|Characteristics of the Reformation|
|18 Heroes (In chronological order of their death)|
|John Wycliffe - Morning Star of the Reformation. 1320-1384|
|John Hus - Early Chech Reformer and Martyr. 1372 - 1415|
|John Colet - Bible Scholar and Christian Educator. 1467-1519|
|Patrick Hamilton - Young Reformer of Scotland. 1504-1528|
|Thomas Bilney - Winner of Men for God. 1485-1531|
|John Frith - He Preached Bible Doctrine. 1503-1533|
|Erasmus - Translator and Collator of Greek and Latin NT. 1466-1536|
|William Tyndale - A Master of the English Reformation. 1494-1536|
|George Wishart - He Kindled the Flame of Truth. 1513-1546|
|William Hunter - a Simple Believer in the Truth. 1636-1555|
|John Rogers - Scholar and Translator of the Bible. 1505-1555|
|John Hooper - Fighter Against Papal Errors. 1495-1555|
|Nicholas Ridley - Martyr for His Faith. 1500-1555|
|Hugh Latimer - Preacher of the Gospel. 1487-1555|
|Thomas Cranmer - Archbishop and Martyr. 1489-1556|
|Miles Coverdale - Lover of the Scriptures. 1488-1569|
|John Knox - Fearless Scottish Reformer. 1513-1572|
|John Foxe - He Wrote of the Martyrs. 1516-1587|
|Other Thumbnail Biographies|
Henry VIII reigned 1509 to 1547 (7 heroes).
Mary reigned 1553 to 1558 (6 heroes).
Characteristics of the Reformation [Contents]
The Protestant Reformation possessed definite characteristics, many of which set it apart from any other revolution in history. One of the distinguishing features was its territorial scope. It began simultaneously and independently in various European countries. About the time that Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses on the church door in Wittenberg in 1517, John Colet, dean of St. Paul's in England, was denouncing the abuses of the Catholic Church and upholding the supremacy of the Bible as the rule of faith. Lefevre in France and Zwingli in Switzerland were at the same time preaching against the evils of the church and pointing to Christ as the door of salvation. Although Luther is called the originator of the Reformation, the other Reformers discovered and preached the same message that he did, without having received knowledge of it from him.
There was a power, however, that brought the Reformation into existence and made its progress possible -- and that was the Holy Scriptures. The Greek New Testament prepared by Erasmus was a help to scholars all over Europe in learning the way of truth and life.
After the Reformation once got under way, there existed a great friendship and fraternization among the Reformers. There was frequent interchange of ideas, and hospitality was freely extended. One of the surprising features of the Reformation was this extent of contact and cooperation among the Reformers as they encouraged each other in their efforts.
The Reformation spread with great rapidity. Of course, consolidations, refinements, and extensions needed to be made; but that so tremendous a revolution, on such a vast scale, could be executed in so short a time, bringing with it a complete change in thought and habit, still remains one of the amazing events of history.
The Protestant Reformation actually began in Europe's citadels of learning, her universities. There were scholars, such as Luther and Melanchthon at Wittenberg; Erasmus, Colet, and More at Oxford; Bilney, Latimer, and Cartwright at Cambridge; and Lefevre and Farel at Paris. Almost without exception the leaders of the Reformation were highly trained men of that generation. In some instances, as Beza and Tyndale, they ranked high as men of letters. Others, like Cranmer and Valdes carried responsibilities at court.
Wycliffe, Hus, and Savonarola each ranked high in his country; all three were eminent in literary circles.
Why was this so necessary at that time, when in other ages men of lesser abilities and education have been used effectively to preach the gospel with power? At least two answers can be given: Only the educated knew the Hebrew, Latin, and Greek necessary to read the Bible as it then existed. Then, too, it was essential that the Bible be translated into the vernacular of each country so that the common people could have the privilege of reading the Scriptures in their own tongue. This task demanded scholarship.
All the preaching of many Luthers, Latimers, Zwinglis, Knoxes, and Wisharts would have failed to accomplish the Reformation if, at the same time, the Bible in the vernacular had not been provided for the common people. If at the moment Latimer was preaching at Cambridge it had not happened that Tyndale, who had fled to the Continent, was smuggling back thousands of copies of the English New Testament so that every Englishman could read the way of salvation for himself, there would have been no Reformation in England. A similar situation obtained in Germany, France, and other countries.
With these two phases must be combined the indispensable third -- the invention of printing, which had made possible the publication of the translations of the Bible and had brought the price within range of the common man's purse.
Within a ten-year period many of the nations of Europe had received translations of the Bible in their own tongue. Luther had translated it for Germany in 1522, Lefevre for France in 1523, Tyndale for England in 1525, Bruccioli for Italy in 1532. Within the next ten years Francisco Enzinas had translated the Bible into Spanish, and Petri had translated it into Swedish. Shortly after, Karoli, one of the most energetic of Magyar preachers, had done the same in the Magyar tongue.
Another noteworthy characteristic of the Reformers was the basic agreement on important doctrines. The tenet upon which all Reformers agreed was justification by faith. They believed that salvation is not obtained by works, fasting, money, or penance, but that it is God's free gift. This doctrine formed the cornerstone of the Reformation. Agreement also existed on the supreme and sufficient authority of the Scriptures, Communion in both kinds, and the disavowal of saint worship, images, relics, purgatory, mass, celibacy, and the pope as head of the church. The major Reformers gave little attention to the form of baptism, religious liberty, the state of the dead, the Decalogue, the Trinity, and other doctrines.
The Heroes (In chronological order of their death)
John Wycliffe - Morning Star of the Reformation 1320-1384 [Contents]
John Wycliffe, first of the noted Reformers, lived from about 1320 to 1384, during a period covering the reign of three kings: Edward II, Edward III, and Richard II. This age bristled with numerous political ferments and national difficulties, such as the Hundred Years' War, three attacks of the dreaded Black Death, the Peasants' Revolt, and the political and ecclesiastical repercussions attending the "captivity" of the church at Avignon, France.
Because of the prominent place achieved by Wycliffe in England's political and religious growth it may be supposed that his background and activities can be traced with ease and clarity, but such is not the case. To write a biography of any man of this period presents a difficult task, and to gather materials concerning John Wycliffe is no exception. The fact that in all his writings not a single personal letter remains gives evidence of the difficulty of finding intimate glimpses of his character. To add confusion, it has been asserted that at least twenty different spellings of his name appear in scattered records. The extreme paucity of authentic material covering details of his life has effectively thwarted the efforts of capable scholars; but in spite of such obstacles, some facts are known.
John Wycliffe was born to a devout Catholic family of northern England who remained loyal to the church despite the teachings of its illustrious son. It has been presumed by some writers that John's parents may have been Roger Wyclif, lord of Wy, and his wife Cathrine.
Wycliffe attended Oxford University, where he received the degree of doctor of theology and became professor of theology. His eminence in civil and canon law was unchallenged, and he was known as "the gospel doctor" because of his zeal for the truth of the Bible.
As a result of his learning and fearless advocacy of Biblical truths and national rights, he became chaplain to the king, and a valued adviser to, and possibly a member of, the Parliament of 1366, which refused to pay arrears of feudal dues levied on King John. At one time he headed Balliol College, and as a lecturer and preacher he was termed brilliant. Any way one wishes to classify him, he stands as one of the leading men of his day.
Because of his untiring work as a writer, and also because he translated the Bible into the English tongue, he is considered by some authorities to be the first great master of English prose. He stands with Chaucer, if not in creating English literature, at least in giving form and beauty to it. It has been said that his efforts in bringing about two translations of the Bible did more to liberate England than was accomplished in any war. His serious mind and involved reasoning left his scholarly writing extremely intricate and completely without a trace of humour. An undeviating spirit, a caustic style, and a conduct void of blunders in behaviour characterize both his writings and his life.
In features and form little remains to draw an acceptable likeness of this great Reformer, for the available portraits consist, so it is said, of figments of someone's imagination. From fragmentary references he has been described as gaunt, lean to the point of emaciation, and with little bodily strength. His opponents were wont to say that his asceticism was used as a cloak to impress others with his piety. Lewis Sergeant, in his John Wycliffe, quotes others as stating that to this charge Wycliffe countered: "I eat frequently, greedily, and delicately, leading a social life; and if I were to try like a hypocrite to make false pretense in this regard, they who sit with me at tables would bear witness against me."
He never seemed to be in good health; but, in spite of appearances, he was hospitable, pleasant, and energetic, possessing an iron will with no apparent sign of timidity.
His friends saw in him a man deeply devoted to the word of God. To him the Bible was the way of life. In his estimation society was in a chaotic state, for which the greatest need was the love of justice.
"He was the champion," says Lewis Sergeant, "of the university against pope and hierarchy of the nation against the papacy, of the new truth as he had seen it against friars, bishops, and bulls. Men of all classes, from peasant to Parliament and kings, looked to him at one time or another for strength, inspiration, or protection, and they did not look in vain."
Wycliffe did not make his debut into national prominence over a controversy about creed, as might be supposed. His first open clash with the papacy found its basis in a national issue growing out of his views on the relative status of church and state. The papacy had requested the English Parliament to pay the money in arrears from the time King John had recognized the pope as overlord of England. Wycliffe's opinion denied the rights of all papal claims concerning taxation. His logic and thoroughness aligned Parliament against the papacy, and his position won him many friends and apparently as many enemies among the proponents of the papal hierarchy.
This incident seems to have marked a turning point in his life, for, not long after, he advocated a ban on the export of all precious metals to Rome and also proposed that the church hold a subordinate status to the English government. His logic led him to the conclusion that revelation and reason denied the papal claim of having authority over all secular rulers. From the results of his analysis of the situation he found no reason why the pope, under his allegation as the vicar of Christ, could be, in feudal terminology, an overlord of a country. Such a pretension, Wycliffe asserted, had no authority in Scripture.
Naturally, once having opposed the papacy on one matter, his thoroughness of scholarship and devotion to the study of the Bible, a book which he called "a charter written by God" and "the marrow of all laws," led him into conflict with the various religious views of the church. He maintained that the evils in the church developed from her wealth and temporal power, that such a condition was tantamount to idolatry, and that the church, in order to satisfy its pristine objective, needed to return to the simplicity of apostolic teaching.
True religion, he further averted, depended on a personal relationship between God and the individual, in which relationship the individual ought to be free from the control of priests, whom he at one time designated as "fiends of hell." He denied that the pope had any Scriptural or historic right to set himself up as head of all Christendom. Had Wycliffe had his way, the entire monastic system would have been abolished, for he felt it to be evil in intent and results. The whole idea of monasticism, according to his views, constituted a deterrent to England's greatness.
As time went on, he began to attack the entire papal organization. Any doctrine which emphasized externals to the loss of personal devotion to God, he condemned. Every sacrament, except marriage, received his rebuke.
The natural outcome of such an attitude was an open break with the church, a consummation which apparently was not his original intent. But it remained for his attack on the validity of the sacrament of transubstantiation, the supposed transforming of the bread and the wine of the eucharist into the body and blood of Christ, to catapult him into his most serious altercation with the hierarchical system. He maintained that the doctrine of transubstantiation constituted a heresy brought into the church with the purpose of keeping the laity in blind subjection to the priesthood. Even his refusal to accept the veneration of saints, relics, and pilgrimages as valid presentation to heaven for justification was secondary to his attack on the doctrine of transubstantiation. Soon he repudiated the supreme authority of popes and ecclesiastical councils and refused to come to terms with the papacy.
As Wycliffe's unalterable opposition to the church developed and people in most walks of life began to champion him and his views, the papal hierarchy had no recourse but to attempt to silence this "voice in the wilderness." Doubtless his high standing in the government and his status as an intellectual and spiritual leader kept him from earlier effective papal attacks. A man who held the position of king's chaplain, who was an intimate adviser to Parliament, and who stood in high esteem with the princess of Wales could not be cowed easily or attacked even by a church which claimed supremacy in religious and secular affairs.
But gradually the situation changed. His inflexible attitude and the shift in governmental personnel gave the papacy its opportunity to take effective steps to quiet this "greatest of Reformers before the Reformation." The papacy instituted two trials against Wycliffe, one in 1377 and one the following year. At this time he still stood in too high esteem to be either greatly awed or severely hindered in his onslaughts against the church, but his friends advised moderation. The fact that the papacy sent five bulls containing nineteen charges against Wycliffe shows the determination of the church to curtail his work. One of these bulls reached the king, one arrived at the University of Oxford, and the other three were addressed jointly to the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of London.
Records are at variance as to the actual number of heresies charged against Wycliffe, but they range all the way from the nineteen listed in the five bulls to the three hundred three enumerated by his opponents.
His body, always weak, had in the meantime been attacked by illness. At one time, when rumor spread that he lay dying, a few zealous friars hurried to his bedside to hear what they thought would be his recantation.
Instead they heard themselves denounced and threatened with the exposure of their misdeeds.
By 1382, papal pressure grew sufficiently strong to cause his expulsion from Oxford, a departure which marked for that institution the beginning of a considerable decrease in freedom of thought and for more than a century a progressive degeneration of religion, morals, and learning.
Wycliffe spent his few remaining years in charge of the Lutterworth church in Leicestershire. On December 28, 1384, a final paralytic attack came while he was attending to his duties. He died on New Year's Eve of the same year.
While Wycliffe was alive, the papal hierarchy had never been able to force his excommunication as a heretic; therefore apparently to vent its spleen or to demonstrate its frustration, or possibly both, the Council of Constance ordered, on May 4, 1415, that Wycliffe's body be disinterred and burned. This order reached fulfilment in 1428 with the consuming of his bones and the scattering of his ashes in the river Swift. (Some 44 years after his death!)
The evaluation placed on the influence and prestige of this man, who has been called the Morning Star of the Reformation, is outstanding and phenomenal. Apparently, apart from time, there is little that differentiates him from the Reformers of the sixteenth century. His influence remained high as late as the time of Luther. In many ways he outlined the basic doctrinal views propounded by the later Reformers. As the first great scholarly opponent of the medieval papacy, he exerted an immortal influence. In fullness of outlook he stood above many of the Reformers of a century later, and from the time of his first abortive trial in 1377 to his death he stands as the most important religious personage in England. The heart of his teaching, by which he won practically half of England, consists of the infallibility of the Scriptures and salvation through faith in Christ.
His two great services to his country have been defined as providing the inspiration for a religious revival and the writing of the first English translation of the Bible.
Charles Bigg, in his Wayside Sketches in Ecclesiastical History, says of Wycliffe, "The courage which he displayed, if we consider the forces arrayed against him, was extraordinary, and his intellectual moderation and good sense are hardly less so."
Ellen G. White in the The Great Controversy gives the following summation of the man and his work: "In breadth of intellect, in clearness of thought, in firmness to maintain the truth, and boldness to defend it, he was equalled by few who came after him. Purity of life, unwearying diligence in study and in labour, incorruptible integrity, and Christlike love and faithfulness in his ministry, characterized the first of the Reformers. And this notwithstanding the intellectual darkness and moral corruption of the age from which he emerged."
John Hus - Early Chech Reformer and Martyr. 1372 - 1415 [Contents]
John Hus, was a Czech priest, philosopher, early Christian reformer and Master at Charles University in Prague. After John Wycliffe, the theorist of ecclesiastical Reformation, Hus is considered the first Church reformer, as he lived before Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli.
Hus was a key predecessor to Protestantism, and his teachings had a strong influence on the states of Western Europe, most immediately in the approval of a reformist Bohemian religious denomination, and, more than a century later, on Martin Luther himself. He was burned at the stake for heresy against the doctrines of the Catholic Church, including those on ecclesiology, the Eucharist, and other theological topics.
Jan Hus was born in Husinec, Bohemia, c. 1369. At an early age he traveled to Prague, where he supported himself by singing and serving in Churches. His conduct was positive and his commitment to his studies was remarkable.
In 1393, Hus earned the degree of Bachelor of Arts at the University of Prague, and he earned his master's degree in 1396. In 1400, he was ordained as a priest. In 1402 Hus began preaching inside the city demanding for the reformation of the Church. He served as rector of the University of Prague in 1402-03. He was appointed a preacher at the newly built Bethlehem Chapel around the same time. Hus was a strong advocate for the Czechs, and therefore the Realists, and he was influenced by the writings of John Wycliffe. Although Church authorities banned many works of Wycliffe in 1403, Hus translated Trialogus into Czech and helped to distribute it.
Hus attacked the Church by denouncing the moral failings of clergy, bishops, and even the papacy from his pulpit. Archbishop Zbynek Zajic tolerated this, and even appointed Hus preacher at the clergy's biennial synod. On 24 June 1405, Pope Innocent VII, however, directed the Archbishop to counter Wycliffe's teachings, especially the doctrine of impanation in the Eucharist. The archbishop complied by issuing a synodal decree against Wycliffe, as well as forbidding any further attacks on the clergy.
In 1406, two Bohemian students brought to Prague a document bearing the seal of the University of Oxford and praising Wycliffe. Hus proudly read the document from his pulpit. Then in 1408, Pope Gregory XII warned Archbishop Zajic that the Church in Rome had been informed of Wycliffe's heresies and of King Wenceslaus's sympathies for non-conformists. In response, the king and University ordered all of Wycliffe's writings surrendered to the archdiocesan chancery for correction. Hus obeyed, declaring that he condemned the errors in those writings.
In 1408, the Charles University in Prague was divided by the Western Schism, in which Gregory XII in Rome and Benedict XIII in Avignon both claimed the papacy. Wenceslaus felt Gregory XII might interfere with his plans to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor. He denounced Gregory, ordered the clergy in Bohemia to observe a strict neutrality in the schism, and said that he expected the same of the University. Archbishop Zajic remained faithful to Gregory. At the University, only the scholars of the Bohemian "nation" (one of the four governing sections), with Hus as their leader, vowed neutrality.
At the urging of Hus and other Bohemian leaders, King Wenceslaus decreed (in Kutna Hora) that the "Bohemian nation" would have three votes (instead of one) in University affairs, while the Bavarian, Saxon, and Polish "nations" would have only one vote in total. As a consequence, between five thousand and twenty thousand foreign doctors, masters, and students left Prague in 1409. This exodus resulted in the founding of the University of Leipzig, among others. Thus Charles University lost its international importance and became a strictly Czech school. The emigrants also spread news of the Bohemian "heresies" throughout the rest of Europe. Archbishop Zajic became isolated and Hus was at the height of his fame. He became Rector of the University and enjoyed the favor of the court. Wycliffe's doctrines also regained favor in Prague.
In 1409, the Council of Pisa tried to end the schism by electing Alexander V as Pope, but Gregory and Benedict did not submit. (Alexander was declared an "antipope" by the Council of Constance in 1418.)
Hus, his followers, and Wenceslaus transferred their allegiance to Alexander V. Under pressure from Wenceslaus, Archbishop Zajic did the same. Zajic then lodged an accusation of "ecclesiastical disturbances" against Wycliffites in Prague with Alexander V.
On 20 December 1409, Alexander V issued a papal bull that empowered the Archbishop to proceed against Wycliffism in Prague. All copies of Wycliffe's writings were to be surrendered and his doctrines repudiated, and free preaching discontinued. After the publication of the bull in 1410, Hus appealed to Alexander V, but in vain. The Wycliffe books and valuable manuscripts were burned, and Hus and his adherents were excommunicated by Alexander V.
Alexander V died in 1410 and was succeeded by John XXIII (also later declared an antipope). In 1411, John XXIII proclaimed a crusade against King Ladislaus of Naples, the protector of rival Pope Gregory XII. This crusade was preached in Prague as well. John XXIII also authorized indulgences to raise money for the war. Priests urged the people on and these crowded into churches to give their offerings. This traffic in indulgences was to some a sign of the corruption of the church needing remediation.
Hus spoke out against indulgences, but he could not carry with him the men of the university. In 1412, a dispute took place, on which occasion Hus delivered his address Quaestio magistri Johannis Hus de indulgentiis. It was taken literally from the last chapter of Wycliffe's book, De ecclesia, and his treatise. Hus asserted that no Pope or bishop had the right to take up the sword in the name of the Church; he should pray for his enemies and bless those that curse him; man obtains forgiveness of sins by true repentance, not money. The doctors of the theological faculty replied, but without success. A few days afterward, some of Hus's followers, led by Vok Voksa z Valdstejna, burnt the Papal bulls. Hus, they said, should be obeyed rather than the Church, which they considered a fraudulent mob of adulterers and Simonists.
In response, three men from the lower classes who openly called the indulgences a fraud were beheaded. They were later considered the first martyrs of the Hussite Church. In the meantime, the faculty had condemned the forty-five articles and added several other theses, deemed heretical, which had originated with Hus. The king forbade the teaching of these articles, but neither Hus nor the university complied with the ruling, requesting that the articles should be first proven to be un-scriptural. The tumults at Prague had stirred up a sensation; papal legates and Archbishop Albik tried to persuade Hus to give up his opposition to the papal bulls, and the king made an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile the two parties.
Wenceslaus made efforts to harmonize the opposing parties. In 1412, he convoked the heads of his kingdom for a consultation and, at their suggestion, ordered a synod to be held at Cesky Brod on 2 February 1412. It did not take place there, but in the palace of the archbishops at Prague, in order to exclude Hus from participation. Propositions were made to restore peace in the Church. Hus declared that Bohemia should have the same freedom in regard to ecclesiastical affairs as other countries and that approbation and condemnation should therefore be announced only with the permission of the state power. This was the doctrine of Wycliffe.
There followed treatises from both parties, but no harmony was obtained. "Even if I should stand before the stake which has been prepared for me," Hus wrote at the time, "I would never accept the recommendation of the theological faculty." The synod did not produce any results, but the King ordered a commission to continue the work of reconciliation. The doctors of the university demanded approval of their conception of the Church, according to which the Pope is the head, the Cardinals are the body of the Church, from Hus and his followers. Hus protested vigorously. The Hussite party seems to have made a great effort toward reconciliation. To the article that the Roman Church must be obeyed, they added only "so far as every pious Christian is bound". Stanislav ze Znojma and stepan Palec protested against this addition and left the convention; they were exiled by the king, with two others.
By this time, Hus's ideas had become widely accepted in Bohemia, and there was broad resentment against the Church hierarchy. The attack on Hus by the Pope and Archbishop caused riots in parts of Bohemia. Wenceslaus and his government took the side of Hus, and the power of his adherents increased from day to day. Hus continued to preach in the Bethlehem Chapel. The churches of the city were put under the ban, and the interdict was pronounced against Prague. To protect the city, Hus left and went into the countryside, where he continued to preach and write.
Before Hus left Prague, he decided to take a step which gave a new dimension to his endeavors. He no longer put his trust in an indecisive King, a hostile Pope or an ineffective Council. On 18 October 1412 he appealed to Jesus Christ as the supreme judge. By appealing directly to the highest Christian authority, Christ himself, he bypassed the laws and structures of the medieval Church. For the Bohemian Reformation, this step was as significant as the 95 theses nailed to the door of the Wittenberg church by Martin Luther in 1517.
After Hus left Prague for the country, he realized what a gulf there was between university education and theological speculation on one hand, and the life of uneducated country priests and the laymen entrusted to their care on the other.Therefore, he started to write many texts in Czech, such as basics of the Christian faith or preachings, intended mainly for the priests whose knowledge of Latin was poor.
Of the writings occasioned by these controversies, those of Hus on the Church, entitled De Ecclesia, were written in 1413 and have been most frequently quoted and admired or criticized, and yet their first ten chapters are but an epitome of Wycliffe's work of the same title, and the following chapters are but an abstract of another of Wycliffe's works on the power of the Pope. Wycliffe had written his book to oppose the common position that the Church consisted only of the clergy, and Hus now found himself making the same point. He wrote his work at the castle of one of his protectors in Kozi Hradek, and sent it to Prague, where it was publicly read in the Bethlehem Chapel. It was answered by Stanislav ze Znojma and stepan z Palce with treatises of the same title.
