315. RIDLEY AND LATIMER -- INTRODUCTION.
Illustration -- Bishop Ridley
Dr. Nicholas Ridley, and Master Hugh Latimer, both bishops, preachers, and martyrs of Christ; with their doings, conferences, and sufferings described.HE same year, month, and day, which the fore-said two martyrs, William Wolsey and Thomas Pygot, suffered at Ely, which was A. D. 1555, October sixteenth, followed also at Oxford the slaughter of two other special and singular captains and principal pillars of Christ's church, Master Ridley, bishop of London, and Master Hugh Latimer, bishop sometime of Worcester, of whose famous doings and memorable learning, and incomparable ornaments and gifts of grace, joined with no less commendable sincerity of life, as all the realm can witness sufficiently; so it needeth not greatly that we should stand exactly at this time in setting forth a full description of the same, but only to comprehend briefly, in a few words, touching the order of their lives, so much as necessarily serveth to the due instruction of the reader, and maketh to the use of this present history, in declaring first their beginning and bringing up; then their studies and acts in the university; their preferments also by their studies to higher dignity; at last their trouble and travail in setting forth religion, and in maintaining the same to the shedding of their blood. And first to begin with the life of Master Ridley, whose story here ensueth.
Among many other worthy and sundry histories and notable acts of such as of late days have been turmoiled, murdered, and martyred, for the true gospel of Christ in Queen Mary's reign, the tragical story and life of Dr. Ridley, I thought good to commend to chronicle, and leave to perpetual memory; beseeching thee (gentle reader) with care and study well to peruse, diligently to consider, and deeply to print the same in thy breast, seeing him to be a man beautified with such excellent qualities, so ghostly inspired and godly learned, and now written doubtless in the book of life, with the blessed saints of the Almighty, crowned and throned amongst the glorious company of martyrs. First, descending of a stock right worshipful, he was born in Northumberlandshire, who, being a child, learned his grammar with great dexterity in Newcastle, and was removed from thence to theuniversity of Cambridge, where he in short time became so famous, that for his singular aptness, he was called to higher functions and offices of the university, by degree attaining thereunto, and was called to be head of Pembroke Hall, and there made doctor of divinity. After this, departing from thence, he travelled to Paris, who, at his return, was made chaplain to King Henry the Eighth, and promoted afterwards by him to the bishopric of Rochester; and so from thence translated to the see and bishopric of London, in King Edward's days.
In which calling and offices he so travailed and occupied himself by preaching and teaching the true and wholesome doctrine of Christ, that never good child was more singularly loved of his dear parents, than he of his flock and diocese. Every holiday and Sunday he lightly preached in some one place or other, except he were otherwise letted by weighty affairs and business; to whose sermons the people resorted, swarming about him like bees, and coveting the sweet flowers and wholesome juice of the fruitful doctrine, which he did not only preach, but showed the same by his life, as a glittering lanthorn to the eyes and senses of the blind, in such pure order and chastity of life, (declining from all evil desires and concupiscences,) that even his very enemies could not reprove him in any one jot thereof.
Besides this, he was passingly well learned, his memory was great, and he of such reading withal, that of right he deserved to be comparable to the best of this our age, as can testify as well divers his notable works, pithy sermons, and sundry his disputations in both the universities, as also his very adversaries, all which will say no less themselves.
Besides all this, wise he was of counsel, deep of wit, and very politic in all his doings. How merciful and careful he was to reduce the obstinate papists from their erroneous opinions, and by gentleness to win them to the truth, his gentle ordering and courteous handling of Dr. Heath, late archbishop of York, being prisoner with him in King Edward's time in his house one year, sufficiently declareth. In fine, he was such a prelate, and in all points so good, godly, and ghostly a man, that England may justly rue the loss of so worthy a treasure. And thus hitherto concerning these public matters.
Now will I speak something further, particularly of his person and conditions. He was a man right comely and well proportioned in all points, both in complexion and lineaments of the body. He took all things in good part, bearing no malice nor rancour in his heart, but straightways forgetting all injuries and offences done against him. He was very kind and natural to his kinsfolk, and yet not bearing with them any thing otherwise than right would require, giving them always for a general rule, yea, to his own brother and sister, that they, doing evil, should seek or look for nothing at his hand, but should be as strangers and aliens unto him; and they to be his brother and sister, which used honesty, and a godly trade of life.
He, using all kinds of ways to mortify himself, was given to much prayer and contemplation; for duly every morning, so soon as his apparel was done upon him, he went forthwith to his bed-chamber, and there, upon his knees, prayed the space of half an hour; which being done, immediately he went to his study, if there came no other business to interrupt him, where he continued till ten of the clock, and then came to the common prayer, daily used in his house. The prayers being done, he went to dinner, where he used little talk, except otherwise occasion by some had been ministered, and then was it sober, discreet, and wise, and sometimes merry, as cause required.
