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Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 27 - February/March 2009 > A History of the Christian Church - Part Seventeen

A History of the Christian Church

Part Seventeen

compiled by Denis Jenkins

Title      A History of the Christian Church
Part       Seventeen
Theme   Tyndale Martyr and Reformer In England.

This is Part 17 in the series. Parts 1 to 16 can be found by referring to the index of articles via this link --> Index to Articles

The history of the Christian Church is the story of the battle between good and evil.  It is the story of the Great Controversy between God and Lucifer.  Lucifer who desired to consider himself to be equal with God wanted to have the power and authority of God himself.  God exercises his authority in love but in contrast Lucifer exercises his authority by force.  We are told  that to understand which power or spirit is behind any movement we are to test the spirits.  The spirit-motivated organisation that confesses Jesus as Lord and demonstrates authority through love is driven by the spirit of God

(1 John 4: 1-3  Test the Spirits "Confessing Jesus as Lord, and Love determine our connection to the power of God"   Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

John 13:34-35  "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." ).

Any organisation of people who exercise power through force and without love are those motivated by the power and authority of Lucifer.  While God has given Lucifer freedom to reveal himself to this world and to the universe while bound to this earth, God has not allowed the truth and identity of His character and the details of the Gospel to be lost and obliterated from the knowledge of mankind.  Lucifer has tried his best to bury the word of God through what is known as the Dark ages, but God has preserved his word and message of the Gospel through faithful men and women who risked their very lives to pass on the Gospel in its simplicity and purity of God's character.   William Tyndale was one such man of God who dedicated his life to defending the truth of the Gospel at the cost of his very own life.

William Tyndale, a faithful minister of Christ, was born on the Welsh border.  He grew up from a child under the influence of Oxford University.  His long association with Oxford from such a young age caused Tyndale to become expert in languages, liberal arts specialising in the knowledge of the scriptures.  It has been said that the young William's mind was singularly addicted to God's word.  As a young man and student, William Tyndale instructed groups of students in the truth of the scriptures.  Students from Oxford said of William that he was a man who walked the talk and was a virtuous man and a life unspotted.

William Tyndale for a while also studied and spread the word of God in Cambridge University.  This position did not last long.  William became acquainted with Master Welch, a Knight of Gloucestershire whose children William was asked to teach.  This position helped William Tyndale to be introduced to some of the most influential clergy and thinkers of his day.  The knight was a very social man and so he invited a steady stream of these influential people to meals where William was given the opportunity to share with these learned people the truths of scripture that he had discovered through his extensive study of scripture.

Not everyone agreed with William.  But, William was able to refute any erroneous arguments put to him by these learned people with simple evidence of the scripture itself.  This did not make William popular with them and many learned people in England began to show jealousy and to hold a grudge against William Tyndale.  They were afraid that if the truth of God's word was made plain to the ordinary people that the clergy would lose control over the people.  it was William Tyndale's desire that the scriptures be translated into the vulgar speech of the poor and the uneducated so that they could read and understand the word of God for themselves.  William stated that the mischief in the church was caused by the scriptures being hidden from the peoples' eyes.  William accused the clergy of wresting the scripture to suit their own purposes leading people to believe contrary to the text of scripture.  For these reasons, William was stirred to translate the scripture into the peoples' mother tongue.  He first started with the New Testament and then tackled parts of the Old Testament.  The New Testament was printed in 1525.

It became too dangerous for William Tyndale to remain at the Knight's house as William believed that it would put the knight's family at risk.  So William Tyndale for a while stayed in London but soon travelled to Germany where he felt safer while translating and publishing the new translation of the scriptures.

