Volume. XXXIV, No. 34
Sunday, 23 February 2020

John Wyclif (Part 4 - Final)

  • Perhaps his last sermon was on the text of John 21.15 “So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.  He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”  Listen to the final words that came from the lips of John Wyclif, “Christ taught the Apostles to feed his sheep in pastures of Holy Writ, not in rotten pastures as are fables and lies of men.  The pasture evermore green with truths that never fail is the Law of Holy Writ that endureth in the other world.  But because a good shepherd should keep his sheep from wolves, defend them from scabs, and from rending, therefore Christ bade Peter thrice that he should keep his sheep.  Christ taught not his shepherd to raise a Crusade and kill his sheep with the lambs and spoil them of their goods.  This is Antichrist’s teaching that the Fiend has brought in and by this it is known that these are not Peter’s vicars!”[1]
  • Many of his friends had, like Demas, forsaken him. His friend and colleague, Nicholas of Hereford was imprisoned for life by Pope Urban VI in the dungeons of St. Angelo in Rome.
  • Wyclif stood alone with the sword of persecution suspended by a thread hanging over him; but still with voice and pen, he laboured incessantly to effect a reform in the Church.  He unflinchingly had denounced the arrogance of the priests, and their corruptions of the truth of God’s Word.
  • He had seen his teaching condemned, his itinerant followers harassed, and warned by that first stroke that his days were numbered; nevertheless he worked with feverish haste before night should fall, with a mind obdurate and inflexible, to leave a mass of seed to be drawn upon and broadcast by his disciples after his death.
  • Wyclif feared neither King nor Antichrist and his Cardinals. If need be, Wyclif was prepared to die for the Cause of Truth and Godliness. 
  • In 1383, Wyclif was summoned by the Pope to Rome to answer charges of heresy. Wycliffe’s response was to call upon his supporters among the knights of the shires to come forward as soldiers of Christ against this Antichrist who claimed lordship over all their lives, and replies, “So a certain feeble and lame man, cited by the Curia, replies that he is prevented by a royal prohibition, the KING of Kings has effectually willed it that he shall not go.”2
  • On December 28th, he suffered a stroke in his church at Lutterworth whilst conducting the service of the Lord’s Supper, and was carried to his house, where he breathed his last on December 31st, 1384.
  • Walsingham announced that ‘on the Feast of the Passion of St. Thomas of Canterbury, John Wycliffe, that instrument of the Devil, the enemy of the Church, the confusion of men, the idol of heresy, the mirror of hypocrisy, the nourisher of schism, was, by the rightful doom of God, smitten with a horrible paralysis throughout his body. And this vengeance fell upon him on St. Thomas Day, but he died not until St. Sylvester Day.  And worthily was he smitten on St. Thomas Day, against whom (Thomas a Becket) he had greatly offended, stopping men of that pilgrimage.  And conveniently died he in Sylvester Feast, against whom he venomously barked, and breathed out his malicious spirit unto the abodes of darkness.”3
  • At the Council of Constance, the Church of Rome determined to wreak her impotent fury upon his bones. Accordingly, in 1415 a decree was passed, branding Wyclif as a heretic, and directing that his body and bones, should be taken from consecrated ground and thrown away from the burial of the Church.  That decree was carried out in 1428, some forty four years after his death.


Come, let us picture the scene in Lutterworth Church, we wander back to that distant age.  Around the grave, in the chancel, we see Chicheley, Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop Fleming of Lincoln, once a devoted follower of Wyclif, and other dignitaries and clergy, anxious to display their enmity to one who had denounced the corruptions of their Church. 

  • The Church is crowded with the officials and townspeople, who are attracted by the novelty of the spectacle. The sound of the pickaxe falls on the ear.  Slowly rising through the opening thus made is seen the coffin of Wyclif.  Placed on the shoulders of men, it is carried through that door in the chancel still standing, down that winding road to the river Swift, which glides along tranquilly at the foot of the hill
  • A fire is kindled on the bridge; the bones of Wyclif are taken out of the coffin, and are flung into it. They were reduced to ashes, which were afterwards cast into the river. 
  • Many in that crowd would doubtless behold with tears, the indignities there offered to the remains of one to whom they had listened, in their youth, as he spoke to them of the love of the Saviour, or warned them to prepare for death, judgment, and eternity; of one who had often visited them in their homes, and spoken to them in the time of sickness and sorrow, pouring the oil and wine of heavenly consolation into the wounded spirit.


“The brook did convey the ashes into Avon;  Avon into Severn;  Severn into the narrow seas;  they into the main ocean;  and thus the ashes of Wyclif are the emblem of his doctrine, which now is dispersed all the world over”.

Wyclif is, in my opinion, the greatest man that our country has ever produced. He had a burning love for Christ, and an ardent desire for the salvation of souls. He truly was “The Morning Star of the Reformation”.



[1] Lupton, p.162

2 Lupton, p.165 nb

3 Lupton, p.170

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