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 Issues | Church History | John Jewell


On The English Reformation
by John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury (1522-1571)

Extracted from his Apologia Anglicanae and translated by Frederick Meyrick MA Non-Residentary Canon of Lincoln. (Published by Church Book Room - date not known.) Meyrick does not give references to the Apology.


In the matter of making changes in religion we did nothing rashly or violently ; we acted slowly and with great deliberation ; and we should not have acted at all unless we had felt ourselves compelled to do so by the plain and undoubted will of God, declared to us in the Holy Scriptures, and by regard for our own salvation. For though we have parted from that Church which they call the Catholic Church (using that name to create a prejudice against us in the minds of those who have not the means of judging), yet we are well satisfied (and every man of prudence and piety who has the thought of eternal life before him ought to be well satisfied) that we have only parted from a Church which could err, which Christ, Who cannot err, had forewarned us would err, and which we have plainly seen with our own eyes to have parted from the Holy Fathers and the Apostles, from Christ Himself, and from the Primitive and Catholic Church; and we have drawn near, as near as we possibly could, to the Church of the Apostles and of the ancient Catholic Bishops and Fathers, whose Church we know was still sound, and, as Tertullian (AD145-220) says, of “virginal purity,” not yet contaminated by idolatry or by any grave and publicly accepted error. We have adapted not only our doctrine but also our sacraments and the order of our public prayers to their rites and ordinances, and we have recalled religion, which was shamefully neglected and depraved, to its original and primary state, as we know that Christ Himself did, and almost all godly men have done. For we judged that to restore religion we must recur to the source from which it first sprang.

Appeal to Antiquity
Tertullian, one of the oldest of the Fathers, says that this rule serves to refute all heresies, namely, that whatever is first is true, and that whatever is of a later date is debased (Adv. Praxeam, 2). Irenaeus (AD180) often appealed to the most ancient Churches, because they were nearer to Christ, and it was therefore hardly credible that they had yet gone wrong (Iren. 3.2). Why should we not now proceed in the same way? Why do we not return to what the ancient Churches were like? Why should we not now listen to that cry which was raised of old in the Council of Nicaea (AD325) by so many Bishops and Catholic Fathers, nemine contradicente: Eqh arcaia krateitw.

Ezra, when he wanted to restore the fallen Temple of God, did not send to Ephesus, although there was there a most beautiful and highly-decorated Temple of Diana; and when he wanted to recover rites and ceremonies he did not send to Rome, though no doubt he had heard that there existed there hecatombs, sacrifices of all kinds, sacred feasts, forms of prayer, and the Ritual books of Numa Pompilius. He was satisfied with keeping before his eyes and following the model of the old Temple which Solomon had first built in accordance with the instructions of God, and he was contented with those old rites and ceremonies which God Himself had given to Moses in writing (Ezra 3.2)

When the Temple had now been re-built by Ezra and there seemed good cause for the people congratulating themselves on so great a blessing having been granted them by Almighty God, the prophet Haggai drew tears from them all, because those still living, who remembered the buildings of the first Temple before it had been overthrown by the Babylonians, saw that the restored Temple was far inferior in beauty to the old one. They would have been contented with it if it had come up to the ancient model and been equal in majesty to the first Temple (Hag. 2.3).

St. Paul, when he had to restore the administration of the Lord's Supper to the purity which already the Corinthians had begun to corrupt, desired that the institution of Christ should be followed. “I have delivered unto you,” he said, “that which I also had received from the Lord” (1 Cor. 11.23 ). Christ, refuting an error of the Pharisees, declared that they ought to go back to the beginning. “From the beginning,” He said, “it was not so " (Matt. 19.8). And again, rebuking the negligence and avarice of priests when He cleansed the Temple, He taught them that it had originally been a house of prayer, where the people might offer pious and holy prayers, and that it ought to be treated in the same way still, for it was not built to be a den of thieves.

In like manner the princes that are represented in Holy Scripture as men of piety are specially praised for walking in the ways of their father David, that is, for returning to the beginning of the kingdom and restoring religion to its original integrity.

