Great Controversy Notes

CHAPTER 5, PP 79-96

by Walter Rea

Chapter 5 in both the Spirit of Prophecy, Volume 4 and The Great Controversy deal with the history of the reformation from the time of the Waldenses to that of John Wycliffe. In the 1884 Edition, only nine pages are given to this subject, but in the 1911 Edition forty-one pages are used divided into two chapters, five and six, and covering much the same material with an expanded version on Huss and Jerome. The new material, however, includes seven bible texts not in the earlier edition and thirty-six references to historians not used before. There is no evidence that visions were needed to fill out the new details. In Ellen White's library were found the following titles on the life of Wycliff.

The Life Of Wycliff, by Charles Webb Le Has. New York; J. J. Harper, 1832

John Wycliff, Patriot and Reformer; Life and Writings. By Rudolf Buddensieg, London; F. Fisher Unwin, 1884.

History of the Life and Sufferings of John WyCliff, By John Lewis. Oxford Claredon Press. 1820

The History of Protestantism, By J. A. Wylie LL.D Cassell Petter & Galpin, London, Paris & New York.

Here we arrived at the beginning of the fourteenth century…a thirst for knowledge…A quick apprehension, a penetrating intellect, and a retentive memory, enabled the young scholar of Merton to make rapid progress in the learning of those days. Philosophy…In the pride of his genius…he soon became a master in the scholastic philosophy…no less expert in all kinds of philosophy… To his knowledge of scholastics he added a great proficiency in both the canon and civil law. This was a branch of knowledge which stood him in more stead in after years than the other more fashionable science. By these studies he became versed in the constitution and laws of his native country, and was fitted for taking an intelligent part in the battle which soon thereafter arose between the usurpations of the J. A. Wiley, History of Protestantism. Pp. 59-60

He commenced with prudence… His biblical and philosophical studies, his knowledge of theology, his penetrating mind, the purity of his manners, and his unbending courage, rendered him the object of general admiration…A profound teacher, …eloquent preacher, he demonstrated…during the course of the week what he intended to preach … He accused the clergy of having banished the holy scriptures, and required that the authority of the word of God should be re-established in the church…Loud acclamations crowned these discussions.

D'Aubigne, History of the Reformation, pg. 81

In the fourteenth century arose in England the "morning star of the Reformation."… Wycliffe received a liberal education … He was noted at college for his fervent piety as well s for his remarkable talents and sound scholarship. In his thirst for knowledge he sought to become acquainted with every branch of learning. He was educated in the scholastic philosophy, in the canons of the church, and in the civil law, especially that of his own country. In his after labors the value of this early training was apparent. A thorough acquaintance with the speculative philosophy of his time enabled him to expose its errors; and by his study of national and ecclesiastical law he was prepared to engage in the great struggle for civil and religious liberty.

The Great Controversy, pg. 80.

D'Aubigne, pp. 99-100

…Edward III made Wickliffe one of his chaplins… We refer to his contest with the mendicant friars.

The universities were decaying and that students could not find books to carry on their studies; that the friars were recruiting… by robbing and circumventing children… seeing their children thus to be stolen from them in the universities by the friars, do refuse therefore to send them to their studies … For, whereas, in my time there were in the university of Oxford 30,000 students, now there are not to be found 6,000… As the consequence of these very extraordinary practices of the friars, every branch of science and study was decaying in England.

Wiley, pp. 84-86

Even the students in the universities were deceived by the false representations of the monks and induced to join their orders. Many afterward repented this step, seeing that they had blighted their own lives and had brought sorrow upon their parents; but once fast in the snare it was impossible for them to obtain their freedom. Many parents, fearing the influence of the monks, refused to send their sons to the universities. There was a marked falling off in the number of students in attendance at the great centers of learning. The schools languished, and ignorance prevailed.

The Great Controversy, pg. 83.

In Great Controversy, pp. 82-84, it rehearses the sins of the mendicant friars. See in Wiley "The Growing Corruption of the Monastic Orders," Pp. 75-84

(87) Wicliffe saw deeper into the evil that Armachanus had done … they were perambulating the country.

Christ and the apostles, said they, were mendicants, and lived on alms … The friars had made an unwitting appeal to the right of private judgment, and advertised a book about which, had they been wise for their own interests, they would have been profoundly silent … About this time he published his Objections to Friars, which fairly launched him on his career as a Reformer. Let us mark that in this tract the Reformer does not so much dispute with the friars as preach the Gospel to his countrymen.

