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LIFE OF THE MARTYROLOGIST, SECTION 1.
BIRTH, AND EDUCATION, TILL HE WAS EXPELLED FROM MAGDALEN COLLEGE.
A.D. 1517 To 1545. —Act. 28. Birth And Early Pursuits — Entrance At Oxford — Chamber-Fellow With Nowell — Religious Contentions Of The Times — Elected Fellow Of Magdalen — English Bibles — State Of Religion On The Continent — Learning Of Foxe — Conflicts On The Subject Of Religion — Expulsion From College.
PICTURE: Portrait of John Foxe PICTURE: Facsimile of Foxes Letter to Magdalen College John Foxe, the author of the Acts and Monuments of the Church (the last book which was commanded by the sovereign, sanctioned by the bishops:, and ordered by a canon of the Anglican Convocation to be placed in the hall of every episcopal palace in the land); the most influential preventer of the revival of the papal supremacy over England; one of the most elegant Latin scholars, and irreproachable men of his age, — was born at Boston, in Lincolnshire, in 1517, the year in which Luther published his Theses against the church of Rome. His principal biographer is his son; and though many interesting circumstances of his more active life, after he left the University, are to be derived, as we shall see, from various sources; it is impossible, at the distance of three centuries, to collect any information respecting his early years, but that which his son has recorded.
In the Preface to the Reader, prefixed to his account of his Father, his son informs us, that “he had been solicited by many persons to gratify posterity with a history of his father’s life, which he had written thirty years before.” He had, however, continually “to refuse to publish it; and he should have persevered in doing so, if he had not perceived that many who were mere strangers, and utterly ignorant of his conversation, had presumed to write his life.” The deficiencies and inaccuracies of these unauthenticated publications, induced him “to preserve his memory from wrong, and to place it in its true and proper light.” “The importunity of both those who admired, and those who disapproved, also, of his father’s opinions and conduct, were additional reasons,” he informs us, “for writing; “ and he trusts, “that his narrative may be regarded as free from the suspicion of intentional falsehood or partiality, though it was compiled by a son.” He had written it originally “for his own private satisfaction; and it was now given to the world because it was deemed worthy of publication by others rather than by himself.” None of the spurious works, to which Mr. Foxe here alludes, are known, I believe, to exist at present; and we must consequently be contented with a few brief notices of his early life, till he was expelled the University of Oxford for heresy, as they are related in the memoir by his son. f3 The parents of John Foxe were of respectable rank in the town of Boston, in Lincolnshire, “well reputed of, and of good estate.” His father, not being a native of that town, suffered greatly from its extreme humidity, and died while his son was very young. His mother soon married again. The childhood of Foxe was distinguished by his great love of reading. His father-in-law afforded him every encouragement to persevere in his studies; and probably expected that he would become an ornament to the church in its unreformed state, for he was himself a rigid Romanist, and educated Foxe, in the strictest manner, in the established principles and errors. His resources were not ample; and John Foxe seems to have been sent to Oxford at the age of sixteen (A.D. 1633), by friends who approved his “good inclinations and towardness to learning.” He was entered at Brazennose; and Alexander Nowell, then aged twenty-two, afterwards dean of St. Paul’s, was appointed, according to the custom which then prevailed among the poorer students, to be his chamber-fellow and companion. Their tutor was Mr. Hawarden, one of the fellows of the college.
No other certain events are related of Foxe until the year 1545, being a period of twelve years, than that he took his Bachelor’s Degree in 1538, and his Master’s Degree in 1543; that he was elected fellow of Magdalen in this latter year; and was expelled for heresy from Magdalen in 1545.
The life of Foxe must be unavoidably deficient in interest, when compared with those of other eminent reformers. Luther and Wycliffe took part in the councils of princes, and were involved in the collisions of courts and senates. Cranmer and Ridley were martyrs, and perished, “for the truth’s sake,” by the noblest death. Foxe was a retired student in his youth; the tutor only of a family in his early manhood; the assistant to a foreign printer in his maturer years; and a secluded clergyman in his more advanced age. No life seems to promise less gratification to a lover of biography, from its commencement to its conclusion. Its principal interest will be found to arise from contemplating the effects of the circumstances and changes of the age in which he lived on an amiable, a gentle, and conscientious mind. He began life, we must believe, as a decided Romanist.
His early bias, before he could discern between the truth and falsehood of the propositions which were discussed in the great controversy in which he took eventually so prominent a part, must have been the same as those of his kindred and early preceptors. The few brief notices of his life, prior to his expulsion from Magdalen, relate to the change from Romanism to Anglicanism — from the errors of the catholic church, to the truths of the catholic church.
Alexander Nowell, his chamber-fellow, continued an undergraduate at Brazennose thirteen years. The first degree was not then, as at present, so uniformly, or so generally taken, at the termination of the fourth year of residence in college. The student became a member of the University at an earlier age; and remained, very often, many years an undergraduate before he solicited a degree. This suspension of graduateship did not, however, imply inferiority. It proceeded from diffidence, from convenience, from attention, perhaps, to other studies than those in which proficiency was required for a degree. Nowell, at the age of twenty, seven years after he was admitted as a student at Brazennose, was a public reader of logic in the University Nowell left Oxford in 1543, to become second master of Westminster School, where he instructed his pupils in the ancient principles of the true catholic faith, as they were cleared from the papal errors, which had so long been blended with and disfigured them. We may justly infer, therefore, that as Nowell was ten years older than Foxe, learned as a logician, devoted to study, distinguished for his genius, industry, and kindness, he would possess great influence over the mind of his more youthful companion. They would discuss freely all the controversies of the time. Nowell was already favorably disposed to the changes which were commencing; and it is generally supposed that he must have materially biassed the mind of Foxe to the conclusions which he afterwards adopted. I do not believe that the influence of Nowell proceeded to this extent. It seems to me to be more probable, that, as Foxe, at the commencement of his chamber-fellowship with Nowell, was a decided Romanist, the chief advantage which the young student derived from his senior, was the power and the habit of thinking more freely, and inquiring more impartially, than he would have been permitted to do by the zealous partisans of the long-established errors. I infer this from the two facts which are recorded by the biographers of Nowell and Foxe.
Nowell left the university in the year 1643, to teach protestantism; or the purer catholicism of antiquity, at Westminster. Foxe was admitted a fellow of Magdalen in that very year; and as he was expelled, two years after, from that society, on account of his supposed heresy, I conclude that he was made a fellow because of his supposed orthodoxy; and that the great change in his opinions, which his son relates, took place between the departure of Nowell from Oxford, and his own expulsion. I am confirmed in this belief, by considering the peculiar circumstances under which he was received into the society of Magdalen. His election gave great offense to the students of that college. They considered themselves aggrieved by the introduction of a stranger. They regarded the preferments of the college as belonging to those who were brought up on the foundation. It is true, that this repugnance to the admission of Foxe among them was greatly softened, by their observance of his patience, kindness, and humility.
These overcame their antipathy; and gained, not only their esteem and approbation, but their admiration and their love. Yet we may be assured that a conviction of his continued attachment to Romanism was added to all these good qualities. They never would have consented to the intrusion of a stranger, whom they expelled two years after on the plea of heresy, if they had not believed that he was attached to the opinions they had themselves preferred. I consider, therefore, that the great value of Nowell’s intimacy with John Foxe consisted in teaching him to reason; in guiding his studies, and imbuing him with that mental energy which is the foundation of all decision of character. Both were pious, zealous, and learned; and their friendship, whether at Oxford, in their common exile on the Continent, or on their return to England, continued through life.
But whatever may have been the influence of Nowell on the mind of Foxe, the events of the period which elapsed between his admission into Brazennose, 1633, and his election, ten years after, to his fellowship at Magdalen, unavoidably compelled him to consider deeply and anxiously the great controversy which was convulsing both the Continent and England, as it still continues to do. In these calm and halcyon days, when every man who desires to know the truth, and to live a peaceful life in all godliness and honesty, may live securely, none daring to make him a£raid — when toleration has become an unquestioned privilege to the lowliest and the meanest; and one of the principal dangers which agitates society arises from the perversion, and not from the permission of freedom of opinion — we, in these days, can form but a very inadequate notion of the excitement and misery of the time when the mind was compelled, by the incessant restlessness of the most unwearied and fiery discussions, to examine and to decide for itself, at the risk of the burning of the body, either for papistry, or for protestantism. No language can fully describe the anxious misery of the conscientious yet prudent Christian, who desired to arrive at conclusions which were right in religion, that the soul be saved; and at conclusions which should be right also, in law, that the body be not burnt. Even the most careless and indifferent to religion were no less harassed. The church and the king of one year, opposed the church and the king of the year following. The holy Scriptures had been withheld, by severe decrees, from the people, for many years. To desire their perusal had long been considered a proof of heresy. Within the thirty-six years, however, preceding his taking his bachelor’s degree by John Foxe, no less than five hundred and sixty-eight editions of the whole, or various parts of the Bible, had been printed in Hebrew and Latin; and also in English, German, French, Spanish, and other European languages. England always sympathizes with the Continent, even where it does not follow its example. The learned men at Oxford must have become, more than they had yet been, students of the Bible, from the general attention which was now everywhere paid to the sacred volume; even if they had not been forced to become: so by the enactments of the public law, and by the numerous translations in their own language which were now constantly issuing from the press. In 1633, the king was declared to be the head of the church; and Cranmer was elevated to the see of Canterbury. The convocation of Canterbury petitioned that the Bible be again translated.
Translations of various parts of the Scriptures were constantly made and circulated by private persons There was a general thirst for the streams of the waters of life. In 1635, Coverdale’s Bible was completed; and in the following year a royal injunction was issued to the whole clergy of the realm to provide a Bible in each church, and to lay the same in the quire, that all might hear and read. Another translation, Matthews’s Bible, was printed abroad, and circulated in England, the editor of which, Rogers of Lancashire, was burnt by Mary. In 1538, another proclamation was published, commanding the clergy to provide Bibles in all churches, and directing them to read the royal permission, that the people should hear and read it; and “wonderful,” says Strype, “was the joy with which this book of God was received by both the learned, the lovers of the reformation, and by the vulgar. Children flocked to hear it read, though, in some instances, the hatred to the Scriptures, or the love of the longestablished errors, induced their parents to punish them with merciless severity. The light was struggling with the darkness. Many of the clergy exerted their apostolical authority to prevent the royal injunctions from being carried into effect. Parsons, vicars, and curates, read the Bible so that none should understand it;. They bade their parishioners, too (no doubt conscientiously,-for the novelty, because it was novelty, seemed to be heresy), to live as their fathers did; for the old fashion was the best.
Cranmer’s Bible, and Taverner’s Bible, were published in November, 1539. An attempt was made to limit the number of translations; but in the following year another royal proclamation enforced the former; and even this was confirmed by another in the year ensuing. These proclamations were partially, sullenly, and reluctantly obeyed by many of the bishops and clergy. The immediate effect of the new indulgence appeared to justify all the evil predictions of the enemies of the scriptural knowledge of the common people. Faction and party spirit were affirmed to be increased by the new knowledge. The common people disputed in taverns and alehouses. They bandied about the words papist and heretic; as they will ever do, till the usurpers of dominion over conscience by authority alone, cease to withhold the Scriptures, and until the people themselves conform to the instructions of Scripture. In the year 1542, the chief bishop of the Anglican church requested his brother bishops, in full convocation, to revise the translation in use. One of them, Gardiner of Winchester, proposed to render the version obscure by retaining a certain number of untranslated words; and Cranmer united with the king in referring the decision to the universities. To this the bishops objected, because young men, the junior masters of arts (among whom must be reckoned Nowell and Foxe), whose judgments they said were not to be relied on, decided on the questions submitted to them. And yet, after all these efforts to give the free use of the Scriptures to the people, the Romish party so prevailed in the parliament which met at the commencement of 1543 — the year in which Foxe was elected fellow of Magdalen — that an act was passed, ordering, “that all manner of books of the Old and New Testament in English, of Tyndale’s translation, should be utterly abolished, extinguished, and forbidden to be kept and used.” Other translations might be kept, provided the annotations or preambles were cut out. None were to read the Bible in the churches without a license. All, of any rank, from the chancellor to the merchant, might read the Bible: but no women, except noblewomen and gentlewomen; nor artificers, prentices, journeymen, nor laborers. If they did so, they were to recant for the first offense; bear a faggot for the second; and be burnt for the third. Such were the variations in legislation within these ten years, respecting the Scriptures. But the waters had broken forth, and were streaming in the desert; and though in the last year of the reign of Henry, Coverdale’s Bible, as well as Tyndale’s, was prohibited, and the zeal of the king for the reformation declined, and the power of the enemies of the free use of the Scriptures increased, we may justly doubt whether any enactment of the crown and convocation united would have now wrested the book of God from the people. The prohibition that neither women, mechanics, nor peasants, should read the Scriptures, was framed in the very papal temper which is most opposed to the design of the Giver of revelation. There is no sex in souls, that women should be excluded from the waters of life; and the gospel of God is preached, and the Scriptures of God are granted, more especially to the poorest, the vilest, the meanest, most ignorant, and the most abject, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to direct them to a better state. Revelation appeals to the hearts of the poor, rather than to the heads of the rich. To the poor, more than to the rich, the gospel was always preached. The Creator esteems the soul of the poor mechanic and the lowly peasant to be of the same value as the soul of the monarch and of the bishop, of the emperor and of the pope; and we who affirm the undoubted privilege of the humblest to possess the volume of God’s truth, are the true friends of the catholic church, and of the souls of men. All are equal before God, and he gives the same bread of life for their souls, as he gives them the same air to breathe, and the same sun to enlighten them.
One instant effect of this universal desire to read the Scriptures appeared in the disregard which began to be paid to the schoolmen. Nowell and John Foxe were, possibly, a part of that assemblage of young men, of whom, in the year 1535, the king’s commissioners wrote to lord Cromwell — “ We have set Duns in Bocardo, and have utterly banished him Oxford for ever, with all his blind glosses. The second time we came to New College, after we had declared our injunctions, we found all the great quadrant court full of the leaves of Duns (Johannes Duns Scotus), the wind blowing them into every corner.” The works of the other schoolmen no doubt shared the same fate; those of Thomas Aquinas, perhaps, excepted, as he was the king’s favourite author. f12 But these were not all the events of the ten years which compelled the learned and the studious to ponder deeply the controversies of the day.
The claims of the pope to rule the church — the resistance of the king to the papal supremacy — the utter contempt with which his majesty treated the summons of Clement VII., citing him to appear, personally or by proxy, at Rome, A.D. 1532 — the decision of the long-litigated question of the divorce, 1533 — the abolition of the papal supremacy, 1534; with the recognition by the bishops and clergy, in their convocation, of the royal title of head of the church — the oath of allegiance to the king, under this title, taken by Gardiner, Tonstal, Bonner, Stokesley, and generally by all the bishops; by the convocation, and by the universities — the refusal to take the oath by More and Fisher; and their subsequent inhuman execution, A.D. 1535 — the insurrection in Lincolnshire, Foxe’s native county, 1537 — the overthrow of monasteries and mitred abbots, by which the number of the spiritual peers was reduced below that of the lay peers in the House of Lords — the passing of the Six Acts, A.D. 1540 — and above all, the mutual and bitter exasperations which, every year, marked the two parties — these things convulsed and agitated the public mind beyond all that can be imagined in the present comparatively calm and tranquil days; and contributed to the state of depression which the son of Foxe describes of his father.: Neither was this all.: Not only did the cruel burnings, which were alike inflicted upon the scholar who could reason and discuss, as Tyndale, Frith, and Bilney, and upon the heartbroken maniac, the poor idiot, or the thoughtless jester, compel an amiable and reflecting mind to question the moral justice of the painful executions of the day; but the events on the Continent confirmed the propriety of the doubts of the future martyrologist, by the sympathy of thousands in the Anglican resistance to the papal supremacy.
A fear years before this time, the Institutes of Calvin had been published, A.D. 1535. Zwinglius had taught at Zurich. The confession of Augsburg had been promulgated 1530; and the articles of Smalcald, 1537, drawn up.
Episcopacy itself, the ordinance of Christ, had unfortunately become odious to many in consequence of the active prosecutions of various adherents to the new teachers, by many of the bishops, during a century and a half; and especially within the few last years. The mind was painfully harassed by the dissensions among the reformers themselves, as well as by their opposition to the principles of the church of Rome. Every man deemed that opinion which he himself disapproved, to be an heresy; and the heretic was regarded as worthy of punishment, “even to death,” by the opponents, as well as the advocates of Rome. Such were the agitations of the public mind at the period when John Foxe, in common with many of his countrymen, was led to doubt the truth and certainty of the conclusions to which he was originally so much attached.
It is much to be lamented that the Memoir of Foxe is written without any proper attention to dates. The writer mentions only in very general terms his learning and his piety; his doubts of the tenableness of his Romanist opinions; and his eventual decision to renounce them. At the same time, it is quite absurd to try this document by modern rules of criticism; and to require a degree of knowledge and exactness of detail which the writer could not possess. Both of Foxe’s sons were unborn during the earlier periods of his active manhood, and in infancy while the great affair of his life was transacting. Of his persecutions, exile, and lengthened labors in the preparation of his great work, they could know nothing save by afternarration.
There is no reason to suppose that Foxe left the least record of his own labors. If the Life, published in 1641, was written, as it seems to purport to have been, thirty years before that date, then it must have been written about 1610, which was twenty-three years after the Martyrologist’s own death. His eldest son, then, if we suppose him to have been the biographer, loses his parent by death in 1587, being himself twenty-seven years of age. He had then enjoyed some opportunities of converse with him, during a few years of manhood, in the intervals of college-life and other engagements. The leading facts gleaned from his father’s conversation, he sits down, twenty-three years after, to commit to paper. What could be expected from such a narrative, but precisely what it appears to be? — a loose and vague tradition, often, doubtless, falling into positive error; and yet, being a son’s recollection of his father’s narrations, possessing greater authority and value than any other document can claim.
We shall, therefore, continue to refer to it only for such glimpses of fact as it continually affords.
Foxe’s early love of learning, which induced his friends to send him to Oxford, his intimacy with Nowell, and the events to which I have referred, were all pledges that he would continue his researches until he had obtained satisfaction on the controverted points; and until he had decided, whether the principles of the Romanists were defensible from the Scripture, and identified with primitive Christianity. To arrive at right conclusions, he made himself master of the different controversies which had divided the church. He applied himself to the study of ecclesiastical history, both ancient and modern. He learned the beginning of the church; by what arts it flourished, and by what errors it began to decline. He ascertained the causes of those controversies and dissensions which had arisen in it; and weighed attentively of what moment they were to religion.
His application, says his son, was great; and before he was thirty years of age he had read over all that either the Greek or Latin fathers had left in their writings; the schoolmen in their disputations; the councils in their acts; or the consistories in their decrees. His acquaintance with the Jewish and rabbinical literature was not so extensive or profound, as with the annals and erudition of christian churches. Still, he had so competent a skill in the Hebrew language as to become thoroughly acquainted with the Scriptures in the original. Henry VIII. had established both a Greek and Hebrew professorship, A.D. 1530, at Oxford; and as Foxe appears to have constantly resided there many years, and to have wholly devoted himself to study, there is nothing improbable in this statement. Thus he continued to study till he was made fellow of Magdalen, A.D. 1543.
In the same proportion, however, in which he studied, he became gradually convinced of the necessity of adhering to that purer, and more ancient mode of catholicism, which the church of Rome had so long defaced by its novelties; but his doubts, or the difficulty of decision, or his unwillingness to break the ties which bound him to his family and his college, or the contending weakness and strength of his resolutions, produced that internal conflict which those alone can understand who love the kindred from whom they see reason to differ; yet believe: that they shall not be deemed worthy of the crown, if they take not up the cross, and forsake friend and kindred, for Christ and truth. His demeanor began to change. He was reported, says his son, by some of his fellow-students, to have bestowed, over and above his day’s exercise, whole nights at his studies, or not to have betaken himself to rest till very late. Then it was that he read the Scriptures in their original language, and poured out the supplications of his soul before the throne of God; asking, as did Solomon, for an understanding heart, that he might discern between good and bad; and by comparing spiritual things with spiritual, might arrive at the knowledge of the truth, as it is in Jesus. “He would leave his study or his bed, and retire to a neigh-bouring grove, where the students delighted to walk, and spend some hours of recreation; and there, amid darkness and solitude, ponder deeply over what he had been reading, so that he might confirm his mind in the truths he had embraced.” “How many nights,” his son proceeds, “he watched in these solitary walks; what combats and wrestlings he suffered within himself; how many heavy sighs, and sobs, and tears he poured forth with his prayers to Almighty God! I had rather I might be spared from this discourse, than touched with any show of ostentation; but it was necessary to be mentioned, because from hence sprung the first suspicions of his alienated affections.” Some of those, at length, with whom he was intimate, and to whom these extraordinary exercises of mind were known, reported him to the heads of the college, as an abettor of the new faith.
This caused some to be employed as spies, to watch him narrowly, while they admonished him, as his friends, that these nightly walks might render him suspected; and thus they were able to pry more into his words and actions. At length his conscience constrained him to cease from attendance not only at the college chapel, but also at the university church, except upon necessary and official occasions. This enabled his opponents to compare “his customs formerly used, with the present course he now took; and they, with more bitterness aggravated the fact. Why, said they, should he not come to church so often as in former times he was accustomed? Why should he shun the company of his equals, and refuse to recreate himself after his wonted manner, unless he had felt in his mind some sudden alteration? And, if that alteration be for the better, why should he conceal it? “ Being thus suspected and defamed, surrounded by spies and treacherous companions, he was at last openly accused of heresy; brought before the heads of the college to answer the accusation; convicted of the crime; and expelled. He was commanded to leave the city and county of Oxford without delay; and to be thankful that his judges had been so merciful to him, seeing that the sentence was far below his apostasy. This took place in the year 1545; the same year in which the council of Trent met. He was then twenty-eight years of age; and had been a fellow of Magdalen only two years. I have partly copied the quaint language of his son. It graphically describes the common case. Those who regard that spiritual religion which considers all churches, priests, authority, and ministrations, as merely the divinely-appointed subsidiaries to our progress in a holy, life — those who believe, that, if even a divinely-commissioned priesthood superadd to scriptural truth erroneous doctrines, which neither Christ nor his apostles have taught, such doctrines must be rejected by the Christian; but who have been also brought up as Foxe had been, to love, venerate, and admire those very doctrines as a part of the holy faith which had been given to the catholic church — those who believe that they must love God and truth above all things, if they would obtain the promises — those persons will ever be compelled to undergo the bitter inward conflict which Foxe experienced before he could decide to forsake the communion of Rome. The world despises this contest. It receiveth not these things of God; neither can it know them. They are spiritually discerned. They can no more comprehend the source of the prayers, and tears, and sobbings of John Foxe, when he was about to forsake the errors of the church of Rome, than a man blind from his birth can comprehend the nature of light; or a man deaf from his birth, the magnificence of the Messiah of Handel, or the warbling of the Italian operatist. To these persons such emotions are nonsense, enthusiasm, or folly. It was a severe and fearful trial. On one side were the literary leisure; the faithful friend; honor and wealth; reputation and advancement; the gratification of ambition in the prospect of the rewards of his deep learning; and all that is captivating to the heart of man. On the other side were contumely and disgrace; alienation of friends; the loss of all things; poverty, exile, and obscurity; with the probability of the most agonizing death, amidst contempt, reproach, and insult. He reflected. He decided. He resolved to endure the loss of all things; and to count all that ambition could desire, and avarice covet, as less than nothing and vanity, so that he might finish his course with joy.
His patience — his heroic fortitude — “the better martyrdom,” was esteemed and appreciated by our fathers. With us, their degenerate sons, it is now required to “remain unsung.” popery will ever unite with infidelity, and infidelity with popery, to destroy spiritual religion; as Herod and Pilate — the nominal Jew, and the liberal Gentile — were united to destroy Christ. They are joined together with one accord, in the present day, to effect the same treason; and similar conduct to this of John Foxe will alone save us from the double tyranny. Learning, humility, and inquiry, with fervent prayers, and committal of our cause to Him that judgeth righteously, must all be united in that Christian who would strengthen the true church of God — forsake the plausibilities of error — conquer the power of temptation — instruct others — and save his own soul.
FROM HIS LEAVING OXFORD, TILL HE WENT ABROAD, A.D. 1546 To 1554. His Distress On His Expulsion From Oxford — Engagement As A Tutor — Marriage — Leaves Charlecote — Arrives In London — His Great Distress — Succour Mysteriously Bestowed — His Second Tutorship — Ordination — Officiates At Reigate — Leaves England — His First Publications.
The great and good men who “hazarded their lives unto the death,” at the period of the Reformation, in defense of religious truth, and their noble successors at the Revolution, have so well performed their work, that we have long been ignorant of arbitrary and irresponsible power. Neither the civil magistrates in the state, nor the ecclesiastical magistrates in the church, have exercised the uncontrolled, unlimited authority, which, at the time of the expulsion of John Foxe from Oxford, degraded and dishonored both the church and state, and rendered every subject who questioned the truth of the king’s opinions, even in the most controverted and doubtful points of religion, in danger of the most cruel form of death. Henry VIII. had been rendered, at this time, a God over faith — a Pope over the church — a Caesar over the realm. He could decree articles of belief; dispense with the canons of the church; and enact laws for the state. The two parties of Reformers and Romanists were so equally balanced in England, that the king became despotic over both. Notwithstanding the murderous tyranny which had condemned the poor schoolmaster, Lambert, to the flames for discussing theological questions with the royal disputant at his own command notwithstanding his sublime, though now, I mourn to say, despised ejaculations, “None but Christ! none but Christ! “ when his halfconsumed body was lifted on the halberts of the bystanders, to be more speedily consumed in the declining fire — notwithstanding, too, all the other caprices and follies of that “ruthless, jealous tyrant,” — the chief men of England vied with each other in tendering him the most fulsome and contemptible flattery.
The king’s heart was corrupted, and the king’s head was weakened, by believing their hyperbolical praise. Cromwell had declared, that all men were unable to describe the unutterable qualities of the royal mind, and the sublime virtues of the royal heart. Rich told him, that he was equal in wisdom to Solomon; in strength and courage to Samson; in beauty and address to Absalom. Audley declared before his face, “that God had anointed him with the oil of wisdom above his fellows — above the other kings of the earth — above all his predecessors; had given him a perfect knowledge of the Scriptures, with which he had prostrated the Roman Goliath; a perfect knowledge of the art of war, by which he had gained the most brilliant victories at the same time in remote places; and a perfect knowledge of the art of government, by which he had, for thirty years, secured to his own realm the blessings of peace, while all the other nations of Europe suffered the calamities of war.”
During these harangues, as often as the words “most sacred majesty” were repeated, or any emphatic expression was pronounced, the lords rose, and the whole assembly, in token of respect and assent, bowed profoundly to the demigod on the throne. Henry affected to hear such fulsome adulation with indifference. His answer was invariably the same — that he laid no claim to superior excellence; but that, if he did possess it, he gave the glory to God, the author of all good gifts; it was, however, a pleasure to him to witness the affections of his subjects, and to learn that they were not insensible of the blessings which they enjoyed under his government.
This language was held alike by Romanists and Reformers, who seemed, as it were, spell-bound, and altogether incapable of being actuated by any other influence than by the royal will. This alone was to be studied, anticipated, and executed with subserviency beyond any former precedent.
Both parties had been long accustomed to submission to the most arbitrary power. The Reformers, or those of the people who desired great changes, could not be expected to anticipate the purer philosophy, which gives as much authority only to the government, which is the power ordained by God, as God himself intended should be possessed; that is, as much as would benefit the people. Their ignorance is derided by the historian, who seems to advocate the opposite folly of the Romanist, while he scoffs at the folly of the Reformed. The arguments, he observes, by which the transferring to the king the authority hitherto exercised by the pontiff, were defended, “debased the spirit of the people, and tended to exalt the royal prerogative above law and equity.” “When the adversaries of the supremacy asked in what passage of the sacred writings the government of the church was given to a layman, its advocates boldly appealed to those texts which prescribe obedience to the established authorities. The king, they maintained, was the image of God upon earth; to disobey his commands was to disobey God himself; to limit his authority, when no limit was laid down, was an offense against the sovereign; and to make distinctions, when the Scripture made none, was an impiety against God.
It became the duty of the sufferer to submit; and his only resource was to pray that the heart of his oppressor might be changed; his only consolation to reflect, that the king himself would be summoned to answer for his conduct before an unerring tribunal. Henry became a sincere believer in a doctrine so flattering to his pride; and easily persuaded himself that he did no more than his duty in punishing with severity the least opposition to his will. To impress this doctrine on the minds of the people, it was perpetually inculcated from the pulpit; it was enforced in books of controversy and instruction; it was promulgated with authority in the ‘ Institution,’ and afterwards in the ‘ Erudition of a Christian Man.’ From that period the doctrine of passive obedience formed a leading trait in the orthodox creed.” F16 True as these remarks may be, the historian has omitted to state, that the pope and the king were alike tyrants; and the question was, to which tyrant the people should submit — to the native regal tyrant, who gave them a creed, and burnt the rejecters of his infallibility; or to the foreign tyrant who inflicted the same merciless severity, and taught even more, and greater absurdities. There was some hope of a change for the better, if they obeyed the king; there was none, if they continued their allegiance to the pope.
Such was the state of the people of England when John Foxe was expelled from Oxford. He has not recorded, and his son has omitted to relate, the suppressed and burning indignation with which the inquiring student must have contemplated this debasement of his free and religious nation; or what the difficulties might have been which prevented him, in that age of deficient political knowledge, from being contented with rejecting error, without daring to submit to the public, the opinions he might himself have formed. Neither do we know to what part of England he directed his footsteps on his leaving college. F17 That he was in danger of being apprehended, and committed to prison, and perhaps burnt as a heretic, was evident from the indictment of Athee, under the king’s writ, on the usual charge of speaking words against transubstantiation. He declared that he believed only in the God that was in heaven; and not in the god that the priest sold, and the baker’s wife made. Like many others, however, who speak with flippancy of the errors which are believed with sincerity, and which are but the perversions of truth, he recanted, and was pardoned. F18 We cannot tell to what extent a change of opinion had now taken place in the mind of Foxe. Not only did the pope, the universities, the king, and those followers of their authority who newer dreamed of forming their own opinions, still receive the doctrine of transubstantiation, but many persons who were devotedly attached to the study of the Scriptures, still believed in the necessity of maintaining this doctrine among the articles of their creed. If Foxe had begun to waver on this point, and had expressed his doubts at Oxford, the danger of arrest and martyrdom was most certain. In the year preceding his expulsion, three victims, Pearson, Testwood, and Filmer, on this account, had been burnt at Windsor. The distress of Foxe, who, by losing his fellowship, lost his principal means of support, was increased by the conduct of his father-in-law in refusing him any further aid. Notwithstanding the numerous changes in religion which had now taken place, heresy was still regarded by all as a fearful crime, which no Christian was justified in tolerating, and which every magistrate was required to punish. The heretic, whether he was brought to trial or not, was hateful. He was the outcast of society. He was deemed unworthy of the usual courtesies of life. He was unfit to become possessed of property. He was rendered incapable of enjoying patrimony. The influence of the ancient canon law which decreed these severe enactments against heresy and heretics still remained, even among those who would not, perhaps, have proceeded to the extremity of putting those canons in force.
Indeed a mitigation of the rigour of the act which had been passed in 1540, for the suppression of diversity of opinion in religion, took place the same year in which John Foxe was expelled from Oxford. A statute was enacted which granted permission to private families to read the Bible in their own houses; and moreover, that none of the clergy were to be burnt for heresy till the third offense. Also, that the former punishment of burning the laity should be commuted to imprisonment for life, and forfeiture of all their estates and goods. But the six special laws stilt remained unrepealed, by which the former severities might be inflicted on offenders at the discretion of the magistrates, and as the royal will might dictate; so that the melioration was rather nominal than real. Audley had died in 1644; and his successor in the chancellorship, Wriothesley, a zealous opponent of the Reform party, endeavored to effect the ruin of Cranmer; but the king refused to listen to the treacherous designs of those partizans who were opposed to the archbishop. The influence, however, of Wriothesley, and Gardiner, and their party, was strengthened as well by the death of the duke of Suffolk, the king’s brother-in-law, as by that of lord Audley, both of whom had given constant support to the interests of the reformers. The ascendancy of the papal party at court was immediately prior to the degradation of Foxe. It is also to be observed, that he was desired to quit the university and the county without delay, on his expulsion. His enemies declared, also, that the sentence was too favorable, and that he ought to have been dealt with more severely. All these circumstances concurred, no doubt, to alienate more effectually the friends of his earlier days. His father-in-law, who had labored to train him in the principles of Romanism, had thus a sufficient plea, as he would believe, to withhold from him his little patrimony on account of the apostasy and heresy, which had deprived him of his fellowship. The ministerial changes which had also just taken place would lead many to imagine that the restoration of papal authority and papal principles was on the eve of being effected. Foxe, therefore, had to contend against the worst enmities of the world, in a state of utter destitution.
From his expulsion, then, from Magdalen, July 22d, 1545, we have no dates to guide us to any of his occupations or wanderings with any certainty, until his appointment as tutor to the children of the earl of Surrey, after the attainder of the earl and his father for high treason, who were both sent to the Tower, December 12th, 1546. The earl was executed on the 19th of January, 1547. His children were committed to the guardianship of the duchess of Richmond, widow to the natural son of the king, and sister to the earl of Surrey. Foxe was engaged as tutor to the children before the death of Henry VIII., which took place January 28th, 1547. As we have only these two dates of his expulsion from Oxford, and of his engagement as tutor, to guide us, some difficulty has arisen in making the account of Foxe’s life, by his son, consistent with itself. Soon after, perhaps immediately after, his expulsion from Oxford, as we may infer from his son’s account, he obtained the situation of tutor in the family of sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote, in Warwickshire. He is said, by his son, to have remained there till his pupils no longer required instruction. F20 This expression has been generally supposed to mean that his pupils at Charlecote remained under his protection many years — a supposition which these dates prove to be incorrect. At Charlecote, also, he married a visitor in the house; and as the distinctions of rank were strictly observed at this period, we may believe that the daughter of the citizen of Coventry, who was received as a visitor in the family of sir Thomas Lucy, would be worthy of the attentions of the persecuted and learned tutor. Of these events we possess but this scanty information. The engagement with sir Thomas Lucy could not have lasted for any long period; and it probably terminated either in consequence of his marriage, or on account of the search which was now being made for heretics, or for all who were suspected of heresy, both publicly and in private houses. It is probable that Foxe left Charlecote after a residence of little more than a year. The matter must be left in doubt. It is impossible, at this distance of time, to reconcile the discrepancies in the narration by his son. He has given us no references. He writes verbosely and generally; and it is difficult to read his history with patience. Is it impossible that Foxe was tutor at Charlecote before his election as a fellow of Magdalen, and consequently, before his expulsion; that he visited there subsequently to that event; and that the grief which his son describes him to have felt on the conclusion of his tutorial engagement at Charlecote was, in truth, the grief that he experienced on being compelled to leave his hospitable friends in consequence of his danger of arrest as a heretic? If this could be proved, all difficulties would be removed.
His marriage with a daughter of a citizen of Coventry reminds me of the internal evidence afforded by many of Foxe’s narratives, that he recorded a great number of the executions from the testimony of eye-witnesses., In the year 1519, seven persons were burnt at Coventry, for teaching their children and family the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, in their own language. The story is found in its proper place and date in the Acts and Monuments (1519). One of them, named Smythe, a widow, who had been permitted to return home after receiving a reprimand from prior Stafford, was attended by the bishop’s sumner. On their way the officer heard the rustling of parchment in the sleeve of her gown, and demanded it from her. It contained the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments in English. The result of the discovery was, his compelling the poor victim to return to the bishop; and she was condemned, and burnt with the six men. F22 Much dissatisfaction was expressed at this cruelty. The bishop, therefore, and his servant caused a report to be circulated, that their victims had not been burnt for the lesser wickedness of possessing and teaching the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Commandments in English; but for the greater crime of eating flesh on Fridays and other fast-days. This allegation, says Foxe, could not be proved either before or after; neither was it objected to them in their examinations. The witnesses of the history, he adds, are still alive which saw them and knew them. One of them is named Hall, and lives at Bagington, two miles from Coventry. These witnesses, also, testify of them, that they were not only different from the rest of their fellowcitizens in exemplariness of life, but that their devotion at the sacrament was greater than that of others. So indeed it was generally. The doctrine of Transubstantiation was then, what Dr. Wiseman still affirms it to be the touchstone of that which the bishops and priests of the church of Rome, and of the Anglican church, also, of the preceding age, denominated Christianity. In the Latin editions of his work, Foxe expressed the wish, that the writers of history would record such events as these, as well as the wars, battles, and affairs of courts and kings; and the time will yet arrive, when this wish of John Foxe will be accomplished; and when the histories of the patience of the Saints will be more interesting than all the details of battles. The lessons which instruct mankind will be again as certainly taken from the sufferings of the martyrs for christian truth and christian liberty, as the four gospels are more influential among the civilized world than the acts of the Roman senate, of the consuls, or of the Caesars; or, as the narrative of the Crucifixion is more intensely interesting than the combats of Actium and Pharsalia. One generation passeth away, and another cometh. The generation of the pagan empire — of the crusades — of the papal empire — of the French revolution — and of other great agitations, which successively occupy all thoughts, and employ all tongues, sometimes for centuries together-all-all pass away. The despised word of God alone endureth — and endureth for ever; and the memorials of the witnesses to its truth shall be spoken of through the whole world, wherever that gospel is preached.
On leaving Charlecote, before he obtained the tutorship of the children of the murdered earl of Surrey, Foxe was again reduced to great distress. He had remained at Coventry with his wife’s father, as long as he could do so with safety. From Coventry he wrote to his step-father, at Boston, to inquire if he could be sheltered there. He received for answer, “That it seemed to his step-father a hard condition to take into his house one whom he knew to be guilty of, and condemned for, a capital offense; neither was he ignorant what hazard he should undergo in so doing: nevertheless, he would show himself a kinsman, and for that cause, neglect his own danger.
If he would alter his mind, he might come, on condition, to stay as long as himself desired; but if he could not be persuaded to that, he should content himself with the shorter tarriance, and not bring him and his mother into hazard of their lives and fortunes, who were ready to do any thing for his sake.” F24 The condition attached to this offer of protection, was such as John Foxe could not possibly long observe. Yet his necessities were very great; and he visited his mother, who is said to have urged him privately to do so.
The time of his continuance at Boston must remain uncertain. From the means however of judging which all circumstances furnish, his stay could only have been short. Finding no hopes of his father-in-law being brought to such terms as would alleviate his wants, without a sacrifice of his principles, every interview would but serve to excite, both in him and his wife, feelings which may be imagined better than described, and which would certainly disincline them to prolong their stay unnecessarily. The imputed crime of heresy; the disgrace of being pointed at in his native town as one who, by apostasy, had disappointed the high anticipations of his friends, in being expelled from the society which had voluntarily placed him’ in the highway to emoluments, patronage, and renown, were all reasons that would cause his continuance in a small town to become more and more irksome, as well as dangerous to his personal safety; while it may be presumed, an affectionate wife would urge every persuasion to secure him from the dangers of the times. Great cities are great solitudes.
He would be less observed, and obtain a livelihood more easily. His life would be more safe from spies and informers. Prudence demanded instant concealment. The usual result of such reasoning followed; and Foxe repaired to London for greater safety, and his daily bread.
Nothing is known of his trials and mode of life, in the interval from his thus leaving the country till his engagement as tutor to the orphans of the earl of Surrey. He always forebore, says his son, to speak of that part of iris story, “lest where he had deserved so much he might by extolling a small courtesy, seem rather to upbraid the slenderness of the requital than to shew himself thankful concerning it.” The expression is unintelligible to us. It may possibly refer to the ungracious treatment he received from his father-in-law.
From considering all the circumstances, we may reasonably conclude, that, a short time, probably a few months only, prior to the death of the king, Foxe was seeking employment in London. Events both abroad and at home — the jealousy of Charles V. as to the progress of church affairs, and the supremacy of the king — the more decided, yet smothered hostility of France — the disturbed state of Scotland, all tended to afford some respite from the rage of persecution towards the close of Henry’s reign. The declining health of the king permitted the influence of the Queen and of Cranmer to be more freely exercised. These favorable moments allowed Foxe to appear in places of public resort; and his biographer, from this time, pursues his narrative with somewhat less interruption, after relating the following interesting incident. “As Master Foxe one day sate in St. Paul’s church, spent with long fasting, his countenance thin, and eyes hollow, after the ghastly manner of dying men, every one shunning a spectacle of so much horror, there came to him one whom he never remembered to have seen before, who, sitting down by him, and saluting him with much familiarity, thrust an untold sum of money into his hand, bidding him be of good cheer, adding withal, that he knew not how great the misfortunes were which oppressed him, but supposed it was no light calamity; that he should, therefore, accept in good part that small gift from his countryman which common courtesy had forced him to offer; that he should go and take care of himself, and take all occasions to prolong his life; adding, that within a few days new hopes were at hand, and a more certain condition of livelihood.” Foxe could never learn to whom he was indebted for this seasonable bounty, though he used every endeavor to find out the person. “Some who looked further into the event by which that prophecy became fulfilled, believed that the friend who performed the kindness came not of his own accord, but was employed by others who were deeply concerned for Mr. Foxe’s safety; and that it might possibly be through the negligence of the servant, or person commissioned, that he had endured so much misery before the means of relief were afforded him. Certain it is, however, that within three days after the transaction, the presage was made good. Some one waited upon him from the duchess of Richmond, who invited him, upon fair terms,” says the writer, “into her service. It had so fallen out, not long before, that the duke of Norfolk, the most renowned general of his time, together with his son, the earl of Surrey, a man as far as may be imagined, of sincere meaning and sharp understanding, were committed to custody in the Tower of London, for what crime is uncertain. While they were in prison, the carl’s children were sent to the aforesaid duchess, their aunt, to be brought up and educated. Thomas, who succeeded in the dukedom; Henry, afterwards earl of Northampton; and Jane, wife of Charles, the last Neville, earl of Westmoreland, afterwards countess of Westmoreland.”
These events fix the time of Foxe’s residence in London. The dukedom of Norfolk had been conferred by Richard III., in the beginning of his reign, upon John, lord Howard, as a reward for the assistance he had rendered to the king in obtaining the throne. At the same time, A.D. 1483, his son, sir Thomas Howard, was created earl of Surrey. The duke was killed at the battle of Bosworth. His son would have succeeded to the honors and title, but Henry VII. proceeded against the deceased duke to procure from parliament a bill of attainder, and to deprive his family of the title, to avenge the part he had taken in favor of Richard. The earl of Surrey, although he conformed to the terms of the proclamation, offering pardon to those who submitted before a specified time, was imprisoned in 1485, for three years. He was then restored to his title of earl; but not to the title of his father. Himself and his son, however, were promoted to situations of the highest trust and authority by Henry VII. F30 From this time, till Henry VIII. restored the title in 1514, it was in abeyance. It was then granted to the earl of Surrey for his victory at Flodden Field. This earl died in 1524, and was succeeded by his son Thomas, the grandfather of the children to whom Foxe was appointed tutor, and the third duke of Norfolk. He, together with his son, the earl of Surrey, was imprisoned upon suspicion of treason, December 12th, 1546. F31 The cause of their apprehension seems very obscure. The most probable solution is — that Henry, knowing the hatred of the Romanists to the changes already effected, and more particularly, Norfolk’s dislike to his favorite Cranmer; fearing, too, lest his son should be embroiled with the Romanists, of whom the duke was one of the chief; believing too that, though the duke was the opponent of the bishop of Rome, he was no less hostile to his own measures — willingly gave ear to the representations of those who were enemies of Norfolk. He considered him as a personal rival, because his son had quartered the arms of the Confessor with his own. The earl was unjustly executed, and the title again forfeited. The duke remained in prison through the whole reign of Edward, and was liberated only on the accession of Mary. The attainder, though it had passed the parliament, was declared null and void; because, among other informalities, no special matter had been alleged against him, except his wearing the coat of arms which his illustrious ancestors had used from time immemorial. All this detail, even of this noble family, would be uninteresting, and out of place, if it did not illustrate the personal history of the poor scholar, whose influence upon his countrymen has been greater than the noblest branch, either of the noble house of Howard, or of any other of our magnificent aristocracy. The duke enjoyed his restoration but a short time. He died the following year, and was succeeded by the pupil of John Foxe, his grandson, who was executed, in the year 1572, for his attempt to form an alliance with the unworthy, though beautiful, queen of Scots, the head of the Romanist party.
To the one, that of eating flesh in Lent, he replied by alleging a license; but confessed that he had not observed the secrecy he ought to have done. To the other, namely, having walked at night in an unseemly and disorderly manner through the streets of London, breaking windows with a crossbow, he pleaded guilty; but besought the council not to attribute it to a light and disorderly turn of mind, such as would disgrace him at his years, and be unworthy of his rank and station in life. “My motive,” he said, “was a religious one; though I confess it lies open to misconstruction. It grieved me, my lords, to see the licentious manners of the citizens of London. They resembled the manners of papal Rome in her corruptest state; and not those of a christian communion. Was I to suffer these unhappy men to perish without warning? That — common charity forbade. The remonstrances of their spiritual pastors had been urged, I knew, in vain. I, therefore, went at midnight through the streets, and shot from my cross-bow at their windows, that the stones passing noiseless through the air, and breaking in suddenly upon their guilty secrecy, might remind them of the suddenness of that punishment which the Scriptures tell us divine justice will inflict on impenitent sinners; and so lead them to a reformation of manners.”
The above circumstance gave rise to a poem, entitled “A Satire against the Citizens of London,” in which he writes the same opinions as those put forward in the above defense. After noticing the dissoluteness of their manners, he proceeds — In secret silence of the night, This made me, with a reckless breast, To wake the sluggards with my bow; A figure of the Lord’s behest, Whose scourge for sin the Scriptures show.
Then describing the manner of their lives and conversation, he says, O, member of false Babylon!
Thy dreadful doom draws fast thee on!
From the application of the word Babylon, which he here uses in reference, it is thought, to the erroneous doctrines held in London, but proceeding from Rome, he is judged to have been favorable to the changes in religion, which were now in progress.
The hatred of Henry to the earl of Surrey was imputed by the earl to the displeasure arising from his unsuccessful expedition against Boulogne. This might possibly be the commencement of the king’s anger; but the most likely reason was the hatred, ambition, and jealousy of the earl of Hertford, who had obtained great influence with the king, and was fearful of the power of the Howards. This feeling was probably exasperated by the refusal of Surrey to sanction the marriage of his sister, the duchess of Richmond, with sir Thomas Seymour, Hertford’s brother; especially as the alliance had been sought by her father. When Surrey was removed from the command at Boulogne, he was succeeded by Hertford; and the haughty earl could not brook the refusal of Surrey to solicit an appointment under him. Surrey, upon finding that another (lord Gray) was sent, expressed himself in unguarded and hasty language, which was reported to Hertford; and by him carried, in its worst construction, to the king. The misrepresentation and jealousy of Hertford were, no doubt, the principal cause of Surrey’s downfal and death.
The other two reasons, viz. of aspiring to the hand of the princess Mary, and wearing the arms of Edward the Confessor, must be void of foundation. Surrey was then, and had been for eleven years, married. His wife was living; and the tenor of his life, and his high principles, gave no reason for the suspicion of disloyalty. As to his quartering the arms of Edward the Confessor with his own, he proved that he had the authority of the heralds for so doing. He alleged that his ancestors had constantly worn them, as well within the kingdom as without; and that they had been as constantly borne by himself, in Henry’s presence, and by others of his family in the presence of the several kings, Henry’s predecessors. This he was authorised to do by the patent of Richard II.; in the twentieth year of his reign, A.D. 1397, given to Thomas Mowbray and his descendants.
As the engagement of Foxe to be tutor to the sons of the earl of Surrey took place at the end of the reign of Henry VIII.; and as he seems to have been in the deepest distress immediately prior to that time, we are compelled to infer that the “golden days of felicity,” in the last year of the reign of Henry, mentioned by Foxe’s son, must have been of very short duration. However this may have been, we must believe that the duchess of Richmond placed the greatest dependance upon the learning and talents, and approved also of the principles of Foxe, as the rejecter of the papal creed. The duchess of Richmond was known to have been a favorer of the reformation. Yet much difficulty exists in the whole story of the causes of the appointment of Foxe to the office of tutor to the sons of the earl of Surrey. If the children were made wards in chancery, why did not the chancellor, Wriothesley, appoint a tutor of the severest orthodoxy, as he understood the meaning of that ill-used word? If they were not, why did the countess of Surrey give up the care of her own children? Why was the duchess of Richmond not only appointed their guardian, but permitted, without remonstrance, to select the future martyrologist as their director?
To these questions no satisfactory reply can be given. Their father had been executed for alleged treason, nine days only before the death of the king. Foxe was probably appointed, therefore, immediately on the accession of Edward. This event was the commencement of a general change in the national councils. As the duke, their grandfather, was attainted for treason, and in close imprisonment, the children are believed to have been left at the disposal of the government. The plea of loyalty set up in favor of the duchess of Richmond, can scarcely be defended. The most probable reason of their being placed under her care, as wards of the state, would seem to be, that as the reformation-principles were gaining ground, the rulers of the nation might think it would be desirable to instil into the mind of the heir to the dukedom, and the representative of one of the most powerful families in England, the tenets of the reformation; and they resolved, therefore, upon entrusting the superintendence of their education to their aunt, who was known to be of the reformed religion.