After the most vehement opponents of Hus had left Prague, his adherents occupied the whole ground. Hus wrote his treatises and preached in the neighborhood of Kozi Hradek. Bohemian Wycliffism was carried into Poland, Hungary, Croatia, and Austria. But in January 1413, a general council in Rome condemned the writings of Wycliffe and ordered them to be burned.
Wenceslaus' brother Sigismund of Hungary, who was "King of the Romans" (that is, head of the Holy Roman Empire, though not then Emperor), and heir to the Bohemian crown, was anxious to put an end to religious dissension within the Church. To put an end to the papal schism and to take up the long desired reform of the Church, he arranged for a general council to convene on 1 November 1414, at Konstanz (Constance). The Council of Constance (1414-1418) became the 16th ecumenical council recognized by the Catholic Church. Hus, willing to make an end of all dissensions, agreed to go to Constance, under Sigismund's promise of safe conduct.
It is not known whether Hus knew what his fate would be, but he made his will before setting out. He started on his journey on 11 October 1414; on 3 November 1414, he arrived at Constance, and on the following day, the bulletins on the church doors announced that Michal Brodu would be opposing Hus. In the beginning, Hus was at liberty, under his safe-conduct from Sigismund, and lived at the house of a widow. But he continued celebrating Mass and preaching to the people, in violation of restrictions decreed by the Church. After a few weeks on 28 November 1414, his opponents succeeded in imprisoning him, on the strength of a rumor that he intended to flee. He was first brought into the residence of a canon and then, on 6 December 1414, into the dungeon of the Dominican monastery. Sigismund was greatly angered, as the guarantor of Hus's safety, and threatened the prelates with dismissal; however, the prelates convinced him that he could not be bound by promises to a heretic.
On 4 December 1414, John XXIII entrusted a committee of three bishops with a preliminary investigation against Hus. As was common practice, witnesses for the prosecution were heard, but Hus was not allowed an advocate for his defence. His situation became worse after the downfall of John XXIII, who had left Constance to avoid abdicating. Hus had been the captive of John XXIII and in constant communication with his friends, but now he was delivered to the bishop of Constance and brought to his castle, Gottlieben on the Rhine. Here he remained for 73 days, separated from his friends, chained day and night, poorly fed, and ill.
On 5 June 1415, he was tried for the first time, and for that purpose was transferred to a Franciscan monastery, where he spent the last weeks of his life. Extracts from his works were read, and witnesses were heard. He refused all formulae of submission, but declared himself willing to recant if his errors should be proven to him from the Bible. Hus conceded his veneration of Wycliffe, and said that he could only wish his soul might some time attain unto that place where Wycliffe's was. On the other hand, he denied having defended Wycliffe's doctrine of The Lord's Supper or the forty-five articles; he had only opposed their summary condemnation. King Sigmund admonished him to deliver himself up to the mercy of the Council, as he did not desire to protect a heretic.
At the last trial, on 8 June 1415, thirty-nine sentences were read to him, twenty-six of which had been excerpted from his book on the Church (De ecclesia), seven from his treatise against Palecz, and six from that against Stanislav ze Znojma. The danger of some of these doctrines to worldly power was explained to Sigismund to incite him against Hus. Hus again declared himself willing to submit if he could be convinced of errors. This declaration was considered an unconditional surrender, and he was asked to confess:
that he had erred in the theses which he had hitherto maintained;
that he renounced them for the future;
that he recanted them; and
that he declared the opposite of these sentences.
He asked to be exempted from recanting doctrines which he had never taught; others, which the assembly considered erroneous, he was not willing to revoke; to act differently would be against his conscience. These words found no favourable reception. After the trial on 8 June, several other attempts were purportedly made to induce him to recant, which he resisted.
The condemnation took place on 6 July 1415, in the presence of the assembly of the Council in the Cathedral. After the High Mass and Liturgy, Hus was led into the church. The Bishop of Lodi delivered an oration on the duty of eradicating heresy; then some theses of Hus and Wycliffe and a report of his trial were read.
An Italian prelate pronounced the sentence of condemnation upon Hus and his writings. Hus protested, saying that even at this hour he did not wish anything, but to be convinced from Scripture. He fell upon his knees and asked God with a low voice to forgive all his enemies. Then followed his degradation - he was dressed in priestly vestments and again asked to recant; again he refused. With curses, Hus' ornaments were taken from him, his priestly tonsure was destroyed, and the sentence of the Church was pronounced, stripping him of all rights, and he was delivered to secular authorities. Then a tall paper hat was put upon his head, with the inscription "Haeresiarcha" (i.e. the leader of a heretical movement). Hus was led away to the stake under a strong guard of armed men.
At the place of execution, he knelt down, spread out his hands, and prayed aloud. The executioner undressed Hus and tied his hands behind his back with ropes, and bound his neck with a chain to a stake around which wood and straw had been piled up so that it covered him to the neck. At the last moment, the imperial marshal, von Pappenheim, in the presence of the Count Palatine, asked Hus to recant and thus save his own life. Hus declined thus: "God is my witness that the things charged against me I never preached. In the same truth of the Gospel which I have written, taught, and preached, drawing upon the sayings and positions of the holy doctors, I am ready to die today."
It is said that when he was about to expire, he cried out, "Christ, son of the Living God, have mercy on us!" Hus' ashes were later thrown into the Rhine River.
John Colet - Bible Scholar and Christian Educator. 1467-1519 [Contents]
Nearly a century had passed since Wycliffe's death and Huss's martyrdom at the stake. The spiritual revolution instigated by these men and their followers had been crushed, and in England, particularly at its universities, lectures upon Biblical subjects, if conducted at all, were greatly restricted.
Frederic Seebohm, in his book The Oxford Reformers, says, "The Bible, both in theory and practice, had almost ceased to be a record of real events and the lives and teachings of living men. It had become an arsenal of texts; and these texts were regarded as detached invincible weapons to be legitimately seized and wielded in theological warfare, for any purpose to which their words might be made to apply, without reference to their original meaning or context."
So it must have been with some degree of uneasiness, if not actual dismay, that the Oxford dons and those duly authorized to discourse upon the Scriptures heard that John Colet, a late student, recently returned from Italy, was about to deliver, without benefit of ordination, a series of lectures upon Paul's epistles.
This set of gratuitous sermons was the initial blow of the Oxford Reformers to break the chains of ignorance concerning spiritual subjects.
The non-Protestant Reformers, Erasmus and Colet, wished to cleanse the church from within by peaceful, moderate methods rather than by violent revolution; to change the life and practice of the clergy rather than to change the doctrines. All Christendom was heaving like an ocean in a storm from the impact of the New Learning, a revival of classical literature, and its effect upon the Christianity of the age; and England could not remain unaffected.
John Colet was the first-born child in a family of twenty-one children, and all of these, except John, died in childhood. His father, Sir Henry Colet, was the lord mayor of London and a rich dealer in fabrics. Thus John, born in 1466, had all the opportunities which wealth and position could assure him.
He began his education at St. Anthony's, which rated as one of London's famous schools of that period. When he was seventeen he entered Oxford, where he remained until he attained the M.A. degree in 1494. Following this he spent two years in Italy for further study.
Although it is not definitely known whether he became acquainted personally with Savonarola or ever heard this fiery, flaming preacher, it seems probable that he did, for by some biographers he has been termed Savonarola's spiritual disciple. A comparison of the principles of the two men reveals that they were identical. Both wished to reform the church without a revolution, without breaking with the church, yet all the while both preached the Scriptures with clarity and devotion as they waged unrelenting warfare against the worldliness of monks and priests.
His two years in Italy made him an excellent Greek scholar and gave him a deep insight into the writings of the New Testament. In 1496 he was back in Oxford, where he began the series of lectures based on Paul's letter to the Romans. His singular approach to this subject brought him hearers, not only from the ranks of the students, but also from among the Oxford abbots and lecturers in the various faculties. Instead of using the method of exposition followed by the schoolmen when explaining Biblical texts, namely that of drawing out a "thread nine days long from an anti-theme of half an inch," Colet considered each epistle as a real letter from a living man addressed to his fellow men.
In his presentation he showed deep earnestness and an anxious endeavour to make the epistles alive to his hearers. This type of lecturing was something distinctly new, and needless to say did not bring him into favour with the schoolmen, for his views were too far advanced for them. But his procedure elevated him in the minds of the students and made him dearly beloved by the common people, while leaving him without preferment by the officials of Oxford university.
When Erasmus came to England in 1498, Colet took him to his bosom as a friend and companion. He perhaps loved Erasmus as he never loved anyone else, or anyone else ever loved Erasmus. For parts of two years the two men talked and argued, Colet, all the while hoping to win Erasmus to complete conversion in order to make of him a co-labourer in the cause of England's reformation. But this Colet, did not succeed in doing; nonetheless Erasmus received his greatest impetus toward Christianity from Colet.
After having the doctor's degree conferred upon him in 1505, Colet was installed as clean of St. Paul's Cathedral by order of Henry VII. Here he expounded and preached in much the same manner as he had at Oxford, never taking an isolated text and preaching upon it, but carrying forward a series of sermons upon some book of the Bible, preferably the epistles.
Shortly after his appointment to this highly influential position, Colet, began to propound his ideas of reform, in which purpose he was repeatedly opposed by the clergymen who functioned as counsellors to the bishop of London, Colet's immediate superior. Colet found little to commend in church tradition, he rejected the teachings of scholastic divines, he cast aside the writings of such men as Thomas Aquinas, and went back to the words and life of Christ.
Fearlessness and frankness characterized all his preaching. He ably promoted the ideals of Christian education, personal religion, and piety marked by simplicity. Wherever worldliness and corruption raised its head, even among the order of which he was a member, he exposed it without fear or favour. W. Hudson Shaw stated in The Oxford Reformers, "No such preaching as Colet's, it may be safely asserted, had been heard in England for a hundred years." But in spite of his influential position as dean of St. Paul's he exhibited no sign of vanity. It is said of him that during a period of nearly universal debauchery he lived a life of blameless purity. In his expenditures on himself he was very frugal. For years he abstained from supper, yet he set an acceptable table which was neither expensive nor excessive. He had many guests of whom it was said that they always left better than they came. This doubtless referred to Colet's ability to enliven the meal by challenging conversation in which he deftly drew out many of the more reticent.
In 1510 Colet founded his famous St. Paul's School and thereby instituted educational as well as ecclesiastical reforms. He started a revolution in secondary middle-class education which has beneficially influenced education in England down to the present time. More than one hundred fifty boys in his school each year studied Christian authors who wrote chastely in Latin and Greek. Colet remarked, "My intent is by this school specially to increase knowledge, and worshipping of God and our Jesus Christ, and good Christian life and manners in the children." -- Samuel Knight, Life of Colet.
To secure the best, most capable teachers for his school, Colet went to great lengths, even providing proper remuneration for their services, a well-nigh unheard of procedure in those days. As evidence of his estimation of Christian teachers, he asserted that he considered "the education of youth the most honourable of all callings, and that there could be no labour more pleasing to God than the Christian training of boys." New textbooks also needed to be written, for the old ones contained too much contaminating material, and in this project his friend Erasmus lent a helping hand.
Before his death, Colet made explicit provision that the control and management of the school not fall into the hands of the church.
At this time Lollardism, which had perhaps never been completely stamped out since Wycliffe's day, was again in the ascendency, possibly because of Colet's preaching; at least the Lollards came in droves to hear him preach. As their numbers grew, martyr fires became common occurrences, until in 1512 the archbishop of Canterbury summoned a convocation of clergymen to meet in St. Paul's Cathedral, primarily for the purpose of eradicating heresy. Colet was invited by the archbishop to present the opening address.
Colet's initial remarks are worthy of quoting since they show the fearlessness of the man and his intense desire for a basic reform, especially in the lives of the clergy. He said, "You are come together today, fathers and right wise men, to hold a council. I wish that, mindful of your name and profession, ye would consider the reformation of ecclesiastical affairs; for never was it more necessary, and never did the state of the church more need your endeavours. For the church, the spouse of Christ, which He wished to be without spot or wrinkle, is become foul and deformed." -- Shaw, The Oxford Reformers.
Throughout the sermon he inveighed against the pride of life, the covetousness, the lust of the flesh, and the numerous worldly occupations which beset the clergy.
This address had not the slightest effect in bringing about the reform he desired; on the contrary, it earned him the enmity of some of the most influential churchmen and made him a marked man. The bishop of London preferred charges of heresy against him, but these were promptly and angrily rejected by the archbishop of Canterbury. For a short time only was Colet denied the privilege of preaching in St. Paul's, and this because he had translated the Pater Noster into English.
But his life was spared from the burning pyre or the axeman, and he once more preached with all boldness and straightforwardness from his pulpit in St. Paul's.
At this time Henry VIII was relentlessly waging war on the Continent.
Colet took up verbal cudgels against the king's foreign policy, for it blasted his vision of an approaching age of spiritual rejuvenation. Colet's enemies thought that surely now they would have their chance to get their quarry. But when summoned to the royal court, Colet by discretion and moderation satisfied the mind of the king that there could be a just war lawful to Christians. He gained the king's favor to the extent that no one could touch Colet from thenceforward, although the bishop of London did not cease to harass him until the day of his death, which came in 1519.
Colet is listed among the great of earth because of his far-reaching influence upon the lives of others. His power over a large number of people was nowhere more apparent than during his deanship of St. Paul's, when the pulpit of the cathedral literally became the focal point for men of every class of life -- the merchant, the courtier, the beggar, the highest of earth, and the humblest classes. It was Colet who influenced More and Erasmus, the other two of the Oxford Reformers. More owed his convictions to Colet; and Erasmus, who received from Colet whatever spiritual tone his studies acquired, called Colet, "My best-beloved teacher." Colet was the originator of the Oxford Reformers, the leader of the English Renaissance, the founder of St. Paul's School, and the father of rational Christianity. His high moral character and his never-flagging interest in promoting a higher level of Christian practice and thought in the church gives him the exalted status accorded him.
Colet died before the Reformation under the direction of Luther burst upon Europe in all its political, economic, and religious fury. Luther had not yet broken with the pope. It seems that Colet sympathized with Luther's views and his attack on indulgences. He had read Luther's pamphlet, which had reached England. Conjecture as to what position he would have taken on Luther's Reformation had he lived must remain in the realm of pure speculation, although some assert he would have remained with the church.
Upon hearing of Colet's death, his colleague, Sir Thomas More, said: "For generations we have not had amongst us any one man more learned or holy?" And Erasmus, Colet's close friend, remarked tearfully: "What a man has England and what a friend have I lost!" -- Frederic Seebohm, The Oxford Reformers.
Patrick Hamilton - Young Reformer of Scotland. 1504-1528 [Contents]
Among the prominent men and women who devoted their lives to the cause of the Protestant Reformation, perhaps none was so youthful when his lifework was ended as Patrick Hamilton, the first preacher and martyr of the Scottish Reformation, and second only to John Knox in his influence on reform in Scotland. When he died for his faith at the stake he was only twenty-four years of age.
Of royal lineage, the great-grandson of a king, Hamilton is thought to have been born in 1504 of Sir Patrick Hamilton of Kincavel and Stonehouse, and Catherine Stewart, daughter of Alexander, duke of Albany, the second son of King James II. Two of his cousins attained eminent ecclesiastical rank, and other relatives gained high distinction.
He was surrounded from birth by an environment of courtesy and high breeding, rank and refinement; and early in life his parents dedicated him to the church. When he was twelve they procured for him the appointment of abbot to the abbey of Ferne in Ross-shire, the revenue of which furnished him with sufficient funds to pursue the advanced education he later sought on the Continent.
At this time Scotland was torn by strife for ecclesiastical power. Hamilton was nine years of age when on September 9, 1513, occurred the Battle of Flodden Field, a disaster which plunged the church and civil government into an unequal conquest for power, with the church gaining the ascendancy.
During the battle a large number of high church and government officials lost their lives, leaving their posts to be filled by youthful aspirants. Experienced statesmen were replaced by young noblemen who deferred to the prelates in matters of governmental policy, thereby permitting the clergy to grasp the dominant places in politics.
The highest families in the realm resorted to force of arms as they rushed into the struggle to place their favourites on ecclesiastical thrones, and particularly that of the primacy of St. Andrews. Family influence and political intrigue determined the outcome. Hamilton's biographer, Lorimer, declared, "The church's patrimony suffers all the ignominy of a simoniacal partition in order to satisfy their covetousness and ambition; and a reconciliation of all parties is effected only when all parties are gorged with ecclesiastical booty." -- Peter Lorimer, Patrick Hamilton.
The Hamiltons were in the midst of the strife, their affiliation divided by the contending parties. Young Patrick could hardly have escaped being impressed by the flagrant corruption of the church -- for which his parents had destined him.
Hamilton left Scotland in 1517, if not earlier, to attend the University of Paris. He studied Greek and Hebrew, and read the Scriptures in their original languages, and he took his master's degree at the age of sixteen. It is true that obtaining a higher degree from a sixteenth-century university did not present the formidable academic hurdles that a similar achievement at the first-class university does today.
His stay in Paris proved to be the turning point of his life. He had passed from the middle ages of Scotland to the modern age of France, with its seething unrest and awakening to a new birth of religion. Here he came under the influence of Erasmus and it is even probable that he made the personal acquaintance of the man.
Of still greater importance to Hamilton was his reading of Luther's writings. Thus he learned about justification by faith, instead of by works, as he had been taught. A great many copies of Luther's account of the Leipzig disputation between himself and Eck were distributed in Paris and at the university in 1519. University officials purchased copies in order to evaluate and criticize Luther's orthodoxy. For more than a year the doctors of the Sorbonne deliberated, and on April 15, 1521, in the presence of the faculty and students they declared Luther a heretic, and they burned his writings.
After Luther's condemnation, Melanchthon took up his pen in defence of the great Reformer and the evangelical doctrines, and against the Sorbonne. His writings, too, were consigned to the flames. All this Hamilton saw. He could not have been more propitiously stationed to watch the ebb and flow of this theological war, to determine what was good and what was bad about Catholicism and Protestantism alike.
He spent six years in Paris; the three years following his graduation he studied probably at Louvain, where Erasmus resided in 1521, and it is possible that he also spent some time in Basel after Erasmus had moved to that city.
In 1523 Hamilton was back in Scotland as a student in St. Andrews University. The following year he was admitted to the faculty of arts in St. Leonard's College, where his proficiency in music led him to compose a mass arranged in parts for nine voices. This was presented in the Cathedral of St. Andrews, with himself as conductor.
At this time Hamilton's mind was probably still in a state of transition, a thoroughgoing Erasmian, but uncertain about Luther's theology.
In 1525 the Scottish clergy placed a ban on Luther's writings, which had been extensively circulated. Those who brought these works into Scotland were faced with imprisonment. Tyndale's Bible had also reached Scottish shores.
It was probably the following year that Hamilton first openly declared his new convictions, perhaps prematurely urged on because of his irritation at papists' actions against Luther's writings. But as soon as he began preaching he was faced with the proposition that either he cease doing so or die, for when Archbishop Beaton heard the rumor of Hamilton's defection from the Catholic faith he made investigation and found him "inflamed with heresy, disputing, holding and maintaining divers heresies of Martin Luther and his followers, repugnant to the faith."
Hamilton fled to Wittenberg, Germany, early in the spring of 1527, and associated himself with Luther and Melanchthon. He also met Tyndale and Frith, and for some time he studied under Francis Lambert, head of the theological faculty at the newly founded University of Marburg. Lambert praised his learning and spiritual insight, and said, "His learning was of no common kind for his years, and his judgment in divine truth was eminently clear and solid. His object in visiting the university was to confirm himself more abundantly in the truth; and I can truly say that I have seldom met with anyone who conversed on the word of God with greater spirituality and earnestness of feeling. He was often in conversation with me upon these subjects."
It was one thing to be converted to Protestantism through reading Luther's writings and to hear about the Reformation from afar; it was an altogether different matter to associate personally with some of "the most illustrious teachers and heroes of the reformed faith" and to witness at firsthand the progress of the Reformation with its sweeping social, religious, and political changes. For six months he steeped himself in the spirit and virtue of these men. This he needed to fortify himself for the trials ahead.
While at Marburg, Hamilton wrote in a balanced, antithetical style a treatise called Patrick's Places, which deals with the distinction between topics such as the law and the gospel, justification and holiness, faith and works. Hamilton wrote, "The law showeth us our sin, the gospel showeth us the remedy for it. The law showeth us our condemnation, the gospel showeth us our redemption. The law saith to the sinner, Pay thy debt; the gospel saith, Christ hath paid it. The law saith, Thou art a sinner; despair -- thou shalt be damned; the gospel saith, Thy sins are forgiven thee; be of good comfort -- thou shalt be saved." -- Quoted by Robert F. Sample in Beacon Lights of the Reformation.
This brochure, written at Lambert's suggestion, has the distinction of being "the earliest doctrinal production of the Scottish Reformation," and it "became the cornerstone of Protestant theology in Scotland and England." Frith later translated it into English, and both John Knox and John Foxe include it in its entirety in their writings.
But Hamilton could not long remain away from Scotland, where he felt that God called him to deliver His message. Now he felt that he was prepared to face death, if necessary. He returned in the autumn of 1527 and began preaching to the nobility; to his own relatives in Kincavel, some of whom, including his brother and sister, joined him in the faith; as well as to a young lady of noble birth to whom he united himself in marriage. A daughter was born after his death.
Beginning with his family mansion, probably his brother's house, where he gathered his first congregation, he soon preached in all the surrounding country, as "he spared not to lay open the corruptions of the Roman Church, and to show the errors crept into the Christian religion; whereunto many gave ear, and a great following he had both for his learning and courteous behavior to all sorts of people." -- Quoted by Lorimer.
In January, 1528, he was invited by Archbishop Beaton to attend a conference of the heads of the church to consider "such points as might seem to stand in need of reform." Some of his relatives attempted to dissuade him from going, because they feared for their kinsman's life; but even though he knew he had not long to live, he resolutely turned his face to St. Andrews, "the Vatican of Scotland," to accept the archbishop's invitation. Here he lived in the lodgings provided for him by the archbishop.
The conference was held, and Hamilton defended his views. His opponents demonstrated such a conciliatory spirit that the young Reformer was permitted to teach in the university. This was all a part of the plan to get more evidence against him, for it was no easy matter to execute a member of such a noble family.
With utmost freedom he was permitted to go about the university for one whole month, instructing and disputing openly on all points he thought essential to bring about a reform in church doctrine and polity. Here at the ecclesiastical center and capital of Scotland he preached to students and faculty members, to various orders of monkhood -- the Dominicans, Augustinians, the Franciscans -- to noblemen, laymen, and priests, to all in the classrooms and the cathedral, and to all who sought him out in his apartment. In this one month he was able to strike at the very heart of the nation with his message of reform.
At the end of February he was seized and brought to trial in the cathedral. The charges made against him included his teaching that man is justified by faith and not by works, that faith, hope, and charity are so linked together that if an individual possesses one he has all, and if he lacks one he lacks all. Furthermore, he had stated that every true Christian must know whether he is in a state of grace, that no man is able by mere force of free will to do any good thing, that no one continues without sins in this life, and that corruption of sin remains in a child after baptism. He had exhorted the people to read the word of God, and he stated that the people were able to understand it. Worshiping of images and saints he had declared unlawful, as well as auricular confession, purgatory, and penance; all were contrary to the Scriptures, and he had called the pope antichrist.
After the mock trial he was deprived of all dignities and benefices of the church, and the secular government carried out the execution. Lest an attempt to rescue him prove successful, a guard of 3,000 men conducted him from the cathedral to the castle. It is said that when his brother James heard what was about to happen, he gathered a strong force to interfere with the plans of execution; but a storm on the Firth prevented him from reaching St. Andrews in time.
On the same day he was tried Hamilton was hastened to the execution in front of the gate of St. Salvador's College. At noon he was bound at the stake. As the iron chain fastened him to the pole, he prayed that the acute pain he might suffer would not cause him to say or do anything that would grieve his heavenly Father.
