1. King Alfred the Great – The Reformer King
King Alfred of Wessex (849-901) lived through tumultuous times and, in his 30-year reign, he personally commanded in 54 pitched battles against the invading Danish Vikings. King Alfred began the process of converting the bloodthirsty Viking invaders to Christianity. Alfred was a great soldier and scholar, a lawmaker, educator, author, and Reformer. Alfred was a dedicated Christian, the first to translate the Gospels, and other parts of the Bible, into English. He donated half of his personal income to Church schools and founded numerous schools. He was recognised as the Father of the English Navy and he gave England a stable system of laws based upon God’s Law. King Alfred’s Dooms (The Common Law) began with The 10 Commandments, the Laws of Moses, the Golden Rule of Christ, and other Biblical principles from the Sermon on the Mount. No other sovereign did more in battle, in establishing law, promoting the education of his people, and bringing his enemies to Christ.
2. John Wycliffe – The Morning Star of the Reformation
When Oxford was the greatest university in the world, Professor John Wycliffe (1320-1384) was its leading Theologian and Philosopher. Although he did not have access to a Greek New Testament, John Wycliffe translated the New Testament from Latin into English. Wycliffe taught that all authority is delegated by God and is limited. Corruption disqualifies leaders. Leaders are called to servant-leadership and sacrifice. Christ alone is the Head of the Church. God’s Law is supreme. Scripture alone is our authority. He mobilised the Lollards, the field workers of the Reformation, as itinerant Evangelists, to proclaim the Word of God in the marketplaces and teach the Scriptures throughout England. Wycliffe and his Lollards helped prepare the way for the Reformation in England and Bohemia, where his writings inspired Jan Hus.
3. Jan Hus – Professor of Prague University
When Anne of Bohemia married King Richard II of England, she sent copies of Professor Wycliffe’s writings back to Prague. Inspired by Wycliffe’s teachings, Professor Jan Hus (1372-1415) boldly confronted corruption and superstitions, and taught the Scriptures in Prague University. As a result, the papacy ex-communicated Hus and condemned him and his writings to be burned. Hus declared: “I would not, for a chapel full of gold, recede from the Truth… the Truth stands and is mighty forever… in the Truth of the Gospel I have written, taught and preached, today I will gladly die.” As Hus was being burned, he proclaimed: “My goose is cooked!” (Hus is the Bohemian word for goose). “But 100 years from now a swan will arise, whose voice you will not be able to silence.”
4. Martin Luther – Captive to the Word of God
Professor Martin Luther (1483-1546) of the University of Wittenberg, was a brilliant Lawyer and Doctor of Theology. Luther was the author of 400 titles, over 60,000 pages of original work. His bold stand, 31 October 1517, nailing The 95 Theses to the church door, launched the Great Reformation. On 18 April 1521, Martin Luther stood firm before the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and the assembled princes, bishops and archbishops, who were intimidating him to recant his writings. Luther’s courageous response: “Unless I am convinced by Scripture, or by clear reasoning, that I am in error – for popes and councils have often erred and contradicted themselves – I cannot recant, for I am subject to the Scriptures I have quoted; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. It is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against one’s conscience. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. So help me God. Amen!” Luther inspired freedom of conscience, freedom of thought, freedom of religion, freedom of opinion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and Scripture alone as our ultimate authority. Luther smashed the chains of superstition and tyranny and restored Christian liberty to worship God in spirit and in truth.
5. Ulrich Zwingli – The Reformer of Zürich
Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) was the Father of the Reformation in Switzerland. On the 1st January 1519, he introduced expository preaching. Dispensing with Latin and the mass, he began expounding the Gospel of Matthew, line-by-line, verse-by-verse. His Biblical preaching transformed Zürich and later Switzerland. Zwingli preached in the marketplaces and reformed education. As he lay dying at the Battle of Kappel, he declared: “They can kill the body, but they cannot kill the soul.”
6. William Tyndale – The Most Influential Englishman
A brilliant linguist and graduate of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, William Tyndale (1494-1536) is the Father of the English Bible. He produced the first translation from the original Hebrew and Greek Scriptures to be printed in English. As this was illegal at the time, he did his translation work in Germany and these Bibles had to be smuggled into England. As a result, Tyndale was outlawed and condemned to death. On 6 October 1538, he was burned at the stake. His dying prayer: “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes”, was remarkably answered. Within two years, by order of King Henry VIII, every parish church in England was required to make a copy of the English Bible available to all its parishioners.
7. John Calvin – A Heart Aflame and A Mind Renewed
The exiled French Reformer, John Calvin (1509-1564), became the most influential man of his age and his teachings have proven to be some of the most foundational in the shaping of the Protestant world. Calvin’s ideals of religious toleration, representative government, separation of powers, constitutionalising the monarchy, checks and balances, establishing the rights and liberties of citizens and a Christian work ethic, led to the industrial and scientific revolutions, developing the most productive and prosperous societies in history. Calvin’s emphasis on the Sovereignty of God and the Lordship of Christ in all areas of life, inspired social reformers who transformed nations. His 1000 page, Institutes of the Christian Religion, stands as a systematic masterpiece, one of the greatest Christian books in all of history. His motto was “Promptly and sincerely in the service of My God.” John Knox described Geneva under John Calvin, as “The most perfect school of Christ since the Apostles.”
8. John Knox – The Reformer of Scotland
Mary, Queen of Scotts, declared: “I am more afraid of the prayers of John Knox than of an army of 10000!” John Knox’s prayer: “Give me Scotland, or I die!” was answered in his own lifetime. John Knox (1514-1572) transformed Scotland from a country with 4% church attendance to one with 96% church attendance, one of the most Reformed nations in the world, and the sending base for such influential Missionaries, as Robert Morrison, David Livingstone and Mary Slessor.
9. William Carey – The Reformer of India
The Father of Modern Missions, William Carey (1761-1834), translated the Bible and New Testament into 35 languages, established 100 schools, the first Christian College in Asia, campaigned successfully for the abolition of suttee, the burning of widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands, the burning of lepers, and infanticide. Carey introduced lending libraries, savings banks, forestry conservation, ministering to body, mind and spirit, transforming India through his compassionate social action, Bible teaching, and tireless labours, for 41 years in the field.
10. William Wilberforce – Setting the Captives Free
Member of Parliament, William Wilberforce (1759-1833) wrote that God Almighty had set before him: “Two great objectives: the suppression of the slave trade and the Reformation of society” Wilberforce successfully mobilised Reformation Societies, which enlisted the signatures of over one million English people for a petition to set every slave free. He campaigned to mobilise the Royal Navy to intercept slave vessels and set captives free, the establishing of Sierra Leone for freed slaves. He was also a Founder of the British and Foreign Bible Society and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. When William Wilberforce entered parliament, he was one of only two born-again Christians in Westminster. By his death, there were over 100 Evangelicals in parliament, in England.
“Proclaim liberty throughout the land…” Leviticus 25:10
Dr. Peter Hammond is a Missionary, Author and Bible Teacher. He is the Author of Victorious Christians – Who Changed the World and The Greatest Century of Reformation. Tel: 021-689-4480; email: firstname.lastname@example.org; website: www.frontline.org.za.