This Opinion is corroborated both by Nott, and the “Howard Memorials.”
The children were entrusted to their aunt’s care, with an allowance of 100l . a-year for their maintenance. These authorities merely observe that the countess, being out of favor at court, did not think it prudent to put in a claim to the guardianship of her children; and we do not hear of any proofs of the countess objecting to their being entrusted to their aunt, or of her having expressed any scruple of the duchess treating them with affection, though her conduct to their father had been so reverse to that of sisterly regard. Admitting the tuition of his three noble pupils to be commenced by Foxe in the first year of Edward VI., Thomas, who succeeded to the dukedom, would then be in the eleventh year of his age; Jane, who by her marriage became countess of Westmoreland, would be in her tenth year; and Henry, afterwards earl of Northampton, would be in his eighth. It is ascertained that the tutor continued his instructions till he left the family to escape from the perils of Mary’s reign, which did not begin to appear till more than twelve months after her accession, so that the benefit of his tuition may be fairly calculated to have been constant for about six years; and as some test of the efficiency of his labors, it is affirmed, that the lady Jane, countess of Westmoreland, was one of the most learned ladies of a learned age, when knowledge was deemed essential to the female character.
She made great progress both in Greek and Latin. Her preceptor, Foxe, indeed, says of her, “That she might well stand in competition with the most learned men of that time, for the praise of elegancy in both.” The two sons, also, “grew to that height of proficiency in polite literature, that building in their riper years upon this foundation, the elder, Thomas, seemed to deserve more than the kingdom could bestow upon him; and the younger, Henry, came to such affluence, that he was able to measure his fortunes, not by the opinion of others, but by his own wishes.” That Foxe gained, at the same time, the affection of his pupils, is sufficiently proved by their subsequent solicitude for his safety, by their attentions, and their bounty. There can be no doubt that their decided and-Roman tutor would assiduously labor to impress the principles of the reformation on their minds. The permanent success of his instructions on the eldest may be said to have appeared in his exemplary character, in the attachment of the people.to his person, and in his dying declarations on the scaffold. Though he was found guilty of aspiring to the hand of the queen of Scots, he never wavered in his attachment to the principles in which John Foxe had instructed him. “I have not been popishly inclined,” said this illustrious man on the scaffold, “ever since I had any taste of religion; but was always averse to the popish doctrine, and embraced the true religion of Jesus Christ, and put my whole trust in the blood of Christ, my blessed Redeemer and Savior. Yet, I must own, that some of my servants and acquaintance were addicted to the Romish religion. If, in this, I have offended either God, the church, or the protestants, I pray God and them to forgive me.” Then, after reading a psalm or two, he said, with a loud voice, “Lord, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” After this he embraced Sir Henry Leigh, and whispered something to him, and to dean Nowel; who turning to the people, said, “The duke desires you would all of you pray to God to have mercy on him; and withal keep silence, that his mind may not be disturbed.” The executioner asked him forgiveness, and had it granted. One offering him a handkerchief to cover his eyes, he refused it, saying, “I am not in the least afraid of death.” Then falling on his knees, he lay prostrate with his mind fixed upon God; and dean Nowel prayed with him. Presently after, he stretched his neck upon the block, and his head was immediately cut off at one blow, and showed by the executioner as a doleful sight for the sorrowful and weeping multitude.
Camden gives this further account of him. “It is incredible how dearly the people loved him; whose goodwill he had maintained by a munificence and extraordinary affability suitable to so great a prince.” F37 The same adherence to the principles of Foxe distinguished the brother and sister; though all were removed from his charge at the accession of Mary, when the duke of Norfolk, their grandfather, was liberated from the tower. They were then respectively seventeen, sixteen, and fourteen years of age, and were placed under the care of White, bishop of Lincoln. A letter of the earl of Arundel, dated 1620, informs us that both Thomas and Henry were made pages to the bishop, according to the usual custom of so training the patrician youth. The instructions of Foxe, however, were not obliterated, as might have been hoped and intended by this arrangement.
The duke, as we have seen, continued stedfast in his attachment to the primitive faith, as it was again taught by the reformers. His sister, the countess of Westmoreland, embraced the same principles through life. The same stedfast adherence has, it is true, been considered somewhat less certain with regard to lord Henry, the earl of Northampton. From an expression which he is alleged to have used in his latter moments — “ that he died in the religion in which he was born “ — it has been supposed by some that he was unfriendly to protestantism. But he was born at a time when the papal supremacy was overthrown, and when the Bible was given to the people; and there is nothing to make it improbable that his expression applied to the state of religion at the commencement of the great changes, rather than to the old superstitions.
Foxe remained at Reigate with his pupils throughout the whole reign of Edward. I am unable, therefore, from comparing the dates, to believe that Anthony Wood has reported accurately respecting the restoration of Foxe to his fellowship. His name is not found in the president’s book from the date of his expulsion to the accession of Elizabeth. The time that elapsed between his expulsion and marriage could not have exceeded twelve months; and that was spent in, at least, three several places — -the greater portion at sir Thomas Lucy’s; some time with his wife’s father; and some time, also, with his mother and step-father. His marriage, too, would have presented a complete bar to his being replaced in his fellowship. As he continued at Reigate, also, till the accession of Mary, soon after which he fled to the continent, we are compelled to believe that, in this instance, Wood was mistaken, and that Foxe was never restored to his fellowship at Magdalen.
During his residence at Reigate, three years after he had accepted the appointment of tutor to the grandchildren of the duke of Norfolk, Foxe was ordained deacon by Ridley, bishop of London. The inaccurate manner in which his life has hitherto been written, and the exceeding difficulty of procuring the requisite details which can possibly render his biography interesting to the general reader, appears from the singular fact, that the date of his ordination is not noticed even by his son; neither is the circumstance of his ordination mentioned by Anthony Wood; though the latter informs us that “he was the first man, as ‘tis said, that ever preached the Gospel in that place, when the Roman Catholic religion was in great strength.” The christianity hitherto taught at Reigate, had been that compound of ancient truth, and accumulated novelties added to it, which we call popery. Foxe, no doubt, taught the people that the novelties of the last few hundred years, which had preceded him, were not primitive christianity; and he thus taught the principles of the Reformation. He was first to teach this truth at Reigate, though he was not the incumbent there.
This appears from the testimony of Richard Daye, in his Epistle Dedicatory of one of Foxe’s Works, to William, lord Howard of Effingham. Daye was the first protestant incumbent of Reigate, the son of the printer of Foxe’s works. He speaks of Foxe as the first preacher, but not as the first protestant incumbent of Reigate. He affirms that he preached the Gospel there, and was instrumental in removing the popish idolatries of the place. By preaching the Gospel, he meant, that he laid before the people the doctrine of justification by faith, as the foundation of that love of God which leads to holiness and to virtue — the only preaching which ever did, does, or can benefit the spirit of man. By idolatries, he meant, not merely the worship of images, and the adoration of saints and the Virgin, but any substitution of external observance for the inward spirituality of which those external observances are, at once, the emblem, the assistant, and the means.
The brief information of Daye deserves more attention than it might otherwise have received, on account of the great regard he manifested for the writings of Foxe; and his respect for him as his predecessor. He translated the work of Foxe entitled “Christ Triumphant,” and dedicated it to their common patron, the earl of Effingham. Whether Foxe taught the people of Reigate, either with or without a license, before his ordination, is uncertain. His extensive knowledge of antiquity must have convinced him that he was required to exercise the office of preacher only with authority.
It is possible, however, that he might have preached at Reigate before his ordination, from the conviction of the absolute necessity of endeavoring to check the immorality and irreligion of the place, as well as to recal the people from their gross idolatry; and that he found it difficult at first to obtain episcopal ordination in consequence of his principles. Some of his biographers believe that he had been already ordained deacon, which, however, did not take place till 1550. Others think that he had obtained a license to preach prior to ordination: but much obscurity rests upon these circumstances of his life. Gardiner, the bishop of the diocese, would scarcely have granted a license to preach; or have conferred orders upon a heretical reformer, knowing his opinions. Gardiner, however, had been committed a prisoner to the Fleet in 1547, for non-obedience to the newlyappointed ecclesiastical visitors; and the year following, in June, he was sent to the Tower, for his sermon at St. Paul’s Cross on St. Peter’s day. F40 He was kept a prisoner there till the beginning of the reign of Mary; and in February, 1550, because he would not conform, he was deprived of his bishopric. We have no means of knowing whether Foxe had a license or not from Gardiner before his deprivation. If, therefore, Foxe preached at Reigate during the earlier part of king Edward’s reign, his labors would have been those of a residing missionary, rather than of a canonically- appointed minister, until his ordination by bishop Ridley. Neither, indeed, if he had labored for a time without ordination, ought we to be surprised. It is certain, that no man unordained, however gifted, should presume to take upon himself the office of preacher. Yet not only had John Calvin, fifteen years before, A.D. 1535, published his celebrated “Institutes,” and taught the reformers, most unfortunately for the true catholic church of Christ, that other systems of discipline than those which had been sanctioned by the universal church, before the papal policy had superseded the supremacy of primitive episcopacy, might be rightly adopted; but many, very many, who had rejected the doctrines of the church of Rome, had proceeded to the opposite extreme, and embraced the opinions of Zwinglius, and of Calvin, in their contempt of antiquity, and the dispensableness of episcopal ordination. F41 Whittingham, who was made dean of Durham on the accession of Elizabeth, received only presbyterian, or non-episcopal ordination. Foxe might, also, in the plenitude of his knowledge of antiquity, have remembered that the church at Alexandria had permitted Origen to instruct the catechumens in the schools before he was ordained; that there was a succession of unordained doctors at that place; and that it was not unusual in the ancient churches, that the bishops should invite the well-qualified, though unordained, sometimes to speak to the people, in imitation of the Jewish custom, of requesting well — EDucated and well-known persons to speak in the synagogues. F42 The Anglican church, too, was now in a state of the utmost confusion. The bishops were divided. They were doubtful of the extent and nature of their own power. The authority of the pope, as the visible head of the church, had been overthrown. The authority of the king had been substituted in its place. Henry VIII., who had opposed and borne down the temporal authority of Rome, was dead. A young and inexperienced king was on the throne; and Cranmer himself believed that the exercise of his own episcopal authority had ended with the late king’s life. He refused, therefore, to act as archbishop till he had received a new commission from Edward. Bonner, also, had previously taken out a commission for his bishopric from Henry VIII., as Cranmer had done. F43 The contending claims of the civil power, of the papal power, and of the national will, which desired repose, and yet sought after some great change, bewildered even the rulers of the church. “The gospellers,” says Collier, “as they were then called, presuming on the countenance of the court, overran the motions of the state, and ventured to reform without public authority.” It is not improbable, therefore, that Foxe, as even a license might have been refused, preached for two years or more without any permission from his ecclesiastical superiors, believing himself to be justified by the necessity of publishing the truth, even without authority. His subsequent conduct on the Continent, proves to us, in some measure, that he regarded what he believed to be the claims of the congregation for greater edification, to be of superior obligation to a rigid adherence to the written laws and customs of the church, tie might have believed undisciplined Truth to be preferable, before God and man, to well-disciplined error; and that the superstitions, and dark idolatries which prevailed in Reigate, justified the attempt to remove them without delay. However this may be, he was ordained deacon June 23d, 1550, and continued at Reigate till the accession of Mary. He was ordained thirteen months after the first Service Book of king Edward, which was substantially the same with that which now blesses the people of England, was completed for general use. We shall find many things to lament hereafter in the estimate which Foxe formed of the English Service Book.
We can only hope that he conformed, with the joy and approbation which it deserved, to the complete Liturgy. The Roman forms of worship had now generally ceased. The Anglican Liturgy was partly deduced from those forms, wherever they were sanctioned by usefulness or wise antiquity. It was prepared with the same sound judgment which characterized all those measures wherein Cranmer had taken the lead. It was compiled from the different Romish offices used in this kingdom.
Whatever was unexceptionable was retained; all that savoured of superstition was discarded. The prayers to the saints were expunged, with all their lying legends; and the people were provided with a christian ritual in their own tongue. And so judiciously was this done, that while nothing which could offend the feelings of a reasonable protestant, excepting the lessons from the Apocrypha, was left, nothing was inserted which should prevent the most conscientious Romanist from joining in the service. F46 Discontents had prevailed in many parts of the country, arising from the opposition of the tenants to the treatment experienced from their new landlords; and the introduction of the reformed Liturgy was made the pretext for commencing an insurrection, first in Devonshire, about Midsummer, 1549. Fifteen articles were sent to the king as demands, without a single grievance being stated; and among the requests, was the extraordinary desire urged by the insurgents, that the six bloody articles of the late reign, which had been repealed, should be again put in force. To this strange request the following curious reply was made in the name of his majesty: — “ Know ye what ye require? Or know ye what ease ye have with the loss of them? They were laws made, but quickly repented.
Too bloody they were to be borne by our people; yet, at the first, indeed, made of some necessity. O subjects, how are ye trapped by evil persons!
We, of pity, because they were bloody, took them away; and you now, of ignorance, will ask them again! Since our mercy moved us to write our laws with milk and equity, how are ye blinded to ask them in blood!” f47 During these commotions, rumors were prevalent that the Six Articles were to be renewed; and Foxe, using the liberty of an Englishman, as well as displaying the judgment of a politician and the spirit of a patriot, addressed the parliament as an individual against such re-enactment. In this address, he says, that “not only a rumor, but a most positive assertion had gone abroad, that those sanguinary laws, known by the title of the Six Articles, once laid to sleep, are about to be, as it were, recalled from Hades to earth. “If this be true,” continues the bold and judicious remonstrance, “I know not how plausible it may be made by you, and how acceptable it may be to others, but I well know how deadly and ominous it will prove to the kingdom at large.” He then proceeds to argue strongly and eloquently on the subject, and to deprecate the renewal of the act, bringing to mind the dread it has already excited, and the horrors it will produce.
This spirited and admirable document was written at Reigate. F48 Foxe thus continued at Reigate, attending to his pupils, instructing the people, and devoting himself to the most severe and indefatigable labor — to his books and pen — an useful, happy, contented student. He now began to be known as an author. His first work was printed 1548, while he was at Reigate, before his ordination. F49 It appears to have been originally written as an effort to obtain temporary relief, and probably to making himself known among the London publishers, from whom he sought employment on his arrival in town after leaving Warwickshire. His penury being, however, relieved by the less precarious occupation of an eligible tutorship, the work was not published till the second year after the duchess of Richmond had taken him into her service. We may infer the great care which he bestowed on this work, from its correct diction, and the masterly treatment of its subject. It is preceded by an affectionate and able dedication, commencing thus; — “ Generoso viro Thomae Pictono. J.
Foxus salutem et pacem in Christo.” It is a duodecimo. The letter is a large and open Roman character, and the impression is on the whole uniform and good. It does not appear that the work ever reached a second edition; nor is it a subject likely to obtain popularity. Though it is not equally noble, in either style or matter, to some of his other performances, the reader will find himself taken by surprise by brilliant flashes of originality and genius. Neither must he expect to find every proposition perfectly unobjectionable, and every point treated so as to accord precisely with present opinions. Even had the mind become so far advanced, the press had not then arrived at such a state of freedom as to permit the circulation of intellectual inquiries without restriction and without danger.
He next published, while at Reigate, a treatise, “De Censura, sire Excommunicatione Ecclesiastica, Interpellatio ad Archiepiscopum Cantuar,” Londini, 8vo. 1551; then “Christus Triumphans, Comoedia Apocalyptica,” 8vo. Basil, 1551; and “Tables of Grammar,” 1552.
During his residence at Reigate, too, he must have begun his collections for the first portions of his “Ecclesiastical History.” We may infer this by comparing the date of the publication of the first edition of his “Acts and Monuments of the Church,” with the time of his leaving England. Edward VI. died, and Mary succeeded to the throne July 6th, 1553. Gardiner was released from the Tower, and made chancellor about the 20th of October following, when the laws of Edward concerning religion were repealed, after six days’ debate in the House of Commons. The prisons of England began to be filled with victims. Judge Hales directed his brethren to proceed according to the laws of England. Gardiner began to send forth his spies in every direction. Foxe, who had not only taken advantage of the bishop’s imprisonment and deprivation in the affair of his ordination, but, during the whole time he had dwelt in his diocese, had been industriously teaching the people that the superstitions and image-devotions, which Gardiner still professed, were contradictory to Scripture, could not hope to escape condign punishment if he remained in Reigate. The old duke of Norfolk died in September, 1554. The young duke, when Foxe spoke of his apprehensions, and proposed to escape abroad, was unwilling at first to consent, and kindly offered to afford him his utmost protection, and share his fate. He left England after the death of the old duke in 1554, and arrived in Basil in 1555. F50 The first part of his great work was published at Strasburg, after he left Frankfort, and before he arrived at Basil. These circumstances enable us to ascertain that the materials must have been collected, and the MS. prepared, during his residence in Reigate. It exhibits no signs of having been hastily written, as it must have been if it had been prepared while he was travelling on the Continent. It was written in Latin, and was published at Strasburg, 1554, towards the end of which year the author probably left England. It contains the ecclesiastical history of two hundred years; and it was as copious an account of that most interesting period as any which had then been published. F51 Such had been the labors of John Foxe, in addition to his daily duties, before he had attained to the age of thirty-seven, and before he was driven from his peaceful abode at Reigate by the tempest which devoured so many of the noblest vessels of the reformation. He still remained in England, venerated by his late noble pupils, for some time after they had been transferred to the care of bishop White. Without any other occupation to engage him, he would be enabled to pursue his historical inquiries during the interval, and to make that progress which has hitherto seemed inexplicable to those acquainted with the difficulties attendant on such researches, and of arranging for publication such a history.
Whether he continued to reside at Reigate throughout the whole of this interval, or whether his place of abode was sometimes London, or elsewhere, we are not informed; yet we may infer that he was a sojourner in the vicinity of some residence of his friend and patron, the duke, either in town or country, at whose mansion, we may infer from a well-known anecdote, he was either a resident or a frequent guest. Gardiner had one day called to pay his respects, probably at Reigate, in his diocese, to the young duke, on whom he was in the habit of frequently calling. He inquired for his old tutor, and expressed a desire to see him. Foxe suddenly entered the room, but immediately withdrew, not knowing that Gardiner was there. The bishop inquired who that stranger might be. “He is my physician,” said the duke. “I like his appearance,” was the reply of the bishop; “and when necessity requires, I will employ him.” Although the duke had, up to this time, persuaded Foxe not to leave England, he inferred, from this expression of Gardiner, that, under the newly altered laws and system of persecution which was commencing, the life of Foxe would be now in danger if he remained in England. Though he had hitherto been averse to his flight, he perceived that no time was to be lost in the effort to save him. Foxe was apprized by the duke of the necessity of hasty flight; and to render his escape as safe and pleasant as possible, he gave his commands for the preparation of every thing necessary, for the journey. He despatched one of his own servants to Ipswich haven to hire a vessel, and to see that every thing was comfortably and expeditiously arranged for the voyage. The impression made on the mind of the duke, by the manner and speech of the bishop, proved the warmth and reality of his affection. His anxiety suffered no precaution to be omitted — no means that prudence could devise for the greater security of his friend to be disregarded or neglected. He was desirous to prevent the possibility of pursuit, by enabling the worthy fugitive to avoid cities and towns, and delays near any places of public resort, in his journey to the coast. He requested one of his tenants, who lived in a retired farm near to Ipswich, to shelter him till the moment when wind and tide served to put to sea; that he might not be detained, or put to any personal inconvenience, by the usages of a port town; to which one wholly devoted to letters, as John Foxe all his life had been, must be an entire stranger. All these plans and preparations being perfected for his safe emigration, the worthy and faithful historian repaired, as privately as he could, to Suffolk, “taking his wife,” says their son, “as companion in his travels, then great with child, but resolved to go with him, not yielding to the entreaty of those who persuaded her to the contrary.” They secluded themselves under the hospitable roof provided for them till they had notice from the captain that they might set sail with safety.
The anxiety of the young duke of Norfolk to provide for the security of his friend and tutor may afford us an additional proof of the morality, noble-mindedness, and amiable and gentle qualities of Foxe. He could not otherwise, at the end of eight years of intimacy and tutorage, have been thus beloved and esteemed by his illustrious pupil. We may be assured, that recantation, or the flames, would have been the lot of John Foxe if he had remained in England a few days, and possibly, only one day longer. “Scarcely had they weighed anchor,” his son proceeds, “when suddenly a rough wind rising from the contrary shore, troubled the sea with so great violence that the stoutest mariners began to tremble. Then followed a dark night with continued showers; and a great multitude of clouds gathered together into a thick storm of rain and hail, which both hindered the seamen’s work, and took away all possibility by the compass any longer to direct their course. That night, with much ado, they lay at anchor, and as soon as the day appeared, when the tempest seemed not likely to cease, they began to cast about, and to make back again to shore; so that the tide a little favoring them, at length, with much difficulty, they arrived in the same evening at the same haven again whence they had loosed the day before. In the meanwhile that Mr. Foxe had been at sea, a messenger from the bishop of Winchester had broke open the farmer’s house, with a warrant to apprehend him wheresoever he might be found, and bring him back prisoner to the city: but understanding he was gone already, after he had pursued him even to the port, and there found that the ship he had embarked in was yet scarcely out of sight, he returned back without his errand. Mr. Foxe, as soon as he came ashore, hearing what had passed, although the news somewhat amazed him, yet recollecting himself, presently took horse, and made as if he would have left the town; but the same night returning, he bargained with the master of the ship to set sail again with the first convenience of the winds, telling him that so his business required, nor did he much care what shore he landed at; only desiring him to go forward, and not doubt but God would prosper so pious a work. Whether for reward, or piety’s sake, the pilot took upon him the venturous task, and performed it accordingly: for loosing thence in the night’s silence, as soon as the tide turned, though the sea was rough, and the weather blustering, within two days’ space he landed Mr. Foxe and his company in safety at Nieuport haven, on the other side the sea.”
Thus has been delivered to us, by the son of the fugitive, the particulars of his providential escape from the tragic scenes in which a conspicuous part had been allotted him had he been overtaken; unless, yielding to the weakness which prevented many from persevering in their faith and resolution, he had retracted his own opinions. So much benefit has accrued to the church of God from the publication of his useful labors, that we may believe him to have been delivered from danger by the especial providence of God. The death of the martyrs was essential to the stability of the spiritual and visible church of England: yet a chronicler of the actions and sayings — of the courage and patience of these martyrs, may be said to be no less necessary. The poet of pagan Rome could lament that many heroes of antiquity were unknown to posterity, because no poet had recorded their bravery. F52 The memory of the martyrs of Languedoc, and of the south of France, who were actually exterminated by the first agents of the newly-formed inquisition, have perished; or live only in the contemptuous triumphs of the papal histo-riographers. The record of the heroical opponents who died in the faith, protesting against the creed of Rome, condemned by the laws of Mary for opinion, not leading to treason; not as those by the laws of Elizabeth, for opinion ending in treason; was indispensable to the eventual establishment of a better system of ecclesiastical polity than that which the court and church of Rome, in any restoration of its influence, can hope to rebuild among us. The work of John Foxe has rendered greater service to the cause of true, primitive, scriptural, or reformed christianity, than a hundred battles, or than millions of soldiers in the field. Incalculable, therefore, would have been the loss to the church, if the emissaries of Gardiner had captured the writer; and destroyed the already prepared manuscript, with which he was probably travelling. The clouds of darkness were gathering over the Anglican church.
The boldest hearts despaired. The writer of the deeds of the heroes who perished in the holy war was preserved to give the loudest warning to the churches; and to inflict the most deadly blow on the united system of superstition and cruelty —of priestcraft and idolatry, which had so long overshadowed and oppressed both liberty and truth. May God in his mercy grant, that whateveer be the punishments with which he may afflict our guilty empire, we may both escape from infidelity on the one hand; and, on the other, from the worst of superstitions, and the heaviest of all God’s judgments — popery! F53 SECTION 3.
FOXE’S RESIDENCE ABROAD.
The expediency and prudence of the emigration of Foxe and his family were demonstrated by the conduct of the parliament, which met in the month following his escape to Nieuport. We may safely conclude that he was warned by his friend, the duke of Norfolk, of the severe measures against heresy and heretics now projected. Sixteen months had now elapsed since the death of Edward. F54 The friends of the reformation had seen, in that short space, the censure of a judge for directing the people to observe the laws of the late reign, before they were repealed; the restoration of the mass at court; the prohibition of preaching without an especial license from the queen; the exclusion of the protestant bishops from the House of Lords; the abolition of the reformed Liturgy; and the re-establishment of the doctrine of transubstantiation as a portion of the national faith. They had seen the arbitrary expulsion of religious foreigners; the deprivation of the married clergy; and the excommunication of the archiepiscopal and episcopal defenders of the prayers in their own language. They had witnessed the increased power of the queen, by that event which, more than any other, gives strength to a weak government — the suppression of an unsuccessful insurrection.
They were now to lament over the enactment of the most severe and persecuting statutes. They perceived that, even if the queen herself had been inclined to milder measures, the foreign influence, which is ever identified with the Italian form of Christianity, was gradually producing its effects; and that the pope and his adherents possessed the sovereignty over the sovereign of England. The houses of parliament, the proper defenders of truth, as well as of liberty, had changed with the change of the prince. The houses of convocation, the proper guardians of the church, had changed with the change of the bishops. The parliament, which was now to meet in November, after Foxe escaped in October, was to be reconciled in form to the church of Rome; to receive absolution from the papal legate, and to revive the laws of the faggot and the stake. No executions had hitherto taken place. It is probable that the duke of Norfolk had represented to Foxe both the certainty of the revival of these shameful statutes, and the no less certainty, that Foxe himself would become one of their earliest victims.
Foxe arrived safely with his wife at Nieuport. The situation of his wife, who was probably either at this time or soon after delivered of a child, f62 may have detained him there some time. As soon, however, as he was able, he left Nieuport for Antwerp; from whence he proceeded, by slow stages, to Strasburg, where he committed to the press the first part of his labors.
Grindal, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, influenced by his friendship for Peter Martyr, who had been driven from his divinity professorship at Oxford on the accession of Mary, now resided at Strasburg. Foxe found in Grindal a kindred spirit. The principal narratives of the martyrdoms which took place in England from the revival of the laws against heresy till the death of the queen, were transmitted to Grindal, who had been chaplain to king Edward, and was intimate with the chief advocates of the reformation.
These communications to Grindal were given to Foxe, and subsequently formed the foundation of the more enlarged editions of his work, published at Basle in 1659, and in the following years. Foxe, however, did not now remain long at Strasburg, for we find his name appended to the letter which was sent from Frankfort to Strasburg on the 3d of December, 1554, in defense of the Service Book, which had been adopted by many of the exiles, in preference to the Book of Common Prayer, which had been used in England. On his arrival on the Continent, he found his fellowcountrymen engaged in those painful controversies which are more generally known by the name of “the Troubles at Frankfort;” where the largest congregation of refugees had assembled, and to which, as Foxe took a part in the proceedings, it is now necessary more particularly to refer.
To understand better the origin of these controversies, we must consider some circumstances which took place in England in the reign of Edward.
In the year 1647 the emperor Charles, anxious to settle all religious differences, gave orders for the drawing up of a temporary formula called the Interim, which was to be binding upon all Romanists and Reformers until a general council should have fixed the articles of religion upon a more satisfactory foundation. The Interim was, in all essential points, agreeable to the doctrine of the Romish church. The emperor, however, had influence enough to induce many of the reformed princes to accept it.
Others resolutely refused so to do, and were put under the ban of the empire, and war was declared against them. It was sworn to by all the diet of Augsburg, January 1548. It inculcated — That man can do more good works than God requires of him; that he must not, without doubting, believe that his sins are forgiven; that the church has the power of interpreting the Scriptures, and explaining the doctrines to be deduced from them; that the pope is the head of the church, the bishops having a certain degree of authority in their respective cures; that, by confirmation and unction, the Holy Ghost is received, so as to enable the receiver to contend against temptation; that sins are to be confessed to a priest; that by satisfaction, which consists in the fruits of repentance, especially fasting, alms-deeds, and prayer, the causes of sin are rooted out, and temporal judgments are taken away, or mitigated. The Romish doctrines and ceremonies respecting the mass were confirmed; and it was decreed that the memory of saints is still to be celebrated, that they may intercede with God the Father for us, and help us by their merits; and that the dead also be remembered, and prayer made to God for them. Married priests were allowed to retain their cures; and where the cup had been given to the laity in the sacrament, it was to be continued. F65 This formulary was accepted by the prince palatine, duke Maurice, and the marquis of Brandenburg, but rejected by many others. It gave satisfaction to neither party, and was a complete failure in procuring peace and reconciliation. It is generally ascribed to Pfiug, bishop of Nuremberg, Michael Sidonius (but called Hedding), suffragan bishop of Mentz, and John Agricola, (Elsieben, Ger. Ref.) preacher to the elector of Brandenburg; but Pallavicini and Courayer, in his learned Notes to Father Paul’s History of the Council of Trent, assert that the author is unknown; and the bishop of Westminster says that Louis Malvenda, a Franciscan friar, and author of a work entitled “Lac Fidei pro Principe Christiano,” drew it up.
Though this formulary was not received with the approbation which the emperor had anticipated, he resolved to compel its acceptance among all whom he believed he had authority to influence. The will and belief of the civil ruler in this instance, as in so many others, was the criterion of truth, and the rule of faith. The consequence of his violence was, that many clergymen were deprived of their churches, and took refuge in England.
Among them was Valerandus Pollanus, a native of Flanders, and minister of a congregation at Strasburg. This man retired with his congregation into England, on his refusing to subscribe to the Interim, and obtained a settlement at Glastonbury. He was there permitted to use with his people the mode of worship which they deemed fittest when they had rejected the Romish service. On the death of Edward they were again compelled to seek refuge on the Continent. They established themselves at Frankfort, where they continued the same form of worship which they had adopted at Glastonbury.
On the 27th of June, 1554, a certain number of English exiles arrived at Frankfort. They were welcomed to the city on the very evening of their arrival by Valeran Pullan, and assurance was given them that a church was obtained in which they might worship without interruption from the common enemy. “Why weeps the Muse for England? “ was once asked by the poet who mourned over the moral delinquencies of his countrymen. The historian of this lamentable period has, indeed, cause to mourn over the consequences of the restoration of the unreformed religion in the reign of Mary. The savage persecutions of the adherents of the reformation who remained in England were but a portion of the calamities which that event brought upon our devoted land. Though there had been some division of opinion among the reformers in England on the subject of the clerical dresses, the maintaining of discipline, and the best mode of church government; a general agreement subsisted on the value and excellence of the Liturgy; which had been recommended and approved by the convocation, the parliament, and the king, as the best form of national worship. The book had been almost universally regarded by the thousands, who desired to pray to God in their own language, in a spiritual manner, as an invaluable blessing. The curate of Lynn, in Norfolk, pressed the book to his bosom in the flames, in the course of the Marian persecution, and thanked God that such a book, under his providence, had been given to the nation. He spake only the common feeling of the people. Happy would it have been for England, if its religious population had uniformly rallied round that admirable standard of scriptural truth, and spiritual religion. It was not so to be: and a fearful warning is given to all sects, and parties, and churches, to study peace and love, where truth is not compromised. The sanguinary war, which brought a moral and religions christian king, by moral and religious christian hands, to the scaffold — which disgraced alike the opponents of Romanism before the universal church, and the character of all Christians before the whole world — the controversy which still divides the nation, and which alike constitutes the weakness of the opponents, and the strength of the friends, of Rome, began in the quarrels of a few exiles in a petty town on the Continent, where they had been received with kindness, affection, and respect. The story has been often told. I repeat it here, because it affords us a key to the opinions and conduct of Foxe. F72 On the day after the arrival of the exiles at Frankfort, a formal petition was drawn up and presented to the magistrates, requesting permission for themselves, as well as all other Englishmen who might flee thither, to remain safely within their city. The petition was granted. Philip Melancthon had already written to the governors of Frankfort, begging them “not to oppress, but to cherish, the English exiles, as their sentiments in religion were found in the main articles of the christian confession; and that, whereas they differed in some points, they were to be instructed and informed, and not be rudely thrown out from among them by force and violence.” The magistrates acted upon his recommendation; and the exiles were grateful for their repose. They were, however, naturally anxious to worship God in their own language, and in their own manner. Their brother exiles at Strasburg and Zurich had already obtained this favor, and preserved their union as Christians and churchmen, in the enjoyment of their liberty, by adopting the services of the Book of Common Prayer, drawn up and ratified in the reign of Edward. The French exiles had obtained the favor of using their own form of prayer at Frankfort.
Application was consequently made (July 8th) to Glauberge, one of the chief senators, for a separate church, where all the English might hear sermons, and worship in their own manner. It does not appear, however, that they preferred their request as they ought to have done, and probably would have done, if they had been zealously attached to the Liturgy — that they might possess the same privileges which had been granted to their brethren at Strasburg. They petitioned in general terms only, and could not therefore complain, if their petition was granted, subject to certain conditions. The required permission was granted July 14th. Liberty was given them to preach, and to minister the sacraments, in the same church which had been previously granted to the French exiles who had come from England. Both parties were to use the church on alternate days in the week; and on the Sundays, at different hours, as they might agree among themselves. As the English, however, had not solicited for the more definite toleration of their own Service Book, which must have been well known to their foreign brethren at Frankfort, who had previously taken refuge in England, and had only been banished thence by Mary, the condition was made — that the English should not dissent from the French, either in doctrine or ceremonies; that they should subscribe also to the French confession of faith. Compliance with these conditions was promised, and the use of the church was granted.
The question now arose, in what manner their worship was to be conducted. They were required not to dissent from the French Protestants in doctrine and ceremonies, but they were not bound to follow implicitly the French mode of worship. They resolved, therefore, after perusing the Prayer Book, to omit the audible responses and the Litany, to adopt another form of confession, to sing a psalm after the confession or prayers, in the common metres then in use, to pray for the assistance of the Holy Spirit, and then to proceed to the sermon. A prayer for all estates of men was then to follow, at the end of which the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed were to be repeated. A psalm was then to be sung, the blessing to be pronounced, and the people to depart. The beautiful and solemn services of the Communion, which have been handed down to the church of England as the best monument of catholic antiquity, were to be altered, as being, in many respects, superstitious or superfluous, and the use of the surplice was to be discontinued. A minister and officers, to whom they gave the name of deacons, were appointed, and possession was taken of the church assigned to them by the magistrates and senators, on the 29th of July.
If the exiles at Frankfort had been contented with the privileges now allowed them, without endeavoring to divide their brethren, by requesting their approbation to these novelties — or if they had declared that they adopted this new form of worship as a matter of necessity, or till they should return to England, or obtain permission to use the Prayer Book at Frankfort — the unity of the depressed and persecuted church of England would not have been broken by these proceedings. I am unwilling to believe evil of any man; and I know that at this time, as at most other times, the conscientious and the zealous victim and persecutor would have been willing to change places; and no man, and no party, and no church, is ever wholly right, or wholly wrong; but there must have been a great deficiency of attachment among these exiles to the Liturgy which they had used in their native land, or they would have made some effort to have been permitted still to use it: and, if the declaration of Bale be true, that the exiles at Basil, when the magistrates permitted the use of the Liturgy, refused to adopt it, and called it a popish mass, we must believe that it is possible the exiles at Frankfort had already, before they appealed to John Calvin, begun to be affected with the love of novelty, and with disregard to the Book of Common Prayer. This conviction is confirmed by the painful fact, that, though the principal reason adduced by the Frankfort exiles against the use of the Liturgy, was, the disapprobation of the magistrates, Whittingham and his party, when these magistrates subsequently authorized the book, refused to accept it. F76 If they had done either of these things, or even if they had been silent under the circumstances, and permitted their countrymen to form their own candid conclusions respecting the supposed necessity of the case, the unity of the church might have been preserved. Instead, however, of adopting either of these two measures, they resolved to admit none of their brethren who might afterwards come to Frankfort to their communion, unless they should subscribe and conform to the rules and discipline of this novel worship. Thus began the miserable schism which ended so fatally for the church of England. They next proceeded to communicate their doings to their brethren at Strasburg, Zurich, Embden, and other places; to applaud their own conduct; to invite their approbation to a church, which they declared to be “one free from all dregs of superstitious ceremonies;” and to request those who agreed with the new system to settle at Frankfort.
The exiles of Strasburg, at the head of whom was Grindal, afterwards archbishop of Canterbury, were not willing to understand the purport of this letter. They could not imagine that their brethren at Frankfort had the least intention to do away the use of the Liturgy, which had been obtained by so much labor and learning in England, and for which so many were, at that moment, suffering in their own country. They believed only that the exiles at Frankfort intended to apply to them for a minister; and Grindal, consequently, wrote to Scory at Embden, to proceed to Frankfort. Scary offered his assistance. Before his letter reached them, the congregation had elected John Knox, who was residing at Geneva, and had attached himself with much ardor to the opinions and discipline of Calvin. They were reproved by their brethren at Zurich for their rejection of the English Liturgy; and they declared that they were fully determined to admit and to use no other. The letters from Strasburg were brought by Grindal, accompanied by Chambers, who came to tender his services. All attempts, however, to compose the differences, and reconcile their brethren once more to the use of the Liturgy, were too late. They had committed themselves before the world; and it is too much to be feared, that the pride of the human heart, which sometimes dupes the conscience as much as the affections dupe the understanding, began to influence their conduct, and, under the mask of preserving consistency, or contending for truth, made them desire victory more than conciliation or repose. Grindal informed them that the object of himself and of Chambers was to solicit the reestablishment of the English Liturgy, which they had used only of late so partially, in its substance, at least, if not in its integrity. Knox and Whittingham eagerly inquired what he meant by the substance of the book; and the discussion proceeded, from that moment in the manner which might have been expected. Grindal was compelled to answer indefinitely, because he could have no power to suggest or propose alterations; and desired to know what parts of the Prayer Book they were willing to accept — a question which was answered, as might have been also anticipated, by the declaration, that they should permit its use, so far only as it could be maintained by Scripture, and agreed with the system of the country. Other questions were proposed and answered, but not satisfactorily. Grindal and Chambers returned to Strasburg with a letter dated the 3d December, 1554, and signed, among others, by Foxe, who had arrived at Frankfort while these answers were being embodied, and whose name we now meet, for the first time, in these sad transactions. They declare that they do not dissent from the doctrines of their brethren, but they will not be ready to die for ceremonies which, as the book specifieth, may, upon just causes, be changed and altered. Knox, declining to use either the Prayer Book, or the Genevan form of worship without further consultation with the exiles of Strasburg, Zurich, Embden, etc., administered the sacraments as his conscience, that is, as his conviction of right, according to his judgment and knowledge, permitted him. He desired, in the most objectionable frame of mind in which a christian teacher can be found, to leave the business of prayer, the. most solemn and useful part of public worship, to others, and to confine himself solely to preaching. He threatened to resign his charge, if this strange and most uncatholic indulgence were rejected.
It was under these painful and mournful circumstances that the celebrated letter to John Calvin was penned. Unwilling to accept either the English or the Genevan form, they resolved to apply to Calvin for his opinion and advice. They did not send, however, as they ought to have done, the book itself, without note or comment, but translated portions only, and wrote a description of the book in the language and manner of partizans, who disapproved of it themselves, and desired their opinion to be confirmed by one whom they considered as their friend, and on whose judgment they could rely. They affect to be ashamed of some things in the book, which they therefore withhold, and they speak witch much disparagement of many parts, especially of the occasional services. The answer of Calvin was such as might have been expected, and such as they most probably desired. He condemns the conduct of those who pressed upon them the English service, and argues from the persecutions in England, that they should endeavor to depart still farther from popery. He considers all attempts to reform the Liturgy, as advancing to a greater degree of purity and perfection; and regards those who throw away the present opportunity of improvement, as doating upon the leavings of popish dregs. He pronounces the book generally to contain some points, which, though of trifling importance, might still be tolerated; and expresses this opinion in the two well-known words, which have served from that time to the present as the war-cry of the objectors to the services of the Anglican church. On receiving this letter, John Foxe, who seems to have been one of those who drew up the letter to Calvin, was requested, in conjunction with Knox, Whittingham, Gilby, and T. Cole, “to draw up some order meet for their state and time.” They did so; which was the same as that used at Geneva. F80 This was not approved of, and caused much warm contention. At last it was determined that Knox, Whittingham, Parry, and Lever should compile a formulary for their public worship. One was completed partly from the English service, and partly from the Genevan form: it was decided on the 6th February, 1555, that this service should be used till the May following; and that any intermediate controversy on the subject should be determined by Calvin, Musculus, Peter Martyr, Bullinger, and Vyret.
I deeply lament the fact that John Foxe took this active part in opposition to our noble primitive, catholic, and most spiritual service. He was guilty of the common fault of his day. Loathing and abhorring, as he ought to have done, the arrogance and cruelty of the church of Rome, he proceeded to the extreme of imagining, that in proportion as he departed, not merely from the perversions of the early doctrine and discipline of which Rome was guilty, but from the doctrines and discipline themselves; in that same proportion he was nearer to God and truth. He remained at Frankfort from this time till the November following; when he, in company with seventeen others, openly and decidedly seceded from the congregation there, and went, some to Geneva, some, among whom was Foxe, to Basil.
The following was the occasion of their secession and departure.
As the congregation at Frankfort had decided, whether rightly or wrongly is not now the question, on adopting a certain mode of worship, they possessed the undoubted right of adhering to the same, without hindrance or molestation. The principles of toleration, however, were not then rightly understood. Every religionist believed it to be his duty to compel others to be of the same external communion, as well as of the same opinion, with himself’: and moral persuasion was only one, not the exclusive, means of influencing their brethren to the required conformity.
Among other exiles who had been driven from England was Dr. Cox, who had been chaplain to archbishop Cranmer, and successfully recommended by him to be tutor to king Edward. He had been elevated by him to the rank of privy counsellor, and to the office of king’s almoner. He had been a member also of the commission which had been appointed to visit the university of Oxford. He had escaped from England to Strasburg, where Peter Martyr and the other exiles were permitted to exercise their public worship according to the Liturgy. The report of the untoward proceedings of the exiles at Frankfort was soon brought to Strasburg. Dr. Cox imagined that his influence might persuade the innovators on the Liturgy, to which he was himself most passionately devoted, once more to adopt the discipline and worship of the Anglican Reformed Church; and he might possibly have succeeded in his object if he had proceeded with more moderation. Instead, however, of beginning to use his influence by quietly conforming to the service which the exiles had established, till he could convince them of their error in adopting the changes which were not evil in themselves, but which needlessly violated that union which was the next blessing to truth itself, — he began his attempts by abruptly and presumptuously violating the compromise which had been made between the admirers and the opponents of the English Liturgy. It had been foolishly agreed that the responses should be discontinued. Whether wisely or otherwise, this was the agreement, and no power was vested in any brother of the common exile to violate the compact. When Dr. Cox, however, first attended the public worship of the congregation at Frankfort, he broke the conditions between the once contending, but at this moment peaceful parties, and repeated the responses aloud, after the custom in England. F81 He, and those who came with him, having been admonished by the seniors of the congregation, defended their conduct by affirming the necessity of maintaining the appearance of an English church.
On the Sunday following, one of those who accompanied the almoner, without the knowledge and consent of the congregation, entered the pulpit, and read the whole Litany; Dr. Cox and the rest answering aloud. This induced Knox, who had been invited to become minister at Frankfort, in September 1554, and arrived there in November, to proceed to the extremity, which probably might have been otherwise avoided. He ascended the pulpit in the afternoon, it being his turn to preach, and in his own bold, unsparing, declamatory style, inveighed against the English Liturgy, and taxed the authors of the disorder with a breach of agreement.
This rendered the separation from that moment utterly incurable. For this he was rebuked by Dr. Cox. Conferences were afterwards held between the two parties. Knox, who was as generously-minded as he was inveterate against what he believed to be error, prevailed with the congregation to admit his opponent and his friends to, the privilege of voting with them.
The result of this noble liberality-was, that Knox himself was outvoted, and forbidden to officiate any longer. If the controversy had ended here, by the successful party conducting themselves with moderation, the wound might perhaps have been healed. They did not so. They submitted the dispute to the magistrates of Frankfort, who required them again to conform to the practice of the French exiles, in doctrines and ceremonies.
They even complied with this at the request of Cox himself, upon being threatened with dismissal from the town if they refused: —but they then proceeded to an act of the most unworthy and un-English character. They privately accused Knox of high treason against the emperor of Germany, his son Philip, and Queen Mary of England, and to substantiate the charge, they put into the hands of the magistrates a book of his, entitled, “An Admonition to England,” with certain passages marked. They had been addressed to the inhabitants of Amersham in Buckinghamshire, on occasion of the rumoured marriage of Mary with Philip; an union much dreaded by the English. In this address he had compared the emperor (Charles V.) to Nero. The magistrates, therefore, were compelled either to deliver him up to the emperor, or advise him through Whittingham his friend, to depart from the city. They chose the latter alternative; and the reformer retired to Geneva, exasperated and embittered by his treatment.
Cox and his friends procured from the magistrates of Frankfort, through the means’ of the nephew of Glauberge, permission for the unlimited use of the English Liturgy: and having done so, they actually refused to tolerate the use of the Genevan, or rather the mixed Genevan and Anglican service, which Whittingham, who offered to acquiesce in the new arrangement, requested permission to prefer. Whittingham, in return, exerted himself to recommend the French, and to depreciate the. Anglican service. Cox wrote art apologetical letter to Calvin, whose influence with both parties was so great, that all desired his sanction to their proceedings.
Calvin still further increased the distance between the two parties, by returning an answer, condemning the exclusive use of the Prayer Book, and censuring many of its observances, which! he calls hurtful and offensive ceremonies. He justly declares that the treatment received by Knox was neither godly nor brotherly. He concludes his letter from Geneva, dated the “last of May, anno 1555,” by wishing that their agreement may be stable, and prays for a blessing upon them in their exile. F84 John Foxe, with some others, made another effort to restore the mixed service, by submitting the controversy to four arbitrators, two for each party, and signed a letter to that effect with them on the 17th of August.
One more useless meeting took place on the 30th. On the ensuing day, Whittingham, in company with Foxe and others, declared to Cox, and the heads of the congregation, their reasons for departing from Frankfort: among which were the treatment of Knox, and the affirmation that papistical superstitions, and unprofitable ceremonies, which were burthens, yokes, and clogs, were brought in. After a lapse of a few days more, Whittingham with one party retired to Geneva; while, Foxe and another party sojourner at Basil, where he obtained employment from the printer Oporinus. He arrived at this city about the middle of November 1555.
The English Liturgy is so truly worthy of the several commendations which have been bestowed upon it, both at home and abroad, that we cannot but deeply lament the part taken by Foxe, in the divisions of Frankfort. We may, however, discover many circumstances which should lessen our censure. They were — the state of the controversy among the reformers respecting liturgies — the influence of Calvin, Knox, and others of the chief continental opponents of Rome — and the conduct of the principal supporters of the Liturgy itself, in the congregation of Frankfort.
Though the Liturgy, nearly in its present form, as the Second Service Book of King Edward, had been established by law in England, and John Foxe, therefore, in his ministrations at Reigate, must be supposed to have conformed to its vestments, rubric, and observances — to have joined in its holy prayers and praises — and have administered the sacrament according to its prescribed forms, we must remember that the book itself was not regarded as being incapable of many useful improvements. Much, though unjust and unreasonable, prejudice was excited against it as a translation from the Sacramentary of Gelasius, and from other rituals used by the Romish church. It had not yet received that sanction of establishment and continuance, which adds so much to its estimation in the present day, that many deem it to be a crime even to hint a suggestion for the least change.
It has not been sufficiently observed by the historians of this period, that the Liturgy or Service, which was used at Strasburg, — from which place the exiles under Valerandus Pollanus, settled at Glastonbury during the Interim, — had been framed by Calvin, about the year 1638, in the twenty-ninth year of Henry VIII. ten years before the first Liturgy of King Edward was given to the Anglican church. As this Liturgy of King Edward was afterwards changed by the influence of the foreign divines, the question respecting the final settlement of the best form of Liturgy in England was considered by some to be still undecided at the death of the king; and many, therefore, of the English exiles, though they had conformed to the second book of Edward, were probably already disposed to listen to the reasoning of their foreign brethren AMong the reformers, who advocated the liturgy of Calvin. Between the times when the two Service Books of king Edward were published; and while the controversy, therefore, respecting them was still continued, Valerandus Pollanus, in the year 1550, proceeded from Glastonbury to London, and there published in Latin “The Liturgy of the Strangers, used in their Church at. Strasburg.” F86 It was dedicated to king Edward, and was dated February 19th, 1551. He declares in his dedication that “he thought it worth his while to translate into Latin the rites and manners (never sufficiently commended) used by the Strangers’ Church at Argentine (Strasburg), exiles for the gospel of Christ: being induced to it as a point of duty, understanding how this good church had been slandered by some for changing their religion; by others, for the licentiousness of their manners. He also mentioned, he says, aphorisms of their discipline, which he intended ere long to publish; and gives this high character of the said church, that there was none purer, or that came nearer to that which was in the apostles’ times.” This liturgy is short. It was printed in October. Calvin was now a teacher of great eminence on the continent; and as this liturgy, though now first published in London, must have been well known to Cranmer and his brethren before they drew up the First Service Book of Edward VI., I believe that the one principal cause of the spleen of Calvin against the English Liturgy, was not so much the non-acceptance of his service in the compilation of it by Cranmer, nor the letter of Whittingham and Knox, by which it was misrepresented, as the passing silently over the liturgy which Calvin had given to the congregation at Strasburg, which was used both there and at Glastonbury; and which Cranmer had probably seen and rejected.
