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SAMPSON, THOMAS (1517?–1589), puritan divine, born at Playford, Suffolk, about 1517, was educated at Pembroke Hall, Cambridge. There is no evidence to show that he took a degree at Cambridge. It is said that he also studied at Oxford, but it is only certain that he was admitted a student of the Inner Temple, London, in February 1546–7 (Cooke, Students admitted to the Inner Temple, p. 2). While he was studying the common law there he was converted to the protestant religion, and it is said that he shortly afterwards converted John Bradford (1510?–1555) [q. v.] the martyr (Wood, Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, i. 548). In 1549 he and Bradford received holy orders from Bishop Ridley, and when he took exception ‘against the apparel,’ Ridley and Cranmer allowed him to be ordained without assuming the sacerdotal habits (Strype, Annals of the Reformation, i. 473; Life of Cranmer, pp. 191, 192).

He soon acquired celebrity as a preacher. On 10 March 1550–1 he was collated by Archbishop Cranmer to the rectory of Allhallows, Bread Street, London, and in February 1552 he was preferred to the deanery of Chichester. After the death of Edward VI he concealed himself in London for a time, and with Richard Chambers collected money for the support of such scholars of the universities ‘as were haters of the Roman catholic religion.’ On 8 Feb. 1555–6, when William Peryn [q. v.] preached at St. Paul's Cross, Sampson ‘dyd penanse for he had ii wyffes’ (Machyn, Diary, ed. Nichols, p. 100). It is possible that his offence is somewhat exaggerated. Soon afterwards Sampson fled with one wife to Strasburg. There he associated with Tremellius, and greatly enlarged his knowledge of divinity. He addressed to his former parishioners at Allhallows, Bread Street, a letter in which he exhorted them to submit to, and to receive with humbleness, the ceremonies of the church as reformed under King Edward. He removed to Geneva in 1556, and appears also to have resided for some time at Frankfort and Zürich (Burn, Livre des Anglois à Genève, p. 8). During his exile he enthusiastically adopted the Genevan doctrines, and developed a bitter dislike of the ceremonies of the English church. He was constantly engaged in disputes with his fellow-exiles, and Henry Bullinger, writing from Zürich to Theodore Beza, 15 March 1567, says: ‘I have always looked with suspicion upon the statements made by Master Sampson. He is not amiss in other respects, but of an exceedingly restless disposition. While he resided amongst us at Zürich, and after he returned to England, he never ceased to be troublesome to Master Peter Martyr, of blessed memory. He often used to complain to me that Sampson never wrote a letter without filling it with grievances: the man is never satisfied; he has always some doubt or other to busy himself with’ (Zurich Letters, ii. 152).

On the accession of Queen Elizabeth Sampson returned to England, and during the first three years of her reign he delivered the rehearsal sermons at St. Paul's Cross, repeating memoriter the Spital sermons which had been preached at Easter (Strype, Annals, i. 473, fol.) He refused the bishopric of Norwich, which was offered to him in 1560. In the royal visitation to the north he accompanied the queen's visitors as preacher. On 4 Sept. 1560 he was installed canon of Durham, and in March 1560–1 he supplicated the university of Oxford that whereas he had for the space of sixteen years studied divinity, he might be admitted ‘to the reading of the Epistles of St. Paul,’ that is, to the degree of B.D., the formula before the Reformation having been ‘to the reading of the book of Sentences.’ His supplication was granted, though it does not appear that he was admitted to the degree.

In 1561 he was appointed dean of Christ Church, Oxford (ib. i. 474). He was installed in Michaelmas term 1561. A short time previously he had been busily engaged in burning ‘superstitious utensils’ at Oxford (ib. i. 270; Machyn, p. 266). In November 1561 he supplicated for permission to preach in a doctoral habit within the precincts of the university. The request, though considered unreasonable, was granted in consequence of his being a dean, but was only to continue till the following act. It is clear that he never took a doctor's degree.

