Play the man

by chuckofish

Yesterday was the day we Episcopalians remember Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley who were burned at the stake by Queen “Bloody” Mary in England in 1555. (Archbishop Thomas Cranmer is also remembered on October 16, but he was actually executed later.)


When Catholic Mary became Queen of England one of her first acts was to arrest Bishop Ridley, Bishop Latimer, and Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. She insisted that the best way to deal with heresy was to burn as many heretics as possible. In the course of a five-year reign, she lost all the English holdings on the continent of Europe, she lost the affection of her people, and she lost any chance of a peaceful religious settlement in England. Of the nearly three hundred persons burned by her orders, the most famous are the Oxford Martyrs, commemorated yesterday.

The scholar Nicholas Ridley had been a chaplain to King Henry VIII and was Bishop of London under his son Edward. He was a preacher beloved of his congregation. Hugh Latimer also became an influential preacher during King Edward’s reign. He was an earnest student of the Bible, and as Bishop of Worcester he encouraged the Scriptures be known in English by the people. His sermons emphasized that men should serve the Lord with a true heart and inward affection, not just with outward show.

When Ridley was asked if he believed the pope was heir to the authority of Peter as the foundation of the Church, he replied that the church was not built on any man but on the truth Peter confessed — that Christ was the Son of God. Ridley said he could not honor the pope in Rome since the papacy was seeking its own glory, not the glory of God. Neither Ridley nor Latimer could accept the Roman Catholic mass as a sacrifice of Christ. Latimer told the commissioners, “Christ made one oblation and sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, and that a perfect sacrifice; neither needeth there to be, nor can there be, any other propitiatory sacrifice.”

For their heresy they were burned at the stake on October 16, 1555. As the flames rose around them, Latimer encouraged Ridley, “Be of good comfort, Mr. Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace, in England, as I trust never shall be put out.”

Martyrs' monument in Oxford.

Martyrs’ monument in Oxford.

Keep us, O Lord, constant in faith and zealous in witness, that, like thy servants Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, we may live in thy fear, die in thy favor, and rest in thy peace; for the sake of Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

I’m sorry I did not remember the Oxford Martyrs yesterday. Today is a good day to do so as well. Lest we forget.

“They may torture my body, break my bones, even kill me. But then they will have my dead body, but not my obedience.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

(Historical info from