The Mouth Of The Morningstar: John Wycliffe’s Preaching And The Protestant Reformation -- By: Caleb Cangelosi
PRJ 6:2 (July 2014) p. 187
The Mouth Of The Morningstar: John Wycliffe’s Preaching And The Protestant Reformation
The fourteenth-century English scholar and pastor John Wycliffe is well known as a forerunner of the Reformation, primarily because he instigated the translation of the Latin Vulgate into the vernacular English, and because of his Augustinian understanding of the church and his rejection of the doctrine of transubstantiation. It is often overlooked, however, that the newly translated Scriptures and Wycliffe’s revolutionary doctrines most often made their way to the sixteenth century through the vehicle of preaching. In the days before the printing press1 and because of widespread illiteracy even after Gutenberg’s mid-fifteenth-century invention, the proclamation of God’s Word by Wycliffe’s followers (known as the “Lollards,” the “Bible-men,” or the “poor preachers”) was integral to promulgating his views to God’s people in England and beyond.2 Yet it is the sermons of Wycliffe himself that had a foundational influence on the Reformation—not only because they communicated his teachings to the people directly,3 but also because they were preached and published for the sake of the
PRJ 6:2 (July 2014) p. 188
preachers who heard and read them, so that they might use them as a guide in their own preaching.
Sean Otto recently noted that the importance of preaching to John Wycliffe has long been understood, yet “few have taken the time to read his extensive preaching corpus…[and] little has as yet been written about his pastoral theology and his preaching itself.”4 Even Hughes Oliphant Old chose not to include Wycliffe in his incredibly full survey of Christian preaching, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church.5 This article aims to throw a few shovels of dirt into the lacuna by examining Wycliffe’s understanding and practice of preaching, drawing much from his sermons themselves. It will also discuss the way his influence pervaded Europe, particularly his home island. The “Morningstar of the Reformation” shone brilliantly in his preaching, and he continues to lighten our path today.
The Man And His Times
Before John Wycliffe tells us his thoughts on preaching, it is important to recall his life in brief fashion to set his homiletics in context. The year of Wycliffe’s birth cannot be determined with confidence, though scholars pinpoint it sometime ar...
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