He sat in the convocation of 1562–3, and voted in favour of the articles for abolishing certain rites and ceremonies. He also signed the petition of the lower house for discipline. In December 1563 the secretary of state had some communication with him about the apparel prescribed, earnestly urging him to comply with it. He told Sampson ‘that he gave offence by his disobedience, and that obedience was better than sacrifice.’ Sampson, however, in reply set forth the reasons why he declined to wear the apparel.

On 3 March 1564–5 he, Laurence Humphrey, and four other puritan ministers were cited to appear before the ecclesiastical commissioners at Lambeth. Archbishop Parker and his colleagues in vain endeavoured to bring them to conformity (cf. Parker Correspondence, p. 233). At length Sampson was, by a special order from the queen, deprived of the deanery of Christ Church (Strype, Life of Parker, i. 368), and placed in confinement. After some time Sampson obtained his release through the intercession of the archbishop, and was allowed to officiate outside Christ Church without conformity. In 1567 he was appointed master of Wigston's hospital at Leicester. On 13 Sept. 1570 he became prebendary of St. Pancras in the church of St. Paul, London, and penitentiary in that church. He was also theological lecturer at Whittington College, London, receiving from the Company of Clothworkers the annual stipend of 10l. In 1572–3 he was struck with the dead palsy on one side, whereupon he retired to his hospital at Leicester, and passed the remainder of his life in attending to the duties of the mastership. He died on 9 April 1589, and was interred in the chapel of his hospital. Over his grave was placed a Latin inscription, describing him as ‘Hierarchiæ Romanæ, papaliumque rituum hostis acerrimus; sinceritatis evangelicæ assertor constantissimus.’

He married a niece of Bishop Latimer, and had two sons, John and Nathaniel. His works are: 1. ‘A Homelye of the Resurrection of Christe, by John Brentius, translated,’ 1550, 8vo. 2. ‘A Letter to the Trewe Professors of Christes Gospell, inhabitinge in the Parishe of Allhallowis, in Bredstrete in London,’ Strasburg, 1554, 8vo; reprinted in Strype's ‘Memorials,’ vol. iii. App. No. 18. 3. ‘Warning to take heed of Fowlers Psalter (sent lately from Louvain), given by lame Thomas Samson,’ London, 1576, 16mo; … 1578, 8vo; dedicated to Robert Aske. 4. Preface to John Bradford's ‘Two Notable Sermons,’ which were edited by him, London, 1574, 1581, 1599, 12mo. 5. ‘Brief Collection of the Church, and Ceremonies thereof,’ London, 1581, 8vo. 6. ‘Prayers and Meditations Apostolike, gathered and framed out of the Epistles of the Apostles,’ London and Cambridge, 1592, 12mo. 7. ‘A Sermon of John Chrisostome of Pacience, of the ende of the Worlde, and of the Last Judgment, translated into English,’ n.d.

He was also concerned in the translation of the Geneva Bible, published in 1560; and to him has been attributed a share in the composition of ‘An Admonition to the Parliament for the Reformation of Church Discipline’ (Zurich Letters, i. 285). In Strype's ‘Annals’ (iii. 222) ‘A Supplication made in the name of certain true subjects; to be in most humble wise presented to our sovereign lady, Queen Elizabeth, to the Lords of her most Honourable Privy Council, and to the High Court of Parliament,’ dated December 1584; there is a copy in the Lansdowne MS. 119, art. 5.

[Addit. MSS. 5848 p. 43, 5880 f. 69 b; Ames's Typogr. Antiq. ed. Herbert; Brook's Puritans, i. 375; Cooper's Athenæ Cantabr. ii. 43–4; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1500–1714, iv. 1307; Gorham's Reformation Gleanings, p. 345; Hayward's Annals of Elizabeth, p. 5; Le Neve's Fasti, ed. Hardy; Marsden's Early Puritans, pp. 49, 101; Neal's Puritans, i. 131, 137, 139, 217, 324; Nichols's Leicestershire, iv. 495, 496; Notes and Queries, 1st ser. x. 162; Parker Soc. Publications (general index); Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547–80, p. 505; Strype's Works (general index).]

T. C.