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One detail is still needed to complete this manly religion-human reason. The minister ascends the pulpit and speaks: he speaks coldly, I admit, with literary comments and over-long demonstrations; but solidly, seriously, like a man who desires to convince, and that by honest means, who addresses only the reason, and discourses only of justice. With Latimer and his contemporaries, preaching, like religion, changes its object and character; like religion, it becomes popular and moral, and appropriate to those who hear it, to recall them to their duties. Few men have deserved better of their fellows, in life and word, than he. He was a genuine Englishman, conscientious, courageous, a man of common sense and practical, sprung from the laboring and independent class, the very heart and sinews of the nation. His father, a brave yeoman, had a farm of about four pounds a year, on which he employed half a dozen men, with thirty cows which his wife milked, a good soldier of the king, keeping equipment for himself and his horse so as to join the army if need were, training his son to use the bow, making him buckle on his breastplate, and finding a few nobles at the bottom of his purse wherewith to send him to school, and thence to the university. Little Latimer studied eagerly, took his degrees, and continued long a good Catholic, or, as he says, “in darckense and in the shadow of death.” At about thirty, having often heard Bilney the martyr, and having, moreover, studied the world and thought for himself, he, as he tells us, “ began from that time forward to smell the word of God, and to forsooke the Schoole Doctours, and such fooleries;” presently to preach, and
of the eating day was ten of the clocks, and upon the fasting day eleven. After dinner full truly she would go her stations to three altars daily; daily her dirges and commendations she would say, and her even songs before supper, both of the day and of our Lady, beside many other prayers and psalters of David throughout the year; and at night before she went to bed, she failed not to resort unto her chapel, and there a large quarter of an hour to occupy her devotions. No marvel, though all this long time her kneeling was to her painful, and so painful that many times it caused in her back pain and disease. And yet nevertheless, daily, when was in health, she failed not to say the crown of our lady, which, after the manner of Rome, containeth sixty and three aves, and at every ave, to make a kneeling. As for meditation, she had divers books in French, wherewith she would occupy herself when she was weary of prayer. Wherefore divers she did translate out of the French into English. Her marvellous weeping they can bear witness of, which here before have heard her confession, which be divers and many, and at many seasons in the year, lightly every third day. Can also record the same those that were present at any time when she was houshylde, which was full nigh a dozes times every year, what foods of tears there issued forth of her cyes!” 1 See vol i. p. 112, note 1. VOL. II.
forthwith to pass for a seditious man, very troublesome to those men in authority who did not act with justice. For this was in the first place the salient feature of his eloquence: he spoke to people of their duties, in exact terms. One day, when he preached before the university, the Bishop of Ely came, curious to hear him. Immediately he changed his subject, and drew the portrait of a perfect prelate, a portrait which did not tally well with the bishop's character; and he was denounced for the act. When he was made chaplain of Henry VIII., awe-inspiring as the king was, little as he was himself, he dared to write to him freely to bid him stop the persecution which was set on foot, and to prevent the interdiction of the Bible; verily he risked his life. He had done it before, he did it again; like Tyndale, Knox, all the leaders of the Reformation, he lived in almost ceaseless expectation of death, and in contemplation of the stake. Sick, liable to racking headaches, stomachaches, pleurisy, stone, he wrought a vast work, traveling, writing, preaching, delivering at the age of sixty-seven two sermons every Sunday, and generally rising at two in the morning, winter and summer, to study. Nothing can be simpler or more effective than his eloquence; and the reason is, that he never speaks for the sake of speaking, but of doing work. His sermons, amongst others those which he preached before the young king Edward VI., are not, like those of Massillon before the youthful Louis XV., hung in the air, in the calm region of philosophical amplifications: Latimer wishes to correct, and he attacks actual vices, vices which he has seen, which every one can point at with the finger; he too points them out, calls things by their name, and people too, giving facts and details, bravely; and sparing nobody, sets himself without hesitation to denounce and reform iniquity. Universal as his morality is, ancient as is his text, he applies it to his contemporaries, to his audience, at times to the judges who are there “in velvet cotes,” who will not hear the poor, who give but a dog's hearing to such a woman in a twelvemonth, and who leave another poor woman in the Fleet, refusing to accept bail;at times to the king's officers, whose thefts he enumerates, whom he sets between hell and restitution, and of whom he obtains, nay extorts, pound for pound, the stolen money. From abstract iniquity he proceeds always to special abuse; for it is abuse which cries out and demands, not a discourser, but a champion. With him theology holds but a secondary place; before illi practice: the true offense against God in his eyes is a bad action; the true service, the suppression of bad deeds. And see by what paths he reaches this. No grand words, no show of style, no exhibition of dialectics. He relates his life, the lives of others, giving dates, numbers, places; he abounds in anecdotes, little obvious circumstances, fit to enter the imagination and arouse the recollections of each hearer. He is familiar, at times hu morous, and always so precise, so impressed with real events and particularities of English life, that we might glean from his sermons an almost complete description of the manners of his age and country. To reprove the great, who appropriate common lands by their enclosures, he details the needs of the peasant, without the least care for conventional proprieties; he is not working now for conventionalities, but to produce convictions:
i Latimer's Seven Sermons before Edward VI., ed. Edward Arber, 1869. Second sermon, pp. 73 and 74. 2 Latimer's Sermons. Fifth sermon, ed. Arber, p. 147.