Cuthbert Tonstal, the Bishop of London, but some sources say it was the Bishop of Durham, and Sir Thomas Moore, the Chancellor of England, were opposed to this "new heretical translation" as they called it.  The Bishop  conspired to buy all the New Testaments that William could produce and then burn them.  So the Bishop made arrangements with a wholesaler and merchant, Augustine Packington, to buy all the New testamants and paid him well to do it.  The Merchant did not let on that he was a friend of William Tyndale.  The deal was made and so the money was passed over and the merchant delivered the books.  But what the Bishop did not know was that the merchant passed the money on  to William Tyndale who was now cashed up to print thousands more New Testaments.  They then flowed into England in three times the quantity  that William could have printed in the first place.  The Bishop was dismayed that his plan did not work and from then on conspired to bring William Tyndale to his knees.  Tonstal or the Bishop of Durham, whoever it was, went back to the merchant and said that he had paid Packington to buy all the New Testaments.  Packington's answer was, "I did as you asked.  I bought all the books that he had.  But I cannot stop him from printing more."  Even though the devil had tried to thwart Tyndale's efforts, the very act of trying to deviously side track the publication of Gods word, the very act funded many more New Testaments to be printed and the translations to be even more thoroughly edited.  God has his ways of turning what seems to be bad and devious into a blessing.

Sir Thomas Moore being the Chancellor of England, decided to search out some of Tyndale's sympathisers.  He found George Constintine to ask him how William Tyndale was managing to keep on printing so many New Testaments even though the Bishop  had bought them all.  Who are William's Financiers, Sir Thomas asked hoping that he might put an end to such funding.  George Constintine turned to Sir Thomas with a smile and said "sir I will tell you truthfully that it is the Bishop of London who is funding us."

Lucifer had another attempt at stopping William Tyndale's work in translating the Old Testament.  William had translated the book of Deuteronomy and decided to have it printed in Hamburg.  To get there he took a ship up the Dutch coast.  The ship became shipwrecked; William lost his manuscripts.  They had to be written all over again.  William continued to Hamburg on another ship where he was met by Master Coverdale.  Coverdale helped William to regain the book of Deuteronomy but also helped him translate all five books of Moses.  Such was the dedicated tenacity of these men of God and great was God's gift to William in supplying Coverdale to push William's translation work ahead even though his work had been once again sabotaged by evil forces trying to hinder God's word from reaching the poor and uninformed people of England.

The hundreds of New Testaments finding their way to many ordinary English people brought great insight to their understanding of the wonderful truth of the Gospel.  They began to understand just how far they had been misled, by the Roman Church, from God's simple plain truths of salvation.  They had needless financial burdens placed on them, guilt loaded on their shoulders and their kept ignorant of God's promises to his people of the forgiveness of sin and righteousness by faith.  This weakened the Pope's power in the eyes of the English.  The opposition to the Pope was based on the errors that the Roman Church had exercised in leading the people to believe that salvation could be bought or earned through indulgences and had hidden the truth that salvation is the free Gift of God through the death of Jesus.  This deception was purely for the financial benefit of the Roman church. It was also evidence that the power of the Roman Church was not motivated by God as they did not confess Christ as the centre of salvation and used force and deception to exercise their authority.  The Roman Church has not changed its attitude to indulgences to this very day, even though the evidence of this has been hidden to the majority of the world.  On 5 July 2008, Pope Benedict xvi authorised a special indulgence for " Anyone who with a contrite spirit, raises a prayer to God, the Holy Spirit so that young people are drawn to Charity and given the strength to proclaim the Gospel with their life"....(Catholic Weekly, Sydney, 13 July 2008).  The article, in the Sydney Catholic Weekly, also reveals that Cardinal J Francis Stafford, head of the office that deals with indulgences, was giving a full indulgence for all young people who met in Sydney Australia with the Pope.  A full indulgence according to the article is the remission of the temporal punishment a person is due for sins that have been forgiven.  The Cardinal also revealed how sins were to be forgiven in the Roman Church.    "The Cardinal also asked priests around the world to make themselves available to hear confessions of those who want the indulgemces....."( Catholic Weekly, Sydney 13 July 2008).  The Roman church today continues to claim their authority for the forgiveness of sin through the confession to a priest.  We still have to earn our remission to free us from the punishment for our sins from their view point.   Therefore, the power of the death of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins and paying for our penalty through Christs death is still not confessed by the modern Roman Church.  As the scripture says, "Having the form of Godliness but denying its power".  The power of Godliness is in the confession that Christ is the centre of our salvation and has paid the price for our sins and we receive the mind of Christ through the Holy Spirit that provides us with the love of God.  This is the sign that we are Christ's disciples; a sign not revealed by the Roman Church to this day.

