Frank was born and baptized in 1612 at Little Brickhill, Buckinghamshire to Humfrey Frank, rector, and his wife, Elizabeth. However we do not know anything about his education until he went to Cambridge in 1627. Like Andrewes, Frank was a Pembroke College man. In 1630 he became a scholar and three years later graduated. The next years, 1634, he was awarded his M.A. and elected a Fellow. When he was ordained in 1639 it was to minister or serve in the college.
Frank’s time at Pembroke coincided with the beautification programme undertaken by many colleges. Many clergy of the 1630’s were very much influenced by Bishop Lancelot Andrewes’ Episcopal chapel and his teaching that emphasised worshipping God in the beauty of holiness and the sacramental nature of the church. One such college was Peterhouse across the road from Pembroke College. Its new Master in 1634 was John Cosin who had an eye for beautiful art and sculpture to enhance Catholic worship. He inherited from the previous Master, Matthew Wren, a newly built chapel but bare of any ornamentation inside through lack of funds. However he hoped that contributions would come forth to complete the chapel. This did not eventuate and the beautifying of the chapel was paid mainly by Cosin and his wife. On its completion there was probably not a more beautiful chapel in all England. Frank no doubt would have admired the beauty of this chapel as well of those others in Cambridge such as St. John’s and Kings. Undoubtedly he would have frequented them in the 1630’s, and would have grieved in the desecration and destruction of ornaments, stained glass windows and furniture by the iconoclasts. His own feelings towards the dismantling and destruction of chapels and churches of the 1640’s were reflected in some of his sermons such as in the first Advent sermon when he preached, “God has turned our songs of joy into the voice of weeping; … taken away our feasts and gaudy days; and we may well cry, and cry aloud in that sadder sense of the word ‘crying:’
Frank obtained his B.D. in 1641 and was appointed Treasurer to his College when the tide was turning against Laud, Charles I and other bishops, including Matthew Wren, bishop of Ely and Visitor to Cambridge University. Frank was not to escape the wrath of Parliament either. He and many others, including Cosin and the Master of Pembroke, Benjamin Laney, and fellows such as Richard Crashaw were ejected from their university positions at Cambridge by parliamentary visitors led by the Earl of Manchester with his two chaplains, Ash and Good, when they would not sign the Solemn League and Covenant in 1643.
Just prior to his ejection Frank had preached at Paul's Cross on 4th May 1642 before the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London. He was particularly forthright in criticising the growing opposition to King, the Church and bishops by parliamentarians and the London laity and their denouncing of traditional worship. Indeed there is much in this sermon that is reminiscent of the Spital sermon that Andrewes preached to a similar congregation in 1588 when he attacked the rich Londoners for their lack of help to the poor, especially when they cheated at business, and before long they would do likewise with divinity. Andrewes told them, “Laws are like cobwebs; that they hold fast the silly flies, but the great hornets break through them as oft as they list. And as there are cob-webs which exempt mighty men, so the same corruption that was the cause thereof would also make cob-web divinity.” Frank in his sermon declared, “In civil affairs, laws, they say, are cobwebs. Great men, great flies, that easily break through them; mean men, little enough to slip out at any hole; women do what they please; children are not old enough for any thing, but sin and disobedience.” Frank prefaced this sermon seeking forgiveness “if I strike home” as “I come not to flatter you” because these times “require a sharper physic”. Indeed he could not have taken a more appropriate text to illustrate this than that from the book of Jeremiah where the Rechabites, in a time of much disobedience to Yahweh by the Israelites, were praised for their faithful obedience to the commandments of their father Jonadab, the son of Rechab, who held “natural, civil [and] ecclesiastical” powers. The message is clear - that his contemporaries should follow the example of the Rechabites, otherwise there will only be troubled times ahead. Obedience to those in authority was the only way to secure peace and order, firstly to kings as “‘God hath set them over us;’ Per me reges: made them supreme too; it is S. Peter’s, ‘To the king as supreme.’ Mark that: no earthly power above him; nor Pope nor people.” However we have “fallen into strange times, in the interim, that God must be driven to recant, and we learn a new supremacy? The king’s preeminence is expressly a part of your oath of allegiance. And ‘for the oath of God,’ says Solomon; so think of him, so obey him.” Secondly to the magistrates who are next to the King and all those in authority from the “governor of a country” down to the “father of a family”. These all have “commands to be obeyed” as declared by Peter. To the bishops who have the “spiritual” power and care of souls and who until recently were honoured and respected.
