Defending the Faith
John Jewel and the Elizabethan Church
Edited by Angela Ranson, André A. Gazal, and Sarah Bastow
Defending the Faith
John Jewel and the Elizabethan Church
Edited by Angela Ranson, André A. Gazal, and Sarah BastowThis volume brings together a diverse group of Reformation scholars to examine the life, work, and enduring significance of John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury from 1560 to 1571.
- Sample Chapters
A theologian and scholar who worked with early reformers in England such as Peter Martyr Vermigli, Martin Bucer, and Thomas Cranmer, Jewel had a long-lasting influence over religious culture and identity. The essays included in this book shed light on often-neglected aspects of Jewel’s work, as well as his standing in Elizabethan culture not only as a priest but as a leader whose work as a polemicist and apologist played an important role in establishing the authority and legitimacy of the Elizabethan Church of England. The contributors also place Jewel in the wider context of gender studies, material culture, and social history.
With its inclusion of a short biography of Jewel’s early life and a complete list of his works published between 1560 and 1640, Defending the Faith is a fresh and robust look at an important Reformation figure who was recognized as a champion of the English Church, both by his enemies and by his fellow reformers.
In addition to the editors, contributors to this volume are Andrew Atherstone, Ian Atherton, Paul Dominiak, Alice Ferron, Paul A. Hartog, Torrance Kirby, W. Bradford Littlejohn, Aislinn Muller, Joshua Rodda, and Lucy Wooding.
Angela Ranson earned her doctorate from the University of York in 2014. She has had articles published in Sin and Salvation in Reformation England and Paul’s Cross and the Culture of Persuasion in England, 1520–1640.
André Gazal teaches church history at North Greenville University and is the author of Scripture and Royal Supremacy in Tudor England: The Use of Old Testament Historical Narrative.
Sarah Bastow is Head of History at the University of Huddersfield and the author of The Catholic Gentry of Yorkshire, 1536–1642: Resistance and Accommodation.
From the Introduction
“John Jewel and the Invention of the Church of England”
In November 1559, John Jewel, the future bishop of Salisbury, preached a sermon at Paul’s Cross in London, which was to have momentous consequences for the Church of England. This institution was at the time only an uncertain fledgling church in a country with a young, untried queen and a fearful legacy of religious wrangling and bloodshed. Jewel was to do more than most to give the English church credibility and a coherent Protestant identity. In his sermon, he proclaimed his challenge to the Catholics, charging them to prove their doctrine from “scripture, or some old doctour, or sum ancient councell, or else some allowed example of the primitive church.” This Challenge Sermon, as it rapidly became known, was repeated at court and then again at Paul’s Cross in early 1560, and in due course it gave rise to the more comprehensive treatise of 1562, Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae, published in its best-known English translation by Anne Bacon in 1564 as The Apology of the Church of England.
Jewel’s work provoked an extensive Catholic reaction as well as a number of important defenses of Jewel’s arguments offered by other Elizabethan Protestants. The controversy was perhaps at its most vigorous in the early years of Elizabeth’s reign, as the Catholic exile Thomas Harding and his associates replied to Jewel in a rapid succession of books from Louvain: several dozen books were published in the 1560s alone. Yet Jewel’s work would remain significant throughout the early modern period; often disputed, but more often considered authoritative. In 1609, Richard Bancroft, the archbishop of Canterbury, ordered Jewel’s works to be placed in every church across the land.4 After this, Jewel’s reputation as a leading Protestant reformer became established, survived through subsequent centuries, and was revived by the nineteenth- and twentieth-century debates over the identity and ministry of the Church of England.