If I did not believe that the ambition of Calvin was of that kind, which rejected the appearance of submission to any ecclesiastical authority, I could have imagined that the assertion is true, which affirms that he applied to Cranmer for episcopal ordination. L2 The letter, it is said, never reached the archbishop, having been intercepted by some of his enemies. If this be true — and if’ the declaration of Strype also, be true, f89 that the protestant foreigners took so much satisfaction in Edward VI., and his establishment of religion, that the heads of them, Bullinger, Calvin, and “others, in a letter to him, offered to make him their defender, and to have bishops in their churches as there were in England, with the tender of their service to assist and unite together,” we might almost conclude that John Calvin was anxious to obtain from England episcopal ordination, that he might consolidate his power by canonically obtaining the bishopric of Geneva.
Calvin’s liturgy was deficient in that deep homage to antiquity which characterizes the English service. The Anglican reformers were anxious to prefer the words of the ancient services. They were as learned as they were devout. While they studied to be useful, they generally found that they could tender the most expressive services in the thoughts which had been hallowed by the early churches. They did not despise good sentiments because they were old, nor prefer them because they were novel. They avoided at once the superstition of Rome and the rashness of Calvin; and their liturgy has been approved, and loved, by the wisest, the best, the most reasonable and learned, as well as the simple and the ignorant, both in life and death. Cranmer thus acted; and Calvin, I believe, neither forgot nor forgave the rejection of the liturgy he had given to Strasburg, which had been used at Glastonbury; and which has been used in the kirk of Scotland, without much alteration, to the present time.
However this resentment might have been indulged on the part of Calvin, many of the English reformers did not at that time fully appreciate the value of their own liturgy. They were anxious for changes, and their opinions were supported not only by Calvin, but by the foreign reformers, who were well acquainted with the liturgy of Calvin. The details of this liturgy may not be interesting to all. As much attention, however, has been lately given to the subject, the curiosity of some may be gratified by a short account, which will enable those who admire the spirit of the English liturgy, to contrast it with their own.
The service of the Lord’s Day began with “Sursum corda.” Then the first table of the Decalogue was sung in rhyme. Then the pastor, standing at the table, turning to the people, thus begins, Our help is in the name of the Lord, etc. A short exhortation follows, to confess their sins. A confession.
F90 Then the pastor rehearseth to the people some sentence out of the Scripture of the remission of sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, the people either kneeling or standing all this while. The Gospel is read. The absolution is again repeated. The rest of the Decalogue is sung. The pastor exhorteth them to pray. A very short prayer follows, like one of our collects, that God would give them grace to keep the commandments: and the same collect is sung. The pastor then ascends the pulpit; where he first prays, and then preaches upon the New Testament, beginning some one book of it, and going on till he hath ended the whole book in several sermons. Then follows a prayer. The banns of marriage are published, baptism is celebrated, the sick are particularly prayed for, alms are collected by the deacons; a long prayer, the same with that prescribed in the French form, for the whole church, after sermon, following. Then the Apostles’ Creed. Then, when there is a communion, the pastor first rehearseth the institution of that sacrament out of Corinthians 11. and subjoins an excommunication of all idolators, blasphemers, heretics, schismatics, perjured, seditious, contentious, disobedient to parents, whoremongers, thieves, covetous, etc. forbidding any such to partake of the said supper. He then makes an exhortation concerning the Lord’s supper. He communicates in both kinds himself; next, the deacon in both kinds; then, all the men first; and after them, the women approach reverently to the table, where the pastor, at one end of the table, gives to every one of them the bread one by one; and the deacon, at the other end of the table, gives them the wine; a psalm of praise being sung during the time, by the people. The pastor, in giving the bread to every one, says, The bread which we break is the communion of the body of Christ. The deacon, in giving the cup, says to every one, The cup which we bless is the communion of the blood of Christ. Then follow the same thanksgiving and benediction which are at this day used by the French protestants. Here ends the morning service.
At evening, after a psalm was sung, a sermon follows, with a prayer, and the benediction.
In the daily service; every morning a psalm was sung, a prayer, a sermon, a prayer and benediction in the pulpit f91 There was a service of repentance. Every Tuesday was a day of more solemn devotion, to deprecate God’s judgments and to confess their sins: a psalm, the confession, a sermon, a long prayer, the same as above.
The service of baptism was the same which is used by the French, except that the parent and godfathers brought the child. The minister asked them, Will you have this child baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost? They answered, This we desire, etc.
Such was the service used by the exiles when settled at Glastonbury, and, no doubt, at Frankfort also when they left England. I omit the description of the English liturgy, drawn up by Knox and Whittingham, and sent to Calvin, which elicited the celebrated tolerabiles ineptias. Whoever compares the two — that is, the published form of Pollanus, and the epitome sent from Frankfort, will perceive that the variations between them ought not to have excited the bitterness which both then, and subsequently, characterised the congregation at Frankfort, and their followers, the future nonconformists. There were common to each — sentences of Scripture — the exhortation to confession — absolution — the gospel — the decalogue — prayer before sermon — sermon. In the English form there are, in addition, the great improvements of the two lessons — the psalms — the epistle — jubilate — the versicles before the Lord’s prayer — with the collects, litany, and part of the communion service.
This was the liturgy to which Foxe had conformed before he left England.
We may justly regret that he did not adhere, in the troubles of Frankfort, to those of the exiles who preferred their own service. He did not, however, depart from the Anglican church on his return to England, four years after, on the accession of Elizabeth: and he remained a stedfast conformist to the services, to the hour of his death.
Another motive, which might at this time have been influential with Foxe, was the eminence, in those days of trouble and confusion, of the two men who have now been the chief causes of the great schism among protestants. Personal piety makes error popular. Decision and uncompromising energy often render it permanent. John Calvin and John Knox were the two leaders of that great army of pioneers and guerillas which has cleared the intermediate space for the more disciplined warfare, between episcopacy and papacy. One spirit ruled them. If the rude and fiercer soldiery of the Calvinist and nonconformist had not carried on the war in the manner which, in many instances, cannot be justified, we may rightly doubt whether a greater evil than the temporary ascendancy of their power would not have recurred, in the gradual succumbing of episcopacy under the power of the ancient usurper of its authority. When Foxe took refuge on the continent, the reformer of Geneva, and next to him, the impetuous, the rash, yet noble-minded reformer of Scotland, were regarded as the two most illustrious Christians of their age. The church of England had again received the deadly enemy of its spiritual greatness and influence. The hopes of those who wished well to the freedom of man to worship God in their own language, to possess the Scriptures, and to resist Rome with success, were turned from the dungeons of England, in which those hopes were perishing, to Geneva, Strasburg, and Frankfort. May we not here find some apology for the zealous and humble student, who loved the truth, and imagined that, though it was being extinguished in England, it was beaming on the Continent? Foxe was dazzled by the brightness which still bewilders the aliens from episcopal government, and which still demands our admiration for many great and good qualities, though we deprecate the error which prevents the union of the Trinitarian Christians throughout the world. John Calvin was at this moment the most influential teacher among all the opponents of Rome. F93 Luther was dead. Cranmer was imprisoned; and, what was worse, Cranmer was wavering in his stedfastness. Other bishops of the protestant church of England were firm in their resistance; but the disputes about vestments, and the great eagerness of some of their adherents to proceed still further from Rome, had weakened the cause of the protestant English episcopacy, and therefore of the protestant Liturgy. The attention of Europe had been now for more than twenty years directed to Calvin. From his earliest age he had been eminent for his dedication to the study of the Scriptures. He had been compelled, when still a very young man, to make his escape from Paris in consequence of an harangue spoken by Nicholas Copus, at the suggestion of Calvin. Nicholas Copus was rector of the university, and this harangue is said to have caused the persecution of those who had embraced the reformation principles. Calvin returned, and met Servetus in Paris, during the year 1584; but being again driven away, he settled at Basil.
Before his return to Paris, in 1584, he had been received into the house of Lewis de Tillet, canon of the church of Angouleme, where he wrote the greatest part of his “Christian Institution.” It was published at Basil in 1585. He first arrived at Geneva in 1586, after a visit to the duchess of Parma, by a circuitous route through Savoy, to escape the spies who were observing him. Geneva at this time abounded with zealots, hating every thing that savoured of popery to such a degree, that many most useful laws and practices were abolished merely on account of their adoption by the church of Rome. Calvin’s zeal and energy, his learning and endurance of persecution, so commended him to Farel and others, now at Geneva, that they declared the curse of God would be upon him if he did not undertake the spiritual superintendence of the anti-papal-population of that city. The confused and agitated state of christian people at this moment, can alone afford the least palliation for the conduct of Calvin in departing from the ancient axiom, that none should speak in the name of the church, without the authority of the church; and without the external setting apart also of the person who so spoke, by those to whom the administration of that authority had been confided. He was indefensible in complying with the request of Farel, if, by any possibility, he could have procured the sanction of his episcopal brethren to the office of teacher, preacher, superintendent, or bishop. If this had, indeed, been impossible if the whole mass of the bishops of his age had so taught, and enforced unscriptural and antichristian error — and if they had, therefore, refused to recognize the teacher who, from the purer fountains of the inspired page, with deep study and devout humility, desired to oppose their errors, and to instruct his brethren — some apology might have been made for his compliance with the request of Farel. We do not read that Calvin endeavored to obtain at this time, whatever he might have subsequently done, the episcopal authority for his efforts, as the report of his having applied to Cranmer for ordination, is not corroborated by any evidence to give it validity. He had already preached before he went to Geneva, without having received episcopal ordination. F95 Neither was he any further an ecclesiastic, than that he had received the first tonsure. He seems, however, whether there was any necessity or not, to justify the measure, to have acceded to the request of the people, and to have acted as their bishop, without any effort to obtain the sanction of the bishops of the neighborhood to his proceeding. But his influence was increased by his boldness. He had the courage to propose, and the skill to institute, the most strict system of ecclesiastical discipline, and he enacted the most indefensible innovations. The arbitrary spirit, upon which Beza so justly comments, was suited to the hour. He obliged all the people to swear solemnly to a body of doctrines, of which the chief merit seems to have been, that they were the antipodes of popery. He refused to administer the Lord’s Supper until certain irregularities (as he deemed them) which subsisted in the church at Geneva, should be rectified. He also declared, that he could not submit to the regulations which had been lately made by the synod of the canton of Berne, and which required the use of unleavened bread in the eucharist, the replacing of the baptismal fonts, which had been removed out of the churches, and observance of the feasts which had been abolished, to be restored at Geneva.
The dissensions thus produced occasioned his expulsion; and he appeared before the world as spoken against by all men, for conscience’ sake, as a severe and ascetic reformer, when severity and asceticism were most valued and admired. Between the time of his expulsion from, and return to, Geneva, he went to Basil, and from thence to Strasburg, where he was made professor of divinity; and planted the church or congregation, to which he gave both a liturgy and a discipline. F96 The imperious, haughty, ambitious, and most decisive character of Calvin, made him act as if the whole religious reformation depended on himself; and as if the discipline he had established was essentially necessary, not only for the welfare of the churches, but even for the salvation of individual souls. F97 All this, however, contributed to that superiority which minds of his high order always obtain over their contemporaries. Such men are the true aristocracy of mankind. The unjustifiable tenacity with which he adhered to an opinion which he had but once expressed, so that he is said never to have retracted a sentence or proposition, which he had delivered either in speaking or in writing; together with that arbitrary exercise of his power, which never allowed any deviation from his decision, or any opposition to his mandates; had the beneficial effect, for a short time, of planting a standard, round which the converts might rally; and established a temporary anti-papal infallibility, which neutralized the papal infallibility, till the Anglican episcopal church recovered from the double error of both the Calvinistic and popish presumption. Heresy was still deemed a crime.
While the church of Rome anathematized both Calvin and the English reformers, the influence of Calvin was maintained by his inflexible severity towards Castalio, Bolsec, and Servetus; as the influence of Cranmer and his brethren had been upheld by their condemnation of Joan Boucher.
Castalio, though he had been recommended by Calvin himself to the college at Geneva, was expelled thence by the counter-recommendation of Calvin, in consequence of some difference of opinion. Bolsec disagreed with him respecting the doctrine of predestination; and this was alleged as a reason why he should be imprisoned. His treatment of Servetus, whom Beza, in the spirit of the age, calls wicked (impius ille Servetus), however reprehensible we may deem it to be, was not condemned by the zealots of the age. F98 He was the great man of his time, in the worldly sense of the word great. He desired to make Geneva the mother and mistress of the reformed churches, and to make himself the pope of the anti-papacy of Europe. Such a man could only be the instrument of temporary good.
Geneva has become among the lowest of the reformed churches; and the name of Calvin, because of his ambition, error, and dogmatism, has sunk in honor below its proper estimation. The reformers of the church of England, free from personal ambition to exalt themselves — free from political ambition to exalt their church to supremacy over other churches — have been honored above Rome and Geneva to be the benefactors of the christian world. They have been honored as the instruments of establishing a church which combines all the spirituality and truth which Calvin demanded; and all the valuable discipline which Rome is justified in desiring. Foxe had approved their labors before his emigration; he approved them after his return. We may justly believe that he approved them at this moment; but he believed that the prayer-book of Calvin, which was first used at Strasburg, afterwards at Glastonbury, and then at Frankfort, did not clash with the use of the English prayer-book in other parts of the continent, or in England, if the exiles returned, lie submitted to the influence of Calvin in the places where that influence had banished the common enemy, which was now beginning to consign his brethren at home to the dungeon and to the flame.
The zeal with which John Knox, who had taken priest’s orders in the church of Rome, and who had been employed by Cranmer, after many vicissitudes at Berwick and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, embraced also the opinions and discipline of John Calvin, may have much influenced the mind of the martyrologist. Knox was of the same unbending, bold disposition as Calvin. Having made his escape from England, in the year 1554, he landed at Dieppe, traveled through France and Switzerland, and settled at Geneva, where he formed a friendship with Calvin. In the September of this year, he was invited to Frankfort. He had a higher opinion of Calvin than of any other reformer. Before he left England, indeed, his opinions had not been in strict accordance with those of the English reformers, and he diverged much further from them during his residence near Calvin. He considered the liturgy which Calvin had drawn up, to be more perfect than the Service-Book of Edward, and was anxious, in compliance with Calvin’s own desire, to introduce it wherever he was appointed to minister.
But though the influence of these zealous opponents of the Service-Book of king Edward may have contributed to the unfortunate inconsistency of Foxe, I believe the principal cause of his secession from the party at Frankfort, who adhered to the Anglican service, was the rashness and vehemence of that learned and eminent reformer, whose zeal was equally directed against both papist and puritan. Richard Cox, like all his brother reformers, had been attached to the doctrines of the church of Rome. He had been admitted a junior canon of Wolsey’s “Cardinal College” at Oxford, and left Cambridge for that preferment. He became attached to the principles of Luther, and of the reformation; and demonstrated his zeal for his new opinions by destroying, in the various stations to which his learning and merit raised him, a great number of rare and valuable books which favored the church he had forsaken. He retained, as so many did, the intolerance of Rome, without its other errors. The same vehemence with which he assailed Rome, characterised his defense of the liturgy, and his hatred of the service-book of John Calvin. The manner in which he introduced the Anglican form at Frankfort, has been already related. As the church of England is the middle ground between popery and puritanism, so churchmen are then rightly understood, when they resist the mass on the one hand, or ill-considered modes of worship on the other. Cox proved his sincere admiration of the liturgy, by refusing, when he was bishop of Ely, to administer in the chapel royal, because the queen continued to use the crucifix, and lights on the altar. F100 He resisted the injunctions of the queen in respectful language and submissive demeanor; but his firmness was equal to his courtesy. If he had behaved with equal courtesy, but with no less unflinching firmness, at Frankfort, I believe it to be probable that the schism between the exiles would not have been continued in England; that the prayer-book of Calvin, being weighed by its own merits, would have been regarded, as it is, less preferable than that of the Anglican Church; that the puritan rebellion itself might not have taken place; and that the painful inconsistency which John Foxe shared in common with so many of his brother exiles, would have been avoided. The church of England, and the individual churchmen who uphold her sacred cause, will only then do justice to the ark of God committed to their trust, when they boldly declare to their countrymen of the communions both of Rome and of Geneva, and all others, that their liturgy is worthy of reception and adoption, not only because of its antiquity, and of the authority which enforces its observance; but because of its usefulness, holiness, and adaptation to the spiritual necessities of those who believe in the divinity and atonement of the Son of God. They must convince the world, as they may do, that it commends itself to the heart, by its force — to the intellect, by its wisdom — to the ignorant, by its simplicity — to the learned, by its fullness. It has conquered, and it does conquer, in Scotland, America, and England; and it will, wherever it is known, gradually conquer, throughout the civilized world, all other forms of worship. As mankind progresses in knowledge, and adds to that knowledge, faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, the holy, useful, humble eloquence of these prayers will present the best clothing of christian devotion. But it is with religious truth as with any other. If a man is suddenly commanded by rude and uncourteous violence, to believe that two and two make four, though the truth is immutable, the offended pride of the insulted man inclines him, at the moment, to deny the very truth which his own calm reason would perceive and approve. So it was with the exiles at Frankfort, and with John Foxe among the number. The violent interruption of the worship at Frankfort, and the forcible introduction of the scriptural liturgy of the Anglican church, alienated some for the moment, and some for a longer period, from the very prayer-book which their reason would have approved. The puritan rebellion might, possibly, have been avoided, if Cox had either remained at Strasburg; or if he had persevered in commending the English liturgy by reasoning and persuasion, and not by rashness and violence, to the exiles at Frankfort.
Immediately prior to his departure from Frankfort to Basil, Foxe had written to Peter Martyr respecting the desire of the English at Frankfort to appoint that reformer to the office of lecturer in divinity among them. We learn from his letter that Foxe was not anxious to leave Frankfort. F101 He was deeply sensible of favors. The opulent men of the city had bountifully contributed to the support and protection of himself and his fellow-exiles; and he has permanently recorded his gratitude to them by his Epistle Dedicatory to his “ Christus Triumphans.” F102 L3 His friend Nowell, too, remained at Frankfort; and if Peter Martyr would have accepted the offer of the exiles to lecture to the congregation who were now united under Cox, it is probable he would have continued his residence in that city. We may lament that he did not. In that case the very appearance of sanctioning the opposition to the unaltered English liturgy would have been withheld.
Whatever were the opinions he had formed respecting the proceedings of Cox, in the disputes concerning the liturgy, by which the breach among the refugees was rendered irreparable on the continent, and eventually in England, John Foxe never thought of resenting this conduct by separating from his communion. He seems to have been utterly exempted from that strange and most unjustifiable weakness, of permitting his decision in questions of religion, to depend on his good or bad opinion of the theologian, who propounded them. Peter Martyr declined to accept the Divinity chair at Frankfort, for reasons which cannot now be ascertained.
It is possible that he believed his instructions would be unacceptable; or that he could not depend on the willingness of the English merchants to continue their support. He was at Strasburg when the invitation was sent to him; and he does not appear to have been much attached to that place, as he accepted, in the following year, the situation of lecturer at Zurich.
The precariousness of provision was, therefore, the probable motive: f103 and his refusal to leave Strasburg for Frankfort, together with the representations made to Foxe, by both Martyr and Grindal, that he would find more encouragement at Basil than at Frankfort, and not any intention or desire to unite himself to John Knox, and his brethren, who had preceded him to Basil, finally induced the martyrologist to proceed with his family to that destination; and to become the corrector of the press to his friend Oporinus, the printer.
The more public life of Foxe, as an author, may be said to commence at this period, 1555. Basil was, at this time, says his son, “much celebrated for the great friendship and courtesy showed to those of the English nation: for which cause many famous men, withdrawing themselves from the cruelty of the times, had escaped thither out of England. Of these were marty but of slender estate, who, some one way and some another, but the most part, gained their livelihood by reviewing and correcting the press.
This place, for careful printing, and plenty of diligent and wealthy men in that profession, then surpassed all the cities of Germany; and they preferred the industry of our men, in that employment, before any of their own countrymen.” “To these men Mr. Foxe joined himself, so much the better liked of, because having been always inured to hardness, and in his youth put to the trial of his patience, he had learned how to endure labor; and that which seemed the greatest misery to others, to suffer want, to sit up late, and keep hard diet, were to him but the sports of fortune.” He did not, however, devote himself to the mere mechanical labors required in a reader for the press. He proceeded to collect the materials for the completion of his Ecclesiastical History. There were no annual registers, magazines, journals, nor newspapers, in that day, for recording the events which daily took place in the courts of law; or of the transactions, whether at home or abroad, which most interested the public. The want of such sources of information was deeply felt. It appeared to the reformers, and to the protestants of the day, absolutely necessary that the cruelties which the enforcement of the laws against heresy had inflicted so mercilessly, and so needlessly, against the Anglican and-papal church, should be permanently recorded. They could not any longer permit such transactions to be confined to the registers of the bishops, or to the memory of their contemporaries. Foxe was already known to the reformers as a laborious and zealous annalist; he appeared, therefore, to be the fittest instrument to record the consequences of the re-enactment of the persecuting statutes; and Foxe was as anxious to write, as they were to contribute, the materials of his pages. Details of the transactions in England were sent, therefore, to Grindal, one of the chief refugees, who communicated them to Foxe; and thus commenced the authentic compilation which the church of England, till within the present age, has uniformly deemed so useful and so valuable.
The letter is still extant which proves this to have been the origin of the chief part of the work of Foxe. It is preserved among the Harleian manuscripts. Foxe, in that letter, acknowledges having received from Grindal the account of Bradford’s death. He highly extols his faith and diligence; and does not doubt but that he has many such histories; also, that he will as faithfully and diligently make like inquiry for the future. He then says, he had at length concluded a bargain with Froschoverus, and that in October his first book would appear. F104 He adds, that he was completely without money, and reduced to the last penny: and that for two months he had been occupied in completing the agreement.
Froschoverus had come to him with letters from Aylmer and Bullinger, bargaining with him for certain things at the next fair, which he readily agreed to. He was about to write to Haddon, but suddenly heard he was dead. He wished to thank Haddon for a kindness conferred, and also to tell him what he was doing. F105 He lived with Anthony Gilby, at Frankfort, when John Knox was unjustly accused, and afterwards banished the city.
In the reply of Grindal to a second letter of Foxe, he alludes to another request, that he would send him, with equal fidelity, the narrative of the martyrdom of Cranmer. F106 There can be no doubt that similar communications were the chief sources of the histories of the martyrdoms which Foxe relates. The accounts were sent by the spectators of the murderous executions, to their friends on the continent; and from these, as well as from other authentic records, after the most ample examination, they were printed by the martyrologist. An expression occurs in the first of the letters to which I have last alluded, which requires some attention from the light which it throws upon the many labors in which Foxe was now engaged. He informs Grindal that he doubts whether two of his letters had been received, because he makes no mention of the books of Cranmer.
This refers to the subject of Cranmer having defended the doctrine of the Eucharist, as still received in the Anglican Church, against the arguments of Oardiner in favor of Transubstantiation. As early as 1630, Cranmer had published a work to refute the advocates of the celebration of the mass.
F107 Gardiner, who was then a prisoner in the Tower, wrote an answer to this publication. F108 The controversy caused considerable excitement. The doctrine of transubstantiation was maintained with so much zeal by the Romanists — its denial was made so uniformly the criterion of heresy — it was regarded with so much devotion by the people, in consequence of the great earnestness with which it had been so much insisted upon, that it was resigned with more difficulty than any other of the long-received errors — it was the last tenet which Cranmer himself, who, in common with all his brethren, had been educated a Romanist, believed to be indefensible. When, therefore, Cranmer had arrived at the conclusion that this doctrine was untenable, and announced that conclusion to the world, his book may be said to have sealed his doom. Gardiner undertook to refute Cranmer; and to prove the truth of the long-received opinion of the transformation of the wafer into the very body and blood, which had been sacrificed upon the cross. The result of their respective works would. consequently be considered, at such a moment of religious fervor, as of vital or fatal interest to the cause of the Reformation. The reply of Cranmer was completed and printed in September 1661, but the power of the press was at this moment so much dreaded, that even the primate, the chief person of the commission which ruled the kingdom during the minority of Edward, was compelled to ask the favor of the permission of its publication. A proclamation had been issued while the work was at press, prohibiting the printing or sale of English books without the allowance of the king or privy council. Both parties had frequently resorted to these intolerable prohibitions, by which free discussion was prevented; and both religion and liberty alike suffered. The archbishop himself, therefore, was compelled to solicit, from the secretaries of state, permission to publish his book after it was printed, by which the public were obliged to wait a month for the contents. The day, we may believe, will never again arrive when two controversialists, who had held the respective offices of archbishop and lord chancellor, will again discuss this topic; or if they do so, be debarred from the free use of the press. I subjoin Cranmer’s letter. F109 The book was at length published under the title — “An Answer by the Reverend Father in God, Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate of all England, and Metropolitan, unto a crafty and sophistical cavillation, devised by Stephen Gardiner, Doctor of Law, late Bishop of Winchester, against the True and Godly Doctrine of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Savior Christ, wherein is also, as occasion serveth, answered such places of the Book of Dr. Richard Smith, as may seem anything worthy the answering. Also, a True Copy of the Book written, and in open Court delivered by Dr. Stephen Gardiner, not one word added or diminished; but faithfully, in all points agreeing with the Original.”
Gardiner, under the reigned name of Marcus Antonius Constantius, f110 answered the archbishop through the Paris Press. F111 Cranmer undertook the rejoinder to this work also. He completed three books. Before, however, his labor was finished, Edward died; Gardiner was released; Cranmer imprisoned; and two of the books perished with their author at Oxford. “The third,” says his biographer, “fell into the hands of Foxe, and has, by this time, probably perished also.” F112 What use Foxe made of the pages to which Strype refers, we know not; but the second work of Cranmer, which he published in reply to Gardiner, was deemed by Peter Martyr, Grindal, Aylmer, and other reformers, to be so conclusive, and so valuable, that they requested Foxe, when he was at Frankfort, to translate it into Latin for the common benefit of the reformed church. Foxe complied with their request, but had not completed the undertaking when he removed to Basil. He seems to have experienced more difficulty in translating the sentences of Gardiner than he could possibly have anticipated. F113 “Most learned sir,” he says, in a letter to Peter Martyr, “you would scarcely believe how much pains that great dispute of my lord of Canterbury cost me; which by means of you, and the persuasion of my friends, I undertook to translate. I never saw anything more unpleasant, rough, and intangled, than Winchester’s discourse: wherein sometimes he is so full of depths, that he needs; some sibyl rather than an interpreter. Yea, I doubt whether any sibyl be such a riddle resolver, or Apollo so great a prophet, to be able everywhere to comprehend his sense. In the third book there be one or two places, where you may sooner draw water from a pumice, than find light for the sentence. In his periods, for the most part, he is so profuse, or rather infinite, that he seems twice to forget himself; rather than to find his end. The whole phrase hath in effect that structure, that consisting for the most part of relatives, it refuses almost all the grace of translation. Whence how great difficulty arises upon me, it will be easy for you to guess. The archbishop of Canterbury is somewhat softer, but so much the longer; whereby, if it doth not create me more trouble, yet certainly as much labor. To these dark sentences happeneth moreover the want of books and doctors, cited up and down herein. And you know, how it is not handsome to bring in doctors speaking otherwise than in their own words. This thing will oblige me shortly to resort to your Strasburg for a month or two, to beg the aid of some library. In the first book Winchester cites your name with Luther and Bucer, laying to your charge the imputation of a forger or a liar. But the archbishop of Canterbury, on the other hand, omits nothing for the defense of the name of his friend Peter. I shall send over to you the very place translated, together with the remaining part now finished.” F114 Peter Martyr, however, encouraged him to proceed. The murder of Cranmer at the beginning of 1656, before the translation was finished, gave new interest to the task. Grindal, also, exhorted him to persevere. The love of labor in Foxe was so great that these exhortations were seldom necessary. Yet, whether it was that the harshness and obscurity of Gardiner’s style, of which he so much complained, prevented him from succeeding — whether his historical labors demanded his leisure — or whether his daily task for his employers, the printers, occupied his time, this translation was not finished till the year 1557. The printing of it then commenced at Basil. It was not then all published, though it was finished.
He maintained a correspondence in Latin with M. F. Illyricus, and with the most learned persons in Europe. He was collecting materials for the most voluminous work which England has hitherto seen on ecclesiastical history. He was engaged, moreover, in translating a large controversial work, in which rapid progress was prevented by the fastidiousness of his refined taste and scholarship, contending with wilful obscurity disguising or perverting truth.
In addition to these harassing engagements we must remember that the miserable dissensions which had divided the exiles at Frankfort now broke out at Basil. The party which seceded from Frankfort still continued their wretched antipathy to the English prayer-book. Their inconsistency in so doing was perhaps most decidedly proved by their objecting to the use of the Ten Commandments as a portion of the service, when that very part of our Liturgy, though it was not actually borrowed from the Liturgy of their master, Calvin, was incorporated in the amended service-book of that reformer, commended to their approbation by Valerandus Pollanus. F116 They called the communion-office a popish communion; and said it had a popish face. They undertook to set up a new service in the congregation of Basil. The account of these sad contentions may be seen in Strype. F117 The part which Foxe might have taken in them is not recorded. He could not have commanded leisure to have embarked in them very actively. They probably disturbed his peace, though they might not have employed his time. A letter from Bale, afterwards bishop of Ossory, gives us the best account of these painful disputes; and from the forcible manner in which it appeals to the understanding on a question which must again be discussed, it is worthy of attention. It was addressed to Mr. Ashley “My special friend, master Ashley, after my accustomed salutations in the Lord: This shal be to assure you I have received your gentle letters, and am very joyful for that you are willing now to resort unto us. And whereas you desire before your coming to know the state of our church; to be plain in few words, it is troublous at this present. I find the admonishment of S. Paul to Timothy, and of S. Peter to the dispersed brethren, most true, and in full force in this miserable age. They said, that in the latter times should come mockers, liars, blasphemers, and fierce despisers. We have them, we have them, Master Ashley; we have them even from among ourselves: yea, they be at this present our elders, and their factious affinity. When we require to have common prayers, according to our English order, they tell us, that the magistrate wil in no case suffer it; which is a most manifest ly. They mock the rehearsal of God’s commandments, and of the epistles and gospels in our communion, and say, they are misplaced; they blaspheme our communion, calling it a popish mas, and say, that it hath a popish face, with other fierce despisings and cursed speakings.
These mocks, and these blasphemies, with such like, they take for invincible theology. With these they build, with these they boast, with these they triumph, in erecting their church of the purity. “But wheras they report our communion to have a popish face, I desire you to mark that which followeth here, and to judge their impudency. The face of a popish mass is the shew of the whole action, with the instruments and ceremonies thereunto appertaining. To that face chiefly belongeth a monstrous brothel, or ape of antichrist, with shaven crowns; side-gowns, oyl in thumbs, tippet, portas, and mas-book. Our communion hath none such. To the face appertaineth on autre: which we have not. To that face belongth a superaltare, a chalice, a cover, a cake, a corporas, cruets, candlesticks, censers, and lights; which we have none. To that face belongeth vestments, crisable, amyss, albe, girdle, stole, altar-cloth, torch, and towel; beside the holy suffragre for pope, for pestilence, and for old meseled swine; which our communion hath not. What then may be thought of our unnatural and bastardly brethren, that so falsely report it, so maliciously mock, so unlearnedly ly open, so seditiously slander it, so wickedly blaspheme it, and so villainously contemn it. “Our communion, on the other side, beginneth with prayer unto God in the mother tongue; so doth not the mas. It sheweth us the commandments of God; it teacheth us the necessary articles of our christian faith; so doth not the mas. It bringeth both the law and the gospel, to shew us both damnation and redemption; so doth not the mas. It moveth us to acknowledg our sins; it stirreth us up to repentance for them; it exhorteth us to mortification of our sinful flesh; so doth not the mas. It preacheth the Lord’s death til he come; it calleth for a worthy preparation for so heavenly a supper; it promiseth ful remission of our sins through Christ’s gainful sufferings; so doth not the popish mas. It giveth high thanks to God for our redemption; it praiseth the eternal Majesty for the same, and wisheth the true receivers to depart from thence in his most holy peace and perpetual blessing, and continue always; so doth not the abominable mas: ergo, our holy communion hath not the face of a popish mas, as our new Catharites have most wickedly, maliciously, mockingly, falsely, frantickly, unlearnedly, loudly, seditiously, blasphemously, and beastly reported and written to their affinity or proselytes; yea, more like devils than men. And they boast of the glory of God, of sincerity, of the world, and of the highest purity in religion. “But the truth of it is, they seek to set up in their idleness (as they are all idle, saving in this point) a seditious faction, in contempt of the English order, for their own pharisaical advancement, planting the foresaid lyes, mocking, and blasphemies, as the first principles of their building. “This write I unto you, that they should not in this behalf pervert you, as they have done other men. I would not in the mean time, that this should discourage you from coming towards us, but that you might come the sooner, with other good men, to help to repress their malicious and idle enterprizes. Thus, though we be not in ]England among the wicked papists now, yet are we molested of idle brethren, as wickedly occupied as they, though in another kind. The times are perilous. Thus farewel in the Lord, and commend us to al our good brethren.” F119 This letter is valuable on another account. It gives us the time and place when and where the puritans, as a party, first took their rise.
Nonconformity was kindled at Frankfort; Puritanism at Basil, among a few exiles. They have rent the church of Christ, and done infinite harm to pure and vital Christianity. “Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!”
About the time of his arrival at Basil, Foxe is supposed to have written to the honorable Robert Bertie and his wife, the duchess of Suffolk, the beautiful letter, of which a part is still preserved, — “The grace of God, in Jesus Christ,” it begins, “which aydeth, governeth, and conducteth all such as truly put their confydence in hym, be multiplied upon you and your vertuouse yok felow, that as by the holy institutyon of the Lorde, ‘ye are called to be one flesshe, so by fayth you being one in mynde may in the unytie of Christes spyryt lik true yook felowes bears the crosse with pacyence, and folowe our guyde and fore leader Christ Jesus, Amen. “Whan I understood by your fryndly letters sent to my brother what our good God and moost sweats father hath donne for you and other members of his mystycall bodye, in delyveryng you out of that myserable land, from the danger of Idollatrye and fearefull companye of Herodyans: I was compelled with a gladde hart to render unto his dyvine majestie moost humble thankes, besechyng hym that as he hath delyvered you from their contagious venym and deathlie stinge with a saffe conscyence, so he will vouchsafe to protects and preserve it styll undefyled. To forsake your countrey, to despice your commodyties at home, to contempne rycheis and to set naught by honors which the whole woorld hath in gret veneracyon, for the love of the sacred gospell of Christ, are not workes of the flesshe, but the most assured frutes of the holye goost, and undeseueable argumentes of your regeneracye or new birth. Whereby God certyfyeth you that ye are iustyfyed in hym and sealed (to) eternall lift: therefore ye have gret cause to be thankfull, first that he hath chosen you to liff; and secondly that he hath geven you his holy Speryt which hath altered and changed you quite a news creature, working in you thorow the word such a mynd that thes thinges are not paynefull but pleasant unto you.
Agayne to be delyvered from the bondage of conscyence from the”... (Unfinished.)
On the back of this, reversing the leaf, is the following: — “Not but the lord wyll bryng us as he did them into our dere countrey, or into his kyngdom which further excedeth it than the bright sunne doth the dark night. I can not (derely beloved) recompens the gret gentyllnes I have receyved at your handes, but I leave that to God my father which hath moved your hart to such liberalytie, who I am well assured wyll not leave it unrecompensed; not withstanding to testylye my dew thankes, I have sent you this poore letter, poore indede but yet playne and true, following the example of a poor Persyan named Cinata, who being farre from whom (home) and sodaynely metyng with the kyng of the land named Artaxerxes, and seeing every man presenting him with giftes, made haste to (a) certayne well called Cyrum and toke up a lytle water in his hand, and after he had saluted the kyng he said having nothing o kyng better to present”... (Unfinished also.) f121 Though this letter is generally thought to have been addressed to Mr.
Berrie and his wife, the duchess of Suffolk, upon their arrival abroad, it is difficult to trace any connection between Foxe and these parties. Charles Brandon, the first duke of Suffolk, married Mary, sister to Henry VIII., and widow of Lewis XII., king of France, to whom she had been married at Abbeville the 9th of October, 1514, being St. Dennis’s-day. Lewis died about three months after his marriage. His widow soon after was privately married to the duke of Suffolk, before they quitted Paris. They had three children — one son, Henry, earl of Lincoln, who died without issue, and two daughters, Frances and Eleanor. Frances married Henry Grey, marquis of Dorset, who, after the death of Charles Brandon, in 1546, and of his two sons, was created duke of Suffolk, in 1551, by Edward VI., at the instigation of the duke of Northumberland, of which marriage Lady Jane Grey was the offspring. We have evidence of the high estimation in which Foxe’s talents and knowledge were held by this amiable and accomplished princess, in the acknowledgment from himself of the first suggestion respecting his undertaking to write the Acts and Monuments of the Church having been made to him by Lady Jane. The duchess of Suffolk, mother of Lady Jane, who, after the death of the duke, married Adrian Stokes, died on Midsummer-eve, 1563. Eleanor, sister to the duchess, married Henry Clifford, earl of Cumberland. Thus may the purport of this strain of congratulation be associated with recollections, dearer to the writer, than are expressed in the fragment of the epistle.
The latter part of this letter would almost lead us to suppose that Foxe had received kindness from the hands of Mr. Berrie himself, while at Oxford. The circumstances related in the note will fix the place whence it; was written, Basil, though not the date. It could not have been earlier than 1555, nor later than 1558, as it was addressed to them when abroad. It shows that Foxe was always ready to give consolation under afflictive dispensations; as his pleading against the wicked statutes of Mary prove him to have anticipated, as great minds only can anticipate, the spirit of a more enlightened age, and to have been the zealous and eloquent advocate of religious forbearance.
While these transactions were harassing the exiles on the continent, the storm of persecution was raging in its utmost severity in England. Pole had arrived in London to reconcile the nation to the still unreformed and unchanging church of Rome. The council of Trent was still sitting. In that council the several doctrines which divided the believers in christianity were supposed to be discussed. The results of the deliberations of this council were not waited for, by the legate. His desire, and that of the court, was to uphold the supremacy of Rome at all hazards, as a bounden duty to God. This may be inferred from the language of the absolution. The two houses of parliament were summoned to Whitehall. The bishop of Winchester addressed them, stating that the cardinal had come from Rome as legate a latere, upon business of the most weighty concern, which, at the queen’s pleasure, he would make known to them himself. He made a long oration to them, in which he thanked the king and queen for the repeal of his attainder — exhorted them all to be reconciled to the holy see, and expressed his readiness to receive them into its bosom. The next day a supplication was drawn up, to be presented to the cardinal, desiring their reunion and absolution. This the parliament presented to the king and queen, who, having risen from their seats and made obeisance to Pole, presented it to him. He then caused his commission to be read, and pronounced their absolution, and reception into the bosom of the church; the two houses being upon their knees before him. The form of their humiliating pardon, and restoration to the favor of his holiness, was this: — “Our Lord Jesus Christ, which with his most precious bloud hath redeemed and washed us from all our sins and iniquities, that he might purchase unto himselfe a glorious spouse without spot or wrinkle, and whom the Father hath appointed head over all his church; he by his mercie absolve you. And we, by the apostolike authoritie given unto us by the most holie lord pope Julius the third (his vicegerent in earth) do absolve and deliver you, and every of you, with the whole realm, and the dominions thereof, from all heresic and schism, and from all and every judgements, censures, and pain for that cause incurred. And also wee do restore you againe to the unity Of our mother the holie church, as in our letters of commission more plainly shall appeare.” F125 Such restoration to the unity of the church, was but restoration to the authority of Rome. This, and this alone, was the real object of the papal party. This was the object at which they aimed in the reign of Elizabeth, when the pope offered to sanction the liturgy of the church of England, provided his supremacy was acknowledged by the queen. This is the object which is still pursued, with unabated zeal, by the same reviving party, in our own day. The great controversy does not respect religion so much as it respects the ascendancy of an ecclesiastical dictator, and the predominance in the political government of Great Britain, of the faction, who are servants of the pontiff.
When the reconciliation of England to the ecclesiastical usurpation of Rome had been completed, the next step unavoidably and naturally followed — the attempt to compel the subject to profess the religion and to follow the example of the sovereign, the court, and the legislature. It was “deemed advisable,” as one of our modern historians smoothly and courteously observes, to revive the statutes which had been formerly enacted to suppress the doctrines of the Lollards. “It had been held,” says Dr. Lingard, “that by the common law of the land, heresy was a crime punishable with death: and it was deemed advisable to revive the Anti- Lollardian statutes.” F126 They were revived; and the consequence of their revival is too well known to render necessary the recapitulation of the fearful consequences that followed these proceedings, or to enlarge upon the wretched executions that disgraced the legislature of England for three years and seven months, from the martyrdom of Rogers, the prebendary of St. Paul’s, to the proclamation which forbade the spectators of the executions to pray at the burning of heretics; and the increasing severity of the government till the death of the queen. I omit, therefore, the queen’s directions to her council for their proceedings in matters of religion, with the commission of Philip and Mary “for a severer way of proceeding against heretics.” The death of the queen alone prevented the establishment of an inquisition, and the probable extinction, therefore, in England, as effectually as in Spain, of the united liberty, and pure christianity, of the protestant episcopal church. The conduct of the queen was in unison with the determination of all the Roman Catholic princes. They had determined to root out heresy, by fire and sword. The parliament of England supported the queen. The people were in despair. There was no opposition in the legislature, no periodical press, to submit to the court the public disapprobation of its measures. The exiles only ventured to remonstrate at the commencement of the persecution; and John Foxe, after the deaths of Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer, addressed to the queen and principal nobility an expostulation, worthy of his gentle nature, and the holiness of the cause of the and-papal church of England. The petition of the exiles represented to the queen “the danger of being carried away by a blind and furious zeal to persecute the members of Christ’s church, as St. Paul had done before his conversion.” They remind her of “the manner in which Cranmer had preserved her in her father’s time, so that she had more reason to believe he loved her, and would speak truth to her, than all the rest of the clergy.” They collected many passages out of the writings of Gardiner, Bonner, and Tunstal, against the pope’s supremacy, and her mother’s marriage; concluding thence, that they were men, who, by their own confession, had no conscience in them, but measured their actions and professions by their fears and interests. They told her that the persecution which she had set on foot, was like that which the scribes and Pharisees raised against the apostles, who, it was pretended, had been once of their religion, and so were heretics and apostates. They reminded her, that in her brother’s reign, none of the catholics had been used with the rigour which she had authorized; and, in conclusion, they represented to her, that she was entrusted with the sword by God, for the protection of her people, as long as they did well, and was to answer to him for their blood, if she delivered them to the mercy of such wolves. From the queen, the petition turns to the nobility, and the people; warning them of the danger of losing their liberties, and the abbey-lands, and of being brought under the Spanish yoke. In the conclusion, it exhorts them to repent of their great sins which had brought such heavy judgments upon them, and to intercede with her majesty to put a stop to this deluge of blood, by granting her subjects the same liberty that she allowed to strangers, of transporting themselves abroad. This petition had no effect.
The expostulatory letter of John Foxe was addressed to the commissioners. It has been considered one of the most eloquent appeals of that day. It was contrary to his disposition, he said, to interfere with the duties of his superiors in their high stations; yet the people had now fallen into such straits, that as they could neither be silent without impiety, nor speak without danger, he begged them to consider, not so much what courtesy, as what duty, might require. “Who,” he says, “most exalted fathers, can bear this; who will not deplore it; whom will it not draw to groans and tears, even if he have never seen England, to hear of so much christian blood being shed in the land: that so many ingenious citizens, so many honorable and innocent men, promiscuously, with women, are daily in danger of their lives and fortunes — are slain, burnt, and torn to pieces, almost without bounds and number? If the barbarians from farthest Turkey, or a fierce enemy from some other quarter, invading England, had caused such a slaughter of the nation, perhaps neither the calamity nor the complaint would have been less. This cruelty would have been the same in reality, yet the opinion of the nation would have lessened it. But now those persons, whose safety belongs principally to you, ye see and allow to be apprehended, to be hunted after, to be torn in pieces and lacerated — English, their country-men — magistrates, those under their command — Christians, those of the same religion. Those who, under the government of the most celebrated prince Edward VI., enjoyed when at home, not only security of life, but even pleasure; now, the aspect of human affairs being changed towards them, are deprived by dreadful torments of that life which they cannot protect; not that their life or manners are changed, but because the times have changed. “And where is the gentleness of Paul, where is your mercy, most gentle lords, where that ancient and ever-lauded piety of the English, even towards their enemies, if, among yourselves, ye desire to be so fierce and deadly? I know that the variety of dispositions in the world is great, almost numberless, both among men and among animals; but surely nothing is so becoming and natural to honorable men, nothing is so agreeable to this nature as a certain generous disposition and ingenuousness of manners; which benefits every one, does harm to none, unless it hath received an injury, and not then indeed, unless more by compulsion than of its own desire: and that more for the public good, than its own cruelty.
Generous piety will indeed forget its own injuries, and be more desirous for the preservation than the destruction of the wretched (offenders); excusing, defending, assisting them, and relinquishing the accusation, whenever they can find an opportunity of mercy. “But now so great is the degeneracy of men, or shall I say, of the times, that towards men, not only not wicked, but of an innocent and blameless life, by whom none of you have been injured, or are likely to be injured, but towards men, good, publicly as well as privately, the cruelty of some so burns, that there is no hostile nation however barbarous, where they cannot sleep safer, than among their own people.” He expresses deep regret that “what nature among unbelieving nations, and literature among civilized ones, have been able to accomplish, piety, the power of the gospel, and that kindness so often inculcated by Christ, are unable to excite among the English: but for the slightest cause, yea, even for no cause at all, they are hurried to punishment, so cold everywhere is brotherly love, that I know not but that the same will be inflicted upon me which happened to Justin Martyr, the apologist for the early Christians, who, while he pleaded for the martyrs, himself suffered martyrdom.” F129 The date of the queen’s commission against heretics, determines this letter of Foxe to have been written from Basil. L17 The circulation of this admirable letter; the publications which Foxe had already given to the world; and the knowledge which his fellow-exiles possessed of his former volume published at Strasburg in 1554, containing the account of the Wicliffite persecution, pointed him out to his brethren as the fittest person to record the actions and deaths of the martyrs in England. While, therefore, he continued to correct the press for Oporinus, he devoted all his leisure to the reconstruction of his Ecclesiastical History, and to the compilation of the materials for its invaluable additions, up to his own time. The edition of 1559, published at Basil soon after the death of Mary, was chiefly prepared for Oporinus. In his address to the reader, prefixed to the first book of this edition, he observes, that as his former attempt had succeeded to his wish, he now rejoiced to turn his attention to the martyrs of Germany, Gaul, and Italy. The first book contains the account of the persecutions of the Wicliffites and Hussites — the second, the stormy times of Luther to the death of Henry VIII. — and the third, the persecutions under Mary up to that very time. F131 In this part of the work, he received material assistance from Grindal, who was then at Strasburg; he designed it to be a “History of the Persecutions of the Church of Christ, and especially in the later times of it.” Many accounts of the acts and disputations, of the sufferings and ends of the godly men under queen Mary, came from time to time to Grindal’s hands; who had a correspondence with several in England for that end and purpose. And as they came to his hand, he conveyed them to Foxe. Nor did he only do this; but he frequently gave Foxe his thoughts concerning them, and his instructions and counsels about them; always shewing a most tender regard to truth; nor adopting common reports and relations till more satisfactory evidence came from good hands. And because a complete account of all particulars of those that suffered in that sharp persecution could not so soon be procured, he advised Foxe, for the present, to print separately the acts of some particular men, of whom any sure and authentic relations came to hand: and that a larger and more complete history of these martyrs should be printed together afterwards, when he should be supplied with fuller accounts of the whole persecutions. And, finally, that his history might be both in Latin and English, for the more general benefit, he began soon after Bradford’s death to transmit papers to Foxe, and continued to do so till he returned to England. In the year following, f134 Foxe requested Grindal to take some pains to describe the life and death of archbishop Cranmer. Foxe profited much by his advice, and in the year 1557 recommended that the History as far as the end of the reign of king Henry VIII. should be got ready. F135 In the year following, Mary died, when the greater number of the exiles returned home. Foxe, at the persuasion of Grindal and Sampson, continued at Basil to complete his work; and till they might have more certain and larger intelligences out of England of the late persecution. F136 This must have been supplied to Foxe, from England; because the edition of 1559 contains the account of the disputations and deaths of Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer.
