There was a great deal of people called Lollards. Many of them were just reformers. Some of them, no doubt were Baptists. It is difficult to sort them out. John Wycliffe came on the scene and his followers were called Lollards. Quite naturally, his translation of the Scriptures would find much acceptance among the Baptists. He held many interesting views, yet, in my opinion, he was a reformer and not a Baptist.
Thomas Armitage has an interesting statement: "Froude finds a resemblance between some of Wycliffe's views and those of the Baptists, and others have claimed him as a Baptist. But it were more accurate to say that many who carried his principles to their legitimate results became Baptists. His foundation principles were: 'That all truth is contained in the Scriptures, and that Christ's law sufficeth by itself to rule Christ's church; that we must receive nothing but what is in the Scripture; that whatever is added to it or taken from it is blasphemous; that no rite or ceremony ought to be received into the church but that which is plainly confirmed by God's word; that wise men leave that as impertinent which is not plainly expressed; that we admit to conclusion that is not proven by Scripture testimony; and that whoever holds the contrary opinions is not a Christian, but flatly the devil's champion.'"1
As Baptists, we heartily agree with these principles. We also feel that one who believes these principles and follows them to their logical end will become a Baptist. This statement by Armitage is a very good one.
Origin of the Lollards
At this point we will notice what a few different ones have to say upon this subject. The Religious Encyclopedia has this article:
"The name Lollards is applied both to a semi-monastic charitable society originating in Brabant in the
fourteenth century and to the English followers of John Wycliffe. The Brabantine Lollards are mentioned by J. Hocsem, a canon of Liege c. 1350, in a notice of the year 1309, and from his account it is obvious that they received their name from the Middle Dutch loellen ("to sing softly, hum"). They first appeared prominently on the outbreak of the plague in Antwerp c. 1350, devoting themselves to the care of the sick and the burial of the dead, and received their name Alexians (q.v.) from their patron saint. Suspected of heresy from the very start, they were tolerated conditionally after 1347, and their dubious reputation transferred their name to the adherents of Wycliffe when he began in 1380 to assail the accepted teachings of the Church in regard to the Eucharist. The term was so used for the first time by Thomas Walden and the Cistercian Crompe in 1382, who applied it to Wycliffe's friends Hereford and Repington. Five years later five itinerant preachers are described as Lollards, and the name henceforth appears frequently in English documents, finally losing all trace of its Dutch origin and becoming the national term of derision for Wycliffe’s followers from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century."2
Many historians feel the name "Lollards" came from an able preacher whose name was Walter Lollard. G. H. Orchard writes: "A bold and intrepid teacher was raised up among the Beghards, or Picards, in 1315, in the person of Walter Lollard, who became an eminent bard or pastor among them, and from whom the Waldenses were called Lollards. Clark says, Lollard stirred up the Albigenses by his powerful preaching, converting many to the truth, and defending the faith of these people. Moreland asserts he was in great reputation with the Waldenses, for having conveyed their doctrines into England, where they prevailed all over the kingdom. Mosheim remarks, that Walter was a Dutchman, and was a chief among the Beghards, or Brethren of the free spirit."
"He was a man of learning and of remarkable eloquence, and famous for his writings. Walter was in unity
of views in doctrine and practice with the Waldenses. He was a laborious and successful preacher who resided on the Rhine; but his converts are said to have covered all England. The Lollards rejected infant baptism as a needless ceremony. In 1320, Walter Lollard was apprehended and burnt. In him the Beghards on the Rhine lost their chief, leader and champion. His death was highly detrimental to their affairs, but did not, however, ruin their cause; for it appears they were supported by men of rank and great learning, and continued their societies in many provinces of Germany."3
It seems most probable, to me, that they did take their name from Walter Lollard (around 1315 A.D.) and later on were considered to be followers of John Wycliffe (around 1371 A.D.). It really appears to me that all the reformers were influenced greatly, in the areas of truth that they held, by Baptist people, by whatever name they were called. Who knows what great influence Walter Lollard and men like him had on Wycliffe. Certainly the Baptists of those days wanted folks to have a translation of the Bible. Certainly they believed the Bible to have all the answers for men's rule of faith and practice. It could very well be that Wycliffe received those principles from them. He certainly did not receive them from the Catholic Church with which he was, at first, affiliated.
John T. Christian writes of Walter Lollard: "Walter Lollard, a Dutchman, of remarkable eloquence, came, according to Fuller, into England, in the reign of Edward III, 'from among the Waldenses, among whom he was a great bard or pastor.' His followers rapidly increased so that Abelard declared 'our age is imperiled by heretics, that there seems to be no footing left for the true faith.' Knighton, the English chronicler, says: 'More than one-half of the people of England, in a few years became Lollards.'"4 It seems there were Lollards in England before Wycliffe became a great leader there. Yes - I think Walter had a great influence on John!
