John Wycliffe The Dawn of the Reformation by David Fountain 1984


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The 1984 soft cover book entitled John Wycliffe The Dawn of the Reformation by David Fountain. This is a BRAND NEW copy [never used] of a 33 year old popular now out of print book. See for current market value of used and new books.




John Wycliffe was born sometime around 1324 to 1331, depending on who you listen to, in a little village in Yorkshire. Little is known of his early life. He went to Oxford at the age of 16. Here he earned both his Master and Doctorate degrees. His studies for his Master’s were varied and included the law of optics, chemical analysis, physiological genesis of sleep, geometrical rules and national economics. To qualify for his Doctorate he had to learn law, medicine and theology. It is considered by historians that there was no greater mind in all of Europe.




Before we venture into Wycliffe’s story we should stop for a moment to consider what medieval life was like in the early 14th Century. Most people lived in a rural environment as tenant farmers. They were subject to the aristocracy of church and state, which in almost every case was the same. The cost of living was high and life expectancy was low.




Nothing dominated medieval life as much as the church. The priests, who were divided into two parts - regular and secular - were ignorant, corrupt and very often illiterate. The Bishops, were appointed positions, very often rewards for some political favour. However, in England nationalism was growing and there was a backlash to the Papacy in Rome.




But it was at the grass roots level the affects of the wicked and often times useless clergy was really felt. Not only was the parish priest the representative of the Church, most times he was the civil authority as well. The idea of separation of church and state was not yet appreciated nor freedom of speech tolerated. The parish priest was both the spiritual and temporal judge.




A fearful pestilence, called the Black Death, broke out. It was one of the most destructive in all of Europe. Appearing first in Asia it came west crossing Europe, marching with terror before it. “Beginning at Dorchester,” says Fox, ”every day twenty, some days forty, some fifty, and more, dead bodies were brought and laid together in one deep pit.” When it reached London it is estimated that over 100,000 people died, half the population. Farming came to a halt, the law courts were closed and Parliament shut down. Terror, mourning, and death reigned.




At the same time England had been engaged in a war that would last 100 years with France. It was a series of battles that led to peace treaties and then the breaking of the treaty and then another ensuing battle.


It was in this climate that John Wycliffe was born, raised, educated and performed his duties as a priest and professor at Oxford University.

John Wycliffe The Dawn of the Reformation by David Fountain 1984

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    Having graduated Wycliffe took up teaching at Oxford and was ordained a priest. It was during this period in his life when the Black plague had taken over half the population that he came face to face with his sin and came to faith in Christ. It was his study of the Bible(Latin Vulgate) that convinced him of his need for Christ and it was the reality of death that brought urgency to matter. He at last had found a refuge for his soul in a relationship with the living God.




    The action of Wycliffe’s conversion and the resultant change in his life brought what seems to be a rejection by his parents and family. Often, one’s faith is first tested in the relationship of the home. At last the prodigal had come home to his heavenly father only to experience the rejection by his earthly father. The cost is often great. But didn’t Jesus say Matt. 10:37   He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.




    John was fortunate to have the patronage of both the Queen Mother and her son John of Guant who was the brother of the King. The Queen mother, Joan of Kent, was sympathetic to Wycliffe and his teachings. At her death, four of the executers of her will were known “Lollards (followers of Wycliffe).” Her son, John of Gaunt, was the richest man in the country and was aggressively protective of God’s man.




    Geoffrey Chaucer


    In his book, Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer describes, what many believe to be, a description of John Wycliffe in his tale of the “Parson.” These two men, Chaucer and Wycliffe along with Wm. Tindale, are more responsible than any others for the development and progress of the English language.


    Anne of Bohemia


    In 1382 Anne of Bohemia married King Richard II. He was 15 and she 16. She was a godly princess from Bohemia. She encouraged students from her country to attend university in England and many came in contact with the teachings of Wycliffe. His teaching was now being spread across the rest of Europe.






    In the spring of 1381 Wycliffe directly assaulted the dogma of transubstantiation. He made twelve propositions in public and challenged those who disagreed with him to a debate. In these propositions he declared that: “The consecrated host which we see on the altar is neither Christ nor any part of him but the efficacious sign of him,” He goes on: “No pilgrim upon earth is able to see Christ in the consecrated host with the bodily eye, but by faith.” He did not believe that (according to the doctrine of Transubstantiation) the words of the priest changed the substance of the bread and wine into the actual body and blood of Christ - they are still bread and wine after their consecration. He declared plainly that transubstantiation “cannot be shown to have any foundation in the word of God.” And for this he was branded a heretic.