WHY WERE OUR REFORMERS BURNED?
From the Book - Five English Reformers
by J.C. Ryle - 1890
Presented by: The Master's table
There are certain facts in history which the world tries
hard to forget and ignore. These facts get in the way of some of the world's
favourite theories, and are highly inconvenient. The consequence is that the
world shuts its eyes against them. They are either cut dead as vulgar intruders,
or passed by as tiresome bores. Little by little they sink out of sight of the
students of history, like ships in a distant horizon, or are left behind like
a luggage train in a siding. Of such facts the subject of this paper is a vivid
example:-" The Burning of our English Reformers; and the Reason why they
It is fashionable in some quarters to deny that there is any such thing as
certainty about religious truth, or any opinions for which it is worth while
to be burned. Yet, 300 years ago, there were men who were certain they had found
out truth, and were content to die for their opinions.-It is fashionable in
other quarters to leave out all the unpleasant things in history, and to paint
everything a rose-coloured hue. A very popular history of our English hardly
mentions the martyrdoms of Queen Mary's days! Yet Mary was not called "Bloody
Mary" without reason, and scores of Protestants were burned in her reign.
Last, but not least, it is thought very bad taste in many quarters to say anything
which throws discredit on the Church of Rome. Yet it is as certain that the
Romish Church burned our English Reformers as it is that William the Conqueror
won the battle of Hastings. These difficulties meet me face to face as I walk
up to the subject which I wish to unfold in this paper. I know their magnitude,
and I cannot evade them. I only ask my readers to give me a patient and indulgent
After all, I have great confidence in the honesty of English men's minds. Truth
is truth, however long it may be neglected. Facts are facts, however long they
may lie buried. I only want to dig up some old facts which the sands of time
have covered over, to bring to the light of day some old English monuments which
have been long neglected, to unstop some old wells which the prince of this
world has been diligently filling with earth. I ask my readers to give me their
attention for a few minutes, and I trust to be able to show them that it is
good to examine the question, "Why were our Reformers burned ?"
I. The broad facts of the martyrdom of our Reformers are a story well known
and soon told. But it may be useful to give a brief outline of these facts,
in order to supply a framework to our subject.
Edward VI., "that incomparable young prince," as Bishop Burnet justly calls him, died on the 6th July, 1553. Never, perhaps, did any royal personage in this land die more truly lamented, or leave behind him a fairer reputation. Never, perhaps, to man's poor fallible judgment, did the cause of God's truth in England receive a heavier blow. His last prayer before death ought not to be forgotten," 0 Lord God, defend this realm from papistry, and maintain Thy true religion." It was a prayer, I believe, not offered in vain.
After a foolish and deplorable effort to obtain the crown for Lady Jane Grey, Edward was succeeded by his eldest sister, Mary, daughter of Henry VIII. and his first Queen, Catherine of Aragon, and best known in English history by the ill-omened name of "Bloody Mary." Mary had been brought up from her infancy as a rigid adherent of the Romish Church. She was, in fact, a very Papist of Papists, conscientious, zealous, bigoted, and narrow-minded in the extreme.
She began at once to pull down her brother's work in every possible way, and
to restore Popery in its worst and most offensive forms. Step by step she and
her councillors marched back to Rome, trampling down one by one every obstacle,
and as thoroughas Lord Strafford in going straight forward to their mark. The
Mass was restored; the English service was taken away; the works of Luther,
Zwingle, Calvin, Tyndale, Bucer, Latimer, Hooper, and Cranmer were proscribed.
Cardinal Pole was invited to England. The foreign Protestants resident in England
were banished. The leading divines of the Protestant Church of England were
deprived of their offices, and while some escaped to the Continent, many were
put in prison. The old statutes against heresy were once more brought forward,
primed and loaded. And thus by the beginning of 1555 the stage was cleared,
and that bloody tragedy, in which Bishops Bonner and Gardiner played so prominent
a part, was ready to begin.
For, unhappily for the credit of human nature, Mary's advisers were not content
with depriving and imprisoning the leading English Reformers. It was resolved
to make them abjure their principles, or to put them to death. One by one they
were called before special Commissions, examined about their religious opinions,
and called upon to recant, on pain of death if they refused. No third course,
no alternative was left to them. They were either to give up Protestantism and
receive Popery, or else they were to be burned alive. Refusing to recant, they
were one by one handed over to the secular power, publicly brought out and chained
to stakes, publicly surrounded with faggots, and publicly sent out of the world
by that most cruel and painful of deaths, the death by fire. All these are broad
facts which all the apologists of Rome can never gainsay or deny.
It is a broad fact that during the last four years of Queen Mary's reign no
less than 288 persons were burnt at the stake for their adhesion to the Protestant
In 1555 there were burnt : 71
In 1556 there were burnt : 89
In 1557 there were burnt : 88
In 1558 there were burnt : 40
These numbers are given by Soames, in his History of the Reformation (vol.
iv. p.587), and are taken from Strype. Some historians give higher numbers.
Indeed, the faggots never ceased to blaze whilst Mary was alive, and five martyrs
were burnt in Canterbury only a week before her death. Out of these 288 sufferers,
be it remembered, one was an archbishop, four were bishops, twenty~ne were clergymen,
fifty-five were women, and four were children. It is a broad fact that these
288 sufferers were not put to death for any offence against property or person.
They were not rebels against the Queen's authority, caught red-handed in arms.
They were not thieves, or murderers, or drunkards, or unbelievers, or men and
women of immoral lives. On the contrary, they were, with barely an exception,
some of the holiest, purest, and best Christians in England, and several of
them the most learned men of their day.
I might say much about the gross injustice and unfairness with which they were
treated at their various examinations. Their trials, if indeed they can be called
trials, were a mere mockery of justice.-I might say much about the abominable
cruelty with which most of them were treated, both in prison and at the stake.
But you must read Foxe's Martyrs on these points. -I make no comment on the
stupid impolicy of the whole persecution. Never did Rome do herself such irreparable
damage as she did in Mary's reign. Even unlearned people, who could not argue
much, saw clearly that a Church which committed such horrible bloodshed could
hardly be the one true Church of Christ. But I have no time for all this. I
must conclude this general sketch of this part of my subject with two short
For one thing, I ask my readers never to forget that for the burning of our Reformers the Church of Rome is wholly and entirely responsible. The attempt to transfer the responsibility from the Church to the secular power is a miserable and dishonest subterfuge. The men of Judah did not slay Samson; but they delivered him bound into the hands of the Philistines! The Church of Rome did not slay the Reformers; but she condemned them, and the secular power executed the condemnation. The precise measure of responsibility which ought to be meted out to each of Rome's agents in the matter is a point that I do not care to settle. Miss Strickland, in her "Lives of the Queens of England" has tried in vain to shift the blame from unhappy Mary. With all the zeal of a woman, she has laboured hard to whitewash her character.
The reader of her biography will find little about martyrdoms. But it will
not do. Mr. Froude's volume tells a very different tale. The Queen, and her
Council, and the Parliament, and the Popish Bishops, and Cardinal Pole, must
be content to share the responsibility among them. One thing alone is very certain.
