These are a copy of the record of the Fox books Edited by William Byron Forbush, and with some re-editing and comments of myself. It is to be noted that while the many whom for their persecution and suffering are looked upon as saints, we should not consider each one of them that so suffered to indeed have made the entrance into heaven. Since for many it will be said to them: "Depart from Me I know you not." Recall what the Lord said in the book of Revelations: "I have not found your works perfect before My Father."
There are those that are or were Christian, and there are those who were Christian only in name, wherefore the record here in judging the many mentioned is both right and wrong. The writer for one example white-washes the acts of John Calvin, a grave mistake on his part.
This is a book that will never die-one of the great
English classics. Interesting as fiction, because it is written with both
passion and tenderness, it tells the dramatic story of some of the most
thrilling periods in Christian history.
Reprinted here in its most complete form, it brings to life the days when "a noble army, men and boys, the matron and the maid," "climbed the steep ascent of heaven, 'mid peril, toil, and pain."
A HISTORY OF THE LIVES, SUFFERINGS AND TRIUMPHANT DEATHS
OF THE EARLY CHRISTIAN AND THE PROTESTANT
"When one recollects that until the appearance of the Pilgrim's Progress the common people had almost no other reading matter except the Bible and Fox's Book of Martyrs, we can understand the deep impression that this book produced; and how it served to mold the national character.
Those who could read for themselves learned the full details of all the atrocities performed on the Protestant reformers; the illiterate could see the rude illustrations of the various instruments of torture, the rack, the gridiron, the boiling oil, and then the holy ones breathing out their souls amid the flames.
Take a people just
awakening to a new intellectual and religious life; let several generations of
them, from childhood to old age, pore over such a book, and its stories become
traditions as individual and almost as potent as songs and customs on a nation's
"The Puritan in Holland, England, and America"
we divest the book of its accidental character of feud between churches, it yet
stands, in the first years of Elizabeth's reign, a monument that marks the
growing strength of a desire for spiritual freedom, defiance of those forms that
seek to stifle conscience and fetter thought."
the Bible itself, no book so profoundly influenced early Protestant sentiment as
the Book of Martyrs. Even in our own time it is still a living force. It is more
than a record of persecution. It is an arsenal of controversy, a storehouse of
romance, as well as a source of edification."
-- SKETCH OF
John Fox (or
born at Boston, in Lincolnshire, in 1517, where his parents are stated to have
lived in respectable circumstances. He was deprived of his father at an early
age; and notwithstanding his mother soon married again, he still remained under
the parental roof. From an early display of talents and inclination to learning,
his friends were induced to send him to Oxford, in order to cultivate and bring
them to maturity.
During his residence at this place, he was distinguished for the excellence and acuteness of his intellect, which was improved by the emulation of his fellow collegians, united to an indefatigable zeal and industry on his part. These qualities soon gained him the admiration of all; and as a reward for his exertions and amiable conduct, he was chosen fellow of Magdalen College; which was accounted a great honor in the university, and seldom bestowed unless in cases of great distinction.
It appears that the first display of his genius was in poetry; and
that he composed some Latin comedies, which are still extant. But he soon
directed his thoughts to a more serious subject, the study of the sacred
Scriptures: to divinity, indeed, he applied himself with more fervency than
circumspection, and discovered his partiality to the Reformation, which had then
commenced, before he was known to its supporters, or to those who protected
them; a circumstance which proved to him the source of his first troubles.
He is said to have often
affirmed that the first matter which occasioned his search into the popish
doctrine was that he saw divers things, most repugnant in their nature to one
another, forced upon men at the same time; upon this foundation his resolution
and intended obedience to that Church were somewhat shaken, and by degrees a
dislike to the rest took place.
His first care was to
look into both the ancient and modern history of the Church; to ascertain its
beginning and progress; to consider the causes of all those controversies which
in the meantime had sprung up, and diligently to weigh their effects, solidity,
Before he had attained his thirtieth year, he had studied the Greek and Latin fathers, and other learned authors, the transactions of the Councils, and decrees of the consistories, and had acquired a very competent skill in the Hebrew language. In these occupations he frequently spent a considerable part, or even the whole of the night.
And in order to unbend his mind after such incessant study, he would resort to a grove near the college, a place much frequented by the students in the evening, on account of its sequestered gloominess. In these solitary walks he was often heard to ejaculate heavy sobs and sighs, and with tears to pour forth his prayers to God.
These nightly retirements, in the sequel, gave rise to
the first suspicion of his alienation from the Church of Rome. Being pressed for
an explanation of this alteration in his conduct, he scorned to call in fiction
to his excuse; he stated his opinions; and was, by the sentence of the college
convicted, condemned as a heretic, and expelled.