Hamilton died one of the most excruciatingly painful and prolonged deaths of any of the martyrs. He was tortured, not by intent but through carelessness, with a slow fire in which the pile had to be kindled three times because of green wood. When some powder which had been placed among the pieces exploded and a chunk grazed his flesh, Hamilton calmly said, "Have you no dry wood? Have you no more gunpowder?" When the iron chain had nearly burned through the centre of his body, one of the observers asked him to show whether he still believed, by giving them some sign of his faith. With that Hamilton held up three fingers of a partly burned hand, and held them high until he died at six o'clock in the evening, just six hours from the time he had been tied to the stake.
"On the day that he died the papacy unwittingly kindled a fire which shone over all Scotland, in the flames of which it was itself consumed," as "the reek of Patrick Hamilton infected all on whom it did blow."
Thomas Bilney - Winner of Men for God. 1485-1531 [Contents]
Although not listed among the great in Reformation circles, Thomas Bilney was, nonetheless, an important link in the progress of that movement in England. "Little Bilney," as he was affectionately named because of his diminutive stature, is sometimes called "The father of the English Reformation," for two reasons: He was the first to be converted by the reading of Erasmus's New Testament, and he converted more great men among the English Reformers than did anyone else.
He was born at or near Norwich in 1495 and lived in Cambridge from childhood. He attended Trinity College and attained the degree of doctor of laws. He was ordained a priest in 1519.
Of a serious turn of mind and abstemious, he attempted early in life to fulfill the commandments of God; and he strove by fasting, long vigils, masses, and the purchase of indulgences to win peace of mind. Like Luther, Bilney discovered that good works alone were not enough to secure him the forgiveness of God that he sought.
Many of Bilney's acquaintances were talking about a new book, the Greek New Testament. But the priests had forbidden Bilney to read it, and, being a good Catholic who desired to fulfill all obligations, and especially ecclesiastical commands, he desisted. Finally, unable to resist his curiosity any longer, he decided to read it in secret, for he was greatly attracted to its reported beauty of style.
With considerable fear he purchased a copy from a house that was secretly selling it, against the law. Locking himself in his room, he allowed the book to fall open, and he read, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief." 1 Timothy 1:15.
Bilney grasped the idea readily that if Paul thought himself the chief of sinners and yet was saved, then he, Bilney, even a greater sinner in his own estimation, could be saved, too. What a revelation! What a relief! Instead of despair, a great inward peace now came into his soul.
Merle d'Aubigne, who writes the account, quotes Bilney's words: "I see it all; my vigils, my fasts, my pilgrimages, my purchase of masses and indulgences, were destroying instead of saving me. All these efforts were, as St. Augustine says, a hasty running out of the right way." From then on Bilney became a devotee of the Bible; he never grew weary of reading it. More than that, he had a great urge to share his new-found faith with others. He desired nothing more than to be able to show his associates God's great mercy and grace.
Since he was of a shy and bashful nature, he did not at first with boldness preach this truth to the world. It is written that his vocation was prayer. He made it his business to call upon God day and night, pleading for souls; and God answered him. Any evangelist would be proud to count among his converts those that Bilney made, names that stand high in the Reformation's hall of fame, persons without whom the English Reformation would perhaps not have been accomplished. Of Cambridge's eminent professors, Arthur, Thistle, and Stafford were the first to respond to him. Latimer, Barnes, Lambert, Warner, Fooke, and Soude were also among those who were saved through his ministry. All were men who played foremost roles in the English Reformation.
After Latimer came to believe the truth, the students flocked to hear Bilney preach. "Bilney, whom we continually meet with when any secret work, a work of irresistible charity, is in hand," knew how to approach these men. "The pious man often succeeds better, even with the great ones of this world, than the ambitious and the intriguing." He had the secret power gained by long hours on his knees in his closet.
He prayed, "O Thou who art the truth, give me strength that I may teach it; and convert the ungodly by means of one who has been ungodly himself." Bilney always attempted to fit his method to the individual he wished to convert. In the case of Latimer, a Catholic who disdained the evangelicals at the university, he won by confessing to him the story of his own conversion. In the case of Barnes, "the Goliath of the university," he first prayed long and earnestly. Then he held many conversations and prayers with Barnes, and urged him to declare his faith openly without fear of reproach. At other times he assembled his friends together and pointed his finger at the text that had converted him. By this means many were converted.
For a time the little Reformer joined his efforts with those of John Frith and William Tyndale. Together they preached repentance and conversion, denying that anyone could get his sins forgiven by any priest or by doing any good work.
Bilney had little regard for the popes. He declared, "These five hundred years there hath been no good pope; and in all the times past we can find but fifty: for they have neither preached nor lived well, nor conformably to their dignity; wherefore, unto this day, they have borne the keys of simony." (As an example of the men of whom he spoke, who held low moral standards, we may consider Rodrigo Borgia, who succeeded Innocent VIII to the papal chair in 1492 as Alexander VI. He lived illicitly with a Roman woman and one of her daughters, having some four children by the latter, all of whom he acknowledged openly and provided with high positions. He bribed all of the cardinals, and gave at least one of them large amounts of silver, to obtain the papal chair. His manner of life and his procedure in obtaining the papal crown were characteristic of other popes of that period.) At another time Bilney said, "The cowl of St. Francis wrapped round a dead body hath no power to take away sins." Bilney was a leader of the Protestant group at Cambridge, and he preached simply and directly that Jesus Christ delivered from sin. As matter-of-fact as this statement may sound to present-day Christendom, it was nearly as startling as an atomic bomb to the people living in sixteenth century Europe. They knew but one route to heaven; namely, good works, fasting, indulgences, purgatory, and the mass.
Mainly as the result of Bilney's work at Cambridge "seven colleges at least were in full ferment: Pembroke, St John's, Queens', King's, Caius, Benet's and Peterhouse. The gospel was preached at the Augustine's, at St. Mary's, (the university church,) and in other places." Thus the Reformation received impetus in England. Eventually overcoming his shyness, Bilney began preaching with the vigour of an evangel. In 1525 he secured a license to preach in the diocese of Ely. He left the university and in the company of Arthur went to many places. In Suffolk, at the town of Hadleigh, many were converted. Here he performed such faithful work in teaching the people that they became great Bible students, so much so "that the whole town seemed rather a university of the learned than a town of cloth-making or labouring people." -- John Foxe, Book of Martyrs. They read their Bibles through many times, memorizing whole portions.
It was not long, however, before opposition to his preaching developed. Twice monks forcibly drew him out of the pulpit. His denunciation of saint and relic worship, of monkish conduct, and of pilgrimages drew the attention of Cardinal Wolsey. When cited to appear before him in 1527, Bilney denied holding any Lutheran views. Since Wolsey was too engrossed with the tasks of the kingdom, he left the trial in the hands of Cuthbert Tunstall, bishop of London.
Bilney was convicted of heresy, but Tunstall, who sympathized with his victim, could not bring himself to pronounce the sentence. Bilney wanted to go to the stake, but the arguments of his friends not to cast his life away, and Tunstall's continuous putting off the evil day, finally wore down the little man so that he recanted. Knowing that the bishop was a friend of Erasmus, Bilney, during the days of waiting, wrote letters to Tunstall about the Greek New Testament. Tunstall apparently was impressed, but not enough to relent. Wolsey had commanded that Bilney either abjure or die.
The day following his recantation he bore his fagot to Paul's Cross, the accepted procedure to indicate to the world that he had abjured his heresy. After this he was placed back in prison.
Now Bilney's real torment began compared to which his soul struggle before conversion was nothing. After he spent a year in the Tower he returned to Cambridge, but he was so tortured by remorse that he had denied his Christ, that he could not bear to have anyone, not even his old friend Latimer, read or mention the Scriptures to him. "His mind wandered, the blood froze in his veins, he sank under his terrors; he lost all sense, and almost his life, and lay motionless in the arms of his astonished friends." He could obtain no consolation.
Yet the Holy Spirit did not entirely forsake him. Finally when peace was once more restored in his heart, he resolved to rectify the great wrong he had done. He determined never again to renounce the truth of God's word.
One night at ten o'clock, in 1531, he bade his friends at Cambridge goodby, saying that he was going to Jerusalem. (He referred to Christ's words, when He went to Jerusalem to suffer the crucifixion.) His destination was Norfolk, where he had first preached. Since his license had been revoked, he went from house to house, and he also spoke in the fields. He spoke openly confessing that he had denied the truth. From Norfolk he went to Norwich, where he preached with great unction proclaiming, ‘That doctrine which I once abjured is the truth. Let my example be a lesson to all who hear me.’ Fearing nothing, he preached the gospel, distributed New Testaments and exposed the errors of Rome. He was soon apprehended tried and convicted. The sheriff, a special friend of his, who wanted to do something for him, treated him well. But the Chancellor, Sir Thomas More was delighted to confirm the death sentence. So he was sent to London for execution.
The night before the execution, friends who came to comfort reminded him, "Though the fire would be hot, God's spirit would cool it." To show them his lack of fear he put his finger in the candle flame, leaving it there until it was burned off to the first joint. He told them, "I feel by experience, and have known it long by philosophy, that fire by God's ordinance is naturally hot; but yet I am persuaded by God's Holy Word, and by the experience of some mentioned in that word, that in the flame they felt no heat, and in the fire they felt no consumption; and I can constantly believe, however the stubble of this my body shall be wasted by it, yet my soul and spirit shall be purged thereby, a pain for the time, whereon, notwithstanding, followeth joy unspeakable." He referred them to Isaiah 43:2: "When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." Bilney was executed at Lollard's Pit, in a low valley surrounded by hills.
This spot was chosen, says Foxe, so that people might have the comfort of sitting quietly to see the executions. A "vast concourse of spectators" came to see "little Bilney" burn. People living in sixteenth-century England were apparently as enthusiastic for these burnings as were those of pagan Rome to see the early Christians thrown into the arena to be devoured by wild beasts.
Of Bilney's last moments Foxe writes, "Then the officers put reeds and fagots about his body, and set fire to them, which made a very great flame, and deformed his face, he holding up his hands, and knocking upon his breast, crying sometimes, 'Jesus,' sometimes, 'I believe.' The flame was blown away from him by the violence of the wind, which was that day, and two or three days before, very great; and so for a little pause he stood without flame; but soon the wood again took the flame, and then he gave up the ghost, and his body, being withered, bowed downward against the chain. Then one of the officers with his halbert smote out the staple in the stake behind him, and suffered his body to fall into the bottom of the fire, laying wood on it; and so he was consumed."
John Frith - He Preached Bible Doctrine. 1503-1533 [Contents]
John Frith, William Tyndale's "son in the gospel," was the first among English Reformers to expound the doctrine of the symbolic presence of Christ in the eucharist, instead of the error of transubstantiation. He also believed that the church is the depository for all truth for all the earth, and not merely for an area or a nation. This conception gave birth to the missionary idea and caused the gospel to encircle the globe in later generations.
He was born in 1503 at Westerham, Kent. During his early childhood he and his parents removed to Sevenoaks, where his father became an innkeeper. At King's College, Cambridge, he attained his degree in 1525, and so great was his learning and ability that it was reputed that scarcely his equal existed anywhere. Even Cardinal Wolsey was greatly attracted to the young man, and invited him to be among the first to teach in his newly founded Christ's College at Oxford. Here Frith became junior canon. Henry VIII was so impressed with him that he wanted to place him among the leading theologians of the realm.
But neither academic achievements nor the king's preferments could turn him aside from a new pursuit, namely, to help Tyndale translate the New Testament. Although proficient in mathematics, he had discovered a new kind of learning, a type that comes from the study of the Holy Scriptures.
"These things are not demonstrated like a proposition in Euclid," he said; "mere study is sufficient to impress the theories of mathematics on our minds; but this science of God meets with a resistance in man that necessitates the intervention of divine power. Christianity is a regeneration." His ardour in preaching the doctrines of the Reformation led him, along with some of his associates, to be imprisoned for some months in a deep cellar at Oxford. The damp dungeon, filled with the stench of salt fish, caused several to die. Wolsey released Frith upon the promise that he remain within a ten-mile radius of Oxford. Instead, the young Reformer escaped to the Continent, to the newly established Protestant university of Marburg. There he associated with many of the eminent Reformers, including Tyndale, who had preceded him, and Patrick Hamilton of Scotland. Frith's first publication was a translation of Hamilton's Patrick's Places from Latin into English. While abroad, Frith married and had several children.
In 1529 Tyndale and Frith left Marburg and went to Antwerp. The New Testament had been completed, and the learned Frith was now a great aid to Tyndale in translating the Old Testament. The king was ready to welcome Frith back to England any time he would renounce his heresies, but this he was not ready to do.
He returned to England without Henry's permission in 1532, perhaps to seek his friend, the prior at Beading. When he arrived in the city his disreputable appearance, for "exile had not used him well," caused him to be set in stocks for vagabondage. He remained there for some time because he refused to give his name, lest the king hear about it.
Finally, in desperation and in a semi-starved condition, he sent for Leonard Coxe, the master of the grammar school, who was greatly astonished to hear a tramp clad in rags speak such eloquent Latin. With the schoolmaster, Frith conversed in both Latin and Greek concerning the universities, and he even quoted from the Iliad some lines which applied to his case. With great respect Coxe hastened to the mayor to obtain Frith's release, on the basis that a great wrong was being done a worthy man. Thus Homer was credited with saving a Reformer's life!
After he was set free from the stocks, Frith went to Bow Lane, London, and there he taught the Scriptures to those who wished to hear. For one of his listeners who desired an explanation of the eucharist he wrote a Lytle Treatise on the Sacraments, but without any intention of having it circulated. In it he expressed the following views:
1. The doctrine of the sacrament is not an article of faith to be held under pain of
2. The natural body of Christ had the same qualities as those of all men, except that it was free from sin, and it is therefore not ubiquitous.
3. It is neither right nor necessary to take the word of Christ literally, for it should be construed according to the analogy of the Bible.
4. The sacrament should be received according to the institution of Christ, and not according to the order in use." -- Quoted in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge.
A tailor named William Holt, under pretense of friendship, asked for a copy, and forthwith presented it to Sir Thomas More, then lord chancellor and successor to the ill-fated Cardinal Wolsey.
About this time Tyndale, back on the Continent, was becoming greatly alarmed lest his friend Frith should fall into enemy hands. He regarded Frith as "the great hope of the church in England," and he did not wish any evil to happen to him. He wrote: "Beloved in my heart, there liveth not one in whom I have so great hope and trust, and in whom my heart rejoiceth, not so much for your learning and what other gifts else you may have, as because you walk in those things that the conscience may feel, and not in the imagination of the brain. Cleave fast to the rock of the help of God; and if aught be required of you contrary to the glory of God and His Christ, then stand fast and commit yourself to God. He is our God, and our redemption is nigh." When More received Frith's statement on the Lord's Supper he was angered and wrote a tract in reply, characterizing Frith's doctrine "under the image of a cancer." Then he sought to have him imprisoned, and by all means available hunted him everywhere. He even offered a great reward for his capture. "There was no county or town or village where More did not look for him, no sheriff or justice of the peace to whom he did not apply, no harbor where he did not post some officer to catch him." Frith fled from place to place, changing his garb frequently to elude his pursuers.
Irked at the successes of the evangels, More gave vent to his feelings against them: "These diabolical people," he said, "print their books at great expense, notwithstanding the great danger; not looking for any gain, they give them away to everybody, and even scatter them abroad by night. They fear no labour, no journey, no expense, no pain, no danger, no blows, no injury." As Frith made preparation to flee to Holland and rejoin Tyndale, More's agents were stationed at the wharf of a small seaport in Essex. They caught him as he attempted to board a ship, in spite of all his precautions.
From there he was transported to the Tower, where, for a time, he enjoyed considerable freedom, even going out on parole and conversing all night long with friends of the gospel. One such friend was Petit, a prosperous merchant and a member of Parliament, who later suffered imprisonment because of his Protestant views. With them Frith planned ways and means to promote the Reformation. He also wrote much, part of which constituted his debate with More and his associates about the Lord's Supper, and also about purgatory, which Frith termed an invention of the papists. His little tract "Bulwark" converted Rastell, More's brother-in-law, thereby creating such a sensation that many people came to visit the prisoner. This encouraged him to write still more, insomuch that with his pen he "enlightened many souls" and "contributed powerfully to the renovation of England." During Lent of 1533, Dr. Curwin, a friend of the papists, preached a sermon against those who denied the physical presence of Christ in the eucharist; and he mentioned that it was not surprising that this pernicious doctrine was gaining such headway when "a man now in the Tower of London has the audacity to defend it, and no one thinks of punishing him." Aroused by these remarks, Henry VIII commanded Cromwell and Cranmer to bring Frith to trial, and added, "If he does not retract, let him suffer the penalty he deserves." Cranmer, who, twenty-three years later, was to go to the stake for the same belief, sympathized with Frith and wanted to save him; but he wrote to Archdeacon Hawkins, "Alas, he professes the doctrine of Oecolampadius." Cranmer believed with Luther and Osiander in consubstantiation or impanation, the doctrine of ubiquity, which teaches that Christ is present everywhere. But he still considered Frith a disciple of Jesus.
Four times, as one of a six-man board appointed by Henry VIII to try Frith, Cranmer privately attempted to influence him to change his mind. He even made provision whereby the prisoner could escape, by calling him to Croydon for a conference. As his escorts took him on the twelve-mile journey at night and on foot between Lambeth and Croydon they presented him with Cranmer's plans, so that he could flee. But he refused, going resolutely forward to his final trial and death.
On June 20, 1533, the Reformer appeared before a committee in his last formal trial, and again he refused to state that the doctrine of purgatory and transubstantiation were necessary articles of faith. The bishop of London condemned him to be burned at the stake.
Again Tyndale wrote from Antwerp: "Dearly beloved, fear not men that threat, nor trust men that speak fair. Your cause is Christ's gospel, a light that must be fed with the blood of faith. The lamp must be trimmed daily, that the light go not out..See, you are not alone: follow the example of all your other dear brethren, who choose to suffer in hope of a better resurrection. Bear the image of Christ in your mortal body, and keep your conscience pure and undefiled..The only safety of the conquered is to look for none. If you could but write and tell us how you are..Your wife is well content with the will of God, and would not for her sake have the glory of God hindered." Frith was now confined to a dark cell in Newgate prison, where he was chained in such a manner that he could neither lie down nor stand up. Yet by the light of a small candle he continued writing. The priests and the bishops visited him with the intent of getting him to recant. As they accused him of "having collected all the poison that could be found in the writings of Wycliffe, Luther, Oecolampadius, Tyndale, and Zwingli," he exclaimed, "No! Luther and his doctrine are not the mark I aim at, but the Scriptures of God." He prayed his judges to shed his blood the next day, if by his death the king's eyes might be opened.
Imprisoned with Frith was a young man, named Andrew Hewet, who also believed in the symbolic presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper. Back to back, they were tied to the stake at Smithfield, July 4, 1533. And thus at the age of thirty died Frith, who had "seemed destined to become one of the most influential Reformers of England." His interpretation of the Lord's Supper was some twenty-six years later adopted in the Book of Common Prayer and became "the publicly professed faith of the English nation."
Erasmus - Translator and Collator of Greek and Latin NT. 1466-1536 [Contents]
In 1499, while in England, Erasmus was particularly impressed by the Bible teaching of John Colet who pursued a style more akin to the church fathers than the Scholastics. This prompted him, upon his return from England, to master the Greek language, which would enable him to study theology on a more profound level and to prepare a new edition of Jerome's Bible translation. On one occasion he wrote Colet: "I cannot tell you, dear Colet, how I hurry on, with all sails set, to holy literature. How I dislike everything that keeps me back, or retards me".
Despite a chronic shortage of money, he succeeded in learning Greek by an intensive, day-and-night study of three years, continuously begging his friends to send him books and money for teachers in his letters. Discovery in 1506 of Lorenzo Valla's New Testament Notes encouraged Erasmus to continue the study of the New Testament.
Erasmus preferred to live the life of an independent scholar and made a conscious effort to avoid any actions or formal ties that might inhibit his freedom of intellect and literary expression. Throughout his life, he was offered many positions of honor and profit throughout the academic world but declined them all, preferring the uncertain but sufficient rewards of independent literary activity. From 1506 to 1509, he was in Italy: in 1506 he graduated as Doctor of Divinity at the Turin University, and he spent part of the time as a proofreader at the publishing house of Aldus Manutius in Venice. According to his letters, he was associated with the Venetian natural philosopher, Giulio Camillo, but, apart from this, he had a less active association with Italian scholars than might have been expected.
His residence at Leuven, where he lectured at the Catholic University, exposed Erasmus to much criticism from those ascetics, academics and clerics hostile to the principles of literary and religious reform and the loose norms of the Renaissance adherents to which he was devoting his life. In 1517, he supported the foundation at the University, by his friend Jeroen Van Busleyden, of the Collegium Trilingue for the study of Hebrew, Latin, and Greek—after the model of the College of the Three Languages at the University of Alcalá. However, feeling that the lack of sympathy which prevailed at Leuven at that time was actually a form of mental persecution, he sought refuge in Basel, where under the shelter of Swiss hospitality he could express himself freely. Admirers from all quarters of Europe visited him there and he was surrounded by devoted friends, notably developing a lasting association with the great publisher Johann Froben.
Only when he had mastered Latin did he begin to express himself on major contemporary themes in literature and religion. He felt called upon to use his learning in a purification of the doctrine by returning to the historic documents and original languages of sacred Scripture. He tried to free the methods of scholarship from the rigidity and formalism of medieval traditions, but he was not satisfied with this. His revolt against certain forms of Christian monasticism and scholasticism was not based on doubts about the truth of doctrine, nor from hostility to the organization of the Church itself, nor from rejection of celibacy or monastical lifestyles. He saw himself as a preacher of righteousness by an appeal to reason, applied frankly and without fear of the magisterium. He always intended to remain faithful to Catholic doctrine, and therefore was convinced he could criticize frankly virtually everyone and everything. Aloof from entangling obligations, Erasmus was the centre of the literary movement of his time, corresponding with more than five hundred men in the worlds of politics and of thought.
Publication of the Greek New Testament
The first New Testament printed in Greek was part of the Complutensian Polyglot. This portion was printed in 1514, but publication was delayed until 1522 by waiting for the Old Testament portion, and the sanction of Pope Leo X. Erasmus had been working for years on two projects: a collation of Greek texts and a fresh Latin New Testament. In 1512, he began his work on this Latin New Testament. He collected all the Vulgate manuscripts he could find to create a critical edition. Then he polished the Latin. He declared, "It is only fair that Paul should address the Romans in somewhat better Latin." In the earlier phases of the project, he never mentioned a Greek text: "My mind is so excited at the thought of emending Jerome’s text, with notes, that I seem to myself inspired by some god. I have already almost finished emending him by collating a large number of ancient manuscripts, and this I am doing at enormous personal expense."
While his intentions for publishing a fresh Latin translation are clear, it is less clear why he included the Greek text. Though some speculate that he intended to produce a critical Greek text or that he wanted to beat the Complutensian Polyglot into print, there is no evidence to support this. He wrote, "There remains the New Testament translated by me, with the Greek facing, and notes on it by me." He further demonstrated the reason for the inclusion of the Greek text when defending his work: "But one thing the facts cry out, and it can be clear, as they say, even to a blind man, that often through the translator’s clumsiness or inattention the Greek has been wrongly rendered; often the true and genuine reading has been corrupted by ignorant scribes, which we see happen every day, or altered by scribes who are half-taught and half-asleep."
So he included the Greek text to permit qualified readers to verify the quality of his Latin version. But by first calling the final product Novum Instrumentum omne ("All of the New Teaching") and later Novum Testamentum omne ("All of the New Testament") he also indicated clearly that he considered a text in which the Greek and the Latin versions were consistently comparable to be the essential core of the church's New Testament tradition.
It is legitimate to say that Erasmus "synchronized" or "unified" the Greek and the Latin traditions of the New Testament by producing an updated version of both simultaneously. Each being part of canonical tradition, he clearly found it necessary to ensure that both were actually presenting the same content. In modern terminology, he made the two traditions "compatible". This is clearly evidenced by the fact that his Greek text is not just the basis for his Latin translation, but also the other way round: there are numerous instances where he edits the Greek text to reflect his Latin version. For instance, since the last six verses of Revelation were missing from his Greek manuscript, Erasmus translated the Vulgate's text back into Greek. Erasmus also translated the Latin text into Greek wherever he found that the Greek text and the accompanying commentaries were mixed up, or where he simply preferred the Vulgate’s reading to the Greek text.