When Tyndale had despatched the New Testament to England, for the academics who were to read it, he placed an instruction.  "If anything is found amiss in this translation please amend it and discuss it with the translator".  It would have been courtesy and a spirit of love and gentleness if the academics had addressed things they thought were in error to have put the issue up for learned debate.  But the clergy who were not willing for the word of God to prosper, accused Tyndale for placing thousands of heresies in the text of scripture.  None of this was academically substantiated but there was a call for the New Testament to be instead suppressed.  Some of the accusers said that the English Language was so limited that it was impossible to translate the deep meanings of scripture into such a vulgar tongue.  Others said that it would give the ordinary people, of little learning, power to wrongfully interpret scripture thus causing a proliferation of heresy.  The accusers, to gain the King's ear, also inferred that the translation of the scriptures would cause the people to rebel against the King.

The English clergy in the Roman church instead purposely set out to examine the translations in such minutia that Tyndale said  "if the same effort had been exercised to translate the Old Testament they could have translated a great part of the entire Bible with less effort."  They scanned and examined every part of the translation comparing the message of scripture with their own imaginations and supposed understandings; instead  of comparing the translation with the origional text.  They were so determined to bring Tyndale down in the eyes of the people that even a dot over an "i" that was missing was counted to Tyndale as a heresy.

The English clergy, who should have been shining lights leading the people into God's truth, instead translated the scriptures to satisfy their own ambition and insatiable covetousness, by leading the people into vain superstition and false doctrine.  They also convinced the King that Tyndale was a threat to law and order.  So, Thomas Moore was set to the task of tracking down Tyndales where abouts and to find out all they could about his activities.  He did this by selecting an unsuspecting young learned man who was sent to Antwerp (in Belgium) to take Tyndale into his confidence in order to find some activity upon which they could lay a charge against Tyndale.  Henry Philips, the young man, took Tyndale to dinner many times, demonstrated interest in supporting his work and became a confidant causing Tyndale to feel safe in his company.  As a result, Tyndale trusted Henry Philips therefore showing him him his books , translations and other secrets of his study.

Henry Philips a short time later went to Brussels, informing the authorities what he had found out about Tyndale.  He returned with the emperor's attorney and police officers to Antwerp.  They surrounded the houseTyndale was staying in.   Phillips went in with the ruse of asking Tyndale to go to dinner with him.  Philips ushered Tyndale through the door first.  Philips, taking up the rear, as they approached the officers pointed to Tyndale as the one they should arrest.

Tyndale was put into prison.  He was offered a lawyer to speak for him.  Tyndale refused and said he would speak for himself.  Tyndale reasoned the matter before the Emporer's legal people.  It appeared that no reason would satisfy those accusing him.  Although it was agreed that he did not desrve to be sentenced to death, he was condemned by the Emperor's decree made in Augsburg.  Some conducting his case were convinced of his arguments to the extent that it was said of Tyndale, "If Tyndale was not considered a Christian man and was sentenced to death for falling short of that ideal, they did not know who then they could accept as being a good Christian".

Tyndale was eventually brought to the place of execution where he cried out for all those around to hear, "Lord open the King of England's eyes. " He was tied to the stake. The hangman strangled Tyndale and he was burnt  at the stake.  Such is the ferocity of the evil one to inhibit the spread of the scriptures.  In those days, Satan endeavoured to prevent the word of God being accessed.  With the word of God freely available to all today, Satan dilutes the power of the scripture by the action of liberal movements who are driven by materialism and self indulgence, those who are rich and increased in goods and do not feel the need of God's direction and guidance.

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