May 27, 2023

Miles Coverdale


No preacher was available to deliver the sermon at London’s St. Magnus the Martyr Church on Sunday January 29, 1569. Whether the scheduled preacher was ill, or a no-show remains unclear. Miles Coverdale (1488-1569) had been honorably retired from the church for health reasons. Church leaders came to Coverdale early that morning with the urgent request for him to deliver the sermon. This 81-year-old retired preacher had to be carried into the pulpit and could barely speak above a whisper. Yet when he began preaching, he came alive. He spoke on the importance of the Bible in shaping a believer for a lifetime of faithful living. His biographer called it “the best sermon of his life.” He finished the sermon and promptly died. What a way for a preacher to go! Miles Coverdale is a forgotten leader of the Protestant Reformation. He was a monk in the Catholic tradition before he read Martin Luther’s writings and became an earnest reformer. He was motivated by a single overwhelming passion of providing the people of England with a Bible they could read and understand in their own language. Previously, the only Bible in print was in Latin, considered by some the sacred language of Scripture. Coverdale persevered and published the entire English Bible in 1535. Not that it was easy. He was nearly executed twice, exiled on three occasions and imprisoned countless times. We take our English Bibles for granted. So many translations from which to choose. Thank God for Miles Coverdale. His prayer blesses and humbles me:

O God, give us patience when the wicked hurt us,O how impatient and angry we are
when we think ourselves unjustly slandered, reviled, and hurt.
Christ suffers strokes upon his cheek,
the innocent for the guilty,
yet we may not abide one rough word for his sake.
O Lord, grant us virtue and patience, power and strength,
that we make take all adversity with good will,
and with a gentle mind overcome it.
And if necessity and your honor require us to speak,
grant that we might do so with meekness and patience,
that the truth and your glory may be defended,
and your patience and your steadfast continuance perceived.

Rev. Dr. Peter James served 42 years as the senior of Vienna Presbyterian Church in Vienna, VA — 21 years in the 20th century and 21 years in the 21st century. He retired in 2021 and now serves as Pastor-in-Residence at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

Even as a pastor, prayer came slowly to Pete. Read Pete’s story.