And so we, seeing everything thrown to the ground by them and nothing left in God's Temple but pitiful ruins, judged that we were doing the wisest thing in placing before ourselves as our model those Churches which we knew for certain were not in error, which had no private masses, nor prayers in an unknown tongue, nor the corruption of holy things and the other follies which we were witnessing.

Desiring to see the Temple of the Lord restored to its integrity, we would not look for any other foundation than that which we knew had formerly been laid by the Apostles, which is our Saviour Jesus Christ.

A National Synod
We heard God Himself speaking to us in His Word. We saw noble examples in the ancient Primitive Church; and we knew that it was very doubtful whether a general Council would be held, and that the result of such a Council was even more doubtful; above all, being assured of God's will, we counted it wrong to be too anxious about what men thought; we therefore resolved no longer to confer with flesh and blood, but rather to do that which was right to be done, and had often been done by men of piety, and by Catholic bishops, namely, to consult for the good of our churches by means of a provincial synod. For we know that the ancient Fathers were in the habit of proceeding in this way before coming to an Ecumenical Council. We have still canons passed by local Councils, at Carthage under Cyprian (AD254), at Ancrya (AD314), at Neocaesarea (AD314), and at Gangra (AD325) in Paphlagonia, as some think, before the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea was heard of. After this manner the Pelagians and Donatists were refuted, by local discussion on the spot without any general Council being held. And in the same way when the Emperor Constantius showed himself to be openly on the side of the Arian bishop Auxentius, Ambrose (AD340-397), as a Christian bishop, did not appeal to a general Council, from which he saw that no good result would follow, owing to the power and partisanship of the Emperor, but to his own clergy and laity, that is, to a provincial synod. For this reason it was decreed at the Council of Nicaea that provincial synods of Bishops should be held twice every year (Can. 5), and a Council of Carthage (AD397) ordered that they should be held at least once a year (Mansi, 3.880); and the Council of Chalcedon (AD451) says that that was done in order that any errors or abuses, which might grow up anywhere, might at once be extinguished at the very spot where they had sprung up. Thus, when Secundus and Palladius rejected the Council of Aquileia on the ground that it was not a general Council, Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, replied that no one ought to count it novel or strange for bishops in the West to summon synods and hold provincial Councils, for that that had been done not unfrequently by the Western bishops, and often by the Greeks. The Emperor Charles the Great in this way held a provincial council in Germany, (Council of Frankfort AD794) to order the removal of images, in opposition to the second Council of Nicea.

This way of procedure is not a thing new or unheard of among ourselves, for we have sometimes held provincial synods in England, and have regulated our Churches by our own laws. Why should I give more instances? Even the largest and greatest councils, those which our adversaries are accustomed to make so much of, if they are compared with all the Churches which throughout the world acknowledge and confess the name of Christ, what else can they seem to be but private councils of bishops and provincial synods? For if representatives of, say, Italy, France, Spain, England, Germany, Denmark, Scotland, assemble, but there are none from Asia Minor, Greece, Armenia, Persia, Media, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Morocco, in all of which places there are many Christians and Bishops, how can any sensible man regard such a council as general? In the absence of so many parts of the world how can they say with truth that they have the consent of all the world? Indeed, what kind of a Council was the very last, which was held at Trent? (AD1545-63) How can that be called a general Council, when, out of all Christian kingdoms and countries only forty bishops assembled, and some of them so uncultivated as not to be able to express themselves grammatically, and so unlearned as never to have read the sacred Scriptures?

Reforming Methods
However this be, the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not depend on councils nor, as St. Paul says, on man's judgment (I Cor. 4.3). If those who ought to cherish the interests of the Church of God will not open their eyes and fail to do their duty, setting themselves in obstinate opposition to God and His Christ, and seeking to pervert the straight ways of the Lord, God will raise up the very stones, and make even infants speak, so that there may be always some to refute their falsehoods. For God can defend and advance His Kingdom, not only without councils, but even in spite of them. “There are many devices,” says Solomon, “in a man's heart ; but the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand” (Prov. 19.21). For there is no wisdom, nor prudence, nor counsel, which will avail against the Lord. Hilary says that things built by human endeavour do not last, and that the Church must be built up and preserved in another manner (In Psalm. 126). For the Church is built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets and is held together by one corner stone, Christ Jesus (Eph. 2.20).

