“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely,
and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us”
(Hebrews 12 verse 1)
Today in the Church of England we remember Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer. Nicholas Ridley had been a chaplain to King Henry VIII and was Bishop of London under his son Edward. He was a preacher beloved of his congregation whose very life portrayed the truths of the Christian doctrines he taught. In his own household he had daily Bible readings and encouraged Scripture memory among his people. Hugh Latimer also became an influential preacher under King Edward’s reign. He was an earnest student of the Bible, and as Bishop of Worcester he encouraged the Scriptures be known in English by the people. His sermons emphasized that men should serve the Lord with a true heart and inward affection, not just with outward show. Latimer’s personal life also re-enforced his preaching. He was renowned for his works, especially his visitations to the prisons.
After the death of Edward both Ridley and Latimer were burned at the stake in Oxford on this day, October 16, 1555 for holding to their beliefs that were not in keeping with Queen Mary. As he was being tied to the stake, Ridley prayed, “Oh, heavenly Father, I give unto thee most hearty thanks that thou hast called me to be a professor of thee, even unto death. I beseech thee, Lord God, have mercy on this realm of England, and deliver it from all her enemies…Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit…” Latimer died much more quickly than Ridley; as the flames quickly rose, Latimer encouraged Ridley, “Be of good comfort, Mr. Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace, in England, as I trust never shall be put out.” The martyrdoms of Ridley, Latimer, and Thomas Cranmer are today commemorated by a Martyrs’ monument in Oxford. The faith that they once died for can now be freely practiced in England.
Ridley and Latimer looked to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of their faith who endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and went on to take His seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12 encourages us to:
“Consider (Jesus) who endured such hostility against Himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.”
Whatever our struggles today, we can be sure that Jesus knows all that we are facing and He is with us through thick and thin.