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Monday, September 25, 2017
Date Posted:

Latimer and Ridley
William Hunter
Cranmer - Hooper
Rose Allen
Events Today

Latimer and Ridley

Faithful Unto Death - Chapter 4
Rev W St Clair Taylor
Adapted By Professor Arthur Noble

Latimer had turned thirty years of age before his eyes were opened to the evil of his ways and he came to know the Lord Jesus as His Saviour. It was mainly through the witness of a man at Cambridge University known as Thomas Bilney. Bilney's "joy and peace in believing" knew no bounds and his enthusiasm caught the eye of Latimer. This is Bilney's account, given in his own words:

"I also, miserable sinner, before I could come to Christ, had spent all that I had upon ignorant physicians, that is to say, unlearned hearers of confessions; so that there was but small force of strength left in me (who of nature am but weak), small store of money, and very little wit and understanding; for they appointed me fastings, watchings, buying of pardons and masses; in all which things (as I now understand) they sought rather their own gain than the salvation of my sick and languishing soul; but at last I heard speak of Jesus, even then when the New Testament was first set forth by Erasmus; which when I understood to be eloquently done by him, being allured rather by the Latin than by the Word of God (f or at that time I knew not what it meant) I bought it even by the providence of God - as I do now well understand and perceive -and at the first reading as I well remember, I chanced upon this sentence of St. Paul (Oh most sweet and comfortable sentence to my soul!) in 1 Tim. 1:15: 'It is a true saying and worthy of all men to be embraced, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of which I am the chief and prin-cipal.' This one sentence, through God's instruction and inward working which I did not then perceive, did so exhilarate my heart, being wounded with the guilt of my sins, and being almost in despair, that immediately I felt a marvellous comfort and quietness, insomuch that my bruised bones leaped with joy."

What a testimony! Is your light shining for Jesus? Do you ever give a word of witness to another boy or girl or invite to Sunday School those who otherwise would not go? The next time an opportunity for witness comes your way, remember the story of Bilney, who led to the Lord the great and good man, Latimer.

Thrown into prison along with Thomas Cranmer With the rise to power of the cruel and wicked Queen Mary, these men, Ridley and Latimer, were thrown into prison and eventually taken to the Tower of London, where they were thrown into a cold and damp cell in the company of another Godly man, Cranmer, who was then Archbishop of Canterbury. Latimer says of this experience:-

"Those famous men, Mr. Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury; Mr. Ridley, Bishop of London; that Holy Man Mr. Bradford; and I, old Hugh Latimer, were imprisoned in the Tower of London for Christ's Gospel preaching: the same Tower being full of other prisoners, that we four were thrust into one chamber as men not to be accounted of, but God be thanked, to our great joy and comfort there did we together read over the New Testament with great deliberation and painful study."-

It was on Wednesday October 16th, 1555, that Latimer and Ridley were led out "to witness a last good confession". The night before the execution, the Mayor of Oxford, by whom Latimer was kept in trust, offered to keep him company throughout the night, but the reformer refused this kindness, saying: "No, tonight I shall sleep as soundly as ever I did. Tomorrow my breakfast may be somewhat sharp, but my supper will be most sweet." He meant of course his execution would be painful but it would bring him into the presence of his Lord and Saviour. It was on Wednesday October 16th, 1555, that Latimer and Ridley were led out "to witness a last good confession".

Ridley led the way, "and, looking back, saw Master Latimer coming after, unto whom he said: 'Oh, be ye there?' 'Yea,' said Master Latimer, 'have after as fast as I can follow'; so he followed a little way off; at length they came both to the stake, the one after the other where first Dr. Ridley entering the place marvellously earnestly holding up both hands, looking towards heaven.

'Be of good heart, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flame or else strengthen us to abide it.' Then shortly after, espying Master Latimer, with a wondrous cheerful look he ran to him, embraced him and kissed him; and as they who stood near reported, comforted him, saying: 'Be of good heart, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flame or else strengthen us to abide it.' With that he went to the stake kneeled down by it, kissed it and prayed very earnestly; and behind him Master Latimer kneeled, as earnestly calling upon God as he." As they were secured to the stake, Ridley broke out into prayer with the following words:

"Oh, Heavenly Father, I give unto Thee most hearty thanks, for that Thou hast called me to be a professor of Thee, even unto death. I beseech Thee, Lord God, take mercy on this realm of England, and deliver the same from all her enemies."

'Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle by God's grace in England, as I trust shall never be put out.' "Then they brought a faggot, kindled with fire, and laid it down at Ridley's feet. To whom Latimer spoke in this manner: 'Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle by God's grace in England, as I trust shall never be put out.'

"And so the fire being kindled, when Ridley saw the flame flaming up towards him, he cried: 'Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit : Lord, receive my spirit,' and repeated this latter part often in English: 'Lord, Lord, receive my spirit.' Latimer crying as vehemently on the other side: 'Father of Heaven, receive my soul,' he received the flame as though embracing it. After he had stroked his face with his hands, and, as it were, bathed them a little in the fire, he soon died, as it appears with very little pain.

"And thus much concerning the end of this old and blessed servant of God, Bishop Latimer, for whose laborious services, fruitful life, and constant death, the whole Realm has cause to give thanks to Almighty God. [...] And so these two stalwarts of the faith died as they lived, witnessing to the truth of Jesus."

What was Latimer's candle? Why, the Word of God, of course, and it has been a burning and a shining light in this country from that day to this; but, boys and girls, if Latimer's candle is to shine more brightly in the future than it has done in the past it will need all the energy and enthusiasm and all the spiritual training you can muster. If I am not mistaken, the clouds of idolatry and darkness, which gathered around Latimer and others of that day, are fast reappearing on the horizon.

Latimer, as we have seen, has set us a great example. Let us ask God for moral courage and strength for the great task of witnessing in our day and generation against the evil of idolatry, super-stition and ignorance around us.

"Latimer's candle must never go out
However the winds may toss it about;
Latimer's candle has come to stay
Till the trump of the final Judgment Day."

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