth. The voice which had spoken in the council hall of Constance had wakened echoes that would be heard through all coming ages. Huss was no more, but the truths for which he died could never perish. His example of faith and constancy would encourage multitudes to stand firm for the truth, in the face of torture and death. His execution had exhibited to the whole world the perfidious cruelty of Rome. The enemies of truth, though they knew it not, had been furthering the cause which they vainly sought to destroy.

Yet another stake was to be set up at Constance. The blood of another witness must testify for the truth. Jerome, upon bidding farewell to Huss on his departure for the council, had exhorted him to courage and firmness, declaring that if he should fall into any peril, he himself would fly to his assistance. Upon hearing of the reformer’s imprisonment, the faithful disciple immediately prepared to fulfill his promise. Without a safe-conduct he set out, with a single companion, for Constance. On arriving there he was convinced that he had only exposed himself to peril, without the possibility of doing anything for the deliverance of Huss. He fled from the city, but was arrested on the homeward journey, and brought back loaded with fetters, and under the custody of a band of soldiers. At his first appearance before the council, his attempts to reply to the accusations brought against him were met with shouts, “To the flames with him! to the flames!” He was thrown into a dungeon, chained in a position which caused him great suffering, and fed on bread and water.

After some months the cruelties of his imprisonment brought upon Jerome an illness that threatened his life, and his enemies, fearing that he might escape them, treated him with less severity, though he remained in prison for one year. The death of Huss had not resulted as the papists had hoped. The violation of his safe-conduct had roused a storm of indignation, and as the safer course the council determined, instead of burning Jerome, to force him, if possible, to retract. He was brought before the assembly, and offered the alternative to recant or to die at the stake. Death at the beginning of his imprisonment would have been a mercy, in comparison with the terrible sufferings which he had undergone; but now, weakened by illness, by the rigors of his prison-house, and the torture of anxiety and suspense, separated from his friends, and disheartened by the death of Huss, Jerome’s fortitude gave way, and he consented to submit to the council. He pledged himself to adhere to the Catholic faith, and accepted the action of the council in condemning the doctrines of Wycliffe and Huss, excepting, however, the “holy truths” which they had taught.

By this expedient, Jerome endeavored to silence the voice of conscience and escape his doom. But in the solitude of his dungeon he saw more clearly what he had done. He thought of the courage and fidelity of Huss, and in contrast pondered upon his own denial of the truth. He thought of the divine Master whom he had pledged himself to serve, and who for his sake endured the death of the cross. Before his retraction he had found comfort, amid all his sufferings, in the assurance of God’s favor; but now remorse and doubt tortured his soul. He knew that still other retractions must be made before he could be at peace with Rome. The path upon which he was entering could end only in complete apostasy. His resolution was taken: to escape a brief period of suffering he would not deny his Lord.

Soon he was again brought before the council. His submission had not satisfied his judges. Their thirst for blood, whetted by the death of Huss, clamored for fresh victims. Only by an unreserved surrender of the truth could Jerome preserve his life. But he had determined to avow his faith, and follow his brother martyr to the flames.

He renounced his former recantation, and, as a dying man, solemnly required an opportunity to make his defense. Fearing the effect of his words, the prelates insisted that he should merely affirm or deny the truth of the charges brought against him. Jerome protested against such cruelty and injustice. “You have held me shut up three hundred and forty days in a frightful prison,” he said, “in the midst of filth, noisomeness, stench, and the utmost want of everything. You then bring me out before you, and lending an ear to my mortal enemies, you refuse to hear me. If you be really wise men, and the lights of the world, take care not to sin against justice. As for me, I am only a feeble mortal; my life is but of little importance; and when I exhort you not to deliver an unjust sentence, I speak less for myself than for you.”

His request was finally granted. In the presence of his judges, Jerome kneeled down and prayed that the Divine Spirit might control his thoughts and words, that he might speak nothing contrary to the truth or unworthy of his Master. To him that day was fulfilled the promise of God to the first disciples: “Ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake; ... but when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak; for it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” [Matthew 10:18-20.] The words of Jerome excited astonishment and admiration, even in his enemies. For a whole year he had been immured in a dungeon, unable to read or even to see, in great physical suffering and mental anxiety. Yet his arguments were presented with as much clearness and power as if he had had undisturbed opportunity for study. He pointed his hearers to the long line of holy men who had been condemned by unjust judges. In almost every generation have been those who, while seeking to elevate the people of their time, have been reproached and cast out, but who in later times have been shown to be deserving of honor. Christ himself was condemned as a malefactor at an unrighteous tribunal.

At his retraction, Jerome has assented to the justice of the sentence condemning Huss; he now declared his repentance, and bore witness to the innocence and holiness of the martyr. “I knew John Huss from his childhood,” he said. “He was a most excellent man, just and holy; he was condemned, notwithstanding his innocence.... I also—I am ready to die. I will not recoil before the torments that are prepared for me by my enemies and false witnesses, who will one day have to render an account of their impostures before the great God, whom nothing can deceive.”

In self-reproach for his own denial of the truth, Jerome continued: “Of all the sins that I have committed since my youth, none weigh so heavily upon my mind, and cause me such poignant remorse, as that which I committed in this fatal place, when I approved of the iniquitous sentence rendered against Wycliffe, and the holy martyr, John Huss, my master. Yes, I confess it from my heart; and declare with horror that I disgracefully quailed, when, through a dread of death, I condemned their doctrines. I therefore supplicate Almighty God to deign to pardon me my sins, and this one in particular, the most heinous of all.” Pointing to his judges, he said firmly: “You condemned Wycliffe and Huss, not for having shaken the doctrine of the church, but simply because they branded with reprobation the scandals of the clergy,—their pomp, their pride, and all the vices of the prelates and priests. The things that they have affirmed, and which are irrefutable, I also think and declare like them.”

His words were interrupted. The prelates, trembling with rage, cried out, “What need have we of further proof?” “Away with the most obstinate of heretics!”

Unmoved by the tempest, Jerome exclaimed: “What! do you suppose that I fear to die? You have held me a whole year in a frightful dungeon, more horrible than death itself. You have treated me more cruelly than a Turk, Jew, or pagan, and my flesh has literally rotted off my bones alive; and yet I make no complaint, for lamentation ill becomes a man of heart and spirit; but I cannot but express my astonishment at such great barbarity toward a Christian.”

Again the storm of rage burst out; and Jerome was hurried away to prison. Yet there were some in the assembly upon whom his words had made a deep impression, and who desired to save his life. He was visited by dignitaries of the church, and urged to submit himself to the council. The most brilliant prospects were presented before him as the reward of renouncing his opposition to Rome. But like his Master, when offered the glory of the world, Jerome remained steadfast.