(88) Neither the Pope nor the Lord Jesus Christ can grant dispensations or give indulgence to any man, except as the Deity has eternally determined by his just counsel.

(89) Wicliffe returned home … But these two years were to him far from lost years. Wicliffe had come into communication with the Italian, Spanish, and French dignitaries of the Church … There was given him an insight into a circle which would not have readily opened to his view in his own country.

(90) …he returned to England it was to proclaim on the house-tops what before he had spoken in the closet. Avarice, ambition, hypocrisy, these were the gods that were worshipped in the Roman curia.

… And in one of his tracts that remain he thus speaks: "They (the Pope and his collectors) draw out of our land poor man's livelihood, and many thousand marks by the year, of the king's money, for sacraments and spiritual things, that is cursed heresy of simony, and maketh all Christendom assent and maintain this heresy. And certes though our realm had a huge hill of gold, and never other men took thereof but only this proud worldly priest's collector, by process of time this hill must be spended; for he taketh ever money out of our land, and sendeth nought again but God's curse for his simony."

This quote is really in Wiley, but someone has taken the footnote at the bottom of page 90 and used it unnecessarily.

Soon after his return from Bruges, Wicliffe was appointed to the rectorship of Lutterworth, … it may be taken as a sign of the royal approval of his conduct as a commissioner and his growing influence at the court.

The man who was the mainspring of a movement so formidable to the Papacy must be struck down… Three separate bulls wee drafted on the same day, May 22nd, 1377, and dispatched to England. One of the bulls was addressed to Simon Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury and William Courteney, Bishop of Longdon, the second was addressed to the king, and the third to the University of Oxford.

Again, this quote and footnoting is not necessary as it is all said in Wiley, but it does give the appearance of more authority than just copy work from one source.

(94) The zeal of the bishops anticipated the orders of the Pope. Before the bulls had arrived in England, the prosecution of Wicliffe was begun … Wicliffe was cited to appear … a great crowd assembled … attended by two powerful friends … something like an uproar took place which scandalized the court.

Wycliffe was a keen detector of error, and he struck fearlessly against many of the abuses sanctioned by the authority of Rome. While acting as chaplain for the king, he took a bold stand against the payment of tribute claimed by the pope from the English monarch and showed that the papal assumption of authority over secular rulers was contrary to both reason and revelation.

… Another evil against which the Reformer waged long and resolute battle was the institution of the orders of mendicant friars… but Wycliffe, with clearer insight, struck at the root of the evil, declaring that the system itself was false and that it should be abolished. …to cover their avarice, these begging monks claimed that they were following the Saviour's example, declaring that Jesus and His disciples had been supported by the charities of the people. This claim resulted in injury to their cause, for it led many to the Bible to learn the truth for themselves.

Wycliffe began to write and publish tracts against the friars, however, seeking so much to enter into dispute with them as to call the minds of the people to the teachings of the Bible and its Author. He declared that the power of pardon or of excommunication is possessed by the pope in no greater degree than by common priest, and that no man can be truly excommunicated unless he has first brought upon himself the condemnation of God.

… Again Wycliffe was called to defend the rights of the English crown against the encroachments of Rome; and being appointed a royal ambassador, he spent two years in the Netherlands, in conference with the commissioners of the pope. Here he was brought into communication with ecclesiastics from France, Italy and Spain, and he had an opportunity to look behind the scenes and gain a knowledge of many things which would have remained hidden from him in England. (90)

Soon after his return to England, Wycliffe received from the king the appointment to the rectory of Lutterworth. This was an assurance that the monarch at least had not been displeased by his plain speaking. Wycliffe's influence was felt in shaping the action of the court, as well as in molding the of the nation.

The Great Controversy - pp. 84-85.

(1) Edward III, who had reigned with glory, but lived to long for his fame, now died… a child of eleven years, who succeeded on his grandfather's death, under the title of Richard II … was a woman of spirit, friendly to the sentiments of Wicliff.

(pg 106) While Wicliffe was struggling to break first of all his own fetters, and next the fetters of an enslaved nation … the short road to the stake … Wicliffe was as good as dead …"BUT HE WHO SAID TO THE PATRIARCH OF OLD, FEAR NOT I AM THY SHIELD," protested his own chosen champion.

Death was about to strike, but it was on Gregory XI, that the blow was destined to fall.

In another way did the death of the Pope bring breathing time to the Reformer and the young reformation of England.

(107) two Popes in the chair of Peter … for this schism Wicliffe … fast and furious … flew the Papal bolts. …Wicliffe retired to his country … to escape for a little while from the attacks of his enemies … While the Popes were hurling Anathemas at each other, and shedding torrents of blood by this time … support of their rival claims.

