That’s a good question. It has been a long time ago, after all. Why should we care about that now?
A fire swept across Europe five hundred years ago. It led to a recovery of the gospel through a renewed interest in what the Bible had to say. As Martin Luther said, “The Word did everything.” God raised up translators who put the Word in English, French, and German, and then, even more languages. The technology of the printing press was used to publish Bibles in these languages of the common person. Then books on the Bible were published, such as John Calvin’s Institutes, and simple hymns such as Issac Watts’ At The Cross or Luther’s A Mighty Fortress Is Our God were read and wholeheartedly sung. Common people started to understand what God had to say and then their emotions were touched with love and adoration for God and other people. John Milton now had an audience for his poems,
The Lord will come and not be slow, His footsteps cannot err;
Before Him righteousness shall go, His royal harbinger.
Truth from the earth, like to a flower,
Shall bud and blossom then;
And justice, from her heavenly bower, Look down on mortal men.
As people’s hearts and minds were changed, so the morals and laws of Europe and today’s United Kingdom began to change as well. When they couldn’t practice their faith openly, people fought or fled to America to start afresh.
By the 1700’s, the fire of national revival was out and morality went down the drain. But then came John Wesley, George Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards who laid out the Word for the understanding while Charles Wesley stirred the heart again with the best poetry and music. Later, people like John Newton were brought out of acceptance of the slave trade to teach and sing of God’s Amazing Grace.
Amazing grace! how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER TO YOU?
Are you discouraged at the moral decline, empty churches, cold orthodoxy, or outright hostility to God’s plain and simple Word? But God could start a fire again, and perhaps is now raising up the people who will hold His Word up to the minds and hearts of the next generation. Knowing that it has happened before on an international level makes our hearts sing with hope! That is why the Reformation matters to us today.
I love the image of this plea:
“O that God would bare His arm again and do a mighty work in our midst! Hear our prayer, O Lord, for the sake of your dear Son who gave His life that we may know You, and for the sake of our dear children that your Word would be opened for their understanding and the stirring of their hearts to love you more and more. In the name of our precious Savior, Jesus Christ, I pray.”
This history matters because it could happen again! And that would make all the difference to our children and grandchildren. Won’t you plead with God to start another global fire?