They will never succeed in shifting the responsibility off the shoulders of
the Church of Rome. Like the Jews and Pontius Pilate, when our Lord was crucified,
all parties must bear the blame. The BLOOD
is upon them all.
A lady in high position told Bonner in a letter, after Philpot's death, that
his cruelty had lost the hearts of 20,000 Papist" In twelve months. For
another thing, I wish my readers to remember that the burning of the Marian
martyrs is an act that the Church of Rome has never repudiated, apologized for,
or repented of, down to the present day. There stands the huge blot on her escutcheon;
and there stands the huge fact side by side, that she never made any attempt
to wipe it away. Never has she repented of her treatment of the Vaudois and
the Albigenses;-never has she repented of the wholesale murders of the Spanish
Inquisition; -never has she repented of the massacre of St. Bartholomew;-never
has she repented of the burning of the English Reformers. We should make a note
of that fact, and let it sink down into our minds.
Rome never changes. Rome will never admit that she has made mistakes. She burned
our English Reformers 300 years ago. She tried hard to stamp out by violence
the Protestantism which she could not prevent spreading by arguments. If Rome
had only the power, I am not sure that she would not attempt to play the whole
game over again.
The question may now arise in our minds, Who were the leading English Reformers
that were burned? What were their names, and what were the circumstances attending
their deaths? These are questions which may very properly be asked, and questions
to which I proceed at once to give an answer.
In this part of my paper I am very sensible that I shall seem to many to go
over old ground. But I am bold to say that it is ground which ought often to
be gone over. I, for one, want the names of our martyred Reformers to be "Household
Words" in every Protestant family throughout the land. I shall, therefore,
make no apology for giving the names of the nine principal English martyrs in
the chronological order of their deaths, and for supplying you with a few facts
about each of them. Never, I believe, since Christ left the world, did Christian
men ever meet a cruel death with such glorious faith, and hope, and patience,
as these Marian martyrs. Never did dying men leave behind them such a rich store
of noble sayings, sayings which deserve to be written in golden letters in our
histories, and handed down to our children's children.
(I) The first leading English Reformer who broke the ice and crossed the river,
as a martyr in Mary's reign, was John Rogers, a London Minister, Vicar
of St. Sepulchre's, and Prebendary and Reader of Divinity at St. Paul's. He
was burned in Smithfield on Monday, the 4th of February, 1555. Rogers was born
at Deritend, in the parish of Aston, near Birmingham. He was a man who, in one
respect, had done more for the cause of Protestantism than any of his fellow-sufferers.
In saying this I refer to the fact that he had assisted Tyndale and Coverdale
in bringing out a most important version of the English Bible, a version commonly
known as Matthew's Bible. Indeed, he was condemned as "Rogers, alias
Matthew." This circumstance, in all human probability, made him a marked
man, and was one cause why he was the first who was brought to the stake.
Rogers' examination before Gardiner gives us the idea of his being a bold,
thorough Protestant, who had fully made up his mind on all points of the Romish
controversy, and was able to give a reason for his opinions. At any rate, he
seems to have silenced and abashed his examiners even more than most of the
martyrs did. But argument, of course, went for nothing. "Woe to the conquered!"
If he had the word, his enemies had the sword.
On the morning of his martyrdom he was roused hastily in his cell in Newgate,
and hardly allowed time to dress himself. He was then led forth to Smithfield
on foot, within sight of the Church of St. Sepulchre, where he had preached,
and through the streets of the parish where he had done the work of a pastor.
By the wayside stood his wife and ten children (one a baby) whom Bishop Bonner,
in his diabolical cruelty, had flatly refused him leave to see in prison.
Rogers' prophetic words in prison, addressed to Day, printer of Foxe's "Acts and Monuments," are well worth quoting: "Thou shalt live to see the alteration of this religion, and the Gospel freely preached again. Therefore, have me commended to my brethren, as well in exile as here, and bid them be circumspect in displacing the Papist" and putting good ministers into Churches, or else their end will be worse than ours.' '-Foxe, iii. p.300 (1684 edition).
He just saw them, but was hardly allowed to stop, and then walked on calmly
to the stake, repeating the 51st Psalm. An immense crowd lined the street, and
filled every available spot in Smithfield. Up to that day men could not tell
how English Reformers Would behave in the face of death, and could hardly believe
that Prebendaries and Dignitaries Would actually give their bodies to be burned
for their religion. But when they saw John Rogers, the first martyr, walking
steadily and unflinchingly into a fiery grave, the enthusiasm of the crowd knew
no bounds. They rent the air with thunders of applause. Even Noailles, the French
Ambassador, wrote home a description of the scene, and said that Rogers went
to death "as if he was walking to his wedding." By God's great mercy
he died with comparative ease. And so the first Marian martyr passed away.
(2) The second leading Reformer who died for Christ's truth in Mary's reign
was John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester. He was burned at Gloucester on
Saturday, the 9th of February, 1555. Hooper was a Somersetshire man by birth.
In many respects he was, perhaps, the noblest martyr of them all. Of all Edward
the Sixth's bishops, none has left behind him a higher reputation for personal
holiness, and diligent preaching and working in his diocese. None, judging from
his literary remains, had clearer and more Scriptural views on all points in
theology. Some might say that Edward the Sixth's Bishop of Gloucester was too
Calvinistic; but he was not more so than the Thirty-nine Articles. Hooper was
a farsighted man, and saw the danger of leaving nest-eggs for Romanism in the
Church of England. In his famous dispute with Cranmer and the other bishops
about wearing Romish vestments at his consecration, it has been, I know, the
fashion to condemn him as too stiff and unbending. I say boldly that the subsequent
history of our Church makes it doubtful whether we ought not to reverse our
verdict. The plain truth is, that in principle Hooper was right, and his opponents
A man like Hooper, firm, stern, not naturally genial, unbending and unsparing
in his denunciation of sin, was sure to have many enemies. He was one of the
first marked for destruction as soon as Popery was restored. He was summoned
to London at a very early stage of the Marian persecution, and, after lingering
eighteen months in prison, and going through the form of examination by Bonner,
Gardiner, Tunstall, and Day, was degraded from his office, and sentenced to
be burned as a heretic. At first it was fully expected that he would suffer
in Smithfield with Rogers. This plan, for some unknown reason, was given up,
and to his great satisfaction Hooper was sent down to Gloucester, and burnt
in his own diocese, and in sight of his own cathedral. On his arrival there,
he was received with every sign of sorrow and respect by a vast multitude, who
went out on the Cirencester Road to meet him, and was lodged for the night in
the house of a Mr. Ingram, which is still standing, and probably not much altered.
There Sir Anthony Kingston, whom the good Bishop had been the means of converting
from a sinful life, entreated him, with many tears, to spare himself, and urged
him to remember that "Life was sweet, and death was bitter." To this
the noble martyr returned this memorable reply, that "Eternal life was
more sweet, and eternal death was more bitter."
On the morning of his martyrdom he was led forth, walking, to the place of execution, where an immense crowd awaited him. It was market-day; and it was reckoned that nearly 7000 people were present. The stake was planted directly in front of the western gate of the Cathedral-close, and within 100 yards of the deanery and the east front of the Cathedral. The exact spot is marked now by a beautiful memorial at the east end of the churchyard of St. Mary-de-Lode. The window over the gate, where Popish friars watched the Bishop's dying agonies, stands unaltered to this day.