Erasmus said it was "rushed into print rather than edited", resulting in a number of transcription errors. After comparing what writings he could find, Erasmus wrote corrections between the lines of the manuscripts he was using (among which was Minuscule 2) and sent them as proofs to Froben. His hurried effort was published by his friend Johann Froben of Basel in 1516 and thence became the first published Greek New Testament, the Novum Instrumentum omne, diligenter ab Erasmo Rot. Recognitum et Emendatum. Erasmus used several Greek manuscript sources because he did not have access to a single complete manuscript. Most of the manuscripts were, however, late Greek manuscripts of the Byzantine textual family and Erasmus used the oldest manuscript the least because "he was afraid of its supposedly erratic text." He also ignored much older and better manuscripts that were at his disposal.
In the second (1519) edition, the more familiar term Testamentum was used instead of Instrumentum. This edition was used by Martin Luther in his German translation of the Bible, written for people who could not understand Latin. Together, the first and second editions sold 3,300 copies. By comparison, only 600 copies of the Complutensian Polyglot were ever printed. The first and second edition texts did not include the passage (1 John 5:7–8) that has become known as the Comma Johanneum. Erasmus had been unable to find those verses in any Greek manuscript, but one was supplied to him during production of the third edition. That manuscript is now thought to be a 1520 creation from the Latin Vulgate, which likely got the verses from a fifth-century marginal gloss in a Latin copy of I John. The Roman Catholic Church decreed that the Comma Johanneum was open to dispute (2/6/1927), and is rarely included in modern scholarly translations.
The third edition of 1522 was probably used by Tyndale for the first English New Testament (Worms, 1526) and was the basis for the 1550 Robert Stephanus edition used by the translators of the Geneva Bible and King James Version of the English Bible.
Erasmus published a definitive fourth edition in 1527 containing parallel columns of Greek, Latin Vulgate and Erasmus's Latin texts. In this edition Erasmus also supplied the Greek text of the last six verses of Revelation (which he had translated from Latin back into Greek in his first edition) from Cardinal Ximenez's Biblia Complutensis.
In 1535 Erasmus published the fifth (and final) edition which dropped the Latin Vulgate column but was otherwise similar to the fourth edition. Later versions of the Greek New Testament by others, but based on Erasmus's Greek New Testament, became known as the Textus Receptus.
Erasmus was not martyred, but he did much to enable the Reformation in England.
William Tyndale - A Master of the English Reformation. 1494-1536 [Contents]
William Tyndale occupies the paradoxical position of a man who made two great strategic contributions to English thought, one in the field of religion and the other in the field of literature -- yet for some four hundred years he held one of the lesser acclaimed places both as a reformer and as a man of letters.
It may be said at the risk of using superlatives that he gave more to the English Reformation than any other Reformer. For without his translation of the New Testament into the clear English of his day that the common man could read, few would have came to understand the Word of God that saves a man's soul.
Tyndale's translation of the Bible was the fulcrum on which balanced the entire English Reformation. God planned to use his work to hold together the framework of spiritual advancement in England during the sixteenth century. And with his translation, furnishing the chief source material for the Authorized Version of 1611, Tyndale's influence upon English literature likewise became greater than that of any other man.
Little is known of Tyndale's family. Born in about 1494 in the western part of Gloucestershire, near the border of Wales, he early applied his mind to acquiring an education. As a boy he entered Oxford, where it is thought he gained a love for Bible study from Colet; at least he demonstrated a peculiar bent toward spiritual things. He likewise studied other liberal arts, and he acquired the mastery of seven languages -- Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Italian, Spanish, English, and French -- so that he spoke in each with a degree of native fluency.
He took his M.A. degree in 1515, and then he went to Cambridge, where he came under the influence of Erasmus. One of his first appointments was that of tutor-chaplain at Little Sodsbury in the family of Sir Thomas Walsh. He was apparently already ordained at this time. Here he entered into ecclesiastical disputation with the church dignitaries. Later, when he preached at Bristol, he set the tongues of the clergy wagging because of what they considered his heresy. For his divergent views he was summoned to appear before the chancellor.
Disturbed in heart and mind by the gross ignorance and sordid living of the priests and monks, Tyndale sought advice from an old chancellor, and in return this man told him that the pope was the antichrist of the Scriptures. This startled the young priest so much that he prayed and studied anew, taking Erasmus's Greek New Testament still closer to heart. He soon began to be convinced as to what his lifework was to be.
Realizing that the church would rather have thousands of books written against its teachings than to have the common people have access to the Bible, he determined to translate the New Testament. As his mission in life became clearer to him, he remarked, "I perceived by experience how that it is impossible to establish the lay people in any truth, except that the Scriptures were plainly laid before their eyes, that they might see the process, order, and meaning of the text." -- Quoted by Luke S. Walmsley in Fighters and Martyrs for the Freedom of the Faith.
To one of his opponents who had expressed the thought that the pope's laws were better than God's, Tyndale replied, "I defy the pope and all his laws; and if God spare my life, ere many years, I will cause a boy that driveth the plow shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost." -- Quoted by J. F. Mozley in William Tyndale.
So Tyndale sought who might help him with his task. He felt that surely the bishop of London would do so; but when he appealed to him in 1523, the bishop would have nothing to do with it.
Sir Thomas More was another on whom he thought he could receive help, but he also opposed it. He advocated that only a group of responsible scholars, and not an individual, should undertake such a task, furthermore, that the ignorant man of the street should not have access to the Bible, lest some fanciful interpretations result.
However, one day as Tyndale was preaching at St. Dunstan's, a wealthy cloth merchant and London alderman, Sir Humphrey Monmouth, heard him, became his friend, and offered him his London home to write in. Here for a year Tyndale found shelter where he could work to his heart's content.
But the priests were soon after him. As a consequence he came to the conclusion that there was not a place in all England where he could translate the Scriptures; and he sailed in May 1524, for the Continent, and he never saw his beloved country again.
For the next twelve and a half years Tyndale lived the life of a persecuted and hunted man, as he fled from one city to another to evade his oppressors. He moved frequently among the cities of Wittenberg, Cologne, Hamburg, Worms, Strasbourg, Marburg, and Antwerp.
He is supposed to have visited Luther in Wittenberg in 1524, where he stayed nearly a year, working at his translating. In Cologne in 1525 the printing started, but a careless word to the effect that England would soon rub her eyes caused the news to travel to the bishops of England. Tyndale fled to Worms, taking what precious sheets he could with him.
Here his New Testament was printed in 1526, and six thousand copies were said to have been sent to England in the winter of 1526-27, in spite of the fact that the bishops were zealously watching the ports. It was the small size of the edition which made it possible to pack the copies in cases, sacks of flour, bales of merchandise, and barrels. It is recorded that in the four years following, some fifteen thousand copies passed into England.
The Roman Catholic Church immediately seized one thousand copies and had them burned in 1527, and later the bishop of London bought up all he could find. He also called on Sir Thomas More publicly to expose the errors in the translation.
To have the old edition disposed of by purchase was all to Tyndale's favour, for it enabled him to publish a revised edition, much better than the first. And the second soon came out "thick and threefold," as well as did seven more editions during the next ten years.
The bishops were incensed. One reason was that Tyndale's translation had lost for them some of their choice Christian words. He had used repentance for penance, acknowledge for confess, favour for grace, image for idol, elder for priest, love for charity, congregation for church, to give a few examples. For his text he had taken Erasmus's Greek New Testament, and he had doubtless followed Luther's German translation, which had been completed at the Wartburg a short while before.
At the time Tyndale made his translation, there was no English Bible for the common people. Wycliffe's Bible, which that Reformer had translated into the early Middle English, was largely obsolete, and it had been taken from the Latin Vulgate, itself a translation. Then, too, there was much opposition to Wycliffe's doctrines.
Tyndale said of his own translation, "I had no man to counterfeit (imitate), neither was helped with English of any that had interpreted the same, or such like thing in the Scripture beforehand." His objective was to produce an absolutely honest, simple, straightforward translation of the Scriptures into English so all England could read it. To the translator's credit it can be said that he shunned the use of the over ornate style so prevalent in the sixteenth century. Had he succumbed to the temptation, his translation would doubtless not have served as the basis for the Authorized Version of 1611.
Concerning Tyndale's part in this Authorized Version, authorities state that when the English Bible of 1611 left the hands of the revisers, the work of Tyndale remained largely undisturbed, and where the King James committee had departed from Tyndale's translation the revisers of 1881 restored the original words. "These revisers of the Authorized Version had indeed many virtues, but above all they had that great and rare virtue of not meddling with what was too good to be improved. They were the last of a long series of revisers who had based their work on Tyndale with comparatively little modification: for indeed, where one reviser had altered Tyndale's wording, his successor had often returned to the original. And Tyndale had fixed the pattern upon which they had all alike worked." -- R.W. Chambers, Man's Unconquerable Mind.
It has been said that at least 90 per cent of the King James Version may be attributed to Tyndale, thus establishing Tyndale's position among the literary immortals of England. He is "the man whose choice of words has for four hundred years exercised supreme influence upon English prose." Froude is given credit for the following tribute to the translator's literary faculty: "The peculiar genius which breathes through the English Bible, the mingled tenderness and majesty, the Saxon simplicity, the grandeur, unequalled, unapproached in the attempted improvements of modern scholars, all are here, and bear the impress of the mind of one man and that man William Tyndale." -- Luke S. Walmsley, Fighters and Martyrs for the Freedom of the Faith.
The question that will doubtless arise in the minds of many is, Why have not scholars discovered before now the great debt English Protestantism owed to Tyndale? The answer is that Tyndale published his translation when such translations were still forbidden by the English government. Tyndale's enemies said that Tyndale had deliberately put heresies into his work in order to get his false doctrines before the people. Consequently, shortly after Tyndale's martyrdom, when translations were authorized, Tyndale's name was deliberately withheld by his publishers in order that his cause might triumph.
Before his death Tyndale translated not only the New Testament, but the five books of Moses, the book of Jonah, and probably everything from Joshua to Second Chronicles. It is even possible that he translated all of the Old Testament, although some contend that the books from Ezra to Malachi were taken from the Coverdale Bible of 1535. Still others maintain that whatever untranslated portions remained when Tyndale died were supplied by John Rogers, who doubtless used the Coverdale version as a guide. A year after Tyndale's martyrdom Rogers took the manuscript, edited and published it as the Matthew Bible. This Bible was used as a basis for all later revisions, but Tyndale's name was separated from his work.
For the four-hundredth anniversary of Tyndale's death, in 1936, Great Britain honoured her Reformation hero by publishing his New Testament for the occasion and asking the British people in thousands of churches and schools to read from his translation. Many of them, it is said, for the first time recognized the close resemblance between Tyndale's version and that of the Authorized. Isaac Foot, in his introduction to this New Testament of Tyndale's, wrote, July, 1938, "The persistence of Tyndale's work is in fact the outstanding miracle of English letters." That Tyndale is among the most heroic of English figures cannot be gainsaid. As a stanch defender of the principles of the Reformation during the days when kings championed the papacy, he brought his great learning to the service of a great cause. Besides the translation of the Bible he also wrote a number of treatises in which he scathingly and contemptuously held the clergy up to ridicule for their departure from the early simplicity of the church. In them he indicted the whole church, and in one of his pamphlets he expounded on the doctrine of justification by faith.
Tyndale's life conformed to his preaching. From his first declaration of intention to make the plowboy know more than the priest, until his last words, "Lord, open the king of England's eyes," his life shone like a pure white light leading to his set goal. He was at the same time humble and heroic. He remained a celibate priest all his life.
It has already been mentioned that the bishops in England attempted to keep Tyndale's translation out of the country; but when he succeeded to the extent he did, they smarted greatly under his victory. In spite of their efforts at repression, many thousands of copies eluded their vigilance and reached the common masses. The bishops had burned some of his books; now they resolved that he must be burned at the stake.
Tyndale was not unaware of the fate awaiting him. Eight years before the end he wrote, "If they shall burn me, they shall do none other than I look for." Around the 1530's Henry VIII lent his support that Tyndale might be brought to trial, but when he attempted to gain possession of Tyndale's person by asking Charles V to deliver him, the emperor refused. Sir Thomas Elyot, author of the Governor, was sent to trap him, but he was unsuccessful.
The papal party did not give up. They were in league with the papal party in the Low Countries. They were likewise astute enough to realize that Charles V, whom Luther defied at Worms, would not stand in their way to take the life of an English Reformer, particularly with Henry VIII having treated Charles V's aunt, Catherine of Aragon, the way he had.
So it was a man by the name of Phillips who undertook the job of luring Tyndale from the house, where he was staying, on the pretext of taking him out to dine. On the way Tyndale was captured and taken to the castle of Vilvorde, a state prison of the Low Countries, in which dungeon he remained sixteen months.
Among the charges preferred against him were that he maintained that faith alone sufficed for justification, that conscience should not be established on human traditions, that there was no purgatory, and that neither the Virgin nor the saints interceded for human beings.
He was taken out of prison Friday, October 6, 1536. First he was strangled, and then he was burned at the stake. When led to the stake he prayed, "Lord, open the king of England's eyes." Two years later Henry VIII ordered that every church within his kingdom receive a copy of Coverdale's 'Great Bible', which was largely Tyndale's work. Thus Tyndale triumphed over the noose and the flames!
George Wishart - He Kindled the Flame of Truth. 1513-1546 [Contents]
George Wishart, the forerunner and teacher of John Knox, popularized the Calvinistic form of Protestantism in Scotland. He laid the kindling to which Knox later applied the match and made all Scotland glow in the warmth of the knowledge that salvation comes by grace and not by works, that veneration of saints is useless, and that purgatory is nonexistent.
Born about 1513 of an aristocratic family at Pittarrow, near Montrose, he was among the first to teach Greek in the country. This he did at the seminary at Montrose, where he was either the assistant or the successor to his master. His teaching the New Testament Greek brought against him the charge of heresy in 1538 and caused him to flee to England.
It is probable that while in England he was convicted of heresy, of which he supposedly recanted, sometime in 1539 in St. Nicholas church in Bristol. During the same year he visited both Germany and Switzerland, and then returned to England.
He taught at Cambridge and associated with such eminent Reformers as Bilney and Latimer. One of the finest tributes ever paid a teacher was given Wishart by one of his students, Emery Tylney. Tylney delivered it to John Foxe, who preserved it in his Book of Martyrs.
"About the year 1543, there was in the University of Cambridge one Master George Wishart, commonly called Master George of Benet's College, a man of tall stature, judged by his physiognomy to be a melancholy disposition, black-haired, long-bearded, comely of person, well spoken after his country of Scotland, courteous, lowly, lovely, glad to teach, desirous to learn, and well travelled; never having on him for his habit and clothing but a mande or frieze gown to the shoes, a black millian fustian doublet, and plain black hose, coarse new canvas for his shirts, and white falling bands, and cuffs at his hands. All which apparel he gave to the poor, some weekly, some monthly, some quarterly, as he liked, saving his French cap, which he kept the whole year of my being with him." "He was a man modest, temperate, fearing God, hating covetousness- for his charity had never end, night, noon, nor day; he forbore one meal in three, one day in four for the most part, except something to comfort nature. He lay hard upon a puff of straw, and coarse new canvas sheets, which, when he changed, he gave away..He taught with great modesty and gravity, so that some of his people thought him severe, and would have slain him, but the Lord was his defence. And he, after due correction for their malice, by good exhortation, amended them and went his way. O that the Lord had left him to me, this poor boy, that he might have finished what he had begun."
About 1544 Wishart returned to Scotland and began preaching with fervour at Montrose, Dundee, Ayrshire, and East Lothian. At Montrose he expounded chapter by chapter the book of Romans. Frequently when he found himself deprived of a pulpit he betook himself to the market place, the wayside, and the moor. He said, "Christ is as potent in the field as in the kirk." It was about this time that John Knox began to identify himself with the Reformer and accompany him on many of his trips. From him Knox doubtless learned Greek, and Wishart influenced him in his religious convictions.
Wishart's religious views included that only sacraments which had been introduced by Christ as shown in the Gospels should be celebrated, that auricular confession, infant baptism, and prayer to the saints were invalid, purgatory did not exist, and prominent church councils meant nothing unless their pronouncements were in harmony with the Bible. He also maintained that salvation sprang from the word of God, the bread of the eucharist did not contain Christ's body, prayer to images was idol worship, self-affliction was not of God, every man was a priest, the pope had no more power than any other man, eating flesh on Fridays was lawful, and marriage of priests was Biblical.
As Wishart continued his ministry, he enjoyed great popularity among both the common people and the upper classes. Thomas McCrie wrote of him, "Seldom do we meet in ecclesiastical history, with a character so amiable and interesting as that of George Wishart. Excelling all his countrymen at that period in learning, of the most persuasive eloquence, irreproachable in life, courteous and affable in manners, his fervent piety, zeal, and courage in the cause of truth were tempered with uncommon meekness, modesty, patience, prudence, and charity. In his tour of preaching through Scotland, he was usually accompanied by some of the principal gentry; and the people, who flocked to hear him, were ravished with his discourses." Life of John Knox. So fervent and influential were his sermons that at Dundee the people destroyed the convents and churches of the Black and Gray Friars.
Naturally this aroused opposition among the papal adherents, and particularly of Cardinal David Beaton, whom Knox called the devil's own son. One day while Wishart was in the pulpit, one of the most prominent citizens, at the cardinal's behest, interrupted him and bade him in the name of Mary of Guise to leave town. This Wishart did, but not before he predicted that, if he was Christ's true representative, trouble would come upon them for rejecting him and God's message for them.
He then went to Ayrshire, where there still remained some of the followers of the Lollards. Here the bishop of Glasgow raised his voice against him from the pulpit, and the Reformer then went to the market cross and preached so powerfully that even his enemies were confounded.
A few days later the plague broke out in Dundee. Wishart, against the advice of his friends, returned to the town to help the sick. He felt that perhaps now that they were ill and afflicted they would give more heed to the word of God.
One of the first things he did was to preach to them. Selecting the head of the East Port at the Cowgate as his pulpit, with the healthy on the inside and the plague-stricken outside, he spoke on Psalm 107:20: "He sent His word, and healed them." Declaring that punishment comes from disobedience to God's commandments, he gave them the promise of God's mercy to the repentant.
Then he went among the sick and organized relief measures within the town so that it was said, "The poor were no more neglected than the rich." He remained until the plague ceased. But hostility against him became more pronounced; at least two attempts were made to kill him. One day as he was leaving the church after preaching to the afflicted, a priest stood waiting at the lower step to kill him. Either forewarned by the Spirit or suspecting the priest's intent, Wishart approached him, took the dagger from underneath his loose gown, and remarked, "My friend, what would ye do?" -- Ruth G. Short, Stories of the Reformation in England and Scotland.
The priest, frightened and cowering, knelt and acknowledged his purpose; but when the crowd wanted to mob him, Wishart put his arms around the would-be murderer and forbade the multitude to touch him, saying that a service had been performed in letting both the people and the Reformer know what there was to fear, and that henceforth he, Wishart, would be more alert.
The next attempt the cardinal made to have Wishart slain was in the form of a forged letter, purportedly from a sick friend, John Kinnear in Fife, which said that Wishart should come with full speed.
After Wishart, who was now back at Montrose, had gone only a short distance, he refused to go farther, stating that the Lord had forbidden him to do so. He sent some of his friends who accompanied him to determine what lay ahead, and they returned with the information that some sixty armed men had been lying in ambush ready to take his life. Wishart observed, "I know I shall end my life by that bloodthirsty man's hands (meaning Cardinal Beaton), but it will not be in this manner."
Nonetheless, Wishart knew that his hour was fast approaching; but he continued preaching in various churches. From Montrose he went to Edinburgh, where he stayed at the home of one of his disciples, James Watson. Here, after having spent the greater part of a night praying in the garden, friends who had watched asked where he had been. He replied, "I am assured that my warfare is near at an end, and therefore pray to God with me, that I shrink not when the battle waxeth most hot." After Christmas he went to Haddington, where his audience, usually large, had greatly dwindled in size because of Catholic opposition. He roundly denounced the absentees and predicted retribution that would come upon the town and this prediction was later fulfilled.
From Haddington he went to a friend's house near Ormiston in East Lothian. Here one night about midnight he was arrested by the Earl of Bothwell, again at the instigation of Cardinal Beaton. At this time Wishart asked that the sword which Knox had been carrying ever since the attempt upon Wishart's life at Dundee be taken from him. And he also told Knox, who pleaded to go with him to Ormiston, to go back to his pupils, and declared that one was sufficient for the sacrifice.
When arresting Wishart, Bothwell promised to protect the Reformer from violence and from deliverance into the cardinal's hands, a promise he did not bother to keep. Near the close of January, 1546, he released him to the cardinal, who incarcerated him in the dungeon of his castle at St. Andrews.
Here Wishart was tried February 28 in the cathedral before the bishops and other clergy. They accused him of being a heretic, renegade, traitor, thief, deceiver of the people, and despiser of the holy church. Wishart, with meekness and sweetness, it is said, reiterated his position on the doctrines of the Bible.
Condemned to be burned, Wishart said to his friends, "Consider and behold my visage. Ye shall not see me change my color. This grim fire I fear not."
With hands tied behind his back, a rope around his neck, an iron band around his waist, with bags of gunpowder tied to various parts of his clothing, and with gunners pointing at him to make certain the people, with whom he was still greatly popular, would not help him escape, he stood at the stake prepared at the foot of the castle gate. Beaton, with the other bishops, watched the execution from the castle tower.
It was at this moment, according to a number of historians, that Wishart predicted the death of Cardinal Beaton. "God forgive yon man that lies so glorious on yon wall; but within a few days he shall lie as shameful as he lies glorious now." -- The Dictionary of National Biography.
Beaton met his death three months later when a group of fanatics avenged the death of Wishart and other martyrs.
Wishart has at times been identified with the Wishart who was connected with a plot to assassinate Cardinal Beaton. This may or may not be true, but in fairness it must be said that there was violence on both sides.
Before the Reformer was tied to the stake, he exhorted his hearers to love God's word, to obey it, to stand nobly in face of persecution, and to urge their prelates to learn the Bible so that they might be ashamed to do evil, but willing to do good. He forgave his enemies, including those who brought about his death. His last words were directed to the hangman, who had asked forgiveness. This Wishart gave with a kiss. Wishart was first hanged and then burned.
Among the witnesses stood one on whom the spectacle made a profound impression; and from then on the fate of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland was determined to a large degree by that observer, John Knox.
William Hunter - a Simple Believer in the Truth. 1536-1555 [Contents]
He had lost his job in London as a silk-weaver because he refused to attend the Catholic mass, despite an order that everyone in the City of London had to attend, and had come to live with his parents in Brentwood, but got into a dispute when discovered reading the Bible for himself in Brentwood Chapel. He refused to accept the Catholic dogma of transubstantiation according to which the bread and wine of the communion become the body and blood of Jesus.
He was taken before Antony Browne, then the local Justice, but later Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, but refused to retract his position. Hunter was then sent to Bishop Bonner in London. He resisted both threats and bribes—Bonner offered to make him a Freeman of the City of London and give him £40—and was eventually returned to Brentwood to be burnt. At the age of 19 on March 27, 1555 he was the first Essex martyr of the reign of Mary Tudor.
John Rogers - Scholar and Translator of the Bible. 1505-1555 [Contents]
Seldom have church historians bestowed so many "firsts" upon anyone, regardless of era or nationality, as they have upon John Rogers, the first to write a Bible commentary, the first to write an English concordance, the first to compile and edit an authorized English Bible, and the first Protestant during Mary's reign to perish as a martyr.
