Long famed for his role in translating the Bible into English in Medieval England, John Wycliffe was also a learned theologian and faithful priest. Faced with an unstable political and social order, a financially and sexually corrupt Church, and the Plague, Wycliffe upheld the ultimate authority of the Word of God and attacked the Church’s many evils. These pastoral treatises, newly translated into modern English, were originally written in the vernacular, a key means of reaching poorly educated priests who had been hastily ordained to replace those killed off by the Plague. Wycliffe argues that the Church and her ministers must return to their first love: the Lord Jesus. In calling pastors in his own day to better tend their flocks by preaching the Scriptures, living simply, and working diligently for the good of their parishioners, Wycliffe speaks just as effectively to our time.
John Jewel (1522-1571), Bishop of Salisbury, stands as one of the leading architects and perhaps the staunchest defender of the Protestant Church of England. Writing in 1562 when the Elizabethan church was yet young and fragile, and menaced by Catholic foes at home and abroad, Jewel proudly proclaimed the independence of the English church from Roman rule, and the deep catholicity of its reformation. Appealing throughout to the testimonies of the Church Fathers, Jewel made a powerful case that the Protestants were not heretics or innovators, but genuine reformers, restoring the church to the purity of apostolic practice and proclaiming anew the “faith once delivered to the saints.” Along the way, he refutes common misunderstandings or caricatures of Protestant teaching, and takes the offensive against what he sees as the tyrannical power of the medieval papacy.
Appearing now in English for the first time since 1583, "On Free Will and the Law" represents Part II, Ch. 2 and 3 of the Loci Communes of Peter Martyr Vermigli. Presented here in a clear, readable, and learned translation, we first have Vermigli's deft treatment of the thorny issue of free will. Demonstrating clearly his peerless erudition and subtle mind, Vermigli simultaneously upholds the the fallen will's enslavement to sin and freedom to act. Likewise, Vermigli's considerably more brief exposition of the catholic doctrine of the Law alongside his criticisms of Manichean and Pelagian errors is a helpful summary of Protestant teaching on this issue. With the Scriptures as his final authority, the Church Fathers as his guides, and philosophy as his handmaid, Vermigli produced Loci that withstand the rigors of time and remain a helpful guide to Protestants everywhere.
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