Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

editions, arranged according to the order of time in which they were preached, and occasionally illustrated with notes explanatory of archaisms in language, or of allusions to particular persons and customs not ordinarily known.

Of the biographical memoir prefixed, nothing more need be observed than that it has been carefully drawn for the most part from Fox, whose veracity, in spite of the abuse of popish writers, is indisputable. A recent effort, however, to depreciate the characters of the reformers, and that of Latimer in particular, has made it necessary to introduce a few remarks by way of repelling calumnies which would not have deserved notice had they not appeared in the imposing form of a History of England.

J. W. London, April 26, 1824.

THE LIFE OF BISHOP LATIMER.

LIFE

OP

HUGH LATIME R

BISHOP OF IT'ORCESTER.

In the catalogue of the noble army of martyrs who sealed with their blood the truths which they preached, in opposition to the tyranny of popery, the name of Latimer stand pre-eminent for godly zeal, extensive usefulness, and exemplary purity of heart and life.

This apostle of England *, as he hath been deservedly called, was the son of Hugh Latimer, of Thurcaster, in the county of Leicester, a farmer, or, as Fox calls him, a husbandman, “ of right good estimation.” The period of his birth, owing to the want of parochial and other registers, is involved in uncertainty; some of his biographers placing it in 1480, and others going even ten years earlier from the persuasion, as it should seem, that he was above fourscore at the time of his martyrdom. That this last date is incorrect we are assured from his own authority ; for he was but a lad when the Cornish rebels marched up in 1497, to the vicinity of the metropolis. “ My father,” says Latimer, in one of his sermons at court, “ was a yeoman, and had no lands of his own, only he had a farm of three or four pound by year at the uttermost, and hereupon he tilled so much as kept half a dozen men. He had walk for an hundred sheep, and my mother milked thirty kine. He was able, and did find the king a harness, with himself and his horse,

* Hugoni Latimero quam passim vocabunt apostolorum Anglorum.- Nich. Sanderus de Schism. Anglic. p. 116. VOL. I.

b

[ocr errors]

what he said, and sometimes, by his own authority, drive them out of the school.

The same spirit animated him on taking his degree of bachelor in divinity, when he directed the whole of his discourse with great bitterness against Philip Melancthon, and his opinions.

Zeal like this could not fail to please the heads of the university, and they were not backward in marking it with their approbation. Latimer was accordingly appointed to carry the cross in all their public assemblies and solemn processions, an office which he felt as most honourable, and therefore discharged it with dignity and reverence.

But while, like Saul of Tarsus, he was exerting himself with more than ordinary activity in endeavouring to keep down the rising spirit of inquiry, which he and his superiors called heresy, the more the light became diffused even in the university; and at length this honest zealot proved the main instrument in promoting that very cause which he had before persecuted.

When this change in Latimer's sentiments and conduct took place cannot be exactly ascertained, but it was not long after the flaming oration which he delivered on taking the degree of bachelor in divinity. Among his hearers on that occasion was Thomas Bilney, bachelor of the canon and civil law ; a man of considerable learning, great piety, and as zealous for the reformation as Latimer was against it. Bilney, however, had the advantage of scriptural knowledge, in which Latimer was comparatively ignorant; and as that learning was sanctified and animated by Christian charity, it made the possessor feel pity for one whose zeal only wanted a right direction to become the powerful means of propagating truth, instead of blindly upholding superstition. Bilney perceived the honesty of Latimer's intentions, and therefore made every allowance for the warmth of his language. Some hot-headed men would have challenged the orator to a public disputation, or assailed him in private with ridicule and abuse, for meddling with subjects which he had not studied. But Bilney took a wiser course ; he sought an interview with Latimer at his own

« VorigeDoorgaan »