Throw a rock in a quiet pond, and the ripples from the splash will spread far and wide. 

When Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg Chapel on Oct. 31, 1517, he probably did not anticipate the ripples he would cause. As the Theses were printed and spread throughout Germany, they stimulated much discussion and debate, even reaching Rome. 

Because of this, the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor convened a Diet (Council) in the City of Worms in 1521, calling Luther to recant and retract his writings. He responded: 

“My conscience is bound to the Word of God. Unless I am convinced by proofs from Scriptures or by plain and clear reasons and arguments, I cannot and will not retract, for it is neither safe nor right to do anything against conscience. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

Condemned as a heretic, Luther was forced to hide in Wartburg Castle, where he translated the New Testament into German (and years later, the Old Testament as well). When he could finally leave safely, he resumed his writing and teaching at the university, and his influence spread. Many from across Europe came to study under Luther, spreading his teachings through Germany, Scandinavia, and the British Isles.

Patrick Hamilton studied under Luther and brought his teachings to Scotland. Hamilton was burned at the stake, but his teachings spread and took hold.

William Tyndale studied under Luther, and, inspired by Luther’s German translation, translated the Word of God into English, smuggling Bibles into England. For this and other alleged heresies, Tyndale was burned at the stake Oct. 6, 1536. His last words as the flames rose around him were, “Lord, open the king of England’s eyes.”

And God answered Tyndale’s prayer. Only three years later, King Henry VIII had the Great Bible (based largely on Tyndale’s translation) published, placed in churches, and read in worship services. This led to the Geneva Bible of 1560, which was studied by English separatists such as John Robinson, William Brewster, John Carver, and William Bradford. Persecuted for worshipping God as they believed the Geneva Bible commanded that He be worshipped, these separatists left England, sailing to North America. Thus, the ripples started by the Reformer of Wittenberg came crashing on the shores of Plymouth.

So as we celebrate Thanksgiving, what can we learn from Luther, Tyndale and Bradford?

First, even in the worst of adversity, stand firm for the truth of God’s Word. Luther faced a death sentence; Tyndale was burned at the stake; Bradford and his fellow Pilgrims faced untold dangers as they crossed the Atlantic and settled this formidable wilderness. But they believed God’s Word and courageously risked everything to obey it.

Second, glorify God with humility and thankfulness. Humility comes first; one can’t be thankful without humility. A proud person cannot be thankful, because he thinks everything he has is what he deserves. To truly glorify God, we must humble ourselves, acknowledge ourselves as sinners, trust in Christ’s redeeming work on the Cross, and thank Him for every blessing He has provided us.

Third, like Abraham, who is called a “stranger and pilgrim” on the earth, seek a “city whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:8-14). Be a good citizen of your country and pray for its welfare (Jeremiah 29:4-7), but remember that this is not really your home; your true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). Enjoy the world and use the world, but love the Lord and His Kingdom.

Fourth, trust God to lead and provide for the future as He has for the past and present. Just as the ripples from Luther’s stand in Germany spread to England and to the shores of North America, they spread across America to the Pacific, and through American missionaries to the world. And as Christians who believe in God’s Word, we know the best is yet to come!

As Gov. Bradford wrote in his History of Plymouth Plantation:

“Thus out of small beginnings greater things have been produced by His hand that made all things of nothing, and gives being to all things that are; and, as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many, yea in some sort to our whole nation; let the glorious name of Jehovah have all the praise.”

Colonel Eidsmoe serves as Chairman of the Board of the Plymouth Rock Foundation  (www.plymrock.org), as Professor of Constitutional Law for the Oak Brook College of Law & Government Policy (www.obcl.edu), and as Senior Counsel for the Foundation for Moral Law (www.morallaw.org). Those with constitutional concerns may contact the Foundation at (334) 262-1245. Eidsmoe may be contacted for speaking engagements at [email protected]

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to [email protected] 

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