He was born sometime between 1500 and 1505, probably at Deritend, in the parish of Aston, near Birmingham. He attained the A.B. degree at Cambridge in 1525. It is conjectured that in order to accomplish the monumental task to which he later set himself, which won him a place among the first scholars of his age, he must have been a rather "severe student" during his undergraduate days.
Upon completion of his college work he became a junior canon at Christ's College at Oxford and assumed holy orders shortly after. For nearly two years he officiated as rector at Holy Trinity in London, from 1532 to 1534, and for a part of his life he served as a priest in the Catholic Church close to the spot where he was later martyred.
Late in 1534 he resigned his rectorship in London and went to Antwerp, where he had been invited to become the chaplain to the Merchant Adventurers. Here he met William Tyndale, who was then translating the Old Testament. Some biographers affirm that Rogers met Coverdale at this time also, but Joseph L. Chester maintains that Coverdale was in England the whole period Tyndale was in Antwerp, and that therefore no connection existed between Coverdale and Rogers, or between Coverdale and Tyndale, at this time.
Having been deprived of the aid of Frith, who had but a short time preceding been martyred at Smithfield, Tyndale asked Rogers to join him in translating the Bible. Happy to employ his Greek and Hebrew, Rogers willingly assented, although he continued his ministrations as a Catholic chaplain.
While translating the Holy Scriptures, Rogers experienced his conversion to Protestantism. "I have found the true light in the gospel," he remarked one day to Tyndale; "I now see the filthiness of Rome, and I cast from my shoulders the heavy yoke it has imposed upon me." From that moment Tyndale received from Rogers the help which formerly had been given him by Frith. But this association did not last long; Tyndale was soon arrested, and then was executed near Vilvorde Castle, in 1536.
Upon Tyndale's arrest Rogers saved the manuscript of the Old Testament, and immediately set to work to print the translation, possibly on a press owned by the Merchants of Antwerp. Because of his apparent submissiveness to Romish practices, suspicion did not attach itself to him at this time. Consequently he was able to bring Tyndale's work to fruition. And this, his biographer, Chester, remarked, "was no schoolboy's task. Apart from the actual labour of placing the text in a complete state, and probably comparing every verse with the original there was a vast amount of mental effort to be bestowed upon the marginal illustrations which he added, as well as upon the various prefaces and other articles, prefixed to the whole work, and to individual portions of it. The marginal notes alone would fill a volume of considerable magnitude." Furthermore, Rogers "sat in judgment on every page," and "the mere labour of thus examining and revising. . . must have been nearly, if not quite, equivalent to a first translation." Perhaps even more so, for it is usually easier to make a new garment than to remodel an old one.
Coverdale's part in this Bible is much less than some have supposed it to be. Rogers doubtless referred to his translation among others, but the Coverdale portions are said to be "not very numerous." Since Coverdale's translation of the Bible in 1535 failed to gain official approval, Grafton and Whitchurch, English printers, came to Antwerp to see what terms they could make with Rogers. They were prompted primarily by business motives. Grafton especially was so pleased with what he found that he staked nearly his whole fortune in the printing of the new Bible. When they assumed the job it seems certain that the translation and printing of all the books preceding that of Isaiah had already been completed.
These sheets Grafton and Whitchurch purchased from whatever printer had done the work, and hired Rogers to translate and edit the remainder as fast as he could. Tyndale had supposedly translated all of the New Testament and all of the Old from Genesis through 1 Chronicles, and perhaps also the book of Jonah. But it may be taken for granted that some partially completed manuscripts and numerous notes, probably in a state of confusion because of Tyndale's sudden arrest, were left for Rogers's editing.
By July, 1537, the entire volume, under the pen name of Thomas Matthew, was printed and delivered in England, a little more than two years after Rogers began helping Tyndale work on it.
Cranmer liked the new translation, and the king granted a royal license for its publication and distribution. Soon the king proclaimed that every parish church in England should possess a copy of this Bible, that the people should have unrestricted access to reading it, provided they did not argue about its merits or doctrines but took their questions to their ministers and instructors. Within four years and four months 24,000 copies of the whole Bible were sold in London.
The question may be asked, Why did not Rogers sign his own name to the Bible, rather than that of Thomas Matthew? Chester explains that to have done so would not have been honest, for the work was not all his. Tyndale was dead and his name in disrepute among the papists; Frith, likewise, was dead and his name odious. Coverdale's name was out of the question, for his Bible had failed to win approval. This new Bible needed an author's name to throw the papists off their guard, and it may be that Rogers selected the names of his two favourite Scripture characters, Thomas and Matthew, to serve as the nora de plume for this whole Bible, "the greatest enemy. . the papacy had yet encountered in England," and by which it ultimately received its deathblow.
About 1537 Rogers married Adriana de Weyden, a Protestant, in Antwerp. Soon afterward he departed for Wittenberg, where he learned the German language well enough to take charge of a German congregation. For ten years he preached in that city, and there most of his children were born. But at heart Rogers always remained an Englishman. When he was permitted to return to the land of his birth during the reign of Edward VI, his wife, and those of his children who were born in Germany were naturalized as British citizens by an act of Parliament.
Rogers probably returned to England in 1548, living at first in the house of his friend Whitchurch, where he translated Melanchthon's A Weighing and Considering of the Interim and thereby helped quell the rumour that the German Reformer had renounced Protestantism and returned to the Catholic Church. In 1550 Rogers became simultaneously the rector of St. Margaret Moyses and the vicar of St. Sepulchre, both in London.
In 1551 Nicholas Ridley, then bishop of London, made him a prebendary at St. Paul's. It is said that his duties were "severe and important." Two years later Ridley had him appointed as divinity lecturer or reader in the same cathedral, a position of prominence which was to catch the eye of the papist Mary as she ascended the throne soon after.
From the beginning of his Protestant ministry in England Rogers was a nonconformist, wearing only a little round cap rather than a priest's coat and square cap; and he would not wear the gown and the tippet, as was the custom of the regular clergy. He also lashed out against the Protestants in high places who enriched themselves from the spoils of the Catholic Church, criticism which did not tend to make him popular with the chief courtiers during the time of Edward VI.
Mary came to the throne August 3, 1553. On the Sunday after, on August 6, Rogers was asked to preach at Paul's Cross. It was not his turn to do so, and it is thought that his selection at that time was a contrivance of the papists to hasten his downfall.
It would have been expedient from an opportunist's point of view had Rogers preached a noncommittal, temporizing sermon, one filled with platitudes and overtures, but he never was one to conform his faith to the demands of his enemies. And he chose rather to give his message a "certain sound" at that crucial hour. He denounced the papacy and cautioned the people "to beware of all pestilent popery, idolatry, and superstition," and urged them to remain steadfast to the Protestant faith as taught during the reign of Edward VI.
Luther had the assurance of a safe conduct at Worms, but Rogers knew he was facing death when he preached as he did that Sunday at Paul's Cross. And what a pity it would have been had he preached other than he did, for at that particular moment the whole Protestant movement in England depended upon his words. "What a crushing blow would he have inflicted upon the cause of the Reformation, and how his example would have deterred others from maintaining their steadfastness when it should come their turns to be in peril, had he temporized with the ruling powers, or compromised himself. There never was any position in the whole history of the Reformation, all things considered, where the responsibilities thrown upon a single man were greater and the results more important, or where they were more nobly sustained. Surely, his conduct was more than noble -- it was magnificent."
He was brought before Mary's council to answer for his doctrines of marriage of the clergy, the supremacy of Jesus Christ instead of that of the pope, and the abolition of the mass. He was imprisoned six months in his own home, from which he made no attempt to escape; and then Bonner, bishop of London, transferred him to Newgate prison, January 27, 1554, where he was confined among thieves and criminals and all kinds of low-class prisoners.
In January, 1555, he was examined before Gardiner, bishop of Winchester. Rogers stated his desire to be heard in writing, but this request was denied him. Nonetheless, there is preserved a minute account of his trial as he wrote it daily in prison.
On the doctrine of the eucharist he stated, "For I cannot understand 'really and substantially' to signify other than corporally, but corporally Christ is in heaven, and so cannot Christ be corporally also in your sacrament." He denied having preached against the Queen, even though he had stated that neither she nor Henry VIII was the head of the Church. He also denied ever having dissented from the Catholic Church; to him "catholic" signified, not the Roman Catholic Church, but "the consent of all true teaching churches of all times and all ages." -- John Foxe, Acts and Monuments.
On January 29, 1555, he was condemned to be burned at Smithfield. While awaiting execution he remained cheerful to the end, even drinking a toast to Hooper's health the day before he died. Hooper had been imprisoned in another apartment, and since his trial had been held the day before Rogers's, Rogers supposed they would be sentenced together.
Rogers also asked permission to talk to his wife that he might advise her what to do with the children, but this Bonner refused him on the basis that he had no wife, that his marriage to her was contrary to the teachings of the Romish Church. Rogers replied to the bishop, "Ye make yourself highly displeased with the matrimony of priests, but ye maintain their open whoredoms; as in Wales, where every priest hath his whore openly dwelling with him, and lying with him: even as your holy father suffereth all the priests in Dutchland and in France to do the like." As the sheriffs led him to Smithfield, he encouraged the large crowd lining the path to remain steadfast in the faith of Jesus Christ. His wife and eleven children, including one infant, met him on the way. The temptation to renounce heresy, to remain among the living to provide for and enjoy his family, must have been even greater than all previous temptations; but Rogers withstood this test also. And he likewise resisted all attempts of the papists to get him to recant just before the execution. One cannot help stand in awe at such steadfastness.
As the flames kindled about him, "he, as one feeling no smart, washed his hands in the flame, as though it had been cold water," and then held them up to heaven until the fire consumed them.
The French ambassador at London, a loyal Roman Catholic and an eyewitness of the execution, wrote to Montmorency, chief minister to Francis I, immediately following the execution: "This day was performed the confirmation of the alliance between the pope and this kingdom, by a public and solemn sacrifice of a preaching doctor named Rogers, who has been burned alive for being a Lutheran; but he died persisting in his opinion. At this conduct, the greatest part of the people took such pleasure, that they were not afraid to make him many exclamations to strengthen his courage. Even his children assisted in such a manner that it seemed as if he had been led to a wedding."
But those who rejoiced most that Rogers had remained true to his faith were the other doomed prisoners, among them Bradford, Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer. To them Rogers was the bellwether who had trodden the path ahead and marked it well. He had not failed them, and they were glad.
"I thank our Lord God and heavenly father by Christ," Ridley wrote to Bradford, "that, since I heard of our clear brother Rogers' departing and stout confession of Christ and his truth even unto the death, my heart, blessed be God! so rejoiced of it, that, since that time, I say I never felt any lumpish heaviness in my heart, as I grant I have felt sometimes before." And four days after Rogers's execution Bradford wrote to Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, expressing his happiness that their "dear brother" had "broken the ice valiantly."
Something more needs to be said about Rogers's writings. While in prison he wrote not only the account of his trial, but also a treatise entitled Admonitions, Sayings, and Prophesyings, which contained much instruction for the Protestant church. Among other things, he had a burden that well-qualified ministers be placed in the churches to shepherd the flocks. The manuscript of his writings Rogers had left behind him in prison as "a black thing" lying under the stairs in a dark corner. There his wife and son Daniel found it when they returned from witnessing his death. Others had searched the room but had found nothing.
Rogers wrote two more treatises, either one of which considered alone would place him in the front ranks of the heroes of the Reformation. One is a general English commentary upon the Bible, the first of its kind, which in turn led the way for many others to imitate. His other claim to fame is his preparation of the first concordance, A Table of the Principal Matters Contained in the Bible, in Which the Reader May Find and Practice Many Common Places. This was written for the purpose of directing attention to those parts of the Scriptures which opposed the Romish doctrines, with stress upon marriage, mass, and the eucharist, which were doubtless the most disputed subjects of the time between the Reformers and the Catholic Church.
John Hooper - Fighter Against Papal Errors. 1495-1555 [Contents]
Here was a tall man with a very poor appearance and an undeviating temperament, which allowed for little abandonment of opinions once espoused. Yet in spite of this the churches were filled to capacity when he preached.
Because he favoured the English extremists in the Reformation and believed the views of Zwingli, he had less opportunity for escaping the stake than the Latimer, Ridley, Cranmer trio; and thus he became the first of the important bishops in England to die for his faith. His pronounced objection to the wearing of vestments, and his general nonconformist tendencies, developed a large circle of opponents.
Yet none of the English Reformers made a more profound impression on his hearers, nor aided the Protestant cause more by death, than did the former bishop of Gloucester and Worcester, John Hooper, sometimes referred to as "the father of the Puritans."
His ancestral home was Somerset, where he was born of wealthy parents near the close of the fifteenth century. As a student he has been described as diligent and prayerful, with a bent for reading the Scriptures.
In 1519 he was graduated with the bachelor of arts degree by the university of Oxford. That he was connected with the Cistercians, an order known for their austerity, seems to be quite certain; he probably received ordination to the priesthood under its sponsorship.
About the time the wealth of the monasteries lured Henry VIII to plan for their dissolution in 1536, Hooper went to live in London, where his leisure offered the opportunity for much reading. The writings of Zwingli, with his views on salvation, and Bullinger's efforts to promote the reforming spirit by a correspondence assuming international proportions, impressed him with their sincerity.
Hooper came into national prominence about the time of the adoption of the Six Articles. His opposition to that set of regulations, accompanied by his growing Zwinglian bias, soon made him an object of suspicion among the leaders at Oxford, and led to his departure. It is also possible that about this time Sir Thomas Arundel, in whose house Hooper resided, suspected the Reformer's views and sent him to Dr. Gatdiner, bishop of Winchester, to verify his suspicions. This forced Hooper to leave England.
In Zurich, Heinrich Bullinger received him warmly. Other Reformers also welcomed him gladly, for the refugee brotherhood grew rapidly and carried with it an aura of mutual helpfulness. At Strasbourg he met Anne de Tserelas of Antwerp, whom he married in 1546 in Basel. There he made his home and devoted himself to an intensive study of Hebrew and to further study of Zwinglian beliefs.
The accession of Edward VI in January of 1547 paved the way for Hooper's return to England, but he did not remain long. He returned to Switzerland to stay two years, all the while associating with the Reformers Bullinger, Bucer, and Laski.
Once again in London, in 1549, his sermons renounced sin, castigated the evils and abuses of the church, and described the reprehensible iniquities prevalent in the world. Frequently he lectured twice a day and filled churches with eager listeners. By this time the Reformation stood on firm footing, though the country had not fully shaken off papal doctrines and abuses.
It was at this time that he occupied the place of a leader to the Reformers, constantly urging acceptance of the middle ground of Zwingli and Calvin, as opposed to Lutheranism and Catholicism. He became Protector Somerset's chaplain and held the same position under Warwick. His views on the eucharist gained him the opportunity of presenting a series of sermons before the king during Lent, and as a result he was offered the bishopric of Gloucester. This he refused because it entailed the wearing of vestments, which he believed synonymous with popery and idolatry, and because the wording of the oath of supremacy did not meet with his approval.
After he spent a few weeks in Fleet prison, followed by some bitter wrangling, a compromise dispensed with Hooper's wearing the vestments after his consecration. The king had issued a statement permitting Archbishop Cranmer to ignore the use of vestments altogether in this particular service, but one side was as stubborn as the other: Cranmer refused to consecrate Hooper without the garb, and Hooper was ready to forgo the bishopric rather than accede to wearing the vestments.
Promptly after his consecration as bishop of Gloucester in 1551, Hooper left for his new post. His reforming zeal covered the entire diocese with its 311 clergymen. Often he preached four sermons a day, and he also outlined a series of lessons for the improvement of his clergy.
When the results proved unsatisfactory, he began a personal inquiry into the educational and theological preparation of these men. He asked questions relating to the Decalogue, to the Lord's Prayer, and the apostle's creed. The following list contains examples of this inquiry: "How many commandments? Where written? Can you say them by heart? What are the Articles of the Christian faith? Can you repeat them? Can you recite the Lord's Prayer? How do you know it to be the Lord's prayer?" -- J.J. Blunt, A Sketch of the Reformation in England
The low educational state of the clergy is also indicated by Preserved Smith: "A reform of the clergy was also undertaken, and was much needed. In 1551 Bishop Hooper found in his diocese of 311 clergymen, 171 could not repeat the Ten Commandments, ten could not say the Lord's Prayer in English, seven could not tell who was its author, and 62 were absentees, chiefly because of pluralities." -- The Age of the Reformation.
From this year to the time of his death Hooper was a member of the commission whose duty it was to report on canon law.
His elevation to the bishopric of Worcester in 1522 apparently did not raise such a furor as his consecration at Gloucester had done. He continued his strict discipline at Gloucester, and instituted a program of reform at Worcester as well. Constantly he fought against lapses from his ideals and strove to break down opposition.
With Mary's rise to power in July, 1553, Hooper's plans were undone. Less than two months after her reign began he was an inmate of Fleet prison on a vague charge of nonpayment of a debt to the queen. Possibly this charge was intended to bridge the gap until necessary laws against heresy could be passed by Mary's first Parliament, which was to meet from October 5 to December 6, 1553.
His imprisonment appears harsh and unjust, even for sixteenth-century standards. Hooper described it as follows: "... having nothing appointed to me for my bed but a little pad of straw and a rotten covering, with a tick and a few feathers therein, the chamber being vile and stinking; until by God's means, good people sent me bedding to lie in. On the one side of which prison is the sink and filth of the house, and on the other side the town ditch, so that the stench of the house has infected me with sundry diseases." -- John Foxe, Book of Martyrs.
He was degraded by the bishop of London early in 1554. On March 19 of that year he received a visit from the bishops of Winchester, London, Durham, Chichester, Llandaff, and other men listed collectively as the queen's commissioners, apparently to tell him that he had been deprived of his bishoprics.
On January 22, 1555, a group of bishops pleaded with him to return to the church and admit the pope's jurisdiction. He replied that he could not accept papal doctrine so contrary to Scriptures. A few days later he was subjected to another examination by which his persecutors purposed to gain his recantation. With him at this hearing was John Rogers, who preceded him to the stake. As the ineffectiveness of this interview became apparent, they were both taken to the Clink, a prison in Southwark, preparatory to their transfer to Newgate, a prison more detestable than the Fleet. The following day, after still another examination, he was delivered to the secular power to be taken to Gloucester to die among his parishioners, where his assistance to the poor had won him a place of high esteem, in spite of his harsh demeanor.
The night before the execution he said to the officials, "My request, therefore, to you shall be only that there may be a quick fire, shortly to make an end; and in the meantime, I will be as obedient unto you, as yourselves would wish."
On February 9, 1555, he was fastened to the stake with an iron hoop. Though the fire was kindled three times, and though he had three bags of powder on his body to hasten the end, it took three quarters of an hour of agony, in the presence of thousands of people, before he perished.
And what had been his crimes? He had married and refused to relinquish his wife; he did not believe in the bodily presence of Christ in the bread of the Lord's Supper; he denied the pope's authority as the head of the church; and he opposed the wearing of the priestly vestments.
Nicholas Ridley - Martyr for His Faith. 1500-1555 [Contents]
"I marvel that you will trouble me with any such vain and foolish talk. You know my mind concerning the usurped authority of that Roman antichrist. As I confessed openly in the schools, so do I now, that both by my behaviour and talk I do no obedience at all to the bishop of Rome, nor to his usurped authority, and that for divers good and godly considerations." Those were the words of Nicholas Ridley on October 1, 1555, a few days preceding his execution, in answer to the suggestion that he confess the pope to be the chief head of the church, and that he recant his view that salvation was possible outside the Catholic Church.
Nicholas, the second son of Christopher RidIey, was born about 1500. His comfortably situated parents lived in Northumberland near Willimoteswick, England. He attended grammar school at Newcastle upon Tyne and began his university studies in Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, about 1518. Here his ability as a student, and particularly his grasp of Greek, won him scholarly distinction. Following his honours graduation from Cambridge, he continued his studies and received the master of arts degree in 1526. He also attended Continental schools, such as the Sorbonne at the University of Paris, and the University of Louvain. Eventually he became proctor and chaplain of Cambridge University.
Up to 1534 he had not severed his affiliation with the Catholic Church, but his success in obtaining a university opinion opposing the spiritual power of the papacy and his part in signing a decree removing England from the sphere of papal jurisdiction, were indications of his trend of thought.
His reading of Bertram's Book of the Sacraments, and subsequent interviews with Thomas Cranmer and Peter Martyr regarding the gospel of Christ, "not a little confirmed him." Before the close of the year he openly supported the claim of Henry VIII to having supreme ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the English kingdom. Ridley had an uncle, an enemy of the Reformation, who paid all of the young man's university expenses. After this uncle died in 1536, the way opened for Ridley to demonstrate Protestant tendencies.
As he came into prominence, honour after honour followed in quick succession. When Ridley received his bachelor of divinity degree in 1537, Cranmer made him his chaplain. Cranmer had a high opinion of Ridley's erudition and discretion, and the following year he installed him as vicar of Herne, Kent.
Gradually Ridley began to reject the faith of the Catholic Church. He opposed the Act of the Six Articles in 1539, which enumerated important doctrines and policies of the church. The following year came the conferring of the degree of doctor of divinity and his election as master of Pembroke Hall, where he had begun his educational career. The canonry of Canterbury was given to him in 1541.
In 1543 the first open acts of ecclesiastical hostility against him began. Dr. Stephen Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, preferred charges against him for nonconformist practices, and for teaching heresy. Ridley was acquitted, however, perhaps by the king's favour. Before the death of Henry VIII, Ridley renounced the doctrine of transubstantiation, which teaches that the bread and wine are changed into the very body and blood of Christ.
His status with higher authorities continued to improve, and in 1545 circumstances enabled him to add the canonry of Westminster to the one of Canterbury, which he had received four years before.
His gradual deviation from the Catholic fold did not, however, lead to carelessness in the performance of his duties, nor to neglect of proper recognition of the established order. Ridley "stickled more for the ceremonies of the church than any of his brethren in the reign of Edward VI." This was particularly true as he followed the liturgy of the developing Anglican Church. During Henry VIII's last year he received a preferment with some liberality and became the bishop of Rochester.
The reign of Edward VI (1547-1553) gave Ridley an opportunity to step into even greater public prominence than he had before. His scholarly attainments fitted him eminently as a collaborator in compiling the First Prayer Book. Protestantism moved aggressively during Edward's time.
Near the close of 1548, Ridley received the appointment of visitor to Cambridge, a position which privileged him to reorganize the university so as to ensure the firm entrenchment of Protestantism. This task began in May, 1549.
About this time occurred an episode of a type which was altogether too frequent in the history of the Reformation, and which the twentieth century mind has difficulty in understanding, Ridley, in accord with Cranmer and others, pronounced death sentence on Joan of Bocher for an act considered detrimental to the religious beliefs of the period. Ridley knew definitely that she would be delivered to the secular power to meet death at the stake. It is true that "it was the dogma of the church in which Cranmer had been born and bred; from which even he had not wholly emancipated himself," but such an argument is neither a justification of, nor an acquiescence in, such acts.
Ridley was hostile to Princess Mary because of her lack of zeal in religious reform. He preached against Mary's succession at Paul's Cross on Sunday, July 9, after Edward's death. Here he railed on her as a usurper, not on the grounds of the supposed illegality of her birth, but on her lack of dependability in matters of "truth, faith, and obedience." To this insult he added his support of Lady Jane Grey, who actually became the queen for nine days, to succeed Edward VI. Possibly in his support of Lady Jane Grey he was motivated by the duke of Northumberland, who headed the movement to put her on the throne. As soon as circumstances showed that Northumberland sponsored a lost cause, Ridley went to Queen Mary at Framlingham, fell at her feet, and asked for mercy. This he did not receive.
On July 20, 1553, he became a prisoner in the Tower, along with Latimer and Cranmer. This incarceration did not keep him or the others from working constantly in the defence of, and for the promulgation of, the reformed doctrines. They wrote many letters of counsel on doctrines and Christian living to the brethren outside, and these letters were effective in forwarding the Reformation.
From this date to his death, more than two years later, he remained under guard at the Tower, at Bocardo in Oxford, or in the home of a Mr. Irish.