When Hooper arrived at this spot, he was allowed to pray, though strictly forbidden
to speak to the people. And there he knelt down, and prayed a prayer which has
been preserved and recorded by Foxe, and is of exquisitely touching character.
Even then a box was put before him containing a full pardon, if he would only
recant. His only answer was, "Away with it; if you love my soul, away with
it I" He was then fastened to the stake by an iron round his waist, and
fought his last fight with the king of terrors. Of all the martyrs, none perhaps,
except Ridley, suffered more than Hooper did. Three times the faggots had to
be lighted, because they would not burn properly. Three quarters of an hour
the noble sufferer endured the mortal agony, as Foxe says, "neither moving
backward, forward, nor to any side," but only praying, "Lord Jesus,
have mercy on me; Lord Jesus, receive my spirit;" and beating his breast
with one hand till it was burned to a stump. And so the good Bishop of Gloucester
(3) The third leading Reformer who suffered in Mary's reign was Rowland
Taylor, Rector of Hadleigh, in Suffolk. He was burned on Aldham Common,
close to his own parish, the same day that Hooper died at Gloucester, on Saturday,
the 9th February, 1555. Rowland Taylor is one of whom we know little, except
that he was a great friend of Cranmer, and a doctor of divinity and canon law.
But that he was a man of high standing among the Reformers is evident, from
his being ranked by his enemies with Hooper, Rogers, and Bradford; and that
he was an exceedingly able and ready divine is clear from his examination, recorded
by Foxe. Indeed, there is hardly any of the sufferers about whom the old Martyrologist
has gathered together so many touching and striking things. One might think
he was a personal friend.
Striking was the reply which he made to his friends at Hadleigh, who urged
him to flee, as he might have done, when he was first summoned to appear in
London before Gardiner: -What will ye have me to do?. I am old, and have already
lived too long to see these terrible and most wicked days. Fly you, and do as
your conscience leadeth you. I am fully determined, with God's grace, to go
to this Bishop and tell him to his beard that he doth naught. I believe before
God that I shall never be able to do for my God such good service as I may do
now.' 'Foxe's"Acts and Monuments," vol. iii. p.138.
Striking were the replies which he made to Gardiner and his other examiners.
None spoke more pithily, weightily, and powerfully than did this Suffolk incumbent.
Striking and deeply affecting was his last testament and legacy of advice to
his wife, his family, and parishioners, though far too long to be inserted here,
excepting the last sentence : -"For God's sake beware of Popery: for though
it appear to have in it unity, yet the same is vanity and Antichristianity,
and not in Christ's faith and verity."-Foxe's"Acts and Monuments,"
He was sent down from London to Hadleigh, to his great delight, to be burned
before the eyes of his parishioners. When he got within two miles of Hadleigh,
the Sheriff of Suffolk asked him how he felt. "God be praised, Master Sheriff,"
was his reply, "never better. For now I am almost at home. I lack but just
two stiles to go over, and I am even at my Father's house." As he rode
through the streets of the little town of Hadleigh, he found them lined with
crowds of his parishioners, who had heard of his approach, and came out of their
houses to greet him with many tears and lamentations. To them he only made one
constant address, "I have preached to you God's Word and truth, and am
come this day to seal it with my blood." On coming to Aldham Common, where
he was to suffer, they told him where he was. Then he said,-" Thank God,
I am even at home."
When he was stripped to his shirt and ready for the stake, he said, with a
loud voice,-" Good people, I have taught you nothing but God's Holy Word,
and those lessons that I have taken out of the Bible; and I am come hither to
seal it with my blood." He would probably have said more, but, like all
the other martyrs, he was strictly forbidden to speak, and even now was struck
violently on the head for saying these few words. He then knelt down and prayed,
a poor woman of the parish insisting, in spite of every effort to prevent her,
in kneeling down with him. After this, he was chained to the stake, and repeating
the 51st Psalm, and crying to God, "Merciful Father, for Jesus Christ's
sake, receive my soul into Thy hands," stood quietly amidst the flames
without crying or moving, till one of the guards dashed out his brains with
a halberd. And so this good old Suffolk incumbent passed away.
(4) The fourth leading Reformer who suffered in Mary's reign was Robert Ferrar, Bishop of St. David's, in Wales. He was burned at Carmarthen on Saturday, the 30th March, 1555. Little is known of this good man beyond the fact that he was born at Halifax, and was the last Prior of Nostel, in Yorkshire, an office which he surrendered in 1540. He was also Chaplain to Arch-bishop Cranmer and to the Protector Somerset, and to this influence he owed his elevation to the Episcopal bench. He was first imprisoned for various trivial and ridiculous charges on temporal matters, in the latter days of Edward the Sixth, after the fall of the Protector Somerset, and afterwards was brought before Gardiner, with Hooper, Rogers, and Bradford, on the far more serious matter of his doctrine.
The articles exhibited against him clearly show that in all questions of faith
he was of one mind with his fellow-martyrs. Like Hooper and Taylor, he was condemned
to be burned in the place where he was best known, and was sent down from London
to Carmarthen. What happened there at his execution is related very briefly
by Foxe, partly, no doubt, because of the great distance of Carmarthen from
London in those pre-railways days; partly, perhaps, because most of those who
saw Ferrar burned could speak nothing but Welsh. One single fact is recorded
which shows the good Bishop's courage and constancy in a striking light. He
had told a friend before the day of execution that if he saw him once stir in
the fire from the pain of his burning, he need not believe the doctrines he
had taught. When the awful time came, he did not forget his promise, and, by
God's grace, he kept it well. He stood in the flames holding out his hands till
they were burned to stumps, until a bystander in mercy struck him on the head,
and put an end to his sufferings. And so the Welsh Bishop passed away.
(5) The fifth leading Reformer who suffered in Mary's reign was John Bradford,
Prebendary of St. Paul's, and Chaplain to Bishop Ridley. He was burned in Smithfield
on Monday, July the 1st, 1555, at the age of forty-five. Few of the English
martyrs, perhaps, are better known than Bradford, and none certainly deserve
better their reputation. Strype calls Bradford, Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer,
the "four prime pillars" of the Reformed Church of England. He was
by birth a Manchester man, and to the end of his life retained a strong interest
in the district with which he was connected. At an early age his high talents
commended him to the notice of men in high quarters, and he was appointed one
of the six royal chaplains who were sent about England to preach up the doctrines
of the Reformation. Bradford's commission was to preach in Lancashire and Cheshire,
and he seems to have performed his duty with singular ability and success. He
preached constantly in Manchester, Liverpool, Bolton, Bury, Wigan, Ashton, Stockport,
Prestwich, Middleton, and Chester, with great benefit to the cause of Protestantism,
and with great effect on men's souls. The consequence was what might have been
expected. Within a month of Queen Mary's accession Bradford was in prison, and
never left it until he was burned. His holiness, and his extraordinary reputation
as a preacher, made him an object of great interest during his imprisonment,
and immense efforts were made to pervert him from the Protestant faith. All
these efforts, however, were in vain As he lived, so he died.1
Bradford seems to have had a very strong feeling about the causes for which
God permitted the Marian persecution. Writing to his mother from prison, he
says: ' Ye all know there never was more knowledge of God, and less godly living
and true serving of God.-God, therefore, is now come, and because He will not
damn us with the world He punisheth us. -Foxe, iii. p.255.
