1517, 500 years of Reformation, Catholics and Protestants find common ground, Christian persecution, Division of Catholics and Lutherans, Dr Jack Arnold, Jerome Savonarola, John Huss, Lady Jane Grey, Martin Luther, Martyrdom, October 31st, Reformation Day, The Reformation, William Hunter
While the world and most of the Church celebrate the ancient holiday of Halloween, a Satanic and high holy day of Samhain (lord of death), by dressing up in costumes, trick-or-treating, going to harvest festivals, or are participating in dark, demonic practices, a true, holy holiday of remembrance remains mostly forgotten.
Nearly 500 years ago on October 31st of 1517, in the midst of colorful leaves and the fragrances of autumn, 34 year old Martin Luther placed his 95 Theses onto the door of the Wittenberg Castle church in Germany. Indeed, it was the nail and hammer not only heard round the world but that shook the powers of darkness and all of their Halloween evil.
For hundreds of years (approximately 500-1600 A.D.) through the Roman Catholic Church, Satan had had a strangle hold on the people. Little groups here and individuals there had sought the truth of Scripture, but were persecuted and martyred by those who wanted to keep them in tangible darkness. People like John Hus, John Wycliffe and Jerome Savonarola spoke out against the immorality and unbiblical practices of the Roman Catholic church, and because of this many like them (thousands and thousands) were pressured unsuccessfully to recant and then without trial mercilessly killed.
Let us remember some of those specifically now.
Jerome Savonarola (1452-1498)
(46 years old)
Savonarola was part of Dominican monastery. At the age of 38 he went to the city of Florence. He began to preach and lecture and drew large crowds.
He attacked the evil lives and immoral behaviour of many of the people at that time. In particular he exposed the corruption within the clergy and the laity. But he preached a message of repentance from sin and Florence became a centre of a great revival.
He tried to make the city a model of a Christian community. The Pope at that time was Alexander Borgia and was one of the most wicked men who ever occupied the papacy. He tried to ‘buy’ Savonarola by offering to make him a cardinal.
Savonarola refused this and the Pope used other tactics. He got the monks to speak out against Savonarola and then excommunicated him and arrested him. He was tortured and put to death by burning. Savonarola refused to renounce his beliefs unto death.
Martin Luther regarded Savonarola as a pioneer of the Reformation because of his work to reform public morals.
(From: “Protestant Reformers, Martyrs and Heroes”, http://www.ministers-best-friend.com/Protestant-Reformer-Heroes.html)
John Huss (1369-1414)
(45 years old)
Huss was the most important of the forerunners of the Reformation within Europe. He was born of peasant stock but he was a gifted scholar and received a good education and became the Rector of Prague University when he was 34 years old.
But Huss was stirred by his knowledge of the Bible. He read the works of John Wycliffe and he started preaching in a chapel in Prague. This chapel was established to allow people to hear the Bible in their own tongue (very few people, even within the clergy, knew Latin which was the only language that the Roman church allowed the Word of God to be heard in).”*
The preaching and reading of God’s Word in the language of the common people was unprecedented!!!
Furthermore, in both writing and by word of mouth he defended the doctrine of the Trinity, and boldly exposed the sinfulness and immorality of the pope, cardinals and clergy.
In November of 1414, John Hus was summoned to appear before a Council where he was accused and called on to recant, was arrested, and imprisoned for months. Instead of a hearing, Huss was eventually hauled before authorities in chains and asked merely to recant his views.*
“Accordingly, the bishops appointed by the Council stripped him of his priestly garments, degraded him, put a paper miter on his head, on which was painted devils, with this inscription, “A ringleader of heretics.” Which when he saw, he said: “My Lord Jesus Christ, for my sake, did wear a crown of thorns; why should not I then, for His sake, again wear this light crown, be it ever so ignominious? Truly I will do it, and that willingly.” When it was set upon his head, the bishop said: “Now we commit thy soul to the devil.” “But I,” said John Huss, lifting his eyes up towards heaven, “do commend into Thy hands, O Lord Jesus Christ! my spirit which Though hast redeemed.”
