We live at a tricky time. Expressing what you believe, on any number of social, moral or political issues, can quickly lead to your marginalisation or even cancellation.
Scary though that prospect may be, it is as of nothing compared with the fate you could have suffered in England 500 years ago, simply for holding different beliefs from the King or the Church. A monument off Station Road in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, UK, records the ‘cancellation’, by execution, of eleven local residents, who were burnt at the stake for believing that the Bible should be read in English.
In the early 16th century, the Bible was only allowed to be read in Latin; but the average person couldn’t read Latin, so the population lived in ignorance of its contents. Understandably, the eleven Amersham ‘Lollards’ (that’s what they were called) wanted to read the Bible in their own language. They also wanted to make it available to their fellow countrymen and women, so that they could see for themselves that forgiveness of sins was readily available, not through confession, penance or holy communion – as the Church taught – but through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
However, if millions of people became aware that personal salvation comes not through anything a person can say, pray or give, but through what Jesus Christ has already done – by dying for our sins on the cross and rising again from the dead – imagine the effect that would have on the Church. It might go bankrupt! A clash with the authorities was inevitable. The Lollards were arrested and put on trial. Six men and one woman were burnt in Amersham between 1506 and 1521, while four others were burnt in various parts of the country in the years leading up to 1532. In a couple of cases, the children of the victims were forced to light the fire that consumed their parents.
Though they did not live to see the end results of their courageous stand for a ‘Bible in English’, the Amersham martyrs did play a small but vital role in the ‘Reformation’ in England, which ultimately transformed our country into a place where freedom of conscience, speech and belief, have become things we all take for granted. How ironic that, 500 years later, people are once again being intimidated into silence and cancelled, not by a religious authority bent on protecting its status, but by a secular movement bent on the promotion and celebration of moral relativism and unbridled ‘freedom’, in contradiction of everything the Bible teaches.
With the benefit of hindsight, now that 6 billion copies of the Bible have been printed worldwide in over 3,000 languages, the efforts of the cruel authorities in Amersham seem futile to say the least. To this day, the Bible remains the world’s best-selling book and it can be read freely by anyone with a smartphone. Here is its central message in a nutshell: God, at the beginning of time, created a perfect world. Humanity ruined that world by sin. In love, and to rescue us, God sent His perfect Son Jesus Christ to earth to die for the world and to pay the penalty for sins. In the resurrection of Christ from the dead 3 days later, God demonstrated His victory over sin and death, and now offers eternal life and forgiveness to all who will turn from their sin and place faith alone in Christ for eternal salvation. The Bible says “Repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
Michael J. Penfold – 07849 882702 or email@example.com