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 Issues | Church History | John Jewell


John Jewel by G.W. Bromiley

Jewell's Works

A brief review of Jewell's main writings has been given in the account of his life. In the present section it is proposed, first, to give a more extensive list of his literary output, and then to give a more detailed resume of his masterpiece, the Apology. The total number of Jewell's published writings is not great, but many of the works are large, and all told they represent a very considerable literary activity.

Jewell's challenge sermon was delivered in 1560, and it has come down in written form. The correspondence with Cole belongs to the same year. The Apology was written in Latin in 1562, and the translation was first published in the same year, and a further edition in 1564. The battle with Harding followed at once. Harding issued an Answer in 1564, Jewell a Reply in 1565, Harding his Confutation in the same year, and further Rejoinders in 1566 and 1567. Jewell did not reply separately to the Confutation and Rejoinders, but gathered up his answers in the Defence of the Apology in 1568. Harding retaliated with his Detection in the same year, but Jewell had the last word with his enlarged Defence in 1570, re-edited the following year. Apart from these writings three other writings deserve notice: his letters to Zurich, his Sermons, and the valuable Treatise on the Sacraments. Jewell's works were first collected in 1609, when Bancroft (then Archbishop) directed the preparation of a folio volume.


Of Jewell's works the comparatively short Apology, directed in the first instance against Harding, is undoubtedly the greatest, as it has been the most widely read and the most influential. The fact that it gave rise to so considerable a disputation is proof of the seriousness with which the opponents of the Anglican Reformation viewed it. The Council of Trent, engaged at the time of its publication in its final sessions, treated this statement of the Anglican case with appropriate seriousness. Peter Martyr and Archbishop Parker had both encouraged Jewell to publish the work, and apart from its popularity in England - it received the commendation of the Queen - in its Latin form it enjoyed a considerable circulation throughout Reformed Europe.

The Apology consists of six main sections, although in some editions it has been divided up in different ways. In the first section Jewell considers the slanders and violence with which Protestantism was assailed in his day. He lays it down as a general axiom that the supporters of the truth must always undergo misrepresentation and persecution. It had been so with the Jews under the old dispensation. Christ Himself was falsely accused and violently assaulted. Stephen and Paul had suffered similarly. In the early days of the Church slander and ill-treatment had been the lot of those who knew and proclaimed the truth. In the sixteenth century the Protestants as the representatives of true Christianity were defamed and persecuted in exactly the same way. Accusations of schism, heresy, irreligion, anarchy, lack of discipline were freely levelled against them. They had been granted no hearing at the so-called General Council of Trent. Yet in spite of and even because of this shameful treatment they could claim the truth with a good conscience, because they had the support of Scripture. In this respect they followed in the footsteps of the Fathers, who in the refutation of heretics always used the Scriptures as the court of appeal. Jewell challenged his opponents to submit to the honest test, not of misrepresentation, not of physical force, but of Scripture itself.

In the second part Jewell follows the example of the early apologists. He gives a brief but clear exposition of the Protestant doctrine held and taught by the Church of England. Those who in our own day profess an anxiety to discover what the Anglican formularies of the period were supposed to teach could hardly do better than begin with this short but lucid statement. Jewell dealt with the main doctrines. He made it clear that Anglican Protestantism maintained the historic credal positions. It taught nothing new with regard to the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Cross, the Resurrection and Ascension, the Final Judgment, and the Holy Spirit. Jewell also put forward a Reformed doctrine of the universal Church as the Kingdom, the body, and the spouse of Christ, its true Head. He took the offensive against Rome over the question of the ministry. All ministers were equal in status. The claim of the Pope to pre-eminence had no support in the ancient Fathers and the early Councils. Jewell asserted the need for a lawful calling of ministers, and the power of the keys, along much the same lines as Calvin in the Institutes. He strongly attacked the Romanist doctrine of penance, explained matrimony as a holy and honourable estate (not a sacrament conferring grace), accepted the full authority of Scripture canonically received, and accepted the two sacraments as means of con- firming faith and sealing grace. Upon the controverted questions concerning the Lord's Supper Jewell maintained the Reformed position, attacking private masses, the denial of the cup to the laity, transubstantiation, and the false practices of carrying about and worshipping the elements. Likewise he dismissed the teaching of Rome on Purgatory, and complained of the multiplication of ceremonies, the use of an unknown tongue, and the teaching of other mediators apart from Christ. Finally, he stated briefly the Reformed teaching upon original sin, remission, justification, and the resurrection.

In a third section Jewell makes the bold claim that the Reformed Church of England is in the true line of succession from the Fathers and Councils, in opposition to Rome and the Pope with their heresies and errors. He does not deny errors on the Protestant side. The Anabaptists and Schwenkfeldians had erred. But within the pure Church, even from the beginning, there had always been teachers of error-Simon, the Gnostics, and so on. The errors of the Anabaptists were no proof that Protestantism itself was false. But was not Protestantism sectarian-some following Luther, some Zwingli, some Calvin? So it had been at Corinth in the apostolic Church, and even within Rome itself the Thomists and the Scotists did not agree in doctrine, nor the monks and friars in matters of religious practice. The more general charges, godlessness and licentiousness, had as little substance in them as the similar charges preferred against the Christians in the days of the Apologists. Jewell could grant that some Protestants sinned, but he could prove from Cyprian and other Fathers that there have always been sinners as well as righteous, and at times few righteous, in the true Church of Christ.

