REMEMBER: This is a Bible STUDY course. It is not just something for you to read quickly. What we have written is only the OUTLINE to help you to STUDY your BIBLE. The one textbook of this course is YOUR BIBLE! Always have your Bible open before you when you sit down to STUDY with this course.
Bible Study Course Lesson 52
THE BOOK AND THE CHURCH THEY COULDN'T DESTROY
You could not have taken a Bible correspondence course if you had lived in the Middle Ages. Production, distribution and study of such a course would have been totally impossible.
There was no printing, little education, very few Bibles -- and to read the few that were available was considered ILLEGAL!
WHY IS IT that printing, reading and writing, and the publication of books has become increasingly important in the last 400 years -- and especially in the last 40? WHO actually is behind this great expansion of communication? Have you ever wondered?
Who caused -- in just the last few decades -- the development of RADIO? Of tape recording?
Television? And WHY?
You should have guessed the answer.
The Creator God Himself saw to it that all these instruments would be invented and developed for a great, but almost totally UNRECOGNIZED PURPOSE! For the Use of God's Church!
Until the development of printing, it took a skilled and rapid writer TEN MONTHS to make a copy of the Bible. A finished and bound copy was worth the PRICE OF A LANDED ESTATE!
Under such circumstances it was all but impossible for God's Word to become widely read.
The major labor of God's Church in the Thyatira Era was to translate, copy and make the Scriptures known. Yet for all the effort, the truth remained virtually unknown to the broad masses.
All Scripture manuscripts the authorities could lay their hands on were confiscated or kept out of circulation. It is a little known fact that even most manuscripts which came to be stored away in Catholic monasteries and cathedrals are ultimately traceable to the work of God's Church! You see, few scholars in the Middle Ages had ability to read or translate from the original Hebrew or Greek. So they used the Waldensian version, originally translated into the Provençal language from an early form of the Vulgate, as their main source! (Deanesly, "The Lollard Bible", chapters 2, 3 and 4.)
And when later, during the 14th and 15th centuries, such Catholic groups as Fraticelli, Beghards, Friends of God, Brethren of the Free Spirit, Brethren of the Common (Communal) Life, etc. became convinced the Bible SHOULD be known, and some of them began to copy or occasionally translate the Scriptures, they too immediately ran into trouble. Many such people, often falsely stigmatized as Waldenses or Lollards, were BURNED. (Those truly belonging to God were NOT, as some may have assumed, the most apt to be martyred. They were not often in public view, reaching the broad masses of the world.)
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, Waldenses had become known by their enemies as Lollards -- from a Flemish word, "lollen" or "lullen", meaning to sing or speak softly, or to mumble -- because of their practice of memorizing the Scripture, in the vernacular, by mumbling it to themselves or to one another. Their enemies seized on this name and attempted to connect it with Latin "lolium", meaning tares. The word came to be applied to ALL so-called "heretics" (see Deanesly, "The Lollard Bible", page 70).
These "wandering and hypocritical fellows" (as their enemies called them) were noted in Holland as early as 1309. In 1315, one Walter the Lollard, a chief Waldensian minister, with his brother Raymond carried the gospel of Christ to England. He is said to have spread the Waldensian doctrine all over England before he himself was seized and burned in Cologne, Germany, in 1322 (Par Bresse, "Authentic Details of the Waldenses"; Orchard, "A Concise History of Foreign Baptists").
Bible Translated into English
The name Lollard sprang into great prominence in England a few years before 1400. It was a result of the studies and writings of John Wycliffe, a man whom Jesus Christ USED -- though Wycliffe may never have been a member of God's Church. He apparently lived and died within the Catholic communion.
Wycliffe was a theologian and professor at Oxford. He became increasingly aware of the abuses and blasphemies committed and condoned by the priests and prelates of the Middle Ages. He began to write and distribute tracts concerning these abuses.
Immediately he was surrounded by ENEMIES -- and was branded a "Lollard" -- the name commonly applied to God's people in Western Europe in the 1300's.
Wycliffe responded by speaking out more freely, even declaring the priesthood in communion with Rome was not the ministry of Christ. A group of Oxford scholars and teachers gathered around him. Many of the rulers of England who had been his former associates listened to him with respect. And a great many of the common people began to look to him as their leader.
