Bishop Ridley And Bishop Latimer

These reverend prelates suffered October 17, 1555, at Oxford, on the

same day Wolsey and Pygot perished at Ely. Pillars of the church and

accomplished ornaments of human nature, they were the admiration of the

realm, amiably conspicuous in their lives, and glorious in their deaths.

Dr. Ridley was born in Northumberland, was first taught grammar at

Newcastle, and afterward removed to Cambridge, where his aptitude in
education raised him gradually till he came to be the head of Pembroke

college, where he received the title of Doctor of Divinity. Having

returned from a trip to Paris, he was appointed Chaplain to Henry VIII.

and Bishop of Rochester, and was afterwards translated to the see of

London in the time of Edward VI.

His tenacious memory, extensive erudition, impressive oratory, and

indefatigable zeal in preaching, drew after him not only his own flock,

but persons from all quarters, desirous of godly exhortation or reproof.

His tender treatment of Dr. Heath, who was a prisoner with him during

one year, in Edward's reign, evidently proves that he had no Catholic

cruelty in his disposition. In person he was erect and well

proportioned; in temper forgiving; in self-mortification severe. His

first duty in the morning was private prayer: he remained in his study

till 10 o'clock, and then attended the daily prayer used in his house.

Dinner being done, he sat about an hour, conversing pleasantly, or

playing at chess. His study next engaged his attention, unless business

or visits occurred; about five o'clock prayers followed; and after he

would recreate himself at chess for about an hour, then retire to his

study till eleven o'clock, and pray on his knees as in the morning. In

brief, he was a pattern of godliness and virtue, and such he endeavored

to make men wherever he came.

His attentive kindness was displayed particularly to old Mrs. Bonner,

mother of Dr. Bonner, the cruel bishop of London. Dr. Ridley, when at

his manor at Fulham, always invited her to his house, placed her at the

head of his table, and treated her like his own mother; he did the same

by Bonner's sister and other relatives; but when Dr. Ridley was under

persecution, Bonner pursued a conduct diametrically opposite, and would

have sacrificed Dr. Ridley's sister and her husband, Mr. George

Shipside, had not Providence delivered him by the means of Dr. Heath,

bishop of Worcester. Dr. Ridley was first in part converted by reading

Bertram's book on the sacrament, and by his conferences with archbishop

Cranmer and Peter Martyr. When Edward VI. was removed from the throne,

and the bloody Mary succeeded, bishop Ridley was immediately marked as

an object of slaughter. He was first sent to the Tower, and afterward,

at Oxford, was consigned to the common prison of Bocardo, with

archbishop Cranmer and Mr. Latimer. Being separated from them, he was

placed in the house of one Irish, where he remained till the day of his

martyrdom, from 1554, till October 16, 1555. It will easily be supposed

that the conversations of these chiefs of the martyrs were elaborate,

learned, and instructive. Such indeed they were, and equally beneficial

to all their spiritual comforts. Bishop Ridley's letters to various

Christian brethren in bonds in all parts, and his disputations with the

mitred enemies of Christ, alike prove the clearness of his head and the

integrity of his heart. In a letter to Mr. Grindal, (afterward

archbishop of Canterbury,) he mentions with affection those who had

preceded him in dying for the faith, and those who were expected to

suffer; he regrets that popery is re-established in its full

abomination, which he attributes to the wrath of God, made manifest in

return for the lukewarmness of the clergy and the people in justly

appreciating the blessed light of the reformation.

Bishop Latimer was the son of Hugh Latimer, of Turkelson, in

Leicestershire, a husbandman of repute, with whom he remained till he

was four years old. His parents, finding him of acute parts, gave him a

good education, and then sent him at fourteen to the university of

Cambridge, where he entered into the study of the school divinity of

that day, and was from principle a zealous observer of the Romish

superstitions of the time. In his oration when he commenced bachelor of

divinity, he inveighed against the reformer Melancthon, and openly

declaimed against good Mr. Stafford, divinity lecturer in Cambridge.

Mr. Thomas Bilney, moved by a brotherly pity towards Mr. Latimer, begged

to wait upon him in his study, and to explain to him the groundwork of

his (Mr. Bilney's) faith. This blessed interview effected his

conversion: the persecutor of Christ became his zealous advocate, and

before Dr. Stafford died he became reconciled to him.