“Prove to me from the Holy Writings that I am in error,” he said, “and I will abjure it.”

“The Holy Writings!” exclaimed one of his tempters, “is everything to be judged by them? Who can understand them until the church has interpreted them?”

“Are the traditions of men more worthy of faith than the gospel of our Saviour?” replied Jerome. “Paul did not exhort those to whom he wrote to listen to the traditions of men, but said, ‘Search the Scriptures.’”

“Heretic,” was the response, “I repent having pleaded so long with you. I see that you are urged on by the devil.”

Erelong sentence of condemnation was passed upon him. He was led out to the same spot upon which Huss had yielded up his life. He went singing on his way, his countenance lighted up with joy and peace. His gaze was fixed upon Christ, and to him death had lost its terrors. When the executioner, about to kindle the pile, stepped behind him, the martyr exclaimed, “Come forward boldly; apply the fire before my face. Had I been afraid, I should not be here.”

His last words, uttered as the flames rose about him, were a prayer. “Lord, Almighty Father,” he cried, “have pity on me, and pardon me my sins, for thou knowest that I have always loved thy truth.” His voice ceased, but his lips continued to move in prayer.

When the fire had done its work, the ashes of the martyr, with the earth upon which they rested, were gathered up, and, like those of Huss, were thrown into the Rhine. So perished God’s faithful light-bearers. But the light of the truths which they proclaimed,—the light of their heroic example,—could not be extinguished. As well might men attempt to turn back the sun in its course as to prevent the dawning of that day which was even then breaking upon the world.

The execution of Huss had kindled a flame of indignation and horror in Bohemia. It was felt by the whole nation that he had fallen a prey to the malice of the priests and the treachery of the emperor. He was declared to have been a faithful teacher of the truth, and the council that decreed his death was charged with the guilt of murder. His doctrines now attracted greater attention that ever before. By the papal edicts the writings of Wycliffe had been condemned to the flames. But those that had escaped destruction were now brought out from their hiding-places, and studied in connection with the Bible, or such parts of it as the people could obtain, and many were thus led to accept the reformed faith.

The murderers of Huss did not stand quietly by and witness the triumph of his cause. The pope and the emperor united to crush out the movement, and the armies of Sigismund were hurled upon Bohemia.

But a deliverer was raised up. Ziska, who soon after the opening of the war became totally blind, yet who was one of the ablest generals of his age, was the leader of the Bohemians. Trusting in the help of God and the righteousness of their cause, that people withstood the mightiest armies that could be brought against them. Again and again the emperor, raising fresh armies, invaded Bohemia, to be ignominiously repulsed. The Hussites were raised above the fear of death, and nothing could stand against them. A few years after the opening of the war, the brave Ziska died; but his place was filled by Procopius, who was an equally brave and skillful general, and in some respects a more able leader.

The enemies of the Bohemians, knowing that the blind warrior was dead, deemed the opportunity favorable for recovering all that they had lost. The pope now proclaimed a crusade against the Hussites, and again an immense force was precipitated upon Bohemia, but only to suffer terrible defeat. Another crusade was proclaimed. In all the papal countries of Europe, men, money, and munitions of war were raised. Multitudes flocked to the papal standard, assured that at last an end would be made of the Hussite heretics. Confident of victory, the vast force entered Bohemia. The people rallied to repel them. The two armies approached each other, until only a river lay between them. The allies were greatly superior in numbers, yet instead of advancing boldly to attack the Hussites, they stood as if spell-bound, silently gazing upon them. Then suddenly a mysterious terror fell upon the host. Without striking a blow that mighty force broke and scattered, as if dispelled by an unseen power. Great numbers were slaughtered by the Hussite army, which pursued the fugitives, and an immense booty fell into the hands of the victors, so that the war, instead of impoverishing, enriched the Bohemians.

A few years later, under a new pope, still another crusade was set on foot. As before, men and means were drawn from all the papist countries of Europe. Great were the inducements held out to those who should engage in this perilous enterprise. Full forgiveness of the most heinous crimes was insured to every crusader. All who died in the war were promised a rich reward in Heaven, and those who survived were to reap honor and riches on the field of battle. Again a vast army was collected, and crossing the frontier they entered Bohemia. The Hussite forces fell back before them, thus drawing the invaders farther and farther into the country, and leading them to count the victory already won. At last the army of Procopius made a stand, and, turning upon the foe, advanced to give them battle. The crusaders, now discovering their mistake, lay in their encampment awaiting the onset. As the sound of the approaching force was heard, even before the Hussites were in sight, a panic again fell upon the crusaders. Princes, generals, and common soldiers, casting away their armor, fled in all directions. In vain the papal legate, who was the leader of the invasion, endeavored to rally his terrified and disorganized forces. Despite his utmost endeavors, he himself was swept along in the tide of fugitives. The rout was complete, and again an immense booty fell into the hands of the victors.

Thus the second time a vast army, sent forth by the most powerful nations of Europe, a host of brave, warlike men, trained and equipped for battle, fled without a blow, before the defenders of a small and hitherto feeble nation. Here was a manifestation of divine power. The invaders were smitten with a supernatural terror. He who overthrew the hosts of Pharaoh in the Red Sea, who put to flight the armies of Midian before Gideon and his three hundred, who in one night laid low the forces of the proud Assyrian, had again stretched out his hand to wither the power of the oppressor. “There were they in great fear, where no fear was; for God hath scattered the bones of him that encampeth against thee; thou hast put them to shame, because God hath despised them.” [Psalm 53:5.]

The papal leaders, despairing of conquering by force, at last resorted to diplomacy. A compromise was entered into, that while professing to grant to the Bohemians freedom of conscience, really betrayed them into the power of Rome. The Bohemians had specified four points as the condition of peace with Rome: The free preaching of the Bible; the right of the whole church to both the bread and the wine in the communion, and the use of the mother-tongue in divine worship; the exclusion of the clergy from all secular offices and authority; and in cases of crime, the jurisdiction of the civil courts over clergy and laity alike. The papal authorities at last agreed to accept the four articles, stipulating, however, that the right of explaining them, of deciding upon their exact meaning, should belong to the church. On this basis a treaty was entered into, and Rome gained by dissimulation and fraud what she had failed to gain by conflict; for, placing her own interpretation upon the Hussite articles, as upon the Bible, she could pervert their meaning to suit her own purposes.

A large class in Bohemia, seeing that it betrayed their liberties, could not consent to the compact. Dissensions and divisions arose, leading to strife and bloodshed among themselves. In this strife the noble Procopius fell, and the liberties of Bohemia perished.

