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    4. BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES, PROMINENT MARTYRS

    [For portraits, see page 156.]

    John de Wycliffe, born about 1324, styled the “Morning Star of the Reformation,” was an English divine, whose piety and talents procured for him one of the highest ecclesiastical positions of honor. Having openly preached against the corruptions of the Roman Church, he was displaced, the pope issuing several bulls against him for heresy. Accordingly, he was examined by an assembly, but made so able a defense that it ended without determination. Continuing to denounce the papal corruptions, ordinances, and power, he was again summoned before a synod, but was released by order of the king’s mother. It is remarkable that although he continued his vehement attacks upon vital points of Romish doctrine, he escaped the fate of others similarly accused; but over forty years after his death, which occurred in 1384, his bones were exhumed, burned, and cast into the River Swift, which bore them through the Severn to the sea, his very dust becoming emblematic of his doctrine, now diffused the world over. His most important work was the first English version of the Bible.DAR1909 786.1

    John Huss, the celebrated reformer, was a native of Bohemia, born in 1370, and educated at the university at Prague, where he received the degree of master of arts, and became rector of the University and confessor to the Queen. Obtaining some of the writings of Wycliffe, he saw the errors and corruption of the Romish Church, which he freely exposed, though persecuted by several popes. By his teaching, a reformation began in the University, to check which the archbishop issued two decrees; but the new doctrine spreading still more, he was finally brought before a council, thrown into prison, and after some months’ confinement, sentenced to be burned. Though urged at the stake to recant, he firmly refused, and until stifled with smoke, continued to pray and sing with a clear voice. He was burned in 1415, and his ashes, and even the soil on which they lay, were carefully removed and thrown into the Rhine.DAR1909 786.2

    Jerome of Prague, who derived his surname from the town where he was born somewhere between 1360 and 1370, completed his studies at the university of the same name, after which he traveled over the greater part of Europe. At Paris he received the degree of master of arts, and at Oxford he became acquainted with the writings of Wycliffe, translating many of them into his own language. On his return to Prague, he openly professed Wycliffe’s doctrines, and assisted Huss in the work of the Reformation. Upon the arrest of the latter, he also expressed his willingness to appear before the council in defense of his faith, and desired a safe-conduct of the emperor. This was not granted, but on his way home he was seized, carried to Constance, and after the martyrdom of Huss, threatened with like torments. In a moment of weakness, he abjured the faith; but on being released, bemoaned his sin, and publicly renounced his recantation, for which he was consigned to the flames, 1416.DAR1909 786.3

    William Tyndale, an eminent English divine, was born about 1484. He received an ample education at Cambridge and Oxford, and took holy orders. Embracing the doctrines of the Reformation, he excited so much enmity among Romanists by his zeal and ability in expounding them, that he was compelled to seek refuge in Germany. Believing that the Scriptures should be read by the masses in the vernacular, he produced a complete version of the New Testament in English, which, though ordered to be suppressed, was in such demand that six editions were published. This version was also the model and basis of that of King James, and is but little more obsolete. He also translated the Pentateuch. For these and other reformatory writings, he was arrested at Antwerp at the instigation of the English government, and after eighteen months’ imprisonment, was burned, first being strangled by the hangman. 1536.DAR1909 787.1

    Thomas Cranmer, the first Protestant archbishop of Canterbury, was born in 1489. Although saintly in his profession as a divine, he was somewhat politic as a statesman, and thus was well suited to unite the religious and worldly enemies of popery. He was also a servile adherent of Henry VIII. After the death of the latter, he joined the upholders of Lady Jane Grey, who was also a Protestant,and was accordingly sent to the Tower on the accession of Mary; and being accused of heresy by the papal party, was burned at Oxford, 1556. As a reformer, he introduced the Bible into the churches, and so used his influence as a regent of Edward VI that the Reformation greatly prospered during the young monarch’s reign. Shortly before his martyrdom, he signed a recantation contrary to his convictions, in hope of life; but at the stake he was more courageous, first thrusting into the flames the hand which signed the document, exclaiming many times, “O my unworthy right hand!”DAR1909 787.2

