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Story of the Reformer: Hugh Latimer


The English reformation has many heroes, but few of them are as beloved as Hugh Latimer. Latimer was a popular preacher who gave his life for the sake of the Gospel, famously burning at the stake with a sermon on his lips. The influence of the English martyrs caused the gospel to spread across England like a wild fire.

Hugh Latimer was born in 1487. His father made his wealth farming and was able to send his son, who showed an aptitude for learning, to Cambridge at the age of fourteen. While at Cambridge, Latimer was confronted with reformation ideas. He rejected them and committed himself to the study of the Catholicism, becoming a priest while also strongly opposing the protestant movement.

Labeled the "Obstinate Papist", Latimer preached in favor papal authority and against the reformers (especially targeting Philip Melanchthon), fighting to keep the "German" reformation out of England. His brilliance in defending Catholicism and his eloquence in the pulpit earned him a commendation that allowed him to preach anywhere in the realm. He became very popular as a preacher and was afforded opportunities to preach all over England.

At this same time, the underground reformation movement was becoming more influential. After hearing him preach,an influential reformer named Thomas Bilney, requested Latimer hear his confession. While listening, Latimer was convicted of his own sin and the truth of God's grace toward sinners washed over him. He believed the truth and was set free from his errors.

After his experience of conversion, he befriended Bilney and certain underground leaders who had been influenced by the writings of Martin Luther. Among them were Thomas Cranmer and William Tyndale. This collective, who met at the White Horse Tavern helped Latimer to see the truth of scripture; turning a strong opponent into a zealous reformer.

Latimer began to leverage his popularity to preach reformed doctrine. Because of his popularity as a preacher, he was summoned to preach before King Henry VII. After the first meeting with the king, Latimer withdrew for a time to West Kington. There he preached and pastored for the poor country community. Later when Thomas Cranmer was appointed to Archbishop of Canterbury, he recalled Latimer to preach before the King and was given the title of Bishop. Latimer's station in London, would lead the preacher to tangle with politics and get entrapped by the swaying heart of the fickle monarchy.

Latimer did not sway with the political tide, but would stand on the truth found in scripture through rise and fall of Protestantism.

Nearing the high point of the protestant movement in England, Queen Mary assented to the throne. She was a staunch Catholic who had a hatred for the reformation due to how he mother had been treated by, then protestant, King Henry VII. She made it her Catholic duty to stomp out the reformation and Bishop Latimer was among the brethren of reformers who were sentenced to be burned at the stake under Queen Mary's command. As he was being tied to the stake, he is quoted to have said to fellow martyr Nicholas Ridley, “Play the man, Master Ridley. We shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”

Hugh Latimer popularity among the English people was not to be ignored. His death along with other martyrs sealed the resolve of the reformers and cause English people to rally to the protestant cause.

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