Recurrence in Scripture
St. Jerome (AD340-420) speaks clearly and in words most suitable to these times: “Those,” he says, “whom the devil has deceived and put to sleep hy the sweet but fatal song of the sirens, the divine word rouses, saying, ‘Awake, thou that sleepest and arise and Christ shall give thee light’ ” (Eph. 5.14). At the coming of Christ and of the Word of God and the teaching of the Church, when the time has come for the fall of Nineveh and of the well favoured harlot (Nahum, 3.4), the people will lift up their heads and hurry their steps, who have been till then sleeping under their teachers, and will go to the mountains of the Scriptures; there they will find the mountains of Moses and Joshua the son of Nun, of the Prophets, and, (in the New Testament) of the Apostles and Evangelists. Having fled to such mountains as these, and occupied themselves with their study, even if they do not find teachers (for the harvest is abundant, but the labourers are few), yet their zeal will meet with approbation for having fled to such mountains, and the neglect of their teachers will be made clear.” (In Naum)

These words of Jerome are so plain that they require no interpreter, and they are so well suited to the events which we have before our eyes that he seems to us almost prophetically to predict and place before us the state in which we live, the fall of the well-favoured harlot of Babylon, the restoration of the Church of God, the blindness and carelessness of the bishops, and the zeal and alacrity of the people. For none can be so blind as not to see that those are the teachers by whom, as Jerome says, the people were led into error and lulled to sleep; and that their Nineveh, which is Rome, painted as she formerly was in most beautiful colours, now that her mask is taken off, is seen better and valued less; and that men of piety waked up from a heavy sleep to the light of the Gospel and the voice of God, have betaken themselves to the mountains of Scripture without waiting for the councils of such teachers as those.

Papal Claims
But it is objected that at least no such attempt should have been made without the orders of the Roman Pontiff, for he is represented as the one bond of union of the Christian society, the one priest signified by God in Deuteronomy, from whom advice in difficulty and true judgment was to be obtained in the Levitical dispensation. They say that anyone who does not submit to his judgment ought to be put to death in the sight of his brethren, but that he himself cannot be judged by any mortal man on account of anything he may do; for he, they say, reigns on earth as Christ reigns in Heaven, and he can do whatever Christ or God can do; they represent his tribunal and Christ's as being one and the same; they profess that without him there can be no faith, no hope, no Church, and that whoever separates from him forsakes and rejects his own salvation. This is what the canonists, the parasites of the Popes, say of them; it cannot be called very modest, for they could hardly have said more, and certainly nothing higher, about
Christ Himself.

We have parted from the Pope, not for any pleasure of our own, or any worldly advantage; our wish has been rather that he should so conduct himself that there should be no need of parting from him. But thus the matter stood; we could not reach Christ except by leaving him; and even now he will make no agreement with us, but that which Nahash, king of the Ammonites, proposed to make with the men of Jabesh Gilead, namely, that he might put out all their right eyes (I Sam. 11.2) , for he wants to rob us of the Holy Scriptures, the Gospel of our salvation and of the hope we have in Christ Jesus. Only on these conditions will he allow peace to be made.

Succession to St. Peter
That the Pope alone is the successor of St. Peter and for that reason carries the Holy Spirit in his bosom, and cannot err, is an idle and vain claim which some put forward with great urgency. But the grace of God is promised to the pious soul that fears God, not to chairs and successions. “Riches,” says Jerome, “can make one bishop more powerful than another, but all bishops, whoever they may be, are successors of the Apostles” (Ad Evagr.). If it be sufficient to occupy a particular place and to be solemnly admitted to it, why Manasseh succeeded David and Caiaphas succeeded Aaron, and an idol was often set up in the temple of God. When Archidamus the Lacedaemonian insolently boasted of his descent from Hercules, Nicostratus replied, “It does not look like it, for Hercules slew men that were bad, but you make good men bad.” And when the Pharisees made much of their descent and race, and of their kinship with Abraham, Christ said to them, “Ye seek to slay Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God ; this did not Abraham. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” (John 8. 40,44)

