By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.
Latimer is someone who still speaks through his printed sermons. Project Canterbury published this statement about him:
“Latimer is the best example the English Church can show of the popular preacher. The sermons of Andrewes or Donne make their appeal to a trained intelligence which can ‘divide,’ even to the last scruple, ‘the word of truth’; Latimer, whether he is preaching in a country town or before the king at Westminster, always speaks so that the servants and handmaids shall carry away as much as the gentler sort. He has but one subject, that of righteousness, and the appeal of righteousness is not to the intellect, but to the conscience.”
The king Latimer referred to, and for whom he asked his hearers to pray, in the “Sermon of the Plough,” was Edward VI of England. Here is a little background on Edward.
“Edward’s reign was marked by economic problems and social unrest that in 1549 erupted into riot and rebellion. . . The transformation of the Church of England into a recognisably Protestant body also occurred under Edward, who took great interest in religious matters. Although his father, Henry VIII, had severed the link between the Church and Rome, Henry VIII had never permitted the renunciation of Catholic doctrine or ceremony. It was during Edward’s reign that Protestantism was established for the first time in England with reforms that included the abolition of clerical celibacy and the Mass and the imposition of compulsory services in English.” (Wikipedia)
Edward died in 1553 at the age of 15; Latimer was executed in 1555 during the reign of Mary Tudor.
Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
Sermons By Hugh Latimer
New York: E.P. Dutton, 1906.
Sermon of the Plough
A Sermon of the Reverend Father Master Hugh Latimer, Preached in the Shrouds* at Paul’s Church in London, on the Eighteenth day of January, Anno 1548.
“. . . And now I would ask a strange question: who is the most diligentest bishop and prelate in all England, that passeth all the rest in doing his office I can tell, for I know him who it is; I know him well. But now I think I see you listening and hearkening that I should name him. There is one that passeth all the other, and is the most diligent prelate and preacher in all England. And will ye know who it is? I will tell you: it is the devil. He is the most diligent preacher of all other; he is never out of his diocess [diocese]; he is never from his cure; ye shall never find him unoccupied; he is ever in his parish; he keepeth residence at all times; ye shall never find him out of the way, call for him when you will he is ever at home; the diligentest preacher in all the realm; he is ever at his plough: no lording nor loitering can hinder him; he is ever applying his business, ye shall never find him idle, I warrant you. And his office is to hinder religion, to maintain superstition, to set up idolatry, to teach all kind of popery. He is ready as he can be wished for to set forth his plough; to devise as many ways as can be to deface and obscure God’s glory. Where the devil is resident, and hath his plough going, there away with books, and up with candles; away with bibles, and up with beads; away with the light of the gospel, and up with the light of candles, yea, at noon-days. Where the devil is resident, that he may prevail, up with all superstition and idolatry; tensing, painting of images, candles, palms, ashes, holy water, and new service of men’s inventing; as though man could invent a better way to honour God with than God himself hath appointed. Down with Christ’s cross, up with purgatory pickpurse, up with him, the popish purgatory, I mean. Away with clothing the naked, the poor and impotent; up with decking of images, and gay garnishing of stocks and stones: up with man’s traditions and his laws, down with God’s traditions and his most holy word. Down with the old honour due to God, and up with the new god’s honour. Let all things be done in Latin: there must be nothing but Latin, not so much as Memento, homo, quod cinis es, et in cinerem reverteris: ‘Remember, man, that thou art ashes, and into ashes thou shalt return:’ which be the words that the minister speaketh unto the ignorant people, when he giveth them ashes upon Ash-Wednesday; but it must be spoken in Latin: God’s word may in no wise be translated into English.