“When a chain was put about him at the stake, he with a smiling countenance, “My Lord Jesus Christ was bound with a harder chain than this for my sake, and why then should I be ashamed of this rusty one?”
“When the fagots were piled up to his very neck, the duke of Bavaria was so officious as to desire him to abjure [recant]. “No, (said Huss;) I never preached any doctrine of an evil tendency; and what I taught with my lips I now seal with my blood.” He then said to the executioner, “You are now going to burn a goose, (Huss signifying goose in the Bohemian language:) but in a century you will have a swan which you can neither roast or boil.” If he were prophetic [and it sounds like he was] he must have meant Martin Luther, who shone about a hundred years after, and who had a swan for his [coat of] arms.
The flames were now applied to the fagots, when our martyr sung a hymn with so loud a cheerful a voice that he was heard through all the cracklings and combustibles, and the noise of the multitude. At length his voice was interrupted by the severity of the flames, which soon closed his existence.”**
*(From: “Protestant Reformers, Martyrs and Heroes”, http://www.ministers-best-friend.com/Protestant-Reformer-Heroes.html)
**(From Fox’s Book of Martyrs, page 143)
And these are just two such martyrs to be remembered, but the list could go on indefinitely concerning those who spilled their blood for the sake of Christ, the denouncing of sin and the Word of God in their own language.
Then, on October 31, 1517, David (Martin Luther) met Goliath (the Roman Catholic) on the great battlefield already covered with the blood of martyrs who had come before. But, this bloody battle of Martin Luther, Melanchthon, Zwingli, and Calvin did not end with their struggle, but continued on into the Netherlands wherein a protestants in great number including one named Wendelinuta were cruelly killed, in Ireland where thousands were killed en masse, and in England wherein Thomas Cranmer, Lady Jane Grey, William Hunter and a multitude of others, including one of my own ancestors (Edward Wightman) died by the sword and flame and being buried alive simply because they did not want to partake of Mass or simply because they owned a Bible in their own language.
“The light of the Gospel having successfully spread over the Netherlands, the pope instigated the emperor to commence a persecution against the Protestants; when many thousand fell martyrs to superstitious malice and barbarous bigotry, among whom the most remarkable were the following:
Wendelinuta, a pious Protestant widow, was apprehended on account of her religion, when several monks, unsuccessfully, endeavored to persuade her to recant. As they could not prevail, a Roman Catholic lady of her acquaintance, desired to be admitted to the dungeon in which she was confined, and promised to exert herself strenuously towards inducing the prisoner to abjure [recant] the reformed religion. When she was admitted to the dungeon, she did utmost to perform the task she had undertaken; but finding her endeavors ineffectual, she said, “Dear Wendelinuta, if you will not embrace our faith, at least keep the things which you profess secret within your own bosom, and strive to prolong your life.” To which the widow replied, “Madam, you know not what you say; for with the heart we believe to righteousness, but with the tongue confession is made unto salvation.” As she positively refused to recant, her goods were confiscated, and she was condemned to be burnt. At the place of execution a monk held a cross to her, and bade her kiss and worship God. To which she answered, “I worship no wooden god, but the eternal God who is in heaven.” She was then executed, but through the before-mentioned Roman Catholic lady, the favor was granted that she should be strangled before the fire was put to the fagots.”**
**(From Fox’s Book of Martyrs, page 172-173)
The persecution spread even to England as perceived most sadly in the stories of two youths. One 19, and the other merely 16. Though so very young, these two teenagers put modern Christianity to shame! For they knew God’s Word and loved it even unto death. How many Christian teens know God’s word today? How many would die for it? Here are the stories of those two godly, English young people: Lady Jane Grey and William Hunter.
Lady Jane Grey
(16 years old)
When King Edward VI, son of King Henry VIII, died at the young age of 16, he named Lady Jane Grey to the throne of England. “Lady Jane Grey (July 1536 – February 12, 1554), a granddaughter of Henry VII and a grandniece of Henry VIII of England, reigned as uncrowned Queen Regnant of the Kingdom of England and Kingdom of Ireland for nine days in July 1553, and for that reason is called “The Nine Days Queen”.”*** Though Mary was by law the rightful successor to the throne, King Henry VIII had declared her to be illegitimate and so forfeited her right, and because of King Edward VI’s wishes to keep England under Protestant leadership, Lady Jane in July of 1553 ascended to the throne.