Sympathizers and co-workers became very numerous for a while. In the words of a contemporary, the "sect" of the Wycliffites was "held in such great honor in these days, and has so multiplied, that you can hardly see two men passing in the road, but one of them shall be a disciple of Wycliffe."
History loses sight of the original "Lollards" as a separate people as a result of this movement.
But Wycliffe was a scholar rather than a saint, a man with a penetrating mind and carefully guarded intellectual balance. He seems not to have understood prayer at all. He practiced infant baptism. And there is no evidence that he ever understood the truth about God's Sabbath.
His REAL IMPORTANCE in the history of God's Church lies in the translation of the Bible into English which he began.
Though Wycliffe himself died in 1384, the circle of scholars that had gathered around him carried forward this translation work to a successful conclusion. They saw it distributed in all parts of England during the next 30 years -- a blessing for God's people in England.
The Later Lollards
Some of these Lollards -- both of Wycliffe's scholarly associates and others -- had adopted from the beginning the Waldensian (and Biblical) principle of going out by twos to travel and preach throughout England. They called public attention to grievances against the religious authorities, and gave the people supplementary instruction (Encyclopaedia Britannica, articles "Wycliffe" and "Lollards"; MacFarlane, "John Wycliffe and English Non-Conformity", chapters 4 and 5).
A second translation of the Bible into English, and then a third -- a very readable version -- were brought out and used in this work. The established church all the while remained set against the use of a vernacular Bible, and made repeated attempts to stop it, but could not.
In 1401, the famous statute called "De Heretico Comburendo" was propounded against all Lollards. It forbade preaching without license, and teaching "new doctrines" or favoring those who taught them. It provided that those who did so should be imprisoned or fined, and, as the name implies, if obstinate or relapsed after once renouncing their "errors," they were to be burned to death!
Under this oppression, Lollards -- God's people and those who helped them -- spread to new parts of England and to Scotland. Local priests were often in sympathy and omitted Catholic rites.
But the Wycliffite movement was mainly secular. In a few years, it became involved in a political scheme which was badly defeated, with its leaders executed.
Most of those directly influenced by Wycliffe had recanted long before this -- when faced with martyrdom. But later, many men, more influenced by the Bible and the true Lollards who constituted a part of the Church of God, were steadfast even to death. There is evidence that scattered true followers of Christ survived for two centuries in all corners of England, although they were never again prominent after the fall of the Wycliffites (see Thomsen, "The Later Lollards").
They were constantly hunted and oppressed by the established church, and only survived by remaining under cover as much as possible. Our only source of information about them is that which was brought out in the trials of those who were caught.
They maintained that the Papacy was a "beast" (Rev. 13) and anti-Christ, and that it had never been given any authority by Jesus' Apostle Peter. Some of them, on the other hand, clearly stated that its spiritual character was that of Simon Magus! (Acts 8.)
They were closer to the truth than probably even they knew!
A man ought not to be baptized, they said, until mature, and the True Church was not "universal" but, in this age, was limited to a few. They maintained that the sacraments of the false church were blasphemous, leading men to damnation. The relics of saints, and the miracles claimed to have been performed by them, were nothing but fakes and impositions.
(It is important to realize that most of those who were stigmatized as "Lollards," and who were persecuted and even executed, were only sympathizers. Numerous individuals listened to the few real Lollards who constituted the Church of God. But those who listened were usually interested in PURIFYING the established church -- restoring it to what they supposed was its original condition -- while remaining within it. They were not converted members of God's spiritual congregation. Some of those labeled "Lollards" by the prosecutors were indeed heretics, and even atheists.)
As late as the year 1494, thirty persons called "the Lollards of Kyle" were accused before the king in Ayrshire in Scotland. Every item on the list of their alleged "heresies" is truth, and exposes the religion of Rome.
Fortunately, this group of Christians escaped execution. Others, not so fortunate, perished in a renewed fury of persecution that was provoked in Scotland by the beginning of the Reformation in Germany about twenty years later ("The Lollards", published in London by the Religious Tract Society, no author given, page 337).
The whole Lollard movement -- including many unconverted co-workers associated with the Church of God -- played no small part in preparing the people and rulers of England and Scotland to accept the Protestant Reformation. And the work they did led directly to the rise of Puritanism -- an attempt of carnal minds to satisfy the commandments of God (especially the FOURTH one) WITHOUT actual repentance and obedience.
