Singing Pictures: Georgette de Montenay’s Emblems

Thanks to the work of E. J. Hutchinson, many of us are aware of Theodore Beza’s emblems. The enigmatic woodcuts and poetry of emblem books were also employed by less well-known Protestant writers, but no less vividly and even hauntingly, to picture life in light of God. Among these was Georgette de Montenay, a lady-in-waiting to the Queen of Navarre.

James Ussher and the Reduction of Episcopacy

James Ussher

James Ussher was born to Arland and Margaret Ussher in Dublin on 4 January 1581, the fifth of their ten children. This prominent Anglo-Irish family embodied in miniature the religious divisions of late sixteenth-century Ireland. His uncle, Henry Ussher, was the Protestant Archbishop of Armagh from 1595 until his death in 1613. On the maternal side, his uncle Richard Stanihurst was an advocate on the continent for the Irish Catholic cause, and his cousin Henry Fitzsimon was a Jesuit controversialist active in the Irish mission. According to his first biographer, Nicholas Bernard, Ussher’s mother was “seduced by some of the Popish Priests to the Roman Religion” whilst Ussher was in England, and she never returned to the Protestant faith, a cause of much anguish for her son.[1] Read more…

“Plainly Diabolical”: Bishop Davenant Weighs in on Clerical Celibacy

By Michael Lynch

“It is unbelievable to think that the Roman Catholics, by imposing celibacy, are thinking about the holiness of the priesthood seeing that they are not able to hide the fact that this coercive celibacy of priests has morally polluted nearly the whole class of massmongers through their abominable lusts.”

“I believe it is a wholesome law, and that for the good and health of souls, that those who desire it should be free to marry, because experience teaches us that an opposite effect results from that law of continency. Since nowadays, they do not live spiritually, nor are they clean, but are polluted with their great sin by illicit sexual intercourse, when they should be chaste with their own wives.” Read more…

Chronological Snobbery and the Christian Faith

In a recent post at Reformation21, Guy Waters argues that a “Presbytery does possess the power to instruct one of its members or licentiates not to teach a difference that the court has determined an exception.” I agree. Interestingly, I can’t imagine this being an issue in the early modern period.

Weird Reformation: Christ the Mediator of Angels?

We’re starting a new series on the blog here where we will look at old, mostly unknown quotes or debates in reformed theologians of the past. The hope is to both entertain and show that the reformed tradition has traditionally been far broader than many of its contemporary proponents realize. We hope you enjoy it.

Calvin’s Luther: Unity and Continuity in Protestantism



John Calvin: More Lutheran or Zwinglian?

Everybody knows that Calvin was closer to Zurich than to Wittenberg. What this essay presupposes is: Maybe he wasn’t? In fact, Calvin was neither Zwinglian nor Lutheran in the developed sense of those terms, but rather saw himself as one who might mediate between the two sides in their intractable debates, particularly over the nature of the Lord’s Supper.

But what is perhaps most interesting, given contemporary ecclesiastical circumstances, is that Calvin saw himself as unabashedly part of one church—not just invisibly, but visiblywith all magisterial Protestants in Europe, and sought to make that visible unity more concrete through his literary and theological efforts, even if those hopes were in large measure frustrated.

Read more…

“Such a Candle as Will Never Be Put Out”: The Martyrdom of Bishops Ridley and Latimer

This post is an excerpt from Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (Ed. Forbush)

Bishop Ridley and Bishop Latimer

These reverend prelates suffered October 16, 1555, at Oxford, on the same day Wolsey and Pygot perished at Ely. Pillars of the Church and accomplished ornaments of human nature, they were the admiration of the realm, amiably conspicuous in their lives, and glorious in their deaths.

Dr. Ridley was born in Northumberland, was first taught grammar at Newcastle, and afterward removed to Cambridge, where his aptitude in education raised him gradually until he came to be the head of Pembroke College, where he received the title of Doctor of Divinity. Having returned from a trip to Paris, he was appointed chaplain by Henry VIII and bishop of Rochester, and was afterwards translated to the see of London in the time of Edward VI.