“Lady Jane had a reputation as one of the most learned women of her day. She was also renowned for her beauty…[and] at 15, she had little choice but to comply with the wishes of those who advised her. Her execution attracted considerable sympathy, especially among Protestants. She has the distinction of being the first regnant Queen of England, despite the brevity of her reign (the shortest in English history).”**** She was a godly young Protestant woman who would not cave to the persuasions of Roman Catholics.
According to Fox’s Book of Martyrs, page 207, “The next victim was the amiable Lady Jane Gray, who, by her acceptance of the crown at the earnest solicitations of her friends, incurred the implacable resentment of the bloody Mary. When she first mounted the scaffold, she spoke to the spectators in this manner: “Good people, I am come hither to die, and by a law I am condemned to the same. The fact against the queen’s highness was unlawful, and the consenting thereunto by me: but, touching the procurement and desire thereof by me, or on my behalf, I do wash my hands thereof in innocency before God, and the face of you, good Christian people this day:” and therewith she wrong her hands, wherein she had a book. Then said she, “I pray you all, good Christian people, to bear me witness, that I die a good Christian woman, and that I do look to be saved by no other mean, but only by the mercy of God in the blood of His only Son Jesus Christ: and I confess that when I did know the Word of God, I neglected the same, loved myself and the world, and therefore this plague and punishment is happily and worthily happened unto me for my sins; and yet I thank God, that oof His goodness He hath thus given me a time and a respite to repent. And now, good people, while I am alive, I pray you assist me with your prayers.”” **
Then after she quoted the Psalm Miserere mei Deus and after the executioner asked her forgiveness and she gave it, she was blindfolded and guided to the chopping block where she knelt, “laid her head upon the block, and then stretched forth her body, and said, “Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit;” and so finished her life, in the year of our Lord 1554, the twelfth day of February, about the seventeenth year of her age. Thus died Lady Jane…” **
***(“Lady Jane Grey” http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Lady_Jane_Grey#cite_note-royweb-0 [this site also referenced the Official Website of British Monarchy, Lady Jane Grey (r. 10-19 July 1553). Retrieved May 17, 2008.)
****(“Lady Jane Grey”, The New World Encyclopedia, http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Lady_Jane_Grey#cite_note-royweb-0)
** (Fox’s Book of Martyrs, page 207-208)
William Hunter (1535-1555)
(19 years old)
“William was an apprentice silk weaver in London and he was a Protestant when Mary Tudor took the English throne. England had broken away from the Catholic Church under King Henry VIII. Edward VI had then become king but he died at a young age allowing his Catholic half-sister Mary to become queen. She was determined to return England to the Catholic Church and a period of persecution of the Protestant believers began.
William was singled out by the authorities because he refused to attend mass despite an order having been made that everyone in the City of London had to attend the Catholic mass. By refusing to obey, William lost his job and he returned to Brentwood.
It wasn’t long before William was found reading the Bible for himself. The local priest became involved and soon established that William had a basic protestant belief which totally contradicted the Catholic doctrine. William was soon arrested and sent to be interrogated by the Bishop of London.”*
He was put into stocks for two days, and refused to eat. Still refusing to recant after two days, the bishop had him thrown into prison where he was laid up in as many irons as he could bear, and continued in prison for 9 months.
Again William refused to deny his faith in Jesus. By his actions he was denying the validity of the teachings of the Catholic Church. Because he had refused to partake of mass and because of reading the Word of God in his own language, young William was condemned to die.