In the prooemium to the second book, he says, those who have attended to the nature of different lands, say that in Egypt, which is much infested with poisons, there also the best remedies are to be found. He applies the comparison to England. Having treated, in the first part, of those who contended for the faith before the times of Luther, he now proceeds to those from his time till the end of Edward VI. placing them in order as the events of their life occurred: so that the light of history for the future may be more apparent, when a continued succession of blessed martyrs is known to be in the church. In this book Thomas Hylton and Patrick Hamilton are mentioned; and it begins with the story of Richard Hunn.
The third book was probably completed after the departure of Grindal from Strasburg, and was no doubt compiled from the accounts and letters which were sent to him from London. In the prooemium, Foxe says it cost him much labor to collect the number of martyrs, whom the five years’ tempest had swept away, to the number of more than five hundred: and if he has not related their histories so graphically as the reader could wish, his excuse might be, the magnitude of the affairs related, and his incompetency to do them justice. He adds that lady Jane Grey was the first to hint to him his writing concerning the martyrs; and that Philpot collected the disputations.
There is no prooemium either to the fourth or fifth books, though there is to the sixth, in which he mentions that the book contains the disputations of the three bishops. He laments that the holy eucharist, which is the symbol of peace and union, should be the chief cause of dissension. “And oh!” he adds, “that it was nothing else than disputations and strifes of words! But they have verged into such a butchery of the most gentle martyrs of Christ, of whom I can set forth not less than two hundred and seven put to death in one year, and in England only: and what was the subject which afforded cause for their execution, but the differences of opinion on the eucharist? “ So, indeed, it has ever been from that time to the present; and so it will continue to be until the church of Rome adopts another criterion of attachment to christian truth, and of submission to ecclesiastical authority, than the doctrine of the corporeal presence of Christ in the sacrament of the Lord’s supper.
Such were the labors of Foxe before he returned from Basil to England.
This edition of his book was printed in Basil, and great must have been the difficulties with which the author had to contend in the accomplishment of every part of his design. Every material of his work was to come from beyond the seas: and to travel far over land, when there were impediments and restrictions innumerable to prevent the safe transit of such papers as those which he would require. Those who sent them, as well as those to whom they were addressed, would be exposed to constant danger. There was then no free press. An imprimatur was necessary to give currency to every publication. One edition of this work in Latin was being printed at Basil. Another edition, in French, was in the press at Geneva, so that the burthen upon him was very great. In addition to all these impediments to his more rapid progress in his labors, the pope was exerting himself to the utmost to prevent the free circulation of the books which were being published by the Reformers. Leo X. had issued an ordinance commanding that no book be printed until it had been previously subjected to examination. This decree had been confirmed in the tenth session of the Lateran Council held in 1515. The popes assumed the power of prohibiting any publications that opposed their policy. Paul IV., anxious as any of his predecessors to suppress the efforts of the Reformers, issued a prohibitory index in 1559, the very year of the publication of the edition of Foxe’s “Commentarii” published by Oporinus, forbidding by name, Oporinus, Stephens, and many others, from printing any book whatever. It is not improbable, that the papal decree was more especially aimed at the work of Foxe.
Nor were these the only labors to which this indefatigable student devoted himself. When he saw that his brethren and fellow-disciples, who were united with him in common hostility to the persecutions of Rome, deserved censure, he did not hesitate to reprove them.
John Knox, who had returned to Geneva at the end of the year 1557, published, early in the year following, his treatise called, “The First Blast of the Trumpet against the monstrous Regimen of Women;” in which he attacked with great vehemence the succession of females to the government of nations. With many of his sentiments it appears Foxe did not agree; and he, therefore, wrote to him expostulating with him, in a friendly manner, upon the impropriety of his book, and the use of such strong language. To this Knox returned the following characteristic answer. “The mightie comforte of the Holie Ghost for salutation. “Dearlie beloved brother, albeit at the departure of this our brother, from whom I receaved your loving and frendlie lettre, my selve could writ nothinge be reason of the evill disposition of my bodie, yit becaus I could not suffer him to depart without som remembrance of my deutie to you: I used the help of my left hand, that is of my wief, in scribling these fewe lynes unto you, as touching my purpose and mynd in the publishing The First Blast of the Trumpet. When the secreates of all hartes shall be disclosed, that shall be knowen which now by manye can not be perswaded; to wit, that therin I nether have sought my selve nether yit the vain prase of oney; my rude vehemencie and inconsidered affirmations, which may appear rather to proceed from coler than of zeal and reason, I do not excuse; but to have used anye other tytle mor plausible therby to have allured the world by any art, as I never purposed to do, I not yit purpose. To me it is yneugh to say the black is not whit; and man’s tyrannye and folishnes is not Goddes perfite ordinance; which thinge I do not so much to correct comon welthes as to delyver my own conscience and to instruct the consciences of som semple who yit I fear be ignorant in that matter; but further of this I delay to better oportunytie. SMut your wief and dowghter hartlie in my ham. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ rest with you now and ever. From Geneva the 18th May, 1558. “Youre brother to power, “JOHNE KNOX.” “I your sister, writer hereof, saluteth you and your wief most heartlie, thanking hir of hir loving tokens which my mother and I receaved from Mrs. Kent.” F138 From the conclusion of the letter it may seem as if the bearer of it was Lawrence Kent, to whom Knox was known at Frankfort, he being one of the number that seceded from Dr. Cox and his adherents. There is also another piece of intelligence contained in it, not yet noticed in his life, and of which his son makes no mention; that a daughter had been born to Foxe while abroad. F139 This is also mentioned by Strype, when recording Grindal’s generosity to him, or rather the dispensing part of the charity of others to him.
Foxe was thus employed at Basil, when the death of Mary gave new hope to the reformers, both at home and abroad. The English exiles began immediately to return to England. Foxe still remained abroad. It is probable that he continued on the Continent to complete his Commentaries, as his dedication to the duke of Norfolk is dated from Basil. A strange anecdote is related by his son, which the present age would call a singular coincidence, but which our ancestors would attribute to divine interposition. I am willing to believe anything on sufficient evidence. The testimony on which this anecdote rests is said to be that of Aylmer, afterwards bishop of London. “He was accustomed,” says Mr. Samuel Foxe, “in the presence of many living persons, to declare that he was present at a sermon, wherein Master Foxe, among many other things which he preached to comfort the banished English, did with confidence tell them, that now was the time come for their return to England, and that he brought them that news by commandment from God. For these words,” says his son, “he was sharply reproved by the graver divines there present.” He was, however, excused afterwards by the event; for, by comparing dates, it was found that the queen died but the day preceding the prediction uttered by Foxe.
A tradition of this kind, coming to us through such a succession of reporters, and obviously liable to some variation each time it is handed from one to the other, would scarcely call for any lengthened comment, were it not that an undue degree of stress has been laid upon it, with the obvious design of exhibiting Foxe as either an enthusiast or an impostor. It has been said, that “he distinctly told his hearers that ‘he brought them that news BY COMMANDMENT FROM GOD.’” And it is then asked, “Could he have more decidedly assumed the prophetic office?”
Now, before such representations as these are allowed to pass, we must look at the facts of the case. Foxe is alleged to have assumed to be a prophet. But what is the proof? Not anything written by him; — nor any word of his recorded by a credible witness, being himself an auditor of the fact. Nothing of the kind is before us. All that we have, is this: — Samuel Foxe, the son, who was not born until 1560, records, in 1610, some words said to have been spoken by his father in 1558. Of course he himself was no auditor of these words; nor does he give them as related to him by his father himself, or by any one who was present on the occasion. All that he tells us, is, that “persons then living” had heard bishop Aylmer declare, that in a sermon preached at Basil in the year 1558, Foxe had used certain expressions. Now there can be no reason to doubt, that something of the kind here described, did actually take place. But it is scarcely safe or reasonable to lay much stress upon any particular form of expression, when that form of expression only comes to us through one, who heard another person say, that he heard bishop Aylmer say, that he heard Foxe say, such and such things, at Basil, fifty years before.
We maintain, therefore, that it is not reasonable to assume more than the substantial truth of this anecdote; nor just to the martyrologist to make him answerable for certain specified words, reported by others, more than half a century after they were alleged to have been spoken. Yet we doubt not the fact, that on the occasion in question, Foxe did comfort his partners in affliction, by an assurance of the approaching termination of their sufferings and exile; and that he also signified his belief that the confidence which he felt was from other than a human source.
But we ought not to forget, that times of persecution naturally bring Christians into habits of constant reference to invisible power and supernatural assistance. Language and modes of thought, which would seem strange and artificial in times of peace and dull repose, then become both natural and intelligible. Hence, expressions which have reference to the unseen, are common in the records of the martyrs. It may be sufficient to refer to the prediction of Roger Holland, (vol. 8:p. 478,) that “after this day, in this place, there shall no more be put to the trial of fire and faggot,” — an assurance which was literally fulfilled. Or, to any who put this from them with incredulity, we may offer that other instance of a reference to invisible realities, in the dying exclamation of Robert Glover, — “HE is come! HE is come!” (vol. 7:p. 398) — words which, without having any assumption of prophetical power in them, are just as much above nature as the most direct and circumstantial prophecy.
It ought, however, to be remembered, that the event referred to, and said to be predicted by Foxe, was not a sudden or unlooked-for occurrence; but one which had been for months in the contemplation of all the exiles. That their church and their native land should be delivered from its dreadful scourge, was a matter which must of necessity have been uppermost in the mind of every English protestant. In this state of things, Foxe receives a strong impression that the event is actually occurring; and he imparts this impression to others; and gives them also to understand, that his conviction is, that the thing is of God. Such we apprehend to be the real history of the circumstance; and to this extent, and no more, must Foxe be held answerable for whatever of enthusiasm there might seem to be, in such an impression, so imparted to his companions in trouble.
Some difficulty is found in reconciling the account of his biographers as to his resources at this period. In the second year after Mary’s death he returned to England. His son informs us that he was so poor that he was compelled to remain at Basil with his family, which was now increased by two children, till money was sent him from England to bear his expenses in travelling. Fuller and Strype speak of the success of his literary labors, in language which prevents many from giving implicit credence to these statements.
We may infer, from the narrative by his son, that the disputes on the Continent had begun, even at this early period, to divide the reformers in England. By this writer of his life we are informed that, in consequence of the delay of the martyrologist in returning to England, some hard speeches were spoken against him, as “if through pride he had delayed to come, thereby seeking a shorter, and more speedy way to preferment, as being due to him when he should be sent for.” Foxe paid no attention to these and similar observations. He was the retired and secluded student, despising injuries, and neglecting his own right, says his son. He hid himself in his study. Though he was now eminent for his exertions, and was favored with the friendship of the great, and might easily have attained to honors, neither avarice nor ambition tempted him to leave his retirement. Disinterestedness of this kind is seldom credited. It is understood by few, and appreciated by fewer. Yet the whole tenor of the life of the martyrologist compels us to believe that his son has described him rightly, when he thus represents his father as the contented, unambitious, religious, laborious, and happy student.
Though he did not return to England immediately on the accession of Elizabeth, Foxe wrote to her a Latin address, congratulating the queen, in the name of the German nation, on her accession to the throne. It does not consist of merely complimentary and eulogistical phrases, but abounds with useful advice to the queen, the court, and the clergy. F141 In the year after the queen’s accession, the Basil edition of his work appeared, dedicated to the duke of Norfolk. F142 The dedication is written in his usual elegant Latin. He mentions to his former pupil his endeavors to form his youthful mind, and requests him to accept this literary labor from the hands of his old tutor, or, if he would rather, from his now new client.
He hopes that it may tend to establish him in the protestant religion, and that the commentaries will not be read only by him, but by all men of his rank and station, from the highest to the lowest, public and private, not in England merely, but by Christians every where. He ascribes the glory to Christ, and adds, what can be a more delightful contemplation than that, casting one’s eye around, we may, in such small space, consider so many changes of times; see such instability in the mass of the people, that they always follow where the prince leads; to behold so many heroes and chief men — dukes, counts, knights, and esquires — so many, both learned and unlearned, passing in review before one, each performing so bravely and admirably his part; to look upon such an army of most chosen martyrs, O blessed Jesus, contending for thee with such constancy, dying with such fortitude, and disputing with such prudence! He then says, that it will show God’s providence, afflicting upon the heads of some that which they assigned to others; that to many who find there — some perhaps their parents, others their sons, some again their wives, another part husbands, some relations and near connexions, others neighbors and friends, it will be pleasant to read of them in these records, as if each affectionately desired to listen to them speaking. Here, also, is afforded the character of both churches, so that a judgment may be found without much trouble. There are also the decisions, testimonies, reasonings, and arguments of the most learned martyrs in the weightiest controversies; so that there is left no place for error or doubt. He concludes by swing, “that he desired to say much more to his highness (sublimitatem), but his time was short, and that both printers and markets were urgent, and that he could not write as he desired.”
The poor student was writing his history for his bread; and though his labor was his amusement and his passion, as well as his means of subsistence, he had no leisure to devote himself further to the language of courtesy and kindness. F143 His task was now, however, completed, and Foxe returned to England by the month of October 1559, the year after the accession of Elizabeth, in great peace of mind, but in precarious health of body, and in the deepest privation and distress.
FROM HIS RETURN TO ENGLAND AFTER THE ACCESSION OF ELIZABETH, 1559, TO HIS DEATH, 1587. Return To England — Residence At Norwich — First English Edition Of The Acts And Monuments — His Preferments — Labors — Correspondence — Sermons — Prayers For The Romanists At Paul’s Cross — Address To The Puritans — Death — Character — Estimation Of His Works.
The time of the return of John Foxe to England is ascertained by the date of a letter, October 1559, written from London to the duke of Norfolk.
From this letter we learn, too, the severe privation and distress under which he still labored. The printers at Basil, had only, it seems, requited his valuable services with shelter, bread, and water. His own delightful pursuits and employments in the service of the best Master and the best cause, had given him that inward happiness which is the greatest earthly blessing. The letter to his former patron, the duke of Norfolk, reveals to us the embarrassments under which he suffered, and the deep sense of the religion which comforted him. “I have so often,” he says, “written to your highness, that I feel ashamed to trouble you any more. However, I am so conscious of the ingenuous kindness of your nature, that I know there would be no necessity for my petition if there was only wanting the will to bestow aid. But perhaps these times hinder you sending to us, and me urging you. I cannot think that it is from forgetfulness of us, nor from pride, you have so long withheld assistance to us. But whatever may be the cause why your liberality has thus ceased, one thing I know, that it is most easy for thee, in the midst of your great fortune and abundance of all things, to set aside for us some small allowance out of, as I hear, your immense and unbounded expenditure. More earnest prayers would be necessary where benefactors are less inclined to confer benefits. But your disposition always seemed of that character, that you gave rather from your own nature than the prayers of others. I think, alas! my disposition is not unknown to you, which is not to be importunately craving, although dying with hunger.” “That as yet I have dictated nothing to you; apprehension of danger to you, rather than my own will, has prevented me, which your highness, if God permit, shall afterwards rightly understand. “As far as regards religion, I think there is no necessity for me to tell you where the truth stands. Wherever that be, God grant that you may manfully stand with it. In the mean time bear this in mind, that if you cannot help Christ at this juncture, let no mortal persuade you in any way to become his adversary. He will at length conquer all opponents. The time which others spend in courtly pomps and dice if you devote to reading the sacred Scriptures, you will in this act wisely.” F145 The duke was not in London when this letter was addressed to him. His reply is — “ I have received your letter, my excellent preceptor, from which I learn your affection towards me, which is very acceptable to me.
And unless the return of my servants had preceded my letters, you would have been here with me before this. For I wrote to them that they should so provide you with all things, that you might speedily come to me: which would have so happened had they not returned more quickly than I expected. Now, since I shall be in London shortly, I wish you to await me there, where, as I desire and ought, I will look to you. In the mean time I bid you farewell. — From my house at Reyningate, the 30th October, 1559. “Your pupil, “THOMAS NORFOLK. F146 “To my right-loving schoolmaster, John Foxe.”
The duke performed his promise, and received Foxe into his Manor-house, Christ’s Church, Aldgate. The following letter to Mr. Hickman, at Bugden, proves that his health at this time was in a precarious state. “The grace of Christ Jesus grant us hys everlastyng comfort, through true fayth in hym. Amen. Of your long looked for return I am glad. Of your reformed health I am more glad. As also, yf yt so please ye lord, we may mete here at London I wyl not be sory. Yf strength and courage had been correspondent to my wyl, I wold have been glad to have seen you at this present at Bugden, and to have seen Bugden for your sake. But this doubtful whether, this could ayr, ye foule way, and ye weakenes of my health would not wel matche together, or els no travayle, nor lack of good wyl, shuld have witholden me from rydyng to Mr. Hyckman, to no man in England more soner. Notwithstandyng yt which serveth not now, may serve an other tyme, if yt so please ye Lord, our merciful Savior, who confirme and stablyshe us dayly, increas-yng in the trew knowlege of hys name, and if yt be hys pleasure, graunt we may both safely and shortly see yow here at London. Londini, Octob. 5. F148 I pray you commend me to your good hoast, and to your good hoastes, and to your good wife. “Your in Christ, “JOHN FOXE.” It was probably in consequence of the bad state of health into which the duke of Norfolk perceived Foxe to be falling, that he sent him to Norwich soon after they met, on pretense of executing some commission. He was collecting additional materials for a new and enlarged edition of the “Acts and Monuments” in English, and his intense application and studious habits were impairing his constitution. One additional cause might be his deep anxiety to see further improvements in the manner of worshipping God in the service of the church. Though he conformed to the Book of Common Prayer as it had been lately restored by Elizabeth, he believed that certain changes in the Liturgy would be improvements, and he wished to see them established. We have no evidence respecting the part he took in the private discussions which probably took place among his friends, who entertained the same views. The duke of Norfolk gave him some commission, as already intimated, to proceed to Norwich, where the friend, though an opponent of Foxe, at Frankfort, was now bishop. Dr.
Cox had been elected to Norwich by the dean and chapter, after the death of bishop Hopton, June 1559. He was appointed to the see of Ely in the December of the same year; and Parkhurst succeeded him at Norwich, March 27th, 1560. Foxe was the intimate friend of both Cox and Parkhurst, as well as of the duke of Norfolk. He continued at Norwich for some time; and is said, by Strype, to have been residing with the bishop at the end of the year 1560. “The bishop,” says Strype, “took Foxe down to Norwich with him, not only for his company, but to preach the gospel, being of excellent eloquence; and to instruct the people in good religion, which was much needed, as bishop Hopton, the last popish bishop in the reign of Mary, who died in the same year with that queen, had leavened the diocese with popery.”
This anecdote of Foxe affords us a pleasing illustration of the comparatively happy state of England as to matters of religion in the earlier years of the reign of Elizabeth. Nations progress slowly, and learn only by experience — the experience of evil. Great calamities and sorrows bear to states, the same analogy which the Iliad of Homer bears to the laws of epic poetry. The poem of the author preceded the rules of the critic.
The sufferings of a nation arising from bad laws precede the regulations and theories which aim at better government, and wiser institutions. The intolerable severities by which the Romanists had endeavored to promote uniformity of belief made the people rejoice in the supremacy of a native sovereign instead of a foreign bishop, of whom the temporal ruler was only vicegerent and minister: and though the doctrine of toleration was not fully developed, and the magnificent freedom which permits every man to inquire fully into the truth, and to believe those conclusions only which he adopts upon evidence, appearing to him to be satisfactory, was unknown to the legislature; yet the people welcomed with rapture the cessation of the persecutions, the restoration of the liturgy, the temporal supremacy, and the general repose. One hundred and sixty-two beneficed persons, from the bishop to the priest, out of ninety-four hundred beneficed clergymen, (the number who survived the reign of Mary,) adhered to the church of Rome. The rest submitted to the change. The council of Trent had not ceased its sittings, when the thirty-nine articles were re-established as the faith of England. The church of Rome in its present form is, consequently, of later origin than the church of England in its present form.
The decisions at Trent, had not yet erected the insurmountable barrier between the two churches. The friends of the church of Rome in England then attended their parish churches. The queen desired to conciliate all; but the papists more than the puritans. The objectors to some portions of our church service on the principles of the Frankfort seceders, remained, with Foxe, stedfast to the communion of the episcopal church; and fought against the common enemy without any schismatical separation. The foreign religious societies, which had not, unfortunately, retained the best bond of union- episcopal government — were considered as churches deserving the name of our dear sisters in Christ. Episcopacy was upheld in England, both as of divine appointment, and as the best form of church government; without any offensive declaration that those who had not adopted it, were unworthy of being considered as partakers of the covenanted mercies of God. The pensions of the monks, and of others who had been ejected from their asyla, were paid; and though a proclamation was issued this very year, in which all anabaptists were commanded to leave the kingdom, this very enactment was the proof of the great change which had already taken place in the spirit of the public law, which substituted the punishment of exile in the place of death, for religious opinions. John Foxe, we know, had not abandoned his long-recorded objections to some portions of the service-book. He was probably, on this account, not deemed eligible to the higher preferments, with which his labors, talents, and usefulness would otherwise have been rewarded: and a church and a government are right, while they permit every citizen to express his opinions without punishment, to exempt from the list of candidates for the higher stations those who are not devoted to the existing institutions. No state can be desired to give power to those citizens who would endeavor to destroy the institutions, for the very defense of which they are invested with that power. If the opinions of any citizen, when submitted to the people and their rulers, so influence the mass, that those opinions are urged upon the rulers as the will of the majority; the ruler may be justified in calling the propounder of those conclusions to the high places of authority, that the change may be made more peacefully, and more effectually. The opinions of John Foxe, and of the rest of the Frankfort objectors to the liturgy, were not sanctioned by the people; and he was justly, therefore, excluded from the episcopate of England. He was happier, far happier, in his liberty than he would have been in further advancement. He was employed in those departments of the public service in which he could be useful by preaching through the diocese, in conjunction with his friend, the bishop of Norwich; and he was admitted, as we shall see, to the lesser preferments, which gave him comparative competence and provision, without authority and power.
There is a moral influence exercised by an eminently useful and good man, upon the minds of his contemporaries, which is more gratifying to the heart than the fascinations of power, when unattended by similar homage.
Though Foxe was not raised to the episcopacy, he appears, from many evidences, to have been regarded with much veneration and affection by his contemporaries. We learn this from various letters published by Strype, or preserved in the Harleian manuscripts. I shall give a few evidences of his moral influence, and the value set upon his friendship and interest, exercised on various occasions, from some of these letters.
He is solicited by one to remember those near him in his prayers to God, they not having bowed the knee to Baal; as also to obtain for others some preferment: he himself being still without either a benefice or an ecclesiastical dignity. Strype informs us that the letter, of which the following is a copy, was addressed to him at Norwich. “Derelye beloved in Christ Jesus oure onlye comfort in all extreame assaultes, etc. These fewe words are but as a testemonie of my hartie salutacions unto youe, contynuallye wysshynge your prosperous successe in the Lordes harveste, and that ninny laborers maye by your meanes be sent forthe in that good worke to call the yonglinges to the greate supper of the lambe that was slayne from the begynninge of the worlde, etc.; and for your memento I have noted a fewe names (which have not bowed their knees to Baall) which I commit to your remembrance, not that I judge ye have them in oblivion, but that I must have somwhat to blot my paper wythe, to make matter, etc. Mr. Brull, James Yonge, Mr. Playlet, William Fausset, mynister of Linseye, and thys berer Peter Foxman, and are all vertuous men, fearinge God. These fewe, with many others, I trust shall not be forgotten.
Elyzabeth my wyffe, and our brother To Upcher, salutethe youe, desyringe youe, when ye speake unto God, to tell hym of us. Thus the eternall Spirite governe youe in all youre affaires, to hys glorie and your everlastinge cornforte in hym. Thys 18 November, Anno Do. 1560, in London. “Syr, yf ye can procure some lyvinge of 50li. a yeare, or upwarde, for Robarde Cooll, he ys mynded heare to give up wheare he ys; and allso Rycharde Berde, a good mynister. I comyt them all to your remembraunce. Once agayne byddinge yowe hartely farewell in Christ. Amen. “Youres in the Lorde assuredlye, “WYLLYAM WYNTROPP .” “To hys very ffreride Mr. Jhon Foxe, preacher in Norwiche.” F151 The following will be read by those who have appreciated the moral as well as literary merits of Foxe, as a gratifying testimony from one whose voice in his praise could be lifted up only from proof of his virtues. “I am greatly rejoiced, my Foxe, since your coming is so near at hand: and I think every day a year until I behold yourself Your love and labor bestowed upon me in my youth and poverty, I forget not; and, God willing, you shall find that it has not been bestowed upon an ungrateful man. I am ashamed of my unskilfulness in the letters I write to you, but my affection compelled me to do that for you, which I wish to do for no other, because I have not, for five years past, written a Latin epistle. As other business calls me, and that I may not detain you from other engagements by these barbarous letters, hoping to see you in a few days, I wish you, in Christ, the happiest life and arrival. “March 5. “Your most loving scholar, “THO. NORFOLK .” F152 The following is part of a letter from one under temptations to blaspheme, and requesting Foxe’s counsel thereupon. “I have writyn a longe letter, but I will not trobell your wurshype no more but to have your avise, howe, if you were so provoked yourself withe orribill temptacions of blasphemye, what you wold do, and howe youe wold overcome it and be thorowlie comforted and quyeted, for my feithe is not strong to overcome suche a ferfull matter, and dowtinge myche for that Syente Peter in feithe fayled in a grete dele lesse terror: but if one myghte gather this hope and comfort that if one shold do all the syn that ever was doff or shall be, so as he do it not of a pretenced wilfull malise and purpose agaynst the holie gost, but faull by fere or weknes or by fraylte, or by any other cause and combred mynde, or by temptacion obpressed, but he myghte be remytted, then thes feres and dowtes wold be mytigated, and if one faull some hope he wold gather in God’s mercie, for it is wrytyn his mercie is in gretnes lyke to hym selfe and hathe no ende. And also to have your arise whatt youe wold do if in such sorte youe shold oftende as God forbydd, for to despeyre none maye, nor to slee themselves none maye, for that is a grete offense, and of this I desyre your councell, for I am not in this trubele alone, but all men have that nede of councell that I have if suche things come into there heds and be moved therewithe. And also to have your avise howe to discharge my herte from suche movings and fere. They come on me sodenlye, but they be hard to avoide and put aweye, if I maye be clered agayne and held (healed? ) I am not abill to make yowe amends, for this is the hevest burdyn that ever was, to be in suche fere that if men falle to such things, and beinge of them selves se weke and prone, they shall have no mercye. Jobbe nor Davuhe (David) were never in that case ...”
Another letter of T. H. to Mr. Fox, desiring comfort, as byinge wonderfully appawlede to se no frewt to follow the herynge God’s worde thys 20 yers: but that rather he wexsythe worse and worse. “For somitehe, mi adopted father, yt unthankfulness ys hated of God as dothe manifestlye apere in his holy wordes, and of all men hyely detested, which I may justly be charged withall consyderynge the great consolation and fatherly councell I received at youre handes, beynge then sore deseased in sowle and body allso; the where in youre ortcharde I reseyved most happy consolation, yf grace had so governed me as the spirit oft provoked me and dayly dothe, but this old putrifyed Adam, mi synfull flesh, I ned (named) earythe styll so lofty a sayle yt by no meanes yt wylbe made subject to the spyryt, butt evermore rebellythe and hstethe after carnale and fleshly thynges, not worthy onse to be named, as the apostell testifyethe, and where yt pleasythe owre Savior Crist to comand all syners, excludyng non, to com boldly unto hym. I in truthe beynge the greatest synner in all Christendom am provokyd oft to call upon God by Christ mi only Redeemer, he of hys great mercy preservythe me from desperation byinge wonderfully appawled to se no frewt to follow the herynge God’s worde thys xxti yeres, but rather wexsythe worse and worse, therefore yet ones agayne I make bold in Christ to send unto you for helpe in this mi dystres, beynge as it were overladyn with the multitude of mi syncs, and greatly affheared to aprotche in yowre presense, yett so longe as lyeve endurythe, God’s grace assystinge me, I wyll hope for pardon, knowynge yt God, in his good tyme, wyll sende helpe. Into whoes handes I holly comend mi weke and synfull body and soule, requiryng pardon for my syns past, and grace to amend herafter; besychynge you, good father, to remember me in your dayly prayers to the throne of — yt at the least wyse, allthowe I am most unworthy to be God’s (servant), yett by the dayly medyation of Christ Jhesu, I may be amounge the number of his ehosyn and elect children and hyred servants, which were rewarded all alyeke, as well thos yt labored but one ower as thos yt bore the burden and heat of the hole day, for in hym we all do lyre and have owre beynge, and are to be caryed wether yt pleasethe hys goodness, and without hys spetyall grace cannot of owreselves thynke somitche as a good thought, mutche lesse do a good deed: thus you se what I am beynge left to miselfe, even a thynge of nothynge, ye in lyre worse then a Jewe, hatynge all goodnes and doinge all that yll ys. Beloved in Christ, thus I end for this tyeme, knowynge yt you are allways occupyed in good thynges, and thys mi letter shuld rather offend yowre sowle and body then aniweys to perfect ether, seyinge in me no amendyment att all, butt yett herby I confesse I am greatly dysburdyned of yt longynge desyer I had and dayly have to here from you, in yt I cannot cum to you as I wold, accordynge to dewti. Good father, herein I have sent you a small tokyn of a great good wyll, which I pray you accept in good part, and pray for me as I do for you, allbeyt God knowythe mi prayer ys very cold, mutehe encumbered with worldly vanites, even when I am most desyrus to serve me God. Vale. “T. H.” f154 “To mi dere and faythfull frend, Mr. Fox, geve these.”
The following letters show what interest Foxe took in the welfare of his fellow-creatures, and what respect he must have been held in, when so many and so various applications were made to him both for his advice and his assistance. “Draught of a Letter from Mr. John Foxe to some friends, in behalfe of a poor man wronged by Stephen Bechyng. “Beati pacifici. (Blessed are the peace-makers.) “Grace in Christ. Mr. Boyne, Peter Woodgat, and Thomas Petter, yf yt shal please you. Concernynge ye case of this pore man, as I understand yt, ye matter ys playn, hys vexation gret, his injurie intolerable, and suehe as none of you wold ever suffer to be done to your selves. Yf yt would be so, that evyl persons by fraud and injurie may oppresse and circumvent ye simple, and no redresse in such wrongfull sufferyngs, then the Lord gyve us pacience and be mercyful to thys realme. But yf yt be the parts of godly and christen men to helpe in suehe wrongs and iuries (thus, but meaning injuries) and to sett peace, wher disquyetnes is, and to doo for others as they would to be doen to them selves: Then I pray you aforenamed, joynyng also Edward Barcoke with you, in your zeale of ye Lord, to worke in thys matter, what ye can, to talk ernestly with Steven Beehyng, and to requyre hym in ye name of the Lord Iesus, to defraud thys pore man no longer from hys ryght, to ye gret disquyetyng of hys mynd, and undoyng of hys wyfe and her children. Yf he doo, let hym understand, blessed be ye Lord, there be lawes in the realme, lustice is not al asleape, tiler ys also a court of concience and a godly overseer of ye same, ye Lord Keaper, who both by hys wysedome wyl sone find out ye matter, and upon hys lawful authoritie wyl see ye wronge to be redressed. And yf ther were no ryght at al here to be had in earth, yet let the saed Steven Bechyng thys understand, that ye Lord Iesus ys alyve in heaven, whose hand he can not eschape, nor yet able to abyde yf yt falle.
Smythe to be made Schoolmaster of Ippeswiche. “Forasmuch as thys yong man, for whom I wryte, ys not so well known to your honor, peradventure, as he ys to me, by long acquayntance and continuance, to signifie therfore to your lordshyp, not only upon privat affection but upon treuth and knowlege in hys behalf: thys ys briefly to testifie to your good L. that if ye town of Ypswyche stand in neede of a worthy, godly, and lerned scholmaster, for all such indewments and ornaments requisite in such a function, or trew religion, lernyng, diligence and practice, for these, and such other gyftes of abilitie, I know not how, nor where they may be better spedd, then in receavyng thys Mr. J. Smythe, beyng hym self born in y same town of Ypsewyche: whom both present occasion of tyme, and ye good vocation of Christ, I trust, offereth now unto them. Certefying, moreover, your good Lord- ship, and not only you, but also ye whole town of Ypsewyche, that who soever shall receave him for guydyng of theire schole, shal doo no such pleasure to hym, as profyte to them selves, and commoditie to theire yougth. D. Iesus tibi benedicat, et tuis. Amen.
From this it would appear as if the lord chief justice either had the appointment of a schoolmaster for Ipswich, or else his recommendation would be so much respected, that the person bearing it would be elected.
Yet Foxe, not content with having endeavored to interest the chief justice, wrote the following letter to the inhabitants, or authorities of Ipswich, in favor of the same person. “Allthough privat affection and good wyll I beare to thys good man moveth me to doo for hym as every man wold be glad to do for hys frend, yet not so much that, as publike dewtie I owe to others, namely to your worshypes and the whole townshype of Ypswyche, to whom I am not a lytle bownde, also the consideration I have to the ryght education of youth, which I wysh in al places to be brought up in godly vertue and good letters, causeth me to wryte to your worshypes, not so much for the preferment of hym for whom I wryte, as for your own comoditie I trust, and furtherance of your youth. Understandyng therfore yt you are in some consultation about placyng a mete instructor for your schole as ye matter in my mynd requyreth good advisement and deliberat circumspection, so I doubt not but your wysdoms may have sufficient choyse of a number in dyvers places, wherin, yf my opinion and censure were required herein, whom I cold commend or wold wysh unto you, I know none other.” F157 The next letter is one of a very different character, for it is one recommending to a gentlewoman, a very godly gentleman, a friend of Foxe’s, for a husband. “As your discret circumspection is not unprovided of sufficient counsail what you have best to doo in your own aftayres, to yourself best known, to me nothyng appertaynyng; so nether do I enterprise so boldly to wryte to you, as havyng any nede to be advertised by others. Yet notwithstandyng for so much as we are so wylled by the Aposfie to exhorte one an other, I trust you wyll not be offended, if I shal wryte unto you by way of persuasion, in ye behalfe of a certen godly gentleman, and deare frend of rayne.
The same gentleman I meane, whom you dyd see not long ago with me at Mr. Moulton’s, whose syncere integritie, vertuous lyre, myld and softe conditions, stayde and satteled discretion, hys amiable lovyngnes, loved of all men that know hym, with no lesse singular affection workyng in hys hart especially towards yow, yf they were so well known to you, as they are to me, and others which have experience of hym, I shuld not nede to bestowe thys laboure herein, eyther in exhorttyng of you, or commendyng of hym: yow wold soone understand yourself what ye had to doo best for your self. “But because ye partie as yet as unacquaynted, ys not so wel known unto yow, to thentent therfore by report of others ye shuld not waynt some intelligence herof, I thought thus much to wryte in hys behalf, who nether wryteth for hym self, nether ys privye, I assure yow, of my wrytyng for hym, testifying to yow simplely what I do thynke, and not only what I thynk roeself, but heare also testified by some others, which knoweth yow better then I doo, that yf the favor of your mynd culd be no lesse inclined to hym, then the lord hath wrought in hys hart toward you, verely it is supposed a meyter matche euld not be found for you, nor wysshed unto you, al thyngs on both parts considered, both that I heare of you, and known by hym. Thus much have I signified to you what I thought, and know of hym to be trew. You for your part doo what you thynk good, better in my mind ye cannot doo, then to counsail in thys matter with ye lord, who as he hath ordayned maryage betwen man and wyfe, so gyveth housbands as he pleaseth. Nether am I ignorant, but there may be, that come to you with gretter offers, which in deede myght be somethyng for you to harken to, yf your case stoode in any such neede of worldly goods. But now you havyng enough, and blessed be God, abundance; what can you desyre more now, then a quyet lyfe with that which God hath sent you? And let the offerres be never so great, ye shal fynd at length trew godlynes joyned with stayed temperance more fytter for your condition as yt standeth, then gretter supperfluytie of worldly substance. And furthermore, when all your counters shal be cast, ye shal prove yt trew, and so counte with your self, that an hundreth pounds by yeare with thrifty and prudent guydyng wyl goo further at ye yeares end, then 5 or 6 hundreth, with wastful spendyng. I say no more, but as I sayd, I repete agayn, you are wise enough, ye know herin what ye have to do. The lord almyghtie disposer of all thyngs, directe youre wayes and counsails to that which best shalbe to your quyetnes and commoditie, per Christurn Jesum dominure nostrum. Amen.” “J. FOXE .”
The following letter is curious. It was addressed to him by an individual complaining of his temptations, and seeking the advice and prayers of the martyrologist. “Mr. Foxe — I wish you pacem Deo et consolationem Spiritus Sancti, whiche, I praye God, I maye once fynde with you. Sir, you shall understande that I have bene of late, and am presentlye merveylouslye troobled with my accoostomed passions, et subit animum dubitatio, num filii Dei talibus tentationibus occupentur, tentatione namque desperationis cencior. I remember that of Sawle, after he was rejected, hit was thus written: Spiritus autem Jehove recessit a Saule et terruit eum Spiritus malus a Jehova, whiche woordes make me merveylouslye afrayed, for when I consider the case wherin I stande, methynketh I am vexed even with Sawles evill sprite. There is also another place of Scripture whiche Sathan objecteth agaynste me, which is this, (Romans ii.) his vero qui sunt contentiosi et qui veritati quidera non obtemperant, sed obtemperant injustitiae indignatio et ira afitictio et anxietas, etc. methinketh yt here indignatio ira affiictio et anxietas is even ye same that was in Sawle. Good Mr. Foxe for Christes sake resolve in these doubtes, and praye to yours and my allowed lorde Jesus yt in mercye he will strengthen me and other his servantes with ye invincible force of his grace agaynste ye maliciouse assaultes of Sathan, for you know what S. James sayeth: confitemini vicem peccata vestra et orate invicem alii pro aliis ut servemini, multum valet deprecatio justi efficax (James 5:16) wherfore good Mr. Foxe per Jesum Christum servatorem nostrum obtestor rogo etiam atque obsecro ut in precibus tuis coram Deo mentionem mei facias. Idem pro te facturum policeor, allquid rescribas obsecro quicquid velis et modo consolatorie valeas in domino, amen, paracletus ille tui meique sit custos nostraque studia dirigat ad sui nominis gloriam propriam sahtem ecclesiae suae utillitatem amen. Datum nuberie anno 1566. 40 mensis martii. “Tuus in Christo frater, “THOMAS DOLLMAN .” F159 “To my good frende Mr. Foxe, at Mr. Dayes, over Aldersgate geve these.”
This letter, and many others of the same kind, fully confirm the truth of the statement made by his son, that he was by nature an amiable man, who desired always to be friendly to others. “By good advice,” says his son, “by comfortable persuasions, or by a charitable hand, he relieved the wants, or satisfied the desires, of innumerable persons. No man’s house was more thronged with clients than that of John Foxe. There repaired to him both citizens and strangers, noblemen and common persons of all degrees; and almost all for the same cause — to seek some salve for a wounded conscience.”
Foxe continued in the same poverty in which he returned to England for some years. The provision allowed him by the duke of: Norfolk was but small. He alludes to this circumstance in a letter to his fellow-collegian, Lawrence Humphrey, who was appointed president of Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1562. He condemns Humphrey for leaving his post. “Are you not ashamed,” says he, “to become such a fugitive? You ought to have taken example of greater constancy by me, who still wear the same clothes, and remain in the same sordid condition as when I first returned to England from Germany.” This poverty did not, however, induce him for one moment to waive his objections to some of the ceremonies and canons of the church. He desired to see a further reformation effected. He was a decided episcopalian; and as such, never united himself to any schismatical separatists from the church; yet he professed to have some objections to the new changes, as not receding sufficiently far from popery; and these objections prevented him, as before intimated, from receiving the higher preferments in the church. They did not, however, keep him back from all. In common with many others, who held similar objections, he was admitted to some preferments, of which I shall proceed to take notice.
During his residence at Norwich, when he was engaged in preaching, in translating, or rewriting his laborious work in English, and making many, and carefully-studied, additions to it from all quarters, his exertions were well known to bishop Parkhurst, who held frequent conversations with him on the subject of preferment. He wished Foxe to be constantly near him; and endeavored to procure for him a prebendal stall at Norwich, that he might there pursue his studies, and remain the companion and friend of the bishop. No opportunity occurred of this favor being conferred upon him; and Foxe was compelled to return to London to labor in the printingoffice of John Day. The desire to devote his life to the perfecting of his history seems now to have overruled all self-considerations. Upon his return to London from Norwich, Foxe, for some time, resided in the town mansion of his friend the duke of Norfolk, the duke being himself with his family at Framlingham, where the death of the duchess occurred. In this continued absence of the duke from London, Foxe accepted an invitation from Day to remove from his residence under the roof of the duke into his house. That he was now busily engaged in superintending the first English edition of his work, appears from the date of its publication in 1563. In the February of that year, bishop Parkhurst wrote from Ludham, about ten miles from Norwich, to Foxe in London, on the subject of his preferment. “Salutem in Christo Jesu. — I have received your loving letters, and do understand thereby your visitacion at Goddes hand, in this tyme of mortalytie, you are not ignorant that he ys wont to chastise whom he lovethe. As tochynge the prebend, what I with other your frendes have donne in that behalfe I am sure you have herd. Howbeit the successe is not suche as we hoped at Foules hands, but tiler ys one Mr. Smith in Cambridge that hath another of the prebends who, as I hear, can be content to part from the same uppon reasonable condicions. Good Mr. Foxe appointe you and come down, as soon as convenientlie you may, and doubt you not God will provide for you eyther that or some other thing as good, whereunto there shall want nothing in me that I am able to doo.
And this with my hartie commendacions to my good frends with you, I commit ye to the keping of Almighte God. From Ludham this xxixth of January, 1563. “Your assured frend, “JOHN NORWICH .” F162 This unsuccessful attempt of bishop Parkhurst to procure a prebend in his own cathedral for Foxe, that he might be near both his friend and fellowexile, the bishop, as well as near his patron the duke of Norfolk, was made early in 1563. Three months after this, another and more successful effort was made to serve him. He was inducted on the last day of May in that year into the canonry and prebend of Shipton in the cathedral of Salisbury. We cannot now ascertain by whose interest this was obtained.
It is thought to have been at the instance of secretary Cecil. The date of Foxe’s institution to this prebend is generally placed in 1564, a little later; but the extract from bishop Jewell’s Register, marks it distinctly in 1563.
F164 He was instituted in the person of his procurator, John Randal, as appears by the extract from the bishop’s Register, who is called Thomas in his letter to the dean and chapter of Salisbury, in which he requests them to set their seal to the transaction with “Thomas Randal:” at the same time not wishing to do anything that might be detrimental to his successors in the prebend. F165 The poverty of Foxe was at this time so great that he petitioned the queen to remit the first fruits of his new preferment. F166 He appointed as his vicar William Masters, who was not unknown to the queen, as he was the orator of the university of Cambridge, who delivered a speech to the queen after her address to that university. F167 Such, says Foxe, was the poverty of both, that they had not one farthing to pay the first fruits; and the petition therefore prays that the queen would release both from the payment.
The prebend of Shipton not only gave him a respectable maintenance, but afforded him an opportunity of transmitting a valuable lease to his descendants. It was enjoyed by his family until sir Richard Willis married the heir, or heiress — the daughter of Robert Foxe, the physician.
Among other fallacies frequently maintained by those who object to the establishment of the reformed religion, is the opinion that the revenues of the church, were taken from one church to be given to another. The fair way of stating the question is this: In the commencement of the reign of Henry VIII. the church of England was in communion with, and subjection to, the church of Rome. In the course of that reign, while the communion continued, the subjection ceased. Under both the communion and subjection, the creed of either church was unsettled; that is, it received continual additions. In the reign of Edward, the communion and the subjection of the church of England with, and to, the church of Rome, ceased altogether. The creed of the church of England became definite. The creed of the church of Rome was still indefinite, and remained so till the termination of the council of Trent, in the fifth year of Elizabeth. The clergy of the church of England, at the conclusion of the reign of Henry VIII., who had possessed the revenues of the church under the subjection to, and communion with Rome, generally retained those revenues, with the exception of the confiscations to laymen during the reigns of Henry and Edward. Though some went into exile under Mary, the great majority of the clergy, in consequence of this very indefinitehess of its creed, submitted to the restoration of the old system.
The council of Trent itself may be called the chief establisher of the reformed religion, by withholding from the church of Rome, and from all the episcopal churches which it desired to govern, any certain conclusions round which its adherents might rally; and thus affording an apology to all, to consent to the changes in religion enacted by the governments and bishops of the several states. The very clergy, therefore, who had upheld Henry, Edward, and Mary, now received the laws of Elizabeth in matters of religion; and, throughout the whole of the changes, they possessed the same revenues. The revenues were never taken from one large class, to be given to another large class of men. Many refused to conform in each reign.
The majority, however, did conform to each change; and the majority died in the possession of the same revenues in the reign of Elizabeth, when the church of England was neither in communion with, nor in subjection to, Rome, as they had held in the reign of Henry and Mary, when the church of England was both in communion and thraldom. The truth of this statement is proved to us in the case of the last monks of Durham. They were generally the first prebendaries. Henry VIII. dissolved the monastery of Durham. He continued the monks in their places under new names.
Thomas Sparke, for instance, the prior of the cell of Lindisfarne, was a monk, and chamberlain of the monastery of Durham at the time of the dissolution of the monastery. He was made suffragan bishop of Berwick in June, 1637; and bore that office (an office which might, perhaps, wisely be restored) during the remainder of his life. He was empowered by bishop Tonstal to exercise his dignity, as chorepiscopus, through the whole diocese of Durham. In the reign of Henry VIII. he obtained this preferment. In the reign of Edward he was made rector of Walsingham. F169 He held this, and his other appointments throughout the reign of Mary; and died, still possessed of them, in the reign of Elizabeth, 1671. His successor was John Foxe. The appointments of the other prebendaries on the refoundation of the cathedral of Durham by Henry VIII. confirm this statement. Hugh Whitehead, the prior of the monastery at its dissolution, became dean, under the new establishment. The prebend, or canonry, f170 which Sparke held, was granted to John Foxe. In consequence of the doubtful manner in which Strype mentions this fact; together with the manner in which Hutchinson, in his History of Durham, in spite of his long list of references, relates it; as well, too, in consequence of the dubious manner in which his other biographers notice the circumstance; the appointment of Foxe to the prebend or canonry at Durham appeared to me, for a long time, to be very doubtful. The difficulty was increased by the absence of evidence at Durham itself. Many of the chapter-books had been long lost. The dean and chapter, even in the year 1646, in reply to an order of the upper house of parliament to produce their book of chapter acts, sent up the reasons of their inability to obey the order. The books were lost at Hull, or on their way to that city, when they were sent there for security against the Scotch army. F173 Of the chapter-books which have escaped the changes and chances of the civil wars, and other casualties in our history, I found that the receiver’s book does not mention Foxe’s name; the treasurer’s book, of 1572, is lost; and the installation-book commences only in the year 1660, after the restoration. I was convinced, however, that such a tradition must have. had some very probable foundation. I believed that Pilkington, who was now bishop of Durham, and who had been a fellow-exile with Foxe, would endeavor to provide for his friend. The nomination to the stalls had been vested by Mary in the bishops of Durham. Pilkington had now the opportunity to serve him; and he might have offered the prebend to Foxe, in the hope that he would at length conform to the vestments, and consent to accept it. The nomination of Bellamy, the reputed successor of Foxe, to the canonry, was dated by Hutchinson on the very day that the year elapsed in which the martyrologist was said to have accepted the appointment; and it did not seem probable that all this could be affirmed without some good reason.
The memorandum in bishop Cosin’s library was also too express to permit us to reject the suppotition. F174 I at length discovered in an old register of dean Whittingham’s, which, by some strange accident, had escaped the general wreck, amidst a large mass of documents respecting the renewals of leases, and other capitular business, the original induction of Foxe, and his resignation of the stall in the same year. I am sorry to have made the discovery; for I cannot reconcile his holding the prebend of Shipton, and rejecting the stall at Durham, if such rejection proceeded, as bishop Cosin supposes, from his dislike to the clerical vestments. He should have resigned Shipton also, if this was his reason for rejecting the appointment at Durham. The admirable manner in which the history of this unfortunate controversy has been lately brought before the public renders it unnecessary to say more, than that bishop Hooper, the martyr, had objected to the vestments in the reign of Edward, that these objections were strengthened by the foreign reformers, and that the exiles under Mary saw in the vestments the dresses only of idolaters, and persecutors. “You go like a mass-priest,” was said to archbishop Grindal, who, after opposing the clerical dress, consented to its adoption with reluctance. F176 Nearly all the exiles had wished the ancient dresses to be discontinued.