    Hugh Latimer, born about 1490, one of the chief promoters of the Reformation in England, was educated at Cambridge, receiving the degree of master of arts. At the beginning of the Reformation, he was a zealous papist; but after conversing with the martyr Bilney, he renounced the Catholic faith, and labored earnestly in preaching the gospel. Henry VIII, being pleased with his discourses, made him bishop of Worcester; but being opposed to some of the king’s measures, Latimer finally resigned. After the death of his patron, Cromwell, the latter’s enemies sought him out, and he was sent to the Tower. He was released by Edward VI, but refused to be restored to his diocese, and remained with Cranmer, assisting in the Reformation. When Mary came to the throne, he was again sent to the Tower, thence with Cranmer and Ridley to dispute with popish bishops at Oxford. Here he argued with unusual clearness and simplicity, but was condemned and burned at the same stake with Ridley, in 1555.DAR1909 787.3

    John Bradford was born in the first part of the reign of Henry VIII. He early evinced a taste for learning and began the study of law; but finding theology more congenial, removed to Cambridge University, where his ability and piety won for him, in less than a year, the degree of master of arts. Soon after, he was made chaplain to Edward VI, and became one of the most popular preachers of Protestantism in the kingdom. But after the accession of that rigid Catholic, Mary, he was arrested on the charge of heresy, and confined in the Tower a year and a half, during which time he aided with his pen the cause for which he suffered. When finally brought to trial, he defended his principles to the last, withstanding all attempts to effect his conversion to Romanism. He was condemned, and committed to the flames in 1555. He died, rejoicing thus to be able to suffer for the truth.DAR1909 788.1

    Nicholas Ridley, a learned English bishop and martyr, educated at Pembroke College, Cambridge, was born about 1500. His great abilities and piety recommended him to the notice of Archbishop Cranmer, through whom he was made chaplain to the king. In the reign of Edward VI, he was nominated to the see of Rochester, and finally to the bishopric of London. By his influence with the young king, the priories and revenues devoted to the maintenance of corrupt friars and monks were used for charitable purposes. On the decease of Edward, he embraced the cause of Lady Jane Grey, and in a sermon warned the people of the evil that would befall Protestantism if Mary should come to the throne. For this, and for his zeal in aiding the Reformation, he was seized by Queen Mary, sent to Oxford to dispute with some of the popish bishops, and on his refusing to recant, was burned with Latimer, 1555.DAR1909 788.2

    John Hooper was born about 1495, and was educated at Oxford. After taking his degree of bachelor of arts, he joined the Cistercian monks, but his attention being directed to the writings of Zwingli, after a diligent study of the Scriptures, he became a zealous advocate of the Reformation. Knowing the danger to which his opinions exposed him, he went to France. On his return to England, he found that plots were again being laid against his life, and escaped to to Ireland, thence to France, and finally to Germany, where he remained some years. Again returning to England, he applied himself to instruct the masses, laboring so successfully that the king, Edward VI, requested him to remain in London to further the Reformation, and created him bishop of Worcester. On the accession of Mary, however, he was immediately arrested, sent to the Fleet prison, and, after eighteen months’ confinement, was tried for heresy, and condemned to the flames in 1555. He endured the agonies of the stake with great fortitude, though they were unusually protracted on account of the use of green wood.DAR1909 788.3

    John Rogers, the first of the many who were martyred during Queen Mary’s reign, was born about 1500. He was educated at Cambridge, receiving holy orders, and was afterward chaplain to the English factory at Antwerp, where he became acquainted with Tyndale and Coverdale, and by their aid published a complete English version of the Bible. Removing to Wittenberg, he became pastor of a Dutch congregation; but when Edward VI came to the throne, he was invited home, and made prebendary and divinity reader of St. Paul’s. On the Sunday after Queen Mary’s accession, in a sermon at St. Paul’s he exhorted the people to adhere to the doctrines taught in King Edward’s days, and to resist all Catholic forms and dogmas. For this he was summoned before the council, but vindicated himself so well that he was dismissed. This not pleasing Mary, he was again summoned, and ordered to remain a prisoner in his own house; but he was soon after seized, and sent to Newgate. He was then tried and condemned, and refusing to recant, was burned, 1555.DAR1909 788.4

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