WRITTEN BY Chase Ringler
Sir Isaac Newton was once famously quoted as saying, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” Those who have done great things in the 21st century, and those of us who have simply tried to live our lives well, are indebted to the giants of the past. In every field of study there have been men and women who have gone before those of us living today. It is these giants who have forged a path to greatness. This scenario is not only true in the secular sense. For those of us who claim Christ, we are indebted to the pastors, missionaries, scholars, lay servants, and countless martyrs who have gone before us.
My desire for this blog is to highlight brothers and sisters of the past who have shown a particular amount of conviction and courage when facing this life. My hope is that as we look at these Christian heroes, we are brought to remember the One who showed us what convictional courage is and why it is important for us as Christians to live as “more than conquerors” even amidst the “tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, and swords” of this life.
As Christians we are called to live lives of conviction and of courage. Far too often, however, we fail in this endeavor. It is my hope that these profiles will embolden you to live your life courageously amidst the troubles of this world and that you would let the hope of the Gospel shine through your life—no matter what you face. Please be encouraged by the profiles of Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley:
One of the most honest and outspoken bishops of the English Reformation. – JC Ryle Five English Reformers
Born: ca. 1485
Birthplace: Thurcaston, Leicestershire, England
Story: Latimer showed promise as a young child and was sent to school at a very young age. He attended Cambridge and earned a degree in theology. His final paper was a presentation against Philip Melanchthon, Martin Luther’s right hand man and a very important thinker that helped shape Reformation theology. After hearing Latimer’s paper, Thomas Bilney, who was an early reformer, came and asked if Latimer would hear his confession. It was this event that led Latimer to trust in Christ. Latimer became very influential during the reign of Henry VIII. His style was easy to understand, and people would come from all over England to hear him preach. Latimer was eventually appointed the bishop of Worcester. However, he was imprisoned over eight years for his preaching during the reign of Henry VIII, and would have likely been killed if it wasn’t for the death of the king. Upon Henry’s death, Edward the VI took over the throne and Latimer was released. He was brought into the public eye once again as he became a personal pastor to King Edward VI.
“He lived and ministered in such purity that not even his enemies could reprove him in any jot or tittle.” – Foxes Book of Martyrs
Born: ca. 1500
Birthplace: South Tynedale, Northumberland, England
Story: Ridley was one of the most prominent scholars of the English Reformation. Together with the archbishop, Thomas Cranmer, they reconstructed the theology of the Church of England. He earned his doctorate at Cambridge and subsequently had several positions at the university. Under his direction the seminary became a place that put forth the Reformation ideals, and in this way Nicholas Ridley left many sons on this earth after he departed. Ridley was not only a scholar, but was also a pastor. His daily routine consisted of prayer until 10 o’clock. After this he held a prayer meeting in his home with members of his church until about noon. At midday he would have lunch and either talk with various people, or play chess for an hour. He would then spend the rest of the afternoon studying and taking care of church business. At about five o’clock, he would pray for another hour again, and then refresh himself with another hour of chess. Then, the rest of the night would be spent studying the Scriptures until 11 o’clock, at this time he would wash himself and prepare for bed, but not until he spent more time praying on his knees. During the reign of Edward VI, Nicholas Ridley became the bishop of London and he held that position until the reign of Mary I.
Martyrdom: With the death of Edward VI, the royal crown was given to his eldest half-sister, Mary. She has become infamous in history as “Bloody Mary” for it is said that she sent approximately 300 English reformers to the stake in her short time on the throne. Two of the very first people to face the burning flames at Smithfield were Hugh Latimer and his friend Nicholas Ridley. For nearly two years Latimer was in prison and faced trials of various kinds with his friend Ridley, and another of their fellow workers for Christ, Thomas Cranmer. The day of their death came on October 16, 1555. Latimer, now nearly 70 years old, walked as fast as he could to get close to his friend and co-martyr Nicholas Ridley. Ridley embraced Latimer and encouraged him that the Lord would either make the pain less, or give them the courage to get through the fire. They were brought to the stake, and after kneeling down and kissing the stake Ridley listened to Latimer pray for them both. They were then forced to listen to a heretical sermon by a Dr. Smith. Latimer and Ridley were not allowed to give a reply because they would not recant, and thus they were chained on opposite sides of each other. As the wood was put around them, and the fires were lit, Latimer turned to his side and said to Ridley, “Be of good cheer Master Ridley, and play the part of the man. We shall this day, by God’s grace, light up such a candle in England as I trust will never be put out.” Then, as the fire began to flame up toward them, Ridley said, “Lord, Lord, receive my spirit!” On the other side of the stake Latimer cried, “O Father of Heaven, receive my soul!” Latimer then stroked his face with a little of the flame and met his Father with little or no pain. However, the wood that was laid around Nicholas Ridley was mixed with bushes and was green, and thus was wet and would not burn well. The fire simmered at his feet and up his legs, but it would not reach to where it would kill him. It is said for hours that Ridley cried, “I cannot burn! I cannot burn! Lord have mercy upon me! Let the fire come upon me, I cannot burn!” He was left like this until one of the guards, out of mercy, pushed the fire upon him, and the bag of gunpowder that was tied around his neck blew up and ended his life on this earth. Hundreds were moved to tears that day by the bravery in which Latimer and Ridley faced the flames. Certainly there were none happier that day than Latimer and Ridley when they separately approached their Lord and were welcomed with, “Well done thy good and faithful servant.”
Chase Ringler oversees Youth Ministry at Wallen Baptist Church