John Wycliffe

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There was good reason for the silence of the Holy Spirit as to how, when, in what form Christ ordained the apostles, the reason being to show the indifferency of all forms of words.

John Wycliffe (also Wyclif, Wycliff, or Wickliffe) (c. 132031 December 1384) was an English theologian and early proponent of reform in the Roman Catholic Church during the 14th century. He made an English translation of the Bible in one complete edition and is considered a precursor of the Protestant Reformation (thus becoming known as "The Morning Star of the Reformation").


  • I believe that in the end the truth will conquer.
    • Statement to the Duke of Lancaster (1381), as quoted in Champions of the Right (1885) by Edward Gilliat, p. 135
    • Variant: I believe that in the end truth will conquer.
    • As quoted in Great Voices of the Reformation : An Anthology (1952) by Harry Emerson Fosdick, p. 37
  • This Bible is for the Government of the People, by the People, and for the People.
    • General Prologue to the Bible translation of 1384, as paraphrased in Lincoln at Gettysburg : An Address (1906) by Clark Ezra Carr, p. 75;
  • Crown and cloth maken no priest, nor emperor's bishop with his words, but power that crist giveth; and thus by life have been priests known.
    • As quoted in Typical English Churchmen (1909) by John Neville Figgis, p. 15
  • There was good reason for the silence of the Holy Spirit as to how, when, in what form Christ ordained the apostles, the reason being to show the indifferency of all forms of words.
    • Latin statement in De Quattuor Sectis Novellis, as translated in Typical English Churchmen (1909) by John Neville Figgis, p. 16
  • I acknowledge that the sacrament of the altar is very God's body in form of bread, but it is in another manner God's body than it is in heaven.
    • As quoted in Wyclif, by Anthony Kenny, p. 90. (1985) published by Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-287646-5
  • Already a third and more of England is in the hands of the Pope. There cannot be two temporal sovereigns in one country; either Edward is King or Urban is king. We make our choice. We accept Edward of England and refute Urban of Rome.
    • Quoted in William Tyndale: If God Spare My Life — Martyrdom, Betrayal and the English Bible (2003) by Brian Moynahan, p. xvii

Quotes about Wycliffe[edit]

  • John Wycliffe, Englishman, the greatest theologian of his time, held alone for many years the magisterial chair (as it is called) in teaching and disputing at Oxford. Apart from the truly apostolic life which he led, he far excelled all his fellows in England by his ability, eloquence, and erudition. ... He was roused by the spirit of the eternal father to stand for His truth in the midst of the darkness of impious locusts, as the magnanimous warrior of Jesus Christ, and he became the most invincible organ of his day against Antichrists. He was indeed the most strong Elias of his times to reform all distortions. He was one and the first after the loosing of Satan to bring the light of truth in that age of darkness, and who dared before the whole synagogue of the devil to confess Christ, and to reveal the abominable turpitude of the great Antichrist. For he shone like the morning star in the midst of a cloud, and remained for many days as the faithful witness in the church. As the radiant sun he shone in the temple of God, and like incense burning in the fire. He was always of the most irreproachable faith, and most absolute attachment to the truth.
    • John Bale, Illustrium maioris Britanniae scriptorum...summarium (1548), quoted in Margaret Aston, 'John Wycliffe's Reformation Reputation', Past & Present, No. 30 (April 1965), p. 25
  • [T]his is out of all doubt, that at what time all the world was in most desperate and vile estate, and the lamentable ignorance and darkness of God's truth had overshadowed the whole earth, this man stepped forth like a valiant champion, unto whom that may justly be applied which is spoken in the book called Ecclesiasticus, of one Simon, the son of Onias: "Even as the morning star being in the midst of a cloud, and as the moon being full in her course, and as the bright beams of the sun; so doth he shine and glister in the temple and Church of God."
  • I intend neither to deny, dissemble, defend, or excuse any of his faults. ... Yea; should I be over-officious to retain myself, to plead for Wicliffs faults, that glorious Saint would sooner chide then thank me, unwilling that in favour of him, truth should suffer prejudice. He was a man, and so subject to errour, living in a dark Age, more obnoxious to stumble vex'd with opposition, which makes men reel into violence, and therefore it is unreasonable, that the constitution and temper of his positive opinions, should be guessed by his Polemical Heat, when he was chafed in disputation. But besides all these, envy hath falsly fathered many foul aspertions upon him.
    • Thomas Fuller, The church-history of Britain from the birth of Jesus Christ until the year M.DC.XLVIII endeavoured by Thomas Fuller (1655), pp. 129-130
  • Better to be always in a minority of one with God — branded as madman, incendiary, fanatic, heretic, infidel — frowned upon by "the powers that be," and mobbed by the populace — or consigned ignominiously to the gallows, like him whose "soul is marching on," though his "body lies mouldering in the grave," or burnt to ashes at the stake like Wickliffe, or nailed to the cross like him who "gave himself for the world," — in defence of the RIGHT, than like Herod, having the shouts of a multitude crying, "It is the voice of a god, and not of a man!"
  • John Wicliff; whom we hesitate not to admire as one of the greatest ornaments of his country; and as one of those prodigies, whom providence raises up, and directs as its instruments to enlighten man kind. His amazing penetration; his rational manner of thinking; and the noble freedom of his spirit, are equally the objects of our admiration. Wicliff was in religion, what Bacon was afterwards in science; the great detecter of those arts and glosses, which the barbarism of ages had drawn together to obscure the mind of man. To this intuitive genius Christendom was unquestionably more obliged than to any name in the list of reformers. He explored the regions of darkness, and let in not a feeble and glimmering ray; but such an effulgence of light, as was never afterwards obscured. He not only loosened prejudices; but advanced such clear incontestable truths, as, having once obtained footing, still kept their ground, and even in an age of reformation wanted little amendment.
    • William Gilpin, The lives of John Wicliff, and of the most eminent of his disciples; Lord Cobham, John Huss, Jerome of Prague, and Zisca (1765), quoted in The Lives of Reformers, Vol. I (1809), p. 52
  • [T]here is none that hath behaved himselfe more religiously, valiantlie, learnedlie, and constantlie, then this stout Champion, reverend Doctor, & worthie preacher of Gods word Iohn Wickliffe.
    • Thomas James, An apologie for Iohn Wickliffe shewing his conformitie with the now Church of England (1608), p. 1
  • By that which hath beene spoken...concerning the visibilitie of the Church, like Dagon before the Arke, fals downe to the ground, and Wickliffe remaines in this point, as in al the former, a resolved true, Cathotholike, English Protestant.
    • Thomas James, An apologie for Iohn Wickliffe shewing his conformitie with the now Church of England (1608), p. 25
  • In the nineteenth century, Wyclif was honoured not only in the vanguard of the reformers, but also as a pioneer of English literature. ... Today the great majority of those who are in a position to judge believes that Wyclif had no more personal hand in the Wyclif bible than King James had in the King James bible. Equally, those who have studied most closely the surviving Wycliffite tracts hesitate to attribute any of them to the reformer himself. Indeed, they doubt whether anything in English survives from his hand save a few fragments.
  • Why else was this Nation chos'n before any other, that out of her as out of Sion should be proclam'd and sounded forth the first tidings and trumpet of Reformation to all Europ. And had it not bin the obstinat perversnes of our Prelats against the divine and admirable spirit of Wicklef, to suppresse him as a schismatic and innovator, perhaps neither the Bohemian Husse and Jerom no nor the name of Luther, or of Calvin had bin ever known: the glory of reforming all our neighbours had bin compleatly ours.
  • [T]he famous John Wickliffe, the Morning-Star of the Reformation.
    • Daniel Neal, The History of the Puritans: From the Reformation to the death of Queen Elizabeth (1732), p. 3

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