As this collection of essays suggests, Jewel played a large part in the creation of the new Church of England on every level, from the theological and political to the practical and pastoral. In particular, he helped endow the institution with both ecclesial authority and theological consistency by giving it a plausible claim to the sanction of Christian antiquity. Jewel’s rhetoric, in both his Challenge Sermon and the Apologia, outlined the gulf between Protestants and Catholics, in terms of both belief and practice. It is easy to read this rhetoric as a fairly straightforward account of the two churches, tracing the clear boundaries between unmistakably opposed belief systems. Yet Jewel’s language was not so much descriptive as creative. He was striving with all his might to drive a clear wedge between the youthful and uncertain Church of England and its Catholic opponents. As Mary Morrissey has pointed out, he took what would become the standard approach adopted by these “confutational” sermons at Paul’s Cross: such sermons were concerned with attacking not the fundamental beliefs of the Catholics but rather the beliefs where they could most clearly demonstrate the difference between Catholic and Protestant. This was perhaps Jewel’s greatest achievement, to create a clear-cut image of an English Protestant church that was diametrically opposed to its Catholic critics. In so doing, he helped prompt a parallel process on the Catholic side of the argument. Despite the claims on both sides to certainty and consensus, these two churches were both still quite unstable, their loyalties and convictions still fluid, and it was in the debates of the 1560s that the Catholics, just as much as the Protestants, established a clearer sense of self. Therefore, the emergence of confessional identity in the English Reformation owed much to Jewel and the responses he provoked.
Jewel’s vision of the church was firmly rooted in antiquity. He held that the doctrine he was upholding “at no point departed from the Church of the Apostles and the Fathers.” The foundation of his Apology was his insistence on the continuities between his own time and that of the primitive church. Here he reflected a crucial element of the second stage of European Reformation. Protestants had always claimed that their doctrine was rooted in scripture, but the inability of different Protestant groups to agree on certain essential doctrines was weakening the practical efficacy of that claim. Catholics, meanwhile, claimed that their doctrine was rooted in scripture as interpreted by the consensus of the church, but this, too, was open to attack on many levels. By the 1550s, controversialists on both sides were increasingly drawing on church history, particularly the history of the early church, in an attempt to sanction their own standpoints by demonstrating a direct inheritance from the apostles. Jewel’s work should be set within the context of the work of the Magdeburg Centuriators and John Foxe’s Acts and Monuments; Catholic works such as Nicholas Harpsfield’s Dialogi Sex and Nicholas Sander’s De Origine Ac Progressu Schismatis Anglicani formed the basis of the Catholic response in kind.
At one level, therefore, both Jewel and his opponents were laying out the same argument. “Our strife is about the Truthe,” wrote Harding. “The waie to shewe it, and prove it . . . is by laying forth the plaine Scriptures, the examples of the Primitive Church, the testimonies of the General Councelles, and ancient Fathers.” This was almost word for word what Jewel had claimed. The desperate need for historical sanction and continuity and the need to fashion a form of Elizabethan Protestantism that was not just a protest movement but a framework for a state church meant that these most irate and eloquent of opponents found themselves competing for the same contested territory.
Those who preached and wrote on either side had to make out that they wrote with the voice of dignified, beleaguered authority: thus Jewel’s opening gambit in the Apology was to relate the ways in which the bearers of truth had been persecuted in every age, and in return the Catholics lamented their outcast state. Self-presentation in terms of martyrdom also drew a useful comparison with the martyrs of the primitive church and thus helped serve as another badge of authenticity. This kind of rhetoric drew attention away from the fact that the controversy that was unfolding was in fact a highly self-referential argument between quite small groups of academics, all of whom knew one another well. These men had been educated together. They remembered one another’s strengths and weaknesses. This is obvious from their more sardonic comments: Henry Cole, dean of St. Paul’s, in an exchange of letters (subsequently printed) after the first Challenge Sermon, accused Jewel of not playing fair and reminded him of the rules of university debate, commenting, “You have not yet I wene all forgot the trade in Oxeforde which you and I were brought up in.” This could be cast as a kind of lofty civility: Jewel remarked in an earlier letter, “I can also charitably be contented, as a frend with a frend, or a scholar with a scholar, to conferre with you herein.”
Not only had all these men been at Oxford together, but Jewel and his chief protagonist, Thomas Harding, in fact lived curiously parallel lives: they had both been born in north Devon, both attended Barnstaple Grammar School, and both studied at Oxford. Both had conformed—Harding under Edward, Jewel under Mary—before returning to their final allegiance. In fact, Harding seems in the 1540s and 1550s to have been committed to the evangelical cause. He was made Regius Professor of Hebrew in 1542 and claimed later that reading German commentaries had helped turn his opinions toward Protestantism, although he denied he had ever been fully converted, claiming that “in certaine pointes I was deceived (I confesse) by Calvine, Melanththon and a few others.” He served as chaplain to Henry Grey, Marquis of Dorset, later Duke of Suffolk and had Edward VI’s backing for election as Warden of New College. When he returned to the Catholic fold, he received a vitriolic letter from Lady Jane Grey, condemning him “which seemed sometime to be the lively member of Christ, but now the deformed imp of the devil . . . sometime the unspotted spouse of Christ, but now the unshameful paramour of Antichrist.” Harding was not the only one who knew what it was to embrace a Protestant understanding of the faith. Thomas Dorman recollected the day when he had first met Harding, arriving at Winchester “a yong novyce of Calvyns relygyon,” before he was “brought home again to Chrystes churche from whence I was strayed.” Their ability to understand the strengths as well as the substance of one another’s arguments made this debate unusually profound as well as exceptionally fervent.
