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We learn from one of Latimer's sermons, preached in the reign of Edward VI. that, although the stews or licensed brothels were suppressed, but little progress was made in the reformation of morals. Never did the nation witness greater licentiousness, than at the moment the prelate addressed the court. “I advertize you, in God's name, look to it,” he observed. “I
there is now more -- in London, than ever there was on the Bank. These be the news I have to tell you ; I fear they be true.” His constant habit of conveying this description of news to the ears of the attentive king, procured the bishop many enemies, who called him a seditious fellow. But in the preceding reign, he was accused, in the king's presence, of the same crime; and endured the terrific sound from Henry of “What say you to that, Sir?"
A man of less resolution and weaker nerves would have been lost: Latimer, kneeling, made him no immediate answer; and, turning to his accuser, demanded in what manner he should preach before his sovereign. At the same time, he put several other unanswerable questions to his abashed enemy, which completely disabled him from proceeding: Perceiving the advantage he had gained, Latimer expressed himself willing to resign an office he did not solicit ; but declared, if he still held it, he must discharge his duty, and speak as conscience dictated,
He escaped without even a reprimand; which, it is probable, was more than he hoped; as his friends told him, with tears in their eyes, they expected he would have passed the following night in the Tower. In the course of this sermon he termed his congregation brain-sick fools, hoddy peckes, doddy poules, and huddes : and surely he sometimes preached to such ; as will appear by the ensuing story related by himself.
“ This same man, that laid sedition thus to my charge, was asked another time whether he were at the sermon at Paul's Cross? He answered, that he was there : and being asked, what news there?
- Marry, quod he, wonderful news: we were there clean absolved ; my mule and all had full absolution. Ye may see by this that he was such a one that rode on a inule, and that he was ‘a gentleman. Indeed his mule was wiser than he: for, I dare say, the mule never slandered the preacher. Oh, what an unhappy chance had this mule, to carry such an ass upon his back! I was there at the sermon myself. On the end of his sermon,
gave a general absolution; and, as far as I remember, these, or such other like words, but at the least I am sure this was his meaning
as many as do acknowledge yourselves to be sinners, and confess the same, and stand not in defence of it, and heartily abhor it, and will believe in the death of Christ, and be conformable thereunto, Ego absolvo vos, quod he. How say
eth this gentleman his mule was absolved? The preacher absolved but such as were sorry, and did repent. Belike then she did repent her stumbling, his mule was wiser than he a great deal.”
It must be acknowledged that the prelates of antient times frequently ventured to give their sovereigns very bold advice; and, indeed, spared them not. Latimer, in preaching before Edward VI. 1549, mentioned to the young monarch that it would be proper he should expend no more than was absolutely necessary upon horses, which kings might keep to a moderate extent, but not to the injury of the poor, in lavishing upon their maintenance what ought to be given for charitable purposes. From this circumstance, and his subsequent words, it may be supposed that our kings were rather extravagant in this particular. “ I was once offended with the king's horses,” said the bishop, “ and, therefore, took occasion to speak in the presence of the king's majesty that dead is, when abbeys stood. Abbeys were ordained for the comfort of the poor ; wherefore I said, it was not decent that the king's horses should be kept in them, as many were at that time; the living of poor men thereby minished, and taken away. But, afterward, a certain nobleman said to me, - What hast thou to do with the king's horses?"
“ I answered and said, “I spake my conscience, as God's word directed me.' Horses be the
maintenances and part of a king's honour, and also of his realm; wherefore in speaking against them you are against the king's honour ?" I answered, 'God teacheth what honour is decent for the king, and for all other men, according unto their vocations. God appointeth every king a sufficient living for his state and degree, both by lands and other customs. And it is lawful for every king to enjoy the same goods and possessions. But to extort and take away the right of the poor, is against the honour of the king. The bishop proceeded in this strain, and concluded with a sentence which must, if repeated to Henry, have exasperated him beyond forgiveness. Indeed it appears, to a candid person, rather insulting to the feelings of the young monarch, and had better been omitted. “ Therefore,” he added, “I
pray God both the king, and also we bis people, may endeavour diligently to walk in his ways, to his great honour and our profit. Let him not prepare unto himself too many wives, &c. Although we read that the kings amongst the Jews had liberty to take more wives than one, we may not, therefore, attempt to walk inordinately, and to think that we may take also many wives.”
Latimer once said, “ he might call the rich citizens of London proud, malicious, and merciless men of London ; but if he did, they would be offended with him: yet," he added, “must I speak.” Not long before a preacher had called
them Butterflies, “ Lord, what ado there was for that word !” said Latimer ; “yet, would to Heaven they were no worse than butterflies. London was never so ill as it is now.
In times past, men were full of pity and compassion, but now there is no pity; for in London their brother shall die in the streets for cold: he shall lie sick at their door, between stock and stock, I cannot tell what to call it, and perish there for hunger.”
According to this prelate, the rich citizens were accustomed to establish exhibitions for poor scholars at the Universities, and to provide for the distressed, in their wills. This he heard of them when at Cambridge, and he looked to London as the land of promise. But then he “could hear no such good report; and yet I enquire of it, and hearken for it. But now charity is waxen cold; none helpeth the scholar, nor yet the poor.”
The following anecdote from Latimer's second sermon before King Edward VI. will serve as a specimen of manners at the Court of Henry VI. “ There was a bishop of Winchester in king Heury VI. days (which king was but a child, and yet there were many good aids made in his childhood, and I do not read that they were broken): this bishop was a great man born, and did bear such a stroke that he was able to shoulder the lord protector. Well, it chanced that the lord protector and he fell out, and the bishop would bear nothing at all with him, but played me the