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.
Deliverance of Dr. Sands
This eminent prelate, vice-chancellor of Cambridge, at the request of the duke of Northumberland, when he came down to Cambridge in support of Lady Jane Grey’s claim to the throne, undertook at a few hours’ notice, to preach before the duke and the university. The text he took was such as presented itself in opening the Bible, and a more appropriate one he could not have chosen, namely, the three last verses of Joshua. As God gave him the text, so He gave him also such order and utterance that it excited the most lively emotions in his numerous auditors. The sermon was about to be sent to London to be printed, when news arrived that the duke had returned and Queen Mary was proclaimed.
The duke was immediately arrested, and Dr. Sands was compelled by the university to give up his office. He was arrested by the queen’s order, and when Mr. Mildmay wondered that so learned a man could wilfully incur danger, and speak against so good a princess as Mary, the doctor replied, “If I would do as Mr. Mildmay has done, I need not fear bonds. He came down armed against Queen Mary; before a trator–now a great friend. I cannot with one mouth blow hot and cold in this manner.” A general plunder of Dr. Sands’ property ensued, and he was brought to London upon a wretched horse. Various insults he met on the way from the bigoted Catholics, and as he passed through Bishopsgate-street, a stone struck him to the ground. He was the first prisoner that entered the Tower, in that day, on a religious account; his man was admitted with his Bible, but his shirts and other articles were taken from him.
On Mary’s coronation day the doors of the dungeon were so laxly guarded that it was easy to escape. A Mr. Mitchell, like a true friend, came to him, afforded him his own clothes as a disguise, and was willing to abide the consequence of being found in his place. This was a rare friendship: but he refused the offer; saying, “I know no cause why I should be in prison. To do thus were to make myself guilty. I will expect God’s good will, yet do I think myself much obliged to you”; and so Mr. Mitchell departed.
With Doctor Sands was imprisoned Mr. Bradford; they were kept close in prison twenty-nine weeks. John Fowler, their keeper, was a perverse papist, yet, by often persuading him, at length he began to favor the Gospel, and was so persuaded in the true religion, that on a Sunday, when they had Mass in the chapel, Dr. Sands administered the Communion to Bradford and to Fowler. Thus Fowler was their son begotten in bonds. To make room for Wyat and his accomplices, Dr. Sands and nine other preachers were sent to the Marshalsea.
The keeper of the Marshalsea appointed to every preacher a man to lead him in the street; he caused them to go on before, and he and Dr. Sands followed conversing together. By this time popery began to be unsavory. After they had passed the bridge, the keeper said to Dr. Sands: “I perceive the vain people would set you forward to the fire. You are as vain as they, if you, being a young man, will stand in your own conceit, and prefer your own judgment before that of so many worthy prelates, ancient, learned, and grave men as be in this realm. If you do so, you shall find me a severe keeper, and one that utterly dislikes your religion.” Dr. Sands answered, “I know my years to be young, and my learning but small; it is enough to know Christ crucified, and he hath learned nothing who seeth not the great blasphemy that is in popery. I will yield unto God, and not unto man; I have read in the Scriptures of many godly and couretous keepers: may God make you one! if not, I trust He will give me strength and patience to bear your hard usage.” Then said the keeper, “Are you resolved to stand to your religion?” “Yes,” quoth the doctor, “by God’s grace!” “Truly,” said the keeper, “I love you the better for it; I did but tempt you: what favor I can show you, you shall be assured of; and I shall think myself happy if I might die at the stake with you.”
He was as good as his word, for he trusted the doctor to walk in the fields alone, where he met with Mr. Bradford, who was also a prisoner in the King’s Bench, and had found the same favor from his keeper. At his request, he put Mr. Saunders in along with him, to be his bedfellow, and the Communion was administered to a great number of communicants.
When Wyat with his army came to Southwark, he offered to liberate all the imprisoned Protestants, but Dr. Sands and the rest of the preachers refused to accept freedom on such terms.
After Dr. Sands had been nine weeks prisoner in the Marshalsea, by the mediation of Sir Thomas Holcroft, knight marshal, he was set at liberty. Though Mr. Holcroft had the queen’s warrant, the bishop commanded him not to set Dr. Sands at liberty, until he had taken sureties of two gentlemen with him, each one bound in 500, that Dr. Sands should not depart out of the realm without license. Mr. Holcroft immediately after met with two gentlemen of the north, friends and cousins to Dr. Sands, who offered to be bound for him.
After dinner, the same day, Sir Thomas Holcroft sent for Dr. Sands to his lodgings at Westminster, to communicate to him all he had done. Dr. Sands answered: “I give God thanks, who hath moved your heart to mind me so well, that I think myself most bound unto you. God shall requite you, nor shall I ever be found unthankful. But as you have dealt friendly with me, I will also deal plainly with you. I came a freeman into prison; I will not go forth a bondman. As I cannot benefit my friends, so will I not hurt them. And if I be set at liberty, I will not tarry six days in this realm, if I may get out. If therefore I may not get free forth, send me to the Marshalsea again, and there you shall be sure of me.”
This answer Mr. Holcroft much disapproved of; but like a true friend he replied: “Seeing you cannot be altered, I will change my purpose, and yield unto you. Come of it what will, I will set you at liberty; and seeing you have a mind to go over sea, get you gone as quick as you can. One thing I require of you, that, while you are there, you write nothing to me hither, for this may undo me.”
Dr. Sands having taken an affectionate farewell of him and his other friends in bonds, departed. He went by Winchester house, and there took boat, and came to a friend’s house in London, called William Banks, and tarried there one night. The next night he went to another friend’s house, and there he heard that strict search was making for him, by Gardiner’s express order.
Dr. Sands now conveyed himself by night to one Mr. Berty’s house, a stranger who was in the Marshalsea prison with him a while; he was a good Protestant and dwelt in Mark-lane. There he was six days, and then removed to one of his acquaintances in Cornhill; he caused his man Quinton to provide two geldings for him, resolved on the morrow to ride into Essex, to Mr. Sands, his father-in-law, where his wife was, which, after a narrow escape, he effected. He had not been theretwo hours, before Mr. Sands was told that two of the guards would that night apprehend Dr. Sands.
That night Dr. Sands was guided to an honest farmer’s near the sea, where he tarried two days and two nights in a chamber without company. After that he removed to one James Mower’s, a shipmaster, who dwelt at Milton-Shore, where he waited for a wind to Flanders. While he was there, James Mower brought to him forty or fifty mariners, to whom he gave an exhortation; they liked him so well that they promised to die rather than he should be apprehended.
The sixth of May, Sunday, the wind served. In taking leave of his hostess, who had been married eight years without having a child, he gave her a fine handkerchief and an old royal of gold, and said, “Be of good comfort; before that one whole year be past, God shall give you a child, a boy.” This came to pass, for, that day twelve-month, wanting one day, God gave her a son.
Scarcely had he arrived at Antwerp, when he learned that King Philip had sent to apprehend him. He next flew to Augsburg, in Cleveland, where Dr. Sands tarried fourteen days, and then travelled towards Strassburg, where, after he had lived one year, his wife came to him. He was sick of a flux nine months, and had a child which died of the plague. His amiable wife at length fell into a consumption, and died in his arms. When his wife was dead, he went to Zurich, and there was in Peter Martyr’s house for the space of five weeks.
As they sat at dinner one day, word was suddenly brought that Queen Mary was dead, and Dr. Sands was sent for by his friends at Strassburg, where he preached. Mr. Grindal and he came over to England, and arrived in London the same day that Queen Elizabeth was crowned. This faithful servant of Christ, under Queen Elizabeth, rose to the highest distinction in the Church, being successively bishop of Worcester, bishop of London, and archbishop of York.
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