Bishops are fathers by their title, the fathers of the Church; so the first Christians, so all since, till this new unchristian Christianity started up. Fathers in God, it is their style; however some of late, sons of Belial, would make them fathers in the devil, antichrists; perhaps, that they might make them like themselves.
Strange antichrists to whom Christ hath left the governing of his Church these 1500 years!
Indeed those who were advocating disobedience to the legal authority of England should realise that they command obedience in their families and corporations. So why not, queried Frank, “judge as equally for the Church?” Instead bishops and clergy have “tumults about their houses, the riots upon their persons, the daily insolences the whole clergy have met with in your streets, never seen till now in a civil commonwealth, in any ordered city,” even “injuries done their persons in the churches, at the very altars - once sanctuaries against violence, now thought the fittest places for it-in the very administration of the sacraments, in their pulpits, both among you and abroad the kingdom.” All of these acts are “slanderous, malicious accusations without ground, entertained with pleasure, besides the blasphemies upon the whole order; - if these cannot tell you, after- ages will determine, and in the interim let the world judge.” It was not only disobedience to the authorities but also to the “rubrics and canons” of the Church that concerned Frank. These that have given so much pleasure to people for so many years were now looked upon as “innovation”. Thus it seemed “that nothing but the ruin of the whole will now content” many of his contemporaries. Frank reminded his auditors that they kept customs in their corporations, so why could not the Church have hers. Long ago Paul made it clear to “the Church of Corinth” that the Church did indeed have customs “about prayers, about preaching, about sacraments, about gestures and ceremonies.” In fact ever since the first century the Church has observed her customs for “order and beauty” until “of late a subtle profaneness” has crept in. How similar this was to Andrewes sermon for Easter, 1618 with its text “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the Churches of God.” Addressing particularly those who wanted to destroy all beauty and ceremony from worship because it was considered idolatry, Frank argued how could his way of worship be more superstitious than the way his Puritan brethren worshipped?
May not I as lawfully serve my God in a reverent posture, as thou in a saucy and irreverent garb? Is it superstition in me to stand, because thou sittest or leanest on thy elbow? Is it idolatry in me to kneel, because thou wilt not foul thy clothes, or vex thy knees? Strange must it needs be, that sitting, leaning, lolling, must be law and canon, where no set behaviour is expressed, and my reverence only be against it; made renovation which law never forbad, custom has retained. When you can bring me law against my standing, bowing, kneeling, which yourselves know custom hath observed, where uniform order has been kept, I shall either submit or answer. Else I must ask by what law I am bound to sit or lean, and not to stand, or kneel, or bow; though I urge thee only to charity and reverence.
Frank further argued that if his auditors would follow the example of the Rechabites. "Your city shall flourish, your places be renowned, your liberties increase, your persons rise up in honour, your estates prosper, your affairs succeed, your children be famous, your posterity happy, your religion display the glories of her first primitive purity, and all go on successfully for ever."
By wanting to dismantle the Church Puritans have also brought disunity, highlighted in this Whitsun sermon in which he compared the unity of the Apostles on that first Pentecost with his own dismal time.
‘They’ were, and ‘in one place’ they were, too, all together, agreed in all, were all in unity, were all in uniformity; not their minds only, but their bodies too, together. Men thought it nothing, awhile since, to withdraw themselves from the houses of God, as if no matter at all for the place, they could for all that be of the same faith; but too woful experience has proved it now, that with the one place the one faith is vanished, with the ceremony the substance gone too, with the uniformity of worship the unanimity of our minds and the uniformity of our faith too blown into the air.
Being evicted from Pembroke in 1643 meant that during the prime years of his life, instead of being able to give generously of his talents Frank suffered great adversity that one assumes he bore with patience and dignity from the tone of his sermons delivered during the Interregnum. One glimpse of this is in his sermon for St. Stephen’s day when he spoke of this saint’s martyrdom as a comfort to him and others “in the saddest distresses” in this time when their religion has been denied.