Sigismund, the betrayer of Huss and Jerome, now became king of Bohemia, and, regardless of his oath to support the rights of the Bohemians, he proceeded to establish popery. But he had gained little by his subservience to Rome. For twenty years his life had been filled with labors and perils. His armies had been wasted and his treasuries drained by a long and fruitless struggle; and now, after reigning one year, he died, leaving his kingdom on the brink of civil war, and bequeathing to posterity a name branded with infamy.

Tumults, strife, and bloodshed were protracted. Again foreign armies invaded Bohemia, and internal dissension continued to distract the nation. Those who remained faithful to the gospel were subjected to a bloody persecution. As their former brethren, entering into compact with Rome, imbibed her errors, those who adhered to the ancient faith had formed themselves into a distinct church, taking the name of “United Brethren.” This act drew upon them maledictions from all classes. Yet their firmness was unshaken. Forced to find refuge in the woods and caves, they still assembled to read God’s Word and unite in his worship.

Through messengers secretly sent out into different countries, they learned that here and there were isolated confessors of the truth—a few in this city and a few in that, the object, like themselves, of persecution; and that amid the mountains of the Alps was an ancient church, resting on the foundations of Scripture. This intelligence was received with great joy, and a correspondence was opened with the Waldensian Christians.

Steadfast to the gospel, the Bohemians waited through the night of their persecution, in the darkest hour still turning their eyes toward the horizon like men who watch for the morning. “Their lot was cast in evil days, but they remembered the words first uttered by Huss, and repeated by Jerome, that a century must revolve before the day should break. These were to the Hussites what the words of Joseph were to the tribes in the house of bondage: ‘I die, and God will surely visit you, and bring you out.’” About the year 1470 persecution ceased, and there followed a period of comparative prosperity. When “the end of the century arrived, it found two hundred churches of the ‘United Brethren’ in Bohemia and Moravia. So goodly was the remnant which, escaping the destructive fury of fire and sword, was permitted to see the dawning of that day which Huss had foretold.”

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Re: The Great Controversy (1888)

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Chapter 7—Luther’s Separation from Rome


Foremost among those who were called to lead the church from the darkness of popery into the light of a purer faith, stood Martin Luther. Zealous, ardent, and devoted, knowing no fear but the fear of God, and acknowledging no foundation for religious faith but the Holy Scriptures, Luther was the man for his time; through him, God accomplished a great work for the reformation of the church and the enlightenment of the world.

Like the first heralds of the gospel, Luther sprung from the ranks of poverty. His early years were spent in the humble home of a German peasant. By daily toil as a miner, his father earned the means for his education. He intended him for a lawyer; but God purposed to make him a builder in the great temple that was rising so slowly through the centuries. Hardship, privation, and severe discipline were the school in which Infinite Wisdom prepared Luther for the important mission of his life.

Luther’s father was a man of strong and active mind, and great force of character, honest, resolute, and straightforward. He was true to his convictions of duty, let the consequences be what they might. His sterling good sense led him to regard the monastic system with distrust. He was highly displeased when Luther, without his consent, entered a monastery; and it was two years before the father was reconciled to his son, and even then his opinions remained the same.

Luther’s parents bestowed great care upon the education and training of their children. They endeavored to instruct them in the knowledge of God and the practice of Christian virtues. The father’s prayer often ascended in the hearing of his son, that the child might remember the name of the Lord, and one day aid in the advancement of his truth. Every advantage for moral or intellectual culture which their life of toil permitted them to enjoy, was eagerly improved by these parents. Their efforts were earnest and persevering to prepare their children for a life of piety and usefulness. With their firmness and strength of character they sometimes exercised too great severity; but the reformer himself, though conscious that in some respects they had erred, found in their discipline more to approve than to condemn.

At school, where he was sent at an early age, Luther was treated with harshness and even violence. So great was the poverty of his parents, that upon going from home to school in another town he was for a time obliged to obtain his food by singing from door to door, and he often suffered from hunger. The gloomy, superstitious ideas of religion then prevailing filled him with fear. He would lie down at night with a sorrowful heart, looking forward with trembling to the dark future, and in constant terror at the thought of God as a stern, unrelenting judge, a cruel tyrant, rather than a kind heavenly Father. Yet under so many and so great discouragements, Luther pressed resolutely forward toward the high standard of moral and intellectual excellence which attracted his soul.

He thirsted for knowledge, and the earnest and practical character of his mind led him to desire the solid and useful rather than the showy and superficial. When, at the age of eighteen, he entered the University of Erfurt, his situation was more favorable and his prospects brighter than in his earlier years. His parents having by thrift and industry acquired a competence, they were able to render him all needed assistance. And the influence of judicious friends had somewhat lessened the gloomy effects of his former training. He applied himself to the study of the best authors, diligently treasuring their most weighty thoughts, and making the wisdom of the wise his own. Even under the harsh discipline of his former instructors, he had early given promise of distinction; and with favorable influences his mind rapidly developed. A retentive memory, a lively imagination, strong reasoning powers, and untiring application, soon placed him in the foremost rank among his associates. Intellectual discipline ripened his understanding, and aroused an activity of mind and a keenness of perception that were preparing him for the conflicts of his life.

The fear of the Lord dwelt in the heart of Luther, enabling him to maintain his steadfastness of purpose, and leading him to deep humility before God. He had an abiding sense of his dependence upon divine aid, and he did not fail to begin each day with prayer, while his heart was continually breathing a petition for guidance and support. “To pray well,” he often said, “is the better half of study.”

While one day examining the books in the library of the university, Luther discovered a Latin Bible. Such a book he had never before seen. He was ignorant even of its existence. He had heard portions of the Gospels and Epistles, which were read to the people at public worship, and he supposed that these were the entire Bible. Now, for the first time, he looked upon the whole of God’s Word. With mingled awe and wonder he turned the sacred pages; with quickened pulse and throbbing heart he read for himself the words of life, pausing now and then to exclaim, “Oh, if God would give me such a book for my own!” Angels of Heaven were by his side, and rays of light from the throne of God revealed the treasures of truth to his understanding. He had ever feared to offend God, but now the deep conviction of his condition as a sinner took hold upon him as never before.

An earnest desire to be free from sin and to find peace with God, led him at last to enter a cloister, and devote himself to a monastic life. Here he was required to perform the lowest drudgery, and to beg from house to house. He was at an age when respect and appreciation are most eagerly craved, and these menial offices were deeply mortifying to his natural feelings; but he patiently endured this humiliation, believing that it was necessary because of his sins.