But in the meantime, God's people continued to exist on the mainland of Europe also. And great things were transpiring, for Jesus Christ was protecting and GUIDING and HELPING His Church.
Art of Printing Invented
About 1450, Christ caused the art of printing by movable type to be developed in Germany. It was not accidental that the famous Gutenberg Bible was one of the first books to be printed. From there, printing spread to Holland, England and all over Europe, wherever God's people were found.
The first edition of the Bible in the vernacular of the people was the German translation of 1466. Between this first edition and 1518 (the time of Luther) 14 editions of the Bible in German and 4 in Dutch were printed. Others appeared in England, Bohemia, Italy and other countries. One of these German Bibles printed in 1483 -- a GENERATION before Luther -- WAS in the Ambassador College Library.
The New Testament of this first edition (1466) is demonstrably derived directly from the Waldensian version. Later, Baptists and Mennonites preferred the Waldensian version to the LUTHERAN for a century.
Clearly the impulse to spread the Word of God did not originate in Protestantism which began in 1517!
All efforts by the established religion to prevent the Word of God from reaching the people failed. Confiscation and burning of Bibles was practiced freely -- but to no avail.
An attempt was made to remove the source of "heresy" by buying up and destroying the complete output of an edition printed in Holland and imported into England. As might have been expected, the presses only ran the faster on a new and larger edition. The more of the bishop's money they received, the harder the printers worked. Two Bibles appeared where only one had been before.
Jesus Christ had begun to supply the means by which His Church could -- and ultimately WOULD -- reach all the world with His gospel. Now not only could the Bible be PRINTED and MULTIPLIED, but it could also be EXPLAINED -- by means of the printed word.
But the spiritual strength of God's Church at that time was at such a low ebb that it was UNABLE to fully exploit these new possibilities!
1. Did the One who became Jesus Christ reveal Himself even in the Old Testament as the Source which replenishes the SPIRITUAL strength of His people, in addition to giving them PHYSICAL help? II Chron. 14:11; Psalms 27:1; 28:7; 68:35; Isa. 40:29, 31.
2. And did Jesus Christ, who BUILT His Church, promise He would be with His Church to the end so it could ultimately reach the whole world with His message? Matt. 28:19-20. Notice especially the last part of verse 20.
3. But what caused the strength of God's people to fail? See the principle in Psalm 31:10. Iniquity -- lack of TOTAL obedience -- caused converted King David to lose his physical strength. And lack of total obedience caused the Church of God in the late Middle Ages to become powerless (see Lesson 51).
Church Tried by Fire -- and Found Wanting!
Translations of the Bible were available. Printing was possible. There was a great Work to be done. But there was no strength in God's Church to perform it.
1. What did Daniel prophesy would be the fate of God's people, especially during the later Middle Ages? Dan. 11:33. "Sword, flame, and captivity (imprisonment)" were LITERALLY fulfilled in those times.
2. Did Daniel also foresee that in the midst of these dangers God would give them "a little help"? Dan. 11:34. But what was the spiritual condition of many of those who supposed they were Christians? Same verse.
COMMENT: Most were NOT really converted. Many meant well, but lacked the Holy Spirit. When real danger drew near, many recanted.
3. Was it necessary even for SOME of the FAITHFUL to be martyred? Dan. 11:35. Why? Was it because EVEN THEY needed to be made perfect? Same verse.
COMMENT: An account of events in Bohemia will illustrate the spiritual condition of most of God's people in the 15th century.
The writings and ideas of Wycliffe, having been carried early to Bohemia, provided the inspiration for John Huss -- sometimes called the "forerunner of Luther." After Huss was burned in 1415, there resulted a series of wars in which all Bohemia seemed in active political rebellion against the Catholic power.
In the midst of this, those known as Waldenses or Picards (from Picardy in France) fled from city to city or into other regions to avoid being forced into military service. Most seem to have gathered in Austria.
The Waldenses declared they had lawful bishops and a lawful, uninterrupted succession from the apostles among them. They did not publicly use the TITLE of bishop because of the "anti-Christian misuse" to which the word had been put by Catholics, but called their ministers simply ELDERS!
In the aftermath of the Hussite wars, a group of people who saw the errors of Huss and of the Catholic Church separated from the Catholic Church and in 1467 sent emissaries to these Waldensians in Austria. (Bishop Commenius, quoted in Faber, "Ancient Vallenses and Albigenses". See also Armitage, "History of Baptists", p. 319, and the Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia, article "Bohemian Brethren.")
