Bishop Hugh Latimer: Protestant Martyr
Of all the English Reformers, Bishop Hugh Latimer was the most popular
in his time and probably has the greatest place in the affections of
Although a passionate preacher and a zealot for reform, in a day when
religious executions were all too common, he completed his three-score
years and ten, before sealing his testimony with his blood.
This essay aims to trace Hugh Latimer through the vicissitudes and
struggles of his life, showing how God preserved him in his reformatory
work for further service in the English Reformation, until, having
finished his course and fought the good fight, he went to be with
Christ, the great shepherd of the sheep.
(II) Cambridge Scholar
(1) The "Obstinate Papist"
Hugh was the son of a Lancashire yeoman, brought up a country lad and
fond of archery. John Foxe reports that he "profited in his youth at the
With all his older brothers having died in infancy, his father was keen
on his receiving a higher education. Thus we find him, as a young man
(about twenty-one), enrolling at Cambridge (probably at Clare Hall) in
He obviously had aspirations for the church, for in 1510, after gaining
his B.A., he received Holy Orders and in 1514 his M.A. It appears that
his scholarship merited his continuing at Cambridge, for our next
glimpse of him is in 1524, when he received his B.D.
It was now seven years since Luther's Ninety-Five Theses had sparked
religious controversy throughout Europe. The Reformation was gaining
adherents both on the continent and in Britain. Literature was being
smuggled into England through the ports and was being avidly read.
Latimer's opinion on all this is easily ascertained. On his receiving
the B.D., according to the custom, he delivered an oration before the
university—a philippic against Melanchthon! Lollardy had made no
impression on Latimer either, although he was born in Thurcaston, just
twelve miles from Lutterworth, the scene of Wycliffe's later labours.
Erasmus had arrived in Cambridge in 1511, but Latimer neither learned
Greek from him nor imbibed his humanistic spirit.
Another positive influence on Cambridge was George Stafford. He had
graduated B.D. at the same time as Latimer, and had been appointed
reader in divinity. However, he lectured, not on the schoolmen, but on
Augustine and the Old and (especially) the New Testaments, from the
Latimer had no taste for these doctrines and, Pharisee-like, sought to
hinder the young students from receiving this "heretical" teaching
(Matt. 23:13). In the words of an anonymous contemporary, Latimer
"eloquently made to them an oration, dissuading them from this
newfangled kind of study of the scriptures, and vehemently persuaded
them to the study of the school-authors."
Thus Latimer, like Saul of Tarsus before him, was the last man the
church expected to leave her ranks; indeed he later described himself
"as obstinate a papist as any was in England."
But he was soon, in the providence of God, to be converted. Thomas
Bilney was in the audience that heard Latimer's oration against
Herman Hanko explains,
Bilney had seen Latimer's great potential and had long pondered ways
to persuade Latimer to join the movement for reform. Finally he hit
upon a clever way, though under God's blessing it was also
successful. Pretending to desire to make confession and be absolved
from sin by Latimer, he used Latimer's naiveté and pride (Hugh
Latimer thought Bilney was about to make confession for his devotion
to the Reformation and ask for forgiveness) to describe for Latimer
his own conversion from the comfortless doctrine of work
righteousness which Rome taught to the blessed peace of faith in the
perfect sacrifice of the spotless Lamb of God. Latimer was moved as
never before. Humbled before God, he cast his lot with the
As Latimer later put it, "[Bilney] perceived that I was zealous without
he came to me afterward in my study and desired me, for God's sake,
to hear his confession. I did so; and to say the truth, by his
confession I learned more than before in many years. So from that
time forward I began to smell the Word of God, and forsook the
school-doctors and such fooleries.
Hugh Latimer was now firmly on the Reformed side but, ironically, it was
these self-same scholastics who were soon to save his life.
(2) Bishop West and Cardinal Wolsey
Bilney had been converted through reading Eramus's Latin translation of
the Greek New Testament and in particular Paul's "faithful saying" of I
Timothy 1:15: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom
I am chief." Like the great apostle, he earnestly sought to disseminate
the gospel, though he did so largely by private testimony. God was
pleased, largely through his and George Stafford's efforts, to gather a
group of godly men, including Nicholas Shaxton, George Joye, Robert
Barnes, Miles Coverdale, Matthew Parker and Hugh Latimer. Somewhat like
the Holy Club at Oxford two centuries later, they were zealous in
visiting the sick and imprisoned. The group, with Bilney as its leader,
met for discussion at "The White Horse" or "in Germany," as it was
nick-named by their enemies. There they discussed Luther and his
doctrine, Erasmus's New Testament and Tyndale's proposed translation.
Latimer and Bilney walked together daily on Castle Hill or "Heretics
Hill," as it was dubbed, discussing the Scriptures.
For Latimer, the new doctrines he received were more than mere
ideas—they were the truth of God, and Latimer was not the kind of man to
hide his light under a bushel. As Foxe puts it,
After his winning to Christ, he was not satisfied with his own
conversion only, but, like a true disciple of the blessed Samaritan,
pitied the misery of others, and therefore he became both a public
preacher and also a private instructor, to the rest of his brethren
within the university.
Yet we ought not think Latimer had arrived at a fully Reformed theology.
In a deed dated 28 August, 1524, he was appointed trustee to appoint a
priest to perform mass for the soul of one John á Bolton, in the chapel
of Clare Hall. Nevertheless his "bad company" and his emphasis on the
Bible and salvation in Christ, rather than the church and her
ceremonies, was keenly observed. The church was concerned, including one
Bishop West of Ely.
Around the end of 1525, Ralph Morice, Thomas Cranmer's secretary, tells
us that in the middle of one of Latimer's ad clerum sermons in
St. Mary's, the "University Church," the heresy-hunting bishop, with his
entourage, entered the church. Latimer paused while the bishop's cortège
seated themselves and he sought to regain his composure. With great
presence of mind, he skilfully changed the subject:
It is of congruence meet (quoth he) that a new auditory, namely
being more honourable, requireth a new theme, being a new argument
to entreat of. Therefore it behoveth me now to divert from mine
intended purpose, and somewhat to entreat of the honourable state of
The pompous bishop bravely "weathered" the sermon on Hebrews 9:11, in
which Latimer contrasted the high calling of the bishopric with the
lamentable state into which the episcopal bench had currently fallen.
Afterwards, knowing that to protest was merely to indict himself, West
commended the sermon and requested of Latimer a small favour—that he
would preach one sermon against Martin Luther and his doctrine.
Latimer's reply bears repeating:
My lord, I am not acquainted with the doctrine of Luther; nor are we
permitted here to read his works; and therefore it were but a vain
thing to refute his doctrine, not understanding what he hath
written, nor what opinion he holdeth. Sure I am that I have preached
before you this day no man's doctrine, but only the doctrine of God
out of the scriptures. And if Luther do none otherwise than I have
done, there needeth no confutation of his doctrine. Otherwise, when
I understand that he doth teach against the scripture, I will be
ready with all my heart to confound his doctrine, as much as lieth
However, this passage presents a problem. Is it possible that Latimer
could deliver an oration against Melanchthon without knowing Luther's
views? Could Latimer really have missed the discussions of Luther's
theology in "The White Horse?" Since, the "evasive ways of a timorous
nature were naturally foreign" to Latimer, it is best to assert that he
did tell the truth,
but that Morice wrongly ascribed to him the assertion, that he did not
know Luther's teachings. At any rate, Latimer's deft reply secured him
for the moment, but gained him an enemy. The bishop retorted, "I
perceive that you somewhat smell of the pan; you will repent this gear
West did not wait long to take revenge, for Latimer was soon summoned
before Cardinal Wolsey.
According to Ralph Morice, the cardinal, as a test of Latimer's
orthodoxy, asked two of his learned associates to question him on the
theology of the schoolmen and especially Duns Scotus. Latimer's ready
answers evinced a thorough knowledge of the school doctors and Wolsey
was impressed. Being persuaded of his orthodoxy, Wolsey then asked
Latimer the reason for West's dislike of him. Latimer reported that he
was offended because of a sermon he preached before West on the office
of a bishop. The cardinal, having no great love for the bishops,
promptly gave him permission to preach this doctrine "unto West's
beard," and gave him a special license to preach throughout the whole of
(3) The Sermons on the Cards
Latimer continued to retain his not insignificant position at Cambridge,
as university chaplain. His duties included collecting rents and
auditing funds, overseeing the university library, carrying the
university cross (an elaborately adorned silver crucifix) and saying
anniversary masses for the souls of the university's dead benefactors.
It is clear from these last two functions that his theology was not
fully developed. Like Stafford, Latimer was able to maintain his
position and role in the university.
Yet his views continually bordered on the heretical and his earnest
preaching troubled the conservative Roman Catholics. His first recorded
sermons (Christmas, 1529) are an excellent case in point.
T. H. L. Parker describes Latimer's preaching as "familiar and racy" and
these sermons certainly were.
Latimer begins with the question, "Who art thou?" (John 1:19), and
describes man, in himself, as "the child of the ire and indignation of
God, the true inheritor of hell, a lump of sin."
After a discussion of Adam's fall and original sin, the Incarnation of
the Son of God and "the merits of the bitter passion of Christ," Latimer
asserts that we are, through the sacrament of baptism, Christian men and
He is "a good christian man that keepeth well Christ's rule," just "as
he is a good Augustine friar that keepeth well St. Augustine's rule."
Then Latimer begins the game proper and deals the cards (a customary
game at Christmas) to the congregation, only the cards are "Christ's
cards," which manifest the character of a true Christian.
The first card is Christ's word in the Sermon on the Mount on the nature
of killing (Matt. 5:21-22), and the second, His word on acceptable
offerings (Matt. 5:23-24).
The controversy that ensued was not due to Latimer's bringing a deck of
cards with him into the pulpit or even his unorthodox homiletic
technique—it was his doctrine. The relative importance between
"voluntary" and "necessary" works was one big issue:
Now then, if men be so foolish of themselves that they will bestow
the most part of their goods in voluntary works, which they be not
bound to keep, but willingly and by their devotion; and leave the
necessary works undone, which they are bound to do; they and all
their voluntary works are like to go unto everlasting damnation. And
I promise you, if you build a hundred churches, give as much as you
can make to gilding of saints, and honouring of the church; and if
thou go as many pilgrimages as thy body can well suffer, and offer
as great candles as oaks; if thou leave the works of mercy and the
commandments undone, these works shall nothing avail thee.
Just as Christ's word on "the weightier matters of the law" (Matt.
23:23) stung the Pharisees, the conservatives were concerned at the
effect such eloquent preaching would have on "churchy" works. Offensive
too was the means Latimer used to distinguish between the more and the
less important works: the authoritative Scriptures.
Buckenham, Prior of the Dominican Friars, framed his attack in a
seasonal game also, this time a game of die: Cinque Quatre. The
were the four ancient doctors of the church (Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine
and Gregory the Great) who, he alleged, were "opposed to the free
circulation of the Scriptures in the vernacular."
The cinque consists of five quotations from the New Testament
that would, if allowed into the hands of the common folk, tend to the
ruination of the realm. For example, should the simple read, "If thine
eye offend thee pluck it out," the kingdom would be full of blind men!
The baker who reads, "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump," will
produce poor bread and the ploughman who hears that, "No man that layeth
his hand to the plough, and looketh back, is meet for the kingdom of
God," will be altogether unproductive.
Latimer responded in kind, in his next sermon, with the hapless prior in
the audience, by explaining the use of metaphors:
When they paint a fox preaching out of a friars cowl, none is so mad
to take this to be a fox that preacheth, but know well enough the
meaning of the matter, which is to point out unto us, what
hypocrisy, craft, and subtle dissimulation, lieth hid many times in
these friars' cowls, willing us thereby to beware of them.
The prior slunk away with his tail between his legs but there were more
serious opponents. Five of the heads of the university houses spoke
privately against Latimer, while others did so publicly, and four
fellows of St. John's prepared formal articles of heresy against him.
Cambridge did not have a quiet and peaceful Christmas in 1529.
Eventually the "preachings and counterpreachings" and the "discussions
and recriminations" reached the ears of King Henry VIII.
On 24 January, 1530, his almoner, Edward Fox, wrote to Dr. Buckmaster,
the vice-chancellor of the university, to stop the controversy.
Buckmaster summoned Latimer and was content that he was basically
orthodox. On 29 January, he convened the university senate and in his
address commanded both Latimer and his four critics from St. John's to
drop the matter, under pain of excommunication. Buckmaster's speech
largely exonerated Latimer, though he did reckon him immoderate at
times, but we may seriously wonder why he got off so lightly. The answer
is near to hand. Fox, in his letter to Buckmaster, clearly informed him
of the state of play: "Mr. Latimer favoureth the king's cause, and I
assure you it is so reported to the king."
(4) Latimer's Letter Advocating an English Bible
Henry was tiring of Catherine of Aragon; she had lost her beauty and
borne him no male heir. His lust for Anne Boleyn with her "black eyes
and vivacious manner" prompted him to begin seeking a divorce in 1527.
Pope Clement VII, with greater regard for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles
V of Spain (nephew to Catherine) than to the law of God, did not wish to
grant the divorce, so he stalled. Cardinal Wolsey, unable to obtain the
papal dispensation, fell from favour in the autumn of 1529 and died on
the way to his execution in November 1530. A suggestion by the rising
Thomas Cranmer broke the deadlock: the king should ask the opinion of
the universities. English gold flowing into continental purses helped
gain him the nod from Paris, Orleans, Toulouse, Bourges, Bologna,
Ferrara, Pavia and Padua in 1530. It was not in the pope's power, they
argued, to dispense with God's law forbidding a man to marry his
deceased brother's wife. Thus Catherine, who had previously been married
to Henry's late brother Arthur, had never really been married to Henry
at all. However, even with the support of several foreign universities,
it was still essential that Henry obtain approval from the two
universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Thus the significance of the
phrase: Latimer "favoureth the king's cause."
Although Oxford was worse, Cambridge was firmly opposed to the king's
request, though Cranmer, Shaxton, Crome, Bilney and Latimer of the
reforming party were supporters.
After several weeks of political skulduggery, involving bribery, the
stacking of committees and the not insignificant pressurizing of the
king's two "whips," Fox and Gardiner, Cambridge finally "agreed." On 9
March, 1530, Vice-chancellor Buckmaster announced to the senate that the
university was favourable to the king's divorce.