Every moment that could be spared from his daily duties he employed in study, robbing himself of sleep, and grudging even the time spent at his scanty meals. Above everything else he delighted in the study of God’s Word. He had found a Bible chained to the convent wall, and to this he often repaired. As his convictions of sin deepened, he sought by his own works to obtain pardon and peace. He led a most rigorous life, endeavoring, by fasting, vigils, and scourgings, to subdue the evils of his nature, from which the monastic life had brought no release. He shrank from no sacrifice by which he might attain to that purity of heart which would enable him to stand approved before God. “I was indeed a pious monk,” he afterward said, “and followed the rules of my order more strictly than I can express. If ever monk could attain Heaven by his monkish works, I should certainly have been entitled to it. If I had continued much longer, I should have carried my mortifications even to death.” As the result of this painful discipline, he lost strength, and suffered from fainting spasms, from the effects of which he never fully recovered. But with all his efforts, his burdened soul found no relief. He was at last driven to the verge of despair.

When it appeared to Luther that all was lost, God raised up a friend and helper for him. The pious Staupitz opened the Word of God to Luther’s mind, and bade him look away from himself, cease the contemplation of infinite punishment for the violation of God’s law, and look to Jesus, his sin-pardoning Saviour. “Instead of torturing yourself on account of your sins, cast yourself into the arms of your Redeemer. Trust in him,—in the righteousness of his life,—in the atonement of his death. Listen to the Son of God. He became man to give you the assurance of divine favor.” “Love him who has first loved you.” Thus spoke this messenger of mercy. His words made a deep impression upon Luther’s mind. After many a struggle with long-cherished errors, he was enabled to grasp the truth, and peace came to his troubled soul.

Luther was ordained a priest, and was called from the cloister to a professorship in the University of Wittenberg. Here he applied himself to the study of the Scriptures in the original tongues. He began to lecture upon the Bible; and the book of Psalm, the Gospels, and the Epistles were opened to the understanding of crowds of delighted listeners. Staupitz, his friend and superior, urged him to ascend the pulpit, and preach the Word of God. Luther hesitated, feeling himself unworthy to speak to the people in Christ’s stead. It was only after a long struggle that he yielded to the solicitations of his friends. Already he was mighty in the Scriptures, and the grace of God rested upon him. His eloquence captivated his hearers, the clearness and power with which he presented the truth convinced their understanding, and his fervor touched their hearts.

Luther was still a true son of the papal church, and had no thought that he would ever be anything else. In the providence of God he was led to visit Rome. He pursued his journey on foot, lodging at the monasteries on the way. At a convent in Italy he was filled with wonder at the wealth, magnificence, and luxury that he witnessed. Endowed with a princely revenue, the monks dwelt in splendid apartments, attired themselves in the richest and most costly robes, and feasted at a sumptuous table. With painful misgivings Luther contrasted this scene with the self-denial and hardship of his own life. His mind was becoming perplexed.

At last he beheld in the distance the seven-hilled city. With deep emotion he prostrated himself upon the earth, exclaiming, “Holy Rome, I salute thee!” He entered the city, visited the churches, listened to the marvelous tales repeated by priests and monks, and performed all the ceremonies required. Everywhere he looked upon scenes that filled him with astonishment and horror. He saw that iniquity existed among all classes of the clergy. He heard indecent jokes from prelates, and was filled with horror at their awful profanity, even during mass. As he mingled with the monks and citizens, he met dissipation, debauchery. Turn where he would, in the place of sanctity he found profanation. “It is incredible,” he wrote, “what sins and atrocities are committed in Rome; they must be seen and heard to be believed. So that it is usual to say, ‘If there be a hell, Rome is built above it. It is an abyss whence all sins proceed.”

By a recent decretal, an indulgence had been promised by the pope to all who should ascend upon their knees “Pilate’s staircase,” said to have been descended by our Saviour on leaving the Roman judgment-hall, and to have been miraculously conveyed from Jerusalem to Rome. Luther was one day devoutly climbing these steps, when suddenly a voice like thunder seemed to say to him, “The just shall live by faith.” [Romans 1:17.] He sprung upon his feet, and hastened from the place, in shame and horror. That text never lost its power upon his soul. From that time he saw more clearly than ever before the fallacy of trusting to human works for salvation, and the necessity of constant faith in the merits of Christ. His eyes had been opened, and were never again to be closed, to the delusions of the papacy. When he turned his face from Rome, he had turned away also in heart, and from that time the separation grew wider, until he severed all connection with the papal church.

After his return from Rome, Luther received at the University of Wittenberg the degree of doctor of divinity. Now he was at liberty to devote himself, as never before, to the Scriptures that he loved. He had taken a solemn vow to study carefully and to preach with fidelity the Word of God, not the sayings and doctrines of the popes, all the days of his life. He was no longer the mere monk or professor, but the authorized herald of the Bible. He had been called as a shepherd to feed the flock of God, that were hungering and thirsting for the truth. He firmly declared that Christians should receive no other doctrines than those which rest on the authority of the Sacred Scriptures. These words struck at the very foundation of papal supremacy. They contained the vital principle of the Reformation.

Luther saw the danger of exalting human theories above the Word of God. He fearlessly attacked the speculative infidelity of the schoolmen, and opposed the philosophy and theology which had so long held a controlling influence upon the people. He denounced such studies as not only worthless but pernicious, and sought to turn the minds of his hearers from the sophistries of philosophers and theologians to the eternal truths set forth by prophets and apostles.

Precious was the message which he bore to the eager crowds that hung upon his words. Never before had such teaching fallen upon their ears. The glad tidings of a Saviour’s love, the assurance of pardon and peace through his atoning blood, rejoiced their hearts, and inspired within them an immortal hope. At Wittenberg a light was kindled whose rays should extend to the uttermost parts of the earth, and which was to increase in brightness to the close of time.

But light and darkness cannot harmonize. Between truth and error there is an irrepressible conflict. To uphold and defend the one is to attack and overthrow the other. Our Saviour himself declared, “I came not to send peace, but a sword.” [Matthew 10:34.] Said Luther, a few years after the opening of the Reformation, “God does not conduct, but drives me forward. I am not master of my own actions. I would gladly live in repose, but I am thrown into the midst of tumults and revolutions.” He was now about to be urged into the contest.

The Roman Church had made merchandise of the grace of God. The tables of the money-changers [Matthew 21:12.] were set up beside her altars, and the air resounded with the shouts of buyers and sellers. Under the plea of raising funds for the erection of St. Peter’s church at Rome, indulgences for sin were publicly offered for sale by the authority of the pope. By the price of crime a temple was to be built up for God’s worship,—the corner-stone laid with the wages of iniquity. But the very means adopted for Rome’s aggrandizement provoked the deadliest blow to her power and greatness. It was this that aroused the most determined and successful of the enemies of popery, and led to the battle which shook the papal throne, and jostled the triple crown upon the pontiff’s head.

