History of the Church of God

(Church in England)

By Peter Salemi

Part 9

In Italy, beginning in the 14th century, a new movement began to shape the thinking of the Western world. This movement known as the Renaissance brought to birth a new educational interest in the philosophy and literature of ancient Greece and Rome. People had become highly dissatisfied with the time-honored institution of the Roman Catholic Church. Many recognized that they had been oppressed economically and culturally.

During this rebirth, the arts flourished. A new fascination grew with the study of sciences. Mankind became intensely aware of himself. Man sought to please himself through art, culture, new religious thought and formal education. The Renaissance is best known as an era of academic freedom. All of this new learning was not necessarily good. The Renaissance produced a spirit of criticism and scepticism as well. Eventually this "Renaissance spirit" led to the development of our modern German Rationalism which questions the very existence of God. However, the newer educational freedom did allow the true church of God to prepare to do an even greater work. This truly great effort of God's Church would not be fully realized until our modern 20th century.

During the 15th century scholars and clerics alike began to reject the authority and dictates of the Roman Catholic Church. Some deep religious thinkers recognized the serious moral corruptions in the Church at Rome. Visitors to Rome were appalled at the sexual immorality and decadence openly displayed at the Lateran Palace.

In 1517, Martin Luther, a German Monk, nailed his famous "Ninety-five Theses," to the door of the court church in Wittenburg, Germany. Luther protested the selling of papal indulgences for the forgiveness of sin. Luther was excommunicated and ordered to recant. Pope Leo X drafted a papal bull, or decree, denouncing Luther's teaching, but he publicly burned the encyclical. Emperor Charles V planned to stop the new movement with military action, but was drawn off by the threat of invasion from the Turks.

Although not his original intention, Luther's act started the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther was never a part of God's True Church. Northern Germany became Lutheran. Calvin and Zwingli conducted a similar movement in Switzerland, as did Knox in Scotland. By 1531, Henry the VIII established that the main body of the church in England be placed under the authority of the crown for domestic reasons. Roman Catholic religious authority and dominance was seriously wounded.

1260 Years Completed

As prophesied in Revelation 12:6, the Roman Catholic world of the 16th century crumbled.

The persecution unleashed on God's people by Constantine's decree in 325 A.D. finally came to an end. The Reformation pushed tyranny, horror, and death spawned by the infamous Inquisition into a nightmarish memory. Remember, the Dark Ages put the true Christian at an extreme disadvantage. Forced to the outside of mainstream thought, the true people of God had to preserve the truth under great adversity which often led to death. The true Church was constantly forced into hiding.

The book of Daniel gives us great insight into what was happening to God's people during the "millennium plus" of persecution and torture. "And such as do wickedly against the covenant shall he corrupt by flatteries: but the people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits. And they that understand among the people shall instruct many. yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil, many days. Now when they shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help: but many shall cleave to them with flatteries. And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them, and to purge, and to make them white, even to the time of the end: because it is yet for a time appointed" (Daniel 11:32-35). Constantine's first decree, the later crusades and the Inquisition attempted to stamp out the true Church.

Yet 1260 years later, in 1585, God's Church was still very much alive. A small remnant of God's people still remained true and faithful. The winds of change only begun to blow with the continued advancement of the Renaissance movement and Reformation. Then in 1586-87, the conviction and execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, for conspiracy, led to the complete removal of Roman Catholic political dominance of Britain. This was another major blow to the Catholic Church. Luther's movement weakened Catholic religious dominance; Britain weakened Catholic political dominance.

One additional fact from history here is that miraculous defeat of the Spanish Armada by the British in 1588 (caused by Gods intervention through weather) ensured Britain's political independence from the rest of Europe. Britain reigned supreme after defeating the Spanish navy. Spain, the once great Catholic political power, became second rate. All these events helped set the stage for God's church to move to England. In England the church would be free to work again. God worked through Britain who is Israel, to bring about his work again through his church once again.

The Printing Press

Let's look at one of the most important technological advancements made during the Renaissance before continuing with church history. The truly great invention of the Renaissance was the printing press. Few inventions have had greater impact in the history of man.

Johannes Guttenberg's printing process was the first to print using moveable type. For all practical purposes, Guttenberg developed the first printing Press. It is interesting to note that one of the first books Guttenberg printed was the Bible. Believe it or not Guttenberg's invention became part of a foundation for God's church to do the most incredible work since the time of the original Apostles.

