PRECIOUS IN THE SIGHT OF THE LORD
IS THE DEATH OF HIS SAINTS

Psalm 116:15

In 2017, we remember the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s gracious and brave stand on October 31st, 1517, when he affixed his 95 theses to the door of All Saints’, the Castle Church at Wittenburg, Germany. Luther stood firm by the grace of God against the false teaching of his day. Let us not simply admire the achievements of brother Martin; but stand in our own day, as did Tyndale and the rest of that great company of martyrs, against the tide of evil sweeping through this once favoured land. 

As we look upon our Nation, indeed the whole world, we surely see a larger fulfilment of that Prophecy written by the apostle to Timothy through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.” 2 Timothy 3:1. 

THE LOSS OF GOD’S FAVOUR 

These perilous times are surely reaching their peak among us; when we consider that God and His truth are so blasphemed and despised, along with the sad fading away of the effects of that God given heritage, with which this country was once favoured and blessed. This land so signally saved and preserved in many ways and from many enemies by the direct providence of God.  

Now fornication and every form of sexual perversion, is not only practiced openly; but lauded, on the television, radio and in advertising. In this age too, every aspect of the ‘social media’ is now a technological manifestation of an updated, yet more virulent form, of the street mobs of bygone days. Now the mobs operate via the internet in the anonymity of their homes, pouring out bile and lawlessness, rather than gathering in the streets as in previous ages. Do we not tremble for all these things? Who can deny that we now live in a wicked and sinful generation given over to hedonism and every form of excess. In the words of God – “perilous times”. Perhaps pointing to the imminent return of our God and Saviour in the clouds of heaven. 

ARE WE LIVING IN THE LAST OF THE LAST DAYS? 

Timothy was further told that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” Indicating that while the last New Testament days since the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ would include every manifestation of sin; each succeeding generation would be worse than the last one. Although there have been revivals sent in mercy, yet these have been followed by an even greater decline. 

We surely see this by just a brief historical comparison with previous times. The pre-reformation age and when George Whitfield began to preach, was marked by dissolution, spiritual ignorance and immorality. Yet, we do have to say that the sin of our times is almost unrestrained in its outward celebration of evil, hatred of God and all righteousness, and the turning of truth upside down. Even in the dark ages of medieval days, God was mainly revered; albeit in superstition and ignorance. 

Since the beginning of creation, when was it heard that the gender of the sexes should be denied? In Canada, it is now illegal to define a man and a woman. As I write, it is now proposed in this country that advertising should not depict any difference in the household of the duties of a man or a woman. Also, there are now 400 terms for sexual orientation. 

How the Scripture is being so precisely fulfilled today when it states: “The wicked walk on every side when the vilest men are exalted.” Now we have ‘Gay pride marches’ – where men and women glory in their shame and openly flaunt their sin in the face of God. 

THE DANGERS IN SUCH TIMES 

Such times as we are living through now are described by the apostle as perilous; The puritan John Owen in his excellent work ‘Perilous times’ and remarking on his own 17th century times, points out that such times are dangerous. Dangerous, because such is the prevailing atmosphere of godlessness and all forms of corruption, that as in a time of plague, we are all in danger of infection; i.e. infection of the spiritual man of heart, mind and soul. Just as in a physical plague such as the Bubonic, or more recently Ebola, when many became infected; just so as the spiritual diseases which surround us all, become almost commonplace, in such times the Christian is at the hazard of complacency and accepting such wickedness as the norm and contracting the deadly poisonous effects of it. 

While we may be astounded one day by the almost absurd suggestion that our children may choose their own gender, and transvestitism is considered a matter of lifestyle; in a short time, such bizarre absurdities lose their capacity to shock. However, the greatest danger is that believers are being forced into an acceptance of these evils by an active and militant liberal section of society, which dares anyone to speak against this ‘new post- modern morality and relativism’. While what the Scripture describes as sexual immorality, is now on the schools’ curriculum as a subject to be taught. Wickedness is now being openly promoted as ‘good’. 

WHEN A NATION IS UNDER THE JUDGEMENT OF GOD. 

In truth one of the marks that a nation is in danger of imminent judgment is given in Isaiah 3: 9: “…and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not.” Again, in chapter 5: 20: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”. These chapters also speak of the general breakdown of such a society’s order, when leaders of character, and orators of renown are removed by God in judgement, and replaced by those with weak and inferior qualities, while women and children have a great influence in that nation. So, as we look around us, we see that God’s judgements against sin described in Holy Scripture, being fulfilled in our generation. 

As for the professing Church: our Lord also prophesied that in the last days because iniquity shall abound, the love of many will wax cold. Iniquity is abounding now; and the church is in a massive decline. The Bible, the very standard and foundation of faith and morals, has now in our own day been the subject of corruption, doubt and uncertainty. When the standard of God – The Bible- is now subject to the changing whims of men; the foundation of Scripture undermined, and men believe a lie, what shall the righteous do when the government of the day legislates for evil practices, and against the righteous, 

WHAT CAN WE DO? 

There is, as Owen said in the 17th century, at such times as this, a temptation for many not to resist such evils; but hope that things will get better soon, and to sit down and see how things will turn out! 

We should not only raise our hands in shock and horror at such things, but sigh and cry to God for the abomination of the times. Ezekiel 9:4. Sigh, for we all, as sons of Adam bear some responsibility as fallen creatures, and cry out to God that He may preserve us and use us at such a time as this. Let us also consider that if we a tempted to think lightly of the evil that surrounds us; that such sins as these crucified the Lord of Glory, and without repentance will send millions into hell. 

Our Lord declared ‘Ye are the salt of the earth’. But, as C.H. Spurgeon once remarked, when a fish goes rotten, it is reputed to rot from the head first. The Church, the Head, which is supposed to point the right way to God, has in the main left its moorings, and having corrupted the Scriptures and grieved the Holy Ghost, is generally weak and ineffectual. Let each one who fears the Lord stand four square in faithfulness to Jesus who loved us and gave Himself for us. 

For even once solid, sound, faithful men and churches, are now in panic compromising with the world, in adopting contemporary music, bibles that read like comics, man centred worship and entertainments to try and win the world. 