His friends, upon the
report of this circumstance, were highly offended, when he was thus forsaken by
his own friends, a refuge offered itself in the house of Sir Thomas Lucy, of
Warwickshire, by whom he was sent for to instruct his children. The house is
within easy walk of Stratford-on-Avon, and it was this estate which, a few years
later, was the scene of Shakespeare's traditional boyish poaching expedition.
Fox died when Shakespeare was three years old.
afterward married in the Lucy house. But the fear of the popish inquisitors hastened his departure
thence; as they were not contented to pursue public offences, but began also to
dive into the secrets of private families. He now began to consider what was
best to be done to free himself from further inconvenience, and resolved either
to go to his wife's father or to his father-in-law.
His wife's father was a citizen of Coventry, whose heart was not alienated from him, and he was more likely to be well entreated, or his daughter's sake. He resolved first to go to him; and, in the meanwhile, by letters, to try whether his father-in-law would receive him or not.
This he accordingly did, and he received for answer,
"that it seemed to him a hard condition to take one into his house whom he
knew to be guilty and condemned for a capital offence; neither was he ignorant
what hazard he should undergo in so doing; he would, however, show himself a
kinsman, and neglect his own danger. If he would alter his mind, he might come,
on condition to stay as long as he himself desired; but if he could not be
persuaded to that, he must content himself with a shorter stay, and not bring
him and his mother into danger."
No condition was to be
refused; besides, he was secretly advised by his mother to come, and not to fear
his father-in-law's severity; "for that, perchance, it was needful to write
as he did, but when occasion should be offered, he would make recompense for his
words with his actions." In fact he was better received by both of them
than he had hoped for.
By these means he kept
himself concealed for some time, and afterwards made a journey to London, in the
latter part of the reign of Henry VIII. Here, being unknown, he was in much
distress, and was even reduced to the danger of being starved to death, had not
Providence interfered in his favor in the following manner:
One day as Mr. Fox was sitting in St. Paul's Church, exhausted with long fasting, a stranger took a seat by his side, and courteously saluted him, thrust a sum of money into his hand, and bade him cheer up his spirits; at the same time informing him, that in a few days new prospects would present themselves for his future subsistence.
Who this stranger was, he could never learn; but at the end of three days he
received an invitation from the Duchess of Richmond to undertake the tuition of
the children of the Earl of Surry who, together with his father, the Duke of
Norfolk, was imprisoned in the Tower, by the jealousy and ingratitude of the
king. The children thus confided to his care were, Thomas, who succeeded to the
dukedom; Henry, afterwards Earl of Northampton; and Jane who became Countess
of Westmoreland. In the performance of his duties, he fully satisfied the
expectations of the duchess, their aunt.
These halcyon days
continued during the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII and the five years
of the reign of Edward VI until Mary came to the crown, who, soon after her accession, gave all power into the hands of the papists.
At this time Mr. Fox, who
was still under the protection of his noble pupil, the duke, began to excite the
envy and hatred of many, particularly Dr. Gardiner, then Bishop of Winchester,
who in the sequel became his most violent enemy.
Mr. Fox, aware of this,
and seeing the dreadful persecutions then commencing, began to think of quitting
the kingdom. As soon as the duke knew his intention, he endeavored to persuade
him to remain; and his arguments were so powerful, and given with so much
sincerity, that he gave up the thought of abandoning his asylum for the present.
At that time the Bishop of Winchester was very intimate with the duke (by the patronage of whose family he had risen to the dignity he then enjoyed,) and frequently waited on him to present his service when he several times requested that he might see his old tutor. At first the duke denied his request, at one time alleging his absence, at another, indisposition.
At length it happened that Mr. Fox, not knowing the bishop was in the house, entered the room where the duke and he were in discourse; and seeing the bishop, withdrew. Gardiner asked who that was; the duke answered that he was "his physician, who was somewhat uncouthly, as being new come from the university." "I like his countenance and aspect very well," replied the bishop, "and when occasion offers, I will send for him."
The duke understood that speech as the messenger of
some approaching danger; and now himself thought it high time for Mr. Fox to
quit the city, and even the country. He accordingly caused everything necessary
for his flight to be provided in silence, by sending one of his servants to
Ipswich to hire a bark, and prepare all the requisites for his departure. He
also fixed on the house of one of his servants, who was a farmer, where he might
lodge until the wind became favorable; and everything being in readiness, Mr.
Fox took leave of his noble patron, and with his wife, who was pregnant at the
time, secretly departed for the ship.