Contrast of St. Peter and the Pope
But now suppose we grant something to the claims of succession: - Is it the Pope alone that has succeeded to St. Peter? In what respect, in what office of religion, in what function, in what part of his life is he his successor? What one thing had Peter like the Pope, or has the Pope like Peter? Are they prepared to say that when St. Peter was in Rome he never preached the Gospel; never fed the flock; took away the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; hid his Lord's treasures in a napkin; merely sat in the Lateran, pointing to the realms of purgatory and the different sorts of pains there, dismissing some of the wretched souls confined there to a continuance of their torture, and delivering others, without a moment's delay, at his will and pleasure, for money. Will they say that he taught the use of private masses, to be said in any corner of the church; that he muttered the sacred mysteries in a low voice and in a tongue they did not understand; that he reserved the Eucharist on the altar of every Church, and carried it about before him where he went himself, on an ambling nag with lights and bells; that he consecrated oil, wax, wool, bells, cups, temples, altars, by breathing upon them; that he sold jubilees, graces, immunities, expectancies, preventions, first fruits, palls, the right of using palls, bulls, indulgences, diplomas; that lie called himself the head of the Church, the chief pontiff, the Bishop of bishops, the only one to be called most holy ; that he usurped rights and authority over other Churches; that he exempted himself from all civil power; that he waged wars; that he engaged one prince to fight with another; that he rode on the necks of nobles in a gilded sedia with ribbons hanging from his crown, in Oriental splendour, holding the sceptre of a King, wearing a golden diadem glittering with jewels. No doubt Peter used to do all this at Rome, and delivered it to his successors as a thing they were to do one after the other ; for this is what is done by the Popes at Rome at present, and it is done in a way as if that, and nothing else, was the right thing to be done.

Or will they prefer to say this-that the Pope now does all those things which we know St. Peter did; that he travels into all counties; that he instructs men in the Gospel, not only publicly, but also privately from house to house; that he is urgent in season and out of season; that he does the work of an evangelist; that he performs the functions of a minister of Christ; that he watches for the house of Israel; that he receives the oracles and words of God and hands them on to the people just as he received them; that he is the salt of the earth and delight of the world; that he does not feed himself but the flock; that he does not entangle himself in the civil affairs of this life; that he does not exercise lordship over the people of the Lord; that he does not seek to be ministered to by others, but rattier to minister to others; that he regards all bishops as his comrades and equals; that he submits to princes as to those sent by God; that he renders to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and that lie calls the Emperor his lord, as the ancient Roman bishops did without exception. Unless the Popes of the present day do these things, and unless St. Peter did those other things that we have recounted, they have no reason to be so boastful about the name of St. Peter and that succession of theirs.

Reunion with the Papacy
Still less have they reason for complaining of our parting from them, and for asking us to return to their communion and faith. It is said of a Lacedaemonian, named Cobilo, that he was sent as an ambassador to the Persian king for the purpose of making; a treaty, and that on finding the courtiers playing at dice he returned home at once, without entering on the business for which he had gone; and being asked why he had not done what he had been publicly commissioned to do, he replied, that in his opinion it would be shameful to make a treaty with dice-players. Now, if we could persuade ourselves to return to the Pope and his errors, and to make a federation with men who are not merely dice-players, but much worse, that would not only bring shame upon us, but would also incense God against us and would stifle or destroy our consciences.

For we have parted from one who we saw had blinded the world for many ages; one who, with insolence too great to be borne, professed that he could not err, and that, whatever he did, he was not to be judged by any mortal men, whether they were kings or emperors or the whole of the clergy or all the people, not though he should be carrying a thousand souls with him to hell; one who assumed authority, not only over men, but also over the angels of God, as though they were to come and go, and take souls to purgatory and bring them back again just as he chose; one whom Gregory (AD544-604) plainly styled the precursor and leader of the troops of Antichrist, having fallen away from the Catholic faith; one from whom those among us in England, who are now the chief opponents of the Gospel and of the truth which they once recognised, were willing enough formerly to separate themselves, and would gladly do the same again if they were not afraid of being charged with inconsistency, and if shame and fear of losing their reputations did not hinder them. Lastly, we have parted from one to whom we were in no way bound, and who had no argument in his favour except what may be derived from the genius loci of the city where he lives, and from the plea of succession.

