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.
Mr. Benbridge was a single gentleman, in the diocese of Winchester. He might have lived a gentleman’s life, in the wealthy possessions of this world. Still, he chose rather to enter through the strait gate of persecution to the heavenly possession of life in the Lord’s Kingdom, than to enjoy present pleasure with disquietude of conscience. Manfully standing against the papists for the defense of the sincere doctrine of Christ’s Gospel, he was apprehended as an adversary to the Romish religion, and led for examination before the bishop of Winchester, where he underwent several conflicts for the truth against the bishop and his colleague; for which he was condemned, and sometime after brought to the place of martyrdom by Sir Richard Pecksal, sheriff.
When standing at the stake he began to untie his points, and prepare himself; then he gave his gown to the keeper, by way of fee. His jerkin was trimmed with gold lace, which he gave to Sir Richard Pecksal, the high sheriff. His cap of velvet he took from his head and threw away. Then, lifting his mind to the Lord, he engaged in prayer.
When fastened to the stake, Dr. Seaton begged him to recant, and he should have his pardon; but when he saw that nothing availed, he told the people not to pray for him unless he would recant, no more than they would pray for a dog.
Mr. Benbridge, standing at the stake with his hands together in such a manner as the priest holds his hands in his Memento, Dr. Seaton came to him again, and exhorted him to recant, to whom he said, “Away, Babylon, away!” One that stood by said, “Sir, cut his tongue out”; another, a temporal man, railed at him worse than Dr. Seaton had done.
When they saw he would not yield, they bade the tormentors to light the pile, before he was covered with fagots. The fire first took away a piece of his beard, at which he did not shrink. Then it came on the other side and took his legs, and the nether stockings of his hose being leather, they made the fire pierce the sharper so that the intolerable heat made him exclaim, “I recant!” and suddenly he trust the fire from him. Two or three of his friends being by wished to save him; they stepped onto the fire to help remove it, for which kindness they were sent to jail. The sheriff also of his own authority took him from the stake, and remitted him to prison, for which he was sent to the Fleet, and lay there sometime. Before however, he was taken from the stake, Dr. Seaton wrote articles for him to subscribe to. To these, Mr. Benbridge made so many objections that Dr. Seaton ordered them to set fire again to the pile. Then with much pain and grief of heart, he subscribed to them upon a man’s back.
This done, his gown was given him again, and he was led to prison. While there, he wrote a letter to Dr. Seaton, recanting those words he had spoken at the stake, and the articles which he had subscribed, for he was grieved that he had ever signed them. The same day night he was again brought to the stake, where the vile tormentors rather broiled than burnt him. The Lord gives his enemies repentance!
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