Quote of the day – Hugh Latimer


Psalm 119:104


104 Through Your precepts I get understanding;
Therefore I hate every false way.


Hermann Schweder, painter - Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley

The Bishop of London, Nicholas Ridley, and Hugh Latimer were executed on the 16th of October 1555, during the blessedly brief reign of Queen Mary. During her five years as sovereign, 280 religious dissenters were burned at the stake in the “Marian persecutions” (Wiki).

This quote of Latimer’s appears in a contemporary polemic against the Christian celebration of Christmas as a ‘holy day’. (It’s never out of season to consider this issue.) Following the quote, you’ll find the opening paragraph of the article.

“When candles go up, preaching comes down.”

“In the Highlands of Scotland in the mid-twentieth century Christmas day was regarded as an ordinary working day. There was little recognition of it in the community and almost none in the Presbyterian Churches. This was the result of the Reformed heritage handed down from the 16th century Reformation, and especially from the Puritan element within it, that prevailed in England and Scotland. Some observed the day as a family occasion; others celebrated New Year’s Day, as they did with Harvest Thanksgiving, to acknowledge God’s goodness in the past and seeking his blessing on the future…”

Rev John J Murray

Candles Up, Preaching Down

Free Church of Scotland (Continuing)

HT: Sherry, for bringing this article to us in a comment on her post The Curse of Using Carnal Methods for God’s Work

HT: Meg, for presenting an image of Hermann Schweder’s painting in her post TO RIGHT THE WRONGS OF MANY

Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley martyred by being burnt at the stake. John Foxe's book of martyrs. 1563 edition.



16 thoughts on “Quote of the day – Hugh Latimer

  1. I’m so glad you found that article in the comment line useful! And that you shared it, too! I liked what you said: It’s never out of season to consider this issue.

    Indeed, very true! In fact, I think people are more receptive and willing to search out the matter at any time except the X mass season!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Pastor Jim – this is true, as the Preacher declared (Ecclesiastes 1:9) “That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.”

      About the link between the Latimer quote and John J. Murray’s article on the practice of celebrating Christmas. He simply used the quote to strengthen his argument that it is not an historically Reformed practice.

      About the quote, I took a quick look. It appeared in a slightly different form in a post on the blog “Virginia is for Huguenots.” There it is given more context from a passage on the English Reformation from J.C. Ryle’s tract “WHAT DO WE OWE TO THE REFORMATION?” (Church Association Tract 56)

      Here is the passage from the tract by Ryle:

      “I. I begin by saying that the Reformation delivered England from an immense quantity of evils.

      “In describing those evils, it is hard to know where to begin and where to leave off. Their number is legion. The utmost I can do is to give you a short summary of them, and to ask you to believe that the half is left untold.

      “(a) For one thing the Reformation delivered England from gross religious ignorance and a spiritual darkness that might be felt. No doubt there was a professing Church of Christ in the land when Henry VIII. ascended the throne, a Church abounding in wealth, and garrisoned by a whole army of Bishops, Abbots, Friars, Priests, Monks, and Nuns. But money and clergymen do not make a Church of Christ any more than “men with muskets” make up an army. For any useful and soulsaving purposes the English Church was practically dead, and if St. Paul had come out of his grave and visited it, I doubt if he would have called it a Church at all. The plain truth is, that it was a Church without a Bible; and such a Church is as useless as a light-house without a light,—a candlestick without a candle—or a steam-engine without a fire. Except a few scattered copies of Wycliffe’s translation of the Vulgate, there were no English Bibles in the land, and the natural consequence was that priests and people knew scarcely anything about God’s truth and the way to be saved.

      “As to the clergy, as a general rule, their religion was the merest form, and scarcely deserved to be called Christianity at all. Most of them were pitiful turncoats without a conscience, and were ready to change sides in religion at word of command. In fact they did so no less than four times;—once under Henry VIII., once under Edward VI., once under Bloody Mary, and once more under Elizabeth.

      “The immense majority of the clergy did little more than say masses and offer up pretended sacrifices—repeat Latin prayers, and chant Latin hymns which of course the people could not understand,—hear confessions, grant absolutions, give extreme unction, and take money to get dead people out of purgatory. Preaching was utterly at a discount. As Bishop Latimer truly remarked, “When the devil gets influence in a Church, up go candles and down goes preaching.” Quarterly sermons were indeed prescribed to the clergy, but not insisted on. Latimer says that while mass was never to be left unsaid for a single Sunday, sermons might be omitted for twenty Sundays in succession, and nobody was blamed. After all, when sermons were preached they were utterly unprofitable; and latterly, to preach much was to incur the suspicion of being a heretic.”

      Another place this quote appeared was in Ian H. Murray’s Banner of Truth article “Sensual Worship – A Sign of Impending Apostasy”

      “The change in public worship in evangelical churches is not the harmless thing it is thought to be. ‘So long as there is good preaching’, it is said, ‘we need not be overly concerned.’ We ought to be concerned! An appetite is being fed which in the past has led to the very abandonment of the gospel. When satisfying the ‘natural’ becomes acceptable in churches, the spiritual will not long remain. As the long-time Catholic, and later Protestant martyr, Hugh Latimer, warned, ‘When candles go up, preaching comes down.’”

      Liked by 1 person

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