Papal Usurpations in England
We in England had the best reason of all men for withdrawing from him. For our kings, even those who made most account of the authority and faith of the Romish bishops, long ago felt the yoke and tyranny of the papal rule. The bishops of Rome pulled his crown off the head of our King Henry II, and required him to go as a humble suppliant to their legate, dressed as a private man, without any signs of royalty, that he might become an object of contempt to his subjects. And they armed bishops and monks and some of the nobles against King John, absolved the whole people from the oath of allegiance that they had taken to him, and at last, by a height of impiety, deprived him not only of his kingdom, but even of his life. And they fulminated curses against our famous sovereign Henry VIII., and stirred up the Emperor and the French king against him, and as far as they could, they gave up our realm for a prey and booty to foreigners-madmen as they were to think that so great a king could be frightened by spectres or children's rattles, or that so great a kingdom could be easily swallowed at one gulp. And as if all this were not enough, they insisted on having England as a tributary province, and every year they exacted from it a revenue to which they had no right at all. This was the cost to us of the friendship of the city of Rome.

Reclamation of Rights
Now if these things have been extorted by them from us by imposture and ill-contrivances, there is no reason why they should not be taken away from them again by lawful means and good laws. And even if our kings in the darkness of past times have given these things to them freely and liberally on the score of religion, having been induced to do so by believing in their pretended holiness, kings of later date can reclaim them after discovering their ancestors' mistake, in as much as they are possessed of the same power as their predecessors; for a donation is null and void unless it be made with the goodwill of the giver, and when error clouds and affects the will, an act cannot be said to be done with the assent of the will.

You see, my Christian reader, that there is nothing new in the fact of Christ's religion meeting with contumely and slander on its being restored to its rightful position and revived; for the very same thing happened to Christ Himself and the Apostles. Nevertheless, that you may not allow yourself to be led away and be imposed upon by these clamours of our adversaries, we have set out before you the whole account of our religion; what we believe about God the Father and His only Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit; what we believe concerning the Church, the Sacraments, the ministry, the Holy Scriptures, Church ceremonies, and all other parts of the Christian faith. (see The Faith of English Churchmen) We have stated that we abhor as dangerous and destructive to souls all the ancient heresies which are condemned by the Holy Scriptures or by the ancient Councils; that we are bringing back to the utmost of our power the ecclesiastical discipline which has been altogether broken down by our adversaries ; that we punish licentiousness of life and dissolute morals by the ancient laws of our country with such severity as is fitting and possible; that we maintain the state of our kingdom just as we received it without any diminution or change, and preserve the authority of our Princes uninjured as much as we possibly can. We allow that we have parted from that church which they had made a den of thieves, in which they had left nothing sound or church-like, and which they themselves acknowledged to have erred on many points, in the same way that Lot departed from Sodom and Abraham from Chaldea, and this we have done, not from love of contention, but in obedience to God Himself; and we have adopted a form of religion in accord with the sacred books, which we know cannot deceive us; and we have returned to the Primitive Church of the ancient Fathers and of the Apostles, that is, to the beginning and origin, and, as it were, the fountain of Christianity.

Return to Truth
We have not waited for the authority or consent of the Council of Trent for what we have done, for in that Council we saw that nothing was being done on right principles and regularly; for in it all the members swore allegiance to one person, the ambassadors of our Princes were disregarded, none of our theologians were allowed to be heard, and partisanship and ambition openly prevailed. We have reformed our churches in a National Synod, as the Holy Fathers and our own ancestors have often done. We have shaken off the yoke and tyranny of the Roman bishop, as it was our duty to do; for we were not bound in any way to him, and there was nothing in him like either Christ, or Peter, or an Apostle, or even a bishop. Lastly, we have come to an agreement among ourselves on all doctrines and chief points of the Christian religion, and we worship God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, with one mouth and one spirit.

Now that you see the reasons and the causes of our religious reformation and of our parting from the others, you will not wonder, my Christian and pious reader, at our preferring to obey Christ rather than men. St. Paul warned us not to allow ourselves to be carried away with strange doctrines, and to be sure to avoid those who caused divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which had been learned from Christ and the Apostles.

