Hugh Latimer, English Reformer, was asked to preach on December 19, 1529 at St. Edward’s in Cambridge. The students loved playing cards, so Latimer decided to preach about the cards God deals us, using the example of John the Baptist. He suggested that we must all answer the question the Jews asked John—Who are you? Without Christ, the answer is: “I am under condemnation because of sin.” But through repentance and forgiveness, we can answer, “I am a Christian.” Then as we study the New Testament, it is like turning over cards, one at a time, to learn how God wants us to live.

Latimer ascended the little hexagonal pulpit in the church on December 19. His clear voice pealed out the Scripture in Latin, translated it into English, then plunged into his sermon.

A friar named Buckenham preached a counter sermon using the idea of a pair of dice. He called it “Cinque-quatre”—Five, Four—saying that God’s dice have landed with five on one and four on the other. He attacked the Reformation using five Scripture passages and four church doctors: Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, and Gregory. Buckenham ridiculed Latimer’s call for an English translation of Scripture. “The common man will not understand the figurative language of Scripture,” Buckenham asserted. For example, when the Bible speaks of plucking out one’s eye, some may do it literally.

Latimer assured Buckenham that the English were smart enough to understand metaphors. To laughter, he said, “For example, when a painter pictures a fox in a friar’s cowl, no one supposes an actual fox preaching. What he means is the hypocrisy, craft, and subtle dissimulation that often lie hidden in a friar’s cowl.”

John Foxe later said: Friar Buckenham with this sermon was so dashed that never after he durst peep out of the pulpit against Master Latimer.

Now that God has accepted us because Christ sacrificed his life’s blood, we will also be kept safe from God’s anger. Even when we were God’s enemies, he made peace with us, because his Son died for us. Yet something even greater than friendship is ours. Now that we are at peace with God, we will be saved by his Son’s life. (Romans 5:9,10)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Dec. 19.

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