The following Sunday found Latimer preaching before the king and court
at Windsor. Sir William Butts, the king's highly esteemed physician, had
seen Latimer's part in the debates on "the king's great matter" and had
personally recommended him. Latimer's manly and forthright preaching
impressed Henry, and he was court preacher for the next two Sundays as
well. For each of the three sermons, he was paid the standard one pound
fee and, on 16 March, the Privy Purse records he was paid the princely
fee of five pounds. Chester is probably correct as seeing in this more
than Henry's approbation of his preaching. It was also a token of his
appreciation for his invaluable support in the "king's cause."
Now with Latimer, Cranmer and the reforming party in general in favour
with both Henry and Anne, things were looking up. Furthermore, Henry's
Parliament had, in 1529, passed three bills limiting the powers of the
clergy, including one against a cleric's holding more than one benefice.
Yet in spite of his ongoing struggles with the papacy, Henry was still
committed to the key Roman doctrines. He had, after all, written (with
some assistance) his Assertion of the Seven Sacraments in 1521,
in response to Luther's Babylonian Captivity of the Church.
Henry's work included an attack on the doctrine of sola scriptura.
Thus the famous letter to the king dated 1 December, 1530, advocating
free circulation of an English translation of the Scriptures, was a
Traditionally, the letter has been attributed to Latimer but this has
been denied by several modern scholars.
They argue, primarily, that the two copies in the Public Record Office
are unsigned. In response, it could be pointed out that not all of
Latimer's extant letters are signed and the two copies used by Foxe are
assigned by him to Latimer. Foxe had sources unavailable to current
scholarship and has never been convicted of deliberate deception. The
burden of proof is clearly on those opposed to Latimer's authorship.
Furthermore, the burning issue of the letter—an authorized English
translation of the Bible—was very close to Latimer's heart and there is
nothing in its style to militate against his authorship.
Having sided with Foxe for Latimer's writing the letter, the next issue
is whether or not it was actually sent to the king. Although he believes
it was written by Latimer, Chester thinks not.
He adduces two pieces of evidence, which (he believes) force us to
conclude that it was an anonymous epistle: first, the absence of a
signature in Foxe's two copies and the other two manuscripts; second,
Latimer's refusal to name himself as a member of the commission, which
he mentions in the letter.
Then, noting the absence of evidence that the king ever received it, he
reckons that the letter was written by Latimer, though unsigned (for
safety reasons), and circulated amongst the reformers.
Thus it is vain to look for further reasons why Latimer was allowed to
live, for in that it never reached, or was even intended to reach, the
king, "Latimer ran no risk."
Chester makes a reasonable case but still not a conclusive one. The idea
of a circular letter amongst the reformers can remain only at best a
hypothesis. Foxe still remains our primary witness and he both
attributes it to Latimer and ascribes Henry VIII as the recipient. Sure
it is that Latimer survived 1530. If we stick to old Foxe's account, we
can still suggest possible reasons for this: Henry's admiration for one
making such a bold, yet gracious request; Latimer's popularity in many
circles, including with Anne Boleyn; and the king's vague promise
earlier in the year that he would, when the time was right, allow an
English translation. At any rate, in the summer of 1537, according to
Henry's wishes, the printing of an authorized English translation of the
Bible began and Latimer saw his desire fulfilled.
(III) Rector of West Kingdon
The beginning of 1531 saw Henry reward many of the Cambridge men who had
supported him. Cranmer was appointed Archdeacon of Taunton and, in the
next year, was to become the Archbishop of Canterbury. From 14 January,
1531 to September 1535, Latimer was Rector of West Kingdon in Wiltshire,
thus ending his twenty-five year spell in Cambridge. Latimer, Foxe tells
us, "did exercise himself with much diligence of teaching to instruct
his flock; and not only them, his diligence extended also to all the
He seems to have enjoyed being back in the countryside and mingling with
the common people. Perhaps it reminded him of his youth in Thurcaston.
Latimer had only been at West Kingdon for less than a month when he was
summonsed back to London. Convocation was required to reject the pope as
head of the church in England, only to admit the king to "usurp the
usurper." Now King Henry VIII was "the sole protector and supreme head
of the church and clergy in England," with the useless qualification
subjoined: "so far as the law of Christ allows." Yet the Roman Catholic
party was still very much alive, as Latimer was soon to discover.
(1) The Sermon at St. Mary Abchurch
The autumn of 1531 found Latimer, on his return from Kent, visiting
London. Demaus reckons this was probably on the solicitation of his
friends, William Butts and Thomas Cromwell, the Earl of Essex, but we
have no sure knowledge of the reason for his trip.
After refusing the earnest entreaties of some merchants to preach to
them, he finally yielded. Wolsey had died the previous year, so he was
unsure if he was licensed to preach in London. However, with the rector
and curate of a nearby church (St. Mary Abchurch) encouraging him to use
its pulpit and with the suggestion of the merchants that the church was
outside Bishop Stokesley of London's jurisdiction, he complied. His text
was Romans 6:14: "For ye are not under the law, but under grace." In the
course of his sermon he advocated two "subversive" principles: first,
that pilgrimages are not necessary and, second, that the bishops
ought to be very careful of admitting charges of heresy from ignorant
men against preachers.
Soon afterwards, Latimer returned to West Kingdon but this was not the
end of the matter. Just before Christmas, 1531, Richard Hilley, standing
in for Campeggio, the Italian absentee Bishop of Salisbury, informed
Latimer that Stokesley had requested his cooperation in sending Latimer
to London for trial. Latimer had been caught on a technicality:
preaching in a bishop's diocese without permission. Knowing Stokesley's
reputation for persecution, Latimer urged Hilley that he ought to deal
with the matter. Latimer argued that Hilley was his ordinary and, after
all, it was now in the depths of winter and he (Latimer) was suffering
from ill health.
Hilley was satisfied with Latimer's reasoning but he eventually yielded
to Stokesley's importunity and required of Latimer to make the trip to
On 29 January, 1532, Latimer appeared before the bishop's consistory at
St. Paul's. Shortly afterwards, his case was referred to a commission of
the Upper House of Convocation. There, thrice a week, he was examined
before the bishops. One day, he tells us, he entered the interrogation
chamber but instead of the usual five or six bishops only one was
present, the one who was friendliest towards him. He also noticed that
there was no fire in the grate. The bishop asked a "very subtle and
crafty" question, to which he wanted a clear answer.
"I pray you, Master Latimer," said he, "speak out; I am very thick
of hearing, and here be many that sit far off." I marvelled at this,
that I was bidden speak out, and began to misdeem, and gave an ear
to the chimney. And there I heard the pen walking in the chimney
behind the cloth. They had appointed one there to write all my
answers; for they made sure work that I would not start from them.
Through many weary sessions, Latimer sought to avoid the legal and
theological pitfalls prepared for him. He explained the circumstances at
St. Mary's Abchurch and protested that he held to the catholic faith. He
declared that he attacked not the things but the abuses of
the things. Nevertheless, on 11 March, 1532, sixteen articles were drawn
up to which he was required to subscribe: alms, prayer, pilgrimages and
masses obtain merit; masses help those in purgatory; deceased saints are
to be worshipped and invocated; the saints in heaven pray for us, etc.