“Oh that our prelates would be as diligent to sow the corn of good doctrine, as Satan is to sow cockle and darnel! And this is the devilish ploughing, the which worketh to have things in Latin, and letteth the fruitful edification. But here some man will say to me, What, sir, are ye so privy of the devil’s counsel, that ye know all this to be true? Truly I know him too well, and have obeyed him a little too much in condescending to some follies; and I know him as other men do, yea, that he is ever occupied, and ever busy in following his plough. I know by St Peter, which saith of him, Sicut leo rugiens circuit quaerens quem devoret: ‘He goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.’ I would have this text well viewed and examined, every word of it: ‘Circuit,’ he goeth about in every corner of his diocess; he goeth on visitation daily, he leaveth no place of his cure unvisited: he walketh round about from place to place, and ceaseth not. ‘Sicut leo,’ as a lion, that is, strongly, boldly, and proudly; stately and fiercely with haughty looks, with his proud countenances, with his stately braggings. ‘Rugiens,’ roaring; for he letteth not slip any occasion to speak or to roar out when he seeth his time. Quaerens, he goeth about seeking, and not sleeping, as our bishops do; but he seeketh diligently, he searcheth diligently all corners, where as he may have his prey. He roveth abroad in every place of his diocess; he standeth not still, he is never at rest, but ever in hand with his plough, that it may go forward. But there was never such a preacher in England as he is. Who is able to tell his diligent preaching, which every day, and every hour, laboureth to sow cockle and darnel, that he may bring out of form, and out of estimation and room, the institution of the Lord’s supper and Christ’s cross? For there he lost his right; for Christ said, Nunc judicium est mundi, princeps seculi hujus ejicietur foras. Et sicut exaltavit Moses serpentem in deserto, ita exaltari oportet Filium hominis. Et cum exaltatus fuero a terra, omnia traham ad meipsum. ‘Now is the judgment of this world, and the prince of this world shall be cast out. And as Moses did lift up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lift up. And when I shall be lift up from the earth, I will draw all things unto myself.’ For the devil was disappointed of his purpose: for he thought all to be his own; and when he had once brought Christ to the cross, he thought all cocksure. But there lost he all reigning: for Christ said, Omnia traham ad meipsum: ‘I will draw all things to myself.’ He meaneth, drawing of man’s soul to salvation. And that he said he would do per semetipsum, by his own self; not by any other body’s sacrifice. He meant by his own sacrifice on the cross, where he offered himself for the redemption of mankind; and not the sacrifice of the mass to be offered by another. For who can offer him but himself? He was both the offerer and the offering. . . this is the mark at the which the devil shooteth, to evacuate the cross of Christ, and to mingle the institution of the Lord’s supper; the which although he cannot bring to pass, yet he goeth about by his sleights and subtil means to frustrate the same; and these fifteen hundred years he hath been a doer, only purposing to evacuate Christ’s death, and to make it of small efficacy and virtue. For whereas Christ, according as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, so would he himself be exalted, that thereby as many as trusted in him should have salvation; but the devil would none of that: they would have us saved by a daily oblation propitiatory, by a sacrifice expiatory, or remissory.
“Now if I should preach in the country, among the unlearned, I would tell what propitiatory, expiatory, and remissory is; but here is a learned auditory; yet for them that be unlearned I will expound it. Propitiatory, expiatory, remissory, or satisfactory, for they signify all one thing in effect, and is nothing else but a thing whereby to obtain remission of sins, and to have salvation. And this way the devil used to evacuate the death of Christ, that we might have affiance in other things, as in the sacrifice of the priest; whereas Christ would have us to trust in his only sacrifice. So he was, Agnus occisus ab origine mundi; ‘The Lamb that hath been slain from the beginning of the world;’ and therefore he is called juge sacrificium, ‘a continual sacrifice;’ and not for the continuance of the mass, as the blanchers have blanched it [one who whitens has whitened], and wrested it; and as I myself did once betake it. But Paul saith, per semetipsum purgatio facta: ‘By himself,’ and by none other, Christ ‘made purgation’ and satisfaction for the whole world.
“Would Christ this word, ‘by himself,’ had been better weighed and looked upon, and in sanctificationem, to make them holy; for he is juge sacrificium, ‘a continual sacrifice,’ in effect, fruit and operation; that like as they, which seeing the serpent hang up in the desert, were put in remembrance of Christ’s death, in whom as many as believed were saved; so all men that trusted in the death of Christ shall be saved, as well they that were before, as they that came after. For he was a continual sacrifice, as I said, in effect, fruit, operation, and virtue; as though he had from the beginning of the world, and continually should to the world’s end, hang still on the cross; and he is as fresh hanging on the cross now, to them that believe and trust in him, as he was fifteen hundred years ago, when he was crucified.
“Then let us trust upon his only death, and look for none other sacrifice propitiatory, than the same bloody sacrifice, the lively sacrifice; and not the dry sacrifice, but a bloody sacrifice. For Christ himself said, consummatum est: ‘It is perfectly finished: I have taken at my Father’s hand the dispensation of redeeming mankind, I have wrought man’s redemption, and have despatched the matter.’ Why then mingle ye him? Why do ye divide him? Why make you of him more sacrifices than one? Paul saith, Pascha nostrum immolatus est Christus: ‘Christ our passover is offered;’ so that the thing is done, and Christ hath done it, and he hath done it semel, once for all; and it was a bloody sacrifice, not a dry sacrifice. Why then, it is not the mass that availeth or profiteth for the quick and the dead.
“Wo worth thee, O devil, wo worth thee, that hast prevailed so far and so long; that hast made England to worship false gods, forsaking Christ their Lord. Wo worth thee, devil, wo worth thee, devil, and all thy angels. If Christ by his death draweth all things to himself, and draweth all men to salvation, and to heavenly bliss, that trust in him; then the priests at the mass, at the popish mass, I say, what can they draw, when Christ draweth all, but lands and goods from the right heirs? The priests draw goods and riches, benefices and promotions to themselves; and such as believed in their sacrifices they draw to the devil. But Christ is he that draweth souls unto him by his bloody sacrifice. What have we to do then but epulari in Domino, to eat in the Lord at his supper? What other service have we to do to him, and what other sacrifice have we to offer, but the mortification of our flesh? What other oblation have we to make, but of obedience, of good living, of good works, and of helping our neighbours? But as for our redemption, it is done already, it cannot be better: Christ hath done that thing so well, that it cannot be amended. It cannot be devised how to make that any better than he hath done it. But the devil, by the help of that Italian bishop yonder, his chaplain, hath laboured by all means that he might to frustrate the death of Christ and the merits of his passion. And they have devised for that purpose to make us believe in other vain things by his pardons. . .