THE IMMINENT RETURN OF CHRIST 

It is prophesied in 2 Thessalonians 2 that close to the return of our incarnate God and Saviour and upon the approach of antichrist, many would fall away from the truth and believe a lie. Yet we believe Scripture teaches that a remnant will remain faithful. But how solemn and fearsome those words of the Lord Jesus Christ: “Nevertheless when the Son of Man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” 

Looking back over what I have written, it seems sad and dark. However, while our times are increasingly becoming evil and truth is being trodden in the dust; there should be the confidence that our Sovereign God will certainly triumph, Christ will appear in clouds of great glory and put all His enemies down, and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father; and that which is now at the bottom of the wheel will turn to the top, and we shall be forever with the Lord. 

Meanwhile, we remain in this present world as strangers and pilgrims, and may very soon be required to follow the martyrs and suffer for the testimony of Jesus and His Word. O may He give us that so necessary grace to live and die, if needed, for Him. 

Michael Hobbis
SMCC Secretary

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THE LIFE AND WORK OF WILLIAM TYNDALE

THE LIFE AND WORK OF WILLIAM TYNDALE

By: Michael Hobbis

Part 1 (of 3)

image001The enemy is at the gates

As I write, a Roman Catholic Cardinal has, after almost five centuries and with full permission of Her Majesty the Queen of England, engaged in a vespers service in the very chapel at Hampton Court where Henry VIII worshipped. The same Henry who, in the wonderful providence of God, dismissed Cardinal Wolsey from office as his advisor and confidant and repudiated the Pope of Rome and all his ways. Some would say that this was merely in a fit of pique because he desired a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, however, as we study the life of our subject, William Tyndale, we shall see that he had more than a little influence in this breach with Papal authority, by the grace of Him who turneth the heart of Kings; whithersoever He will (see Proverbs 21:1).

This then is surely a fitting time to remind ourselves of the goodness of God in raising up such a one as William Tyndale, now that we appear to have come to a period in our contemporary history when, once more, the darkness of ignorance, superstition and false religion threatens to envelop us again.

That the Authorised Version of the Bible, referred to by some as the King James Bible, has been that great work which has had more influence upon the religious life of this nation than any other translation of the Word of God, is surely a matter beyond dispute. This nation owes much to the work of this one man who, in his service for Christ and in the strength of His grace, brought back to this nation the pure Word of God and so laid the foundation for the prosperity of its people all over the British Empire.

It is also a generally accepted fact that 80 % (some would claim 90%) of the King James Bible rests on the original translating work of William Tyndale from 1525 – 1535.

A poor wise man raised up

What is truly amazing – and this probably says much about the self-effacing character of Tyndale – is that until the Annals of the English Bible written by Anderson in 1845 – and apart from the Acts and Monuments of John Foxe – little was known or written about him. “The poor wise man” of the little city in Ecclesiastes chapter nine delivered the city by his wisdom and no man remembered him. In comparison with the mighty effects of the grace of God through him, how little is this 16th century English poor man William Tyndale regarded either. Yet possibly no man had a greater effect for good in the spiritual life of this nation than Tyndale.

When we study his life we can trace the finger of God in providentially using his Godly servant to give to the people of this nation – and we may say the English speaking world – the Words of life and salvation in their common tongue. By means of the diligent work of mainly one man, this country in the 16th century was brought into the light by the Holy Spirit of God spreading the truth of Holy Scripture throughout the land and bringing soul- refreshing views of Jesus and His Word to the hearts of thousands, dispelling the darkness of a fetid and soul-destroying religion and also bringing the Reformation of the Christian religion in Europe to these islands.

To build up again “the waste places”

As this blessed and green and pleasant land is again turning back into pre-Reformation darkness, let us in the same spirit as Tyndale seek to do what we can to remind our fellow citizens of that great Christian heritage, which came about through the mercy of God in turning back a floodtide of impiety and spiritual falsehood and bringing that Word of light and life, the Bible, to the common man. Tyndale was “a repairer of the breach, a restorer of paths to dwell in”; so by the power and grace of God may we too seek to “raise up the foundations of many generations”. Perhaps this account of Tyndale’s life of self-sacrificing service for Jesus may be an encouragement to us to go and do likewise. To fight in the might of Christ against all the powers of darkness, alone as far as human agency is concerned: but always with Jesus who said: “I am with you alway”. Isaiah 58: 12; Matthew 28: 20

Let us then examine the life of this Christian martyr for Christ and His Word: who though “being dead yet speaketh.”

The early years

Much of Tyndale’s early life is shrouded in the mists of time. However, we do know from Foxe and other researchers that he was born in Gloucester around 1490 – 1495 and there is documentary evidence that he lived at one time in the village of Slymbridge with his brother Edward, who was fined by the Star Chamber in 1530 for assisting William in the circulation of the translated New Testament with two other brothers.

Tyndale was born at a time when the priests were entrenched in their hypocritical forms of religion e.g. relics, masses, the kissing of St Thomas’s shoe, pilgrimages, worshipping the image of “Our Lady of Walsingham” and other abominations.

However, at this time of Tyndale’s early life, all forms of the pretence of reverence and faith had gone and now these evil clergy openly mocked both themselves and the credulous people for the empty rites they knew them to be. It is said that in this age when the Scriptures were virtually unknown that Gloucester was chief in England for this sham religion of deliberate hypocrisy.

From his early days Tyndale showed a remarkable gift for learning languages and it is said that he could think and converse in seven languages as if they were his mother tongue. He was also held in much esteem for his good character, even among his enemies. Sir Thomas More, no friend of his, said of Tyndale before he finally left England: Tyndale was well known for a man of right good living, studious and well learned in the Scripture. Like Daniel many years before him, men could find nothing against him – unless it be concerning his God.

We know that Tyndale went up to Oxford where he came under the influence of one John Colet, a man who, as friend of Erasmus, had travelled around Europe studying Greek and preaching the Gospel. Now imbued with the Reformers zeal, he began to teach the Epistles of Paul at the university.

