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It is written:
Daniel 2:44-And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.
We should never believe that the church which Jesus built completely apostatized. As long as the Word of God was in the world, there were Christians who sought God and His Word, even in the face of persecution from the apostate church. We are indebted to those courages men and women of faith who sought to do God’s will, even as they opposed Roman Catholicism and paid the ultimate price for their faith in the Lord.
As time went on and the Roman Catholic church grew in its’ wickedness, there were some who opposed the system and encouraged people (from both within the Roman Catholic church and outside of it). Speaking of some of the opposition outside of Catholicism,. Mattox notes:
“We believe that the true undenominational church of Christ—the Eternal Kingdom—continued throughout this entire period. The gates of Hades did not prevail against it. It is not necessary to maintain apostolic succession in order to know that we are members of that church today. Christ is the foundation and other foundation can no man lay. The Gospel is the seed of the kingdom, and when individuals yield themselves to Christ and follow the teaching set forth in the New Testament there is every assurance that such individuals constitute the church of Christ in that generation. THE CATHARISTS From the ninth century on there are glimpses of thousands of persons who opposed the Roman hierarchy and were persecuted as heretics. These were found especially in Greece, Italy, Germany, France and Holland. They were known by various local names, but Catharists or Paulicans seem to be the general designations given them by the hierarchy. In local and more restricted areas they were known by such names as Arnoldians, Paulicans, Petrobusians, Albigenses and Waldenses. All of these groups were similar in that they opposed the Roman hierarchy, accepted the Scripture as their only authority, claimed to be the only true Christians in their generation and lived puritanical lives. It is impossible to ascertain their beginning, but thousands were persecuted as early as the ninth century. In their services they read the Scripture aloud and had the Lord’s Supper at every service. They refused infant baptism, baptizing only believers. They rejected all human authority, had no formal creed or confession, denounced the ignorance and vice of the clergy. Their chief mistake was in accepting some of the ideas of the early Gnostics and the later Manicheans. Many of them accepted the basic principle of dualism which emphasized that nature is evil. This led them into an extreme asceticism and in some instances to the rejection of the Old Testament. Many believed that marriage was from the Devil. One wonders, however, from the emphasis they placed upon the study of the Scripture, that if among these widely scattered groups who differed greatly from each other there were not true saints of God, following the New Testament pattern and constituting the Eternal Kingdom. One cannot put his finger on evidence of such, but we believe it to be the case.” (F.W. (Founts William) Mattox & John McRay, The Eternal Kingdom: A History of the Church of Christ, 221-222 (Kindle Edition); Charleston, AR; Cobb Publishing)
There were also those within the Catholic church who spoke out against the corruption of the apostate church. Some worked to translate the Word of God into the common language of the people, and faced terrible persecution for doing so. One book, Foxe’s Book Of Martyrs, describes in amazing and horrific detail what they suffered for their courage. I will share with you a brief description of two of these heroes of faith, John Wycliffe and John Huss. (The following information comes from both Foxe’s Book of Martyr’s and the aforementioned book, The Eternal Kingdom).
This Englishman was educated at Oxford University. He had the courage to oppose the pope. His reasoning was simple: in the New Testament church, there is no office of papacy! Indeed, Christ is the Head of the church and the only other officials in the local congregation is that of elders and deacons. He began to realize that the pope of Rome fits the characteristics of “antichrist” described in the Word of God, and began to lecture and write on this. His followers at the time were called Lollards. In 1380, he translated the first complete Bible into English (much to the fury of the Roman Catholic church). He so incited the fury of the Roman Catholic hierarchy that thirty-one years after his death, his bones were ordered removed from their tomb, set afire, and the ashes throw into the Severn River.
Huss lived from 1373-1415. He opposed Catholicism and encouraged people to return to the Bible. Huss was especially offended by the Catholic teaching of indulgences. This is the teaching that a family who offers a monetary donation to the Catholic church can release their loved ones who have died from their suffering in Purgatory. He was invited to defend his views before the Council of Constance. Emperor Sigismund promised him safe conduct, but then repealed that promise when the council condemned Huss as a heretic. He was burned at the stake on July 6, 1415.
There have been many other Reformers who opposed the Catholic church especially in their bringing the Word of God to mankind. My feeble words cannot even begin to describe the terror that the Catholic church brought into the world as it opposed God’s Word. I will share with you these words from William Cooper in his introduction to the reprinting of Foxe’s Book Of Martyrs.
“Foxe’s Actes and Monuments, otherwise known as his Book of Martyrs, being first published in English in 1563, is arguably the most important, and certainly the most comprehensive collection of records to come down to us from the 16th century. The book contains historical documents and accounts which otherwise would have been lost to us forever had Foxe not exercised the truly formidable labour of gathering them together, always at great expense and often at considerable danger to himself. The documents comprise a series of heresy trials, interrogations, examinations and extracts from Bishop’s registers and other records (often illicitly and dangerously obtained), which together afford us an invaluable glimpse into a page of English history which would otherwise have been left untold. With these documents, we are taken where few other history books could ever take us, behind the scenes into prison cells and private chambers, where we may listen in on conversations and proceedings which the pre-Reformation Church would have preferred to keep secret. Not everyone will welcome the reappearance of Foxe’s book. Some will say that it opens old wounds that are best left closed, exposing events and attitudes that should be left buried. To them I would say this. In the modern unseemly rush of supposedly evangelical churches to join themselves to Rome, let it not be forgotten that no leopard has ever been known to change its spots. Between the Church of Rome today and the Church of Rome that burned the martyrs, there is not a jot of difference. Anyone foolish enough to join themselves to her will have to do all that she demands of them. That includes accepting whichever pope is in power as the supreme head of Christ’s church instead of Christ. It includes embracing the noxious doctrines of salvation by works, idolatry and the worshipping of images and the dead. It includes denying Christ as the sole Saviour of mankind, the only true way to the Father, and as the sole and sufficient sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. In short, it includes embracing everything that is contrary to the plain written Word of God. Thousands–no, millions throughout Europe!-were murdered for trying to break away from the grip of Rome, and the struggles of some of them are recorded here in nearly half a million words of record–words which were taken for the most part out of the registers of the persecuting bishops themselves. The words are not made up. Most of those registers and other records still exist, and they can be checked by anyone with the will to look into them. They are reproduced here, in English, so that today’s Christians can read them for themselves and wonder at the wisdom of so many who today are joining themselves to the Church of Rome.” (Bill Cooper, Foxe’s Actes & Monuments 1563, 130-149 (Kindle Edition))
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.