Jewell can conclude that the charges brought by Romanists in no way disprove the claim of the Reformed churches to be truly apostolic and catholic. He moves on to the offensive in the fourth section, and shows then any scandals, especially in sexual indulgence and in poisoning and violence, into which error has plunged the so-called true Church of Rome. Jewell claims no perfection for Protestants, but he does claim that Protestants do at least make a serious attempt at Christian living. The Romanists on the other hand had flagrantly and boastfully set at naught all the laws of true godliness. Protestants were charged with treason ; but while they exhorted their adherents to fulfilment of their duties to the powers that be, the pontiffs of Rome had openly set themselves up as political rulers and interfered constantly and shamelessly in the affairs of government. Protestants were charged with schism, but it was Rome which had broken the unity of the Church by departing from the apostolic rule and plunging the Church into heresy and idolatry. Protestants wished and prayed for Christian unity, but they could not remain in a body which trampled true religion underfoot. The Roman claim to be the catholic and apostolic Church Jewell could not allow. But could it be held that God would suffer His Church to fall into widespread error? Jewell pointed to the example of the Jewish Church in the Old Testament, and of the Christian Church in its early history, at the time of the Arian controversy, for instance. He found witness to a widespread declension in such varied writings as Hilary, Gregory, Bernard, Roger Bacon, Pope Adrian, and Phigius. In any case Rome could not be the true Church, for it pushed Scripture into the background, and thus fell by the test of Chrysostom: “God's Word is the candle whereby the thief is espied.”

The argument is carried a stage further in section five. Jewel now examines more closely the Roman claim that they have the support of the ancient doctors and holy Fathers. On general grounds Jewell cannot agree that a thing apparently novel is necessarily false. Christianity itself had been attacked as novel, as was Protestantism in the sixteenth century. On the other hand Jewell denies that Romanism has antiquity behind it: Romanism is the New Learning . and Protestantism the Old, as Turner showed in his book The Old and the New Learning. Jewell could argue, for example, that the early Fathers had attacked the tendency to multiply ceremonies. Again, the old Councils had resisted things allowed or commanded by Rome: concubinage of priests, the civil powers of bishops, non-preaching bishops, the use of an unknown tongue. Against the argument that the decisions of old Councils no longer fitted the times, Jewell scornfully compared the new practices with the old: salt, water, oil-boxes, spittle, palms, bulls, jubilees, pardons, crossings and censings, and an endless rabble of ceremonies. The infallibility of the Roman Church Jewell compared with the freedom from adultery of the Lacedaemonians: they could not commit adultery because they had their wives in common. Finally, Jewell could admit that the Protestants had departed from the Roman Church, but not from the Church of the Apostles and of Christ. He, challenges his opponents to set the doctrine and practice of the Church of England and the Church of Rome alongside the practice and doctrine of the early Church: in sacraments, in public prayer, in the estimation of Scripture.

In the concluding section Jewell deals with the Romanist argument that the controverted points have been submitted to a General Council, the decisions of which ought to be accepted. He gives his reasons why he cannot allow Trent to be a valid council or its judgments to carry weight. Ignorant men, non-representative of the Church, opposed to Scripture, and themselves under judgment, have no right to act as judges in the matters raised. Jewell asks on what grounds Christian kings have been excluded, contrary to Old Testament example and the example of the early Church. He cannot in any case grant the infallibility of General Councils. He again attacks the false and boastful claims of the Bishop of Rome to supremacy. In a concluding paragraph Jewell defends the refusal of the Protestant churches to return to the bosom of Rome. Peace within the Church is a priceless boon, but not peace for the sake of worldly advantages and at the expense of truth. He prays finally: That God might open the eyes of them all, that they may be able to see that blessed hope, whereinto they have been called. In that way and in that way only true peace might be attained.

Jewell made bold claims on behalf of the Reformed Anglican Church. He accepted its Protestant nature, but, quite irrespective of any historical succession of bishops, he claimed for it a full communion with the apostolic and catholic Church of the earliest days. He did so on the grounds of a substantial consent in doctrine and in practice. Whilst not attempting to assert an impossible perfection, he refuted the false slanders of the Romanist detractors. He defended the defection from Rome as a defection from heresy to the truth. The purity of Anglicanism and the corruption of Romanism he asserted on the twin authority of Scripture and the early Fathers and Councils. He did not deploy all his learning in defence of this assertion in the Apology itself, but in the later Defence he showed that he had made neither an idle nor a boasting assertion. A tendency of the present age is to try to defend the catholicity of the Church of England by asserting and stressing kinship with Rome. Churchmen loyal to the Reformed basis of Anglicanism might do well to remember wherein true catholicity consists. They may remember too that in its main essentials the contention of Jewell has never been overthrown.


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