To his sermons the people resorted, swarming about him like bees, 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 that his very enemies could not reprove him in any one jot.

[. . .]

When Edward VI was removed from the throne, and the bloody Mary succeeded, Bishop Ridley was immediately marked as an object of slaughter. He was first sent to the Tower, and afterward, at Oxford, was consigned to the common prison of Bocardo, with archbishop Cranmer and Mr. Latimer. Being separated from them, he was placed in the house of one Irish, where he remained until the day of his martyrdom, from 1554, until October 16, 1555.

It will easily be supposed that the conversations of these chiefs of the martyrs were elaborate, learned, and instructive. Such indeed they were, and equally beneficial to all their spiritual comforts. Bishop Ridley’s letters to various Christian brethren in bonds in all parts, and his disputations with the mitred enemies of Christ, alike proved the clearness of his head and the integrity of his heart. In a letter to Mr. Grindal, (afterward archbishop of Canterbury,) he mentions with affection those who had preceded him in dying for the faith, and those who were expected to suffer; he regrets that popery is re-established in its full abomination, which he attributes to the wrath of God, made manifest in return for the lukewarmness of the clergy and the people in justly appreciating the blessed light of the Reformation.

This old practiced soldier of Christ, Master Hugh Latimer, [. . . had] by the strength of his own mind, or of some inward light from above, had a prophetic view of what was to happen to the Church in Mary’s reign, asserting that he was doomed to suffer for the truth, and that Winchester, then in the Tower, was preserved for that purpose. Soon after Queen Mary was proclaimed, a messenger was sent to summon Mr. Latimer to town, and there is reason to believe it was wished that he should make his escape.

Thus Master Latimer coming up to London, through Smithfield (where merrily he said that Smithfield had long groaned for him), was brought before the Council, where he patiently bore all the mocks and taunts given him by the scornful papists. He was cast into the Tower, where he, being assisted with the heavenly grace of Christ, sustained imprisonment a long time, notwithstanding the cruel and unmerciful handling of the lordly papists, which thought then their kingdom would never fall; he showed himself not only patient, but also cheerful in and above all that which they could or would work against him. Yea, such a valiant spirit the Lord gave him, that he was able not only to despise the terribleness of prisons and torments, but also to laugh to scorn the doings of his enemies.

Mr. Latimer, after remaining a long time in the Tower, was transported to Oxford, with Cranmer and Ridley, the disputations at which place have been already mentioned in a former part of this work. He remained imprisoned until October, and the principal objects of all his prayers were three–that he might stand faithful to the doctrine he had professed, that God would restore his Gospel to England once again, and preserve the Lady Elizabeth to be queen; all of which happened. When he stood at the stake without the Bocardo gate, Oxford, with Dr. Ridley, and fire was putting to the pile of fagots, he raised his eyes benignantly towards heaven, and said, “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.” His body was forcibly penetrated by the fire, and the blood flowed abundantly from the heart; as if to verify his constant desire that his heart’s blood might be shed in defence of the Gospel. His polemical and friendly letters are lasting monuments of his integrity and talents. It has been before said, that public disputation took place in April, 1554, new examinations took place in October, 1555, previous to the degradation and condemnation of Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer. We now draw to the conclusion of the lives of the two last.

Dr. Ridley, the night before execution, was very facetious, had himself shaved, and called his supper a marriage feast; he remarked upon seeing Mrs. Irish (the keeper’s wife) weep, “Though my breakfast will be somewhat sharp, my supper will be more pleasant and sweet.”

The place of death was on the northside of the town, opposite Baliol College. Dr. Ridley was dressed in a black gown furred, and Mr. Latimer had a long shroud on, hanging down to his feet. Dr. Ridley, as he passed Bocardo, looked up to see Dr. Cranmer, but the latter was then engaged in disputation with a friar. When they came to the stake, Mr. Ridley embraced Latimer fervently, and bid him: “Be of good heart, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flame, or else strengthen us to abide it.” He then knelt by the stake, and after earnestly praying together, they had a short private conversation. Dr. Smith then preached a short sermon against the martyrs, who would have answered him, but were prevented by Dr. Marshal, the vice-chancellor. Dr. Ridley then took off his gown and tippet, and gave them to his brother-in-law, Mr. Shipside. He gave away also many trifles to his weeping friends, and the populace were anxious to get even a fragment of his garments. Mr. Latimer gave nothing, and from the poverty of his garb, was soon stripped to his shroud, and stood venerable and erect, fearless of death.

