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For some years he worked as an apprentice in the London docks, and then entered the Baptist College at Stepney. In 1851 he became pastor of a Baptist church at Southsea, removing in 1855 to Hyde, and in 1863 to Nottingham. He was president of the Baptist Association in 1873 and received the degree of DD from St Andrews in 1882.
Cox had distinct gifts as a biblical expositor and was the founder and first editor of a monthly journal The Expositor (1875-1884). Among the best known of his numerous theological publications are Salvator Mundi: Or, Is Christ the Saviour of All Men? (1877); A Commentary on the Book of Job (1880); and The Larger Hope (1883).