Children’s magazines are no longer what they used to be!
If you flip open most children’s magazine these days, they are filled with tales of witchcraft and carnal fantasy, pandering to the young minds of this age.
However, back in the 70s, there used to be a secular children’s magazine called “Look and Learn” (which was published in the UK but sold in Singapore), that featured informative articles and even Christians-themed ones like the one featured below.
Keeper of the King’s Conscience
Although Latimer was fearless in his criticism of the King, his position remained secure – until the King died.
No chapter in England’s story pulsates with more human drama than the Tudor era. It was the first great age of the common man; when subjects reaped the highest rewards for intelligence rather than breeding. For some, too, it was an age of believing in principles; if necessary, in dying for them.
Sir Thomas More is best known for a combination of these twin qualities. He embodied the Tudor virtues of great wisdom and unshakable belief in the highest principles; his stirring martyrdom has tended to monopolise those virtues for himself.
But there were others besides More, many others. One such was Bishop Hugh Latimer who, in times when to say what he felt could cost a man his head, was fearlessly outspoken in parish pulpit and royal Court. A man of intelligence and principle – and ready, when the time came, to pay the price for it.
In the pulpit Latimer was electric. He spoke to men in a way that went straight to their hearts, warning them of their sins with simple, earnest words. He even called on his hearers by name-something so new that people flocked to hear him.
One day, his reputation reached the ears of the Bishop of Ely, who went to Latimer’s church to listen. Latimer used the occasion to describe what a Bishop ought to be, which was very unlike what everyone knew this Bishop to be.
Angrily the Bishop of Ely complained to Cardinal Wolsey, who sent for Latimer.
“What did you say to make him so cross?” Wolsey asked the preacher.
Latimer told him and Wolsey smiled. “If the Bishop of Ely cannot abide by such a doctrine, you shall preach it to his face,” he said. ” Let him say what he will.” He then gave Latimer permission to preach in any church in England.
Latimer was bound to make enemies, but after Wolsey’s fall, Henry the Eighth protected him by making him one of his chaplains. Even when Latimer fearlessly sermonised his criticism of the King’s way of life, Henry grinned and nodded his head cheerfully. He liked this fellow Latimer. Who had chosen to be the keeper of his conscience, above all, he liked his great learning, his soldierly bearing and his love of life.
Hugh Latimer, born in a Leicestershire farmhouse, could easily have been taken for a soldier of the King rather than the Cross. His father, a small but prosperous farmer, had ridden to battle for the King and when Hugh was seven he had helped to buckle on his father’s armour before a fight against the rebels at Blackheath.
Hugh learned to draw a bow in the true English way but his fondness for learning decided his father to send him to school.
There he shone; at 14 he went to Cambridge; before he was 20 he was preaching in that electric style that made his audience sit up and listen.
He was soon in trouble with his superiors, the Bishops. They summoned him before a Church court and sentenced him to prison. The King did not like this verdict and intervened, saying that Latimer could go back to his parish.
In Germany, the Reformation began. The reformers were against much that they thought was wrong in the beliefs and customs of the Roman Catholic Church. In England, the King was also attacking the Roman church and for his kind of Reformation Henry needed a man like Latimer.
The bishops liked Latimer no better when the King made him Bishop of Worcester, for he grew still plainer in telling them their faults. He attacked their love of ease and luxury – “I would rather feed many coarsely than a few deliciously,” he told them.
Then, in a sermon, he called them “strong thieves,” adding, “There is not enough hemp grown in the kingdom to hang all the thieves in England.” The bishops burned with rage as they listened to all this.
Henry vacillated: he did not like all the changes advocated by the Protestants, as the followers of the Reformation were called. When he thought they were going too far he allowed his bishops to draw up the chief beliefs of the Roman Catholic religion in six articles, which everyone was bound to agree to.
But not Latimer. He was against the six articles. He surrendered his bishopric and was put in the Tower for a time to cool his heels. Until the end of Henry’s reign he had to keep silent and could no more rebuke the sins of men.
When Henry died his son, Edward the Sixth reigned and Latimer was released. The government favoured the Protestants and Archbishop Cranmer could now make all the changes in the Church that he liked.
Back in the pulpit, Latimer drew the biggest congregations in London. He made his hearers feel their guilt so deeply that many of the officers of the court brought to him money which they had unjustly taken from the King and begged him to return it, which he did on condition that he was allowed to hide their names.
Edward the Sixth died in his teens and his sister Mary came to the throne. She was an ardent Roman Catholic and the Catholics in prison were set free and Protestants were put into the empty cells.
Among others, notice was sent to Latimer that he was to appear before the Queen’s Council. He might have managed to escape and leave England had he wished, but he was not a man to flee. At the Council’s order he was imprisoned in the Tower, where he spent more than a year before being transferred to a common jail in Oxford.
At last he was brought before three Catholic bishops who had been sent to Oxford to try him. Latimer, in the 65 years of his busy life, had not grown rich. He came out now before his judges in an old threadbare gown of Bristol frieze; on his head he wore a handkerchief with a night cap over it, and another cap over that with two broad flaps buttoned under his chin. Round his waist he wore a leather belt, to which a Testament was fastened, and his spectacles hung round his neck.
Next day Latimer and his fellow Bishop, Ridley, who had been imprisoned with him and shared his trial, were condemned to be burned as heretics.
On the day of the execution, before the watching crowd. Ridley came out first. He wore a black gown; he had dressed himself with care and trimmed his beard. He turned round to look up at the windows of the prison, hoping to see his friend Cranmer, who was also imprisoned there, but he could not see him. Instead, he saw Latimer coming along in his old frieze coat, with his cap on his head, just as he had been at his trial.
Ridley ran and embraced him saying. “Be of good heart, brother; God will either assuage the flame or strengthen us to abide it.” They knelt and prayed together; then both quickly got ready for death.
Ridley gave his cloak and tippet to his brother-in-law who was with him and to each of those who were standing near he gave some little remembrance. To one he gave a new groat, to others handkerchiefs, nutmegs, slices of ginger, his watch and other trifles. Everyone tried to get something, if it was only a rag. But Latimer had nothing to give: he took off his coat and stood clad in his long shroud.
Would either man recant? “Do, and you shall live,” they were told. Both solemnly shook their heads.
Chains were put round their bodies, and a kind man hung round the neck of each a bag of powder to hasten the terrible work of the flames. Then the lighted torch was laid to the faggots.
As the flames began to crackle Latimer cried out, “Be of good comfort. Master Ridley; 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.”
Five months passed before Archbishop Cranmer suffered the same fate as his friends. In a moment of weakness he tried to save himself by recanting, and wrote confessing that the opinions he held were grievous errors.
But this was not enough to save his life after all, and he grew bitterly ashamed of his weakness. Before he died, he told the assembled people how he repented of what he had written and when he was tied to the stake, before the rest or his body was touched, he held his right hand in the flames. saying:
“This was the hand that wrote it, therefore it shall first suffer punishment.”
He neither stirred nor cried out while the hand was burned.
Great strength of character, steadfast belief in principles, these were the virtues of the great common men of Tudor times. They have, perhaps, passed down splendid standards for all of us to live by.
In an age where there is so much moral compromise (even amongst Christian circles!), may the Lord give us men like Bishop Hugh Latimer, who are not afraid to preach against sin — and as the article above puts it – men who have “great strength of character, steadfast belief in principles” and who will “pass down splendid standards for all of us to live by”.