“A plough land must have sheep; yea, they must have sheep to dung their ground for bearing of corn; for if they have no sheep to help to sat the ground, they shall have but bare corn and thin. They must have swine for their food, to make their veneries or bacon of: their bacon is their venison, for they shall now have hangum tuum, if they get any other venison; so that bacon is their necessary meat to feed on, which they may not lack. They must have other cattle: as horses to draw their plough, and for carriage of things to the markets; and kine for their milk and cheese, which they must live upon and pay their rents. These cattle must have pasture, which pasture if they lack, the rest must needs fail them: and pasture they cannot have, if the land be taken in, and enclosed from them.” 1
Another time, to put his hearers on their guard against hasty judgments, he relates that, having entered the gaol at Cambridge to exhort the prisoners, he found a woman accused of having killed her child, who would make no confession:
“Which denying gave us occasion to search for the matter, and so we did. And at the length we found that her husband loved her not; and therefore he sought means to make her out of the way. The matter was thus: “a child of hers had been sick by the space of a year, and so decayed as it were in a consumption. At the length it died in harvest-time. She went to her neighbours and other friends to desire their help, to prepare the child to the burial: but there was nobody at home; every man was in the field. The woman, in an heaviness and trouble of spirit, went, and being herself alone, prepared the child to the burial. Her husband coming home, not having great love towards her, accused her of the murder; and so she was taken and brought to Cambridge. But as far forth as I could learn through earnest inquisition, I thought in my conscience the woman was not guilty, all the circumstances well considered. Immediately after this I was called to preach before the king, which was my first sermon that I made before his majesty, and it was done at Windsor; when his majesty, after the sermon was done, (lid most familiarly talk with me in the gallery. Now, when I saw my time, I kneeled down before his majesty, opening the whole matter; and afterwards most humbly desired his majesty to pardon that woman. For I thought in my conscience she was not guilty; else I would not for all the world sue for a murderer. The king most graciously heard my humble request, insomuch that I had a pardon ready for her at my return homeward. In the mean season that same woman was delivered of a child in the tower at Cambridge, whose godfather I was, and Mistress Cheke was godmother. But all that time I hid my pardon, and told her nothing of it, only exhorting her to confess the truth. At the length the time came when she looked to suffer: I came, as I was wont to do, to instruct her; she made great moan to me, and most earnestly required me that I would find the means that she might be purified before her suffering; for she thought she should have been damned, if she should suffer without purification. . . . So we travailed with this woman till we brought her to a good trade; and at the length shewed her the king's pardon, and let her go.'
1 Latimer's Sermons, ed. Corrie, 1844, 2 vols., Last Sermon preached before Edward
VI., i. 249.
“This tale I told you by this occasion, that though some women be very unnatural, and forget their children, yet when we hear anybody so report, we should not be too hasty in believing the tale, but rather suspend vur judgments till we know the truth.” I
When a man preaches thus, he is believed; we are sure that he is not reciting a lesson; we feel that he has seen, that he draws his moral not from books, but from facts; that his counsels come from the solid basis whence everything ought to come, -I mean from manifold and personal experience. Many a time have I listened to popular orators, who address the pocket, and prove their talent by the money they have collected; it is thus that they hold forth, with circumstantial, recent, proximate examples, with conversational turns of speech, setting aside great arguments and fine language. Imagine the ascendency of the Scriptures enlarged upon in such words; to what strata of the people it could descend, what a hold it had upon sailors, workmen, servants! Consider, again, how the authority of these words is doubled by the courage, independence, integrity, unassailable and recognized virtue of him who utters them. He spoke the truth to the king, unmasked robbers, incurred all kind of hate, resigned his see rather than sign anything against his conscience; and at eighty years, under Mary, refusing to recant, after two years of prison and waiting—and what waiting! he was led to the stake. His companion, Ridley, slept the night before as calmly, we are told, as ever he did in his life; and when ready to be chained to the post, said aloud, “O heavenly Father, I give Thee most hearty thanks, for that Thou hast called me to be a professor of Thee, even unto death.” Latimer in his turn, when they brought the lighted fagots, cried, “ Be of good comfort, 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.” He then bathed his hands in the flames, and resigning his soul to God, he expired.
1 Latimer's Sermons, ed. Corrie, First Sermon on the Lord's Prayer, i. 335.
He had judged rightly: it is by this supreme trial that a creed proves its strength and gains its adherents; tortures are a sort of propaganda as well as a testimony, and make converts whilst they make martyrs. All the writings of the time, and all the commentaries which may be added to them, are weak compared to the actions which, one after the other, shone forth at that time from learned and unlearned, down to the most simple and ignorant. In three years, under Mary, nearly three hundred persons, men, women, old and young, some all but children, allowed themselves to be burned alive rather than to abjure. The all-powerful idea of God, and of the faith due to Him, made them resist all the protests of nature, and all the trembling of the flesh. “No one will be crowned,” said one of them, “ but they who fight like men; and he who endures to the end shall be saved." Doctor Rogers was burned first, in presence of his wife and ten children, one at the breast. He had not been told beforehand, and was sleeping soundly. The wife of the keeper of Newgate woke him, and told him that he must burn that day. ** Then,” said he, “ I need not truss my points.” In the midst of the flames he did not seem to suffer. “ His children stood by consoling him, in such a way that he looked as if they were conducting him to a merry marriage."! A young man of nineteen,
1 Noailles, the French (and Catholic) Ambassador. John Fox, History of the Acts and Monuments of the Church, ed. Townsend, 1843, 8 vols., vi. 612, says: “His wife and children, bring eleven in number, and ten able to go, and one sucking on her breast, met kirn by the way, as he went towards Smithfield.”—TK.