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THE LIFE

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THE REV. JOHN FOX.

JOHN FOX was born at Boston, in Lincolnshire, in 1517, where his parents are stated to have lived in respectable circumstances. He was deprived of his father at an early age; and notwithstanding his mother soon married again, he still remained under the paternal roof. From an early display of talents and inclination to learning, his friends were induced to send him to Oxford, in order to cultivate and bring them to maturity. During his residence at this place, he was distinguished for the excellence and acuteness of his intellect, which was improved by the emulation of his fellow-collegians, united to an indefatigable zeal and industry on his part. These qualities soon gained him the admiration of all; and as a reward for his exertions and amiable conduct, he was chosen fellow of Magdalen college ; which was accounted a great honor in the university, and seldom bestowed unless in cases of great distinction. It appears that the first display of his genius was in poetry; and that he composed some Latin comedies, which are still extant. But he soon directed his thoughts to a more serious subject, the study of the sacred Scriptures: to divinity, indeed, he applied himself with more fervency than circumspection, and discovered his partiality to the Reformation, which had then commenced, before he was known to its supporters or to those who protected them; a circumstance which proved to him the source of his first troubles.

He is said to have often affirmed, that the first matter which occasioned his search into the popish doctrine, was, that he saw divers things, most repugnant in their nature to one another, forced upon men at the same time: upon this foundation his resolution and intended obedience to that church were somewhat shaken, and by degrees a dislike to the rest took place.

His first care was to look into both the ancient and modern history of the church; to ascer. tain its beginning and progress; to consider the causes of all those controversies which in the mean time had sprung ap, and diligently to weigh their effects, solidity, infirmities, &c.

Before he had attained his thirtieth year, he had studied the Greek and Latin fathers, and other learned authors, the transactions of the councils, and the decrees of the consisto. ries, and had acquired a very competent skill in the Hebrew language. In these occupations he frequently spent a considerable part, or even the whole of the night; and in order to unbend his mind after such incessant study, he would resort to a grove near the college, a place much frequented by the students in the evening, on account of its sequestered gloominess. In these solitary walks he has been heard to ejaculate heavy sobs and sighs, and with tears to pour forth his prayers to God. These nightly retirements, in the sequel, gave rise to the first suspi. cion of his alienation from the church of Rome. Being pressed for an explanation of this alteration in his conduct, he scorned to call in fiction to his excuse ; he stated his opinions ; and was, by the sentence of the college, convicted, condemned as a heretic, and expelled.

His friends, upon the report of this circumstance, were hịghly offended, and especially his father-in-law, who was now grown altogether implacable, either through a real hatred conceived against him for this cause, or pretending himself aggrieved, that he might now, with more show of justice, or at least with more security, withhold from Mr. Fox his paternal estate ; for he knew it could not be safe for one publicly hated, and in danger of the law, to seek a remedy for his injustice.

When he was thus forsaken by his own friends, a refuge offered itself in the house of Sir Thomas Lucy, of Warwickshire, by whom he was sent for, to instruct his children. In this house he afterwards married. But the fear of the popish inquisitors hastened his departure

thence; as they were not contented to pursue public offences, but began also to dive into the secrets of private families. He now began to consider what was best to be done to free himself from further inconvenience, and resolved either to go to his wife's father, or to his father-in-law.

His wife's father was a citizen of Coventry, whose heart was not alienated from him, and he was more likely to be well entreated, for his daughter's sake. He resolved to go first to him; and in the meanwhile, by letters, to try whether his father-in-law would receive him or not. This he accordingly did, and he received for answer, “that it seemed to him a hard condition to take one into his house whom he knew to be guilty, and condemned for a capital offence : neither was he ignorant what hazard he should undergo in so doing: he would, however, show himself a kinsman, and neglect his own danger. If he would alter his mind, he might come, on condi. tion to stay as long as he himself desired: but if he could not be persuaded to that, he must content himself with a shorter stay, and not bring him and his mother into danger.”

No condition was to be refused; besides, he was secretly advised by his mother to come, and not to fear his father-in-law's severity ; " for that, perchance, it was necdful to write as he did, but when occasion should be offered, he would make recompense for his words with his actions." In fact, he was better received by both of them than he had hoped for.

By these incans he kept himself concealed, for some time, and afterwards made a journey to London, in the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII. Here, being unknown, he was in much distress, and was even reduced to the danger of being starved to death, had not Providence in. terfered in his favor, in the following manner :

One day as Mr. Fox was sitting in St. Paul's church, exhausted with long fasting, a stranger took a seat by his side, and courteously saluting him, thrust a sum of money into his hand, and bade him cheer up his spirits; at the same time informing him, that in a few days new pros pects would present themselves for his future subsistence. Who this stranger was, he could never learn; but at the end of three days, he received an invitation from the duchess of Richmond to undertake the tuition of the children of the earl of Surrey, who, together with his father the duke of Norfolk, was imprisoned in the Tower, by the jealousy and ingratitude of the king. The children thus confided to his care were, Thomas, who succeeded to the dukedom; Henry, afterwards earl of Northampton; and Jane, who became countess of Westmoreland. In the performance of his duties he fully satisfied the expectations of the duchess, their aunt.

These halcyon days continued during the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII. and the five years of the reign of Edward VI. till Mary came to the crown, who, soon after her accession, gave all power into the hands of the papists.

At this time Mr. Fox, who was still under the protection of his noble pupil, the duke, began to excite the envy and hatred of many, particularly Dr. Gardiner, then bishop of Winchester, who, in the sequel, became his most violent enemy.

Mr. Fox, aware of this, and seeing the dreadful persecutions then commencing, began to think of quitting the kingdom. As soon as the duke knew his intention, he endeavored to per suade him to remain; and his arguments were so powerful, and given with so much sincerity, that he gave up the thought of abandoning his asylum for the present.

At that time the bishop of Winchester was very intimate with the duke, (by the patronage of whose family he had risen to the dignity he then enjoyed), and frequently waited on him to present his service; when he several times requested that he might see his old tutor. At first the duke denied his request, at one time alleging his absence, at another indisposition. At length it happened that Mr. Fox, not knowing the bishop was in the house, entered the room where the duke and he were in discourse; and seeing the bishop, withdrew. Gardiner asking who that was, the duke answered “ his physician, who was somewhat uncourtly, as being new come from the university.”—“I like his countenance and aspect very well,” replicd the bishop, “and when occasion offers, I will send for him." The duke understood that speech as the messenger of some approaching danger; and ww he himself thought it high time for Mr. Fox 10 quit the city, and even the country. He accordingly caused every thing necessary for his flight to be provided in silence, by sending one of his servants to Ipswich to hire a bark, and prepare ali the requisites for his departure. He also fixed upon the house of one of his servants, who was a farmer, where he might lodge till the wind became favorable; and every thing being in readi. ness, Mr. Fox took leave of his noble patron, and with his wife, who was pregnant at the time, secretly departed for the ship.

The vessel was scarcely under sail, when a most violent storm came on, which lasted all day and night, and the next day drove them back to the port from which they had departed. During

the time that the vessel had been at sea, an officer, dispatched by the bishop of Winchester, had broken open the house of the farmer, with a warrant to apprehend Mr. Fox wherever he might be found, and bring him back to the city. On hearing this news, he hired a horse under the pretence of leaving the town immediately; but secretly returned the same night, and agreed with the captain of the vessel to sail for any place as soon as the wind should shift, only desiring him to proceed, and not to doubt but that God would prosper his undertaking. The mariner suffered himself to be persuaded, and within two days landed his passenger in safety at Nieuport

After spending a few days at that place, Mr. Fox set out for Basle, where he found number of English refugees, who had quitted their country to avoid the cruelty of the persecutors; with these he associated, and began to write his “ History of the Acts and Monuments of the Church,” which was first published in Latin at Basle, and shortly after in English.

In the mean time the reformed religion began again to flourish in England, and the popish faction much to decline, by the death of queen Mary; which induced the greater number of the Protestant exiles to return to their native country.

Among others, on the accession of Elizabeth to the throne, Mr. Fox returned to England; where, on his arrival, he found a faithful and active friend in his late pupil, the duke of Norfolk, will death deprived him of his benefactor : after which event, Mr. Fox inherited a pension bequeathed to him by the duke, and ratified by his son the earl of Suffolk.

