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by Hugh Latimer


Hugh Latimer, a farmer's son, was born about the year 1491, at Thurcaston, in Leicestershire. He was an only son, with six sisters, who were all well cared for at home. He was a boy of fourteen when sent to Clare College, Cambridge. When about twenty- four years old, he had obtained a college fellowship, had taken the degree of Master of Arts, and was ordained Priest of the Roman Church at Lincoln. In 1524, at the age of about thirty, he proceeded to the degree of B.D., and on the occasion of his doing so he argued publicly for the Pope's authority against opinions of Melancthon. Thomas Bilney went afterwards to Latimer's rooms, gave him his own reasons for goodwill to the teaching of Melancthon, and explained to him his faith as a Reformer in a way that secured Latimer's attention. Latimer's free, vigorous mind, admitted the new reasonings, and in his after-life he looked always upon "little Bilney" as the man who had first opened his eyes.

With homely earnestness Latimer began soon to express his new convictions. His zeal and purity of life had caused him to be trusted by the University as a maintainer of old ways; he had been appointed cross-bearer to the University, and elected one of the twelve preachers annually appointed in obedience to a bull of Pope Alexander VI. Now Latimer walked and worked with Bilney, visiting the sick and the prisoners, and reasoning together of the needs of Christendom. The Bishop of the diocese presently forbade Latimer's preaching in any of the pulpits of the University. Robert Barnes, prior of the Augustinian Friars at Cambridge, a man stirred to the depths by the new movement of thought, then invited Latimer to preach in the church of the Augustinians. Latimer was next summoned before Wolsey, whom he satisfied so well that Wolsey overruled the Bishop's inhibition, and Latimer again became a free preacher in Cambridge.

The influence of Latimer's preaching became every year greater; and in December, 1529, he gave occasion to new controversy in the University by his two Sermons on the Card, delivered in St. Edward's Church, on the Sunday before Christmas, 1529. Card-playing was in those days an amusement especially favoured at Christmas time. Latimer does not express disapproval, though the Reformers generally were opposed to it. The early statutes of St. John's College, Cambridge, forbade playing with dice or cards by members of the college at any time except Christmas, but excluded undergraduates even from the Christmas privilege. In these sermons Latimer used the card-playing of the season for illustrations of spiritual truth drawn from the trump card in triumph, and the rules of the game of primero. His homely parables enforced views of religious duty more in accordance with the mind of the Reformers than of those who held by the old ways. The Prior of the Dominicans at Cambridge tried to answer Latimer's sermon on the cards with an antagonistic sermon on the dice: the orthodox Christian was to win by a throw of cinque and quatre--the cinque, five texts to be quoted against Luther; and the quatre the four great doctors of the Church. Latimer replied with vigour; others ranged themselves on one side or the other, and there was general battle in the University; but the King's Almoner soon intervened with a letter commanding silence on both sides till the King's pleasure was further declared. The King's good-will to Latimer was due, as the letter indicated, to the understanding that Latimer "favoured the King's cause" in the question of divorce from Katherine of Arragon.

In March, 1530, Latimer was called to preach before Henry VIII., at Windsor. The King then made Latimer his chaplain, and in the following year gave him the rectory of West Kington, in Wiltshire. The new rector, soon accused of heresy, was summoned before the Bishop of London and before Convocation; was excommunicated and imprisoned, and absolved by special request of the King. When Cranmer became Archbishop of Canterbury, Latimer returned into royal favour, and preached before the King on Wednesdays in Lent. In 1535, when an Italian nominee of the Pope's was deprived of the Bishopric of Worcester, Latimer was made his successor; but resigned in 1539, when the King, having virtually made himself Pope, dictated to a tractable parliament enforcement of old doctrines by an Act for Abolishing Diversity of Opinion. From that time until the death of Henry VIII. Latimer was in disgrace.

The accession of Edward VI. brought him again to the front, and the Sermon on the Plough, in this volume, is a famous example of his use of his power under Edward VI., as the greatest preacher of his time, in forwarding the Reformation of the Church, and of the lives of those who professed and called themselves Christians. The rest of his story will be associated in another volume of this Library with a collection of his later sermons.