The two groups recognized each other as "brethren."
Yet so SPIRITUALLY DEAD were the Waldenses, that they would not give up their illicit union with the Catholic Church! (See the story of this "fornication" in Lesson 51.) In the interchange of letters which followed, the Bohemians reproached the Waldenses for frequenting the Pope's churches, and for too much zeal in heaping up money for use in times of persecution!
Many Waldenses did finally join these people as a result of further persecution which drove them to Bohemia and Moravia. Many perished of privation and cold. The remainder were scattered toward Brandenburg and Transylvania.
The Bohemian brethren divided. The larger part adopted a modified, easier religion, more acceptable to the world. They denied they were Picards -- the remnant of God's Church. The smaller, more religious group soon disappeared from public view. (Lutzow, "Bohemia: an Historical Sketch".)
Sabbath Keepers Throughout Europe
Everywhere at this time, the traces of the True Church reveal its shattered condition.
Records of the Catholic Church in NORWAY mention obstinate keepers of the Sabbath at Bergen and at Oslo about 1435 (Andrews, "History of the Sabbath"). Apparently these people followed the familiar pattern of sitting among the Sunday congregations at Mass, but privately keeping the true Sabbath (and no doubt other true doctrines).
We hear of them again -- still continuing the same practice -- over a hundred years later. The Catholic Church in Norway had by then become Lutheran.
A little known Sabbath-keeping group existed in Russia from about 1470 to 1503. It was crushed with great cruelty by the government and church, many being burned in cages (Jewish Encyclopedia, article "Judaizing Heresy").
In Luther's day, at least one Sabbath keeper was executed (A.D. 1529) in EAST FRIESLAND.
About the same time, books were published in FRANCE defending the Sabbath (Belcher, "Religious Denominations in the United States", page 228).
About 1530, of three groups of people in MORAVIA who baptized adults only (therefore called "anabaptists"), one group also kept the Sabbath (Armitage, "History of Baptists").
Erasmus, famous Catholic scholar in the time of the Protestant Reformation, speaks of Sabbath keepers in Bohemia. They were the same people known as Picards, and were descendants of the Waldenses (Lewis, "A Critical History of the Sabbath and Sunday", pp. 317, 318).
Even in FINLAND, where the Swedish King Gustav Vasa I ruled and introduced the Lutheran Reformation, the common people were persuaded the HARD TIMES which had come on them were for "NOT OBSERVING THE SEVENTH DAY CALLED SATURDAY." A letter from the king in 1554 ordered them to "forsake this way leading to damnation at once"!
What was the source of this seventh-day teaching?
Anjou's "Swedish Church History" speaks of an "antichurch party." It was a separate NON-CATHOLIC, NON-LUTHERAN GROUP which taught the truth!
"Entirely distinct from this antichurch party of Sabbath keepers," says Anjou, "were THE REST WHO KEPT SATURDAY holy, abstaining from all work on it, but who DID NOT SEPARATE THEMSELVES FROM THE (Lutheran) CHURCH." These were observing Mass and the Sabbath too! They were following the practice the WALDENSES had begun 300 years before!
This nominal Sabbath keeping was not finally stamped out until the beginning of the Thirty Years' War in 1618.
Many "suffered death rather than deny their faith. It was very common for these ITINERANT PREACHERS, who proclaimed the sacredness of Saturday, to connect their teachings with visions and revelations, JUST AS THEY DID IN NORWAY" (Daae in "Theol. Tidsshrift.", 1871).
Did you catch that? It was the SAME Sabbath-keeping CHURCH throughout Scandinavia! But it was involved in spiritual fornication -- illicit relationships with Satan's established churches.
End of 1260 Years of Persecution
1. Did Daniel also prophesy that the Papacy -- the "little horn" -- would be allowed to "WEAR OUT the saints"? Dan. 7:8, 21, 25.
COMMENT: The Waldenses were completely "worn out." When Luther appeared, only a few scattered Sabbath keepers remained. Even those people not in God's Church and known only as "anabaptists" (re-baptizers) were weary with persecution, and ready to surrender completely to the Roman Catholic Church.