The three prisoners were brought to trial in St. Mary's at Oxford, April 14, 1554. Here, it is said, Ridley carried off the honours in presenting the Protestant view.
"He adheres to one line of argument -- that of explaining all the authorities advanced against him of the spiritual presence only; and this he does with a knowledge of his subject, as well as a readiness in applying it, such as argue an extent of reading, a tenacity of memory, and a presence of mind, quite wonderful. Be they passages from Scriptures, from fathers, or from the canons of councils, with which he is plied, they appear to be the last things which he had examined, so that a false reading, or a false gloss, or a packed quotation, never escapes him: and either a minute knowledge of an author's text, or (what is often quite as certain a proof of scholarship) an accurate perception of the general spirit which influences him, enables him to wrest the weapon from the hands of his adversaries, and to turn it against themselves." J. J. Blunt, A Sketch of the Reformation in England.
Under the heresy laws passed by Parliament in 1555, Ridley, on September 30 of that year, received confirmation of his sentence on the capital charge of heresy. His formal degradation was scheduled for October 15.
His calm behavior at his execution also furthered, rather than hindered, the cause of the Reformation. His serene bearing and his encouragement to the aged Latimer, "Be of good cheer, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flame, or else strengthen us to abide it," created a lasting impression that here were men who stood willing to die for a great ideal.
And Latimer's reply, as they were being fastened to the stake, "We shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out," was a prophecy which lingered long in the minds of those who witnessed the ordeal October 15, 1555, in the ditch opposite Baliol College. Cranmer, whose sentence had been deferred for five more months, saw their martyrdom from his prison window.
Hugh Latimer - Preacher of the Gospel. 1487-1555 [Contents]
A candidate for the degree of bachelor of divinity was delivering a Latin discourse at the University of Cambridge in 1524 as part of his requirements. In the audience was seated a young man so small in stature as to be almost hidden from view, who listened interestedly as the young graduate-to-be eloquently assailed the doctrinal views of Philipp Melanchthon.
The lecturer was Hugh Latimer, a zealous Catholic. The little man was Thomas Bilney, leader of the Society of Christians, the hotbed of 'heresy' at the university.
Counseling with himself, the prudent and discerning Bilney determined by subtlety and tact to win this ardent Catholic to his beliefs. Knowing that the haughty, opinionated Latimer disdained evangelical preaching, Bilney decided, after much prayer and reflection, to call on Latimer in his room. "For the love of God, be pleased to hear my confession," pleaded Bilney, as he entered through the door.
Latimer, startled but pleased to think that this heretic had been converted by his sermon, consented, and Bilney knelt before him. Bilney related the torture of spirit he had once felt, and the unsuccessful search he had made for relief through the methods prescribed by the church. However, when once he believed that Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, forgave his sins, great peace had come into his soul.
Latimer, not doubting the genuineness of the confession, listened with an open mind. As Bilney continued talking about divine love, the grace of God, and the healing power of Christ, the Holy Spirit gave Latimer a new heart. When Bilney ceased, Latimer broke down and wept bitterly. Bilney assured him that scarlet sins become white as snow when washed in the blood of the Lamb. This was one of the strangest conversions in history.
Later, in one of his sermons, Latimer said, "I learnt more by this confession than by much reading and in many years before..I now tasted the word of God, and forsook the doctors of the school and all their fooleries." Both of these young men were destined ultimately to die at the stake for their faith. Latimer was to become one of the greatest preachers in England, and was to sit among the mighty in ecclesiastical circles of his country.
Hugh Latimer was born about 1485 at Thurcaston in Leicestershire. He was sent to the country schools and then to Cambridge, where he became a fellow at Clare Hall and attained the master of arts degree. Following the completion of his classical studies he completed the bachelor of divinity degree, but because he failed to pay his fees, the degree was never conferred.
Of himself at this period he later said, "I was as obstinate a papist as any was in England, insomuch that when I should be made bachelor of divinity, my whole oration went against Philipp Melanchthon and against his opinions." He attacked the Bible readers among both professors and students. He railed against Dr. George Stafford, an illustrious teacher who explained the Greek New Testament to his classes. Latimer asked the students to remain away from Stafford's lectures.
All this was changed after "little Bilney" visited him. He became Bilney's friend, and daily they were seen together, conversing and taking long walks. Practical in their Christianity, they visited the lazar house, the insane asylum, the jail, the poorer students in their narrow rooms, and the underprivileged working classes. They preached the gospel among these unfortunate people, and made many converts.
Latimer's character underwent a marvellous transformation. One of the first things he did was to apologize to Dr. Stafford. Meekly and humbly he spent much time in solitude studying the Bible, often arising at two o'clock in the morning for this purpose. He was energetic, humorous, plain of speech, and at times ironical, but honest, devoted, and courageous, frequently disregarding consequences as he spoke what he deemed to be right.
In 1522 he was one of the twelve licensed by the university to preach in all parts of England. After his conversion in 1524 the people regarded his preaching as something new and different. He preached boldly that Jesus Christ provided salvation for sinners, and that human traditions were unreliable guides. Large crowds gathered as he told them that the word of God was to be obeyed by prince and peasant alike. Even those who came to scoff and criticize went away saying that they had never heard any man speak as he did.
"Thus Latimer joined his contemporaries in championing the movement for a rebirth of feeling and in crying to the world the promise of justification by faith." -- C.M. Gray, Hugh Latimer and the Sixteenth Century.
Priests became alarmed as they saw their parishioners begin to study the Bible, and university professors threatened to withhold advancement from students who turned evangelical. Nonetheless, the Reformers kept on; to Stafford's teaching, Latimer's preaching, and Bilney's praying were added Robert Barnes's scholarly exhortations and John Frith's stirring discourses on the saving love of Jesus.
As the priests and professors at Cambridge saw Latimer's increasing popularity, they said that he must be stopped. For this purpose they appealed to Dr. West, bishop of Ely. After listening to one of Latimer's sermons on the evil ways of the clergy, West asked him to preach a sermon against Martin Luther, as an effective means of checking heresy.
He could hardly have been pleased with Latimer's reply, "If Luther preaches the word of God, I cannot oppose him. But if he teaches the contrary, I am ready to attack him." Since he had been forbidden to preach in either the university or the diocese, Latimer now went from house to house. Unhappy without a pulpit, he welcomed the invitation to preach in a monastery chapel.
Called before Cardinal Wolsey, Latimer told what he had been preaching, but disavowed having Lutheran tendencies. Since Wolsey was no friend of West because of a private feud between them, and since he saw in Latimer the learning he so greatly admired, he granted the Reformer a special license to preach, much to the chagrin of Latimer's papist enemies.
When he was called to be the chaplain of Henry VIII, it can be said to Latimer's credit that he did not mute his message to tickle the ear of either king or prelate. At one time he stated, "Do you know who is the most diligentest bishop and prelate in all England? It is the devil. Ye shall never find him idle, I warrant you. Where the devil is resident -- there away with books and up with candles; away with Bibles and up with heads; away with the light of the gospel and up with the light of candles; yea at noondays; down with Christ's cross, up with purgatory pickpurse; away with clothing the naked, the poor, and impotent, up with decking of images and gay garnishing of stocks and stones; down with God's traditions and His most holy word..Oh! that our prelates would be as diligent to sow the corn of good doctrine as Satan is to sow cockle and darnel!" Latimer also deplored the low state to which the clergy had fallen because of a lack of funds to give them a decent living, he wanted to introduce a method whereby the ablest and most consecrated men would find election to the pulpit.
Cited for heresy in 1532, he made what was considered a complete submission; but, later, when he stated that he had merely confessed errors in discretion and not in doctrine, he was again cited, and this time he confessed all his previous Roman errors.
With Cranmer's ascension to the archbishopric of Canterbury, Latimer's way became easier. When Henry formally repudiated the authority of the pope in 1534, Latimer became a principal consultant with Cranmer and Thomas Cromwell as they advised the king concerning governmental and ecclesiastical procedures arising out of the abrogation.
At first favourable to Protestant views, the king subscribed to the Ten Articles, which the Protestants considered a long step forward. The opposition of the Catholic party led, however, in 1539, to the adoption of the Six Articles, which established transubstantiation, excluded Communion in both kinds, forbade marriage of priests, made obligatory vows of celibacy, upheld private mass for souls in purgatory, and necessitated auricular confession.
Feeling that his conscience would not allow him to uphold these rules, Latimer resigned his bishopric, and it may be that Cromwell saved him from the stake. It is said that Cromwell told the king, "Consider what a singular man he is, and cast not that away in one hour which nature and art hath been so many years in breeding and perfecting." For a while he lived as a private citizen with Cranmer, and for a time he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Upon his liberation in 1540 he was charged to leave London and desist from all preaching and from visiting the universities or his old diocese.
Six years later he was heard from again, this time also in the Tower because of his association with another Reformer, Edward Crome. When Edward VI came to the throne, Latimer was released, and immediately he began to preach again with even more vigor and power than before, although he refused to return to the bishopric of Worcester. Larger crowds gathered at Paul's Cross and other places to listen to him, and he made many converts.
When Mary Tudor followed the boy Edward to the throne in 1553, all this was over. A reactionary movement set in, and the restoration of the Catholic regime began. Sent once more to the Tower, which was at this time overcrowded with many opponents of Catholicism, Latimer was confined in the same room with his friends Ridley and Cranmer, and with another man. Here they comforted each other by reading and discussing the New Testament. Latimer, old and sick, found prison life extremely difficult.
After six months, on March 8, 1554, Latimer was removed to Bocardo Prison at Oxford. With Ridley and Cranmer, he was examined at St.Mary's Church, April 14, on the charge that he had denied the doctrine of transubstantiation. Eighteen months later, on October 16, 1555, Latimer and Ridley were led to the stake. Cranmer's fate was postponed five months.
After both had been tied to the same stake in a ditch near Baliol College and a fagot lighted under Ridley, Latimer spoke the words which have since strengthened the faith of countless Christians the world over: "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."
Thomas Cranmer - Archbishop and Martyr. 1489-1556 [Contents]
"Where is Dr. Cranmer? Send and fetch him immediately. This man has the right sow by the ear. If this had only been suggested to me two years ago, what expense and trouble I should have been spared." Thus spoke Henry VIII in 1519, but only reluctantly did Cranmer allow himself to be brought before the king. Following a short conversation between the two, Cranmer was begged, then commanded as the king's subject, to lay aside all his present employment and devote his time wholly to giving a written opinion concerning the king's proposed divorce from Catherine, so that his majesty's conscience might find rest. Thus Cranmer made his entrance into the ecclesiastical and political affairs of this period of England.
Because of the wishes of his father, Henry VII, and because of diplomatic considerations with Spain, Henry VIII had married his brother's widow.
Canon law did not sanction such a union, but a dispensation from the pope permitted it. Varied opinions still exist as to the reason why Henry VIII felt guilty over the matter, but whatever it may have been, Henry wanted a divorce. Negotiations appeared fruitless, for neither the pope nor Emperor Charles V displayed a willingness to yield. Then seemingly by chance a way for Henry's escape appeared.
An epidemic raged at Cambridge. A certain Thomas Cranmer, private tutor, left the city with his pupils to escape the ravages. At Waltham he met Cardiner, the king's secretary, and Foxe, the king's almoner. Since the king's proposed divorce had become the central theme of the realm, even overshadowing the prevalent question of the Reformation, these men soon began to discuss the issue.
Cranmer, a renowned scholar and clergyman, versed in the Scriptures, expressed the opinion that the answer to the question of the canonical legality of the marriage should not be sought at Rome, but from the Bible. This could be ascertained through the investigation of university theologians in England and on the Continent.
To Gardiner and Foxe, Cranmer said, "The true question is this, What says the word of God? If God has declared a marriage bad the pope cannot make it good. Discontinue these interminable Roman negotiations. When God has spoken, man must obey. "Consult the universities, they will discern it more surely than Rome." Cranmer's opinion reached the king the next day directly through Foxe and Gardiner. When he heard it he expressed himself in the opening words of this chapter.
Cranmer was born in Aslacton, in Nottinghamshire, July 2, 1489. He came from a family that traced its beginnings to the period of the Conquest. He was the second son of Thomas Cranmer and Ann Hatfield. Since the father's chief interest consisted in military sports, the chase, and racing, his sons came to excel in sports and horsemanship, too. Thomas particularly was a skilled horseman, and he was known to ride with grace the most unruly steeds during the time he served as archbishop.
His pleasing manner, modesty, and nobility of bearing made it easy for him to win friends. Such a man perhaps would have been more at home as a preacher or a schoolman, but it was Cranmer's fate to step suddenly into outstanding national and international prominence when he was forty-four years of age.
Early in life he went to school to "a marvellously severe and cruel schoolmaster." At the age of fourteen he entered Cambridge, to remain eight years studying logic, philosophy, the classics, and the opinions of Erasmus. In 1510 he was elected a fellow of Jesus College, but his marriage forced his resignation.
The following year he taught at Buckingham and afterward at Magdalen College. Upon the death of his wife, about a year later, popularity again won him a place as a fellow of Jesus College. By 1515 he had earned both bachelor and master of arts degrees, and his thoroughness in intellectual pursuits brought him both friends and foes.
At the appearance of Luther's writings he decided to know the truth of the disputed questions, and therefore he directed himself to three years of Bible study unhampered by commentaries. It is this period of learning that dates his gradual separation from the Roman Church.
After his ordination in 1523 Cranmer took the degree of doctor of divinity. Subsequently, he received in turn the appointments of university preacher, professor, and examiner. In the last position he had the opportunity, which he did not neglect, of insisting that candidates for graduation from the theological course know the Scriptures as well as the classics and the church fathers. Irksome and arduous as this procedure was to some, it did produce men who had studied the word of God.
Not long after his meeting with the king at Waltham he received appointment as archdeacon of Taunton and also became one of the king's chaplains. In January, 1530, he went to Italy as a member of the royal commission to confer with the pope and Charles V regarding the status of the king's case for divorce. He remained on the Continent until September of the same year. When he returned to England other honours came to him at the hand of Henry VIII.
In the summer of 1531 he called on Charles V as sole ambassador from England, with the hope of improving trade relations and of obtaining a closer political affiliation with the German princes. He was in Europe again in January, 1532, to confer with the emperor.
During this trip he married a niece of Osiander, a Lutheran theologian, some time before the death of Warham, the archbishop of Canterbury, in August of that year. Almost immediately Henry VIII appointed Cranmer as Warham's successor.
Hoping for a change in the king's intention, Cranmer delayed his return to England for weeks. It may be said, however, that even before Warham's death, Cranmer had virtually become the ecclesiastical leader of England, so much had Henry honoured him with power and influence.
There still remained the formality of obtaining the pope's permission for Cranmer's elevation to the archbishopric of Canterbury. On March 30, 1533, when Cranmer was consecrated in Westminster, he took the oath of obedience to the pope, a procedure which he later claimed to be a mere formality. He had no intention of permitting that oath to keep him from making corrections in anything he considered wrong in church doctrine or organization. From that time forward he ruled that the bishops and archbishops in England would be appointed without papal sanction.
Because he believed that royal power superseded papal power in the realm in all matters, Cranmer held court on the divorce case and summoned Catherine to appear. When she disregarded the order, he declared her action a contempt of court and forthwith, on May 23, 1533, declared her marriage with Henry illegal from the beginning.
Henry had won his case! Five days later the archbishop pronounced valid the marriage of Ann Boleyn and Henry VIII, which had been secretly celebrated on January 25. On June 1, Henry's second spouse received her diadem. Paradoxically, almost three years later, on May 17, 1536, Cranmer ruled that this marriage with Ann Boleyn had never been legal. "The grounds for both decisions were never made public." As the gulf between royalty and papacy widened, and continual changes developed in the order of service, Cranmer was the first to make a denial of allegiance to the papal power, after which the bishops made their abjurations singly.
When the Reformation was permitted to grow in England after the papal rule had been cast off, it was Cranmer, as archbishop of Canterbury, who determined which of the many religious views clamouring for recognition should be accepted or rejected. He was "perhaps the only fit man in the whole kingdom, for superintending the ecclesiastical affairs at a crisis so peculiar." A Lutheran at heart, he naturally leaned toward fitting that doctrine into the circumstances and environment of English law. He followed the middle of the road, rejecting the tenets of Catholicism as well as those of Puritanism. He took the position that whatever the Bible did not specifically forbid should remain; and remain it has, even to this day, in the Church of England.
One of Cranmer's most far-reaching acts for the cause of the Reformation was the encouragement he gave to the translation and sale of the Bible. To this project he gave unstintingly of his time. In 1538 he obtained a parliamentary order that every church should have a copy of the English Bible, placed so as to be easily accessible for those who desired to read it.
In spite of this action the papal party still had great powers, and it must be remembered that Henry VIII was not a Protestant. The papal partisans promoted a bill, partially against Cranmer, which passed and became known as the Act of the Six Articles.
Cranmer, like another Luther before the Diet of Worms, had opposed the bill almost singlehanded for three days. All the articles of the bill counteracted the ideals of the Reformation. They re-established the Catholic view concerning the eucharist, the manner of giving the Communion, celibacy, the doctrine of purgatory, and auricular confession.
Cranmer particularly felt the blow, for he had married a second time, and now he would have to put away his wife. The penalties for ignoring these acts were severe in the extreme. Denying transubstantiation branded one as a heretic and paved the way to fagot and stake; ignoring any of the rest meant confiscation of all lands and goods, and death on the gallows, as well as being stigmatized as a traitor.
The archbishop escaped only because the king protected him constantly, regardless of the articles or the intent of his enemies. In fact, Cranmer was one of the few individuals to whom Henry was known to remain consistently loyal.
On January 6, 1540, Cranmer officiated at the marriage of Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves, and less than a year later the primate's official position called him to declare another divorce. Between 1540 and 1543 he directed a royal commission to revise and produce various works relating to church affairs. His litany, written in a beautiful, rhythmical style, and published in 1545, is practically the same as the one in use at the present time.
The death of Henry VIII on January 28, 1547, cleared the way for further expansion of Protestant ideas. Cranmer had been instrumental in winning the young Edward to Protestantism, and became, by the will of the king, a member of the council which governed during the nonage of Edward VI.
Now came Cranmer's high day. During Edward's kingship, he invited outstanding scholars and clergymen from all over the Continent to help clear the church of the practices and beliefs of Rome. Among these were Pietro Virmigli (Peter Martyr) to teach theology at Cambridge; Bernardino Ochino, who wrote and preached in London; John Laski, a Polish nobleman, who preached to Italian, French, and German congregations in London; Emmanuel Tremellius, a Jew of Ferrara, who taught Hebrew; and Martin Bucer, Paul Fagius, and John Knox to preach and teach.
In the course of time Cranmer's influence gained strength among political and church leaders, and they looked to him to work out the details of ecclesiastical development. Before the end of the year 1547 he published the Book of Homilies and Erasmus's Paraphrase of the New Testament, translated into English. From the convocation, a group of religious leaders dealing with ecclesiastical problems, he obtained a vote favouring marriage by the clergy, and thus made it possible for his wife to return from Germany. The first Parliament of Edward VI repealed the laws against heresy, set aside the Act of the Six Articles, reinstated Communion in both kinds, promoted Bible reading and preaching, and instituted other measures to free the church from political and papal bondage.
By November the First Book of Common Prayer appeared, possibly without the approval of the convocation. Cranmer's Catechism, a translation out of the German of Justas Jonas, reached the public in 1548; and in 1550 he published his views on the sacraments under the title of Defence of the True and Catholic Doctrine of the Sacrament. The Forty-Two Articles, a constitution and ritual for the Anglican Church, drawn up by Cranmer in 1552, were based on an earlier work of English and Continental churchmen. These articles were distinctly conciliatory in tone, but basically Lutheran in sentiment.
The accession of Mary to the throne, however, meant a reversion to Catholicism, and perilous times to the friends of the Reformation.
In September, 1553, Cranmer was committed to the Tower. He could have escaped, but he did not feel that flight would be fair to the cause he represented. In November came his trial for treason, at Guildhall, where he was condemned, but the queen saved him to stand trial for heresy on the charge that he had written against the mass. In March, 1554, his place of imprisonment was changed from the Tower to the common jail at Oxford.
Because he was an archbishop, a special procedure obtained in his case. He received a technical summons to come to Rome; but when he did not appear there, the pope pronounced him guilty of contempt of court, excommunicated him, and appointed a commission to degrade him. He went on trial for heresy, and received his sentence September 12, 1555. His degradation, a ritual by which the accused successively loses all the offices held in the church, occurred February 14 of the following year, after which he was remanded to the secular power.
For some time he parried all efforts aimed at obtaining his renunciation of Protestant views; but, once he had made his first recantation, he did not stop until he had abjured his heresy six or seven times. None of these recantations, however, saved him from the stake. Then, as the time of his execution neared, he made the bold assertion that he decried all his weaknesses, and took his position courageously for the Reformation and against the papal power.
He approached the stake calmly, clad only in a long shirt. When the flames rose, he held his right hand to the fire, saying that since that hand had signed the recantation it should be the first to suffer. He held it there until the flames consumed it. He died March 21, 1556, at Oxford, at the same spot where Ridley and Latimer had preceded him in martyrdom by five months."If the martyrdom of Ridley and Latimer lighted the torch, Cranmer's spread the conflagration which in the end burned up the Romanist reaction and made England a Protestant nation."
Miles Coverdale - Lover of the Scriptures. 1488-1569 [Contents]
To Miles Coverdale goes the credit for translating and editing the first complete Bible to be printed in the English language. He enjoyed the patronage of Thomas Cromwell, who, as vicar-general (1536-40), had power of jurisdiction over the affairs of the church in England.
In a letter to Cromwell he appealed for assistance in his work, "Now I begin to taste Holy Scriptures; now, honour be to God! I am set to the most sweet smell of holy letters, with the godly savor of ancient and holy doctors, unto whose knowledge I cannot attain without a diversity of books, as is not unknown to your most excellent wisdom. Nothing in the world I desire but books as concerning my learning: they once had, I do not doubt; but Almighty God shall perform that in me which He of His plentiful favour and grace hath begun." Coverdale dedicated his Bible to Henry VIII.
Although Coverdale's work does not rank as the true primary version of the English Bible (that honour is reserved for William Tyndale, as the translator of the Thomas Matthew Bible, published in 1537), yet "its importance in the history of the English Bible is great." Three fourths of the Old Testament was for the first time printed in English.
Neither Coverdale's Bible nor Tyndale's Matthew Bible, which came off the press the same year, was satisfactory to the officials. Thus Coverdale, still under Cromwell's patronage, set to work on yet another version intended to be free from the faults of the two already translated. As a result, he produced a revised edition of the Matthew Bible.
It is true that the Matthew Bible received royal acclaim, and during the next few years 24,000 copies were sold in London alone. But the Catholic clergy bitterly opposed it, for they saw in it the instrument which would deal the death blow to popedom in England. In 1542 this book of "Thomas Matthew's doings" received particular prominence on the prohibited list.
Since a better quality of type and paper could be obtained in France than in England, Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France permitted an English subject to do the work in Paris. But scarcely had 2,500 copies been printed when they were seized by the Inquisition and sent to be burned. One of the officers, wishing to make some money, sold much of the consignment for wrapping paper to a haberdasher. From this haberdasher a portion was later repurchased, and these copies, along with the presses, type, and some of the workmen, were transported at Cranmer's request to London. This enabled Grafton and Whitchurch, the famous printers of the time, to publish the Great Bible .
Because the first edition had been hurriedly printed, on account of the forced exodus from France, a revised edition appeared the following year, this time called Cranmer's Bible, because a preface written by the vicar-general appeared in it. In 1540 and 1541 six editions were distributed to the people.
Coverdale wrote a great deal, his works numbering approximately twenty eight in all, most of them translations. Nearly all of them have been edited by the Parker Society.
