The Power of the Reformation & History of Protestant Reformers

The history of the reformers and the protestant reformation

This post covers the chronological history of the protestant reformers as mentioned in the book, The Great Controversy. (The book will be referred to as ‘GC’ in this post).

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What was the power behind the reformers

From the secret place of prayer came the power that shook the world in the Great Reformation. There, with holy calmness, the servants of the Lord set their feet upon the rock of His promises. During the struggle at Augsburg, Luther “did not pass a day without devoting three hours at least to prayer, and they were hours selected from those the most favorable to study.” In the privacy of his chamber he was heard to pour out his soul before God in words “full of adoration, fear, and hope, as when one speaks to a friend.” “I know that Thou art our Father and our God,” he said, “and that Thou wilt scatter the persecutors of Thy children; for Thou art Thyself endangered with us. All this matter is Thine, and it is only by Thy constraint that we have put our hands to it. Defend us, then, O Father!”– Ibid., b. 14, ch. 6.” (GC Chapter 11 – Protest of the princes)

“From the secret place of prayer came the power that shook the world in the Great Reformation. Click To Tweet

Who were the Protestant Reformers during the reformation?

Chapter 4 – The Waldenses

  1.    Waldenses – “The history of God’s people during the ages of darkness that followed upon Rome’s supremacy is written in heaven, but they have little place in human records. Few traces of their existence can be found, except in the accusations of their persecutors. It was the policy of Rome to obliterate every trace of dissent from her doctrines or decrees.” GC 61.2,
  •         “The Waldenses were among the first of the peoples of Europe to obtain a translation of the Holy Scriptures. (See Appendix.) Hundreds of years before the Reformation they possessed the Bible in manuscript in their native tongue. They had the truth unadulterated, and this rendered them the special objects of hatred and persecution. They declared the Church of Rome to be the apostate Babylon of the Apocalypse, and at the peril of their lives they stood up to resist her corruptions” GC 65.2

Chapter 5 – John Wycliffe(England)

  1.    John Wycliffe – “Before the Reformation there were at times but very few copies of the Bible in existence, but God had not suffered His word to be wholly destroyed. Its truths were not to be forever hidden”. GC 79.1
  •         “In the fourteenth century arose in England the “morning star of the Reformation.” John Wycliffe was the herald of reform, not for England alone, but for all Christendom. The great protest against Rome which it was permitted him to utter was never to be silenced. That protest opened the struggle which was to result in the emancipation of individuals, of churches, and of nations.” GC 80.1

Chapter 6 – Huss and Jerome (Bohemia – modern western Czech)

  1.    John Huss and Jerome,
  •         “John Huss(aka Jan Hus) was of humble birth, and was early left an orphan by the death of his father.
  •         “A citizen of Prague, Jerome, who afterward became so closely associated with Huss, had, on returning from England, brought with him the writings of Wycliffe.” GC 99.2
  •         “Hitherto Huss had stood alone in his labors; but now Jerome, who while in England had accepted the teachings of Wycliffe, joined in the work of reform. The two were hereafter united in their lives, and in death they were not to be divided. Brilliancy of genius, eloquence and learning—gifts that win popular favor—were possessed in a pre-eminent degree by Jerome; but in those qualities which constitute real strength of character, Huss was the greater. His calm judgment served as a restraint upon the impulsive spirit of Jerome, who, with true humility, perceived his worth, and yielded to his counsels. Under their united labors the reform was more rapidly extended.” GC 102.3

Chapter 7 – Luther’s separation from Rome (Germany)

  1.    Martin Luther – “Foremost among those who were called to lead the church from the darkness of popery into the light of a purer faith, stood Martin Luther.” GC 120.1,
  2.    Philip Melanchthon – …”At this time, when Luther so much needed the sympathy and counsel of a true friend, God’s providence sent Melanchthon to Wittenberg. Young in years, modest and diffident in his manners, Melanchthon’s sound judgment, extensive knowledge, and winning eloquence, combined with the purity and uprightness of his character, won universal admiration and esteem. The brilliancy of his talents was not more marked than his gentleness of disposition. He soon became an earnest disciple of the gospel, and Luther’s most trusted friend and valued supporter; his gentleness, caution, and exactness serving as a complement to Luther’s courage and energy. Their union in the work added strength to the Reformation and was a source of great encouragement to Luther.” GC 134.2,
Foremost among those who were called to lead the church from the darkness of popery into the light of a purer faith, stood Martin Luther. Click To Tweet

Chapter 9 – The Swiss Reformer(Switzerland)