The "anabaptists" had very little truth, but clung stubbornly to the IDEA of adult "FAITH baptism" (though often by SPRINKLING or POURING). Among them were still to be found many of the traditions of the Cathars -- heretics who associated with God's people. Hearing of Luther's success, they came out openly for their beliefs, but when Luther absolutely demanded they give up even their rebaptizing of adults, MANY COMPLIED.
The rest found Rome was not the only persecutor. More people were martyred after the success of Luther, Zwingli and Calvin than ever before. Worst of all in their persecution of Anabaptists were the Calvinists.
The sixteenth century was a time of great intolerance and cruelty. And this was especially true for about two generations following the Protestant Reformation. One did not have to be RIGHT, but only to DIFFER, to be martyred.
2. HOW LONG did Daniel say that it would take to "wear out the saints"? Dan. 7:25.
COMMENT: A "time and times and the dividing of time" is three and a half times, or 3 1/2 years, as we learned in previous lessons. Computing a year for each day in 3 1/2 years, we arrive at a period of 1260 years.
3. And how long was the True Church to exist in "the wilderness" -- that is, away from main centers of civilization? Rev. 12:6.
COMMENT: The True Church which Jesus built was reduced until it was PRACTICALLY nonexistent -- all but dead -- at the end of this 1260-year period of persecution. But it could NEVER die, for Christ had said "the gates of hell (the grave) SHALL NOT PREVAIL against it" (Matt. 16:18).
Do not confuse this period of 1260 years of flight from Satan's anger with another 1260-year period -- A.D. 554 to 1814 -- during which revivals of the old Roman Empire were dominated by the Papacy (Rev. 13:5).
Waldenses, Cathars and others during the Middle Ages were in unanimous agreement in stating the time when God's True Church first became an outcast and fled to the wilderness. They BEGAN IT WITH THE AGREEMENT BETWEEN EMPEROR CONSTANTINE AND POPE SYLVESTER. There is no mistaking this time.
From Constantine's decree in 325 A.D. and the consequent initiation of persecution on non-Catholics, 1260 years brings us to the time immediately following 1585.
Did you notice, in the section on scattered Sabbath keepers, how they were either completely extinct or insignificant about this time?
At this time, the hand of God is again clearly seen in events. The living Jesus Christ moved to make it POSSIBLE for His Church to GROW AGAIN, and for His Work to be done!
In 1586-87, conviction and execution for conspiracy of Mary, Queen of Scots, removed for the last time the threat to Protestant Britain of a renewal of Catholic domination by way of the throne. There were other Catholic monarchs later, but they had no opportunity to restore Catholic power. The people simply would not allow it.
In the following year, as the supposed "invincible" Spanish Armada approached Britain to attack, it was utterly overwhelmed by a great storm at sea -- a miraculous intervention in the weather!
And what a miracle it was! In that day, it was on the lips of every Englishman and even on those of continentals that this COULD NOT HAVE BEEN OTHER than a GREAT MIRACLE from God! Not only was England enabled to remain POLITICALLY free, she was encouraged to stay non-Catholic!
The magnitude of this defeat made Europe's strongest Catholic power second-rate. ISRAELITE Britain was now SUPREME, and in the political and moral climate of a freedom-loving, Protestant Britain, God's Work could again develop!
Christ's Church would YET use the power of the printing press!
But just as at the beginning of the 1260 years it had taken the True Church a few years to be completely removed and re-established elsewhere, now it took the Church that had been brought down to almost nothing a few years to revive and again become significant. Meanwhile, Jesus Christ took special steps TO INSURE that His Church on the Continent would continue. The Church of Thyatira Continues shortly after the middle of the 16th century, new ideas of religious freedom from Switzerland, Germany and Bohemia came into Transylvania (Western Romania today, then part of Hungary). Here an ex-Catholic priest named Francis David joined successively the Lutherans (1540), Calvinists (1559) and Unitarians (Polish Anabaptists). He founded in 1566 the first Unitarian congregation in Transylvania. (They were "anti-Trinitarians," unlike Unitarians of today.)
Continual study led him to ever more understanding. He was soon branded by his co-religionists as an unscrupulous innovator. Proving unmoveable in his convictions, he was condemned and imprisoned in 1578, and died the following year.
After David's death, a few of his flock refused to give up what light they had received.