The vessel was scarcely under sail, when a most violent storm came on, which lasted all day and night, and the next day drove them back to the port from which they had departed. During the time that the vessel had been at sea, an officer, despatched by the bishop of Winchester, had broken open the house of the farmer with a warrant to apprehend Mr. Fox wherever he might be found, and bring him back to the city.
hearing this news he hired a horse, under the pretence of leaving the town
immediately; but secretly returned the same night, and agreed with the captain
of the vessel to sail for any place as soon as the wind should shift, only
desired him to proceed, and not to doubt that God would prosper his undertaking.
The mariner suffered himself to be persuaded, and within two days landed his
passengers in safety at Nieuwport.
After spending a few days
in that place, Mr. Fox set out for Basle, where he found a number of English
refugees, who had quitted their country to avoid the cruelty of the persecutors,
with these he associated, and began to write his "History of the Acts and
Monuments of the Church," which was first published in Latin at Basle in
1554, and in English in 1563.
In the meantime the
reformed religion began again to flourish in England, and the popish faction
much to decline, by the death of Queen Mary; which induced the greater number of
the Protestant exiles to return to their native country.
Among others, on the
accession of Elizabeth to the throne, Mr. Fox returned to England; where, on his
arrival, he found a faithful and active friend in his late pupil, the Duke of
Norfolk, until death deprived him of his benefactor: after which event, Mr. Fox
inherited a pension bequeathed to him by the duke, and ratified by his son, the
Earl of Suffolk.
Nor did the good man's
successes stop here. On being recommended to the queen by her secretary of
state, the great Cecil, her majesty granted him the presbytery of Shipton, in
the cathedral of Salisbury, which was in a manner forced upon him; for it was
with difficulty that he could be persuaded to accept it.
On his resettlement in England, he employed himself in revising and enlarging his admirable Martyr-ology. With prodigious pains and constant study he completed that celebrated work in eleven years. For the sake of greater correctness, he wrote every line of this vast book with his own hand, and transcribed all the records and papers himself.
But, in consequence of such excessive toil, leaving no part of his time free from study, nor affording himself either the repose or recreation which nature required, his health was so reduced, and his person became so emaciated and altered, that such of his friends and relations as only conversed with him occasionally, could scarcely recognize his person.
Yet, though he grew daily
more exhausted, he proceeded in his studies as briskly as ever, nor would he be
persuaded to diminish his accustomed labors. The papists, foreseeing how
detrimental his history of their errors and cruelties would prove to their
cause, had recourse to every artifice to lessen the reputation of his work; but
their malice was of signal service, both to Mr. Fox himself, and to the Church
of God at large, as it eventually made his book more intrinsically valuable, by
inducing him to weigh, with the most scrupulous attention, the certainty of the
facts which he recorded, and the validity of the authorities from which he drew
But while he was thus indefatigably employed in promoting the cause of truth, he did not neglect the other duties of his station; he was charitable, humane, and attentive to the wants, both spiritual and temporal, of his neighbors. With the view of being more extensively useful, although he had no desire to cultivate the acquaintance of the rich and great on his own account, he did not decline the friendship of those in a higher rank who proffered it, and never failed to employ his influence with them in behalf of the poor and needy.
In consequence of his
well-known probity and charity, he was frequently presented with sums of money
by persons possessed of wealth, which he accepted and distributed among those
who were distressed. He would also occasionally attend the table of his friends,
not so much for the sake of pleasure, as from civility, and to convince them
that his absence was not occasioned by a fear of being exposed to the temptations
of the appetite. In short his character as a man and as a Christian was without
Although the recent
recollection of the persecutions under Bloody Mary gave bitterness to his pen,
it is singular to note that he was personally the most conciliatory of men, and
that while he heartily disowned the Roman Church in which he was born, he was
one of the first to attempt the concord of the Protestant brethren. In fact, he
was a veritable apostle of toleration.
When the plague or
pestilence broke out in England, in 1563, and many forsook their duties, Fox
remained at his post, assisting the friendless and acting as the almsgiver of
the rich. It was said of him that he could never refuse help to any one who
asked it in the name of Christ. Tolerant and large-hearted he exerted his
influence with Queen Elizabeth to confirm her intention to no longer keep up the
cruel practice of putting to death those of opposing religious convictions. The
queen held him in respect and referred to him as "Our Father Foxe."
Mr. Fox had joy in the
fruits of his work while he was yet alive. It passed through four large editions
before his decease, and it was ordered by the bishops to be placed in every
cathedral church in England, where it was often found chained, as the Bible was
in those days, to a lectern for the access of the people.
At length, having long
served both the Church and the world by his ministry, by his pen, and by the
unsullied luster of a benevolent, useful, and holy life, he meekly resigned his
soul to Christ, on the eighteenth of April, 1587, being then in the seventieth
year of his age. He was interred in the chancel of St. Giles', Cripple gate; of
which parish he had been, in the beginning of Elizabeth's reign, for some time