Spread the Gospel
For some time past these impostures have been in process of dissipation, fleeing from the presence and light of the Gospel as owls fly from the rising sun; and though they have been built up to heaven, yet they fall at a slight push almost of their own accord. Do not think that these things happen by accident or chance. It is God's will that the Gospel of Jesus Christ should be thus spread throughout the world at this time in spite of the opposition offered to it ; men have listened to the Divine Word and are spontaneously giving in their adhesion to the doctrines of Christ.

We have sought neither glory, nor wealth, nor pleasure, nor ease in what has been done; our opponents have all of these in abundance, and whilst we were with them we possessed them in a far greater degree than now; and we do not refuse to make peace and live in concord; but we must not be enemies of God in order to be at peace with man. Hilary (AD303) says: “The name of peace is pleasant, but peace is one thing and servitude is another” (Contra Arianos). For it would not be peace, but an iniquitous compact made by slaves, if, according to their commands, we should be silent about the merits of Christ, should betray the truth of the Gospel, should hide wicked errors, should cheat the eyes of Christians, and thus form a conspiracy against God Himself. Gregory Nazianzen (AD326-393) says: “There is a peace which is unprofitable, there is a discord which is useful” (Greg. Naz. Tom. I., 203, Ed. Ben.). For we must seek only such peace as is lawful and allowable, and on some points must refuse concessions; Christ Himself brought into the world not peace but a sword.

The only Lawful Peace
Well then, if the Pope wants us to reconcile ourselves to him, he must first reconcile himself with God. For, as Cyprian (AD250) says: “This is the origin of schisms, that men do not return to the fountain head of the Holy Scriptures, and do not seek the origin or keep the commands of their Heavenly Master” (Ad Pupian. 122; Ad Pomp. 141, Ed.Ben). And in another place he says: “This is not peace, but war, for one who is separated from the Gospel cannot be united to the church” (De Lapsis, 86). But these people only use the name of pence in order to make a gain by it, the peace that they are so anxious for is only the quiet of idleness and self-indulgence. We could easily make up the differences between us if it were not for the obstacles of ambition, self-indulgence and luxury; hinc illae lacrimae; for their soul is in their dishes. The clamour that they raise is in order that things ill gotten may be still more basely kept.

Men are making complaint of us, when they are themselves indulgence-sellers, dataries and collectors of money, men who think that godliness is gain, and do not serve Jesus Christ but their own bellies. In previous times these men could make abundant profit, but now they feel the loss to themselves of whatever is given to Christ. The Pope sadly complains that piety has grown cold, because he finds that his revenue is smaller than it used to be. For this reason he does his best to make us objects of hatred; he loads us with reproaches and condemns us as heretics, so that men who do not understand the reason of this are led to regard us as the most iniquitous of mortals.

Nevertheless we are not ashamed, for, assuredly, we ought not to be ashamed of the Gospel, and we esteem the glory of God higher than the good opinion of men. We know that all we teach is true, and we cannot violate our consciences or bear witness against God. For if we deny any part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ before men, He will in return deny us before His Father (Matt. 10.33). If there are any who insist on taking offence and cannot bear the doctrine of Christ, they are blind and leaders of the blind, and in spite of them the truth must be preached and acknowledged by us, and we must wait with patience the judgment of God. And now let those men beware what they are doing: let them pay regard to their own salvation and give up hating and persecuting the Gospel of the Son of God, lest they find Him in the end the vindicator and avenger of His own cause. God will not be mocked. Men see now what is going on. The more that a flame is repressed, the more it bursts out and makes itself seen. Their unbelief shall not make void the faith of God; if they will not lay aside the hardness of their hearts, and if they refuse to receive the Gospel of Christ, the publicans and sinners shall go into the Kingdom of God before them (Matt. 21.31).

May God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ open the eyes of all of them, that they may see that blessed hope to which they have been called, so that we may all with one mouth glorify the one true God and Jesus Christ, Whom He sent down from Heaven to us, to Whom, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, be rendered all honour and glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

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