After reading the 51st Psalm, he handed his Psalter to his brother who encouraged thus, “William, think on the holy passion of Christ, and be not afraid of death!” To which William answered his brother, “Behold, I am not afraid!” Then, “he lifted up his hands to heaven, and siad, “Lord, Lord, Lord, receive my spirit:” and casting down his head again into the smothering smoke, he yielded up his life for the truth, sealing it with his blood to the praise of God.”**
William was burnt at the stake because of his beliefs and because he refused to deny his beliefs. It would also seem that the authorities were incensed by the spiritual maturity of someone so young. There is a monument to William Hunter in Brentwood with the following inscription:-
WILLIAM HUNTER. MARTYR. Committed to the Flames March 26th MDLV.*
* (“Protestant Reformers, Martyrs and Heroes” from the website http://www.ministers-best-friend.com/Protestant-Reformer-Heroes.html)
** Fox’s Book of Martyrs, page 219-220.
In spite of the fact that after 500 years the Lutheran Church has recently found common ground with the Roman Catholic church and believe in the words of Tony Palmer that “the protest is over” the echoing of the hammer and nail of Martin Luther resounds still today. Though more and more Protestant church leadership is being mesmerized by the siren call of the Roman Catholic church, as one by one Protestants and Catholics seek ecumenical unity, the truth for which Luther stood and for which so many mercilessly were tortured and died, still stands, and those who believe it still stand for it.
Let us not not forget what the protest was about and is still about:
Purgatory, Papal Infallibility, salvation by works, prayers to and worship of dead saints and angels, the sale of indulgences, the grave and disgusting immorality of the church leadership, and the veneration of relics to name a few things being protested then and still ought to be protested now with addition of the elevation of Mary to that of equality with and even superiority to Jesus.
Let us not forget that following Luther’s 95 Theses the militant Jesuit order was established by Roman Catholic Igntius Loyola, and with the blessing of the Pope, tormented, tortured, bribed, and murdered countless Protestants and Catholics who dared to questioned Catholic doctrine. But, the tactics of the Roman church did not stop with violence against human life, but turned to violence against the Word of God itself which is felt more deeply today than most know. For, most translations of the Bible come from a polluted Greek text written in 1881 by Westcott and Hort, and seminaries are full of Jesuit professors who teach students to question Scriptural authority. And now the modern ecumenical movement focused on the unity of Protestants and Rome is relentlessly striving to peacefully tear down all that Luther and the Reformers fought and died for.
But the hammer and nail still is pounding in the hearts of those who believe in sola scriptura (Scripture alone) and sola fide (faith alone).
As we REMEMBER the Reformation on Reformation Day, October 31st, let us also recommit to stand for the truth of the Reformation such as Scripture being our only source of authority, and faith in Jesus as the ONLY way to heaven. And may we say with Martin Luther,
“as to the article of faith, if I gave way in the least, I should be denying Jesus Christ. On this head, therefore, I will not and cannot yield; by the grace of God, I never will”
“I am not frightened at any of their threats. I am not to be led away by their promises.”
“My resolution is taken. I despise Rome’s fury, and I despise her favour. No more reconciliation, no more communication with her forever! Let her condemn and burn my writings. I, in my turn, will condemn and publicly burn the Pontifical Law, that nest of all heresies. The moderation I have shown, to this hour, has been useless; I renounce it!”
In these words and in the hearts of true believers the Protestant Reformation lives on, the hammer of Luther still resounds, and God’s Word will never fail! Indeed, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but the Word of God will never pass away!”
Other Sources Not Yet Documented:
The New Common Ground of Protestants and Catholics:
Protestants Leaders Answering the Siren Call of Catholicism:
The Pursuit of Ecumenical Unity:
Sources Regarding the History of Rome’s Cruelty Toward Protestants and the Bible:
THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH OF THE MIDDLE AGES: Reformation Men and Theology, Lesson 1 of 11 by Dr. Jack L. Arnold: http://thirdmill.org/newfiles/jac_arnold/ch.arnold.rmt.1.html
THE CAUSE AND RESULTS OF THE REFORMATION
Reformation Men and Theology, Lesson 2 of 11 by Dr. Jack Arnold: http://old.thirdmill.org/newfiles/jac_arnold/CH.Arnold.RMT.2.html
A Lamp in the Dark, DVD documentary by Christian Pinto and Adullam Films, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndb0z0jGQk0
Tares Among the Wheat, DVD documentary by Christian Pinto and Adullam Films, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-aiHcghIdjM
Quotes of Martin Luther:
FROM STRUGGLE WITH ROME UNTIL DEATH (1517-1546)
Reformation Men and Theology, Lesson 4 of 11 by Dr. Jack L. Arnold