Once converted, he became eager for the conversion of others, and

commenced public preacher, and private instructer in the university. His

sermons were so pointed against the absurdity of praying in the Latin

tongue, and withholding the oracles of salvation from the people who

were to be saved by belief in them, that he drew upon himself the pulpit

animadversions of several of the resident friars and heads of houses,

whom he subsequently silenced by his severe criticisms and eloquent

arguments. This was at Christmas, 1529. At length Dr. West preached

against Mr. Latimer at Barwell Abbey, and prohibited him from preaching

again in the churches of the university, notwithstanding which, he

continued during three years to advocate openly the cause of Christ, and

even his enemies confessed the power of those talents he possessed. Mr.

Bilney remained here some time with Mr. Latimer, and thus the place

where they frequently walked together obtained the name of Heretics'


Mr. Latimer at this time traced out the innocence of a poor woman,

accused by her husband of the murder of her child. Having preached

before king Henry VIII. at Windsor, he obtained the unfortunate mother's

pardon. This, with many other benevolent acts, served only to excite the

spleen of his adversaries. He was summoned before Cardinal Wolsey for

heresy, but being a strenuous supporter of the king's supremacy, in

opposition to the pope's, by favour of lord Cromwell and Dr. Buts, (the

king's physician,) he obtained the living of West Kingston, in

Wiltshire. For his sermons here against purgatory, the immaculacy of the

Virgin, and the worship of images, he was cited to appear before Warham,

archbishop of Canterbury, and John, bishop of London. He was required to

subscribe certain articles, expressive of his conformity to the

accustomed usages; and there is reason to think, after repeated weekly

examinations, that he did subscribe, as they did not seem to involve any

important article of belief. Guided by Providence, he escaped the subtle

nets of his persecutors, and at length, through the powerful friends

before mentioned, became bishop of Worcester, in which function he

qualified or explained away most of the papal ceremonies he was for

form's sake under the necessity of complying with. He continued in this

active and dignified employment some years, till the coming in of the

Six Articles, when, to preserve an unsullied conscience, he, as well as

Dr. Shaxton, bishop of Salisbury, resigned. He remained a prisoner in

the Tower till the coronation of Edward VI. when he was again called to

the Lord's harvest in Stamford, and many other places: he also preached

at London in the convocation house, and before the young king; indeed he

lectured twice every Sunday, regardless of his great age (then above

sixty-seven years,) and his weakness through a bruise received from the

fall of a tree. Indefatigable in his private studies, he rose to them in

winter and in summer at two o'clock in the morning. By the strength of

his own mind, or of some inward light from above, he had a prophetic

view of what was to happen to the church in Mary's reign, asserting that

he was doomed to suffer for the truth, and that Winchester, then in the

Tower, was preserved for that purpose. Soon after queen Mary was

proclaimed, a messenger was sent to summon Mr. Latimer to town, and

there is reason to believe it was wished that he should make his escape.

On entering Smithfield, he jocosely said, that the place had long

groaned for him. After being examined by the council, he was committed

to the Tower, where his cheerfulness is displayed in the following

anecdote. Being kept without fire in severe frosty weather, his aged

frame suffered so much, that he told the lieutenant's man, that if he

did not look better after him he should deceive his master. The

lieutenant, thinking he meant to effect his escape, came to him, to know

what he meant by this speech; which Mr. Latimer replied to, by saying,

"You, Mr. Lieutenant, doubtless suppose I shall burn; but, except you

let me have some fire, I shall deceive your expectation, for here it is

likely I shall be starved with cold."

Mr. Latimer, after remaining a long time in the Tower, was transported

to Oxford, with Cranmer and Ridley, the disputations at which place have

been already mentioned in a former part of this work. He remained

imprisoned till October, and the principal objects of all his prayers

were three--that he might stand faithful to the doctrine he had

professed, that God would restore his gospel to England once again, and

preserve the Lady Elizabeth to be queen; all which happened. When he

stood at the stake without the Bocardo-gate, Oxford, with Dr. Ridley,

and fire was putting to the pile of fagots, he raised his eyes

benignantly towards heaven, and said, "God is faithful, who doth not

suffer us to be tempted above our strength." His body was forcibly

penetrated by the fire, and the blood flowed abundantly from the heart;

as if to verify his constant desire that his heart's blood might be shed

in defence of the gospel. His polemical and friendly letters are lasting

monuments of his integrity and talents. It has been before said, that

public disputation took place in April, 1554, new examinations took

place in Oct. 1555, previous to the degradation and condemnation of

Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer. We now draw to the conclusion of the lives

of the two last.

