John Jewel Preached a Historic Sermon

Published Apr 28, 2010
John Jewel Preached a Historic Sermon

When John Jewel stepped to the platform of St. Paul Cross on this day, November 26, 1559, he did not know that the sermon he was about to preach would be pointed to by historians. It became fixed in the theology of the church of England.

John was a graduate of Oxford University and became public orator for the school. Impressed by Peter Martyr's teaching, he joined the reformers. When the Catholic Queen Mary came to the throne, his position required him to compose a congratulatory letter to her, which he did. His reformation principles were still not firmly fixed. After helping Cranmer and Ridley with their defenses, he buckled and signed Catholic articles. Despite this, he remained under suspicion by England's Catholic leadership, which stripped him of his position.

He fled to the continent. There he apologized publicly for signing the confession that he did not believe in.

Mary died in 1559 and John returned to England. He urged Queen Elizabeth I to adopt a low church (a more Puritanical or evangelical) position. She did not. John accommodated his views to the new monarch. The queen appointed him to St. Paul's Cross where, on this day, he challenged anyone to prove the Roman Church position from the Bible and the writings of early church fathers.

He repeated the challenge again the following year. Various Catholics took it up. To defend his position, John wrote (in Latin) An Apology in Defense of the Church of England.

This Apology was "the first methodical statement of the position of the Church of England against the Church of Rome, and forms the groundwork of all subsequent controversy." In the reign of King James I, Archbishop Bancroft endorsed John's theology and ordered copies placed in all Anglican churches.

Chafing under the charge of heresy, John said he would prove his case from scripture, arguing: "But seeing [the Roman Church] can produce nothing out of the Scriptures against us, it is very injurious and cruel to call us Hereticks, who have not revolted from Christ, nor from the Apostles, nor from the Prophets . . ."

John died in 1571. He was just forty-nine years old. A man of personal piety, he was also kind to the poor. One of the boys whom he helped was Richard Hooker, who wrote about him with admiration and who also became a notable apologist for the Church of England.


  1. Booty, John E. John Jewel as Apologist of the Church of England. London, Published for the Church Historical Society [by] S. P. C. K., 1963.
  2. Cross, F. L. and Livingstone, E. A. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford University Press, 1997.
  3. Jewel, John. An Apology in Defense of the Church of England. Project Canterbury.
  4. Jewel, John. The Works of John Jewel; edited for the Parker Society by John Ayre. Cambridge, England: Printed at the University Press, 1845-1850. Volume 4 includes a memoir.
  5. "Jewel, John." Dictionary of National Biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. London: Oxford University Press, 1921 - 1996.
  6. "John Jewel." Encyclopedia Americana. Chicago: Americana Corp., 1956.
  7. "John Jewel." Encyclopedia Britannica. 1911.

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