Young, archbishop of York; Parker, archbishop of Canterbury; Grindal, bishop of London; Pilkington, bishop of Durham; Horne, of Winchester; Jewell, Sandys, Sampson, Humphrey, Whittingham, and, in short, all the bench of bishops, and the higher orders of the clergy who had returned from exile, opposed the use of the ancient vestments. The miserable results which followed the pertinacity of the mass, who followed their example in objecting, but not in their eventually conforming, must be left to the historian. F177 Foxe habitually, I am sorry to say, refused to conform; and Soames is of opinion that this stedfast refusal prevented the hope of the high preferment to which he was otherwise entitled. He could not refuse conformity to the doctrinal articles of the church. He wholly agreed to them. His conduct with respect to the “Reformatio Legum” will prove that he regarded the canons. He must, therefore, as it is said, have only declined conformity, because of the laws respecting the vestments. He would not, when requested by archbishop Parker to subscribe, pledge himself to anything but the Scriptures. “To this I will subscribe,” he said, taking a Greek Testament from his pocket; and he added, that he had nothing in the church but a prebend at Salisbury, which was at their disposal. He proved his integrity, and consistency, more, I think, than his sound judgment: for the peace of the church was broken by the useless and foolish schism, which identified fatal errors in doctrine, with the questionable propriety of external appearance. It is possible that the chapter of Salisbury dispensed with his wearing the vestments, while that of Durham refused to do so.
The matter must be left in doubt. I am neither required to defend nor to assail his memory on such a point. I believe that he acted upon reasons which seemed to himself to afford a sufficient apology; but I cannot comply with the custom now so usual in modern biography, of representing the subject of the narrative, as free from spot or blemish. We do not read that any other preferment was offered to Foxe. This was, of course, not to be expected. The documents respecting his appointment to Durham will be found in the Appendix. F178 L5 The precise time of Foxe’s return to London from Norwich cannot be now ascertained. His eldest son, his biographer, who was admitted demy of Magdalen in 1576, was born at Norwich in 1560; and it was to Norwich that Oporinus addressed the letter to Foxe, in which he thanked him for a book of which he supposed Foxe to be the author, on the “Cruelty of the Papists.” F179 The book had been published anonymously. When he left Norwich, the duke of Norfolk was absent from London. The principal residence of Foxe, however, when he was not at the house of John Day, his printer, at Aldersgate-street, still appears to have been at the house of the duke of Norfolk, at Aldgate. “That most bounteous, charitable, and princely lord,” says one of Foxe’s principal contemporary admirers, f180 “gave him free entertainment and dwelling for him and his, at his manor of Christ’s church, by Aldgate. From that his house, he traveled weekly, every Monday, to the printing-house of John Day. In that, my father’s house, many days and years, and infinite sums of money, were spent to accomplish and consummate his English ‘Monuments,’ and other many excellent works in English and Latin.” This language is certainly indefinite, and must refer, not merely to the residence of Foxe immediately on his return from Norwich, but to his general residence in London for many successive years. He seems to have left Norwich about the year 1562. A curious expression in a letter from the bishop of Norwich about this time, would seem, at first sight, to imply that Foxe was known to the bishop in a character under which he has never been considered, — that of a great sportsman. The sentence occurs in the midst of references to books and letters, and requests that search be made in libraries for some literary information. I interpret, therefore, the expressions metaphorically; and believe that the good bishop alluded to those whom Foxe might have employed to hunt for him the game he was pursuing in historical preserves, when he speaks of a bloodhound being sent to Zurich; and that when he calls Foxe a good hunter, who had plenty of dogs, he meant only that he was indefatigable, and that his friends and helpmates were no less staunch and sagacious than himself. The following is the extract: — “I have sent you here inclosed a letter, written to me from Dr.
Gesner, and two catalogos. The one for you to searche by that the queene’s librarie, according to Dr. Gesner’s request, and to ask of other learned men concerning the same. The other I pray you send to Dr. Sampson or Dr. Humphrys, that searche may be made m Oxford also. One I have sent to Mr. Beaumont, in Cambridge, that he may do the lyke. “I wold rather be negligent in other things, then in setting forthe old ancient writers; and yet to say the truthe to you, I lyke no olde wryter worse then Dionysius, the which, although he be somewhat ancient, yet I am persuaded that it is not Areopagita ille de quo Act. 17. “I praye you certifie me of these things as sone as you maye, and if a bloodhound or twayne might be sent to Zurich, according to Dr.
Gesner’s requeste, I wold rejoyce not a little, and wold be contente to pay for the charges thereof. I wryte this unto you, because you be so good a hunter, and have suche plentie of dogges, etc. I praye you, when you have perused Dr. Gesner’s letters, that you will send them againe forthe to me, that I may make answer to the same against the next caste. “Commende me to Mrs. Foxe, to Mr. Day and his wyfe, and thanke him for the boke of the reliques of Rome which he sent me.
I will thanke Mr. Becon, which dedicated the same tO my name, another time, if God so will. Yf you see the bishop of London, the deane of Paul’s, Mr. Whitehedd, and other of my friends there, I praye you salute them in my name. “Yours, “JOHN NORWIC .” F181 Soon after his return from Norwich he published, in the year 1563, his first English edition of his great work, under the following title: “Actes and Monuments of these latter perillous days touching matters of the Churche, wherein are comprehended and described the great persecutions and horrible troubles that have been wrought and practiced by the Romish Prelates, speciallye in this realme of England and Scotland, from the yeare of our Lorde a thousand unto the time now present, etc., gathered and collected accordinge to the true copies and wrytinges certificatorie, as well of the parties themselves that suffered, as also out of the Bishop’s registers, which were the doers thereof. By John Foxe. Imprinted at London by John Day, dwelling over Aldersgate, beneth St. Martin’s. Anno 1563, the 20th of March. Cure gratia& privilegio regime Majestatis. F182 It was comprised in one vol. folio, containing rather more than 1700 pages, exclusive of the index, prefaces, etc.
I reserve for the second part of this humble memorial of the father of ecclesiastical history in England, the fuller consideration of the value, the reception, the objections which were urged against, and the imperishable effect of this most splendid result of the discovery of printing, and of the revival of literature. The moment of the publication of this book was that aera in the religious history of man, which decided the question — whether the power of the great dragon should be restored or destroyed. It enlisted the reason of the people on the side of free inquiry, by submitting to them the facts and reasonings by which the leaders of the two great churches which were dividing the christian world, appealed to that great tribunal — the public mind of Europe. Up to this time, the opponents of the errors which had gradually crept into the paradise of the catholic church, enveloped in the mist of the ignorance and darkness which resulted from the prevalence of formalism, and the suppression of the Scriptures, — as Satan is represented by Milton to have obtained admission into the Paradise of Eden, — had appealed to rulers and senates rather than to the people. But Liberty is as uniformly the handmaid of Truth, as Slavery is the companion of Error: and one blessed result of the re-establishment of the ancient christianity of the apostolic age, in the reformation of the catholic church from the apostasy of its Romish member, has been the raising up of that unbribable tribunal the mass of thinking, reading, religious persons, whose frown constitutes censure and oblivion, and whose approbation is praise and earthly immortality to the politician, the statesman, the historian, and the writer. This great tribunal is the true lawgiver. It was now in its infancy. The work of Foxe gave it strength; raised it into activity; and, more than any other human work, created its now undying energy. The value of the work consisted not merely in its vast accumulation of knowledge and materials, but in its solemn appeals to the intellect and souls of its readers, as men responsible for those souls; and whose bounden duty it consequently became to seek truth, and to commend themselves to God, by loving priesthood, but hating priestcraft, and valuing the ministers of religion as their useful directors, but not as their infallible teachers. Its value consisted in the unintended, but inevitable enforcement of this great truth — that an individual Christian may be right, when the great body of the priesthood of the catholic church might be wrong; and, therefore, that each individual must deem himself to be responsible to God alone, and not to any human power, political or ecclesiastical, for his religious conclusions. Its value consisted in this mighty service also — the unavoidable, though still slowly learned and unintended enforcement upon all the governments of the world, that every system of laws must be founded upon the conviction of their usefulness and truth, or they cannot be made permanent by the most unrelenting persecutions of the most formidable power. Its value was, that it began the more universal reception of the axiom — that conscience must be governed by conviction, and not by authority alone; and, therefore, that governments must rule for the happiness of the people, and not merely for the advantage of the governors. All these conclusions, which are now so common that they are almost unquotable because of their triteness, have been only gradually received as undeniable axioms, since the publication of that book, which the tame elegance, or the degenerate weakness, of the present day, which places the happiness of churches and communities in retrogradation, rather than in progression, is beginning to depreciate and decry.
This view of the value of the work of John Foxe is confirmed by his letter to the president and fellows of his own college (Magdalen) at Oxford.
After many expressions of regret, that he cannot submit to them any labor more worthy of their acceptance, he affirms that he published the work, not in Latin, which might have been more imposing, and pleasant to them, but in English, for the good of the country and for the information of the multitude. Men slowly and with difficulty emancipate themselves from the erroneous impressions which are produced by the long continuance of that specious and fascinating priestcraft which appeals to the learned and literary classes, as if their souls were of more value to God than the souls of the peasant, the mechanic, and the weaver; and as if their superior educational and intellectual improvement was the chief object, both of the original impartation of revelation, and of all the devotional instruction derived from its sacred pages. Whereas, the object of all theological learning is to render the poor, as well as the rich, free, holy, and happy; and to teach that the soul of the meanest is of as much value as the soul of the highest and greatest. Up to this time very few appeals had been made to the intelligence of the multitude. The people were supposed to be ordained to be the passive followers of their political or ecclesiastical superiors; to have nothing to do with laws but to obey them; and to receive their religion from authority enforcing opinions by penalties, instead of enforcing them by conviction. The strength of the church of England, like the strength of Christianity when it was first preached to the world by Christ and his apostles, reposes on the same solid basis. It upholds authority which permits and demands that the people do esteem it, because it deserves their christian affection. It appeals to the arguments derived from conviction, upon evidence, and not to the penalties and severity which compel an unwilling conformity; and the church will never be truly safe till its ministers as universally and as boldly adopt this system of appeal to the people, as the laws of their church allow, and as Christ and his apostles practiced it. John Foxe was one of the first of our reformers who took theological controversy from the priest, the scholar, and the political or ecclesiastical ruler, and summoned the common people to read, think, judge, and be convinced, that popery, whatever were its appeals to antiquity, tradition, or long-esta-blished laws, was alike deficient in usefulness, truth, and holiness — that its boasted appeal to antiquity comprised only many ancient errors, with many ancient truths — that its traditions were the blendings of human observances, customs, and maxims, and were consequently rejectable by any episcopal church, without the imputation of crime — that its laws were a collection of canons, or ecclesiastical regulations, gradually superseding the statutes of princes; and upholding in all ages the continued enlargement of error, by the everincreasing severity of cruel and wicked punishments — and the effect of his book, therefore, in promoting, confirming, and establishing the Reformation — that is, of the pure, ancient, and apostolical Christianity, as contradistinguished from Romanism, is so universally acknowledged, and so fully proved by the very antipathy which the enemies of that Christianity, who adhere to the inventions and errors of popery, still retain to it, that to demonstrate the effect of its publication would be to gild the rose and paint the lily.
The reception of the book was enthusiastic. “Great,” says Strype, “was the expectation of the book here in England, before it came abroad. The papists scurrilously called it Foxe’s Golden Legend. When it first appeared there was extraordinary fretting and fuming at it through all quarters of England, and,” on the continent, “even to Louvaine.” The common people of England welcomed it as the true record of the past; and they loved the church of their forefathers as they saw it restored by the queen, because of the power which Foxe had now given them, of comparing its pretensions to their favor with the true catholicism of the primitive church; and the pretended catholicism of the church of Rome.
The contemporary objections which were made to it — and such a book could not be free from unintentional errors — were fully and candidly considered by its truth-seeking author. These, and the subsequent objections which were made to it, shall be considered.
The devotional, amiable, and gentle spirit of Foxe is eminently conspicuous in the letter to the president L6 and fellows of Magdalen, to which I have alluded. He commends his book to the approbation of Oxford generally, but especially to the Society of Magdalen. The best part of his history, he observes, relates to Oxford itself, whence, as from a fountain, it took not only its first beginning, but its increase. He prays that the Lord Jesus Christ would preserve them and their president, that they may daily increase the glory of His name; and deep and bitter, therefore, must be the regret of those who admire the character and appreciate the services of John Foxe, that the most unsparing assailants of his name and work, next to the adherents of the church of Rome, have been, even in our own day, certain members of the University of Oxford. These persons have not hesitated to deride his motives, decry his services, and stigmatize his work as a caricature of the history of the catholic church. The foreign reformers, in common with their protestant brethren in England, in the day of the regeneration of the Christian Church, were of a different opinion. Bullinger, for instance, who read the work, probably in the proof-sheets, before it had been published in England, writes to its illustrious author : — “I am devotedly attached to you on account of your piety and learning, but chiefly for your book of the martyrs of England.” F183 The principal subject of the work of John Foxe may be said to be — the consequences which resulted to the catholic church from the usurpation which was defended by spiritual anathemas, leading to temporal punishments: and as the anathemas of the canon law of Rome were enforced by the deposition of sovereigns, the imprisonment and burning of their subjects, and all the fearful penalties described by the historians of religious persecution; the value of his book was demonstrated to the world not only by the eulogies of. its friends, but by the persevering folly of its enemies. In the very year in which the English edition was published, the council of Trent brought its proceedings to a conclusion. The last act of that council, instead of being a holy, humble, christian protestation to the whole catholic church, inviting them to union among themselves, and to peace with Rome, on the foundation of its perpetually desiring improve-merit, was a declamatory vote, passed by acclamation, of anathema — anathema to heretics! The word heretic included the episcopal protestants of England — the presbyterians of Scotland — the Lutherans and Calvinists on the continent — and all religious and literary inquirers in Spain, Italy, and elsewhere, who had found reason not to uphold the supremacy of Rome. In the latter two countries, as well as in a certain portion of the Netherlands, the sanguinary Inquisition executed the decrees of the council. In every other part of the catholic church, the labors of John Foxe presented the solemn warning of the consequences of this decree to the peace and happiness of every church, and of every congregation of christians. Anathema to all heretics, was the sentence of the cardinal of Lorraine, who had uselessly contended in the council for the religious privileges and independence of his own church and country — Anathema, anathema — was the reply of the assembled ecclesiastics: and they all returned to their churches to perpetuate, till this very day, the yoke of the ecclesiastical usurpations.
Anathema to all heretics who should refuse to admit the rule of faith which was not, even then, drawn up; but which was to be submitted to the reception, not to the approbation, of the churches, by the Bishop of Rome. What is the meaning of this anathema? the humble Christian might demand. Take up the pages of Foxe and read, was the answer of the Queen of England and the bishops of England there learn the fearful meaning which is attached to the anathemas of Rome, when Rome is able to enforce them. Place the book (they subsequently said,) in the churches and the colleges — in the houses of gentlemen, and in the halls of the bishops, that all may read the narratives, to the truth of many of which our eyes can testify — and learn, and reflect upon, and remember the meaning of the anathemas of Rome. If it be said that the canons of the church of England were enforced in the reign of James I. in the same language: I answer, that, not only are the anathemas of our canons unattended with temporal severities; but the time has arrived when England, as well as Rome, is required by the best interests of truth, freedom, and catholicism, to revise its canons, for changes, additions, and expungements.
In the year 1564 the Queen visited the University of Cambridge, and was entertained at King’s College. She attended in the schools the Acts, or academical disputations in divinity, philosophy, and medicine; and made, on leaving the university, a Latin speech. She encourages them, in this speech, to study; and promises that she, like her ancestors, would do some work, while she still lived, to express her esteem of them: but that, if she died before she could accomplish her promise she would leave aliquod opus egregium — some glorious work — to be done after her death, whereby both her memory might be celebrated to posterity, and that she might excite others by her example, and make them (the scholars of that university) more cheerful to apply to their studies.” In the answer to this, the public orator, William Masters, recommended the university of Cambridge to her majesty’s notice as being more ancient than the sister one of Oxford; but without intending any disparagement of it. This, however, was taken ill by some of the Oxonians, who presented to the Queen, upon her visit there, a tract entitled “Assertio antiquitatis Academiae Oxoniensis.” One of the copies of the Queen’s speech fell into the hands of John Foxe, who addressed to her majesty, on the occasion, an elegant Latin epistle, partly to the following effect: “To let pass (most noble Queen) those commonly known things, viz. that presently at the very beginning of your most fortunate reign, you saved so many good men at home in great danger of their lives, and called back so many more abroad from their banishment; that you restored their own country to them, and not only to them, but the country in a manner to itself; and England, then almost at the very point of expiring, to its light and life again; that at your said most happy beginning, having procured peace, you do now every day improve it in good studies and arts; to the good laws you give again their force, the bad ones you take away, and supply their room with such as are wholesome; the mischievous and the idle sort you reduce to order; robberies and the bands of spoilers, wherewith your realm is reported at this day in a foul manner to swarm, you restrain; the afflicted you give an ear to; what is fallen and gone to decay you build up; and not only money embased, but also the manners of men much more corrupted, you purify and refine. In a word, you restore every thing to its own brightness, nay, more than its own; and many other things of this kind you do; which, although of themselves they be not ordinary benefits, and such as in other monarchs might seem very great, yet, I know not how, do not sufficiently express the largeness of your praiseworthy deeds. “But assuredly these things that follow are much greater still; and of all the greatest, that your excellent highness defendeth so vigorously the ecclesiastical state no less than the commonwealth; that you take upon you so affectionately the care and protection of religion; that you quench the direful flames of persecution; that you open a liberty to consciences so long shut up; that you illustrate and promote the temple of God and the glory of evangelical doctrine; that is, by all means endeavoring, that the remainder of old superstition by little and little be destroyed, the sincere truth of the gospel return to its native brightness. This was lately declared by that excellent voice and answer of your majesty given to the petition of some divines concerning the habits. By which words, then by your majesty spoken, it can scarce be thought how great prosperity you did in one day bring to the whole church, how great comfort to the minds of all godly people, how great benefit to posterity, how great a light to all succeeding times; and moreover to your own name how great and how immortal an honor, more lasting than any monument of brass. The tongues and learning of all Englishmen would be stained with ingratitude, should they suffer as well this godlike thing, as all the other trophies of your virtues, by an antiquity of time to be abolished. “Hither must be added your majesty’s singular favor towards learned studies. In the adorning and furthering whereof, you would never have shown yourself so inclinable, had you not been so exquisitely furnished and dressed yourself with them. Happy Cambridge lately perceived it: and I doubt not but hereafter our Oxford also will look for it. And further, we all, though absent thence, well perceived it, by your late speech delivered there at Cambridge; which is come to my hands, (among other monuments of historical matters,) not unworthy, methinks, to be transmitted to posterity; and so it shah be transmitted, if your highness give way to it. In the meantime this only grieves me, that when I am preparing a full account of the history of you, and have great collections serving thereunto, many things are wanting, which are yet unknown to me, and cannot be known but to your majesty.
And if they might, they could not be described better by any than by your own commentary. Which I heartily wish might be obtained by your most excellent wit, in this time and space of your life; but of the commendations of your excellent parts, I shall elsewhere, God willing, have occasion to speak.” F185 The close of this letter implies that Foxe purosed to write the life of Elizabeth; or at least, the part the queen took in establishing the Reformation. “If he had done so,” says Strype, “this work of mine had been superseded.”
On this, as on other subjects, Foxe was consulted, and his interest with the queen solicited. Lawrence Humphrey, the president of Magdalen College, Oxford, wrote to him, to exert himself in procuring some favor or dispensation for those who hesitated to adopt the habits ordered by the queen to be worn. He says, he had not time to see him in London; and recommends to him “Nicholas Balgay, master of Magdalene school, a pious and learned man,” and, as if to ensure him Foxe’s friendship, calls him a studious reader of your “Acts and Monuments.” He then commends to his prayers and care, the spread of religion, and the reformation of the church; and desires him to use every exertion that the nobles and bishops should procure some exemption. He adds, at the end of the letter — “ Send, if you can, by this Balgay, the specimen of the Reformatio Legum.” F187 The queen, soon after this letter was sent to Foxe, visited the university of Oxford. She was entertained, says her biographer, with the most stately welcome the muses could make; and was addressed by the Greek professor in a Greek speech, to which the accomplished queen returned an answer in the same language. Before this visit of the queen to Oxford, Dr.
Humphrey had changed his opinion on the necessity of continuing his opposition to the vestments. He had been appointed, too, professor of divinity; and he now attended the queen in his robes. The queen could not resist the opportunity, according to her custom, of cheerfully, yet with some severity, reproving the faults of her subject. “Master doctor,” she said to him, “that loose gown becomes you mighty well; I wonder your notions should be so narrow.” F189 A letter written to Elizabeth from Oxford, on her arrival at her palace after this visit, partakes of the punning turn of the age. F190 Foxe at this time, 1566, began to prepare for the press the second edition of his work in English; and we may infer from the following letter that he was the object of general attention to all parties. A complaint against a clergyman named John Day, the curate of Maidstone, was laid by his parishioners before archbishop Parker. The chief of his accusers thought their object would be better effected if they endeavored to interest John Foxe in the matter. The archbishop was a member of the ecclesiastical commission; and the accusation against Day — the account of his sermon at the burning of seven heretics — his excuse for not remembering the precise words he uttered, because of the smoke of the fire in which they were burned his affirming, and subsequent withdrawment of the affirmation, that the persons burned denied the divinity of Christ — his levity and want of all feeling, form a most painful picture of the manners of the times. Foxe has merely related, in his Martyrology, the burning of the seven victims, and the previous examination of one of them. He has omitted the details contained in this letter. He was wearied, perhaps, of his own sad task; and the narrative may be regarded as a specimen of the scenes of which he has only left, after all his labors, a comparatively scanty memorial. The letter is found among the Harleian papers. It is dated 1566, five years before the publication of his second English edition.
JOHN AND ROGER HALL TO JOHN FOXE. INFORMATION OF ONE DAY A PRIEST, CURATE OF MAYDSTON. “It may please yowe to understande that one John Daye is curate of Maydston from the first yere of quene Marye unto this present yere 1666, of whome we beseehe God for his mercye delyver us, for he sheweth him selfe still not to have any feare of God at all before his eyes. In the yere of owre lorde 1667 on Wednesdaye the 16 of June, seven blessed and constant marters were burned all at one stake in Maydston in a place there comonly cauled the kynges medowe, ther names were these, Edmunde Alen and - his wife, Walter Apelbe and Parnell his wife, one Elizabeth Lewes comonly cawled blinde Besse, Jone Manninge the wife of one Robert Manynge of the sayd towne, and a vertuous maiden cauled Jone Bradbrege. At the burnynge of these blessed marters, this wyked preste preached, fyrst bendynge his abhominable blasphemus talk to them, saynge, that they were heritykes moste damnabell, and that by tiler heresye thay had separat them selves from the holy cherche as he called yt of Rome, whythe he eauled the spowse of Chryste, and Christ his misticall bodye, and therfore sayd he ye have no part in him, but when he sawe that thay wet buylded on the unmovable Rocke of Christ his worde, who was ther swete comforte (for they kryed unto him, Away Satan, away wt thy doctrine, away wt thy blasfemye); in great hast and fury he tornyd bothe his thee and talke to the people there assembled, sayenge, good people ye ought not in any wyse to pray for these obstinat herytykes, for loke how ye shall se ther bodyes burne here wt materiall lyre, so shall ther damnabel soules burn in the unquenchabel fyr of hell everlastynglye: and not beynge thus cotent the nexte Sondaye folowynge whythe was the 20 of June he iterated beynge in the pulpet to his Audience, most abhominably that Whiche he sayde the Wednesdaye before in the kynges medowe to the people, these wt inumerabel other popish blasfemyes uteryd he in quene Maryes dayes, but when yt pleased God to sende owr nobell quene to the crowne, dyvers men who all the dayes of quene Marye were in exile for ther concience came home; amonge whome one Roger Newman who was brother to John Newman who was burned in quene Maryes time for the true testimony of Christ, and one Peter Brown and Matthew Milles exorted this preste to repent and recant these his great blasfemys before sayd against the truthe of God and his saintes; he answered them that he wolde so do. The next Sonday folowynge whiche was the Sonday next before Whytsontyde, he went in to the pulpet and thus he saide, It is reported of me sayde he, that in the tyme of quene Marye when sertayn people wer burned in the kynge his medow, I showlde saye that they were damned, but I think thay do belye me that so say or reporte of me, but to say the truthe I know not nor do not remember, what I ther sayde, no nor then at that present (by meanes of the flame of the lyre and the greate smoke, that the wynde browghte so violently towardes me) cowlde I tell my selfe what I sayde or spake, but this I know that some of them did deny the humanity of Christe and the equalitie of the trinitie, and no man dowbteth but such are heretykes. Wherfore I may be bowld to say even now againe that unles by the great mercy of God and repentance thay are damned. The forsayd men herynge this it much greved them as yt did many other that hearde him, whetfore after evensonge they stayed to speak wt him at his acustomed way to the ale-howse, and asked him this question, whiche of them sayde thay amonge them that were burned at this towne wer it that denyed the humanitye of Christ or the equalitye of the trinitye, as ye sayde to day in the pulpet. At the whych he stode still and paused as one astonied, and at the laste he answered that none of them that were burned in the sayde towne of Maydston held these opinions: wherfore they asked him, wherfore he then made suche abhomynabel lyes, and farther whether the pulpet wer mad to utter lyes and blasfemyes in (for thay well knewe as also all other that knew them do that he dedly belyed them, for none of them ever helde any such eror or opinion but much abhorred all heresyes unto the death). Unto them he thus answered, asking them whether thay were not men or that thay never lyed: dyd yow quod he never lye in yowr lyves, ar ye not men, ye seine sayd he to be justifiers of your selves and hipokrytes; and thus in a furye he fiunge from them to the ale-howse whych he so much frequentyth that he veray often goyth home dronke scant able to speak or stande on his legs. ye (yea) drynkynge bowsyng cordyng (card playing) and table playeng is all his hole holy exarsyse all the weke from tyme to tyme: this brefely for this tyme but I meane that ye shall shortly have a copye of owr supplycation whych we meane shortlye to make to my lorde of Cantorbury wher in ye shall more at large understand the lyre and behaveour of his monster. Thus Jesus Christ be our comfort, and geve us after the affiyctions of this lyre peace and joy in him. Amen. “JOHN HALLE .” F191 The liberty of the press was not well understood at that time. All parties seem to have followed the example of the church of Rome in endeavoring to suppress and to punish the circulation of controversial works, instead of answering them, and thus making the press the proper guardian and controller of the press. While Foxe was engaged in revising his second edition, some general restrictions had been laid upon printers and publishers. To be enabled, therefore, to proceed with his work without incurring the lash of the law, he addressed a letter to sir William Cecil, the queen’s secretary, in the name of John Day, in which he states that he, Day, desires his assistance and counsel. “You are aware that it is provided, both by public and municipal law, that citizens and artificers (printers) should not engage in their employ more than four foreigners and strangers. If any one exceed this number, I know not how heavy a fine is threatened to him. I am not aware of the tenor of the law, nor am I concerned to inquire.
The framers of it, wise and prudent men, saw reasons for it, which those of less foresight might not perceive. However this may be, it is of serious inconvenience to our printer, as well as to ourselves.
While we are supplying materials for three presses, we cannot procure among our own countrymen fit persons to work them, and are by the law forbidden to seek the assistance of strangers. This is our complaint, and we solicit your highness to interpose your authority, so as to relieve us from the difficulty, and enable us to complete the work we have in hand. If we ourselves should not be worthy of such kindness, yet you will extend it to those pious and holy martyrs of Christ, who have so long lain in the grave, and thus will be more easily brought to light.”
The letter is dated July 6, 1568, and signed “Yours in all christian obedience, J. Foxe .” “In addition to these, unless we appear too importunate, we solicit that to this printer, whom I have named, may be secured all those privileges which he formerly enjoyed from you, while printing the Psalms in the vulgar tongue: because from this one source alone is his family sustained. “To the Lord Cecil, secretary to the queen, a man eminently conspicuous for his prudence and piety.” F192 In the year 1563 the following letter was addressed to the merchants and citizens of London in behalf of the sufferers in the pestilence: “Grace and Joy in ye Holy Ghost; with increase of all felicity through Christ our only Savior. To ye dispersed company of Londiners as well Aldermen Merchants, and other rich and wealthy members of ye same citty, with all other well-disposed persons whersoever, harry greeting in ye Lord. If wee ye poore servants of Christ and ministers of his word within ye citty of London, here nowe remaining, and sustaining ye affliction of this dangerous and infectious time, shall seeme in this our writing to you something more plaine, or bold, then wee should, humbly wee crave of your wisdome wisely to construe ye cause therof, imputing it not to any inconsiderate suggestion or prtensed devise conceived of our parts; but rather to ye serious and earnest necessity of this prsent calamitous time; thus much signifying to you before, yt if ye cause wet ours only, privately to us belonging weh write to you, wee would never soe farr embolden ourselves, for as wee for our parts have lerned not to shrinke away from our charge comitted to us of ye Lord; soe wee have lerned alsoe to stand content, whatsoever it bee, wee have of him, butt nowe hearing as wee heare, and seeing as wee see ye pittious cry of ye poore and desolate flocke of Christ, some in lanes, some in houses, some in ditches; some harbourlesse, some clotheles, some menteless (mad), some frendeles, all succourles, wee cannot chuse, — being their pastours, and ye mouth of ye flocke, but both tender ther pitifull lamentation, and alsoe certify ye same to you, desiring you in ye Lord, to extend your tender and christian compassion uppon the, in helping them in this infectious ayer, with some good odour of sweet savor from you; so yt though your bodily comfort bee absent from the, yet your charitable sustentation may be prsent with them. As members together of one mysticall body, soe wee beseech you utterly forsake not yr fellowe members. And though God hath sett you in a more safe state of life, yet neglect not them weh beare ye crosse, yt God might, or yet may lay uppon yourselves. It is ye point of an honest mind, and a christian heart, yt though hee bee in ease, yt hee neede not for himselfe to feare, yet to lament and sorrowe with the yt lie in misery. Wherfore being therunto necessarily constrayned by ye pittifull cry, and exclamation of ye poore people of Christ, here left in London, wee are forced to write to you, speaking for them, yt cannot help themselves, that you of yr clemency, and christian dewty, (whereby you are borne, not only to yourselves, but alsoe to your country and neighbors) will bestowe some comfort uppon your fellowe members and poore bretheren, miserably here oppressed and consumed, as well with penury, as with pestilence; of wch two, ye one is the hand of God only to stopp, ye other partly under God lieth in your hands to reliefe. Extend therfore wee beseech you your helping hand, and in case you will not or darenot visitt the with yr prsence, yet visitt them with your purses, that ye Lord (who peradventure doth this to try you, what you will doe) may say to you, I was sick and you visitted mee, I was hungry etc. for else howe this your flying and departing from yr needy neighhours, wch nether with your visitation, nor provision you will helpe, wilbe allowed before God, wee cannot see; especially such of you as by charge of office are obliged to your companies: [is not] ye aldermen being magistrates of his ward, as well bound in conscience to the, as ye minis[ter] to his parish? or what meane ther roabes of scarlett, butt to declare themselves ready with their blood to defend ye safegard of ther people? And howe bee they ready to ye s[hedding] of ther blood to defend, wch att every slight occasion doe shrinke away, leaving th[em in] danger whom they should succor with ther provision?
Foxe, since his return from Norwich, had principally resided in the house of the duke of Norfolk. After the demise of the duchess, however, and probably on account of the duke not coming to London, or in compliance with an invitation from John Day the printer, he removed to the house of the latter in Aldersgate-street. Many letters still extant addressed to him at that residence, fully prove the high estimation in which he was now held.
One, for instance, intimates his influence with Grindal, the bishop of London; and earnestly solicits him to use that influence in procuring the suppression of some great immoralities in his diocese: — “The grace of our Lorde Jesus Christ,” it begins, “and the continuall presence and assistance of his Holy Spirit be with you ever (my good brother, and most deare freind in the Lorde) in all your studies and laboures, and give you strengthe bothe in mynde and bodye joyfully to bringe the same to that good effect, which maye be to the glorie and prayse of his eternall Majestie, the consolacion and profett of his afflicted and persecuted churche, your owne cornforte, and the strengthning and confirmacion of our faithe in him, against all the craftiness and power of Satan our cruell enemie. Amen. I was bolde at my last being in London, to use your helpe to the byshoppe of London, for the obteyning of a commission to certain gent of worshippe in the countrie, for the examinacion of divers persons.” — Then follow the particulars of the crimes which the writer desired to be investigated and suppressed.-”Remember me,” it concludes, “in your prayers, and commende me hartelye to the lorde, to Mr. Bull, when you see him, mistresse Fox, and Mr. Randall, and to Mr. Sampson. The Lorde increase our faithe, and graunte us alwayes therby the joyful light of his most gracious and joy-full countenance. Amen. From Bredgrowe the 19 of February, 1565. “Yours in the Lorde to command, WILLM PLAYFERE . “To my verie friend Mr. John Foxe, at Mr. Daye’s house, over Aldersgate in London.” F194 Numerous other letters, partly in English, and partly in Latin, to Foxe, some seeking his advice, others his prayers or favors, are preserved in the Harleian Collection, and are testimonies of the approbation of his contemporaries. I omit them only because they would not, probably, be interesting to a modern reader. F195 Foxe was still busily employed in preparing his materials for the next edition of his Acts and Monuments, when the first attack was made on the edition of 1563, by Nicholas Harpsfield, under the name of Alan Cope.
The objections of this writer, with those of other antagonists of the martyrologist, will be subsequently noticed, as well as the correspondence of Foxe with M. F. Illyricus on both their works having been cavilled at by the same writer. Harpsfield published his objections in Six Dialogues, which have ever since been made the foundation of the chief attacks on Foxe. A letter is still preserved in the Harleian Manuscripts, which is indeed without either signature or date; the internal evidence of which, however, is sufficient to compel us to believe that Foxe was the author.
The letter is chiefly of importance as proving to us that Foxe had read and considered the arguments of Harpsfield before he committed his next edition to the press. The Dialogues of Harpsfield had been published in 1566, at Antwerp. The letter alludes to this circumstance as taking place three years before. Allusion is also made to the reference, in the first five dialogues of Harpsfield, to the person addressed; and it would be difficult, therefore, to assign the letter to any other than to Illyricus. Foxe relates the contents of the Six Dialogues to his correspondent — that the first five refer to the Magdeburg Centuriators, upon the earlier volumes of which, he had probably been engaged with Illyricus, in the press of Oporinus; and the sixth referred peculiarly, and by name, to the writer. The object of the letter is to solicit the opinion of his correspondent, whether he should reply briefly, or at all, to the attack of Harpsfield. F196 Foxe appears to have received from Flacius Illyrieus, in reply, a recommendation to answer Alan Cope, “the sycophant,” as he styles him; and in addition to what he says above respecting his labors, he remarks, in his answers to Harpsfield: “If I had thought no imperfections to have passed in my former edition before, I would never have taken in hand the recognition thereof now the second time, whereby to spunge away such motes as I thought would seem great stumbling-blocks in such men’s walks, who walk with no charity to edify, but with malice to carp and reprehend, neither admonishing what they see amiss in others, neither tarrying while other men reform themselves; and, finally, finding quarrels where no great cause is justly given.” F197 When a church has been once founded, and its members have been well instructed in the great truths and doctrines of the gospel, the people will bring their infants to baptism, and derive one great part of their own spiritual nourishment from their constant attendance at the Supper and Table of the Lord. The commemoration of the death of Christ, and the grace which is imparted by the omnipresent Savior, who blesses, above all other means of grace, the spiritual communion of the believer with himself in the holy sacrament, may sometimes be more efficacious to the benefit of the soul than Christ’s own ordinance of preaching. But the command of Christ to his disciples to preach the word, both preceded and followed the institution of the Lord’s Supper, as if to prove to us that the churches which constitute the catholic church, must be both founded and built up, by the zealous, energetic, persevering preaching of his apostles and their successors; that the holy body of Christ’s church triumphant might be composed of that portion of the church militant who shall be brought to the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven, after they have been brought, by this preaching of his sacred gospel, to the table of the Lord upon earth.
The religion of Christ was extended by the preaching of his word, and sacraments. When the veneration ever due to the sacraments degenerated into the superstition, that baptism constituted in itself the holiness of heaven, instead of being merely the mysterious commencement of the reception of the soul into the covenant of grace, and thereby into the kingdom of God; and when the sacrament of the Lord’s supper was degraded into a corporeal presence of the body which was pierced, the blood which was shed, and the bones which were unbroken on the cross — when the dispensers of such awful mysteries founded priestcraft upon priesthood, and taught themselves, and not Christ; and when the light in the churches of Christ became darkness; it was then perceived by those, upon whom the light from the gospel, which pierced that darkness, began to shine, that the dominion of the true, ancient, apostolical Christianity could only be restored to the world, by reviving the same ordinance which Christ had instituted and ordained before and after he commanded the observance of the Lord’s supper. They commanded the preaching of God’s word to be re-established. They called forth, they sent out, the preachers of truth. They depended upon the prophetical, as well as upon the priestly duty of the church of Christ; and the preacher became once more the chief agent in extending the knowledge of the will of God, and the constant interpreter of the open scripture, as well as the dispenser of the sacraments, and the upholder of an useful ritual.
Among other places where those who were held in reputation for their spiritual gifts were called upon to preach, was St. Paul’s cross; and John Foxe, in spite of his still declining the required conformity to the habits, was commanded by bishop Grindal, the year before his second edition of Acts and Monuments was published, to preach at this celebrated spot. He very unwillingly, in consequence both of diffidence and ill health, obeyed the injunction. In writing to Grindal he urged his incapacity. “Consider also, in fairness,” he proceeds, “how unequally this will press upon me, when, as I believe, there never yet was ass or mule who was so weighed down and overdone by carrying burthens, as I have long been by literary labors; every day employed investigating and drawing forth the contents of writers, reading copies, and reading them again, and putting together materials which may be of public benefit to the church. By these labors I am almost worn out, not to speak of ill health and want of books. Yet, amidst all these labors and defects which I have narrated, I am summoned, in addition, to St. Paul’s cross, that celebrated spot, where, like an ape among cardinals, I shall be received with derision, or driven away by the hisses of the auditory.”
We learn from another letter, that he was solemnly adjured by many who appreciated his services to preach there, whatever might be his own conviction of his unfitness; and that bishop Grindal also gave him the subject of his sermon. “Yesterday,” he writes in another letter to Grindal, “I heard, when too late, that your servant had been with Day, the printer.
Had I seen him, perhaps I might have sent a different answer from the present. But although I saw him not, I now see there are friends who by no means will suffer me to refuse, what by all means I had determined to deny. I find that they will not rest till they have thrust me forward, most unwillingly, at Paul’s cross. By every means, by entrearies, threats, upbraidings, they urge, press, and solicit me. What is more painful, they pretend that you are displeased with my last letter. In addition, they solemnly adjure me in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. This, indeed, more than all besides, induces me not to refuse. Pray for me again and again. I entreat you, beloved prelate, who have laid this burden upon me, help me to sustain it. And I cannot but express a pleasing surprise that in your letters, where by virtue of your authority this burden is laid upon me, your piety has kindly suggested a subject — that I preach Christ Jesus, and him crucified. May the Lord Jesus, crucified for us, keep your mind in perfect humility amidst the honors of your calling, and with that humility of mind may he also preserve you in your present dignity, for the lasting welfare of his church.”
Controversy in the present day is banished to the press, or to the platform. It seldom intrudes itself into the pulpit. At this time, however, the preacher who should have omitted all allusion to the great division between Rome and England, would have been considered as deserting his duty. He would have been deemed either ignorant, cowardly, or traitorous.
We may justly believe, therefore, that the public anticipated some vehement and bitter invective against popery from the martyrologist. If they did so they must have been much disappointed by his sermon at St.
Paul’s Cross. Though he was both willing and anxious to comply with the popular wish, after he had once consented to preach, of assailing the errors of the apostate church, he did not treat popery as the political enemy to the government, or institutions of England. He spoke of it as the spiritual enemy of the souls of men. He contrasted the effects of the papal doctrines, with the christian doctrines to which they are opposed. He argues well and satisfactorily, that the popish doctrine of the continual sacrifice of the mass, and the christian doctrine of reconciliation with God, through faith in the one, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction which was made once for all, cannot consist together, but must destroy each other. He preached the one only doctrine which is again beginning to be stigmatized as absurd, by many learned and deeplyreasoning theologians; but which will ever be regarded by the humbleminded and wounded in spirit, as the only source of comfort — justification before the Creator, by the faith which worketh obedience, by love to the Savior who has completed the reconciliation of the soul which believes, to his Father and our Father, to his God and our God. He preached a sermon which would be called ‘ultra-protestant,’ among those who would neutralize our opposition to the soul-destroying doctrines of the church of Rome, by inventing new terms of reproach against their brethren, to palliate their own inconsistency. Christ, and his apostles, the fathers and the reformers, conquered the dominion of evil, by urging on their hearers, the christian, evangelical, ‘ultra-protestant’ truths of the sinfulness of the unconverted nature of man — the necessity of repentance-the value of the only atonement — and the continued work of the Holy Spirit to sanctify and renew the soul. From these solemn topics they derived warning to the impenitent, and comfort to the humble believer. John Foxe followed in their train, and imitated the example of those sacred leaders of the church, from earth to heaven. He addresses his discourse — To all them that labor and are heavy-laden in conscience.
After alluding, in his Epistle Dedicatory, to the means by which the church of Rome presents the circumstances of the passion of Christ to the people, he observes, that “to know the crucified sacrifice of Christ’s body to be a perfect deliverance of all his people, to be a full satisfaction once, and forever, for all our sins — to be a free justification, redemption, and righteousness before God for ever, to all them that believe in him, without any other means or help adjoined to him — this is to know Christ Jesus crucified.” He apologizes for the publication of his sermon, and affirms that he only permitted it to be printed that it might give consolation to the humble and heavy laden. “Forsomuch,” he says, “as the Lord hath a remnant of some faithful servants, which walk after their Lord and God with a perfect heart, and are not hearers only, but seekers also of his kingdom; and especially for your cause that labor and are laden in conscience, wheresoever, or whatsoever ye are, in whom the Lord hath wrought an earnest hunger, and hearty seeking for his kingdom, for you most principally I have penned this sermon of Christ crucified, and to you specially I dedicate and commend the same; desiring the same Lord Jesus, crucified for us, that you in reading hereof may receive such spiritual refreshing to your souls, and high courage of faith in Christ Jesus, that neither Satan may deceive you; nor the law terrify you; nor death confound you; nor sin oppress you; nor conscience captive you; nor hellgates prevail over you; but that you, rightly understanding with all saints what is the hope of your calling, the riches of your inheritance, the greatness of his power towards you; and what is the breadth, length, and profundity, and what is the super-admirable love of knowledge of Jesus Christ crucified, may superabound in all heavenly consolation; (Ephesians 1.) and also, with a holy pride, may triumph in Christ Jesus.”
The text which he selected was from the fifth of the second of Corinthians.
He considers the sender of the message — the messengers — and the message of the gospel itself.
Many beautiful passages might be selected from these three divisions, especially the supposed address of Christ to Satan and to Death, and the final triumph of the Cross over all its enemies; as well as from the hortatory paragraphs at the conclusion. His prayer for the church has been generally admired. He concludes with a petition for the members of the church of Rome, which may still be offered with a devout and humble heart by the members of the church of England. “And as the bishop of Rome is wont on this Good Friday, and every Good Friday, to accurse us as damned heretics, we here curse not him, but pray for him, that he, with all his partakers, either may be turned to a better truth: or else, we pray thee, gracious Lord, that we never agree with him in doctrine, and that he may so curse us still, and never bless us more as he blessed us in queen Mary’s time! God of his mercy keep away that blessing from us! “Finally, instead of the pope’s blessing, give us thy blessing, Lord, we beseech thee, and conserve the peace of thy church, and course of thy blessed gospel. Help them that are needy and afflicted.
Comfort them that labor and are heavy laden. And above all things continue and increase our faith. And forasmuch as thy poor little flock can scarcely have any place or rest in the world, come Lord, we beseech thee, with thy ‘ It is finished;’ and make an end; that this world may have no more time nor place here, and that thy church may have rest for ever. “For these and all other necessities requisite to be begged and prayed for, asking in Christ’s name, and as he hath taught us, let us say the Lord’s Prayer — ‘ Our Father,’” etc.
A postscript to the papists follows, in which they are invited and urged to meet the weighty points of doctrine taught by the reformed Anglican church, relative to the sufficiency of Christ’s passion and atonement, either by refutation, or consent.
He says, that, having an empty page, he shall write a word or two to those who hold with the proceedings of Rome, craving them to refute his propositions, or yield to the truth of the doctrines contained in them. He then lays down the chief points of the controversy which divides the churches, to the effect following: — I. Whether they can find by the Scripture of God, or any approved doctor, that the sacrificed body of the Son of God, suffering once upon the cross on Good Friday, is not the only material and sufficient cause of our perfect salvation, remission of sins, and justification?
He then calls upon them for proofs against this doctrine — to let the world hear their reasons; and to let railing, trifling, and scoffing be done with. “Persecution and blood are no way,” he says, “to find out truth, but serve to blind it. The Scriptures, in the matter of salvation, teach without trope or figure, and will quickly decide the cause.”
Repeating, then, the above three points of doctrine as undeniable verities of Scripture; “seeing,” he says, “our justification and remission of sins stand consummated by Christ, free by promise, and assured by faith, declare, then, I beseech you — you, who so magnify the religion of Rome — declare unto us, how standeth with God’s religion your auricular confession for loosing of sins — your satisfaction for the same — your works of perfection and supererogation, masses, trentals — your propitiatory sacrifice — praying of saints, and to saints departed — your pardons, purgatory for cleansing of sin; building and entering into monasteries for the remission of sins; pilgrimages; stations of Rome; jubilees; straitness of orders; with an infinite number of such like? All which implements of your church, to what use now do they serve? or, how can they stand with Scripture, but either they must derogate from Christ’s passion; or else the passion of Christ must needs make them void?” “For the same Christ Jesus crucified, I desire you, therefore, if ye see these evidences true, then, be reconciled to the truth; and as St. Paul desireth you, be reconciled to God. Let the religion of God stand simple, as he left it himself. In other matters add what ye list; but, in matter and cause of salvation, Christ left nothing behind him to be added any more, either by apostles, or martyrs, or bishops, or any other. He consummated the perfection thereof fully by himself, leaving nothing therein imperfect.
Whereunto he that addeth blasphemeth; and doth no less than infringe the testament of our Lord.” These warnings and exhortations he then enforces by that strong admonition of St. Paul, (Galatians 1:9.) closing with hope that the Lord of grace might open their eyes to see, and their hearts to embrace the knowledge of his truth, to his glory, and their spiritual comfort, and their everlasting life in him.
Such was the Sermon on Christ Crucified, preached on Good Friday, by John Foxe at St. Paul’s Cross; and so long as the Liturgy of the Church of England is valued, or the holy Scriptures of truth are read, so long will this noble homily be esteemed, by the members of the catholic church, who can distinguish the inventions of man from the perfection and simplicity of the truth of the great atonement, which is the substance and the object of the revelation of the gospel of Christ.
The sermon at Paul’s Cross was preached on Good Friday, 1570, March 20th. The second edition of the Acts and Monuments was published in the course of the twelvemonth following. No parliament had now sat for four years. A parliament was called and met in. April, 1571. Before that time the work was printed. A letter from Mr. Norton would imply, however, that the Preface was not completed, and the work, therefore, was not published till the commencement of 1571. The letter is preserved among the Harleian papers. F199 The effect produced upon the public mind by the first edition of this great work, encouraged the martyrologist to render his second edition still more worthy the general attention. No railing, no indignation, no minor errors which might have been committed from haste or deficient evidence, could remove the effect of his authentic, undeniable narratives: that effect was deepened and increased by the exceeding imprudence of the church of Rome at this juncture. Not one prayer, not one doctrine, or sentiment, in the prayer-book of the church of England could be deemed heretical. The authority of the first four councils had been maintained by the act of the first year of Elizabeth; and the denial of the conclusions of those councils was made the criterion of heresy, as among the christian emperors, and our Saxon ancestors. The reformers had retained as many of the prayers and services of the ancient liturgies and rituals as they deemed essential, both from the Sacramentary of Gelasius and the services sanctioned by Gregory. They never desired to separate from communion with Rome.
They resolved only to reject its supremacy, and to act as an independent episcopal church. They, consequently, while they deemed the foreign Lutheran churches to be the dear sisters of the Anglican church, acknowledged the orders of the priesthood of the church of Rome; and permitted any Romish priest, on his professing his adherence to the church of England, to become a minister of the establishment. The laity attended their parish churches, whether they were attached to the theories of Calvin, or to the discipline of Rome. The former only believed that we had not rejected enough; the latter that we had rejected too much, of the longcontroverted propositions which the people had been taught to believe. All were willing to condemn the severity of Mary; all were united in one national worship, which was framed with the express intention of including the whole people in one true and catholic church.
While the second edition of Foxe’s work was being prepared for the press, the bishop of Rome, presuming still to act as if he were the ecclesiastical magistrate and supreme ruler of the universal church, violently broke up this union, separated himself and his church from their communion with the Anglican. church; and, daring to pronounce the queen “the pretended queen of England,” deposed her from the throne, and declared the nation absolved from their allegiance. This bull alone was the true cause of the subsequent enactments against the priests who obeyed the pope, and against the practices also of the members of the church of Rome. The real meaning of the bull was, that, as princes deposed by the popes might be rightly destroyed by their subjects, and their dominions be granted by him to any more orthodox and approved invader — every effort would be made from this moment to overturn the throne of Elizabeth, and to subdue the people of England to the dominion of the bishop of Rome. F200 The republication, therefore, of Foxe’s book, at this juncture, was most desirable; and the martyrologist spared no labor to render the work useful.