The dinner done, which was not very long, he used to sit an hour or thereabouts, talking, or playing at the chess: that done, he returned to his study, and there would continue, except suitors or business abroad were occasion of the contrary, until five of the clock at night, and then would come to common prayer, as in the forenoon: which being finished, he went to supper, behaving himself there as at his dinner before. After supper recreating himself in playing at chess the space of an hour, he would then return again to his study; continuing there till eleven of the clock at night, which was his common hour to go to bed, then saying his prayers upon his knees, as in the morning when he rose. Being at his manor of Fulham, as divers times he used to be, he read daily a lecture to his family at the common prayer, beginning at the Acts of the Apostles, and so going through all the Epistles of St. Paul, giving to every man that could read, a New Testament, hiring them besides with money to learn by heart certain principal chapters, but especially Acts xiii., reading also unto his household oftentimes Psalm ci., being marvellous careful over his family, that they might be a spectacle of all virtue and honesty to others. To be short, as he was godly and virtuous himself, so nothing but virtue and godliness reigned in his house, feeding them with the food of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Now remaineth a word or two to be declared of his gentle nature and kindly pity in the usage of an old woman called Mrs. Bonner, mother to Dr. Bonner, sometime bishop of London, which I thought good to touch, as well for the rare clemency of Dr. Ridley, as the unworthy inhumanity and ungrateful disposition again of Dr. Bonner. Bishop Ridley, being at his manor of Fulham, always sent for this said Mrs. Bonner, dwelling in a house adjoining to his house, to dinner and supper, with one Mrs. Mungey, Bonner's sister, saying, "Go for my mother Bonner;" who, coming, was ever placed in the chair at the table's end, being so gently entreated, welcomed, and taken, as though he had been born of her own body, being never displaced of her seat, although the king's council had been present; saying, when any of them were there, as divers times they were, "By your Lordship's favour, this place of right and custom is for my mother Bonner." But how well he was recompensed for this his singular gentleness and pitiful piety after, at the hands of the said Dr. Bonner, almost the least child that goeth by the ground can declare. For who afterward was more enemy to Ridley than Bonner and his? Who more went about to seek his destruction than he? recompensing this his gentleness with extreme cruelty; as well appeared by the strait handling of Ridley's own natural sister, and George Shipside her husband, from time to time: whereas the gentleness of the other did suffer Bonner's mother, sister, and other of his kindred, not only quietly to enjoy all that which they had of Bonner, but also entertained them in his house, showing much courtesy and friendship daily unto them: whereas on the other side, Bishop Bonner, being restored again, would not suffer the brother and natural sister of Bishop Ridley, and other his friends, not only not to enjoy that which they had by the said their brother Bishop Ridley, but also currishly, without all order of law or honesty, by extort power wrested from them all the livings they had.
And yet, being not therewith satisfied, he sought all the means he could to work the death of the foresaid Shipside, saying, that he would make twelve godfathers to go upon him; which had been brought to pass indeed, at what time he was prisoner at Oxford, had not God otherwise wrought his deliverance by means of Dr. Heath, then the bishop of Worcester.
Hereby all good indifferent readers notoriously have to understand, what great diversity was in the disposition of these two natures; whereof as the one excelled in mercy and pity, so the other again as much or more excelled in churlish ingratitude, and despiteful disdain. But of this matter enough.
Now concerning God's vocation, how Dr. Ridley was first called to the savouring and favouring of Christ and his gospel, partly by his disputation before, and other his treatises, it may appear that the first occasion of his conversion was by reading of Bertram's Book of the Sacrament, whom also the conference with Bishop Cranmer, and with Peter Martyr, did not a little confirm in that behalf: who now, by the grace of God, being thoroughly won and brought to the true way, as he was before blind and zealous in his old ignorance, so was he constant and faithful in the right knowledge which the Lord had opened unto him, (as well appeared by his preachings and doings during all the time of King Edward,) and so long did much good, while authority of extern power might defend and hold up the peace of the church, and proceedings of the gospel. But after that it so pleased the heavenly will of the Lord our God, to bereave us of that stay, and call from us King Edward, that precious prince, as the whole state of the Church of England was left desolate and open to the enemies' hand; so this Bishop Ridley, after the coming in of Queen Mary, eftsoon, and with the first, was laid hands upon, and committed to prison, as before hath sufficiently been expressed: first in the Tower, then after, translated from thence with the archbishop of Canterbury and Master Latimer to Oxford, was with them enclosed in the common gaol and prison of Bocardo, while at length, being dissevered from them, he was committed to custody in the house of one Irish, where he remained till the last day of his death and martyrdom, which was from the year of our Lord 1554, till the year 1555, and sixteenth day of October.
Furthermore, as touching his disputations and conflicts had at Oxford, and also of his determination had at Cambridge, also his travails in persuading and instructing the Lady Mary before she was queen, his reasons and conference likewise had in the Tower at the lieutenant's board, enough hath been said already. Beside this, other conferences he had in prison both with Dr. Cranmer and Master Latimer, as here followeth to be read.