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Thomas Becon

Thomas Becon.—This celebrated divine was born in Suffolk, and educated in the university of Cambridge. He afterwards became chaplain to Archbishop Cranmer, and a zealous advocate tor the reformation, even from its very commencement in the reign of King Henry VIII. He endured many troubles from the persecuting prelates; and in the year 1544, was apprehended, with Mr. Robert Wisdome, another excellent reformer, by the cruel Bishop Bonner, when he was obliged to make a public recantation at Paul's cross, and burn his books.t Having obtained his release, he travelled for future safety towards the north, and settled at Alsop in the Dale, in the Peak of Derbyshire, where he taught school for his subsistence. At this place, Mr. Alsop, a pious gentleman, and an avowed friend to the reformation, shewed him much civility, and afforded him seasonable relief.

The severity of the times not suffering the zealous and faithful servants of the Lord to abide long in any one place, Mr. Becon was obliged to move into Staffordshire, where he was kindly entertained in the house of Mr. John Old, a man eminently distinguished for charity and piety. Mr. Wisdome, mentioned above, was also entertained with him. Mr. Becon, in his treatise, entitled " The Jewel of Joy," published in the reign of King Edward, gives this character of Mr. Old : " He was to mc and Wisdome, as Jason was to Paul and Silas : he received us joyfully into his house, and liberally, for the Lord's sake, ministered to our necessities. And as he began, so did he continue a right hearty friend, and dearly loving brother, so long as we remained in the counlry.} Here, as in his former situation, he educated children in good literature and sound christian doctrine, continuing, at the same time, in a close application to his studies. Atterwards, he removed into Leicestershire,

* Conformist's Plea, p. 14. Edit. 1681. From " Irenicum."

t Foi'i Marty rs, vol, ii. p. 45. £ Strype's Cranmer, p. 2"6, 21.7.

where he was for some time hospitably entertained by the Marquis of Dorset. Here he contracted a familiar acquaintance with Mr. John Aylmer, afterwards the famous bishop of London, whom he calls his countryman.* He next removed into Warwickshire, where he still occupied the office of tutor to gentlemens' sons. Upon this last removal, to his great joy, he met with his old friend, the famous Hugh Latimer; who, about twenty years before, while they were at Cambridge, had been instrumental in bringing him to the knowledge of the gospel.

During the reign of Henry VIII. the city of Canterbury was more hostile lo the reformation than mostolher places ; therefore, upon the accession of King Edward, Archbishop Cranmcr placed in that city six of the most distinguished

Sreachers for learning and piety; among whom was Mr. econ. The others w* re Nicholas Ridley, alterwards bishop of London and martyr, Lancelot Ridley, Richard Turner, Richard Beasely, and John Joseph. The ministry of these learned divines proved a great blessing to the place, and, by their labours, many persons were brought to embrace the gospel.t Also, during the reign of the above excellent prince, Mr. Becon, justly denominated a worthy and reverend divine, became chaplain to the protector Somerset, and was made professor of divinity in the university of Oxford, where he gained much reputation.t But upon the accession, of Queen Mary, he was apprehended in London, with Mr. Veron and Mr. John Bradford, and committed to the Tower. Here he remained above seven months in close confinement, meeting with most cruel usage; and having been made rector of St. Stephen, Walbrook, London, in 1547, he was deprived of both his office and benefit.^

reformer escaped the fire. While many of his brethren, and even those committed with him to the Tower, suffered at the stake, a kind providence constantly watched over him, and at length delivered him from the rage of all his enemies. During the reign of King Henry and former part of Queen Mary, Mr. Becon, to conceal himself from his malicious foes, who narrowly watched for his life, went by the name of Theodore Bazil, and in the proclamation of the king, in 1546, as well as that of the queen, in 1555, he

* Strype's Aylmer, p. 7. > + 8trype'» Creamer, p. 161, 423.

t Chorion's Life of Novell, p. 21.—Lnpton's Divinei, p. 331.

S Strype's Creamer, p. 423.—Newcourt's Repert. Ecu!. Toi. i. p. 540.

miraculous that this zealous is specified by that name.* At length, having been driven, from one situation to another, and finding no place of safety in his own country, he fled into a foreign land, and became an exile in Germany. During his abode on Uie continent, he wrote an excellent letter to his godly breUiren at home; in which, besides declaring the cause of those calamities now come upon England, he earnestly directed them to the mercy and faithfulness of God, for a redress of all their grievances. This letter was read in the private religious meetings of his persecuted countrymen, to their great edification and benefit. He wrote, also, an epistle to the popish priests, wherein he made a just and an important difference betwixt the Lord's supper, and the popish mass, denominating the latter n wicked ido/.+

Mr. Becon remained in exile till the accession of Queen Elizabeth, when he returned to his native country, and became a most faithful and zealous labourer in the vineyard of Christ. Having obtained distinguished reputation, he was soon preferred to several ecclesiastical benefices. He is said to have been designed for one of the chief preferments then vacant.{ In the year 1560, he became rector of Buckland in Hertfordshire, but most probably did not hold it long. About the same time, he was preferred to a prebend in the church of Canterbury; and in 1563, he became rector of St. Dionis Back-church, London. This last he held to his death. ^

In the year 1564, when conformity was rigorously imposed upon the London clergy, Mr. Becon, with many of nis puritan brethren, was citea before Archbishop Parker at Lambeth, and refusing to subscribe, he was immediately sequestered and deprived ; though it is said, he afterwards complied, and was prcferred.|| It does not, however, appear what preferment he obtained. During the same year, he revised and republished most of his numerous and excellent writings in three volumes folio, dedicating them to all the bishops and archbishops of the realm. The clergy were in general at this time in a state of deplorable ignorance. Mr. Becon was deeply affected with their situation, and extremely anxious to render them all the assistance in his power. Therefore, in the year 1566, he published a book, entitled

A new Postil, containing most godly and learped Sermons^

• MS. Chronology, vol. i. p. 221. (3 | S.)