These doctrines and others of like ilk were unacceptable to Latimer, for
they could well be used to confirm the ignorant in idolatrous devotion,
so three times he refused point blank to sign. Archbishop Warham, on
hearing this, declared him contumacious and promptly excommunicated him.
While in custody at Lambeth Palace, Latimer addressed a persuasive
letter to Warham.
All men know, he reasoned, that there is much superstition in the
pilgrimages and devotion to the saints amongst the laity. He pleaded
that he be not forced to subscribe to the "bare propositions" for he was
unwilling "to be the author of any continuance of the superstition of
the people; and that I may not be also at the same time the author of my
Latimer's moving letter may have helped persuade the archbishop but it
is more likely that Latimer's friends at court, like Thomas Cromwell and
William Butts, played a larger part in Convocation's leniency.
Latimer was now required to sign only the relatively inoffensive Article
14, on the value of "consecrations, sanctifications, and benedictions,
received in the Christian church," and Article 11: "That men forbidden
of the bishops, by reason of suspicion, ought not to preach till such
time as they had purged themselves to them or their superiors, and be
Latimer's prayers had been answered. On his knees, he made formal
submission to the bishops and begged the removal of his sentence of
excommunication. However, he was not immediately permitted to sign
Articles 11 and 14 and instead remained three more weeks in prison. Two
reasons for this may be given. First, Archbishop Warham was ill and
Stokesley, who was acting head of the commission, may have wanted to
wait for Warham to recover and finally resolve the matter himself. The
second reason requires some unfolding. Thomas Greenwood, one of the four
fellows of St. John's who had earlier protested against Latimer over his
Sermons on the Card, began spreading rumours that Latimer had made a
full submission. Latimer heard of this and, in a moment of folly and
pride, wrote to him a brief letter. He affirmed that he had not
renounced any doctrine and that he would, though with more discretion,
continue to preach the same.
Greenwood simply handed the letter to the Convocation. It is quite
possible that it was all a set-up.
Latimer's earlier joy was swallowed up in black despair. The gates of
liberty had been opened to him, but they were now firmly shut again. His
case had been seriously weakened and outside interference had been
rendered extremely difficult. Then he caved in. On 10 April, 1532, he
made full submission to the Convocation, subscribed to all sixteen
articles and was absolved of his excommunication. However, the
matter of the Greenwood letter had not been cleared up yet and this was
made into a second case against him. He was commanded to appear before
the commission a few days later on 19 April.
In the intervening days, a combination of Latimer's sharp thinking and
propitious political events helped save his skin. In March, 1532,
Henry's headship of the Church of England had been further strengthened.
Parliament had sent to the king the famous "Supplication of the Commons
against the Ordinaries," which had protested against the power of the
Latimer now appealed to the king. The king said he would
intervene for him and Latimer duly submitted to Convocation. Again on
his knees, Latimer made an even more humbling confession:
That were he had aforetime confessed, that he hath heretofore erred,
and that he meant then it was only an error of discretion, he hath
since better seen of his own acts, and searched them more deeply,
and doth acknowledge, that he hath not erred only in discretion, but
also in doctrine.
Now any further misdemeanour would be treated with increased severity;
Latimer would be a "relapsed heretic."
Less than a week after Latimer's release he was again in prison;
visiting this time. James Bainham, a prosperous lawyer, had been
arrested for disseminating heretical books. Latimer's words with him
tell us something of his state of mind at this time:
I do not allow that any man should consent to his own death, unless
he had a right cause to die in. Let not vain-glory overcome you in a
matter that men deserve not to die for; for therein ye shall neither
please God, do good to yourself, nor your neighbour: and better it
were for you to submit yourself to the ordinances of men, than so
rashly to finish your life without good ground.
Bainham then argued that his cause was worthy, being grounded in the
authority of the Scriptures. Upon hearing this, Latimer animated him "to
take his death quietly and patiently." Bainham's response is
significant: "And I likewise do exhort you to stand to the defence of
the truth; for you that shall be behind have need of comfort also, the
world being so dangerous as it is."
Latimer managed to stay out of trouble for less than a year. At the
invitation of some of the clergy, he preached two sermons in Bristol on
Sunday, 9 March, 1533, and a third the next day. Soon he returned to his
parish in West Kingdon but he had set in motion a vigorous debate in
Bristol, which was to last over three months and even resulted in
Although we do not have a record of his sermons, from Latimer's
correspondence defending his preaching and the allegations of his
enemies, we can build up a general picture.
First, he applied his customary distinction between voluntary and
necessary works and denied that the Scriptures taught the need to pray
to saints, since they pray for us anyway. The concessive clause weakens
the force of Latimer's view but this still marks a progression in his
theology. Second, regarding purgatory, he taught that, though it
existed, the souls of those in it do not suffer torments but are happy
and possess the love of God. Thus we have more need of their prayers
than they of ours. Third, he inveighed against a song, sang in the
churches, calling the virgin Mary Salvatris ac Redemptoris
Mater, as detracting from the glory of her Son, the great Saviour of
the world. Although Latimer is not entirely sure if she ever sinned, his
views are essentially Protestant. In stead of the Ave Maria,
which Latimer explained was only a greeting, he stressed the importance
of the Pater Noster.
The city was divided into two factions: those for, and those against,
Latimer and his preaching. One conservative priest wrote a letter to the
acting Bishop of Worcester, and Latimer was forbidden to preach in
The mayor of the city for that year, Clement Bays, was of the
considerable Lollard faction. He had invited Latimer to return to preach
on Wednesday of Easter week but Latimer wisely obeyed the inhibition. To
counteract further Latimer's influence, the conservative clergy preached
against him and even imported two fiery preachers—Hubberdin and Powell.
The latter began to draft a list of Latimer's heresies.
However, Latimer's enemies made a tactical blunder and, in their zealous
attacks on his "heresy," they inveighed against the king's adultery and
divorce, and declared the universal supremacy of the pope. Cranmer had
been consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury on 30 March, 1532 and he had
formally annulled Henry's marriage to Catherine on 23 April. On 1 June,
1532, Anne Boleyn was to be crowned queen in a magnificent ceremony at
Westminster Abbey. The reforming party was in the ascendancy and Mayor
Bays seized the advantage by reporting the "treasonous" preaching of
Hubberdin and Powell. Realizing the gravity of this, Ghinucci's
"stand-in" granted a license to Latimer to preach again in Bristol,
which opportunity he promptly took.
Cromwell, now chancellor of the exchequer, authorized John Bartholomew
to appoint a commission to weigh evidence against Latimer and Hubberdin.
The allegations against Latimer were few and poorly organized; both
Latimer's enemies and the commissioners were aware of Latimer's
friendship with Cromwell. No charges were brought against him in their
final report. For Hubberdin, things were very different: he spent the
next two years, at least, in the Tower of London. Powell's attack on the
king's divorce had been even more severe and he was also tried. He too
ended up in the Tower, where he was to remain for over seven years
before his execution.
Henry's continuing struggles with the pope deepened his opposition to
the papacy. The threat of attack from the Roman Catholic continental
powers forced him to consider an alliance with the Lutheran princes (who
were very wary) and to require the continuing support of the reforming
party in England. On 12 July, 1534, the pope finally declared Henry's
marriage to Catherine valid and the rift was complete.