The official appointed to conduct the sale of indulgences in Germany—Tetzel by name—had been convicted of the basest offenses against society and against the law of God; but having escaped the punishment due to his crimes, he was employed to further the mercenary and unscrupulous projects of the pope. With great effrontery he repeated the most glaring falsehoods, and related marvelous tales to deceive an ignorant, credulous, and superstitious people. Had they possessed the Word of God, they would not have been thus deceived. It was to keep them under the control of the papacy, in order to swell the power and wealth of her ambitious leaders, that the Bible had been withheld from them.

As Tetzel entered a town, a messenger went before him, announcing, “The grace of God and of the holy father is at your gates.” And the people welcomed the blasphemous pretender as if he were God himself come down from Heaven to them. The infamous traffic was set up in the church, and Tetzel, ascending the pulpit, extolled indulgences as the most precious gift of God. He declared that by virtue of his certificates of pardon, all the sins which the purchaser should afterward desire to commit would be forgiven him, and that “even repentance was not indispensable.” More than this, he assured his hearers that the indulgences had power to save not only the living but the dead; that the very moment the money should clink against the bottom of his chest, the soul in whose behalf it had been paid would escape from purgatory and make its way to Heaven.

When Simon Magus offered to purchase of the apostles the power to work miracles, Peter answered him, “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.” [Acts 8:20.] But Tetzel’s offer was grasped by eager thousands. Gold and silver flowed into his treasury. A salvation that could be bought with money was more easily obtained than that which requires repentance, faith, and diligent effort to resist and overcome sin.

The doctrine of indulgences had been opposed by men of learning and piety in the Romish Church, and there were many who had no faith in pretensions so contrary to both reason and revelation. No prelate dared lift his voice against this iniquitous traffic, but the minds of men were becoming disturbed and uneasy, and many eagerly inquired if God would not work through some instrumentality for the purification of his church.

Luther, though still a papist of the straitest sort, was filled with horror at the blasphemous assumptions of the indulgence-mongers. Many of his own congregation had purchased certificates of pardon, and they soon began to come to their pastor, confessing their various sins, and expecting absolution, not because they were penitent and wished to reform, but on the ground of the indulgence. Luther refused them absolution, and warned them that unless they should repent and reform their lives, they must perish in their sins. In great perplexity they repaired to Tetzel with the complaint that their confessor had refused his certificates; and some boldly demanded that their money be returned to them. The friar was filled with rage. He uttered the most terrible curses, caused fires to be lighted in the public squares, and declared that he had orders from the pope “to burn the heretics who dared oppose his most holy indulgences.”

Luther now entered boldly upon his work as a champion of the truth. His voice was heard from the pulpit in earnest, solemn warning. He set before the people the offensive character of sin, and taught them that it is impossible for man, by his own works, to lessen its guilt or evade its punishment. Nothing but repentance toward God and faith in Christ can save the sinner. The grace of Christ cannot be purchased; it is a free gift. He counseled the people not to buy the indulgences, but to look in faith to a crucified Redeemer. He related his own painful experience on vainly seeking by humiliation and penance to secure salvation, and assured his hearers that it was by looking away from himself and believing in Christ that he found peace and joy.

As Tetzel continued his traffic and his impious pretensions, Luther determined upon a more effectual protest against these crying abuses. An occasion soon offered. The castle church of Wittenberg possessed many relics, which on certain holy days were exhibited to the people, and full remission of sins was granted to all who then visited the church and made confession. According on these days the people in great numbers resorted thither. One of the most important of these occasions, the festival of “All-Saints,” was approaching. On the preceding day, Luther, joining the crowds that were already making their way to the church, posted on its door a paper containing ninety-five propositions against the doctrine of indulgences. He declared his willingness to defend these theses next day at the university, against all who should see fit to attack them.

His propositions attracted universal attention. They were read and re-read and repeated in every direction. Great excitement was created in the university and in the whole city. By these theses it was shown that the power to grant the pardon of sin, and to remit its penalty, had never been committed to the pope or to any other man. The whole scheme was a farce,—an artifice to extort money by playing upon the superstitions of the people,—a device of Satan to destroy the souls of all who should trust to its lying pretensions. It was also clearly shown that the gospel of Christ is the most valuable treasure of the church, and that the grace of God, therein revealed, is freely bestowed upon all who seek it by repentance and faith.

Luther’s theses challenged discussion; but no one dared accept the challenge. The questions which he proposed had in a few days spread through all Germany, and in a few weeks they had sounded throughout Christendom. Many devoted Romanists, who had seen and lamented the terrible iniquity prevailing in the church, but had to know how to arrest its progress, read the propositions with great joy, recognizing in them the voice of God. They felt that the Lord had graciously set his hand to arrest the rapidly swelling tide of corruption that was issuing from the see of Rome. Princes and magistrates secretly rejoiced that a check was to be put upon the arrogant power which denied the right of appeal from its decisions.

But the sin-loving and superstitious multitudes were terrified as the sophistries that had soothed their fears were swept away. Crafty ecclesiastics, interrupted in their work of sanctioning crime, and seeing their gains endangered, were enraged, and rallied to uphold their pretensions. The reformer had bitter accusers to meet. Some charged him with acting hastily and from impulse. Others accused him of presumption, declaring that he was not directed of God, but was acting from pride and forwardness. “Who does not know,” he responded, “that one can seldom advance a new idea without having some appearance of pride, and without being accused of exciting quarrels? Why were Christ and all the martyrs put to death?—Because they appeared proud despisers of the wisdom of the times in which they lived, and because they brought forward new truths without having first consulted the oracles of the old opinions.”

Again he declared: “What I am doing will not be effected by the prudence of man, but by the counsel of God. If the work be of God, who shall stop it? If it be not, who shall forward it? Not my will, not theirs, not ours, but thy will, holy Father who art in Heaven!”

Though Luther had been moved by the Spirit of God to begin his work, he was not to carry it forward without severe conflicts. The reproaches of his enemies, their misrepresentation of his purposes, and their unjust and malicious reflections upon his character and motives, came in upon him like an overwhelming flood; and they were not without effect. He had felt confident that the leaders of the people, both in the church and in the schools, would gladly unite with him in efforts for reform. Words of encouragement from those on high position had inspired him with joy and hope. Already in anticipation he had seen a brighter day dawning for the church. But encouragement had changed to reproach and condemnation. Many dignitaries, both of Church and State, were convicted of the truthfulness of his theses; but they soon saw that the acceptance of these truths would involve great changes. To enlighten and reform the people would be virtually to undermine the authority of Rome, to stop thousands of streams now flowing into her treasury, and thus greatly to curtail the extravagance and luxury of the papal leaders. Furthermore, to teach the people to think and act as responsible beings, looking to Christ alone for salvation, would overthrow the pontiff’s throne, and eventually destroy their own authority. For this reason they refused the knowledge tendered them of God, and arrayed themselves against Christ and the truth by their opposition to the man whom he had sent to enlighten them.