In Jewel’s Apologia, when he offered at the start a caricature of the Catholic attack upon his views, he wrote that “they crye out upon us at thys present every wheare, that we are all heretiques,” adding “also that we are already devided into contrarye partes and opinions, and coulde yet by no meanes agree well amonge oure selves.” The Catholics did indeed point to the divisions among Protestants, particularly over the question of the sacrament. Heskins in 1566 wrote, “Look at howe manie citties, howe manie contries, so manie doctrines, so manie faiths, so manie religions: yea almost howe manie heades, so manie opinions. Howe doeth Luther agree with Oecolampadius? Howe doeth Melanchthon with Bullinger?” They also made some shrewd comments about Elizabethan difficulties. Gregory Martin observed in 1582 that every sect expounds scripture according to its own heresy: “Looke upon the Calvinists and Puritanes at home, the Lutherans, Zwinglians and Calvinists abrode . . . are not their expositions of one and the same Scripture as diverse and contrarie, as their opinions differ one from an other? Let the example at home be, their controversie about the distinction of Ecclesiastical degrees, Archbishop, Bishop and minister; the example abrode, their divers imaginations and phantasies upon these most sacred wordes, Hoc est corpus meum.”
Jewel had an answer for this. As Edward Dering described him, Jewel was “our Alexander in Christian war and godly courage.” This was a war of words, and as it unfolded, the armies on either side began to coalesce. Increasingly, its protagonists felt that they were attacking not just individuals and their work but the massed ranks of opponents and confessional identities became more fixed and more weighty. Jewel’s delineation of the church was magisterial, universalist, and rooted in antiquity. It was with this claim that he pulled the rug out from under the feet of his Catholic opponents and bequeathed to the new and uncertain Church of England the weighty sanction of time and space: “We do beleve that ther is onely one Churche of God, and that the same is not shut up as in time past among the Jewes into any one corner or kingdome, butte is Catholike and universall, and dispersed into all the world.”
In 2014, marking the 450th anniversary of the publication of The Apology of the Church of England, a conference was held in Salisbury that sought to bring together a range of scholars from different disciplines who were interested in Jewel’s work, reputation, and legacy. Crossing the boundaries between history, theology, and the study of literature, the papers given at this conference explored Jewel’s life and work, his cultural setting and historical reputation, and his theological legacy.
The first conclusion to emerge from this conference, now enshrined in the essays in this volume, is the importance of Jewel’s work, preached and published at such a crucial psychological moment at the start of Elizabeth’s reign, when there were so many difficulties pressing on every
side. It was Angela Ranson who first conceived the idea of an anniversary conference to mark Jewel’s achievement, and her opening chapter here introduces Jewel with an account of his early life, which was almost exactly contemporary with the formative years of the English Reformation. In a subsequent chapter, Ranson then advances an analysis of the famous controversy prompted by that sermon, arguing that Jewel had a key role in the Elizabethan church as the linchpin of an influential group of men who took up the task he had begun, using his work as a shared point of reference that gave the group, as well as their written work, its distinctive coherence. Ranson looks beyond the purely theological encounter between Jewel and the Catholics to explore the cultural impact of their exchanges, treating both sides of the controversy as distinct textual communities, whose published and unpublished works need to be studied in a body to understand the common religious language that they were helping create. This chapter also emphasizes the connection between the written and spoken word, arguing that the work of Jewel and his community was conveyed as much by preaching as by print and that these Elizabethan churchmen and scholars always intended their books and sermons to complement one another, as Jewel’s Challenge Sermon and his Apology had done from the start.
(Excerpt ends here.)
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