Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Book Review: Five English Reformers

Five English Reformers. J.C. Ryle. 1890. 150 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: THERE are certain facts in history which the world tries hard to forget and ignore. These facts get in the way of some of the world’s favourite theories, and are highly inconvenient.

Premise/plot: Five English Reformers is a collection of six sketches or essays. The first essay is "Why Were Our Reformers Burned." It gives an overview of this period of history focusing not just on the who, the where, the when, the how--but THE WHY. (It highlights nine martyrs).

The collection also includes five sketches of individual reformers: John Hooper, Rowland Taylor, Hugh Latimer, John Bradford, and Nicholas Ridley. These sketches could be read independently of one another. Each does stand on its own. The book gathers together likeminded writings on the English Reformers.

Many sections of the sketches (Hooper, Taylor, Latimer, Bradford, Ridley) are just excerpts from Foxe's Book of Martyrs with some light commentary by Ryle. He also includes a few quotes--as he sees fit--from the English Reformers themselves.

My thoughts: If you enjoy reading history and biographies, this one may be a good fit for you. The first essay is, in my opinion, the best because it tackles the why. I think so often we forget about the why when we're reading history. This is set during the Tudor period. Henry VIII has died, his heir Edward has died still a boy without an heir of his own, the question is which sister will reign next...and what religion will the country be.

Ryle argues in this one that the main reason the Reformers burned was the conflict--the disagreement--over communion or mass. Ryle writes, "The doctrine in question was the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the consecrated elements of bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper." He examines this point of debate in terms of past and present. Was it worth dying for then? Also is it worth standing up for and defending now? Should protestants remain firm on this issue. Or is there a lot of wiggle room. Is this a major issue or a minor one.


  • Truth is truth, however long it may be neglected. Facts are facts, however long they may lie buried.
  • It is a broad fact that during the four last years of Queen Mary’s reign no less than 288 persons were burnt at the stake for their adhesion to the Protestant faith.
  •  The principal reason why they were burned was because they refused one of the peculiar doctrines of the Romish Church. On that doctrine, in almost every case, hinged their life or death. If they admitted it, they might live; if they refused it, they must die. The doctrine in question was the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the consecrated elements of bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper.
  • Whatever men please to think or say, the Romish doctrine of the real presence, if pursued to its legitimate consequences, obscures every leading doctrine of the Gospel, and damages and interferes with the whole system of Christ’s truth.
  • You spoil the blessed doctrine of Christ’s finished work when He died on the cross. A sacrifice that needs to be repeated is not a perfect and complete thing.—You spoil the priestly office of Christ. If there are priests that can offer an acceptable sacrifice of God besides Him, the great High Priest is robbed of His glory.—You spoil the Scriptural doctrine of the Christian ministry.
  • A right diagnosis of disease is the very first element of successful treatment. The physician who does not see what is the matter is never likely to work any cures.
  • Take away the Gospel from a Church and that Church is not worth preserving. A well without water, a scabbard without a sword, a steam-engine without a fire, a ship without compass and rudder, a watch without a mainspring, a stuffed carcase without life,—all these are useless things. But there is nothing so useless as a Church without the Gospel.
  • To the Reformation Englishmen owe an English Bible, and liberty for every man to read it.—To the Reformation they owe the knowledge of the way of peace with God, and of the right of every sinner to go straight to Christ by faith, without bishop, priest, or minister standing in his way.—To the Reformation they owe a Scriptural standard of morality and holiness, such as our ancestors never dreamed of.-For ever let us be thankful for these inestimable mercies! For ever let us grasp them firmly, and refuse to let them go! For my part, I hold that he who would rob us of these privileges, and draw us back to Pre-Reformation ignorance, superstition, and unholiness, is an enemy to England, and ought to be firmly opposed.
  • Let us read our Bibles, and be armed with Scriptural arguments. A Bible-reading laity is a nation’s surest defence against error.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

No comments: