Edited by William Byron Forbush This is a book that will never die — one of the great English classics. . . . Reprinted here in its most complete form, it brings to life the days when “a noble army, men and boys, the matron and the maid,” “climbed the steep ascent of heaven, ‘mid peril, toil, and pain.” “After the Bible itself, no book so profoundly influenced early Protestant sentiment as the Book of Martyrs. Even in our time, it is still a living force. It is more than a record of persecution. It is an arsenal of controversy, a storehouse of romance, as well as a source of edification.”
Fox’s Book of Martyrs is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Rev. Julius Palmer
This gentleman’s life presents a singular instance of error and conversion. In the time of Edward, he was a rigid and obstinate papist, so adverse to godly and sincere preaching, that he was even despised by his own party; that this frame of mind should be changed, and he suffer persecution and death in Queen Mary’s reign, are among those events of omnipotence at which we wonder and admire.
Mr. Palmer was born at Coventry, where his father had been mayor. Being afterward removed to Oxford, he became, under Mr. Harley, of Magdalen College, an elegant Latin and Greek scholar. He was fond of useful disputation, possessed of a lively wit, and a strong memory. Indefatigable in private study, he rose at four in the morning, and by this practice qualified himself to become reader in logic in Magralen College. The times of Edward, however, favoring the Reformation, Mr. Palmer became frequently punished for his contempt of prayer and orderly behavior, and was at length expelled the house.
He afterwards embraced the doctrines of the Reformation, which occasioned his arrest and final condemnation.
A certain nobleman offered him his life if he would recant. “If so,” said he, “thou wilt dwell with me. And if thou wilt set thy mind to marriage, I will procure thee a wife and a farm, and help to stuff and fit thy farm for thee. How sayst thou?”
Palmer thanked him very courteously, but very modestly and reverently concluded that as he had already in two places renounced his living for Christ’s sake, so he would with God’s grace be ready to surrender and yield up his life also for the same, when God should send time.
When Sir Richard perceived that he would by no means relent: “Well, Palmer,” saith he, “then I perceive one of us twain shall be damned: for we be of two faiths, and certain I am there is but one faith that leadeth to life and salvation.”
Palmer: “O sir, I hope that we both shall be saved.”
Sir Richard: “How may that be?”
Palmer: “Right well, sir. For as it hath pleased our merciful Savior, according to the Gospel’s parable, to call me at the third hour of the day, even in my flowers, at the age of four and twenty years, even so I trust He hath called, and will call you, at the eleventh hour of this your old age, and give you everlasting life for your portion.”
Sir Richard: “Sayest thou so? Well, Palmer, well, I would I might have thee but one month in my house: I doubt not but I would convert thee, or thou shouldst convert me.”
Then said Master Winchcomb, “Take pity on thy golden years, and pleasant flowers of lusty youth, before it be too late.”
Palmer: “Sir, I long for those springing flowers that shall never fade away.”
He was tried on the fifteenth of July, 1556, together with one Thomas Askin, fellow prisoner. Askin and one John Guin had been sentenced the day before, and Mr. Palmer, on the fifteenth, was brought up for final judgment. Execution was ordered to follow the sentence, and at five o’clock in the same afternoon, at a place called the Sand-pits, these three martyrs were fastened to a stake. After devoutly praying together, they sung the Thirty-first Psalm.
When the fire was kindled, and it had seized their bodies, without an appearance of enduring pain, they continued to cry, “Lord Jesus, strengthen us! Lord Jesus receive our souls!” until animation was suspended and human suffering was past. It is remarkable, that, when their heads had fallen together in a mass as it were by the force of the flames, and the spectators thought Palmer as lifeless, his tongue and lips again moved, and were heard to pronounce the name of Jesus, to whom be glory and honor forever!
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