By the time Tyndale attended Oxford in 1510, Colet had already left – in 1505; nonetheless his influence remained and had an effect upon the young Tyndale. What made Tyndale different from Reformers such as Latimer, Cranmer and others was his total understanding of the Gospel of grace. His spiritual perception of its truths were clear and undimmed, unlike many who came into the dawn of the Reformation with less clarity of thought – seeing “men as trees walking”. Others were cautious and conservative, whereas Tyndale was bold and valiant for the truth – and, while not careless, he was fearless. He was, it seems, greatly impressed by Erasmus and, just as this world famous scholar was, he began to have the burden on his heart that the Scripture of Truth must be given to the common man in his own understandable tongue.

It seems scandalous to us now that even the priests could not understand the Latin they intoned. And so it was too to Tyndale, who later wrote himself that many of these blind guides could not translate one line of the Lord’s prayer from the Latin. Such was the miserable darkness and captivity of mind that the ordinary man laboured under. If his teachers could not read or understand the Scripture, what hope for the common man!

Tyndale began to preach and promote the Gospel while at Oxford, instructing his fellow students in its truths. He then left Oxford for Cambridge at – it seems – the right time, for Foxe wrote that he went – spying his time. (It was quite dangerous at that time to engage in the promotion of the Gospel). At any event, arriving in Cambridge, he again came under the influence of Erasmus and Colet who had been there before him. He also made the acquaintance of Bilney who, as we know from his letters to Bishop Tunstall, was soundly converted. Both seemed to have a mutual love for the Word.

When he left Cambridge is unclear, but, it is believed to have been around 1521 and he took up the position of tutor/chaplain in the household of Sir John Walsh in Little Sodbury – not far from his own birthplace. Sir John was a comparatively wealthy man of some influence with court and in the nation. Consequently, many Abbots – and other men of renown – were visitors to the house. Tyndale, it seems, being under the wing of this powerful man, was fairly secure from his enemies – men were still being cruelly put to death for what was termed “heresy”. He lived almost as a family member and came into frequent contact with these men, often disputing with them and confounding their superstitious opinions and corruption of the truth from the Scriptures.

At this time – and as a defence of his own position – he translated the work of Erasmus – Enchiridion Militis Christiani – Manual of a Christian Soldier. Written by Erasmus in 1501, it ridiculed the ritual and superstitious observances current in religion and had become famous all over Europe.

This was the first of Tyndale’s translating efforts whereby he used his pen as his sword to bring to men an even sharper sword. He gave the book to his master John Walsh and his wife who, after reading it, closed their doors to all the monks and prelates who had been such frequent visitors and discouraged them from attending.

It appears that his master and mistress were won over by this means to Christ and true religion. He preached in and around the local villages the pure Gospel of Christ, as he had opportunity. However, his main desire to take the written Word to the populace in their own common tongue was becoming uppermost in his heart. This involved his self-imposed exile to Europe and his eventual martyrdom which we shall discuss in our next issues.

Statue of Tyndale in Victoria Embankment Gardens, London

March 2016

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THE LIFE AND WORK OF WILLIAM TYNDALE PART 2

THE LIFE AND WORK OF WILLIAM TYNDALE

By: Michael Hobbis

Part 2 (of 3)

When we began to look at the life of Tyndale in Part 1, it was remarked that in terms of the recognition of his undoubted graces and abilities he was – and still is – surprisingly unacknowledged as the one man who possibly played the most important part in the spiritual life and heritage of the English speaking peoples.

It has been suggested that this repression, even denial, of the importance of his contribution to this nation – and others – was due to his attachment to Martin Luther. Like Luther, Tyndale impresses the reader of his written works with his obvious disregard for the praise and plaudits of men and he fearlessly declared the whole counsel of God to Kings, prelates and the common man alike. He did not bow to the traditions of the professing Church; but emphasised that Christianity is the freedom and liberty of the individual from the traditions and lordship of prescribed religion in his access to his Redeemer and Creator.
True Christianity has always been perceived as a threat to the political and religious powers – the rulers and Kings of the earth. In his works The Practise of Prelates and The Obedience of the Christian Man, he put Christ and His laws before a desire for fame and honour. In short, like Luther, he would not toe the party line. As with John the Baptist who, 2000 years before, reproved Herod, Tyndale reproved King Henry VIII for his divorces and adulteries and exposed the corruptions of the professing Church.
Whether or not this is a correct assessment of the reasons for the world overlooking Tyndale’s true service for his Lord and Master – two obvious facts are before us. Firstly, that many people today are ignorant of the part he played in the revival and reformation of true faith in England. Moreover, for those who choose to search Google today for the description of Tyndale’s translation work, very often it will be erroneously suggested that the work of translating the New Testament from Greek to English was due in large measure to one George Roye, an associate; a man who – far from being an indispensable help – proved to be something of a burden and hindrance. Not only did Roye plagiarise and corrupt Tyndale’s work, but he did not even understand Greek. He took upon himself, without asking Tyndale, a revision of the translated New Testament and in doing so made many mistakes.
A second undeniable fact is that in the work of translating the King James Bible of 1611, those translators used about ninety per cent of Tyndale’s New Testament. They were undoubtedly Godly and learned men and performed a valuable work. Yet in the long preface of the translators to the reader in all their acknowledgements of their helps and sources, from works such as the Septuagint and other translations, the name of Tyndale is never mentioned; even though they were indebted to him for the major proportion of their work in translation.
These men were in the main Churchmen, seeming to slight the man who under God gave us the words Jehovah; Passover; scapegoat; shewbread; peacemaker; mercy seat and many other now familiar words in our AV Bible. We owe to William Tyndale phrases now firmly fixed in common parlance – e.g.salt of the earth; powers that be; the patience of Job; the scales fell from their eyes – and hundreds more.
What perhaps is even less well known is that we also, by the grace of God, owe to Tyndale much of our English prose style. His gifts of language were such that he brought rhythm, cadence, suppleness and lucidity into English prose. This has been noted by David Daniell who said of this man – “Such flexibility, directness, nobility and rhythmic beauty showed what language could do.”
This man not only coined new words but gave us a prose style used by Shakespeare and many other succeeding literary ‘greats’; whereas old English, because of strong Latinate influences, was harsh and scholastic. Now Tyndale, in his translation of Greek and Hebrew, brought into English a freshness introducing the influences of the Greek and the Hebrew, the very languages which God chose as the vehicles to convey His infallible inspired truth. He translated the Old Testament into English as far as Chronicles and in doing so stated that he could virtually place word for word in translating the Hebrew since the similarity was so great between these two languages. In Tyndale’s day 6,000,000 people spoke English – now it is about 600,000,000; all these owe to Tyndale those beneficial blessings from his translating work.
One of the saddest effects of the modern Bible versions today is in their seeking to be relevant to the post-modern man. This new mode of thinking, with its contemporary relativism and all that goes with it, jettisons the clarity and softness of Tyndale’s ‘Biblical’ English, replacing it with the harsh grating coarseness of a modern speech, which seeks to run from all ideas of godliness as fast as it can. We only have to consider some modern day expressions to realise that language really does reflect the spiritual state of a nation and men’s souls.
I make no apology for having taken up so much space out of this account of the life of this brother in Christ in order to emphasise the massive debt that we all in this land owe by God’s grace to the life and work of one man; viz, William Tyndale. Some men’s works go before them; other’s follow after.
We last left Tyndale still in England, but having the increasing burden to give the Scriptures to every Englishman, in a translation as faithful and accurate as possible. He had been advised to approach Bishop Tunstall in London in order to get him to sponsor Tyndale in his translation work. Tunstall had been a friend of Erasmus, so he had reason to hope for a good reception. Taking with him an example of his own Greek translation, he approached this influential Prelate. But Tunstall, probably fearing that the Bible translated might open the gates to he knew not what, rebuffed him with excuses. He was

