I was born near Wales, and brought up from a child in the University of Oxford. There I increased in the knowledge of languages, and other liberal arts, as especially in the knowledge of the Scriptures. I was addicted to the Scriptures; insomuch that I often privately read to students, instructing them in the knowledge and truth of the Scriptures.
Later, I met Master Welch, a knight of Gloucestershire, and became schoolmaster to his children, and over time was in good favor with him. Master Welch allowed me to sit at their table, and often we talked of learned men, such as Luther and of Erasmus; as well as many other questions about the Scripture.
I showed them simply and plainly when they at any time disagreed with the Scriptures: I would lay plainly before them the Scriptures, confute their errors, and confirm Godís sayings. And so we continued for a certain season, reasoning and contending together for a time, until at length they became weary, and bare a secret grudge in their hearts against me.
As this grew on, the priests of the country began to grudge and rail against me, claiming my teachings were heresy; and accused me secretly to the chancellor. I was brought before the chancellor, and he threatened and treated me like a dog and charged me--with no accuser--but the priests of the country were there. But I escaped returned to my master again.
There was a doctor who lived nearby, whose heart was open to the truth of the Scriptures, and prophetically said to me, "Do you not know that the pope is very Antichrist, whom the Scripture speaketh of? But beware what you say; for if you shall be perceived to be of that opinion, it will cost you your life."
Not long after, I was with another doctor who said these blasphemous words, "We were better to be without God's laws than the pope's." The grudge of the priests increased against me, and they never ceased harassing me. I finally had to leave the country.
Humphrey Mummuth, alderman of London, took me into his house, where I lived (as Mummuth said) like a good priest, studying both night and day. I stayed in London almost a year, observing the course of the world--especially the demeanor of the preachers, how they boasted themselves, and set up their authority, who greatly disliked me. Plus, there was no room in the house to translate the new testament, and so I had to leave, again.
By God's providence I departed to Germany, where I considered that if the Scripture were turned into common speech, that the poor people might read and see the simple plain Word of God. I saw that it wasnít possible to establish the lay people in any truth, except the Scriptures were so plainly laid before their eyes in their mother tongue that they might see the meaning of the text for themselves. Because whatever truth was taught to them, the enemies of the truth would quench it with traditions of their own making, not founded in the Scripture.
I considered this to be the source of all mischief in the Church: the Scriptures of God were hidden from the people's eyes for so long the abominable doings and idolatries maintained by the pharisaical clergy could not be seen for what it was.
For these and many other considerations I was stirred up by God to translate the Scripture into my mother tongue, first setting to translate the New Testament, which came forth in print about A.D. 1525. Cuthbert Tonstal, bishop of London, and Sir Thomas More were mad with rage and planned to destroy my false erroneous translation, as they called it.
Eventually, I was betrayed to the authorities, and arrested in Antwerp in 1535 and held in the castle of Vilvoorde near Brussels.
In prison, I was offered an advocate which I refused, saying that I would make answer for myself. I preached to them who had me locked up, and those in the Castle reported that if I were not a good Christian man, they knew not whom they might take to be one.
I was tried on a charge of heresy in 1536 and condemned to the stake, despite Thomas Cromwell's intercession on my behalf. I was strangled, but I regained consciousness, and finally was burned alive on 6 October 1536. My final words were,
"Oh Lord, open the King of England's eyes!Ē
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