He collected fresh materials from all quarters on which he could depend; and prevented the possibility of indifference by his energetic eloquence, as well as by his indisputable narratives. F201 Those persons are much mistaken who suppose that the questions between the churches of England and of Rome were merely political, or ecclesiastical questions; that is, whether they referred only to civil liberty, or clerical discipline, or to any points of a mere earthly, temporal, or indifferent nature. Our fathers believed that the chief importance of the disputes between the two churches consisted in this — that the salvation of the soul was endangered by the wilful errors of the church of Rome.
They were convinced that the Romanist priests and bishops knew, and believed, that the opposition made by the various reformers to the tenets and conduct peculiar to their church, was just, righteous, and true; and that inferior and worldly motives alone prompted them to defend errors, to continue ignorance to the people, and to prevent the extension of christian knowledge. The Romanist spoke of the church, its authority, dignity, and power; the reformer’s spoke of Christ and his apostles, and defended their departure from the decisions of the church, by appealing to that higher tribunal. The Romanist appealed to tradition, antiquity, and the fathers; the reformer followed his antagonist into every dark page, pursued him through all the mazes of the recondite learning which revived on the discovery of printing, and demonstrated that the Romanist retained the errors, while the reformer retained the truths, which were sanctioned by these abused, yet venerable names. The Romanist demanded obedience to the most dubious councils; the reformer replied by pointing to the convocations of the Anglican church. The Romanist insisted upon the reception of every dogma which had been once sanctioned by the heads and doctors of the church; the reformer insisted upon the reception of those propositions only, which could be proved to be true, useful, and worthy of adoption, whether they were propounded, retained, or rejected by the most wise and most learned. In the course of the undying controversy, the stern pertinacity with which the church of Rome persevered in reforming no abuse — rescinding no error — prohibiting scripture, reasoning, doubting, or inquiry — commanding unlimited submission, and punishing with unrelenting severity the least resistance to its intolerable dominion, convinced the reformers, not only that the priesthood of the church of Rome were the enemies of liberty, truth, and improvement; but that they were willingly and wilfully the servile, supple tools of the worst system of tyranny, falsehood, and ignorance. They believed that the Romish priesthood were the enemies of human happiness, and the destroyers of the blessings of redemption; and this deep and heartfelt conviction gave that loftiness to their motives, and strength to their language, which their degenerate children now treat with obloquy and scorn.
None of our great ancestors were more impressed with this holy conviction of the danger of the doctrines of popery to the salvation of the soul, and of the wilful adherence of the Romanist priesthood to known error, than John Foxe; and this conviction is nowhere displayed so intensely, as in the preliminary papers which he prefixed to his several editions of this work. We find seven introductory prefaces, each of which, “in thoughts that breathe, and words that burn,” expresses the solemn conviction, that the souls of men were endangered by the wilful corruptions of God’s revealed truth adopted by the priesthood, and by the church of Rome.
The first preliminary paper is an address, in the most devout spirit and language, to Jesus Christ. He calls it an Eucharisticon; and amply will it repay the labor and attention which may be devoted to its perusal. “The work,” he says, “O adorable and supreme Savior, which I began and have completed under thy divine favor, contrary to the conviction which I entertained of my own strength and power, I now dedicate to thee. Thine omnipotent majesty cannot but know the labors, the watchings, the anxieties, which have attended the progress of the work, and which could not have been overcome unless thy divine grace had shone upon me. I thank thee, not only in my own name, but in the name of thy holy church.
Thy favor is the proof of the value in which thou holdest the martyrs of thy church. Thy will it was that I should declare to all men how honorable it is to die, valiantly contending for the glory of thy name. Every nation, people, and language, to the most remote posterity, shall praise the names of Cranmer, and Ridley, and Latimer, and Hooper, of Bradford and others, who died preferring thy glory to their own safety; and all who honor them shall despise and abhor their persecutors and destroyers.” He proceeds to lament the degeneracy of the day in which he and the sons of the martyrs lived; and commends his labor to the favor and protection of Him to whom every knee shall bow, and whose glory, shall be confessed through all the churches of God. The cause of the reformers and of the reformation is identified throughout, as the cause of the apostles and of Christianity was identified at the beginning — with the cause of Christ. The same fearlessness of man, and the same devotion of heart to God, enabled each to conquer priestcraft, and to give both truth and freedom to the world.
The second preface was the dedication to queen Elizabeth. He notices in this, the abuse which had been heaped upon his work, and the motives of his accusers. “When I first presented,” he says, “those Acts and Monuments to your majesty, which your majesty’s rare clemency received in such gentle part, I well hoped that those my travels in this kind of writing had been well at an end: whereby I might have returned to my studies again, to other purposes, after my own desire more fit, than to write histories, especially in the English tongue. But certain evil-disposed persons, of intemperate tongues, adversaries to good proceedings, would not suffer me so to rest; fuming and fretting, and raising up such miserable exclamations at the first appearance of the book, as was wonderful to hear.
A man would have thought Christ to have been new born again; and that Herod and all the city of Jerusalem had been in an uproar; such blustering and stirring was there against that poor book, through all quarters of England, even to the gates of Louvain. So that no English papist almost in all the realm thought himself a perfect catholic unless he had cast out some word or other to give that book a blow. They are ashamed,” he says, “to hear what they have done; though they were not ashamed to do, what they now blush to hear. F202 Being unable to work by the secular arm (the Lord preserve your majesty,” he emphatically adds, “many years!), they renewed again the practices, by which they had opposed the circulation of the Bible in the reign of Henry VIII.; they decried the book and the notes, and declared there were therein as many lies as lines. The foundation of all this calumny was three or four escapes only, in that book committed; and yet some of them were in the same book amended: they neither reading the whole, nor rightly understanding what they read, inveighed and maligned so perversely the setting out thereof, as though neither any word in all that story were true, nor any other story false in all the world. But then concerning such matters related by me that were errors indeed,” he adds, (“for the satisfaction of all sober, unprejudiced readers, if not for the silencing of those calumniators) that, nevertheless, in accusing these his accusers, he did not so excuse himself, nor defend his book, as though nothing in it were to be expunged or amended;” therefore he had taken pains “to reiterate his labors, in travelling out the story again: doing herein as Penelope did with her web, untwisting that she had done before: or as builders do sometimes; take down again their buildings, either to transpose the fashion, or to make the foundation larger:” so he, “in recognizing this history, had employed a little more labor, partly to enlarge the argument he took in hand, partly also to essay, whether by any pains-taking he might pacify the stomachs, or satisfy the judgments, of the importune quarrellers.”
Though the doctrine of toleration was not understood, and the will of the prince was still too much considered to be the criterion of truth acceptable to God, yet neither papist nor puritan was pursued with the severity which had marked the former reign; and the very cessation of the relentlessness of the still existing laws, made the martyrologist justly call this period of the reign of Elizabeth, the halcyon days of England. He declares, too, that his great object was not merely to commend his book to the queen, and to the learned, but to consider the necessity of the ignorant flock of Christ, to relieve their ignorance, and to instruct their simplicity.
As the histories of the sufferers for the truth’s sake in the olden times benefited the church, so he believes the church of his own day would be benefited by the histories of the modern martyrs. With some other observations of the same nature he concludes: — and he is right in the sentiment he here expresses. His work has hitherto imbued the more unlearned, yet not less wise, and clearly-judging christian commonalty of England, with a thorough dread of the laws and principles which could induce our rulers, on any pretense whatever, to identify the canon laws of the church against heresy with the statute laws of the country; and thus to render legal the cruelty of an erroneous priesthood. And that man, even in the present day, who shall endeavor, until the canon laws of Rome are expunged from its conciliar and papal codes, to lessen our horror at its crimes of persecution, or of the claims on which the right to persecute is founded, is a traitor to his Savior, to his country, and to the true catholic church. If primitive Christianity was worth establishing, it was worth defending. If the reforlnation — which was only the restoration of the best portions of that primitive Christianity — was worth establishing, that also is worth defending, in all times, and through all dangers.
But, though the martyrologist was thus anxious to imbue the minds of his poorer and more ignorant countrymen with a right and holy detestation of cruelty and spiritual usurpation, he was too deeply learned to shrink from any criticism, or any inquiry, which the most profound scholar of that age of scholars could institute or demand. The object, indeed, of all clerical learning is to enlarge the knowledge of the poorer and ignorant classes, as the object of all medical knowledge is to benefit the peasant and the mechanic, as well as the noble and the prince. The next preface, therefore, of Foxe, was addressed to the learned reader — and it is at once a challenge to the critic to discover any intentional misrepresentations, and an apology for unavoidable defects. “When I consider,” he says, “the difficulty, in times when all things are misrepresented, of writing with such circumspection as to avoid calumny, I almost deem that those persons are subjects of envy, who live m ease and dignity, enjoying the labors of others, as spectators, rather than as actors in the great theater of life. Never has it been my lot to taste the sweetness of such leisure. I do not, however, complain, if’ my labors might be but useful: though I suffer under the disadvantage of not being able to render my subject interesting; for I cannot relate falsehoods without injustice to my history, nor speak the truth without the hatred and envy of many. What else indeed could have been expected, than that, after I had, by my indefatigable, though perhaps useless labor, ruined my health, lost my sight, brought on premature old age, and exhausted my strength, I should suffer from the contempt and scorn of my calunmiators. No human aid, indeed, could have supported me; nothing but the divine power alone, to whom I have and do commend myself and my book. And to thee, also, learned and pious reader, in the same spirit I submit my labors.”
He goes on to observe on the impossibility of pleasing all, and especially those, who, even before the publication of his book, professed to anticipate a golden legend only. He relates the sacrifice of health, by which alone he had been able to complete his work. He contrasts the truth of his narrative with the falsehood of those real legends in which his adversaries were accustomed to believe. He alludes to his framing the calendar, in which he substitutes the names of his martyrs for those which the Romanists had placed in their calendars; and he inquires, whether Cranmer was not as worthy of a place in their commemorations as Becket; whether Nicholas Ridley was not fit to be compared with pope Nicholas; or whether Latimer, Hooper, and Marsh were not as admirable, and as praiseworthy, as the best and greatest of those whom the Romanists esteemed? “I wish neither,” he adds, “to diminish the honor nor extinguish the memory of any good or holy man, in whatever age he may have lived; and if my calendar of saints offend any, let it be remembered, that I arrange them in their places, in the days of the months, for the use of domestic reading, and not for any commemoration in the service and house of God.
F204 He concludes with a beautiful paragraph, expressing his consciousness of much imperfection, after all his efforts; and reminding the reader of the Greek proverb, that it is more easy to criticise than to imitate.
It is a protestation “to the true and faithful congregation of Christ’s universal church, and to all and singular the members thereof throughout the whole realm of England, wishing to the same abundance of peace and tranquillity, with the speedy coming of Christ the Spouse to make an end of all mortal misery.” This address may be called a national sermon, and a condensation into the briefest possible space of the work which follows it.
It consists of twenty-seven paragraphs, and breathes throughout the spirit of peace and love. I will endeavor to compress this beautiful preface into the shortest compass, to enable all to judge whether John Foxe deserves the exchange of the former veneration which was paid him, for the cold ingratitude, or affected contempt of the day in which we live.
As the glory of God, he begins (par. 1), filled the temple which was seven years in building; so he prays (par. 2) that a blessing may be granted to this edition of his work, to which he had devoted seven years of labor.
But, as in the temple of Solomon some came (par. 3) to buy and sell, to walk, and gaze, to find fault, and to destroy, so had many proceeded with his book. He desires all faults to be pointed out, and he will correct them: but these men (par. 4), like Cicero’s dog in the Capitol, who barked not at robbers but at honest men, blaspheme the martyrs of Christ, and canonize them for saints, whom the Scriptures would condemn as dishonorable and disloyal subjects. He leaves, however, these persons (par. 5)to address the well-minded lovers and partakers of Christ’s gospel; and to beg them (par. 6) to judge that history which was written to profit all, and to displease none. He grieved to see the simple and the unlearned (par. 7) deceived by the histories which had been written by the monks and by the clients of Rome: who had so related all things to the honor of the church of Rome, that the generality believed there was no truth, but the doctrines which Rome taught, and no true church but that over which the bishop of Rome presided. He then (par. 8) enumerates the authors to whom he refers, and instances their partiality in the suppression of truth, and in their elevating the church, the see, and the bishop of Rome. When he considered this list of authors, and the intolerable corruption of history by their means, (par. 9), he deemed it to be his duty to endeavor to give a faithful history to the people; and (par. 10) to present to the world the double portrait of the church of Rome on the one hand, and the church of Christ, which Rome oppressed and persecuted, on the other. In the next six paragraphs he draws the contrast between that part of the catholic church of Christ which became corrupt, and inflicted persecution; and that part of the catholic church which was less corrupt, and which suffered persecution.
He assigns the principal dates of the greater corruptions of the church (par. 17 — 19) to the ages immediately preceding and following the pontificate of Hildebrand; and then details the long and glorious list of witnesses, whom the providence of God raised up in every age to protest, before the days of Luther, against the corruptions and cruelty of the dominant usurpation over the bishops and churches of the catholic church of Christ.
This list begins at par. 20, and continues through the seven which follow; and it is concluded by the triumphant affirmation, that the church, as it had been lately reformed, is not the new, but the old continued church, to which the promise of Christ had been given, and to which, by the providence of God, that promise had never failed. Thus far this preface is amply deserving of the approbation of the critical reader. The next paragraph (par. 28) contains a specimen of one of those faults which is justly alleged to be a great drawback from the value of his work — the fault of credulity. He affirms, but on insufficient evidence, that God sent down from heaven, upon the garments and caps of men, in Germany, marks of his passion — as the bloody cross, the nails, the spear, and the crown of thorns — to denote the persecutions which were about to take place. I would have believed this, as I would believe all the tales in the Talmud, if I had sufficient evidence for doing so; but there is none: and I grieve that the authority of Foxe should be diminished by his credulity.
The 29th paragraph, too, has some unre-eeivable notions derived from his interpretation of prophecy. The conclusion is an exhortation to the church of England, well suited, not only to the day in which Foxe lived, but to our own age also; to avoid the schism which alienates the heart of man from man; and it ends with a prayer that, in one unity of doctrine, we may gather ourselves into one ark of the true church together. He considered rightly that the enemy to the union of all our brethren and countrymen into one true church, was the church of Rome: while he deprecated, at the same time, the incipient schism of the puritans.
The next prefatory tract to this edition, is an address on the utility of this story. It consists of some general, though apt remarks on the value of history, and more especially on the usefulness of a martyrology; which he therefore published for the use of the common people. “In the lives and deaths of these men,” he observes, “we have the manifest declarations of the divine power within them; when we behold such strength to suffer, such readiness to answer, such patience in imprisonment, such godliness in forgiving, such cheerfulness and courage in suffering, with such manifold sense of the divine presence, the deaths of these saints do not a little avail to the establishing of a good conscience, to the contempt of the world, and to the fear of God. They confirm faith, increase godliness, abate pride in prosperity, and in adversity do open an hope of heavenly comfort. For, what man, reading the misery of these godly persons, may not therein, as in a glass, behold his own case, whether he be godly or godless? For, if God give adversity unto good men, what may either the better sort promise themselves, or the evil not fear? And as by reading of profane stories we are made more skillful, perhaps, in warlike affairs, so by reading this we are made better in our livings; and, besides, are better prepared unto the like conflicts, (if by God’s permission they shall happen hereafter,) more wise by their doctrine, and more stedfast by their example.” — “To be short, they declare to the world what true christian fortitude is, and what is the right way to conquer, which standeth not in the power of man, but in the hope of the resurrection to coma In consideration whereof, me-thinks I have good cause to wish that, like as other subjects, even so also kings and princes, which commonly delight in heroical stories, would diligently peruse such monuments of martyrs, and lay them always in sight, not only to read, but to follow, and would paint them upon their walls, cups, rings, and gates.” — “ If martyrs, too, are to be compared with martyrs, I see no reason why the martyrs of our time deserve any less commendation than the other in the primitive church, which assuredly are inferior unto them in no point of praise; whether we view the number of them that suffered, or the greatness of their torments, or their constancy in dying, or also consider the fruit that they brought to the amendment of posterity, and increase of the gospel. They did water with their blood the truth that was newly springing up; so these by their deaths restored it again, being so decayed and fallen down. They, standing in the forward of the battle, did receive the first encounter and violence of their enemies, and taught us by that means to overcome such tyranny; these with like courage again, like old beaten soldiers, did win the field in the rereward of the battle. They, like famous husbandmen of the world, did sow the fields of the church, that first lay unmanured and waste; these with their blood did cause it to batten and fructify. Would to God the fruit might be speedily gathered into the barn, which only remaineth behind to come!” “If we ascribe such reputation, too,” he adds, “to godly preachers, (and worthily,) which diligently preach the gospel of Christ when they live, notwithstanding, without all fear of persecution, how much more reasonable cause have we to praise and extol such men as stoutly spend their lives for the defense of the same! All these premises duly, of our parts, considered and marked, seeing we have found so famous martyrs in this our age, let us not fail, then, in publishing and setting forth their doings, lest in that point we seem more unkind to them than the writers of the primitive church were to theirs. And though we impute not their ashes, chains, and swords, instead of relics, yet, let us yield thus much unto their commemoration, to glorify the Lord in his saints, and imitate their death (as much as we may) with like constancy, or their lives, at the least, with like innocency. They offered their bodies willingly to the rough handling of the tormentors; and is it so great a matter, then, for our part, to mortify our flesh, with all the members thereof? They continued in patient suffering when they had most wrong done to them, and when their very hearts’ blood gushed out of their bodies; and yet will not we forgive our poor brother, be the injury never so small, but are ready, for every trifling offense, to seek his destruction, and cut his throat. They, wishing well to all men, did of their own accord forgive their persecutors; and therefore ought we, which are now the posterity and children of martyrs, not to degenerate from their former steps, but, being admonished by their examples, if we cannot express their charity towards all men, yet, at least, to imitate the same, to our power and strength. Let us give no cause of offense to any: and if any be given to us, let us overcome it with patience, forgiving, and not revenging the same. And let us not only keep our hands from shedding of blood, but our tongues also from hurting the fame of others.
Besides, let us not shrink, if case so require, by martyrdom or loss of life, according to their example, to yield up the same in defense of the Lord’s flock. Which thing, if men would do, much less contention and business would be in the world than now is. And thus much touching the utility and fruit to be taken of this history.”
The third , whether the description of the apocalyptic beast in the Revelations could refer to any other power than to papal Rome? F205 The last question was , whether the religion of Christ be spiritual or corporeal?
In answering this question he lightly values, I am sorry to say, not merely a large mass of the observances, ceremonies, and customs of the church of Rome, but many of the rites and opinions which are valued, regarded, or observed by the members of the church of England. He speaks scornfully, for instance, of the outward succession of bishops, vestures, fasting in Lent, and keeping the Ember-days. He forgot that some outward ordinances are essential to the upholding the inward and spiritual religion which he approved. He defends rightly the doctrine of justification by faith alone, as the instrumental cause of our acceptance, while the sanctification of the soul will ever be the result.
He ends his remarks on this question by briefly replying to the argument of Pighius and Hosius — that the church must be always visible, and that Rome alone, therefore, can be the true church. This reasoning was subsequently adopted by Bossuet; and it has been learnedly refuted by the greatest theologian and ornament of our age, Mr. Faber, who has proved that all the marks required by Bossuet and his brethren to meet m the true church are to be found in the churches of the Waldenses. The right answer to the supposed, not real, difficulty consists rather in this — that some portions of Christ’s church apostatized, and then persecuted those who did not follow their example. The members who did not apostatize are always discernible. They can be tracked in the blood of their martyrs.
They can be discerned by the fires which consumed them. The results of their labors may be found in the establishment of the episcopal reformed church of England, and in the fearless toleration, sanctioned both by its ecclesiastical and temporal rulers. F206 The next preface consists of four considerations, addressed to christian protestants, exhorting them to loyalty to the government; congratulating them on their peace and repose from persecution; inviting them to gratitude to God for the contrast; and to study peace and holiness. He concludes by wishing peace to the preachers, grace to the hearers, and glory to Christ, their common Lord. It is in the first paragraph of this brief preface that the expression, “liberty of conscience” appears to have been used in its modern sense.
The martyrologist, after these several prefaces, proceeds at once to his narrative, which he commences with that most useful introduction on the contrast between Rome apostolical, when St. Paul alluded to its purity of faith, spoken of throughout the whole world; and Rome papal, corrupted with error, and stained with the blood of the martyrs and holy men of God. It was the custom among our fathers to prefix to their works any eulogistical verges which might have been presented to them by their contemporaries. Ten copies of Latin, and one of English verse, are prefixed to the editions of Foxe. The first is by Lawrence Humphrey, his fellowexile, and now professor of divinity and president of Magdalen College, Oxford. The approbation of such men constitutes true fame. Dr.
Humphrey was one of the best scholars, linguists, and theologians of that day. F207 His verses, however, on Foxe must be said to be more distinguished for their friendly zeal for the author, than for their elegance.
Hartwell translated from the Italian, Menadoi’s Warres between the Turks and Persians; Lopez Kingdom of Congo, by Pigafetta; and the Ottoman Empire of Mahomet III, by Lazara Lorango. He translated from the Latin, Haddon’s Answer to Osorius, and many other Italian and Latin works. He was the author also of The Antiquity of Mottoes in England, and of The Antiquity of Epitaphs in England, republished afterwards by Hearne.
The third and fourth are by an author who signs his name Robert R. This was probably Robert Rollock, born at Stirling 1556, who died in 1598. He is called by Spottiswoode a learned, wise and strong defender of the rights of the church. He was educated at St. Andrew’s, when he went through a course of philosophy. He was made regent of his college, and was the first theological professor of the college of Edinburgh in 1583. He was greatly esteemed among the foreign reformed churches. He wrote, among other things, In Selectos aliquot Psalmos Davidis Commentarius; Analysis Logica in Epistolam ad Hebraeos, etc.; In Danielem Prophetam Commentarius; In Sancti Johannis Epist. Secund. Commentarius, etc.
The fifth copy of Latin verses was written by Thomas Drant, a distinguished poet and divine of the day. He translated and published two books of “Horace, his Satyres,” the Epigrams and Spiritual Sentences of Gregory Nazianzen, and Poetical Paraphrases of many parts of Scripture, the chief of which was on Ecclesiastes, published in 1572.
The sixth is an epigram only, in two lines, by T. J.F. I cannot ascertain the author thus designated. The epigram is not very admirable. “Si fas caedendo coelestia scandere cuique est, Papicolis coeli maxima porta patet.” The seventh was by Giles Fletcher, the father of the two poets, Giles and Phineas Fletcher. He was educated at Eton, and was admitted at King’s College in 1565. He was now residing at Cambridge. According to Anthony Wood, he became an excellent poet. He was employed by queen Elizabeth as commissioner in Scotland, Germany, and the Low Countries, and concluded a treaty of commerce with Russia in 1588, the year of the Armada, on terms which were deemed most advantageous to the interests of his countrymen. His account of Russia is printed in Hakluyt’s Voyages in 1643.
The tenth is by Philip Stubbes, one of the most popular writers of the day. He was the author of “A Motive to Good Workes, wherein is showed how far we are behind our forefathers, etc. etc., with the difference between the pretended Good Works of Papists and Protestants; “ 1591, 8vo.
The English verses prefixed to this edition were written by Hopkins, the versifier of the last ninety-nine Psalms of the well-known authorized version, printed by Daye, in 4to, 1559, with those of Sternhold and Whittingham, before the publication of the version of Tate and Brady.
This list of contributors of eulogistical verses, though it includes the names of statesmen, lawyers, poets, and theologians, will not, in the present day, be considered as demonstrating the value of the Martyrology. Another tribute, however, was now paid to the book, which is more especially entitled to the attention of those who are disposed to submit their judgment to the authority of the church, and to receive its decisions with the respect and deference which are justly due to a tribunal, from which there ought, if possible, to be no appeal. The parliament met on the 3d of April, 1571. The convocation of the province of Canterbury, which was then considered, as it ought ever to be, an efficient, component part of the great national senate, met at the same time. The convocation of the province of York began also at the same time. It passed a resolution to deliberate upon some reformation in the churches of that province on Wednesday the 9th of May; and it sate, by adjournment, three weeks after the parliament was dissolved. I mention this circumstance, because it is one, of many facts, which proves that the meeting of the convocation was not necessarily dependent upon the meetings of the parliament. F209 The convocation of the province of Canterbury, however, proceeded to business. They assembled on the 3d of April at St. Paul’s church. They confirmed the thirty-nine articles, and enacted many canons for the better regulation of the churches, and ordering of the lives of the clergy and people. Among other decrees, the archbishop and bishops resolved, that the edition of Foxe’s Acts and Monuments, lately printed at London, f210 should be placed in the churches, and in the halls and houses of the bishops, archdeacons, and others, to be read and studied by the people.
These canons were not, it is true, sanctioned by the queen, who seemed to be resolved to permit no power in England but that which emanated from her imperious self. Neither were they enacted by the parliament. They did not, therefore, become law. They were, however, strictly adopted as canons; that is, as regulations for the churches, proposed to the clergy, and adopted, both by them and their congregations, as rules, though not laws of conduct. The books of the Acts and Monuments were, consequently, placed in the churches and other public situations, and were generally retained there, till the time of archbishop Laud, by whose influence, as we shall see, they are supposed to have been removed. F211 The next great work on which we find our illustrious martyrologist to have been employed was the Reformatio Legum, the collection of regulations which were drawn up, after the church of England ceased to be subjected to the church of Rome, for its better government, under its own princes and convocations.
Those infatuated men who are reviving ancient errors, and enforcing them in the name of the church, and who are endeavoring to quench the last spark of the old love of truth for the truth’s sake, by stigmatizing it with the name of ultra-protestantism, will be, perhaps, surprised at the declaration, that the ultra-protestant John Foxe, with all those who resemble him, are as much entitled to be called Roman Catholics, as the bishop of Rome himself, with the whole college of cardinals. By the laws of Theodosius and Justinian, the epithet catholic was given to those Christians who adopted the decisions of the council of Nice and of the first four councils. The word “Roman” was commanded to precede the word “catholic,” to denote that the subjects of Justinian, the head of the Roman empire, before the cession of the spiritual dominion to the bishop of Rome, were required both in the West and East, to profess the Trinitarian, Roman, or Universal Creed. Roman Catholics, therefore, originally denoted the episcopalian Trinitarians, who were subjects, not of the bishop of Rome, but of the emperor of Rome; and because Britain had not been formally surrendered by the emperor to the enemies of the state, this island was deemed to be a part of the empire; and the episcopalian Trinitarians of this island, therefore — and they were numerous before the flight of Theonas — were called Roman Catholics before Augustine was commissioned by Gregory. John Foxe was an episcopalian Trinitarian, living within the precincts of the old Roman empire; and he was justly, therefore, entitled, as all the members of the episcopal church of England still are, to be called a Roman Catholic. The bishop of Rome usurped the scepter; and, availing himself of the epithet “Roman,” which appeared more peculiarly appropriate to him and his church, he gradually procured the identification of Christianity with the decrees and doctrines of the Italian church. The canon, pontifical, and conciliar laws, which upheld at once the doctrinal errors and political power of the bishop of Rome over states, princes, and people, became slowly, yet surely, the code of the universal jurisprudence of Europe. When the time arrived that the papal usurpation, and the code of laws which upheld it, became intolerable, the cities and states which rejected the doctrinal errors of the church of Rome, deemed it necessary to embody their faith in confessions, creeds, or articles; and they found it advisable also to adopt some known laws of discipline, as their additional bond of union. Whatever be the agreement of any society or church in doctrine, among those who desire the best mode of worship, agreement in discipline is essential to the happiness, peace, and union of the worshippers. F213 The second diet of Spires (1529) occasioned the adoption of the word Protestant; not in a religious but in a civil point of view; in consequence of the emperor, Charles V., wishing to revoke the edict of a diet held at the same place three years before, which left the princes of Germany at liberty to manage all ecclesiastical matters in their respective dominions, without imperial interference, until the meeting of a general council. Against this revocation the princes protested in the second diet; hence the name, which was afterwards applied to all those who followed not Rome in its errors.
The indefiniteness, however, of the word, as thus applied, rendered it insufficient to describe the conclusions both in faith and discipline, which the indignant representatives of the houses of Bradenburgh, Hesse, Lunenburg, Anhalt, and the delegates of fourteen imperial cities desired to uphold. Ultra-protestants they all were, because they were Christians resolved to maintain truth, whether scriptural, traditional, or novel, at all hazards; but the mere rejection of error does not constitute that truth; and Luther undertook to supply a compendium of rites and tenets for the congregations of the rejectors of error. He comprised his system in seventeen articles, which he delivered to the electors at Torgau. They are called, therefore, the Articles of Torgau. These were, unfortunately, considered too general. The imperial diet, in the following June, assembled at Augsburg, and there the celebrated confession was drawn up, which is the probable foundation of the chief articles of the church of England. F214 They were principally prepared by Melancthon; who may be considered as injuring, however, rather than serving the cause of the union of the protesting seceders from the communion of Rome, by too great minuteness of detail. The primitive creeds were short and simple; and it would have been well for the reformed churches, if Melancthon had imitated their example. The fatal consequences of this minuteness was, that as Protestantism, or protesting against Rome only, could not be a sufficient bond of union; and as Zuingle and his adherents declined to adhere to the confession of Augsburgh; a division began among the continental reformers, which suspended the secession from Rome, and enabled that vigilant church to re-establish its influence in so ninny quarters where it had been either destroyed or weakened. In the year 1535, Luther endeavored, at the request of the bewildered controversialists, to revise his scheme of faith and discipline; and the articles of Smalcald were at length decided upon, as the creed and code of the Lutheran churches in Europe.
In the same year John Calvin published his Institutes, as another compendium of faith and discipline. This work is founded on the interpretations of Scripture which his own criticism or reason adopted, without sufficient deference to that universal institution of episcopacy which prevailed in the days of the last apostle; and which might fairly and philosophically have been presumed, therefore, to have been an indispensable bond of that union for which Christ prayed. The talent, erudition, fervency, and eloquence of this great writer, has rendered his work most influential even to the present day. The omission of all recommendation to his followers to restore episcopacy whenever it might be possible, together with his reducing the more difficult doctrines of Scripture into a system incompatible with certain other agreeing, though seemingly inconsistent truths, have already begun to sap the foundation of his authority, even in the presbyterian communities. He nobly recommended the appealing to Scripture as the ultimate and only arbiter of all controversies, as the church of England encourages its people to do at present — and that Scripture will as certainly induce the eventual rejection of that perversion of episcopacy which commits the power to rule the churches to those who have authority only to instruct, but not to govern; as well as that opposite perversion of episcopacy also, which commits the power to rule all churches to the bishop of Rome. Episcopacy will ever be found to be the best bond of union to a divided clergy, and to an inquiring people.
The example of the continental reformers was followed in England. The history of the several changes in the conclusions, in matters of faith, proposed and adopted by our convocations, princes, people, and the whole church of England, till the final revision of the thirty-nine Articles, must be left to the historian. The attempt to establish a code of ecclesiastical law, which should supersede the ancient, pontifical, and conciliar canon laws, whether those which were collected by Lyndwood, in the reign of Henry VI. or others, is interesting to us, on account of the part which was assigned to Foxe in preparing it for the consideration of the queen and the legislature.
Before the great effort which was made in the reign of Henry VIII. to emancipate the church and people of England from the yoke of a foreign bishop, the clergy of the church, either with or without the king’s permission, in conformity with the summons of the bishops or archbishops, were accustomed, according to the reasonableness of the ease, and the primitive practice of the eastern episcopal churches, to meet in councils, synods, convocations, and conventions, to make canons and laws for the general regulation of the community. When communion with Rome implied submission to Rome, these synods and convocations were unavoidably obedient to the foreign influence, and many laws were enacted which dashed with the allegiance of the subject to the temporal prince; it consequently became necessary, in order more effectually to complete the emancipation of England from Rome, that the temporal prince should wrest from the ecclesiastical authority, this portion of its power. This was done by the king’s requiring from the clergy that the convocation should enact no laws for the subjects of the realm, without the consent of the king. The authority of the bishops to make regulations which were binding on the consciences of the clergy, but which were not a part of the law of the realm, suffered no interference. This obedience of the clergy to the king, was made by the convocation in the twenty-fifth year of the reign of Henry VIII.
For the satisfaction of those who may not have ready access to copies of the proceedings of the convocation and parliament relative to the final breach of Henry VIII. with Rome, I subjoin, in three parallel columns, the submission of the clergy assembled in the convocation of 1682, the recital of the same before the parliament, and the final enactment, in the parliament of 1534, founded on the submission and recital. These three together may be said to be the foundation of the Reformatio Legum.
THE CONVOCATION’ S SUBMISSION.
We your most humble subjects, daily oratours, and beadsmen of your clergy of England, having our special trust and confidence in your most excellent wisdom, your princely goodness, and fervent zeal to the promotion of God’s honor and Christian religion, and also in your learning, far exceeding, in our judgment, the learning of all other kings and princes that we have read of; and doubting nothing but that the same shall continue, and daily increase in your majesty; THE PARLIAMENT’S RECITAL.
Whereas the king’s humble and obedient subjects, the clergy of the realm of England, have not only knowledged according to the truth, that the convocations of the same clergy is, always hath been, and ought to be assembled only by the king’s writ; but also,SUBMITTING themselves to the king’s majesty; ENACTMENT UPON THE RECITAL.
Be it therefore now enacted by authority of this Parliament, according to the saidSUBMISSION andPETITION, of the said clergy.
THE CONVOCATION’S SUBMISSION.
First do offer and promise, in verbo sacerdotii, here unto your highness, SUBMITTING ourselves most humbly to the same, that we will never from henceforth enact, put in use, promulge, or execute any new canons, or constitution provincial, or any new ordinance provincial or synodal, in our convocation or synod, in time coming (which convocation is, always hath been, and must be assembled only by your high commandment or writ), unless your highness by your royal assent, shall license us to assemble our convocatian, and to make, promulge, and execute such constitutions and ordinances as shall be made in the same, and there to give your royal assent and authority.
Secondarily, That whereas divers of the constitutions, ordinances, and canons provincial or synodal, which hath been heretofore enacted, be thought to be not only much prejudicial to your prerogative royal, but also overmuch onerous to your highness’ subjects, your clergy aforesaid is contented if it may stand with your highness’ pleasure that it be committed to the examination and judgment of your grace, and of thirty-two persons, whereof sixteen to be of the upper and nether house of the temporality, and other sixteen of the clergy; all to be chosen and appointed by your most noble grace; so that finally, which soever of the said constitutions, ordinances, or canons, provincial or synodal, shall be thought and determined by your grace, and by the most part of the said thirty-two persons, not to stand with God’s laws and the laws of your realm, the same to be abrogated and taken away by your grace and the clergy; and such of them as shall be seen by your grace, and by the most part of the said thirty-two persons, do stand with God’s laws and the laws of your realm, to stand in full strength and power, your grace’s most royal assent and authority once impetrate and fully given to the same.
THE PARLIAMENT’S RECITAL. 1.
Have promised in verbo sacerdotii that they will never from henceforth presume to attempt, alledge, claim, or put in use, or enact, promulge, or execute any new canons, constitutions, ordinance, provincial or other, or by whatsoever other name they shall be called in the convocation, unless the king’s most royal assent and license may to them be had to make, promulge, and execute the same, and that his majesty do give his most royal assent and authority in that behalf.
II. And whereas divers constitutions, ordinances, and canons provincial or synodal, which heretofore hath been enacted, and be thought not only to be much prejudicial to the king’s prerogative royal, and repugnant to the laws and statutes of the realm, but also overmuch onerous to his highness and his subjects, the said clergy hath most humblyBESOUGHT the king’s highness, that the said constitutions and canons may be committed to the examination and judgment of his highness and of thirty-two persons of the king’s subjects, whereof sixteen to be of the upper and nether house of parliament of the temporality, and other sixteen to be of the clergy of this realm, and all the said thirty-two persons to be chosen and appointed by the king’s majesty. And that such of the said constitutions as shall be thought and determined by the said thirty-two persons, or the more part of them worthy to be abrogated and annulled, shall be abolite, and made of no value accordingly. And such other of the same constitutions and canons as by the said thirty-two or the more part of them, shall be approved to stand with the laws of God, and consonant to the laws of this realm, shall stand in their full strength and power, the king’s most royal assent first had and obtained to the same.
ENACTMENT UPON THE RECITAL.
That they or any of them from henceforth shall not presume to attempt, alledge, claim, or put in use, any constitutions or ordinance provincial, or synodals, or any other canons, nor shall enact, promulge, or execute any such canons, constitutions, or ordinance provincial, by whatsoever name or names they may be called in their convocations in time coming, which always shall be assembled by authority of the king’s writ, unless the same clergy may have the king’s most royal assent and license to make, promulge, and execute such canons, constitutions, and ordinances, provincial or synodal, upon pain of every one of the said clergy doing contrary to this act, and being thereof convict, to suffer imprisonment and make fine at the king’s will.
II. And forasmuch as such canons, constitutions, and ordinances, as heretofore hath been made by the clergy of this realm, cannot now at the session of this present parliament, by reason of shortness of time, be viewed, examined, and determined by the king’s highness and thirty-two persons, to be chosen and appointed according to thePETITION of the said clergy, in form above rehearsed, be it therefore enacted by authority aforesaid, that the king’s highness shall have power and authority to nominate and assign at his pleasure the said thirty-two persons of his subjects, whereof sixteen to be of the clergy, and sixteen to be of the temporality of the upper and nether house of the parliament. And if any of the said thirty-two persons so chosen happen to die before their full determination, then his highness to nominate other from time to time of the said two houses of parliament to supply the number of the said thirtytwo.
And that the said thirty-two by his highness so to be named, shall have power and authority to view, search, and examine the said canons, constitutions, and ordinance provincial and synodal, heretofore made; and such of them as the king’s highness, and the said thirty-two, or the more part of them, shall deem and adjudge worthie to be continued, kept, and obeyed, shall be from thenceforth kept, obeyed, and executed within this realm, so that the king’s most royal assent under his great seal be first had to the same. And the residue of the said canons, constitutions, and ordinance provincial which the king’s highness and the said thirty-two persons, or the more part of them, shall not approve or deem worthie, to be abolit, abrogate, and made frustrate, shall from thenceforth be void and of none effect, and never be put in execution within this realm.
Such was the substance of the celebrated act of submission on the part of the clergy of the church of England to their temporal sovereign. They committed all questions respecting the canons, which should receive the force of law, to the secular prince. The review of the canon law, which was now contemplated, has, it is true, never been made; and therefore all canons, then existing, not repugnant to the law of the land, or the king’s prerogative, are still required to be used. Such limitation, however, though the act was not carried into effect, at once superseded the old pontifical and decretal law, and thus severed the dominion of the papal, from the statute and parliamentary, law of England. The act which thus empowered the king to nominate commissioners, and enacted that the canons they approved, if sanctioned by the king under the great seal, should be the laws of the realm, was renewed in 1536 (stat. 27 Hen. VIII. c. 15), and again in 1544 (stat. 35 Hen. VIII. c. 16.) In the latter case it was so far carried into execution, that commissioners were appointed, a body of ecclesiastical law digested, and a letter of ratification prepared for the king’s signature. But this signature was never affixed; and the powers granted to the crown having been limited to the lifetime of Henry VIII., a fresh act was passed with the same object in 1549. Commissioners are said to have been named shortly afterwards in pursuance of its provisions; but if this was the fact, they seem to have made little progress in the business, for a new commission was issued in October, 1551, to eight bishops, eight divines, eight civilians, and eight common lawyers; of whom eight were selected to gather and put in order the materials. “But the matter,” says Strype, “was in effect wholly entrusted by the king to Cranmer, the archbishop, who associated to himself in the active part of the work, Taylor, Martyr, and Haddon.” And this account is confirmed by the numerous corrections in the handwriting of Cranmer and Peter Martyr, which may still be seen in a MS. copy of the projected code preserved in the British Museum. F217 The commission (attached to the edition of the work, 1640,) is dated Nov. 11, 1551, and seems to have superseded that of October, for the sole purpose of substituting the names of Goodrich, bishop of Ely, William May, and Richard Goodrich, for those of Ridley, Traheron, and Gosnold. A reason may easily be found for the introduction of the bishop of Ely into this commission, as it had recently been determined, on the disgrace of lord Rich, to raise him to the office of lord chancellor. The code was completed by these commissioners, but not early enough to obtain the force of law before the death of king Edward. F218 The premature death of king Edward having thus rendered the design abortive, an attempt was made in the year 1571 to revive the plan. The parliament having met in April, seven bills for the regulation of the church were brought under discussion. Mr. Strickland was the principal speaker.
He reminded the house, that the book of the Reformatio Legum still existed, and was now in the hands of Mr. Norton, a member of that house; and that Mr. Foxe, the martyrologist, had newly published the same. F219 Parker had probably selected Foxe to edit the book, or he had perhaps directed his attention to it, on account of the uncertainty of the law on the subject of ecclesiastical discipline. It is certain that he had been engaged upon it for some time previously to its publication, as appears by a letter to Cecil in favor of Daye the printer, and another from Lawrence Humphrey to himself, dated 1566. The book was printed, and placed in the possession of the members of the house. The materials had been left by Sir John Cheke, Haddon, Cranmer, Coxe, Peter Martyr; by Taylor and May, the civilians; and by Lucas and Goodrich, common lawyers, who had been employed upon it in 1551. F220 If any name would have commanded its adoption, it would have been that of Foxe as its editor, for his popularity was now at its height. But the members of the House of Commons who desired to bring the book again into notice, belonged to the puritan party, which was now beginning to obtain influence; and it was found then, as it is now, that the most useful and undoubted truths which can be submitted to the approbation of a community, are regarded neither for their usefulness nor their truth, but are valued or despised, according to the estimation of the party which may propose them. So useful were the principal laws of the Reformatio Legum considered by bishop Burnet, that he earnestly desired their enactment. F221 Elizabeth, however, jealous of their supposed encroachment on her supremacy, told the Commons, that she had seen their articles, and liked them well, but would do something of herself. This unjustifiable interference again put a stop to the proceedings. The subsequent canons of the convocations, in 1571; of James the First, in 1603; of archbishop Laud, in 1640, which excited so much opposition, have not supplied the omission; and the canon law of England still requires the alterations and revision which might recommend the restoration of ecclesiastical discipline to the convocation, which must eventually once more assemble, and to the government, which will receive with respect the decisions of that convocation. The book, however, was published by Foxe, under the direction of archbishop Parker. F223 The work was deemed to be of so much importance by our ancestors, and it has been considered by many, even in the present day, to be a system so valuable both as to doctrine and discipline, and to possess, also, so much claim to our veneration as one of the best digests of canon law, that I shall venture to insert here a brief abstract of its contents. The doctrine of Toleration, it must be remembered, was not then known. The only improvement which was made in the proposed laws which were to regulate the formation and publication of opinions, was a diminution in the severity of punishment: and these provisions would be justly considered in the present day to be utterly abhorrent to the spirit of Christianity, as it was propounded by our blessed Savior, and is rightly understood in modern times. The church of Christ in England understands well its high privilege and duty — first to persuade, and then to suffer. It never can fulfill its office as the imitator of Christ, by believing that it may teach, and punish. The abstract of the Reformatio Legum, is given both by Collier and Soames.
The whole compilation is digested under fifty-one heads, and is concluded by a supplementary chapter upon the rules of administering justice.
The first head asserts the doctrine of the Trinity, and denounces the penalty of death, with confiscation of goods, against such as should deny the catholic faith. The canonical books of Scripture are enumerated, those termed apocryphal being omitted; but these are pronounced useful for edification, though not for the proofs of any doctrine. It is declared that ecclesiastical authority is subjected to Scripture; that the first four general councils are to be received, and that the works of the fathers are to be highly respected, but that the decision of no council or father is to be admitted, unless found in unison with Holy Writ.
In the second place, certain opinions upon the Trinity, the Savior, the Scriptures, original sin, justification, the mass, and purgatory, are pronounced heretical. Thus our reformers boldly retorted the charges of Romanists upon themselves, and ranked religious opinions incapable of proof from Scripture, among heresies. They also censured such as taught the unlawfulness of the magistracy, the community of goods or of wives, the universal right of assuming the pastoral office, the merely symbolical nature of sacraments, the unlawfulness of infant baptism, the impossibility of salvation to the unbaptized, transubstantiation, the unlawfulness of marriage, especially in the clergy, the papal power, and apologies for a vicious life drawn from predestination.
The third and fourth divisions relate to the punishment of heresy and wilful blasphemy. Prosecutions for these offenses were to be instituted in the diocesan courts, with liberty of appeal to the archbishop, and from him to the king. Persons accused were to stand committed until trial, in default of giving security for their appearance when called upon. If they refused to appear after a lawful citation, they were to be excommunicated and committed. In case of recantation, they were publicly to renounce their hetorodoxy, to swear against a relapse, and to profess their belief in the contrary doctrine. If after conviction they should refuse to do these things, they were to be delivered over to the secular arm. If a clergyman were convicted of heresy, his recantation was not to recover his preferment for him.
The fifth division asserts that Baptism and the Lord’s Supper alone are properly sacraments; directs the imposition of hands in consecrating bishops and ordaining inferior ministers, the public solemnization of marriages, the confirmation of such as are capable of giving an account of their baptismal vow, and the visitation of the sick by parochial ministers.
The sixth imposes punishment at the ordinary’s discretion upon persons admitting the practice of idolatry, witchcraft, and the like. Restitution also was to be made to any who might have been injured by these practices.
Those who might refuse to submit, after conviction of such offenses, were to be excommunicated.
The seventh respects preachers, of whom two sorts were to be allowed: one licensed to particular parishes, the other to a whole diocese. Bishops were to take care that both sorts were sufficiently examined before a license was conferred, and to summon the itinerants before them, once in every year, in order to learn from them what parts of the diocese most needed spiritual direction. All preachers were to avoid novelties of doctrine or expression, needless questions, and superstitious conceits. Laymen, especially persons of consideration, are charged to be constant in attending sermons; and any who should disturb a preacher in the exercise of his duty were to be repelled from the church and communion, until they should have given him satisfaction.
The three following divisions relate to the intercourse between the sexes.
Marriages were to be celebrated in the church after banns asked on three following Sundays or holidays, and were to be invalid unless solemnized according to the form in the book of Common Prayer. Seducers were to be excommunicated, unless they married their victims: or if that were impracticable, they were to confer upon them the third part of their goods, maintain the fruit of their amour, and undergo a discretionary punishment.
The marriage of minors, unless allowed by parents or guardians, was to be invalid; but if the parties applying for such consent should encounter any unreasonable difficulty, they were to have the liberty of appealing to the ordinary. The impediments to marriage are enumerated, and that state is declared free to all; but it is recommended, that in contracting it, a great disparity of years should be avoided. Polygamy is condenmed as contrary to the first institution of marriage recorded in Genesis. Forcible marriages are pronounced null. Women are recommended to suckle their offspring, and preachers are directed to censure the contrary practice. The prohibited degrees are settled according to the Levitical law; and spiritual kindred, or the imaginary relationship derived from baptismal sponsors, is declared no bar to marriage. Adultery was to be punished in clergymen by the forfeiture of their benefices, banishment, or imprisonment for life, and the confiscation of their goods for the use of their wives and children, if they had any; if not, for that of the poor. A layman convicted of this crime was to restore his wife’s portion to her, and to augment it by the half of his own fortune. Adultresses were to forfeit their jointures, and also their pecuniary advantages accruing to them from marriage; besides being banished or imprisoned for life. The innocent party was to have the liberty of marrying again: but if there appeared a reasonable hope of amendment on the offending side, it was recommended that a reconciliation should be attempted. The criminal was to be restrained from a new marriage.
Separations between married persons were not to be allowed until a divorce had been legally pronounced. This remedy was conceded in cases of adultery, desertion, long absence, deadly enmities, and cruelty. But mere separation from bed and board is pronounced unreasonable, and contrary to Scripture.
Patrons were to consider their rights as a trust, not as a source of unworthy gain. Simoniacal contracts were to void the benefice, disqualify the clerk from holding another, and deprive the patron of that turn. Before admission to livings, clergymen were to be examined by the archdeacon, with the assistance of triers appointed by the bishop. Pluralities were to be wholly forbidden in future. Residence was to be strictly enforced, unless reasonable grounds for exceeding it could be shown to the bishop.
Within two months of institution a clerk was to fix himself upon his benefice. Bastards, unless eminently qualified for the sacred function, were to be excluded from ordination; but on no account was a patron’s presentation to a benefice of his own illegitimate son to be accepted.
Natural infirmities, unless such as incapacitate the party from duly officiating, were not to disqualify for orders. Among such disqualifications, however, is placed highly-offensive breath. Before institution, clergymen were to swear that they had made no simoniacal contract, nor would make any, nor abide by any made for them, and that they would do nothing to the prejudice of the church; also that they would adhere to the received doctrine and discipline; that they would renounce the pope, and acknowledge the king as supreme earthly head of the national establishment.
