Hugh Latimer Disputation

A few years ago I set about to modernize the language of this disputation, but alas, I didn’t get very far. Here is what I have to date:

The Disputation Had at Oxford, the 16th Day of April, 1554, Between Mr. Hugh Latimer, Answerer, and Mr. Smith and Others, Opposers.

The disputation began on Wednesday, the 18th of April, at 8 o’clock. It was in the same manner as before, but mostly in English. Mr. Latimer, the answerer, alleged that his Latin was out of use, and unfit for that place. Mr. Smith of Oriel College replied, Dr. Cartwright, Mr. Harpsfield and various others bit at him, and gave him bitter taunts. He didn’t escape hissings and scornful laughing any more than those who went before him. He was very faint and desired that he not stay long. He did not drink for fear of vomiting. The disputation ended before 11 o’clock.

Mr. Latimer was not made to read what he said he had painfully written, but it was exhibited up, and the prolocutor read part of it, and then proceeded to the disputation.

Weston’s preface to the disputation

“Men and brethren, we are come together this day, by the help of God, to vanquish the strength of the arguments and dispersed opinions of adversaries against the truth of the real presence of the Lord’s body in the sacrament. And therefore you, father, if you have any thing to answer, I do admonish that you answer in short and few words.”
Latimer: “I pray you, good master Prolocutor, do not exact that of me which is not in me. I have not these twenty years much used the Latin tongue.”
Weston: “Take your ease, father.”
Latimer: “I thank you sir, I am well. Let me here protest my faith, for I am not able to dispute; and afterwards do your pleasure with me.”

The Protest of Mr. Latimer

The conclusions that I must answer are these:
1. The fist is, that in the sacrament of the altar, by the virtue of God’s word pronounced by the priest, there is really and naturally the very body of Christ present, as it was conceived of the virgin Mary, under the kinds of bread and wine. And, in like manner, his blood [in the cup].
2. The second is, that after the consecration there remains no substance of bread and wine, or any other substance but the substance of God and man.
3. The third is, that in the mass there is the lively sacrifice of the church, which is propitiatory for the living and the dead.

To these I answer:

1. Concerning the first conclusion, I think it is set forth with certain new terms, lately found, that are obscure, and do not agree with the speech of the scripture. Nevertheless, however I understand it, thus do I answer, although not without the peril of my life. I say: there is no other presence of Christ required than a spiritual presence; and this presence is sufficient for a Christian man, as the presence by which we both abide in Christ, and Christ in us, to obtain eternal life, if we persevere in his true gospel. And the same presence may be called a real presence, because to the faithful believer there is the real, or spiritual body of Christ. I say this again, so that some sycophant or scorner supposes me, with the Anabaptist, to make nothing else of the sacrament but a bare and naked sign. As for what is pretended by many, I, for my part, take it for an invention of the Popes, and therefore I think it should be utterly rejected from among God’s children, that seek their Savior in faith and are taught among the fleshly Roman Catholics, that will be again under the yoke of antichrist.

2. Concerning the second conclusion, I say boldly that it has no support or ground from God’s holy word; but is a thing invented and found out by man, and therefore to be reputed and known as false; and, I would almost say is the mother and nurse of all other errors. It would be good for you my masters and lords, the transubstantiators, to take better heed to your doctrine, so that you do not conspire with the Nestorians. For the Nestorians deny that Christ had a natural body: and I cannot see how the Roman Catholics can avoid it, for they would contain the natural body which Christ had (sin excepted) against all truth, into a wafer cake.

3. The third conclusion, as I understand it, seems subtly to sow sedition against the offering which Christ himself offered for us in his own person, for all, never again to occur, according to the scriptures written in God’s book. In that book read the forceful and brief words of St. Paul in Hebrews 9 and 10, where he says that Christ himself made a perfect sacrifice for our sins, never again to be performed; and then ascended into heaven, and there sits a merciful intercessor between God’s justice and our sins; and there shall wait until these transubstantiators and all his other foes are made his footstool. This offering he freely made of himself, as it is written in John 10, he did not need any man to do it for him. I say nothing of the amazing presumptions of men, that dare attempt this thing without any manifest calling, especially that which intrudes to the overthrow and make fruitless (if not wholly, then partially) the cross of Christ. Therefore, a man can worthily say to my lords and master offerers, ‘By what authority do you do this? And who gave you this authority? When and where?’ St. John says, ‘A man cannot take any thing except it be given him from above,’ much less then may any man presume to usurp any honor before he is called to do it.

St. John also says, “If any man sin, we have,’ not a masser, nor an offerer upon earth who can sacrifice for us at mass; but ‘we have an Advocate with God the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one, who once offered himself for us long ago.” The efficacy and effect of that offering endures forever, so that it is needless to have such offerers. But if they had a nail driven though one of their ears every time they offer, as Christ had four driven through his hands and feet, they would soon stop offering. Yet, if their offering did not bring gains in addition, it would not be done so often. For they say, ‘No penny, no pater noster.” What does St. Paul mean when he says “They that preach the gospel shall live of the gospel?” He should rather have said, “The Lord has ordained that they that sacrifice at mass should live of the sacrificing.” But although the Holy Ghost appointed them no living for their saying mass in God’s book, yet they have appointed themselves a living in antichrist’s decrees. For I am sure that if God would have had a new kind of sacrificing priest at mass, then he or some of his apostles would have made some mention of it in their master, Christ’, will. But perhaps the secretaries were not the masser’s friends, or else they saw that it was a charge without profit.

 

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