Besides being famous for his writings, Coverdale deserves considerable praise as a preacher and a Reformer. He was born in 1488, probably in the district called Coverdale, in North Riding, of Yorkshire. As a zealous papist he entered the Augustinian monastery early in life, became a priest in Norwich in 1514, and later joined the Augustinian friars in their convent at Cambridge, where Dr. Robert Barnes, its prior, influenced him to reject popery.
As the doctrines of the Reformation began to circulate around that university about 1526, a group of like-minded persons gathered in a house called White Horse. The papists nicknamed it "Germany" because its visitors discussed the beliefs advocated by the German Reformers.
When Barnes was arrested for heresy in 1526 and sent to London for examination, Coverdale, who had escaped a like charge, went up to help Barnes with his defence. After that event Coverdale left the monastery, dressed in the garb of a secular priest, and began to preach the reformed doctrines. In 1528 he went to Steeple-Bum-stead in Essex and spoke against the worship of images and the celebration of the mass. He likewise asserted that confession to God, rather than to a priest, was the proper procedure to follow in order to have one's sins forgiven. In 1531 Cambridge granted to Coverdale the degree of bachelor of canon law.
When Cromwell and Barnes were executed in 1540 by Henry VIII, Coverdale fled to the Continent and remained in exile for eight years under the name of Michael Anglus. At Tubingen he attained the doctor of divinity degree. At Bergzabern, in Bavaria, he served as Lutheran pastor and schoolmaster. Here he spent his leisure hours translating various religious works, "of great service in promoting the Scriptural benefit of those persons in the lower ranks of life." Shortly before he left England he married an excellent, godly woman, Elizabeth Macheson, sister-in-law of Dr. John Alpine, who helped translate the first Danish Bible. This matrimonial move served as an open protest against the doctrine of priestly celibacy and allied Coverdale more firmly with the Protestant group.
When he returned to England in 1548 at the accession of Edward VI he was well received at court, largely because of Cranmer's influence. He became the king's chaplain, and repeatedly served as funeral orator at burials of high dignitaries, such as Lord Wentworth, Sir James Welford, and Dowager Queen Catherine Parr, whom he had served as almoner. He also gave assistance to the civil arm by helping Lord Russell at Devon and Cornwall to put down the western rebels. Coverdale preached a thanksgiving sermon after the victory.
Upon Mary's accession he was deprived of his bishopric and thrown into prison, along with other leading Reformers. Seemingly his offense was that of his marriage, although when Coverdale's brother-in-law, who was then chaplain to Christian III of Denmark, influenced the king of Denmark to intercede in Coverdale's behalf, Queen Mary said that all she had against the prisoner was his failure to pay a debt due her treasury.
Coverdale was permitted to leave the country at the moment when Rogers, Hooper, and others were going to the stake. It is probable that Coverdale escaped martyrdom because his translation of the Bible was not considered dangerous, "for he appears to have carefully avoided attacking many of their chief doctrines, and to have so construed certain passages as to retain the spirit, and often an exact literal translation, of the language of the Vulgate. Where the word 'repentance' now appears in the Authorized Version, he almost uniformly inserted 'penance,' and in such a way as to convey no other meaning than the corporeal suffering enjoined by the Romish Church, instead of the sorrow of heart and penitence of soul required by the gospel. He yielded to demands of papists and withdrew most obnoxious features of the Matthew Bible when revised for the second edition." -- John L. Chester, John Rogers.
Coverdale was "a pious, conscientious, labourious, generous, and a thoroughly honest and good man," but also "somewhat weak and timorous," leaning on those of stronger nature. He did not shout his defiance of the papacy from the housetop, as did Rogers at Paul's Cross the Sunday following Mary's accession; he preferred rather to withdraw meekly into obscurity when the storm signals of persecution were hoisted.
Upon his arrival in Denmark, Coverdale was offered a benefice, which he did not accept because of his inability to preach in Danish. He settled in Wesel in Westphalia, where he preached to the many English refugees.
Then the duke of Zweibrucken asked him to come to Bergzabern once more to become the pastor of the congregation at that place.
In 1558 he was in Geneva, and it may be that he had a part in the preparation of the Geneva Bible, which was published in 1560.
Coverdale returned to England in 1559, after Elizabeth ascended to the throne.
During the years his power to preach had not diminished, and he was called upon repeatedly to address large congregations at Paul's Cross.
Here, nine years before, he had spoken with such vigour and earnestness that, immediately following his sermon, the people pulled down "the sacrament of the high altar." But his stay in Geneva had inclined him more toward Puritan ideas, and he became more of a militant Protestant.
Archbishop Grindal, who was greatly concerned over the neglect shown the aged Coverdale, who, he said, "was in Christ before them all," obtained for him the rectory of St. Magnus, London Bridge, in 1564. Coverdale's poverty was so great that the queen was called upon to forgive him the first fruits (that is, the customary payment to the crown of a sum equal to the first year's wages) before he could enter upon his position.
Because of the stricter enforcement of the observance of the liturgy, Coverdale resigned in 1566; but he kept on preaching in secret, and many came to his house to find out where he would preach next.
In spite of his being deprived of a bishopric, he officiated at the famous consecration of Archbishop Parker in 1559, his objection to the wearing of vestments glaringly apparent by his appearing in a plain black gown.
In 1563 the University of Cambridge granted him the degree of doctor of divinity, and in the same year he was given power by the vice-chancellor to admit Grindal as a doctor of divinity. In 1564 he published his last book, Letters of Saints and Martyrs.
According to the parish register of St. Bartholomew, Coverdale died February 19, 1568, at the age of eighty-one. He was buried inside the church.
John Knox - Fearless Scottish Reformer. 1513-1572 [Contents]
John Knox, the man who out-Calvined Calvin, brought all Scotland to her knees, and even made kings and queens bow to his will, began his work as a reformer after his forty-fourth birthday. None other among his colleagues is so sharply and dramatically outlined in the Reformation, unless it be Martin Luther.
It is supposed that he was born at Haddington, a few miles east of Edinburgh, in 1505. He came from below middle-class parentage and entered the University of Glasgow in 1522, the year Luther published his first translation of the New Testament. Here, it is said, he manifested no particular evidence of scholarship, but undoubtedly what he learned sufficed for his purpose. He knew Latin, for this was the language used in the universities. He also knew French and English, and acquired Hebrew after he was forty.
Little is known of him between 1522 and 1544. Sometime during those years he was probably ordained to the priesthood, and it is also thought he studied and practiced law between 1540 and 1543. During his tutoring days he came in touch with George Wishart, the Reformer, who was cloaking "the kirk" in Calvinistic garb.
After George Beaton, cardinal archbishop of St. Andrews, had been murdered for burning Wishart at the stake, Knox joined the murderers' sympathizers in St. Andrews. These men selected Knox as their preacher, and in his first sermon he denounced the pope as antichrist and the mass as a form of idolatry. Of this sermon one of his listeners remarked, "Others lop off the branches of the papacy, but he strikes at the root, to destroy the whole." -- Quoted by James Stalker in John Knox.
In July, 1547, St. Andrews fell before the French fleet, and Knox was taken to France to be confined as a galley slave for almost two years. But throughout this trying ordeal he never lost courage, but believed confidently that he would yet preach in Scotland.
When he was released from the galley in 1549, he went to England rather than Scotland, and remained there five years. He preached under English protection at Betwick for two years, and as royal chaplain he addressed the most distinguished and influential audiences in England. In 1552 he had a hand in the compilation of the Book of Common Prayer, thereby putting in his bit to make it more Protestant. Finally, as a crowning glory, he was offered the bishopric of Rochester. This, however, he declined, and for his refusal was called to make an explanation before the Privy Council. When the council expressed its regret that he was of a contrary mind to the common order, Knox replied that he was more sorry that a common order should be contrary to Christ's institution.
With the death of Edward VI, under whose reign Protestantism had "sprung up like the gourd of Jonah in the sunshine of the court," and the ascension of Mary Tudor, "Bloody Mary," to the throne, with the resultant reversal of religious affiliations, Knox had to flee to Geneva, which had become a city of refuge for Protestant divines from all over Europe.
For a time he shepherded a congregation at Frankfort on the Main and also one at Geneva. These churches were composed of refugees from England.
But not for long did he remain here, for Scotland was calling him. When he returned to his homeland he was welcomed with open arms wherever he went. Scotland seemed to be crying to be released from the Catholic yoke, and the nobles who had laid the groundwork gathered around John Knox to lend their support. It was a heartening experience for the Reformer.
Everywhere he went he celebrated the Lord's Supper in its simple form and forbade the people to attend mass. From this time on the mass became the distinguishing feature between Protestant and Catholic adherents.
Geneva was calling him to return; but, before answering this summons, he established the Protestant cause as far as he was able. He also gave instructions that the Scriptures should be read to the edification of all in devotional meetings. When he returned to the Continent he took with him a bride.
Apparently little record remains concerning the actual relationship between Knox and the great Reformer John Calvin, but their association must have been intimate. Of Knox's opinion of Calvin and of Geneva we are not left in doubt, for he spoke of Calvin as "that singular instrument of Christ Jesus in the glory of His gospel," and of the city as "the most perfect school of Christ that ever was since the days of the apostles." This was the model, with some political adaptations of his own, that he used in his own country.
Here at Geneva he had time to read, think, and study, and to associate with some of the most learned men of the age. As a result, most of his works were written during these three years. He helped in the translation of the Geneva Bible. The preachers of Geneva assigned him the task of writing a treatise on predestination, and when it was completed, it received the sanction of Genevan authorities.
One pamphlet, however, which he published in Geneva gave him untold trouble. It was the First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. Aiming it at Mary of Lorraine, regent of Scotland, Mary Tudor of England, and Catherine de' Medici of France, he argued that women had no right to rule. But the tract acted as a boomerang to the Protestant cause when Elizabeth, the Protestant queen, under whom England experienced her most glorious period, came to the throne. Knox was called upon to explain his tract both to Elizabeth and also to Mary, Queen of Scots.
It is said Elizabeth never forgave him and hated the place it was published.
Calvin, when he sensed the harm that the tract was doing to the Protestant cause, took exception to Knox's writing it; but Knox, it is said, never retracted his opinion on women rulers.
From Geneva, Knox guided the Protestant party in Scotland, and when Mary Tudor of England died in 1558 and Knox was left without a congregation as the exiles returned to England, he made his way to Edinburgh, arriving there in May, 1559.
Here he found himself in the midst of the contest, one that he himself had helped produce. Mary of Lorraine, regent of Scotland, adopting a policy of expediency, had encouraged the Protestant nobles, who had formed the "Lords of the Congregation." Under their jurisdiction many churches were established openly. But Mary of Lorraine, a Frenchwoman of the house of Guise, and a papist at heart, determined to see that Scotland should bow to France politically and to Rome religiously.
With that intent she filled Scotland with French soldiers, who ravaged the country. She thought that now was the time to strike. She summoned the Protestant preachers to appear before her May 10, 1559. These, however, with John Knox among them, were accompanied by a contingent of troops. So was introduced a state of civil war which did not end until Mary's death, June 10, 1560.
Knox kept on preaching, continually thundering against the mass and everything connected with the papacy. He openly denounced the archbishop, and things got out of hand when mobs tore down images, sacked the monasteries and the churches, and brought about a general state of disorder and confusion. Knox condemned the rioters; but when Mary of Lorraine wanted to punish them, he told her she was fighting against God and not man.
The Reformation in Scotland seems to have been accompanied by greater violence than elsewhere in Europe. It has also been stated that the corruption of the Catholic Church had reached a greater height in Scotland than in any other country, unless it was in Italy.
Catholics and Protestants were now under arms, and Knox played a strange part in the movement. He appealed to Elizabeth of England for a fleet to help the Protestants in Scotland, and she sent both a fleet and an army. He was at once the army chaplain speaking courage to his forces. He was the secretary of the Congregation, giving instructions and writing commands. He was also the liaison officer, negotiating with the English government. Thus he worked unceasingly in order that the sacred cause of Protestantism might triumph.
With the death of Mary of Lorraine all this ended. The Treaty of Edinburgh, which followed immediately, stipulated that all foreign arms and troops should be removed and that no Frenchman should hold any office of importance. It was a distinct Protestant victory.
On July 1, 1560, began what has been pronounced the most important parliament that ever met in Scotland. This parliament, attended by a large number of lords, barons, and nobles, Knox among them, abolished the jurisdiction of the pope and the celebration of the mass. So stringent did they make the law against the mass that offenders were threatened with death upon the third conviction.
Knox and his five assistants drew up a Confession, the doctrinal standard for Scotland, in four days, and this was adopted by Parliament. This Confession was written on extreme Calvinistic lines, as was Knox's First Book of Discipline, declared a masterpiece in organization, completed immediately upon the adjournment of parliament.
In order to establish church schools, to provide for the poor, and to pay the clergy, Knox hoped to divert the property of the Catholic Church, but here he was blocked. The avarice of the nobility thwarted his purpose.
They had grabbed the lands of the church and refused to relinquish them, except such a portion as they themselves thought necessary to support the ministers.
As a consequence, Knox's remaining years were embittered as he saw a starved ministry attempting to carry on, and Protestantism in Scotland remained stunted for years. Yet to Knox's ideal as propounded in his Discipline may be ascribed the present-day reputation Scotland has attained in the field of education.
Knox had still another battle to fight. Mary, queen of Scots, the unfortunate Mary who by her own unwise acts lost her crown and later her life, returned from France as a widow of eighteen to Scotland in August, 1561. She was determined to restore Scotland to the Catholic Church.
The most dramatic period of Knox's life doubtless falls during her reign as he tilted and sparred verbally with Mary when she repeatedly summoned him into her presence. The first such skirmish resulted when Knox condemned the mass which she had celebrated her first Sunday after arriving in Scotland. He had said that one mass was more terrible to him than 10,000 armed invaders. Five times, some say six, she called him before her.
The second occasion was Knox's sermon against the persecution of the Huguenots in France, an event Mary celebrated with a ball at Holyrood.
The next also concerned the mass. The fourth, which left an aftermath of peril, resulted when Knox had vehemently spoken against her proposed marriage to a Catholic, the son of the king of Spain. This time she dissolved in tears and sobs as she railed against him; but Knox maintained he was preaching not his own words, but the words that were given him out of the Scriptures.
Knox and his friends knew full well that his life now was in great danger.
When the privy council called him in December, 1563, to answer for the crime of gathering a number of friends to support those who had been arrested for spying upon a mass at Holyrood, his friends urged him to make his peace with the queen beforehand, but Knox in typical fashion, refused, saying, "I praise my God, through Jesus Christ, I have learned not to cry conjuration and treason at everything that the godless multitude does condemn, neither yet to fear the things that they fear." -- Quoted by James Stalker in John Knox.
After the queen, arrayed in all her worldly pomp, had assumed her seat, she saw Knox and burst out laughing. "Know ye whereat I laugh?" she asked the council. "Yon man made me weep, and wept never a tear himself; I will see if I can make him cry."
The crime they attempted to fasten upon him was that he had called the queen's lieges without her permission. Knox defended himself by saying that he had a perfect right to do so, that he did so every week when he invited people to church, and that there were some before him who had answered the summons. In spite of the efforts to pronounce the death sentence upon him, Knox remained cool and collected. In the end the council acquitted him, but this was doubtless the closest Knox ever came to wearing the martyr's crown.
Mary had, however, won for herself many friends, among them a group of nobles who were still Catholic, and by her practice of Catholicism many Catholics who had been driven under cover, now came out openly again to practice their religion. Many argued that the mass was not such a terrible thing after all, and even the Earl of Murray, Mary's half brother, future regent, and Knox's close associate, asserted that the queen had a right to follow her own religion unmolested.
It seemed for a time that the Protestant movement was destined to fail, had it not been Mary's own conduct, as it had been Mary of Lorraine's death, that proved to be Knox's greatest ally. Her marriage to her cousin Henry Darnley, her favouritism toward the Italian, Rizzio, and her later marriage to the Earl of Bothwell who helped instigate the murder of Darnley, lost her the sympathy of her best councellours and later the friendship of Elizabeth of England. The country revolted in disgust and loathing at her indiscretions, for which she was imprisoned and dismissed from the crown. And to Knox was given the privilege and high honour of preaching at the coronation of her infant son, the future James I of England.
The Earl of Murray, Scotland's most eminent Protestant lay leader, was made regent, and the Protestant church of Scotland attained full legal status by order of the Scottish parliament in 1567.
An evaluation of Knox, in order to be just, must accord to him the position of a great national hero, both politically and religiously. He led Scotland as none other in her entire history has done. It was his dynamic, fearless personality that brought Scotland out of its political chaos and established a degree of unity, compactness, and order in its national life.
The weapon Knox used to accomplish his purpose was the word of God.
His sermons, of which few have come down to us, were full of vigorous, plain speech, wit, and sarcasm. He did not hesitate to flay rulers, nobles, and princes from the pulpit if what they did failed to measure up to his standard. His sermons have been described like "a match set to kindling wood," and his words have been compared to hail and bullets because of the forcefulness with which they were spoken. Even during the last year of his life when he was so helpless that he needed to be lifted into the pulpit, James Melville, his successor, wrote, "He was so active and vigorous that he was like to cling the pulpit in blads (break in pieces) and fly out of it."
The assassination of Regent Murray in 1570 was a most heart-rending experience for Knox, and as he moved more than three thousand persons to tears by his funeral oration, he felt that his own days were numbered. He suffered an apoplectic stroke shortly after.
His last sermon, preached in Edinburgh, in August, 1572, a few months before he died, execrated the perpetrators of the Massacre of St.Bartholomew. His last days and hours were spent in meditation, reading the Scriptures, and visiting with friends who came to see him. The end came peacefully and without pain. Regent Morton, who spoke at his grave, asserted, "Here lies one who never feared the face of man."
John Foxe - He Wrote of the Martyrs. 1516-1587 [Contents]
John Foxe was not a great preacher. He took no part in the councils of kings and queens, nor in the conferences of the great, as they argued the merits of Protestantism versus Catholicism. Neither did he collaborate with other Reformers in producing confessions and beliefs. He did not translate the Bible, and he did not die a martyr's death.
His fame as a Reformer rests chiefly upon his having chronicled the events of the Reformation, particularly its martyrdoms. He occupies a unique place in the annals of reform because of his church history, Acts and Monuments of the Church, popularly named Book of Martyrs, the only work of its kind during this period in English history to give readers an insight into the greatness of God's power nad grace. In every age it is the plan of God that shall be established. Prov 19;21
During the past centuries in England and America the reading material supplied around many a hearthstone consisted mainly of the Bible, supplemented by the Book of Martyrs. And many a boy and girl, as well as older youth, from the sixteenth century down to the twentieth, have had their early thinking shaped by what they read in Foxe. Because of this considerable influence he is given a place as worthy of mention among the heroes of the Reformation.
Both then and now, when wicked men blaspheme and insult the Lord Almighty, when they persecute the righteous, it is vital to be encouraged by the knowledge of such history. Thus shall men continue to have confidence in the Lord, who will never lose his power nor will he ever remove his protection for our souls. Some may well be chosen to lose their bodies and receive a martyr's crown.
Foxe was born in Boston, in Lincolnshire, one hundred miles north of London, in 1517, the same year that Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the church door in Wittenberg. Foxe came of good stock. While he was still young his father died. His mother then married a Richard Melton, whom John evidently liked. Later on John was to dedicate one of his books to his stepfather.
His childhood was characterized by a great love for reading. Because his stepfather was poor, two friends sent John, at the age of sixteen, to Brasenose College, Oxford. Here he attained two degrees; and at Magdalen College, in 1543, he was elected to a full fellowship.
He witnessed the discrepancies between the profession and the conduct of the Romish clergy, and began to study the Latin and Greek scholars, as well as the various disputations, acts, and decrees of the church. He also gained a thorough knowledge of the Bible in the original tongue, which "led him to discern the errors of popery and to seek the only way of salvation." Frequently he spent whole nights in study. At times in the dead of night he walked in a pleasant grove near the college to confirm his mind upon the great Biblical truths, and to determine his course of action in the light of his new-found faith. To renounce popery in that period was no light matter; it frequently involved danger, loss of friends and preferment, and even death itself.
"From these nightly vigils," says a biographer, "sprang the first suspicion of his heresy. Some were employed to observe his words and actions. They questioned why he stayed away from church, shunned the company of his associates, and refused to recreate (take part in sports) as he had in the past." By request of the college officials he resigned his fellowship in 1545 and returned to the home of his father-in-law, an ardent papist, who forthwith disowned him for his heresy.
Foxe then obtained temporary employment as tutor in the home of Sir Thomas Lucy, in Warwickshire. Here, in 1546, Foxe married Agnes Randall, a servant in the Lucy home.
Persecution drove him away, however, and, penniless and sick, he went to London, to Paul's Church. He became the tutor of the grandchildren of the duke of Norfolk.
Upon the accession of Mary Tudor, in 1553, Foxe wished to join his friends in exile, but the young duke of Norfolk, although a Catholic, felt honour bound to protect his tutor. However, Foxe, who had been ordained a deacon of St. Paul's Cathedral by Ridley in 1550, and who had been the first to preach Protestantism at Ryegate, had made some pointed remarks against the worship of images and other popish idolatry; and Gardiner, "the sleuthhound of the reaction," suspected heresy.
One day, as Gardiner was visiting in the duke's house, Foxe, whom the duke attempted to keep hidden, inadvertently walked into the room. When he saw Gardiner he immediately withdrew, and the duke explained that this was his young physician who, just coming from the university, had not yet learned the amenities of court life. Gardiner remarked that he liked the young man's looks and would doubtless sometime want to make use of him.
Realizing that his mentor's life was in danger, the young duke provided a boat at Ipswich and sent Foxe and his wife to a farmhouse near the seashore, to be out of harm's way until sailing time. A heavy storm caused the boat with the Foxes on board to return to port. Upon landing, Foxe learned that a messenger of Gardiner's had searched the farmer's house for him and had followed him to the port. The messenger had left when he discovered that the vessel had sailed.
Foxe decided to set sail again that night regardless of the rough sea, and in two days he and his wife landed in Flanders. For a time they lived in Frankfort, in the house of Anthony Gilby, a well-known Protestant.
Because controversy in that city raged among the Protestants as to which ritual to use, Foxe left for Basel.
At Basel, then celebrated for its superior printing, Foxe became a "corrector of the press," as he worked for John Herbst (or Oporinus), an enthusiastic Protestant printer. He also continued his work on a church history which he had already begun in England. His labours were severe. In addition he "suffered want, sat up late, and kept a hard diet," but, accustomed to hardship from his youth, he did not seem to mind.
With his history he was assisted by Grindal, afterward archbishop of Canterbury, who was living in Strasbourg. Grindal kept up a constant correspondence with England and obtained many accounts of those who were burned at the stake, from the Reformers undergoing persecution and from their friends. These he gave to Foxe, who later also had access to the archives and the registers of the bishops.
In 1559 his Acts and Monuments of the Church, written in Latin and dedicated to the duke of Norfolk, his former pupil, appeared at Basel. In excellent Latin, Foxe congratulated Queen Elizabeth, in the name of the German people, upon her accession to the English throne.
Foxe returned to England the same year. Still in financial straits, he appealed to the duke of Norfolk, who provided him with a home. Foxe in turn encouraged his patron to read the Scriptures and stand manfully for Christ.
Foxe remained with the duke, then one of the most powerful noblemen in England, until the duke was executed in 1572 as a result of becoming involved in the intrigues of Mary, queen of Scots. Foxe accompanied the duke to the scaffold as his comforter, and heard him renounce the Romish doctrines and express his belief in Jesus Christ. The duke left Foxe an annuity of 20 pounds.
During the autumn of 1561 Foxe began to translate his Acts and Monuments of the Church into English. Every Monday he worked at the printing office of John Day, famous printer in Aldergate Street; and from this office the first complete English edition, dedicated to Queen Elizabeth, appeared in 1563.
The popularity of the volume was instantaneous. In the course of years it went through many editions -- at least four editions within the first twenty years. By order of the canons of the convention of 1571, all high dignitaries were to receive a copy, as well as every college hall and university. A copy was ordered to be placed in every parish church, along with the Great Bible, that all people might read it. "Even now," said George Stokes, a historian, in 1841, "the well-worn remains are sometimes found in village churches." It is recorded that Nicholas Ferrar, pastor at Little Giddings, had a chapter of it read every Sunday along with the Bible.
