This book was written in order to present histories of some of the Cambridge University Reformation martyrs. It provides varied portraits of men who grew into outstanding Christians. Some of them are well known, such as Thomas Cranmer, Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer. Others include John Frith, Thomas Bilney, Robert Ferrar and Thomas Gusgate.
The book is very informative, hiding nothing about the men concerned. Cranmer’s inability to take a stand against Henry VIII over several issues (including the way Anne Boleyn was treated) puts into even greater contrast his later witness and the superb Prayer Book which he left us.
Ferrar’s unquenchable goodness of heart is clearly shown to be the reason for several difficulties he suffered and as part of the reason why Welsh Protestantism didn’t grow equally alongside its English form. We see how men came to Ferrar at the end of his life, begging his forgiveness for the way they had ill-treated him and the cause of the gospel, showing us the astonishing difference his ministry had made to their hearts.
Each chapter, though centred on one or two men, is allowed to cover the narrative events of the lives of others. This could have been distracting, but to me proved a masterly touch. It enabled me to see the connectedness of these men’s lives and ministries, from their time at Cambridge, right through to the dark days when Mary I ruled. It also allows us to hear of others, such as Lady Jane Grey, who ruled as queen for 9 days.
The theological input is helpful and the appendix on the subject of the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper is well presented. The book requires concentration, but I found it to be an excellent read which anyone with an interest in English and Welsh 16th century Protestantism should enjoy. Even more general readers would benefit from the inspiring stories of these great men of faith.