On the day of his execution he was led out from Newgate to Smithfield about
nine o'clock in the morning, amid such a crowd of people as was never seen either
before or after. A Mrs. Honey-wood, who lived to the age of ninety-two, and
died about 1620, remembered going to see him burned, and her shoes being trodden
off by the crowd. Indeed, when he came to the stake the Sheriffs of London were
so alarmed at the press that they would not allow him and his fellow-sufferer,
Leaf, to pray as long as they wished. "Arise," they said, "and
make an end; for the press of the people is great."
At that word," says Foxe, "they both stood up upon their feet, and
then Master Bradford took a faggot in his hands and kissed it, and so likewise
the stake." When he came to the stake he held up his hands, and, looking
up to heaven, said, "0 England, England, repent thee of thy sins! Beware
of idolatry; beware of false Antichrists! Take heed they do not deceive you!"
After that he turned to the young man Leaf, who suffered with him, and said,
"Be of good comfort, brother; for we shall have a merry supper with the
Lord this night." After that he spoke no more that man could hear, excepting
that he embraced the reeds, and said, "Strait is the gate, and narrow is
the way, that leadeth to eternal life, and few there he that find it."
"He endured the flames," says Fuller, "as a fresh gale of wind
in a hot summer day." And so, in the prime of life, he passed away.
(6, 7) The sixth and seventh leading Reformers who suffered in Mary's reign
were two whose names are familiar to every Englishman,-Nicholas Ridley,
Bishop of London, and Hugh Latimer, once Bishop of Worcester.
They were both burned at Oxford, back to back, at one stake, on the 16th of October 1555. Ridley was born at Willimondswike, in Northumberland, on the borders. Latimer was born at Thurcaston, in Leicestershire. The history of these two great English Protestants is so well known to most people that I need not say much about it. Next to Cranmer, there can be little doubt that no two men did so much to bring about the establishment of the principles of the Reformation in England. Latimer, as an extraordinary popular preacher, and Ridley, as a learned man and an admirable manager of the Metropolitan diocese of London, have left behind them reputations which never have been surpassed. As a matter of course, they were among the first that Bouner and Gardiner struck at when Mary came to the throne, and were persecuted with relentless severity until their deaths.
How they were examined again and again by Commissioners about the great points
in controversy between Protestants and Rome,-how they were shamefully baited,
teased, and tortured by every kind of unfair and unreasonable dealing, how they
gallantly fought a good fight to the end, and never gave way for a moment to
their adversaries, all these are matters with which I need not trouble my readers.
Are they not all fairly chronicled in the pages of good old Foxe? I will only
mention a few circumstances connected with their deaths.
On the day of their martyrdom they were brought separately to the place of
execution, which was at the end of Broad Street, Oxford, close to Balliol College.
Ridley arrived on the ground first, and seeing Latimer come afterwards, ran
to him and kissed him, saying, "Be of good heart, brother; for God will
either assuage the fury of the flames, or else strengthen us to abide it."
They then prayed earnestly, and talked with one another, though no one could
hear what they said. After this they had to listen to a sermon by a wretched
renegade divine named Smith, and, being forbidden to make any answer, were commanded
to make ready for death.
Ridley's last words before the fire was lighted were these, "Heavenly
Father, I give Thee most hearty thanks that Thou-hast called me to a profession
of Thee even unto death. I beseech Thee, Lord God, have mercy on this realm
of England, and deliver the same from all her enemies. ' Latimer's last words
were like the blast of a trumpet, which rings even to this day,-" Be of
good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day, by God's grace,
light such a candle in England as I trust shall never be put out." When
the flames began to rise, Ridley cried out with a loud voice in Latin, "Into
thy hands, 0 Lord, I commend my spirit: Lord, receive my spirit," and afterwards
repeated these last words in English. Latimer cried as vehemently on the other
side of the stake, "Father of heaven, receive my soul." Latimer soon
died. An old man, above eighty years of age, it took but little to set his spirit
free from its earthly tenement. Ridley suffered long and painfully, from the
bad management of the fire by those who attended the execution. At length, however,
the flames reached a vital part of him, and he fell at Latimer's feet, and was
at rest. And so the two great Protestant bishops passed away. "They were
lovely and beautiful in their lives, and in death they were not divided."
(8) The eighth leading English Reformer who suffered in Mary's reign was John
Philpot, Archdeacon of Winchester. He was burned in Smithfield on Wednesday,
December the 18th, 1555. Philpot is one of the martyrs of whom we know little
comparatively, except that he was born at Compton, in Hampshire, was of good
family, and well connected, and had a very high reputation for learning. The
mere fact that at the beginning of Mary's reign he was one of the leading champions
of Protestantism in the mock discussions which were held in Convocation, is
sufficient to show that he was no common man. The relentless virulence with
which he was persecuted by Gardiner is easily accounted for, when we remember
that Gardiner, when he was deposed from his See in Edward VI.'s time, was Bishop
of Winchester, and would naturally regard his successor, Bishop Ponet, and all
his officials, with intense hatred. A Popish bishop was not likely to spare
a Protestant archdeacon.
The thirteen examinations of Philpot before the Popish bishops are given by
Foxe at great length, and fill no less than one hundred and forty pages of one
of the Parker Society volumes. The length to which they were protracted shows
plainly how anxious his judges were to turn him from his principles. The skill
with which the Archdeacon maintained his ground, alone and unaided, gives a
most favourable impression of his learning, no less than of his courage and
The night before his execution he received a message, while at supper in Newgate, to the effect that he was to be burned next day. He answered at once, "I am ready: God grant me strength and a joyful resurrection." He then went into his bed room, and thanked God that he was counted worthy to suffer for His truth.
The next morning, at eight o'clock, the Sheriffs called for him, and conducted
him to Smithfield. The road was foul and muddy, as it was the depth of winter,
and the officers took him up in their arms to carry him to the stake. Then he
said, merrily, alluding to what he had probably seen at Rome, when traveling
in his early days, "What, will you make me a Pope? I am content to go to
my journey's end on foot." When he came into Smithfield, he kneeled down
and said, "I will pay my vows in thee, Oh Smithfield." He then kissed
the stake and said, "Shall I disdain to suffer at this stake, seeing my
Redeemer did not refuse to suffer a most vile death on the cross for me?"
After that, he meekly repeated the 106th, 107th, and 108th Psalms; and being
chained to the stake, died very quietly. And so the good Archdeacon passed away.
(9) The ninth and last leading Reformer who suffered in Mary's reign was Thomas
Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. He was burned at Oxford, on the 21st
of March, 1556. Cranmer was born at Aslacton, in Nottinghamshire. There is no
name among the English martyrs so well known in history as his. There is none
certainly in the list of our Reformers to whom the Church of England, on the
whole, is so much indebted. He was only a mortal man, and had his weaknesses
and infirmities, it must be admitted; but still, he was a great man, and a good
Cranmer, we must always remember, was brought prominently forward at a comparatively
early period in the English Reformation, and was made Archbishop of Canterbury
at a time when his views of religion were confessedly half-formed and imperfect.