The fourteenth division provides, that persons injured in character by slanderous reports, or acquitted in a court of justice merely from insufficient evidence, were to come forward and clear themselves, or be excluded from the church. Such individuals were to make an affidavit that they were innocent of the crime imputed to them, and to bring, as compurgators, men of their own particular condition, and of unblemished fame, to swear that they considered this affidavit truly sworn. Those who suffered in reputation from frequenting any particular house, were to be inhibited from going thither. Duelling and superstitious ordeals of every kind, were forbidden.
Under the three following heads are arranged various regulations for the management of ecclesiastical property, and of capitular and collegiate bodies. The eighteenth division discovers a picture of rapacity in the patrons of benefices, amply sufficient to account for the extreme poverty which overwhelmed many clergymen in those days. Some mercenary trustees, for the spiritual advantage of a parish, appear to have presented a clerk under an agreement that they were to have all the profits of a benefice, a paltry stipend alone being promised to the degraded presentee.
Others bargained, that their clerk should retain the tithes, but give up the glebe; others reserved the parsonage-house for their own use; but the bulk of these unworthy traffickers appear to have agreed that they should receive an annual pension from preferments in their gift. All these contracts were pronounced void: and whenever the ordinary should have reason to suspect the existence of such, he was to delay institution, until the presentee should clear himself of the imputation by the prescribed forms of canonical purgation. Any such agreement discovered after a clerk was in possession of a benefice, was to render him liable to ejection from it, and incapable of ever taking another.
The nineteenth regulates public worship. In cathedral and collegiate churches the common prayer was to be said every morning; to which the litany was to be added on Wednesdays and Fridays, and the com-munionservice on holidays. The evening prayer was to be said every day, and all persons maintained by the revenues of the church were to be constantly present at these services, unless they could fairly excuse their absence. In these large churches the communion was to be administered on every Sunday and holiday, and the bishop, together with all inferior members of the establishment, was to receive it. The service was to be performed in a plain manner, without needless refinements in the music, so that the people might understand it, and join in it. Sermons were to be preached only in the afternoon, lest they should draw the people from their own parish churches. In these, unless the parish were very large, was to be no sermon, except in the morning. In the afternoon, an hour was to be spent in explaining the catechism. After evening prayers, the minister was to consult with his principal parishioners upon relieving the poor, censuring scandalous livers, and exercising penitential discipline. Persons desirous of receiving the communion were to come on the day before its administration, to the minister, in order to give an account of their consciences, and their belief. Divine service was not to be said, or the sacraments administered in private houses, without necessity, unless in the families of peers, or in other very large establishments.
The twentieth concerns the ecclesiastical order. Unmarried clergymen were not to retain as housekeepers any woman under sixty years of age, unless their own near relations. A rural dean was to be chosen every year for each deanery, who was to lay the behavior of both clergy and laity within his district before the diocesan. The archdeacon was always to be a priest resident within the archdeaconry, who was to visit twice in every year, and to report the results of his observation to the bishop, within three weeks after his rounds were completed. Deans were to reside constantly at their cathedrals, unless excused by the bishop, and were to take care that every thing within their jurisdictions should be properly conducted.
Prebendaries were to read in their respective cathedrals some portion of Scripture, thrice in every week, or at all events, they were to procure some divine to do this for them. The bishop was to preach in his cathedral; not to ordain either at random, or for reward; to receive complaints against irregular clergymen, and to deprive such persons, if necessary; to reconcile quarrels between his clergy; to visit his diocese once at least in every three years, and to overlook the moral conduct of all classes of persons within the limits of his authority. He was to admit into his family serious and sober people alone; to make his house, as did the primitive prelates, a kind of seminary for the instruction of his diocese; his wife and children were to be moderate in apparel, and correct in demeanor; and everything likely to draw down upon him an imputation of levity, luxury, or pride, was to be carefully avoided, lie was to reside within his diocese, unless when called away by urgent affairs of church or state; and when disabled by age or infirmity from discharging the duties of his function, a coadjutor was to undertake his business. The archbishop was to visit his whole province once a year, if practicable; he was to perform the diocesan’s duties during the vacancy of a see, to receive appeals, to inspect the management of his suffragans, reconcile their quarrels, and deprive them, if necessary. Any disagreement arising between him and them was to be decided by the king.
He was also to convene provincial synods, to which all his suffragan bishops were bound to come, or to send their proxies. The bishops were to convene diocesan synods annually at the beginning of Lent, at which were to be examined all religious controversies, and clerical irregularities. Every clergyman present was to be asked for his opinion upon any difficult question, and the bishop was to report the judgment of the most learned, but to decide the point himself.
The four following divisions relate to churchwardens, universities, tithes, and visitations. The twenty-fifth division prescribes rules concerning testamentary matters. The privilege of making a will is denied to married women, slaves, children under fourteen years of age, insane persons, and those who are deaf and dumb, unless there is sufficient reason to believe that they understand what they are doing; also to heretics, to persons under sentence of death, or of imprisonment, or banishment for life; to those who refused to part with their kept mistresses until just upon the point of death; to libellers, strumpets, panders, and usurers. Individuals thus proscribed were, however, allowed to bequeath money to charitable uses. With respect to disinherison, a father was not to inflict this penalty upon his son, unless the latter had assaulted him, had purposely done him some signal injury, had subjected him to a judicial process out of mere malice, had been engaged in any dangerous practice against either of his parents, had debauched his mother-in-law, had calumniated or nearly ruined his father, had refused to be his bail, or had hindered him from making his will.
The twenty-sixth division treats of ecclesiastical censures; concerning which it is laid down as a general rule, that where no particular punishment is assigned, offenses are to be visited at the judge’s discretion.
Conmmtation of penance was not to be allowed unless in extraordinary cases, on the occurrence of which, the money paid was to be distributed among the poor. In case, however, of a relapse into fault, no pecuniary penalty was to screen the guilty party from undergoing personally, the exposure appended to his transgression.
The twenty-seventh and two following divisions treat of suspension, sequestration, and deprivation. This last penalty, when awarded against a bishop, was to proceed from the metropolitan, assisted by two bishops, whom the crown was to nominate for the purpose of trying the cause.
Under the thirtieth head it is asserted, that the power of excommunication is scripturally conferred upon the church, for the avoiding of great scandals. By it guilty persons were to be cut off not only from the public worship and sacraments of God, but also from the ordinary intercourse of society, until they should have repented of their evil courses. But as this penalty is extremely severe, it was to be inflicted only on great emergencies, and never upon a whole society, forasmuch as guilt could hardly attach to such a body in all its parts, and it is not reasonable that innocence should be confounded with criminality. When the ordinary had thoughts of excommunicating any person, he was to send for the minister of the offender’s parish, together with two or three clergymen of reputation, and a justice of the peace in his neighborhood. After mature deliberation by this assemblage, the sentence of excommunication was to be pronounced, engrossed, and a copy of it delivered to the party affected by it, on his demand. It was then to be certified to his parish and neighborhood, and read in his church on the following Sunday, when the clergyman was to animadvert upon his offense, in order that all intercourse with him might be broken off. If, after these severities, the offenders continued unmoved during forty days, the excommunication was to be certified into chancery, and a writ issued for his imprisonment. If his caption were delayed by the corrupt connivance of the sheriff, or any other officer, that person was to be amerced in treble the costs of the process, for the benefit of the poor. A continuance of such delay was to render public functionaries liable to double the same fine. A pardon from the crown after a capital conviction, was not to excuse any person from undergoing ecclesiastical censures. When, after excommunication, an individual became penitent, he was to dress himself according to the ordinary’s direction, and present himself at the door of his parish church.
There the minister was to receive him with words combining reproof and encouragement. The penitent then, either kneeling, or lying prostrate, was to confess his unworthiness, and implore God’s grace to protect him from a relapse. This being done, he was to be led to a conspicuous place, for the purpose of acknowledging his offense to the congregation, of entreating their pardon, and their consent to communicate with him again, and of praying to God that his ill example might not prove injurious to others. It was now to be inquired of the people whether they were willing to readmit this repentant sinner among them, and on the affirmative answer being given, the priest was to lay his hand on his head and absolve him. He was then to embrace him, salute him on the cheek, and lead him to the comnmnion-table; where an hymn was to be sung, and a thanksgiving offered for his recovery.
The remaining divisions of this work are devoid of general interest, being chiefly directed to the regulation of ecclesiastical courts. The whole compilation bears evident marks of a mind well acquainted with the antiquities of the christian church, and estranged from the ordinary habits of secular thinking.
The rejection, or rather the non-enactment of these canons has been imputed by various writers to various causes. Mr. Hallam considers that as the code is founded on the principle current among the clergy, “that a rigorous discipline enforced by church censures, and the aid of the civil power, is the best safeguard of a christian commonwealth against vice” — its severity never would have been endured in this country: and that this was the true reason why they were laid aside. F224 Mr. Hallam is right in the supposition that they would not have been long or eventually endured on this account, for they are more severe in many respects than the Laudeau canons of 1640, the enforcement of which excited so much clamor against their author: but it may be considered very doubtful whether they would not have been welcomed by the people, if they had passed into laws, in the reign either of Henry, Edward, or Elizabeth; however they might have been changed or moderated in the progress of the theory of toleration. Bishop Hurd published three volumes of Dialogues on many interesting subjects; and he had intended to have added to them, one, on the subject before us, the effect of transferring supremacy in religious matters. F225 He has not written this projected essay; but in his Sixth Dialogue on the Constitution of the English Government, he imputes the rejection of these canons to the preference of the crown to the old canon law, as the more influential supporter of the royal prerogative; and that if the crown submitted a body of new laws to the parliament, the parliament would form them altogether in the genius of a free church and state; as Burnet, also, supposes they would have done; and would perhaps assume a share in the supremacy itself. F226 Hurd derived the idea from Warburton, whose letter was written in 1755; as he not only uses in his essay the very expression to be found in his friend’s letter; but in a subsequent letter, f227 he says, “I thank you for your fine observation on the neglect to reform the ecclesiastical laws: it is a very material one, and deserves to be well considered. The true cause of their being passed by, after so much attention had been paid, and so many learned persons employed on the subject, cannot be now ascertained. F228 One expression in the Reformatio Legum has given rise to a controversy whether the punishment of death for heresy was intended to be continued.
They extended the name and penalties of heresy to the wilful denial of any part of the authorized articles of faith. Burnet affirms that these penalties were laid aside. Collier and Lingard affirm the contrary. It is difficult to decide this question also. Those who denied the truth of any one article of faith, might certainly be delivered over to the secular power: yet infamy, and civil disability, seem in one passage to be intended, only, excepting in the case of the total denial of the christian religion: for, if a heretic were to be burned, as a matter of course, it would seem needless, as in this chapter, to provide that he should be incapable of making a will, or of being a legal witness. Dr. Lingard, on the contrary, affirms that the heretic, by the new code of laws, was to suffer death for heresy. F230 He exults in the supposition that the reformers also were persecutors to the death for opinions; and seems to imagine that the guilt of persecution being attributable to the reformers, as well as to the church of Rome, the crime is also equal, and that the former are consequently to be condemned equally with the latter. They would indeed have been equal in guilt and crime, if they had continued to punish opinions with death: but while the church of Rome retains all the objectionable canons, which commits the heretic to the secular arm, the church of England has expelled every such law from its statute and ecclesiastical code. When we are taunted with having once imitated a bad example, we reply that we now follow it no longer. Can the church of Rome say the same? How long — it has been, and is said how long must the warfare between the protestant and papist continue? We answer in one word. It must continue, till Rome changes! “It was the lot of Mary,” says Dr. Lingard, “to live in an age of religious intolerance, when to punish the professors of erroneous doctrine was inculcated as a duty, no less by those who rejected, than by those who asserted, the papal authority. It might perhaps have been expected that the reformers, from their sufferings under Henry VIII., would have learned to respect the rights of conscience. Experience proved the contrary. They had no sooner obtained the ascendancy during the short reign of Edward, than they displayed the same persecuting spirit which they had formerly condemned, burning the anabaptist, and preparing to burn the (Roman) catholic at the stake, for no other crime than adherence to religious opinion.
The former, by the existing law, was already liable to the penalty of death: the latter enjoyed a precarious respite, because his belief had not yet been pronounced heretical by any acknowledged authority. But the zeal of archbishop Cranmer observed and supplied this deficiency; and in the code of ecclesiastical discipline which he compiled for the government of the reformed church, he was careful to class the distinguishing doctrines of the ancient worship with those more recently promulgated by Muncer and Socinus. By the new canon law of the metropolitan, to believe in transubstantiation, to admit the papal supremacy, and to deny justification by faith only, were severally made heresy; and it was ordained, that individuals accused of holding heretical opinions should be arraigned before the spiritual courts, should be excommunicated on conviction, and, after a respite of sixteen days, should, if they continued obstinate, be delivered to the civil magistrate, to suffer the punishment of death. Fortunately for the professors of the ancient faith, Edward died before this code had obtained the sanction of the legislature; by the accession of Mary the power of the sword passed from the hands of one religious party to those of the other; and within a short time, Cranmer and his associates perished in the flames which they had prepared to kindle for the destruction of their opponents.”
In the note appended to these remarks, the words of the obnoxious chapter are cited, and much acute reasoning is exercised to prove that sir James Mackintosh is wrong in making a distinction between the infliction of punishment and the privation of life, and that Cranmer, by the word puniendus, meant the punishment of death. We may wisely adopt the conclusion of Mr. Hallam, and avoid forming a decided opinion on the matter; and we may remember the justice of Mr. Soames’ remark, that those who framed the Reformatio Legum, lived in an age of fierce intolerance; and they remark, in vindication of their own severity, that blasphemers were stoned under the Mosaic law. Had no extraordinary rigor too been denounced in cases outraging the catholic faith, it is scarcely doubtful, that the Romish party would have represented our reformers as indifferent to the vital interests of Christianity. Nor, whatever may be now thought of death as a punishment for glaring offenses against true religion, will serious men generally deny, that such transgressions are properly visited by (some) civil inflictions. It is most important that youth and ignorance should be shielded from exposure to the contact of such baneful opinions as undermine the best principles. The moral discipline proposed for England in the Reformatio Legum is obviously unsuited for a national church. It is derived from the earliest records of ecclesiastical antiquity, and is adapted only for a community very limited in extent. From such a society every member might be excluded who should be found unwilling to exemplify the christian character in all respects. Any attempt, however, to render a community so regulated co-extensive with a numerous people, would lead at once to intolerable tyranny, and would quickly fail altogether. F232 Some light may be thrown on this controversy, and on the manner in which John Foxe anticipated, in some measure, the axioms of a future age on the subject of toleration, by a brief analysis of his learned preface. He commences by showing the utility and necessity of laws which shall promote the establishment of religious truth in principle, and outward discipline in practice. Such laws should be enacted with prudence. They should not breathe cruelty, as those of Draco or Phalaris, or the persecuting bishops of Rome. They should not be too numerous, lest the number of their enactments be rather burthensome than useful.
If all were Christians, laws would not be required; but now, the universal experience of mankind, whether in ancient or modern times, proves their necessity. “No nation, no state,” he observes, “was ever so savage and barbarous, as not to have some laws, by which, if every vice was not driven away, at least some decency of manners was retained. Even our own England has not wanted her laws and statutes, wisely framed by our most prudent ancestors. This is proved by the laws of Ina, Edward, Athelstan, Eadmund, Edgar, Alured, Ethelred, Canute, and those under the auspices of other princes. These laws prevailed for a time. Afterwards, a comedian entered the stage, about to play his own production, and he was the bishop of Rome; who, having gotten rid of all others, was to have the whole stage, and every character appropriated to himself. At first leaving to the secular magistrates what appeared to appertain to secular affairs; but all the rest, which pertained to morals, he transferred to himself and his ecclesiastics, by a most ingenious device, whilst he gave out that he was the vicar of Christ upon earth, and the hereditary successor of the apostolic office. This he impressed upon rulers and magistrates by little and little, and thus secured opportunities of attempting greater things. Nor was his daring deficient on any occasion. Proceeding, therefore, in the comedy undertaken, after he had acquitted himself thus satisfactorily in the prologue, he applies himself to the rest of the acts, which he undertakes with no tardiness. First of all, with respect to kings and supreme monarchs, he endeavors, by little and little, to lessen their authority; then to raise his own on an equality with theirs; afterwards to surpass it; and, as a climax, to subject them to himself. When he had succeeded in this, he still proceeded onwards. He, who first walked with the humble sandal, now struts in the lofty buskin, and, from a bishop, comes out a tragic king. At length, the ecclesiareh swells to such a pitch, that he who at first was wont to receive laws from others, and be ruled by them, now, the scene being changed, himself imposes laws upon them, and prescribes those enactments for the world which we now designate the canon law. In which law, his presumption knows no bounds, so that he adds law to law, decrees to decrees, and to these again decretals, and others to others; neither is there any end of it, until, at last, he has so crammed the world with his Clementines, Sextines, intra and extra-vagantes, provincial constitutions and synodals, small glosses, sentences, chapters, summaries, rescripts, and infinite rhapsodies, that even Atlas himself, who is said to have sustained the whole heavens, would have sunk under this burthen. “Thus he proceded, till he seized upon both swords, and all became worse, till, under the present pontiff (Leo X.), the ecclesiastical state is so governed, that there is almost nothing upright in religion, nothing sound in morals, no freedom for conscience, no sincerity in worship, neither is there any thing in his laws, except what pertains to certain useless ceremonies, or absurd dogmas, or to increase the privileges of the ecclesiastical order. And if there should be the appearance of justice, or an inspection of morals, yet exemption may be purchased. To such a pitch had this proceeded, that from such tribunals all political authority was driven away, and the business of the courts was centred in, I know not what, canonists and officials, the greater part of whom, living by litigation, looked more to their own advantage than to rectitude of virtue and morals. “Such a state of things,” says Foxe, “required correction, and Henry VIII. appointed a commission of thirty-two to revise the laws. The king’s wish was praiseworthy, so were the endeavors of those appointed, but the attempt was unsuccessful.” F233 He then proceeds to relate the details respecting the mode of compiling the Reformatio Legum; and concludes by passing no opinion on the severity or the policy of the enactments. The time had not arrived when the union of laws, on the part of the state, to uphold that which the state believed to be the best form of worship, faith, and discipline, and to uphold also, at the same time, the duty of toleration, could be understood. The best and wisest of that, and many subsequent generations, were unable to fix the limits to authority, and to understand the origin of all civil power, as divine in its source, but human in its details. The double scepter, over soul and body, had been claimed by the foreign bishop. It was now transferred to the temporal prince. Non-resistanee to the pope had long been an axiom in the universal law of Europe. Opposition to this axiom was death. Nonresistance to the king succeeded, as a political axiom, till a future age modified the principle, by making the legislature, or the king, with his represented people, the sovereign of the state, and not the king as an individual person; and John Foxe did not, in this instance, advance beyond his age. He concludes his preface, therefore, as if he was conscious that some of the enactments were too severe; but he could not provide, or he dared not suggest, a remedy. “The word of God,” he adds, “is alone to be taken as our guide in worship, and in matters of religion.” He eulogizes the memory of Edward, and trusts that Elizabeth will consent to the enactment of the laws which had been proposed to, and sanctioned by, her brother and her father; and he concludes by apologizing for his boldness in editing the volume. The result is known. The queen forbade the commons to proceed, and the design fell to the ground. F234 L9 The next transaction of a public nature in which we find the name of John Foxe was the execution of his constant friend and patron, the duke of Norfolk. F235 In September, 1568, the duke was appointed one of the commissioners to hear the accusations against the queen of Scots; and at that time the intrigue for their marriage commenced. The duke, when on the scaffold, declared himself to be a protestant; and this was so well known, that, though the earl of Westmoreland, his brother-in-law, promoted the scheme, it was condemned by the earl of Northumberland and others, on the express ground, that the duke was not considered a good Roman catholic. F236 It appears to me most probable, that the duke of Norfolk, who lost his third wife in the year preceding his being made one of the commissioners, was deeply interested in the beauty and sufferings of the queen, and was totally ignorant of the extent to which she had pledged herself, both to the cardinal of Lorraine and the pope, to exert her utmost efforts, by all the means in her power, to restore the church of Rome in Scotland, and to lay down her life in that cause. F238 He did not even suspect, probably, the deep-laid schemes by which the foreigner was endeavoring to re-establish the old superstition. He confessed that he deserved to suffer because he had broken his promise to the queen. He confessed, too, that he had conversed with the papal emissary Ridolphi; but that he never consented to the political projects of the pope, nor to the invasion of England. “With respect, also,” he said on the scaffold, “to my conscience and religion, I know that I have been suspected to be a papist. I must confess, that divers of my familiar friends, and divers of my servants and officers under me, were papists. But what meaning I had in it, God, who seeth above, knoweth it. For myself, God is my witness, I have always been a protestant, and never did allow of their blind and fond ceremonies. And now, before God and you all, I utterly renounce the pope, and all popedom; which thing I have always done, and will do to my life’s end. And to that which is the chiefest point of our belief — I believe and trust to be saved by faith in Jesus Christ only, and by none other means. For if I did, I should be greatly deceived at this instant.” F239 Whether this confession is fully to be believed, we know not; but every circumstance related of his character, and developed in the history of Mary, render it worthy of credence. he acted, however, with the greatest imprudence. He was influenced by the earl of Leicester, who betrayed him.
The advice of Cecil was not heeded; and he must have been aware that the promoters of the marriage were ever the most bitter enemies of the queen; nor can any reason or motive whatever justify a religious protestant for upholding the supporters of the spiritual supremacy of a foreign prelate against his own sovereign. During the rumors relative to the intended marriage, Foxe addressed to the duke the following letter:- “May it please your grace, ther is a great rumor with us here in London, and so farr spread, yt it is in every man’s mouth almost, of your marriage with the Scottish Queene: which rumor, as I trust to bee false, for I would be very sorry that it should be true, for two respects. The one for ye good will I beare to you, the other for ye love I beare to ye common wealth, for yt I see noe other, and many besides mee doe see hoe lesse, butt ye day of that marriage when soever it beginneth, will end with such a catastrophe as wilbee ether ruinous to your selfe, or dangerous to ye tranquillity of ye realme; the peace wherof standing for long amongst us through ye great mercy of God, God forbidd it should nowe beginn to break by you. Your grace knoweth what enimies wee have both within and without: against whome wee have always trusted and doe yet trust, next under God and the queene, to have you a sure Scipio unto us: to ye contrary wherof, thes rumors cannot perswade mee, butt yt as you have vertuously begunn, soe by ye Lord’s grace you will constantly continue still. Howbeit since yt noise and clamor of ye people maketh me somewhat to muse, and bycause true love is always full of feare, I beseech you lett mee say to you what I thinke in this matter. That in case you take this way to marry with this lady in our Queene’s days, it will in ye end turne you to hoe great good. I beseech you therfore for God’s sake bee circumspect and marke well what they bee, yt sett you on this worke, and whetunto they shoote. Ther ys hoe greater cunning in these days, then to knowe, whome a man may trust. Ensamples you have enough, within ye cornpasse of your owne days, wherby you may learne, what noble men have bin cast away by them, whom they seemed most to trust. Remember I pray you the ensample of Mephibosheth. wherof I told you being yong; how first hee was under-foote, then again” ...
The letter is unfinished, which is much to be regretted. The duke, it would appear, was not in London, being, in all probability, still at Kenninghall, as his last duchess had not been dead a year. The incidents of his trial and execution are well known, as well as the fact, that, after Leicester had betrayed him to the queen, and procured her pardon for the share he had in the conspiracy, the queen commanded the duke to make a full confession, which he did, and Elizabeth made use of it against him. During has confinement, he made application to speak with some persons, and also to receive spiritual comfort from his old master Foxe. Sir Henry Skipwith, under-lieutenant of the Tower, writes to sir William Cecil on the occasion. “Right hon.,” he says, “may it please you to understand, that the Duke of Norfolk hath required me to wryt to you, for one cause more then he hathe required Sr Peter Carewe to saye to you, which is, to desyre your Honor as his last request that you will helpe him to speke with Dix and Hassat, and I to here what he saiethe to them, or whom els shall please her Majestic, or your honors to appoint. I think yt be for his detts. He also longethe muche for Mr.
Foxe his old scholemaster, to whom he much desyres to performe that faithe which he first grounded him in, and sure I fynd him little altered, but lyveth now in such order as he before dyd, determyned and verie well settled towards God, as ever I sawe any. And thus with my most humble dutie to your honor I take my leave: from the Tower this 17th Jan. 1571-2. “Yf yt pleased you so to lyk of yt, the soner he were satisfied of this yt were the better in my opinion; because he might settle himself hollye towards God and frome the world.” F241 The duke was executed 3d June, 1572, and attended to the scaffold by sir Henry Lee, by Nowel, the dean of St. Paul’s, and by John Foxe, with other gentlemen. F242 After his address to the people was concluded, he spoke to sir Henry Lee; and after taking off his gown and doublet, embraced Mr.:
Nowel, bowing to him even to the ground; and with him also he spoke apart. It is not said that he conversed with Foxe. He had however written to his children, before his execution, and addressed it specially to “Phillip and Nan.” In that memorial, when disposing of certain presents, he mentions his request that “twenty pounds a yeare be allowed to Mr.
Foxe.” We do not, however, know whether this pension was ever paid. F243 Many other letters in the Harleian collection, illustrate the influence of Foxe at this time. They are addressed to him in Grub-street; and must, therefore, though no date appears on them, have been written after 1572.
A letter from Foxe to one of his neighbors, who had so built his house as to darken Foxe’s windows, is curious as a specimen of religious expostulation, for an injury which possibly he could not afford to remedy by law. F244 About the end of this same year, Foxe was applied to for the exertion of his interest with Dr. Pierce, in favor of a young man anxious to obtain a studentship at Christ Church, Oxford, so that he might be no longer a burden to his father. The letter is from the young man himself. “I have before troubled you ynoughe and to touche: yet consyderinge the singuler benefite that your letters maye procure me, I ame enforced (through meare neade) to write these fewe lyrics unto you, gevinge you most hartyest thankes for your gentlenes bothe to my father and me (whiche indeede should have ben in latine after a simple sorte but for the shortenes of time) desyringe you for Godes sake to write your letters to Doctor Pierce in my behalfe, that he would be so good unto me as to electe me scholer of Christchurche at this election. Nowe is the time yf ever I shall come in, for by reporte Mr. Doctor Pierce shall bring in iiij scholers and everye Cannonne ij, there be so manye places voyde. I thinke therefore throughe your letters (eonsideringe his promise made to my father that I should be the thirde that he would chose in) he will remember me yf he shall electe 4. I beseche you therfore that you would by your earneste letters put him in mynde of my ease, that surely, unlesse I maye gett in by his meanes, all that my father hathe bestowed upon me shalbe to noe purpose, for I shalbe put to some other trade, because my father of himself is not able to kepe me at the universyte any longer, he hathe done for me alreadye more than he was well able consyderynge his povertye. At my firste comminge to Oxforde Mr. Doctor Cooper then beinge deane promised to bringe me in scholer, and because that at the firste election he coulde not, sendynge for my mother, promised to geve me iiij markes every yeare tyll suche tyme that he could electe me, but howe these iiij markes beinge taken awaye, by reason of his absence, I am enforced to chardge my father, whome I have chardged to muche alreadye. Yt is therfore hyghe tyme that I shoulde (unless I did meane altogether to forgo the universitye) seeke some further ayde, wherby my father myghte be eased of this burthen, and I by suche meanes styll applye my learninge.
These thinges have moved me to trouble you with this my requeste for your letters, and because that bothe in writinge and in sendinge them I thoughte it not conveniente or mete to trouble you, I have desyred on (one) of my frendes the bringer heareof to be readye (yf yt shall please you to write) to receave them and bringe them to the carriars. Thus with my hartye prayers for you, I cease to trouble you any further, desiringe the eternall God to protecte and kepe you in all your doinges. From Oxforde the xx of November, 1571. “Yours to commaunde at all tymes, “Thomas Torporley .” F245 “To the worshipfull and his singular good frende Mr. Foxe, dwellinge in Grubb Street, this be given with speed from Oxford.”
Foxe appears at this time to have been generally consulted by those who were most deeply interested in the discussions or controversies of the day.
He had, some years before, been requested to answer certain questions respecting the sacraments. Application was now made to him, for his opinion on the lawfulness of sponsors. “Mr. Fockes after my harry comendaeyons this shalbe to thanke Gode for youre benevolles and lovynge leter in Chryste jesus, sent unto me, whiche leter hathe mynistred unto me greate comfort in the mereres of jesus Chryste, desyerynge youe, even for the same jesus Chrystes sacke to praye unto god for me, that the cornforte and faythe whyche I nowe have in the swete and comfortable promyses of jesus Chryste, maye dayly more and more be incresed in me, that I maye growe from emparifeccyon to parfeccyon, from weecknes to strength, and that god maye gyve me a thanckefull harte for his great mercys and provydence in kepynge me in all my troubles from all the weckede and mallyshyous asaltes of the spirytall enemye Sattan, for he hath gone about to desayve me by spiritall craftynes in heavenly thynges; God be thanked for his mercyes that hathe kepe me from consenttynge unto him. Oh that my mouth myght be filled with the prayses of God that I myght synge of his honor and glorye all the dayes of my lyre; and further more this shalbe to shewe you that my troubles are not so ended that howe I feell nothynge of them. But greate and manyfowled are the troubles whiche manye tymes, I have yet, yea even in the same trouble whech hath been most troublsom unto me, but I thanke my God that hath gyeven me more strength to bare then in tymes paste I have felt. The Lord increase it for his great mercye sacke. I will not at this tyme, nayther can I as nowe expreese all the thynge that hathe troublede me, but on thynge I beseche you exprese your mynde unto me, yf you have any convenyeant tyme to wryt unto me, and that as tuchynge babtysinge with godfathers and godmothers, for that hathe bene troublesom unto me, and many ther be in the contrye aboute us that hathe ben greatly troublede for not usynge them. The causes whye they are not used are these, fyrst for that by Godes word ther is no exsample so to doo; seconly, for that the vowes demanded of the childe cannot of the standers by be parformed; and thurdlye for that of manye they are supurstecyously howlden as thynges appartayninge to the sacraments, and for that as some thynke, is a seremony brought in to the churche by the byshope of Rome, and for these causes no to be usede. And my desyer ys to knowe howe by the worde of God they maye be usede, whether the word be eyther with them, or not agaynst them. In those thynges I beseche you shewe me your mynde yf you convenyently can, and chuse levynge at this tyme anye further to trouble you. I woulde have writen more unto you yf I did not wante wordes to exprease my mynde, I praye God gyeve you the assestance of his Holy Spyryte to the increase of youre cornforte and joyes in Chryste Jesus, whyche that it maye lycke wyes be increased in me, I beseche you praye for me, and God willynge I will not forgete you in my prayers. Oh praye, I beseche you, for the increase of my faythe. From Byckinghall in Suffucke the 4 daye of January, 1572. “Your in Jesus Chryst, “FRANCIS BAXTER .” F246 The following letter was written in defense of a narrative in his Acts and Monuments. Foxe having been accused by Thomas Thackham, of Reading, of having inserted into his history a calumny against him in the relation of the troubles and death of Julius Palmer, Thackham drew up his own account of the transaction, and gave it to Foxe, who sent it to Mr. Perry, a grave minister in Gloucestershire, desiring him to inquire diligently into the truth of the matter; the result was the accompanying letter bearing witness to Foxe’s accuracy, and testifying against Thackham. “Right reverend and beloved in the Lord, I have receaved your letters together with Thackham’s answer, which I perceave you have well perused, and do understand his craftye and ungodlye dealing therein, that I may not say fond and foolish, for he doth not denye the substance of the storye, but only seeketh to take advantage by some circumstancyes off the tyme and place, wherein yt may be ther was an oversyght for lacke off perfect instructions or good remembrance at the begynnyng. He confesseth that he delyvered a letter of Palmer’s owne hand to the maior of Readinge, which was the occasyon off his imprisonment and death. Onlye he excuseth hym selfe by transferring the cryme a seipso in martire.
Briefly his whole end and purpose ys to geve the world to understand that the martir was gyltie as well of incontinencye, as also of wylfull casting away of hym selfe. O impudent man. The wyse and godly reader may easylye smell his stinkinge hart. He careth not though he [out] face the godlye martir and the whole volume of marfirs, to sa[ve] (as he thinketh) (it is torn in the MS.) his own honestye and good name. Howbeyt I d[oubt] not but God wyll confound him to his utter shame, and reveale hys cloked hypocrisie to the defense of his blessed mar fir and the whole storye. Though many of them be dead that gave instructyons in tymes past, and now coulde have borne witnesse, yet thankes be to God ther want not alyve that can and wyll testyfye the trueth herein to his confusyon. No dyligence shall be spared in the matter, as shortly, I trust, you shall understand. In the meane while Thackham need not be importunate for an answer. He reportethe hym selfe to the whole towne of Readinge; therefore he must geve us some space. The God of trueth defend you and all other that mayntayne his trueth from the venemous poyson of lyers. Vale in Christo qui ecclesiae suae to diu servet incolumem. From Beverston in Gloc.shire. Maii 4th. “Yours in the Lord, “THOM. PERRYE , Minist.”
To the right reverend in God, Mr. Ihon Ffoxe, preacher of the ghospell in London, be thes, at Mr. Daie’s the printer, dwellyng over Aldersgate, beneath S. Marten’s. f250 A letter of John Meyer of Corsley, dated the 18th May, the same year, to Mr. Perry, verifies also the truth of Foxe’s statement respecting Thackham. F251 The whole account is given in Strype. F252 That Foxe was now held in great esteem by his ecclesiastical superiors, is evident from the many attentions he received from them. Before Parkhurst was removed from Norwich, he invited him to pay him a visit, from which Foxe excused himself in consequence of ill health; yet confessing that there was none of the episcopal bench from whom he had received more kindnesses, or to whom he would come with more delight. He also states that he was compelled to put off the bishop of Lincoln, who had even sent a servant and horse for him, but he was obliged to send both away empty.
F253 We have frequently observed, in reply to the charge that the church of England has persecuted as well as the church of Rome, and therefore that the cruelty of the latter is to be forgotten, because of the same error in the former, that the great difference between the two churches in this matter consists in this — that the church and state of England have rescinded all claims to persecution, and made the duty of toleration an axiom in christian government: while the church of Rome has not rescinded one decree, or canon; one papal bull, one conciliar or pontifical law, which affirms the right of the church to govern conscience, without conviction; and to punish, coerce, and compel, even by death, the resisters and oppugners of that authority. The charge of persecution against the protestant church of England has been defended by the conduct of Elizabeth to some wretched sectarians in the year 1575. In the beginning of that year a conventicle of Dutch anabaptists was discovered in Aidgate; of whom twenty-seven were seized and committed. Four recanted. Some were so firm in their opinions, that neither instruction nor punishment could make any impression upon them. They were, however, treated mercifully, and banished, without any farther punishment. This encouraged others, and it was at length thought necessary to proceed to greater extremities. Foxe interceded for two of these when under condemnation; and while he expressed his hatred of their principles, he strongly reprobated the putting them to death. “I have never,” says he, “been annoying to any, but now I am compelled to be importunate even to the queen herself, not on my own account, but on that of strangers. I understand there are in this country, not English, but strangers, Belgians, brought to judgment for wicked opinions. They have been condemned to death by burning. In this case there are two things to look at, one pertains to the heinousness of their errors, the other to the rigor of their punishment.” He wonders that any Christians could fall into such errors: but such is human infirmity without divine grace; and he is thankful that no Englishman has fallen into them. “They ought,” he says, “to be restrained; but to consign them to the flames is more after the Roman example, than a Christian custom. I would not countenance their errors, but I would spare their lives, because I myself am a man; and that they may repent.” He beseeches the queen to spare their lives, because there are other modes of punishment into which their condemnation can be commuted banishment, close imprisonment, bonds, perpetual exile, reproaches, stripes, or even gibbets. But this one thing I deprecate, that the fires of Smithfield, which have slumbered so long under your auspices, should now by you be rekindled. Wherefore, spare them a month or two, so that means may be tried for their conversion.” F254 The exertions of Foxe, in favor of these persons, were not confined to the queen alone; he addressed the lord treasurer and other counsellors, as well as chief justice Monson, L11 and also the individuals themselves. L12 In the former of these, after stating that the business upon which he was about to address related not to himself, he mentions the unhappy anabaptists, and their detestable madness, in whose case the bishop of London had decided, after great care and diligence, as he ought to have done. “All were agreed that some punishment should be awarded them in consequence of their errors, but they were not agreed as to its kind. Some, chiefly papists, exclaimed, To the stake, to the stake! Others of more clemency, did not think it requisite to proceed to such extremity under the Gospel, which had been exercised under the influence of Rome: and had rather resort to some other remedy for the healing of wounds, than the destroying of men for ever, and which would unite the rigour of law with the mercy of the gospel. But, we know not, how you, who are secular, will exercise your power, unless from the prescript of law, which if you do, I will first vehemently desire you, and appeal chiefly to your prudence, that you should consider how far you are allowed by public enactment, or the authority of law, to condemn to fire and flames those who have erred only in doctrine. Because if you appeal to the law passed under Henry IV. (for you have no law for burning), that enactment has not sufficient force, because in the framing of it, the common consent of all was wanting, without which every parliamentary enactment is void. Although that law did once much prevail, yet I understand that in the beginning of the reign of her gracious majesty it was repealed; and even if not so, I have proved from authentic public records in my Acts and Monuments (where I answered Alan Cope in the life of Lord Cobham), that it has no precedent.” He proceeds to say, as in his address to the queen, that the fires of Smithfield should not again be roused; and begs them not to proceed to extreme punishment which the law will not justify, as so doing they would be establishing more than papistical tyranny. He begs them also to consider that he is a suppliant, not an adviser.
To the individuals he writes that he had brought their case before the queen and her council without effect. He says that by their pertinacity they appear to fight not only against the will of God, but against his plain word, the pious and sacred institution and true faith of all Christians; raise foolish factions, produce scandals, bring in deadly errors, injure the church of God in no small degree, and afford matters to enemies and papists to insult and calumniate. “And by the error of your doctrine you offend not the church of God only, but even God himself, when you acquiesce not in his word, nor bow to his truth, nor seek for his Holy Spirit promised in the Scriptures, but cultivate certain fanatic conceptions, nay, rather deceptions, of your own minds; and while you contend so obstinately about the humanity of Christ, ye in the mean time hold not rightly or care not for your own salvation and remission of sins through the humanity of Christ, proposed to us by faith only.” He then proceeds to argue against their opinion, and concludes by exhorting them to look again and again to what they are about; “for it is sufficiently apparent that for long you have disturbed the church by your great scandal and offense. May the Lord Jesus by the most holy guidance of his Spirit open the eyes of your mind, and draw your hearts to the knowledge of his truth. Amen.”
Foxe, after this, addressed himself to the lord chief justice, to whom, as he says, was left the decision of the case. He sent him copies of his letters to the queen and the council, and informs him that he had written to them in their own language. He uses the same argument as he had done to the lord treasurer, Burghley, reprobating the punishment of death, and advocating milder measures; for, says he, we often fall into diseases which kindness does more to cure than harshness, and a day’s delay sometimes effects more than the hand of the medical attendant; but now I speak of those diseases which require spiritual medicine rather than corporal, since erring faith can be compelled and taught by no one; and many die true believers, who had long lived in heresy. He entertained hopes that they might be brought to the true faith if delay were granted, and hopes he would decide in such manner as that all should perceive his desire to mingle mercy with justice, that not only the language,.the writings, the histories of all good men might testify his clemency, but that even the unhappy persons themselves, being converted, might thank him. F255 These writings prove how much of the spirit of the Gospel Foxe had imbibed, and that how much soever he condemned the errors into which these persons had fallen, yet he still knew that the Scripture breathed the same intentions as its divine Author expressed to his disciples, when they were desirous of inflicting punishment upon the heads of the Samaritans, “Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” (Luke 9:55,56.)
Every effort was useless. The sentence of death by burning was executed: and the murder of these poor anabaptists is as disgraceful to the memory of Elizabeth, as the other martyrdoms were disgraceful to her sister Mary.
It may be doubted, however, whether the refusal of the application thus made by John Foxe to the queen, did not proceed from political rather than religious motives. She wished to intimidate the puritans by reminding them that the law for burning the opponents of the religion of the sovereign, was still in existence. I have examined the writ, by virtue of which they were burnt: and am sorry to say that it is worded as the old writs for burning the episcopal, and other protestants in the reign of Mary. F256 It was in this year that the sermon preached on Good Friday, 1570, at Paul’s cross, was printed. Its more extensive dissemination was entrusted to Andrew Weckel at Frankfort; who acknowledged the receipt of it, this year, stating, that he thanked Foxe for his good opinion of him; and that he would follow the advice he had given him; and would take such counsel with his friends, as the utility of the church seemed to require, and the aspect of the times would allow. F257 The third English edition of his Martyrology appeared in the year 1576: and few events subsequently occurred, which can be deemed interesting, to a modern reader. These may be included under those which relate to his son — to his controversy with Osorius — to some other long-forgotten publications, to his general character; and to the anecdotes which illustrate it, collected by his son.
However great might have been the success of the labors of the martyrologist, his domestic and family affairs never appear to have been in a very satisfactory condition. His eldest son, who was born at Norwich, and educated in London, was entered at Magdalen College, Oxford. On this occasion, his father wrote to his old and dear friend Laurence Humphrey, and tells him that he has sent his little Foxe to him, that he may become an academic, and make merchandize in that most celebrated mart, Oxford, — not that he should increase m riches, but that he might store his mind with the sciences, and cultivate his talents. He begs him to take his son under his especial care, and to extend that kindness to him which he had done to many others, if not for the merits of his father (which are nothing) or for his kind offices (muneribus) which are. none, at least for his own sake.
Perhaps, he proceeds, I may appear too importunate, thus loading with duties a friend engaged in so many and so great public and private affairs: but to this necessity, a sharp spur compels me. He requests that his son may be admitted into their college, and suitable rooms attributed to him, and a proper tutor appointed. Whatever else may be wanting to defray his expenses, he himself would meet it, as well as he could. F258 His son was elected a demy. Two years after, however, he went to France without acquainting his father with his intention. Foxe being anxious for his welfare, and not knowing the reason of his leaving Oxford, wrote to a friend abroad complaining of the manner in which his son had acted.
Necessity, he says, compels him to write, and request his friend to assist him in his search for his son, whom he had educated to the best of his power, and who had made some progress: but he had left his college, never having consulted either president or tutor, leaving his books and letters behind, his parent ignorant of his proceedings, all his friends and relatives in sorrow. He knows not in what land he is, and conjectures from the letter of a merchant, that he is at Paris. Still he supposes his wants may drive him to his excellency, in which case he implores him to assist in the recovery of his fugitive son. His name Samuel, and his stature for his years somewhat large. With these marks, he again implores him, if he should discover him, to let him know where he can find him.
The letter is full of deep feeling and anxiety for the welfare of his son; f259 who appears to have returned soon after, and to have been again kindly received by Dr. Humphrey. He was elected a probationer in 1581. F260 We cannot now ascertain the circumstances of this case. In the life of Foxe by his son, we are told that when the young man on his return from the continent presented himself to his father in a “foreign and somewhat fantastical garb,” he addressed him, “Who are you?” “Sir, I am your son Samuel.” “Oh, my son!” said the father, “what enemy of thine hath taught thee so much vanity?” This anecdote must be true, as it is related by his son to whom the words were spoken. We may infer from it, that the young man was guilty only of the fondness of a more gay and fashionable appearance than his father approved; but it is possible, also, that the same attachment to the external was deemed inconsistent with the gravity required by his college from their fellows. We find that his son was expelled from Magdalen, on a charge of popery, in the same year in which he had been restored. The discipline of the college at this time is said to have been very strict: so much so that by many it was deemed to be puritanical.
We learn from Fuller that the charges against him were vague and indefinite. He was accused of an inclination to popery, and by the power of the puritanical party was expelled from college. A letter still remains, in which Foxe addresses the president of the college in the most grateful terms for the kindness which his son had received from him. He tells him, that if he had himself been president of Magdalen, and the president had been father to his son, neither of them could have wished, that the duties of their respective offices could have been better performed. F261 Yet Foxe, on his son’s expulsion, does not seem to have made application for his restoration to Dr. Humphrey. He addressed a bishop in behalf of his son, whom he did not defend as faultless, but urged that he was dismissed without previous admonition, or any cause assigned, and the harshness of this proceeding, rather arose from internal dissensions in his college, and opposition to their president, than to freedom from faults greater than those they censured in his son. The letter is penned in a very able manner, and he speaks in it in moving terms of his own age and poverty. F262 His son was restored to the fellowship by the royal mandate. It is, consequently, difficult to suppose that he was a papist, or a puritan. He was probably at this time a strict conformist to the services; and being of frank or thoughtless habits, was offensive to his puritan coadjutors. Not one word, or fact, can be found which sanctions the charge of his attachment to popery.
The poverty of which Foxe complained continued, we must believe, till his death. Some years after his son’s restoration to his fellowship, the martyrologist endeavored to make provision for him, by obtaining for him a lease of the prebend of Shipton. This could not be done without the consent of the crown, and his diocesan. The following letter of bishop Piers informs us, that the bishop had obtained the lease, to transfer it as Foxe requested. “Grace and peace from God the Father, etc. I have received yor Gr.
Ire the xiiij of this prsent monthe in the behalfe of Mr. Foxe his sonne for the prbend of Shipton, the graunt wherof allreadie her Matie hath made unto me, because yt is a prbend belonging to the church of Saturn in respect whereof I doe lay claime unto yt, I thoughte good to procure the disposition of yt into my owne handes. Nevrthelesse readie I am to the uttermost of my power, to pleasure that good man, Mr. Foxe. And to this point his sonne the bearer herof and I are growne. First because he thinketh some blemishe to be in the lease, for want of a confirmation of the deane and chapter before the death of Mr. Randall, to whom the lease was made. I have promised him to confirme either the same lease againe, or a newe one if this doth mislike him. For he uppon whom I meane to bestowe the prbend is my domesticall chaplaine, and to marie my neece verie shortlie. At my comandmet I am sure in this matter, and hath alreadie promised the prformance herof before me unto Samuell Fox. I have moreovr promised him to bestowe some other prbend uppon his yonger brother as soone as anie falleth royal, after he is capable of it. And in the meane season to geve him some exhibicon quarterlie toward his maintenance in the universitie.
And this I trust will satisfie yr Gr. and Mr. Foxe, if not, uppon the understandynge of yor Gr. further pleasure geven, I shalbe content to yeld further to his better contentment. Mr. Walvard as yett eontinueth with me, the same man as he was. Thus I leave you to God’s mrciful tuicon. From my house in Sury the xiiij of Julie, 1586. “Yor Sr to comand in Christ, JO. SARUM .” F263 This is addressed to Dr. Whitgift, then archbishop of Canterbury. The application was successful. The provision for his son was procured, f264 and the lease continued in the family. Samuel Foxe possessed it at his father’s death, 1687; and in the 35th of Elizabeth, made a grant of the tythe of Shipton to Richard Wisedom, enjoining him to the observance of the covenant relating to the poor. This covenant refers to the clause in the original grant in the lease respecting the entertainment of the poor, viz.: “And furder yt the said Samuell Foxe his executors and assignes shall and will every Sunday and festivall day during the said terme, invite entertaine and have to his table at dinner and supper two couple of honest and neediest persons (being dwellers within the said parish) allowing to them sufficient meate and drinke for their relief. To the intent good hospitality may be kept and mainteyned within the same mansion place. “This first lease made by Foxe to his sonne, Samuell Foxe, has been the patterne of all the leases renewed since, which have been alwayes exactly transcribed in the same generale words and covenants, without the least alteration of that sort, and particularly this article relatyng to the poure ever preserved entire. F265 “Samuel Foxe died in 1629, about Christmas, and left his lease, and tenant-right of the said parsonage of Shipton, etc. to his son Thomas Foxe, master of arts, and fellow of Magdalen College, in Oxford, and doctor in physic, who enjoyed it, by renewing, above thirty year’s, and in his time made severall short leases of the tythe of Shipton, etc. to one Thomas Skay, yeoman, who from time to time held the said tythes of Shipton, etc. above twenty years, being tied to the very same words and covenant conferming the poor’s entertainment, as appears by the leases plainely and particularly by the last lease made by the saide Thomas Foxe to Thomas Skay, bearing date the 7 of June, 1660. And heer it is observable that Thomas Skay was by all his leases bound to the very words of entertaining 2 couples of poor people every Sunday and festivall day at the parsonage house in Shipton still and no where else, without the least obligation of paying any sume of money to any other place upon that account. “On the 20th of November, 1662, Doer. Thomas Foxe died, and left his present lease and executoriall right of the said parsonage of Shipton, with all its members and appertinences, to his only daughter and sole executrix Dame Alice Willys, wife to sir Richard Willys, of Shipton in the county of Oxon, knt. and bart.” F266 We learn from the letter of bishop Piers that Foxe was now (1586,) in a declining state of health. This appears also from another letter addressed at the same time from Mrs. Foxe to her son; and which con- firms the account of the state of poverty in which, in spite of all his intense labors, Foxe was still placed. “Samuell we have us comended unto you desyringe the Lorde Jessus to blesse youe. Conserninge the Boucke which you wryghte for, the Boucke of Marters, youre father wolde hare youe to wryte to the fellowe of Salsberye to knowe yf he wyll staye tell the Boucke comme forthe, which is halle dun all redye, and wylle a gret dell, and for the cronycle yt wyll not be longe before you comme bether youreselfe for I promyse youe I have no money for I have borred xli all redye, and for the boucke which youe wold have of youre fathers, I cannot fynde yt in his stoudye. As for youre father he is so weicke yt he cannot gooe into his stoudye, therfore I praye youe to praye for him, we wer with youre Aunte Randall for the letter of attorneye, and she wyll not doo yt withowte her Brothers Harryes counsayle and he is not at home as yet. But her she hathe sente youe a letter. No more to youe. But the Lorde Jessus blesse youe and us all. Amen. “Your lovinge mother, “AGGNES FOXE .”