Meanwhile, Christ had struck down and called to His service a rich Hungarian (Szekler) noble. Andreas Eössi turned to the study of the Bible as a result of a long sickness, and the deaths of his wife and all his sons. Though he had no knowledge of Hebrew, he found the truth clearly revealed in the Bible. Well versed in church history, he dismissed as folly the idea that one could learn religion only at one of the recognized theological institutions.
In the year 1588, he began to lead a group of the people who formerly listened to Francis David. Under his direction they began to live by every word of God and put into practice the whole Bible, the Old Testament as well as the New. The history of these people may be found in the book "Sabbatarians in Transylvania" by Samuel Kohn.
They saw the Bible enjoined the keeping of the true weekly Sabbath on the 7th day. They recognized in it a type of the future state of "spiritual marriage" when the Church would be married to Christ. They rejoiced each Sabbath adorning themselves for it in their best attire.
They knew the 7th day typified that great time of rejoicing in which they -- Gentiles -- could be a part of the "bride of Christ," ruling with Him in the seventh thousand years.
They also kept all the ANNUAL Sabbaths or Holy Days. They kept the true Passover with unleavened bread, understanding it was the continuation of the Old Testament Passover, but now in REMEMBRANCE OF the Redeemer who died for the sins of all mankind.
Their civil New Year was the Feast of Trumpets.
The so-called "Christian" festivals -- Christmas, Easter, etc., they declared were the inventions of popes! They rejected the "baptism" of such "Christians," and even made a distinction between clean and unclean meats.
They understood that they, being Gentiles, and in part descended of the family of Japheth by flesh birth (most were Hungarian), had become a part of spiritual Israel and sons of Abraham (see Eph. 2:12-20 and Gal. 3:29).
Most important of all, they inculcated the moral conduct emphasized by Jesus Christ -- love for God and man, moderation in all things, respect for authority, honor to those in civil offices, etc.
About 1600, they compiled -- and printed -- a hymn book of 110 paraphrases of Psalms and other poetical passages of the Bible. Forty-four relate to the Sabbath, 5 to the new moon, 11 to Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, 6 to Pentecost, 3 to the Festival of Trumpets, 1 to the Day of Atonement, and 6 to the Festival of Tabernacles.
New Efforts to Wear Out the Saints
The number of co-workers in Transylvania increased rapidly. Most, however, continued to assemble with one of the four established denominations of the country. They held their own meetings in secret, usually keeping the Sabbaths in the privacy of their own homes.
And no wonder! For new persecutions were continually being devised against their property, their liberty and their lives. A law was passed for the suppression of Sabbatarians in 1595. A new, usurping prince in 1600 ordered them punished and their property confiscated. At that time many of their books and writings were seized and burned. A similar regulation was propounded in 1607. (Notice an amazing pattern of 7 (1588-1595) and 12 (1588-1600) in the years beginning with Eössi's leadership!)
When Eössi died, about 1600, his adopted son, a highly educated Hungarian named Simon Péchi, became leader of the Sabbath keepers. Péchi, like many others, passed as a Unitarian and a "Christian," even holding several important public offices. But in 1618, a Unitarian synod formally excommunicated all Sabbath keepers, while the prince proposed a new law against them. In the same year the Thirty Years' War began. Being at that time Chancellor of Transylvania, Péchi was forced to accompany the prince and his army in 1619 to war in Austria.
This was the turning point -- and the end of another 19-year cycle -- in the history of these people.
One cannot be both a part of this world and a true Christian at the same time!
Péchi was suddenly seized and imprisoned for 3 1/2 years and afterward placed in retirement! Meanwhile there was a great influx of Sephardic Jews into Transylvania (where there had been NO Jews before). Sabbath keepers and Jews began to draw closer together, Péchi himself taking a lead in this association after 1629.
During the last part of this 19-year cycle, Sabbatarians in Transylvania stood at the height of their secular influence. Péchi was again highly honored and again stood high in government circles.
But the SPIRITUAL condition of the Church did not recover.
A new, severe law issued against it in 1635 remained inoperative for three years. Then suddenly in 1638 a commission representing the four recognized religions summoned many of the Sabbath keepers before it and sentenced them to loss of life and goods. Péchi himself was condemned, imprisoned, but later freed, having taken an oath to renounce the Sabbath!
From this time on, Sabbath keepers in Transylvania survived only in secret. Some of their descendants were again persecuted nearly a hundred years later. The last record of them brings us to the beginning of the twentieth century. It is repeatedly true that nominal but spiritually dead professors of religion continue to exist long after every spark of spiritual life has been quenched.