The "schism," with the scandals and crimes that flowed from it, helped to reveal to him, yet more clearly the true character of the Papacy. He published a tract on the Schism of the Popes, in which he appealed to the nation whether those men who were denouncing each other as the Antichrist wee not, in this case, speaking the truth… "The fiend," he said, "no longer reigns in one, but in two priests, that men may be the more easily, in Christ's name, overcome them both."

(Again, this note is in the text and taken from the footnote perhaps to throw the reader off that it all came from one author in the beginning.)

It was now that he published his work on the truth and meaning of Scriptures. In this work he maintains "the supreme authority of Scripture," … Here he drops the first hint of his purpose to translate the Bible into the English vernacular, a work which was to be the crown of his labours.

(107) Wicliffe was now getting old … He fell sick. With unbounded joy the friars heard that their great enemy was dying.

The History of Protestantism - J. A. Wiley

A little later, Edward III, whom in his old age the prelates were seeking to influence against the Reformer, died, and Wycliffe's former protector became regent of the kingdom. …These measures pointed directly to the stake. It appeared certain that Wycliffe must soon fall a prey to the vengence of Rome. But He who declared to one of old, "FEAR NOT … I AM THY SHIELD" again stretched out His hand to protect His servant.

Death came, not to the Reformer, but to the pontiff who had decreed his destruction. Gregory XI died, and the ecclesiastics who had assembled for Wycliffe's trial, dispersed. …God's providence still further overruled events to give opportunity for the growth of the Reformation. The death of Gregory was followed by the election of two rival popes. Two conflicting powers, each professedly infallible, now claimed obedience.

Each called upon the faithful to assist him in making war upon the other, enforcing his demands by terrible anathemas against his adversaries… The rival factions had all they could do to attack each other, and Wycliffe for a time had rest. …Meanwhile the Reformer, in the quiet retirement of his parish… The schism, with all the strife and corruption which it caused, prepared the way for the Reformation by enabling the people to see what the papacy really was. In a tract which he published on the Schism of the Popes, Wycliffe called upon the people to consider whether these two priests were not speaking the truth in condemning each other as the antichrist. "God," said he, "would no longer suffer the fiend to reign in only one such priest, but … made division among two, so that men, in Christ's name, may the more easily overcome them both." R. Vaughan, Life and Opinions of John de Wycliff, Volume 2, pg. 6.

(This footnote is at the bottom of the page of Wylie and is not needed in as much as Wylie is using the material in his chapter.)

But the greatest work of his life was to be the translation of the Scriptures into the English language. In a work On The Truth And Meaning Of Scripture, he expressed intention to translate the Bible.

But suddenly his labors were stopped. Though not yet sixty years of age, unceasing toil, study, and the assaults of his enemies had told upon his strength and made him prematurely old. He was attacked by a dangerous illness. The tidings brought great joy to the friars. Now they thought he would bitterly repent the evil he had done the church.

The Great Controversy - pp. 86-87

Of course he was overwhelmed with horror and remorse for the evil he had done them, and they would hasten to his bedside and receive the expression of his penitence and sorrow… they exhorted him, as one on the brink of the grave, to make full confession and express his unfeigned grief for the injuries he had inflicted on their order. Wicliffe lay silent till they should have made an end, then, making his servant raise him a little on his pillow, and fixing his keen eyes upon them, he said with a loud voice, "I shall die, but live and declare the evil deeds of the friars." The monks rushed in astonishment and confusion from the chamber.

(Again this footnote in G.C. is used as a cover up from Wiley.)

As Wicliffe had foretold, so it came to pass. His sickness left him and he rose from his bed to do the most daring of his impieties as his enemies account it, the most glorious of his service … that of giving the Bible to the people of England in their own tongue … I will fill the realm of England with light, said he, … appointed channel of holy influence.

(110) He had not, however, many years in which to do his great work … portion of a decade of broken health. But his intellectual vigour was unimpaired, his experience and graces were at their ripest. What had his whole of his past life been but a preparation for what was to be the glorious task of his evening … in his quiet Rectory of Lutterworth. The world around him was shaken with convulsions … Wicliffe pursued his sublime work undisturbed by the roar of the tempest … The message of Heaven was now the speech of England. The dawn of the Reformation had fairly broken.

(111) The reformer had done his great work. What an epoch in the history of England … What mattered it when a dungeon or a grave might close over him? He had kindled a light which could never be put out.

(Again, is God speaking through Ellen White or Wiley or both or neither?)