Nor did the good man's successes stop here. On being recommended to the queen, by her secretary of state, the great Cecil, her majesty granted him the prebendary of Shipton, in the cathedral of Salisbury, which was, in a manner, forced upon him; for it was with difficulty that ne could be persuaded to accept of it.

On his re-settlement in England, he employed himself in revising and enlarging his admirable Martyrology. With prodigious pains, and constant study, he completed that celebrated work in eleven years. For the sake of greater correctness, he wrote every line of this vast book with his own hand, and transcribed all the records and papers himself. But, in consequence of such excessive toil, leaving no part of his time free from study, nor affording himself either the re. pose or recreation which nature required, his health was so reduced, and his person became so emaciated and altered, that such of his friends and relations, as only conversed with him occasionally, could scarcly recognize his person. Yet, though he grew daily more exhausted, he proceeded in his studies as briskly as ever, nor would he be persuaded to diminish his accustomed labors. The papists, foreseeing how detrimental his history of their errors and cruelties would prove to their cause, had recourse to every artifice to lessen the reputation of his work; but their malice was of signal service, both to Mr. Fox himself, and to the church of God at large, as it eventually made his book more intrinsically valuable, by inducing him to weigh, with the most scrupulous attention, the certainty of the facts which he recorded, and the validity of the authorities from which he drew his information.

But while he was thus indefatigably employed in promoting the cause of truth, he did not neglect the other duties of his station : he was charitable, humane, and attentive to the wants, both spiritual and temporal, of his neighbors. With the view of being more extensively useful, although he had no desire to cultivate the acquaintance of the rich and great on his own account, he did not decline the friendship of those in a higher rank who proffered it, and never failed to employ his influence with them in behalf of the poor and needy. In consequence of his well. known probity and charity, he was frequently presented with sums of money by persons possessed of wealth, which he accepted and distributed among those who were distressed. He would also occasionally attend the table of his friends, not so much for the sake of pleasure, as from civility, and to convince them that his absence was not occasioned by a fear of being ex. posed to the temptations of the appetite. In short, his character, as a man and as a Christian, was without reproach.

Of the esteem in which he was held, the names of the following respectable friends and noble patrons, will afford ample proof. It has been already mentioned that the attachment of the duke of Norfolk was so great to his tutor, that he granted him a pension for life ; he also enjoyed the patronage of the earls of Bedford and Warwick, and the intimate friendship of Sir Francis Wal. singham (sec: -tary of state), Sir Thomas and Mr. Michael Hennage, of whom he was frequently heard to observe, that Sir Thomas had every requisite for a complete courtier, but that Mr. Mi chael possessed all the merits of his brother besides his own, still untainted by the court. H. was on very intimatc and affectionate terms with Sir Drue Drury, Sir Francis Drake; Dr

Grindal, archbishop of Canterbury; Dr. Elmar, bishop of London ; Dr. Pilkington, bishop of Durham; and Dr. Nowell, dean of St. Paul's. Others of his most intimate acquaintances and friends were, Doctors Humphrey, Whitaker, and Fulk; Mr. John Crowly, and Mr. Baldwin Collins. Among the eminent citizens, we find he was much venerated by Sir Thomas Gresham, Sir Thomas Roe, alderman Bacchus, Mr. Smith, Mr. Dale, Mr. Sherrington, &c. &c.

At length, having long served both the church and the world by his ministry, by his pen, and by the unsullied lustre of a benevolent, useful, and holy life, he meekly resigned his soul to Christ, on the 18th of April, 1587, being then in the seventieth year of his age. He was in terred in the chancel of St. Giles's, Cripplegate; of which parish he had been, in the beginning of Elizabeth's reign, for some time vicar.

The Lord had given him a foresight of his departure ; and so fully was he assured that the time was just at hand when his soul should quit the body, that (probably to enjoy unmolested cominunion with God, and to have no worldly interruptions in his last hours) he purposely sent his two sons from home, though he loved them with great tenderness; and, before they returned, his spirit, as he had foreseen would be the case, had flown to heaven.

His death occasioned great lamentation throughout the city, and his funeral was honored with a great concourse of people, each of whom appeared to bewail the loss of a father or a brother.

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