Who was Anne Locke? Because she’s British, you might be inclined to think that we’re talking about somebody related or connected to the philosopher John Locke, but we’re not. This is a sixteenth-century figure who was crucial to the British Reformation, and my hunch is you might not have even heard of her before.
She was born in 1535, and she died in 1590. She spanned crucial decades of the British (or English) Reformation. Anne was the daughter of Stephen and Margaret Vaughan. Her dad was a successful merchant and agent trader involved in commerce. He was a theologically astute and engaged man, a very theologically educated layman. In fact, under Henry VIII, while Henry VIII was still a Catholic, Stephen Vaughan was accused of being a heretic. But in 1534 with the Act of Supremacy, the tide turned and he and his family did very well under the final years of Henry and especially under Edward VI.
In 1549 Anne married Henry Locke and became Anne Locke. Henry had inherited a number of shops and homes and also quite a bit of land. This was under the reign of Edward VI. For the next four years, the Locke family prospered and was involved in the reforms happening under Edward VI. For a few months in 1553 Scottish Reformer John Knox actually lived in the Locke household.
Then Edward VI died, Mary came to the throne (this was Bloody Mary), and the tides turned once again in England. Knox ended up in Geneva, where he corresponded with the Lockes, trying to get them to come to Geneva. In 1557 Anne and her children did indeed go to Geneva. Sadly, four days after they arrived, her infant daughter died.
In 1559 when Elizabeth came to the throne, Anne Locke and the other so-called Genevan exiles, these British Reformed folks exiled to Geneva, made their way back. And so the Locke household went back to London.
In 1560 Anne Locke published a book. The book consisted of two things. The first part was a translation of four sermons from John Calvin on Isaiah 38. Now, Calvin started preaching on Isaiah in 1556, and 342 sermons later in 1559 he finished. Anne picked out only four of those sermons, all on Isaiah 38. The title of Anne’s book is “Sermons of John Calvin upon the song that Hezekiah made after he had been sick and afflicted by the hand of God contained in the 38th chapter of Isaiah. Translated out of the French into the English.” In the preface, Anne Locke writes of these sermons as “a medicine taken from the storehouse of God’s Holy Testament by the apothecary master John Calvin, and it is to be tasted by the reader.”
Not only did Anne publish those four sermons of John Calvin, but she also included a twenty-six sonnet series on Psalm 51 called “A Meditation of a Penitent Sinner.” She ends those sonnets with these words:
We praise thee God our God: thou only art
The God of might, of mercy, and of grace.
That I then, Lord, may also honor thee,
Relieve my sorrow, and my sins deface:
Be, Lord of mercy, merciful to me:
Restore my feeling of thy grace again:
Assure my soul, I crave it not in vain.