… He had placed in the hands of his countrymen.

(112) The interest taken in the man and in his work enlisted a hundred expert hands, who, though they toiled to multiply copies, could scarcely supply the many who were eager to buy. Some ordered complete copies to be made for them, others were content with portions, the same copy served several families… and brought a new life into many an English home.

This raised the question of the right of the people to read the Bible. The question was new in England, for the plain reason that till now there had been no Bible to read. And for the same reason there was no law prohibiting the use of the Bible by the people, it being deemed both useless and imprudent to enact a law against an offence it was then impossible to commit.

(117) A third time Wicliffe is summoned, and the court meets in a place where it was easier to take precautions against interference from the populace.

Now they thought he would bitterly repent the evil he had done the church, and they hurried to his chamber to listen to his confession. Representatives from the four religious orders, with four civil officers, gathered about the supposed dying man. "You have death on your lips," they said; "be touched by your faults, and retract in our presence all that you have said to our injury." The Reformer listened in silence; then he bade his attendant raise him in his bed, and gazing steadily upon them as they stood waiting for his recantation, he said, in the firm, strong voice which had so often caused them to tremble; "I shall not die, but live; and again declare the evil deeds of the friars."

D'Aubigne, Book 17, Chapter 7.

(Why would this footnote be used when Wylie uses another when he relates it?)

Wycliffe's words were fulfilled. He lived to place in the hands of his countrymen the most powerful of all weapons against Rome. To Give Them The Bible. The Heaven-Appointed Agent To Liberate, Enlighten, And Evaluate The People. …Wycliffe was weighed down with infirmities; he knew that only a few years for labor remained … The word of God was opened to England … He Had Placed In The Hands Of The English People A Light Which Should Never Be Extinguished… Some of the more wealthy purchasers desired the whole Bible. Others bought only a portion. In many cases, several families united to purchase a copy. Thus Wycliffe's Bible soon found its way to the homes of the people.

The appearance of the Scriptures brought dismay to the authorities of the church… There was at this time no law in England prohibiting the Bible, for it had never before been published in the language of the people.

Again the papal leaders plotted to silence the Reformer's voice. Before three tribunals he was successively summoned for trial, but without avail.

The Great Controversy - Pp. 87-89.

(118) He carried his complaint to the young king, Richard II … The king was gained over. He gave authority "to confine in the prisons of the State any who should maintain the condemned propositions."

(119) Parliament met on the 19th November 1382 … Wicliffe made hast to make his appeal and complaint.

(120) The enemies of the Reformer must have confounded by this bold attack.

(122) He came to be tried, perchance to be condemned; and, if his judges were able, to be delivered over to the civil power and punished as a heretic … he retracts nothing; he modifies nothing; he reiterates. … In one of those transformations which it is given to only majestic moral matters … he mounts the judgment seat and places the judges at the bar. Smitten in their consciences they sat chained to their seats, deprived of power to rise and go away, although the words of the Reformer must have gone like burning arrows to their heart.

When Ellen White uses these words and thoughts of Wiley, she does not give any credit to him, but makes it sound as if God had shown her that his acts were the spirit of God. (123)

(123) "With whom, think you," he finally said, "are ye condemning? With an old man on the brink of the grave? No! With Truth -- Truth which is stronger than you, and will overcome you." …So saying, he withdrew from the assembly, and not one of his adversaries attempted to prevent him. …Wicliff must bear testimony at Rome also … a summons from the Pontiff to go to Rome, and answer for his heresy before the Papal. See … a shock of palsy. …But though he could not go to Rome as a person, he could go by letter, and thus by the hand of Providence … Wicliffe sat down in his rectory to speak … been more Christian and faithful.

History of Protestantism - Pp. 120-123.

Wycliffe appealed from the synod to Parliament … Losing sight of himself, of his position, of the occasion, he summoned his hearers before the divine tribunal, and weighed their sophistries and deceptions in the balances of eternal truth. The power of the Holy Spirit was felt in the council room. A spell from God was upon the hearers. They seemed to have no power to leave the place. As arrows from the Lord's quiver, the Reformer's words pierced their hearts.

… "With whom, think you," he finally said, "are ye contending? With an old man on the brink of the grave? No! With Truth -- Truth which is stronger than you, and will overcome you." So saying, he withdrew from the assembly, and not one of his adversaries attempted to prevent him.

