Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Martyrdom of Latimer and Ridley

Today marks the 450th commemoration of the martyrdom of Protestant reformers Bishop Latimer and Bishop Ridley at the hands of "Bloody" Mary for their refusal to accept the doctrines of the Catholic Church.

Here is an account of their final moments:

It was on Wednesday October 16th, 1555, that Latimer and Ridley were led out "to witness a last good confession". Ridley led the way, "and, looking back, saw Master Latimer coming after, unto whom he said: 'Oh, be ye there?' 'Yea,' said Master Latimer, 'have after as fast as I can follow'; so he followed a little way off; at length they came both to the stake, the one after the other where first Dr. Ridley entering the place marvellously earnestly holding up both hands, looking towards heaven.

' Then shortly after, espying Master Latimer, with a wondrous cheerful look he ran to him, embraced him and kissed him; and as they who stood near reported, comforted him, saying: 'Be of good heart, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flame or else strengthen us to abide it.' With that he went to the stake kneeled down by it, kissed it and prayed very earnestly; and behind him Master Latimer kneeled, as earnestly calling upon God as he." As they were secured to the stake, Ridley broke out into prayer with the following words:

"Oh, Heavenly Father, I give unto Thee most hearty thanks, for that Thou hast called me to be a professor of Thee, even unto death. I beseech Thee, Lord God, take mercy on this realm of England, and deliver the same from all her enemies."

"Then they brought a faggot, kindled with fire, and laid it down at Ridley's feet. To whom Latimer spoke in this manner: '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.'

"And so the fire being kindled, when Ridley saw the flame flaming up towards him, he cried: 'Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit : Lord, receive my spirit,' and repeated this latter part often in English: 'Lord, Lord, receive my spirit.' Latimer crying as vehemently on the other side: 'Father of Heaven, receive my soul,' he received the flame as though embracing it. After he had stroked his face with his hands, and, as it were, bathed them a little in the fire, he soon died, as it appears with very little pain.

"And thus much concerning the end of this old and blessed servant of God, Bishop Latimer, for whose laborious services, fruitful life, and constant death, the whole Realm has cause to give thanks to Almighty God. [...] And so these two stalwarts of the faith died as they lived, witnessing to the truth of Jesus."

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