An English Reformer: Hugh Latimer, Martyr, 1555
This 573-page volume is free and downloadable at:
We also commend John Styrpe's timeless work on this period at:
This volume contains John Foxe’s review of Latimer’s life, Ralph Morice’s account of Latimer’s conversion to the Reformed and True Catholic faith under the guidance of Master Bilney’s kind leadership, a host of Latimer’s sermons, and various letters and treatises from 1531 until his examination, trial and death in 1555, a witness to and martyr for Christ’s Gospel.
In this post, we’ll make a start on John Foxe’s review of the illustrious English Reformer, Hugh Latimer, covered in pp.16-33 of the above volume, blogging as we go. We are aware, but not much impressed, with the efforts to debunk Foxe's history--efforts of post-Tractarians.
For starters, Foxe calls master Latimer a “worthy and old practised soldier of Christ.” For Soldiers and Marines, this will mean something. We’re not LOW-T, smooth-talking Episcopalians with the art of obfuscation, lying, and wimpdon. Latimer was on the frontlines and lost his life for his faith; a warrior never forgets those who served honourably, were wounded, or fell in combat; that’s the military creed; that is not the modern Anglican creed.
Latimer was born in Thirkesson, county of Leicester, and reared in the common schools of his country until age fourteen. At that time, he entered the University of Cambridge. He gave himself over to the study of divinity. He was “zealous” and “scrupulous” for the papist and Romish religion. One is reminded of Calvin’s self-description as an “obstinate Papist” or Luther’s early period of a rather noxious obsequiousness to Rome (later cured when he saw what Romanism really was).
Latimer felt he could avoid damnation by becoming a friar. As we learn from the Defense of the Augsburg Confession, XXVII.34-43, these were standard views. Such was the Bibliology, theology proper, anthropology, harmartiology, soteriology, Christology, ecclesiology and eschatology of the time—twisted, distorted, unbiblical and uncatholic. They were errant ideas with consequences and ideas that would be successfully and clearly rebutted in the Clean-up.
Latimer’s ignorant zealotry prompted him towards the Bachelor of Divinity degree. One wonders how often ignorant zealotry leads others to advanced studies without a remedy of the motive. This is a question that only eternity and final judgment will reveal. He took up for his oration at Cambridge the refutation of the works of Philip Melachthon, the classicist-turned-theologian of Wittenburg, Luther’s right-hand man.
One of Latimer’s auditors was master Thomas Bilney, a reader of Luther, a Cambridgensian who had been previously unscrewing the inscrutables of antichrist’s labrythine theology—Romanism. He observed Latimer’s earnest defenses of Roman views.
Bilney took brotherly pity on the him. He came to Latimer’s study, asking him to hear his [Bilney’s] confession. Bilney used the occasion to tell Latimer of his departure from the old schoolmen, the scholastics, and his study and findings from the Scripture…namely, the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement.
Latimer learned from the older mentor and did likewise. He became an industrious student of His Majesty’s Word. He also became a consultant and conversationalist with others of the same mind. Conversions do that kind of thing.
Latimer spent two more years in the Cambridge area serving as a public preacher and private mentor to other students, using Latin with the learned and English with the non-university people. Christ had effectually called Latimer to Himself and away from Rome’s Ich-theologie and narcissism.
However, this new change and visibility stirred up contention. An Augustinian friar, after hearing Latimer’s sermon at Christenmass, 1529, and a sermon at the church of St. Edward’s, sought opportunities to inveigh against Latimer.
About this time, Latimer came to see the imperative need for the Bible to be in English and before the English nation and its churches—he did not accept the usual Romish obfuscations of Romanists that the book was dark, deep and incapable of being understood by the people.
Of course, John Wycliffe had tread that path years before, as had Miles Coverdale and William Tyndale of the Anglican Church and Martin Luther of the Evangelical Church of Germany.
This Romish objections to putting the Latin Scriptures into the vernacular of the people humoured Latimer, as it does us. (Some of the papal arguments against Latimer were, e.g. if a baker heard or read a “little leaven corrupteth the whole lump,” he might proceed to follow through in his bakery-service of not leavening bread and leaving the human body malnourished).