Spurgeon in Connection With the Lollards
Richard Cook gives the following extract from the writings of Charles Haddon Spurgeon:
"Mr. Spurgeon has expressed himself upon English Baptist history. He says, "It would not be impossible to show that the first Christians who dwelt in this land were of the same faith and order as the churches now called Baptist. All along our history from Henry II to Henry VIII there are traces of the Anabaptists, who are usually mentioned either in connection with the Lollards or as coming from Holland. All along there must have been a great hive on the Continent of these 'Reformers before the Reformation; for despite their being doomed to die, almost as soon as they landed, they continued to invade this country to the annoyance of the priesthood and hierarchy.'" Spurgeon quotes the following statement from W. J. E. Bennett, of Frome, a ritualist, whose hatred of the Anabaptists rendered him least likely to manufacture ancient history for them. Mr. Bennett says; "The historian Lingard tells us, that there was a sect of fanatics, who infested the north of Germany, called Puritans. Usher called them Waldenses; Spelman, Paulicians, (the same as Waldenses). They gained ground and spread all over England; they refused all Romish ceremonies, denied the authority of the Pope, and more particularly, refused to baptize infants. Thirty of them were put to death for their heretical doctrines, near Oxford; but the remainder still held to their opinions in private, until the time of Henry II 1158; and the historian Collier tells us that wherever the heresy prevailed, the churches were either scandalously neglected, or pulled down, and infants left unbaptized." "We are obliged to Mr. Bennett for this history, which is in all respects authentic, and we take liberty to remark upon it, that the reign of Henry II is a period far more worthy of being called remote, than the reign of Henry VIII, (the founder of the Episcopal Church,) and if Baptists could trace their pedigree no farther, the church of Thomas Crammer, (the Episcopal,) could not afford to sneer at them as a modern sect. Concerning the poor, persecuted people that are referred to in this extract, it seems that under Henry II they were treated with those tender mercies of the wicked, which are so notoriously cruel. 'They were apprehended and brought before a council of the clergy, at
Oxford. Being interrogated about their religion, their teacher named Gerard, a man of learning, answered in their name, that they were Christians and believed the doctrines of the apostles. Upon a more particular inquiry, it was found that they denied several of the received doctrines of the church, such as purgatory, prayers for the dead, and the invocation of saints; and refusing to abandon these damnable heresies, as they were called, they were condemned as incorrigible heretics, and delivered to the secular arm to be punished. The King, (Henry II) at the instigation of the clergy, commanded them to be branded with a red hot iron on the forehead, to be whipped through the streets of Oxford, and having their clothes cut short by their girdle, to be turned into the open fields, all persons forbidden to afford them any shelter or relief, under the severest penalties. This cruel sentence was executed with its utmost rigor, and it being the depth of winter, all these unhappy persons perished with cold and hunger.'"5
David Benedict, in his History of the Baptists (page 308) says that Walter Lollard "was in sentiment the same as Peter de Bruis." We refer our readers to the chapter on the Petrobrusians for Peter's doctrinal beliefs. To say Walter and Peter believed alike is to say Walter Lollard was a Baptist.
John T. Christian writes: "It is certain that the Lollards, who had preceded Wycliffe and had widely diffused their opinions, repudiated infant baptism. The testimony of Neal is interesting. He says: 'That the denial of the rights of infants to baptism was a principle generally maintained among Lollards, is abundantly confirmed by the historians of those times, (Neal, History of the Puritans, II, 354).'"
"The followers of Wycliffe and Lollard united and in a short time England was full of the 'Bible Men.' ' 'Tis, therefore, most reasonable to conclude,' said Crosby, 'that those persons were Baptists, and on that account baptized those that came over to their sect, and professed the true faith, and desired to be baptized into it.'"
"Lollards practiced believers' baptism and denied infant baptism. Fox says one of the articles of faith among them was that faith ought to precede baptism.' This at least was the contention of a large portion of those people."
"The Lollard movement was later merged into the Anabaptist, and this was hastened by the fact that their political principles were identical. The Lollards continued to the day of the Reformation."6
J. M. Cramp writes: "Some of them, perhaps the majority, opposed infant baptism. Indeed, it is expressly affirmed by several historians that they refused to baptize their new-born children, and that they were charged before the ecclesiastical authorities with maintaining that infants who died unbaptized would be saved. This was an unpardonable sin in the eyes of the Pedobaptists, and the Lollards suffered grievously for it."7
This should be ample examples that their ancient doctrine was the 'faith once delivered to the saints' and the doctrine of true Baptists today.
We have seen again that holding to the truth, during ages past, meant severe persecution. With the Lollards this also holds true. Much of their persecution is found in Martyrs Mirror. Both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church persecuted the saints of God.