We must not look, all of us, nor confessors nor martyrs now-a-days, to see visions and revelations with S. Stephen; we are set in a fixed way, where reason and religion, so long proved and practised, is able to give us comfort in the saddest distresses. God does not usually confirm our reason by our sense in the revelation of himself, or what he expects from us. It may be because the devil, grown cunning now by so many centuries of years, has taken up of late (as he is God's ape) a way to fetch off souls by some sensible delusions from the faith; for he can transform himself (nay, does so, says the Apostle) ‘into an angel of light.’ For this, it may be, God sends us now ‘to the word and to the testimony,’ and leaves us to reason, tradition, and example of so many ages, to expound it. However, this is sufficient, that neither God nor Christ will leave us wholly comfortless, but will surely stand by us when we need, and supply us as there is. Again in a sermon at Evensong celebrating Candlemas he revealed the hardships he was enduring for his allegiance to his Church’s tradition and as a consequence his mourning for her. And offer we up ourselves together with him – … offer we up the turtle’s sighs instead of wanton songs; the turtle’s chastity and purity and the dove’s simplicity. Let our lives be full of sorrow for our sins, and compassions to our brother – full of purity and innocency. Keep we still this sursum in suscipere upon the tops of the mountains with the turtle, as near heaven as can be; set no more our foot upon the green trees or boughs, as the turtle does not when his mate is dead; rest we no more upon the green and flourishing, the light and leafy pleasures of the world, but spend the residue of this mournful life in bewailing the widowed Church, our lost both spouse and mother, our deceased Husband and Father too. Thus taking Christ and his offering, and proportioning ours according to it, our heaviness may again be turned into joy, a joyful light spring up again; our Purification become also a Candlemas, an illustrious day of lights and glories. It is extracts such as the above that allow us to know that Frank was able to preach during the Interregnum, but we do not where. These sermons manifest not only his sufferings but also of their Mother, the Church, evident again in this Palm Sunday sermon. We have found it so of late; Christ and his Church, and his religion more dishonoured by the madness than he was honoured here. They have stripped himself and his Church of all the garments and ornaments to clothe themselves, instead of stripping themselves or spreading their own garments to honour him. His first Easter sermon also revealed the Church’s losses under Parliamentarian government as he compared these to the women’s loss in not being able to find the body of Christ in the garden. The body is the Church; and to have that taken from us, the Church, that glorious candlestick removed, and borne away we know not whither, what good soul is there that must not necessarily be perplexed at it? What way shall we take when they have taken away that which is the pillar of the truth and should lend us in it? What way shall we take when they have taken away the pillar of truth, and should lead us in it? Whither shall we go when we know not whither that is gone, where they have laid it, or where to find it? Poor ignorant women, nay, and men, too, may well now wander in uncertainties - as they do - full of doubts and perplexities, full of cares and troubled thoughts which way to take, what religion to run to, what to leave, and what to follow, seeing the body - to which the eagles used to flock, the most-eagles eyed, the most subtle and learned used to be gathered - is removed away and we have nothing to gather to, scarce a place to be gathered together in. Well may we now fear what will become of us, and what God means to do to us, how he intends to deal with us, having thus suffered our Lord to be taken from us. … When his body, the Church, is removed from us, where can we stay our wavering souls, or fix our trembling feet? Christ was no sooner dead and gone, but away run all his disciples into a room together, and shut up themselves, ‘for fear of the Jews,’ so coward-like and faint- hearted are well when the Captain of our salvation is slain before us; nor can it be other, all ‘our life’ being ‘hid in him,’ and all our spirit only from his presence. In this same sermon Frank suggested that the best course for the faithful to take until the Church was restored is to be like the disciples who hid themselves in their chamber “till we can get a better place, with all the company we can make, to our devotions and our prayers.”
If we do venture to go to the tomb like the women:
… let it but to pay a tear upon it, to vent our troubled souls, to express how we are troubled at our sins that have made us lose our Lord, or at our negligence that he is slipped from us whilst we were asleep, lulled in soft pleasures; or at our slowness, that we come so late to seek him that he is gone before we come. This is so to seek as to be ‘perplexed thereabout,’ and there is no true seeking him without it.
Frank’s patience and piety throughout the Interregnum were rewarded at the Restoration when he was appointed a chaplain to the aging Archbishop of Canterbury, William Juxon, and to his successor, Gilbert Sheldon in 1662. In the same year he was appointed Master of his old college, Pembroke, canon treasurer of St Paul’s Cathedral and archdeacon of St Albans. In February the following year he was inducted to the parish of Barley in Hertforsdhire. Along with other distinguished and loyal churchmen he was awarded a D.D. by royal mandate in 1661 for their loyal support during those years when bishops and Prayer Book were suppressed.