Throughout this period, Master Bilney was Latimer’s close associate and they were often seen walking in the fields”, one place coming to be called “heretics’ hill.” (20) We will never know what transpired inside this fellowship of comrades.
Hence, controversy was the dividend on Latimer’s ideological investments. As a controversialist, Latimer was known to be able to thrust and parry, hook and jab, but with humour and homely illustrations.
His sought the “overthrow of popish superstition and the setting up of perfect religion.” One of his targets was external, or “trump and false religion,” externals rather than “inward heart and true affection.” (18) That is always a true message, with or without liturgical worship.
However, given the context, with the works-righteousness of Romishness, then as now, religion was in simplicity of heart not the “glistering shew of man’s traditions, of pardons, pilgrimages, ceremonies, vows, oblations, voluntary works, and works of erogation, foundations, oblations, devotions, the pope’s supremacy, &.; so that all these either be needless, where the other is present, or else be of small estimation in comparison thereof.” The merit-mongerers and indulgence-system was to be swept away.
Predictably, a variety of university notables arose against him. Latimer was forced to sharpen his arguments and theological swords; the game was on. (19)
In addition to the theological inter-locutories with university notables, these two Reformation men visited the prisons, helped feed the poor, and did other deeds of philanthropy; “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Mt.5.16)
Latimer’s teachings came to be an issue with the cardinal. The charges were “heresy.” (21) Certain, unidentified articles were subscribed to by Latimer. We are not told what those were. Our editor gives us little here by way of Latimer’s involvements with Melancthon’s or Luther’s writings. We are offered no dates either.
Latimer was given a benefice in Wiltshire of the diocese of Sarum, now called West Kington. He laboured earnestly for the instruction of his flock and became known through the area for his preaching.
One issue that arose was his preaching of the all-sufficiency of Christ, His Person and Work. As such, Christ’s mother, Mary, lost centrality in terms of intercession or the application of her virtues to a sinner’s salvation. This itself, though Biblical, Apostolic and truly Catholic (not Roman Catholic) was a restoration-doctrine.
Here’s the result. “Certain popish priests being therewith offended, sought and wrought much trouble against him, drawing articles against him, both concerning the matter of our lady, as also of other points of doctrine, as of praying to saints, of purgatory, &c. Unto the which articles, thus conceived against him, he answereth again at large.” (22)
This is why Reformation-thought is so important. Like the Reformers, we are ever-drawn back to St. Paul's Epistles to the Romans and Galatians. Justification is by faith alone and apart from any works of any law.
On modern issues, one can see precisely why Anglo-Romewardizers dislike the Reformers. Anglo-Romanists are Romish; in contrast, the English Reformers were taking the trash “outside” Anglicanism to the dumpster. The Tractarian-trashmen have brought the trash back inside. The trash is still in the house.
Ultimately, Latimer was ordered to appear before the Archbishop of Canterbury, Mr. Warham. He was detained there for quite some time, being forced three times a week to answer episcopal inquiries (the Romish-Anglican version of the Inquisition). Our editors tell us that Latimer subscribed to certain articles, as London’s Bishop, Tonstal (some spell it Tunstall), records in his register. The choice was: “subscribe or die.” Even with this stark situation, free agency still remained and do the ordaining decrees of His Majesty, then as now.
Later, in 1550, in a sermon, Latimer would elaborate on the above exchange in a sermon. Vol. 1, Latimer’s Remains, pp.282-294, Parker Society series, contains the sermon.(24) Friends of the Reformation suffered from the friends of the Pope of Rome.
With some princely support, however, he would be advanced to the bishopric of Worcester. He taught, studied, exhorted, visited, corrected and brought reforms to his diocese. The editor doe not tell much beyond this, although hints are afforded us in the episcopal inquiries noted above, e.g. the all-sufficiency of Christ’s atonement versus purgatory, saints, Mariolatry, Papal supremacy, pilgrimages and other corruptions of the Catholic Church; there is evidence that at this early date he rejected transubstantiation as well (25). As with the university and the first benefice, “evil-willers” brought accusations against him.
Foxe informs us that he will bypass many other solid pastoral acts of Bishop Latimer during his tenure. We wish Foxe hadn't done that, but he did.