Worms Cathedral

Worms Cathedral

also a politically astute churchman and could foresee dangers from this zealous evangelical. It was while in London that William Tyndale met John Frith and both men were ever after good friends. In truth it was believed that Frith was born into the true faith through the influence of Tyndale – in future days he referred to him as “my son in the faith”. After some preaching in various London churches, he became aware of the dangers on every hand for those who proclaimed the pure truth of the Gospel. Seeing many whose eyes God had opened taking their journey to Europe, he took what books and papers he could and with financial help from Humphrey Monmouth, a merchant, he went to Hamburg, Germany in 1524, never to return to England again. Because of the need to keep his whereabouts secret, the actual details of his European journeys are vague. At some stage he met with a wandering English friar, William Joye, who had been affected by the preaching of the Gospel. He performed the function of an assistant in Tyndale’s attempts to arrange the printing of his new translation. (This man should not be confused with the previously mentioned George Roye whom Tyndale met at a later stage in his European journeying.) Unfortunately, Joye proved an embarrassment, as he had a penchant for writing rhymes against the Pope, the King, Wolsey and others; this was trouble Tyndale did not need and he eventually parted from him. Meanwhile, they travelled from Hamburg to Wittenburg, where he probably met Luther – and then to Cologne. While there, the translation and printing of the New Testament began. However, one John Cochloeus, who considered himself chosen by God to strongly oppose Luther and the Reformation, set his sights on Tyndale and betrayed him to the authorities. Tyndale and Joye gathered together what printed sheets they could and took flight down the Rhine to Worms. Due to the sphere of Luther’s influence, they were much safer there. We learn all this from the commentary of the enemy, Jon Cochloeus, in his work Acts and Writings of Luther, wherein he writes of this encounter with Tyndale.
In Worms, printers such as Peter Schoeffer were quite willing to print for Tyndale. Whereas previously Tyndale had planned to print 3,000 New Testaments, now he intended 6,000. These were taken by German merchants into England and distributed with the aid of one Thomas Garret, who was later martyred. Henry and Cardinal Wolsey were only too aware of these translations coming in, but mostly were outwitted by the merchants who were also bringing in Luther’s works. Tyndale and Joye were at Worms for some two years and Joye, eventually becoming too troublesome, they parted, with Joye going to Strasburg. The first New Testaments came to England in 1526, towards the end of February. As has been mentioned, it is a matter of some uncertainty as to the exact movements of Tyndale, as his aim was to remain in relative obscurity to avoid any dangers. However, it is recorded on every hand that he met with Luther and seems to have been greatly impressed by him.
About this time, with the planning of a merchant friend of Tyndale, Tunstall began buying the Bibles from the merchants and then burning them. This providentially worked in Tyndale’s favour as now he had the money to print more – and gave himself to further revision and translation. Tunstall expended vast sums of money for a time before he became aware that his money was being used to further and perfect this work of translation. Of all the thousands of copies which found their way into England, the very few which remain today are in museums and libraries.
Tyndale not only worked at translation, but while moving from place to place wrote The Practise of Prelates, which was a scathing rebuke of the abuses in the Churches. He also wrote The Obedience of the Christian Man. These works found their way into the hands of the common man and the King of England and a New Testament also was placed in the hands of another almost equally famous personage, which we shall discuss in the third and final part of the life of this valiant champion of Christ and His Truth.

_______________________________

“As the stars do not make heaven, but only decorate and adorn it, even so works do not merit Heaven, but adorn and decorate the faith which justifieth.” Luther

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THE LIFE AND WORK OF WILLIAM TYNDALE PART 3

 

THE LIFE AND WORK OF WILLIAM TYNDALE

By: Michael Hobbis

Part 3 (of 3)

In Part 2 of our account of the life of Tyndale, we last left him as having been furnished with extra funds to continue with the work of further revision of his translation of the New Testament. These funds came about by a merchant friend of Tyndale, ostensibly providing help to Bishop Tunstall to buy all of Tyndale’s translated

Scriptures coming from the presses of Europe, which Tunstall in a great display promptly burnt. This, in turn, gave Tyndale more money to continue with his major work of revision and Old Testament translation. We learn from Foxe that while he was sailing to Hamburg to print the translation of Deuteronomy, there was a great storm at sea and Tyndale lost ‘both money, his copies and time’. With Coverdale – with whom he was now working – he had to begin all over again – the Pentateuch being completed between Easter and December and printed in January, 1530 in Antwerp.

