The University of Cambridge was founded in 1209 after some academicians left the city of Oxford due to disputes with the townspeople. Thus, till today, the students of Oxford University often term Cambridge University as “the other university”.

The University of Cambridge is renowned for her exacting standards in science and mathematics. Her alumni include 9 kings, 14 prime ministers, 30 world leaders, 94 Nobel Prize winners and 23 Olympic winners. She is indeed a worthy rival to the University of Oxford.

However, Cambridge University first started off as a collegiate institution for the training of men to work in churches. It was compulsory for students to study logic, grammar and rhetoric for their first degree. Thus, Cambridge played a vital role in the history of Christianity. It is this rich Christian heritage that is of interest to us in this article.

The following are some of the men of Cambridge University whom God used to magnify His Word:

Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536)
Erasmus was originally from Rotterdam. He was a man of outstanding scholastic ability, and became Professor of Greek in the University of Cambridge. He resided in Queen’s College from 1510 to 1515. He was convicted to know the Christian faith by studying the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. He was the one who compiled and published the Received Text of the Greek New Testament, otherwise known as the Textus Receptus. The Reformation Bibles were translated from the Textus Receptus. It is worth noting that Eras-mus’ first edition of the Greek New Testament was published in 1516. This was before Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of Wittenberg in 1517. Bible first before the Reformation!

Lancelot Andrews (1555-1626)
Lancelot Andrews was a graduate of Pembroke College, Cambridge. He was one of the 54 translators of the King James Version. He was a master of theology and ancient languages, and was conversant in at least 15 languages. He was also a man of great devotion, who kept a manual of his quiet times with God in Hebrew and Greek. Theologians today struggle to write a sentence in Koine Greek, much less an article. They truly pale in comparison to the academic excellence of this man whom God had raised to bring God’s Word to the people.

The Men of White Horse Inn
We introduced the White Horse Inn in the previous weekly. In those days, local inns were vital in the life of the community. Many met there to drink unhopped ale due to poor hygienic standards of “drinking” water. The White Horse Inn was one common meeting place for the scholars of Cambridge.

After Martin Luther published his writings, many men began to take inter-est in his teachings. This led Thomas Bilney to start a fellowship group in the White Horse Inn for scholars to study the Bible and discuss the literature of Luther. Thus, the White Horse Inn came to be known disparagingly as “Little Germany”.

The men of the White Horse Inn study group had the Reformation spirit in them and desired to see spiritual revival in the church. These men included John Rogers, Miles Coverdale, Robert Barnes, Matthew Parker, Hugh Latimer, Stephen Gardiner, Nicholas Shaxton, Nicholas Ridley, John Bale and William Tyndale.

However, not many people supported their stand for a reformation. They needed a church to preach the truth from the Bible without persecution. Providentially, two Cambridge colleges, Trinity Hall and Clare College, had lost the use of their chapels. Thus, permission was given by Henry VI to use the church of St Edward’s King and Martyr in the centre of Cambridge. The Bishop had no right to interfere with the proceedings in the church as the Crown was now her Patron. Since Thomas Bilney was a member of Trinity Hall and Hugh Latimer a member of Clare, the two members of “Little Germany” gained access to St. Edwards for their preaching activities.

The first Reformation sermon in Cambridge was delivered by Robert Barnes at St Edward’s on the Christmas Eve of 1525. He proclaimed the Gospel and exposed the ills of the church. Thus, St Edward’s is often called the “Cradle of the Reformation” in England.

Alas, the Reformers suffered the wrath of King Henry VIII. In 1540, Barnes was imprisoned after preaching a Reformation sermon. He was burned at the stake together with two other preachers. Before his death, he confessed, “Here is none other satisfaction unto the Father, but Christ’s death and passion only . . . That no work of man did deserve anything of God, but only Christ’s passion, as touching our justification . . . For I knowledge the best work that ever I did is impure and imperfect . . . Wherefore I trust in no good work that ever I did, but only in the death of Jesus Christ.”

Lovingly in Christ,
Preacher Clement Chew