However, the “Six Articles,” pro-Romish directives, were brought into the politico-religious arena. Latimer resigned his Bishopric; he could not in good conscience accede to them; similarly, Bishop Shaxton followed suit. Both would labour quietly until the accession of King Edward VI—the Protestant and Reformed King of England.
At one point, he came to London. The Bishops gave him trouble; he was thrown into the famous Tower of London until the accession of Edward VI. We have serious questions here about the place and position of Archbishop Cranmer—the ever cautious, yet, Reformed Bishop of Canterbury. Why was Latimer in jail, but not Cranmer? Foxe does not tell us. Something is amiss. Our suspicion is that Latimer preached what he believed—openly, boldly, honestly. This scribe has long harboured suspicions about Cranmer throughout the timeframe of 1540-1549.
During King Edward’s day, Latimer was active in preaching, “to no small shame of other loitering and unpreaching prelates, which occupy great rooms, and do little good.” (27) Foxes amplified on this incessant industriousness, including an allusion to the fact that Latimer was often at his desk at 0200 in the morning, studying. How very modern this is, however, in terms of the description of Bishops as doing "little good" and how imperative it is to have genuinely educated and committed Bishops---to God's Word. Talk is cheap.
Following Edward’s death and Mary 1’s accession to the throne, troubles followed. Mary wanted him held accountable.
Latimer’s response to the royal solicitor’s request to come to London was, “My friend, you be a welcome messenger to me; and be it known unto you, and to the whole world, that I go as willingly to London at this present, being called by my prince to render a reckoning of my doctrine, as ever I was to any place in the world. And I doubt not, but that God, as he hath made me worthy to preach his word before two excellent princes, so he will able me to witness to the same unto the third, either to her comfort or discomfort eternally…” (28) The Judgment to come will adjudicate the matter.
Coming to London, he endured “all the mocks and taunts given him by the scornful papists” and was cast again into the Tower. Again, this scribe asks, “Where was Cranmer in all of this?”
We learn something of the liturgical pieties that were under review in relation to the Mass: turning, returning, half turning and whole turning, ducking, washing, rinsing, lifting, touching, fingering, whipering, stopping, dipping, bowing, licking, wiping, sleeping, shifting, with an hundred more things. Foxe calls them “toyish gauds” and who “can keep from laughter?” Latimer spent a long time in the Tower over these things. Unlike Foxe and Latimer, so do Anglo-Romewardizers concern themselves similarly with their bowings and scrapings, that noxious, invidious parasite in Anglicanism.
It would appear that Latimer was able to engage and confer with fellow-servants of Christ in the Tower. He was quite aged. Kneeling much in prayer, he would have to be helped to his feet. He held the conviction that the Lord had called him to preach. Secondly, he believed that God “would restore his gospel to England once again.” (30) The words “once again” were frequently on his lips. In his prayers, he did not cease praying for Queen Mary.
In all of this, we are reminded of William Tyndale’s prayer at the stake in 1537 in Vilvroode, Belgium. “Oh God, open the eyes of the King of England.”
Latimer ultimately would be led to the stake outside Bocardo-gate at Oxford. The tormentors were about to set fire to him. Bishop Ridley was a fellow martyr with him. Ridley said, Fidelis est Deus, qui non sinit no tentari supra id quod possumus, “God is faithful, which doth not suffer us to be tempted above our strength.” Apparently, Ridley’s body exploded with an effusion of blood under the pains of the fires.
It is a matter of history that the Gospel was restored to England following Latimer’s execution. It is also a matter of history that darkness re-entered English, North American and worldwide Anglicanism through Tractario-Ritualism and liberalism, twin serpents that have since broken the back of the English Reformation.
The Church Society, the Church of England (cont’), the Free Church of England-Evangelical Connexion and a few others appear to be all that remains of Reformed Churchmanship.
Latimer perished under the flames and at the stake in October, 1555, alongside the fellow martry, Bishop Nicholas Ridley.
May we never forget, either, those Tractario-Ritualists who opposed the establishment of a "Memorial to the English Martyrs" at Oxford. We've read their serpentine objections and hidden agendas. Ever the anti-Gospel and anti-Reformation-men, they have no place in historic Anglicanism. None, zippo, nada. Latimer, we feel, would most heartily agree.
Part One concluded. More to follow, God willing. 33.