Tyndale was prodigious in his labours and in 1531 also translated Jonah and a revised Genesis. The great work of the year 1534 was a completely revised New Testament, with further slight revision in 1535. This was in addition to his previously published polemical works, already mentioned: The Obedience of the Christian Man and The Practise of Prelates and further work on the Old Testament.

The history of the English Bible at this time is admittedly unclear in its detail, but it is believed that every year on average since its first issue, a new edition had been printed and sent by merchants and other means to England. During this period of Tyndale’s labours for the Lord, he also was involved in a drawn out controversy with Sir Thomas More, who had, using all his erudition, sought to ridicule and discredit the faithful translator and Reformer. In 1529, More published a considerable volume entitled ‘The Dialogue’. This extensive work was a defence of the Church in its use in worship of images, penances, praying to saints and going on pilgrimages et al. This was a reaction to such books of Tyndale as ‘The Wicked Mammon’ and ‘The Obedience’, which reached England as More was preparing this tome. This literary assault upon Tyndale was written with all the consummate skill More could bring to it, but Tyndale had the Truth on his side and was more than capable of a clear and spiritual response. His ‘Practise of Prelate’s’ was an initial defence, but in 1531 he wrote ‘The Answer’; this more comprehensive work was plainly written and its straightforward arguments silenced most of More’s accusations. However, Sir Thomas More bitterly persisted with a further polemical work ‘The Confutation’; this second attack by More was regarded even by his friends as a failure, being some ten times the size of Tyndale’s ‘The Answer’.

With no certain dwelling place, and in the midst of these distractions from enemies such as More and the over-zealous monks Roye and Joye, this indefatigable soldier of Christ laboured so that you and I could hold in our hands the Word of the Living God, understandable and pure.

There were happier times during Tyndale’s self-imposed exile in Europe; viz. two wonderful influences upon the Royal courts of England, or should we rather say God’s work of providence, in regard to Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, his Queen. The first is the account whereby a maid of the Queen had obtained from her a copy of Tyndale’s work, The Obedience of the Christian Man; this book was in turn borrowed by a male friend who was so taken with its contents that he was loathe to return it. The maid, in much distress, confided in the Queen who, in turn, appealed to Henry for assistance, who obtained its return. Henry, curious as to its contents, began to read it, upon which he exclaimed ‘this is a book for me and for all Kings to read’. Such are the marvellous workings of the King of Kings.

Moreover, Anne, it seems, had so much sympathy with the work of the Reformation, that when a certain merchant, Richard Herman, was arrested and held in Antwerp for aiding in the distribution of Tyndale’s translated New Testament, she wrote a letter to Thomas Cromwell desiring him to use his influence in giving this man his freedom again. She wrote:.

Anne the Queen: Trusty and right well-beloved, we greet you well; and whereas we be credibly informed, that the bearer hereof Richard Herman, merchant and citizen of Antwerp, in Brabant, was in the time of the late Lord Cardinal put and expelled from his freedom and fellowship of and in the English house there, for nothing else, as he affirmeth, but only that he did, both with his goods and policy, to his great hurt and hindrance in this world, help to the setting forth of the New Testament in English: we therefore desire and instantly pray you, that with all speed and favour convenient, ye will cause this good and honest merchant, being my Lord’s true, faithful and loving subject, to be restored to his pristine freedom, liberty and fellowship aforesaid, and the sooner at this our request, and at your good leisure, to hear him in such things as he hath to make further relation unto you in this behalf:

Given under our signet, at my Lord’s Manor of Greenwich, the 14th day of May.

Herman was indeed given his freedom and Tyndale, in gratitude for Anne’s generous protection, gave her a beautifully illustrated New Testament, tooled – and in large gilt letters on the edge – are inscribed the words Anna, Angliae Regina. Tyndale’s name nowhere appears on it and it is without preface. As has been remarked, the Bible needs no dedications to ‘Most High and Princes’. This precious volume was bequeathed to the British Museum by a Rev. Cracherode who, it seems, had rebound it.

Later there was a bitter controversy between Tyndale and George Joye, the aforementioned Reformed monk from England, also in self-imposed exile. This man, who had merely been assisting Tyndale, had taken it upon himself to produce his own revised and corrected New Testament, much to Tyndale’s dismay. This new work of George Joye was undertaken without Tyndale’s knowledge and by a man who, it seems, had little knowledge of the Greek and knew only Latin with any proficiency. It contained many errors and was a sad episode in the life of Tyndale, whose only desire was to give to the ordinary Englishman, in his own tongue, the Holy Scriptures of God as true to the originals as he could. Needless to say, as with another troublesome itinerant Reformed monk years before of a similar name, William Roye, these two also parted company.

Tyndale had been wrought upon to return to England by Cromwell, who dispatched Stephen Vaughan, a man who was favourably inclined to the Reformers. He was commissioned to seek out Tyndale and offer him safe passage to England. Happily, at this time, Tyndale refused. Vaughan himself declared that: ‘It is unlikely to get Tyndale into England, when he daily heareth so many things from thence that feareth him’.

This turned out to be a wise move on the translator’s part, since Bilney and Bayfield had been consigned to the stake, while John Frith, who had returned to the land of his birth from Tyndale and Europe, had been consigned to the Tower and was also later cruelly martyred on July 4th, 1533. Tyndale had already offended Henry by publishing the Practise of Prelates and, like John the Baptist before him, had reproved the King for his adulteries. Henry could, at any stage, have ordered officials in Europe to arrest Tyndale, but such was the animosity between Henry and the Emperor Charles that, while hostilities lasted, Charles would not have given up Tyndale to satisfy Henry.

For two years, 1533-1535, Tyndale resided at Antwerp and we learn from John Foxe that he lived frugally and kept two days a week for himself, which he termed ‘his pastime’. These were Mondays and Saturdays, which he kept for visiting the poor men and women who had fled England from persecution into Antwerp. He spent these ‘pastime’ days travelling the length and breadth of the city to give alms to any poor refugees he could find. He had been supported financially himself by the wealthy merchants among whom he lived and, in turn, shared this largesse with these needy souls. He ministered in the Scriptures on the Lord’s Day in the home of various merchants, when it is said he did ‘sweetly, gently and fruitfully read’ and, we may assume, expound the Bible to them too. It was towards the close of this period that he published a further revised and improved edition of the New Testament in 1535, when, for the first time, headings were provided by him to the Gospels and Acts.

