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Mar 11

Reformation Is a Divine Visitation

2009 | by Ryan Kelly | Category: Miscellaneous,Quote

Today I’m working hard on some lectures I’ll be giving in the UK later this month. About 40 folks from DSC will be doing a nine-day educational tour through Scotland, Ireland, and England. As we stop in various places of interest, Ron Giese and I will be giving various lectures on architecture, history, and theology. It’s just about a week away and I’m really getting excited (partly because I get to take my 10 year old daughter with me!)

My talks will focus on different aspects of the Reformation in the British Isles. As I’ve been preparing those today I’ve come across several great articles — some new to me, some I’d read years ago and forgotten about — which introduce the Reformation and Puritanism very well. Let me commend one of them to you even if you’re not joining us on the UK tour. In an older Reformation and Revival Journal artice, J.I. Packer gleefully recounts some highlights of The Reformation:

One thinks, for instance, of Luther nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle Church, challenging, as it turned out, the whole Roman system of his day. We think of Luther at Worms a few years later, facing the Holy Roman emperor and being told that he must recant the things he had been saying. His famous response to the emperor, nobles and ecclesiastical dignitaries of central Europe ran thus:

“Unless you prove to me by Scripture and reason that I am mistaken I cannot and will not recant. My conscience is captive to the Word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand. There is nothing else I can do. God help me. Amen.”

Those magnificent words have echoed down through the centuries, and no wonder.

Luther stuck to his guns. He translated the Bible into German, and preached and wrote tirelessly to spread the evangelical truth. He became the pioneer of reformation throughout Germany. His name will be honored as long as history lasts.

We think of Calvin, that shy scholar who wanted nothing more than to be a man of letters, reading and writing books for the whole of his adult life. But Farrel told him that he must come to Geneva and share in the work of the Reformation there, which he did. Sleeping only four hours a night he toiled away at the Institutes, that great Christian classic which is still for many of us in a class by itself. He commented on the greater part of Holy Scripture, setting new and superb standards of faithful exposition. Calvin died at 55, absolutely worn out–another of God’s heroes.

We think of John Knox, willing to spend 19 months as a galley slave because of his activities as a Reformer, and then finally rewarded by a few amazing weeks when virtually the whole of Scotland turned to the Reformation. Almost overnight Scotland became the thoroughly Reformed nation that it has been in substance from that day to this.

We think of the English martyrs. There was William Tyndale, defying the king by translating the Bible. He was burned eventually in Belgium because Henry VIII sent word to the continent that he must be put to death.

There was Thomas Cranmer, Henry’s archbishop of Canterbury, who bided his time until it was possible to produce a Reformed confession of faith, a Reformed prayer book, and a Reformed book of discipleship for the Church of England. All too soon his royal monarch, Edward VI, died, and Mary came to the throne. She resolved to bring England back to Rome. She had about 330 English Protestant leaders burned at the stake, including Thomas Cranmer. They put him under intolerable pressure. We would call it brainwashing today. Under this pressure, as others have done since, Cranmer recanted, signing a document to that effect a few days before he was to be burned at the stake. He had been told that when he signed he would be pardoned. But when he found out he was not–he was going to be burned anyway–he sat up all night writing a recanting of his recantation. He died holding his hand outstretched into the flames, saying, “This hand that has offended shall first be burned.”

In the rest of the article, Packer (rather uniquely) moves to discuss the biblical precedents for reformation in general and the biblical descriptions of some key concerns of The Reformation in the sixteenth century. He then offers a four-part conclusion:
1) Reformation is a divine visitation
2) Reformation is a work of Jesus Christ
3) Reformation is a constant task for God’s people
4) Reformation always begins with repentance, seeking God in new ways and putting away wrong things
Go here to read the rest of the article. It’s classic Packer!