Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Exciting Church History

By Clara H. Stuart

While I disagreed with the title of the book, since the last Apostle was John, I loved this book. It is historical fiction, about a Protestant who was martyred by Bloody Mary.
Contrary to the new meaning some try to give to the word, a martyr is still, and only someone who is killed for their faith, not someone who kills themselves for their faith.
Anyway, I had heard bits and pieces of Hugh Latimer's life in sermons, so I read this book to learn more. Stuart just brought this whole time period to life for me.
It follows Latimer's early days as a very self-disciplined priest in the Roman Catholic church. As a bishop, he goes to hear the confessions of other priests in his diocese. One, Thomas Bilney, known as Little Bilney for his stature, witnesses to Latimer through his confession by admitting that he had doubts about certain doctrines as they were contrary to Scripture. This made Latimer begin to question things as well and search out the truth.
As it was a difficult time of turmoil politicially and religiously, there was much persecution on both sides. Each side, Catholic and Protestant would imprision, torture or execute their enemies as soon as they would get into power. I didn't like that.
Latimer eventually became King Henry VIII's personal preacher. Once, when Latimer preached something that Henry did not like, Henry told him to return the following week to recant. When Latimer again stood before him, he first spoke in soliloquy:
"Hugh Latimer, consider before whom you stand; the King of England , who has power over your life, and so, Hugh Latimer, consider well your words." Then he added,
"Consider, also, Hugh Latimer, before whom you will one day stand; the King of Heaven and Earth, who has power not only to take your life, but to cast you into hell, and therefore, Hugh Latimer, consider well your words." And he preached the same sermon!
Other characters who you learn about are Thomas Cranmer and Nicholas Ridley, who were martyred as well. Cranmer was convinced to recant and signed the document. But when the time came to publicly read it , he proclaimed the opposite. He was so remorseful over his original recanting that as he was being burned at the stake, he thrust his hand into the fire first, saying, "Thou unworthy hand."
Latimer was burned at the stake with Ridley. Latimer's famous last words were, "Play the man, Master Ridley. For we shall this day light such a candle in England , I trust, as shall never be put out."

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