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Love Under Fire

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    Attacked by Dangerous Illness

    But suddenly his labors came to a stop. Though he was not yet sixty, constant work, study, and the attacks of enemies had sapped his strength and made him prematurely old. He was struck with a dangerous illness. The friars thought he would repent of the evil he had done the church, and they hurried to his room to listen to his confession. “You have death on your lips,” they said. “Be touched by your faults, and retract in our presence all that you have said against us.”LF 39.9

    The Reformer listened in silence. Then he asked his attendant to raise him in his bed. Gazing steadily on them, he said in the firm, strong voice that had so often made them tremble, “I shall not die, but live; and again declare the evil deeds of the friars.”4D'Aubigné, book 17, chapter 7. Astonished and humiliated, the monks hurried from the room.LF 40.1

    Wycliffe lived to give his countrymen the most powerful of all weapons against Rome—the Bible, the Heaven-appointed agent to liberate, enlighten, and evangelize the people. Wycliffe knew that he had only a few years left to work. He saw the opposition he must meet, but encouraged by the promises of God's Word, he went forward. In the full strength of his intellectual powers, rich in experience, he had been prepared by God's hand for this, the greatest of his labors. In his parsonage at Lutterworth, paying no attention to the storm that raged around him, the Reformer applied himself to his chosen task.LF 40.2

    Finally the work was completed—the first English translation of the Bible. Wycliffe had placed in the hands of the English people a light that would never be put out. He had done more to break the chains of ignorance and to liberate and elevate his country than any victory on the battlefield ever achieved.LF 40.3

    Copies of the Bible could only be made by tiresome labor. So many people wanted to have the book that copyists could scarcely keep up with the demand. Wealthy purchasers wanted the whole Bible. Others bought only a portion. In many cases, families joined together to buy a copy. Wycliffe's Bible soon found its way to the homes of the people.LF 40.4

    Wycliffe now taught the distinctive doctrines of Protestantism—salvation through faith in Christ and that the Bible alone is infallible. Nearly one half of the people of England accepted the new faith.LF 40.5

    Church authorities were dismayed to find the Scriptures available. At this time there was no law in England prohibiting the Bible, since it had never before been published in the language of the people. Later, such laws were enacted and rigorously enforced.LF 40.6

    Again Rome's leaders plotted to silence the Reformer's voice. First, a synod of bishops declared his writings heretical. They won the young king, Richard II, to their side and obtained a royal decree condemning to prison all who held the condemned doctrines.LF 40.7

    Wycliffe appealed the synod's decision to Parliament. He fearlessly accused the hierarchy before the national council and demanded reform of the enormous abuses that the church approved. His enemies were brought to confusion. Everyone had expected that the Reformer, in his old age, alone and friendless, would yield to the authority of the crown. But instead, Parliament was moved by Wycliffe's stirring appeals. It repealed the persecuting edict, and the Reformer was free again.LF 40.8

    He was brought to trial a third time, and now it was before the highest church court in the kingdom. Here at last the Reformer's work would be stopped, the pope's followers thought. If they could accomplish their aim, Wycliffe would leave the court only for the flames.LF 41.1

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