Just as his sermons through the Interregnum painted the sorrows of that time, so his sermons at the Restoration reflected the joy at the return of the Church and Crown evident in this Christmas sermon.
God has signally and strangely visited us of late years with his salvation; redeemed us from our enemies and all that hate us; - those horns, that, like those in Daniel, pushed down and scattered all before them, that threw down our temples, took away our daily service, set up the ‘abomination of desolation’ in these holy places, - horse, and foot, and arms, and all the instruments of desolation, - and stamped upon all holy things and persons: he has raised us up a mightier horn, to make those horns draw in theirs; a horn ‘in the house of his servant David:’ restored our David his anointed to us, kept him his servant, returned him as he went, safe and sound in the principles of his religion; restored him and his house, us and ours, kept them at least from utterly pulling down. Oh that men would therefore now praise the Lord for his goodness, and declare the wonders he has lately done for the children of men!
When Frank preached at St. Paul’s Cathedral for its patronal festival after the Restoration he contrasted the differences between how the cathedral has been used during the Interregnum and after its refurbishment for worship. It had been a “stable, a magazine, a market, a meeting-place of schism and rebellion.” Now thank God it is a church where the holy offices were revived “in their beauty.” He compared the restoration of churches after the Interregnum with the restoration of God’s house in Jerusalem after the Exile. The Jews had wept over their ruined house of God but under Nehemiah’s directions the Jews re-established “the whole office of God’s public worship and service according to the commandment of David, the man of God, according to the ancient form and fashion.” The people conducted themselves “reverently” as they “devoutly” stood for the reading of the Law, after “the prayers and blessing with one accord answered “Amen”; they lifted up their hands, bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground.” They indeed showed how content they were to keep the statutes and commandments as well as the moral law. Their attitude Frank believed reflected the present mood in London as many faithful Englishmen set out to repair their churches. Just as God raised up those in Jerusalem to rebuild His house and remembered them who built it, so He does now in our midst. The “feasts of dedication have always been kept for a memorial of them” who built and renovated churches on patronal festival days as St. Paul’s cathedral was enjoying on this day. Although there was much rejoicing at the Restoration when the Church with the Crown was restored this soon waned and many soon forgot their new found fervour for worldly pleasures evident in this Lenten sermon. Frank preached: But … the days of salvation we have now almost three years enjoyed, may justly demand to be remembered too to spur us on to take a little more care how we spend our time. I am afraid our late days have been as much consumed in vanity, as our former years were spent in trouble. We have forgot our deliverance; we live rather as if we had been ‘delivered’ up (as they in the Prophet excused themselves) ‘to do all abominations;’ we seem to have quite lost the memory of our temporal salvation; and for our spiritual, we go on daily as if we either cared not whether God would save us or no -or at least we would venture it - or as if we said in plain English, Let him save us if he will, be it else at his own peril if he will not; or, in short, as if we bid him damn us if he durst. Yet never were there such days of salvation as we have seen, never such deliverances as we have found; never were such cast-aways - never men so rejected, so de¬spised, so trampled on-so again accepted on a sudden. Good God! was it for our righteousness, was it for our merits, was it by our own strength, or wit, or power, we were delivered? Alas, Lord! we had none of these. Was it for our oaths, or perjuries, or blasphemies, or sacrileges, or rebellions, or schisms, or heresies, or thefts, or profaneness, or wickedness, or villanies, that thou didst deliver us, to our kingdom and our Church, to our peace and plenty and prosperity, to all the happy means of piety and religion, to all the beauties of holiness and opportunities of salvation? Enough indeed, O Lord, of these we could have showed thee; but these were reasons why thou shouldest not deliver us. It was only, O Lord, because thou wouldest have the day, and wouldest save us because thou wouldest. Frank pleaded with his auditors not to sin again against God. Otherwise “some horrible night … some terrible judgment … the horrors and miseries of everlasting darkness” will come upon them. So it was obvious from Frank’s preaching that the joy and the commitment that accompanied the restoration of the Church were short lived. In another Lenten sermon Frank was again admonishing his contemporaries for their sins of indifference and neglect.