With Cranmer's license, Latimer was able to preach with impunity in some
London pulpits, much to the chagrin of Stokesley.
Latimer was part of the commission to investigate an ignorant servant
girl, "the Nun of Kent," whose raving prophecies against the king and in
support of the pope were encouraged by the priests. During Lent of 1534,
Latimer preached on Wednesdays before the king and court. On Cranmer's
advice, he refused to use the occasion to clear his name of any old
charges or to attack any of his opponents. He merely expounded the
Scriptures. The king was pleased with the sermons and a few months later
Latimer was appointed one of the king's chaplains. Amongst other duties,
Latimer was charged by Cranmer to administer the oath to the Act of
Succession to conservatives in the West Country disaffected with Henry's
divorce and headship of the church. Latimer's rise continued and, upon
the passing of the Act of Supremacy in 1534 and England's formal
severance with the papal see, in 1535 he succeeded Ghinucci as Bishop of
(IV) Bishop of Worcester
The zealous parson of West Kingdon continued his earnest labours in his
bishopric. The French ambassador, Chapuys, described Latimer's elevation
as a strong blow to the Romanist party.
Although Latimer had to spend a considerable time attending Parliament
and Convocation, he was able to promote reformed men in his diocese and
sought to preach the new doctrines there as often as he could.
Nevertheless, at Parliament in 1536 he played his part in passing two
important bills: the dissolution of the smaller religious houses, and
the act forbidding the use of the old theological textbooks and
promoting the study of the Old and New Testaments (and Hebrew and Greek)
at the universities.
On 9 June, 1536, Convocation met to formulate articles of religion for
the Church of England. The break with Rome had been made but the
conservatives wanted to retain all the old dogmas, whilst the reformers
wished to continue the momentum and push for a more thorough
reformation. Cranmer called on Latimer to deliver the opening key note
address. Just four years earlier, he had been arraigned before many of
those in his audience as a heretic and been in grave danger of his life.
Now he was a bishop and the tide had turned.
In the morning, he denounced the awful religious abuses, including
"purgatory pick-purse," but in his afternoon sermon, he proceeded to
delineate the characteristics of the children of light and of the
children of darkness, amongst the prelates:
These worldlings pull down the lively faith, and full confidence
that men have in Christ, and set up another faith, another
confidence of their own making: the children of light contrary.
These worldlings set little by such works as God hath prepared for
our salvation, but they extol traditions and works of their own
invention: the children of light contrary. The worldlings, if they
spy profit, gains, or lucre in anything, be it never such a trifle,
be it never so pernicious, they preach it to the people (if they
preach at any time,) and these things they defend with tooth and
The "unpreaching prelates" had to listen in grim silence; for the moment
there was nothing they could do. Latimer's Latin addresses were
"speedily translated into English" and read avidly throughout the
Regarding the formulation of articles, little headway was made. After
three weeks of wrangling, Henry, with the help of Cranmer and perhaps
others of the reforming party, drafted the Ten Articles. The first
article affirms the Bible and the three ancient creeds; three
sacraments, not seven were permitted, with penance being added to
Baptism and the Lord's Supper; images, saints (both honouring of and
praying to) and various ceremonies were permitted but with Latimer-like
qualifications; and, though the souls in purgatory could be prayed for,
the pope had no power to deliver from it.
On the matter of purgatory, Latimer wrote a minute for Henry.
The king disagreed with Latimer but it shows the esteem in which he was
held that he was able (humbly) to oppose his majesty's view.
(2) The Six Articles
The aforementioned Parliamentary Act, on the dissolution of the smaller
monasteries (1536), was not passed without strong opposition. Not only
the Upper House, which contained a large number of prelates, but the
Lower House had to be forced to "toe the line" by royal intimidation. It
was also unpopular with many of the English people, so Cranmer, Latimer
and those favourable to Henry's policy added a certain apologetic
element to their preaching. This suited Latimer well, for he was
vehemently opposed to the abuses of monasticism and he hoped in this way
further to uproot superstition from the land. In 1538, with Henry's
approval, the dissolution of the larger monasteries and the destruction
of the shrines and relics began. Henry wished further to limit the power
of the church, as against the crown. Latimer was delighted to see the
idols removed and he executed the work with gusto. No longer would the
simple people be cheated of their time and money, and be lead into
idolatry. The Blood of Hayles, which the priests taught was the actual
blood of Christ, was exposed as a fraud.
Our Lady of Worcester, the great Sibyl, was taken to Chelsea and
publicly burnt. When the statue was stripped of its decorations, it was
found to be "the effigy of an unidentified bishop of the Middle Ages."
With the execution of Anne Boleyn on 19 May, 1536 and the death of Jane
Seymour, Henry's next wife, who was even more strongly attached to the
reformed doctrines, on 24 October, 1537, the reformers had no advocate
in the royal bedchamber. Latimer himself began to fall from favour by
grieving Henry with his preaching. He argued in his sermons before the
royal court that the suppressed monastic properties should be used to
educate the poor and help alleviate their poverty. Neither was Henry as
enthusiastic as Latimer in destroying the shrines. The king's ongoing
discussions (1535-38) with the Lutheran theologians had reached
something of an impasse and Henry was swinging back to the old views.
Gardiner, the conservative Bishop of Winchester, was becoming more
influential with the king. The Ten Articles of 1536 no longer pleased
him; Henry's "Catholic reaction" had begun.
Henry called Parliament and a new session met on 28 April, 1539. A
committee including both conservative prelates and reformed prelates
(including Latimer) was appointed. No compromise document was
forthcoming. Later, in one of his sermons, Latimer tells us, "there was
a bishop which ever cried 'Unity, unity:' but he would have a popish
unity." This did not satisfy Latimer, since for him unity must be
"according to God's holy word; else it were better war than peace."
After two weeks of intense debate, the Duke of Norfolk announced that
there was no possibility of an accord being reached, so he proposed six
articles to the prelates. The king had a large part in this and the
articles were retrogressive and popish.
Article 1 affirmed transubstantiation; Article 2 denied the necessity of
communion in both kinds; ordained priests were not allowed to marry
(Article 3); vows of chastity ought not be observed (Article 4); private
masses were to be retained (Article 5); and auricular confession was
necessary (Article 6).
For three days, Latimer and others argued fiercely against them but, on
the fourth day, Henry himself came to the House of Lords and spoke on
the matter. The Six Articles or "The Whip with Six Strings," as they
became known, became law on 28 June, 1539.
Three days later, Latimer resigned his bishopric, whether of his own
volition or upon Henry's desire or through being tricked by Thomas
Cromwell is not entirely clear.
At any rate, the king had Latimer "imprisoned" in the London house of
Bishop Sampson of Chichester. Shaxton, Bishop of Salisbury, who had
resigned at the same time as Latimer, was also put in ward. Martin Bucer
wrote to Philip of Hesse, "Two of the most pious bishops have been
Latimer thought that his day of execution would soon be forthcoming but
this seems never to have been a real possibility. His friends were
allowed to visit him; he was well looked after; Henry even sent him a
small pension. In July 1540, Latimer, Shaxton and all those who had been
imprisoned under the Act of the Six Articles were released under general
pardon. Latimer was now a quondam (a prelate without an office),
was forbidden to preach and was not allowed even within ten miles of
London or the two universities or his old diocese. At this time,
Latimer's friends, Barnes, Garrett and Barlow, perished at the stake at
For the next six years, Latimer stayed on the right side of the law.
