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Wednesday, June 13, 2012



Those who depend upon the application of set patterns of experience to verify revivals might easily, and sometimes do exclude the Reformation. It illustrates, despite this, all the biblical principles of revival. The condition preceding the Reformation, as with Pentecost, was one of apostacy. It was a religion of naturalism in which little of the grace of God was seen. In the day of Pentecost the naturalism found expression in moralism, but in the pre-Reformation period chief expression lay in superstition. The common people were bound by a ritualism purely magical in its administration. Everything was made to depend upon man so that few only knew anything of that saving life which springs from the power of God. Human hands were strangling the Church. Its organization was a form in which the power was denied. Political expediency had long dominated the policies of the Church; and its dogma, based upon the naturalistic philosophy of Aristotle, prevented social and economic progress. The stagnant and ineffective life of the Church drew no response from the human heart. Worldliness, self-seeking and immorality flourished with the clergy. Popular superstition, by which this corrupt and apostate Church held an ignorant people within its power, shut out the gospel of God's grace from their minds. The practices of the Church, such as the selling of indulgences, appealed to men of corrupt minds and a people trusting in superstitions. The twisted logic of the schoolmen justified in human terms this religion of man against which God's wrath was revealed.

The darkness of the pre-Reformation period resulted from the withdrawal of God's grace and the inevitable decline of man's nature. There were some evidences of God favour despite the general expression of His wrath. The history of the Waldensians in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries serves to remind us that in His wrath God was remembering mercy. The persecution by the papacy of the Waldensians did not stop the message of salvation by faith in Christ alone spreading from Italy to Germany and Alsace; and so powerful was this movement that by 1315 it has been estimated that there were over 80,000 true believers in . Bohemia and Passau alone. The influence of the movement extended into every European country during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The Waldensian history is undoubtedly an account of a work of God in revival preparing for a much greater revival. The Waldensian believers, as one would expect, were noted for the godliness of their family life and for discipline and prayerfulness.

Some thirty Waldensians came to England in the reign of Henry II, and whether Wycliffe and the Lollards derived anything from their influence we may never know, but it is possible. We can be certain that the true source of the light in which Wycliffe and the Lollards rejoiced was the Holy Spirit. His power had meant life for the Waldensians, and that life Wycliffe and his successors shared. We would have some hesitation in describing the movement which stemmed immediately from Wycliffe as revival. But the more popular Lollard movements influencing the common people in the fifteenth century can hardly be excluded from a history of revivals. The spontaneity and simultaneous occurrence of these divine visitations bear witness to a supernatural work of God.

These movements of the Spirit upon the Continent, not forgetting the fiery testimony of Savonara in Florence at the close of the fifteenth century, and evidences of the hand of God upon companies of believers in England were preparatory manifestations of the power of God prior to the Reformation proper.

Most history books try to account for the Reformation in terms of the intellectual and social pressures arising from the Renaissance. These movements, though influential, are quite inadequate to account for the 'spiritual' awakening of Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Merle d'Aubigne was surely right to begin his treatment of the Reformation in England with a chapter entitled 'The Revival of the Church'. D'Aubigne believed that history is the arena of God's activity and the outworking of His purposes. The political and social changes of the Reformation far from invalidating the view that this was essentially a work of God in grace serve to show the powerful moral effect which true religion always exercises upon society at large. Men's minds were liberated from the superstition of Rome and human complacency by the Spirit of God. Friedrich Klemm in 'A History of Western Technology' ascribes the great technological, scientific and commercial developments which followed the Reformation to the impact of Reformed doctrine. Salvation in the realm of the Spirit led to salvation in the realm of ethics and common grace. False religion had held nations in chains. Naturalism had deprived man of his true destiny in the image of God. A famine of the Word of the Lord had left even the wise ignorant. One of the great glories of true revivals is that they always lead to the renewal of intellectual, moral and social life.

The events of the Reformation are too well known to repeat here. This revival in which the Word of God was central brought unspeakable blessings to the sons of men

More in a few days.

Sam Drucker

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