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and for every virtue both of a public and private kind, that should adorn the life of a christian, he was eminent and exemplary beyond most men of his own, or of any other time; well deserving that evangelical commendation, “With the testimony of a good conscience, in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, he had his conversation in the world."
From the preceding narrative the reader will have fully inferred the primitive and excellent character of its subject ; his uniform simplicity of manners, his indefatigable professional activity, his cheerfulness and fortitude upon the most trying occasions, and his inflexible adherence to what he deemed his duty. Learning he cultivated, with a view not to its depth, but to its utility. As to his sermons, which are still extant, Gilpin observes, “They are far from being exact pieces of composition. Elegant writing was then little known. Some polite scholars there were, Cheke, Ascham, and a few others, who from an acquaintance with classical learning, of which they were the restorers, began to think in a new manner, and could treat a subject with accuracy at least, if not with elegance. But in general the writers of that age, and especially the churchmen, were equally incorrect in their composition and slovenly in their language. We must not therefore expect, that Latimer's discourses will stand a critical inquiry. They are, at best, loose, incoherent pieces. Yet his simplicity and low fa
OF HUGH LATIMER.
miliarity, his humor and gibing drollery, were well adapted to the times; and his oratory, according to the mode of eloquence of that day, was exceedingly popular. His manner of preaching, too, was very affecting ; and no wonder; for he spoke immediately from his heart. His abilities, however, as an orator made only the inferior part of his character as a preacher. What particularly recommends him is, that noble and apostolic zeal, which he exerts in the cause of truth. And, sure, no one had a higher sense of what became his office; was less influenced by any sinister motive; or durst with more freedom reprove vice, however dignified by] worldly distinctions."
Goldsmith, in his History of England, observes :“Of all the prelates of that age, Latimer was the most remarkable for his unaffected piety, and the simplicity of his manners. He had never learned to flatter in courts, and his open rebuke was dreaded by all the great who at that time too much deserved it. His sermons, (a few of which remain to this day) show that he had much learning and much wit; and there is an air of sincerity running through them, which is not to be found elsewhere."
“The discourses of Latimer,” says Watkins,“ like those of Chrysostom, exhibit a faithful portraiture of the national inanners, and though far enough from aiming at the higher qualifications of oratory, they have charms that gave them in the delivery a
fascinating influence, of which even the lapse of near three centuries has not deprived them.
Latimer's sermons were wholly levelled at the prevailing corruptions; and the manners of the English nobility and gentry at that time were of a description that fully called for such an honest monitor, who spared neither high nor low, but laid open the depravity of all ranks, with apostolic zeal and sincerity.
The wit of Latimer is admitted, and he undoubtedly introduced it pretty freely into the pulpit. But every story told by him had a point of instruction, and therefore could not be considered as a mere stroke of humor. His anecdotes were not only admirably suited to the subject, but were well calculated to make an impression upon minds little accustomed to formal reasoning, or to an examination of the Scriptures, with which indeed few at that time were acquainted. The preaching of Latimer was entirely of a practical nature, and few, if any, have exceeded him in dissecting the human heart and laying open its secret springs of evil. This he did with much plainness, pungency, and pathos, that none but those who were lifted up with pride or sunk in depravity ever departed from his sermons without an humbling sense of their infirmity. The effect of his powerful exhortation to restitution was witnessed in the repentance of John Bradford; and that excellent scholar, Sir John Cheke, instead of being offended with what has
been called quaint buffoonery, said to Latimer, “I have an ear for other divines, but I have a heart, for you."
As a preacher, Latimer obtained an extraordinary degree of popularity, and he well deserved it, by the use which he made of his talents and influence. He spoke from the heart, and though his eloquence was of the most fervid character, it was totally free from rant and enthusiasm. He never meddled with mystical subjects, nor made use of language unintelligible to ordinary understand-, ings.
His eloquence was perfectly evangelical, and constantly tended to the personal improvement of his hearers; not to excite their wonder and admiration.
If he occasionally intermingled strokes of pleasantry with severe dehortation and grave arguments, it was to expose vice, and shame delinquents, without any respect of persons; and the most caustic of his discourses were those which he delivered in the presence of corrupt judges, rapacious courtiers, and negligent prelates.
To sum up his character in a few words; profession and practice, zeal and holiness, distinguished him through the whole course of his long, active, and well-tried life. For many years' did his light shine with undiminished lustre, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, and the termination of his course was, as the setting of the sun, “full of immortality."
The first collection of his sermons was made by one Thomas Soame, who wrote down those that were preached before king Edward the Sixth, which were published in one volume in 1549. In 1562 John Day made a larger collection in one small quarto volume, to which Augustine Bernher, the bishop's faithful Swiss servant, and afterwards a minister, prefixed a long but highly interesting epistle dedicatory to the duchess of Suffolk. This edi. tion has a wood cut of father Latimer preaching in the privy garden before the young king, who is represented with some of his courtiers looking out of a window in front, while the area below is filled with hearers of various descriptions. This print is also given in Fox's Acts and Monuments, which work also contains the bishop's two famous sermons on the Card. In 1584 another edition of Latimer's Sermons came out, with some additions, which was reprinted in 1604; and in 1635 they appeared in a Roman letter, with a portrait of the bishop preaching, engraved by George Giffard. All these editions were in quarto; but in 1758 an octavo one was printed in two volumes, with a memoir of the martyr, and a number of prolix, and for the most part impertinent notes, giving an account of scriptural characters and places mentioned in the text, while the obsolete phrases and peculiar allusions remained unelucidated, and what was still worse, several passages were mutilated under the mistaken notion of giving the sense correctly in a modern dress.