H. M.



Tu quis es? Which words are as much to say in English, "Who art thou?" These be the words of the Pharisees, which were sent by the Jews unto St. John Baptist in the wilderness, to have knowledge of him who he was: which words they spake unto him of an evil intent, thinking that he would have taken on him to be Christ, and so they would have had him done with their good wills, because they knew that he was more carnal, and given to their laws, than Christ indeed should be, as they perceived by their old prophecies; and also, because they marvelled much of his great doctrine, preaching, and baptizing, they were in doubt whether he was Christ or not: wherefore they said unto him, "Who art thou?" Then answered St. John, and confessed that he was not Christ.

Now here is to be noted the great and prudent answer of St. John Baptist unto the Pharisees, that when they required of him who he was, he would not directly answer of himself what he was himself, but he said he was not Christ: by the which saying he thought to put the Jews and Pharisees out of their false opinion and belief towards him, in that they would have had him to exercise the office of Christ; and so declared further unto them of Christ, saying, "He is in the midst of you and amongst you, whom ye know not, whose latchet of his shoe I am not worthy to unloose, or undo." By this you may perceive that St. John spake much in the laud and praise of Christ his Master, professing himself to be in no wise like unto him. So likewise it shall be necessary unto all men and women of this world, not to ascribe unto themselves any goodness of themselves, but all unto our Lord God, as shall appear hereafter, when this question aforesaid, "Who art thou?" shall be moved unto them: not as the Pharisees did unto St. John, of an evil purpose, but of a good and simple mind, as may appear hereafter.

Now then, according to the preacher's mind, let every man and woman, of a good and simple mind, contrary to the Pharisees' intent, ask this question, "Who art thou?" This question must be moved to themselves, what they be of themselves, on this fashion: "What art thou of thy only and natural generation between father and mother, when thou camest into this world? What substance, what virtue, what goodness art thou of, by thyself?" Which question if thou rehearse oftentimes unto thyself, thou shalt well perceive and understand how thou shalt make answer unto it; which must be made on this wise: I am of myself, and by myself, coming from my natural father and mother, the child of the ire and indignation of God, the true inheritor of hell, a lump of sin, and working nothing of myself but all towards hell, except I have better help of another than I have of myself. Now we may see in what state we enter into this world, that we be of ourselves the true and just inheritors of hell, the children of the ire and indignation of Christ, working all towards hell, whereby we deserve of ourselves perpetual damnation, by the right judgment of God, and the true claim of ourselves; which unthrifty state that we be born unto is come unto us for our own deserts, as proveth well this example following:

Let it be admitted for the probation of this, that it might please the king's grace now being to accept into his favour a mean man, of a simple degree and birth, not born to any possession; whom the king's grace favoureth, not because this person hath of himself deserved any such favour, but that the king casteth this favour unto him of his own mere motion and fantasy: and for because the king's grace will more declare his favour unto him, he giveth unto this said man a thousand pounds in lands, to him and his heirs, on this condition, that he shall take upon him to be the chief captain and defender of his town of Calais, and to be true and faithful to him in the custody of the same, against the Frenchmen especially, above all other enemies.

This man taketh on him this charge, promising his fidelity thereunto. It chanceth in process of time, that by the singular acquaintance and frequent familiarity of this captain with the Frenchmen, these Frenchmen give unto the said captain of Calais a great sum of money, so that he will but be content and agreeable that they may enter into the said town of Calais by force of arms; and so thereby possess the same unto the crown of France. Upon this agreement the Frenchmen do invade the said town of Calais, alonely by the negligence of this captain.

Now the king's grace, hearing of this invasion, cometh with a great puissance to defend this his said town, and so by good policy of war overcometh the said Frenchmen, and entereth again into his said town of Calais. Then he, being desirous to know how these enemies of his came thither, maketh profound search and inquiry by whom this treason was conspired. By this search it was known and found his own captain to be the very author and the beginner of the betraying of it. The king, seeing the great infidelity of this person, dischargeth this man of his office, and taketh from him and from his heirs this thousand pounds of possessions. Think you not that the king doth use justice unto him, and all his posterity and heirs? Yes, truly: the said captain cannot deny himself but that he had true justice, considering how unfaithfully he behaved him to his prince, contrary to his own fidelity and promise. So likewise it was of our first father Adam. He had given unto him the spirit of


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