Dr. Ridley being unclothed to his shirt, the smith placed an iron chain about their waists, and Dr. Ridley bid him fasten it securely; his brother having tied a bag of gunpowder about his neck, gave some also to Mr. Latimer.

Dr. Ridley then requested of Lord Williams, of Fame, to advocate with the queen the cause of some poor men to whom he had, when bishop, granted leases, but which the present bishop refused to confirm. A lighted fagot was now laid at Dr. Ridley’s feet, which caused Mr. Latimer to say: “Be of good cheer, Ridley; and play 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.”

When Dr. Ridley saw the fire flaming up towards him, he cried with a wonderful loud voice, “Lord, Lord, receive my spirit.” Master Latimer, crying as vehemently on the other side, “O Father of heaven, receive my soul!” received the flame as it were embracing of it. After that he had stroked his face with his hands, and as it were, bathed them a little in the fire, he soon died (as it appeareth) with very little pain or none.

Well! dead they are, and the reward of this world they have already. What reward remaineth for them in heaven, the day of the Lord’s glory, when he cometh with His saints, shall declare.

October 11 – Zwingli: The Warrior of the Reformation

At the same time as Luther was stirring the pot in Germany, another young man was coming to very similar conclusions independently! His name was Ulrich Zwingli, and he was an avid reader of Erasmus. Reading Erasmus convinced him that he was not to look to the Virgin Mary or the saints for salvation, but even so, it took time for the truth of the Gospel to sink in. While he was studying to be a priest, he succumbed to temptation and got his girlfriend pregnant. It almost prevented him from getting the job as priest in the city of Zurich, but his only serious competitor had six children himself!

(c) The University of Edinburgh Fine Art Collection; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Zwingli was a fine preacher and exegete, but a turning point came in 1519 when he contracted the plague and his brother Andrew died. The experience impressed upon him the idea that he had been spared to preach the gospel. He quickly became a very moving preacher and came to the same conclusions about justification by faith as Luther. He was accused of being a Lutheran and said, “I preach just as Paul writes. Why not call me Pauline?” He renounced the papacy, but Rome spared him for a time as she relied on a steady supply of Swiss mercenaries for her wars. He also privately married a widow called Anna Reinhart; the marriage was not made public for two years.

Zwingli, unlike Luther, wanted all aspects of worship to be grounded in Scripture, and as a result, all the ornaments of the church were instantly removed, services were switched to vernacular, and Zwingli started giving wine and bread to the laity (though only four times a year). Oddly enough, Zwingli was a talented musician who was mocked by Catholics as “the guitar player” or “the evangelist-on-the-flute,” but songs and hymns were excluded from his services: even Psalms were merely read aloud antiphonally (men read one half of the verse, and women the other half).

Zwingli also dealt with some of the first Anabaptists. It came about that several parents refused to bring their children to be baptized, which led to a civic crisis, since baptism was essentially a form of citizenship. Zwingli kept his head and got the city council to allow for a public debate on the issue. Zwingli and his friend Bullinger debated the Anabaptists for two days, at the end of which the council affirmed Zwingli’s position and banished anyone who refused to bring their children.

When a bunch of radicals chose to baptize one another “for real” on the basis of a profession of faith, they were arrested for treason (religion was seen as the bulwark of the state and so it was essentially like creating a private state). Zwingli kindly tried to reason with the radicals, but to no avail. He wrote a treatise called Baptism, Rebaptism, and Infant Baptism. In it, he not only coined the term Anabaptist, but he also was the first (to my knowledge) to draw the connection between baptism and circumcision, arguing that both were not magical rituals, but signs and seals of the covenant. Covenant theology was born.