Now the dark clouds of treachery and dangerous mists of intrigue were beginning to swirl around Tyndale and, like so many Godly martyrs before him, he had fought a good fight and was about to finish his course. This man had lived an abstemious life from his earliest days, which was beyond reproach by even his enemies. His greatest enemy, Sir Thomas More, declared that Tyndale was ‘well known for right good living, studious and well learned in the Scripture, and looked and preached holily’. He lived his life to bring the Gospel to the ordinary Englishman and was an embodiment of its sweet and holy influences. Our God, in His own purposes and decrees, sometimes chooses to show great kindness of grace in saving the very worst of sinners and restores the greatest backsliders to His own praise and glory. In other cases, as with William Tyndale, He shows the wonders of loving kindness and power in keeping them from all outward sin and in lives of consecrated single-minded holiness. Our great shame in this nation is that for many ‘a great prophet has been among us and we knew it not’.

Tyndale, in his latter years in Belgium, had been given hospitality in the home of wealthy merchants. A large mansion had been provided to the English merchants by the magistrates of Antwerp. In addition to this, it was one of the happy privileges of the Antwerpians that none could be arrested on suspicion alone, or held without trial for longer than three days. As long as Tyndale did not venture too far abroad, he might live in comparative safety. Sir Thomas More had been deposed and imprisoned and the Reformation had been forwarded by Cromwell and Cranmer who were now in the ascendancy; so the threats from England were not what they once were.

Now Tyndale sheltered beneath the roof of the ‘English House’ under the patronage of the merchant Thomas Poyntz. So long as he stayed there he could not be arrested, for the rule was that none but great criminals could be brought out from thence. Like Daniel, he declined the dainties of the well-laid table in the house, preferring, it is said: ‘Sodden meat and a small beer’. But very devious plans were now afoot to secure Tyndale’s arrest, which was to lead to his eventual martyrdom. Poyntz had left on business and now one Henry Phillips, a Catholic monk from England, who had recently made friends of the local merchants, also made the acquaintance of Tyndale. By guile, and because of the gentle simplicity of Tyndale, he was able by a ruse to entice him into the alleys and byways of Antwerp, where he was set upon by agents of Phillips who had, like Judas, pointed his finger above this poor man’s head as he walked behind him. Henry Phillips had been acting for those Catholics who hated what Tyndale was doing and, in truth, were even opposed to King Henry VIII, because of his split from the Pope. Upon his arrest, both Cromwell and, surprisingly, even Henry did what they could to secure Tyndale’s release; but all to no avail. He was held for 135 days in the castle of Vilvorde. Neither Cromwell nor Henry could actively interfere in the matter because of the bad relationship with Charles V, that it would no doubt have made things worse. They could only make appeals; indeed Poyntz himself was arrested for trying to secure his friend’s release and only just managed to escape to England.

While in the damp and cold castle dungeons, Tyndale, as with another in the prison of the Emperor Nero, asked the Marquis of Bergen-op-Zoom, an acquaintance of Cromwell, for a warmer coat, a light to read by, a Hebrew Bible and a Hebrew Dictionary and Grammar, that he might spend his time in study. Cromwell had already appealed to this man to intercede in Tyndale’s favour. Whether he received these mercies we know not, but we do know that he translated the Hebrew Bible as far as Chronicles before his death, which was transmitted to John Rogers, another later Marian martyr, to be printed by him with the Pentateuch and the New Testament, which is known as Matthew’s Bible. This seems to suggest that he did receive such mercies.

Tyndale’s long trial began in 1536, after which he was condemned to be strangled and then burned at Vilvorde on Friday, October 6th. The only detail we have concerning this faithful man’s martyrdom is from Foxe who said that this martyr cried at the stake with fervent zeal and a loud voice, ‘Lord, open the King of England’s eyes’. Tyndale had for some years expected this end and had stated that he knew that, for him, there was no other way into the Kingdom of Christ than through persecution, suffering and pain.

We leave this true Christian in his place as one of that great cloud of witnesses of whom the world was not worthy. The next time we pick up the Bible to read, may we perhaps consider what treasure our Lord has given us, in that we each have access to the Words of life and, by His grace, the cost of the lives of His faithful servants, such as William Tyndale. Let us also remember the even greater debt we owe to the One who is the very Word Himself, even Jesus Christ our Lord, without whose life and death and His precious blood given for us at the cross for our ransom, Tyndale himself would have had no hope of eternal life and peace.

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ASCRIBE YE GREATNESS UNTO OUR GOD

Deuteronomy 32 : 1-4.

These scripture verses are part of the song of Moses. It is said that this song of Moses will be sung in heaven and are the directly inspired words given to him by the Holy Ghost; that is from the very lips of Jehovah. As David also said: “The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.”

These opening verses give us a sense of the awe with which we should approach this Scripture. Words which are meant to bring the very fear of God into our hearts and minds. Words which speak of God’s majesty and power. These words are spoken by THE WORD – even Christ the great I AM.

Give ear, O ye heaven, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. Who is to listen? All the inhabitants of heaven and earth which He created; “Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.” Psalm 33: 8.

These words of instruction, for that is what they are, will have differing effects (see 2 Timothy 3: 16). The manifestations of God’s communication to men is often compared to rain in its many forms. The Hebrew here it seems implies the gentle rain of the still small voice of God; to the sweeping rain of tempestuous gales. From the almost imperceptible dew of the applied doctrine the Holy Ghost silently working in the hearts of men; sometimes sealing their instruction even as they sleep: to the drops of the angry voice of God’s wrath, heavy storm drops multiplied beyond calculation. Such is the living and powerful Word spoken by God; dividing asunder the very soul and spirit of man. Hebrews 4: 12.

