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This compilation, gathered from the voluminous writings of the Fathers of the Reformation and Martyrs in the cause of truth, has been undertaken with the view of placing before the reader the almost perfect harmony existing in the setting forth by them of the great doctrines of the Christian faith. The compiler claims no merit for the attempt to elucidate Bible-teaching. It has been to himself personally a labour of love, and he may fairly hope of spiritual gain likewise. His earnest desire is that others may derive equal benefit from the careful perusal and study of that collateral evidence (so to speak) which uninspired writers have been permitted to give to the force and value of the very words of inspiration. It can be no slight privilege to learn what such devoted servants of God as Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Bradford, and others (semi-inspired men, one might almost suppose), have written and published concerning the common faith, in defence of which they laid down their lives, suffering so cruel a death. Their very dust and ashes seem to speak to us from the tomb, and to urge the study of the things which brought them peace with God.
Though the Parker Society's laborious works may be found adorning the shelves of many, both clergy and laity, the valuable gems contained in those precious mines of truth may scarcely be said to have been, to any appreciable amount, brought to the surface; certainly not to have had that value attributed to them which they do so justly merit.
The compiler has endeavoured, following the order of “The Articles of Religion,” to extract from the works of our Reformers, and to place them before the reader, the beginning and the ending, the Alpha and Omega, as it were, of the Christian Faith, and somewhat after the following scheme : e.g., The mystical names of God—The Tetragrammaton, i.e. Jehovah—The Great “I am”. The Holy Trinity—God's attributes-- The creation of the world
and of man-God's covenant with Adam-Man's fall through the tempter-His restoration through the promised Seed of the woman-The covenant of grace-Original and actual sin leading to death, not temporal only, but eternal-Repentance towards God, and Faith towards our Lord Jesus ChristDead and living faith --Faith's evidences, i.e. good works, grace enabling thereto-- The Great atoning Sacrifice and its acceptance with God the Father, evidenced by the resurrection of Christ from the dead-The glorious ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and how He acts upon the hearts and consciences of men, leading them through grace to glory—The Sacraments significant of grace, and, when rightly received, very profitable. With one and all these scriptural doctrines our Reformers were most familiar, and their unwearied labour of love was evidenced in their deep anxiety that the same should be widely spread, broadcast, as it were, throughout the habitable world. Their earnest prayer was that the Gospel of the grace of God in its integrity should not be kept back from perishing sinners, but widely proclaimed. It may scarcely be doubted that to a great extent their prayers have been heard and answered. May not the hope be indulged that when more is known of these testimonies to the faith of the crucified Son of God, in many instances sealed with blood, a corresponding spiritual benefit may be expected? The value, though but of one single soul in God's sight, how great is it! And if the promise holds good still, and is yet in force, that “through the foolishness of preaching it pleaseth God to save them that believe,” may we not indulge the hope that the preaching of the “speaking dead” in the following pages may be blessed to the purpose of kindling life?
The biographical notices of the lives, and the graphical accounts of the deaths, of the several Reformers, extracts from whose writings are given, have been gathered from various sources, chiefly from the writings of the Martyrologist, Foxe, and from the Parker Society's published works. The “Unpublished letter of Peter Martyr, Reg. Div. Prof. Oxford, to Henry Bullinger," has been in part reprinted in this publication by the kind permission of the Executors of the late Dean of Ripon, the Very Reverend William Goode. It is not to be found amongst the published Zurich Letters. The Dean in his preface wrote (of Sacraments): "It must be observed that when Peter Martyr states the question agitated to have been, Whether grace is conferred 'per sacramenta,' it is clear from the rest of his letter, as well as from his other writings that he means 'by virtue of the Sacraments,' and is
not denying that the Sacraments are means and instruments of grace, where rightly received, which he expressly maintains them to be.
Grace is conferred in the use of the Sacraments, to worthy recipients, but not by the Sacraments, as rites endowed with a certain efficacy in themselves.” (N.B. The italics are those of the Dean.)
It will be observed that a reading is offered for every day throughout the year, as it is hoped that by this method time may be found, even by the most occupied, to endeavour to grasp the mind of the several writers in support of the vital truths which have been revealed in Holy Scripture. It should not astonish the reader to find that an almost perfect harmony exists, not only with the inspired Word itself, but with the severally-expressed expositions thereof by our Reformers ; e.g., in perusing what they have written concerning the Sacraments, we find them, one and all, concurring in their end and object. There is not one dissentient voice. All reject the modern, or rather the revived, fallacies concerning their efficacy-i.e., simply "ex opere operato.”
., A steel engraving of the Martyrs' Memorial at Oxford is presented to the reader, and will, it is hoped, prove acceptable, if only as a reminder of the heart-rending events recorded concerning those who suffered on the spot.
It only remains for the compiler to express a fervent hope that his humble endeavour, through voices of the dead, to preach Christ crucified to the living, may be acceptable to the reader, and, with all its faults and imperfections, accepted by the One who will not reject even the most feeble effort to enlarge His kingdom and promote His honour and glory, for the sake and through the sole merits of His own dear Son, “THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS."
SIT LAUS DEO.
JOHN BALE, D.D., Bishop of Ossory, 1553, was born at Cove, Suffolk, 21st November, 1495. Education commenced at a Carmelite convent in Norwich. Sent to Jesus College, Cambridge. Relates the cause of his conversion to the Reformed faith as follows: “I wandered in utter ignorance, and blindness of mind, both at Norwich and Cambridge, having no tutor nor patron, till, the word of God shining forth, the churches of God began to return to the fountain of true divinity. I found all things built not on the sand, but on a solid rock. Hence I made haste to deface the mark of wicked antichrist, and entirely threw off his yoke from me, that I might be partaker of the lot and liberty of the sons of God.” This brought him into collision with Archbishop and Bishop, and doubtless he would have been handed over to the secular arm for punishment, had he not found a friend in Cromwell, Earl of Essex, at whose death Bale was exposed to the malice and persecution of his enemies. Feeling his position unsafe in England, he retired to Germany, there remaining until the accession of Edward VI., in 1547. On his return he was presented with the Rectory of Bishopstoke, Hants, and subsequently with the Vicarage of Swafiham, Norfolk. He took his D.D. degree in 1551, and in 1552 was nominated Bishop of Ossory, his consecration, in Dublin Cathedral, taking place on 2nd February, 1553. Now commence his severe trials. No longer safe in his own diocese, he sought refuge in Dublin, and on Michaelmas Day, 1553, endeavoured to escape into Holland, and took ship for that purpose. The vessel was captured by pirates, and Bale sold as a slave. We next hear of him at Basle, in Switzerland, where, it seems, he remained until 1559, returning to England, but not to his diocese, with a broken constitution. His few remaining years were passed at Canterbury, a Prebendal Stall having been given him in the Cathedral. He died at Canter