It was way too late, for he had already planted the seeds of reform that would change the Christian world forever.
He was the “morningstar of the Reformation” and his name was John Wycliffe.
An Englishman, Wycliffe grew disgusted with the wealth of the church, the oppression of the poor, and the sale of indulgences.
He came to reject transubstantiation and papal authority over the church in matters of doctrine…he believed in “sola scriptura,” meaning that the Bible was the only true guide for faith and practice.
If the Bible is the sole standard for the church and the church is comprised of the priesthood of all believers, then all believers must have access to the Scriptures.
Wycliffe set out to make it so.
He produced the first English translation of the Bible by hand and until the 19th century all copies of the Wycliffe Bible were produced the same way.
The next step was to get the Bible to the people…and that was accomplished through his followers, the Lollards.
Together, despite great persecution, they laid the foundation stone of the Reformation to come.
There were many other stones added to the foundation in this century.
John Hus was a Bohemian priest influenced by Wycliffe who also became a proto-Reformer.
He was condemned for such by Rome and burned at the stake for his efforts.
Hus means “goose” and the expression “we’ll cook his goose” began as a slur against this man of God who they did indeed roast.
At his execution he prophesied that though they would slay him, in a hundred years another man would come whose fire they would not be able to extinguish.
“Now we will cook the goose.” “Yes”, replied Huss, ““It is thus that you silence the goose, but a hundred years hence there will arise a swan whose singing you shall not be able to silence.”
The swan was Martin Luther and the prophecy was fulfilled.
His writings, and more importantly, his life, would be an inspiration to Luther and other Reformers for centuries to come.
Thomas Bradwardine was an English theologian who influenced Wycliffe and others by emphasizing the primacy of grace in the salvation of sinners and re emphasizing the Augustinian theology that was the heart of the Reformation.
Gregory of Rimini was an Italian philosopher and theologian who not only emphasized the grace of God in salvation, but articulated the doctrine of double predestination centuries before Calvin was born. Gregory’s greatest contribution to the Reformation was his careful recovery and translation of the works of Augustine. It is his work that is most often referenced by the later Reformers.
Meanwhile, back in Rome…no ones home.
Pope Clement V came under the influence of King Philip IV of France and the papacy was moved to Avignon, France for 63 years.
The power of the papacy was further weakened when the “Great Schism” occurred and two popes were in power, one in Rome and one in Avignon.
By 1409 three popes were vying for power.
The church was ripe for reform.