“William! News from London.” John pulled the door closed behind him and headed straight for the small, dank room where he knew his friend would be found.
There he sat, hunched over a tiny desk, where he squinted by the dim candlelight, his quill scratching away at the paper. Around him were strewn numerous books, to which he constantly referred as he wrote. A small fire in the hearth appeared to be in need of fresh fuel, for it did little to warm the room.
John sighed and shook his head affectionately, though his smile was grim. He moved over to the fire and placed a few pieces of wood onto the dying embers. “You have been named a heretic. They are burning your books.”
“William, did you not hear me? You could very soon be in great danger.”
Finally, the man lifted his head and returned John’s gaze. His eyes burned bright with zeal. “I have been in danger since I began this quest.”
“But it grows ever worse.”
“Did I not say that soon the boy who drives the plough will know more of the Scriptures than the clergy? Did I not say it?”
“Aye, you did.” John blew gently on the embers, but the tinder would not catch alight.
“And see, it already comes to pass. The people begin to rise up. For too long the church has kept them bound to false doctrines, enslaved by her tyranny. Now they read the Scriptures in their own tongue, they begin to see the truth. Such freedom...” His speech failed and he shook his head. “I cannot give up now.” William picked up a stack of discarded pages, each scored with the Word of God, written in his own hand, and yet rejected for the errors they contained. He moved to the hearth and let them fall onto the hot coals. The fire quickly ignited.
“But they burn the texts as quickly as you print them.” John stared into the small blaze, yet saw only images of his friend’s work going up in flames on the streets of London.
“Then I shall print more. We have successfully smuggled thousands of copies of the New Testament into England. And now thousands of people are able to learn what I have learned—that faith in Christ is the only way unto salvation. Is that not worth my very life?”
John sighed again. “It may cost you your life yet.”
William waved ink-stained hands in the air, the flame of fervency reflected in his eyes. “So be it, if God wills it. His Word shall not be stopped. The people have the right to know the truth.” Returning to the desk, he picked up the pile of paper in front of him and held it up. “And this manuscript—the very laws of God, written by Moses—will soon be complete in English. And then we shall print many thousands more and send them abroad. Can you imagine what it means to the common folk, to be able to read the Scriptures for themselves, to know the mind and heart of God? To know He loves them and sent His Son to die so they might live? That they do not have to strive in good works and pay indulgences to be forgiven? That kind of freedom cannot be paid for. Our redemption came through Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. If He willingly gave His life for me, I can do no less for Him.”
John grinned as the translator returned once more to his work, the fire now burning brightly in the hearth. “Say no more, William. I am with you, heart and soul. Just tell me in what way I can be of service to you.”
William looked up again and winked. “Some supper would be very welcome.”
William Tyndale was the first to translate the New Testament and part of the Old Testament directly from the Greek and Hebrew texts. He was burned at the stake as a heretic in 1536, but his work in translation is a major part of the Bible as we know it today.
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