So great was its influence that "with Puritan clergy, and in almost all English households where Puritanism prevailed, the Martyrs was long the sole authority for church history, and an armoury of arguments in defence of Protestantism against Catholicism." Judged by twentieth-century standards Foxe's book can hardly be termed a critical work, but his supporters feel that it is unfair to accuse him of deliberate falsehood. In the years following its first printing he kept on revising wherever misrepresentations and new facts came to light. What he wrote, it is said, he wrote in good faith; and this is established by the internal evidence in the book. It possesses "a simplicity in the narrative, particularly in many of its minute details, which is beyond fiction; and homely pathos in the stories which art could not reach." Because of his Nonconformist views, the extreme kind at that, Foxe never succeeded to special favour with Queen Elizabeth or her bishops, who had settled upon the Anglican form of church service. Consequently he did not advance in church office. For a time under Elizabeth's reign the Nonconformists were as greatly persecuted as were the Catholics.
He did, however, receive some consideration in the lower ranks. As a reward for his Martyrs he was made a prebendary in Salisbury Cathedral and vicar of Shipton. While holding these offices he had occasional conflicts with the ecclesiastical authorities, for he believed that too many of the fripperies of popery had been retained in church affairs. When Archbishop Parker asked him to conform, Foxe held up a copy of the New Testament and said, "To this I will subscribe." He continued to preach, even at the famous Paul's Cross, the greatest outdoor religious meeting place of the time. Invited by Grindal in 1570, he preached his renowned sermon on the crucified Christ, and later amplified it for the press.
Foxe was a kind man, noted for his charity. Always poor himself, he shared what little he had with those less fortunate. Foxe also possessed tolerance. He hated the persecutions meted out to those of divergent faith.
In 1575 he interceded valiantly with Elizabeth and other authorities to obtain a remission of the sentence to burn two Anabaptists. Although the queen called him "her father Foxe," she did not accede to his pleadings.
Shortly after 1570 to the time of his death, he probably lived on Grub Street. In 1586 his health began to fail rapidly, and after much suffering he died the following year. He was buried in the chancel of St. Giles Church, Cripplegate, London, where a monument inscribed by his son Samuel marks the spot.
Other Thumbnail Biographies [Contents]
LOUIS DE BENQUIN (1490-1529), royal counsellor, nobleman, lay Reformer, and France's first Protestant martyr, was born near Artois. Introduced to Protestantism by Erasmus and Lefevre, he taught the Bible at the court and by going from house to house near his childhood home. His greatest ambition was to make France a Protestant nation, but the churchmen became incensed at his translations of some of the writings of Erasmus and Luther, as well as at his own works. He had declared Christ the only way of salvation, and had ridiculed celibacy, the invocation of Mary, and monkish ignorance. Three times he was imprisoned, twice to be released at the intercession of Margaret, sister of Francis I; but the last time no one could save him. He was executed in Paris by strangulation and burning.
THEODORE BEZA (1519-1605), Reformer, educator, theologian, author, leader of the French Huguenots, and Calvin's friend, was born in Vezelai, France, of noble lineage. A French Protestant refugee, he taught Greek at the academy at Lausanne, Switzerland, and became the first rector of the university at Geneva. As the religious head of the Huguenots, he represented them at numerous councils, conclaves, and colloquies, and thereby procured soul liberty for the lie-formed churches in France. He made a brilliant defence of the symbolic presence in the eucharist before the Colloquy of Poissy. As a poet and prose writer he ranked among the best. He is also known for having discovered the ancient Bible manuscript known as Codex D, which he presented to the University of Cambridge. As Calvin's successor he made Geneva the headquarters of Continental Protestantism and softened the rigorous discipline of his predecessor. He died in Geneva.
THOMAS BILNEY (ca. 1495-1531), priest, Reformer, devotee of the Bible and prayer, leader of the Protestants at Cambridge, and the father of the English Reformation, was born at Norwich, England. By personal appeals he convinced others that Christ saved from sin; many eminent scholars who later became Reformers owed their conversion to his tact and zeal. He denounced the worship of saints and relics and the profligacy of popes and priests. After arrest he recanted under pressure from his friends, but later he made amends for his weakness. He met death serenely at the stake in Norfolk, England.
HEINRICH BULLINGER (1504-75), successor to Zwingli in Zurich, the second founder of the German Reformed Church, and mediator between Zwinglians and Lutherans on the doctrine of the eucharist, was born at Bremgarten, Switzerland. After Zwingli's death he saved the Swiss Reformation from complete collapse. He influenced England's Reformation more than did any other Continental Reformer, and the Second Helvetic Confession, one of his more than one hundred separate works, became the bond uniting the scattered members of the evangelical Reformed Churches in all countries. It ranks among the foremost of Reformed Church confessions. Bullinger has been termed a "common shepherd of all Christian churches." Death came in Zurich as the result of calculus.
MILES COVERDALE (1488-1568), priest, preacher, Reformer, and translator of the first complete Bible printed in the English language, was born in Yorkshire in the district of Coverdale. Under Thomas Cromwell's patronage his version of the Bible, a translation of translations, came out in 1535, but it was not officially accepted by the English government. In 1539 he brought forth, with Grafton and Whitchurch the printers, the Great Bible, sometimes called the Cranmer Bible. He also translated many other works. His Puritan tendencies and his opposition to the wearing of vestments lost him the appointment to several bishoprics. He died in London.
JOHN CALVIN (1509-64), scholar, author, Reformer, and organizer, was born at Noyon, France. He fled to Switzerland as French persecution grew too strong, and eventually made his home in Geneva, where he became the real leader of the Genevan republic. As a theologian he stands pre-eminent; his tenets attained greater international significance and acceptance than did those of any other Reformer. His name became synonymous with the doctrine of predestination. He believed, among other things, in the symbolic meaning of the Lord's Supper, salvation by faith, and the absolute and exclusive divine authority of the Scriptures. His polity of church organization gave the laity a voice in its government and used the secular power to enforce the doctrines and laws of the church. He died in Geneva.
THOMAS CARTWRIGHT (1535-1603), Puritan leader, brilliant Latin, Greek, and Hebrew scholar, was born in Hertfordshire, England. An eloquent preacher and doctor of divinity, he opposed vestments, hierarchical titles, and all ceremonies which savoured of Catholicism, and advocated the adoption of the presbyterian system of church government. He wrote the Second Admonition to Parliament, a request to adopt Puritan ideas in church government. Suspected of having a part in the Marprelate controversy, he was imprisoned for two years. He died at his home in Warwick, where the earl of Leicester had made him the master of the hospital.
JOHN COLET (ca. 1466-1519), one of the trio of Oxford Reformers, noted preacher, and leader of the English Renaissance, was born in London of noble stock. He founded the famous St. Paul's School, and the influence of his educational leadership still remains in England's secondary middle-class system. As dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, he exposed worldliness wherever he found it. He advocated personal religion, sincere piety, and the Bible as the ultimate rule of faith; and he considered church traditions and the teachings of scholastic divines as of minor importance. His high favour with Henry VIII protected him from condemnation under heresy charges, and made it possible for him to die peacefully in his home in London.
GASPARD DE COLIGNY (1519-72), nobleman, statesman, admiral of France, military expert, and Huguenot leader, was born at Chatillon-sur- Loing. He is noted as the pioneer in establishing colonies of Huguenots in the New World and as the defender of Saint-Quentin. He accepted Protestantism while in prison in the Netherlands, after which he repeatedly pleaded the Huguenot cause at assemblies, colloquies, and other national gatherings. To make France a Protestant nation he sought to win the confidence of Catherine de' Medici, but her jealousy of his power over her son, King Charles IX, led to his assassination in Paris as the first victim of the St. Bartholomew Massacre.
THOMAS CRANMER (1489-1556), educator, ambassador, author, and archbishop of Canterbury, was born in Aslacton, England. He gained international prominence by obtaining Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine. He promoted the translation and circulation of the Bible, opposed the Act of the Six Articles, won Edward VI to Protestantism, and invited Continental churchmen to aid England's Reformation. Upon him fell the responsibility of working out the details of ecclesiastical reform in England, and to this end he wrote and published numerous books dealing with dogma and ritual. His high status and able pen aided materially in freeing England from papal jurisdiction. Mary's accession led to his arrest, trial, and condemnation for heresy. He recanted, only to abjure his recantation before going to the stake at Oxford. There he faced death calmly, thereby further aiding the cause against papal reaction, to the end that England might become Protestant.
FRANCISCO DE ENZINAS (ca. 1520-50), scholar, Reformer, and brother of the first Protestant martyr in Italy, was born of a noble family in Burgos, Spain. He studied at Paris and later at Wittenberg, where Melanchthon inspired him to translate the Greek New Testament into Spanish. Imprisoned after he presented a copy for approval to Emperor Charles V, he escaped to Germany. Upon Cranmer's invitation he went to England and taught Greek two years at the University of Cambridge. He died in Augsburg shortly after he returned to the Continent.
DESIDERIUS ERASMUS (1466-1536), member of the Oxford Reformers, Humanist, rationalist, and priest, was born near Rotterdam in the Netherlands. He desired a reform within the church and opposed extremes of all kinds. Much of what the church sanctioned he denounced. He held the clergy up to ridicule, and considered many church practices irrelevant, rather than sinful. He also urged simplicity in Christian living, and a return to the sources for Scriptural study. His Greek New Testament translation constituted one of the greatest boons to Reformation progress; it was the ember which lighted the candle of reforming zeal. He died at Basel, Switzerland.
WILLIAM FAVEL (1489-1565), professor, Reformer, and audacious apostle to Switzerland, was born near Gap in southeastern France. He preached under Bern's jurisdiction in many of the Swiss villages and laid the foundation for Calvin's reform at Geneva. Laudable in purpose, he was weak in method, moderation, and organizing ability. An impetuous evangelist who found happiness amidst danger, he denounced clerical abuses, moral laxity of the clergy, the mass, veneration of images and saints, and church tradition. He accepted the Bible as the rule of faith. He founded schools and hospitals. He died in his home in Neufchatel, Switzerland, where he served the Reformed societies.
JOHN FOXE (1517-87), Nonconformist preacher, author, and visionary, was born in Boston, in Lincolnshire, one hundred miles north of London. His chief claim to fame rests on his Acts and Monuments, a history of the Reformation popularly called The Book of Martyrs, which is unexcelled as religious propaganda. It went through many editions and was placed alongside the Great Bible in every college hall, university, and parish church in England to become the most popular reading of the day and for centuries after. Foxe was noted for his charitableness, tolerance, and his opposition to the wearing of the surplice. He died in London.
JOHN FRITH (1503-33), martyr, an associate with Tyndale in the translation of the Bible, and the first in England to expound the doctrine of the symbolic presence in the eucharist, was born at Westerham, Kent. He escaped prison at Oxford and went to Marburg, where he translated Hamilton's Patrick's Places from Latin to English, and later joined Tyndale in Holland. He returned to England without Henry VIII's permission, in 1532, and went to Reading, where he was put in stocks for vagabondage. In London he wrote a treatise on the sacraments which incensed Sir Thomas More, who had him captured and imprisoned. He was tried for his denial of purgatory and transubstantiation, and later he was burned at Smithfield.
PATRICK HAMILTON (ca. 1504-28), preacher, and first Reformer and martyr of the Scottish Reformation, was born of Scotland's royalty either at Stonehouse or at Kincavel. At the University of Paris he came under Erasmus's influence, and later his association with Luther and Melanchthon at Wittenberg, and with Francis Lambert at Marburg, increased his anti-Catholic tendencies. Back in Scotland he taught at the University of St. Andrews. His treatise, Patrick's Places, became the cornerstone of Protestant theology in Scotland and England. His reforming zeal brought him afoul of Archbishop Beaton, who connived at his apprehension and subsequent death, a lingering one, at the stake near St. Andrews. As a Scottish Reformer he was second in rank only to John Knox.
JOHN HOOPER (ca. 1500-55), Hebraist, leader of a reforming group, and bishop of Gloucester and Worcester, was born in Somerset, England. Puritanism, in its embryonic phase, claims him as its parent. His intense scruples, and implacable temperament made him the foremost opponent to the wearing of vestments and the observance of Catholic Church ritual as practised by the evolving Church of England. His desire for a better prepared clergy led him to institute a training course for the ministers of his diocese. He opposed the Act of the Six Articles. Because he married, denied papal authority and the bodily presence in the eucharist, and opposed the wearing of vestments, he was condemned to death at the stake in Gloucester, England.
JOHN HUS (ca. 1373-1415), Reformer, educator, national hero, and beloved for his vernacular discourses in Bethlehem Chapel, was born in Bohemia. A tireless Bible student, he fearlessly supported Wycliffe's views. He decried the moral laxity of the clergy, denied Peter as the church's foundation, and declared the Scriptures to be the only rule of faith. Masses and indulgences he condemned as worthless, and he maintained that individual rights were not subject to church regulations. The Council of Constance convicted him as a heretic and sentenced him to death at the stake. He was executed in Constance.
JEROME OF PRAGUE (ca. 1365-1416), Humanist, patriot, and renowned lecturer at universities and churches, was born of noble parentage in Bohemia. A layman of international fame and wide learning, he opposed the sale of indulgences and stigmatized the clergy for its moral corruption. While at the Council of Constance, where he went to aid Huss, he was apprehended and tried for endorsing the teachings of Wycliffe, and condemned to death at the stake. He recanted from fear; but, later, regretting his irresolution, he calmly faced death at Constance.
JOHN KNOX (1505-72), Reformer, chaplain to the English king, and a Calvinist, was born near Edinburgh, Scotland. He preached effectively in England and Scotland, and on the Continent. He served on the commission that compiled the English Book of Common Prayer. Fearless in his denunciations, he opposed the pope, mass, the Lord's Supper in one kind, and other Catholic usages. His audacious interviews with Mary, Queen of Scots, made him a glamorous figure in Reformation history. As organizer of the church in Scotland, he is accorded by history the place of a great national hero who by his dynamic, courageous personality established a degree of unity in his country at a time of extreme religious and political chaos. He died tranquilly in Edinburgh.
JOHN LASKI (1499-1560), nobleman, scholar, Reformer, coordinator, and organizer, was born at Lask, near Warsaw, Poland. Intended for the primateship of his country, he renounced his wealth, rank, and prospects of advancement to preach the Protestant tenets in the Netherlands. There he organized the Reformed Church, and Emden became known as the "Northern Geneva." He preached that God's grace was free to all. Later in England he was the first to institute the presbyterian form of church government for the 3,000 foreign Protestant refugees in London. After an absence of eighteen years he returned to his home country to organize the Reformed Church in Poland, but he died in Pinczow before he achieved his goal.
HUGH LATIMER (ca. 1485-1555), bishop, Reformer, noted preacher, was born in Thurcaston, England. He fostered practical Christianity, upheld the authority of the Scriptures, and preached Jesus as a personal Savior. He decried human traditions by opposing worship of saints and denying purgatory. In opposition to the Six Articles, he resigned the bishopric of Worcester. Several times he was imprisoned for his faith, and once he recanted. After Henry VIII's repudiation of papal authority, he became one of the king's principal counsellors, whereupon he supposedly urged the monarch to provide English Bibles for the people. Mary imprisoned him for denying transubstantiation. Tied to the same stake with Ridley, he died a martyr's death at Oxford.
JACQUES LEFEVRE (ca. 1452-1536), Humanist, educator, brilliant leader of French intellectuals, translator of Scriptures, and one of the Meaux Reformers, was born at Etaples, France. One of the first Reformers to express belief in justification by faith and the supremacy of the Scriptures, he rebuked the dissolute lives of the clergy. He also denied the efficacy of works, indulgences, and pilgrimages as a means of salvation. By his love for Christ he exerted a powerful influence on future Reformers. During his declining years he became tutor to the French royal household, and king's librarian. He died at Nerac, France.
MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546), Augustinian monk, university professor, eminent Reformer characterized by clear thinking, courage, originality, and a pioneering spirit, was born in Elsieben, Germany. By posting his ninety-five theses against indulgences on the Wittenberg church door he made his rupture with the papacy inevitable, and his determination to answer the summons to appear at the Diet of Worms to defend his position before the emperor made him a national hero. His translation of the Bible into the German language ranks him among the masters of German prose. The doctrine of justification by faith, made popular by him, became the battle cry of the Reformation. Failing in health for several years, he died in the town of his birth.
PETER MARTYR (1500-62), Augustinian prior and vicar-general of his order, public preacher, Reformer, and able disputant, was born of well-to-do parents in Florence, Italy. As a disciple of Valdes he preached the doctrine of salvation by faith, both at Naples and at Lucca. When cited for heresy by the Inquisition, he fled, later to become Bucer's close associate at Strasbourg. Upon the invitation of Edward VI and Cranmer he went to England to become regius divinity professor at Oxford, where by his moderation and skill he influenced English episcopacy. He believed that the real presence in the eucharist was determined not by an undeviating fiat but by the faith of the recipient. He ably defended the Protestant cause at the Colloquy of Poissy in 1561. He died of a fever at Zurich.
PHILIPP MELANCHTHON (1497-1560), intimate of Luther, Humanist, Reformer, scholar, theologian, linguist, and professor, was born at Bretten, Germany. He won the support of the learned by moderation and sincerity and by cogency of argument. He charmed even Erasmus by his consummate versatility. Famous as the author of the Augsburg Confession, he displayed exceptional ability in organizing German ecclesiastical polity. He was also the cofounder with Luther of the modern German educational system. Affirming supremacy of the Bible and justification by faith, he denounced Communion in one kind, celibacy, and the mass. He died of a cold at his home in Wittenberg, Germany.
AONIO PALEARIO (1500-70), philosopher, public orator, professor, author, and martyr, was born of noble parentage in Veroli, Italy. He, too, was a disciple of Valdes and taught justification by faith to his students in the universities at Siena, Lucca, and Milan. He is thought to be the author of Benefits of Christ's Death, the greatest piece of religious writing to come out of the Italian Reformation. Repeatedly cited for heresy, he at first escaped execution by his eloquent defence; but in 1568 the Inquisition arrested, imprisoned, and frequently tortured him. Two years later he was hanged and burned in Rome.
OLAVUS PETRI (1493-1552), "Sweden's Luther," trusted adviser to King Gustavus Vasa, preacher, educator, and author, was born in Orebro, Sweden. When he returned from the University at Wittenberg he opposed monastic life, the mass, purgatory, invocation of saints and the Virgin, and preached salvation by faith. While serving as secretary of the city of Stockholm and preacher at the St. Nicholas Cathedral, he made the first official attack on the Roman Catholic Church to appear in print. He also helped translate the New Testament into Swedish and wrote a manual of service, several catechisms, homiletical treatises, and the first hymn-book in Sweden. His influence upon Sweden's Reformation was unequalled. He died in Stockholm, and lies buried in the St. Nicholas Cathedral.
NICHOLAS RIDLEY (ca. 1500-55), educator, polemicist, bishop of Rochester, was born in Northumberland, England. He helped establish Protestantism at Cambridge, and assisted in the preparation of the first English prayer book. He was also instrumental in removing England from papal jurisdiction. Denouncing the theory that designated Peter as the rock, he opposed Communion in one kind, mass, pilgrimages, celibacy, and the Latin service. He opposed Mary's succession. While in prison he continued, by writing letters and treatises, to aid the establishment of Protestantism in England. With Latimer he died at the stake at Oxford.
JOHN ROGERS (ca. 1500-55), scholar, priest, Reformer, author, editor, martyr, was born near Birmingham, England. The first to write a Bible commentary and an English concordance, he was also the first to compile and edit an authorized version of the English Bible, known as the Thomas Matthew Bible, taken from Tyndale's unfinished manuscript. As a nonconformist he preached against the mass, the celibacy of the clergy, and the recognition of the pope or the monarch as head of the church. His sermon at Paul's Cross three days after Bloody Mary's accession resulted in his becoming the first Protestant martyr under her reign. He died at the stake at Smithfield, in London.
HANS TAUSEN (1494-1561), priest, preacher, hymn writer, "the Luther of Denmark," and her greatest Reformer, was born at Birkende, on the island of Fyn. As royal chaplain he drew immense crowds in Copenhagen. In 1530 he presented an independent confession of faith, of forty-three articles, a counterpart of the Augsburg Confession. He stipulated the Bible alone as sufficient for salvation, the eucharist a commemoration of Christ's death, the Holy Spirit the Third Person of the Godhead; and purgatory, monastic life, indulgences, mass, and celibacy of priests he declared to be contrary to Scripture. He was named one of the seven superintendents over the realm; he shared in the construction of the ecclesiastical constitution; and he served for nearly twenty years as bishop of Ribe, until he died.
WILLIAM TYNDALE (ca. 1483-1536), Reformer and linguist, was born in England on the Welsh border. His translation of the Scriptures into the English tongue placed him among the renowned in scholarship and literary ability. Because of religious persecution in England, he went to the Continent. As a guide to his work he used the translations of Luther and Erasmus. His Bible became the basis for the Authorized Version and served as the fulcrum on which the English Reformation balanced. He was captured and imprisoned on the charge of advocating justification by faith, opposing the doctrines of purgatory and the invocation of saints, and was executed by strangulation and burning near the castle of Vilvorde, in the Netherlands.
JUAN DE VALDES (ca. 1500-41), scion of royalty, mystic, Reformer, member of the courts of emperor and pope, and master of Castilian prose, was born in Cuenca, Spain. He fled the Spanish Inquisition, ultimately making his home in Naples, Italy, where he became the centre of an aristocratic Protestant circle, drawing to himself the finest and most intellectual of Italy's noble men and women. He ridiculed the invocation of saints, pilgrimages, purgatory, and mass; and he censured the pope for his worldliness and for the greed of the church. He believed that knowledge of God could be obtained through prayer and meditation, that faith alone atoned for sins, and that the Bible constituted man's guide to salvation. He died in Naples before the Italian Inquisition dispersed his followers to spread his influence throughout the European Continent.
GEORGE WISHART (ca. 1513-46), Reformer, scholar, teacher, preacher, and forerunner of John Knox, was born near Montrose, Scotland. He was among the first to teach Greek in his native land. He also taught at Cambridge, where he was lauded for his piety and thoroughness of instruction. His chief claim to fame is his popularizing of Calvinistic Protestantism in the kirk. He affirmed that salvation comes only by faith in Christ. He opposed auricular confession, infant baptism, prayer to the saints, and celibacy. Purgatory he declared nonexistent. When driven from the churches, he preached wherever he could gather a crowd. He was arrested, tried, and condemned for heresy, and executed by hanging and burning near St. Andrews castle.
JOHN WYCLIFFE (ca. 1320-84), authority on canon and civil law, consultant to Parliament, king's chaplain, Reformer, and founder of the Lollards, was born in Yorkshire, England. He based his first opposition to the papacy on its political activities. To Parliament he recommended that the fines assessed by the pope against the realm under King John be abrogated. Later he attacked the doctrine of transubstantiation and the ecclesiastical supremacy claimed by the pope. He affirmed his belief in salvation by faith. His translation of the Bible gained him literary prominence. Papal pressure expelled him from his university position, but was unable to effect his excommunication. He died of a paralytic stroke in his parish at Lutterworth, England.
ULRICH ZWINGLI (1484-1531), Reformer, organizer, founder of Swiss Protestantism, was born in Wildhaus, Switzerland. Displeased with the unlettered state of the priesthood, he established a theological school to assure a better-trained clergy. He opposed the sale of indulgences and the doctrines of transubstantiation and celibacy. He accepted justification by faith and the authority of the Scriptures. At Zurich, where he was rector of Great Minster, he reorganized the community according to Scriptural ideas, with the assistance of civil law. His advocacy of political alliances to gain religious ends brought about his death. As the result of his efforts to force Protestantism upon the Catholic cantons in Switzerland, war broke out, with resultant victory to the Catholic forces; and he died in the battle of Kappel, in Switzerland.