A Devotion for 14 April 2021 Anno Domini (In the Year of our Lord), the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15)
Hugh Latimer was an important personality of the English Reformation. He was one of the greatest of the English Reformers and, without doubt, one of the most courageous. He graduated with a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1524 from Cambridge. The subject of his disputation was a refutation of the new ideas of the Reformation emerging on the Continent of Europe. Latimer at the time described himself as “obstinate a papist as any was in England.” But Hugh Latimer, though a priest in the Church, did not know Christ when he gave that dissertation.
Latimer was later consecrated Bishop of Worcester during the Reformation and named chaplain to King Edward VI.
The faith and courage of Latimer was multiplied when he came to know the Fountain and Light of his redemption the Lord Jesus Christ.
What brought about the conversion of Latimer to the doctrines and faith of the Reformation? It was a single verse from the New Testament that opened his eyes to his own frailty. Though gifted with extraordinary knowledge and preaching skills, Latimer had remained ignorant of his own weakness in faith and calling in Christ. The verse that opened the eyes of Latimer were those in our leading biblical text from 1 Timothy 1:15: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”
Latimer was ordained a priest in 1510, but came into contact with a group of Cambridge divines studying the doctrines being preached by Martin Luther. He was introduced there by a convert of the Continental reformers, Thomas Bilney, who felt burdened to give Latimer his confession following the hearing of Latimer’s disputation at Cambridge on the refutation of the doctrines of the Continental Reformation. Bilney’s confession was simple to quote the verse cited above from 1st Timothy. Bilney was later burned at the stake in 1531 owing to his strong reformation teachings. At that moment, Latimer accepted the doctrines of the Reformers centered on the Holy Scriptures. He began to propose a translation of the Holy Bible into English.
Due to the fervent impulses of the Reformation, Latimer was committed to the Tower of London himself more than once. But was restored as the Bishop of Worcester in 1535. He was confined to the Tower in 1939 for opposing the Six Articles of King Henry VIII. He served with mostly royal favor until the death of the good King Edward VI upon whose death, Mary Tudor (better known as Bloody Mary) ascended the throne on 1 October 1553. She immediately took action to remove every vestige of the Reformation and to turn England back to Rome. The burning of the major reformers was part of that plan. In the course of time, Latimer, Ridley and Cranmer were tried for heresy in that they refused the doctrine of transubstantiation (real physical presence of Christ in the so-called Mass) and the propitiatory foundation of that Mass. Robert Demaus, Hugh Latimer (1904), 506.
Latimer and Ridley were burned at the stake on October 16, 1555 – a fate later experienced by Archbishop Cranmer.
As Latimer and Bilney were at the stake to be burned, Ridley seemed quite nervous. Latimer calmly told him, “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.” And such a Candle did they light that has yet to go out though flickering with the winds of immorality permeating England and the world.
But what, pray tell, was the spark that lit that Candle? Was it not the single verse from 1st Timothy quoted by Thomas Bilney some thirty years earlier?
Bilney was the spark that lit the Candle, Latimer and Ridley were the Candle whose martyrdom fueled the raging fire of the Reformation – a fire which God used to baptize the civilized world in a matter of a century.
If you are feeling insignificant, admit it – you are insignificant in the eyes of the world. But consider that one Bible verse that changed the world – not the man who uttered it, but the verse itself, implanting faith and courage in the heart of another which spread like wildfire around the world.