From "Thy Kingdom Come" (2005)
a magazine of The Association of the Covenant People,
Burnaby, B.C. Canada
KEEP THE CANDLE BURNING by Bernard L. Bateson, F.Ph.S., M.R.S.L.
"Be of good cheer, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this
day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust
shall never be put out."
With these words, Hugh Latimer encouraged his companion
Nicholas Ridley, as together they were burnt at the stake in
Oxford on October 16, four hundred & fifty years ago.
The young King Edward VI had died in July 1553 and had been
succeeded on the throne by his sister Mary; and all who had
initiated or sympathized with the growing Protes tantism of the
Edwardian policy were soon marked out for destruction. Foremost
among these were Thomas Crammer, Archbishop of Canterbury;
Latimer, formerly Bishop of Worcester; and Ridley, Bishop of
London. Very soon these three prelates were conned to the Tower
of London, where, despite the fact that they were denied the
opportunity of conversation or easy access to books, through the
personal servants who were permitted to attend them they were
able to hold a certain amount of correspondence. By this means
they were enabled to assist one another to clear views of their
doctrinal position. Moreover, their writings were smuggled out of
the Tower and safely conveyed overseas, and printed at Zurich in
1556. It is therefore possible to gain precise knowledge of these
In February 1555, the Tower of London becoming crowded with
prisoners, the three prelates were housed together in one cell
with John Bradford, a Prebendary of St.
Paul's Cathedral, who preceded them to the stake, being
burnt at Smithfield on July 1, 1555. The hindrance to personal
communion being removed, the three bishops were together until
the end of March, when they were moved to Oxford to Bocardo, a
well-known prison at the North Gate.
In commemorating the fourth centenary of the martyrdom of
Latimer and Ridley, we naturally ask the question, 'What was the
crime for which they were put to death?'
They were burnt at the stake for 'heresy', and that 'heresy'
consisted of denying the supremacy of the Pope as the successor
of St. Peter, and especially the denial of the teach ing that in
the mass the bread and wine were literally changed into the body
and blood of Jesus Christ.
They were much better acquainted with the Scriptures than
those who condemned them; and in his written statement delivered
to the Commissioners at Oxford in the Spring of 1554, Latimer
declared that Creamer, Ridley, Bradford and he, while in the
Tower, had searched the Scriptures to find the truth: 'There did
we together read over the New Testament with great deliberation
and painful study: and I assure you, as 1 will answer [at] the
tribunal throne of God's Majesty, we could find in the Testament
of Christ's body and blood no other presence, but a spiritual
presence; nor that the mass was any sacrifice for sins; but in
that heavenly book it appeared that the sacrifice which Christ
Jesus our Redeemer did upon the cross, was perfect, holy and
good; that God, the heavenly Father, did require none other, nor
that never again to be done; but was pacified with that only omni
sufficient and most painful sacrifice of that sweet slain Lamb,
Christ our Lord, for our sins' (Remains, p. 258 f ).
On April 14, Creamer, Ridley and Latimer appeared on trial
before a distinguished company of scholars appointed by
Convocation and the Universities of Oxford and Cam bridge. The
Notary read to them in turn the articles which they were required
to affirm, and which stated:
1. In the sacrament of the altar, that the words of consecration
uttered by a priest, by the divine virtue, is made the very real
and natural body born of the Virgin, under the kinds of bread and
2. After the consecration, the substance of bread and wine do not
remain, nor any other substance, but of God and man.
3. In the mass there is a propitiatory and lively sacrifice, for
the quick and the dead.
Each of the prelates in turn denounced the articles as
contrary to the Word of God; and the prisoners were then sent
away, to be separated for the rest of their days, Cranmer to
Bocardo, Ridley to the Sheriffs house and Latimer to the
Bailiff's. Thus there was no opportunity for further fellowship
The following week the disputation continued, and on the
20th they were again brought before the Commissioners to hear
judgment given. They were declared to be 'no members of the
Church' and would be condemned as heretics unless, at this last
moment, they would recant. This they firmly refused to do and
were again taken back to their quarters.
Some months later the three bishops were again brought
before Commissioners, appointed this time under the Papal Legate,
Cardinal Pole, as the direct representatives of the Pope. Grimmer
again appeared first and was granted the legal fiction of being
cited to appear before the Pope in Rome within 80 days, though
just how he was to reach there was apparently nobody's concern.
But the others were dealt with more summarily.
Both in turn did homage to the Crown alone and refused to
acknowledge the Pope's authority in any matter, and again denied
the doctrine of transubstantiation. Remaining resolute, they were
again condemned as heretics and were finally burnt at the stake
outside the north wall of Oxford in the ditch opposite Balliol
College, now Broad Street.
Thus it was these two men who died like nearly 300 other men
and women in the reign of Mary Tudor; because their consciences
would not permit them to accept as true that which they regarded
as contrary to the Word of God; and Latimer spoke those famous
words to Ridley. (opening quote)
Entered on this Website January 2005