Luther trembled as he looked upon himself,—one man opposed to the mightiest powers of earth. He sometimes doubted whether he had indeed been led of God to set himself against the authority of the church. “Who was I,” he writes, “to oppose the majesty of the pope, before whom the kings of the earth and the whole world trembled?” “No one can know what I suffered in those first two years, and into what dejection and even despair I was often plunged.” But he was not left to become utterly disheartened. When human support failed, he looked to God alone, and learned that he could lean in perfect safety upon that all-powerful arm.

To a friend of the Reformation Luther wrote: “We cannot attain to the understanding of Scripture either by study or by strength of intellect. Therefore your first duty must be to begin with prayer. Entreat the Lord to deign to grant you, in his rich mercy, rightly to understand his Word. There is no other interpreter of the Word but the Author of that Word himself. Even as he has said, ‘They shall all be taught of God.’ Hope nothing from your study and the strength of your intellect; but simply put your trust in God, and in the guidance of his Spirit. Believe one who has made trial of this matter.” Here is a lesson of vital importance to those who feel that God has called them to present to others the solemn truths for this time. These truths will stir the enmity of Satan, and of men who love the fables that he has advised. In the conflict with the powers of evil, there is need of something more than strength of intellect and human wisdom.

When enemies appealed to custom and tradition, or to the assertions and authority of the pope, Luther met them with the Bible, and the Bible only. Here were arguments which they could not answer; therefore the slaves of formalism and superstition clamored for his blood, as the Jews had clamored for the blood of Christ. “He is a heretic,” cried the Roman zealots; “it is a sin to allow him to live an hour longer! Away with him at once to the scaffold!” But Luther did not fall a prey to their fury. God had a work for him to do, and angels of Heaven were sent to protect him. Many, however, who had received from Luther the precious light, were made the objects of Satan’s wrath, and for the truth’s sake fearlessly suffered torture and death.

Luther’s teachings attracted the attention of thoughtful minds throughout all Germany. From his sermons and writings issued beams of light which awakened and illuminated thousands. A living faith was taking the place of the dead formalism in which the church had so long been held. The people were daily losing confidence in the superstitions of Romanism. The barriers of prejudice were giving way. The Word of God, by which Luther tested every doctrine and every claim, was like a two-edged sword, cutting its way to the hearts of the people. Everywhere there was awakening a desire for spiritual progress. Everywhere was such a hungering and thirsting after righteousness as had not been known for ages. The eyes of the people, so long directed to human rites and earthly mediators, were now turning, in penitence and faith, to Christ and him crucified.

This widespread interest aroused still further the fears of the papal authorities. Luther received a summons to appear at Rome to answer to the charge of heresy. The command filled his friends with terror. They knew full well the danger that threatened him in that corrupt city, already drunk with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. They protested against his going to Rome, and requested that he receive his examination in Germany.

This arrangement was finally effected, and the pope’s legate was appointed to hear the case. In the instructions communicated by the pontiff to this official, it was stated that Luther had already been declared a heretic. The legate was therefore charged to “prosecute and reduce him to submission without delay.” If he should remain steadfast, and the legate should fail to gain possession of his person, he was empowered to “proscribe him in all places in Germany, to put away, curse, and excommunicate all who were attached to him.” And further, the pope directed his legate, in order entirely to root out the pestilent heresy, to excommunicate all, of whatever dignity in Church or State, except the emperor, who should neglect to seize Luther and his adherents, and deliver them up to the vengeance of Rome.

Here is displayed the true spirit of popery. Not a trace of Christian principle, or even of common justice, is to be seen in the whole document. Luther was at a great distance from Rome; he had had no opportunity to explain or defend his position; yet before his case had been investigated, he was summarily pronounced a heretic, and, in the same day, exhorted, accused, judged, and condemned; and all this by the self-styled holy father, the only supreme, infallible authority in Church or State!

At this time, when Luther so much needed the sympathy and counsel of a true friend, God’s providence sent Melancthon to Wittenberg. Young in years, modest and diffident in his manners, Melancthon’s sound judgment, extensive knowledge, and winning eloquence, combined with the purity and uprightness of his character, won universal admiration and esteem. The brilliancy of his talents was not more marked than his gentleness of disposition. He soon became an earnest disciple of the gospel, and Luther’s most trusted friend and valued supporter; his gentleness, caution, and exactness serving as a complement to Luther’s courage and energy. Their union in the work added strength to the Reformation, and was a source of great encouragement to Luther.

Augsburg had been fixed upon as the place of trial, and the reformer set out on foot to perform the journey thither. Serious fears were entertained in his behalf. Threats had been made openly that he would be seized and murdered on the way, and his friends begged him not to venture. They even entreated him to leave Wittenberg for a time, and find safety with those who would gladly protect him. But he would not leave the position where God had placed him. He must continue faithfully to maintain the truth, notwithstanding the storms that were beating upon him. His language was: “I am like Jeremiah, a man of strife and contention; but the more they increase their threatenings, the more they multiply my joy.... They have already torn to pieces my honor and my good name. All I have left is my wretched body; let them have it; they will then shorten my life by a few hours. But as to my soul, they shall not have that. He who resolves to bear the word of Christ to the world, must expect death at every hour.”

The tidings of Luther’s arrival at Augsburg gave great satisfaction to the papal legate. The troublesome heretic who was exciting the attention of the whole world seemed now in the power of Rome, and the legate determined that he should not escape. The reformer had failed to provide himself with a safe-conduct. His friends urged him not to appear before the legate without one, and they themselves undertook to procure it from the emperor. The legate intended to force Luther, if possible, to retract, or, failing in this, to cause him to be conveyed to Rome, to share the fate of Huss and Jerome. Therefore through his agents he endeavored to induce Luther to appear without a safe-conduct, trusting himself to his mercy. This the reformer firmly declined to do. Not until he had received the document pledging him the emperor’s protection, did he appear in the presence of the papal ambassador.

As a matter of policy, the Romanists had decided to attempt to win Luther by an appearance of gentleness. The legate, in his interviews with him, professed great friendliness; but he demanded that Luther submit implicitly to the authority of the church, and yield every point, without argument or question. He had not rightly estimated the character of the man with whom he had to deal. Luther, in reply, expressed his regard for the church, his desire for the truth, his readiness to answer all objections to what he had taught, and to submit his doctrines to the decision of certain leading universities. But at the same time he protested against the cardinal’s course in requiring him to retract without having proved him in error.