+ Strype's Cranmer, p. 857, 358. j Churton's Life of Nowell, p. 40. S Strype's Parker, p. 72, 130.-~Ncwcoiirt's Repert. Ecd. vol. i. p. 330, 815. U Strype's Grindal, p. 98.

to be read in the Church throughout the Year; lately set forth unto the great Profit, not only of all Curates and Spiritual Ministers, but also of all Godly and Faithful Readers." Mr. Strype stiles him a famed preacher and writer, and the book a very useful work, containing honest, plain sermons upon the gospels, for all the Sundays in the year, to be read by the curates of congregations. The preface, dated from Canterbury, July 16, 1566, is addressed " to his fellow labourers in the Lord's harvest, the ministers and preachers of God's most holy word;" in which he earnestly exhorts them to the discharge of their important duties. To this Postil he added two prayers, one at some length, the other shorter, either of which was to be said before sermon, according to the minister's discretion: also a third prayer, to be repeated after sermon. These prayers and sermons were drawn up for the use of ministers who were not able to compose prayers and sermons, and for the further instruction of the people in sound and wholesome doctrine.* Bishop Parkhurst published verses in commendation of Mr. Becon and his excellent writings.t During the above year, he preached the sermon at Paul's cross; ana such was his great fame, and such his favour among persons of distinction, that the lord mayor for that year presented a petition to Archbishop Parker, entreating his grace to prevail upon him to preach one of the sermons at the Spittle the following Easter.}

Our historians are divided in their opinion concerning the time of Mr. Becon's death. Newcourt observes that he died previous to September 26, 1567 ; and Lupton says he died in 1570.^ He was a divine of great learning and piety, a constant preacher, a great sufferer in the cause of Christ, and an avowed enemy to pluralities, nonresidence, and all the relics of popery,| being ever zealous for the reformation of the church. He was a man of a peaceable spirit, always adverse to the imposition of ceremonies, and an avowed nonconformist, both in principle and practice. Mr. Strype justly denominates him famous for his great learning, his frequent preaching, his excellent writings, and manifold sufferings in the reigns of King Henry, King Edward, Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth.i One Mr. Thomas

• SCrype's Parker, p. 228. + Lupton's Modern Divines, p. 333.

1 Strype's Cranmer, p. 424.

$ Repert. Eccl. vol. i. p. 330.—Hist, of Divines, p. 332.

|| MS. Chronology, vol. i. p. 48.

1 Strype's Cranmer, p. 423.—Parker, p. 130.

Beron was of St. John's college, Cambridge, public orator and proctor in the university, and an active leading man, most probably in the cause of nonconformity, by which he is said to have incurred the displeasure ot the chancellor, formerly his patron and great admirer. This was undoubtedly the same person.* He was author of numerous books, many of which were designed to expose the superstitions and errors of popery, and to encourage his fellow christians under persecution ; and his labour of love was signally useful. He wrote against the superstitious practice of bowing at the name of Jesus, as did several other puritans after him. According to Mr. Lupton, the following appears to be the most correct list of his numerous learned writings that can now be obtained :

His Works.—1. News from Heaven.—2. A Banquet of Christ's Birth.—3. A Quadragesimal Feast.—4. A Method of Praying.—5. A Bundle or Posey of Flowers.—6. An Invective against Swearing.— 7. Discipline for a Christian Soldier.—8. David's Harp.—9. The Government of Virtue.—10. A short Catechism.—11. A Book of Matrimony.—12. A Christian's New-Year's Gift.—13. A Jewel of Mirth.—14. Principles of the Christian Religion.—15. A Treatise of Fasting.—16. The Castle of Comfort—17. The Soul's Solace.—18. The Tower of the Faithful.—19. The Christian Knight.—20. Homilies against Whoredom.—21. The Flowers of Prayers.—22. A sweet Bex of Prayers.—23. The Sick Man's Medicine.—24. A Dialogue of Christ's Nativity.—25. An Invective against Idolatry.—26. An KpisUc to the distressed Servants of God.—27. A Supplication to God for the Restoration of his Word.—28. The Rising of the Popish M:iss.+—29. Common-places of Scripture.—30. A Comparison betwixt the Lord's Supper and the Papal Mass.—31. Articles of Religion confirmed by the Authority of the Fathers.—32. The monstrous Wages of the Roman Priests.-—33. Romish Relics.—34. The. Difference betwixt God's Word and Human Inventions.—35. Acts of Christ and Antichrist, with Iheir Lives and Doctrine.—36. Chronicles of Christ.— 37. An Abridgement of the New Testament.—38. Questions of the Holy Scripture.—39. The glorious Triumph of God's Word.—40. The Praise of Death.—41. Poslils upon all the Sundays' Gospels.-t42. A Disputation upon the Lord's Supper.