  1.    Ulric Zwingli – “A few weeks after the birth of Luther in a miner’s cabin in Saxony, Ulric Zwingli was born in a herdsman’s cottage among the Alps”… GC 171.2
  •         “The doctrine preached by Zwingli was not received from Luther. It was the doctrine of Christ. “If Luther preaches Christ,” said the Swiss Reformer, “he does what I am doing. Those whom he has brought to Christ are more numerous than those whom I have led. But this matters not. I will bear no other name than that of Christ, whose soldier I am, and who alone is my Chief. Never has one single word been written by me to Luther, nor by Luther to me. And why? … That it might be shown how much the Spirit of God is in unison with itself, since both of us, without any collusion, teach the doctrine of Christ with such uniformity.”—D’Aubigne, b. 8, ch. 9” GC 174.2

Chapter 11 – Protest of the princes(Germany)

  1.    Princes – “One of the noblest testimonies ever uttered for the Reformation was the Protest offered by the Christian princes of Germany at the Diet of Spires in 1529” GC 197.1,

Chapter 12 – French Reformation(France)

  1.    Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples – “In France, before the name of Luther had been heard as a Reformer, the day had already begun to break. One of the first to catch the light was the aged Lefevre, a man of extensive learning, a professor in the University of Paris, and a sincere and zealous papist. In his researches into ancient literature his attention was directed to the Bible, and he introduced its study among his students.” GC 212.1,
  2.    William Farel + Calvin – “There were some among Lefevre’s students who listened eagerly to his words, and who, long after the teacher’s voice should be silenced, were to continue to declare the truth. Such was William Farel” GC 213.2,
  3.   Louis de Berquin – regarding him the papists said “He is worse than Luther,” . (The History of Protestantism  b. 13, ch. 9)

Chapter 13 – The Netherlands and Scandinavia

  1.   Menno Simmons (Holland)– “From one of the provinces of Holland came Menno Simons. Educated a Roman Catholic and ordained to the priesthood, he was wholly ignorant of the Bible, and he would not read it for fear of being beguiled into heresy… After a time he was led to the study of the New Testament, and this, with Luther’s writings, caused him to accept the reformed faith ” GC 238.3
  2.   Women – “The rage of the persecutors was equaled by the faith of the martyrs. Not only men but delicate women and young maidens displayed unflinching courage. “Wives would take their stand by their husband’s stake, and while he was enduring the fire they would whisper words of solace, or sing psalms to cheer him.” “Young maidens would lie down in their living grave as if they were entering into their chamber of nightly sleep; or go forth to the scaffold and the fire, dressed in their best apparel, as if they were going to their marriage.”—Ibid., b. 18, ch. 6. (GC 240.2)
  3.   Hans Tausen (Denmark) – “Tausen, “the Reformer of Denmark,” was a peasant’s son. The boy early gave evidence of vigorous intellect; he thirsted for an education; but this was denied him by the circumstances of his parents, and he entered a cloister. Here the purity of his life, together with his diligence and fidelity, won the favor of his superior. Examination showed him to possess talent that promised at some future day good service to the church. It was determined to give him an education at some one of the universities of Germany or the Netherlands. The young student was granted permission to choose a school for himself, with one proviso, that he must not go to Wittenberg. The scholar of the church was not to be endangered by the poison of heresy. So said the friars.” GC 241.1
  4.   Olaf and Laurentius Petri(brothers) (Sweden) – “In Sweden, also, young men who had drunk from the well of Wittenberg carried the water of life to their countrymen. Two of the leaders in the Swedish Reformation, Olaf and Laurentius Petri, the sons of a blacksmith of Orebro, studied under Luther and Melanchthon, and the truths which they thus learned they were diligent to teach. Like the great Reformer, Olaf aroused the people by his zeal and eloquence, while Laurentius, like Melanchthon, was learned, thoughtful, and calm. Both were men of ardent piety, of high theological attainments, and of unflinching courage in advancing the truth. Papist opposition was not lacking.” GC 242.2
  •         “In the presence of the monarch and the leading men of Sweden, Olaf Petri with great ability defended the doctrines of the reformed faith against the Romish champions” GC 243.2