Doubtless he stayed with various friends throughout the country and
preached privately. Now he had more opportunity for further
studies in the Scriptures and reading Reformed literature from the
continent. Marchant speaks of "the slow, even laborious progress" in
Latimer's "spiritual pilgrimage."
Now his views were maturing and it was very nearly to bring about his
In 1546, to seek medical help after receiving a severe blow from a
falling tree, Latimer returned to London.
This was forbidden by Henry's express command and, to make matters
worse, Latimer visited his friend, Edward Crome, who was currently under
arrest for heresy. Latimer was discovered and charged with encouraging
Crome to make an evasive recantation. The council sought to implicate
him in Crome's heresy and to gain from him a confession contrary to the
Six Articles, especially the first. By now Latimer had reservations
about the propitiatory sacrifice of the mass but he still was not
ready to reject transubstantiation. Thus, unlike Anne Askew, who flatly
denied transubstantiation and was executed around this time (in July,
1546), Latimer was merely confined in the Tower. Chester adduces two
additional reasons for the relative leniency of Latimer's sentence.
First, at this time the Lutheran princes were fighting Charles V in the
Smalkaldic War. Henry sought to restore the balance and was making
overtures towards the Lutherans, even to the point of preparing to
substitute a communion service for the mass. Second, there was still
some residual favour toward him from the king and Latimer had powerful
friends. The Earl of Hertford, Jane Seymour's brother, had risen to
favour and Cranmer was still Archbishop.
(V) Under Edward VI
In January 1547, Henry VIII died. He was an immensely capable man but
religiously he was a papist, only without the pope.
His lust and the political and practical exigencies of the time dictated
his policy. With Henry VIII, "till death us do part" takes on a whole
new meaning! Yet through one of his adulterous unions (with Anne
Boleyn), God gave to England a veritable Josiah (as Latimer and others
were to call him): Edward VI.
Under young King Edward, the Reformation progressed. Henry's Six
Articles were annulled and, on 21 January, 1549, the first Act of
Uniformity was passed, authorizing Cranmer's Prayer Book. Henry's
legislation in 1537, commanding every church to possess an English
translation of the Bible (Matthew's Bible) to be kept on public display,
In 1547, Parliament ordered the cup to be given to the laity; in 1548,
idols were to be removed from the churches; in 1549, marriage of the
clergy was legalized. Peter Martyr arrived in England in 1547 and soon
was appointed regius Professor of theology at Oxford. Other reformers
came over, including Ochino, à Lasco and Fagius. With the Augsburg
Interim of 1548, many of the continental reformers were in danger and,
in 1549, Martin Bucer joined the theology faculty at Cambridge. The
Reformed faith was being propagated, though progress in the rural parts
On the accession of Edward, Latimer was soon released. He refused his
old bishopric but vigorously resumed the labour in which he excelled:
preaching. The "apostle of England" had returned to the pulpit. Of
Latimer's forty-three extant sermons, thirty eight are from Edward's
reign, several of which were preached in Lincolnshire.
In his famous Sermon on the Plough of 1548, Latimer asks, "Who is the
most diligentest bishop and prelate in all England?"
And will ye know who it is? I will tell you: it is the devil. He is
never out of the diocese; he is never from his cure ... he is ever
in his parish; he keepeth residence at all times ... he is ever at
his plough: no lording nor loitering can hinder him ... ye shall
never find him idle, I warrant you. And his office is to hinder
religion, to maintain superstition, to set up idolatry, to teach all
kind of popery ... Where the devil is resident, and hath his plough
going, there away with books, and up with candles; away with bibles,
and up with beads; away with the light of the gospel, and up with
the light of candles ... as though man could invent a better way to
honour God with than God himself hath appointed.
Later in the sermon, he goes on to attack the propitiatory sacrifice of
But as for our redemption, it is done already, it cannot be better:
Christ hath done that thing so well, that it cannot be amended ...
But the devil, by the help of that Italian bishop yonder, his
chaplain, hath laboured by all means that he might frustrate the
death of Christ and the merits of his passion.
About this time, Latimer, through reading and conversations with the
continental reformers and Cranmer, had also rejected transubstantiation.
During Edward's reign, Latimer's views developed and were now even more
markedly Protestant. He had burnt all his bridges but it was his
rejection of the mass that was to prove his fatal "heresy."
(VI) Bloody Mary and Martyrdom
After only six years as king, Edward VI died on 6 July, 1553. God had
given him a heart strong in faith but his body was weak and he was
always a sickly child. His lawful successor was Mary Tudor but the
reform party sought to place the Protestant Lady Jane Grey on the
throne. The plot failed, Lady Jane Grey was later executed and Mary was
crowned queen on 19 July, 1553. England was now reigned by the devout
Roman Catholic daughter of Catherine of Aragon.
The writing was on the wall for Latimer. He had always expected to die
for the faith and was later to aver that the stake at Smithfield "had
long groaned for him."
Yet the queen preferred the Protestant leaders to flee and gave Latimer
a good six weeks, in which time he could have easily left the country,
as others had done. Eventually the council resolved to summons him. It
was done publicly and a sincere Protestant, John Careless, got wind of
it and hurried to Latimer, who was then in Warwickshire. Latimer stayed
his ground and about six hours later the queen's officer arrived. Far
from escorting this "latter-day Polycarp" to London, he merely passed on
the summons and left.
Latimer obeyed the royal command and came to London, standing before the
Council on 13 September, 1553. It was "a magnificently courageous
recognition of the fact that where great issues are involved there comes
a time when the bravest men cannot give ground."
Latimer, with Archbishop Cranmer and Bishop Nicholas Ridley of London,
was committed to the Tower but they were in different rooms. Through
their trusty servants, Ridley and Latimer carried on a conversation on
the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. Latimer's man, Augustine Bernher (a
Swiss), was the chief amanuensis and the work was later published in
Zurich in 1556, with the cumbersome, yet homely, title Certain Godly,
Learned and Comfortable Conferences between the Two Reverend Fathers and
Holy Martyrs of Christ, D. Nicholas Ridley Late Bishop of London, and
Mr. Hugh Latimer, Sometime Bishop of Worcester during the Time of their
The influx of prisoners from Wyatt's rebellion swelled the number of
inmates in the Tower. In God's providence, the three friends—Cranmer,
Latimer and Ridley—were placed in the one cell, enabling fellowship,
corporate Bible study and prayer. "To add to their satisfaction," Demaus
tells us, "John Bradford the convert of Latimer, and bosom friend of
Ridley ... was removed to the Tower, and 'thrust into the same cell with
After over six months in the Tower of London, Latimer, Cranmer and
Ridley were removed to Oxford for a public trial, involving thirty-three
official disputants from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. When
they had been further softened up, by three or four weeks in the
notorious prison of Bocardo, they were individually brought before the
Council on Saturday, 14 April, 1554. Three articles, affirming
transubstantiation, the corporeal presence and the mass as a
propitiatory sacrifice were drafted for their signatures. All three
remained steadfast and on their dismissal were now imprisoned
separately. The following Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday saw Cranmer,
Ridley and Latimer, respectively, questioned by the Council.