The only response was, “Recant, recant.” The reformer showed that his position was sustained by the Scriptures, and firmly declared that he could not renounce the truth. The legate, unable to reply to Luther’s arguments, overwhelmed him with a storm of reproaches, gibes, and flattery, interspersed with quotations from tradition and the sayings of the Fathers, granting the reformer no opportunity to speak. Seeing that the conference, thus continued, would be utterly futile, Luther finally obtained a reluctant permission to present his answer in writing.

“In so doing,” said he, writing to a friend, “the oppressed find double gain; first, what is written may be submitted to the judgment of others; and second, one has a better chance of working on the fears, if not on the conscience, of an arrogant and babbling despot, who would otherwise overpower by his imperious language.” At the next interview, Luther presented a clear, concise, and forcible exposition of his views, fully supported by many quotations from Scripture. This paper, after reading aloud, he handed to the cardinal, who, however, cast it contemptuously aside, declaring it to be a mass of idle words and irrelevant quotations. Luther, fully roused, now met the haughty prelate on his own ground,—the traditions and teachings of the church—and utterly overthrew his assumptions.

When the prelate saw that Luther’s reasoning was unanswerable, he lost all self-control, and in a rage cried out: “Retract, or I will send you to Rome, there to appear before the judges commissioned to take cognizance of your case. I will excommunicate you and all your partisans, and all who shall at any time countenance you, and will cast them out of the church.” And he finally declared, in a haughty and angry tone, “Retract, or return no more.”

The reformer promptly withdrew with his friends, thus declaring plainly that no retraction was to be expected from him. This was not what the cardinal had purposed. He had flattered himself that by violence he could awe Luther to submission. Now, left alone with his supporters, he looked from one to another, in utter chagrin at the unexpected failure of his schemes.

Luther’s efforts on this occasion were not without good results. The large assembly present had opportunity to compare the two men, and to judge for themselves of the spirit manifested by them, as well as of the strength and truthfulness of their positions. How marked the contrast! The reformer, simple, humble, firm, stood up in the strength of God, having truth on his side; the pope’s representative, self-important, overbearing, haughty, and unreasonable, was without a single argument from the Scriptures, yet vehemently crying, “Retract, or be sent to Rome for punishment.”

Notwithstanding Luther had secured a safe-conduct, the Romanists were plotting to seize and imprison him. His friends urged that as it was useless for him to prolong his stay, he should return to Wittenberg without delay, and that the utmost caution should be observed in order to conceal his intentions. He accordingly left Augsburg before daybreak, on horseback, accompanied only by a guide furnished him by the magistrate. With many forebodings he secretly made his way through the dark and silent streets of the city. Enemies, vigilant and cruel, were plotting his destruction. Would be escape the snares prepared for him? Those were moments of anxiety and earnest prayer. He reached a small gate in the wall of the city. It was opened for him, and with his guide he passed through without hindrance. Once safely outside, the fugitives hastened their flight, and before the legate learned of Luther’s departure, he was beyond the reach of his persecutors. Satan and his emissaries were defeated. The man whom they had thought in their power was gone, escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowler.

At the news of Luther’s escape, the legate was overwhelmed with surprise and anger. He had expected to receive great honor for his wisdom and firmness in dealing with this disturber of the church; but his hope was disappointed. He gave expression to his wrath in a letter to Frederick, the Elector of Saxony, bitterly denouncing Luther, and demanding that Frederick send the reformer to Rome or banish him from Saxony.

In defense, Luther urged that the legate or the pope show him his errors from the Scriptures, and pledged himself in the most solemn manner to renounce his doctrines if they could be shown to contradict the Word of God. And he expressed his gratitude to God that he had been counted worthy to suffer in so holy a cause.

The elector had, as yet, little knowledge of the reformed doctrines, but he was deeply impressed by the candor, force, and clearness of Luther’s words; and, until the reformer should be proved to be in error, Frederick resolved to stand as his protector. In reply to the legate’s demand he wrote: “Since Doctor Martin has appeared before you at Augsburg, you should be satisfied. We did not expect that you would endeavor to make him retract without having convinced him of his errors. None of the learned men in our principality have informed us that Martin’s doctrine is impious, antichristian, or heretical. We must refuse, therefore, either to send Luther to Rome or to expel him from our States.”

The elector saw that there was a general breaking down of the moral restraints of society. A great work of reform was needed. The complicated and expensive arrangements to restrain and punish crime would be unnecessary if men but acknowledged and obeyed the requirements of God and the dictates of an enlightened conscience. He saw that Luther was laboring to secure this object, and he secretly rejoiced that a better influence was making itself felt in the church.

He saw also that as a professor in the university Luther was eminently successful. Only a year had passed since the reformer posted his theses on the castle church, yet there was already a great falling off in the number of pilgrims that visited the church at the festival of All-Saints. Rome had been deprived of worshipers and offerings, but their place was filled by another class, who now came to Wittenberg,—not pilgrims to adore her relics, but students to fill her halls of learning. The writings of Luther had kindled everywhere a new interest in the Holy Scriptures, and not only from all parts of Germany, but from other lands, students flocked to the university. Young men, coming in sight of Wittenberg for the first time, would “raise their hands to heaven, and bless God for having caused the light of truth to shine forth from Wittenberg, as in former ages from Mount Zion, that it might penetrate to the most distant lands.”

Luther was as yet but partially converted from the errors of Romanism. But as he compared the Holy Oracles with the papal decrees and constitutions, he was filled with wonder. “I am reading,” he wrote, “the decretals of the popes, and .... I know not whether the pope is antichrist himself, or whether he is his apostle; so misrepresented and even crucified does Christ appear in them.” Yet at this time Luther was still a supporter of the Roman Church, and had no thought that he would ever separate from her communion.

The reformer’s writings and his doctrine were extending to every nation in Christendom. The work spread to Switzerland and Holland. Copies of his writings found their way to France and Spain. In England his teachings were received as the word of life. To Belgium and Italy also the truth had extended. Thousands were awakening from their death-like stupor to the joy and hope of a life of faith.

Rome became more and more exasperated by the attacks of Luther, and it was declared by some of his fanatical opponents, even by doctors in Catholic universities, that he who should kill the rebellious monk would be without sin. One day a stranger, with a pistol hidden under his cloak, approached the reformer, and inquired why he went thus alone. “I am in the hands of God,” answered Luther. “He is my help and my shield. What can man do unto me?” Upon hearing these words, the stranger turned pale, and fled away, as from the presence of the angels of Heaven.

Rome was bent upon the destruction of Luther; but God was his defense. His doctrines were heard everywhere,—in convents, in cottages, in the castles of the nobles, in the universities, in the palaces of kings; and noble men were rising on every hand to sustain his efforts.

