On January 18, 1548, Hugh Latimer, one of the heroes of the English Reformation, preached to a gathering of ministers and lay people in London on the need for faithful pastor-teachers who would commit themselves to preaching. To Latimer, the need was self-evident not just because it had great spiritual benefits, but also because a most “diligent” bishop was so active everywhere destroying the faith and increasing superstition, particularly attacking the cross of Christ.
And now I would ask a strange question: who is the most diligentest bishop and prelate in all England, that passeth all the rest in doing his office? I can tell, for I know him who it is; I know him well. But now I think I see you listening and hearkening that I should name him. There is one that passeth all the other, and is the most diligent prelate and preacher in all England. And will ye know who it is? I will tell you: it is the devil. He is the most diligent preacher of all other; he is never out of his [diocese]; he is never from his cure; ye shall never find him unoccupied; he is ever in his parish; he keepeth residence at all times; ye shall never find him out of the way, call for him when you will he is ever at home; the diligentest preacher in all the realm; he is ever at his plough: no lording nor loitering can hinder him; he is ever applying his business, ye shall never find him idle, I warrant you. And his office is to hinder religion, to maintain superstition, to set up idolatry, to teach all kind of popery. He is ready as he can be wished for to set forth his plough; to devise as many ways as can be to deface and obscure God’s glory . . . Oh that our prelates would be as diligent to sow the corn of good doctrine, as Satan is to sow cockle and darnel!1
Therefore, ye unpreaching prelates, learn of the devil: to be diligent in doing of your office, learn of the devil: and if you will not learn of God, nor good men, for shame learn of the devil . . .2
1 Hugh Latimer, “Sermon of the Plough,” Sermons by Hugh Latimer, Sometimes Bishop of Worcester, Martyr 1555, ed. George Elwes Corrie (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1844), 70-71.
2 Ibid., 77.