Summary: Eventually people get it: You must come out of Babylon. Here is the story of those first heroes of the Protestant Reformation, who saw Babylon, protested, and were forced out. Thank God for them.
PART THREE: WHEN PEOPLE PROTEST
THIRTY-SEVEN: THE CALL "OUT OF HER" BEGINS
The light which manifests itself to many individuals within the church slowly becomes such a burning glow that, combining with the loss of prestige of the Papacy, and the growing political tensions, it can no longer be contained within Babylon proper. Light cannot be comprehended by darkness.
Rome's response? Based on its past philosophy, of course: I quote St. Bernard: " The death of an infidel pleases God."
Who is able to write off a human soul and claim that it shall never repent? Only God. To whom has been committed eternal judgment? Only God.
Worse, who dares resist the workings of the Holy Spirit when men are grieved by that Spirit? And godly men are grieved when unrighteousness rules the church, when all her holy ways have been perverted by unholy men, her teachings have been buried by the traditions of men. Who dares come against this angry God?
Some preliminary thoughts about the Reformation.
1. With the apostles and Jesus we have the fullness of Light. With the later church leaders, we have a gradual clouding of that light. With the Imperial Roman spirit of Babylon infused into the church we have the "mixture", which in God's eyes is darkness, the Dark Ages. With the reformers comes Light again, but not fullness of Light. Let us be patient with these men who have just awakened from the bad dream of Romanism, and not expect them to be fully cleansed from their ways in a day. Later reformers do greater works. And to you and me is committed the task of completing the work of perfection handed down to us by their Spirit-filled energies. Whatever we do, let us not go back the way we came...
2. All Protestants began as Roman Catholics, most as priests, friars, monks. This was not a move of the "rabble," but of the elite. Men upon whom Roman hands had been laid, and therefore by Roman definitions, men in whom great amounts of wisdom dwelt.
3. We who have been raised Protestant cannot imagine the courage it takes to stand against the prevailing doctrines and ways of 1000 years. The guilt, the shock, the pain of suddenly being a castaway, a reject.
4. There have always been those in the church who wanted to follow Christ first. DeRosa, op. cit., pp.118-119:
"Martin Luther was not the first to take onions to Rome and bring back garlic. In fact, the severest critics of the papacy have always been not enemies but friends [De Rosa would include himself in this number], including many saints - and some popes! Their witness goes back a long way."
DeRosa then goes back that trail to Adrian IV (1154-9) and Adrian's friend John of Salisbury, later a Bishop. John suggests that people of his day thought of the church as a "stepmother" rather than a mother, of its leaders as Scribes and Pharisees, and of its Pope as "burdensome and scarcely to be borne."
He travels to the thirteenth century, when one Cardinal Hugo blasts the sitting Pope Innocent IV as most immoral. Cardinal Bonaventure in the same century likens Rome to the harlot of the apocalypse, 300 years before Luther says it! He says that Rome corrupts prelates, who corrupt clergy, who corrupt the people.
Still following DeRosa, we see devout Catholic Dante (1265-1321) assuming that many popes and cardinals are hell-bound, or already there.
Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), hardly a Protestant either, tells Gregory XI (Pope) that, frankly, the Papal administration stinks. Her actual word.
But with John Wycliffe(1320-1384), a new chapter of the church begins. And for nearly 700 years now, voices like his have sounded the warning about Babylon. These voices have all drawn fire from Rome, and many have been silenced. But the protest continues, and must continue until the Lord of the Church comes for His own.
I now follow in these comments about reformers, a very helpful volume put together by the late Harry Emerson Fosdick in 1952, Great Voices of the Reformation, Random House, NY.
Wycliffe, a Catholic Scholar of Oxford University, becomes the most influential preacher of his day in England. He bluntly refers to Roman government as "antichrist," and accuses it of laboring to do away with the Scriptures in his Antichrist's Labour to Destroy Holy Writ. It is obvious why we today honor this man, and have named the great Bible translation organization after him. It is equally obvious why he did not endear himself to Rome, and why in 1414 the Council of Constance orders his bones to be dug up and burned. The ashes are thrown in the Avon River. But as one poet observes: