Ex-Classics Home Page

Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 462. JOHN ALCOCKE.



his John Alcocke, or Aucocke, of whom mention is made before, was a very faithful honest man, by his occupation a woad-setter, singularly well learned in the Holy Scriptures, and in all his conversation a just and righteous man, that feared God, and studied to do indeed that thing that he had learned in the Scriptures. Now, after that Sir Richard Yeoman was driven away, and the people on Sundays and other days came to the church, and had no man to teach them any thing: for as yet Parson Newel was not come to Hadley to dwell, nor had gotten any curate -- besides that, the laws made by King Edward were in force, and the Latin mumblings not received every where -- John Alcocke therefore took the English book used by King Edward, exhorting the people to pray with him, and so read certain prayers in English before them. And moreover, he gave them godly lessons and exhortations out of chapters that he read unto them. For this the bishop of Winchester (Stephen Gardiner) sent for him, and cast him into Newgate at London; where, after many examinations and troubles, for that he would not submit himself to ask forgiveness of the pope, and to be reconciled to the Romish religion, he was cast into the lower dungeon, where, with evil keeping and sickness of the house, he died in prison. Thus died he a martyr of Christ's verity, which he heartily loved and constantly confessed, and received the garland of a well-foughten battle at the hand of the Lord. His body was cast out, and buried in a dunghill; for the papists would in all things be like themselves. Therefore would they not so much as suffer the dead bodies to have honest and convenient sepulture.

            He wrote two epistles to Hadley, which follow here.


The first epistle of John Alcocke.

            "Grace be with you, and peace from the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, which gave himself for our sins, that be might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God our Father, to whom be praise for ever and ever, Amen.

            "O my brethren of Hadley! why are you so soon turned from them which called you in the grace of Christ, unto another doctrine? which is nothing else but that there be some which trouble you, and intend to pervert the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, though these should come unto you that have been your true preachers, and preach another way of salvation, than by Jesus Christ's death and passion, hold them accursed. Yea, if it were an angel come from heaven, and would tell you that the sacrifice of Christ's body upon the cross once for all, for all the sins of all those which shall be saved, were not sufficient; accursed be he. If he were an angel, or whatsoever he were, that would say that our service in English were not God's right service, but will better allow the most wicked mumming that you now have; those, whatsoever they be, except they do repent and allow the gospel of Jesus Christ, they shall never come into that kingdom, that Christ hath prepared for those that be his. Wherefore, my dearly beloved brethren of Hadley, remember you well what you have been taught heretofore, of the Lord God's true and simple prophets, that only did wish your health and consolation.

            "Do not, my good brethren, I pray you, forget the comfortable word of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Come unto me, all you that are troubled and laden with the dangers that ye are in these stormy days1sraelhear my words, and believ1srael; and you shall see the unspeakable comfort that you shall receive. The lord is my shepherd, saith the prophet David, so that I can want nothing. He feedeth his sheep in green pastures, and leadeth them unto clear and wholesome waters of comfort. I am that good Shepherd, saith our Saviour Jesus Christ, for I give my life for my sheep; and I know my sheep, and my sheep know me. But my sheep will not know an hireling: for he careth not but only for his god the belly, and so seeketh the destruction of their souls. Therefore beware of hirelings, you that count yourselves the sheep of Jesus Christ. Be sure that ye know his voice and obey it; and be not deceived through strange voices, but go from them, and earnestly abide by your profession that you have made in your baptism, and shrink not from it: for if you do, you shall declare yourselves to be a vain people, and without understanding. And for this cause doth God plague his people, and suffereth them to be deceived with false prophets and wicked men. I pray you note what the prophet Isaiah saith to the people of those days, because they were slipping from the Lord their God, which had done so marvellous works for them, as you well do know in the histories of the Bible: Hear, O heaven, saith he, and hearken, thou earth, for the Lord hath spoken: I have nourished and brought up children, but they have done wickedly against me. The ox hath known his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel hath received no knowledge, my people hath no understanding. Alas 'for this sinful nation, a people of great iniquity, a froward generation, unnatural children. They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked his wrath, and are gone backward. Hearken also what the prophet Jeremiah saith: Be astonied, ye heavens; be afraid and ashamed at such a thing, saith the Lord, for my people hath done two evils: they have forsaken me, the well of the waters of life, and digged them broken pits, that can hold no water. Is Israel a bond-servant, or one of the household of the Lord? Why then is he so spoiled? Why then do they roar and cry upon him as a lion? Understand those things now in these days that the prophet spake of them. O my brethren of Hadley! why cometh this plague upon us, that we have now, in these days and other times? Hearken what the prophet saith, Cometh not this upon thee because thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God? Thine own wickedness shall reprove thee, and thy turning away shall condemn thee, that thou mayest know and understand how evil and hurtful a thing it is, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and not feared him, saith the Lord of hosts, the Holy One of Israel; that is to say, he that maketh Israel holy. And understand by Israel the children of God; and those things that were spoken to the carnal Israel, are spoken unto us, that are or should be the spiritual Israel. Grace be with you all, Amen.
            "YOUYS, JOHN ALCOCKE,
            Prisoner for God's word in Newgate, at London."


The second epistle of John Alcocke.

            "My brethren of Hadley, note well what St. Paul said, in the 10th chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians: Brethren, I would you should not be ignorant of this, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were baptized under Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did eat one spiritual meat, and drank of one spiritual drink. They drank of that spiritual rock that followed them, which rock was Christ: nevertheless in many of them had God no delight, for they were over-smitten in the wilderness. These are examples unto us, that we should not lust after evil things as they lusted; that is to say, we should stand forth to defend the verity of God, which we would do right well, alas, were it not for loss of goods: we do so much lust after them, that we will rather say there is no God, than we will profess his word to be truth, to the losing of our goods. And our Saviour Christ saith, He that is not content to forsake father and mother, wife and children, house and land, corn and cattle, yea, and his own life, for my truth's sake, is not meet for me. And if we be not for our Lord God, then we must needs be meet for the devil; and we must needs be servants to one of them. If we be not ashamed of the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, but earnestly confess it to the uttermost of our power, then are we sure to be confessed of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and that before the angels in heaven, to be his servants. But if we will so lust to keep our goods, and rather deny him than to lose our goods, then doth it follow whose servants we are. Therefore, my dear brethren of Hadley, beware that you do not consent to any thing against your conscience: for if you do, beware of God's great wrath.

            "I exhort you therefore, my beloved brethren in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to stand fast in your profession, and become not manifest runaways from the truth of our Lord God, but stick earnestly to it; and doubt not but our God will be unto you a strong defence and refuge in the needful time. Bow down thine ear, O Lord, (saith David, Psalm lxxxvi.,) and hear me: for I am poor and in misery. Be merciful unto me, O Lord, for I will call daily upon thee: comfort the soul of thy servant; for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. For thou, Lord, art good and gracious, and of great mercy unto all them that call upon thee. Give ear, Lord, unto my prayer, and ponder the voice of my humble petition. All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship thee, O Lord, and shall glorify thy name: for thou art great, and dost wonderful things; thou art God alone. Teach me thy ways, O Lord, and I will walk in thy truth. O knit my heart unto thee, that I may fear thy name. I will thank thee, O my God, with all my heart, and will praise thy name for ever. O you Christian people of Hadley, comfort yourselves one another in these notable Psalms of David, and the whole Bible. Embrace the noble jewel of our Lord God, the Bible, and endeavour yourselves to walk the way that it doth teach you. My good brethren, we as helpers, saith St. Paul, do exhort you, that you receive not the grace of God in vain. For, behold, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation. Let us beware that we take sure hold while we have time; for time will away. While ye have the light walk in it, lest when ye would desire it ye cannot have it. Understand the light, to be the knowledge of Christ; and to obey, that is, to have the light. For that cause came our Saviour Jesus Christ, to make himself known; Unto those that did receive him, he gave power to be the sons of God; and so to be made inheritors of his kingdom, which shall never end. Who would not be glad to become the king's son, that he thereby might be partaker of the kingdom that never shall have end? O vain man! what art thou, that wilt refuse everlasting life for a day or two, or an hour, thou canst not tell how short? Open thine eyes, and see thine own comfort and refuge to Christ. O fly, and refuse this worldly wisdom; for worldly wisdom doth shut out the wisdom of God. For the word of the cross is foolishness unto them that perish; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God: for it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will cast away the understanding of the prudent. Where are the wise? where are the scribes? where are the disputers of this world? hath not God made the wisdom of this world foolishness? For insomuch as the world, by the wisdom thereof, knew not God in his wisdom, it pleased God, through foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe. For the Jews require tokens, and the Greeks ask after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, saith St. Paul, to the Jews an occasion of falling, and unto the Greeks, (a people that are wise in their own conceits,) to them is the preaching of Christ crucified foolishness. But unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, we preach Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

            "Brethren, look upon your calling, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many of high degree are called. But that which is foolish before the world hath God chosen, that he might confound the wise; and that which is despised before the world hath he chosen, and that which is nothing, that he might destroy that which is aught, that no flesh should rejoice. Of the same are ye also in Christ Jesus, which is made of God unto us wisdom and righteousness, and sanctifying and redemption, according as it is written, He that rejoiceth, should rejoice in the Lord, &c.; that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. We speak of this wisdom among them that are perfect -- not the wisdom of this world, nor the rulers of this world, which go to nought -- but we speak of the wisdom of God, which the carnal man doth not understand. The natural man perceiveth nothing of the Spirit of God: it is foolishness with him. But God hath opened it to us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth out all things. Wherefore, my dear brethren, try yourselves well, whether you have the Spirit of Christ, or no. If you have the Spirit of Christ, then are ye dead concerning sin; but ye are alive unto God through Jesus Christ. If this Spirit dwell in you, then will ye increase and go forward in your profession, and not fear what flesh may do unto the carcass. Therefore stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made you free, and be not wrapped up again in the yoke of bondage; that is to say, to go from God by wicked life, or serve God another way than he hath commanded in his holy word. I trust you go forward, my dear brethren and sisters, in your promise that you made to your Lord God in your baptism. I pray God open unto you the knowledge of himself, and lighten the eyes of your understanding, that you may know what is the hope of your calling, and what the riches of his glorious inheritance are upon the saints. For ye are the chosen generation, the kingly priesthood, that holy nation, that peculiar people, that should show the virtues of Him which hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light; that is to say, to fear God, and to work righteousness, and so to receive the end of your faith, the salvation of your souls. This is a true saying: If we be dead with Christ, we shall live with him also. If we be patient, we shall also reign with him. If we deny him, he also will deny us. If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful, he cannot deny himself. The very God of peace sanctify you throughout, and I pray God that your spirit, soul, and bodies be kept blameless, unto the coming of our Lord Jesus. Faithful is he that hath called you, which will also do it. Brethren, pray for us, and greet all the brethren among you.
            "By me, your brother in the Lord and Saviour Christ, John Alcock prisoner of the Lord at Newgate.
            "Give glory to God.      

            "God be merciful to thee, O England, and send thee a great number of such faithful fathers and godly pastors, as Dr. Taylor was, to guide thee, feed thee, and comfort thee after thy great miseries and troubles, that thou hast suffered under the tyrannous captivity and rage of the Roman antichrist, and such ravening wolves, as have, without all mercy, murdered thy godly and learned preachers; and give all men grace to consider that such horrible plagues and mutations have justly fallen upon this realm for sin; and with unfeigned hearts to turn to God, who, as he hath scourged us with less plagues than we deserved, so he calleth us again by his undeserved and unspeakable mercy unto repentance and amendment of our living. It is doubtless now high time to turn unfeignedly to God, and to correct our sinful livings, and to remember what St. John Baptist saith: The axe is now set to the root of the tree, and every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be hewn down and cast into the fire. For this may all men assure themselves of, both rich and poor, high and low, old and young, that the almighty, jealous, and righteous God, will not suffer the sinful and wicked life of the ungodly unrepentant, that contemn his mercy now proffered unto them, to be unpunished; but, as he hath from the beginning of the world showed himself a righteous judge, and punisher of wickedness, even so will he do still now.

            "God expulsed our first parents, Adam and Eve, from Paradise, and laid upon them and upon us all, these miseries, sickness, calamities, and death, that we daily feel, and miserably are oppressed withal. God in Noah's days drowned the whole world; only eight persons were preserved. God burnt up Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed those cities and all the country about. God gave over Jerusalem, called the holy city of God, and delivered his own people the Jews into perpetual captivity. If we seek the cause of these punishments, was it not sinful living and unrepentant hearts?

            "What should I recite the calamity of other lands, seeing God's judgments have not been unexecuted upon this realm of England for sinful living? The old Britons were, with Cadwallader their king, constrained to flee and leave this land, because of pestilence and famine: what miseries and destructions brought the Danes in with them! and what troubles sustained the inhabitants of this realm afore the same were again driven out! What bloodshed was here in King William the Conqueror's days! were not the noblemen slain, and gentlemen brought into bondage? were not their matrons defiled, and their daughters given to be kitchen-drudges under the Normans' proud ladies? were not their lands, houses, and possessions divided by lot unto strangers? Their gold and silver wherein they trusted, was the bait that their enemies hunted after. What a plague was the civil war between the king and barons! what horrible bloodshed was in this realm! till at the last God's merciful providence ended those miseries by the happy joining of the two regal houses together, in the marriage of King Henry the Seventh. What miseries have chanced in our time, we have not only seen and heard, but we have felt them; and, God be praised, had our parts of them. Doubtless this all hath chanced for the sins of the people, as the prophet Jeremiah plainly teacheth, saying, Who is a wise man that understandeth this? and to whom shall the word of the Lord's mouth come, that he may preach it forth? Why hath the land perished, and is burnt like a wilderness, so that no man may pass through it? And the Lord saith, Because they have forsaken my law, which I have given them, and they have not heard my voice, and have not walked in them; and have gone after the vanity of their own hearts, after Baalim, and the images of Baal, which they have learned of their fathers. We see here plainly the contempt of God's word, and of the preachers of the same, walking after their covetous minds and lewdness of their hearts, and following of their idolatrous inventions, brought the wrath of God upon the people, as witnessed also Jesus Sirach, saying, Because of unrighteous dealing, wrong, blasphemies, and divers deceits, a realm shall be translated from one people to another. And a little after he saith, The Lord hath brought the congregation of the wicked to dishonour, and destroyed them unto the end. God hath destroyed the seats of proud princes, and set up the meek in their stead. God hath withered the root of proud nations, and planted the lowly among them. God hath overthrown the lands of the heathen, and destroyed them unto the ground. He hath caused them to wither away: he hath brought them to nought, and made the memorial of them to cease from the earth. But what availeth it to read such threats of God, if we believe them not; or, if we believe them to be God's threats, and despise them? Doubtless, the Lord is righteous, a jealous God, a punisher of sin, as he himself saith: I punish the sins of the fathers upon their children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. God give us grace to remember this, and with speedy and unfeigned repentance to turn unto God. I say unfeigned repentance, and not, alas! as we have done in times past, like hypocrites to dissemble with God and man, making God's holy word nothing else but a cloak to cover our malice, covetousness, whoredom, pride, excess, gluttony, wrath, envy, hatred, murder, with all other wicked living, most detestable in the sight of God. If men will well consider themselves, they have long enough dissembled, and heaped the wrath of God heavy enough upon their heads. It is now high time to become a new people, to amend indeed, and to follow the counsel of the Holy Ghost, saying unto us by the prophet Jeremy, Why do mortal men murmur against God? let them murmur against their own sins. Let us search our own ways, and let us seek and return unto the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and hands unto the Lord in heaven, for we have done wickedly, and provoked the Lord to wrath: and therefore wilt thou not be entreated. Doubtless, the Lord will not be entreated, except men very earnestly turn unto him. We have felt in ourselves, and seen before our eyes, that when God striketh, no man can be able to abide the heavy stroke of his fist. He hath hitherto corrected us with mercy, as a Father; let us thank him, and return unfeignedly; so will he not extend his wrath as a Judge. His will is, that we should return and live, and not perish with the wicked. I live, saith the Lord, and will not the death of a sinner, but that he be converted and live. Here the godly oath certifieth us of forgiveness; and requireth an unfeigned conversion unfo God, that is, that men acknowledge in heart their wicked living, and be sorry that ever they have with wicked living offended against that so good and loving a Father; and trust to have forgiveness through Christ's blood, and fully and firmly set their hearts to serve God, and to walk the ways of his commandments all the days of their life. Then shall we be true Christians, built upon the corner-stone Christ, not wavering or changing at every puff of wind, not seeking an epicurish life in all voluptuous and vain vanity: not ravening, extortioning, or with usury oppressing the poor and needy; but stedfast, unmovable, living in the fear of God's judgments, and trust upon his mercy, mortifying our brutish and carnal lusts, being merciful and helpful to the poor and needy, waiting for the blessed time when Christ shall call us, to be ready and accepted before him. Our merciful Lord and good Father grant us grace so to do, for the love of his dear Son Jesus Christ, our certain and most dear Saviour, to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be all honour for ever and ever, Amen.

            "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

            "These are they which are come out of great troubles; and have washed their clothes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."


Previous Next