Christ our Rock
In the following song the Word Rock is mentioned many times. Who is that Rock but Christ? – “For who is God, save Jehovah? And who is a rock save our God?” 1 Samuel 22: 32. That same Rock Who followed the children of Israel as they journeyed. The Following words of the song of Moses, the man of God, speak of the goodness of God to His people in His leading, protecting and feeding them, and their sinful returns to Him by their turning aside and ingratitude. The ‘rock’ of the heathen is compared to their Rock the True God. Finally, as an epilogue to this song, and in demonstration that the very best of men, are but men after all, Moses is told to ascend mount Nebo, where he is to behold the land with his eyes, but tragically will never set foot upon because of his transgression at Meribah.

Giving to God the glory
All this sad, but awesome and glorious song, accentuates the holiness, mercy and justice of God, set against the blackness of man’s rebellious course. Now we are commanded here in verse 3 to “ascribe greatness to God”, we must ask what this truly means. To ascribe is to attribute, or assign something to a person. Firstly, in spiritual terms it is to give unto God the glory due to His name. Moses says here: Because I will publish the name of Jehovah: ascribe ye greatness unto our God.

This act of ascribing greatness unto Jehovah God is to be undertaken here on earth and it will be the theme of heaven – we might say it will be the very atmosphere of heaven. Revelation 7: 9-12. Natural man would never be happy in heaven, having no capacity to see God as reconciled to him: but rather as a consuming fire. Having no delight in his Creator he will not, let’s say cannot, delight in glorifying God.

We know of men, men of earthly power and renown, who have been destroyed for not ascribing greatness to God. Herod who after making a vain oration to the people, was destroyed by Divine visitation; because when those same people attributed divinity to him, he did not return the glory to God who gave him breath. In a like manner was Nebuchadnezzar humbled for a season for his pride, and yet finally and happily ascribed to Jehovah the glory due to His name. Acts 12: 20-23; Daniel 4:34.

It was Belshazzar before whom God’s hand wrote out his doom upon the wall in the midst of his sacrilege and idolatry; although he had known of the humbling of his father Nebuchadnezzar for his pride. Daniel interpreted God’s message to this Belshazzar telling him: “and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways hast thou not glorified.” This same Belshazzar was deposed and killed, according to the writing, in the same night. Daniel 5: 23. Each time you and I display pride and self -sufficiency we are in effect stealing the glory which alone belongs to God. “I am Jehovah that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.” Isaiah 42: 8.

Our joy in earth and heaven
Since our eternal delight in heavenly places will be to attribute to God Greatness, Power and Glory, then we should surely be much engaged in that pleasurably work now. Remembering that all things in heaven and earth were created for His holy pleasure, and we especially as the Redeemed are saved to the praise of His glory and grace for all His love, mercy and kindness to us.

In the paraphrased words of Psalm 92: Sweet is the work my God and King to praise thy name give thanks and sing… We sing psalms and hymns to His glory; we perhaps are apt to forget that the psalms which we love so well and by the operation of the Holy Spirit give us so much guidance and comfort, are, if they are anything, essentially songs which sound out the glory and greatness of God.

What is it to ascribe greatness to God.
As Moses says in our scripture here, it is to publish the name of The LORD/ JEHOVAH. THE GREAT I AM, the Living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (see also Exodus 3:13-15; and 34:6-7)

To ascribe greatness to God and publish His name, is to willingly and joyfully show what and who God is, and what He has done, and what He is doing now. His name is all His works and ways and His attributes seen in them. His Perfection of Mercy, Goodness, Truth, Holiness, Power, Justice, Love and Everlasting kindness. Some of those are mentioned here in verse 4. It is never possible to engage in hyperbole when speaking of the greatness of our God. We may exaggerate the qualities of mere men; but never God Himself. It is not possible to exaggerate the infinite, it cannot be done, we may never fear outdoing our praise and worship of our Triune God. As Charles Wesley’s hymn sweetly says:

Through all eternity, to thee
A grateful song I’ll raise;
But O eternity’s too short
To utter all thy praise!

The Works of the LORD are great.Psalm 111
All the world may see, were their eyes opened, the eternal power and Godhead of their Creator in the works of creation and providence. As David by the Holy Ghost exclaimed in Psalm 8: “When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained, What is man that thou art mindful of him?” It was Job overcome by the majesty and power of God in His works, who laid his hand upon his mouth and exclaimed: “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

It is chiefly by Christ as Jehovah the Creator that God’s wonderful works are seen. In truth in Revelation 5: 13 it is to God the Father on the throne and the Lamb of God Jehovah Jesus at His right hand that greatness power and glory are ascribed.

Jesus said that in His work on earth He came to declare the Father and this is a part of Jesus’ glory that God is seen in Jesus Christ the very image of the Father. As our Saviour said to the disciples: “He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father”, and that all men should give equal glory to the Son, to the Holy Ghost and to the Father; all three persons of the godhead being, as the shorter catechism Q. 6 declares: the same in substance, and equal in power and glory. The redeeming and the declaring work of God in Christ Jesus is surely the central aspect in which the wonderful attributes of God are seen and supply the major motivation for the praises and worship of the glorified saints. John 15

In the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ is seen who God is, here He is described as The Rock and the pleasurable work of the saints on earth is to praise and glorify God through and by that same Jesus. Yet not all Christ’s Redeemed are possessed of the same strength of faith as others, as faith and experience grow, so does praise; again the psalmist says: “But I will hope continually, and yet praise thee more and more.” It is the knowledge and sense of His favour which opens our mouth in worship and adoration. The more we know God in Christ Jesus; so the more will we love Him and ascribe greatness to the King of Glory. Psalm 71:14.