Chapter 14 – later English Reformers

  1.   William Tyndale(England) – In 1516, a year before the appearance of Luther’s theses, Erasmus had published his Greek and Latin version of the New Testament. Now for the first time the word of God was printed in the original tongue. In this work many errors of former versions were corrected, and the sense was more clearly rendered. It led many among the educated classes to a better knowledge of the truth, and gave a new impetus to the work of reform. But the common people were still, to a great extent, debarred from God’s word. Tyndale was to complete the work of Wycliffe in giving the Bible to his countrymen” GC 245.1
  •         “A diligent student and an earnest seeker for truth, he had received the gospel from the Greek Testament of Erasmus. He fearlessly preached his convictions, urging that all doctrines be tested by the Scriptures.” GC 245.2
  •         “With the opening of the Great Reformation came the writings of Luther, and then Tyndale’s English New Testament.” GC 249.3
  1.   Hugh Latimer(England) – “Latimer maintained from the pulpit that the Bible ought to be read in the language of the people. The Author of Holy Scripture, said he, “is God Himself;” and this Scripture partakes of the might and eternity of its Author. “There is no king, emperor, magistrate, and ruler … but are bound to obey … His holy word.” “Let us not take any bywalks, but let God’s word direct us: let us not walk after … our forefathers, nor seek not what they did, but what they should have done.”—Hugh Latimer, “First Sermon Preached Before King Edward VI.” GC 248.1
  •         “The grand principle maintained by these Reformers—the same that had been held by the Waldenses, by Wycliffe, by John Huss, by Luther, Zwingli, and those who united with them—was the infallible authority of the Holy Scriptures as a rule of faith and practice. They denied the right of popes, councils, Fathers, and kings, to control the conscience in matters of religion. The Bible was their authority, and by its teaching they tested all doctrines and all claims. Faith in God and His word sustained these holy men as they yielded up their lives at the stake. “Be of good comfort,” exclaimed Latimer to his fellow martyr as the flames were about to silence their voices, “we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”—Works of Hugh Latimer 1:8.” GC 249.1
  1.   Other English Reformers – “Barnes and Frith, the faithful friends of Tyndale, arose to defend the truth. The Ridleys and Cranmer followed. These leaders in the English Reformation were men of learning, and most of them had been highly esteemed for zeal or piety in the Romish communion. Their opposition to the papacy was the result of their knowledge of the errors of the “holy see.” Their acquaintance with the mysteries of Babylon gave greater power to their testimonies against her.” GC 248.2
  2.   George Wishart, Patrick Hamiliton (Scotland) – “Hamilton and Wishart, princely in character as in birth, with a long line of humbler disciples, yielded up their lives at the stake. But from the burning pile of Wishart there came one whom the flames were not to silence, one who under God was to strike the death knell of popery in Scotland.” GC 250.1
  3.   John Knox – “John Knox had turned away from the traditions and mysticisms of the church, to feed upon the truths of God’s word; and the teaching of Wishart had confirmed his determination to forsake the communion of Rome and join himself to the persecuted Reformers.” GC 250.2
  •         “When brought face to face with the queen of Scotland, in whose presence the zeal of many a leader of the Protestants had abated, John Knox bore unswerving witness for the truth.” GC 250.4
  •         “With the same undaunted courage he kept to his purpose, praying and fighting the battles of the Lord, until Scotland was free from popery.” GC 251.3

17th Century

“In the seventeenth century thousands of pastors were expelled from their positions. The people were forbidden, on pain of heavy fines, imprisonment, and banishment, to attend any religious meetings except such as were sanctioned by the church. Those faithful souls who could not refrain from gathering to worship God were compelled to meet in dark alleys, in obscure garrets, and at some seasons in the woods at midnight. In the sheltering depths of the forest, a temple of God’s own building, those scattered and persecuted children of the Lord assembled to pour out their souls in prayer and praise. But despite all their precautions, many suffered for their faith. The jails were crowded. Families were broken up. Many were banished to foreign lands. Yet God was with His people, and persecution could not prevail to silence their testimony. Many were driven across the ocean to America and here laid the foundations of civil and religious liberty which have been the bulwark and glory of this country.” GC 252.1

  1.   John Bunyan(England) – “Again, as in apostolic days, persecution turned out to the furtherance of the gospel. In a loathsome dungeon crowded with profligates and felons, John Bunyan breathed the very atmosphere of heaven; and there he wrote his wonderful allegory of the pilgrim’s journey from the land of destruction to the celestial city. For over two hundred years that voice from Bedford jail has spoken with thrilling power to the hearts of men. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners have guided many feet into the path of life.” GC 252.2
  2.   Richard Baxter, John flavel, Alleine – “Baxter, Flavel, Alleine, and other men of talent, education, and deep Christian experience stood up in valiant defense of the faith which was once delivered to the saints. The work accomplished by these men, proscribed and outlawed by the rulers of this world, can never perish. Flavel’s Fountain of Life and Method of Grace have taught thousands how to commit the keeping of their souls to Christ. Baxter’s Reformed Pastor has proved a blessing to many who desire a revival of the work of God, and his Saints’ Everlasting Rest has done its work in leading souls to the “rest” that remaineth for the people of God.” GC 252.3

18th Century

  1.   Whitefield(George Whitefield) and The Wesley’s – “A hundred years later, in a day of great spiritual darkness, Whitefield and the Wesleys appeared as light bearers for God. Under the rule of the established church the people of England had lapsed into a state of religious declension hardly to be distinguished from heathenism. Natural religion was the favorite study of the clergy, and included most of their theology. The higher classes sneered at piety, and prided themselves on being above what they called its fanaticism. The lower classes were grossly ignorant and abandoned to vice, while the church had no courage or faith any longer to support the downfallen cause of truth.” GC 253.1

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