Page images



A.D. 1530-1839.

He was

MONGST that noble army of martyrs, who in the sixteenth century contended even to death for Christian truth against Roman errors and superstitions, none

merits a more conspicuous place than Nicholas Ridley, bishop of London. born in Northumberland, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, and studied at the university of Cambridge, where he was distinguished for learning and piety. He afterwards pursued his studies in theology at Paris and Louvain; and returning back again, was senior proctor of the university of Cambridge in 1533, when the decree was made by that university, as well as by all the Church of England, “that the bishop of Rome has not, by the word of God, any jurisdiction in this realm.” He also became a celebrated preacher, and was remarkable for his knowledge of Scripture and the fathers ; so that in 1537 Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, appointed him one of his chaplains, and associated him with his family. Soon after, being made vicar of Herne, he diligently instructed his flock in the doctrines of the Gospel, and his preaching attracted multitudes of people from all the surrounding country. In 1540 he was elected master of Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, where he had been educated, and where he had been a most diligent student of the Scriptures, as we may collect from the following words of his farewell ; where, apostrophising his college, he says, “In thy orchard (the walls, butts,


and trees, if they could speak, would bear me witness), I learned without book almost all Paul's epistles, and the canonical epistles too, save only the Apocalypse; of which study, although in time a great part did depart from me, yet the sweet smell thereof I trust I shall carry with me into heaven; for the profit thereof I think I have felt in all my life-time ever after."

About 1545 Ridley, by reading the book of Bertram, a presbyter of the ninth century, was induced to forsake the erroneous opinion of transubstantiation; and he was instrumental in bringing Archbishop Cranmer and Bishop Latimer to the same mind. In 1547 he was consecrated bishop of Rochester, and was most zealous in promoting the reformation of abuses ; but he evinced great firmness in resisting such measures as he judged injurious to the cause of justice or religion. When he was appointed, without his knowledge, on a royal commission, for the suppression of Clare Hall at Cambridge, and found, on examination, that this society would not dissolve itself, he wrote to the lord protector, declaring that his conscience would not permit him to act further in the commission; and thus incurred the risk of offending most grievously the chief ruler of England. Such resolution was an earnest of that firmness and piety with which he afterwards faced death for his conscience towards God.

On the deposal of Bonner for contumacy, Ridley was installed bishop of London in his place. In this high station he behaved with great dignity, benevolence, mildness, and goodness. He was of a mortified spirit, given to prayer and contemplation, and useful and instructive to all his family. His day was divided between private prayers, family devotions, (in which he every day gave a lecture on the

New Testament, beginning with the Acts of the Apostles, and giving to every one who could read a copy of the Scriptures), the despatch of business, study in his private chamber, and useful discourse. He applied himself with all his power to reform the abuses in the disposal of Church-patronage by the crown, and others which arose from a spirit of covetousness. Beholding with grief the distress of the poor in his city, who, in consequence of the suppression of monasteries, from which they had received much alms, were reduced to a state of sad destitution, he supplicated the king for a gift of the royal house at Bridewell as lodgings for these afflicted people, and succeeded in his application.

When that pious young king, Edward VI., was afflicted with his last illness, Bishop Ridley was appointed to preach before him one day; and in his sermon much recommended charity as a duty incumbent on all men, but especially on those who are in high place and dignity, as well in respect to their great abilities, as because they were bound to give examples of goodness to others. The same day the king sent for him, caused him to sit in a chair beside him, and would not permit him to remain uncovered. Then, after courteous thanks, he recapitulated the principal points of the sermon, and continued thus: “I took myself to be especially touched by your sermon, as well in regard to the abilities which God hath given me, as in regard of the example which of me he will require. For as in the kingdom I am next under God, so must I most nearly approach him in goodness and mercy: for as our miseries stand most in need of help from him, so are we the greatest debtors, debtors to all that are miserable, and shall be the greatest accountants of our dispensation therein. And therefore, my lord, as you have given me (I thank you) this general

exhortation, so direct me, I entreat you, by what particular actions I may this way best discharge my duties.” The bishop remained silent for some time; and then, weeping for joy, he besought his majesty for time to answer such a question; and having consulted the citizens of London, he returned again to the king, who gave the Greyfriars as an hospital for the support of infants, the aged, idiots, and cripples; St. Bartholomew's for wounded soldiers and sick persons; and Bridewell for the correction of idle and disorderly persons. These, with the hospital of St. Thomas, he richly endowed; and when he had signed the instrument to that effect, he, with reverent gesture and speech, thanked God for prolonging his life to finish that business.

Ridley's days of peace were now at an end. On the accession of Mary, he was expelled from his bishopric, and committed to the Tower, where he spent his time in pious exercises and conference with his fellow-prisoners, exhorting them to remain steadfast in maintaining the truth. 66 Resist the devil,” he said, “ and he will fee from you. Let us, therefore, resist him manfully; and, taking the cross upon our shoulders, let us follow our Captain Christ, who, by his own blood, hath dedicated and hallowed the way which leadeth unto the Father, that is, to the light which no man can attain,—the fountain of everlasting joys. Let us follow, I say, whither he calleth and allureth us, that after all these afflictions - which last but for a moment whereby he trieth our faith as gold by the fire, we may everlastingly reign and triumph with him in the glory of his Father; and that through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be all honour and glory now and for

Amen. Amen.” Such were the resolutions and the hopes of this venerable martyr in the con



templation of the sufferings which were preparing for him. His constancy was unshaken by any terrors, or by the instances of weakness which surrounded him. One of his own chaplains, who then fell away, wrote to Ridley with a view to shake his resolution, and induce him to conform to the Romish errors. His reply affords a noble example of Christian faith and of apostolical admonition. Sir, how nigh the day of my dissolution and departure out of this world is at hand, I cannot tell: the Lord's will be fulfilled, how soon soever it shall come.

I know the Lord's words must be verified in me, that I shall appear before the incorrupt Judge, and be accountable to him for all my former life. And although the hope of his mercy is my sheet-anchor of eternal salvation, yet am I persuaded that whosoever wittingly neglecteth, and regardeth not to clear his conscience, he cannot have peace with God, nor a lively faith in his mercy. Conscience, therefore, moveth me, considering you were one of my family and one of my household, of whom then I think I had a special care; but, alas, now when the trial doth separate the chaff from the corn, how small a deal it is, God knoweth, which the wind doth not

- this conscience, I say, doth move me to fear lest the lightness of my family should be laid to my charge, for lack of more earnest and diligent instruction which should have been done. But blessed be God, which hath given me grace to see this my default, and to lament from the bottom of my heart before my departing hence. This conscience doth move me also now to require both you and my friend Dr. Harvey to remember your promises made to me in times past, of the pure setting forth and preaching of God's word and his truth. These promises, although you shall not need to fear to be charged with them of me hereafter before the

blow away ;

« EelmineJätka »