Men of whom the world is not worthy: Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer
Hebrews 13:7: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”
Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer were among the most notable English reformers during the 16th century. The story of their martyrdom under the reign of Queen Mary is nothing short of inspiring. Their unflinching resolve to die for Christ exemplifies the type of faithfulness every believer hopes to embody if called to endure the same test. J.C. Ryle the details of their execution in his book Five English Reformers:
On the day of their martyrdom they were brought separately to the place of execution, which was at the end of Broad Street, Oxford, close to Balliol College. Ridley arrived on the ground first, and seeing Latimer come afterwards, ran to him and kissed him, saying, ‘Be of good heart, brother; for God will either assuage the fury of the flames, or else strengthen us to abide it.’ They then prayed earnestly, and talked with one another, though no one could hear what they said. After this they had to listen to a sermon by a wretched renegade divine named Smith, and, being forbidden to make any answer, were commanded to make ready for death.
Ridley’s last words before the fire was lighted were these, ‘Heavenly Father, I give Thee most hearty thanks that Thou hast called me to a profession of Thee even unto death. I beseech Thee, Lord God, have mercy on this realm of England, and deliver the same from all her enemies.’ Latimer’s last words were like the blast of a trumpet which rings even to this day, ‘Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day, by God’s grace, light such a candle in England as I trust shall never be put out.’
When the flames began to rise, Ridley cried out with a loud voice in Latin, ‘Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit: Lord, receive my spirit’, and afterwards repeated these last words in English. Latimer cried as vehemently on the other side of the stake, ‘Father of heaven, receive my soul.
Latimer soon died. An old man, above eighty years of age, it took but little to set his spirit free from its earthly tenement. Ridley suffered long and painfully, from the bad management of the fire by those who attend the execution. At length, however, the flames reached a vital part of him, and he fell at Latimer’s feet, and was at rest. And so the two great Protestant bishops passed away. ‘They were lovely and beautiful in their lives, and in death they were not divided.’ (Ryle, Five English Reformers, 18–19).