Foxe adds a postscript to this letter: — “Samuell I marvell that you were so unwyse to blabbe out any thyng of ye bok of ye Apocalypse to Doet. Humfrey. Such is my weaknes now, and hath been this moneth, yt I can nether cate, sleape, nor wryte, nor goo up yett to my study, wherby ye boke standeth yett att a stay, in pryntyng. The Lord knoweth how I shall goo forward eyther for fynyshyng ye boke or dedication therof. Wherof I pray you to make no wordes to any person. Pray to ye L. Jesus for me. He graunt you hys blessyng. Amen.” F267 Though the third edition of the Acts and Monuments had now been published, Foxe still continued to collect fresh materials for a new and improved edition. He continued to attend also to the duties of the ministry, and the management of a laborious correspondence. He was influential in the conversion of a Spanish Jew, who was baptized and received into the christian church in 1577. The confession of the faith of the convert was written in Spanish, and translated afterwards into English.
John Foxe preached upon this occasion a sermon entitled the Gospel Olive. It was preached in Latin, but afterwards published in English. It was translated by W. Bell. The subject of the sermon is, The Gospel Olive Tree, spoken of by St. Paul in the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. It notices the principal prophecies relating to the Messiah, refuting the arguments in favor of the Jewish opposition to the gospel. It contains many beautiful passages, especially those in which he proceeds through the succession of prophecies which prove Jesus of Nazareth to be the first of the prophets. The paragraphs in which the contrast is drawn between the expectations of those who deemed Christ to be a temporal, and not a spiritual Prince; those also in which he anticipates the future glory and majesty of the kingdom of Christ, and the final conversion of some to Messiah, their Pt;nee, are judiciously treated. It was dedicated to sir Francis Walsingham, who had requested the discourse to be repeated to him during an illness in his sick chamber. John Foxe thanks sir Francis, in his dedication, for the benefit he had derived, in his own infirm state of health, from his French wine; and begs him, in return for this fruit of the vineyard, to accept this branch of the evangelical olive tree. He wishes every earthly and heavenly blessing to him, and to the little plants of his domestic olive tree. This sort of play on words, which our modern notions of wit would treat with disdain, was then highly esteemed. The confession of faith by the converted Jew is appended to the sermon. Both have been lately republished in London. F268 While this sermon was going through the press, the following letter was addressed to Foxe by C. Barber, who was probably a printer in the service of Daye. “Sir, for as much as I can nott here of Mr. Bell and yt my presse standeth still for want of this Epistle to my Mr. I besech you lett me crave so much of you as to english the same: as for the residue of the Boke, I dare nott fynde faultt wth him yt haith doone his good will, neyther can I juge by the latin, But I am sure it is translated in manye placis quyt frome yor meaning and in some farr from Christianitie. But so soone as we fownde it we have bene sireumspeckt. Thus I umblie co,end you to the L. Jesus and to the comforte of his holye Spiritt this 23 of June 1577. “Yors to his power “ C. Barber .” F269 Whether Foxe altered any part of his discourse in consequence of this criticism is uncertain.
He continued to receive, at this time, from all quarters, letters on public matters, as well as on the private and domestic affairs of those who were anxious to consult him. His son alludes to the manner in which he was now regarded as the common friend of the friendless; and so far as his means allowed him to be, the common benefactor to the poor. Many of these letters are still preserved. One, for instance, is sent him from Hamburgh by his friend Langerman, with a work entitled “Ecclesiastes; “ and an account of what would appear to have been a public wish, viz. the desire that some commercial communications might take place between that city and England; “not,” he adds, “that a kingdom so opulent, and abounding in wealth, can require any assistance from a city so poor as this; yet, it sometimes happens that the eagle is benefitted by the beetle.” F270 He receives intelligence from Thomas Barwick at Lambeth that the duke of Northumberland was reported to have died a papist; and to have used the words, “O bone Jesus, O dulcis Jesus, O Jesu fili Mariae.” F271 At the same time the bishop of London sends him information, that the queen of Scots had been grievously afflicted with paralysis, and that great hopes were entertained of the young king being a good protestant in Scotland. F272 While he is thus made the repository of information of every description, applications were made to him, as the intimate friend of the patrons of the day, to assist in the obtaining patronage for others. The following is selected as a specimen of these applications. “To the right worshipfull and his deare brother in lorde Mr. Jhon Foxe, a painfull professor and preacher of the worde of God Fraunces Shakelton person of St. Mildreds in the Pultrie, (and preacher of the same word of truth) doth wishe grace and peace from God the father and from the lorde Jesus Christe. “These are to besech you and require you (in the lorde right worshipfull and dearlie beloved) yt you will not faile to do ye best you can in the preferringe of the suite of the bairer hereof Antonie Watsone, who as I am persuaded is a deare childe of God and is verie desyrous to be a proffittable member in his churche. If he may have your favor-able and readie speches or letters of recommendation unto yt rare and painfull (pains-taking) pastor of our tyme Mr. Nowell the deane of Pawles. Beseechinge him to retaine him and to receive him unto his chardge and tuicion as his servaunt during his liffe, with this petition, (for yt he is desyrous to learne ye latine tonge) that he will vouehsaffe of his wonted bountifulnes and accostomed clemencye to kepe him at some grammer schole or els to trayne him up in his owne howse till such tyme as he shalbe able to understand what he readeth in the latine ronge, for he is very earnestly bent to heare ye word of God, and he is also verie forward in ye principall points of ye Christian religion, which maketh me the more readie to be a suiter unto your worship for him, desyringe you againe and againe to preferre his cause so much as in you is possible. And thus I commend you unto the tuicion of God who ever kepe you from all evle. From my house in the Pultrie this present Fryday the 26 of Februarie 1680. “Yours in the lorde to commaunde in anie thinge I am hable, “FRAUNCES SHAKELTON .” “To the right worshipfull and his deare frende and brother Mr.
Foxe professor of divinitie geve these.” F273 A little before this he received one from Mr. John Lond, containing several new materials for his Martyrology, and insisting more especially on the miserable end of divers Romish priests, as of Dr. Wyllyams; the priest of St. Margaret’s, Eastchepe; etc. f274 His labors were now drawing to a close, and he was superintending the last edition of his great work, that appeared under his own correction. Hints he had from many; among them the following: — “I have mee hartely comended. I doo understand you doo mind (to) enlardge your booke of Martyrs, and to have it newly printed: God grant yt yr good purpose therein may take good successe according to your expectation, and our hartye desire is, yt it may be printed in good paper and a faire and legible print, and not in blacke blurred and tome paper, as ye last edition is: being nether good paper or good print. I write thus much, for ye good will I beare unto you rayne old frind, and acquaintance in magdalen college, and also for that it is pittifull to see such a notable pece of woorke to be darkned with foule paper and obscure print: and thereby haulfe cast away. Thus I am bold to open my mind unto you, trusting yt you will accept my good meaning therein. I woold hartelye wish further that you woold set out all your whole discourse at lardge in two faire volumes; leaving out nothing ether Latten or English, as you have done in many places in your latter edicion referring your reader unto ye fyrst edicion, as though every man hath or can have all the edicions. Moreover I woold wish that you woold quote the booke and ye chapiter of everye perticular authoritye which you doo alleadge in your woorke: as also in what tyme everye writer was: as nighe as you can: the table also is not perfecte for divers names of martyrs are left out in the table, namelye: fo. Collins, Cowbridge, and Packington, likewise Puttdew: and Peke fo. 1106, wherof there is no mencion in the table. I was present at the burning of Cowbridge at what tyme doctor Brinknell doctor of divinitie in Cambridge and at that tyme schoole master in Banburye, under longland, bishop of Lincolne, did preaehe in the same place before balioll colledge where the late bishops were burned. I have delivered unto this bearer my sone, the names of many whome I did knowe, which if they may pleasure you I pray you to use them. Thus I take my leave wishing unto you to my selfe. Oxon. the 3d day of February, 1582. “Yor old acquaintance & ffrende to my power, “SIMON PARRETT .” “Mr. Parrett yr old eleemosynarius for your groate and worde, not only diligens lector, sed avidus Helluo tuorum librorum, hath many times wished the thinges reformed: whereunto I subscribe, desiring you to make it nowe a full monument of Actes for all posterite.
Co,end me to good Mrs. Ffoxe. Your sone requests... daies to goe beyond ye seas, wh I graunte conditionally, if you write him. “Tuissimus, LAUR. HUMPHREDUS .” F275 Among other letters addressed to Foxe at this period, is another from the same friend and fellow-exile, Laurence Humphrey, exhorting him to proceed with a work, which he had long before undertaken, the completing of Haddon’s answer to Osorius, which had appeared in 1577, and again in 1581. Dr. Humphrey entreats him to go on, and confute Osorius, even to slaying. F276 Foxe, though now continually occupied with the fourth and last edition of his Acts and Monuments, still found time to comply with this request. The controversy to which the president of Magdalene refers, may even now be interesting to the theological student. It relates to that most agitated of all questions, the justification of the soul before God.
Jerome Osorius, the author of the book to which Foxe replied, was surnamed, for the elegance of his Latin style, the Portuguese Cicero. After studying at Salamanca, he proceeded, at the age of nineteen, to Paris, where he became the intimate friend of Peter le Faire, one of the earliest associates of Loyola, whom he introduced to the patronage of his sovereign, John III. He thus procured the early establishment of the Jesuits in Portugal. From Paris he proceeded to Bologna, where he became distinguished for his knowledge of Hebrew and theology; as he had before distinguished himself in Latin, Greek, and the civil law. He was made professor of theology in the university of Coimbra, where he lectured on Isaiah, and on the Epistle to the Romans. He was subsequently made bishop of Selves, and performed his duties with great exemplariness and fidelity. He was much beloved by Sebastian; whom he in vain endeavored to dissuade from the expedition in which he perished. He was no less esteemed by pope Gregory XIII. He died in 1580.
I mention these details, not only because of the controversy of Osorius with the English church, but because his library was captured at sea, by the earl of Essex, in 1596, and a great portion of it is now placed in the Bodleian at Oxford.
The church of England, on account of its maintaining so tolerantly, so scripturally, so holily, the union of discipline and truth, which not only permits, but encourages the freedom of inquiry, and even inculcates inquiry as a duty, by the manner in which it so uniformly appeals to Scripture — the church of England, which has adorned its altars and services with all that is truly useful or ornamental from either antiquity, tradition, or the Fathers — the church of England, which combines in one acceptable ritual, all that a papist might demand for regularity and order, and all that a puritan might demand for the spiritual homage of the soul to its Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier — this church of England has ever been, and, until Rome changes, will ever be, the chief object of attack with such men as the learned and zealous Osorius. In the year 1562, Osorius published what Strype calls a malicious libel against England and the reformation, in an epistle to the queen. This was answered by Haddon, the master of requests to Elizabeth; and the reply of Haddon is esteemed by Strype to be equal to Jewell’s Apology. Haddon would compel us to believe that the work of Osorius was but a medley of impertinences and absurdities, and a mere declamation against the reformation. He seems to have indulged in much personal invective against the Reformers, contrasting them with the Fathers, and assailing, with much vehemence, their uniform appeal to Scripture, as their sole criterion of truth in religion.
It laments the demolition of the monasteries and nunneries, and the removal of images and pictures. He affirms that all things sacred were overthrown in England. He condemns the separation from the pope — the manners of the people — the preaching — the liturgy — the sacramental forms — and the want of union, among the members of the reformed church. He contrasts England with the continent, to its disadvantage; and expresses his deep pity for its miserable and unfortunate condition; and he concludes his treatise by imploring her majesty to relinquish the religion of England, and to adopt the conclusions of Trent, and Osorius. He eulogizes the church of Rome with much eloquence; and urges the queen to banish what he called, in common with his brethren, the novelty of error; but what Haddon called, in common with the better informed theologians of his church, the antiquity of truth. The answer of Haddon to this remonstrance was printed, and circulated on the Continent.
The reply of Osorius was published soon after. It repeated his invectives. The book was eulogized by his brethren. Haddon was threatened with death, if he continued the controversy. To this he answered that so long as he breathed he would persist in the defense of his country. Whether he was destroyed by poison or not is uncertain: but so it was that he died at Bruges, in Flanders, while on an embassy from England, before his second answer to Osorius was concluded, in the year 1566. John Foxe was requested to complete the unfinished essay. He was thought the fittest, both for his learning and theology, as well as for his excellent Latin style, to go on with the work. He did so; and added three more books. The work thus completed was published in London by John Day, in quarto, in 1577. It was translated into English by James Bell, and printed again in 1581, one year after the death of Osorius.
One of the chief doctrines which distinguishes the church of England from the church of Rome, is the doctrine of justification. The work of Foxe L16 is a defense of the evangelical view of justification, as it is so clearly expressed in the eleventh article of the church of England. These pages of Foxe are still most interesting to all who have studied the works which have lately appeared on this subject. Whether we adopt the conclusions of Newman, or the definitions of bishop M’Ilvaine, that justifying faith is a principle beginning with knowledge, going on to love, and ending in action; or the definition of Holden, that justification is an act of God, acquitting from guilt, receiving into favor, communicating the Holy Spirit, accepting men as just, and conferring eternal life, of which act faith is the condition, and baptism the beginning; or whether we receive the definition of the council of Trent — that justification is constituted by an infused and inherent principle of holiness, conferred at baptism, preserved, and augmented by faith and works — diminished and lost by sin — recovered by the sacraments — partly effected by good works — through the grace of the Holy Spirit, made meritorious by the merits of Christ, and that a man is justified by this inherent, divinely-infused righteousness — whether we define faith to be the formal cause of justification — or whether justifying faith is a principle of action only, or action combined with principle; whatever be the conclusions, or opinions, or deliberations of the student of the works of Newman, Alexander Knox, Faber, bishop M’Ilvaine, Holden, and others; the doctrine of justification by faith, as the church of England teaches it in the eleventh article, will ever remain the light which gilds the valley of the shadow of death. “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or descryings; therefore, that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine and very full of comfort.” Every student of this portion of our controversies will be benefited by the perusal of Foxe’s answer to Osorius. The one doctrine he opposes, against the church of Rome, is the doctrine of inherent righteousness. He calls the members of the church of Rome who maintain this doctrine against the true catholic church, pseudo-catholics, and catacatholics, as being opposed to the true catholicism of the church of Christ. He concludes his preliminary address by a beautiful prayer to Christ, that he would still the disorderly tumults, and vain janglings in the church — (the prayer may be now offered with propriety, and may it be accepted!) — that Christ would grant peace to our times, pardon to our sins, strength and victory to our faith, skillful workmen to the church, and dexterity in working and teaching to the workmen; and especially that he would refresh and comfort with the gracious favor of his Divine Majesty, the pious and perplexed consciences of believers, combating with death and Satan, or exercised with sharp affliction, for the glory of his own name.
He then proceeds to the general discussion of the subject with his usual skill and eloquence. He is, as he ought to be, not Calvinistical, but rightly evangelical, in the proper sense of that much-decried and much-abused word. He speaks as a Christian and as a churchman ought to speak, of that free justification of the soul, which the papists anathematize and hiss out of the schools. He contrasts the principles and effects of the two opposite doctrines. He derides the confirmation of the Trentine creed by reasonings drawn from Aristotle. He proves the union of holiness of life with the evangelical truths he is maintaining; and vindicates, throughout, the common faith once delivered to the saints, as it is generally upheld by the members of the church of England at present, in the most complete and satisfactory manner. A brief account of the work is given, with much eulogy, by Strype, and an abridgment of the treatise has been lately published by the Tract Society in London. F282 It may be presumed, therefore, to be familiar to all; and it will reward the perusal of all who are interested in these inquiries, and are willing to seek for truth in every quarter where there may be a probability of finding that pearl of great price. The book concludes with another prayer to Christ, that all who profess his name, and wear his badge, may depart from iniquity, and be gathered together, in one uniform doctrine, into the kingdom of Him who suffered for the sins of man, and rose again for his justification. They are simple and common words; but what Christian will not desire both his own justification and the union of the holy catholic church? and what Christian will refuse to say Amen to that prayer? F283 Little now remains to be said of John Foxe. We have seen his language of kindness and love towards the members of the church of Rome, though he was the most severe condemner of their errors, and especially of their intolerable persecutions. We cannot tell whether he had by this time followed the example of Dr. Humphrey, and many of his other friends, in conformity to the vestments; but, if Strype is right, in imputing to him, rather than to Dr. Humphrey, the beautiful expostulatory letter to the puritans, who were now beginning to be powerful, we may believe that he conformed, and we have still more abundant reason to admire in John Foxe the union of those two virtues which ought ever to characterise the episcopalian protestant — the love of union, and the love of truth. F285 The internal evidence would induce us to conclude that it was written by Foxe.
There is the same intermixture of Greek sentences which characterises his application to lord Burghley, “to obtain the queen’s confirmation of his prebend in the church of Sarum.” F286 It abounds with scriptural allusions, and references to the Apocalypse, which Foxe had made his peculiar study. It breathes the same spirit of peace and desire of union, with the same aversion to the church of Rome, as the enemy of such union, which marks his other labors, excepting that comparatively little notice is taken of the papacy, in consequence of the letter being addressed to the puritans.
The chief attack on the church of Rome, indeed, appears in the forty-first paragraph, where he contrasts the gorgeous and sumptuous vestments of the church of Rome, with the more simple robes and surplice adopted by the church of England, to which the Writer is persuading conformity. F287 If, then, we may, on such evidence, together with that of Strype, attribute the letter to Foxe, we may regard it as his last address to the church, and to those friends who taught with him the great truth of justification by faith alone, as a principle of love, leading to obedience to God. A brief abstract of its contents, therefore, may not be uninteresting.
The English title of the letter is, “An Expostulatory Letter to the Puritans, upon occasion of their Contentions in the Church, and Exhortatory to Peace, and earnest Application of themselves to preach the Gospel.” Its Latin title does not mention the puritans. It is addressed only to all the faithful ministers of Christ, his fellow-workers in the gospel, and who have the true zeal of reforming the house of God. F288 It may appear that the attributing to the persons to whom the letter was addressed, zeal in reforming, is the same as denominating them puritans. We may, however, hope that the desire to remove whatever may be justly objectionable, either in the church or in the state, does not necessarily subject the respectful proposer of a change to any odious, or contemptful, epithet.
Both are supposed to be inflamed with an honorable zeal so to reform the church, that if there should’ be found anything in the liturgy, articles, homilies, or canons, which may be objectionable, we ought, at a fit opportunity, to remove it. It is believed that the reforms which the high churchman would propose, would make the church approximate more to Rome than it now does. It is believed that the reforms which the low churchman would propose, would remove the church further from Rome.
Peace be to both. Neither are papists; neither are puritans. Let but their controversy proceed till they both esteem each other more than they may have hitherto done, and all useful changes may be eventually made, and peace be upon our Israel.
The letter consists of forty-six paragraphs; and, as their contents are of a very general nature, they may be said to be as useful at present as they were when they were originally published. “I speak the truth, my brethren,” it begins (Par. 1), “do not, I entreat you, oppose the truth. I know that there is nothing so true, but it may be corrupted by prejudice; nothing so false, which may not be so treated that it shall appear both probable and certain.” “Let us contend for the truth.” (Par. 2 and 3.) “Imitate the bees; as they extract honey from every flower, so let us obtain truth from all sources. This is our business; this is our duty. The spiritual church, Jerusalem, our mother (Par. 4), is not yet at its home in heaven; it is still in its wanderings upon earth. And this spouse of Christ is not naked as in Paradise before the Fall, but possesses its own robe; not the Babylonian garments of meretricious pride and splendor, but the dress, and ornaments, and ceremonies which are, as it were, the coats of skin to clothe it, granted by its Lord himself, simple, plain, and decorous. This our mother is not now, as she will in future be, ‘without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing.’ This our field of the church cannot be without its tares; yet let us not despise the manners and the customs of the church of God.
The ancient churches, even though planted by the apostles (Par. 5), had their faults. Let us (Par. 6) learn to bear with each other, to avoid all schisms, and not to rend asunder the seamless coat of Christ. F289 This is not the time (Par. 7) for disputes, but for peace. Let us in that bond keep the unity of the Spirit; and may your (Par. 8) indefatigable and useful preaching extend and obtain a blessing. We may observe that in the Apocalypse (Par. 9), three angels are represented as preaching, each having his own, certain, definite, separate, yet agreeing commission. They were the precursors of the Judgment day. The first said, ‘Fear God, and give glory to him.’ This is the preaching of the gospel. The second (Par. 10) said, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen.’ This is the preaching against Antichrist and his kingdom. The third (Par. 11) said, ‘ If any shall adore the beast and his image, he shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God.’ As they agree (Par. 12), so let us do also. As they (Par. 13) do not condemn each other for taking their different offices, so let us not rashly condemn the preaching of each other. Let us not call a man a pharisee because he preaches the necessity of good works. Let us not call a man a papist, who prefers celibacy to marriage. So let us (Par. 14) rightly divide the word of truth, giving to each the food of life, according to opportunity and place. In council, at court, let us speak as our circumstances or station permit, on the laws and on the reformations which may be required in the church or state. In the parish, in the manor, in the country; let us converse on obedience, and morals, and the necessity of a holy conversation. Though we act as skillful physicians in these matters, yet, as John the Baptist (Par. 15) reproved Herod, and the prophets reproved wicked kings, so (Par. 16) should we, in palaces, instruct princes; in villages, the common people; and in the assemblies of the clergy, heal the wounds of your brethren. Yours it is (Par. 17) to pour in the oil and the wine, with the good Samaritan; yours is the word of reconciliation, the gospel of peace: and if the rod of severe reproof or the sword of excommunication be necessary, so use it that the drowning man shall emerge from the mire, and not be plunged deeper. The nature of man loves persuasion, and abhors compulsion. “You desire to extirpate papistry. Make allowances (Par. 18) for the attachment to their ancient practices, among those whom you endeavor to convert. Do not imitate (Par. 19) their intolerance. Let not your words be swords. Avoid (Par. 20) spiritual pride and contempt of the weak; avarice (Par. 21), superstition, and indolence. Without obedience to the law which we understand, knowledge does but increase our punishment. Take care lest, when you wish to be as Argus, ye become not more blind than the blind papists themselves. Why preach ye my law (Par. 22), and hate your own required reformation?”
The next fourteen paragraphs consist of arguments against pluralities and non-residence, and exhortations to consider Christ alone as the object of all their teaching. On him alone, the hand, the eye, the soul, must be intently fixed; or the preacher commits sin, and errs from the mark. After some severe and just remarks on non-residents, he proceeds — “The kingdom of God (Par. 37) is not meat and drink, but peace and joy; yet all in the churches must be done decently and in order. The things consecrated to God (Par. 38) must be appropriated exclusively to God.”
From this the author passes on to the defense of the vestments, of suitable ornaments for the Lord’s table, and especially of the surplice. He expostulates (Par. 40) with them for resisting the authority of the church on such a point as the wearing the surplice. F290 It is a popish garment, is the objection. “Even if it is so,” he answers, “does the error of the faith necessarily follow the use of the garment? Do we become Turks, pagans, heathens, because our clothes resemble theirs? Are not the holy persons who are represented as engaged in heavenly things, described to us as clothed in white?” He contrasts (Par. 41) the sumptuous magnificence of the popish vestments with the simplicity of the English surplice, and urges (Par. 42) its adoption as the robe of order, decency, and union; not, as many imagine, of devotion, holiness, and religion.
From the defense of the surplice, he proceeds to discuss the subscription (Par. 43) to the prayers. The Amen, which expresses the assent to the petitions, he argues to be equivalent to the required subscription. “They agree (Par. 44) to the truth of the doctrines which cannot be, and ought not to be, changed. Why should they not subscribe to things which are in their own nature indifferent, such as rites and ceremonies, which may be changed, if it so please the church and the ruler? As the kiss of peace and the mode of unction in the apostolical churches have been changed or removed, so also may the observances of any other church be altered, if it be necessary: but while they are ordained by law, they are bonds of union, and may be wisely retained. I beseech you, therefore, brethren,” he concludes (Par. 45), “that ye follow peace; so do the work of an evangelist; and contend no more for trifles. Let us join hands in union, promoting the establishment of the gospel, the inculcation of good works, and the overthrow of the Jesuits, the enemies of the church. This is labor sufficient for us; this is our bounden duty. So let us bear each other’s burthens; so fulfill the law of Christ.” He then concludes with a prayer for the blessing of the Holy Spirit, and ascriptions of praise to Christ, the Lord and Savior, as the great Head of the church.
Such is the address to the puritans, which Strype would attribute to John Foxe, in the last year of his life. If it may be justly ascribed to him, we may be certain that he had at length followed the example of the great majority of his fellow-exiles in the reign of Mary, and conformed to the external vestments and ceremonies, as he had uniformly adopted the doctrines and truths, of the church. It breathes throughout the same spirit of truth and love, which had characterised his sermon at St. Paul’s Cross.
It is written in the style and language which has been always deemed most becoming the church of England, as the medium between popery and puritanism. It condemns the errors of both, but the former more severely than the latter, because more of christian truth is perverted by popery than by puritanism; but it speaks of the holders of error as objects of compassion rather than of reproach. It aims at union, but would sacrifice no truth to obtain it. It regards the changeableness of things indifferent as one source of the desired union, and obedience to the authority of the church in all matters where no scriptural truth is denied, as the solemn obligation of a Christian. Happy would it have been for the church and for the state of England, if the principles it inculcates had been made the guide of the two contending parties who changed the island into a field of blood within the eventful century which followed the death of the martyrologist; when mutual exasperations led to mutual crimes; and the severest wounds which the holy religion of Jesus Christ ever yet suffered, proceeded neither from the violence of the heathen; nor the persecution of the papist; nor from hypocrisy, as was so often alleged, on the part of the puritan; but from the personal piety of the holy, and of the zealous, refusing conformity to a ceremony, or the putting on of a surplice. Whenever the time arrives that nations, rulers, and people, shall learn the great lessons which are given to us by the crimes and follies, by the virtues and vices, recorded in the history of the past; they must act in the temper and spirit of this address to the puritans, by one who studied and enforced the truth, which the papist and the puritan have alike perverted.
And now the time arrived w.hen the martyrologist must die. The man of the world, who has his portion in this life, and who passes through life anxious only for its honors, wealth, and pleasures, staves off all thoughts of dying; and when the law of his God commands the body to faint, and the soul to live in its new condition, he yields to the sentence merely as to an unavoidable event, of which it would be unphilosophical to complain.
He dies as the fool dieth — as a sentimental and affected heathen might die — professing, perhaps, in terms which seem selected to conceal his terrors under the mask of serenity, to believe that the soul is immortal; and sinking, and making no christian sign, as if there was no revelation to guide him, no church to aid him, no priesthood to console him, no God to fear, nor Savior to love, nor Holy Spirit to strengthen, nor heaven to hope, nor hell to dread, nor soul to save. Some Christians die in humble hope — some in the calmness of holy peace, and rejoicing in God their Savior.
They know in whom they have believed. They gather their friends and their kindred around them; and their last expressions are divided between the language which describes their own quiet confidence in the revealed mercy of God, their affection to their friends, and their gratitude to the providence which has led them through the wilderness of life, and which upholds their faltering steps in the dark valley through which they are walking. Some Christians — and archbishop Leighton and John Foxe were of the number — when the last hour of their earthly existence approaches, rejoice that the communion between the spirit parting from the body, and the invisible Father of the spirits of all flesh, should be undisturbed by the tears and lamentations of their weeping kindred. They endeavor to dismiss from their presence all who may interrupt the solemn and sacred composure, with which the Christian awaits the moment when the consciousness of existence in this state ends, and the consciousness of existence in the next state begins — when, resigned and expectant of that great and mysterious change, the dying man prays within, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace!” “Being now full of years,” says his son, “he died, not through any known disease, but through much age.” He foresaw the time of his departure, and would not suffer his sons to be present at his death. He would not permit one to be sent for; and the other, who was in attendance upon him, he dismissed on a journey three days before he died. He commanded their return at such time as he knew they would but come back to weep over his lifeless body. No particulars are related by his son of his dying expressions. We may, however, believe that they were worthy of him who had replied to the expostulations of his friends, when they solicited him to diminish his charities, and to have more regard to the management of his resources — that he depended upon the continued providence of God, who had, by covenant, the charge of his affairs; who knew all his wants, and how to supply them, and whom he could not distrust without manifest ingratitude; for his providence had never failed him. His heart and affections, indeed, had been so devoted to the service of his God, that he could not now distrust him. “He had lived in the deliberate and resolved contempt of all things,” says his son, “which are in the greatest esteem among men.” He had, more especially, despised the allurements and pleasures of the world. Yet he did not conquer in this battle by flying to retirement; neither did he disdain them from any affectation of indifference or apathy. The true cause was, that he appreciated those highest pleasures, which, as the world could not give them, so neither could it take them away — the pleasures which proceeded from the love of God. So was his mind filled with these — so much was he delighted with the contemplations now so little known among the controversies, and the din of the disputes, of Christians, that he had neither room in his heart, nor affection in his mind, for other and inferior delight. He willingly, therefore, separated himself from the fashions and attractions of the world, all of which he was able rightly and fully to appreciate, He devoted himself to these higher meditations, as one who had found in them an invaluable treasure. He bent his eyes and his mind on these alone, so stedfastly, that he both spoke and did many things beyond those of ordinary good men; so that many honored him as one who seemed to speak to them as by a superhuman power, and were willing to pay him honor which ought not to be given to the best of mortals. Some anecdotes are related by his son, which illustrate the power he was supposed to possess of predicting the future restoration to perfect health of some who were diseased, and believed themselves to be dying, and the consequent veneration in which he was held. The agreement of the event, however, with the sanguine prediction of the best of men, would be considered only as a coincidence in the present day; when the attempt is being daily, though vainly, made to resolve even the well-authenticated miracles of the Scripture into natural and common events. I purposely, therefore, omit all the circumstances to which I allude, knowing they will be deemed to be incredible, whether they be true or false.
Though he was thus eminent for his contempt of the world, he was not an ascetic, banishing himself from the society either of his equals or superiors.
His intimacy with the duke of Norfolk had continued unbroken from the earliest years of the duke until he was attended by Foxe to the scaffold.
The pension assigned him by the duke was continued by his son. F291 The lord treasurer Burghley, ‘the earls of Bedford and Warwick, sir Francis Walsingham, the amiable and accomplished brothers, sir Thomas and Michael Heneage, sir Drue Drury, and sir Francis Drake, are enumerated among his friends. The earl of Leicester made him valuable presents; a circumstance not, indeed, surprising, as that nobleman was supposed to be anxious to conciliate those who peculiarly regarded John Foxe as the champion of the anti-papal cause. The principal ecclesiastics of the day, Grindall, Aylmer, Pilkington, Nowell, were devotedly attached to him, not only as their fellow-exile, but as that good and holy person, of whom no fault has ever been alleged, and against whom none could find occasion to speak, unless, as against Daniel in the olden time, “it was found in him concerning the law of his God.” These he loved in return, but he more peculiarly delighted in the learning and conversation of Fulk and Whittaker, whose labors still enrich the church, and in those of Humphrey, president of Magdalene, of sir Thomas Gresham, and sir Thomas Roe, the wealthy and accomplished merchants of London. From these, and from many others enumerated by his son, he derived the large sums of money which he was known to distribute so bountifully, and to which he added so much of his own more scanty resources, that he is said by many, though his son doubts the certainty of the report, to have given away the very furniture of his house to supply the temporary, but pressing wants of his poorer neighbors. F292 Great cheerfulness is the usual concomitant of piety united with knowledge. Many anecdotes are recorded by his son to illustrate the cheerfulness with which he adorned the tables of his noble and learned friends.
We have seen the manner in which his horror of inflicting the punishment of death for real or supposed errors in opinion was exemplified in the case of the burning of some anabaptists. His son assures us that he had the utmost moderation towards the persons of the most zealous papists themselves, however vehemently he was opposed to their opinions. “I could produce letters,” says his son, “wherein he persuadeth lords, and others, who then held the places of chiefest authority, not to suffer Edmund Campian and his fellow-conspirators to be put to death; nor to let that custom continue longer in the kingdom, that death, rather than some other punishment, should be inflicted on the papist offenders. And, lest he might seem only out of the goodness of his nature, and not out of the judgment of his mind, to have so spoken, he there endeavoureth to prove, by many reasons, how much it was to the weakening of the cause, rather to follow the example of their adversaries, in appointing punishments, than their own mildness; and that they much rather ought to strive, as well in mercy and clemency to overcome them, as they had already excelled them in the justice of their cause. This he repeated often, adventuring, even till he was in danger of giving offense by his importunity, to entreat for them.
Whereas, on the other side, the lords gave him to understand that this was a matter of state, not of controversie; that the sovereign’s life, the publick liberty, and the assurance of the kingdom, rested on this point; that subjects ought, by their own peril, to be warned how they grow too prodigal of their countrie’s blessings; that such was the estate of the kingdom, as that nothing could be more glorious, or more secure, if the subjects only would consent to devote their abilities to the service of their own church and country. Yet, for all this, did master Foxe continue in his opinion; and, though he could by entreaty gain nothing, yet would he, with many sighs, testify his sorrow, as often as he heard that any of them had been put to death.”
Every religious error among Christians may be said to be either the adding to, or taking from, or perverting, or deducing wrong inferences from, some undoubted truth. It has ever been, as it still is, the glory of the church of England so to uphold the abstract truth, as to avoid the perversion of the two opposite truths — that authority must be maintained for the sake of order, and freedom of inquiry be not only permitted, but commanded, for the sake of progressive improvement. Popery is the perversion of church authority into mental tyranny. Puritanism is the perversion of freedom into caprice. Both have maintained opposing errors, from which the episcopal churches, which reject alike the usurpations of the papacy and the encroachments of the laity, are free. John Foxe was an episcopalian. In the course of the controversy between Cartwright and Whitgift, the Acts and Monuments of Foxe was praised by Cartwright. This circumstance elicited from Whitgift his opinion of the character of the martyrologist. “I conclude,” says Whitgift, speaking to the puritan, “with the very words of that worthy man, who hath so well deserved of this church of England, master Foxe: — ‘In the ecclesiastical state we take not away the distinction of ordinary degrees, such as by the scripture be appointed, or by the primitive church allowed, as archbishops, bishops, ministers, and deacons; for of these four we especially read, as chief. In which four degrees, as we grant diversity of office, so we admit in the same also diversity of dignity; neither denying that which is due to each degree, neither yet maintaining the ambition of any singular person; for, as we give to the minister place above the deacon, to the bishop above the minister, to the archbishop above the bishop, so we see no cause of inequality why one minister should be above another minister, one bishop in his degree above another bishop to deal in his diocese, or an archbishop above another archbishop.’” Such are the words of Foxe, quoted by Whitgift; and the archbishop adds his own general testimony to the merits of Foxe as an episcopalian. “And I cannot but observe,” says Strype, “the esteem and character that Whitgift expressed of this reverend man.” “The archbishop,” says his great biographer, “was not a man to speak otherwise than as he thought, and he spake of Foxe as of one that he loved and venerated.” F293 But though Foxe was thus an episcopalian, we cannot be certain that his nonconformity to the vestments entirely ceased. If so, there is an inconsistency in this, which has already been considered, and which we may with difficulty excuse. Every church, and every society of Christians, like every political association of men into communities and states, must be founded on the agreement in some general principles, and on the submission of the reason, founded upon that agreement, to some regulations, which would be neither originally proposed by the individual, and which are assented to, also, by him with some difficulty, for the sake of the public peace. If the most rigid papist, from the pope in the Vatican to the last accepter of the tonsure, were to be asked whether there was not some one law, opinion, or conclusion, which is sanctioned by, or included in, the twelfth article of the Tridentine creed, “I do receive and profess all things delivered, declared, and defined by all the sacred canons,” which might possibly be worthy of reconsideration, it is difficult to imagine that the reply would be in the negative. If the most severe Calvinist, or presbyterian, were to be asked, whether no point of the Genevan discipline were capable of improvement, the reply would be the same. If the episcopalian of the church of England were to be asked, whether he would not prefer the exclusion from the canons, of the decree that no Greek Grammar should be used in our public schools but that which was sanctioned by Henry VIII., is it not probable that he would say that this, and perhaps some other minor matters, might be usefully reconsidered?
Yet the papist, the presbyterian, and the episcopalian, are contented to be united in their several communities on general principles; while they desist, for the sake of the public peace of their society, from insisting on the adoption of the several alterations they might be willing to suggest. The individual members of all political, or all religious societies, after the centuries of controversy which have agitated the civilized world, must be contented thus to unite with his brethren; or he must become the very Ishmael of his particular tribe. His hand must be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. Such a man must become to himself his own church, his own pope, and his own Bible. He must forsake the communion of his fellows, and retire from all churches, and all societies, to worship God in the wilderness. Such were, probably, the reasonings which induced the exiles who returned from the continent at the commencement of the reign of Elizabeth, to conform to the vestments, to which they had previously objected; and it is much to be regretted that such reasoning was not certainly influential on the mind of the martyrologist.
But, though he might have been, to this extent, a nonconformist, he highly disapproved of the intemperance of the rigid puritans. He expressed himself to the following effect in the Latin letter written on the expulsion of his son from Magdalen College, on the groundless imputation of his having turned papist: — “I confess it has always been my great care, if I could not be serviceable to many persons, yet not knowingly to injure any one, and least of all those of Magdalene College. I cannot, therefore, but the more wonder at the turbulent genius which inspires those factious puritans, so that violating the laws of gratitude, despising my letters and prayers, disregarding the intercession of the president himself (Dr. Humphrey), without any previous admonition, or assigning any cause, they have exercised so great tyranny against me and my son: were I one, who like them would be violently outrageous against bishops and archbishops, or join myself with them, that is, would become mad, as they are, I had not met with this severe treatment. Now, because, quite different from them, I have chosen the side of modesty and public tranquillity, hence the hatred they have a long time conceived against me is at last grown to this degree of bitterness. As this is the case, I do not so much ask you what you will do on my account, as what is to be thought of for your sakes; you who are prelates of the church, again and again consider. As to myself, though the taking away the fellowship from my son is a great affliction to me, yet because this is only a private concern, I bear it with more moderation. I am much more concerned upon account of the church, which is public. I perceive a certain race of men rising up, who, if they should increase and gather strength in this kingdom, I am sorry to say what disturbance I foresee must follow it. Your prudence is not ignorant how much the christian religion formerly suffered by the dissimulation and hypocrisy of the monks. At present in these men I know not what sort of new monks seems to revive; so much more pernicious than the former, as with more subtle artifices of deceiving, under pre-renee of perfection, like stage-players who only act a part, they conceal a more dangerous poison; who, while they require everything to be formed according to their own ‘ strict discipline’ and conscience, will not desist until they have brought all things into Jewish bondage.” F294 Such were his sentiments on the puritan controversy; and the events of the two succeeding reigns proved that he had not judged rashly of the violent tempers and designs of some of the puritans.
No less moderation was constantly expressed by Foxe even towards the church of Rome itself. Bitterly and vehemently as he justly expressed his most righteous indignation and abhorrence of its persecuting spirit, its persecuting laws, and its persecuting conduct: he had too much learning, and too much wisdom, to deny that the church of Rome, in its purer state, was originally entitled to the admiration of the world; or that all nations were once rightly in communion with its bishops; or that the time may again arrive, when there may be communion with Rome, if Rome will so far change, that such communion shall imply neither subjection to its supremacy, nor adoption of its unscriptural errors. The principal heads of his opinions on this point are still worthy of the attention of all who desire the eventual reunion of Christ’s holy catholic church. They are thus collected by his son. “Among the christian churches the Roman church had always been the highest in dignity, and the most ancient in antiquity. It retained this dignity with much estimation for many centuries. Gradually increasing in authority, neither by the consent of the people, nor by any rightly founded claim, but by reason of the custom and tendency among all nations imperceptibly to submit to those who begin to be powerful, the church of Rome at length exercised command over the churches. Its greatest honor and authority was over the western churches; where Christianity was generally professed, and where the influence, discipline, and piety of the church of Rome was so worthy of admiration, that in these respects it might be called the mother of the churches. Rome was the place where the Christians who were persecuted by the emperors could assemble with the least trouble, be more perfectly protected, and die both with more constancy and with more effect.
The church of Rome thus flourished, rather in good discipline, and in the approved holiness of its professors, than in the abundance of its riches and power. Neither pride, nor indolence, nor worldliness, nor error, were discoverable in the manners and opinions of its clergy; while money, servants, lands, and goods, were in great measure unknown to them. Their contentedness in possessing, or their moderation in using, the few advantages they enjoyed, seemed to render Rome the principal seat of the christian religion. Such was the condition of Rome in the earlier ages of the church. In process of time, however, it began by slow degrees to be corrupted. Having brought the western nations generally to the christian faith, when they had once begun to esteem it to be for the honor of the empire that the priests should no longer, as they had formerly done, endure poverty, but live more plentifully; and when the emperors, to effect the same object, granted many possessions to the churches as ornaments, and to churchmen as rewards; then, also, the priests began to be avaricious, negligent, and ambitious. One age added to the vices of another. They aspired to, and they obtained dominion. They ruled the churches, without permitting the interference of the civil power. They continued their demands of supremacy, till the civil power became subjected to their scepter, the crosier. They subdued the emperors. They invaded the privileges of the empire. The spiritual and temporal governments were identified; till one secular authority alone was recognized in the churches and states of the west. In the meantime the laws of religion were neglected. The Scriptures were neither studied by the priests nor permitted to the people. The worship of God was made to consist in outward devotion and pomp of ceremonies, rather than in the inward obedience of the heart to God. The homage and affections of the people were consequently slowly but effectually weaned from such a priesthood. As the most healthy bodies may fall by sickness into the greatest danger, so it was with the church of Rome. Its strength became the cause of its weakness, and the reaction of the former veneration into hatred and contempt was so great, that Rome was commonly regarded as the chief antichrist, accomplishing in itself the predictions which describe, in the New Testament, the principal enemy of the spiritual church of Christ, and the chief destroyer of the souls of men. Yet, with all this, deeply rooted was the honor and approbation of Rome in the minds of men; so that, though it had fallen in estimation solely by its own covetousness, pride, and error, yet no church, nor person, nor controversialist, imagined that it had sunk so low in sin and apostasy, that it could not return and repent. None believed that it was so far gone in sinning that it could not be recovered by repenting. We, therefore, may justly hope, that the day shall come, when some Italian shall arise in its own society, under whose authority and influence the church of Rome, and the members of the church, shall not be ashamed to confess their error, to amend their faults, to reconsider their discipline, and be willing to part with their usurped supremacy, to procure the peace of the whole world, and the repose of the churches of the holy catholic church of Christ. If this could be justly hoped, the conditions of such agreement might be, first, that the pope should forsake all those tenets, by which he gained so great sums of money; there being nothing whereto the people might with more difficulty be persuaded, than that Christ, the Savior of the world, had instructed his church in the ways of money, and setting the Scriptures to sale.
That, on the other side, his opposers should not refuse that some one man may have the principal place of counsel and government in the church affairs, as being a thing which would have many conveniences in it, when it might be done with security; neither that the Roman church had once fallen, ought to make against it, nor that it had first flourished, to prevail for it, herein to be preferred before any other; but that all this was to be left to the discretion of a general council of the Christians, which might be so equitable, as that neither the power nor favor of any one should be able, either from the place of meeting, or the difference in number of voices, to promise itself any advantage to the injury of the rest.
That in the meanwhile it would be of great moment to the hope and speediness of settling all controversies, if hereafter on both sides they would give such instructions as might cause in each party a better hope and opinion of the other; especially that they ought to leave off that stubborn conceit, whereby each of them, presuming itself to be the only true church, supposeth all other churches to be excluded from the covenant of God.”
Such were the opinions of Foxe respecting the origin, progress, and eventual destiny of the church of Rome. In the latter part of this brief survey, I have preserved as far as possible the antiquated language of his son’s memorial. Strange, indeed, it will appear to the majority of the readers of the Life of Foxe, that peace with Rome, when Rome changes, should be recommended by the martyrologist himself to the churches, which compose the one catholic church of Christ. So it is, however.
Neither are the protestant, nor the ultra-protestant Christians, nor all the high-minded, zealous, and honorable lovers of truth for the truth’s sake, justified in rejecting the aphorism of John Foxe — that every person and every church, under the christian dispensation, if they will remove their sin, may both hope for pardon of God, and for reunion with their fellowchurches, and their brethren of mankind. Even now the great experiment is in progress, whether the assumption of infallibility, united with the claim to supremacy, and the retention of un-primitive, un-apostolical, yet longdefended errors, can coexist with deliberative senates, free institutions, an unfettered press, the general diffusion of the Scriptures, unlimited permission of inquiry, and well-disciplined episcopal churches, with the Scriptures interwoven into their services, and with liturgies which, combining all that is venerable from antiquity, are both devotional in language, and useful, as the best assistants to holy prayer and holy conduct. Many and great evils still remain to be overcome. Error, before it can receive its greatest downfall, must once more become both influential and powerful. The Trentine church, with the Trentine creed, must, will, and does again endanger the religion, the liberty, and the peace of the civilized world. It will obtain for a time yet more strength, until it dares yet further to insult, and injure; and then the time shall come, when the indignation of spiritual men, and of the more disciplined nations and churches, shall so resist its usurpations, and so condemn its errors, that they shall throw off the yoke of its domination, and after that, consent to accept its repentance. So may the church of Rome, when it is converted, become the strengthener of its brethren. So may the prophecies be fulfilled, and the stakes of the one fold be extended, and the voice of the one Shepherd be heard. The object of all revelation, and the design of all controversies, shall thus be completed together. As the family of man before the murder of Abel — and in the ark of Noah — and as the church of Christ at Pentecost — were all of one heart, and of one mind — so shall all the family of man become eventually, even upon this earth, the family of God. The errors of the papacy shall vanish before the moral and spiritual persuasion of the churches of Christ; and the anticipations of John Foxe, the now despised and insulted, but once venerated and honored martyrologist, shall come to pass. Rome, repenting, may be pardoned both by God and man; and the christian church, though it be still the field where many tares shall grow together with the wheat, shall be once more united in one holy communion; as it was, in those days when the faith of the church of Rome was spoken of with honor, admiration, and praise, throughout the whole world.
Foxe died on the 18th of April, 1587, at his residence in the city of London. No particulars are recorded of the lamentation made for him by the citizens. His son only tells us, that upon the report of his death the whole city lamented, honoring the small funeral which was made for him with the concourse of a great multitude of people; and in no other fashion of mourning, than, as if among so many, each man had buried his father, or his own brother. This is briefly but forcibly said. There can be little doubt, that the general popularity of his great work, the blamelessness of his life, the gentleness of his character, and the zeal with which he had devoted himself to the service of the protestant church of England, had commended him to the love and esteem of all his fellow-citizens. He was buried in the chancel of Cripplegate church. This church was not destroyed in the fire of London, and the inscription to his memory placed by his son still remains, with another inscription on the same stone, announcing that two brothers of the name of Bullen are interred in the same spot with Foxe. F295 On one side of him is buried the grand-daughter of sir Thomas Lucy, in whose family he had been domiciled as a private tutor. F296 On the other side is buried a man, if possible, still more illustrious by his talents; equally hostile to popery, which he has denounced as the worst of superstitions, and the heaviest of all God’s judgments; but less deserving of our approbation, as the teacher and guide of the people, in other respects — John Milton. Their bodies are buried in peace. Their souls are in the hand of God. It is not permitted to mortal man to penetrate, before the hour of his own great change shall come, beyond the dark valley of the shadow of death; and to know the condition of the departed. Yet so strangely are we divided, and so rashly do we intrude where angels fear to tread; that while some among us canonize — others excommunicate, these illustrious partners of a common grave. I know not the destiny of the dead. As I presume not to “deal damnation round the land, on all I judge ms foe” — so neither shall I presume to deal salvation to those, whom I might judge ms friends. This only I may hope, that the souls of these men may be pardoned in all they have done amiss, through the mercy of the great High Priest, the Mediator, and the Sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. If that hope be not vain, then shall they be saved with the rest of that great number which shall be delivered out of all nations, and kindred, and people, with the glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, the noble army of the martyrs, with the Fathers of the christian church at the beginning, and with the reformers and restorers of its pure faith and ancient discipline in these the latter days. With such fellowship may my soul be united! With such high society may my spirit rest hereafter — the kindred spirit, in all that our God and Savior would approve, of such men as John Foxe and John Milton!