12 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.3 For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
In reading Broadbent’s The Pilgrim Church, I’ve come to learn about many people who form part of the “great cloud of witnesses.” Here is an excerpt in which Broadbent speaks of another Bohemian brother and quotes from him. The quotes are worth sharing because of their expressiveness and insight:
“Although the writings of the brethren were frequently burned with their authors, some escaped, among them a book by Peter Cheltschizki (Petr Chelčický), entitled The Net of Faith written in 1440, which preserves much of their teaching and exercised a great influence. He [Cheltschizki] writes:
Nothing else is sought in this book but that we, who come last, desire to see the first things and wish to return to them insofar as God enables us. We are like people who have come to a house that has been burnt down and try to find the original foundations. This is the more difficult in that the ruins are grown over with all sorts of growths, and many think that these growths are the foundation, and say, ‘This is the foundation’ and ‘This is the way we must go,’ and others repeat it after them. So that in the novelties that have grown up they think to have found the foundation, whereas they have found something quite different from, and contrary to, the true foundation. This makes the search more difficult, for if all said, ‘the old foundation has been lost among the ruins,’ then many would begin to dig and search for it and really to begin a true work of building upon it, as Nehemiah and Zerubbabel did after the destruction of the temple. It is much more difficult now to restore the spiritual ruins, so long fallen down, and get back to the former state, for which no other foundation can be laid than Jesus Christ, from whom the many have wandered away and turned to other gods and made foundations of them.
“He relates how ‘in Basel in 1433 the papal representative said that though there was much to praise in the early Church, yet it was very simple and poor, and as the temple followed the tabernacle, so the present beauty and glory of the Church has followed its first simplicity. Also many things unknown in the early Church are now made known.’ Cheltschizki’s comment: ‘The song would be good if it were not a lie.’
“He taught that the ‘great priest’ (i.e., the pope) dishonors the Saviour by taking to himself the divine power to forgive sins, which God has reserved for Himself alone.
God has borne witness that He Himself remits sins and blots out men’s iniquities through Christ who died for the sins of men. As to this, the testimony of faith is that He is the Lamb of God who took away sins and forgives the world, possessing in Himself the unique right of forgiving sins, because He is Himself at once God and man. And on this account He died as a man for sins and gave Himself to God on the cross as an offering for sins. Thus God obtained by Him and His pains the forgiveness of the sins of the world. He alone has the power and right to forgive men their sins.
Therefore, the great priest, in utmost pomp with which he raises himself above all that is called God, as a robber has laid hands on these rights of Christ. He has instituted the pilgrimage to Rome through which sins are to be cleansed away. Therefore, drunken crowds run together from all lands, and he, the father of all evil, distributes his blessing from a high place to the crowds that they may have the forgiveness of all sins and deliverance from all judgment. He saves from hell and purgatory, and there is no reason why anyone should go there. Also he sends into all lands tickets, for money, which ensure deliverance from all sins and pains; they do not even need to take the trouble to come to him, they have only to send the money and all is forgiven them. What belongs to the Lord alone, this official has taken to himself, and he draws the praise which belongs to his Lord, and becomes rich through the sale of these things. What is left for Christ to do for us when his official frees us from all sins and judgment and can make us just and holy? It is only our sins that stand in the way of our salvation. If the great priest remits all these, what shall the poor Lord Jesus do?
Why does the world neglect Him so and does not seek salvation from Him? Simply on this account that the great priest overshadows Him with his majesty and makes Him darkness in the world, while he, the great priest, has a great name in the world and unexampled renown. So that the Lord Jesus, already crucified, is held up to the world’s laughter, and the great priest only is in everyone’s mouth, and the world seeks and finds salvation in Him.