Whenever quotations from Cranmer's writings are brought forward by the advocates
of semi-Romanism in the Church of England, you should always ask carefully to
what period of his life those quotations belong. In forming your estimate of
Cranmer, do not forget his antecedents. He was a man who had the honesty to
grope his way into fuller light, and to cast aside his early opinions and confess
that he had changed his mind on many subjects. How few men have the courage
to do this!
Cranmer maintained an unblemished reputation throughout the reigns of Henry
VIII. and Edward VI., although frequently placed in most delicate and difficult
positions. Not a single man can be named in those days who passed through so
much dirt, and yet came out of it so thoroughly undefiled. Cranmer, beyond all
doubt, laid the foundation of our present Prayer-book and Articles. Though not
perhaps a brilliant man, he was a learned one, and a lover of learned men, and
one who was always trying to improve everything around him. When I consider
the immense difficulties he had to contend with, I often wonder that he accomplished
what he did. Nothing, in fact, but his steady perseverance would have laid the
foundation of our Formularies.
I say all these things in order to break the force of the great and undeniable
fact that he was the only English Reformer who for a time showed the white feather,
and for a time shrank from dying for the truth! I admit that he fell sadly.
I do not pretend to extenuate his fall. It stands forth as an everlasting proof
that the best of men are only men at the best. I only want my readers to remember
that if Cranmer failed as no other Reformer in England failed, he also had done
what certainly no other Reformer had done.
From the moment that Mary came to the English throne, Cranmer was marked for
destruction. It is probable that there was no other English divine whom the
unhappy Queen regarded with such rancour and hatred. She never forgot that her
mother's divorce was brought about by Cranmer's advice, and she never rested
till he was burned. Cranmer was imprisoned and examined just like Ridley and
Latimer. Like them, he stood his ground firmly before the Commissioners. Like
them, he had clearly the best of the argument in all points that were disputed.
But, like them, of course, he was pronounced guilty of heresy, condemned, deposed,
and sentenced to be burned.
And now comes the painful fact that in the last month of Cranmer's life his
courage failed him, and he was persuaded to sign a recantation of his Protestant
opinions. Flattered and cajoled by subtle kindness, frightened at the prospect
of so dreadful a death as burning, tempted and led away by the devil, Thomas
Cranmer fell, and put his hand to a paper, in which he repudiated and renounced
the principles of the Reformation, for which he had laboured so long.
Great was the sorrow of all true Protestants on hearing these tidings! Great
was the triumphing and exultation of all Papists. Had they stopped here and
set their noble victirn at liberty, the name of Cranmer would probably have
sunk and never risen again. But the Ronsish party, as God would have it, outwitted
themselves. With fiendish cruelty they resolved to burn Cranmer, even after
he had recanted. This, by God's providence, was just the turning point for Cranmer's
reputation. Through the abounding grace of God he repented of his fall, and
Through the same abounding grace he resolved to die in the faith of the Reformation. And at last, through abounding grace, he witnessed such a bold confession in St. Mary's, Oxford, that he confounded his enemies, filled his friends with thankfulness and praise, and left the world a triumphant martyr for Christ's truth. I need hardly remind you how, on the 21st March, the unhappy Archbishop was brought out, like Sansson in the hands of the Philistines, to make sport for his enemies, and to be a gazing-stock to the world in St. Mary's Church, at Oxford. I need hardly remind you how, after Dr. Cole's sermon he was invited to declare his faith, and was fully expected to acknowledge publicly his alteration of religion, and his adhesion to the Church of Rome. I need hardly remind you how, with intense mental suffering, the Archbishop addressed the assembly at great length, and at the dose suddenly astounded his enemies by renouncing all his former recantations, declaring the Pope to be Antichrist, and rejecting the Popish doctrine of the Real Presence.
Such a sight was certainly never seen by mortal eyes since the world began!
But then came the time of Cranmer's triumph. With a light heart, and a clear
conscience, he cheerfully allowed himself to be hurried to the stake amidst
the frenzied outcries of his disappointed enemies. Boldly and undauntedly he
stood up at the stake while the flames curled around him, steadily holding out
his right hand in the fire, and saying, with reference to his having signed
a recantation, "This unworthy right hand," and steadily holding up
his left hand towards heaven. Of all the martyrs, strange to say, none at the
last moment showed more physical courage than Cranmer did. Nothing, in short,
in all his life became him so well as the manner of his leaving it. Greatly
he had sinned, but greatly he had repented. Like Peter he fell, but like Peter
he rose again. And so passed away the first Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury.
Soames is my authority for this statement about Cranmer's left band. I canfluditnow~ere else. He also mentions, what other historians record, that when the fire had burned down to ashes, Cranmer's heart was found unconsumed and uninjured.-Soames' "History of the Reformation," vol. iv. p.544. I will not trust myself to make any comment on these painful and interesting histories. I have not time. I only wish my readers to believe that the half of these men's stories have not been told them, and that the stories of scores of men and women less distinguished by position might easily be added to them, quite as painful and quite as interesting. But I will say boldly, that the men who were burned in this way were not men whose memories ought to be lightly passed over, or whose opinions ought to be lightly esteemed.
Opinions for which "an army of martyrs" died ought not to be dismissed
with scorn. To their faithfulness we owe the existence of the Reformed Church
of England. Her foundations were cemented with their blood. To their courage
we owe, in a great measure our English liberty. They taught the land that it
was worth while to die for free thought. Happy is the land which has had such
citizens. Happy is the Church which has had such Reformers, Honour be to those
who at Smithfield, Oxford. Gloucester, Carmarthen, and Hadleigh have raised
stones of remembrance and memorial to the martyrs!
The following martyrdoms are recommended to the special notice of all who possess Foxe's Book of Martyrs: Laurence Saunders, burned at Coventry; William Hunter, at Brentwood; Rawlins White, at Cardiff; George Marsh, at Chester; Thomas Hawkes, at CoggeshaU; John Bland at Canterbury; Alice Driver, at Ipswich; Rose Allen, at Colchester; Joan Waste, at Derby; Richard Woodman, at Lewes; Agnes Irest, at Exeter; Julius Palmer, at Ncwbury; John Noyes, at Laxfield, in Suffolk. III. But I pass on to a point which I hold to be one of cardinal importance in the present day. The point I refer to is the special reason why Os" Reformers were burned. Great indeed would be our mistake if we supposed that they suffered for the vague charge of refusing submission to the Pope, or desiring to maintain the in-dependence of the Church of England. Nothing of the kind! The principal reason why they were burned was because they refused one of the peculiar doctrines of the Romish Church. On that doctrine, in almost every case, hinged their life or death. If they admitted it, they might live; if they refused it, they must die.