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor

As the Catholic Emperor, Charles V, prepared to root out the heretics, a group of Evangelicals drew up a Protestation, with six princes and fourteen cities signing it. It was not a Protest in the modern negative sense of the word but something more like a “witnessing forth.” To unite against Catholic reprisals, Philip of Hesse got Luther and Zwingli to meet at the Marburg Colloquy to work out their differences on the issue of the Lord’s Supper. Luther held that, though the Eucharistic bread and wine remained bread and wine (rejecting transubstantiation), Christ was somehow mysterious “in, under, and with” the bread, and that to deny this was to twist scriptures. Zwingli had concluded that “this is my body” meant “this represents my body” and thus the bread and wine were symbols, meant to awaken faith and adoration, but not mystical channels of grace. Luther complicated the issue needlessly by connecting the argument to Christology debates—and soon both reformers were accusing each other not just of mistakes but of heresy!

Luther didn’t even think Zwingli was a Christian and said that Zwingli was now “seven times more dangerous than when he was a papist” and that he would rather drink blood with papists than wine with Zwinglians! Luther was vehement for a variety of reasons: Zwingli was using the same arguments as Carlstadt, his understanding of “rightly discerning the body and blood of Jesus Christ” (which meant Zwingli’s followers were eating and drinking judgment to themselves), and his own natural tendency to see everything in black-and-white terms.

However, the guilt still has to rest on Luther’s shoulders. According to legend, Zwingli saw two goats meeting on a narrow mountain path, where there was only room for one to pass. When they met, one goat lay down in front of the other, and the other walked over it. The story may not be true but Zwingli certainly was the more peaceful interlocutor; when Luther walked into the Marburg colloquy, he wrote “this is my body” on the table with a piece of chalk, and from that point he would not budge. Zwingli begged, with tears in his eyes, that Luther would at least acknowledge them as Christians so they could united and join forces against the coming Catholics. Luther refused.

Huldrych Zwingli’s death

Despite their failure, the Emperor summoned German protestants to the diet of Augsburg where they could declare their views. Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s milder-mannered friend, wrote the Augsburg Confession, a broad, big-tent Protestant document that could be signed by all but staunch Zwinglians. However, Charles V disliked it, and so Germans and Swiss forces joined in the Schmalkaldic League. It was needed: in 1531, Catholic forces attacked and bested Protestants at Kappel; Zwingli fought as a soldier and was wounded. After the battle, Catholic soldiers killed him when he refused to pray to the Virgin Mary. Though Luther shed no tears over his death, the Reformation lost a powerful defender of the faith that day.

Special thanks to Nick Needham; most of this essay is indebted to volume 3 of his 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, particularly chapter 3.

Brian Marr is an editor and researcher at Canon Press, an alumnus of New Saint Andrews College, and a devoted servant of the liberal arts. He is a co-editor in the Hooker Modernization Project.

September 25th: The Peace of Augsburg

As Roland Bainton writes in Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, “In the sixteenth century people did not commonly agree to differ.”[1] Political and religious disagreements often ended in violence. Remember Luther going into hiding at the Wartburg castle? It wasn’t because he was worried that his Scriptural interpretation would be questioned, or that there would be disagreements—it was a matter of safety. Luther would have otherwise been arrested and perhaps executed. Relations between Lutherans and Catholics were—understandably—rather rocky. And so the Peace of Augsburg was a welcome change to the instability and violence of the initial stages of Reformation within the Holy Roman Empire.

Charles V

The Peace was an agreement between Emperor Charles V and the Schmalkaldic League,[2] and it established three main principles.[3] The first is the origin of the phrase cuius regio eius religio. Lutheran princes were allowed to declare Lutheranism as their state’s religion, and Catholic rulers could continue in their Roman ways. But “every one shall love the other with true friendship and Christian love.”[4] If someone was at odds with his ruler’s faith, he could lead himself out the city gates, along with his family. It was a peaceful separation, and a person moving would be guaranteed a fair price for the sale of his possessions. On this remarkable piece of legislation, Needham writes: Read more…