Ridley, Nicholas

Ridley, Nicholas,

an eminent English prelate and martyr, was descended from an ancient family in Northumberland, and was born in the year 1500, in Tynedale, at a place called Wilmontswick. He was educated in a grammar school at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and entered Pembroke Hall, Cambridge, about 1518. Here he was taught Greek by Richard Crook, who about that time began to teach it in Cambridge. His religious sentiments were those of the Romish Church, in which he had been brought up. In 1522 he took the degree of A.B., in 1524 was chosen fellow of his college, and in 1525 received the degree of A.M. Directing his attention to the study of divinity, his uncle, Dr. Robert Ridley, who had thus far paid for his education, sent him for further improvement to the Sorbonne at Paris, and thence to Louvain. In 1530 he was chosen junior treasurer of his college, and at this time paid great attention to the study of the Scriptures. For this purpose he used to walk in the orchard at Pembroke Hall, and there committed to memory almost all the epistles in Greek. The walk is still called Ridley's Walk. In 1533 he was chosen senior proctor of the university, and while in that office the question of the pope's supremacy came before the university to be examined on the authority of Scripture. The decision was that "the bishop of Rome had no more authority and jurisdiction derived from God, in this kingdom of England, than any other foreign bishop," and was signed by the vice-chancellor, and by Nicholas Ridley and Richard Wilkes, proctors. In 1534 he took the degree of B.D., and was chosen chaplain of the university and public reader. In 1537, Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, appointed him one of his chaplains, and as a further mark of his esteem collated him, April, 1538, to the vicarage of Herne, in Kent. In 1539, when the act of the Six Articles was passed, Mr. Ridley bore his testimony against it in the pulpit, although he was in no danger from its penalties; still believing in transubstantiation, unmarried, and leaning to the practice of auricular confession, although not insisting upon it as necessary to salvation. In 1540 he went to Cambridge and took the degree of D.D., and about the same time was elected master of Pembroke Hall, having been also, through Cranmer's influence, appointed chaplain to the king, and appointed a prebend in the cathedral of Canterbury. At Canterbury he preached with so much zeal against the abuses of popery that the other prebendaries and preachers of the old learning brought articles against him at the archbishop's visit in 1541, but the attempt failed. Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, next caused articles to be exhibited against him before the justices of the peace in Kent, and afterwards before the king and council, charging him with preaching against auricular confession and with directing the Te Deum to be sung in English. The accusation was referred to Cranmer, and immediately crushed by him. The greater part of 1545 was spent by Dr. Ridley in retirement, and he employed himself in carefully examining the truth and evidence of the doctrine of transubstantiation, of which he had been an unsuspecting believer. He consulted the Apology of the Zwinglians and the writings of Bertram (q.v.), and concluded that the doctrine had no foundation, and found that Cranmer and Latimer both joined him in the same opinion. At the close of the year Cranmer gave him the eighth stall in St. Peter's, Westminster. When Edward VI ascended the throne, in 1547, Dr. Ridley, being appointed to preach before the king on Ash-Wednesday, took that opportunity to discourse concerning the abuses of images in churches, and ceremonies, particularly the use of holy-water for driving away devils. About this time the fellows of Pembroke Hall presented Dr. Ridley to the living of Soham, in the diocese of Norwich; but the presentation being disputed by the bishop, he was admitted to the living by command of the king. On Sept. 25 he was consecrated bishop of Rochester, and in 1548 was employed with Cranmer and others in reforming and compiling the Book of Common Prayer. On the suspension of bishop Bonner, bishop Ridley was transferred to London, and was installed April, 1550. In 1551 the sweating sickness prevailed in London, and although it was fatal to hundreds, yet bishop Ridley remained faithfully at his post. In June, 1550, the bishop directed that the Romish altars should be taken down, and tables substituted, in order to take away the belief of the people that an altar was necessary to the celebration of the sacrament. He was soon after engaged with Cranmer in drawing up the Forty-two Articles. In 1552 he visited his old college at Cambridge, and on his return called at Hansdon, to pay his respects to the princess Mary. The arrogance, insolence, and bitterness of her nature she displayed on this occasion in the insults she offered Ridley. In 1553 the bishop preached before Edward VI, and so aroused the benevolence of the king that the latter sent to him to inquire how he might best put into practice the duties he had so strongly enforced. The result was the founding and endowment of Christ's, Bartholomew's, Bridewell, and St. Thomas's hospitals. Upon the death of Edward VI, Ridley strove to put lady Jane Grey upon the throne; but failing, he went to Mary, as was expected of the bishop of London, and did her homage. By her command he was sent back from Framingham on a lame horse and committed to the Tower, July 26, 1553, to be proceeded against for heresy. It has been thought that bishop Ridley might have recovered the queen's favor by countenancing her proceedings in religion. But he was too honest to act against his convictions, and, after eight months' imprisonment in the Tower, was taken to Oxford, where he was, Oct. 1, 1555, condemned to death for heresy. The evening before his execution he supped with some of his friends, showing great cheerfulness; and refused the offer of one of them to sic up with him, saying, "I mean to go to bed, and, by God's will, to sleep as quietly as ever I did in my life." On October 16, arrayed in his episcopal habit, he walked to the place of execution between the mayor and one of the aldermen of Oxford. Seeing Latimer approach, he ran to meet him, and, embracing him, exclaimed, "Be of good heart, brother, for God will either assuage the fury of the flames, or else give us strength to endure them." Going to the stake, they both kissed it and prayed earnestly. Refused permission to speak unless he recanted, he said, "Well, so long as the breath is in my body, I will never deny my Lord Christ and his known truth. God's will be done in me." Fire was then applied, and after suffering intensely for a long time Ridley expired. Bishop Ridley, in his private life, was a pattern of piety, humility, temperance, and regularity. The following works are ascribed to him by Anthony Wood: Treatise concerning Images: — Brief Declaration of the

Lord's Supper (1555 and 1586, 8vo): — A Friendly Farewell, written during his imprisonment at Oxford (1559, 8vo): — Account of the Disputation held at Oxford (1688, 4to): — A Treatise of the Blessed Sacrament. Additions are made by other authorities. Many of his letters are in Fox's Acts and Monuments, and in Dr. Gloster's Life of Bishop Ridley.

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