The doctrine in question was the real presenceof the body and blood of Christ
in the consecrated elements of bread and wine in the Lord's Supper. Did they,
or did they not believe that the body and blood of Christ were really, that
is, corporally, literally, locally, and materially, present under the forms
of bread and wine after the words of consecration were pronounced? Did they
or did they not believe that the real body of Christ, which was born of the
Virgin Mary, was present on the so called altar so soon as the mystical words
had passed the lips of the priest? Did they or did they not? That was the simple
question. If they did not believe and admit it, they were burned.
The Mass was one of the principal causes why so much turmoil was made in the Church, with the bloodshed of so many godly men.' '-Foxe's Preface to vol. iii. of "Acts and Monuments." The sacrament of the altar was the main touchstone to discover the poor Protestants. This point of the real, corporal presence of Christ in this sacrament, the same body that was crucified, was the compendious way to discover those of the opposite opinion."-Fuller, "Church History," vol. jii. p.399. Tegg's edition.
There is a wonderful and striking unity in the stories of our martyrs on this
subject. Some of them, no doubt, were attacked about the marriage of priests.
Some of them were assaulted about the nature of the Catholic Church. Some of
them were assailed on other points. But all, without an exception, were called
to special account about the real presence, and in every case their refusal
to admit the doctrine formed one principal cause of their condemnation.
(I) Hear what Rogers said:-I was asked whether I believed in the sacrament
to be the very body and blood of our Saviour Christ that was born of the Virgin
Mary, and hanged on the cross, really and substantially? I answered, 'I think
it to be false. I cannot understand really and substantially to signify otherwise
than corporally. But corporally Christ is only in heaven, and so Christ cannot
be corporally in your sacrament.' " Foxe in loco vol. iii. p. ZOZ, edition,
1684. And therefore he was condemned and burned.
(2) Hear what Bishop Hooper said:
"Tunstall asked him to say, 'whether he believed the corporal presence In the, sacrament,' and Master Hooper said plainly 'that there, was none such, neither did he believe any such thing.' Where-upon they bade the notaries write that he was married and would not go from his wife' and that he believed not the corporal presence in the sacrament; wherefore, he was worthy to be deprived of his bishopric."-Foxe in loco,vol. iii. p.123. And so he was condemned and burned.
(3) Hear what Rowland Taylor said: The second cause why I was condemned as
a heretic was that I denied transubstantiation, and concomitation, two juggling
words whereby the Papists believe that Christ's natural body is made of bread,
and the Godhead by and by to be joined thereto, so that immediately after the
words of consecration, there is no more bread and wine in the sacrament, but
the substance only of the body and blood of Christ."
"Because I denied the aforesaid Papistical doctrine (yea, rather plain, wicked idolatry, blasphemy, and heresy) I was judged a heretic."-Foxe in loco, vol. iii. p.141. And therefore he was condemned and burned.
(4) Hear what was done with Bishop Ferrar.
He was summoned to "grant the natural presence of Christ in the sacrament under the form of bread and wine," and because he refused to subscribe this article as well as others, he was condemned. And in the sentence, of condemnation it is finally charged against him that he maintained that "the sacrament of the altar ought not to be ministered on an altar, or to be elevated, or to he adored in any way."-Foxe inloco,vol. iii. p.178. And so he was burned.
(5) Hear what holy John Bradford wrote to the men of Lancasire and Cheshire
when he was in prison: -"The, chief thing which I am condemned for as an
heretic is because I deny in the mcrsment of the altar (which is not Christ's
Supper. but a plain perversion as the Papists now use it) to be a real, natural,
and corporal presence of Christ's body and blood under the forms and accidents
of bread and wine: that is, because I deny transubstantiation, which is the
darling of the devil, and daughter and heir to Antichrist'.religion."-Foxe.
in loco, vol. iii. p.260. And so he was condemned and burned.
(6) Hear what were the words of the sentence of condemnation against Bishop
"The said Nicholas Ridley affirms, maintains, and stubbornly defends certain opinions, assertions, and heresies, contrary to the Word of God and the received faith of the Church, as in denying the true and natural body and blood of Christ to be in the sacrament of the altar, and secondarily, in affirming the substance of bread and wine to remain after the words of consecration."-Foxe. in loco, vol. iii. p.426. And so he was condemned and burned.
(7) Hear the articles exhibited against Bishop Latimer :
That thou hast openly affirmed, defended, and maintained that the true and natural body of Christ after the consecration of the priest, is not really peesent in the sacrament of the altar, and that in the sacrament of the altar remaineth still the substance of bread and wine." And to this article the good old man replied: -"After a corporal being, which the Romish Church furnisheth, Christ's body and blood is not in the sacrament under the forms of bread and wine."-Foxe. in loco, vol. iii p.426. And so he was condemned and burned.
(8) Hear the address made by Bishop Bonner to Archdeacon Philpot: -"You
have offended and trespassed against the sacrament of the altar, denying the
real presence of Christ's body and blood to be there, affirming also material
bread and material wine to be in the sacrament, and not the substance of the
body and blood of Christ." Foxe. in loco, vol. iii. p.495. And because
the good man stoutly adhered to this opinion he was condemned and burned.
(9) Hear, lastly, what Cranmer said with almost his last breath, in St. Mary's
Church, Oxford:-"As for the sacrament, I believe, as I have taught in my
book against the Bishop of Winchester, the which my book teacheth so true a
doctrine, that it shall stand at the last day before the judgment of God when
the Papist's doctrine contrary thereto shall be ashamed to show her face."-Foxe.
in loco, vol. iii. p.562.
If any one wants to know what Cranmer had said in this book, let him take the
following sentence as a specimen: -"They (the Papists) say that Christ
is corporally under or in the forms of bread and wine. We say that Christ is
not there, neither corporally norspiritually;but in them that worthily eat and
drink the bread and wine He is spiritually, and corporally in heaven. -Cranmer
on the Lord's Supper." Parker Society edition, p. 54. And so he was burned.
Now, were the English Reformers right in being so stiff and unbending on this
question of the real presence? Was it a point of such vital importance that
they were justified in dying before they would receive it? These are questions,
I suspect, which are very puzzling to many unreflecting minds. Such minds, I
fear, can see in the whole controversy about the real presence nothing but a
logomachy, or strife of words. But they are questions, I am bold to say, on
which no well-instructed Bible reader can hesitate for a moment in giving his
answer. Such an one will say at once that the Romish doctrine of the real presence
strikes at the very root of the Gospel, and is the very citadel and keep of
Popery. Men may not see this at first, but it is a point that ought to be carefully
remembered. It throws a clear and broad light on the line which the Reformers
took, and the unflinching firmness with which they died.
Whatever men please to think or say, the Romish doctrine of the real presence, if pursued to its legitimate consequences, obscures every leading doctrine of the Gospel, and damages and interferes with the whole system of Christ's truth. Grant for a moment that the Lord's Supper is a sacrifice, and not a sacrament -grant that every time the words of consecration are used the natural body and blood of Christ are present on the Communion Table under the forms of bread and wine grant that every one who eats that consecrated bread and drinks that consecrated wine does really eat and drink the natural body and blood of Christ-grant for a moment these things, and then see what momentous consequences result from these premises.