In the course of time, most of them emigrated, and some became outright Jews. One story is that Péchi himself fled with a number of his followers to Moldavia and Constantinople.
Is it significant that many "Unitarians" fleeing from adjoining Poland in the same period made their way to HOLLAND? It was just across the channel from Holland that God's Sabbath-keeping Church in England was already reviving. But more about this in Lesson 53.
(To Be Continued)
ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS
Another "Presbyter John"?
Q: "How can you be sure that the Apostle John wrote the books of John and Revelation? Wasn't there another John in Asia Minor who wrote them about 100 A.D.?" -- E.K., Wisconsin
A: The modern "higher critics" assume that the writer of John's Epistles and the book of Revelation was a certain "presbyter John" who is supposed to have lived in Ephesus about A. D. 100. They point to the opening verses of both II John and III John as supposed "proof" for this unfounded theory. John does call himself an "elder" ("presbyter" in Greek). Of course! All of God's ministers are elders. The Apostle Peter was an elder (I Peter 5:1).
But notice the immediate proof that this Elder John was the same as the Apostle John. Turn to I John and read verse 1 of chapter 1. John plainly says that HIS eyes have seen and HIS hands have handled Jesus Christ in the flesh. This could only have occurred while Jesus walked the earth as a man and while he was teaching and training his disciples -- one of whom became the Apostle John.
The false theory about another John began with Dionysius of Alexandria, a "church father" whose influence extended from A.D. 231 to 264. By denying that the Apostle was the writer of the book of Revelation, he hoped to do away with a doctrine he didn't like -- the truth that Jesus Christ and his saints will rule on earth for 1000 years (Rev. 20:4).
Dionysius deliberately misread a statement made by Papias, another of the "church fathers." Papias tells us how eager he was to hear what "the presbyters" Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John and Matthew had "said" (past tense) and what Aristion and the presbyter John (who were still alive) "were saying."
Notice how Papias is careful to distinguish Aristion from the "presbyters" -- all apostles in this case -- whom he obviously regarded as of higher rank. And one of those apostles -- John, the presbyter -- was still alive when Papias originally wrote his comments.
Despite the careful clarity of Papias, Dionysius insisted that Papias spoke of two Johns, one the apostle, the other "the presbyter." Eusebius (about 270 to 340) adopted the view of Dionysius, and for the same reason -- dislike of the truth taught by the book of Revelation.
A Large Thyatira Church?
Q: "Lesson 51 states the number of Waldenses increased rapidly after a headquarters was established in Northern Italy. How big did the Church grow during the Thyatira Era?" -- E.A B., Pasadena, California
A: There are no records of the number of truly converted people there were during the Thyatira Era. But we know the True Church was always to remain small compared to the great organizations of this world. It was to be a "little flock" (Luke 12:32; Matt. 7:14).
In the fourteenth century it is said there were as many as 80,000 Waldenses in the Austrian Empire. Another statement sometimes made -- that there were 800,000 Waldenses in all Europe -- is a misreading of a Waldensian's own comment that it was possible to travel 800 miles and stop every night at the home of a sympathizer.
In the history of God's Church it has been repeatedly true that "many shall cleave to them with flatteries" (Dan. 11:34). The Thyatira Era was no exception. Partly because MANY were dissatisfied with the degradation and oppression of the established church, a large number of friends and others who sympathized with God's true people were found in every country where God's people went. But THEY were not the Church, even though the world regarded them all as Waldenses!
Most of them were, at best, only co-workers -- perhaps sincere, but unconverted -- who had never given themselves completely and unreservedly to God.
Now notice what this situation led to. It "prepared the way for the transformation of his (Waldo's) following (those who cleaved with fatteries) into a sect or antichurch, a tendency already present in 1184. Under the pressure of persecution even the 'friends' felt themselves sectaries, and became increasingly merged with the main body (or better said, the small flock) of Waldenses" (from the Schaff-Herzog RELIGIOUS ENCYCLOPEDIA, article "Waldenses"). They then began to join THEMSELVES together, rather than being all united through the Holy Spirit.
These people were not themselves the True Church, though the True Church was AMONG them.
That is why they began so soon to compromise with error, and to commit "spiritual fornication."