Latimer affirmed that, in his reading through the Scriptures seven times
in prison, he could not find "the marrow bones and sinews" of the mass.
His parting words are indicative of his feelings at the time: "You shall
have no hope in me to turn. I pray for the queen daily, even from the
bottom of my heart, that she may turn from this religion."
Their misery in prison was somewhat alleviated by the kindness of their
friends in sending them gifts of food and clothing. Latimer, at this
time, wrote a "general epistle" to "all the unfeigned lovers of God's
truth," to encourage them during this period of persecution.
Latimer was expecting execution any day now but was granted more time by
a legal technicality. When Mary's second parliament was dissolved in
May, 1554, there was still no statute on the books enabling the
execution of Latimer, Cranmer and Ridley. The next Parliament met again
in November 1554 and re-enacted an old heresy law, originally used
against the Lollards.
John Rogers, editor of the Matthew Bible, was burnt at the stake the
following February, and John Bradford in June. Why then were Cranmer,
Latimer and Ridley allowed to live so long? Essentially, the popish
party wanted a recantation for they desired, if at all possible, to
avoid executing such notable public figures. Sadly, with one of the
three, they, in part, gained their objective. Cranmer gave in and
recanted but eventually, after recanting his recantation, he was
executed 21 March, 1556, holding the "unworthy right hand," with which
he had signed his retraction, in the flame.
On 30 September, 1555, the Council decided to wait no longer and Latimer
was again asked his opinion on the articles on the mass.
The reformer stood fast and Doctor Weston pronounced the sentence.
Latimer gave thanks: "I thank God most heartily that he hath prolonged
my life to this end, that I may in this case glorify God by that kind of
death." Weston retorted, "If you go to heaven in this faith, then I will
never come thither, as I am thus persuaded."
The next day, Latimer and Ridley were given one more chance.
On 15 October, they were put through the mockery of derobing and the
next day they were burnt at the stake near Balliol College, Oxford.
Typically, the sermon was on I Corinthians 13:3: "though I give my body
to be burned and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." As the
torch was applied to the faggots and the smoke began to ascend to
heaven, Latimer spoke those immortal words: "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."
Through the thirty-odd years of Hugh Latimer's life as a reformer, God
graciously preserved him by a variety of means—friends in high places,
the (fluctuating) favour of Henry VIII, his own quick thinking and even,
once, his own compromise.
Latimer was converted relatively late in life (about forty) and in many
ways Latimer was still a "medieval man." "Nobody," Marchant states, "was
more ready to retain every belief and practice which could be called
primitive, none more careful to uphold the legitimate uses of customs
without their abuses."
His own lack of a consistently biblical theology during the reign of
Henry, coupled with the king's need for the reformers in the struggles
with the papacy and the discussions with the Lutherans, served to stave
off the stake. Right from his earliest days and his harnessing his
father's horse for the king's battle, he was a royalist and sought to
serve the king, as far as the law of God would allow.
Finally, we must realize that the theological battle lines between Roman
Catholicism and Protestantism were not fully drawn.
Not only did the Lord spare Latimer but He did so for a purpose—to
further the English Reformation. Latimer was pre-eminently an
Englishman; he was of yeoman stock; a Cambridge scholar; an
industrious country parson; a faithful English bishop; a man who could
be counted upon to support the king.
He embodied all that was best in the national character: he was
hard-working, forthright, manly and eminently practical. His works of
piety in visiting the imprisoned and the sick, advocating the rights of
the oppressed and seeking justice for the poor were understood as the
honest endeavours of one with a heart for the common man. He was in the
best sense of the word, a popular preacher. His preaching labours
included not just Cambridge, nor his parish, nor his diocese, nor
London, but many parts throughout the country. Most importantly, he
preached, so to speak, "where the people were at." Though he had fierce
opposition, it could truly be said of him that "the common people heard
him gladly." His sermons were earnest, witty, lively and engaging. One
contemporary declared, "I have an ear for other preachers, but I have a
heart for Latimer."
At the end of his illustrious life, we see "old Hugh Latimer" stand
before the commissioners at Oxford. He is a tired, failing old man, with
his hat in his hand, a kerchief on his head and a Bible hanging from a
long string of leather from his belt.
His Latin is no longer what it was and his memory is failing him; he
often has to appeal to "my lord of Canterbury's book."
His pitiful condition at the trial with his noble stand for the truth
and his martyrdom, coming as they did at the end of a life characterized
by integrity, struck a cord in the psyche of the nation. The godly
bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury had to seal their testimony
with their blood. The English people saw the true nature of the Roman
Church and began to consider further and embrace the gospel, for which
these worthies died.
May the candle of the gospel, kindled by such a man as Bishop Hugh
Latimer, though at present merely flickering in England, continue to
burn "and never be put out!"
Harold S. Darby, Hugh Latimer (London: Epworth Press, 1953), p.
Latimer died in October, 1555 and it is generally accepted, especially
among more recent writers, that he was born in 1485.
Foxe, quoted in Hugh Latimer, The Works of Hugh Latimer, Sometime
Bishop of Worchester, Martyr, 1555, ed. George E. Corrie, 2 vols.
(Cambridge: Parker Society, 1844, 1845).
Darby, Op. cit., p. 15.
Ibid., p. 18.
Robert Demaus, Hugh Latimer, A Biography (London: Religious Tract
Society, repr. 1927), p. 37.
Quoted by Ralph Morris, Cranmer's secretary, Works
Portraits of Faithful Saints (Grand Rapids: Reformed Free
Publishing Association, 1999), p. 263.
Allan G. Chester, Hugh Latimer: Apostle to the English
(Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1954), p. 21.
Foxe, quoted in Works II:x.
Morice, quoted in Works II:xxviii.
Darby wrongly reckons the text as Hebrews 11:11 (Op. cit., p.
Morice, quoted in Works II:xxix.
Darby, Op. cit., p. 30. Darby, however, uses the point of
Latimer's veracity to argue that he really was ignorant of Luther's
theology but this seems to be stretching things too far.
Morice, quoted in Works II:xxix.
Chester questions the relation between Latimer's clash with West and his
interview with Wolsey, and doubts the possibility of an occasion
for the latter meeting (Op. cit., pp. 24-26).
Morice, quoted in Works II:xxix-xxxi. It has been said that
heresy was more of an error with Wolsey than a crime. As
George P. Fisher puts it: "Wolsey was disinclined to persecution, and
preferred to burn heretical books, rather than the heretics themselves"
(The Reformation [New York: Scribners, 1920], p. 270).
Latimer held this office from 1522 (two years before his conversion) to
1529 (Chester, Op. cit., pp. 7-8).
Thus the famous saying of the Reformer, Thomas Becon: "When Master
Stafford read, and Master Latimer preached, then was Cambridge blessed"
(quoted in Demaus, Op. cit., p. 71).
Latimer's first and second Sermon on the Cards are contained in his
T. H. L. Parker, Calvin's Preaching (Louisville, Kentucky:
Westminster/John Knox Press, 1992), p. 45.
Demaus, Op. cit., p. 86.