It was about this time that Luther, reading the works of Huss, found that the great truth of justification by faith, which he himself was seeking to uphold and teach, had been held by the Bohemian reformer. “We have all,” said Luther, “Paul, Augustine, and myself, been Hussites without knowing it.” “God will surely visit it upon the world,” he continued, “that the truth was preached to it a century ago, and burned.”

In an appeal to the emperor and nobility of Germany in behalf of the Reformation of Christianity, Luther wrote concerning the pope: “It is monstrous to see him who is called the vicar of Christ, displaying a magnificence unrivaled by that of any emperor. Is this to represent the poor and lowly Jesus or the humble St. Peter? The pope, say they, is the lord of the world! But Christ, whose vicar he boasts of being, said, `My kingdom is not of this world.’ Can the dominions of a vicar extend beyond those of his superior?”

He wrote thus of the universities: “I fear much that the universities will be found to be great gates leading down to hell, unless they take diligent care to explain the Holy Scriptures, and to engrave them in the hearts of our youth. I advise no one to place his child where the Holy Scriptures are not regarded as the rule of life. Every institution where the Word of God is not diligently studied, must become corrupt.”

This appeal was rapidly circulated throughout Germany, and exerted a powerful influence upon the people. The whole nation was stirred, and multitudes were roused to rally around the standard of reform. Luther’s opponents, burning with a desire for revenge, urged the pope to take decisive measures against him. It was decreed that his doctrines should be immediately condemned. Sixty days were granted the reformer and his adherents, after which, if they did not recant, they were all to be excommunicated.

That was a terrible crisis for the Reformation. For centuries Rome’s sentence of excommunication had struck terror to powerful monarchs; it had filled mighty empires with woe and desolation. Those upon whom its condemnation fell, were universally regarded with dread and horror; they were cut off from intercourse with their fellows, and treated as outlaws, to be hunted to extermination. Luther was not blind to the tempest about to burst upon him; but he stood firm, trusting in Christ to be his support and shield. With a martyr’s faith and courage he wrote: “What is about to happen I know not, and I care not to know.” “Wherever the blow may reach me. I fear not. Not so much as a leaf falls without the will of our Father; how much rather will he care for us! It is a light matter to die for the Word, since this Word, that was made flesh for us, hath himself died. If we die with him, we shall live with him; and, passing through that which he has passed through before us, we shall be where he is, and dwell with him forever.”

When the papal bull reached Luther, he said: “I despise it, and resist it, as impious and false.... It is Christ himself who is condemned therein.” “I glory in the prospect of suffering for the best of causes. Already I feel greater liberty; for I know now that the pope is antichrist, and that his throne is that of Satan himself.”

Yet the mandate of Rome was not without effect. Prison, torture, and sword were weapons potent to enforce obedience. The weak and superstitious trembled before the decree of the pope, and while there was general sympathy for Luther, many felt that life was too dear to be risked in the cause of reform. Everything seemed to indicate that the reformer’s work was about to close.

But Luther was fearless still. Rome had hurled her anathemas against him, and the world looked on, nothing doubting that he would perish or be forced to yield. But with terrible power he flung back upon herself the sentence of condemnation, and publicly declared his determination to abandon her forever. In the presence of a crowd of students, doctors, and citizens of all ranks, Luther burned the pope’s bull, with the canon laws, the decretals, and certain writings sustaining the papal power. “My enemies have been able by burning my books,” he said, “to injure the cause of truth in the minds of some, and to destroy souls; for this reason I consume their books in return. A serious struggle has just commenced. Hitherto I have been playing with the pope; now I wage open war. I began this work in God’s name; it will be ended without me, and by his might.”

To the reproaches of his enemies, who taunted him with the weakness of his cause, Luther answered: “Who knows if God has not chosen and called me to perform this needed work, and if these babblers ought not to fear that by despising me, they despise God himself? They say I am alone; no, for Jehovah is with me. In their sense, Moses was alone at the departure from Egypt; Elijah was alone in the reign of King Ahab; Isaiah was alone in Jerusalem; Ezekiel was alone in Babylon. Hear this, O Rome: God never selected as a prophet either the high priest or any great personage; but rather, he chose low and despised men, once even the shepherd Amos. In every age the saints have been compelled to rebuke kings, princes, recreant priests, and wise men at the peril of their lives.” “I do not say that I also am a prophet; but I do say that they ought to fear precisely because I am alone, while on the side of the oppressor are numbers, caste, wealth, and mocking letters. Yes, I am alone; but I stand serene, because side by side with me is the Word of God; and with all their boasted numbers, this, the greatest of powers, is not with them.”

Yet it was not without a terrible struggle with himself that Luther decided upon a final separation from the church. It was about this time that he wrote: “I feel more and more every day how difficult it is to lay aside the scruples which one has imbibed in childhood. Oh, how much pain it cost me, though I had the Scriptures on my side, to justify it to myself that I should dare to make a stand alone against the pope, and hold him forth as antichrist! What have the tribulations of my heart not been! How many times have I asked myself with bitterness that question which was so frequent on the lips of the papist: “Art thou alone wise? Can every one else be mistaken? How will it be, if, after all, it is thyself who art wrong, and who art involving in thy error so many souls, who will then be eternally damned?” “Twas so I fought with myself and with Satan, till Christ, by his infallible Word, fortified my heart against these doubts.”

The pope had threatened Luther with excommunication if he did not recant, and the threat was now fulfilled. A new bull appeared, declaring the reformer’s final separation from the Romish Church, denouncing him as accursed of Heaven, and including in the same condemnation all who should receive his doctrines. The great contest had been fully entered upon.

Opposition is the lot of all whom God employs to present truths specially applicable to their time. There was a present truth in the days of Luther,—a truth at that time of special importance; there is a present truth for the church today. He who does all things according to the counsel of his will, has been pleased to place men under various circumstances, and to enjoin upon them duties peculiar to the times in which they live, and the conditions under which they are placed. If they would prize the light given them, broader views of truth would be opened before them. But truth is no more desired by the majority today than it was by the papists who opposed Luther. There is the same disposition to accept the theories and traditions of men instead of the Word of God as in former ages. Those who present the truth for this time should not expect to be received with greater favor than were earlier reformers. The great controversy between truth and error, between Christ and Satan, is to increase in intensity to the close of this world’s history.

Said Jesus to his disciples: “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.” [John 15:19, 20.] And on the other hand our Lord declared plainly: “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets. [Luke 6:26.] The spirit of the world is no more in harmony with the Spirit of Christ today than in earlier times; and those who preach the Word of God in its purity will be received with no greater favor now than then. The forms of opposition to the truth may change, the enmity may be less open because it is more subtle; but the same antagonism still exists, and will be manifested to the end of time.

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