Dr. Ridley, the night before execution, was very facetious, had himself

shaved, and called his supper a marriage feast; he remarked upon seeing

Mrs. Irish (the keeper's wife) weep, "though my breakfast will be

somewhat sharp, my supper will be more pleasant and sweet." The place of

death was on the north side of the town opposite Baliol College:--Dr.

Ridley was dressed in a black gown furred, and Mr. Latimer had a long

shroud on, hanging down to his feet. Dr. Ridley, as he passed Bocardo,

looked up to see Dr. Cranmer, but the latter was then engaged in

disputation with a friar.--When they came to the stake, Dr. Ridley

embraced Latimer fervently, and bid him be of good heart. He then knelt

by the stake, and after earnestly praying together, they had a short

private conversation. Dr. Smith then preached a short sermon against the

martyrs, who would have answered him, but were prevented by Dr. Marshal,

the vice-chancellor. Dr. Ridley then took off his gown and tippet, and

gave them to his brother-in-law, Mr. Shipside. He gave away also many

trifles to his weeping friends, and the populace were anxious to get

even a fragment of his garments. Mr. Latimer gave nothing, and from the

poverty of his garb, was soon stripped to his shroud, and stood

venerable and erect, fearless of death. Dr. Ridley being unclothed to

his shirt, the smith placed an iron chain about their waists, and Dr.

Ridley bid him fasten it securely; his brother having tied a bag of

gunpowder about his neck, gave some also to Mr. Latimer. Dr. Ridley then

requested of Lord Williams, of Fame, to advocate with the queen the

cause of some poor men to whom he had, when bishop, granted leases, but

which the present bishop refused to confirm. A lighted fagot was now

laid at Dr. Ridley's feet, which caused Mr. Latimer to say, "Be of good

cheer, Ridley; and play the man. We shall this day, by God's grace,

light up such a candle in England, as, I trust, will never be put out."

When Dr. Ridley saw the flame approaching him, he exclaimed, "Into thy

hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit!" and repeated often, "Lord receive

my spirit!" Mr. Latimer, too, ceased not to say, "O Father of heaven

receive my soul!" Embracing the flame, he bathed his hands in it, and

soon died, apparently with little pain; but Dr. Ridley, by the

ill-adjustment of the fagots, which were green, and placed too high

above the furze was burnt much downwards. At this time, piteously

entreating for more fire to come to him, his brother-in-law imprudently

heaped the fagots up over him, which caused the fire more fiercely to

burn his limbs, whence he literally leaped up and down under the fagots,

exclaiming that he could not burn; indeed, his dreadful extremity was

but too plain, for after his legs were quite consumed, he showed his

body and shirt unsinged by the flame. Crying upon God for mercy, a man

with a bill pulled the fagots down, and when the flames arose, he bent

himself towards that side; at length the gunpowder was ignited, and then

he ceased to move, burning on the other side, and falling down at Mr.

Latimer's feet over the chain that had hitherto supported him.

Every eye shed tears at the afflicting sight of these sufferers, who

were among the most distinguished persons of their time in dignity,

piety, and public estimation. They suffered October 16, 1555.

In the following month died Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester and

Lord Chancellor of England. This papistical monster was born at Bury, in

Suffolk, and partly educated at Cambridge. Ambitious, cruel, and

bigoted, he served any cause; be first espoused the king's part in the

affair of Anne Boleyn: upon the establishment of the Reformation, he

declared the supremacy of the Pope an execrable tenet, and when queen

Mary came to the crown, he entered into all her papistical bigoted

views, and became a second time bishop of Winchester. It is conjectured

it was his intention to have moved the sacrifice of Lady Elizabeth, but

when he arrived at this point, it pleased God to remove him.

It was on the afternoon of the day when those faithful soldiers of

Christ, Ridley and Latimer, perished, that Gardiner sat down with a

joyful heart to dinner. Scarcely had he taken a few mouthfuls, when he

was seized with illness, and carried to his bed, where he lingered

fifteen days in great torment, unable in any wise to evacuate, and burnt

with a devouring fever, that terminated in death. Execrated by all good

Christians, we pray the Father of Mercies, that he may receive that

mercy above he never imparted below.