Here we will look at a lengthy quote from Thomas Armitage:
"Fuller says that Henry was more cruel to the Lollards 'than his predecessors,' and Fox states that he was the first English monarch who burnt heretics. But Camden alludes to a case, it is thought the one recorded in the Chronicle of London, of one of the Albigenses who was burnt in 1210; and Collier tells of a deacon who became a Jew, was degraded by a council at Oxford, 1222, and burnt under Henry III. This inhuman torture had long existed on the Continent, and Burnet attributed its late introduction into England to the high temper of the people, who would not submit to such severity. But this consideration is not satisfactory, while the
fact stands that Parliament deliberately enacted the law for the burning of heretics, making a nation responsible for their murder, while in other lands the will of the prince was sufficient to burn heretics without statute law. The English sheriffs were forced to take an oath to persecute the Lollards, and the justices must deliver a relapsed heretic to be burned within ten days of his accusation. The fact is, that the pope dictated English law at the shrine, and Archbishop Chicheley says openly, in his constitution, 1416, that the taking of heretics 'ought to be our principal care.'"
John Badly, a Lollard and a poor mechanic, was brought before Archbishop Arundel, March 1, 1409, on the charge of heresy touching 'The Sacrament.' He said that he believed in the omnipotent God in Trinity, but if every wafer used in the sacrament were Christ's veritable body, soul and divinity, there would be 20,000 gods in England. Being condemned to death March 16, he was bound with chains, put into an empty barrel and burnt in Smithfield, in the presence of the Prince of Wales, afterward Henry V, who at the stake offered him a yearly stipend from the treasury if he would recant. Even where the accused recanted the punishment was barbarous. John Florence, accused of heresy, renounced his views but was sentenced to be whipped for three Sundays before the congregation in the Norwich Cathedral, and for three Sundays more in his own parish church Shelton, bearing a taper and clothed only in canvas undergarments. The English had become mere serfs to a religious despotism, which brought them to the climax of wickedness that murdered its best subjects for claiming the sacred immunity to worship God as they would. England made certain shades of opinion in the Church 'high treason to the crown,' simply constructive treason at the most; for so-called heresy was made disloyalty under the pretense that the 'King of Glory was contemned under the cover of bread.' In other words, the denial of the 'Real Presence in the sacrament of the altar' was made an overt act against the monarch of the realm. And so, the chief aim of king and Parliament was legally to grill to ashes the most patriotic people of England. The secular method of punishing treason was by hanging or beheading, but Bale says that at the Parliament at Leicester it was enacted
(Henry V) that the Lollards should be hanged for treason against the king and burnt for heresy against God.
It was in keeping with this double-handed tyranny that Lord Cobham (Sir John Oldcastle) was put to death. He was a Welshman of great ability and consecration to Christ who had been imprisoned in the Tower, but had escaped and was recaptured after being hunted for four years, with a price on his head. Bishop Bale says that: 'Upon the day appointed, he was brought out of the Tower with his arms bound behind him, having a very cheerful countenance. Then he was laid upon a hurdle, as though he had been a most heinous traitor to the crown, and so drawn forth into St. Gile's field, where they had set up a new pair of gallows. As he was come to the place of execution, and was taken from the hurdle, he fell down devoutly upon his knees, desiring Almighty God to forgive his enemies. Then was he hanged up there in the middle in chains of iron, and so consumed alive in the fire.' That is, he was hanged over the fire as a traitor, and then burnt as a heretic, 1418. This state of things did not cease down to the time of Henry VIII, when tyranny changed hands only from the pope to the monarch. When the head of Anne Boleyn fell upon the scaffold, no man dared to proclaim her innocent, even on religious grounds, and the king used the power which the law left in his hands to persecute either Catholic or Protestant as he would. Indeed, for three hundred years no great soul arose in England who was able to arrest the despotism of pope and sovereign. Religious freedom or bondage ebbed or flowed through the will of the monarch, and, in that matter, the nation counted for little as against imbecile pope or royal despot.
When a heretic was condemned, the church bells tolled, the priest thundered, and the sentence of excommunication was pronounced. The priest seized a lighted candle from the altar and cried: 'Just as this candle is deprived of its light, so let him be deprived of his soul in hell.' All the people were obliged to say 'So be it;' then came the fine, imprisonment and death. Under Henry VIII it was proposed to consolidate all the penal laws against religion, when he said: 'Leave that to me.' He and his bishops then framed the 'Six Article Act,' which decreed that if a man denied that the bread and wine in the Supper were the very Christ, he should suffer
death by burning and forfeit all his possessions to the king, as in high treason. No mercy was shown under any circumstances."8
Thus we conclude that our ancestors were to be formed among the Lollards. Their doctrines match ours. They suffered for those doctrines.
Notes on Chapter 21
1 The History of the Baptists, Volume 1, pages 315-316.
2 The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Volume 7, page 15.
3 A Concise History of the Baptists, pages 332-333.
4 A History of the Baptists, Volume 1, pages 183-184.
5 The Story of the Baptists, pages 74-75.
6 A History of the Baptists, Volume 1, page 187.
7 Baptist History, pages 143-144.
8 The History of the Baptists, Volume 1, pages 323-325.
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