Wycliffe's work was almost done; the banner of truth which he had so long borne was soon to fall from his hand; but once more he was to bear witness for the gospel. The truth was to be proclaimed from the very stronghold of the kingdom of error. Wycliffe was summoned for trial before the papal tribunal at Rome. …he would have obeyed the summons had not a shock of palsy made it impossible for him to perform the journey. But though his voice was not to be heard at Rome, he could speak by letter, and this he determined to do. From his rectory -- the Reformer wrote to the pope a letter. …while respectful in tone and Christian in spirit.

The Great Controversy - Pp. 90-91

In closing he said; "Let us pray unto our God, that He will so stir up our Pope Urban VI, as he began, that he with his clergy may follow the Lord Jesus Christ in life and manners; and that they may teach the people effectually, and that they, likewise, may faithfully follow them in the same." John Foxe, Acts and Monuments, Volume, Pp. 49-50.

(This note is footnoted at the bottom of the page where Wylie is using it, but again, no thought is given to letting the reader know that it was in Wylie and used along with all the rest of his material page by page.

G.C. 92, Wylie p. 123)

White - G.C. - Pp. 92-94

Wylie - Pp. 124-126

Thus Wycliffe presented to the pope and his cardinals the meekness and humility of Christ… Wycliffe fully expected that his life would be the price of his fidelity.

He himself expected that his death would be by violence.

The king, the pope, and the bishops were united to accomplish his ruin, and it seemed certain that a few months at most would bring him to the stake.

The primate, the king, the Pope, all were working to compass his destruction; he saw the iron circle contracting day by day around him; a few months, or a few years, and it would close and crush him.

But God's providence still shielded His servant. The man who for a whole lifetime had stood boldly in defense of the truth, in daily peril of his life, was not to fall a victim of the hatred of its foes

…His very courage, in the hand of God, was his shield. …That a man who defied the whole hierarchy, and who never gave way by so much as a foot-breadth, but was always pressing on in the battle, should die at last, not in a dungeon or at a stake, but in his own bed, was truly a marvel.

In his church at Lutterworth, as he was about to dispense the communion, he fell, stricken with palsy, and in a short time yielded up his life.

…he was to have dispensed the Eucharist to his beloved flock in the parish church of Lutterworth; and as he was in the act of consecrating the bread and wine, he was struck with palsy…his life and the year closing together.

He came out of the obscurity of the Middle Ages. There were none who went before him from whose work he could shape his system of reform. …which Reformers who followed him did not exceed, and which some did not reach, even a hundred years later.

He came out of the darkness of the Middle Ages. He had no predecessor from whom to borrow his plan of Church reform … and no successor in his office when he died for not till more than 100 years that any other … in England to resume his work.

…holy word. This was the authority… and he taught not only that the Bible is a perfect revelation of God's will, but that the Holy Spirit is its only interpreter, and that every man is, by the study of its teachings, to learn his duty for himself.

…back to the Bible. …There must be a Divine and infallible authority in the Church. …He held the Bible to contain a perfect revelation of the will of God …taught also that every man had a right to interpret the Word of God for his own guidance, in a dependence upon the promised aid of the Holy Spirit.

Thus this chapter as well as the rest of book The Great Controversy would support Don McAdams statement when he wrote, "Ellen White was not just borrowing paragraphs here and there that she ran across in her reading, but in fact, following the historians page after page, leaving out much material, but using their sequence, some of their ideas, and often their words. In the examples I have examined, I have found no historical fact in her text that is not in their text."

Spectrum, Volume 10, Number 4, Page 34

The Great Controversy by Ellen G. White, Chapter 6 & 14 - Later English Reformers, and Huss & Jerome. (1911)

In February of 1973, Donald McAdams completed a 105-page study that examined Ellen White's use of Historians in these two chapters. His conclusions were that the evidence proved that the historical portions of The Great Controversy were selective abridgements and adaptation of historians. Ellen was not just borrowing paragraphs here and here that she ran across in her reading, but, in fact, following the historians page after page, leaving out much material, but using their sequence, some of their ideas, and often their words. In the example he examined he did not find any historical fact in her text that was not in the text she was copying. She followed the historians so closely that it did not seem to him that the material had gone through an intermediary stage, but rather from the historian's printed page to Mrs. White's manuscript, including historical errors and moral exhortations.

His study also revealed that Mrs. White's literary assistant at the time, Miss Marian Davis, not only improved Mrs. White's English usage, but also played a very significant role in deleting a large amount of original material dealing with the spiritual significance of events and adding additional material from Wylie. These facts can be read in the Volume 10, Number 4 Issue of Spectrum showing once again that "vision" and "revelation" were not needed, indeed not used to add to what was written in these two chapters.

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