You spoil the blessed doctrine of Christ's finished work when He died on the cross. A sacrifice that needs to be repeated is not a perfect and complete thing.-You spoil the priestly office of Christ. If there are priests that can offer an acceptable sacrifice of God besides Him, the great High Priest is robbed of His glory.-You spoil the Scriptural doctrine of the Christian ministry. You exalt sinful men into the position of mediators between God and man.-You give to the sacramental elements of bread and wine an honour and veneration they were never meant to receive, and produce an idolatry to be abhorred of faithful Christians.-Last, but not least, you overthrow the true doctrine of Christ's human nature
If the body born of the Virgin Mary can be in more places than one at the same
time, it is not a body like our own, and Jesus was not "the second Adam"
in the truth of our nature. I cannot doubt for a moment that our martyred Reformers
saw and felt these things even more clearly than we do, and, seeing and feeling
them, chose to die rather than admit the doctrine of the real presence. Feeling
them, they would not give way by subjection for a moment, and cheerfully laid
down their lives. Let this fact be deeply graven in our minds. Wherever the
English language is spoken on the face of the globe this fact ought to be clearly
understood by every Englishman who reads history. Rather than admit the doctrine
of the real presence of Christ's natural body and blood under the forms of bread
and wine, the Reformers of the Church of England were content to be burned.
IV. And now I must ask the special attention of my readers while I try to show
the bearing of the whole subject on our own position and on our own times. I
must ask you to turn from the dead to the living, to look away from England
in 1555 to England in this present enlightened and advanced age, and to consider
seriously the light which the burning of our Reformers throws on the Church
of England at the present day.
We live in momentous times. The ecclesiastical horizon on every side is dark and lowering. The steady rise and progress of extreme Ritualism and Ritualists are shaking the Church of England to its very center. It is of the very first importance to understand clearly what it all means. A right diagnosis of disease is the very first element of successful treatment. The physician who does not see what is the matter is never likely to work any cures. Now, I say there can be no greater mistake than to suppose that the great controversy of our times is a mere question of vestments and ornament- of chasubles and copes of more or less church decorations of more or less candles and flowers of more or less bowings and turnings and crossing of more or less gestures and posture of more or less show and form.
The man who fancies that the whole dispute is a mere aesthetic one, a question of taste, like one of fashion and millinery, must allow me to tell him that he is under a complete delusion. He may sit on the shore, like the Epicurean philosopher, smiling at theological storms, and flatter himself that we are only squabbling about trifles; but I take leave to tell him that his philosophy is very shallow, and his knowledge of the controversy of the day very superficial indeed. The things I have spoken of are trifles, I fully concede. But they are pernicious trifles, because they are the outward expression of an inward doctrine. They are the skin disease which is the symptom of an unsound constitution.
They are the plague spot which tells of internal poison. They are the curling
smoke which arises from a hidden volcano of mischief. I, for one, would never
make any stir about church millinery, or incense, or candles, if I thought they
meant nothing beneath the surface. But I believe they mean a great deal of error
and false doctrine, and therefore I publicly protest against them, and say that
those who support them are to be blamed.
I give it as my deliberate opinion that the root of the whole Ritualistic system
is the dangerous doctrine of the real presence of Christ's natural body and
blood in the Lord's Supper under the forms of the consecrated bread and wine.
If words mean anything, this real presence is the foundation principle of Ritualism.
This real presenceis what the extreme members of the Ritualistic party want
to bring back into the Church of England. And just as our martyred Reformers
went to the stake rather than admit the real presence, so I hold that we should
make any sacrifice and contend to the bitter end, rather than allow a materialistic
doctrine about Christ's presence in the Lord's Supper to come back in any shape
into our Communion.
I will not weary my readers with quotations in proof of what I affirm. They
have heard enough, perhaps too much, of them. But I must ask permission to give
two short extracts. Observe what Dr. Pusey says, in a sermon called "will
ye also go away?" (Parker's, 1867): - "While repudiating any materialistic
conceptions of the mode of the presence of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist, such
as I believe is condemned in the term 'corporal presence of our lord's flesh
and blood," i.e., as though His precious body and blood were present in
any gross or carnal way, and not rather sacramentally, really, spiritually-
I believe that in the Holy Eucharist the body and blood of Christ are sacramentally,
supernaturally, ineffably, but verily and indeed present, 'under the forms of
bread and wine;' and that 'where His body is, there is Christ.'" Observe
what Dr. Littledale says, in a tract called "The Real Presence . -
"I. The Christian Church teaches, and has always taught, that in the Holy
Communion, after consecration, the body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ are
'verily and indeed' present on the altar under the forms of bread and wine."
"II. The Church also teaches that this presence depends on God's will, not on man's belief, and therefore that bad and good people receive the very same thing in communicating, the good for their benefit, the bad for their condemnation.
"III. Further, that as Christ is both God and Man, and as these two natures are for ever joined in His one person, His Godhead must be wherever His body is, and therefore He is to be worshipped in His sacrament.
"IV. The body and blood present are that same body and blood which were conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, ascended into heaven, but they are not present in the same manner as they were when Christ walked on earth. He, as Man, is flow naturally in heaven, there to be till the last day, yet He is supernaturally, and just as truly, present in the Holy Communion, in some way which we cannot explain, but only believe."
In both these quotations, we may observe, there is an attempt to evade the
charge of maintaining a "gross and carnal presence." The attempt,
however, is not successful. It is a very curious fact that the Romish controversialist,
Mr. Harding, Bishop Jewell's opponent, said just as much 300 years ago. He said:
-Christ's body is present not after a corporal, or carnal, or naturally wise,
but invisibly, unspeakably, miraculously, super-naturally, spiritually, Divinely,
and in a manner by Him known." - " Harding's Reply to Jewell,"
p.434. Parker Society edit.
In both cases we can hardly fall to observe that the very expressions which
our martyrs steadily refused is employed, "present under the forms of bread
and wine." It is clear, to my mind, that if Dr. Pusey and Dr. Littledale
had been brought before Gardiner and Bonner three hundred years ago, they would
have left the court with flying colours, and, at any rate, would not have been
I might refer my readers to the other published sermons on the Lord's Supper
by men of high position in our Church. I might refer them to several Ritualistic
manuals for the use of Communicants. I might refer them to the famous book "Directorium
Anglicanum." I simply give it as my opinion that no plain man in his senses
can read the writings of extreme Ritualists about the Lord's Supper and see
any real distinction between the doctrine they hold and downright Popery. It
is a distinction without a difference, and one that any jury of twelve honest
men would say at once could not be proved.
I turn from books and sermons to churches, and I ask any reflecting mind to mark, consider, and digest what may be seen in any thorough-going Ritualistic place of worship. I ask him to mark the superstitious veneration and idolatrous honour with which everything within the chancel, and around and upon the Lord's table, is regarded.
I boldly ask any jury of twelve honest and unprejudiced men to look at that
chancel and communion table, and tell me what they think all this means. I ask
them whether the whole thing does not savour of the Romish doctrine of the Real
Presence, and the sacrifice of the Mass? I believe that if Bonner and Gardiner
had seen the chancels and communion tables of some of the churches of this day,
they would have lifted up their hands and rejoiced; while Ridley, Bishop of
London, and Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester, would have turned away with righteous
indignation and said, "This communion table is not meant for the Lord's
Supper on the Lord's board, but for counterfeiting the idolatrous Popish Mass."