… our laws are restored us, and we live as if we had none; our religion is returned, and we laugh it out of countenance. Good discipline reviving, and we are doing what we can to break the bonds in sunder. Our churches now stand open to us, and we pass by them with neglect; our king God has set upon ‘his holy hill,’ and the people still ‘imagine vain things’ against him. In a word, we are ‘filled with all good things,’ and we do all the evil we can with them.
For this Lenten sermon Frank took as his text that verse from Deuteronomy. ”O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end” (32.29). He besought his contemporaries to wake up and realise that the same situation could happen again to the English Church if they did not awaken from their apathy.
Yet, lastly, I must add, that till we think we have no understanding, till we confess we are - what God says we are in the words just before - a nation that has none, -a nation that when time was, undid itself with its own wisdom; - whilst we would needs teach God to govern his Church and rule the world, and in a manner force him either to make the world anew again out of nothing, or make the Church into it; till we grow sensible how wisely we reformed all, till we had reformed God out of all, and all into Atheism and confusion; and that we are no wiser still than to tread in the same steps that will do it again, there will be little hope we understand God’s dealings or our own. Yet this understanding our not understanding God here particularly points them to; for having immediately before said, this people, they were a nation that had not any understanding, he presently adds, ‘O that they were wise’ and ‘understood’ it; even ‘this’ very thing in particular that they do not understand, as wise as they seem, or think themselves. The next point may make them wiser, if however, now at last, they will ‘consider their latter end;’ what may be the end of their follies and their wisdoms here, and what is like to be the end of them hereafter; what in this world, and what in the other; for novissima reaches both, the issues of this life and the issues of the next. Et novissima providerent.
Actually Frank was surprised that God had not already punished the English for their ingratitude.
That all these have not befallen us before this time, that God has not torn up our foundations, nor given us over to our own wraths, nor to the people’s; that he has not scattered us, nor brought some ill end or other upon us long ere this¬ it is not for our righteousness, I am sure: but ne hostes dicerent, lest some should justify their own dealings; or ne populus dicerent, lest some others condemn God’s, as if he had delivered them only to destroy them. But whatever they say, Ego retribruam eis in tempore, ‘Their foot shall slide in due time,’ says God; et juxta est dies perditionis, ‘the day of their calamity is at hand.’
In this sermon Frank also pleaded for unity and working together so that the wrong-doings of the past few years would not return. We should be like “the locusts” which gather together and not “meddle” with what we do not understand. Accordingly let us:
Unite in the bond of peace and charity, not straggle into factions, and divide in parties, remembering what that lately came to, and may quickly come to again, if we look not to it. We would with the spider, catch hold with our bands, keep ourselves employed in our own business, trades, or studies, and not meddle with things we either understand not, or belong not to us. We would learn of them besides to be in the palaces of the great King, the houses of God, a little more constantly than we are. This would be to be ‘exceeding wise.’
It was during his Mastership that the chapel for Pembroke was built in a classical style by Christopher Wren paid for by his uncle Bishop Matthew Wren who when imprisoned in the tower vowed to devote money to “some holy and pious employment” after his release from prison. Unfortunately for the English Church Frank died not long after the Restoration in early 1664. Probably the above Lenten sermon was one of his last. He was buried near the north door of old St. Paul’s Cathedral, which was gutted the following year in the Great Fire of London. The inscription of the plaque that was in St. Paul’s can now been seen in his old college of Pembroke.
SUB HOC MARMORE TUMULATUR
DOCTRINA PIETAS ET CHARITAS
QUIPPE MONUMENTUM EST
ILIUS MARCI FRANK, S.T.P.
REVERENDISSIMO GILBERTO ARCHIEPISCOPO CANTUARIENSI
A SACRIS STI. ALBANI ARCHDIACONI
HUJUS ECCLESIAE THESAURARII ET PRAEBENDARII
AULAE PEMBROCHIANAE CANTABRIG. PRAEFECTI
CUJUS VIRTUTEM HUMILITATEM ELOQUENTIAM
IN SINGULISQUE SAGACITATEM
DICTIS METIRI NON LICEAT
DICAT POSTERITAS OBIIT AETATIS ANNO LI.
SALUTIS HUMANAE MDCLXIV