“For the brasen serpent was set up in the wilderness, to put men in remembrance of Christ’s coming; that like as they which beheld the brasen serpent were healed of their bodily diseases, so they that looked spiritually upon Christ that was to come, in him should be saved spiritually from the devil. The serpent was set up in memory of Christ to come; but the devil found means to steal away the memory of Christ’s coming, and brought the people to worship the serpent itself, and to cense him, to honour him, and to offer to him, to worship him, and to make an idol of him. And this was done by the market-men that I told you of. And the clerk of the market did it for the lucre and advantage of his master, that thereby his honour might increase; for by Christ’s death he could have but small worldly advantage. And so even now so hath he certain blanchers belonging to the market, to let and stop the light of the gospel, and to hinder the king proceedings in setting forth the word and glory of God. And when the king’s majesty, with the advice of his honourable council, goeth about to promote God’s word, and to set an order in matters of religion, there shall not lack blanchers that will say, ‘As for images, whereas they have used to be censed, and to have candles offered unto them, none be so foolish to do it to the stock or stone, or to the image itself; but it is done to God and his honour before the image.’ And though they should abuse it, these blanchers will be ready to whisper the king in the ear, and to tell him, that this abuse is but a small matter; and that the same, with all other like abuses in the church, may be reformed easily. ‘It is but a little abuse,’ say they, ‘and it may be easily amended. But it should not be taken in hand at the first, for fear of trouble or further inconveniences. The people will not bear sudden alterations; an insurrection may be made after sudden mutation, which may be to the great harm and loss of the realm. Therefore all things shall be well, but not out of hand, for fear of further business.’ These be the blanchers, that hitherto have stopped the word of God, and hindered the true setting forth of the same. There be so many put-offs, so many put-byes, so many respects and considerations of worldly wisdom: and I doubt not but there were blanchers in the old time to whisper in the ear of good king Hezekiah, for the maintenance of idolatry done to the brasen serpent, as well as there hath been now of late, and be now, that can blanch the abuse of images, and other like things. But good king Hezekiah would not be so blinded; he was like to Apollos, ‘fervent in spirit.’ He would give no ear to the blanchers; he was not moved with the worldly respects, with these prudent considerations, with these policies: he feared not insurrections of the people he feared not lest his people would not bear the glory of God; but he, without any of these respects, or policies, or considerations, like a good king, for God’s sake and for conscience sake, by and by plucked down the brasen serpent, and destroyed it utterly, and beat it to powder. He out of hand did cast out all images, he destroyed all idolatry, and clearly did extirpate all superstition. He would not hear these blanchers and worldly-wise men, but without delay followeth God’s cause, and destroyeth all idolatry out of hand. Thus did good king Hezekiah; for he was like Apollos, fervent in spirit, and diligent to promote God’s glory.
“And good hope there is, that it shall be likewise here in England; for the king’s majesty is so brought up in knowledge, virtue, and godliness, that it is not to be mistrusted but that we shall have all things well, and that the glory of God shall be spread abroad throughout all parts of the realm, if the prelates will diligently apply their plough, and be preachers rather than lords. But our blanchers, which will be lords, and no labourers, when they are commanded to go and be resident upon their cures, and preach in their benefices, they would say, ‘What? I have set a deputy there; I have a deputy that looketh well to my flock, and the which shall discharge my duty.’ ‘A deputy,’ quoth he! I looked for that word all this while. And what a deputy must he be, trove ye? Even one like himself: he must be a canonist; that is to say, one that is brought up in the study of the pope’s laws and decrees; one that will set forth papistry as well as himself will do; and one that will maintain all superstition and idolatry; and one that will nothing at all, or else very weakly; resist the devil’s plough yea, happy it is if he take no part with the devil; and where he should be an enemy to him, it is well if he take not the devil’s part against Christ.
“But in the mean time the prelates take their pleasures. They are lords, and no labourers: but the devil is diligent at his plough. He is no unpreaching prelate: he is no lordly loiterer from his cure, but a busy ploughman; so that among all the prelates, and among all the pack of them that have cure, the devil shall go for my money, for he still applieth his business. Therefore, ye unpreaching prelates, learn of the devil: to be diligent in doing of your office, learn of the devil: and if you will not learn of God, nor good men; for shame learn of the devil; ad erubescentiam vestram dico, ‘I speak it for your shame:’ if you will riot [not?] learn of God, nor good men, to be diligent in your office, learn of the devil. Howbeit there is now very good hope that the king’s majesty, being by the help of good governance of his most honourable counsellors trained and brought up in learning, and knowledge of God’s word, will shortly provide a remedy, and set an order herein; which thing that it may so be, let us pray for him. Pray for him, good people; pray for him. Ye have great cause and need to pray for him.”