I do not for a moment deny the zeal, earnestness, and sincerity of the extreme
Ritualists, though as much might be said for the Pharisees or the Jesuits. I
do not deny that we live in a singularly free country, and that Englishmen,
now-a-days, have liberty to commit any folly short of "felo-de-se."
But I do deny that any clergyman, however zealous and earnest, has a right to
reintroduce Popery into the Church of England. And, above all, I deny that he
has any right to maintain the very principle of the Real Presence, for opposing
which the Reformers of his Church were burned.
The plain truth is, that the doctrine of the extreme Ritualistic school about
the Lord's Supper can never be reconciled with the dying opinions of our martyred
Reformers. The members of this school may protest loudly that they are sound
churchmen, but they certainly are not churchmen of the same Opinions as the
Marian martyrs. If words mean anything, Hooper, and Rogers, and Ridley, and
Bradford, and their companions, held one view of the Real Presence, and the
ultra-Ritualists hold quite another. If they were right, the Ritualists are
wrong. There is a gulf that cannot be crossed between the two parties. There
is a thorough difference that cannot be reconciled or explained away. If we
hold with one side, we cannot possibly hold with the other. For my part, I say,
unhesitatingly, that I have more faith in Ridley, and Hooper, and Bradford,
than I have in all the leaders of the ultra Ritualistic party.
But what are we going to do? The danger is very great, far greater, I fear,
than most people suppose. A conspiracy has been long at work for unprotestantizing
the Church of England, and all the energies of Rome are concentrated on this
little island. A sapping and mining process has been long going on under our
feet, of which we are beginning at last to see a little. We shall see a good
deal more by and by. At the rate we are going, it would never surprise me if
within fifty years the crown of England were no longer on a Protestant head,
and High Mass were once more celebrated in Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's.
The danger, in plain words, is neither more nor less than that of our Church
being unprotestantised and going back to Babylon and Egypt. We are in imminent
peril of re-union with Rome.
Men may call me an alarmist, if they like, for using such language. But I reply,
there is a cause. The upper classes in this land are widely infected with a
taste for a sensuous, histrionic, formal religion. The lower orders are becoming
sadly familiarised with all the ceremonialism which is the stepping-stone to
Popery. The middle classes are becoming disgusted with the Church of England,
and asking what is the use of it. The intellectual classes are finding out that
all religions are either equally good or equally bad. The House of Commons will
do nothing unless pressed by public opinion. We have no Pums or Hampdens there
now.-And all this time Ritualism grows and spreads. The ship is among breakers,-breakers
ahead and breakers astern,-breakers on the right hand and breakers on the left.
Something needs to be done, if we are to escape shipwreck.
The very life of the Church of England is at stake, and nothing less. Take
away the Gospel from a Church and that Church is not worth preserving. A well
without water, a scabbard without a sword, a steam engine without a fire, a
ship without compass and rudder, a watch without a mainspring, a stuffed carcase
with-out life,~11 these are useless things. But there is nothing so use-less
as a Church without the Gospel. And this is the very question that stares us
in the face.-Is the Church of England to retain the Gospel or not? Without it
in vain shall we turn to our arch-bishops and bishops, in vain shall we glory
in our cathedrals and parish churches. Ichabod will soon be written on our walls.
The ark of God will not be with us. Surely something ought to be done.
One thing, however, is very clear to my mind. We ought not lightly to forsake
the Church of England. No I so long as her Articles and Formularies remain unaltered,
unrepealed, and unchanged, so long we ought not to forsake her. Cowardly and
base is that seaman who launches the boat and forsakes the ship so long as there
is a chance of saving her. Cowardly, I say, is that Protestant Churchman who
talks of seceding because things on board our Church are at present out of order.
What though some of the crew are traitors, and some are asleep I What though
the old ship has some leaks, and her rigging has given way in some places! Still
I maintain there is much to be done. There is life in the old ship yet. The
great Pilot has not yet forsaken her. The compass of the Bible is still on deck.
There are yet left on board some faithful and able seamen. So long as the Articles
and Formularies are not Romanized, let us stick by the ship. So long as she
has Christ and the Bible, let us stand by her to the last plank, nail our colours
to the mast, and never haul them down. Once more, I say, let us not be wheedled,
or bullied, or frightened, or cajoled, or provoked, into forsaking the Church
In the name of the Lord let us set up our banners. If ever we would meet Ridley
and Latimer and Hooper in another world without shame, let us "contend
earnestly" for the truths which they died to preserve. The Church of England
expects every Protestant Churchman to do his duty. Let us not talk only, but
act. Let us not act only, but pray. "He that hath no sword, let him sell
his garment and buy one." There is a voice in the blood of the martyrs.
What does that voice say? It cries aloud from Oxford, Smithfield, and Gloucester,-"
Resist to the death the Popish doctrine of the Real Presence, under the forms
of the consecrated bread and wine in the Lord's Supper!"
NOTE. The following quotations about the doctrine of the "Real Presence" are commended to the special attention of all Churchmen in the present day : -' 'Whereas it is ordained in this Office for the Administration of the Lord's Supper, that the Communicants should receive the same kneeling; (which order is well meant, for a signification of our humble and grateful acknowledgment of the benefits of Christ therein given to all worthy Receivers, and for the avoiding of such profanation and disorder in the Holy Communion, as might otherwise ensue;) yet, lest the same kneeling should by any persons, either out of ignorance and infirmity, or out of malice and obstinacy, be misconstrued and depraved;
It is hereby declared, That thereby no adoration is intended, or ought to be
done, either unto the Sacramental Bread or Wine there bodily received, or unto
any corporal presence of Christ's natural Flesh and Blood. For the Sacramental
Bread and Wine remain still in their very natural substances, and therefore
may not be adored; (for that were Idolatry, to be abhorred of all faithful Christians;)
and the natural Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ are in Heaven, and not
here; it being against the truth of Christ's natural Body to be at one time
in more places than one.' '-Rubric at the end of the Communion Service in the
Book of Common Prayer.
(2)" As concerning the form of doctrine used in this Church of England
in the Holy Communion, that the Body and Blood of Christ be under the forms
of bread and wine, when you shall show the place where this form of words is
expressed, then shall you purge yourself from that which in the meantime I take
to be a plain untruth."-' 'Cranmer's Answer to Gardiner," pp.52, 53,
(3) "The real presence of Christ's most blessed Body and Blood is not
to be sought for in the sacrament, but in the worthy receiver of the sacrament."-"
Hooker's Eccles. Pol.," bk. V.p. 67.
(4) "The Church of England has wisely forborne to use the term of Real Presence in all the books set forth by her authority. We neither find it recommended in the Liturgy, nor the Articles, nor the Homilies, nor the Church Catechism, nor Nowell's Catechism. For though it be once in the Liturgy, and once more in the Articles of 1552, it is mentioned in both places as a phrase of the Papists, and rejected for their abuse of it. So that if any Church of England man use it, he does more than the Church directs him; if any reject it, he has the Church's example to warrant him."-" Dean Aldrich's Reply," p.13, 1684. See "Goode on Eucharist," p. 38.
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