Ibid., pp. 86-87.
Quoted in Darby, Op. cit., p. 47.
Quoted in Chester, Op. cit., p. 46.
"Memoir of Hugh Latimer" in Works I:iv.
Quoted in Darby, Op. cit., p. 48.
Ibid., p. 58.
Since Cranmer had written a book advocating the king's divorce, he was
not permitted to sit on the commission but instead acted as a
Chester, Op. cit., p. 55.
See Philip E. Hughes, The Reformation in England, vol. 1 (London:
Hollis & Carter, 1956), p. 211.
Contained in Works II:297-309.
Cf. Chester, Op. cit., p. 225, n. 20.
John K. Yost is of the same opinion ("Hugh Latimer's Reform Program,"
Anglican Theological Review, 53:1 , p. 106).
Chester, Op. cit., pp. 63-65.
Ibid., p. 65.
Foxe, quoted in Works II:xv.
Demaus, Op. cit., p. 126. Demaus also reckons it possible that
his trip to London was in order to meet with Bilney, though again we
have no record of this (p. 128).
The second point was particularly offensive since Bilney was currently
being examined for heresy.
Latimer realized he was in serious trouble. Bilney had recently become
the first of the Cambridge Protestants to be martyred and Stokesley was
a very important bishop, held in great favour by both Sir Thomas More
and Archbishop Warham, who had succeeded Wolsey.
Contained in Works II:351-356.
Demaus, Op. cit., p. 149.
Demaus, reckoning the number of articles after Foxe, has as the eleventh
article a prescription of Lent and fast days (Op. cit., p. 146).
Latimer's more recent biographers, Darby and Chester, prefer the
numbering in the Latin text, preserved in the London registers (Darby,
Op. cit., p. 71; Chester, Op. cit., p. 79). It takes little
thought to deduce from the circumstances, which of the two "article
elevens," the bishops would consider it most important that Latimer
For more on this, see Owen Chadwick, The Reformation (London:
Penguin, 1964), pp. 101-104.
Quoted in Darby, Op. cit., pp. 78-79.
A record of their discussion is contained in Works II:221-224.
See Works II:225-239, 317-321, 357-366.
Later it became Latimer's practice to have the congregation repeat the
Lord's Prayer with him after the sermon (cf. Works I:307-308).
Chester reckons "no Englishman ever did more than Latimer to establish
the place of the Lord's Prayer in Protestant worship and devotion" (Op.
cit., p. 85).
The incumbent bishop was another Italian absentee, Ghinucci.
The commission took evidence 5-11 July, 1532.
About this time, John Frith was burnt at the stake in Smithfield for
denying transubstantiation (4 July, 1533).
G. J. C. Marchant, "Latimer's Candle," The Evangelical Quarterly,
28 (1956), p. 19.
Chester reckons that he had to spend as much as thirty of the forty-five
months of his bishopric in London and elsewhere (Op. cit., p.
Latimer's first and second sermons before Convocation are in Works
Demaus, Op. cit., pp. 232-233.
Cf. Ibid., pp. 241-243.
Latimer's minute, complete with Henry's annotations, is found in
Works I:231. Hayles was a town near West Kingdon.
Chester, Op. cit., p. 130. In July, 1953, a seventeen foot high
stone idol of "Our Lady" was erected. The writer of a commemorative
pamphlet:"'mourns the destruction of the
original shrine' and denounces Hugh Latimer as a 'notorious
renegade from the true faith' and an 'agent from hell' but he
continues 'Our Blessed Lady tilts the scales in favour of men by
means of Rosary Beads' " (Sylvia Lacoski, "Hugh Latimer and The
Great Sibyl and Our Lady of Penrhys," The Reformer [Nov./Dec.,
1997], p. 3; italics Lacoski's).
Chester, Op. cit., p. 145.
Bard Thompson describes them as "a rank repudiation of Protestantism in
England" (Humanists and Reformers: A History of the Renaissance and
Reformation [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996], p. 583).
At this stage, Latimer still had not given up belief in
See Chester for discussion (Op. cit., pp. 149-151).
Quoted in Darby, Op. cit., p. 159.
Marchant, "Latimer's Candle," p. 18.
Following the chronology proposed by Chester (Op. cit., p. 158).
Chester, Ibid., p. 161.
Calvin's letter to Farel in 1539 could sum up Henry's reign: "The king
is only half wise ... he has a mutilated and torn gospel, and a church
stuffed full as yet with many toys and trifles" (quoted in Philip
Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 8 [Peabody,
Massachusetts: Hendriksen, repr. 1996], p. 816).
Each church's Bible was to have inscribed on its title page, Psalm
119:105: "Thy word is a lantern to my feet" (Fisher, Op. cit., p.
In 1550, Peter Martyr wrote to Brenz: "There is no lack of preachers in
London, but throughout the whole kingdom they are very rare" (quoted in
Philip E. Hughes, The Reformation in England, vol. 2 [London:
Hollis & Carter, 1954], p. 139).
Chester, Op. cit., p. 168. For an analysis of Latimer's preaching
regarding social criticism and the need for more funding to educate
reformed preachers, see Patricia Cricco, "Hugh Latimer and Witness,"
Sixteenth Century Journal, X:1 (1979), pp. 21-34; and John K. Yost,
"Hugh Latimer's Reform Program," pp. 103-114; "Hugh Latimer and the
Reformation Crisis in the Education of Preachers," The Lutheran
Quarterly, 24 (1972), pp. 179-189.
Cf. Works II:264-265.
Foxe, quoted in Works II:xxii.
Darby, Op. cit., p. 213.
Chester, Op. cit., p. 196.
In Nicholas Ridley, The Works of Nicholas Ridley, D.D., Sometime Lord
Bishop of London, Martyr, 1555, ed. Henry Christmas (Cambridge:
Parker Society, 1843) pp. 97-151.
Demaus, Op. cit., p. 496.
For an account of Latimer's trial at this time, see Works
Contained in Works II:435-444.
Chester, Op. cit., pp. 207-208.
For an account of Latimer's trial at this time, see Works
Quoted in Darby, Op. cit., p. 231.
For an account of Latimer's trial at this time, see Works
II:289-293. Latimer here denies that the Roman Church is the true
Schaff mistakenly reckons the deaths of Latimer and Ridley with Cranmer
in 1556 (Op. cit., p. 699) and Will Durant gets, not the year
but, the date wrong, stating it as 6 October (The Story of
Civilisation, vol. 6 [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957], p. 598).
The correct date of the martyrdoms of Latimer and Ridley is 16 October,
Demaus describes Latimer's full submission before Convocation in 1532 as
"the darkest page in Latimer's history" (Op. cit., p. 153).
Marchant, "Latimer's Candle," p. 19.
On God's use of means, see Westminster Confession 3:1:
"God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own
will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so,
as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to
the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of
second causes taken away, but rather established."
Mary Tudor, not least by her marriage to Philip of Spain, showed a
"habit of mind" which was "more Spanish than English" (Chester, Op.
cit., p. 195). Her returning to England while remaining under the
sway of "that Italian bishop yonder" was also unpopular.
Quoted in Chester, Op. cit., p. viii.
Demaus, Op. cit., pp. 529-530.
I.e., Cranmer's work, The True and Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament.