John Wycliffe’s intellectual brilliance, personal integrity and courage made him a mighty man of faith in the fourteenth century. This was not only evident with regards to the reforms he sought to establish within the Church of the day, but also in that God was using him to lead the King, Parliament and the nation to freedom from bondage to the Papacy. As England disentangled itself politically from Rome, it was at the same time casting off the religious authority that had kept her people in spiritual darkness for so long.
No other reformer has the right to be called The Morning Star of the Reformation since it was Wycliffe that set in motion what proved to be impossible to stop. Some historians suggest that the Reformation in England began with Henry VIII, or a product of 16th Century thinking and theology, but this is far from the truth. It was one man, full of the Spirit of God, who would ignite an inextinguishable flame in the Europe of the 14th Century whose influence would affect every future generation and the whole world. It would be true to say that Protestantism has its roots firmly planted in John Wycliffe.
In him we have a medieval John the Baptist, who points both priest and nation away from sin and to Christ’s true way of salvation. We could easily uses the words of John 1:6, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John” to describe the reformer. Unfortunately John Wycliffe has never been given the recognition that later reformers received. Except for a few brief remarks in volumes on the history of the Reformation there is very little available to the Christian reader on the life of this man. This work seeks to rectify that deficiency by bringing to our attention the life and work of Wycliffe, so that the Church will know more about him than simply a note relating to the origin of the English Bible. While it is almost impossible to obtain a full picture of his life, theology and influence, since many of the essential ingredients have long disappeared, it is possible to construct something near to the mark. The author has ploughed through political, philosophical, historical, and theological works to bring to life a character that is otherwise vaguely known. In some respects it was like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle, knowing that not all of the pieces are in the box. Nevertheless, by looking at external events of the latter end of the 14th Century, we can come very close to seeing the man that God so wonderfully used. For someone to be given the title ‘The Morning Star of the Reformation’ he must be seen to deserve it. Wycliffe does deserve it, not because he was perfect, for he certainly was not, but because he was England’s first reformer and champion of the Christian faith.
For those who want to understand John Wycliffe a little further, I have added two appendixes after the biographical section. These are entitled, The Theology of John Wycliffe and The Influence of John Wycliffe.