It's remarkable what three solid days of reading and writing has done for my progress through these books!
I am just about finished with a section of reading and writing on Reformation History. I have been reading extensively on several Reformers- Luther, Zwingli, Melancthon, Calvin, Beza, and Knox. Biographies coupled with several of their own works in order to really understand who these guys were. At the same time I am writing a 20-page paper on the state of the papacy in the 16th Century. This has required doing quite a bit of preliminary study on the history of the papacy in general so as to understand it's state in the 16th Century.
I may share some of the Papal research in the future, if I can find a helpful reason to do so. I will say this, however- studying the Reformers of the 16th Century along side the Popes of the 16th Century is an exercise in utter contrasts. The Reformers were tireless students of God's Word, constantly ministering to churches and people, utterly sold out to the cause of Christ as they understood it. The Popes were generally more like politicians than clergy people. The 15 and 16th Century Papacy was heavily invovled with territorial power and alliances with this or that King, Queen, Elector,etc. They seemed enamored with their legacy more than honestly evaluating the shortcomings of the Church. Some were just plain wicked and many were very poor students of God's Word, and that's being kind. Frankly, the Reformation was the best thing that ever happened to the papacy as it pressured the Roman Church to require more biblical scholarship and theological acumen then the previous 1000 years. The Roman hierarchy today is far more theologially astute than it was between 500 and 1600 AD (so hold your fire my esteemed papist friends and readers).
William Cunningham wrote a wonderful book (1862)entitled "The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation" where he surveys the various leading Reformers. His description of the Reformers reveals why all Christians should read as much of the Reformers works as they can.
"They were led to study the sacred Scriptures with care and diligence; and they persevered in applying them to comfort their hearts amid all their trials, and difficulties, and to guide them in the regulation of their conduct. It is very evident, from surveying the history and the writings of the Reformers, that their strength and success, both as defenders of divine truth and maintainers of God's cause, and also as men engaged, amid many difficulties in the practical business of the church, and the world, and in the administration of important affairs, arose very much from their familiar and intimate acquaintance with the Word of God- the whole Word of God. They were familiar with the meaning and application of its statements, and they were deeply imbued with its spirit. The Word of God dwelt in them richly in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, and thus became 'a light unto their feet, and a lamp unto their path.'"