The testimony of our fathers
We may also consider God works of old and what our fathers have told us. Whether it be the deluge of Noah’s age, the parting of the seas and rivers for the children of Israel with the destruction of Pharaoh and all their enemies. Or closer to our time the power of Jehovah in the conversion of thousands in the Early Church, and more recently still, the wonderful revivals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In our text in verse 4, Moses ascribes to God the greatness of His work of Judgment, Truth, Holiness – the perfection of all His ways and works. It was the Holy Spirit who also spoke by Paul too when he said in Romans 11: 33; O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

The ways of God
By the ways of God is meant His providential dealings in the world. God’s works of providence are His controlling and ordering all events in the world; past, present and future. It is said by some, that a butterfly flapping its wings in South America can have an influence upon the weather conditions in the Northern Hemisphere. But whatever the truth of this theory, it is our God who controls even the movement of the butterfly’s wings: such is the omnipotent power of our Lord and Saviour. We may well lay our hand upon our mouth in amazement as we consider the providential dealings of Jehovah God in this world. The book of Esther displays but a small part of the wonderful ways of God in providence and the greatness of Christ our God who upholds all things by the Word of his power. What wonders we have seen our own nation’s deliverances from the Armada, Gunpowder plot and God’s deliverance in two world wars, which some today still among us have seen with their own eyes. We have our own Purim to celebrate in praise of our God.

But surely when we see in the cross of Christ Jesus and by the determinate counsel of God; mercy and truth meeting together; and righteousness and peace kissing each other in our eternal salvation, and with no diminution of God’s holiness, justice and truth, but rather in the greater and clearer display of them, then in the words of Sheba the queen of the South – there is no more breath in us!

In our ascribing greatness to God we are in effect saying that nothing is impossible to Him and none can stay His hand. The same God who turns the heart of kings withersoever He will and says of Cyrus: “He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure…”

If this be so, then is it not irrational, and even sinful, to be uncertain, afraid, or timid, in the service of such a Captain? And yet how sadly we seem to deny the power of our LORD to defend and keep us. We praise and worship our God for His omnipotent power, His controlling all events: yet become very concerned when we are suddenly visited with losses and afflictions.

His Truth is inviolable, yet we often fail to believe Him. How grievous a thing is this.

It is our shame that our unbelief detracts from our praises, but even in this we see the need for the greatness of Divine mercy and grace to forgive, restore and strengthen us. And we worship God for His faithfulness.

Christ and our salvation from sin
It is the motive for our love, praise and service now that the greatness of God is displayed in our complete and perfect salvation from sin, death and destruction, and as we trace the wonderful workings of God in our lives, in bringing about our reconciliation to him with the gift of life eternal, we are quite overcome at times, and we are like them that dream when we see that our captivity has been so turned again. Every attribute of God is displayed in our redemption.

But, however wonderful the sight by faith; O the open view in glory of all that belongs to our salvation. It will be the new song in heaven that we are the redeemed Church saved from all our sins. That the Lord Jesus Christ, against Whom we committed innumerable crimes and rejected and despised for a time. Loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood. These are things which we often reflect on, yet know so little now of the full extent of the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. There when we shall know, even as we are known, and when the full light of the knowledge of the glory of God shines in our sanctified hearts then as Murray McCheyne so aptly says:

‘When this passing world is done,
When has sunk yon glaring sun,
When we stand with Christ on high,
Looking o’er life’s history;
Then, Lord, shall I fully know,
Not till then, how much I owe.”
and so praise shall be perfected in ascribing to God greatness and power and glory for ever and ever. Continue Reading

TRANSUBSTANTIATION: 800th

TRANSUBSTANTIATION: 800th Anniversary

This year marks the 800th Anniversary of the Fourth Lateran Council of the Roman Catholic Church. Opened by Pope Innocent lll on 15th November 1215 it issued 70 Papal Decrees (Canons) among which the Doctrine of Transubstantiation was made dogma, ie compulsory to believe.

J.C. Ryle, the Evangelical first Bishop of Liverpool, says that it was because the Protestant Reformers rejected this doctrine of Transubstantiation that they were condemned to die by burning at the stake. They denied the Roman Catholic doctrine of the real presence in the Mass.

The Doctrine of Transubstantiation teaches that during the Mass a material change takes place in the bread and wine under the consecration prayers of the priest. Although they look and taste like the original article, the bread and wine are said to become the very body and blood of Jesus Christ as it was on the Cross. It means that the Lord’s Table, a simple meal in memory of the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, becomes another sacrifice, as took place at Calvary.

Shortly afterwards, in 1229 at the Council of Valencia the Bible was placed on the list of ‘Forbidden Books’, so that from now on, no layman could read, hear it read or interpret the Bible for himself. Any found doing so would be subject to severe punishment. So for many years lay people had no way of knowing if what the Church taught was true or false until 1538 when King Henry Vlll had a Bible in English chained in every Parish Church in England. When Henry died in 1547, his young son Edward Vl introduced a new Prayer Book in English for Public Worship.

It was now that many Sussex men and women realised that so much of what the Church had taught was false and in particular the Bible did not support the doctrine of Transubstantiation.

In 1553 Catholic Queen Mary came to the throne. She restored the Roman Catholic religion and reversed the reforms her brother had introduced. She made the Mass compulsory and took away the Prayer Book in English. There were many people who rejected her reforms preferring to read the Bible and the Prayer Book in English. A group of ten men were doing just this in Derek Carver’s home in Brighton in October 1554 when the Sheriff of Sussex broke in and caught them ‘in the very act’.

At his first trial before Bishop Bonner Deryk Carver boldly declared that he rejected the doctrine of Transubstantiation, declaring the Latin Mass ‘unprofitable’ and admitting that the Bible and Prayer Book in English were regularly read in his house. He said that ‘the religion taught by the church was not agreeable to God’s Word, but clean contrary to the same’. Condemned as a heretic he was taken to Lewes and was burned at the stake on 22nd July 1555. Carver, 40 years old, was the first Sussex Protestant Martyr.

The simple question they were asked was, ”Do you or do you not believe that the body and blood of Christ which was born of the virgin Mary are really, that is corporally, literally, locally and materially present on the altar under the forms of bread and wine after the mystical words of consecration have passed the lips of the priest?”

If they denied it they were condemned as heretics and sent to be burned at the stake. During Mary’s reign 36 Sussex Bible believing Protestants were among the 288 men and women throughout this land that died in this way.

Article 28 of the 39 Articles of Religion found in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer still used by the Church of England states: ”Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of bread and wine) in the Supper of the Lord cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture”

While Article 31 reads: “ … the sacrifices of Masses, in which it was commonly said the Priest did offer Christ for the quick (living) and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits”.

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