Incidentally, the printing press was prophesied in the Bible. Deborah in the book of Judges prophesied that:

"...Zebulon wielding the writers' pen" (Judges 5:14). This means skilled in writing. The word "pen" here in the Hebrew means "branched off stick or scion for punishing," see S'trongs Exhaustive Concordance for writing or fighting, for ruling.

It was especially used in this sense to inscribe, to recount, to number. The word used here is "sepher," which is known in the Bible as the word for a book or a roll.

"It is therefore not out of place to associate it with the means with producing books and printing letters" (Strange Parallel, p.71, Helene Koppejan). History shows that Guttenberg "refined" the printing press, but a Dutch man named Coster of Haarlem (Holland) is considered "by some scholars [as] the first inventor of printing" (Encyclopedia Britannica, vol. 2 and vol. 18, 1961, edition). The tribe of Zebulon is the modern day people of Holland. And they as prophesied invented the printing press.

The Bible in English

John Wycliff lived from 1320 to 1384. He is credited with translating the Bible into the English language. Historians refer to Wycliff as an Oxford scholar, theologian and a churchman. He held the Bible in the highest esteem. Wycliff believed that the Bible was the source of truth and showed the way of salvation. He was one of the earliest leaders in the English revolt against the Roman Catholic Church. He was aware of the abuses and blasphemies committed and approved by the priests of the Middle Ages. He wrote pamphlets speaking out against these abuses.

His followers were called Lollards. This name had been given to the Waldensian people in the Netherlands. *'Lollard" is taken from the English word "lollen" or "lullen" which means to mumble or speak softly. This described the Waldensian practice of memorizing scriptures and then repeating them.

Wycliff was never a part of the true church. He was a Catholic all his life, but he had Waldensian associates. They moved to England at this time.

True Church in England

The Gospel was brought to England just prior to John Wycliffs birth. In 1315, a man known as Waltar Lollard moved from Holland to England with his brother Raymond. Walter was one of the chief Waldesian ministers. The two worked tirelessly together. Others joined their cause. Not since the time of the Apostles had the Gospel been spread through England, Read our Booklet, Where Did the Original Apostles Go?

It is evident that Lollard's work had a significant impact on England. In fact, the true Church took deep root awhile. They loosely associated themselves with Wvcliff. Here again is what the Encyclopedia Britannica (11 th edition) says about the Lollards:

"The organization must have been strong in numbers, but only those who were seized for heresy were known by name, and it is only from the indictments of their accusers that their opinions can be gathered. The preachers were picturesque figures in long russet dress down to the heels, who, staff in hand, preached in the mother tongue to the people in churches, and graveyards, in squares, streets, and houses, in garden and pleasure grounds, and then talked privately with those that had been impressed."

Walter Lollard and his brother Raymond preached, and hundreds of people learned for the first time about full immersion into the water for Baptism. They learned of God's true Sabbath and holy Days, and not the Catholics Churches festivals that stem from paganism.

About 1585, almost immediately after the end of her 1260 years in the wilderness, God's church began to revive-this time in England.

In the reign of Elizabeth [1558-1603], many conscientious and "independent thinkers" advocated the Seventh day. Most of them although they saw the truth about the Sabbath, were not really converted heart and mind.

A "great disputation" about the Sabbath arose. Oh yes, they could argue for the Sabbath, but would they fully surrender to the government of God?

Sabbath keepers now commonly came into historical view. Books were published urging the keeping of the Seventh day.

One of those not satisfied with Puritan Sunday observance was a stentorian voiced minister named John Trakse. Trakse also understood the truth concerning unclean meats. He ordained four evangelists about 1616, whose labor resulted in the conversion of many, quotes from Chamber's Encyclopedia, article "Sabbath. "

The Sabbath keepers in the 1600's referred to themselves as the church of God. These people were the result of the work done by Walter and Raymond Lollard. The secular public referred to these people as Sabbatarian Baptists. Only later did a group of Sabbath keepers organize themselves into the congregation called the Seventh-Day Baptists.

By 1668, there were in England nine or ten congregations besides numerous scattered believers in other places. So wrote the Seventh-day minister, Edward Stennett, to Rhode Island members, not yet organized into a local church. Stennett addressed the Rhode Island members as "the remnant in Rhode Island who keep the Commandments of God and the testimonies of Jesus"-see Revelation 12:17 (Cox, Literature of the Sabbath Question, p.267).

It was during this new era of God's church that the people of God began to utilize the printing press.

Books and pamphlets about the Sabbath were circulated widely. There were also many works published expounding other biblical truths.

Now we come to America where God's true church begins to flourish, and the Sabbath comes to New England.

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