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acknowledge Henry VIII. as head of the English Church were to be put to death.
As soon as the king's intentions were made known, Sir Thomas More resigned the Chancellorship; and he saw plainly that the day was coming when his steadfastness to what he believed to be the truth would be put to a severer test. Those must have been days of terrible anxiety to his family who honoured and loved him so well, but they were passed by Sir Thomas More in study and prayer. At last he was summoned to Lambeth to take the oath that he believed the king to be the true head of the English Church. He took farewell of his wife and family, and left the pleasant home at Chelsea, never to return to it again. He refused the oath, and was committed as prisoner to the Tower. There he was allowed to see his wife and daughters once more; but nothing could persuade him to be unfaithful to what he believed to be the truth, and on the 6th of July he was beheaded on Tower Hill.
We have seen how the first influence of the new learning in England was to stir up men like Sir Thomas More to search for truth and right in all things; but while it led him and others to desire reform of what was false and wrong, they still held firmly to the deeply-rooted, long-established idea that the oneness of Christ's Church was outward—that is, that it was everywhere to have the same doctrines, forms of worship, government, and to be under the same head, the Pope. Now we must turn to another earnest man of the time, who, like Sir Thomas More, loved truth better than life, but who gave up the idea of the outward oneness of the Church, and worked hard to make men one in their faithful following of Christ. This was Hugh Latimer. Sir Thomas More was a man of great thought and study, who lived anong scholars, and wrote for scholars.
Latimer was a man of the people, loving them, and speaking to them in their own plain language and way. We want both kinds of men in the world, and it is not well to contrast them with one another, in order to say that one is less noble and serviceable than the other, or less worthy of our honour and love. We want the thinker' and the scholar to find out truth; and we want the earnest warm-hearted worker to carry the truth down into the minds and hearts of the people, so that it may be wrought out in living deeds.
Hugh Latimer was born about the year 1491, at Thurcaston, in Leicestershire. His father had a small farm, in which he employed about a dozen labourers, and where he kept a hundred sheep and about thirty cows. He was a brave, honest, God-fearing man, working hard upon his farm, and saving money ; so that he was able to give each of his six daughters a marriage portion, and to give good education to his son, while he had always something for the poor, or for the help of a needy neighbour. He kept a horse and arms ready for the king's service, and would buckle on his armour and ride forth to battle, whenever the English yeomen were wanted in the field. His wife milked the cows, looked after the house, and trained their six girls in godliness and the fear of the Lord.
Hugh was their only boy who lived to grow up; and seeing that he was quick and intelligent, they sent him early to school, where he learnt readily all he was taught. At home his father taught him to shoot well with the bow, the English yeomen being famous archers above all other people at that time. When he was fourteen, he had done so well at school that he was sent to Cambridge ; and while he was still a student there, and only eighteen, he was elected a fellow of his college. At twenty-four he was made professor of Greek, and he threw himself eagerly into the Greek learning ; but he set himself strongly against the study of the Greek Testament, and tried to turn the students from what he called “this new-fangled study of the Scriptures."
He had now been ordained a priest, and he held firmly to the Romish Church, in which he had been brought up. On the day when he took his degree of Bachelor of Divinity, he had to make a Latin oration, and he took this occasion to attack with all his eloquence the teaching of the Reformer Melancthon. Among those who heard Latimer speak that day was Thomas Bilney, afterwards one of the martyrs of the Reformation ; he followed Latimer to his rooms, and there explained to him more fully the teaching of the New Testament, and showed how the Church had departed from
it. Latimer was convinced, and honestly confessed he had been in error.
He now began to teach the new Truth he had laid hold of at Cambridge, until, at the end of about three years, Cardinal Wolsey called him up to London to answer to the charge of teaching heresy in the University.
This was near the time of Wolsey's fall; and while the delay of the Pope in granting leave to the king to put away his wife Katherine was causing Henry VIII. to lean towards the Reformers, Latimer signed certain articles proposed to him, and immediately after he was called to preach before the king at Windsor, and when the sermon was over the king came and talked with him in the gallery.
Latimer was one of those who, in seeking reform, saw the helplessness of looking for it to the Romish Church. When, therefore, Henry VIII. separated the English Church from the rule of the Pope, Latimer readily took the oath of the king's supremacy. He was appointed chaplain to the king, and preached both at Court and in London. One point in which Latimer felt very strongly was the right of the people to read the Bible for themselves ; and he wrote a letter to the king "for restoring again the free liberty of reading the Holy Scriptures.” In 1531 the king made Latimer rector of West Kington, Wilts ; and Latimer, “ weary of the Court,” gladly went down to his parish to work among the people. But before long, Latimer's bold teaching of the plain truths of Scripture brought on him a charge of heresy to the Church. Archbishop Wareham excommunicated him, and he was imprisoned; but by the king's request, he was set free and allowed to return home. The next year the Archbishop died, and Cranmer, Latimer's friend, was made Primate. We now find Latimer often in London, preaching at Court and in the City; and very soon he was made Bishop of Worcester.
Up to this point Latimer had stood high in favour with the king. Henry VIII. no doubt enjoyed the shrewd sense, the bluff honesty, and the pleasant humour of Latimer's sermons; and they were both from different motives and in different ways working for the reform of the Church. But when in the latter part of Henry's reign, an attempt was made by the “Statute of Six Articles” to bring back into the English Church many of the doctrines and practices of the Church of Rome, Latimer at once resigned his bishopric; and he showed his faithfulness to truth and duty by taking a position in which he stood opposed to the king and those around him in the Church. Like all truehearted men, Latimer felt deeply the pain of separating himself from others : he had no desire to be singular; and when it was complained of him that “he was contrary to them all,” he says, “ Marry, sirs, this was a sore thunderbolt; I thought it an irksome thing to be alone, and to have no fellow.”
He was now commanded to be silent from preaching ; and during the rest of Henry's reign we hear little of him. At the death of the king he was a prisoner in the Tower. When Edward VI. came to the throne, Latimer's friend Cranmer had the rule of the Church in his hands. Latimer was at once set free, and Cranmer took him to live with him at Lambeth. He now began preaching constantly : sometimes before the young king in the palace-garden at Westminster—“where he might be heard by four-times as many people as in the king's chapel "---sometimes at Paul's Cross, where in fine weather the people of London gathered in crowds to hear him; and sometimes, when it was wet or cold, in a covered part of the cathedral called the shrouds. We will go and listen to one of these sermons, which he called “the Ploughers.”
“It is winter-tide, Friday, 18th of January, 1549, in the afternoon, and the sermon this day is to be under shelter and cover of the shrouds. There the congregation wait the coming of the great preacher, standing, as was then the